The Cruising Life Feed

So This Happened (Part One of La Luna Encounters Hurricane Matthew)

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We are fine. We are truly fine.

The boat is mostly fine.

I asked the universe to move Matthew to the East and he moved, but not far enough.

I asked that our boat come thru relatively unscathed, and attached to the ball, and she did—but the mooring ball and tackle detached from the mooring and La Luna drifted/scooted to shore.

I must learn to be more specific.

IMG_6136We don’t know when, but we do know that we are one of three boats in the marina (all big) who broke their tackle. Over 29 boats broke free from various spots in St. Augustine, ours is one of the least damaged, and the only one in our new “neighborhood” who did not damage anything on shore except a few mangrove bushes. We were very fortunate.

IMG_6160IMG_6278We did this. It was a decision based on what we knew at the time, the options open to us, the very strange direction of Matthew, and an engine with a problem that happened just before evacuation day. Given what we know now, we would have arranged a tow up the San Sebastian to a dock there. Instead, we prepared La Luna more thoroughly than most boats in the mooring field. An incredible number had their headsails on (shredded). Many did not take advantage of the free, very tough, fire hose donated by the St. Augustine Fire Department. Many of them did not add extra mooring lines. We did all of that.

Like the rest of St. Augustine, we did not fully prepare for an event that has never before occurred: a tide and surge so high that it washed up over the sea wall into the Marina tunnel area between the onshore showers and the lounge. In fact, when talking with the crew before we evacuated, one of them said that in 20 years he had been there that area has never gotten swamped.

This was a 100-year storm. This is the storm that reminds us that we aren’t in control; the storm that reminds us that even the best plans for living in a hurricane zone can be wrecked by a storm that comes just 5 miles closer than we wanted to generate a surge never before experienced here. We don’t make excuses, but we aren’t beating ourselves either. One of EW’s phrases is “You make the decision, and you make the decision right.” We are together, the boat is fine, and once she’s back in the water and we check the engine, she will be 99% just as she was when we left her.

That makes us very, very fortunate.

Others lost their boats. I mean lost as is couldn’t find them; I’m not sure whether all have been found at this point. Others lost their boats as in being destroyed. Others will have huge repairs to make before boating again.

IMG_6142IMG_6146There are at least 10 boats within a few hundred yards of us. We have been meeting on Facebook or at the boats and are working together to find out how we can get our vessels back into the water. This is a puzzlement.

IMG_6182La Luna and the others floated in on an extremely large surge, over what is normally (and what are now) mud flats. Imagine a barge even getting in there, where they would be aground in 2 feet of water. Now imagine the crane lifting La Luna up and putting her…..where? Down on the other side in mud and water? Not likely. We are looking at using a trash pump and maybe air bags, to help slide her, tilted over (probably with water weights like those used to get vessels under bridges—although in our case it will be to keep the keel from plowing into the mud.

 

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Anyway, this is what we think will work. We saw one post on Facebook that mentioned tying the line around the boat, not on the chocks. I like that idea, but not sure how it will work. Our hope is that La Luna can stay canted to port and swing around to be hauled bow out to deeper water where we will anchor. The marina will not allow any boats back in prior to checking all mooring balls and fixing the docks. Those who remained safe through the storm have stayed. The docks are badly damaged and if the north dock had failed, they could have lost all the boats in the marina.

This was a big one, folks, with a death toll nearing 600, of which over 30 were in the US.  How sad. How devastating. My heart goes out to those families. We are fine. We will get her back in the water and move home again.

 

Next Post: People Who Need People and the People who Help them

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Tidbits from St. Augustine

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1. A hot summer here in St. Augustine is hotter than a hot summer in Grenada and Panama. One might have thought (as I did) that being closer to the equator would be warmer than being up here in the southern part of North America.

One would be wrong. For the past two weeks, every day we’ve had a warning of a “Heat Index” of 101 – 107.

