Another world

Certified PADI scuba diver

Certified PADI scuba diver

The last couple of weeks have been great, busy and filled with new experiences. My parents came to visit for 2 weeks, which meant we had a great time with a full boat … our little 2 car garage had 5 adults (Kelly/Anna with us also) and 4 kids. This morning is a little sad, Anna left on Monday to head back to college in Germany and Abuelo and Abuela headed back to Canada.

3 Generations of Alonso's getting ready for the water.

3 Generations of Alonso’s getting ready for the water.

We watched a few of these guys swimming around ... he was about 30cm long.

We watched a few of these guys swimming around … he was about 30cm long.

Jaci on snuba ... she and I shared a tank that floated in a little boat on the surface.We each had a 50 ft hose that connected us to it. Jaci is too young to get certified :(.

Jaci on snuba … she and I shared a tank that floated in a little boat on the surface.We each had a 50 ft hose that connected us to it. Jaci is too young to get certified :(.

Modeling my gear ...maybe I missed my calling :)

Modeling my gear …maybe I missed my calling :)

As always we spent a bunch of time in the water, maybe more than normal in the last couple of weeks as Kate was working on her scuba certification and we all joined in on the fun. Kate completed her last 2 open water dives on Friday … she is now, officially a certified diver.

First time breathing underwater for Kelly

First time breathing underwater for Kelly

Can you spot the 250yr old anchor?

Can you spot the 250yr old anchor?

Getting ready for her deep water (45-50ft) dive.

Getting ready for her deep water (45-50ft) dive.

Her teacher, Alfredo is from Peru, speaks decent English but with a heavy accent and a smallish vocabulary. He used to be a Special Forces diver in the Peruvian Navy, small, stockish built guy, with a quick smile. He explained that he felt much more comfortable in the water than on land …and watching him with Kate … I’d have to agree.

For Kate’s first dive, a bunch of the family joined her … Kelly did a “discovery dive” with full scuba equipment (her and Kate’s first time). Jaci and I did snuba, like scuba, but we had a hose connected to a surface tank, instead of carrying the tank with us. Michelle and my dad snorkeled … yep, 75 and still at it … 3 generations of Alonso’s in the water.

Michelle found an octopus in about 10ft of water … this is incredibly rare, in the 15 yrs of diving, we’ve never seen one in the wild … he was big and very well camouflaged. Everyone got to see him. We also saw a few squid swimming around … also very cool.

Our morning and lunch stop. We are in about 10 ft of water, the resort ashore (La Samana) is currently closed, so very few people around.

Our morning and lunch stop. We are in about 10 ft of water, the resort ashore (La Samana) is currently closed, so very few people around.

Jack is extremely happy with his "speedo" ... he likes wearing it ... I think he is pulling it off.

Jack is extremely happy with his “speedo” … he likes wearing it … I think he is pulling it off.

Just beside Rouge Bay, our afternoon stop, we snorkeled by the rocks, even swam through an arch ... we will explore the caves next time ... beach is only accessible from the water.

Just beside Rouge Bay, our afternoon stop, we snorkeled by the rocks, even swam through an arch … we will explore the caves next time … beach is only accessible from the water.

Scuba Anna ... first time breathing underwater ... Kate had to explain later that she was not doing the "Ok" sign :)

Scuba Anna … first time breathing underwater … Kate had to explain later that she was not doing the “Ok” sign :)

Kate’s second dive (which I joined as a snorkeler) was about teaching her skills. Alfredo explain very little on the boat, which made me a little nervous … basically, “Just watch me, I’ll explain” is what he said … then they both went into the water. Headed to the bottom in about 15ft. I watched as he explained using sign language and gesture what to do, how, why and when … wow… what a great teacher … no spoken language, yet Kate got 10+ different skills and demonstrated them … very impressed.

We came back a couple of days later to finish her certification with 2 more open water dives … the first at a reef about 4 miles offshore in about 45ft of water … it was a little bumpy and you could tell Kate was nervous and unsure … deeper, no land nearby and waves … all 3 of us got in the water, and I followed with my scuba gear on.

