October 9, 2013

It's Gator Time!!

We’d been living in Florida for long enough that not having seen an alligator was beginning to be a badge of shame. We live right next to the Everglades, and apparently they fish these bad boys out of people's pools all the time... So it was Gator Boat Tour time!

Juliano, our friend Dani and I headed out to the Everglades to see what the swamp was all about. I was expecting some hillbilly excitement, and friends - I was not disappointed.

Please excuse the random girl doing a 'sexy pose' next to that truck. I'm just jealous because I can't sexy pose very well.

We went with Everglades Safari Park because they were on the main road, had a decent website and seemed fun. 

You get to ride an airboat (so fun!) around the glades and spot lots of great wildlife including turtles, alligators and all sorts of birds.

Best part of it all?? You get to HOLD A BABY GATOR at the end. I don’t know if my crazy face adequately describes the amazingness of that. I kept trying to cuddle him like a puppy - and the guy was all... “don’t put him so close to your face - he’ll bite you” and “stop trying to kiss him, he’s a wild animal”. What a buzzkill.

The tour is a little over an hour and costs US$23.00, but if you buy your ticket online - you cans save $3.00. Back at the lodge you can walk a path around the property and see lots more older, larger alligators and crocodiles. Did you know the Florida Everglades are the only place that the two exist in the same place? It’s because of the mix of salt and fresh water.

On the way back home, we stopped off at Calle Ocho in the Cuban section of Miami (yeah, it’s a real place - Pitbull didn’t invent it...) in Miami for some authentic Cuban sandwiches... YUM.

What’s the craziest animal you’ve ever tried to kiss??

Also - the quality of the photos here didn't just magically increase overnight. Dani took these with her awesome camera and mad photography skills. Thanks Dani!

(Side note: This isn’t a sponsored post or anything - I just went because it seemed awesome, and it was) 

October 7, 2013

I'm not retired, but I live in West Palm Beach

I thought West Palm Beach was just where rich, retired people go to play golf. I was wrong - that’s Boca Raton. Ha ha ahh... that’s a Florida joke.

WPB is a pretty nice place to live actually. I see why people pack up their pleated chinos , throw their golf clubs in the porsche and migrate here for the chilly months of winter. 

Clematis Street is sort of the ‘main drag’ (to steal an expression from my dad) and ends up at City Place. Both are full of fun pubs/bars/restaurants/theaters, etc. Sometimes there are parades there. I like parades - everything is so EXTRA.

If your crew is into diving as well - the diving around West Palm is surprisingly awesome! The water is warm, the vis is good and there are lots of operators that will take you out for a reasonable price. My first mate Matt, his brother and I showed up to one of these on an improptu day off.

Best surprise of all - we got to see a baby and mama manatee! Manatees live in the intercoastal waters and are a protected species. They’re slow and hard to spot - so they get hit by boats often. ** Note, running fresh water near them isn’t really allowed... sorry to be such a rule breaker**

If you’re willing to drive inland a bit - equestrian sports are big around here. Dressage, Jumping, Polo - the whole bit. Get out your bow ties, people! Just kidding. But because of this there are lots of stables that will let you come and ride for a few hours if you want.

Sorry I don’t have much for specifics here! To find fun stuff in a new place I usually just sign up for Groupon or LivingSocial to see what kind of deals I come across. It also helps expose me to small business and local things to do :) 

Have you ever been to West Palm Beach? What was your favourite thing?

October 4, 2013

The One Where I Get a Job

I just noticed that this is my 100th post!! Crazy. Thanks for following along for 100 little stories of how I got from where I started - to fittingly, my first yachting job. Cheers to all of us!

I came into this adventure knowing that we may have to work separately. Living apart was the downside we were expecting on our way to our goals. That time finally came. 

It happened quickly. I got a call, an interview, another call and then started packing my tiny bag all over again. Juliano drove me to a train stop. I was nervous about working on my first boat, anxious about leaving Juliano and excited to see what it was all about. 

This is what I had been working for wasn’t it?

I sold my house so I could live here.
I quit my job so I could work here. 
I moved to Florida so I could get onboard here. 
I bought two computers so we could live apart. 
I took courses so I could know what to do here. 

The pressure to be happy with the dreams I had achieved was immense.

I stepped onboard and met the rest of the crew. Six crew keep this 130’ boat floating, moving and clean. It was based in West Palm Beach, a 1 hour train ride north of Fort Lauderdale where Juliano was staying. I liked it here. I work hard right away.

I got hired as Stew/Deck which essentially puts me at the whims of both my chief stew and our first mate. I clean the rooms, I clean the bilges. The pay seems low at first, compared to what I was making at my Official Office Job - but then I realize slowly that I don’t pay mortgage. Or utilities. Or food. Suddenly the amount I’m making stretches much further. Also, I don’t have space to put anything I would buy.

I live on boat now.

October 2, 2013

Pilgrimage to Ironman Florida

Okay - this adventure is not ALL about how to become a yachtie. That part just took over the beginning of Florida for us. But luckily, we had family force us into an impromptu road trip because....

