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Friends - Again

This blog has a whole lot of posts about friends. As friend/cousin Jeff says, “I love you a whole bunch of lots.” Well, we love our friends a whole bunch of lots and I tend to write about what I love. For the most part, cruising sailors seem to be outstanding friend-makers, and those we’ve gotten to know talk often about special friends back home, or cruising friends who keep in touch from distant ports.  EW and I are incredibly fortunate to have wonderful friends; childhood friends, friends we met in our late teens and twenties, friends we met just a few years before leaving Maine, and many new cruising friends-for-life. Thank goodness. I don’t know what we’d do without our friends. Here are a few examples – with apologies to those not mentioned:

IMG_0087EW met Jim in third or fourth grade. (That’s what EW said. Jim could probably quote the exact time – but then Jim wouldn’t be installing bulkhead supports for the auto pilot when I asked him.)   Jim and his lovely wife, Marcia, visited us last year in St. Thomas, and this year they drove over 6 hours one way to have lunch with us during our short stay in Florida. Jim is on the class reunion committee so we made sure to get a photo he can show to the rest of the class of ‘64. It’s not the best photo of either of them, but the conversation, laughter and love overflowed the table at that lunch. P2222714Ed lived across the street from EW. P2212663Ed was a few years older and as EW says, “He used to beat me up.” Evidently both got over that. Like Jim, Ed and Lynn came to Maine for our wedding nearly 29 years ago, visited us in Maine over the years, and were must-sees whenever we went to the Buffalo area.  Ed and Lynn visited us this year in St. Thomas and we had a lovely time showing them the sights on St. Thomas and St. John, catching up on the gang, and sharing stories about our adult kids, recent adventures and past exploits.

Kathy and I met the first day of school in fifth grade. The two of us met Cathy when she was assigned to our freshman triple at UMO almost (gasp!) forty years ago. We three have been dear friends for life ever since. Kathy and Cathy know more about me photo (14)than any other two people on earth – even EW. (For example, EW didn’t know until recently that I knew almost all the lyrics from all of the songs in Sound of Music. Kathy knew that. Nor does EW know everything I did in college or before I met him. Kathy, Cathy, and I have sworn vows of silence.) Cathy and her husband, Stu, have visited us on the boat in Maine and in Grenada. We hope to see them while we are across the Atlantic, too. This past March, EW and I flew to Florida mainly to get our driver’s licenses in our new home state. We stayed with Cathy and Stu, and Kathy drove nearly 9 hours one way to stay there with us. Cathy let us use her car to take our driver’s test. (Or planned to. We didn’t have to take a test. Woot!) Kathy and Cathy spent a day shopping with me for boat things – not giving up until I had everything on the list. We laughed, we cried, we told stories, drank wine and other beverages, hugged, shared, and loved. They both pretty much dropped everything in order to spend time with us over those five days. I cannot express what that meant to us.

 

P1000021P1000040 Of our many sailing fP1000023riends, two couples who stand out from the past year are Jaime and Keith from Kookaburra,  and Peter and LeeAnn from Two Much Fun. Jaime and Keith got stuck with us when we moved to a nearby mooring for our 18 months in St.Thomas. When everyone else we knew cleared out for hurricane season, Jaime and Keith became our support system, euchre partners, dominoes competitors, pizza night guests, and weather reviewers. They had already lived in St. Thomas for over a year, and are two of the most helpful, giving, people you could meet.They also love to laugh and are dog saps like we are. Jaime and I walked three miles nearly every weekday at 6, getting to know each other and every nice dog on Honeymoon island. I don’t think I’d have survived St. Thomas without Jaime and Keith. Peter and LeeAnn return to St. Thomas each winter, where they operate their boat for couples only charter. (It is an awesome week. Check them out. LeeAnn is an amazing cook.) Peter is an outstanding musician and excellent teacher. LeeAnn cut our hair (expertly) tried out new recipes on us, and became a wonderful friend while we listened to the guys practice and perform. Thanks to LeeAnn, I’m a Band-Aide, not a Groupie; a Band-Aide has much more status. Peter spent hours and hours over the past three years, helping EW improve as a guitarist and performer. Heck, if it weren’t for Peter, EW wouldn’t be a performer. Peter helped EW live his dream. 

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In fact, that’s what friends do. They support your dream, listen, learn, provide guidance, a shoulder, perspective, and encouragement. Our friends back home don’t want our lifestyle, but they love us and are thrilled that we are sailing our boat. We are thrilled for them, too – and love to hear about the grandchildren, PhD daughters, new homes on the lake or in Florida, world travel to Paris, and China, moving across the country to hold that grand-son and grand-daughter more often, meeting the man to love forever, sailing in Boston Harbor, and more. Sometimes it feels a bit lopsided because our dream requires help from folks back home. Their support is a tangible thing, whereas we can mostly just listen, learn, advise, love, and admire. P1000047