 

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2. The sun doesn’t set in St. Augustine until very late. (Well, late by Caribbean standards.) The phrase “cruisers’ midnight” refers to 9:00 or 10:00 PM when cruisers usually call it a night. After all, when sunset is around 6:30 PM, that’s about 3 hours of darkness. Here, the sun doesn’t set until around 8:30, so midnight is midnight. We rarely stay up that late, but we’ve had “issues” with our pizza/movie night. I’m just not ready to watch a movie before dark, while EW is definitely ready for pizza around 7:00. We have compromised. The pizza is usually in the oven by 7, and we start the movie during daylight, It’s not the same, and we can no longer set it up on deck unless we are prepared to actually stay up until midnight.

IMG_20160702_1807564. St. Augustine is a Destination Wedding town, about which many people say, “We’ve chosen our venue in St. Augustine”. Weddings have venues as if they were conferences or concerts. Though that began when we still lived in Maine, it has a whole new meaning here in St. Augustine. The marina office is across the street from one of the more popular venues, so we frequently see wedding parties, guests, limos, flower bedecked horse-drawn carriages, and tasteful wedding signs. This one amused us. Greatly. You’d think the person who had written it might have offered an edit of some sort. Ah well. I assume it is a happy union. (I could not resist.)

5. This is a music town. There are a whole bunch of singer/songwriters per capita, and we enjoy many of them. EW plays weekly at the open jam at the market. This week I performed as “Band-Aid” when I was asked to hold up some music for EW and four others who were learning new tunes after the event ended.

6. Working. Yeah. That job thing. It’s been a dry year in St. Augustine, but I am now moving forward with two jobs because this is a gig economy. Let me just state that St. Augustine is a tourist town not at all like Portland in that tourism is pretty much  the only industry. When you add the economy, interesting Florida labor practices, and my evidently advanced, unemployable—age the sum includes few job opportunities. I currently have two jobs, one in the store of the Black Raven Pirate Ship, and one as an HR consultant and sales for a Jacksonville company that represents the Predictive Index.

A. Black Raven Ship Store. First of all, they take pirates and colonial history very seriously in St. Augustine. At any point in time one can walk down the street and see a fully garbed pirate, or colonial muster. (And it is “garb”. Call them costumes at your peril. They carry real swords. I am not kidding.) I am not a garbed pirate. I sell tickets to the ship’s adventures, prepare the little treasure chests for the kids, and man the counter in the store three mornings a week. These are not Black Raven Pirates. This is a few from a Pirate Krew who dressed in garb to go out on the town. This kind of thing happens in St. Augustine.

B. Through the miracle of Maine networking, blogging, and Facebook, I was reconnected with Steve Waterhouse, who had been a consultant in Maine many years ago. That lovely man remembered me with favor and offered me a consulting gig with his organization, Predictive Results, which consults and sells the Predictive Index. I can work from the boat, and make calls on potential clients in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and nearly the entire country. I will most likely focus in North Florida and perhaps a bit in Maine. In the meantime, I’m learning more about this very interesting tool for employee assessment and strategic management. I am also learning a whole new business vocabulary, having nothing to do with belaying lines, hoisting sails, or navigating though coral heads. It is no secret that I’m a short-timer with the Pirate Store and will resign with plenty of notice once income from PI is a constant.

7. Technology. It’s been a recurring theme. Those five years created all sorts of gaps in our knowledge. We each have a cheap AT&T Android phone and I am beginning to grasp how smartphones have taken over. I actually said to someone this week that the best way to reach me for social things is to text. I used to hate texting. Texting was the way you could reach your refrigeration tech, and not good for much else. For some reason all marine refrigeration techs do not answer their phone, they text. Even the one in Guadeloupe who spoke very broken English. I digress. Frequently. The point is that I didn’t “get” texting until now… long after it had become a way of life. This five-year gap has caused me to be late to the party on most things technical. So I am delighted, delighted I tell you to actually witness a new technological fad in the making. Pokemon Go! I’m not playing (our cheap phones don’t have a lot of memory, and I really don’t need a new way to waste time) but I love hearing about something new as it is happening. Makes me feel all current.

