Easter Beach Camping in Aruba

Easter Camping in Aruba

or Los Locos Felices (The Happy Crazies)

by Mira Nencheva

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Palm Beach, Aruba

We sailed to Aruba in the middle of March and dropped anchor in front of Palm Beach, Aruba’s most popular white sand beach with tall palm trees and a strip of big sparkling hotels all lined up along the west coast, facing the Caribbean Sea and the spectacular sunsets. Radisson, Holiday Inn, Marriott’s, Global Suite, The Ritz, and the all-inclusive Riu Palace- the Caribbean Taj Mahal. With marble floors and crystal chandeliers, infinity swimming pools, artificial waterfalls and tropical gardens, restaurants surrounded by goldfish ponds with black swans, beach bars and every comfort and luxury the tourist might dream for, these resorts offer the ultimate beach experience for somewhere between 200 and 500 dollars per person per night. Maybe even more.

Hotel Riu, Aruba

Hotel Riu Palace, Aruba

Aruba is a world famous vacation destination for the rich and tourism is the country’s main industry. It is “Heaven on Earth” for those who can afford it…

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But imagine if you can fly to Aruba and pitch a tent on the beach, next to Marriott’s Resort, at a very low cost. Wouldn’t that be something! If you are a backpacker or a student, or anyone with limited financial means traveling on a budget and you still want to enjoy the same island, the same beach, and the same sun and sea as the rich and the privileged, why not camping for a week or two in Aruba? You just have to time it well and plan your Arubian camping trip around Easter.

Tents in front of Marriott Hotel, Palm Beach, Aruba

Tents in front of Marriott Hotel, Palm Beach, Aruba

Actually, camping in Aruba is a very popular activity among the locals. It is a decade old tradition which transforms the coastline of the island, especially the western side, into a huge camping ground but only for a couple of weeks in March or April, whenever Easter happens to be that year.

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Easter is among the most important holidays for the Arubans and “Easter Beach Camping” is a highly anticipated and very well organized event taking place every year since forever, even since before the first hotel in Aruba was built. Families gather on previously determined big camping sites on one of Aruba’s many beaches during the kids’ Easter vacation and pitch their tents and tarpaulins. But first, they have to apply for a special camping permit -one for one camping site which may include many tents, issued by the local police for 5 $US per tent. The biggest camping site I saw this year included 11 brothers and sisters and their families- about 70 people in total, of which 30% were children. The permit holder becomes the “president” of the camping site and has to ensure that everyone respects the strict rules, otherwise he might lose the permit: no excessive noise after 10 p.m., no littering, no fire, no BBQ, no driving and no animals on the beach.

Playing dominos

Playing dominos

Normally, they apply for a permit by filling in a form and paying the fee at the local police station a month before the event, to make sure they will get the desired spot on one of the many beaches all around Aruba: Arashi Beach, Eagle Beach, Baby Beach, and Palm Beach among others.

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The camping is perfectly organized with portable toilets and small open kitchens. Every compound includes many tents and a large common area where everyone gathers to eat and celebrate together. Every meal for the next two weeks is transformed into a party.

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I met and talked to a few of the campers. They were super welcoming and happy to share a beer and a nice meal with me, while telling me all about Easter camping in Aruba. And I must say, the chicken was fabulous!

We are “locos felices” (happy crazies), they said proudly. We have been getting together every year for Easter in this same spot for twenty years now. We are a big family, about 30-40 people. The children love it, and this activity is mainly for them! The little cousins play together on the beach all day long and sleep in the tents at night. On Easter morning we do Egg Hunt on the beach. The grown-ups, we don’t sleep in the tents, they are for the kids. We sleep all under this tarpaulin in hammocks, all together, in open air. It’s all about spending time together, as a family, living as one with the peaceful nature.

Maria, 85 with four of her children

Maria, 85 (right) with her three daughters and a son

At age 85 Maria is the oldest camper. She only spends the days in the camp and returns to sleep in her house at night. But in her younger days, 20 years ago when she was only 65, she used to stay overnight as well.

This year, she has four out of five of her children, as well as many of her grand and great-grandchildren camping together just north of hotel Marriott on Palm Beach. Her son is the “president”, or the “chief”.

 

Maria and her daughters in the common area. Behind Maria is the area where the adults spread their hammocks and sleep at night together.

Maria and two of her daughters in the common area. Behind Maria is the area where the adults spread their hammocks and sleep at night together.

Marriott is the newest hotel on Palm Beach and was finished just months ago. Before, the campers used the beach area which is now reserved for the hotel, and they got pushed away. Their grounds are becoming smaller because of the large resorts which are taking over.

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When I asked them if visitors to the island can also apply for a permit and camp in Aruba on Easter, some told me sure, but others replied it is just for the locals.

And even if it was permitted, they said, we wouldn’t like it for tourists to do it. Imagine everyone instead of going in the hotels, pitching a tent on the beach. There wouldn’t be space left for us!

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Yet, as confirmed by VisitAuba.com, everyone is allowed to apply for a camping permit from the local Police Station in Noord (Call+297 587-0009) for two week around Holy Week on Easter, locals and tourists alike, and as long as there is space available and the permit is granted 10 days in advance, you can camp in Aruba! The cost of the permit is $5 per tent for the entire period (1-2 weeks).

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The problem is, you have to apply for a permit in person in the police station and preferably one month in advance… So I guess, Easter camping in Aruba will remain predominantly a local tradition.

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Author: Mira Nencheva, her husband Ivo and 11-years-old daughter Maya are sailing around the world and living off the grid full-time aboard their 38 feet Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana since July 2013. Their journey is documented in a travel-adventure blog www.thelifenomadik.com and in their Facebook page Facebook/The Life Nomadik where Mira is publishing stories and pictures.

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Pilar Rossi: A Boat Story

Pilar Rossi: A Boat Story

By Mira Nencheva

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue #235 of Caribbean Compass on page 21

Pilar Rossi in Grenada

Pilar Rossi in Grenada

Some stories begin with a dream. Such is this story.

We arrived in Grenada in mid-October, after spending almost the entire hurricane season sailing slowly down the Caribbean Island Chain. It was our first year of cruising; our first time visiting the region. Every place was new and unfamiliar to us and everything seemed wonderful and magical. Yet, I remember one particular moment when we were so amazed that our jaws literally dropped like in the old animation films and we went:

“Woooow! Look! Have you ever imagined, have you ever dreamed about anything like this!?”

