Fishing

Before coming to Saint Petersburg, Florida, we spent a few days in Palmetto fishing in a remote park. We bought our fishing gear in a store called Outdoors Living not far from Naples, $250 for two fishing poles, pliers, a knife, hooks, and a book telling us all about Florida’s fishes. The store is an impressive two-storey building full of fishing and hunting gear, ornamented with ponds and huge fish tanks full of live fish, all sorts of stuffed animals and wonderful archival black-and-white photographs of hunters and fishermen showing off their catch. There is also a restaurant with heavy wooden tables and the same kind of old photographs decorating the walls, where fish and game are served. The whole place is like a museum or a gallery; there is even a signed first edition Hemingway book. One can spend a full week and lots of cash shopping here.

At the park, we catch couple of small sheep’s heads, a grouper, and four catfishes (according to the book). Maya is a natural fishergirl, she has lots of fun catching her first fish ever! So does Viktor too. I don’t catch any, because I don’t fish. I photograph the birds instead. The same evening, Ivo and Viktor clean the fish, I cook it, and we have a pretty decent meal.

We learn how to cast, catch, clean, fillet, and cook each type of fish  from the fishermen we meet every time we go near a shore or on the pier. They are more than happy to show us which bait and hooks to use for which fish. We got our first bait from a guy who gave us a bag of leftover shrimp as he was done fishing and ready to go home. After that we started using cut fish from our catch. So far, we haven’t bought any bait and we have more than enough in the freezer. We also learned that to catch small bait-fishes or shrimps with a long-handle fishing net is harder than fishing with a fishing poll; maybe even impossible. People do that with cast nets. We didn’t have a cast net until yesterday, when a new friend, Jackie, who lives on a house boat in the Municipal Marina in St Pete, gave us one. Thank you Jackie!!! We will try it today or tomorrow!

Since that first time, we now fish regularly, once or twice a week, whenever we feel like it. We have a spot in St Pete where we go out at dusk and we catch grunts, about 15-20 for a nice family meal. The grunt is a small greyish fish, who tastes pretty good and is not too bony. When we pull him out of the water, he starts complaining, making these heartbreaking snorting noises like small burps that sound just like his name repeated fast a few times: grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt, and that is why he is called a Grunt. I wonder what he is trying to tell us in his last moments of panic. I wish I could speak grunt language so that I could understand his plaintive moans, but he remains mysterious, as fish always do. I’am pretty sure he is swearing, calling us bad names, screaming unspeakable insults at us as he realises how fatal his cannibalistic gluttony is. Last time, Viktor and me were catching grunt after grunt, a whole burping chorus, and Ivo was trying to gut them and clean them on spot but he couldn’t keep up with us pulling a fish every few seconds, and so finally we had to stop fishing and wait for him to finish the dirty job before we go home. We had a decent meal that evening, and even Maya who has been reluctant to eat fish until then, liked it! I cooked it in the oven  with some oil, salt and garlic for 30 minutes, as Jackie instructed me, and sprayed it with lemon juice once it was ready. Thanks again Jackie, I wonder what would happen if I had baked it for one hour and a half as I planned to…

I hope you don’t think that we are cruel heartless people killing innocent fishes… We only take what we need for supper, as we are trying to learn „to live off the land“. You should see what happens to the romantic mullets who gather in great orgies and come in St Pete each year to make love near the shores blissfully unaware of the pack of fishermen awaiting them. This year the school arrived in the harbour just in front of the park where we are staying and we accidentally became first-row spectators of the greatest fishing-drama ever witnessed in our lives. I will tell you all about this in my next post.

Ivo trying to catch small bait-fish with a long-handle fishing net in a crocodile-infested pond. Impossible...

Ivo trying to catch small bait-fish with a long-handle fishing net in a crocodile-infested pond. Impossible…

Maya fishing for a first time

Maya fishing for a first time

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg. Baba Ghanoush is in a romantic mood, basking in the sun. 

A Great Blue Heron looking paranoid, about to break the law.

A Great Blue Heron looking paranoid, about to break the law.

A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron looking melancholic

A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron looking melancholic

An Osprey with his catch.

An Osprey with his catch.

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Saint Petersburg Boat Show 2012

We are in Saint Petersburg, Florida and we will be staying here for a while. We came to check out a boat our broker found for us: a 42 Tatoosh 1982. It is not a bad boat, but it doesn’t click, as we are told it should. It is a bit small for our needs; has only two cabins and we need three. But as we got here, we discovered that it is a perfect place to learn to sail and stay for couple of months. The city is beautiful and friendly and every weekend there is some event going on.

