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Monsters Be There… The Kraken

The YO-44 (aka “Kodiak Queen”) was scheduled to be sliced up like ceviche in a scrapyard, a most inauspicious end for one of just five surviving ships from Pearl Harbor. The idea was formed to sink the Kodiak Queen as a way of spurring the rebirth of a reef off of the coast of Virgin Gorda in the Virgin Islands.

But the ship that didn’t sink during the attack on Pearl Harbor needed a more heroic end than just having a few holes drilled in its haul and flooded with water. A ship with such a storied past could only be brought down to the deep by a beast of mythical origin, the fabled octopus-like Kraken said to drag sailors, ships and virgin sacrifices into the deep.

As far as we can tell there isn’t a Kraken living off of Virgin Gorda (unless you ask my wife and she’ll swear she was attacked by one). However, we did see a latticework in the shape of the mythical creature affixed to the hull of the sunken Kodiak Queen. The framework is designed to attract and promote the growth of coral. The ship was sunk in April 2017 and has been available to dive since June. Sculptures like this one act as coral platforms and provide optimal feeding grounds for species like the goliath grouper.

Artist’s Rendering, courtesy BVI Art Reef

The site is truly amazing even if you are only snorkeling. You can look 57 feet down through the relatively clear water and see the ship on the ocean floor. You can follow it from bow to stern where you will see the great Kraken wrapped around the hull and the beginnings of coral growth. Amanda and I quickly agreed that we need to go back and dive the site in a few years when the growth has a real chance to take hold. The site is a must-see if you’re visiting Virgin Gorda. We also found that the local dive shops that dive the site donate a small portion of the fee to the project to help fund the planting of coral and environmental studies. If you dive the site on your own you can donate through the BVI Art Reef website.

*The debris you see is life. It’s very small, but it’s amazing.


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Back in Service

We got in late last night from our sailing adventure. We had an amazing time. The trip did have a few snags but nothing overwhelming. We had intended on posting from the sailboat last Sunday but really only had connectivity yesterday. We’ve got quite a bit to tell you about sailing and the current state of the Virgin Islands after hurricanes Irma and Maria. We’ll start those posts next week.

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Sailing and Studying

Study. Study. Study.  I will openly admit that my academic life was not a stellar one. I, like most of us, look back at my school career and think “Yeah, I could have done better.” I wasn’t much for studying. I just never felt like focusing on school on my own time. I was far more interested in other things. I was always able to take away enough from the lecture and combine it with my own personal understanding of things to get a passing grade. I truly never had to study in any history or social studies class. I was even pretty safe in science as long as it didn’t have a math component; let’s give a big shout-out for Earth-Space Science! I lay out my academic laziness for all to see for a reason.

We are about to go on a eight-day sailing trip. Amanda will read, drink, swim and relax as we sail around the Virgin Islands and I will be certified to sail. I can sail. I’ve mentioned that before but proving that ability under an eye of an instructor is another story.

Sailing School Materials

I have been reading the American Sailing Association manuals for the last couple of months and taking the tests after each chapter multiple times. A blue marine rope is hanging in my office so I can practice knots in my down time and has led to more than one curious question. I have a box of flashcards in the living room to help me study at night during hockey games. The point I’m making is that I’m taking this seriously because I chose to do it and want to do it well.

I think this concept can be used for anything in your life. I have decided to set a goal and make achieving that goal a priority. You can substitute my sailing goal for a travel goal, an African safari for example. You just have to focus on  making it a priority.  We don’t believe in bucket list here at No Kids, Will Travel, a bucket list is simply a list of things you put off doing. We’re doers, and we can’t wait to do this one!

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Virgin Voyages

We were delighted to hear that a company we respect, Virgin Group, has decided to create a cruise line just for people like us; Virgin Voyages will be an adult by design.  The new cruise line will have one main restriction on its passengers, you must be 18+ to set sail. We, of course, think the concept is long overdue. The thought of being trapped on a large ship in the middle of the ocean with hundreds of children sends shivers down our spines. Virgin Voyages promises to be a place where — even if you’re only childless while on this vacation — you can relax and be rejuvenated by your time at sea.

This ship just got (a lot more) real. So we celebrated the only way we know how. #VirginVoyages #ShipTease #KeelLaying

A post shared by Virgin Voyages (@virginvoyages) on

Virgin founder Richard Branson said, “We basically decided, ‘Let’s have a blank sheet of paper, let’s create the kind of voyage company that we would like to go on,’ and that’s what we’ve done.”

The Virgin Group has always had its own way of doing things and being a socially and environmentally conscious has been one of their steadfast goals. Their dedication to the environment and to mitigating their impact is leading them to break new ground in cruise ship construction. Virgin Voyages has partnered with clean energy start-up Climeon to effectively turn heat waste into energy. The change from traditional design will drastically cut down on CO2 emissions making the ship as ocean-friendly as possible.

You’re ready to hit the high seas right this moment, aren’t you? Well, the boat is still being built and won’t and be ready to sail until 2020. You can, however, put a $500 deposit down that puts you on the presale list giving you first access to book passage when they officially go on sale.

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Caribbean Collaboration

We’ve got some good news for the environment as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the leading organization of the hoteliers and tourism in the Caribbean, and the Diving and Equipment Marketing Association (DEMA), the worldwide trade association for the recreational diving and snorkeling industries, have decided to put environmental awareness in the forefront of their missions.

