Barbuda Nice

Barbuda: the place where God goes on vacation

 

Barbuda

Barbuda

25 nautical miles north of Antigua lies, hidden below the horizon, the flat low island of Barbuda. Surrounded by coral reefs, the final resting place of many boats, the island was once considered the greatest peril to navigation in the Indes, its invisible sharp coral jaws ready to snatch another careless vessel. Even today Barbuda is not a popular cruising destination not only because of the reefs, but also because the island does not offer many weather-protected bays, and its location is off the main route most cruisers follow around these waters. All that makes it even more attractive to us, always in search of quiet unspoiled places, always lured by the off-the-beaten-path destinations.

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We sail north, the wind coming from east, blowing with 16-20 knots, just beautiful. Only after four hours of sailing with about 7 to 8 knots on a beam reach we approach Barbuda. Usually in the Caribbean when we sail from one island to another, we can see our destination from many miles away, but Barbuda remains hidden and mysterious, right until we are just 5-6 miles from its shores, and even closer to it reefs. We sneak between the shallows and the breakers on the southwest side and drop anchor in crystal blue waters like the waters in the Bahamas in front of the longest most beautiful beach.

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

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There are no people and no buildings for miles and miles, only one small hotel, yellow with red roof. Lighthouse Bay is a luxurious all-inclusive boutique resort with 1,000 dollar suits where extremely rich guests arrive by helicopter, but at this time of the year there are no guests, not even staff. We are alone.

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

Lighthouse Bay Resort

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Mira

Mira

The beach on the west coast of the island, 12 miles of pink fine sand, has no footsteps, only sea turtle tracks. This time of the year, this time of the month, sea turtles are laying eggs.

The first night we encounter a hawksbill turtle looking for a spot to lay her eggs. At first we see a black shadow in the water slowly approaching land. As she reaches the shore, the turtle lifts her head above the water and looks around before emerging, her wet dark shell shining in the silver moonlight. We freeze, squat, and watch in awe from a distance as the big creature makes its way up, painfully crawling in the sand. Up on the sandbank near a bush she stops for a while. Did she see us? Did we spook her? Or she simply didn’t like the spot and started heading back to sea? I can’t resist and snap a picture before she enters the water and disappears in the ocean even though I know it is not a good idea to flash the poor creatures in the dark. Forgive me mama-turtle. Hope you found the perfect spot to lay your eggs. May all your hundred babies hatch healthy, reach the sea safely and live to be a thousand-years-old.

Haeksbill Turtle, Barbuda

Hawksbill Turtle, Barbuda

The next day we jump in the kayak, all three of us, and start paddling in the shallows parallel to the shore for about a mile and a half to the north end of the beach.

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The sea on this side of the island is completely still, like a lake, there are no swells, and the waves that reach the shore are tiny and gentle.

Evo and Maya with the Kayak

Evo and Maya with the Kayak

Maya

Maya

The sand is white and powdery peppered with pink miniature sea shells giving it its unusual pink hues specific and unique to this place.

Pink sand beach, Barbuda

Pink sand beach, Barbuda

We reach a spot where there is a strange art installation on the beach, a piece of driftwood adorned with all sorts of plastic garbage the sea has spewed ashore. It is the marker indicating a cut across to the mangrove maze.

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The long 12-mile pink-sand narrow strip of a beach on the west lee side of Barbuda is separated from the island’s mainland by a shallow swampy area, Codrington Lagoon, where the water is dark-colored due to the mangroves and with higher salinity. The only way to access our pink beach from the main island is by small boat, and it is not a short ride. That is why there is no one here most of the time.

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The remote mangroves on the northwest side of Barbuda where humans rarely venture provide habitat for the largest Magnificent Frigatebird breeding colony in the Caribbean, one of the biggest frigate bird sanctuaries in the world. With about 1700 nests, the site has been declared a national park.

Kayaking inside the frigatebird sanctuary

Kayaking inside the frigatebird sanctuary

Magnificent Frigatebirds

The Magnificent Frigatebird also known as man o’war or man of war is long-winged, fork-tailed black bird of the tropical oceans. An agile silent flier he snatches fish off the surface of the ocean and pirates food from other birds.

Magnificent Frigatebird, Barbuda

Magnificent Frigatebird, Barbuda

Frigatebirds never land on water, and always take their food in flight. It spends days and nights on the wing, with an average ground speed of 10 km/h (6.2 mph), covering up to 223 km (139 mi) before landing. They alternately climb in thermals, to altitudes occasionally as high as 2,500 m (8,200 ft), and descend to near the sea surface.

Frigatebirds, Barbuda

Frigatebirds, Barbuda

To visit the frigatebird sanctuary you can hire a local guide with a small motor boat which costs 40 $US per person. Or, you can take your kayak along the beach, all the way to the north corner until you reach the driftwood decorated with ocean garbage, drag it across to the mangrove lagoon and paddle inside the bird sanctuary, exploring noiselessly its many small channels, inaccessible even to the guide with the motor boat because they are too shallow. This will save you some cash and you will be able to go much closer to the nesting grounds without disturbing the birds, and spend as much time in the colony as you wish for free, like we did.

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

We spent over an hour in the mangrove maze, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of frigates nesting in the bush, hovering above us like dark kites, looking us suspiciously, telling us something important but alas incomprehensive to us. I wonder if they remember us. We surely remember them with so much affection.

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

Frigatebird Sanctuary, Barbuda

 

By early afternoon we are back on the boat. After splashing in the warm crystal blue waters, a math lesson, and some rest, we decide to make a fire on the beach around sunset and celebrate the full moon tonight.

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We love beach fires and fires in general, we think they are fascinating and have their own short lives, and it is always a great excitement building them, lighting them and watching them burn.

Mira and Maya building a fire

Mira and Maya building a fire

Maya and Mira gathering firewood

Maya and Mira gathering firewood

Mira dancing around the fire

Mira dancing around the fireplace

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Maya made fire!

Maya made fire!

Maya at sunset

Maya at sunset

Evo by the fire

Evo by the fire

Maya with marshmallow

Maya with marshmallow

Maya...

Maya…

moon

moon

Maya firedance

Maya fire-dance

Evo and Maya by the fire

Evo and Maya by the fire

Full moon in Barbuda

Full moon in Barbuda

As we are eating fire-roasted potatoes and hamburgers, and sipping white wine, the full moon watching over us, turtles crawling out of the sea in the darkness down the beach, dark birds sleeping in the branches of the mangroves behind us, we are thinking how nice, how magical these two days, and nights, in Barbuda were. Days, and nights, like these we don’t want to end.

Evo and Maya by the fire

Evo and Maya by the fire

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Rite of Passage

 

-by Viktor

Viktor at Antigua International airport

Viktor at Antigua International airport

The Day has finally come. The day I leave the ocean to go back home, to Canada.

It is a bright sunny day and in the morning I go around the boat to check if I got everything I need. All my things are already stuffed in my bags; it’s time to take off.

