June 10, 2015

Screensaver Living

The Abacos, Bahamas are exactly like the screensaver we have on our computer. It is truly the perfect cruising ground and I can see why so many American snowbirds travel back and forth each year. There is reflective clear teal blue water, white sand beaches, gorgeous reef, plenty of fish, beautiful temperatures, 3G and easy access to groceries!

Now all of this does make it great but what made it wonderful for us was experiencing it all with friends. For 10 days we traveled around the Abacos with our friends on Gromit and Tahina. The 3 buddy boats went everywhere together. We planned out our days and evenings together. Activities included snorkeling, hanging out in shallow clear water on the sandy bottom, potluck's, board games, movie nights, beach barbecues and fires, cockpit charades, performances by fire light, storytelling and visiting. This made our time in the Abacos some of our best cruising ever. Perhaps too because we all are on our final leg home it made our experiences that much sweeter. Often times we would start sentences with, "This is our last....." It started to be an ongoing joke with us all. Frank from Tahina is a budding photographer so we are also so lucky to have so many of these memories captured with photo's.

You would think that we would have all tired of being in such close proximity and making decisions together but we didn't. We laughed about how strange it would be to have dinner with your friends or neighbors for 7 nights in a row. Even once every 3 weeks seems too often back home. lol.

Graham and I have been thinking about what's next. We have loved our time on Salty Ginger but we are thinking it may be time for a new dream. We are both excitedly talking about touring France and other European countries via a CANAL BOAT!!! When we were in the Canary Islands bringing Salty Ginger across, we met boat friends that had just finished traveling the canals in Europe for over 2 years and they were truly inspiring. After our initial meeting Graham and I came home and it was pretty obvious we were both bitten by the dream bug. This couple traveled the rivers with their sailboat and with the mast strapped to their deck....oh and their 3 dogs! I think Graham and I will look for a proper canal boat and we can even bring Aiden, who I miss terribly.

All of this said, we think we will put Salty Ginger up for sale. She still looks brand new and is all kited out for some family to realize their dream on. We will stick around Toronto for a couple of years while the kids begin University and we build our plan and educate ourselves on river boating. Who knows we may even find some other adventure. We also talk about traveling through Africa in a kited out landrover!

Eventually though I know we will return to the sea. Something keeps pulling me here. The water seems to center me and the challenges make me feel alive. Right now we are on a 4 day passage from the Bahamas to Beaufort, North Carolina. There is almost no wind and the water has just a slight wind ripple along the surface. There is a long wide rolling gentle swell. We have the engine running but it isn't obnoxious since we have a current and flat seas.

Once we arrive in Beaufort we are going to navigate the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) to Norfolk. The ICW is basically a river route inland which will be about 200 nautical miles. We will only travel during the daylight and will motor the whole way but we are told it is an experience unto itself. It should take us about 3 days and we are looking forward to this adventure. We are also told that once you have done it, you won't want to do it again. lol! The river is quite narrow and shallow in spots. You need to try and time your journey for the openings of the bridges otherwise you need to try and stay in a small space waiting for the next opening. The other major stressor is that there are some bridges which do not open and the height is dangerously close to our mast height. We measured in the Abacos and will most likely be within a foot. We will need to time our arrival times at these bridges with the low tide. It is definitely going to be challenging and after all our relaxation in the Abacos I am looking forward to it. Might even be a small taste of the river cruising we are dreaming about.....but I am thinking not quite ;-).

Well I am off to enjoy the calm waters and ponder life. I will try and capture a picture of it but it seems like it never truly reflects what I see. Too bad I couldn't mix in my emotion with the photo ;-). Enjoy the day everyone.

May 25, 2015

Feeding Frenzy

I watch from the dinghy as Liam the 12 year old boy on Gromit proudly waves his speared lobster in the air and swims quickly to his dinghy to secure his catch. I have noticed a shiny gleam in his eyes ever since we started out this afternoon. He seems different, more focused and excited with the spear gun in hand. It must be totally thrilling to chase after the fish and successfully snare one. I imagine it to be even more exciting than when we catch a fish off the stern of Salty Ginger.

