Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Liebster Award!

September 9, 2014

Woo hoo!  Our blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award by Deana and Troy of S/V Storyville! When Deana told me she'd nominated our blog, I was surprised and honored. As she said, it sounded awfully prestigious! In truth? Not so much...turns out that it's more of a chain letter in the blogging world. :-)  Here's what we have to do:

(1) Thank the person who nominated us and link back to their page.
(2) Answer the 10 questions they have asked and publish the post.
(3) Nominate 10 up-and-coming blogs and ask them 10 questions.

So, a big thank you (and as always, even bigger hugs!) to Deana and Troy for the nomination. I'm afraid I don't follow any up-and-coming blogs (my internet's barely good enough to update my own blog!), but we'll deal with that later. Let's do this...

Deana's questions for us:

(1) Where are you now?

We're spending our second hurricane season in Grenada. We've come back to Saga Cove in Clarkes Court Bay, where we have constant trade winds, little fetch, and are surrounded by great friends. As an added bonus, it's an easy dinghy ride to Fort Jeudi beach, where we often meet our Grenadian family for beach BBQs.

(2) What are your cruising goals (if any) for the future?

We tend to be on the slow end of the cruising spectrum. Some cruisers get bored easily if they aren't picking up anchor and moving to a new spot every few days/weeks. Others spend enough time on each island to do some serious exploring, knowing they won't be passing through again. In our case, we plan to go back and forth between the Virgin Islands and Grenada for at least two more years (H-season in Grenada, the rest of the time up-island). We love the people (both locals and cruisers) and the diversity in terms of sights, activities, and shopping (FOOD!) throughout these islands; why hurry through if we don't have to? Maybe someday we'll start heading west to Columbia, the San Blas Islands, and Guatemala, but for now we love returning to our favorite and familiar spots.

(3) What would you tell someone who is dreaming of cruising about how to make it happen?

Although Rene and I don't have kids, I've heard people say, "don't wait until you can AFFORD children to have them." I guess you can say the same thing about cruising: Don't wait until you think you have enough money to cut the dock lines, since there's no "set amount" for doing this. Cruisers have all sorts of budgets: some live on $1,000 US per month, others budget for $3,000 or more. Some people have $30K boats while others are a half-million and up. What's right for you? What are the things you can or cannot live with? If you really want to get out here and cruise, the first step (IMHO) is to charter a boat. See if you and your partner can live together 24 hours a day in a cramped space for a week or more. If you can do that without killing each other, come up with a 3-5 year plan. Institute "boat rule", meaning you don't buy anything (cars, furniture, big-screen televisions) that you can't bring on the boat. Whenever you get frustrated that you can't buy that latest gadget that everyone else has, remember what you're working towards. You won't give those things a second thought the first time you get to watch dolphins dance in front of your bow.

(4) What is one thing you have learned from living this lifestyle?

Less really is more. I don't miss the big house. Rene doesn't miss his Corvette...okay, not very often! We absolutely do NOT miss the sensory overload that comes from being "connected" 24/7. (Try spending a week without cable TV, 24-hour news, and Facebook. You'd be amazed how less stressed-out you are.) We make our own water thanks to our Spectra watermaker, and get nearly all of our power from solar panels and a wind generator. Basically, we live in a 200-square-foot apartment with a 360-degree waterfront view. If we ever decide to leave the boat, it'll likely be to move into an even smaller space...like an RV.

(5) What is your favorite thing about cruising?

Having the freedom to explore a part of the world so few people get to see, and building friendships with our fellow cruisers and the locals we meet. There are so many amazing places down here, and for the most part, people are welcoming and eager to lend a hand. Of course we miss our friends and family back in the U.S. and Europe, but we've learned to rely on each other and our cruising family in ways that we never did living on land...whether for social time and moral support or for something we don't have on board. When you don't have easy access to grocery or hardware stores, borrowing a spare part or a couple of eggs from your neighbor really comes in handy!

(6) What is your least favorite thing about cruising?

That's a tough one, because there really isn't anything I don't like about cruising. I guess I miss being able to get just about anything I want the way I can in the U.S., whether it's a boat part, flip flops, or celery seeds (try getting THOSE in Grenada!) In the islands, we have to find a shipper, work with an agent to go through Customs, and pay sometimes exorbitant fees in duty. We tend to binge-buy anytime we're visiting family in the States or if someone comes down to see us. When heading south, always plan for an extra suitcase.

(7) Do you look forward to, or dread overnight crossings? Tell us why.

I used to hate them and avoided them whenever possible. For one thing, we left Texas with two cats on board. Even with a full enclosure, there were places where they could get out or water could get in. A rogue wave once crashed through the cockpit off the west coast of Florida, nearly washing our calico overboard. Rene managed to grab a handful of fur, but it scared us. Overnight crossings are sometimes necessary, and are typically less exhausting than a series of back-to-back daylight trips if you're trying to quickly cover some distance between islands. Still, I can't say I look forward to them.

(8) With this traveling lifestyle, we get exposed to wide variety of cuisines. Do you enjoy trying, eating, and cooking with "local" foods, and if so, what is your favorite so far? Share your recipe.

Absolutely! I love to cook, and not having to work has certainly afforded me more time to experiment in the galley. The Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, and Grenada are all lush islands with more fresh produce than you can imagine; farmers markets have allowed us to stock up on local fruits and veggies for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. An avocado for under $1? 20 mangoes for $3? Today's catch of yellow-fin tuna or mahi mahi for $3/lb? No problem! Plus, as we both love Mexican food, I've found a number of local items that substitute perfectly for their American counterparts: chadon beni = cilantro; gheera = cumin on steroids; breadfruit = potatoes (especially in potato salad...yum!)

