Welcome to Aruba

“Hello and welcome to our One Happy Island! I have been following your adventure and always wondered if you were to venture to Aruba, and here you are! Love to meet you in person and hear all about your travels. “

This was the most unexpected and wonderful message we received just a couple of days after we landed in Aruba, and it led to some awesome adventures and a great friendship.

North Coast, Aruba

North Coast, Aruba

The first place this guys (a family from Europe who now live in Aruba) took us was Taste of Belgium, a restaurant located in the Palm Beach Plaza Mall. Great style, food and service.

Maya at Taste of Belgium Restaurant, Aruba

Maya at Taste of Belgium Restaurant, Aruba

After coffee and hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream, we piled up in their jeep and went to check out couple of Aruba’s most popular tourist attractions: California Lighthouse and Alto Vista Chapel.

Aruba

Aruba

After a short drive on a narrow road surrounded by sand dunes and spiky Divi Divi trees all twisted and bent from the tradewinds, stretching branches to the southwest, we got to the northwest tip of Aruba where the island’s most famous landmark rises.

Lighthouse California, Aruba

Lighthouse California, Aruba

California Lighthouse is a 30-meter lighthouse built in 1916 near Arashi Beach. It was named after the steamship California that wrecked near the shores in September 23, 1891.

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The Arashi Beach itself is a popular snorkeling destination away from the big hotels and crowds attracting locals and tourists with its rock formations and underwater life.

Divi Divi tree, Aruba

Divi Divi tree, Aruba

The Arashi Beach is a participant in the Aruba Reef Care Project to clean up reefs, shallow waters and public beaches. Arashi is Blue Flag certified, part of a program to promote green behavior and increase eco-awareness on the island.

Further down the winding dusty road with a string of crosses all along one side we got to a small chapel built on a hill overlooking the sea amidst a forest of cacti which cover most of this hot dry flat island. From this small hill we could see not only the Caribbean sea but the entire island stretching to the south.

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Alto Vista Chapel was built in 1750 by Domingo Silvestre, a Venezuelan missionary, and rebuilt in 1952. It is also known as “Pilgrims Church”. Here started the conversion of Aruban Indians to Christianity.

Alto Vista, Aruba

Alto Vista, Aruba

Behind the chapel we found an intricate labyrinth which didn’t seem very complicated but it took us a long time to get to its center without cheating… A long time under the burning desert sun.

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

On the way back we made a few stops just to look at the sea and shores which on the north side of the island, the harsh, unprotected by the relentless tradewinds shores, looks wild and unforgiving. Swimming here is forbidden by law.

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We didn’t even think about swimming here, nor sailing… It’s one of those awesome places of power where nature just wants to be left alone. Respect.

The same afternoon our new friends picked us up from Palm Beach near where Fata Morgana was anchored (us and a huge bag with dirty laundry), and took us to their home for a “washing party”. While our clothed, towels and bed sheets were miraculously being washed and dried in a real big washing machine and drier, we shared stories, drinks and nice dinner- BBQ and the tastiest butter potatoes with mozzarella cheese, and crème brule for dessert. The kids played in the sun-heated swimming pool.

Not many land-based people truly understand the needs and daily problems of the cruising liveabord family (laundry and land transportation mostly). But these guys knew. They gave us a tour of Aruba, and insisted to help us do our washing and grocery shopping. Our gratitude cannot be expressed with words. The hospitality, generosity and kindness of these people whom we had just met the same morning are immense.

When we got home that day Maya couldn’t believe that all those things happened in just one day. She kept asking: “Did we really just meet them this morning?” It felt like we knew them for much longer time.

Maya Ivo and Mira in Aruba Мая Иво и Мира в Аруба

Maya Ivo and Mira in Aruba
Мая Иво и Мира в Аруба

Such was our unforgettable Friday in Aruba.

