This week, we began the sixth and final month of our shore leave. The weeks have passed by at warp speed, yet in some respects seem like an eternity. The hammer of reality hits hard when we leave the boat and resume our lives at home. Back to work and the day-to-day stresses faced by many of our generation, it takes us weeks to reestablish our coping skills. Our wine consumption drops by more than half, while our water consumption rises to a level that potentially qualifies us as enemies of the planet. How can two people who, in the heat of the Mediterranean summer, regularly make 150 gallons of water last nearly a month, consume a stunning 600 gallons in one DAY during the month of January? We wasted over four hundred dollars before discovering a silent leak in the toilet of the apartment in our basement. Bummer.
Last month we made a quick trip to Florida, beginning in Sarasota, where we packed up 11 boxes of assorted belongings from Rick's parents' condominium. The sale of the condominium might have been a sad event, but the fact that it will be staying in the family cheered us up immensely. After countless trips to Good Will and UPS, everything was finally in order. We hit the road for Miami, where we had just enough time to drop our bags at our South Beach hotel before continuing on to Fort Lauderdale for a rendezvous at The Cheesecake Factory with Craig and Katherine Briggs (Sangaris
) Dave Archibald and Mary Filbee (Gypsy
) David's sister Avril and Avril's husband Don. After a fun evening trading sailing stories, we headed back to our hotel and collapsed into bed without as much as a glance at the huge Jacuzzi in the corner of the bathroom. Rick spent the next day at the Miami boat show investigating generators, solar panels and other possible ways to deplete our retirement funds. I spent most of the day soaking up the South Beach ambiance.
Next came the best part of the trip -two days in West Palm Beach with our friends Robert and Margaret Lecky. As always, they treated us royally, serving us several memorable meals and even driving us to and industrial park in Lake Worth to pick up a new holding tank (the tank that holds the waste from our toilet when we are cruising). Although that was surely far beyond the call of duty, we hope they will eventually have the opportunity to make use of the tank themselves when we finally convince them to join us for a cruise on Aisling.
The story of the holding tank is a bit of a tale. Last summer, when we returned to the boat after an extended absence, we noticed a nasty smell in the vicinity of the head. Even after a thorough Cape Breton-style cleaning of everything in sight, the smell lingered. As time went on, it got worse. Eventually, we had to contemplate the unthinkable -we had a leak in our holding tank. Among the long list of things that can go wrong in a floating home, a leak in the holding tank rates only slightly lower than the truly disastrous problems like a hole in the hull, a fire in the galley or a rat in the bilge. It took us a while to get up the nerve to fully investigate the problem, and even longer to find anyone who would agree to remove the tank. At Marina di Ragusa (where, as fate would have it, a return trip to the toilets has been measured at nearly a full kilometer) Mario finally agreed to "do the dirty". But finding a new tank of the appropriate size and shape would prove challenging. The only tank available had half the capacity of our old one. That didn't sound like a particularly good solution.
Enter our friend Tom McCoy, who owns a Slocum 43 identical to ours and had just had a plastic holding tank custom-made by Duraweld in Lake Worth. Which happens to be only a twenty minute ride from Robert and Margaret's house. How lucky was that? We carried our new holding tank back to Halifax as checked luggage, and will carry it to Sicily the same way. Much to my surprise, we weren't even questioned about it when the bags were screened. Here's hoping that the next leg of the journey goes as smoothly.
While we were in Florida, we received an email message from Dr. Carbone at the Ragusa Questura, telling us that our Italian Permessi di Soggiorno were ready. That was the good news. The bad news was that if we didn't arrive soon to pick them up, the permits would be "filed" and we would have to begin the entire application process again from the beginning. Oh no! It had been a full year since we'd applied for these elusive residency permits, which would entitle us to stay in Italy for more than the 90 days allowed by Schengen regulations. Having invested hundreds of euros and several days of our time in this venture, it would be heartbreaking if we lost them by default. We called Dr. Carbone with a plea for mercy, and he assured us that he would do his best to keep them at the station until we return to Sicily. Dr. Carbone was most surprised that we had called him from Canada. Naturally, he wanted to know how cold it is here "I've lived my entire life in a place where the temperature rarely drops below 17 degrees" he said. "I don't think I could live in a country where the temperature is below freezing so much of the time". He was curious to know how we cope with the cold. " I've heard that people have heated floors there" he said. "Is that true?" I told him that some people do, but that we do not. That's why we need those Italian residency cards! (Just kidding Mom.)
As if we weren't already trying to cram too much into a six-month stay, we've just finished a renovation of our kitchen. It wasn't a tearing-out-walls kind of renovation, but even refacing the cabinets and installing a new countertop necessitated that all the cabinets be emptied and that the sink and dishwasher be disconnected. In the midst of the renovation, my mother, aunt and uncle came for a visit. They didn't seem to mind the mayhem, or being served KFC for dinner (yes, really). And fortunately, years of preparing large meals in Aisling's tiny galley has made me a bit of an expert at improvisation. The finished product looks a lot like our old kitchen, but younger. I wish I could reface my face as easily!
It snowed here twice this week. The cedar waxwings that arrived in our apple tree yesterday clearly expected to find spring in Nova Scotia, and, like us, have been sorely disappointed. Never mind; if all goes according to plan (and we have to realize that, at this stage in our lives, sometimes it doesn't) we'll be boarding a plane four weeks from today. Rick is already packing and madly ordering various pieces of boat equipment. I'm dreaming of spaghetti vongole and spring in Sicily. Can someone please tell Mario that we need a holding tank installed?