Slow Sailing

21 February 2018 | St John
01 February 2018 | St Pierre, Martinique
17 January 2018 | Marin Marina, Martinique
08 January 2018 | Fort de France, Martinique
01 January 2018 | Atlantic - Still!
26 December 2017 | Atlantic Ocean
19 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
17 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
07 December 2017 | San Sebastian, La Gomera
28 November 2017 | Garachico, Tenerife
18 November 2017 | La Palma, Canaries
07 November 2017 | Puerto Santa Cruz, Tenerife
16 October 2017 | Graciosa, Canary Islands
09 October 2017 | Rabat, Morocco
30 September 2017 | Ait Bennadou, Morocco
11 September 2017 | Cadiz, Spain
27 August 2017 | Faro, Portugal
11 August 2017 | Guadiana River, Portugal
04 August 2017 | La Linea, Spain
31 July 2017 | Marina Smir, Morocco

Caribbean Showers

21 February 2018 | St John
Heather
A little behind again but we've been on the go a lot with frequent, shaky or non-existent internet. I am really surprised at how in the remotest of island chains in other parts there has been better internet coverage than here in the Caribbean. Our Vermont visit in mid January was great and it was so nice to be together for a change. Not only did we celebrate my mom's birthday, but we did an early one for me too! There was a break in the super cold weather while we were there and no major snowstorms either. It worked out really well using Norwegian Air- cheap flights- and we arrived back at the boat empty of cash from the taxi fare but with everything as we left it.
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We spent a few more days in St Anne on the south end of Martinique getting ourselves organized and then started moving up the coast northward, stopping at our favorite dive site for one last time. We were pretty excited to use our newly replaced under warranty camera case to make sure it worked. Of course this time there was a ton of current and we had to cut the dive short because of it. We got back to the dinghy gasping and remarked at how ungainly we are with tanks on. The camera case is a go though. So we snorkeled in a couple of spots, then put our tanks back on to clean the bottom of the hull and then when we surfaced, all wrinkly, there was Michael & Robin off Sea Biscuit who we cruised with in Guatemala back in 2008. So nice to see their faces again and reminisce a little bit but it wasn't long enough!
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We positioned ourselves in the lovely little town of St Pierre for one last night and then left really early the next morning for Les Saintes in Guadeloupe. This little group of islands has really clear water, dramatic although dry scenery and some nice dive spots. We spent a couple days there hiking around and doing a dive on the base of Pain de Sucre right from the boat. They have moorings there to protect the bottom for the turtles and it is really working. Underneath the moorings is full of grass and there are lots of turtles popping up to get a breath. I love being able to dive right from the boat.

Next was BasseTerre, Guadeloupe's second largest town. We intended to rent a car or scooter here and get up to the Soufriere volcano. But upon walking around ashore on a Sunday when no car rental places were open, we decided it was a dump and we didn't feel like staying even the night so we hauled anchor again and moved up to Pigeon Island, home of the Cousteau Underwater Park. Its too bad because we have such fond memories of seeing that volcano and the waterfalls nearby. It was the one where we peered into a bright yellow roaring vent and thought the fumes were toxic only to find the "warning poisonous gas" sign on the opposite side of the vent! We survived anyway...
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We'd come to Pigeon Island years ago and it was here that we decided that if we were going to enjoy anything in the water we would have to learn scuba because there really isn't much of any snorkeling down here, in our opinion. But this time we could dive and it was really great! You could totally tell it was a park because we finally saw some nice big fish, lots of big lobsters, busy octopus and really curious rather than petrified fish. We always had a few hanging out right near us. We had a nice anchorage and could just zip over in the dinghy to a dive mooring and go down. Perfect.

We dragged ourselves away from Pigeon Island to head to the northernmost town of Deshaies because you could see on the GRIB file that there was big wind & waves coming and we wanted to get to Antigua before it arrived. So we had a couple days to hike around and explore, although it was still really windy even then and it was getting a little fatiguing. This is a quintessential French island town with a little church, bright green backdrop of hills and a defined, heavy duty pier to put your dinghy at. Everyone has a baguette tucked under their arm. We have fond memories of this town too and it was good to visit again. The locals could tell we were off for a hike and they would wish us a "bonne marche!"