View from the mast- Anchorage in St Barths photo by Tomaz A. Christovao

View from the mast- Anchorage in St Barths
photo by Tomaz A. Christovao

And it wasn’t the crater of a bubbling volcano beneath our feet, or a family of green monkeys watching us from the trees in the late afternoon, or an infinite pink beach where the only footsteps are those of sea turtles crawling out of the ocean to lay eggs at night, or an old fort built up on top of a hill facing the sunset; not even a waterfall booming amidst insane tropical vegetation.

It was a boat. A most extraordinary boat.

Pilar Rossi- view from the mast photo by Tomaz Cristovao

Pilar Rossi- view from the mast
photo by Tomaz A. Christovao

We dropped anchor in the wide anchorage outside of St George’s Bay and with our orange kayak started for the Port Luis Marina. As we paddled pass the channel, keeping near to the south shore, we saw two masts sticking high above the hills, reaching for the clouds. Slowly, we turned the corner.

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And there she was looming above us like a giant white bird from a different world- Pilar Rossi , one of the top 10 biggest megayachts in the world.

Pilar Rossi in Grenada

Pilar Rossi in Grenada

Pilar Rossi is a 211-foot steel luxury megayacht with aluminum superstructure, width of 46 feet, and draught of only 7 feet. With such glorious proportions and unique design, there isn’t a single person who remains calm at the first sight of the ship. A magnificent enchantress.

But even more amazing and unbelievable is her story.

Aboard Pilar Rossi

Aboard Pilar Rossi

You see, Pilar Rossi wasn’t always as big and impressive as she is today. Like in the story of the little duckling who transformed as he grew older into a beautiful white swan because such was his destiny, so did Pilar Rossi change with time.

In the 1980s one person who believed in himself, a daring man for whom limits do not exist, or if they do, he goes beyond them, and dreams are a matter of passion and dedication, decided to build a boat.

Pilar Rossi began her life at sea in Turkey in 1989, as a 112-foot Alucraft motor yacht with one hull and no masts. But some years later, her owner, the legendary three times Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet from Brazil, together with his uncle Mauricio Piquet, a naval architect, drew up a new design. Another 100 feet of length was added in the back of the boat thus doubling her size, as well as two massive outriggers built with the semi-SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) concept which was at that time the best options for multihulls, minimizing the ship’s volume near the surface area of the sea, where wave energy is located, thus maximizing the vessel’s stability, even in high seas and at high speeds. Two new masts, one 148 feet and another 138 feet high, made by Formula Yacht Spars in Lymington, England, gave the boat her new sailing soul and transformed her into a mega-schooner-trimaran. With hydraulically operated genoa, fishman, staysail and mainsail, she now has 2,200 sq m of sail area, capable of 8 knots under sail and up to 15 knots when motor-sailing. The main engines are two 1360 HP / 530 Kilowatts MAN, and two John Deer engines with 90kw each one as generators. One of her advantages is that the new hull is built on top of the old one creating an air cushion and thus making her virtually unsinkable.

The Engine Room- Pilar Rossi

The Engine Room- Pilar Rossi

We walked around the pier at the marina admiring Pilar Rossi for some time and there we meet Tomaz A. Christovao, one of the boat’s crew members. A tall young guy from Brazil born in Ila Bella, Tomaz is a licensed yacht master with extensive sailing experience and a great passion for the sea. He invited us for a tour aboard Pilar Rossi and revealed some of her many secrets to us.

Pilar Rosi Crew

Part of Pilar Rosi’s Crew

Inside, the boat looked even bigger, especially compared to our 38-foot Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana. We walked around the teak decks. Everything seemed enormous: the winches, the cleats, the blocks, the shrouds. Looking up at the massive masts gave us vertigo.

Aboard Pilar Rossi

Aboard Pilar Rossi

Besides the private cabins which can accommodate up to 18 guests and the luxurious saloon, the boat is equipped with a helicopter landing pad, a cinema room, an outdoors Jacuzzi and an enormous gym occupying a big portion of the lower deck. One racing boat (Cigarrete) 39ft as tender, bigger than our catamaran, and another one contender 34ft were stationed on both sides of the main deck.

Main Saloon- Pilar Rossi

Main Saloon- Pilar Rossi

Even though Mr. Piquet spends aboard only a few weeks per year with family and friends, Pilar Rossi is home of 7 permanent crew members who maintain the boat and all of her systems at dock in Grenada and when at sea. Mechanics, electricians, welders, carpenters, fiberglass-workers and sailors, they are all from Brazil: Tomaz A. Christovao, Francisco Soares, Marcos Dutra, Adao Pereira, Genivaldo Silva, Franciele Bastos “The Warrior”, chef Maria do Carmo, and Captain Ricardo de Fretas .

Control room

Control room

One of them, Marcus Dutra, is the chief mechanic aboard Pilar Rossi since 14 years. He showed us the engine rooms deep inside the belly of the boat, a dark labyrinth populated by huge pipes, cables and instruments, some very old and surely impossible to operate or fix by anyone else but Marcus. He explains how the systems have been adapted to fit the new design, and what things have been added after the boat has been remodeled so drastically.

The Gym o the lower deck - Pilar Rossi

The Gym o the lower deck – Pilar Rossi

– But why did Mr. Piquet do this? Why did he have to go through all the trouble of adding and changing things on the boat, instead of selling the old one and getting a new one? –I ask the captain Ricardo de Fretas, a member of the Rio de Janeiro Sailing Club, a club with 4 Olympic regattas medals.

– Because he loves the boat. And he is a loyal guy. Maybe he even made a promise to her, and he is the kind of man who keeps his promises. But also, he wanted to create the perfect boat for him and his family and friends to enjoy. The boat is his creation. He is always focused on even the smallest of details. It is incredible how much he cares for Pilar Rossi. Sometimes he calls me from the other side of the world and wants to know if a specific battery in one of the bathrooms works. When Mr. Piquet is aboard Pilar Rossi, he spends much of his time sitting on the large main deck table thinking what will be the next improvement, the next project.

Captain Ricardo de Fretas aboard Pilar Rossi

Captain Ricardo de Fretas aboard Pilar Rossi

 

Yes, it is a love story between a race car driver and a boat.

 

*This article was only possible with the help and information provided by Tomaz A. Christovao, licensed yacht master and crew aboard Pilar Rossi. Thank you!

 

Disclaimer: All yacht specifications and information are displayed in good faith and CaribbeanCompass does not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the current accuracy, completeness, validity, or usefulness of the superyacht Pilar Rossi information and/or images displayed. All boat information is subject to change without prior notice and may not be current.

