Settling In

Brig, Betsy, my brother Brandon and I are settling in after arriving safe and sound in St Thomas a little more than two weeks ago. Peter had just arrived with our new boat from Antigua and everything was still in full on project mode. Day by day we’ve chipped away at the list and its just now starting to feel like home.

Every new boat comes with a few hiccups – a few surprises we couldn’t have anticipated. As soon as I got there the refrigerator and freezer keel coolers stopped working.  Peter only had the boat in the water for about a week at that point so many of the systems were being put to the test for the first time.  The good news is that Reefco, the local marine refrigeration company, was able to diagnose and supply the parts we needed. The bad news is how much the parts and labor cost us 🙁 We began to work on getting on the schedule to haul the boat out to do the repairs.

We were on the dock at Crown Bay Marina for the first few days after arriving back in the islands, then moved to a nearby mooring that our friends Jesse and Stacey on SV Smitty helped us arrange.  When we tried to leave, our alternator and oil alarm were both giving us issues. Eventually we got it resolved enough just to get us up to Christmas Cove a short sail away but as we approached the mooring field that afternoon, our troubles continued.  The engine wouldn’t start! We calmly thought about what could be wrong and continued to try starting it a few more times. Suddenly it turned over… Our engine started and we anchored toward the back of the pack. We could have come in under sail but it’s always nicer to be able to back down on your anchor. A ton of boats were there already in anticipation for a regatta so there weren’t many spots to choose from. After we got settled Peter determined it was pure luck that we got the engine started just then and that it would NOT be starting again.

We had to wait almost a week to get Offshore Marine out with a replacement Electronic Control Unit, so not only did we have no way to start the engine, we still had no refrigeration. Our plans for hauling out to fix the keel coolers would have to wait until we had an engine to get us into the haulout slip. I’ve got towing on our new insurance but it wasn’t worth the hassle of filing a claim.  We resorted to eating soup, mac n cheese and pb&j.

Eventually we got it all fixed. We sailed back out to Christmas Cove now and we can finally relax! There will always be boat projects but we hope the major stuff is all done now.  Peter’s birthday was March 30 and luckily we got to spend it in paradise.

We’re all adjusting pretty well. Brandon is getting used to boat life. Betsy is so happy to be able to lay in the sun all afternoon again, and Brig is busy as ever. At 9 months he can walk around the whole inside of the boat using the walls for stability, he loves eating goldfish and he’s learning to like swimming at the beach! Peter and I are just happy to be back to where we belong <3

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Our New Home

Almost exactly 6 months after Hurricane Irma flipped our world upside down, we finally have a new home!

She’s a beautiful 1981 Stevens 47, bigger than our last boat with three staterooms instead of just two. You may recognize the Stevens/Hylas 47 design as it’s the same kind that our friends on Totem have sailed around the world over the last 10 years. A true bluewater boat perfect for anywhere our next adventures take us. We will do a renaming ceremony soon to keep the same name we had before, Mary Christine. It’s only fitting as our last boat was named after Peter’s mom, and she will continue to keep us safe. Our order from DIY Lettering is in the mail now!

***

You’d think that buying a boat would be so much fun. It definitely was fun to search online for awhile, until we’d seen literally every boat on the market and still weren’t sure if we’d found the right one. We weren’t just looking for fun. We needed a home. We could sit around searching every day for something else to get listed, but instead we made a shortlist of five possibilities that fit our criteria and then started booking plane flights to get us closer to the East Coast.

The last blog update was when we were visiting friends in Georgia over New Years. From there we drove to go see a boat for sale in Alabama that ended up having some undisclosed issues we couldn’t look past. Then we flew to Florida where we got to spend a lot more time with family and friends.

We saw another two boats in Florida, one of which Peter really liked. I really did NOT like it but it was affordable and it would get us back on a boat, in our very own home, right away. We already had flights booked to go look at a boat in Antigua and one in Grenada, both of which were our top two choices after months of scouring YachtWorld, so we continued on our way.

The stop in Antigua was brief, just two days, but we got to catch up with our friends Rob and Deb from Cosmos Mariner. That’s where we first saw what is now our new home 😉 We took a good look at the boat and I actually liked it more in person than on paper. At that point it was a definite possibility but we had one more stop to make to know for sure.

We flew to Grenada and stayed with our friend Steve on Lunacy, a Whitby 42 just like our old boat. It felt really good to be back in a familiar place on a boat that almost felt like home, but kind of strange at the same time. We were still homeless. I loved the boat for sale in Grenada but there were yet again some previously undisclosed concerns that we didn’t learn about until we saw the boat in person.  So, we made an offer on the Stevens, but it was rejected. Based on the work it needed we just couldn’t justify or afford to go any higher. With that, we flew back to Florida to regroup.

After a lot of soul searching and settling, I agreed to make an offer on the boat in Florida that Peter liked. Long story short the seller wanted more than we were willing to offer and the deal eventually fell through.

With our heads hanging low once again, I remembered there had been a tentative offer on the Stevens after ours. Just for kicks I emailed the broker asking if the boat was still pending or if it fell through. Turns out it was still available. The guy that came to see her just didn’t want to take on as many projects as it needed. With some serious number crunching, we made another offer and we were absolutely thrilled it was accepted!

I booked a ticket for me and Brig to go back to Washington State and pack up our things. It’s unreal the kind of stuff you can accumulate in such a very short period of time while living on land. Most of it is for Brig but there are a lot of things I needed to buy to replace the rest of what we couldn’t recover. Peter got a one way ticket back to Antigua and began preparing our new home.

It will be 5 weeks apart by the time we see Peter again… we fly out on TOMORROW!! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. Far too much time apart over the last six months. Our baby is almost walking on his own and he turns 9 months old the day we leave. It’s all a blur.

Just how am I going to manage carrying all of our luggage, baby and dog by myself on two airplane rides? My brother, Brandon, is coming with me! There’s no way I could manage alone with both Brig AND Betsy. It’s an overnight flight out of Seattle so we fly into St Thomas on Wednesday afternoon where Peter will be waiting for us.

He hired our friend Rob to help him get the long list of repairs done faster and to help him deliver it from Antigua to USVI.  They both worked so hard to make it all come together. The first photo above is them leaving Jolly Harbour Saturday morning. Waiting for that next phone call was almost as bad as waiting for the call after Irma. I knew he would be fine but of course I was still worried. They made it safe and sound after a great passage!

Still wondering what happened to our old boat? The insurance claim was processed and paid relatively easily, it just took a little longer than it should have. We bought the boat back from the insurance company as part of the settlement and months ago Peter went back to BVI to get her all cleaned up. It was a monumental effort but worth it in the end. He was able to salvage and clean some of our personal belongings but some of it was either destroyed by the rats, water damage and mold, or impact from during the storm.

The most serendipitous part is how we met the guy that bought her. YEP, we sold her!!! At first we thought we would just clean her up and live aboard at our mooring ball until we could find our forever boat instead of buying a replacement that doesn’t really suit our needs. Then, Peter met Trent. His boat sunk in Irma and he just needed a place to live so he could continue working in St. John. There was still some serious damage that needed to be repaired, and the boat will never be as seaworthy as it was before, but it was doable. The thing is, Peter wouldn’t have felt comfortable selling her to anyone at all, but Trent does fiberglass, teak and finishwork by trade! And he has done many boat refits before. If there is anyone that could make this boat beautiful again it’s him.

