Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How It Began

Current Location: Finike, Turkey
Current Position: 36 17.63 N 30 08.98 E
Next Destination: Turkey Coast (between Finike & Marmaris)

With Billabong now on the market, and our cruising days coming to a potential end, I can't help but think back to how it all began. It seems to me that I spend a large part of my life being swept along and carried down some path, often wondering just how I managed to get there. Events transpire quickly and move of their own accord. I'd like to take credit because I believe I've had a pretty great life, but in reality it's just a giant snowball that gains momentum and carries me along … and usually it all begins with me opening my big mouth!

It goes without saying that Chris and I would not be out here together had we never met. But while some things in my life happen at record paces, there are others that move so slow it's a wonder they ever happen at all. I have known Chris since I was 16 (and Chris was 23). We met at work in 1990 (I was answering phones after high-school and Chris was working as a software developer). A seven-year age difference may not matter now, but when one is an under-aged teenager and the other is a college graduate it is certainly not something to be ignored. I was always more like a little sister then a possible romantic interest. Over the years we became good friends, but our lives were always running in different directions, such as a few wild years in college for me and marriage for Chris. It was 11 years later when we finally managed our first date.

The year 2001 brought about a lot of changes for both of us. By the end of the year I had ended a seriously relationship, Chris had separated from his wife, our company had gone through yet another merger, which resulted in a number of layoffs & work-environment changes, a really good sailing friend of Chris’ died unexpectedly in a helicopter crash, and of course there was “911”. It goes without saying that September 11th is a date that impacted the majority of Americans (and maybe even many non-Americans). For many, like myself, it was a wake-up call that life could be unexpectedly short, and every moment did indeed count. At that point in time my entire life had been centered around work-work-work, and I now wondered if that was the right way to live. Surely there was more to life than 10 hours in a fluorescently lit office everyday?

And so began the snowball … two people who have been friends for 11 years, now single, and realizing they wanted more in life; that and a Harry Potter movie. Who would’ve thought that two friends checking out the latest flick would end up sailing through the world together? Harry Potter turned into a date, a pretty unromantic one, but one none-the-less. And that date turned into a relationship. It may have taken us more than a decade to “get together”, but after that things moved along pretty quick; after all we’d known each for so long there wasn’t much else to learn … well ‘er, maybe some things but I’m not talking about THAT!

When I first met Chris he was living aboard a small yacht. Throughout the years he continued his interests in yachts & sailing, and more than once I had heard him say, “wouldn’t it be neat to go cruising … to travel the world with your ‘house’?” As an Arizona girl I didn’t really see what was so exciting about that – okay, not working and lots of traveling; I could get into that ... but on a boat??? And those yachts seemed pretty dang small. Then one day, Chris says it again, “I’d love to just leave and go cruising in my own yacht.” Without thinking I opened by big mouth and responded, “You should just stop talking about it and go already … and take me with you!” Ha ha ha ha. I got a good chuckle out of that one. Chris kind of gave me this look and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea”. I didn’t pay him any mind, because it just seemed too far-fetched, too unrealistic. But then, about two months later came my birthday. Chris is big on “themes”, and the theme this year definitely made its point: polarized sunglasses, “How to Sail for Dummies”, a big floppy hat, sunscreen, tropical scented candles, and so on. I probably stayed in denial, thinking we would never be able to pull it off, until we purchased Billabong about six months later. At that point it was pretty clear that this was not a just some crazy pipe dream.

Getting ready for a world cruise is, in itself, a huge task. I had the added challenge that I knew nothing about boating, yachts, or sailing. For me a ‘sheet’ belonged on a bed and I could never grasp why the various lines and such weren’t just called ‘ropes’. It seemed even the simply things became complicated – provisioning, health vaccinations, visas, passports … it was an endless lists of things to research and I had thousands of things to learn. To top it all off we were still working (building up that cruising kitty), and I was carrying twins. WHOA … hold the phone, I had better back up a bit.

