TIWF: Coboating in the Caribbean

I’m proof that Instagram ads work because an intriguing Instagram ad got my attention and a few months later we ended up on a 65″ Catamaran in the Caribbean.

The ad sounded almost too good to be true… a “pay what you want*” boating trip with high-speed internet! A true digital nomad’s paradise. Reading online blogs it seems they had tried this once before and there had been some unexpected repairs that needed to be done to the boat and they had to abandon the project for cost reasons. This year they said they were partnering with an existing similar boat project and captain that had plans to be in the Caribbean.

Despite the sense of too good to be true, Helena and I decided to apply, were accepted, and pay the $300 “down payment to the kitty”. In the weeks leading up to it, I kept checking social media to try and determine if this was really legit. They were a few Instagram posts and stories that made me feel like it was indeed going, but about 2 weeks before we were supposed to go there was a bad Facebook review that gave us a bit of a pause. This person said that the organizer was a bit coercive when it came to the “pay what you want” policy and got angry when she wanted to pay less than he expected. So that part *was* too good to be true and that actually made me a feel a bit better. I messaged that reviewer and she said that the trip itself was actually really great, apart from the payment confusion. As a result, I contacted the organizer, Karsten, before we were scheduled to leave and asked him what he thought was a fair amount. I’m not going to disclose what he said, but I thought it sounded more than fair for what we were getting and so I was thankful to have that out of the way.

We were told the boat would be around Martinique and I confirmed with Karsten a couple of days before that they were still planning on being in Martinique so we wouldn’t have to arrange a transfer to another island. The day of I was able to see the exact harbor that they were on the map and confirm with Karsten that we just had to get ourselves to Sainte Anne, which was about 40km from the airport. If our flight hadn’t been delayed by about 3 hours due to maintenance we would have likely been able to take a fairly inexpensive “Taxi Collectiv”, which is the bus service around the island. But unfortunately they don’t run after 6pm and so we had to hail a taxi, which ended up being pretty pricey. I messaged Karsten on Whatsapp when we arrived at the bay and he and another fellow crew member pulled up at the dock with the dinghy in just a few minutes.

As we sped towards the boat in the harbor on the dinghy I was struck with a bit of surreality that I’m actually doing this. I’m actually going to spend the next 7 days on a boat with a half dozen strangers. As we arrived on the boat and said hello to everyone what struck me was what an international group of people was on the boat. We were actually the only Americans! But being from Miami, that wasn’t a particularly strange experience. Everyone spoke English as well and so it was the universal language. Three of the crew members, including Karsten, the organizer, and Martin the boat owner/captain were German so there was a lot German spoken as well.

Karsten and another crew member showed us to our room and I was immediately struck by how fancy and new the boat was. We had a queen bed, a private bathroom, and a TV (but we never even turned it on!) in our cabin. The only thing was I kind of started to panic a little bit when I realized the boat only had German power sockets (type f) and I hadn’t brought an international power adapter. I think my brain assumed that since we were still in the general US hemisphere that of course, the boat would have would be US power plugs. But that was a total failure on my part because Martinique doesn’t even use the US power plugs and I knew the boat had been sailed over from across the Atlantic. So my stupid American-centredness bit me.

Luckily as I would soon learn, there were ample adapters and fellow MacBook Pro USB-C power adapters that everyone shared on deck so computer power wasn’t really ever a true problem. USB-C and MagSafe adapters were the most universal form of power onboard.

The next day I woke up pretty early due to the fact that the sun comes up very early in Martinique because it’s quite east of the US, but it was actually the same time zone in Miami as it was in Martinique. I woke up and aimlessly kind of explored around the boat as a few people made their way up on deck as well and we had some small talk. Luckily someone made coffee at some point as I didn’t have the foggiest clue how to. After a few hours and the captain did a bit of customs paperwork on shore we embarked on our first sailing journey.

The ocean was pretty calm as we were anchored in the bay, but as we got out to the open ocean and set sail the waves definitely picked up. I’ve been seasick before on diving boats, mostly because diving boats tend to be small single hull boats and aren’t particularly stable so I was curious how I’d do on a bigger, dual hull boat. For about the first hour I was fine, but then I went to check on Helena who was still asleep below deck, and when I came back I was not fine… I immediately felt my stomach and bowels’ desire to evacuate. I tried staring at the horizon which is what I was told on dive boats, but it wasn’t really working. I felt the sweat pouring down my face as I tried to keep it in. And then one of the other crew members looked at me and noticed I looked really pale. They told me to lay down and close my eyes. Initially, I protested, but as soon as I did I started to feel better. Eventually, I got my headphones and enjoyed a couple of podcasts for the next hour or two as we crossed from Martinique to St Lucia.