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Passage to Aruba

March 16th, Monday

After one last big shopping spree in Sam’s Club for boat provisions we sail to The Coffin Island (Caja de Muertos) 7 miles southeast of Ponce. Every weekend a boat unloads a mob of Puerto Rican weekenders with their beach umbrellas and beach creams to spend a few hours on the beach of this little island which is also a National Park. It is a small tourist attraction with a very interesting history. The legend has it, that a Portuguese pirate buried his beloved, along with half of his treasure, in a glass coffin on the island. Years later, the grave and the coffin were found, but to this day no one knows what happened to the treasure…

Caja de Muertos

Caja de Muertos

And among the sailors there is a superstition that if you want to have a safe passage, you better stop and visit the Coffin Island right after leaving Ponce. We do stop there for a night, but not entirely out of superstition. Rather, we want to start sailing early on the next day, before sunrise and without turning on the engines. In Ponce the wind dies at night because of the katabatic mountain effect until 8-9 a.m., when the sun’s heat cancels the effect, and even though this makes for an excellent night’s sleep, it is impossible to sail near the shores of Puerto Rico before 8 a.m.

March 17th, Tuesday

We set sail for Aruba around 6 a.m. It’s still dark. We have 380 nautical miles ahead, which is a big 3-day passage for us. In the Caribbean we have been sailing for just a few hours between the islands in the past year.

The weather forecast is perfect. East winds 15-20 knots, 1-2 meter waves every 5-6 seconds. We have been waiting for such mild tradewinds for a month now. But the weather forecast is not always exact and we don’t trust them 100%. Often the wind can be 5 knots more or less than predicted and there is always the danger of squalls. First a small innocent white cloud forms on the horizon. The cloud quickly grows tall, heavy and dark at the base. The wind dies for a minute or two- time to reef the sails. And then it starts squealing 30-40 knots, sometimes more, just for a few minutes. Such sudden squalls have ruined many boats.

Nothing extraordinary happens the first day of the passage. The wind is slower than predicted 8-12 knots. Fata Morgana is sailing calmly with 4-5 knots. We sleep, read, Maya plays the piano.

Maya and her piano

Maya and her piano

The dolphins find us again and stay to race with the boat for about two hours, which is unusually long. Usually, after a few minutes they get bored and leave to look for other boats to race. We always love to see them and we always talk to them and we admire their skillful fast movements through the water, how they swim, sometime on their backs, just for fun, how they exhale bubbles just before they come out for air, how they jump sometimes, how they enjoy the sea. We love them incredibly much and they know it.

Иво с делфини

Иво с делфини

Мая с делфини

Мая с делфини

March 18th, Wednesday

The night passes slowly, the wind remains calm, the sails are well adjusted and tight. We are 100 miles south of Puerto Rico and can still hear the US Coast Guard on the radio, and this is great comfort for us. We cross paths with a few big ships. Two of them even change course to avoid us. Celia, Harmen Oldendorff and tanker Lue Liang Wan on its way to Curacao.

No moon. Only billions of stars, so bright they illuminate tiny star-paths in all directions. Fata Morgana skims over the dark surface of the sea leaving a trail of white foam, like a veil, sprinkled with tiny photo luminescent glimmers- glowing jewels on lacework.

The morning arrives slowly. We are very tired and take turns on the helm, Ivo and I, every two hours. We keep sailing and everything is calm.

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In the morning Maya makes us omelets with feta cheese and reads another history lesson. There are no more ships around us, we are alone, 150 miles from the nearest land, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Ivo is not happy with the fact that we still don’t have a fish on the hook. He goes below for a nap.

Добро утро!

Добро утро!

Not long after, I see, just a few meters away from the boat, a marlin jumping out of the water vertically, and splash – a flamboyant splash, like a whale. White belly and dark sleek back, long body and a pointy nose, like a spade. I can’t believe it! He jumps again. Suddenly, the hiss of the fishing pole. Ivo appears eyes wide open, takes the rod and we see the marlin again. He shoots up vertically, falls and snaps the cord. He takes off with the lure. A beauty. Gone.

