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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dolphin House, Bimini Art Extraordinaire

Dolphin House!  Bimini, Bahamas.
Sand.  Tile.  Marbles.   Rusted chain.  Shells.  Glass fisherman floats.  Coins.  Cracked mirrors.  Coral.  License plates.  Booze bottles.  20 years of various and sundry bits of flotsam and jetsom were collected and transformed into something…  magical!

Welcome to Dolphin House,Bimini, Bahamas.
"These conch shells are very
strong," Ashley declares.
"Do you notice how I've used
them in the foundation?"

Thanks to the artistic genius of Ashley Saunders, Dolphin House is a veritable explosion of creativity. It’s a wonderworld where life imitates art imitates life, joyfully.
While not exactly the stairway
to heaven,  Ashley's stairway
is probably the most intriguing
hodgepodge I've ever escalated.

Starfish, mermaids, mahi mahi, octopi, sailfish, palm trees, lionfish, seahorses, flying fish, and of course dolphins, inhabit the walls, stairs, façade and halls…. The house nearly pulsates with energy. This orchestra of visual delight takes the form of a vibrant mosaic that flows throughout Dolphin House, inside and out, comprised of Ashley’s vast array of found materials. 
"Wow!"  Wayne's Dad Phil and his wife Gunnel are initially
overwhelmed  by Dolphin House's interior.

Artist, poet laureate, and historian, Ashley Saunders graciously invites passerby to tour his place.  His welcoming smile and open arms radiate warmth, but the real magic begins as the stories unforld when Ashley walks you though his creation, seamlessly interweaving tales of his family’s multigenerational history, where he found his materials, the murals he created from them, how he constructed the building…. Conch (pronounced “konk”) – crete (“concrete”) might be a legitimate name for these common Bahamian shells, given their structural strength; Ashley used them extensively for both construction and decoration.
Gunnel's quilter-creativity wheels are turning while Ashley
explains one of his many mosaic murals.

Is it a home? A guest house?  A museum? Yes, all that and more.

Sadly, our tour was cut short due to an impending storm (click here to read about that).  I would dearly love to return to Dolphin House, to re-take, complete and ideally videotape the tour, and stay overnight in one of Ashley’s two rooms for rent.  Considering that from September until nearly June, I did not spend a single night off the boat, even when we were on the hard for several days (click here to read about that), that’s saying a lot.  Of all the isles we visited, from St. Lucia up to Florida, Saba’s small ecolodge is the only other place that tempted me to spend a night ashore (click here and here and here to read about Saba).
This mystical octopus is one of several created
for Ashley by one of his artist-students.

Ashley is continuing to work on Dolphin House, on his own and with the help of friends, family, students and other artists.  In fact, Ashley is still looking for a few more state’s license places, Alaska and Oregon among them, I believe.  If you’d like to contact him, his email is SaundersA62@yahoo.com, phone (242) 347-3201, or click here to link to Ashley’s Dolphin House Facebook page.  My bet is he’s love to hear from you.  Better yet, go there.

Surely this serenade to the sea
would be incomplete without
a mermaid shrine.  Voilá!
Form and function flow together perfectly.  I'd happily cook
in this spacious, fun and funky but well organized kitchen.
Dolphin House deserves far more than an intriguing paragraph in the ocaisonal Bahamian guidebook.   The trip to Bimini is worth it if your only stop is to visit Dolphin House.  Who knows? You might even be lucky enough to get greeted at the entrance to Bimini’s harbour by a pod of tiny dolphins, like we did.  Life imitates are imitates life, Dolphin House, Bimini.
The pieces for this recently
tiled  closet came to Ashley
as a result of tropical storm
Andrew, which struck just
a few months earlier.
Sailfish, dolphin fish (aka mahi-mahi) and
bet you'll chuckle when Ashley tells you
about the coins and the mirror.
Lionfish mural.  Beautiful but poisonous and invasive
Caribbean interlopers.


Note:

This is a retrospective.  At the moment, I'm busy in job-hunt and writing gig finding mode while we sit out hurricane season and replenish our cruising kitty in Jacksonville Florida.  There is still plenty of material from our foray to continue posting, even before we head back out cruising.  While here, my tentative plan is to post about 2-3 times a week, based on some survey feedback*.
Just a few materials so far
are finding their way toward
 incorporation into Ashley's
next vision.
The stairs to Dolphin House's
virgin palette  and a glorious
view of both the Caribbean and
Atlantic shores.


