30/10/2011/8:17 am, Tiger Point Marine, Fernandina Beach FL
We've been working hard this week! Well ... except for a couple of days of play, but that's what retirement is about, right?
Madcap is looking great with a freshly painted bootstripe (me), washed and waxed and polished hull (Jim), fresh coats of cetol on woodwork (me), cleaned out and organized tool lockers (Jim). I have to say that once again, Jim and I are both in our "beginning of season" mode when we cannot imagine loving a boat more than we love Madcap. After 6 months on board, we always want a bigger one but then we go home to a house for a while and when we come back, she is just right again. Funny how a boat can change like that!!
The weather has been great most of the week but it turned cold and windy Friday night so we were happy to dive under our down comforter and turn on the heater in the morning. Dinner Saturday was pork chops with roasted potatoes, buttered lima beans and sautéed zucchini and tomatoes - fresh from the Farmer's market. Mmmmm mmmmm. Looking forward to leftovers tonight.
We've had time for some strolls through the neighbourhood to look at the pretty houses of old town Fernandina Beach and watch the birds that make the marshes of Egan's Creek their home - snowy egrets, blackbirds, herons. We must be on a monarch butterfly migration route because the yard was full of them the other day.
We took a drive to the Commissary at Mayport with Tina and Dick to start our provisioning, and Jim has made a couple of trips to Sailor's Exchange in St Augustine. We are delighted to report that the "old stuff" we emptied out of our basement at home paid for 140 feet of new anchor chain! On Thursday, Tina, Jim and I drove to St Simon's Island to meet Steve and Sandi (Yes! They are here!), and see their new boat, Yonder. Oh - she's a beauty - and Sandi can be the Varnish Queen again! We went with Dick to the Boardwalk Bash at Amelia Island Plantation to smile at the little pirates and fairies and pumpkins and giraffes as they played beside the pond, and take in the Georgia Bulldog and Florida Gator décor as the place celebrated a college football/Hallowe'en combo. The town is full of Georgia folks who came just across the border for the big game in Jacksonville on Saturday. (Georgia won!)
I've become a great fan of Amazon.com. Find something on line, press a button, and hey presto - it shows up here 2 days later with free shipping. Yikes! This could be addictive!
We're off to see "Ides of March" at the movie theatre tonight. Launch day is Tuesday!
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!!