Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls

Emerald Pond, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

The day we go on a road trip around Dominica with a rental car which we share with our good Aussie friends Mel and Caryn s/v Passages we visit many sites all over the island, the east coast and the west coats and the middle. We take our time in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The park is an area of volcanic activity including the Valley of Desolation with its boiling mud ponds and small geysers, and the Boiling Lake which we have already visited, as well as a few rivers and waterfalls.

Trail to Emerald Pond, Dominica

Trail to Emerald Pool, Dominica

First we hike to Emerald Pool through the beautiful lush rainforest vegetation covering pretty much the entire island. It is just a few minutes walk on a very well managed trail, with steps and handrails, from the visitor’s center where we have to present our weekly park passes.

Emerald Pond, Dominica

Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica

As we get to the pool we all go Aaah!

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

The small waterfall is a charming very delicate 50-feet chute coming down from the grey rocks above, between branches and roots, cascading into a crystal shallow pool of blue-green water in front of a small grotto.

Maya at Emerald Pool, Dominica

Maya at Emerald Pool, Dominica

We swim in the pool, shower under the fall, climb the rocks around, and just chill in the shade of the forest.

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Ivo and Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica Photo by Mel

Ivo and Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica
Photo by Mel

Next, we drive to Trafalgar Falls.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

The hike to the falls is again very short, on a path through the forest. We see the two falls from a distance, Mother and Father,

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Two spectacular waterfalls, but really hard to get closer to.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

We climb over huge boulders and walk over fallen trees above the river which runs fast and furious here. Some places are dangerous.

Maya at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Maya at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Maya, like always jumps from boulder to boulder like a mountain goat and reaches the first fall before the rest of us.

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

This chute is massive, the water is booming down loud and angry, with strong wind rushing from the canyon.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

The pool bottom is sandy with rocks and some spots are very deep.

Mira underwater, Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Mira underwater, Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

We splash around some more and Ivo conquers the biggest tallest rock, as usual.

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

On the way back from the falls, next to the rive, there is a hot water stream coming down from Boiling Lake, forming yellowish geothermal ponds of very hot volcanic water.

Mira in a hot water pool

Mira in a hot water pool

So hot it’s hard to stay too long. It feels like a hot bathtub. I miss hot bathtubs…It has been a long time since I have been a tub with hot water, and I really enjoy this one. We soak int the hot waters, then run to the cold water of the river to cool down. Then repeat.

Ivo

Ivo is zen

Until it starts getting late and it’s time to go home, back to the anchorage in Plymouth, back on the boats.

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

 

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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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On Anchors and Chains

On Monday, December 9, we are ready to lift anchor and sail away from the Key West anchorage direction Bahamas. But the anchor is not coming out. Something is holding it. We are pulling in every direction but it’s no use. Ivo puts on his snorkeling gear and dives to investigate. There are about 26 feet of murky water below the keels. Turns out the chain is all tangled in ropes from the crab traps. Commercial fishermen this time of the year put their crab traps, wooden crates with a hole for the crabs to crawl in, everywhere in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys, even in anchorages. Here the traps are in a succession one after another on a long rope going all around the place without floaties on top; impossible to know where the rope and the traps are.

Thus, we are firmly attached to a messy ball of chain, rope and traps. It is too deep and the current is too strong for Ivo to dive down, cut the ropes and untangle the heavy chain without diving gear. He tries to dive down with the hose that we use to collect water holding one end in his mouth to breathe but it doesn’t work. Finally, he attaches a rope to the chain as far down as he can and slowly pulls it with the winch. This works. It takes us three hours to bring the ball of tangled chain with a crab trap stuck to it close to the surface. Ivo cuts the ropes and Fata Morgana is finally free, although the anchor and chain come out in a mess.

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All those hours of diving, pulling, dragging, and fighting with chain and ropes, no one from the neighboring boats comes to offer any help. During the entire operation I often look around in desperation to see if someone will come to the rescue. I see people on the boats anchored around us sitting in their cockpits, slowly sipping drinks, watching the reality show. Some use binoculars for better view. The thought to come over and help doesn’t even cross their minds. Makes me angry.

