The Bulgarian Flying Hummer

Meet Ryan and Stacy, boat punks and our neighbors here in the anchorage in Key West.

They live aboard the Liquid Courage with Marley and Scabs, their dogs.

We hang out often, have fun jumping off the boat, fishing, and snorkelling.

Ryan

Ryan

Ryan

Stacy

Stacy

Stacy

 

Jumping of the boat in our humongous public backyard pool (the Atlantic Ocean) is so much fun!

Ryan and Ivo

Ryan and Ivo

 

Ivo is showing Ryan The Bulgarian Flying Hummer jump.

ivo

Ivo

 

Ryan performs The Bulgarian Flying Hummer almost perfectly, but needs some more practice in order to achieve excellence, like Master Ivo.

Ryan

Ryan

Ryan

Ryan

 

 

After, it’s fishing time .

Stacy, Ivo, Maya, and Ryan

Stacy, Ivo, Maya, and Ryan

 

 

Ivo and Ryan

Ivo and Ryan

Viktro with a puffer

Viktro with a puffer

 

Jumping of the boat and fishing makes you hungry.

Stacy, a professional chef, and Maya, her soup chef, are preparing tacos for everyone in Fata Morgana’s galley.

Stacy and Maya

Stacy and Maya

 

Best tacos ever with Maya and Stacy

Best tacos ever with Maya and Stacy

The end of the day is beautiful in our neighbourhood.

The end of the day is beautiful in our neighbourhood.

 

 

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Liveaboards, Yachtsmen, Cruisers, and Boat Punks

*The following personal and highly subjective observations are based on the local boat scene in Key West, Florida.

There are various groups of boating people. Each of the four groups I will outline here can be subdivided in others smaller and more specific ones.

 Liveaboards

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The majority of boat owners actually don’t use their boats for sailing and cruising but to liveaboard at the dock or at anchor. It is much cheaper (and in some cases completely free) than owning a house or renting an apartment: there are not municipal, school, road, garbage or any other taxes to be paid when you live on a boat. These are usually single men above fifty, unemployed and unwilling to work, with long beards and bad teeth. Their derelict vessels are in desperate state of neglect and the chances of them ever sailing again are slim to none.

 

Yachtsmen

Only a fraction of all boat owners, about 5 %, actually sail. To do so the boat needs to be ship-shape and this requires tons of money and constant work. For this reason, sailing was until recent years, an activity privileged to the rich yachtsman and his wife, members of the yacht club. They would go out sailing (with a hired captain) not too far from port, participating in regattas and races once every year or two, dressed exclusively in white. For maintaining their boat sitting at the marina the rest of the time, they would pay others to do it.

 

Cruisers

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The cruisers, mostly single men, often couples, and rarely families with children, who permanently liveaboard and travel by sea, are a sort of a romantic minority. These are generally very interesting, intelligent, and hardworking people whose stories of bravery and exotic adventures we read in magazines and books. They inspire us and challenge our limits.

 

 

Boat Punk

 

Tony

Tony

Since a few years now, there is a distinctive fourth group of seafaring people. These are young kids in their twenties and thirties with left-wing progressive views, disenchanted with the capitalist system, and the middle class standards in the United States of America, seeking alternative ways of off-grid living, self sufficiency, and ultimate freedom.

Recently, owning and maintain a boat has become more affordable than ever thanks to the development of new cheaper technologies, the access to on-line information about how to build and repair a boat, and to the global economic collapse. Boat prices have dropped dramatically.

Thus, young rebellious kids can now get an older used boat for as little as a few hundred dollars and fix it up on a very low budget using all sorts of recycled materials, even junk, and go exploring the world.

What sets them apart from the rest of the boaters is their willingness to come and stick together in a tight community, almost a kinship, sharing knowledge and skills,  helping each other, having fun, working together, facing common problems, and doing all sorts of unusual things.

