Friday, March 30, 2012

Boiling lake

Vittororio Walking down the trail

The last exploration in Dominica was a hike to the world’s largest boiling lake. The distance from Portsmouth to the lake is a couple hours by car and the hike itself takes a few hours each way. A group of five Earthlings from various nations decided to rent a car and drive to this site. Virginie from France, Vittorio from Italy, Syd from New Zealand, Nico is Lebanese/American, and I am Persian/Swedish with an American twist.
This adventure was a 12 hour trip back and forth in the spectacular nature of Dominica. Driving up and down the mountains, around sharp turns, on a narrow two way road made me desire a motorcycle ride.

We had to ask for driving directions along the way and it seemed that everyone had different understandings of how long it took to do this specific hike. Some told us it takes 5-6 hours each way and it was recommended to have a guide. The time a hike takes depends on your health condition and the terrain. I have friends in their 70’s that would be able to keep up and go on hikes for hours and others in their 20’s that would run out of breath within minutes. We already knew that Mike and Rebecca on “Zero to Cruising” did it in less than 3 hours, most likely it wouldn’t take us much longer. The trail is well laid out, steps are placed everywhere, and appears to have been around for a long time.  Whoever made it, must have put a lot of time  and labor into it. We certainly appreciated the work. The trail is medium to difficult and in rainy season, it would probably be muddy and challenging. I don’t think it’s necessarily to have a guide, however, as Dominica’s income relies on tourism, it would be kind to hire one when disposable income is available.
Vaporizing Steam
According to some sources, this lake is the last remaining in the world. The other one is in New Zealand and it’s drying out. It feels like some of the places we visit might disappear in our life time. I feel fortunate to see all these hidden places. This site is in the middle of a rain forest, you don’t see many fruit trees and it’s wet and mossy. There is green, black, grey, short, and long moss growing on trees, bushes, steps, and everywhere else. The symphony of twittering birds entertained us most of the way! The closer we got, the more we smelled the "rotten eggs", we joked, and blamed it on each other. The cause of this was from the sulfur mist, springs, and rivers. Sulfur is good for the skin and the opportunity to take a bath in the pool underneath a hot sulfur waterfall was taken advantage of by this group of Earthlings. In the main valley, steam is vaporizing out of the ground and the mustard yellow/red rocks look like they just came out of the oven. It is slightly frightening to walk between these objects and one concern is to not step into a boiling spring. It’s not impossible to get burn injuries!
Edge of the Wall

The view of the lake is absolutely astonishing. The lake is always covered in haze and when the wind blows, the boiling water in the center is clearly visible. I was thinking; while walking the edges of the tall wall alone, that a landslide underneath ones feet is imminent ejection out of paradise. That thought was scary for a second! But by not letting fear in, the land is less likely to slide!

Love from the Boiling Lake

View the complete Dominica photo Album here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bamboo Palace

Dean is climbing the orange tree
Dominicans are friendly and helpful people. Fortunately, the world’s monetary system hasn't spoiled and corrupted them as much as the rest of us. If money wasn’t around, relationships would be established on a solid and true ground. When people offer you products and services, you don’t really know their true intentions. That is a dilemma for me when I meet locals in different countries.

The abundance of food and water in Dominica, makes it possible for some to detach from money, such as my friend Dean. His home is in an almond tree right on the beach. He built it with his own hands and lives there with his wife and three children. He has no electricity or running water and his fire pit is on 24/7, all year around. The Almond tree is always engulfed with a positive spirit. A couple of days ago, I showed Dean our broken oar and left it with him. The next day, the oar was repaired and it was stronger than ever! Dean would not accept anything form of payment, as matter of fact he never touches money or charges for things in a monetary way. He is very handy and helps/fixes anything in the neighborhood. He has been mentioning the “bamboo palace” that he wants to build on a segment of land up in the mountains that has been in his family for a long time. He, his friend Cruzan, Nico, and I left Portsmouth early morning on foot and hiked up the mountain towards the location.

