1200+ lbs and counting

Michelle flew back from Florida yesterday,coming in with about 250 lbs of luggage for the us and the boat … add that to the 300 lbs I brought and the 700 lbs they brought when the entire family came down, we are a much heavier boat.

I'm sure the people at the airport weren't too happy to see our family :) ... I think Discovery lowered about 1" into the water

I’m sure the people at the airport weren’t too happy to see our family :) … I think Discovery lowered about 1″ into the water

This bridge opens 3 times a day to let boats from the ocean into the lagoon. This is the second largest salt water lagoon in the Caribbean. It is considered a safe hurricane hole to hide from storms

This bridge opens 3 times a day to let boats from the ocean into the lagoon. This is the second largest salt water lagoon in the Caribbean. It is considered a safe hurricane hole to hide from storms

I’ve been thinking on how to explain where we live, while most of you will have an idea of what boat living may be like, I think that unless you are put in the situation, it is hard to really grasp the nuance of it. We live (all 7 of us), in the equivalent of a small 2 car garage, or about 500 sq ft. Think of that … move your family into your garage … in our garage we have 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a kitchen, a patio, a living room and an office area.

I that garage we have all the food, clothes, toys, electronics that you would need to live. In that garage, we have 2 large truck engines, a generator, 4 tanks totaling 400 gal of diesel, 2 tanks totaling 200 gallons of water, 4 tanks totaling 80 gallons of sewage. We have 5 air conditioners, 14 pumps, 300 ft of chain and 2 large anchors.

Mommy brought all this stuff for Kate on this trip.

Mommy brought all this stuff for Kate on this trip.

St. Martin airport is quite unique, the runway is very close to the beach and the planes come overhead ... great for pictures ... there is a bar on either end. Very cool

St. Martin airport is quite unique, the runway is very close to the beach and the planes come overhead … great for pictures … there is a bar on either end. Very cool

Motoring in Simpson Lagoon

Motoring in Simpson Lagoon

In our garage we carry 7 scuba tanks, 3 full set of dive gear, 11 snorkeling sets, an inflatable kayak, a 10ft dinghy (our car), 6 pool noodles, 8 large fenders (for protecting us when we are docked), 2 portable coolers, 4 boxes of spare parts (for pumps, engines, etc). We just got 4 fishing rods (thanks Grandpa) and a new grill

We have a pantry, 2 refrigerators, a stove, microwave, school closet and toy closet. We have 4 computers, 10+ apple devices, an Xbox (with Kinect), a TV and who knows what else the kids brought with them.

Put the garage in a remote place and have all your stuff flown there in luggage … It is amazing to see how much stuff and systems go into a boat. It is truly amazing to see how designers take advantage of space to provide a living environment .. Discovery by no means is a small boat, she is the average size for most cruising boats today. Since we are a catamaran (2 hulls), we have the living space of an equivalent monohull (traditional boat) which would be over 60ft (or about 1.5x).

We are starting to adjust to our new environment, we are starting to figure out how to live in a garage,with 4 kids and friends … amazing to me, how one adjusts to change … I love the ability that we have to adapt …

This is one of our marina neighbors, saw it today as we went for a walk

This is one of our marina neighbors, saw it today as we went for a walk

The front bedrooms, have escape hatches that look inward, they are close to the water. Kate snapped this picture from hers of a large barracuda just hanging out

The front bedrooms, have escape hatches that look inward, they are close to the water. Kate snapped this picture from hers of a large barracuda just hanging out

We will likely spend about a month here it St. Martin and the surrounding couple of islands (St. Barts and Anguilla) … we will do a bunch of work on the boat and explore the island life. This island, unlike the BVIs is much more “cosmopolitan” … we have found a couple of dance studios (Michelle brought back dance clothes) and an equestrian center (brought back helmet and riding boots).

Our goal for today is to visit a couple of the local marinas, to see which one we will try to settle into for our stay. There are many on the island, but only 5 with swimming pools <bg> … which according to the kids is a requirement.

Our restaurant  was right on the beach of this nice little town (Grand Case) on the French side of the island

Our restaurant was right on the beach of this nice little town (Grand Case) on the French side of the island

Watching BrainPop videos and learning ... I think she explained how the immune system worked after this.

Watching BrainPop videos and learning … I think she explained how the immune system worked after this.

