Our Man In Havana

Dropping into Havana is like entering into some bizarre time warp of cultural clashes. Chevy’s and Fords from the 40’s and 50’s, Russian Lada’s, Chinese compacts, horse drawn carts, overflowing buses spewing diesel, brave darting pedestrians, all moving together doing the dance of the city through crumbling buildings and loud city streets from the last 500 years.IMG_3666

Downtown are forts from the 1600’s, churches from the 1800’s. There is classic european beauty with ancient Spanish stone architecture, gorgeous courtyards in downtown buildings that house art, sculpture, old wooden furniture, beautiful tropical plants. Then signs of the  architectural push of the Americans through the early to mid 1900’s, and on to the USSR, with it’s stark strait lines and strange Soviet era towers dotting the coastline, keeping a watchful eye on the waters.IMG_3651 (1)

Cuba was “discovered” by Columbus, and was mostly built and settled by the Spanish. In the early 1900’s the Cubans fought for their independence, got help from the US, and so opened themselves up to an ongoing American influence and an infinite American presence in Guantanamo Bay. As Cuba prospered along came lots of mob ties and sugar money which helped to line the pockets of Batista, making the rich richer, and the poor poorer. This situation provided a breeding ground for Fidel and Raul and Che and the revolution, with hopes of medicine and schooling for all and a turn to the Soviets for backing. When the USSR crumbled in the early 90’s, over $4 billion in yearly payments stopped and things went to hell.

In downtown Havana they have decided that the path forward is through tourism, and that the best way to attract the ATM machine that is the foreign tourist is by making downtown shine. Some areas have been brought back to their former glory with brightly painted walls, refreshed wooden doors, shutters, and quaint cobblestone streets. Others are in process, being readied behind 15 foot high corrugated metal walls that give a promise of things to come. For much of the 1900’s Cuba was the most prosperous nation in the Caribbean. It has good bones.IMG_3633

Warm and friendly people were everywhere we went. Downtown and in the small towns all are out walking the streets during the daytime, plastic shopping bags in hand as they return with the days groceries. All feeling very safe with lots of kids around, women walking alone, no need to be fearful. And then dinner time comes and the streets are empty and silent with everyone together inside. Our new buddy Andre takes me to his friends house to change some american money into CUC’s. “Will he be home?” I ask. “Of course, it’s dinner time in Cuba”.

There is a conflicting combination of pride and anger from the people. They love the country. They hate the government. They get the free medicine, free school but are paid hardly anything to work in the office jobs that they were schooled for. So they work in the black and semi black market. Doctors driving taxi’s, changing money. “I can get anything for you. What do you need?”IMG_3652

The downtown central squares have been designated as WiFi hotspots, where people young and old congregate not to interact, but to stare at their phones under the Banyan trees. $1.50 gets you an hour of decent service. Just buy a card and plugin the code. Strange twist on the use of public spaces, bringing everyone together in isolation. The internet is open but there is no access for American money. Credit cards issued from American banks won’t work. Can’t go on pay pal or even the Apple store to pay for something while in Cuba. Bring your stack of cash.

IMG_3667The retail stores are bizarre. They are run by the government and seem to get a truckload of whatever it is they are selling at a time and put it all out on the shelves at once, with no seeming rhyme or reason as to what any store might have. There are stacks and stacks of exactly the same dishwashing soap in yellow, and then in green, and then red. We saw one pile of about 100 dustpans and little brooms in a little market. But then we went shopping for vegetables and it was great, as long as you wanted what they had. Most are sold in little carts on the side of the road, or in somebodies front yard with a table outside. We found huge cabbages, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and more all at way less than they would at home. Or possible of course to get a fresh chunk of pork or chicken, cut from the pig and hanging out in the hot Cuban sun. We weren’t that brave.IMG_3624

And then there are the cars. There are old american classics from the 40’s, 50’s, and early 60’s everywhere you look. Most of the engines have been replaced by diesels, but the bodies and the interiors on many are cherry. Pink, lime green, shining chrome, beginnings of tail fins. They cost more than a house would cost in Havana because the drivers use them to make a real wage as taxi’s and tour guides. Many europeans off the cruise ships are seen sitting in the back seat of the pink convertibles with their selfie stick extending the phone to document their ride through downtown Havana.IMG_3646

