Sint Maarten by Bicycle

Wednesday January 21, 2015

Maho Beach, St. Maarten

Enough was enough and it was finally time to get ourselves off Serendipity for a proper day of sightseeing. After a few false starts earlier in the week, we found ourselves at Island Water World this morning just after 9, ready to go. Not that we were about to take a tour of all the marine chandleries on the island, although I’m sure that could fill a full day as well, but we were there to take advantage of their bicycles. For a deposit of $50/day/person, they have a small group of bicycles to use and since we like free (or at least, returned money) to us it was worth it over taking the mini-van taxi’s across the island.

As we were handed over the keys to our locks, we hopped on and hobbled through the narrow path that leads to the front of the store and out to the main street. On to destination 1 for the day, Maho Beach. Probably one of the most famous stops on the island, it draws tourists from near and far for one reason. To have huge jumbo jets fly over your head as their tails seem to just skim above the water and the sand as they make their landing at Princess Julienne Airport. Ever seen a photo where there’s an extremely low plane, people, and water in the background? This is that place. Also referred to by it’s airport code, SXM.

Although there is a schedule somewhere or another of when the big planes land, we never found it and figured that if we stayed at the beach for an hour, something was bound to come careening in, right? Turns out, it is best to check the schedule first. Arriving so early may have been one of our downfalls, but as we set our bikes down in the sand at 10 am we overlooked a mostly empty beach and no planes on the horizon. Grabbing a couple of cold cokes from a drink stand set up to cater to the many needs of it’s hundreds of daily tourist, we sat to wait. 20 minutes and nothing.

Then over the horizon I could see the light of a plane making it’s approach. Getting all giddy and bouncing around like a child I grabbed my camera out to prepare for the moment I’d be squished like a bug….only to find out as it got closer that it was just a little puddle jumper. Three planes later and that was all I had come in contact with. At least the sun had started to poke out from the somewhat overcast sky and threw light onto the water turning it all shades of brilliant blues and turquoises. Plus the looming shadow of Saba was visible off in the distance and it was, for a short time, just a nice are to sit and be.

As the morning drifted on, more and more people began to show up at the beach, staking out seats in the sand just in front of the runway. There also appeared to be a photo-shoot happening where we spied (and tried not to stare at) a leggy blonde switching between different swimsuits in preparation of that perfect shot when a 747 would be above her head. It started to become that the only way we knew when a plane was coming (even just the smaller ones), is when her entourage would disperse from touching her up and she’d begin posing.

Then it was the moment we’d been waiting for all morning. A large jet was on it’s way in. A few private planes had already come threw and sent their jet of air into the sand and crowd, but we were ready for something bigger. Gathering with the crowd at the mouth of the runway, we waited as the little dot grew bigger on the horizon and prepared to swallow us whole. Thinking that ‘Ok, this is the time the big guys are starting to come’, I lived the moment behind my camera lens and thought I’d wait for the next one to really experience it.

As it came over our heads it cast a shadow on the beach and left strong gusts in it’s wake. Cool to see come in, but apparently it’s when they’re taking off and flying over you that you get the winds that will knock you off your feet. As soon as it landed Matt turned to me and asked “So, ready to leave?”  I guess this wasn’t an all day plan of his and waiting around yet again to actually experience one of the big blows from an engine jet sans a camera up to my face wasn’t going to happen.

Princess Julianne Airport

waiting for a plane at Maho Beach

Maho Beach, St. Maarten

puddle jumper over Maho Beach

Back on our bicycles we took off on the long way around the island to get ourselves to the French side.  There was a lot of huffing and puffing on some minor hills and went to show me just incredibly how out of shape I actually am.  Losing 5 pounds on an ocean crossing does not equal fit.

There were some very lovely cottages we found along the way and some very large shopping centers nestled inside resorts that were very obviously for the rich and famous.  We’re neither, so we stayed far away.  Getting from Dutch Sint Maarten to French Saint Marten our next big goal of the day was finding lunch which also meant switching back from US to Euros.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I’ll just let you know we didn’t quite care for the French side as much as the Dutch.  To us it was touristy and expensive and not what we were looking for.  Don’t get me wrong, if you’re headed there on a vacation or you’re willing to splurge a little I think you might enjoy it very much. French pastries and little cafes…. But since we’ve gone into a budget lockdown with all the increasing costs of rebuilding a boat we have yet to lay eyes on, we’re on the cheap route from here on out in the Caribbean.  Don’t feel too bad for us though…we’ll hopefully be back here in about a year and ready to make a few splurges.

Marjiot Bay, St. Marten

St. Marten

With our stomachs still rumbling we got back on our bikes to get to the cheaper Dutch side of the island.  It wasn’t until we were just about back to IWW to return our bikes and giving up on the idea of food altogether that we stumbled across a Colombian restaurant that one of our neighbors in the anchorage told us about.

