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.

April 23, 2015

Empty Room – Goodbye to Alex

As many of you know Alex has taken a gap year before beginning University in September. He has been accepted into the Environmental Studies program at Waterloo. We were thrilled that he was excited to come with us on yet another sailing adventure and we knew that eventually he would need to return home for the summer and find work to save for his expenses in September. The timeline regarding his departure was always up in the air a bit. After plenty of discussion Alex let us know that he was anxious to get back to Toronto, find work and start making his way in preparation for September. Beginning of May is when the university students will also be on the job market so he thought it best to get back end of April and get himself set up and job searching.

For me this is a huge turning point. As a parent you prepare your kids to not need you but when the point actually comes to let go it is harder than I ever imagined. Not because I don’t think he is capable but because I will miss this stage with him. There are still times that I miss little Alex. I know there are plenty of great stages ahead of us but moving on is hard. I love having him on the boat. He is mostly light and sunshine. He puts people at ease and his smile seems to be contagious. He doesn't complain and Graham has come to rely on him for help with sailing and any heavy lifting. He knows how to lighten the mood when things get dicey and is a great brother and friend to Amelia. He still makes plenty of questionable decisions and sometimes has to be reminded to wipe toothpaste off his face but these things will come. I am sad, happy and excited for him all at once.

We decided that he would jump ship in Antigua and fly home to Toronto. For our last sail together Liam from Gromit joined us and it was picture perfect. We trailed two fishing lines, laughed and sailed Salty Ginger fast! As we sailed closer and closer to the island my heart was in my throat. Then as each day passed and he began to pack and we made plans for his return back home and planned his goodbye beach party……my heart hurt. I knew he was leaving but maybe I just didn't believe it.

On his last day Alex and I spent the afternoon together. We kayaked to the beach and walked into the marina. We swam and laughed and remembered good times. He mentioned to me that he is looking forward to me shifting from parenting to advising. He makes me laugh. He also said that he will not entertain text messages which read "Where are you?" I really enjoyed that afternoon.

The night before he flew out we had a big beach barbecue with the Gromits and our friends Tanner and Shari and their boys. It was the perfect evening. Liam even fired off his last few fireworks in honor of Alex’s goodbye.

Now his room is empty…..I miss him. Life is different without him. I still have moments where I buy four of something or mention to someone I have two kid on board….then I remember :-(. Amelia has totally stepped in and has taken on Alex’s sailing responsibilities and our 4 night dinner making rotation is now a 3 night rotation.  I know she misses him, especially at night since Graham and I crash so early. We are so lucky to have 3 wonderful Gromit kids nearby to fill our lonely hearts.

I spoke to Alex and asked him how he was doing and he said that the only word to sum it all up was "happy." This made me feel better. Time for me to move on and assume my new role as "Advisor."

Oh and hey on the plus side we have an empty room now for visitors and I have a ton of new cupboard space ;-).

April 17, 2015

Our floating home with neighbors we know

Our plan is to make our way north to the Bahamas which will be our jumping off point for our sail to Chesapeake. The best time to leave Bahamas looks to be around the end of May or early June, so this is the deadline we are tracking to. The Gromits are on a similar plan as they plan on selling their boat in the Chesapeake area so we will sail together as much as possible. While at our vacation rest point we all worked out a rough plan for the next few weeks. We decided to day sail to Deshaise, Guadeloupe spend a couple nights and then day sail to Antigua and then overnight sail to St Martin for a few days and then on to BVI and the Bahamas.

The day sail to Deshaise was so cool. Most of the sail was the kind of sailing you dream about, flat waters, perfect wind, blue skies and a friend’s boat sailing beside you. The last time we sailed together was in the waters of Tahiti. Memories came flooding back as we sailed along. Of course though, what is sailing without the wind? Just when we were all getting quite comfortable with full sails and stretched out lazily in the cockpit the island wind "micro bursts" got us!

It still shocks me how much force a blast of wind can carry. My heart races and my stomach flip flops. I know we aren't in dire danger but I just want the crazy to stop in these moments. The noise of the straining sails and lines, the howling wind and the leaned over boat is really unsettling. Luckily when you are in the lee of the island these micro bursts are short lived. At one point we were sailing in front of the Gromits so we hit the burst first. Once through it we radioed them and gave them a heads up. Cornelia mentioned after that they didn't need the radio call as they saw us heel over ;-).

The Deshaise anchorage is notorious for wind. The guide book reads, "Guadeloupe acts as a windscoop. Deshaise is a vent in this system and the winds here sometimes howl in an alarming manner." Well the guide book wasn't wrong. As we made our approached the winds kept increasing and our point of sail came closer and closer to the wind. I looked at Graham with my…"wth, are we a race boat or a cruising boat look?" and of course with mixed with a heavy dose of anxiety and he finally agreed to reduce sail a bit.

Usually as you enter the bay to anchor you enter a well-protected area from wind, so the wind decreases and you take down your sails and my stress melts away. This was not the case in Deshaise. We needed to anchor in the winds in the high 20’s. This just makes the whole process more difficult as you need to drive directly into the wind and bring the boat to a stop. I was proud of myself though I managed to apply the correct amount of gas to counteract the wind beautifully and also enough gas so that when the anchor caught we didn't have a massive recoil.

Once we were snug in our spot my stress fell away. The captain and crew were also happy because wind means power. The Gromits anchored next to us and radio chattered began between the kids. A new location to explore from our floating homes with neighbors we know ;-).

