17/12/2010/12:02 pm, crew in Halifax / boat in Vero Beach
Thanks so much to those of you who have left comments on the blog and on Facebook. It truly warms both our hearts to hear from you.
Speaking of warmth - all the warmth there was in Florida was in people's hearts on Tuesday morning! We reluctantly dragged ourselves out from under the down comforter at 6 am. Brrrrrr..... Graham (Bonnie Lass) warmed up his outboard motor and did us the exceptional favour of ferrying us ashore in the frigid morning. It was 27 F and there was frost on the car windshield. I flew to Halifax and arrived in 13 C (55 or so F) and drizzle while Jim went to Ottawa and moaned that it was considerably below freezing, with snow and ice and wind ( -23C on Wed he says!)
We're fortunate to have good neighbours and friends in Vero. While we will not be living on the boat, it will not be left unattended. It's just like any neighbourhood anywhere - except that this one has a lot of transients!! Good transients!!
I caught the Airporter Bus into Halifax, and the wonderful driver delivered us straight to our own streets instead of the closest hotel. Ahhh - I am always so delighted by those people who make that extra effort. What a treat - a half block walk instead of 4. When I called the hospital to see how my dad's prostate surgery went (Yes - it happened two weeks later than the initial appointment) the nurse said, "He's doing fine and he asked us to be sure to let you in when you get here!" So I added a few warm things to my suitcase, hopped in the car and drove 3 hours to Moncton just in time to say good night!
The last couple of days have been spent mostly in Moncton, NB, and I brought Dad home to Amherst on Thursday afternoon. He came through just fine, and is going around the house watering his plants as I write this on Thursday evening! Jim flew from Ottawa to Halifax on Thursday, and is gradually thawing out - although it is not as balmy as it was.
It feels wonderful to be back here for Christmas. Yet, as I picked up a prescription at the friendly Pugsley's Pharmacy this afternoon, I had no hesitation when Beth, the pharmacist, queried, "Tell me, how do you like being on that boat?"
"I Love It!!"
The pic is of a fellow carrying a Christmas tree at the Vero Farmers Market - dontcha love it? T-shirt and Christmas tree?
13/12/2010/11:57 am, Vero Beach, FL
It is remarkable how, once we relinquish the "move on" mentality, we can be more open to contentment.
Jim and I seemed to take turns at being out of sorts about not being able to get to the Bahamas before Christmas. We were so sure we would be able to do that, having started in Florida at the beginning of November. But once we resigned ourselves, we found lots of happy moments, and when we looked back, there was very little we'd have done differently.
We had an interesting experience at the library on Friday. An elderly couple came along to the area where computer laden people hang out on the second floor. It turned out that the gentleman was 86 and hard of hearing - but he had his laptop! His wife could hear better but didn't understand computers. They were visiting from somewhere north and he wanted to download some files. The library staff person who showed them to the table was much less than helpful and became downright rude as communication broke down about how to log in and what to do. As she finally cursed audibly at them, I gave her my sternest glare (and those who know me, know I can deliver quite an effective one :-) and offered my help to the gentleman. That seemed to defuse the situation - although I am better at defusing than at computers. The couple said thank you, the staff person calmed down, but we still didn't solve the initial problem. Then Jim and another man arrived, and between them, they got the wifi activated on the man's computer and showed him how to log in. It ended well enough, but was upsetting all round - and the helpfulness of fellow computer users sure trumped that of the staffer. I found it worth noting that once we got the mood changed to one of camaraderie and helpfulness, we kept attracting helpful and knowledgeable folks instead of cranky ones!
We hustled back to the marina in time to meet Ron who arrived with a load of books we are taking to the Ragged Island school. Our friends, Marilyn and Bruce (Reflections) head up this impressive program sponsored by SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association). This year over 800 boxes of books are being delivered by 60 cruising boats to 10 schools in the Exumas and out islands. These Bahamian schools use the same Math and Language Arts textbooks as the Charlotte County Public Schools in Florida, and so they are passed on (with the publisher's permission). It is a wonderful program that allows the Bahamian school children to have significantly more up to date books - and enough of them - and gives cruisers a chance to help out. Ron says they still need a few more boats to take books to Georgetown so if any of you have room, drop a line to Marilyn and Bruce at email@example.com. The Florida volunteers have done an amazing job of organization. Each bundle of books is labelled with the grade, school, and boat name. Evidence of Marilyn's organizational skills I do believe!!
Along with Valerie and Graham (Bonnie Lass), we journeyed back to Nancy and Jim's for dinner on Friday evening. Besides enjoying delicious chili and yummy chocolate treats, we viewed the Solitaire slide shows of years past - remembering those beaches and the colour of the water, and exclaiming when our own faces and those of other old friends appeared.
On a sunny Saturday morning, we walked to the Farmers Market held along the beachfront at Humiston Park - an easy walk although it is also on the bus route from the marina. We sampled chocolate croissants, bought spice packets for use later on, listened to some pretty good banjo pickin' and chatted with the Christmas tree vendor - whose dad brings them down from their farm in North Carolina ($68 for a 7 ft fir tree). If we weren't leaving the boat for 2 weeks, it would be a great place to stock up on produce before heading out. There were tasty dips and sauces, jams and jellies, breads and cookies along with gorgeous orchids and other plants. But buyer beware - I almost bought a pretty seagrass basket as a Christmas gift until I asked the question I always ask - "Was this made locally?" Nope - made in Thailand.
Karin and Ed (Passages), Penny and Hal (Volantis) and Valerie and Graham (Bonnie Lass) clambered on board in the evening to share goodies and libations, and it was even warm enough to sit in the cockpit!
