professional mariner | full-time traveller | part-time blogger | amateur photographer | semi-circumnavigator | happy wife | made in South Africa
professional mariner | full-time traveller | part-time blogger | amateur photographer | semi-circumnavigator | happy wife | made in South Africa
When we finally got through Cuban immigration (apparently EVERYONE from the African continent has Ebola, according to all the non African countries we have visited in the last year) , we immediately set about organising a taxi to our casa (which we had not yet booked…). A couple of friendly Kiwis (also known as New Zealanders) overheard us and asked to split the cab.
We ended up staying at the same casa and making friends with the rest of the residents there – more Kiwis and a French/Moroccan couple. The second night in Havana we all went out to dinner together. Our casa hosts booked us a table at San Cristobal Paladar. A paladar “is a term used in Cuba to refer to privately owned restaurants, mostly family-run. About 2 years ago the state started allowing privately run businesses and these paladars are a great, more authentic, alternative to the rather touristy (and expensive) state run restaurants.
This paladar is on the higher end of the local scale (they only accept CUC for example, the tourist only currency) and when we arrived we were ushered into our own cosy private dining room.
The owner/chef prepared delicious food (again, no photos because it was so good and we were too busy licking our plates clean) and the service was truly fantastic. After dinner the men were served cigars (which obviously annoyed the women at the table)and we all got shots of locally made rum (the men’s shots were larger than the women’s… coincidence?) – all on the house.
The building used to be a private residence and now the ground floor houses the restaurant, All the walls in the high ceilinged rooms are covered in vintage photos, paintings and prints from Cuba’s heyday, when it was still the “Jewel of the Caribbean”. In between all the artwork is an extensive collection of vintage clocks, from across the globe, which we found out later is the biggest private collection in the world.
Rufus and I are not known for our heavy drinking, partying and late nights – 9pm is’nt called “cruiser’s midnight” for nothing. This evening however we were the last guests to leave, walking home at about 2am. The best part for me was, and this is how you know you are in good company, conversation was so good and so natural that we hardly realised how fast the time passed, none of us were tired and no one had more than 2 drinks the whole evening!
Good food, good people, good memories.
Over the December holidays we were planning on returning to South Africa for my best friend’s wedding. It turns out that flights across the Atlantic, to and from Belize, are astronomically expensive over the December holiday peak season.
We had already paid for a flight from NYC to Cape Town, but the return and connecting flight from Belize to New York were so expensive we had to give up on our trip home. We had already scheduled with our company that we would be taking those two weeks off, before we even started this job, so we didn’t have any work booked during that time. We had to make a plan to do something with ourselves since we don’t have a place to stay in Belize, other than the boats that we work on.
Belize is rated as the most expensive country in Central America so we decided to save some money on accommodation etc and visit a more cost effective destination. Cuba has been in my top 5 list of destinations for years and when we found out that Havana is only a short plane ride from Mexico (Belize’s neighbour) we decided on the spur of the moment to visit Cuba!
The day after our final charter we hopped on a bus to Mexico, straight to Cancun International Airport. We hadn’t had enough time to book a flight in advance so we took a chance and waited 8hrs at the airline desk to try our luck. Fortunately we managed to secure two of the last four tickets to Havana that day!
Words do not do this island justice. All the photos on the internet cannot capture the energy and charisma of this country, and it’s people. It is not at all what you would think it is but, at the same time, it is also everything you hear and read about.
Note: all of these photos were taken by myself and Rufus in Central Havana
As mentioned in the previous post, we are currently based in Belize, running catamaran charters up and down the islands. On every charter I prepare a lobster dinner for our guests. We normally get our seafood from the local fishing co-op in Belize City. I usually serve the lobster tails with coconut rice and rum flambéd plantain for dinner, on the first night of most charters.
This time however we weren’t able to source good sized tails from the local suppliers (we never buy undersized) so we left port without it. Fortunately we came across a couple of friendly fishermen, in a new (to us) snorkel spot, near Bluefield range.