In Key West we met and befriended an interesting crowd of artists, anarchists, environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists, socialists, musicians, vegetarians, misfits, jacks-of-all-trades, and other non-mainstream enthusiasts, all suffering from incurable wanderlust: Tony and Chopper aboard Pisces, Ryan and Stacie aboard Liquid Courage, Becca aboard Dolphin, Miranda aboard Snoopy, and Cherrie and Tyler aboard Rocksteady who have baptised themselves Boat Punks, deriving from the streets and the Punk scene.

Ryan

Ryan

Punk is a lifestyle, a movement, and a political statement. Since its origins in the 1960s and 70s as an underground music genre, Punk has evolved into a complex ideology opposing the state system and established social structure, challenging the social orthodoxy, political and mainstream cultural establishment, and promoting individual freedom, an anarchic resistance, non-conformity and social revolt, DIY ethics and anti-consumerism.

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Cherrie and Tyler

Although our shiny 38 feet relatively new catamaran Fata Morgana doesn’t really belong, conceptually or visually (unless we spray some graffiti on her, which I have considered) in this fourth group, our family’s ideology, values, and way of life do. And so naturally we have joined their extravagant community here in Key West. Our experiences with the Boat Punks include:

Moreover, we have decided to write a collage article on Boat Punk in collaboration, each person contributing his/her own individual story and reasons for doing what we are doing. I will publish it here soon.

 

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Peter the Sailmaker

On one of our first time sailing aboard Fata Morgana, the headsail gets a bit torn on the edge where the sun cover is while furling it. This means we have two options: buying a new jib or repairing the old. Both options involve spending money which is the last thing we want to do.

We research in the Internet and it turns out that a new jib for our boat costs about $ 3,000 and a used one could be somewhere between $500 and  $1,000. There is a sailmaker in Stock Island, and we bike there to see if he has any adequate used sails and get a quote for a new jib or for repairs. His name is Peter and it looks like he is the only sailmaker in Key West because everyone recommends him.

Peter inspects the jib and tells us the thread on the suncover is burned and needs to be restitched, which is normal, and that the canvass is still good. He can repair it for about $250. Sounds better than buying a new or a used sail.

Peter

Peter

We tell Peter that we are “on a budget” and that we could work and help him if this will bring the price down. Turns out, he has an old wooden sign to be repaired and he hires us to do the job, Ivo will do the woodwork and I will do the artwork. He will repair our sail and we will repair his sign, no money involved. Barter. How cool is this!

Barter is a system of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money… Barter usually replaces money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis, such as when the currency may be either unstable (e.g., hyperinflation or deflationary spiral) or simply unavailable for conducting commerce. [From Wikipedia]

I think barter is a better micro economic system of exchange as it creates relationships and is a lot more satisfying and ultimately creates a sense of community where people interact with one another helping each other using their particular skills on friendly basis. Plus, it is a better option for people low on cash or who don’t want to deal with cash, like us. From now on, we will try to do this as much as possible.

Mira and Peter working on a sail in Peter's loft

Mira and Peter working on a sail in Peter’s loft

The next week we spend at Peter’s loft listening to some good old blues songs, helping to remove the old stitches from the suncover and fixing the sign while he sits behind his sawing machine and works on our jib. We like Peter who is all about adventure and sailing, a bit of an anarchist like ourselves. In the past, he and his late wife have organized and participated in regattas and races to Cuba many times.

Ivo repairs Peter's wooden sign

Ivo repairs Peter’s wooden sign

Thus, we not only had our jib fixed without spending money, but we also learned a lot about fixing sails. Also, we made a new good friend who is also a good sailor and who enjoyed snorkelling and sailing with us on Fata Morgana, teaching us valuable tricks about tacking with a catamaran, for example. I suspect, we will go out sailing and snorkelling some more while we are still in Key West, Florida, plus, we will probably make a dodger for our boat with Peter’s help, we’ll see about this.

The sign is ready

The sign is ready

Thank you Peter!

