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…)
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…)
“The overriding goal is to get away from the notion of ‘waste’ – everything natural is food for somebody or something, and therefore a resource.”
Close your eyes and imagine a place:
A mountain desert. Harsh climate. Desolate landscape.
But that is not the place you had to imagine, I’m sorry. Go back, and close your eyes again, and imagine a different place:
In the mountain desert, amidst the desolate landscape, surrounded by beautiful highlands, imagine an oasis. But don’t imagine the typical boring clishe, the one with the small lake in the middle and two palm trees, please. The one I am asking you to envision is much much more complicated and will take a lot more effort and ingenuity from the part of your imagination. But I’ll help you, don’t panic. Here are some of the most important items you need to place in your mental picture of the oasis:
(You can now open your eyes in order to continue reading and see the visual aids)
First, imagine HOMES built with a deplorably low budget using natural or recycled materials (such as rock, flagstone, recycled brick, tile, glass and lumber, straw bale, pallets, earth block [adobe], and pumice), powered by sun and wind. Imagine wind turbines and solar panels sending little packages of canned sunlight and wind puffs which come out of the wall outlets of these homes to power ultra-efficient appliances: a light-bulb, a washing machine, a well pump, a ‘solar fridge’. The sun bill of these households never goes up one cent, imagine…
Next, imagine a complex of integrated GREENHOUSES where lemons ripen without any supplemental heat while outside temperatures can dip to -25 degrees and where, surrounded by plants and rocks, you can take a greenhouse shower, rain water heated by the sun cascading down from a log.
Imagine a BEAUTIFUL BACKYARD which we will now call Flushing Meadows as it is irrigated by Greywater from the showers and toilets (after a proper sceptic treatment, of course).
Imagine a truly sustainable to perfection ORGANIC FARM where frogs eat the nasty insects, ladybugs dine on pests, earthworms take care of the waste material turning it into prime soil, bees provide honey, wax, propolis and pollen while pollinating the orchard, and when they die, god bless their innocent little souls, become a source of protein for the chickens. And the chickens eat everything and everybody. Cannot blame the chickens, because they make eggs and are tasty, but also, they poop. And that’s good too. In this particular oasis, chicken poop makes biogas for heating and prime liquid fertilizer, which is used to grow duckweed algae as a protein-rich feed, for who?- For the chickens themselves!
And finally, imagine, in the middle of it all, A SMILING GERMAN GUY NAMED ARVO who looks dramatically like Klaus Kinski, holding a female raven named Carlos.
Congratulations! You have now successfully imagined The Solar Ark . And if you like this vision, let me tell you, it is real! And you, if you just imagine it possible, can become a part of it. All you need to do is to get to New Mexico where this oasis exists for more than a decade now. Or, you can simply think about all of this, maybe consider it possible to change your ways a little?
Thanks to Baba Ghanoush, we met Sherri and Nathaniel who told us about all this and who are heading to New Mexico in June to become part of The Solar Arc Project, to live there, to learn, and to help Arvo build and maintain his oasis.
I took the liberty of getting information and pictures from The Solar Ark’s website which you can visit right here for more information and details on accommodation for visitors and students, the educational program and topics covered, cost, and possibility for work-exchange (you don’t have to pay anything to learn and stay there as long as you work!)
This is something Ivo and me would totally do and we would be perfect, as we come from Bulgaria where everyone had orchards, and chickens, and outside toilets, and wells, and little wood shops. Maybe one day we will do this, when we get tired of sailing the world…
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:
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..
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.
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).
“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.”
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.
“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.
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!!!!!!!!
Time to sell Baba Ghanoush. We cannot possibly take her with us on the boat around the world, can we?
(You wish )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
It’s strange living in a boat. The very idea of home becomes problematic. HOME IS WHERE OUR BOAT IS explains a little sign we found aboard, and in some way it is true. ‘Home’, the equivalent of ‘house’ is our boat. But ‘home’, the equivalent of ‘hometown’, where the mail gets sent to, or the geographical place where one feels one belongs is an ever-changing fluid notion.
Since we have been travelling we have become conscious of a peculiar occurring. As soon as we stop somewhere for two weeks or more temporarily living in a place, not merely visiting the touristic attractions, the place transforms into ‘home’. The transformation occurs slowly, by degrees.
As we learn where the local grocery store, park, beach, bus stop are; as we get used to the climate, flora, and fauna; as we establish relationships with new friends and temporary neighbors; as we learn bits and pieces of the place’s histories as remembered by the locals, the place becomes familiar to us. And we become familiar to the place too. We become familiar to the woman who sells us beer and ice cream in the grocery store, to the homeless guy who lives in the park where the kids play, to our temporary neighbors with whom we share food, drinks, and stories. It soon feels like home. We become locals.