The fishermen gave us 6 just caught, whole, live ones and Rufus got the opportunity to butcher his first lobsters! It turns out that murdering lobster is rather simple: decapitation.
We barbecued them on the beach today, at Goff’s Caye. (no photos of the finished product because we were too busy eating it). Simple and delicious.
We are working in Belize at the moment, running all inclusive catamaran charters. Belize is an idyllic sailing ground, with the second longest barrier reef in the world, after Australia.
For this New Year’s charter we have a brilliant 30-something couple onboard from San Fransisco. They have a great sense of humour and are a blast to be around. So far we have snorkelled with sharks, turtles, rays and a myriad of fish. We have spear fished and made fresh sashimi and ceviche from the catches. We swim in warm chrystal clear waters every day and we have dolphins escorting our catamaran as we sail from one island to the next.
For New Year’s Eve, we anchored off Ambergis Caye, in front of the town of San Pedro. We took the dinghy to land, after dinner, to check out the festivities. Unfortunately it was so crowded and there wasn’t much of a festive atmosphere, apart from the hundreds of kids playing in the town square…
After a drink at a local bar, with some live music, we decided to return to our boat to watch the midnight fireworks. What we didn’t realize was that the barge which was carrying all the pyrotechnics was anchored 100m from the bow of our catamaran!
We layed out some towels on the trampolines and used fenders for pillows. Cocktails in hand and music in the background, lying under the stars, we stretched out front row centre for a spectacular show of lights. What an awesome way to ring in the new year.
How did your 2015 start?
2014 has been a busy (hence the limited, sporadic blog posting :/ ) blessed year: We left our “real” life of expat work in Zambia for our “dream” life of circumnavigating the globe with our sailboat. We travelled across 3 different continents, more than 20 islands and over 10 countries in total.
We pushed ourselves harder than we thought we would ever be able to handle; physically, mentally and emotionally. We did another 3 month mini refit on our boat. We had the opportunity to work with 2 great companies in the Caribbean and begin our careers in the luxury yacht charter industry. We had the opportunity to participate in some inspirational creative projects. We celebrated our 6yr wedding anniversary by renewing our vows at the place we first met 13yrs ago. We lost some precious people in our lives but we also gained some exceptional friends from all around the world. The further we have travelled away from home the tighter our bond with our families has become.
This year’s constant changes and challenges have given us the opportunity to clearly define our goals and plans for our lives together. We are focused. We are determined. Most of all we are thankful.
We hope that our families and friends have a phenomenal new year and that 2015 brings you all the good things in life: love, laughter, challenges and growth.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
working on a boat refit is definitely not glamorous and it’s not always fun but there are a few things that can put a smile on your face, other than a clean bilge… for us it’s redesigning the boat name and our “boat cards”. these small aesthetic elements make a big difference for us so this was exciting to see the new designs!
my fantastic, and super patient, best friend Diana (you might know her from Miss Moss) is always there when i need design help! she’s ridiculously talented and awesome and she knows just what i mean when i don’t even have a clue of what i’m talking about.
this is the awesome result! thank you lady, you’re the BEST.
so, if you follow us on instagram or twitter, you know that we have finally left Trinidad and returned to Grenada!
we spent a total of 3 months in Chaguaramas and we got a lot of great work done on Melody. we arrived back in Grenada almost 2 weeks ago and immediately started work on our first job in the yacht charter industry. we are preparing a fleet of sail boats for the upcoming Caribbean charter season, for Sail Grenadines. this will keep us busy till end October.
after we finish up in Grenada we have another amazing opportunity that will take us to Central America until end August 2015 – more on that a little later 😉
here are a few iPhone photos of life lately… my camera is till busted :/
Rufus made it back from the UK just in time for my birthday. we took the day off boat work, he spoiled me rotten, we ate good food (chocolates count as food as far as we are concerned) and we didn’t talk boat for the entire day!
we ended off the celebrations with a braai – lots of red meat, beer and most importantly good friends. you can take us out of South Africa but you can never take our will to braai.
just when I thought the festivities were winding down our boatyard family suprised me with the BEST chocolate cake I have ever tasted. if I am honest I will admit that I’m more of a choc brownie kinda girl but this cake… No words!
its made by the owner of an excellent Italian restaurant in Port of Spain and just one slice of this heavenly creation is close to R100/$10. I think it’s called “death by chocolate”, layers of moist cake, mousse and ganache, topped with dark chocolate flakes and drizzled with rich chocolate sauce. I am officially converted from brownies.