There was a parallel set of events, another one of those snowballs sweeping me away, which were occurring during the time I was joking with Chris about sailing around the world. It began with a simple statement to my sister “You know I would consider being a surrogate for you”. Long story short they were having a difficult time and things were not looking up. The first time I offered it was pretty much passed over; my sister didn’t feel she could ever ask something like that of me. A few months later my sister asked me if I was serious. I told her I was and we spent the weekend discussing what it would be like. At that point my sister still felt it was too much to ask, as she said, “It’s like borrowing a new shirt” … in other words I hadn’t even had my own kids yet, so how could I have hers? When it became clear to me that Chris & I were really going to take off for years unknown I told my sister, “You know if I’m not pregnant by the end of this year [2002] I won’t be able to do this for you”. My sister gave it another go with her fertility doctor, which ended sadly when the doctor told her “it’s time you considered other options”. After that things traveled at warp speed … one minute I was sitting in a business meeting in Sweden, the next minute I was reading an email from my sister saying we could start after the end of my next period … and before I knew it I was shot up with hormones, had what felt like endless doctor appointments, and BAM, October 2002 I was pregnant – with twins! I could write a book about the surrogacy process, my pregnancy, and so on, but rather then get into all that right now I’ll just say it was a fantastic time, and everything went unbelievably smooth.

So I was ‘knocked-up’ in October and in November we moved aboard Billabong. There is a lot of fun to be had when you have two such crazy and unique events going on in your life simultaneously. Imagine people’s surprise as my belly grew, yet our plans for a November departure remained. When it became undoubtedly obvious that I was pregnant the conversions would go something like this:

Unaware person:Soooo, you’re going cruising?” [glance down at my belly]

Me: “Yep,” [long pause for dramatic effect] “we’re leaving this November

Unaware person: [glance at my belly, glance at me, glance at my belly] “November huh?”

Me: “Yep

Unaware person: “So are you, uh, ummm, like, uh” [long pause as they decide if they really want to ask this] “pregnant?”

Me: “Yep” [pause] with twins [internal laugh as I see their eyes bug out]

Me: [because I can’t resist seeing their reaction] They are due in June

At this point the conversation usually stalls out as the person does the math. June, July, August, September, October … five months. FIVE MONTHS … are these guys crazy; they’re going to have twins and leave to go cruising only FIVE MONTHS LATER???? Chris and I kind of liked seeing what they’d say next, usually it was just a bunch of muttering, but we weren’t too mean, we’d always fill them on the surrogacy sooner or later, and usually when the story was done they say something like, “Thank God, I’d thought you’d lost your mind!

Probably our most fun was had with an unsuspecting garage-sale shopper. Chris and I decided to have a huge garage sale when I moved out of my apartment as we figured most the stuff we owned wasn’t worth the storage payment. When I posted the ad for the sale I wanted to make sure people knew this wasn’t a “get rid of junk” sale, but rather there was some good stuff to be had, so my ad stated that we were moving onto a small yacht and leaving, and therefore “everything had to go”. By the time we had the sale it was impossible to miss that I was quite pregnant. One buyer arrived and first thing started asking about what we were doing on a yacht and where we were going to go sailing and where we were going to live, etc etc. When he realized that we were going to cruise offshore and head across the South Pacific to islands unknown he got the look. By now we were quite used to it, and found it hugely entertaining. I think most people would give any two soon-to-be cruisers the look regardless (as most land-lubbers think we’re all crazy), but throw in a huge belly and you really get them going! I guess this garage-sale-shopper didn’t want to be too rude or nosey, at least not all at once, so he would come around and ask the price of something and then a few questions about our plans. Then he would skitter off and continue to browse, before returning a few minutes later with more questions. The entire time he could barely take his eyes off me (or my belly rather). Finally he felt comfortable enough to ask if I was pregnant, to which I replied “yes”. As usual I didn’t elaborate (I know Chris and I are evil, but it was just too fun). Next he told Chris, “Congratulations! Chris, who is more evil than me, responded with, “they aren’t mine!” and walked away to help another shopper. I almost lost it [with laughter] when I saw this guy’s jaw drop, but I also felt a little pity for him, as he was surely about to blow a brain fuse from trying to figure it all out … not to mention the poor guy had been hanging around for over an hour. So after letting a few minutes pass I went over and gave him the entire scoop. Unsurprising, he was much relieved at finally being able to put all the pieces together!