We sailed into the first bay on the west side of St Lucia, Rodney Bay and had a bit of déjà vu. I realized I had been to this exact bay a few years earlier and stayed at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian there. The first time I had arrived by helicopter because it’s about a 3 hour car ride through windy mountainous roads. Now I was arriving by boat!

This bay seemed strangely quiet. Almost deserted. It seemed like most of the life was restricted to the hotel and resort beaches, but in the general harbor area that wasn’t really that much life. There was a “water park” slightly offshore of one of the hotels that a couple of the crew decided to swim to. Turns out that the staff saw them and said they had to pay $15 to use the park and so they decided it wasn’t worth it.

I went with the captain ashore to do customs because I was curious about how that worked on a boat. I was surprised to learn that you have to do immigration and customs even sailing a few hours between islands because Martinique was a French territory and St Lucia is a British territory. And apparently Karsten said the last time they checked in there it was free, but we found out that because it was the weekend they charge a $40 fee. Guess something I’ll have to remember next time I’m sailing around St Lucia! Because there wasn’t much shore life we decided to stay on the boat for the night and cook food and play games.

The next day we chilled in the bay for the morning and did a SCUBA lesson for one of the crew who wasn’t certified before embarking to the next bay and my favorite location: Marigot Bay. It was a very small and narrow bay, but it was flanked by palm trees and mangroves on all sides so you really felt like you were in the jungle. There was the most amazing Indian restaurant there called Masala Bay that we booked a reservation at and that night we were basically the only people dining. The service and food were impeccable. We also went to a great little bar on the other side of the bay called Doolittle’s (named after Dr. Doolittle because they filmed a scene there) that had pool tables and very strong, but inexpensive drinks. At sunset, we witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. So beautiful that everyone was crowding around with their phones and cameras to capture the moment.

The next day we set sail and went in search of a good diving location because St Lucia is known for its spectacular coral reefs, as I’ve witnessed the last time I was diving in St. Lucia. We ended up finding a mooring just on the edge of the protected marine park. Not knowing exactly what the rules or fees were for diving we asked a local boat that stopped by and was selling handmade necklaces and he said there were no fees. So Karsten, Mattius, and I suited up and dove in. We initially had a bit of trouble finding the reef, but we saw another dive group and went their direction. And that’s when we saw some truly amazing reefs that were plentiful with wildlife. At one point I even saw a turtle, which is always the magical unicorn creature I’m looking for on dives, but rarely see.

On our swim back to the boat, a dive boat drove up to us and informed us that our other boat friend was incorrect and that there’s a permit process for diving in St. Lucia and you have to dive with a St. Lucia divemaster. They even said violating that was a $5,000 fine. Later that day when a Marine reserve ranger came up to our boat and was talking with the captain I was pretty scared that we were going to be subject to that fine. But there were surprisingly chill and the marine ranger was a divemaster himself so we were able to arrange to pay for the mooring fees and schedule a dive with him the next morning.

After an awesome dive the next morning, we kept on sailing further south to Soufriere where we were escorted into the bay by a local that our captains had made friends with last time they were there. He was really helpful and ferried us to and from the shore and arranged for transportation and a tour of some nature hikes inland. Later in the evening, we went ashore and visited some of the local restaurants and bars. The town was very isolated from the rest of the island and so it wasn’t very touristy. That also meant that the food and drinks were extremely cheap! 5EC (East Carribean) for a beer was less than $2 USD. Living in Miami, I haven’t even had a beer for less than $5 USD! I loved how Martin and Karsten really cared about the locals and we were able to hang out with them. In the past when I’ve been in the Carribean on a resort you feel very isolated from the people that actually live there.

