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on the road again…

Well we finally did it! After months of preparing the boat, provisioning, and then re-provisioning and Michael working we finally left the States and crossed the gulf stream for Bimini.

We had been anchored in the Venetian Causeway Basin for a month after the boat show – where we worked for Defender.com and had a BLAST!!! – by the way they are having their annual clearance sale this weekend! – while finishing up some things and getting Michael’s curriculum written for school. While there we met several other cruisers who were waiting for a weather window to cross to Bahamas for April and May. These folks, Paula and Normand on Madame’ and Mr. and Mrs. Kincaid aboard Aviator took us under their wing as first time crossers. These folks have crossed over twenty times and are “experts” if there is such a thing. We decided we wanted to go with them and so the last minute prepping began.

On Tuesday March 22 we hauled anchor, waved goodbye to our  “home’ for a month and made way south to no name harbour, a little anchorage on Biscayne Bay right next to the channel for the gulf stream. It is a favorite jumping off point, and with a perfect weather window for crossing it was quite full, Aviator and Madame were leaving at 300am, so we set the alarms, but didn’t sleep, and made way out the channel at 3;05 wednesday morning.

 We got out of Biscayne Bay and Hawks channel by 5:00am and were headed toward the gulf stream. We actually made excellent time, we had calm seas, not much wind but motored cross (like our friends told us to) and we spotted land ho by 12 noon! Bimini is a low Island but with the calm seas we spotted it well offshore, James and Michael raised the Q flag.

It was our first time sailing in Bahamian waters- there is a saying about the color of the water in Bahama, “brown brown run aground, blue blue go on thru, white white you might be right”

We were quite nervous entering the channel, but the saying is right, blue water is deep water. We tied up to Sea Crest marina by 2:20, filled out the paperwork, Michael went ashore to customs and immigration and because of my very through paperwork was back with our one year cruising permit and freshly stamped for the first time passports in 15 minutes!!! Now THAT is efficient!!! Immigration only gave us 3 months on our visa but they said we could get three more months from another island.

We stowed everything on the boat, cleaned up, took showers and went for a walk, but not before James got a look at all of the fish swimming under the boat! The water is crystal clear! !

We spent five glorious days there, fishing and hunting for conch, we got a great lesson on how to get conch out and clean them from Mr. Woodrow, one of the workers at the marina, Mr. Pat kept pointing out the sharks to James, always a thrill and Mr. Bulla showed James how to clean a mahi and a grouper. These men make it look so easy, it is some of the hardest work I have ever seen.

There is a dialect in Bahama called Broken English, it is very hard to understand, even after four days there I still had to ask people to repeat themselves.

We found delicious Sweet coconut bread at the bread and slause house (not kidding), and the sisters market in Alicetown was was actually well provisioned with produce and other staples and quite inexpensive.

Shame on us for not realizing that everything was closed on Sunday! Oops! No bread for our passage! Bahamas is a predominantly Christian settlement. In every business there is a sign that says, no drinking, no smoking, no swearing. We did find one sign extremely amusing, it said No Pot Smoking, as if people needed the reminder…

I wasn’t going to write about this, but it is part of my experience, and I want to remember it, so here goes, I apologize if it makes people uncomfortable. I was surprised at the disparity between blacks and whites in the Bahamas. Clearly the whites are the business owners and property owners, and the blacks are the workers. There were shacks that I would classify as squalor, right next to big mansions, I mean ten feet away! It was shocking! The entire culture has a very Colonial feel still. One of the business owners I was speaking to referred to the black Bahamians as “the natives”…hmmmm…

anyways, just an observation, I think it made me a little uncomfortable, but everyone seemed ok with the status quo, so there you have it. I’m a visitor and will keep my mouth shut.

We met some great new friends, Brian and Nicole aboard starfish, starfish.blogspot.com, shared a great meal wit them and their doggies Dexter and Shrimpy,

We left Monday morning, the 28th to cross the Great Bahama Banks making way toward the Berry Islands. Again, leaving at 530 navigating the chanel in the dark, ad made way north around North Rock and east across the banks. The banks are boring, I wish in hindsight we had crossed them at night, but then James would not have caught the 36” Barracuda!!!! Great going James!!!! we are so happy the boy finally caught a fish! No eating of the barracuda though, but it was great fun catching him.

We anchored that night on the banks because we could see a storm brewing and didn’t want to be in the Tongue of the ocean (google this) during a storm. It was a rough night, lightning all around, 40 knot winds, seas were ok, but the anchor dragged and we had to motor into the wind all night Poor Michael! But he is such a trooper, and is so willing to be at the helm during times like this, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. The banks are quite shallow and we did not want to run aground.

