Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why go to sailing school?

I have had several questions concerning why I went to a sailing school last October (ASA 101,103,104,114).  Below are some of my thoughts concerning why I went to class:
  • I have been reading many blogs of cruisers for over a year, and wanted to see how it really was being on a boat.  I know that a week is not enough time, but at least it gave me a taste of the life.
  • I also wanted to get some professional instructions on handling a catamaran.  I owned a mono hull for about 10 years, and really didn't want to live life at a 30 degree angle.  I wanted to experience what it was like to handle and live on a catamaran before I commit more time to this lifestyle.
  • I have also read that if you have the ASA certifications, your boat insurance could be lower.  I do plan on buying a boat at some point in the future, so the cost of the class could be offset by the lower cost of insurance.
  • I would also be able to charter catamarans in the future!  This is a large Pro, as it would give me more experience and be able to independent on my vacations.
  • Cost of the class.  I have detailed my expenses in a section below.
  • Study time.  I spent several months reading the text books to be able to take the classes.  On the first day, you have to take the 100 question ASA101 test, so be prepared.  It is mainly sailing terms and boat parts.  These are things that any sailor should know anyway.
  • One week of vacation spent working hard in class.  Well, this wasn't really a problem for me, but it was not a lazy week in paradise.  I worked hard both physically and mentally, and was exhausted by the end of the week.  I still enjoyed every minute, and not once did I think of my job back home.
  • Even though you get the certifications, you are still NOT an experience sailor.  This is just the first step, and you need to continue to get more sailing experience through charter, sailing clubs, racing, or crewing.  This does give you a great base to start.
  • It was difficult to get to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  There are other places, but the lower class cost and the beautiful area made it worth it once you arrived.
  • I believe that normally it is not possible to get certified in all 4 areas (ASA101,103,104,114) in one week.  The only reason that I was able to was because I was the only paying student on our boat.  Normally it would be hard to get enough instruction to get all four, unless you had prior experience, which I had on a mono hull.
Costs summary:  Flight from XNA (Northwest Arkansas) - Dallas - Miami - Barbados - St. Vincent
- Flights:                                $1000.00
- Layover hotel                      $ 200.00
- Taxis (6 of them!)               $ 100.00
- BOSS Class                        $1500.00     Catamaran Cruising (ASA101,103,104,114)
- Tip for captain/trainer                            Put your own number depending on your experience.
- Eating out/provisioning       $ 200.00    * see note 1 below.
ASA Membership                  $   39.00
ASA Class certifications        $   80.00     $20 for each passed certification
Misc:                                      $   33.00    Cruising fee($14), park fee($4),airport exit fee ($15)
Total:                                      $3152.00
Special note:  The captain/trainer makes all of the difference in your experience and success in obtaining your certification and learning.  At BOSS, Captains Tony and Nancy Hancock are exceptional.  I highly recommend having them as a trainer for these classes.  Tony was my trainer, and he had patience and was knowledgable in all areas.  They both were very personable and I enjoyed the week with them.  They also made it fun, allowing some snorkeling and sight seeing on each day.  They allowed you to take the helm and get the experience first hand.  I felt like I was taking a chance on this class because there wasn't a lot of information on the internet about BOSS.  I hope to go back and charter this coming year, and may ask for a day checkout with either Tony or Nancy.  They also have their own blog:  They haven't updated it for a while, but you can go back and read their experiances, since they are liveaboards.  You can also read the Facebook page on BOSS and get updates from the different classes.  There are pictures of my adventure on their site.
 Captain Tony and Nancy on right.
 Captain Tony being crazy!
Note 1:  BOSS provides basic provisioning on the boat for the week.  It did not include eating out (which we did twice), or special food like lobster (this was my treat).  It also did not include beer or wine, which can be bought from BOSS at a better price than what many of the local stores were charging. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 8 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/20/2012

I started the morning taking the final test, the ASA114, that is after coffee!  What a way to start a day!  I ended up passing it with a 87%, my lowest score, but averaged a 90% for a four tests!  The main thing is that I passed all test, and have my certification to charter a cat in the future!  Today we need to sail about 7 NM from Bequia back to St. Vincent and the BOSS pier.  Tony asked that I take control and be captain, telling him and Sadeem what to do!  This was great, as it enforced my knowledge and allowed me to be in control!  We raised the anchor, and motored out of the harbor, raising the sails once we were in the clear.  We motor sailed up the north side of Bequia, as the wind was coming directly from St. Vincent.  We tried to get as much angle as we could before we crossed the channel.  It was a fast but nice sail across the channel, with only a couple of tacks.  We motored once we got close to Blue Lagoon.  We put Inordinate on a mooring and took the dinghy to the pier.  My sailing week was over, and now it was back to the real world! 

