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January 2016

Shin Pond Meets South Carolina

While there have been a couple of cruisers’ gatherings, most of the folks are passing through  for just a few days, so if we meet them at all, it’s by chance on the shopping bus, in the laundry room/lounge, or on the dock. On Thursday, we took La Luna to the fuel dock for water and diesel and EW met Lily and Elias, a young couple with ties to Maine. Elias knows enough about Mainahs to clearly state that he isn’t one, but his Grandfather was. The family still has a cottage on the coast up there and Maine is in his heart. Maine does that to people.

Right after that I was scurrying up the dock to dump the garbage and met a couple coming down the ramp. I said “Good Morning,” and they replied with strong southern accents, so I performed a classic double-take when I caught a glimpse of the lady’s bright yellow sweatshirt, emblazoned: “Shin Pond Established 1982”.

“Is that Shin Pond in Maine?”

She smiled, equally surprised, “You know Shi-in Po-ond?” (Imagine strong southern accent for this conversation.) Of course I know Shin Pond. It’s northwest of Island Falls, and and Daddy used to go fishing there with a couple of buddies. They played cribbage, cooked and ate camp meals and maybe caught a few fish. He loved those trips, hauling his small aluminum outboard up on a trailer with his friends along for the ride.

Shin pond

Fishergirl_0001For  most of the first quarter of my life, I lived in Central Maine. (We won’t mention those  6 months when I was 5 and we lived in Salem, New York; but we can talk eagerly of the next three years in The County, in Island Falls, Maine.) My folks were from Maine, and my dad liked to camp and fish. Moreover, my first career job with Maine Public Broadcasting Network took me all over the state so I know Maine. When I moved to Portland in the 80’s I quickly discovered that most people my age raised south of Brunswick knew little about central and northern Maine,and the few central or northern Mainahs living in Portland never expected anyone to know where their small home town was.

In short, I suspect I’m one of the few Maine cruisers who know Shin Pond, and I’m 99% certain that Martha, Mitch and I were the only folks in the marina who’ve been there. So, how did this woman know Shin Pond? Remember—you have to imagine a strong southern accent and an excited happy voice.

“We-ell,” she replied. We have a home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and a few years ago we swapped houses with these people from Shin Pond. They stayed in our home and we stayed in theirs for January and February.”

(Now who would you think got the better end of that trade?)

“Seriously? Did you have a good time?”

“It was the best vacation we ea-vah ha-ad!”

“Did it snow a lot?”

“Oh my yes!” She beamed. “It snowed nearly every day!” Her husband interjected, “We wanted snow. It was a bad day if we could see Katahdin and it wasn’t pouring down snow.” (We Mainahs know that snow doesn’t pour, but I ignored that.)

  • She continued, “I made a snow fort! And I made a snowman every day! These people who own the store in town? Well it’s a store and gas station and little restaurant? They do everything! Anyway they insisted on loaning us their snowmobiles! They didn’t want any money or anything. We had the best time!”

These adventurers are cruisers now, waiting out the rain to head south. Her husband confided that when they sell the boat, he’d buy a home in Shin Pond in a heartbeat.

This is why we cruise. To meet people like this, with a sense of adventure and stories tell. Long after they’ve sailed south, I will forget their names, and what kind of boat they were on. But I will remember the joy they found in retirement, building snowmen at Shin Pond.

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At left, Martha aboard M&M Journey, wearing her sweat shirt. The next morning they headed south on the ICW to a location where the sweat shirt won’t be necessary.

She’s a gracious woman, and a great sport. I hope they visit us on their way north.

 

  • PHOTOS:
  • Shin Pond Map
  • Photo from the town’s slide show
  • Me with Daddy’s boat

Transitions!

IMG_3460Are we still Cruisers, or are we “Live-aboards”?

So far, we are still Cruisers at heart and have been able to share some of our stories with excellent boat guest, Mike, former Grenada Cruiser, Lee, and a number of Cruisers who are passing through on their way south to warmer temperatures and adventure.

While we envy them, we know we are incredibly fortunate to have had five excellent years At Sea.

And while we look forward to cruising in the future, we are happy to be here, closer to friends and family, where EW can work on the boat with the expectation of easily finding parts and help, and where I can earn money to fund our projects and future adventures.

