A Three Hour Tour – Day 1: We’re Gonna Need a Faster Boat

Wednesday May 29, 2013

  5.29.13

Can you believe that in all the time Serendipity and Rode Trip have been together, we’ve never sailed on the others boats?  Sure, there have been plenty times spent hanging out on one or the others, making dinners, playing games, or just enjoying a bottle (or two) of wine, but never had we all been together on one boat while it was in motion.  And probably for good reason too, if you’re traveling together you can’t very well leave one boat behind.  But it also means that we’ve forgotten the meaning of a ‘pleasure cruise’.  Any bit of traveling we did on our boats was because it had to be done, not just because we felt like going out for day to enjoy the water.  So today, we decided to change that.  With Brian and Stephanie ready to leave Cayman as soon as the next weather window pops up that will carry them North and then East around Cuba, they needed to top off Rode Trip’s fuel and water tanks.  There don’t seem to be any marinas in the West Bay where we’re anchored, only in the North Sound, about 12 miles away.  Another thing that happens to be in the North Sound is Stingray City.  It’s a series of shallow sandbars just inside a reef where fisherman used to clean their catches and throw their scraps in the water, causing the stingrays to come feed on them.  Soon it became a tourist attraction, and now plenty of charter boats visit there every day, bringing herds of cruise line passengers to watch, feed, and play with the stingrays.

Getting to Rode Trip bright and early in the morning at 7:30 am, we figured the trip up would take 3 hours, we’d play with the stingrays, fuel up the boat, have a little lunch, and be back to our mooring before dinner.  Matt and I tied our dinghy to the mooring ball so the spot would be saved for when we got back, and we were off.  Matt worked with Brian to raise the main sail, and then with Stephanie to raise the headsail.  I took it as a vacation and sat on the coachroof, watching us now ‘racing’ the pirate ship that’s moored by us and also decided to head in our general direction at the same time.  Brian made some coffee to perk us up and help us get over the dreary, overcast morning that was on top of us.  Tropical storm Andrea, what we had been keeping our eyes on a few days earlier, wasn’t coming close enough to us anymore for us to be worried, but she was forecast to bring lots of rain our way.  While we were sipping on coffee, Stephanie showed me these baby crabs she said they’d been finding all over their boat, mostly likely climbing up from the mooring lines.  At first I expected hard shelled crabs in miniature form, but these looked like they had just hatched that morning, big buggy eyes, but still cute nonetheless.  I tried to keep one as my pet until he started to run away and I accidentally squished him while trying to get him back.  No one ever give me kids.

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Come on Matt, you have to earn your position on this boat.

pleasure cruise - Matt n Jess coffee

It’s 8:00 in the morning and we’re out of bed.  Cheers!

pleasure cruise - baby crab

RIP Herman.  5/28/13-5/29/13

(Above two photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

The remainder of the morning was calm and uneventful.  We kept a close eye on speed, and even though we were hoping to keep an average of 4 knots .  We were doing ok for the most part, but once we passed all the fancy hotels on 7 Mile Beach and were ready to start heading around the corner to the North Sound, the wind was coming closer and closer to being on our nose, which was really slowing down speed.  In the end we decided that the only way around it was to fall off the wind, meaning we’ll have to eventually tack back in, and add a few miles to our journey.  That’s ok though.  It was still early, the sun was not quite shining, but we had coffee and music and good friends.  Another hour or so on the water wasn’t going to hurt us at all.

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Ok, so we’ve managed to commandeer Rode Trip……..now what?

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All was looking ok for us to start making our way into the North Sound.  We were running parallel to it and just when we’d start navigating through the narrow channel, the engine would be turned on and we’d motor in the rest of the way.  The channel isn’t supposed to be very wide, or even very deep at 8 ft, but with coral reefs on each side we wanted to make sure conditions were perfect before making our way in.  So when we spotted some very dark storm clouds off in the distance, threatening us with not only some nasty winds and showers, but waves that would probably do everything in their power to keep Road Trip on her straight and narrow course.  And since we don’t want Rode Trip to suffer a fate like Serendipity, and I didn’t want to ruin my afternoon by abandoning ship due to a coral wreck, we changed course to head out into open water instead while the storm blew by.

As the sky grew darker, the winds picked up as well.  Matt and Stephanie quickly doused the headsail while Brian put a reef in the main.  The haze of rain on the water advanced closer to us, I didn’t even wait for it to hit before scrambling below.  The boat was already leaning at a pretty good heel, and with much more cockpit space than I’m used to, I couldn’t find my normal footholds to brace against, and I figured a storm and a man overboard drill at the same time was probably more than Brian wanted to deal with at the helm.  Once the rain did come though, everyone else was quick to join me, and we let the windvane do it’s job as we tried to stay dry and warm.  The storm was fairly quick and as soon as it passed, it was all hands on deck again.  Except my hands.  They stayed nice and warm as I napped on the settee.  Where I was told to stay by Matt so I wouldn’t get in the way.  ”There’s no reason for you to be up here right now.”  That’s fine.  You won’t hear any complaints from me about not being able to sit in the remnants of the chilly rain.

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 I think….yeah….I’m pretty sure it’s gonna rain.

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Captain Brian, keeping us on a safe and steady course.

5.29.13 (8) It’s hard being me.

 

I let everyone do their job for the next hour or two while I caught a few winks of sleep.  I did want to see what going through this dangerous channel was like though, and I was hoping someone would come wake me for that part.  And I was in fact woken up while passing through the channel.  By Rode Trip.  As she hit some of the coral and stopped moving.  I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse by running up on deck yelling, “Oh my god, what happened?!  What did you do?!”.  So instead I peeked through the portholes below and kept my mouth shut until we were moving again.  Which was pretty soon, and no one seemed worried about any damage since it was a relatively minor bump, and Rode Trip has a big ‘ol honkin keel.  I slowly made my way up anyway, where all of us had the discussion that we knew was coming by now anyway after our now extended trip up to the sound. There was no way we were going to make it back to our mooring that night.  It was already after two, we hadn’t done anything we’d started out to do, and even if we turned around that moment, we may not even make it back by sunset.  What we could do, was make it into the marina to make sure Rode Trip was topped off for her Atlantic Crossing, see the stingrays if there was still time, and then tuck into a cove for the night where we’d have a crazy slumber party.  Cause even 30 year olds like to dress up in jammies and have pillow fights sometimes.  With the decision made, we hurried into the marina so we could get at least one thing checked off our list that day.

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This marina had the coolest little island vibe to it.

5.29.13 (10) And at only $0.90/ft, we should have stayed for the night!

