04/03/2008/8:36 am, Black Point Settlement
The children left on Thursday morning and we have less than a week now before our friends Charles and Linda arrive from Ottawa to spend a week on the boat with us. We moved Madcap over to Big Majors Spot for more shelter, and enjoyed a fine ginger-chicken stirfry dinner with Mary and Blair on Strathspey.
On Friday we moped around and went ashore (getting soaked in the process) to make sure everyone got home OK. We had a fine conversation with Andrew of Samaria II from Kingston, Ontario, and a visit with Bob and Mary Lou on Cygnus.
Saturday was a big day in Staniel Cay. Captain Rolly Gray, (1922-2008) an "elder statesman" passed away on Feb 17. Because Staniel Cay is too small to accommodate the hundreds of people wishing to pay their respects, a memorial service was held in Nassau last week and his funeral was here at "home". We had decided to stay in the area to be part of this event and it was a good decision. He was a remarkable man and this was a remarkable funeral.
Captain Gray was noted for being a champion sailboat racer and the grand master of the Mailboat captains. He sailed over 500,000 nautical miles on the mailboats and just resigned his last captaincy - on the Grand Master - in 2004. Many of those miles were at night and without modern day GPS assistance. He won dozens of awards in the regattas on the Tida Wave, the Lady M and Sea Hound and raced in A, B, and C classes. He still holds several records, and is the only person to have been champion at least once in every decade for 5 decades. A high point was when he took Prince Philip sailing on the Lady M.
Besides these nautical accomplishments, Rolly Gray was a family man and a respected citizen of this community. The service booklet listed 5 sons, 5 daughters and 9 adopted children. The list of extended family filled a whole page and included grandchildren, godchildren, great and grand nieces and nephews and family groups from this and other Exuma Islands. Family is important here. Captain Gray owned or administered most of the property on Staniel Cay and from what we have heard, it was necessary -or at least important - to get his permission/blessing on what one wanted to do here.) Miss Flo at the Pink Store said people really respected his opinion and he was able to resolve most disputes that came to his attention.
The funeral took place at the Mt Oliveth Baptist Church at 11 am and people started gathering long before that. Four mailboats arrived in on Friday night; the streets and verandahs filled with friends and family members who had come home. Both men and women were all dressed up on Saturday morning. Crisp white shirts and black suits were standard for men and boys. The women donned beautifully tailored black or white dresses and suits; many sported elegant hats. The little girls were stunning in very fancy long dresses. These are extremely handsome people. Standing along the fringes (and feeling welcome) in the tents with wide-screen TV's outside the church, and at the burial site, were the cruisers in whatever respectable clothes we could muster.
The Tida Wave and the Grand Master were tied up at the wharf right beside the church. The lawns and building were filled with people for the service. We joined them for part of it - the tributes and hymn singing - and mingled with people drifting in and out of the area - taking cover in the rain showers and wandering off to have lunch. Jim laughed that this was the first funeral during which he was present for 45 minutes, left to have lunch and got back in time to witness the end of the service. We followed the procession down the main street to the cemetery where the coffin was placed into a crypt that had been carefully constructed during the week. The last coats of paint were applied to the cement just the day before. We were fascinated to see that the wheelbarrow, cement, and cement blocks were right there among the flowers. As the assembled crowd sang hymns and wailed, the opening was closed up. Blocks were put in position, the level laid on to be sure they were straight, mortar applied and the next layer placed until the job was finished. Captain Gray's body was installed in its final resting place while, as noted in the order of service, his spirit continued on his "journey to meet his ancestors."
Conversation was lively as we reunited with Peter and Gail (Jabiru), Evans and Roger (Stout Wench) and met Ron (Freedom) and Fred (Casa Mare) for lunch at the yacht club.
On Sunday it was time to move, and move we did! We flew out of Big Majors Spot and down to Black Point Settlement, clocking winds up to 23 knots. We found a spot to settle and swing, and got cleaned up and organized to entertain Kilissa, Strathspey and Cygnus in our cockpit. Because the wind was blowing hard and squalls threatened, we put up most of our cockpit enclosure for the first time in many weeks.
