Sunday, May 18, 2014


 In honor of international turtle day, I decided to blog about baby turtles and their fight for survival. All around the world, people love turtles…they make a delicious soup, their shells make beautiful jewelery, and their eggs are supposedly an aphrodisiac. WHAT!???

I love turtles too, but I love them much more in their natural state…ALIVE! Unfortunately, most sea turtles have ended up on the endangered species list, and humans have had a very large part in this.

Sea turtle hatchlings have a very poor chance of survival. Only about one out of every thousand eggs will survive to be a mature adult turtle. These little guys have lots of obstacles to overcome.

Turtle hatchling races toward the sea

These little guys face many dangers – Photo courtesy of travelbagltd

Female turtles return to the beach where they hatched in order to lay their eggs.  When a female turtle’s birthplace habitat has been destroyed by coastal development, she does not know where to lay her eggs.  She needs to lay her eggs far enough up the beach so the tides don’t carry away her eggs, and the sand needs to be soft enough and deep enough for her to dig her nest.

Coastal development sometimes happens on turtle nesting grounds

Before her eggs have a chance to fully develop, animals dig them up and eat them.  Poachers steal her eggs and sell them.  Some people believe that sea turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac, so they are highly sought after in some cultures.  Once hatchlings emerge from their eggs, some of them are not strong enough, or are on the bottom of the clutch of eggs, and are not able to emerge from the deep hole in which they hatched.

Turtle eggs for sale in Costa Rica – photo courtesy of Cam Pervan

Once they emerge from the sandy pit, they have birds lurking overhead waiting for a tasty treat, and crabs snapping their claws ready for a crunchy meal.  Driftwood may get in their way, and artificial lighting may confuse them and lead them in the wrong direction.

Crabs await a crunchy meal

Sea gull eats baby turtle

Driftwood blocks baby turtles’ path to the sea

If they make it into the water and begin flapping their flippers, there are ocean predators awaiting them as well.  If they successfully make it past these initial threats, they are the few lucky ones.  They spend the next few years adrift, camouflaging themselves in large beds of sea weed such as saragassum.  They have a better chance of survival in open ocean, since there is less population density and therefor less predators.  

Much of our trash ends up in the ocean, and turtles can mistake trash for food.  Some get trapped in plastic rings that hold 6-packs or ingest things that won’t pass through their digestive systems and kill them such as plastics and tar balls from oil spills.  If they survive long enough to grow to about 10 inches or so, they can return to coastal areas with the older turtles.

Turtles return to coastal areas when they are big enough to survive – photo courtesy of James Bennar

Even if they make it this long, the threats to their survival are not over.  They still have large predators such as sharks that pose a threat.  Many turtles are accidentally trapped in fishing nets and drown.  Some turtles are hit by boats and their propellers.  Other turtles are poached for their meat, skin, and shells.

Tiger sharks enjoy eating a tasty turtle from time to time – Photo courtesy of Tobze

Fishing boat pulling up a net – photo courtesy of M&G Morris

Here’s what you can do to help sea turtles survival…

1.  Cut the plastic rings on your 6-pack plastics before throwing them away.

2.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle to minimize the trash you produce.

3. Purchase seafood that has been caught responsibly.  Some companies are more responsible than others in regards to what ends up in their nets.

4. Be careful what souvenirs you buy.  Never buy anything that is made from turtle shell.

5. Watch what you eat.  Just because a restaurant serves it, doesn’t mean that it’s being caught sustainably.  Print a card or get the app at

6. Sign a petition to save sea turtles.  Endangered sea turtles are still allowed to be hunted in the British Virgin Islands.  Help put a stop to this atrocity by signing:
7. Be respectful of turtle nesting beaches and never disturb or let your dog disturb their nests.

Don’t let your dog near turtle nests

8. If your home is near a turtle nesting beach, eliminate or at least minimize the amount of artificial light you produce during nesting season.

9.  Go on a sustainable Eco-tour to see or swim with sea turtles in their natural environment.  Remember not to touch, ride, or chase them.  Only non-aggressive observation that does not interfere with their natural behavior is acceptable.

