02/01/2008/9:57 am, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Happy New Year!
We had an emotion-filled and rewarding trip back home to Nova Scotia. The Maritime tradition of having visiting hours along with a memorial service allows for valuable time to share stories and memories with friends and family - many of whom we rarely see. Dozens of people came to visit and it felt like we were able to truly remember and celebrate my mother's life along with mourning her passing.
We moved quickly from that intense time into Christmas and were grateful to be able to share it with the family at Mum and Dad's home. Alex and Liam flew down from Ottawa for the funeral; Liam returned there to celebrate Christmas with Amy and Olivia, and came back to us for a few days afterward. Alex stayed through the whole ten days, and Mary Beth, who lives in the area, was with us most of the time as well. Aunt Ursula (Mum's sister) and my sister and her husband were also able to be with us. We think it helped my dad to have us around, although we suspect he will value the quiet time now that he has his house back to himself!
Among the many rewarding things we discovered in this time was the compassion of both the boys' employers. Linda and Murray of Capital City Luggage and Roberto of Allegro Restaurant gave immediate permission to Liam and Alex to take whatever time they needed to be with family during this time and we are all grateful to them for that. The staff at Campbell's Funeral Home and First Baptist Church were exceptionally kind and professional, and the many friends who gave messages and cards, food and flowers, memorial donations and their time to be with us fill us all with warmth, appreciation, and even joy in the midst of our grief.
Jim and I flew back to Treasure Cay on Dec 30 and caught the ferry to Green Turtle Cay. It felt like coming home to "our own place" again, and I must say, it was delightful to leave the cold and snow for sun and sand.
We found Madcap safe and sound, and enjoyed a quiet first evening back as we sat on the deck under the stars. On Monday, it was grocery-shopping time, and we really noticed that food costs more here. We had to restock our refrigerator with the usual eggs and milk and butter and cheese along with some fresh produce. I was pleased to find lettuce and peppers, celery and broccoli, apples and oranges. The price was higher - yes, but the important thing was they were available! We bought more of that most wonderful coconut bread to make a perfect feast melding north and south on New Year's morning - French Toast made with coconut bread and maple syrup.
The cruisers enjoyed a potluck hors d'oeuvres gathering at Brendal's Dive centre over in White Sound and we were just delighted to reconnect with several friends we haven't seen for a while, as well as to meet new ones. Steve and Sandy (Princess), Patty and Colin (Island Song) both arrived in that very day, and we met Richard and Carol (Kalissa), and Mark and Nicki (First Edition?) and many others whose names I'll have to hear again! For the first time in many years, Jim and I were tucked in bed at midnight - thinking about getting up to go ashore for music and celebration but too tired to do it. The big Junkanoo celebration came on Tuesday anyway, and we took it all in.
New Plymouth was just full of people - cruisers, house renters, and boatloads of folks arriving from other islands boosted the local population. Restaurants and church groups had stands set up all along the street and were selling ribs and chicken and fish and desserts. We feasted on plates of conch fritters, conch salad, ribs, macaroni, and peas 'n rice, brownies and more than one glass of rum punch. I sipped my first goombay smash from Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar - deeelicious. The Junkanoo Parade wound its way down the hill and around the town and we loved the colour and sound and intimacy of it. The streets are narrow and people lined all sides and corners. The drummers and dancers in their bright sequined and feathered costumes moved among us, folks dropped into line behind them as they moved down Parliament Street, along the waterfront and back to the basketball court where Kevin kept the music going.
The sun shone, the music played. People - local residents and visitors, black and white, young and old, loud and subdued, all mingled in the streets for the whole day. We went back to the boat for a nap around 6 and then headed off in the dinghy to Pineapples for the fireworks display at 8. As we stood on the beach among friends, watching the display that went on for close to an hour and listening to the waves lapping on the shore, we felt once again that we are on a journey that feels remarkably right to us.
In one discussion during the day I found myself trying to explain my conviction that we must maintain a belief or a faith in all that is right. Just as our journey feels right to us, a day like this is one of those right things, and even if it is just one day in one little place, it is good and it is enough to hold onto as we look forward to the year ahead. It may well be a challenging year in big and small ways, in personal and global ways; it may well have destruction and mistrust and betrayal and mourning. It will also have honesty and love and respect and hope; it will have creativity and brilliance and compassion and celebration. I'm sure of it.
18/12/2007/8:32 am, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
When I last wrote, we were preparing to go back to Amherst, Nova Scotia on Friday to spend a family- filled Christmas. We now have a different schedule and a different purpose.
My mum passed away last evening. It happened much more suddenly than any of us expected and so we have scrambled to deal with this shock, to change our flight plans, and to be together to celebrate Mum's life before we get to Christmas.
I am so very grateful that I went back in November, and am also so very grateful that we were able to find flights to get us home again. A note to cruisers - build unexpected trips into your cruising kitty!
We left the boat on a mooring ball in Black Sound - under the care of Kevin McIntosh - dockmaster at The Other Shore Club. Many, many new friends offered to check on it, sent their condolences, and waved us off as we made our dinghy ride ashore. It is a shock to be so far away when this happened but both Jim and I are warmed by the concern and fellowship of both old and new friends as we engage in this next part of our journey.
Sailing is about exploration and navigation and weather. I guess life is something the same - we chart a new course now, and get through this storm, and we'll see what tomorrow brings.
16/12/2007/9:45 am, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
We've been pretty sedentary these last couple of days and have much to show for it.
