motor home

Sherri, Nathaniel, and Baba Ghanoush

Shortly after I place the add in Craig’s List: Used RV for Sale, we get an e-mail: We are VERY interested in your Fleetwood Pace Arrow, that goes like this:

              Hi there.
My husband and I are looking for an RV and live right up on Big Coppitt.  We’d like to know if we could come and take a look at your Fleetwood this week.  We are moving out of the Keys in mid- to late-June to embark on an adventure across the country and are hoping to buy an RV within the next couple of weeks.  We checked out your blog and it looks like you’ve been living the life we are hoping to start on!  🙂
             Thanks so much and looking forward to your reply!
             Sherri
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 Maybe after all Baba Ghanoush will continue her exciting travels with adventurous people aboard.
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Here is how Sherri and Nathaniel showed up to see Baba Ghanoush for a first time:
Nathaniel and Sherri

Nathaniel and Sherri

Turns out Sherri and Nathaniel are the right guys for Baba Ghanoush. A young couple with three cats: Tigger,  Stinky Pete, and Fink, they are off to New Mexico to learn about sustainable house design and alternative building methods,  harvesting electricity from solar panels, wind generators and hydro turbines, rain water harvesting, filtration and storage; to help build an off-grid self-sufficient community, a complex of  greenhouses, gardens and homes powered by sun and wind and a truly sustainable organic farm using renewable sources, all part of a project called The Solar Ark. I will devote a separate post about it, it is mind-blowing.

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project (inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project
(inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Sherri, a marine biologist, environmentalist, and teacher at the local college in Key West, and Nathaniel, with a Civil Engineering knowledge  and a building background, plan to eventually build an alternative off-grid college with a program focussed on sustainability, where students will participate in building the campus themselves and will learn everything from history of sustainability to solar and wind power, natural medicine, canning and preserving foods, composting, etc learning not only theoretical but also all the practical skills needed to build and support various alternative green-energy installations. The college will be off-grid politically too: no accreditation, no student loans (which Sherri believes are evil).

Sherri

Sherri

The System uses people, it is not made FOR the people,” she tells her students. “In the Capitalist system, people are not important. Capital is. You are nothing but creators and distributors of capital. You work to make money and your life revolves around spending it. It is all wrong. We are exhausting the planet’s resources and nobody cares. The way we presently live in the USA is so screwed up. I want to change things.”

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Nathaniel studied Civil Engineering in college and when he asked if he could combine his Civil Engineering studies with Environmental Engineering, they told him he couldn’t. Had to choose one or the other.

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

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But isn’t the whole point combining these two fields for a better future of building and housing? It’s ridiculous. We have the knowledge and the technologies at hand, we just refuse to apply them and use them for better purposes. All we need is around us. All is interconnected. I am in love with the idea of having a garden, collecting water, and raising chickens,” he told us.

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We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking with Sherri and Nathaniel that first time we met them, drinking beers in Baba Ghanoush (they instantly fell in love with her and decided to buy her). And it was not enough. So they came back the next day with a bowl of delicious garlic-filled baba ghanoush and pita chips, and we now spend every possible free minute together: at our boat, or at their pool, or at their parent’s house near the river. As a matter of fact, they were just here today again; brought us a bike, gave us a canoe, an underwater film camera, two pairs of sunglasses, books, fishing gear, four limes, and bunch of other things they will not take on the trip. And they are not planning to come back here. They also promised us an aloe plant and a bunch of herbs we will take with us on the boat.

Neith, Sherri, we are absolutely inspired by you guys and so proud that Baba Ghanoush will be a part of your journey!

Way to go, Baba Ghanoush!!!!!!!!

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Pix from the pool party

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Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Maya and Viktor

Maya and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

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Categories: adventure, family, frienships, fun, Key West Florida, motor home, off grid, Our Journey, RV, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Used 1988 Fleetwood Pace Arrow For Sale

Time to sell Baba Ghanoush. We cannot possibly take her with us on the boat around the world, can we?

(You wish )

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

We started this journey in the beginning of November 2012 leaving home in search of the perfect boat, driving this suspicious-looking motor home from marina to marina all around Florida, living in city parks, marinas, and parking lots, never going near expensive over-regulated  campgraounds.

Laundry time ...in the beach showers...

Laundry time …in the beach showers…

The motor home we named Baba Ghanoush. Her spirit was free and adventurous. She was our home and vehicle, our indestructible spaceship and comfortable refuge, our whale in whose belly we felt safe. We ended up loving her as a person. We took care of her.