This gathering seemed to get us back into the swing of things and out of our "mopey" state. It was a top-notch cruising happy hour. Folks brought yummy things to eat; we talked non-stop and found all sorts of shared connections among the 8 of us.
Monday was laundry day, and just like last time we visited Black Point Settlement, we had a lot to do. After Jim and I dumped load after load into washers, he sat down in Ida's chair for a haircut. With his scruffy look gone, he headed over to Lorraine's Café for some Internet time while I tended to drying and folding between conversations with Rob and Christine (Celebrian), Mark and Julie (Rachel) and Beep (Midwatch).
We joined Cygnus, Kilissa, Celebrian, and Rosemary and Ross (Sundance V) for lunch at Loarraine's - delicious grouper sandwiches and conch burgers - and then caught up on a little email. Lorraine announced that there is no charge for the use of the wifi and computers in her Internet Café and was met with a rousing round of applause. Of course we are all happy to purchase her good food, bread, and to drop a bill or two into her donation box. She and Ida at the Rockpoint Laundromat have created a destination spot here.
I spent a couple of hours at the after school program run by Sharon and Charles. They are doing excellent work at helping children (referred by the school) to boost their math and reading skills. It's a wonderful synergy they have created here. They saw a need for one-on-one tutoring, and combined it with their connections to the cruising community. As Sharon told me, "We could volunteer ourselves but that would be two of us. By creating this program, we engage many more people in the effort." The time is 3:30 - 5:30 M-F. The place is the Education Centre - east of the Government Dock. Call them on VHF 16 - Providenza, or show up there a little before 3:30. It is a good thing to do. No experience necessary - just a desire to help and an interest in the children - well, that and elementary math and reading skills - its nice to stay a step ahead of the kids!
We made a stop at Celebrian - a Bayfield 36 - on the way home and had a great time looking over our sister ship, seeing all the customizing that Rob has done in his 20 plus years of ownership and the personal touches Christine has added. We were intrigued by their water collection system (a Y-valve that allows them to collect rainwater through the aft port scupper) and impressed by the beautiful varnished woodwork all freshly done up during their leisurely stay in Pipe Creek.
One more windy, howling night (but very little rolling) and we are finally caught up to Tuesday. Boats are clearing out of the harbour - some heading north to Pipe Creek and Cambridge areas, some south to Little Farmers Cay or Georgetown, some starting the long trek northward and home. There is a SW wind coming on Saturday and this beautiful big anchorage will turn from a gentle place to a choppy, rolly one. We'll head out this afternoon or tomorrow to Little Farmers, from where we'll make a water- taxi/rented car trip to Georgetown and back. We have a list of assorted errands as long as an arm. From there we'll head back to Staniel at the end of the week to be sure we're in position to meet the Flamingo flight on Sunday.
01/03/2008/8:27 am, Big Majors Spot
Madcap felt very empty, and Jim and I were a little aimless for a day or two after the family left. This posting will tell you almost nothing about what we have done so if you're interested in the "sailing blog" just skip it and go to the next one; if you'd like a peek into the emotions of a sailing mum, keep reading...
We've been on our own for over 7 months - with the exception of our family time at Christmas - and yet it took only a week to bring back all those "parent-child" bonds along with the delightful freedom of interaction that their adulthood allows.
Our phone calls and initial conversations go along the lines of interest in what we are each doing - the general news kind of thing - but a week together brings out the deeper questions...How are you really? What is happening that makes you happy? Sad? Pushes your edges? Makes you feel anxious? What excites you? Frustrates you? Are you off balance or on an even keel? Got a route planned? Drifting? Tied to the dock?
Sometimes such questions get answered well when there is a little distance - e-mails and phone calls provide space that is helpful for deep conversation. I found that on this occasion with our kids, those conversations happened only face to face and after a few days of getting comfortable again. I had moved out of "mother" role and into "parent on an adventure" role; in fact they all remarked on it without any prompting. "Where did my mother go and who is this woman here in her place?" There were lots of laughs around the difference in scheduling. At one point I'd have been hounding them to get up and get going: don't waste any minutes during this week in the south...gotta see and do as much as possible....don't pass up any opportunities... don't drink too much. This time the refrain ran more along the lines of: take whatever time you want to get settled...no rush...if you want to...this is an interesting place to visit but it's up to you...would you like a "dark'n stormy"?