The next day most of the crew went on the nature hike. I had to stay behind because there was a website launch that was supposed to be 2 weeks before but was unfortunately delayed to be during the trip. Part of the concept of Coboat is that it’s supposed to kind of be a coworking experience combined with boating. So you wouldn’t think its quite possible, but the boat had Wifi. I believe the connection was through 2 cellular connections merged together for a bit more bandwidth. As we were sailing around the shore for the majority of the time we almost always had a signal and the speed was decent. A couple of times the internet connection ran out of paid bandwidth and it would have to be refilled, but I usually took that time to take a break from working or I could just tether to my phone and use Verizon’s daily 500MB allowance they gave me. A couple of times I realized how fast 500MB can go with an LTE connection.

Of the crew, I think I was the only one with an active business that I had to work fairly consistently on most days. But Helena had a couple of commissions so she was also fairly busy. And a pair of brothers onboard were also working on a new app together that they stayed up late into the night most nights to work on.

For me, I wish I had been a little less busy so I could have done things like going ashore for the nature hike or staying up a bit later hanging out, but overall I really loved the merger of work and recreation. To be able to get in the morning, get a few hours of work done, and then dive in the water straight from the boat and spend an hour with the fishes was paradise.

TIWF: Ultra Music Fest Miami 2019

This year’s Ultra Music Festival Miami has been mired in controversy because their contract with Bayfront Park where the festival has been held since its inception 21 years ago was not renewed. That area has a lot of condo’s and hotels and the residents complained about the noise and the traffic. We went last year for the first time and frankly, I can kind of understand why the residents wouldn’t want 150,000 EDM fans descending on the streets below.

So after a lot of discussions and negotiations, the Ultra organizers were able to secure a new location on the Virginia Key in the Miami bay. Ultra is so big it actually has to span two locations across the island: Miami Marine Stadium and Historic Virginia Key Beach. Both locations do have pretty regular events/festivals at them so it’s not totally out of the ordinary. But there was ample controversy about the environmental and traffic disruption of such a big event.

The timing is also quite ironic… Just a couple of months after the Fyre Fest documentaries came out. Having a giant music festival on an island. Fortunately there is actually a bridge to this island, but still there’s seemingly only one way off and on the island.

So going into it we definitely had a bit of trepidation… Terrified of the prospect of being stranded with only cheese sandwiches. Their plan was to utilize 230 buses to get people on and off the island and Lyft and Uber had banned ride pickups on the island itself, opting to save their drivers from a potential traffic quagmire. They also decided to offer a ferry service and Helena and I being big boat fans, decided to sign up hoping that we’d get to bypass at least some of the crazy traffic and get a nice bay view on the way in.

On Friday night we decided to go a bit closer to sunset because what’s better than the sunset on a boat. When we arrived at the boat dock we only had to wait about 20 minutes to board a boat. They had a great system of “ferries” on basically what seemed like all the giant party boats and water taxis they could rent. I’m sure the festival this year was a boon to the boat rental industry. They even rented the illustrious Seafair Miami, the biggest corporate party boat of them that normally docks in Bayfront Park to act as their “artist yacht”. A little known fact about this giant yacht… It has no engine so they have to tow it from place to place and so not surprisingly, it remained docked by the festival the entire time.

I have to say, taking a boat to the event, increased the Miami vibe 100x. It was also pretty convenient as we could see the bus traffic on the causeway was going pretty slow. Although I didn’t hear many complaints about the buses getting to the event, getting back from it is a different story… More on that later.

So when we got there, having the ferry passes entitled us to a pseudo VIP experience because we were able to get in a separate security line and get into the festival in under 10 minutes. I recall it was almost an hour getting into the festival last year with general admission tickets.

Due to the new locations, the layout of the festival this year is very different from previous years because it’s split between 2 disparate locations with a 1.3 mile/26 minute walk in-between. Fortunately for us, all the acts we wanted to see were on the live stage and the main stage which were in the location you’re dropped off at. Those stages were directly across from each other with a big tent in-between so you couldn’t actually see/hear the other stage very much, which was nice. The first day we stuck to the main location but planned to spend some time at the second location on day 2. There seemed to be ample bathrooms and the lines for food and drinks weren’t bad… Except for the empanada trucks… Ultra people seem to really like their empanadas. The only hiccup was that near the end of the night we tried to get a 21+ wrist band, but they seemed to have run out and the bartenders aren’t actually allowed to serve you just based on your ID.