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The Shrimp Who Became a Shark

June 27, 2013 Key West, Florida

I wake up one morning to find a small transparent shrimp on the steps of our boat. Looks like a suicide.

Next day Ivo finds another one. And another one the day after. A dead shrimp becomes a part of our morning routine. We wake up, we make coffee, and we collect the inevitable shrimp.

The first (or second) dead shrimp

The first (or second) dead shrimp

There must be a shrimp kingdom beneath our boat, Fata Morgana. The shrimp king, a fat orange fellow with long antennas, probably had concluded, after a restless night full of hallucinations, that Fata Morgana is a powerful shrimp goddess. One who’s anger and might could annihilate in a minute the entire shrimp population for no particular reason. “Therefore, he had announced to all, sacrifice is needed to appease the powerful goddess hovering above our shrimp kingdom”.

I take the little carcass and gently place it on a hook on one of the fishing poles. I don’t have to cast far. I just drop the hook with the shrimp directly beneath the boat. Two minutes later I catch a small fish. With this little fish as bait Ivo pulls out a bigger one.

Mira with fishes

Mira with fishes

And with the bigger fish we catch a reef shark, about four feet in length or maybe even five.  It isn’t easy pulling it out of the water, the animal resists and tries to free itself. Its heavy body is silvery grey with a white belly. Its head and jaws are smaller and less impressive than the Great White shark we have all seen on TV. The Reef Shark is a common coral reef dweller and they are not dangerous to swimmers. Once, a six-foot reef shark passed nearby as we were snorkeling around a reef and none of us panicked.

A Reef Shark

A Reef Shark

Thrashing about on the deck of the boat, fighting for its life, the creature doesn’t look scary at all but frightened and helpless. It is a beautiful animal and I am against killing it.

„100 million sharks are killed each year-by longlines, by „sport“ fishermen, or by a barbaric practice known as shark finning. Hooked sharks are hauled onto boats; their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. These helpless animals are then tossed back into the ocean where, unable to swim without their fins, they sink towards the bottom and die an agonizing death.

With 90% of the world’s large shark populations already wiped out, sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world. Sharks are vitally important apex predators. They have shaped marine life in the oceans for over 400 million years and are essential to the health of the planet, and ultimately to the survival of mankind.“ (from http://www.seashepherd.org/sharks/)

 

Sharks are endangered species but Ivo and the kids insist on grilling and eating it. Ivo says he is not exterminating large shark populations, just providing protein for the family, like Bear Grills would do…

The shark we caught

The shark we caught

And so we do. We eat the shark. There is so much meat and no bones. It is not bad at all but a bit chewy. I feel guilty…

The next day my belly is killing me, swollen, hard and hurting like hell. I feel like dying. The pain goes away very slowly; it takes me a few days to feel good again. I am sure it is the shark meat even though everyone else is fine. I knew we shouldn’t eat the shark…

Often in ocean predators bigger than four feet heavy metals accumulate, like iron and mercury, and people avoid eating them.

Shark fillets on the BBQ

Shark fillets on the BBQ

 

Today, we are more aware of the problems posed by unsustainable fishing practises around the world. New legislation regulating the overfishing of sharks are being implanted around the globe.

Shark are critically endangered and faced with extinction and some species are already wiped out due to overfishing and shark finning practises. From predator they have become pray. The survival of this marine creature with false bad reputation is being threatened. And it is not just the sharks who are in trouble. All life is interconnected in a fragile balance, and if sharks disappear, our own survival is at stake.

Personally, our family has become aware of the horrific shark-hunting industry thanks to a 2006 Canadian documentary by Rob Stewart Sharkwater. The film is not only informative on the subject, but also full of thrilling action, suspense, and hidden camera footage, as the film crew gets chased by poachers and police in Guatemala and Costa Rica, exposing the illegal shark trade and corruption. It is a must-see documentary.

Sharkwater.com

Sharkwater.com

We decide, from now on we will no longer fish for and eat sharks, unless we are forced to do so by extraordinary circumstances.