In every other country we have been to: Bulgaria, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, there would be a bunch of strangers showing up with whatever inadequate ideas and tools, trying to help, for free, but not in America. In America, people do not intervene. They are thought not to act but to report. If you witness something suspicious, call the police. If someone gets injured do not try to help, call the ambulance. Call the insurance company, call the fire department, call a professional, call an official, call your lawyer. That is why in America most people don’t help each other anymore; neighbors become estranged and the very word community has lost its meaning. That is also why they die in their own houses after a storm, waiting for someone whose job is to save people to come and save them. Ultimately, this imposed mentality of non-intervention and relying on some designated professional in case of anything out of the ordinary trains an entire nation in subordination to the government and officials. If there is a conflict, national or international, it is not the people’s business, but the government’s, even if the government’s actions are wrong. And this is wrong. People need to think and act for themselves more, and help each other the best they can. Do-It-Yourself, or even better: Do-It-Together, as a good friend of mine likes to say.

We manage to pull out the chain and the anchor thanks to Ivo’s ingenuity and strong back. Almost at the end of the operation a guy comes from his boat standing up in his dinghy like a savior. He says:

“I have been watching you for the past few hours and figured you have a problem. I have diving gear and can offer you my professional services if you need to hire a diver.”

No, thanks, we already solved the problem ourselves.

Ivo bringing up the chain with a crab trap on it

Ivo bringing up the chain with a crab trap on it

Next, we sail north-northeast direction Key Largo keeping close to shore. After 24 hours, near Alligator Reef, as we are about to tack and begin the crossing of the Gulf Stream, the coastguard’s grey-and-red boat quickly catches up with us. Two coastguards board Fata Morgana for a routine inspection. They check the registration of the boat, look in all bilge spaces under the floors, and in the two engine rooms. They don’t check our passports, immigration and customs papers, and cruising permit, which is a good thing. They ask if we have guns or any illegal things on board. I am not exactly sure if all the stuff we brought from Cuba: two bottles of Havana Club, a bag full of cigars and another bag with condoms, are legal or not so I say no.

“And what is that type of soda drinks, I…don’t seem to recognize it?” asks one of the guys staring at the cases of Brahva stacked up in one of the engine rooms.

“Oh, this is Guatemalan beer, the cheapest beer you can find”, I say with a guilty smile. But they are not impressed.

“Have a safe trip.”

And we are good to go. No irregularities found.

Next day we drop anchor in The Bahamas, making sure there are no crab traps around.

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

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

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Turtle Nest Expedition

 

 

 

Loggerhead Key is a tiny island in Dry Tortugas, across from Garden Key where Fort Jefferson is. A tall lighthouse, three times the height of a regular one, was erected here in the 19th century, about the same time as Fort Jefferson was being built.

Pier and Lighthouse, Loggerhead Key, Florida

Pier and Lighthouse, Loggerhead Key, Florida

 

There are not organized tours here, and so the island, its white sandy beaches, and the coral reefs around it are undisturbed by people most of the time. The only way to come here is by boat.

Driftwood on a white sandy beach, Loggerhead Key

Driftwood on a white sandy beach, Loggerhead Key

 

July 22, Monday

We drop anchor very carefully on a sandy bottom patch, making sure there are no coral heads beneath. Ivo and I take the kayak to check out the lighthouse and explore the place. Viktor and Maya stay on the boat to play video games…

Fata Morgana anchored off Loggerhead Key

Fata Morgana anchored off Loggerhead Key

 

On the island we stumble upon Mark and Suzy, Marine Biology Students doing an internship and a group of scientists studying the sea turtles.

Suzy

Suzy

Kristen Hart, a research ecologist, and her crew have just arrived to monitor some of the turtle nests on the beach.

They accept our offer to help with the turtle nest expedition. (Our help consists in caring a huge beach umbrella and holding it above the excavating researchers, taking pictures, and asking too many questions.)

