Monday, November 27, 2006

There's a lot to be said for having your birthday fall on a hot, sunny day. After 48 years, this was a first for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I think I'll have all my birthdays in the tropics. There was a snazzy lunch, cake, prezzies (including foam rubber J-Lo butt enhancers from Stewart and Tara, and a piggy bank so as to remember to save some money now and again), and then there was snorkelling and a stroll on the beach. Couldn't get any better if you screamed at it. My present from Randy is a SCUBA course - I start tomorrow!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Highlight of this week was the christening of our rowboat. Randy painted the name on the stern on Saturday, and on Sunday, we officially christened her "Marjorie D." She's named after Randy's mother, Marjorie (Denton) Sherman, who keeps an eye on the Atlantic Ocean from her home in Digby, Nova Scotia.

After the appropriate toasts and a short dedication ceremony, which was attended by David and Kim from Amanzi (properly decked out in clean shirt and shorts and a lovely dress, hat and pearls, respectively) and held on the very spot that we found "Marjorie D" on the beach, we retired to Nancy Dawson for champagne and brunch. Very civilized. The meal, as are most boat meals, was an interesting assortment of stuff that doesn't involve much in the way of fresh ingredients, but we were gobsmacked when Kim produced a really tasty (and stinky) Camembert that she'd been hoarding since Martinique, topped with partridgeberry jam made by her mum in Newfoundland. Phyllis Saunders of Traytown, Newfoundland, we salute you. It was the nicest surprise and the best treat we've had in months. Completed the day with a terrific green flash at sunset.

Earlier this week, Randy, Kim and I sailed up to Petit Martinique (no, you can't get Camembert there, it ain't really French), which is the northernmost island making up Grenada, and situated just south of Petit St. Vincent, which is the southernmost island making up St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So if you wanted to sail up to PSV from PM, about a half-hour sail, and go to the beach, you'd have to go back to Carriacou first, check out with Customs and Immigration, then go to Union Island, check in with Customs there, and then you could sail back over to PSV and wander the beach. I'm not sure who would care if you didn't do all that, but offically, that's the drill. Apparently, if you check out in Carriacou first, no one much bothers if you stop at PM on your way north.

We went up because Chris Doyle's guide described Petit Martinique as a great place to stock up on groceries, particulary beer and wine and booze. Well, there is a place there called Mathew's Mall. There might be a couple of places to shop, but Mathew's is hyped as the biggest and best, so once we'd seen it, we didn't figure there was much point wandering any further down the road. There's three stores in Mathew's Mall, which is actually a converted house: two souvenir and clothing stores, and the grocery store, which is about the size of a large Needs or Mac's Milk. We did get some stuff, nothing on our list (no fresh veg to speak of), and the wine was the same price it is in Carriacou. I really get the feeling that Chris Doyle isn't much of a shopper. Kim bought some kind of cured ham in a cotton bag (unrefrigerated), and when we got back to the boat, she got it half-unwrapped before the bugs started crawling out. Ick, double ick with knobs. We took it back the next morning and traded it for beer.

Boat boys pestered us to buy stuff from them. We ended up buying overpriced limes, but declined the ice at $25EC a bag. Walked up the dock and bought a bag for $5. What planet do they think we come from? Obviously Planet Thick and Rich, because we did pay $50EC for a big fish that filleted down to a small order of fried fish sticks. We had it for an appetizer. Never again. But bad karma comes around, because the next morning, Kim and I watched with glee (is that bad karma for us?) while they floated around the bay in a boat that wouldn't start. Apparently they didn't have any friends among the fishermen who were blasting back and forth, cause no one stopped to help them out. We thought about rowing over and offering them a tow for $50 bucks.

And the best thing about the whole overnight trip was that Kim suggested a game of cards, and out comes the crib board for the first time in a year. You may remember that last November, Tom was aboard, and retired from the game after double-skunking his mother ("it doesn't get any better than this"), and then Randy retired from the game the same evening after I skunked him. So I was glad to find a wicked good cribbage partner, even if I had to break her of the habit of counting on her fingers. Apparently her dad used to help her count. Howard, you didn't do the girl any favours. Not to worry, she's got it sorted now.

Small world anecdote for this week: we had dinner on Amanzi with JP from the dive shop, his girlfriend Claire, and another couple they'd been diving with -- Dominique Serafina (who used to work with Jacques Cousteau as an illustrator) and Catherine Salisbury, who works with the Coast in Halifax.

