Feb 27, 2015

Swim Little Fish

   Arias learned to swim really early on. When she was a baby Eben's job had us living out of various hotels, most of which had pools. So while he was out knocking on doors and making us money, I spent a lot of my days floating around with Baby Arias, with her as my only partner in crime. She was a natural and loved being in the water, so teaching her was a breeze. From the hotels we went back to the boat and she continued being a mermaid, but now in the open sea. We were so proud of how, at not even two, our little fish could swim fully underwater. It was impressive. She made it so mommy could enjoy her beachy drinks and not have to worry like crazy if the little one wandered near the water, because I knew she could fend for herself. (Other people however would regularly give me a heart attack yelling things like "OMG that baby is in the water!" I would spin around thinking "oh no, she's drowning" but nope, there she was happily swimming with the stingrays.)

   About a year later something weird happened and she totally regressed. I think she must have had a scary underwater moment while playing with her beach friends or something. She was now petrified by going near the ocean. She didn’t want anything to do with it. Even if she was in our arms she would kick and scream the closer we got to the water. It was extremely embarrassing and super worrisome, especially since we live on the water. What kind of sailor is horrified of swimming. We slowly had to ease her back in to it, and after MONTHS of working on it she was back to her former self. But man was that ever trying. We had to teach her to swim, twice!

   Neither of our girls took swimming lessons. We just spent a lot of time in the water with them, getting them to mimic us, practice holding their breath, and getting used to being splashed and dunked. Once they had mastered those skills we would stand a few feet apart and get them swimming between the two of us, with a helpful push from the starting parent, and a quick scoop out of the water from the receiving parent. Slow steps, baby steps, and they grew confidence in their skills.

   Now with Ellia, I admit, I was lazy. With two kids running around, the easiest thing for me to do at beach time was to put her Puddle Jumper floaties on and let them goof around in the water. (Which by the way, if your kid is new to swimming these are the best floaties ever. I have had several parents stop us and ask where we bought them.) I knew I could pay little attention to Arias and she would be fine in the water, and thanks to the floaties Ellia was not a huge stress either. I let that slide for way too long. Ellia is a couple of months away from her third birthday now, and we realized, we have to get on this. Enough with the laziness. So whenever we have both Eben and I around, to have enough eyes and arms for both girls, off come the floaties. 

   Ellia is starting to swim like a champ. She does look like a bit of a dolt since she insists on wearing her goggles, but with the salt water stinging her eyes I don’t blame her. Her only issue right now is she is fine swimming underwater, but does not have the swimming strength to come back up to air. She always needs a parent around to scoop her up. She is learning quick though. She skipped the doggy paddle and has gone straight to the underwater breast stroke. 

   Ellia has also given herself her own incentive.  She has got it in her head that once she can swim on her own she gets a snorkel. Because her big sister has one. So she just keeps on trying!

Feb 23, 2015

When The Boys Get Bored

   Here is yet another addition to “the Crazy things Eben and Peter do when they get bored”. I know you already saw the posts about these two, and some other partners’ in crime, blowing up life rafts, shooting off expired flares, and jumping from spreaders, when they don’t have some boat project to get done. Well, once again you get to witness their insanity. This one actually isn’t that bad.

   Peter’s v-berth on s/v Mary Christine is actually loaded to the brim with fun things to do. Not only does he carry an array of surf boards in there, but one of the latest little treasures he pulled out was his compound bow. Yes they have a compound bow on their sailboat. You could say it’s a weapon to be used in self-defence in case something bad were ever to happen, but in all reality it is purely for the entertainment factor. Peter has gotten himself into this new-to-us sport of bow fishing. 

   Bow fishing is exactly what it sounds like. You stand on your boat, or a dock, or whatever out of the water, watch the fish swim around, and when those guppies least expect it…BAM! Shot by an arrow. The bow even has a line and reel so that you don’t lose your arrow to the fish, you just reel him in after.