On George's request, we moved in to Black Sound on Friday morning, tied up at the wharf and plugged in to get a full charge on the batteries. We're relearning that using the tides greatly increases our options. (We have been used to using them to make timing decisions, but we forgot about using them for destination choices.) On our first look at the charts, we had discounted Black Sound. But after talking with David and Catherine (Solitaire I) we took a second look, and after talking with Kevin (Dockmaster at Other Shore Club) we didn't worry a minute more. The charts and books give mean low water levels, and the tide here is about 3 feet. That makes a world of difference to a 6 ft draft boat. We like the easy atmosphere here and the convenience of having a short walk to New Plymouth. It is also possible to walk to White Sound so we can reach both ends of the cay with no sweat. Oh, I take that back - there is always sweat - it's hot here!
I must say that it is a treat to be able to just walk off the boat and up the dock. I think we appreciate it especially because we spend very little time on a dock. The house and starting batteries have finally been all topped up. George came by and he and Jim did some more problem solving. We think that one thing that happened was that the batteries got so low it was hard to get them back up. It took hours and hours. (Note to selves - we need solar panels.) Another issue seems to be the automatic combiner and whether it is doing what it should when it should. George came back on Saturday to run a sensor from the battery combiner to the starting battery so the combiner will sense when it needs to isolate the starting battery. We spent another night on the dock while we saw how the batteries looked after a night of draining. (I'll report on that next time) We will look into supplementary power sources over the Christmas break.
I've spent part of the days writing and doing a wee bit of Christmas shopping; there is a beautiful gift shop in New Plymouth - Native Creations - and a couple of other shops with toys and clothes. The prices at the gift shop don't appear to be higher than in other such places, but I think the women's clothing is a little more expensive. One line carried here is Fresh Produce - beautiful colours- and a top I looked at was $39.00. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking, but the same sort of thing was less than that in the US, I think. I finally discovered that there is a good free Internet connection at Pineapples Café - just up the hill from here so I have become a habitué there for an hour or so each day, checking e-mail, posting blog entries and making Skype calls - this morning there were four of us scattered around the tables. There still never seems to be enough time unless I settle in for hours, so forgive me if your welcome emails have gone unanswered! We really do appreciate getting them.
Jim and I both took a lovely long walk up island - dodging out of the way of golf carts - the most common method of travel - and various pickups and other cars. Folks drive on the left side of the road here too, so we needed to remember which way to dodge! Once we got to the beach it was wonderful to ramble along, looking for shells and wading in the water. I found a beautiful cowrie - I think. I really need to pick up the little book I saw at the grocery store to help with ID.
We attended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday night - a most interesting experience. We walked there in moonlight, thinking that the roads were not well lit out this way, and then it dawned on us that none of the houses had lights either! By the time we got to the administrative office lawn, we found a number of other people milling about in the 6:30 darkness, and shared some laughs that they might have lit the tree early and blown a fuse. (Power outages happen frequently here.) Eventually, everything flashed into brightness again and word spread that there had been an accident on the mainland, knocking over a pole. Chairs were lined up on the lawn, lights twinkled on the buildings, children wandered around while adults sat or stood.
It is pretty clear that there is no separation of church and state here. This was an event sponsored by the Bahamian government with speeches from the local Council member and the Administrative Officer of North Abaco, noting what has been done in the past year and what is planned for next. There were also prayers, scripture readings, a sermon and some singing of Christmas carols - all singularly Christian and heavily flavoured with exhortations to "follow Jesus". The elderly "Sister Jennie" who prayed at the end had a voice filled with such warmth and love that I'd like to have heard more from her and perhaps a little less from "Percival". Two different choirs sang - our favourite was the Miracle Church of God; the 6 or 7 women had fine gospel voices. We found the experience fascinating because it is so different from any community event that would happen in Canada these days.
During the service, we could see women inside the building dishing up food into styrofoam containers, and our mouths were watering. Sure enough, at the end of the service, little Paulette plugged in the tree, Santa arrived with goodie bags for all the children, and the invitation was issued to come up for food - children to the back door, adults to the front. This seemed to be a gathering of mostly local people but the lady who told me about it said we were all welcome, so Jim and I joined the line and received our boxes too. Oh - it was delicious Bahamian food. The government bought it and sent it to the best cooks for preparation, and then it was given out with no charge. We devoured tender chicken, smoky ham, Bahamian peas'n rice, spicy mac&cheese, and coleslaw, accompanied by pop or water and cake.
We went off next to Pineapples Bar in Black Sound for music by Kevin (keyboard and voice), Juice (saws) and Brendal (guitar). Their music was lively, happy, danceable. Kevin - of Gully Rooster fame - has a beautiful voice and a great way of communicating with his audience. Couples danced along the edge of the pool, clusters of people gathered at the bar while lights twinkled in the trees and water lapped on the beach nearby. It was pretty fine!
We attended another community event on Saturday night. This one was a fundraiser for the Grade 6 class field trip and great numbers of the local and cruising community were there. It was held at the basketball court, and involved a golf cart decoration contest, hula hoops and limbos for the children, delicious food again - a choice of fish, chicken, or burgers, with drink and cake for $8.00. Because they were a little late starting (like an hour) Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar did a booming business across the street. We sat with Judy - a local part time resident who had us laughing between mouthfuls with her stories of living on a sailboat in Puerto Rico while she played piano at a local resort. After dinner we joined a group of other cruisers for lots of good conversation under the stars and with the laughing of children in the background. They were still going strong when we headed off in various directions to dinghies and winding lanes to make our way home.
We'll move off the dock today and onto our mooring to be secure for the coming wind; there is a strong cold front headed this way with SW winds 25-30kn forecast for tonight. We've been reading up on water collection so we'll try to get some of the expected rain into our water tank too. It wouldn't be a good time to be out in the bay so we're pleased to be tucked away in Black Sound.
Staying put has turned out to be a true blessing.