Grenada: Installing Solar Panels

 

Installing Solar Panels

Installing Solar Panels

Time to leave St Lucia and head directly to Grenada where our friends Mel and Caryn are getting two new huge solar panels shipped from Florida for their Island Packet S/V Passages.

We have been cruising together with Mel and Caryn since Guadeloupe, for over two months now, and we have become very close friends. They are both extremely humble cultured sweet people who enjoy travel and adventure very much.

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mel was born in Namibia and Caryn in Zimbabwe. They met in South Africa and later moved to Australia where they live since 7 years now. We have spent many evenings sharing meals aboard Fata Morgana and Passages, listening to their incredible stories of Africa. „You have to be very careful with Africa, said Caryn one evening. Once she gets in your blood there is no getting her out of you. You always want to comeback there.“ When she speaks of Africa, of the places in Africa, the sounds of Africa, the animals of Africa, the sunsets of Africa, her voice fills with tenderness and nostalgia.

Caryn with a Rasta Man in St. Lucia

Caryn with a Rasta Man in St. Lucia

Mel is a mechanical engineer but works in business software now, and Caryn is a school teacher, and she must be the best school teacher in the world. They are now in their early fifties and have ventured for work and for fun all over the world in most continents, in hundreds of countries. In 2013 they bought S/V Passages, a beautiful island Packet, and have been sailing through the Bahamas and the Caribbean since then, pretty much n the same rout as us. After a few months, they will be leaving the boat here in Grenada and return to Australia to work for awhile, before continuing with their sailing adventure.

S/V Passages

S/V Passages

Mel is also a professional marathon runner. He is participating in marathons all over the world almost every year. He can run a lot… So Ivo, who likes to go jogging early in the morning found a great companion. They run for about 6 to 10 km every second day and of course talk about all sorts of things while running, like solar panels and lithium batteries, boats, and other important stuff. Thus, the plan to instal more solar on S/V Passages was consolidated and soon put into action.

Ivo and Mel installing solar panels

Ivo and Mel installing solar panels

Ivo is excited to help with the installation. After all, it is his fault Mel and Caryn ordered two panels a lot bigger than they initially wanted. We have 5 big solar panels aboard Fata Mоrgana and two smaller ones, producing a staggering 1,500 Wаtts of pure solar electricity, and often we inspire cruisers to get more solar panels. We also have lithium batteries, instead of AGMs or flooded, which is something very new and innovative in the world of sailing. We think, it’s the future of boat batteries. I have previously posted a very detailed article about our solar installation, which can be found here. So Ivo convinced Mel to go bigger, get double, supersize! We are all about off-grid living and alternative energies, so when friends go solar, we all celebrate.

Viktor and Ivo installing Kyocera solar panels aboard Fata Morgana, November, 2013, Florida

Viktor and Ivo installing Kyocera solar panels aboard Fata Morgana, November, 2013, Florida

We sail 110 NM to Tyrell Bay in Carriacou together with S/V Passages bypassing the big island of St Vincent and the smaller islands of The Grenadines where we are planning to return in due time and explore them thoroughly.

We are getting 18-20 kt east winds between the islands, but when we are behind the island, even though we keep at least 10 miles distance between us and land, the wind just stops and of course we stop too… We wait, Ivo pulls the boat with the kayak and we even try the „new“ used spinnaker we bought in Martinique. But nothing works. After a few hours the wind returns and we sail again.

Flying the Spinnaker

Flying the Spinnaker

We arrive in Carriacou on the second day of our passage and we stay there only a couple of days, just to check-in and to rest a bit.  Then we sail again, to St George’s, Grenada.

St George’s is the capital and biggest city of Grenada and a popular tourist destination. Its big wide horseshoe-shaped harbor is surrounded by a hillside of an old volcano crater crowned by the 1705 Fort George on the northwestern tip. The city is beautiful, old colonial buildings standing guard around the harbor, narrow streets crisscrossing the steep hills, providing glorious vistas of the bay.

St George's Grenada

St George’s Grenada

We drop anchor in the anchorage outside of the harbor, S/V Passages go to Port Louis Marina, ready for some new solar panels. In the next two days Ivo and Mel work hard from dawn till dusk. Looking for parts, which can be tricky in Grenada, building two frames with stainless steel one inch tubing, one over the bimini an one over the davits, and finally mounting the panels.

Mel and Ivo busy with the solar panels

Mel and Ivo at work

The biggest problem they encountered while doing all this was that the fittings which were labelled one inch, where actually smaller, 7/8, and there were no one-inch fittings anywhere on the island. To order them from Martinique would take one month and so Ivo came up with the idea to grind the stainless steel pipes and make them fit in the 7/8 fittings… This took a whole day. But the next day the frame is ready and the new Kyocera 350 watt panels are up on the boat.

Installing the Solar Panels aboard S/V Passages

Installing the Solar Panels aboard S/V Passages

 

While Ivo and Mel are busy with the solar panels, Caryn, Maya and I spend the days at the marina swimming pool, where Maya quickly makes a great new friend, Meagan, another cruising kid.

