Slow Pace and Serendipity...Moxie Sails the Virgin Islands

Scopin' out the surf.   We made it to the Spanish Virgin Islands!  Our first night on Vieques, and we felt triumphant.  No...

Scopin' out the surf.  

We made it to the Spanish Virgin Islands!  Our first night on Vieques, and we felt triumphant.  Not a huge jump  in terms of distance from mainland Puerto Rico, but it seemed like worlds away.  

On the corner, downtown Vieques

We don't know Sadie's excact birthday, because we adopted her from the Humane Society when she was a puppy.  But we know it is sometime around January, so we celebrate it on a day we randomly picked: January 31.  Here is sweet Sadie, turning 12, and celebrating with a little ice cream.
This gargantuan lobster came out from under his rock and almost ate Trav!  But luckily, he had his spear.  Honestly people, this is the way it goes out here on the sea.  Eat or be eaten.    

Hudson is a master lobster-catcher.  He has an uncanny sense of the rocks and crannies they're hiding under, and he is a whiz at spearing them.  (Much to his mother's delight, who would eat them every day of the week if she could.)

Best buds, doubling up on the knee board off Vieques and cackling like fiends all the way.

Grilling up today's catch

We had heard about a SECRET SURF BEACH on Culebra in the SVI and were told, reluctantly by a local (locals always guard their surf breaks like armored trucks)  the general direction of where we should hike through the jungle to find it.  We followed an established trail through the forest for about 20 minutes, then ended up semi-bushwhacking through dense growth for about 30 more minutes, with Trav heroically schlepping our boards the entire way. Finally we realized that if the trail to the secret surf beach actually existed, we were incapable of finding it.   We gave up.

Viv catches the rainbow on a windy day on Culebra, SVI

Our dinghy-loving dog checks out Culebra

Exploring the beautiful old lighthouse on Culebrita (the teeny, tiny, lovely island off Culebra)

No one lives in the old lighthouse these days, except  for this guy.
We left the SVIs and sailed through the choppy Virgin Passage to the US Virgin Islands!  Yippee!  Here is Jen with our old friend from Telluride, John Sopsic.  He lives on St. Thomas now and works for Southern Glazers, the Caribbean's best, most fabulous beverage distributor.  John showed us the BEST time on St. Thomas.  He toured us all around the island, took us to the best restaurants and beaches, let us do our laundry at his house, and brought ice and yummy wine to our boat.  He even, the sport that he is, sang happy birthday to Viv's baby doll Jovi on her 1st birthday (see pic below). John, you're the best! 

Check out our friend Eddie from SY Stella Vita launch that sweet flip off their boom!  We met this incredible Swedish family on St. Thomas and loved them instantly.  One of the joys and owes of this cruising life is that you meet people you instantly connect with and then it's goodbye. 

$1 will get you ride to wherever you want to go in a SAFARI (an open-air modified truck/taxi) on St. Thomas and is a guaranteed great time.  These safaris charge up impossibly steep hills and kaboom around corners likes bats out of a tropical hell.  Did we mention that they have no sides?  (HANG ON!)   This particular safari driver had Jesus on his side so we felt extra safe.

We don't have a lot of space on Moxie, and so the precious real estate we've had to designate for Viv's inflatables (she also has a giant watermelon slice) tends to drive Trav crazy.  That being said, he's such a Rad Dad he doesn't hesitate to blow the damn things up and have a flamingo party at a moment's notice with his girl.

The tour of Fort Christian on St. Thomas was super fascinating.  WE LOVE LEARNING! If there's ever a museum that we come across, or a random historic spot, or a rusted-out roadside sign that's falling apart and hard to read, this crew will stop and check it out.

The staff at Fort Christian was impressed and amazed when we got their old cannon fired up and starting shooting it off into the harbor!

PIZZA PI!!!! It's a boat.  It's a pizza parlor.  It's a bar.  It floats in an idyllic bay called Christmas Cove.  It's like actual Christmas, but better!  We went there 3 times.  Here's our gang, placing orders at the stern.  The coolest!

Travis' family met up with us on St. John and rented a wonderful villa called "Great Expectations".  It is an absolutely beautiful property, with four separate buildings that easily accommodated all 14 of us.  The home has three pools, two hot tubs, and a gorgeous view from the top of a hill overlooking a pristine bay.  The best part was that we could anchor Moxie in the bay directly below the house, so we always had her in sight, and we could check on her easily whenever we needed to.  CRUISERS!  If you are looking for a place for a family reunion or just a sweet spot to meet up with people during your cruise (and if you love hot showers and washer/dryers as much as we do), check out Great Expectations on St. John. You can sail right up to was the best treat!

