Friday, February 23, 2018

Living with a baby on a sailboat

Moving aboard when she was one year  and one month old
People often wonder how did we managed, from January 2014 until September 2016, with our baby full time. First of all, it was our decision to leave everything behind, good stable jobs, awesome income and benefits, apartment in a booming real estate territory, to live in a boat we barely knew and bring our one year old baby (and a dog) from the other side of the world to the Caribbean... We were committed to raise her out of the consumerist society Macau (and I believe everywhere also) had become. We looked at ourselves in the years before we left and we saw a couple with everything the money could buy, travels, cars, gadgets... and we had to throw, sell and give away, everything because in the boat life we wouldn't need any of it... And although we still managed to bring and send by mail a lot of stuff that, some months later, we would have to give away or trade for something more useful.
That life, even we recognize that was a much more comfortable and convenient life, was not the life we had in mind for our children and even for us after the rush phase of youth vanished... Priorities became different with time.

I don't regret the decision, and I believe my wife share the same opinion. Living and seeing our little baby growing, being able to make her first steps, first words, and so many other firsts, it's worth all the luxury and convenience we left in our past life.
And, how did we managed 24 hours, seven days a week with her? Well, like most of the families that have the luck of staying home with their children, just that our house was on the water! We would wake up in the morning around 6.30 to 7:00, check on the baby that always slept in her own cabin (our boat has two cabins, one being a stateroom with private head and shower), and start the chores for the day. Usually Maria, at the first years, would always wake up early, so when we checked on her she would be already awake and, in fact, she would be the one waking us up calling us because she could not leave her cabin due to the lee-cloth we had installed to prevent her falling.
We always spent some time with her either in our cabin or in hers, playing and trying to convince her to sleep more, giving us some free time to do some work that would be easier to do without a baby around! It worked few time doing all this years!

After the fooling around, would be time for breakfast. That would be a task for Mom and baby while I would be outside checking the anchor rode and other vitals on the boat.
Breakfast was taken outside in the table of the center cockpit under the shade the bimini of our S/V Dee, although, if the weather was wet we would take the breakfast inside. That would be a long meal because it was always, and still is, a struggle for Maria to eat. She eats well but take her time... It was normal for the first meal of the day to take more than one hour!
After breakfast would be time to start some work around the boat, either laundry, cleaning or boat related task like scrubbing, checking or repairing stuff... a continuous work in a boat with 30 years... In all of the Maria was always willing to take part. Playing around  with my bottles of screws and washers or messing around with the laundry from the mother and helping her hanging it to dry...
If we didn't had nothing to do ashore, the morning would be filled with this kind of activities in the boat until time for lunch which would be taken again in the cockpit and would take longer than the breakfast! Time was not a problem by then and that was one of the reasons we choose to live in a boat!

After the lunch was the period of the day that Maria didn't like because would be nap time! We always tried to persuade her to sleep in the afternoon. In fact she did it almost every day until we had to came to Portugal and she had to enroll in school!
That would be a time that both father and mother also take a nap if nothing important had to be done. Around 4 or 5 in the afternoon we would be awake and would be swimming time! A jump to the water from the deck of Dee, something that Maria learn to do since she was 2 years old. She was never afraid of jumping to the water but she was only allowed to do it when an adult was around and she never broke that rule. The respect for the elements was a constant in our boat and the baby followed always that ruled and was able to understand that the sea we always enjoyed had to be respected.

After the swimming, if was not before, we would have time to school Maria in 3 languages, English, Thai and Portuguese. At the age of two to three she was able to count in all three languages and she was able to recite the alphabet in Portuguese and English and also in Thai. She would follow a kindergarten program from a book we bought in St Lucia, in English, and every day she would do 1 or 2 pages from that book. I don't recall the name of the book but it was quite diversified and covered areas that allowed her to learn how to control the pencil to write and recognize colors and shapes. She was, most of the time, very happy to do the school time.
Some days that school time would be also done at night right after dinner and before bed time.
The day would start to fade when was time to prepare the dinner and that was already before getting dark! She would be in bed by 8:00 PM and would have either the father or the mother to read her a bedtime story. The adults then would have time to watch some tv and do some more work before heading also to bed.
That was a normal day in Maria life in our S/V Dee. Quite a normal life for a kid growing with their parents.