We wish it were warmer. Somehow we missed the memo that stated the winter weather pattern includes temperatures from 37 to 80, in cycles frequently book-ended by rain or heavy winds. I was talking to one of the marina staff who discussed the recent heavy winds from the north and the expect not-quite-so heavy winds from the south.  “The south winds can be easier on the boats,” he said, “but when the winds are north at least the bridge acts as a strainer to keep loose boats from crashing into the docks.”

I immediately imagined a giant strainer, letting water and wind through but preventing boats. It was not a comfortable image, but I appreciated his colorful word choice.

EW has put new chafe guard on the mooring lines, we have two separate lines—not one line used on two sides of the boat, and we check for chafe every day.

We’ve lived on the boat for 13 years and I’ve not yet tired of it. We’ve lived mostly at anchor for the past five, and I’ve not yet tired of that either. So, getting ashore in the dinghy isn’t a problem for me.

For the past five years, we’ve shopped for parts and provisions by walking and riding in a a variety of local buses, so riding the clean, warm, local bus or the Port of Call Cruisers’ Bus is a joy.

We have found an excellent farm stand just a one mile walk away, so I have good quality fruits and veggies at very reasonable (if not Grenada) prices.

The locals are friendly, even if many are nonplussed by our cheerful “Good morning/afternoon/evening!” We were taught well by friends and strangers in the Eastern Caribbean, and still greet nearly everyone with whom we make eye contact. (OK. I admit it. Sometimes I just do it to be different or perverse. It’s kind of fun.)

So, it’s been a month. How is our transition going?

  • We are finding our way around.
  • We are learning (with help from former Grenada cruiser Lee) where the best music venues are.
  • We like the marina and its staff.
  • EW is taking a guitar class on Monday evenings, and has started on the boat projects. that can be accomplished in cold weather.
  • EW also wins the “Attaboy” award for finding two extra blankets at the Animal Shelter consignment store. One is brown fleece, and the other is a Jacksonville Jaguars quilt. (As long as their luck or lack of it doesn’t rub off on us, I’m OK with it. I also cover it during the day with a blue fleece that matches our décor.)
  • I am still looking for a job. If you know a small to medium company who wants remote help in hiring key personnel, let me know. We don’t want to move to Jacksonville, and we don’t really want to get a car, but there are many fewer jobs here than we anticipated. I’m applying for retail work, registering with agencies, and networking my socks off (not really, it’s too cold to go without socks). I have to remind myself that it’s only been a month and that nearly two weeks were during the holidays. Evidently transitions require patience too.

We are good. We are still cruisers, but are currently staying in one location.

I’m OK with that, and I know I will be warm again.

One day.


Walks and Dogs

IMG_3458Dear friend Jaime, of S/V Kookaburra has “tagged” me in Facebook, letting me know how much she misses me. Her posts mainly center around two things: Walking and Dogs. (I much appreciated the post that connected walking and red wine. We’ve not combined the two yet but may have to try it when she visits St. Augustine later this year—in the spring, when it’s warm.) I miss her, too.

 

IMG_3464The other day, Kirsten of S/V Night Music invited me to go for a long walk. In addition to sailing, and playing the guitar, Kirsten is a dog lover, so she shares my need for “fur fixes”. Fortunately, St. Augustine offers plenty of opportunity for beautiful walks and fur fixes from friendly canines.

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Kirsten’s first choice would have been a 9 mile round trip jaunt, something I didn’t think my legs and feet would yet appreciate, so we shortened it to 5 miles, north along the water, through a beautiful neighborhood, past the Fountain of Youth, and one third of the way across the Usina Bridge to Vilano Beach. (And yes, now I have a goal of making it all the way to the beach and back, preferably on a morning when the temperature is above 60.)

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We talked.

 

We took photos.

 

 

 

And near the marina I introduced to ….. this little guy:

Well, this is where he used to be:

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And here’s a slightly out of focus shot of me rubbing his chin. MMMMM.

And here’s a blurry shot of an excited pup:

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And here’s a shot of Kirsten getting him to be still as she got a fur fix:

 

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And finally, a happy and handsome dog, posing for the camera:

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He’s a young adult toy poodle who acts like a well behaved Labrador puppy—a trait designed to melt  the hearts of Jaime, Kirsten, and me. His people, Karen and Kerry, always allow me a bit of play time.