Musicians on many corners. Mostly one guy with a guitar playing Chan Chan and his buddy scraping the gourd for rhythm. Heard that song at least a dozen times a day. But then as we dug a little deeper found an excellent Cuban Jazz quartet. Intricate conga player with the wood block on the foot pedal. Acoustic bass turned backward to reverberate the sound off the stone pillar behind. Acoustic steel string guitar player with wild eyes and a lifetimes worth of Cuban sounds in his fingers. And through the cuban melodies I heard the jamming sounds that I know so well. At some point they dropped into Tequila, and it could have been us in Glenn’s shop in Jamestown. Elsewhere a young, small, sad eyed earnest teenager moved into a space near an outside dining area and started belting out Cuban ballads. Sang a half dozen songs, and passed the hat. They do all pass the hat. Caught his eye later counting the bills and he gave me a thumbs up sign. Could have been Ethan. Elia and I joined a pair in a bar, sharing blues riff’s, she harmonizing, me tapping out rhythm with a spoon on the coffee cup. Impromptu song of American’s from Colorado. Our gifts were guitar strings from America.IMG_3689

The only place to bring a sailboat is into Marina Hemmingway, about 15 miles west of downtown. When it was built  in the 50’s it would have been impressive with 5 rows of canals for boats, tennis courts, restaurants, and a bowling alley ,built for the affluent and to lure the american yachts. But now it is crumbling and tired. Word is a few years ago it was quite full with Americans finally getting to bring their boats to Cuba. But then he who shall not be named seems to have decided that since Obama had opened the door he should close it back up and has made it much harder for American boaters to visit. Cuba could really use the dollars from the American tourists. It doesn’t need the KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks strip mall  bullshit that seems to come with American “investment”, but it could sure use some sailors coming in, drinking some beers and eating in the restaurants.

As we left the city to sail west the landscaped turned into mountains and greenery. Gorgeous empty land. We ended up at a bay where they were recycling ships. Then into another where there is an “eco tourist” lodge on a tucked away island. Endless sand beach, little palapas, a ferry comes to drop people twice a day from the mainland. Tourist’s from many countries other than the US milling about. Nice to get out of the city and back to bare feet, white sand, and a book enjoyed under a palm tree.IMG_3618

Key Weird

Key West . A multi hued tapestry of tourists, partiers, military, old crusty Florida hippies, gay boys and girls, sailors, hustlers, locals, street performers and musicians. The end of the line. Where all congregate to celebrate the sunset each night from Mallory square, and from the piers, rooftops, and waterfront bars, focused on the final moment as the great orb spreads into the sea, all waiting for the elusive green flash.

img_3580 (1)
Sunset from Mallory Square.


Beautiful classic southern architecture, with balconies overlooking the streets, wide front porches, shutters for the windows, tucked away behind the palms and and mossy tentacles that fall from the trees. Many old moldy run down wood paneled fixer uppers in the waiting. Banyon trees stretching wide, limbs out with hanging vines reaching for the ground to turn into new trunks.

Earnest Hemingway in the bars, the names. Over 100, 6 toed cats, descended from his famous feline at the Hemingway house where he wrote many of his classics. He drank here, he stayed there. Pictures on the walls of bars of him drinking, fishing, carrying on. White haired, bearded Hemingway contest looks alikes on the street. Elia says I should grow the hair, grow the beard, get the steely eyed stare and embrace the man, the writer, the drinker, the womanizer. Maybe she means just the look.img_3640

Much inebriation on all sides, at all hours. Thankfully we missed New Years eve by a few days, but as they say on the T shirt, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning”. In paradise for only a few days, many waste no time.

