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December 8, 2012 / Nautical Mom

Hooray for Colombian Coffee!

There’s actually a  Juan Valdez Cafe chain, much like Starbucks. Fortunately, they’re everywhere because we’ve needed lots of caffeine to get through our busy schedule this past month.
Riding up to Piedra de Penol

Riding up to Piedra de Penol

 

175 steps out of 750

175 steps out of 750

We went to Medellin for a week. The city is contained in a valley 5000 feet about sea level completely surrounded by lush green mountains that rise yet another 6000 feet. It is modern and convenient, with many activities geared toward children.   The highlights were the metro, Parque Explora, Parque Botero and Piedra Penol.  The metro is beautifully sleek and has a simple route that runs straight through the middle of town along the major tourist attractions. At two ends there are cable car sections that rise to the top of the mountains, providing glorious views. It’s like being on that old cable-car lift at Killington without the snow.
View from the top

View from the top

Parque Explora is a huge interactive science museum with a 3-d theater and aquarium.  Parque Botero was my favorite place — I felt so svelte.  Botero’s the sculptor who creates fantastically fat, poorly proportioned black figures.  There were at least 25 sculptures in this park.  Piedra Penol is a meteor-like rock an hour outside of Medellin in an area that resembles the Adirondack Lakes. Reaching the top of this rock requires a climb 750 stairs, but the view is totally worth it.
Back in Santa Marta, we had more Aussies at our Thanksgiving feast than Americans.  It was still a completely traditional meal except that it was a pot-luck of about 30 cruisers, 8 children among them. Speaking of the kids, Gigi and Jason have both written a bit as well.   Gigi’s Page  Jason’s Page.
Enjoy our new photos on Photo Album.
PS For those of you concerned about our safety, it has not been an issue at all.  There are machine-gun-carrying police everywhere augmented by everyone’s omnipresent personal security.
PPS 12/9 Jason turns 9 – golden birthday.  stop by his page and say hi.
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October 26, 2012 / Nautical Mom

Arrived South America – Oct 19, 2012

Arrived in Colombia, South America on Friday afternoon and stayed in the middle of the 5 Bays in Tayrona park.  Transit was mostly motoring – see blog page PR to Aruba for details.  Thank goodness just before Hurricane Sandy developed north of here.  We are 2041 miles from home and below 12 degrees latitude.

Approaching Santa Marta, Colombia

The Colombian landscape is virgin forest (like Vieques, PR) with the rock outcroppings (like St Vincent).  The 15,000 Sierra Nevada is mostly obscured in clouds, but we can sense its magnificence.  Wikipedia has some very cool images showing snow caps. If we get the chance, we’ll take some too.

Met a native on the shore where  seven families live in the Guayraca Bay.  He showed us the dugout canoes for fishing and his one-room house with his hammock bed covered in mosquito netting and the two-burner propane stove.  No running water, or plumbing of course, but it was the neatest, cleanest most organized room I’ve seen.  He had over 100 boat cards from other visitors and flags from many countries, so we were not a novelty to him although he was to us.

Because the other bays aren’t too safe, Boaters Assaulted  (article by another boat ) and not much more to see,we proceeded immediately to Santa Marta Marina.  Hallelujah!  Internet, shore power for a/c and unlimited showers.  Maybe the impetigo will finally go away.

We’ve done a walking tour of the boardwalk with it’s fascinating statues, gone out to dinner, and best of all, met an Australian catamaran with Keelie (10) and Gil (13).  There are about 15 transient boats here. Everyone says it’s far better than the facility Cartagena, so we thought to stay awhile.

Unfortunately, yesterday there was a  Market Grenade.  Local gang violence.  We’ll see how it goes.  Safe and happy for now!

Light at the end of the tunnel or sunrise after a long watch

October 11, 2012 / Nautical Mom

End of Verano (Summer)

After spending 3 months in Puerto Rico, I should be writing this entire entry in Spanish. The kids might be able to: They’ve been doing lots of Rosetta Stone and are now starting to speak a little Spanish in public. Simple stuff, but we’re proud. For those of you who remember, we had said we wouldn’t return home until they could speak Spanish. However, that does not mean the inverse is true.