BOSS Sailing school from the plane (Yellow building and pier in the center)  Boats on on right.
I then took a taxi to the airport to catch a Liat flight back to Barbados.  Next time that I come to St. Vincent, I will find a way to make it in a single day.  The stop over in Barbados is a real pain, as you need to take more taxis (total of 6) and go through immigrations and customs 4 times just in Barbados.  I made it to the airport with plenty of time!  I went through security and waited at the gate for my flight.  Then, one of the security guards entered the gate area and was looking for me.  He had a stern look, like I had done something wrong, and asked that I follow him.  So we went back through security and into a secure room, where there was another guy waiting.  Everyone looked tense, but I couldn't imagine what could be wrong.  The guy then asked me if I had the key to the lock on my suitcase, which was a TSA lock.  Of course I had the key and unlocked the suitcase for him, asking him why they didn't have a TSA key, but he ignored me.  That was it....they just need me to unlock the lock on my bag...but I don't know why the theatrics.  So it was back through security, take my shoes off, etc, and then back to the gate.  The flight to Barbados was nice, and I was on my way back home.  Wow, it is hard to go back to the real world, and work, as the week was excellent.  In my next post, I will summarize my week with the pros and cons of BOSS Sailing school.

Day 7 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/19/2012

Today I took and passed the ASA104 exam!  I missed a couple of stupid questions, but I still managed a 93%.  Longitude - Latitude...they are the same...right?  For some reason, I had a mental block on which one goes north and which one goes horizontal.  I missed 4 question because I confused the two!  I now know the different, and will not ever...ever miss those questions again!  The little harbor was interesting this morning, as the local kids walked down the mountain from the town, about a mile, to the pier, and waited for the school bus!  Well, the school bus here is a boat, that picks them up at 7:00, and returns them back at 4:00.  They go to the other side of the island or to another island for school.  I'm sure that our kids complain about the bus, but they don't have to ride a boat to school!
Local school kids waiting on the School boat!
Today we need to sail back to Bequia and Admiralty bay for our last night.  The day started with a red tint, so we knew that we were in for some rough sailing.  The wind continued to build, and squalls were in the distant.  It could be an interesting sail, as we had about 20 NM to go.  The wind increased and we were hit by 5 different squalls.  The worse hit just under 40 kts of wind.  The waves were really large and sometimes crashed over the front.  The cat was very stable, and I was able to pilot most of the way.  We ended up putting 3 reefs in the main, and the same in the jib to get ready for the worse of the squalls.  It was exciting, and we had fun throughout the whole sail.  There was no fear or panic, as we reefed early, and enjoyed the ride!  We even had a pod of dolphins come over and run with us for a few minutes.  Two jumped completely out of the water, just off the side of the boat!  When the largest squall hit, the water had a strange white mist to it, as the rain hit so hard.  The rain was really cold, but when water splashed over the front, it was warm, so we enjoyed the occasional warm shower from the big waves. 

Video - Squalls are coming!

Video - Sailing from Union to Bequia in squally seas!

Video - Inside a catamaran in a 40 kt squall - really pretty stable!

Stormy seas!
As we neared Bequia, we ended up motor sailing the last mile, as we tacked back and forth so many times, and wasn't making much headway, plus we had sailed for almost 6 hours in the storms, and were a little tired!  It was nice to enter the quiet harbor at Bequia.  Andato was already waiting on us, and they too were tired of fighting the seas!  We decided that for our last night, that we would all eat at the Fig Tree together. 
Last dinner at Fig Tree Bequia with crew of Andato and Inordinate.  Tony and Nancy in the middle!
Tomorrow I have my final test, the ASA114.  We were all tired, but I hope that I can pass it, and complete my week!

