Remembering Why We’re Here

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Mary Christine Pieschel 10/11/1954 ~ 05/25/2012

It’s been four years since the devastating disease of Breast Cancer stole Christine away from us. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of her.

It’s because of her, and in honor of her that Peter and I are on this adventure now while we are still young. Peter’s mother, Christine, would have loved to do what we are doing and she would be so proud of us. We know she is watching over us and she continues to inspire us every day to keep doing what makes us happy.

After hearing countless memories remembered and retold by loved ones, there is no doubt in my mind that Peter gets his adventurous spirit from his mother, Christine, and his father, Pete. They were both taken from this world far too soon yet both live on through their only son as he follows his dreams and his heart. They would both be so very proud.

Life is short, enjoy the time you have to the very fullest and do whatever it is that makes you happy!

Please consider donating to Christine’s twin sister Lucile, so she can participate in her SIXTH Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk (60 miles in 3 days) in San Diego this November. She walks because she told her sister she would never stop…

Lucile’s team, Powered By Optimism, has been recognized in the newspapers for their overwhelming camaraderie and support.

You can visit her fundraising page >> HERE << where donations can be made to help Lucile meet her goal and walk with her team another year.

I Said Yes!

After five years of dating and non-stop adventures…

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Peter proposed and I said Yes!

How It Happened:

It was Monday the 13th of June. We had a much needed day off from work and took our dinghy out around the corner from West End to Smuggler’s Cove on the North side of Tortola for a sunset stroll. Peter let me out of the dinghy and he anchored it off the beach a little bit so I didn’t have to swim in. I had never been to this beach before so I was excited to explore a new place. The hours before sunset are notoriously buggy at the beaches so we promptly applied bug spray before getting any bites and began our very romantic walk up to the Eastern end of the beach. After almost stepping on a washed up urchin, we turned and walked the entire length of the beach toward the other end.

Near the picturesque palm trees there was a family playing in the sand and swimming around but we pretty much had the rest of the place to ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a baby reef shark swimming by in the shallows and we watched the gentle waves roll up on the sand. The cool Caribbean breeze kept most of the bugs away and we finally arrived at the “end of the road.” From that moment on, our lives would never be the same…

Peter got on one knee and magically pulled a grey box out of his pocket. With the most genuine and loving words, he asked me to marry him!!

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We were both a little in shock of what just took place, but we were both very much ready for it also. For a very long time our conversations had included talk of marriage and kids, though we weren’t sure when that would happen. My mom had been visiting a few months prior and one day after another casual mention of our future wedding, Peter nonchalantly told me to go pick out a ring… So I did!

The Ring:

My mom and I drove into town while Peter was busy getting the fuel tanks polished on Aristocat. There aren’t many jewelry stores on Tortola but I’m pretty sure we found all of them. I’ve looked at engagement rings before in various cruise ship ports but not with the same mission as this day. This day it was real. I was really going to get married! I wasn’t just looking for a ring I might like “someday” – I was looking for a ring I liked now. I always thought I wanted an Emerald (my birthstone) as the center stone for my engagement ring. I wanted something different than what everyone else has. Emeralds are cheaper than diamonds yet not as hard as diamonds – a real concern for someone like myself that lives on a boat in a harsh salt water environment where I’m constantly using my hands. Our active lifestyle is rough on our bodies to say the least and knocking my ring against stainless steel or getting it caught on something is a very real danger. But, I loved emeralds.

I began asking to see the available emeralds in the first store we visited, but quickly realized the most efficient way to start this shopping experience was to find a setting I liked first, then worry about finding the right stone. The selection was very limited. I didn’t see anything I had to have, even with the very familiar sales pitch that bellowed softly from the lady behind the counter.

“This ring is very special. The retail price is $$$, but for you? Don’t look at this number. That’s the retail price. For you, we can offer you a very special price.”

A small calculator is brought out from under the counter and many numbers are pounded into it, several different times. Finally, the calculator is turned around to face me and I see a significantly smaller number that I still don’t like.