Before I could even fully settle in my chair I had an ice cold Presidente in my hand and an order in for a shredded chicken meal served on fried plantains.  I had no idea what it was, but it sounded interesting.  It did not disappoint my expectations.  Holy crap.  In fact it was probably one of the best meals I’ve had in such a long time.  When I get back to Florida and have full run of a grocery store I might have to move heaven and earth trying to recreate it myself.

Colombian meal

I’m sure there’s still a ton to Sint Maarten and Saint Marten that we didn’t get a chance to enjoy or experience, but I’m not sad about that.  Even after just a week here we’re realizing that we want to come back in the new boat and see what the rest of the Eastern Caribbean has to offer.  A little more researched and with slightly deeper pockets.  And of course, with good friends by our side.

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Seeking Internet in Paradise

Tuesday January 20, 2015

boats at anchor in Simpson Bay

Sometimes finding internet while cruising can include many difficult things.  Like sitting in the blistering heat outside of Island WaterWorld while trying to pick up a barley there signal that keeps failing.

And sometimes it means visiting all the beach side resorts and ordering a beer so I can get the password to their wifi and then bringing it back to the boat to see if we can get the signal there with our long range device as well.  If this fails I have to fall into a routine of try and try again.

Sitting at all these beach resorts in the shade while sipping a cold Presidente and regaling my ocean crossing to resort guests while groups of men twice my age look at me in wonder that I was half of a crew that just sailed over 3,000 miles from Europe.

Drinking beer and chatting with friends I haven’t spoken to in a month while overlooking a pristine beach and all the boats at anchor is a very rough life.  But let me tell you my friends, I am fully up for these duties.

Presidente beer

resort overlooking Simpson Bay

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Unwinding in Sint Maarten

Saturday January 17, 2015

sunset in Simpson Bay

Who would have thought that after so much time on the boat, the last thing we want to do now that we’ve made landfall is get off the boat.  Maybe it’s because we’re in that two week period where we’re catching up on our loss of sleep.  Or maybe it’s because after three weeks of being stuck below deck in rough weather, we finally have the opportunity to use the cockpit again.  Yeah, that sounds like a winner to me, I’ll go with that answer.

All joking aside though, there is no reason we’ve wanted to get off Serendipity now that we can enjoy her in all her beautiful surroundings.  The views here from our deck are breathtaking, and while we’re still catching our breaths, there’s been no reason to abandon them by spending all our days ashore.

Take yesterday morning for example.  It was our first full morning at anchor after getting a very relaxing 12 hours of sleep.  After rolling out of bed a little after 9 am we turned on the Caribbean tunes wafting through the radio waves and put on a pot of coffee.   (Or AeroPressed a few cups, same diff).  Taking our drinks to the cockpit we let the gentle morning breeze roll over us as hundreds of little yellow butterflies fluttered through the air.  A mass hatching of some sorts.  This was ecstasy for Georgie as there were constantly moving targets floating past her on the deck to chase.  After a few swift moves, a few of them even ended up in her mouth.  Very good morning entertainment for us.

We have managed to get off the boat for an hour or two each day to find the Island Water World for boat supplies, and most importantly, topping off our propane tanks; and the grocery store and bulk food store to replenish our dwindling supply of food and alcohol.  No energy for exploring at the moment though, it’s always right back to the boat for a nap and relaxing.

The past few nights have been ended with a cocktail in the cockpit while watching the sun sink into the open horizon in front of us and watching the evening shuffle of cruisers either coming back to their boats or about to head out for a night on the town.

Although we know we have to be cautious with our time since the new boat is still beckoning to us and our stay in the Caribbean won’t be long, so far we haven’t felt the rush to keep busy or take in all of the sights just yet.  There will be time for that.  Right now we’re enjoying each moment.  Transitioning quite fluidly into Island Time and finding there is no rush for anything.

sunset in Sint Maarten

kids on sailboat, St. Maarten

Simpson Bay at dusk

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Champange Celebration

Thursday January 15, 2015

champagne celebration at Sint Maarten

After 28 consecutive days on the open ocean, we finally made landfall in St. Maarten this afternoon. Luckily today was the kind of day that we knew we didn’t have to beat the clock and there was no worry if we’d be pulling in after dark and therefore waiting just outside the harbor and staring longingly in while we wait at sea for just one more night. Not only did we have that exciting news to look forward to, but the conditions had finally turned favorable and it was a perfect day for sailing.

Still on a downwind tack, we had winds of 17 knots behind us and swells that had died down to about 5 feet or under. The sun was shinning and there was barley a cloud in the sky. As Matt woke me for my first morning watch at 8 am, we scrutinized our position on the chart plotter and our intended course to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. Coming below St. Barths we would stay in deep water for a longer period and have a better transition into waters going from 10,000 ft to only 150 feet. Realizing that St. Barths was less than 10 miles from us I looked up at Matt and asked if he’d been able to make it out yet on the horizon. Telling me that he hadn’t, I did quick glance around thinking that there would be nothing out there…until I saw this huge peak sticking out of the water on our starboard side. St. Barths….it was the most beautiful thing anyone could see after two fortnights on the water.