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

But now “home” is Fata Morgana, our boat, and Baba Ganoush is ready for new owners. Only, I worry a lot about her future and I wish the new owners will treat her with love and respect, as we did. We don’t want to just sell her to anyone. There is a criteria to be met by the candidates. They better be good or else.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

We moved all our stuff from Baba Ganoush on the boat and are mentally ready to sail. Only, the boat is not ready yet and we feel kind of stuck here in the boatyard still working on the keels, still waiting for parts we ordered to arrive . Two weeks ago, we were sure we would be in the water in a few days. Now, we are not so sure any more… Everyone keeps asking us When are you going to splash? And frankly, we don’t know. Maybe in a week, maybe in a month. Whenever Fata Morgana is ready.

In the meantime, Baba Ganoush has been emptied and is ready for new adventures.

Categories: About Us, adventure, cruising, family, Key West Florida, motor home, off grid, RV, sailing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Red Tide Disaster

After the second day, things insidiously start to change at the beach.

          10:00 a.m. –  the water appears unfamiliar; lost its transparency.

          11:12 a.m. –  a man sitting on a bench behind us coughs discretely. No one pays attention.

          12:30 p.m. – we eat flounder sandwiches I made with the leftover flounder from last evening.

          1:34 p.m. –  we haven’t caught a single flounder.

          2:00 p.m. – a small dead fish appears on the beach. Everyone likes it. We use it as bait.

          2:17 p.m. – a young couple is walking aimlessly along the shore. Both coughing.

          2:22 p.m. – a second dead fish. The kids play with it.

          2:23 p.m. – a third dead fish.

          2:48 p.m. – everyone is coughing.

Soon, we realize that something very peculiar is about to happen and we even suspect, it is already happening! As more and more lifeless fish dreamily swims out of the sea, more and more people start coughing. The beach fills with an endless cough. It feels somehow like a prelude to a symphony.

Rumors of ocean tornadoes and biblical interpretations of apocalyptic events start circulating among coughing vacationers.  Until someone explains with authority the unusual and most inconvenient situation  as a phenomenon called RED TIDE. I know that sometimes the things I am writing about sound fantastical, and often they are, but Red Tide is real, I promise. Here is some scientific facts about it which I found at www.mote.org

A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. To distinguish K. brevis blooms from red tides caused by other species of algae, researchers in Florida call it “Florida red tide.”

Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release these toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation. For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness. The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish.

Karenia brevis, or Florida red tide, kills fish by producing a potent toxin (called brevetoxin) that affects the central nervous system of the fish. The toxin can also affect birds, mammals and other marine animals.

The next day, the sea is dark, the sky grey and low; there is nothing left of the beach but yesterday memories and dead fish of all kinds lying among pieces of corals and beautiful seashells. No vacationers.

Red Tide Fish Kill

Red Tide Fish Kill

I grab the opportunity to photograph dead fishes of all kinds. It is like snorkeling in the coral reef with colorful fishes swimming about, only we are not underwater, there is no coral reef, and the colorful fishes are rather grayish and miserably inadequate. I also find them beautiful, paranoid, strange, scary, grotesque, sympatiques(fr), curious, morbid, familiar, funny, alien, worried, mysterious, sad. (At the end of this post, you will find my Dead Fish Portraiture Gallery.)

One more day passes by and the fish starts to stink badly. Nobody knows who, when, and how will take care of it.

Ivo tells me: “Let’s clean up the beach ourselves.” And I am all for it. So we volunteer to do it, Ivo and me.

Sharon, the woman who cleans the park, gives us some garbage bags, fourteen I count later, and some latex gloves, and then she leaves. With this scarce equipment, we head to the carnage scene. The smell, should I even mention it? DEAD FISH!

We start filling bags scooping the carcasses by hand, trying to fit as many as possible in the bags, as fourteen bags is not much for the amount of fish we have to collect. Some of them, the sail catfish, have poisonous spikes in the fins, and we have to be careful.

Ivo collecting dead fish

Ivo collecting dead fish

It feels like a fish genocide. Hellish eyes full of terror and sand, teeth crooked, discolored skins, gaping half rotting bodies, sea snakes twisting around gooey scaly corpses, mouths gasping for water. I am not eating sushi any time soon…

This first day we clean a big portion of the beach in front of the park and the campground. And we continue the next day. Ivo does most of the job; when he works nobody can keep up with him, everyone who knows him can confirm this. Finally, the beach is clean, there are more than thirty garbage bags lined up away from the waves waiting to be picked up. Local people and campers passing by all congratulate us and thank us. We feel proud with our work.

We have self-sentenced ourselves to community work usually done by Offender Programs and we feel we have served our time to pay for the overnight stay in the park, sneaking in the campground showers, using the free internet, and some other minor offenses. Our conscious is now cleared. Plus, we are now famous among the locals as “the crazy Canadians who do nasty job for free.” In reality, we do get something out of it. Knowledge and experience. We learn all about the Red Tide phenomenon first hand, and we learn about the local fishes.

All is left now is for the county to send some people here to pick up the bags.

