Thursday, August 20, 2015

Different strokes for different folks; What does it take to go cruising

Some people need more comforts than others.
I would like to think that I'm not stupid. I would like to think that I'm just a late bloomer, if not, well then I would just be stupid? In truth I am constantly learning. And I make this obvious statement on the premise that it is not always the case, like common sense not being common. I know people that don't seem to get a damn bit smarter with time. We are creatures of habit, and we don't adjust to change all that easily. I have found that one of the most important things that you should achieve in life is to know yourself. This is the only way to answer the question "what does it take to go cruising?" Well, if you are going to be out cruising longer than a month then you'll want to live as closely as possible to how you live now, with some adjustments of course. Don't expect to somehow become a new person that can go spartan, and spend the days enduring hardships, and still enjoy the adventure. No sunset is beautiful if you are miserable with hardships, and discomfort.
This feller is definitely not having a good time.
I have heard many cruisers say "this isn't for us" after just one cruising season. It's not the travel to exotic places that isn't for them, it's the hardship that they didn't account for. What they are really saying is that for whatever reason (usually budget) they have fallen short of their "minimum bearable level of comfort" (MBLC), and are just not enjoying the experience. Yeah, I'm making this stuff up as I go, but bear with me. If you ask these disenchanted cruisers about their boat they'll describe a most basic of vessels that is lacking equipment that most of us from the 21st century have grown to expect. MBLC is different from one person to the next. I have found that it relates directly to your current standard of living.
If your standards are high "Dreamer" is for sale...17 mil.
You can make adjustments, and compromises, but you won't enjoy yourself if you drop below your personal MBLC. Long, drawn-out periods of hardship and discomfort can sour any paradise.
Pooling resources is a great way to stretch the cruising dollar.

I got the grill!

Entertaining 55 kids takes teamwork.

Wait, don't lose hope, there are several ways to meet, and achieve your MBLC. Breaking up the time at anchor with time at marinas helps restore moral, and provisions between excursions. Installing equipment to help meet your needs can ease the hardship between marina visits. Cruising with a group of other cruisers to share resources, and support each other enhances your experience, and in many cases life-long friendships are forged. The right answer for you will most likely lie in a combination of these. I know people that are just delighted about not showering, skipping a week at a time, but if this is not you, and you like to shower, you have to figure out how to make it possible. There are people that can eat the same bland canned food day-in and day-out, no problem. If this is not you, you'll have to figure out how to keep and cook the foods that you like. I for one can eat granola bars everyday for a month if that is what it takes to fulfill a voyage, but on day 31 I will roast, and eat the person next to me. 
I would trade my homemade bread for fish.

10 pounds of fish for 1 pound of bread because some cruisers didn't realize how much they would miss bread.

There are cases where the old "just go" adage that some periodicals endorse actually works, but these are very few, and far between. In most cases you do have to meet your MBLC, or you're just in for misery. The best way to establish your true position is to test the waters before completely committing. Don't just buy a boat and leave on any given Tuesday for an extended voyage, slowly test the waters. Go out for a week, and then two weeks. Enjoy cruising your local waters before traveling longer distances. Get to know yourself, and your tolerance levels.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Island of Enchantment

We are moored in Christmas Cove on St. James Island, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We're having one last dinner with our friends before heading back towards the States. On the menu, fresh caught lobster creole, Cuban style. The uncertainty of our lives in the months to come weights heavy on us. The smiles we wear are as fragile as butterfly wings.
Eben and Genevieve on Mirador. 
I plan to make my way back as easy as possible, a little bit at a time. Our first stop will be the island of Culebrita in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Everyone that has been there has recommended it over all other places, even people from St. Thomas. You won't live to be a ripe old age without following advice, so we're stopping.
We picked a beautiful day to sail. It's 20 miles or a leisurely 5 to 6 hours. Everyone was just laying about the boat, like hippos wallowing in a marsh. All movements made were slow and subtle as the hours melted off the clock. The last 5 miles were not well protected, and there was a little discomfort. Nobody said "I hate my life," so the situation was manageable. We went over the top of Culebrita and into Bahia de Tortuga.
Bahia de Tortuga on Culebrita.
Before us lay one of the most beautiful beaches of our 2 year journey. It was the perfect scale, not too big, not too small, the water was sapphire blue, and the sand was a powdery white. Sea turtles were everywhere around us.  Everybody that had encouraged us to visit this place was right, this place is gorgeous.
I have heard people say, "it is better to never have had money, than to have had it, and have lost it." And I reflected, if this is true than it would be better that I never see this place than to see it and leave it. In a very eloquent conclusion to my brief philosophical interlude, I thought to myself, "those people are really full of crap!"
I love looking out from our cockpit, and seeing the kids play on the beach. I feel we have given them an enhanced sense the world around them, and I hope we have stretched their boundaries.
Hadrian and Eva playing on the beach.

Bahia de Tortuga on Culebrita.
Mirador sitting in crystal clear water at Culebrita.
Hadrian and Eva on the beach and Derrick in the water.
We enjoyed our surroundings for a couple of days before sailing over to Bahia de Sardinas on the Island of Culebra. The small town of Dewey is on this bay. We put our dinghy down and went to shore. Culebra is small, but not so small that you can walk it. We rented a golf cart. Our first stop was Flamenco Beach. As beautiful as this beach is, it is crowded, just like Megan Beach on St. Thomas, and I don't like it so much. There were a couple of abandoned Sherman tanks  on the beach that were once used for target practice by the Navy. Hadrian was fascinated by them, and asked me a million questions in the hour that followed. I tried my best to appear knowledgeable.
This statue is at the entrance to the town of Dewey

Eva at the town of Dewey on Culebra.

Hadrian and Eva atop a Sherman tank at Flamenco beach.

Hadrian is fascinated by the tanks.
Mirador sitting in Bahia de Sardina, Culebra.
Zoni beach on Culebra.
Puerto Rico is just a "hop, skip and a jump away." The kids will be leaving Mirador indefinitely, they want to be "normal." They home-school 3 or 4 hours a day, maybe 3 or 4 days a week, and even that is very flexible. They've gone back home for standardized testing 2 years in a row, and scored above average. I suspect that waking up at 7 am, 5 days a week, for 8 hours a day of school plus 2 hours of homework is going to blind side them like a freight train. Let's see how great holding on to the tail of the elephant in front of them is then, (I always say that people go through life doing what they think society expects them to do, like the elephants in the circus, just holding on to the tail of the elephant in front of them, never questioning the path).
It is the end of a great chapter in our lives. We worked for 15 years to make these 2 years happen, but they have been the best 2 years of our lives. 
Mirador sailing from Culebra to Puerto Rico.
The "Island of Enchantment" on the horizon.