Next, my birthday! In the meantime, see below for more pics of the christening and the trip to PM. And if I haven't mentioned this before, you can click on the pics to see bigger versions.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yes, it's a small world.

We spent yesterday visiting with Randy's friends Beth and Chuck on the SEA (Sea Education Association) vessel Corwith Cramer. Randy sailed as chief mate with them about 20 years ago on another SEA ship, Westward, when Beth was third mate and Chuck was chief scientist. Beth is captain on the Cramer, a 134' schooner, for this trip, and was pretty surprised to see Randy walking up the dock in Hillsborough while she waited for Customs to open.

Beth, Chuck and Rick, the engineer, dinghied over to Sandy Island where Nancy D., Mange Tout and Carapan were anchored for a swim and a visit. We had a great morning snorkelling on the reef, and Emma and I had a walk down the beach and found a dead turtle. Missing most of his head, but otherwise intact. We picked up a lot of small pieces of turtle shell on the beach - it's really beautiful. No idea how the turtle died, but he sure didn't smell too good by the time we found him. Otherwise, the island is a beautiful sandy spit and some folks have taken a lot of trouble to plant small palms to keep the island from blowing away.

The next morning, Steve, Lisa, and their kids Ben and Emma, and David and Kim, Randy and I were all invited over to the Corwith Cramer for a tour. Emma and Ben were whisked off by Rick for a personal tour of the ship, including a trip out on the huge bowsprit, and Chuck took the rest of us on a more leisurely and less athetic tour (including a rank of bunks called "Squalor" overseen by a fan labelled "God"). Kim and David did interviews with both Beth and Chuck for their website,, and Chuck and Randy did a lot of reminiscing. We were concerned that so many of us landing onboard at once might interrupt the regular workings of the ship, but the college students on board were happy to chat with everybody and talk about what was going on in the lab. We got the impression that after a month at sea with the same group, nobody minded having some new faces on board. The kids had a great time and had a million questions for the students and the crew. For more information on the Cramer and the SEA programs, here's their website:

Rick and Beth took the Cramer's Swampscott dory for a spin in the afternoon back to our beach at Sandy Island, and headed back to the ship in the middle of one of the biggest squalls we've seen in months. They ended up tying up to Nancy D. to get their sailing rig up -- it was blowing too hard to row and get the rudder sorted out -- and then, whoo-hooo! they went screaming off in the wind and rain. They came back later in the inflatable once the squall blew over, and Rick said it had been an excellent freshwater shower.

That's been the most excitement I can report this week. We're back in Tyrell Bay, which has emptied out somewhat now that the latest regatta is over. I did laundry today. Whoo-hooo.

And here's this week's winning photo in the category: "With friends like these...."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Grenada has been our favourite place so far. We stayed long enough to get to know some people, look around and explore, and develop some pleasant routines: rowing, walking to the Carenage, taking the bus, shopping at CK's, mango smoothie before catching a bus home again with whatever treats we found. It's something of a relief after so much travelling to be able to greet some people by name as you go about your business.

But after almost five months in Grenada, we've hauled anchor (and a mess of clay and mud and barnacles), raised the sail and headed back up to Carriacou. Just when the welcome-back-Sue parties were petering out, we launched into the goodbye celebrations. Now we'll have a brief period of normal life, scrubbing and painting and industrious stuff like that. Randy's already cleaned out the fridge and freezer, so I'll have to counter with something equally self-sacrificing. Clean the filter in the shower sump? Clean the shower sump? This will take some serious procrastination.

Since November 1, there has been a lot of boats coming and going. We had a great evening on "Lughnasa" last week with Peter and Mary Anne (and Lawrence from "Meander," Graham and Anne on "Rasi," and Roxanne and Bill from "Raven"). "Lughnasa" boast a large afterdeck/dancefloor, so we made use of it, although the view from the cockpit is a bit weird - all you can see are people's legs hopping around. The next day, "Lughnasa" headed for Trini, "Raven" headed for Marguerita, and within a few days, we were away as well.

Kim and Tara and I had one last day of shopping madness in St. George's before we left. Sans lads, we went into every tiny shop and spent as long as we wanted just blathering and browsing. Met some lovely ladies in the shops who were very curious about the live-aboard life. Kim, as is her wont, told them all the gory details, and left them laughing. And not just because of the hats we bought.