 

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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!

∼∼∼

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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Boat School

I want to thank all the kids and parents who live and learn aboard sailboats for helping me with this article!

Boat School

by Mira Nencheva

“We are all schoolmasters, and our schoolhouse is the universe.”

-Henry Thoreau

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Our daughter Maya is 11-years-old. She doesn’t go to school.

Maya doesn’t go to school because we live aboard a sailboat and we constantly travel from one country to another. In November 2012 we left our old way of life and the world in which everything was familiar only to find ourselves in a world where we suddenly had to deal with many unexpected situations. One of the biggest unknowns of this new way of life was the kids’ school. To deny your children education is to rob them of a better future, people say. How will they find work or go to college? How will they continue their lives if they don’t have an education? This was the hardest question asked by parents, neighbors, friends and strangers on the road. This was the question I asked myself. Maybe we are making a grave mistake by stopping our kids from school?

We had heard of ‘homeschooling’ even ‘unschooling’ and we knew that we are not the only cruisers with kids who study outside of the school system. The thought that we would find a solution to this problem gave us hope.

Maya Мая

Maya in Virginia

It took me over a year collecting information, talking with other mothers and interviewing homeschooled cruising kids before being able to build our own education model. During this time, our son Viktor 17, who has always been educated in the public school system in Quebec Canada, decided to go back.  He returned to land-life and continued his high school there. It turned out that for children like Viktor, who have already started their education in the school system is difficult to transit to homeschooling on a boat, especially when they are at high school level and especially if they didn’t have any problems in the public school. For Maya- 6 years younger and at primary school level, the transition was much easier.

Maya Мая

Maya, Ile-des-Saintes

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana

To deprive a child from education is to deprive him/her from a future. We all agree on that. But we don’t all agree with the idea, that education can be obtained only in the system and only at school. And what education are we talking about?

Are we talking about the slow and painful process which temporarily fills the kids’ heads with facts until they pass the exam in order to obtain a document or a diploma that enables them to continue studying in colleges and universities, or enables them to find a well-paying job so that they can buy expensive things, or often simply substitutes toilet paper; or are we talking about a certain amount of knowledge that helps them understand and respect the world and themselves, to acquire positive values, to focus in a direction appealing to them, to develop as unique individuals capable of dealing with changes and obstacles, of calculating and taking risks, of reasoning and having their own opinions?

Maya Мая

Maya in Dominica

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.”

-Albert Einstein

Education is important and essential but it is not necessary acquired in the classroom. In most countries in the world homeschooling is a legal option. The students are not required to go to school and can study at home. Their parents are not required to provide professional teachers for their homeschooled children. The only thing the parents are required to provide is adequate and efficient education- inside or outside of the school building. In some particular situations the parents have no choice because of certain circumstances like illness, remote location, or because they travel a lot, and cannot send the kids to school. But often the parents consciously choose homeschooling as an alternative to public school. On purpose. In most cases however, the parents are too busy with work and have no choice but to send the kids in the schools. Besides, it’s the normal thing to do…

Maya and Noial Мая и Нойял

Maya and Noial

“To attend chiefly to the desk or schoolhouse while we neglect the scenery in which it is placed is absurd. If we do not look out we shall find our find schoolhouse standing in a cow-yard at last.”

-Henry Thoreau

The school institution, very much like a factory, controls and represses the individual instead of encouraging creativity. In schools, as in factories, the rules and procedures are very strictly defined and have to be observed. Discipline is essential. But discipline stops creativity. The teachers are like factory workers and the students are the product. The standardized tests and exams are the quality control. The bell announces the beginning and the end of the school/work day. In such a scheme the students are meant to become the same and nothing original ever comes out of the factory. In schools individuality and creativity are often being suppressed so that the transition from today’s slaves to tomorrow’s slaves is achieved smoothly.

Maya Мая

Maya
Мая

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”

-Noam Chomski

The present system can only continue to exist if people strive to better themselves financially and buy more material things. The system, in order to survive the way it is, needs people who work all day every day most of their lives in order to consume the products which they produce. In the meantime they have no time for their own children. The role of the school and of the media today is to divert the attention of the young ones in the direction of consumerism, to mold them into a mass of ideal citizens and consumers. The want for new better expensive things: clothes, shoes, jewelery, cars, houses, etc. is not genetic but is being implemented (often not even on purpose, but subconsciously) in our children’s value system and worldviews since a very early age. Those who educate them have themselves been thus educated. This is now accepted as normal. But is it normal?

Maya Мая

Maya
Мая

“People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no ‘mean guy’ who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.”

-Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Is it normal that the school curriculum is prepared by a group of “experts” who decide in this given historical, political, economical and technological moment of time what is the best for our children and for the society?  Can they forecast what will happen in say 10-20 years when today’s students will be adults looking for a job? Most of the things we learn at school become irrelevant in a few years. How many of us work in the field of our studies? According to statistics not more than 10%. And how many of us remember most of the stuff we studied in primary and high school? Personally, I remember only fragments. In the classroom of my childhood we were 30 kids, all different individuals with different interests, ideas and capacity. But we were all forced to study the same thing. In this situation the natural reaction of many of us is blockage. We develop hatred towards certain subject; we even start hating the entire school. How many kids, honestly, love to go to school? Instead of being tortured with things that we hate and forget two days after the exam, instead of loosing our time in the classrooms we could have learned something important and interesting for us.

Maya Мая

Maya
Мая

 “Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”                

-Plato

The good news is that in many countries of the world: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, India, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and England homeschooling is a legal alternative to the compulsory education. In Bulgaria as well as in most African countries, Cuba, China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Serbia and Swiss unfortunately children and parents still don’t have this option.

Where it is permitted, homeschooling is not complicated and it doesn’t even mean getting out of the system. Packages with manuals and other school materials are being distributed and the kids periodically take exams. Most homeschooled kids cover the same material as the kids in the public schools.

Мая

Мая

Boat School for Cruising Kids

“What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul.”                  

-Joseph Addison

While sailing in the Caribbean we met many cruising families whose kids were homeschoold and were doing great. In Grenada during the months from June to November an impressive community of boaters gathers to “hibernate” for the Hurricane Season. Many of these cruisers are families with kids, who travel and study aboard for years.  They all used different individual methods and systems for education. Before noon, the boat-kids were busy with their books and manuals for about 2-3 hours and in the afternoon they were busy exploring volcanoes, jungles and ancient forts, or surfing, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and playing games. Do you think these kids are deprived of education?

