We are alive! We are still talking to each other! Most importantly: She…,Pelita…,Our Boat, Our Home…, is still intact. In one piece. Phew! We are grateful for the good weather and are thankful for a safe first season. A toast to Neptune for keeping us safe.
July 10th 2014 – Our journey began on this date and took us from Annapolis in USA to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands (Spanish, US and British) Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts/Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Vincent/Grenadines, Grenada, and finally Trinidad by July 2015.
So, you must be wondering how it’s been. Truth be told, it has been quite a year. I can tell you that it has been wonderful…which it has, but then that would only be half of the story. Fact is: this was our first season…our first time living away from land…our first boat. We had a lot to learn….about everything.
We read a lot of books related to cruising and sailing before we started this crazy adventure, but nothing could have prepared us for the real thing. So, my advice for those ‘thinking’ about it, or wanting to test the waters…just take the leap of faith.
Our friends are always asking us:
How can you stand being around each other 24 hours a day??
That’s the burning question, isn’t it? Well, first let me say that living 24/7 on land versus living 24/7 on a boat are two very different scenarios. When you are on land, you have a lot more room and space, other distractions to keep you occupied, other roles to play (parent, child, work-related, etc), you can walk out, drive around, go shopping, etc. We don’t quite have all of that on the boat. We are learning to read each other’s moods a little better and trying to give each other more space. As much as we are sometimes at each other’s throats, we also know that we wouldn’t want to share this experience with any other.
What are your favorite and least favorite islands?
This is a tough question. Every island has her own beauty and drawbacks. We loved the quiet and beautiful waters in Bahamas (we were there during the hurricane season, thus we usually had the entire anchorage to ourselves!), we loved the scenery and people in the DR, but hated to deal with the officials. The Virgin Islands were stunning albeit a little overcrowded, and it goes on and on. In short, we loved them all.
Were there any scary moments?
Hell yes! There were storms to avoid: sometimes we did so successfully, other times, not so lucky. But we came out unscathed. Our scariest moment was when our propellers snagged some fishing nets. We were just off the coast of Montserrat, known for its strong current, sailing towards Guadeloupe when this happened…at 6:30am! We turned off the engines and Francois dove down with a rigging knife (small knife about an 3 inches long) to cut the nets loose while fighting 6-8 foot waves and currents. I was helpless, holding a life jacket, scared out of my mind and keeping an eye out for the not too far beautiful cliffs of Montserrat…which we might just slam into! When Francois emerged out of the water with the fishing ropes after 20 minutes of chipping away with the small, but sharp rigging knife, he was rewarded with a beer! He certainly earned it. My hero.
Are you going to sail around the world?
That’s a big N-O. No….thank you. We will however be heading back up the islands to spend more time at places we loved the first time and visit islands we missed the previous year.
Life on a boat:
B.O.A.T: Break Out Another Thousand
After we bought the boat, we found out that our surveyor (and us, but we can be forgiven because we lack the experience) was not as thorough, which ended up costing us major mullah! In any case, anyone who has owned or owns a boat will tell you if it’s on the boat and if it can break, it WILL break. The. End. Simple as that. If you don’t know how to fix it, well…you’d better learn…unless you have deep pockets…which we don’t. Luckily Francois is a quick learner, but even then, we have had dig deep. Ouch.
Code For Cruising: Fixing Things (and Cleaning) in Exotic Places
Did I mention that everything that can break WILL break if on a boat? Yes? Good? It’s the bible truth. Most cruisers keep a running list of things to be fixed…and this list is never ending. The constant boat cleaning and maintenance is enough to drive anyone crazy. For someone (like me) who is a little OCD, this task of keeping the boat clean and neat drove me up the wall. My favorite (not!) is ‘discovering’ something leaking, filling up with water, or breaking. The thing is…it’s usually me who finds these problems, and therefore I am always the bearer of bad news to Captain Francois. Whenever he hears me say..”Guess what?”, he cringes and moans.
Has The Boat Moved?
You must be wondering what in the world is she saying…of course you want the boat to move! Well, yes…when we are sailing, but not when we are anchored! Once we drop our anchor, we ‘gun’ our engines into reverse to set the anchor, and pray it doesn’t drag…then nor later! We are constantly keeping an eye on how our boat swings (with the wind), the distance between us and our neighbors. We have an anchor alarm and set it to anywhere from 50 to 150 feet depending on the conditions. We do sleep a little better with it knowing it would awaken us when or if our anchor drags. Now…the main thing is for us to hear it!! Lol.
Conserve! Conserve! Conserve!
For the record: We are fast becoming masters of water and energy conservation.
Lights? Who needs it? We manage just fine with torchlights.
Unlike some other boats which can hold between 120 – 400 gallons of water in their tank, Pelita only holds 60 gallons. A normal landlubber usually uses between 50 and 70 gallons of water in a SINGLE DAY! All we need now is one gallon of water for both shower and hair wash. How do we manage to accomplish such a feat? Like most cruisers, we do the main bulk of our shower in sea water. We do the armpit test: if it smells fine, then we are clean! Just kidding! So, next time when we shower at your home, and indulge ourselves in the bathroom a little too long, let us be, ok? Thanks 🙂 We have also become really efficient when washing dishes. Invite us to your home for dinner, and ask me to help you with the dishes. Again, I can’t promise you the dishes would be absolutely spotless, but it will be washed and it won’t cost you more than half a gallon of water!
To replenish our water tank, we take our empty jerry cans (we have six 5-gallons jugs) to shore, fill ’em up and then shlep them back to the boat, or sometimes we just move the boat to the dock and fill her up there directly with the hose. It all depends on what’s available and what is easiest. Most times, I just pray for rain!