Playing with our strand of ribbon lights ... we are trying to figure out how to add better lighting to areas of the boat

Playing with our strand of ribbon lights … we are trying to figure out how to add better lighting to areas of the boat

Food and stuffs are much cheaper here that in the BVI’s … a small jar of peanut butter on Tortola was $10 … here about $6 … still more expensive than Florida, but much better. The available choices here are also much more, more food, more stores … just more of everything. This one island has 4x the population of the BVIs (all islands) or about 10x the population of Tortola.

I think so far, our favorite thing is the French food …love it, crepes, bread, proper cheese … :)

 

Another day in Paradise …

… at least that’s how most morning greetings go … “Good morning, looks like another day in paradise.” … and for us it was our day to leave the British Virgin Islands and move on to another Caribbean destination.

In a great little beach club on the island of Anageda, we met Cocoa the bar goat, she is partial to fries and tequila :)

In a great little beach club on the island of Anageda, we met Cocoa the bar goat, she is partial to fries and tequila :)

A tough Anageda gang, know for their hammock exploits

A tough Anageda gang, know for their hammock exploits

Just hanging out with my buddy and a cold beer (he was drinking harder stuff)

Just hanging out with my buddy and a cold beer (he was drinking harder stuff)

Aside from us, the chef,a couple of the workers and the bar tender ... the place had a few "locals"

Aside from us, the chef,a couple of the workers and the bar tender … the place had a few “locals”

 

Weather was looking great, winds about 15 mph (a little more than the 12 they forecasted), sunny … our destination, a mere 90 miles away … this in a car is just under 2 hours, for us, at about 15mph it would be 6 hrs… We planned to leave between 6 and 7, but with only a 6 hr crossing … we stayed a little later,had breakfast and set off around 8am.

The boat beside us took top honors as "party barge" ... bunch of couples celebrating the 50th birthday of the captain. They had a pool, loud music, the necessary cases of alcohol, coconut bikini tops,fake  porn star mustaches and a "who's the hottest guy" contest with judges ... we are putting this one down as adding to the education of the kids

The boat beside us took top honors as “party barge” … bunch of couples celebrating the 50th birthday of the captain. They had a pool, loud music, the necessary cases of alcohol, coconut bikini tops,fake porn star mustaches and a “who’s the hottest guy” contest with judges … we are putting this one down as adding to the education of the kids

Just enjoying the sun and the water

Just enjoying the sun and the water

 

WOOOO HOOOO … we are off, very excited, everyone up on the flybridge … about an hour later … woooo hoooo, alot quieter on the flybridge … 30 minutes more, woo … then hoo, followed by waa, followed by blaaah … turns out are nice crossing was to become a baptism by fire type of event … the projected waves of 4 ft, got to around 8ft, with some 12 footers meeting us.

The waves came directly from our direction as did the wind,so basically we had to punch into the waves for 90 miles … this is the worst of all points to motor on, it is a horrible motion, with the boat going up and down, up and down … at 15 mph, it would just smash into the waves, water everywhere being splashed and a truly harsh motion … we slowed down to 8mph, which stopped the smashing, but not the up down motion.

At around 30 miles, me, Jack and Genna had been sick… poor little guy was struggling to understand why he was throwing up … Genna declared at 40 miles, “I have had enough of this”. Our slowed speed, made for 10+ hours to our destination … we changed course several times to ease the motion … but in the end, we just needed to get there.

Kate and Jaci where awesome, they watched for traffic while I tended to the little ones, and when I was on the flybridge, they took turns with Jack … Genna had fallen asleep in the salon (inside area) and was quietly making the hours go by.

Our nice 27″ monitor, fell from it’s place (and it was wedged in) and anything not put away or tied down ended on the floor. Even with all the noise of the everything, you get accustomed to it and you can tell when a new noise appears … about 15 miles from our destination … a new noise … turns out the dinghy (our small boat), which we carry on our davits had broken 2 straps and was about to be sacrificed to the Davie’s Locker.

I stopped the boat, Jaci kept watch … and lowered the dinghy to the water, tied it off and continued … 2 hours later, we dropped anchor in a quiet bay in St. Maarten (the Dutch side). Total time to cover the 90 miles … 11hrs.

We all had nice warm showers,  agreed that the day sucked, had junk food dinner and watch a movie … I am so proud of my crew, even though it sucked, they stayed positive and relatively happy … when we arrived, noone wanted to do that again, but noone wanted to go home … major milestone for our adventure … only request … next time we do this, mommy has to be with us (Michelle had flown to Florida for some tests, and would join us in St. Martin).