Snorkel boat at Turtle Cove in the US Virgin Islands

10.  Volunteer!  There are many organizations looking for volunteers to help protect the sea turtles.  I volunteered  in Costa Rica with leatherback sea turtles…it was amazing!

Volunteer conducting research on the eggs that didn’t hatch

11. Help fund organizations like or, or learn from and support local turtle conservation organizations.

Turtle conservation in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Stoplight parrotfish in the terminal phase (male)

Stoplight parrotfish in the intermediate phase (female)

Everyone loves stoplight parrotfish because they are one of the most beautiful fish on the coral reef. Here are 5 less known facts that will make them even more intriguing to you…

1. Some stoplight parrotfish are transexuals. Stoplight parrotfish are all born as females, and a select few change into males later in life.

2. Stoplight parrotfish are musicians. When you hear that funny crackling sound underwater when you are snorkeling, you are actually hearing their bony teeth plates grinding coral to extract bits of algae. Sound travels 40 times faster in water, so their crunching sounds combine into a musical ensemble.

3. Stoplight parrotfish are responsible for making much of the sand on the ocean floor and on our beaches. After they digest the living matter from the corals they eat, the limestone from the hard coral skeletons passes through their systems and, viola! They poop out sand!

4.  Stoplight parrotfish completely change their colors when they change genders from female to male.  They go from a mottled red, black, and white pattern to an emerald green body with yellow and pink highlights.

Red, black, and white mottled color (female)
Emerald green with yellow and pink highlights (male)

5.  Stoplight parrotfish sleep inside of a special mucus bubble that they secrete.  This mucus bubble protects them from predators at night.

Aren’t Stoplight parrotfish awesome!  Keep following us to learn more about our oceans’ amazing creatures!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Many people get depressed when it rains. I must admit that I LOVE the sun so much that I practically worship it, but I also appreciate the rain. 

Here are 5 reasons to be happy it’s raining if you live on a boat:

1. You get your deck washed for free, and you don’t even have to do anything!

2. You can run outside with some soap and get a free fresh water shower!

3. You can fill up your water tanks!

4. You easily discover all of the leaks on your boat!

And who can forget…


Tuesday, May 6, 2014


We have been living out of a cooler that we kept in our cockpit since we moved aboard on July 1st, 2013.  It has felt like camping.  While I do love camping, living out of a cooler was not fun for very long.  We had to buy ice for the first 8 months, and for the last 2 months we have been fortunate enough to have been lent an ice maker by our friends Bill and Summer so we didn’t have to buy bags of ice daily.

For 10 months we were living out of a cooler with very limited food choices and lots of things going bad from getting too warm, molding, getting saturated in nasty cooler scum water, and getting smashed.  We never imagined that the project would take so long, but between having to go to work, not being able to find what we need on island, and trying to figure out exactly how we wanted to tackle this major project, more time went by than expected.  In retrospect it would have been a good idea to have bought a small dorm refrigerator from Home Depot to use until the project was complete, since we spent at least that much money on ice.  Moral of the story, many boat projects will take ten times longer than you plan!

 Why did we want to take on such a project, you may ask?  Well, not only did the old refrigeration system look nasty, it didn’t work at all.  Everything was the original system, from 1985.  The compressor was basically a big block of rust, the insulation and seals were not energy efficient, and the cold plate system needed to run off of the engine, which we didn’t want to have to run multiple times per day to keep our food cold.  Plus, minor detail, our engine does not work.  We have decided to re-power and get a new engine soon.  That’s our next major project.
The first step was gutting it all out and removing the old junk.

Old nasty refrigeration box
Old Nasty Refrigeration Box

Old Nasty Freezer Box
Old Broken Cold Plate

Next, the doors had to be removed.

Freezer lid removed
Front door to refrigeration box

The boxes were very uneven, so taking exact measurements was a big challenge.  There is nothing square or flush about these boxes at all.  Skeeter took as accurate measurements as he could, and using trial and error managed to cut the foam insulation to size.  He glued the foam into place with construction adhesive.  Then he filled in all remaining gaps and cracks with Great Stuff expanding foam.  Next he measured and cut the FRP panels and glued them onto the foam.  He filled in all of the cracks and corners with Bondo fiberglass filler.  Toxic stuff when you are in an enclosed space and your head is in the box.  Skeeter spent a lot of time upside down inside of the box.  We aired out the boat as much as we could and took our cat Momo outside to avoid the toxic fumes.   After all of that dried, Skeeter smoothed everything out by sanding, sanding, sanding.

