This book started it all;

Thinking about a self sustainable life where you can find the last existing freedom on our planet? Thinking about buying a boat but don’t have much money? It is possible! Read this book, it’s the best on the market regarding this subject. Rick Page shares his sea gypsy lifestyle.

I “screwed” up…

After 12 years I still manage to utterly shock the hubby and myself… A 35+-year-old should be able to make quick and rational decisions, one might assume… 

Suffering from insomnia and painful joints after three days of rolling back and forth might have some influence, but that’s no excuse for a sailor woman, is it? Imagine the gently rocking from side to side as in a trance with the difference that you can’t control the violent rolling and you’re at home, you just want to chill, watch a movie, prepare food or have dinner, just to name a few. Even taking a shower or using the toilet is made difficult.

Parking

As the day made way for the night, a boat left the completely full quay. Immediately pirate mama Gwen -who decided to live permanently on the quay in Palairos- shouted we should take the spot. We discussed it for a minute and ignored the eerie feeling we were experiencing. We hauled up our anchor from the muddy seabed, prepared the mooring lines, and ran the engine. Ready to leave our anchorage and move to the concrete wall.

Mama Gwen and pirate John at Exadas

Also, know as Walhalla for sailors; running water and electricity, good holding, and secure when the god of wind is blowing a hoolie. Perfect for us as we were much in need as our water bladders were punctured and during the rolling, we lost all our freshwater. Secondly, our batteries are old and mistreated by a clueless crew named Ramon and Lotte. Luckily they weren’t the newest so it’s an acceptable loss. 

What can go wrong… went wrong

We left and try to park in the little tiny harbor in Palairos

Birdseye view Palairos Harbor

As you can see in the picture above the quay was on our starboard and the pontoon which is ridiculously close to the quay – at least in my newbie opinion, do you agree? – on our port side.

Mutiny has a full keel, she is not made to reverse, that’s why we always park bows to.

Mutiny parked bows to

The propeller has the tendency to turn right in forwards, which translates into the bow going to port. To anticipate the big turning circle when turning starboard, we initiate our maneuver on the port side of the “waterway”. In order to position the boat at the correct angle, we need to drive a bit past the spot.

Propeller

There was a gentle breeze, while Ramon turned to starboard, I dropped the anchor from our starboard stern and ran to the bow to throw out the mooring lines (these would be fastened in the rings on the quay).

All of a sudden the boat stopped abruptly. The wind pushed us sideways. We came way too close for comfort to another parked boat…

AAGHGRRR… STRESS

Apparently, our stern anchor line wasn’t coiled properly… -Guess who coiled it for the last time… Yup that was me. I thought it was done perfectly- It was tangled before the fairlead. The consequence was that the anchor bit too early and held Mutiny in the middle of the waterway. Mother nature thought this was excellent timing to gust a hoolie.

The next part was the most difficult for us both… Ramon had no choice but to reverse to avoid collisions… This meant we were going to prop wrap our gorgeous, smooth, strong, colorful line to get out of there.  

When parking bows to, we throw out the kedge anchor. This is a second anchor, that is attached to a 10-meter chain and 30 meters line. The chain is there to give the line more weight and only 10 meters because that’s all the chain we have.

A prop wrap means that generally a line get’s wrapped around the prop. The tension on the prop increases as the line wraps around it multiple times. The engine can’t turn the prop over anymore and dies. In the episode beneath you can see our first prop wrap.

 

Don’t freak out, stay calm!

Heartbroken we reversed and hoped the rope cutter would do his work. The moment the engine died we were literally strung out. The line was frayed but how severe? Would it hold us longer?

Absolutely terrified, we tried to think fast to get the hell out of this dangerous situation. My logic brain 🧠 was suffering to think straight due to the deafening alarm that roared within my skull: “SHIT!!!, SHIT!!!, SHIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!! we might sink.” 

I struggled immensely to switch it off and went into the water to try and undo the prop wrap. The sky was turning black and the visibility was close to nothing. We needed goggles to see… but I couldn’t find them because the alarm kept taking hold of me. In these situations, Ramon is the captain and he gives orders. I am just running around like a headless chicken.

Fortunately, he was able to think straight after letting it all out. He dropped our bow anchor and went in and pulled the line out of the rudder and started the engine which failed. SHIT!!! Again and failed again. SHIIIIITTTTT!!! On the third attempt, we were indulged by the black fumed, melodic purring of our Perkins engine. Mmmm that sound, I’m going to tape it and make it my ring tone one day. 

Full throttle forwards and YES the rope cutter did his work. Whoever said that rope cutters are worthless, we need to talk again!!! We got back out the harbor to the anchorage, dropped the Cobra and sat down to comprehend what had happened. 

Back to safety, right??

The following night we were welcomed back with the lovely, violent, rolling of the ocean. We catnapped 45 min in turns. In between the naps, we checked the boat because another boat anchored extremely close to ours. 

After another night filled with trippy, twilight zone states of awareness, we fell into a nice, warm, stressfree coma. Mmmm the luxury of sleep for almost 30 min…. Of course, as we say in Flemish; beautiful songs don’t last that long and definitely don’t sound like: BAM CLANG WEDOWEE. That’s how we woke up, shit, shit, shit… Someone hit our boat. Yup the neighbor that was too close hit us… 

We didn’t know where but we presume that it was our solar panel against his guardrail. There wasn’t any damage. We actively displayed the mantra of hauling up and dropping down the anchor and tried to sleep, to no avail. We installed toothpicks to keep our paranoid eyes open to watch every move of all the other boats around,. Another spot came free on the quay but we didn’t push our luck this time. Our mutual wish was sent into the universe, “close our vision to the world and rest”.

It worked. The following day we jumped out of bed and parked on the quay. Our little pumping hearts were in our throats, with shivering hands I threw out the stern anchor and it bit in the right spot and our mooring lines were successfully caught. Finally all was fine and our souls were energized by safety.