In very high spirits now that there was A.) Sunshine for the first time in two weeks, B.) Some of the best sailing conditions we’d ever seen, and C.) A big hunk of paradise in front of my eyes, I went into full tropical preparation mode. At the top of my agenda was making my first cup of non instant coffee in a month. Lana Del Rey blasted out of the speakers and I daydreamed of what the next few weeks will have in store for us.

As St. Barths grew larger and I could make out details of the land I switched to some upbeat Enrique Inglesias and mixed a fruit juice spritzer as I planned land and beach based activities in my head and texted friends via our satellite phone to let them know I had been able to scream ‘Land Ho!’. I was also able to tell them of the mega yachts I’d already been spotting anchored outside of Gustavia Harbor, including Eclipse, the current largest yacht on the market at over 600 ft. I honestly thought it was a cruise ship when I first spotted it until I looked up it’s information through our AIS. Oh yes, we’re playing with the big kids now.

St. Barths from sea

Eclipse at St. Barths

Jessica sailing

When Matt woke up we took our showers in what again had been the first time in about six days. Be very thankful you were nowhere near us on this passages. Showers were so few and far between that our clothes could basically stand up on their own by the time they came off. But today was completely different. The sun was shining, I could keep my balance while using the foot pump in the head, and I even got a shave in. Operation ‘Caribbean-girly’ was in full swing. As I combed out my hair and put on my last bits of eyeliner and mascara I came out into the cockpit to find we were soon approaching St. Maarten.

Coming up from the SE side we were greeted with small cliffs followed by the harbor of Phillipsburg (filled with cruise ships, no thanks), we sailed on in the mid afternoon sun to Simpson Bay. There’s an option to anchor out in the big bay for a small charge or pay to go through the draw bridge and into the lagoon. This seems to be a popular thing to do but held no interest for us. I know I just spent 28 day straight staring at nothing but the big blue ocean, but I still want to keep it close. I miss it’s view if I’m away from it for too long.

I had been a little wary of what we’d find there since the photos in our guidebook were taken with a terrible camera, but we were in love as soon as our anchor hit the sandy bottom. Under our keel was 15 ft of beautiful turquoise water, to our starboard side was open water featuring a golden afternoon sun, and off our port were lush green hills with sandy beaches and resorts lining their foreground.

After breezing through customs and immigration (and having McDonald’s for dinner…I mean, come on. It was right there), we were back at the boat in need of a little R&R. Not before we could celebrate our crossing though. Ever since we left Michigan we’ve been carrying around a bottle of champagne that Matt’s sister had given us, waiting for the perfect occasion to open it. First it was supposed to be our friend Jackie’s 30th birthday in the Bahamas..but that didn’t happen. Then it was supposed to be when we passed the rock of Gibraltar….but that didn’t happen. So, covering 3,100 miles in one go? I think that deserves a toast.

Having picked out what I can only describe as the absolute perfect champagne for us, a Moscato since Matt likes things super sweet, we popped the cork and enjoyed our first hours of stillness in four weeks. Caribbean music floated through our speakers and Georgie delightedly wandered the decks again. Paradise, we have finally arrived.

Sint Maarten from the sea

kissing Georgie in Simpson Bay

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Atlantic Re-Crossing Part II

Wednesday January 14, 2014

Atlantic Crossing January 1

Day 15 – January 1, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 118 nm – 1,447 total
  • Matt was supposed to wake me for a midnight countdown into the new year. He forgot. At the moment he still doesn’t realize it’s New Years. Waves outside are steep and choppy. I wouldn’t call this miserable, but it’s not ideal.


Day 16 – January 2, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 114 nm – 1,561 total
  • Nothing much different happening. Didn’t bring much soda on this passage with us we didn’t think it would sound good once we were sailing, but now we’re fighting over the last Pepsi.


Day 17 – January 3, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 110 nm – 1,671 total
  • Put on a seasickness patch but I still feel dizzy & sick when I stand up. Tonight we’ll set the clocks back, the first time since we’ve left, since the sun is now rising at 8:30 am.


Day 18 – January 4, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 122 nm – 1,793 total
  • Almost broke my foot when I slid off the settee and it wedged itself under the table as I rotated around it. Luckily it’s fine. We saw a big cargo ship this morning visually that never showed up on AIS.


Day 19 – January 5, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 124 nm – 1,917 total
  • We haven’t seen the sun in days now. Today there was a squall with winds in the 40′s, but it passed fairly quickly.


