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The Spring Speed Bump

It’s been a very busy spring. The kids have kept us super busy with school functions and graduations. Everyone in Puerto Rico takes the graduation ceremony very serious. I remember going to my High School graduation soaking wet and only having only one shoe on. That is a long story that had something to do with a sailing.

The school graduations in Puerto Rico are completely different from what I am used to. The clothes, hair, makeup and shoes are all perfect. It honestly felt like I was going to multiple celebrity weddings. I have never witnessed such a thing. The outfits everyone wore were straight from Madison Ave.

Another amazing thing here is the parents are actually encouraged to participate in everything including the Prom and Senior Class trip. What makes this so different from the states is the kids actually want their parents to attend. In the states the kids want their parents as far away as possible. It was unbelievably refreshing and I love how important family is to Puerto Ricans. I will admit this is one of my favorite things about Puerto Rico.

We also bought a house. Yes, we are real Puerto Ricans now. That process was less complicated than we have been told. Everyone has said that experience would break us. They told us horrible stories about the banks, realtors and the sellers in Puerto Rico. In fact, the banking process was very simple and was a little faster than we liked. I can’t believe I actually wrote that. But yes, the mortgage process was as simple as pie. We even got very lucky with the sellers as they wanted to move as quickly as we did. So we will start painting, landscaping, and making it ours this week.

At dinner the other night the kids told me moving here was the best decision we have ever made. I will admit this made me feel really good. The decision to move somewhere completely different has been a very difficult one. As a parent I worry every day. Did I make the right choice? Did I complicate my child’s life? Did I make this move for the wrong selfish reasons? And so on. But overall the move from the amazing state of Alaska to a territory in the Caribbean really has been a wonderful experience. We have had our fair share of hardships during this first year, but overall the speed bumps have made us a closer and stronger family. Puerto Rico is an incredible place. I am proud to call it my home.

Side note:
I remember going to a house for sale that had over twenty speed bumps on the way to it. It was a beautiful home. I just could not get past the speed bumps. It was all I thought about. Can you imagine going over forty speed bumps every day. I have had enough speed bumps in my life. I can’t even remember what the house looked like. I was so fixated on those ridiculous speed bumps.

I often tell my kids that life is full of hardships or speed bumps. Some days those speed bumps are really difficult to get over. Some days you don’t notice them at all. But the trick is to minimize them in everything you do.
Yep, we passed on that house.

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A Life Less Ordinary

Maiden voyage of our new Beneteau 361 S/V “Senses Pleasures” name change coming soon. Possible choices, “Address Unknown”, “Anywhere”, “Everywhere”, or “Less than Ordinary”. We haven’t decided yet. Maybe you have some ideas? So here it goes..

As I drove to San Juan last weekend I realized my life is less than ordinary, at least to me.

I have always strived to follow my dreams even if some of those dreams have been a little off the wall. I could go on and on. But if you know me, you will know this is true. Once an idea plants its seed it grows into something beyond control. It has not been easy for my wife and three kids. They have had to endure many adventures and travels all over the world. I am thankful that they still continue to still love and follow me.

My lovely bride has allowed me to live a life less ordinary. I am so grateful for her dedication to me and the kids for over the last 24 years of fun. Yes, I have been married to the same girl I met in college and she has been the best part of my crazy life. I will also admit that my kids are equally crazy, adventurous and I am proud of their life choices. So I need to get back on track.

As my car sped down highway 2 I realized the gravity of what I was about to do.

Since I was about thirteen I have dreamt of sailing the Caribbean and very soon I would be living that dream. About a month earlier my son and I were walking the docks in Old San Juan and came across a little sailboat for sale. That’s when the wheels started turning. Liam (14) called the number and before I knew it we had bought a boat. The boats current name is “Senses Pleasures”. Try to say that ten times fast. No, Really. Try it? Liam says, that name sounds like a strip club. I agree so that name will be changed to “Address Unknown” or something else at some point we cant decide. So for the last several weeks we have been driving back and forth to San Juan on the weekends.

Each weekend a different child would go with me and we would clean, repair and prep the boat for the impending trip to the west coast of Puerto Rico. It’s not a hard trip but its 125 miles without any safe place to stop. So we wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I kept thinking about all that could go wrong, th

e things that could break and of the security of the San Juan Harbor. I said to myself, I don’t need to leave the harbor do I? It’s safe and sheltered. Everything I need is right here. If I leave the harbor too many things could go wrong. But the thoughts of floating at sea, the fresh ocean air in my f

ace and the brightest blue ocean splashing against the hull far out weighted the risks. Besides, this was one of my many dreams and I have never let my fears run my life.

