It's the Places We Go Feed

VI Strong

Yes, I have stories to tell about our brush with Irma. In fact, they are nearly ready for publication. But they are “first world” stories—La Luna, EW, and I are just fine. We have moved back aboard (thanks to three incredible friends), and we are able to enjoy most of what St. Augustine has to offer. Certainly, there are people here and many others elsewhere in Florida who have lost much or all due to Irma,  Our focus, however, is on those in the Caribbean Islands. Snark post to news

Those who follow me on Facebook may have seen my snarky post to major U.S. news sources. When we lived in St. Thomas and worked with tourists we were amazed at the general lack of knowledge about the islands they were visiting. It was both annoying and humorous. Bless their hearts.

It’s no longer funny. U.S. Citizens need our help. Geoffery Smith lives in St. Thomas, works on the island for a dive company, and is a frequent and welcome performer at Tickles Open Mike night, where we met him. He has given me permission to share this “wherever you want to, with anyone you can”, because he wants everyone in the U.S. to know.



Geoffrey Smith

8 hrs ·

I have been a resident of St Thomas, USVI for nearly 15 years. We are indeed part of the United States, which sadly, is often forgotten.

We are your teachers, your doctors, your neighbors, your brothers, and sisters. We are military veterans, we defended your shores in WW2 against German U-boats, defending the mainland, yet remain in its constant shadow. We still defend you, we have served in the Middle East and we will continue to do so, where ever we are called. For we are Americans just like you.

We obey US law, we fly the Stars and Stripes and have shed the same blood as you for our country. Yet we cannot vote for the president nor have a congressional voice, yet we are still proud Americans. We are also Virgin Islanders, we have a rich and diverse culture that spans all races, religions, creeds. We have every walk of life here. We are accepting of all people, if you are accepting of us you will be welcomed into our island family. That is what we are, we are a family and we watch out for one another.

Mainlanders and tourists from around the world flock to our little slice paradise we have built for ourselves on these tiny rocks in the middle of the ocean. When you come here on your cruise ships or your week vacation, you come and take your pictures and go to Magen's Bay. You get that snapshot of the perfect sunset. You see our pastel-colored houses and sailboats dotting the harbor. 

Months later when it's snowing out you'll look back at your little reminders to feel better and remember our little paradise.

On September 5th, 2017 those pictures changed.

We finally have been recognized by the media, only after being completely destroyed.  Our islands, your US Virgin Islands have taken a direct hit from the most powerful storm our nation has ever seen. Last night I along with the rest of my fellow Virgin Islanders, and Puerto Rican's went through Maria, another category 5 hurricane. We have endured natural disaster like the nation has never seen and we were alone. You raced to the rescue of those in Texas, you warned those in Florida to evacuate because a storm of unprecedented magnitude was on a direct course for you. Yet even as Hurricane Irma raced at us, even as we were being leveled back to the Stone Age, the only thing anyone heard about was the "possible" impact of Florida. The media was silent. It took 3 days for the media to get word to our friends and families around the country. It took 2 days for the first help to arrive. The media was silent.


I ask you to take a look at the photos and your keep sakes from your vacation, remember the warm sand under your feet or the cold fruity drink you can't remember the name of yet you will never forget. 
Remember us.

Now take a look at the photos from our islands. It crushes one's soul to see the amount of destruction that has been set upon us.

Those sailboats you see in piles on shore and on the rocks, those are not just weekend toys or something we like to play with when we have time. 
They are homes.
They are businesses. 
They are some people entire lives.
Reduced to rubble.

We have nowhere to run, we know that there are no other states to drive to, there is no escape. So we do what we always do. We stock up on supplies, we board up the windows, batten the hatches and lock it all down.
Then we wait.

We hope for the best and plan for the worst. It is the only time you will ever hope all your preparations and hard work are for nothing. Many times they are, but sometimes they are not.

On September 5th, I along with so many others encountered a force of nature like the world has never seen. 
I could describe it to you in the greatest of detail, yet there is no way you could even grasp an understanding of what we experienced.

The following morning, when the sun rose on our broken islands when we could finally come out of hiding and see what little was left, we looked and looked. Some looked away, some cried and others just stared in silence. After taking a few moments to let the reality of it set in, we looked at each other and set out to do what we needed to be done.

We cut, chopped, and sawed our way out of our homes, driveways, and roads. What did we find? Everyone out doing the same. When we got to the roads, we looked at each other and said: "You work that way and I'll go this way." As we made our way we ran into the next group that had cleared their little area.

It was like this everywhere. 
There was no race, no religion, or class status. Just people. People helping people. During the storm we all prayed to our own gods, we all shared the same fears, and all bled red. In the Islands, we have what we call VIStrong.

We are a community and an island family, and despite our differences, we stand together and support each other.

We need your help, and we are not a people that ask for help. We take care of our own, but we cannot do this alone. We are islands if it's not here it has to come from somewhere. We do have incredible support from so many people stateside who are working night and day to get us the supplies we so desperately need. Flooding St. Thomas

The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico need your help. There are so many ways you can assist us. There are groups of volunteers and websites organizing relief efforts. One of the best ways you can help us is to not forget that we are Americans too. 

We are on the front line for every hurricane that is on its way to the mainland. 
48 hours after hurricane Irma crushed us I heard on CNN how Americans were about to feel the impact of this incredible storm. Americans had felt its impact days before, I can assure you first hand that they had. We are still feeling it. Last night we were hit again by Maria, another CAT5 hurricane.

We are going to need your help in the days, weeks and months ahead but most of all we need you never to forget that we are Americans, we are the United States Virgin Islands.



This moved EW and me to tears.  If you are moved and can help, here’s a list of organizations that I found on the blog “Women Who Live on Rocks”.

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

St. John Community Foundation

Virgin Islands Relief

Irma Relief for our Sister Islands

Love for Love City by Kenny Chesney

St. John Rescue

Art for Love City

Tim Duncan VI Relief

USVI “Adopt a Family”

United Way USVI

USVI Amazon Wish List

ReVIve the VI


PHOTO Credits. 1. My Facebook 2. USVI Facebook 3. NYTime article

So This Happened (Part One of La Luna Encounters Hurricane Matthew)


We are fine. We are truly fine.

