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Sloop Les Miserables
Getting Ready to Get Underway
Merry & Wiley/ Raining - 80
05/11/2011, Winthrop Harbor, Illinois

So our kids think we are senile... what else is new? We are spending all of their inheritance by pouring money into a hole in the water - our sailboat - Les Miserable - or hopefully less miserable. We need to leave on our trip before they can have us committed!

Our plan, now that Merry is joining the retired life Wiley has lived, is to sail the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal and on to the Inter coastal - to the Bahamas. We will return home as often as needed but plan on a minimum of a full year of traveling should we find that we can continue to enjoy (tolerate?) :-) each others company.

So far to prepare for our adventure and update our boat we have added new instruments (plotting, depth, speed), new cushions in and out, new sails, replaced the stuffing box, dutchman furling system, Bimini and dodger, dinghy motor and dinghy dogs (flotation), purchased charts, installed new LED anchor lights, had the mast and rig inspected, completed our Captain's licensing course, etc. etc.

We are currently working on sanding off 19 years of old bottom paint (a real fun job - NOT!) , cleaning and waxing the hull , and looking into purchasing refrigeration for the boat. Wiley's latest pride and joy is the new 37 pound Bruce anchor!
We continue to plan on leaving during the last week of June and have a long list of to do's as well as hope to do before then. We will keep you all posted.

06/13/2011 | Brodi Cole
We're looking at sailing the same direction as you, albeit not for another couple years! It'll be fun to track your adventures as our inspiration for what's to come!
Also, where are you doing your bottom hull job? That's on the docket for next spring, so I'm shopping around for winter storage...
06/28/2011 | Merry Edmondson
We did our own bottom work - and had the boat at Larson's Marine in Waukegan. They are a full service marina, honest, and skilled. We have appreciated all they have done to help ready our boat. We are waiting on refrigeration and should be off...
It's Not Easy Being Green
Merry - 83 Sunny Humid

Green became the color of our arrival and stay in Indiantown Marina. Twelve days ago we recovered our boat in Indiantown Marina from seven months in the burning heat and torrential rain of the fetid swamp and jungle that is called Florida. Les Miserable had been over-taken by the swamp. The deck was spinach green mixed with a black mildew. The ladder we had locked up had vine grown through and around it. A strong tug on the ladder resulted in a long length of vine following me as I dragged it to our boat. Ah, but how could we complain when everything at home was blinding bright white from all of the snow and deep freeze that lingers in Chicago-land.
The swamp jungle would completely take over in a short amount of time if things were left unattended. It truly is amazing to look around at all of the boats left tied down in the boatyard and see how algae, mold, mildew, plants and frogs have taken over. Yes, frogs! Kermit is right though it is not easy being green - "people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky". However, it was not easy for me to pass over them, as they hopped out of and hid in every nook and cranny on the boat. (Additionally, dead frogs are gray not green - you can only imagine how I know that little fact (x's 6)! These are Florida tree frogs and they are about 2-3 inches in length. They are adorable when they are not on our boat. Southern Florida had an unusually wet summer and fall that resulted in this new adventure for us.
We were delighted to find jobs well done by the marina; our new bulkhead was firmly in place in the V and we now have a fuel gage on our engine panel. The new fuel gage means that we no longer need to completely clean out one of our large lockers in the back of the boat and drop over into the locker upside down with our head hanging in the locker to see the fuel gage. This is a special gift as you can imagine how checking the fuel levels could turn you a lovely yellow-green when you are out in this position in a rolling sea.
We have spent our time scrubbing the boat, cleaning the teak, unloading all of our supplies from the U-Haul truck we drove down, putting on the sails, shopping for and loading groceries, and taking in the Palm trees, green grass, and warmer weather. We continue to wait for a new battery, a new battery charger, new blocks for the main sheet and reefing lines, and a new winch. However, as you can only imagine this brings be back to more green $$$$.
We had a short visit with my father and Pat in Summerfield, Florida on our way down in the truck. Unfortunately, my father had a "kink" in his esophagus and had to have a procedure so that he could eat and keep food down. He is amazing - he was patient and then recovered quickly. He was home the same day as the procedure. Pat, as always, is a wonderful loving caretaker and made us feel so welcome even though they were dealing with this new health issue. Pat had us over for a lovely dinner and of course sent us off with special treats.
Two days ago I decided that I should take our anchor rodes out of the locker. I let out a scream as 30+ little frogs came jumping up! My hero, Wiley, came to my rescue and hosed the little mites down the anchor well drain - off they went swimming in the harbor only to return to the boat and begin to climb their way back up and onto the boat once again! My time was spent hosing them down the side of boat and "encouraging" them to find other homes. However, a couple of them had returned by the next morning to what they know as their home - but cruel woman that I am - they were once again deported (Wiley claims that I denied them due process by not giving them a deportation hearing ).
We have talked with our sons back home in Geneva and Algonquin and we were concerned about the dangerously cold weather they were experiencing. Sub-zero temps with wind chills in the -20 to -40 degree range! We "kindly" sent them a photo of us dining in Stuart by some Palm trees -they are a bit jealous and have requested that we send them no more photos with sunshine and stuff that is green surrounding us! Kermit sings... "When green is all there is to be - it could make you wonder why, but why wonder why. Wonder, I am green, and it'll do fine, it's beautiful and I think it's (where) what (we) I want to be."