Day 20 – January 6, 2015

  • Winds E 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 126 nm – 2,043 total
  • Showers off and on all day. A few more squalls just like yesterday, but they always leave no wind in their wake for awhile and we bob around with the sail flogging and making a terrible racket.


Day 21 – January 7, 2015

  • Winds 30-40 knots; Seas 3-4 meters; 135 nm – 2,178 total
  • Today we had a pressure drop of 4 bars in 2 hours. 3 bars in 3 hours is BAD news. This was REALLY BAD. For a 4 hour period we had winds over 50 knots and seas of over 5 meters (16 ft). Kept rounding up into the wind. Prepared ditch bag and waited to be tossed over. Matt trailed lines and fenders to steady us. One wave we didn’t ride down fast enough and it pooped our cockpit. With quite a force, the wave crashed right into our cockpit. Luckily we were down below with all our boards in, but a fair amount of water still forced itself through the cracks. Winds finally died down into the 30′s.


Day 22 – January 8, 2015

  • Wind E 25-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 112 nm – 2,290 total
  • Our days have consisted of nothing but sleeping lately. Between our sleep shifts and naps we’re lucky to spend 2 hours awake together each day.


Day 23 – January 9, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 98 nm – 2,388 total
  • Now is the time that I’m really looking forward to land. I want to sleep through a whole night and I want to be able to take a shower without getting sick. Is that to much to ask for? Less than one week now, hopefully


Day 24 – January 10, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 115 nm – 2,503 total
  • I told myself before that I was done making meals for this passage, now I mean it. I almost cut myself so many times while chopping veggies for pasta salad tonight while a rogue wave would toss us on our side and I’d have to use both hands to hold onto the counter while a knife was dangling out of one.


Day 25 – January 11, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 120 nm – 2,623 total
  • Forecast is looking rough for the next few days. Winds over 25 and seas at 12-25 feet. Aren’t we there yet? Only 400 more miles….


Day 26 – January 12, 2015

  • Winds NE 25-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 127 nm – 2,750 total
  • Storm didn’t turn out to be as bad as I thought it would be. I wish I would have downloaded more movies on our tablet, I’m getting tired of reading and I’m always left with a bit of a headache.


Day 27 – January 13, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 134 nm – 2,884 total
  • We’ve decided on St. Martin for landfall and only have two days left until we get there. Researching everything we can on the place now. So excited!


Day 28 – January 14, 2015

  • Wind E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 107 nm – 2,991 total
  • Getting a little worried about having such high seas and then transitioning to the shallow waters of the Caribbean. But…the weather should actually be dying down for our arrival tomorrow. Here’s to hoping!

Atlantic Crossing January 2

Atlantic Crossing January 3

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Atlantic Re-Crossing – Part I

December 31, 2014

Atlantic Crossing December 1

Unlike our first Atlantic Crossing, I am not going to break up the posts into 2-3 day sections and regale you with what happened on a daily basis.  I can’t, or every post would go something like this:  ‘Woke up.  Winds were heavy but steady.  Waves were heavy but steady.  I can’t go outside without getting wet.  Prepared meals, napped, and waited for the next day to come‘.

I can do that for you every day if you’d like, but the truth is I’d still like you to come back to our blog every few days and I know that’s not the best way to hook or even keep you.  So instead I will be breaking our crossing into two posts where I’ll get a little technical and give conditions plus milage, and then a little snippet of something that happened that day, just to keep your interest if even just a little bit.


Day 1 – December 18, 2014

  • Winds ESE 10-15 knots; Seas 1-2 meters
  • Before leaving, Matt cut his thumb with a drill. No stitches this time; We finally found the sun outside of Las Palmas; Accidentally woke up Matt with the air horn while tacking; Cuddled in the cockpit listening to UB40 while watching the sunset and watched Gran Canaria light up.


Day 2 – December 19, 2014

  • Winds NE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 120 nm
  • Still quite cold out, our gauge is showing the water is only 57. That can’t be right. Stayed below deck for most of the day.


Day 3 – December 20, 2014

  • Winds ENE 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 125 nm – 245 total
  • Saw a flash in the sky, maybe a supernova? Had to hand feed Georgie her dry food. She wanted the cheese I was eating and kept nudging me, timing her nudges with the rocking of the boat.


Day 4 – December 21, 2014

  • Winds ENE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 124 nm – 369 total
  • Found a buddy boat. Well, on AIS at least. The first boat we’ve seen outside of Gran Canaria. They’re 36 ft and sailing in the same direction, only 4 nm from us.


Day 5 – December 22, 2014

  • Winds NE 12-17 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 115 nm – 484 total
  • Read books and made pasta salad. Without being able to fill our propane in Gran Canaria we have about 1 week’s worth of propane left and have to portion it out.