The day of maiden voyage had finally arrived. My plan was to leave Friday night and sail west for 125 miles to Puerto Real. My weeks of preparation were about to pay off and my anticipation was overwhelming. Our crew of four was ready and capable. My father flew down from Maryland and Meshach (Berkley’s boyfriend) also joined to. This was a blessing as the events of the coming days were unbelieva

bly challenging. We filled the water tanks, the fuel tanks, and the propane tank. We even tried to empty the holding tank. The batteries were fully charged and the engine had just been completely serviced. Just to show off I went to start the engine to impress my dad and it didn’t start. I was baffled. It just started a few hours earlier! WTF!!!! We hired a local mechanic and he replaced the ignition switch. Then the GPS started to power off for some reason. So we tore the steering console apart and rewired the unit. We thought we fixed it. And decided we were ready for the journey.

We went to an early dinner and tried to sleep for a few hours. My plan was to set sail around midnight and arrive at the west coast turn, around sunrise. It was a good plan!!!! After dinner and a brief nap we cast off and left the safety of the marina at 12:30. The moon was bright, the skies were clear and the lights of Old San Juan were reflecting off the water in the harbor. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing from the east about 10 knots. The waves were down from 15 feet to 8 foot. It was a perfect time to head west.

• 12:30 am Cast off and left San Juan Harbor

• 1:00 am Meshach and Liam pass out (My crew of four is down to two)

• 1:15 am leaving the safety of San Juan Harbor

• 1:30 am at 5 miles north of the Puerto Rico shoreline we turned left and headed west.

• 2:00 am autopilot failed (This sucks) My Dad says, “This isn’t good!”

• 4:00 am GPS failed (This sucked worse!) My Dad says, “This really isn’t good!”

• 5:00 am the wind died to a dead calm (watched a meteor shower)

• 6:30 am Liam and Meshach wake up and start trolling for Mahi Mahi. They were not concerned about the problems as those two knew they could swim to shore. We were five miles north of Puerto Rico. They both claimed they could swim that in their sleep.

• 7:00 am the batteries died (Now nothing is working, My panic level was increasing)

• At 9:00 am we noticed water in the cabin and bilges full of salt water (Now, I’m scared)

• At 11:00 am Engine water pump failing (major engine problem, water all over engine room)

• At 12:00 pm 12 hours after the journey began we had only travelled 40 miles (The boat speed was only 3-4 knots due to opposing current and barnacle growth on hull. We had planned on travelling at 6-7 knots we were not even half way to where we thought we would be)

• 1:00 pm called the Coast Guard for info on towing assistance I had to spell the name of our boat five times as they had no idea what “Senses Pleasures” was. It must have sounded completely different over the VHF radio. (SEATOW was unfortunately on the opposite side of the island and could not assist plus they charge $375/hr) Channel 16— Me—“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel? Me—“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel again Capt.? Me—“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you spell the name of the vessel Capt.? And so on….. Finally USCG—We do not provide assistance in the waters around Puerto Rico. You will need to call SEATOW located in

Ponce, PR. Here is the number. Called SEATOW and they stated they were 6-8 hours away on the opposite side of the island. Basically we were on our own. So we all just looked at each other for several minutes waiting for someone to break that awkward silence. No one did….

• 2:00 pm started to hyperventilate and panic attacks started.

• 3:00 pm checked diesel fuel level below ¼ tank (3 gallons) still have 40 miles to go against a 3 knot current. We had already travelled 40 miles and went through 15 gallons. You do the math. It just plain doesn’t add up. How were we going to go the next 40 miles on three gallons?

• 5:00 pm made the turn heading south. We are almost out of fuel only 1/8 tank left.

• 5:30 pm 10-12 foot waves breaking on north shore (this was scary because If we ran out of fuel we would not be able to avoid the reefs. Its 300 feet deep in front of the reef and an anchor cannot reach or hold in ten foot seas.

• 6:30 pm beautiful sunset and I mean beautiful! I should have taken some photos

• 7:00 pm sailed past a 200 foot pier and didn’t see it. (No lights, no power, no fun)

• 7:30 pm anchored in Aguadilla (no power, no lights and in high surf)

• 7:45 pm We paddled ashore to buy a new 12 volt battery and get more fuel. There was a huge party on the beach, live band and dancing. I started to second guess the decision to get a battery and fuel. The thought of manana, manana kept invading my mind. Why do today what I can put off to tomorrow, right? Fiesta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

• 8:00 pm my beautiful bride arrives at the beach to shuttle us to the store. I got a much needed hug and encouragement. Gosh, I love that lady…..

• 8:05 pm I realized I could party tomorrow, sad, huh? It sucks being a grown up!

• 8:10 pm Meshach leaves us and was replaced by Deliz (Maddie’s boyfriend) I think Meshach was worried that the next day was going to be equally challenging. We didn’t tell Deliz so he had no idea what he was getting into.