We were again warmly welcomed by the fishermen, locals, and expats who make Palairos the safe haven it is.
First thing tomorrow? Go fishing for our anchor. It might not make a good meal, but I have a feeling that this “hook” will come in handy one day.

Stupidity is limitless…

What a dick! God, seriously?? Why are people like that? Or want to come across like that?
The only intention I had was to avoid a collision with our boats. Highly reasonable right?

Yesterday Ramon and I had this stunning, brilliant, pristine divine rock inlets surrounded by the sea completely for ourselves. Well, in the late afternoon all the other boats left. This was our romantic escape after the two week delivery Ramon had done with Bobby. Curious? Click here…!

We had a barbecue on the beach followed by a swim in the bioluminescence infested bay. The latter was magical. All the ripples we created in the water lit up in this glow in the dark, fluorescent, crystalline turquoise color. Science wise, this is the defense mechanism of the algae.

Rock ‘n Roll

We were in paradise! The price we paid for paradise was undergoing yet another extreme rolly night. This time Mutiny would move from bow to stern. Ramon believed it was better than from side to side, for me it meant another sleepless night. These are regular occurrences in our daily life. We grew used to it. The only issue is that one might act in peculiar ways when suffering from sleep deprivation, mistakes are easily made.

There was one time Ramon frowned upon me, that I was incredibly grateful for. I was holding the water hose very close to the diesel tank instead of the water tank. The only cure is gaining muscle memory, as one wise woman pointed out to me a few months ago. You know who you are, and I have to admit you were more than right. With this advantage you don’t have to think about every step, you are on automatic pilot. Compare it with the mornings you find yourself in bed with a hangover and have no clue how you managed to get there.

Anyhow, the following morning we left rolly heaven to continue our journey to the following bay. We wouldn’t be there alone, unfortunately, but we wouldn’t roll, a nearly Stockstill night on the water would be a dream come true…

Another day another bay

Thirty minutes later, relying on the engine to transport Mutiny, we moored up and couldn’t resist the crystal clear blue beneath us. We dived in to surface again as reborn entities. Once in the immensely see-through liquid, we took some shots for our site and YouTube channel. It was then that we spotted fins in the water. Our first reaction was to get out of the water and on the boat. These fins moved at a high speed and made quick 45 degrees turns, every half a meter. They created a wake in the water… a predator!

Shot from the keel below the waterline

Other people began to see them too. We took the kayak and were super close, we took some footage and presume it was a baby swordfish! Bloody fast, they are.

After all this excitement, the exhaustion caught up on us and we lay down. I am better with siestas than Ramon. I fell in a 1-hour coma, only to wake up and notice that the hubby was gone. I tried to get some more sleep but as usual, that window was closed and gone.

“If the wind changes, you will be slamming into us, I would like to avoid that.”

It didn’t take me long to wake up, once I met with the hubby in the cockpit. There was an SV Delos like boat (Amel super Maramu 2000, cutter rigged) way to close to ours. In this bay, you drop your anchor from the bow and reverse. Once the anchor bites, you get shorelines from the stern. -You attach these lines to the back of the boat and tie them on land around rocks or trees, whatever is easier- This prevents you from free-swinging and gives more boats the opportunity to anchor in the bay.

“This guy just mansplained me that he knew the distance and he would swing in front of us.”

Arrogance

Now this super Maramu, which certainly wasn’t Delos because that crew is incredibly competent, was way too close for comfort and refused using shorelines. I jumped up and leaped into the kayak half dressed -living on a boat in tropical climates motivates the urge to be naked 24/7 and believe me I wasn’t like that before-, paddling towards the threat. “Excuse me, madam! Are you staying the night or just a few hours?” I asked. She replied,: “Oh no, more like a few days.”
I told her they needed to re-anchor the boat because it would blow against ours when the wind would change from the South East to the North West. The latter being the prevailing wind, conclusion? collision unavoidable!

She called the skipper who assured me there wasn’t the slightest issue. He calculated his swinging circle and would never touch us. My reply was: “If the wind changes, you will be slamming into us, I would like to avoid that.”
Mutiny is our house, our transport, our safe haven, that guy just has way too much money and bought a sailboat which he uses for two weeks a year and he doesn’t bloody know anything about it. I mean hell,… I thought I couldn’t judge distances and I couldn’t, at least I was honest about it, but I learned. This guy just mansplained me that he knew the distance and he would just swing in front of us.

Clearly there wasn’t any room for feedback or let alone discussion in this conversation, so I went back to Mutiny.
-when I was younger I would have made a big deal about this with the necessary drama, I guess I learned it’s not worth it-
Ramon, Styx, and I just waited for the wind to change and prepared Mutiny for this collision, after all, that was the only thing we could do…

We were counting down and there they came; the arrogant mansplaining skipper and ignorant wife, their stern bumping into the

Port Leone, the bay where it all happened.

The most retarded idea ever, you slam into us once are you going to hit us twice??? Yup, there he was again not touching us but his keel (2 meters under the waterline) caught our anchor, which he also crossed of course. Now, his stern didn’t hit us but the dinghy was twisted around our chain. The woman clearly didn’t know anything about boats and wasn’t the fastest thinker or practical person. Therefore, Ramon was trying to untangle the dinghy with his toes and I boarded the kayak again.

The skipper was at the helm reversing and forwarding asking us what to do because the woman was bloody useless.
Eventually, it worked, we started giving them instructions, finally, they listened. I think we radiated: Shut it and listen! Because we were prepared for this unfortunate series of events, our boats managed to get away without damage.

At last, they were going to re-anchor. There was no thank you for your help or even sorry we didn’t listen before… Nothing… For me, the worst part was that he just didn’t listen. Is it because I am a woman? Because I was 20 years younger? Or was it just bloody arrogant ignorance? Well, screw you too then!