The following day the sherif department calls, and not only they don’t thank us for the initiative and the free work, but they tell Sharon that we didn’t do a proper job, that we filled the bags too much and they are now too heavy to pick up… This brings us down a bit.

Anyway, they send people, collect the bags, and the Red Tide is now history.

New campers arrive in the campground and go to the beach, enjoy the warm weather, the soft sand, the cool waves. But I remember another beach.

No monument here to commemorate the departed. Only black ravens high in the air like demoniacal kites still slowly savour the smell of death.

Only this and nothing more.

DEAD FISH PORTRAITURE GALLERY

Alian

Sad

Paranoid

Beautiful

Morbid

Mysterious

Sympatique

Grotesque

Strange

Funny

Scary

Categories: adventure, art and culture, beach, disaster, family, fishing, Florida, motor home, natural phenomenon, Nature, off grid, parks, photography, RV, Sarasota, travel, volunteer, wildlife | 10 Comments

Turtle Beach, Florida

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. 
– Christopher Columbus (who never arrived at his “chosen” destination, which was India, as we all know…)

About a week ago, after visiting the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, we found a peculiar beach! We discovered it, like Columbuses,  and we conquered it!

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach, where log-head turtles the size of a car crawl out of the sea at night to bury their eggs in the sand and hope for the best,  is not far from the more famous and crowded white-sanded Siesta Key Beach (our initially chosen destination, which we somehow diverted from) . Not many people come here, as there are not many hotels around. Instead, there is a campground next to a City Park, and the beach is occupied mostly by the few camp visitors, which makes it very homy and friendly place.

Testing the temperature of the water.

There, we park Baba Ghanoushe in the huge free parking area near the beach, and as we do not see any signs forbidding overnight parking, we decide to stay. A week later, we are still here, on the other side of the campground’s fence.

Sometimes it makes me sad thinking how our old Baba is all alone, like an unpopular outsider, and all other campers are huddling cosily in the campground. But then, she is different, isn’t she, and this is the whole point, being different, living alternatively, outside main stream society, literally outside. It is not an easy thing to do because outside of the campground we don’t get the “full hook-up” that the others pay for: electricity, water, showers and laundry, but hey, we are saving $50 per night, spending quality time in a resort spot for free!

Testing the depth of the water

Our first day on the beach, Tuesday, January 15, is fantastic. We sunbathe, we play in the waves, we fish among languorous herons and pelicans, and we (mostly Viktor) catch ten flounder, which is one of the best tasting fish we ever had.

First, we see other people fishing from the shore and they tell us how it’s done.

They show us how to catch first our bait: tricky tiny mole crabs, scooping sand with hands from the edge of the water as the waves retreat. With a shy mole crab on the hook, we start pulling out fish after fish after fish, every time celebrating with a frantic cheer and dance, which quickly earn us fame among everyone on the beach.

Thanks to the flounders we are catching, we meet Nancy and Pierre who come to inspect our catch.

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Nancy and Pierre are “our people,” from the frozen land up in Canada, where French language is spoken, and this is of course the base for new friendship in a foreign country.

Pierre and Nancy

Pierre and Nancy

These guys are incredible, unique people, and you won’t know what I mean unless you have met them. But you probably have. Remember that skinny 15-year-old guy with long curly hair hitchhiking dressed as a boy-scout from Montreal to Miami in 1967?-it’s Pierre! Or maybe you’ve met him on the road between Canada and Peru in 1975, when he was driving a Westwalia all over Central American like a true hippy. Or if you happened to be somewhere between Sidney and Pakistan in the 1980s, you will certainly remember him driving around in his car. Or maybe a motorcycle passed you on the roads of Guatemala and Costa Rica?-It’s him for sure! And if you are not much of a hippy-type traveller, maybe you have met Nancy, working on a cruise ship in some far away sea? Yes, if you are a politician from New Mexico, and, incrustrated on a tooth (upper second incisor) you have a diamond which for many years shined on the belly button of a belly dancer who fell in love with you  and gave you the diamond as a souvenir, you’ve met Nancy on the cruise ship, mister Diamond Tooth Miller…

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy's campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy’s campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Such are Nancy and Pierre, travelers and story-tellers. Plus, they know exactly what we need, as they’ve already done what we are doing, and that same evening after the beach, as we are stuffing ourselves with pan-fried flounder, Pierre showes up on a bicycle with a flashlight on the  head and smuggles us in the campground, the four of us, to the after-dark hot-water showers, the best showers we had since we left Canada in November.

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy's camp site

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy’s camp site

The next day, Wednesday, we spend together on our beach, fishing, sharing stories, cutting hair… Yes, Maya gets a haircut on the beach, again, this time by a professional hairdresser and a first-grade nomad. Nancy, thank you! You are amazing!