The first one is a four-day boat show starting Thursday, November 29th and we decide to check it out. We buy half-price discount tickets $5 per adult per day, free admission for the kids, and we spend two days, from 10 am to 5 pm, looking at all kinds of marine technologies and collecting brochures  visiting sailboats, and listening to seminars given by all sorts of sailing experts with hundreds of years of sailing and cruising experience. Each seminar lasts about 45 minutes and we go to five each day. Three seminars go on at the same time in three different tents and sometimes it is hard to choose which one to attend, so we split. Ivo and Viktor go to tent A and learn about Solar and Wind Power Technologies, or Marine Plumbing- Modern Solutions, or Marine Air Conditioning, while Maya and I sit in tent B listening to Corinne Kantor telling us all about Galley Secrets A-Z. We go together to Cruising for Couples, Caribbean Cruising, On Board Emergencies, Getting Started- Is Cruising for You?, Preparations for Offshore Cruising, How to Use a Chart, Novice to Medalist: How to Develop your Sailing Skills given by Jen French, a silver medallist from the US sailing team at the 2012 Paralympics Games in London. Before her lecture starts, she asks us if we know the difference between the Olympic Games and the Paralympics Games. She explains that the Olympic athletes are so called “able bodied” or people without any disability, while the Paralympics athletes all have some sort of a disability. Jen survived a spinal injury while snowboarding in France and is in a wheelchair. Her story, determination and victory make all our problems, our daily struggles seam insignificant. Long after her seminar, I am still thinking about the role of the body, how it is perceived in professional sports, and the great challenge it presents for disabled athletes. For „able-bodied“ athletes, the main goal is training and developing the body as perfectly as possible in order to use it as a tool for achieving success, setting records, and winning medals, while for „disabled-bodied“ athletes the imperfect body becomes the main challenge, the first obstacle to overcome.

Posing with Jen French, silver medallist from the 2012 London Paralympic Games. I am holding the medal after a seminar she gave at St Petersburg boat show, November 30, 2012

Posing with Jen French, silver medallist from the 2012 London Paralympic Games. I am holding the medal after a seminar she gave at St Petersburg boat show, November 30, 2012

At the end of the second day, we walk out of the boat show full of new information and invaluable knowledge. We are more determined to find the boat for us and live the life we have already chosen, but before we continue our search, we will be staying in St Pete, learning to sail on small 18 feet keel boats at the Sailing Centre, living in one of down town Saint Pete’s Public Parks.

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Johnny and the Birds

On wet mornings when people are still sleeping in their beds in their bedrooms breathing rhythmically slowly approaching the end of their nightmares, only birds scavenge the city. Birds don’t waste their lives lost in dreams as much as humans do. They even sleep with only one eye open.

An absent-minded bird is standing at the edge of an empty street looking undecided, his three pink fingers clutching the cold concrete.

One.

And then more birds start to arrive marching in military formation to inaudible commands: Left, Left, Left Right Left!, carrying the blades of their beaks like pink bayonets, oblivious to the vacuum of the empty city.

They take their post up on a strategic wall, their silk uniforms emanating nuclear white light. Balancing on one leg, one eye locked towards the imaginary slaughterfield, they wait.

Three.

As more birds join the ranks of the bird army each minute appearing out of nowhere like puffs of breath on a cold mirror, the anxiety swells.

One Hundred and Nine.

Suddenly, an old man on a bicycle gracefully skimming between the impenetrable green and the wide-open unprotected grey glides in like a ghost. From all directions, alarmed, the birds lift their weightless bloodless bodies pirouetting through the air like puffy clouds chased by winds and gather around the man on the bicycle.

Oh my God!, they have been expecting him, I just realised! They knew where and when, and they knew why (or so they thought) the man was arriving. All this marching and waiting and gathering has been meticulously planned many days in advance. The arrival has been inevitable.

Again suddenly, the man stops in the midst of white feathers and pink beaks. His name is Johnny, but the birds don’t know that. All they know is that Johnny has been arriving on his bicycle every early morning for the past four years gently throwing dog food in the air.

When Johnny goes away the birds become disoriented. The air is void again. The city awakens, the birds disappear. Only scattered droppings remain.

Are you a good guy, Johnny? White feathery hair.

One soldier is going to be missing tomorrow, only his feet to be found.

He has been the bravest but also a bit foolish.

His flesh tastes just like chicken, so he won’t  be remembered.

One Hundred and Eight.