 

After all the tanks were full we made our way back into the sound to find a good anchoring spot to make it into town.  There was a ship chandler where we needed to buy things for both boats (a $250 bill for epoxy and resin plus a few other minimal things, ouch!), and then a run to the grocery store so we could get something for dinner.  Along the way we followed a channel in the dinghy that led by plenty of nice homes, many with sail boats and motor boats docked out front.  And strewn along every lawn and boat was a blue iguana, supposedly one of the most endangered animals on earth.  To us though, it looked like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park, with a million reptiles leering at us, ready to pounce any moment.  We even had one swimming toward us in the channel, although he ducked below the water as soon as the camera phone was pulled out.  Seeing that dark clouds were also on their way, it was a mad dash through the store as we acted like contestants on Supermarket Sweep, throwing various items into our cart and trying to make it to the check out as quick as possible.  Back into the dinghy, we zoomed back through the channel as fast as we could.  Getting to the open bay, the somewhat building waves of another storm on it’s way would crash over the bow, drenching everyone inside.  The cold air would send a chill down your spine, until the next wave of warm water would come crashing over.  Looking over at Stephanie who was up front next to me, I smiled and yelled, “This is our life!”.  Somehow it had much less enthusiasm than it did back in the Bahamas.  The rain never did come, but all the clouds that piled in made for one of the most amazing sunset’s we’d ever seen, the sky illuminated into bright pink and blue colors.  It almost didn’t look real, and as we motored the big boat over to our anchorage for the night, no one could keep their eyes unglued from the horizon until every bit of color faded.

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Dinner was very enjoyable since we had someone who actually knew how to cook preparing it.  When we were finished. we cracked open one of the extra coconuts from our day snorkeling, and added the sweet water to some pineapple juice and rum.  Then it was on to one of the favorite things for three of us on the boat to do, and one of Matt’s least favorite.  Playing Settlers of Catan.  It’s not that he necessarily hates that game, he just hates playing any kind of game.  So after the first round when most of us were ready to go for another one, but we were quickly losing Matt’s interest, we found a way to make it more interesting.  Since the game is focused on building a settlement, we thought we could spice it up by making a person take a shot of rum each time they wanted to build something.  Which you hope to do on every turn.  And since that would put me out of the game and passed out drooling on the floor after about two roads and one settlement, we brought down the ante to only a 1/4 shot for each item built.  We had much more fun the second time around, although probably drew out the game even further initially, each person collecting cards and not wanting to build anything.  But since this might be the last time we play Settlers of Catan with Brian and Stephanie, we all soon decided to go three sheets to the wind.  Game on!

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 Brian knows he has it in the bag before he even begins.

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This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Dim

Monday May 27, 2013

5.27.13

No motion of the ocean in this boat.

 

I am slowly going insane.  It started about three days after we arrived at Grand Cayman, and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.  We had Burger King at our disposal, snorkeling right off our boat, internet.  I just felt a little off, and unhappy, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Then it dawned on me.  Our boat is never still.  Not even close.  Being at anchor is supposed to be your safe haven after passage.  Other than a very light back and forth motion that rocks you to sleep, being at anchor should almost make you forget that you live on a boat.  (Because, after a few months, living in about 200 sq ft actually becomes quite normal).  So, when you’re in your ‘safe haven’, but being thrown about like you’re still on passage, it can make one a little….irritable.  I don’t know why it even took me as long as it did, maybe because we’ve actually been off the boat most of our days running around town, but I should have been tipped off when I’d go to make dinner and I’d get seasick.  No joke.  There’s something about this spot we’re in, where even though the wind is coming out of the East and we’re situated on the West, a fairly nasty, or at least very uncomfortable swell, will roll through each evening and night, completely opposite to the direction the wind is holding us at our mooring ball.

I think I would have been much happier not knowing what was causing my misery, because once you know what’s driving you insane, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.  It’s non-ignoring.  We couldn’t make any kind of movement in the boat without my entire focus being drawn to it.  Matt has been able to remedy the situation a little bit by making a bridle.  We have two lines tied to our mooring ball, both having been tied to our front cleats at the bow for our first few days here.  To make the bridle, Matt has taken one of the lines and tied it to the cleat at the stern, now putting us beam to the mooring ball.  What this also does, is put us head on to the waves.  So instead of rocking back and forth, we now rock front to back.  Most of the time.  These swells never seem to come from the same direction and we can’t always get ourselves bow into them, but something is better than nothing.  I still want to get off the boat at any chance possible though, so when Stephanie called me on the radio today to see if I wanted to spend an afternoon with her at the library using their internet (she knows Burger King offers that, right?), I jumped at the chance to be on firm land.

Matt and I did quick stop in for lunch at BK, we’re only human after all, but then it was time for Stephanie and I to get to work.  The guys weren’t as interested in being cooped up all day and stole one of the dinghies to go snorkeling.  When they came to pick us up a few hours later, we were already famished again and ready to get more food.  Making a stop into one of the duty-free liquor stores on our way down the street, Brian and Steph wanted to do a little more beer stocking.  As they searched the coolers, Matt and I wandered to the back where the hard liquor was.  They had everything imaginable, and all of it was dirt cheap.  In the back of the store was also a counter where a woman came over to greet us and ask if we’d like to try and samples of their Tortuga rum.  There were two different flavors being offered, Pineapple and Mango, and none of us were about to turn down that offer.  Both were very sweet rums that everyone else seemed to be able to throw back without a problem while I just slowly sipped mine, savoring the taste.

Things kept getting better, and after the rum was drank the woman pulled out three sheets of Tortuga rum cake for us to sample as well.  Holy crap, these are the best things ever.  Each being a different flavor, she loaded up napkins for each of us with one slice of pineapple, chocolate, and coconut.  Pineapple was by far my favorite, but each one was moist and delicious.  She could see our constant drooling and told us to help ourselves to however much more we wanted.  Now normally with eating so many samples we’d feel obligated to buy something, even if we didn’t have the money to spend on it, but then she uttered some of the best words we could have heard that day.  All orders or purchases from this store were duty free and could not be walked out of the store, but were instead could only be delivered to the cruise ship.  Which we were not on.  Which means that we couldn’t buy anything.  Free food without the guilt to purchase.  I know I’m probably coming off very cheap by saying that, but this island is expensive!  So I smiled gladly as she loaded up napkins full of cakes for us to take on the road as we made our way to our real dinner, which was KFC.  Healthy day, I know.  But while eating we were treated to a rooster roaming around outside, eating fallen pieces of chicken, and then getting into a cockfight with a competitor that tried to move in on his turf.  In the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I can’t make this stuff up.

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This is the best cake I have ever tasted.

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Now what would you mix honey vodka with?

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Cause everyone should taste….nope.  Not gonna go there.

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‘Hi!, I’m a cannibal!’