*What would you like to see? Please consider offering your input on Galley Wench Tales blog site.  Click here to link to the survey.  And, thank you for helping make Galley Wench Tales a better blog.
This sign is less prominent than it
appears even  in this image.  It looks
so humble.  I might've missed it if
I wasn't looking for it, much less
anticipated how much Dolphin House
would awe me.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just Go!

San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Not fancy, but "Imagine This" did.
No, this is not our boat, but we sailed 3 weeks in Canada's
DEsolation Wilderness in a boat like it.
“Wow! What a life!  I wish I could do that!” 

It’s common refrain cruisers hear from others, envious of at the very least, the idea of making their boat their home; going vagabond.  Initially they visibly glow with excitement of the possibility.  Then, they wistfully shake their heads free of the notion, like a dog shaking off water.  Which is actually, what they are doing.

What keeps them from going, if it purportedly intrigues them so much?

12 Excuses -- Countered
  1. I have kidsthough we’ve met cruisers traveling happily with their kids.
  2. I can’t quit my jobbecause?  Many do.  We did.  Many of our land-based expenses went away when we left land behind.
  3. I want to wait for retirementbut often their health or their parent’s health keeps intervenes as time marches on.
  4. My (extended) family needs methere are other options; caregivers, returning home periodically.  What’s your timeline before it’s too late for you to go?
  5. Boats cost too much money…  So do cars, houses, college educations.  Some boats practically held together with duct-tape travel amazing distances.  It’s up to you to make the tradeoffs between your desires and your budget.  The options are there if you’re willing to shop with diligence, an open mind and a sharp eye.  Our $30K boat is a very solid blue-water boat, purchased in St. Lucia.  It would’ve been nice to get something a little bigger and more comfortable, but we opted for safety and not spending more years saving for a bigger boat.
  6. Traveling costs too much money… Your boat is your hotel, your galley is your restaurant, mother nature usually offers her best entertainment for free.  Of course, you can always spend more if you want to and you have the money.
  7. I don’t know how to sail.  There’s lots of ways to learn… classes, friends, yacht clubs….
  8. It’s dangerous.  Statistically, you’re a lot less likely to die on your boat in the ocean than you are on most major metro freeways.
  9. There’s piratesNot that many, and we generally know where they are and thus can avoid them.  Not so different that avoiding the bad part of town after dark, or knowing not to strut your finery in have-not neighborhoods.
  10. It’s scary.  There are moments (though likely less than you’d expect).  We choose to not be ruled by our fears.  The longer we cruise, the more we learn to overcome the challenges.
  11. What do I do with my house? Selling it is a great way to buy your boat, if you have equitiy.  Renting it, if you have good property manager, is a good way to cover your expenses if there’s positive cash flow.  We got nothing from the sale of our house, but now that it’s sold, it’s no longer a concern.
  12. How can I do without all my stuff?  Most cruisers miss far less than they’d expect.  We discover not much is usually more than enough as the stuff of our days is filled with the wonders of our watery wanderings. 

What does it take to go?
  1. You decide you’re going to (without this focus, you will not go)
  2. You pick a target date to leave.
  3. You take a swipe at cruising a budget that you can live with ($500-2500/month is a common range -- click here to check out Beth Leonard's Voyager's Handbook; a great resource to get a sense for what it might cost you given your "needs").
  4. You decide how much money you will come up with to buy a boat and meets your cruising budget.
  5. You find a boat you can live with in your budget.
  6. You buy it.
  7. You go. (somehow, you will address everything you need to for this to happen, as long as you decide you’re going to) 

When you’re ready, you’ll know (though you’ll never feel 100% ready in terms of feeling everything’s taken care of). Then, you’ll go.


Bon Voyage!