In fact, now that they are comfortable with the language we are heading to South America! What? Did I just say that?! Not sure when exactly we made that decision, but we have. Part of it was contingent on the quality of the Calvert Homeschool materials I’d received (which are truly exceptional), the condition of Sinan when we took her out of the water (excellent as per previous post), the health and welfare of loved ones, and the balance in the piggy bank. 3 out of 4 ain’t bad, so we push on.

What a strange summer it has been. We thought we’d be travelling all over, going to Dominican Republic, etc. etc. In truth, we’ve been mostly touring Sam’s, Walmart, and West Marine. Ok maybe that’s a little too self-depricating. We wound up staying in Puerto Rico for a whole host of reasons, one of which was the easily accessed retail stores. Palmas (palmasdelmar.com) is really a comfortable place and we’ve made such good friends, it’s easy to stay.             
There have been the crew from one of the megayachts (Gunner, Jerry and Kasha) and our dear friend Dodd from AK, Jim and Marlene, also crusers, Chris and Maggie (Capt and Mate on another megayacht) and Lauren, who is pregnant and hubby Ken (Capt and Mate), super-fit David on his Catamaran, and Cindy and John – cruisers headed for Panama. We all get along and enjoy meals together about once a week. They love the kids and enjoy Brooke, so it is all good. Best of all are our friends Brennen and Nadia, with their kids Seth (9), Caleb (6) and Althea (3). They live on the most gorgeously fitted out 1980s ketch and captain a power boat.
Jason and Seth have been inseperable this whole summer. Read his blog for more on that. I will tell you though, they did manage to get themselves grounded by the marina staff for throwing toilet paper bombs at the bathroom ceiling and other general mischief. Gigi mostly enjoys playing big sister to Althea. Gigi has made a wonderful photo book of Jason and Seth. http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=b0b83cc1f55e7333&sid=2IYt2TFs4YuQg

We went on the Bacardi tour Monday. It was eye-opening to learn that the 5th and 6th generations still privately own the company. Oh, Bacardi, Grey Goose, Dewers, and a few other brands round out their portfolio of liquor holdings. Wow! I wonder, do they ever suffer pangs of conscience over their collective contribution to alcoholism? For us, it was a bit uncomfortable with the bombardment by Bacardi media on the children. Who knows what effect it will have, but it must’ve penetrated our subconscious– we left with three liters. Contrite with post-purchase remorse, I’m making rum and lime chicken for 22 people tonight.

Meanwhile, check out my article in WindCheck.  http://www.windcheckmagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1517:chartering-with-children&catid=82:cruising&Itemid=404

September 14, 2012 / Nautical Mom

Hauling Out

 At 7:59 am we rounded the dock heading for the hauling slip at Marina del Rey, anxious to be on-time for our lift.  Since there were 3 cranes, we radioed for clarification.  “The haul-out facility opens at 8 am” was the curt reply.  Gotta love it, ‘Island Time’, Mon!
When the workers arrived around 8:15 and gestured for us to back into the middle slip, we were ready:  I’d made several circles waiting for them and was comfortable with the wind and currents. Everyone had gotten the lines and fenders prepared, and the docking was uneventful.  Once tied to the dock, we observed as the men secured straps under the hull at the ‘sling points’ designated on Sinan’s rail.
We were all eager to see the growth on the underside of our boat.  It had been three months since we’d had her cleaned and that whole time we’d been stationary at the Palmas Marina (www.PalmasDelMar.com).  On the15-mile trip up the coast from Humacao the engine had overheated due to barnacle growth on the intake hose.  Then when we could get the engine running, we could only make 2.4 knots.  This was in relatively flat seas, so we knew it’d be ugly down there.
The engine on the lift started with a deep rumble that continued into a higher pitched roar. It’s grating noise drove us back from the machine, as we watched the lifting straps tighten against Sinan’s hull.  Like a mother lifting an infant out of the crib, our boat was raised up out of the water into an embrace and carried ashore.  That was when we saw what we’d been so eager to see — a colorful bevvy of ocean life.

