Posts Tagged With: frienship

Liveaboards, Yachtsmen, Cruisers, and Boat Punks

*This is an excerpt from a piece I first published here. 

Boat Punk

Since a few years now, there is a distinctive fourth group of seafaring people. These are young kids in their twenties and thirties with left-wing progressive views, disenchanted with the capitalist system, and the middle class standards in the United States of America, seeking alternative ways of off-grid living, self sufficiency, and ultimate freedom.

Recently, owning and maintain a boat has become more affordable than ever thanks to the development of new cheaper technologies, the access to on-line information about how to build and repair a boat, and to the global economic collapse. Boat prices have dropped dramatically.

Thus, young rebellious kids can now get an older used boat for as little as a few hundred dollars and fix it up on a very low budget using all sorts of recycled materials, even junk, and go exploring the world.

What sets them apart from the rest of the boaters is their willingness to come and stick together in a tight community, almost a kinship, sharing knowledge and skills,  helping each other, having fun, working together, facing common problems, and doing all sorts of unusual things.

In Key West we met and befriended an interesting crowd of artists, anarchists, environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists, socialists, musicians, vegetarians, misfits, jacks-of-all-trades, and other non-mainstream enthusiasts, all suffering from incurable wanderlust: Tony and Chopper aboardPisces, Ryan and Stacie aboard Liquid Courage, Becca aboard Dolphin, Miranda aboard Snoopy, and Cherrie and Tyler aboard Rocksteady who have baptised themselves Boat Punks, deriving from the streets and the Punk scene.

Ryan

Punk is a lifestyle, a movement, and a political statement. Since its origins in the 1960s and 70s as an underground music genre, Punk has evolved into a complex ideology opposing the state system and established social structure, challenging the social orthodoxy, political and mainstream cultural establishment, and promoting individual freedom, an anarchic resistance, non-conformity and social revolt, DIY ethics and anti-consumerism.

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Although our shiny 38 feet relatively new catamaran Fata Morgana doesn’t really belong, conceptually or visually (unless we spray some graffiti on her, which I have considered) in this fourth group, our family’s ideology, values, and way of life do. And so naturally we have joined their extravagant community here in Key West. Our experiences with the Boat Punks include:

  • a foot operation without anaesthesia aboard Fata Morgana;
  • sailing to a reef and snorkelling, fishing and jumping off the boat all day;
  • scavenging an abandoned recently wrecked vessel;
  • volunteering at the food bank;
  • hosting a visit by a German journalist and a photographer who came to write a magazine article about Boat Punks;
  • and more. (I will write about all these with more details as soon as I have more time and some internet, so stick around.)

Moreover, we have decided to write a collage article on Boat Punk in collaboration, each person contributing his/her own individual story and reasons for doing what we are doing. I will publish it here soon.

Categories: About Us, Collection of Stories about Cultures, Our Journey, sailing | 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.

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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

Tony

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

Tyler

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

Me And My Bubbles

This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.

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There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.

When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs.  Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.

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The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.

I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.

Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.

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A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.

Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.

We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.

The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.

We experience a miniature death.

The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.

He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.

Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.

He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.

Richar Michaels Jawarski
photo by Richard

Categories: Collection of Stories about People, Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 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.

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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.

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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

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

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

The Ubuntu Family

Not only Viktor made a new friend here at 3D Boatyard. We all did. Dylan’s family came in a package of four: a dad, a mom, a brother, and a sister. The package: a catamaran a lot like ours.

Well, our family’s configuration is pretty much the same, and so we all got a friend each, or, at times, two friends each, or even four friends each!

Viktor and Dylan

Viktor and Dylan

While Viktor and Dylan go fishing after the work for the day is done, or playing soccer, or videogaming; Maya and Kashara go to the park for a walk, or draw, or polish each other’s nails, or watch movies while eating pop-tarts.