* A link to 100 Great Points of Interest in Sharks and their Conservation by Erik Brush

 

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The More We Sail, the Less We Yell

Since a few days now all that needed to be repaired and fixed on the boat is repaired and fixed. Fata Morgana is ready for sailing. And we sail pretty much every day, not more than a few hours, keeping close to shore.

Fata Morgana under sail.  -Photo by Tyler Bullock

Fata Morgana under sail.
-Photo by Tyler Bullock

Sometimes, our friend and boat-neighbour Tyler is coming with us, helping us and teaching us what to do and how, and sometimes we go sailing just the four of us in order to see if we can do it without help. We did it, all right, but we almost killed each other the first couple of times.

Everything in the beginning is stressful and difficult: anchoring and pulling the anchor up, hoisting the main sail and bringing it down, unfurling and furling the jib, adjusting the sails, tacking and jibing, reefing, even keeping a straight course, are all maneuvers that excite much screaming and panicking among the four of us.

– I told you to go port, not starboard!

– I did it! I am all the way to port! The boat doesn’t listen to me!

– Pull that rope!

– Which rope, what are you talking about?

– Use your common sense, god damn it!

– Fuck, we lost speed!

– It’s your fault!

– Watch out that other boat!

– Don’t scream at me, this is not a car, it reacts slowly!

– Don’t talk to me like that!

– We are drifting backwards!

– It’s not my fault!

– I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!

I remember once reading a heated debate about guns on board: should we have some or not. Well, let me tell you, I wished I had a gun those two initiation sails, so I could kill everyone on board, believe me.

But then, we come back to the anchorage, drop the anchor in our usual spot and all goes back to normal. Life is beautiful again. Love is in the air.

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

People tell us all this is normal. “Happens to everyone in the beginning. You can tell the newbies when you see a boat approaching a quiet anchorage and everyone on board is screaming and panicking. It will get better as you learn, though. The yelling and hating will slowly diminish, your skills will improve, and sailing will be fun.

And I believe this is true, as each time we go sailing we do a lot better than the previous time. Now anchoring is a routine two-minute operation, hoisting the main sail is a few steps job which Maya and Viktor can do by themselves. As we are getting better at sailing we are also getting more relaxed and we begin to enjoy the ride. We don’t need guns on board any more.

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail -photo by Tylor Bullock

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail
-photo by Tylor Bullock

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Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

Tony was born thirty something years ago on June 6 sometime in the afternoon. Legend has it that he was born with tiny baby dreadlocks which grew longer, darker, and thicker as the years passed. He uttered his first baby words when he was only a few months old, still in diapers. With determination and a very serious expression on his face, he said: “beer” and “bike” (in that order). People thought that he would grow up to be a prophet or a genius. They were pretty close to the truth; he became a sailor, adventurer, punk-rocker, anarchist, freedom-seeker, beer-drinker, and biker. He became Tony Beerbike. He also became our good friend.

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

We met him and his trusty companion, Chopper, in Stock Island where he is working on his sailboat Pisces, a 28 feet Cape Dory, getting her ready for ocean travel and adventure.

On June 6 this year, we improvised a small birthday celebration and went out for a short sail on Fata Morgana with Tony and a few other friends. Tony made a huge pile of Mexican rice, so good, from now on this is how I will make it.

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

The sailing was fun and pretty much uneventful. We had a bit of waves that made the boat jump up and down. At the end we tried to anchor without using the engines, but a minor storm came out of nowhere, wind and rain, and we ended up using them.

The birthday celebration at sea ended with a traditional dinghy ride in the rain to a near-by uninhabited boat which was dragging her anchor quite a bit in the direction of some other uninhabited boats, and so an intervention was needed. Cherri, Tyler, and Ivo went aboard the stray boat and successfully deployed two more anchors to stop her from dragging and crashing into any of the other boats. We received thank you calls from some of the neighboring boats who witnessed the whole thing. We felt good about ourselves. And tired.

