Sara- Spontaneous Singing on the Bow

I was feeling kind of woozy and sick and all that, but when I go up on the bough I feel better.  So one evening I went up on the bow, and all my sisters came up to join me, with the goal of keeping me entertained.  While talking Marina sporadically started singing a tune of da da danum da da danum dun dun…..  (The tune to Tom’s Diner Written by Suzanne Vega & D.N.A) and we started to replace the words with our own personal desires and fantasies.  When we started to sing I didn’t feel so bad anymore.  “I can’t wait to see land” was one line Marina sang and we all whooped and shouted in agreement.  Hannah sang “I want the best cheese enchiladas in the world” which once more brought a loud agreement and a chorus of laughter, other snippets sung where about hot Mexican boys, no more sea sickness, and having to go clean the boat.  Unthankfully the the sun set and we had to go make dinner, ending our fun for the moment, but the memory shall for ever live on. 

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Kathryn- Sleeping= My Cure For Not Getting Sea Sick!

I like sleeping because when I do I tend not to throw up or get nauseous.  I think the reason for this is because when I’m sleeping I don’t feel anything, and I don’t feel the amount of rocking as when I’m awake.  It also feels like it goes a lot faster, and I get to dream about pretty things.  I dream about Blanco, and all my friends that I miss dearly, and horses, which is hard to ride while on the ocean.  I dream about church and cake- oh how I dream of food.  Icecream and cheeseburgers dance through my dream, which is kind of ironic, considering I just spent the last five minutes puking my lunch into the toilet.  Once after Hannah told a “scary” story, of a food monster, I dreamed my own personal food monster attacking me, and he was composed of all the food that I wanted.  Once I had a nightmare about math; there was papers everywhere, and Zach’s head kept getting in the way so I couldn’t see the math problems, and I was scared I was going to fail my test because I couldn’t write down the equations- and NO I’m not that big of a nerd! While sleeping I feel like it goes faster because while I’m asleep time has no meaning, and I can sleep forever.  Never have I had a problem getting to sleep at night- and I always manage to fall asleep while on my night shift with Marina, the best sister in the world!!

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Hannah- The 4 that Got Away

It was really exciting when they yelled that a fish had been caught.  I wanted to get in the dinghy, but I knew that Daddy was going to fling the fish in there, such as he did last time.  And then in the 3 minutes that Dad was trying to reel in the fish, I had this feeling that was really exciting.  But in those minutes after the fish let go I just started to not feel as excited, I just turned back and started looking at the waves again.  And then when I heard that Dad had hooked the next fish, I just KNEW he was going to catch this one.  Anyway and then I told myself, “ I know what we’re having for lunch” but then he reeled it in, but the fish let go once more, leaving us with an empty hook.  But I know it wasn’t Dad’s fault, it was just an accident.  And now I really know that catching a fish is really hard, I think I’m gonna learn a bit more before I begin catching my own fish.  Then the next morning, when I saw Daddy start to cast the fishing poles out I just knew that he was going to catch a fish today, I just knew it.  But then I began to feel sick, and then a couple minutes later Connor came out, and I was feeling really bad, even worse that when I was in Miss Kip’s class in 3rd grade and began to feel sick.  So when I leaned over the side, and looked at the waves, though it really wasn’t helping that much, and in 30 seconds I knew I was going to be really sick.  I continued to look out, but then it happened…. I puked.  Then about an hour later Daddy had hooked the next fish, and I knew not to jump in the dinghy, but it was such a good seat.  Dad was down below cooking breakfast when the line stated going, and the line just kept running and running, finally he came out, and took hold of the pole.  He started reeling in the 60 or so feet of line that had gone out, and the fish was still on it.  The fish wasn’t tugging as hard as expected and I wondered if another fish had come up and eaten the fish that was on the hook, and left only the head connected.  But when we reeled in the hook, the entire fish had come off.  The first three fish that we caught all seemed to look the same; there must be a lot of that kind of fish in the Ocean.  At about lunch time the line started running once more, and now I really really was just wondering if we’d actually catch this one.  I could tell that Dad felt confident in catching him this time.  We were going at a speed of about 7 knots, and when we lost another one, dad thought it was because we were going too fast, and was creating too much tension on the line, so he said to mom “that next time we catch a fish we should turn off the motor.”  But another chance never arose, and we got to Mexico with no more big fish stories. 