Moog snorkling like a pro at the wreck off Buck Island.

This shipwreck was giant, spooky, and super fun to snorkel through.  There were THOUSANDS of fish. 

Trav snorkles down 35 feet to put his hands the wreck

Here is our beautiful sister-in-law Kellie and our beautiful niece Kyli.  They could pass as sisters, don't you think?  Trav's Dad chartered a fast boat one day and we zipped around the USVIs like rockstars.  REALLY fun, especially after putting along at a snail's pace on Moxie all these months.  We like boats...any boats...all boats!

When you are exploring the ruins of an old sugar mill on St. John,  and it's raining, it's time to party.

Here are Trav and Viv with Trav's dad, Jim.  Jim put together the whole family trip to St. John. Coordinating 14 people was a serious achievement and a labor of love.  Thank you Grampie!!  

Viv reads to Jovi and Monkey.

I know this photo is kind of wrong and disturbing but it makes me laugh really hard, so here it is.  On Water Island in St,. Thomas there are the ruins of an old marine railway, the most intact of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.  It was used for over a century to haul out boats, and the island is still littered with tons of old machinery.  Like this drill.

Here is Hud, catching some zen outside of Target.  (Just kidding)

Boat friends are the best!  Here we are with Henry from SV Upside Up.
It was a gorgeous sail from St. John to the BVI.  A new country! Check!

Captain and First Mate on a "date". ("Date" meaning we had a beer in the cockpit and were alone for like, 35 minutes).  
Where is this?  I can't remember. Some gorgeous anchorage in the BVI.  I liked this one because the sand was like sugar and I could swim from our boat to work out on the beach.

Hud took this photo, "because our dinghy just looks so beautiful in that water!" 
I love that we surf together as a family. Apple Bay, Tortola, BVI

We got a new windlass. (Thanks, Total Boat!  We love you!) Now Trav is installing it.  Himself.  How it's possible that Trav can figure out all of these insane boat projects is beyond me.  He is amazing.  
I included this picture because it demonstrates one of the things I love best about the cruising lifestyle...that my kids are staying kids.  They are not fast-forwarding through their childhoods.  Here is Hud, coloring in a paper doll book with his sister.   He is an 11 year old by who surfs and wakeboards and jams on the uke, but he's also down for some quiet time with Viv, letting her pick what they do and joining in with gusto.     

Image may contain: 2 people, including Jennifer Nyman-Julia, people smiling, indoor
How can I even begin describing how much I love Brittany Meyers, the brilliant and hilarious sailing/travel blogger?  Hud and Viv met her three adorable daughters at the Nanny Cay Marina  and ran back to the boat talking about these sweet little girls and their "really nice Mom."  I had no idea that they had met Brittany of sailing inspiration for YEARS!  To make a story short, we became insta-friends.  This is just one example of the incredible serendipity we encounter in this traveling life.  It's constant.  It's crazy.  I am so grateful.

 It's the crack o' dawn (5:45 am), and I hear my kids chatting amid their sleepy wake-up yawns.
"Good morning Hud!"
"Good morning Viv!  What did you dream last night?"

They make their way to our cabin.  The commute is not long, (about 20 feet), and they crawl into bed with us.  We tickle their backs and we talk about how we'll spend our day.

Next, it's breakfast.  I slice up a grapefruit and the kids argue about who gets to use the grapefruit spoon (why, oh why, do we only have ONE?) Hud asks if he can make a scramble for breakfast.  "Yes, please! I say with semi-fake enthusiasm.  I know the mess will be substantial and it would be 800 times quicker if I just make breakfast myself, but I want my kids to be do-ers and encouraging him to cook is the right move.  Forty-five minutes and about 6 dirty pans later, we are treated to a feast of eggs, sauteed veggies and beans, topped with heaps of cilantro. 

I sneak in a quick workout at the bow.  It's kind of tricky attempting burpees on a rocking boat in an impossibly small space on a battered yoga mat that keeps threatening to blow away. So even though I've barely broken a sweat, I decide to call it a day, telling myself that I'll snorkel extra hard later on to make up for my workout bail. (This of course, will not happen.  How does one "snorkel hard'?)

