Monday, January 31, 2011

Lizzie’s Paradise

Caribbean Sea---There was a Greek island we visited 9 months ago called Trizonia in the Ionian Sea. It was there that I told about the story of Alison Fraser, the woman that ran Lizzie’s Yacht Club until her sudden death from an untold illness. Somehow I connected to her story and wanted to know more. I asked around the village and talked to people who knew her but it still explained little. (see blog post "Who was Alison" on 5/16/10)

The yacht club had stood vacant for three years. What were the chances that in the time I happened to be in Trizonia, I would witness something so disturbing to me?    The second time I walked to the empty Yacht Club, I saw men clearing out the building that she had called home and work, and disposing of all the things off the side of a hill that the island called a city dump. Alison's restaurant equipment and remaining personal effects were sent spilling down the cliff and into the bright blue Mediterranean Sea. (see blog post "Trizonia's Dirty Little Secret," 5/15/10 and "An outrage: Open all day Sunday," 5/17/10)

I knew there was a book that her mother “Lizzie” had written about the adventure titled “Lizzie’s Paradise” by Elizabeth Parker, a writer in England. I tried several times to locate the book including finding an Athen’s book store online that reportedly had one copy. But when I was in Athens,  I couldn’t find the store and without my own address (living on a sail boat), couldn’t order the one copy that claimed to have.

Recently, staying in Trinidad for a set amount of time, I ordered the book, sent it to a friend in Florida and he shipped it to the marina hotel where I was staying in Trini.

Because of what I had read about the book and it’s highly illustrated artwork by artist Martina Selway, I somehow thought it was a children’s book. However when I got the book, it’s pages were filled with copy. Inside the pages a story unveiled itself of how the yacht club came to be, more of Alison’s role and personality, the struggles and illnesses of Lizzie and the dream of owning a home on a Greek island. It was a beautiful survival story of the human spirit rising to challenges and facing fears.

This all happened before Alison’s illness and death.

The story unveiled that Lizzie had survived cancer of the cervix, uterus and then breast cancer as well as the death of a husband. This changed her life and she began to pursue a dream of moving to Greece. She writes that she didn't mean to buy a business but when the opportunity came up, it fit.

Alison had been working in Paros, Greece, the Greek island where I spent almost two weeks, her mother had called her with the idea of helping with a business and she was up for it. Somehow most of her mother’s description of Alison, I already knew. It sounds crazy but I felt it in the building the day before the men cleared everything away. I had tip toed down the steep path to the abandoned building and stood on the balcony overlooking the small harbor and imagined the yacht club full of sailors, telling stories, exchanging books, having dinner… There were so many personal touches left in and around the building that I knew, someone had taken great care of the place at one time.

The book says:

“I had talked to Demitri (Alison’s boyfriend) who said the business could be build up, but he didn’t want to work there. Alison did. To her it was a challenge and so different from the hurly burly of Paros. She needed a change, maybe from Demitri too.,” Lizzie recalls inside the pages of the book.
The book goes on to say they bought the building and friends helped clean and fix the yacht club. Alison worked on the business part of the venture.

“So poor Ali struggled on planning menus, discovering the cheapest and best places to buy provisions and, of course, drinks. The logistics of getting anything to the island, then up to the tavern proved to be arduous and impractical. Everything had to be brought to the the mainland opposite by taxi or lorry, then by water taxi round to our jetty below, unloaded and dragged up a sheer set of steps, then put on to a cart, designed by Darren and inappropriately nick-named “The Rocket”...The Rocket was then fastened at the front to Alison’s even ricketier old Moped and with someone pushing behind the load would be taken thirty metres up the steep dirt track road to the bottom of the steps leading up to the taverna. The provisions then had to be physically carried up the thirty five steps into the shade of the first level terrace. It took all day to carry up the crates…” the book reported.

Illustration by Martina Selway

As I read, everything that was said came to life. I had walked that road. I had climbed those steps. I had wondered how in the heck they had managed to have a business set so high on the side of a hill. Now it all was being unveiled. It was weird and felt almost voyeuristic. I was learning the mysteries that had captured my imagination. I was finally being told the truth about “who was Alison.”

“…Alison lighting the way to the house which they had transformed in the space of two months. Arriving at the front door I gasped at the newly painted and orderly dining room, everyone was clamouring around, their faces showed that they were eagerly awaiting the comments on their endeavours.

“Well Mum what do you think?”

I couldn’t say anything but slumped into a chair with tears pouring down my cheeks.

“Does it look that bad?”

“No Darlings, forgive me – I just can’t believe I am here at last – that you have created this place out of the ruin I first saw and that it will actually be my home. Thank you.” Lizzie (Alison’s Mom) wrote in her book.

It was obvious in the book that Alison and her mom were close.

“We loved each other very much but with her need for perfection and my laissez-faire attitude there could be difficulties.

“We’ll discuss it tomorrow properly, but one thing – I really do not want to cook, serving is Ok.” Lizzie said in her book and Alison responds:

“No way” Ali said, “there is not room for two chefs in my kitchen, you can help serve the drinks…”

The book,  "Lizzie’s Paradise" was in itself a beautiful story. Telling the story of Alison and her mother, Lizzie, of Trizonia and the challenges with the government there, of the Yacht Club and sailors who dined and drank there.  For me, because I had written about it and wondered about them, it was like a gift to have the story told.
Sadly, now I think about her mom and how she must miss her daughter. About the dump and so many things from the restaurant that ended up among the trash on the side of the little island they loved so much. I wonder what they would think about it all now in retrospect. I wonder if it was all worth it. I have a feeling it was.