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Connor- Baby Dolphins, & Other Local Wildlife

I liked seeing the baby dolphins at sunset.  There was more than four, I couldn’t tell exactly how many there were, because they were swimming to fast, and kept jumping out of the water.  Only once did one jump fully out of the water. And seeing it I thought it was really pretty.  And I got very excited.  They were swimming and jumping on the Port side of our boat.  They swam with us for what felt like a long time, but I’m not sure exactly how long.  I can’t wait till I get the opportunity to swim with a real live dolphin.

We saw whales far off on our port side, Dad spotted them first, and we all ran up to look.  All I could see of the whale was the back, and saw him spew water out of his blowhole.

“JELLY FISH!!!” Whenever all the girls and I were sitting on the port side of the deck we were seeing how many jelly fish we could spot.  Every time someone spotted it first would scream “JELLY FISH” and point to where it was floating on the surface. Seeing the jelly fish was so much fun, we’d also scream out “SEAWEED, BUBBLES, WAVES, SALT, WATER….” and pretty much just screamed in general. 

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Bella- It’s Been Really FUN!!

I like seeing all the whales, they were really cool.  All the big tails, and while watching them I didn’t feel seasick.  And it was really fun when we were in the Gulf of Mexico, and though it got rough it was really fun.  And it’s been really fun sailing on the ocean, and it’s been so fun getting to see the whales and all that stuff.  And I love sailing around the world to all the fun islands. And mom and Dad were right when the bad storm happened, I don’t know where, and it scared me to death that our boat was going to flip. And I’ve seen a lot of beautiful fish, and I hope to catch a dolphin fish one day, because it would be really fun to catch one.  And it would be so much fun to touch a dolphin, and see a stingray.  It would be so fun to see all the things I haven’t seen yet, and it will be so much fun to go to all the islands and have fun.  And it’s been so long that I haven’t seen land in a really long time, except now I’ve seen land.  And I like it when people come over to our boat, and I love to see people, but I haven’t gotten to see a lot a lot of people since we’ve been living on the boat.  And I love seeing all the baby dolphins, they were really adorable, especially when the sun was going down. I wish mom had taken a picture of it, because it was so pretty.  And I hope I see a stingray in the wild, and I really really hope to see all kinds of whales, mommy dolphins, and baby dolphins.  And it’s been really fun, and I could just go on forever without getting bored, but Marina’s supposed to make lunch now, so I’m gonna stop talking.  But in case you didn’t get the message, it’s been REALLY REALLY FUN!!!!

Spoken by Bella, translated by Marina

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Zachary’s Birthday!!!!

Spending half the morning cleaning the bathroom, I invited Zach to come spend some quality time with me- he scrubbing the door and I wiping the floor.  After a few wipes he seemed to hightail it out of there, leaving me to listen to yet another album alone.  Thankfully even though cleaning and organizing was our main objective on March 16th, we also accomplished a very delicious 15th anniversary of Zach’s life.

Getting ready to venture off to the Yucatan Peninsula we have to insure that our home is battened down, or else it becomes a test of you reflexes and how quick you can dunk what ever the shelves feel like tossing your way.  After we organized our morning away, and half the afternoon, we turned to the galley- and the concoctions that weren’t gonna make themselves.  The boxed cake didn’t appear to menacing, so we allowed Sara and Zachary the task of baking, not the best of combinations.  The boat didn’t burn down, and the cake actually didn’t turn out to bad…. just kidding it was amazing, and they did an awesome job!!!  If chocolate was what we were going for, then they would have made a chocoholic get a sugar rush.  

Cheeseburgers were prepared, complimentary dad.  Our birthday guests off Katrina, Mr. and Mrs. Gusev, came bearing a Beet Soup- from their home country of Russia- and a Sunflower seed dessert, which creation I want to remake.  We toasted our sparkling grape juice, complete with plastic wineglasses, to Zach’s health and another 15 years of glorious life. That night Zachary and I talked and laughed until about 2 in the morning, mom even joined us for a time.  Though we’ve had our differences and challenges, there’s no doubt that he’s my little brother, though he’s almost taller than I, and I shall always, plan, on loving him!!