The boat is mostly fine.

I asked the universe to move Matthew to the East and he moved, but not far enough.

I asked that our boat come thru relatively unscathed, and attached to the ball, and she did—but the mooring ball and tackle detached from the mooring and La Luna drifted/scooted to shore.

I must learn to be more specific.

IMG_6136We don’t know when, but we do know that we are one of three boats in the marina (all big) who broke their tackle. Over 29 boats broke free from various spots in St. Augustine, ours is one of the least damaged, and the only one in our new “neighborhood” who did not damage anything on shore except a few mangrove bushes. We were very fortunate.

IMG_6160IMG_6278We did this. It was a decision based on what we knew at the time, the options open to us, the very strange direction of Matthew, and an engine with a problem that happened just before evacuation day. Given what we know now, we would have arranged a tow up the San Sebastian to a dock there. Instead, we prepared La Luna more thoroughly than most boats in the mooring field. An incredible number had their headsails on (shredded). Many did not take advantage of the free, very tough, fire hose donated by the St. Augustine Fire Department. Many of them did not add extra mooring lines. We did all of that.

Like the rest of St. Augustine, we did not fully prepare for an event that has never before occurred: a tide and surge so high that it washed up over the sea wall into the Marina tunnel area between the onshore showers and the lounge. In fact, when talking with the crew before we evacuated, one of them said that in 20 years he had been there that area has never gotten swamped.

This was a 100-year storm. This is the storm that reminds us that we aren’t in control; the storm that reminds us that even the best plans for living in a hurricane zone can be wrecked by a storm that comes just 5 miles closer than we wanted to generate a surge never before experienced here. We don’t make excuses, but we aren’t beating ourselves either. One of EW’s phrases is “You make the decision, and you make the decision right.” We are together, the boat is fine, and once she’s back in the water and we check the engine, she will be 99% just as she was when we left her.

That makes us very, very fortunate.

Others lost their boats. I mean lost as is couldn’t find them; I’m not sure whether all have been found at this point. Others lost their boats as in being destroyed. Others will have huge repairs to make before boating again.

IMG_6142IMG_6146There are at least 10 boats within a few hundred yards of us. We have been meeting on Facebook or at the boats and are working together to find out how we can get our vessels back into the water. This is a puzzlement.

IMG_6182La Luna and the others floated in on an extremely large surge, over what is normally (and what are now) mud flats. Imagine a barge even getting in there, where they would be aground in 2 feet of water. Now imagine the crane lifting La Luna up and putting her…..where? Down on the other side in mud and water? Not likely. We are looking at using a trash pump and maybe air bags, to help slide her, tilted over (probably with water weights like those used to get vessels under bridges—although in our case it will be to keep the keel from plowing into the mud.



Anyway, this is what we think will work. We saw one post on Facebook that mentioned tying the line around the boat, not on the chocks. I like that idea, but not sure how it will work. Our hope is that La Luna can stay canted to port and swing around to be hauled bow out to deeper water where we will anchor. The marina will not allow any boats back in prior to checking all mooring balls and fixing the docks. Those who remained safe through the storm have stayed. The docks are badly damaged and if the north dock had failed, they could have lost all the boats in the marina.

This was a big one, folks, with a death toll nearing 600, of which over 30 were in the US.  How sad. How devastating. My heart goes out to those families. We are fine. We will get her back in the water and move home again.


Next Post: People Who Need People and the People who Help them





Tidbits from St. Augustine


1. A hot summer here in St. Augustine is hotter than a hot summer in Grenada and Panama. One might have thought (as I did) that being closer to the equator would be warmer than being up here in the southern part of North America.

One would be wrong. For the past two weeks, every day we’ve had a warning of a “Heat Index” of 101 – 107.











2. The sun doesn’t set in St. Augustine until very late. (Well, late by Caribbean standards.) The phrase “cruisers’ midnight” refers to 9:00 or 10:00 PM when cruisers usually call it a night. After all, when sunset is around 6:30 PM, that’s about 3 hours of darkness. Here, the sun doesn’t set until around 8:30, so midnight is midnight. We rarely stay up that late, but we’ve had “issues” with our pizza/movie night. I’m just not ready to watch a movie before dark, while EW is definitely ready for pizza around 7:00. We have compromised. The pizza is usually in the oven by 7, and we start the movie during daylight, It’s not the same, and we can no longer set it up on deck unless we are prepared to actually stay up until midnight.

IMG_20160702_1807564. St. Augustine is a Destination Wedding town, about which many people say, “We’ve chosen our venue in St. Augustine”. Weddings have venues as if they were conferences or concerts. Though that began when we still lived in Maine, it has a whole new meaning here in St. Augustine. The marina office is across the street from one of the more popular venues, so we frequently see wedding parties, guests, limos, flower bedecked horse-drawn carriages, and tasteful wedding signs. This one amused us. Greatly. You’d think the person who had written it might have offered an edit of some sort. Ah well. I assume it is a happy union. (I could not resist.)

5. This is a music town. There are a whole bunch of singer/songwriters per capita, and we enjoy many of them. EW plays weekly at the open jam at the market. This week I performed as “Band-Aid” when I was asked to hold up some music for EW and four others who were learning new tunes after the event ended.

6. Working. Yeah. That job thing. It’s been a dry year in St. Augustine, but I am now moving forward with two jobs because this is a gig economy. Let me just state that St. Augustine is a tourist town not at all like Portland in that tourism is pretty much  the only industry. When you add the economy, interesting Florida labor practices, and my evidently advanced, unemployable—age the sum includes few job opportunities. I currently have two jobs, one in the store of the Black Raven Pirate Ship, and one as an HR consultant and sales for a Jacksonville company that represents the Predictive Index.

A. Black Raven Ship Store. First of all, they take pirates and colonial history very seriously in St. Augustine. At any point in time one can walk down the street and see a fully garbed pirate, or colonial muster. (And it is “garb”. Call them costumes at your peril. They carry real swords. I am not kidding.) I am not a garbed pirate. I sell tickets to the ship’s adventures, prepare the little treasure chests for the kids, and man the counter in the store three mornings a week. These are not Black Raven Pirates. This is a few from a Pirate Krew who dressed in garb to go out on the town. This kind of thing happens in St. Augustine.