A wonderful dive, made even better by a visit from a couple of sharks … when I saw him (why are sharks to me always hims?), I worried what Kate would do … when she saw him, her eyes got big, then settled, then she started following and swimming after him … he was so cool, and as she tells, the highlight of her dive.

Me and a couple of my girls, just hanging out ...

Me and a couple of my girls, just hanging out …

Over the weekend, we took Discovery around the eastern end of the island and stopped in a couple of place to snorkel and swim. We got the dive gear out of the locker and rigged our 3 sets … the water was at most 12ft, so Jaci, Kate and I dove around for about 45 minutes … Jaci, like Kate is a natural underwater. She did great, even using Michelle’s gear which is a little large for her.

We got back to the boat, I rigged new tanks and gave Anna a “crash course” on using the equipment, I asked Kate to teach her and Jaci some skills and got them in the water … all 3 girls stayed under for about 30 minutes, around the boat … it was Anna’s first time :) … In case you are judging me, I was being responsible, I would look over the side and check for bubbles, I figured if they stopped, I’d put down my beer and go get them :).

The world under the water is a truly like another world … It makes me understand more the need and interest in exploring other worlds … I wonder if we should start working on an Alonso space ship.

 

Exploring

Jackman going full euro :)

Jackman going full euro :)

We are trying to explore as much of the island as we can, moving from bay to bay and following suggestions for new beaches and places. We are exploring by car most of the time and on weekends, we head out of the lagoon and try to find somewhere new to spend a night or two.

This also lets us swim from the boat and just get a different perspective on things.

This island seems to have 4 kinds of people on it … locals, long term visitors (think snowbirds), overnight tourists (people coming for 1-2 weeks) and day tourists (cruise ship tourists, who are only on the island for the day).

The beaches and to some extent towns/communities on the island cater to each of these types. There are beaches that are mainly for the locals, these have very little services on them, so nothing to buy, nothing to rent … just a quiet place to play in the water. The beaches for the snowbirds are usually attached to the condo complex, usually small and hard to get to unless you are a resident of the place.

The overnight tourist beaches,have restaurants and some rental places, they are usually the main beach of the town, so restaurants are nearby to it and it seems like a place to spend a couple of days at.

The day tourist beaches have lots of bars, lots of umbrella rentals, and lots of activities, from Jet Ski’s to SUPs to para sailing. They seem to be empty before 10A and again after 5P … but in the early afternoon they are very busy.

Each for us has it’s own attraction … some are great for just relaxing, some are great for people watching and some are nice to sit and have dinner at.

View from the bow of Discovery while at anchor in Great Bay. That's Phillipsburg, on a very quiet Sunday morning.

View from the bow of Discovery while at anchor in Great Bay. That’s Phillipsburg, on a very quiet Sunday morning.

Kelly enjoying the sunpad as we head from Great Bay to find a place called Long Bay.

Kelly enjoying the sunpad as we head from Great Bay to find a place called Long Bay.

We had the entire beach at Anse Marcel to ourselves, 5 o'clock on a Sunday ... my favorite time to explore, always very quiet and relaxed.

We had the entire beach at Anse Marcel to ourselves, 5 o’clock on a Sunday … my favorite time to explore, always very quiet and relaxed.

Found this beach (and cave) from Discovery as we made our way to Long Bay... we are going to have to come back to explore this one.

Found this beach (and cave) from Discovery as we made our way to Long Bay… we are going to have to come back to explore this one.

The Front Street in Phillipsburg

The Front Street in Phillipsburg

One of the "local" beaches, not many tourists, very quiet, awesome water ... one of everyone's favorites.

One of the “local” beaches, not many tourists, very quiet, awesome water … one of everyone’s favorites.

Le Galion Beach, as seen from the swim platform... given a choice, we always seem to choose this place to come to.

Le Galion Beach, as seen from the swim platform… given a choice, we always seem to choose this place to come to.

This is our bay ... Simpson Bay ... we live in the marina by the red roof houses on the middle right ...

This is our bay … Simpson Bay … we live in the marina by the red roof houses on the middle right …

I think he is having a pensive moment ...

I think he is having a pensive moment …

Jaci took a bunch of great panoramas ... this one of Discovery at anchor in Great Bay ... we left a little early as the jet ski rentals started to take over the bay. The "thing" to do seemed to be to buzz Discovery :( ...

