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!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's Inside?

I finally got my act together and organized some photos of Amara.  It really has been a fun, yet exhausting experience.  I started the planning and preparation almost 4 months ago with the goal of making this boat feel like home for our family.  I am glad that it's basically done and I am quite pleased with the finished product.

Now, for the tour inside Amara.

First, the galley, salon and navigation station.  In non-boater terms: the kitchen, dining room and the captain's area.

Lily, our model, showing us the galley.  This is a fully stocked kitchen with 3 refrigerators and 2 large freezers.  It has a full oven and stove top, along with a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.  We are hardly roughing it.

This is where most of the events are happening these days.  Because the boat has air-conditioning, we are taking advantage of the cool air that this area offers.  We are currently staying indoors to eat most of our meals until we start our passage.  Then, I'm sure, we'll be taking our meals in the cockpit area.

The navigation station provides all of the electronics for the boat.  It has an auto-pilot, radar system, chart plotter and the ship's computer (MaxSea computer) in this area.  The "Nav" station also maintains the electronic management for the water makers and generator controls.  We also have a satellite phone and VHF radios located in this area.  Along with this nav station, we also have all these same controls up on the fly bridge.  That way we can steer and manage the boat from both areas.

This little girl is thrilled to have an area where she can play with her toys and have some room to spread out, roll around and stretch her little legs.

The picture above, gives you an overview of mine and Martin's cabin.  The vanity and shower are located just outside our bedroom area and the "head" (toilet) is separate and in a closed area just behind my desk (not seen in this photo).

We really love the space and storage that our cabin provides.
*Note:  I wasn't going to do framed pictures in each of the cabins because I was unsure of the dimensions (as they varied from room to room) and I knew that I'd have to bring the framed pictures with me on the plane; which I wasn't mentally prepared to do (more lifting!).  Then about 2 weeks before I left Utah, I knew that I would scold myself daily for not doing the pictures and framing prior to coming to St. Martin.  So, I found a few photographers that I have used in the past and had them do photos for each of the cabins.  I guessed at the dimensions just over the bed frame for each cabin and had the pictures custom framed according to my "guesstimates."  Then I lugged all 9 framed photos on the plane with me from Utah to St. Martin.  I have to say that I am quite pleased with their end result in spite of them being a bit of a stress and headache for me.
Martin's side of the bed along with a view of our storage space and closets.
My little corner and where I do most of my blog updates.
Here is a better view of our vanity and shower.  The bathroom has plenty of storage and ample room to spread things out a bit.

I wanted Lily's room to be bright and cheery and done just right for our little piece of sunshine.  What you don't see is that Lily's bunk is about 3 feet off the ground (which makes for a hard fall if she were to roll off her bed).  So, after much detail, diagrams and discussions on Martin's part, he was able to come up with a master plan to keep her from rolling off the bed.  
Martin and David were able to rig up netting all along Lily's bed.
I took this of Lily just waking up this morning enjoying her new and very safe bed.  I can sleep easier knowing that she won't roll off.
The netting and poles can easily come off and Lily's room can be used for guests if the boat fills up with friends and family.

This is one of the rooms for our crew, David and Sue.  Their cabin has a completely separate entrance than the 3 cabins just off the main salon.  That way it gives them a little more privacy and they can shut their cabin's door and be done with the Frey family for the evening.
A quick photo of their head (although I didn't take a picture of the actual head).  You can at least get an idea of how large this area is.

We also have a fourth cabin, but I have only hung the pictures at this point.  I wanted to wait to set this room up for when our guests come.  I want the linens and towels to be fresh upon their arrival, so I chose to wait.  I'll make sure to snap a photo and post when it is all set up and ready for guests.

*Note:  Each room has it's own desk, head, full shower and a library area.

Lastly, our cockpit area.  This is a covered "patio" just outside the salon.  I'm sure we will spend plenty of evenings sitting around this table talking and laughing with old and new friends.  In fact, we have already hosted a dinner with a few friends that I had met online through a cruiser's forum last year.  We found out that they were in St. Martin, found their boat and, of course, invited them over for dinner.  It was really fun to meet them in person and I hope that our paths will cross again in the future.

