Sunday, February 28, 2010


(Meander anchored at Honeymoon Bay)

One of the VERY strange and wonderful things about this lifestyle is the social aspect. You meet people on different boats, in different anchorages, in different countries, scattered around the world. You may become especially close to a couple or in our case families on board boats from all over the world. There are times you may cruise with these boats for months or just share the same hurricane hole for the whole season. Inevitably there is a parting of ways. Sometimes, if you have been traveling in a group for a while, one boat at a time will head to a different place until finally you are the one on a different heading, or the final boat left in what had been a crowded anchorage.

To landlubbers this may sound very sad, and when we first started cruising it was. But since then we have had the, unique to cruising, experience that just happened to me a moment ago, and this experience makes it all worth while. Let me tell you about it.

I was sitting below reading when I heard a rapping on our hull and a voice with a distinct Australian accent calling out and when I peeked my head over the lifelines who did I see but our friends on SV Meander! We had first met Ray and Julie and their son Sam (and Milo the dog) in the Bahamas where we spent a few nights suffering at the posh resort and Marina called Atlantis. We all continued to sail as part of a huge group of “kid boats” through the Bahamas. Those times were some of our families favorites and our kids still miss the families on board boats from that group. There was, Salt and Light, Sanity, Solange IV, High Five, Slow-Mocean, Meander, and a few others. I think the total number of kids was well over 20 during those times. We had BBQs on the beach, gangs of Dads would go out with spears and fish together, having competitions to see who had the biggest lobster that day. The kids explored, swam, built forts, and one time a huge hermit crab hotel. The last time we saw Meander was over two years ago in Georgetown, Bahamas, where they had the whole group (that’s a LOT of people) over for drinks and snacks on Meander. Since then we have continued to cruise in the Caribbean while some of those boats are now in Bonaire, a couple are in Cartagena, Salt and Light has made it all the way home to Seattle, Meander gets the “Most Distance Traveled” award for that particular group. After they left us all, they crossed the Atlantic and sailed up the Med as far as Greece, and came back across this year. If you want to read about their adventures check out their blog at they had some great stories to tell.

We are looking forward to spending a week or so with them here at Honeymoon Bay.

Captain Tofer

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fall of Romeo

(Bella Americana)
The sound of children laughing followed by a splash beside our boat is pretty much an everyday sound here on Wandering Dolphin. But the other day when I heard it and looked around me I noticed that all five of my children were within sight and, believe it or not, they were all working on schoolwork.

Every one of my kids was on instant alert, books forgotten, and within a half second they were bursting up on deck to see who the “new” kids were on the mooring next to us. The boat was a 49 foot Bavaria flying an Italian flag. They had rigged a boarding platform from the transom of their boat and it was raised or lowered with a spare halyard. It hung off the back of the boat about eight or ten feet and the really cool thing about it was that with the pull of the halyard it could be raised up about 12 feet in the air, or with a quick motion it could be lowered right down to the water, perfect for divers of all difficulty levels.

The boat had two children aboard one was a little girl whose age I would estimate at eight to ten (right about the age of all three of my little boys) and a boy of about twelve. Well both kids began to put on a little impromptu diving exhibition for our children who were now lined up along the lifelines “Oooooing and awwwwing” the Italian kids. The boy was especially eyeing EmilyAnne and his dives and jumps were getting more and more daring. Pretty soon he was looking right at her and putting on a little show. At one point he stood on the end of the board backwards but facing Emily he looked at her and gave her a wink then clutched his heart with both hands and fell off the board backwards. My little boys were full of questions and an actual argument about if the girl on that boat was actually a girl or a boy. Sure she was wearing what was obviously a pink bikini bottom but her brother was wearing what to them looked just like a girls blue bikini bottom (read Speedo) and Kaleb was disgusted with his brothers for even considering that she might be a girl because she was wearing no bikini top and he was certain that THAT was against the LAW so therefore she HAD to be a boy! I broke up the fight before fists started to fly because Benny was now feeling a little strange having decided moments before this that he kinda liked the looks of this little girl so she had better BE a girl. I informed them that the folks on that boat were from Italy which was in Europe and that they thought it was ok for girls of pretty much any age to run around with no tops on…. Kanyon was disgusted by the thought but they all wanted to talk more about it. Kaleb pondered it and said, “So they are like the French only they wear bottoms?” I nodded and at about this time Romeo had moved the board to its highest postion and climbed to the top, eliciting a little gasp out of Emily, which I am sure was his intention. He had our attention and then the halyard slipped out of its spinlock and the board dropped a full 12 feet into the water with a bang bouncing Romeo a couple of times and flinging him into the water with a spectacular CRASH/SPLASH at one point his nether regions covered only by a blue speedo were on one side of the halyard while his body fell off the other so I was certain that he would be in pain. He came up crying and wailing (with good reason) but all we could hear him say as his Momma and Pappa pulled him out of the water was, “BELLA AMERICANA!!!” which I was pretty sure meant something like pretty American. He was so devastated and embarrassed that he went below and pretty soon they released the mooring and sailed away.

My kids were still jabbering about it all as they continued to work on school the rest of the morning.


