Sailing and Yachting diary in Playa Papagayo

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Even though we were really enjoying our time in Playa Francesca as well as it’s seclusion, we knew there were a lot more islands in the Canary Island chain to explore.  Making a quick 35 mile run, we ended up in the SE corner of Lanzarote in a little area called Playa Papagayo.  Due to the minimal amount of anchorages here, we were happy to have stumbled upon another one through some research, and although the day was becoming blustery and stormy as we dropped anchor, it looked like a nice spot to spend a few days.

Once we arrived though, our mornings and days became lazy again as we were in no rush to get anywhere.  Realizing we still had nearly a month before we planned to arrive in Phuket Sailing, we realized how quickly we could cover ground when we wanted.  We did experience one morning with strong winds and a sandstorm rolling through our anchorage, but since we were not on a lee shore it still gave us no reason to move.

We liked this spot we chose.  It was fairly private with only 4-5 other boats in the anchorage with us, and had lots of sandy beached for us to relax on during the day.  A decent sized town with a supermarket was only a mile dinghy ride away, and we were always treated with amazing sunsets and even views of the neighboring island of Fuerteventura.

Aside from the dry desert hills that were rolling around us, it was sometimes hard to remember that we weren’t back in the Caribbean.  A perfect little spot to get in some R&R before moving back to big towns and civilization when we eventually did get to Gran Canaria again.

Tuesday November 4, 2014

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote

As if spending three days fully relaxing at Playa Francecsa after we’d just made our way over from Madeira wasn’t enough, we’ve been doing nothing more but the same ever since we arrived here in Playa Papagayo.  Unless you count forcing yourself off the boat to lounge in sandy coves with sparkling seas in front of you hard work.  Oh, and there was that one trip into Playa Blanca for exploring, a lunch out, and internet.

Our first full day in the Peninsula it was a little overcast, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to get out to do a little exploring.  Not that there seemed to be much more than just sand and a few rocks to the untrained eye, but according to the Canaries guidebook that our dear friends on Skebenga bequeathed us, there was a very popular and eye catching cove at the southern end of the point.  It seemed as if everyone visiting this island had the same guidebook I did since even though it was a bit out of the way, the beach was crowded and the one restaurant overlooking had every table full.

The cove itself was beautiful with emerald green waters dotted with rocks and coral, sporting the random head and bum of someone snorkeling through it.  The somewhat hazy sky did dampen my perfect shots a little though, and after making Matt stand on a rock at the top for 25 minutes waiting for the sun to come back out so I could get that perfect guidebook worth shot of the cove, I relented and we walked back to the dinghy and scouted a place to head back the next day with beach supplies in tow.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Getting fully back into beach mode we spent the next few days tucked into one of three coves along the coast.  Although they seem inacessable, we’d still find small crowds of Brits and Spaniards that would either take the death defying (ok, not really) hike down from the top of the cliffs, or wait for low tide and stroll over the exposed and flattened rocks.  It was still more secluded and much cooler looking than the main beach though, so every day we’d load up the dinghy with our sport-a-seats and a cooler full of beer and snacks, and land ourselves there for a few hours of lounging.

Even though I should be promoting good skin care and staying out of the sun as much as possible, I completely spent a few days drinking in as much as possible.  There are few things I love more than the feel of a warm sun on bare skin, and seeing as how we hadn’t had a beach in front of us in months and being covered in clouds for the latter part of our time in Portugal, I figured I could sacrifice a few days.  Slathered in SPF 30 from head to toe.

After the third day of doing nothing but soaking up sun and Portuguese beers, we decided to do a little wandering to the main beach to see what we could find.  Turns out, it was all people fully eligible for retirement that could not be coaxed into wearing a stitch of clothing.  Masses of them engulfed the sands as they could not be persuaded to sit still; strolling, swimming, and bending over all over the place.  It was kind of cute, really.  The way they ran into the water with all the enthusiasm of a four year old child who was just told they were allowed to have cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   These silverhairs were camped on the beach with cups full of beer, a sun high in the sky, and good friends surrounding.  It was kind of like watching MTV Beach House: The Golden Years.

At the far end of the beach, after we’d passed the gauntlet of saggy skinemax, we were rewarded with a relatively easy climb to the tops of one of the cliffs which afforded rapturous views of the anchorage and beach below.  The wind up there was something else though, and Matt was literally worried that I’d blow away.  Trust me, it’s one place you do not want to take a spill.

I wish I could have included more photos of this area as it was so stunning, but it was also really hard to get any shots without  any T&W (ta-ta’s and wang).  So just take my word when I tell you it’s a place not to miss on your trip through the Canaries.  Unless you can’t handle ta-ta’s and wang.

Papagaya Peninsula, Lanzarote

Sagres beer & beach

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Matt & Jessica on Lanzarote

 When we finally dragged ourselves back to the ‘Dip in the late afternoon we wallowed in lazy time including naps, matinees, and many snacks.  When the sun started to go down we’d take our seats in the cockpit to watch the show, all the while helping to empty the 5L box of white wine we purchased in Portugal.

I know, cry for us all you want, we lead such a ‘tough’ life, but I think our time here is exactly what we needed.  A return to our type of cruising filled with swaying on the hook, days full of sun & sand, and nights full of starry skies.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands


Hardcore upper-body workout at Virgin Active

I run in to Virgin Active Mayfair’s Studio One a sweaty albeit fresh mess, having slightly underestimated my journey time to the gym.


I’m here to review Iron ZUU (Upper Body), a new 45-minute class across Virgin Active gyms which helps build and strengthen the shoulders, chest, arms and back as well as the core.

Created by elite strength and conditioning coach Nathan Helberg, the circuits class combines pre-fatigue weightlifting with bodyweight exercises and unique mobility training.