8. Politics. Whoa! I’m actually happy to be here during this election year. If not, I would never have believed it. Plus now I can answer the questions on Wait Wait Don’t Tell me.

9. NPR. I am in NPR heaven. Kind of. Maine Public Radio will always be the NPR affiliate of my heart, but Florida does have many of our favorite national programs. I assure you that it’s not our fault that both Garrison Keillor and Michael Feldman both retired shortly after we returned to the US. I also had to break it to EW that Thomas Louis Magliozzi died while we were at sea and that the Car Talk shows we have been enjoying are all repeats.

10. Time marches on. Frankly, it’s dragged a bit here in St. Augustine. We are just now getting used to being back in the states. Transitions are tough. We are determined to make it work here, get the boat and cruising kitty fixed and go on another adventure.  In the meantime, we’ll make music and evidently party with pirates.


The Boat At the Side of the River

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The  Boat At the Side of the River

by Barbara J. Hart with deep apologies to Sam Walter Foss

The following is posted with apologies to the late poet, Sam Walter Foss, and those who love his poetry. Here is a link to the original., “The House By the Side of the Road”.

I first heard this poem read by a minister who had a strong Maine accent, and who included the poem as part of his eulogy for my Uncle Clayton. This poem still brings Uncle Clayton to life for me and always makes me smile.

Now, we live on a boat on the Matanzas River where we watch, meet, assist, and befriend those moving north or south. Here is my ode to our current life:

 

The Boat At the Side of the River

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
We are sailor souls that chart our course

Cross oceans, along rivers, and straits.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         But while I live in my boat at the side of the river
Let me be a friend to my mates.

Let me live in my boat
at the side of the river,
Where the race of sailors go by-
The sailors who are good and the sailors who are bad,IMG_3653
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the armchair seat,
Or scorn each vessel’s traits.
Let me live in my boat at the side of the river
And be a friend to my mates.

I see from my boat
at the side of the river,
At the side of the highway of life,
The mates who press with the ardor of hope,
The mates who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of the sailors’ fates;-
Let me live in my boat at the side of the river
And be a friend to my mates.IMG_3460

I know there are star-strewn skies ahead
And seas of wearisome height;
That the waves roll on through the long afternoon
And strengthen throughout the night.
But still I rejoice when the sailors rejoice,
And weep with the sailors that moan,
Nor live in my boat at the side of the river
Like a sailor who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
boat at the side of the river
Where the race of sailors go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the armchair seat
Or scorn each crew’s traits-
Let me live in my boat by the side of the river.
And be a friend to my mates.

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Lonesome Socks

Many of the memes that show up in social media were themes of cartoons, writers, and essayists long before Facebook came on the scene. Take the mystery of lost socks, dryer eating socks, lonesome singles socks, etc.

PinterestFor the past five years, we didn’t have that problem. You don’t lose what stays safely folded in the drawer and we rarely wore socks. When we did, it would be for a day’s hike, so laundry day would include exactly four socks. You can’t lose one of four socks as easily as you can lose one of 14 socks. (It’s also more difficult to lose socks when you wash a few clothes in a bucket, wring them dry by hand, and hang them on the line. Evidently losing socks is also a first world problem.)

Now that it’s warmer in St. Augustine, where the spring weather apparently goes from 90 to 60 in a 24 hour period, I have begun to prepare to launder all the wearable fleece and warm blankets prior to storing them under our bed for the next (fingers crossed) nine months. Over the past three months, I have frequently returned home from the laundry with one or more lonesome socks.