That’s where paying if forward comes in. We can never repay what Jaime and Keith, Peter and LeeAnn, or many other cruisers have done for us. And we can never repay the favors and help we’ve received from our conscripted support system back in the states. They didn’t volunteer for this, but stick with us anyway. We can pay it forward as much as possible, and help other boaters, and help back home – when we can, from a distance.  We do what we can under the circumstances. But always, always we are so very thankful for all of our friends. They know our faults, choose to love us anyway, and help whenever possible. We are rich in our friendships. As we finally cross the Atlantic, we know that we are missed and will miss all of them. We also know we’ll meet up again. We have to. They are our friends. And we love every one of them a whole bunch of lots.h

Photos:

  • EW and Jim
  • Ed, Lynn, and EW
  • Ed, Lynn, and EW walking on St. John
  • The most recent of a million photos of me and the two C/Kathys
  • EW and Keith with Jenn from Jenn’s Restaurant in St. Thomas.
  • Jaime opening a present
  • Jaime with the pup
  • Kirk, EW and Peter jammin’
  • LeeAnn, Peter, and the darling Mimi – saying good-bye the morning we left St. Thomas

10, 999 ... 10,998 ... 10,997 ...

Barb in first gradeFinally! t was the first morning of my first day of school. I was nearly 7 years old, and we lived in northern Maine in a very small town which didn’t offer kindergarten, so I’d had to wait until first grade. And since my birthday missed the cut-off by three days, I was going to be one of the oldest kids in the class. I had been excited for weeks finding it difficult to think of anything else, and having trouble getting to sleep each night. I was dressed in my new blue plaid skirt and a white shirt, and sat at the table waiting for my breakfast, no doubt talking a mile a minute to my mom. She handed me a glass of juice and a vitamin pill, which I inhaled – literally. As I began to choke, gasping for air, Mom hauled me upside down and slapped me on the back until the pill popped out. (Yes, I predate the Heimlich Maneuver.)

Obviously I survived, and I really, really liked school, but I’ve always found it difficult to turn off my mind when facing major change.

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One Morning in February, 2014

Fast forward more than 50 years. It’s nearly midnight and I can’t sleep. Just over a year ago EW and I made a tough choice when we agreed that neither the boat nor the cruising kitty were ready for an Atlantic Crossing. We stayed in St. Thomas and worked, becoming Live-Aboards instead of Cruising Sailors: we purchased a mooring, took jobs, stopped cruising, commuted by dinghy, and became known by store keepers, security guards, and wait staff. (You know a cruising sailor has stayed in port too long when…fill in the blank.)

This week, we both “retire” again, and in May we will cross the Atlantic to the Azores.

(Do you have any idea how difficult it was to craft that sentence? Should it be …. and in May we hope to …? Or … and in May we plan to …? Or … and in May we will …? We will….)

In the meantime I can’t sleep. I’m not worried about the crossing. I’m thinking about everything that must be accomplished prior to the crossing. I’m thinking about writing magazine articles and blog posts. I’m worrying about anything that would be able to stop us this time. So far, I’ve successfully swallowed my daily  vitamins, but some nights it’s just too difficult to turn off my brain and fall asleep.

scan0004Tonight, curled on EW’s shoulder, his arms around me in sleep, I thought IMG01912about tomorrow’s To Do list, my strange last day at the Rum Cart, our trip to Florida earlier this month, all the things not yet posted on the blog, and some of  the things that could prevent us from making this incredible journey. Since no-one was available to read me story after story until I fell asleep, I tried the method that had worked many nights in 2002 when we sold the house and moved aboard, and again in 2010 during the last weeks before we left Maine: Counting backwards from 11,000.

Counting backwards from 100 is too easy. I can do that and develop whole scenarios of challenges and create a new To-Do list – all at the same time. Counting backwards from 1000 doesn’t work, either. But sometimes, if I breathe slowly,

in    and    out           

and              in           and                  out   

                  and make myself concentrate and “say” every numeral in my mind …. I can fall asleep.

Eleven thousand

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-nine

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-eight

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-seven

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-six

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-five

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-four

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-three ……

 

It’s 12:40 AM. I’m going back to EW’s arms and try this again.

 

Photo above left: EW and me after purchasing La Luna; above right: a lobster buoy near our Harpswell mooring the summer before we left Maine.


Christmas 2013 in St. Thomas

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We are live-aboard sailors – no longer cruisers. We still live aboard La Luna, and we still love her, each other, and our life together. That’s the important stuff. 

We still don’t have to shovel snow, nor do we worry about power outages and ice storms for our sake – but we do send best wishes or warmth and safety back to our loved ones in the Northeast.

 As working live-aboard sailors, we no longer have the luxury of time …

  • Time to kick back in the cockpit to fully experience the sunset. Heck, we often aren’t home before sunset.
  • Time to plan projects and work on them one day after another until completion. Now, we tackle this part or that small project on our days off.
  • Time together. Remember when I was getting used to being with EW 24/7/365? I want that back. I miss him. We’re at the “How was your day, dear?” stage of existence.

Speaking of which – I was thinking this morning that we’re like the stereotypical 60’s urban couple. The kind where the wife takes the husband to catch the train to the city. She’s driving her station wagon and wearing her pajamas covered by her trench coat. Since we have one dinghy and EW needs to be at work around 8, two hours before I do, I take him to work. This morning I was freshly showered, but wearing a boater’s equivalent of a house dress, covered by a long-sleeved T-shirt and – let’s just say that if I had gotten into an accident, I wouldn’t have to worry whether I was wearing clean underwear.