Three Months of Growth

Not as bad as the dreadlocks of seaweed I’d imagined clinging to our hull, but still awe-inspiring in a nauseating way, there were growths of every imaginable size and texture. With the boat stabilized above the ground, I was drawn in to examine the heretofore hidden treasure.  As my fingers stretched to probe, to quench that desire to ‘see’ with my hands, a large calloused hand encircled my wrist pulling it back.
Angel, who really lived up to his namesake warned me not to touch it.  In broken English he conveyed the perils of getting too close.  It was not a moment too soon because it was then that I saw the surface come to life.  Squirmy maggot-like worms and tiny crabs came running to the surface of the lesions.  Rats jumping off a sinking ship, I  thought as these parasites abandoned their rapidly drying homes.

A Job Well Done!

Three intensely exhausting and skin-scorching days spent with Angel as our coach, and we were able to make Sinan better than new.  She was smooth as a baby’s bottom; protected by two coats of bright yellow primer followed by two more of ridiculously expensive blue bottom paint. Everyone in the yard expressed admiration of our hard work so efficiently completed.

We had the yard apply a special coat of shaft sealer to the propeller as a special treat, so now it looks like pure bronze.  Gunner, the professional captain of one of the mega yachts said it was worth it’s weight in gold for fuel efficiency gained from growth inhibition.
When we launched again, and headed out for the anchorage off Los Palaminos we were motoring above 6.5 knots through the water without pushing the engine  past 2,000 rpms.  The next day, we sailed at over 8  knots, close-hauled, rail-in-the-water, in only 16 knots of true wind.  We sure hope all this lasts and that we’ll soon have another opportunity to sail some serious distances with such an impressive performance.  Next stop…Cartegena???

A 2-Thumbs-Up Sail…

June 28, 2012 / Nautical Mom

NY Grove

I’m back, back in the New York grove.  Anybody remember that Kiss song?

Well it’s true, the kids and I are rockin’ the big apple.  Woohoo.  Doctor appointments, school field trips, family reunions…my how my life has mellowed since 1979 when I really was rockin NYC and bopping to that beat.
The kids are great – they love being back at school.  The principal and the teachers were all super, letting them join right back in for the last three weeks.  Early reports indicate theyare on track, and if anything, much more focused and appreciative of the formal education.
We’re also grateful to many parents who have helped us transition, especially keeping Gigi in mind during all the graduation prep.  I learned they were able to photoshop her in to several of the yearbook group shots.  That’ll be fun to see.  Meanwhile we’ve gone out and gotten her 2 lovely dresses for the dance and graduation ceremony, so she’s ready.  I will be too, once I pack the tissues.
Jason’s friends have arranged many sleepovers, so he’s really getting out and about.  He played in his first ever softball game (yes, really) with his pal Galen and actually got a good hit.  It was a triple with 2 runs scored!  We’ll have to get him some more practice in Puerto Rico, since he seems to love the game.
As for me, well, it’s good to be here.  Everyone has been super welcoming.  The gym even gave me a free month’s membership. Dad and Gisela have been generous hosts, eager to provide nutritious meals and good housekeeping.  I’m hoping to improve my eating habits and lose some weight.  They’re thrilled to have the time with the kids.
Despite all this, we will in fact return to Puerto Rico toward the end of this month.  I’ve warned the children they cannot come back to NYC again until they’re speaking Spanish, so there should be some intense practice in the coming months.  We all desperately miss Dad and Booke, and look forward to some more sailing and quality family time.
Oil spill cleanup with remote control sailboat trailing absorbent spongeIn prior post, Jason did his science experiment on cleaning up oil spills.  Here in NY we saw a prototype for a remote control sailboat used to pull an absorbent sponge to clean up oil at the Science Gallery.
bikers

2000+ bikers support 9/11 victims’ families

Friends forever

Brooke anxiously awaits our return…

At least 1 person out there would love this bike!

May 28, 2012 / Nautical Mom

San Juan, May 14 – ?