April 12, 2015

Salty Ginger, Salty Ginger, this is GROMIT

We decided that the anchorage in Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe would be the perfect rendezvous point with the Gromits. The anchorage basically has 10 mooring balls which are all within a stone’s throw of a beautiful little island with gorgeous walking trails and a fantastic beach. The water is clear and snorkeling is fantastic. The perfect place to take a week and decompress from 31 days at sea!!

We had been in daily communication with Gromits at sea and were tracking their progress. We arrived at the anchorage a couple days ahead of them and began to prepare for their arrival. I made them a huge welcoming sign out of a shower curtain and colored duct tape I had found in Dominica. The sign read, "GROMIT We Love you Tour De Monde" which means around the world.
Alex and I also made a huge batch of their favorite butter tart squares and Amelia and I bought an assortment of fruits and veggies to get them started. We arranged all of the treats in a Canada basket and included baguette, emmental cheese and chocolate as we were back in the land of the French! We also blew up a ton of balloons and tied them to a long rope and then hung the rope the length of the boat. Thank goodness we had these things to keep us busy because the waiting was the hardest. It was like the night before Christmas. We knew they would be arriving early morning on Saturday (April 11th). We planned to have a big breakfast on board, so we prepared a fruit salad to beat all fruit salads and a ton of food. Graham was up at 4:30am too excited to sleep and cooking. Finally at about 8:00am Graham called them on the vhf and we heard in reply "Salty Ginger, Salty Ginger, this is Gromit"!!!!!

The joy I felt was overwhelming. I knew they must be close. Liam got on the radio and he was also equally excited. Our conversation was interrupted though by a whale! Liam said, "Oh sorry guys I have to run, Dad says there is a whale next to us." Lol, you don’t hear that very often!

Finally around 9am they came around the bend and we could see them out at sea. We couldn't contain ourselves anymore and we raced out to them in the dinghy. The seas were pretty high though for the dinghy and finally we decided we just had to sit and wait for them to come to us. The longest few minutes EVER.

At last we were zooming around Gromit and they were all running around the deck waving and smiling. Mike was at the bow ensuing the anchor was ready just in case anything went wrong with the mooring and Cornelia was at the helm looking so happy. The kids were taking pictures and waving excitedly. We guided them to their ball and helped to tie them up directly beside us. Not a moment after the line was tied the Gromit kids (Zoe, Maia and Liam) were in the water. I was shocked how quickly. Alex had his clean clothes on so he stripped off his shorts in an effort to keep them salt free but in his excitement they looped around his toe as he jumped in. We were all laughing. Amelia was going to go get her bathing suit but she couldn't contain herself and all of sudden she was in the water. Best welcoming ever.

Graham and I jumped on board Gromit and Cornelia and I hugged in a mess of tears and relief.

They had done it. They had just completed their longest passage ever, over 4000 nm in 31 days. They had sailed around the world. An unbelievable 7 year odyssey. Even though the official point where their around the world line joins is somewhere near Cuba, I think they are close enough to celebrate!  I am seriously in awe of this family. We all made our way over to Salty Ginger and talked, hugged, ate, swam and were just basically riding the high for the whole day, for the whole week for that matter. The week was awesome. Dinners on each other’s boats and cruiser get togethers on the beach, swimming, kayaking, hiking, shopping, sleep overs and adventures.

It feels so wonderfully familiar to be together again on the sea. The Gromits feel like family. It will be fun to navigate North together through the Caribbean and all the way back to the Chesapeake.

I am so looking forward to our first sail together!

April 08, 2015

Cruiser God

Our sail adventures throughout the Caribbean islands have been made a ton easier through the use of sailing guide books. The books give us useful navigation tips for each island, things to do, things to be aware of and where all the necessary cruiser amenities are located. The best of their breed are written by a fellow named Chris Doyle who has been sailing these waters for longer than I have been on this earth. In the guides he refers too many of the locals on each island by name and you get the sense that he has an active interest in the betterment of the islands and the people. Amongst the cruisers he is revered as the “Cruiser God”.

While in Dominica we followed Chris Doyle’s advice and took an Indian River tour with a fellow named Martin. Chris had recommended both in his book. Martin picked us up early in the morning and motored us to the mouth of the river and then the river paddle began.  The paddle was lovely but not really for us. We never usually do paid tours and this tour confirmed for us that we were not “tour” people or perhaps we just aren't bird people?

Martin moved from the back of the boat where the motor was to the front to paddle. He was within a foot from Graham and I who were on the front bench. We were literally knee to knee. As he extended his arms on each paddle, I worried I might get an accidental boob punch. Alex graciously offered to switch me spots. Martin let us know the river was 700 meters long……omg…this was our first shock. We were expecting to travel a way inland, especially since we were paying about $25 Canadian each. He pointed out all the different birds along the way..."There is a pigeon"…."There is the soft underbelly of the yellow bellied finch"….."There is a humming bird". He was really knowledgeable on birds and remarked on foliage and the healing powers and uses of the various plants. Maybe I just needed to be a few years older to enjoy this tour ;-). Sorry to all those bird lovers out there.

Martin was really kind and you could see he genuinely loved his island and had a passion for his work. Throughout the tour he also spoke of Chris Doyle constantly. You could see he respected him so much. We mentioned to Martin that we would be attending the "Boogie Woogie" cruiser night that Martin’s group organizes every Saturday night. Martin said we would be in for a real treat as Chris Doyle was anchored in the bay and would be attending! He also let us know that Anne Vanderhoof the author of "Embarrassment of Mangoes" would be attending. A star studded cast for cruisers ;-). We were all looking forward to the evening.

