Tuesday, May 23, 2023



If you've been sharing our adventure for a while you may remember a time when we were in Portland Maine with a broken engine, September growing old and the nights becoming uncomfortably cold. We were in limbo, waiting for two different shops to give us a quote on the engine swap, anxiously anticipating the arrival of our new engine. Covid was still rearing its ugly head causing manpower and materials delays, and we were getting crushed between the need for mandatory repairs and the inevitable arrival of winter.

A rock and a hard spot. Nothing to do but wait. One of the shops hoped aloud to have us sailing South by Thanksgiving but weren't sure if they could pull it off yet.

We fired up the Mr. Buddy propane heater and rubbed our hands in front of it before tucking in to bed, coaxing the dog onto the blanket to better share our body heat.

With nothing productive to do, my brain did what it does, it spun and spun and spun until I wore myself out, then it continued to spin in my sleep causing bizarre and intense dreams that awakened me in cold sweats, gasping for breath.

It's important to note that the Maine Yacht Center lives right next door to the B&M baked beans factory. Downwind, in fact, and often we would fall asleep to the smell of baked beans being prepared for canning.

One of these nights I was flopping around in bed with my brain doing its pressure-cooker routine when my subconscious must have picked up on the baked bean smell and registered it as toast. Probably then it took the additional leap to associate it somehow with fire and therefore dangerous. But in my semi-conscious and exhausted state, I sat straight up and the shout that escaped my lips was TOAST!!!!!!

Yes, I woke myself up shouting toast. The funnier part was that it woke Lance too, and he leapt out of bed ready to run, both fists closed and swinging at the empty air - fully prepared to fight whatever it was from a dead sleep. He was absolutely gonna destroy... toast. Then we blinked at each other and both of us crinkled our brows at the same time. Toast?

Later that morning, over coffee and - you guessed it, toast - we agreed it might be best to hand the keys over to the shop and let them do the work over the winter. It turned out to be the right decision because the Nor'Easter that came in Thanksgiving weekend was epic, but since Minerva was safe on stands and we were tucked in with family in California, neither ship nor crew were bothered much by the vicious storm.

Why do I bring this story to you now, so long after the fact? Because I now recognize the brain-pressure-cooker pattern. It reemerges whenever we are on the cusp of some brand new adventure. I've concluded it's my body's way of trying to steer me back into the comfort zone. Like an undermining pre-teen frenemy, it whispers these hateful little messages:

you can't do this

it's too scary

you aren't clever enough, prepared enough, strong enough

you aren't a good enough sailor

and on and on and on and on

Last night's dream was about a vicious storm attacking us. It had a face that looked a lot like Animal the Muppet, and it growled at us and tried to swallow Minerva whole while we tacked and tacked to escape the giant red snapping mouth. Ridiculous, right?

Must mean we are stepping up to the starting line of a brand-new adventure. Yep, 500+ miles across the open Caribbean Sea from St. Croix to Curacao. This will be our longest nonstop sail yet by double.


Shut up brain. 

It's gonna be awesome.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Slice of Life -USVI National Parks

The turtle was grazing heartily, waving its front fins now and then to dust the sand off of the grasses before chomping a fresh bite. The remora on its back would occasionally release and take a lap through the dust clouds, snapping its mouth, before reattaching to the turtle shell for its slow ride to the next buffet. Neither of them seemed to care that I was still hovering above them, arms and legs limp and breathing comfortably through my snorkel.

Loud splashing and squealing alerted me that the next horde of snorkelers had been deposited from the local fast boat. They all had matching yellow snorkels and when they flailed noisily right past the peaceful turtle, the remora and me, I let out a sigh of relief for the three of us. A few minutes later I noticed a father and son at the back of the pack, also in yellow snorkels but swimming comfortably and quietly so I invited them to see my turtle and we shared the moment together. I swam back to the boat, rinsed down, and went back to my laptop to finish the rest of the day's work. It was, after all, a Tuesday and this was officially my lunch hour.

Ballast stones from Dutch ships of the 1700s blend with more modern bricks and concrete, documenting the passage of time as the ruins above Waterlemon Cay age and crumble.

Later that same afternoon, Lance was watching a pair of cuttlefish changing colors to match the background as they moved through the reef when he was surprised by a GoPro camera on a selfie stick being shoved in front of his face. The afternoon snorkel tour boat horde had snuck up on him while he was engrossed in fish watching. The spark of annoyance was immediately replaced by a giggle when he realized he could snorkel back anytime for more cephalopod viewing while these people were in a rush to cram all the fun into their short vacations as possible. In fact, we had followed the cuttlefish for quite a while the day before and had been treated to a completely different light show, that one more like flashing neon signs. So he swam back to the boat to get dinner started while I wrapped up my laptop work and downloaded something to watch that night under the stars before shutting down Starlink for the night.

Minerva rests on a mooring in the USVI National Park

We had arrived in the USVI burnt out, cranky and exhausted from the constant thorny path strategizing and night passages, and had agreed to spend a couple of weeks just resting and decompressing before discussing our next big passage, the jog across the Caribbean Sea from the USVI to Curacao, where we should be safe for hurricane season. We were just coming into the second week and finally feeling rested, finding renewed vigor for the next leg of our adventure.

Anchoring is prohibited in the National Park, and mooring balls cost $26/night. An iron ranger floats in each harbor and it's easy to paddle up and shove a check through the slot. This method ensures a healthy reef, since anchors are not randomly dragging across it, and also limits the number of visitors each night. The reefs here are some of the healthiest we've seen so far, and our stays have been blissfully peaceful.

The fresh groceries aboard the boat were dwindling, as was the fresh water and our selection of clean laundry. On Saturday we would need to leave the National Park and head into the nearest town to handle these matters. Undoubtedly as we schlepped our laundry up the hot concrete streets the planes above us would be winging the snorkelers of the week back to their normal lives, tales of turtles and cuttlefish and turquoise waters on their lips.