Cruzan craved “Jelly for the Belly”. Dean found a coconut tree and in no time, had climbed barefoot and bare hands right to the top. The coconut juice and jelly didn’t have caffeine in them but worked perfect as an energy drink. Along the way, Dean climbed trees to get bread fruit, calabash, bananas, nutmeg, raspberries, and grapefruits for his family and us. He knows this area like the palm of his hand. He knows what fruits are in season, where the trees are, and who they belong to. Everybody that passes by in their cars, on foot, or bicycles, waved to us and knew Dean by name.

I have been looking for strong bamboo to make a trolling fishing pole and an LED light fixture. Up in the wilderness we found many bamboo trees. Dean cut some for his handy crafts he makes and for my projects. Bamboo can be used for many different purposes, such as furniture, houses, musical instruments (flute), rafts, swords, chalices, et cetera. I have a good feeling we will catch some fish with the new bamboo trolling pole! 

By the time we got to the “Zion” as they call it, our stomachs were growling. Cruzan and Dean went up to the field to get dasheen for lunch and to take home. It didn’t take long before the fire was going and the dasheen was boiling in the pot. Dasheen is a root vegetable, similar to potatoes. They can be much larger in size, more starchy and creamy, and therefore more filling.     
Dasheen served on a leaf
We got to a flat area in Zion located in a crater of an inactive volcano. Several hundred year old trees stand in the middle surrounded by many fruit trees that were planted by Dean’s ancestors and himself. During the stay in Zion, we let our imaginations take us freely away and we came up with tons of ideas for the future bamboo palace. In our minds, we built cabins by the waterfall, reconstructed the flow of water to run through the land, installed a turbine and solar panels for electricity, hung hammocks, build shelters, and so forth.
The sharp hill next to Zion takes you down to a river and a set of three water falls. There are no trails leading there hence we followed the sound of water. It’s absolutely breathtaking, stunning, and a well kept secret. We also brainstormed about having ropes and steps to take you down each waterfall and to its corresponding pool. I live to build and do these kinds of projects. I will visit Dominica one day for an longer, extended time and help construct the bamboo palace.         

If you are lost in your world and don’t know your purpose in life, come to Dominica and go into the wilderness alone, you will find enlightenment. This is why Dean and Cruzan are calling this location the Zion!

Love from the Bamboo Palace

View Dominica's Photo Album on facebook page

Monday, March 26, 2012


Carib Resident

Dominica is one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of 73 thousand. People live very simple lives here. There is an abundance of fresh water, but not necessarily every body has running water in their households. Water faucets are on every block and that’s where we fill our tanks as well. The nominal GDP per capita is only $5200, which doesn’t mean much, because there is plenty of food and no body starves here. This country grows enough food for millions of people. Many of the islands in the Caribbean import vegetables and fruits from Dominica. Last year, in the mountains in the DR, we bought a water melon from a street vendor, which was imported from Dominica. Dominican Republic and Dominica sound similar and can be confused, they are 2 different countries, both in the Caribbean Sea, but 450 miles away from each other. This land’s soil is extremely
Custard Apple
fertile. Most of the Islands in the Caribbean are volcanic and Dominica has 7! The hills and mountains are lush, green, and almost anything can grow here. The locals joke that you toss any  seed on the ground, it grows. There are many tropical fruits that I have never seen or eaten before, such as the custard apple. A few days ago after dropping off Kelly at the airport, we visited the Carib Territory. A custard apple tree got our attention and the family that lived there invited us to try the fruit, which was very creamy and sweet.  
Caribs are the original inhabitants of Dominica and their territory is on the east side of the Island. Their facial appearance is asian and lighter in color, however, they have been mixed with the Africans over the last couple hundred years.

"Providence" Martin

Dominica has been nicknamed “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” because of its unspoiled nature. There are an extensive numbers of rivers, waterfalls, and springs. We have hiked to several waterfalls and some were totally deserted with not a single soul around.
There are hot springs and cold boiling springs. Last week, we biked to a hot spring that supposedly only locals know about it. The hot water was running out of a cliff into a pool, where we took a dip. It was just like a jacuzzi, but all natural, in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by tall trees with the sounds of chirping birds and running water. A great place for meditation!
Since the arrival in Dominica, Earthling has been anchored in one spot, Portsmouth. This is the best place to anchor and explore the island by bus or rental car. Most sailors hire a boat boy/tour guide, whom offer yacht services, they bring ice, water, fruits, and they will take you on the Indian
Waterfall,  Carib Territory

river and other tours. We employed Martin who goes by “Providence”. He has been a professional guide for 25 years and has a great reputation. Martin has been telling us where to go or what to visit and during the time Kelly was here, he would come by and check if she needed anything. Moreover, you can do lots of activities on your own. From Portsmouth you can walk or hike to waterfalls, rivers, springs, and so forth.