 

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Back’s Against the Wall

Sunday May 26, 2013

  Jess snorkel 2

One thing I have to say about Grand Cayman, is they have some world class snorkeling and diving areas.  Seeing all the coral heads under us as we brought Serendipity to her mooring ball last week, we took a little little snorkel our second morning here just to see what we could find.  And lo and behold, there was a whole amazing underwater world right off of our back porch.  All of it is a protected area with no fishing allowed in depth under 80 feet, so there was a plethora of every kind of imaginable fish swimming under our feet, unaware and non frightened of any humans bobbing around a few feet away from them.  Unlike the Bahamas, where not only did they fish know they were your dinner and made a mad dash in the opposite direction any time you started to move near, there also wasn’t the wide expanse of sandy patches between coral heads.  This area was all coral, no sand.  Swimming further and further, we came to a ledge where we looked down to find a spotted eagle sting ray below us, and schools of large jacks darting in and out of caves.  It was easy to become lost in this underwater world, and we even got a nice scolding from a dive boat that passed by since we had now swam a few hundred feet away from the boat with no dive flag up.  A few days ago I collected Matt and Brian in the dinghy so they could explore a shipwreck just off the shore, and keep an eye on them and other boats while they swam.

Rode Trip - snorkeling - fish

Brian - snorkeling ship

(Above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

Today the four of us planned on another snorkeling trip together, and when Brian and Stephanie came to pick us up in their dingy, we had some important information from them.  Ren, from s/v Nila Girl, had just sent me a few links to weather sites showing there might be a tropical storm headed in our direction.  Brian and Stephanie are getting a new stay made for their boat, but were planning on leaving as soon as it was ready, in the next few days.  But from this forecast, we’re looking at some pretty nasty weather from the 28th to the 6th.  Which means none of us have time to get anywhere else without the chance of being caught in this storm.  Ren also sent us a map to a creek in the North Bay that we should be able to tuck ourselves into if things get bad, so we’ll really be keeping an eye on the weather for the next few days and moving our boats if necessary.  I let Brian take over my computer for a bit, since we were now able to use our long range wifi to pick up Burger King’s signal, and let him spend a little time researching site after site to see what might be coming our way.  While this was going on, Stephanie and I amused ourselves by finally getting an American radio station in again and jamming to the tunes.  When one song came on I could see her cock her head to the side, and as she looked at me, I blurted out before she could ask, “This is Fun”.  She just looked at me, “Yeah, we’re going to have a lot of fun today, but I just wanted to know..”.  “It’s Fun”, I broke in again.  ”Jessica”, She sighed, “I love spending time with you guys, but sitting on your boat, checking the weather, isn’t that fun.  I just want to know who sings this song”.  By this time, Matt and Brian were cracking up with me.  “Stephanie”, I slyly smiled, “The group…is called Fun”.

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I keep trying to tell you woman…this is Fun!!

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Our weather guru, making sure we’re safe in Grand Cayman.

 

Fifteen minutes later we were satisfied that we couldn’t do anything about the weather except keep checking it for the next few days.  Piling the four of us into Rode Trip’s dinghy, we thought we’d go up towards 7 Mile Beach (which is actually only 4 miles long), to see if we could find any good dive sites there.  The boys also really wanted to check out ‘The Wall’, an area that drops off from 30-40  feet to hundreds of feet deep in just the span of a few meters.  Getting a very wet ride in their low sitting dinghy, we roared on near 7 Mile Beach and all the fancy hotels with their high class customers sipping on fancy drinks while sitting in shade covered lounge chairs (Ahem, J & N! (don’t worry, they come in later)).  Tying off to one of the dive balls in front of The Ritz and watching wave runners and hobie cats race by us, we put on our gear and flipped into the water, gearing up for some great coral and fish sightings that day.  While we did have a fun time (See Steph, you were right!), this area didn’t seem to offer as much as where we were anchored and all the dive shops are located.  I’m starting to think that they know something…

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I swear, I’m not a Trekkie.  I have no idea what’s going on with my hand.

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After spending a little time in the extremely warm water and catching glimpses of what fish we could, it was back in the dinghy to take the guys to The Wall.  We really had no idea where it was, it was not an ‘official’ sight, we just needed to look for a dive ball where the water turned from aqua to a deep emerald blue, and hope we found something there.  The wind was beginning to pick up, and now that we weren’t extremely close to shore, the waves a current were getting a little nastier where we sat tied to the dive buoy we found.  While the guys jumped out to see what they could find, Stephanie opted to stay in the dinghy the whole time, and I did get in the water, but wouldn’t let go of the dinghy.  There wasn’t much to see anyway, at least from my vantage point.  Just a whole lot of blue, and then a whole lot more.  We were already parked in close to 50 feet of water which makes it hard to see the bottom anyway, but since we did happen to be right at the drop off, it was impossible to see anything after that.  It looked like an area that you did have to be in dive gear for, or at least like our friend Ashley, where you can hold your breath for six minutes.  Brian did take a few dives down, getting to about sixty feet, while Matt was just a little shy of him at 40.  They played around for a few minutes, but even with their diving skills there was nothing for them to see either, and we turned around for beaches and beers.

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The dinghy ride was so wet, Stephanie had to wear goggles just to see.

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Brian: ‘There’s a whole lotta nothing out here!’

 

There isn’t much public beach space on West Bay, but we managed to find a little spot of sand to beach the dinghy on where we could relax and enjoy the Red Stripes I packed for us.  I don’t always plan ahead, but when I do, it usually involves drinks.  We found a little wooden platform to park our butts on as we popped the tops on our beers and watched storms come in from the distance.  It took all of five minutes for Matt and Brian to get restless, and they began chasing iguanas up trees and hunting for coconuts.  Trying, and failing, to climb the trees themselves, they instead found old coconuts on the ground and used those to knock fresh ones from the trees.  When a pile of six or seven had fallen to the ground, they brought them back over to us to try and open…without any kind of knife or machete or sharp objects.  With caveman ingenuity, they took to smashing them on sharp rocks over and over again to split the husk, and then ripping it apart as best they could.  It took a lot of huffing and puffing and grunting, but each guy was able to open their coconut, passing it around to drink the water inside (don’t hate me, but I can’t stand coconut water) and then breaking the rest into smaller pieces for us to dig into the meat.  After multiple days of projects, and running around, and other ‘have to do’ things, I think a day like this is exactly what all of us needed.

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Da Fish Shack

Thursday May 23, 2013

  5.23.13

A couple days into Grand Cayman, and I think we’ve seen almost every supermarket or bulk food store they have.  This may have consisted of wandering around in 92 degree temperatures for hours, walking out as far as the airport and loading our backpacks full of Oreos and Mac & Cheese, but we made sure to spend some time out of the heat as well in such fine establishments as Burger King and Popeyes Chicken.  Don’t judge.  We know we have a problem.  And the first step is admitting it.

