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April 2011

A Well Traveled Officiant Bag

In 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of officiating the wedding of my honorary niece, Chrissy and her husband Gordon. It is truly one of the highlights of my life. Knowing that we were taking off soon, Chrissy and her mom wanted to provide a gift that would work well on the boat, so they purchased an L.L. Bean bag with a zip top. labeled Officiant in a color a few people call “Barbie Blue”

The Officiant bag is well traveled, so I decided to provide a photo of it’s journey from country to country. This post will be updated frequently.

 

The Bahamas

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February 28, 2011

Since Chrissy’s mom and I have had many discussions about blue and pink and she has threatened me with fuschia, it seemed appropriate to kick off the Officiant Bag’s post with a fuschia chair at Volley Ball Beach in Georgetown.

 

 

 

 

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February 28, 2011

Farther down the beach, we found local and cruising kids enjoying the water and the beach, while we enjoyed the view.

 

 

 

 

Dominican Republic

 

Officiant Bag at Ocean World 3-12-2011 6-49-09 AM

 

March 12, 2011

At Ocean World Marina, the Officiant Bag perched in the cockpit as we viewed the hotel and casino ashore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 2011

 

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In Luperon, the Officiant Bag joined me at JR’s bar and grill during one of the few times I only had diet cola in Luperon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puerto Rico, April 4, 2011

 Water Tote 4-4-2011 2-32-48 PM

 

 

We put the Officiant Bag to work, toting a carton that held three gallons of water. Good bag.  Note that I again found fuschia for the backdrop.


Bahamas Spam, North of Georgetown

When I posted an article about the improved cover under the settee where I have provisions, one sharp (and funny) reader noted that we had a can of Spam. It is not to eat, I assure you. We also had a can of Vienna Sausages, but I tried one and threw the rest away. 

A Spam 2-27-2011 11-09-38 AM

 

Someone must eat the stuff as the store in Georgetown not only carried Spam, but carried varieties  of Spam. Does anyone really believe that fake cheese will make fake ham taste better?

It did give me an idea. I have photos and stories from the Bahamas and Luperon that you haven’t seen. So this is the first in a series of “Spam”  posts. Bits of information jumbled together to make an appetizing post – hopefully more appetizing than Spam or Vienna Sausages.

 

 

P1280024 When we left Nassau, we stopped first at Rose Island and loved the harbor and the surrounding area, and was delighted to find a hammock on the beach.

After A EW Watching for Ink Spots  1-29-2011 2-42-59 PM staying two nights we made our way across the Yellow Banks to Highbourne Cay. While crossing the Yellow Banks, one looks for what Aimee calls “black ink spots” coral heads that should be avoided at all costs. Despite the Yellow Bank name, the heads do look like ink spots and are really quite easy to see. EW had black ink spot watch while I drove the boat. The higher one is, the better he or she can see the ink spots, the sun should be over head or slightly behind you and you need a clear day. The articles and directions made me nervous, but we had no problems with the Yellow Banks.

 

A Aimee and David at Norman's Cay 2-2-2011 2-13-46 PM

 

 

 

As was discussed in an article about fishing, our buddy boating friends, Aimee and Dave were much more successful conching than we were. Here, Dave shows his excellent entry technique, heading down into 12 – 15 feet of water to hustle up some conch for dinner.

 

 

A Wreck at Norman's Cay 2 2-2-2011 2-48-38 PM

 

 

 

A significant feature at Norman’s Cay is the plane wreck, we surmise that it was a drug delivery gone bad. While others dove on it, you can see that she’s easy to view from the dinghy at low tide.

 

 

 

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I have too many photos of flowering bushes, but simply find them too beautiful to resist – particularly with sand and water in the background, and when I knew it was once again snowing in Maine. This was an indication to me that we were really in the Bahamas.

Finally, a shot of La Luna from the bath hill at Shroud Cay. She looks happy here, doesn’t she?

A La Luna at Shroud Cay 2-3-2011 5-58-06 PM


Our Selfish Lifestyle at Sea

I once told EW that this lifestyle seemed a bit aimless to me. What is our purpose? During a recent conversation with a family member, I said that taking off as we have done is a bit selfish. He disagreed and said we were living our lives and following our dreams.

