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.

All work and lots of play …

Our office as we come in each morning ... we have the balcony on the left :) ... not a bad commute, except if it rains. Our parking spot is the palm tree on the left.

Our office as we come in each morning … we have the balcony on the left :) … not a bad commute, except if it rains. Our parking spot is the palm tree on the left.

I am very lucky to have found a career that I truly enjoy and am passionate about … the key is the last part … I am very lucky that I am able to pursue my passions and am able to gain an income from it.

We didn’t want to stop working when we undertook this adventure, better said, we couldn’t afford to stop working :) … so when the opportunity arose to do a couple of months of work we took it. My project involves doing some programming over a couple of months and Michelle is working on managing me <bg> and doing analysis work. We knew that to meet deadlines and keep what little we have of our sanity we would need to find a place to work.

The offices of Inlet Shores Group ... have ideas will travel :)

The offices of Inlet Shores Group … have ideas will travel :)

For about a week we talked to people here in St. Martin at every chance we got, told them about our adventure and told them we where looking for a small office to rent … we pursued a couple of leads and eventually found the place we rented. This in itself was a great experience, it allowed us to explore more of the island, talk to a bunch of people and understand a little more about not only visiting St. Martin, but working here.

Our goal was to find a place that had air conditioning and was an easy commute from the boat. We have a rental car and a dinghy, so we ideally wanted something that we could walk to work, take a bus, or use our dinghy. My goal was the dinghy one … as I have always dreamed of having an office what I could commute to by boat.

Michelle got the desk with the view ... was there any doubt?

Michelle got the desk with the view … was there any doubt?

Our little office ...

Our little office …

My desk ... the nice big monitor fell on our crossing from the BVI's and came apart. I put it back together, but the left half backlight is out :( ... It is a little dark in that corner :)

My desk … the nice big monitor fell on our crossing from the BVI’s and came apart. I put it back together, but the left half backlight is out :( … It is a little dark in that corner :)

We found an office in the main building at the Simpson Bay Marina. Turned out to be a great little place … right on the water, with a balcony that overlooks the marina. It has 2 rooms, one setup as an office with 2 cubes … and one as a studio apartment with a bed and bathroom.

Our office came with a studio apartment ... it isn't much, but has a bed, fridge, bathroom and loft :) ... right now it is a playroom when the kids come visit and storage.

Our office came with a studio apartment … it isn’t much, but has a bed, fridge, bathroom and loft :) … right now it is a playroom when the kids come visit and storage.

It is a 3 miles walk from the boat, not too bad if you do it early before the sun is up high; a 15 minute car ride (the traffic is actually bad, since there is only 1 road) or about 4 minutes by boat (our preferred mode of travel).

Sometimes, Kate or Jaci need the boat, those mornings, I get a ride to work.

Sometimes, Kate or Jaci need the boat, those mornings, I get a ride to work.

The view from our office balcony, this is place is called Simpson Bay Marina

The view from our office balcony, this is place is called Simpson Bay Marina

While I can't see this from my cubible :), the view from the office balcony isn't bad ... I may have to take up smoking, so I am reminded to go outside :)

While I can’t see this from my cubible :), the view from the office balcony isn’t bad … I may have to take up smoking, so I am reminded to go outside :)

We usually come by boat and tie up to the palm tree underneath our balcony. Our project has some tight deadlines, so we are spending way too much time in here, but such is the situation … no real complaints though.

I have another major milestone this week … and need to make up for our weekend adventure … more on this later.

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 :)