My mother would kill me now.

But I digress.

  • Time to enjoy multiple cockpit and cruisers’ parties each week. Our social life will suffer a great deal, as cruising friends arrive in St. Thomas, we want to see everyone, but will arrive at most gatherings an hour later than others and our “live-aboard midnight” is much more strict than the proverbial “cruisers’ midnight. We set an alarm every night. It goes off at 6. AM.  Cruisers only wake up that early to start passages or go on fishing trips. This is just wrong.
  • Time to write and to play music. We are working on that. I’m planning easier meals, and after clean-up EW plays guitar while I write. Or that’s the plan. We are working on that.

Still, this live-aboard life certainly isn’t all bad. Did I mention that we don’t have to shovel snow and that in terms of ice we simply worry whether there are any cubes in the freezer?  Life is good in paradise.

Plus, there are perks of working and living aboard, and some of them we can share with our cruising friends.PC132056

St Thomas held their lighted boat parade over a week ago, and EW’s company made a last minute decision to join the festivities. EW had a hand in that, as the company had decided to put antlers and reindeer noses on the ferries, making one nose red for Rudolf. Heck, if they were going that far, why not add lights and join the parade?

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 The company agreed, and said we could invite friends to join us. As you can imagine, EW and I are very good at that.  In the meantime, the company invited other employees and decided to send The Cat along and offer it as a paid trip. Suddenly, space became precious. We had invited 16 cruisers, friends, and family and all of them had accepted with glee, agreeing to bring their own libation, and an appetizer to share. A moving cruisers’ party! EW rapidly texted his manager, asking if we could take all of our 16, and he graciously agreed that we could fill “Rudolph” with only our friends. We had a great time.

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Having participated in the lighted boat parade in Maine in years past – when it has been incredibly cold and windy – hosting one in 75 degree weather is a treat. Our crew came dressed for the holidays and good naturedly sang many, many, MANY choruses of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” all along the three full passes we made of the waterfront.

It was a great night. PC132022

Given my druthers, sure, I’d rather we didn’t have to stop cruising and work a bit – but that’s not just a First World problem, but a privileged, Caribbean Cruiser’s First World Problem.  We’ll be cruising again by May, and I have nothing to complain about.

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Merry Christmas to you and yours.

May your New Year be filled with family, friends, fun, love, adventure, and prosperity …

and just enough First World problems to keep you grounded.

 

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Barb Hart, One --  in her Leopard skin pill-box, Santa Hat. How cool is that?

 

 

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A Taste of Maine

In addition to missing friends and family – during this time of year, I miss Maine’s foods – and not just the real “lobstah” with claws.Photo: Macouns!

Photo used with the permission of the photographer, Catherine Frost, an outstanding marketing professional. Check out her business, Folio Marketing & Creative on Facebook.

Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family back home and at sea. On one recent day, my Maine Facebook friends had my mouth watering with posts about Macoun apples, Bean Suppahs, and Maine Lobstah. In late August I craved fresh Maine corn on the cob, caved,  and bought days old corn from Florida. That’s just wrong.

My food cravings “at sea” begin in the spring and continue through the autumn:

Early Spring.  Brook trout and fiddleheads. When I was four or five, I remember going “fishing” with my mom and dad. One of them would fish for brook trout, and the other would let me “help” pick fiddleheads. Back home, we feasted on pan fried brook trout and steamed fiddleheads.

May and June. Rhubarb. Just like every home I grew up in, the one EW I bought had a rhubarb plant: rhubarb raw with lots of sugar, rhubarb sauce on ice cream and strawberry/rhubarb pie. I miss rhubarb.

June into July. Strawberries. Favorite’s birthday is in late June, and as he got older, I served strawberry shortcake as a treat. While one can use sponge cake or pound cake for this dessert, the real Maine way is to make sweet biscuits and real whipped cream. Oh my.

Daddy and Brendan_0002

When I was a kid, we’d also start to pick green onions and lettuce in June, and keep on enjoying them through the summer. Real baby carrots – not those fake, uniform nubs offered in the stores – were pulled from the ground, rinsed under the outdoor spigot, and eaten as a back-yard snack.  At left: My dad and our young neighbor Brendan F., checking the garden in 74 or 75.  Look at that lettuce!

July If things were going well in the garden, the corn would be knee high and the first peas would be ready to pick. The first raspberries would ripen in mid-July. My Grampa Robbins had a raspberry bush – well more of a wild thicket, actually – right outside his one-room cottage. I loved going out in my PJs in the morning to pick raspberries for my cereal. Later, my dad planted and tended raspberry bushes at the far end of his garden, lovingly covering them with netting to discourage the birds. Mom’s favorite pie was raspberry and each Thanksgiving I’d make it from raspberries I’d frozen in the summer. And as for those peas? A traditional Fourth of July meal included peas and salmon. The best Fourth of July meal had fresh-water salmon. Daddy and Brendan_0001

At right: This photo was captioned: “My first fish.” It is my only fish. I was 10. It was a salmon caught in Sebec Lake – in Maine, of course.

