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New and Old Friends at Sea

I. Technology  in Key Biscayne

My smartish phone broke in Panama and would not read a SIM card. I spent a frustrating five hours walking all over Key West before a charming man in a small shop helped me determine that it was, indeed, toast. Technology has advanced a whole lot in 5 years (can you say “Android”) and I am not ready to spend $600 for a phone. Still we need to communicate, so yesterday EW and I walked to an AT&T affiliate store and purchased a SIM card for the old, not-so-smart phone I had in St. Thomas. We still don’t have data, but we can be contacted and can contact others.

Though it wasn't easy in Key Biscayne when we communicated via Sailmail with dear cruising friends Bob and Vicki from Fox Sea, we did get together. We had met them in April of 2011 in Antigua and instantly became friends (that they are excellent and eager Euchre players helped cement the friendship). In addition they are outstanding travelers who have had incredible adventures since we parted ways. Of course we have stayed in touch and they emailed us to say they were currently in Miami, “With a car if you need to get anywhere. We would love to see you.” We didn’t need the car, but we did need a friend fix and invited them to the boat for an early dinner, story sharing, and (of course) a few rounds of Euchre.

The men won more card games.

The Harts won in the friend department. Have  I mentioned that we had rainy weather in Key Biscayne? Well that Monday was miserable, with driving rain on their appointed hour of arrival. EW got drenched going in to get them. I got drenched helping EW with the lines, and Bob and Vicki got drenched getting out to the boat. Towels and a change of clothing all around, plus coffee with a shot of whiskey, and we were good to go. It was not a quiet night. Bob and Vicki also had boat problems in Panama and also have stories about getting parts and making things work. They spent time in Guatemala and Mexico, and left their boat for a few months to crew on a boat going from Australia to Africa. Along the way they took tours to visit with native populations, watch birds, and seek out snakes at night in South Africa. (Why?) We sold them on the Azores and commiserated with them about Panama. It was so incredibly wonderful to see them that I can’t even tell you. There aren’t many people you can invite to your boat in a driving rain, especially when they must take a dinghy ride to get here. However, I know that Bob and Vicki aren’t the only ones who would visit us in those conditions. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful friends.

II. Under the Sea in an Octopus’s Garden With You

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Flash back to November 1-3. The day before we left the San Blas, we played with new friends, and we are thankful that EW got to enjoy one last and outstanding snorkel adventure before heading back to the states. This was the first time he’d been snorkeling since our time in the San Blas in July. (Having shingles will do that.) Back in July, Jaime and Keith had pointed out a reef they called "The Japanese Garden". It's a dinghy ride (though a longer one than normal) from "The Pool" and we invited Dani and Tate from Sundowner to join us as their dinghy is powered by "Ole Crappy", a 3.5 little chugger.

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Dani and Tate invited folks from other boats,  whom they had met in Provedencia. Altogether we were three dinghies, and 8 people, from five boats. It's how we roll here in the San Blas. Everyone raved about "The Japanese Garden", which offers scores of beautiful and interesting fish, spotted lobster, at least one (late and now eaten) barracuda, and incredible coral of all different kinds.

 

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Afterward, Tate and Steve from "Tango" went off for further fishing while the other two dinghies attempted to motor around back of the islands for the "scenic" route. One of those dinghies motored all the way back. The other captain took the path less traveled had to rely on two blonds to row through the shallows.

Dani and I are good sports.

That night, Dani and Tate hosted us for dinner of marinated and pan fried dog snapper, mmmmm. They both love to cook, and we love cruising with folks who love to cook. Dani and I planned a joint birthday gathering for EW (the 6th) and Tate (the 3rd)to be held on Monday night. We were going to invite 6 other boats and ask them to bring the standard munchie to share and your own drinks for a night of (crowded) revelry on deck. I was going to make carrot cake.

By now you know that on Monday morning, I tuned in for our first time listening to Chris Parker as a "Sponsored Vessel". We paid for the month of November and had fingers crossed that we would get a window by the 10th. I had plans for those 9 days; plans that included at least two San Blas adventures, much swimming and snorkeling, and many short but important boat projects.

After his normal broadcast, I checked in to introduce myself and to  remind him of our intentions. He came back with, "Can you leave today or tomorrow?"  EW was in the salon with me and at first we both looked at each other and shook our heads, thinking, "No way!" But Chris continued on with the weather, the possibilities, and that leaving even on Wednesday may be OK, but Monday or Tuesday would be better. After that, who knew when we'd next get such favorable conditions?

P1010359So we rallied. Big time. Canceled the party on La Luna, got on the radio to ask anyone in the East Lemons to call us if a veggie boat showed up there. (They tend to stick to the more western anchorages and not as many go to the Holandes this time of year.) EW went up the mast for one project, and then we said our good-byes, and hauled anchor for the East Lemons, arriving at 1430. While we were getting underway, Laura from Gilana called to let us know that the "staples" boat was in their anchorage, saying, "These guys don't often have a lot of fruits and veggies, when they come by I'll call you."

We got lucky, as that boat had plenty of good things. Laura got into the launcha to browse the items while her husband and captain, Mike got on the radio to me. The conversation went like this: Mike stated, "Potatoes." I said "Six, please." Mike said, "Rice." I said "Zero." And so on, down through my want list. They bought and paid for the stuff, put the chicken and broccoli in their fridge, and waited for me to arrive. Perfect. The generosity of cruisers never ceases to amaze me. In addition, Mike advised me about getting rid of that last bag of garbage,  and they agreed to hand off an item that belonged to another boat who was not in the anchorage. Mike and Laura took a bunch of monkeys off my back and enabled us to get underway.

