Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Thank You message


I received many words of encouragement and I would like to say thank you to you all.

I'm lucky that my health after all it isn't that bad.

When we talk about cancer, people usually get scared, and me too. However, I expected the worst but my body, mind and strength handled the effects quite well until now. Apart from loosing my hair, everything about me still normal.

Some people say that I inspired them... Thank you...and I'm happy to hear that. Smile to your destiny, light up your dreams and keep smiling to it.

If I can do it, you also can!

It has been a while that we are out of the water but we still keep traveling. Because of my health we now travel by land. We have a new tiny house on wheels which bring us to many places in Portugal where we spend time before heading back to “Dee”, our sailboat.


Stay tune and welcome our new “Rolling Dee”.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Best of 2016

You never realize that the time passed fast until the new year arrives. Last year we have been in many events, places and incidents. Even though, was not the best year for us because we had to leave “Dee” on land but it was a great year that grants us very good experiences and memories. The photos here in this post may not cover all my feelings for the “Best of 2016”, or it may not show white sandy beaches like you expect because without good companions, the places have no meaning.

Celebrating 3rd Birthday of our daughter in Martinique, January 2016

Carnival in Martinique, January 2016

First time in three year living full-time onboard that I speak so much in Thai!
Thai cruiser ladies in Martinique, January 2016

First guests onboard from New Zealand, nice first charter experience in Guadeloupe, February 2016

Second time visit St. Maarten again, my favorite place, March 2016

Met experienced Portuguese sailors from S/Y Maiao in Guadeloupe, March 2016

First cousin visit in St. Thomas, USVI, April 2016

Met old friends from S/V Gentileza again who sailed with us for few months, St. Thomas, USVI, April 2016

Carnival with old friend from S/V Selah who we met last year in St. Lucia by just saying Hi in Thai!,
St. Thomas, USVI, April 2016

Her first fishing rod, St. Thomas, USVI, April 2016

Friends from Portugal visit in Guadeloupe, May 2016

We're still catching fishes, Passage from Guadeloupe to Bonaire, June 2016

 Swim in the crystal clear water, the most blue water I've ever seen in Bonaire, June 2016

Even being such a small island but I met Thai lady who lives with her Dutch partner in Bonaire, June 2016

Passage from Bonaire to Curacao, so much time wasting to take photos then we lost the fish!, June 2016
At least we have picture!!!

We are in the heart of Curacao!
I could not put all the photos of who we met but all of you are in our heart, June 2016

First time in our daughter's life going to the cinema watching "Finding Dory" in Curacao, June 2016

First time we sent our daughter to school, Curacao July 2016

Four boats watching final European Championship match in the Portuguese Restaurant in Curacao, July 2016

Our Best of 2016 paused in July because we had to leave “Dee” on land and we all moved back to Europe because of my health problem as many of you already know. I appreciate all the moments I had with my family, with old and new friends. We would like to thank you for all the helping hands that some of you offered, a lot of laugh and, of course, a lot of drinks that we had together. We look forward for 2018 to return to “Dee” and continue our sailing trip visiting incredible places with new experiences and new and old friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Thousand drops of tears


Why me? I still can't believe that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. How come? I'm still young and healthy, I have exercise everyday, I don't eat beef for three years, which most people say it causes cancer, I'm a vegetarian once a week, I cook what I eat and I know what it is. I'm not a smoker even I love to drink but just a glass or two per day. It hurts! Specially when I look into the eyes of my young daughter and lovely husband who, full of dreams. Our life is worry free and slow pace; we lived in the nature, we breath the freshest air we can, the only worry I had was how to manage our budget to prolong our sailing trip. Worries that are, probably, smaller than some people who face bills or stress in their jobs. 