August. Green Beans, cucumbers, blueberries and – finally – corn on the cob. In Maine, it must be fresh picked that day. Here’s the old Maine recipe for corn:

Fill a pot half way with water and bring it to a boil. Go out in the garden, pick and husk the corn and run like hell to the house. If you trip and fall, toss that corn to the pigs and start again.

This is not much of an exaggeration. I don’t turn down a lobstah feed at any time of the year, but the best shore dinners are served with fresh corn on the cob, and are therefore best enjoyed in August and September.

September – October All of the fall vegetables, are delicious in Maine, but my favorite Maine treat is a crisp, tart, fresh apple. Cortlands and Macouns were our family’s favorites. My mouth is watering.

Fall – Winter The Maine Bean Suppah. First, “supper”, pronounced suppah is the normal evening meal in Maine; “dinner” was served at noon on Sunday, after church. Suppah was served at 5 and if you were attending a bean “suppah” at the local church or grange hall, you’d best show up early. As this excellent post from Maine says, first you pick your piece of pie, and set it at your place on the table; and then you enjoy an all you can eat feast of Maine Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, various side dishes, brown bread or biscuits, and – in later years – hot dogs. Usually all of the food is home-made and delivered to the venue in the afternoon. A group of volunteers arrive at the sight early in the morning to cook massive of yellow eye and pea beans in vast pots or casserole dishes. Daddy made the beans at home, and most Saturday night suppahs in the Huff house were bean suppahs with home-made biscuits.

We enjoy eating local foods, especially in Trinidad and Grenada, but, on some days I may see something on Facebook, or simply am reminded of the season, my mouth waters, and I begin to crave a food from home.

Macoun apples.

Bean Suppers.

To all of you back in the Northeast – please enjoy some of those treats for me. To all of you who cruise – what foods do you miss? It’s all part of our adventure.


An Adventure in St. Thomas, During Which I Meet Mikey

Still working on The Awing Project. It’s kind of a stop and go thing. Last week I thought I had neared the end and was ready for the grommets that would be used to tie the massive tarp to the lifelines.

I had installed grommets on the forward panel many months ago. Actually, we had opted to have Custom Sails and Canvas install spurred grommets for extra hold. Now that it was time to install the rest of the grommets, I had to cart the large awing to the east end of the island on yet another “day off”. Here’s the plan:

  1. Take EW to work.
  2. Clean the boat and write a grocery list.
  3. Dinghy to Crown Bay
  4. Walk to bus stop, carrying large awning and nearly empty backpack.
  5. Ride safari bus to east end for $2.00.
  6. Drop awning off with Evelyn to be picked up on my next “day off”.
  7. Shop at Budget Marine and the nearby grocery store.
  8. Take groceries back home on the bus.

Below, a rough approximation of bus route from red star to purple star.

Capture

Here’s what actually happened:

1.  1-5 above exactly as planned.

2.  After I introduce myself as, “Hi. I’m the other Barbara Hart”, Evelyn, the owner of Custom Canvas remembered me and my canvas. She suggests that I simply install my own grommets right then.

3. I had imagined a fancy-dancy industrial grommet installing, finger eating machine. Nope. Big-a$$, spurred grommets are installed by professionals while sitting on a low stool using a large tree stump as a work bench. Yes. A tree stump. There is a special, large, heavy mallet which one uses to first, punch the holes, and second, to install the grommets. I’ve installed much smaller grommets on board, with smaller tools and no tree stump, so I was familiar with the drill. I installed 23 perfect grommets, paid for the parts and was delighted.

4. Logistics.  There was no way I’d be able to take the awning and groceries back on the bus, and I hated to waste a “day off”, so I decided to use some of the money I saved by doing it myself to pay for a taxi back to Crown Bay. I left the awing with Evelyn while I walked to Budget and back, then toted the awning across the street to the grocery store.

5. Groceries.  Groceries purchased and stored in my backpack and in large cold carry bag, I asked the customer service manager to please call a taxi for me.

“Where do you need to go?” she asked as she dialed.

“Crown Bay.”

“Oh girl! That’s going to cost you!” 

“I know, but it would be rude to try to take all of this stuff onto a safari.” She was impressed that I knew that. Cruisers often break the unspoken bus rules in the Caribbean. These are private vehicles and the more people they can take and the faster then can get them boarded and off boarded, the more they can earn. If we take so much stuff that we take up more than a seat, or if it takes two other passengers to get us on or off the bus with our stuff, that’s just not fair or right. But, I’ve done it. We’ve all done it.

When she reached the taxi service, she asked what the cost would be for one woman and a “few packages” and found out it would only be $11.00. Both of us were pleasantly surprised.

I waited for a taxi. Soon, a battered van pulled in and parked and an eager young man walked briskly into the store. Immediately after that, a larger, newer van with a taxi sign on top pulled in next to me. A tall, slender, distinguished man stepped out and I walked up to him, just as the young man came up to me and said, “I think he’s going to turn you over to me.” I was nonplussed and continued making my way to the taxi, when indeed, the driver of the real taxi introduced me to Mikey, who would take me to Crown Bay Marina.