Day 6 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/18/2012

Wow, what a day!  The bay that we anchored in was very quiet, except for a few local fishermen.  Since this was low season, the restaurants that were normally open were closed.  We took this opportunity to snorkel this morning, so Tony and I (Sadeem passed), headed over to snorkel on the reefs close to the rocky shoreline.  I wore my reef gloves in hope of catching a lobster, so I was ready!  I saw many lobsters in the rocks, but they were all too small to take.  They were all huddled together under the reef, but you could always see their antennas sticking out.  I saw a couple of spotted moray eels, which looked up at you with their mouths open, showing their large teeth.  I gave them a wide berth.  We worked our way around the point, and suddenly the water dropped off to about 40 feet, and the visibility increased to more than 100 feet.  It looked like I was looking through glass on an aquarium.  As I hovered at the surface, I could look down on thousands of sergeant major (yellow with black stripes) fish, sea urchins, sea fans, lobsters (too small), and thousands of other colorful tropical fish!  It was amazing, as this was the best snorkeling that I have ever experienced.  I also saw a couple of turtles and 4 sting rays, as we headed back to the boat.  There was also a strange fish, and as Tony went closer, it put out it fins and they were beautiful blue stripped!  I saw these fish on the wall at the Miami Airport, so they must be famous.  It was a very nice snorkel!  Unfortunately, I didn't bring an underwater camera, so I don't have any pictures.
After cleaning up, we headed over to the other side of the island to see 'Happy Island' and get some supplies.  The wind was very strong, so we started with a reef in the main and jib.  'Happy Island' is a small reef that some guy built up, and placed a little bar on it.  It sits in the middle of the bay by the town of Clifton.  We were going to anchor there for the night, but the wind was blowing very hard into the harbor, making the anchoring too dangerous.  We needed some supplies, so Tony send Sadeem and me into the town, while he stayed with the boat at anchor.  The waves were really large, so taking the dinghy into the dinghy dock was a little challenging without getting wet.  The whole week, I have been wanting to see some sharks as we were snorkeling, but up to this point, I haven't seen any.  Also, for some reason, Sadeem was deathly afraid of sharks.  So when we snorkeled, he usually stayed on the boat.  As were were walking up the pier from the dinghy, there was a small walkway that went between the harbor water and a small lagoon.  Inside the lagoon was several nurse sharks, one about 7 foot long.  You should have seen the look on Sadeem's face when I pointed out the sharks, which were just a few feet from the walkway!  I don't know if the sharks can get out of the little lagoon, as there was a pipe that went out to the harbor.  I didn't have my camera, so I don't have any pictures of the sharks. 
Rough harbor by Clifton, Union Island
As we went into the different stores looking for chicken, there was a guy with a couple of large lobsters.  After we bought some chicken and a few other things, I asked how much the lobster were, and they said 10 ECs per pound.  Wow, that was an excellent price, so I bought both of the lobsters (5 pounds), for about $18. 
Sadeem and Dale with lobsters for dinner!
After securing our lobsters and other supplies, we were going to sail back to the quieter side of the island to Salt Bay, where Andato was already anchored.  Their windless broke, so they were taking a mooring there, so we were going to anchor close to them.  The wind was high again with some rain showers, so it was an exciting sail around the island, with huge waves that we were surfing down the front.  We had put in a couple of reefs in the main and jib, so we were in complete control the whole sale. 
Once we arrived in Salt Bay and anchored, we jumped into the water to warm up!  That night we ate the lobster and it was excellent!