My sailing life is over! I keep telling myself when I realize that I'm sick. No more sun, no more wind, no more water and no more sailboat... no one can know my sorrow. The first year of sailing I was struggling to adjust my life from land, which was hard enough for me and I almost divorced my husband. In the first year people look at us like...oh no, you are so crazy leaving a good life behind. The second year I was much better. I swing in the same rhythm as the boat swings, I woke up with sunrise and went to bed after the sunset. But the biggest problem was our savings finishing as we have no official support since the beginning. Never mind, we managed it, well enough that made my life in the third year react well with the reality. The following year we lived with less money, less cloths, less gadgets and I found myself happier. Living thou all this years spending full time on our floating home and raising our child together is something precious. The stage of my mind is adapting to the boat life little by little since I left my luxury life behind. Now I have nothing!

We even consider selling “Dee” because with time we don't know how long we need to cure my sickness. However, it's not easy but we manage to save “Dee” to keep me alive. What about my beauty? It's the power of woman! I am lucky though to have a good husband who tell me everyday that I'm beautiful from inside and outside even in the worst days of my sickness.

I still dream that soon I will be back on the water to let my body soak in the sea water and let the wind hit my face. I know, that I have to be strong, and I need to strengthen my mind because it's a weapon to kill my sickness. But crying doesn't mean that I'm weak. I never think that I'm sick... I still cannot believe it. Everyone has a dream but I have no dream. I never dream to do something. Now I just want to be the same me, the only wish and the faith I have. The same person that jump off the boat and let the water pull me down with fear which I was enjoying doing so.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When in School in the island of Curacao!

It's the first time that our girl went to school, a real school. Living on our sailboat full-time, we have the privilege to spend 24/7 with her. Even she is three and half years old, we already started home school. By her age now, she knows all the colors in Thai, Portuguese and English, the same for the numbers from one to twenty. She paints everyday, that's what she loves to do the most and it doesn't matter color pencils, water colors or even acrylic paint. When I cook, she learned how to break the eggs and also peel boiled eggs and garlic very well. If her father arranges all his working tools or fix something, she knows the name of each tool better than me and always give a hand to help him. Everyday, in the end of the day when we arrive in the boat and is time to hoist the dinghy, she will remove her life-vest and go straight to the mast to help release the cable that is use to pull the dinghy out of the water. That cable will be tensioned and tied on the mast but she knows exactly how to untie the cleat knot in order to make it loose to descend to the water level. We often meet boats with kids and baby or locals kids whenever we stop and our girl has the chance to play and socialize with all ages. However, most of our friends and family wonder if she won't go to school. We always have the same answer that we do her home school but it's hard for them to understand the concept. So, when we drop our anchor in Curacao for three months, the maximum allowed for our visas, we thought that it will be a good opportunity for her to experience a real school.
 
We decided based on the fact that we also consider that is important for her to play and socialize with another kids and to know how it will be her life without us for a moment. So she can learn how to protect herself without the parent's shield. We chose her school base on the location, price and activities. Finally, we chose the "BoobaLooh" kindergarten after visited a few schools. Advised by our local Dutch friend, we met Ms. Rosa Granville, one of the teachers and the owner of this interesting kindergarten. She mentioned that BoobaLooh emphasizes outdoor activities which our girl loves. The school is located near the Spanish Waters anchorage, just 30 minutes walking and less than five minutes by bus. To be more precise for the ones who may want to visit with their children, is located right next to the moving company on Caracasbaaiweg and near the sign of the company Wanna Bike on the way going to Willemstad.
Maria Dee with Ms. Rosa Granville
The first time we visited the place, our girl said she likes this school because there are many animals such as parrots, eagle, turtles, goats, chickens and many more. We don't want to push her too much for the first time at school, she only attended the morning session and three times a week. The school serve two light meals made of bread and fruits. They follow the Dutch system, all teachers including Rosa, graduated from the Netherlands. Even they teach in Dutch and Papiamentu which are the official languages in Curacao, all the teachers can speak good English. We informed the teachers that was no need to worry with our girl about the languages because it's good for her to learn in different environments and we teach her at home what they teach in the school also. From time to time our girl came back from school and tell us that she talked to a friend in school but the friend didn't reply and she doesn't know why! Since the period we are in Curacao is the summer holidays for the official schools, some of the activities are outside. They went to the Sea Aquarium in Mambo beach and the school support the entrance fee for all the kids. They had a pool day where all kids enjoyed water and had fun. Each month BoobaLooh has a new theme like holidays, traveling and they will paint a ice cream picture or luggage. The monthly fees are charged base on the amount of days the children attend each week from 7am to 1pm.

