Warning: this is a way-to-long combination of journaling and blogging.  I call this 'blournaling'.

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First day.  After a 5am wake-up and an extended layover in Boston, we arrived at 7:30pm in Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) fairly exhausted.  We were a complete circus going through security.  We intentionally avoided hard shell luggage, and didn’t want to spend a fortune on soft luggage we would never really use once on the boat.  So we purchased storage bins and used duffle bags and back-packs.  That meant no ‘rolling’ luggage.  On top of that we had: 2 guitars, 1 fiddle, 1 mandolin, 2 ukuleles, 1 churango and a tambourine tucked in one of the guitar cases.  Walking through the terminal we looked and sounded a bit like Burt the one-man-band on Mary Poppins

All our bins and duffels arrived safely.  Phew.  Customs was a breeze.  Grace.  A porter helped me get our first batch of bags out to our van.  George, our driver, was right there waiting for us.  Thank you, thank you.  Emily and I brought VHF radios (walkie-talkies) to keep in touch.  She and the kids were taking a while, and I couldn’t raise them on the radio, so I went back into the airport.  Who were they talking to?  The Mormon missionaries!  (“Ask the Mormons” : )  Elder and Sister Thompson.  Emily saw them on her way out and decided to say hello.  Emily: “Who are you here to see?”  Thompson's: “We’re here to see you.”  Too kind. We’d emailed ahead with a few questions, so they knew our itinerary. They’d come earlier, learned our flight was delayed and came back.  They just wanted to say hello and welcome us. 


Once in the van, the ride to the marina was long, windy (as in ‘winding’ road), and dark.  We arrived after sunset, so the kids didn’t get to see that awesome turquoise water from above, but they’ll have their chance.  Roads in Caribbean islands are insanely narrow and hilly, but George got us to Capt. Oliver’s Marina in good form.  We unloaded all our luggage into the carts (think hand carts, but smaller) and got it down the pier to our boat.  Mission accomplished.  We were relieved to have arrived.  That’s when things started to go downhill.

The boat was beautiful.  I liked it much more than I thought I would.  Gwen, the Sunsail base manager, had left the light on for us, along with a map showing where our boat was located on the dock.  We were happy to be here.  We all went out on the front of the boat and just looked at the stars and each other.  The trade winds blew in from the East and it was so nice to not move.  A little prayer of gratitude went up.  We were tired, thirsty but most of all: hungry.  The last thing we'd eaten, besides airplane cookies and soda, were Dunkin' Donut' bagel sandwiches at 11am.  All we wanted to do was eat.  Emily filled a pot with hot water, ready to boil up some pasta.  (We’d stopped at a grocery store on the way to pick up a few things.  We won’t discuss prices here.  We’re still a little tender.)  But we couldn’t get the stove going.  The propane tank was open.  The safety valve under the sink was open.  The clicker was sparking.  We even tried matches.  But there was no gas.  I thought real hard, but couldn’t think of anything else.  I checked to see if there was a fuse on the circuit board for some kind of gas line solenoid.  Nope.  We had peanut butter and jelly for dinner.  With water.  Sad.  #hopingforsomethingmore  #firstworldproblems

I turned on the fridge and put in the eggs we planned to fry up for breakfast.  We proceeded to create some semblance of order on the boat and get ourselves into bed.  Fortunately, the WiFi here was easy and strong, so we FaceTimed with my parents.  So great to see them!  That’s when the weeping began.  I won’t name names, but there have been varying waves of homesickness among the Orton children.   The fridge was not getting colder.  We consoled and comforted, hugged and snuggled the kids.  The fridge was not getting colder.  We put the kids to bed and I took a shower.  The fridge was not getting colder.  It was now 1:30am.  George was picking us up at 8:30am for church.  We had to sleep.  Exhausted, we fell into our bunks.

My alarm went off at 7:30am.  I must be one devout dude, because I did not want to get up.  But I did.  We had no more bread.  We couldn’t cook our pasta or eggs.  So, no breakfast.  #impromptufastsunday.  We miraculously found presentable church clothes amongst our luggage, and we were off.

The kids finally got to see the blue and green ocean as we zipped along the cliffside roads back through Phillipsburg.  I’ll skip the churchy part and tell about some amazing people we met.  Sister Thompson learned of our sad culinary tale and gave the kids fruit snacks, apple sauce cups and crackers. Heavenly!  Two families offered us rides home.  (As much as we loved George, we couldn’t continue to afford his services.  Like groceries, taxi prices are steep!)  We’d planned to take the bus, but Monty and Mitch offered us rides.  After taking his own family home, Monty returned with a bag of fruit, go-gurts and bottled water.  And…a local cell phone we could use to take care of business these first few days.  So generous!  They dropped us at the marina and we invited them out to see they boat.  They were game.  They only thing we had to offer them was a tune, so we sang a few tunes and game them the nickel tour of the boat.  Mitch’s wife, Arielle, is taking Emily shopping tomorrow.  What would we do with out wonderful, amazing people like these!?

The stove: now that we were at the boat during daylight hours, I was able to get help with the stove.  All we had to do was push in the burner knob when we turned it, to release the gas.  Rookie mistake.  So simple.  Problem solved.  We had a hardy dinner of spaghetti, and promptly fell into deep, deep naps. 

We celebrated our twenty-four anniversary with a small toast of cold, refreshing milk.

Eli: “I love this boat!  Can we stay here forever?”  I'll take it.