It worked well, but as the week progressed, I found myself slipping more and more into that watchful, protective, slightly anxious about their well-being state of mind that was so familiar for so many years. As a result, the days after their leaving contained not only the negative space left by their physical selves, but also the mental and emotional space and the lingering questions and ponderings about their lives. I've always been plagued with an abundance of self questioning - If I had done this differently, what would the result have been? If this had happened or not happened? All those what if's?
And so, after spending a week with them, I have confidence in their people skills, their lively senses of humour, their sense of justice, the complex but solid bond they have with each other; there is not a doormat among them! I'm proud of these people who are my children. I am also feeling watchful again, a touch anxious, wishing for them courage and the desire to stretch themselves out to their horizons. I wonder how best to encourage them to continue developing that state of inner confidence in which they know they don't have to prove anything to anyone else, and they can dare to take chances, and that there are no limits on their ability to be successful, thriving adults.
That line of thinking leads me back to what I am doing with myself these days - cruising, learning new skills, making new connections with people. I look forward to getting back to that "travelers state" I had achieved - of feeling content that they have all the right stuff to live their lives fully and well, that they can make whatever decisions they want and that such decisions will turn them in one direction or another and there will be no good or bad - just opportunities for learning and growing. While it is my responsibility to nurture and support my family and friends, it is not my job to make their decisions for them or set out a course for the directions they should follow. If I try to do that, I take away their opportunity to make their own plans, set their courses and experience whatever happens next.
As Chris Parker, the weather guy, says, "This is the forecast; the schedule is up to you."
Cruisers freely share ideas, experiences, and advice but the bottom line always is the skipper is the master of his/her own vessel. It works on a boat and it works in life.
End of motherly musings! Fair Winds and Safe Sailing!
27/02/2008/4:21 pm, Cambridge and Fowl Cays
I'm happy to report that the family has survived - even thrived - on 56 hours of togetherness aboard Madcap.
On Sunday morning we motorsailed up to Cambridge Cay again - successfully navigating all the troublesome bits - and picked up a mooring ball. We were surprised to find several available. After a quick lunch we were all in the water to explore around the little island that we so enjoyed last time, and then we left Jim onboard to run the generator while the rest of us piled in the dinghy and went off to see the submerged plane and the "aquarium".
We were certainly blessed with great weather for this excursion. Five people very nearly overloads our dinghy - would overload it in anything but flat calm conditions - and those were the conditions we had. Snorkeling was superb again - no current - lots of sunshine. Our gang has taken to snorkeling and diving with great enthusiasm - diving down for pictures and closeup encounters, in and out of the water at every opportunity.
Jim and I took a run over to the beautiful sandy beach where a sundowners party was being hosted by Mike and Julie of Rachel - the host boat in Cambridge Cay that week. It was terrific to meet up with Jim and Jeannie (Estelle) and their guests Eugene and Florence, and also to meet several other cruisers in the area. Jim last saw Estelle in Florida where they shared American Thanksgiving with the crowd at Steve and Sandra's while I was on a visit home.
I had purchased some meat in Staniel Cay that we took to calling "mystery meat" - probably some type of lamb chops - but they must have been pretty big lambs! We BBQ'd them that night and served them with boiled potatoes and salad, followed by homemade banana bread from the Blue Store. The taste and texture of the chops were...interesting...
Liam put the pieces together for an extension that Jim had been planning to one cockpit seat, and flaked out there for the night. Mary Beth, Will and Alex arranged themselves on all the salon berths and Jim and I kept our forward berth for this experiment in how many people we can have overnight on Madcap. Despite minor complaints of a hard mattress on the port side and an insert that kept slipping out of a cockpit berth (now fixed by our problem solving expert), the gang was amazingly rested and good-natured.
I cooked up some corn grits (delicious - and an OK food for gluten free MB) and Jim fried eggs and we kept multiple pots of coffee going to start off Monday, followed by a walk for some of us on the Sound side of the Cay.