100 fl. for one day a week
175 fl. for two days a week
240 fl. for three days a week
300 fl. for four days a week
350 fl. for five days a week

Plus, 100 fl. for her own study materials which only pay one time once you enroll the school but Rosa was kind enough to waive it because our girl will be there only one and half month.

** Prices are base on the local currency, Guilder (fl.), 1 Euro is equivalent to 2 Guilders.**

Comparing the prices with the private kindergartens in Portugal or Thailand, we consider that it's expensive. But since the food here are cheaper than in another islands in the Caribbean we compensate and sacrifice some other things to our daughter's school.
Animal's cages
Big playground with lots of slides

Outdoor activity at school

Outing in Sea Aquarium

Learning and playing
 
 

Monday, August 1, 2016

A pizza night

Pizza, anyone?
Living full-time aboard cooking is one of the most challenging tasks. We're always concern about the power we spend, money spent on ingredients and how long to store it but we still need some comfort food. Sure, if we live on land a pizza won't be baked at home because it's the easiest fast food we can order to be delivered at our door. However, living on the boat made me able to cook many types of food, adapting according to the local fresh products which make me almost forget to cook Thai food because of the price tag!

So I would like to share the recipe that we use to make the pizza dough. We don't have a round pizza tray, we use the oven tray that came with the boat oven and it works just the same for us. We don't have a pastry roller, I use the handle of the mortar or a wine bottle. The thickness of the dough depends on how you want it, the more you make the best to know what is the right one for your tray and oven temperature. I spread olive oil on the tray without baking sheet, it gives a feeling like we bake bread. When we are on the Dutch islands, mozzarella cheese is expensive so I change to use a hard dutch cheese. It gives the same great taste and feeling, plus I save some money! Also, on the French islands we used Emental cheese and shred it by ourselves.

This recipe doesn't require too much skills or technique, even Asian like me could make gourmet pizza on my own on board our “Dee”! 

2 1/2 cup of bread flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of warm water
1 package of active dry yeast (0.25 ounce) 

1. Preheat oven to 230 degree C
2. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until it's foamy (around 15 minutes).
3. Mix flour, salt and olive oil then stir in the yeast. Beat until smooth.
4.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll thinly into the shape and size of your tray. Transfer the dough to the tray greased with olive oil. Put the toppings you need and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The secret we never tell




What you think about us? Drinking rum in the Caribbeans under the shade of the coconut tree everyday? Oh yes, I couldn't say no. But we are enjoying more with friends, scenery and moments than only enjoying drinking rum! Many of you still wonder and want to know how we survive during our third year of the sailing. After all it's not just a rum and the shade!

We are family of two adults, one toddler and a pet dog. That means that we consume much more water and food than a couple on a sailing boat. We have scheduled meals and mostly predictable activities on board based on our kid. We choose to visit islands where our dog can go and no issues for my Thai passport. We try to stop everywhere with free anchorages no marina or moorings if avoidable. These help us saving a couple of dollars. If the anchorage is a short dinghy ride, we try to paddle to save some gas. 

We could cruise economically with around 500 dollars a month in the Caribbean, of course excluding boat fixing and maintenance. We have fuel more than half a tank and we would refill more where it's cheaper. Even though we have water maker, we spend more on fresh water because the kid need double quantity than a adult. Plus, we do our own laundry including sheets and towels every two weeks. It's cheaper to buy water and wash on board than sending them to the laundry. The water costs varies from 2-8 dollars for 100 litters.

