23/10/2011/7:50 pm, Tiger Point Marine, Fernandina Beach FL
We are back into boat mode and it feels very good.
Our first SSCA Gam (Seven Seas Cruising Association Gathering) was highly enjoyable, and will be the first of many, I hope. The best part of it all was seeing Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) again, but a close second was the opportunity to meet several folks who have cruised to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Marilyn introduced us to Major, Pam and Don, Nancy and Steve, Sue and Rob - all of whom had stories to share, tips and encouragement. Thanks most especially to Pam and Don, who gave us specific advice and contacts as we huddled together over lunch and then sent follow up emails - and who fed our fire for visiting this area.
We left early to race back to Ocala to attend the wedding of our old friend Bill Crowell and his new bride, Suzanne. Bill's first wife, Frances, (who passed on a couple of years ago) was a lifelong friend of Jim's mother and it was quite a treat to attend this event, with memories of old loves mingling with the celebration of new loves; with eyes focused on the present and hearts big enough to embrace everyone. We wish them and their families (including our "big-boat-cruising buddies" Christine and Art) the very best for the future.
From that celebration, we drove to Vero Beach to visit Nancy and Jim (Solitaire). Those two sure know how to make Nova Scotians feel welcome - invite all the Nova Scotians in the neighbourhood over for Happy Hour! Believe it or not - there was a crowd! Good thing we could gather around their pool instead of in Solitaire's cockpit - we wouldn't have fit. And oh that pool was a lovely place to end the evening before retiring to our private little cabana - such luxury!
Then it was back to Fernandina Beach and the good company and hospitality of Tina and Dick Devoe. We met these folks on our first trip south and look forward to our yearly visits. Dick's company, True Course Captain's School, (www.truecourses.com) offers USCG approved courses including training and test for the USCG Captain's license. Tina is a Healing Touch Practitioner and Instructor so healing and wholeness and boating expertise (along with lots of laughs and Klondike Bars) are the common ground for good times and conversation when the four of us get together. We based ourselves at their house while we got Madcap into livable condition and have now Moved Aboard!
As I crouched under Madcap's hull watching the rain the other day, and as I climbed up the ladder under the stars last night, it occurred to me (not for the first time) that boat yards are really quite wonderful places to be. They are places where people are working to prepare their vessels and themselves for adventure; many of us are practicing new skills and are on steep learning curves while others are using old skills on new boats, and still others are following familiar routines on boats they've had for years. We're all working with our hands as we cast our minds into the future. For Jim and me - our days are filled with hands on things like sanding and varnishing woodwork, checking (and this year replacing) anchor chain, replacing shower drain pump, installing new wifi system, washing and waxing and polishing the fiberglass exterior, checking furling lines and halyards and sheets and lifelines, installing new soundproofing tiles around the engine. When we've finished that list, we'll move on to the next one. In between the work, though, are the conversations with the boaters around us. Both this year and last, Ed and Karin (Passages) have been the first friends we've met when we got to the yard - great way to start off the year! As Jim looked around, he spotted a bus bearing an Ontario plate and two cars with NS plates, and Mireille and Christian's PQ car is parked across the road. The Canadians are arriving! We've enjoyed conversations with our neighbours, Doug and Pat (Sanctuary), John and Debbie (the Rossborough up the way), Steve and Patty (Indigo Falcon), Roger and Bonnie (Kokomo) and Baird (Romulus). This morning, Mike Meadows, a local resident, came bicycling by and stopped to chat - offering help with anything we might need while we're here. There are wonderful people here in Fernandina Beach! Other treasured activities in our boatyard days are visits to the Farmers' Market for bags of fresh veggies, luscious chicken pies and multigrain bread, the wine sale at Harris Teeter, and sinking up to our chins in the hot tub with Tina and Dick. We're feeling contentment, and excitement, and yes - fatigue and dizzying "listitis" and wallets that shrink with every visit to the store ... and we're grateful for every bit of it.
Here's wishing all of you opportunities to work hard, play happily, rest easy.
14/10/2011/7:18 am, Copenhagen to Florida
We flew to Copenhagen on Icelandic Air - stopped in the airport at Reykjavik long enough to make me want to come back to Iceland and stay a few days - and arrived at our destination in time to take a cruise through the canals of this lovely city. This pic is the Nyhavn area - gorgeous old houses and boats, the neighbourhood of Hans Christian Anderson and now of tourists and locals sitting in the sun and enjoying the sights.