Excavating a recently hatched turtle nest

Excavating a recently hatched turtle nest

 

In the next couple of hours, under the hot tropical sun, Kristen and her crew excavate turtle nests marked by a pole indicating a recent hatching.

Kristen Hart holding unhatched turtle eggs

Kristen Hart holding unhatched turtle eggs

They count the eggshells, mark the nest GPS positions, take samples from the unhatched eggs by opening them and collecting the smelly rotten yolks in a jar.

An unhatched baby turtle

An unhatched baby turtle

 

The nests contain exactly one hundred yellowish eggshells each, of which a few unhatched eggs in various stages of development, and couple of baby turtle body parts, meaning that most of the baby turtles successfully hatched and made it to the ocean sometime in the past couple of days.

We are so grateful to be part of this expedition… It is an amazing learning experience; we only regret that the kids didn’t come. We learn about the green turtles and the loggerhead turtles, their habitat, behavior, and reproduction first hand.

We spend the evening and a night of a full moon on the boat watching the light of the lonely lighthouse lazily circling around us. Tonight, enormous creatures will emerge slowly from the warm dark waters of the ocean hauling their heavy shells across the sands to find a familiar spot. A place where many many years ago they awoke buried among their one hundred brothers and sisters and with much effort their journey begun. At this spot, they will remember, their old mother came, many many years ago, and gently covered with sand one hundred round eggs, her most treasured possession. They will remember, yes, and they will do as she did. Tonight.

Full moon over the lighthouse

Full moon over the lighthouse

 

The next morning we go back to the island, this time with Maya and Viktor, to investigate the sands of the beach for new nests. Another short expedition.

Suzy leads us along the beach

Suzy leads us along the beach

 

Suzy leads us along the southeast beach showing us fresh turtle tracks and nests, explaining the difference between the green turtle and the loggerhead nesting behavior. I am glad the kids are interested and participate. This is an example of how they learn valuable lessons outside school, thanks to traveling. A natural history, ecology, and biology lesson they will never forget.

A recent turtle nest and tracks from the night before. The eggs are under the little hill.

A recent turtle nest and tracks from the night before. The eggs are under the little hill.

 

They learn that green turtles and loggerheads have different patterns of walking on the sand and making their nests. That they dig sometimes a few nests before choosing where to lay their eggs. That they do this in the dark of the night to avoid being discovered and bothered by birds and predators. That they lay a hundred eggs or more, of which over 90% hatch successfully, but only a small fraction of the baby turtles make it to adulthood. The rest become easy prey for marine predators. That, if they make it, they can live to be hundreds of years old. That people hunt them in the past for they were an easy pray and had delicious meat until their numbers diminished dramatically. That today hunting and killing a sea turtle is a crime. That pollution, oil spills, and destruction of their habitat continues even now to endanger them. And that there are now programs and individuals out there who care about them and try to preserve them.

 

You can read more about the sea turtles of Dry Tortugas and the research and conservation efforts of scientists like Kristen Hart in Implementing the Dry Tortugas National Park Research Natural Area Science Plan: The 5-Year Report 2012.

 

 

 

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Dry Tortugas

 

 

 

The time has come to sail away. Leave Key West and start visiting other places.

First destination: Cuba with a short stop in Dry Tortugas.

 

July 19, 7:00 am, Friday, we leave our Key West anchorage and head west. From here to Dry Tortugas are about 70 miles. Light wind (about 10 knots) is pushing us from the east. We are not going very fast, 5 to 6 nautical miles per hour, but we are not in a hurry and after 3 jibes and 14 hours of uneventful sailing we enter a marine sanctuary comprising seven uninhabited undeveloped coral and sand islands: Dry Tortugas.

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Garden Key

Explorer Ponce de Leon originally named the area Las Tortugas (Turtles) in 1513 for the shores of the islands were (and still are) favorite nesting grounds for sea turtles. Soon after, as ships started cruising these waters, the place became known as Dry Tortugas to mariners indicating that there ins’t fresh water on the islands.

The Lighthouse on top of Fort Jefferson

The Lighthouse on top of Fort Jefferson

It is already dark when we drop anchor in the anchorage next to Garden Key, a small island entirely occupied by Fort Jefferson: an impressive 19th century fort. This must be the most dramatic anchorage just outside the massive abandoned monster of a building.