This incorporates primal movements from the animal kingdom such as crawling and torturous side-to-side push-ups which help to build core strength. It also works your heart and lungs.

Deni Kirkova reviews Iron (upper body) - Bikini Girls Diary

A hench Eastern European instructor is shouting at everyone already, with loud rock music blasting through the wide open doors. Hardcore anthems like Saviour by Rise Against, Last Resort by Papa Roach and even some Marilyn Manson penetrate every ear drum at 7am this Wednesday morning.

There’s no room or time for sheepish latecomers, so I get on with it.

I briskly grab a bench and some free weights, load up a Les Mills barbell and join in with exercises like military presses, lateral raises and bench press. The long-term goal with the weightlifting segment is to increase weight and reduce reps.

iron zuu

After weight training we’re on the floor doing those awful side-to-side press ups. Thank goodness I can at least hold a good plank.

I manage to bend my elbows about halfway and go side to side a few times, and I’m grateful that I don’t get shouted at directly for being weak.

Seeing as I never train like this, I imagine I’ll improve as I continue to attend. And it’s always good to adapt your training.

At the end of each circuit we crawl on our hands and feet to the back of the room then high-five each other before the next round.

More animal elements include performing exercises in a pack, facing each other rather than the front of the room.

The class fosters a pack mentality where everyone is pushed to their limits – no-one is let off – but at the same time everyone is supported and supportive

The class involves military press to help sculpt the shoulders - Bikini Girls Diary / SNH Foto

The class involves military press to help sculpt the shoulders – Bikini Girls Diary / SNH Foto

The next time I’m struggling with weird and wonderful push-up variations, our instructor joins me on the floor shouting at me, in a motivational rather than mean way! It really works and helps me get through it.

The class is supposed to help bulk and form muscles, as well as provide functional training.

Walking out an even sweatier mess than when I arrive, I feel strong, powerful, and light on my feet.

The next day’s chest DOMS last three days and I can definitely feel I am making some gains. I’ll certainly be back.


Bikini Girls Top 5 FAVOURITE Vegan Protein Powders

Everyone on Facebook knows that missing out on Protein could result in loss of muscle mass and weaker hair, skin and nails… But it all has dairy in!

Well with Vicky being allergic to dairy and Deni being a ethical vegan and BOTH competing as Bikini Models there had to be another way to get there protein in… and there is.  Here are our Top 5 FAVOURITE protein powders that are all free-from AND vegan! 

1. PHD Women

phd protein powder best vegan by vicky hadley

PhD have been a well known brand within the fitness industry for quite some time now and although loved by trainers and athletes they haven’t offered an alternative to whey (dairy) protein and being a vegan it meant that I was yet to try PHD.

But times have changed and they have just launched their brand new (and incredible tasting) vegan product made from sweet potato, a blend of plant proteins including from brown rice, pea and hemp, fruits and berries, whole-foods and green superfoods.

How many grams of protein per recommended serving (25 grams)?  PHD has 14 grams of protein per serving making it a great option for vegans.

What’s the taste like? There are three delicious flavours including berry, banana and chocolate which taste like creamy milkshakes even when just mixed with water. 

Best flavour? Chocolate was definitely my favourite, not at all dust like and definitely hit my chocolate craving keeping my sweet tooth satisfied, try it mixed with a dash of hot water and stir into a chocolate-y mousse.


2. Neat
Neat Nutrition Vegan+Protein Review

Neat Nutrition are a new protein company with an incredible tasting vegan protein powder range created from a blend of hemp and pea. They have three smooth and creamy to flavours to choose from: vanilla, berry and chocolate which are packed with amino acids including Lysein, (an essential amino acid that plays a key role in converting fatty acids into energy) that vegans are often deficient in.

How many grams of protein per recommended serving (28 grams)? 25 grams of protein in the natural flavour and 20 grams in the berry flavour.

What’s the taste like? Neat is extremely sweet considering there is no added sugar and tastes more like a naughty dessert than a healthy drink, I was actually amazed at just how good vegan protein powders could taste.

Best flavour? Berry was my favourite, it is not often I would vote for a fruity flavoured protein powder but Neat didn’t even need any added plant sugar for taste.



3. Sunwarrior

sunwarrior vegan protein by vicky hadley

Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein Powder is an incredible blend of cranberry, hemp and pea proteins. With three flavours: vanilla, chocolate and natural there is something for everyone. Sunwarrior use the natural plant based sweetener stevia to give their protein shakes the delicious taste they own.

Sunwarrior’s protein powder is completely raw and plant-based protein, that is rich in amino acids and superfoods. Our favourite is sunwarrior’s chocolate protein powder, try it blended with avocado and coconut milk to create a chocolate protein mousse.

How many grams of protein per reccommended serving (25grams)? 20 grams

What’s the taste like? Sunwarrior is sweet and has the melt in your mouth texture that makes you sigh in happiness. Thanks to the stevia extract sunwarrior protein powder needs no extra sweetener, simply toss in a few berries for a zingy burst and you’re good to go.

Best flavour? Vanilla and chocolate both top it for me, if you are going to choose a green smoothie mix in the vanilla protein powder – honestly, you can not try a nicer smoothie but if you want something to curb your dessert cravings chocolate is a must have.




strippd-vegan-protein-powder-best-tasting-by-vicky hadley

STRIPPD are brand new on the protein scene but are definitely ahead of the trends. Their vegan protein powders are derived from a blend of whole pea and hemp and infused with metabolism boosting yerba mate to help tone and develop lean muscle.  The pea and hemp blend contains all of the essential amino acids for building long, lean muscles.

How many grams of protein per recommended serving (35grams)? 20 grams

What’s the taste like? Another sublimely sweet tasting powder I love the fruity flavour of STRIPPD mixed with my morning porridge oats and water or almond milk.