Actually (technically) we still haven’t visited Key West. The boatyard is in Stock Island, a small island which is part of Key West, Monroe County, but is also a separate city linked by a bridge north of the City of Key West.
Remember that big good-looking kid in fifth grade, with expensive clothes and a sleek haircut, smart, blond, and popular; and that other poor kid: dark, skinny, dirty, and mean, always getting in trouble, whose parents don’t speak English?
That other kid is Stock Island.
All the hotels, beaches, nice restaurants, nice bars, galleries and museums are in Key West. In Stock Island there is a military navy base, a sewage treatment plant, and a jail. All the fun-loving money-spending tourists go to Key West. In Stock Island live unemployed and low income families, mostly Cuban and Haitian refugees, no tourist comes here. The area is so poor that there is not a single full-scale grocery store (if we don’t count the small corner stores), but a food bank where the low-incomes can get loads of free groceries once a week. The jail is full with the Stock Island’s many homeless, who would do anything to spend more time there getting three hot meals a day, a bed, and good company.
In Key West you can visit the Light House, Hemingway’s house, or the Museum of Art. In Stock Island you can visit the trailer parks with no fences between trailers, laundry hanging out to dry, the smell of spices lurking out of open doors with dark interiors.
In Key West you can watch the sunset from Malory Square. In Stock Island you can watch Cuban fishermen gutting groupers at sunset.
In Key West you can sit in a coffee shop and admire the pink tourists in bikini and straw hats flip-flopping down Duval Street. In Stock Island you can walk down the side of a street covered with pieces of bleached corals and watch a group of black men in shorts sitting in front of the porch of a trailer, smoking and watching you back, suspiciously.
Here people have boats instead of cars parked in front of their houses. The ones who don’t have houses live in boats or repurposed motor vehicles of all kinds. And everyone rides bicycles.
If you were to wake up one morning here, say, fifty years ago, you would find the place pretty much the same: the same mangroves all around the shores, the same blue waters teaming with tropical fish, the same people and dwellings, only less. One change you might notice is that, in the old times, the bravest and most drunk party-loving tourists would come to Stock Island at three o’clock in the morning after the bars in Key West were already closed, because the bars in Stock Island would stay open all night.
This is the charm of Stock Island: its authenticity. If you are able to detect beauty in a pink trailer with an unhealthy stray cat sitting in front; in an old black woman with a wig and a bright orange dress walking down the street holding a heavy bag in each hand; in an old turquoise school bus turned house wild chickens running around; in a young Cuban boy helping his father clean fish on the pier; in a green iguana sunbathing on the edge of a boat; you will find Stock Island enchanting, like I do. It is home, really, for the time being.
Stock Island’s Dwellings&Dwellers
It has been exactly one month since we are in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida working on our newly acquired catamaran Fata Morgana, getting her ready for liveaboard and cruising. Since one month, we are hearing people talking about “hurricane season”. Our neighbor Dale in the wooden boat on our starboard side said that the hurricane season officially starts May 1. It started a day later.
On Thursday, May2, a storm hit us, totally unexpected, unpredicted, and unannounced. Our first ever Tropical Storm.
Around 10 in the morning the sky became dark and thick with mean hefty clouds like a herd of buffalos galloping from the northeast at 40 miles per hour, coming straight at us. We closed all hatches and doors. Suddenly massive sheet of rain and fierce winds swooped over the boatyard. The few trees next to the fence almost let go of the ground and flew away. Hell, our catamaran Fata Morgana gently perched on four wooden crates almost flew away, shaking and jerking like a freight train. At times I thought we were airborne, it felt like it. There were lightening followed by impressive explosions so loud and so near us it seemed we were caught under cross artillery fire. Small rivers formed quickly around the boats, puddles transformed into lakes. The earth became liquid. “Good thing we are in a boat”, I kept thinking, “We might as well float away.”
Then the winds calmed down, the rain almost stopped, and we thought the storm was over. Lasted just about a few minutes, we thought. But the clouds kept moving above us, darker and fuller, lower and faster, and it hit us again. And again. And again… Every time: heavier rains and stronger winds from a different direction. The monster kept roaring, attacking, retreating, and coming back again more ferocious and bloodthirsty. It swirled around and hit us five times in five interminable hours, giving us a few false hopes during the short calm intervals of a minute or two. “Please stop, that’s enough”, I pleaded whoever was in charge of the storm. “I am scared”. I get an electric flash of blinding blue light in the face and a mighty thunder for a response.