Nancy shaping Maya's hair style

Nancy shaping Maya’s hair style

Maya's new look

Maya’s new look

And I get a story which goes something like this:

There was a 37 feet sailboat, ketch-rigged, named Chinook 2 traveling from Portugal to Pakistan in 1981. There was nobody on the boat but the captain and Pierre. And a huge grotesque albino rat. The rat, elusive enigmatic creature, who was creeping about all dark corners of the vessel at night, was slowly but surely gobbling up the food supplies, even the cork of the wine bottles. Every morning, for three months, the captain would declare with certainty: “Today, I’ll catch the rat.” 

The two sailors tried every possible and impossible method known to man to catch the creature, but in vain. They bought special traps from Tunisia. They tried to lure him with cheese in a cage, only to find the cage burglarized and the cheese stolen. Finally, Pierre adopted a stray cat in Crete, choosing a good sized one from the thousands roaming the streets of the island, a fierce ambitious-looking black-and-white cat, and bestowed upon him the difficult task: catch the rat, dead or alive.

For one entire month, the rat was nowhere to be seen. But evidence of his existence could be found each morning on Pierre’s sleeping bag, in his very bed: rat droppings. What was happening at night, nobody knew but the cat.

A month later, as they were approaching Port Said in Egypt, the cat, possessed with insanity,  jumped off the boat, almost falling into the sea, and disappeared forever, running without rest all the way to Al Qababt. 

Thus, the albino rat remained forever deep down in the boat’s belly, emitting feeble ominous noises at night like a melancholic ghost, or a very delicate somnambulist. 

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

Categories: adventure, family, fishing, Florida, motor home, off grid, parks, RV, Sarasota, travel | Tags: | 6 Comments

Morning. Routines. Our Life in the City Park. Part 3

Our Saint Petersburg mornings in the park are filled with little routines. They begin very early with other people’s little routines which wake us up. You see, we don’t sleep in a campground like any normal tourist family with a motor home, but in a city park next to a swimming pool, the only free place we found where overnight parking is not forbidden. Early swimmers come here around 5:30 and inevitably start splashing and cheering next to our sleeping Baba Ghanouche. She wakes up reluctantly, shakes the morning dew and the little yellow seeds brought by night birds off her back, and gracefully drifts through the quiet purple city towards her daytime spot at Demens Landing Park, about a mile away. This is all the distance she traverses back and forth in a day lately.

Lotus and Hibiscus(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

Lotus and Hibiscus
(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

There I make myself a coffee and watch another sun slowly emerging from the sea. Viktor and Maya are still sleeping or just about to wake up and ask for breakfast. Maya tells me the ending of her dream, she never remembers the beginnings.

 
A bird made a wish and Jackie turned into a bird. I ate one popcorn, only one, and blew on a dandelion. She became Jackie again. She was crying and she gave me a hug.

 
Jackie is a new friend but a truly good friend, especially to Maya. We will miss her one day when we leave…

 
Ivo is already near the piers exercising. Ringo the cat is keeping him company. Soon I join them as well. We believe that physical exercising in the morning is a good way to start the day.

Lotus and HibiscusReincarnated

Lotus and Hibiscus
Reincarnated

The January breeze caries smells and sounds of seas and palm leafs. The air is already hot but fresh. Back in Canada, it is snowing for sure…

One would think that besides the occasional jogger or an early dog walker, there is not a living soul in the park. But it isn’t so. Saint Petersburg is invaded by hyperactive skinny squirrels and they proliferate in high concentration here in Demens Landing. The last squirrel census for this park alone came up with a number in the thousands, but since then they have surely multiplied. Squirrels have babies 6 times a year! And with tender dedication they teach their young the same bad manners. Thus, the savage traditions of trash cans scavenging for leftover french fries, of stealing the peanut butter  and jelly sandwiches from absentminded picnickers, of fiercely chasing each other up and down the palm trees emitting peculiar heartbreaking cries, are inevitably passed down the generations.

 
After we finish jogging and exercising, I find a 20 dollar bill all wet from the night, stuck on the wooden pier. I enjoy finding it, although I am also sadly conscious of the fact that as soon as I find it, I start loosing it, cent by cent, the same way we loose everything else that we ever find, including friends.
Next, we go back to the motor home dodging hysterical squirrels on the way, and prepare for sailing.