Best flavour?  Mixed Berry


5. Reflex Nutrition

vegan protein powder best protein powders by vicky hadley

Reflex is an excellent option for vegan athletes and those who are on strict calorie or macronutrient dependent diets. It has only one gram of carbohydrate and 1.4 grams of fat per serving. As well as being a great option for those avoiding soy. Reflex is derived from pea protein, natural flavourings and sweetener (Stevia) and Digezyme® Digestive Enzyme Complex (Amylase, Protease, Cellulase, Lactase, Lipase) to help with nutrient absorption.

How many grams of protein per 25 gram serving? 19grams

What’s the taste like? Reflex tastes incredible mixed with Alpro Soya yoghurt as it isn’t as sweet as the other stevia based protein powders so is ideal for those who don’t like too sweet products but want a sweet fix.

We head down to Boardmasters – Surf Festival of the year!

So just last weekend the bikini girls headed down south to Newquay for the surf festival of the year; Boardmasters.

Deni and I have been looking forward to this trip for quite some time and it definitely lived up to the expectations.

Boardmasters VIP

Upon arrival at Newquay and lugging our sleeping bags, suitcases and Deni’s chair (apparently it is the most important thing to bring to a festival – not that I saw her sit on it once…) we trekked down to Fistral Bay to collect our wrist bands before getting a taxi to our campsite. 

We set up tent for the night and explored the campsite which would be our home for the next five days.



 Our site was located in Cloudbreak and boasted VIP toilets and showers (any girls worst nightmare when it comes to camping) some food bars and drink tents as well as a huge field full of campers.


Example, Dead Mau5, Chase and Status and more. 

The surf festival definitely lives by its reputation of beach vibes with the whole weekend leaving you feeling relaxed, calm and happy. 


Surfing! BGD’s Deni took on a surf class with The Escape Surf School. ‘It is the best place ever to try surfing for the third time, I must admit though, it was a struggle dragging myself there after a heavy night at Sailors. But it was well worth it as I learned to paddle and surf right to the shore which I’d never done before. I was paired up with 23-year-old St Lucian Thibault Bain, an easy-going, friendly teacher, for an hour’s lesson’, says Deni.

surfing at boardmasters by bikini girls diary

Deni surfing at boardmasters


vicky, josh and Deni in the hot tub at boardmasters bikini girls diary

Not all music and partying though – on the third day and feeling a little worse for wear; we headed into the wellness area and enjoyed a hot tub session, hot shower and reclined in the relaxation area with fruit infused water to allow our bodies to detox.


Yes we even found a vegan cafe! And it pretty much became our haven. Situated 5 minutes from Fistral Bay we fell head over heels in love with The Beached Lamb Cafe which we PROMISE has the BEST cappuccino we have ever tried.

cappuchino beached lamb cafe bikini girls diary boardasters

Post hangover we got a detoxing juice and salad that definitely detoxed us post night out. On the second day the sun came out giving us the perfect opportunity to relax and recline on the beach and catch up on some much needed sleep. Curled up together on the beach bank under one sleeping bag we managed to catch a few extra hours zzz!

deni drinking coffee at beached lamb

If you’re thinking of heading down to Boardmasters next year – I would definitely recommend it! But expect to feel wiped for a few days (we’re still recovering 3 days later!)


Building Seating in the Pilot House

Progress on the pilot house continues!  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve currently lost misplaced my memory card that has the photos of us building up the seats for the area on the port side, so we’ll have to skip forward about a week and a half on progress in that area.  Just picture in your head a lot of cutting  of plywood and attaching it to 1×2″ cleats.

Before that was even possible though, we needed to replace the old floors with new 1/2″ plywood (epoxied on both sides and later to have 1/4″ maple placed on top), but before we could even do that, we needed to clean out our bilges and our metal tanks as best we could.  Mostly this job fell on to be because of my little hands and arms along with my ability to get into the small nooks and crannies that were hiding old dirt and other kinds of buildup.  For the most part I was able to scrape away any excess dirt and old oil from the engine with a combination of a chisel and a wire brush.

Not one of my favorite projects and I could have really done with those gloves that go up past for elbows for the amount of rubbing my arms faced on our metal frames.  Sometimes there was also the project of removing old insulation that fell below the waterline and is not necessary for us, but that was usually a much easier job.  As big of a pain in the butt that project was, it should keep any new corrosion from building in our bilges and give us much better peace of mind.

6.28.16 (1)

6.28.16 (2)

6.28.16 (3)

 On to the seats!  The port side of our pilot house will have a L shaped settee, and since we’re building them ourselves, we’re going to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible for when one or both of us sits there.  Because we assume that will mostly be Matt’s sitting area, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t forced down into the forward salon because the seats weren’t big enough for him to be comfortable on.  What’s the point of having a pilot house if you never use it?  Based on a few measurements he took from Serendipity, we found out that a seat width of 26″ inches would be the most enjoyable for relaxing.  Since the previous seats in this area were only 14″ wide, there was no way we could copy that set up again and have enough room to easily sit there.

Because the new design for the seats comes out so much further than the old plan, we didn’t want to lose all floor room in this area as well.  So instead of having a 12″ platform that begins as soon as you come to the bottom of the companionway, we’ve decided to push it back so it only sticks out 6″ from the seats, as an extra step up to them.  This does cause us to lose a little more storage space in this area, but we do gain some of it back with the extra width of the seats since the entire area underneath them is reserved for that purpose.

Once we had the base built up as well as painted, it was time to work on the seats and back.  Using 1/2″ plywood for this as well, we used two sheets of plywood.  Overall we’ll have three access points to storage below, and on access point to an area that will house our batteries.  The very end area toward the center of the boat will be our wet locker, but access to that will be a swinging door from the side.  We’re also making opening doors to a storage area that will sit behind our backs, opening  up the area that curves along the hull.