   Before Eben could be trusted to take Peter’s gear to the sea they had to do some practice shooting on the beach. And so this is what they did, when they were bored, and had no boat projects. They grabbed the bow and went and played Robin Hood on the beach of Christmas Cove, while the girls and I sat back and watched.

going to the show

he's a really good shot

once watching them got repetitive the girls' entertained themselves by throwing rocks around.

Feb 18, 2015

Did We Break The Boat??

  After my first sail, which was a horrible nightmare of a way to learn to sail, Eben and I made three rules regarding our sailing that we promised to follow from that point on. These three things were pretty basic, but we figured by following these we shouldn’t run into the same issues we had on my first crossing.

The rules were:
Never sail with a timeline.
For longer passages we will seek out a third adult to help us crew
If we think that something should be done, we do it right then and there, rather than wait for a later time.

   Our last 5 years of sailing we have been very good at doing these and it has saved us numerous headaches I am sure. Until last week. 

   In our defence, we are pretty new to this whole “towing the dinghy behind the boat” while sailing thing. We are used to longer crossings and we would always haul our dinghy up on deck. But in the Virgin Islands all the islands and bays are so close together that there is no real point in going through the pain of lifting that extremely heavy dinghy up just to have to put it back in the water an hour later. So, we have started doing like everyone else and towing it behind our boat.

   Last week we were anchoring just off of Sandy Spit, Jost Van Dyke. We found the spot we wanted and were getting ready to drop anchor. That when I asked Eben, “Should we pull the dinghy up along side our boat?” (This is where we broke our rule, I thought we should do it, but instead we thought, “we’ll be fine” and left it where it was, tied behind the boat.) We dropped our anchor and Eben decided to go dive since we were in a spot with a bunch of coral and we wanted to make sure it was set properly. As he was floating over it he gave me the “OK” to back up on our anchor to dig it in. I started slowly at 1200RPM, and as I do this I hear our dinghy line pull tight and then our engine just stopped. It shut off, all on its own. NOT GOOD! There was no boom, no cracking sounds, just off.

   I called Eben back to the boat and explained what happened. His face turned white and all he kept saying was “$#!T” (and we are really the swearing type, so this was definitely bad!). The dinghy line had gotten wrapped up around the prop shaft. Eben’s gut reaction was that we busted our transmission. This would be an extremely expensive fix and could mean the end of our sailing. My stomach was in knots. Eben dove under the boat to inspect everything. The rope had pulled so tight that I could barely get it untied for him to unravel it from below. And the wraps of the rope were strong enough that they had pushed the zinc back about an inch.

   Once back on board, and clearly freaking out, Eben radioed Joaquin for advice and comfort. Joaquin assured us that if Eben was able to dive down and manually turn our prop, that our gears still worked, that we should be just fine. We just had to get the balls to turn our engine back on and try driving the boat forwards and backwards. It took us a good 10 minutes before we could bring ourselves to do it, all the while we were picturing the $ draining from our bank account. Eben checked everything three times over and then started up the engine. It started, that was a relief. Then slowly forwards, yep it worked. Then backwards, and that worked too. *insert HUGE sigh of relief*. 

   We hugged it out and had an awkward laugh about it (awkward because the memory was still too fresh to really laugh about it!). We knew that we would still be super nervous the next time we would have to use our engine, and that we would be listening to every little sound wondering if it was a normal one, but for now all seemed ok. 

   The unfortunate event two days later of our anchor dragging (for our first time ever) meant we had no choice to baby our engine, we put her to the test. We drove it all around the bay, anchoring and re-anchoring, and she worked like a charm. 

   We were extremely fortunate that we did not blow or transmission or break something on the boat, and we kicked ourselves for not following one of our “rules”. Never again will we do that!