“Thank you,” I tell the woman. “It’s just not what I’m looking for.”

I take her business card and assure her that I’ll be back if I change my mind.

The next store was much larger though they only carried diamonds. The woman in that store kindly didn’t waste my time or hers and referred me down the street to another store that would have a better selection of gemstones. I swiftly browsed the engagement ring settings but nothing caught my eye, and we were on our way.

The store she referred me to was at the very end of the cruise ship pavilion. On the way we saw two other jewelry stores, both of which had very small selections since the stores had just been built. All of the shops in this area were brand new. I started looking at sapphires and blue diamonds and aquamarines. The half a dozen emeralds I saw were not the right size or shape, nor were they in any settings I liked. I tried on an emerald cut aquamarine with a pave halo around it, which I kind of liked, but didn’t like the halo design at all.

Another store tried to show me yellow diamonds set in rose gold that were all being removed from little plastic bags like they belonged in a gumball machine. They were all identical. No thank you!!

Finally we arrived at the last store, but they were closed! Just then, I saw a man in the doorway and I asked when they would be open again, since I don’t ever make it down this way. I told him about my mission to find an emerald engagement ring and he offered to let us in and show us what he had. While they didn’t have many emeralds, they had an impressive display of tanzanite and he put one up on the counter. When I am shopping, I am very picky and can quickly identify the things I do not like, but end up taking forever to decide on the things I do like. I tried on a few of the brilliant bluish purple rings and quickly became fascinated with their history and beauty. I only liked three of the hundred on display; one of which was a 3.5 carat cushion cut tanzanite solitaire. Some would call it gaudy but I thought it was stunning. By this was by far my favorite cut and size on my finger.

I thought it was the one. I took some photos and told the nice man we would be back!

Later that night we showed Peter the photos and he agreed to go look at it on our next day off. We did go back, but after a little time had passed, I wasn’t sure it was the right ring. Peter knew right away it wasn’t me, though he wanted me to come to that conclusion myself. So that night I began my internet search for the perfect setting and perfect stone. I was just going to order it all, in good time, instead of buying something in a store just to have it right away.

I’m so happy I waited!!

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I ended up finding a gorgeous setting from a jewelry designer in California that to me, looks like a wave – I wanted something ocean-minded. After looking at thousands of different ring styles, this one is nothing like any other ring I’ve ever seen. As unique as it already was, I wanted it to be even more special. Along this search I decided that I was going to let go of my long love of emeralds and choose an aquamarine center stone instead.

Aquamarine is Peter’s birthstone. It’s not any softer than an emerald and its much much cheaper than diamonds or emeralds. It’s the most gorgeous color of blue, perfectly matching the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. What really sold me on this stone is the significance of it…

Aquamarine is said to protect sailors and guarantee a safe passage across stormy seas’

How perfectly fitting for our lifestyle!! I fell in love with the stone right then and there. I had to have it.

The jeweler found the perfect stone for the setting I chose and it took a little over a month from start to finish to have the wax mold made and sent to be cast. Our good friends from Windtraveler and Sunkissed Soeters were all very instrumental to helping get the ring to us in BVI as it was carefully transported a great distance. When it finally arrived, Peter and I both agreed a proposal was in order on our very next day off 🙂 Although it wasn’t a surprise, the moment was as perfect as I could have ever dreamed it to be!

What’s next?

Clearly I’m all about being non-traditional. I picked out my own ring, I didn’t want a diamond center stone, and the proposal was not a surprise. We don’t have a date or location set for the ceremony though it will most likely be very small and happen barefoot on a beach 😉 I’m not into big to-do’s and I don’t believe in spending a bunch of money on a dress I will only wear for a few hours of my life or on a venue and decorations that will disappear at the stroke of midnight like Cinderella. Our hard earned money will be better spent in support of continuing this amazing journey and enjoying many wonderful experiences, instead of just one experience. Going against the grain is normal for us and our wedding will be no exception 😉

Stay tuned!!

