Monday, March 12, 2018

The Heineken Regatta

Five days of intense sailing, one night of unparalleled dancing. The full story can be seen at in the April issue.

What I learned from the Heineken Regatta: you either have to be tough enough to sail for days on end, or tough enough to drink Bloody Mary's at 8am while the boats head for the starting lines.

The photos below are from the two boats I joined for the regatta. Green Dragon, Volvo 70 and The Spirit of Juno, Farr 65. Tryst is a 50-year-old wooden trimaran from SXM that sank three times and still competed. Andy sailed Tryst while I sped past him on my monohulls.

Green Dragon finished first in their class; Spirit of Juno did not– but we still had fun. (If not the most fun.)

Taco Chelsea (#wasntme) made a special appearance during JonnyGuy's show. Opening for Shaggy is no big deal for a taco.

Although there are several hundred other great pictures from the regatta and parties... I just don't care about them. A week's worth of taking photos in direct sunlight for several hours each day on a racing sailboat is a bit exhausting. (Just like that sentence.) The worst part was going home to edit and upload them. 

Nevertheless, it was one wonderful week. Everyone had fun, gained a few pounds (in muscle or in beer weight), and left better because of it. The SXM Revival continues. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

New Year Nature Adventures

I decided to bring in the new year with a few "closer to home" adventures. Before 2017 ended, I managed to wiggle my way aboard a brigantine tallship and spent Christmas viking style. That was enough adventure for awhile; 2018 will be a bit more relaxed. By 'relaxed' I mean no major disappearing acts as I venture out into the unknown. No, this year I will behave and stay close to home. Luckily for me, my backyard has adventures of its own.

Natural Pools

A short hike around Point Blanche takes you to the Natural Pools. (I now claim to have two natural pools, as the villa’s pools have turned swamp green with a good bit of life swirling around them. As much as I’d like to be back swimming in there, how can I take away this abundant habitat? The ducks would surely be upset.)

Anyways. The Point Blanche Natural Pools are of a different sort. Connected to the South Eastern side of the island, they get rough waves from the Atlantic. The Tradewinds also make the swimming conditions not so ideal. However, it’s totally fine to take a dip in the pools which are protected by the jagged rocks. Okay, mildly protected… we still get some big waves and swell into the pools. Which could be dangerous. And there are a number of sea urchins, so be careful where you step. 

As a matter of fact, just hire Margo and me as your guide. Better be safe than lost and sorry.

Garden Blues (& Yellows)

I built a couple of gardens out of debris. I was pretty proud, seeing that I spent no money on the materials, and instead pulled them from mangroves and the beach. Then I grew many plants from seedlings. I like the start to finish process; I have a seed and soon I will have a fruit. Or so it goes. Plants surely teach you patience. 

Unfortunately, when I left on my sailing trip in December, caterpillars bombarded the island. Masses of caterpillars marched in like I’ve never seen before. Over night they could strip a plant down to nothing. Ooh how they do love squash. My pumpkin, yellow squash and zucchini were finished in a matter of days. I would spend hours picking them off, one by one. Just to find a new hatching the next morning. 

At last I left them to feast. I could have bought an insecticide, but poising myself isn't on my to do list. So this time, the caterpillars won. And soon enough we had “Caribbean Snowflakes” which are white butterflies that dazzle around you. They are so beautiful. And I hate them. 

I now know their true nature, and what they did to my innocent plants. It’s not easy not being able to enjoy a butterfly (aka flutter by). It’s a strange feeling. So bitter towards those beautiful beasts. 

But the caterpillars were wild. Hundreds of them in our house. They would repel from the ceiling with Bond like dexterity. Landing on my shoulders until Andy would point them out. “You’ve got another one.” “So do you.”

I did manage to keep a few of the plants alive. The tomatoes survived unscathed. The okra went unnoticed in a different part of the yard. My brussels sprouts proved to be brussels sprouts (why does nobody like them?!). And my sunflower replaced the fallen palm tree. 

So the caterpillars weren’t totally ruthless. But taking 50% of my yield right as flowers were blooming was pretty damn mean. (Did you know they shit where they sleep? Who can respect that?)

I've decided for the next time they're in season, I will welcome them with arms wide open. Right into my pan. (Okay, first I'll freeze them which is more humane then once they're no longer they get tossed in the pan.) From there I will take back my food. I grow a garden to supplement my diet. So if they are going to eat it, I'm going to eat them. And thanks for doing the digestive work for me! Don't mind the extra protein either. 