Maya and Kashara

Maya and Kashara

Boatyard Feet Close-up

Boatyard Feet Close-up

During that time, Ivo and David talk about boats and repairs, sailing and navigating, David patiently explaining things and giving Ivo invaluable information like: how to clear customs in some island of the Bahamas for example, or which VHF channel to use to talk between boats.

David and Ivo

David and Ivo

Lori and I, we might go for a walk and talk about literature, homeschooling, life on the boat, and life in general.

Lori and me

Lori and me

We also spent many evenings together, the four kids in Baba Ganoush having fun gaming or watching films, the four adults in the cockpit of our boat drinking beer and getting to know each other better, the way new instant friends do, discovering, with pleasant bursts of surprise, more and more common interests, worldviews, and passions. For me, two such moments of joy were finding out that David is an artist, and that Lori is an English and Icelandic Language major who, like me, has a great passion for reading and writing.

Viktor, Dylan, Maya, and Kashara aboard Fata Morgana

Viktor, Dylan, Maya, and Kashara aboard Fata Morgana

There was also a lot of exchanging and lending of instruments and machinery going on between our two catamarans on a daily basis, as well as a constant flow of little dishes and boxes full of home-made exquisites like David’s famous banana muffins or my eggplant stew, Kashara’s  macaroni salad, or Maya’s potato salad.

And this is happening in a boatyard while working ten hours a day to fix the boats, no beach nearby! Imagine when our two catamarans meet again near some tropical Caribbean island with nothing to do, but snorkel, fish, and explore the local villages…

I long for that moment.

Ubuntu, sanded and painted all shiny and new, left the Boatyard yesterday, everyone waiving goodbye. Floating away, the boat left a big space in the boatyard and in our hearts incomprehensibly empty.

Looks unnatural.

Feels sad.

Ubuntu Tango with Lori and Me

Ubuntu Tango with Lori and Me

Categories: Key West Florida, Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Not Sad Viktor

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

― Anaïs Nin

For the first time since we started this journey five months ago Viktor is truly happy.

Until now he was closed in his shell, playing video games or listening to music on his iPod , reluctant to participate in most of the family activities, in a state of denial. You see, leaving everything behind, friends included, is not easy, especially for a fifteen-year-old.

But all this suddenly changed about a week ago.

Let me tell you, he is all over the place: he wakes up in the morning, puts on his working pants and starts working: grinding, sanding, helping to fix the boat. Then he eats dinner. After the work is finished around 5 pm,  he goes to the park near the boat yard and he plays soccer until his pants are damp with his own sweat. Then he takes a shower and he eats supper. After supper, he might go fishing from the docks or he plays video games and listens to music in Baba Ganoush until late at night.

Why this huge change, you might ask.

The answer is simple: he met a new friend, Dylan.

Dylan is seventeen. For five years now, he’s been living on a catamaran much like ours with his mother Lori, his dad David and his sister Kashara who is sixteen. They have been cruising in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region, and sometimes come to Florida. They have come to 3D boat yard in Key West to work on their boat Ubuntu, sanding and painting her. So now, we are two catamarans here in 3D, two families with too many things in common.

This is why Viktor is all over the place. He is working hard, sanding Ubuntu, with Dylan beside him; playing soccer with Dylan; going fishing with Dylan; or playing video games and listening to music in Baba Ganoush until late at night.

With Dylan.

Viktor and Dylan working on Ubuntu.

Viktor and Dylan working on Ubuntu.

Viktor and Dylan playing soccer.

Viktor and Dylan (and Humphrey), fishing.

Viktor and Dylan (and Bogart), fishing.

Categories: Key West Florida, Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Nudist French-Canadians in Miami

After the Boat Show in Miami, and after our RV gets out of the auto service center, we start looking for overnight spots in safe areas in Miami while negotiating the catamaran in Key West and all the details around the contract and the sale.