So far Dominica is my favorite place in the Caribbean, mostly because of it’s unspoiled nature, waterfalls, rivers, springs, fruits, people, and inexpensive food.

Love from Dominica
View the photos Album of Dominica on the fb page.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Pascal and I
The past 10 days we have been busy assisting and taking care of Kelly. After coming back from the hospital with her foot in a cast, our first task was to find crutches. In Dominica resources are not as accessible as in the U.S., but once you find what you are looking for, it won’t cost you a fortune! We were sent to Pascal who runs an organization that helps elderly and under-privileged children. Pascal lent us crutches and did not accept any donation in monetary form. So I offered to do some volunteer work and he agreed to that. Last monday, I volunteered for CARE organization and it was a great experience working with the local Dominicans. Pascal suggested that Kelly keep the crutches till she gets back to the U.S and passes them on to someone else who needs them.  

Kelly's Cast
A couple days after the incident, we realized that the cast was too soft underneath the heel, right where it’s fractured. We went back to the clinic in Portsmouth and Dr. Hector personally reinforced the cast. Now the cast is strong and better than it was originally. She is flying out today from Melville Hall Airport here in Dominica. There is a sad and emotional ambience present on Earthling right now. I’m glad to have my friend Nico here for now so I don’t have to feel totally alone.  

I have not had time to write about the beautiful land of Dominica yet. We have done some activities here such as going on hikes in the rainforest, waterfalls, hot spring, and so forth. I will write about our adventure in Dominica in the next update.

Love from Portsmouth  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Minor Casualty Aboard - Part Two

Written by Kelly

It was a hot day (duh!), the middle of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky. We already had lunch and I fell asleep reading a book that I’m not really interested in, but I’m trying to get through anyways. When I opened my eyes I knew I needed to jump in the water to refresh myself. I asked Nico and George if they’d like to swim to the beach with me and swing on the rope swing. George passed; he said he wanted to finish writing something for the blog. But Nico seemed enthusiastic and put his book down, and within moments we were on our way. Since we’ve been here at this anchorage we are a perfect distance to swim to shore and also are able to see the locals and visitors swinging from the tall palm tree. When we got there, the smaller palm had younger kids swinging from the rope, and the bigger kids, if able or crazy enough to, climb up a steeper palm to swing from a taller height. A young man went before me and showed me how to climb up. I threw the line up to him and he swung a few times almost knocking into the tree on his back swing, but then finally let go of the rope while he was over the water and landed smoothly. After watching him, I figured I was ready. Once I was up the hand made steps on the palm, I felt the adrenaline kicking in, and that in itself is a thrill! He passed the rope up to me and at the same moment, I remember Nico had swung from the lower palm first and after a few swings he let go over the water but the way he landed in shallow water, had hurt his tailbone. So my reasoning is, if I let go of the rope on the first swing there won’t be the possibility of banging myself into a palm on the way back and that I’ll have more momentum to get myself over deeper water. That wasn’t the case… I landed in less than 4 feet of water just under waist deep. I felt the ground, and I felt it hard on my feet! I collapsed under the water and knew I had hurt something, my feet were throbbing. So I lengthened my body on the surface of the water, supporting myself with just my arms. For the moment, I was trying to figure out if I could even stand. I couldn’t. The thought of even touching my feet to the ground made them hurt. So I pulled myself up the sand, my feet trailing behind me, and then turned to face the water. I yelled out to Nico, up by the swing, to not let go of the rope, we didn’t need another minor casualty aboard!