Day 6 – December 23, 2014

  • Winds E 5-10 knots; Seas 0.5-1 meters; 92 nm – 576 total
  • Had a hard time getting a satellite phone signal. With the light winds, tried to lay out on deck and catch a tan. Speeds dropped down to 2 knots.


Day 7 – December 24, 2014

  • Winds E 2-6 knots; Seas 0-1 meters; 41 nm – 617 total
  • Drifted in the morning with no autopilot; Made guacamole and enjoyed in the cockpit with a beer; Trimmed my split ends. Not good according to sailing superstitions. I should have known better. Got a text from my dad that storms were on their way.


Day 8 – December 25, 2014

  • Winds E 5-10 building to 10-15; Seas 1-2 meters; 60 nm – 676 total
  • Merry Christmas! Warm and productive day. Enjoyed 2 cups of coffee, did a little laundry, and had my first shower since leaving. (Ick, I know). Made a nice chicken and potato dinner. Watched the forecast, we have a depression and front on the way.


Day 9 – December 26, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 89 nm – 765 total
  • Day started with lots of wind and growing waves, but it died down by the afternoon. Debated stopping at the Cape Verdes but the weather looks ok for us to continue.


Day 10 – December 27, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 93 nm – 858 total
  • Went into the night with the spinnaker pole up. At 3 am the winds jumped from 15 knots to 30 and stayed strong until the early afternoon when they died down to 10-15 knots.


Day 11 – December 28, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 121 nm – 979 total
  • Changed our course from S to WSW. Matt caught a tuna but lost it before getting it on board. Got seasick and spent the rest of the day in a foul mood, made Matt cook dinner.


Day 12 – December 29, 2014

  • Winds E 15-20 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 114 nm – 1,093 total
  • Sick again. Matt left the dishes overnight for me to clean. Thanks Matt. Caught 2.5 ft mahi. Cleaned and filleted it even though I felt like I was going to throw up in the sink.


Day 13 – December 30, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 115 nm – 1,208 total
  • Still overcast, still feeling blah. Finally washed my hair for the first time in 5 days. Made a nice chicken, potato, carrot stew for dinner.


Day 14 – December 31, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 121 nm – 1,329 total
  • More of the same. Clouds, strong winds, feeling gross. Read the book Slaughterhouse V. It was…interesting.

Atlantic Crossing December 3

Atlantic Crossing Decdember 2

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Sailing Superstitions Part II

Thursday December 18, 2014

sailing superstitions

It’s that time again!  Time for a large passage and time to get back to the sailing superstitions that surround them.  If you remember, I did a post back in October of the sailing superstitions that we follow ourselves.  But while doing a little research on the topic I came across a few others that I found quite interesting.  And as we leave today on our 3,000 nautical mile passage from Las Palmas de Grand Canaria to either St. Martin or Antigua in the Caribbean, I leave you with a few more of the things we’ll try and stay away from just to keep luck on our side.


Whistle for Wind

You might think it would be nice to whistle a little tune and get a steady breeze in return, but apparently you’re not supposed to whistle at all on a boat. Whistling is said to challenge the wind itself (since I guess if you think about it, you always refer to the wind as whistling through the trees, ect) and if you do whistle on board it is said to bring a storm about. I am married to a perpetual whistler who doesn’t even know he’s doing it most of the time, and luckily we’ve only faced a handful of storms so far, so I think this one is bull. But that doesn’t mean you’ll hear me whistling any tunes across the Atlantic. No use trying to tempt fate.



Having a woman on board is bad luck

Well, this boat couldn’t really travel without me on it (have you read about Matt’s nil attention span while navigating?), so we kind of have to disregard this one. It’s said that this curse can be counteracted if said woman is naked, but as we found out from our sail into Port Antonio, Jamaica, this seemed to hold opposite of being true. I’m not even sure how this superstition came about, but I’m sure it was a bunch of drunken men sitting around a bottle of rum one night while their petticoated counterparts were dressed to the nines in corsets, stockings, gowns, frills, ect, and they thought ‘We need to put an end to this. I know….let’s tell them that they’ll bring good luck to the passage if they run around in the buff!’.




Don’t bring bananas on board

This is one of the very first sailing superstitions we ever learned about, yet refuse to follow it. All along the east coast of the US we were always bringing bananas on board, making banana bread, and having nice leisurely motors down the ICW. Hmmm, I wonder if the fact that we weren’t doing any actual sailing while having bananas on board was key.

There’s a few reasons having bananas on board is bad luck, the most popular and well known reason is that one could slip on the peel and fall overboard. Sounds logical enough. But after researching a little more I found out that part of this fear came from back in the days of slave ships. Bananas being transported on these ships would give off a fermented gas which would become trapped below deck. Prisoners being kept in the hold would succumb to this gas and die. It’s also said that a particular species of spider with a lethal bite would hide in banana bunches and bite crew members after being brought aboard, causing that person to die. So yeah, I can see why sailors may have looked down on this delicious fruit before realizing the scientific reasons for all of their crew members demise.