It's clean, sustainable, organic, local, nutritious... and tasty. Yes, believe it or not, anything fried and seasoned correctly will taste good. It's all in your head, man. 

Surf's Up in St. Martin

(Okay, bad play on words, still keeping it.) This will be the year of my surf debut. It's time to conquer my very realistic fear of being discombobulated in the ocean. In addition, the last few times I went surfing I would throw up a tiny bit. Which is really weird and funny; I just couldn't take the pressure from lying on the board. I took it as a sign that surfing wasn't for me.

But now I've been watching others carve the waves and I'm a bit jealous. So I've decided to invest in a wetsuit and board. I've spent time on the smaller waves and it turns out surfing isn't that scary. Especially when you're surfing the waves, not on your board paddling until you barf. Big difference there.

Keep an eye out for me– SXM's newest and fiercest surfer. I am now taking on early sponsors. I have ways to improve, but I'm accepting lavish gifts in return for surf promotions/ related material.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No Sugar November

September and October were the most stressful two months of my life. Hurricane Irma and Maria toppled the Caribbean while I chewed my nails from the sidelines.

I've been a relatively stress-free person. So this was a new experience. I had pain in my sides, trouble breathing, a little to no sleep for weeks. Unable to understand what was happening to me, I quickly found an anti-anxiety solution: indulging in cheesecake and wine for 45 days.

At least I indulged in good company.

During my downtime on Stallion court, I stumbled upon a book I had bought for my father years ago, Whole30. It is an all-in-one guide to getting complete health via food (and lack there of). Which is something I totally believe in. But to get the benefits of the program, you must cut out dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, soy, alcohol and certain processed foods for 30 days. That leaves meat, veggies and fruit. Beans, hummus and wraps play a big part of my diet, so cutting out those left a significant gap.

However daunting it seemed, I was persuaded to do it once I returned to St. Martin for November. As I was discussing it with my island friends, two others jumped aboard.

So the three amigos took on Whole30 to see if this detox would really benefit us. I simply enjoyed the challenge of the program. It is not easy for me to pass up a glass of Merlot or a dark chocolate bar. It was a test of self restraint, and I think I did pretty damn well. Once you cut things out of your life, you stop forgetting how much you enjoyed them, and you move on.

The number one benefit I got from the program was sleep. There was but one night I faltered. And I have a history of sleep problems, so this was a welcomed surprise. Also, I did not have to cut out coffee in the detox, so I believe it was the lack of sugar (esp. in alcohol) that allowed me such rest. I did however, have to cut out coffee cream and sweetener. And what do you know... black coffee grew on me. You know it's not so bad? Simple can be good too.

Because we did not have grains, flours, breads, granola, quinoa (which are actually seeds), rice, etc., we didn't get full as easily. So we had to eat a lot of potatoes and cassava. For this reason, I gained weight. I am not used to eating so much. Ninety-eight percent of people lose weight during the month. Which is no surprise when you cut out sugar and alcohol... I was the lucky 2%. In conclusion, science is fake and alcohol is not bad for you. Cheers.

But with less dairy and beans came less gas. That, everyone benefitted from.

The second best part about this program is the cookbook. It is wonderful. I cooked about 95% of the meals listed. (I really got into it.) And now I know how to make amazing curry, baked chicken, gazpacho, chicken cacciatore, cauliflower mash, ratatouille, shepherd's pie... the list goes on.

I relied on sparkling water and kombucha to replace alcohol, which it did just fine. I fried plantains and other fruit when we needed a dessert. And we just got used to having savory breakfast. No more granola, yogurt and oatmeal– no problem.

But with all the cooking, came all the cleaning. Especially since in Whole30 you have to make all your own dressings. Ketchup, mayo, mustard, tomato sauce, roasted red pepper sauce, salsa, guacamole, vinaigrettes, etc. That takes time and space. And for someone who doesn't have a dish washer, it took muscle.

Never the less, we came out better for it.

Keep in mind I am not a food photographer. After all the shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning I'm not in the mood to take serious photos– also there was no wine to guide me during this time.

 Tuna salad with coconut mayo, grapes, almonds, avocado & celery.

Lemon curry sauce with shrimp.

Baked chicken, cauliflower mash, braised brussel sprouts & beets in a balsamic reduction.

