March 25, 2008

Getting to it in St. Thomas

Our current project is the Special Olympics here in the USVirgin Islands. Sybille is the head of the local chapter and we are raising funds and support for the up coming events. Stay tuned as we will be holding a Regatta and bowling turnament for the special talent here in the USVI.

Rags to Riches

Where do I begin. Its been an adventure. Our car got robbed in San Juan, it cost us $3,500 bucks, then we hopped the wrong ferry and landed in the arms of strangers who took us in with cold beers, our first hot shower in months and a bed with sheets. We danced the nights away in the streets at the Culebra Regatta. Sailed in the lee of the Virgin Islands during the largest waves this region has seen in years. Met wonderful people, landed a free dock for a few months, and have been escorted first class around these Islands by the great hearted wealthy community here. And to top it off we are gainfully employed now as eco-tour kayak guides in a beautiful protected lagoon here in St. Thomas.

The stories between here and there would clog up my inspiration from what has happened to us most recently, so I’ll just skip to now.
We left Culebra, a beautiful Island off the coast of Puerto Rico, full of locals and endless trails to explore for the big city lights of St. Thomas. A large Atlantic Cold front was came with mountainous waves and we didn’t want to get stuck so we pressed our luck against time in our little boat in the lee of the Spanish/ US virgin Islands. We made it to the big ship harbor of Charlotte Amale in St. Thomas. With out a clue of what to do, we hitched a $2 ride on a public “Safari” which is a truck with bench seats in the back which circumnavigates the island. We got off at the first hardware store and that is where our good fortune began.
Inside we met young Sybille, the owner of the USVI Eco-Tour company. She was looking for someone to splice rope, and I was looking for work. We carried on with her to her business, then to lunch at the yacht club, and on it went. We needed her, and she needed us. She owned a marina that needed more human presence for security and we needed a dock. We moved Noche to the dock and planned to head out to the British Virgin Islands for a full moon party. She was going already and knew everyone in the Islands we needed to meet. She offered to take us, “her treat”. So off we went.

We were hosted for the weekend in a beautiful marble home with cushy couches, fountains and open airways. We were treated as kings and shown the highlights of a beautiful Island by wonderfully generous people. Our host was AJ Sanger the renowned Chef / understudy of Wolfgang-Puck and the financier of the replica tall ship the Nina. Remember that boat Columbus discovered the new world with? AJ was a hoot, sharp as a tack and full of personality. She showed us how to cook an Omelet, the way a great Chef would. Lots of technique, great ingredients, high heat and eggs have never tasted so good, sorry Mom. :) Sybille, and AJ lead us around introducing us to numerous people, showing us the top restaurants, undiscovered beaches, and mountain hikes.
The highlight for me was Sybille dancing on Stage at the full moon party, champagne everyday and getting to Captain a Forty Seven foot Catamaran for the former BVI Chancellors family,
out to an Island for an afternoon of great food, and snorkeling in sea caves after Captaining a 47’ Catamaran.
Also I got to Captain a forty seven foot Catamaran. :)
This weekend was such a blessing and beyond our wildest dreams. Let this blog entry be a thank you letter to all those who’s generosity continues to inspire us to do good to others in this journey around the world by sea.