The big acts we were excited to see the first day were Odesza, Galantis, and Marshmello. Odesza put on a really great “live” show. In the EDM world, I think the definition of live is that you have at least one instrument on the stage and not just a set of turntables on a table. I don’t think the live music is actually so different from any of the other stages– The difference is in the performance. Odesza wholeheartedly fulfilled this by including a drumline in about half their songs and switching it up between DJ’ing and personally playing a lot of percussion themselves. They also featured a trumpet and a trombone player, which made appearances in a number of their songs, which I didn’t even realize were really trumpet/trombone parts, but it fit right in and sounded amazing. Naomi Wild, the vocalist on one of their songs, “Higher Ground”, also made an appearance and her vocals were impeccable. One thing that really made the performance for me was their visuals. They had a mix of dreamy and sci-fi industrial animations playing on the big screens behind them. I really liked the layout of the screens on the live stage as you could see the visuals clearly, as opposed to the main stage that has a lot of different screens at different heights and dimensions where if you’re not straight across from the stage, looks a little distorted. Galantis gave a similarly live percussion-heavy performance on the live stage featuring a bit more trippy visuals and the cat/owl/bear creature that’s visible on much of their artwork. I really like Galantis and enjoyed their performance, but we didn’t stay for all of their set because we wanted to get in a good position for Marshmello on the Main Stage.

For me, the worst part of Ultra is probably the main stage announcer whose voice sounds perpetually like a monster truck rally TV advertisement. I was kind of bummed that we skipped out on Galantis early because Marshmello was about 10 minutes late so we were subjected to him stalling for about 10 minutes by trying to do shout outs to what seemed like every member of the production staff and then his signature callouts to the countries represented at the event, with an emphasis and repetition on China and Taiwan. When Marshmello finally came on we actually had a pretty good vantage point in the crowd. He busted onto the stage with his signature marshmello helmet and flanked by his cartoony visuals behind him. For a couple of minutes his mic didn’t work so that made for a few awkward pauses in the music where he turned down the music and tried to shoutout to the crowd, but there was just silence. But they got that worked out pretty quickly and he played an exciting ~80min set that ended just a few minutes before 2am.

The later ending time was another thing different about this years Ultra. Previously at Bayfront Park they had a strict noise curfew at 12am. Their new curfew was 2am, but that was seemingly pretty strict because as we were scurrying from the main stage to the ferry hub the live stage was still going strong until exactly at 2am where the sound shut off very suddenly. We were able to get pretty far in front of the ferry line and probably only waited 20-30 minutes for a boat to take us to the mainland, but there was a pretty substanial line behind us so I have no idea how long those people had to wait. With so many big boats running the ferry they were able to keep the line moving pretty well. Capping off the night with another boat trip draped by the Miami skyline was a pretty nice way to end the first day. But as we could see as soon as the causeway was visible, the non-ferry attendees were having quite a different experience…

The traffic seemed like it was at a complete standstill and we could hear a lot of honking and see a lot of flashing lights… Not good. As we were cruising back to the mainland I quickly scrolled through twitter to see that apparently there was a small brush fire going on and people had grown so frustrated with the bus wait they had started to walk back. It’s 2.5miles from the island to the mainland so that’s not an insane distance, but I’m sure for the people that were standing and dancing for 12 hours that wasn’t what they planned to do at the end of the night. Of course, there were more immediate comparisons to Fyre Fest, but getting stranded on an island 181 miles off the coast of Miami and one 2.5 miles away with a bridge are scales of magnitude different screw ups. I’ve heard various explanations for what the issues were, but they held a press conference Saturday morning and said they were doing a lot of things to help alleviate the chaos for Saturday night.

We had a little trouble hailing an uber from our ferry drop off spot at Bayside Marketplace. I wondered if part of the problem was the influx of people came a lot later and so there wasn’t more drivers available. Although it is Miami, so I’m sure there are a lot of drivers late into the night. We topped off the night with some greasy deliciosness from Big Pink while we were entertained by Story club patrons coming out in conditions ranging from hysterical tears to others trying to dance with cars in the street and a cake refregterator in the resttauraunt.

The second day we arrived about an hour earlier to give us more time to check out “Resistance Island”. We made the 1.5-mile trek from the main area to the Virginia Key Beach and honestly it wasn’t that bad of a walk and we made a couple of friends along the way, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t slightly jealous of the staff zipping along beside the path in the golf carts. When we got to the Resistance Island the vibe was immediately different. It felt a lot more spread out, relaxed and not so cold and sterile as the main area, which is hosted on top of a giant parking lot. The area was mostly grassy and sandy and they really leaned into the tropical theme for some of the stages.