„Goodbye beach and saltwater, but I never liked you to start with.“

We kayak to the beach, take a taxi to the airport, and check in my boarding pass and luggage. When the time comes, I hug my family, grab my bag and go into the airport. I go through the door alone. And all of a sudden… the world becomes silent. No more parents to talk to, to laugh with, to hug. I am on my own from now on. I am excited. So excited that when my parents wave goodbye I don’t care.

I sit near my gate entrance unsure of what to do next. I wait. Then I march in line with unknown people who I will never meet again into the plane that will take me to New York from where I have to take another plane to Montreal.

Vik  at Antigua International Airport

Vik at Antigua International Airport

The best part of planes is the takeoff. I can’t help myself when the speed accelerates crazy fast. I feel like I’m oozing so much adrenaline that my unsure facial expression turns into a „FASTER, FASTER MOTHER F****** SHOW ME WHAT YOU CAN DO!!!“ expression.

But the worst part of planes is the flight… I watch an audioless movie and wait, as usual. The change of altitude and freaking AC turn my tanned skin pale and my leg hair to a porcupine’s. I am extremely cold, almost frozen, and I need to pee, but by being an anti-social person I am scared to ask someone where can I find a restroom… I hold it during the entire flight.

„We are ten minutes from arrival“ the pilot says, which makes me so happy. My bladder is about to explode. And then, at the New York terminal’s restroom, I take the longest piss a human can ever take. „F***, yesss!“.

I am in New York. I fill a check-in form for the United States and I hand it over to the immigration officer. Next thing, he asks me is to follow him. He is leading me to the opposite direction of all the other people from my plane which creates stress within me.

„Am I in trouble?!“ I ask.

„There is an… issue.“ he replies.

I arrive in a room and take a seat. I am freaking out, I am alone, I feel lost, and I haven’t recuperated my bag from the plane. Some immigration officer starts asking me questions. It has to do with the past and my parents immigration problems. After thirty long minutes of interrogation he finally reaches for a handshake and tells me „Welcome to America“.

Now my priority number one is to find my bag. All those rotating things where my bag is supposed to be are empty. And then I see a person loading lots of bags into a cart. I run towards him while he loads bag number one. I sprint towards him while he loads bag number two. And as I get closer I see my bag. „Holy s*** that’s my bag“ I grab it.

Now I am happy and the only thing left to do is to find my gate and wait all night until the morning, and then catch my next plane.

The world is louder now.

I find a wall with electrical plugs! Everything is okay now. Now all I need to do is to play on my computer all night and then catch my next plane and finally arrive at my friends’ house content that I have finished the first step of my independent life. And then I can eat and go to sleep. But that’s too good to be true.

All night I play and watch movies and shows on my computer. There are no chairs to sit on so I simply sit on the floor, back straight, with a pc on my lap.

As I am playing and watching movies other kids my age also waiting overnight for a flight in the morning come and sit next to me and watch me play games all night. No conversation though. And now my butt hearts from sitting on the floor. The pain is unbearable.

4 a.m. It’s time to take my two bags, pack up my computer and go home, in Canada, „Yay!“.

I wait on a chair and I am falling asleep which is really bad because if I fall asleep I’ll miss my flight and I’m screwed. So, after 5 more hours of waiting and trying not to fall asleep my plane is announced „Delayed“ which means that I have to wait… again.

Thirty minutes later my flight is canceled!

The world becomes dark and silent again. I am nearly crying. I am looking at the screen at my flight’s status: CANCELED.

„What do you mean it’s canceled? This is f*** bull****. This is my first time traveling by plane, alone, and this was not meant happen!“ I am tired, hungry, afraid and angry knowing that in 1 hour I’m supposed to be at my friends’ house.

To prevent me from crying I think to myself „Keep it together“. This thought is my only comfort but I would gladly trade it for one of my parents’ warm hugs.

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The other kids my age have phones and are calling their parents to come and pick them up because the flight is canceled, but me… I’m alone, inexperienced and have no phone to call anyone. I almost burst into tears not knowing what to do.

I wait in line. A lady issues me a new plane ticket to Montreal, a food voucher, and a taxi/bus pass. She tells me what I have to do now but I am so tired and stressed out that I memorize two things only. „Go to door 7“ and „Go to another airport“.

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I look at my new ticket. The plane isn’t flying directly to Montreal, its going somewhere west of New York where I will have to change planes again with just 30 minutes between flights. Departure time 6:45 p.m.

Okay, now I have to wait all the way to 6:45 p.m. and I haven’t slept all night. But waiting will have to wait. First I have find „door 7“.

I am heading back to the main terminal and while I am riding the escalator my dad shows up, in my mind. I realize then that when I hugged my family I didn’t do it long enough or good enough. That hug was the last one I was gonna get from them until who knows when.

„Keep it together“ saves me from crying again.

I am so tired I’m losing awareness.

Outside the airport a kind policeman helps me to find a taxi. The driver is already loading some other people’s bags. I show him my taxi pass, get my things loaded, and talk with the other people in the taxi who are in the same situation like me. There is one girl in a wheelchair and another girl named Camille, short, with glasses. They are both really kind but I am almost asleep and it is my subconscience doing all the talking and actions.

I arrived at the second airport after 30 minutes of comfortable taxi-seat ride. I go through the same procedure of checking in my luggage and getting a boarding pass. I keep my personal bag only again. The time is 11:00 a.m.

Once at the terminal my flight number is nowhere to be found on the screens plus my boarding pass isn’t signed which makes it invalid and I have to wait 1 more hour before they can clear things up. This time I don’t get nervous because I’m too unaware and too tired. After they fix their own mistake I am free to roam the terminal, „Yay!“.

I wait at the gates and try to fall asleep on the most uncomfortable-looking chairs there. I wake up after 2 hours.

„My eyes aren’t open yet but when I open them I want to wake up on the boat“ I open my eyes. I am still at the airport. „Keep it together“. My flight number is still missing on the screens.

„Am I in the wrong airport“ I ask a lady and she tells me that I’m in the right airport and that my flight is after 6 hours and a half. So I decide to sleep some more and I keep waking up every time a new plane is announced. And every time I wake up I see at least 200 people waiting for their planes which makes me realize in what kind of desperate situation I’m in.

Now it’s 4:30 p.m. and the airport is warm compared to the last one. I can’t sleep anymore so I walk around looking at the food stands but unsure of how to redeem the food voucher I don’t eat thinking that I will eat when I arrive.

„Beep beep“ goes my watch. Its 6:30 p.m. and there is a message on the board. My flight is 1 hour late, meaning I can’t make the switch to my second flight, meaning… I have to exchange tickets again.

I’m angrier than ever and I’m losing it. „F******* twice!!!“

More than one person is pissed off; there are other people too who need to get to Montreal.

Now, I have to wait on a two-hour long line for a new ticket. I’m alone, tired, hungry and unaware. I’m so mad that someone will die if this doesn’t end soon.

Get this: the flight that takes me away from my family is flawless but the one that is supposed to lead me to my new home screws me over… twice.

I see Camille crying on her phone but I’m too tired to start weeping like her. This can’t be happening to me twice on my first time flying… I am about to collapse as the man behind me starts getting angry as well from of all this nonsense. That man saves me.