Having split up from Brian and Stephanie for a few days so we could each get our own work done, we met up for drinks tonight at Da Fish Shack.  It is among one of the many restaurants and bars along the waterfront on the West Bay, and Brian and Stephanie had gone in earlier that day for a drink after a sign outside caught their eye, ‘$10 pitcher of beer’.  Since the six pack of beer that had been the equivalent of Natural Reserve they had purchased the other night just about ran them $10 anyway, they popped in to enjoy a tall frosty glass along with the free wifi.  Coming by in their dinghy, Stephanie, on a very empty stomach but in a very happy mood, wanted to inform us of the special and ask if we’d like to join them that evening for another pitcher and dinner.  We skipped out on dinner, eating more of our Cuban meat and potatoes back at the boat, but we did join them later for our own pitcher of Caybrew.  They discussed their upcoming passage to the Azores while we went over the information of a marina we just made a reservation at in Guatemala.  Pretty soon will come the day where we’re not buddy boats anymore, so these last few nights of the four of us together need to be savored before they disappear.

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A front row seat to Serendipity.

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Semi-America

Tuesday May 21, 2013

  5.21.13

As far as passages go, our one from Cuba to Grand Cayman was a rather calm and uneventful one. Two nights out at sea, and besides doing a little motoring through light winds to steer clear of a few storms, there were no worries at all. The first 24 hours we were actually ‘buddy boating’ with Rode Trip, where we each had each other in our sights. Which seems pretty amazing considering that we often lose each other, even on 20 mile sails from cay to cay in the Bahamas. The second evening, after we had eaten all the leftovers packed in the fridge, we grilled up a couple of steaks, or whatever those pieces of meat were that we picked up at the market in Cuba, along with some diced potatoes and it’s potato like friend. I still have no idea what the heck these things are that we picked up, but they taste like a mix between sweet potatoes and regular ones, so I’ll have no problem slicing up the rest and cooking them up. Dinner was enjoyed with a cold Red Stripe for both of us (at the suggestion of non-drinking Matt, can you believe it?), and I’d have to say it was hands down the best passage meal we’ve had yet.

When dinner was finished, we turned to Georgie, intent on helping her get over the heat exhaustion she was experiencing in Cuba. I’m sure part of it had to do with the fact we were not at anchor and had no breeze rolling through, but poor Georgie spent a good portion of her days with her tongue hanging out, trying to get any reprive from the heat that she could. Our solution? After a suggestion from our friend Tasha who cruises with her own two cats, we were going to shave her. Matt held her in place as I ran the hair clippers over her and watched the nice downy fluff fall to the ground. I have to admit, it did make her lose a little visual appeal, with her lower half looking like a four year old got carried away with a pair of scissors, and bandage wrapped around her neck to help with her scratching, now rendering her the opposite of a butter face (you know…where everything looks good but her face). But I’m sure she’s much more comfortable, and that’s all that matters. Then the next morning, came the other Georgie issue.

We always check noonsite before heading into a new country to see if and what the restrictions are on pets. Most just state that the pet needs to have up to date shots, and in some countries, they can’t land. Which is fine because she stays on the boat the whole time anyway. What we read about Cayman, however, is that she needs to be micro-chipped and have blood work sent out no less than 30 day before entering. We didn’t have either of these. Our solution to that problem? Hide her. We weren’t sure if the officials would come on the boat or not, so we tried to stow away any evidence of there being a cat on board. Luckily her litter box is a giant Rubbermaid container with a hole cut in the top, so we just covered that hole with our tool bag. Her food, dishes, and toys were all stowed in the back of the aft cabin. And as for Georgie herself, we stuck her in her favorite little hiding spot under the combing and blocked the hole with a sport a seat. It was all for naught though, because this is the easiest country we’ve ever checked into. We pulled up to the dock to tie off, I was handed about four form to fill out, and even though one question was for us to list any pets on board (which I did…I don’t want my boat confiscated for falsifying), when I brought the forms back to customs and immigration they glanced at them, stamped the papers, stamped the passports, and we were good. What a load off our backs.

Because with that taken care of, we could get down to the important things and one of drawing factors that brought us here. Sitting right on the water and right in front of our (free!) mooring ball, was a Burger King. Did you hear me? BURGER KING!! Matt and I have now been without fast food for over two months, which about seven times as long in fast foodie years. Our mouths were watering at the thought of flame grilled Whoppers and bottomless fountain drinks. We quickly lowered the dinghy and roared over to the only ‘water access’ Burger King in the world. Stepping inside there was air conditioning, and we were able to pay for our food with a credit card, which means we never even had to make our way to a bank first to exchange money. The food was just as good as I remembered it, and being forced into haven eaten only fresh food for the past few months and dropping about five to ten pounds in the process, I was ready to snack on thick cut french fries until the cows came home.

While enjoying our little slice of heaven and looking out the windows that framed the West Bay, we watched as Brian and Stephanie made their way in, about two hours behind us. We let them get checked in and settled until we went to bug them about going to explore town together. They weren’t as keen on spending their entire time in Cayman at the Burger King, like we were. The four of us walked down West Bay St. which is mostly meant for the tourists of the cruise ships that come in for the day. It houses a Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, and a million duty free shops. We strolled past all my old favorites, Victoria’s Secret, MAC, and Sephora. I had to laugh a little as I finally realized, that after 9 months of cruising, I no longer have the envy or need for any of these things. Ok, that’s not true. I do still want a few cute and lacy things in my drawer. Want to be my sponsor, VS?

We found a nice local little roti shop for Brian and Stephanie to get their eat on, and I jumped at the chance to try a new local beer.  I’m trying to tally up as many on our travels as I can.  Take that ‘Old Chicago World Beer Tour’, I’m making my own!  We were also able to taint Rode Trip’s eating habits a little bit on our walk back down West Bay St. where I would say we forced them into a Dairy Queen, but with the stifling heat outside, I think they went pretty willingly.  Sucking down a Bizzard faster than I probably ever have in my life, we then went to the local grocery store to see what kind of provisioning we could do.  Wow.  It was like stepping right back into America.  They had everything we could want or need, and there was a large variety of each item.  There may be a 25% mark-up from prices back home, but I think we were all willing to pay that little extra for some really good stocking.  Only doing a browse of the store on this night, we purchased a six pack of beer to enjoy on Serendipity for our own little happy hour.  We might be fine paying the 25% extra of prices in the grocery stores, but I think we’re all looking to stay away from the 50% mark-up in restaurants and bars.

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“I am not cute….”

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He’s literally a kid in a candy store.