The highlight of our stay here - well one of the highlights! - was our biking tour with Mike (www.bikecopenhagenwithmike.dk) when we wheeled along paths and bike lanes, in and out of gates and great arched doorways, and I felt like a local and also like a kid again. Just the best fun - and Mike was a philosopher-guide - not interested in just telling about Copenhagen, but wanting us to understand the heart and soul of his city and the people who live there. Anther highlight was seeing Ann Christin and Christian (Ella) walk through the door of the hotel dining room. We met these two in Cuba, got to know them better in Halifax, and had coffee with them in Copenhagen. Isn't that great? From a casual meeting on a dock in one place to coffee several thousand miles away. Maybe next visit will be in their native Norway. All the shared connections we've discovered since we started sailing seem like the most wonderful thing to me. Our world has expanded so very much, and I am continually delighted and amazed by it.
Copenhagen is an expensive city, but we managed not to break the budget entirely. We stayed at Clarion Hotel 27 very near Tivoli gardens - oh yes - Tivoli at night was another highlight - just gorgeous! The hotel rate included breakfast and dinner buffets - lots of variety of tasty food. We ate lunch out at different spots, sampling local beer and the traditional open faced sandwiches at sunny sidewalk cafes and bustling bakeries. Besides exploring by bicycle, we walked through Christiania, the amazing alternative neighbourhood where creativity and pot and determination to live outside the lines reign supreme, and took a train to Fredriksborg for a back in time stroll through King Christian IV's lovely castle.
We finally tore ourselves away, loaded up our bags again and took the train to the cruiseship terminal where we boarded the Norwegian Sun for our first ever "big-boat" cruise.
To be honest, we were a bit surprised by how much we enjoyed this trip! We had one day stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Lisbon and Ponta Delgada (Azores) and then a 6 day crossing of the Atlantic to Port Canaveral in Florida. We booked it about 15 months in advance (unheard of planning for us!!) and got an excellent price. I was curious about whether we could consider an ocean crossing and after the 24 hours between Lisbon and Ponta Delgada when the wind was gale force and the seas were over 3 metres high, I thought I had come to a definite NOT decision, but all the rest of the crossing was so benign that - well - we are left with a probably not, but not a definitely not decision. So what else is new with the Madcap crew?? What we do know is that somehow or other and sometime or other, we'd love to do some sailing in Europe.
The stops, while short, gave us a taste of different cities and we combined boat sponsored tours, wandering on foot, more bicycling (Lisbon) and a private taxi trip (Azores) in an effort to make the best use of our time. Our bus tour in Amsterdam took us out of the city to Edam where we strolled quiet cobblestone streets lined with lovely old buildings, and then spent some time at an admittedly "touristy" but nonetheless interesting area where we watched wooden shoes being gouged out and shaped from chunks of wood. We heard how the wheels of edam cheese are made and stored, and we took lots of windmill pictures. We climbed up to where we could stand just under the creaking blades of one of the old ones and imagined the days when they were totally dependent on these marvels of engineering to not only run their equipment, but keep the land dry. All that area is about 12 feet below sea level, and now not only windmills but high tech pumps and drainage systems continue to manage the water. We strolled on our own through the little streets along canals and across countless flower-lined bridges in the big city of Amsterdam in the afternoon.
In hindsight, we would have preferred to take the train from Blankenburg to Brugges and explore it on our own, but we didn't know that at the time, so we took another tour there. It is a beautiful old city (and very confusing - with myriad twists and turns) and we were happy to see it and take a canal tour, but felt we were being herded along more than we would like. We'll go back one day with time to poke around and explore it as it deserves to be taken in - one corner, one hot chocolate shop, another corner, a canal, another chocolate stop at a time.
Lisbon was great fun on bicycles again. Miguel was a fine tour guide - not quite as good as Mike in Copenhagen - but still great. We started at Parque Eduardo VII at the top of one of the hills and rolled down to the river - stopping to see cork trees and monuments, sip the local cherry liquor Ginjinha, and taste flaky little custard pastries before wheeling for miles along the new boardwalks that line the river. It seemed fitting that we stopped our tour at the same spot the explorers set off to find new worlds - at Belem Tower.
In Ponta Delgada, we rented a taxi and drove along hydrangea lined roads to Ribera Grande and Fire Mountain before heading in the other direction to the twin lakes and back to town where we wandered the streets on our own. The vistas overlooking terraced green hills were absolutely gorgeous. The fog lifted and fell enough to give us glimpses of beauty on the tops of the hills, and was absent completely from the lower elevations. We tried codfish pizza for lunch - which I enjoyed but Jim won't mind never having again!
While aboard ship on sea days, we read books, walked the deck, enjoyed excellent entertainment - singer pianist Claire Maidin, comedian Ross Bartlett, hypnotist Nadeen, sleight of hand man Sideshow Bert, flamenco guitarist Fabio along with the musical and dance productions of the Norwegian Sun show team. The dining was fine both in dining rooms where service was attentive and plates were attractively presented with tasty food, and in the busy buffets on the top deck where we could eat in the salt air. We loved having time with our friends, Christine and Art, and we shared stories every night over dinner about our day's activities. Norwegian Sun had freestyle dining which meant no set times or places for meals and no mandatory dressing up for dinner. While we don't have anything to compare it to, the system suited us just fine.