„Sir, can I borrow your phone?“ I ask.

„Sure“

I know my mom and dad are worrying about me. It’s been 9 hours since I’m supposed to be in Montreal, so I call my friends’ dad to let him know that I’m fine and I will call him again when I have a confirmed flight.

„Thank you sir“ I tell the man who gave me his phone.

„What language were you speaking there?“ he asks.

Eric, a Norwegian, is a kin old man, and together we start talking and bitching about all this nonsense. Today is his birthday and he’s supposed to be in somewhere in Canada celebrating with his friends. I tell him my story and also about my parents and how they are successful with their life doing what they love. Eric is a very nice guy and thanks to our conversation my anger literally vanished. It made the 2 hours waiting seem like 10 short minutes. I will remember your soothing voice all my life, thank you Eric.

Finally I arrive at that bloody ticket booth and they exchange my ticket once more and tell me my next flight is tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Eric is luckier and gets his next flight today.

I wait all night and all day and now they want me to wait all night again. I say my goodbyes to Eric and I feel much better; full of confidence and wisdom.

I decide to use my food voucher which has a 12$ value. One lady explains to me how to redeem my food voucher. She is smiling and is so kind and nice to me that I feel much more confident that this airport fight can be won. I spend my food voucher on a pizza so huge and filling that I can’t finish it all. I feel mature and proud. I buy my own food, talk effortlessly to people, and feel like everything is going to be fine in the end.

Its 8:00 p.m. I’m full, hydrated but very tired and 9/10 unaware. So I decide to go sleep on my sleeping spot at the gates which is great because I found the perfect position to sleep on those chairs. But it’s not long before a security officer wakes me up and tells me that this part of the airport is closing. This meant I can’t sleep there tonight. Instead, it’s another ass-hurting game-play night. I transfer movies to my i-pod and charge my headphones.

This area of the airport is very very cold.

„Is this what it feels like dying?“ I ask myself.

Around 3:00 a.m. I feel like I have jumped butt first from a building.

„I need to see an ass doctor please“

I wait in line to get my boarding pass and they tell me that my flight is on another airport. Which is stressful but I got use to worse case scenarios up until now. So I ask an official where and how to get there. They tell me and I take a bus and go to airport number 3. I get there, everything’s going “smoothly”, until I remember something. I’m not sure if my luggage will be transferred okay.

One hour later I fall asleep at my gate and wake up from time to time asking officials if my flight’s been canceled. I do this at least twenty times. Behind me there is a window and I look through it every time I hear a plane.

At around 10:00 a.m. one plane stops nearby.

„Is that my plane?!“

The plane gets loaded with bags and I’m wondering if my bag is there, so I observe with my heavy eyelids, getting heavier by the second. My bag isn’t there and boarding starts. Turns out I’m boarding a different plane but that doesn’t guarantee my bag’s existence there.

The seats are uncomfortable, meaning my ass is destroyed and it stays destroyed for the next hour until I arrive in Montreal. Arrived in Montreal I am: tired, unaware, hungry, worried, dirty and zombiefied in the worst way.

When I get off the plane and follow the people going to collect their bags my bag… isn’t there. That bag is important to me. It contains all my shoes and clothes and my dad’s expensive North Face jacket that costs over 700$. Now I feel ashamed. My dad entrusted me his jacket because he knew I’d need it in Canada but now that I lost it he will think that I’m irresponsible and a horrible son.

This time „Keep it together“ doesn’t work. I cry. I’m physically and mentally destroyed. I follow the signs to get out. Then I see a sign with a luggage picture on it. I follow it to see if my bag is by any chance there. I look around like a dying hobo. Suddenly the world brightens up. My big blue bag is sitting a few meters away from me. Despite my destroyed self I sprint towards it, for the second time, and retrieve it with so much joy that it feels like hugging parents after this long nightmare.

I look around looking for my friends’ dad who is supposed to pick me up, but I don’t see him. I approach the exit doors. And then out of nowhere… „Hey Vik!“

I have passed The Rite of Passage.

Vik

Vik

 

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Deep Bay, St Johns, and Carnival in Antigua

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Deep Bay, Antigua

From Montserrat we sail 25 nautical miles north to Antigua, one of the two larger islands forming the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the other one being Barbuda, some 25 NM north of Antigua. We sail on a beam reach in moderate tradewinds, the waves long and gentle, making beautiful progress. It is the last time we sail together with Viktor.

We arrive in the early afternoon and check in Jolly Harbour on the west side of the island. Checking in Antigua and Barbuda is quick, easy, and only costs about 12 $US, but there is a 30 dollars departure fee on the way out.

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Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Jolly Harbour is a popular boating spot with a big handsome marina, many dredged channels surrounded by some 500 waterfront private two-story houses with docks for yachts, and a shopping center with over 30 shops and some excellent restaurants, among which a Greek restaurant with a beautiful view serving, among other delicatessens, spanakopita (or banitza, as we call it in Bulgaria) and lamb cooked for 6 hours.

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Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

 

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Greek Restaurant, Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

But the anchorage is outside the bay and kayaking to the docks to go on shore takes forever, so after shopping for some fresh vegetables, eggs, milk, and beer (the essentials) we move to the next little anchorage a couple of miles further north, Deep Bay, in order to be closer to land and closer to St Johns, the capital and biggest city on the island where the international airport is.

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay is a lovely little anchorage tucked between rocky shores, nicely protected from the trades and very secluded, with some interesting sites right there.

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View of Deep Bay anchorage from Fort Barrington

On the north shore, up on the dark rocks, stands Fort Barrington offering a spectacular view of the bay, and at the entrance to the anchorage the wreck of the Andes breaks the water surface and provides an exciting snorkeling spot.

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The shipwreck of the Andes’ history

The Grand Royal Antiguan resort is not far from the south end of the beach but the huge multi story hotel, vacant at this time of the year, is not even visible from the bay.

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Grand Royal Resort, Antigua, pool

We drop anchor a few feet away from the long sandy beach in deliciously blue waters.

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Deep Bay, Antigua

The holding here is excellent and the water remain calm with zero swell even when tropical storm Bertha passes through. Deep Bay became one of our all-time favorite anchorages and a very special place for us, the place where we say good bye to Viktor who decided to return back to Canada and continue his studies.

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

In Deep Bay we spend one unforgettable week, which happens to be Carnival Week in Antigua. Which means loud music and crazy partying day and night nonstop.

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Going to town from Deep Bay takes time as St John is a few miles away and even getting to the main road where the public bus passes is quite a hike. So we hitchhike. And every time we are lucky and someone really nice picks us up. Thus, thanks to hitchhiking, we meet Shelly, Ido and their cute one-year-old baby-genius Aviv.

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black...

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black…

They invite us to their place which is very close to Deep Bay and really cool, with a huge pool, and we invite them to ours (the beach and the boat), and they even let us use their car to go shopping in town.

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Maya

Maya

Aviv

Aviv

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

But the greatest thing is going to carnival together, to Jouvert Morning.

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Jouvert Morning is one of the many activities during Carnival Week and it is the most fun we had in a while.