Jaci took a bunch of great panoramas … this one of Discovery at anchor in Great Bay … we left a little early as the jet ski rentals started to take over the bay. The “thing” to do seemed to be to buzz Discovery :(

Didn't want her picture taken :) ... but I'm never a good listener.

Didn’t want her picture taken :) … but I’m never a good listener.

Our big girls coming to hangout with us... Anna and Kelly in the islands at the same time... everyone very happy.

Our big girls coming to hangout with us… Anna and Kelly in the islands at the same time… everyone very happy.

Enjoying a quiet moment of reading as the sun sets ... kids inside playing games ...

Enjoying a quiet moment of reading as the sun sets … kids inside playing games …

There are currently 9 people living on the boat (Abuelo, Abuela, Kelly and the 6 of us). Kids having an "electronic" moment ... that's our new ice maker on the table, looking for a permanent home :)

There are currently 9 people living on the boat (Abuelo, Abuela, Kelly and the 6 of us). Kids having an “electronic” moment … that’s our new ice maker on the table, looking for a permanent home :)

Discovery is a very comfortable boat, we have a large landing platform in the rear ... 3ft across and 22ft wide ...

Discovery is a very comfortable boat, we have a large landing platform in the rear … 3ft across and 22ft wide …

Docked at our home marina at Port de Plaisance ... sporting our new grill, new rod holders and 4 new toilets :)

Docked at our home marina at Port de Plaisance … sporting our new grill, new rod holders and 4 new toilets :)

Check out the content look on this kids face ... at a French Cafe with a couple of beautiful older women :)

Check out the content look on this kids face … at a French Cafe with a couple of beautiful older women :)

 

Playing on St. Martin …

The beaches and the water in St. Martin are truly beautiful.

The beaches and the water in St. Martin are truly beautiful.

The longer we spend on the island the more we like it. It is an interesting place, with interesting history and some beautiful places.

I wonder if affinity to the ocean is genetic or learned ... both Michelle and I love the water and our kids can't seem to get enough of it.

I wonder if affinity to the ocean is genetic or learned … both Michelle and I love the water and our kids can’t seem to get enough of it.

It's easy to see why St. Martin is considered to have some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean.

It’s easy to see why St. Martin is considered to have some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean.

"We're wet anyways"

“We’re wet anyways”

The main attraction, as with many of the island has to be the water and the beaches … we’ve been exploring many of them, and are trying to get to each one … some are calm, some are crowded, some are isolated, some have caves … but all are very, very nice.

This is an old volcanic island, which makes it “hilly” … we found and old plantation that has been here for 300+ years … they’ve done a great job making it a “eco-tour” destination … they have a tree top restaurant, and adult pool and spa (kids didn’t like this), 3 zip line adventure and a great hike to the top of the island.

Jack at the top of St. Martin ... he and Anna did a hike, while the girls did zip lines.

Jack at the top of St. Martin … he and Anna did a hike, while the girls did zip lines.

Not a bad view from the top of St. Martin ... that's the island of Anguilla in the distance.

Not a bad view from the top of St. Martin … that’s the island of Anguilla in the distance.

Hiked up and down with no complaints ... even explained later that his favorite part of the day was climbing to the top of the island.

Hiked up and down with no complaints … even explained later that his favorite part of the day was climbing to the top of the island.

This is a "tree house" bar and restaurant ... built in the canopies.

This is a “tree house” bar and restaurant … built in the canopies.

How could you not hike to a place called Chewbacca rock ... didn't take much to get Jack up there.

How could you not hike to a place called Chewbacca rock … didn’t take much to get Jack up there.

Jackman chilling at a French Café ... waiting for his crepes :)

Jackman chilling at a French Café … waiting for his crepes :)

There are lots of places for kids to play as well … most cater to the local community, one that is close to us is KidsWorld … think Chuck’e’cheese, but with an outside area, jumpy castles and no pizza … Ok, maybe nothing like Chuckee…

The local island zoo has some exotic animals :) ... this one in it's natural habitat.