What would you like to see? Please consider offering your input on Galley Wench Tales blog site.  Click here to link to the survey.  And, thank you for helping make Galley Wench Tales a better blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Easy Cruiser Pizza Recipe (no bananas)

Dean Martin in his "pizza pie" glory.
“When the moon hits you in the eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore” was a hit for Dean Martin eons ago (click here if you want a YouTube video of Dean crooning it), but Wayne’s “Hawaiian pizza” ordered when cruising in Mexico topped with banana chips and maraschino cherries was not.

Pizza was readily available in every relatively populated Caribbean island we visited between St. Lucia and the US.  When we ordered it, it was generally around $28 USD and  skimpy, bland or both.  We stuck to local indy pizza places, eschewing the chains, despite Domino’s dominance, even in the Caribbean. 

We missed our occasional “Pappa Murphy’s” veggie pizza.  So we did what most cheap cruisers like us usually do – we decided to make our own. Thanks to Google, and a little trial and error, I’ve devised what we consider a winner.  It’s easy, it’s good, it’s cheap. 

What I like about this particular recipe
  • There’s no yeast, no need to wait for the dough to rise.
  • Rolling the crust does not require any additional flour on the dough, the rolling pin or the rolling surface – which in my case is just the sheet of aluminum foil, which I slide onto the cookie sheet before baking.
  • The crust doesn’t require pre-baking; just roll it out, top it and cook it. 

Since two cruisers in the last week asked for the recipe, figured it made sense to post it.  Here ‘tis.

"My" Cruising Pizza Recipe 
Original recipe is by SparkPeople user LBETH5 (click here for it) but I made some modifications. 

Ingredients

Crust
  • flour, white, 2 cups
  • baking powder, 2 tsp 
  • salt, 1/4 tsp 
  • olive oil, 1/4 cup 
  • water, 2/3 cup

Topping  (my version -- try your own!)
  • thin layer of mixed shredded Italian cheese (on dough, before laying sauce)
  • Ragu pizza sauce (because it’s not very sweet – use your favorite)
  • smattering of freshly chopped garlic
  • 1 t Herbes du Provence
  • thinly sliced onions
  • chopped black olives (ideally, kalamata)
  • minced fresh green pepper
  • thinly sliced onion, separated into rings and scattered across the pizza
  • top with more mixed Italian grated cheese mix (in addition to the pre-sauce under layer)

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. For the crust, mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle pour oil and water in and mix until all the dough is combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and roll out in 2 pizzas on a piece of foil, which is later slid onto a baking sheet for cooking.
  4. Top with whatever ingredients you like.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is firm and no longer sticking to the foil.
Enjoy!  

Oh -- I did make a Hawaiian pizza version with ham and pineapple, but no banana chips and no maraschino cherries.

What would you like to see? Please consider offering your input on Galley Wench Tales blog site.  Click here to link to the survey.  And, thank you for helping make Galley Wench Tales a better blog.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lovin’ Libraries: A Cruiser’s Best Friend


Schoelcher Library, Martinique, isn’t just beautiful outside...
While book exchanges provide the bulk of my easy cruising reads, (click here to read about “Bountiful Book Exchanges”), I’d be remiss if I didn’t urge cruisers to consider checking out libraries in their travels.

My love affair with libraries took root early, long before cruising. As a child, I fondly recall working my way through the local library's collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Rather than fading, my love of libraries continues to grow and blossom.

With nearly wanton book lust, I eagerly seek out libraries in every port possible.  I revel in their cultural uniqueness, yet appreciate that universally, they offer quiet sanctuary, a gathering point for community, knowledge, exploration and free internet access.

My Caribbean favorites, so far
    Inside, Scoelcher library is beautiful
    from top (ceiling)…
    1.  Fort du France, Martinique:  Schoelcher Library; stunningly beautiful architecture, named in honor of a slavery abolitionist.  (click here for more about Schoelcher Library)
    2. Charlestown, Nevis’ library piqued my curiosity with their vibrant mural of a recently deceased community member, Dr. Simeon Daniel.  We partook in lightening their free book table and as well happily paid a nominal fee for a couple other books they sold.
    3. St John’s Cruz Bay U.S. Virgin Islands library was surrounded by a lovely garden.  Inside, we enjoyed a phenomenal underwater photography collection; especially the cuttlefish image (click here to see what a cuttlefish looks like).
    4. Mathewtown Great Inagua’s library’s airconditioned, bug-free environment offered blissful relief and blazing fast WiFi.  Their couches were comfy, strategically located next to standard 110 volt wall outlets.  The librarian kindly called one of the locals for us to set up a tour of the salt ponds and flamingo territory.  If we had more time there, I’d have checked out the salt museum connected to the library.
    5. Nassau, Bahamas’ library was enclosed in a multistory tower.  Our guidebook said to ask for the dungeon key, but that exhibit was closed.  No photos were allowed in the library.  Mostly, I wish the library would sell poster versions of the gorgeous botanical prints of local flowers and fruits they displayed.
      To bottom; even the floor was a designer delight.