Renaming a boat

This is one we have yet to do…but will soon!

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An Aluminum Anniversary and a Little Blue Box

Tuesday December 16, 2014

wedding day


Today marks a very special day in the lives of Matt and I, as it is our 10 year wedding anniversary.  That’s right.  10 years have flown by since we were just a couple of love struck kids, wandering the streets of the Las Vegas Boulevard, high on life and a little drunk on the $0.50 margaritas sold at Harrah’s.

Today we sit in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, just as much in love as ever with a pretty good life behind us so far.  It should have been a perfect day for celebrating such a momentous occasion in our lives.  Matt had already done his husbandly duty of buying me a traditional 10 year wedding anniversary gift, something made from aluminum.  Aka, that hunk of metal that awaits us in Florida. There was also a little blue box awaiting me that night that I did not know about.  Something from Tiffany’s perhaps?  Hmmm…we’ll see.  But there was one thing else missing for us to be able to celebrate in a proper fashion and that was access to a credit card or cash.

Let me back up a few days here.  While preparing for our own departure across the Atlantic, hopefully this coming week, Matt and I had been doing the usual provisioning of food and boat necessities over the past few days.  Yesterday while at one of the marine stores here we were ready to drop a pretty hefty sum on a couple of essential items for the boat that we have not had easy access to since we were in Miami back in June.  Upon check-our card kept coming back declined and we assumed it was because we were right around that time of the month when money gets moved from one account to another and we had used up our allowance and needed to wait until today for it to fill itself again.  No big deal.

With the bit of remaining cash we had on us, we hit up the grocery store and bought some of the fundamental food items since we were already off the boat and we knew provisioning would take at least a few trips.  Handing over our last 20 Euro we came back to the boat stocked with UTC milk, cereal and lots of saltine crackers.

Once again we went to the marine store this morning and tried to walk away with our purchase only to find the card declined again.  Getting on the computer to finally check the situation we found that no money had been moved over and there was still only $30.00 sitting in our account.  Not enough for our boat based purchases but enough that we should be able to go out and enjoy a nice enough dinner for our anniversary.  Not wanting the card to be declined at the restaurant though, we decided to hit up an ATM to make sure we had the cash in hand.  Popping over to the first bank we could find we tried to pull out our remaining money only to be declined that transaction as well.

At this point we had zero cash, zero access to any debit or credit cards, and worst of all, no more real food on the boat.  There was a little bread but even the lunch meat was gone for making sandwiches.  Because of the time difference we couldn’t even try calling our credit card company until the middle of the afternoon our time.  As far as living high, or hell, even having a decent day, we were screwed.  Back at Serendipity we munched on PB&J’s for lunch and kept checking the weather now that we weren’t sure how long our departure from Gran Canaria would be delayed if we couldn’t get access to money for a few more days.

As evening fell and we were supposed to be going out to a nice restaurant to celebrate hitting a decade of wedded bliss, we were instead tearing apart the boat looking for any kind of food to hold us over until the next day.  Peeking into the rarely viewed food storage nooks under the settees I came across something that actually put a big smile on my face.  A little blue box…filled with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Something we hadn’t eaten in months and had been joking with Kit and Alex that we were desperately craving, not having spotted it being sold in any stores since Horta.  Dinner had been found.

I was fine with this choice of meal and was surprised to find that Matt was quite upset that we weren’t able to go out and celebrate.  If you remember, he doens’t put much emphasis on any kind of holiday and wouldn’t even know when his birthday came around unless I was there to remind him.  For some reason though, this is the one occasion in his mind that deserved special attention.  But I just had to laugh at the whole situation as we sat with our little bowls and glasses in front of us at the dinner table.  Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Pepsi.  This was so absolutely us.  And what a better way of celebrating ten years together than being completely who you are.

12.16.12 a

*We found out the next day that a hold had been put on our card due to the large and ‘suspicious’ purchase we were trying to make at the marine store.  Apparently our credit card company had no idea we were outside of the US even though we always tell them this….and we just paid a $300 marina bill with that same card in Madeira six weeks ago!  With our new cash we were able to get all our necessary supplies and even stuff our faces at Montanditos one last time.  Fully stuff them.  And wash everything down with tinto verano.  Man I need to find that stuff in stores.

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A Continent in Miniature

Sunday December 14, 2014

rainbow rocks - Gran Canaria

They say that the island of Gran Canaria is a continent in miniature.  That by visiting various places on this island can give you the feeling that you’ve traveled an entire continent, based on all the diversity offered.  With many micro-climates encased in only 1,560 square kilometers, I can see how one would get that feeling.  From the sprawling sand dunes of Maspalomas to the cave homes and hotels of Tejeda; from the rocky cliffs plummeting to the shorelines of the west coast to the damp forests of Santa Maria de Guia and the picturesque beaches and metropolis of Las Palmas,

forest Gran Canaira

Santa Maria de Guia.  Image taken from here.