The wind picks up 14-18 knots and we speed up to 6-7 knots. The sea gets more agitated too. The waves are now bigger but still gentle, coming slowly behind us at an angle and we surf comfortably down with 8-9 knots. At noon we doze off in the cockpit. We see seagulls. Thousands of seagulls, flying low over the water, some perched on the waves, rocking. What are seagulls doing hundreds of miles away from land in the middle of the sea? Fishing! Beneath us, a school of hundreds of tunas are feeding on smaller fish and the seagulls are waiting for the abundant pickings. We are passing right in the middle of the commotion with one lure all tangled with seaweed, but the other clean and completely available for the grabs. We catch a striped tuna. They are also called watermelons, as they do look like watermelons, all round, with red juicy meat. Extremely tasty with garlic butter just a few seconds on the frying pan. Ivo is happy.

Иво с туна

Иво с туна

March 19th, Thursday

We are halfway there. The second night is as calm as the first, even more so with no ships around. Ivo decides to see how he would singlehandle the boat and orders me to go and sleep all night. He just lies in the cockpit and sleeps too, opening one eye every now and then to see if everything is normal. It is.

To imagine sailing at night you must imagine driving at night in complete darkness in a bumpy field, without headlights. Not any lights, no moon. Everything is black and you cannot see ahead. The only lights are the stars and the two screens- one is the GPS showing you on a map where the boat is and another indicating the wind speed and direction. The autopilot is keeping the course. You do nothing. Even if the tiny lights of a ship appear on the horizon (and you first see the ship on the GPS or the radar), it’s 2-3 hours at least before you get close to it.

The wind picks up in the morning 18 to 24 knots. The boat is going faster now 7-8 knots surfing with 9 down the waves. White caps form and it’s bumpier. But the distance to destination gets shorter a lot faster too.

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We catch a female dorado. She is a beautiful golden fish with an extravagant blue dorsal fin. Some fishermen will tell you that the dorados, also called mahi-mahis, get married and remain with their spouses for life, not like most people who divorce when they get fed up with each other. The couples love each other dearly, without questions, jalousies and complications. They swim together in oceans and seas, give birth to billions of babies, and die together at the end. When you catch one dorado, the other will desperately follow the boat without thinking, without a plan. It will just swim after the boat on which his beloved better half is, with a broken hearth and without hope till the end of the world.

Ivo gently unhooks Mrs. Dorado and puts some medical alcohol in her gills (anesthesia), and we watch her die. The shine in her gold skin fades away, she stops trembling and the terror in her eye freezes. Ivo puts the freed lure back in the water and carefully starts operating, like a skillful surgeon. First, he removes her guts, then he slices the filets on both sides of the middle bone, he peals the skin off, and he amputates the head.

Of course, after just a few minutes we hook Mr. Dorado, it’s inevitable. On the same lure. He comes out without a fight, he gives up, abandons himself, brokenhearted. The last thing he sees before he dies is the dismantled body of his wife. And Ivo leaning over him with a bottle of medical alcohol.

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We decide not to fish any more. One 15-pound tuna and a couple of dorados is enough food for a week. Like experienced shamans, satisfied, solemn and sad, we thank Neptune for the fish.

Sunset. It gets dark. We are approaching Aruba. In the night we first see a glow on the horizon, then the light from a lighthouse and then the many lights of buildings and cars and ships anchored. Hotels and restaurants, drunk people are singing somewhere on land. We drop anchor at midnight, after a 66-hour passage. Three sunrises, three sunsets, three fishes, not a single squall. Three people in a boat.

The next morning, March 20th, Friday, we go to the docks in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, where we clear in immigration and customs. It takes about 2 hours, mostly waiting for the officials to come to the boat and bring the paperwork, which we have to fill in and return, without ever leaving the boat. Passports are stamped, documents and exchanged, no one boards Fata Morgana, and the entire procedure is completely free and done on the pier. No fees whatsoever. What a pleasant surprise!

Фата Моргана на док в Аруба

Фата Моргана на док в Аруба

Welcome to Aruba!

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Puerto Rico Thank You and Good Bye

Puerto Rico was good to us.

Here we met again many of our old cruising friends and we also made many new friends.

