Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Floating Frat House On the Move!!!

Current Location:  Marathon, FL (the Florida Keys)

Well, the transition is complete...good-bye Bachelor Pad and helloooo Floating Frat House!! Ben's manly, salty crew of Pierre, Amigo and Andrew have departed and the Doolittle family is reunited back aboard Knee Deep. We are acclimating back to sailboat life and are happy to be reunited again.  It was nice for the boys and I to take a break from the boat and miss out on the relentless pace of delivering the boat to Florida.  Many thanks to wonderful crew that helped Ben complete 1500 miles in 4 weeks, a brutal pace for sailing.  Taking a break from the crowded quarters of family living aboard on a sailboat, was a nice break and has made us all appreciate each other more.

Introducing the delivery crew...1500 miles in 3 weeks. These guys are rock stars! (The only picture I had of Andrew was of his feet so I refrained from posting it...your welcome, Andrew!).

Pierre, the Frenchman, his final moments aboard Knee Deep.  I think that's why he is smiling!!

Amigo, the Mexican wonder dog!! He was a trooper!!

What a cutie!!!! I think he's saying, "Get me the hell off this boat!"

Captain Ben. This is what you should look like after 1500 nautical miles in three weeks!
Thanks again to Deena and Rick who generously opened their house to us. We had a wonderful time enjoying all the comforts of land living along with our friends Dick and Maureen from Blue.  It really could have been a great reality show, watching seven sailors living under one roof and adjusting to all of the creature comforts.  For example, my roomies and I cheered enthusiastically every time the ice maker made a clanking sound producing the clear, cool gold that most of us cruisers cherish. Also the creations produced in that house kitchen still haunt my dreams as I sweat in my little boat galley making a simple pasta dinner (see Rick's beautiful Timpano below....just like the dish made in the classic cooking movie, Big Night). It was also common to find one or more of us sitting in the living room in the middle of the night, leading to the nickname of the "college dorm lounge".  Apparently breaking the habit of night watches and midnight anchor inspections are hard to break!!

Timpano, delicious goodness!!!

Dick, Maureen and Mickey engrossed in dinnertime conversation.  We often sat together for a nightly meal, my roomies were all amazing cooks!

Our hosts, Deena and Rick.

Deena trying to get a nibble of J.P.'s cream AND cake!! The freezer was constantly stocked with ice cream, another luxury of land living.

The boy's favorites from Trader Joe's...Orange Chicken and Edemami.

The 8th roommate, Snoball.  She did not like all the comings and goings of people, so she sat on our shoes by the door.

Once Ben and crew made it to Key West, the boys and I said farewell to our friends and drove our rent a car the 400+ miles to Key West.  I was chuckling as the locals kept telling me that it was, "a VERY long way down the Keys!!" Little did they know I had covered thousands of miles in a sailboat which average 5 knots...they had no concept of a "VERY long way".

After moving back aboard, we had some fun exploring before starting our sail up the Eastern Seaboard.  Ben played travel guide and lead us around Key West aptly naming his tour "The Trail of Tears".  This is the town where he worked for a while back in the 90's and had his heart broken by a beautiful French woman.  His tour consisted mostly of drinking establishments where he cried into his beer and places of employment from which he was fired. A truly inspiring tour guide and a lesson to our boys of what NOT to do!!

Captain Ben's former place of employment.  To quote him, "I hated working in this place!"

Little did he know, after getting his heart broken he would find this beauty and marry her!!!

Maybe I looked a little more like this when he met me??  I can dream, can't I??

I realized we have taken these stupid cut out photos in many foreign countries! I'm so cultured!!

Panama City, Panama!!

