Friday, May 21, 2010

Traveling with family.

ou and your partner are finally taking your dream vacation. The only thing is, by the time you got around to taking that dream vacation it’s no longer just you and your partner; it’s you, your partner and the kids. It’s not the end of the world. Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be drudgery, but it will require some attitude adjustments, some negotiating and a lot of planning and open communication.
You’ll be best off if, from the beginning, you accept the fact that this is not the same trip you would be having if it were just adults. Not better, not worse, just different. Expectations are premeditated disappointments; so adjust those expectations from the start and you’re more likely to enjoy the experience you’re having instead of longing for the one you’re not.
Remember when you were teaching your children about sharing? You had a bag of M&M’s, poured it out on the table and doled it out; one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me. Well, it’s time for sharing 202, this time with activities and/or sights. Explain to the kids that this is everyone’s vacation, not just theirs; therefore, everyone gets to choose activities they want to do. When it’s time for the adult activities, they don’t have to love them or for that matter, even like them, but they do have to go along with them and do it without complaining. You, of course, in return, will promise to do the same when it comes time for the activities that they want to do.
Getting kids involved in the planning from the beginning will help create “buy in” for the trip that is being created. If you’re not wedded to a particular vacation site, give them a choice of two or three places that are in the running. If they are older, have them review guidebooks to pick out places of interest they would like to visit. If they are younger, check your local library for videos on the location of choice so that they can watch it and get excited about your upcoming trip.
Assign them specific days that they are in charge of planning: what to do, how to get there, where to eat, etc. Most kids will enjoy the authority that you have placed in their hands and you’ll be the beneficiary of their creativity.
When traveling with kids you will want to do more planning than you might have done were it just you and your partner. Kids like to feel secure in their surroundings and the easiest way to offer that security is to feel secure and confident yourself. With advanced planning you can offer that to them. When you arrive in a city with reservations in place and the knowledge of how to get to that accommodation, the kids don’t have to worry about where they are going to be sleeping that night or if they’ll be lost in transit. They will soon come to trust that Mom and Dad “know what they’re doing” and that they need not fear the unknown.
Also keep in mind that while kids appear to be high energy, they burn out more quickly than adults, as they don’t feel the same drive we might have to “see the sights.” They want to move at a slower pace, see less in a given day and have more down time to play and to relax. If they’re really young, time to nap. Don’t fight their pace but instead embrace it! You may discover that traveling is a lot more relaxing and enjoyable when you’re not pushing yourselves to cover as much territory. You won’t see everything the city has to offer but chances are, even if you push yourself, you still won’t.
While there are things you surely won’t get to do while traveling with your kids, there might just be some incredible things that, had you not been traveling with your kids, you wouldn’t experience. A horse trek through the dunes in Chile or flying hundreds of feet above the rain forest on zip lines in Thailand would never have been on my list “A” list of activities. But, because of the kids’ interests, those were just a few of our activities on our year long trip around the world and what amazing adventures they turned out to be.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Visit of beautiful Islans

We left the marina at Turks and Caicos at high tide (basically because it is the only time we could leave) and set sail for the Bahamas. We were planning on an overnight trip to Conception Island, over 200 miles away. The weather was great, if not a little more wind and waves than expected. But we were going down wind and things were going along smoothly, and we were making great speed. To top it all off, we had one of the most beautiful sunsets off shore that we have ever seen. The sky was red and orange and pink everywhere you looked (the picture does not do it justice, trust me). It was a great night to sail, and we were just chugging along.

But that all changed in the morning when we were in the middle of the Crooked Island Passage, and we hit something. There was a distinct thump at the bow, a whomp as it hit the keel, and then a thwock-da-ti-thwock as it hit the prop. As with all of our off-shore troubles, I was on watch when it happened. So Jay woke up in a panic and ran upstairs to help.
Handle the situation now this is one of our biggest fears out here. There is always debris floating around the ocean, and sometimes it sits just below the water line and is invisible to the eye (so basically unavoidable). And this debris can cause severe damage to the hull with devastating results. The good news was that whatever we hit was not too hard and we weren’t taking on any water, so the hull was intact. The bad news was that whatever we hit had probably damaged the prop because our engine was making all kinds of thump-a-di-thump noises and our boat was a shimming and a shaking when we used the engine.