Hostel built into the mountains of Tejeda.  Image taken from here.

To us, this island needed to be explored as best as possible and for a multitude of reasons.  For starters, rental cars start out at only 22 Euros a day.  That’s less than we were paying for scooter rentals in the Azores!  Secondly, with a continent in miniature that’s fairly exploreble in a single day there was no way we could only confine ourselves to Las Palmas.  And thirdly, our 10 year wedding anniversary is creeping up on us in a few days and what better way to celebrate? The rental service we used was extremely helpful, replying to our emails within an hour and even running the rental car out to the marina in the morning so we not only get it in our hands as early as possible, but we wouldn’t have to hunt down the agency in these sometimes confusing streets.

Thursday morning we were getting our bearings straight as we pulled out of the marina and tried to place ourselves on G-1 South.  The plan was to get to the dunes of Maspalomas on the south end of the island with a stops Telde in Agüimes on the way.  The guidebook that did such a good job of leading us around the Old Town of Las Palmas listed too many nice things to see and do in these areas to pass tem up.  Once more, I foolishly listened.

Not realizing how quickly you travel through the island on the major expressways, we missed our first exit toward Telde and had to backtrack our way up from the next available one.  With the gas gauge on empty, mind you.  I don’t know how we managed to find an open station out in the middle of nowhere on the county road we were traveling on, but once the tank was topped off we merrily made our way on towards Telde and it’s beautiful squares and churches.  Since this ended up being such a full day I won’t go into detail of exactly what happened for the next 45 minutes, but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Drive right past it because these roundabouts are confusing as hell.
  • Don’t know the road we’re supposed to be on to get to the square, so just start looking for tall steeples of churches.
  • Try to follow our map to the big i for information.  Pretty sure it doesn’t exist.
  • Look for a McDonald’s so we can get wifi and research a little better.
  • Don’t find one, so we park the car and wander for 20 minutes, through cute shops and streets, but come up empty handed for churches.
  • Decide that Barrio de San Francisco must not exist either.
  • Get back in the car because we still have a lot of island to cover and this was just supposed to be a quick stop.
  • Curse myself for relying solely on my pocket guide book and not researching more on my own.


  • Take the county road down to Agüimes and find sign directing us toward the Historic Center.  Woo hoo!
  • Find that for some reason we got the one rental car that you can’t lock the doors from the outside.  F&*k!
  • Discover the key has to be in the door while you’re locking it.  Ahhh haaa!
  • Walk up to the historic center to find the plaza and the church.
  • I think it’s an adorable town that I would love to backpack through and spent a few nights here in a hostel.  Lots of cute streets and restaurants.  It reminds me of a mix of Trinidad, Cuba and Horta, Azores.
  • Matt is a little less than impressed.
  • We snap a few photos of the church but are not allowed to go in.  The plaza is empty and most shops and restaurants are still closed save for one or two cafes.
  • We get back in the car in search for sand and beaches.

church at Agüimes, Gran Canaria

plaza at Agüimes Gran Canaria

Back on the main road of GC-1 we zoom to the southern end of the island and make record time getting there.  Having had the car for only two hours now, we allowed ourselves to slow down a little and enjoy a proper beach again.  Starting at Playa Ingles we took the steps down to the dunes that stretched as far as you could see.  Unlike the Sleeping Bear Dunes of northern Michigan where my heart will forever belong, from here we could easily see to the water and that it was only a 15 minute hike to get there.  Superior to my dunes back home though, the ones here did get those cool ripples in the sand that you’d expect to see in the Sahara from the wind constantly moving it around.

Today was not an afternoon for those winds to be dying down anytime soon and even though we had been cursing Las Palmas lately for it’s chilly days, things weren’t much better at the southern tip of the island.  A quick stroll on the beach turned us around and we were back in the car, hunting down Melonaras and it’s lighthouse.  Not only did we eventually come across it, but we were also able to spot all the mega resorts and where those with loads of money vacation in Gran Canaria.

dunes at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

Jessica at Maspalomas Dunes

dunes Maspalomas, Gran Canaira

By this time of day we were more than hungry and we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford a lunch in Melonaras unless we sold our boat to be able to pay for it.  Just a little further up the coast was another tourist town of Puerto Rico and we were 90% sure we’d be able to find at least some sort of fast food joint there.  What we did find was indeed a McDonalds, and also that Puerto Rico is the tackiest town we have ever seen.

As far as the eye could see were condos built into the hillside with every cheesy restaurant and shop you could think of it’s valley below.  If I planned a vacation here based on brochures alone I would be one pissed off person once the taxi pulled up to this area.  We said screw it to even stopping here for food and just picked up some Doritos and a Pepsi at a grocery store in the next town over.

puerto-rico gran canaria

 The aerial images lie, this is what it looks like once you’re inside!  Image found here.