Because things had gone well, we opted to stay in the area for another night, and made a short trip through the southern approach to this anchorage - passing safely by Kiss Rock and across the channel to Fowl Cay - often called Chicken Cay. (There is another Fowl Cay down near Big Major's Spot.) Someone told us about this spot and it was a fine little anchorage for the winds we had - very light SW. We enjoyed snorkeling around all the edges of the little U shape, and finally being in an anchorage with just two other boats. It was a short dinghy ride over to the Rocky Dundas - another Don't Miss spot. The caves here were just fabulous - once again, we snorkeled in at or near low tide. Once inside, we could stand up and walk around, gazing at the stalactites and stalagmites. We swam over an impressive stag coral just outside, and when we chatted with other visitors, they said this was the best visit they had ever had there - the current and tide were just right.
The young hunter/gatherers tried to catch dinner (the park boundary runs through the cut so fishing was legal in Chicken Cay) but caught only a tiny little fish that happened to swim by as the big one swam away. We were back to mystery meat. This time, I chopped it up, browned it with lots of onions and garlic, added curry powder, canned tomatoes and some water and stewed it up till it was "fall off the bone" tender and served it with rice to sop up the gravy. Mystery meat stew received rave reviews! I had baked a chocolate cake just in case the main course needed a good follow up so dinner was a total success.
After checking the forecast, Mary Beth and Will opted to sleep up on the foredeck. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but around about midnight, a sprinkle of rain woke me up, and as I went outside to drop the butterfly hatches, I met the two of them scrambling for cover. We did a fast emptying out of the aft cabin (aka garage) and put one person in there so we managed to have everyone under cover. It was just amazing what could be done with some quick shuffling of equipment and bodies, and it was easy enough to put things back to rights in the morning.
After one last swim and snorkel followed by a pancake and maple syrup feast we left through Conch Cut and motored down through Exuma Sound to Staniel Cay. The wind was on our nose and the swells were big enough to give us some salt spray over the decks, but the wind kept us cool and the motion felt right. A highlight of the trip was the Barjack Jim caught - our first success at fishing! Liam had another nice one on his line but he got away. The entry through Big Rock Cut went smoothly even with the strong current that allowed us to make only 2.5 knots with the engine at 2600 rpms. We rounded the Crown of Thorns and tied up to one of the 7 moorings in front of Club Thunderball. The boats at anchor just north of there were sitting in really calm water, but because we wanted to spend most of Wednesday ashore, we chose a mooring ball for that extra peace of mind. ($20. per day - Club Thunderball)
We all went ashore to the Club for Happy Hour, a few games of pool and a beautiful sunset. I think maybe Club Thunderball is struggling a bit. Each time we have been in, there were hardly any people, but the food was tasty and the service friendly - it just hasn't been the "happening place" that the Yacht Club seems to be.
The wind came up on Wednesday as predicted, and Jim and I donned swim suits for the ride ashore. We rented a couple of golf carts and headed off to Ocean Beach. That turned into an entry into the "funny story" category because the electric cart Jim and I were in had hardly any power and we had to keep getting out to push it up hill. We made it to the beach, had a marvelous day there snorkeling and picnicking. Too bad for me that I decided to take my contact lenses with me and put them in my eyes there. One blew away so without my glasses I couldn't see worth a darn and missed all the excitement of lobster hunting on the reef. Jim and Liam each had their hands on one but he was too powerful for them and managed to pull himself out of their grips. Oh, to have had a spear with us...
While Jim traded in our failing golf cart for another, Liam and I headed out to Club Thunderball to have a look at how much Madcap was bouncing around. We laughed when we met another electric cart struggling to get up the hills, and we turned around to follow them back to town, Liam hopping out to help push, while I followed behind. When we finally got a look at Madcap, she was bouncing a little, but nothing like the boats out in front of the cottage.
We'll have one final dinner together tonight, celebrating this great vacation together, and then Jim and I will don swimsuits again for our journey back to the boat. We'll come back in to take the young'uns to the airport in the morning.