Ringo arrives

Ringo arrives

RingoReads about catamarans and drinks coffee

Ringo
Reads about catamarans and drinks coffee

RingoPurring

Ringo
Purring

I can do two pull-ups! It is tough being tough

I can do two pull ups!                                                                                                                                                                                                   This is a good exercise for the arms, chest and back

This one is for the back and shoulders

Hanging with arms spread.                                                                                                                                                                             This one is a good exercise for the back and shoulders

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

Categories: adventure, family, fitness, Florida, morning, motor home, off grid, parks, Saint Petersburg, sport, the city | 2 Comments

Our Life in the City Park. Part 1: Overview

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.Photo by Bill Cobb, SkylineScenes.com

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.
Photo by Bill Cobb, SkylineScenes.com

Demens Landing is the name of the city park in Saint Petersburg, Florida where we live since a month now. Baba Ghanoush, our motor home (the name in Bulgarian actually means Granny Ghanoush, I forgot to mention this earlier) showed up one day in late November with all her majestic glory of a barbaric matron, provoking a mixture of admiration and suspicion, and stopped next to the playground, at parking A, which is the park parking, and all citizens are allowed to park there for free “from half an hour before sunrise until 11 p.m.. No overnight parking.” (a sign explains)

The park is located in the hearth of downtown Saint Pete, between the municipal Marina and the Sailing Center (that is why there is also a parking B which is only for boat owners from the marina). The way Baba Ghanoush is parked, she is facing the Gulf of Mexico and all beautiful sunrises to the East, the Municipal Marina to her left (port), the Sailing Center to her right (starboard), and Down Town St Pete with its museums and galleries, cafes and restaurants, and souvenir shops behind her, strewn on Bayshore Drive and Beach Drive. If you walk out of the park and onto Bayshore Drive, you will see the extravagant shape of the Dali Museum building to your left (south) and the Museum of Fine Arts to your right (north). In between is the luxurious Yacht club building, and further north is the pink Renaissance Resort and Golf Club, next to Vinoy park.

We signed up for sailing lessons and for the One Year Unlimited Sailing program at the Sailing Center, which means 6 days of sailing per week, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a 18-feet keel boat, the four of us, for a total of $500, showers included! Unlimited sailing+ unlimited showers, how cool is this! (For us the access to showers is of great importance right now, as we are not in a campground and we are not plugged to water, and so we are not using the shower and toilet in the motor home.)

Since we became members of the Sailing Center, we go out sailing every day, except Mondays, when the Center is closed, and except all those days when the wind is over 20-25 knots and they don’t allow us to take the boat out. (Thanks goodness they don’t allow us, because if you ask Ivo, he would try his skills even in such powerful winds, no matter how rookie we are.)

We come and park in Demens Landing usually before sunrise, around 6 a.m. The kids still sleeping, I make myself a sweet coffee boiling it in a small coffee-pot on the stove, the old-fashion fay, and watch the sunrises, all of them inexplicably anticipated and surprising. We go out, me and Ivo, sometimes only Ivo, sometimes the kids come too, whoever feels like it, and we do some sit-ups, squats, pull-ups and push-ups, as well as 15-20 min jogging. We greet people walking their dogs, jogging, older couples taking a walk: every day the same people. There is the fat bold guy and his trainer exercising near the bench; the very short latino woman doing some  bizarre dance movements while walking fast around listening to her music, suddenly shouting some cheerful words in Spanish; a couple who lives on a boat and their two dogs, one of which thinks is a bird, and probably has hollow bones, as she can jump so high after a Frisbee, she looks like she has been catapulted when you watch from a distance. There is  also a sleepy blue heron and an white egret greeting the sun on the shore or the piers, lots and lots of skinny hyper-exciter squirrels running up and down the palm trees or checking the garbage cans for leftover french fries, and Ringo,the cat, curled up in the middle of the sidewalk, finishing his unfinished slumber. Ringo also lives on a boat at the marina and I don’t know if he takes any drugs or it is just his character, but you can literally walk over him, or if you are a dog, you can bark all you want at him, he doesn’t care; he will not even look at you. He is now OUR CAT, as the park is OUR PARK, the herons are OUR HERONS, the park toilets are OUR TOILETS, and the playground is MAYA’S PLAYGROUND, where she plays for hours, waiting like a spider for little kids to arrive and a chance to play with them.

We also have a place: a small Police Memorial granite statue near the waterfront illuminated at night with benches around that have electrical plugs on them, where we sometimes go to charge and mode our i-phones, or plug our lap tops and write for the blog, because, guess what, we don’t have plenty of electricity in the motor home, as well. This place is OUR OFFICE. I brought from Canada my bread-making machine and one of these days I might bake some bread in the office, then it will become a bakery as well. But we don’t want to abuse the park hospitality too much. We now know all the park staff, we told them who we are and why we are in the park almost every day, and they are all friendly and nice with us, greeting us every time they see us. We offered them to volunteer and help them with the cleaning and maintenance of the park, as we now have a strong feeling of responsibility towards it, but they declined politely. Still, Maya went out yesterday and collected all palm leafs fallen after a windy night, piling them on the corners near the garbage cans.