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The Launching of Fata Morgana

Tuesday, May 27, the day of the launching of Fata Morgana.

The day doesn’t look good. During the 57 days we have spent in 3D Boatyard in Key West FL working on our boat, there were only two gloomy rainy days one of which Tuesday, May 27. The problem with the rain is that we still need to paint a couple of spots on the hulls where the boat has been perched on two wooden props, and this needs to be done when the hulls are dry and the boat is lifted in the air by  the boat crane, an hour before launching.

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

All day we wait for the rain to stop or just give us a few minutes brake, but it doesn’t. It rains persistently, hopelessly: a monotonous female rain, filling the puddles with grey waters. It’s trying to hold us back, to worry and discourage us, and it succeeds for a while. We consider postponing the splash for a dryer day but decide to go ahead and paint in the rain trying to keep the spots on the hulls dry by holding towels above them. This is Tyler’s idea. Tyler, Cherri, and Tony have been helping us with the final works for the last two days, great guys, and together we do a good enough job painting in the rain.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Around 4 pm we are pretty much ready to splash. Tony and I stay on the boat, all the others watching from beneath as the crane gently lifts Fata Morgana like a sedated exotic animal and makes its way among the rest of the boats who watch paralyzed with nostalgia from their places in the boatyard.

The end of the day

The end of the day

Afloat, after so many dry days, Fata Morgana awakens, slightly starts rocking back and forth, feeling content and happy. She doesn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean after being loaded with so many heavy things and that is reassuring for me. The two hulls are submerged exactly to the waterline. Altogether she looks beautiful. She is everything we have imagined.

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And then all sorts of miracles happen. The sun, glorious, makes its way beneath the thick clouds to the west and sets on fire both land and sky. With vengeance.

A rainbow appears in the ocean like a mountain of candies, and you could reach up and touch it.

Three frigate birds like slow kites descend from their usual heights and begin circling above us.

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All this time, a grey carrier pigeon in a cage not much bigger then a shoe box has been sitting on the deck, watching us with one paranoid eye.

Cher Ami.

It becomes evident that we need a ceremony. We are now a tribe of water people aching for a ritual.

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

So, we sacrifice a bottle of champagne (which like the rainbow, the frigate birds, and the caged pigeon, materializes out of thin air) spilling its foamy white blood with a violent explosion over the bow of the boat. Glass shatters, Fata Morgana is christened.

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

We decide to take her for a short sail. We motor in the night without stars, with no horizon, only red and green lights blinking in the blackness. We release the pigeon. A ball of feathers disappears in the dark.

In the times of Pharaohs, sailors used pigeons as a sole communication with the land world sending news to their families that they were on the point of returning home. We send a message to ourselves.

It’s time to return to shore and wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we are going to the anchorage near Key West, where Tyler’s boats Rocksteady and En Cavale are too. Tyler and Cherry stay for the night. We are all exhausted.

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Final Touch-Ups. Painting the Name

Last day in the boatyard. Our sufferings will soon be over. The adventures shall begin.

(By ‘sufferings‘ I mean living in a place full of dirt and toxic dust where people are constantly sanding and painting their boats; with one toilet and one shower for all, men and women; no beach near by, nothing much to do; constantly working on the boat, mosquitoes and noseeums every evening; no AC, etc.)

Tomorrow is the big splash, Fata Morgana will finally go back to her natural habitat: the sea. Today, we finished painting the bottom and some final touch-ups.

Maya Painting

Maya Painting

Still, a boat will always look unfinished until you put the name on. Also, that is the most artistic and heroic of all jobs done on the boat (in this case, by me, of course). I am totally being sarcastic here. First, you spend months choosing a font and a design for the boat’s name. Next, you measure and decide how big will the letters be, what color, and where to place them. Usually, you place them on both sides of the hull(s), port and starboard, and on the back of the boat, where the name of the home port has to appear as well. Next, you go to a vinyl shop and you order your signs: big stickers which you stick to the boat.