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How every night should end.  Cocktail in hand, watching a pirate ship depart into the sunset.

 

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Smells Like Middle-Aged Spirit

Monday May 20, 2013

Tamarisk Waterfall

A group of us 30-something cruisers, enjoying the spoils of Jamaica
(Photo courtesy of Jason Windebank)

 

(The title, in case you’re wondering,  is not in reference to us, but to the main age group of cruisers you’ll find out there.  While checking my facts/numbers of what’s considered ‘middle-aged’ on Webster’s, their thesaurus defined it as ‘being on the wrong side of 40′.  Very cruel Websters, very cruel…)

After all the great times we’ve been having in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba, I’ve realized that a lot of it had to do with the people we’re spending our time with.  And most of those people, coincidentally, happen to be right in our age group.  Which almost seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the cruising world.  Chances are, if you’re a cruiser, you’ve had at least one over the hill birthday.  Some people might argue if that age is 40 or 50, but either way, most cruisers have passed both.  Us on the other hand, are what people refer to as young cruisers.  The 40 and under crowd.  (Not that being over 40 makes one old, I think that would just put you into the young(er) cruising group.)  We were even affectionately referred to as ‘the kids’ while spending a few weeks in Long Island Bahamas, which seems to be the only place we’ve been so far where we were actually a novelty for being young, baffling a few other cruisers on what we were out doing.  On more than one occasion, multiple people would come up to us and ask where we were visiting from, or what family member’s boat were we staying on, or even upon learning we were cruisers ourselves, how long we were ‘chartering’ our boat for.  In the end it became laughable, because none of these are the case.  We’re just cruisers that were very fortunate not to have to wait until retirement to get out here.  And even better, we’ve been finding a bevy of people our age to spend that time with.

One thing you’ll find out about cruisers is they stick together.  The thing with young cruisers is they really stick together.  Even though there’s more and more of us popping up every year, we’re still a general rarity among cruisers as a whole.  Not that there is anything wrong with the over 40 crowd.  They’re great to talk to, very encouraging, and usually have the best stocked liquor cabinets and snack spreads when they invite you aboard for a sundowner.  But the real fun with young cruisers and why we’re attracted to each other like magnets, is that we’re mostly all out here for the first time.  Although it’s all well meaning, there isn’t the ‘been there, done that’ attitude that comes with the older and more experienced cruiser.  We share in common first mistakes and revel getting to a new location for the first time.  When we’re around each other there isn’t the ‘What you need to be doing is this….’, or ‘Where you need to go is…, but only during this time of year because that’s when all the other cruisers are there, and make sure to avoid this certain area like the plague.’.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m already recommending areas to fellow young soon-to-be cruisers, but there’s something different about a fresh pair of eyes vs. someone who is out for their 22nd season.**

So one of the things I’ve wondered as we’ve been out here, clinging to every young cruiser we meet, is why are there so few of us out here?  We’ve listened to a good number of cruising couples in their 50′s & 60′s that have been out cruising for 20-30 years, usually on and off throughout that period.  Which would put them at our age when they started.  So why so few of us now?  If you really wanted to get into it, there’s a thread on the Sailnet forums asking the same exact thing with hundreds of responses and opinions.  But since I can’t answer for the general population, I guess I’ll just have to give a quick rundown on why we’re out here now, and how we did it.

First we’ll start with the why, since that is what’s sent the wheels into motion.  After visiting my parents in Vietnam in 2007, where they were temporarily relocated for my dad’s job, we were bitten by the travel bug.  Experiencing new sights, and a whole new way of living.  We were intrigued.  And that was only one small part of the world.  Imagine what else was out there for us to find.  How we got into sailing was Matt.  A little more info about getting into sailing in general is on our About Us page, but Matt, ever the OCD researcher, started reading about cruising online and brought it up to me.  Which at first was a big ‘hell no’. I was not going to move my life onto a dinky little boat while constantly putting myself in raging and life threatening oceans and seas as we went from new place to new place.  But then he turned me on to blogs such as Bumfuzzle and The Slapdash, and I was instantly hooked.  I learned that as long as we were well versed in sailing, there isn’t much danger out there, and all of the places we could visit looked like a lot of fun!  That was all it took to change my mind.

Then comes the how.  This was the toughie.  We had a good life going for us back home. Going away on weekend trips to Traverse City or Chicago, spending Saturday nights grabbing a nice meal out before going to the bar with friends.  We owned a home that we built in 2004 and were constantly making upgrades like adding a hot tub, and building a nice patio area to house it.  New items kept popping up in my closet when I’d see something at the mall and decided I couldn’t live without it.  Once we made the firm decision to go cruising, all this had to stop.  Want to go to Traverse City?  It will have to be spent in a tent, with most of the meals brought in a cooler from home.  A trip to Chicago?  Better make sure your friends are willing to split the cost of a hotel room with you.  While at the restaurant, try to order only a sandwich or appetizer for your meal if you can, and at the bar, drink the cheapest draft they have and then switch to soda after your second drink.  And that was only the first year while transitioning.  The second year saving, Chicago was out, camping was a ‘birthday treat’, and we’d skip the restaurant and meet our friends at the bar.  Year three?  Ugh.  We were basically hermits, only meeting up with our friends if it could be done at someone’s house where we made our own dinner instead of going out, and then stayed in for the evening to drink beer we’d purchased from the store.  All my clothes became second hand.  It was not an impossible life, but it was much tougher than we were used to.  We even sold our house a year before leaving, banking the very little money we made after the market crash, and saving as much money as we could while staying with Matt’s mom and step-dad.

So maybe this is why there’s only one young cruiser to every 10 middle-aged to retired ones?  They think it isn’t in the reach of someone their age who hasn’t spent a lifetime saving up for such adventures?  Again, there’s a million and one possible reason of why people in their 20′s and 30′s aren’t throwing off the bow lines to sail into the sunset, but I think we should encourage that more do.  After all, if you really have a dream, the only person that can stand in your way is you.  No one knows what tomorrow can hold, and no one should put off their dreams until it’s too late.  To quote Mark Twain and finally join every other cruiser that has said this at some point, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

And now, an ode to the young cruising friends we have met along the way that have made our travels so unbelievably great. (* Denotes that photo used is courtesy of listed cruiser)

Jackie and Ron

*Jackie & Ron on s/v Hullabaloo (soon-to-be cruisers)

Our very first cruising friends from back in MI.  We love them so much!!