• 10:00 pm returned to boat filled fuel tank with (4) five gallon jugs in 5 foot waves. This was not easy. Plus the ragging party on the beach was a little distracting. Neighboring sailboat owner swims over to say hi. Funny thing, his name is Sam Adams Owens. He talks with us for several hours.

• 12:00 pm Cellphone battery completely dead. Nothing on board to charge it.

• 12:30 pm tried to sleep the boat was rocking in the waves violently all night. I wish I would have stayed at the beach party.

• 6:30 am pulled anchor and set sail after hot wiring the engine. Dad, MacGyver’d the new battery on deck to the GPS. I will admit it looked a little ghetto but it worked. This is when I realized, Yep, I’m a true sailor!

• 7:30 am hit 7 knots for the first time. I was super stoked.

• 8:30 am wind died. Yep, the wind died!!!!

• 9:00 am motoring against the current is not all that fun. When you see people walking on the beach faster than you are motoring in a boat it’s kind of disheartening. But we did have beautiful skies and we are in the Caribbean on a boat!

• 3:00 pm successful navigation through several below surface reefs. Thank god we had a MacGyver on the boat and working GPS!

• 4:00 pm Successful navigation into Punta Carenero, Puerto Real

• 4:30 pm Ran aground in the marina. Damn it!

• 4:35 pm moved around to a deeper side of the marina.

• 4:45 pm “Address Unknown” has a new home slip C-15 we were told to go to C-16 but whatever, right? We are in the Caribbean on a boat.

• 5:00 pm Super Cold Corona with Lime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I will continue to cast off my fears, set the sails and leave the safety of my harbors. It is my hope and desire that I influence my children to do the same and live a life less than ordinary. Where will we go next?

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Back to School

🎶It’s the most wondERFUL TIME Of the year..🎶

Back to school time.

It’s an amazing sight. Almost every store is having some form of back to school sale including the Sears furniture department. Plus Gordon’s Jewelry is having a back to school sale. I am not sure how that connects to school but whatever, right? Maybe it does?

The shopping malls are packed with kids and they are super excited. It’s almost like Christmas time in the states. I remember being in sixth grade and saying, “wow, I only have six more years of school. I can’t wait to get out. Then I realized that I forgot to add the college years. Looking back now I wonder why I wanted to get out so bad. School was great. I didn’t have to worry about bills, insurance, retirement or a mortgage. Why was I in such a hurry to worry about those things?

The kids here actually really like going to school. They have incredibly interesting political debates and insights on life. They seem to be wiser than their years. The kids teach each other. They tutor each other and the help each other like I have never seen anywhere but here. The kids here seem to be more connected to current events. These kids are smart!

I will admit since moving to the Caribbean I try not to read or watch the news. It’s actually really hard to do. I encourage you all to try it. I met someone several years ago who said his life has improved since he stopped watching the news. He said, “The news is just too depressing! Why would anyone want to be depressed? If something major happens in the news I would hear about it at work around the water cooler.” My life is too valuable for that!” This person is a very decorated and high ranking military officer in Washington DC. His advice has been some of the best advice I have actually followed.

The next two weeks will be the very tough in our household. The mood swings have already started. You can easily see the grins turn into frowns with just a mention of school supplies or uniforms. It really is the most wonderful time of year.  

We also have a new addition joining us for a year. Our family of five knuckleheads will soon be a family of six knuckleheads.

I better get a few more surfboards and/or school supplies.  

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Surviving the Caribbean; Perfect Mojito Recipe and Where to Find Them!

It looks like we have almost successfully completed our first year in the Caribbean. I will admit it has not been easy. The weather is sunny. The temperatures are always hot. The beaches are not crowded and the water is always just right. It’s been tough!!!

My favorite part of our Caribbean adventure is the search for that perfect Mojito.

Someone has to do it, right? Below is a recipe for our favorite.

Alaska2pr Mojito

  • Pineapple Flavored Rum (1 ½ oz) or any flavored rum.
  • Mint leaves (usually 12-15 leaves per glass)
  • (2) Limes cut into wedges then mulled with the mint leaves and cane sugar
  • Cane sugar (1/2 tablespoon or more)
  • Club soda (1/2 cup)
  • Ice (1 cup)
  • A dash of maraschino cherry juice and a few cherries.

Shake this to death!! Then pour over ice into a cored pineapple. Gosh, this is freakin GREAT!!! We stole the above recipe from the Bacardi Distillery and modified it a little bit.

 

Here are few interesting places for Mojitos. I am sure I will find even more amazing Mojito spots on this island. These are worth a visit and maybe a bite to eat. 

               

El Varadero Grill, Fajardo, PR                             ***** (5 stars)                     $$$

Mahi Mahi, Anesco, PR                                       ***** (5 stars)                     $$$

Try them all, the Green Hornet is amazing!