What about medical care? Our countries don't have social security to cover the medical care outside so everything is on our own. Luckily, we never have major sickness yet. We went to the hospital on French islands in the Caribbean a couple of times, we paid average at 50 euros each time for minor fever and diarrhea but the medicine is not included. In the American territories where the health insurance is necessary, we paid more than 200 dollars for a child vaccine which is free in the Dominican Republic and our countries. We fill up our first aid medicines for basic illness and regularly check the validity dates. Our French Bulldog pet dog doesn't require exercise, he hates heat and he trained to do his business on the boat. We rarely bring him on land, also because of avoiding having contact with local dogs or diseases. We may bring him occasionally to the beach when it's time for his shower. However, the titer test is important in some island and we always keep it up to date just in case. We did it in the American Virgin Islands and Grenada which cost almost the same price, about 200 dollars and take similar time. The deworming pill is our dog top list medicine and we always stock up, it cost vary from island to island. I wrote a post before about the process and the costs to import him to St. Lucia.

The boat maintenance is a pain in our budget. All boat need maintenance, it doesn't matter if it's new or old. We try as much as we can to fix everything by our own and sometimes we are lucky to know some knowledgeable resources from the cruisers we met. If the problem is big that we couldn't fix it, that's the time we really have to be tighten our budget and remove the money from our pocket. For example, we had to pay for a gearbox, second hand, the same brand of the old one, around 900 euros, ouch! And we had to remove and install it by ourselves.

The supermarkets are everywhere and vary in products, it depends on how you choose them. We always compare prices of our staple foods like milk, rice, pasta, flour, egg etc. Choose wisely because sometimes the promotion items are more expensive than the normal one or something in gourmet supermarket may be cheaper than local supermarkets. Local grown doesn't mean always lower price but you will get better and fresher products. Sometimes, for example spices, fruits or vegetables are cheaper in the supermarket than in the local open markets. The supermarket branded products are often cheaper than the well known brands and maybe better quality, just need to be smart to choose. 

After three years in the humid and sunny weather, our cloths also warn out. Boat jobs are always dirty. We have less and less cloths, we just keep them simple, clean and take good care of them. Cotton is the best but have a shorter life. Our girl stops using diapers before turning three years old thus we save a lot of money on it! We started trying just with the afternoon nap then we gave her a week for night time. Some accidents happened sometimes, just try to encourage your kid.

We are travelers but still tourists. We visit free of charge attractions and attend free activities. If we have to visit a fort and pay the entrance fee then we will skip it. In some attractions is unavoidable to pay the local tour guide in order to see it. If that's the case we decide by checking our budget. A lot of places and museums are free as well as churches and other places of cult.

Cruising is not that expensive but you can't just afford to pay the same amount like when you still have a permanent job unless you have a big sponsor or can work and earn money while cruising the same  way like when you were on land. It will be more expensive of course if you still stick with the same kind of lifestyle or behave like people who has long holidays on a charter boat. But full time cruisers know where are the cheaper beers, grow their own foods or catch fresh free meals. And that's how we survive cruising full time for three years.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bonaire, Bon Bini

Street sign in Bonaire
I love Bonaire! That was my first feeling when I stepped on this island. Small, peaceful, colorful was my first sights of Bonaire. We arrived here unintentionally. Our initial plan was sailing straight from Guadeloupe to Curacao, 520 nautical miles, but we had a technical problem that made us decide to stop over night in Bonaire before travel forward. Due to the moorings fee; 10$ a night, it's not much and I think is reasonable, but was an extra expense for us. And since our budget is not stretchable unfortunately we only stayed in Bonaire for seven days. The shortest stay ever in an islands for us. Here we are in Bonaire, without a plan but impressed. 
Mooring blocks
Dee at the mooring
Marine life under our boat
Bonaire is one of the sisters islands of Aruba and Curacao which the cruisers often call shortly ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). It's the Netherlands Antilles and most of the Dutch law and major rules are enforced here. On 10th October 2010 - locally referred to as 10.10.10- the islands of Bonaire Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten officially dissolved the Netherlands Antilles as an autonomous country within The Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire is directly part of the Netherlands but designated as a special municipality - according to the information from the Bonaire tourist office. The official languages are Dutch and Papiamentu. Papiamentu is the local language which based on Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and African languages. Spanish and English are widely spoken. Many people migrated from Columbia and Venezuela that's the reason why many locals speak Spanish. Even the Chinese here speak Spanish instead of English as the working language.
I was surprised finding out that the population of Bonaire was only 18,000 persons, according to the local officials. Made me think about some of the areas of Macau where this number of people share one square meter!