I get that. Mikey is a full-time gypsy taxi driver, and the real guy wants to wait and get a party of people who will pay him $11.00 per person to go to town. The taxi driver also know that I would probably never have gotten into Mikey’s taxi without an introduction from a legitimate driver. So OK. Mikey put my stuff in the back seat, I got in the front, buckled up and off we went.

6. The “adventure”. Mikey is a talker. Mikey left me speechless. (I know. I know! Many of you now want to meet Mikey.) Here are a few of the things I learned about Mikey. These are only the things I can remember as I thought it would be rude to take notes and I don’t have a smart phone to use to record the “conversation.” We started off with Mikey’s girlfriend calling him for a ride to work.

First, Mikey lied to her about where he was. We were still on the east end and he said he was downtown. Then he told me about her.

They’ve only been going out for a few months. She made him get tested. She got tested. He’s exclusively seeing her. She’s seeing other guys but not “doing it” with them – she says. He’s not sure. He doesn’t think she should always expect a ride to work. This is his job. He needs to work and pay his bills.

Having given me way to much information and a less than wonderful impression of his girlfriend, he asked whether I was “in a rush”. I didn’t actually tell him that it was a problem for me if he decided to take her to work. So he did. We had gotten as far as the mall when we headed back to the east end, over roads I’d never before traveled in St. Thomas. He didn’t call her to give her warning, just pulled into her driveway and told her to hurry up. Nice. She was fixing her hair. Five to ten minutes later she arrived at the van and was a bit surprised to see me in the front seat. Mikey made room for her in the back and we went back to Red Hook while I tried to make conversation with her, and Mikey pointed out a few landmarks to me.

Then, Mikey decided to take me back to Crown Bay the long way, past the golf course and Magen’s Bay. It was a nice tour, and my afternoon schedule had been shot when I stayed to grommet, so I was relaxed about it. Here are more things I learned about Mikey.

He has four kids. He doesn’t understand why people from the states who are on vacation aren’t happy. If we were on vacation he’d be happy. “This is the islands! You are on vacation! Enjoy it! Why don’t they enjoy it?” It’s expensive to live in St. Thomas. “Milk costs $20.00 a gallon here!” ( It doesn’t. It was on sale that week for $5.99) But yes, it is expensive to live in St. Thomas. He likes driving the taxi and being his own boss. He has very many brothers and sisters and half brothers and sisters. Dad evidently isn’t too faithful and Mom is happy to be in St. Lucia. Still, for eight years he’s been trying to get his folks back together. I can’t imagine why. He only pays $1000.00 a month in child support for four kids (two different mothers). He thinks marriage is for life – but hasn’t gotten married. He thinks everyone “from all fifty states” should all get along. This was a big topic for “discussion”. He expounded on the unhappiness of the Americans who live "in all the fifty states". I declined to express an opinion, even when he asked me. It didn’t matter, he was willing to fill in with more information and opinions. I remained nearly speechless.

The ride to Custom Canvas by safari bus took about a half hour – with stops for other passengers. The ride in a taxi home should have taken twenty minutes tops, but took about an hour and a half, cost Mikey a lot extra in gas and time lost in finding a new fare.

Still, I enjoyed it. I had already prepared $15.00 for the fare and a tip, and I didn’t give MIkey the chance to suggest a fee at the end of the ride. We both knew he’d been told $11.00 and I mentioned that just as he stared to say whatever it was he was going to say to justify asking for more.

I got an adventure and I completed my to-do list. For me, it was a good day.

I wish Mikey well, but he is no businessman.

Here’s a approximation of the most used taxi route to and from downtown and the east end:

Suggested Route back

 

Here’s an approximation of Mikey’s route:

Mikeys Route

Like I said, Mikey is no businessman. But I have his number if you are in St. Thomas, want an interesting taxi ride, and don't feel like talking much.


This New Lifestyle with Wake-up Alarms ...

… and make-up (for me, not EW) …P7170478

… and packing lunches. (At left, Lock ‘n Locks ready for the day.)

We used the wake-up alarm in Grenada whenever we planned a long hike, and we packed lunches then, too. But the make-up and daily routines for two working people are totally new and take some getting used to.

On days when EW works, he sets the alarm for 6:00 AM.

Somehow, an alarm every morning at six so EW can get to work doesn’t have the same panache as a when EW wakes me at six so I can take the next watch. How did this happen?

Deep breath.

Now that we both are working (I promise posts and photos about each job) I have to plan shopping, laundry, cleaning, and boat projects on my days off, taking EW to work so I can have the dinghy.

If I’m able to keep this job over the winter season, I’ll have to get used to working 4 or 5 days a week – and still complete all normal chores, write, and do boat projects to prepare for the trip.  I’m practicing a new routine this week in which I do one of five weekly normal cleaning tasks each morning. That way I won’t have to take two or more hours out of my “week-ends” to clean. So far, so good.

I also need to plan nutritious meals that can be prepared in half an hour. The reality is that  cleaning this way and being more conscious of menus and meal planning are all habits I should have developed when we left Maine. They are certainly habits I can continue when we become real cruisers again. So meal planning is good --- but the week-day cruiser cocktail parties are a distant memory. 