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The girls from S/V Salty Kisses

One of our best moments was visiting Guavate’s lechoneras and spending an afternoon with Greg and Michel from S/V Semper Fi eating roasted pig Puerto Rico style and dancing with the locals.

 Michele and Mira dancing

Michele and Mira dancing

In Fajardo, the most wonderful thing happened: we got a new kayak we named Junior, thanks to our great new sponsors KaykShop.bg. We tried the kayak right away on a short expedition up Fajardo river. It was a smooth ride and we were very pleased with Junior.

Up Fajardo River

 

Our favorite place on the island remains old San Juan with its massive forts and colonial buildings, narrow streets and blue cobblestones.

Сан Хуан

Fort in Old San Juan

The most unexpected non-touristy site we visited this time around was the Monkey Island, where we met the resident Macaque monkeys used for scientific research.

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We are leaving Puerto Rico with a feeling of deep gratitude to this beautiful tropical island, which was home to us for the past 6 weeks, and its people, who treated us like friends and made us feel welcome every minute of our stay.

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We felt safe sailing in the waters around the island knowing that the US Coast Guard is just a call away on channel 16. They deployed an airplane and a helicopter investigating a mayday call we overheard on the radio, which to us sounded like a prank, and they took the positions of all boats in the area, who have heard the call, ours included, in order to establish a search perimeter, but a boat in distress was never found. Way to go guys, thank you for watching over us!

The customs’ officials in Fajardo and Ponce were pleasant and smiling when we cleared-in presenting our one-year cruising permit. As Canadian cruisers, we don’t need a visa to visit any US territory, only a cruising permit good for an entire year with multiple entries, which costs 19 US$. No other fees are charged entering or leaving Puerto Rico.

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We are grateful to the Fajardo’s Post Office manager who let us use the phone and the branch address for free, so we were able to order and receive mail, as well as to the supervisor in Post Office Ponce branch, who assisted us as well when we had an issue with a package held by the US customs in New York for over 3 weeks.

We are grateful to the Fajardo ferry operator who gave us a free lift right to our boat with one of the little shuttles that go between Isleta Marina and the main pier, when we accidently locked our kayak to the fishing docks, forgetting the key for the padlock aboard Fata Morgana…And to the guys who gave us and our huge pile of provisions a free lift with their motorboat in Ponce.

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We are grateful to Marina Puerto del Ray for immediately hauling Fata Morgana out and accommodating us at a discount price in their boatyard, after we had an emergency issue which could turn ugly if we weren’t near a haul-out facility (Ivo popped out the through-hull fitting for the starboard head while at anchor in 20 feet of water, and we almost sunk the boat).

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We are grateful to all those women and men, about a dozen, who gave us free lifts when we were walking and hitchhiking in Fajardo and in Ponce to the stores and shopping places, which unfortunately in both cases are miles away from the anchorages, and public transportation is unavailable. They would go out of their way and bring us to wherever we were going for no charge at all.

We are grateful to the free outdoors gym near La Guancha, just next to our anchorage in Ponce, where Maya loved to go now and then and do some exercises in the company of a few noisy green parrots building their nests in the palm trees in the park.

Мая в парка

Maya in the park

We are grateful to the pizza-woman in Sam’s Club, who always took our order with a smile teaching Ivo new Spanish words, and, it appears to us, she would put extra cheese on our pizzas, every time (we would share an extra-large 10-dollar cheese pizza in Sam’s Club every time we went there, about 10 times).

We are grateful to the waters of the sea around Puerto Rico for being so generous with us and sharing a few of their tastiest fishes.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

We are now all stocked up on the cheapest possible provisions from Sam’s Club, ready to continue our journey to the next unforgettable destinations: Aruba, Colombia, Panama, and beyond

провизии

провизии

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Fishing

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”

– Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning

Lake Isabal, Guatemala Езерото Изабал, Гватемала

Lake Isabal, Guatemala
Езерото Изабал, Гватемала

Fishing- an ancient practice dating back to prehistoric times and still widely practiced today in small coastal communities throughout the world, is extremely important to us, aboard S/V Fata Morgana. It is a way to get precious proteins and fresh food while far away from the market, in the wild and off the grid. It’s a way to survive while at sea or near remote areas, where shopping for food is impossible.