Let me be the first to say, that part of this may be a result of a new storage method I am trying. Instead of rolling socks into a ball and folding one over the other, I am letting them truly rest, to thank them for warming and protecting our feet. I fold them into little bundles and store them upright in plastic containers, a la Marie Kondo, author of The Kon-Marie Method, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Unfortunately, while our socks may be better rested, they don’t stick together as well. I suspect that sometimes (often) we will pull one sock from two pairs, wear them, and find after washing that we don’t have mates when we match them up for their relaxing bundles.

The other week, EW asked me how long he should hold on to his bereft, lonesome socks. “It’s not giving me great joy to have them in my drawer.” Joy is another of Marie Kondo’s words, or that is the word her translator used to describe her technique. EW does not utter the word, “Joy”, with actual joy in this context. In fact, it was “said sarcastic”, as they say in Maine.

IMG_4636I recently did a monster load of laundry and decided to pull out our sock bins as I stored the freshly washed and appropriately folded clothes. Guess what? Every sock now has a mate and has been repatriated to its appropriate sock bin, folded gently with his or her buddy.

I also found my long-lost yoga pants. Clearly I have not yet mastered the Japanese art of tidying, but my socks have great joy and are no longer lonesome. EW is thrilled. (And that’s a very soft, lower-case thrilled, with some mild satisfaction but no real joy.)

And for you inquiring minds out there, now you know: Briefs.


House Concert 101

IMG_4436Social Media can be a beautiful tool. Last week, EW and I were tagged in a Facebook post from our dear friend and former cruiser, Peter Bonta. Peter is EW’s guitar guru. We met him and LeeAnn during our first season in Grenada, nearly five years ago, and found new friends-for-life. IMG_4433

They sold their boat and are now living in Italy. (How cool is that?) Due to the miracle that is Facebook, Peter forwarded a post by a musician friend of his, David Watt Besley, announcing a private home concert in St. Augustine. And, due to the magic that is synchronicity, EW knew the host of the concert: Scott Sweet, a musician and luthier who had fixed EW’s guitar pick-up. (This is not a truck that looks like a guitar but a port to allow his guitar to be amplified.)

IMG_4425IMG_4424EW called Scott, got the particulars on the concert, and invited a few of our friends to join us. Kirsten, who had attended the Flager guitar class with EW, and Don and Betty-Ann, former cruisers who are now very interesting CLODS here on the river, all jumped at the chance for this limited seating event. Don and Betty-Ann kindly invited the three of us to dingy to their dock and ride to the show with them. (EW repeatedly assured them that they were invited because he knew they liked hearing new music,not because he was angling for a ride. Betty-Ann smiled, winked, and said, “Oh, suuure,” a phrase only a southern lady can pull off with the right inflection and timing.)

IMG_4483-001What an amazing evening. Scott had made chili, moved out most of the living room furniture, and set up chairs for 30 or so folks. We all brought snacks to share and our own libation—just like a boat party—and then we were enthralled by three songwriters performing in turn for three hours. St. Augustine is an amazing town. As Don said, after talking with Barry, an outstanding local artist who attended, “You just never know where you will meet someone with incredible talent, here in St. Augustine.” (That’s especially rich when you know that Don is a phenomenal architect.) I nodded sagely at his words, thinking, “Um, you  are an incredible talent.” IMG_4463

David Watt Besley, formerly from Virginia where he knew Peter, now lives here in St. Augustine, with his wife Theresa. He performs regularly in town on and on Anastasia Island.  Check out “Hopeless Romantic” on YouTube. (I couldn’t get it to link here.) It’s a beautiful song and one he performed that night.

David had invited two songwriter friends from Georgia, Jefferson Ross and Levi Lowery, to join him for this home concert and a public event later in the week. They enthralled us in turn with excellent, surprising, touching, witty, and highly intelligent songs—none of which we’d ever heard. It was a magical evening. We listened to some of their music the following morning (as they had sold CDs at the show) and suggest you check them out. Levi Lowrey has a strong website with four or five music videos allowing you to sample his songs. Jefferson Ross has a great website, too, and is currently offering :The Dogwood Cats” as a sample song. IMG_4450

IMG_4448When we introduced ourselves to David, he was delighted to hear that Peter had sent us, and edified Peter during the show. Now, I’ve friended David on Facebook, so important information doesn’t have to travel through Italy to reach us back here.

