Ship's Log

July 14th, 2011 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands:

It’s officially Hurricane Season again, and we’ve come up with a new plan this summer to keep ourselves safe from the storms!  It’s less hot and sticky than snuggling up with the mangroves of a mosquito-infested hurricane hole.  It’s more interesting than subletting an apartment and hauling the boat out of the water in St. Thomas.  We’re going to do something crazy and sail the boat south, further south than hurricanes like to go.

“What?!” you might be thinking to yourself.  “Did I click on the wrong website?  Brian and Alicia never go anywhere!  They had that baby and now they’re never going to leave the Virgin Islands, unless it’s go back to the States to work at Taco Bell.”

No queremos Taco Bell!

Well, you read it here first:  we’re hauling up our anchor and blowing town.  What, after all, is the point of bearing the incredible hassle and inconvenience of living on a boat if you don’t sail it anywhere?  But we won’t be gone too long.  Brian’s become quite attached to his profession as a pirate and will definitely be missing his sea turtles at Buck Island.  Plus, Louie and James don’t come cheap.  So we plan to return to St. Thomas in the fall so Brian can work another season.  But the overall point here is that SARABANDE will soon be on the loose once again.  Hallelujah!

Oh, it's hard to say goodbyyyyyyyye for the suuuuuuuummmerrrrr!  SILENT LADY without Brian (or Brianna).

We’re all a-flutter with preparations and there’s a jittery, “school’s out for summer” tickle in our bellies.  The nice thing about this time around is that we’re older and wiser than we were in ‘08, and we have a better idea of what to expect out there.  Back then we worried about pirate attacks, rogue waves and ravenous sharks; now we’re more worried about sunburn, rolly anchorages, and barracudas that steal all your best lures when you’re trying to catch something decent.

A big part of our cruising prep has been devising child containment devices.  In the past couple of months, James has mastered sitting up, crawling, pulling up and standing, and he’s working tirelessly towards walking and climbing.  He’s into everything and you really can’t turn your back on him for a second!  The upcoming travel plans have forced us to up our babyproofing game, since at least part of our attention will have to be on sailing the boat. 

Gate construction.

Brian built saloon-style doors for the main cabin to keep the little guy from tumbling down the steps.  This effectively keeps him corralled to a manageable area.  Then, because James sleeps with us in the v-berth, we devised a simple, ventilated gate for the opening to keep him where he belongs at night.  Our most elaborate containment device is something we call the Jimmy Jail:  a mesh and canvas leecloth you’d need a knife to escape from.  Maybe you won’t find it in the child psychology books, but we needed a safe, escape-proof place to put him when all hands are needed on deck.  It does the 
job beautifully;  poor James hates it.  To round things out, we have the usual “look-we’re-a-boat-with-children” netting to go around the lifelines; an aesthetic evil, but quite effective at keeping kids, dogs and toys on board where they belong.

James knows why the caged bird sings.

On a similar note, now that we’re parents and supposed to be all responsible and stuff, we hauled out the Abandon Ship Bag for updating and inspection.  We must’ve been in a whimsical mood when we originally packed it.  Along with the usual survival gear, the Alicia and Brian of 2008 stashed a deck of cards, a tiny Magic 8 ball, and heart-shaped sunglasses.  We could afford to be a bit goofy because the ditch bag also contains an EPIRB - a distress radiobeacon that, in the event of (God forbid) our boat sinking, would transmit our GPS position to the Coast Guard, who would then begin the process of collecting us.  We love that we have one of these.  Knowing that it’s there is a source of immense comfort and peace of mind when we go to sea; nay, all the time (that’s right, we used the word ‘nay’).  So, imagine our dismay when we pulled it out of its pocket to find the antennae broken off!  Some safety net!

Luckily, we live in a town where cruise ships come to call, and cruise ships carry EPIRBs in each of their liferafts.  Therefore, there’s a place right in town that repairs them, and we had the thing fixed in half a day for 80 bucks.  Eighty bucks well spent to ensure that we’d only cry behind our novelty sunglasses for a couple of days, vs. a couple of months.  

Provisioning this time around is a little different, too.  Because the islands we’re heading to are widely reported to have excellent food, we’re only stockpiling the particular things we use a lot of that might not be available everywhere.  Each of us has his or her ‘must-have’ items:  peanut butter, chocolate soy milk, and UHT half and half for the grownups, applesauce, Cheerios and butt wipe supplies for the Short Stack, canned salmon, Heartguard and rawhides for Lou Dawg.  And for everyone, all the paper towels, sunscreen and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap we can squeeze into every free nook and cranny.

We've had a powwow with
James' pediatrician and an understanding pediatric nurse here in town (who's sailed to Trinidad in her own right) and stocked our medicine cabinet with a couple of things that might come in useful should the little guy have trouble while we're sailing.  The doctor's biggest concerns were sunburn, bug bites, splinters, allergic reactions, vomiting and teething pain; we purchased all his recommended potions and recorded the proper dosages.  If something more serious (God forbid) should happen, one of the reasons we feel okay about sailing with our baby is that we'll never be very far from decent medical care.  We're doing a lot of 'God forbidding' in this entry, aren't we?  Parenthood has turned us into a couple of nervous wrecks!  


For SARABANDE, we’ve stocked gallons of her favorite motor oil, lots of antifreeze, some sturdy new locks, a new expansion tank, and and a newly rebuilt alternator.  We topped up our fuel (ouch! so expensive) and changed the oil in the generator and engine.  The propane tanks are full.  Brian has been hauled up the mast to inspect the rig, and we brought up our secondary anchor that’s been serving as part of our mooring.  All that’s left is stowing the mountain of baby crap that’s been threatening to overtake the boat ever since the kid
moved aboard!