Often we make a joke saying that the “Chinese are everywhere!” As we lived in Macau, China, and we are familiar with them - we were surprised that there are a lot of Chinese people living in Bonaire. In every street corner we found Chinese owned supermarkets and restaurants. This made me think that out of 18,000 populations 8,000 person may be Chinese! We visit a Dutch supermarket which is also available in Holland, Van den Tweel from Albert Heijn and we consider that the prices were reasonable comparing with another Caribbean islands. This supermarket offers a shuttle service for people living on the boats to go shopping since the walk is not convenient. Its not that far, probably 20 minutes walking, but its very hot and no shade to rest. This shuttle service pick you up from the dinghy dock every Tuesdays and Fridays at 5 P.M. We didn't had chance to use their service because we walked there, being walking part of our city tour!
Freshly baked bread in the Dutch supermarket
Bus stop in Bonaire
Bonaire is the diving destination, the “Diver's paradise”. Most part of the island is the National Marine park which you need to pay Nature fee of 25$ as scuba diver or 10$ as a non scuba diver which covers the Bonaire National Marine Park. The restrictions here are quite strict and are enforced by the authorities. When clear in our vessel we must declare all our spear guns and they keep it during our stay. If they found any on board the fines are huge. We also had to declare all the dinghies and kayakies we own. We are not allowed to remove any corals or hard shell marine life from the water, including fishing parrot fish otherwise we have to pay a huge fine! Anyway, we are allowed to fish next to our boat or in Bonaire waters any other species of fish, except the parrot fish. We caught a pompano, a good size one for our family. Also we had a day sail with another 2 boats buddies to fish! Sadly we only caught a baby tuna which we let go.
View of Klein Bonaire
Beautiful sunset
For moorings payments, water and fuel all can be done in the Harbour Village Marina. We do not remember exactly the price of the fuel and other facilities but that can be easily checked online. What we realized was that propane here can cost up to 100$ for 20-25 kgs. The water is not so expensive, gasoline and diesel come from Curacao and are reasonable priced. We were told by locals that there are no public bus even we saw the bus stop while we walk around the island. Motorbike, bike and car rental are everywhere. We checked the motorbike rental and found out it costed around 16$ a day. Since here is a small island the traffic is not much and they don't have strict rules for the use helmets, it's your own risk! The currency here mainly is US dollars and I don't saw anyone using Guilders. Some shops and supermarkets accept Euros but, of course, not coins please! My ATM card (Mastercard from Asia) only worked with the ATM machine from Maduro Curiel's Bank, being the fee for international transaction 4$! We tried to get money from another bank ATM machine and we saw that the fee can be up to 6$ but, anyway, our card didn't work.

Tourism Office, where you can get free Wi-Fi
“Bonaire, Once a Visitor Always a Friend”, I think it's the best slogan to suit the island. We had an opportunity to deal directly with the Tourism office and we felt most welcome. Warm welcome and helpful staffs tried to help us to solve a long-distance communication problem we had. We spent the whole morning with them making international calls trying to solve our problem because, as most sailors do, we don't own any international SIM card. We reach a dead end and was not possible to find a solution to our problem but they help us until the end and encourage us to visit them again if needed. After all we are their tourists! We encountered many tourism offices and front line service industries in the Caribbean I can surely say that Bonaire tourism officials work with their hearts and go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. As I worked indirectly to the tourism industry in Macau, I felt that Macau Government should send some staff to learn or do some research on the island like Bonaire where their main industry is based on pure tourism. 
The slogan of Bonaire
What makes Bonaire so special for me? We are always looking for the ideal place to settle down after we finish our sailing around the world trip. For me I would love to live in a quiet place which offer a rich variety for daily basic food, with easy connections with the rest of the world, and of course good weather. Bonaire has them all! Everyone has the right to their own opinion...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What happened when we lost the forestay