He’s a big happy dog in a portable little dog’s body. I loved him at our first meeting.

Now here’s the thing, when he was a pup, the gray areas were a bit more white, so they named this tiny little boat dog…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…..

Orca.

How cool is that?

 

Non-dog photos:

  • Sunrise from the deck.
  • View of the Usina Bridge from the Catholic park.
  • Kirsten and me
  • View north of the Usina Bridge.
  • Christmas decorations with color (finally!). These people will probably be run out of the town of white lights before next year.
  • Posing bird.
  • Wild Orca by San Juan Islands Whale Watching

Finally! A Music Night in the U.S.

IMG_3457Cruisers with kids make a special effort to anchor in harbors where there are other boats with kids. Some fly a kid-themed burgee and many try to connect on Facebook and plan routes accordingly.

While we are in St. Augustine I may have to get EW a guitar burgee so he can more easily find folks with whom to play music. Every time we’ve met new cruisers and exchanged cards he asks (hopefully and more and more wistfully), “Anyone on your boat play music?”

On Thursday, we took the Port of Call Cruisers Bus to various shops and stores, and talk of the harsh winds, unexpected cold, chafe gear, and dogs took up most of the early conversation. I win the wife award for bringing up music, though setting up a play date hadn’t been my intention. Just before we pulled into the parking lot for the fish market/produce stand a European sailor heading for Cuba and I were chatting about the kinds of things she was taking down to give to the folks she would meet in Cuba. I asked her if she had thought of guitar strings and reeds for woodwinds. She had not, but decided immediately to grab some before they took off.

IMG_3445While she and I were in the fish market, EW, Kent, Kirsten, and Rocky gathered for a confab in the parking lot. Turns out Kent and Kirsten also play guitar and sing. Quicker than you can say “Jam Session” one was planned for that evening.

After much texting we decided not to take the dinghies back ashore to the lounge but to stay out in the harbor. Kent graciously invited us to his catamaran—the only vessel of the three big enough for three guitars in the salon. This was never a problem in the Caribbean where three guitars can agreeably if not easily squeeze into any cockpit, but it was much too cold, windy, and drizzly to play on deck last night here in Northeastern Florida. IMG_3448

Turns out Kent is a professional musician/architect with a trained voice and excellent guitar skills. Kirsten also has a lovely singing voice and is about at the same level on guitar as EW was when we first set out five years ago. EW was EW at his finest. On tune, some good guitar licks, gravely voice, and fierce rock star face. Rocky and I were the band-aids, pouring wine, replacing empty cans of beer with full ones, and offering Rocky’s outstanding home-made guacamole.

They played for five hours.

IMG_3455It was a great night during which both EW and I thought fondly of all the wonderful music nights we shared with so many musician friends and band-aids in the Caribbean, Azores, and Canaries.

I think that guitar burgee may be a great idea.

NOTE, the black twelve-string is made by RainSong and is carbon fiber. Kent says he can use it as a paddle. EW says that Fatty Goodlander has a similar six-string model. I say we don’t have room for a second guitar.

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Wheathah or Not–We Can Handle It

It’s been a cold week in St. Augustine. Not as cold as it was in Maine or Buffalo (or North Tonawanda) but we expected cold when we lived north of the 40th Parallel. This is Florida. This is the state whose residents I mocked in 2010 on our way to the Bahamas. Dear Friend Dora reminded me of my derision during one of our recent phone conversations. “Now, you be careful. You made fun of how they bundled their children when you were in Fort Lauderdale.”

I did. To my defense, it wasn’t nearly as cold in Fort Lauderdale on the occasion of their 2010 Christmas Boat Parade as it was here this past week in St. Augustine, which, by the way, is about 350 miles farther north. As I recall, I had intended to purchase a few bathing costumes and was appalled that the stores had down jackets and no tank-top two-pieces.  “Who would buy these here?” I exclaimed. Often. To EW. At the Christmas Boat Parade we learned that a lot of people purchased cold weather clothing, and many purchased down items, bundling their toddlers nearly like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”.

OK. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. Still, for the past five years I have been continually amazed at the amount of winter clothing offered for sale in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Panama. You will never make me believe that those who live in St. Thomas over the winter need footed P.J.s.