The only way to confirm our conclusion was to have a look. So Jay secured his harness to the boat, put on his snorkel gear, and popped his head under the water off the back swim platform. What did he find? A giant tangled mess of an old fishing net wrapped around the prop- blerg! We wanted to jump in with dive gear and free the prop right away, but felt that it would be too dangerous of a maneuver out here in the open sea.
Even without the sails up, we were still travelling 2-3 knots because the wind and waves were pushing us along. So we tried to get it off with our boat hook and gaff, but to no avail. Bear in mind that Jay is precariously balanced over the swim platform while doing all this, and we are still travelling along at a decent clip and the waves are bouncing the boat all around. So what happens next? The life vest automatically inflates and nearly strangles Jay and effectively pins him under the dinghy (at this point, we found the whole thing rather hilarious, more of a comedy of errors than dangerous). So I helped him get off the swim platform, free from the life vest, and back into the cockpit safe and sound.
Needless to say, we had to change our plans. Now that we fouled the prop we were only traveling at about 4-5 knots. At this speed, there was no way we could make landfall at Conception Island before sunset. And with all the reefs and shallow patches surrounding the island, you can’t just pull in at night. You have to be able to read the water to safely maneuver your.
boat into the anchorage. So what was plan B? We brought out all of our charts and calculated our options. Luckily, if we changed course and our boat speed did not drop below 4 knots, we could make it to Rum Cay before dark. So we pushed on. Morale was low, but Jay had to remind me that things never really go to plan out here (and they really don’t). We always end up with plan B, or C, or sometimes even D. The only time to panic is when you run out of options. And face it; stopping at Rum Cay was a good option.

So we sailed on and were able to pull into Rum Cay later that afternoon. Jay quickly jumped overboard once we had the anchor down to free our prop. He hacked away at it with a knife and got the tangled mess off- yeah! And we celebrated with a rum and coke. After an early dinner, we zonked out, totally exhausted from our trip up from the Turks and Caicos. But we had made it, the Rum Runners were back in the Bahamas!
Well, sort of. We still had to check in.

to customs and immigration. Contrary to popular belief, there are no government officials on Rum Cay. So we had to continue our trek to Georgetown. But not without a quick stop at Conception Island first (will write more on that later). All in all we had a great trip back to the Exumas, and I am happy to report that it was uneventful the rest of the way. We are now anchored at Monument Beach in Georgetown, in the exact spot that we were at over two years earlier. This place is special to us in a way, because this is where we made the big decision to leave the Bahamas and sail down to the Caribbean (and doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago). In some ways, we can’t believe that we are back. And we almost forgot how beautiful it really is here in the Bahamas… almost

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The seret Island

’m not sure there’s a setting more idyllic than a secluded tropical island, the kind where you feel your cares melt away as you lie on the perfect powdery beach, palm trees swaying gently overhead, azure waves lapping lightly on the shore as a soft breeze tickles your toes. The only place that might come close is a quiet and temperate island, where the forests and quaint towns run down to the sea, and you lean back in an old-fashioned rocking chair to watch the sun set in a riot of purple over the deep blue water.

With winter still in full swing, we could all use some outdoor eye candy right now, and Bing Travel is here to oblige with a new slide show presenting 17 island escapes spread across the world. Some hail from tropical climes, while others are farther from the equator, but all are secluded, serene and beautiful — ideal places to leave the everyday world behind.

My own secret island is Orcas Island, a hilly green retreat north of Puget Sound that doesn’t even have a stoplight. But I’ve always wanted to visit the tiny, quiet islands scattered throughout the Pacific, from the Marshall Islands to French Polynesia.

What are your favorite secluded islands — whether you’ve actually been there or you’re just dreaming about them? Tell your fellow travelers your secret in the comments section.