My brother-in-law Ryan is a pro Ironman triathlete. 

What?! Yeah, I know. He’s crazy. And until now, we’ve never had the opportunity to see him race in person. So when we found out that he was competing in Ironman Florida - a mere 12 hour drive around the gulf.... what were we to do?

We haven’t been on a road trip since our little jaunt around the Pacific North West when we sold our house. We were due for another.

And - in a scene straight out of Friday Night Lights (Clear Eyes, Full Hearts!) we came across a High School Football game. Guys, there were lights. There were cheerleaders. There was a f*cking MARCHING BAND!!! I was clearly overexcited about the prospect of sitting down for the remainder of the game and soaking in the Cross City Super Bowl.

But with an early race start looming and many hours left to drive, Juliano’s logic won out over my pee-my-pants-intense excitement. Damn him.

Ironman spectating should be a sport in itself. Seriously, it’s hectic. My sister-in-law Lauren is the race-watching guru. Ryan raced for 8hrs 45mins, and we saw him 6 times. Running into the water, out of the water, transitioning, running past, transitioning, biking past, finishing. 

You can read Ryan’s account of the race here; he talks jibberish about electrolytes and bike wattage. He came in 15th overall which is pretty badass of him.

As a person who’s neither athletic, nor competitive - I find competition at this level hard to relate to. This dedication to pushing and training to shave minutes off your time and beat just one more person through the gates is admirable. But for those of us that think walking across a parking lot is a hardship - doing anything for nine hours is insanity. 

Ironman has a cutoff time of 17hours. SEVENTEEN HOURS! You can deliver a baby in less time than that. It’s probably more pleasant. Knowing it was our first Ironman experience, Ryan and Lauren brought us back to the race for the end of the line finishers. The people who complete the race in the last hour have no business running an Ironman. They are not elite athletes, they don’t have top of the line gear or sponsors. But holy shit do they have some spirit. 

If you pass the finish line the announcers shout out ‘YourName, you are an Ironman!’. It’s a cool moment and a very clear goal for many of these end finishers. It was heart warming to watch people brutalize their bodies and overcome their physical boundaries to achieve these immense goals. I’m in awe of what people can do when they put their minds to it. 

Congrats Ryan on a great race - and thank you for letting us into your world!

Side note: Ryan is cooler than I give him credit for. If you want to check him out here’s his Blog, Facebook and Twitter. 

September 30, 2013

Yacht Life II: Daywork and Crew Agents

So, you've got your STCW and you can fold toilet paper like an expert. Now, you’ve probably spent all of your money on courses and crewhouses - here’s the real question: how do you get it all back???

Let’s get to work.

Step One: Get a Yacht Resume
Weird thing about yachting: Resumes are SO PERSONAL. They include things like
  • photos
  • marital status
  • health/smoking status
  • citizenship
  • age
Pretty much every item that goes against every HR requirement in every job I’ve ever applied for. But, in this industry - you’re hiring a roommate and a worker all in one. 

pastedGraphic.pdf      pastedGraphic_1.pdf

Step Two: Get Daywork
This is a great way to get your feet onto a boat and start working. If you go around the boat show times, there will be lots of daywork. Fort Lauderdale Boat Show is usually around the end of October which is at the start of the Carribean season for many boats. Interior and exterior extra crew are usually needed to get the boats looking good! 

Dockwalking, talking to friends and daywork123.com are how we got this type of work.

Step Three: Crew Agents
Besides ‘networking’ (ugh, I hate that term. It’s so sleazy - but true) with your fellow yachties, crew agents are the way you’re probably going to get a job. Don’t worry - it’s free. The boats pay their fees to get matched with crew. Each agency works a little differently but in general: apply on their websites, get ‘interviewed’ by the agent, monitor the website/emails for jobs you’re interested and apply accordingly.

This is how we (spoiler alert!) got jobs.

Here are a couple of the ones we worked with in Ft Lauderdale,...

Every yachtie you meet will have a different story as to why and how they got into yachting, this is just us.

September 27, 2013

Yacht School II: Stew School + AEC

I can fold toilet paper into a little fan. 

I can set a table with 12 pieces of silverware - per person. I can create a lively flower arrangement with some grocery store flowers and crowns out of crisp linen napkins that would shame Martha Stewart into eating McDonalds take out for life.

I am the champion of fancy shit. 

Where did I learn these game changing skillz you ask? Stew School. Known officially as ‘MegaYacht Interior Operations Course’, Stew school is a yacht stewardess intro course. It teaches everything from cleaning and laundry to table settings and silver service. It’s a fun, but expensive (around $1000!) 5 day course that I took at the same school as my STCW. 

While it’s not necessary to get a job, and redundant if you have one - I would recommend it for green stews who are looking to get their first job. Not necessarily for the specific skills (you’ll have chief stew who will tell you how she likes it, trust me) but for the confidence and connections. The instructors of this course have been stews, and they know the game. Here’s your chance to ask aaaaalllll the questions and meet other girls just starting out in the industry. It’s fun, and it was the first time that I actually got my head around the level of service required in this industry. 