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The next morning, as EW and I talked about the event, the word “magic” was uttered by one of us. Regular readers and anyone foolish enough to ask about our favorite harbor will know that we frequently refer to the Azores as magical.  Perhaps the magic has followed us here or has been with us all along. Perhaps we just have to make sure we pay attention, opt to try the unknown, and expect to find talented people and magical moments here in St. Augustine….or anywhere we drop the hook.


That Standing on a Stage Dream.

I’ve been having vivid dreams lately. A few nights ago I dreamt that I had to sing a particular song on stage. I knew it was a dream for two reasons: first, those in charge gave me a new outfit that magically made me 20 pounds lighter and twenty years younger; and secondly, I was sure I’d nail the song and wasn’t at all worried about singing alone on stage.

A dream like that will stick with you in strange ways—I need to find a store that sells that outfit, but I have no desire to sing on stage—and I’m stuck with an earworm. In case, like EW, you are unfamiliar with that term, it’s a song that keeps playing in your head, over and over and over again. A well-known and very annoying earworm is “It’s a Small World After All”. Got it? Sorry about that.

That is not my song, and I can absolutely understand why I’m singing my new song. First of all, we are moored in the Matanzas River. (This can mean “Bloody” River, “Slaughter” River, or “Massacre” River, depending upon to whom you speak.) But history has nothing to do with my dream or song. We can blame it on the neighborhood.

To wit: Nola and Jerry from Alaska,

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Zach from St. Augustine,

 

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and these three boats,

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and finally, let’s not forget our own floating castle (from a photo taken on the hard in Maine.*

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So, what was I singing? Not :”It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moondance”, though EW has been known to hum a verse or two as we pass her by. Nope. I stood on that stage and proudly crooned, “Moon River”.

“Old dream maker, you heartbreaker. Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”

I’m as young as I’ll ever be, and I’ll never be a singer, but I keep thinking about losing 20 pounds and EW and I often dream of our next sailing adventures.

*For those of your wondering about why I didn’t take a photo of La Luna moored in the river—I did. But EW didn’t want me to use it because he hadn’t cleaned the transom. Men.IMG_3980

IMG_3971A final note about the theme. The other names from the cosmos in the neighborhood include Juno (wife of Jupiter), Night Music, and Star Gazer. It’s that kind of crowd.

 

 

In the meantime, “Two drifters, off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same, rainbow’s end; my huckleberry friend, Moon River (and EW) and meeeee.”


Wheathah or Not–We Can Handle It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reflections on 2015 and the Past Five Years

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People.

For us, and I think for most cruisers, this lifestyle is all about People; People-with-a-capital-P. P that rhymes with T and stands not for Trouble but for Team, or Togetherness, or Touch (as in Staying in). And these People, these precious friends, loved ones, and relatives range from those we’ve known all our lives, to those we’ve met at sea.

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Just as parents of toddlers seek playgroups and other parents of toddlers, cruisers seek other cruisers. Our lifestyle is rare among the general population and we cruisers share a language, similar stories, trials, and triumphs. Get us together and you can’t shut us up. (OK, shutting me up sometimes is difficult in any situation, let’s not go there.) We love to share favorite recipes, fixes, harbors, weather reports, bars, marine stores, tools, boatyards, bottom paint, and stories. We learn about each other’s  families, food allergies, collections, hometowns, pets, and drink of choice. We form fast friendships that last for years. We find forever friends and stay in touch even as we anchor in different harbors, sail on different seas, or swallow the anchor and move ashore.