Barra Navidad, Mexico
We departed Key West a week ago, making the day sail up to Marathon, FL, a beautiful spot right in the middle of the Florida Keys. The City Marina offers moorings and has been a wonderful spot to clean up our boat.  The boys will have to say good-bye to their newfound friends aboard Sea Mist IV since we plan to leave tomorrow for the overnight sail to Fort Lauderdale. From there we will scurry up the coast since we are required by our insurance company to be north of Georgia by June 1 due to hurricane season. 
We have listed our boat on a couple of websites as we prepare to sell her and head home (the link is below).  She has been one heck of a boat, seeing us through Mexican tropical storms, large Caribbean ocean swells, Cotsa Rican Papagayo winds and an El Salvadorian microburst.  It will be sad to part with her, but we hope her new owners will enjoy her as much as we have! She sure does LOVE to sail!!
Hard to believe our time is almost up and we will be returning to "normal" life.  We plan to buy a camper and make our way across the good, old USA this summer and reunite with family and friends in California. Mickey has been planning our "American Baseball Park Tour of the US" for a while now, however, his evil boat school teacher will be incorporating some US history amongst our travels (insert evil laugh here).
And now another edition o the Floating Frat House Follies:
One important piece of equipment we added to Knee Deep has been Mr. Word (a.k.a. The Swear Jar or the Douche Bag Jar).  The crew were inspired by the sitcom, New Girl, in which the three male roommates and one female roommate reside together (sound familiar).  One of the characters, Schmidt,  is constantly spewing inappropriate comments causing his fellow roomies to set up the "Douche Bag Jar". 
Inspired by this idea, the crew of Knee Deep have adopted Mr. Word, a plastic piggy bank purchased in Panama.  The boys with great enthusiasm took him down below and set up a strict penalty system for the use of foul language. They disappeared for several minutes to decorate and document each specific fine.  Ben and I were chuckling to hear our sweet, angelic children down below have the following conversation:
Mickey:  So, the F word is a really bad one so let's charge 25 cents for that one.
J.P.:  Yeah, fuck is a bad word! (Grabbing a permanent marker) How do you spell it?
Mickey:  F-U-C-K
J.P.: How about the S word?
Mickey:  That's easy S-H-I-T
At this point, Ben turns to me and says, referring to Mickey who has a form of dyslexia, "That kid can't spell the words 'they and 'which' correctly, but apparently swear words are no problem??! Unbelievable!!"
I guess inspiration can strike at the most unexpected moments!!
We both quickly agreed that the true losers in this scenario was us and any sailor adult stepping on board our boat!! 
For the past six months the boys have been collecting some cold, hard cash and Mr. Word is now filled with pesos, colons, balboas and American coins. To quote our friend Heather from s/v Sundancer, "Some of my money is in that pig!! College Funding!"
And I can't think of a more appropriate way to send the residents of the Floating Frat House to college other than on a Swear Jar Scholarship.  I think their college application essays will be VERY interesting and at least we know that the swear words will be spelled correctly.
Our fifth roommate, Mr. Word:

Please note, "dick" is free! To quote Mickey and J.P., "Well, it's a part of our anatomy, why would that be wrong?" Not sure why crap is free?

Some fellow cruisers we met from Spain taught us a VERY BAD Spanish swear word, hence the steep fine!!



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Escaping Panama City, Las Perlas Islands and Life on Land

Current Location: Venice, Florida (Molly, Mickey and J.P.);  Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Ben, Pierrre and Andrew) en route to Key West.

As I write this, two months have passed since we were able to extricate ourselves from Panama City and it’s sticky, intricate web of discontent.  It was a place from first landfall that challenged our philosophy of positive thinking and the ability to see the best in our fellow man.  As corny as it sounds, the Doolittles usually attempt to find the positive in every place and culture we visit, but our experiences and encounters in Panama City seemed to challenge our intent to execute this every day.

As a testament to it’s stronghold and altering affects on us, the usually easy-going, genial, fun-loving Captain Ben transformed into an irate, frustrated complainer.  I spent many afternoons listening to him spew his disdain, all the while wondering if the that bulging vein in his forehead would actually burst this time.  My duty as a devoted wife and first mate was to inform him quite frankly, “You are turning into an angry, bitter man…we need to get you the hell out of here!!!”   

Don’t get me wrong, I morphed into a ranting, lunatic whiner as well, which deeply disturbed me!  Just ask any store employee, cab driver or crew member aboard Knee Deep.

Crooked immigration agents charging bogus agricultural inspection fees, bullying cab drivers and the general rudeness/unhelpfulness of Panama City’s inhabitants indicated it was time to escape before our optimistic philosophy of our fellow man became irreversibly altered.  In short, we needed to bolt, before we permanently crossed over to the Dark Side.

As we waited to transit the Canal, we attempted to spend as little time in Panama City as possible.  Fortunately, only a day sail away were the lovely Las Perlas Islands.  There we swam in the cool, blue waters and discovered, not surprisingly, that island life suited us much better.   After provisioning and running errands in the big city (a.k.a. Gotham city), we would sail out to the Perlas.  The moment we tossed the anchor overboard, I felt my blood pressure drop and my body relax.

Here is where I am inserting an editorial apology.  Unfortunately, our old computer died due to the humidity of the tropics which is extremely hard on electronics…just ask my IPhone that decided to burst open one day. I am currently attempting to figure out how to download all of our files to our new laptop.  This has put a damper on completing my blog entry regarding the San Blas (see a tidbit from Ben in previous blog entry), which will have to wait for a later date.

The first part of this blog was entitled "Fantasy Island", but it has disappeared into cyberspace and I hope to find it soon.  Also, our pictures of the Las Perlas Islands have gone missing, so here are some repeats from Mickey and J.P.'s blog.  Hopefully a little random narrative regarding our Pacific Island stay will suffice for now.