Money being extracted from the tourists in many creative ways. From far away the para gliders hang their victims off the  back of their boats  and float them in the breeze. Sunset cruises abound on old schooners, Catamarans, Sweet Janes Island Charter. Catch the deep sea Tuna or the Marlin and proudly match your wits against a poor defenseless fish that didn’t even know there was a confrontation to prepare for. Tiki huts built on rafts motoring throughout the anchored boats. Snorkel out off the packed boat to the murky key. How many tourists can you pile onto a Catamaran, while jacking the reggae as you go past the anchorage. All you can drink, all you can drink, all you can drink. Stumble back to your hotel, or to the late night streets of Key Weird. Restaurants and bars throughout downtown. Packed on New Years week. All the tourists flying in, staying at the hotel, the inn. Eating out, drinking out. Spending the green, yes siree. The American way.

Many options for drinking! Orion in the background on the hook

A different style of boating community than we are used to. Small interactions among boaters, but many with only a slight wave as they go by on their Carolina Skiff to work in the morning. There are regular cruisers but it seems hard to connect with them. No VHF net in the morning. No central place to hang. Very few of us, compared to the affordable housing members of Key West, that bought Bubby Joe’s boat for $500 and keep it anchored out with a long dinghy ride to town. Sails blown out, motor doesn’t work but one way to live cheap in paradise.

Forts abound on the Florida coast. Imposing structures mostly built for the short lived Spanish American war. Most never had a shot fired. You can take an all day ferry ride to the Dry Tortugas for $200 to see Fort Jefferson or go to Fort Zachary Taylor state park on the tip of the island.  Lots of american military dollars and might. Guns that can shoot 32 miles out and over the horizon in 1896. Keep the enemy hopping. Immigration control old school. We don’t need no stinking wall!

Tourists of all flavors regurgitated from the cruise ships daily. Pulled up along Mallory square, leaving by sunset. Italians, French, Japanese, hard to say where else, but all with the pasty overfed, hungover glaze of the one week vacation a year, get it all in at once in a week in paradise before going back to “reality”img_3570

Old crusty florida types. Elia calls them “my people”. Bearded, deeply dark and wrinkled crusty as all get out, living on the boats, hanging in the streets. Seem to have an inner circle. They shout out to each other as they stumble by. Yo Bro.

And then the music. Ah yes. The Green Parrot, Sloppy Joes, The Bull, Sunset Pier, and on it goes. All free. No cover charge. And the beauty for this old man of the sea is that it starts with a 5:30 sunset set. Done by 7:30. Home for sup. Bed by nine. Some of our favorites. Billy And The Squids. Skinny funny looking guy, tight pants, hair slicked back, blowing lonesome harp and singing the cowboy boogie Hank Williams classics. The Whores. Playing anything for a tip proudly. Here’s a ten, play Sweet Caroline. Open to stopping for $11. It stops. Open to starting for $12. Back and forth until some guy gives them $100 to play the whole song, if they let his Mary sing with them for her birthday. All funny as hell especially to the more inebriated at Sloppy Joes. Many bars with a singer and single guitar and some mild electronic backup. Blues, some Jimmy Buffett, some just background tourist music, others truly talented. Found a Dead Jams cover band that was excellent. I watch the bass.The test is Eyes Of The World. He nailed it. And he brought a fast, funky, approach to Bertha, to Rider. Kind of a Vulfpeck Joe Dart bass into Dead tunes. We talked after the show. They do over 300 shows a year. Also plays in a funk band, an island Jazz band. Made me head back to the boat to work on the elusive eighth notes on my fender.

Christmas Florida style

And then as always it’s time to go. Maxo off on a bus to Ft Lauderdale, to Costa Rica. We’re on the Key West Transit Blue line to Publix to shop big for the upcoming dearth of supplies. Last night treat of the second round of the Dead band on the sunset pier, dancing to Shakedown Street, and a wonderful funkified “You’ve Got To Serve Somebody to end the set, and then off for the overnight to Cuba. Great time in Key West. Long enough to feel it. Short enough to appreciate it. On to the next adventure.


Steaming full speed out of Pelican Bay. Headed for Boca Grande Pass. Up towards Venice. Anchor up. Scott is driving. I grab the wheel. Came in a few days before so know where the channel is. Beautiful morning. Life is grand, and then out of nowhere, thump, crunch, bad lurch and full stop. WTF. I blame it on the early morning brain fog, the crappy charts on my Raymarine Chartplotter, the early in the trip haven’t been on the boat in a while, inattentiveness. But really as I look at the chart later, it’s so obvious. I screwed up.