And just like the vase I dug out of the heap and the bunch of wild sunflowers I picked and put in their vase, on their little table, next to their chairs, next to their china lined up in a row with one of their signs: “Open all day Sunday”, all the items I rescued climbing over things to retrieve them scattered down that hill, things I could not take with me on a sailboat but hoped that someone walking by could. Just like all these things that formed my personal memorial to Alison, I write this to bring out her story and answer my question of who was Alison.

*all quotes from the book referenced above, are from Lizzie’s Paradise by Elizabeth Parker.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reflections: 10 Months of Changing Courses

Windward Islands, Caribbean---When I started this journey, I had in my head how it would go. I knew the challenges that I would face and prepared my mind for them. What a joke. Just like life, nothing really prepares you for things unknown and nothing goes perfectly according to plan. After 25 years of a fairly routine life, I have learned to be more agile. To expect the unexpected. It was a very hard lesson for me to learn.

I look back and I’m thankful for the family that took me in on their sailboat and showed me amazing parts of the world. I look inside myself and I’m ashamed of my own behavior because I am 100% accountable for me, no matter what is being thrown at me. I should have left after the second day but I was too scared of having no options. Fear is ridiculous. It holds us back. I have learned there is always an option. Always.

I thought I was an independent person when I left. But no, true independence (and true freedom) comes when you face fear head on. I had led a very “safe” life surrounded by my friends, my career and my things. Being alone in a country where the only way forward is what you create out of nothing, that’s independence. It didn’t come without stepping out on faith, tears and many chats with God.

After successfully finding another boat to finish my journey I knew I was doing the right thing, even though pressing issues with my dog and home started to haunt me.

I remember returning on the ferry from Tobago back to Trinidad after a day trip to that resort island. The sun had set by 6:30pm and it was dark. Walking away from the port in the center of reputed crime area of Port of Spain, I was bombarded by taxi drivers offering to drive me the 10 miles to the marina where I was staying. The price was $200 EC (about $35). But without a glance their way, I walked with determined confidence as the only white person in a crowd of about 50. Across the highway and to the Maxi Taxi stand catching a ride in a crowded van that stopped numerous times to let people off and on. Soon I was at my marina and paid the $5EC (about 85 cents US) without giving it a second thought. I walked away suddenly feeling very empowered. Nothing about what I had done was risky, but it was something I had been uncomfortable with and wouldn’t think of doing when I saw it in South Africa. But it started with educating myself on how the system worked. Once I understood I never felt nervous, I felt more like a local. I found the ride-share system full of kind and helpful people as well as MUCH more interesting ride and cheap!

Now I look forward to the future month on the OceansWatch boat. I have laughed more in the last 10 days then I have all year. I am really, really happy. The team is serious about our mission but they take fun as seriously as I do. Last night they confessed that they had dreaded my arrival, fearing I would be too serious. They had read my Trinidad research and reports on my findings. It didn’t take long for them to get it, and get me.

I absolutely love being able to experience these island now with a purpose that not only means something, but allows me to meet government officials, business owners and approach sailors with our information leading to great discussions about their views, experiences and travel. I love hearing people's stories. So I am in heaven, especially hearing so many stories about changing their life for a life at sea.

I talk to non-sailors and they think what I have done is amazing. I talk to sailors and find them shaking their heads in acknowledgement. My story among sailors is not unusual or unique, it’s just another person who came to a point in the life that said there has to be more to life than this office or did a life review only to find they were not doing what they really had in their heart and the only thing holding them back was fear.

Yes, I’m lucky being single with no children but I had excuses that held me back and the decision to do this evolved, it did not come overnight. With every life comes excuses, but that did not stop my cousin Jason who closed his safe doctors office in Kansas and moved a wife and 5 children to a life overseas in US Embassies. Was it easy? No. Was it painful? Yes. Did it positively impact the children and his wife? A huge yes, as I watch one child fluent now in Arabic, working for the US state department in Tanzania, another a Navy Seal, another with Habitat for Humanity in Washington, DC, another giving artistic ideas to women in Ethiopia resulting in many jobs, another working with children and his wife, my cousin, with more confidence and grace than she knew she was capable of.

For every decision, there is a path. For every path, there is a direction. For every direction you have to stop every once and a while and ask: Am I happy? If you accidentally got on the wrong path, it will take everything you have to face the fear and find another course. But I am hearing from others who have done this and time and time again the feedback is, “it was worth it.”

The end of my journey is now in sight. I have no job, no prospects and no fortune awaiting me. I pray now, that I can heed my own words, face the fear and choose the right course.

Pan Band

Bequia---after a month in the Caribbean, and not hearing local music we finally stayed in Bequia an extra day just to be there for the first night of Bequia's Music Festival to hear a 13 piece Pan Band. It was great music and great fun.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Other Side of Bequia

Bequia, Caribbean---You have to remember that when I was here for two weeks over Christmas and New Years, I was sick for 10 days of that. Where I spent time, besides the local hospital, was in only one area: the strip of shops and restaurants along the harbor.

Now I’m back. Sailing on the OceansWatch boat and we have work to do. After getting a team photo staged and a press release written, and I was able to get a meeting with the Editor of the main Cruisers monthly newspaper: COMPASS MAGAZINE whose editorial office just happens to be here although the publication is all over the Caribbean.

The other thing I did was hire a taxi to take Jake and me to the other side of the island to the Turtle Sanctuary that we had heard about. Just going there was a great ride in the back of the pickup truck taxi showing me the other side of the island, plush and beautiful. Looking down on the multi-color shades of blue and aqua water gave me a different perspective on this sweet little island of only 4000 people.