Trent and his brother Tracy made fast work of getting the mizzenmast detached and basic systems functioning, then they delivered her down to Coral Bay St. John where she will get a little R&R 😉 She’s in good hands and for that I’m thankful.

It’s Monday now and by Wednesday afternoon we will finally all be back where we belong: on a boat down where the coconuts grow 🌴

So what’s next?

We will be heading to St. John USVI where Peter hopes to find some work. The repairs our new boat needed didn’t leave us with much savings but we now have an amazing fully functional home.

This year we are choosing to be south of 12 degrees 40 minutes (Grenada) for Hurricane Season like we did the first two years. It was much easier to get insurance for “outside the box” and it’s statistically better odds for staying out of the path of another hurricane. We are required to be down there from July 1 – November 1 so we’ll probably start heading south in May or June. Until then you can find us in the Virgin Islands!

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Anchored

*** SPOILER ALERT: Jump to the bottom of this post to find out what happened to our Mantus Anchor in 240+ mph winds during Hurricane Irma!! ***

 

Without a doubt, our most important piece of equipment that we rely on to keep our boat safe is our anchor. When we first started cruising four years ago, it was a hot topic in our home for quite awhile. There were lots of other cruisers discussing what kind of anchor they trust and why.  We did our research and eventually Peter and I decided that the Mantus and Rocna anchors had the best design on the market. Both having a relatively new-school design, not many of the old salts were really talking much about them yet. Rocna was a hot name but we had some first hand experience of several Rocna’s dragging near us – one time where Peter had to jump on board and help rescue a boat when their Rocna didn’t hold.

After talking extensively with Mantus Marine, watching videos of their product in action, and reviewing all the info they had on their website, we were sold.  Our previous anchor was a 45lb Delta and we upgraded to a galvanized 65lb Mantus – a decision that made us feel way safer knowing we were moving up to not only a storm anchor rated for greater than 50 knots, but an anchor that could be trusted in all kinds of seabeds.

The anchor itself came in three pieces that got bolted together. The installation was a little messy with all the special bolt grease but it was fairly easy.

Swapping out the old anchor for the new anchor was the hardest part about it since we needed three people. I drove the boat, Peter was on the bow operating the windlass and our friend Mike was in our dinghy ready to guide in the very muddy old anchor and chain and then feed Peter up the new chain through the bow roller. The new anchor fit perfectly and we admired it for a little while before lowering it into some seriously thick mangrove mud.

Literally within two days of installing our new Mantus, a nasty 45 knot squall came through our anchorage. Of course it held like a charm but I couldn’t believe how much better sleep we both got that night knowing we were totally secure.

***

You must know that this all happened two years ago. Yes, you read that right, two years ago. It’s taken me that long to actually write about it. Shortly after Mantus shipped our new anchor to us down in Grenada, our sweet boy Gunner took a turn for the worse. We knew the end was near but it was around this time that things were getting especially difficult to care for him. Simultaneously, we literally ran out of money and were making plans to sail back up to the Virgin Islands and begin working for Aristocat Charters. The relaxed life we had known for the past two years was starting to turn upside down.

Before we made our journey North, we stopped at the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines one last time and got some REALLY cool underwater video of Peter repeatedly lifted our new Mantus Anchor out of its holding while I then gently backed down on the engine and he recorded how quickly it reset itself in both sand and turtle grass. The water was so clear and the footage turned out amazing. I was SO excited to post it!!

I went to transfer the footage from the Go-Pro to my laptop and after the import was complete the program was set to automatically delete the files from the device. (I know, stupid, right?) For some awful reason, the files were not actually imported, and yet they got deleted anyway. I spent countless hours researching how to recover them since I also had video on there from Gunner’s very last beach day ever in Carriacou 🙁 I was unsuccessful and totally crushed. Since then we immediately started working in BVI with few days off which meant our boat did not leave our mooring ball for almost all of the last two years. Needless to say that didn’t give me any opportunities to replace our amazing video proof of just how much we love that Mantus anchor.

You really do have to see it to believe it. Peter was blown away the first time he saw it in action. Anytime the water visibility is even remotely clear enough to see our anchor, he ALWAYS dives it to make sure it’s dug in really well. If he’s not sure, he will either dive down and manually dig it in by hand, or he’ll signal for me to back down on the engine a little more until it grabs. A good anchor bite is one thing Peter does NOT take lightly.

With our previous Delta we frequently had to make adjustments before getting a good bite but with the new Mantus it was completely buried on the first try – every time. After watching the Mantus dig in from just the weight of our boat alone, Peter knew we made the right decision.

Even though we weren’t able to use our own anchor very much, Scott decided to put their 65lb Mantus onto their daysail catamaran, Aristocat, at the same time we began running that boat! We now literally have two years of experience with a Mantus from anchoring between one to three times EVERY SINGLE DAY on a much larger vessel.

Even in high winds and coral rubble, if you can get a good bite, that sucker isn’t going to budge. Someday when we start cruising again I will be 100% confident that a Mantus anchor will keep our little family safe.

***

On a side note, Mantus has some really cool accessories that also help to get the most out of our anchoring experience. We installed their Chain Hook for use on our snubber to prevent it from slipping off the chain and it works great!

We also tried out the Anchor Mate that prevents the anchor from swinging around while it’s stored up on the bow roller. This was something especially exciting for us because of the damage that our Delta had already done in some rough weather. It was easy to install and fits perfectly. We did measure to make sure both this piece and the anchor itself would fit onto our very old existing setup and we even had Mantus review some photos of the area around our windlass just to make sure. Now it doesn’t clank around or slam against the hull. Our anchor fits nice and snug when it’s not in use. I can’t even begin to express how impressed we are with their customer service.

All in all, Mantus Marine is an amazing company with the highest quality marine products and it’s run by amazing people that truly understand what their customers want. Highly recommended!! If you’re in the market for any anchoring equipment, do yourself a favor and reach out to Mantus Marine.

 

**HURRICANE IRMA UPDATE**

Okay, so everything above was written BEFORE the largest Hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin took a direct hit over BVI and our boat. I never got around to publishing the above post.

Fast forward to the days just before our boat saw winds of 240+ mph, I’ve got to tell you what happened to our Mantus…

Our Hurricane plan was approved by our insurance company as a written description of the preparation Peter would take to secure our vessel along with a visual diagram of where she would be inside a very protected corner of Manuel Reef Marina, Sea Cows Bay, Tortola BVI. It was a known hurricane hole and one of the best chances we had to protect our boat. Peter had tied up Mary Christine the best he possibly could with all the lines he could get his hands on, spidering them off to the concrete dock, surrounding boats, and had a total of three anchors set to hold her away from the dock. She sat parallel on the concrete wall separated by wood boards, tires and fenders. The “dock” where we were tied up was actually more of the edge of the parking lot for Gene’s Restaurant where we could literally drive our car up to our boat.