Follow the brown line over the blue tongue

Tried the engine to get us out. Could rotate her around but no forward movement.  Put up the sail to heel us over to one side to release the grip. Row an anchor out in the dinghy to kedge us off. All with no luck. Tide headed out. Lucky all of the bottom is sand. But stuck. Seriously stuck.

Called Tow Boat US. The AAA of boating. Pay your one fee per year and get unlimited free tows. Such the deal. Captain Steve there in a half hour. Racing the tide he says. Ties on to the bow. His twin Suzuki 115’s strain, pull, drag… us deeper onto the sand bar.

Had to get the anchor back up to free us to pull forward. Attach a floating ball, pulling chain. Large palaber. Anchor dug into the sand. Deep. No luck. Boat quite stuck!

Tide headed out. Long day chilling in Pelican Bay facing the wrong direction while the other anchored boats look on. Sometimes you just need to wait.

Grounded from the water
Standing in 3.5 feet.

As night time came the high time came along with it. And with both of them Captain Dwight with the next effort, saying he’s the guy the gets people out when nobody else can. Bigger boat. More horsepower. More torque. More experience.

Attach a bridle to the port side on the bow. Tow boat at full torque. Orion rolling to her side, but insistent on her place in the sand. Switch to starboard. No movement at all. Not looking good.

Start talking about if we can’t get her out coming back tomorrow to put inflatable bags all around her hull and floating her at high tide. Not easy. Not cheap.

Wait another hour until the absolute moment of the highest tide. Line on Starboard. Pull to one side. Engine running full on the towboat and on Orion. Movement? Hard to tell.

Line on Port. Pull over to her other side. Just need 20 feet. Maybe some movement. Some release. Forward bumping then onto another sand bar. Back and forth we go.

Then from a bottle pops the cork and we are floating free and at ease.

All of which is another lesson. Another day. Another learning.

Which is all part of being the Captain. The responsibility can be small on a day to day basis. But there is always a half an ear out for danger, even when sleeping. What is that thump? Is that banging ok? Crawl out of bed and take a look around to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging. That our entire home isn’t floating quietly towards destruction on the rocks. And then up on deck when all is silent to survey with a smile. All seems well. Back into bed.

Many serene moments where all systems are working well and is joy. Punctuated by the furling line jamming and headed for Governors Island at 7 knots with the only option being to crawl onto the pitching foredeck and twist into an awkward pretzel to somehow unravel the knot. All a day in the life.

So the grounding is a learning. A mild slap in the face to pay close attention, always. Because the nudge is not always so gentle. And the price of inattention, potentially immense.

Gulfport sunset
Sunset over Gulfport

Onboard Again

We’re back on Orion after 17 months. She has been sitting in the Port Charlotte Boat Storage yard waiting patiently in the scorching heat and pounding rains while various hurricanes blow by

I came back first by myself. Back to 2 weeks of solid prep. Of 85 humid Florida degrees, sweat stinking shirts, crawling, bending, breathing toxic fumes of paint and varnish. Multiple trips to West Marine, to Home Depot, to visit mom in Sarasota. To finally ride the travel lift and splash her back home. Sails on and ready to roll. Only to find that the alternator was not putting out. Another day of laying on a burning hot engine rewiring and crossing fingers. And then with great joy the engine started and showed 13.2 volts. Yes, charging! Buddy Scott in for this maiden voyage. Out the canal, sails up and headed down Charlotte Harbor. And finally to rest at Pelican Bay. Beautiful old time Florida.

Under the bridge
Headed under the Tampa Bay Skyway bridge

Now the actual boat life can begin. Was wondering a little why I do this as I was sweating and spending in the boatyard. But it’s coming back. The beautiful sunset on the water. The adventures in the dinghy. The ease of movement through the water when the sails are full and the wind is right. The books. The naps. The music. The time. The peace.