Amanda diving

The two organizations agreed to collaborate on creating artificial reefs in the region and to partner with organizations working on reef restoration and coral regeneration. They’ve also decided to increase their focus on employment of local populations in both the hotel and dive industry. DEMA is also working with CHTA to promote diving as a year-round activity. The two trade organizations have renewed an effort to find ways to increase communication about hurricanes and other natural disasters’ effects on the industries in the region.

A healthy coral system is very important — and not just to the diving and tourism industries. The reef systems also mean healthy fisheries. Approximately half of all federally managed fisheries depend on coral reefs and related habitats for a portion of their life cycles. The National Marine Fisheries Service, a government agency associated with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estimates the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is over $100 million. The economic impact of thriving reefs on local economies is estimated in the billions of dollars due to diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.

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Dear New York Times

I am the experienced, educated, and adventurous travel writer you are looking for. I love travel, experiencing new places and telling people about them. My wife and I launched this blog more than five years ago as a way to share our experiences with everyone.

I have a simple philosophy on travel: Even when visiting a sun-soaked paradise for a quick stay during a long northeastern winter, don’t spend your time at a resort. You will never get an accurate sense of a place if you don’t visit the places where local life happens.

I penned my first travel journal on a cross-country trip with my family. I’ll admit it wasn’t the greatest prose and at times I was reluctant to write. My second great journal detailed my pilgrimage to Greece to walk in the steps of my parents and grandparents and form a deeper bond with my heritage. I find the journals are a great way to keep my memory honest and not let me gloss over the details — like shivering all night long on a ferry to Crete.

That trip to Greece was more than 20 years ago and I’m pleased to report my writing and I have both matured. I spent most of my professional life as a journalist, starting at a community newspaper, working in college radio, then in small-market and large-market television as a photojournalist. I even published a novel. I became an investor in a vineyard and a sailboat and am working toward earning my amateur sailing certification. I’m also living out a childhood dream: Getting paid to watch cartoons. I’m working for a Japan-based anime blog reviewing shows. And that’s all on the side; the main focus of my professional life is creating educational videos for healthcare staff at a hospital system in western Pennsylvania.

Zeke takes a moment to write about some of his adventures in Tanzania

The need to explore our world has always been a constant calling over these years, leading me to Egypt where I stood under the pyramids and piloted a ferry across the Nile, to Italy where I fell in love with Florence and my wife, to Greece where I strengthened the connections with my roots, to Mexico where I went scuba diving in a cenote and swam among the mangroves, to Canada where I watched hockey and ate poutine, to Tanzania where I slept out on the savannah and listened to the leopards in the trees and the hyenas sniff around our tents at night, to the Bahamas where I ate conch and talked to a cab driver about his journey through addiction and into recovery, and to the US and British Virgin Islands where we explored the little-known beaches and out-of-the-way restaurants and cafés.

The daily grind of a deadline-driven life won’t be new to me. I can visit a place and quickly get a sense of it beyond what’s often seen by tourists. I’m a storyteller and an observer by nature, skills that every photojournalist should have, and can combine engaging prose with photos and videos to deliver a compelling story.

I use social media as a tool for work and even completed a year-long certificate course in social media management. I have wanderlust in my soul and I’m ready to take a year to explore the world and share the experience with your readers on all of your platforms.


Zeke Changuris

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Etelman Observatory, St. Thomas, USVI

A visit to a tropical island to watch the sun set and the stars come out can be quite the romantic night and at the Etelman Observatory you can get a up-close look at those celestial bodies. The Etelman Observatory is located on top of Crown Mountain on the island of St. Thomas in the USVI. The observatory sits at a 1,325-foot elevation and is operated by the University of the Virgin Islands, the College of Charleston, and South Carolina State University. The other-worldly  observation post is kept running by an army of volunteers. The Etelman Observatory is open to the public once a month and gives the visitors the chance to look through their automated Cassegrain Telescope. You may get the chance to take a good look at our moon, Jupiter, a globular cluster and other galaxies.

Etelman Observatory, St. Thomas, USVI

Etelman Observatory, St. Thomas, USVI

The observatory was one of the facilities that  took part in the direct observation of gravitational waves caused by the collision of two neutron stars. A neutron star is the extremely dense core of a long dead giant star and is only about 12 miles in diameter, or as they point out the size of St. Thomas. A spoonful of neutron star would weigh more than the largest cruise ships. The observation of the collision has given great insight into the creation of many elements such as gold and platinum.

We most recently received an update on the observatory from its director, David Morris, about how they fared in the hurricanes.

Etelman Observatory suffered some roof damage to the science center building which has led to new water leaks, but the dome survived and as far as they know, the science instruments are probably ok. They don’t know for certain because they are without power and haven’t been able to test them since the storms. They hope to have power and do a more complete systems check sometime in the next month or so.

In the meanwhile, and until they have regular power restored, they won’t be able to open the observatory to the public. Hopefully they’ll regain power soon and then can go back to their regular open observing events. The meteorologic events won’t stop the astronomy and they will begin holding public outreach astrophysics events on the UVI campus using their new portable planetarium which was recently acquired by a new physics faculty member, Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, through a grant program. The observatory hopes to begin semi-regular planetarium events that will continue on after the observatory is re-opened to the public.

The university, like a lot of the Virgin Islands, needs a little help recovering. If you would like to contribute to their work, donations can be made by check to UVI with a notation that they are designated specifically for the Etelman Observatory (in the check notation line). Send your check to: 2 John Brewers Bay Road, St. Thomas, USVI 00802 C/O David Morris, College of Science and Mathematics.