Maria stopped wearing diapers when she was 2 and a half and, almost at the same time, she didn't need pacifier anymore. She was the one asking not to wear the diapers and after some trials during nap time, we decided that she didn't need it anymore.
But we also had time to go out and we would try to do it as often as possible. She would go with us everywhere. To the supermarket where she would learn about groceries and vegetables, to walk around in the country side where she could enjoy and learn about botanic and fauna. To the city and villages where she could see other people with different lifestyles, other kids, and ride the bus or taxi. Or even go to restaurants where she would learn how to behave in the presence of other adults. When she was 4 we were in Curacao and, for the first time, we decided to enroll her in traditional school system, so she went to a kindergarten! It was a shock for her and for us!

For her because she was never away from us for more than few hours, and when she did it she would be with people she knew well, our friends! And for us because we didn't know what was life without our baby! The first days we didn't knew what to do with the time that she stayed in the school! We had to pick her up at 4:00 PM and at 3:30 PM we would already be there waiting...
Her experience was not that bad, she cried almost every day but she would stop after a while and then would enjoy all the activities with all the other kids. We had choose a school that enfatize more in outside activities since she was use to live a free life and in close contact with nature. During the 3 months she went to kindergarten she had the chance to visit the aquarium and take part in many other activities. It was a joy to see her interacting with all the other kids and with the teachers. It was hard for us as parents to see our baby go, but it was a step that she needed to do in the process of growing up.

During the time we had to sail, and we did a lot during the period between January 2014 and September 2016, she would be always a good baby wearing a life-jacket and a teether. Would sleep, play and do her normal life like if we were at anchor. Even school time while sailing! The only difference would be the fact that she couldn't roam around freely in the boat because of security measures... but she would the first on deck as soon as we anchored!
When we left Curacao to Portugal, it was a shock for her... it was a big difference from the life on the water. Cars, many people, different language and, a week later after arriving, school full time! But, like everything else, children adapt very fast.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Curaçao Coração Curação

Dee with Curação flag background 
“I would like to have one Blue Lagoon, please”! Blue Lagoon is a cocktail that made with Blue Curaçao liqueur... Perhaps that's the liqueur that made Curaçao known all over the world. Yes, the island of Curaçao is the place where the liqueur is made, made with local bitter oranges. Now, I don't want to write about the drink because it makes me salivate! I've been writing many posts about the islands we have visited but never wrote anything about Curaçao. It's not because Curaçao that I don't have anything to write about... Since September 2016 we left Curaçao because of my health issues, but my feelings of Curaçao are so fond.

