Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year to all. It's been lots of fun writing this blog and watching the hits pile up over the months (over 14,000 so far). I know that most visitors to the blog are family and friends making repeat visits wondering what the heck is going on with us, but we'd be interested to know who else is checking in. Send us an email at

We're still in Bequia, looking forward to the Old Year's Night celebrations here on Sunday night. Fireworks!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There are missed opportunities that will keep you lying awake at night for years. You'll just be getting to sleep, and suddenly the thought will pop into your head about that missed opportunity, and over and over you'll say to yourself, If only I done things differently. People who aren't from Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians with more elegant taste in TV won't understand my disappointment, so if you've never heard of "The Trailer Park Boys" skip the next paragraph.

We're in Bequia's Admiralty Bay, anchored off the town of Port Elizabeth. Lovely place, we were here last spring and had a wonderful stay. Like many Caribbean towns, Friday night means lots of music ashore, amplified beyond sense and safety levels. Sleep tends to be elusive in the harbour on Friday nights. Saturday morning, somewhere between 6 and 7 am, I'm in the bunk trying to cling to sleep, when I hear the sound of a boat motor and then Randy chatting to someone. Where you from?, I hear. Halifax, says Randy. Me too!, says the voice. I'm thinking, I wonder if I know him? Consider getting out of bed. Hear a bit more conversation about the boat, and I think, geez, that voice sounds familiar. I mull a bit more, and by the time I get out of bed and pull on some clothes, the boat is about a half-mile away, heading out of the harbour.

So, I asks Randy, anybody we know? Randy looks at me, and something akin to understanding lights up his face, and he says, Oh my GAWD, it was MR. LAHEY!

I'm in Bequia, for god's sake, and I've just missed a chance to say "EFF-OFF, Lahey, can't ya see I'm trying to sleep?" (Mr. Lahey is reviled by all the characters on the show but Randy, his boyfriend. Nuff said.) This is going to drive me nuts for years. If anyone out there knows him, please tell him that Susan from the Canadian boat in Bequia says eff-off Lahey. Unbelievable. I hope I'll get over it.

In other news, we enjoyed the short sail from Union Island to Mayreaux. Filled up with water before we left - the first water we've bought since we had our water-catcher made, and we only took about 60 gallons to fill our 125 gallon tanks. Not bad, after three and a half weeks since our last fill. I know that there's cruisers out there that will gasp at the profligacy of our water use, but there you go. We've got the tank space. Came with the boat.

Last time we were in Mayreaux, we anchored in Saltwhistle Bay, but this time, the boats in the bay were rolling as we sailed past, so we turned around and went back a mile to Saline Bay and anchored near the beach. Beautiful long beach, nobody there but about half a dozen people with rakes tidying up the sand. Nice. I swam ashore and Randy rowed Marjorie over to the dock, and we asked a man on the beach if there was a trail to the windward beach on the other side of the island. He obligingly walked us over to the start of the path, and when I asked him if they were expected a big party (huge stacks of beach chairs, lots of huts to accommodate people eating and drinking), he said yes, tomorrow.

We had a lovely walk on the windward beach and a quiet dinner and good sleep aboard that night. When we woke up in the morning, there was a thumping huge cruise ship anchoring about a mile off the beach. They dropped the launches, and started ferrying crew and supplies ashore at about 7 am. One person's job appeared to be walking up and down the Mayreaux dock pounding in nails that were sticking up. By the time the passengers started heading ashore, we left for Canouan.

Nice place, Canouan. Pretty island, tidy, interesting donkeys, nice people. Apparently the island is undergoing some major development. See the hill on the right in the photo? It's in the process of being removed to accommodate a longer runway for the airport.

We had a walk around town and bought some groceries, and thought about maybe even having dinner ashore at the resort on the beach. Chris Doyle says the Pirate Bar is inexpensive and informal, so we stopped by on our way back from town and had a beer and looked at the menu. Two Hairoun beers, $24 EC (we're used to paying $4 per beer at a bar), and a hot dog, just a hot dog, was $10 US. Anywhere they're giving prices in US dollars, run away. It means that they're used to serving people on vacation, sunburn with a wallet. Much better to see what the local people are eating and drinking and listening to.

The anchorage at Canouan got rolly as soon as we went to bed, so not well rested, we headed off to Bequia. Motor-sail the whole way, a bit swelly with the wind very nearly on the nose (find out what direction we're heading, then go the other way if you want a nice sail). Bequia's wonderful, there's remarkable Christmas lights in a few big blobs on shore. We walked over and visited Alick and Selma at the sail loft, talked to Alick about making proper fendering for the dinghy, and caught up with the regatta news and what's been happening since the last time we were here.