IMG_3408We needed them this week. Nights dipped into the 40’s and the winds blew in the 20’s with gusts to 40. This was serious people. As one woman (who dingied ashore for her shower in footed pajamas) said, “We don’t fight when it’s this cold. We need to keep each other warm at night.” I assure you that EW and I cooperated and were either spooned or entwined all night for three nights.

When the winds were in the teens to twenties, we went ashore for a bit, bundled in fleece and wearing (gasp!) real socks. Wool socks. Wool socks pulled up to our knees. (One older bagger at Publix yesterday wore brogans, knee socks, and shorts. Be still my beating heart.) On the day of the worst wind, the only people who went ashore were those with jobs. The rest of us stayed with our boats and monitored chafe, and made and ate soup, and baked. Yesterday. EW IMG_3401and I were delighted to find much reduced seas and went ashore for much needed showers and a trip on the Port of Call Cruisers’ Bus. Every person on board talked about soup and cookies. These are my kind of people.

During the siege, we were delighted  to hear from La Luna’s former owner, Peter and his wife Barbara who dropped over to St. Augustine to take us out to lunch and to hear about our cruise. Peter has been keeping up on this blog and wanted the “Rest of the Story” and Barbara is a lovely, gracious woman who had thoughtful questions and lovely stories of her own. Nothing will warm a person up like meeting up with friends.  I love that we seem to be living at a “crossroads” of sorts and will continue to see old and new, cruising and land-lubbing friends while we live and work here.

Today, we have a reasonable breeze and sun. I’m back to going barefoot on the boat but our Dear Friend Jaime would be feeling the chill right now.  It’s no longer 64 on the boat, but isn’t much above 70. This is a shock to our systems after Panama and I’m grateful for that gradual re-entry from there to here. I’m also glad that we had fleece hats, jackets, and vests stored under the master bunk.

We are Mainahs. (Well, one is a Mainah transplanted from Buffalo.) In any case, we can handle the cold.

Above, two of our neighbors in 30 knot winds. By the way, we knew the winds hit 30 when the wind generator stopped. There is a safety on it that causes it to cut off at 30. That happened often one day and night. Unfortunately two vessels anchored north of the bridge, where the current and waves can be rougher chaffed their mooring lines, smashed into the Bridge of Lions, and broke their masts. Here's a link.


Your Moment of Zen

We miss the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. To be fair, we’ve yet to see an episode with the new host, but we miss Jon Stewart. We like to laugh. We like to laugh at smart stuff and at dumb jokes. We laugh at ourselves and, more often than is probably kind, we laugh at each other.

The other day, EW and I walked out to Winn Dixie on Route One for a few groceries. He went one way, and I went another. As began to pass an aisle two middle-aged men, each pushing a cart, bumped and jostled each other in fun. As soon as they saw me, an older (dang it!) middle-aged woman, they stopped and looked sheepish. I laughed. I also shook my head in that “men will be boys” manner we women have, and laughed some more as they parted the carts to make way for me. A third man, obviously their friend delighted in their embarrassment and laughed as much as I did.

Ten or fifteen minutes later I headed to the snack isle for popcorn to see their friend and one of the “perpetrators”. “Here she comes again!” the innocent man said. I laughed a bit and wished them a good morning, and he came up to me. “It’s so nice to see someone laugh,” he said. “So many people walk around with sour faces.” I agreed and said, “We laugh a lot. Maybe because we live an unconventional life.”

“Oh,” he said, waiving his hand toward his friend. “We live on boats.”

That explained it. One was on a sailboat and the other was a power boater. Evidently all three lived in the small marina behind Theo’s Greek Restaurant. We all agreed that sailors and power boaters could be friends. We shook hands, exchanged boat names, and moved on smiling.

Last night, EW and I played our new favorite board game, Tock. (Thank you Travis and Quincy from S/V Party of Five.) It’s a game for four, but Travis taught us that two people can play two colors and we’ve been having matches almost daily. I started to notice how often we laughed during the game—usually when “killing” or moving our rival’s marker. At one point we were laughing so hard I couldn’t count my move. That’s pretty cool for a couple married over 30 years.

So, for the first post of 2016, your moment of Zen, an oldie but a goodie. My attempt to enter the dingy via the “Gavin Method.”  

Enjoy.

Helping you laugh more in 2016. It’s good for you.