After having put one shelf in here we decided that the lower area which gets thinner the closer you get to the floor will be a perfect place to store charts, since we have so many but use so few at one time.  Because they are so thin and can mold into that spot, and now we don’t have to worry about what other odd shaped items might fit in that spot.  The upper area for storage, I’m really looking forward to using for tupperware.  Silly, I know, but since we didn’t have a great spot for them on our last boat I’m so happy to finally have an easy access area for them.  I’m loving all this extra storage on our new boat!

old floors

Our old floors.

6.28.16 (4)

6.28.16 (5)

6.28.16 (6)

Random Happenings in the Boat Yard

I know it has been forever since I’ve done any kind of boat work or boat related post, and for that I apologize.  With things like a failed computer that had me only publishing long ago saved drafts from my tablet, to the Florida summer heat leaving me incoherent at the end of every night to, honestly, becoming too addicted to our Instagram account, I’ve let the ball drop.  I’m going  to try and pick it back up because there’s a lot that’s been going  on over the past few months, and I’d love to keep you updated on it!

Just to start you out with a couple of the small things before I really catch you up, I’m posting a ‘Random Happenings’ post before I get to the down and dirty work that has been keeping us busy for the past few weeks.


  • We’ve purchased our canvas for the dodger & bimini!

Colors.  Just as much as renovating a home, picking out colors for a boat is just as much of an overwhelming task.  What do we think would look good?  What colors do we want to stay far away from?  What might clash with our bare metal hull?  And mostly….what can we afford?

As I’ve said before, I’m so lucky to be married to a man who’s biggest source of entertainment is researching items online.  Whether it be boats on (how we came across Daze Off), eBay (how we were able to double the size of our winches for half the cost), or the fabric we’ll need to outfit the inside and outside of our boat.  We knew that Pacific Blue was out.  We had already done it on Serendipity, and as the number one canvas color out there on boats, we wanted something  that would help us stand out a little more.  As if that would be an issue anyway on this new boat.

We had been toying with the idea of a light or bright green for quite awhile, thinking that a lime green would give it a nice fresh look and give this old boat a more modern feel.  After searching for months and months, because we have that kind of time on our hands, he came across a  remnant roll of Ginkgo Green by Sunbrella.  It was a situation where we were not able to request a sample, but instead had to take a gamble buying the remaining 16 yards on the roll and hoped we liked it. Although at the amazingly low price of $6.95/yard, we were willing to take that gamble.  At a 70% discount, we were sure we could like it enough.

When the roll came in the mail we hurriedly ran it over to Daze Off and unwrapped it from the plastic to hold a corner of the fabric against the pilot house and see how the color looked in the light of day and between the white deck and silver hull.  A huge sigh of relief was released when the bright green matched the two perfectly and gave us the modern yet slightly funky look we were after.  It may be months down the road before its turned into anything, but at least we have it and won’t have to worry about hunting down a color later on.

Sunbrella ginkgo green canvas

  • We’re building up the pilot house…finally

This is the moment, at least I personally, have been waiting for forever.  It means that our construction phase is nearly over.  The last major renovation to the boat.  Sure, there’s still a million things to be wired and plumbed later on, but at least once this is complete it will look like a home.  Not to mention ALL the storage space we’re going to gain once this area is built up.  Can you imagine what it will be like when I don’t have to keep spare soda and chips in the van because its the only place to keep them safe and out of the way?  When all of our tools will have a home to be put away in?  It will be heaven.  I can’t say I’ll still love being in the work yard at that point, but at least our living conditions will be much more comfortable.

We’re starting on the port side and then moving to the starboard side once it is mostly built up, hoping the disassembly of the nav station and tool drawers can wait until we have a new surface to put them on.  The first step is framing in the curved area of the hull, which on that side, will eventually turn into storage units that will sit behind  the back of our L shaped settee in the pilot house.  Just as much of a pain as ever, trying to template these odd curves comes with it’s difficulties, but we’re still doing just fine with our 1/4″ pieces of wood attached together instead of using foam.  We’ve had this suggestion from many people, but we can easily take apart the template and reuse those strips of wood, so we think this way works out for us best.

The next stage of this project will be to build up the seats and what will be the storage units underneath them, before eventually moving on to the upper parts of  the walls, covering the three sides of windows.

*I had photos of this part of the project, but lost my memory card before I could transfer them to my computer, so you’re going to see a huge jump in this project.  Sorry!

pilot house 1

pilot house 2

  • Storm season is upon us once again

Oh yes, the reason it feels like we never got anything done last summer.  Come  3:00 pm, cue the storm clouds and heavy rain. A few things have changed since last year though, and hopefully our summer will be at least 50% more productive than it was last year.

The first reason for this is most of our work actually happens indoors now.  If we’re given a few good hours in the morning and afternoon of decent weather, we can make all of our major cuts with the table saw and circular saw outside, and spend the rainy hours of the afternoon indoors assembling what we’ve just cut.  Another is that we’re just doing many of our smaller cuts indoors at this point.  Once the big cuts to the plywood are made, most of the cuts from that point on are little cleats which we can easily tackle indoors with our oscillating tool or circular saw.

The other major reason is, other than a few big storms in May, the rest of the summer so far has been relatively dry.  I don’t even know how many days we’ve seen dark clouds come rolling up to us in the afternoon, winds beginning to gust…and then nothing happens.  Mostly we’re left with overcast skies and a bit of wind, but you won’t hear us complaining about that one bit.  In fact, if we can keep a dry yet cloudy a cool way of life all summer, we’d be on a fast track to get A LOT of work done by this fall!

storms in south Florida

summer storms in Florida

  • We bought an arch for the boat.  It didn’t work out.

This is an item we’ve been hemming and hawing about practically since we’ve purchased the boat.  We know we don’t want davits on this new boat, but we do need a system that will keep our radar and solar panels mounted.  Do we spend the money on an arch?  Do we even like the looks of a massive arch back there?  Or do we go much more simple with two vertical poles to house the radar and wind gen, and a horizontal one suspended between the two for our solar.