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CaptureFrom June 2014 to now, EW and I have sailed more than 7000 miles. This stunned me. I checked it twice and asked EW if this was possible. “Oh easily,” he replied. Dear friends for life and non-sailors Cathy and Stu who continue to provide a wonderful welcome to Florida, have expressed how brave they think we are. Yet we know many others who have sailed greater distances in more treacherous waters. We don’t feel brave. We feel very, very fortunate. And while we have some sea stories, such as the “Endurance Crossing” or the “Horrific Passage”, or the long trek north from Panama, even those stories are about the People; family back home, people helping us with weather, people watching anxiously for reports of our safe progress, people welcoming us to the San Blas, Isla Mujeres,  Key West, Miami, and St. Augustine, and the people we’ve met on boats and on shore.

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mo and rossi 1You’ve heard it all from me. How supportive our families have been (especially my late sister, Patricia, our champion, and our son Mo, AKA “Favorite”); how much fun we’ve had with the many wonderful cruisers we’ve met, from Hampton, Virginia in 2010 to nearly every port we’ve visited; and how delighted we’ve been to make new friends on shore—especially those in Grenada, St. Thomas, and the Azores.

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For us, it’s all about the People: People who keep us informed and included on Facebook, People who sailed to Guadeloupe just because they knew we needed an English-speaking friend. People who offered medicine and aid when EW had shingles. People who cook; laugh; tell great stories; listen; help with projects; need help from us; show us outstanding snorkeling areas; walk with us for fun and exercise; need fur-fixes as much as I do; play music with EW; and organize hikes over hill, dale, mud, and cow dung.

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The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 finds us on an adventure of a different sort. La Luna will live on a mooring, rest, and get some much needed TLC. (Those 7000 miles were much harder on her than they were on us.) Our cruising kitty (MEOW!) will also get some much needed TLC, and EW and I will work. We will also visit with friends, relatives, or other cruisers, such as Cathy and Stu, and Kathy, and Andy and Linda, and Lauren and Rob, and Pam and Nick, and John and Dora, and Mike, and Vicki and Bob, and Peter—and many more with whom we have not yet connected.

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We’ve already met new friends, some of whom will drop by on their way back north after a winter in Florida, and others who have left armed with names of boats and friends they will meet as they follow our path through the Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean.

Cruising. Starts with “C” which rhymes with “P” and stands for People.

EW and I wish all of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous, New Year. Whether you travel great distances by land, air or sea, or stick close to home we wish you wonderful adventures and “smooth sailing”. Most of all, we hope that each and every one of you feel as fortunate and loved as we do, for we love you all.

Thank you.

(Bonus points for those who know the musical reference. Kathy, Chrissy and Beth, I’m counting on you.)

EXTRA BONUS if you can answer this question, found at the top of a lighthouse in Panama:

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I don’t know who Olaf is or what he’d do. If I could list every person who has made me feel connected, special, and loved this year, it would be an insanely long list and include friends, relatives, former colleagues, and many cruisers. But not Olaf. I don’t know Olaf.


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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Panama: Where East is West and Nothing is Near and There's No Such Thing as a Quick Trip to Colon

Panama Directions I have an excellent sense of direction, except on islands—and sometimes in Panama. When the full moon rose one night in Linton Bay I was nonplussed for a moment, thinking it was rising from the west. On the Caribbean side, Panama has a snaking, curving coast, so the mountains on the mainland are south of us. On the chart, we are anchored west of Isla Grande under that big messy red dot. Our cruising ground in the Guna Yala are inside the messy red circle.

This anchorage/marina is the shortest distance from the Guna Yala where one may take a bus or taxi to Colon or Panama City. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It means it’s possible. A bit closer to Colon is the town of Portabelo, where one can anchor and go ashore and catch the bus. There are pluses and minuses for anchoring in Portabelo: On the plus side, it’s on the regular bus route and more buses go between Colon, Sabinitas, and Portobelo than go to the end of the line. We anchored at Linton Bay Marina, which is close to the end of the bus line and offers fewer buses. Also on the plus side for Portabelo, there area a couple of hardware stores, a few small groceries, an excellent Panamanian bakery, a good fruit and vegetable vendor, and Captain Jack’s, the cruisers’ hangout. On the minus side, we have been told not to leave our dinghy ashore overnight, and Portobelo, surrounded by mountains, makes its own weather. It may rain nearly every day in Panama during the rainy season, but it always rains in Portobelo. Also, bad thunderstorms occur more frequently there than they do where we opted to anchor. I will put up with quite a bit of inconvenience to avoid severe lightning.