Second try

Five minutes later we heard our friendly neighbour urging the same stupid guy to relay his anchor because he crossed our neighbours and they would leave early in the morning. Mister arrogant his answer was:” No, I am good here.”
The next morning our neighbours had to wake him up because, as said before, he crossed their anchor and was blocking his way out…

The only guy in the middle of the bay that is free-swinging, while literally all the other boats have long lines… Stupidity? Laziness?  Will these entities ever learn?

I know I get overprotective about Mutiny, now you might understand why. People acting retarded and refuse to follow the advice of others… Why all the hassle? Why don’t they accept the helping hand? Swallow your false pride and freaking take it!

Today we saw them again. Anchoring a few boat lengths away from us and not using shorelines. This time, however, they stayed well away from Mutiny and her protective crew.
Styx gave them a nasty look, Ramon was doing some chores on deck and I was writing this blog when they decided to anchor elsewhere.
Who knows, maybe we planted an educational seed or taught them a lesson about life; “you can’t swing on a hook when the surrounding boats are long-lined ashore”.

Alone on the boat in a storm.

Mutiny we love you, we adore you.
You protect us from all evil and gave us a home.
You grant us our freedom as we grant you yours.
You gave us a place to call home.
A home, that provides us, escapists, with limitless travel.
Let’s sail the seven seas together, to places none of us have ever been.
Let’s say goodbye to the land world and live afloat.

It all comes down to trusting Mutiny. She is strong, build to last, and the perfect bad weather boat.
I guess this refers to her sailing capabilities and not being tied up on a dock, quay, floating dock, for anchor, or on a bouy. In these conditions, we also need to trust the lines she is attached to. They definitely need to be solid. If one snaps Mutiny may transform in a drunken ballerina on ice damaging everything that comes on her path.

“I think I’ll be fine in this storm”

I hope she holds today. It’s terrifying alone on the boat in a storm. Our batteries are so knackered that I might not be able to start the engine in case all goes South… Well, I would have to disconnect the fridge or laptop depends on what device I am using at that time. It’s one or the other. Subsequently, I have to wait until our solars and/or Wendy (our wind generator) charge the batteries sufficiently. This will all be solved when we buy new batteries. We will get the Varta ones because they are the best for our needs.

Being in a storm on an ocean is utterly dangerous people say but at least, in that case, you are free of lines that put tremendous amounts of strain on the cleats. I have read comments of many other sailors that said; “When there is a storm at sea, I just go down below, watch a few films and come back up when it’s over.” This of course is only possible with proper bluewater boats like Mutiny. So I think I will be fine in this storm.

Mutiny’s huge cleats. If you have 45 knots of winds (85km/hour on land), you can imagine the strain on the cleats and lines.

At the moment of writing this blog, Ramon is doing a delivery. He is transporting a production boat. Which are mass-produced, there is no love in them, Ramon calls them toy boats. You can feel every movement, unlike our marvelous Mutiny. Think about cars, in a small car you have the idea you go faster.  Especially, the little Toyota jeeps, which you can push over. Big cars are much more trustworthy and don’t tip over in light winds.

All sorts of things about what could happen go through my head. My neighbors lost their dinghy. The woman was braving the waves to get the dinghy back to her boat. She had to hoist herself in it form the water level. She did it so graciously, it was there and then that I noticed she wasn’t wearing any knickers. Once she made it into the dinghy, I was watching over her, and together with her praying the outboard would fire up. When it purred at once we both cheered and she realized she was still half-naked. “Oh! Don’t look at me, please I am not wearing any clothes.” She laughed. “Well, I don’t really mind and besides I’m a woman too don’t worry about it!” I replied. You just got to love sailor girls, women, they are the best! At that moment it dawned upon me I wasn’t that scared anymore, thanks to that lovely half-naked gypsy mermaid that made me forget about it. I didn’t catch your name but thanks, I needed that. You can’t make these things up, can you? Soon after that incident the storm subsided.

The biggest storm we had was a few weeks ago while we were still in COVID 19 lockdown. It was gusting up to 55 knots -102kph-. The wind came from the East and that always means havoc in this village. The wind builds up to outrageous proportions while tumbeling down the Acarnanian mountain. The first touching point of the accelerated wind is the harbor. Where we were tied up upon. Bows to – the nose of the boat towards the dock – we always go bows to because we have a full keel and that is bloody hard to control, simply said they are not made to reverse. (In the Mediterranean, the preferred way of docking is stern-to) Mutiny’s bum caught all the wind and this is one of the biggest surfaces of the boat.

View on the Acarnanian mountain from rio de Palairos. https://www.facebook.com/RioDePaleiro/

I can assure you we didn’t sleep much that night. Luckily Ramon and I sleep in shifts. We always do, naturally, when he awakes I sleep and the other way around. His sleeping pattern is very different than most human beings. But this is perfect for night sailing on big passages.

The only disadvantage is that you are exhausted, do stupid things as a result, and may lose your moral high ground. Suddenly, you aren’t tired anymore and are running up and down the deck, climbing the mast of an unsteady sailboat. You fix the problem and are not scared anymore. You feel indestructible, high as a kite as if you transcend your physical body and are in a state where you can manipulate your reality completely to your own hand. The same way you can alter your dreams. Wow, this is addictive what is this? Adrenaline! When your body and mind are empty shells, the adrenaline covers you in a warm Gibson – guitar sound – blanket filled up with pure joy, without realizing it you are a superhero. Beware though the toll on your body is considerate.

Here we were just literally: “Riders on the storm.”
For the full episode:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-knpvVjDR

In the picture above we had both some adrenaline running through our veins. We left Palairos before the storm hit. There wasn’t a lot of wind at the start of that day but the clouds embodied a fast approaching cold front. This would entail heavy wind. We took our time to go to Nydri. when we saw the black huge anvil-shaped clouds nearing, we immediately lowered the sails as quickly as we could and fired up the engine in order to stay in front of the storm and hopefully it wouldn’t catch up on us before we made it into the harbor.