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“You have to come to our place at 4 in the morning, and we will drive to town from there” says Ido and he is not joking. The event starts even before that, at about 3 a.m. and at 4 a.m. the festivities are already in full swing.

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We can hear the mad music all the way from our anchorage, miles away.

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So we go to our friends’ place in the middle of the night. Maya, Shelly and the baby decide to stay in the apartment, while Evo, Ido and I to go to town where the party is on.

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Ido brings a big shiny bottle of rum along.

Evo, Ido and...yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum

Evo, Ido and…yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum early in the morning

Drinking is an inevitable part of this particular event, and we are not here to watch from the sidewalk. We participate.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Means, we mingle with a crowd of young people with wild hairs, sexy girls with very minimal clothing shaking their booties, everyone drinking and jumping up and down on the streets behind a procession of trucks with platforms loaded with the biggest loudspeakers on earth booming some insane island music, the rhythm so fast gets your heartbeat accelerating just by listening to it. Antiguans gone wild.

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Carnival Week continues for almost two weeks, the whole time we are in Deep Bay, and we can see the glow and we can hear the music far in the distance day and night not stopping for a second, the entire town pulsating. And when it is over and the music suddenly stops, we wake up disturbed by the unexpected unusual silence and wonder what’s wrong.

 

Picture St Johns, Antigua

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The fish market, Antigua

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Mira

Mira

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

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Antigua Beach Resort

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

The Nomadiks at the beach

The Nomadiks at the beach

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Maya with coconuts

Maya with coconuts

Maya

Maya

Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

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Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie and Maya

Stefanie and Maya

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Antigua Carnival

Photos by Mell Ebstein s/v Passages

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Interview With The Life Nomadik Family for the Newly Salted Project

Newly Salted

After 13 months and 4000 nautical miles of continuous cruising in over 12 countries and 50 islands we are proud to be interviewed for the Newly Salted project featuring cruisers from around the world with less than 2 years of sailing experience, like us. The project, founded by Livia Gilstrap, is a great collection of stories from all over the world of people who love sailing, cruising and the sea-life are want to share their experience about the first and most difficult and amazing years of cruising. Find out more about the Newly Salted Project on the official website.

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The Life Nimadik Family

Evo, Maya, and Mira

Evo, Maya, and Mira

We are a family with Bulgarian origins currently living and traveling aboard a sailboat. We are Evo, Mira and 10-year-old Maya aboard Fata Morgana.

Our cruising adventures around the world, a voyage into a new and unknown way of life, started in July of 2013 with zero sailing experience aboard our first sailboat, a 38-foot Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana. We have left behind work, school, and home in order to prove that there are alternative ways of living, traveling and experiencing the world outside of the system , looking for ultimate freedom and adventure, and living off-grid visiting some of the most beautiful and pristine places on the planet on a ridiculously minimal budget.

Our journey is documented in our travel-adventure blog The Life Nomadik. You can also find us and follow us on Facebook.

 

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Questions-Answers

 

1. What is cruising for you and why did you decide to cruise?

The night is falling slowly, inevitable. The wind is changing direction, becoming stronger from north. The sea gets rough. No land in view. Anxiety creeps in. We take turns on the helm, and we can’t really sleep with the waves crushing violently around the boat rocking her in every direction. The next day we are exhausted and hungry but the only thing we can prepare under these circumstances is instant noodles. At last we see land. We see the green shores of a tropical island and we know soon we will rest. Soon the boat will be still, anchored near a beautiful beach with palm trees and pink flowers. We will swim to the beach, we will snorkel in the coral gardens around, we will jump from the boat, we will hike to the mountain and visit the village to buy ice cream for Maya and beers for Evo and me. We might meet new friends, we might learn new things. And then, after a few days, we will keep sailing further. To another island, another beach, another country, another adventure.

This is what ‘cruising‘ means to us. It is a way of life. It is not as crazy or heroic as some might think. It is just an alternative to the other more conventional land-life most of us have accepted as ‘normal‘. But to us ‘crazy’ and ‘heroic’ is to accept the routine of 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, the morning and evening traffic jams, the bills at the end of the month. Cruising is just living differently, simply, sometimes better, sometimes worst. For those like us who love traveling, nature, the sea, who want to learn about the world and its people first hand, who want to live off-grid and escape city-life, who don’t mind washing their clothes by hand and eating instant noodles from time to time, cruising is the better option. And before we decided to do it, we dreamed about it. It was our next dream in a series of dreams-come-true.

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2. What is the most important aspect of your cruising lifestyle?

Visiting places we never even dreamt about, remote, beautiful, breathtaking, places accessible only by boat; meeting people from different cultures, exchanging stories with them, learning from them, getting involved in their local communities, and sharing some incredible adventures together; meeting other travelers/wanderers/wonderers who inspire us so much; overcoming obstacles, conquering fears, growing and becoming. All these are some of the best characteristics of the cruising lifestyle that most of the cruisers appreciate, but for us this is not all.

For us the most important aspect of our cruising lifestyle is being self-sufficient spending as little money as possible, living off-grid outside of the system and in harmony with our natural environment. We strictly sail and don’t turn on the engines, we produce solar electricity and freshwater, we catch and eat a lot of fish, we wash the few clothes we have by hand, we prepare our own bread and food, and we don’t go to bars and restaurants much.

Boatmade Sushi

Boatmade Sushi

 

3. What is the best thing about your boat?

Our boat, Fata Morgana, is a 38-foot Leopard catamaran built in 2001 in South Africa. She is a small catamaran but very spacious and comfortable, perfect for our family’s needs. It’s the owner’s version with three double-bed cabins, two heads and big shower. Everyone’s favorite’s space on the boat is the huge cockpit for which we built a hard-top and an enclosure. Fata Morgana is heavy-built and even heavier after we loaded up all our earthly possessions. She is not fast at all but, we hope and believe, she is stable and safe, which is more important than speed for us. But the best thing about Fata Morgana is something we added after we bought the boat making her our off-grid water-world type of vessel.

In the beginning we invested in a huge solar power installation producing 1500 watts. We installed a desalination machine producing freshwater from seawater, and solar panels and lithium batteries capable of producing and store enough electricity on board for our fridge&freezer which runs 24/7, for all the lights, appliances and devices, and for the watermaker. We don’t have a generator and we don’t have to run the engines in order to make electricity. We can spend a week or a month or a year in the most remote anchorage of the world and we won’t need to fuel or buy freshwater, we won’t need any facilities.

Thanks to the solar panels, lithium batteries, watermaker, and sails, our boat has become a unique vessel, ready for some serious apocalyptic events.

Read more about our solar installation here.

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4. Is there something that you do differently from most of the cruisers?

Apart from the fact that we were born and raised in Bulgaria and have a very different mentality from most of the North American, Australian, and Western European cruisers, we strictly sail and we use a kayak instead of a dinghy. We turn on the engines only in life-and-death situations. This means a lot of tacking especially during the last months going against the tradewinds and it also means that sometimes we drift with ridiculously slow speed, under 2 knots, or even sit and wait in deadcalm in the middle of the sea for the wind to pick up. In such deadcalm situations Evo would even deploy our kayak in front of the boat and pull the boat at 0.5 kt speed. But it also means that we fuel only 2 times a year spending very little money for fuel (last year we took about 150 gallons of fuel and we still have 60 gallons in the tanks left) and it means that we don’t contribute much for the ever-increasing pollution of the environment.

