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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St Barth, Where Agent Orange Had an Affair

St Barths, The Caribbean Monaco

Gustavia, City and harbor view

Gustavia, City and harbor view

The next island on our way is St Barthélemy,  only 20 miles southeast of St Martin. A French territory less than 10 square miles (25 square kilometers) with distinctly French language, cuisine and culture and some very nice beaches and luxurious villas and resorts. St Barths is the holiday destination and playground for the famous and the rich.

Dinghies at Guatavia Harbor, St Barths

Dinghies at Guatavia Harbor, St Barths

The population, about 9,000, is exclusively white descendants of French settlers and their very high standard of living is supported mainly by wealthy tourists. Strangely there are no black descendent of African slaves who make up the majority of local population on all the other Caribbean islands in the region.

Anse de Flamand

Anse de Flamand

We grab a mooring ball at Anse de Colombier, a small isolated lagoon on the northwestern part of the island accessible only by boat from the sea and by foot from the island. Locals come here to spend a day on the beach in seclusion via a narrow path.

Fata Morgana at Anse de Colombier

Fata Morgana at Anse de Colombier

We take the path from the beach and walk to the first quartier Anse de Flamands.

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

Mira

Mira

 

Maya

Maya

From here we walk all the way to Gustavia in the unbearable summer heat climbing some steep streets, and not a single car stops to pick us up. This has never happened before. Everywhere we have been hitchhiking, from Florida to the Bahama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and all of the Antilles Islands until this one, people would stop and give us a lift. But not in St Barths. Here the drivers just turn their heads the other direction and we keep going. Which after all turns out to be a good thing, as only walking on foot one can fully experience the land. After about two hours we reach Gustavia.

St Barths,  view of the harbor

St Barths,
view of the harbor

Gustavia, the capital and the main port, is a small manicured town facing a large harbor full with luxury mega yachts. As you stroll around you will pass by some high-end designers shops, gourmet dining, and multimillion Euro villas. The height of tourism is New Year’s Eve, with celebrities and the wealthy converging on the island in yachts up to 550 ft in length for the occasion.

Gustavia

Gustavia

In the beginning of July, it is much quieter.

Shops Gustavia

Shops Gustavia

We walk around the town, to the fort overlooking Shell Beach, and then head back to our lagoon two hours away.

View of Shell Bech from Fort Karl

View of Shell Bech from Fort Karl

As we climb the last hills overlooking the lagoon we spot two young French-speaking girls fooling around in the water with our kayak, Agent Orange! We are horrified and so jealous. Behind our backs! We make a huge scene telling the frivolous girls to leave Agent Orange alone . They apologies with a sweet accent. Agent Orange is happy.

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Passage South. Mayaguana to Turks and Caicos

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

 

Day 5 Betsy By to Booby Cay

Passage South map

Passage South map

 

Day 6 Mayaguana to Turks and Caicos

 

After 6 days of waiting at anchor near Booby Cay, Mayaguana for the strong trade winds to subside a bit, we lift the hook around 5 a.m. on March 19th and leave The Bahamas to begin the 37 NM passage for Turks and Caicos.

37 nautical miles is not much but when the wind is 4-8 kts coming from the direction we are going and dropping to 0 at noon for 5 hours, it takes longer to get to destination. We bring down the sails in the middle of the Caicos Passage, Evo puts the rudder all the way to starboard to prevent the boat from drifting back to Mayaguana with the current and we go to sleep, what else to do in dead calm when turning the engines on is not an option? Three mahi-mahis come near the boat and slowly swim around for a bit, teasing us.

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Around 5 p.m. the wind returns from north-northeast at 10-15 knots. Perfection. Fata Morgana is gliding on a beam reach doing 6-7 kts directly towards West Caicos, south of Provideciales. We arrive at 10 p.m. in a place where an anchorage is indicated behind some invisible reefs. We decide not to check in Turks and Caicos as we are far from the official port of entry, Providenciales, and the cruising permit and entry fees are way too expensive even if you are simply transiting. We drop anchor in the dark as soon as the depth sounder is showing 5 feet and we sleep.

Day 7 Turks and Caicos Bank

 

Next day, March 20th, we lift anchor and sail 16 hours inside the incredibly shallow Caicos Bank, at times we only have 1-2 feet under the keels, tacking all day against southeast winds, doing 5-6 kts, covering about 80 NM even though it is only 46 NM to our destination.

9:30 p.m. we arrive, exhausted, at Six Hills Cay, two uninhabited small cays on the eastern edge of Caicos Islands, and we decide to take the next day off. We snorkel in the beautiful water around the cays, collect sand dollars, and rest before the 100 NM Windward Passage to Dominican Republic.