Day 5 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/17/2012

This morning started early, as seems the norm on a boat.  We get up at sunrise and go to bed around 9:00.  I had my coffee, and then I had to take the ASA103 exam.  It was another 100 question exam, just like ASA101.  I made a 90%, missing some stupid things, but at least I passed.  What a way to start the day!  So I am half way there on my goal of ASA101, 103, 104, and 114.  Just two more tests and several more days of training!  To celebrate and take a break from studying, I took the dinghy and the crew from Andato, including Nancy, to a small island, close to where we anchored, that is protected for the turtles.  It has buoys around a swimming area, and dinghies can only go through a special channel to beach their boats.  There were several other boats there, with people from France and other countries to see the turtles.  We snorkeled for about an hour and saw many turtles.  They are usually in the grassy areas, either eating or hanging out.  They are always so cool to see.  We also hiked to the top of the little island, and saw a couple of iguanas and a beautiful view.
Resident Iguana - Tobago Cay Marine Park
View from 'Turtle Island' - Tobago Cay Marine Park
View toward Canouan from 'Turtle Island'
View of our boats at Tobago Cay Marine Park
 After our snorkeling, we then prepared to sail, raising the anchor, and motoring out of the Marine Park.  It was sad to leave so quickly, as I could have spent several days exploring the islands and reefs there.  This would be a top place to come back to, when I charter.  After heading back to sea, we practised MOB (Man Overboard) drills.  We used the figure 8 method, which entails a couple of tacks to come back to the person in the water.  We tried to volunteer Sadeem to be the MOB, but for some reason he declined.  We used a couple of boat bumpers for the drill.  I think that we did the drill about 10 times, between the two of us, so we were pretty tired of many tacks and sail trimming that we did.  It was really much easier than I thought, and it was just a matter of timing to bring the cat back into the wind at the right moment to stop at the bumpers.  Most of the time, we brought the bumpers down the port side of the boat, but a couple of times we brought the bumpers through the middle of the hulls of the cat.  This was hard for the person with the boat hook, as you lost sight of the bumpers, and then the suddenly came out between the hulls.  I prefer bringing the MOB down the port side, which could be the starboard side, depending on what direction you were traveling and the wind direction.  We were ready for a break, so Tony brought the boat into a 'hove to', where you allow the jib to fall over to the other side, but you don't release the ropes.  You also turn the wheel, into the wind (I think).  This makes the boat just sit still, as the wind action is countered by the sail and rudder, keeping the boat very stable and stopped.  We were out in the middle of the channels, in fairly busy seas, and the boat was very flat and comfortable.  We then made some sandwiches and ate lunch, without having to take the sails in! 
Since the water was so rough at Clifton, we headed over to the west side of the island to a large bay that only had a few shacks on shore.  There was a reminder of the nature of the sea, as there was a wreck of a catamaran on the shore.  Tony said that it had broke free of it's mooring during a storm and broke apart on the rocky shore.  We didn't go too close, so my pictures of it were small.  We ate chicken spaghetti and drank a bottle of red wine that I picked up while in town.  Andato anchored next to us, but we were too tired for company.  Another excellent day!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 4 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/16/2012

The day really started early on the boat!  I woke up at 5:30, as Sadeem was up and mopping the dew off of the boat.  He normal job was to clean the boats when they return from charter or from classes, so he was making sure that he didn't have more work when we returned!  I was surprised how good that I slept on the boat.  The breeze blew nicely all night and the hatch was open above my head, creating a very pleasant place to sleep.  Once during the middle of the night it started to rain, which woke me up, as it was raining directly into my face.  I quickly closed the hatch a little, and fell back to sleep. 

A Moorings Charter boat anchored close to us in the morning.
After a quick breakfast and coffee (I brought some special Costa Rica coffee with me and the guys loved it), we started studying on navigation.  We learned about chart plotting a course, dead reckoning, deviation, etc.  We used a parallel rulers and a compass to estimate distance and bearing.  Later today we will use a hand bearing compass to plot our position on the chart.  Things were actually starting to make sense, and were very logical.  We then took a break, and took the dinghy into the village for some quick shopping for supplies that were missing from the original provisioning.  The village was full of  old Almond Trees, and they were beautify and huge.  They had yellow almonds on them, but they looked very different, as they had the hull covering the part that we see as an almond.  I was also able to find some Diet Coke (Coca Lite), which was really nice!
Tony buying some fresh fruit

Large Almond Tree on the road to village

We then pulled up anchor and headed toward Tobago Cay.  It was about a 2 or 3 hour sail over to Tobago Cay, so it wasn't too far.  As were were leaving Bequia, we noticed (hard not to), a freighter that had run aground between two large rocks.  I believe they had engine problems and drifted into the rocks, a reminder of what can go wrong when traveling in the ocean. 

Freighter that ran aground off Bequia
Once around the point of Bequia, we were out in open sea with fairly large waves.  The winds were running about 15 to 20 kts, and we were making 8 to 10 kts on the boat, as we were running a broad reach for most of the trip.  I started getting a little wheezy, which was strange, as I was wearing a patch, so Tony let me pilot the boat the rest of the way, which helped a lot.  I suspected, but had Tony check, but I had lost my patch the day before.  I think that I would have been fine for the rest of the week, but since I wanted to focus on studying, I put on another patch that night, just to make sure.  This was one of my fears about coming, was I knew that I could get sea sick.  The patch helped tremendously, but I believe after three days, that I would have been OK without it. 
We arrived at Tobago Cay without any issues.  The water was completely light blue and beautiful.  We motored through a couple of smaller islands and anchored behind the reef.  It was strange to anchor with open ocean in front of us,except a small island.  It turns out that the small island is where Captain Jack Sparrow was dropped off to die in the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The water was calling us to go snorkel, so we quickly loaded our gear in the dinghy, and motored it over to a small mooring ball  for dinghies.  We snorkeled for about an hour, but there was a strong current, so we swam back to the boat, pulling the dinghy as we went.  I did see lots of lobster, many tropical fish, and a couple of large stingrays, who were digging in the sand trying to eat something.  The ranger come over shortly after we got back, and we all had to pay $4 for the daily park fee. 

