Tears of a Mermaid

We’re always on the lookout for individuals who are doing something they love to do – especially if it involves something tropical. That’s why we were thrilled when William Torrillo – the amazing photographer who we interviewed for our “Through the Eyes of a Tropical Soul” article told us about Elizabeth. William suggested that we check out Elizabeth’s sea glass jewelry and we’re glad we did! Elizabeth had long enjoyed collecting sea glass during walks on the beach with her daughters and recently began making jewelry from the glass they have found. We asked if we could interview her and this is what we found out:

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? I have lived in Maryland all my life and I’m 32 years old. I’ve lived in Calvert County for about 22 years. We are a water oriented area, known for crabbing and our ginormous Rock Fish! We are surrounded by water here on 3 sides. The Chesapeake Bay to our East and the Patuxent River to West, The Patuxent spills into the Bay at the southern tip of the county. We are a family of Beach Bums for sure and at home in Maryland we lived about 5 blocks from the Bay and our Beach House is in the Outer Bank of North Carolina where we spend most of our summers.

2. What made you decide to start making your own jewelry? I am a stay-at-home Mom of 3 Daughters 10, 7 and 4. I’ve been home about 5 years and my collection of sea glass was getting out of hand. So, my Hubby suggested we try to wire wrap a few pieces and see what happens. 3. Why sea glass? 3 years ago I found my first piece of Cobalt which is not easy to find. I found it on a girls weekend trip to our beach house and you’d have thought I had found a million dollars!! I immediately took it to a bead shop and had it made into a necklace. Everywhere I go to this day I’m complimented on how gorgeous my necklace is…  After years of finding tons of glass and a friend sharing her secret beach for amazing glass, we decided to give the jewelry making a try!

4. Where do you find your sea glass? The majority of my sea glass is from a place my girls and I call “Our Secret Beach”.  We find gorgeous colors there, aquas, lavenders, and cobalts, as well as the more common colors like greens, browns and whites.

5. What are the challenges of using sea glass? What are the benefits? My only challenge so far has been the earrings. Finding two pieces that are somewhat similar in shape is not an easy task! The benefit is that I have plenty of glass!! HA!

6. Where do you sell your jewelry? We showed the pieces my Hubby and I created to some friends and got an overwhelming response so I decided to open a shop on Etsy.com.  I chose the name Mermaids Jewelry Box because of the old folk lore that says that pieces of Sea Glass are Mermaid’s Tears. 7. Has this been a good career change, choice or path for you? I’m not really looking to make a career, my Hubby and I enjoy sitting together and wrapping the glass. It’s more of a passion that I wanted to share with others that may not have access to it like we do.

8. Is there anything else we should know about you or your business? I never use artificially made sea glass. I use pieces from my own collection. For some reason “Our Secret Beach” keeps us well stocked. I don’t have much luck finding glass in the Outer Banks, only random pieces here and there.

Oh, and I don’t know if I mentioned it or not but the little girl in the picture is my youngest daughter Haley. She’s a Sea Glass Mermaid also! She knows all about it… She’s my Sea Glass Buddy, we go hunt for glass when her older sisters are at school!
And yes, after checking out Elizabeth’s Etsy shop, I had to get a Mermaid Tear of my own (see pic above!) Be sure to check out the Mermaid’s Jewelry Box and see if there’s a piece calling your name too.

Other posts on Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession:

4242 Miles to St. Lucia – The Boiled Frog Guesthouse – Danielle and Steve Unruh

Searching for Pieces of Eight – Thomas Gidus

Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge, Kailua Kona, Hawaii – Brice Ginardi

Vessels of Freedom – Captain Darrel Hearne

Through the Eyes of a Tropical Soul – William Anthony Torrillo, Photographer

A Pirate Looks at 10 – Fletcher Morton, Trop Rock Musician

I’m Gonna Live My Life Like a Jimmy Buffet Song by Anthony Bjorklund (book review)

Railean Distillers – San Leon, Texas, Kelly Railean

Vessels of Freedom

Boats, vessels of freedom, harbors of healing… lyrics by Kenny Chesney

About a year and a half ago, we sailed on a crewed charter in the BVI’s. It was our second sail in the BVI’s, but by far the best. One of the things that made this such an incredible trip was the captain of our Lagoon 440 – the Red Stiletto. We were a bit of a rowdy crowd of 6 – we thought, but he had us sized up after our initial introduction and really tailored the trip to match our personalities and interests. By the end of the trip we felt that we’d won the captain lottery…

photo: rumtherapy.com

Darrel Hearne was his name and we could tell immediately by his wonderful accent that he hailed from somewhere other than where we were. As the week went on, we learned a little about his story and how he had made his way to the BVI’s. We recently contacted him to ask if we could interview him for our “Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession” series, and this is what we found out.