Since this wasn’t a typical anchoring scenario, Peter used a dinghy to distribute the anchors around the boat while it was tied to the dock. He set a Danforth style anchor off the port stern and another Danforth anchor from the starboard stern. He then placed the Mantus off the starboard bow. Now, when there is an approaching hurricane, all the boats inside this area have to wait until tropical storm force winds are present to pull their anchors tight because all of the local ferries drive through this channel at the very last minute and they have no regard for anyone’s anchor chains or rode that will ultimately be crossing the channel.  They simply drive right over them, destroying hours of prep work by all the other boats already tied up. It’s awful, but it’s just the way it is here. Sure enough, many of the boats you see in the photo below on the mangrove island had their stern anchors ripped out after tropical storm force winds arrived when all the ferries drove in.  What I’m getting at is that Peter had to literally stay at our boat until the final hour before he could pull our anchors tight and get to a safe place during the worst of the storm.  I can’t even begin to describe to you what kind of sickening feeling this created, both for me watching the news from afar, and for Peter having to live through this nightmare.

The Mantus was our best anchor and to get a really good bite he actually tied the rode to the frame of our SUV and set it with the car!!

We knew Irma was going to be big, but no one could have known just how intense or destructive she would be. The first hit from Irma’s eyewall completely stripped the bolts out from inside the cleats on our boat, ripping the cleats and the winches completely off of the port side.

There was nothing left holding her to the dock so she went drifting out into the area between the dock and the small mangrove island inside Sea Cows Bay. The mizzenmast snapped in half along with several stanchions and the whole bow roller was ripped off. She must have taken some heavy blows because the hull to deck joint had a sizeable crack. The most amazing part is that when Peter finally got back down to check on her several days after the hurricane, the only thing holding her in place alongside the other boats on the mangrove island was that Mantus Anchor! Its almost funny because everyone told us no anchors would hold in this mangrove mud during a hurricane. They all said we’d never get a good bite.

Here’s the kicker.  When our friend Trent dove underwater after the hurricane to try to dislodge the Mantus anchor, he followed the chain with his hands and stuck his whole arm into the mud as far as he could, up to his shoulder, and HE STILL COULDN’T EVEN FEEL THE ROLLBAR!!! I remember reading comments from several people when we first researched the Mantus anchor years ago where they were skeptical of the design and how the roll bar was bolted onto the fluke. Clearly this is not an issue.

Peter and Trent had tried to drive the boat back and forth over the top of it and even had a dinghy wake them a few times in an attempt to wiggle the anchor loose but all it did was begin to grind the windlass motor and skip links of the chain on the gypsy. Nothing they could’ve done was going to dislodge it.  In summary, our 65lb galvanized Mantus Anchor performed flawlessly in excess of 240 mph winds during the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin! I’m confident that this is the only reason our boat is still floating to this day.

So what kind of primary anchor will we choose on our next boat? You better believe we will have a Mantus Marine anchor keeping our family safe.

 

 

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

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A New Year, A New Beginning

Sunday night we rang in the New Year with high hopes for 2018. We are at a point in our lives where the only way to go is forward and we couldn’t be more ready.

I apologize for the recent silence here yet again. Whenever I go silent on the blog it is definitely not because I don’t have anything to write about. Usually I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to begin. (Not to mention how hard it is to find time to write when your baby doesn’t take very good naps!)

The time passes by and the days go on and I feel like there are no words for what is going through my head. This past year has given us some extreme highs and some extreme lows and the shock that comes with each of those moments has been more than overwhelming.

June 13th 2017 was the birth of our first child.

September 6th 2017 ripped our lives apart as Hurricane Irma destroyed our home, our jobs and many of our belongings.

December 16, 2017 marked our first wonderful year of marriage.

We’ve been so fortunate to be able to stay with family and friends during the past four months while we sort everything out and try to figure out where to go from here. It’s been a blessing to be able to let everyone back in the states meet Brig, even under these unfortunate circumstances. A blessing in disguise indeed.

So what have we been up to?? Well…

For the first two weeks after Irma, Peter was still stuck on Tortola. I was going out of my mind with worry and could barely take care of myself while trying to coordinate things for him from afar. Time stood still for me and it felt like we were in a vacuum. I’m so thankful my mom was able to help so much with Brig because I was a total mess.

We finally got Peter out of there and it took awhile to let it all sink in that we had no home to go back to. At 34, I had officially moved back in with with my parents bringing with me my husband, my 3 month old baby, and my dog. I never thought in a million years that I would ever have to move back home. I SO wasn’t prepared for that. I had a family, success and a good life, and it had just never crossed my mind that it could all be flipped upside down in the blink of an eye. The eye of Irma to be exact.

Within a few short weeks we ended up buying a Chevy Tahoe off Craigslist and took off on a road trip for a wedding – and to see Peter’s family (and some friends) – down in Arizona and sunny California. It was a good distraction from the hurricane craziness but it was three more weeks that we weren’t really able to focus on a plan for our future. We headed back up Washington to regroup and come up with a plan.

Luckily our boat was insured. Two years ago I spent a significant amount of time researching the intimidating world of marine insurance and I couldn’t be more relieved that we ended up with some really good coverage. Although insurance is one of those things you hope you never need. we absolutely did end up needing every insurable penny.

A few days after the Hurricane, I got word from Peter that the damage was beyond what he could repair himself and I filed our insurance claim for a total loss. They sent a surveyor out who ended up totaling the boat with exterior damage alone. Damage to the mizzenmast and cracks in the fiberglass were enough to max out the value we had insured so we signed the paperwork and began waiting for the payout.

(our boat shown below still floating, lower left)

During the last four months we’ve talked about a lot of options for what we want to do next. It’s what everyone wants to know. Will we get another boat or will we move back to land? The only thing we can be sure of is that we DEFINITELY want to get another boat and get back down to Where The Coconuts Grow. The islands are where our hearts belong and even though the islands we called home are no where near what they used to be like, it’s where we both want to be.

(It didn’t take long for the hills to start turning green again!)

The next priority was to get Peter back down to our boat and try to salvage any equipment and belongings he could. BVI is slightly more functional (and green) than it was when he left the last time so it wasn’t a totally impossible mission to send him back. The longer we waited the more mold damage there would be so upon returning to Washington after our road trip, we bought him a plane ticket back down to the Virgin Islands. This time, he had a solid plan for what to do with the rest of our belongings, and our boat! More on this later 😉

Two weeks turned into three and Peter still wasn’t back yet. I was basically waiting for more local intel before we could make anymore plans so the waiting game continued. Part of me was hoping he’d return with some super exciting news about a business opportunity in the islands. A few possibilities popped up but nothing in the works yet. Then, I got a call with news that Peter’s step-dad’s father had passed away. Peter flew back up to Washington right away and the three of us made an impromptu flight down to LA and San Diego for a week to be able to attend the memorial service.

Peter had already spent Thanksgiving alone, in the islands and away from us, and Christmas was just around the corner. We got busy again with family so our ideas about the future stalled out again. Brig’s first Christmas was one we will never forget though. It snowed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, altering our plans yet again. We were literally snowed in because the roads got dangerously icy up at my Dad’s house on Camano Island. We ended up having a slumber party with 10 adults, 1 baby and 3 dogs AND we all had matching Christmas jammies!! So much fun and so in line with how much our plans have been changing.