That’s true, but traveling away from friends, family, neighborhoods, and organizations that we’ve supported requires us to let go of some “shoulds”. Friends help friends move, provide a shoulder to cry on, and open the champagne for celebrations. Family members go to doctor appointments, take care of kids, gather for holidays, and for bake beans for funerals. Good citizens volunteer, serve on boards, and stay involved. We’re no longer available to participate in person, and there have been months when we aren’t available by phone. As one girlfriend said during a call today, “You are happier when you are connected.” No kidding. (I love Puerto Rico, in part, because of U.S. ATT on the iPhone)

We miss our friends and family, I’ve found that easier to cope with than knowing how much they miss us. Pat's Cross Stitch 4-3-2011 11-33-01 AM Having us leave wasn’t their choice, but they must deal with the consequences and that makes me feel selfish. Our son, Mo, lives across the country and he’s a sailor, adventurer, and traveler so he was the easiest person to tell. Our parents had passed away, and that makes this easier for us than it is for other boaters. One woman told me that her otherwise independent mom cries every time they talk on the phone.  These folks are going to store their boat during hurricane season and immerse themselves in friends and family for four months. Two different boaters who have built homes in Luperon have moved their 90-year-old moms to the island with great success. When we bought our boat, one of my mom’s dear friends congratulated us and said, “I think this a great thing, but I’m sure glad you waited until your mom was gone before you did it.” No kidding. My sister and her husband, as has EW’s sister, immediately recognized the boat as our home. My sister made this for us the Christmas after we moved aboard.

Whether we travel by boat, RV, or plane, those of us who have opted for this lifestyle understand that we are giving up daily and weekly contact with friends and family, and it’s important that we understand that those same folks are making sacrifices as well – but they didn’t get to make the decision. Are you traveling far from home? Have you moved to another country for your retirement? Do you sometimes feel selfish? I’d welcome your thoughts.

This weighs more heavily on me than it does on EW, but he’s a nice guy and doesn’t diminish my feelings. He hugs me, and we call everyone we can when we have cell coverage. We’re sorry and we miss you, but we are loving this life.

Heart Sail 1 4-3-2011 11-33-45 AM

This plaque was a going away present from my college roommates and their families – my honorary nieces and nephews. This kind of support makes the journey possible for me.


A Tale of Olive Oil and Honda Generators

ALTERNATIVE TITLE:  Alex N., You Were Right

While we love our Air Breeze Wind Generator, it doesn’t fully charge the boat if we don’t have enough wind. When that happens, we have to run the engine to charge the batteries as we’ve been told that we should get the batteries to full charge at 940 at least twice a week. That puts a lot of strain on Perkins, our diesel engine, and some stress on EW. As Alex, a sailing and Twitter friend from Maine, said months ago, “You need to get a Honda Generator.” In a public response on TypePad, I disagreed with Alex. I was wrong.  EW and I have decided that we also need solar panels and they are on the list, but are much more expensive than a new generator and will require welding on the lifelines and stern pulpit – more than we want to get into right now. We had recently decided that a Honda Generator was in our fairly immediate future and I had asked the Universe for a good deal on a second-hand model.

Where does olive oil come into the picture, you ask? And well you might.

When we had provisioned in Ponce and Salinas we stopped into a local Cash and Carry, a store that sells wholesale to restaurants and individuals. We got good deals on beer, black olives, and a gallon tin of olive oil. I didn’t have the opportunity to stow the stuff for three days and when I finally got the boat back together I realized that we didn’t have the $28.00 can of olive oil. Faithful readers may remember I had purchased and left a bunch of meat at a grocery store in Fort Lauderdale. Fortunately, I came to my senses on the same day and they had held the meat for me. In Salinas, I didn’t get back to Cash and Carry for 5 days and the lovely lady who runs the cash register doesn’t speak English.

EW was stoic. We needed 4 gallons of drinking water and the olive oil. If she didn’t remember us leaving the oil, we were going to simply purchase another one; the situation was totally our fault. He and I walked the 2 miles to the store carrying a tote bag with two backpacks in it so we could tote the oil and water back to the boat. We arrived at the Cash and Carry and quickly realized that we could not explain this fiasco with no common language. Fortunately, a gentleman who evidently works there translated. I smiled, took the blame and explained the situation. He told the cashier. She asked a question and they dialogued. Then she asked for the receipt, which I had stuffed into my pocket before leaving the boat. Guess what? No olive oil was purchased. At all. I had toted it around the store, put it down by the register and never paid for it. We all had a good laugh, EW went and got the Olive Oil off the shelf and we picked up a case of three gallons of water and one extra gallon.