Деца-пътешествници, които учат задочно на лодки и обиклят света с родителите си.

Деца-пътешествници, които учат задочно на лодки и обиклят света с родителите си.

 

 

 

Kieran Whitworth 15, from South Africa, S/V Avatar

Kieren travels with his parent and studies aboard S/V Avatar since 2012. Before that he used to go to a regular school in Cape Town for 8 years. He said he was doing great in school and liked having friends whom now he misses. ” Homeschool is lonely but on the other hand it made me more independent. It was hard saying good bye to my friends, but now we keep in touch thanks to internet.”

Кирън 15г.

Кирън 15г.

Kieran uses the American homeschooling system CALVERT which has instructional videos on its website. After the student subscribes for one year he receives books and other materials in the mail. Until the ninth school year the mother is responsible for grading the student; after that (after the second year of high school) there are exams to be done on line. The advantages of this popular American homeschool system are that it is accepted in most colleges in the USA and other countries, and is available for children throughout the world. The main disadvantage of is the price- between 1 000 and 2 000 dollars per year.

Кирън

Kieren

Kieren is planing to continue his studies in college after he graduates from homeschool- programming or electrical engineer.

Zoe 11 and Nina 7, from South Africa, S/V Iza

Like Kieren, Zoe and Nina also used CALVERT for two year while cruising. Zoe said, she liked homeschool because it was easy, except for math. She also loves sailing. Her favorite place of all is Brazil where she and her family sailed up the great Amazon river, saw pink dolphins beautiful beaches and met many friendly people. At the moment, the two sisters still liveaboard with their parents but have settled in Grenada where the parents now work. The girls go to the local public school. “My favorite subject is science, because I love to do experiments, said Zoe. I don’t like math. I also like history, I have always been fascinated with past events.”

Нина и Зое

Нина и Зое

Raphael 13 and Xavier 11 from Quebec, Canada, S/V Rêve d’Océan

Raphael and his brother Xavier study using the French homeschool program CNED (Centre national d’enseignement à distance) which is a public program of the Ministry of Education in France. But it is also an expensive program, unless it is subsidized by the government, for which there are certain conditions.

Рафаел и Ксавие

Рафаел и Ксавие

The boys prefer this way of studying better than going to school because, they say, it takes less time to do their school work. Raphael’s favorite subject is math and French is his least favorite subject. The brothers usually start school at 9 a.m. and are done by 11:30 a.m. every day from Monday to Friday.

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In their blog you can read (in French) more about how the kids (and their mother) adapted to homeschooling on the boat and how they successfully finished their first year of homeschool. To read click here.

Megan 12 and Mathew 14 from Canada, S/V Amelie 4

Меган

Меган

Megan is learning with the help of her mother ( a teacher) 3 hours a day, 5 days a week using a private Canadian homeschooling program The Phoenix Foundation Calgary which also follows the official Canadian curriculum. And she is doing fantastic. Before moving on the boat, Megan used to go to a regular school in Canada for 6 years. “I prefer homeschool because it allows me to concentrate better. I love the most science. I like to do experiments and to understand how everything works. It’s fascinating. I don’t like history.”, she says. But on the boat something unexpected always happens and sometimes it is hard to keep a strict timetable. Mathew who is autistic also does school work aboard- speech therapy and other. For him life at sea is true happiness, as he adores water.

Меган и Матю

Меган и Матю

In their blog you can find more information on homeschool aboard as well s the travel journal written by 12-years-old Megan. To read click here.

Mika 9, Gor 6 1/2 and Arbel 4 from Israel, S/V Del Max

The three kids traveling aboard S/V Del Max since one year and a half follow the school system and use the manuals sent to them by their aunt from Israel. Before the boat Mika and Gor went to school in Boston, USA where the family used to live for 5 years. The kids now can read and write both in English and Hebrew, and as soon as they return to Israel in a few months they will continue their studies in a public school.

Мика, Гор и Арбел учат с помощта на майка си на борда на катамарана Дел Макс

Мика, Гор и Арбел учат с помощта на майка си на борда на катамарана Дел Макс

One of their favorite educational resources is the website XtraMath.org. Mika loves to read, especially the Bible, which is written in a more difficult to read and understand archaic language, so it took her some time to get used to it. Gor likes to do math on his i-pad. The little Arbel also has his educational books and games, where he learns to read and do math. At age 4 he already knows by heart most of the flags of the world, especially the ones of the countries he has been to.

4-годишният Арбел знае на изуст флаговете на повечето държави по света.

4-годишният Арбел знае на изуст флаговете на повечето държави по света.

 

Maya 10 and Tyler 8 from USA, S/V Four Coconuts

Maya and Tyler are homeschoold for over one year now. Before that they were in a public school in America. They are also using CALVERT, and will e using it for two more years before moving back on land. Maya’s favorite subject is literature, she loves to read and write, and Tyler likes geography and his Gods of Greece books. Both hate math.

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“We’re going on our 3rd week now and I’m happy to say we’re between 2-3 hours/day of formal work. The neat part is incorporating our current location into the curriculum.  Example: For art this morning, I gave Tyler the option of 1) studying the postcard provided by our homeschooling program or 2) going to art galleries to study the work in person.  I was blown away when we went to the gallery and he sat down to study a sculpture book for 20 minutes without me suggesting it.” ,wrote their father.

Тайлър

Тайлър

You can read more on how the parents and the kids got used to this new way of schooling aboard the boat in their blog. To read click here.

 

We also met cruising families who didn’t use any particular system of education, but had their own methods.

Момичетата от катамарани Discovery и Day Dreamer

Момичетата от катамарани Discovery и Day Dreamer

 

Kate 14, Jack 6, JC 11, Jenna 8 from Canada, M/V Discovery

The four Alonso kids travel with their parents since one year and a half now aboard Discovery. They don’t use any particular program. Instead, they organize their own school materials according to each kid’s interests. “I like homeschooling a lot more. I have many homeschooled friends and we motivate each other. I like the fact that I can organize my time better.” said Kate. He favorite subject is music. She can play the piano, ukelele, clarinet and oboe, and she can also compose her own music. She has many music theory books and her cabin looks like an orchestra. She also like math. She doesn’t like to write.

Кейт учи с майка си  Автор на снимката- Джон Алонсо

Кейт учи с майка си
Автор на снимката- Джон Алонсо

“The kids were all in the public school system until we moved on the boat. The plan had been 1 year out, but we decided pretty quickly that we wanted to stay out multiple years. Not sure what that means. We are on our second year and depending on which family member you ask, we have 2-6 years left.