Captain Jack Sparrow Island - Tobago Cay

Andato - Tobago Cay
 After snorkeling, we invited the crew of Andato over for dinner.  We cooked hamburgers on the BBQ grill, and I cooked the Mai Mai for Sadeem.  We really enjoyed the company and atmosphere of being at Tobago Cay as the sun set.  A perfect close to another day.

Sunset at Tobago Cay

Day 3 - BOSS Sailing School Trip - 10/15/2012

Today, after my first night sleeping on a boat, we got up really early, ate breakfast, and then starting reviewing ASA 103 information for several hours.  We then took a break and snorkeled for an hour or so around a small reef that was close to the boat.  I saw a moray eel, 4 sea snakes (they were a little creepy as they watched you swim over them just a few feet up), some baby lobsters too small to take, and lots of colorful tropical fish.  The water was very clear and warm, and the break from studying was very nice.  We then cleaned up, which means that you take a bath on the back of the boat using saltwater, and then rinsing off with a fresh water hose.  I am used to this, because at the lake in the summer we do the same off of the dock.  The next time I will bring a different bar of soap, as my dial soap didn't suds up much.  We then ate a quick lunch, pulled up the anchor, and headed out of the harbor.  Today's agenda was to head offshore and practice tacking and jibing, and getting the feel of the boat.  We headed out and for the next four hours we sailed and each of us took turns piloting the boat, and trimming sails.  The weather was very nice with about 10 to 15 kts of wind.  The cat was very different in tacking, as on a mono hull, it naturally falls over to the other side, and heels over.  On the cat, you had to keep up the speed, cut over and hold it to maybe a beam reach, allowing the jib to come over and gather speed, and then you can put the cat back on a close reach.  Once you get used to the slowness of the tack, it wasn't too bad.  The problem was when you tried to bring it back to a close reach too fast, and it would stall out.  We also were not able to hold it closer than about 45 degrees into the wind without slowing down.  The mono hulls have an advantage in this area.  We also trolled a fishing line during our activities today, and managed to catch a small Mai Mai.  Unfortunately, I was too busy to remember to take a picture of it, before we filleted it.  It was a beautiful green color, and it was ashamed to kill it, but the thought of fresh fish overcame the desire to let it go.  At the end of the day, we traveled back to Bequia to anchor. 
Nancy (Tony's wife) was also training with three students on a mono hull (Andato), anchored close to us, and we invited them over for a 'sunsetter'.  The cat is very nice for entertaining, with plenty of room for all of us. 

Sunsetter with the group (Nancy was taking the picture)

Carib - local beer of the islands

After the 'sunsetter', the Andato crew headed back to their boat for dinner, and we cooked spaghetti and opened a bottle of red wine that I picked up at the Duty Free at the Barbados airport.  It was a nice end of the day!  Tomorrow we plan on sailing over to Tobago Cay.  It is a protected aquatic park with lots of sea life and especially turtles.  

Andato in the sunset (our view from Inordinate)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 2 - BOSS Sailing school trip - 10/14/2012