The waves hit Mutiny from the stern and we were surfing, for the first time! We both absolutely loved it.

Recently, a competent skipper told Ramon that you have to reef as soon as you can. Even in 15 knots of wind, reefing, reefing, and more reefing. When Ramon told him he didn’t even reef in 35 knots and even had the main completely out, he almost choked on the mezze he was eating. “That is just downright treacherous! Why didn’t you reef?” he was still able to utter. “Well, we didn’t know…”. He brought it to our attention that we should always reef, if you think about it you are already too late. We shared our story underway to Kalamos. You have to get in between two mountain ranges to enter the harbor. The wind is called a dropping wind. The same principle as explained before in Palairos. The air falls down the range and comes straight at the boat. We heeled 50 degrees, without our sails. Thank Buddha we just managed to stow them in time. I don’t know how much we would have heeled if we still had the main sail out. Curious? Check it out here:

If we would have done that with a production boat, it would have fallen to pieces. I love that it always comes down to how strong our marvelous lady is. We are extremely thrilled that we bought her. She is the best thing that ever happened to us.

My first day alone on the boat.

You might wonder how that is? First of all, I am not really alone, Styx is here and the Palairos (the little village where I find myself in) ex-pats. Concerning living on the boat alone as a human is brilliant, awesome, beautiful to name a few. Not that I don’t miss the hubby, he left on a two to three-week delivery -he is transporting a boat from France to Greece at the moment of writing-. It’s just magical. I am even writing this first draft of my blog on a block note with a too short pencil beneath the bloody red light* of the navigation station.

*It’s red because that doesn’t kill your night vision while night sailing. This in case you need to check the old fashioned paper charts. Why don’t we do that anymore?

Studying for the ICC

I just came back to the boat. It’s my first entire day single on our lovely, sturdy, marvelous mum. – Ramon and I call her mum instead of “our baby” as many others do – Just before I was in a restaurant/taverna – as you call them in Greece – with the pirate family (who we spend last summer and winter with) and two newcomers. New to living on a boat that means. They are three weeks old and learning everything about their sailing vessel, a Jeanneau 37, if I am not mistaken.

The super, relaxed eager to unravel the mechanical and electrical system of the boat female half of the couple, was firing up a piston that almost fully rotated the crankshaft once* with her enthusiasm. You definitely do recognize a true-hearted sailor when you cross one.

 “Is it because they’re my generation or have we been living too long in between the elder?”

*A year ago when I started studying engines a whole new world opened up for me. So many actions happen simultaneously and result in one holistic outcome. Unbelievable, it’s a shame you can’t see the crankshaft and the pistons of the engine. And the assuming and presuming of possible issues, it’s almost a philosophy. Maybe material for another blog?

via GIPHY

Back to the couple, they are too modest to display their insecurities. Instead; undergo all ideas is what they breathe. They are here now; in their boat, while I’m writing this draft on paper. – I’m still able to write but it isn’t as fast as typing. I think it might be better because you have more time to think before you scribble. – They have been my neighbors for the last three? Four? days. We hadn’t talked much before tonight. Only basic stuff, as the 10 min talk you do with land neighbors. After tonight I have really spoken to them. Pretty cool peeps! Is it because they’re my generation or have we been living too long in between the elder?

“The Mayday message from the crew in the life-threatening situation, Ramon and I heard, stopped replying at the rescue authorities. Pretty morbid…

There was a connection, in the bubble mind you! Palairos, is a bubble… A place that is very hard to leave, because of the laid back atmosphere, the beautiful combination of all its lovely inhabitants, who are all a bit crazy in their own peculiar way and unexpected things happen. A different vibration in the outgoing frequency. Hopefully, it isn’t a Mayday… The sailor girl and I even talked about that tonight. The more newbie couple than us – funny how fast you learn – also heard a Mayday on the radio during one of their first trips. A boat caught fire and was sinking. Oddly enough, Ramon and I, heard one of these before as well. In their case, the persons were assisted out. The Mayday message from the crew in the life-threatening situation, Ramon and I heard, stopped replying to the rescue authorities. Pretty morbid… Bizarre to talk about it, We haven’t talked about it with battered sailors. They just don’t talk about fears or did they grow used to them?

Mutiny is my girlfriend! Completely chilled out when she is happy in still waters. Ramon, Styx, and I recently got to know her better in rolling conditions. She would roll from port to starboard side or is it the other way around? Ferociously, violently, 50 degrees to port, 50 degrees to starboard. Vomit inducing one might say…

Honestly, I trust her, she is my religion. I fall asleep knowing she will protect me, grant me my freedom, demands me to stay fit by circumnavigating her, and doesn’t tolerate stupidity. The latter she does by accidentally letting me bump into things. Literally you have to watch your step and she’ll keep your intelligence challenged by creating issues we have to research for days in order to fix them.

On our way to catch the bridge in Lefkas. Look at that gorgeous beamy Mutiny beauty…

If we would have standard funds like 90 percent of the normal Westerners – but our standard is to live up to our freedom&happiness ratio and to practice what we preach instead –  we would just call an engineer or electrician to fix our problem and afterward complain about the money we had to spend for that. But seriously? Where is the love in that?

To get to know her, every little sigh; the stretching of the shrouds when she wakes up in the morning, the water sloshing against her outlines, the swaying lullaby that echoes from her submerged heart is the unique transcending joy us non-gods and non-goddesses can master.

When we newbies, meet sun kissed, windswept, and passionate sailors, we melt. Our “I’m tough too” concept vanishes when they share their horrifying, demonizing tales accompanied by delirium engaging, cheap local house wine.