This is one way of doing it. The guy in the vinyl shop told us it would cost us somewhere between a few hundred and over a thousand dollars, depending on the size and color of the letters. More than a thousand dollars for a name?!!!

Plan B

We went and bought special boat paint, couple of brushes and a clear-coat spray (all for under $80.00, black paint for the name, red and blue for the stripes on the sides) and I painted the name and the stripes myself. Took me a few hours for the two sides.

Here is the whole process of how you can (and should) do that yourself with pictures and all.

1. Design your letters or just choose a font and print them as big as they have to be on paper. I designed mine combining two fonts. I started with the letter A, because there are four A-s in Fata Morgana. Next, I based the letters O and G on the A and used the A again to create the T and the R. The capital F and M were hardest to come up with. I drew them with a pen on paper and I cut them out one by one.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

2. Next, I measured the place where the name will appear on the hull and  Ivo sanded it lightly to prep it. Then, I drew with a pencil contours around the paper letters on the hulls.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

3.Then, with a tiny brush, I colored the letters. I used tape around all straight edges, but mostly I just held my breath and, with as steady hand as possible, just painted directly on the boat.

Step 3: Tape, Paint

Step 3: Tape

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4.5: Ponder

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Note: Have you noticed the red and blue stripes on the boat? Same technique. I used tape to make them as straight as possible and I painted them on.

Also, if you wonder about the name Fata Morgana, please read on here.

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Stock Island

It’s strange living in a boat. The very idea of home becomes problematic. HOME IS WHERE OUR BOAT IS explains a little sign we found aboard, and in some way it is true. ‘Home’, the equivalent of ‘house’ is our boat. But ‘home’, the equivalent of ‘hometown’, where the mail gets sent to, or the geographical place where one feels one belongs is an ever-changing fluid notion.

Since we have been travelling we have become conscious of a peculiar occurring. As soon as we stop somewhere for two weeks or more temporarily living in a place, not merely visiting the touristic attractions, the place transforms into ‘home’. The transformation occurs slowly, by degrees.

As we learn where the local grocery store, park, beach, bus stop are; as we get used to the climate, flora, and fauna; as we establish relationships with new friends and temporary neighbors; as we learn bits and pieces of the place’s histories as remembered by the locals, the place becomes familiar to us. And we become familiar to the place too. We become familiar to the woman who sells us beer and ice cream in the grocery store, to the homeless guy who lives in the park where the kids play, to our temporary neighbors with whom we share food, drinks, and stories. It soon feels like home. We become locals.

Today, home is our boat Fata Morgana located in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida.

Actually (technically) we still haven’t visited Key West. The boatyard is in Stock Island, a small island which is part of Key West, Monroe County, but is also a separate city linked by a bridge north of the City of Key West.

Remember that big good-looking kid in fifth grade, with expensive clothes and a sleek haircut, smart, blond, and popular; and that other poor kid: dark, skinny, dirty, and mean, always getting in trouble, whose parents don’t speak English?

That other kid is Stock Island.

All the hotels, beaches, nice restaurants, nice bars, galleries and museums are in Key West. In Stock Island there is a military navy base, a sewage treatment plant, and a jail. All the fun-loving money-spending tourists go to Key West. In Stock Island live unemployed and low income families, mostly Cuban and Haitian refugees, no tourist comes here. The area is so poor that there is not a single full-scale grocery store (if we don’t count the small corner stores), but a food bank where the low-incomes can get loads of free groceries once a week. The jail is full with the Stock Island’s many homeless, who would do anything to spend more time there getting three hot meals a day, a bed, and good company.

In Key West you can visit the Light House, Hemingway’s house, or the Museum of Art. In Stock Island you can visit the trailer parks with no fences between trailers, laundry hanging out to dry, the smell of spices lurking out of open doors with dark interiors.

In Key West you can watch the sunset from Malory Square. In Stock Island you can watch Cuban fishermen gutting groupers at sunset.