Darn it!

IMG00014As Lynnelle pointed out, we can do anything for 10 months. Heck we lived aboard year-round in Maine for eight years and both worked 50-60 hours a week. Going uphill both ways in winter to get on and off the docks. In snow and ice. We had to wear cleats on our boots to stay safe.

Compared to that, this working in the tropics is nothing.

But we still have to get up at six. Sometimes six days a week.

And our schedules don’t mesh.

I work whenever there is a cruise ship at the WICO port. During this season, generally Monday – Wednesday, but this week I work Sunday – Thursday. That’s cool. I like what I do. But EW has Monday and Tuesday’s  or Sunday’s and Monday’s off, so we haven’t had a day off together – except for the non-hurricane day in weeks.

I’ve grown accustom to playing and working with EW.

But we can handle anything for 10 months.

And  we'll be stronger because of it.

 

And more appreciative of our real cruising life – when we have time for things like this:

 

Whisper Cove Hike in Grenada

1-P81521061-P81521118.15 Whisper Cove Hike

A lovely morning hike organized by Lynn Kaak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-EW and Me Liking it 6-25-2012 12-22-59 PM

Death March II with the Kleins.  Also in Grenada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cocktail hour on La Creole


A Lesson on Living Your Dream

Cruising is our dream. It started out as EW’s dream, but I jumped on board fairly quickly. Sometimes I’m not sure what that says about me:

Am I adventurous?

            or

Am I just another Good Wife following her husband?

I didn’t have a firm dream before I met EW, but I remember remarking during my senior year of college that, “I can’t see myself in the burbs with a station wagon and a couple of kids. I want to travel a bit.” However, I didn’t actively seek out travel, in fact my first job was at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network on that same college campus.A few years later I met EW, who had dreams big enough for the two of us.

I am, therefore, so impressed by young people, especially young women, who grab on to a dream in their twenties and work for it. Our son, Favorite did that. At nineteen he quit school where, “I’m really only here for the sailing team,” and began an Olympic campaign as a Finn sailor. He campaigned for two quadrenniums and traveled all over the world. It was an incredible experience and he has become an incredible and accomplished man.

My cousins’ daughter, Lynelle, was a much-loved teacher in a small Maine coastal town when she decided to see the world by teaching in American schools abroad. She lived and taught in Argentina and Italy before meeting her world traveling husband and moving with him to Zurich, Switzerland where he worked for FIFA. Now they are moving back to the states for their next adventure.

Our sailing friends, Paul and Sheila, share Paul’s daughter, Jessie, who also taught at a small Maine school. In Jessie’s case it’s a very small, one room school on Mohegan Island. Sheila and Paul sail on S/V Que Rico, have sailed to the Caribbean and back to Maine, and certainly have shown Jessie something about living one’s dream. Jessie is currently through hiking the Appalachian Trail, alone, and writing about it on her blog: An Extraordinary Hike.

Photo above of Jessie and her pup in Maine. From her website.

Her blog is an excellent, sometimes funny, sometimes painfully honest account of one young woman pushing herself to her physical and psychological limits, having fun, enduring pain, missing family, making new friends, and living her dream. Every day. Day in, day out. For months.

I am struck by how many similarities exist between her experiences those of cruisers like us:

  • She had to leave her golden retriever behind, and she misses that sweet dog every day. Like us, she seeks for what I call a “fur fix”, the chance to hug and play with a friendly dog. 
  • We often comment on how friendly and helpful cruises are, as if our little island hopping “community” was unique in that way. Jessie has met incredibly friendly and helpful through hikers and segment hikers. Like us, sometimes she walks and camps with them for a few days. At other times, due to schedules, equipment, or physical concerns, she hikes on alone, or stays somewhere to rest while her new friends move forward. That’s exactly how we sailed the Bahamas and up and down the Caribbean islands – sometimes alone and sometimes buddy boating.
  • Just like us, she has to find Wi-Fi. She actually has that a lot easier than we usually do, but she may have hike out of the trail a mile or more in order to find a place to charge her devices. At least we can do that on the boat. 
  • She has been lonely, and misses family – celebrating the Fourth at the lake, and hanging out with friends. Just like we do. 
  • Weather is her friend – and her enemy. Rain, wind, sun, heat, cold – just like us cruisers, often the weather is the sole “decider” regarding a good day on the trail or on a passage, or a bad one. 
  • Like many of us, she has met wonderful “locals” who’ve helped and befriended her along the way. Did you know there are “Trail Angels”? These people spend a bit of money and time stopping by the trail with cold drinks, hot food, sandwiches, and sweets. Someday I want to be a Trail Angel along the Appalachian Trail. Paul and Sheila were excellent Trail Angels when they visited Jessie on Paul’s birthday.
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Sheila from S.V Que Rico who along with Paul  – hat at lower right – and their two dogs created Trail Magic along the AT. Photos by Jessie from her blog.