Insulation, FRP panel, and wood ledge added

Next step, he cut holes for the spill over fan between the freezer and refrigerator boxes.  Then he cut a hole for the refrigeration lines and wiring.

Hole cut for refrigeration lines and wiring
Holes cut for spill over fan

After more sanding, it was time for more toxic fumes.  Skeeter painted both boxes with brushable gel coat.  The fumes were so bad that I smelled them from three boats down the dock!

Inside of box sanded and painted with brushable gel coat

Once that dried, we removed the oven and the mystery wires that were behind the oven.  Those of you who bought old boats know all about mystery wires.  The ones that come from and lead to nowhere.  After that, 29 years of cooking scum and general filth were cleaned from behind the oven.  My favorite cleaner is vinegar, since it is powerful, non-toxic, and does not harm the marine environment.

Remove old mystery wiring
29 years of scum clean from area behind oven
Oven removed for access to install compressor

The compressor fit perfectly in the space behind the oven.  Skeeter cut a hole in the bulkhead next to the compressor to draw cool air from the bilge.

Compressor fits perfectly behind oven
Hole cut next to compressor for air flow from bilge

The evaporator plate was ready to install.  Skeeter and I stretched the copper tubing across the boat, careful to not kink it.  He fed the tubing through the hole in the freezer box to the compressor, and then mounted the plate into the freezer box.  Next, he installed the spill-over fan.

Ready to install evaporator plate and stretch out coils
Spill-over fan installed

He installed the thermostats in both the freezer box and the refrigeration box.  Finally, he wired everything together and VIOLA!  He closed the doors, flipped the switch, and cold air was being made.  We’ll see tomorrow how cold it gets.  We are SOOOO excited!!!

Evaporator plate secured into place
Thermostat installed in freezer box
Thermostat installed in refrigeration box

Monday, May 5, 2014


The Caves at Norman Island – photo by Lauren DeFino
This is the email I wrote to a local dive company in response to something appalling that I witnessed yesterday at the Caves at Norman Island, British Virgin Islands:


Dear {Local Scuba Company},

I would like to bring something to your attention and give you the opportunity to correct it.

Yesterday at the caves, my guests and I witnessed a young woman who was swimming around with a knife strapped to her leg. She had a mask on, but no fins. We saw her repeatedly diving down and stabbing her knife into the corals to pull herself along the reef, stabbing into the coral every 12 inches or so. One of my guests reported that she also saw the woman digging in the coral with her knife.

I approached her and asked her what she was doing with the knife and she replied that she was using it to pull herself along the coral. When I told her that this is bad for the reef, she replied with a nasty attitude that it is not bad, what is bad for the reef are the oils from your skin. I have been a dive instructor for 10 years, and though I agree that our oils are bad for the reef, I strongly disagree with repeatedly stabbing the coral as a means of propulsion. I asked her to please stop damaging our reef.

She swam to your boat, and it seemed like she was one of your staff members. She sat on the edge of your boat with her leg with the knife strapped to it defiantly hanging over the side of the boat. We were shocked.

Please reply as soon as possible. I need to know that this will not happen again, and that the girl has been taught not to bring a knife to the caves our any other of our national parks again. That is most certainly not what a dive knife is intended for.

Sincere thanks for helping put an end to this.

A concerned local dive instructor


I was pleased that the {Local Scuba Company} was quick to reply to my message and they were equally appalled.  They seem to be taking immediate action to figure out who this was and make sure that this never happens again.  Though they do seem in denial that it could have been one of their staff members, I’m pretty sure that it was.  They have already had a staff meeting and will make sure that all of their guests also get proper education on reef etiquette.

Coral reefs are very delicate, and sadly, we humans have contributed in countless ways to their demise.  I hope to be able to help save the coral reefs by being an advocate for them and educating people about our world’s oceans.  Keep following our blogs to learn more about our amazing oceans, and what you can do to help save them.