It’s a good thing we didn’t waste any extra time on sitting down for lunch as we realized how much our pace slowed down just after Puerto Rico when the roads began to wind through the mountains. Slowing down to 30 mph we took all our corners blind.  Half the time another car would be coming around the corner and we made a little game of screaming as if we were going to collide.  There wasn’t a lot of quiet time in the car for the next few hours.  We unfortunately crack ourselves up.

colored rocks, Gran Canaria

hillsides of west Gran Canaria

The slow going on the roads though was well worth the views.  Everything outside of our window was gorgeous and we wished we could spend the rest of our afternoon in this area.  There weren’t many towns to distract us and other than almost running out of fuel for the second time that day, we had no reason to look for one.

Along the winding road were a few signs for scenic overlooks that we couldn’t pass up.  The views looking over the ocean on the west side of Gran Canaria were stunning and reminded us exactly of being in the Atlantic Islands of Portugal.  Something we’d been looking for ever since we got to the Canaries.

West Coast of Gran Canaria

West Coast of Gran Canaria

Jessica, West Coast of Gran Canaria

 Trying to beat the clock of the sun going down on us we raced toward our last sightseeing stop of the day.  Arucas.  This town is a main draw for many tourist that make their way to Gran Canaira solely for it’s church.  A neo-gothic structure that covers every postcard or brochure pertaining to the island.

Spotting the church as you come into town is incredibly easy, but finding parking is a completely different story.  Only for us though because we kept missing the turn we wanted and had to follow the narrow one way streets by it’s plaza until we could get ourselves out and head another direction.  This happened three times.

While still freaking out that the sun would go down on us and we wouldn’t be able to make out the great details of the church at dusk, we eventually found a meter and hastily shoved some coins in before running across the street.  We quickly found we weren’t allowed inside, but the views from outside were spectacular. For 30 minutes we wandered the premises in awe, astounded at the structure before us.  Having just Googled some photos of how majestic it looks all lit up at night though…I kind of wish we would have stayed a little longer.  Oh well.  Ikea and major grocery stores were still calling our name.  When you have a rental car for only a day, you do have to get the most use out of it as possible.


church of Arucas, Gran Canaria

San Juan Bautista, Arucas, Gran Canaria

Church of San Juan Bautista, Arucas, Gran Canaria

Renting a car and exploring the island is one of the best things we could have done with our time here.  It truly is a continent in miniature.  And that’s just from the parts we had seen.  Given us a car here for a week…we’d probably never leave.

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Sailor’s Bar & Almost Good-byes

Friday December 12, 2014


The time has come already.  At least, we thought it had.  For our group to say good-bye that is.  Kit and Alex were all set to ship off tomorrow, having spent the past two days rushing around Las Palmas.   Filling water tanks and diesel, stuffing every nook and cranny with food, and almost sinking the boat with all the extra weight added necessary for an ocean crossing.

We hadn’t seen either of them in days, Kit not since our slacklining exercise on Wednesday morning, as we’re finding that ocean voyages come with a pretty hefty prep list.  Even just checking out of the country is a 45 minute walk each way to the port police and back.  We did find though that their passports were not even glanced at which is good news for us since no one in this country ever wanted to check us into it in the first place.

The plan had been for our Gran Canaria boat buddies to depart tomorrow….until the weather forecast kept making it’s daily changes, as it does.  Matt and I had been spying 20-25 knot winds (which means 25-30 in actual real world wind) and 2-3 meter waves, which is just a little heavier than we wanted to depart in and why we were not ready to race out ourselves.  As the forecast progressed to 25-30 knots of wind and waves bordering on 3-4 meters, our buddies decided that this was just a little heavier than they would like to travel in as well.

A night out at Sailor’s Bar had already been planned so we could get our last good-byes in, and when plans changes we decided to change it from a bon voyage party to ‘Yay, you’re stuck with us for a little longer!’ party.  Trying to find an open table at this establishment at 8pm on a Friday night is no easy feat, but after sliding into a ‘reserved’ table and getting mixed answers on if it was indeed reserved or not, and then finally stealing a table from someone who found it necessary to take up 4 seats to Skype, we sat down and downed a couple of cañas.

Our boats may not be headed across any oceans just yet, but personally, that’s just fine with me.  I have no problem spending a few more days in this cute and colorful down, drinking draft beers with new yet close friends.

beers at Sailor's Bar

Alex & Jessica

Jessica & Kit

Trying to ‘make love’ to the camera as well as Kit….and failing horribly….

Jessica & Kit

…So I settled for a plain old smile instead.

brittany hat 2 brittany hat

Kitiara in Wanderland


group photo, Sailor's Bar

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