At 0714 on November 3 we left East Lemons for Porvinir to check out of Panama.. We arrived and anchored just at 0830, in time for Chris Parker's broadcast and my second talk with him,  "Go for it." We expect to motor the first day or day and a half, have up to 30 knot gusts through the "convergence zone" and smooth sailing to just off Isla Mujeres. We hoped to get to the Yucatan in 8-12 days, and crossed our fingers that the weather gods would still love us at the Yucatan, so we could turn right and head north of Cuba to the east coast of Florida and up to Amelia Island for Thanksgiving with landlubber but great boat guests and life friends Stu and Cathy.

As you know, that last bit didn’t happen, but, say it with me….”It’s all part of the Adventure.”

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Oh, while we totally understand why Jaime calls this the “Japanese Garden”, both EW and I found that we had an ear worm that evening. We were both humming, “I’d like to be. Under the Sea. In an Octopus’s garden with you.”


A Silly Little Millimeter Longer

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People are wonderful. People are funny. Cruisers are wonderful in funny ways. We like to think —because we are doing something so incredibly special and rare—that the cruisers we meet are also special and rare. Well, we are, and they are, but only because people are special and rare. This is a tale of people.

When we finally got back to the Guna Yala  in September (remember, those in the know spell it “Guna” but pronounce it “Kuna”) we anchored in the area known as “The Swimming Pool” to be near Jaime and IMG_2123Keith. They have since sailed east, but we remained, surrounded by pretty islands, great snorkeling, and new friends. Tate and Dani on S/V Sundowner are two of those friends. For similarities we can list: the cruising life, being social, love of food, love of music and card games, love of spousal unit, and a sense of humor. That’s it. We are far apart in age (20+ to 30+ years), education, and careers (they are scary smart, and I suspect Tate has a nearly photographic memory); and our Popular Culture meshes in strange ways.

As wonderful and funny cruisers, we are all willing to assist others, though EW and I are still far behind on the debits and credits list with S/V Sundowner. They loaned us their dongle so I could get online, Tate has given us many fillets from fish he has harvested, and Dani provided Tea Tree Oil that has been instrumental in helping heal EW’s shingles.

Also, Dani’s mom worked as a canvas maker for boats for a number of years, and helped Dani re-do all of the cushions and canvas on Sundowner. While EW was recuperating I began the interior cushion project, and Dani offered to help. I am not a fool and accepted with alacrity. We knew going into the project that the so-called professional’s patterning had been shoddy and that some of the cushions were not shaped correctly. I was determined to create new patterns and check them against the imperfect cushions. It’s a slow process, requiring patience, which is not one of my strengths. Enter Dani.

I had patterned the chart table seat, and the settee along the port side. (My “bible” for the project is Julie Gifford’s Canvas for Cruisers, the Complete Guide. I love this book and highly recommend it.) I made each pattern in the shape and size of the ideal finished cushion, and marked 1/2 inch around it for the cut line, just as Julie said to do. She also said that the edge pieces should be 1/2 inch wider than the depth of the cushion, and that the edge side with the zipper should be cut 1 1/2 inches wider than the cushion’s depth. Here we ran into….challenges.

The cushions were manufactured in Europe and are 8 and 10 centimeters in depth, not 3 and 4 inches. The wise cushion maker cuts the fabric the same size as the raw foam, with a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side, creating a cushion exactly to fit the space and, packed into the fabric for a nice tight seat or back. While I have been uncharacteristically precise on this project, I was more characteristically  unconcerned about cutting the side panels and planned on “pretending” the foam was 3 and 4 inches, adding my half inch for the seam allowance to that.

Dani has an economics degree. Dani’s most recent position was as Budget Manager for the engineering firm that managed the construction on New Orleans's newest hospital. Can you say “Big Project”? Can you say “Detail Oriented?” Can you say “Number Cruncher?”

No kidding we had a 45 minute conversation about the silly little millimeters between 10 centimeters and 4 inches. We used conversion charts, one standard tape measure, and one metric tape measure. Dani computed and talked it through, “My mom said there’s always shrinkage in sewing, so if we go too small that could be a problem.” And later, “You know, if there’s too much fabric, the foam won’t compress to the right shape.”

It’s a puzzlement. (She probably has no idea where that quote’s from.)

IMG_2091In my new, patient, detail-oriented (“If I’m going to make the dang cushions myself, I am going to do it right”) persona I hung in there, assisted Dani in taking new measurements and cheerfully discussed the issues and millimeters involved. I was with her every step of the way. She was providing great insight and has become a friend; she’s helping me and I am grateful. I. Exuded. Patience. I was with her right up until she told me I’d have to cut the fabric at the 16th’s or 32nds. It just seemed to me that marking 3 and 9/16 is much more challenging that marking things 3 1/2. The lines on the tape are bigger at the 1/2 points. Furthermore, as the discussion continued, Dani showed me that she had computed we were talking about  0.07 and 0.055 inches in difference. This is not a chasm. This is a toothpick, admittedly the really good round toothpicks made in Maine, but still, we are talking the width of a toothpick, people.

We ended up agreeing that (1) I would cut the fabric for just a few cushions to start, and (2) I’d cut them on the half inch, and (3) if they were too loose I’d take that silly millimeter off, re-stitch that cushion and cut all others on the 16th of an inch.

Later that IMG_2113evening as all four of us got together in the cockpit, it came as no surprise to either of our spousal units that Dani is very numbers and detail oriented and that I am not. We are OK with that. Further discussions, ranging over a few days, reminded us that we are of different generations. My guess is that they won’t recognized the “Silly Millimeter Longer” phrase, either. We were surprised that they knew “Coneheads”. Tate reeled off at least six Conehead phrases, including “parental units”, “spousal units”, and “charred consumables”. We were stunned. Clearly they are too young to have stayed up for Saturday Night Live.  “The Coneheads were big in the 90’s,” said Tate. “No,” we wise older folk replied, “the Coneheads were definitely from the 70’s.