Bill and Grace

*Bill & Grace on s/v Calico Skies (soon-to-be cruisers)

Kim and Scott

*Kim & Scott on s/v Anthyllide

Serendipity & Rode Trip

Brian & Stephanie on s/v Rode Trip

Ryan and Tasha

 Ryan and Tasha on s/v Hideaway

Frank and Yu

*Frank & Yu on s/v Moitessier

Scott and Brittany 2

*Scott & Brittany on s/v Asante

Eben and Genevieve

*Eben & Genevieve on s/v Necesse

Ren and Ashley

*Ren & Ashley on s/v Nila Girl

Jason and Piers

*Jason & Piers on s/v Tamarisk

Ana

 *Ana Bianca on s/v Kajaya

 

**I’m not saying that all older or more experienced cruisers are like this.  But we have found our fair share of them.

 

Click on the monkey’s fist to read others bloggers on this topic.

The Monkey's Fist

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Adios Muchcahos!

Sunday May 19, 2013

5.19.13

It’s finally time to leave Cuba after only a week here, and we feel we didn’t get to enjoy or experience a fraction of what this amazing country has to offer. We never made our way up to Havana or spent time snorkeling and fishing the cays.  We never got a chance to really get to know the people here because of the language barrier.  We never even walked up the road to Punta Gorda to enjoy views of the bay from the cute little gazebo I spotted on our way in.  So there’s only one thing left to do.  Learn Spanish, load ourselves up with cash, and come again back this fall.

Our last few hours here and there was really only one big mission for us to complete, getting a bottle of Havana Club rum.  All the cool kids were doing it (Tamarisk, Rode Trip, Skebenga), and buying it at the source where it cost cents on the dollar?  Sign us up!  We may have to stock our bags up with just few bottles!  To find out how much money we’d have left for rum, we had to first check out with the marina.  This meant me first checking out with immigration, and sitting alone in the office with the official where he kept mentioning how pretty my eyes were, and that next time I make a visit to Cuba, it should be without my husband.  No moves were put on me by the Harbor Master, thankfully, but he did tally up our stay as well as inform we that we need to pay for an exit stamp, so our rum fund was now down to 3 CUC.  Those multiple bottles of Havana Club that were supposed to be weighing down our aft end now may be turning into one little airplane sized bottle to be enjoyed with a can of Coke.

We decided to  take our chances that we could still find a bottle in our new price range and make the 2 mile walk down to the prado one last time anyway.  A few blocks out from the marina, Matt realized he left the money back at the boat, and since he was just about suffering from heat stroke, I told him to wait in some shade while I went back to grab it.  Now ‘single’ while walking down the street, I was offered one free tuk tuk ride from a young Cuban guy, and shortly after, another one.  Only, the second guy to offer already had a family of three riding in the back of his.  What he was offering me, was a ride on his lap.  I wish I knew some more Spanish so I could have told him off, but all I could do was mumble “No gracias”, as I walked by with my head down.  Getting back to the boat I put on my big wide brimmed hat, which coupled with my sunglasses, at least made it look like I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t right in front of me, and I could happily ignore all remaining tuk tuk drivers on my walk back to Matt.

Getting to town and walking down the pedestrian street, we made sure to steer clear of the English speaking woman with a stand full of souvenirs including a beautiful set of wooden dominoes that we told her we’d definitely be back to purchase the next day.  I don’t think she’ll give a 70% discount on them, and the excuse of ‘Sorry, we don’t have any more money’ just sounds so cliche and insincere, even if it happens to be the truth.  Hurrying into the clean and upscale convenience store at the corner of the UNESCO World Heritage Urban Historic Center,  we browsed through their extensive selection of Havana Club, and spotted a 500 ml bottle for only 2.85.  Score!  We’d be able to have at least one bottle on our boat after all!  Getting our 0.15 cents in change back, we strolled out to the historic center to take in a few more glimpses of the city before leaving.

Back at the boat it was time for a little more passage prep before departing that evening.  Matt took care of organizing and stowing away all items while I worked on food related things, such as turning our plantains into a fried and salty snack that I could bag up.  It should only take us 36 hours to get to Grand Cayman, but we’re starting to get a little bored with the trail mix packets we usually survive on while passage making.  As a final task, customs spent about an hour on the boat filling out exit papers and asking if we had any beer we could give them.  Not having bought any Bucaneer, and not willing to give away 4 of my Red Stripes (I’m sorry, but I love my Red Stripe, and I won’t dole them out to just anyone), I offered up some of my Jamaican ginger beer instead.  I think the one guy that accepted this offer was a little surprised and disappointed when he took the first sip, expecting some kind of actual cerveza.  That’s fine, I didn’t want anyone hanging out on my boat for hours this time.

Getting the final go ahead to leave the country, we made our way back to the sea and on to our next destination.  I feel so lucky that we were able to stop here, however briefly, to experience a part of the world that many people will only read about.  I will not get into the politics of the country or try to figure out if I think the Cubans are happy with their lives there, that’s not for me to decide.  What I will do after leaving, is take with me an amazing week of once in a lifetime sights and experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.

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Canchanchara!

Saturday May 18, 2013

5.18.13

 Yes, that is a pirate ship at our marina.

 

Our trip to Cuba has begun to wind itself down, and as much as we’d love to stay for months and months more, our cash is slowly dwindling and a weather window for Grand Cayman is coming up.  We’ve been squeezing in a lot of time with friends in here, and last night made our way over to Skebenga to do some photo sharing with Lukie and Elmarie.  They showed us the highlights of their trip to Havana which they had just gotten back from, and we gave them a glimpse into Trinidad.  While on my way over there, I had a slight snafu with Georgie that almost make me scared to leave her out of my sights.  Normally we’re at anchor so she has the full run of the boat and we don’t need to worry about her going anywhere.  Now that we’ve been at a dock, however, she’s found that she likes hard ground under her feet and will try jumping off any chance she gets, even if it’s just to lay on the cool evening pavement next to the boat.

I thought I could remedy this by strapping her into her harness, clipping her into her leash, and securing it to a cleat or a winch, often like we do on passage.  For most of the afternoons, I wouldn’t say she’s exactly happy, but she’s content to be tethered in to her spot in the cockpit.  Until I left for Skebenga.  As soon as she saw me leaving the boat, she wanted off too, and tried to join.  Her leash gave her the slack to almost make the jump, but not quite.  Luckily I heard the commotion behind me and looked down to see her dangling between the boat and the cement dock, about a foot above the water.  The harness wraps around her chest and not her neck, so she wasn’t in danger of choking, but she must have been taken by surprise because she made no noise at all, only gently rocked back and forth, probably wondering what the hell just happened.  Scooping her up I adjusted her leash so she couldn’t get as far as the side of the boat again, but through each photo at Skebenga, I kept my ears out for any little cries on the other side of the dock, just in case.