Give us a little background on what you did pre-BVI’s.
Well, I was in a very similar line of work before I came here – I was an accountant living 500 miles from the nearest ocean, so I guess it was sort of a natural progression for me.  Ok, maybe not.  I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, which lies in the center of the country and nowhere near an ocean.  My family were not boaters at all … in fact, up until the day that I quit my job and went to sailing school, I had never actually set foot on a sailboat in my life.  I did the usual thing … finished school, studied, had a proper job and wore the suit and tie of shame.  I did the daily commute to my office, where I lived behind a computer and did mundane things.  Thing is, I couldn’t see myself being an office lemming for the rest of my life.  It just wasn’t me.  I’m not really sure where the idea of moving to the Caribbean and becoming a sailor came from, but somehow it took root, and was something that I talked about for years.  One day, when I was 33, I realized that if I didn’t go then, then in a few years time making sweeping life changes like that would be so much harder, and it would be too late.  So I quit my job and went to sailing school, got on a plane and flew to the islands.  Easy as that.

What brought you to the BVI’s? How long have you been there?
It was a Boeing that brought me here.  747-700, I think.  Ah – you mean for what reason?  Well, I wanted to come to the Caribbean to develop a career as a sailor.  I actually didn’t do much research into the BVI’s before I came here – more like I closed my eyes and pointed randomly at a map of the Caribbean, and said ‘Hmmm – BVI’s.  That sounds interesting’.  Actually, I had heard that there were a lot of boats here, which was good enough for me.  I came over here to get a feel for it, and to finish my dive master course, and ended up never leaving.  It’s been six years now, and I do love it here.

What is your current position?
I have moved over to the dark side, and currently work on a power boat.  Yes, I know.  I sold out.  I spent five years on sailboats, but the career progression tends to be to bigger boats … which means, at some stage, power boats, especially if you’re a single guy – sailboats tend to employ crew couples.  Actually, she’s a beautiful boat, and I do enjoy her very much.  She’s a 74-foot Horizon called Viaggio, that runs term charters for a company called Virgin Traders (isn’t that a great name?) out of Nanny Cay.  It’s an interesting boat to run, because she’s big enough to have the big boat feel and systems, but small enough that we only run three crew, and I get to do all the mechanical maintenance and repairs, which is fun, and invaluable experience.  She’s also a very, very pretty boat, so that’s always good for meeting girls at bars.  ‘What do I do?  Well, I captain that boat over there…’ (points to the cool boat that everyone notices).  ‘Really?’, she says, her eyes widening with interest as she sidles closer ‘Tell me more…’.  Ah, it is an interesting life I lead.

 photo: SailDiveBVI

What do you like better about what you do and where you live now?
You know, I try to explain my life to old friends from back home, but it’s just too much of a gap to be able to put into words.  The whole lifestyle here is just so different.  I grew up in a very conservative community, and I’ve found that I’ve needed to re-evaluate all of my pre-conceived ideas and values, living here.  It really is an alternative reality.  Don’t get me wrong – at the end of the day, my job is just a job, and people here are just people.  I think the thing I like most here is that I’ve been exposed to so much.  I meet so many people from so many different walks of life… get to live their lives a week at a time.  I’ve done charters with porn stars and swingers and captains of industry and even a US assistant attorney-general.  It really opens your eyes and shows you how vast and varied this world is, and how little we actually know.  Well, that, and it’s perfectly acceptable to go to a bar and drink a beer or two at ten in the morning.  And of course there’s all those girls in bikinis.  I remember feeling, back when I used to live behind my computer in my little office, that I was the only crazy one amongst all the sane responsible people.  Coming here, to me, has felt like I’ve finally come home.

What other interests do you have?
Hmm.  Interests.  Let’s see now … there must be something … hmm.  I will say that diversity in social activities and options on island is sadly lacking.  It’s a small island, and the culture is very much a hanging-out-in-bars culture.  You’re bound to meet the same people in the same bars, night after night.  Add that to the fact that as a charter captain, you’re off island for half of your time, and have to put your social life on hold for that time, and it tends to constrict your recreational options.  I do some photography, which I enjoy, and I absolutely love kiteboarding, so when the wind is blowing and I’m not working, that’s usually what I’m doing.  Oh, and playing with my daughter, of course.  She’s two, and a little hooligan sunbeam.  So that’s fun. She’s my happy place.