Bouncing around in 10 feet of water with a dragging anchor , lightning and 40 knot winds for five hours is not fun. Michael said to me the next morning he wasn’t worried because lightning doesn’t strike twice!

Needless to say we made it through, the boat handled it like a charm, and so did we. There was a gorgeous rainbow the next morning., we hauled anchor and headed through northwest channel and over towards Berry Islands, we picked up a mooring at the Berry Island Club on Frazer Hog cay by noontime and promptly took a nap. We were exhausted. For other cruisers wanting to stop here, the club has increased the nightly mooring fee to $25.00 per night, wifi is 10$ an hour (!) and there is no laundry, but there are hot showers beachside!!!! They just replaced and supplemented all new moorings, 8000 lb concrete blocks.

And we made it here just in time, picked up our mooring and Tuesday night the winds started blowing from the east at about 30 knots steady!!! They have not stopped!!! Thank goodness for brand new 8000 lb mooring blocks! Our battery bank is loving all of this juice. Between the 2 solar panels and the wind we are keeping our 4 house batteries topped off all day and night running everything in our boat including the inverter!!!

James so far has caught a blue runner (a type of jack), barracuda and porgy. We had the blue runner for dinner last night, it was delicious!!!!

My internet access is spotty at best here, even with the Bahamian blackberry (no minutes on the phone though, too expensive) we bought one in Bimini and it has unlimited data and we can tether it but the Batelco tower is on the other side of the island and reception is bad. So for my friends expecting calls from me I will have a better connection in Nassau.

Our love to all, and more pics to come soon 🙂

changing tides

One of my fondest memories is anchoring with our little family at Duck Island in Westbrook, CT. And specifically the gentle swing to and fro, round and round of our little boat throughout the night.  Being a new “anchorer” I would wake up every couple of hours, and each time try to get my bearings.  Where is Kelsey Point? Where is the chimney? Where is Westbrook Harbor? After seasons of anchoring there we sleep soundly now.  The holding ground is an old friend, maybe some gentle bumping on the bottom if we came a little far inside the safe depth line, the whistles on the navigation aids are background noise, the gentle rocking as the faster boats come ripping through trying to make it back to Westbrook Harbor before Mom and Dad realize they took the boat out. 

 It all has a rhythm. As does my life.

This living on a boat, even at a dock has a sense of comfort yet there is this subtle constant change you are slightly aware of.  It is the coming and going of people, weather, winds.  Our friends Darrell and Ann aboar s/v Alibi have made the jump to the Bahamas and we wish them well. The empty slip next to us seems huge but I know it won’t be empty long.  A new couple moved in down the way, Steve and Darcy aboard s/v Zest.  They have been a wonderful addition to our little community here.  And as we prepare to shove off from Key Largo Harbor Marina in a couple of weeks I know I will certainly miss our life here, our friends; Rick and Isabel, Thyme, Marty and Louise, and the comfort of routine, but the tides will carry in the next family as they carry us out.  On to new adventures, new people, new places. 

It will be wonderful to be on the road again.  We are so blessed to live our life following our hearts, and what is best for our family. 

I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Kim recently about a major decision we have to make in our lives fairly soon.  After I spent twenty minutes laying out all of the pros and cons for her She asked me if the decision lined up with our values. I was stunned that in the frenzy of being asked to make this important decision I had not even stopped to think about that.  After realizing that our values of family, peaceful lives and health were most important it made this decision much clearer.  Another tide changes, and this time that “ship” may sail on without us.  And that is OK.

I am on my ship of family love, peacefulness, fun, excited learning and healthy living.  This tide will carry me far.

Uni-tasking

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Locals told us. Cruisers hardly ever leave Key Largo. Not for lack of wanting to. If I had a dime for every time I’d heard, “I got here XX years ago and still haven’t left” – fill in the blank with any number from 5-45!

And here we are, almost a year to the day that we stopped for gas. I understand why we never went any further.  It is paradise here.  It was the first hot day we had experienced since we left Connecticut December 1, 2009! And so we took off the foulies, enjoyed some fresh warm air, avocado straight from the tree, fresh mango, mahi-mahi, palm trees, geckos, manatee and the Keysey attitude.

Then there was the series of unfortunate events that happened when we went home to Connecticut.  And when we finally got back to our boat (In October!) we had this great plan laid out for work on the boat, Michael’s work at Post University, wrapping up some PMTN business, and our schedule to leave for the Bahamas.

And then Key Largo happened.  It is just slower here. Not just receiving parts by mail, and getting around on a bicycle, grocery shopping a little bit each day rather than one big trip each week.  But actually living on the boat is slow.  For instance, when we wake up in the morning, I have to boil water for Michael’s green tea and my Melitta coffee pot.  So you wait for the water to boil, pour through the pot a few times then enjoy your first cup of coffee.  This process alone from beginning to end is about forty-five minutes…for our first cup! Then double that.