After some back and forth we learned that they had watched the Coneheadsmovie which came out in 1993, and they are too young to have seen the original sketches which aired from ‘77-‘79. 

The photo above is a perfectly “charred consumable” harvested and cooked by Tate. A couple of weeks prior Tate had made up a batch of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, his version of Chicken Soup, for the ailing EW. I’m sure that helped his shingles heal more quickly. (See what I mean about the debits and credits? We cannot keep up with these people.)

Dani came over three times to help me pattern the cushions. On her last visit, we got brave and actually cut the foam to the correct size. She also, bless her darling heart, contacted her mom about sewing a curve into the back of the dinette cushions and her mom sent an email with detailed instructions.

We will sail back to Florida for a while, and Dani and Tate will go through the canal next spring to continue their circumnavigation. Like many other cruisers we’ve been privileged to meet, they are special and rare and wonderful and funny and we will miss them and look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the way.

Postscript. I almost forgot. When Dani worked with her mom, she used a software created for making flow charts in order to help her lay out the fabric. OK. First of all, the have a program just for making flow charts? Evidently they have more than one. While anchored in the San Blas, Dani found a free one on-line, downloaded it to a thumb drive and taught me to use it. It’s fun, and beats the heck out of using graph paper. Every cushion has a unique color so I can make sure that I have four pieces—top, bottom, and two side panels—for each cushion. I’m not going to finish this project until we get back to Florida, but I know I have at least 4 extra yards of fabric. Thanks to Dani and DIA Portable. (I have no idea how to make a flow chart, but I rock at creating colors.)

layout program one


Chugging Along

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I know I’m loud. Sometimes I don’t know how I am loud, but I am willing to learn and I can be quiet if I need to.

Before we knew EW had shingles he thought it was a 1) New bunch of bug bites, or 2) Sting from a jelly fish so we went snorkeling in the “caves” with Keith, Jaime, and Tate and Dani. This is a section of reef between the flats and the Caribbean Sea with caves, an underwater tunnel, and passages between huge mounds of coral.

I was meandering toward Keith when he gave me the “come here” motion and I meandered faster to see what he wanted to show me. It turned out that they had startled a largish nurse shark on the other side of the coral, and it had headed around to my direction so Keith wanted me to move out of the path of the shark.. No problem. When I meandered faster, I “chugged”, and the shark turned tail. “Chugged” is Keith’s term. Turns out I’m a loud snorkeler. When I kick to move forward, my flippers always clear the water and I make a heck of a lot of noise that I can’t hear because my ears are underwater. The fish (and that shark) can hear me coming from a mile away. That which may be good when one wants a shark to turn, is not good when one wants to get up close and personal with a tang, parrotfish, or turtle.

I can learn, however, and used my new knowledge to keep my feet still and let my arms do all the work—underwater, in long slow motions. Later in the week, when Keith invited me to snorkel a new-to-me reef while he hunted two lionfish, I promised “No chugging.”

Later, I told Jaime that this was not the first time “chug” had been used to describe me.

In addition to being loud, I tend to walk fast. In high school I remember some boys standing off to the side of the hall and saying, “Here comes the train! Chugga. Chugga, Chugga, Whoo Hoo!”

So basically, after blankety-blank number of years, not much has changed.

Well, except now I’m chugging in warm ocean water, and stopping to view the fish, anemones, rays, and turtles.

Whoo hoo!

To keep things honest, we’ve seen everything except a turtle, although they live and frolic in the Guna Yala, they are shy.  They probably heard me chugging.

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Accepting Help and Paying it Forward

P1010205While it appears the blog hasn’t been a priority, in reality I’ve been thinking about it daily, and have three other posts written. What I haven’t had is WiFi or a sense of humor. Both are required for blogging.

The finicky Digicel towers, my inadequate BLU phone, and EW’s temperamental iPad have meant that of the six cruising sailboats currently in “The Pool”, we are the only ones who can’t get online. On prior days, I’ve gone to Kookaburra to use their data and do a quick check-in on email and Facebook. Posting blogs, checking on my articles, banking, seeing wedding photos (Troy got MARRIED!)—all of those things have been unavailable. This was the icing on the challenges cake.

I’m concerned that we are becoming the Sad Sacks or VDPs (Very Draining People) among the Panama Cruisers. Back when we were living on the dock in Maine, friends of ours took their boat to the Caribbean for a year or two and came back to share their stories, to teach us to play dominoes, and go back to work. One of their tales was about a boat they met frequently on the way down the coast and thru the Inland Waterway. The captain and crew were newbies, and needy. So needy that our friends (two of the most helpful, nicest people you want to meet) began to go out of their way to avoid anchoring near the other boat and getting embroiled in the disaster of the day. Those cruisers were VDPs—very draining people.

We do not want to be VDPs; we certainly aren’t newbies, but we sure have been needy lately. We needed lots of help with the electrical issues (blog post to follow), we have needed help using Digicel, fighting Digicel, and getting on-line. And now… hopefully the final installment of “Problem of the Week”:  EW has shingles.

Yep.

Here we are, finally back in the Guna Yala, sitting in a beautiful anchorage with our forever friends Keith and Jaime and the opportunity to make new friends, and EW is ill and uncomfortable—miles from medical professionals and products.  Here’s how the cruising world works: After learning about the shingles (and knowing we couldn’t get on-line), Reg from Runner scooted over with a bundle of downloaded documents on homeopathic remedies for shingles. Not 10 minutes after he had dropped those off—while I was rapidly reading and learning about  Lysine and Arginine— Dani and Tate from Sundowner came by to deliver a filet from a huge fish. As soon as we mentioned the article, Dani began to talk knowledgably about Lysine (good) and Arginine (bad) and the foods that contain them. The universe provides.