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Fort Jefferson

The steps leading up and down the 2 levels of the fort and the roof

The steps leading up and down the 2 levels of the fort and the roof

 

The story of Fort Jefferson is as pathetic as it is fascinating. The Americans begun its construction in 1846 and the idea was to build a military fort and thus control navigation in  the Gulf of Mexico. Thirty years later, as the fort was still unfinished, it became evident that the construction was a failure.

Maya, Ivo, and Vick looking out from Fort Jefferson

Maya, Ivo, and Vick looking out from Fort Jefferson

Too many things went wrong mainly because of the lack of drinking water: the water tanks collecting rainwater failed, the iron corrugated, the bricks crumbled, the sewage system didn’t work, the workers became sick having to drink mosquito larva infested semi-salty water. Nature defeated man.

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From the top looking down

Looking out a broken window

Looking out a broken window

 

Still, Fort Jefferson was put to use during the Civil War as a Union military prison for deserters. It housed the four men convicted of complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln including doctor Samuel Mudd. By 1880s, the American Army abandoned the project and in 1908 the area became a wildlife refuge; a National Monument in 1935; and a National Park and Sanctuary in 1992.

 

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Inside the abandoned fort

The next two days we explore the fort in and outside as well as the island kayaking from our boat to shore.

Viktor "pushing" Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor „pushing“ Maya off the roof of the fort

The building is enormous, we didn’t expect this. We roam for hours through its dark humid corridors and chambers imagining life in those times. We go there in the morning and in the afternoon, when all the day tourists arriving from Key West packed  in a motor boat for a four-hour guided tour are gone.

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Running around Fort Jefferson

At this point, we hate those tourist crowds so much, we keep as far as possible, as if they were diseased cockroaches. I believe tourism has spoiled so many once remote natural wonders and historic sites transforming them into ridiculous crowded polluted money-making resorts and attractions.

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At least, they don’t play loud music and serve alcohol in Fort Jefferson, no disco clubs and casinos here. I hope they will never transform part of the fort into a hotel, but at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do… For now, there is only the anchorage where boats can stay overnight and a small camping ground on the island with a few tent sites.

Getting to Fort Jefferson by kayak.

Getting to Fort Jefferson by kayak.

The only permanent residents here are various seabirds, billions and billions of hermit crabs with fancy shells, and a sea crocodile who comes out of the ocean before sunset to slumber on the hot sands of the deserted beach.

Sea birds resting on our boat

Sea birds resting on our boat

Mira with a hermit crab

Mira with a hermit crab

A sea crocodile on the beach at sunset

A sea crocodile on the beach at sunset

close up of the crock running back in the water

close up of the crock running back in the water

 

On the third day, we lift anchor (no motor on) and we sail very carefully among coral reefs for about two hours to the next  island, Loggerhead Key, where a tall lighthouse stays erected amidst a patch of palm trees surrounded by sandy beaches. Here, we spend a day and a night. And something incredible happens, it must be karma… You won’t believe it!

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse

 

Inspiration

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Our Key West

Key West is a fantastic little city. A quaint drinking village with a fishing problem. If only there were not so many tourists…

Still, we absolutely loved living on a boat anchored just opposite Mallory Square; riding bikes through the narrow streets carpeted with tiny yellow flowers fallen from huge trees and iguana droppings; eating sandwiches at The Cuban Coffee Queen tossing occasional crumbs to the paranoiac wild roosters proliferating all over Monroe County; roaming through downtown in the evenings with friends and a backpack full of beers; or making a small fire after sunset on the coral covered shores of a mangrove island.

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Most of all, we will miss our friends. We played a six hundred year old plastic bottle game in front of The Green Parrot, we waited for the afternoon rain to stop on the terrace in front of Turtle Kraals looking out at the grey waters calm under the raindrops. We sailed. Aboard Fata Morgana, Rocksteady, and The Liquid Courage, we dreamed together and planned the future.