The sail to Antigua was terrible. We had walls of water coming onto the boat and haven't had this since the passage to New Zealand and we were beating in to big seas and a lot of wind. Our Dutchman mast track that holds the sail cars has deteriorated on this cruise and it is basically unzipping itself from the mast. Especially at the 2nd reef point which we were using that day. Jon already had to reinforce the track in Cape Verde at the first reef point. How many holes do you really want to drill in your mast?? You don't. We counted the hours till the 43 miles was done and arrived with enough sea salt on deck to bottle up a few cases and sell. It took us absolutely FOREVER to get the anchor set and not be on top of another boat. Many tries and many back spasms later, we were hooked and ready for the onslaught of wind.
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Antigua has the kind of street food I've been dying for- good ol southern style comfort food! BBQ chicken, ribs, mac & cheese, potato salad, salad, plantains, peas & rice. The kind of grub that puts meat on your bones or elsewhere. We really enjoyed it, a bunch of times! We explored Nelson's Dockyard, which is now a UNESCO site and the area is really lovely. Funny, we were just in Tenerife in the Canary Islands where Lord Nelson lost his arm in battle (they had the cannon there too) and then there we were seeing his name again. This is also the arrival point of the Atlantic Challenge rowing race so all of the race stuff was set up for the last of the fleet that was left to come in. Our friend Oliver whom we met in La Gomera, Canaria had already arrived, celebrated and gone, now the youngest person (age 19) to row across the Atlantic. A national park has preserved old buildings that are in current use as yachtie shops like sailmakers, laundry, customs, a bakery etc and the hillsides have trails to ruins and viewpoints that are really beautiful. And the salt was washed off the boat in the first 25 rain showers. Darn, we never got around to bottling it. It rains numerous times a day and has done this ever since we arrived in the Caribbean.

You would never know there had been a hurricane near Antigua. A local told me they mainly got rain. And the people who live on Barbuda are returning now and rebuilding. Everything was spic & span and the local people were so friendly and conversational. All the ladies had their food stands and were hustling to get the food onto plates or in to takeaway containers. I liked all the pastel colors of the houses and the easy to read English signs but when a local talked to us we could still barely understand a word they said until they turn off the Caribbean accent. One sign we passed on the bus said "Jakes Auto Care and Beauty Supplies"- well, whatever it takes to earn a buck! And when you're riding the bus and want it to stop you just call out "Bus Stop!" We both really enjoyed our time there and are so glad we stopped.
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After a week in Antigua, the wind finally settled and we did an overnight to St Martin. The main purpose was to catch up with Mike & Karen off Chapter Two, whom we last saw in Malaysia. We had a so-so overnight with frequent rain showers and wind squalls. It seems the weather is so unsettled this season. We pulled into the inner lagoon by going through the bridge and anchored right next to Mike & Karen in calm waters so there was no trouble getting sleep that night after some happy hour beers. The amount of devastation to St Martin is more than I have ever seen. There are sunken or landbound boats everywhere and workers were doing all they could to patch up, refloat and then tie up the boats to make progress toward clearing the harbor. Ashore, nearly every building and every car is damaged and there are junked cars on many of the streets. There is a lot of bustle for reconstruction but it feels so overwhelming. There are lots of cruisers there though and it seems like you could get any boat article you need in their many chandleries. The hillsides are greening up but it was actually a bit disturbing seeing all the wreckage.

There was yet another period of high winds brewing (really getting sick of these!) and despite the fact that we had planned to stay in St Martin for more than one night, we felt like we had to leave or else we'd be there for over a week like we were in Antigua. So we got together with Mike & Karen again for lunch and then set out that evening for another overnight and had a lovely sail to St John. Its so nice that mentally we're pretty much ready at a moments notice to set off and we can just leave and make some miles overnight. We've gotten pretty good at going around on little sleep!