Today was lots more ‘friend’ time with a trip into town with Rode Trip in the morning, just to wander the pedestrian walkway, and then beers at the marina bar in the afternoon, along with Lukie and an Australian couple, Roger and Sasha, that are on the boat Edenbal next to us.  We ran the keg dry and then started moving on to cans of Bucaneer and Cristal.  I love being at a marina that will charge you the same cheap price for a can of beer that you’ll be charged for it in the store.  The plan for after our afternoon full of drinking was to check out one of the nicer restaurants down on the prado, which according to our first day friend Christine and her crew, has the best ropa vieja in Cuba.  We were also told that the meals would be cheap, about $3-4 CUC a person.  I wasn’t sure what ropa vieja was, but it sounded like a win-win to me.  We freshened up for a night on the town, and Stephanie and I took a few minutes to play with a stray dog that’s been wandering around the marina.  We’ve named him Double D, for ‘dirty dog’, and we’ve come to think of him as our pet during our time here.

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Stephanie and I adore Double D.

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Brian….not so much.

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Locating the restaurant out on the malecón, we climbed the stairs to it’s second story spot and were greeted by the owner.  A very energetic guy with bouncing blonde curls and looking like he belonged in Australia, or maybe even Europe, but definitely not Cuba.  He had some good English under his belt too, which was great for us trying to decipher exactly what we getting, or even what we wanted.  As he came by to get drink orders, Stephanie asked “What’s a good traditional Cuban drink?”, to which he promptly replied “Mojito”.  ”No, I’m not talking about for the tourists.  I want what the Cubans drink.”  To which he replied a second time “Mojito”.  “Oh”, Stephanie inquired, “You guys actually drink those?”  So three mojitos were ordered up while Matt chose to sip on a Cristal.  We were then left with our menus, which were in English for us, as we looked over the feast of foods available and the very low prices.  Each of us wanted to try everything on the menu, but settled for soups, brothy for Brian and I, and a deliciously thick and unhealthy creme kind for Matt and Stephanie, and meals that were served with bread and salad.  Matt got the ropa vieja, which was a scrumptious tender pork, shredded and marinated in some kind of sauce that I will have to get my hands on someday.  I ordered the lamb, which was just as tender and savory.  I think all of us were quite disappointed that we waited until our last day in Cienfuegos to come here.  Had we known earlier how great the food was here, even though my entree turned out to be $7 and not $4, I still think we would have been here every night for dinner.

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Stomachs full to the brim, we still decided there was room for after dinner treats.  Matt got the only sweet thing they offered on the menu which was flan, and I settled for a coffee with milk.  Stephanie, however, was still on the hunt for a real Cuban drink.  Something that isn’t also served at the trendy bars back home.  Asking the owner once more, he thought she should try a Canchanchara, and described all the ingredients, which include rum, lemon juice, and honey.  Forgetting what might even be in the drink, we spent the rest of the time at the restaurant just trying to say it’s name. ‘Can-chan-chara’, I would tell Stephanie, and she’d repeat ‘Tar-an-tula!’.  ’No Steph, it’s not a spider.’  ’Caaan-chaaan-chara’.  ’Can-chen-tura’.  That’s ok honey, you keep sipping on that drink, we’ll work on it later.  When the bill was paid, we made our way back out to the malecón, which was now being overrun by teenagers, out on a Saturday night just to be seen.  Picking a spot in front of the bay, we propped ourselves up on the rail and pulled out some Cuban cigars that Matt and I had purchased the other day.  Just mini Romeo & Julietas, but we couldn’t leave here without getting something.  Taking puffs of our miniature cigars, we enjoyed the night time breeze that rolled through, watching all the kids as they passed by, dressed to the 9, and the repeated sound of Stephanie crying out “Can-chan-chara!!”.

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Market Fresh

Friday May 17, 2013

5.17.13

It feels like we’ve been doing nothing but running around ever since we got to Cuba, so Matt and I decided to take a nice day to ourselves to relax.  We slept in, made ourselves a nice breakfast of pancakes, but nothing could compare to all the fresh fruit we were served yesterday, so we thought we’d finally make it up to the market.  Getting tipped off by our friends on Skebenga of where it was located, we started slowly making our way through the heat to the center of town.  The marina, which happens to be located in a beautiful area on the bay, is still a mile or two walk from town.  Now don’t go calling us wimps just yet, we’re not ones to shy away from a hike, but it’s just the heat that’s been killing us here.  High’s are creeping past 90, there’s suffocating humidity, and never a hint of wind.  Getting here was the first time we’ve allowed ourselves the luxury of staying at a slip in a marina while traveling since the mast went up in the Catskills (I’m not counting St. Augustine), and most days we find ourselves wishing we were at anchor so we could have any resemblance of a breeze rolling through.  So, while away from open waters and any chance of a fresh breeze rolling through, that mile and a half walk into town is a killer.

Stopping along the way for a bite to eat, we found a little chicken shack, or at least I’m calling it that, because everything on the menu is made from chicken.  Chicken hamburgers, chicken meatballs, chicken nuggets (at least, that’s what I think they were).  My Spanish must be getting a little better because I’ve noticed that instead of getting blank stares I’m only left with a few snickers, but ultimately what I was trying to get.  Ordering up a little bit of everything with a side of french fries, we sat in the shade and drowned our sorrows in a nice chilly liter of TuKola.  When the food came out, it was mostly burnt breading, but we managed to find a little processed meat in there as well.  Again, we’re not foodies, so we’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s cheap.  And at $0.10 per nugget or croqueta, whatever those are, we were more than willing to suffer through it just to get some food in our stomachs.  The fries however were fantastic, and I think next time we’ll make a meal just out of those.

Continuing on to the market, we walked inside to find stalls upon stalls of food.  Many of the tables were serving the same items, just filled with different people trying to get your business.  Glancing around each table, we tried to decide what we wanted to buy since we had not made any kind of list to bring with us.  No surprise there.  Eventually I started picking random things that I thought could get use at some point.  Onion, green pepper, tomatoes, maybe for an omelette.  At the fruit stand I picked out a few guavas and a pineapple, and made sure to grab a few very green plantains that I might be able to turn into chips.  We’ve heard that the starchier they are, the better.  Having just found out that morning from my travel guide what ‘papaya’ is slang for in Cuba, I made sure to steer clear of that one.  We also picked up a few other things, garlic, potatoes, something else that kind of looked like a potato, and a pound each of beef and pork.  This market was all in pesos, and the grand total for filling our backpack to the brim was the equivalent of $8, almost half of that being on meat alone.  Going from paying $4 for a pineapple in Jamaica to paying only $0.40 here?  I’m almost starting to wish that official had run away with our passports our first day here.