I am happy to sit in the dinghy with the girls sunbathing and catching a small taste of the excitement from the sidelines. Liam has just come up with a nice size parrot fish and we are all hooting and hollering. He is so determined as he hunts. I watch him as he stays in one spot diving down and back up and down again. I asked him after what was happening and it was a battle between him and three lobsters. Luckily he won one!

Graham swims over to the dinghy and tells us there is a huge 8 foot shark swimming about. He points it out and we can see it over the side of the boat. Liam is off a ways and continues to spear fish. I feel the intensity of the situation dial up to high. As a fish is speared and blood spills into the water I worry. Finally much to Liam's disappointment Mike calls it. The shark is just way to interested in us....time to move on. Lucky for Liam the bay is huge and there are plenty of hunting spots to continue his adventure.

I feel a bit bad for Graham that he doesn't have Alex here to fish with. Amelia and I aren't huge fish eaters and Graham doesn't want to take more than we need from the sea. For today he seems content to be a spectator and snorkel about watching the show.

Over the past few days we have all had run-ins with the sharks. At Gromit one shark was standing guard at their swim ladder so they had to shoo it away with their flippers to climb aboard.

Today as the girls were trying to teach me to wind surf we drifted back to this area where we have been dumping our food scraps and we got a bit of a fright to see our familiar friend under us again. We towed the wind surfer back up wind and began again. Made the process even more exciting.

Yesterday as Amelia was helping Graham tighten the self steering at the back of the boat she was leaned way over the back transom holding herself on with the ladder that was folded up. Unfortunately though the ladder wasn't tied on and she made a big splash and fell in. She quickly got back on board and Graham said it wasn't moments later that a barracuda and sting ray showed up to see if the splash was food.

All of this is very exciting but the truth is that sharks, barracudas and sting rays don't want to eat people. There have only been a few minor attacks over the years in the Bahamas and they usually only occur during a feeding frenzy but it is so hard to remember this as we look down at them in this crystal clear shallow water swimming about.

Oh and speaking of feeding frenzies, the Gromit have been sharing their spoils. They have hosted two fabulous lunches. One with a variety of baked fish and another with trevally sushi and sashimi.

Right now we are 5 miles out from arriving at the Abacos in the Bahamas after a three night passage. The sail has been wonderful. Highlights were dolphins, cinnamon buns, daal and meeting up with our other buddy boat Tahina at sea!a

May 17, 2015

We arrived in the Bahamas

We arrived yesterday morning after a glorious 4 day sail! It was the kind of sailing that makes me remember why I love it. Beautiful downwind, calm seas and clear skies. I am currently sitting on the stoup of a small building on a very tiny island where they have wifi, so no time for a long post but below is a pic of the boys staring out at the wonder at the beautiful crystal clear waters of Mayaquana, Bahama. oh and they had no idea I was snapping a shot of them! They were matching though all tanned and shirtless ;-).

May 11, 2015

My Shell has Gotten Soft

I have been wanting to write this blog for a while but have been struggling with how to paint the picture. Being on the sea and living on a boat, your time is purely focused on the basics of life which also includes reflection. I find that in the city I am way too busy with running the race that reflection is so often overlooked. Back home I feel like the “water of life” is so murky that I can ignore what is just below the surface because I can’t see it. Out here the water is crystal clear and you can see pretty much everything floating around you. Life seems a bit more emotionally charged and sometimes a bit draining. We all tend to fire off our emotions both good and bad at the HIGH setting on the spectrum. I also become brutally self-aware and often a day will start with me thinking of the things I want to do differently.