On Sunday morning, we dinghied up the harbour to see who had come and who had gone, and stopped for a tour of Bruce's new boat (Zingara - the new one is a Contest 35). It is lovely and it was fun to share in his excitement! After cramming our little dinghy in among the dozens at the dock, we arrived at the laundry room intending to throw in a couple of loads ($2 per wash and $1.50 per dryer) and head straight off for a walk, but that plan changed fast. Connie and Ken (Oz) were standing out front, having just filled a couple of washers themselves. We had heard they were coming this way and were delighted to meet up with these old friends from last year. The chatter between the 3 or 4 boat crews doing laundry kept us there all through the wash and dry cycles so we returned to Madcap with clean clothes and bedding, made a salad for lunch and left the walk for another time.
As the front went through, it was downright chilly and the wind increased steadily through the day so it was more of an inside day by then anyway. I visited the Museum of Art while Jim cleaned out and organized the aft cabin aka garage. Bless his heart for handling that job! He labelled and stowed and made inventory lists, while I gazed at beautiful photography, exquisite glass - including a couple of Chihuly pieces - and imaginative sculptures constructed from pencils and plastic forks and old books and plastic sandals. Bruce (Zingara) came over for dinner in the evening - a chicken version of shepherd's pie - and we were glad to have the oven on to cozy up the cabin.
Monday was filled with odd jobs before we left to go home for Christmas. The weather report called for a good window for a crossing on Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday, so we know several folks will be gone by the time we get back. Nancy drove us to Budget to pick up our rental car, and on her recommendation, we ate fabulous burgers and fries at Five Guys before heading off to make still more boat purchases (filter for the water hose, replacement high power spotlight). We bundled up our perishables to store in Solitaire's fridge while we are gone and then it was time to pack and clean so we don't come back to a smelly, messy boat!
10/12/2010/12:59 pm, Vero Beach, FL
The drizzle slowed to a few drops; the temperature warmed up marginally; cruisers arrived with plates and bottles under the overhang at the marina's north picnic area and the regular Thursday night happy hour at Vero Beach City Marina happened.
It is one of the rituals of cruising that I have come to treasure. There are often surprises; there are frequently new friendships (or at the very least new acquaintances) to be made; there is always food to share. It is a time to hear stories - and sometimes music, to discover shared experiences, to tell tales of our own. They happen in marinas, on beaches, in cockpits. They can be spontaneous or planned.
We were at Miracle Mile this afternoon and almost missed the bus back but the driver saw us running across the Publix parking lot and waited for us. We should have known then that it would be a great night!
We arrived at the dinghy dock, placed our tray of cheese, sausage and homemade cornbread on the table, sampled some delicious meatballs and deviled eggs and crackers and dip and wandered over to chat with Stu (Georgia E - another Bayfield 36). Jim had been talking routes to the Bahamas with Stu and Tony - his sailing mate - at the coffee shop in the afternoon and after consulting the charts, he wanted to continue the conversation.
As is the way with cruisers, we met another fellow involved in the conversation, exchanged boat cards, and as I looked at it, I exclaimed, "Look at the name!" It was Bissell! Russ Bissell and Pat Burkhardt (Consort) hail from New York State now, but Russ's ancestors came from Connecticut - the same place from which Jim's ancestors emigrated. We laughed that Jim's forebears (among many others) are called Loyalists because they came to Ontario, Canada at the time of the American Revolution. Russ's family stayed there so perhaps the loyalist part depends on one's point of view! The Americans call those who left "Tories". At any rate, we are sure there must be a family connection somewhere back a few generations because both of them have Connecticut roots and know of the Huguenot heritage before that. How magical is that - to discover "cousins" at a boaters happy hour?
Russ and Pat introduced Jim to Bob and Connie (Meredith) and they chatted about their happy sailing experiences in Cuba last year, and our hopes to go there this year. I'll have to get details from Jim later. Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own conversation with Stu (Georgia E). It was exciting to talk with him about his experiences on this "first trip" down the coast and over to the Bahamas (although the man has had lots of experience sailing in the Caribbean as well as racing in Lake Ontario.) We sometimes forget about all those "first times" - first time down the ICW, first time into endless numbers of harbours and anchorages and marinas, first time across the Gulf Stream, checking into the Bahamas, first time on the banks. While they are times of excitement, they are also times of anxiety and learning. Every single day brings something new and that can be as exhausting as it is pleasurable.
When he remarked, "I've been reading your blog for three years now", it was a wonderful reminder of why I write. I write for family and friends - to let them know where we are and what we are doing. I write for Jim and me too - this is our narrative log for our own reference. But I also write for two other groups of people - those who will take this trip one day and who want to know some of the things we've discovered, and those who will never take this particular journey, but who travel with us and share it through this blog and the others they read (and it is a rare person who follows only one blog!)
It is easy for me to forget about these groups when we are revisiting a place about which I've written before, or when the days are long and we aren't doing what we planned, or when we are grumpy, or when there seems nothing new to say except that we got fuel or ate dinner or cleaned the cockpit. While I'm pretty certain readers don't hang on every word with a breathless "What did they do today?" or tune in with the regularity of soap opera fans, it was a good nudge for me. People read these blogs. Make them interesting!
Because that is the true magic of last night. There is ALWAYS something interesting - like Lorraine collecting signatures on quilt squares the other night on Passages, or like the sharing of weather info sites or the finding of "cousins". There are interesting people and boats and places and events. There are interesting relationships and stories. There are interesting things to learn and to teach and we ALL have them - no matter where we are. And sometimes we even have the opportunity to write about them!
Thank goodness for happy hours!!