“It’s hard, I get no help from the government, not even encouragement,” said Orton (Brother) King, founder of the Bequia Turtle Sanctuary.

The Founder with OceansWatch team member Jake
 This was his personal project that started twelve years ago when baby turtles burst out of a nest and walked across his lap as he was sitting on the beach. He knew these endangered turtles would not have much of a chance to survive. The old man was white in this highly populated island of blacks, but spoke with a pure Caribbean accent and looked like what I imagine Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea's character looked like. A self described “man of the sea” he showed me several small bumps on his arms.

“See, I been in da water so long barnacles day grow on me,” he chuckled.

His old house overlooking the ocean faces a beach were the turtles are first recovered. They are brought to holding tanks and as they grow, they are graduated to different tanks. After 2-5 years, they are released into the wild and the process continues.

“Divers are seeing me turtles. Day tell me 'bout seeing dem at the reefs.”

A special mark, a double punched out tiny hole, is put in the back of their shell before release.

Camera hogs!
 Funding comes only from the visitors that find the sanctuary and donations.

As someone who saw the "turtle battle" in Daytona Beach, Florida between developers using the shield of protected turtles as a way to get private beaches and beach lovers who wanted to continue to drive on the beach, a rare opportunity on any beach in the world.  All businesses had to block all lights facing the ocean, even the Burger King across the street had to install an ugly yellow light inside their sign.  I didn't know the turtle's side of the story then. I hadn't educated myself and was more in favor of turtle stew than turtle rescue.

I still think that humans and nature can co-exist and the Canaveral Seashore should be used to move nests but I certainly have a new love for turtles. Yes, it's true. I've changed.

These creatures are beautiful. There is no other word. It is legal to hunt them in Bequia, but there are rules on how and net fishing is poaching and goes on in the light of day. Patrolling is the problem, the lack of resources.

As I walked back through though the village, most outdoor vendors had bracelets of tortoise shell.
"Is this real?" I asked
"Yes, so beautiful. Tortoise Shell, you buy lady?" they pitched.
"Where did you get the shell?" I asked half teasing and half serious.
"No, no, I deed not kill da turtle. We buy da shell and make da jewelry."

And it might be a shock to my friends but I did not buy. Although it was beautiful jewelry. I turned away.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Union Island: It's a small world over and over and over again.

Union Island, Grenadines, Windward Islands, Caribbean---After leaving Grenada we sailed to Union Island arriving there late afternoon. It has been a great sail. Fast, really fast. This boat points to the wind really well. After we anchored I stood at the bow of the boat taking in a 360 to the area and then my eyes stopped on a boat only 2 boats away. Juno.

My old boat was only a short distance away. I was surprised as I assumed they were further along but I wouldn't leave this anchorage if I wasn't in a hurry either. It is so beautiful.

I saw my old Captain on shore and introduced him to my new Captain. Feeling like I was in the past and the future at the same time, it was a strange meeting.

Later, I swam over to Juno to say hello to the boys. It was good to see them. And now on to Bequia! where this all started. Again mixing the past and the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sing for your supper…or berth.

Clark’s Court Bay Marina, Grenada---We were given a choice, stay on the boat for 48 hours or pay for a marina. Our dinghy was badly in need of repair and it would take 48 hours to cure. We choose a marina so we could come and go and see some of the island, as well as do our OceansWatch work in St. George’s.

But one night as I was talking to the marina owner, pitching the idea of an extension to let us stay as a donation to a non-profit boat, a deal was offered. I would have to sing at the following night’s Thursday sing-along night and we could stay another night. Me sing? No. Double no. But as I shared this information with the crew, they were all for it! The only thing I could do was demand one for all and all for one. If they would join me, I would sing away. (That and the fact no one attending would know me or see me again.)

So the next night, The Brit, The Spaniard, and this American dedicated “You’ve got a Friend” to Bob our marina host. Towards the end, Bob joined us with his bellowing deep professional sounding voice to end the song in a James Brown sort of raspy refrain. It was hysterical and getting more hysterical every time we watch the full video that The Captain took of the entire thing.

And standing up in front of the small gathering of sailors, with Becky and Jake beside me and the OceansWatch boat safely tied to the dock far from Florida, the world around me seemed to whisper to me: You’ve got a friend

Friday, January 21, 2011

Profile of a Grenada X Militia Man

“Bishop, he was my good friend,” he said sadly as we zoomed around the Island of Grenada in his taxi.

“I was there. I marched with the crowd to storm his house and rescue him when he was put under house arrest. He was so beat up we started to take him to the hospital but he said ‘NO!, there is no room for all these people at the hospital. Take me to the Fort’ that’s what he wanted so had the doctors come to him,” his voice drifted off.

I had asked about the US Invasion of Grenada and the events leading up to it. What I got was his personal story. First hand action. His side of the story. He was speaking of a 1983 internal power struggle that ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop where at the Fort, a caravan of vehicles drove up and open fired on him and the crowd.

He was 16 years old when his story started, a militia officer with a team under him prior to the invasion when the country was fighting within.

“Bishop called me ‘the little one’ because I was so small,” he said as I pondered this large man telling me the story and tried to imagine him 50+ years ago.

“The Cubans came and taught us many things.  There were many people that did not know how to read or write. They did a lot of good things for the country but they wanted us to be communists. We resisted this. Bishop said no.”

“When the Americans came, the Cubans left those two planes,” he said as we drove by them an onto the tarmac of the old abandoned air strip. “Castro wanted them back but America said no, they could not come back!”

“We love America. They are our heroes. We asked for help and they came. Reagan wanted Bishop to get out of the country but he said ‘no, I stay with my country men and if I die, then I die. I stay just like my Father,’ that’s what he said to Reagan.