Having such a different setup on Serendipity where A.) our davits supported our solar panels, B.) our radar was up the mast, and C.) there was never a wind generator to deal with, I was at a bit of a loss as what to suggest for a solution on the new boat.  Will the three pole system work out?  If so, Sure, go for it!  If not?  Get an arch.  Easy peasy.  I don’t like to be bothered with details like that.  Whatever works, just get me the hell out of this yard.

Unfortunately it doesn’t  always work like that on our boat and we need to think smartly about all of our options.  In the end…the arch did seem the better option.  It would be stronger and give good support in all the areas we needed.  As far as looks go?  Well, hopefully it looks good, and if not….at least we know our goods are secure.

So when a 7′ wide arch popped up on Craigslist in Coco Beach within our price range, we figured we may as well bite the bullet and pick it up.  Choosing a random Friday night, we made the 2 hour dive north on I-95 to the boat yard where the seller lived.  Eventually finding it propped up against a gate (the owner was not there when we arrived) we noticed right away it looked very large for 7 feet.  Taking our measuring tape to it, we immediately found out why.  It was actually 9 ft wide.  We were half tempted to walk away from it right then, but we figured we may as well get it back to the boat and give it a try before we made any decisions.  If it didn’t work out, we could easily pawn it off on someone else.

Making a now 3 hour drive home on US-1 with this gigantic piece of metal hanging off each side of the van, we arrived back near midnight and didn’t even bother to take it off the van before passing out in our bed.  Over the next day or two we eventually did get it on the ground and even up on the boat with the help of one of our neighbors, only to find that the extra two feet of width made it too wide to fit on the aft end of our boat, especially with the angle of the feet the arch sat on.  We toyed with the idea of having our welder make a few adjustments to it the next time he was out working on our boat, but in the end, we decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and we’ll probably go with the other idea of the two vertical posts with a connecting beam.

Luck was on our side though in the fact that we had a neighbor in the boat yard that was more than happy to take it off our hands.

sailboat arch

9 ft sailboat arch

Taking on Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Remember how a few posts ago (before my computer crapped out on me and had to be sent away for repairs, leaving me unable to edit photos) I mentioned that I was remaking the rounds of almost every destination in Arizona I had made with my parents a few years ago, now once again with Matt in tow? One can not miss destination on that list was Sedona.  Having first visited this town four years ago while my brother and parents, I couldn’t let Matt miss out on it’s displays of red rocks and beauty.

Because my dad was still working most of the days during our visit, we needed to wait for the weekend to come before we had a full day to drive out.  Getting an early start on the day, I was happy to still have my body in sync with the Eastern Time Zone, so when it was time to wake up at 7:00 am, by body was thinking it was 10 and was ok with rolling out of bed that time.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

A  few hours later we pulled into a gray and wet Sedona, and after having taken in the traditional breakfast stop of The Teapot, a restaurant with over 101 omelets on their menu, we were perusing some guide books in the lobby on how to spend the rest of our afternoon there.  Of course I had originally found Devil’s Bridge on Instagram and I wanted one of those apparent death defying photos to add to my own account, although once we had the chance to read up on it, it turns out our vehicle was not suited for the short cut and it would be a 1.3 mile walk each way.  I don’t think anyone other than myself was up for such a hike, just to get that perfect shot for social media (although I’m sure it’s beautiful to see without a camera in front of your face as well), but it was not going to be in the cards and we needed to make another decision.

Flipping through a few more pages I focused on the ‘easy hikes’ section and came across Cathedral Rock. A nice description and a hike that would amount in less than a mile round trip.  Pulling out my tablet and searching for directions, we were back on the road and ready to take in some sights.  Since nowadays everyone and their mother, including mine, is quick to pull out their phone or tablet to research anything and everything under the sun that catches their interest, it was her that let us know, while enroute, that  this ‘easy’ hike may not be as easy as we were led to believe.  From what she had found online, it was in fact a very short distance, its just that most of it happened to be vertical.

“No, that can’t be right”, I responded.  ”It didn’t mention anything about it in the guidebook.”

“I’m just telling you what I’m reading here.  It says that the hike is 600 feet of vertical trails, and it says its a strenuous walk.”

“But….the guidebook was on hiking.  All the hiking trails in Sedona.  This was listed as easy.”

“We’ll have to see when we get there, but I don’t think its a flat trail.”

As I’ve learned over my last 33 years of existing, my mother, as usual, was right.  As soon as we found the road leading to Cathedral Rock, the tall red stone jutting out of the earth made it very apparent that it would indeed be a steep climb.  One my parents were probably not willing to make.

road to Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, ArizonaHaving come on a Sunday, we found that we were not the only ones in search of a little beauty and adventure on this particular weekend, and the lack of available parking spots had us taking a few unscheduled detours past private homes perched on hills, before circling back down and snagging a spot in the front row.  Since we had made the drive all the way out there, we couldn’t just stand at the base and stare up at it without attempting to scale it.  At least for Matt and I.  Like a kid looking to leave a candy store with a fist full of goodies, I looked up at my parents, my eyes asking for permission to leave them behind while the two of us did a little exploring.

They of course let us go, and we promised them we should be back in less than an hour.  30 minutes up and 30 minutes back right?  And so Matt and I quickly ran away while we left my parents behind in the car. Don’t worry, we left the windows cracked for them.

base of Cathedral Rock, Sedona

overlooking Sedona, Arizona

Sedona ArizonaAlthough we had been experiencing some blustery conditions at breakfast and I had been very happy to have on my jeans and fleece, they were quickly becoming unnecessary as we just as quickly began passing people at the base of the rock.  Because I somewhat expected this I had left my fleece behind, having traded it for a cardigan, but even that was tucked away in a little bag and my jeans were already starting to glue themselves to my leg.