Boatschooling begins around 9:30.  With the exception of math, I create all their curriculum.  (Let's just say, numbers are NOT my jam.  Big thanks to Amy Vanderbosch of the Telluride School District for being our invaluable math hook-up. xo)  Hudson is currently researching the history  and uses of knots (ask him sometime how ancient people used knots for party invitations!)  Viv is studying art history. Today she read about realism and explained to her dad how radically different it is from earlier styles ("It's like they stopped painting fancy stuff and just focused on normal things!" )

Ok, now in case this is starting to sound like a "my kids are just SO wonderful" kind of post, let me tell you that they also had a RAGING fight today over folding a sheet (!?!) which ended in stomping off, tears, and a forced apology.  In order to calm everyone down I had to diffuse an essential oil blend called "Serenity" and play Jack Johnson on repeat.   And I'll also just throw in there that I can't quite remember when was the last time either one of them took legit showers.

Trav has spent the last three days trying to replace our windlass (the winch that pulls the anchor up). Moxie is a mess of tools and parts and chaos.  Trav is a sweaty ball of grease stains and alternates between small moments of triumph and palm to forehead frustration.  Viv brings him a granola bar and pats his back. 

This is a slice of our lives as a sailing family. We live in a minuscule space and we are always and forever in each other's way.  We drop the hook in roll-y anchorages and get tossed around all night like corn kernels in a hot pan.  One day I'm worrying that the kids aren't getting enough social time with other kids and then...BAM! We're in a harbor with eleventy-billion other cruising families and there are cookie crumbs and sandy feet all through the boat and Hud and Viv have an instant gang of new best friends.  We end up in places we fall in love with, and a few days later, we're stuck in a place we can't stand with a bad weather window.  Our hearts soar with the adventure of waking up on a new island, and we also count the minutes for rough, boring sails to be over and done with.  Trav and I get completely, totally annoyed with each other one day and then giddy with excitement the next that we're doing all of this, and we're doing it together, as teammates in love and who can always make each other laugh.

And here's the bottom line: with all the ups and downs, the discomfort and the uncertainty and the inherent stress of sailing (remember our two last big scary sails? I am still recovering), we know in our hearts that this life is really, really good for our kids.  The kind of play they are engaging in on a daily basis is plain old, good old, make-your-own-fun, boredom-is-not-allowed, pure, inventive goof-ballery.  They are out in the sand and the dirt and the trees, building forts and splashing in waves.  They play with all kinds of kids: older ones, younger ones, ones who don't speak English, ones who live in houses without roofs, ones who live on luxury yachts.

In my seventeen years as a drama teacher I saw my students growing up faster and faster and faster, abandoning silly jokes and imaginary friends for cell phones and sarcasm at what seemed an increasingly speedy rate.  I would always urge my students to dig in with their fingernails and hold on to their childhoods with all their might.  I would beg them not to lose their sense of play too quickly.  In the sailing life, things move so much more slowly, and I see the benefits of this pace in my children every day.  Instead of starting each school or ski day in a mad rush of lunchboxes and tooth-brushing and catching the bus, we have time to breathe and to be.  We can relish in our togetherness, choose what to do, what moves or inspires us in that moment.  It feels so, so right.

In five months from now, we are scheduled to resume our "normal" lives".  In trying to write about how I feel about this impending return to civilization, I.... can't even.  Oh, man. (And then, there's TRUMP. Don't even get me started.) I guess I'm not ready to write about this yet.

We have loved being in the Virgin Islands and we are looking forward to setting off for St. Martin when the weather allows.  There is so much to see, so much to explore-- I am insatiably curious and sometimes have anxiety that we will miss something!  Constantly reminding myself to slow down my brain, breathe, and be present is my forever mission.  (I'll let you know how it goes.)

A million hugs, major thanks, huge appreciation for following along with us.  xo


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  1. I love you guys so much! What a joy it is for me to immerse myself in Moxie life! XOXO

  2. Oh Jen you are such an inspiration and awesome writer, no wonder you write plays👍🏻😘. I am so glad you are taking advantage of this time with Hud and Viv to let them be kids but at the same time they are getting such a great education of the world we live in. This will serve them well in their future. Just think of all the memories that will be theirs to recall with a photo or conversation and they will be back on Moxie again. Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us. Love Syl

    1. I totally agree with you Sylvia. I love reading your honest and well written account of your journey. I feel I am a part of it this way. The ups and downs of life are present no matter where you are. Thanks for sharing yours!

  3. Such an awesome adventure and experience for you and your family! Your kids are going to look back at this and take lesson so from their time spent at sea for the rest of their lives. :)

  4. Always enjoy a vicarious romp through your awesome sailing adventure-the good the grand the great the bad the scary and the ugly. It is all a treasure. Xx

  5. I love you all so much! You are living and doing it right, an inspiration aways. Words cannot express my awe at your passion, determination, insight, humility, strength and joy that you bring to this adventure and your family everyday. Miss you! Xo

  6. This is pilot Tom and lexi from little farmer's cay thinking of you here in freezing new york city!


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