Maya and Meagan at Port Louis Marina's pool

Maya and Meagan at Port Louis Marina’s pool

And when the job is done, we celebrate with a lovely dinner aboard solar-powered S/V Passages.

Maya aboard S/V Passages

Maya aboard S/V Passages

Installing solar panels aboard S/V Passages has been a great rewarding experience for all. And it is not over. Mel and Caryn are planning to get even more solar panels in the next months and thinking about switching to lithium batteries too. The lithium batteries are lighter, smaller, faster charging, holding their voltage much more, can be discharged at ones, can be discharged completely without damage, and are now very affordable. If you look at our Sponsors Page you will find a link to Balqon, the company with the best lithium batteries prices in the USA. You will also find E-Marine Systems, the best prices and quality for solar panels. After one year of using our lithium batteries, we are extremely satisfied and would recommend them to anyone. Lithium batteries are the future of cruising.

Mel and Ivo and the solar panels

Mel and Ivo and the solar panels

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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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Happy One Year of Sailing To Us

Mira, Evo, Maya and Viktor 1 year The Life Nomadik

Mira, Evo, Maya and Viktor
1 year The Life Nomadik

 

Our Sailing Journey is One Year Old Today

 

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One year ago, in July 2013, we took off from Florida aboard Fata Morgana, our new home and ocean vehicle.We headed south.

In the next twelve months we visited a dozen countries and over 50 islands.

 

Florida

Fort Jefferson, Florida

Fort Jefferson, Florida

Cuba

Cuban girls

Cuban girls

Mexico

Tourists at Tulum

Tourists at Tulum

Guatemala

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The Bahamas

Maya and Mira

Maya and Mira

Dominican Republic

Comparticion, last basecamp before Pico Duarte

Comparticion, last basecamp before Pico Duarte

Puerto Rico

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U.S. Virgin Islands

Water Island, Honeymoon Beach anchorage

Water Island, Honeymoon Beach anchorage

British Virgin Islands

The Baths, BVI

The Baths, BVI

Saba

Saba. View form Scout's Place bar and restaurant

Saba. View form Scout’s Place bar and restaurant

Sint Maarten

Evo's bottle, St Maarten

Evo’s bottle, Sint Maarten

Saint-Martin

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

St Barth

Anse de Flamand

Anse de Flamand

St Kitts&Navis

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Our Journey

We met remarkable people and made many new friends.

Noial, Sofia, and Maya in traditional mayan costumes. The skirt is called corte and the top is gupil. Mayan women in Guatemala wear similar clothes.

Noial, Sofia, and Maya in traditional mayan costumes. The skirt is called corte and the top is gupil. Mayan women in Guatemala wear similar clothes.

We swam with dolphins

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And we swam with pigs

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We walked across spectacular forests and river canyons.

Maya walking through the jungle, Guatemala

Maya walking through the jungle, Guatemala

We jumped from waterfalls

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

We entered caves

Daeli and Ivo lightpainting in a cave, Guatemala

Daeli and Ivo lightpainting in a cave, Guatemala

We discovered new flavors and fragrances.

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time. Saba

We snorkeled in coral gardens with tropical fishes in water like liquid glass.

Underwater sculpture of grand piano and mermaid, Bahamas

Underwater sculpture of grand piano and mermaid, Bahamas

We learned to surf

Maya

Maya

We got involved with many of the communities we visited, we volunteered and worked with the locals.

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

We met a whale

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And a sea turtle

A green sea-turtleheading back to the sea after laying her eggs.

A green sea-turtleheading back to the sea after laying her eggs.

We met howler monkeys

Black Howler Monkey

Black Howler Monkey

We saw flamingos

DSC_1797

 

We caught a lot of tasty fish

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

We lived the dream.

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We did all this while being very conscious about the fragile environment we enjoy so much.

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We sailed for over 3,700 nautical miles without polluting the air and the sea, almost not using the engines. fueling once every 6 months. We also used a kayak instead of a dinghy.

Mira "sailing" the kayak with an umbrella

Mira „sailing“ the kayak with an umbrella

We lived off-grid not paying electricity bills, water bills, mortgage, taxes, or any other bills thanks to our solar panels and watermaker.

Viktor and Ivo installing solar panels.

Viktor and Ivo installing solar panels.

Our average speed was 3.7 knots which makes us Slow Pokes Drifters, but we had to sail against waves and tradewind most of the time heading east-southeast, tacking constantly, but not turning the engines on, no matter what.

Evo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off...

Evo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off…

 

Thank You!

The people we met along the way, whom we befriended, who helped us and guided us, who shared our adventures and joys are the most treasured part of our journey. We thank you!

Friends Key West, Florida

Friends
Key West, Florida

Tyler, you started us sailing and helped us so much. Thank you, we love you!

 

Vanessa Linsley, you were not just our broker, you literally adopted us, guiding and helping us so much. Thank you!

 

Rich, you were there for us when we needed you most. Thank you!

David, Lori, Kashara and Dylan, we value so much your company and all the lessons you thought us about sailing and cruising even before we started. Thank you!