If you ask any cruiser if they throw their plastic garbage in the water they will say No! immediately. They are very conscious about throwing garbage in the sea. But if you ask them when and why they turn on their engines (thus polluting the water and air) you might find out that most cruisers “motor-sail” all the time, even when they have perfect winds. Their reasons for doing so are many: to get there faster, to charge the batteries, because the wind is coming from the wrong direction and they don’t like to tack, and even because they don’t want the boat to heel, or because pulling ropes and adjusting sails is too much work. They have the choice yet they choose the engines and thus, apart from polluting the nature, spend tons of money for fuel each month.

We have invested in alternative energy systems and we have pledged to sail the boat always. We are very proud with this. And if we can inspire other cruisers to do so too our mission will be accomplished.

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 5. What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

We swim in the most beautiful waters and snorkel in coral reefs, we hike in spectacular rainforests and explore lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and caves. We met howler monkeys, sea crocodiles, swimming pigs, whales, flamingos, sea turtles, and manatees. We learned to sail, snorkel, fish, surf, and dive. Almost everything is exciting about our cruising life. The beautiful places we get to visit traveling for free, the things we learn about their histories, culture and nature, but most of all the people we meet on the way, locals and fellow-traveling gipsies like us. You can only meet such people when cruising really.

Before we started cruising we thought that we are about to do something completely insane and that not many are doing what we are doing. But it turned out that there are so many people out there on some incredible journeys, and crossing paths with them is definitely the best and most exciting thing about cruising.

 

Maya

Maya

 

6. What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

We left Key West for Havana without provisioning the boat. We were determined to buy and eat local. Big mistake. We showed up in Cuba without food and the Cuban officials inspecting the boat couldn’t believe it. First time people coming from America without food. And for the first four days we couldn’t buy anything to eat there. It was a national holiday followed by a weekend and all the stores were closed. And when they opened we realized that there is not much we can buy anyway… The Cuban stores are a sad desolate landscape. After about a week they announced on national TV that „eggs will be distributed tomorrow in the entire country“ and we waited on a long line for eggs and I bought 100 eggs…(Reminded me of the good old times in Communist Bulgaria…)

First lesson learned: Always provision the boat especially when leaving from the USA and especially when heading to Cuba.

Another even bigger mistake we made in our first days of cruising caused by impatience, over confidence, inexperience, and ignorance was sailing unprepared and without checking the weather and researching the marine conditions. Apart from having zero experience we had no auto-pilot and no windvane. We hand-steered and we had no idea what is the wind force and exact wind direction for the first 1000 nautical miles of our passage between Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and back.(But it was a great learning experience too. Remember, we strictly sail.)

When we showed up in Havana people asked us: „So how was the Gulf Stream?“ We didn’t notice any Gulf Stream we answered. We were lucky then. But not so lucky on our way back between Mexico and Cuba in the Yucatan Chanel where a storm almost killed us because we didn’t wait for good weather.

There is an old Inuit saying: To wait is not a waste of time. The patient man succeeds.

The Inuit people from the frozen North hunt seal for food, oil for the fire and leather for clothes and shoes. When the hunter finds the hole in the ice where the seal comes out for air every now and then, he prepares his spear and waits silently, sometimes for hours, for the seal to emerge. Only after a long time of waiting he can kill it. Patience is essential for his survival.

Patience is the most important thing in cruising too, I would say, and we learned this lesson the hard way.

We didn’t take the weather forecast seriously, we were too much in a rush and we got hit by a horrible storm in the Yucatan Chanel off the coast of Mexico. Sustained winds 30-35 knots from north, the powerful current flowing the opposite direction. Until then we hadn’t seen such big and confused waves and we didn’t know how to deal with the situation, especially at night, we got so scared. We had to go through this nightmare that lasted for two days. After that, we made a solemn promise to ourselves that, from then on, we will check the weather forecast and be very careful, and we will not rush anymore.

In cruising, the biggest mistake is to have a time schedule. You can’t. You have to wait for the best possible conditions and you have to be able to turn back if the conditions are not favorable.

Read more about our Yucatan Chanel misadventure here.

Mira "sailing" the kayak with an umbrella

Mira „sailing“ the kayak with an umbrella

 

7. What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?

When we started this adventure we were four. Our 17-year-old son Viktor spent over a year with us aboard Fata Morgana and was until recently also a part of this journey, but after a few months of cruising and sailing he decided to return back to Canada, where we used to live, to continue his education and start his own life. At his age he didn’t want to be on an adventure with his parents and little sister, stuck on a boat with them 24/7. And even though he enjoyed a good part of our adventures together: swimming in a dark cave in Guatemala, hiking up the highest Caribbean mountain Pico Duarte with mules and a guide, visiting Mexico and eating tacos every day, snorkeling in the Thunderbolt Grotto in the Bahamas and many more, he wanted to go back to his friends and his old way of life.

Maya on the other hand is only 10 and she enjoys living aboard, cruising, homeschooling, making new friends everywhere we go, exploring, and going on adventures with us. She is learning so much by traveling and being curious about the places we visit.

People always ask us about the kids schooling, and always tell them not to confuse the school institution with education. Education is found through experiences in the world. A kid who is traveling has so many more experiences than a kid who sits in a classroom. Reading about a place, its culture and history, is not the same as being there and experiencing it. Yet, I think that as soon as the kids become teenagers it is already too late to take them away from their familiar home environment and friends and put them on a boat, as we did with Viktor, unless this is what they want.

So if I have to give one advice to parents thinking about taking their children cruising it would be:

Traveling is a great learning experience that will change you and your children. It is the best thing for young kids. But don’t wait too long for the kids to be older or to finish school. The younger the child the better.

 

Riley, Maya (in the middle) and Wren with a huge lobster aboard Fata Morgana

Riley, Maya (in the middle) and Wren with a huge lobster aboard Fata Morgana

 

8. How do you keep in shape while leaving aboard?

Life on a boat can get really lazy at times. When at anchor or sailing there is not much space on the boat to move around and there is a big chance to become a „boat-potato“. In order to keep in shape we try to move as much as possible. We swim, snorkel, hike, and we do exercises on the boat or on shore (sit-ups, squats, push-ups and pull-ups). We even like to go jogging on the beach in the morning. We also kayak on daily basis from and to the boat instead of using the dinghy and we walk a lot. For us taking a taxi is not an option, it’s a question of principles. We hitchhike or take the bus if the distance to where we want to go on land is too big, or simply walk, sometimes for hours, and for many miles. Apart from being a great exercise, we believe that only by walking, and not by driving or even riding a bicycle, one can truly experience the land. Good thing we are generally not in a hurry.