Captain Tofer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kids and Cruising

(Our kids with their cruising buddies at TTSA in Trinidad last summer)

Our kids have been living aboard and cruising for almost five years now.  I often forget what a different lifestyle they have than the kids back home.  Our life is an everyday "normal" life to them now.  They think nothing of living in close quarters with their parents and siblings.  They know that kids they meet and befriend will inevitably either leave or be left behind.  They also know that they will probably see those kids again at some point and that when that happens it's like they have not even been apart.

Our youngest, Benny, who just turned seven was asking me the other day why other people wanted to live on land.  He was so little when we moved aboard that he doesn't remember any other home.  He swims like a fish and the water around our boat is as much a playground to him as the backyard is to landlubber kids.  He lays up on the mainsail on the boom and plays with his toys to get away from his brothers. 

Our oldest, Jimmy, is 17 and as he struggles through the final years of high school with his father as his teacher and trys to decide what he wants to do with his life he has naturally drifted to a career on the water (the Coast Guard.)  As I watch him go through this process I realize that almost certainly my children will all probably end up doing something that has to do with the ocean. 
EmilyAnne is 13 in a few weeks and has started talking about becoming a marine biologist so she can work with marine mammals.  She is also quite an artist and you won't be surprised that most of her art is mermaids, dolphins, and sailboats.

Our boat is so much more than just a boat.  It is a home and even more it is a member or extension of our family.  When the kids talk about the boat they call Wandering Dolphin, "her" and you can see the pride in their faces when they are talking with other cruising kids about her.  It's fun to listen to a little boy tell his friend how great she sails to windward.

I am often asked if I sometimes regret our choice to move on the boat, or if I think it has been the right choice for our children... I can honestly say that the only regret I have is that we didn't move aboard sooner!

Captain Tofer

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Choosing Where to Go Part 2

Continuing on the theme from the last blog: Becky and I were chatting over coffee this morning and as we discussed the coming summer and our choices we realized that we were having the dickens (does anyone actually say that anymore?) of a time choosing our path. We began to wonder if this was just part of our nature or if other cruising friends have struggled in the same way? You all know who you are… comment and let us know if the choices you made while cruising were a difficult part of the process. We have “decided” on a course of action over and over again only to continue thinking about a different option until we were again back at square one.

I think this is part of the reason we frustrate our families… we seem to be flakey because we cannot just choose a path and stick to it no matter what. So here is the continuation of our thinking. Some of you asked to be an intimate part of our life cruising, in my opinion this whole “choosing where you are going next” is a part of the lifestyle.

The easy choice for us would be to sail back to the East Coast of the US. I have sailed back and forth from the VI to the US eight times so it is a familiar passage to say the least. Jimmy and I have delivered boats up and down the east coast of the US so many times now that there are very few surprises as far as entrances or inlets. We have a little town that is dear to all of us, (Oriental, NC) we would love to ang out back there with those folks for a season. We would be able to cruise in the Bahamas again and we all loved that too. So with all of these positive things piles on the side of heading back for the year we “decided’ that that would be our choice. At first we felt very relieved to have made a choice… it lasted about 24 hours before we were talking about sailing in the Pacific again.

Why? This is not at all the easy course to follow.  The trip would involve a whole new area of the world, the Panama Canal would have to be traversed and the Pacific Ocean would introduce us to true long distance sailing. Oh sure we have done 8 to 10 day trips but most of them are 5 to 8 day trips and even on deliveries the longest Jimmy and I have been offshore was for 13 days. We would also not be able to work in Panama (probably) so we would have to have enough money and provisions on board to get us through the summer and through the canal and provision the boat for a long (30+ day) passage.

So… why can we not just be happy to make the choice to sail back to the East Coast and be done with it? HMMMM well we want to see new places so that is a positive for us…. The Panama Canal would be cool to go through and educational for the kids… we feel ready for the next step in cruising and a long passage would be good for us… we would rather be cruising than working any day sooooo…..

We do want to sail around the world and heading back to the east coast feels like going backwards…. OH that’s because IT IS!! Our boat is a true blue water boat in great shape and ready for sea today. She needs a few things but nothing that would prevent her from making long offshore passages (we have the part in the mail for the auto pilot by the way) In my mind the only thing that would keep us from moving forward toward the Pacific is fear… fear of the unknown, of the long passages, of our own ability to handle what is thrown at us. I truly believe though that a drive in a car from North Carolina to Washington State and back to North Carolina would be more dangerous than a sail from The VI to Panama and then from Panama to Washington state via Hawaii.

This is our current JELLO MOLD plan. (Cruisers understand that comment, for those of you who don’t it means, the plans are made like jello they can wiggle around and change at any time.)

CURRENT PLAN: We will stay in St Thomas through most of May so Jimmy and I can do our deliveries (Marinette and Changin Tags) and then we will sail to Cartagena, Columbia and on to Panama where we will spend the summer hurricane season out of the path of all of the blobs of doom on the weather page. We will explore the San Blas Islands and make our way to the canal and through in time to give us a little time on the Pacific side to explore the Las Perlas. Then toward the middle of November we will set sail for Hawaii (To answer Rennie: because we have to make money and the cruising kitty will be about empty by then, and it's "on the way" to Washington State ... oh and it is HAWAII after all!) where we will settle in for the winter months working and living in much the same way we do here in the US VI. In May or June we will set sail on the long passage to Washington State where we can visit Becky’s family and drive out to see mine in Wyoming.

So there you have it… for now hehehehehe.

Trying to actually SET the mold,

Captain Tofer