05/01/2008/10:05 am, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Let's start with the new: the weather has taken a significant change to cool and windy the last few days. It seems hard to believe that on Tuesday, New Year's Day, we were ambling around in t-shirts and drinking lots of liquid to keep hydrated. By Wednesday it had cooled some and we took a very comfortable long walk on the beaches to watch the surf on the Atlantic side and stretch out our legs.
The temperature kept falling and the wind blew harder. The thermometer in the last couple of days has been registering as low as 66 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind has been blowing consistently at 15 - 20 knots with some gusts up to the high 20's. Even inside our protected sound, we pulled and pulled on our mooring ball, swinging this way and that. Madcap is a heavy boat and we were sure giving that thing a workout, so kudos to Rick Sawyer for keeping his moorings in good shape.
Because of the high winds and the fact we've also been plagued by battery problems again (this is the old) we stayed put rather than go up to Manjack for a change of scenery. The power level dropped while we were back in Canada for 12 days and we could not seem to get it up by running the engine. So we were back to the same old solution of tying up and plugging in to get topped up again. The disheartening part of that is that both times the battery charge dropped (now and in early December) something happened to drain the starting battery too. Roger (Stout Wench) spent hours with Jim poring over the system and then used his dinghy as a tug to push us over to a dock. Once the batteries were up to full charge again, he spent more hours and the two of them could not find out what was wrong. Grrr. The good news is that Nancy and John (Panache) discovered a second generator in Marsh Harbour when they went to pick up theirs so we made a quick phone call to reserve it.
We tracked down and fixed a smelly head problem - there was a block in the air vent. We pulled up the floor in the salon and disconnected the vent hose to have a look at it. I thought maybe I would earn brownie points by being the one who crawled into the stern locker, disconnected the hose at that end and blew into it. Unfortunately, Jim got the points because he was holding the end that had been connected to the holding tank when the "stuff" blew out. Blech!! - he kept his cool and deserved the points. I dinghied over to do a load of laundry at the Abaco Yacht Services - enjoying a chinwag with Gail (Jabiru) in the process - and we made some inroads on the rust that appears with regularity on some of the stainless steel.
We also found time to read our books and socialize. Open these days have been Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay, Divisidero by Michael Ondaatje, The Race by Richard North Patterson, Crisis by Robin Cooke - all different and all recommended. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Macintyre's one day with Sandi and Steve (Princess) and their guest, Baird. (pineapple chicken with peas n'rice and plantains, cracked conch, macaroni, all appeared on various plates and went into various stomachs amid animated conversation. On Friday night, we discovered that folks gather at Dave's - otherwise known as the Liquor Store and Café. We had been in for lunch a few times, but hadn't known about the Friday evening gatherings. People started arriving around 5:30, and by 7 the place was packed. We all purchased our bottles of beer or wine or soft drinks there at Liquor Store prices, Dave produced glasses, a few people brought crackers and cheese and the standing room only crowd of locals and cruisers mixed and mingled. Those with wine left in their bottles had a choice of taking them home, or leaving them there for next time.
I talked with delightful Lana who has moved to White Sound. She and her husband cruised in the area for years, made plans to build a house here and then he died. She had a choice of living back in the States near her children but found that she had more of a purposeful life here, so she is staying. Another couple from South Africa has recently moved to New Plymouth. Yang is building a cabinetry business over on the mainland, Toni is gradually getting involved in community activities and their son goes to school in Marsh Harbour. He found a wonderful community of friends from Green Turtle so they decided to make this their home base. Jim and I are always so interested in the adventurous spirit and courage of people and we love these opportunities for conversations with friends old and new.
Pineapples continued to be another interesting stop. Many folks gather there for happy hour between 4 and 6 when the drinks are 2 for 1 and laptops are scattered around on the picnic tables. My "problem" is that I always find someone interesting to talk with and the e-mail and blog-postings take second place.
If the weather is agreeable, we'll slip away on Sunday morning from Green Turtle Cay - our home since early December, and head off to Great Guana Cay. It will bring to an end our long and pleasant visit here and leave us with a perfect place to come back to on the way north in the spring.
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.