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Today, we had a great surprise.  My brother, Clay, and his wife, Stephanie, are on a Caribbean cruise and were coming to St. Martin.  Clay called me on Monday to see if we were still in St. Martin.  We were thrilled to meet them at the cruise ship's dock and show them around St. Martin and give them a tour of Amara.
Clay at the helm on the flybridge of Amara. 
We took them to Friar's Bay for lunch, which is a little restaurant on the sand just by the water.  It's a beautiful little beach.  So beautiful, that Stephanie couldn't resist the lure of the water any longer and got up in the middle of lunch and took a swim in the ocean.  Now, that's living!
I am so glad that we were able to have a lovely day visiting with Clay and Stephanie and that we were able to show them around Amara.  Hopefully, after seeing Amara in person, they'll come visit us somewhere in the South Pacific.  (hint. hint.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Settling In

Lily at the dock at Simpson Bay Marina, St. Maarten
I am starting to adjust to this new life of living on a boat.  I think the adjustment started to finally take shape when we finished with the bulk of organizing the inside of the boat.  Believe me, it wasn't an easy task... both the organizing and the adjusting.   I am sure that "learning to adjust" will be a continuing process for me.  For now though, all the pillows have been fluffed.  The towels have found their place in the bathrooms and Lily's play spot on the boat has been designated.  Life for me is finally starting to get back to normal.

The first week in St. Maarten I felt out of sorts as in, "What have I gotten myself into?"  I kept asking Martin, "Is this ever going to get fun?"  Because at that point, it had been all about repairs and then more repairs.  It seemed that once one problem got addressed, an even bigger problem reared its ugly head.  I now know way too much about rigging, e-Plex systems and O-rings.  Ok, not really, but all this verbiage seems all too common around these parts and I find myself getting way too involved in the conversation.  I heard that owning a boat is just, "...doing boat maintenance in exotic locations."  Funny to the outsider, but not so funny when I see this as my new reality.
Martin and our captain, David,
are always fixing and adjusting things.  
I write about all of this 'tongue and cheek' because I know it will get better.  I am starting to adjust to island life and learning to accept that things are just going to be different than what I am used to.  Lily and I have finally started to find a routine and I could probably drive you to any part of the island without getting lost.  I've gotten so good that I have found a few back roads off the main highway that can get me to where I am going a little faster.  I also know that if I buy something at the Ace Hardware on one side of the island, that I can't return it to the Ace Hardware on the other side.  AND don't plan on getting my money back—they will only give me credit.  I could get you to their equivalent of Costco (Cost-u-less) on one side of the island and know where to find a 220 volt power strip on the French side of the island.  For me, finding comfort means learning to get myself outside the gates of the marina and to explore and understand my surroundings.  So far, I think I have done a pretty good job.

Oh, and yes, you might have noticed that we are STILL in St. Maarten!  The reason is that St. Maarten is really the hub for boat repair and maintenance.  Once you leave St. Maarten, boaters don't have access to marina stores, electricians, riggers... like they do here.  So, we are staying put until all the major issues are addressed on Amara.  We are shooting to set out for the San Blas islands at the end of the week, but until then, we'll remain here continuing to get Amara in 'shipshape'.
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Last week, Martin ran into another cruiser family at the marina and they invited us to go to a beachfront restaurant to join them and other cruiser families for dinner.  It was actually a lot of fun.  They set up a movie on the beach for all the kids to watch while the parents sat in the restaurant and swapped stories.  I had some great conversations with other wives.  They couldn't wait to tell me what to expect and I couldn't wait to hear their opinions about sailing.  It was comforting to hear that some of the wives/moms are still trying to figure it all out.  A lot of the families have the same plan as Martin and me; which is to take off for a year and explore and be with their kids.  Some were very accomplished sailors and others are still learning the ropes.  What I learned is that it really helps that Martin and I have a very knowledgeable crew because it kind of takes some of the burden off us that some of these families are dealing with.