The first night we sleep undisturbed behind a Publix store, and the next, in front of a 24 hour Wall-Mart in Hollandale Beach where we discover in the morning a small yellowish ticket on the windshield of our sleeping Baba Ghanoush saying ” No commercial vehicle parking between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. : fine $104.”  Baba Ghanoush IS NOT a commercial vehicle, she is an RV (Recreational Vehicle) and as a matter of fact, we were not parked, but stopped (people inside the vehicle). Next, we freak out, we find the police department, and we gently fight over definitions with a nice policewoman, who finally gives up, says, you are nice young people, and don’t do that again, and indulgently acquits us of all the charges. Great!

Now, back to finding a safe overnight free parking spot in Miami area for a 32 feet 1988 suspicious-looking RV…

It’s getting dark and we pull over behind another Wall-Mart in another part of Miami and just like that, accidently, the most amazing sight unfolds before our perplexed gazes. Baba Ghanoush stops abruptly, facing a population of  about twenty vans and campers of all sorts: big and small, new and old, almost exclusively with Quebec registrations, stationed in the most remote corner of the parking lot. There are also a few commercial tractor-trailers parked between the campers, a few permanent vans where homeless locals live, and some mini-busses. Not a single normal car. It looks more like a campground than a Wall-Mart parking lot.

In the middle, between the campers, there is a group of tanned men in their sixties wearing nothing but shorts and sandals, holding beer cans, staring at us, their conversation interrupted.

Bonjour, we greet them friendly in French-Quebecois, but it’s hard to break the ice. We join the gang for the night, instructed on which spot to park. We obey. We are not absolutely sure what is going on here, but we feel safe, among compatriots. We sleep.

This little off-grid campground, whose precise location I am not going to reveal as I now feel very protective of it, exists for many years. Its unknown French-Canadian founding fathers first settled here decades ago and each year spend six of the harshest Canadian winter months in Miami, near shopping and near the beach. More precisely, near the nudist beach, as these are no ordinary snowbirds, but nudist snowbirds, who don’t pay for campsites in crowded over regulated campgrounds. I absolutely admire them, and I can’t believe the local authorities are letting it happen. Maybe there is a reason why no one disturbs them and the police car slowly passes trough a few times a day with no objections. Living in the area half the year, they are supporting the local economy by spending their Canadian pensions in near by stores and restaurants. Plus, they occupy only a fraction of a humongous parking lot in back of Wall-Mart, which, if the no overnight parking rule was enforced, would remain deserted and unused anyway. Thus, they don’t bother no one and no one bothers them. I think, that’s the way it should be.

We spend a few days there, trying to fit in, accidently breaking some of the unwritten rules and regulations, like: taking someone else’s overnight spot, running the generator too close to the neighbor and thus ruining his atmosphere, using the water from the little water pump near the fence for washing our Baba Ghanoush in broad day light, and having too much fun at that same water pump taking late-evening cold-water bucket showers. Next time we’ll know better.

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

We spent a few great days there. We met new friends.

Marcel helped us fix an electrical problem with our RV and took us to a nice park and a pizza buffet; Stephanie from Switzerland introduced us to her dog Mapuche; Nicole thought me how to do crochet and how to make beautiful knitted handbags out of plastic bags; and we spent the last evening before heading off to Key West sitting in our folding heavy-duty camping chairs, under the parking lot lights, sipping warm beer, and sharing funny stories with Alex and few other guys until midnight.

A handbag made out of Dolarama plastic bags.   -by Nicole Cloutier

A handbag made out of Dolarama plastic bags. -by Nicole Cloutier

Evening socializing at the Wall-Mart French-Canadian nudist campground.

Evening socializing at the Wall-Mart French-Canadian nudist campground.

Categories: Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Maya’s Corner

I am so happy, I got a flute from a guy named Phil.  And I keep practicing but it is really hard and I loose my pacience. But I know with practice I will be an expert someday. Phil has at least a dozen flutes and he plays them at the beach at sunset. He has all kind of sizes and some very special ones. There is one made out of turquoise. Mine is wooden and has a bison on it and strings made out of bison skin. Phil lives in a very very big RV with his wife Margie in Turtle Beach. Thank you Phil!