Being Home

Home at last. We were reunited with our son Brad, who had done a great job taking care of our house and the beasts who live within it - Barkley (the mutt) and Marmalade (the cat).

Merry taught her course in the EDU program at AU. She loves teaching fellow educators, and was in a great mood every day when she got home from class.

She waited too long to sign up for the class she wanted to take at the school of the Chicago Art Institute, and when she attempted to sign up the class was full. However, she was able to take an oil pastels class in St. Charles with her friend Nancy. She drew and painted all summer, and in my opinion some of her work was wonderful.

We both got together with friends - I with my few, Merry with her many.

Summer in Chicago is magnificent and we took full advantage. We went to five concerts in Millennium Park, of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. The concerts are both world class and free. We always bring bread, cheese, a bottle of Rhone, and because we are now old (we used to sit on a blanket) our lightweight folding chairs.

Chicago is our nation's greatest city for theater. We saw some great plays. "The Pianist of Willesden Lane", a one- woman-show by Mona Golabek, a concert pianist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In the play Mona Golabek portrays her mother, Lisa Jura, who grew up in Vienna with dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Her mother was Jewish, and just before World War II began; her parents were able to place Lisa on a kinder transport - part of an effort by British relief organizations to evacuate Jewish children from Germany. Lisa ended up at a home for Jewish refugee children in London. As Mona Golabek tells her mother's story she morphs into her mother - and plays the classical music her mother loved and played. Her mother even played an old upright piano in the basement of the youth home as bombs went off during the blitz. Lisa Jura's parents both died in a death camp, but because they had incredible courage, which enabled them to place their daughter on the train - the kinder transport- knowing they would never see their daughter again, Lisa Jura lived, and I got to meet Lisa's daughter Mona Golabek after the play. I told her about my father, who fought in the U.S. Army infantry, through France and into Germany during the war.

We also saw Big Lake Big City at Looking Glass Theater with our friends Nancy and Terry, The Pullman Porter Blues with our friends Joan and her husband (Russ) my former law-school classmate. We saw Tribes at Steppenwolf - a play about a family's ability to listen and featuring a deaf actor. We went to famous Second City
(a wonderful gift from Sean and Tesia for Merry's birthday) - A Clown Car Named Desire, with both our sons and daughter-in-law. We enjoyed a production of Miss Saigon with our friend Ron. We also went and saw a marvelous production of Raisin In the Sun with Ron and Shira. We actually delayed leaving to go back to the boat in January so that we could see a preview performance of The Seven Guitars at Court Theater, one of the ten "century series" plays by the great August Wilson.

We bought Merry a road bike when we got back - a fast bike with clipless pedals and skinny tires. Merry went for 20 or 30 mile rides a couple times a week, and we rode our bikes together to Sycamore and Glen Ellyn. In the fall, we drove to Wisconsin to ride the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, which follows an old railroad right of way, going through three very long and dark railroad tunnels, one of them ¾'s of a mile long!

Merry flew out to Colorado with her friend Joan and spent time at her wonderful home in the mountains. They took daily long hikes in the mountains, relaxed in hot springs, and took in the beauty of the aspen leaves turning. Joana has done an amazing job putting finishing touches on her home - laying floors, making cabinets, and much more.

I completed my tenth Chicago Triathlon this year. I felt that I trained hard all summer, but I did very bad in the actual race. My bike time was a huge disappointment. Well, maybe I will do better in 2014. We both ran the Sycamore Pumpkin run and I did rather well in that race. Our neighbors also ran the race and did well.