More than half of St John is US National Park and the park staff worked super hard at getting all the trails open, beaches cleaned up, the harbors swept for debris and the moorings checked and repaired. It is up & running and we're really glad to be here- no crowds! They aren't charging for moorings and we can move around from one beautiful bay to another with only a few boats.

When we got here we hiked over to Coral Bay where friends Dave, Kim & Zac live so that we could say hello. We last saw them in Malaysia too. Kim just opened up a new restaurant named Pickles and we had a great lunch and a catch-up. Its always nice to see familiar faces in a new place.

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We've been really enjoying the park. The snorkeling so far is just OK but the water colors are really beautiful and there is a lot of life around. We did a scuba dive today of Booby Rock and saw some nice stands of pillar coral and lots of soft gorgonians swaying in the swell which we haven't seen for a few years now. You've got to feel for all living things after all that has happened. It seems like everything has been through so much. Coral Bay really took a beating but apparently it is much better than it first was. They are rebuilding and cleaning up and have gotten loads of support from private individuals like Kenny Chesney and more from corporations and the federal government. You can see in the picture how beautiful the area is but upon closer inspection all the white dots on the shoreline are wrecked boats... You can tell St John is very loved. The trees have funny shapes as they lost most of their branches and are now putting out leaves all over their trunks and whatever is left. Many were knocked over and the bright green understory is taking off. The birds seem happy and things are blooming. We've seen lots of deer munching on things in the woods too, so they made it. Man-made things didn't fare as well and there are some amazing angles of houses left standing but many more blown to bits and all that remains is a bunch of garbage. We walked over to the northern part of the island yesterday to Cinnamon Bay and the campground there is gone, along with most of the palms. But new ones are replanted from coconuts and taking hold. The water is clear and beautiful and there are a few people on the beach. The park has interesting, signed paths among old sugarcane factory ruins and over the tops of the tallest peaks on the island. Its hard to believe that in 1733, the whole island was covered in sugarcane & cotton. Turns out this land was purchased by Rockefeller interests in 1956 and given to the Federal government for designation as a park. We plan to spend a few more days here enjoying this place.
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We've spent a fair amount of time deliberating and researching our next magic carpet- the overland RV plan! We've just purchased a 1988 Mercedes 1120 fire truck from Norway and are having it shipped to the USA for import and conversion to an expedition RV. To keep it affordable we will be doing most of it ourselves and it will be pretty time consuming I think as we don't want to drag out the build. Jon is absorbed with organizing the conversion and lining up the equipment. It feels like the next logical step as we want to keep exploring and this world ready vehicle with a home on the back will give us a whole new vantage point. A lot of the onboard systems are the same as the boat but there are also a lot of new things so we'll still have some learning to do and we're really excited about that aspect. We will chronicle the build in case anyone wants to follow in our footsteps!

For now, we are going to work our way to the Bahamas, probably via St Thomas, Culebra and the Turks if we can swing it. Both of us are really looking forward to that crystal clear water and the wildness of the Bahamas. Then on to Florida, and then NC where we plan to let Evergreen rest & dry out for the summer. We need to pull the mast and basically do a mini-refit after all the miles. We plan to be in Vermont for the summer. Then we'll be back aboard in the Fall and probably headed south like snowbirds, looking for warm weather to finish out the RV build. There are so many logistics to moving both boat and truck back & forth up the coast that it hurts our heads but it will all fall into place, it always does. In the meantime, we are looking forward to seeing our loved ones this year while working toward our next adventure.
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Six Years and 29 Countries

01 February 2018 | St Pierre, Martinique
Heather
While we won't cross our outgoing track until we get to the Bahamas, it feels like in many ways our round the world trip is completed because we are back in familiar territory. We cruised the E. Caribbean islands in 2003 and surprisingly, not much has changed, at least in Martinique.