When we go back, my expectation is that they will go back to school, particularly the older ones for high school. However, depending on if I am working or not, I may keep the younger ones home schooling until high school

I don’t follow a set curriculum. I use a variety of methods and curriculum for each of them. Some subjects, particularly geography, history and science, we try to study together where it works. They are at unique levels for math and literature/ writing.

If we stay out 2 more years, Kate would do 11th and 12th grade back in the U.S. If we stay out longer, she graduates from boat school. I am actually planning her classes and studies for that possibility.

For the record, boat schooling all 4 kids, levels ranging from kindergarten to high school, is the hardest thing I’ve done. But wouldn’t trade it.”-shared Cate, Jack, JC and Jenna’s mother.

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Ted 12 and Robert 9 from Ireland, S/V Millport II

The boys follow loosely the United Kingdom curriculum, because it is easy to find information about it online. They try to cover mostly the requirements for math and English for each year. “If they show an interest in something outside of that we will focus on that instead for a week or two. An example would be when we had to dismantle and service our wind generator, then we spent a lot of time on how it works and followed it with other sources of power- good and bad. “, their mother explained.

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Ted, Robert and their dad doing some school work

Maxim-Émanuelle 14 and Tristan 12 from Canada, S/V La Jeannoise

Maxim-Émanuelle also prefer homeschool because it saves her time and it allows her to learn at her pace. She does school 7 days a week 3 hours a day. Her favorite subject is science. She loves chemistry- theory and practice. She also loves to write and translate. Maxim-Émanuelle is fluent in both English and French. Her hardest subject is math. ” I don’t follow any program. We bought manuals and books in Canada and I read them. I learn more on the boat than in school, especially in science. The boat is my main school instrument for learning.”, she said.

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The books I am using are the ones referred by teachers I met before leaving and/or books I found interesting when visiting libraries. I use as well the curriculum of my province which is Ontario, Canada to guide me and to ensure my kids are getting the same kind of knowledge they would get in a regular school as they must fit in the school system next September. I downloaded the documents available on the Ministry of Education’s website, at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca.I focus on math, French, English, science and history plus we do various projects on subject of interest to the kids. We are using encyclopedias we have aboard and internet is an illimited access of information. The kids also play music seriously. Tristan plays guitar and Maxim-Émanuelle plays piano.

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You can read more about this family’s sailing adventures in their blog (in french) which also has excellent photos. To read click here.

In Canada homeschooling requires that the student takes exams every two years in primary school and every year in secondary school in order to get a diploma. Also every province has different rules. But if a child it traveling outside of the country’s territory and skips a few years of school without doing any exams or even without following any particular program like in the case of Maxim-Émanuelle and Tristan, as well as all the other Canadian kids, Maya including, this child can return to school as soon as it is back in Canada and will be placed in the class level corresponding to his/her age without exams. (This also happens with the immigrant children from other countries even if they don’t speak English or French. They are placed in the class of their age group and quickly catch up.) The teachers then carefully observe the child and after the first semester, if the returning student is lacking any knowledge, he/she might be obligated to take an extra class, math for example.

Emma 15, Anna 13 and Sarah 11 from Alaska, S/V Day Dreamer

The girls from S/V Day Dreamer have never been in a public school, even though they used to live on land. Their parents’ convictions against the school system and the system in general are quite radical. They share the opinion that going to school and spending a large part of each day with only their peer group doesn’t represent the real world and, for many, may not be the best environment for learning. They don’t follow any particular program. The girls’ mother searches for school materials, much of which she finds online, that cover basic subjects but also hold an interest for her children.  Starting in the 9th year, she keeps track of high school grades in a document that is considered an official transcript in many American colleges. This way the girls will have the option of taking the GED and continuing their studies in college without a traditional diploma.  Most American colleges accept such students (98%), even give them priorities, as they are the ones who can think outside of the box and can bring cultural diversity to the campus.

According to the American Council on Education, the organization that represents and coordinates all types of higher education institutions in the U.S., a whopping 98% of all colleges and universities recognize and accept the GED in regards to their prospective students’ credentials.’ Source – www.examtoolkits.com/GED/college_ged.html

Unlike some countries (like France), the USA doesn’t actually have an ‘official curriculum’.

In Alaska, homeschoolers as young as 15 can begin supplementing their homeschool education with college classes so that by the time they graduate, they’ll be well on their way toward a college degree. ‘According to the American Council on Education, the organization that represents and coordinates all types of higher education institutions in the U.S., a whopping 98% of all colleges and universities recognize and accept the GED in regards to their prospective students’ credentials.‘ Source – www.examtoolkits.com/GED/college_ged.html

Ема, Анна и Сара

Emma, Anna, Sarah

“We have a certain amount of school work per day. As soon as we are done with school we can play. It can take us 2 hours or 5 hours.”, said Anna. She loves art and literature. Her favorite book is Lord of the Ring. “After 4 years on the boat I miss the snow and the ice…I’d like to go to college and to study either art or law. I love to argue and dad says I am good at it.” she adds.

Her sister, Sara, loves foreign languages and music. She is learning German and some boat kids taught her to play the ukelele.  She’s saxophone-sitting for a friend so started to play it too. She doesn’t like math or science, but has fun doing experiments.

Emma likes homeschooling on a boat because she can do lessons in the morning and go hang out with her friends nearly every afternoon.  She’s taught herself piano, ukelele and flute.  If they move back to land, she would like to take the opportunity to try high school.  She thrives around people and, because of her wide-range of training and experiences so far, her family thinks she’ll likely flourish in that environment.

Julia 13 and Carlos 11 from Germany and New Zealand, S/V Cool Change

Julia and Carlos do math, writing, reading and everything else following very loosely the American system CALVERT, using some of the books as well as other materials which their mother finds on line. She is convinced that the kids have to study only the things they are interested in, without pressure and at their own pace, no matter what level they are supposed to be in.

Юлия и Карлос

Julia and Carlos

“Whatever it is that draws you to homeschooling, I believe you have to keep one thing in mind, you as a teaching parent have to be conscious, disciplined and committed until your child is ready to take on this role and see it as their own responsibility. I want to teach my children that they learn every day, all day and see life itself as the school. Everyone is a teacher to us and if we can embrace each situation with our heart, challenges will turn into opportunities. There will be no mistakes only stepping stones on this journey to our own deeper understanding and living of life. The changes we want to see in this world we have to start in our own heart and home.”, says there mother

For more details on homeschooling aboard Cool Change you can read the following article on their blog. To read click here.