We Gotta Eat!
Before you ask the question, let me just tell you that we haven’t had much luck in fishing. So…no. No fresh caught fish for us unless we buy them, but when we do get fresh fish and lobsters, it is the freshest it can ever be! We buy groceries just like you do…from the stores/markets….with a slight twist. You landlubbers get into your air- conditioned car, park, grab a cart, shop, pay, load up the car, drive back home. For us, we get into our dinghy (Arnie), tie him up at the dock, walk (could be anywhere from 50ft to a mile), to the different grocery stores/markets as you get different items at each place, shop for a month’s worth of groceries, walk back to the dinghy with the shitload of food, load them up, untie the dinghy, and finally load them up onto the boat….all in scorching heat and 90% humidity. It is not a one-hour task: grocery shopping for us can take up to 3 hours and is a workout (for me)… as Francois (like most men) like to do it all in one go. Haha.
Life on the boat must be so relaxing!
Yeah! Right! Someone once told me that sailing is 90% relaxation, 10% of intense activity and stress. There is a lot of truth to that actually. For example: we could be sailing in calm seas and fair winds, enjoying the breeze, drinking beer, or reading as Pelita glides along happily, and then suddenly gusts of 30 knots of wind (sometimes accompanied by a squall) hits! We find ourselves scrambling to steer the boat into the wind, pull in the head sail, reefing in the main sail all while the waves are crashing over the bow and hulls. We are screaming at the top of our lungs to be heard. Yeah. Absolute chaos and a little frightening! You know what happens next? As soon as we get all that accomplished, which actually takes less than a minute, the rain and the winds are gone. Ahh, the joys of sailing. But we are learning, getting better at handling the boat and we are beginning to truly enjoy the sport of sailing.
Say that again??
Oh…and of course there is an entirely new language to learn. The front of the boat is called the Bow, the back is Stern, left is Port, right is Starboard. The toilet is referred to as the Head, kitchen: Galley, rooms: Cabins, windows are Hatches, ropes are Lines. Then there’s upwind, downwind, close haul, close reach, beam reach, and on and on it goes. WTF! No wonder sailors swear as much as they do. I am proud to say that I have now perfected the art of swearing in 4 languages: English, Cantonese, Malay and French.
As you can tell, life on the boat has not been a bed of roses. We find ourselves (mainly me) in tears (both from fear and frustration), we sometimes shout at each other (also from stress and frustration and irritation when I don’t follow the Captain’s orders), but you know what? All of these challenges/so-called hardships are so worth it because the positives outweigh them.
Are you able to take your home along with you as you travel the world?
No? We can! It is wonderful not having to pack and unpack. We just take our home with us.
You have a new neighbor, and they are rude, noisy and obnoxious. In short, you dislike them. You can’t just move houses, can you?
We can! Usually we stand on deck looking all menacing should a boat come too close to us in hope of fending them off, and if they are too near (for our comfort), we become the rude, noisy and obnoxious neighbors…hoping to drive them away. When that fails, we burp and fart as loud as we can! Hahaha.
Can you have a different view from your house every day should you choose it?
Well…We can! If we like the view, we stay longer. Don’t like it…we move. Easy as ABC.
Can you walk onto your garden naked and not get arrested?
We can! Not that we do (others do…and it’s usually the ones we don’t want to see naked), but we certainly can. Nudity while isn’t encouraged, is quite common.
Who Needs Sea World?
Front row seats for free! Dolphins doing their acrobatic spins in the air, turtles calmly swim by, surfacing for air every so often, remora fishes attached to our hulls, barracudas seeking shade within our 2 hulls, all other kinds of fishes flock to get fed as I wash the dishes in the ocean…how can we not forget our troubles and marvel at these exquisite creatures?
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Imagine waking up and walking onto your garden (naked, if you wish) and you are greeted by a beautiful rainbow or two? That was my daily ritual for almost a month while in the Bahamas. Stunning! (Francois was usually still asleep).
Sunrise, Sunset and Sundowners
Are you able to sit and enjoy the sunrise and sunset every day? We definitely can…and do! Well, not the sunrise as we are usually still asleep, but sunsets…oh yes! Almost religiously. 365 days, 365 sunsets: none the same. Glorious.
The best thing that comes with sunsets are sundowners. This is the time where cruisers visit each other’s boats, enjoying one drink too many, munching on snacks while reveling in the beautiful colors of sky and sharing stories. We picked up on this activity quickly and are proud to say we are pros at it!
Do You Need Help?
I have never ever met people who are as helpful as cruisers. It’s crazy. Perhaps it’s because we know we have no one else out here except each other and therefore, we all tend look out for one another. When we first started in Annapolis, we were rookies, but everyone in the marina were always ready to lend a helping hand. As we continued, we met more and more people alike: always willing to share their knowledge and take time off from their ‘busy’ schedule (of basking in the sun, reading, drinking, eating, snorkeling, etc) to help solve our problems. Cruising has renewed my faith in humanity, the goodness and kindness in people. The world is a better place because of you. Thank you.
Over the year, we have met some incredible people, all with inspiring stories of how and why they chose this lifestyle. We have met solo sailors, retired folks old enough to be our parents, but so much stronger and younger at heart than us, families traveling with young toddlers or teenagers and middle-aged couples (like us) who chose to leave the rat race. We are thankful and proud to have you as our friends. Your stories motivate us. YOU inspire us.
So, one year and over 3,000 miles later…
… We want more!
(For more photos, check out our Facebook page: bonjour pelita)
The cause of our scariest moment!
View from the top of the mast
Life on a boat!