Time felt like it was standing still yet it was flying by so fast my head is spinning! We have been so busy visiting family and friends all over the place that it’s really kept our minds off of how Irma changed our lives forever.

Our travels don’t end there. Believe it or not, we are now in Georgia! We are visiting our good friends Jack and Nikki and family for the New Year and we’ve been working really hard to finally come up with a plan for the future.

There are a couple of boats we really want to go look at now that our insurance claim is finally settled and we can actually move forward if we find the right one.  There’s one boat I really love, but part of me thinks the one we will end up buying hasn’t even presented itself yet.

From the very start of all of this, all I wanted to do was go home – and I couldn’t. I got on that plane in St Thomas just two days before the hurricane hit thinking I was leaving just in case… and that I’d be back in two weeks. I left with a backpack, a diaper bag and my baby and four months later I still can’t go home.

One thing I know for sure is how grateful we are for all the love and support from ALL OF YOU. As soon as we arrived in the states back in September we started receiving messages of encouragement, emails, cards, baby clothes and toys, clothes for me and Peter, treats and toys for Betsy, food, shelter, gift cards and paypal donations to help get us back on our feet. It’s amazing how much “stuff” you need for just the basic necessities. For those of you that helped us out when we needed it most, you know who you are and we can’t thank you enough. We hope to be able to pay it forward some day in a way as equally profound as was done for us.

I know that many of you also donated to various relief funds and organizations that are helping the people of the islands directly as they also struggle to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Our friends Jen and Mike friends from Three Sheets spent countless hours coordinating relief efforts on the ground between St Croix and Tortola. Our friends Brittany and Scott from Windtraveler and Aristocat Charters raised nearly $170k on their fundraiser in coordination with many other organizations at the same time. You can see how those funds were utilized in the updates published on the site here: BVI Immediate Relief. Scott personally distributed supplies on Tortola to families that needed help and the amount of work they both did to help the locals is immeasurable. If you contributed to these efforts or others, even the smallest amount helped in such a huge way.

For now we are taking things one day at a time. We are so thankful for everyone that has taken us in and opened their homes to us. Our family is safe and that’s always all that really matters. ❤️

Stay tuned as we book even more travel plans within the next few days and get one step closer to finding our new home!

 

 

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Surviving Hurricane Irma

Our worst nightmare came true.

Peter, Betsy and our boat were in the BVI, in the path of a historical Category 5 direct hit from Hurricane Irma on September 6th, 2017.

(Islands outlined in purple in the photo above are the USVI. Road Town is the main city on Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands, Northwest of the eye)

Brig and I had flown off island two days prior “just in case” while Peter stayed behind to secure our boat as well as our employer’s work boats in a mad dash to protect both our home and our livelihood.

It wasn’t until last minute that it was even an option for Brig and I to leave. Technically, Brig could not enter the U.S. without a passport. Since he was born in BVI and does not qualify for a BVI passport, we needed to wait until the US Consulate from Barbados came to visit in BVI to apply for his US passport.  This only happens twice a year and we still had several weeks before the next scheduled visit. Given our circumstances with an impending life threatening storm headed for us, the US Customs and Boarder Protection at the St Thomas airport granted me special permission to let us travel with just a birth certificate for him instead. The day after we arrived in the states we applied for Brig’s passport in person and have since resolved the issue. If it wasn’t for this ridiculousness of not being able to get Brig a passport immediately after he was born, we would have either hauled our boat out of the water like we did last hurricane season and flew up to the states to visit family, or we would have sailed down to Grenada where statistically fewer hurricanes ever hit. This year, we made the best hurricane plan we could with the circumstances we were given.

Irma was only a Cat-3 when I left and we had no idea it would strengthen as much as it did. Not only did it grow to become a major Category 5 hurricane, “Irma sustained 185 mph (295 km/h) winds for 37 hours, becoming the only tropical cyclone worldwide to have had winds that speed for that long, breaking the previous record of 24 hours set by Typhoon Haiyan of 2013″ according to Wikipedia.

I watched the news on TV as the eye passed over the entire country of BVI with wind gusts reached a frightening 220 mph. When wind increases, the force is not just incremental, it’s exponential. I can’t even comprehend that… I’m so thankful I have the support of my family – but especially during those awful hours when my communication with Peter was cut off. I couldn’t even take care of myself, let alone my baby. It was absolutely torture for me to know what had just happened to St Martin hours before and that Peter was now going through the same unspeakable disaster. I was terrified for my husband’s life. Thanks to Scott and Brittany’s satellite phone, he was able to call me as soon as the storm calmed down enough for him to go outside.

During the storm, Peter and a few others hid inside a well-built home up in the Belmont neighborhood on the West End of Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The house they thought would act as a fortress ended up with blown out windows behind hurricane shutters and was stripped of it’s roof. Debris blocking the roads to the lower part of the island caused them to hike by foot over the wreckage in order to go anywhere. They had the satellite phone which they used to relay messages for me to post on our facebook page in the early days following Hurricane Irma, and they were also able to reach other survivors to let them make calls to their family and loved ones. With great effort, Peter and others that wish to remain anonymous helped facilitate several medical emergency rescues as well.

Our boat was tucked away inside one of the well known hurricane holes and it took days for Peter to get back down there to check on her. At first glance he saw she was still floating! Hopes were high that our boat might have been one of the very few boats to survive. A closer look, however, revealed that our home had been destroyed. Peter did everything he could but no amount of preparation could have saved our boat or prevented any of the widespread destruction caused by Irma. Cleats and winches were completely ripped off. The mizzenmast was detached and tangled in the rigging of a nearby boat. The hull deck joints were severely cracked, and the vessel was bringing on water below the waterline from an unknown origin. Stanchions and chainplates ripped out of the decks.  Bow pulpit crushed. Bulkheads smashed. Most of the electrical system nonoperational. Mud, dirt and debris inside the boat. Water damage and mold everywhere. She was simply battered beyond repair.  What really salts our wounds is that while the boat was left clinging to the sides of other boats that had been tied to the mangroves, a family of rats had taken up residence in our absence of just a few short days and had been chewing, pooping and peeing on everything inside our boat. If there was ever a hope of salvaging any of our personal belongings, it was now completely gone.

It feels like it took a lifetime to gather the few items we brought with us when we moved aboard our boat four years ago. We couldn’t fit much in our 42′ sailboat but the things we did have in our tiny floating home meant the world to us. Every tool had multiple purposes. Everything that wasn’t a tool had a specific purpose or sentimental value. Friends and family had sent us all we would ever need for the first two years of Brig’s life. We had everything we would ever need for our whole family and we lost it all.

It took two weeks to finally get Peter and Betsy out of there. Thanks to our friends at Three Sheets Sailing, they were able to get on a relief boat in Tortola that was returning to St Croix where they could then take a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, then Houston, and finally arriving to Seattle, Washington late Sunday night. Although the Royal Navy had imposed martial law with territory-wide curfews, Peter still didn’t feel safe staying on Tortola. Everyone left there is just surviving. With such a significant lack of infrastructure it will be awhile before island life can continue as normal. Although the states doesn’t feel like home for us, we are all glad that our little family is together and safe.