Friday afternoon we heard the school band practicing carols and seasonal tunes. Some music sounds exactly the same wherever you are. I was visited with a vision of dozens of sweaty parents packed in a school gym listening to their darlings squeak and squawk their way through the annual Christmas concert, and I missed home.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Reality Check: I hear a voice coming from behind the closed door of the head. It's Randy. He says, "I think I'm going bald."

We've escaped from the fleshpots of Tyrell Bay. Like the Hotel California, and perhaps Verro Beach and Georgetown, maybe Hog Island and the Lagoon in St. George's, Tyrell Bay is one of those places that you drop the hook, and a month later, you realize, whoooee, we've been here a damn month! A month with no decent wine, not a single chicken breast, but hey, you've got real friends here, nearly a routine evolving, and a certain rapport with the shopkeepers in Hillsborough. You strike up conversations with people everywhere you go. Kim and Clair and I, on a girls' shopping day, stopped to christmas shop at the shipping container on the beach that houses the best t-shirt shop, and we stopped for a beer or two at the Hard Wood Bar at Paradise Beach, and fell into conversation with Donald and his wife Alcida. I wouldn't be surprised if Kim and David ended up spending Christmas with them. Donald used to live a few blocks from Clair in London. The more you travel, the smaller everything gets. And isn't it nice?

On our last shopping trip to Hillsborough (thank you again Christine at Patti's Deli, for having nice wine and cheese), I asked a guy at Ade's Grocery Store why they never had chicken breasts. Chicken thighs, legs, bags of feet (and bags of lips, RS says), and all sorts of unsavoury collections, pickled, salted and frozen, of the outer bits of pigs and cows, but never chicken breasts? "Dey too expensive," he says, "we can't move them."
So we moved because we're hungry for good food, and because if you're a cruiser who never moves your boat, you end up in a nautical trailer park, with various attendant bad habits (think elderly "Trailer Park Boys" with outboards).

Jean Baptiste, the Frenchman who runs the Lazy Turtle in Tyrell Bay (great pizza, have I mentioned that?) said that there was a good French bakery in Union, and we could get croissants and baguettes there. Randy asked him if the bread was Good French Bread. Jean Baptiste replied, "For the Caribbean, it's good. If we were in France, it would be a piece of sheet." JB - great guy, great dancer. He also told me, after multiple rums, "I haaaaate the French! They're sooooooo arrrroggannntt! They sink zey know everyzing about food and wine!!!"

For three days in Union, a full 8 miles from Tyrell Bay, we gorged ourselves on deeply stinky unpasteurized Camembert slathered on better-than-okay baguettes, croissants with more butter than necessary AND jam for breakfast, and we've sampled the many fruit and veg stands that actually have snappin good fruit and veg. You buy four or five different things, and the lady invariably tucks in something else, a few bananas, an orange, just to thank you for buying from her. The grocery stores are chock full of chicken breasts and Farmers UHT milk, fer gawd's sake (made in Halifax, NS).

We walked uptown to the post office to mail my registration stuff so I can get an ID card saying I'm a Certified Open Water Diver, and on our way back downtown, we wandered into an alternate universe when we entered what appeared to be a shop, and were beckoned by an elderly white woman with bright red hair who told us to come in further, further, there's more to see. The labyrinth worked its way down a buggy alley, from t-shirt shop full of sloppy daubed clothes and nasty souvenirs, past a couple of wee bars in corners with odd signs (champagne by the glass!) past dogs asleep, a corridor of painted bar stools, more dogs, an elderly man with no apparent clothes sitting at a computer, more dogs, a strong smell of resin, and this weird apparition with dyed red hair leading us, single file, further in along the alley under the trees and wobbly fences and walls. We obligingly viewed her collection of expensive paintings (primitive, I think, is how I might gently put it. Exuberantly deluded, in terms of the pricing. She must have to dust them frequently.) We backed out carefully, again, single file, and felt glad to be back in the normal main street world of Union. But where else in the world could or would a 70 or 80-year-old women run her place of business wearing a tube top and Daisy Duke cut-offs?

I also had an encounter with the typical Caribbean Male. A blustery afternoon, but I decided I needed to get some exercise, so I jumped into the dinghy and rowed over to the little beach by the airport for a walk. I met up with Garvin and his friend Kevin, about 10 and 6 respectively, and we had a chat about things as I walked down the beach. First off, they wanted to come to the boat and look around. Secondly, they wanted a ride in Marjorie. Third, they wanted to know if I had a daughter. (Boats, sex, in that order.) They were pleased to hear that I did, and wanted to know how old she was.

Twenty-three, I said. Kevin immediately darted a look at Garvin and asked, She too old for we?
Kevin then told me that he was 16. He wasn't too put off when I told him he was pretty short for 16.
As I headed back to the dinghy to row home, Garvin was half hiding behind a tree, and as I walked away I heard him say, You have a nice ass.