People often ask us what our favorite places have been on this trip and they are usually met with a blank stare from us. It's because it's hard to pick a favorite when there have been so many wonderful experiences & fantastic people that made them come to life. And each place has delivered something unique that has contributed to a collection of great memories. But here are a few things that stick out in our minds and some pics to go with them.
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Transiting the Panama Canal was a milestone and exciting because the Pacific Ocean opened up to us for the first time, not to mention the canal itself, which is a marvel of engineering. We passed through it 3 times, first on someone else's boat to help them and figure out how it all works, then ourselves on our own boat and then we helped our friends Tim & Nathan on Slick.
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We have really done some amazing sailing over these years. Heading westward, with the wind mostly at your back, sliding down waves on a sleigh ride or blasting along behind the reef or in the lee is a big buzz. While we did get restless on long passages, there are parts about passagemaking that are unforgettable, like crossing the Banda Sea in Indonesia where the sea glows green in a display of phosphorescence unique to that part of the world. Or crossing the lonely parts of the Atlantic or Pacific where you see nothing for days on end but blue, not even a speck of trash. It was as reassuring as it was lonely. We depended on each other and our boat, a good trio.

Making landfall in so many beautiful places was always exciting and much more rewarding than arriving by plane. It felt more like we'd earned it. And while cruising Europe, where technically we could only stay for 90 days out of every 180 as a US citizen, we never got more than a wrist slap because we were traveling by boat. They know you can't get anywhere fast! Our most memorable landfall was the Marquesas. After 21 days at sea, to arrive in a packed anchorage and be brought fresh pamplemousse by fellow cruisers in a backdrop of beautiful spires of rock, that is paradise.
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We did some great fishing underway with Vanuatu being the most fruitful for us. Because the islanders love to use the fish head & bones for stew and they can't get out to sea to catch pelagic fish, we felt like superstars giving them those parts of the fish we caught. You didn't have the feeling like you were getting the last fish either. This photo is of a smaller fish but I like this pic of Jon.
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The cruising scene crossing the Pacific and the Indonesia Rally were the richest we've ever known and we made a lot of wonderful friends. Even doing mundane things like checking in & out of places was made fun by doing it together. And then there were birthdays.... Some people even wore their kilts to these events!
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Sharing anchorages together in really pretty spots was the norm. I liked the way all the boats leap frogged so you would say goodbye only to meet up again down the road at another island to pick up where you left off.
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We enjoyed getting to know all the different cultures in the places we sailed to. While we didn't always understand what makes people do what they do, it was interesting to dive into it and live it a little. If it was overwhelming, it was especially nice to come back to the boat at the end of the day (we called it "the oasis") and let it all sink in. We loved the jovial spirit of the Spanish and the sense of humor of the Australians and we were most moved by the people we met in the smaller nations.
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The diving! We did as much as we could and saw some incredible reef. From wrecks to canyons, walls, overhangs and passes, we saw a lot of beautiful creatures. Having our own compressor aboard made us independent, which is how we like to be. Indonesia had the most interesting muck diving and Vanuatu & Fiji the most colorful corals. We got addicted to finding nudibranchs too. They are like finding a piece of candy to me. We dove or snorkeled with mantas, sea lions, sharks, turtles, dugongs, rays and all the other usual suspects. It was great to sit down at happy hour with our dive buddies and look at our pics if we'd had a particularly good day.
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Snorkeling with humpbacks in Tonga was a highlight and I will never forget diving on a reef the day after and hearing their distant song at depth. It's a sweet song and it felt good to know they were nearby. It's the kind of beautiful that makes me sad.
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We hiked miles and miles and miles all over, and when we could, we got our packs out and went backpacking. Tasmania, New Zealand and Nepal have some standout beautiful spots and we hope to get back to each of them to do more.
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We enjoyed seeing all the diversity of wildlife and their forested or pastureland homes. Australia blew us away and we saw more snakes than probably most Australians do because we were on the trails so much! Pulling in to Bundaberg and seeing kangaroos right as we stepped off the dock was just the start of many months of seeing crazy things. From wombats to kookaburras, koalas, Tasmanian devils, platypus, echidnas, dingos, wallabies- it goes on & on. It was definitely the biggest smorgasbord we've seen. We enjoyed the sea lions in the Galapagos too!
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Living in a van for 2 months touring New Zealand wasn't always the easiest and we practically suffocated under the weight of all the blankets we had to try to stay warm but it planted a seed for worldwide overland RV travel that has stuck with us and grown. We were envious of those who were self contained and could stay overnight in the beautiful places that we had to leave at the end of the day to get to a campground. Not next time!
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When we were in SE Asia we got a serious hankering to shake things up and see something completely different... so we decided to ship Evergreen to the Med. It was a big decision. We took the boat up to the ship in Phuket, and Peters & May expertly loaded it on and we then visited Nepal & the Taj Majal in India while it was in transit before meeting up with it again in Greece, just outside Athens. I'll never forget the day we got our home back and were walking around an ancient amphitheater looking out to the ship that carried our boat so far to a whole new world. We both feel it was one of the best decisions we've ever made.
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Exploring all the ancient history and mix of cultures in Europe was fantastic. All the stuff that I learned and then forgot in high school I re-learned again first hand. It means a lot more now! There's no shortage of intellectual things to do in the Med which helps make up for the lack of diving or decent fishing. We ate like kings and having our home with us was great. We couldn't get enough of exploring the old cities and Jon especially wished he'd had more time in Greece to find more ancient harbors and park in them for a bit. Unique for sure. I wish the US had these old treasures.
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Deciding to spend the winter in Spain was another highlight. We weren't expecting to fall in love with Valencia but once we got there it seemed like everything fell into place and we both were so excited to be there. But the time flew! Staying there allowed us to travel around in Europe over the winter when flights were cheap and explore without worrying about the boat because it was snug for the winter. We biked all over the city and really had time to get to know it well. It planted another seed that we'd like to do that again someday, just move in to places for a bit and stay awhile. For example, I could hardly drag Jon away from Mont St Michel in Normandy, France. We found there was something for every budget in Europe and we had a blast. Who would've thought we'd end up spending over a year in Spain?