Maya’s Boat School Method

After over a year outside of the school system and after I spoke with these and many more kids and their parents, after our long conversations aboard S/V Day Dreamer and S/V Cool Change, and after I found the blog of Yacht Mollymawk where I read the most inspiring articles on boat-schooling and education in general, I finally understood which type of education would be best for Maya and for our convictions, worldviews and way of life.

Like many other kids, we decided that Maya will be learning the things she is interested in and things related to the geographic region we are at the time, as well as related to our way of life and the world around us, plus math. I organized a personal school program using free web sites and materials. The subjects are divided in: math, literature (reading and writing), Spanish language, and encyclopedia. After some time Maya can take exams in order to obtain a diploma  for the level she has reached in order for her to continue her studies in college if this is what she wants to do. But we still don’t know in which country she will do the exams; this also can be her choice.

Мая

Мая

Math

Math is not Maya’s favorite subject but this doesn’t mean that she is not doing great in math. Just sometimes it is hard to convince her to open the manual. The manual is a thick book for fifth grade we found in a book store in Trinidad. It is divided in sections and covers a lot of material which Maya will probably cover in two years. The sections include explanations, exercises and tests.

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Sometimes we do “fun math” organizing games and crafts or other fun activities. For example, when she was learning how to find the surface of rectangles I made up an activity where she had to first to find the surfaces of a few different rectangles using the formula and then to draw and cut the rectangles out of color papers. Then she made envelops and they all fit inside one another. She loved this activity and kept calculating and making envelops for days.

Sometimes when the material is more difficult she refuses to do math for a few days and then we slowly resume it 10-15 minutes per day, until the difficult becomes easy. The most important thing is not to hate the subject.

Мая учи на брега близо до котвеното в Чагарамас, Тринидад

Мая учи на брега близо до котвеното в Чагарамас, Тринидад

Literature

Maya writes and reads in English. For her writing theory we use another manual we found in the same book store in Trinidad, which I like because it teaches how to make sentences, paragraphs and various types of texts with examples and exercises.

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Maya likes to write compositions. Depending on the lesson she will write a paragraph or a text on a subject she chooses or from a choice of subjects I give her. Sometimes she will write about a place we have visited or an event. Sometimes she will transform an existing text or summarize the book she has just finished reading. Her favorite author is Road Dahl, who wrote Charlie and Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and others. She also likes her Geronimo Stilton collection of books (French and English).

When we get to a new anchorage we always visit the marina and check the book exchange. This is an awesome tradition- cruisers leave the books they have read and take books they haven’t. Thus we find some very nice reads and we don’t need to buy books.

Maya even wrote an article which got published in Caribbean Compass titled My School is Not a Building.

Мая се гордее с нейната статия във вестник Карибски Компас

Мая се гордее с нейната статия във вестник Карибски Компас

Spanish Language

The other subject we chose is Spanish Language, because we are sailing in a region with many Spanish-speaking peoples. Maya already speaks English, French and Bulgarian. So Spanish is the next logical one. We have so far visited Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and we are heading to Central and South America. In Guatemala Maya went to a local school for to months and in a very short time she got the bases for the language. Now we are continuing by reading short stories which I find on line as well as articles from news papers and magazines, or books. We recently found a manual history for fifth grade in the Salvation Army store in Puerto Rico for 50 cents- just in time when we were working on a project about the Mayan Civilization.

Учебник по история за пети клас в Пуерто Рико (на испански)

Учебник по история за пети клас в Пуерто Рико (на испански)

I can help Maya with Spanish because I am pretty fluent, after doing a minor in Spanish in Concordia University in Montreal. I don’t make her study grammar for now. We just read short texts in Spanish and slowly translate them and take out some of the new words. And the lessons are necessarily done on the boat. Once we were in a store and while Ivo was looking at boat parts we read an article in the local paper (this was in Puerto Rico) and took out the new words. But the best part is, that she has the opportunity to learn the language in a country where it is spoken. She can here it on the street, on the radio in the bus, she can read the signs in the stores and on the food packaging.

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Encyclopedia

And the last subject is Encyclopedia. We called it like this, because we are mainly using a big illustrated children’s encyclopedia we found discarded in Vancouver years ago. We divided this subject in History, Geography and Science. History is Maya’s favorite subject.

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She chooses the topic which interests her provided it is connected to the region we are in or to something that relates to our life. We started with Canadian history and Geography and continued with the Caribbean region, where we are right now. We have visited the Yucatan peninsula, the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Guatemala- the country with the largest percentage of Mayan descendants, so Maya started a project on the Mayan Civilization. She chose it mostly, because of the name, of course. We read and make plans of the lessons from an internet site which I find an invaluable free resource for primary school ducksters.com.

Плановете на уроци за цивилизацията на Маите

Плановете на уроци за цивилизацията на Маите

In science we have covered  oceans and seas, climate and meteorology, wind, clouds and air pressure- all things related to sailing. As a project she did an experiment- taking the readings for air pressure and temperature as well as the atmospheric conditions and observations in a table during one week, and then write the conclusions from her observations.

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In Barbados we visited two caves. Back on the boat we read the lesson on caves and were able to relate the information with the observations. In the Grenadines we swam with turtles. Back on the boat Julia brought a small book about ea turtles and the two girls read it and made a plan and a list of all the facts. In Montserrat, Martinique and Guadeloue we visited volcanoes; in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St Kitts and Cuba we visited colonial sites, forts and museums. Everywhere we go we go hiking in the forests and up the mountains, we visit galleries and museums, we snorkel in the reefs. These are the best lessons the kids can get. Maya is learning about different cultures, about their customs, music, food by visiting those cultures and experiencing them and she complements this new knowledge with reading about their history. The fat that we are meeting lots of people also plays a positive role for Maya’s education and for ours too. Every new person shares with us new information and new knowledge. Yes, the world is one big school and everyone in it is a teacher. The more we travel, the more people we meet, the more we learn. Even though Maya doesn’t learn the same things as the kids in schools, she learns things that she is interested in and she will not forget them.

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The traveling kids not only learn a lot about the world first hand, they also learn to care about this world. Children growing up on boats whose everyday life depends on the weather forecast, whose home (the boat) is moving thanks to the wind and is producing its own solar power, where freshwater is a precious commodity to be preserved and the garbage disposal is a complicated process, where space is limited and therefor consumerism is limited, these kids are a lot more informed and conscious about the environment and conservation.