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Trinidad Part IV: Off to the Races

Thursday May 16, 2013

5.16.13b

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

As much as we were enjoying our stay in Trinidad, we were literally out of money and needed to begin our trek back home. (Knowing that we needed $5 to fill the fuel tank, we actually ran that much short on paying for what we thought was a complimentary breakfast at our casa particular and had to short change that wonderfully nice woman that put us up in her home. We’re such horrible people!!) With empty pockets and no way to use an ATM or credit card, our main goal for the day was to get back to Cienfuegos. Ok, that may have been goal number two, as goal number one was to stick together this time. No matter what, we did not leave each others side. If our bikes got to far apart or we thought we might lose sight of each other for any reason, one bike would honk their horn to get the attention of the other one. So after ingraining the main goal into everyone’s head, we stopped by the ‘Welcome to’ sign to plan the route home. All of us were excited to try some new roads, maybe actually get up in those mountains we kept passing by, but at least throw some new scenery into our day. Hopping back on the bikes I noticed some dark and nasty clouds off in the distance, hovering over the mountains we were just about to take ourselves to. A few days here in Cuba though, we’ve noticed that it will sometimes look like it’s going to storm, but the rain never comes. Completely exposed to the elements, I hoped that was the case today.

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Now put your back into it.  Yes!, the camera loves you!

5.16.13 (2b)

Pshh.  We totally know where we’re going.

 

Making the turn after a few miles to bring ourselves to the Topes de Collantes, we curved down and around steep and winding roads that Matt would have died to take his old Z4 on, but I was enjoying them just as much on a scooter, only going 40 kph. It wasn’t long before we stopped curving down and began curving up instead. The pedal was to the metal as we tried to force our little scooter up the hills, using all the force we had just to maintain forward motion. There was a small break for us along the way up to try and get a few photos in of the view. Hopping back on, we could see the dark clouds moving closer and it all of a sudden became a question of not if it would rain, but how soon? The last thing we wanted while taking these bikes up or even down the steep mountain roads was for slick pavement underfoot that could send us skidding off to the side. Not that there looked to be any sign of civilization close by, but we were hoping to make it to some kind of town before the skies opened up on us.

5.16.13 (3b)

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

Continuing ever further up, I kept glancing back and down at the alluring views of Trinidad as it fell away below us. That is until the cloud cover grew thicker and thicker and there was only the faint haze of ground below us. We were not going to outrun this rain. It fell in a few light drops at first, clinging to and distorting the view from my sunglasses, until it was a full fledged downpour. For a climate that’s so hot and humid, the rain was cold against our skin, and I burrowed into Matt’s back to try and keep warm. He pushed on with our bike as we climbed ever higher and instructed me to make as little movement as possible so not to throw off the balance of the bike on these now slick roads. The rain wasn’t giving any indication that it was going to let up, and we needed to find a place to pull over and wait it out. We lucked out as just a mile more up the road was a rest area with a covered balcony. Pulling into the gravel parking lot we ran up the steps for cover and into a miniature restaurant area that served drinks and snacks. Coffee or hot chocolate would have been at the top of my list at that moment, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t accept form of payment in smiles or even pitiful pleas.

While waiting for the rain to clear we looked at an enlarged map inside the rest area to check our route again. This one broke everything down into categories of main roads, side roads, hiking trails, ect. Tracing our finger up the road we were taking, we saw the color turned from white to red. Now curious of why it would do such a thing, we looked at the decoder to find out what a red line meant. Surely a main road turning into a side road, right? Wrong. Just a few more miles along the way, our nicely paved road was going to turn into an ATV trail. I don’t know about you, but after looking at these bikes, I don’t think they’re meant for all terrain. We decided the best thing to do would be to drive back down the 10 miles we had just come up, and take the same route home we had come in on. Wanting to give the roads a few minutes to dry up after the rain had finally stopped falling though, we walked about 150 steps up to a nice observation platform with views all the way down past Trinidad and the Caribbean coastline. Even though Matt and I were starting the day on a low fuel tank and we’d now just driven 20 miles out of our way, running out of gas on the way back would be completely worth the views we were treated to.

5.16.13 (4b)

Finally starting to clear up.

5.16.13 (5b)

Views down into Trinidad.

5.16.13 (7b)

5.16.13 (6b)

Already aware that we’d need to squeeze out every drop of fuel, we turned the engine off on our way back down and kept a tight hand on the breaks until we’d get to an even area to coast before gliding down another hill. Stopping in a few areas to give the breaks a rest as well, we enjoyed the afternoon sun as it came back out and finally started to dry us off. Starting the engine back on once more as we joined the main road to Cienfuegos, it looked like we would be treated to a magnificent view on the way home anyway, golden rays reflecting off the fields and trees. That lasted…about 30 minutes. The rain we had just fought while going up the mountain was now coming to get us once more since we had changed direction. Matt had originally laughed when I noticed clouds coming again and put on a long sleeve shirt to cover up my bare shoulders, but soon we were once more in a cold and heavy downpour. On a flat surface this time, we hoped that slick roads would not be as much of an issue, but when the handle bars began wobbling back and forth we decided that it would be best to once again pull off and wait it out. Only this time there were no roadside rest stops with pretty views to entertain us. We took shelter under a tree, each couple huddled together to try and stay warm.

After waiting fifteen minutes and being given no sign it would clear like the last time, we made the decision to keep pushing forward. Not only was daylight going to start quickly fading, but Matt and I still needed to fuel up at the station we visited the previous day and we had no idea what time it might close at. 6 o’clock? 7? I had visions of us pulling up ten minutes too late and being forced to sleep on the side of the road. Not only because there were no hotels, hostels, or casa particulars in that area, but because we wouldn’t have had enough money in our pocket even if there was. Pushing our bikes back out on the road I kept my body pressed close to Matt’s back, having chills sent down my bare and wet collarbone anytime I let the cool air pass between us. Getting down to one flashing bar on our fuel tank, we finally spotted the split in the road that would lead us to salvation. The fuel station was open, and quite busy actually, plus we had the added bonus that it finally stopped raining. We may not have made it back yet, but at least we knew we wouldn’t be sleeping in the dirt that night.

5.16.13 (9b)

We found fuel!!

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

The remaining drive home was still not an enjoyable one. Even though the rain had stopped, the clouds never parted to give the sun a chance to break out and dry us off. We were wet, we were cold, and wanted nothing more than to climb under the covers of our bed. It wasn’t long after we left the fuel station that darkness fell and the temperature plummeted even further. It was nothing if only uncomfortable, but now the roads seemed like endless stretches in front of us, giving nothing to look at, and few familiar landmarks. Five miles outside of Cienfuegos the rain started for a third time, and I began to curse our choice of travel method. If we were in a cab, I could be dry and sleeping on Matt’s shoulder right now. But what is that thing people like to say? Getting there is half the fun? Maybe I’ll be able to tell myself that when I’m back in my warm bed.

 

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