 

Bacardi Distillery, Catano, PR                             ***** (5 stars)                     $$$

Pica Pica, Boqueron, PR                                      **** (4 stars)                       $$$

Villa Cofressi, Rincon, PR                                    *** (3 stars)                          $$$

This place is famous for its coconut rum drinks not Mojitos.

 

Royal Isabella, Isabella, PR                                  *** (3 stars)                          $$$$$$

This place is very exclusive and the Mojitos are made with Gin instead of Rum.

 

El Conquistador, Fajardo, PR                              ***** (3 stars)              $$$$$$$$$$$$

Restaurant Hacienda, Mayaguez, PR                ***** (2 stars)                     $$$

Authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine

 

The search continues………. I’ll be sure to let you know what I find! 

 

 

 

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The begining

Dangers in Puerto Rico

really don’t think I will ever get tired of waking up to another beautiful day, except when you find a centipede bigger than your hand.

W T F !!!
For those of you who don’t know what that means ask one of your kids… And this is the crazy part. These centipedes are poisonous. I swear these things are some form of mutated or radiation experiment. I am not a conspiracy theorist but this is NUTS. You really need to see these things. They are crazy big…
My coworkers say these things can put you in the hospital and if you don’t get in to the hospital quick that’s it, you’re dead. I really don’t know if this is true but, I am not going to find out.
We truly are blessed to be living in such an incredible place and every day brings us new surprises. I am really glad my lovely bride didn’t see this.
BTW: that’s not my hand in the picture. 

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Did I Mention That I Love Parenthood?

I will admit I have been a little lazy about writing on this for a while or I’m just enjoying the laid back life style that comes with living in the Caribbean. For the past few months our home has been very crowded. Berkley our oldest daughter came back home to live with us for a bit. I guess she needed a break from the college life? It’s nice to be all together again. We are back to the loud, fighting over the bathroom family of five. The funny thing about the bathroom problem is we have three and half bathrooms. Why do they all have to go to bathroom at the same time? I will never understand that…. I guess it’s like the middle seat syndrome. Someone is always too old or too big or too whatever to just to get in the car. If they can think of something to fight about they do.

Yesterday started out great. We decided to wake up early and drive to Marias Beach in Rincon. The surf was up and the beaches aren’t very crowded at that time. We arrived at 5:30 in the morning. The waves were around 12-15 feet. The riptides were so intense we decided to just watch the waves and the really crazy surfers from the cliff. It was the right decision. It was incredible how many surfers, swimmers and boogie boarders bailed and decided to join us on the cliff. It seemed our spot on the cliff turned into a support group session instead of a surf session. We then headed home to work on a few things before coming back with the entire family in the afternoon.

This is when the day got really interesting.

When we finished the chores we loaded up the car with a cooler, beach chairs, surfboards, towels, a dog and all the other unnecessary items needed to take the family to the beach. This process usually takes way more time than it should. But after an hour or so of loading everything we were ready to go.

Everyone got in their seats and buckled in. I jumped in and asked who has the keys to start the truck. Then Liam says, “I hung them up in the house.” I stuttered a bit when I said this, Umm, Umm, Why? He said “because that’s where the keys go.” That normally makes total sense but in this case it didn’t. We had just moved the truck in front of the house and had it parked illegally blocking the road while we were waiting for the rest of the knuckleheads to load up.

I sat there dumbfounded for a few minutes. I knew the house was completely locked up all and the keys to unlock the house were inside the house hanging with the truck keys. My more than positive bride says, “Let’s go swim in the pool Berkley should be home around 5:00 pm from work. Its only 11:30 we can spend the entire afternoon in the pool.” I was not going to do that after spending over an hour loading the car. Plus, the idea of five plus hours sitting in the back yard without beer or a mojito on a Sunday just was just not going to happen. I will not go into how we got into the house but it was not pretty. It might be time to hide a key, huh?

We finally made it to the beach around 1:00. We sat down had a beer and started to relax. Sundays in Puerto Rico are big family days. The beaches are crowded but not like Miami Beach crowded. The beaches are filled beach chairs, umbrellas, kids playing ball and just plain happy people. It is one of my more favorite things to do as I transition into being a real Puerto Rican.

As the day came close to an end I had to remind myself that soon we will be having the back seat wars again. I could hear this ringing in my head; I’m not sitting in the middle, I sat there yesterday! I’m too big to sit in the middle! And my favorite, I get cramps if I sit in the middle seat. I can only imagine what my father would have said. Maybe something like this, “Get in or don’t! I don’t care. I am putting the car in drive right now!” But the funny thing is it didn’t happen at all. Everyone got in sat down and away we went.

Did I mention that I love parenthood?

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EAT MORE BEEF!!

I saw this rooster this morning hanging out in the drive thru area of a Burger King in Moca, PR. He was crowing and pecking at every car that passed by. I think he was saying something like, “Eat more beef! Don’t eat chicken!”

Who knows?