B. Through the miracle of Maine networking, blogging, and Facebook, I was reconnected with Steve Waterhouse, who had been a consultant in Maine many years ago. That lovely man remembered me with favor and offered me a consulting gig with his organization, Predictive Results, which consults and sells the Predictive Index. I can work from the boat, and make calls on potential clients in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and nearly the entire country. I will most likely focus in North Florida and perhaps a bit in Maine. In the meantime, I’m learning more about this very interesting tool for employee assessment and strategic management. I am also learning a whole new business vocabulary, having nothing to do with belaying lines, hoisting sails, or navigating though coral heads. It is no secret that I’m a short-timer with the Pirate Store and will resign with plenty of notice once income from PI is a constant.

7. Technology. It’s been a recurring theme. Those five years created all sorts of gaps in our knowledge. We each have a cheap AT&T Android phone and I am beginning to grasp how smartphones have taken over. I actually said to someone this week that the best way to reach me for social things is to text. I used to hate texting. Texting was the way you could reach your refrigeration tech, and not good for much else. For some reason all marine refrigeration techs do not answer their phone, they text. Even the one in Guadeloupe who spoke very broken English. I digress. Frequently. The point is that I didn’t “get” texting until now… long after it had become a way of life. This five-year gap has caused me to be late to the party on most things technical. So I am delighted, delighted I tell you to actually witness a new technological fad in the making. Pokemon Go! I’m not playing (our cheap phones don’t have a lot of memory, and I really don’t need a new way to waste time) but I love hearing about something new as it is happening. Makes me feel all current.

8. Politics. Whoa! I’m actually happy to be here during this election year. If not, I would never have believed it. Plus now I can answer the questions on Wait Wait Don’t Tell me.

9. NPR. I am in NPR heaven. Kind of. Maine Public Radio will always be the NPR affiliate of my heart, but Florida does have many of our favorite national programs. I assure you that it’s not our fault that both Garrison Keillor and Michael Feldman both retired shortly after we returned to the US. I also had to break it to EW that Thomas Louis Magliozzi died while we were at sea and that the Car Talk shows we have been enjoying are all repeats.

10. Time marches on. Frankly, it’s dragged a bit here in St. Augustine. We are just now getting used to being back in the states. Transitions are tough. We are determined to make it work here, get the boat and cruising kitty fixed and go on another adventure.  In the meantime, we’ll make music and evidently party with pirates.

The Boat At the Side of the River


The  Boat At the Side of the River

by Barbara J. Hart with deep apologies to Sam Walter Foss

The following is posted with apologies to the late poet, Sam Walter Foss, and those who love his poetry. Here is a link to the original., “The House By the Side of the Road”.

I first heard this poem read by a minister who had a strong Maine accent, and who included the poem as part of his eulogy for my Uncle Clayton. This poem still brings Uncle Clayton to life for me and always makes me smile.

Now, we live on a boat on the Matanzas River where we watch, meet, assist, and befriend those moving north or south. Here is my ode to our current life:


The Boat At the Side of the River

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
We are sailor souls that chart our course

Cross oceans, along rivers, and straits.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         But while I live in my boat at the side of the river
Let me be a friend to my mates.

Let me live in my boat
at the side of the river,
Where the race of sailors go by-
The sailors who are good and the sailors who are bad,IMG_3653
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the armchair seat,
Or scorn each vessel’s traits.
Let me live in my boat at the side of the river
And be a friend to my mates.

I see from my boat
at the side of the river,
At the side of the highway of life,
The mates who press with the ardor of hope,
The mates who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of the sailors’ fates;-
Let me live in my boat at the side of the river
And be a friend to my mates.IMG_3460

I know there are star-strewn skies ahead
And seas of wearisome height;
That the waves roll on through the long afternoon
And strengthen throughout the night.
But still I rejoice when the sailors rejoice,
And weep with the sailors that moan,
Nor live in my boat at the side of the river
Like a sailor who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
boat at the side of the river
Where the race of sailors go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the armchair seat
Or scorn each crew’s traits-
Let me live in my boat by the side of the river.
And be a friend to my mates.


Reflections on 2015 and the Past Five Years



For us, and I think for most cruisers, this lifestyle is all about People; People-with-a-capital-P. P that rhymes with T and stands not for Trouble but for Team, or Togetherness, or Touch (as in Staying in). And these People, these precious friends, loved ones, and relatives range from those we’ve known all our lives, to those we’ve met at sea.

photo (14)P2212662









Just as parents of toddlers seek playgroups and other parents of toddlers, cruisers seek other cruisers. Our lifestyle is rare among the general population and we cruisers share a language, similar stories, trials, and triumphs. Get us together and you can’t shut us up. (OK, shutting me up sometimes is difficult in any situation, let’s not go there.) We love to share favorite recipes, fixes, harbors, weather reports, bars, marine stores, tools, boatyards, bottom paint, and stories. We learn about each other’s  families, food allergies, collections, hometowns, pets, and drink of choice. We form fast friendships that last for years. We find forever friends and stay in touch even as we anchor in different harbors, sail on different seas, or swallow the anchor and move ashore.


CaptureFrom June 2014 to now, EW and I have sailed more than 7000 miles. This stunned me. I checked it twice and asked EW if this was possible. “Oh easily,” he replied. Dear friends for life and non-sailors Cathy and Stu who continue to provide a wonderful welcome to Florida, have expressed how brave they think we are. Yet we know many others who have sailed greater distances in more treacherous waters. We don’t feel brave. We feel very, very fortunate. And while we have some sea stories, such as the “Endurance Crossing” or the “Horrific Passage”, or the long trek north from Panama, even those stories are about the People; family back home, people helping us with weather, people watching anxiously for reports of our safe progress, people welcoming us to the San Blas, Isla Mujeres,  Key West, Miami, and St. Augustine, and the people we’ve met on boats and on shore.