In Key West you can sit in a coffee shop and admire the pink tourists in bikini and straw hats flip-flopping down Duval Street. In Stock Island you can walk down the side of a street covered with pieces of bleached corals and watch a group of black men in shorts sitting in front of the porch of a trailer, smoking and watching you back, suspiciously.

Here people have boats instead of cars parked in front of their houses. The ones who don’t have houses live in boats or repurposed motor vehicles of all kinds. And everyone rides bicycles.

If you were to wake up one morning here, say, fifty years ago, you would find the place pretty much the same: the same mangroves all around the shores, the same blue waters teaming with tropical fish, the same people and dwellings, only less. One change you might notice is that, in the old times, the bravest and most drunk party-loving tourists would come to Stock Island at three o’clock in the morning after the bars in Key West were already closed, because the bars in Stock Island would stay open all night.

This is the charm of Stock Island: its authenticity. If you are able to detect beauty in a pink trailer with an unhealthy stray cat sitting in front; in an old black woman with a wig and a bright orange dress walking down the street holding a heavy bag in each hand; in an old turquoise school bus turned house wild chickens running around; in a young Cuban boy helping his father clean fish on the pier; in a green iguana sunbathing on the edge of a boat; you will find Stock Island enchanting, like I do. It is home, really, for the time being.

Stock Island’s Dwellings&Dwellers

An old wooden house on pylons

An old wooden house on pylons

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How We Survived Our First Storm

It has been exactly one month since we are in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida working on our newly acquired catamaran Fata Morgana, getting her ready for liveaboard and cruising. Since one month, we are hearing people talking about “hurricane season”. Our neighbor  Dale in the wooden boat on our starboard side said that the hurricane season officially starts May 1. It started a day later.

On Thursday, May2, a storm hit us, totally unexpected, unpredicted, and unannounced. Our first ever Tropical Storm.

Around 10 in the morning the sky became dark and thick with mean hefty clouds like a herd of buffalos galloping from the northeast at 40 miles per hour, coming straight at us. We closed all hatches and doors. Suddenly massive sheet of rain and fierce winds swooped over the boatyard. The few trees next to the fence almost let go of the ground and flew away. Hell, our catamaran Fata Morgana gently perched on four wooden crates almost flew away, shaking and jerking like a freight train. At times I thought we were airborne, it felt like it. There were lightening followed by impressive explosions so loud and so near us it seemed we were caught under cross artillery fire. Small rivers formed quickly around the boats, puddles transformed into lakes. The earth became liquid. “Good thing we are in a boat”, I kept thinking, “We might as well float away.”

Then the winds calmed down, the rain almost stopped, and we thought the storm was over. Lasted just about a few minutes, we thought. But the clouds kept moving above us, darker and fuller, lower and faster, and it hit us again. And again. And again… Every time: heavier rains and stronger winds from a different direction. The monster kept roaring, attacking, retreating, and coming back again more ferocious and bloodthirsty. It swirled around and hit us five times in five interminable hours, giving us a few false hopes during the short calm intervals of a minute or two. “Please stop, that’s enough”, I pleaded whoever was in charge of the storm. “I am scared”. I get an electric flash of blinding blue light in the face and a mighty thunder for a response.

At one point the jib of the boat behind us, a big fifty feet sloop, unfurled with much noise and started thrashing about. Looked like some maniac in a bridal dress dancing before a sacrifice. Ivo and Jessie, the young guy from the boat next to the sloop, run aboard, as the owners were not there, to furl the jib. The whole boat shaking, and with the wind pushing the open sail, she would surely tip over and crash to the ground. But they saved her.

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

The storm lasted so long, that after a while I stopped being so afraid and accepted the future, whatever it was. I even started enjoying this uncontrollable display of energy and might. Nature at her best: raging, exploding, attacking, devouring.

Then the sky brightened, the wind calmed down and life was beautiful again. Even more beautiful than usual; it was perfect.

The Boatyard after the Storm

The Boatyard after the Storm

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