Chicken chowder with sweet potatoes, broccoli, coconut milk & onions. 

Slow cooked pot roast with carrots & broccoli.

Gazpacho with prosciutto & olive oil.

Butternut squash soup with grilled mushrooms & egg.

Spinach frittata.

Salad with apples, cashews, ham & hemp seeds.

Crockpot spaghetti squash with homemade red pepper sauce & meatballs.

Tuna salad with yellow carrots & anything else I could find.

Average breakfast consisted of leftovers with a fried egg thrown on top & fruit.

Cauliflower mash, portabella strips & broccoli.

Scrambled eggs, broccoli, eggplant & tomato sauce.

Ratatouille aka the bomb.

Spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce.
Shepherd's Pie with sweet potato topping.

Cold Thai salad, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts & sunshine sauce.

Baked chicken, broccoli cauliflower mash & roasted mushrooms.

Sweet potato mash, creamed spinach & roasted cassava.

Scrambled eggs, peppers, tomato, ham & sautéed plantain.

The idea behind the transition back into our old diets is to take it slowly. Try one food type and see how the body reacts. I've noticed that alcohol does in fact mess with my sleep. Pizza (it could be the bread or cheese or both) halts my digestion. Diary sometimes gives me stomach cramps– this was old news.

I am not sure what effects soy, peanuts, rice and some other foods have on me. But since science says they're inflammatory, we've basically cut them out. Almond butter rules the house. Coconut aminos replaced soy sauce. Cauliflower rice has my heart. Ice cream is still a work in progress. Cashew "cheese" is the next mission. Honey, which the vegans call "bee vomit" and say rots your teeth, has been untouched. In fact, the hardest thing to give up... was the easiest to keep at bay. We'll see if that lasts.

As Hypocrites once said:
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Our Day of Giving

Saturday the 25th was our real day of Thanksgiving. Almost everything that I was able to collect with the St. Martin Wildlife and Nature Fund was put into action… and I got the chance to say Thank You to all the organizations who have been tirelessly on the move.

Andy and I attended several events around the island and made donations to each organization below, as well as committed to other projects that need both muscle and money. 

Les Fruits De Mer is an organization committed to awareness of ecology, culture and sport through discovery, inspiration, and education.

Animal Defends of St. Maarten helps control the stray animal situation on the island through spay/neuters. 

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) has been regrowing the mangrove population. 

The Nature Foundation is working on rebuilding the coral “trees” and holds many beach clean ups. 

The St. Martin Wildlife and Nature Fund has reserved the last of the donations to help purchase mangrove seeds (or other plants) for EPIC as well as support Les Fruits De Mer’s upcoming events.

The final project I will be working on is my own garden. Andy and I have built two gardens from Irma debris. (Okay, the netting we bought… but the rest was pulled from mangroves and piles of trash.) 

Because people are so busy with rebuilding their own homes, there is not much energy left for a community garden. Although I have already started growing *many* plants, I have decided to give them as gifts to those willing to start their own gardens.

A few minutes drive from my home you find people still living in their cars, using Red Cross food stamps to survive. I want to put whatever is left of the funds into helping them become more independent. With a plant, some good soil and a game plan, I hope people will be able to help themselves.

Mangrove seeds are the long, bean-like pods floating in the water.

Inspecting the bugs of SXM.

Welcoming back the migratory birds, though much fewer than last year.

Andy found some ducks.

Cows pass by on our way to the bird festival.

Margo wears her new bandana courtesy of the Animal Defenders fundraiser.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day by Day; Bits and Pieces

It’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t have internet.

No phone distractions make for a steady mind. Although I have many questions that I’d like Google to help me solve. Now I must write them down before I forget and look them up later– when I have driven down the road to borrow public wifi.

Even when I am using the wifi at the next neighborhood, I don’t stay long. Oh... the mosquitoes... They are something. I quickly load my emails, send off the ones I’ve prewritten and check in with mom.

Dust off my hands with a job complete and head back to my internet-free day... with a few new mosquito bites on my ankles.

We average a 6:00 wake up call via sunlight streaming through the port lights. It’s one of the best skies of the day. Big, bubbly clouds over the hills and the lagoon. Beams of light blasting through.

Such a nice way to wake up– an instant smile to my squinty eyes.

After a hearty breakfast (we've given up sugar, grains, and dairy for Nov.) we outline our day. By 8 o'clock, two others have shown up to clear debris from the villa above. We spend several hours sweeping glass, scrubbing walls, and removing family knickknacks that have fallen and splattered.