March 11, 2008

Luck lands on us by day out here. A friend of a sailing friend offered us a house on the beach and a convertible for four days in the old city of San Juan. Hastily leaving the boat we set out from the southern coast on the highway with our thumbs out and some snacks in the packs.
Getting a ride requires all your wits when you look like you haven’t showered in a week and there are two of you. We pulled all kinds of stunts to build our value, including clever bi-lingual signs with dollar bills and the age old rolled up pant leg displaying a bare leg to on-comming car followed by a giggling smile. Being a guy the leg thing draws a laugh and shortly we landed a ride from a fantastic guy in a nice car. He drove us all the way across Puerto Rico. We stop along the way to service some errands, and all the while became great friends.
Hitch hiking is a great way to get around down here. We have met half a dozen great people who end up touring us around for a while before they drop us off. We love it because its always different, the price is right, and we wouldnt know were to go if we had to drive our selves.
So then in San Juan our new besti Kim arrived with a car and keys to her place. She took us to old San Juan and offered to show us inside the Coast Guard command center. We’ll that’s a boys dream to see a top secret war center. So we jump on it. We show our id’s and surrendered all electronic devices, as we passed through one guard then a coded security door, long hallway, then another coded door where we called into the center and gave notice that civilians were entering the facility. Minutes passed and clearance was granted to enter. Inside the hum of at least thirty flat screen monitors and a large wall screen tv with world news channels were playing. The walls were lined with large maps of the local area, with fridge magnets of boats, displaying the locations of vessels around Puerto Rico. The room was divided by a glass wall with blinds drawn on the other side.
The entire wall was covered to protect us because if we were to see what lies beyond the curtain it would compromise national security and we would surely been sent to the morg. Inside that top secrete room all radio transmissions are recorded and monitored. My suspicions recall the Wizard of OZ, and a game of Texas hold’em. That perception of intelligence, and technical advantage works as a more powerful deterrent than all the technology in the world. That room could have been filled with old dusty files and a jury rigged VHF in front of a nineteen year old recruit with a pencil and paper for all we know. Regardless the perception remains of some incredible technology existing behind that wall and we will go on from that experience ready to fold, rather than gearing up to call the bluff. So that was a boys dream come true, and to revisit that boyish top secret fantasy world was a cool moment.
We were flying high as we returned to the civilians walking the cobble stone streets of Old San Juan. We found the pathway that strolls along the ocean and lines the steep Spanish fortress walls. It started out as the usual story, romantic lit streets with live music in the air set amongst beautiful walls bearing tremendous history and charm. What unfolded was a wild phenomena of feline behavior. A colony of domesticated cats had squatted along this pathway. For hundreds of yards healthy looking kitties roamed, lounged, cleaned, and slept amongst the rocks and foliage that lay on either side of the path. They peered at us from the rocks and from the bushes, they ignored us and they snuck across our path as we traversed their domain. They did as cats do, they were normal, but wait, this wasn’t normal. How strange and distracting it was to have this city of kitties stretch the length of this magnificent display of old world masonry. How cool it was, life is so full of surprises.

Speaking of pleasant surprises, after the fort we then went to a house party with some fellow Americans at a high rise flat set right on the beach. The host was a twenty four year old yank who put 25 cents in a slot machine back in Vegas and won two million dollars. What a stroy the people you meet out here make the places. We were introduced to beer pong on the beach and listened tales from Senor Frogs till we grew tired and retired.

March 08, 2008

Crossing the Mona

Dominican softball will carry on without us, but it will not be the same sin crew from "Ultima Noche". We made great friends and built quite the commmunity in a short period of time there in the DR, but the tradewinds died down for us and it was time to cut loose. The furry set in and we made the mad dash to Puerto Rico with twelve other boats. Traveling east in the tradewinds means motor sailing tight along the coast when the cooing air on land rushes back out to sea canceling the incoming winds forming a night lee. Columbus took advantage of this effect by rowing east by night and anchoring through the day. Sunrise after sunset we snuck along the coast. The weather window was short, and the pressure to stay in the comfort of the group was intense. We were all crossing into new territory and none the less the passage has a rough reputaion. Being small and slow we lead the pack off the line in order to stay with the group. Our friend Christa left his anchor and two hundred and twenty five feet of chain because it was hung up on a coral head and the prospect of falling behind and gettting left on the North coast when the weather picks was worse than replacing $1500 of ground tackle. All in all we had sunny days undersail filled with cardgames and watermelon, and the ocasional mecanical problems, but nothing tragic. Sailing around the world, is more or less getting as ready as you possibly can, then setting of when its time with tiller in one hand and wrench in the other.

Humpback whales escourted us along the way, and as we pointed due east just north of the hourglass shoals I saw a whale as big as our boat jump completely out of the water and hang in the air. It was one of those moments where staring off into the sea payed off. The experience was thrilling, and it wasn't far from the boat. The memory will remain and forever testify for me that some of the most amaizing life and natural phenomina happen in that vast and seeemingly void expanse we call the sea. I have spent days on end watching it, and I still see new phenomina after years on the water.
We slipped into Puerto Rico at 3 AM under a cloudy sky illuminted by the industrial lights of Mayaguez. Two boats abondoned the passage due to fatigue and two pulled in behind us. Overall we finished seventh. The race wasn't official, in fact no one else knew about it, but amongst the bigger boats we tend to place better when the race goes on un-announced.:)

March 04, 2008


If you were wondering what projects the Peace Corps are resposible for here in the DR, here is an example: Adventure waterfalling!! If you havent heard of it before, it involves a helmet, life jacket, sturdy shoes and two able bodied guides. The idea is that water runs down hill over cliffs and occasionaly carves out narrow slot canyons. The game is to traverse up these features against the water, then to get back you cliff jump into these water holes and slot canyons. Its slick, the rock is hard and the water is powerfull. The rainforrest backdrop and the teal colored water makes the entire experience complete. Its ten bucks and there are 27 waterfalls.