Mainly we know the word Curaçao from the liqueur but the name of the island came from Curação, a old word meaning cure in Portuguese. Why? In the late 15th Century not only Christopher Columbus tried to discover the New World for the Spanish but also other sailors from other nationalities were sailing in that area. On their way to South America, many sailors fell sick. We now know that at that time the lack of Vitamin C was the greatest reason for illness during long passages among sailors. Some of that sailors were left in the island today known as Curaçao, however, on their return trip they were found alive and cured by the abundance of fruits filled with Vitamin C on the island. So the ancient exploreres had the island named Curaçao after an archaic Portuguese word for cure, Curação. Some stories mentioned that the Spaniards called the island Curazon for heart, and converted the spelling to the Portuguese Coração before they abandoned the island because of the lack of silver and fresh water for farming.
Local boat in Caracas Bay
Today Curaçao is autonomous as a country within the Kingdom of Netherlands, however, the Kingdom continues responsible for the defense and foreign policy. Kòrsou is the Papiamentu name of Curaçao which is one of the official languages of the island together with Dutch. Papiamentu is a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and African dialects that became the main communication language between the slaves and the master in the old times. The Dutch West Indies Company claimed the island in 1632 and established the plantations and agriculture, then Curaçao became their safe port because of its depth and protected shore.
I just gave a brief idea of the island of Curaçao for you to know about this Netherlands Antilles island. Yet, Curaçao is quite known among the Portuguese people because of its big community living there nowadays. Why? Because in 1910 oil was discovered in Venezuela by the Caribbean Petroleum, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch Royal Shell Group but Venezuelan ports were not sheltered nor too deep unlike Curaçao. So Shell Group decided to build the oil refinery in Curaçao. The company tried to recruit labor from everywhere in the Caribbean, however, end up getting the biggest group of unskilled workers from the island of Madeira in Portugal. After the construction of the oil finery was finished, some of the Portuguese moved back to their mother land, but some decided to stay in Curaçao creating the Portuguese descendant community we can see in the island today. 
Portuguese descendant from Madeira, in traditional dress
We had a chance to meet many of these Portuguese descendents in Curaçao and some of them even became very good friends. I will not be going in details otherwise the list of good friends in Curaçao will never end in this post.
The original habitants were Arawak people but today Curaçao became an international island where Dutch, Portuguese, European, Venezuelan, Colombian, Surinamese and many other nationalities meet. In 2018 the population of Curaçao is estimated in 161,112. Like to Martinique, the French territory in the Eastern Caribbean where I would love to settle down, it is very convenient travelling to Curaçao from Europe; many daily direct flights from Amsterdam or even from America. But I do not speak Dutch, neither Papiamentu! No problem, English is widely spoken here so that I do not have an issue going around alone. Many Portuguese descendants still can speak Portuguese together with Papiamentu, Dutch and Spanish. I was impressed when I met locals who can speak at least five languages and that is normal among people in the island!
Currency in Curaçao
Cruiser friends from France, Portugal and Austria
Cruiser friends from Belgium and The Netherlands
What do they eat in Curaçao? As I mentioned, the island have a large variety with influences from many nationalities, from Dutch, Indonesian, Portuguese, Brazilian, Italian, Creole, Chinese, Japanese or even American food! We loved fried red snapper with polenta (Piska ku Funchi), a simple food that we can find almost in every street food stall. Since Curaçao has very fresh fish market, buying fish to cook on our boat was what we usually did. Once we bought a giant piece of shark fillet without any bone just for 10 Euros which was enough to cook meals for three days! And then I realized that shark meat can be eaten and tastes just as fresh tuna! Another thing that I miss eating a lot in Curaçao is KFC! Yes, you read it right, the American Kentucky Fried Chicken! There should be any Caribbean spices on the batter that make the fried chicken taste so good and our family vote KFC in Curaçao the best KFC ever! Back at the time we stayed in Curaçao, during the European soccer championship, we found a Portuguese restaurant! Imagine we didn't visit home in Portugal almost for four years and we found a Portuguese restaurant where they serve Leitão (Portuguese style suckling baby pig)! Even one of the owners comes from Mealhada, the city of that delicious dish! Being a main port in that area, Curaçao is rich in food selection in the supermarkets and with fair prices. A Dutch couple from the Netherlands has told me that we only can find Amstel Bright beer in the Caribbean, it's not sold in Europe! Ah! I forgot to mention that I ate the sweetest watermelon in my life here in Curaçao. Most of the supplies came from the neibour country, Venezuela.  Including that watermelon...

Brion, Beer from Curaçao
Amstel Bright
Dutch Fisherman

Watermelon from Venezuela 

Leitão (Portuguese style suckling baby pig)
 in Piri Piri Portuguese Restaurant

What we catch in the anchorage, next to our boat
Since we decided to stay for a prolonged period anchored in Curaçao, we decided to find a nursery school for Maria. That I shared my experience in the previous post. As well as about medical services.
As in many other islands we visited before Curaçao you will wish to have a health insurance... Even if it's not the first question they do... “Do you have insurance?” like in the States... but it will help you on the big medical bills. Many private clinics, technical institutes and main hospital are efficient. From my experience, many of them have European trained doctors and work following European standards. Sint Elisabete Hospitaal (SEHOS) was the place were I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The doctors who did my Biopsies and other tests were Dutch. Even if the service and working are accurate, it's the only main hospital in the island, so, according to locals, some of the people prefer to get another option in Columbia where the service is cheaper and also of good quality.  