And now we depart early this morning with a full tummy of fruit salad and left overs.  A little tired, but the winds seem good, and the weather’s promising for the next 3 days.  Keep us in your prayers as we cross the Gulf Stream, and onto Mexico!!  

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Marina- The Islands at Last

Wind and waves are the essentials in which a sailor’s existence revolves around, one my family and I have come to realize methodically.  With elements that aren’t always favorable it’s nice to have the safety of a sea worthy vessel and a loving family to duck below with.  Even though the nine of us might not always get along, we’ve yet to become familiar with mutiny- so that’s an admirable start.

The amount of practice, pleasure, and knowledge gained in this past month, alone, is immeasurable.  After leaving the safety of the Intra Coastal Waterway we delved into the Gulf of Mexico head on, and came out quite victorious, if I do say so myself.  We went from Naples, Florida; where we spent time with relatives, onto Marco Island, merely a pit stop before attaining the goal, the Florida Keys.   After several days exploring the islands of the Dry Tortugas we headed straight into the flurry of civilization, Key West.  It is difficult to share in one article the things we’ve seen this past month, especially when considering account all that life has presented to us.  I shall attempt, with mere words and memories, to paint for you the image of our highlights, hence this month’s story.

“If you’re not good I’ll toss you to the crocodiles!” We giggled at the threat mom jokingly had implied as we walked over the draw bridge surrounding Fort Jefferson, the largest offshore fortification in the U.S. built in the middle of the 19th century. We definitely felt as if we’d traveled back in time during our stay in the secluded beauty of the Dry Tortugas and it wasn’t just because there was no cell or internet service.  ‘Peace’ may have also been an adjective to describe the island ere our landing, but once our boat load of children arrived it was hard to find serenity anywhere on the small land mass. 

The enormity of marine life that greeted our eyes, and nostrils, amazed us from the moment we stepped upon the sandy white beach of crushed coral.  Conchs, both living and decomposing, were numerous along the water’s edge, along with other small creatures whose names, and existence up to that moment, were unknown to us.  Our little marine biologists in the making had collections of shells and broken coral that fluctuated as much as the tide.  Alas Invincible, our 41 foot Morgan Out Islander, has only so much storage of the frivolous sort, so most everything was left for the next explorer to discover and marvel at.

The fort was enormous, “built with over 4,000,000 bricks,” Kathryn, age 12, informed us by quoting from the visitors guide.  Meandering through the arches we admired the architecture and learned a great deal, even the littlest of our minions learned a thing or two during the inauguration process of becoming Junior Rangers.  In fact with our family, and two other children, we doubled the amount of badges given out since the first of the year; at least that’s what the Ranger said.  Zachary while flaunting his adulthood, being on the verge of turning 15, chose not to subordinate himself with the frivolities of adolescence by becoming a Junior Ranger.  Though when the young scouts were all offered ice cream as a reward for their effort, both Zach and I quickly concealed our nonexistent badges and ducked into line to take pleasure in the frozen sweet reward.  Talk about a first-class example from the oldest two!

Snorkeling along the moat and amongst the sea grass was voted, unanimously, the most enchanting experience we’ve had on our escapade, up to this point.  The mysterious world that can be witnessed from the surface is no longer obscured from our gaze and Hannah, 10 years old, used all the research guides located aboard to connect the colorful fish with their scientific names.  Everyone is looking forward to much more undersea explorations! Sara and I got a fleeting glimpse of a small Barracuda, about 2 feet in length, who seemed to have no interest in our suspended bodies as he continued swimming along, fading amongst the weeds, and leaving us very giddy with our succinct encounter.  A nurse shark made his presence known too!  Being out of harm’s way, on the stern of the boat, many a joke was passed around amongst us kids of whom we would throw in for his afternoon feeding.  Bella, the youngest of the crew at six years old, was chosen as our adverse sacrifice.  But no shark, big or small, feasted upon her adorably spoiled rotten little body that day. We manage to achieve the crude hilarity, and stern disapproval of the parents, upon hearing her yelp in terror. 