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Passage South. Aclins to Mayaguana

Day 1 George Town to Long Island

Day 2 Long Island to Crooked Island

Day 3 Crooked island to Aclins

Passage South Map

Passage South Map

Day 4 Aclins to Mayaguana

Wednesday, March 12

We sail east from Aklins Island to Mayaguana, passing the Plana Cays on the north side and doing one big tack inside the Myaguana Passage. The current here is about 1 kt against us. We are getting southeast winds, very light, no big waves, the boat is happy, doing about 4 kts, no stress, no banging. Yes, we will get to destination, Betsy Bay on the west coast of Mayaguana, in the middle of the night again, but who cares?

In the Mayaguana Passage one of the fishing poles we are trolling behind the boat hooks something big. It is just after sunset. It takes Evo quite some time to bring the fish up after a fight of epic proportions. I try to slow down the boat pointing into the wind, as the speed, about 6 kts now, makes it harder to bring the fish.

It is a big-eye tuna, 30 pounds of light-red flesh, the biggest fish we ever caught.

Evo with tuna

Evo with tuna

Once on board, it feels like we have a visitor, someone we don’t know. The fish, lying on his side, trembling, one eye looking at us, is frightened.  We feel guilty, ask Neptune for forgiveness and mercy on our souls. A great big fish is dying on us. We respect him and love him. He is our brother, and we will eat him.

30-pound tuna

30-pound tuna

It is the best tasting fish the first time we eat from it, but after a week of tuna-sushi, tuna in tomato sauce, grilled tuna-fillet with lemon and pepper, we feel we have overdosed on tuna and just want to eat chicken again…

Tuna chops

Tuna chops

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Passage South. George Town to Long Island

Map of our Passage South

Map of our Passage South

Day 1

Saturday, March 8

 

After carefully studding the charts, cruising guides, and weather forecasts, we begin the 260 nautical miles passage south from George Town, Bahamas to Luperon, Dominican Republic, a passage most of the thousands of sailors who cruise regularly in the Bahamas will never undertake.

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260 nautical miles may sound like a few hours of driving distance for those who never sailed. For us, getting to Dominican Republic means 3 one-day (30-40 NM) ocean passages, 4 one to two-day (25-30 NM) island passages (along the shore and in shallow bank waters), and 1 two-day (100 NM) ocean passage. It also means waiting at anchor in-between passages for a weather window (favorable winds: force and direction) for as long as it takes.

 

That is, if everything goes well. Moreover, we tend to be slower than most other sailboats, as most other sailboats ‘motor-sail’; they go on engine all the time in order to get faster to their destination (before sunset), or to avoid tacking or heeling too much (tacking is when you zigzag towards destination instead of going in straight line, because the wind is blowing from the direction you want to go). Often, they don’t even bother hoisting the sails, motoring all day, their masts remaining bare like sad winter trees even when the wind is good, behind them. For us ‘motoring’ is ‘cheating’. We strictly sail; the engines are for emergency only, which saves us a lot of cash and hustle. Last time we fueled was in Key West Florida, about four months ago, and our fuel tanks are still full to the brim. We never motored in the Bahamas, and we don’t even know what the fuel price around here is… We even go in and out of anchorages and cuts through the reefs full-sail, often at night.

 

In our Bahamas Cruising Guide the part covering south of George Town is called Far Horizons. The Unexplored Bahamas. This is how the chapter starts:

 

“The generally perceived wisdom that it is different south of George Town is true. Below latitude 23 30N, the tropic of Cancer, you are in the real tropics and in a different game. You are exposed to the Atlantic, you have legendary passages to negotiate, there are almost no all-weather anchorages, and few settlements. You shouldn’t venture into these waters in a craft that isn’t well found and well equipped. If passage making or cruising in an area like this lies outside your experience think twice about going that way.”

 

As we lift the hook from the anchorage in George Town and set sail for Long Island, a first of four island passages, suspiciously too many other boats from all the anchorages around the harbor lift their hooks as well and start sailing in the same direction. We find ourselves in the middle of a spectacular procession of about one hundred sailboats, all sailing (none motoring) southeast with us! It is beautiful.

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Our departure has coincided with the Long Island Rally. The rally is escorting us to Goat Cay for about two hours where our paths finally separate. The boats continue northeast to a waypoint from where they turn back northwest to George Town; we head south through Goat Cay Cut.

 

With the wind blowing from north at 10-15 knots, forecasted to turn from northeast the next day, we decide sailing south-southeast on the west lee side of Long Island would be best, as the island, 80 mi long north to south, will act as a shield from the Atlantic waves which tend to always come from the same direction as the wind.

 

The same cruising guide warns us about sailing on the west side of Long Island:

 

“The west coast of Long Island is a No-Go for the long-haul passage maker. (That’s us). The west coast is the Bank side, with sandbores and shoals which effectively bars that side as a cruising ground. A Bank transit path does not exist. Only local captains can safely cross the southeast corner of the Great Bahama Bank. Underline that word ‘local.’ It requires local knowledge.”