We had some work done on Les Miserable over the summer. We also added wood flooring to the master bedroom and hallway. Mark Rawksi, our daughter-in-law- Tesia's uncle did a fabulous job. I had planned to take another course toward an MA in history at Roosevelt University fall term 2013. However, one of the repairs - replacing a bulkhead under the V-berth - was so expensive along with home improvements, I didn't feel that we could afford the tuition at R.U. I hope that I can get a semester done in Fall Term 2014.

So, we did a lot of cool things done between when we got home in June, and went back to the boat in January 2014. One of the coolest was going to the Chicago Symphony Ball concert in September, where we heard Ricardo Mutti conduct music by Verdi, including pieces from Nabucco and Othello, which I liked so much that I bought CD, boxed sets of both operas.

For me, the best times of all were Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house with our families. The turkey, the Christmas tree, all of us together like we pretty much are every year - these were the most spectacular hours of our time hom

Captain Merry Decides That It’s time to for Wiley to Leave the Bahamas
Wiley - a lot of rain… rain… and more rain.

When we got to West End, I kind of thought we would spend five or six nights there. It is true that West End is expensive, but on the other hand, the snorkeling and swimming off their beach is great, and the resort restaurant has wonderful seafood and serves wither the best, or the second best Yellow Birds in the Bahamas!

But, no-o-o-o-o, Merry was worried about getting home to teach her June course at Aurora University, and it turned out there was a suitable weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream and Florida Straits the very next night. After that, the weather did not look good for as far out as the forecast went, including the possibility of a tropical storm in a few days.

Instead of spending the day after our arrival at the beach and bar discussing Bahamian government and politics with my Bahamian People's Liberation Party friend Harold Rolle, I spent the day with Merry getting the boat ready for sea. Our old halyard winch squealed and groaned as we once again used it to haul "Dimples" onto the foredeck. By the time everything was tied down and put away, the sun was starting to go down, and we had to go to bed early, because we set the alarm for 0200 - 2:00AM! - our usual time to get up when we are going across.

When the alarm went off, we got up and went on deck. We could see lightening in the distance. When we turned the navigation lights on, one of our running lights would not work: To go or not to go? We went, sailing out of West End with our battery powered emergency running lights duck-taped to the bow pulpit - just lake last year. At least this year, we had a fully functional marine radio. We cleared West End at 0305.

Does crossing to or from the Bahamas in a 30 foot boat ever become routine? So far, not for us. Yet this, our fourth crossing, was largely uneventful. The waves were four to five feet at the start, but had receded to 1 to 3 by mid-morning. We saw dolphins, but only in the distance. The cruise ship Carnival Sensation crossed ahead of us at 0500. Shortly after noon, I talked Merry into agreeing that we stop the boat in the middle of the Gulf Stream - so that I could go into the water with mask, fins and snorkel. Merry made me promise to keep hanging on to the ladder while I was in the water. It was cool to look down at deep blue, crystal clear water 6,000 feet deep! After I got out of the water Merry went in for a look too.

At 1535, we entered the inlet at Lake Worth, proceeded to the beautiful marina at Old Port Cove. We were able to clear customs by phone, using our local boater card.

Then the bad weather hit. It blew and rained off and on for almost a week. We stayed at the marina, having several great meals at the restaurant there- Sandpiper Cove. We rented a car for a few days, and were able to drive out to the big mall and see a couple of movies - Great Gatsby and the latest Star Trek movie. We ate at a great little "French Bistro" very close to the place where you tie up your dinghy if you come ashore from the anchorage.

At last, the weather cleared. We motored up the ICW to Peck Lake - a passage requiring seven bridge openings, five of them restricted (usually opening only on the hour and half hour). After a night at anchor in Peck lake and another day spent going to, and up the St. Lucie River to the St. Lucie Canal and through the locks, Les Miserables was back in Indiantown.

Wiley - a Bahamian mixture - sun& rain& wind.

Okay. You should know at the very outset that this title was Merry's idea. It teases the reader (provided, of course, that the reader is really stupid) with the prospect of an encounter with a deadly, raging tornado that has sucked up a swirl of man-eating sharks and is dumping them into swimming pools filled with bikini-clad girls resulting in fearful, but for some younger male viewers strangely erotic consequences - a remote scientific impossibility depicted in the Sy-Fy channel made-for-cable TV movie which bears this title.

A much more accurate title for this article on our blog would be, We Make Our Very Slow Way Through the Bahamas on Our Way Home Because Wiley Does Not Really Want to Go Home Yet and is Engaging in Passive Aggressive Behavior to keep us in the Bahamas as Long as Possible Even Though He Knows Merry Needs to Get Home as soon as Possible to Get Ready to Teach Her June Course at Aurora University.