Feb 15, 2015

Boatmade Yogurt

   Our girls are like little hobbits. They love to do breakfast, then second breakfast, and often go for thirds too. They eat like teenage boys, and all I can say to ease the pain is “they must be growing”. Luckily for us they are good eaters. They understand the unwritten rule that they can only have sweet breakfasts (ie nutella or fruit loops) every couple of days. However, the problem with this food frenzy that they go through every morning is the cost of it. Sure some things are still reasonably priced in the Virgin Islands, but one of their favorites, yogurt, is on the higher end of the scale. It seems as soon as the dairy is processed that food item is more expensive (like the $8 block of cheese or the $5/4pack of yogurt). But we don’t want to discourage healthy eating just because of the cost of it, so we found an excellent work around.

   We have started making our own yogurt. I had read through a couple of recipe books about how easy it was supposed to be, but when the recipes started asking for live bacteria and milk thermometers it looked a bit too arduous to me. For me it’s got to be simple. Then we were introduced to the Easiyo. This contraption is easy. And like Eben always says, “if you make it easy for the consumer then they will buy it”. Call me lazy if you want, but this is yogurt making at its easiest.

   I have seen many upsides to using the Easiyo. The first, with us being on a boat having fresh yogurt is not the simplest of things, unless we have made a recent trip to town to buy some. But with this system all we have to do is throw in a yogurt packet (which just sit in our cupboard waiting to be made), add some water, and wait. The second plus, it is super easy!! I mean SUPER easy. And the third is that it is cost effective. The amount that one batch makes (1kg) is enough to feed our hobbits for a week’s worth of breakfasts (which means we are also saving on gas not having to go to the grocery store as often!). 

    The Easiyo website has many different recipes you can try, or if you want to make a science project out of it, you can jump online and there are tons of forums taking about other recipes and variations to try out using this system. We are extremely impressed with this yogurt maker and highly recommend it to anyone who is a yogurt fan or has several hobbits to feed.

   You can see in the pics just how easy, EASY is.

Choose your flavour

add mix to water


full body shake if you prefer...then add more water to fill container.

add boiling water to top of red piece

add your yogurt mix

close and wait 8-10 hours (Eben wanted to model too!)

after wait time, open...

mix with a spoon...

and ENJOY!

Feb 12, 2015

Day In, Day Out

   I love watching the wheels spin when people ask me “you’re on a boat with your kids?” All of a sudden their brain is bombarded with a ton of logistical questions, neurons are firing, and things just aren’t lining up. Well let me tell you the secret of it. Living on a boat with kids, well its just as crazy as living on land with kids, just with a touch more of close contact.

   Kids are crazy little beings in themselves, on land or on a boat. So I do like any mama does, I try my best to have some sort of structure. This is for the girls’ benefit, and for my sanity. On a day to day basis our days look pretty similar, minus those days when we are sailing or discovering a new island. What I am talking about here are the days, once we have settled in to an anchorage and we start to take back some of our daily routine, where things start to feel normal again. On those days, this is what a day on our “kid” boat looks like.

6:30 am Ellia wakes up, then she wakes Arias up, then both of them come and wake Eben up and bug him for breakfast until he is annoyed enough to get out of bed.

7-8:30am Eben gets the girls’ their first, second, and often third breakfast, as they enjoy some early morning shows on our laptop.

8:30am I wake up, get breakfast, sit with the iphone and my breakfast and see what the “World of Facebook” has been up to since I went to bed.

9:00am Eben chooses a boat project for the day, puts his swim shorts on and starts working

9:30am I convince the girls to turn off their shows and do some “school work”

10:00am Ellia is done her school work, I color with her, as I multi task doing another half hour of schooling with Arias

10:30am The girls and I play. Usually they opt for play dough, or dolls. Or “doing a project” as Arias says, which means crafts.

11:45am Total freak out because I have announced 15 minutes until nap time. It is inevitable, I have to fight them on it every single day

12:00 Naptime!!! Otherwise known as Mama and Papa’s quiet time. We will either watch a show on the laptop or I will do some interneting while Eben keeps tinkering on his projects

1:30pm Lunch time 

2:30pm Either play time with friends if we have our buddy boats around, or play time on the beach or in the water. This time of day is crucial as the rest of our day is dependent on it. This is when the girls dispense of all their energy which will guarantee us a good, normal, early night. If the girls miss out on this part of the day we, as parents, pay for it later.