 

Dale, you were the best boatyard neighbor. Thank you for the books and the veggies!

 

Peter, you fixed our jib and thought us so much in our first days of sailing, thank you!

 

Sherry and Nate, you adopted our Baba Ganoush, best thing that could happen to her! And you gave us Agent Orange! You have no idea how much we appreciate this kayak, thank you!

 

Tony, Cherri, Stacie, Ryan, Joey, Rebecca, Miranda, Sky, we had so much fun with all you guys in Key West. Thank you!

 

Suzy Roebling, we learned so much about sea turtles thanks to you and we really enjoyed the coconuts. Thank you!

 

April and Harley from s/v El Karma, you gave us lures, helped us to fix our watermaker, and shared some great moments in Cuba with us. Thank you!

 

 Daeli, Joni, Elan, Lovam, Noial, and Spirit from s/v Friendship, you and your journey inspire us so much. We love you, we miss you and we hope we will see you again soon!

 

Joseph, Jana, Katchka, and Anichka s/v Blizzard, so grateful we met you guys and shared so many crazy adventures in Guatemala together!

 

Alice s/v Suricats, yoga in the morning with Joni and you was one of the best things in Rio Dulce anchorage. Thank you!

 

Angie and Marty, thank you for your hospitality!

 

 Scot, Stephanie, Riley, and Wren, s/v Kiawa, without you our journey in the Bahamas wouldn’t be the same!

 

Ben Rusi, s/v Christel, great meeting you in the Bahamas!

 

Susanne and Jan s/v Peter Pan,so good sharing a few moments with you!

 

Mary, Shane and Franklin, great meeting you all, you have amazing stories! Hope we meet again around Australia next year!

 

Kate and Rob, nice bumping into you, twice!

 

Gabriel and Jade, how awesome of you to take us surfing in the Dominican Republic and show us how it’s done! Thank you!

 

Joao, Nae, Maria, and Noel, s/v Dee, it was wonderful having friends along the way between Domincan Republic, Puerto Rico and St Maarten, and sharing so many moments (and a rental car)!

 

Ivan, Nikola, Peter, Nanny, we had the best time with you in the Bahamas and in Puerto Rico, good old friends. Thank you for your visit and for all the gifts!

 

Greg and Michelle s/v Semper Fi, great meeting you in Puerto Rico guys and sharing your amazing stories! Thank you for the tips, the T-shirts, and the hats!

 

Tom, you mad our stay in Water Island unforgettable, thank you!

 

Ilian and Bisi, it was so great meting you in Saba, hope we meet again!

 

Martine Dora and Raphael, happy to have met you in St Maarten, hope we see each other again, maybe in Tahiti? Raphael, thank you for the ride!

 

Line and Corentin, thank you for your company in St Kitts and for the music!

 

Sejah Joseph, thank you for being our friend and guide in St Kitts!

 

We also want to thank our Sponsors, all those companies and individuals who supported our journey. Thank you!

 

 

What’s Next?

Our plans are weather dependent and as fluid as the sea. If all is well, we will keep sailing south the Windward Islands, exploring some more interesting places, until we reach Tobago. From there we will sail west to Columbia, then Panama and across the canal to the South Pacific and Australia next year.

 

Follow our journey and LIKE us on Facebook to find out what will happen in our SECOND year of sailing. Everyone is welcome aboard!

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

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Passage South. Betsy Bay to Booby Cay

 

Day 1 George Town to Long Island

 

Day 2 Long Island to Crooked Island

 

Day 3 Crooked Island to Aclins

 

Day 4 Aclins to Mayaguana

 

Passage South Map

Passage South Map

 

Day 5 Mayaguana West Side to Booby Cay

Thursday, March 13

From Betsy Bay we sail east along the south coast of Mayaguana Island. The cruising guides advise to stop at Abraham Bay, an anchorage only 6 mi east from Betsy Bay, with a settlement nearby, the only all-weather anchorage in Mayaguana. But we decide to keep sailing for 18 more miles to the easternmost point thus shortening the distance for our next passage to Turks and Caicos with 18 miles.

We are doing 7 knots and get to the easternmost point of Mayaguana in the early afternoon where an anchorage is indicated on our charts between the main island and a small cay, surrounded by reefs from all sides.

“There are places where in settled conditions you can work your way in through cuts in the reef due south of Booby Cay, but we think you’d be crazy to attempt it.”

I am quoting from The Bahamas Cruising Guide, page 264. So, according to the cruising guide we are crazy to attempt anchoring near Booby Cay! Well, according to us, they are liars. Getting through the cut in the reef on the south side of Booby Cay is no problem at all. It is a wide deep (18-20 feet) cut, no current and no swell. We slowly and carefully sail through it (no engines), terrified for no other reason but the cruising guide’s warnings.