Well, my trip yesterday was not too bad, but long.  My flight from Dallas to Miami was delayed because the plane lost power after they pushed us out on the tarmac.  It was a real confidence booster to have the plane go completely dark and quiet!  After sitting there for 15 minutes they got it going again, after the 'jump' truck came over and jumped the plane.  The flight was fine after that!  My layover in Miami was only for 40 minutes, so I just knew that I would miss my flight to Barbados.  To top off this, in Dallas they 'upgraded' me to the isle seat, on the last row of the plane.  I would be the last person to get off of the plane in Miami!  I was lucky, when I arrived in Miami, and finally got off of the plane, the flight to Barbados was delayed, saving my trip!  This was the last flight to Barbados, and if I missed it, I would also miss my boat on Sunday!  I was very relieved that the flight was delayed, saving my trip!  I was actually able to wolf down a calazone before boarding.  Once on board, the flight to Barbados took forever!  1 movie, TV shows, studying for class, Sudoku, and candy helped make up the time.  I met a woman and her husband on the plane that runs a magazine called Living Barbados (  They have lived there most of their life and was very interesting to talk to.  They didn't know the hotel that I was going, which caused me some concern.  The hotel was just a one night overstay, but I hope that it wasn't bad.  I also found out that a hurricane (then tropical storm), had just gone through the island a couple of night before!  Yikes!  I didn't even know there was a hurricane in the area!  I was so busy getting ready for the trip, I didn't watch the tropical weather.  The storm went through St. Vincent and the Grenadines the day before, so I am sure that the seas will be confused, creating an interesting sailing environment to learn. 

Well, my hotel was clean, but not really beach front.  It was also not in the best part of town with no restaurants around.  It looked like an upgraded Motel 6, but with an International feel.  The people in Barbados are very nice, and speak a formal English that is easy to understand.  I am catching a Liat flight this morning, and there has been many comments about this we shall see.

Later that day:
Well my flight was really good!  It was only 40 minutes and I arrived in St. Vincent on time.  I took a taxi to the BOSS site.  I met up with Tony and Nancy, who are the husband and wife team that is doing the training for BOSS.  They both will be training this week, Tony on the catamaran, and Nancy on a mono hull.  I will be the only paying student with Tony on the cat, but another guy, Sadeem, who was a boat cleaner for BOSS, will be going with us to learn too.  There are three students with Nancy on a mono hull named Andato.  Our boat name is called Inordinate. 
 Once I arrived to BOSS, I had to take the ASA 101 test, and scored a 90% Yay! 
We then jumped on the boat and did an introduction speech, and we headed to Bequia, and island about 9 miles away.  Since it was windward (I have to use my sailing terms now), we had to practise tacking to finally get there.  It was really fun, and I was able to pilot and learned many things on the first sail.  We then anchored in a quiet harbor (Admiralty Bay), at Port Elisabeth. 

Provisioning for the week!  We need more food!!!

Video of the sail from St. Vincent to Bequia.

Dinner at Fig Tree, Bequia - Dale, Tony, and Sadeem

We were able to go into town and eat dinner at the famous Fig Tree restaurant, not sure it was really famous, but it was good.  I had my first taste of conch, and it was very good!  Once we got back to the boat we crashed fast!  It was a long day!

View from BOSS (yes, that is Tony taking his dinghy to his boat)

Bequia - Admiralty Bay

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 1 - BOSS Sailing School trip - 10/13/2012

Today I am finally flying to the Caribbean (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) for sailing classes on a catamaran sailboat.  It is a full week course (ASA 101,103,104,114), sailing to a different island each day.  I have studied, but reading and doing are two different things for me!  I like doing much better than studying .  For me, this is the first step to understand if cruising is what I want to do in the future.  I have had this dream for many years, maybe all of my life.  I have always been a water rat (that is what my mom called me!).  I have owned boats since I was 13, living in Taxes.  I would take a 14 foot flat bottom boat with a 7 1/2 HP Sears outboard into the Houston ship channel and bay.  I always come back with a store or adventure (wild dogs, cotton mouth snakes, nutria, rabbits, etc).  Since that, I have owned about 12 different boats over the years.  OK, so I like boats, so why go cruising?  I guess the independence and freedom to explorer on my own terms, is the answer.  I have never liked 'touresty' things, so the ability to travel and explore with my skills and knowledge is more exciting to me than to book air flights and hotels (of course I am doing that on this trip :)).  I also love to explore, fish, hike, snorkel, swim, fitting the life style of a cruiser.  All of my life I have been learning to do things myself, and be self reliant; building a house and cabin on Beaver Lake, and working on boats, fix up my sailboat, design and weld a dock, work on trucks, install water systems, etc.  Our Beaver Lake cabin was build using a pontoon boat to haul the materials, and a small generator for power.  Now the cabin has full power, hot water, DVD, HD TV, and full appliances, plus a road (4wd required). 

Today I am flying from Northwest Arkansas to Dallas, Miami, and then to Barbados, where I have to spend the night.  Then on to St. Vincent on Liat (an adventure by itself), and then on the boat!  The boat is a 42 foot Fountaine Catamaran!  Pictures and most posts coming.