Life; the grand, the good, and the unbelievable

Newport~Antigua 2019

 

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Newport~Bermuda~Antigua 2019

With Captain Richard Archer & Carol Archer

Delivery crew: Charlie, Forrest, Heather, Rick

T’was a clear, chilly morning on which I parked  Bonanza Chili Bean at Sunnybrook Brewery (!) for an indefinite spell and hopped in Gracie’s car with my suitcase, guitar and day pack. I learned, some time ago, that travelling with a guitar in a gig bag affords one considerably more sympathy than travelling with a hard case…it stows easily in the overhead compartments on airplanes and snugly in a sailboat locker. I prefer not to be separated from my beloved guitar be it into the airplane hold or the lazarette! With my small daypack and my guitar I board planes and sailboats without a second glance.

I am now sitting on my friend Emer’s deck from which I can gaze at the sunset over Falmouth Harbour while being consumed by mosquitos and sweating profusely. A green gecko cocks his head in my direction and I encourage him telepathically to come near and do his best hunting of the malicious mozzies. The tree frogs and crickets have already begun their chanting which will continue through the night. This enchants me thoroughly. 

Empty but still aromatic beer bottles make the best cockroach traps; one will find a dead cockroach in the morning without fail in those dead soldiers of the night before.

I moved here from my friend Julie’s house yesterday. We spent two fun filled weeks together there after I disembarked from the fine sailing vessel Virago. I’m getting ahead of mysef, pardon me…that’s for the next post.

Anyway, Gracie dropped me off in St George at the airport after a good bye brunch of mediocre mexican fare, as our first and second choices of brunch spots were too crowded and we couldn’t afford the wait. Ironically, I ended up, instead, waiting at the airport for a delayed flight…if only we had known!

I finally landed in Providence RI at 2 a.m. where Richard was waiting to drive me back to Newport Shipyard. 

Newport was cold and rainy but not freezing as it had been the year before. I spent a week of shopping and cooking prepared meals to freeze and pull out underway in case of rough weather. Though the conditions were never tremendous they were far from calm and I was extremely glad to have minimized the time spent in the galley while adapting my sea legs again. The watch schedule was created so that the Captain and I shared a watch slot with a third person (normally 2 people on watch) so we could split it and each get a little more sleep depending on the circumstances.

A system was forecast to catch up to us within a few days so we made for Bermuda where we waited it out for 48 hours. Timezero, the most brilliant weather software for navigation, was used for the passage planning. This software is able to display surface temperature imaging of the ocean generated from a satellite, as well as the usual wind direction and strength and superimposes it on your gps chart plotter. This way we were able to find the Gulf Stream crossing which would least impede our progress with adverse currents. Ah! Technology! We didn’t even have gps for my first few ocean crossings! I’m glad I learned to plot on a paper chart, though; it may come in handy if/when technology fails us…

The yacht is a beautiful machine (Swan 100) outfitted for racing/cruising. Richard and Carol are extremely competent sailors who have run her since her inception 12 years ago in Finland and also sailed her throughout the Pacific. I am a very lucky girl to have sailed aboard Virago with her fine crew! Speaking of crew, we totaled 7 for this voyage. Everyone competent, well humoured and amiable, made this delivery a real pleasure! Often, it has been my experience that being at sea for days creates tension in people and causes discomfort and conflict. 

It wasn’t completely smooth sailing, though. A hydraulic seal did blow and we had to shut down all the halyard winches, shop vac up gallons of walnut oil (which is the eco-friendly hydraulic fluid on board!!!) and top up the system with petroleum based fluid in Bermuda, walnut oil being unavailable there. The only other event was a freezer break down but fortunately there was enough space in the floor freezer so we didn’t have any waste. I did have to cook a few meat and fish items on the spot to salvage them but simply worked them into the meal plan. Minor mishaps in the big scheme of things.

Now I’m sitting at Skullduggery (I’ll take a picture) because afternoons are way too hot in the cottage I’m staying in. This place has beer, wifi and always a good breeze so its a good location. The only hindrance is running into so many people I know and interrupting for a chat! But this is part of my next post so stay tuned!

More photos link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/W8HWPt9nsaR6pHTY7

 

Antigua 2018

 

IMG-20181205-WA0002Freshening trade winds are blowing off blustery Willoughby Bay on the South Eastern corner of Antigua, into my little house this afternoon and keeping me nice and cool. This lovely, airy house is way up on the hillside so I’m not getting salted. Just pickled! But that’s another story.