This isn’t it, this will never be when you have a boat. The ten Commandments of sailing;

  1. You’ll encounter the seven seas; 
  2. You’ll consume too much alcohol;
  3. You’ll be an ignorant slave of your boat;
  4. You’ll research, learn and create;
  5. You’ll lose your balance on land;
  6. You’ll love eating from cans;
  7. You’ll never take a cold beer for granted; 
  8. You’ll glorify long showers;
  9. You’ll stay fit;
  10. You’ll interpret sleep as a utopia;  

Serving gringos in the bush

The jungle is pretty primitive. There are no sockets that grow on tree barks, neither does money grow as weeds do

Ramon and I were living in Honduras and were working in a hostel with an adjoined restaurant.
It was called Via Via. This chain company started in Belgium and nowadays you can find them everywhere in the world. The companies’ philosophy is to provide an establishment in a remote part of the world where travelers and locals can meet, intertwine, drink Belgian beers, and learn from one another. Respect is the most important pillar of their foundation.

For tourists, this entails the flexibility to adjust to the specific surroundings. The jungle is pretty primitive. There are no sockets that grow on tree barks, neither does money grow as weeds do. It comes down to, not expecting a full bar internet connection in the forest, eating food that’s in season and that’s native to the country one might find himself/herself in.

Because of shortages in the dry season in some parts of the world, care must be taken when utilizing the water supply. You might think this is all very logical and travellers take this into account when visiting these countries with limited infrastructure but I can guarantee you, there are aliens on this planet who believe they always can have whatever they wish, regardless of their location and the presence of sufficient sources.

Because of shortages in the dry season in some parts of the world, care must be taken when utilizing the water supply.

First job

Ramon and I arrived in Honduras with almost no funds. We were young and had a dream; travel the world. We would do anything to achieve it. Whatever the costs, we found a way, and looking back now, all these years later, we always did and still do. We get many comments that we are lucky and don’t have kids, etc so many people think it is easier for us to have this existence. I believe there is a difference, it’s just a choice you make and how brave you are.  The first opportunity arose in Honduras. My mum had called me and suggested I should go and visit a Flemish guy in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. He had a restaurant/hotel and a little travel agency called Via Via.

We were going to ask him if he needed employees, that way we would have some pieces of eight coming in. My mum knew about him because she saw an interview with the owner of Via Via on Belgium television. Ramon and I took our chances and went over. Geert; Gerardo for the locals, hired us for two months.

It was interesting to work there. All our colleagues were from Honduras. Working together stimulates a good bond and opens up a new world. As co-workers, you depend and rely on each other. We learned many things about Honduras; culture, traditions, and customs.
In Central American countries, people are outgoing and passionate, contact is easily made. Whereas Asians are super reserved. They don’t show emotions, in their opinion and according to Buddha, this is weak. Read blog Emotions in Asia. (coming soon)

We learned many things about Honduras, the culture, the traditions and the customs”

A hamburger without the burger and the bun, please

We learned to speak Spanish very fast and our colleagues almost spoke fluent English after the two months we worked there. We enjoyed our time with our new colleagues. The only moments we got aggravated was with the never-ending demands of the tourists. Nationality didn’t matter, though some nationalities like Americans were the worst. No offense meant my American friends. It’s just statistics.

All our Latina and Latino colleagues were shocked when Ramon just refused to serve a big group of Americans at one point. He couldn’t do it anymore. It already started when they tried to order, it took ages. They would keep on talking with each other for 30 minutes while the restaurant was packed and we wanted to serve as many hungry mouths as possible. After all, it is a business that wants to cover the overhead costs.

All our Latina and Latino colleagues were shocked when Ramon just refused to serve a big group of Americans at one point.

There were many options you can choose from on the menu. Of course Americans like their burgers, but one wants it without a bun, the other one wants two buns, a half slice of tomato and cucumber but without the seeds.  “And oh, uh maybe I should take something else?” It went. We would tell them to take their time and we would be back to take their orders.

After returning for the fourth time to the same table, someone might run out of patience. Normally I am that person, but in this situation I’m ok. Probably because I grew up in restaurants and bars.

Pushing their luck

Ramon on the contrary, as the straight forward, logical Dutch guy he is, had a very hard time trying not to torture them.

He took their orders and didn’t leave any time to alternate it after the 5th time he tried to get their order in. Once he served the food, imagine carrying three steaming hot plates. In order to serve these plates, customers need to leave some room for the waiter. This crowd would get in your way, it almost seemed they did it on purpose. Once they had their plates, the faces would change in a big question mark. “I asked without a bun and you gave me one.” Our reply would be: ”Just take it off and give it to your friend who wants two buns.”

They answered: “That’s not what I asked for, by the way, is this cutlery washed with drinking water? Why is this napkin on the left-hand side of my plate and not on the right side, did your Latino cook have clean hands when he handed the plates to you, did you wash your hands before serving us? What about these chairs? They are so uncomfortable, and what about the air conditioning?”

“Are you deaf? Get out now, I am not serving you anymore, go and look for other slaves who might.”

Put the gringos on the spot!

That was it, Ramon snapped. This was just downright disrespectful. He passed on the message: “We are in the jungle here, this is not a 5 star Hilton hotel, otherwise the prices would have been way higher, have some respect! The girls in the kitchen had never even had the chance to eat a hamburger in a restaurant, let alone go to a restaurant to eat.

Who the hell do you guys think you are? Kings and queens of the whole wide world and even though, wrong address ungrateful nitwits! Now get out here and never come back.” The entire restaurant grew quiet to witness the scene.

The Americans were flabbergasted and highly offended, they didn’t know how to react. So Ramon repeated: “Are you deaf? Get out now, I am not serving you anymore, go and look for other slaves who might.”

Finally, they left and the other tourists that were waiting for a table took their place. When I went to their table they told me they only wanted to be served by the grumpy guy. All the locals, which were almost all drug lords or involved in the mafia in one way or another applauded for Ramon.