An Interview with Sailrite

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Most of you know I’ve really been enjoying my LSZ-1 Industrial Sewing Machine from Sailrite. Even though I hadn’t used a sewing machine since 8th grade Home-Ec, Sailrite makes it so easy for anyone to learn how to do truly professional work! I’ve completed quite a few projects and the list keeps growing with items that need to be repaired.

Last year in Grenada was our first sail repair project. We took the genoa down and hauled it up to a flat grassy area at Secret Harbour Marina for easy access. Our buddy Steve from Lunacy (sistership/buddyboat) helped us out in exchange for letting him use the machine for some repairs of his own. He fell in love immediately! The LSZ-1 quickly went to the top of his wish list. He has plenty of sewing experience, and his own machine onboard, but he said this one takes the cake. He was blown away at how easily it handles heavy-duty materials like sailcloth and several layers of Sunbrella.

After hearing how happy we are with their products, Sailrite interviewed us for a feature on their blog. Curious about what we said? Check it out here! “Sailing & Sewing Where The Coconuts Grow”

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Breaking the Silence

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The seemingly never-ending silence on the blog has been like a dull ache in the back of my mind, paired with a quiet whisper begging me to find a little extra time to write again. Ever since our big announcement, Peter and I have been working like dogs, with only a small handful of days off per month which doesn’t leave much time for the things I enjoy like writing blog posts and editing photos. When Peter finds time to surf, I sleep.

From the middle of December we’ve been going full speed ahead taking charter guests out almost every day. We provision in the morning with food, drinks and ice, making sure we are fully stocked up to prepare snacks, a huge buffet lunch, sodas, beer and unlimited rum punch all day long. Peter keeps a careful watch on the engine maintenance and we both make sure the boat is clean inside and out. The number of guests have been anywhere from 2-25 people per day, ages ranging from 3 months to 100 years and from excellent swimmers to those that can’t swim at all. We take people sailing and snorkeling, rain or shine, and we make sure they have a safe and fun-filled day.

Mom recently came to visit, staying on our boat with us for a whole month. She went to work with us most days and rested on our boat other days. I think she’s really the only one that has witnessed just how hard we work. She saw us wearing all of our many hats as bartenders, tour guides, captain/crew, snorkeling instructors, lifeguards, chefs, babysitters, entertainers, cashiers, accountants, merchandise salespersons, booking coordinators, plumbers, mechanics, and janitors. Between the blood, sweat and sheer exhaustion, she got to see us doing whatever it takes to keep living the lifestyle we do. She also got to see the wind fill our sails, the sun kiss our cheeks and she saw the pure joy we felt whenever we got to jump in the warm blue water. No one gets our love for this lifestyle as much as her. (Wish you were here tonight, Mom!)

We work hard to play hard. That’s how the saying goes, right? Well, it couldn’t be more true for us. By the time we get home at night it’s dark and my body sometimes won’t let me stand long enough to cook a meal in the galley. Our dinners usually consist of something that can just be popped in the oven, or we end up going to one of the three local restaurants in West End that are within reach by dinghy. Forget about laundry, or cleaning, or dishes. Yeah, posting photos and writing blog posts follow somewhere behind those things… Then our heads hit our pillows (Betsy too!) and we fall fast asleep only to get up the next morning and do it all over again.

But, we get to live in the Caribbean – the British Virgin Islands to be more specific – on our sailboat, with our dog, where we can live by the 80-80-80 rule. We knew we’d have to work again someday and that someday has already whirled right past us. I honestly have NO idea how it’s already May! But we’re here, coming up on three years since moving aboard our boat, and we’re still doing whatever it takes to make this lifestyle work for us. Some people buy a boat and go cruising for a year or two, then go back to their previous lives on land. For Peter and I, our old lives just don’t make sense anymore. We were trapped in the rat race with no end in sight. For now, our plan is to keep following our dreams and keep doing whatever it takes to make it work.