We sailed from Hopetown to the anchorage at marsh Harbor, where we bought groceries, had dinner at Mangos, and listened to the conch horns at sunset for the last time in 2013. It was here that Merry asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, which was in two days. (An instructional note: you should never ask this question if one of the probable answers constitutes a horrifying prospect for you). I, of course, told Merry that I would like to go back to the "the Wall," where three (sort of) circling Bull sharks had sent a shiver down her wet-suited spine, causing her to vow never to return to that location. We had discussed this over the weeks since, with me presenting the argument that we could go diving at some site miles from "the Wall" and encounter the exact same three sharks.

After all, I argued its not like the sharks own condos at 'the Wall" that they live in all the time. In the event, my "spadework" must have paid off coupled with the implicit promise, when she asked me the question that my birthday wish would be granted. The weather was to be nearly perfect on my birthday, and we would sail to an anchorage off Man-O'War Cay, and then get up early the next morning and sail to the anchorage near the Wall.

We had never anchored in this spot of Man O'War before and it turned out to be a neat spot. With mask, fins, and snorkel, I cleaned the bottom of the boat - an easy and fun task, in clear water and no current - and Merry and I went snorkeling. We found a huge underwater pile of conch shells - probably deposited by the Bahamian fisherman over the years - and a rock pile that was full of reef fish including a nice spotted moray eel. We then swam ashore and discovered that at this point, Man O'War is only about 100 feet across from the Sea of Abaco side to the Atlantic Ocean side. However, the Atlantic side was all sharp rocks, and although I found a spot where I think we could climb into the water even in full SCUBA gear, a pretty good surf was running, so we didn't even try to snorkel there. Of course, I am determined to try it next year, when the seas are calmer.

We had motored into the anchorage at something close to high tide, but when w left the next morning, at something approaching low tide, we barely scraped our way across the bar at the mouth of the anchorage - guess I should have looked a the chart more carefully before we went in!

We made it across, and up Loggerhead Passage to the anchorage off Fowl Key, and dropped the anchor. The anchor rode ran out very rapidly, indicating a strong current, but since it was my birthday, and we would be swimming into the current on the way to the Wall (and thus, would have the current with us on the swim back to the boat), after setting the anchor and making sure that Bruce (a 37 pound "Bruce anchor) was not dragging we donned our wetsuits and scuba gear and entered the water by noon.

There was a strong current and surge underwater , so the swim to Grouper Pass and out to the Wall was an excellent aerobic and lower body workout. Merry again encountered and pet her big Grouper friend who seemed glad to see her, and swam up to right away. When we got to the wall guess what? It turns out that the Bull Sharks do own condos at that spot, because they were still there! We also saw Blacktip reef sharks. However, they all seemed very uninterested in us, with the exception of a single bull Shark , which followed Merry for a while. Because of the surge, we had to kick hard for much of the time, but we saw all sorts of nice corals, sponges and reef fish (in addition to the sharks). On the swim back to the boat, we were for some reason unable to locate Grouper Pass, and ended up surfacing and swimming over the reef, which was difficult because the waves were lifting us up and then setting us down on the reef, a bad thing for both the reef and us! We will take steps to make sure this never happens again.

Nonetheless it was a great dive, with 56 minutes of "bottom time" - remarkable because Merry's little 63 cubic foot SCUBA tank. On the whole I have to say, what a great birthday!

It wasn't even over yet. Merry had bought Italian sausage at Maxwell's up in Marsh Harbor, and told me that she would cook sausage and spaghetti, for my "birthday dinner". My favorite! We planned to spend the night anchored in the harbor at Treasure Cay. We could have sailed to Treasure, but we would have had to tack back and forth to get there and that would have taken longer, so I fired up Tim McGee, our new diesel, and we motored and had the anchor down before sunset.

My birthday ended in the cockpit with Italian sausage, a nice bottle of Chianti, and a beautiful consort, the harbor grew quiet and night descended on Treasure Cay.

Of course, Merry should treat me in this manner every day, but her unjustified fear of Bull sharks - and the lack of such sharks in Northern Illinois, where we live - keeps her from doing so.