Our morning rituals over, we gear up and we go sailing for two to four hours in different directions, practicing tacking, jibing, docking, man overboard, anchoring, as well as just going in a straight line towards a fixed point, trying to have a perfect sail’s position to wind. Every time the sea and the wind is different and every time we have a different experience, this is why we don’t want to miss a day of sailing.

After sailing we do all kinds of other activities: studying, reading, going to the public library not far away to use internet, fishing, cooking, playing tennis, taking walks on the beach or in Vinoy park, or around the city, enjoying life. I will write more detailed accounts of our activities later on.

A bird's view perspective of the park with points of interest.

A bird’s view perspective of the park with points of interest.

1- the usual parking spot of Baba Ghanoush

2- our restrooms

3- Maya’s playground

4- our fishing pier

5- our office (this is an older picture and here the Police Memorial is not build yet)

6- the Sailing Center&showers

7- our new friend Jackie’s 60 feet long houseboat

8- Gulf of Mexico- we sail through here

9- the Municipal Marina office

Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, parks, RV, the city, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishing

Before coming to Saint Petersburg, Florida, we spent a few days in Palmetto fishing in a remote park. We bought our fishing gear in a store called Outdoors Living not far from Naples, $250 for two fishing poles, pliers, a knife, hooks, and a book telling us all about Florida’s fishes. The store is an impressive two-storey building full of fishing and hunting gear, ornamented with ponds and huge fish tanks full of live fish, all sorts of stuffed animals and wonderful archival black-and-white photographs of hunters and fishermen showing off their catch. There is also a restaurant with heavy wooden tables and the same kind of old photographs decorating the walls, where fish and game are served. The whole place is like a museum or a gallery; there is even a signed first edition Hemingway book. One can spend a full week and lots of cash shopping here.

At the park, we catch couple of small sheep’s heads, a grouper, and four catfishes (according to the book). Maya is a natural fishergirl, she has lots of fun catching her first fish ever! So does Viktor too. I don’t catch any, because I don’t fish. I photograph the birds instead. The same evening, Ivo and Viktor clean the fish, I cook it, and we have a pretty decent meal.

We learn how to cast, catch, clean, fillet, and cook each type of fish  from the fishermen we meet every time we go near a shore or on the pier. They are more than happy to show us which bait and hooks to use for which fish. We got our first bait from a guy who gave us a bag of leftover shrimp as he was done fishing and ready to go home. After that we started using cut fish from our catch. So far, we haven’t bought any bait and we have more than enough in the freezer. We also learned that to catch small bait-fishes or shrimps with a long-handle fishing net is harder than fishing with a fishing poll; maybe even impossible. People do that with cast nets. We didn’t have a cast net until yesterday, when a new friend, Jackie, who lives on a house boat in the Municipal Marina in St Pete, gave us one. Thank you Jackie!!! We will try it today or tomorrow!

Since that first time, we now fish regularly, once or twice a week, whenever we feel like it. We have a spot in St Pete where we go out at dusk and we catch grunts, about 15-20 for a nice family meal. The grunt is a small greyish fish, who tastes pretty good and is not too bony. When we pull him out of the water, he starts complaining, making these heartbreaking snorting noises like small burps that sound just like his name repeated fast a few times: grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt, and that is why he is called a Grunt. I wonder what he is trying to tell us in his last moments of panic. I wish I could speak grunt language so that I could understand his plaintive moans, but he remains mysterious, as fish always do. I’am pretty sure he is swearing, calling us bad names, screaming unspeakable insults at us as he realises how fatal his cannibalistic gluttony is. Last time, Viktor and me were catching grunt after grunt, a whole burping chorus, and Ivo was trying to gut them and clean them on spot but he couldn’t keep up with us pulling a fish every few seconds, and so finally we had to stop fishing and wait for him to finish the dirty job before we go home. We had a decent meal that evening, and even Maya who has been reluctant to eat fish until then, liked it! I cooked it in the oven  with some oil, salt and garlic for 30 minutes, as Jackie instructed me, and sprayed it with lemon juice once it was ready. Thanks again Jackie, I wonder what would happen if I had baked it for one hour and a half as I planned to…

I hope you don’t think that we are cruel heartless people killing innocent fishes… We only take what we need for supper, as we are trying to learn “to live off the land”. You should see what happens to the romantic mullets who gather in great orgies and come in St Pete each year to make love near the shores blissfully unaware of the pack of fishermen awaiting them. This year the school arrived in the harbour just in front of the park where we are staying and we accidentally became first-row spectators of the greatest fishing-drama ever witnessed in our lives. I will tell you all about this in my next post.

Ivo trying to catch small bait-fish with a long-handle fishing net in a crocodile-infested pond. Impossible...

Ivo trying to catch small bait-fish with a long-handle fishing net in a crocodile-infested pond. Impossible…

Maya fishing for a first time

Maya fishing for a first time

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg. Baba Ghanoush is in a romantic mood, basking in the sun. 

A Great Blue Heron looking paranoid, about to break the law.

A Great Blue Heron looking paranoid, about to break the law.

A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron looking melancholic

A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron looking melancholic

An Osprey with his catch.

An Osprey with his catch.

Categories: adventure, birds, family, fishing, motor home, wildlife | 4 Comments

Cape Coral, Florida

After Jacksonville, Florida, we go to Fort Lauderdale with great expectations to find a boat. But there is nothing for us and we are greatly disappointed…The best think that happens during our stay in this big crazy place, apart from spending a few days on the beach, is getting in touch with Harry Schell from Edward Yacht Sales, who is now our boat broker and is doing a truly amazing job researching the boats we are interested in, finding others that could be suitable, giving us plenty of good advise. He send us to Cape Coral to check out a boat. A 47 Wauquiez, French boat in good shape, one we are considering buying. We stay in Cape Coral, on the west side of Florida, for three days.

Here is an example of one day and all the things that happened in it.

We wake up early in the morning under a mango tree in a park next to the beach. The air fresh, the wind tamed, everyone greeting us Good morning how are you. We go jogging and then, just when we are ready to leave for the beach, we meet David and Doris. They are curious about so many things and come visit us inside the motor home. Our first guests since we left Canada. Most people so far have been suspicious of Baba Ghanoush, even racists. They see her old, wrinkled, poor looking, not like the luxurious expensive shiny motor homes, and they immediately form some sort of a negative opinion about us. Once, they even called the police just like that, to check and make sure. People are like that, they judge you based on appearance, based on your clothes, based on your haircut, based on your car, based on the things you own, based on your disorders, and they don’t even try to get to know you before they sentence you to eternal disapproval. There are some exceptions and David and Doris are an example of such an exception. “If I don’t open this book, how will I know what is written inside. If I don’t talk to you how will I know what kind of a person you are”, says David. And we talk for some time. We talk for the amount of time needed to get to know each other.

Then we go at the beach. Viktor doesn’t want to come so he stays in the motor home reading and relaxing alone. At the beach, Maya makes a new friend, Briana; I make a big sand alligator, Ally.

The Sand Alligator

Shortly after we are all set up at the beach, Doris shows up, tells us there is a Thanksgiving dinner today at the church; we should hurry up if we want to get some free food. She takes us with her car to the church. There are many people inside a huge haul sitting around big tables. We all take a seat and we are immediately served by young volunteers. Everyone gets a full plate of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, it is so tasty! We even get two portions to go, one for Viktor and one for David, who missed the party. Before we leave, we (and a hundred more people) get a big box full of potatoes, some canned greens, bread, and a nice frozen turkey, everything free! I can’t stop smiling, I love this!

An hour later we are back at the beach again. Briana is waiting for Maya, Ally is waiting for me. Next, we feed birds, we see a girl doing a back flip, we meet three boys with a shovel digging a pool, and we cut Maya’s hair at sunset, as we have planned it, as a ritual, as a performance for the ocean and the seagulls, as a tribute to the sand alligator of Cape Coral who became alive at midnight and forever disappeared in the night waters of the Mexican Gulf.

I believe that there are no good places or bad places in the world. What we consider a good place is a place where we had a good experience and vice versa. We develop a relationship with a place. A good relationship can transform the most common, sad, even desolate place into a good place. A bad event can spoil your relationship even with the most beautiful of places. The hardest thing is leaving a good place and its good people, Briana, David and Doris, thank you for being good friends even only for a day…

Cape Coral was a good place to us.

Briana and Maya feeding the seagulls

A girl doing a backflip

Danton, Isaac and Marc. 
-What are you going to do with this shovel?
-Dig.
-Dig what?
-Dig a pool.
They start digging the pool but soon abandon the project and one by one bury each other in the sand instead.

Cutting Maya’s hair

Short-haired Maya

Briana and Maya, new friendship

Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, photography, RV, travel | 7 Comments

Four People in a Caravan. Life in and Around Baba Ghanoush

Let me take you for a tour of our old caravan Baba Ghanoush, so that you can get an idea of where and how we spend a big portion of our days and nights since we left home in the beginning of November.

Maya ,making potato salad

You can come in trough the driver’s door but better don’t if you are not the driver. Better use the main entrance on the right-hand side and please take off you shoes, as we are trying to keep it clean. When you enter, you will be surprised, almost not going to believe how spacey and nice it is inside. This is because you are judging our Baba Ghanoush based on her outside appearance. I admit, she is not in her prime, looks old and wrinkly; a total wreck just days away from falling apart and passing away in RV heaven, God bless her soul. But I am telling you, she is good spirited and healthy as a horse, as a hundred horses and more! Haven’t you learned already, the true beauty is inside, el cuerpo es solo un estuche; lo que importa es lo de adentro.

Viktor, playing his x-box

My first impression of Baba Ghanoush was, Wow! she is huge! There is place for two additional seats between the driver and the passenger seat on the front. Behind the driver seat there is a couch along the wall facing a small table  and an armchair on the opposite wall behind the passenger seat. On the small table Ivo installed a 32 inch flat screen TV and Viktor plays his x-box on it. This area is the living room which becomes Viktor’s room at night. He sleeps on the couch which is big enough for a tall and thin person like him without even opening it. When he is not in a lazy mood, he does open it and the couch transforms into a queen-size bed.

Computers for everyone

Next, step into the kitchen and the dining room. A table big enough for four with two double seats on both sides is where we eat, study, draw, and play cards in the evenings when we don’t run the generator in order to save on gas and so we have no electricity. Ivo, Viktor, and Maya play this new card game Magic Cards full of creatures, lands, artefacts  spells, sorcery, and other such things that can give you the shivers, while i prefer to read a book or write. For light we use three solar-battery lanterns and we can also use the stove which runs on propane and thus cook meals without the electricity on. Sometimes we run the generator for a few hours and then everyone gets comfortably in front of some sort of a monitor. Viktor usually plays Skyrim or Mindcraft on the x-box, Maya plays Animal Jam on line and Ivo and me we use internet to research boats and marinas. We get free internet at every McDonald and at many other places everywhere (next to motels, coffee shops, marinas, etc.) Sometimes we watch film together. Last time we watched Werner Herzog’s  The Wild Blue Yonder and we all fell asleep before the end of the movie. It is not my favourite Herzog film but it is still an amazing transformation of archival documentary underwater and space exploration footage into a fictional story about a failed extraterrestrial invasion. It is so weird it is hard to describe, but if you are familiar with Herzog you know what to expect. Kind of.

Maya and Viktor in the morning. Rise and shine!

The dining room becomes Maya’s room a night. The table falls down a bit so that the cushions can be arranged to form a nice comfortable bed. Opposite this dining table is the kitchen with a few cupboards and drawers, the stove, a sink , a microwave, and a fridge. A small but well equipped kitchen. It has everything we need to store products and prepare tasty meals.  So far I have made soups, potato salad, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, and even palachinki (the transcription for the Bulgarian word for crepes). Palachinki is our family’s favourite breakfast and there isn’t a soul in the world who would refuse a hot palachinka with strawberry jam under any circumstances, I am sure. For those poor creatures who still haven’t tried them, here is how the make them:

Mix 3 eggs, 3 cups of milk, and 3 cups of all purpose flour, a spoon of sugar (honey or brown sugar will do as well), a bit of salt, and some vanilla. Poor about half a cup of the batter in preheated non-stick pan greased with a bit of butter before every palachinka. Flip them when one side is ready. Eat them hot!

You can wrap just about anything in a palachinka; ham and cheese  your favourite jam, Nutella, etc. They are like the bread in a sandwich, only much tastier. And be careful, you might get addicted!

The Making of Palachinki

The Eating of Palachinki

For lunch we eat whatever is available, trying to keep it healthy and inexpensive. Here is an example:

Lunch for Four

One package hot dogs                               $ 1.00

Half a dozen eggs                                        $ 0.80

Two pound sweet potatoes (boiled)   $ 0.70

A third of 1 package wheat bread        $ 1.00

Two beers                                                      $ 1.40

A third of one celery                                $ 0.30

total           (for four people)        $5.20 

(The beer here is so much cheaper than in Canada, we feel obliged to drink one or two per day, plus it is a wise think to do in the Floridian heat.

On the back, just before the big bedroom, there is a big wardrobe which holds all our clothes and a small bathroom with a toilet, a sink, and a shower which we decided not to use unless we stop at a campground with a full hook up. Instead, we use showers, toilets, and laundry available at every marina we stop for a night or other places. This can be very inconvenient, but we are kind of experienced and used to this way of travelling given that we have been working as long distance truck drivers for years now, so it is not a problem at all. Besides, now most of the time we are stopped at one place and spend much more time at the beach or at some marina and not actually travelling. It is fun to find alternative ways of doing things and so far the craziest thing we’ve done was taking a shower at the beach, with soap and shampoo, and all.

As you see, our vehicle is also a 3 ½ apartment furnished with everything our humble family of four needs. The only problems we have with Baba Ghanoush is the amount of gas she consumes ( about $1,000 to get from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale in two weeks), and finding parking space in crowded cities. We learned a $300 lesson here in Ft Lauderdale a few days ago, when she got abducted and towed away from the parking in front of a small shopping mall while we were blissfully splashing at the near beach. Now we know where to park and where not to.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, photography, RV, sailing, travel | 5 Comments

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