Even our boss came down from his office -this was a small separate area in the restaurant- to ask what has happened. Ramon apologized to him and if he wanted to fire him he would understand. But our lovely boss was amused and agreed with Ramon. He said: “If you wouldn’t have done it, I certainly would have.” From that moment everyone loved -or was it feared- Ramon. 

The mafia ruled the river

The Rio Dulce

While living on the river for a few months (see my blog: Life on the river )we heard the story of the Mayans that control the river. A long time ago when there were just a few settlements on the river, the police force would come by to dictate the inhabitants how to live their lives. This was interpreted as an insult and the river people kidnapped that police officer, the messenger.   

The colleagues of this officer got worried when they didn’t hear from him for 3 days, therefore they send more officers. Likewise, they didn’t return and eventually the army was requested to settle the situation with this tribal folk. 

At that point the town chief had many guns all of a sudden and was selling them to everyone. It was only 100 dollars for an AK 47 and the locals of the river where armed to the teeth. Eventually the army entered the jungle and a huge firefight took place. The first party to retreat was the army. Since then they have never dared to entered the river again. 

Who rules the river?  

The people that live alongside the river, own it. Every little township has a town chief and he calls the shots. Judging the story, you might think these are wild people to a certain extend. In my opinion, they are the friendliest humans ever. It can be hard to communicate with them though because they speak the Mayan language -intensely hard to master- and a few words of Spanish. Regardless of this language barrier, we tried to have a conversation. We got very close to the maid of the hostel where we were living, who was Mayan. She overheard our conversation about the upcoming year, 2012. At one point she gave me the phone to talk to one of her family members. Again, trying to grasp what was being shared with me was ambiguous. What I did understand was that there was going to be a special alignment of the planet and stars and there would be a ceremony. Unfortunately, we were never able to attend the ceremony. I presume Alissa and her relatives (Spanish name of the hostel maid) wanted to invite Ramon and me to one of the sacred gatherings but in the end got told off by her superiors.  

Alignments

The Mayans believed these alignments were a sign of a supernatural force. At Chichén Itza you can still witness these ceremonies. During the equinoxes of fall and spring, the late sun creates shadows that give the impression that a snake is slithering down the Northern staircase of the pyramid. This pyramid is dedicated to Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan; the feathered snake that transcends and connects the earth, underworld, and heaven.

Life on the river

Hurricane shelter

A decade ago, at the beginning of our travels, we stayed on the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. From an expat’s perspective, this was the perfect location to seek shelter for sailors during the hurricane season. We met many of them during our stay at a hostel on the river. We were working for room and board at that time. We absolutely loved the river. It flowed from the town called Rio Dulce which means; “sweet river” but the name refers to the town. Transport further North East was possible by boat only. You would follow the river downstream for 3 to 4 hours on a spectacular boat ride. The river would be broad in the beginning and become so narrow at some stages that you could almost touch the base of the towering limestone cliffs flanking the water when stretching out your arms. The depths were very different too. At some point, it was more than 200 meters deep. The river was ruled by the Mayans. See blog; The mafia ruled the river 

Huts along the Rio Dulce

First close encounter with sailors  

Long story short; it was there that we came in contact with yet another walk of life. A floating one, one of the sailors. We stayed on the river for a few months and got to know these sailors quite well. We were living our lives to the fullest by meeting this specific crowd. It was 2011, a few years ago. Cell phones didn’t exist, the internet was in development and traveling with a big bag was not called backpacking yet. I tried to part with my backpack so many times but I can’t. It’s not as flashy as the ones you can buy nowadays. Therefore, I thought, Ramon and I were eccentric. We were traveling around with all our belongings on our back. My backpack’s weight was only 10 kg, really we didn’t have that much, but we had our spirit, we still do, where there is a will there’s a way.    

All of our belongings

Diehard folk

Anyhow, these sailors inspired us! To always be away from their families, to sail the world in times that keeping in touch was just not possible. They would call their family before they set off on long and dangerous journeys to cross an ocean. The next update would be weeks later so they could tell their relatives that they arrived at their planned destination. If they ever did, that is. This freedom and loneliness intrigued us and was something we had to look into in the future. All the sailors we met where loaded. For us, it would be a few more years until we could do that. 

We were very impressed at that time; it also might have been our age and ignorance that made us worship this crowd. The desire of having a boat and sailing around the world wasn’t that present back then. There was still so much to see on land and we weren’t land sick or people sick yet. With the latter, I address the sheep in our society who have no opinion about anything and just do the same as everybody else. That was certain for us, we won’t ever return to that life again. I think that there and then we decided never to go back to the countries where we had been brought up. Insane ex-pats are still a hell of a lot better than sheep.  

How Corona changed my life

Are we going to pick up where we left after the lock down? Is everything going to be completely different?
The Corona virus, also known as covid 19, changed our world and lives forever. Our social lives vanished within hours. At the moment it happened I was in Belgium.

“The prospect of getting a job in Greece ,where we were stationed, was close to nihil”

Before I continue, let me first tell you how I ended up in Belgium for 4,5 months after not having been there for 11 years. After buying Mutiny with our last savings we didn’t have an income for several months. The prospect of getting a job in Greece ,where we were stationed, was close to nihil. Even the Greeks work hard every summer to survive the following winter.

I thought about doing a job in a call center again like we have been doing in the past and couldn’t bear the thought. With all due respect towards persons living this position of course.
A few days later I received a phone call from my mum, informing me my grandmother died. I hadn’t seen her for 3 years but still, I had a great bond with her. Besides that, she was the last grandparent in line. The next day I booked my flight and talked to my girlfriend in Belgium.