This morning, Dani obtained the loan of a Telus hot spot device with which we can use our SIM card to get on-line on the boat. (We will purchase one of this on our trip to Panama City.) When I dinghied to Sundowner for the device and tutorial, she gave us a bundle of downloaded information and a more in-depth food list. We’ve been feeling extremely grateful for all the help, and still feeling needy.

However, yesterday afternoon we did find a way to give back.  The family on Tika have only been aboard for a couple of months, and are heading for Cartagena this week. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough coffee to make the passage. This was a tragedy as the closest store with coffee is a day’s sail away in the wrong direction. It is a potential tragedy that we could solve! In the midst of all this angst I’ve been using my energy to reorganize the boat, category by category. Yesterday morning I did the food storage areas and discovered a 6 pound bag of coffee beans we had purchased in St. Thomas. This was in addition to the smaller bags purchased more recently in Colon. The Captain and youngest crew member from Tika were passing us on a sailboard when I yelled, “We have extra coffee!” One tack and they were along our starboard side. I left Russell holding on to La Luna (which wasn’t easy on a sailboard with your young daughter standing between your legs) and popped back up with a bag of  beans. He was thrilled, and offered to pay for it. I refused payment and was so happy to be able to give someone something that I danced a jig (startling Russell’s daughter.). Finally! We were able to Pay it Forward again.

Maybe things will get back to normal soon. Normal for us, that is, which can be strange and wonderful, with rarely a dull moment.

As for EW: He has been a good patient and seems to be getting better. We’ve applied cream supplied by Reg and Deb on Runner, and that has helped. He check the bad foods list and made a lunch of cheese and fruit (no crackers, bread, or nuts). He followed that up with a can of Coke, thinking that “High Fructose Corn Syrup” meant it wasn’t full of sugar.

I can’t even.


E-Words and M-Words

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Some people, as I do, forget a word, but remember the first letter and make up the rest. (Some of you do this, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this.) This is not age, as it’s been a “challenge” for a long time, and probably is a result of doing too many things at once, having a conversation and thinking of something else, or of making intuitive leaps and landing on the wrong lily pad. In any case, confusion can result.

EW was made aware of this very early in our relationship when he asked me to pick up a six pack of Molson, and I returned with Michelob. There’s a big difference between Molson and Michelob, but when questioned I still replied, “Well, it’s an ‘M’ beer.” EW was not amused, yet we (well I) have had “M-word” challenges for the past 30 years.

Recently, someone posted an article on Facebook with this title:

Proven Study Shows Men Are Wrong 85%

Of The Time When Arguing And Won’t Admit It

I don’t agree with the article, but loved the headline anyway. It rates right up there with my argument stopping comment, “I wish you wouldn’t be so insistent when I know I’m right.” 

And yes, this is all going to tie together.

IMG_0939 - CopyYesterday, we were excited to head up into the hills for yet another Saturday Pot-luck Jam. This one was hostedIMG_0965 by Richard and Sharon, friends of Coach and Diane. Richard and Sharon have spent the last year taking care of a lovely home on St. Thomas. Silk Cotton Villa is available for rent when the owners aren’t on the island. There are four lovely en suite guest rooms, the owners’ apartment, and a kitchen/dining/living area completely open to the pool and view. Jerry, EW and I were to ride up with our friend Bethany who would pick us up at Crown Bay, after assuring me she had plenty of room in her car for three people, two guitars, and accouterments. Just as we gathered to wait for her, Bethany called to let us know she was 20 minutes late. No worries, let’s grab a beer at Tickles while we wait.IMG_0966

EW suggested that I call Bethany to ask about her car; I did and told the men that she would be in a black Escalade. I was kind of surprised that she had a car that big, but she has been a diving instructor and has a largish dog, so didn’t question it. I was thinking of other things. (You know where this is going, right?)

So we relaxed in an outside booth at Tickles where we could watch the traffic. Time and time again, EW would say, “Is that her?” and Jerry would reply, “No. That’s not an Escalade. Those are huge. That’s not a huge car.” Yes, Bethany was on her second pass when we decided to wander to the parking lot, to find her smiling from her black Ford Escape.

EW rolled his eyes and said, “Of course. It’s an E-car.”

Well, d’uh.

We had a great afternoon. How could we not --- look at this place?IMG_0955

That evening on La Luna EW and I were talking about our day and of course he brought up the “E-word”. “How could you have gotten it wrong? he asked, “ You told us it was an Escalade right after you got off the phone with her!”

He’s right, but I find it fun to blame him when I’m wrong, so I said, “You should have known. You know what I’m like. Remember the Molson?” He looked at me. “That won’t work. You waver. Sometimes you’re spot on and sometimes you go all M-word. What am I supposed to do? How do I know which way you are wavering — I can’t second guess you all the time. You’re … you’re wavery!”

We both have a point. But sheesh, he has over 30 years of experience with me. He should know when I say Escalade, I could mean Eclipse. Or vice versa.

But he does have a point. I am all wavery. Or I would be if that were a word. And I’m right about that and most other things. If EW disagrees, he can get his own blog.

As for the Saturday jam at the Silk Cotton Villa, we can both agree it was an E-word—Excellent!

Tour the Villa

The above photo was taken from the Silk Cotton Villa Website. Check it out!


Where Did This Week Go?

IMG_0108I used to say that a lot back when we lived in Maine, worked 50-60 hours and had an active life and a boat to live on. I bet many of you dirt dwellers say it a lot. “Oh my god, it’s Friday? Really? Where did this week go?”

We still have an active life and a boat to live on, but we aren’t working 50-60 hours in jobs, nor are we spending 50-60 hours doing boat work. Even so, one of the challenges of staying in one spot for a period of weeks or months is that you lose track of time. Well, you may not, but we certainly do. 