By lunch we are exhausted and smelly. The heat sets in so we eat and turn up the fan blast. Depending on my energy level, I will return to my garden and play in the soil some more. After I've had enough of the mosquitoes biting my bum through my heavy pants, I give up. Retreating indoors to shower and head up the road for wifi.


My mission since returning has been to create a good harvest– be more sustainable, organic, hippie-like. Last year I grew a few cucumbers and tomatoes in a bittersweet battle to have a successful garden. But after finishing a large book on Caribbean Gardening, I feel more confident not to screw it up, again.

I have many vegetables sprouting and need to transfer them into a protected garden soon. I was able to retrieve an huge white box from my neighbor's bushes. And I found a matching white fence that washed up in the mangroves. I am a few weeks in growing eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers.

The plants are doing well, given they have taken a beating with the monsoon rains and erratic winds. I have boxes that I throw over them before big rains come. To offer them a little protection from wind and rain, but I don't think they appreciate it.

Anyways, I expect to have fruit in 3-4 months if we can keep the iguanas out. Just today we were sending bbs at one who came too close to the garden. I am lucky the neighbor's dog (a stray who showed up, made her home and adopted them) is an expert hunter. She will come to our marina and scale the mangroves in order to force the iguana into the water. Two much larger dogs wait for the lizard drop. Makes my eyes water; so proud of them. Margo, on the other hand, cowers from the screened-in porch.


The stars are out by 18:30. It feels so late by the sky-clock that we decide to have early dinners. Curry, curry, and more curry. I've just learned how to make it, and we've been so happy with the results we can't not eat it... often.

At the moment, I conquer the kitchen Whole30 style (look it up). Pumping up ze captain so he can fix the boat-lift motor and prepare the new mast. Andy is truly amazing. I have never seen someone work so long and hard (every single day!) Our kitchen is covered in his lists. A hundred-million things to do; he flies around all day fixing this and that. Now he is working on sawing a couple of masts and reassembling them.

Once he can get Nai'a fixed, he can have a vacation. But first we need to get a crane to take our mast out and put the new one in. In the meantime, we have to store both masts on the boat. They rest on giant, wooden Xs that are in place from the bow to the aft. Causing a bit of a hurdle to get on and off.


If one thing is for sure it is that we are sleeping well. We're expending so much energy, even at four meaty meals a day. Maybe it has to do with the low sugar in take or maybe it's the reassurance that hurricane season is over. People keep saying it is at least. The water has cooled enough so therefore hurricanes can't form. But I don't think Mother Nature cares much for slight differences in water temperature.

If she doesn't hit us with a hurricane, it could be something else... just as bad. But I shouldn't leave this on a gloomy note, aye? We are happy to see all the flowers blooming again!

My garden, the boat and the villa are all shaping up. One splattered mosquito, one bead of sweat, one coconut curry chicken at a time.

Slowly, but surely.

Friday, November 10, 2017

St. Martin Wildlife and Nature Fund *Turtle* Edition

Things are hot, sunny, and humid as always here in SXM. I cannot update with our progress as often as I’d like. Mostly due to my lack of internet (and also when I do have internet… I’m in a cloud of mosquitoes. So I try to work quickly.)

We are all working nonstop to get things back to normal.

So far I've been focused on growing plants. Starting with building a garden completely made out of debris found in our mangroves. (It turned out to be pretty cute, actually.) We’ve got vegetables and avocado and papaya trees on the way. Gardening in the Caribbean sun is no small feat. I also just finished reading a mighty heavy book on Caribbean Gardening, so I feel a bit more confident in a good harvest.

Will share updates on this when I've got more plants and soil to my name.

The most exciting news is that we were able to rescue baby sea turtles yesterday. Thanks to the help of a local watchman, we removed debris from the nests and uncovered babies eager to make their journey. We documented their way to sea and karate chopped any curious birds.

There are quite a few other nests that need uncovering. Sadly, many of the turtles did not make it out in time. So we are going to put more efforts into setting free the trapped babies.

We saved eleven baby sea turtles– which is just the beginning. Please share this with your turtle-lovin' friends. The more support, the quicker the wildlife will return.

Enjoy the photos. And thank you for donating to the St.Martin Wildlife and Nature Fund!

Military Turtle Stops At Nothing.