Tag: traveling

Photo Journey Indonesia, Part 1

Photo Journey Indonesia, Part 1

By Jackie Leavitt Indonesia epitomizes the word “diverse.” Its 17,500 islands spread 3,000 miles: further than the width of Europe. It encapsulates 255 million people with six recognized religions, although 90 percent are Muslim. It’s also home to many unique and endangered plants animals, including Sumatra’s orangutans and tigers and […]

Light Oasis

Light Oasis

By Jackie Leavitt The blackness is complete. The sailboat rocks back and forth, the breeze pushing us along from behind, and the vessel feels like an island in outer space. We sail through a void. I can’t tell where the inky ocean meets the black […]

27

27

By Jackie Leavitt

I sit here, on Seaward off the coast of Southern California, taking in one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. The sky turned from mysterious dark navy to indigo with cotton candy-colored wispy clouds to a gentle baby blue with golden clouds hinting of the sun about to crest over the horizon. It is not a bad way to start the 27th year of my life on this earth.

This past year has been the best of my life. I traveled all over the Caribbean on a sailboat for about five months, I backpacked through Colombia for two months, I started a new profession of cooking on boats, and I made a lot of new friends along the way. And one aspect of my travel that I treasure the most is my new connection with nature.

I’ve always loved going for hikes, camping and just generally appreciating the beauty that is this earth. But it wasn’t until this year that I started having up-close and personal interactions with crazy, wild life. The first magical moment was in Puerto Rico, snorkeling around the Vieques Island, and seeing my first stingray root around in the grassy bottoms, finding food for the day. The wings flew it through the water with an elegant ease.

After that, I saw my first little squids off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands – purple and brown, their side fins waved nonstop as they hovered in the water like tiny aliens. We swam together, with one squid being more cautious, but the other just as curious about me as I was of it, with us staring fascinated at one other.

Soon after that, while in the U.S. Virgin Islands, we swam with several sea turtles, which arched through the water in slow motion in their mellow, nonchalant attitude. How old those turtles were, I don’t know, but what they’ve gone through to be here today is beating the lottery of life, escaping the jaws of death each day, whether it’s from fellow sea creatures or humans.

Photo Credit: Lars Lindstrom

Life on the ocean is full of little moments that take your breath away. I had read about flying fish in The Long Way, and to see them for the first time left me confused as to if I were witnessing a bird or a sea creature – they literally fly above the water like fish-shaped hummingbirds, escaping the prey presumably hunting them below the water. You also see birds plummeting deep into and underneath the sea like flying cannon balls, dropping in on their unsuspecting prey.

I’ve seen oozing octopuses, fish the color of the rainbow, butterflies fluttering in a stronger breeze, dolphins jumping in the water off our bow as we cut along our path. In the turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos, we snorkeled past a seven-foot black nurse shark, cozied into a coral reef with its tail swaying like a train behind it. In the Bahamas, we swam with a wild dolphin for an hour – it would catch our Frisbee in the water with its nose, then pass it to one of its fins, then try to transfer it to its other fin before dropping it, then try to catch it again before it slowly sank to the shallow sandy bottom. The next day, we pet a stingray that swam around our ankles like a sea dog, looking for attention.

We also caught our own fish, including Mahi Mahi, which created a strange combination of excitement and deep sadness as we reeled it in for our dinner that night, especially as the colors changed from vivid, electric green to a multi-colored blue as the life seeps away literally before our eyes.

Photo Credit: Preston Conroy
Photo Credit: Preston Conroy

As I start my new adventure on Seaward, heading to Mexico for the next few months, I begin to realize how easy it is for people to disconnect with the natural life of the earth. It is actually difficult to have a real connection – when you live in a town or city, buy your meats from the refrigerated grocery isle, and only get to breathe the clean fresh air when you go for your weekly hike or bike ride (if even that often).

I feel thankful that I am returning to nature – seeing it, touching it, smelling it, hearing it, tasting it, feeling it on my skin every day. It feels alive and good.