IMG_0056The cruising life: sunny skies, teal green water, sandy beaches … the days just run together in an endless loop of chillin’ and drinking rum. No. In fact, when we are stopped for a while – such as in Grenada during hurricane season, or here in St. Thomas where we are waiting for the new jib --  we get caught up in boat projects, reading, watching movies, and just hanging on the boat. EW plays music, I write, and poof another week has passed.

Sometimes, we are the cruisers who have to remind ourselves to go do something fun. That happened this week. I knuckled down completing the on-line stuff as though I’d lose Wi-Fi on Saturday. I won’t, but do need to move on to other things, write more and sew a bit.  On Wednesday, EW decided at the last minute to go in to Tickles for Open Mike night. I was tired and cranky, and opted out – and of course it was an outstanding night, EW played three songs, and I missed seeing cruisers we had met in the Canaries. (That will teach me.) Frankly until he mentioned Tickles, I thought it was Tuesday, and I’d already psyched myself up for a quiet night on board. What was I thinking? I was thinking, “It’s Wednesday already?”

IMG_9935We’ve been cruising since 2010, that’s five years of lost weeks. Somewhere in our second year, we decided that our commerial log book didn’t work for us, and I designed a custom one. The beauty -- when we use it – is that there are two sections, one for at sea and one for at rest, whether on anchor, mooring, on the dock, or on the hard. No kidding, but earlier this week I was thinking that we hadn’t been writing in the log book and we would forget much of our time here and not know where the days went.

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In fact, my fall back “log” are the photos. Thank goodness for them – except they don’t include normal log info, such as weather, when we filled up with water and fuel, when we defrosted the freezer, and when we dined with Rosanne and Dan on s/v Strategy. (And yes, when you meet them they tell you the easy way to remember their names is … wait for it .. “Rosanna Danna”. It works.)

Actually, I do know when we enjoyed our visit with them and Rosanne's Jambalaya followed by pecan pie – it was Sunset Sunday, and my contribution was taken from the stern of their boat.

 

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So, even though I realized that time was moving more quickly than I anticipated, I didn’t get the logbook out until today, when I discovered that it’s Friday, April 24th!  We are nearing the end of April, and while it’s apparently still snowing in the northeast (sorry, people) down here we are staring summer and hurricane season directly in the eye. It will soon be time to move on, and what will we have to show for it?

Evidently a few things:

  • A new jib
  • New salon cushions
  • Fabric to cover them
  • Varnished teak trim in heads
  • Varnished hatch trim
  • Varnished winch boxes in cockpit
  • New laptop up and running with all programs working
  • New articles started
  • New book started
  • Reorganized Galley
  • New blog design
  • Improved cooking skills
  • Weight loss (planned and hard fought)
  • New laptop station
  • Repaired bilge pumps
  • Repaired mid-stay
  • New songs learned
  • EW also is learning something called “shaping”. It’s a guitar thing
  • New audiences have heard him play
  • New friends met
  • Old friends renewed

There are more, but I didn’t write them down in the log.

And yes, we have enjoyed the sunsets, the play of light upon the water, the feel of sand between our toes, and the views from the hills on Water and Hassel Islands. On Saturday, we’ll go to a pot-luck beach party, with food, guitar, and plenty of bug dope in the dinghy. It’s been quite the week. We deserve a break. Next week will be one for the log book.

 

Here’s the At Anchor Log Page.

Capture

 

Photos from the top down:

  • View of Charlotte Amalie from Hassel Island
  • EW and Peter on Peter Bonta’s really last Caribbean performance as a cruiser
  • EW, Peter, the Tim West Band, an others on Open Mike Night on March 4th (what we thought would be Peter’s last Caribbean performance as a cruiser
  • Two more from Hassel Island
  • Somebody’s big baby getting lifted up onto a big ship
  • Sunset

The Rest of the Story (About the Endurance Crossing)

IMG_8705There are still folks who are surprised to hear we didn’t head south to Brazil and Argentina, and others who have commented that I seemed to have finally rediscovered my sense of humor.

Thank the universe for both things. So far, the Rest of the Story has only been shared with a few special friends. (Weren’t they lucky to get dumped on? They all unfailingly provided love and support and that is why they are special friends.)

I had mentioned to someone that “Seventeen things went wrong or broke during the crossing.”  A curious person, (or sadistic) he wanted the list. I may or may not provide it, but let’s start with Number One:

When we left Sint Maarten the second time, we had a few uninvited guests. Many of their progeny remained on board for the entire trip, across the Atlantic, through the Azores, into the Canaries, and back across to Guadeloupe. At first we weren’t sure what we had. Well, at first I was in denial, because our guests were invisible and only bothered EW. “Sure, Honey, I understand,” she says with an eye roll. The short version of the story is we (probably EW) brought sand fleas on board. In addition to being invisible, they are stealth biters, we never saw them and we never felt them. EW is allergic to them. EW had been allergic to them for years and he is even more sensitive now. The tasty and rare and fragile flower known as EW can be brought low by sand fleas and it isn’t funny. (Well, again, it was kind of funny on the way to the Azores, before we harbored colonies and when EW was only getting bit every so often. (I received two bites. All year. Just two.)

In the Azores, we relied on a pharmacist who spoke English to read the labels on pesticides to help us chose the best one. (In the Azores, fleas are “pulgas” One is “pulga” No one ever has one flea.) Since we had no sand on the boat, our guests burrowed down in the bed. Since we slept in the main salon underway and moved the bedding to the master stateroom once we arrived in the Azores, we had colonies in both cabins. Oh joy.

We would spray the boat down, close the boat, take the bedding to shore to launder it, spend the day seeing the sites and go back to scrub the counters and restore the bed. Every couple of weeks. This kept them to a manageable level, but we knew we weren’t killing the eggs. EW’s reaction got worse, I was still persona non grata to the beasts, and he was supplying sustenance to more and more of them, which all happily copulated (or whatever it is that fleas do) and produced still more. Still, it was uncomfortable and a pain in the neck, but not horrible ------- until we crossed back to the Caribbean.