Tucked away in the back of the area was the infamous Carl Cox Megastructure where you can dance your ass off to continuous pulsing beats for hours. But also in that area they included some really neat art installations that reminded us of the House of Creatives festival that was hosted in the same place a couple of months earlier. It’s hard to describe the installations… There were old fancy couches and tiny houses and lighthouses that you could get inside. And it was kind of a surreal experience staring up at the lights while listening to the music in the background. Definitely not an experience that they had at last year’s Ultra! In this area, there were also a lot of hammocks, which was kind of amazing if you’ve been dancing on your feet for hours.

It was quite a transition and a bit of a letdown to go back to the main area…

This is a work in progress post as the festival is still going!

TIWW: Apple Airpods v2

When the AirPods were first announced there was much fanfare by Apple fans, but also much ridicule and skepticism by the general public. Despite Apple not even being close to the first to market for wireless independent earbuds, I remember so many comments about the ridiculousness of having wireless earbuds and worrying about losing them. Before the AirPods were announced I had had 2 versions of the JayBird Bluejays so I was already very much sold on the idea on the concept of Bluetooth headphones. Particularly being an avid podcast listener, there’s almost always a pair of headphones in my ears.

The second comments were about worrying about whether they’d just fall out of your ear. I still get that comment and every time I do I put them in my ears and shake my head around violently to prove that despite their size, they fit in your ears quite snugly. You can even workout and run with them, but my experience is that’s a little precarious because with repeated impacts with whatever you’re running on one or both of the earbuds feel like they’re slowly wiggling themselves out of your years and I have definitely had them fall out when I’m running. So you *can* use them for working out, but they’re not really designed for that level of motion. Apple has their Beats line that are designed more for that… But I personally think those are overpriced though and a pair of Anker SoundBuds work great.

I’ll admit I loved my first generation Airpods… I loved them to death. Literally. After almost 2 years the battery life of the case and both the earbuds is terrible. Sometimes one earbud will cut off after only 10 minutes of music listening. And both earbuds are quieter, although unequally than they used to be because there is earwax clogged in them and no good way to really sufficiently cleanse them. Despite those long term issues, I love them so much that over the last couple of months, I’ve had to resist the urge to buy a new pair because I knew v2 was coming, but after so much talk of v2 and no actual announcement I had almost given up hope. But late in March I was finally rewarded for my patience when they finally released the much anticipated v2 AirPods.

Visually the new version looks almost identical to the old one except for the new wireless charging case has a charging light. The earbuds themselves are visually identical but have newer hardware, the Apple H1 chip.

The sound quality of the AirPods is greatly debated. Both the new and old version. AirPods sound “fine”, but they’re definitely not audiophile level quality, not even close. They’re very good everyday headphones for light music, phone calls, and podcasts, but they lack the bass that a pair of Bose will give you. They also aren’t very good at blocking out external noise, which is a good and a bad thing. It’s a good thing if you’re doing things around the house and your girlfriend asks you a question, you’ll probably be able to actually hear it. It’s not a good thing if you’re in a noisy environment like an airplane because you have to jack the volume to compensate for the noise. The cheap Anker SoundCore headphones I have are way better for that kind of environment because they actually plug your ears. That can potentially be a safety hazard though if you’re on foot in a busy city.

One advantage the AirPods have with Apple devices over other bluetooth headphones is the fast wireless switching/connections. With the AirPods v1 that was a definite perk, but maybe it was the age or my expectations, but sometimes they took a bit longer to connect or would randomly disconnect. With the v2 that is greatly improved. You can customize the tap functions of each earbud do either Siri, Play/Pause or Next/Prev track. I always change both of mine to Play/Pause so I don’t have to worry about remembering which one I customized.

Usage over the years….

So if you’re new to wireless headphones, you should 100% give them a try. The AirPods might not be the ideal introduction because they’re...

This is a work in progress! Still reviewing this!