Passing people left and right, we scampered up the red rocks, trying to keep to our timelines so my parents wouldn’t worry and call the rangers on us once our 60 minutes were up.  Or least, that was my excuse for rushing.  Matt just likes running up mountains.  We did stop every now and then to take in the views as well as a few photos.

Although the climb didn’t seem hard, it was becoming never ending.  What I thought was the top of the trail only led to more trail heads off to the side and more climbing.  Just when I was sure that we’d already been up there for nearly an hour and would have to run back down now, a few couples passed us on their decent and not only let us know that we were so close to getting to the top, but the views were absolutely worth the effort to keep going.  Luckily they were telling the truth that it really was only a few more minutes of climbing, and also, the views were definitely worth the effort.

At the top we were greeted with a cliff that had a small walkway wedged out over a fairly sheer drop, and views of the valley from the opposite side of the rock we had come up. The popular thing to do was have your photo taken at the edge of the cliff, and because that’s what everyone seemed to be coming up for, we had to wait in line a few minutes before I was able to make my way over for my own photo shoot.

top of Cathedral RockTop of Cathedral Rock

cliff atop Cathedral Rock

Taking in a few more side trails before we made our way back down, we were once again a little bummed that we didn’t have a full afternoon to devote to our climb here.  I really should do my research better.  Given my parents a free pass to go out and enjoy a winery without me, and pick Matt and I up a few hours later, instead of making them sit at the base and wait for us.

Grudgingly making our way down, we were also making up for lost time by basically skipping and jumping the entire way.  Most people will tell you that the most difficult part of a climb is the descent (and we found that to be true at Machu Picchu), but in this case it was incredibly easy.  Even grace-challenged moi was able to jump and leap without any fear of tumbling down the face of a mountain.  Although there were one or two areas I was forced to do a butt crawl because of the steep angles of the rock and improper footing.

What seemed like 10 minutes later we were back and the bottom and taking the trail to the parking lot, searching for my parents and hoping they weren’t worried like crazy.  Turns out they were just fine without us.  They had taken a nice little walking trail at the bottom for 45 minutes or so, and then went back the car to enjoy a few drinks while using their binnocculars to watch us and others make their way up and down.  They had no worries about us at all.

top of Cathedral Rock trail

balancing rock, Sedona

coming down Cathedral Rock

And although we never made it to Devil’s Bridge where it would have looked like I was teetering on top of the earth, I think I ended up with my Instagram worthy photo anyway.

Throwback Thursday: Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

While we absolutely loved our time in Maderia, mostly just wandering the streets of Funchal, we knew we eventually needed to make our way south to the Canary Islands where we would prepare to once again cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. As much as I could have wandered the back alleys of Funchal, gazing upon their elaborately decorated doors, or any other of their quaintly European sights, we were also eager to get back to a spot at anchor and where cruise ship passengers weren’t passing by our cockpit and trying to stare at us through our companionway each evening.

It would take us approximately three days to sail from Madeira to the nearest Canary Island, Isla Graciosa, and after a few days of nasty weather and swells that were threatening the marina we were stationed at, there was finally a break in the strong wind and waves to get moving again. Having a calm and pleasurable passage, we made our way from the outlying Portuguese Islands to a new set of Spanish ones.  Three days later with our hook sunk into the sand for it’s first time in three months, we were in love with being on the hook again.

A small and mostly uninhabited island, it was quite a change from the metropolis we’d just come from, but a few days of peace and quiet with sandy beaches and beautiful waters were just what the doctor ordered.

Monday October 27, 2014

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canaries

I am in love with being at anchor again, what a wonderful feeling. This has sorely been missing from our lives for the past few months. Although we were happy to have our dose of civilization and conveniences, there’s still nothing that beats a few days of seclusion with beautiful surroundings.

There wasn’t much that we did after arriving on Saturday, even though we came in first thing in the morning. Any time after an overnight passage it usually takes us a little time to recover from the loss of sleep, and honestly, we weren’t ready to get out of the lazy habit of doing nothing all day just like we had while sailing. Even dinner was just a pizza heated up in the oven as I couldn’t motivate myself to do much more than that.

Yesterday was a bit more of a productive day and it started in the middle of the night when the winds picked up and shifted to the south where we were fully exposed. We had heard that southerlies were a big thing to watch out for in the Canaries as a lot of anchorages are exposed in that light, as well as the southerlies being quite powerful. Since our Weather Fax hasn’t been picking up a great signal this side of the pond we had even hailed a cruise ship a day outside of Lanzarote to get a forecast and specifically asked if any winds from the south were coming up in the next few days, in which we were told no. Come 2 am though and our whole anchorage was full of boats bouncing all over the place. Matt even took it upon himself at 3 am to jump in the dinghy and shuttle out to a neighboring boat that had dragged out toward the channel to make them aware of the situation and see if they needed help. I think they had just woken when he got there and thanked him for coming over, but since their anchor seemed to have caught again they didn’t want to go through the hassle of re-anchoring in the middle of the night.

The winds did not die down through the night and when the sun rose at 7am you could see cockpits full of people monitoring the conditions and making sure they were not moving anywhere themselves. I brewed a few cups of coffee for the two of us, and poor Matt who’d barley gotten any sleep through the night was sent down to get some rest, although it didn’t take and he was quickly back in the cockpit with me. In the late morning and early afternoon the winds began to shift a bit more to the east and calmed down just a little bit which allowed everyone to relax and resume normal cruising life. For us this meant getting our suits on and heading over to the beach for a day of sun and relaxing.