Pat on sidewalk

mo and rossi 1You’ve heard it all from me. How supportive our families have been (especially my late sister, Patricia, our champion, and our son Mo, AKA “Favorite”); how much fun we’ve had with the many wonderful cruisers we’ve met, from Hampton, Virginia in 2010 to nearly every port we’ve visited; and how delighted we’ve been to make new friends on shore—especially those in Grenada, St. Thomas, and the Azores.





For us, it’s all about the People: People who keep us informed and included on Facebook, People who sailed to Guadeloupe just because they knew we needed an English-speaking friend. People who offered medicine and aid when EW had shingles. People who cook; laugh; tell great stories; listen; help with projects; need help from us; show us outstanding snorkeling areas; walk with us for fun and exercise; need fur-fixes as much as I do; play music with EW; and organize hikes over hill, dale, mud, and cow dung.


The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 finds us on an adventure of a different sort. La Luna will live on a mooring, rest, and get some much needed TLC. (Those 7000 miles were much harder on her than they were on us.) Our cruising kitty (MEOW!) will also get some much needed TLC, and EW and I will work. We will also visit with friends, relatives, or other cruisers, such as Cathy and Stu, and Kathy, and Andy and Linda, and Lauren and Rob, and Pam and Nick, and John and Dora, and Mike, and Vicki and Bob, and Peter—and many more with whom we have not yet connected.















We’ve already met new friends, some of whom will drop by on their way back north after a winter in Florida, and others who have left armed with names of boats and friends they will meet as they follow our path through the Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean.

Cruising. Starts with “C” which rhymes with “P” and stands for People.

EW and I wish all of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous, New Year. Whether you travel great distances by land, air or sea, or stick close to home we wish you wonderful adventures and “smooth sailing”. Most of all, we hope that each and every one of you feel as fortunate and loved as we do, for we love you all.

Thank you.

(Bonus points for those who know the musical reference. Kathy, Chrissy and Beth, I’m counting on you.)

EXTRA BONUS if you can answer this question, found at the top of a lighthouse in Panama:


I don’t know who Olaf is or what he’d do. If I could list every person who has made me feel connected, special, and loved this year, it would be an insanely long list and include friends, relatives, former colleagues, and many cruisers. But not Olaf. I don’t know Olaf.

San Blas Moments

We struggle when we talk about the San Blas. It is an exquisitely beautiful area and we are indeed fortunate to have been able to visit these islands. We did not realize that relatively few boats spend time here in the summer. Grenada is a huge hurricane season draw for cruising sailors, but fewer than 30 boats spend a lot of time in the San Blas from June through November. It’s hot,  with a challenging number of severe lightening storms.

This area is incredibly beautiful.The photo below was taken from the stern of our boat. I could and did swim from La Luna around this first reef and snorkeled, viewing eagle rays, the ever tasty ocean trigger fish, and the more beautiful queen trigger fish. Before they set sail to travel East, Keith and Jaime led an expedition to the reef you can see breaking in the background. There are caves, huge coral, sharks,and millions of fish.It was the most breathtaking snorkeling I’ve experienced.



This is how we shop for groceries. Dos Hermanos or another “veggie” boat will visit the anchorages nearest Carti. Many cruisers spend most of their time in one of two island groups just so they can be served by the veggie boats whose visits are infrequent during the summer season. In addition to fruits and veggies we can purchase wine, beer, whole chickens, and a small array of rotating items. Note, everything that is sold by the pound is weighed in the same scale. Can you say chicken blood on the broccoli? Yep. Cleaning is vital.




Here’s a storm building from the east and a bit north. The ones we really have to watch out for come from the south, with no warning. Folks have clocked 30-50 to even 70 knot gusts during those “chokosanas”. (Spelling mine and probably wrong.) We’ve been fortunate to be around only for the 30 knot gusts, but it’s important to anchor where you have 360 degrees of swing.


This is not safe anchoring and was taken from amidships on La Luna as a storm brewed up from the southwest. We were not happy. This is a local charter boat and (forgive me) they anchor worse than the normal French cruiser. This guy was doubly bad as the boat hails from Guadeloupe. (It’s not prejudiced if it’s true. If EW and I get invited to a Halloween party next year, we will wear stripped tees, white capris and manpris, and carry dingy anchors. When folks ask what we are supposed to be we will drop our anchor on their toes and say, “Bonne nuit! We are French cruisers!”)


This is S/V Runner, at home on anchor in The Swimming Pool. Reg and Debbie also provided EW with excellent medicine for shingles, and had us over for a wonderful dinner once EW was social (defined as getting dressed). They’ve lived in the San Blas as retired residents for 20 years, and willingly share their knowledge. Deb is an avid snorkeler, obtaining small fish for her three on-board tanks, and catching smaller fish for food. As you can imagine, with the Panama Canal close by, VHF Channel 16 is pretty busy with important stuff. Years ago, the authorities asked the cruisers to pick a channel for hailing and emergencies and they picked 72, which we generally keep on all the time. During our first month in the San Blas in addition to the normal boat-to-boat calls, I would often hear a vibrant voice saying, “Ten Minutes!” and nothing else.

It bugged me. I just wanted to know what those people were doing in ten minutes. While we were in The Pool I asked Deb if I could join her one day when she snorkeled. She agreed and told me that we’d go around 10:30 and she would give me some warning. At 10:25 I heard that vibrant voice say “Ten Minutes!” and was delighted to learn I was now part of the club. No initiation was necessary.


During the summer, a large number of power boats transit the canal from the Pacific side, leaving their boats at various marinas in the Western Caribbean and bringing friends and family out to the San Blas for the weekend. They fish, party on the beach, and party on the boats. They pretty much ignore us, and refuse to stick to the Channel 72 protocol, using it to have lengthy conversations. We sincerely hope they have a wonderful weekend, each and every time, and can’t wait for them to leave on Sunday night. We did not laugh when this boat ran aground setting his anchor close to Barbeque Beach.  We don’t wish that on anyone, but we also knew he was on sand and grass and certainly more embarrassed than damaged. He did not go on the radio to ask for help getting off.



The power boats anchor near us only for a few hours, then head out about a 1/2 mile to another spot for the night. Early Sunday morning, we motored slowly through the fleet on our way to Linton.IMG_2148-001



Bonus! S/V Joanna is on the dock in Linton! Nico and Maria came out for a visit, dog cookie, and glass of wine (respectively) the other night.