At 7pm all the cruiser dinghies converged on the dinghy dock in the dark. Flashlights bobbing about everywhere. The dinghy dock was loaded full. As we approached the open air tent we noticed all the lights were out. Unfortunately power was out for the whole bay. We decided to drop the kids off and run back to the boat for our lantern.

On our return we found the kids had sat themselves at a table with the one and only "Chris Doyle" and his friend "Pinkie". They were all laughing and looked to be fast friends. I couldn't help but laugh, my kids had found the cruiser celebrity and were monopolizing him. Graham and I joined them and for our $25cdn entrance fee we were able to eat, drink (rum punch) and dance as much as we wanted. Much better way to spend $25 dollars ;-). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and even ran into some cruiser friends we had made a month earlier. At one point in the evening, Alex, Amelia and I had joined hands and were dancing circles around the two of them as "blurred lines" boomed in the background. My face hurt from laughing so much.

I guess to make a long story short……"I prefer boogie woogie to birds…."

April 07, 2015

Boiling Lake

Dominica lived up to our expectations, the magnificent landscape and friendly people made it one of our favorite stops. On the day we arrived we all dinghied to the main town called Roseau to check-in. We must of passed the dinghy dock that all the cruisers used without realizing it so we made our way around to this break wall with many colorful fishing boats all tied up haphazardly inside. As we went through the narrow channel it was pretty apparent that this wasn't the spot that all the cruisers came into but it was within eye sight of customs, so we pulled up to the side.

Right away we were approached by a few of the men standing about and of course my defenses went up ready for them to want something from us. It didn't take more than a couple minutes to realize they were all just really nice fishermen. They hadn't seen cruisers dinghy in there before but they wanted to help us out and told us where to secure it and one fellow even made sure everyone went around it as they came through the narrow channel.

Graham and Alex went off to check in and Amelia and I had such a nice time chatting with everyone and watching them bring in their catch from various boats. While standing there we met a nice fellow named Lara who was a retired police officer who now fishes in his spare time and also occasionally offers taxi service. We mentioned we had heard of the boiling lake and that we were wanting to hiked to it but were thinking we didn't want to do a guided tour. Funny how things work out, he offered to drop us off and pick us up the next day and show us to the trail head. His price was a fraction of what it would of cost us to have a guide along. We were so happy we could do the trip "Perry Style."

The hike is described as advanced and estimated at 6-8 hours in the guide book. We knew we were up for a long day so the next morning we were off at 6:30 am. Unfortunately the day was rainy and overcast. Turns out that hiking in a rain forest in the rain is REALLY muddy! I am sure I still have mud in places I haven't yet found ;-). Lara got us to the end of the road and at this point it was pouring rain and he says that he will hike with us to the trail head. He gets out of the van and takes off like a jack rabbit. I realized that my idea of hiking is more like walking than his. He estimated 8 hours for our return trip due to the rain and we waved goodbye to him in the pouring rain. For a brief moment I wished I was returning to the dry warm van with him.

The trail went through all different types of landscapes. The first part was through the dense rain forest. The trail had log steps along it as these were often the only thing you could see amongst the mud to step on. The first few hours were slow going and we tried to choose our steps carefully avoiding mud holes and water but eventually it was a lost cause and we just started sloshing through. The hard parts were either the straight ups or downs in the mud. Our hands, legs and bums were covered.

Just when I was at my breaking point we reach "the valley of desolation." This is where the ground is hot and the river flows hot, and steam and bubbling water and mud is everywhere. We found a spot where we could of actually boiled an egg. The contrast of the stark light grey steamy valley against the rain forest mountain we had just climbed down was jaw dropping.

After the valley we continued on the trail and a short while later we came to the most beautiful natural hot pool and waterfall. The water was the perfect hot tub temperature as a bit of the fresh water from the mountain was mixing with the hot. Most folks wait until they have made the summit and are on their way back before taking a soak but there was no way you could of got me to wait. Graham was a harder sell but once he saw the three of us laying back in the hot water with looks of euphoria on our faces, he realized that either way he was going to be waiting and in he came.

After our hot tub I felt invigorated for the last hour of our hike. Since we had started out so early we didn't see many folks for the first few hours but after we stopped a few groups were catching up. The groups had guides and we realized what a good decision it had been to go alone. The guides were all business and the hike seemed to be literally all about "hiking." We were all paused taking pictures of something as one group passed and the guide said to me, "looks like you guys are on more of a stroll!" Oiy my fiery red head temper wanted to pounce out but I kept it in check ;-).

There were a few parts where we had to try and find the trail but this made it a bit more exciting, scaling up rock walls and calling to each other if we found it. When we reach the lake it was pretty cool. You walk out to this look out area and the boiling lake is below and it is almost as if you are standing in the middle of the top of a volcano and the boiling lake is where you would see the lava. There was a geyser in the middle so the lake was truly rapidly boiling. There was also clouds rolling over us so at times it felt like we were in a hot boiling steamy pot of water. It was pretty cool and worth googling if you haven't heard of it and seeing the many pictures online. We divided up chocolate, cheese and crackers overlooking the lake and felt pretty pleased with ourselves. I tried not to think about the 3 hours ahead.

We were all back at the boat by 4 and truly exhausted. The next day was spent scrubbing mud off of everything....shoes, backpacks, jackets, clothes, bodies....The worst part was that our feet were wet for almost our entire hike and also soaked in hot water, so they were extremely shriveled up.......seriously shriveled up.......like I have never seen feet do this kind of shriveled up. They ached when we walked on them it took a couple days before we truly felt they were dry and could walk on them without wincing. They are still peeling and it is a week and half later!