We’d heard through the grapevine that Spain has some nude and topless beaches, but we assumed they were in designated areas, and nothing prepared us for when we landed our dinghy on the picturesque beach here in Playa Francesa to find a couple laying out on the sand completely nude. They probably couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from us and it was one of those situations where you do everything to advert your eyes from that direction because you don’t know the protocol, and even glancing down the beach to take in the surrounding sights seems like peeping. We made sure to set up our sport-a-seats well down the beach as not to run into this issue all afternoon.

The next few hours on the beach were great and it felt so nice to get back into these elements after being forced into marinas for the past three months where there were no suitable sandy beaches nearby. Sandwiches were enjoyed, cold beers were sipped, and we slowly went back from pasty white to something resembling a little color (after slathering ourselves in SPF 30, of course). We did just a little bit of wandering around the beach, climbed the hill for some magnificent views, and waded in the water to find out it was much cooler than one would expect for such a lower lattitude. Matt had wanted to come back out later with our snorkel gear to check out some of the small reefs in here, but I’m not even sure I could spend 10 minutes in that water. Wow, I must be becoming very babied with the tropical waters I’ve become accustomed to over the past few years if I can’t spend much time in waters comparable to those I grew up with in Lake Michigan.

We did have a nice surprise waiting for us in the afternoon too. I should say, the surprise came earlier in the day, we just weren’t able to enjoy it until later. Just after we had showered in the morning and were getting ready to head out to the beach we saw a dinghy that was going from boat to boat and eventually made it’s way toward us. It ended up being a father and son from the boat Matt had visited in the middle of the night, and they were going around the anchorage trying to find out who had come out to them to let them know they had dragged out into the channel. When the man first pulled up he asked Matt, “We’re you the one that was on my boat last night?”. Matt, thinking this man was assuming someone had unlawfully boarded their boat in the middle of the night and this might lead to a big argument replied, “No, no, I wasn’t on your boat, but I did come up to it to see if you were ok”. Well it turns out this guy wasn’t looking to pick a fight at all, he just wanted to find and thank the person that had come out to check on them.

Even better, once he found this person he wanted to thank them with a bottle of champagne. Ummm, what? Champagne? Matt kept trying to turn him down saying that he was happy to have helped in any way he could, but the champagne was absolutely unnecessary. Which it was. But then again….free champagne. Luckily this guy would not take no for an answer. After thanking us a few more times in broken English (having a native tongue of French), him and his son were off again and we had a nice drink to chill and enjoy that evening. And boy did we.

Where we’re anchored in Playa Francesca there are stunning views of the cliffs of Lanzarote across the El Stretcho. With a bit more of luck on our side we had the sun setting behind us and lighting up these cliffs with orange and red hues as if they were on fire. Opening the champagne to enjoy with these fine views we soon realized we had no way to close the bottle back up and it would all have to be drank in one sitting. And since Matt isn’t very into champagne unless it’s incredibly sweet, a good portion of that job fell onto me. Not that you’d find me complaining, but it did make it a little harder to become productive once the bottle ran dry. My intended dinner of a KFC chicken bowl quickly turned into a pre-cooked pizza in the oven. Oh well. C’est la vie. When life gives you champagne, you drink that sh*t.

Matt at bow

Matt at beach

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

10.27.14 (4)

champagne dinner

sunset over Lanzarote

Bikini Girls’ Deni Kirkova wins at Miss Galaxy Universe 2016!

Deni Kirkova on stage at Miss Galaxy Universe - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Having a body that’s in good enough shape to win Miss Galaxy Universe is a dream many women may have. But how difficult is it?


Vicky and I gave ourselves just 20 weeks to get into the shape of our lives before entering a prestigious fitness competition – the Miss Galaxy Universe European Championships 2016.

As well as five training sessions a week, we led a vegan diet, eating tofu, pulses, quinoa and oats and banning all meat and animal products.

I lost 20lbs, going from 10st to 8st 9lbs and taking four inches off my waist – and came away with first place in the Beach Body category at the O2 in London on July 16.

Deni Kirkova wins on stage at Miss Galaxy Universe - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)


I was by no standard overweight. But going from a regular-sized woman who works out when she wants and eats what she likes, to the discipline needed to become a ripped bikini competitor seemed daunting at first.

I wasn’t focused on winning, but just on working really hard to get results – so the fact that I did win was a huge shock; you could see it on my face!

Once I was on board, I had to commit 100 per cent to competing in Miss Galaxy and having Vicky on board with me helped keep me focused.

Deni before and after - Bikini Girls Diary (by Deni Kirkova)

Deni before and after – Bikini Girls Diary (by Deni Kirkova)

Deni before and after back - Bikini Girls Diary (by Deni Kirkova)

Deni before and after back – Bikini Girls Diary (by Deni Kirkova)

I was especially glad to be taking on this challenge as a vegan – which some people might think can be a disadvantage.

Our coach Lee Constantinou from certainly believed that but after seeing my progress, transformation and energy levels as the months passed, he would now beg to differ.

But entering Miss Galaxy Universe – founded by former World powerboat champion and four times World fitness champion, Sarah Donohue – is about more than just parading in a skimpy bikini on stage.

Fitness shows – as opposed to classic ‘Arnie’ bodybuilding competitions – factor in presentation and poise to the judging criteria. Hair, tan and make-up are all crucial elements as well as performing a ‘T walk’ which involves a minute of carefully choreographed posing around a ‘T shape’ on stage.

The thing that sets Miss Galaxy Universe apart from all other fitness competition federations is the Cybex fitness tests themselves.

Contestants are put through their paces doing sprints, squats, bench press, pull ups and more to be bale to compete for title of Supreme Champion – which could earn them a £1,000 prize.
The fitness tests allow the judges to see how fit the girls really are – as opposed to how fit they look.

Sarah Donohue says: ‘The fitness tests are great for female bonding and camaraderie. They are tough but fun and the girls are very supportive of each other which is rare in pageants, but we encourage team spirit.’