It’s been a full and kind of crazy year and a half. The biggest part dictated by Rebecca the ex slowly dying of stomach cancer. Even though I only talked to her a few times in the entire course of events, she occupied my mind and affected the people that I love continually.

kids jumping
Claire (now doctor) in Med school. Ethan (now Marshall) Italy. Maxo (now Malcolm) in Canada

Then there has been the whole focus on the politics of our world right now. What a fucked up mess. And  I was completely pulled back into the daily Trump. The outrage. The horror. The addiction of the morning news.

Much time was also spent driving Ethan up and down the hill. At some point he moved in with me full time, and was without a car. Fairview High School at 7 was a common occurrence.  But honestly I consider the year driving him a rare treat. When do you get to hang out with your 17 year old son for an hour or more a day and have great conversations about music, philosophy, life. Not sad to stop the driving. But the connecting I will miss.

View out the bathroom window. 

Music, tons of music. Deeper into the bass I go. Playing with Egg Puppy, Shrimp Burrito, Leela Kirtan, All Together Now, Reverend Freakchild, Dave’s Slaves. 

Elia and I wonderfully silly and loving. Somehow keeps getting better.

Fixing and selling houses and dealing with an insane partner.

Researching and buying a mobile home park in Detroit.

Pine Grove MHP. Inkster MI.

Built a greenhouse and grew a ton of tomatoes.

Epic camping trips in Scotty the trailer.


Sold my snow removal business.

Started a handyman business.

Yoga every morning.

Life has been full.

And helpful to look at time in chunks. What just happened starting here, ending there. And then noticing the different speeds at which time moves by. And balanced by the different things that happened in that space of time. After trips I tend to check in with brother Ben, and part of the conversation inevitably goes to, “Nothing much happened here at home. Another week or two of work, or basically the same old same old”. Compared to the days going traveling, hiking, camping, with a new adventure around every corner

As I hit 60 this year I want to be able to do more of the adventure and less of the mundane. These days when another year passes I feel older, more tired, and I’m starting to feel the big slow down coming. It didn’t used to be that way. I remember when my mom was my age. She was 60 and starting a new life with Laurie. I see her slowing way down now at 91 and it doesn’t seem all that far away. I feel like I’ve got a window that won’t be open for too long. Kids are up and out. And it won’t be that many years before the energy ebbs.

So what I want to do now is live as fully as possible. Travel, explore, love, play. I’ve never been one for a regular lifestyle at any rate. But there is an urgency to push the envelope and get out there. My way has mostly been just to do it, and somehow the money will find it’s way. Sometimes that works. It’s the way I know for sure.

So for now the vehicle is Orion. The path is to explore together with my sweet Elia. Have adventures while we can. And as we get a little more ready to slow down embrace that energy as well. I’m psyched.. Let’s go sailing…

Elia and meo sarasota
Capt’n and the mate! Sarasota



Turn The Page

Orion on the hard
Patiently, she waits!

This part of the journey is coming to a close. We made it back to America. Into Miami, down to Key West, then up to Port Charlotte to hang with my mom for a few before putting Orion on the hard for the hurricane season. I sit writing this on my last morning before heading back home. Elia left a few days ago to be with her people in Oregon before meeting me back in Colorado. And I’m actually ready to go. It definitely helps to have 95 degree days sitting on gravel with 1 zillion bugs attacking as the sun sets to help spur me on.

Many adventures since the last blog post. Nighttime crossing of the Great Bahama Banks and the Gulf Stream into Coconut Grove went by easily enough. Down the keys to Key West. Lots of sailing, lots of miles. I just did the math and it looks like we have gone close to 5000 miles in the last year. Chesapeake bay up to Maine, back down to Hampton Virginia. 11 days offshore to the Virgin Islands. South to Dominica. Turn around and all the way back through the Virgins, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, The Keys, and finally to Port Charlotte. Holy shit. All at around 6 knots. Lots of time to sit and think, and be.