Paola, Natali, Joao and Luigi thank you for my special cake! Celine, Tony, Marco and Jacomo, thank you for the food. Graeme, Suzie, Sacha and Julia, we missed you. And thank you to everyone for a great celebration, especially my main man Rufus x
it’s been a week since Rufus returned from his 3 week RYA Yachtmaster training in the UK. we’ve been making up for lost time with birthday celebrations and a LOT of good food with our friends, hence the social network silence – I even received a message from my Dad asking if we are still alive so I knew it was time to get posting again.
why all the way to the UK and not closer to home like Grenada or the US you ask? well it’s simple – the RYA schools closer to us don’t offer these exams till earliest September and we need to get working in the charter industry ASAP to fund our circumnavigation (we aren’t trust fund babies and our savings can only last so long). plus, Rufus did all his other RYA training and tickets in Falmouth at the same school, Cornish Cruising, so we knew it was a good place to go.
almost all the charter companies worldwide require a minimum qualification of Yachtmaster Offshore, even deckhands now often have to have a skippers ticket to be employed on the larger boats. since we already have a truckload of sea miles to our names, the only thing stopping us from securing good jobs is the RYA ticket.
we also decided, since we were paying bucketloads of cash for him to do his Offshore, he might as well do his Ocean too, for international deliveries.
during his stay he visited a couple of old friends and we both would like to say a very BIG thank you to Esther and her wonderful family for hosting him in Falmouth, as well as Richard and his wife for hosting Rufus in London. you all spoiled him rotten and fed him well – we are grateful to have friends like you and you are always welcome on Melody!
here are a few photos Rufus took with his GoPro Hero 3 while in Falmouth.
I’ve been getting a lot of “where are you now” questions and this is the answer: Chaguaramas, Trinidad!
Trinidad is the southern most island in the the Caribbean string, very close to the Venezuelan coast of South America. We’ve been here for almost 2 months now and 99% of that time has been on the hard in Power Boats. For those of you that don’t speak ‘boat’, the ‘hard’ is means ‘land’. The boat gets lifted out of the water with a travel lift and plonked on the ground in, in a boat yard, with supports to keep it upright.
The reason we’re on the hard is to work on Melody – upgrades, repairs and add-ons (can you say “water maker”!!). We have worked almost every single day (with the occasional half day rest if we are too stiff to move/lift things) from 8am till after dark sometimes. We don’t want to do this again till we reach New Zealand, hopefully in a year or two, so we are making sure to do as much as we can now.
Unfortunately my camera battery got fried a day after we arrived here so I only have the photos from my iPhone. A new battery is on it’s way from the UK, where Rufus has been for the past 2.5 weeks – more on that trip a little later. These are a few shots from my Instagram account, of what’s it’s like here.
the last time we were in Trinidad we had an exceptionally bad experience. I won’t go into details but when we finally were able to leave we swore we would never NEVER go back.
never say never… because here we are again, 17 months later. thankfully this visit has been much better and it is mostly because of the friendly Power Boats team (the yard we are currently working in, on Melody) and most especially the great friends we have made with our fellow yachties.
we did a 16hr overnight passage from Grenada to Trinidad and as the sun rose we got our first glimpse of the island. to start the day off on the best note possible we also had a welcoming party, a large pod of dolphins, that escorted us into Scotland Bay, just before our final destination of Chaguaramas.
these guys were huge, some of the biggest and oldest I’ve seen, and very playful. they stayed with us for almost an hour and when I eventually dared to leave the bow seat and get my camera, that’s when they really started having fun – spraying me almost every time I tried to take a picture. they jumped up to touch my outstretched feet and a few acrobatic performances for us off the starboard beam. it was a good start.