Looks like we’re here to stay… For awhile, anyway.

We came through squalls the short distance from Vieques and chose Palmas del Mar in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Not sure who told us about this place, but what a gem! A 200+ acre planned community with a Wyndham, beach club, tennis club, yacht club, and equestrian center. Security is really good also.

Our slip a the yc costs about $30 per night, includes the pool (see pictures), unlimited hot showers, and is right in the middle of some very friendly other boaters. Dodd Daggert, a delightfully quirky, southern gentleman from Arkensas, Susan the 6th grade teacher and Steve, Shelly and John, Marlene and Jim (retired newspaper owners from Montana) and Richard and Judy. There’s even a girl of 13 who’s come the pst two weekends to her grandfather’s boat. We all get together Sundays for live music by the pool or else Tuesdays for burrito night. Last week, we went to a pig roast in the mountains.

It’s over 2 miles just to the entrance gate here, so fortunately we bought a minivan. Yes, a Chrysler caravan that we intend to resell in about a month or two. An expat, Andy, was going back to TX. Ej got a good deal on it so we’re hoping to come out ahead vs. throwing away $700/month on a rental. We’ve used it to tour Caguas and old San Juan and for lots of trips to Walmart. Ahhh civilization.

Caguas was a surprising gem. They have 12 museums and historical sites around the square. It seems a lot of famous composers and big-band musicians are from there. Although we hadn’t heard of many of them, it was fun to see. The central square featured a carousel, red parrots, a giant clock with famous Puerto Ricans, and an interesting photography exhibit.

Old San Juan was even more magnificent. There is so much to see, we merely scratched the surface. We focused on part of the city’s wall, the SJ gate and la Fortaleza. It was the one site I most wanted to visit because it’s been in continuous use as a governor’s mansion for over 400 years and yet the public can tour it.

When we arrived, they wouldn’t let Brooke go on the tour and there was nowhere to leave her because of the record-setting heat outside. We were about to resign ourselves to coming back another day, but we went around to see the annex buildings. Inside a public works office, enjoying the air conditioning, we met the governor’s communications chief. We explained we were looking for someplace to leave the dog, so she actually went to ask her colleagues.

It was like mothers with a new baby: Five ladies came rushing out to the lobby oohing and aahhing over Brooke. Needless to say, we left the dog with them, and got a private tour with Irmalisse. The palace was great, although we only saw the outside. Also it was the governor’s wife’s birthday and the kids got some of her cupcakes from the security guard.

Back at Palmas, we are getting ready for the kids and I to go back to NYC 6/2-25. They’ve been finalizing some assignments and working on projects for the school science fair. It certainly will be different for them to be back at school. We’ve planned a busy month with md appts, sleepovers and family visits and of course, Gigi’s graduation. It’ll be great to see everyone!

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May 8, 2012 / Nautical Mom

Culebra & Culebrita

We’ve spent the last few days exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands off the coast of PR. These are places I’ve longed to visit since the New York Times first highlighted Vieques as an unspoiled paradise newly vacated by the Navy. ..

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These are pictures of today, including my toes from the hammock here in Vieques and culebrita, another deserted anchorage.

Most people post pictures of the fish they catch, we post pictures of our lures and the giant teethmarks left by the fish that got away.

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Two nights ago we did a turtle watch with a very fun family from s/v Liberty. We were only with them for one day but we really enjoyed it. Their sons are12 and 15 and they’ve Been afloat for 3 years. Anyway, the turtle watch meant spending the night on the beach with a marine biologist and 4 other volunteers getting devoured by sand fleas. Poor Gigi’s face looks worse than any case of chicken pocks. We walked miles up and down that beach every 30 minutes from 9 pm until 4 am looking for a Volkswagen beetle aka leatherback turtle.

Although one was supposed to return as she had deposited a nest full of eggs about 10 days ago none showed up. We got back to the boat at 5 am and are still trying to not be too bitter about it. After all, the marine biologist has been doing this every night for over a month.

The kids have updated their blogs again. Check the bottom of their pages.