“They said ‘let the Americans come and we will drive them into the sea.’ America came and drove THEM into the sea in such a short time.”

“There were signs painted everywhere saying ‘Thank You America,’ there is still one left I can show you.”

“I was in Canada at a library and was reading a book with the historical account of the Invasion and it was wrong. I was there, and what is in this book is wrong. How can that be that they can make history different than what it was?”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Impressions of Grenada

Grenada---I love this Island. It is really a beautiful place, full of local pride and friendly people. We had a free day from OceansWatch duties so I took an island tour. I visited a Rum Distillery that uses the same technology and equipment for the past 200 years: a water wheel and manual labor. A cocoa bean factory with the Grenada Chocolate Factory outlet next door (some of the BEST chocolate I have tasted in the WORLD!...sadly, they do not export.) I was given a papaya right off the tree that was the size of a US watermelon! We saw nutmeg growing on trees as well as breadfruit, cocoa pod trees and passion fruit.  Traveling all the way around the island stopping at a waterfall and a restaurant overlooking the sea for lunch.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hello Grenada Office of the Prime Minister...

St. George, Grenada---I sat talking to the Director of Ministry: Health and Environment of Grenada. Talking like I knew what I was doing. Do I? I was unannounced and not in a business suit. We had not planned on this visit but the opportunity came up and we took the chance. Becky from the team took Ministry of Education and I took Environment. He did want to talk so there I was talking about this pioneering assignment through the Caribbean to make contacts, spread awareness with cruisers and find out what the islands needs were.

Going through security was a bit confusing. There was a sign with what NOT TO WEAR. I failed it all. But our plans that day were to go to marina's and dive shops NOT the Prime Minister of Grenada's office!

So on the dress code poster: Shoulders must be covered. Nope, I was in a white sun dress.
No flipflops; yes but they had heels to them.
No bareback; well my dress was a summer dress and it didn't have much.

So security asked if we had wraps and Becky pulled out a long sleeve shirt. They then asked ME to put in around me, even though my new British friend was wearing a mini skirt and a strappy T. So I wrapped it around my shoulders but then they said no, wrap it around your waist please. Confused, I did and gained entry.

My meeting was successful and the contact was made and information exchanged.

Then I headed to some marina's alone. When crossing the street a Maxi Taxi (a van full of people) drove by and someone stuck their head out the window and yelled "NICE PANTIES."

Then I realized that my choice of lace boy shorts was showing through the back of my dress, not the front. I was horrified and all the snickering at the Ministries front security office then made sense as well as their insistence that I wrap a shirt around my waist. I'm still horrified although I'm sure some day it will be funny.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saying Hello to a new boat

Prickly Bay, Grenada---I was sitting on top of a picnic table just to gather my thoughts and tears started to come. So much had happened in the last month and here I was, FINALLY ready to meet my new crew mates and see the boat I’ll spend the next 6 weeks on. Everything just came rushing past my mind. I had no plan to come to Grenada, yet here I was.

My taxi driver, after leaving me, stopped his van in the middle of the marina lot and came back to me. When he picked me up all I could tell him was that I wanted to go to Prickly Bay based on one email about the boat skipper dropping the sail at a shop there for repair.

“Where at the bay?” he had asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Do you know where the boat is in the Bay?”


“Do you know how to get a hold of the boat?”

“No.” I had responded in between the quickest version of my story as we drove from the Grenada airport to the bay.

Then I just explained that I had sent an email to the skipper about my plans but that I knew what it was like on a boat and not being able to access the internet. Chances were, they did not know I was there. So if there was a restaurant, I would just go there and figure it out. So, there I sat, in front of the restaurant at the Prickly Bay Marina. I knew I needed the internet or a VHS radio, maybe both.

Before I marched confidently into the office with my requests, I needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts and form a plan. Alone again, on my third Caribbean island in the past month. But the tears were not planned, they just came. After everything that had happened, and so much that seemed to be going wrong, I was running low on enthusiasm and confidence. Then suddenly, the sweet taxi man was standing in front of me after seeing me stop to sit above the luggage that he had carried to the picnic table. Before driving away he had looked back and saw me.

Before I knew it he had run up to customs, got the confirmation that the boat had checked in and that there was a VHS radio in the marina office.

“Your crew is here,” the marina operator told the female voice with a crisp English accent on the other end of the radio.

After a long pause the reply came:

“Okay then, we will dinghy in and gather her up shortly,” she said.

Soon a young girl with a big smile was pulling a dinghy up to the dock.

No, they had not gotten my email and did not know I was coming that day. But it was a warm welcome with apologies that they were all a little under from having a late night going out the night before.

I felt my entire body relax and I knew that this was going to be a good fit.

The boat is an Oceanis Benetaeu 50 and only 3 years old! She is beautiful with vast amounts of space that I am not used to. Automatic widgets everywhere and two, yes two heads! (bathrooms)

The team includes the Skipper, a handsome Brit who self describes himself as a sea gypsy currently living on a boat in Malaysia. The Spaniard, a young Biologist with a gentle persona and an easy going personality. The Brit, a bright, pretty women with more life experience than seemed to match her youth. Together, they had crossed the ocean from the Canaries to Grenada and had formed an obvious bond.

Nervous, like the first day of college I moved into share the front cabin with the Brit.

Within no time, I knew this was going to be a blast. There is a lot of work to do with the project but they are as committed to the project as they are embracing to the beauty of earth and the fun that life holds.

I can’t wait.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The new boat has arrived...IN ANOTHER COUNTRY!