We hope to see Cathy later this week.

East Meets West and Has a Ball

IMG_1276If either John or Lela played an instrument, EW would be absolutely ecstatic. As it is, he is merely very happy, having fun, and eating well. We are still anchored in Sabudupored, where the snorkeling is fine, the thunderstorms mild and not right overhead, and the neighbors are both strong and good-looking. It doesn’t hurt that Lela is a fantastic cook and a generous soul.

We met them in the Lemon Cays where they invited us and Jim and Christine from Ullr on board their cat, Yachtsman’s Dream, for grilled hamburgers on the Fourth of July. John and Lela are from Richmond, Washington (that’s the western USA) while we are from Maine (and kind of Florida—both eastern USA). Hence, the East Meets West. John is retired from the navy and Lela is a retired nurse. They have two sons and one grandson, and sail a catamaran. Other than that, we are just alike.

Not really, but we all enjoy each other, we all have have a well-developed sense of humor, and we all help each other out. Furthermore, we all like to eat, two of us like to cook and two willingly clean up after the cooks. See, we are twin couples from different mothers. What we are – are cruisers. The longer we cruise, the more people  we meet, and the more places we visit, the better I understand what makes a successful cruising couple. * Some of those qualities are:

  • The desire—if not to be different—then certainly not to be bored. Those who cruise want to do something relatively few have done or are doing. While there may be more cruisers sailing the seven seas than ever before, this is still a lifestyle not for the average sailing couple.
  • The ability to work together in every freaking area of their lives. There are few secrets on a cruising boat. Essentially you know where the other is at every moment of the day. Literally. One can rarely use the head without the other knowing. We plan everything together, from a shopping trip to the next cruising destination. We may not share all tasks, but we are prepared to help each other with any task, and are often called upon. Furthermore, there are few tasks that do not impact the other person.
  • Flexibility. We don’t always get to where we planned to go when we planned to arrive. The veggie boat doesn’t show up for four days. It rains buckets when we were supposed to go on a shopping trip in Grenada. The dinghy motor (or any one of a million other things) breaks down. Successful cruisers deal with it. We may bitch and complain and use “OH NO Mr. Bill!” words (remember duck rhymes with…) but we fairly quickly learn to adjust course, change plans, fix nearly everything, and move on to whatever awaits.
  • Being your partner’s best friend. We are often alone on board for a few days at a time (longer during passages) and it would be absolutely impossible if we didn’t enjoy each other’s company. Every successful cruising couple clearly make compromises for each other’s needs, and clearly enjoy most of the time they spend alone together.
  • The ability to make new friends and accept others as they are. I certainly left some great friends behind when we started cruising, and I’m thankful that we are all still great friends even though we are far apart and living vastly different lives. Still, cruisers discover that there is plenty of room in their lives for new great friends, and we form strong bonds with other sailors. EW and I have a long list of cruising couples (and singles) with whom we have formed firm friendships—the kind that will keep us in touch forever. After all, one of the reasons we came here was to see Jaime and Keith from S/v Kookaburra. They’re due back in a few days and we are anxious to see them again.

We hope we get to introduce them to John and Lela – who also embody all of those qualities (as do Jim and Christine from Ullr and Becky and Denny from Kokomo. Meeting people like this is one of the reasons I love cruising.

So, back to the original point of this post. Both La Luna  and Yachtsman’s Dream left the East Lemon Cays and headed east. We went to the Green Island group for better cell phone connection, and they went to islands a bit farther north to check out the snorkeling. (Snorkeling is to Lela what writing is to me and music is to EW.)  A few days later they hailed us on the VHF to see whether there was room for another boat here in the anchorage. Oh yeah. We were alone here, and there was plenty of room. Since then, we’ve snorkeled together, Lela had kayaked while I have paddled on Keith’s board, John and I did a trash burn on the beach, we took a dinghy ride to “town”, and we have both hosted the other boat for dinner on numerous occasions.

The burn happened just after they arrived. I had told EW that he had to deal with the trash and he and John set up a time for a beach burn, and then it rained a bit. After the rain, both EW and I realized that he couldn’t go to the beach due to the sand fleas (remember, they come out after a rain) since Lela is afflicted the same way, John and I did the burn. Lela was cooking Thai food that night and had invited us over. (Yeah, life is tough when you cruise with great cooks.) John and I have a bit to learn about running a trash burn, but we got ‘er done. EW had felt guilty for deserting the expedition and hoped I hadn’t been uncomfortable going ashore with a man who was relatively unknown to us. “No problem!” I said. “We got along like a house afire.” “Did you really just say that?” asked EW. And I told him about our adventure including (icky alert. the following anecdote may not be suitable for landlubbers):

“John realized that we both were burning our used toilet paper and we talked heads for a bit.” (NOTE: Cruisers talk about heads just like new parents talk about their baby’s poop. It happens.) “We had a bit of trouble getting the fire going,” I continued, “but we worked it out. Seems fire is a bad thing on Navy subs so that’s not John’s best skill. He said that ‘ The Hunt for Red October’ is the best submarine movie. We had a good time. He even laughed a  couple of my jokes.”  EW asked about the jokes. “Well,” I said, “He told me Lela was spending the time cleaning the boat for company. I said, ‘You mean us?’ and he said ‘Yes.’ I told him we were no longer company. We’ve already eaten aboard your boat once, you’ve been on our boat, and we are burning used toilet paper together. I think once you burn toilet paper together you can no longer be considered company.”

EW rolled his eyes. “You really said that?” “Sure. He was a bit startled but he laughed.”

IMG_5995Since then, we’ve had more dinners together, shared recipes, books, movies, and lots of stories. Lela has provided her itch relief treatment to fellow bug sufferer EW, and EW helped them fix their outboard. I led that expedition to Nargana for provisions as I’m the only one of the four who had been there.

So that’s what it’s like when Eastern cruisers meet Western cruisers. State- or even country-of-origin doesn’t matter. Once you’ve broken bread together, shared stories and laughter, helped each other a bit, and burned your personal waste together… you are friends for life.