Mike and Rebecca from Zero to Cruising had just arrived on the beach. They came over to me because they wanted to ask how the swing was. I told them & Nico I hurt myself bad. I didn’t want to make a scene so I kept calm.  At this point I felt my body going into shock and I was shaking from the amount of pain I was feeling, mixed with the adrenaline. I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot, and my right foot could take a tiny bit, but not much. Then we look up and see George getting in the dinghy to come to the beach where we were. He knew something was wrong. He later told me he had looked out at us to take a picture and saw me lying on the beach with everyone crowded around. George gets me in the dinghy and Nico swims back. The pain is now so powerful I’m worried and don’t realize much of what’s going on. Thank god we have ice to put on my left foot right away. It melts quickly and Rebecca rides over in there dinghy to bring us more. I’m still salty and wet, and full of sand, so George helps me rinse off and get into clothes. We joke that now he can pick out the panties I’m going to where! The swelling continues and pain persists, we decide it’s time to go to the hospital. I had taken some Paracetamol which is a pain reliever but a weak anti-inflammatory. Luckily we have a handy-dandy Marine Medical Kit aboard and find a multi-purpose splint and ace-bandage to stabilize my left foot for the dinghy ride. Then the fun part… getting to the hospital.

We have to get me in to the dinghy first, which isn’t even easy when you’re not gimpy! The ride to shore was a success, although I did get a little salty since we were heading straight into the wind. When we get to the fisherman’s dock, which we heard is the closest to the street the hospital is on; George carries me to the 1st intersection. It’s the busiest one in the village so there’s a chance to catch a ride quickly. Everyone is staring at us wondering what had happened. We obviously had concerned looks on our faces! A local woman points to a “bus” across the street that is dropping off a full load of people. George carries me over and I pull myself in the side door. The buses here are more like passenger/ minivans. We are relieved that the driver can take us up the steep street quickly, because I wasn’t going to make George or Nico carry me all that way! We arrive at the drop off area of the hospital, go in, and see no-one.

George sets me down on some benches so I can keep my foot elevated. He and Nico look around for someone, anybody! Finally, there’s a nurse in a separate room and he brings me to her. They put me on a gurney and she un-wraps the ace bandage and takes a look at my foot. It’s absolutely awful looking… swollen, bruised, and puffy in the strangest spots. I didn’t even recognize my own foot (Except for the long gangly toes!)! The nurse then called the doctor and he arrived within 20-30 minutes. He took a look at my foot inspected it a little, and said I needed an x-ray. The hospital here in Portsmouth is not equipped with a computer, let alone an x-ray machine. So they tell us I have to go to Roseau (the capital) which happens to be on the south end of the island 50 miles away. Luckily, they have ONE ambulance in town and it can take me and one other person.  We had our handheld VHF (we always take with us) and call Mike and Rebecca to ask if they could pick up Nico from shore so we could leave our dinghy at the dock for when George and I get back.

From the ambulance, the sunset was stunning that evening and we were fortunate enough to see it from an elevated height up on the road that ran along the lush mountainous coast.

When we arrived in Roseau, the emergency area had a ton of different people waiting in wheelchairs, stretchers, and standing everywhere. Complete with crack heads that were quite enterntaining! The nurses all dressed in white uniforms, with white stockings and even white nurse hats. It was like right out of the movies! So I waited in a wheelchair since there weren’t any benches. Waiting… waiting… waiting…

I was called into a room where a doctor, a student doctor, a nurse, and a “higher up” doctor were. They started discussing 3 different patients x-rays. All the while, I’m still in so much pain and just want an answer. Is it broken?  Will I need surgery?  Maybe it’s just a sprain? The top doctor informs the other doctor, while holding up the image of my foot, that mine is a fracture. A WHAT?! Yes, a fracture… heal fracture, that is. Shit! All these thoughts start going through my head: How am I gonna do this living on the boat? How am I going to get crutches? How am I going to shower? I mean, I wash myself by jumping off the back of the boat! How am I going to sail? How am I going to get to and from the dinghy? I’m overwhelmed with the news.