Now all of that said, this was one of our best days. I love challenging ourselves together as a family and experiencing firsts. I like the conversations that happen on these hikes and interactions we have with each other. I like the moments where we all look out at something together in awe. I like sitting exhausted at a rest stop passing a bottle of water around. I like following in the footsteps that the lead person has chosen as we make our way up a trail. I like watching the kids race off ahead together laughing and being silly. I like how a hike is a collection of many many unique moments and emotions that make for the best memories.

April 02, 2015

Champagne Bubbles

Some days you just want to stay on your boat in your pi's but it is strange how guilty you feel when everywhere you look there is beauty surrounding you to explore. Yesterday was just this kind of day. I woke up late, let the kids sleep in, did a bit of laundry, cleaned the boat and basically just puttered. Finally at about 3:30 Graham rallied the troops and got us all motivated to go off for a snorkel at a nearby reef he had read about called "Champagne reef." Turns out that this snorkel spot is truly one of a kind. Due to the volcanic activity in Dominica there is gas released on the ocean floor and little streams of champagne bubbles float up to the surface. When the sun hits these streams in the crystal clear water with the magnificent reef and colourful fish as a back drop it is breathtaking.

Amelia looks out for me when I snorkel as I am not the strongest swimmer. She holds my hand and we swim along together. It was so magical as we swam through these bubbles together. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better she dove down and pointed out the coolest octopus slugging along on some coral with all its tentacles moving trying to get away from an annoying fish. I always wanted to see an octopus! 

After the bubbles and octopus I couldn't imagine it getting better but then we started to hear this eeking sound in the water. We both stopped and popped our heads up on the surface. I recognized the sound and knew there had to be dolphins close by. Sure enough off in the distance I could see a pod jumping through the water. We both started swimming quickly for our dinghy, so we could retrieve the boys and chase after them. 

Once we were all in our little inflatable dinghy we raced off in the general direction we had seen them. Remember we are basically racing out to the open ocean! As luck would have it the dolphins surfaced again and we were in their path. Alex wasn't going to miss an opportunity to snorkel with dolphins so he jumped in before I could even weigh any risks involved. He said 2 dolphins looked him square in the eyes. The dolphins were pretty much moving in a straight line but very quickly, so Alex got back in the dinghy and we raced way ahead to where we thought our paths would cross again. We turned off the engine and waited….and then they surfaced again coming towards us! Amelia was ready and waiting this time and she hopped in with Alex. It was so cool to have the dolphins so close we could almost reach out and touch them and to have my kids in the water with them. 

Next it was Graham's turn. We raced ahead again and as luck would have it he also had the opportunity to jump in and see them under water. Yes I was chicken….I managed the boat and watched happily from my perch. Who knew my lazy day would have Champagne bubbles, Octopus and Dolphins in it!

Unfortunately as I write this blog though I realize that the next time I want a lazy day on board I will have to weigh this against possible amazing missed opportunities. 

March 30, 2015

Still Climbing Mountains

We decided before leaving Martinique we needed to hike this gianormous dormant volcano that loomed over the anchorage in St Pierre. In 1906 the side of the volcano turned bright glowing red and then exploded fire balls over the town and anchorage. 30,000 people died that day and only two survived. One was a prisoner who was in a stone cell in the middle of town and the other was the cobbler. Not sure what protected him. The town has been rebuilt incorporating pieces of walls and structures that remained. A stark reminder of the devastation.

We rented a car and drove up to the base of the volcano and to be honest I didn't really know what I had signed up for. I am terrible at estimating distances and heights and so I just began hiking merrily on way with my blinders on. When you start at the bottom of such a massive volcano you actually don't see the top. Turns out we made THREE false summits. This is when you hike straight up pushing yourself to your absolute limit and telling yourself that you are almost there and that the peak is just in front of you and then you climb those last few steps and stand up and.....OMG......off in the distance is yet another peak!

My legs were burning, my heart was pounding and I was covered in sweat. Graham and Alex took off ahead of us. Leaving Amelia and I with only one water bottle as they were carrying the packs. Having them carry all the water seemed like a really good idea until we were without water. Luckily after they also realized the size of this beast of a mountain, Alex waited for us with the water. Gotta love that kid.

At the beginning of the hike Amelia and I were playing out stopping at various points but then as we climbed higher the views and landscape of the volcano were unbelievably stunning. We were energized and just wanted to get higher and higher. Soon we were in the clouds and the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Again a reminder that I had no idea how high we were going. Other more experienced hikers were passing us with jackets and real hiking boots and sticks and then there are the four of us in a mismatch of runners and deck shoes and t-shirts and tank tops. Lesson learned for our next hike. At some points we climbed straight down into massive crevases and then would be pulling ourselves up through boulders. It was challenging but also very cool.

As we climb the official last bit and reached the top it was such a great feeling. The clouds cleared long enough for us to get a stellar view of pretty much all of Martinique. I was freezing but unbelievably happy. Alex put his arm around me to keep me warm and for a moment I just let happiness wash over me. Today on facebook this little pop up showed up to remind me what I had posted a year ago and I had posted a pic of the four of us on top of the mountain in Bora Bora from a few years back and the status read, "I love watching my kids grow up and off on their own but man what I wouldn't give to be climbing mountains together again."  I am savouring every moment.