 

All we get from the previous paragraph is: ‘It’s shallow, but people do it’. Our very limited experience with cruising guides tells us that they should not always be trusted. Some of the information they provide is useful but passage making is ultimately dependent on weather conditions in relation to geography, sailing skills and experience, and boat specifics. There is no one general best way to go. Cruising guides are overprotective and I think they consider the average cruisers (for whom they are intended) to be semi-blind elderly people with no common sense aboard 7-8 feet draft vessels.

 

Many fellow-sailors we met in George Town told us not to even think of sailing south to Dominican Republic without following the exact steps described in Bruce Van Sant’s book with the suspicious sexist title The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South. “Just read the book and do exactly what he says if you want to make it.” they told us, most of them never made the passage nor read the book. Luckily, we had The Book aboard. I think it came with the boat along with lots of other stuff left from the previous owners. Problem is, this book too had nothing to say about Long Island’s west bank, not an option according to Mr. Van Sant. He too insists on sailing on the east side of Long Island, covering more than a 130 NM from George Town to Clarence Town, three days of sailing, battling Atlantic waves and current.

 

We study the charts and the west Bank side looks shallow but doable with a distance of only 55 NM from George Town to Clarence Town (west side of the island), a real short cut. Our boat’s draft is less than four feet. We close the cruising guides which have nothing more to say about sailing on the side we chose: the west Bank of Long Island.

 

Around 10 a.m. we pass through the narrow shallow Goat Cay Cut between Great Exuma and Little Exuma at mid-tide. The starboard keel lightly touches the sand for a second once we are through the cut, but from then on we have no troubles sailing in the uncharted Bank along the west shores of Long Island. We keep away from the shoals and coral heads and always have enough water under the keels; the island stops the waves as we have expected and sailing is pleasure. We make a beautiful progress of 55 NM the first day with the wind behind us and the boat doing 6 to 8 kt. Evo catches 9 barracudas that day, I think this is a world record, and we keep the 3 smaller one to eat in the next few days. They are delicious.

 

After Stephenson Rock, we turn port; carefully approach a white-sand beach looking out for coral heads. The water surface is flat like a mirror. There is no sign of civilization. We drop anchor for the night just before sunset. Dean’s Blue Hole is right across on the other side of the island, a couple of miles north of Clarence Town. We’ll visit it the next day.

 

We sleep like babies and dream of cruising guides.

 

 

Fata Morgana anchored on the west side of Long Island, Bahamas

Fata Morgana anchored on the west side of Long Island, Bahamas

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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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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Most of all, I need a friend

 

Maya with candies

Maya with candies

She was crying.

„You know how much I need a friend? I would give up all the candies in the world and all my toys for a friend right now… And every time I make a friend we leave or they leave… You know how many friends I’ve lost? Too many…“

„Don’t cry, Maya, you are making me sad. A friend you never really lose. You always keep them in your heart. Your heart will become a piggybank of friends, a map of the world with a million pins: a pin for each friend, you will see. You will become Million-Friends-Maya.“

“ I only need one now…“

 

 

This was weeks ago.

Maya met Noial on a Friday, at noon. By 2 pm they were best friends.

 

Maya and Noial. Breakfast after a sleepover in the boat.

Maya and Noial.
Breakfast after a sleepover in the boat.

 

Since then, they have been together all the time. At school, at the boat, at the pool. In jungles, in rivers, in caves.

 

At school

Noial and Maya In the schoolyard with chickens

Noial and Maya
In the schoolyard with chickens

 

 At the boat

Noual and Maya Making art while sailing

Noial and Maya
Making art while sailing

At the pool

Maya and Noial At Nanajuana Pool

Maya and Noial
At Nanajuana Pool

In jungles

Maya and Noial Hiking up the river

Maya and Noial
Hiking up the river

In rivers

Maya and Noial Chilling in the river

Maya and Noial
Chilling in the river

In caves

Noial and Maya Light-painting in a cave

Noial and Maya
Light-painting in a cave

They have been taking showers together, dancing together, jumping together.

Shower together

Noial and Maya  Taking a river shower off the boat.

Noial and Maya
Taking a river shower off the boat.

Dance together

Maya and Noial At a school party

Maya and Noial
At a school party

Jump together

Noial and Maya  Jumping off the boat

Noial and Maya
Jumping off the boat

The best moments are the ones we share with a good friend.

Maya and Noial  Taking El Poderoso (the kayak) for a ride

Maya and Noial
Taking El Poderoso (the kayak) for a ride

Maya and Noial In traditional Guatemalan costumes at the school dance.

Maya and Noial
In traditional Guatemalan costumes at the school dance.

They even cried together once…

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