While talking to the other moms, the subject of diapers came up.  When I was packing for this adventure, I was under the impression that their are babies everywhere—naturally there would be diapers everywhere.  I brought with me maybe enough diapers for a month.  What I learned in the course of the conversation is that getting quality diapers is not as easy as I thought it would be.  One mom said that she had to go to 3 islands before she found diapers.  Of course, at that point I think I tuned out of the rest of the conversations because all I could think from that moment on was, "Buy more diapers!  Buy more diapers!"  The next morning I made Martin go with me to Cost-u-less and we purchased 800 Pampers diapers.  If I was asked to choose what my one luxury item would be (something that I couldn't live without), I guess it would be diapers. Martin is still convinced that there will be places along the way, but I'm not taking any chances.   We have tucked them all away in different little cubby holes throughout the boat, and now I can rest easy knowing that this won't be a concern during our passage.
A new world record of most diapers purchased.
Speaking earlier about how grateful Martin and I are to have crew with us—we love our new crew.  They are a super couple straight in from Australia and Martin and I have really enjoyed getting to know them these past two weeks.  Their highlight will come in the next few posts when I have gathered some photos of them.  Right now, with all the repairs and provisioning,  I thought it best to let them get done what needs their attention.

Also, now that Amara is starting to look and stay organized, I have gathered some photos of her for the grand tour.  It really has been fun (and tiresome) getting her ready for show and I will make sure to post some photos in my next post and show you around our new home.

P.S.  I hope you like our new blog design.  I am really happy with it and think it really reflects our family and this new adventure.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

St. Maarten Continued...

The rainbow welcoming Martin and crew to St. Maarten last week.
I meant to post these pictures on my last post but the internet was intermittent and I couldn't get the photos to post.  These are photos of when Martin and his crew came into St. Maarten and were met with a double rainbow, saw a whale splashing in the water and had dolphins swimming off Amara's bow.  You can't ask for a better welcome after a long Atlantic crossing.
The draw bridge coming into the harbor of St. Maarten.
Last week was kind of a blur for me.  I have learned quickly that there aren't enough hours in the day when it comes to getting a boat ready for another passage.

On Thursday of last week, all 7 of my boxes from the US came safely to our dock.  We used Crowley Shipping  and I can't say enough about them as they held my hand the whole way in getting these boxes to St. Maarten.  Once they arrived, Martin and Patrice managed to get them delivered straight to the boat where I happily dug in and started dismantling each box.  I wish I had photos but I was too excited to see them arrive and couldn't wait to start unpacking.
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On Friday of last week, Patrice had to leave us to go back to his family in France.  I could see the spring in his step as his departure grew closer.  He was very anxious to get back to them—I didn't blame him.  I am sure it was a wonderful homecoming when he finally made it home in time to spend Easter Sunday with his entire extended family.
Patrice as he is preparing to leave us and fly home to his family in France.
We had really come to rely on Patrice and his ability as a captain.  It was hard to see him go since he had grown to become such a good friend to Martin and to me.  He was an exceptional captain and we can't say enough about his expertise and knowledge and are so grateful to have met him by happen chance on the Mediterranean last fall.  We already miss him but are sure that our paths will cross again in the future.  In May, Patrice plans to come back to St. Maarten to sail his boat (currently docked in St. Maarten) back to France.