March 27, 2015

Blood Trail

I hadn't noticed as Graham, Amelia and I tramped along on our hike up to yet another old ruins site, that we were following a "Blood Trail." Amelia brought our attention to it as the spats of blood began to grow on the dirt, rubble and leaf covered trail.

I should set the scene for you because the feel among us was quite ominous. We began our hike just before sunset to take advantage of the cooler temperature, so the light was dim. The trail we were on led out of town and brought us to this tree covered hill with what looked liked an old ancient building near the top. As we climbed and came closer we could see that the fort must be a hangout for either the homeless or partiers. Disturbing garbage was strewn around and as we approached we could see that the inside was covered in graffiti. The building itself was interesting structurally but the state of the grounds was unsettling.

Amelia started to watch where she was walking and this was when she noticed the "Blood Trail". I was a bit surprised by her detective abilities and her interest in analyzing how fresh it was and finding where it led.

We decided we should follow it just in case someone was hurt and needed our help. We were the only ones in the area and it seemed a bit spooky. We could see that the blood was still wet and fresh. We made it cautiously to a small ledge that overhung the rocky sea front. We peered below and could see a makeshift hut with old fishing supplies around it. We decided to call out and see if anyone answered and no one did. Graham decided that we had come this far, he had better go down and see if someone was injured. He negotiated the small rock wall and Amelia and I watched safely from up above, a bit nervous.

He cautiously approached the hut.......and....nothing and no one! Darn it, we were so ready to save someone!

Amelia did some more detective work and quickly surmised that most likely someone had swam to the shore that Graham stood at and hiked back the way we had come. They probably cut their foot on the jagged rocks on the sea shore getting out of the water. The blood was its heaviest at the end of the trail nearest the water. Probably as they hiked to town it began to dissipate.

So there you have it, our otherwise normal afternoon hike (of yet another ruin site) turned CSI exciting!

March 26, 2015

Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way

“Are we all going to get in there?” Alex’s friend Leo asked. The kids, their friends (Mira and Leo) and I had just arrived from the airport in the dark, yet again at another dinghy dock which was falling apart located directly in-between the two hovering Pitons.  The dock was really high and we all looked down to Graham who was welcoming us in the dinghy with his red light head lamp on. He was trying to hold the dinghy off from the dock so it didn't slip under. We passed all four bags down; Amelia climbed down, then Mira, then Alex and then this is when Leo must have thought….. "Omg we are all getting in this tiny boat in the dark." Everyone passed this first test with flying colors, all luggage and people safely in the dinghy and safely transported to Salty Ginger!

Once on-board, the full tour happened. Mira and Leo are pretty much complete opposites. Mira was filled with questions and seemed to want to soak up every drop of the experience. Leo seemed content to just go with the flow and let the experiences happen. It was so great to have both perspectives on board.

The kids made the most of the week, spending their time on the beach, hiking, waterfalls, snorkeling, sailing, swimming, kayaking, late night boat parties and hanging out with new friends. My favorite time with them all was the day we took them on a challenging hike to the Sulphur Springs Volcano Park. The hike was only about 10k but was either straight up or straight down. We were able to challenge ourselves and see some truly amazingly beautiful things. Throughout the hike, walking partners changed and we had the opportunity to visit with each other. At one point I was telling Mira how challenging I found it to go up hill and she said to me, “Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.” This small sentence hit me. It keeps turning up in my thoughts each day. I am really trying to weave this into those activities that I think I am not “good at”.

Another thing I enjoyed was Leo’s story telling. He can paint a picture like no other and his wit and sense of humor were really enjoyable. It was nice for us all to linger after meals and share tidbits of our lives.

For their last two days we took Salty Ginger to dock, so that the kids could have a bit of freedom and enjoy the pool and hot showers. Well the kids did make the most of it. On their last full day the kids had left the boat at noon to go for a swim at the pool and hang out. At about 5pm, Graham and I were surprised no one had returned yet, so we decided to wander down and see what they were up to. We were amused in finding them all at the local cruiser pub involved in a huge team games event. There were the four of them in the middle of the party with their team name “Salty-ettes” on the game board and they were dancing up a storm. We were a bit shocked but also really happy to see them having so much fun. Everyone seemed to love them and they had made a ton of new friends.

At about 6pm, they all came back to the boat and Graham and I were in the cockpit having our sundowners. The four of them sat down across from us on one side of the cockpit. I realized pretty quickly they were there to ask us something. The new friends they had made were heading to the beach in an hour to hang out for the evening and the kids wanted to join them. They had it all worked out. One of the parents had agreed to drive them there and return them by 12:30 pm. They said they could take the cell phone and the vhf radio and call if they had any problems and that they would stay together. I sat there across from them totally torn. I wanted the party to keep going for them. I could see how happy they were but I wanted to be sure that the situation was safe and that it was a good idea. Parenting is hard and seems to get harder the older they get. It also was more challenging have all four of them giving their perspectives. Eventually after Graham and I had weighed all the factors and perspectives, we decided to let them go with many conditions and caveats and not after a “heated” discussion ;-).

They were all back home by 12 pm and according to Alex it was one of the best days of his life. That evening as I waited for them, I reflected on our discussion. For me 18 feels like yesterday. I remember feeling such a sense of freedom, belonging and happiness hanging with my friends. I want them to have this. I want to let go enough for them to taste this freedom and prepare them for life. Given that 18 seems like yesterday though I remember that they won't always make the best choices. That sometimes they will put themselves at risk. That sometimes they won't assess a situation correctly. These memories for me both good and bad are the stories I tell now. I want them to have stories but now as their mom I also want or rather need them to be safe. The need to keep them safe is the most powerful feeling I have ever felt. I have a constant inner battle with myself to allow them the right amount of freedom for their age while balancing safety. My need to mother is strong but my 18 year old self is trying to balance this out ;-).