Miami on bike
Miami By Bike

But now thinking of the go back. Life on land from the relaxed cruiser perspective. Gotten very good at easy mellow days of guitars and books and writing and boat projects. The stresses of this life are much less overwhelming than those in “reality”. They are present, but somehow they are more real, more pure. If the engine stops running you have to figure out how to fix it. If the wind isn’t blowing from the right direction you stay put and get into where you are. In hindsight the places we ended up staying and getting to know the best were because we were waiting there for a weather window. St. Martin pulled us in, twice. Antiqua, much longer than we planned originally. The south coast of Puerto Rico. Georgetown, Bahamas. Les Saints. All of which we got “stuck” in, and got to know so much better because of it.

So the take away is how to bring the relax back to the real world. How to stay calm in the face of the storm. How to make the most out of a “bad situation”.  So much of life becomes the patterns and habits that we have made and the groves that we dig for ourselves. This winter on Orion has had it’s own tone and mood. It will be interesting to see how that energy gets taken home. Home of old grooves well worn. I can already feel the tug to hook back in. Read the news every morning. Get into the general worked up state that seems to have so overtaken america. Beware brother, beware.

Friggin hot dude
Friggin Hot Dude!

All in all this year has been a dream year that only came about in the thinnest window possible. There were so many things that could have derailed it, and many that had to line up to make it happen. I feel incredibly fortunate that it all worked out. The universe has a funny way of supporting ones dreams. This one really came from a head down determination to pull it off, even if it didn’t make sense on a lot of levels. There is something in there about learning when it is time to be the captain, make the decision that you feel is best, and throw off the docklines, or stay and weather the storm. It could be a lonely place out there, but in my world I’ve had my first mate along on the whole ride. Elia rocks!

And in this time I’ve come to truly appreciate and trust Orion. What a great boat. I’ve learned so incredibly much about how to keep her happy, and what she will do for me if I do. So much of this lifestyle is tied into ones boat. It’s a home that you need to depend on to keep the rain away, but in a very real way, for survival. And then you want her to look good, to feel good, to start when you turn the key, every time. To keep your food cold, your bed dry, and mostly to keep that good strong divider between us and the deep blue sea.

So yes, this year on the boat is coming to a close. But I don’t feel in any way that the adventure is over. Orion sits patiently, waiting for the next splash into the sea to signal the next chapter. Both Elia and I have tuned into what works, what doesn’t and have an idea of how to live a life balanced with time on land and time on the water. I’m hearing the call already. Perhaps next go round it’s to Cuba we will go? Stay tuned…

Pity The Fool. This Man Has No Island

In our house April Fools Day is the holies of all high holidays. Each year it gets harder and harder to sneak it up on the kids. They are ready, prepared, perhaps with an attack of their own.

Gotca PicThere was the time we were coming back from a Florida on the night of March 31st. I remember sitting on the plane planning the strategy. We got in after midnite. The sacred day was upon us, but luckily they were too sleepy to realize it. We picked up the car from the airport and on the drive back to Boulder there was a strange hesitation with the engine, sort of a jerking motion. I grew more concerned and let them know that it wasn’t running right. We started heading up the canyon, and the jerking got worse. Hopefully we make it home. It was cold, snowy, at 3am, and wasn’t looking good. Just as we pulled in to head up Magnolia it died, and wouldn’t start. What to do. The best idea that I could come up with was for them to get all dressed up, and stand outside hitchhiking while I put the headlights on them as the next car came by. The coats and gloves were on, they were headed out, April Fools.

Elia PicThe tricky part now is how to get them when they are not close by. Last year I wrote a long email to young Malcolm in New Zealand talking about my boating plans and how it was looking like the best option available was to pick a sailboat in Australia, and wondering if he might be willing to sail it back for me. He reported back that he was reading it aloud to some friends and got more and more excited until he got to the line at the end saying that maybe he should look over at the calendar and see what day it is. Got cha. First email back he was ticked, then the respect grew.

Last year Ethan knew it was coming but wasn’t sure from what direction it would arrive. I woke him up at 1:30 am to take his morning shower. It was dark like usual, and he stumbled in to get ready for school. I heard the water running and hovered around the corner. He came out of the bathroom, and I just started laughing. Score another one for dad.