We often joke around about where we have to go back to to get our favorite such and such, like back to Kiwi land for their meat pies, back to Greece for gyros & tomatoes, Italy for pizza (of course!), Indonesia for char kway teow, Malaysia for coconut milkshakes, NZ for canned tuna, Spain for the menu del dia & wine, French Poly for pamplemousse, Nepal for fake North Face hiking gear, England for decent bread & cereal, Fiji for kava.. well maybe not!

And we did some other memorable things like run/swim an impromptu duathlon in Samoa, part the sharks hanging out in the pass at Fakarava, bike around the backside of the Tanna volcano to visit the village on the other side where the ash falls like rain (hard on the lungs!), get stuck in the medina in Marrakesh in our rental car, get ciguatera for the second time in the Bahamas, Jon crewed in a traditional Bahamian sailboat race for a day, we biked through downtown Paris practically by ourselves on an early Sunday morning, took an all day horseback ride in the mountains of Panama with a great guide (we were his first customers) then stopped at a bar and tied our horses up, had a couple of beers and then got back on and rode back to the barn. There were many others I can't think of at the moment but they pop up every so often and give us a chuckle.
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Each country we visited broadened our thinking a little more. We loved seeing all the beauty in the people, the things they've built, the wildlife, plants and underwater world. We learned that there are many ways to get through this life, that everything is just trying to live and no one way is right or wrong. It is just different. We've become more understanding of those differences and are almost addicted to experiencing them. We're thankful to have had the opportunity to do & see all that we have. And we plan to continue building on what we've done. To everyone who was a part of this chapter, thanks for the great memories! It wouldn't have been the same without you.
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Divers Down

17 January 2018 | Marin Marina, Martinique
Heather
It's pretty hot here in Martinique so we're going back to Vermont for a week to cool down a little. Well actually, we're going back to help set up all the candles on my mom's birthday cake! Looking forward to seeing them and hopefully we can still XC ski and snowshoe as its been awhile.