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To fish while sailing Ivo uses the most popular and simple fishing technique- trolling- letting between 100 and 150 feet of line (depending on the weather and sea condition) baited with lures behind the boat, in an area clean of bubbles but close enough to the boat’s wake.

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Ivo has a bunch of different fishing rods and reels aboard but he usually uses the two biggest ones equipped with wire 1-2 feet leaders, which prevents the fish from cutting the line with their teeth. He has one 60lb line and one 80lb line connected to strong snap swivels, to allow a quick change of pre-rigged leaders.

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The hooks he usually uses are from 2/0 to 5/0 and he normally uses shallow or deep-diver plugs and spinners for lures- they imitate real fish. There are many ways to make your own lures out of all sorts of discarded materials like empty toothpaste containers and pieces of cloth or plastic etc. and they are as effective as the lures you get in the stores.

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Ivo attaches one fishing rod on each side of the boat in the two very convenient handles and he started tying them up with a line, after a huge barracuda took off with his best most expensive tackle one unlucky day.

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He usually catches fish when the speed of the boat is more than 3 and less than 7 knots.

Ivo caught a fish Иво хванал риба

Ivo caught a fish
Иво хванал риба

So far, Ivo has caught many tunies and bonitos, kingfish, mackerel, yellow fin tuna, mahi mahi (dorado), mahogany snapper and of course thousands of barracudas, which we no longer eat, even though they are tasty, because of ciguatera poisoning danger.

Ivo with a small Dorado Иво с дорадо

Ivo with a small Dorado
Иво с дорадо

 

The tunas, kingfish, mackerel, and dorado Ivo catches in deep waters away from shore, the snappers he catches in shallow 30-60 feet waters near the shore.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

Once he caught a shark and released it back in the water.

reef shark

reef shark

On many occasions sharks ate half or most of the fish hooked on Ivo’s hook before he could pull it out of the water.

Ivo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

Ivo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

The most fish Ivo caught around Mexico’s east coast.

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

Around Puerto Rico and Cuba he caught the most of our favorite mahogany snappers.

Mira also wanted a picture with the fish Мира също искаше да се снима с рибата...

Mira also wanted a picture with the fish
Мира също искаше да се снима с рибата…

When at anchor, Ivo likes to go spearfishing with his spear gun or Hawaiian sling and sometimes catches groupers, snappers and lobsters.

Иво лови лангусти с харпун

Иво лови лангусти с харпун

Then, it’s his job the clean the fish. Head, middle bone, tail, guts, skin- everything goes back in the water, only the fillets are left.

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Mira prepares the fish.

When we bring a big 30-pound tuna aboard, Mira needs to prepare it at least 10 times in variety of ways.

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With tunas and tuna-family fish (bonitos, tunies etc.) and other red and pink meat fish Mira makes sushi maki rolls. A friend named Krasi, who lives in Italy and is a professional sushi shef thought her how to make it.

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The maki rolls are easy to make and extremely tasty if you have the correct ingredients. You can also improvise and substitute ingredients, like Mira has done plenty of times (like using regular not special sushi rice), but the result will not be the same.

Продукти за суши

Продукти за суши

To make her best sushi recipe, Mira uses Sushi Rice, Sheets of Seaweed, 2 tbs Vinegar and a Sushi Rolling Mat. For the Filling: Raw Tuna, Avocado, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Roasted White Sesame Seeds.

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Another favorite tuna recipe is Curry Flavored Tuna, by another friend back in St Martin- Raphael. He though Mira how to cut stripes from the meat, roll them in curry powder and then very quickly sauté them in butter, so that the meat inside remains raw and only slightly cooked on the outside.

Туна с къри

Curry flavored tuna= Туна с къри

Yet another tasty tuna recipe is Baked Tuna in Tomato Sauce. Mira fries big chunks of the meat in butter and adds a can of tomato sauce, herbs and lots of garlic to simmer with the meat for 10-15 minutes. Great with white rice on the side.