Yachts, at least Billabong, are not known for having copious amounts of space. So it didn’t take long before I seemed to fill our entire salon. Towards the end I even had to cook sideways, as both my belly and me couldn’t fit into the u-shape where the galley stove is! More than once Chris commented, “I hope I won’t have to unglue the dodger for the crane lift”, yeah, he’s real funny like that! But it also got me out of a lot of boat work – it’s not like I was very limber or could squeeze into small spaces. I wasn’t the least bit upset when I couldn’t help Chris take apart and clean the head hoses. As I did my pregnancy Yoga I said to him, “Gee honey I’d love to help but I just don’t think I can get in there!” Chris never forgets how he could hear the DVD saying, “now take a deep breath and relax”, over and over, while he’s drenched in old piss and slime, sweating away in the head!

Chris and I have a lot of fun (somewhat jokester) memories from the surrogacy, especially with how it effected our preparations and living aboard. But one thing is for sure; it also strengthened our relationship. Chris was there for me, every step of the way. The procedure started with hormone treatments that basically put me into menopause (yes, hot flashes and all), and ended with full-blown post-pregnancy hormones. Chris always said it was like seeing 70 years of his life with me! We both thought the other was amazing, and we found that even when hormones were askew we could work through just about anything.

So it was all great really; Chris was making grand progress in getting Billabong ready, and I was organizing our lives into spreadsheets (seems one of my pregnancy hormones LOVED Excel). Everything was passing by in a flurry of events and we were indeed looking ready to go. Except for one minor detail … I still didn’t know how to sail. We had grand plans in the beginning for taking Billabong out, but work and boat projects kept us too busy, and then eventually I was just too big. No problem we thought, we’ll go out during my maternity leave, but after the birth I was too anemic and “not even allowed to vacuum” (as stated by my doctor). We did finally get Billabong out for some sea trials; two weekends in the Channel Islands. In both trips unpredicted weather came up and we ended up beating in 25-30 kts. I must say I was beginning to wonder about this whole sailing thing, but Chris always looked like he was having such a grand time! While it certainly did serve for some good practice, I was very relieved when more than one person told me that cruising was NOT about beating to weather in 20+ kts (not until you come down from the Marshall Islands or go up the Red Sea anyway)!!!

I didn’t feel like the two weekends out was quite enough time under my belt, so I also signed up for three ASA courses. These were great and at least got me saying halyards and sheets rather than “that rope over there”. I think the last instructor may have gotten a bit annoyed with me when I kept asking “how would I do that alone”, especially with regards to the man overboard drills (where they always have two or three of the students working the boat to pick up the float). I also had to warn Chris that it would be best if he wore a helmet of some sort when sailing since more than once I ran over the poor floating man-overboard doll (in my defense this is because I was the ONLY student trying to do the drill alone and practicing how to come around a second time in case I missed the first time … I NEVER ran her over on a first attempt try, or when I had another student helping!). It seems I annoyed a lot of instructors that year; I thought the First Aid guy was going to kick me out when I kept saying “but what if I CAN’T call 911?” Anyway, I think Chris may have preferred the untrained me; especially when I started in with the “but in class we did it this way”! Imagine his surprise when we are coming into the dock and he says “okay you’ll jump off with the spring line and then ”, I cut him off saying “but in class we didn’t use a spring line, we did it this way …”, to which Chris replies “Yes, but that was with a side-tie and a much lighter boat, you need the spring line”, to which I say, “but I don’t understand what a spring line is”, and so it goes. This goes back and forth for a few minutes; meanwhile we are getting closer and closer to our slip. Finally, as we are turning INTO the slip, Chris says “Look just do it this way and we’ll talk about it later”. I respond with a big ‘ol “Umph”, but manage to jump off and secure the boat without any further dramatics. It turned out to be a good lesson for both of us, and we came to the conclusion that as a whole we would both be making decisions, but any in-the-moment decisions would be made by Chris and we would talk it over afterwards (making any changes to our methods at that time instead of in the midst of the “action”).