A cast for 6 weeks they tell me…
It’s finally time to get the cast, or should I say; time to go to art class with paper machete. Seriously. The 2 student doctors put this cast on and I’m pretty sure I could have done it better myself. This cast is from right below my knee down to the second joint in my toes. I’m alright with that part, because he said it will keep the joint in my ankle from bending, but I didn't get to pick the color! ;) It was soft in some spots until 48 hours later I was able to get it re-enforced at the local hospital back here in Portsmouth. No worries now!

Yes, you read that correctly; we waited this long for the next available ambulance to take us back home. I’m still in pain and uncomfortable. The ambulance ride back home wasn’t very pleasant. The driver drove so recklessly that is scared us. The roads here are steep and narrow which is not a good combination for speed. In the back of the ambulance I’m bracing myself on the gurney wishing I was strapped to it! I don’t want to ruin the cast that hasn’t even cured all the way! Next to me, and extremely concerned, George is on the bench, holding on for dear life so he doesn’t crash into me!

When we arrived, George again carried me down the dock to the dinghy. (Man! Good thing he's strong!) The moon wasn’t out so it was unusually dark and the ride back to the boat was cold and windy.

Finally home. Exhausted and starving. What a day! I’ve never had a cast, so I don’t know what to expect, except that this is going to be an uncomfortable 1st night. Even though I’m worn-out, I can’t sleep. The swelling in the cast was very uncomfortable and I toss and turn all night. I’m officially a cripple. I’ve always taken my 2 feet for granted. Now I truly appreciate the ability to walk naturally with both legs and feet, especially considering my “active lifestyle”.

After 3 days of careful consideration, George and I have decided it would be best for my recovery that I fly back home to Chicago. Firstmate Bailey will be departing early this season :(....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Minor Casualty Aboard - Part One