At one point I heard laughter and looked up as EW was paying. He pointed to me and then made that crazy motionWater Tote 4-4-2011 2-32-48 PM next to his head and said I was “loco”. I said, “I saw that!” and we all laughed some more. I put my arm around EW, looked at the cashier and said, “He’s a saint.” They got that and nodded. So we put the olive oil in one backpack and one gallon of water in the other. Then we put the carton of water into my officiant bag, and each holding a handle began the two-mile walk back to the boat. It was over 80 out but breezy. We walked in tandem, on the sidewalk through parking lots, and around and over horse poop.

There are horses in Salinas. There are a couple of large fields where the horsesHorses in Salinas 4-4-2011 4-28-28 PM graze without being tied. They appear to do their business whenever and wherever they are moved to do so. One treads carefully here. Note that the horses are, indeed, on the sidewalk.

 

So where does the Honda Generator come in?

We were parched when we got back to the marina so EW suggested we stop by the bar for a beer and we joined three boaters at one of the tables. We told them this story of the olive oil and the stoic husband. As we were nearing the end of the story, one of the sailors was told that UPS just delivered his new generator. “What did you get?” I asked as he paid his bar tab. He named a larger generator. “So are you selling a Honda, now?” (How did  I know?) “I am,” he said. “do you want to buy it?” EW said, “Yes!” So we bought it – and walked a mile and a half back into town to the ATM for the cash. If I hadn’t messed up on the olive oil we would not have been at the right place at the right time to get a nearly new Honda 2000 for $450.00.

I am forgiven. Alex was right, we have a new Honda, Mike and Karen got rid of one, and the folks at Cash and Carry have a great story to tell about blond, loco, gringo sailors. It all works.


Loving Puerto Rico

We are at anchor at Marina de Salinas – a restaurant/bar/hotel/marina in Salinas Puerto Rico. They are Mangroves and Harbor from the bar deck 3-29-2011 4-24-03 PM friendly – even to folks like us on anchor – clean, and have a laundry matt. Unfortunately their wifi is down, which is a bummer because I could have picked it up from the boat, so EW and I will have to have dinner at the empanada place we discovered the other day and use their wifi. Oh darn. Here’s a photo from their bar deck. Note the mangrove suckers, seeking water and mud.

We had been told that we could rent a car for $30.00 for a day and since we had to check in with customs at Ponce we called Sydney to reserve a car. He showed up promptly at 8:00 with a little 2-door Mazda, a basic model with air conditioning, gave us the keys and said, “You pay me tomorrow.” No muss, no fuss, no paperwork. EW had high hopes of checking in with customs, “doing” Wal-Mart, going to a supermarcado for provisions, unloading on the boat and driving an hour and a half in the other direction to Farjardo to “do” West Marine. In one day. In reality we checked in. provisioned for 4 months at Wal-Mart and the supermarcado and took two dinghy trips to get everything on board.  I stowed the perishables, and we went out to Drakes for a bite of gringo food. In the meantime, I called Sydney and asked if we could have the car for another day. “No problem. Keep the car.”

The next day we drove to Farjardo via the scenic route. Oh my goodness. We drove east along the coast until the Atlantic Ocean Along Route 3 3-31-2011 9-24-31 AM route turned north through the mountains. It felt like we were driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains – except for the palm trees. The road was well maintained, but only really big enough for 1.5 cars and full of hairpin turns. Puerto Rico doesn’t use those signs we see on the mainland US with pictures of trucks on a steep hill, or S curves warning us of the upcoming turns. We had to try to decipher the Spanish signs and didn’t always get it right. Since we were mostly only going 35 miles per hour, there was no danger. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop for photos, but the views and the houses perched on the mountain side were breath-taking. There were huge boulders on the right and one home had been built in the trees, above the boulders. I’m sure they had quite the view.  Both EW and I believe that a movie should use this road for a chase scene. 

West Marine was West Marine. We got ‘er done, and headed home on the highway. At rush hour, which reminded EW of Route 128 in Boston. These people do not use blinkers unless they have them on for miles without turning or changing lanes. We have a family phrase, courtesy of EW’s late brother-in-law, “Boston him out”. Boston, in this case is a verb and to “Boston him out” means to show no fear and give no quarter so that the other guy yields. Puerto Ricans can teach a course in the subject. They out-Boston, Massachusetts drivers. EW did great, I navigated an we made it back before dark.