The past few weeks we have been travelling with a number of other boats and cockpit parties and beach get togethers are abundant. They are so much fun and give us all a time to bond and discuss many of the same things we are all going through. Of course this is usually just the woman…. ;-).  One of the ladies the other night mentioned that back home she has her defenses up and “behaves emotionally appropriate.” Meaning that she considers her actions before acting. Each move and discussion is more deliberate. She said that out here her “Shell has gotten soft.” This so resonated with me. This perfectly describes how I feel. Everything is out there and exposed, you can’t really hide anything. It makes people really authentic and I think this is why we all become such fast friends out at sea. What you see is what you get. The good, the bad and the ugly. Anyone who knows me, knows that my emotions are usually always out there on my sleeve. If you call yourself my friend or my family, you have seen me on many occasions with tears in my eyes…..so now imagine me in this environment. Yup a bit of a mess ;-). I guess I could consider this trip a 6 month retreat! Look forward to the new improved Julie on my return.

We are currently in the USVI’s and plan on departing tomorrow for a 4 to 5 day passage to the Bahamas. This is the longest we have been out at sea on this trip so I am feeling a bit apprehensive. We also no longer have Alex to share the shifts with so this will mean less sleep for the three of us. The sail should all be downwind though so this is a huge positive. We won’t be leaned way over with the wind and splash in our face. Downwind is my favorite point of sail. We are also going to be sailing with Gromit which is always fun. We radio each other and compare speeds, etc. Nice to have another pair of eyes out there to.

One more thing I should mention is that yesterday for Mother’s day I awoke to a very unique surprise. On the counter was a face made out of oranges, paper towel and a banana. On the Banana Amelia had written Happy Mother’s Day and a nice message. It was pretty cool and reflected how unique she is. She also wrote me a really nice song. Right now for mother daughter bonding time we are at a very busy laundromat sitting on the dirty floor next to a wall outlet so we can plug in and charge our laptops! Shockingly we are both really happy to not be hand washing and to be getting free power ;-). There is even this nice OCD man who keeps folding and refolding our laundry.

Hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend. My mom is off in Vegas living the life I am so happy she is able to! Love you mom.

April 29, 2015

Radio Star

Ever since I can remember Amelia has been singing. For Graham and me it is her health barometer both physical and emotional. When the singing stops we know we have a problem. Everything turns so quiet. Luckily these times are few and far between.

On the boat we have a ukulele and a guitar and singing continues to be a major part of our life. At each port we look for karaoke or open mic nights. Well two nights ago we were successful in our quest and found an open mic night at Lagoonies Pub.

We invited all our new and old cruiser friends…Gromits, Tahina, Cedar, La Luna and Blue Heeler and it was such a fun night. We laughed and mingled and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everyone. Finally the live band took a break and they came to get Amelia for her performance. All her cruiser groupies gathered at the front by the stage and she sat perched on a bar stool with her guitar on her lap. The sound guy mic’d her and the guitar and she looked so beautiful, calm and confident. Didn’t seem nervous at all.

Finally it was time and she began to strum on her guitar. There was still chatter in the pub at this point and then she began to sing and the room automatically quieted and I looked around and people were enthralled. I still get enthralled. I had goose bumps listening to her. She finished and the crowd called for an encore and she delivered! As she left the stage a fellow from the island radio station came up and gave her his card and asked if she would like to sing live on the radio. She of course said “YES!”

A couple of days later we trekked over to the station in the extreme heat with guitar in hand. The station was just like you would imagine, a broadcast room with an extra stool for guests and a sound/recording room which looks into it.  The sound room even had the red light so you would know when they were on the air. It was the coolest experience ever. The station manager and radio host “Dr Soc” was in the middle of the morning show but during the songs he brought her into the studio. Graham and I let her go in on her own and we listened from Dr. Soc’s cat filled office. I was so nervous for her but she sounded like a total professional.

When it came time for her to sing I could hardly contain myself. She was AMAZING. She finished and you could tell that Dr. Soc was blown away. He was such a great guy, along with his fantastic co-host who was also a cruiser kid when she was young! This was such a unique experience, so different from any other cruiser experience we have had and I hope we have more ;-). Amelia is seeking out her next venue and I am dreaming of being her manager lol.