And that’s what makes a successful cruising couple.

*My apologies to those solo sailors, both men and women, who started out as part of a couple, or were brave enough to follow their dream alone. I cannot conceive of doing that. You all amaze me. I’m part of a cruising couple, which presents its own rewards and challenges.


P.S. Since this post was written and before it was published, we were joined by Ocean Star and Ullr. We went on a group snorkel and Yachtsman's Dream (as the only Cat) hosted all of us for tapas and sun-downers. Music provided by EW and Jim on Ullr. Oh yeah. Life is definitely good.








Two Guna ladies, one in traditional dress, the other, who lives in Panama city, dressed in a more modern style.





To go with the Thai dinner, I made coconut cookies (and banana bread for EW) both from the cookbook I own thanks to the recommendation of another cruising friend for life, Diana from One White Tree.



Lela choosing tomatoes at the larger of the stores on Nargana. Cruisers call this store “Wal-Mart”.

Panama Spam

IMG_1165I haven’t done a “Spam” post in a while. It’s a great way to provide a bunch of tidbits about our current location. “Spam” posts were started in The Bahamas when I took a photo of three shelves of different varieties of Spam in the local grocery store. The world doesn’t need that much Spam, and it may not need another one of my mashed together bits of into, but that’s what you get.

San Blas or Guna Yala? The Spanish named these islands the San Blas, more recently, the people who own these islands, the Guna, have let it be known that they prefer the region be known as Guna Yala. If you read about this region in the past, you know them as Kuna. There is no “K” in their alphabet, so they prefer “Guna”. Some cruisers still pronounce it Kuna. The sound is in the language, not the letter. You confused? In the future I will use the term Guna Yala more often than San Blas.

The Topography. These are not the tall volcanic islands of the Eastern Caribbean (or of the Azores). These islands have more in common with photographs I’ve seen of the Pacific, and are small sand islands with coconut palms. They are surrounded by a whole lot of reefs, so navigating is tricky, but the anchorages are lovely, the swimming and snorkeling is great, and we are sailing every few days. It does not suck.

Boat Life. We have friends here as Jaime and Keith from S/V Kookaburra are enjoying their second year in the region. Our week with them was chock full of sailing, anchoring in new spots, learning to navigate some of the reefs and to respect all of them,, meeting fellow cruisers, and playing music. (Jaime found at least three other boaters who play and jam. EW is happy. They’ve gone back to the States for a few weeks and—while we miss them, we are doing boat projects, still cleaning up from the trip, and getting use to sailing in an area much more remote than we’ve ever experienced. Good thing EW and I like each other.

IMG_1131Groceries. Not many. In 150 square miles of the most visited islands, there is one island known for having a number of stores that stock for cruisers. (Actually two islands joined by a foot-bridge.) (And I use the term “stock for cruisers” loosely. Very loosely) Since this is not the busy season and there are fewer than 50 cruising boats in the region, the shops are not stocking many items. A few of the Guna with power boats do still bring veggies, fruits, and groceries to those anchored away from Nargana, the island with stores. We did learn this week that there is a store on the only island that has fresh water available and I had much better luck getting provisions there. Between the two, we rely on the veggie boats, and the Guna who catch and sell fish, lobster, and crab. The crab is delicious.’

Laundry. Remember my old post from back in the day when I was discovering washing laundry in a bucket using ammonia? That was fine as a novelty, but over the past 5 years,  I’ve generally hit the laundry every other week. Here, there is no laundry facility and I will be washing in the bucket through November. We arrived after 12 interesting days with a huge pile of salt water laden clothes, and it took over a week to get them all washed and dried. Now I’m catching up on regular laundry, and have learned new things about bucket laundry.

  1. I should have bought more clothespins and another bucket.
  2. Ammonia doesn’t work on food stains. Some loads you just have to treat and use soap, and rinse. Deal with it.
  3. Two bucket loads fill up the two  clotheslines on the foredeck.
  4. We need to wear less. I found three sport shorts in St. Thomas and will seek more everyday outfits than can be worn on the boat and in the water and washed out after our afternoon dip. (Full disclosure: In our current anchorage, clothing for the afternoon dip is optional. We are find we like that.)

The People. The Kuna are interesting. They are a closed society in that marriage outside of the society is forbidden. They are an autonomous society in that, while they are residents of Panama, the chiefs set the rules for this region, and work to ensure that the people don’t lose their old ways. Still, each populated island has a Panamanian school which the children attend wearing uniforms much like those in the Eastern Caribbean. Also, many of the adult population in the towns no longer wear traditional dress. And practically everyone has a cell phone.

Many of them still make as sell molas, squares of fabric with designs created largely by cutting away layers of fabric cloth to reveal certain colors to create images or geometric designs. There are traditional molas and tourist molas. One of the master mola makers showed us a design he does of a Christmas tree; this is not a traditional mola. We’ve opted for two so far, made by two different master mola makers; one depicts a sea turtle and the other a ray.

IMG_1160Most people are friendly, helpful, and honest. and while every day folks stop by to see if we want to purchase molas, crab, lobster, or groceries, a simply “No Gracias” will send them on their way. At this anchorage, we had visitors of a different sort.  We had spent Wednesday going into one of the few settled islands to get water (That’s another long story, already written to send to a magazine.) We had come out to an anchorage near the island of Sabudupored, that Jaime and Keith just call “Workman” because it’s usually empty and they can get a lot of work done. The theory is that if there aren’t a lot of boats, there are fewer Guna stopping by to sell stuff. Not so much.

Wednesday had been a long (though great) day and we just wanted to settle back in the cockpit and enjoy a gin and tonic with fresh limes purchased on the dock. But just as I had pulled out the gin,  three drunk boaters came by in a nice newish fiberglass local boat. They wanted gas and beer and EW sold them some. One wanted photos with us and showed no interest in going; he owned the new boat and he was the happy, insistent, and friendly guy, out for a day on the water and indulging in too many beers. That guy. He lives everywhere. He said he was a “professional” electrician and worked at the power plant and he’s very proud to have a job like that, which obviously provides a good income. They drank the three beers and wanted more, but EW did manage to get them to go home. The whole encounter only lasted about 20 minutes and we were able to move on to our G and Ts. 

