Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Superstition or just an excuse for a party? As we get older it is funny how we let superstitions find their way into our lives. I am sure we all have a few things we do daily that are just plain weird. I know I do. I won’t go into much detail about that though or you might think I am weirder than I actually am. The most popular superstition in Puerto Rico is related to the Moon. They say all the crazy things that happen seem to happen when it’s a full moon (lunacy). The biggest thing I have noticed about the full moon in PR, are the drivers. It seems that the friendliest people to into the most unfriendly people behind the wheel during a full moon. Unfortunately, this seems to last for several days before and after the full moon. I am not excluding myself. I also turn into a lunatic driver during that time. So let me get back on track. Superstitions, we all have them. We just may not realize how important they are until something happens. We recently purchased a small boat in San Juan and sailed it to the west side of the island. On the way we had a few challenging things happen. So now we take superstitions a little more seriously. The boat we purchased came with a name that we did not like and it was very difficult to say, “Senses Pleasures”. Can you say that ten times fast? Or can you imagine how that name sounds on a scratchy VHF radio? Plus as my son says, “it sounds like a strip club!” So we decided on a new name and started moving forward with changing the registration and USCG documentation. You would think this is an easy task. Nope, I am convinced that things that should be easy never are. After several months we were granted approval to officially change the name and update registration and USCG Documentation. We then removed the name from the boat. We did not put the new name on the boat until we completed a ceremony to the gods. It is a very bad omen to change the name of a vessel. But it can be done if some certain steps are followed. The process of changing the name of a boat is more involved than removing the old name and slapping on the new. Basically it’s an excuse to have a party, drink champagne, and have some very good spirits. The first step is to congratulate and celebrate the new owners. I thought this part was funny. You must convince the boat, yes the boat that the new owners are worthy and generous. The boat has to believe this. I am pretty sure our boat believes this now. Then and only then can you precede with the ceremony. First you must thank the previous owners and gods for their previous stewardship of the vessel. Then the old name must be written on a small metal plaque and thrown into the sea. Of course, it is important to remove all traces of that old name from everything on the boat before the ceremony. The previous name will now be retired and stricken from Poseidon’s list. A final toast with good champagne is made to all who are present, then to the previous owners, and finally to the gods of the wind and the seas. It was a wonderful day. We invited all the important members of the maiden voyage to this ceremony. We had guests travel from Maryland, Isabela, Rincon and Hormigueros. Keep in mind that it is very important to honor the gods as they grant safe passage over their seas. Plus, it is excellent excuse to have a party, have a few drinks and reminisce. I am not a superstitious person but after the first voyage I am not willing to tempt fate. And watch out for the next full moon as this lunatic will now be driving a boat. ARRRRRRRRRHHHHHHHHHH, that's pirate for lets have a party....

Monday, August 1, 2016

Three years in paradise, let’s catch up…
Berkley, Liam, Bill (dad), Madison, Jenn (mom)
My lovely bride has become a horse lover. She volunteers helping at a local horse stable. This keeps her pretty busy. She has also rescued several abandoned dogs and puppies. She, along with ARF of Rincon ( www.arfrincon.org ), have found homes for some of them as far away as Texas, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The stories behind the rescue of two of those puppies would break your heart. So I will not share that. I know it was hard for her to say goodbye to some of these little dumplings but they are so blessed to have the loving homes they have now. I will admit I also became very attached to one of them too. We named her Bella. She was an adorable little blue nose.
Saying good bye never gets easier, does it?
Our oldest child Berkley moved back home and is expecting twins. She has a huge heart and will make a good mother. She has had a few difficult years trying to find her way. I am hoping this will make her a strong parent. I guess it is true, Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? So it looks like we will have little ones running around this October. I can only hope that we will be half the grandparents our parents have been.
Our middle child graduated from a high school in Mayaguez and left for Alaska in June. She just missed the snow covered mountains and fresh salmon far too much. Wait, she traded sun and grouper for rain and salmon. What? This can’t be right… She is an amazing young lady and is trying to find her own path in life. I will admit I had a little trouble with letting her go. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
I received a care package today from Madison reminding me how much I miss my baby girl. She knows exactly what to write to bring instant tears to my eyes and the canned salmon didn’t help…. Parenting is so much harder than I expected it to be. I miss her terribly. Saying goodbye never gets easy.
Our youngest, Liam has turned 16 and is driving in Puerto Rico. He has a few bad driving habits including refusing to use his turn signal. I know, it’s no different than anyone else in PR. Liam says, the turn signal just gives the driver behind him the unfair advantage. I wonder where he got that one? Be careful what you say to a teenage boy even if you are joking. He remembers everything. Gosh darn these kids. I am convinced they are trying to give us heart attacks. He also has become an impressive sailor and placed second in his first real yacht race. He has two more years of high school and has adapted to Puerto Rican life quicker than the rest of us. He is a straight A student at a private all Spanish speaking school. He has a heart of gold and is one of the most caring souls I have ever known.
Above is a photo of our sailboat race crew from April of 2016. It was a great family event. We placed second under the helpful hands of my father Kurt, mother Jeannette, nephew Mark, nephew Adam, lovely bride Jenn, daughter Berkley, daughter Madison, my son Liam and good friend Julio.
And now for me. I am first and foremost a father. This job has been more challenging than I had ever expected. Raising two beautiful girls and a high energy son in the Caribbean has not been an easy task. I have had some great highs and some tremendous lows. I will admit, I remember the highs more than the lows. If you need advice with raising your teenage daughters or son? I have no answers. Just pray……. And to finish I have to bring up one more thing. Saying goodbye, never gets easy. Just make sure you use the turn signal so my son has the unfair advantage.
The spring speed bump