Are a few trips to the Channel Islands as a guest, two sea trial weekends, and three ASA courses enough to hop aboard and sail away? I guess so, because that’s what we did. We both would’ve liked if I had more experience but we took things slow and Chris stayed patient. We opted for day sails instead of overnighters whenever possible and overtime I became more and more tuned into the boat. We must’ve done something right because here we are still cruising, five years later!

When I think about that year of preparation and pregnancy I don’t think that I was in control of anything – I just tried to keep up. It was a great year though; there is a certain satisfaction in working towards such a grand goal and seeing progress, and no greater joy then seeing my sister and her husband holding newborns. Our year of preparation was nothing like we’d planned, but I wouldn’t change a day of it. I still smile when I think about the day we pulled away from the dock leaving Ventura, with me thinking, “it was just a joke …”

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Footprints on my Toilet Seat

Current Location: Finike, Turkey
Current Position: 36 17.63 N 30 08.98 E
Next Destination: Turkey Coast (between Finike & Marmaris)

I guess I learned at an early age that there are various ways to do the “doo” thing. We lived in a very old house (1700’s) heated by a system my dad referred to as cold dust, when my parents decided it was time for an addition. We went to visit the architect at his house and almost immediately after arriving I had to go. I was directed to this palatial room, longer than any room in our house, which had all sorts of fancy gizmos. Multiple sinks, a bathtub, Jacuzzi, stall shower, toilet and a drinking fountain. “Wow this is pretty cool”, I thought. Ok I was like eight or something and easily impressed. As I was finishing my business, I realized I was thirsty so I moseyed on over to get a drink from the “fountain”. Well luckily for me I was never trained to shut the door when I was in the bathroom (or most likely, ignored my training). Just as I was about to take a drink I heard the architects kids gasp in horror and run screaming in French to their parents. Do you get it yet? French porcelain thing that squirts water straight up... it was actually a bidet. It took a little explaining, some very confused looks on my part but I finally understood the near horror of my actions (yet I still wanted to know why they wanted to sit on a drinking fountain). Ever since that moment, I’ve looked at bathrooms just a tad bit differently.

I always joke with KT that we are not tourists but rather world travelers. When you are a tourist, the places you visit typically cater to your needs and set up surroundings that make you feel comfortable and at home. That is not the same in most remote villages or way off the beaten track. Most islanders don’t have running water; they shower/wash in a communal pool in the stream and electricity runs for an hour or two at night if the village can afford to run the generator. We hadn’t experienced anything too odd until we were headed North from Fiji to the Marshall Islands. In Kiribati, they have very cool houses built from natural materials tied together with hand made coconut fiber rope. Each room is a separate building and it takes a while until you realize the bathroom just isn’t part of the plan. During the dry season they get most of their drinking water from holes in the atolls so they can’t just go dropping their droppings near their water source. Instead they head out to the beach right near the waters edge. I was on a stroll one day, when I stumbled upon two sets of footprints. You could tell the couple was close, skipping and playing around with each other as they meandered down the beach. I followed the track around the corner until I came to a spot with two sets of footprints side by side, facing out towards the sea. Behind each set was, how do I put this, “a present” and in between the two sets of footprints was a heart drawn in the sand. Ah the joys of young love.