(The above photo shows how Betsy had to ride on the plane from St Croix to Puerto Rico as there was no room for her by Peter’s feet.)

Part of me actually feels guilty that I wasn’t there and will never know what Peter went through. I will never understand the sheer terror he experienced. He literally survived a direct hit from one of the strongest category-5 hurricanes on record on earth. I know the most important thing is that he and Betsy are safe and our little family is whole again, but the grief and emotions surrounding the loss of our home and the shattering of our dreams are overwhelming. I recently read a post by Charlotte Kaufman about what she learned from Losing Rebel Heart and her words explain it best.

Before he left BVI, Peter did the best he could to re-secure our boat back on the dock with all the lines he had left. He sealed up all the cracks he was able to, cleared out the bilge and hooked up a solar panel in hopes that there will be enough power to run the bilge at all. Even if he could’ve salvaged anything off of our boat, there was nowhere safe and dry on island to store any of it. With Hurricane Maria on the way, the best thing Peter could do for our family was to get out of there. Hurricane Maria didn’t end up being a direct hit for BVI but it passed just south of the Virgin Islands and was the second Category-5 hurricane to devastate the Caribbean within a period of two weeks. At this point we have no idea if our boat is still floating or if she incurred any further damage. Hopefully our boat will still be accessible, floating, and not looted by the time any insurance surveyors ever come to inspect her.

We’ve filed a claim with our insurance company but I was told that it will take a very, very long time for it to be processed, if they ever make good on it. The volume of destruction that the BVI sustained is unimaginable. These islands that so many people love and cherish have been completely decimated. Everyone that survived this historical disaster are forever changed.

Basically there is nothing left for us to go back to right now. We are homeless and unemployed along with so many others that lived in the islands. There are very few structures for anyone to shelter in and not even a hotel for us to stay at. It will be a long time before power and water is restored and basic necessities are available to everyone.

BVI is where Brig was born and where our hearts will always belong. Our home, our jobs, and all our belongings are gone and our cherished islands have been practically leveled, but Peter and I would still love to go back. We would love to help the islands rebuild and help uncover the magic buried beneath the rubble that so many of us found there in a time before Irma and Maria. With enough support from those that feel the same way, it will happen. The islands will rebuild and start over.

To see many photos of the devastation, visit our facebook page where I’ve shared tons of photos that others have posted.

How You Can Help:

Individual Families:

Many of you have reached out asking how you can help *us* during this difficult time. You know who you are and we can’t thank you enough. Your kind words and generosity means more to us than you will ever know. If there is anyone else interested in how to help us directly, here are a few ways:

  • Donate via the PayPal donate button at the bottom of our website (Donations made directly from one paypal account to another incur no fees. Donations made via paypal  with a credit card incur a standard fee of 2.9% + $0.30 deducted before reaching us).
  • Donate via the YouCaring fundraiser that Stacy Najar set up to help us to get back on our feet. (Donations made via YouCaring with a credit card incur a standard fee of 2.9% + $0.30 deducted before reaching us. YouCaring has zero additional platform fees unlike sites such as Gofundme). www.youcaring.com/wherethecoconutsgrow
  • Use our Amazon Affiliate link at the bottom of our website! This is no additional cost to you but means a lot to us. If you click our link before making a purchase on Amazon, we get a small commission. Just save our website as a favorite in your web browser and it’s only one extra click to use our link before doing your regular Amazon shopping.

-ALSO-

The Soeters Family – Very good friends of ours Darcy, Luuck, Stormer and Rio of the Sunkissed Soeters lost their boat and all of their belongings when Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on Sint Maarten, and unfortunately they were not insured.  Like us, they are now staying with family back in the states until we can all figure out what to do next and how to get back to doing what makes us happy.

USVI “Adopt a Family”

Communities as a whole:

So many relief funds have been created in support of the islands affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Here are just a few of the links dedicated to supporting the devastated communities as a whole:

BVI:

BVI RELIEF – Links for multiple options for donating money and donating supplies, news, resources and a gallery

Convoy of Hope – First responders to disasters all over the world

BVI Immediate Relief – Set up by our good friends Brittany and Scott for immediate relief on the ground in BVI

BVI Hurricane Irma Relief – Yacht Sea Boss providing relief supplies to BVI

BVI Meals 4 Kids – Al Broderick and The Lunch Box feeding hot meals to children in Tortola

#BVISTRONG Gear Shop Remember the Adventure’s #BVISTRONG gear shop where 100% of the proceeds go to VISAR’S BVI Relief Fund

VISAR BVI Relief Fund Virgin Islands Search and Rescue directing funds to those most in need in BVI

BVI Community Support Appeal – Fund for long term reconstruction of BVI, Virgin Unite’s overhead costs are covered 100% by Richard Branson & the Virgin Group

BVI Medical Supplies – Medical Supplies requested for the hospital in Tortola

Virgin Gorda Relief Fund – Community aid for the residents and infrastructure of Virgin Gorda

Jost Van Dyke Humanitarian Aid – Basic life saving needs and community recovery for Jost Van Dyke

 

Most importantly, the BVI SAFETY CHECK website was created just for people to search for loved ones and mark people as safe.

PLEASE know that BVI is not the only area that needs help. The US media coverage has primarily focused on Florida but Barbuda, St Barts, Anguilla, St. Martin, USVI, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas and Florida have ALL incurred apocalyptic damage from both Irma and Maria and left an unimaginable amount of people homeless and left with nothing. What makes it even worse is thinking of the combined damage from #Harvey, #Irma, #Jose, #Katia, #Maria#mexicoearthquake, #wildfires and so many other worldwide disasters all happening in such a short period of time. The fact that looting and civil unrest quickly spiraled out of control after these events is just heartbreaking when our world is hurting so much. Luckily most of it is now back under control. Everyone needs to come together NOW more than ever. Do what you can, however you can, to help somehow.

 

Caribbean in General:

Sailors Helping – Info on how to support several islands in the Caribbean that have been devastated

International Rescue Group – Disaster relief and humanitarian aid

 

USVI:

USVI Irma & Maria Relief Fund – For USVI residents in need

St John Rescue – For the St. John Community

St John Community Foundation – Resources for the St. John Community

Love for Love City – Kenny Chesney’s fundraising campaign for Disaster Relief in USVI and BVI

Tim Duncan VI Relief – Relief fund matching every dollar for the USVI up to $1 million

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands – Relief for short term and long term critical needs in USVI

Irma Relief for our Sister Islands – Relief for St. Thomas and St. John coordinated from St. Croix

Art for Love City – Proceeds go to Love for Love City relief fund

United Way USVI – United Way Relief fund for USVI

USVI Amazon Wish List – USVI and surrounding islands delivered by relief crews

ReVIve the VI – St. Thomas community relief

 

St Martin / Sint Maarten:

St Maarten Hurricane Irma Relief – Funds will go to families affected by Irma

Rebuild SXM – Foundation set up to help rebuild St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba

Dutch Sister Islands Fund – Dutch Sint Maarten relief

French St. Martin – French St. Martin relief

 

Dominica:

Fund Directive – Emergency relief for Dominica

The Dominica Red Cross – Local nonprofit relief

 

Turks and Caicos:

Turks and Caicos Hurricane Relief – Helping families, churches and the community rebuild

Turks & Caicos Relief Fund – Helping all those affected in T&C by Hurricane Irma

Turks & Caicos Just Giving – Relief efforts in T&C

 

Barbuda:

Halo Foundation – Barbuda Relief Efforts

Barbuda Hurricane Irma Relief – Senator Freeland’s relief team

Barbuda Recovery and Conservation Trust Fund – International Community Foundation’s page for Barbuda Relief

 

Bahamas:

Bahamas Humane Society

Bahamas – You Caring

 

 

If you want to help but aren’t able to donate, please share this post! 