What advice do you have for someone that really wants to make a change in their profession and/or location?
I remember when I was leaving my company back in South Africa, people would hear about what I was doing and where I was going, and tell me how brave they thought I was.  and I always thought ‘Wow – really?  I’m going sailing in the Caribbean – you’re the one who’s going to be stuck behind that desk for the next twenty years.  Who’s the brave one?’.  I would say, if you really want to do it, then just do it.  Be warned, though – it’s not always the idyllic dream that everyone thinks it is.  I mean, it’s beautiful down here, and I have a great job and get to sail the islands for a living.  At the end of the day, though, it’s just a job.  And there are aspects of it that you are not going to like.  Once you get past the scenery, real life down here is much the same as real life elsewhere.  I would say come and try it out and spend some time here first.  Chat to some of the people who have been here a long time.  There’s a reason that a lot of people come here for two or three years and then leave – it’s not for everyone.  There is a trade-off – what you gain in beaches and vistas, you lose in things like being able to actually have shops to buy nice things, or being able to get a Big Mac, or any of the other accoutrement’s of civilization.  I always tell people that they need to drink a beer, relax, and lower their expectations when they come here.  It’s the islands.  Things work differently here.  Not everyone can adjust to that.  If you can, though, then it absolutely is worth it.  If you plan to work on boats, get your qualification levels up to par, and try to add in some extras … a professional diving qualification is very useful, and there is a trend these days towards eco-tourism, so some skills and knowledge in that side of the business can be helpful.  Above all, pack light, and bring a spare liver.  You’re going to need it.  Sailing (ok, pushing the throttle forward) is only 5% of the job.  The real job is socialising and entertaining, which means taking people to lots of bars.  It’s a tough job, but I do it to the best of my ability.

Who were your favorite guests of all time – oh, never mind, we know the answer to that one :)
Ha.  Well now.  I have had a lot of fun charters.  And I do have a lot of stories to tell.  It’s funny – it’s the fun charters that are the hard ones.  The ones with the people who want to relax, and don’t really want to socialise are easy.  Tuck them into bed at 9:30 after a nice glass of warm milk.  It’s the ones where you get on with them like a house on fire and you stay up drinking with them and partying and being silly till three every night and then have to be up again at 7:30 the next morning to move the boat that kill you.  Still.  I shall tell you what I tell all my guests:  yes, of course you were my favourite charter of all time.

Anything else we should know?
Well, let’s see:  did you know that ‘Woman Hitler’ is an anagram for ‘mother-in-law’?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?  Other than that, not much to tell, really.  I will mention a fact that is well-known in the industry but little-known outside of it: working on boats is very tough on relationships.  Many many crew couples come here together and then split up – it’s being in close quarters 24/7, and never being alone that does it.  If you’re thinking about this kind of life as a couple, sit down and talk carefully about it.  Set some rules.  It’s very easy to lose sight of your focus down here.  It’s possible to get it right, and many couples do, and have been working in the industry for years.  You just need to be aware of the dangers.  That’s about it.  See you in the big blue yonder.

photo: SailDiveBVI

So there you have it; a very honest and candid look at living and working in the islands. If you are interested in a crewed powerboat charter, we’d highly recommend a week with Captain Darrel. Contact Virgin Traders to check on the availability of the Viaggio. You’ll feel as if you’d won the captain lottery too – oh, and don’t forget to bring that spare liver – you’ll need it!

Find other posts in the Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession Series

Through the Eyes of a Tropical Soul

We first heard of William Torrillo when he”liked” the Rum Therapy Facebook page as Old Mango. We instantly went to check and see the Old Mango page and immediately “liked” him back. There before us were stunning pictures of some of our favorite islands in the Caribbean – I mean stunning…  The pictures make you feel like you are right there – the colors, the clarity – you can almost smell the sea breeze. He sees things through the eyes of a tropical soul.

We’ve been in touch back and forth though Facebook pages – us admiring his beautiful photographs and he commenting on all things rum and even occasionally complimenting  our photos! He mentioned a few months back that he was hoping to move to the islands in the near future and his dream of doing so is actually taking place today! We asked him last week if we could interview him for our “Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession” series and he obliged. This is what we found out about William Torrillo – Photographer.
William in a jungle in Columbia

Tell us a little about your photography career. 
I have always loved photography and have been shooting since I was 10 years old. I remember taking a summer course in middle school back in Virginia. We learned how to develop film, various shooting techniques, and even built a pin hole camera (in which I still have to this day, and it works!)
I shot freelance in Miami Beach for about 4-5 years, while I was attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. I graduated and decided life as a chef wasn’t for me, so I continued with photography at Sea Island Resorts, in Southern Georgia. I was staff photographer there for 4 1/2 years before making the decision to move to the Virgin Islands full time.

I’ve noticed that many of the photographs you post are from the VI’s and BVI’s – have you traveled there a lot? What is it about that area that attracts you?
There is something about the sea that relaxes me, and I’ve been all over the world, but something about the people, culture, and arts of the VI makes me feel at home. The colors of the water meeting the sky is just breath taking and I truly never get tired of living those moments. The 1st time I visited the Islands was in Long Bay Beach, Tortola. It really opened my eyes to the Caribbean, and that’s what started my photo journey.