Once through it, the anchorage is huge and calm, gradually becoming shallower as we sail closer to land, but is sand everywhere with few coral heads which are well indicated on the charts and visible in day light. Holding is excellent. Mayauana to the west, Booby Cay to the north and a massive reef all around to west and south like a fence make it a delightful place to wait for a weather window (unless a hurricane hits, I guess). It can get a bit wavy in south and west winds, but nothing unbearable. One thing is true, though: there is nothing here, no fuel, no freshwater, no public laundry, no shops. The nearest civilization is 18 miles away. But guess what, we don’t need fuel, we produce our solar electricity and fresh water, and we have a fridge full of tuna. We don’t need no civilization!

Booby Cay in Mayaguana is the wildest place we have been to in the Bahamas, our last Bahamian stop, and our favorite anchorage where we spend 6 unforgettable days. Mainly, because of the recently wrecked boat we found there from which we salvaged a bunch of useful things, as well as the hundreds flamingos nesting in the shallow waters near the beach this time of the year.

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Our Friends, The Forbidden Island, David Copperfield, And The Barracudas.

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When our friends came to visit us in the Bahamas for a week they surely didn’t imagine that so many crazy things can happen in just a few days. Ivan, one of our best friends ever, his 16-year-old daughter Nanny, and 18-year-old son Nikola who is also Viktor’s best friend (the mastermind behind Viktor’s Achievement List), landed in George Town and survived a week aboard Fata Morgana sailing in good weather and in bad weather complete with a 35-knot squall and huge waves, entering through a narrow cut between rocks and breakers at night with the current against the boat and both the skipper and the helmsman (Evo and Mira) panicking, discovering a magical island and its enchanted inhabitant, spearfishing in barracuda-infested waters, snorkeling with stingrays and starfishes, swimming with sharks and mermaids, kayaking in a small grotto at night where the only light is from the photoluminescence in the water, almost burning down a palm tree, feeding coconuts to a man-eating dog, and eating barracudas every day.

Evo and Ivan sailing into the sunset.

Evo and Ivan sailing into the sunset.

About 35 miles north of George Town is Rudder Cay. It is a private island with a few remote beaches and beautiful rocks with a small cave owned by the famous illusionist David Copperfield.

Rudder Cay, cave and beach

Rudder Cay, cave and beach

We were told that there are video cameras surveying the shores and a man-eating dog guarding the island’s secrets, so better don’t go ashore, you don’t want to mess with a magician and his rabid dog.

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As we get to the island, first thing’s first, we go ashore. Some of us swim, some of us pile on the kayak and we are all on the private beach in two minutes. We can’t wait to meet David Copperfield; he would be the first famous person we meet in the Bahamas.

Kayaking to the forbidden island.

Kayaking to the forbidden island.

We roam the island, collect coconuts, and explore the cave, but no sign of the magician.

inside the cave

inside the cave

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Mira

Mira

 

Then suddenly, as we are peacefully chopping coconuts on the beach, a dark hungry creature emerges from of the bush. Is it David Copperfield? Is it Robinson Crusoe? Is it Tom Hanks? Is it the man-eating dog? We are seven people. Three say it’s a dog, four say it’s David Copperfield. Finally we agree it is the illusionist who, after a magic-trick-gone-wrong, turned himself into a dog.

Evo getting some coconuts.

Evo getting some coconuts.

Evo opening coconuts

Evo opening coconuts

 

A dog shows up.

David Copperfield

Poor David Copperfield, his fur matted and smelly, his nails overgrown, marooned on his island with no company, no food, and no freshwater.

David Copperfield is our friend

David Copperfield is our friend

He avidly eats about four coconuts, and from then on becomes our good island-friend and guide. We call him David for short.

David eating coconuts

David eating coconuts

The next day, while Ivan and Evo go spearfishing in the reefs, the kids, David, and I go to the other side of the island where we discover another secret beach. We bring leftover chicken bones and give them one by one to David. We have lots of fun. Everyone is happy.

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Maya making weapons, just in case, before the private island exploration

Maya making weapons, just in case, before the private island exploration

 

Viktor and Nick

Viktor and Nick

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

 

same people, in the air

same people, in the air

 

Back on the boat, we organize a jumping competition.

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Same people, in the air

Same people, in the air

 

Evo doing a halo

Evo doing a halo

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

 

Nick and Maya

Nick and Maya

In the evening, we go back to shore with a huge bone we promised David and we make a huge bonfire on the beach with driftwood and dry palm leafs. 

Fire on the beach

Fire on the beach

Nanny and David

Nanny and David

 

Around the fire

Around the fire

Evo, the pyromaniac, is having lots of fun that evening.

Evo burning down the house

Evo burning down the house

no explanation...

no explanation…

 

The next day, we discover another of this enchanted place’ secrets: a mermaid playing a grand piano underwater.

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The life-size sculpture commissioned by Copperfield made of stainless steel is submerged in about ten feet of water, and the trick is to find where exactly it is.

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Nick

Nick

 

Mira

Mira

Best time to see it is at low tide, when the current is not too strong.

Ivan (!?)

Ivan (!?)

We are all sad leaving the island after a couple of days, especially leaving David behind, alone again. Nanny really wants to adopt him.