Trinidad, still---I have spent hours looking out on the sea's horizon. Imaging the new 50 foot yacht to sail into the harbor. Or searching the boats at anchor thinking maybe, just maybe they are at Customs checking in.

It's been 12 days in Trinidad. I flew here earlier than required but still, the boat I am to crew on was suppose to be here 5 days ago. Lately, it's really been getting to me. I've been in 4 different rooms in 3 different hotels. I feel like a fish out of water, flopping around the deck, gasping for air. Sea air. I miss it so much.

Today, finally it arrived. IN GRENADA.

I guess they had some things break on the boat during their transatlantic passage and needed to go to Grenada instead. An island closer for them but I flew past them to be in Trini. (notice I've been here so long, it's now Trini like I'm a local)

So what am I going to do? Go to the beach. Yes, today I paid for a day trip to Tobago. The sister island of Trinidad located 21 miles away. My driver will be here at 3:45am (yes I am not kidding) and I will take the 6:45 fast ferry there and the 4pm ferry back. Round trip it cost $18 US. Tobago is suppose to be the jewel of this area. I had waited long enough for the boat and decided I wanted to see Tobago and so I shall.

After that, I'll find my way to Grenada 111.7 miles away, an Island I really wanted to see ever since reading the book: The Embarrassment of Mangos by Ann Vanderhoof. A story of a Canadian couple the stopped everything to sail the Caribbean for a few years. The way she described the island and confessed that it was their favorite, it made me want to see for myself.

I'm seeing these islands by accident it seems. But that's okay. I'm caught somewhere between Lost in Translation and the Accidental Tourist.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

There's work to be done...regardless. Impressions of Trinidad

Chimixxxxxxxx bay, Trinidad--- I have been waiting for the OceansWatch boat that is making their way here across the ocean from the Canary Islands. Having just crossed the Atlantic myself, I know all the factors that can make an arrival date unknown. So I try to remain patient. But every day in a hotel room makes me more and more antsy. The hotel I book from the internet does not honor the crew discount since my boat is not here. So the price is tripled. Arriving by taxi at midnight after a very long day to find this out was too much so I checked in anyway hoping the boat arrives ahead of schedule. Dream on.

I was sent here knowing no one, yet the CEO has asked me to start on OceanWatch work. Okay: One, I've met no one in person from the organization. Two, I only have several DVDs and their website to educate myself. Three, there is no three...this is ridiculous. I am not a scientist or do I remember much from my oceanography class at Kansas State many years ago...and how CAN one study oceanography in Kansas anyway?

Never-the-less,  I meticulously study. And something has changed in me. I do know the material and have learned so much about the concerns of our ocean and how OceanWatch members can help in the future.

I did what I learned to do straight out of College: Fake it until you make it.  So I contacted the few people I am given that work here and set up meetings. I meet a wonderful professional man named Leroy who is finishing his Masters in higher education and has published a book on yachting industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad Ministry has set up several new departments/partners to deal with the fact that Trinidad will not be able to sustain itself on the oil industry past the late 2020-30’s. They are looking at other industries for their future.

I contact a man named Leroy who works for the Business Development Council as an Industry Specialist leading the Yachting Steering Committee. He would love for the outcome of OceansWatch to influence the direction that Trinidad and Tobago goes in its development.  That's I over my head?
In my interview with Leroy several idealisms come out and I am baffeled. I alway think that equality of African Americans in the USA still has a long way to go, but I am stunned by his thoughts about his own country. He tells me that outside advice is looked at very seriously by the Government in TT.

The mindset is that if someone local tells someone in TT what to do it holds no weight. But if a Foreign Advisor tells TT the exact same thing, it is taken more seriously. The challenge they feel is getting things done. Why I asked? He thinks that the history of slavery has not worn off in the current generation. They have not learned to trust each other. Pay advisors lots of money to have them tell them what insiders would have advised. It is a 3rd world mindset he said. I can see clearly he is serious.

He works closely with Gina Hatt-Carvalho, manager of Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago who I meet and seems as frustrated at getting things done as he is. As manager of YSATT (everyone calls it Why-Sat), Gina is the main go-to person in the yachting community. Her office is in the Crews Inn complex close to Customs and Immigration. She is the chairman of a national and international committee that includes the government, ministry of the environment, marine affairs, environment management authority and National Petroleum to manage and solve yachting and environment issues.

Every year, for many years, they have a massive beach cleanup project. This year they cleaned 18 beaches. They process the trash and keep data on it including categorizing a count on what is found producing a track record of what is coming up from the water.

She also periodically goes out with a volunteer Sailor to do marina water cleanup. Fred VerPlank, retired US Coast Guard Captain retired to Trinidad for winters, helped in January.  Speaking with both of them afterwards that day, they said it would take every yacht in the harbor, every day for a year to ever clean the trash out of the water! When asked where it was coming from they said it is city trash that washes down into the water during the many rains that Trinidad gets. This is not coming from yachts.

If this is just the first of many islands that will be in the project across the carribbean, then, well I have a lot more to learn and a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another Hospital...and no this is not a Caribbean Hospital Tour

 Trinidad, West Indies, Caribbean---"YOU don't have a yellow fever shot?" the other sailors around the table glared at me.

"Um...I'm not sure. I have my heps, but I'll have to look, " I replied feeling like the last to know.

"But you've been to Africa, no one questioned you?" they pushed.

"And Cape Verde Islands," I replied...and then I got the head shake. The slow, feeling sorry for you, glad they are not you HEAD SHAKE.

And I felt a sweep of anxiety go through me like touching an electric fence on the farm in Kansas.