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It’s time to leave, one more time. To part. It has been twelve years since we arrived in America. We didn’t land here by plane, we got here swimming across a dark river. We arrived wet. And that is how we are leaving, twelve years later, the waters again will carry us some place else.

As you are reading this, we will be probably somewhere in Cuba, if not at the bottom of the sea.

Farewell Key West, we left a lock of Maya’s red hair and a piece of our hearts on the dinghy docks, next to the tarpon pond.

And farewell friends and boats, we will be seeing you some crazy day in Guatemala, Tonga Tonga, or at the bottom of the sea.

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How to Eat Poisonous Fish for Supper

That particular evening started with a benign game of chess between Ivo and Tyler aboard Rocksteady.

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But then Ryan and Stacie showed up with a bucket of fish a friend gave them.

„Lionfish, Ryan, who loves animals and nature more than anything in the world, explained, is a non indigenous invasive species here in Florida, and you can catch it and eat it all you want. It has poisonous spikes, but if we manage to cut them off without getting stung, we can eat the meat and we will not die! “

This sounds almost reassuring…

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So basically, you need to fillet the fish without touching it much…To do so, you need to stab it with a knife in the head using a coffee pot.

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…Use pliers, knifes, forks, and all available instruments…

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…and band up with others if necessary. Team work pays off.

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Discard all bones, guts, and spikes. Keep only the fillets.

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Repeat as many times as fishes there are in the bucket. Do not forget: Operate with caution!

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Then cook the fish! Add salt, lemon, some pepper, and it is delicious! And ask a friend to make the salad!

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What’s left to do is eat the fish, with lots of salad, beer, friends.

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I tried it and I loved it!

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„Lionfish are an invasive species that threaten Florida’s saltwater fish and wildlife. The FWC encourages people to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native fish and wildlife. Lionfish can be speared, caught in hand-held nets or caught on hook and line.

A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. There is no recreational or commercial harvest bag limit for lionfish.“ (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

I just want to add to this that it is extremely tasty and safe to eat if correctly prepared and: Thank you Ryan, this was the greatest tasting poisonous fish ever!

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Ryan and Scabs

 

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Sunset Watching People

Why are sunsets breathtaking? I don’t know. People love to watch the sunset, I don’t know why… Maybe, because it is the only time they can stare directly into the sun without damaging their eyes? Or maybe because there is some residue of ancient Aztec spirituality still floating in the air?

In Key West, if you go to Mallory Square in the late afternoon, the golden hour, you will see crowds of tourists facing west. For them, watching the sunset is no longer enough, they all try to record it. It’s number one thing to do when you visit Key West: go to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square. They all take out photo cameras, i-phones, i-pads, and all sorts of other devices, trying to capture the soul of the supreme deity of the skies. And post it on Facebook two minutes later. To prove they have been there, done that.

I, myself, like to turn my camera towards the people photographing sunsets. I photograph miniature sunsets inside their sunglasses. And capture their souls.

 

 

Vanity.

He knows it is performance time.

People are watching with anxiety.

There he comes: perfectly orange and round, ready to dive in the ocean.

He prepares slowly, gets closer and closer.

As predicted.

Timing is everything.

The lights in the theatre dim, the audience stops breathing.

Corsets burst, children faint: it is all going to happen at the exact precise moment, not a minute earlier, never later.

Another death, another disappearance.

Painfully, first he touches the line, and then she swallows him.

The horizon stretches its back a bit higher: impatient, hungry.

He is doomed again, and the voyeurs are silent: photographing the evidence, a ritual, another sacrifice for the crowds.

Did you see him how he went down?

Did you see how she swallowed him, slowly?

The sky, the sea all gets smeared in blood.

And then the spectacle is over.

Ovations, satisfaction, the men look at the women with wet eyes: you see, exactly as I predicted,

I kept my promise. 