(After visiting the main island of Isla Contadora, we ventured the 3 miles to more remote and deserted islands.....) Here is where the story continues:
................Then our island adventure continued over at Isla Mogo Mogo which all agreed we must visit for the mere fact that we loved saying it. The dialogue on the sail over went something like this:
Molly:  “Hey, Mickey! Where are we going?”
Mickey (in a deep guttural, native voice): “MOGO MOGO!!!”
I found it rolling off my tongue often and murmured to myself repeatedly, “Mogo Mogo” until the boys  told me it was getting old, which pleased me to no end. 

“Ah, Young Grasshopper….the Annoyee has become the Annoyer!!!”.  Point scored for the House Mother on the Floating Frat House!!
As always in true sailor form, Ben unattached us from the mooring ball without starting the engine and sailed out of the anchorage.  He just can’t help himself….why turn on the motor when you can use the wind??! I have grown accustomed to this over the years and have adapted to sailing into and out of anchorages…..“just for fun!”
The boys and I were down below and realized after a few minutes that we were underway.  In less than 45 minutes we were approaching our destination.   As a reminder, we had been traveling at an extremely quick pace to reach Panama City for Christmas. Our sails were long days or multiple overnight hops, which usually involved beating to weather, battling currents and hours of motoring.  As a result, we were unaccustomed to such a short, uneventful sail which only increased our enthusiasm for Isla Mogo Mogo.
We were tickled to discover a beautiful anchorage between two Islands with clear, blue water and sandy beaches, one of which contained a tree swing.  So the anchor was set and we cheered our good fortune.  In addition to the name, it was exciting to discover from the guidebook, that Mogo Mogo was the place where a season of Survivor was filmed.  So off we went in search of any remnants of American pop culture laying under the Panamanian sand.  What would we find; Immunity Idols? Hammocks? Torches? Survivor handkerchiefs worn as tube tops by those skinny, starving, emaciated tribal women? 
As we searched I chuckled at the thought of the Doolittles participating in the Survivor game.  Ben would certainly starve to death within a few days, leaving me to be voted off first, due to my sheer inability to withstand the heat.  Next to go would be Mickey who would extinguish his torch voluntarily to scurry off to an air-conditioned hotel room to catch up on his sporting events.  Thus, not surprisingly, J.P. would be the million dollar winner by using his cunning and charisma.
Unfortunately, no Survivor paraphernalia was found, but there were some pretty lavender shells spread all over the beach.  We had an enormous bonfire with some other boats and were content knowing that nobody would be voted off this island. 
We spent our days swimming, snorkeling and exploring the area, happy to do homeschooling and work in another amazing place.  Recess and coffee breaks were spent jumping overboard or floating in the inflatable boat behind Knee Deep.  Mickey also blew off some steam terrorizing the anchorage in the dinghy attempting go fast enough to plane out of the water.


Getting into the swing of winter making a sand snowman on Isla Contadora!

As for present time, they boys and I have been enjoying a month long stay with our friends Deena and Rick (s/v Talaria) in Venice, Florida.  They generously opened their home to us and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay, while catching up with our friends Maureen and Dick (from s/v Blue). This sounds benign enough, however, putting several sailors together, who have traveled 10K miles, in a home with a pool and beer refrigerator is A LOT of revelry waiting to happen.  We all enjoyed cooking, baking and drinking much to the neighbors confusion and dismay.  Apparently, the recycling bin was quite the spectacle each week!!

The boys and I are grateful for our land time and appreciate having the break! We are now ready to hop back aboard Knee Deep and make our way up the Eastern seaboard where we are planning on selling the boat this summer. It seems impossible that we have been sailing for almost two years and our travels are coming to an end.  I am both excited and saddened about this fact.
And now another edition of the.....FLOATING FRAT HOUSE FOLLIES:
Knee Deep crew and many of our cruising friends often frequented a mini-mart (the “Shopette" in Panama City) near our anchorage to use the WiFi.  On this particular crowded day, Molly sets up the laptop and steps inside the store leaving J.P. and Mickey outside to keep an eye on the computer.  There is a children’s festival taking place in the parking lot adjacent to the store.    Molly notices a man dressed as a clown in the store, complete with face paint and large red shoes. He exits before her.
Molly returns to her table outside the store where J.P. is awaiting her arrival.  A brief conversation takes place:
J.P.  (sounding more like a 30 year old than an 8 year old):  Did you leave anything here except your computer?”
Molly: No.
J.P.:  Ok, good! Cuz the clown sat down right here next to me.  I wanted to make sure he didn’t steal anything.
Molly: Oh?!
J.P. (now giggling): Yeah…he was drinking a beer! A clown, drinking a beer, that’s so funny!!
Molly:  Yep, that’s funny   (not sure that a grown man dressed as a clown, drinking a beer at a children’s festival is at all funny).
J.P. :  Yep, sometimes you just gotta be yourself!!!
And there you have it...from the mouths of babes.....Be Yourself Everybody!!!