There was nothing I could do, it was late and I would deal with it in the morning, I told myself as I went to bed last night.

 And then there was the dream. Not knowing what Yellow Fever is, I dreamt that I was dieing of it. I awoke with the recent memory of having food poisoning only a few weeks ago in Bequia and jumped out of bed, dug out my medical file, retrieved my International Certificate of Vaccination card and searched for the words...they were not there. In prepping for other international travel, I had never had this shot. No one told me and I didn't know to ask.

So, I went to the front desk and talked to them. I got that same look. Then I requested one name: Jesse James. The desk clerk made a few phone calls and it was arranged.

Jesse James of Trinidad is almost famous. His company of drivers work with the American Embassy and many yachties for all sorts of needs. The director of OceansWatch North America knew him and had told me I needed to meet him. Just yesterday I had walked to his office to say hi but missed him. Today for another reason I was on the the phone with him and soon one of his drivers appeared. He was worth it. Even though they speak English here, I find it hard to understand them often. The driver literally walked me everywhere except the examining room. And yes, this time I WAS dressed appropriately (see blog "Doctor, Doctor" on 12/30/10) .

Having been at sea for almost 10 months, it also worked to my advantage as I had a couple prescriptions that only a doctor could renew as well as leaving my other boat who had prescription antibiotics for all the "just in case you are at sea..." and I needed my own.

This time the hospital was a huge upgrade to the Bequia experience. It was a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital but still a far cry from American standards. As I waited for the doctor, I had to notice the picture on the wall was taped together with medical tape. An old sink stood in the corner with rusty pipes and one table of supplies.

The Yellow Fever shot itself was no big deal. And the entire visit with about 20 minutes of the Doctor's time was $42 US.   A walk-in shot and consult with 3 prescriptions!   That's affordable medicine. But that's it for me. No more hospitals.

Christmas January 12

Coral Cove Marina, Chagauramos, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies---Today was Christmas for me Two packages I had begged for arrived at the hotel today. It’s been hard to adjust to not having an address, another thing I did not consider for my year overseas on a boat.

One box had two books: Last Temptations of Christ and Malcolm X’s biography that I ordered from and sent to my sister in Kansas City. The other box had two books. One I had searched for since April and finally found with Europe and was the last copy a used book store had, I ordered it and had it sent to an address in Daytona as well as a Snapfish book I created of photos throughout the Med of The Captain and his boys for their family’s Christmas present.

Why are these books so important and special to me? Just getting anything from home is a big deal. The Captain’s wife brought the two things on my wish list of American things when she visited in June. Since then, I have only received one package, sent to Gibraltar by a friend when the boat was there long enough to take receipt. It was a simple care package with fun, cool and funny things. It made me feel loved and reminded me of all my friends.

But this package was different. They were books I had searched for, finally bought online and wanted badly.

It’s easy to shop overseas as long as you are not looking for anything in particular. But anything else that matched a favorite brand, I’ve found by accident. So although I had searched each bookstore I came across, I never found these particular titles.

Malcolm X’s biography is an extension of my learning of Africa and Africans. It started in South Africa when I bought and read the book by Nelson Mandela, Long Road to Freedom, followed by then Senator Obama, Dreams from my Father.

Most special of all is the book Lizzie’s Paradise, by Elizabeth Parker. Lizzie’s Paradise was written by “Alison’s” mom. The same Alison that I wrote the story “Who was Alison” in April after visiting the tiny island of Trizonia. Alison ran a yacht club there and died unexpectedly after this book was written. See blogs: Who is Allison?, Trizonia’s Dirty little secret, and Open all day Sunday (written in April 2010) to understand the reason this book is special. This is a story that intrigued me and got under my skin especially when I saw what happened at the dump. Once I read this I’ll know more about the mystery surrounding this yacht club and maybe get more questions answered.

Christmas was hard for me being sick with food poisoning and alone. So I got to open presents today. My sister even surprised me with a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies!

Thank you Ruth in Kansas City and Scott in Daytona, today you gave me Christmas

Monday, January 10, 2011


Port of Spain, Chaguaramos, Coral Cove Marina, Trinidad---It's been 9 months of absorbing the world around me from sunrises to sunsets, from restaurants to museums and from talking to sailors to shopkeepers and villagers that I’ve met along the way. I feel blessed for the things I've seen in Italy, Greece, Sicily, Sardinia, Vulcano and Stomboli, Menorca, Mellorca, Ibiza, Fermentara, Ispalmador, Spain, South Africa, Morocco, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands. But one thing haunts me…

Brava, Cape Verde.

The way the children gathered around the sailboat in small fishing boats starring at us and our every move. (see post 11/27/10 “Impressions of Brava…”) The way they begged for water and tried to sell us MORE fish. I wanted to give them some things.

I understood why I should not. There was a small village up the hill and we were the one and only boat, all alone in that anchorage. I didn't feel 100% safe. We couldn't start giving out things and be flocked with needs or even worse, takers in the night. The Captain didn't say why. He just demanded that nothing be given away. Regardles, I couldn’t give to the less fortunate, or could I?

By chance, I stumbled on a boat with a mission that not only helps but also helps other yachts have ways to help.

There is so much to OceansWatch's mission, partnering and achievements that it's hard to get it all out. I was very excited about finding a boat with a bigger purpose, and having them except me to be a volunteer crew member. But one of my skeptical friends has taught me to dig deeper when someone uses those two words: non-profit. So I started to study the organization and look deeper.

I try to look at a few specific things when looking at a non-profit. Here were my questions and the things I got first hand; from the website, videos, interviews and news clips.