So if you’ve been wondering what we’ve been up to, just imagine us in one of our many hats while we work for tips trying to fill our cruising kitty 😉

Though blog posts have been few and far between, you can always see what we’re up to on Instagram or Facebook! No account needed. Browse our social media pages just as you would this website, or follow/like our social media pages to make sure you don’t miss a post 🙂

How do we make our Sail Loot?

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You all know our story. A few years ago Peter and I decided to buy a boat, quit our jobs, and sail away. Something we haven’t really talked about, however, is how we can afford to live this lifestyle!

We were absolutely honored when Teddy from the Sail Loot Podcast wanted to feature our story on his website. I feel terrible how long it actually took for our schedules to align. With the best of intentions, we made several attempts to find a strong enough wifi connection to complete the interview over Skype. We tried few places in Grenada during the last hurricane season but the signal was never great and we knew we would need a solid hour of connectivity. Upon finally arriving back to USVI we used our U.S. LTE cell signal and chatted with Teddy for almost an hour and a half.

Although it felt like it had taken eons to complete the interview, the most relevant part of our story was still a secret! Teddy’s patience was amazing and he agreed to wait to publish our interview after we got the clearance to go ‘live’ with the news. After being at the mercy of BVI Government Officials on Island Time since April, just last week we were finally able to make our big announcement.

We burned through almost three years of savings and the time has come to make some more loot for our sailing adventures as the new crew of Aristocat Charters! Running daysails in BVI is going to rejuvenate our bank account, ultimately allowing us to continue living our dream and sharing this lifestyle with as many people as we can.

If you’ve got some time to kill (or if you just want to hear our voices), lend your ear to hear our story on Sail Loot: Episode 031

Thanks again Teddy! You Rock!

** Official Announcement **

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The suspense is finally over and we’re ecstatic to share the plans we’ve been cooking up!! We’ve been cruising around the Caribbean for the last two years living on savings and a little side income I’ve made from my blog, writing for Tiny House Blog, and working at Pizza Pi but the time has come to join the full-time working world again.

Have no fear – we are not saying goodbye to the cruising lifestyle and we aren’t even going to be working on land! An incredible opportunity has fallen into place that will allow us to be out on the water everyday doing what we love – sharing this amazing lifestyle with as many people as we can. We’ll be able to bring Betsy with us during the day and come home to our cozy boat every night, just a short dinghy ride away. The best part is that it’s all happening in some of our favorite places in the world!

Our friends from Windtraveler finally announced today that they have purchased Aristocat Charters, a daysail business here in the British Virgin Islands!! (Be sure to check out Brittany’s announcement HERE with all the details. It’s been a long process but we finally found our way through all the red tape!)

Scott and Brittany have asked us to run Aristocat, a 48′ Privilege Catamaran, out of West End, Tortola. We are taking guests sailing and snorkeling to either Jost Van Dyke or Norman Island.

The other boat, Lionheart, (also a 48′ Privilege Catamaran) is run by Scott and our friend Luuck from Sunkissed Soeters. They depart from Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola, visiting Norman Island or Salt, Peter and Cooper Islands.

If you’ve ever dreamed about sailing and snorkeling in a tropical paradise, come to Tortola and let us show you just how magical it can be!

Please show a little love and like the Aristocat Charters Facebook Page. If you’ve sailed with us already, please share any recommendations for us on Trip Advisor. We always need new reviews to stay at the Number 1 Daysail in Tortola!! 🙂

If you’re wondering what this means for our cruising plans, we’re going to be refilling our cruising fund as first priority. We don’t know what the future holds, but you can be sure that we’ll be having fun and of course continuing to share all of our adventures with you along the way!

Cinnamon Bay Estate Ruins

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After visiting the Annaberg Sugar Plantation with Peter’s Dad, Wiley, we continued our tour around the island of St. John.

In Cruz Bay, we stopped for fresh fruit smoothies.

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These handsome gentlemen were telling jokes all day long, making us all laugh 🙂

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The view of Cruz Bay, Great St. James Island and the Eastern tip of St. Thomas is breathtaking.