The last few days in Dominica have been great up until yesterday when there was an unfortunate incident. Kelly and Nico swam to shore to jump off the rope swing that  hangs from a tall palm tree on the beach. Kids and adults have been swinging back and forth on this swing since we’ve been here and attracted us for something fun to try. A few minutes after they were ashore, I went up on deck to take some pictures of them on the swing. We are anchored only 150 yards from the beach and from a distance I saw Kelly laying down surrounded by Mike, Rebecca, and Nico. It just didn’t look or feel right! I jumped into the dinghy and zoomed to shore. It was clear that she hurt herself. She had jumped off the swing into the water and landed on her feet on the hard sandy bottom. When I got there, she was in pain, but tried not to make a big deal out of it. We came back to the boat, iced down her foot, kept it elevated, and gave her 2g of Ibuprofen, that we later realized was expired and hadn’t even worked. Her foot was swelling up by the minute... we had to go to the hospital. Here we are in a small town (Portsmouth) in a foreign country and no insurance! Nico and I somehow got Kelly in the Dinghy, motored to the fisherman’s dock, and took a cab up the hill to the clinic.
We were the only people other than the one nurse, in the clinic. The doctor was called in to check on Kelly. He had good news and a bad news! The bad news was that she most likely had a fracture, but the doctor could not determine that since there were no x-ray machines in this location. We had to go to the capital, Roseau. The good news was, the ambulance would take us to Roseau and the medical system here in Dominica is free for everybody, even for non-national visitors.
It’s six o’clock in the evening and we have to travel approximately 50 miles away. I think to myself... How long is it going to take? How are we going to get back? I’m hoping that it’s just a sprain and she will be good and healed within the next few days. The ambulance driver said he will wait up to 45 minutes for us while we are getting the x-rays. He also said, if it takes longer, he has to leave back to Portsmouth since he is driving the only ambulance they have in town! While in the hospital in Roseau, they were very kind and tried to help us quickly so we could go back with the ambulance. But as you can imagine, we aren’t the only people that need an x-ray. Plus the doctor needs to look at them and determine what the problem is. It just didn’t seem like enough time in a hospital with people on each side of the hallway all needing assistance. There are no computers here for record keeping. They keep a few big file cabinets that holds all of the patient records. There was only one fee of $160EC ($60) for the x-ray and it had to be payed in advance. I didn’t have enough cash and the credit card machine at the cashier was out of order.  The gentleman at the cashier was so kind and accepted my assurance to pay the hospital within 7 days. He printed out a receipt for the x-ray department showing that the payment was received. They took four x-rays of Kelly’s foot. Now, all we had to do was wait for the doctor to look at them and hopefully tell us it was ok. At this point, we have been at the hospital for a little over 2 hours and the ambulance driver was waiting up until now. Sadly, he got a call and had to go back up to Portsmouth and pick up a patient. He said the ambulance would come back to the hospital in Roseau and could bring us back to where our boat is in Portsmouth.
Finally, the doctor came in the office for 1 min, looked at the x-ray, and said, her heel is broken. Luckily, everything is still in place so no surgery was needed, but she needs to be in a cast for 6 weeks!! In cast for 6 weeks on a small boat doesn’t sound convenient!
Two medical students from Ross University put the cast on Kelly’s leg from toes almost up to the knee. Ross University is an American Medical School and has a campus here in Dominica. Many of their students do their apprenticeship in Princess Margaret Hospital.
It’s a little after 10 pm and now we have to wait for the ambulance to come back from Portsmouth. There are no buses at this time and a cab ride, even if we found one, would certainly exceed our budget.
Dominica has seven potentially active volcanos, so it is very mountainous. The ride from Portsmouth to Roseau is up and down several hills and usually takes 1.5 hours. In the ambulance ride to Roseau it took us 1 hour so I was trying to figure out when the next ambulance would be back, if he was just picking up a patient and coming back here. After an hour and a half of patiently waiting, we saw an ambulance dropping off a patient. I asked the driver, “Did you come from Portsmouth sir?”. He said, “Yes”. Then I asked, “Are you going back?”. He said, “No”. I mentioned for him that we have been waiting for an ambulance to drive us back to Portsmouth. Then he asked, “Are you with the lady with the broken foot?” He then explained that he had met the ambulance from Portsmouth half way to transfer a patient because in Portsmouth they had another call to bring another patient to Princess Margaret Hospital. So I asked, “When did the ambulance leave from Portsmouth?”. He said, “JUST NOW”. We’ve now learned that in the Caribbean, “just now” could be past, present or future. In this case, it could mean anywhere from an hour to three!
By this time, Kelly’s pain was starting to come back and we haven’t had anything to eat since lunch, 12 hours ago. She couldn’t take any Ibuprofen since her stomach was empty and there is no food available. During the time we were waiting among the sick patients in the emergency hallway, the nurse must have felt bad for us and called Portsmouth hospital to see where the ambulance was. Each time she asked, she was told the same thing... that the ambulance left “just now”!
We waited until 1 o’clock in the morning when ambulance #53 finally showed up. The story gets better! The ambulance driver may have been a race car driver in the past, although, we were not in a race car. He was driving this Hyundai minivan like there was no tomorrow. Shifting up and down on the automatic transmission, but manually! It’s as though he was mad at the vehicle and it needed to be punished! At some points he exceeded 85 MPH downhill through these small villages. I was holding on with both hands to not fall on Kelly, next to me on the gurney. The drive back to Portsmouth took only 35 minutes.
I had to carry her to the dinghy, since she didn’t have any crutches. We were finally back on the boat safe and sound a little after 2am.  

Love from Dominica

View the photo album of Dominica on fb page

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fruitful Paradise

 This is a piece of land that looks like a pancake from a distance. Marie Galante is considered flat but still has an elevation between 300-600 feet in various places. It is densely green and the trees and bushes seem taller than other places. During the couple of hikes we did, many sugar fields were observed. Our guest, Nico, cut down  some sugar cane sticks, peeled away the hard skin, to chew and suck on the fibers full of sweet water, just like the locals do. In addition, we saw many fruit trees that had fruits ripened and ready to be picked. Fruit trees are everywhere and before picking any fruits, we always make sure it’s not on someone’s property. Here in Marie Galante we were lucky to find random lemon, banana, papaya, mango, and coconut trees and we collected many of them. 

In Marie Galante, you also see tons of pigs. Almost every mango tree has a pig tied up underneath. Then there are oxes and cows! We have not witnessed so many pigs, oxes, and cows in one single island. The pigs seem friendly and some of them walked toward us like they needed petting! We saw big and small pigs, white, black and spotted. Some of the sugar cane transportation on the island is still on ox carriages. Watch out and make sure you are not in the way because these ox are so big that they could crush anything in their path. Moreover, I found my bamboo stick that was misplaced last year. We use to have a stick that was used as an extension for the outboard handle and dinghy depth finder. Now we have attained a new one made in Marie Galante!