It rained and blew for much of three days and nights while we were at Treasure Cay, but we did have some intervals to enjoy the three mile long beach, and have lunch at the bar on the beach. Merry went snorkeling off the beach in about three feet of water, and collected beautiful little shells that no else (including me) seed to notice. I had been telling myself that I was training for the Chicago Triathlon (which I had signed up for) when I swam in Hopetown, and a couple of times, I swam way out from the beach a Treasure Cay, until the buildings on shore were really small. This felt safe because these were no waves or current, and the only boat traffic was a few dinghys and rented jet skis.

After five nights at anchor, we finally got a clear day and mostly a good weather report, although a possibility of thunderstorms was noted. We always wait for good weather to through "the Whale", I pulled the anchor up, and we left Treasure Cay. In spite of the wind and rain, our stay there was much better than on the way down the Abacos, when Merry had gotten sick.

Our passage through Loggerhead Passage and then through the Whale was beautiful and uneventful. The Atlantic was calm and at one point we could see the bottom in 40 feet of water!

We planned to anchor at No Name Cay and go ashore to see the wild pigs that live there. I anchored way out from the cay, because of my paranoia over shallow water, and we boarded Dimples and motored ashore. There was a sand beach, but inland was nothing but sharp pointy - mean limestone rock. The pigs were not in evidence.

We have now reached the tornado part. We saw a dark cloud, like a wall cloud, coming from the west, so we hastened back to dimples and got underway. We saw a funnel cloud begin to form, and reach down - it appeared the tornado was over Great Abaco Island. Just then, the little hard working - 2hp outboard motor on Dimples began to sputter a bit, which was bad, because the tornado was now on the ground. You could see the debries cloud at its base - and we were still maybe 3/4ths of a mile from Les Miserables. It dawned on me to ask Merry, "have we checked the oil on the outboard since we left Indiantown in January. Neither of us could remember having done so, although we knew that the outboard had plenty of gas. The tornado seemed closer, but to our relief whatever had been annoying Dimples' outboard ceased, and it settled down to its usual purr, and we were relieved to reach the boat. We were anchored in poor holding ground with shallows nearby, so we decided to get underway. Merry started the engine, and I concentrated on getting the anchor up. By the time I had the anchor on deck and secured, the tornado had disappeared, but we spotted a second funnel cloud not long after. Both missed us, so our remaining passage was mostly uneventful. It was still only mid-afternoon when we reached White Sound at Green Turtle Cay.

There we observed the forlorn sight of a big Beneteau sailboat hard aground in the middle of the channel. The crew told us that the deepest water was close along their starboard side, so we passed within two feet of their toe-rail and up the channel to our old haunt the Green Turtle Club and Marina.

We stayed at Green Turtle or eight nights. For most of this time, we had high winds and lots of rain. We dined, drank yellowbirds at the Green Turtle Club, rented a golf cart and drove into New Plymouth. When weather and surf allowed we went snorkeling at the Atlantic Beach on Coco bay. We wanted to go out on the boat from Brendal's Dive Center, but the seas on the Atlantic were too rough. We consulted the "weather guru" Chris Parker, who told us that it could be as long as two-weeks before we could have a good passage to West End. Merry began making contingency plans to fly home from the Bahamas and leave me there, so that she could teacher her June class at AU.

Alas, the weather changed and we departed Green Turtle on a windy, but clear day. We encountered several squalls, and had to take down the main sail at one point. At the end of the day, we anchored in the south harbor of uninhabited Great Sale Cay.

The next day we made the L(for us) bold decision to attempt the Indian Cay Passage as a short cut to West End, instead of going out and around Memory Rock in deep water as we had the previous two years. The Indian Cay passage goes by Barracuda Shoal, and is narrow, shallow and tricky. We used Merry watching the bottom and maybe a dozen GPS waypoints, but we made it! We arrived at West End- our last part in the Bahamas with plenty of daylight.

My fate was settled. We would be in Indiantown, Florida within a week, unloading the boat, renting a truck, and driving home to what I now perceived as a dull suburban existence.

It's better in the Bahamas.

Leaving our Abacos Boat Home – Hopetown
Wiley - gloriously sunny!
12/31/1969, Hopetown, Bahamas

Hopetown is our favorite place in the Abacos. We stayed at the Hopetown Inn and Marina for more than three weeks, a week or so at a time. I found what I called "my private swimming hole" down a path from the marina, on the Sea of Abaco, and went swimming there almost every day. We also went snorkeling there, and one day Merry saw a BIG Bull Shark - it was closer to me than to her, but I never saw it. My "private" swimming hole is not so private after all - I had company all the time! We heard later that a fisherman, even though it is illegal, had caught a big Bull Shark in that area. Since sharks are a protected species in the Bahamas, the story was that the police wanted to talk to the guy.,,

Several times, we put the mast and sailing rig on our little dinghy, Dimples, and sailed her out of the harbor, and onto the Sea of Abaco - one time, venturing several miles, almost to the Atlantic. A glorious voyage, marred when we managed to run even little Dimples aground twice, getting back into the Harbor! The big treat was to watch for sea turtles that periodically poked their head up.