It’s been a very busy spring. The kids have kept us super busy with school functions and graduations. Everyone in Puerto Rico takes the graduation ceremony very serious. I remember going to my High School graduation soaking wet and only having only one shoe on. That is a long story that had something to do with a sailing.

The school graduations in Puerto Rico are completely different from what I am used to. The clothes, hair, makeup and shoes are all perfect. It honestly felt like I was going to multiple celebrity weddings. I have never witnessed such a thing. The outfits everyone wore were straight from Madison Ave.

Another amazing thing here is the parents are actually encouraged to participate in everything including the Prom and Senior Class trip. What makes this so different from the states is the kids actually want their parents to attend. In the states the kids want their parents as far away as possible. It was unbelievably refreshing and I love how important family is to Puerto Ricans. I will admit this is one of my favorite things about Puerto Rico.  

We also bought a house. Yes, we are real Puerto Ricans now. That process was less complicated than we have been told. Everyone has said that experience would break us. They told us horrible stories about the banks, realtors and the sellers in Puerto Rico. In fact, the banking process was very simple and was a little faster than we liked. I can’t believe I actually wrote that. But yes, the mortgage process was as simple as pie. We even got very lucky with the sellers as they wanted to move as quickly as we did. So we will start painting, landscaping, and making it ours this week.

At dinner the other night the kids told me moving here was the best decision we have ever made. I will admit this made me feel really good. The decision to move somewhere completely different has been a very difficult one. As a parent I worry every day. Did I make the right choice? Did I complicate my child’s life? Did I make this move for the wrong selfish reasons? And so on. But overall the move from the amazing state of Alaska to a territory in the Caribbean really has been a wonderful experience. We have had our fair share of hardships during this first year. But overall the speed bumps have made us a closer and stronger family. Puerto Rico is an incredible place. I am proud to call it my home.

Side note:
I remember going to a house for sale that that had over twenty speed bumps on the way to it. It was a beautiful home. I just could not get past the speed bumps. It was all I thought about. Can you imagine going over forty speed bumps every day. I have had enough speed bumps in my life. I can’t even remember what the house looked like. I was so fixated on those ridiculous speed bumps.
I often tell my kids that life is full of hardships or speed bumps. Some days those speed bumps are really difficult to get over. Some days you don’t notice them at all. But the trick is to minimize them in everything you do.
Yep, we passed on that house.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A life less ordinary