Arrival in Belgium

After I explained my plans, she suggested me to find a job in Belgium, I could stay with her. That same week I arrived in Belgium and went to the funeral. Shortly after I saw my bestie again, for the first time in 2 years, which was lovely and awkward at the same time. Not between us of course but the situation in which we found ourselves.
When I visit Belgium every 2 years, Ramon is there too, now I was alone. My niece didn’t recognize me without Ramon. She was flabbergasted for 2 minutes but then she alternated in the innocent and straightforward 4-year-old she is.

I was working as a caretaker for an elderly couple without kids. I worked, lived, and slept in their house 6 days a week and had one day off. If you ask me now it was insane. Because it was winter, I was bound to the house and my time off was close to nothing. The things we do to survive. In the end, all was fine, there were some hard moments, but hey who doesn’t have these when living together?

Corona conquers the globe

In December the first news of Corona appeared on the television. I heard the news 6 times a day while working there, therefore I will never forget it. China was under siege of the Coronavirus. The symptoms were the same as of a flue. The cure would be Paracetamol but not Iboprofun that would enhance the life of the bacteria.
The whole world happily celebrated the new year and in January shit hit the fan… The virus was spreading, Italy was the worst case. The bars and restaurants were the first to close down. Our social lives outside the house were over.
I have never been so terrified in my life. The thought of never seeing Ramon again was too harsh to bear. By that time we were already separated for 4 months. On the first of April, I would’ve flown back.

I will never forget that Sunday, the 15th of March, while I was spending my day off with my bestie – as I did with the majority of my days off – Ramon called me in panic. He told me to hurry back before it was too late.

The gravity of the situation still didn’t dawn upon me. Only the ‘normal’ beings were freaking out for a disease that was easy to cure. I never associated myself as being normal. Normal people buy houses, cars, have the same job for years and years, and don’t fancy trying new things.
Anyhow, hearing Ramon’s voice with an undertone of anxiety, frightened me.
Regardless, we decided not to give in for me to return home earlier.


The next day, the news announced the cancellation of flights, so we spend our second day on the phone.
Eventually, I was able to change my flight with the extra costs of the new airfares of course. Long story short, on the 19th of March I found myself on a plane towards home.

Athens, here I come…

Ramon picked me up at the airport and we started our 5-hour drive back to Mutiny. The car he rented was in poor condition. Meaning that the alternator didn’t charge the battery when the motor was turned on.

Every red light we crossed our fingers in the hope the engine would keep on purring. Unfortunately, it didn’t… We ended up pushing the car on the highway to get it to start. Luckily there were friendly locals who are amazingly helpful and assisted me in pushing the car. Once the motor run, I had to hurry and jump in. This was harder as I was suffering insomnia the week before I had to catch my flight. I was immensely terrified the government would decide every minute to cease all airborne traffic.

“We knew our relationship would survive but that doesn’t mean it made it easier”

This did happen on the next day. All flights were ceased. I was incredibly lucky to get home on time. Otherwise, I would still be stuck In Belgium. That would mean I wouldn’t have seen Ramon for 9 months.

This is the time for a baby to grow. Insane,… It took quite some adjustment to be together 24/7 again. We knew our relationship would survive but that doesn’t mean it made it easier. It was as if we had our first date again after being together for almost 12 years… it was dazzling. Upon my arrival in our ‘home’ village, I was quarantined for two weeks. This meant I had to stay on the boat.

It reminded me of the infamous onliner in Apocalypse now; ‘Don’t get off the boat!’. Besides the: ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’ that is my favorite quote. All well in the end, for us at least.


What is your experience with Corona? Where were you when the lockdown kicked in? Do you know any people who had the virus? Please leave your comment below. If you want to know more please ask us anything.

The last flight before COVID 19 lockdown

At 3:00 am my alarm clock disturbed my thoughts. Drifting off to sleep wasn’t going to happen, my thoughts were spiraling endlessly on and on. I always try to focus on letting my thoughts go. This works for a few seconds until the not trying to think of something costs more effort than just thinking about it. Another strategy I frequently use is thinking as many things as possible, this creates a certain relaxing slumber. Again this is just briefly, unfortunately.

I got up, took my stuff, tried to eat something, and called my dad. He woke up and we drank some coffee in the hope it would help. Both my dad and I are bad sleepers. Especially in this situation. We had a long drive ahead of us. Approximately 2 hours. He would drop me off to catch the last flight out of Belgium due to COVID 19. The next day the entire country would go in lockdown.

Four and a half months earlier, when I arrived in Belgium he also picked me up from the airport. Now he was escorting me out. Once in the car, he talked to his GPS and a route was calculated. This all went fine, we had the time and made a few pit-stops to get coffee and breakfast. It was hard to find a gas station opened, so we had to try several times. This resulted in the time passing by quicker as we anticipated and me having less time to check-in.

There was no traffic on the road at all. Only big trucks on their way to stock the big supermarkets. Especially toilet paper probably… In the 2,5 hours it took us to drive to the airport we could count the vehicles we came across with, on one hand.

“Naturally, the virus would spread rapidly and become a pandemic”

I was philosophizing with my dad about what was bound to happen to the world. The virus spread at an alarming rate. Belgium took serious precautions. Probably because it is a small country bordered by France, The Netherlands, and Germany. Loads of transport has to come through it. It’s very industrialized and has a high population rate. People literally live on top of each other. A twenty-story building isn’t a peculiar site. Naturally, the virus would spread rapidly and become a pandemic. We hoped we wouldn’t be fined because we went out of our houses during lockdown to drive to the airport. At that point, all shops were already closed, except for the supermarkets. You could only enter three persons at the time and had to hold your distance, hence the later named social distancing.

My dad, who has spent time in the army shared his vision on how he saw this virus as a war. Economical, social warfare to be precise. As always the entrepreneurs are the biggest victims. All restaurants and bars saw their income melting like snow in the sun. Tough times were ahead of the whole world.