 With two beady eyes, sharp teeth, and nine feet of scaly reptilian flesh, we came to realize the innocent jest mom had articulated at the beginning of our stay, the implication of a crocodile in the moat, wasn’t far from reality.  Turns out the “No Swimming in Moat” sign we had examined wasn’t just there to ruin our fun, the presence of an underwater guard was very real.   We inspected under the drawbridge, and roamed around the entire fort on the lookout for the scaly stow away.  Finally he was detected, floating on the sides’ edge, but as the camera materialized to capture our little victory he quickly disappeared into a pipe, only allowing for a few snapshots. Our cruising neighbors, missing the entertainment, hunted for him too, but he continued to elude all of us for the rest of our stay. 

Kids in the cruising lifestyle, particularly in the younger age range, are a rarity upon the water.  We were thrilled to discover our neighbors; Paul and Stacey, whom were likewise not daunted by the prospect of two young kids.  Nicholas, age 4, and their 6 year old daughter, Samantha, quickly bonded with our little rascals and became inseparable while studying and exploring the island, and local wildlife.  As the parents spoke of future plans, and past experiences we found similarities in not only boat size and model, kids aboard, but also in the rushed time frame allotted between purchasing the boat and setting sail. Turns out we aren’t the only people crazy enough to sell all we own and in a few short months set out for adventure, this family did the same, bought their Morgan 41 in October and were off and running in a month!  We were sad to leave our new friends so quickly, and wished them “fair winds and following seas till we meet again,” and I expect somewhere along our journey we will get together again!

A short sail and one day later the world had transformed!  Scooters honking, drag queens singing hoarsely from open bars, and college kids in raucous groups drinking their spring break away, made it obvious, we weren’t in the Dry Tortugas anymore.  We entered the very rushed civilization of Key West, Florida. Though the night life may have been amusing, sporting around 6 young children we decided not to put their sanity at risk by staying out past sunset.  We ventured down to the Atlantic Ocean, wetting our toes in its’ frothy waves, and made a special point to visit the “Southern most point in the U.S.A.”  We also ventured into tourist shops, and repeated incessantly to the kids “no touching sculptures in art galleries”.  While playing the tourist we enjoyed our time on populated land and devoured everything scrumptious presented before us. 

Being back in the presence of a large population, we only thought it convivial to groom our appearances to be more socially acceptable.  With that thought, on Connor’s 8th anniversary with life, his birthday, March 7th, we transformed our cockpit into a high class hair salon.  Mom emerged as a master stylist after waging war against the boy’s heads full of hair, and a few of the girls.  When she passed the baton and permitted me to wield the scissors and battle her split ends I was a bit daunted.  Seeing as in all 18 years of life I’d only cut hair once, my own at the age of four, and ‘twas not a very flattering look, or so I am told.  There was nothing to fear, though, for when she emerged from beneath my gaze she was as beautiful as ever, even with a few stray hairs.  With everyone appearing more presentable, we journeyed off on our little dinghy to explore the streets trying not appearing as gypsies on the run.

There are two distinct types of tourists that Duval Street seems to attract; those who buy the cheap, touristy Key West memorabilia to ignite jealousy in those who could not experience the fun, and those who wander into every single art gallery, absorbing the quiet and beauty absent on the bar filled streets.  Of course there are those, like us, who do both. The only problem, however, is the kids’ want all the stuff that can’t possibly fit onto the boat, so buying the multitudes of trinkets and stuff is a no go.  We do delight in the art galleries and learn much about famous artists and their techniques. The somewhat amusing aspect is the weary eye of the gallery host who keeps a careful watch on our crew as the children roam between original acrylic masterpieces and frail glass blown statues.  Not all the galleries were anal about our presence, the great ones, such as LIK, Wyld, and DeRubeis took us on an impromptu tour, teaching, informing and monitoring us continually while sharing the love of the work they represent. On several occasions we were invited in with many questions about our family story.  Mrs. Gail, whom worked in Alan Maltz’s gallery, was so touched and inspired by our politeness and what my mom was endeavoring to do with us children; she presented to us a beautiful poster, a composite of over 100 of the best photos in his collection. We intend to display our new amalgamation of art with great pride in the main cabin.