  • There are days she loves the experience and days she hates it. Most recently she has had to ask herself whether or not she wants to continue. She knows folks who have quit the trail more than half way through their hike. We’ve known folks who’ve swallowed the anchor years before they had planned to. Jessie has recognized that there is no shame in that, just as we have recognized that each cruiser must chart his or her own course. I would never through-hike the AT, and we’ll probably never sail around the world. But we’ll “segment sail”, creating our own path across oceans and following our dream. 
Jessie is an excellent teacher.

Why This Works for Us

During a delicious dinner and a lovely evening aboard Kookaburra, Jamie and I realized that both couples had twenty-something wedding anniversaries coming up. How nice. I love every year added to those we’ve shared together and I love hearing about others celebrating wedding anniversaries. (As I write this, Rebecca and Mike from Zero to Cruising are celebrating their 10th. Congrats!)

Jamie brought up something else that she and Keith had noted on their recent trip back to Massachusetts, most of their long-time friends have marriages that have lasted. I think she said that there is a group of six from college days, who are all still happily married.

That helps.

My two closest friends from college, my two most long-standing forever friends, Cathy and Kathy have also remained happily married for over 20 and over 30 years, respectively.  In fact, when I was reminded of Kathy’s 30th – four years ago – I was aghast. “That can’t be,” I said. “You got married the year we graduated college.” Kathy knows me well, smiled, and patiently broke the news, “Barb, our 30th year reunion is this year.”  I got over it. We were 10 when we graduated.

001_1The day this posts, EW and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. One of the reasons our marriage works is because most of our friends and family – including our sailing friends – have also been able to keep their marriages, strong and predominately happy for many years. Positive reinforcement, encouragement, and establishing expectations 003_3help us through the less fun times. And that positive reinforcement has been provided by our divorced love ones as well. Heck, I married a divorced guy. That’s how I got Favorite, the bonus son.

But I digress. In addition to the modeling and support noted above, there are at least three other main reasons our marriage and this lifestyle work for us.

So, here they are – in reverse order of importance:

 

Number Three

We both like this lifestyle, and have fully embraced it. But you know what? We fully embraced the “Fixer Upper” lifestyle as well. Once we decide on something as a team, we pull together as a team. Come hell, high water, Cape Fear, or mudding sheetrock.

Number Two

We each have our own creative outlet. EW has his music, and I write. We make sure to plan some time for each activity every week, we listen to and encourage each other, and we absolutely enjoy and celebrate the other’s progress and successes.

And the number one reason --- drumroll please --

Number One

We both have an extremely developed sense of humor and share it often. When I was talking with Jamie, I told her about the deal EW and I have. When we first met, he was never getting married again, so we moved in together. I told him I’d only live with him for two years without a marriage proposal and then I was gone. He proposed after one year, but qualified it. “I’m not sure I can be married for life,” he said, with brown eyes twinkling. I glibly replied, “that’s no problem, but I want a 50th anniversary. When I was young, a number of my aunts and uncles celebrated Golden Wedding Anniversaries and I want one.” “OK,” he said, “but then I may be out of here.”

Ever since, on our anniversary, EW has always mentioned, “One down, forty-nine to go.” or “Twelve down, thirty-eight to go.” Somewhere in there, I let him know I wanted first refusal on his next fifty years. We call that “the option”.

Come this anniversary, I fully expected to hear, “Twenty-eight down, only twenty-two to go.”

The day before this anniversary, EW gave me a passionate kiss before leaving for his captain’s job, leaned back, looked deep into my eyes and said, “I’m thinking of taking you up on that option.”

I Red heart EW.

Twenty-eight down,  infinity to go.



Paper Covers Rock, Rock Dulls Scissors, and Sense of Humor Tops All

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This living on a mooring <gasp!> in St. Thomas for a year <gasp!> can be a downer.

Facebook is helping me keep in touch with cruising friends who are in Grenada, Carriacou (which is an island in Grenada), the Las Perlas Archipelago in Panama, Massachusetts, Florida, Trinidad, and points in between. All of those friends left St. Thomas weeks ago while we stayed put.

Thankfully, we have our cousins who  live here, and some other cruising friends who are also staying here and working – and you know us – we're making new friends as we find them.

But I’ve still been bummed.

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It hasn’t helped that I haven’t found a job yet. This week EW took the dinghy to work Tuesday  - Thursday and I stayed on the boat. Searching for positions, writing (a bit), doing house work – oh joy – and eating too much. Oh, and I lost my phone on Monday and haven’t replaced yet, so no fun conversations this week, either.

We all have down hours/days/a week-or-two.
 

I’m over it.

  • I’m living on a boat in the Caribbean.
  • I’m married to EW, the love of my life.
  • I found my sense of humor again.

In the meantime, one of our friends back home has popped up on Facebook lately. Seems he busted his ankle, and is working from home where Facebook isn’t blocked, so he’s been catching up on our adventures.

So, Steve messages me with the question:

I NEED to know - How did Stew morph into EW?
Is it that he really is a Saint and you just dropped the "St"?

I assured Steve that EW’s saintliness had nothing to do with it and referred him to the FAQ page on this blog.

Steve and my niece Dawn both liked the St. EW thing. Then, EW’s brother Howie got involved with this link to a town in Cornwall called St. Ewe.  That’s the Hart’s scary sense of humor working overtime.