Please, if anyone ever goes there, bring some food and freshwater to the dog who is not dangerous and is completely abandoned. He survives on spiders and lizards, and drinks seawater… We all thought abandoning a dog alone on an island (to guard the private property from trespassers) is an example of animal cruelty, and whether David Copperfield or someone else is responsible for this, it is not an honorable thing to do.

Next, we spend a few more days sailing from one island to another, spearfishing, snorkeling, exploring, swimming, jumping, and kayaking some more. Everyone has a blast. We even eat the barracudas Ivan catches all the time. People say you can get ciguatera poisoning from barracudas: a bacteria found in big predators who eat smaller fishes who eat corral, but Ivan has come to the Bahamas to fish and eat fish, and nothing could stop him from eating barracudas! Still, we take precautions: we only keep the smaller barracudas which are safer than the bigger ones and we let our guest taste a little piece of the fish first. Then we wait about an hour to see if something unusual will happen to our friend. If he is still alive after an hour, means the barracuda is safe to eat, and we stuff ourselves with the white tender filets. It is one of the best tasting fish we ever had, and is the easiest fish to catch. Yum!

Nick with grunt

Nick with grunt

Nanny with starfish

Nanny with starfish

 

Assorted fishes

Assorted fishes

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Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Ivan and Evo with barracuda

Ivan and Evo with barracuda

 

Thus, a week passes way too fast, and when our friends leave it is hard to get used to the boat without them… We surely miss them.

Evo and Ivan

Evo and Ivan

Nick

Nick

 

Nanny

Nanny

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Men With Machetes, Bones With Souls, Mountains With Secrets

“Not even anthropologists or intellectuals, no matter how many books they have, can find out all our secrets.”
-Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Lake Izabal

Lake Izabal

„Are you afraid of death?” he asks me with the same intonation as if he is asking Do you like yellow flowers. I don’t know how to answer. My mouth becomes dry. „When you go to the graveyard, are you scared?” he clarifies.

„When I was a little girl, yes, I was scared of death and to go in graveyards, but now no. Now I am more afraid of the living than of the death.“ We both lough at the joke.

 

Hiking through the jungle

Hiking through the jungle

 

We are walking on a dirt road through a vast plantation of palm trees, the guy and me, past a palm-oil treatment plant, across a wide shallow river, and into the shadow of a jungle-covered mountain. Ivo, Joni, and the two other guys are walking ahead of us. We met them this morning. We don’t know their names. We don’t know if they are good guys or bad guys. All we know is that they are young indigenous Q’eqchi men who agreed to take us to a cave in the mountain above their village. They are wearing jeans, t-shirts and black rubber boots, carrying small backpacks and machetes.

 

Cutting a nut-like fruit called Monok from a spiky tree

Cutting a nut-like fruit called Monok from a spiky tree

 

The whole thing happened spontaneously. We were sailing along the remote edge of Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s biggest lake. It was getting late; we had to find a place to anchor overnight. We approached the shore where a big column of grey smoke was coming out of the forest: a village, we thought, and that’s where we stopped. From the boats we saw a few houses on the banks of the lake. Tiny, made of thin logs and roofs of dry palm leaves. Behind them, the heavy humid mountains of Sierra de las Minas: white limestone covered with thick intensely green jungle. The night fell.

In the morning the entire village gathered on the shore to meet our kayak. Caxclampon Pataxte is a small community of a few hundred indigenous Q’eqchi, mostly children. Tourists don’t stop here often, and so our visit is a huge event.

 

The people from the village greeting us

The people from the village greeting us

 

“Are there caves near-by?” I ask. Only a few speak Spanish.

„Yes, there is a cave not too far; we can take you there if you like.“ Thus begun our journey.

Once we enter the jungle and start climbing the mountain there is no road anymore. Our progress is slow and difficult. The guides use their machetes to cut a path through tangled vegetation and dig holes in the steep slopes making steps for us. The terrain is extremely harsh, at places seems impossible to pass.

 

Hiking

Ivo with one of the guides, hiking through the jungle

 

By the time we reach the cave, our guides tell us all about their struggles against the Colombian palm-oil company which, since over a decade now, is exploiting and polluting their land. The vast plantations of palm trees we have seen on our way, the smoke of the palm-oil treatment plant, the channels dumping chemical waste in the lake, are all killing the trees, poisoning the water, and bringing disease to their children. They have been robbed of their ancestral land by a corporate giant and are now fighting to get it back.

 

Road through the plantation

Road through the plantation

 

By the time we come back from the cave, we have become friends. The kind of friends who look out for each other and can count on each other. We could count on them for protection against the village crooks and the company people who saw us taking pictures and filming around the palm-oil treatment plant; they could count on us to tell their story of struggle against injustice.

 

Taking a break, sharing stories

Taking a break, sharing stories

 

We get to the cave’s entrance after about three hours of extreme hiking through the jungle. It is a small hole in the grey rocks leading down. The three guys stop at the edge of the hole to say a muffled prayer in Q’eqchi before going in. We follow. It is a place they rarely visit, they say, a sacred site for prayers and rituals; for secrets and secret knowledge. We are the first white people to ever enter this cave.