And of course, we watch out what and how much we eat. We are not some healthy-food-freaks nor vegetarians and we eat and drink pretty much everything but we are conscious about quality and quantity trying to balance a healthy diet. We eat a lot of fish which we catch by trolling every time we go sailing and we also love those coconuts that we find all over the place. We buy fresh fruits and vegetables every time we stop some place. Lately we aet a lot of cabbage for example. We love fresh cabbage grated or finely chopped with some dry dill and lots of lemon, and it is one of the healthiest fiberest foods ever.

Mira and Evo

Mira and Evo

9. What is the price you have to pay for being on a ‘permanent vacation’?

The past one year was incredible. We visited Che Guevara’s house in Havana, Cuba. We walked among the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico. We were the first white people to enter a sacred cave full of human skulls in the remote Sierra de las Minas mountains in Guatemala. We met a humpback whale in the Bahamas. We jumped from waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. We ate mofongo in Puerto Rico. We snorkeled in the most beautiful coral gardens in the British Virgin Islands. We walked across an impossible road in Saba. We met monkeys in St Kitts&Nevis. We saw what a volcano can do to a city in Montserrat. And this is just a small fraction of all the things that we have done in all the places that we visited in just 13 months.

But there is a dark side to cruising too, and bloggers don’t normally write much about it. The dangers and risks of the life at sea, the constant maintenance of the boat and everything on it, dealing with officials every time we have to check in and out of a country, the nostalgia for home family and friends, even the small inconveniences of not having an air conditioning or a washing machine or a hot water shower, the lack of unlimited freshwater or electricity, are all part of the bitter price we pay for all the enjoyments we get while cruising. But we have accepted the deal and we know: It is all worth it!

In other words, it is about 5 dollars per day.

Maya in the cockpit

Maya in the cockpit

 

 10. What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.

We will keep cruising until we are tired of it, or until something prevents us from doing it. There are so many things that can go wrong on a boat causing for any plans to change very quickly. But n the best case scenario, we are hoping to sail through the entire Caribbean region, from Antigua where we are right now south to Grenada and Tobago. From there, after the hurricane season, we will head west to Columbia and Panama. Once there we will cross the Panama canal and head to the Galapagos Islands. Next, we will sail across the Pacific to Tahiti and French Polynesia and do a few years of cruising around Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines,  India and beyond.

We are also hoping to be able to work for a few months in Australia if possible, as we don’t have income right now and even though we are all about self-sufficiency and off-grid living we still need a bit of money to buy food and repair the boat when needed. We are both Evo and me professional long distance truck drivers. We used to drive big tractor-trailers between Canada and USA. (We were nomads always.) It was a great way to see these two huge countries, to travel and make money at the same time. So we are hoping to do the same in Australia. We heard they need drivers there for those long four-trailer trucks crossing the desert. It will be fun again and we will get to explore the interior of this beautiful country for which we have a very old crush.

And then, let’s dream a bit further in time, when we are really tired of traveling (i don’t think this will happen any time soon, but it probably will some day) and we find the perfect place, we will stop, build a small cabin, build the furniture for the cabin, make our own everything (dishes, cups, pillows, etc.), plant billions of fruits and vegetables and herbs, get a bunch of beautiful chickens and a couple of goats, and install a few solar panels. Then, after I finish making the raspberry jam, we will sit back on the porch and watch the sunset remembering all the places we have been to, telling the most incredible stories to our grand kids running around chasing the chickens.

 

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Well, this is all for now. It was great answering those questions and participating in the Newly Salted Project. And if you are still curious about us you can like us, follow us and contact us on our blog TheLifeNomadik.com and Facebbook Page. It’s always a pleasure when someone writes to us with a question or a comment. Thank you!

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Back Home

Some months ago I asked Viktor to write a free text as an exercise in writing within the homeschool experiment. I gave him the topic ‘Home’ thinking that after so many months living on the boat he would write about the boat as his new home.

He sat down very inspired and wrote uninterruptedly for a few hours producing the following text:

 

The Good Old Ways of Home

-by Viktor

My home back in Canada was just like any other big old country house but mine was transforming depending on the seasons.

In summer, staying inside was like staying in prison: I lacked oxygen and I felt depressed, like I was missing out on things. So I would go outside where life was welcoming and vast. I could take a stroll around the house and I would see my dad mowing the lawn, my sister singing on the swing, birds pecking about, or even a little grey rabbit staring at me. It was green, it was bright; the summer feeling was greatly appreciated, and I would never have the same experiences repeated since every summer something new would always happen.

But when those pretty lime-colored leaves camping on the trees fell down to my knees, I knew that summer was over… A new season would take place. Some called it fall or autumn, others called it the time of sickness and disease, an unforgiving season that brought coughing pain and confusion about what to wear. Me? I yelled: “Yes! My birthday is finally coming!” All those season-names were telling the truth. Leaves would fall, people would get sick, and I would celebrate. I think, if it wasn’t for my birthday, this would be the worst season of all times because all it brought was misery, viruses, and a handful of cheap candy and broken potato chips.

This next one will break your heart. You will need a box of tissues at your side. Winter will not help your coughing but it will help you feel better if you have good friends and entertaining games…mostly virtual.

After a crushing blow of a snowstorm and an overnight earthquake of machinery, I would wake up in the morning and I would see a bright white light shining through the curtains. I would look through the window feeling like someone had injected ecstasy in my system. No more dead leaves, no more grass. I would see snow. Mountains of snow. I would take a deep breath of happiness and then suddenly I would hear a series of pounding knocks on the door.

I would smile, run down the stairs, run across the corridor, and I would approach the door while glancing through the glass at the dark sinister figure outside. I would reach for the door knob and quickly open it to make way for my frozen friend. Over my pajamas, I’d put on my black snow pants, my heavy winter boots, my gloves and Russian hat, slip on my jacket, ready for battle. Next thing, I’d be beating the crap out of my friend with snowballs and then we would return home for some video games and hot chocolate.

There were tons of other great events happening during this joyous season of ice and fire but I will have to write a book the size of the holy bible to describe my full emotions on this topic.

Sooner or later, the glorious white element melted into our sewers and that marked the start of the season of rebirth: spring. Almost everything was reborn anew: the grass, the sickness, school. I have mixed feelings about this season for it gave me joy as it would bring an end to the never-ending cold wrath of winter, but I was also sad to think that I had to wait six months to play with snow again.

Honestly, I miss my old home and friends. Now I will have to adapt to my new life at sea and Neptune’s anomalies, stuck on a boat with my family.

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After a little over a year stuck on a boat with his family, cruising aboard Fata Morgana and visiting many countries and islands all over the Caribbean region, Viktor, almost 17 now, decided it is time to return home. To his friends, to school, and to all those places and things he missed so much in the past months.

Cruising is a great learning experience for families with young children and we have met countless little sailors everywhere we have been, children with a unique sense of adventure, exploring, and love of the world that school-based and land-based kids lack.  We wanted to open the world for our children as well, to show them an alternative way of life more disconnected from the civilized material world and more connected to nature, more free. For Viktor, a very shy and introvert person, we hoped that our travels will provide a way to unplug from the computer and video-games which were at the center of his interests through a healthier, more active way of life. That he will accumulate knowledge and acquire new skills. And surely he did, despite his nostalgia. He became a good sailor, and will forever keep the good memories of our travels, the moments we enjoyed together, the places we visited, the people we met. But at his age, he is anxious to begin his own independent journey, to follow his own dreams back in Canada.