We did one last island tour before we left, and Cutty took us to Fort Frederick for starters. You can see so much of the island from up there, and at any time, there might be two or three different weather systems on the go. A rainbow below us to the west, a heavy squall to the north over the rain forest, a brilliant sunny day on the south coast. The interior of the island is unbelieveably green. We saw wild looking plantations of nutmeg, bananas, papaya, cinnamon trees, lime and tangerine trees, lemon grass, turmeric plants and so many more I forget. Every 10 minutes or so, Cutty would stop the van, reach out and grab a handful of leaves and pass them around so we could smell and guess what they were. Incredibly pungent smells, just from the leaves.

We thought our stop in the rainforest might be a bit of a bust -- it was raining -- but as soon as the van stopped a monkey appeared as if on cue. Actually, it was on cue. Cutty has a good business relationship going with this particular monkey. He even has a name, "Loverboy," and as soon as Tara piped up and said "I've seen a monkey's willy!" we figured out why. Loverboy crawled around inside the van eating bananas for a while, then retreated to the side of the road to finish up. I'm glad he got out of the van -- in about 10 minutes, he scarfed four big bananas. Most of the banana he tucked in his cheek pouches, but he looked ready to pop by the time the last one disappeared. Then he ate an after-dinner mint, no kidding, Cutty passed it to him, he unwrapped it and down the hatch it goes, and then he headed back into the woods.

Concord Falls has a big pool at the base of the falls and we were hoping to swim, but there had been so much rain the falls were just pounding, and we were told it was "too rough." So we paid our $5 EC to go down the steps to the falls and we contented ourselves with crawling around the rocks and getting soaked with the spray. It's very beautiful. There are many falls around the island, and it's here that you actually get a look at the rocks that are holding up all this endless green foliage. One last lunch at the Creole Shack, bbqed chicken and ribs, rice and beans, pumpkin, scalloped potatoes, salad, beer and ice cream. An excellent day.

We plan to be a week or so in Carriacou, waiting for a new computer battery to arrive from St. George's, and, with luck, rounding up the rest of the sailing rig for the little boat. The last time we were here and bought the boat, Scraper said that he would find the mast and the rudder when we returned. Something about his son knowing where it was? Randy's headed ashore this afternoon to start the process. I'll probably have to tackle aforementioned gross jobs.

See below for the island tour photos.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What's next, and where to?

I've been back home for a week, and I'm starting to get back the colour I washed off in Nova Scotia. Daily hot showers are murder on a tan.

While I was back in Halifax, lots of people I ran into just assumed I was back for good. Not so, I kept saying. I realized while I was "home" that my kids were happy to see me, but they were managing life just fine without me. I visited our house and our tenants and besides a few longing looks at the washer and dryer and the fridge and stove, I didn't feel any pangs. (Actually, I looked at all our crap still stored in the basement, and said 'get me out of here'.) I got up in the mornings at Anna's and put on long pants, sweaters, heavy socks, and had a think about how much it was costing Anna to keep her tiny house lukewarm... so I sent Randy an email and said let's sell the house.

Anyone want to buy a terrific house on Duncan Street? Send me an email ( I met with a real estate agent, and we'll either sell privately or have her list it when our tenants find a new place. Then we will have to come home and deal with the basement. Bleccchh.

It looks like we've turned the corner and become real cruisers, whatever that means. There were times that I envied the folks that knew for sure when they were going to turn around and head back north, back to their jobs, homes, families. That decision was sort of hanging over my head, since I felt that it was probably going to be me who felt the need to go back. It's been a something of a surprise to find that I'm no longer attached to all the stuff we've collected, and after a year, I'm completely certain that I don't want to start job hunting and find another desk to park at for the next few years. Selling the house will simplify things enormously, and solve the few problems with cruising that have been driving me nuts -- not enough money to get home regularly to see my family, and not enough money to sort out better communication equipment. Randy is probably thinking more in terms of finally getting a self-steering system and maybe a wind generator. We'll negotiate.

So, no, we're not coming home this year. We're going to doodle around here in the warm water, make a bunch more friends, drink rum, row the little boat, sail to some islands we haven't seen yet and celebrate birthdays with no regrets.

Tomorrow, an island tour. Should be lots of photos coming soon.

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