There are many reasons I love the French ... our lunch at the country club ... Jean Pierre of L'Eden was a great host ... the whole place is very chique ... this is the "club" that we now belong too, at least by staying in the marina :)

There are many reasons I love the French … our lunch at the country club … Jean Pierre of L’Eden was a great host … the whole place is very chique … this is the “club” that we now belong too, at least by staying in the marina :)

In the morning, we cleared immigration, and entered Simpson Lagoon … we found a marina with a pool, which turns out to be part of a Casino and country club. We took a slip (they usually cater to bigger boats) … and had very nice and friendly staff get us settled … courtesy car, passes to the country club, even a golf cart ride.

In our berth at the Port de Plaisance Yacht club. It is part of a casino and country club. As you can tell, they are used to slightly bigger boats. The nice thing about low season is that there is room for us. This place is half the price of any marina in the BVIs.

In our berth at the Port de Plaisance Yacht club. It is part of a casino and country club. As you can tell, they are used to slightly bigger boats. The nice thing about low season is that there is room for us. This place is half the price of any marina in the BVIs.

We are now safely tied up in a marina, there is a storm heading in this direction (Dorian), which will likely pass to the north by 200 miles, but just in case, we are buying extra fenders and putting out extra lines …

Nice sunset over Simpson Bay in St. Martin

Nice sunset over Simpson Bay in St. Martin

Today will be “clean up” day for the boat … to put it in perspective, we first need to buy more brushes, more soaps and more supplies … we are covered in salt and other “stuff” :(

Red Solo Cup

This is the view from the beach on Norman Island at the Bight.

This is the view from the beach on Norman Island at the Bight.

What do you do when all the kids know the words to the song “Red Solo Cup”? … I mean even Jack randomly starts “Red Solo Cup, I fill you up…”, then the rest just join in …

Maybe its a sign, one of a couple that is telling us that this part of our adventure needs a change <g> … another sign is that my new (4 weeks) flip flops blew out … ugh … blown out flip flop, kids singing drinking songs … oh yeah and BVI immigration telling us that we have to leave on today.

Our stop for the morning, an island that is rarely visited

Our stop for the morning, an island that is rarely visited

Beachcoming on the windy side of the island

Beachcoming on the windy side of the island

Jack found the going a little rough through the island, mommy was a willing carrier

Jack found the going a little rough through the island, mommy was a willing carrier

Today, so it seems is the end of our vacation in the British Virgin Islands, and the beginning of our adventure in earnest. Our plan had always been to learn the boat, get comfortable on her and just try to settle in. I think we’ve done that.

Everyone seems to be getting into the routine, they are all comfortable and don’t seem to miss “home” all that much. We’ve put more than 200 miles on the boat, just moving around the islands … we’ve learned that she is strong and that she has some gremlins. She’s given us the confidence we need to get going.

We've been to Norman Island now a couple of times ... great beach that the kids love to play on and snorkel from

We’ve been to Norman Island now a couple of times … great beach that the kids love to play on and snorkel from

There is no shortage of technology on Discovery, I think we have much more processing power than the Discovery Shuttle ever did :)

There is no shortage of technology on Discovery, I think we have much more processing power than the Discovery Shuttle ever did :)

Gangsta

Gangsta

Never underestimate how much fun a set of walkie talkies can be ... you'll also notice the "sand specimens" being collected in the sink

Never underestimate how much fun a set of walkie talkies can be … you’ll also notice the “sand specimens” being collected in the sink

Kate has become a swimming and snorkeling machine, she is very comfortable in the water and spends hours in it. When we drop anchor, she puts on her gear and swims out with me over the anchor to make sure that it is set right.

Jaci is my first mate, she knows about most of the boat systems and is our premier boat handler. She continues to get comfortable in the water, working through her fear of sea monsters (ok, Barracudas).

Genna is our fearless, always happy one. When I swam out to check out a couple of 4ft Barracudas hovering by the boat, she jumped right in and swam with me (all the others headed back to the boat).

Jack, well Jack is “Mr. video games”… he is the monitor of our generator,knowing when it needs to come on (to play video games) and when it is not (when he can’t). He is swimming more and more and has started swimming with his mask to see the fish.

The Alonso girls (and me) acquiring the skill of stand up paddleboarding ... not as easy as it looks ... we will be adding one to the Discovery list of toys in the future.

The Alonso girls (and me) acquiring the skill of stand up paddleboarding … not as easy as it looks … we will be adding one to the Discovery list of toys in the future.