Food Truck in Curaçao, selling Ice cream
Now can I write about Curaçao without the beach! Turquoise crystal clear seawater is a unique characteristic in all beaches. We had a chance to visit not even half of the beaches in Curaçao because they are a lot to explore. Beach activities and food stalls are around the beach if we forget our food for picnic. Some are famous among tourists others are preferred locals, also some are full serviced but many are pure nature. Some famous beaches we have to pay a entrance fee (like $10) which we are not used to but there are so many other choices of beaches to go in Curaçao. Apart from the beaches Curaçao offers other diverse activities like biking tours, museums, zoos, sea aquarium, golf courses, music night clubbing, boat trips, diving, cinema, cave visiting tours, and more so we don't need to be worried with what we should do to please different generations. 

Westpunt Beach
Knip Beach

Sea Aquarium Beach

Santa Cruz

Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Course

Mambo Beach

Jan Theil Beach
The post will be not completed if I don't mention about boating! Every morning I like coming up the deck to check which country flag our neighbors are but it's not much going on. Most of the people who arrive in Curaçao, they are mainly on route to Panama or live-aboard in Curaçao. The water traffic is not busy like in the Virgins islands as they wait for the window to cross to Panama or Columbia. Some did like us for the maximum period that visa and cruising permit are allowed. Spanish Waters anchorage was where we stayed during the whole time. The water is murky but clean. We catched squids and see turtles almost everyday. The anchorage is convenient to go to the capital, Willemstad, supermarkets, beach or even gym! Before we left Curaçao, we sailed East to pass Queen Emma Bridge in Willemstad to Curaçao Marine. Being one of the main ports in this waters and lots of fishermen, there are few Marinas but we decided to stored “Dee” in Curaçao  Marine because of personal preferences. They work professionally and quite punctual.     

Sailing activity in Spanish Waters
So where is Curaçao? Curaçao is located in the South of the Caribbean sea and if you look at the World map  Curaçao with its sister islands, Aruba and Bonaire are located above Venezuela. Book your holiday to Curaçao or sail there if you are a sailor and you will not be disappointed! Dushi Curaçao from my Coração! 

Dushi is a common word in Papiamentu meaning sweet, good, nice which perfectly descriped how Curaçao is!

Dushi Curaçao

Friday, September 15, 2017

To those who lose in Hurricane Irma

Last time I saw "Dee" in the water 
“People you thought were friends, or at least friendly, will show themselves to not be so. The good news is that other friends will come into your life, indeed the kindness and generosity of even complete strangers will overwhelm you.” - Charlotte Kaufman, a founder of Women Who Sail page

Back in 2014 when the Kaufman family had to abandoned their boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because their younger daughter fell ill, at that time many people criticized them for not being responsible, or for being ignorant parents who put the life of the kid in danger. Some days later I wrote a post Here about how completely different people on “land” think about us who lived full-time aboard on our sailing boat “Dee”. Whenever I heard stories of cruising friends, or just people we happen to cross paths when we were sailing, that their boats sunk because of the reefs, I always end up heartbroken. Because I know how all of them put efforts on their floating houses, how they create their dream, and how they lived. Same as many of our friends who lost their home, their business and their everything to Hurricane Irma. I was deeply down. We keep trying to find out if our friends in the affected are safe.

I would say we are really lucky that “Dee” is safe from Irma. We spent two seasons in the Hurricane area (Hurricane Bertha and Danny) but this time it is the biggest Hurricane ever recorded and “Dee” is safe in Curacao. Even we didn't lost our only home, I also been fighting with other concerns, specially my health. We assume that if we have a very healthy lifestyle, eating fresh fish from the ocean and breath the purest air from the sea, nothing will happen to us. However, I had a healthy life and I was diagnosed with Cancer! Friends and many other people lost their home to Irma, I almost lost myself to sickness which cause me to lose all my confidence. What you need in life apart from the basics is health, that's why most of the sailors decide to cut the lines and go sailing while they still can.