The local island zoo has some exotic animals :) … this one in it’s natural habitat.

Some of the other animals at the zoo ... I think the one in the back right is the dangerous one.

Some of the other animals at the zoo … I think the one in the back right is the dangerous one.

The kids made a visit to the local zoo … not the same exotic animals as we have at home:) … a small zoo, but lots of fun. The owner explained that they are having a very hard time convincing the authorities to let them bring in some bigger animals … they, I think have a fear of them getting out.

Taking a break from the island heat

Taking a break from the island heat

Maybe they will develop an interest in desert racing ... here's to me hoping ... they have the pose for it :)

Maybe they will develop an interest in desert racing … here’s to me hoping … they have the pose for it :)

Not sure we should leave them alone for too long.

Not sure we should leave them alone for too long.

Check out the focus on there two ... I think the concentration is impressive.

Check out the focus on there two … I think the concentration is impressive.

The entire boat is a gym

The entire boat is a gym

… and as always there is tons of playing at home.

School Days

Waiting after school for mommy to come home from work

Waiting after school for mommy to come home from work

This week, like for so many was the beginning of school … while this may not look like a major thing that would affect us, in reality it does.

Kate is starting 7th grade, Jaci 5th, Genna 1st and Jack doing pre-K … our goal and plan is to follow the Florida curriculum and to adapt/augment it to fit into our situation. The idea is that the kids would get back into the school system next year being at the same place, at least that is the idea :), as their friends.

Kate presenting her project

Kate presenting her project

Jaci showing her art project

Jaci showing her art project

Jaci reading her story as the stingray, being afraid of the girl that swam over top ... :)

Jaci reading her story as the stingray, being afraid of the girl that swam over top … :)

Reading her story and presenting her research

Reading her story and presenting her research

We have some excited about school starting, some indifferent and some not too happy that the summer was “over” … which I thought was funny, considering where we are and what we are doing … anyways … Like many, Monday was the first day of school … which runs from 8A to around 1P for us …

We did start actually about 2 weeks ago with a project that each had to do … they needed to choose a reef creature that they had seen while snorkeling and then research it, create a biography, write a first-person story as the creature and some sort of artistic rendering.

Jaci's art project on stingrays

Jaci’s art project on stingrays

Genna proudly showing her turtle picture

Genna proudly showing her turtle picture

Kate's art project ... she collected the sand from the sea bed at Cooper Island, BVI where she saw this fish.

Kate’s art project … she collected the sand from the sea bed at Cooper Island, BVI where she saw this fish.

Last night it was due, and each presented after dinner … Jack presented his drawing, Genna did a drawing and read her story about being a turtle. Jaci chose a stingray made did a great art project. Kate chose a fish and made a diorama type thing, using sand she collected from the actual place she saw the fish.

Trying something new to help with digestion

Trying something new to help with digestion

Everyone did great … off to bed after a short movie, as school comes around early … which Jaci keeps reminding us of :)

 

Ile Tintamarre

Jaci enjoying the day as we head out to Tintamarre

Jaci enjoying the day as we head out to Tintamarre

On a last minute decision, we untied the boat and headed out for the weekend … since the bridge on the French side opens at 930, 230 and 530 … and it was 11, we finished our grocery shopping, topped up our water tanks, stowed all the gear and headed out of the marina … we made the bridge, which luckily was working and headed out to Marigot Bay.

Our two dinghies in tow, the sailing dinghy on the davits and the inflatable kayak on top ... we bring the fleet with us :)

Our two dinghies in tow, the sailing dinghy on the davits and the inflatable kayak on top … we bring the fleet with us :)

While "otto" steers (autopilot), Jack and I keep an eye for pirates and other scurvy souls :)

While “otto” steers (autopilot), Jack and I keep an eye for pirates and other scurvy souls :)

We didn’t have a destination in mind, just somewhere to swim, snorkel and a beach to visit/play on … we knew that the ride would be smooth all the way to Grande Case, as the water is on the lee of the island. Basically, the island blocks the waves … so if you stay relatively close (within a mile), it is fairly flat and smooth … We know Grande Case, as we had spent a previous weekend there … so we decided to see what the waves looked like and maybe make Ile Tintamarre.