The Awakening

The Awakening

By Jackie Leavitt I sit here, my hammock gently swaying in the mountain breezes, in this land where layers of wispy white clouds swirl and expand above me like a kaleidoscope turning in heaven. A pigeon coos in the corner of the empty horse stalls, […]

Each Breath

Each Breath

By Jackie Leavitt I’m focused on the rhythm of the paddling. The person in front of me dips her oar into the brown water, and I need to time mine perfectly so that I don’t crash into hers, like I seem to keep doing. I’m […]

Bananas in Grenada

Bananas in Grenada

By Jackie Leavitt

It’s been 45 minutes since the last time I walked slowly and carefully down the marina pool steps into the shallow, four-foot water. Time for another dip. Each stair drops me further and further into the cooling water, washing away the heat that threatened my sanity. After a quick swim, I climb out into the 20-knot wind that instantly chills me, reinstating my usual level-headedness, although it will assuredly slink slowly away as the moisture evaporates into the broiling, humid air. I had been at a breaking point. It’s HOT in St. George, Grenada — way too hot.

When sailing south from the Grenadines, we had issues pop up with the boat’s engine and propeller. We limped Bueller into the Fort Louis Marina, her propeller and engine wobbling loudly and weakly. We usually avoid marinas, but in here, we could more easily get professional help to figure out and fix the problems than if we anchored further away in the harbor. But we soon come face to face with another dilemma: the heat.

After securing the boat to the dock, the boys got to work with troubleshooting while I got to work on the 100 bananas we have on board. Three weeks ago, Lars had proudly purchased a giant bunch of green bananas in Dominica, and they were now all becoming edible — all at once. The sun had finally ripened them. And in my enthusiasm to use up the bruised and black ones, today I committed to making banana pancakes, banana bread and banana cake in the shape of a banana.

As the heat slowly seeped into the boat, I managed to make breakfast and begin the cake before I felt the fever start. But my usual means of cooling off weren’t available. We usually anchor Bueller in harbors off the coast, where we can swim and get fresh air rounding off the nearby islands. But here, there’s no swimming, as you don’t know what crud is circulating in the marina’s murky and still water. And although we are docked, our spot doesn’t have electricity, which means no AC. And I’m a gal that has never lived with air conditioning, but with our boat pointing away from the wind, we get no breeze flowing into the vessel to relieve us from the baking light and oven.

And the sun — it’s relentless. Constantly intense. Always there. Beating down, trying to break you. The frequent and quick rain showers in Grenada show no sign of appearing today, either. And the oven acts as an evil furnace, billowing heat waves over me. With sweat pouring down my face and body, I try to escape the cabin by evacuating into the cockpit. But the rays still rain down. I decide to create more shade by zipping the bimini closed, but it only stretches the unused zipper too far, ripping the thread out. Then I try clipping a flat bed sheet over the area, but the wind billows it out, flinging the precious clips into the water, where I have to rescue them via kayak.

I give up, frustrated. I feel like bursting into tears. There is no escape. Richie, the only one else left on the boat, tries to help but also timidly shrinks away from my ferocity. “I can handle New England winters,” I tell him, “but I can’t handle this.” He recommends meekly that I might check out the marina pool. So I abandon ship and my banana cake to seek sanity in the pool’s water, shade and cocktail list.

I walk over to find four kids splashing and hooting through the pool, their moms stationed in the tiny shade triangle hanging over some lounge chairs. They, too, are seeking relief from this fry. I join the children, and the first dip washes away the heat and sweat and tension. Walking wet back into the wind to a palm tree–shaded chair chills me and brings back my wits and lucidity. And then drying off in the shade with a margarita welcomes back my tolerance and amiability. Every 45 minutes I repeat the ritual, holing up in the shade until the sweaty and hot Lars, frustrated from his own day, finds me there three hours later, cool as a cucumber.