30/12/2010/9:37 pm, Halifax NS (crew)
We're just over 24 hours from a brand new year! We're just under 24 hours from being back into our floating and wandering life! We're in that short space of time between having a full house and being just the two of us back on Madcap, our little home on the water.
I always love the start of a brand new year and a brand new month - any kind of a blank slate that is ripe with possibilities. New month, new year, new adventures ahead as we head over to the Bahamas again. If you have a chance to pick up the January issue of Cruising World, you'll find us in it as part of the secret shoppers team at the Annapolis Boat Show. That was great fun and despite seeing many new and beautiful boats, we came away with a renewed appreciation for our Bayfield 36.
We haven't had much snow here in Nova Scotia - just a dusting on the ground the last couple of days. The temperature has been just below 0 C (32 F) and although we had some big winds for a few days, it's quiet now. The picture above was taken from the front deck of our cottage on the Northumberland Strait during the storm last week. (Thanks Rob!) That rocky bit used to be a lawn, and you can see how the waves have whipped up the red sand. I guess there will be work ahead of us, but fortunately our breakwater seems to have held so I don't think we lost any bank. We'll all go chuck rocks back onto the beach for a day or two in the spring! Some folks up and down the shore weren't so lucky and will have some major repairs to do.
I do love being back home for Christmas. It's fun to see the palm trees and the mix of warm weather and Christmas decorations in the south, but as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home!" - for us at least. Mary Beth, Alex, Jim and I went to see the "Wizard of Oz" at Neptune theatre last week and it was a great performance. The music and dancing were wonderful, but the little dog stole the show. He was SO good! He stayed in Dorothy's arms the whole show and didn't wiggle out once - even during the dancing!
Alex came in on the 21st, and Liam showed up on Christmas Eve to surprise us - well me at least - the rest of them seemed to be in on it! Mary Beth left on Christmas afternoon for a cruise out of Miami and the boys left on the 27th. Miraculously everybody's flights went except ours - days after the storm. We were scheduled to go early morning on the 29th but that one got cancelled, and because of the back log through New York, they couldn't get us rebooked until tomorrow afternoon - Dec 31st. That wasn't a bad thing - there appears to be no window to cross the Gulf Stream until next week, and we were quite happy to have the extra couple of days in our nice warm house!
From visits with neighbours to dinners with family to walks in the park to carols and candles at church on Christmas Eve, it has been a truly fine time here in NS. And for the foodies out there - some remarkable eating! To celebrate St Lucia Day we went to a play that our great niece and nephew performed in and dined on traditional foods from a Norwegian smorgasbord. Our neighbour, Wake, made up a batch of yummy glogg that we sipped along with Denise's little pastries filled with sweet potato or spinach one night. We all gathered in our kitchen to make a Thai feast on Christmas Eve - Mary Beth's fabulous Thai soup with shrimp and snow peas and fresh herbs, and Pad Thai, and Green Curry Chicken - oh such good flavours - and then went up the street to eat and drink some more at Yvette's! Christmas dinner at my sister's was turkey with all the trimmings and my grandmother's orange pudding - a thin custard sauce with chunks of oranges floating in it and topped with fluffy egg whites. Mary Jean came down to join us for another turkey dinner here on Boxing day and we enjoyed turkey soup for a few days after that. (We are one of those families who love left over turkey!) We've eaten shortbread and sugar cookies, and a new fruitcake recipe (with dates and apricots and prunes along with the usual raisins and nuts). On another evening, we visited Karen and Wayne and dined on a seafood chowder chock full of lobster and fish, served with those tall fluffy white rolls that are a staple here, and topped off with pineapple squares just like my mother used to make. Oh bliss! Yesterday I made a salad recipe that I found in the newspaper - with julienned carrots and peppers and chunks of cucumber and stirfried tofu, and shrimp and pineapple all tossed with a tamari/ginger dressing. It turned out pretty well and was a nice change from the heavier food we've been eating. Despite all this indulging, both Jim and I have managed to maintain the same weight we arrived home with - yippee!
All this writing about food has made me hungry - I think I'll just meander out to the kitchen for one last shortbread cookie and a cup of tea before bed.
Happy New Year everyone! May it be a year of good fortune, good health and good growing experiences for us all.
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!