We had read Sex lives of Cannibals, which describes life in Tarawa, pretty much the armpit of Kiribati if not the world. We knew there was a section of Tarawa where everyone went to the bathroom on this certain point. Crap peninsula, dump point; I don’t remember the name. We stumbled upon it by mistake while we were checking out the World War II relics. There is a HUGE public restroom that now sits on the entrance to the beach at the point. In fact, you have to work hard to get around it. But when Mother Nature calls, the locals do what feels natural and head straight for the ocean. The restroom was vacant, the beach was: em-BARE-ASS-ingly packed with poopers. We struggled through the maze of rocks and people not knowing where to look.

We spent the better part of two years in remote places before we arrived on the shores of Australia. The Gold Coast was amazing and we swallowed the hook in a bay (aptly named Bums Bay); across from a HUGE mall where you could buy almost everything. We arrived around Christmas and almost immediately stumbled upon a vendor (you know those ones they put in the middle of the walkways around the holidays) selling add-on bidet toilet seats. It had all the bells and whistles; an automatic raising/lowering seat and lid, a heated seat (in Australia?), heated water, and a warm air dryer. It even had a remote control with a multitude of options; bottom wash (or posterior; the documentation was confusing), enema wash, feminine wash, warm air dry along with all sorts of water and nozzle controls. The icons for the buttons were good, and umm, very visual. Can you imagine the design review process for those? The seat even had adjustment settings like those automatic car seats, you know for driver 1 and driver 2. Next thing you know they’ll have voice activation. “Um yeah Hi it’s Chris.. um and.. ah..Crap”. Anyway I have no idea why it was so intriguing. Maybe because I hadn’t seen a real toilet seat in a while, but much to KT’s shear and utter embarrassment, I had to take a closer look!! Well this poor vendor must have thought he had a hot one because he was all over me, sharing the very important health and hygiene benefits I would receive if I only spent $1490 (I would love to have enough money where I could justify spending that kind of money on something like that). I listened to his spiel with my hand in my pocket pinching myself pretty hard so that I wouldn’t laugh in his face. I took a brochure AND a $100 off coupon but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I finally told him we live on a boat, with a vacuum-sealed seat that is required to flush the toilet. Needless to say he was confused and he tried whole-heartedly to find a way to get me into an automatic healthy seat. Anyway I still have the brochure if anyone’s interested.

We did the rally from Darwin through Indonesia to Singapore, with cruisers who ran the gambit of backgrounds from the very experienced cruisers of Europe, all the way through to newbie cruisers of Australia who were experiencing their first foreign landfall. Now the rally has been going on quite some time and is a HUGE thing for the Indonesians, who don’t get a lot of tourism in their remote villages. I didn’t really notice it at first, but after a while I realized that the first thing each village did was show us their brand spanking new bathrooms, in some cases the wet paint sign was still hanging. The entire village was very proud, smiling and nodding their heads. You could tell a HUGE amount of effort was spent building these facilities for us. They were more modern than any building in the village and even had concrete floors (which must have actually cost them money). KT and I were embarrassed to think that someone must have complained enough that they were told to take the time and effort to build the facilities (which will most likely only get used on one day a year). I really hope they got more feedback about previous visits than the cruisers want toilets. Can you imagine what the local must have thought about our values if that was the case? Anyway it was kind of funny because the next shock came when people actually went to use them and realized they were pit toilets. They had incredibly nice brand new porcelain footpads, with cast in non-skid (hey it helps), which again cost them money. You ask for a toilet, that’s what you are going to get in Indonesia; because that’s how they do toilets. Anyway KT and I found the problem wasn’t toilets vs. no toilets in the villages, it was the six hour bus ride (with one stop) after eating very greasy native food of unknown origin, kicking up the southern hemisphere version of Montezuma’s Revenge.