TIWW: Mophie powerstation USB-C 3XL Review

Real world battery life on laptops doesn’t really reflect the reality of using a computer in a “normal” environment. Those numbers are the rosiest picture possible. Seeing as how I work outside a lot when I can and I don’t always have an outlet handy, my MacBook Pro 13″ battery life can drain to empty in about 2 hours.

So I’m always looking for a possibility for some additional power. And with the advent of USB-C charging on the newer MacBook Pro’s this became possible through use of an external battery with a USB-C port. One caveat though, the battery has to be able to output at least 45 Watts or it’ll drain faster than you can recharge it. I was an early adopter of the Romeo Power Saber, which had up to 100W charging and even an AC Outlet. Unfortunately, it seems they’ve discontinued, but when I saw this Mophie it greatly intrigued me.

They’ve packed a whopping 26,000mAh of power into a pretty small form factor (3.7 in x 6.6 in x .91 in) and it clocks in at only 18oz. While it’s big enough and heavy enough to that you wouldn’t want to try to fit in your pocket, it fits comfortably in a backpack or small laptop case. I don’t notice much extra bulk in my BetaBrand Under-The-Jack Pack. And I really love the look and feel of the unit. Its relatively thin and has a nice soft coating on the outside so you don’t feel like you’re going to scratch anything bumping against it.

Mophie claims “The powerstation USB-C 3XL battery can provide up to 18 hours of extra battery for a MacBook (2017).” that’s likely under non-real world conditions and the MacBook is a lot less power hungry than a MacBook Pro 13 or 15. The MacBook Pro 13″ normally uses a 61W charger so with the 3XL only delivering 45W I’ve found that if I’m really cranking up the CPU it can’t quite keep up. And with a MacBook Pro 15″ I imagine it’s pretty difficult for it to keep up. I want to do more testing and update this with some more hard numbers.

One thing I have to note is my original 3XL unit died within 2 weeks. One day it ran down and just wouldn’t charge up. I contacted Mophie support and they required me to pay to ship it to them and back. I was pretty ticked that it was practically brand new and I was already having to pay for repairs. Fortunately, since I ordered through Apple.com instead of directly from Mophie, I was able to get a free replacement from Apple.

A perk of the 3XL that I haven’t found in other chargers is that it supports USB-C pass-through charging and it has a separate USB-C port for charging. I really love that because it means I don’t have to bring a separate charger specifically for the 3XL.

I wouldn’t recommend this for someone with a 15″ MacBook Pro, but with a 13″, MacBook, or MacBook Air it’s an amazing battery. Having this with you gives you a lot more freedom to not be tied down to a power outlet.

TIWF: Cayman Islands

I threw together this trip extremely last minute. My partner, Helena, wanted some quality time to herself before we had a couple of crazy weeks of family coming to visit followed by a ton of travel. So on Friday night, I started searching for reasonably cheap last-minute direct flights from Miami on Sunday or Monday to interesting places I’ve never been. I narrowed it down to Cancun or Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Being that it was Spring Break and not being a particularly party person, I opted for the Cayman Islands. And I had read the internet there was decent for a small island because so many businesses do financial transactions out of there. I used Google Flights and booked the trip through American Airlines. Interestingly enough, it had me book the flights separately as it was about $40 cheaper that way.

The airport is pretty small and caters to a lot of private aircraft, but there are regular passenger flights going in and out daily. Terrifyingly enough, the week I was there was when they grounded all the 737MAX’s and I thought I was going to get stranded because GCM is one of the destinations American Airlines flies their 737MAX’s to. Fortunately I was spared that experience.

This should probably go without saying, but you’ll want to have some cash with you because their airport doesn’t have an ATM and the taxi drivers only take cash. There is a local currency, but they readily accept US dollars as well. I stupidly didn’t bring any cash, but I told the taxi driver that and he agreed to drive me to an ATM first for a “good tip” and he wouldn’t count it as two trips. The trip from the airport to my hotel on 7-Mile Beach was $18+tip.

Because of my last minute preparation for this trip and it also being pretty peak season of Spring Break, my hotel options were limited. They were a fair amount of apartments being rented as hotels, but most of them were a bit secluded and I hadn’t planned to rent a car (partly because they drive on the left side of the road and that terrifies me) and a lot of them had complaints about the internet. As I planned to work a fair amount during the trip, I stayed clear of those. I finally settled on the Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman as it actually had a lot of compliments about the wifi on their Trip Advisor page. I’m not much of a Jimmy Buffet fan (but I do enjoy a good Cheeseburger now and then). The internet did indeed work pretty well. I got an average of about 10Mbps down and up. Not bad for a little island that only has 2 undersea fiber lines connecting it to the internet! I did experience some occasionally flakiness/slowness, but not enough that my ability to do work was impacted.