When we had rented the car, I had posted a Tweet about how sanguine Sydney was about giving us the car, no paperwork, no ID’s, no deposit. A travel savvy Mainah Tweeted back that we should have taken photos of the car as it was when we got her. That would have been a good idea, but turned out not to be necessary at all. When we started her up, EW realized that we also had no gas – or not much. So we filled the tank for $35.00 and kept the receipt to show Sydney, and we kept the car two days and drove quite a distance. When EW met Sydney to pay him and return the keys, he showed him the gas receipt and Sydney told us to just pay for one day. EW told Sydney that wasn’t fair and negotiated up.  We ended up paying Sydney $40.00 for two days rental; plus what we paid for the gas.

We had been “introduced” to two boats who had been in Luperon before us and have enjoyed spending time with Art and Denise, and Brad (who is waiting for his finance, Dana to join him). We ran into them at West Marine.  Louis at West Marine 3-31-2011 1-40-55 PMAt one point, I watched Louis for Brad. He’s a good old boy dog, who responds to the phrase “dinghy up!” and jumps into the available dinghy – or cart.  Both of our neighbors have a kayak aboard, and Denise and Dana have been going out each morning during their cruise through the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Brad offered me the use of his kayak so that I can join Denise and we’ve had two wonderful mornings exploring the mangroves and islands near the harbor. I see a kayak in my future. Denise always has company aboard the kayak as Gizmo enjoys the ride. We’ve seen lots of birds and one manatee. It’s a great way to start the day. P4010033

Here, Gizmo shows his style when no birds are in sight. He’s a relatively laid back terrier. In fact, when we saw this tree of birds, Birds in Tree 4-2-2011 7-46-09 AM Denise let her kayak drift in quite close until Gizmo could no longer control himself, and the birds took off.

 

 

 

Denise, Gizmo and Birds 4-2-2011 7-47-04 AM

I’m writing this while doing laundry as EW works on some boat project and stores the stuff from West Marine. Later on , I’ll go back to the boat and get the rest of the provisions stored. Then it’s empanadas for lunch with some time on-line. Since we have to get to Antigua by April 22, we can’t take the time we want to spend in Puerto Rico, but we’ll be back to circumnavigate the island and see it all – and we’ll drive on the highways as little as possible.


Shopping Together Apart

It’s Saturday and time for a relationship post. Puerto Rico is a provisioning stop for us, and our priorities here were groceries for 4 months, and a trip to West Marine. Both EW and I had lists of things that we could no longer live without from new boat shoes (both of us), engine oil (EW), a hand mixer and kitchen thermometer (me), and new bras (also me). (You knew that.)

I hate buying bras, but couldn’t put if off any longer. EW hates buying bras too and avoids it at all costs, so when we got to Wal-Mart I headed for ladies’ clothing while EW headed to automotive to get the few things he needed from that store. He was back with the cart in record time. “How you doing?” I refrained from growling at him. He spent a moment looking at the bras on the racks and said, “Give me a list,” and went off to kitchen ware. When I came out of the dressing room I found three new items in the cart and no husband. I went back to the bra racks and chose 6 more to try. When I came out of the dressing room, the cart had still more items from the list. So far I was getting a lot done. I finally found two types of bras I liked and bought multiples of each kind. Cross it off the list! 

Then we shopped Wal-Mart together. Again, this was still my gig but EW was helpful, mostly. “How will I know if the hand soap has a foaming dispenser?” “It will say so on the label.” (I kept the “duh” to myself.) We got through toiletries, house ware, and the technical departments with few challenges. Then we moved to groceries. I really don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart for groceries as they rarely have local products and I don’t think they heave the best prices. They certainly have a lot of items we may or most likely may not need. Again, EW worked at helping – because of that we now have 7 pounds of salted peanuts on board. I’m not kidding. We couldn’t get nuts in the Bahamas, or when we could they were too expensive to consider. EW likes nuts for a snack. We also have 3 pounds of cashews and one large can of mixed nuts. That’s helpful.

Aside: When we had left Luperon, EW went in to check out of the country we had to have enough D.R. money to pay the fees but didn’t want to leave with any, so he went to the store to pick up a few things we might enjoy on the sail, Diet Pepsi, potato chips, and crunchy peanut butter. I never knew he had a peanut thing. We have two large jars of super crunchy on board already. He asked what he should have gotten, here I did say “Duh! Chocolate!?” Sigh.