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We stopped at several of the postcard-worthy beaches…

…and we even got to see the wild donkeys along the roadside!

The Cinnamon Bay Estate was one of the most prosperous sugar cane operations on the island in the 1700’s. Situation on the North side of the island, ruins from the factory can be found along the Cinnamon Bay Loop Trail, preserved by the National Park Service.

We walked through the majestic forest and saw where the inner bark of the trees had been scraped off. This bark is dried to make raw cinnamon.

At the end of the trail we walked across the street to see what Cinnamon Bay looks like from the campground. We are used to looking in from the mooring field, never from land, so it was fun to see a new perspective.

Back at our boat we finished off the day with a gorgeous double rainbow! 🙂

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Annaberg Sugar Mill

I can hardly believe how the time flies. You might think we are lounging around with our feet propped up, drinking fruity drinks and basking in the sun all day, however that is far from the truth!! I honestly don’t know where the time goes. One minute we are tackling a project on the never-ending list of repairs and maintenance. Other times we are just keeping up with household chores like cooking meals, doing dishes, hiking to the Laundromat, or grooming Betsy.

Since there’s not much time in the day for relaxing on the beach, I usually have to sneak in a little bit of computer-time for blog posts and editing photos. We have just a few days before Peter’s Dad, Wiley, arrives to visit again and I’ve just realized I haven’t even posted all the photos from his last visit!!

Last time Wiley was here, he brought his sister, Emma. One of our adventures was to show them a tour of St. John. Our buddy Yisrael drove us in his taxi-van, taking the small car ferry from St. Thomas to St. John. It was a very strange movement, quite different from the way our boat moves through the waves, and also different from the way a passenger ferry feels. After a tipsy ride, we arrived at the West end of the island near Cruz Bay and set out to see the Annaberg Sugar Plantation.

Constructed between 1797 and 1805, the Annaberg Plantation spanned 1,300 acres and was operated by 662 enslaved workers.

The sugar mill ruins were officially turned over to the Virgin Islands National Park in 1956. We spent quite a bit of time talking to the National Park Service volunteers during our visit and really enjoyed learning about the history of this beautiful island. For anyone else visiting the US Virgin Islands, this stop is a great alternative if watersports aren’t your cup of tea!

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Holiday Gift Ideas

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Looking for some holiday gift ideas? ‘Tis the season!

Over the past two years we’ve learned so many tips and tricks for making our everyday life more efficient. Peter and I prefer that every item we bring aboard our floating home has more than one purpose. We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, and we’ve also been introduced to some really cool products along the way.

I’m so glad you’re reading this post right now! I love it when I can share things with others that may bring them the same joy I was given 🙂

Take a look at some of our favorite items that we use on a daily basis: Products and Services We Love

If you don’t see the perfect gift listed in the link above, try using one of our affiliate links at the bottom of the page. If you click through before making a purchase, we get a commission. It’s no additional cost to you, but means A LOT to us! 🙂

Bluebeard’s Castle

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When Peter’s Dad, Wiley, came to visit us awhile back, he brought along his sister Emma. They had a wonderful time touring around St. Thomas and St. John with us and they really got a kick out of Bluebeard’s Castle!

Bluebeard’s Castle is currently operating as a hotel in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, but they also offer tours of the old tower now filled with artifacts from the days of wooden ships and hidden treasure.

There are many shipwrecks and tales of forgotten treasure here in the Virgin Islands which have sparked our interest. We’ve seen pieces of old pottery and glass bottles scattered among ruins and we’ve even snorkeled over cannons!

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A truly interesting history lesson about Bluebeard’s Castle can be found in this 1967 newspaper article: Historic Castle

Based on the newspaper article, the earliest reference to this property being called “Barbe-Bleu” is in 1859. A quick google search led me to La Barbe Bleue, a French folktale dating all the way back to 1697: Bluebeard – Wikipedia

Is it a little weird that the Legend of Bluebeard printed for the museum tour happens to be almost identical to the old French folktale? I’ll let you be the judge of that 😉

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