Leo and Mira are now back home and already missed! Spring break 2015 will be one all four of the kids will not soon forget. Thank you to you both for being wonderful boat guests.

We sailed to Martinique yesterday for a pit stop on our way back to explore Dominica. Our friends the “Gromit’s” are about halfway to us from South Africa. The plan is for us all to meet in Guadeloupe. I am thinking this will be around April 10th or so. Check out their position reports map at: http://www2.winlink.org:8081/maps/PositionReports.aspx?callsign=VE3MZL&title=Position%20Reports%20for%20VE3MZL.  They are amazing and soon will have completed their circumnavigation! So strange to remember us all starting out way back in 2008 together and now soon to be together again. I am so excited to be there with them as they cross their “round the world” finish line.

March 14, 2015

What do you like about living on a boat?

People often ask me this and the funny thing is that the things I like become the things I dislike after a while. I guess this is why Graham and I decided to do this off and on rather than full time. When I am in the city I look forward to returning to the boat and the simplicity of it all and when I am on the boat I look forward to the hustle and bustle of city life. For now though (for the most part ;-)) I am still enjoying boat life.

I like that I don’t have to spend a bunch of time primping each day. No more blow dryer and hair straightener or makeup and no more thinking about what to wear and ironing clothes and pushing my feet into high heels. I also love that I don’t have to be constantly on the go and no more TTC!

I really like the feeling of reducing my footprint and being self-sustaining, making our own power and water. I like travelling with our home and planning where to stay and for how long. I love waking up somewhere new.

I like organizing and managing our life on the boat. I like that everything has a place and nothing seems to go to waste. We plan our meals and leftovers are incorporated into the next day’s meal plan. I actually enjoy cooking and baking on the boat? Go figure…

I feel a deeper connection to the outdoors when we are on the boat. We spend most of our time outside and have a range of activities we do, from hiking to kayaking and snorkeling.

Best of all I like being in my floating home with Graham and the kids. I enjoy spending time with them all together. We all sit down to meals and enjoy more moments together than in the city. They make me smile and help me focus on what’s important.

I imagine if I was to write a blog in 4 months titled “What don’t you like about living on a boat?”, it would be the exact opposite of everything I have written above. Funny how life works. For now though I am basking in my current role as Project Manager of Salty Ginger.

We are currently anchored in between the Pitons in St. Lucia. I don’t think you could find a more perfect spot. The energy from the towering Pitons is powerful and peaceful. We were here six years ago and met a number of our closest cruiser friends here, so many good memories. Tomorrow the kids each have a friend arriving for March break. We are all very excited for another week of vacation mode. All the laundry is done and groceries are bought. The weather looks like it is going to be perfect. We can’t wait to share all the wonderful things about boat life with them ;-).

March 10, 2015

Magic Happened

Rob arrived on Friday night and we decided that barbecue burgers and classic potato salad were a must for his arrival to summer. The kids and I picked him up at the airport and Graham met us at the old decrepit dinghy dock in the dark. Rob didn't seem phased at all and away we all raced across the water to Salty Ginger.

Once we were all on board together it was as if magic happened. Our home was instantly transformed into a floating cottage and we were all in "vaca" mode. We enjoyed a week of non stop barbecues and sunsets. We toured the gorgeous island in our rented car and lounged and picnicked on the beach just off our bow. Our evenings were spent in heated matches of Scrabble and Risk. What's a holiday without a few board game fights ;-)?

As a treat Rob took us for a 5 star meal one night and it was a perfect evening. The waiter described each of the items on the menu as we all sat there drooling. He explained that his father was the chef and that he had grown up on all of the tasty food we would be experiencing. He asked what we liked and recommended seafood dishes perfectly suited to us. Each of our meals were stellar and an "experience" just as he promised. After such exquisite meals we knew we had to have dessert and we were not disappointed. We each ordered something different and forks were crossing the table until every last bite was gone from each of our plates. Everything was so beautifully presented, delicious and served with such care that it made the whole night so special. The restaurant was called Le Mabouya (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g657860-d4041871-Reviews-Le_Mabouya-Sainte_Luce_Arrondissement_of_Le_Marin_Martinique.html).

Rob seemed to enjoy boat life and no signs of seasickness. He did ask if we minded the motion and we all said, "What motion?". Then Graham pointed to the hanging fruit basket that was swinging ;-)....we don't even notice the motion anymore. Thanks to the water maker showers were also allowed but were a bit chilly. We asked what most surprised him about our life on board and he said it was how we eat. He had thought that with a smaller kitchen we might not have been able to cook as we normally do but it seemed we were eating better. True story - "Cruising and Cooking" go hand and hand.

The week came to an end way to quickly but everything on a holiday checklist was crossed off - beer drinking, over eating, lounging in the sun, playing board games including family feuds, exploring new places, enjoying sunsets and R&R.

Miss you already Rob. I set the table for 5 the next day and didn't notice until we all sat down without you :-(. Hope to see you again on this journey.

March 05, 2015

Seaweed in the Cockpit

We finally all decided on a sail plan for the next few weeks and left Iles Des Saintes on Tuesday, Feb 24th destined for Dominica. The weather has been very windy but the trusted cruiser weatherman "Chris Parker" and Graham of course, predicted 1 maybe 2 days of manageable wind to sail. The sail took 3 hours and I guess could be described as manageable but not enjoyable. I was exhausted.