The resort sits near the south end of the famous Seven Mile Beach (which is actually closer to six miles) so it’s close to kind of the downtown strip, but not directly in it. You can easily get a taxi to wherever you need and if you do any kind of activity like SCUBA or snorkeling it seems like most of the companies have small shuttle buses that will come and pick you up. They also had a rental car service right on the resort if you planned to do any longer day trips.

Since it’s a Carribean island obviously a lot of the things to do on the island are going to involve the ocean. They have a famous stingray experience where you get to snorkel or scuba with flocks of stingrays. I was told by some other hotel guests that the Cayman Crystal Caves are stunning. Diving and snorkeling are very popular there. There are literally over 365 diving sites… so many diving sites that you could dive for an entire year and not repeat one. Many of those sites are shallow enough that they make for great snorkeling sites as well. The water on the west side of the island is so calm and has crystal clear visibility.

I dove with Red Sail Sports as they had a discount with my hotel and offered a free shuttle to the boat pickup. The boat was a small catamaran picks you up at the Westin Hotel (planning on staying there next time!). There’s no dock needed as the water is so calm and so they pull up right up on the beach. Entry is a breeze too because there’s no waves (yay for no seasickness!) and no current. I did 3 dives and they were all fantastic, but the most memorable was the USS Kittiwake. It was actually the first time I was with a dive master that took you inside a wreck and that was super cool. Even more amazing was that the Kittiwake was a submarine support vessel, which meant that it had old diving equipment on it, like a dive bell! Which we actually went into and there was a pocket of air so that you could momentarily breathe and speak even though you were 70ft underwater. We also found a special surprise in the dive bell, which I won’t describe so as to not ruin the surprise for the next divers.

Now that I’ve discovered this hidden gem of an island only a puddle jump away from Miami, I’m sure I’ll be returning in the near future

TIWW: DrinkUp Smart Water Bottle

Recently I decided that I probably don’t drink enough water. Helena, my partner, took it upon herself to encourage me to drink more water daily for a few months, but as that was probably as enjoyable as reminding a toddler to go potty, I think she decided that it wasn’t worth it long term. 

So naturally when I have a problem I turn to technology for a solution. I recalled that one of my friends had seen a “smart water bottle” a couple of years ago and the time we talked about how ridiculous it was.  I still think in the abstract is a pretty ridiculous idea, but in the moment with my problem I was trying to solve, it made sense. I’ve also wanted to start carrying a water bottle with me  regularly so that I don’t have to use as many single-use plastic cups whenever I want a cup of water.

I start googling “smart water bottle” to see what’s out there and how the reviews are. Interestingly enough, most of the reviews for about a half a dozen smart water bottles were pretty bad. So I ended up deciding to try the one that didn’t have a lot of bad reviews… Probably because it wasn’t offered on Amazon so it didn’t have any customer reviews!

On the surface it seemed like the simplest so hopefully the one less likely to break over time. The bottle itself is a really standard stainless steel bottle that you see in a lot of forms. If you don’t look closely you wouldn’t even realize there’s anything “smart” about it. It does a really great job of insulating and keeping your water cold or hot.

The brains of the operation are really in the cap. There’s a very basic display on the top that is only visible when it has information to display and besides that you barely know its smart. It’s very minimal, which I love.

I would say the biggest weakness of the bottle is the app.  It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t quite have the UX polish of a native iOS app. The app is perfectly functional though. I really love the graph of your hydration over the day. It will also send you a push notification when your hydration levels reach XX%?

One really great feature is that the bottle can basically work independently of the app because it stores and displays your hydration levels right on the bottle you don’t have to worry about synchronizing them except when you want to more historical data.

There isn’t a lot of information on the company. I believe it’s a Taiwanese company. Their website isn’t great.. It’s functional, but has a lot to be desired. 

It has a few features that most people probably won’t use, but would be cool… You can pair multiple bottles so if you want to have a bottle for work and home you don’t have to have the same bottle with you at all times. You can also add friends and track their hydration levels.