One of the many bays that we visited

One of the many bays that we visited

As the crew wakes this morning, we have Discovery ready for our crossing to St. Martin. This will be our biggest to date (about 90 miles). We’ve done one to Anageda (a BVI island) of about 15 miles, but nothing with “big” water. The weather looks great for it, waves about 4 ft (the projection) and light winds. We will do the crossing around 15mph (our comfortable speed), so should be about 6 hours.

Jack has mastered the important skill of being able to sleep anywhere and anytime ... this is on the flybridge after a crossing

Jack has mastered the important skill of being able to sleep anywhere and anytime … this is on the flybridge after a crossing

In keeping with the vacation theme, we spent 2 nights at the Scrub Island Resort ... 2 level pool with a slide ... very acceptable

In keeping with the vacation theme, we spent 2 nights at the Scrub Island Resort … 2 level pool with a slide … very acceptable

Playing on the boat ... I think it was hide and seek

Playing on the boat … I think it was hide and seek

Being silly for the camera

Being silly for the camera

See you in the next country …

A nice view to wind down the day

A nice view to wind down the day

Still on vacation

A very nice way to end the day

A very nice way to end the day

Our intention has been to learn the boat in an area that is simple and easy for everyone. Turns out that the most popular place in the world to cruise on a boat is the British Virgin Islands … where we are. The BVI’s are extremely popular (there are over 2500 boats in these waters), the reason is that the weather is good, and more importantly the sailing/cruising is very simple.

Working on his exercises

Working on his exercises

There are are over 50 islands, lots of protected anchorages and very simple navigation … everything is pretty much line of sight. Since there are so many boats, a large part of the economy is set up to support it. From markets, to marinas, to restaurants … seems like everything is accessible by boat. If you have ever considered spending a week on a boat, these islands are definitely it.

Transformers have taken residence on Discovery

Transformers have taken residence on Discovery

For the last 2 weeks,we have been pretty much been moving every day, from one place to another, we seem to alternate from spending the night in a marina, to spending the night at anchor … well, on a mooring ball.

There are 4 ways to spend a night on a boat; 1.underway- that’s basically someone being awake as they drive the boat and others sleep, 2. At a marina,3. on you anchor, or 4. at a mooring ball. A mooring ball is really just a permanent anchor that someone has put down, that has a large floating ball on it … all you have to do is tie up to the ball and you are set.

The reef just off the boat

The reef just off the boat

Our daily routine involves a great deal of time in the water, We typically take our dinghy (the small boat) and head for the closest beach … from there we have a “beach day” and swim. Often, we just jump off the boat and swim/snorkel … Jack’s not all that fond of this yet. Although he has been practicing snorkelling on the beach.

We seem to choose our marinas by how nice their pools are … so when we are at a marina, several hours are spent at it.

We continue to make our list of things to buy, fix or change … and we continue to adapt to living on the boat … soon, we will no longer be on vacation.

Lemonade

Sometimes, life hands you a bag of lemons … so what do you do … you make the most of it and make lemonade … and for the Alonso family, lemonade has turned into an idea to spend a year aboard a boat, living, learning, loving and getting healthy.

So … in a quick amount of time, we made the decision … buy a boat, pack the house, move aboard, and figure the rest out as we move along.

Our new floating home

Our new floating home

On July 5th, we took possesion of our 43ft Lagoon Powercat, we quickly went through a list of possible names for her, and in the end settled on Discovery. The Dixie Rodes (her former name) became Discovery and our new floating home.

With the help of friends Tim and Ryan we tried to learn the boat, do some upgrades and get ready for the arrival of the family. On July 8th Tim and Ryan headed to St. Thomas, USVI on a chartered speedboat to collect the clan … 6 people (Megan joining us for a month) and 18 bags of luggage.

… and so our story starts … The Alonso Adventure, 6 of us and friends; exploring the islands of the Caribbean, learning along the way, getting healthier and making memories

Our cruising ground

Our cruising ground

We have no set agenda, no set plans … just wanting to wander and see where we end up, treating each day as an adventure. We are currently in the British Virgin Islands (where we bought the boat).

We plan to head south in the coming week, looking for safe harbors to guard against hurricanes. Once we reach Grenada (or Trinidad), we will decide to explore further south (South America) or head west towards Central America.

Once the hurricane season ends, we will head back north (at least that is the idea) and explore as much as we can, planning to end back in Florida in 2014.