On Thursday, we worked at Workman. EW has a long list of repairs, and I am still cleaning, and need to write. He fixed the fridge fan and worked on the engine, while I defrosted the freezer, cleaned the fridge and wrote 4000 words. Not a bad day at all. Again, we were just thinking about stopping for the day, when I heard another power boat and a Guna man calling out “Hola!” I stayed below and when I heard EW say, “Pepsi” I thought this person wanted a Pepsi, but he was selling Pepsi.  EW bought a six pack, and gave the man a $20. (Note to self and spousal unit: We will get LOTS of small bills when we go to town later this month.) Instead of giving us change, the salesman/con artist asked whether he could sell us anything else, and offered onions, veggies, fruits – none of which he had on board. I said yes, we needed more veggies. (When in the Guna Yala, get fresh stuff whenever you can.) He let go of La Luna and began to drift away, repeated my list back to me and said he’s see us “manana”. As EW called him back for the change, but he waved it and said, “No problem! No Problem!” He was slick; as EW said, “He left before I could beat him up!” The whole thing happened so quickly that we could only laugh. So far, at 1500 on “manana” we have not seen him or our 13.00 dollars of change.  Lesson learned.

To be fair to us and the Guna, a few days ago we bought $10.00 worth of crabs and the fisherman took our $20 to another boat and got change and came back. That is the more usual experience here.

Gotta dash. Keith on Kook kindly left his large green stand up board for us to use and I need to exercise today. Time to get wet, followed by pizza night.

Wednesday Nights

IMG_9935How to describe Open Mic Night at Tickles? On Wednesday nights the Tim West Band (Tim West lead vocal and guitar, Tommy “Bronx” on drums, and whoever joins in on bass, lead guitar, harmonica, or whatever.) Tim and Tommy have day jobs and numerous gigs around the island. On Wednesdays, they run the Open Mic Night with skill, humor, and an eye on the clock. (Since Tickles is a typical Caribbean establishment, open on two sides, and located only steps from boats in Crown Bay Marina, the performances have a 10:00 PM curfew.)

IMG_9893Those out for dinner, perhaps without even knowing about Open Mic Night, arrive after work, or a day doing boat projects, or basking on the beach, looking for a convivial bar, dinner, and drinks — not necessarily in that order. The rest of us: professional musicians, and musician/sailors/professors/dive instructors/attorneys/contractors/waitresses/students, some accompanied by “band-aids”, begin to gather at 6. Some sit at tables and order dinner, others opt to sit at the bar or a high table in the corner near the water. The guitars, mandolins, and saxophones pile up in the front corner. It takes Danny three trips to the car (two with help) to schlep his keyboard, stand, and stool.

The bus boys have already moved tables from the “stage” area, and now bring the drum set out from the storeroom. Tim and Tommy set up microphones, test the sound system, and greet the “guest” musicians. “Hey, Stew! You going to play tonight?” “Hi there Peter, you’ll play after Kevin.” Tim and Tommy walk through the crowd, noting strangers with instruments and inviting them to perform later, keeping a list, and estimating how long it may take to give everyone a chance to perform. On a slow night, they are allowed to do three songs, on a busy night they may only get two.

We eat, we drink, we greet friends. During the high season, (and during our best years here) the cruisers would commandeer two or three adjacent tables, Peter, Ross, Kurt, EW, Tony, Mike, and others usually with significant crew (aka band-aids), would laugh and share stories as if most of us hadn’t been together in days. In reality, we probably spent time on one boat or another for at least two music nights during the week. P2132579Those who live on the island may have shown up without knowing it was Open Mic Night, others come every week for the show. One senior couple show up early, sit in the corner surrounded by instruments and wait for the one of two songs with the tempo that will allow them to dance a low-key jitterbug.


It’s a lively night. Everyone is our friend. We all share the language of music.The wait staff is alert and good natured as we frequently jump up to greet someone, slide over to a different table for a conversation, or steal a bar seat close to the stage in order to take photos.

One night, the attorney/singer/songwriter offered his version of Open Mic Rules among them:

  • Don’t play over someone’s solo
  • The person who is singing is in charge. He or she gets to pick the song, style, and who will perform with him or her.
  • Don’t play a song you know is another player’s key number.
  • Remember to thank Tim and Tommy, and those who played with you.
  • Never stick your hand in the tip jar.

Newbies are encouraged to perform, and Tim and Tommy are there to catch them when they fall—or don’t know how instruct the band to end a song. After every performance, Tim or Tommy will step up to the mic and say, “Let’s hear if for Stew!” (Or whomever.) Some of those who came with instruments don’t lead sets, but want to sit in with the band, providing sax, harmonica, washboard, mandolin, bass, and lead guitar creating great walls of sound, and a bit of bedlam, and music magic.

IMG_9933They will play blues, rock, country, pop, hard rock, and ballads; generally ranging from the 50’s to current hits. They will play old standards, new arrangements, and original music. Professionals may try out new pieces; for some St. Thomas is their starting point before heading to Nashville or New York. Others drop by while on the island for professional gigs in larger venues. One memorable night a group of middle-agers from New Jersey arrived from the Marriot by taxi. Turns out one of them is a crooner in the best New Jersey tradition, and he quickly cooked up a couple of numbers with the “house band du jour” and wowed us. If the older dancing couple is in attendance, EW always plays “Teen Age Wedding” because they always want to dance to his rendition of that song.

Under all this music you can hear laughter, attempts at serious discussion, folks meeting other folks and invariably finding some connection. “You’re from Auburn Maine? The principal at your high school was Larry L. He’s my cousin.” You’re from Texas? Meet Coach.” Turns out they grew up within 15 miles of each other. St. Thomas is like that. Everyone who performs gets a chip for a drink, and the occasional audience member will congratulate the attorney, or sailor for a great set and offer to stand them a drink.

IMG_0930We know the wait staff, the manager, the bar tender who lives on Water Island, almost all the sailors, and more and more of the locals. We know the drummer’s lady, and his son. We’ve met her mom, dad, and brother from Utah. It’s a social evening that breeds both lively discussions among strangers who will never meet again, and life-long friendships among cruisers and musicians who will keep in touch via Facebook and email—and who hope to meet in other harbors.