туна с доматен сос и ориз

Tuna in tomato sauce-туна с доматен сос и ориз

The white fillet fish, like mahi mahi, mahogany snapper, even kingfish Mira would cut into steaks and throw on the BBQ with a bit of lemon-pepper salt for a quick roast- very quick!

Рибешки пържоли

Рибешки пържоли

Or bread them with egg-and-flower mixture. The breaded fish is Maya’s favorite fish recipe, because it tastes like chicken, and Maya doesn’t like fish much.

Панирано филе от снапър

Панирано филе от снапър

All you need for this is 2-3 eggs and a cup of flour with a bit of salt in it. Mira sometimes mixes the eggs and flower and makes a paste, then dips the fish steaks in it and fries them in butter or cooking oil until they become golden on the outside.

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The smaller fish Ivo brings speared from the reefs Mira fries with the skin and bones (only the scales and guts are removed). Lobsters she boils for a few minutes, not too long so they don’t get to hard and chewy.

Barracudas are said to be dangerous to eat, as they may use ciguatera poisoning. Yet, we have been eating the smaller barracudas in the Bahamas all the time without any problems.

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The only real danger of poisoning yourself is, if you eat any of the fish caught by Ivo and prepared by Mira without a cold beer on the side.

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Cheers!

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Biggest fish Ivo caught

Иво с риба тон

Иво с риба тон

ught- Tuna

 

Smallest fish came aboard and died in our kayak one night- Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo

Ugliest uneatable fish Ivo ever hooked- Remora

Remora

Remora

The most beautiful fish we ate (not tasty at all)- Angelfish

Иво с Angelfish

Иво с Angelfish

Our first big fish we caught and ate- shark

The shark we caught

The shark we caught

The smallest fishes we used to catch and eat a lot- grunts

Mira with fishes

Mira with fishes

The most dangerous fish we ate (very tasty)- Lionfish

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Lionfih-Риба Лъв

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Off The Grid

Off The Grid

by Mira Nencheva

This article has been published in OffGridQuest.com

The English word ‘free’ has two meanings. The goal of our adventures around the world by sailboat are to prove that if you are determined and crazy enough you can enjoy life, learn, and travel free.

Such unusual goal is achievable only by unusual means. In order to imagine how it is possible for a family to live and travel for an extended period of time across long distances on a very minimal budget and almost without participating in the so called ‘system’ you really have to forget about all those things which until now you considered ‘normal’ or ‘mandatory’ because they are neither. Some of these things for which you have to imagine alternatives are: school, permanent job, fixed income, monthly expenses, insurance and retirement. Today’s system is organized around these and other imposed conditions. But humanity existed long before they were forced upon us. Our quest is to defy borders, physical and metaphorical, to be independent, self-sufficient and free.

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One day we decided to buy a boat and sail around the world.

We left work, we left school, we sold our car, our house in Canada and everything in it, and in April 2013 we bought a 2001, 38-foot Leopard catamaran which we named Fata Morgana. She became our home, school, and vehicle.

Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

Of all means of long distance travel and transportation, sailing is the only one that doesn’t require fuel, only wind, and thus doesn’t pollute. We thought: „Тhe idea to travel between continents, to cross oceans and see the world using only nature’s elements is fantastic!“ And even though our boat has not one but two engines, we decided right at the start that we would only use them in emergency situations. Since then, we learned to sail tacking against the wind, lifting and dropping anchor on sail, and even pulling the boat with our kayak (we don’t have a dinghy anymore) with 0.5 knots per hour when the wind dies. But no engines.

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Once, when we were sailing along the remote shores of Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s biggest lake, the wind died completely and Ivo deployed the kayak and started pulling the boat, as he always does. An old indigenous fisherman saw us and with his dugout cayuco came to the rescue. “Do you have problem with the engine? Did you finish the fuel? Do you need help” he asked worried. “No, the engines are fine, we have plenty of fuel, and you can’t help a crazy person. Loco…”, I told him and pointed in the direction of Ivo, paddling, Fata Morgana looming behind him.