                                                  As a cruiser and traveller, you see the most beautiful beaches on these Caribbean Islands. Some of the islands are surrounded by long white beaches and some have very few beaches. In Basse Terre, which is the mountainous part of Guadeloupe the very few beaches have dark sand. In Marie Galante beaches are more white and soft and long. Based on experience, low elevated islands have beautiful long white beaches and higher elevated islands don’t have as many and they are smaller.  

I mentioned that it’s difficult to connect with locals in the French Islands if you don’t speak French. We finally got to connect with some locals through Nico. Apparently, Guadeloupe has a large Lebanese community. In Point a Pitre, many store fronts are owned by Lebanese that have been settled here for over 50 years. Nico got to talk to some of them in Arabic and we were able to socialize. After all, we are all the same and different languages and cultures should not separate us! Our differences should be attracting us to one another and this is the beautiful part of Earthlings!

Right now we are in Dominica and going to explore this attractive land for the next couple of weeks.

Love from a fruitful paradise

Please check out the photo album of Guadeloupe on the fb page!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guests Aboard

This lifestyle is unique and I feel very fortunate to live it. Very often, I wonder why aren’t more people living their lives this way? I wish more friends and family could join us, at least for a little while. But land life is keeping everyone so busy and tied up that flying to the Caribbean appears worlds away! Company aboard is great and I would like to share this experience with others! We haven’t had anyone visit since Dominican Republic (April 2011), before the last hurricane season. In the Virgin Islands, Tony stayed aboard for a few days but he already lives in the Caribbean, has a sailboat, and has been a cruiser.
Nico is our current visitor, a long time friend from Chicago. He contacted us a few weeks ago, bought a one way ticket and will be here for a few weeks. That is ideally the best way to visit us. For most of our friends and family it has been difficult to coordinate when and where to meet because they want to buy airfare a couple months in advance. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly where we are going to be then. We can usually  predict 2-3 weeks in advance where to meet. When friends want to come visit, they can choose either the time or the location, not both. When you choose the time, we will be able to tell you 2 weeks prior to that where we are going to be. If you choose the location, then we’ll tell you 2-3 weeks before we get to that specific location.

Most people can’t take a lot of time off from their jobs! If you really want to experience Earthling lifestyle, you have to come here at least for a couple of weeks. Then you will be able to experience passages to new islands, hiking, fishing, snorkeling, camping, and so forth. Last year, two of my friends flew in to Miami and we sailed to the Bahamas together and they flew out of Nassau. During the 3 weeks visit they got to experience the full-time live aboard lifestyle.
Having a guest aboard is also nice since they become crew and take certain responsibilities. Nico cooked breakfast this morning and he made dinner the other night, which was delicious. Having company is great since Kelly and I don’t have to keep each other entertained all the time! 

 Earthling is also like a school. When first time sailors come aboard, they have a lot to learn. This starts with getting in and out of the dinghy, especially Earthling 8.8, a hard dinghy, which is very unstable! The other knowledge to gain is nautical/boat terms. You will also learn how to sail, how to maintain a boat, how to anchor, how to troll and fish, and basically how to live aboard. You will also adapt to our sleep schedule, which is going to bed early and waking up early.   

Having a visitor aboard can also have its downsides. For instance, we can’t predict if our guest is going to have a problem with motion sickness or not!  As a captain it feels terrible to have a crew/guest that would be sick during a passage. The person’s experience might be worse than expected! The average space per person becomes less on the boat, especially when you live on a relatively small boat. For us, it’s easier in the small space since we are used to it. But our guest might be cramped in this limited space. The level of privacy is definitely reduced and it’s important to be comfortable living in a minimum amount of clothing. Sometimes I wish we were cruising on a larger boat where I could offer a full size berth with closet space, head, shower, and at least a door for our guests. However, the way we live right now makes it more cozy and communal. Our accommodations might be a challenge for our guest, such as the lack of unlimited running water and electricity. We shower in the salt water and rinse off with the 5 gallon solar shower, which should be enough for 3 showers each. Also, all electronics get charged during the day when the sun is strongest and the batteries are full.