Danielle Martin, who has previously won first place Beach Body in the 35+ category as well as three other titles, said that competing in the contest gave her back her ‘mojo and zest’ as well as a whole new ‘family’.

Beach Body top 5 - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Beach Body top 5 – Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

She said: ‘Anyone thinking of competing should hold their nerve and jump in with both feet because the best thing a woman can every do is to fall in love with herself and Miss Galaxy Universe did that for me.’

With that ringing endorsement I began my journey.

Lee and helped fine-tune my figure but as much as my body got me that trophy, it was also down to my posing coaching Lisa Welham and incredible bespoke Amethyst bikini by Allure Couture – not to mention the array of tanning, hair extensions, fake lashes and our vertiginous platform Pleaser heels from Show Shoe Me.

Whatever was about to happen, we were both extremely proud that they had made it this far. Our bodies were toned, we’d practised our walks and even had sparkly dresses from Motel Rocks for the dress round.

During the day itself, we ate just 1,000 calories, knowing we had to be on stage at 7pm. We stuck to tofu, rice cakes, sweet potato and asparagus and while we were allotted 500ml of water, I cheated and had more as it was a hot day.

Showing off her hard work - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Showing off her hard work – Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Then, it was showtime.

We were about to be judged first and foremost on our figures, natural beauty and skin tone, as well as our stage presence, our body conditioning and overall package and presentation.

The Beach Body category took about 10 to 15 minutes as each of us performed our walks. And as I did mine, the judges – including Alex Reid, powerboat champion Miles Jennings, Gladiator star Mike Lewis – were told that I was an ethical vegan.

I was happy and confident and up there on stage. I could hear screaming and applause but thankfully the lights shining in my eyes meant I couldn’t see the audience.

As they read out the top five, they got down to second place and I began to think, “Oh well, nevermind, it’s no big deal and good for the winner.”

But then they got to number one and called out my name. Saying I was shocked, barely covers it. I was stunned to have come first. When they put the medal around my neck I couldn’t help but jump up and down.

Deni finds out she won - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Deni finds out she won – Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)


I later found out Miles Jennings’ reason for choosing me. He said: “When Deni came on stage it was a bubbly little ray of sunshine with perfect skin, a radiant smile, beautiful hair and nicely toned and tanned figure. She was exactly the kind of girl you expect to see stepping off the beach at Club 55 in St Tropez but would rather hope she would frequent the beaches of Brighton and Bournemouth.”

I never thought I’d enter a bikini competition but now that I have, I definitely plan to do more. I would recommend it to anyone looking to transform their body and take on a new challenge.

I’m now 55kg but I don’t feel I’m wasting away, I feel very healthy. My new diet and training is sustainable and I now have gained some life long tools. You don’t just go through something like this and forget it afterwards.

Deni strikes a pose - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Deni strikes a pose – Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

During my competition prep I’ve earned a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification from NASM UK meaning I can train people in the UK, US and worldwide. I want to help and inspire others to achieve their health and body dreams – on a vegan diet.

I went vegan a year ago after having an epiphany that we don’t need to and shouldn’t hurt animals for food, beauty or clothes and I’ve never felt so good, mentally and physically.

This is all I want – to inspire other to follow my lead, and to help others find health and happiness.

I also wouldn’t mind doing a few more of these fitness competitions!

I did feel like a stage princess and it’s something I never thought I’d do. I have Vicky to thank for taking my hand on this journey with her.


Allure Couture: The ONLY place to get your bespoke stage bikini

Bikini Girls Diary Vicky and Deni wearing Allure Couture bespoke bikinis for Miss Galaxy Universe

Bikini Girls Diary Vicky and Deni wearing Allure Couture bespoke bikinis for Miss Galaxy Universe

For Miss Galaxy Universe, we needed the very best bikinis to truly shine on stage. So we went to Allure Couture.


We headed to Basingstoke to meet with Lucy Ashworth who would design bespoke styles that would suit and match our bodies, likes and personalities.

Here’s how she did it.



Athena - Bikini Girls Diary Allure Couture

Athena – Bikini Girls Diary (Allure Couture)

Lucy says: ‘Deni is a lady of presence. She radiates warmth and easily commands your attention with just a glint in her eye and a nod in your direction.

‘Her bikini design needed to mirror that. We both have a shared passion for purple and silver together but i wanted to give her something really special.

‘Given our shared love for crystals, I chose amethyst due to it’s rich and heavy purple tones which state luxury. I blended this with Swarovski crystals to ensure that the lights on stage capture their shine and sparkle in epic proportions.

‘This bikini was made with love and I finished the design with handcrafted beadwork draped delicately on her back, finished with and silver charms.’

Deni strikes a pose - Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)

Deni strikes a pose – Bikini Girls Diary (by Lowell M. / Galaxy Universe Organisation)


Little Princess - Bikini Girls Diary Allure Couture

Little Princess – Bikini Girls Diary (Allure Couture)

Little Princess Bikini Girls Diary Allure Couture

Little Princess Bikini Girls Diary Allure Couture

Lucy says: ‘This was the nickname I gave Vicky because when you meet her she is like a little princess from well loved storybooks. In fact she should actually be a Disney princess. ‘It became the theme of her bikini.

‘We chose a white base together with hints of pink. I wanted to create something really different for Vicky, so on one side of her design she has movement with delicate silver chains, while on the other side there is a perfect little butterfly and flowers.

‘To add the light touch of pink, I brought in rose quartz, the crystal for love and teamed that up with Swarovski crystals.

‘The blend of the two crystals along with the movement of the delicate chain meant that this would really shine on stage. I finalised the design with handcraft beadwork and silver charms with my signatory heart #MadeWithLove.’


Lucy Ashworth rocking her designs - Bikini Girls Diary / Allure Couture

Lucy Ashworth rocking her designs – Bikini Girls Diary / Allure Couture