Now here we are back in Florida after a very fine trip back home to Halifax for Thanksgiving. We're on our way to the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam in Punta Gorda, Florida where we'll connect with old friends Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) and meet lots of new folks. Then we'll head back to Tiger Point Marine and get down to some serious work!!
05/09/2011/8:53 pm, Halifax NS (crew), Florida (boat)
After moaning about the weather through June, we enjoyed a beautiful July and then headed into a cool and damp August. It's been one of the wettest here in 30 years and we indulged in a fair bit of "Grumble, grumble, moan and mumble." Come September the sun is shining again and providing lots of daytime warmth. Besides grumbling about weather, though, here is what's been happening in the lives of Madcap's crew.
No more sailors from the waterfront have come for food and showers but we had a wonderful visit from our fab friends, Sandra and Steve (formerly on Princess), as they headed for Newfoundland for a few weeks of sailing on Hillary. We sampled lots of Nova Scotia wine, visited our fabulous seaport farmers' market for veggies and cheese, and walked the waterfront - and enjoyed planning some similar excursions in new ports this year. Jeannie and Jim (Estelle) were in town a couple of weeks ago. We managed to eat a few mouthfuls of dinner (grilled shrimp skewers and quinoa salad - for the foodies who always like to know!) while peppering them with questions about Belize and Guatemala - the best route, what to see on the way and what to see and do once we get there. Our appetites are wheted for a trip to new places.
We spent time at the cottage, lovely mornings on the porch with coffee and books, and afternoons with paint brushes in hand as we painted it a beautiful soft blue. Long walks on the red sandbars and swims in the warm salt water were fun whenever the tide and weather were right. I have been picking slugs off my plants in the early mornings at home. Oh boy - have I been picking slugs - by the hundreds. Some of my plants have managed to grow in spite of them and we are enjoying sweet and salty little orange tomatoes, and purple pole beans. The dahlias were mostly chewed up but I can see multicoloured blossoms of cosmos and splashes of colour from impatiens in the shady areas as I sit on the deck. The lilies, rhodos, wigelia have come and gone, and I'm about to scatter a few pots of mums in among the left over greenery.
Jim and I had a most wonderful time talking about our sailing experiences and sharing pictures at our two "engagements" this summer. It was sheer joy to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones at Trident Yacht Club near Gananoque, ON in July. We talked of how and why we got started on this whole cruising lifestyle and how rewarding it has been for us - each of us sharing our own perspective. One gentleman was heard to say, "I don't know how those two managed to live on a 36 foot boat for a year and a half!" We wonder that sometimes ourselves - but we did and we continue to greatly enjoy the 6 -7 months we now spend on Madcap each year. TYC (on the Bateau Channel between the mainland and Howe Island at the east end of Lake Ontario) is a gorgeous and friendly club that welcomes transients. Do stop in if you are in the area.
In August, at the invitation of Sharon and Gary Vernon, we joined members of the Chebucto branch of Canadian Power and Sail Squadron for a pot-luck-supper and slide show at Elbert White's cottage on the Tidnish River in Nova Scotia. We were pleased again to see some old friends and meet some new ones - listening to their boating stories and sharing our own as we showed pictures of our travels.
We also stopped by Bev and Jean's idyllic bakery and pizza shop to enjoy a special evening with these friends relaxing on their waterside deck as we sipped red wine and savoured delicious hand made pizzas freshly pulled from their traditional wood oven. They used to sail the southern waters on El Rio and now cruise the land in an RV - still connecting with sailing friends. It turns out they are great friends of Linda and Wayne (Isla) whom we met in Great Sale Cay with Valerie and Graham (Bonnie Lass). Once again - small, small world!
Summer also gave us the opportunity to be with family of course, and we loved spending time with Alex and Liam in Ottawa, and with Mary Beth here in Halifax. My dad is still gardening and making jams and pickles and we've been the happy recipients of his produce at many shared meals.
Jim and Alex are now off on a road trip to Florida. We decided to take our car down this year and do some land based exploring during October. They will fly back to Canada, and then shortly afterward, Jim and I will head off on our next great adventure. We're taking a big boat cruise! We fly to Copenhagen (where we hope to meet up with Christian and Ann Christin (the Norwegian boat Ella). We'll visit several ports including Amsterdam, Bruges, Lisbon onboard the Norwegian Sun and then head off across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in Port Canaveral in early October. We have never been on a cruise ship and always wonder what it is really like out there in the middle of the ocean so this allows to us to experience both - in the company of good friends Art and Christine (Miles Away - not a boat but their sweet summer home in Lake Annis, NS)
These early Sept days are prime time for enjoying Nova Scotia so I will just close this computer now and go off for a walk in the sunshine - enjoying the last days of summer!