Well, plans are always very nice on paper but in reality, often end up just that! Last week I wrote in anticipation due to our crossing to the Netherlands Antilles. Everything was planned and the weather conditions were the best but, after six hours of great sailing and more than 30 miles traveled (of almost 450 separating Martinique from the first island of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire), the forestay that supports the mast and includes the roller furling system for the genoa decided it was time to came down!
It's one of the worst scenarios on board, worst than that I think just the mast breaking, a hole in the hull or a fire!



We're following a direct course to the destination, straight downwind and with our sails open in butterfly (main sail on one side and the genoa to the opposite side - our boat has no spinnaker pole so we just had to manage with the ropes), making an average of 5 knots, it would make up more than 100 miles per day and predicting a four day trip! Even the windvane had decided to work well and the only electronic consuming battery was the chartplotter with the chart and the VHF radio. while dozing, was thinking about what we would eat for lunch. We had a choice of menus between stewed chicken, stewed pork with vegetables and octopus stew. All ready to eat with bread, rice or pasta.
Suddenly, and without anything sign since the wind wasn't strong enough to force greater caution, a loud noise. Immediately afterwards, I see the genoa shaking violently from side to side only secure by the small cable from the roller furler and hanged by the halyard that hoist it to the mast. The cable from the drum is not ticker than a string to dry clothes, not really ready to handle more than one thousand kilos of force produced by the open sail!



With life-vest on, safety teether clipped to the cable that runs from one end to another of the boat, I came forward and grabbed the first cable I found to hold the genoa to its original position in the bow. system was not damaged and was operational, allowing to roll the sail in its normal position, although it needed a little bit more of effort! Once the sail was wrapped and safe there was another problem to solve, also of extreme urgency. and if this continue, was at risk of falling. To replace the forestay I used the halyard that we normally use to raise and lower the dinghy. It rises to the top of the mast, so I tie it to the bow roller to stabilize the situation temporarily. Then, it was necessary to lower the main sail and also lower the boom to the decreased the pressure on the mast. Once it was down, the pressure on the mast and on the whole situation considerably decreased and it could be considered of safety. However, after a few minutes, because the genoa continued to move with the violent motion of the boat, the halyard that was used to hold the mast started from the tear apart. It was necessary to find another cable to fix the situation and secure better the genoa, preventing it from moving at all. Fortunately the solution found was enough to reach safe haven.



After the situation was under control was time to contact our Brazilian colleagues who were about two miles ahead and let them know that we would change course back to Martinique. Didn't had time to explain the situation very well but we could tell that all was well on board, Maria was still sleeping!
When we turned around was about noon and were almost 32 miles of Sainte Anne, Martinique. But now we had to go against seas of over one and half meter high and winds of 15-20 knots. In fact, all he had helping us before to sail to ABC was now against us and we only had our old engine to help. There were many hours of engine, never taking the chance to push it too much because if it died we would be completely adrift.



I decided to tack the wind, instead of motoring directly to it, at least until less than 10 miles off the shore of the island when the sea should began to diminish. We arrived at 5 miles from the Martinique coast at about one in the morning and then, yes, the sea calmed. As we were closer to Fort-de-France than the South (Le Marin, Sainte Anne) we decided to go direct to the capital and anchor safely in a place he knew fairly well and had no problems navigating at night.
At four in the morning Maria and I had eaten, taken shower and were ready to go to sleep. The next day there was much to do!



Even today we are still trying to resolve the matter. The cable and the sail in the roller furler are already on sailboat deck and the broken part (a screw that holds the cable and connect it to the chainplate in the bow) has been removed. We couldn't find a replacement locally so we decided to make one in a local metal shop. We hope it will be done in good conditions so that we can put it in place and re-install the sail in place.