StewFact: Did you know we clean the bathrooms EVERY SINGLE TIME their used? 
Yep. We do that. 

THE GUYS: Deckies and AEC

While I was off learning how to fold fitted sheets, Juliano was learning how engines work. This industry is still quite gender segregated. While there are notable exceptions of female deckhands and male stewards - it’s not the norm. 

Stews : girls. Deckies : guys. 

The career path for the exterior crew is also clearer - there is a long series of courses and qualifications available for Juliano to take as he moves forward in yachting. For the interior crew there are course you can take (ex wine tasting, bar tending, service, etc) but no specific certifications that pre-qualify you for advancement.

Back to the engines... Juliano took the AEC ‘Approved Engine Course’ which is an intro engineering course. It’s a 5 day course as well, also quite expensive ($1000). 

Not my picture of a yacht engine room:

While hands on learning is the best for this, it’s a good general overview of the mechanics of boats - including jet skis and tender, the items typically required to be cared for by the deck crew. Additional, taking extra courses like this can show a bit of commitment to the industry - and differentiate yourself from the backpackers that fall into it looking for a quick season of cash.

September 25, 2013

Yacht School I: STCW + RIB

Numero Uno question I get asked when strangers find out what I do: 

How did you get a job like that? Did you have to go to school?

Well my friends, I did. I fought fires, I practiced CPR, I swam into a life raft. 

Despite my usual glib-ness about yacht life, safety is a huge factor. Boats burn to the water line in minutes, storms happen, and people fall overboard. Yacht crew are a relatively small group people charged with the responsibility of the guests, other crew members and the boat itself - everyone on a crew list needs to be informed and able to perform in emergency situations.

This is a must have to work in the yachting industry. It’s a 5 day course and costs around $900 US. It’s a really fun and informative week, you learn lots about the industry, safety and firefighting.

International Crew Training - STCW 95 from ICT Fort Lauderdale on Vimeo.


RIB is a Rigid Inflatable Boat... aka dinghy. Every yacht has (at least) one, and this course will give you the license to drive one. Note I said license, not necessarily skill. This is a quick, 2 day course that will teach you the basics of driving a simple tender. We didn’t really get enough time to be confident drivers, but.... it’s a rubber boat.

Where to go?

We took all of our courses at ICT in Ft Lauderdale. They were great there - friendly and helpful, especially going in a newbies. MPT is the other big school in town, and while we don’t have any personal experience there - we’ve heard good things as well. What ever school you choose, just make sure that its recognized by MCA, USCG and/or PYA.

September 23, 2013

Yacht Life I: Crew Houses are a way of Life

It feels like a hostel - but no one’s goal is just travel. 

Everyone seems to have money - but no one seems to have jobs. 

Fort Lauderdale, full of wanna-be yachties lurking around for the beginning of the season, is where we found ourselves early in this adventure. The secret underbelly population that neither travelers nor yachties will claim as their own; the crew housemates are the frat brothers you never had. 

The first house we stayed in had up to 32 people living, eating, drinking, partying and hustling for work at any one time. It was insane. It was overwhelming. It was great.

But, despite all the craziness, it was an amazing learning experience. Here are some things I learned...

How to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 32. Canadian thanksgiving, not that weirdly scheduled American version. With turkey and a teapot full of gravy. I had to call my mom for an apple pie recipe after Juliano made a fuss over the exclusivity of pumpkin. Moms are the best at pie recipes. And a rum punch helps everything.

How to do laundry in a sketchy laundromat. Answer: lots of quarters, bring friends, don’t talk to the guy who works there, don’t open the dryer before it’s finished. Bring your own soap.

How to party. I though I knew, I was wrong.

How to party in costume. Everything is better in costume. Especially drinking.

How to not have a job. Here’s a weird one. I’ve had a job steadily since I was 14 and worked in a Korean Bakery. Most of my life I’ve had two jobs. I’ve never had zero jobs. Turns out: It’s fun in the short term. Go to the beach in the middle of the day on a Tuesday? Of course I will.

How easy it is to sneak into fancy hotels and use their pools. From Ft Lauderdale to Miami.... just wear your bikini under your clothes, and order a drink if there’s a bar. Enjoy acting fancy.

How to do shit for free. When you’re broke, free shit is the best. 
Work out in a park. Go to free drinking days at restaurants (they exist!). Go to the beach. Download movies from the internet. Rent a SUP with a whole group of people, they all take a turn. Ride a crappy bike.

How to make awesome friends. 
  1. Do something life changing that is hard to relate to.
  2. Meet other people that can relate to that/you and live with them.
  3. Get drunk with them, better if in costume.
  4. New friends!

Okay, so thats not exactly the golden rule for making new friends. Nor do I really recommend jobless binge drinking as a long term choice.  But, when you put yourself out there, when you’re open to new experiences in life - you attract new people and new experiences. It’s amazing how many people are really out there, disrupting their lives for new goals and adventures. 

Meet them, learn from them, befriend them. Soak in their luminosity and lust for life - it can fuel yours.

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