Maiden voyage of our new Beneteau 361 S/V “Senses Pleasures” name change coming soon. Possible choices, “Address Unknown”, “Anywhere”, “Everywhere”, or “Less than Ordinary”. We haven’t decided yet. Maybe you have some ideas? So here it goes.. As I drove to San Juan last weekend I realized my life is less than ordinary, at least to me. I have always strived to follow my dreams even if some of those dreams have been a little off the wall. I could go on and on. But if you know me, you will know this is true. Once an idea plants its seed it grows into something beyond control. It has not been easy for my wife and three kids. They have had to endure many adventures and travels all over the world. I am thankful that they still continue to still love and follow me. My lovely bride has allowed me to live a life less ordinary. I am so grateful for her dedication to me and the kids for over the last 24 years of fun. Yes, I have been married to the same girl I met in college and she has been the best part of my crazy life. I will also admit that my kids are equally crazy, adventurous and I am proud of their life choices. So I need to get back on track. As my car sped down highway 2 I realized the gravity of what I was about to do. Since I was about thirteen I have dreamt of sailing the Caribbean and very soon I would be living that dream. About a month earlier my son and I were walking the docks in Old San Juan and came across a little sailboat for sale. That’s when the wheels started turning. Liam (14) called the number and before I knew it we had bought a boat. The boats current name is “Senses Pleasures”. Try to say that ten times fast. No, Really. Try it? Liam says, that name sounds like a strip club. I agree so that name will be changed to “Address Unknown” or something else at some point we cant decide. So for the last several weeks we have been driving back and forth to San Juan on the weekends. Each weekend a different child would go with me and we would clean, repair and prep the boat for the impending trip to the west coast of Puerto Rico. It’s not a hard trip but its 125 miles without any safe place to stop. So we wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I kept thinking about all that could go wrong, the things that could break and of the security of the San Juan Harbor. I said to myself, I don’t need to leave the harbor do I? It’s safe and sheltered. Everything I need is right here. If I leave the harbor too many things could go wrong. But the thoughts of floating at sea, the fresh ocean air in my face and the brightest blue ocean splashing against the hull far out weighted the risks. Besides, this was one of my many dreams and I have never let my fears run my life. The day of maiden voyage had finally arrived. My plan was to leave Friday night and sail west for 125 miles to Puerto Real. My weeks of preparation were about to pay off and my anticipation was overwhelming. Our crew of four was ready and capable. My father flew down from Maryland and Meshach (Berkley’s boyfriend) also joined to. This was a blessing as the events of the coming days were unbelievably challenging. We filled the water tanks the fuel tanks and the propane tank. We even tried to empty the holding tank. The batteries were fully charged and the engine had just been completely serviced. Just to show off I went to start the engine to impress my dad and it didn’t start. I was baffled. It just started a few hours earlier! WTF!!!! We hired a local mechanic and he replaced the ignition switch. Then the GPS started to power off for some reason. So we tore the steering console apart and rewired the unit. We thought we fixed it. And decided we were ready for the journey. We went to an early dinner and tried to sleep for a few hours. My plan was to set sail around midnight and arrive at the west coast turn around sunrise. It was a good plan!!!! After a brief nap after dinner we cast off and left the safety of the marina at 12:30. The moon was bright, the skies were clear and the lights of Old San Juan were reflecting off the water in the harbor. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing from the east about 10 knots. The waves were down from 15 feet to 8 foot. It was a perfect time to head west. • 12:30 am Cast off and left San Juan Harbor • 1:00 am Meshach and Liam pass out (My crew of four is down to two) • 1:15 am leaving the safety of San Juan Harbor • 1:30 am at 5 miles north of the Puerto Rico shoreline we turned left and headed west. • 2:00 am autopilot failed (This sucks) My Dad says, “This isn’t good!” • 4:00 am GPS failed (This sucked worse!) My Dad says, “This really isn’t good!” • 5:00 am the wind died to a dead calm (watched a meteor shower) • 6:30 am Liam and Meshach wake up and start trolling for Mahi Mahi. They were not concerned about the problems as those two knew they could swim to shore. We were five miles north of Puerto Rico. They both claimed they could swim that in their sleep. • 7:00 am the batteries died (Now nothing is working, My panic level was increasing) • At 9:00 am we noticed water in the cabin and bilges full of salt water (Now, I’m scared) • At 11;00 am Engine water pump failing (major engine problem, water all over engine room) • At 12:00 pm 12 hours after the journey began we had only travelled 40 miles (The boat speed was only 3-4 knots due to opposing current and barnacle growth on hull. We had planned on travelling at 6-7 knots we were not even half way to where we thought we would be) • 1:00 pm called the Coast Guard for info on towing assistance I had to spell the name of our boat five times as they had no idea what “Senses Pleasures” was. It must have sounded completely different over the VHF radio. (SEATOW was unfortunately on the opposite side of the island and could not assist plus they charge $375/hr) Channel 16--- Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel? Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel again Capt.? Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you spell the name of the vessel Capt.? And so on….. Finally USCG—We do not provide assistance in the waters around Puerto Rico. You will need to call SEATOW located in Ponce, PR. Here is the number. Called SEATOW and they stated they were 6-8 hours away on the opposite side of the island. Basically we were on our own. So we all just looked at each other for several minutes waiting for someone to break that awkward silence. No one did…. • 2:00 pm started to hyperventilate and panic attacks started. • 3:00 pm checked diesel fuel level below ¼ tank (3 gallons) still have 40 miles to go against a 3 knot current. We had already travelled 40 miles and went through 15 gallons. You do the math. It just plan doesn’t add up. How were we going to go the next 40 miles on three gallons? • 5:00 pm made the turn heading south. We are almost out of fuel only 1/8 tank left. • 5:30 pm 10-12 foot waves breaking on north shore (this was scary because If we ran out of fuel we would not be able to avoid the reefs. Its 300 feet deep in front of the reef and an anchor cannot reach or hold in ten foot seas. • 6:30 pm beautiful sunset and I mean beautiful! I should have taken some photos • 7:00 pm sailed past a 200 foot pier and didn’t see it. (No lights, no power, no fun) • 7:30 pm anchored in Aguadilla (no power, no lights and in high surf) • 7:45 pm We paddled ashore to buy a new 12 volt battery and get more fuel. There was a huge party on the beach, live band and dancing. I started to second guess the decision to get a battery and fuel. The thought of manana, manana kept invading my mind. Why do today what I can put off to tomorrow, right? Fiesta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! • 8:00 pm my beautiful bride arrives at the beach to shuttle us to the store. I got a much needed hug and encouragement. Gosh, I love that lady….. • 8:05 pm I realized I could party tomorrow, sad, huh? It sucks being a grown up! • 8:10 pm Meshach leaves us and was replaced by Deliz (Maddie’s boyfriend) I think Meshach was worried that the next day was going to be equally challenging. We didn’t tell Deliz so he had no idea what he was getting into. • 10:00 pm returned to boat filled fuel tank with (4) five gallon jugs in 5 foot waves. This was not easy. Plus the ragging party on the beach was a little distracting. Neighboring sailboat owner swims over to say hi. Funny thing, his name is Sam Adams Owens. He talks with us for several hours. • 12:00 pm Cellphone battery completely dead. Nothing on board to charge it. • 12:30 pm tried to sleep the boat was rocking in the waves violently all night. I wish I would have stayed at the beach party. • 6:30 am pulled anchor and set sail after hot wiring the engine. Dad, MacGyver’d the new battery on deck to the GPS. I will admit it looked a little ghetto but it worked. This is when I realized, Yep, I’m a true sailor! • 7:30 am hit 7 knots for the first time. I was super stoked. • 8:30 am wind died. Yep, the wind died!!!! • 9:00 am motoring against the current is not all that fun. When you see people walking on the beach faster than you are motoring in a boat it’s kind of disheartening. But we did have beautiful skies and we are in the Caribbean on a boat! • 3:00 pm successful navigation through several below surface reefs. Thank god we had a MacGyver on the boat and working GPS! • 4:00 pm Successful navigation into Punta Carenero, Puerto Real • 4:30 pm Ran aground in the marina. Damn it! • 4:35 pm moved around to a deeper side of the marina. • 4:45 pm “Address Unknown” has a new home slip C-15 we were told to go to C-16 but whatever, right? We are in the Caribbean on a boat. • 5:00 pm Super Cold Corona with Lime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I will continue to cast off my fears, set the sails and leave the safety of my harbors. It is my hope and desire that I influence my children to do the same and live a life less than ordinary. Where will we go next?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back to school