Antigua is green and lush at the moment; despite this time of year being known as the “dry season”, it has rained daily since my arrival a week ago. It seems to do this annually just for the boat show…! This morning a gang of us (a symphony of us?), including young pup Tequila, were dropped off by Mondo at Rendez-Vous Beach  (which is still my favorite beach in the whole world) and ambled along the rugged, bushy and thorny coast to Carlisle Bay. At the posh beach there I pulled 8 beers from my pack. Beer, snacks and a dip in the clear, cool sea brought the hike to a sweet end and we jumped in the back of a pickup truck for the ride through the rainforest and back to English Harbour.

Rendez-Vous Beach is completely unspoiled and usually you and whoever you happen to be in company of, will find yourselves to be the only humans there. A few years ago new roads were cut in here and there and the access road was improved. Now, however, that access road resembles a steep drainage and the other bits of roads are largely overgrown again. That work had been done when a zealous member of the prolific family who own the area decided to build a boutique resort. Several years ago I can recall seeing the advert for it on a video screen showing Antiguan attractions while moving at a snails pace in the queue towards the immigration booth at the airport. Family members could not agree and the plan fell through, thankfully!

This time I sailed here. From Newport, Rhode Island.

The sailboat I joined is a marvel to me! Its a Swan 90. The hull and rigging are carbon fiber but not only that, the standing rigging and sails are carbon fiber too! Much like Clevelander, the Swan 82 I spent a couple of seasons on, a full main is a rare sight. From Newport to Bermuda we used the motor for less than a handful of hours at the departure and the arrival. With big following seas and 25-30 knots from aft of the beam we screamed along under full or reefed jib. I scored 14.7 while at the helm and the auto pilot scored 17 at one point, surfing a wave. We hand steered most of the way, for comfort, as the auto pilot can hold a good course but isn’t able to anticipate waves and keep the boat from rolling more than necessary. 

We took 4 freezing days to Bermuda and 5 cold to warm days to Antigua. An arctic front was making its way South behind us and that is what made our weather considerably cooler than I had expected or ever experienced before. Our Bermuda pause allowed it to pass. We carried a reefed main and jib for a few days but the wind petered out and our last few days were motoring daze. We caught a mahi mahi just the right size to feed the 6 of us a delectable dinner. Moritz seems to attract dolphins and sharing half of his watch I had the pleasure of much delightful dolphin company.

Moritz and Caryn, a lovely and highly competent couple, are the permanent crew on board. Delivery crew were myself, Courtney, Chris and Rob. In Newport no dock hands came down to cast off our lines so Rob ended up last man on the dock. It was freezing and in a dash to get on board, all lines off and bow now well clear of the dock, he leapt onto the electrical cable holder to grab the life lines and hoist himself up but AH! the flimsy holder broke off and SPLASH! he’s in the drink by the stern of the boat! Kudos to Moritz who had to think on his feet to avoid smooshing Rob between the aft end of the boat and the dock while avoiding collision with other hard bits and boats…In a flash Chris swooped down, scooped sopping Rob up and they were safely on board as we cruised away from the dock. Hypothermia was avoided, Rob was given a cup of steaming Irish tea to soothe a wounded ego, foulies were in the washer/dryer and we were on our way.

I’ve had a wonderful week of holiday in Antigua and Monday its back to work preparing for a Christmas and New Years cruise with guests in and around Grenada. We’ll be setting off on December 14th for Grenada.

More pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/H4qjavBVm78CnRRC8

Sourdough at Sea part 2

Sourdough at Sea

Porch Jammin!

Chicken Chase

FOUR LIFE-CHANGING DAYS…

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Casita Tara Available For a Magical Summer Stay in the Desert!

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3720802

2014 – Since Hawaii…

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So many memorable moments!

At the end of March I returned home to some phenomenally fine weather. It seemed as though spring were arriving early to Utah in 2014; how delightful! That was not the case, although a solid month of this finery did endure.

One day the wind began to blow the dogs off their chains (freezing for a month and a half, then parching hot) and it did not cease until the end of June, ramming pollen and other irritating particulates into my poor, sensitive nasal tissue and throwing a wicked spanner into the simple act of breathing.