Our Grenadian family has had us try opossum, iguana, and armadillo. I'm not a huge fan, but Nesta's and Virginia's sauces can make just about anything taste good! We love our family's oildowns (made with curry, coconut milk, breadfruit, callaloo, and chicken/pork parts) and fish broth (a thinner fish stew), and are absolutely addicted to rotis (think Indian curry wrapped in a tortilla). Roti skin recipes are passed down through generations, and unfortunately take a lot more patience than I have. An easier dish to make is curried lentils; I got one recipe from Riva and her daughter, Ivy, on S/V Three Belles; another recipe came from my pressure cooker cookbook. My version is a blend of the two recipes, plus some extra TLC of my own. A Carriacou friend says it tastes just like he makes it. Now THAT'S a compliment!

Curried Lentils

This recipe is for the pressure cooker, which allows for less cooking time and propane usage...a must-have on boats! It can also be made in a normal pot; just follow cooking times on the package for lentils. If you prefer a vegetarian version, omit the meat and use vegetable stock.

2 tbsp oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef, chicken, or turkey
3 carrots, peeled & chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (include leaves if possible)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 tbsp chopped cilantro or 1 tbsp chopped chadon beni
2 tbsp curry powder, or more to taste
2 cups lentils, rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 can diced tomatoes, plus their juice
hot sauce to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Optional: a few dashes of green seasoning and 1 tbsp curry paste at end

Heat oil in pressure cooker; saute onion, garlic, and ground meat til meat is no longer pink. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, cilantro, and curry powder; cook for 2 minutes to mix flavors. Add lentils, stock, and coconut milk. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes.

Quick release the pressure and remove lid. Add can of diced tomatoes (with juice), plus hot sauce and salt/pepper to taste. I like to add green seasoning and a spoonful of curry paste to give it a stronger flavor. (Curry paste will stick to the bottom of the pan under pressure, so don't add til the end.)

Note: there are many versions of green seasoning sauce, but most include cilantro/chadon beni, peppers, garlic, onions, and thyme. You can often find bottles (e.g. Goya, Adobe, Badia) in Mexican or Caribbean markets.

(9) Can you tell us one of your favorite cruising stories?

We were anchored in Weems Creek in Annapolis, MD, in August, 2010. It was completely dark and a squall had just come through. I was cleaning up after dinner, and Rene saw something out of the salon window through the rain. "Hang on to something - we're about to get hit!" Another boat was dragging, and they were heading right for us. Fortunately it was a soft landing, and we ran topside to grab fenders to put between us. They tossed us their lines, and we managed to get them rafted up to us to wait out the storm. At some point, the wife apologized for having to "meet all of us this way". It took me a minute to realize that she was wearing only panties, and her husband was completely naked! We'd been so busy trying to get them secured that we hadn't even noticed. Oops! They re-anchored once the wind died down, and sadly, we had to decline their offer of thank-you Bloody Mary's the next morning (we were leaving early for Baltimore). A few months later in the Bahamas, an unknown voice hailed us on the VHF radio; when we couldn't figure out who it was, he gave us a hint: "We still owe you Bloody Mary's!"

(10) If asked to give a random piece of advice about this lifestyle to anyone, what would it be?

Believe it or not, this lifestyle really isn't for everyone. Cruising isn't just like a travel magazine cover. Yes, we spend plenty of time anchored off of beautiful beaches and hiking through rain forests, and yes, we enjoy lots of happy hours with our fellow cruisers. But we also slog through hours of ten-foot seas (even though the forecast said six feet), and the rain usually starts just as Rene is getting ready to anchor. At two in the morning, that container ship that's as long as a football field WILL feel like it's way too close to you, even if it's a mile away. Things will break, and it'll be a pain in the backside getting replacement parts. Two common cruiser sayings are "cruising = fixing things in exotic places", and "BOAT stands for 'Break Out Another Thousand'". All that said, if you're open to new experiences and new cultures, and you aren't emotionally attached to all of your "stuff", cruising can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

So that's it for my novel. That was actually pretty fun! Now for my questions... yes, a few of them will be familiar to those of you who've done this already...

(1) Where are you now? Or if you're not already on a boat, where would you like to travel to?

(2) What has surprised you most about cruising? In other words, what did you least expect when you began?

(3) Where are your favorite cruising grounds so far?

(4) If you had the funds and space for it, name one "frivolous" thing that you wish you could have on your boat. Alternatively, what are you glad that you kept, even though others said you'd never use?

(5) This Sailing Lifestyle has obviously been a dream turned reality for all of us out here doing this. But if you could have another dream, another "thing" you would want to do... what would it be?

(6) When buying a boat, cruisers must decide on a monohull vs. a catamaran. How did you decide, and are you happy with your decision?

(7) What do you miss the most (come on, there must be something!) about living on land?

(8) With this traveling lifestyle we get exposed to wide variety of cuisines. Do you enjoy trying, eating, and cooking with "local" foods, and if so, what is your favorite so far? Share your recipe!

(9) Cruising couples generally spend a lot more time together than do couples on land, in much more confined spaces. What advice for "living in harmony on a boat" would you give to couples thinking about cruising?

(10) What would you tell someone who is dreaming of cruising about how to make it happen?

And now, for my nominees. I definitely don't follow 10 blogs, and some of these people may not even blog... but I'd love to see responses from the following boats. If you don't have a blog, you can always post it on Facebook. :-)

M/V Motivator
S/V Secret Smile
S/V Another Way
S/V Three Sheets
S/V Alternate Latitude
S/V Guiding Light

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