Don't think this pic of Jon is upside down because its not! He is the only one I know who likes to peer into holes upside down (then he doesn't disturb the bottom) and process what he's looking at.
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Since arriving in Martinique a couple of weeks ago, we've been moving south along the coast checking out many anchorages and coastal towns. Even though Martinique is owned by the French, having come from Europe now we find it more Caribbean island feeling than anything else. It's a good vibe though, just expensive and touristy. There are cruising boats absolutely everywhere. I forgot how many lovely and huge anchorages they have on this island. There is no fear over getting a spot. I was pretty excited about the market in St Pierre but ever since then its been downhill. I've decided that anyplace that has good diving you have to give up on food and anyplace with good food you give up the diving.... So we've done some really nice diving. I feel relieved almost because I was worried that after having seen the Pacific and some Indian ocean stuff I wouldn't appreciate this as much but nope, there is still plenty of beauty and life on these reefs. I haven't felt any dynamite reverberations in the water like we experienced once in Indonesia so that is nice. But there is apparently a tiff between the dive shops and the local fishermen such that there are fish traps on some of the dive sites. It is something to be looking at some pretty reef fish in among the coral heads and then swim by a trap with those same kind of fish swimming in circles. Who eats blue tangs anyway?! We have been amazed by all the lobsters and eels cramed into one hole after another, we've seen a couple of octopus, a bunch of lionfish (they seem to have spread down here too), some massive crabs and a lot of colorful scenery. Sometime back, I think at the start of this cruise, we met a couple who had us over for a dinner of lionfish that they'd speared. They are of course easy to spear since they think they are impervious to anything and just sit there and then as long as you are very careful pulling out the poisonous spines then the fish is perfectly delicious just like any other. We haven't tried this ourselves yet but might yet! After the 3rd dive I was taking the camera out of our underwater Fantasea case and the knob broke off. Oh brother, it is always something. With some pressing, the company agreed to sell us a new one at a deeply discounted rate as this appears to be a design flaw even though our case is totally out of warranty and so we have a replacement coming to Vermont. Thank goodness as we really enjoy underwater photography and this is the best case we've had out of 4.
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We've done some pretty hiking, especially on the south side of the island at St Anne. What a lovely anchorage and town with a cute square and good views out to sea. A coastal hiking trail runs all the way around to the quieter eastern side of the island where there are some beautiful beaches and grassy hillsides that are quite picturesque. The water is very warm and getting in is completely painless which is great. We found a frozen fruit novelty treat that we have been getting after our walks and we sit on the benches in the squares looking out at the anchored boats and try to look normal.
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We've been working on projects on the boat just keeping it spiffy and also on our website VentureFarther. It is growing and we are trying to keep up with it. Jon is adding and improving features like linking position reporting with Facebook and making the reports nicer and he had to fix the issue with the auto emails for followers that was broken for our Atlantic crossing where the emails weren't going out to friends & family who opted to track us when we made a position report but that is fixed now. I have been adding markers for places we've been and it is a competition to keep on the front page before someone else enters one and hides mine. That's what we want!

Anyway, we are in a massive marina on the south coast in Marin ready to head to Vermont tomorrow. It has 830 berths of which about half are long term liveaboards with growth so thick on their hulls I'm sure it is anchoring them to the bottom. In the morning all the liveaboard kids are heading down the docks up to get the school bus as we are making our way to the marina heads. It is so far you basically make a cup of coffee, take a sip and then start walking up!

Once we're back we will probably start heading northward diving our way up the coast and then off to Guadeloupe. Hoping to catch up with a few friends along the way who we haven't seen in a long time.
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First Martinique Dive 644
Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast on 3 different long term trips. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands [...]
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EVERGREEN 's Photos -