Where does the money go?: Almost all to the mission, barely enough goes to reimburses the CEO. No high overhead. Their statement: “ Our members include volunteers: sailors, divers, marine biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, medics, agriculture advisors and many other qualified people.” My comment: no fat CEO dipping heavy into the proceeds…this New Zealand CEO and founder is rather slim!

Who runs the organization?: At the top there is a CEO/Founder named Chris Bone in New Zealand and a Director of North America named Donna Lange who ironically lives in Florida! I read their bios and those stories are entire posts all by themselves. They have lead amazing lives and have a strong focus on what they want to accomplish. My comment: I have to compose myself if I ever get to meet Donna in person. She is a sailing Rock Star as she has circa-navigated the world and held the record as the fastest woman to do so!

What was in their annual statement? (Ah-ha! ...thought I was going to say Mission statement...nope I want to see what they've DONE not what they want to do!)

This org was only established in 2007 and most has happened in the developing islands in the South Pacific. North America OceansWatch is a new extension!

What they have done is many “Reef Checks” (a particular survey from Reef Check International to gather scientific data that goes in local and international data banks.) …but here’s the cool thing: they don’t sweep in with scientists and do a check and then sail away. They TEACH THE LOCALS how to do it, make several of the locals “official reef checkers” and even train someone to train others. They also train locals to be PADI Open Water certified divers if that is needed.

They give talks to locals and to school children on protecting THEIR reef ecosystems, they even hand out books and writing materials to the schools to really engage the children.

They also distributed around a hundred pairs of reading glasses to villagers who had lost the ability to see the print. (I can relate to that!)

They had a documentary made. This will make presentations more interesting and modern.

Like I said, the branch in North America is new. Like the pacific, it is working with yacht owners, sailors, divers, students, teachers, doctors, nurses, ecologists, scientists and volunteers to help with projects in the Caribbean, Central and South American coastal areas. A lot of yachts wanted to help with Haiti and OceansWatch has organized and assisted with that. Sailors and yachts cruising get into the nooks and crannies of islands. I know this first hand! So they can do things as simple as a Village Survey and submit it to OceansWatch or they can get much more involved and take on a project. Goals are installing yacht moorings to protect coral reefs, marine mammal surveying, setting up sister schools and delivering school supplies, installing drinking water, sanitation and sustainable clean energy systems. Belize has already been identified with the following needs: Planting Mangroves, taking school children on field trips out to the Cays and Marine Reserves, teaching young people to swim, snorkel and scuba dive, making and installing demarcation buoys for the boundaries of the Marine Reserves, Installing and maintaining yacht moorings, cultivation coral polyps, monitoring fish and reef health and conditions.

My Comment: Okay, you insist on the mission statement? Here it is: OceansWatch is an international not-for-profit organization that works with sailors, divers and scientists worldwide to help coastal communities conserve their marine environments, develop sustainable livelihoods and ensure access to primary schools.

And lastly, do they force their views on everyone in their path? (please don’t make me knock on doors!): No, the boat I’ll be on is on a fact finding mission. Indentifying needs from the people who live there. The other cool thing about OceansWatch is that if there is already an organization that is doing something, they partner, they are not trying to re-invent, takeover or get credit…only help. Their goal is to work for the people only at their request.

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of their videos while I wait for the boat to get to Trinidad. One thing that keeps ringing in my ears is what the CEO said in a talk:

“We think that everyone deserves clean water. They deserve a primary education. They deserve enough food to eat...”

Oh, I just got chills.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Back home: Turbo's Doggie Massages?!!

During the massage.
Trinidad---While I'm away, I have some incredible friends who are all stepping up to assist with my 15 year old, precious dog: Turbo. After arranging for a caretaker for the entire time I was gone did not work out, he was moved (with his pet cat: Q Convict) back to Daytona. Six friends have gone above and beyond to care for him, and like his entire life history, once you spend time with him, you fall in love. He is the sweetest 60 pounds of yellow fur you ever want to meet. He just wants to give love.

But a senior dog is a challenge.

We went through a stage of questioning "Is it time?"...but one by one, my friends told me no. He is still Turbo.

Then I heard that Sheri had donated a couple doggie massages. WHAT? That sounded like snake oil but I waited to hear. Then the skeptics came out and said they couldn't believe the change, that it really worked.

One "skeptic" wrote: "I was a bit of a skeptic, so I am quite impressed and a true believer now."

After treatment he moved better and was more mobile! Who'd a thought?

The women who has this service is and is a certified Therapeutic & Sports Canine Massage Therapist. She charges $30 for 30 minutes and it is customary to tip. She services the New Smyrna Beach/Daytona Beach, Florida Area.

Turbo with's HIS cat.
 I didn't know this existed!  But thanks to Sheri and Lorry, Turbo is getting the help he needs. Love comes back around.

Volcanic Jewelry

Volcanoes, volcanic Islands, volcanic rock beaches and soft black powdery sand from ground up volcanic rocks through the ages. Many places we have visited in the past 9 months have had origins leading back to volcanic activity in its history.

For me, growing up in Kansas, volcanoes existed on the Flintstones cartoon show. They seemed as much a part of history as the dinosaurs.

But especially when we were in the Atlantic Islands, which all exist due to volcanic activity, everywhere I turned I was reminded that they are still alive and active.

One by-product of this is the jewelry that has developed by the locals from the different types and densities of the rock.

One of the best shops I have found so far was in Santa Cruz, La Palma, Canaries called Lava Christina. Her work shop was in her store and you could see the pieces she was working on. Sterling silver and gold were used along with other natural island stones like blue and red coral, pearls and shells. It was beautiful work.