This cruising life is a trade off.

IMG_2023The big trade off is that end of the bus line thing. Affectionately known as “chicken buses” these old, retired, US school buses are often pimped out with graphics and giant versions of those bicycle handle bar streamers we all used to have in my youth. In addition, they have generally taken out the last two seats to allow for large backpacks, bicycles, and groceries, and they have installed pipes along the ceiling so folks standing have something to hold. To say folks are squeezed in would be an understatement. “How tightly are passengers squeezed together?” you might ask. On his last run back from Colon, EW was squished into the window by a rather large woman on the aisle, who was being pressed herself by someone standing in the aisle. At the end of the trip,  EW’s elbow had been rubbed raw on the window molding. Trips to Colon will take about two hours and are never comfortable—though that’s our only injury thus far.

Still, for weeks, one or the other of us would plan a “quick trip” to Colon. One in which we’d scoot in to pick up something that had been ordered or repaired, with the intention of getting on—if not the next bus back, the one after that. It never happens. And—since the buses to “Laguaria”—the end of the line don’t run during the afternoon, if one misses the last mid-day bus, one waits until 3:30 to begin the trek. If one is burdened with groceries, a case of beer, or two alternators, it is best to go to the dingy bus station so that said heavy things can be easily loaded into the back of the bus, and so that you are sure to get a seat.

We usually try to catch the 6:10 bus at the marina going toward the end of the line so that we have seats when the school kids get on at that end. On my “quick trip” I opted to leave at 7:10, and shared a seat with a cruiser from Columbia, who speaks some English. As we entered the last stop before turning back towards Colon, the bus was waved over by the police, who boarded and walked down the aisles. I’m not sure what they expected to achieve, but gathered that two German tourists had been robbed and the police were trying to find the culprits. We sat on the hot bus for 45 minutes, after which the driver returned and we resumed our regularly scheduled program.

It took me well over two hours to get to Colon that day, but my task was quick and easy and I opted to catch the return bus near the Quarto Altos Mall. Every seat was taken except for one full, two-person seat which had two small bags of items sitting all alone. One woman conveyed that I could take it, but I understood she had been holding the seat for someone. I left the groceries in the seat until a gentleman sat next to me and I had to take them up. This kind of ticked me off. This is the only time I’ve been on the bus without having to hold groceries or boat parts or an alternator and there I was, holding someone else’s stuff.

People got on. People got off.  The man next to me got off and someone else got on. In the meantime, I’d use my phone to translate, “These are not my things,” which brought smiles to three ladies in my area, but no relief. Finally, one young woman with a small boy in her arms indicated I should do…something. At first I thought those were her packages, but no, the three ladies had been watching for a moment to get me into another seat, and she wanted me to move next to her quickly “rapidamente” before the school kids got on at the next stop. The bags  belonged to the first lady, who was saving a seat for her two school-age sons. Evidently this is Panama’s version of picking up the kids from school.

In addition, the three ladies had paid attention to me when I mentioned my destination as Puerto Lindo, and my young seat mate conveyed that this bus did not go through to the end, but stopped in Portobelo and turned around. “No problemo.” I said, followed by “Gracias.” I hopped off in Portobelo, helping my seat mate with her own packages, while she carried her baby down the cramped isles. There, I waited for a bus to the end of the line. I had left for my quick trip at 7:00 AM. I arrived in Colon after 9:30 and completed my one mission there in just 20 minutes. Still, I didn’t get back to the marina until 4:00 PM

Proving once again, that there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon.