The Shrimp Who Became a Shark

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

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



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

* You can find the rest of this story here

Categories: About Us, adventure, conservation, cruising, family, fishing, Florida, food, fun, Key West, Key West Florida, marine conservation, marine life, morning, Nature, off grid, Our Journey, places, sailing, sharks, travel, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

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

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

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

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

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

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

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









Categories: adventure, Collection of Stories about People, cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, frienships, fun, Key West, Key West Florida, off grid, Our Journey, sailing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Booze Cruise Turned Survival At Sea.

“Waiting is not a waste of time. The patient man succeeds.”

-An ancient Inuit saying

Wednesday May 29th.

The boat is finally ready to sail and we decide to move her to the anchorage near Key West, north of Fleming Island, about two hours of sailing from where we are in Stock Island. It is getting late, the sun is almost ready to dip in the ocean, and this means we will either have to wait for tomorrow or navigate at night. We have no charts, we have no sailing experience, and we have a problem with the starboard engine, it won’t start. We decide to get going anyway. We have been waiting way too long.

The crew members are: our family of four plus Tony and Tyler who are coming to help with the sailing and guide us. We have no experience except the one month sailing school in Saint Petersburg, where we learned the basics of sailing on 18 feet keel boats.



Tony has been crewing and working on boats for some time, but he is also pretty new to the sailing world. He is currently working on his Cape Dory 28 on the hard at Robby’s Boatyard getting her ready for the sea.



Tyler has a lot more time spent on boats. He is the one who knows what he is doing. He has two boats anchored at the same place where we are heading.

Sailing into the sunset

Sailing into the sunset

As we get out in the channel we hoist the mainsail for a first time. We are finally sailing! We have captured just a bit of the wind, a tiny air stream, which is filling the sail and is making the boat move swiftly in the direction we want.

Hoisting the main

Hoisting the main

I once saw a baby struggling with a toy, trying to fit the right shapes in the correct holes. I remember the triumph in his eyes when after much effort he finally succeeded. He laughed and he screamed with excitement jumping in his place, and he was thus proud with himself as if he had performed some sort of a miracle.

First time sailing on your own boat feels the same way.

Ivo at the helm

Ivo at the helm

It gets dark. We are sailing with a speed of six knots. At some point we have to jibe. Jibing is much more radical than tacking and as the boom swings from one side to the other, the stopper for one of the lines breaks and the same traveler that Richard just saved a few hours ago breaks loose and flies off the track! We hear bearings rolling down the deck and into the sea. But the traveler is attached to the lines and so it doesn’t fall in the ocean. It hangs in the air swinging around. Tyler and Tony rush to attach the loose mainsail which is flapping in the wind with much noise. They succeed to secure it in place and the traveler is saved again.

During these 10-15 minutes of panic, nobody pays attention where the boat is going. At some point we see boats anchored where there shouldn’t be boats anchored. Or maybe we are not where we think we are? In the dark, we are navigating by looking at the channel’s green and red lights and the lights on shore. Without a GPS and charts, the only electronic device we are monitoring is the dept sounder. And the numbers it shows us begin to get smaller and smaller so fast, we have no time to think and react. Twenty feet, eighteen feet, fifteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, five, four, alarm!, alarm! , three feet!, two feet!

We run aground. The boat gently stops, there is no crushing sounds.

Remember that excited baby with the toy? He just pooped himself.

The shore is far away, there is just water around us. We are stuck in a sandbank. Great. First time sailing and this is what happens.

There are some weird metal structures sticking out of the water. One is pretty close to the boat. In the dark it looks white.

We take the mainsail down and we try to start the port engine and go in reverse in order to unstuck the boat. But it doesn’t start. Both engines are dead.

With the dinghy Ivo takes the spare anchor away from the boat, in deeper waters. The anchor line is not very long. Tyler says it would be much better if we had a longer line.

The plan is to deploy the anchor and pull ourselves away from the shallow waters by pulling on the anchor line. We work like crazy, pulling at the rope, and it is a heavy job. Tony does an incredible job pulling. I’m sure he won’t feel his arms tomorrow. I just hope no one gets hurt.

We get unstuck but the wind picks up and pushes the boat towards the metal structure. It is now just a few feet away. If we hit it we will damage the boat for sure. At least the port engine starts and we now have a hard time pulling the anchor up by hand. We finally succeed and we start motoring away from these forsaken shallow waters full of strange metal structures. We motor back to the place where we got lost and sometime after midnight we finally get to the anchorage in Key West.

As we go to sleep for a first time anchored out at sea I reflect back at what has just happened. On the positive side of it, I think that we have acquired a valuable experience; we have learned what to do in a situation like that without any damage on the boat. We have also learned that charts are important, engines are important, and most of all: patience. We should have waited and sailed in daylight.

Lesson learned.

Categories: About Us, adventure, cruising, disaster, family, Florida, Key West, Our Journey, places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Launching of Fata Morgana

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

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

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

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

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

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

The end of the day

The end of the day

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



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

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

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



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

Cher Ami.

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

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

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

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

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

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

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

Categories: Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Key West Florida, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Final Touch-Ups. Painting the Name

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

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

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

Maya Painting

Maya Painting

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

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

Plan B

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

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

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

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

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

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

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

Step 3: Tape, Paint

Step 3: Tape

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4.5: Ponder

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

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

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

Categories: cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Sunset Full of Dolphins

This was the second time we went out on the Schooner Wolf (the flag ship of the Conch Republic) for a free ride with friends.

Out at sea: the sound of the wind, a sunset full of dolphins

(for a background…)


Categories: adventure, Florida, fun, Key West Florida, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Escape is what we are doing with all this around-the world-on-a-boat thing. But it is not all about escaping. It is also about changing things.

Still, first we need to escape! The system is wrong. The cycle of school-work-slave-retire-own-rent-spend-work-etc to infinity is wrong.


Life can be a lot simpler and relaxed. Like in this picture. This is Monkey Tom’s place in Stock Island Florida and I will write all about him soon.

Categories: adventure, beach, Collection of Places, family, Florida, Key West Florida, Nature, off grid, Our Journey, photography, stock island, travel | Tags: , ,

The Lance is Real

Good morning Lance, how are you,

So nice I found you/you found me! I have no memory of you, as I have never met you…I have only imagined you.

How did you find this blog??? Did you just google The Lance and looked at ALL the results?

Good morning everyone else!

Remember The Lance ? Be sure to read The Story of The Lance again and check out the comments underneath.

He wrote to me and sent me this link

Here is its content written by MOMO:

The Lance

August 2, 2006

I’d like to highlight the work of The Lance here, but I have NO photos. Only memories. That’s going to be tough. (Here I’ve drawn a few pictures from memory.)

The Lance seemed to be a runaway with some emotional problems, living in Key West Florida, most of the 2-3 years I was there.

The Lance may be one of the best and most real street artists you’ll ever meet. I knew this at the time, but lacked the courage to do anything about it. (or what could I do?). I tried to talk to him once and he couldn’t hear me. He was walking in zig-zag patterns reading a book upside down and I was following him, raising my voice. I thought I’d waited a long time to make this decision; to make this connection, and now I looked really foolish because it wasn’t solely my decision to make, was it?

Finally Lance pulled giant orange industrial earplugs out of his ears and said “Oh, Hello.”

Then I explained I loved his work and named all I knew of, or had seen.

There was the time he dressed in a business suit and wore an cell-phone ear-piece and yelled, really yelled all sorts of business jargon in the middle of the Key West crowds. It was so funny. But to see him going at it, you knew it wasn’t a joke for him, and there was no chance he was earning money as a busker for this.

One time he walked around with a box labeled Top Secret, looking down into it, totally shocked and silent.

Much of the time he would read out-loud from books with a fury that would make you dismiss him as mad. Then you’d hear from the towns only copy shop that he’s there all the time creating stacks of pamphlets with big bold words like “Lance is great”. Or other pseudo-campaigns that would take the rest of the day to hand-out on the street. And that made me think he was really quite clever and self aware.

I don’t think he ever documented his work, and while I was standing there praising him, I saw no sign of pride, not even concealed pride. He just looked through me and asked if I’d read “1984″. It was in his hands and he had to be specific with what alarmed him right then. I didn’t need to meet anyone so “real” and selfless, but I really think I did. I’m a cynic, but Lance was authentic.

Lance was a mystery. Where did he get money for these projects, where did he come from each day?

The last things I’d seen him do – was his name in straight forward letters: The Lance, spray-painted in fluorescent colors on trash.

He’d touched on graffiti from street performance, but it was so funny that while 5 or 6 of us in the tiny town wanted to do our part for graffiti, meaning do something like a Bronx Burner, and we would all get arrested eventually, The Lance never looked up or played that game, just flipped it. I still think seeing big horrible letters freely written all over piles of trash is some of the most amazing street art I’ve seen. The surprise and legality of it had fooled everyone and you couldn’t slow him down without the town becoming less wasteful.

The very last thing I saw was a 4ft cow probably from Ben & Jerry’s – installed in an abandoned shop window. a connected thought bubble told you who’d done it. It looked ridiculous. There was a crime of breaking and entering & some kind of street art installed. But you couldn’t say there was anything cool about it. It just looked so funny standing in the window. It was real Dada. He stuck society with society, which is smarter than say; a cool stencil of anything “revolutionary”.

He also played music on an acoustic guitar that he pounded till it sounded amplified.

Where is Lance now? I’d like to know. My friends say he’s not in Key West. (cc) by nc nd 2013 MOMO

Categories: art and culture, Collection of Stories, Key West, literature, story | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

The Schooner Wolf

Last week a friend took us for a sail on a legendary Schooner here in Key West. 

The WOLF is a classic 74′ topsail schooner built in 1982-1983 in Panama City.

She is the Flag Ship of the Conch Republic Navy and a symbol of independence.

Categories: abstract, art and culture, Key West, photography | Tags: , , , , | 9 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

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.













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

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