There is a time and place for high maintenance and Earthling is not the place!!    

Right now we are in Marie Galante and we are planning to sail to Dominica within the next couple of days! 

Love from Marie Galante

Friday, March 2, 2012

Passage Venteux

Terre de Haut Island, The Saints
The French Islands in the Caribbean have more of a European culture than the other Caribbean Islands. What’s interesting is that Guadeloupe and the other French islands are still 100% under French control and you actually enter the European Union even though you are not in Europe. Furthermore, if you don’t speak French, you might have difficulties to connect with Locals.

We have already visited Basse Terre, which is the capital and the second largest city in Guadeloupe. We explored Basse Terre on a Sunday, which means everything is closed and the city looked like a ghost town. The streets were empty which gave an opportunity for all the graffiti to stay out. The graffiti is beautiful on the walls here and we were able to experience a couple of locals that were spray painting a new white wall.
Luckily, Fort Louie was open on Sunday and the view from the top of the fort is absolutely magnificent. Fort Louie is just a 10min walk from the Marina and it’s a place worth to visit, in addition there is no entry fee!

The last few days, it has been blowing around 20 mph, with wind gusts at 35+mph. So windy that the wind generator shuts down. The passage from Basse Terre to The Saintes was only 10 miles but we were washed over a couple of times. Iles Des Saintes is a group of small islands off the southern point of Guadeloupe. The highest elevation is a little over 1000ft. We hiked up there to a tower where you have a 360 degree view over all The Saintes. The pictures we took from here look just unreal. The airplanes  were flying lower than us to and out of the airport!
The main transportation in The Saintes used by locals and tourists (who are mostly French) are scooters. Furthermore, you see lots of goats free roaming on the small streets, and beautiful birds flying from tree to tree. Another interesting animal that is free here, are cats, they just come right up to you meowing and wanting attention. Kelly hopes that one of these days one will follow us all the way back to the boat. 

We had to be on schedule and sail to Point a Pitre to pick up our friend Nico that flew in from LA. Traveling on a schedule sometimes can be challenging. Cruisers dislike very much to have a schedule! The weather was not in our favor. An hour into the passage from The Saintes to Point a Pitre, we got hit by the first squall, where winds were recorded over 30 mph for a few minutes. Luckily, the mainsail was double reefed before the anchor was up, but we still healed over heavily and did a high speed of 8.7 close haul. She was washed over several times in the 8-12ft swells. Then, we hit a second squall. At this point, Kelly was scared for the first time with tears in her eyes. After that, the winds came down to 18-20.
We finally made it safe to Marina Bas Du Fort midday Tuesday. Earthling has not been docked in a marina for 3 months. There are several tasks to do when in the marina. Batteries had to be equalized on shore power, scrub and rinse entire boat, water tanks had to be filled, we had to pick up a guest, and do some provisioning. This is the first time I’ve done a Mediterranean-style docking and it could have gone smoother. The dock lines were too short and space to pull in was tight. It only cost 25 Euros for us and it included; water, electricity, shower, and wifi. Shortly after we were docked, “Lucky Luke” came in to dock next to us, he pulled in stern-to and as Alexander was trying to fit his 47’ Bavaria into the tiny spot, his wind generator hit ours and it broke two blades. That was an unfortunate event. However, a good friendship started. Alexander was very kind and he right away offered to cover for the damages. Later on that evening we were invited aboard “Lucky Luke” for drinks and dinner. On our port side “Area 51” is docked. On the starboard is “Lucky Luke” looking for the Daltons and he found a Dalton on Earthling!

Love from Passage Venteux

Passage Venteux=Windy Passage

View the Guadeloupe photo album on the fb page

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bad Boy Dinghy Ride

ATTENTION: Don't try this at home! 

Earthling under full sail from Antigua to Guadeloupe. The trolling line got caught on the dinghy and George bravely or stupidly had to go aboard and untangle the line while under way. A true dinghy cowboy!