IMG_0586

Ile Tintamarre, is a park and has some great history to it … most of which we only found out upon returning :( … we will make another trip to explore in more detail … anyways back to the story … We rounded the point at Grande Case and found the waves/rollers to be about 6-8ft … at a nice slow speed of about 8 mph the motion was not too bad and we decided to keep going.

Making our way out of Marigot enroute to Ile Tintamarre

Making our way out of Marigot enroute to Ile Tintamarre

Kate and Anna rode almost the whole way on the bows, riding the waves and taking some good splashes … the rest of us rode in the nice dry and covered fly bridge (upstairs steering) area … it took about 45 minutes of pounding into the waves to make the anchorage at the island … which, being a park, had some nice mooring balls that we could tie to … a late afternoon swim and snorkel and we would settle for the night.

Getting rid of the salt, or as we call it, the weekly shower :) ... Ok, daily shower after swimming.

Getting rid of the salt, or as we call it, the weekly shower :) … Ok, daily shower after swimming.

The view of St. Martin from the stern of Discovery. At night, we had a great light show, with the houses lining some of the hills.

The view of St. Martin from the stern of Discovery. At night, we had a great light show, with the houses lining some of the hills.

… turns out that it wasn’t going to be a terribly good night :( … while no one got sick, the anchorage was a little rolly, nice way of saying, queesy inducing motion … ugh. We had our generator running nicely, so it was nice and cool in the cabins, which for me always helps with any motion sickness … around 1030P, when everyone was asleep, the boat next too us starting yelling at us … Michelle heard them and went out to talk to the neighbors, fearing something was wrong.

Turns out that our neighbors did not like our generator and requested that we turn it off … since we did not want to start an international incident (well Michelle didn’t), we capitulated and switched it off … our neighbors, from France, on vacation for 2 weeks on a rented boat with no AC and Generator wanted quite for the night … I get it … my fault for picking the mooring ball next to them … next time I will “park” out of earshot :).

We woke in the morning early (remember the not great night of sleep) … I had to dive one of the holding tanks what had become clogged … one of my seemingly repeating tasks (I only have installed 2 of the 4 macerating toilets) … and about an hour later everyone was up and ready for the day.

One of the best ways to enjoy the wind, water and sun ... nap time.

One of the best ways to enjoy the wind, water and sun … nap time.

Our little dude didn’t fair well and woke up with a very upset tummy … he threw up a couple of times before we got him ashore … he threw up there one more time, but once we started playing and hanging out in the water, he got his color back and was back to normal.

We couldn’t head ashore with our dinghies, as the waves where breaking on the beach and landing the boat would be tough … so we used our inflatable kayak and a pool toy we had acquired :) … everyone got ashore by either swimming or riding and inflatable toy.

Michelle, Anna and Kate headed out to snorkel. Jaci and Genna went exploring and I stayed and played with Jack. The girls found a bunch of turtles feeding in the area and swam with them for several minutes. Kate was diving 15ft+ to stay with the turtle … seemingly one with the water and ocean … wish I could have captured that on video (our GoPro isn’t online yet).

We explored the island some, finding an old shipwreck (which had been there under a year) and walking the paths … we will have to head back to find the abandoned airfield and airplane wrecks that are there somewhere on another trip.

One asleep and two listening to music ... while yet another plays music on the boat radio ... just chilling out for the ride back to the marina ... St. Martin on the left, waves behind us ... so a comfortable ride :)

One asleep and two listening to music … while yet another plays music on the boat radio … just chilling out for the ride back to the marina … St. Martin on the left, waves behind us … so a comfortable ride :)

We headed home around 2P, making Marigot Bay by 4P … Kate and Jaci snorkeled in the 10ft water picking up starfish and just playing … we took the dinghy to the local store for some bread while we waited for the 530P bridge … Discovery was back at her marina by 630, a little salty, a little dirtier and with 7 happy, albeit sun bleached souls. Dinner and everyone to bed early as school officially starts the next day.

Jack and Genna on the bow, as we head down Simpson Lagoon on our way back to our marina.

Jack and Genna on the bow, as we head down Simpson Lagoon on our way back to our marina.