I had seen a lot of other volcanic jewelry starting in Volcano, Sicily where tables were set up every day along the narrow roads and men sat behind the tables pitching their wares. This jewelry was a cruder form of necklaces and bracelets, still interesting to look at and I did get talked into a few for gifts as well as one that I kept. Many shops have carried different forms of volcanic jewelry as well as volcanic art in every place I’ve visited that had any type of volcanic terrain.

With the gift sponsorship of my friends who I consider “extended family”; a women I worked with for many years and her two daughters, I knew what they would most approve of: Jewelry! So for the gift from them, I selected a few things I loved from Lava Christina.

The photos show some of my choices as well as some I photographed in shops.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trinidad...and Looking Forward!

Port of Spain, Marina of Chaguaramas, Trinidad---Here I am in another beautiful land. A country proud of it's party: "Carnival"! It was a long day, arriving at my hotel right at midnight on Monday.

I'm really here walking 100% on faith from one email saying I could crew! Yikes.  The boat is not here yet, it is making the crossing. I'm a little anxious but have gotten a bunch of emails from OceansWatch, org. and I have a meeting tomorrow with someone local!

Trinidad and it's sister island, Tobago are 21 miles apart and only 7 miles from the Venezuelan coast! Trinidad's size is 1,800 sq. miles with a population of 1.2 million. The largest population group is Indian, followed closely by African. Note: between 1845 and 1917, 144,000 indentured labourers were imported from India.

Columbus is to blame for the discovery of Trinidad in 1498 naming it after the Trinity.  I feel like I've been on the Christopher Columbus Tour starting at Granada, Spain where in the Alhambra Palace, he pleaded with Fernidad and Isabella to finance his hair-brained idea of India being closer if you sailed West. Then we went on to the Cape Verde Islands where he stopped to re-supply, just like we did. And now, here I am in Trinidad where he thought it was India...therefore, this region is called the West Indies.

The money here is called "TT's" (for Trinidad and Tabago) and the exchange is $1 US to $6.3 TT's. So a cappucinno costs about $18. Driving is on the left, as it was in Barbados, Bequia and St. Vincent (see my post on 10/7/10: Confession of a Left side driver). Tax is 15% on goods and services! ...almost as bad as Barbados at 18.5%. On top of that there is a hotel tax of 10% more...hello Daytona Beach, you'll get there soon enough!

ELECTRICITY IS 115w! with the American plug. Yipee. And boy, my hotel room had every plug occupied with something charging: Video camera, camera battery, computer, I-pod, Swimp3, Ogg...

The marina here is decent, but they think it's awesome and are pretty snobby about it but they obviously have not seen Lanzorate's Marina Rubican in the Canary Islands or Zea Marina near Athens! But I won't tell them, I just chuckle at it all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What are the chances?

St. Vincent Airport---I'm waiting for my plane to Trinidad and reviewing today's events. I have a "warm and fuzzy" feeling in my tummy since what happened.

I knew "they" were in the area and I felt sure we would miss each was hard to think some of my favorite people in the world were so close, yet so far. Then, in the distance I saw a dingy with six people. I watched closely from the waterfront restaurant where I had stopped to have lunch. I couldn't stand it, just in case it was them I ran to my waitress, explained I had to go, threw EC money at her and ran out.

My eyes scanned the faces along the walk way hurrying to the dock and the customs building where I figured they would go first. Then I saw the group I was following go into a building in the distance. I thought it was the book store, or the restaurant behind it. But no. So I stood in the road looking one way, then the other. Then I realized I was standing in front of the gift shop/Fed X shop that I'd been frequenting so I ran to the door way and looked. I couldn't believe my eyes. Hal and Jackie, Denise and Dennis, Michael and Nancy...six people from Daytona Beach! Three of my Rotary couples. We hugged, I cried happy tears. It is the first time in nine months I've seen people I know other than my past boat.  They are on vacation in the Caribbean for 2 weeks sailing from St. Lucia to Grenada.

We spent about 2 hours together and I felt like my soul had been replenished after some major dehydration. Thank you guys! I miss so many people and this was an incredible little reunion...I mean, what are the chances?

Members of Daytona Beach Rotary West, "the little club with a huge heart."

Denise and Dennis Lilly, an avid seaman and his beautiful wife

Dr. Michael Suah and wife Nancy, (She is the current DBW Rotary President). A couple you really want to drink rum with...or Red Stripe!

Jackie and Hal  Burroughs, mentors to me in how to start doing what you really want!

Leaving for Trinidad by ferry and plane

Bequia---I have been on this tiny island for 12 days. Longer than most of the other locations all year, but it has been a perfect place to detox (actual procedure NOT planned!) and to adjust to my change of course. After being ill with a stomach/food poisoning issue, it is behind me and I'm feeling much better.

Today I take a ferry to St. Vincent and then fly to Trinidad to spend some time there before joining the new boat Mirica, a 50 ft. yacht with a crew of five. The more I read and research the OceansWatch organization, the more excited I am to help them.

Here are some sites around my home of Bequia for these past 12 days;

My blog post on 4/2/2010 called "2.22.22" would explain the significance of my room number being number "2".

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Eve! ...I want a do-over.

Bequia---Feeling like crap (ha) I stayed in for the night, curled up in misery in my bed on New Years Eve, one of my favorite nights. During the day, I had to miss my reservation to go on the all day trip to Mistique, another island to visit bars and swim because I felt so bad. BUMMER. Then up most of the night, I ended up back at the hospital on New Years Day for more advice and meds.

So I hereby declare that I get a do-over. I will select a future night to celebrate the New Year in all its glory and in all mine.