Then we make breakfast, and because James is not on the oatmeal bandwagon, we make two; grits and oatmeal. Then we share our meal together and then have to wash the dishes, dry and put everything away.  It is usually time to start thinking about lunch at this point. I am not exaggerating.

We then try to accomplish one small project between checking emails and responding to business items.  And sometimes you even get to do projects with your cruising neighbors.  For instance I needed to remove, clean and repair my teak cockpit floorboards, which are thirty years old – need I say more? – And again a very long slow process – but you get help, from dear friends like Ann and Darrell next door on Alibi www.alibi35.blogspot.com and things do not seem so overwhelming.  They are even downright manageable. But it involved slowing down enough to think about the process, the tools and the supplies needed to do it right.  Which, by the way, is a whole lot slower than doing it wrong! 

By this time it is mid afternoon and I have to begin thinking of our dinner, decide if we need to ride to the grocery to get any fresh items for our meal.  Or do some laundry.  There are about three other live-aboards in this marina that we share the laundry facilities with, and as if keeping four peoples clothes clean and folded and stowed was not hard enough, try juggling it with four other peoples clothes washing and drying.

So I see how it happens. Nothing is fast, you don’t even WANT to be fast.  When I am riding my bike and pass some bougainvillea I stop and literally smell the flowers.  Every once in a while I will get a little “New York” on people and they just look at me and smile.  There is no place for it here. I have to slow down, I want to slow down.

So the reason for this post: We had great intentions for having an itinerary that involved the gulf stream, The Bahamas, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  We still do but have, for several reasons, decided to re-arrange our priorities.  Our updated, slower, more reasonable itinerary is as follows; Leaving Key Largo next week(ish) when westerly winds prevail and moving up to Fort Lauderdale for about a month to enjoy the Fort Lauderdale cruising life.  We will still be working the Miami boat show for our employers, www.Defender.comtelling our story, their story, and pushing their great warehouse pricing, then once the boat show is over – late February, we wait again for those westerly prevailing winds and move across the gulf stream to the Bahamas to catch up with our dear friends the Tittels www.pfiffikus.weebly.com

Then once we play in the Bahamas for a while we will start heading up the East Coast again with Spring and enjoy the wonderful New England summers on the water.

So friends, if you can, pretend for a day, or a half a day, that you are here, with me, sitting in the cockpit enjoying a cup of coffee, planning the home-schooling field trip for the day or sorting the two loads of laundry you’ll do if neighbors permit, or…just drink your cup of coffee.  I have become a master at uni-tasking.

thank full

We love Thanksgiving.

Our family has a tradition, if you have ever shared a meal with us, you are aware we – guests included – hold hands at the beginning of every meal and go around the table and share one or two (or three!) things we are grateful for today.  (In other words, James is not allowed to say “I am thankful mom and dad are taking me to the movies tomorrow”).  Michael and I are so grateful that we followed through on this one habit and have continued this practice at every meal we have together.  It does two things, slows down our minds and gets us into the moment, just today, and acknowledging our gratitude specifically out loud. Actually naming those things, miracles, simple acts of kindness, bounty, peace.

In reflecting on the coming celebration of thank-full-ness, I am feeling bitter sweet.  I am so thankful Michael and I have accepted the gifts God has offered us through miracles, other people and hard work and we can live this wonderful life we love on our boat in the tropics.  At the same time, it is our first Thanksgiving away from family.  Last year, we were just barely still home for T-day.  And we have so much more family this year to be thinking of! Our new granddaughter Chloe, Juliana, daughter Danielle and sons Joey and Mikey, my neices Aubrey and Emily and her new guinea pig “Prickers”, my sisters Sara and Leah,and brother Mark, my father and Harriet and her family, and of course Mariah’s adpoted Nonnie and Twopa (Patty and Chuck).  My friends, Gail, (James’ other mother) and Kim and John, all our friends at the Friday night gathering in Westbrook…the list goes on…

And of course my mother.  Thanksgiving was a spiritual event for her.  I am not being funny, I mean literally it was her way of serving God in us, her family, and the countless families she helped anonymously through donations of food and assistance and cash over the holidays.  Every detail, the place settings, the flowers, the tableclothes, the candles, the garnishes, they were all offerings made with the deepest desire to please God in us.  And she did.

So while I cannot be physically close to my family – all of them – know that I am channeling Mama, with service to others, with traditional recipes, with place settings, all served up to God in my family here and in CT and whomever else we can find to share our meal with here at the dock.

I am offering my thanks, in action, to You.

Namaste’