The artistic vibe wasn’t restricted to four walls; there were painters set up on the side walk, and musicians on the street corners.  Our favorite art display was held each sunset at Mallory Square, in the shape of Street Performances.  We found ourselves returning to see the magician, who had a melon fall from his hat, the sword swallower, who never chocked, a couple of guys who did the “world’s longest hat toss- that they know of,” and so many other talented gymnasts, jugglers, and fire performers.  We made a special trip to witness the ‘Crazy French Cat Man’ whom the dog man told us was located “over the bridge.”  Realizing it wasn’t a pun on their animal differences, we found the fearless felines jumping through hoops of fire and unlocking cages, an impressive display.  While talking with the French man after the show, we learned what my potential future, and sanity, could hold in store, him being the eldest of seven children too.  Hearing a rumor that he wasn’t actually loco, and that it was all an act, we felt like we really had seen it all during our stay in Key West, and we were ready to head out. 

One more front was scheduled to arise from the North.  With no pressing time schedule, we bustled down in our fully enclosed cockpit on Thursday morning with our breakfast of oatmeal made with coconut milk, a true delicacy prepared to us by our lovely little galley wench, Sara, 13 years old.  We had been confined in Invincible the previous day too, due to the wind and waves, and had kept a wary eye upon our anchored neighbors and their relative proximity to us.  Before the oatmeal had settled in our tummies dad looked up and saw the boat in front “careening toward us” and quickly the parents snapped to action.  First we defended our home from colliding with the 47 foot fiberglass sailboat, whose chain seemed to have broken away from its anchor.  Zach and mom fended it off with their tremendous upper body strength and then we surmised that the best way to rescue the boat that got away was to radio the Coast Guard.  Mom let out a string of words any old salt would have been proud of as she cringed at the near smashing of a family’s home/sailboat against a concrete wall, but the Coast Guard reacted just quick enough, and though we don’t know how much damage was caused before the rescue, no other harm seemed to have befallen the vessel.

 By three that afternoon the winds had calmed dramatically and the waves had laid down.  Looking around at the blue sky and sun reflecting off the gorgeous water it was hard to believe we were still in the same anchorage we had been earlier.  With concerns receding, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief, and plan our trip into town for some provisioning and last minute sightseeing, before departing on our next course.

Timing is no longer a confinement, and we are enjoying moving at our own pace, with nothing but the weather to limit us.  However, realizing the weather is what we are most weary of and hurricane season is quickly approaching, we came to a cross road in our plans.  The Bahamas’ has always been our chosen route for paradise, and then hightailing it down south when the season for hurricanes arose, as our insurance agreement states we do.  However, viewing our charts, while on the Dry Tortugas, and comparing distances between lands, my mom discovered that the mileage to the Yucatan Peninsula wasn’t as vast as previously presumed.  Crossing the gulfstream is a bit daunting, but we’ll have to cross it no matter which way we sail, so we’ll just “put our big girl panties on” as Tracey, a boater and friend always says.  Since we will bypass Cuba, due to the U.S. embargo, this will be the longest passage we’ve ever sailed.

The captain of our factious democracy, my Mom, allowed us all to voice our questions and concerns in regards to our change of plans. With much encouragement, and the help of Google images, we all came to the harmonious conclusion that heading to the West Caribbean would be more beneficial to both our upcoming deadline, and our pocket book.  Not to mention I still have those two years of High school Spanish I’ve never had the opportunity to try out.

As we peer over charts, and calculate distances it’s hard not to imagine what great adventures there are to come in this journey we’ve set out to experience.  Already we’ve stumbled upon unknown organisms, beautiful sunsets, some of the most interesting people the streets have to offer, and still there’s so much more to see.  At times it’s difficult to maintain a sense of yin and yang on our little 41 foot sloop, especially when our emotions and offences get the best of us.   But with the help of the winds and the waves I pray for a safe passage, where ever we decide to go.

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Queen of Drag!

Queen of Drag!

This my fine friends is Ashley, though “she’s” not in costume- it was an interesting run in!
History buff and impromptu guide- we learned quite a bit!

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We’re in a Book!!

We're in a Book!!

By far one of the funniest books EVER!!!

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Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas

The kids becoming Junior Rangers

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