Мая и Юлия

Мая и Юлия

Finally, the cruising boat-schooled kids acquire the values and worldviews of their parents, not of some random people in schools. Unfortunately, the parents of today are forced to abandon their kids in the schools in order to go to work and the time they spend with them is minimal. Being able to teach your own child should be every parent’s priority and it should be a pleasure.

Мира в ролята на учителка и Мая в ролята на ученичка

Мира в ролята на учителка и Мая в ролята на ученичка

Viktor has always been with us, no matter the hardships, and even though the time came for him to choose his own path, he left with a baggage of knowledge and ideas inherited by us, knowledge, ideas and convictions we keep teaching to Maya: to respect people and treat everyone equally, regardless of their race, religion or nationality; to preserve the environment; to respect all living creatures; to conserve the natural resources no matter the circumstances; to be content with little; to recycle as much as possible, including clothes and furniture; not to become slaves working for others in the system; to be independent and not to expect help from anyone- to follow their dreams and to realize them with their own efforts and capacity. 

Безплатна йога за деца живеещи на лодки в Гренада- вместо физическо

Безплатна йога за деца живеещи на лодки в Гренада- вместо физическо

Мая и Зои си организираха самички урок по изобразително изкуство

Мая и Зои си организираха самички урок по изобразително изкуство

Мая с приятелки в Антигуа

Мая с приятелки в Антигуа

Клуб на младият читател организиран от майките на децата в Гренада

Клуб на младият читател организиран от майките на децата в Гренада

Нойял, София и Мая в народни носии по време на националният празник на Гватемала

Нойял, София и Мая в народни носии по време на националният празник на Гватемала

Урок на тема "Изкуството и околната среда"

Урок на тема “Изкуството и околната среда”

Мая учи на кея в Тринидад

Мая учи на кея в Тринидад

List of Cruising Families Blogs

Not all cruising families write blogs.

Here are published the blogs of the cruising families we have met and interviewed, as well as blogs of families with boat-schooled children who we haven’t met yet. Links will be added continuously. If you are a cruising family with boat-schooled children, please contact me if you want your blog to be added to the list.

Yacht Mollymawk (most favorite ever)

Sailing Amélie

Sailing adventures on Cool Change 47

Marsden Family’s Great Adventure

La Jeannoise-Fr

Rêve d’Océan- Fr

Sailing Totem

Homeschool Ahoy

Нина, яхта Иза

Нина, яхта Иза

Free On Line Resources for Homeschooling

Here we will be adding free on line resources for homeschooling. If you want to share your experience with homeschooling and add a ling to the list, please contact me in the comments here or on our Facebook page The Life Nomadik.

studdyladder.com

ducksters.com

math-drills.com

homeschoolmath.net

commoncoresheets.com

superteacherworksheets.com

sciencekids.co.nz

famouspeoplelesson.com

discovery-education.com

mathisfun.com

xtramath.org

ontario education

 

 Thank you, to all kids and parents who helped me with this article!

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The Monkey Island

The Monkey Island

by Mira Nencheva

We humans, despite history, despite nature, despite consciousness, keep doing strange things in the name of science and in the name of humanity.

Mother and baby Rhesus macaques Майка и бебе резуз макак

Mother and baby Rhesus macaques
Майка и бебе резуз макак

There is an island we found 12 miles southwest of Fajardo- a small island barely 600 by 400 meters in territory, flat on the north side with a steep rocky hill to the southwest rising form the sea, reaching 35 m. The island is forested and uninhabited, except for the population of a few hundred iguanas (an invasive species from South America) and over 1000 Rhesus macaque monkeys (also non-native species) found nowhere else in Puerto Rico or the rest of the Caribbean islands.

Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico Кайо Сантиаго, Пуерто Рико

Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico
Кайо Сантиаго, Пуерто Рико

Monkeys! How cool, we thought. But this is not a tourist attraction, and even thought the place is not exactly a secret, it is off limits to visitors. “Violator will be prosecuted” – signs warn. This probably explains why we were the only boat and the only people around.

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We heard the monkeys’ chatter from the forest as soon as we pulled in the anchorage behind the island, and decided to pay them a short visit with our kayak, getting near to the shores and paddling along the shallows on the lee side without entering the island. We got near a small sandy beach and cautiously looked for the monkeys in the shadows of the thin forest. We waited. Soon a couple of monkeys appeared and sat on the ground in the distance glancing at us expressionless every now and then. A few minutes later, macaques of all ages and sizes started to appear from every direction, walking on all fours on the ground, jumping from tree to tree, and emitting shrill calls without any apparent reason. We found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of monkeys, sitting on the grown and in the branches of the trees.

Rhesus Macaques резус макаци

Rhesus Macaques
резус макаци

Rhesus macaques are medium in size greyish, brownish r yellowish in color with short tails and red faces, native to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and southern China. They are the primates occupying the widest geographic ranges and the greatest diversity of climates and altitudes throughout Central, South, and Southeast Asia beside humans, surviving in arid open areas, thriving in grasslands, woodlands, and even in high mountains up to 2 500 m in elevation. They are also easy to keep in captivity. Frequently reproducing and multiplying in numbers, they are the opposite of an ‘endangered species’, considered pests, like rats, in urban areas in Asia where they go to look for handouts and leftovers from people, often steeling not only food but everything they find interesting.

A young male macaque млад мъжки макак

A young male macaque
млад мъжки макак

Their abundance, resilience, easy upkeep in captivity, as well as the fact that macaques and humans are very close anatomically and physiologically sharing about 93% of their DNA sequence and common ancestor (25 million years ago), made them very popular to science.

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“Rhesus macaques have been used extensively in medical and biological research on human and animal health-related topics. It has given its name to the rhesus factor, one of the elements of a person’s blood group, by the discoverers of the factor, Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Wiener. The rhesus macaque was also used in the well-known experiments on maternal deprivation carried out in the 1950s by controversial comparative psychologist Harry Harlow. Other medical breakthroughs facilitated by the use of the rhesus macaque include: development of the rabies, smallpox, and polio vaccines; creation of drugs to manage HIV/AIDS; understanding of the female reproductive cycle and development of the embryo and the propagation of embryonic stem cells.” (from Wikipedia)

Monkeys with numbers and letters Маймунки с цифри и букви на гърдите

Monkeys with numbers and letters
Маймунки с цифри и букви на гърдите

Macaques have been launched in space both by NASA in 1950s and 1960s, and by the Russian space program in 1997, and became the first cloned primate in 1994. In 2001 the first transgenic primate carrying foreign genes from a jellyfish making him to glow in the dark was also created- the baby macaque ANDi (for ‘inserted DNA’ spelled backwards).