The post Surviving Hurricane Irma appeared first on Where The Coconuts Grow.

Hurricane Irma

So, Hurricane Irma has been barreling across the Atlantic during the last few days and she’s headed right for us. Though the forecast doesn’t show her as a direct hit, all bets are off with a major (Cat3 and above) hurricane. The most reliable model is the Euro and that has it coming straight for us. The less reliable GFS model shows it going further North of us. The two models still don’t agree and we are anywhere from 4-5 days out. The direction and strength can change so fast despite what the forecast models show so we pretty much have to prepare for the worst.

It’s really difficult to wrap my brain around this, especially after the recent flooding we had here on Tortola and all the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. I mean, I know it’s peak hurricane season here in the Caribbean but you just never think it’s gonna happen to you. I’m really good at being in denial about stuff like this. It’s our fourth hurricane season and really the first time we’ve ever had to “expect” a named storm on our doorstep.

I’m actually pretty emotional about the whole thing. Granted, I have all these postpartum hormones making it worse, but Peter and I made a decision to have me fly off island with Brig. It’s just not worth risking our safety with something this big and this strong coming so close.

It wasn’t until just two days ago that this was even an option. Technically, he cannot enter the U.S. without a passport. Since he was born in BVI and does not qualify for a BVI passport, we technically have to wait until the US Consulate in Barbados comes to visit here in BVI to apply for his US passport.  Well, given our circumstances with an impending life threatening storm headed for us, the US Customs and Boarder Protection agency at the St Thomas airport has granted me special permission to let us travel with just a birth certificate for him instead of a passport.  The moment they told me that, I of course started to cry with relief. I don’t want to have to go anywhere but it really is the best thing.

Peter is going to stay here and continue to secure our boat for as long as it’s safe before taking shelter somewhere nearby. He’ll have Betsy to care for but at least he won’t have the added stress of making sure Brig and I are safe too. I’m going to take a ferry from Tortola to St Thomas and catch a flight out on Monday. I will be going up to stay with my family in Washington State far away from the Caribbean and the East Coast.

Its a decision we wouldn’t have made if we didn’t have Brig. I would’ve just stayed here and helped Peter with the safeguarding of our home. Everyone knows that when you have kids, your life changes. Your priorities change. You make different decisions. You do what’s best for your children no matter what.

A round trip ticket cost me $1400 two days ago with one three hour layover via American Airlines. Now there are no more American flights, and tickets are $1500 only available with Jet Blue with two layovers including one for 10 hours. ($2200 with United). I pretty much got one of the last decent flights available to fly out Monday. Let’s hope they didn’t overbook it.

Our boat is in the best possible location it could be in. Literally, the best spot inside this hurricane hole. The boat really shouldn’t see any waves at all and should feel reduced wind. Peter will do everything he can to make sure our home is safe.

I’m just sick about leaving my husband, my dog and my home in the path of a hurricane. Everything could be totally fine and then again it could be really bad. I pray they will be safe and that I will have a home to come back to. Everything we own is on that boat. It’s insured of course and it’s just stuff, but I can’t imagine losing everything I own in a natural disaster.

It happens all over the world. The west coast gets earthquakes and is due for “the big one”. The midwest gets tornadoes. We get hurricanes. I suppose we should be grateful we have so much warning.

I’m sure the cell towers will be down for quite some time so I may not be able to hear from Peter. I’m going to be worried sick. Power will be off island wide and he’ll be relying on the water and food supply we have stocked up. If the boat fares well, he’ll be able to stay aboard after the storm. If not, one person has offered their home to us so atleast Peter and Betsy will have a place to go either after the storm or before if things get too crazy.  Before I made my flight reservation we really didn’t have anywhere on land to go, so it wasn’t even a question of whether or not I should leave.

If you pray, please pray for us and for everyone in Irma’s path. We need all the positive vibes we can get…

I may not get a chance to post an update to our website as the storm approaches, but I will definitely be updating our Facebook page as I have more info. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account you can still see updates by clicking HERE. 

To all my friends and family in WA… now’s your chance to meet Brig! Send me a message <3

A New View

It’s Hurricane Season here in the Caribbean and we’ve got a new backyard view! We’ve actually been here since just days after Brig was born but it’s been hard to find time to keep up on the blog during these first newborn weeks 😉

It’s a time of year where anxiety can make you sick to your stomach. When your home is floating in the path of a potential named storm, all kinds of thoughts start racing through your head.

We spent our first two hurricane seasons down in Grenada, which is statistically in a zone that gets less hurricanes, luckily without any action.  Last year we hauled out in BVI and this year we are staying aboard in BVI. So far we have not experienced any named storms (knock on wood!) but we are always making sure we’re prepared.

This year has already been fairly active and there were a few systems that looked like they were coming our way but either dissipated or redirected before reaching the Virgins. Peter and I have spent countless hours discussing what we would do in the event of a named storm.

While we trust our mooring ball (that we’ve spent the last two years on) in heavy weather, we don’t necessarily trust it in a named storm especially because now we have Brig. For the duration of Hurricane Season this year we decided to move our boat into a marina that is tucked way inside a designated hurricane hole here on Tortola just so we don’t have to worry about moving it if something comes up. Also, since we have to wait until the end of September to get Brig a passport, we can’t just haul our boat out of the water and fly back to the states to wait out the rest of the season there like we did last year. Not to mention, it’s incredibly expensive for us to do that. Aside from sitting on a mooring, hauling out, or moving to a dock, the fourth option would be to anchor out and hope for the best. We know a few people that have literally been the last boat floating while being anchored in a major storm.

Unfortunately, there are very few spots in BVI to anchor your boat – let alone considering if they would be safe. There are so many mooring balls installed for the charter boats that it leaves very few places left to drop the hook. Given our options here in BVI, we are pretty happy with our current situation from a safety standpoint. We will make every effort to secure our boat the best we can in a named storm, but when it really comes down to it, we’re insured. In fact, I’ve been finalizing our renewal this week. It’s definitely a relief to know we are completely covered for crazy things like hurricanes.

While I ABSOLUTELY despise being tied to the dock, it does have a few perks. For one, the Virgin Islands are H-O-T this time of year so being plugged into shore power allows us to use the air conditioning 24/7. Well, it actually requires us to run the A/C 24/7 because if we didn’t we would roast. Its even hotter tucked away inside this hurricane hole than it would be back on our mooring in West End. There are also a ton of mosquitoes when you’re close to shore so that’s another reason we have to keep the boat all closed up. Even though I’m not pregnant anymore, I’m still concerned about Zika. I must admit it’s also nice to have air conditioning when I’ve got a fussy baby though. Secondly, it makes it much easier to take Betsy for a walk. She can practically take herself potty – something she can’t do from our mooring.