We’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of family in the past couple of months.  Mid-May, Brian’s mom, dad and sister all flew in to visit for a long weekend, laden with Cookie Monsters, llamas, books and a really cool pocket-sized video camera that we hope to start using in our updates to this website!  We all blasted around town in a minivan, and took the car ferry over to St.  John, not letting the persistent rain ruin our good time.  Brian led them on a couple of snorkel tours over reefs he’s familiar with, and they all seemed to really enjoy the underwater scenery.  Brian’s mom is becoming quite the mermaid!  In the end, we did have one really great sunny day over at Sapphire Beach, and little James splashed around in the ocean with his Nana and Aunt Gwen while Graddad captured it all on video.  It was a pleasure to see them, and hopefully the weather will cooperate a little more when we meet again!

Aunt Gwendy, Ph.D, takes a relaxing dip.

Then, late last month we took a whirlwind trip to the States, with stops in West Chester, PA,
and then to New York.  James met his great grandfather, a whole team of great-great, great, and ‘regular’ aunts and uncles, several dear, parentally-appointed “aunts” and “uncles”, 2nd and 3rd cousins by the dozens, and attended his great grandmother’s 85th birthday party!  It was a packed itinerary, tossed together at the last minute and rife with train failures (strike three, Amtrak, you are now on the S*** List), and it was over all too soon.  Though we didn’t get to visit with everyone we wanted to, it was a great trip.  To those friends that circumstances forced us to miss, we love you and really hope we get to see you next time.

Bubs and his cousin Pete sawing logs together in Uncle Tommy's car.  It wasn't always this quiet!

Back in St. Thomas, Carnival came and went again, and this year we were able to make it to what is, in our opinion, the best day:  the Food Fair.  This is the day in which local farmers bring in their goods to show off and sell, and vendors offer all kinds of traditional dishes, seedlings, crafts, and medicinal herbs. 

Baby fruit trees.  Lime, sour sop, banana, cashew, sugar apple, suriname cherry and guava berry.  
If only we could have an orchard on SARABANDE!

Herbs to cure what ails you.

We saw such culinary wonders as bullfoot soup, mutton pates (in the VI, pates are empanada-like savory pastries), lemongrass jelly, and guava jam, which has got to be in the running for best jam worldwide.  The produce was absolutely gorgeous, and Alicia snagged some sugar bananas and a huge, fragrant bunch of basil to make pesto.

This man was haughtily selling bananas, sugar cane, kalaloo and the most delicious-smelling bay leaves.

Most of the farmers are Rastafarian, a religion that prizes vegetarian eating habits and organic farming practices - and they sell their goods at a farmer’s market on the western end of St. Thomas twice monthly, which we are definitely going to start attending when we return in the fall!  If only we’d known about this sooner.  Heck, we’ll happily slap a dreadlocked wig on James if it means saying goodbye to the imported, moldy, sprayed-with-God-knows-what produce sold by most of the grocery stores here.  One love!

A lovely lady farmer sells pumpkin (cut into slices), papaya, mangoes, limes,
tamarind, hot peppers, lemongrass and broccoli rabe.

The end-of-carneval fireworks were incredible this year, and we
had front-row seats on the water!  Our favorite car ferry to St.
the Mister B, did double duty as the fireworks barge.

In a sad turn of events, Louis has torn the cruiciate ligament of his left rear leg, and is currently operating on only three wheels.  He wrenched it going up the companionway stairs, although he did hurt the same leg when he was a puppy; maybe the old in
jury never healed properly.  This will not heal on its own; he needs surgery.   Expensive, delicate surgery with a good 12 weeks of recovery time!  After weighing all our options, we’ve decided to have the surgery done when we arrive in Grenada.  There’s an excellent veterinary school there, St. George’s, and the operation will be done by a board-certified professor while students observe.  He may be eleven, but Louie’s still got plenty of get-up-and-go; the expense is well worth it to go hiking with our best friend again. Until then, poor Louie is a tripod dog and we’re restricting his activity so he doesn’t strain the other leg.  Until he’s on the mend, Lou’s confined to to SARABANDE - no beach runs!  Poor puppers.  Please send him healing thoughts.

Cute as a button up front.

Awwwww, busted in the back.  We'll get you fixed up, Lou!

Happy belated birthdays to Stuart of BEANNACHT, charter member of Team Awesomeballs, our priceless dear friends Mike
Johnson and Carly Lukas, Alicia's talented brother Tommy, sci-fi author extraordinaire Eugene Myers, the lovely Alyssa Grinberg, Alicia's Fine Feathered Friend Tiffany Yecke, the wonderful Mrs. Edna Collins and Brian's sweet mom, Patricia.  We'd like to send an extra special thanks to all our parents, who are much too generous to us, everyone who attended our little BBQ in Pennslyvania, and to Aunt Barbara for being James' first babysitter!  Lastly, but not leastly, a fond farewell to our friends Chris and Alyson Lundstrom, who are about to take China by storm.  

We're getting a pretty late start, so we'll have to boogie.  Wish us luck in our travels, please - we may need it!  So long for now, St. Thomas - see you in the fall.


Alicia & Brian

PS - We finally updated our Crew Page, and also The Plan.

PPS- Here's an interview we did for Livia and her cool website, "Newly Salted".  If you're into reading about cruisers, you'll love all the interviews she's compiled from different boats.   


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