In Oman we visited a maritime museum, which showed older ship construction techniques and even had a ¼ scale replica of a ship deck complete with the head. The head was basically a box that rested precariously over the ships rail with a hole in the floor and a bucket on a string. Well I thought it was older ship construction until we arrived in Eritrea and I watched a man feverishly dipping a bucket in the water before he passed the four sailboats at anchor. I was trying to take photos of a working fishing boat with my telephoto lens and I didn’t understand the urgency of his situation; until I saw he was sitting in a box, over the rail. Well in Sudan, they get rid of the side of the box all-together. Each day in Suakin we passed these small fishing boats, which had two planks, attached to the back of the boat. They were parallel to the water, connected in the front by a cross beam, and supported by sturdy ropes to the upper rail. I told KT what I thought they were but it wasn’t until weeks later that we saw them but to the test. It was blowing 30-35 knots and we were in a dodgy Marsa anchorage when a small fishing boat entered the bay with 10 people on board. They anchored upwind and to the side of us. One by one each person went to the stern, adjusted their robes and did their business. Some of them even waved!!

Ok, Finally the footprints on the toilet seat; hey this IS a chronological journey. When we arrived in Hurghada Egypt the marina was complete but the surrounding buildings were just shells. There were only two or three bathrooms; each with a shower, one sitter and one stander. Well the first thing you realize is toilet paper is optional and not provided. Luckily being the world travelers we are, 9 times out of 10 we do the paper check FIRST! Ok mad dash to the boat, grab a roll, run back to the toilet, wait for the person who stole your spot.. ok fine. Business done. Oh did I mention that most toilets have trash bins for the USED paper. It’s pretty much been the norm, with the exception of NZ and Australia, and I’m not sure if it’s the plumbing systems or just habit. Anyway, I happened to notice that there is a sink in the stall with the toilet, and there is this funky fitting on the back aimed at a 45 degree angle directly towards the direct center of the seat, hmm what’s that (..more later). Since there was lots of construction, the bathrooms were shared with the workers and there was lot’s of mud and sand tracked in on the floor, and THE SEAT. I guess if you are used to squat pit toilets, that’s the way you do it; even if you have to balance precariously on a raised wobbly platform. As time went on, it got wobblier and wobblier as the seat attachments worked loose. Well this must have caused more and more balance issues, with the appropriate radical corrections, until finally the entire toilet worked it way loose from floor and whatever held the thing down.

Once again someone must have complained because we were all issued a golden key to one set of facilities. They actually started putting toilet paper at the toilet AND the urinal, I don’t think they really understand what we do with it. Plus it’s bloody expensive, we went to “stock up” and KT grabbed a brand she knew, imported for a measly $3 a roll!! Not!! They use their hands, and in most Arab culture’s it very offensive to touch someone or eat with your left hand (“the wiper”). Due to the lack of early morning use by the construction workers, I must have been first to arrive on the scene one morning. I’m relaxing, enjoying the peace and quiet, when I hear this muted buzzing sound; kind of like 20-30 mosquitoes flying in a covered porcelain bowl. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out where the noise was coming from, when I stand up and a cloud of mosquitoes flies out of the gapping hole that was just recently occupied by my behind. Luckily they were too traumatized by their experience to think of biting their way out. Try and explain those welts!!

We were on our inland travel trip, when I realized what that thing was sticking out of the back of the toilet. You remember; 45 degree angle, aimed center of the seat. Well our $18 hotel room had a nice puddle of water on the bathroom floor that was obviously from the leaky toilet. Being a self-proclaimed handy man and a water Nazi, I decided I’d take a gander behind the base of the toilet. Just as my head reached the side of the bowl, I touched a valve and water shot straight over my shoulder into the shower behind me. “Holy crap what was that?” Well I just discovered the Egyptian version of the Bidet. Luckily this was the modern version, developed after they perfected computer simulation to get the angle and pressure just right. I had seen a couple of older models with a small piece of metal tubing coming straight out the back to the rough center before it took a 90 degree bend straight up. It looked more like a torture device, and if you didn’t realize what they used it for, there was no way your were going to get anything close to it.