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The Wreckers

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The Wreckers by Rush

 

The breakers roar
On an unseen shore
In the teeth of a hurricane
Oh, we struggle in vain
A hellish night
A ghostly light
Appears through the driving rain
Salvation in a human chain
.
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
‘Cause sometimes the target is you
.
Driven to ground
With a helpful sound
Drowned by the cheer from the shore
Oh, we wonder what for
The people swarm
Through the darkening storm
Gather everything they can score
‘Til their backs won’t bear any more
.
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
‘Cause sometimes the target is you
.
Key West’s Geology

Lying in shallow tropical seas, a long and disordered chain of islands, the Florida Keys, stretches between the southernmost point of Florida’s mainland and Dry Tortugas. Alongside, submerged in turquoise waters and hidden from view, run the corral reefs: a 200 miles (320 kilometres) of underwater wilderness just a few feet bellow the surface. Beyond the reefs, a busy ocean highway flows, a major shipping route: The Gulf Stream.

How many absent-minded ships carried by winds and powerful currents have diverted from their route in the uncertainness of night to slit their bellies open upon the shallow  underwaters? Countless.

For them- disaster.

For local wreckers- booty.

A Short History of Key Wet’s Wreckers

It’s been going on for centuries, since ships started sailing in these waters: a wreck per week. For centuries, rootless islanders have been awaiting  unaware vessels to run aground, sometimes luring them towards the shallows with deceiving lights.

When an elephant falls, a hundred hyenas rush to the carcass,devour it, fight for a chunk.

The wreckers would anchor behind mangrove islands at night and patrol the dangerous waters during the day looking for stranded vessels to pillage. The first wrecking captain to reach a crushed ship would became the wreck master. He would employ as many wreckers as he needed to help salvage the ship, and direct the whole operation.

The salvaged cargo and the ship, if it could be saved, were taken to Key West where they were appraised or auctioned. The wrecking vessels and crews that participated in the operations would then be awarded a share of the salvage value. Half of the salvage award went to the owners of the wrecking vessels, divided among the boats on a tonnage basis. The other half went to the wrecker crews, proportional to the number of crewmen on each vessel.

Thus, by the mid 19 century wrecking, regulated, became one of the main industries in the region, along with piracy, drug trafficking, smuggling, and other shady activities.

Recent Wrecking Events

Tyler calls on the VHF and tells us of a recent wreck. A sailboat has ran aground and has been abandoned. What exactly has happened and why is a mystery. So are the identity and the whereabouts of the boat’s owner. We decide to go check it out.

The wreck is near Stock Island, a few miles away from our anchorage, and we get there sailing aboard Fata Morgana in a couple of hours. With us are Tyler and Tony. We get to the site in the afternoon and drop anchor away from the shallows using our dinghy to get to the wrecked vessel.

The crippled boat is leaning on its starboard side, the tip of its mast pointing towards the sunset. Its insides are a dark mess half full of water and green liquids. It must have been a slow painful death. There is a yellow note from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement explaining: Vessel aground. No sails. Abandoned. No apparent value. Open to elements. We, Tyler, Tony, Ivo and Mira, thereupon name ourselves The Elements, pumped up with adrenalin, and proceed to scavenging the wreck, working with screwdrivers and hummers, taking anything that looks useful.

We get a bunch of valuable stuff, we have to do two dinghy rides to bring them to Fata.

The boat is stripped of most of its valuables before the night falls and we are going back to our anchorage in Key West to split the goodies.

Approaching the wreck

Approaching the wreck

Boarding the wreck Ivo and Tony

Boarding the wreck
Ivo and Tony

Inside the Wreck Tyler and Ivo

Inside the Wreck
Tyler and Ivo

Green diesel water inside the wreck

Green diesel water inside the wreck

Notice

Notice

 

Grabbing stuff Tyler

Grabbing stuff
Tyler

Inside Mira

Inside the wreck
Mira

Ivo finds the American Flag

Ivo finds the American Flag

Smoke break  Tony and Tyler

Smoke break
Tony and Tyler

Bathroom break Ivo

Bathroom break
Ivo

Tony's new anchor chain

Tony’s new anchor chain

 

Back at Fata Morgana Tyler and Tony

Back at Fata Morgana
Tyler and Tony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClbE019cLNI

 

 

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