Highway to Hell

The ride was pleasant and soothing. I love how you can always have good conversations in a car. Persons are generally pretty relaxed while driving is steady and predictable. Of course, the opposite situation can happen as well. For example when the beast unleashes in the form of traffic aggression while the drivers both haven’t eaten all day due to Ramadan. This is a story for another blog.

Although the beast didn’t unleash during our ride, the relaxed atmosphere was getting more tensed as we missed our turn. We lost twenty minutes because of the detour we had to make. Once we arrived at more or less the same point, the GPS instructed us to take the next turn in 200 meters. After this 200 meters, the GPS told us we missed it again. This always happens to me when driving assisted by GPS. They announce you have to take a turn while you already passed it because the turn starts with a 200-meter straight road. If the road is familiar you know this. If you’ve never been there it can be utterly confusing as in our case.

My dad and I are very much alike, certainly, temper wise. This can easily evolve in a discussion in which one party blames the other of the misfortune that’s happening. Therefore, fights are easily conceived.

When my dad pinched me just above my knee and looked me in the eye with a defeated expression on his face and said: ‘Love, we are running out of time.’, I was tempted to follow his lead in this self-inflicted misery.

Even when my mom called to ask me: “How busy is it in the airport?” and I had to tell her I wasn’t there yet -upon which she reacted with stress reflecting on me- I stood strong. I blocked myself to contemplate the fact that I would miss this flight and be stuck in Belgium. My instinct took over, lifted the veil of doubt and insecurity, and made rational decisions. This is my goal, go out of my way or beware, I won’t be responsible for my actions and will take you down with me if you try to cause any further delay. I forgot the world around me and shut down all unnecessary functions, all my energy was focused on this one and the only goal, I had to achieve. There was no room for failure. It would be way easier and more predictable to let myself fall in the bottomless pit of self-pity. Particularly because I have experience with that. No, no, no it’s warrior time, time to finally transcend the person I was to the person I have become. Basically; grow up and be responsible for your actions. The joys of being mature…

It happened automatically, I wasn’t completely aware during this process. I took my phone, Googled the route to the airport, and ‘voila’ there was a way out of these roads in the middle of nowhere.

“So, what the flying crap!?!”

The solution was very easy, I must agree but stress interferes with rational thinking. Thirty minutes later, we finally arrived and I had thirty minutes left to check-in. I had such a ridiculous amount of luggage. (2 bags of 20 kg, 1 of 10 kg, a guitar and two small backpacks of 8 kg each). The problem was, due to the fear of getting infected by everybody using the same trolleys the airport banned them. Besides that they were probably preparing to close the airport as the entire fleet, we learned later, would stay on the ground the next day. So, what the flying crap!?! ‘AAAARRRGGGHHH…’ as fast as my heroism came it went. I couldn’t carry this alone and there wasn’t enough time left to get it inside in pieces… I don’t want to ask my dad because he has an electrical leg prosthetic.

Customer service?

This entails that it’s nearly impossible for him to carry heavy luggage, maintain his balance, and be quick. Of course, he was already suffering because he tried. While I couldn’t take this next blow, my dad remained strong and told me to ask someone for help.

Apparently my hunger to fight my way towards my goal inspired him. I asked an employee of the airport in the best French I could master -believe me, it was worthless…- if he could help me carry my ballast. He said he couldn’t. I was back to stressing out, as my dad pointed out there were other people passing by. Luckily they were willing to help.

After hugging my dad half to death, buried under the burden of way too many emotions for one person in one moment, I continued towards the check-in. Again, one step closer to getting home. The repeating mantra of my fellow travelers one day before COVID 19 lockdown:’Girl how much stuff does a person need?’ playing at the back of my head. This mantra was violently interrupted by the check-in agent who informed me I had to pay 145 euro extra for my luggage. While I tried to process this message, my mom was calling me again. I couldn’t think of a better time for her to reach me…

Apparently, I booked all luggage on the ‘guitar ticket’ instead of my personal ticket. There was only one extra name on it, being; guitar. “Can’t you just change the name, so I don’t have to pay?” I asked. “No, not possible madam.” They replied. I felt a metal rod piercing my heart when I paid the amount. Frankly, I didn’t care at that moment, I just wanted to go home.

But seriously? COVID 19 was turning into a pandemic, Belgium was in lockdown because of it. Because of the stress and the fact I had to rebook my ticket, I made the mistake of adding my luggage on the ‘guitar’ ticket. Really? No compassion or understanding at all from Ryan Air. I had to pay. In the end, it would have been cheaper if I hadn’t added the extra bags at all. Ridiculous isn’t it. That’s the last time I am flying with these pricks.

“…lost all his money and had to stay awake all night”

When I looked around, I felt slightly better. All the other travelers there were trying to get home. They all had bloodshot red eyes and hadn’t slept for a few days. The guy that assisted me with my luggage had a story as well. He missed his flight the day before because they sent him in the wrong direction at the airport. After he realized this, he was too late to turn back and had to rebook his flight, lost all his money, and had to stay awake all night. There are no hotels around the airport and if there where he couldn’t afford it anymore. Although he was on the same flight as me and there were only thirty minutes left, he stopped to help me with my luggage. We almost both lost our flight because of it. I couldn’t stop thanking him.

Once on the plane, I fell into a one-hour coma. There were quite some people in the airport. All with the same idea: going home before it wouldn’t be possible anymore. Mouth caps weren’t obliged and I believe the steward and stewardess where from the North of Italy.

A few hours later, being entangled in my hubbies deep, intense, and muscled arms, it was all worth it. Finally, I could let go of my alertness and relax. Once back on the boat and hugging our little black cat, I burst into tears of pure joy. What a hell of a ride… The last one on land, that is.

My advice to you would be, don’t ever fly with Ryan Air. The worst company ever, you always end up paying more. While I neatly paid for all my luggage, they refused and charged me again. If you want a cheap flight check this site; Skyscanner. Transavia is also cheap and nice to fly with.

What are your experiences during the outbreak?