We can only wish him good luck, help him and support him in any way necessary.

Farewell Vik!

 

 

That day Viktor caught 10 flounders

The day Viktor caught 10 flounders

Evo and Viktor

Evo and Viktor

 

Viktor and Dylan

Viktor and Dylan

Dylan and Viktor

Dylan and Viktor

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

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Viktro with a puffer fish

Viktro with a puffer fish

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Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

Viktor "pushing" Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor „pushing“ Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba This is how we showed up at the beach.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba
This is how we showed up at the beach.

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Evo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat...)

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat…) Mexico

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

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The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

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Best swimming pool, Bahamas

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The swimming pigs, Bahamas

The swimming pigs, Bahamas

Viktor and Mira with iguanas.

Viktor and Mira with iguanas, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor

Viktor

Vick and Maya building a small fire.

Vick and Maya building a small fire on the beach, Bahamas

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Viktor and Nick

Viktor and Nick

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Damajaqua Cascadas

Damajaqua Cascadas, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

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Viktor

Viktor

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor

Viktor

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

 

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Maya’s Montserrat

My Journey in Montserrat

by Maya, 10

Little Bay Anchorage in Montserrat

Little Bay Anchorage in Montserrat

Almost every one of you wants me to write for the blog again, so here we go.

Hello, it’s me , Maya, writing about Montserrat (some people call it „The Monster Rat“…)

Maya in Montserrat, Little Bay.

Maya in Montserrat, Little Bay.

The Big Fish

Our journey in Montserrat started with a huge fish.

We were heading towards the island and it was a normal sailing day until zzzzzzzz our fishing pole sounded the alarm. A fish! The fish was too big and too strong and even my dad couldn’t fight with it. After half an hour my dad managed to pull it out. But only the 15-pound head was hanging on the hook with a bit of the body. Most of it was eaten by sharks. But still we got a ton of meat out of it.

Evo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

Evo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

We made sushi and grilled fish-stakes on the BBQ and we still had a few pounds of fish meat left.

Boatmade Sushi

Boat-made Sushi

City Covered in Ashes

When we arrived in Montserrat we met a guy named Terrance. My parents traded the rest of the fish in exchange for a ride to the city buried in ashes.

Our tour guide in Montserrat, Terrance, with Evo

Our tour guide in Montserrat, Terrance, with Evo

 

The city was the capital of Montserrat called Plymouth and it had thousands of expensive houses in it, all covered with ashes and abandoned.

 

The town of Plymouth under ashes

The town of Plymouth under ashes

 

On the island of Montserrat there is a volcano. But the people thought it was sleeping so they built a city right under it.

 

Mira watching the Soufriere Hills volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Mira watching the Soufriere Hills volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

 

One morning the volcano woke up and started coughing, sneezing and barfing ashes and rocks on top of the city. Not because it’s a mean volcano or anything like this, it’s just what volcanoes do when they wake up. They say that when this volcano started spitting ashes and covered the whole city they even had to close the airport all the way in Venezuela because the ashes flew so far away.

 

Ruins of building around Plymouth

Ruins of building around Plymouth

 

But we couldn’t go inside Plymouth because it is an exclusion zone and if they catch you walking there you go to jail.

 

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We had to have a special permission from the police and a car and someone with a phone for emergency. Good thing Terrance had a car and a phone.

 

Evo and Terrance getting a permission from the police to visit Zone C

Entering Zone C

Entering Zone C

 

So we went up Garibaldi Hill, another abandoned neighborhood not far from Plymouth, and we looked at the damage the volcano had done from there.

 

Looking at the city buried in ashes. Terrance, Mira, Maya

Looking at the city buried in ashes. Terrance, Mira, Maya

 

It looked horrible. All these houses, some cost like a million dollars, and the people had to abandon them and to run away. I wouldn’t like to be in that situation…

 

An abandoned house, Garibaldi Hill

An abandoned house, Garibaldi Hill

 

Friends

Another cool thing that happened in Montserrat is meeting new friends.

One morning I went to do some exercises on the beach because living on a boat is pretty lazy life. I usually run 4-5 laps. On the 5th lap two random girls stopped me and asked me a bunch of questions like Where are you from?, What’s your name?, Did you come here by yourself? I answered all of the questions and then I asked them if they wanted to play with me.They said sure! So we played all day long in the water and on the beach. And the next day too. One of the girls was Angel and the other Darriana. Later another girl came, Malvelina or Mel for short. They were about the same age like me, 13, 13 and 11.

Little Bay anchorage and beach

Little Bay anchorage and beach

The cool thing about these friends was that Angel’s mother works at the bar near the beach and she sells slush, small for 3 EC dollars and big for 5 EC dollars. She told us that if we go and advertise the slush to the people on the beach we will get free slush, so we did and we got free slush. Darry’s father is the ice cream man but he was off duty that day and we didn’t get any free ice cream, and Mel’s grandma sells cookies and candy on a bench under a tree in front of the restaurant, so she gave us a pack of cookies and even money for cola. So we got everything for free.

Darriana and Maya at the beach in Montserrat

Darryana and Maya at the beach in Montserrat

Also, that was my supreme ‘liers’ day’. Only Angel and Darry knew the real me. We told lies to all the other kids on the beach because they were lying to us too. I told them that my name was Emma, that I was 13 years old, that I was the richest kid alive and that I owned a huge mansion, and that my mom’s name was Savanah, also that I am a professional surfer, and that my dad is the Guinness world record boxing champion and that I come from London. I know you must be laughing by now, I was too.

At the end of the day when I came back to the boat I was starving, but even worst, I was so sunburned I looked like the devil. My face was officially RED.

Maya's face burn

Some Interesting Facts About Montserrat

  • Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean with 102 sq km (39 sq mi) territory and about 5000 inhabitants of mixed African-Irish descendants.

 

  • Many Irish people were transported to the island in the 18th century to work as slaves or exiled prisoners during the English Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

 

  • Montserrat is the only country in the world except Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is an official holiday and is celebrated for an entire week.

 

  • On 18 July 1995, the dormant Soufrière Hills volcano became active destroying Montserrat’s Georgian era capital city of Plymouth and two-thirds of the island’s population fled.

 

  • A new capital and main port are being developed on the northwest coast of the island.

 

  • The volcanic activity continues with the most recent eruption on 11 February 2010.

 

  • An „exclusion zone“ has been imposed because of the potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are not permitted entry into the exclusion zone V.

 

  • A special permission can be granted by the police to enter Zone C by car only and observe the volcano and Plymouth from Garibaldi Hill.

 

  • A taxi tour of the island and exclusion zone C can be arranged for about 20 to 40 $US

 

  • Terrance McPhoy is not a taxi driver but is available to give tours for groups of up to 7 people.Cell phone (664)496-1291

 

  • There are a few great hiking trails on the island but access to Soufrière Hills is forbidden.