5:30pm Back to the boat for shower time, supper prep time, and kids’ play time. Luckily our girls are really good at cleaning up after themselves and I don’t have to worry too much about the late evening mess they will create because they will also be the ones putting it away.

6:30pm Supper time. This usually lasts about an hour simply because Arias won’t shut up and just blabbers through the entire meal, which means it takes her forever to eat. And Ellia will eat half her meal and then insist that she doesn't know how to feed herself the second half and needs adult help.

7:30pm PJ’s brushing teeth, pee-pee time. Then the girls get a night time story from Mama and songs on the Ukulele from Papa. Lots of hugs and kisses, sips of water, and goodnights. And then probably at least one more request for more water, more hugs, or just something else really important that they needed to tell us before falling asleep.

7:45pm We insist that the girls need to fall asleep

8:00pm Quiet time. Eben sits on the back of the boat playing games on the iPad, while I sit here writing this, for you.

9:00pm Showtime. Nope, not what you were thinking. We snuggle up in our bed, laptop sitting on the bunkbed that now serves as a “tv mount” and we watch shows until midnight-ish.

Next day, happily repeat.

Of course not every day is like this. But in general, if you are wondering what we are up to at a certain hour of the day, 80% of the time this will lead you to the right answer.

sometimes boo-boos happen!

Feb 6, 2015

Sandy Spit and the Bubbly Baths, J.V.D.

    Sandy Spit is one of those “dream” islands with its white sand beach, aqua water, and one cute palm tree. The thing is absolutely tiny. It takes about 10 minutes to walk around the entire thing. But there is no denying it is beautiful. We all enjoyed wading around in the water while the kids splashed around. They even made their very own water park using Jody was their personal water slide and Eben as their carnival ride.

   But there is only so much sitting still that Eben can handle, so after about an hour there of just hanging out, he needed more action. Our entire group, s/v Mary Christine and s/v Mirador, all switched locations and decided to give the Bubbly Baths a shot.

   The bubbly baths are only a short hike from Foxy’s Taboo restaurant. Even though the hike is short doesn’t mean it will be uneventful. We managed to get lost, even with the waitresses instructions on how to get there! But when someone tells you “follow the palm tree path and then turn left at the mangroves”, it leaves a few options. We did not expect that the left hand turn meant INTO the mangroves. Once we found that entrance we were good as people painted arrows on rocks along the way, and the rest of the path is pretty straight forward. Our mistake, however, was going later in the afternoon. It was open season on us and the no-see’em’s had a full buffet of people to feast on. At least it kept up the pace!

   We didn’t know what the pools were going to be like once we reached them. You are supposed to go when there are at least some waves out in the water, and that day was pretty calm. But we had hope. When we got there we saw a small pool of water surrounded by rocks and a small cut that lead from that rock bath to the open ocean on the other side. So what happens is when a wave comes crashing in from the ocean it funnels through the rocks and creates a natural bubbly bath in the inner pool where you sit and wait. Luckily for us there were just enough waves to makes some pretty good bubbles and splashes and we got to experience the pool to its full extent without the countercurrent being too scary (some people have gotten sucked out through the rock cut when the waves and current are too big, watch out). The effects of the pool were almost good enough for us to not mind too much that we were still getting eaten alive by bugs. The sporadic rain also helped keep that at bay, sort of. Arias is covered in bug bites.

    We would have loved to stay longer in this area but today the winds and current changed and for our first time ever, our anchor was dragging. Thankfully for us it happened in the daytime and Eben sensed it, so we were both out there immediately trying to reset it. But after 3 more failed attempts in the coral/sand bottom, we gave up. Eben was exhausted from manually raising our anchor that many times, and even if we did manage to get it to stick I don’t think we would have trusted it enough to leave the boat. So instead, we decided to leave that anchorage all together and head to somewhere a little better protected, Soper’s Hole. We picked up a mooring so that we will not have to have nightmares about dragging tonight.