That was not the only damage incurred either; the poor emerging plants in the garden were whipped to within inches of their lives, if not to death. The aridity of the whole environment was so increased by the relentless hair dryer that my water supply ran out! I had some delivered and decided to buy a supplemental water catchment tank. Five hundred gallons.

Kind family/friends/neighbors helped me purchase it, build a concrete footing for it and transport it from the Thunderbird, where it arrived on a large truck, to its new home on the Northeast corner of my house to remain starkly empty for another 2 months!

On July 4th, I was serving happy families fine American fare at the Thunderbird diner when the sky opened for the first (and only) downpour of the Monsoon season! Hurray!!! The garden is home free now, I thought. What a relief; it’ll rain every day now for a while and I’ll catch loads of water in the new tank which should arrive any day now… By the time it was ready to catch rain the rain had decided to hold off for yet another month! Rains didn’t come until August was well underway.

Hawaii had not been at all lucrative for me and my savings were now pretty much depleted so I joined the gang at the Thunderbird and re-acquainted myself with the joys of being a waitress. I have to say that I did thoroughly enjoy working with the spunky servers there and the kind hearted owners. I liked turning up for work at dawn (or before!) and, at the end of the day, tearing off the apron and all the drama of the day with it. I worked 2, 3, 4 shifts per week from April to September in order to maintain my beer habit and finance the building of the “Casita Tara”.

Casita Tara, now a cozy, wee “glamping” vacation stop over, as seen on airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3720802.

More kind friends (I’m so lucky!) helped me build it, well, it would be more accurate to say that I helped them a bit! Kind friends also donated most of the materials; windows, a door, plywood and siding. Casita Tara is 8×8 enclosure of mostly windows with a 4 ft deck and a 40 mile view.

Other than the odd random friend spending the night in the unfinished Casita, the first inhabitants were a couple of friends from France who I met in Tahiti ten years prior and had not met up with since that time! One morning while pottering about (as I do) in the kitchen, Yvan and I heard Corinne screaming out from the Casita. Rushing over there my suspicions were confirmed: rattlesnake! Before the buildings inception this had been a concern of mine and was the reason for elevating it to a certain height thus avoiding the creation a haven for snakes. This snake was just passing through, investigating. He was a big fella though and I was intimidated to catch him with my stubby rake as I usually do. I rang the appropriate fellows and we watched, awed, as they coaxed him into the bag while giving us a good education on the species’ idiosyncrasies. He was re-located to a place which the aforementioned snake connoisseur recognized as user friendly to snakes!

My older girls Pinky and Whitey passed away during the winter of 2013-14 and so in Spring I adopted two new girls from someone in town who had moved and couldn’t take the chickens; Moonshine and Freddy. Back at the ranch were Reddy and her new buddy Sunshine, who Gracie had picked out in Colorado City to keep Reddy company after Whitey and Pinky’s demise. Unfortunately, Sunshine is a banty, half the size of the other girls and therefore an easy target for tormenting. She became neurotic and broody and I decided to send her back to Aunty Gracie’s back yard, which was now home to six more laying hens!! Yep, Aunty Gracie became a crazy chicken AND cat lady! Right now ALL the girls are there together but the spoiled rotten Sunshine and Reddy spend the chillier days indoors by the heater!!

And there was the brewing of fine ales….

An inspiring friend and neighbor of mine and I agreed to start brewing beer together. Ten gallons at a time. Once a month. After hours of the initial brewing process, while sipping last months’ brew, we separate the ten gallons  into two 5 gallon carboys and let our creativity take over from there. Five gallons go home with me and the other five stay in Nate’s garage. Different types of yeast; some orange zest perhaps; a pinch of cardamom might be nice; what about a drop of pinion resin; dry hop with pellets or buds; Citra or Cascade? How long?  These fun experiments with flavor, as well as whether the beer is bottled or kegged all resulted in delightfully different brews, one for each month from April to September!

Hawaii, 2013/14

konaI galavanted in Hawaii for the winter of 2013/14.

 

Hawaii 2013/14

The windows are all fogged up this morning! Brrrr.

Puna, Big Island; it is not a hot place. It is a warmish place. It is a soggy place, a friendly place, an earthy place (despite the lack of soil), a forward thinking place strewn about with sustainable living minded folk altering the paradigm of societal structure…

It’s fascinating!