IMG_8692On the crossing, someone is always sleeping or resting in the bed, or on his or her way to the bed after dining or completing a few chores. And we certainly couldn’t get off the boat to let the poison do it’s thing. So, we grew more fleas on EW’s blood. And EW developed greater allergies to the bites, and some bites got infected. I nipped that problem in the bud by using my Mom’s tried and true remedy: soaking affected area in salted water so hot you cry for your Mommy. Works every time with shallow infected scrapes, cuts, and bites. This is not a remedy promoted by EW’s mom, so he therefore thinks I’m a sadistic B!$#h. Tough S^&t. When bites in his ears prevented him from hearing, a hot wash cloth reduced the swelling. When he couldn’t see out of one eye, a hot wash cloth returned his vision. (See the swelling in his right hand, above.) IMG_8690

As you may imagine, this was not fun. We’ve always enjoyed that line, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This is also true about captains who are miserable with real pain, discomfort, swelling, and itching. EW wasn’t happy, we had other issues (remember 17 things) and it was not a fun crossing. (To be fair, remember that I had an infected tooth and was battling galley issues. We were not examples of favorite crew, and this was not a happy boat.) Once we arrived in Guadeloupe, our first order of business was to get EW medical treatment and to find an exterminator. I had worried about the second part all the way across the Atlantic.

  1. Would the exterminator come to us on anchor?
  2. If not, what would happen if we are in a slip and an exterminator came down the dock to our boat? (I wouldn’t want to be tied next to a boat that was getting rid of something nasty.)
  3. How many applications would it take? I knew we’d need at least three if not four treatments over the course of weeks.
  4. How much would this cost? We had 15 other issues to fix. (One of those 17 items was a family issue and beyond our control.)

Fortunately, I found the French word for exterminator, looked them up in the Yellow Pages, and found one who spoke English. On New Year’s Eve, Thiery met us in the parking lot and discussed the issue. After phone conversations and texts he had already decided that, because of those four questions, we should tackle the project ourselves. He sold us the product, directed me to their American website so I would know and understand it’s use and the safety procedures, and drove us to his favorite hardware store where he helped us purchase a pump sprayer, suits, goggles, and gloves. For the next two weeks, we would stow hard stuff, tape the cupboards in the galley, don our gear and spray the whole boat: cushions, mattress, under the bunks, and the storage areas under them down to the bilge. Afterward, we’d go on deck, strip off the jumpsuits and shower on deck. (Though we were in France, we opted for old swimsuits under the Tivek.) Then we would dress in the cockpit (France) and head off for a full day of sightseeing or shopping in Jarry.  After which we would return and clean the boat. (Jarry, an “industrial park” outside of Pointe au Pitre had a store for everything. The first day, we took the dinghy through the canal. The photo at the top shows the canal.) 

We didn’t feel we could take a slip, visit other boaters, or have the refrigeration guy on board until the guests were under control. So, for the first two weeks in Guadeloupe we were isolated, and still using a small cooler for refrigeration. (It was shortly after the worst of this was over that good friends Lynn and Ken from Silverheels III sailed into town to rescue us from ourselves.)We found an excellent physician, who examined and tested EW and confirmed that we had sand fleas and that he was allergic. Medicine helped. I replaced the pillows, and ultimately we ditched the salon cushions. EW was no longer getting bitten in bed, but would get chewed up while dining or reading or watching a movie in the main salon. Still, while in Guadeloupe we treated the boat every two to three weeks to kill all fleas and eggs. We were successful.

How’s he doing? Well, there’s good news and bad news. For the good, he never gets bit on the boat, but we are still in the Caribbean and there are sand fleas. Whenever he leaves the boat he sprays repellent on his body, and a travel can of the stuff goes with us for long trips, swimming, etc. On the bad side of the equation, for EW, Fleas Happen, and when they do, he is very harshly affected. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he had to visit a doctor and learned that bites on his legs will cause allergic reactions (like hives) on other parts of his body (such as the top of his head). We will not be leaving here without an Epi pen. 

And that, Boys and Girls, is the rest of the story of our Endurance Crossing, and one of the reasons we elected not to travel farther south. We needed to be closer to friends, family, and help. If we put those 17 things in order of occurrence, enough of them caused problems in the Azores or happened in the Canaries so that we knew we had to head for the Caribbean. The flea situation was just Number One in our early warning system. The other 10 or so things that happened during the crossing let us know we had made the right decision.

We've decided that making a crossing or undertaking a long passage is like reefing. Just as good sailors reef early and often, good sailors also must be sure of the boat and the crew before undertaking a rigorous trip. We don’t regret going at all, and would do it again. Nor do we regret making it a much smaller Atlantic Circle. Good decisions will keep us sailing and looking forward to the next adventure.


Yet Another Dinghy Key Issue

IMG_9203Oh man. Did I ever get in trouble after the parade in Guadeloupe!  We opted not to take a backpack because we just didn’t want to carry a lot of stuff. I had a dry bag on a shoulder strap, with the camera, hand cleanser, sun screen, and bug spray – and the dinghy key.

You know about dinghy keys, right? It’s that little plastic u-shaped thing that allows you to start your engine, and (if you attach it to your person while driving) will pull out and turn the engine off if you fall over-board. In Maine, the dinghy key was always in the dinghy attached to the engine. Once we started cruising, we removed the key to help prevent theft. I pretty much always forgot to use the key and would have problems starting the motor since it won’t start unless something such as the little u-shaped thing holds the button out to allow spark to happen. (I’m guessing about spark. I know that button in, no vroom; button pulled out from the motor, vroom.