The worst was on the trains. We took the basic train from Luxor to Aswan and realized just exactly how bad a toilet can get. There was no seat, the rim was covered by someone’s attempt at making a seat out of 100’s layers of toilet paper, and someone left a present without flushing which just went straight to the tracks below. Luckily I was just standing, but I thought of the poor people who might come after me, plus I would have been horrified if I opened the door and someone was waiting to go in. I mean, do you explain that it was like that when you got there; what is the etiquette on that? What if they don’t speak English? Anyway I tried to find a flush button, and finally found a foot lever like on those trashcans where it lifts the lid. Now you really have to picture this and understand my noble intentions.” Imagine, hmm.. yeah that must be it”, followed by a quick foot press. Well in this case it shot a massive stream of water straight out of the magic hole in the back of the bowl right into the center of my chest. “Awe come on!!” or something similar to that effect. Now I know some of you guys have leaned up against a wet counter and gotten that wet strip across your crotch, kind of embarrassing eh? Well imagine trying to explain water dripping from your chest all the way down your front. That’s it; I was done. No more worrying about the people behind me. I didn’t even care if the Egyptians thought all Americans were disgusting. All I wanted was a normal bathroom. I was dreaming, no, I was praying for modern facilities!!

When we first arrived in Finike Turkey, we couldn’t believe our luck. Nice Marina, cool town within walking distance, Saturday markets, and the biggest heads we’ve seen since Singapore. Nice and clean, with marbled floors, no waiting. KT and I both commented to each other when we got back on the boat. You know you’re in trouble when you get giddy over a bathroom… but we both did!! These facilities are so modern they have motion sensors on the paper towel dispensers and motion detecting light switches for each unit (shower or toilet). Now I don’t know if the Turks get jiggy with it on the toilet and in the shower, but Flash Gordon couldn’t finish in the time they give you. Now at 41, I know where my bits are, so showering in the dark isn’t really a problem, but you feel kind of like a complete lunatic sitting on the toilet or bare naked in the shower jumping up and down and waving at some sensor just to make the light go on. Maybe it’s all just a ploy by “Candid Camera”. If so, you’ll soon see me waving like a fool on the crapper in a couple of months. Please don’t let this be my fifteen minutes of fame.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Just a Bowl of Cherries

Current Location: Finike, Turkey
Current Position: 36 17.63 N 30 08.98 E
Next Destination: Turkey Coast (between Finike & Marmaris)

At last we made it through the Red Sea … another body of water under our belts and a huge sigh of relief. While Egypt may have tested my patience at times, the Red Sea as a whole was fantastic. Yes, we had to work for it and yes we got pounded a few times, but in the end I’m happy we decided to go through the Red Sea. I feel that it was a very unique opportunity and that I have now seen a different view of a somewhat conflicted part of the world.

We arrived in Finike, Turkey on July 5th. Already I’m in love. Green hills, blue water, puffy white clouds, and more fresh fruit than one could ever eat. We’ve been in the marina longer then we intended (don’t we just always seem to get stuck) … the downside is we will owe a small fortune when we go to leave, but on the upside, we were around for the Saturday market. What you may not know about me is that I’m obsessed with food. So a large market of goods I haven’t seen in awhile really “floats my boat”.

Fabulous. That’s the word for it. The first thing that hits you is the smell … gorgeous scents lofting through the air – seriously it smelled sooo good I feel that only a poet could accurately describe it. The peaches alone made my mouth water, and when we bit into one right then and there, juices dripped off our chins and both us could hardly contain our moans. I’m sure the local vendor now thinks Americans have never tasted a peach before! Honestly, I’ve NEVER eaten such a tasty peach.