 

Saying a prayer in front of the cave entrance

Saying a prayer in front of the cave entrance

 

They lead us into a narrow dark corridor, humid and cool. We get to a chamber. The light of a small flashlight illuminates scattered objects on the floor: yellow bones, human skulls, lower jaws with crooked teeth. Some are calcified to the cave’s walls; others lay loose on the ground. It is a Tomba Maya, they explain, a Mayan burial ground. The skeletons must be hundreds of years old, they say, from the times before the Conquista.

 

Inside the cave

Inside the cave

 

Being in the presence of ancient Mayan remains is something both strange and beautiful. In the dark, my mind begins to wander. The cave with its breath of a carnivorous flower becomes a temple; I become a ghost from a faraway land.

“I am honored and deeply grateful, I whisper, to be here with you: men with machetes, bones with souls, mountains with secrets.”

 

Mayan remains inside the cave

Mayan remains inside the cave

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16 Advantages of a Simple Kayak

A simple kayak will:

 

1. Get you to a shallow place

A simple kayak will take you to the place you want to go, even if it is too shallow for a dinghy.

The drought of a kayak is 0.0002 ft.

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Near Comunidad Indigena Caxclampon Pataxte, Guatemala

 

2. Get you to a quiet place

The kayak has no engine, therefore it makes no noise.

Sneaking near an indigenous home on Lake Izabal, Guatemala

Sneaking near an indigenous home on Lake Izabal, Guatemala

You can sneak upon people’s properties without being noticed; or float downriver without disturbing the wildlife.

 

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Floating down the River Polochic, Guatemala

3. Get you to a tight place

You can paddle even in mangroves, between roots and branches.

 

Mangroves near Cayo Levisa, Cuba

Mangroves near Cayo Levisa, Cuba

4. Get you to a beautiful place

With the kayak you will be able to explore the most beautiful places on your journey.

 

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

5. Not pollute the waters

Keeping the environment clean (and having your conscious clean) is another advantage of not having an engine.

River Lilies

River Lilies

 

6. Save you money

This is an obvious one. No engine= no fuel= no dollars

 

Mira and Ivo paddling. Photo bi Joni Spencer

Mira and Ivo paddling.
Photo by Joni Spencer

 

7. Provide a nice spot for kids to do art while under sail

 

8. Provide a dark shady spot on the boat for resting

Maya sleeping under the kayak

Maya sleeping under the kayak

9. Keep you in shape

Paddle, paddle, paddle! Often living on a boat means less physical exercise. Paddling the kayak will make you spend that extra energy and it is good for your heart and muscles.

 

Maya and the kayak in front of Fort Jefferson, Florida

Maya and the kayak in front of Fort Jefferson, Florida

10. Take your kids and their friends off the boat

The kayak will become a favorite jumping-off platform and transportation for your kids, no matter how old they are. They will paddle between boats to pick up their friends, go to shore, or to explore the region.

Maya and Noial in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Maya and Noial in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

 

11. Provide transportation for Cuban officials

If you ever sail to Cuba you will be unpleasantly surprised how many times you will have to deal with officials. Every time you move the boat from one cayo to another you will have to do another immigration checking out and checking in. The Cuban officials will board the boat every time to verify if there are any undocumented people on board (you are not permitted to have Cuban friends visiting the boat EVER even if the boat sits at the marina). Making the officials paddle to the boat instead of taking them there by dinghy is a nice little revenge.

 

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.  Here Ivo and an immigration officer paddle the kayak, El Poderoso (the name of the kayak means The Mighty One in Spanish) back from the boat anchored at Cayo Levisa. Fastest kayak ride ever, said Ivo.

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.
 Cayo Levisa, Cuba

12. Be loved by children everywhere

When you show up with a kayak in an indigenous Mayan village in Guatemala, you become The Event of The Year. Not you, the kayak!

Finca Jocoro

Finca Jocoro

There hasn’t been any scientific research done on the subject of How many indigenous kids can sink an unsinkable kayak, but the experiments have already started.

 

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

13. Help you make friends

Your new indigenous friends will visit your boat if you invite them. They are as curious about your way of life as you are about theirs.

 

Friends from Playa Pataxte visiting the boat

Friends from Playa Pataxte visiting the boat

You may take a few kids to the boat on your kayak, the rest will arrive shortly with their lanchas and cayucos.

 

Our kayak also has new friends!

Our kayak also made new friends!

14. Transport you and your groceries

You can park your kayak on the docks everywhere and visit the local village or town. Be sure to lock it against theft, though. When you comeback with bags full of fruits and vegetables, the kayak will be there for you. It will take more load than you think.

 

Agent Orange waiting for us next to Angelica and Andrea... Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Agent Orange waiting for us next to Anthonia and Andrea…
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

15. Transport 10 cases of 24 beers!

Yes, it will. You can load as much cases of the cheapest beer you ever saw on a simple kayak as you want. 10 is not the limit!