Then of course there’s the fact that we can park our car right next to the boat, there is laundry, a gym, our favorite restaurant, and a little grocery market all within a very short walk. Sure it’s convenient, but it’s just not the same as floating out on the water away from everyone else. I look at dock life like being in an apartment complex and our mooring as more like a neighborhood with big spacious lots 🙂

I cannot wait to get back to our beautiful home in West End!! Yes, I’ll probably miss the air conditioning, but I sure do love when the fresh Caribbean breeze blows through our hatches to cool us down.

First Beach Day

While my dad and Stacy were here, we decided to take Brig down to the beach just outside their condo at Long Bay. It was an absolutely gorgeous day with a perfect, picturesque view all around us. A nice big palm tree cast a perfect shadow on the sand with lots of space to keep us out of the hot sun.  His little skin is so fragile so we are careful to keep him shaded if we do have to go into the sun with him.

I set up the little shade tent that dad and Stacy got for us and gave it a whirl. It sets up in an instant, provides plenty of shade and is big enough for me to sit in there with him. The only bummer part about it was that the wind had started to pick up a little and sand was blowing every which way. I was worried about sand getting in Brig’s eyes so we didn’t stay down at the beach very long but it was still fun for his first time!

While we sat up in the shade, we watched Nana and Grandma Stacy float around in the crystal blue water. Peter had to work that day so we decided to wait for daddy before letting Brig go in the ocean for the first time 😉 Even though I didn’t go swimming, I still loved every second of being down by the water. Next time, Brig and I will be out there too! Before I know it, he’ll be a little fish just like his daddy so I wasn’t too bummed about missing out on the cool waves.

Sometimes I look at the pictures I take here in BVI and I can’t believe how gorgeous it all is.  We’re so lucky to be able to call this place home…

Brig’s First Sail

For the first seven weeks of Brig’s life we had a constant stream of visiting Grandparents. My mom arrived the day after he was born and stayed for just over a month.  Then my dad and stepmom arrived, then Peter’s dad and his aunt were here. We got a little bit of overlap in each visit and it was so much fun.

It was such a special time for us so we decided to take Brig for his first sail! He had already been in the dinghy a few times but he was ready to actually go sailing. Since we had moved our boat to the dock and secured her for the remainder of hurricane season it was much easier to take Aristocat instead. There were no charters scheduled that day so it worked out perfect. Jen and Mike from Three Sheets came with us and brought their friend Shakti. Mike has been running Aristocat since Brig was born so he and Peter took care of all the sailing. It was nice for me to be back on board but it was even nicer that all I had to do was take care of Brig 😉

This was the first time Dad and Stacy could see what we had been up to for nearly two years aboard Aristocat. The last time they had visited us in the islands was before we started working so this was pretty exciting for them. They had heard so much about what we did everyday and they finally got to experience it first hand!

Mom couldn’t be happier. We were headed to her favorite place in the entire world. AND, she was taking her grandson there! She was glowing the whole way!

We sailed over to White Bay, Jost Van Dyke for the day. Brig is still too young to wear sunscreen so I kept him in the shade with me on the boat while everyone else swam to shore and had fun on the beach.

We even took an afternoon nap on the boat while everyone else was having fun on shore. I think Brig, Betsy and Peter got more sleep than I did but I did manage to doze a tiny bit.

Jen, Shakti, dad, Mike, and mom… Stacy was behind the camera. They were clearly enjoying a few Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar!

I think the most memorable part of the whole day was sharing Brig’s first sail experience with both my mom and my dad. I can’t even remember when I was last around them both at the same time. Babies have a way of bringing everyone together! Brig sure is loved by a lot of people <3

When My Birth Plan Fell Apart

**Disclaimer: The following contains the details of Brig’s birth story so if that doesn’t interest you, I suggest you skip this post.

I’ve always been a planner. It’s a way to organize my thoughts and I feel much more productive if I can follow a plan for everything I do. Even if I change my plans and wing it, I quickly come up with a new plan once I know the direction I’m headed.

My pregnancy was no exception. During the beginning of my third trimester I discovered a childbirth program called Hypnobabies. It’s what all the other natural childbirth methods have evolved into these days. From Lamaze to the Bradley Method, to Hypnobirthing… but it’s important to note that Hypnobabies is a completely different program than Hypnobirthing.

I was first introduced to the Mongan Method of Hypnobirthing, a program highly recommended by my good friends Eben and Genevieve. I read the book after they sparked my interest but that program is better absorbed if you can take a local class in person. Here in BVI, childbirth education is severely lacking and I definitely didn’t have access to the kind of class I wanted to take. There was a generic childbirth class available at the local hospital but based on my experiences with the medical professionals here so far, I felt like I could learn more from Google. So, I did what I always do in situations like this… I started to research.

It turns out there are several different Hypnobirthing philosophies, one of which is Hypnobabies. Hypnobabies was developed by someone who used to be a Bradley and Hypnobirthing instructor but also found those programs to be lacking the techniques that women really needed to achieve a deep level of hypnosis during the entire birth.

The cost was about $170 – enough to discourage me from even considering it. As I continued to research more and more, I decided I’d bite the bullet and just order it. I mean, if I actually wanted to do any other class I’d be spending money on that anyway. With this one, I would have the freedom to go at my own speed at home and potentially have an amazing outcome. The Hypnobabies Home Study Course is a complete childbirth education program which comes with a binder of info and a ton of audio tracks to download. While I could’ve purchased a used older version for slightly less money, I decided to get the newest edition as some of the info and tracks had been supplemented.

After the first of 6 weeks into the course I was completely hooked. It requires daily practice and I got to the point of nearly being obsessed with listening to my audio tracks and practicing the techniques. I was totally in love with everything I was learning and it truly prepared me mentally for everything that could happen during the birth of my baby. I knew it would take practice and conditioning. I knew there was a chance I could have a completely pain free, easy, comfortable, drug free natural childbirth. I also knew there was a chance that everything could fall apart.

I created a birth preferences sheet for the birth process as well as a baby-care preferences sheet for everything related to the baby. During my hospital tour I met the OB that would be on call during the birth, as well as the midwives that pretty much run the maternity ward. I explained that there is language used in the Hypnobabies program that replaces harsh terms for softer ones such as Pressure instead of Pain, Pressure Waves instead of Contractions, birthing instead of labor etc.  I even printed out articles to give to the doctor and midwives explaining the evidence based items they didn’t understand. For the most part they were all very receptive and curious about my program, but there was still an underlying skepticism laced with regimented routine. I had learned so much and felt so educated and empowered and I was very proud to be able to go into the birth with knowledge about what I wanted done and what interventions I was going to refuse. I felt confident I would be able to take charge of the birth process when the time came, even if the nursing staff wasn’t familiar with my plan.