The bay we arrived at in Dominica was very cool. The island seemed to be straight out of Jurassic Park. Everything so green and larger than life. We got anchored and plugged in the wifi antenna and we all crossed our fingers and held our breath for a strong free internet connection and yippeee!!!! The perfect anchorage....strange wonderful new land to explore and internet ;-).

In my email was a message waiting from Rob saying that he had booked a flight to St. Lucia arriving in 3 days and not to worry he would just take a ferry to which ever island we were on. We quickly did some research and ferry schedules to Dominica were not good and given the high winds he might be done with boats by the time he reached us. We checked island hopper flights and no luck there either. We decided to sail to the end of the island, get a good night sleep and then leave first light for Martinique which has many island hopper flights  and is the next island in the chain right beside St.Lucia. Luckily we had just enough time to get tied up to a mooring ball before the sun had totally faded. We slept well that night.

At the crack of dawn we took off for Martinique. I was nervous because winds and waves were higher and our sailing guide spoke of catamarans capsizing due to funnel winds as you left the lee of the island.

The next four hours were insane. The waves were so high and some rolling. Graham had plenty of sail out because he said we needed more power to get through the waves. The boat was heeled over to a point that I have never sailed at consistently and then a wave would knock us even further over. For the first time in Salty Ginger history seaweed was in the cockpit. Water blasted at us from everywhere. Alex sat on the low side working the jib sheet and he said he was shocked how submersed we were in water. We had to have the door in as water was even under the dodger.

So stressful. No one really spoke except when we needed to maneuver. It was difficult to hear each other with the wind. Due to the length of the sail I hadn't set up the tethers in the cockpit. I will not make that mistake again. I was terrified we would lose someone. Luckily all we lost was Graham's beloved Tilly hat. He stood at the back at the helm on the high side and had to hold on the back pole and rail to stay put and we watched as it instantly was swallowed up by the huge waves.

I won't lie to you. I did lose it briefly and begged Alex to put his tether on and attach it to the deck jack-lines. He reluctantly agreed.

Graham was counting down the miles to us as each passed. Finally we reached the lee of Martinique and the wind and waves were blocked by the island. I can't tell you what a huge feeling of relief that was. Muscles I didn't know I had were "un"clenching. The boat settled out and sailed quickly, quietly and beautifully on the calm waters. Amelia joined us and her eagle eyes spotted something jumping way off in the distance. We all tried to see what she had seen. Suddenly we could see many pods of dolphins leaping through the water towards us. We began to whistle and cheer and they surrounded us performing their acrobatics. The past 4 hours disappeared and the four of us sat together watching feeling complete joy.

We found a beautiful anchorage in the main bay of Martinique which would be perfect for Rob's visit. We figured out the flight schedules and car rentals and prepared the boat for an awesome week.

We all really want a way to say thank you to Rob for always opening his home to us before we leave on a trip and when we return. I am trying to make his visit to SG like a visit to a resort....minus the hot water and solid ground ;-)...stay tuned.

February 18, 2015


I remember when I was young waiting for my Dad to come home to give me a spanking. The torment was in the waiting. I would sit and worry. I would wonder what time he would arrive home, what his mood would be, how much it would hurt and how many spankings I would get. The torment truly was in the waiting. Once he arrived home and the spanking was getting closer, the torment would get worse. Sometimes he would wait until after dinner which just prolonged the worry. When the spanking finally happened I had already basically endured more pain through worry than the spanking could ever deliver.

I was reminded of this last night as we sailed from Nevis to Guadeloupe. It was 1:30am and I was on watch. Alex had just headed down below to bed and Graham was about to catch some sleep stretched out in the cockpit. I said to him as he was about to close his eyes …”but what about those squall clouds up ahead?” He said, “Well if there is any wind in them we will just reef.”

This brought me zero comfort. We were sailing as close to the wind as possible, with both our jib and our main all the way out and hardened as tight as possible. Salty Ginger was doing great but for my first overnight sail it was stressful. We were healed over on this point of sail as the wind pushes against the very hard sails and leans us over. I should mention that Graham and Alex have been sailing quite a bit on our friend's Tanner and Shari’s boat “Blue Peter”. Tanner max’s out Blue Peter, so they both kept saying…”this is nothing, you should see how much further we can heal.” I think they are both now use to a 70 degree heal which is NOT comfortable cruising.  It was so dark, only a sliver of the moon and there was big swell and as Salty Ginger cut through the water on her side we would sometimes pound over the waves with a crash. Graham and Alex were so calm that I didn’t want to let them down but it is so hard for me not to show my emotions. I sucked on my rescue remedy lozenges and hummed “kay-sa-rah, sa-rah, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, kay-sa-rah, sa-rah” to myself. This did help a bit….but back to my story.

There I sat on watch with the squall clouds coming closer and Graham and Alex sleeping soundly. The waiting was torment. The winds would gust and I would wonder if it was the squall. I had my hands tightly on the main sheet ready to ease the sheet if the winds gust any higher. I could see the rain coming off the clouds, so I got out my rain jacket and stood ready with my tether on. I found that the heel was manageable if I stood in the middle of the cockpit under the dodger. When I sat on the low side it was to close to the water for me and when I sat on the high side it made me too aware of how high I was. Three hours passed as I waited in torment, playing out in my head what might happen in the darkness. Long story short…as we finally began to pass under the clouds they had moved off to the East and had begun to dissipate. They brought no wind or rain only my stomach ache. Graham woke up and my watch came to an end and Alex and Graham have been having a good laugh ever since about “Mom’s STORM clouds.” I just realized that I haven’t mention Ms. Millie. She was her normal happy sailing self, reading, watching shows and sleeping soundly. 