Dimples continued to give us much more than we were entitled to expect from her. Rigged with her "dinghy dogs" (inflated tubes that attach to each side), and her 2 hp outboard motor, she took us seven miles down the coast of Elbow Cay, from the marina at Hopetown to Tahiti Beach, (said to be the best beach in the Abacos) for hours of snorkeling and shell collecting.

Dimples then carried us across a two-mile channel to a famous bar/restaurant called "Cracker P's." Cracker P was an American who had to flee Florida after he shot and killed a sheriff who was trying to serve him with a warrant (as the Bob Marley song goes -"but I did not shoot the deputy!"). He built a shack, and later a bar, where the present bar now stands. Cracker P was famous for his practical approach to clothing in the Bahamas - he didn't wear any! People doing business with him didn't have to worry that he had "something up his sleeve!" The bar that bears his name serves spectacular Goobay Punch, and has a wonderful second story view of the sea, and Elbow Cay in the distance.

Beautiful sun-drenched day followed sun-drenched day in Hopetown. We went to Tahiti Beach on rented bikes; one time, we rented a golf cart (the most common vehicle for permanent residents) and drove there. We frequently snorkeled off the beach on the Atlantic side of Elbow Cay. On Sunday mornings we would hear the church bells, summoning the Bahamians and anyone else who would like to come, to the beautiful little churches.

After a week or so, we would leave Hopetown and go to Marsh Harbor, to get a full supply of groceries, and for me to see my "Bahamian pharmacist" at the drug store to fill prescriptions. Marsh Harbor is not without its charms. There are several great restaurants. Mangos is our favorite - and some neat little shops. There is a "used book store/exchange operated by expatriate volunteers one day a week out of an old cargo container. It is a large anchorage, with perhaps 30-40 boats at anchor at any given time. At sunset every night, someone blows a "conk horn" (made from a big conch shell) to signal the end of another beautiful day, and at night you can hear the music from live bands at Mangos or other bars, wafting across the water.

On other occasions, we sailed to Guana Cay and spent two or three nights at a mooring. Guana has perhaps the best snorkeling beach in the Abacos, with a spectacularly healthy reef right offshore. We found the famous bar and restaurant, "Nippers," to be an over-rated, over-priced, touristy and uncomfortably crowded. Many of the patrons are young and heavy drinkers. There were few native Bahamians there - except of course those who worked there. It does have two pools, a multi-colored outside deck, chairs, umbrellas, and a little gift store with a sand floor. However, the colorful and eccentric Milo still operates his tiny fruit & vegetable stand at Guana Cay. Milo had a frustrating time trying to teach me how to blow the "conch horn". I'm afraid that for some reason, this is an art that I shall never master. There is a great bar on the Sea of Abaco side of Guana Cay, looking out over the anchorage, which is yet another fabulous Bahamian place to watch the sun set.

But we always go back to Hopetown.

Looming over us was the necessity for Merry to be home in June to teach a course at Aurora University, and the day came when we had to leave Hopetown for the last time for 2013. We said goodbye to Sam the lighthouse keeper, his fiancé Nettie, and the marina manager Aaron and our other friends, and pulled away from the dock (a maneuver that turned surprisingly difficult because of a brisk breeze) and departed. No more laps in their pool, Yellow Bird drinks at the "Tiki-Bar", nor swims in my private swimming hole!

All things must end. Merry was more than ready to go home, eager to see her many close friends, our sons, our beautiful daughter-in-law, family, our beloved cat Marmalade, our grand-dogs - Zeus, Maia, and Barkley as well as the many wonders that Chicago has to offer (Art Institute, theater, the Chicago Symphony, biking on the great paths, etc. etc.)

I mostly felt the same way, but for me the beautiful Abaco's islands and the wonderful Bahamian people, and above all, the sea and its underwater wonders are a powerful force. I would have given much for just one more week, or two, or....

The candy-striped lighthouse at Hopetown that Sam maintains with loving care (as did his light-keeper father and grandfather before him) slowly faded into the distance.

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