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The Shark Tank

After spending some time looking for more information on which boat is best for the cruising family and reading other people’s posts in a sailing forum, I too posted a small question hoping to get some advice from the more experienced “old salts” about which boat would be best for us. What followed, along with welcoming and kind encouragements, was a storm of criticism. The forum folks basically told us that “this is not the way to do it.” Here are some favorite excerpts:

“Shear insanity as are all the posts offering encouragement to these totally unrealistic, unprepared Daydreamers; no experience, no knowledge, limited funds, no real plans [children’s long term educational, destinations etc etc].
The best part is that they will, in all likelihood, end up on some other Nation’s welfare rolls other than Canada’s.”- duanecatman

“ Since you haven’t had a boat or sailing experience, and are mobile, perhaps a cartopper sailingdinghy would be a useful addition to your belongings. Buy or build, there are plenty of options that won’t break the budget. Your mobility is an asset, and with the mobile home your first vessel doesn’t have to do it all….beach cruising is the topic to research. The small boat can then serve as dinghy for the liveaboard if you decide to keep going. For fitout, repairs and maintenance, spend only about half your kitty on the actual purchase…and be very careful about the purchase.” –micah719

“ The notion that a family of 4 with two small kids and absolutely no sailing experience are going to buy a 40 footer and sail off is nonsense. You might as well , suggest buying a 737 and fly off. Did you buy your camper van and just “ drive off“ of course not you have driving licenses and. Suspect some experience in driving cars too.
Get some sailing experience in first , crew , see of you can handle the environment. Make sure the kids can handle it. Otherwise the sea does not suffer fools gladly.
Put a toe in the water not your whole body.
Given that you are most welcome to CF of course.” – Dave

“I think ,making such a huge step into an area you have no personal experience at all in is foolish!”- foggysail

Not all sharks in the tank bite though, some understand the notion of ‘difference’ and ‘individuality’ better than others and allow for an alternative way of doing the same thing; a bit of foolishness is permitted.

“maybe these folks should try the cruising life first before diving right in”

„This is said over and over in various forms in various threads. What makes this true? It is different from the reasonable advice not to buy a boat and sail across an ocean the next day – but really why shouldn’t people dive right in?
Some people live life by diving in, that is their personality. I really don’t see anything wrong with making a major life decision, assuming you have full awareness and support from your spouse and kids, and just going for it.
Will they get the best boat this way? Of course not. Will they make tons of mistakes? Of course.
Who cares, this is what they are choosing to do. They seem smart enough not to do something foolish so lets offer more advice on what boat to buy and advice on how to manage your systems, repair sails and deal with the strange new world of marine toilets instead of wasting everyone’s time saying that same worn out mantra over and over again about how if it took you 20 years to be able to make the right decisions it should take everyone else the same time and the same path.” – foolishsailor

Here are the rest of the posts in the forum

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f49/four-people-and-a-sailboat-the-quest-93441.html

Everyone we met on our journey so far has been much supportive of our endeavor, telling us we are doing the right thing. But you know, people, when you talk to them face to face, especially when you meet them for a first time, are generally nice and careful not to offend you. Sometimes, out of much practiced politeness, they wouldn’t tell you their true opinion.  In forums, however, the opposite phenomenon can be observed. There, hidden behind their screens and nicknames, people feel free to write what they truly think, sometimes forgetting about such things as politeness and courtesy. I guess I prefer an honest insult to a dishonest compliment.

The result of this forum-experience so far is:
1. We took everyone’s advice and signed up for a sailing school in Saint Petersburg, Florida. We will learn to sail on basic 18-feet keel boats for 75$ for me and Ivo + 350$ for a full year of unlimited sailing on these same keel boats. This means that we will be able to sail every day from 0800 to 1700 except on Mondays for a full year exploring the St Pete bay area and the kids are welcome onboard with us. They too will learn to sail. How cool is this!!! So we will be staying in St Pete for a while, couple of months probably, until we feel comfortable with the small boats.

2. We will sign up for crewing bigger boats and hopefully someone will take us on board as free helpers later on.

3. We will not spend money and time chartering boats, we just cannot do this.

4. We will keep looking to buy a boat hopefully by the end of the winter.

Mira and Maya infront of Saint Petersburg municipal marina

Mira and Maya infront of Saint Petersburg municipal marina

18-feet keel boat number 2 at the sailing school

18-feet keel boat number 2 at the sailing school

Posing with Jen French, silver medallist from the 2012 London Paralympic Games. I am holding the medal after a seminar she gave at St Petersburg boat show, November 30, 2012

Posing with Jen French, silver medallist from the 2012 London Paralympic Games, sailing. I am holding the medal after a seminar she gave at St Petersburg boat show, November 30, 2012

 

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Cape Coral, Florida

After Jacksonville, Florida, we go to Fort Lauderdale with great expectations to find a boat. But there is nothing for us and we are greatly disappointed…The best think that happens during our stay in this big crazy place, apart from spending a few days on the beach, is getting in touch with Harry Schell from Edward Yacht Sales, who is now our boat broker and is doing a truly amazing job researching the boats we are interested in, finding others that could be suitable, giving us plenty of good advise. He send us to Cape Coral to check out a boat. A 47 Wauquiez, French boat in good shape, one we are considering buying. We stay in Cape Coral, on the west side of Florida, for three days.

Here is an example of one day and all the things that happened in it.

We wake up early in the morning under a mango tree in a park next to the beach. The air fresh, the wind tamed, everyone greeting us Good morning how are you. We go jogging and then, just when we are ready to leave for the beach, we meet David and Doris. They are curious about so many things and come visit us inside the motor home. Our first guests since we left Canada. Most people so far have been suspicious of Baba Ghanoush, even racists. They see her old, wrinkled, poor looking, not like the luxurious expensive shiny motor homes, and they immediately form some sort of a negative opinion about us. Once, they even called the police just like that, to check and make sure. People are like that, they judge you based on appearance, based on your clothes, based on your haircut, based on your car, based on the things you own, based on your disorders, and they don’t even try to get to know you before they sentence you to eternal disapproval. There are some exceptions and David and Doris are an example of such an exception. “If I don’t open this book, how will I know what is written inside. If I don’t talk to you how will I know what kind of a person you are”, says David. And we talk for some time. We talk for the amount of time needed to get to know each other.

Then we go at the beach. Viktor doesn’t want to come so he stays in the motor home reading and relaxing alone. At the beach, Maya makes a new friend, Briana; I make a big sand alligator, Ally.

The Sand Alligator

Shortly after we are all set up at the beach, Doris shows up, tells us there is a Thanksgiving dinner today at the church; we should hurry up if we want to get some free food. She takes us with her car to the church. There are many people inside a huge haul sitting around big tables. We all take a seat and we are immediately served by young volunteers. Everyone gets a full plate of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, it is so tasty! We even get two portions to go, one for Viktor and one for David, who missed the party. Before we leave, we (and a hundred more people) get a big box full of potatoes, some canned greens, bread, and a nice frozen turkey, everything free! I can’t stop smiling, I love this!

An hour later we are back at the beach again. Briana is waiting for Maya, Ally is waiting for me. Next, we feed birds, we see a girl doing a back flip, we meet three boys with a shovel digging a pool, and we cut Maya’s hair at sunset, as we have planned it, as a ritual, as a performance for the ocean and the seagulls, as a tribute to the sand alligator of Cape Coral who became alive at midnight and forever disappeared in the night waters of the Mexican Gulf.

I believe that there are no good places or bad places in the world. What we consider a good place is a place where we had a good experience and vice versa. We develop a relationship with a place. A good relationship can transform the most common, sad, even desolate place into a good place. A bad event can spoil your relationship even with the most beautiful of places. The hardest thing is leaving a good place and its good people, Briana, David and Doris, thank you for being good friends even only for a day…

Cape Coral was a good place to us.

Briana and Maya feeding the seagulls

A girl doing a backflip

Danton, Isaac and Marc. 
-What are you going to do with this shovel?
-Dig.
-Dig what?
-Dig a pool.
They start digging the pool but soon abandon the project and one by one bury each other in the sand instead.

Cutting Maya’s hair

Short-haired Maya

Briana and Maya, new friendship

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Four People in a Caravan. Life in and Around Baba Ghanoush

Let me take you for a tour of our old caravan Baba Ghanoush, so that you can get an idea of where and how we spend a big portion of our days and nights since we left home in the beginning of November.

Maya ,making potato salad

You can come in trough the driver’s door but better don’t if you are not the driver. Better use the main entrance on the right-hand side and please take off you shoes, as we are trying to keep it clean. When you enter, you will be surprised, almost not going to believe how spacey and nice it is inside. This is because you are judging our Baba Ghanoush based on her outside appearance. I admit, she is not in her prime, looks old and wrinkly; a total wreck just days away from falling apart and passing away in RV heaven, God bless her soul. But I am telling you, she is good spirited and healthy as a horse, as a hundred horses and more! Haven’t you learned already, the true beauty is inside, el cuerpo es solo un estuche; lo que importa es lo de adentro.

Viktor, playing his x-box

My first impression of Baba Ghanoush was, Wow! she is huge! There is place for two additional seats between the driver and the passenger seat on the front. Behind the driver seat there is a couch along the wall facing a small table  and an armchair on the opposite wall behind the passenger seat. On the small table Ivo installed a 32 inch flat screen TV and Viktor plays his x-box on it. This area is the living room which becomes Viktor’s room at night. He sleeps on the couch which is big enough for a tall and thin person like him without even opening it. When he is not in a lazy mood, he does open it and the couch transforms into a queen-size bed.

Computers for everyone

Next, step into the kitchen and the dining room. A table big enough for four with two double seats on both sides is where we eat, study, draw, and play cards in the evenings when we don’t run the generator in order to save on gas and so we have no electricity. Ivo, Viktor, and Maya play this new card game Magic Cards full of creatures, lands, artefacts  spells, sorcery, and other such things that can give you the shivers, while i prefer to read a book or write. For light we use three solar-battery lanterns and we can also use the stove which runs on propane and thus cook meals without the electricity on. Sometimes we run the generator for a few hours and then everyone gets comfortably in front of some sort of a monitor. Viktor usually plays Skyrim or Mindcraft on the x-box, Maya plays Animal Jam on line and Ivo and me we use internet to research boats and marinas. We get free internet at every McDonald and at many other places everywhere (next to motels, coffee shops, marinas, etc.) Sometimes we watch film together. Last time we watched Werner Herzog’s  The Wild Blue Yonder and we all fell asleep before the end of the movie. It is not my favourite Herzog film but it is still an amazing transformation of archival documentary underwater and space exploration footage into a fictional story about a failed extraterrestrial invasion. It is so weird it is hard to describe, but if you are familiar with Herzog you know what to expect. Kind of.

Maya and Viktor in the morning. Rise and shine!

The dining room becomes Maya’s room a night. The table falls down a bit so that the cushions can be arranged to form a nice comfortable bed. Opposite this dining table is the kitchen with a few cupboards and drawers, the stove, a sink , a microwave, and a fridge. A small but well equipped kitchen. It has everything we need to store products and prepare tasty meals.  So far I have made soups, potato salad, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, and even palachinki (the transcription for the Bulgarian word for crepes). Palachinki is our family’s favourite breakfast and there isn’t a soul in the world who would refuse a hot palachinka with strawberry jam under any circumstances, I am sure. For those poor creatures who still haven’t tried them, here is how the make them:

Mix 3 eggs, 3 cups of milk, and 3 cups of all purpose flour, a spoon of sugar (honey or brown sugar will do as well), a bit of salt, and some vanilla. Poor about half a cup of the batter in preheated non-stick pan greased with a bit of butter before every palachinka. Flip them when one side is ready. Eat them hot!

You can wrap just about anything in a palachinka; ham and cheese  your favourite jam, Nutella, etc. They are like the bread in a sandwich, only much tastier. And be careful, you might get addicted!

The Making of Palachinki

The Eating of Palachinki

For lunch we eat whatever is available, trying to keep it healthy and inexpensive. Here is an example:

Lunch for Four

One package hot dogs                               $ 1.00

Half a dozen eggs                                        $ 0.80

Two pound sweet potatoes (boiled)   $ 0.70

A third of 1 package wheat bread        $ 1.00

Two beers                                                      $ 1.40

A third of one celery                                $ 0.30

total           (for four people)        $5.20 

(The beer here is so much cheaper than in Canada, we feel obliged to drink one or two per day, plus it is a wise think to do in the Floridian heat.

On the back, just before the big bedroom, there is a big wardrobe which holds all our clothes and a small bathroom with a toilet, a sink, and a shower which we decided not to use unless we stop at a campground with a full hook up. Instead, we use showers, toilets, and laundry available at every marina we stop for a night or other places. This can be very inconvenient, but we are kind of experienced and used to this way of travelling given that we have been working as long distance truck drivers for years now, so it is not a problem at all. Besides, now most of the time we are stopped at one place and spend much more time at the beach or at some marina and not actually travelling. It is fun to find alternative ways of doing things and so far the craziest thing we’ve done was taking a shower at the beach, with soap and shampoo, and all.

As you see, our vehicle is also a 3 ½ apartment furnished with everything our humble family of four needs. The only problems we have with Baba Ghanoush is the amount of gas she consumes ( about $1,000 to get from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale in two weeks), and finding parking space in crowded cities. We learned a $300 lesson here in Ft Lauderdale a few days ago, when she got abducted and towed away from the parking in front of a small shopping mall while we were blissfully splashing at the near beach. Now we know where to park and where not to.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

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Green Cove Springs Marina, Florida

Meanwhile, we are fast forwarded to Florida. At the first marina we stop in Virginia, several people, a boat broker included, advise us not to loose our time looking for a boat in North Carolina or South Carolina, not even in Georgia. „The boat you want is in Florida“, they say, after we tell them what boat we are looking for.

We are looking for 44 feet or bigger,thick fibreglass, none of the fancy popular models like Catalina, Beneteau, Janeau, which are appealing to the eye and affordable but lightly built and are so called „pleasure boats“, not fit for extended blue-water cruising. Has to be a sloop, or only one mast, not a ketch (with two masts); cutter is better than a centre cockpit, but this is one thing we can compromise with; draft 6 feet maximum; step on keel mast; in good general condition  especially the hull. We are not much concerned with speed, we are not going to race her, but we will live in her and take her around the world, so it has to be safe first, as well as sturdy and comfortable for a family of four.

A 44 footer is considered a big boat, and for this reason mainly it is most probable to find one in Florida, the sailboat capital of the world.

So, instead of Virginia Beach, as we had planned, we go to Jacksonville, FL, skipping three states. We stop at the first little marina we see there, and ask two guys on the pier who to talk to about a sailboat. They are very helpful and welcoming people, both offer their own boats which happen to be for sale (it looks like every boat in Florida IS for sale), but as soon as we tell them we need 44 feet and over, they back up. They have smaller ones. The office at the marina is closed already, it is almost 7 p.m., but we can talk to a broker there tomorrow, they tell us. We thank them and we go to the public parking not far from there. We are not parked yet, when two cops surround us flashing their lights. What the hell!!! The guys we talked to called the police! The police (two young women) can’t tell us why. They actually don’t know why. Nobody knows. I bet, not even the guy who called them knows why he did it. Probably he thought our Baba Ganoush looks suspicious. I bet this is it. They have never seen such a weird old motor home inhabited by people who claim are looking to buy a boat the size of a ship. I admit it makes no sense. Still, it is not enough reason to call the police, is it? Is this how the people of Florida show their hospitality to us, friendly Canadians? I am outraged. The police checks our ID-s, I give them my expired student card, and everything looks OK. Even our 1988 motor home seams to be legal and we are finally left alone. I am mad for the rest of the evening, I can’t believe it. I want to find the guy who called on us and scream at him. But I don’t.

Next morning, we go to another marina and we talk to a woman at the office who seems extremely amused at the fact that we don’t have a phone. She laughs so sincerely I start thinking it is funny myself. She gives us a phone number of the best broker in town and even lends us, poor people, a phone. One hour later we meet a guy at the biggest marina- a port- in Jacksonville area. It is impressive. We haven’t seen anything like it so far. A dirt road leads to 10 huge piers. We drive by big fishing boats and old ships, cranes and alien-looking rusty structures before we get to a small building in the middle of a boatyard. Most of the boats are out and dry, bearded people busy around them, scraping them, patching them, painting them.

This is a hardcore marina, nothing like the fancy one in Virginia. There are trailers and motor homes even older than ours permanently parked on the sides amidst old dark trees, thick vegetation climbing all over them.

This is NOT Baba Ghanoush, but a distant relative of hers. (Note the black cat in the flower pot)

Here old captains live while fixing their boats; people from other places and times, more ancient then mythology itself, full of stories and ocean salts. We feel at home.

We meet our broker excited; we will finally visit a sailboat for sale! He points to a boat, nice and big enough, but we don’t even go in to see it, it is not good enough for Ivo; the keel is too big, the draft is 7 feet, it is too much. Ivo knows exactly what he wants and he will not compromise. He is like that with everything and I kind of envy him for that. So this one is out of consideration, and after a short talk, the broker tells us there is nothing like the boat we imagine, not here at least, and he goes away. We are a bit disappointed…

We spend the night parked there, next to the water. It is the quietest of all nights since we left, and the hottest. All the buzzing and screeching, all the noises from the busy daytime machinery go to rest. As the dark falls, little lamps illuminate the boats from the inside like Halloween pumpkins and only black cats are left out to roam the night.

The next morning we talk to some of the boat owners and meet some interesting people at the porch in front of the office, free coffee for everyone, who give us much valuable information.

Tyler

It is amazing how much we have learned for the past days just talking to people. The best advise everyone agrees on is „Just go strait to Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. The boat you are looking for is there“, they say. And they know.

Hobart

Thus, we get to Fort Lauderdale only two weeks after we left home and we haven’t visited a single boat so far.

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When the Money Runs Out?

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it.     -Thoreau

For the first time since I started this blog I have a serious question about our enterprise, a question most difficult to answer. A dear friend wrote to me

So – I read the blog. Exciting stuff! Wish you best of luck in your undertaking. I am extremely curious where this adventure will take you. Counterculture has been dwindling since the 1970 because of stagflation and other reasons plaguing many hippies with economic issues and throttling their opportunity to live outside mainstream society. Maybe you’ll reverse the trend. I am not saying this jokingly, but for after the money runs out, have you honed your survivalist skills, i.e. fishing, hunting, fire-making, farming and so on? Docking a boat in Australia and finding odd jobs in this economic climate, seems of low probability, but surely is exciting. On the other hand, if indeed what you are doing can be done without resorting to survival skills, it would be great to know. Your journey can turn into an interesting book – that could be one source of income for you – royalties! Good luck to you Buddy.“   – Ivan Mitev

I answer him this in our correspondence:

Thank you so much for this comment! Having a discussion on issues that are truly affecting our reality; sharing different perspectives and opinions, as well as personal experiences, is what I expected from the blog. And most of all, I appreciate any helpful advice or information, and even doubtful questions that could make us rethink and re-evaluate a situation. 


You are questioning the probability to find a job when the money runs out considering the global economical climate, suggesting using survivalist skills as the only alternative for, well…surviving.


We have some basic survivalist knowledge, but by living on a boat and exploring natural wilderness in many different places on the planet, we are hoping to acquire and develop survival skills such as fishing, hunting, shelter and fire-making, and even farming, although farming is an attribute to sedentary life (depends how long we stay in one place). I think such skills are absolutely necessary for anyone who is undertaking extended off grid travels. 


That being said, I still do believe that it is possible to have some income from odd jobs in foreign places, depending not only on the economical climate, but also on individual skills. It could be really hard to find such an opportunity, I agree, but my greatest confidence comes from the fact that Ivo and I both have many diverse skills and knowledge that have been serving us so far in finding a job whenever we need one. Especially Ivo. He is a handy guy who can repair anything in a house or even build one; he is a professional mechanic, truck driver, and cabinet maker; can repair car and marine engines; can weld, work with wood and metal, has some basic electrician skills, and he is also good with computers and software. He is extremely resourceful and applies his lateral thinking to problematic situations in his work. He has extensive trucking experience, furniture making, construction, as well as some farming knowledge and experience. He is extremely efficient and fast worker and all his employers loved him for that. 


Me, I speak five languages and graduated in Fine Arts, minor Spanish, major photography. As part of my Spanish language studies, I also took a course on teaching a second language. I could do “odd art-jobs” in fields such as sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, textile, visual arts and off course photography. And for any photographer, going out in the world is like for a cook going grocery shopping. I also love film and literature; I like to write, although my English and my creative writing skills still need improvement. My hope is that maybe thanks to our unconventional travels, I will be able to produce photographic work, commissioned work, freelance, a book, yes, why not!, who knows, that will lead to some income. And, last but not least, I am also a professional truck driver and together with Ivo we are an experienced team, a profession in high demand and extremely well paid in North America and Australia. Also, we could always come back to Canada if we have to and start trucking the next day. This would be the worst case scenario.


Finally, what we are doing is not such a big deal; lots of people are doing the exactly same thing or even crazier things than this. We have met some of them and they have encouraged us a lot saying, It is not as hard as it looks. 


For me these travels are a unique opportunity to make art, to spend time with my whole family and be in charge of my children’s intellectual and physical development; to see the world, and to satisfy my hunger for adventure and freedom. It is our dream, and even if there are many hardships on the way, I am willing to take the risk, as I have always done, hoping for the best. But what will actually happen, will we be able to pull it off, who knows?

A day after I write this answer, I go to a small laundry room at a marina in Virginia to wash a bag of dirty clothes. There, sitting on a shelf, are some old books left for the traveller to read while the machine is busy washing clothes, or to take away if he so wishes. Among them, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Thoreau:Walden and Other Writings. Now this is a find! I’m taking those two. My book collection is growing, soon we won’t be able to move from the weight of the books and I will have to start leaving them on shelves at marinas. (By the way, the wet books I found in New Jersey are now dry but all curly except the thick one Hitler’s Scientists. This one will never dry and will have to go in the garbage. The others will undergo straitening procedures.)

Back in the motor home, after the laundry is done, I start reading Thoreau and I am delighted… He turns out to be an eccentric,  the kind of harmless anarchist I have always considered myself to be. Preaching individualism, simplicity and non-conformity, Thoreau’s writings influenced many, among them Tolstoy and Gandhi. He is my new-found hero.

First I devour A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a contemplative account of a one-week journey by boat with his brother composed mainly of lengthy descriptions of natural scenes and occurrences as well as personal reflections written so delicately, so beautifully, my mind is glowing with joy; I can’t get enough of it. Suddenly he writes:

Sadi tells who may travel; among others, „A common mechanic, who can earn a subsistence by the industry of his hand, and shall not have to stake his reputation for every morsel of bread, as philosophers have said.“ He may travel who can subsist on the wild fruits and game of the most cultivated country. A man may travel fast enough and earn his living on the road. I have at times been applied to to do work when on a journey; to do tinkering and repair clocks, when I had a knapsack on my back. A man once applied to me to go into a factory, stating conditions and wages, observing that I succeeded in shutting the window of a railroad car in which we were travelling, when the other passengers had failed. „Hast thou not heard of a Sufi, who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal; an officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, Come along and shoe my horse.“ Farmers have asked me to assist them in haying, when I was passing their fields. A man once applied to me to mend his umbrella, taking me for an umbrella-mender, because, being on a journey, I carried an umbrella in my hand while the sun shone. Another wished to buy a tin cup of me, observing that I had one strapped to my belt, and a sauce-pan on my back.“   -Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849

I discover with amusement that these words confirm what I was trying to explain, only he wrote them in the 184o-s and the economical climate was surely different back then, so one may argue they are not valid today. Still, I think most of what Thoreau wrote so many years ago can be applied and interpreted within the same lines even in today’s social context, and that makes his teachings universal.

Next I read Civil Disobedience, an essay he wrote after a night in jail for refusing to pay government taxes, and Walden, his absolute best and my young love for Thoreau grows ever stronger. But the fact that so much of what he wrote almost two hundred years ago is still valid today; the fact that nothing in the essence of today’s society has truly changed; not for the better at least, is sad and disappointing. Looks like people did not learn from their mistakes; did not even realise them. The result: today still “ The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.“

 Thoreau’s greatest wisdom is Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity. It is not so much a question of how one will earn a living, but how he will manage his earnings. If one is content with little, one doesn’t need to earn much. In Walden, I find passages so inspiring I feel almost enlightened. Still, I don’t think I learned anything radically new, I only get reassured that we are on the right path, the right path for us that is.

„The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?“

  

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Sailboats in Virginia

There were a few problems with our motor home, so we waited two days in Ashland, Virginia for our Baba Ghanoush to be fixed in a truck repair shop. We got new tires, front alignment, new springs, and repaired drag link. Total $1300… Big blow for our budget but still a lot less expensive than if we had done it in Canada. Now we are upgraded and there shouldn’t be anything major to repair any time soon.

Chuck (as in Chuck Norris), the mechanic who fixed the springs, the steering, and the alignment of Baba Ghanoush

Today, finally, we started looking at some boats.

And some of the boats looked back at us.

The people we met were happy to give us all sorts of advise.

Wayne from Texas

We learned a lot about where to look for a boat, what models are best for our needs, what size boat will be most suitable for extended cruising with two big kids.

Agricultural activities at the marina

The weather in York River Haven Yacht Club, Virginia is peacefully orange at sunset.

We didn’t find a good boat for us here, so tomorrow we will be going to Virginia beach. We will be visiting lots of marinas in Hampton.

We are hoping to find one there!

Maya is meditating on a circle of rope

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People, Drowned Objects. A Photo Essay

Lying on her side on a bicycle path, the first sailboat we see on our journey is a surreal sight.

A sailboat washed up by hurricane Sandy on the bicycle path in Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

If I was some creature from a distant land that has somehow appeared in Hoboken, I would think that this is a strange place populated by strange people. I would not know that something terrible had happened here just days ago.

Flooded building, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would not know why there are small dead fishes lying flat in the middle of the streets.

A dead fish, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

The sidewalks are full of drowned objects, basement creatures forgotten in dark corners, memories dug up for a last time awaiting their final journey to the landfills of New Jersey.

A damaged painting of the Twin Towers, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would probably think that in the beginning of winter a sad and silent spring-cleaning festival has been organized here.

Portrait Gallery

The first person I meet in a dark wet basement is Terrie. She looks like someone from outer space with a gas mask, a flash light on her head and plastic bags on the feet.  Her basement got flooded and she is emptying it all up.

Terrie

The next person I meet is Enrique from Ecuador. He is helping Terrie to clean up. Enrique doesn’t speak English so I get a chance to practise my Spanish. He urges me to take a mirror with a heavy wood-carved frame.

Enrique from Ecuador

After Enrique, I meet Major Charles Kelly from the Salvation Army. I never thought that the Salvation Army IS an actual army with majors and all…They are here to help people with shelter and supplies, he tells me.

Major Charles Kelly

Next to a public park in a residential area I talk for a bit with Morgan, a volunteer worker on a lunch break helping to clean up the city after the storm . He tells me where I can get some hot empanadas.

Morgan, a volunteer worker

Further down the street a soldier from the U. S.  Army poses for me. His name tag reads Rodriguez. He explains that the Army is bringing in supplies and equipment and his job is to protect a small area on the main street close to the City Hall for these operations. He thanks me for asking. Asking what, I ask him. „Asking if I don’t mind to have my picture taken. Usually people just shoot without asking me.“

Rodriguez, a soldier from the U S Army

I also ask many questions a young guy named Alex from Vinton, Iowa. He works as a volunteer for FEMA, department of Homeland Security, an organisation that is supposed to help people during disasters. I ask him if he has seen a documentary entitled Camp FEMA, a much more sinister explanation of the organisation’s role during times of distress. No, he says. He has come all this way along with many other college kids hoping to help.

http://www.campfema.com/

Alex from Vinton, Iowa, a volunteer for FEMA

Down the Washington street, I ask a Hoboken policeman to pose for me. Officer Nicholas Burke. Initially he refuses, telling me that he is not supposed to pose for pictures and suggests I photograph him incognito from a distance. But then we start talking about photography and finally he is happy to pose. Tells me he is a photographer himself. We understand each other.

Officer Nicholas Burke, Hoboken Police Department

I am happy to have met all these people who talked to me about helping and carrying for each other in times of crisis.

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