(See previous posts about the dinghy key, here, and here,  If this continues I’ll have to create a separate category.)

So, you know what happened, right? Evidently, when I took the camera out of the dry bag, the key came too, and I lost it somewhere along the parade route. Of course, I didn’t realize it until we were in the bus on the way back to Gosier. To say EW wasn’t happy would be an understatement. We weren’t totally recovered from the Endurance Crossing and it was a toss-up as to which one of us could find our sense of humor on any given day. When I announced I’d lost the key, EW lost his sense of humor.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) depending on how you feel about things, while I was much chagrinned, my sense of humor – and my unwavering faith that things would be just fine --- prevailed. EW was not happy, but I was chipper. Actually, EW was less happy because was chipper. “It’ll be OK,” I opined as my mind leapt from one possibility to another. “How will it be OK?” Mr. Grumpy asked. “The dinghy is locked with a padlock and we don’t have that key, and if we could get it unlocked we can’t start the engine! None of our friends are with us, we don’t have a marine radio and we didn’t bring the phone. Exactly how will this be OK?”

Well, when you put it like that.

P1010017Yes, the dinghy was padlocked to the dock, and yes, that meant we had no way home. In the past I’ve actually found myself without the plastic u-shape safety thingy and I know you don’t need that to run the motor. A small line, or the shoulder strap of one of my purses works just fine. Somehow EW didn’t seem to happy that I knew that. Plus, we had that steel cable/padlock issue to resolve. Since the last dinghy key issue (see first “here” above) both the safety key and the padlock keys were attached to the float and cord.

(At left, the new cord/safety key. The faded red button is held out by the u-shaped safety key. Which of course is different for each brand of motor, because why?)

I figured we’d first see if one of our friends was still in town, if not, we’d have to go to the police to find someone with bolt cutters to release us from the dock. We’d get home, but EW would still not be happy. I was truly repentant, but refused to be discouraged. I knew things would work out.

We got off the bus, and saw that ours was the only dinghy on the dock, therefore we were the only cruisers still on shore. Oh. Plan B? Before we trotted (or stomped) to the police station, we discovered Plan C. (Gosier is this lovely town with friendly people and this dock was used by the little ferries who take folks from the town to the Islet Du Gosier for the day. The last ferry was on the dock when we arrived, and the crew person was one I had chatted with often as he is one of few who speaks English. So we conveyed our issue, and jumped aboard. They took us to La Luna and waited while EW grabbed the bolt cutters and I grabbed the box of spare keys and two flashlights. We traveled to the islet for the last pick up of the day and back on the dock EW paid our 6 Euro plus nice tip for the round trip ride.

IMG_9824I found a key that fit the padlock on the second try and EW learned which of the two small lines in the boat work best for safety keys. He still wasn’t thrilled with me, but he couldn’t deny that things had worked out very, very well. (Truthfully, my chipperness had been  hiding some anxiety and  I was stunned by how well things had turned out.) I had really screwed up and definitely was extremely fortunate to get bailed out so easily. EW relaxed a bit, and forgave me totally. Though I better not do anything similar for quite some time. I’ve used up his patience when it comes to this damn dinghy key thing.

 

IMG_9832

That’s La Luna on the top right, anchored in Islet du Gosier or at the little island off the town of Gosier. Gosier means Pelican. See the pelican in the tree at the bottom?

Voila! The perfect photo!

(And for you non-French speakers, Voila also disappointed us. Having heard the term expressed by real and literary magicians we thought it would translate into something more exciting than, “There you are.”

The French language is so disappointing.


We Are Coming to America

We were truly excited to leave Guadeloupe for many different reasons, but we were delighted to sail into Elephant Bay in St. Thomas for just one…we knew we were home. Neil Diamond’s song reverberated in my head:

Far,

We’ve been traveling far

Without a home

But not without a star …

On the boats and on the planes

They’re (We’re) coming to America

Never to look back again

They’re (We’re) coming to America

EW and I  look back, and we’ll definitely visit foreign shores and islands again. But America is home, and we are proud to be American.

However,  just as I have done things of which I am not proud, I am not proud to be associated with every individual American all the time. (Don't get me started about the typical "ugly American" travelers I've seen during our travels. That's another topic.)

During our travels in the Azores, Canaries, and Guadeloupe, I often tried to keep up with news from home, but more often failed. All broadcasts were in Portuguese, Spanish, or French, and our time with Wi-Fi was limited. For this reason, many of the European sailors we met were more up-to-date on the news from the US than we were. Some of them were brave enough to ask gentle questions of us, trying to determine why we (as in Americans) “hated President Obama”, as more than one person phrased it.

Now, through the generosity of friends we are on a mooring in St. Thomas with a Choice internet box; and by virtue of being in St. Thomas, have access to news on the radio. That is 90% great, but within a few days of arriving:

  • I got to read of incredibly racist statements made by  Maine state legislator, and found it almost impossible to believe that someone from my little northern state could be so publically hateful.
  • Conversely, I was able to feel great pride in knowing that our US Senator, Susan Collins (also from Aroostook County in Maine) was one of the few republican senators to refuse to sign the infamous letter to the President of Iran.
  • Finally, eager to find out what is going on with friends and family, I spent time on Facebook, where I was surprised to find both friends from home and boating buddies posting or re-posting horribly racist and insensitive comments.

Since we now “reside” in Florida, I no longer have the option to vote for Senator Collins, and have no influence on the first two bullet points.

But what is my responsibility on the final one? One of our boating friends reposted this:

Facebook

I was appalled. My first thought was to “unfriend” her, but I like her. We disagree on politics, but that doesn’t mean we disagree on everything, or that I haven’t learned something valuable from her posts or those of other strong conservatives.  My second thought was to comment, but I have seen those s#$t storms on Facebook and Twitter and did not want to start one. (NOTICE: Comments on this post will be welcomed from all parties,  but please remain respectful.) In the end, I simply “told” Facebook I didn’t want to see any posts from the person who was my friend’s source. However, I will share my intended comment here:   “I disparage hotdogs, have never worn a bikini, and my relationship with Jesus is not your business. I would say that Muslims come to America for the same freedom of speech and opportunities that enticed my ancestors and yours.”