I have been here two weeks. My hosts are a friend from Utah who I’ve known for many years and his more reserved fiance who is a tech music star and spends lots of time away on tours and gigs all over the world. Travis is a candid multi talented artist, hot sauce gourmet, hair stylist and angel. I love my hosts.

They will be leaving for gig/holidays soon and mine will be the responsibility of caring for the 2 lovely husky dogs and wide array of exotic plants which are their other passion. These boys are a couple of months along in the construction of their new house. The grounds are already crocheted with hundreds of varieties of palms, bromeliads, fruit trees and more, overwhelming my knowledge by leaps and bounds. Their “apron” is magnificent. I am told that when a lot is purchased, the neighbors will patrol and disapprove of the new owner if he does not produce a certain curb appeal to his lot prior to building. (!) The road end of a driveway is what is known at the apron around here. The degree of disapproval varies according to the neighborhood. Their apron is magnificent.

I have entered the ocean exactly 3 times. Near here is a lovely warm pool, partially separated from the ocean by a rock wall. It is a delightful temperature. Being the windward side of the island, the water is mostly very rough and crashing onto lava rock in most places. A new friend showed me a protected “pool” inside a natural rock breakwater near Hilo. That pool is frequented by at least one giant turtle who swam nonchalantly past me in 4 feet of water. The shallow water and sandy bottom  make this little place a dipping paradise with adjustable temperatures depending on how close to the river mouth you choose to venture. During a little escapade to the West Coast which I will describe further along, I had a short snorkel at Two Step (Honaunau), down the hill from Captain Cook. Here was a bright and lively coral garden with the usual suspects; brightly coloured damsel fish, parrot fish, trumpet, trigger etc. The dolphins frequently taunt snorkeling tourists here but did not make an appearance this day

I ventured by bus (Hele-on or “hell on wheels”) from Hilo to Kailua-Kona and on to Captain Cook one day, thinking this a grand plan. Little did I expect an 8 hour voyage. The beginning of my trip was pleasant, sitting at the very back of the bus and chatting with a young local fellow who was full of knowledge, interesting information and the odd stab at humour. Once he de-bussed in Waimea the scenery changed abruptly from lush tropical forest to mountain meadows to desert scape, eventually switching back to tropical lushness around Kona. The bus route is a northerly sea board route cutting off the very northernmost tip of the island.

Hours and busses later I arrived in Captain Cook and was picked up by my hostess Barbara, the charming angel fruitcake who I intend to spend January to April with at the Dragonfly Ranch (www.dragonflyranch.com). This is an adorable old-ish B&B nestled on a hillside among verdant flora and towering trees, which are incorporated in the structure.

The common modus operandi for Hawaii is to “hire” people to work for you but not pay them…it’s even difficult to find unpaid work here! While I embrace this concept, I am not quite ready to drop out of the rat race to that degree. I have three vehicles to keep on the road, man! The latest addition to my fleet is a 1983 diesel Mercedez named Sir Gallahad and whose tank is filled with locally made Biodiesel.

This island is a haven for creative folk and the markets are full of local crafts and foods. Yesterday GMO was definitively banned on the Big Island (with the exception of papaya). If finding employment is nearly impossible the ease of getting your product to the market is, by contrast, relatively simple; you just have to fork out some dough…

Speaking of dough, I have been experimenting with a new sourdough starter I built here. I am still struggling with the challenge of baking at sea level. My new friend Gerry gave me some water kefir grains and so our kitchen now has a nice variety of “enlivened” beverages: my first batch of water kefir turned out delicious, I also made a scrumptious ginger beer!

Puna, one of the 5 counties, is the youngest land formed by the active volcano and is still at somewhat of a risk of destructive activity. A mere thirty years ago a lava flow permanently cut off the southbound coastal road and smothered a village.

This threat is the main reason for the low cost of land here. I have not researched but I’m told that 3 acre lots are available in some areas for $10000. In many places there is hardly any topsoil and hobbit holes and lava tubes lurk below the surface. Trav and Evan were very careful when using equipment to clear their drive, as heavy backhoes etc have been known to plummet through a weak spot into a gaping chasm!