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It’s not just a question to save on fuel; it’s a sort of a principal enforced by law aboard Fata Morgana: not to turn the engines on, which sometimes drives everyone crazy. But it’s a fact: last time we fueled was 14 months ago, in November 2013 in Florida. Since then we sailed for many nautical miles, south to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and all of the Caribbean Islands down to Trinidad and Tobago, and back to Puerto Rico with our fuel tanks still full.

And we not only travel for free, but we liveaboard comfortably with no monthly bills. Before we left Florida we transformed Fata Morgana in a unique off-the-grid vessel.

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Two of the main problems cruisers have are electricity and fresh water. We solved these problems by investing in solar panels and a reverse osmosis desalinating machine (or a ‘watermaker’) which we installed and service ourselves. We built a fiberglass hard top above the cockpit and there we placed a field of Kyocera solar panels producing a total of 1 500 Watts pure solar electricity, which we store in 4 lithium batteries total of 700 A. By 9 a.m. our battery bank is usually full. We have more power than we can use. (We don’t have a generator aboard and we don’t turn on the engines to produce electricity.)

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The biggest electricity consumer aboard is the fridge and freezer using 12-15 A/h 24/7. When sailing, all the navigational electronics: the GPS, radar, VHF radio, AIS etc. use 15-20 A/h. All lights aboard are LED and consume very little electricity. The two electrical toilets take 16 A/h only while in use. The watermaker sucks 16 A/h and produces 16 gallons of pure drinkable freshwater per hour. We keep the 800-litters water tanks full at all times by turning on the watermaker for a few hours every 3-4 days. When it’s raining, we collect rainwater with a very efficient system of hoses coming down the sides of the hard top. We use the rainwater for laundry, which we do in buckets, by hand. Good thing in the Tropics we don’t wear too many clothes.

Maya did her laundry Мая простира прането

Maya did her laundry
Мая простира прането

Thus, we can drop anchor in the most remote lagoon for a week or a month or a year or two without having to visit the docks for fuel or water. We have never been more independent, enjoying some of the most pristine beautiful places of the world, spending money mostly for beer and ice cream.

Fata Morgana in Barbuda Фата Моргана в Барбуда

Fata Morgana in Barbuda
Фата Моргана в Барбуда

We never go to marinas, as anchorages everywhere are free. We have a sewing machine to mend the sails and all sorts of tools for all sorts of repairs. When visiting places, we walk sometimes great distances, as unfortunately we don’t have space for bicycles on the boat. Sometimes we hitchhike or take the bus. We catch and eat lots of fish and we cook aboard and make our own bread. We still have to spend money when something on the boat breaks and needs to be fixed or replaced, when a line snaps or the hulls need painting. Maintaining a boat can be very expensive, especially the first year, but we try to do even this as cheaply as possible, fixing everything we can ourselves. But besides this we don’t have much of the daily, weekly and monthly bills and expenses we used to have on land.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

But this way of life took some adjustment. We had to learn to do without a dishwasher, a washing machine, AC, TV, and Wi-Fi here and there now and then. The fridge is a box and in order to get to the stuff on the bottom, you first have to take out everything on the top. Ice is luxury, so is hot water. We take very quick cold water showers, unless we use one of those black plastic bags heated by the sun, which are great. We have reduced our consumption of everything, and we have cut most ties to the grid. We don’t even have a phone or a permanent address. Once, someone in an institution who tried unsuccessfully to fill up a form for us, told us: “It looks like you don’t exist!”

Ivo chilling on a palm tree

Ivo chilling on a palm tree

But we like it like this and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are constantly learning. Living aboard a boat, traveling and seeing the world, using the energy of the wind in ordper to move across vast distances, harvesting the power of the sun to make electricity and with it freshwater, are some of the most valuable lessons for our 11-years-old daughter Maya educated outside of the school system. She knows a lot about clean renewable energy and conservation of natural resources, and her respect for the natural environment and our connection to it is profound. With the ties to the grid cut off we have come much closer to nature than ever before.

Maya Мая

Maya
Мая

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