To all who suggested that we call him St. EW, I said:

Do NOT tell EW (about this). I'll never live it down. Plus, I'm a Methodist. I don't do saints.

Steve replied:

Aw, c'mon. Even the Grateful Dead did saints - Saint Stephen, in fact!

Of course, as soon as EW arrived home, I told him about St. EW and he laughed.

This morning, I had the final word on the subject on Facebook:

So, Dawn, Howie, and Steve -- I told Stew about our conversation re: St. EW. Now I have to kiss his ring. From saint to pope in 12 hours.

Wherever you are, on land or sea – I hope you have a beautiful day and a few good laughs and at least a couple of hugs. Everything else will work itself out.

 

Bonus: Here’s my Facebook Rant of the week:

Can we all agree to stop misusing "I" and "me".
EW and I are going to the store.
Our neighbor brought bread to EW and me.
Saying "Our neighbor brought bread to EW and I" is just silly.
Our neighbor didn't bring I bread. Our neighbor didn't bring EW and me any bread either.

Now I want bread. This rant is brought to you by carbohydrates.

This generated a lot of comments, and all of them brought a smile to my face. Thank you, my friends.

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And these flowers? All of them are just outside the door to the coin laundry at Crown Bay. How can one be bummed when surrounded by these beautiful flowers and very large, fast, camera phobic hummingbirds?


Living the Dream, But We Still Have to Clean

Doesn’t this look like an ad for a marine toilet? Talk about pristine. This is actually a photo of a real boat cat, Samantha, currently crew on Zero to Cruising’s catamaran, curled up behind their real head.  Mike and Rebecca have an exciting new cruising life planned and unfortunately, Samantha must sign on with a new captain and crew. This photo is one of many that  Mike shared when he introduced Able Ship’s Cat Samantha and her plight in his blog.(NOTE: If you don’t follow Zero to Cruising, you certainly should.)

My first thought upon seeing this photo was, “Damn! That head’s really clean! And white! Where’s the cat hair?  Water spots? Sand? General dirt? Does anyone really live here? We lived aboard with Jake, the nearly perfect Black Lab, and he never ventured into the head. Even so, the fixtures were adorned with dog hair, no matter how often I cleaned.

This photo reminded me of one of the many times I felt inadequate as a new live-aboard sailor. We had attended the Newport Boat Show and toured all the new boats looking for ideas.  Most boats at such shows have actually been used for a season, and sometimes the owners or brokers live aboard during the show. Even so, all were in pristine condition and every head looked brand spanking new each day the show opened. I made note of this and sighed. My boat never looks that clean.

P6010128-001Here’s our aft head after a major cleaning. Note that my boat is 27 years old, and the system is much harder to clean around. Samantha would not be comfortable with all those hoses, and neither are my fingers. This is as good as it gets. I’m not embarrassed by this photo, but I know that no one will ever look at any photo of La Luna and say, “Damn! That’s really clean!”

When we first moved aboard, EW worried that I would miss our brand new state-of-the-art dishwasher. I loved that dishwasher, but I left it behind without a whimper.

Leaving Connie was a whole other matter. Connie cleaned our home twice a month. She and her husband had sold their business and retired, but Connie loved to clean and wanted to make money to allow her to splurge on her grandkids. EW and I used to scheme to be the first to arrive home after the house had been “Connied”. The first person to open the door was able to inhale an aroma that shouted, “Clean Home!” in the same way Mike’s photo of Samantha in the head declares, “Clean Boat!”

I love seeing a pristine boat. I appreciate it, but I don’t live it. I just don’t. Boats need constant cleaning: inside and out, on deck and below the water-line, the steel, the fiberglass, the canvas, and the teak – it all needs to be kept clean. My mom talked about cleaning the house “top to bottom”. Boaters actually do that. Mom never cleaned the shingles of the roof, but we scrub the decks – our roof. My mom was a clean freak, bless her. I am most assuredly  not, but I have friends who are and who will go to great lengths to keep their boat in pristine condition. I love them, but I will not scrub my deck until I get Carpel Tunnel. We enjoy their company, but I will not use car wax on my interior fiberglass.

Who am I kidding? I don’t have any interior fiberglass. But if I had it, I wouldn’t wax it, believe me.

In the land home, B.C. – “Before Connie” – EW and I shared all cleaning duties. On the boat, we both tend to focus in certain areas, leaving some sections to fend for themselves or wait for a good rain storm. I do all the ‘household” cleaning below deck. EW had to wait through 25 years of marriage and move me onto a sailboat before I stopped expecting him to participate in weekly cleaning. He cleans below the water line, buffs the hull, has been known to vacuum in the engine room, and polishes the on-deck steel. Everything else gets done – or not – as time permits. I like having a clean boat and I sometimes plan how to make it pristine – but I don’t want to do that much work in paradise. Frankly, I'd much rather write about cleaning than actually do it.

Samantha, you are a lovely boat cat and I’d consider adopting you if I weren’t allergic to cats. Plus, I don’t think La Luna  would pass the black paw test. I can, however, recommend a couple of other boats that might work for you. Does the aroma of car wax bother you?