Friday, April 12, 2013

Meet Our Crew

When searching for a crew, Martin and I decided early on that we not only needed a captain, but that we would also need a "cook."  It would be easier for me to not have to prepare the daily meals on the boat for a crew since Lily would be taking up most of my time and efforts.  We just thought it would be too hard for me to provision and cook while taking care of Lily who is disabled and needs my constant attention.  At home, I could manage cooking and watching Lily because Martin was always around to lend a hand.  However, while sailing, there is a lot more that needs Martin's attention and I just didn't want to rely on him having a second to play with Lily while I cooked.  Plus, I also want to try my hand at sailing and I didn't know how I was going to fit it all in having to worry about "what's for dinner."  So, we decided that we wanted a couple; A qualified captain and, if we were lucky, a cook.   What we got was the pot at the end of the rainbow!  These two are better than gold!
Sue and David, our new crew, come to us directly from 'down und-ah' (they're probably tired of that expression by now) where they call Melbourne, Australia their home.  They have been married for 24 years.  22 of those 24 years, they have been working together on the water as David serving as the ship's captain and Sue being the boat's chef/mate.  When talking with both of them, I am amazed as they mentioned where they have traveled to by boat.  For example: Egypt, Thailand, Israel, Singapore, Panama, Sri Lanka, the South and North Pacific, the Mediterranean, and through both the Panama and Suez canals.  Just a few months prior to 9/11, they were even in New York harbor, crewing a yacht for 6 months.

Martin and I have really enjoyed getting to know them better these past two weeks and have loved the skills and expertise that they have brought with them.
Taken this morning in the midst of the hustle and bustle of getting Amara ready to leave the harbor.  We really love these two!
David is a captain that touts over 20+ years of experience.  He has sailed over 100,000 miles as a captain; first on his own boat and then for other yacht owners.  He has captained up to 100' vessels, so captaining Amara shouldn't be a problem for David since she is only a 56-footer.  David and his father built their first boat back in 1985.  It was a 42' Oceanic yacht called, "Arenda" that they built from hull and deck up—meaning, they built it from the bare bones reinstalling the plumbing, engine work, reinstalling the deck hardware, as well as, all the internal woodwork.  David and his father sailed their boat, Arenda, for the next two years through the North and South Pacific.

These past two weeks have involved long hours of fixing and managing all the moving parts as well as the electronics on Amara.  Martin is constantly amazed at the skills that David has in fixing and maintaining almost everything along with his keen capability to troubleshoot foreseeable problems that could easily arise when we least expect it.  David "expects" it and we are grateful for all the time and effort that he has already put in to getting Amara ready to sail... again.
Martin and David discussing the "eternal" spare parts list.  Martin obviously doesn't want to forget buying another alternator belt (notice his fancy necklace).

When Sue met David, she was hardly a sailor at that point but agreed to take off with David and his father upon the completion of Arenda. Together, they sailed around the South Pacific for the next three months.  After the trip was over Sue said that she was, "in love" and decided to join David as a member of his crew and then eventually as his wife.  She continued on with David and his father for the next few years where she honed her skills as a chef and mate.  Sue considers herself a "foodie."  However, I would consider her an amazing and accomplished gourmet chef.  Every night she cooks up an amazing creation—Salmon with puff pastry and soft cheese dripping down the sides with bread pudding served as dessert.  Grouper with a mango chutney or sautéed leeks with spaghetti (sounds so simple but it truly melted in our mouths.)   The list of dishes goes on and on and Martin and I are certainly eating like kings with Sue in the kitchen.  We both REALLY look forward to dinner these days.  ...This could come back to bite me!

One thing that I took very seriously when packing for Amara was to provide our chef with a fully stocked (maybe too stocked) kitchen.  I wanted to provide whoever was going to take over as "cook" with the tools that they would need to make food preparation a little easier and "up to snuff" with their culinary expectations.  I honestly think that a spoon and a bowl would have worked for Sue as she seems to prepare these dishes with ease and what looks to be with little effort on her part.  However, I'm smart enough to know that it's the 20 years of experience that Sue has had that makes her a master at what she is able to do.

One of the toughest critics of food that I know, is Lily.  She is picky, picky, picky!  Yet Sue is quickly plumping her up as Lily can't resist her cooking either.  Every night Lily can't get enough, and as a mother, it brings me great satisfaction seeing her enjoying these amazing dishes as well.
Provisions.  This is one load of about 20 loads of shopping that Sue has already done in provisioning for our trip to Panama.

As we continue this journey, I am going to take photos of some of Sue's dishes, because you won't believe the presentation of each meal, let alone how it tastes.  It really is magical.

Martin and I wanted to let Sue and David have the night off tonight so Martin and I went to a nearby restaurant to have a quick bite.  Throughout the meal we were like groaning teenagers.  All we could say was, "Sue would have made this so much better." Or, "Sue would be able to tell what ingredients are in this."  Then the conversation would turn to talking about David.  All we could keep saying was, "We are so lucky to have David!"  Martin and I kept discussing how lucky we were to have been able to find such a qualified crew, as well as, we enjoy their company!  All we could use were words like, "Lucky", "Blessed", again "Lucky" and the all too common sentence in the course of our conversation, "How did we luck out in finding them?"

We were so nervous to see Patrice leave us, and although he is a top-notch sailor, we are so grateful that David was able to easily slip in at the helm and be able to make the transition from one captain to another captain a seamless effort.  We are also grateful for our noted chef, Sue, who is on board and able to join us.  She took over the kitchen the minute she walked on board, and I was easily able to hand it over to her.

Again, "How did we get so lucky?"

Note:  In the future, I will be more prepared to take photos of Sue's dishes.  Right now it has been the awe and amazement of feelings only felt on Christmas morning when seeing her dishes.  I'll try to compose myself for dinner tonight and take a few for you to enjoy.

If any of you readers are looking for crew for your boat (we have quite a few cruisers reading our blog now), we went through Palm Beach Yachts International  and worked with Donna McPhail.  She was obviously a welcomed resource in helping match our needs with a qualified crew.

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Saturday, April 13

Today we plan on leaving St. Martin and taking the 11:00 am bridge opening that will set us out on our journey to the San Blas islands and then on to Panama.  It should take us about 6 days to get to the San Blas islands.  I have a little itinerary of things that I would like to do when we get there.  Two months ago Condé Nast Traveler magazine did a highlight on the San Blas islands and talked about some fabulous places to visit, dive and restaurants to eat at while visiting.  We plan on staying there for a few days and then make our way to Panama where we plan to go through the Panama canal.  I will be able to post a little along the way, but it will be through our ships satellite phone, which will make it tricky since I tend to write my posts in 10 minutes and then spend another day editing them.  So, stay with me even if these are a little harder than normal to post.   

You don't know how excited I am to be finally leaving St. Maarten and be heading to Panama!