 

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala

16. Pull your boat

When there is no wind there are but a few alternative ways to advance with a sailboat without using engines. Put your flippers on and go push the boat; or jump in your kayak and pull! Ivo has done both, but he prefers to pull: it’s more efficient. His record speed pulling the boat by kayak is 0.5 knots!

Ivo pulling the boat, Lago Izabal, Guatemala

Ivo pulling the boat, Lago Izabal, Guatemala

 

The story of Agent Orange

 

A few months ago, our good friends Neith and Sherry gave us a kayak along with a bunch of other useful things, before heading off to the desert in New Mexico where they will take part in The Solar Ark Project. We named the kayak El Poderoso which means The Mighty One in Spanish after Che Guevara’s famous motor bike. But after some time, we nicknamed him Agent Orange, as the kayak’s most notable feature is his bright orange color.

 

Agent Orange is a simple plastic unsinkable kayak. We didn’t realize then how much we will be needing it on our travels. The kayak became one of our most treasured possessions. We use it for transportation to go from the boat to shore and back when we are anchored someplace, as well as for a number of other things and I am sure that the list of ways to use it will keep growing with time.

Sailing into the sunset

Sailing into the sunset

 

 

 

 

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The River Cave Expedition

 

 

The River Cave Expedition is the first of series of expeditions we went on together with our friends, the Friendship crew and the Czechs, on the north and west shores of Lago Izabal where we sailed together for almost two weeks.

 

Fata Morgana, Blizzard, and Friendship crews

Fata Morgana, Blizzard, and Friendship crews

 

The members of the River Cave Expedition are: Josef and Katchka; Daeli, Noial, and Lovam; and Ivo, Mira, Viktor, and Maya. Total of nine people. Meanwhile, Joni with Elan who was born with cerebral paralysis, and Jana with Anichka, spend the day at the Agua Caliente waterfall. They will join us for the next adventure.

 

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We start at the Agua Caliente waterfall going up river. There is no other path but the riverbed. In the beginning it is wide and shallow surrounded by lush jungle vegetation. But soon it gets narrower and the water becomes deeper and faster, cutting a deep canyon through the mountain’s grey rocks. An awe-inspiring view.

 

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Some places are difficult and dangerous to pass; we help the younger kids climb big boulders and swim across deeper waters. Josef has to carry Katchka most of the time. Lovam accepts help very rarely and only if he truly needs it, trying to keep up with Maya and Noial who are jumping from rock to rock with great ease leading the expedition.

 

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After a while we get to a small pool of green water where the river suddenly stops, turns towards the eastern wall of the canyon and enters a dark cave. We follow. The water inside the cave is still, deep, and freezing cold. This is the place where the river sleeps. We only have two submersible flashlights for nine people, so we keep one in front and one in back of the group. We swim in the dark cold water getting deeper and deeper into the cave until we don’t see light from the entrance any longer. The world becomes black. Colors never existed here; the sun has no memory of this place. We are blind.

It is a completely new and bizarre feeling swimming in a cave, in total darkness. We hear the tiny sounds of bats above our heads. We are trying to hold on to the wet slippery rock-walls covered with guano. Everything is mysterious. Who knows what  thing without eyes is lurking in the waters beneath. Who knows what thing without soul is listening from the cave’s ceiling some 30-40 feet above our heads.

Only if you abandon yourself to the cave and its secrets you will be able to feel and appreciate it. Fear should not enter the river-cave.

Everyone is silent. At places there are big rocks we have to go over one by one helping each other. I am expecting some of the kids to start panicking in the darkness, but it seems they all are truly enjoying the ride, even Katchka, she is so brave! And Viktor tells me later this was his favorite of all expeditions so far.

 

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Then, gradually, the silence gets filled with the muffled sound of water booming in the distance: an underground waterfall. The roar trapped in the cavern gets louder as we go further and soon we cannot hear each other anymore. We now feel the strong current against us. The waterfall is about fifteen feet tall and the only way to continue would be to climb over it. So we turn back. The journey back to the cave exit is a lot faster, going with the current.

Exiting the cave is a happy moment. I think of Plato’s caveman and his amazement at the outside world. The trees, the river, the clouds, the rocks. We look at each other and we lough. Wow, what an experience!

We have reached the end of one more unforgettable journey.

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The Cave’s Exit

 

 

* All photos were taken by Daeli with his GoPro camera

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Beyond the last thing you see in the distance. The story of the Czech family.

 

 

Katchka and Anichka aboard Blizzard

Katchka and Anichka aboard Blizzard

Another great family we met and befriended here in Rio Dulce Guatemala are Jana, Josef, Kachka, and Anichka, living and cruising aboard Blizzard, a 1982 32 feet Beneteau. They are from the Czech Republic and that is why we call them the Czechs.

 

Together with the Czechs and with the FriendShip family (read about the extraordinary story of the FriendShip family here) we spent over a week sailing around Lago Izabal, Guatemala’s biggest lake. We visited a mining village, explored a cave-river, went for a swim in a canyon, climbed a mountain, and took a dinghy ride down the Polochik River with howler monkeys in the trees around us.