They do retaliate. There is the stamp taped on to the bottom of the computer mouse. Why won’t it work? The saran wrap across the toilet seat. Slowly they are maturing.

All of this to say that the recent post about Elia and I buying an island perhaps needs to be understood from the background of the fool. The hints were there. Come back on April 1st of next year to see how it all plays out. I hope this wasn’t a foolish move. But word came back of true excitement and admiration for our bold new move.  Ah well, not this year folks.

At this point we are in the Bahamas, heading back towards Florida. Lots of long sails behind us, a few ahead. Switches in the brain are slowly being turned back on to Colorado time and reality. Trying to plan the next phase. Not sure how work will look.

Do I sell my snow business and start something else? What will have changed internally to bring to the game. Thinking it would be fun to play bass in an old guy band. Play the rock and roll but no gigs after 9.

Then there is the changed world of Mr Carrot top in charge. How to plug in to the ridiculousness of that. Looking forward to the drive up Magnolia, and back to the old homestead. What will be the same, what different. These are the thoughts that fill a portion of the brain as the miles drift by under the keel.


There are changes afoot. Elia and I have been on Vieques, hiking a lot, talking to local people and starting to fall in love with the place. We began to wonder if there was a way to stay here longer, or find a way to come back.

It kind of started out as a whim. Let’s just wander around the island and see if anything catches our eye. We talked to some local people to get a sense of the place. We met with a real estate agent mostly to just get a free tour of the island. As we drove around she showed us houses and lots with million dollar views and everything was quite out of our reach.

Island 5We had given up on the idea of buying a place and stopped in at a little bar in Esperanza to get out of the sun and get something to drink. I mentioned to the bartender that we had been looking at properties, and he threw out, seemingly as a joke, “well I have an island you can buy”. Yeah, right!. We got to talking and he actually did. His name was Ramon and he said that it had been owned by his grandfather, but that he had recently passed The island had been left to him, but he didn’t know what to do with it. He said that it was  “kind of rustic” and hadn’t had loved in a while, but had lots of potential for the right person”.

RamonHe could take us out there the next morning and give us the tour. We met him at 9 on the rickety little dock and got into his old fishing skiff. He gunned the engine and we were off, out of the bay, through some mangroves and north for about 8 miles. As we came around a bend he pointed and there it was.

It had a little beach where we could pull the boat up. There was a small run down house with some palm trees. As we went around the back and up the hill we found some plantation ruins, and some boards hanging off the trees. What was this place we wondered. What had it been?

Island 3It seemed that his grandfather had worked as a slave on the plantation cutting sugar cane, and that he had grown up in one of the little shacks. Some rich Dane had come in the early 60’s and tried to make a commune with people living in treehouses. When hurricane Enrique came in 77 it blew down most of the treehouses and toppled a tree onto the main house where the Danish man and his island bride were living, killing both of them. After everyone else had left the grandfather stayed on, and since there were no other claims on the land it became his.

The man said that his grandfather had told him a story that the first plantation owner, Mr. Partridge had tied one of the slaves to a tree and left him there to be eaten by fire ants. Ever since then the land, and especially the trees had been cursed. Local people were frightened to go out there, and nobody seemed to be interested in buying it.

Island 2This was getting more and more interesting.

We went to a local bar to discuss and try to get onto the internet to see if we could find out any more information. It was very hard to come to any real conclusions, but it started to seem like maybe it could be worked out somehow. The Vieques government is a protectorate of the US so some of the legal issues are fairly strait forward. The owner seemed to like us, and want us to have the land so he said he could carry a note for 10 years which would stretch us, but seemed doable.

Island 1If we could put in some time and effort to rebuild the main house, then rebuild some of the tree houses perhaps we could make it into an eco tourist type of destination. Elia feels sure that she can lift the curse off of the land.

We are now in a legal quagmire of looking at zoning, talking to lawyers, administrators, government officials. But as of just yesterday it’s looking like it’s a go. Give us a year or so to pull it together, but hopefully on April 1 of 2018 we will have built our shangri la. Hopefully this is not a foolish move on our part.

Stay tuned.