It is early morning, still dark and pouring with rain out there. It won’t last. Every day it rains here. The rain coat my mum gave me just as I was leaving sure is coming in handy! I am staying in a subdivision called Leilani Estates and is commonly dubbed Graylani Estates.  It will be overcast here and sunny just a few miles away at the seaside. That is good news because this morning I will be joining some new friends for a hike somewhere down near the water and ending up at a little known swimming beach; a rarity on this side of the island.

OK folks, well that just about wraps it up for this update. I do have a skype interview for a part time coffee tour guide job on the Kona side. When the boys return from their holidays I plan on spending the remainder of my stay in the sun over there. The possibilities for paid work are far greater over there, as it is the more touristy side. Wish me luck!

OK, it may not be exactly HOT here but now that I am hearing from friends and family about the frigid weather in Utah I would like to express my gratitude to Madame Pele for being my gracious hostess.

Aloha!

Well! Reading that now, in July, in my little retreat in Utah, I giggle remembering how new and weird the vibe of that place was to me then. That was just the beginning though! I stayed until March 25th and had many more diverse experiences, which I will now attempt to portray!

I never did return to the Dragonfly Ranch; beautiful as it was, further communication with Angel Fruitcake revealed that I would probably not have been comfortable work trading there. I decided to give up looking for paid work and focus on being somewhere lovely and simply enjoying it.

Throughout December I had been corresponding with an old colleague of mine from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary days (1992 to 2000) who had intended to move to the Big Island after 6 months on Oahu. We considered work trading together at a farm on the West side but the one she settled on did not appeal to me. I opted, instead for somewhere lovely; a lush hideaway in the Ka’u desert (!!!not!! desert, that is) on 12 acres in a place called Wood Valley at 2500 ft elevation. With a few exceptions the main highway around the island cuts in at around 1500 ft above sea level and inland from the shore by a mile or two. If you imagine the island as the shape of a volcano (5 volcanoes actually), you can easily visualize this. Most of the shoreline is bare lava and not navigable. Properties will be either on the sea side (makai) or the mountain side (moaka) of the highway. I ended up well on the mountain side of the highway; five miles up Maona Loa’s flank; apparently, not for the weather…

Man, did it ever rain…

Every single day…

Some days for a few hours; other days for most of the day; other times for days and nights on end…

I felt as though I was in a video game that was impossible to win; stay alive was doing very well. Let me explain.

I am struck by the incredible irony of these climactic extremes: at home I plant a seed and daily watch as it pops it’s head through the soil, bravely growing microscopic amounts; I water it lovingly, encourage it, coddle it and hopefully it becomes a beautiful vegetable. If I should miss so much as one of my bi-daily waterings it would wither and die. In Hawaii I flung a machete mercilessly until my arm was too tired and plants just mocked me as they regrew inches within hours! Bananas, halyconia, ginger, vines (hell vine, terminator vine, hitchhiker vine or desmodemon, to name a few). It was impossible to get ahead and difficult to maintain a level of upkeep.

My hostess was a charming, youthful but elderly lady whose husband died precipitously, leaving no instructions for the running of the farm. She was winging it and had been taken advantage of by several “helpers” who work traded for accommodation. I did the best I could without becoming overly stressed until the sheep episode…I loved the house, the serenity, the friendly cardinals, the abundance of food, the solitude. I even had a short and sweet romance!  I struggled with the endless rain which actually kept increasing until I finally threw in the sopping towel and moved to South Kona for my last 3 weeks!

There I stayed on a school trust farm which had to meet a certain  criteria of revenue from organic produce sold. There were pineapples, avocados, dragonfruit, macadamia nuts, bananas and ginger. There were chickens and eggs and loud, obnoxious all night cockadoodling roosters; dogs, cats, wild pigs occasionally…And other woofers. It was not as serene but it was very comfortable, pleasant and DRY! My hosts were wonderful folks. It was 2 miles from the dolphin snorkeling spot and near enough to civilization to go down the pub for a pint on occasion! Here my friend from the Sanctuary joined me, having been disappointed with the coffee farm she came to the island to work trade at. She and a sweet german girl were my cheerful companions.

Sir Gallahad is now in good hands up there in Wood Valley and I am back home where it is sooooo dry and windy I would gladly teleport back to Hawaii for a spell!

Extra wet it was in Hawaii this year; extra dry t’is here…

Ah the weather…

Here’s freezing atop Mauna Kea at sunrise.

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More pics: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos

Jennifer Hofmann

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