Maya and Phil at sunset, Turtle Beach

Maya and Phil at sunset, Turtle Beach

Sometime ago I was on Skype with Anne-Sophie, a very good friend of mine from back home. I always call her Anne-Sou for short. She speaks French. Back home, we play a lot wii, we ride our bikes and we do sleepovers. Me and her together we have a huge imagination. I miss my old friends and Anne-Sou… I love meeting new people and making new friends, but the worst part is every time we meet new awesome people they go away like after three days or after e few hours, or we go away.

In Turtle Beach, Mia was my new best friend for a week. Me and her were always together. In the pool we were splashing, playing with balls in the water, it was so fun! The second day after we met we thought about a sleepover. So we asked her grandma, and she said yes, and my mom said yes too! So we rushed to our RV and we packed up my PetShops, Bubba, my teddy bear, and my swimsuit. We planned what we were going to do at the sleepover all the way back to her condo. There, we had popsicles and we went back to the pool. After, we played PetShops all day and a bit of the night. Mia always sleeps with crossed legs and she sleep-talks. It was so funny. We wake up, and first thing’s first, we play PetShops.

Maya and Mia

Maya and Mia

The last day before Mia left, our families got together for dinner and Mia and me made a performance: Clown Act, Goblin, Ballet, Shower, and Restaurant. It was funny.

A bad thing happened:

We were supposed to meet Bear Grylls at the Boat Show, but the stupid RV broke down so we couldn’t see him. It was going to be the best day of my life but it turned out to be the worst day of my life… And I am pretty upset to write about it because it reminds me.

The drawing Maya made for Bear Grylls. (It's him standing next to a volcano)

The drawing Maya made for Bear Grylls. (It’s him standing next to a volcano)

The message on back of the drawing.

The message on back of the drawing.

But every time something bad happens, something good happens too. If the RV haven’t broke down I would meet Bear Grylls, but I wouldn’t meet Jasmine. She is my other best friend for a few days. Nickname- Jazz. She made me dice nail polish, white with black dots, and glitter nail polish on my toes, rainbow color. We watched movies together. Once we watched a really scary horror movie, so scary I almost peed my pants.

Jasmine and Maya

Jasmine and Maya

Dice&rainbow nail polish designs by Jasmine.

Dice&rainbow nail polish designs by Jasmine.

Next subject:

Two dogs wrote to me. Their names are Joppe and Tango. I like Joppe because he is funny and he said he can pee when they tell him to. Tango is cool too, he likes eating and he even eats carrots. I really wished I had a dog too.

I sell pot holders $2 each and two for $3. And it is $2 minimum, which means you can give $3 or $4 or more if you want to, but I am not forcing you. I don’t buy them, I make them out of my shirt sleeves and they can be pretty handy sometimes. I was thinking to buy me a skateboard with the money, but now I don’t know what will I buy, I am still thinking about it. I only sold one for $2 so far. I also found lots of seashells at the beach and I was thinking to start selling them too.

Maya's Pot Holders

Maya’s Pot Holders

When i am pretty bored I go swinging for like half an hour or more and I also sing when I swing. I sing about what will happen in my life or what already happened, or what I’d like to happen.

I love traveling. I loved the Everglades. It is fun to see all the trees and gators, it’s so cool.

I also like when my dad makes freshly squeezed orange juice. My dad is my favorite member of the family, he takes good care of us.

My favorite guest from the trip is Mia and this guy named Ray. He is awesome! He brings us lots of pizza and he has amazing stories. Once, when he was 17, he needed to go to California with an airplane but he ended up in Spain instead! It is a long story but a good one. He gave me awesome cookies! I gave him one of my pot holders.

Categories: Maya's Corner | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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