***

For some reason, I had it stuck in my head that my baby would arrive a week after his guess date (due date). I really thought I had so much time. At 38 weeks on June 13th, my water released at 6:30 am. I had been sleeping and woke to feel a small gush. I snuck out of bed, careful to not wake Peter so early. This is when my denial really took hold. I was in such denial that when Peter woke up to get ready for work I almost thought it would be okay for him to go! I thought for sure it would take me all day and possibly all night to be ready to give birth. I was still trying to convince myself that this was really happening.

Luckily we decided it would be best for Peter to stay home from work and have Scott drive down and take the charter out for him. I had started timing my pressure waves (contractions) and they were averaging 4 minutes apart, but there were some gaps of 10 minutes in between. So here I was thinking they weren’t regular enough for the 5-1-1 rule. I was waiting for them to be 5 minutes apart for 1 minute duration – consistently for one hour. Well, they were all less than 5 minutes apart but with such a thick skin of denial over me, I kept telling myself and Peter that we had plenty of time. Poor Peter kept asking if it was time yet, and what we needed to do. I kept telling him to relax and that there was nothing we needed to do. That’s when he pulled an All Is Lost moment… he started to shave! I mean, what else is a guy to do when anxiety is overwhelming him yet there’s nothing that can be done? That scene seemed so stupid in the movie but it actually makes sense to us now 🙂

All morning my mind was so focused on timing my waves and figuring out if it was really time. I slowly gathered my hospital bag and helped Peter decide what else we needed to take with us. I had started listening to the first track I needed to play on my birthing day. It wasn’t a deep hypnosis track but it was part of my plan. I was pretty anxious myself and of course still in denial so where I really screwed up was by not putting myself in a deep hypnosis right then and there. My only job was to just do what I had practiced. I failed. My mind was so preoccupied that I wasn’t focusing on what was really happening.

Around noon I still hadn’t gotten into my hypnosis yet. I was feeling great, no pain at all. I was actually enjoying the pressure waves, remembering that my body was made to do this. Peter finally insisted that it was time for him to take Betsy over to Jen on Three Sheets and head to the hospital. I agreed but still just wanted to relax and progress at home as long as possible. I was actually kind of irritated that he was making me go just then. That’s when I should’ve known it was time.

We got in the dinghy and I needed a little help getting back out. That’s when things started getting painful. I had told myself I’d start the deep hypnosis tracks once I got in the car, but the walk to the car put me in a totally different place. I couldn’t speak through my pressure waves. Oh how I wish they were still just pressure waves! But by this point lets just call them what they were – contractions. I attempted to sit in the front seat but that was just not going to happen. Peter cleared out the back seat for me and I climbed in, laying on my side. I immediately put my earbuds in and tried to get relaxed again with one of the deepening tracks but it just wasn’t working. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes. We had about a 25 minute drive to the hospital along a bumpy road. Needless to say, I was never able to relax again from that point on.

Starting to realize that our little boy was coming NOW, I told Peter to park the car and help me walk in from the parking lot, instead of dropping me off at the entrance. I timed my waves and walked from the car past the front desk while I barely mumbled to the ladies that I was already checked in and that I was going to the 4th floor. I didn’t want to sit so I refused their wheelchair and they looked at me like I was crazy. It’s a good thing they followed us though because there were several security swipes that were needed to open all the doors. By the time I got to the maternity ward I was in tears. I was an emotional mess as I realized then in that moment that this was really happening whether I was ready or not. It wasn’t going the way I had planned at all. I didn’t feel the happiness I thought I would feel as I walked in. I knew where I was going but I felt so lost. Everything I had planned had gone out the window hours before.

My birth preferences were still flashing through my brain despite the chaos and pain. I knew I had planned on minimal checks but upon arrival they wanted to see how dilated I was, as expected, and I didn’t have the energy to refuse. Turns out I was at 6 cm when we arrived at 12:45pm. Here’s where they started going against everything in my birth preferences. Peter was trying so hard to be supportive and he tried to enforce my preferences but the midwives were very demanding. Keep in mind, at my earlier hospital tour everyone agreed that I could move about as I wished, be in any position I wanted to, and that basically they could not force me to do anything. Well, here I was in the worst pain I had known my entire life and the damn lady would not let me lay the way I was most comfortable. They wanted me in a position that was convenient for them. Things started to escalate so with a defeated whimper I asked what my options were for pain management, should I change my mind. They told me there was nothing they could give me if I was past 7 cm so they would have to check me again to be sure. I agreed. By the time the midwife came back in to check me, maybe 20 minutes had passed by and I was at 9 cm.

My plan for having this baby without drugs was happening, except I was missing the part that would’ve prevented the pain. Without being in hypnosis from the beginning I felt like there was no way I could ever achieve it at this point. The worst moments of it all were when they took several unwanted steps to hurry the process instead of letting my body go at the speed it wanted. They forced me to lay on my back with my legs in stirrups and it was the most uncomfortable position I could be in. This was just one of many instances that they insisted on something that was more convenient for them, not for me. They insisted on an episiotomy, something the doctor was advocating from before the birth which tells me it’s a routine procedure for them. He told me it’s easier for them to stitch an episiotomy than to chance a natural tear. Even though I did not want them to do it, they told me horrible things to convince me to agree.

Just 2 hours after arriving at the hospital, Brig was born. I was still in shock after everything had spiraled out of control so fast, but once the pain was gone I was finally able to take charge of the rest of the procedures. They weren’t very happy about it and I was probably a terrible patient in their eyes but I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait for my hour of uninterrupted time with my baby and my husband. We were required to stay at the hospital for 48 hours. By the end of those two days I was more than ready to go home.

My poor mom missed the birth by one day and arrived the day after he was born. Although she was sad, we agreed that it was probably best she wasn’t there for how they were treating me during the birth. It was an experience that Peter and I were supposed to go through together and we made it.

***

Looking back, I SO wish I could have had the amazing Hypnobabies birth that I wanted and that I was prepared for. I know there are a lot of you that are thinking to yourself… “I told you so” or “that stuff doesn’t really work” but I really do think I could have had a better experience if I had just done what I was supposed to do earlier.  Everything happened so fast and so much earlier than we expected. He was born two weeks early, and really three weeks before I thought he would. I think all my practice allowed me to stay so calm and relaxed that whole morning without even needing to put myself in a deep hypnosis, and I didn’t even realize it at the time.  I could look at it like the program didn’t work for me, but I know that’s not true. If we have another baby in the future, I will ABSOLUTELY be using Hypnobabies again. I will do my best to not be in denial and I’ll embrace my birthing day without fear. Most importantly, I will NOT give birth in BVI ever again. They are too set in their ways and they did not support me like they said they would. I think I can absolutely have a different experience next time.

If you’re interested in learning more about Hypnobabies please send me a message and I’d be happy to talk more about it. There are so many beautiful birth stories from other hypnomamas and that is what inspired me to try the program. Just because my birth story didn’t turn out like theirs doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. I am still so grateful for all the knowledge I learned from the study materials and it truly helped me feel confident throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I recommend doing your own research as I did, but if you decide to try the Hypnobabies program, please consider using my link as I do get a small commission if you purchase anything on their website by first clicking my link HERE.