I tried so hard to adjust my life when we moved aboard. Many times I told my story when we met new friends along the way. One of the stories was that “I almost divorce my husband because of our sailing life”. My background was one of a luxury life which I could get anything I want without second thoughts. I had a helper who took care of every single housework except cooking because I'm quite picky about food. In the beginning it was so hard for me to wash the cloths for three by hand, cook with the boat motion, no more shopping, no more pamper myself and in the same time looking at my bank account getting empty. That was because I was still stick to whatever I used to have, until I realized that I value what I have more than material. All steps I had made, in the end I found I was sick and kept asking why me? When I found out about the Cancer, I never cried and I know it's not time for me to die yet, even so I feel that my life on “Dee” will be ended.
Every time I look at the photos of our sailing friends enjoying their paradise islands, someone talking about sailing or when I think the day I will go back to “Dee”, it's “Zero” and I ended up with a face full of tears. Many times after we moved to Portugal, I bought nautical related items with the words “I need this when I go back to the boat” which I don't know when but I keep buying to fulfill my dream and commit that I will get back to her.

One year later after time heals my sickness and my feeling, we already start planning our new chapter. It's not easy but it's possible. Cancer taught me to be patient what I should learn more from living on a sailing boat. Like every sailors who lost everything to Irma, I'm still struggling with emotion, so much that I even requested in the hospital to have psychological counseling. Little by little our friends and people who lost all will regain the dream, journey and life again as same as the beautiful places where were devastated will become wonderful again. As we often say time will heal everything...
Noel with BVI background


Saturday, July 15, 2017

The opening of “Dee” Thai food truck

Since our plan has changed from sailing the world to move on land because of my health problem, we couldn't just stop in the same place! When we arrived in Portugal after three years sailing in the Caribbean, we got a camping car. We traveled many Portugal's neighbor countries to avoid focusing all our energies on my sickness. That clever idea came out from my husband who is with me almost 24/7 during my treatment to fight Breast Cancer. Now my health condition is already stable, anyhow, I never though on it as being bad (!), so it's time to work to make some money and make our sailing life alive again. 
I always loved cooking since I was young and stayed right next to my mom who cooks very yummy food. Going to professional culinary school was one of my dreams but I never had that chance. Even during my internship I chose to apply in the hotel hoping that I could learn in the kitchen but, unfortunately, I ended up working in the F&B office. One of my jobs while I lived in Macau was working in a five star hotel, but again I never had the chance to develop my passion. When my husband came to me with the idea, let's sell Thai food. I loved it! I was so excited that I forgot all my weakness from being sick. No one expects I work and not many people notice that I'm sick. We started to look for the truck, creating the company, consulting the accountant, auction for the selling spot (in Portugal you need a permanent spot to sell food in a truck), installing equipment, painting and decorating the truck. We've done them all by ourselves and my strength was on making my own dream become a reality.

Even Thai food is well known internationally, it's very challenging to sell Thai food where no direct flight connect the two countries, Portugal and Thailand. We both agreed since in the beginning that we will try to replicate the authentic taste like what Thai people eat in Thailand. So either you like it or you don't! Most of the ingredients we used are imported, however, some we can find already in Portugal. Many foreigners have tried Green Curry, Pad Thai, Tom Yam Kung, Panang or Satay when they visited Thailand but we sell street food, food that is easily found in Thailand and people eat them everyday. After all Thailand is famous for street food and most tourists never tried it.

After choosing the options of our menu based on the available local fresh products and what was more suitable for Portuguese taste, we decided for Chicken with Ginger Rice or what we called in Thai Kao Man Kai, Thai Omelet with Jasmine Rice which is a simple Thai dish that is eaten by the all Thais almost everyday, and Grilled Chicken served with Coconut Rice and Thai Salad. We only adjust some freshly products that we could not find locally like “green papaya” replacing it with carrot but the key of sauce is the same. When you visit Thailand, Thai Iced Milk Tea is a must to try, it's also available on our menu together with Thai Iced Tea and Thai fruit juice “Sala”, drinks that Thai usually take in hot days. Thai beer and Thai whiskey buckets are our alcohol offers and also very common in any Thai bar.

As for the name of our Food Truck... Dee, it's because of our boat, which already called “Dee”, and our camping car also called “Dee” and, first of all, our daughter's second name: “Dee”. That's why our Thai Food Truck came out with the name “Dee” which means “Good” in Thai.
Come to try our food and say hi to us, the first Thai Food Truck in Portugal.


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.