My silence bothered me. There are many quotes by smart people--- including Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ginetta Sagan --- who all expressed that there is a time when it is not right to keep silent. Of the quotes I found, I think MLK’s is most appropriate for these times:  “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

My friends are not bad people. (Even if I think the person who wrote the original FB post may be a bad person – and I’m pretty sure I have no use for person who commented.) My friends have opinions they wish to share and have perhaps taken the easy way out by re-posting something that is bad. I’m not without blame. I have been vitriolic and spoken rashly and I have re-posted things better left unsaid. I hope someone holds  me accountable for it. (I know that Eleanor, one of my friends, business colleagues, and office mates years ago did a great job during our conversations. We certainly rarely agreed about politics, but we were always truly friends.)

I have been scornful of those elected officials and so-called journalists who cannot listen and learn and engage in conversations about various issues. I love listening to reasoned and learned “foes” who disagree.  But we need to remember, we aren’t “foes”. We are supposed to be on the same side. America’s side.  This morning, as all of this was spinning around in my caffeine fueled brain, I listened to a conversation on NPR in which they were discussing that letter signed by 47 Republican Senators.

Two statements, made by two different participants resonated with me. (These quotes are not exactly accurate as I didn’t have a pen in time)

The first:  “We are falling down a slippery slope of name-calling and backbiting that makes it impossible to get things done.” 

And later:  “If your first reaction on discussing the partisanship is to blame the other party, then you are not helping.”

I am proud to be an American. I will always be proud to be an American, even if I am not always proud of our leaders. I will not always remain silent. Friends in my timeline have posted ugly, nasty, hurtful things about individuals and groups. If you express those comments to me face-to-face, I will object – respectfully. Since I still don’t believe Facebook is the place for debate, I will not always respond openly on social media sites. But I will not remain silent. We are friends. We can disagree.  I will read your jokes, rejoice at your triumphs, cry when you are hurt, and learn from our differences of opinion whether they be about politics, economics, anchorages, food, or fashion. (Or the  Oxford Comma; of which, as you will note, I’m a fan.)

We are friends. We won’t always agree, and I will not always remain silent. In real life I will object to hateful comments, and vote with my ballot and my pocketbook. In social media, I will respectfully reject and object to hate,  and --- if provoked ---will vote with  the unfriend button.  In return, if I post or re-post hurtful, racist, or hateful comments, please call me out on it. This is not the time for silence. It is the time for conversation. It is time to remember that we purposefully friended each other and that every one of us is also proud to be an American.

It’s a great song: America


What's Sauce for the Gander is Sauce for the Goose

IMG_7964Does it make me a goose that I inveigled EW to cut my hair?

Evidently not.

It takes the best hairstylists (like Darleen in Maine and LeeAnn at sea) a few cuts to learn my hair. As we cruise the islands of the Atlantic I only give each professional one shot at it before moving on and getting another cut in six weeks or so.

Faithful readers will know that I have given EW two horrible cuts in years past, but he still agreed to let me try again and I’m now cutting his hair – and learning his cowlicks – to his satisfaction if not to perfection. After my last professional haircut in the Azores, I suggested that EW should take scissors in hand and save us some money.

P1220009First, I had to seriously absolve him of all guilt if things went bad. (This is where the inveigling came in. I know that means “persuading someone to do something by means of deception or flattery”. Of course you would have heard if I hated my haircut! Of course you all would know that EW did it.) But, after all, I did this to him, so how much worse could he do to me?

Don’t answer that.

I wet my hair, clipped it up in sections that could be lowered for cutting at the appropriate time, and arranged a crate and cushion salon chair in La Luna’s saloon.

We began. He has no idea how to cut hair, and I only have a little bit of knowledge (which can be a dangerous thing.

  • I knew that if I parted my hair in the middle for the cut, that when I styled it with a part on the right, it would naturally have shorter strands framing my face.
  • I knew that if we cut the first under layer a bit shorter than the rest of it that my hair would turn under naturally. (How much is a bit?)
  • I knew that cutting straight hair straight can be a challenge. (My mom gave me crew cut bangs when she kept evening them up until they were so short they stood up straight. I was only five, but didn't let her take scissors to my hair again. Ever. Oh yeah, it would be fine if EW screwed it up. I don't hold a grudge. much.)

The rules were as follows:

  1. I’d take the clips out when the time came.
  2. I’d agree on the length to start with.
  3. EW would try to make the top layers a half inch longer than the first layer.
  4. EW would not keep snipping to make things even. Crooked was better than too short.
  5. And (most important and a partial lie) I would absolutely absolve EW of all blame for a bad haircut.

IMG_7968It went quite well. He actually offered me a mirror – which was both good and bad, I tried not to micro-manage (but it is my hair), and we kept our sense of humor. We learned what to do next time. It ended up much shorter than what I had wanted. (EW learned NOT to hold the strand of hair tight while cutting as it springs up afterward. About a half inch.) However, it isn’t shorter than the cut I had in St. Lucia, or when I asked LeeAnn to cut it short so I could go for 8 weeks without a cut.

I like it shorter, and may keep it this way now that I’m living with my hairstylist.

IMG_7970

Afterward, I cut EW’s hair, giving him the mirror and I did better than the last time. 

Neither LeeAnn nor Darlene, nor any other professional stylist have to worry that I’ll never get another professional cut. Nor do they need to be concerned that either EW or I will take their clients.

However, I look marvelous, don’t I?