Back to Wal-Mart, by the time we got to check-out it was nearly two, we were starving, and we had to drive 45 minutes back to Salinas and go to the supermarcado. EW had found the pan (bread) that passes for French bread in these Spanish influenced countries. It’s good, but a little sweet. I picked up a small Brie and two apples and asked the folks in deli to cut them up. They obliged and we feasted on the drive to the next store. At the supermarket, he also helped and at my request chose some red wine for me. That worked.

The next day we spent two hours driving the scenic route to West Marine, for which EW had a detailed list, complete with part numbers. It was my turn to get in the way, suggest things we may not need, and get sent off on errands. I was frequently delegated to go to customer service to see whether they had a particular item in stock. I also went out for water and sustenance, and ultimately sat in a chair and used the iPhone to Tweet. (Hey, I was out of the way and available.) Once we spent a lot of money, I navigated us back to the boat via the highway and we were done.

These two days were not without “words” nor were they without laughter. As is usual with us, there was more laughter than grumpiness, and I am grateful for that.  We live on a boat at anchor, and really have to get along. and we’re getting better at it every day. Thankfully we won’t have to provision up for another four months. In the meantime, if he has an opportunity he better get chocolate.


Busy Days in Puerto Rico

Whew! It's been a hectic few days -- so hectic and things have been in such flux -- that I haven't been able to post. First of all, we messed up the legal aspects of arriving into Puerto Rico and had to travel to Ponce to visit customs. They were very nice. Then, well, this is hard to write ... when we were in Luperon we met many ex-pats who are living there full time. Some have sold their boats, others still travel in season. The short story is, we looked at a couple of little houses outside the town and made a half-hearted and low offer on one. When we got to Puerto Rico we found out that the offer had been accepted and we'll be land-owners again.

Not really. It is April 1st after all. I was going to describe a non-existent house and tell whoppers about why this was a good decision, but I don't want to confuse the Universe. We're doing exactly what we should be doing and we aren't swallowing the anchor any time soon. I do look at countries, towns, and homes to see where we might like to be in 10 years or so and I love the small, spare, colorful homes in this region of the world. If you have great weather and a deck and porch you don't need a lot of space indoors.

We did mess up our entry into Puerto Rico. Let me Count the Ways:
1. We never obtained a re-entry sticker for the U.S. That was just stupid as we knew we'd visit Puerto Rico and St. Thomas and we do know they are part of the U.S.
2. I tried to sign up for a sticker after we arrived as now one can do that on-line -- but not on an iPhone as the DTOPS site is PC compatible only.
3. We checked in hours after we arrived - the next day, actually -- because we didn't have the correct phone numbers and had to get them from a neighboring boat.
4. We checked in from Marina de Salinas which is not a port of entry and that makes the agricultural officers nervous.

We were told to get to Ponce by morning and did comply. While there I had a conversation with a pleasant but firm Officer of Agriculture. The rule is you can't bring any foreign fruits or vegetables or any "foreign generated" garbage to Puerto Rico. If you have any such garbage, you must take it to a proscribed hazardous disposal area. Really. We had heard about this but didn't totally understand their point of view. Once you have had vegetables and fruits from the DR and Bahamas on board, anything you have on board is considered contaminated. Even if you clear all the garbage off your boat before leaving Luperon, and toss all food garbage off shore 12 miles out along the way, the garbage you still have aboard when you arrive is contaminated. Rumor has it that it costs quite a bit to dump that bag of garbage at an approved site. Since we didn't take the boat to a port of entry, we have to keep that garbage on board until St. Thomas and dump it there. Really. I'm not sure whether we've been announced in St. Thomas prior to our arrival and whether they are expecting that bag of garbage. We will have one for them.

Now here's the problem with this logic. 1. If my boat is now contaminated, then all subsequent garbage is suspect, but I'm allowed to dump "locally generated" garbage at the marina. 2. These laws are to protect their local agriculture and there certainly are a lot of large and successful farms here. But when we shopped in the local supermarcado I asked specifically for produce grown locally. Other than bananas and pinas (pineapple) all came from somewhere else -- much of it from the D.R. No kidding.

We will comply to the best of our ability and I'm going on line to get our U.S. Entry sticker the next time I have the laptop ashore. We have nothing to declare, we aren't transporting rabid dogs or guns, but we do have dangerous garbage. Oh my.