 

Friendship, Fata Morgana and Blizzard sailing in Lago Izabal

Friendship, Fata Morgana and Blizzard sailing in Lago Izabal

The Czechs captivating stories of most unusual travels and adventures invigorated us and gave us a new charge for living. Here is a fraction of their journey; the entire story would take many pages to write.

 

Josef 37, and Jana 30, are the sweetest most humble ever-smiling people, as if surrounded by a transparent cloud of serenity. Truly Zen. Kachka 4, and Anichka 2, on the other hand, are two wild water creatures who will scream and cry and throw things to the ground out of sheer boredom, but are thrilled when it comes to swimming inside a completely dark cave-river or a freezing canyon. You won’t believe what these two little girls have been through during that memorable week I mentioned. Heroes. But you wouldn’t be surprised that Katchka and Anichka are such adventurous brave little kids if you knew their parents.

 

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Josef and Jana share an extreme passion for heights.

 

Jana studied Economics and Operational Air Transport and worked in Aircraft Maintenance back in the Czech Republic. In her pastime she flew glider planes, the ones without engines, solo. „Nothing serious, it was just a hobby, she says. Up there, you look for the hot currents, not so much the wind. Once I flew 300 kilometers and the trick is that you always have to come back to where you started from.“

 

Jana

Jana

 

Josef, as tall and as strong as a pine tree, is a professional arborist and his specialty is high-rise work. It means, he is a professional tree-climber. His favorite job is picking pinecones from tall needle trees, the taller the better. The highest job he has done was installing ground lines for lightning on an atomic power station. So, when we saw him climb up the mast of their boat without ropes or harness in order to photograph Blizzard, Fata Morgana and Friendship sailing together, we just smiled and posed for the picture.

 

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Josef and Jana also share a passion for traveling and adventure.

 

“ I have this urge to go and see what lies beyond the last thing that I see in the distance“, says Josef. He first left the Czech Republic when he was 16, heading east. He went to Romania. He kept a travel journal and painted the landscapes on the way as he didn’t have a photo camera back then. Since, he has been traveling in many different places of the world.

 

Josef

Josef

He toured Turkey and Bulgaria on a bicycle. In Greece, he worked picking olives.

He helped a friend sailing his 15 feet boat from Italy to the Caribbean. This was his first time sailing.

 

Josef didn’t comeback from that sailing trip, he stayed in Capes Verde. When he finished the money he started working with Senegalese people polishing wooden sculptures. Thus, he became interested in Senegal. So, as soon as he earned enough money for airplane ticket he flew to Senegal. But he had no visa, no passport, and no documents of any sort. It was a huge problem at the airport, they wanted to arrest him. But he somehow managed to escape. Josef never felt freer once he was out of that airport, even though he had no money, no luggage, and no papers. Hard times followed: he was homeless in Senegal, slept on the streets, worked on farms for food.

 

Then he had the idea to walk back to the Czech Republic. From Dakar he went to the border of Mauritania. There he was “offered” to go to prison because he had no papers. In prisons in Mauritania food is not included in the services; friends and family are expected to bring food to inmates. But Josef’s friends and family were too far away. When he was very hungry he would bang on the walls of his cell until the guards or others prisoners would give him something to eat. Finally, after 10 days, the Czech ambassador got him out and he was sent back to the Czech Republic.

 

Free again, Josef went on another trip, this time to South America. He started in Venezuela and finished in Bolivia on a bicycle he bought for 2 dollars and sold for 20. In Bolivia he worked for a bit shining shoes on the street. But he was much better off this time, he remembers. He had not only a bike but also a comfortable tent to sleep in and a sleeping bag.

 

Josef with his bike somewhere in Africa?

Josef with his bike somewhere in Africa?

 

Next, he went back in Africa this time with a tent, a bicycle and papers traveling from Morocco to Mali. There he built his first boat in a very slow river in Niger. “It was not moving much”, he remembers. The boat was two meters long made from plastic water tanks. When it was time to leave again, he bestowed the plastic boat, as well as his 90 years old bike which was very heavy, to the local people and he hitchhiked back to the Czech Republic.

 

Josef's first boat

Josef’s first boat

 

There he made another boat, this time a catamaran. It was about two meters long, made from two old surfboards and a sail. Yea, it was a boat!

 

Josef's catamaran

Josef’s catamaran

 

Jana’s travels before meeting Josef were mostly within the Czech Republic’s skies.

“Once I finished in a field with my plane near a very small village. I got out and started walking to the village. On the way there I met this lady and asked her where I could find a phone. In a hurry, she told me which way to go and where to find the phone. ‘And I’ll go look at the dead pilot’, the lady added and she kept going in the direction of my crashed plane.”

 

Jana's sky misadventures

Jana’s sky misadventures

 

When Jana met Josef their travels together began. Today they sail around the world and raise their two little girls aboard Blizzard, inspiring people everywhere they go.

 

Katchka, Josef Jana, and Anichka

Katchka, Josef Jana, and Anichka

 

 

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