Thank you, Patrice for all you have done for us and in getting Amara safely across the Atlantic.
Goodbye, Patrice!
Where one chapter closes, another one opens.  Now, on to a new captain!  Anticipating Patrice's departure in St. Maarten, Martin and I were able to secure a wonderful crew while Martin was crossing the Atlantic. We had them fly in from Australia the day before Patrice was to leave St. Maarten so that he could do a transfer of knowledge with them.  I am sure it was like a fire hose (with a French accent ;) of information for them.  Introducing them will come in a later post.  I think I should give them a little chance to breath before I start snapping photos of them going about their business in getting Amara ready for our next passage to Panama.
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The harbor at St. Barts.
On Saturday, Martin, Lily and I took a break from boat maintenance and took a 70-minute ferry over to St. Barts to watch the St. Barts Bucket Regatta.  It was rather funny, because as we boarded the ferry, I watched everyone get on the boat with food and drinks in hand.  Slowly, over the course of the trip, Martin and I watched tourists getting up and staggering to the back of the ferry.  Pretty soon, it was just us and a few locals still sitting in our seats.  Unfortunately, we didn't leave unscathed either.  Poor little Lily didn't find her sea legs fast enough and lost her breakfast before the end of the trip.  
Poor little Lily in the rain.
Upon arriving to St. Barts, we were met by a torrential downpour and had just missed the beginning of the race.  (Just our luck!)  We stood under a nearby gazebo as the rain poured buckets of water all around us.  All we could do was just look at each other and start laughing because, of course, the circumstances of our arrival seemed appropriate.  I mean, I was expecting to take in the beginning of a fancy race and visit a fancy island in my fancy clothes.  Instead, I stood under the gazebo with my hair and clothes soaking wet having missed the beginning of the regatta.

Finally, after about an hour, the rain finally dissipated and Martin and I were able to climb to a part of the island to watch the races.

After watching the races for awhile, we decided to explore the island and went over to Nikki beach and enjoyed the beautiful beaches and scenery.

After a lovely day at the beach, we went back to the other side of the island and watched the J-class boats come into the harbor at the end of the regatta.  It was amazing to see these huge, beautiful vessals come in and line up in the harbor.

At the end of the race, the boat that came in last, seemed to draw the biggest crowd since their music was blaring from their speakers and the crew was dancing on the spreaders and decks.  We really got a kick out watching them and loved the break from a rather somewhat stuffy event.  
To put a cherry on top of the end of what turned out to be a very eventful day, we got to see this little lady as she strolled down the streets.  
Next time I visit St. Barts, I'll remember to wear my white linen with a little splash of yellow.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cliff Diving

No, I didn't fall or dive off the edge of a cliff... but it sure has felt pretty close to it this past week.  So much to do.  So much to take in.  So much to see.  Mainly, so much to process.
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Let's back up a bit.  On Monday, March 25, I flew in to St. Martin's with Lily, Meredith and Martin's mother, Charlotte.  We spent a lovely evening by the ocean at a quaint little beachfront hotel.  We had planned to get up early the next morning and meet Martin and his crew at the draw bridge and welcome them to St. Martin.  However, plans changed quickly when Martin called and said they were arriving sooner than expected.  So, we nixed the welcome party at the bridge and drove straight to the marina.

Meredith (Martin's oldest daughter) hadn't planned to come on this first trip but I thought it would be fun to surprise Martin with the whole family welcoming him after a long 20 day crossing of the Atlantic.  When we got to the marina, we headed straight for Amara where we were greeted by Garry.  Martin quickly came up to the deck and imagine his surprise when he saw Meredith?!
Then he greeted Charlotte with another huge hug...
Then, he got to little Lily... She recognized him immediately but was a little apprehensive at first...
It took her a minute or so to warm up to the idea that her daddy was right before her.
Of course, what you've all been waiting for... the meeting that was 9 weeks in the making.  A great big kiss and a very welcomed hug from me.  Boy, was I happy to see Martin again.
Sorry, folks.  This is even a little too mushy for my taste, but when the moment's right...
It was all a little overwhelming for Martin to see us there together, and even a little more overwhelming for me to see my home for the next 10 months or so.  We all settled in, hugs went all around to Patrice and Garry and then we all got to work getting the boat ready.  (I have found this past week that there is ALWAYS work to be done on a boat.)  

First things first, we got all of the cushions out of Lily's room and up on to the deck.  Meanwhile, Charlotte took a little cat nap while Lily hung out with Grandma.
Then we went out to dinner to celebrate a successful crossing.
So much more to cover, but there is work to be done and few hands available.  I will update with more tomorrow.  I just didn't want you to think that I didn't survive the "jump".  More tomorrow...