We arrived at a beautiful anchorage in Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe. Iles Des Saintes is a group of small French islands with gorgeous beaches, awesome hiking , great snorkelling spots and banquettes! We are tied up to a mooring ball and are planning to stay for a week. School and boat projects begin again tomorrow but for today we were totally tourists with the kayak’s and floaties in the water and drinks in hand.

You would think after all these years I would realize that there is some worry that serves no purpose. I am open to ideas for how not to let the anticipation of what might lay ahead not drive me crazy.

February 11, 2015

Another Adventure Begins

I am trying to remember how we arrived at this latest plan. I don’t remember one defining moment where we made the decision but I think it was last year when Alex decided he was going to take a gap year before University. We thought it might be a good time to do a “final” adventure trip with the kids before our lives begin to take us in different directions. The plan was to leave for basically one semester of Amelia’s school. The actual plan regarding where to sail has gone through many different iterations and even now that we have arrived this continues to be the topic of conversation.

To bring you up to speed, this adventure began with us moving out of our rental mid-December. We bunked at Rob’s for a week and then flew back to Alberta for two weeks at Christmas. Packing was challenging; bags for another month of work and school, bags for Christmas, bags for the boat and bags for storage. We seem to be getting better and better though at living in chaos and prepping for departure. I remember how I use to plan and make a ton of lists. Now it just seems like second nature.
After Christmas Alex, Graham and Andrew (Alex’s friend) left the snow and cold and headed down to Salty Ginger in Antigua to get her in ship shape and positioned in St. Martin for Amelia and my arrival in early February. Their first sail was overnight to Nevis and then they island hopped to St. Kitts and finally to St. Martin. Andrew flew back home early February and Amelia and I arrived a few days later. The boys had lots of stories to share but most of them started with “…and beer was only a buck….” I get the impression they lived for happy hour every day ;-).

Arriving at the boat was surreal. I was working 10 hour days up until the day before we left and running errands in any extra time I had. The temperature was way in the negatives and snow and ice was the name of the game, making everything that much harder. Needless to say when the plane landed and Amelia and I stepped out to the top of the stairs that they had pushed up to the airplane…..we paused for a moment like diva’s with our shades on and smiled to the Caribbean sun gods.

Graham and Alex were waiting for us, all tanned and more muscles than I remembered. They grabbed our 55 lb duffle bags and whisked us off to a car they had rented. They had Salty Ginger at dock to ease our transition and to make provisioning that much easier. Needless to say I felt very spoiled with a car and a boat at dock. What had happened to “Perry Style”?

We have now fully stocked the boat. The prices in St Martin are unbelievable and the selection is unmatched in any of the other islands we have visited. We decided to get everything from a dry goods perspective that we would need for the 6 months. We have packed every nook and cranny with food and we made an inventory of where we have put everything since the first night we wanted something and we had to rip everything apart to find it.

Graham has been working to install a super duper water maker. He was hoping to have this done
before we arrived but the parts took longer than he had hoped to arrive. The boat has been in shambles with the provisioning and his installation. He is almost finished now. Today he was sawing wood to make a partition and running 15 feet of hose through the floor boards. He is in heaven. He loves this stuff. He said the water maker installation kit was like a giant Kinect kit. It isn't all fun and games though, yesterday he was deep in under the sink in the kid’s bathroom and he lost hold of his screw driver. He heard it roll all the way down under the floor boards to a hard to reach area. The next 2 hours were spent with each of us trying to reach way down this small opening to see if we could feel it, then building a noose to try and grab it and then Alex with a tiny mirror and flashlight at one side of the opening and Graham on the other side trying to noose the screw driver with Alex giving him directions.  Don’t forget to add the heat when you are imagining this. Success was sweet though. Graham says his ratcheting Snap-On screw driver is the gold star of screw drivers, so I am happy he got it.

We have also had time to have some fun. Graham turned 45 on the 7th and we headed down to the cruiser pub for a party. There was a get together planned with Bob Bitchin from the Cruising Outpost magazine. We have been reading his magazine forever so it was very cool to meet him. The afternoon didn't quite go as planned though. Our teenagers had arrived at the beach a few hours ahead of us and little did we know they had already polished off a bucket of beer for $10. When we arrived we bought everyone a round including Bob and the kids tore into it. Needless to say a valuable lesson was learned that night and we quickly realized that cruising with teens will have its own set of challenges and we need to set the rules asap. We did manage to get a nice family photo with Bob before things got too crazy.

We are now out at anchor and the car is returned and homeschooling has begun. Life is feeling much more normal. We have also all agreed on a sail plan which is shocking. We are leaving in the next few days to Grenada! We will then sail north, island hopping to St. Lucia where the kid’s friends will arrive for March break and then fingers crossed….THE GROMITS will arrive!

The Gromits are our friends from Canada who we started off on our around the world sail together in 2008. We met up with them in Panama and sailed together side by side to Tahiti. We conquered many firsts together. They continued sailing long after we had returned to Canada and soon they will make their final leg across the Atlantic to the Caribbean to the point where they will join their starting line! We are very excited to meet up with them and sail our two boat together back to the USA.

Well there you have it, you are all caught up. Hope I have a good sailing story for you next time we chat!