Our rule for Open Mic at Tickles is just go. You never know when music magic will happen.

Last night, we said “fair well” to Jerry Lee, who is leaving St. Thomas to promote his music. We enjoyed one more performance of his distinctive “Messing With the Kid” and “ Unchain My Heart”. Good luck, Jerry Lee. “Hey!”




St. Thomas With Friends

IMG_0881It’s been a busy week in St. Thomas. Most importantly, we were excited to have boat guests on Tuesday when cruising friends Steve and Lynn stayed with us on their way to the BVI. They are crewing on a boat heading up to Annapolis in the Salty Dawg Rally. Those who know Steve and Lynn know that they are outstanding sailors who have sold their boat and are renovating a home. But they’ve not given up the sailing life and we hope to entice them aboard for a longer visit.

In the meantime, they flew into St. Thomas late Tuesday afternoon, and we were ready for them. Yes, I had to clean the boat and make room in the forward cabin. Steve is the guy who kept his engine compartment so clean and well maintained that the Coast Guard (or Coast Guard Auxiliary) asked his permission to tour it with other boaters. Lynn is equally neat. This is a Facebook post from when she was getting ready to sell their boat.  Lynn's MessIMG_0057To contrast, this is a photo of La Luna when we were getting ready to cross to the Azores from St. Martin. Lynn, this is a mess.

I didn’t try to get to get La Luna to Celebration standards, but I did spend a few hours organizing and cleaning, and that’s not a bad thing. (Plus I’m done for a week. Woot.) Once again, I made my new favorite meal: barbecue chicken cooked in the pressure cooker. EW finished it off on the grill. Everything was nearly ready when they arrived, so we had a lot of time to catch up. And we had a lot to talk about: our crossings, the Azores, selling their boat, buying a home, renovating a home, neighbors, other boat friends, kids, and more. We talked long after they should have been asleep. It was so great to see them and hard to let go.

They wanted to take the noon ferry to Tortola, and EW and I had reconnaissance to do for friends on Kookaburra who need a new generator, so I suggested that it “wouldn’t be awful” if we all went in the dinghy into Charlotte Amalie. It was pretty windy, but I knew that even if we went to the closer dinghy dock at Crown Bay that we’d all get wet in the “rinse cycle”. How is a wet dinghy ride like being pregnant? Just as you can’t be a “little bit pregnant", on days like Wednesday you don’t get a “little bit wet”.

Still, I should have brought the poncho I have used to protect myself from the salt spray. (Especially knowing that when Lynn cruised she had made a Sunbrella wrap just for wearing on wet dinghy rides.) She and I took many waves over the bow. They guys didn’t fare much better. We were four drenched cruisers when we got ashore.   11200932_10153307024247863_2533914882955929804_o

Our hair was wet and sticky with salt; my straight hair clung tight to my scalp in wet strands, making me look older and unclean. Lynn’s wavy hair was standing above her scalp in large curls. It may not be a look she would cultivate, but it wasn’t unattractive. She ran her fingers through it and laughed, saying, “People pay for this.”

“They pay for what?” I asked, thinking first of those who charter sailboats, paying for the “adventure” that is our daily life. But no.

“They pay for salt spray to style their hair.”

“They do not!”

Oh yes. It’s a thing.”

Salt Spray for HairResearch has shown me that yes, it is a “thing”. One for which you can purchase a spray bottle of salt water for $25.00; or for which there are many recipes for salt water styling sprays. And this would be different from the cheap “White Net” styling spray my mom used 40 years ago, how?




Evidently this is how: Salt Spray for Hair Sell Sheet 2



Who knew we cruising women had been setting a trend? Hey, EW! I have a “salty, sexy, sun-dried, wind-styled” mane! It would be a shame to wash that out.

I’m glad we’re cruising. Sometimes current culture back home is too much to contemplate.

We dropped them off at the wall, just past the Customs fence near the ferry terminal. There is no dinghy dock; just tires tied to a wall. The dinghy was bouncing in the breaking waves. (Did I already take responsibility for this trip? It was my idea. EW, Steve, and Lynn were good sports. Good sports who wore wet, salty clothing for the next few hours.) Back to that wall and the dinghy: We had to get Steve, Lynn, two small cunnin’ backpacks, a 50-pound L.L. Bean duffle, and a 6-foot long box up onto the quay. Fortunately, a young man waiting at a job site jumped from his truck and offered to help. Steve scrambled up onto the quay, and EW and I handed the bag up Mamito the two men while Lynn held the dinghy.

Then, the young man reached down and offered Lynn his hand, saying, “I’ve got you Mommy,” with a Spanish accent. He later called me “Mommy” as well. It kind of made us feel old. But I’ve decided that he was actually saying “Mami” and that it still has the definition found in Urban Dictionary. If I’m wrong, I prefer ignorance, thank you very much. If I’m right, must have been all that “salty, sexy, sun-dried, wind-styled” hair.

And, in the category of “you can’t make this s#%t up, We arrived to find that the noon ferry was canceled, and they wouldn’t be able to leave until 2:00. Steve suggested it was time for a “painkiller” and who were we to argue. Evidently, the Big Kahuna has no qualms about serving drenched salty customers. (EW not only knew how to spell “Kahuna” but insisted on telling me that it’s the “surfer’s god”. Thank you, EW.) So, we got to spend another hour or so, visiting with Lynn and Steve in St. Thomas. I’d call that a win.

That evening, EW and I enjoyed a dry dinghy ride to Tickles in Crown Bay for Open Mic night. He didn’t play, so we sat at the bar with friends Ryan and Jenn and their entourage, and a number of musicians. It appears that Harvey has moved to St. Thomas. He’s right behind me, isn’t he?




NOTE: The bit about Harvey being behind me was stolen from my Maine Friend Candace K., who delights me with her creative posts from Maine and her travels.




 Finally, EW got into the act today, snapping this photo of me writing this post. I like it. (Don’t get excited. The cushions haven’t been covered and we aren’t using this peach color. It’s just a throw over the foam.) I love the new laptop nest.

photo (2)