You’re making a big move this week. Have you been planning this move for a while?
One day on the ferry back from Jost van Dyke, I looked back as the sun was setting and said to myself, I don’t like leaving here..I need to make it my home. Ever since then, I have been saving every penny and shooting extra gigs to help pay for my move to St. Thomas (Took about 3 years..)

What will you be photographing from your new home base?
I decided that being on the East End of St. Thomas would be best, because it would save money on ferry rides to the BVI, and it a little less crowded. My studio will offer photographic and design services such as weddings, real estate, lifestyle, resorts, etc…and also graphic design and web design.

What are some of your other interests?
Being a trained chef, cooking is my greatest passion..besides photography. I love to travel and stop at local markets, meet locals and talk about food, try some new recipes. Anything with mango, coconut, dark rum, and fresh fish are my favorites. Also, love sports, especially football and soccer…can’t wait for the next FIFA World Cup, go USA!

What are your dreams for the future?
Have a successful studio in the USVI, travel the islands and show the world how beautiful it is thru my lens. My art and photography have brought so many great friends into my life, so I am thankful for that, and I hope to make some more.

Do you have a hint for us amateur photographers on how to take better vacation pictures?
Shoot what makes you happy, you can see it in the photos you take. Photography is like cooking, lots of different ways to make the same dish. So ask questions, learn from others, and read the manual! The technical aspect isn’t as important in my opinion, just read about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO…and the subject doesnt always have to be in the center of a photo. Try something different every now and then.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am in the process of writing a BVI travel guide, Old Mango Guide to the Islands. I’m about 2 years into it right now, and hopefully will find a publisher in the near future. The guide I am writing is focused on the everyday tourtist with a budget most of us can afford. I interview chefs, bar owners, ferry boat captians, locals and tourists and try to bring a side of the BVI not seen before, and of course, covered with beautiful photos! I don’t think I will be doing a write up on Necker Island, but if Sir Branson calls, ill make an exception!

You mentioned to me that you’ll be traveling pretty light to St. Thomas, care to elaborate?
As a photographer I like to travel as light as possible. The more comfortable I am, the better the photos will be..most of the time! So when I decided to move from Georgia to the Virgin Islands, I sold my car, gave away most of my clothes, and lived lightly. I was fortunate enough to find a furnished condo in St. Thomas, so I will be bringing just one suitcase of clothing, some local Georgia BBQ sauce, and my camera!

Be sure to check out William’s Old Mango Facebook Page and the Old Mango website for regular picture posts (sometimes in wallpaper resolution!) that will have you longing for your next island vacation. He’s just purchased a new 1080p HD video camera – so I’m sure we’ll see some amazing new island videos in the near future too. Enjoy your new home in St. Thomas Old Mango – we’ll look forward to seeing the beauty of the area through your eyes…

I’m Gonna Live My Life Like a Jimmy Buffet Song

A while back, I found a page on Facebook called the I’m Gonna Live My Life Like a Jimmy Buffet Song – Book Page. With a name like that I had to check it out.  From what I could detect, the page owner had witten a book about a guy named Jack Danielson who decided to chuck his successful, albeit mundane and unhappy life in Minnesota and make a huge change. The story chronicled his adventures as he discovered what his life was truly about. I was intrigued and ordered the book through Amazon.

The day I got the book in the mail I only had time to read the prologue but knew just from those few pages it was going to be an enjoyable read. When I finally got to sit down on the deck, grab a glass of rum  and do some serious reading, I had a hard time putting it down.

The author of the book, Anthony Bjorklund, has an easy, relatable and quite humorous style. At times it felt as if he were telling this story to a bunch of folks while hanging out in some bar in the Caribbean enjoying a few rum drinks. It reads a bit as if he were just sitting there chatting it up with you!

From the description of Ronald Strickland, the boss who made me miserable just reading about him, to Anthony’s colorful description of why tropical shirts are so popular in party places, Anthony’s characters and analogies drew me in. Never preachy and with many laugh out loud moments, it is thought provoking and makes you reflect on truly slowing down and savoring the many good things in life.

An added bonus at the end, Anthony has, as he titled it, “A Very Short and Unnofficial Guide to Key West”. This section includes some interesting information about Key West as well as a description of some of his favorite bars, eateries and things to do and see. This guide would have been quite useful during our first visit to Key West last year as unfortunately we missed several of  the attractions listed. Guess that’s a good enough reason to go back!

Whether you’re a Jimmy Buffet fan, love the tropical lifestyle, or would just like to read a light and funny book that makes you feel good, you’ll enjoy “I’m Gonna Live My Life Like a Jimmy Buffet Song”. Might even make you think about what song you want to live your life like!

The book is available from Amazon and is also available for Kindle. Click the link below for more information.

I’m Gonna Live My Life Like a Jimmy Buffett Song: A story Tribute to Jimmy Buffett and the Parrothead Lifestyle