At one point the jib of the boat behind us, a big fifty feet sloop, unfurled with much noise and started thrashing about. Looked like some maniac in a bridal dress dancing before a sacrifice. Ivo and Jessie, the young guy from the boat next to the sloop, run aboard, as the owners were not there, to furl the jib. The whole boat shaking, and with the wind pushing the open sail, she would surely tip over and crash to the ground. But they saved her.
The storm lasted so long, that after a while I stopped being so afraid and accepted the future, whatever it was. I even started enjoying this uncontrollable display of energy and might. Nature at her best: raging, exploding, attacking, devouring.
Then the sky brightened, the wind calmed down and life was beautiful again. Even more beautiful than usual; it was perfect.
George Orwell’s book 1984. That’s why I started telling you about Lance.
Tell me again.
He had some mental disability. I forget what his actual diagnosis was. He was homeless. But he never broke the law, always polite, mannered, and respectable. Very well kept and clean. Amazing exception for a homeless person with mental disability, I think.
Where did he sleep?
I don’t know where he slept at night. But all he did every day was walk up and down Duval Street in downtown Key West. He used to hand little flyers printed in a printing place to everyone passing by: The Lance Rules written on them. And bumper stickers. Would stick them on people’s cars. The Lance Rules. He loved attention.
One day, he found a big piece of cardboard, probably from a fridge box, about 12 x 4.5 feet, and he wrote on it with black paint and huge very elaborate letters: THE LANCE. Like an artwork. And he would drag the cardboard behind him, like an enormous banner, holding it at one corner, up and down Duval, the full length on the street, from beach to beach, all day for weeks, honest to God. THE LANCE. Until the cardboard got worn down on the opposite corner from too much dragging on the sidewalk.
How did he look?
This don’t matter. The hobbit in The Hobbit book was never described. It doesn’t pertain to the story. What matters is the story, not how he looked.
He was a young guy, about eighteen- twenty years old. Slightly chubby. He looked normal, is how he looked. Like everyone. You wouldn’t know he was mental. Like Rainman, remember the film? Normal.
He always carried a black Mead notebook. Every day he would write a wish-list of things he wanted that particular day. Things he needed right then. His list would start fairly realistic and the extravagance of his wishes would increase as the list grew. At the end you could read: I wish for a helicopter.
The first wish would be something like a cheeseburger from McDonalds, but with all sorts of stuff in it: mushrooms, onions, bacon, and ham. Something that doesn’t sound unrealistic, but is not on the menu. But that’s what he truly wanted to eat. If he really needed a watch because he didn’t have one and he wanted to know what time it was, he would ask someone sitting in a coffee shop, What is a real good watch? And they’d tell him, a TAG watch. A TAG is a good quality watch and it is expensive, no way he could get one. But he would write in his wish-list:
1. I wish for a hamburger from McDonalds with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and ham;
2. I wish for a TAG watch.
3. I wish…
About 80% of the things he would wish for would realize in a mysterious way, honest to God. Like that TAG watch. One day he just showed up with a TAG watch. Someone bought it for him or gave it to him; he didn’t steal it for sure. I think people just liked him.
Once, he wrote in his notebook: I wish for Harley Davidson boots with bright orange laces (which they don’t make). And he got them for free, only with bright red laces instead. One of these guys in the shop just gave them to him. And they cost probably like three hundred dollars!
(He never showed up with a helicopter, though. If he did, I would buy myself one of those black Mead notebooks and start writing my own wish-lists…)
How many wishes?
A full page. You know these black Mead notebooks? It was always the same notebook, and the list was always a page long, every day, so as many whishes as there are lines on a page. Thirty two, I believe.
Thirty two whishes per day…
Yes… One page full of whishes… I got some of his Mead notebooks full of whishes. I kept them. Somewhere in a box in my boat.
Really? Can I see them?
Sure, I have to dig them up…
That’d be cool… What about the book?
One day he showed up with the book, 1984 by George Orwell. I don’t know where he got it from, could be from the library. He would walk up and down Duval Street, the full length, from beach to beach, holding it two inches from his face, not looking where he was going at all or who was coming in front of him (people had to avoid him), reading out loud from the book. So loud he was actually shouting. Everyone could hear him. He did this every day for two months, honest to God! When he got to the end of the story he would start reading it all over again. Walking and screaming all day so that people would listen. I don’t know how many times he read it like that. Every day, all day, for two months. He probably red it like ten times at least.
I think that’s how the book was meant to be read… Shouted out loud in public for months in a row by someone considered outside the social (and mental) norm… Perfect
The book should be mandatory reading in high school.
It’s like a slap in the face.
A wake up call.