Made my day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My son Tom will be glad to hear that his Muther has something new to write about in the blog. Not just laundry, groceries, weather, seasickness and parties, now I can also write about diving. For the rest of you, not to worry, laundry and groceries will still make up the bulk of these reports.

I went back to school last week -- three days of poring over the book, doing quizzes, watching the dive DVD, hours with JP and Clair at Lumbadive going over the material and learning how to use dive tables (there ought to be the same sort of table for pressure groups for working people who have to go to meetings: more than one meeting in 6 hours? Sorry, I have to consult my table to check my pressure group. Whups, my maximum meeting time is 8 minutes...).

And then there was the Confined Water stuff, usually done in a pool, but here in Carriacou, the pool is just off the beach. After you've learned how to put all the gear together, you get in the water, velcro, snap and plug yourself together (with a LOT of help from JP, Bongo and David) and then, voila, drop to your knees and breathe underwater. Sounds like great fun, and it was, but there was also the dreaded "Skills" to be learned and practiced, and some of those were a lot like going to the dentist. Like you're sloshing around in 5 feet of water, low visibility (lots of sand being kicked up by yours truly, just trying to stay in one general spot in the surge), and hey, presto, take off your mask (remember NOT to breathe through your nose) swim around a bit, then put your mask back on, take a deep breath (through your MOUTH!), and then blow the air out through your NOSE to clear your mask. I had to try that one a few times my dears, and there was more than a bit of salt water sloshing through the old sinuses. But JP is endlessly patient and an excellent teacher, and I figured it out before I got too full of water. Got all that sorted? Now do a swim test and write the exam. Enjoy the celebratory beer that JP has just passed to you, go home, get a good rest. Tomorrow we go diving. (Spend the night rolling around full of trepidation.)

Buoyancy. Hard to spell, hard to control. I tend to rise like an overfilled neoprene balloon. With lots of practice, I got to the point where I had some control, but when we did the open water dives, I still had a tendency to shoot for the surface as soon as I let go of the anchor line. I finally figured out how to vent air properly, and now I just need lots more practice in keeping neutral buoyancy while I'm underwater. Anyway, that's all just details, because the dive sites were Fan-Tastic. All around you there's a million things happening. Once I got over the idea that okay, I've been down here several minutes, it must be time to surface and go home, I got more relaxed and started really enjoying myself.

The first openwater dive couldn't have been more exciting. Pouring rain on the surface, but as soon as we got in the water, it didn't matter. Beautiful coral, hundreds of different fish, a big moray hiding in a hole, and then we cruised over an octopus eating pen shells. JP ran his hand through the water over the octopus, and it instantly turned white and contracted, then went back to its normal colour. (And if I was a soft and squishy octopus, you wouldn't catch me eating giant pen shells, which bust up into shards like so much splintery glass. Very ill advised.) We swam along a little further, and there was a turtle nestled into a bunch of coral and vegetation. Bugger, I thought, it's dead. JP takes my hand and makes me touch it on its back, and it wakes up, has one look at us, and flies off to finish the nap somewhere else. It's so hard not to talk underwater -- muffled versions of "wow" kept burbling out through my regulator.

Two open water dives on Friday, and another two on Saturday. By Saturday, JP didn't have to (literally) hold my hand the whole time underwater (except when I'd overinflate and make an unintential bolt for the surface, and once again when we stopped to watch an enormous barracuda). The first dive on Saturday, JP, David and I got to the bottom, and I looked over at David, and thought, hmm, that's not good. David, you're pale green. Really very green. I look at my own hands, and yup, I'm green too. Remember the dive book -- you lose colour on the way down, reds and yellows first. So we were three green people swimming around in the coral and the schools of fish. Coral, in dozens of shapes and colours. A huge wall of rock and coral and wavey things and fish, fish and more fish. We saw another turtle, another biggie moray, a spotted drum (which was outstanding), a peacock flounder, huge rock beauty angelfish, parrotfish, tangs, the cutest trunkfish, lots of big puffers, and a bunch of lobsters. There were about six or eight lobsters, all quite small, snuggled bum-in under a rock, staring at us with their little beady eyes, waving their tentacles, gawking at us like we were gawking at them. They looked hilarious.

We didn't see any sharks (yay) and the morays and the barracuda kept to themselves, and the electric ray was likewise uninterested.

So I did it. I'm now a certified Open Water Diver. A huge thanks to JP, Clair and Bongo at Lumbadive. JP is a great teacher, and I highly recommend Lumbadive if you need to add some excitement to your life! (

Two days later, and I'm just starting to relax back into cruising mode. Haven't read a book, done laundry or scrubbed anything for days and days. I promise the next update will be all about cleaning products and some fun recipes for using up aging vegetables.

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