Next up were the cherries. WOW! Oh man they are so good – we got a whole kilogram. And capsicums (bell peppers to those back home) … finally nice firm, un-wilted capsicums and they had red ones too (my favorite). Fresh basil and huge piles of spices were around every corner. And there was real lettuce, not just cabbage! Apples, pears, plums, grapes, and oranges … the list just goes on and on. To top it all off, not only were the prices listed (so we knew we weren’t getting the ‘white price’), but things were very affordable too. I thought for sure I had it wrong when I got a gigantic bag of cucumbers (probably 20 small guys) for only 1 lyre! [We later learned that Russia had recently banned certain Turkish produce imports, so there was a surplus supply. Luckily the ban has just been lifted, so business should get back to normal for the locals].

It was the kind of market where we could just hold out some money and know the vendor would only take what was due! I probably went overboard, we’ll now have to eat fresh fruits and vegetables ten times a day to ensure nothing goes bad … but it was so fantastic I couldn’t help myself.

There were also stalls of goat cheeses, yogurt, & olives, warm breads, and roasted nuts. Everyone was friendly, offering up tastes & samples. It was so colorful we came back an hour later with the camera. As always we were cautious with the photo taking, always asking for permission. It’s interesting the mixed responses you get, some people are very adamant with a strong “NO”, while others want you to take multiple photographs of them. Many thought I was strange when I focused the camera on the fruits & vegetable rather than the people … I mean who hasn’t seen a bunch of tomatoes before???

As Chris and I sit in the cockpit with a bowl of cherries between us we can’t help but think of the old saying, “Life’s just a bowl of cherries”. Ain’t it true???
Continue reading "Just a Bowl of Cherries"...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Moving On

Current Location: Finike, Turkey
Current Position: 36 17.63 N 30 08.98 E
Next Destination: Turkey Coast (between Finike & Marmaris)

Our big news this month is that BILLABONG IS FOR SALE! Now before you go thinking that we're quitting or that this seems sudden, let us explain. For the last year we have talked of putting Billabong on the market when we reached the Mediterranean. It's not that we want to stop cruising, trust us we don't, but Chris is no spring chicken and KT's biological alarm clock has been screaming for the last two years. It is time we started thinking about a family and with that comes the J-word (JOB)! It's always good to look ahead a bit, so we are putting Billabong on the market now to give us plenty of time to find the right buyer. And until she is sold we will keep on cruising, posting BLOGS, and enjoying life.

It's a mixed bag of emotions for us. On one hand we miss our friends and families and are ready for the next adventure of our own lives (mainly starting a family), but on the other hand, we LOVE cruising and can't imagine a different life. Moving home will be a HUGE adjustment ... I suppose we are secretly hoping she doesn't sell too fast, as we'd love a bit of time cruising the Mediterranean. It seems that time has gone by too fast, and there is still so much we have yet to see ... ahh, but I suppose we have to leave something for our retirement years!

If you are interested in knowing the details of Billabong's sale (or have a friend who is interested) check out www.sailbillabong.com/for-sale.htm. In the meantime, keeping checking out our BLOG because now that we are living in a more connected part of the world we will be posting more BLOGs.
Continue reading "Moving On"...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Season 5 Interactive Map w/GPS tracks

Continue reading "Season 5 Interactive Map w/GPS tracks"...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Season 5 Photo Journals

Season 5 Route

Continue reading "Season 5 Photo Journals"...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Passage Blurbs: Suez to Finike

Passage Route from Suez to Finike

Night 3 - July 4, 2008

Good night, nice winds looks like we'll make it tomorrow!! It's so nice to sail again.

Night 2 - July 3, 2008

light winds but better than rolly seas.. caught a Mediterranean Tuna but threw it back because I was sleeping (bad fisherman)!!

Night 1 - July 2, 2008

Through the Canal and on our way to Turkey.. expecting light winds so it might be a slow trip.. but we are SAILING!!

Continue reading "Passage Blurbs: Suez to Finike"...