It’s the most………………………….wonderful time………………………….of the year….

Back to school time.

It’s an amazing sight. Almost every store is having some form of back to school sale including the Sears furniture department. Plus Gordon’s Jewelry is having a back to school sale. I am not sure how that connects to school but whatever, right? Maybe it does?

The shopping malls are packed with kids and they are super excited. It’s almost like Christmas time in the states. I remember being in sixth grade and saying, “wow, I only have six more years of school. I can’t wait to get out. Then I realized that I forgot to add the college years. Looking back now I wonder why I wanted to get out so bad. School was great. I didn’t have to worry about bills, insurance, retirement or a mortgage. Why was I in such a hurry to worry about those things?

The kids here actually really like going to school. They have incredibly interesting political debates and insights on life. They seem to be wiser than their years. The kids teach each other. They tutor each other and the help each other like I have never seen anywhere but here. The kids here seem to be more connected to current events. These kids are smart!

I will admit since moving to the Caribbean I try not to read or watch the news. It’s actually really hard to do. I encourage you all to try it. I met someone several years ago who said his life has improved since he stopped watching the news.

He said, “The news is just too depressing! Why would anyone want to be depressed? If something major happens in the news I would hear about it at work around the water cooler.” My life is too valuable for that!

This person is a very decorated and high ranking military officer in Washington DC. His advice has been some of the best advice I have actually followed.

The next two weeks will be the very tough in our house. The mood swings have already started. You can easily see the grins turn into frowns with just a mention of school supplies or uniforms. It really is the most wonderful time of year.  

We also have a new addition joining us for a year. Our family of five knuckleheads will soon be a family of six knuckleheads.

I better get a few more surfboards and/or school supplies.