    What are your favorites?  Please share any memorable experiences you’ve encountered in libraries in your travels!


    What would you like to see? Please consider offering your input on Galley Wench Tales blog site.  Click here to link to the survey.  And, thank you for helping make Galley Wench Tales a better blog.
    Schoelcher library’s books are stacked high,
    emitting a deliciously musty odor, while light
    streaming through its high windows, sparkles
    ike pixie dust.
    Mathewtown Great Inagua library's air conditioned,
    bug-free  environment was  welcome.


    Mural of Dr. Simeon Daniel, Charlestown Nevis.

    Cacti in bloom in the garden outside Cruz Bay St. Johns library. 

    Nassau’s library, pretty in the ever-popular Bahamian
    architecture color, Pepto Bismo pink.

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Hippo Hardware of Marine Stuff: Sailor’s Exchange


    Fitting Sailor’s Exchange entrance is graced with
    a wooden figurehead
    Sailor’s Exchange is kind of like a treasure hunt in a dump. Coming inside, you quickly get the sense you’ve entered a labrinth of the riduclous, the useful and the sublime.  Bargains are there for those lucky, observant, persistent and knowledgeable enough.  At this stage, I’m missing that last and not least quality, knowledgeable enough.  I bought nothing (this time); Wayne bought some electrical spares and latches for our settee cabinet doors.

    For Pacific NW yachties who’ve frequented Bellingham’s Pacific NW Exchange (www.pacificmarineexchange.com), Sailor’s Exchange is less organized, 10x the size, and far quirkier.  For Pacific NW non-yachties, if you’ve had the pleasure of wandering Portland’s Hippo Hardware’s (www.HippoHardware.com) veritable historical archives in the form of architectural treasures and are curious about the underbelly of boating, Sailor’s Exchange is right up your alley.  Don’t go if you don’t like to get your hands dirty or if you expect an easily navigable inventory.
    The store’s merchandise is often as robust as this sign.


    The greeter… front….
     Still, I’m looking forward to checking out the Sailor’s Exchange a stone’s throw from our marina, in West Jacksonville Florida… with a shopping list (as well as my camera).

    Though I wish Ft. Lauderdale’s Sailorman (www.SailorMan.com) were here; their secondhand selecton of books and charts were both affordable and useful.  They were willing to spend a good chunk of time suggesting starting fishing gear, tailored to my interest, budget and ability.  Best of all, Wayne was able to use their crimper to swedge a terminal onto a wire… which instantly resolved the issue of how to go from parts to completed project.  It was free to use.   Doesn’t get much more cruiser-friendly than that!




    The greeter… back…
    butt crack and all!
    What are some of your favorite indie yachtie service and supply haunts, and why?
    One of the more useful and straightforward merchandise areas.
    Too overwhelmed to comparatively price shop it relative
    to our needs at this time.
    For that certain something, for those adept
    at finding needles in haystacks.
    This hammerhead was good denizen of the deep company
    for the sailfish, marlin, dolphinfish, pirate plaque and other
    sundry décor lurking overhead throughout the store.





    Can anyone tell me what this is?  No, I don’t know! 

    But wait, there’s more!  This stuff spills
    out the back of the store.

    Popeye the sailorman… there to check
    you out at the register.

    S---loads of props and not one of them fits our engine
    (there were lots more than these).

    Our newfound friends and fellow Pearson owners Allen and
    Michelle of Incommunicado couldn't resist introducing us to
    their favorite yachtie shopping haunt in St. Augustine.


    There is some sense of order, though some of
    what's in the back area is more of the same
    stuff elsewhere in the store.