 

  • A geothermal project is currently being developed by an Icelandic company for making electricity with volcanic hot waters.

 

More Images of Montserrat and its People

Plymouth covered by ashes, Montserrat

Plymouth covered by ashes, Montserrat

Geothermal waters

Geothermal waters

Geothermal project

Geothermal project

 

A parade in Montserrat.

Parade in Montserrat.

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Montserrat girl

Montserrat girl

Girls on the beach at Little Bay

Girls on the beach at Little Bay

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Taking the Waters at The Bath Hotel in Nevis

 

From St. Kitts we sail a few miles southeast to Nevis, the smaller and fancier of the twin islands. We drop anchor in front of the main docks in Charlestown, the biggest and most populated town in Nevis. In the backdrop, beyond the towns and villages, a small green volcano rises to meet the clouds.

Nevis

Nevis

The architecture of the old colonial town of Charlestown is impressive with a few heavy stone cathedrals and old buildings neatly restored, painted in pale cheerful colors. But the most curious site with very interesting history is The Bath Hotel, at the south end of Charlestown, where a hot spring flows down from the mountain.

Charlestown buildings

Charlestown buildings

In 1778 local merchant John Huggins, clerk of the local assembly who took care of the thermal springs, decided to build a hotel nearby. His grave stone located in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Charlestown reads: “Not many years before his death he became proprietor of the neighbouring hot springs over which out of good will towards his fellow creatures and not for any advantage of his own he erected convenient baths and at a short distance a large and expensive stone edifice for the accommodation of invalids.”

The Bath Hotel, Nevis

The Bath Hotel, Nevis

The early years of The Bath Hotel were quite grand. Constructed of the grey volcanic stone found on the island cut into square blocks, the ballroom and dining hall were furnished with mahogany furniture, rich brocade hangings, and thick rugs on polished floors. British author Gertrude Atherton wrote in “The Gorgeous Isle,” a novel set in Nevis, that the hotel, which could accommodate 50 guests in its bedrooms, “was surrounded by wide gardens of tropical trees, ferns and flowers…Its several terraces flamed with color, as well as its numerous little balconies and galleries, and the flat surfaces of the roof: the whole effect being that of an Eastern palace with hanging gardens, a vast pleasure house, designed for some extravagant and voluptuous potentate.”

Maya and the Big Tree, the Bath Hotel, Nevis

Maya and the Big Tree, the Bath Hotel, Nevis

The Bath Hotel in Nevis was the first tourist hotel and tropical sanatorium in the entire Caribbean region attracting not only ‘invalids’ but all the fashionable of the West Indie: rich merchants and planters, military officers, as well as wealthy European aristocrats arriving here to treat their ailments and soothe their aching muscles in the sulfuric healing waters of the volcanic hot spring administrated by skilled physicians, as well as to enjoy the social scene in Nevis.

Hot Spring Pool

Hot Spring Pool

The Bath House and other bathing facilities built at the base of the hotel capture the thermal spring water with near boiling temperatures and high sulfur content produced by groundwater coming in contact with hot volcanic rock. These mineral waters, it was believed, had restorative powers able to cure gout, rheumatism and other debilitating conditions.

The Bath Springs, Nevis

The Bath Springs, Nevis

But after the downfall of the sugar production and trade and with the emancipation of slaves in 1834, the hotel lost its clientele and fell into disrepair. In the following years various owners restored it to some degree and today it is a government building housing various government offices and the Nevis Island Administration.

Inside the Bath House

Inside the Bath House

The Bath House

The Bath House

The Bath House is abandoned and in ruins, but residents and visitors can still ‘take the waters’ in the two mineral water pools outside of the hotel, at no charge.

Maya and Mira at the Bath Springs

Maya and Mira at the Bath Springs

It is noon in July, the air is burning hot in the tropical sun, but the water in the shallow pool that smells of boiled eggs is even hotter.
Slowly, gradually, painfully, I enter the hot pool. It feels like billions of tiny needles on my skin. I don’t know if these waters will heal my aching muscles, but if I remain submerged for over 10-15 minutes my heart will fail for sure.

Maya is testing the water temperature with a toe while Mira is 'taking the waters' at the Bath Springs, Nevis

Maya is testing the water temperature with a toe while Mira is ‘taking the waters’ at the Bath Springs, Nevis

It’s time to cool down with the help of a huge bucket of ice cream back on the boat and we are ready to sail again. Next stop: Montserrat.

 

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Journey to the Lost Waterfall

Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountain accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there’s no single fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsing

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The island of St Kitts is of volcanic origin with tall steep mountain hills covered in tropical rainforest. There, in the mountains, rivers of cool delicious water cascade down carving small canyons among centennial trees, and then through the valleys they reach the sea.

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A waterfall is hidden in these forests, high in the hills home of shy vervet monkeys and spirits, far away from people and towns, at the edge of a river canyon.
There is no path leading to this waterfall and to reach it you have to walk parcour style for three hours up a river, climb over rocks, big and small, and fallen trees, until you are all soaked wet from the river and the sudden rain, and your hair is covered with gentle spider webs full of tiny disoriented spiders.

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It is not a famous, big, roaring waterfall, like the ones that pop up in your imagination when you think about waterfalls. It is rather a very small, very gentle, almost transparent, almost silent trickle of water hidden among green shadows, and many people wouldn’t go through all the trouble to reach it. They would be disappointed. They would say: Is this the waterfall, after three hours of walking inside a river, climbing across boulders and fallen trees?

Oh, but is worth it. Both the journey and the destination.

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We needed someone who knew the way to lead us to the waterfall, and of course our friend Sejah Joseph came along as our guide. He said he knew how to get there, even though he only went once a few years ago.

Sejah Joseph

Sejah Joseph

The first attempt to reach our goal failed. We start unprepared, wearing flip-flops , thinking that the place is not far away and the path to get there is easy. We start up a dry riverbed and soon it becomes not only difficult but dangerous climbing over huge boulders. We don’t know how far away the fall is, and even though Maya wants to continue and not admit failure, we have to turn back.

Maya

Maya

The second time, a few days later, we put on our serious climbing shoes and chose a different path walking inside a river with the water rushing against us.
Chances to find a waterfall up a river are much bigger.

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– Are we almost there, Sejah?, we ask after some time.
– Maybe.

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We walk inside the river which is knee-deep most of the time and the water is cold and refreshing ‘like water from the fridge’, Sejah says.

When it rains we hide under trees and eat the sandwiches I made and the mangos we found along the way.

We drink the water from the river-fridge, it is cool and sweet and precious.

 

Sandwich break under the rain

Sandwich break under the rain

– These trees are four or five hundred years old, Sejah says.
– Oh, so they were here at the time when Columbus found the island?
– The island was never lost…

Evo and Sejah

Evo and Sejah

Nor is our waterfall.

We have reached our destination, the point in time where we stop for a while and turn back. At the end of the river, the end of our journey, from a rock covered with eternal moss: a silent waterfall.

Mira

Mira

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