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For the scientific studies and experiments conducted on U.S. territory many monkeys imported from India have been “used”, as well as monkeys from the colony conveniently located on the small island of Cayo Santiago, off Puerto Rico (an unincorporated state of the Unites States of America), where a group of 409 monkeys were imported and released in 1938 (the dawn of World War II, when many small islands around Puerto Rico’s main island were used for military training and other military activities). Today the colony is over 1000 free-ranging individuals, all born on the island. In charge of the colony is the University of Puerto Rico Caribbean Primate Research Center studying the animals’ natural behavior. These monkeys also supply the scientific need for experiments of the National Institutes of Health, Yale University, The University of Chicago, and Harvard University.

Mother and baby майка с бебе

Mother and baby
майка с бебе

The question whether or not animals should be used for scientific research has been a controversial one in recent years. Some argue that for the purposes of medical advancement it is the right thing to do. Animals can be sacrificed for the good of humanity. Let thousands of monkeys get infected with diseases, studied and sacrificed if only one human life can be saved. This human life could be your child.

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If everyone agrees that we can dissect frogs in schools in order to learn, and use lab rats for experiments, than what’s the difference? Macaques are just like rats, just another animal species in plentiful supply. But they are not rats, you might argue, nor farm animals “produced” for the meat industry. They are wild animals who remind us of us.

Rhesus Macaque резус макак

Rhesus Macaque
резус макак

Those who defend animal rights would tell you that it is inhumane, even ungodly to use and kill another living creature for whatever purposes. Most of the scientific research done on animals is pointless anyway (they say), because of the physiological difference between human and animal. No matter how similar we might be to the primates, it’s a fact that different species have different reactions to viruses and disease. For example rhesus macaques carry the Herpes B virus which does not typically harm the monkey but is very dangerous and deadly to humans. So what is the point then to try and work out a vaccine for example, that will be effective for the monkeys, but ineffective for the humans?

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The macaques we observed from a distance on Cayo Santiago were cautious but friendly with us, obviously accustomed to humans who come by boat on daily basis to feed them. They just sat around and waited, but we never got in contact with them or fed them. Some ate leaves and bark from the branches they were sitting on, some got nervous and quarreled briefly, which made everyone exited and agitated, running, jumping around and screaming, but a few moments later, they were calm again, going about their usual monkey business. Mothers were hugging babies, couples were having brief romantic moments, elders were scolding the young.

Awimboe-awimboe Ауимбое-ауимбое

Awimbawe-awimbawe
Ауимбое-ауимбое

Their yellow-green eyes and solemn red faces appeared sad to us, but this was an illusion. We humans like to humanize animals and describe them in human terms. For example dolphins in captivity, who in reality may suffer, appear smiling to us, so we smile back and swim with them and kiss them. These monkeys, on the other hand, who appear sad to us (because we know their faith), are surely happy in reality. Unaware of their purpose, they are thriving: roaming free on their small island, which is their familiar home of many generations, a home devoid of predators, where food is not a problem, and the climate and the habitat are just perfection. They are unaware of the rest of the world beyond this island, of their roots, of true freedom and independence, of true wilderness, of India. For them there is no other option (as for most of us, who, even if aware, accept the present system, the imposed social structure and hierarchy, conditions and laws, and live “free” all our lives on our small islands of fake comforts and false purposes, owned and ruled like slaves by others, while the experiment goes on).

 

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Neptune, Thank You For The Fish !

After three weeks in Fajardo the time came to sail west. We set sail for Ponce, only about 60 miles away. The east winds behind us at about 20 knots, Fata Morgana was doing 7-8 knots, sometimes even 9, surfing down the waves.

Slowly, a black cloud appeared behind us and started catching up on us. The wind died briefly before the squall hit- rain and wind over 30 knots. The sails were wing-on-wing and Ivo decided that we wouldn’t reef in advance. And just when the wind started whizzing, a fish took the lure. Ivo started bringing in the fish, so Maya an me had to reef the sails and to keep the boat close to the wind at about 2 knots speed. A bit of panic aboard, and screaming at each other, the normal stuff…

Ivo bringing in a fish. Иво вади риба.

Ivo bringing in a fish.
Иво вади риба.

The fish took out half the line and it took Ivo an eternity to bring it in. Heavy. This is a good sign. And even before it was close we could tell what kind of fish it was by the red fins and tail- Mahogany Snapper- our favorite- white juicy flesh.

Ivo the fisherman Иво е голям рибач...

Ivo the fisherman
Иво е голям рибач…

The squall passed, the rain stopped, only the sea continued to be nervous for a few more minutes, after the weather was calm again, yet Ivo was still busy with the fishing rod. Finally, he brought in the fish-exhausted, bloody, almost dead from the long battle (the fish, not Ivo). Maya brought the hook and the medical alcohol we use as anesthetic for the fish. The anesthetic we put in their gills, they calm down, fall asleep and never wake up…

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…

All this happened about 200 meters from Cayo Santiago, also known as Isla de los Monos (The MOnkey Island), where we decided to stop for a day or two. We cleared the reef, furled the sails and dropped the hook.

Ivo fileting the fish Иво филира рибока

Ivo fileting the fish
Иво филира рибока

It was almost noon. Time for lunch. We had a big fish to fry. Ivo took care of it. A lonely dolphin who greeted us in the anchorage and a flock of about 6 frigatebirds shared the skin, guts, head and bones. We only kept the juicy filets.

 A frigatebird Фрегата


A frigatebird
Фрегата

During the course of the past one year and a half we caught about 10-12 of these snappers around Cuba, Mexico, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico and we tried different recipes: we barbequed them, we baked them in the oven with tomatoes and onions, we fried them. But we found that the tastiest is when I bread it with eggs and flower, served with white rice or mashed potatoes and cold beer. Even Maya who is very pretentious for food and usually doesn’t eat fish likes it this way and eats quite a bit (without beer). It became a tradition- every time we catch snapper I bread it. The other types of fish I prepare differently.

Snapper filets Филе от снапър

Snapper filets
Филе от снапър

Thus, we never know what will be the menu aboard Fata Morgana. Maybe breaded snapper, or sashimi, or mahi-mahi on the BBQ..? Whatever the Crazy One would spare. And we are always grateful to Him, provided it is NOT an ugly barracuda.

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Ivo enjoying the gifts of the sea

Neptune, thank you for the fish!

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