Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Would you do it again???

We've been home for a week and we're catching up with friends, neighbours, sailors, our congregation at Waterford United, family and colleagues.

The question we hear over and over is 'Would you do it again?'

If we could we would in a heartbeat, a nanosecond. For all of our trials with teenagers on board, faulty heads, overheating alternators and leaks, it was worth every moment, every bead of sweat, every tear of homesickness, every dollar spent.

For our family it is one more piece of the tapestry that wraps us together, solid and warm.

For Scott and I, it was the realization of the dream we've shared for so very long. It's also the one I've kept close to my heart since I was a girl gazing at the horizon on Lake Erie and wondering what it would be like to sail into that and never stop.



Now I know and there's a deep peace that comes with that.

So would we do it again??

Scott and I could take the boat south again. We know that. But it would never be the same and that's OK.

We can never do this again with our children, which was always the dream. So no, we can't ever do it again. But thanks be to God, we did do it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oneida Lake to Lake Erie

The wild parties began after Lisa, Reg and Elizabeth-Anne left. Aidan and I had new crew, our friends Stew and Alistair.  The Erie canal was still not opened at Baldwinsville but we decided to motor across Lake Oneida 20 miles with The Dollar Boat.  Alistair kept skipper Fred company on the old fish tug as we crossed the Lake in a convoy, also with our Ottawa friends on Wind Sprite.  Thinking about crossing an open lake with a 55' mast perched overtop of your head, watching it sway back and forth with each wave and hoping the "engineered" scrap wood doesn't snap can keep you up at night.  We had heard rumours that the bottom of Oneida Lake is littered with masts which have broken free off the top of sailboats.  We left before the wind picked up in the morning to avoid adding to those stories and arrived in Brewerton on the west side of Lake Oneida without incident.

After fueling up and taking showers (first in 5 days or thereabouts) at Winter Harbour we received a farewell call from Georgia-E.  They were ahead of us and passing through the Oswego Locks and suggested we proceed to Phoenix and wait there for the Erie canal to open.  We took their advice and pulled into Phoenix which is a small, quiet town with a free dock and nice shady park located beside Lock 1 of the Oswego Canal.  The town had just completed a parade to the Legion grounds where they had a fair complete with rides and beer tent.  We spent the next day in Phoenix waiting for the Erie Canal to open.  We received a tip that the canal might open on Wednesday so we took a chance on Wednesday morning and motored from Phoenix to Baldwinsville.  The GPS showed it was only 4 miles away as the crow flies but the river route was at least 12 miles.  We arrived at noon and spoke directly to the lockmaster.  He was not very optimistic that the canal would open in the next few days so we decided to turn around back to Phoenix, up the Oswego Canal and return home via Lake Ontario and the Welland Canal.  We said our farewells to The Dollar Boat and arrived in Oswego at the city marina by 6pm.  The only condition which Stew had when he joined us was that we must be near a TV to watch the Bruins and Canucks on game nights.  Oswego had a good sports bar called the Press Box located beside the marina where we watched the Bruins lose with seconds remaining in the 3rd period.

The wind was blowing 25 knots when we arrived and continued the next day so we had to wait to step the mast.  Finally on Friday morning, the wind died down enough for the mast to be stepped and we spent the rest of the day tuning the rigging, installing sails, changing Mr. Perkins' engine oil and provisioned the boat for crossing Lake Ontario.

Our trip to Rochester was light air and flat water.   We left at 6 am and arrived at 2pm and filled up with diesel upon arrival.  The Rochester Yacht Club is a large active sailing club.  It was good to see all the junior sailing dinghies and dry sailing boats.  RYC was hosting the Sonar nationals on the weekend.  Sailors had travelled from across the states to compete on 15 Sonars which were supplied by the local Sonar dealer.

After another Boston loss, we left Rochester for Welland.  The 75-mile crossing was flatter and calmer than the previous day so we motored all the way and arrived at Port Weller at 6:30 pm.  After clearing through Customs, we used the phone at the Welland Canal pleasure craft dock to report into the Canal Controller to request transit through the canal.  Unlike the Erie canal, the Welland is set up for large commercial freighters.  Being a small pleasure craft, we knew we would have to wait until it was convenient to fit us in.  We were told it would be at least 3 hours, so we decided to have a steak BBQ and enjoyed a celebration meal for crossing Lake Ontario.


Finally at 1:30 am, we received the clearance to proceed and started to Lock 1.  Stew had helped me bring our 29' sailboat home through the canal about 10 years ago but I had forgotten just how impressive and massive these locks are compared to Erie and the ICW.  The locks carry 800' freighters and each lift is about 50'.  In the Welland locks, we enter the canal chambers by ourselves and then we proceed to scan the walls looking for two 3/8" nylon lines which the lock master drops down to us.  With two of us pulling the lines on the bow and stern and two others pushing off the walls with boat hooks we worked to fend the boat off the lock walls.  Often the current swings the boat fore and aft or pushes hard against the wall.  I was very glad to have four strong able crew on board.  At one time, it took all the strength of all four of us to keep the boat off the rough walls in lock 7.   However, we did survive, (sorry no drama),  and arrived in Port Colborne at 8:30am.  Seven hours through the canal is about as good as it gets for a small vessel.

After breakie (breakfast in Messenger language) at a local restaurant, Lisa arrived and Stew and Alistair jumped ship.  Our trip home to Port Dover was a motor run on a very flat Lake Erie.  We arrived to see the Port Dover boats heading out to Monday night racing and greeted by friends we hadn't seen for a year.  Mom and Dad greeted us at the pier with Elizabeth-Anne and Reg.  Then, while waiting for the lift bridge, Art and Lynda from Airfare waved and honked their welcomes.

Our year's odyssey came abruptly to an end as we slipped into our dock at the Port Dover Yacht Club and  tied up our mooring lines.  Finally, home again in Ontario.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Home at last

We finally managed to get Messenger home in her slip at the Port Dover Yacht Club tonight.

It took a bit longer than we thought to get through the canals but with a little help from our friends we got by. Thanks Stew and Alister!!!!

Longer version with pics to follow and wrap up.

Aidan, you're a brick. Elizabeth and Reg we couldn't have done it without you either.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Erie Canal Song

Whenever we've explained our route to folks, many aren't aware of the extent and historic significance of the great Erie Canal (although not so great in recent days). It was built in 1825 and helped the United States open the West and of course, made New York and Albany cornerstones of commerce. While we've travelled this waterway, we've seen the mansions, banks and factories of yesterday towering out of forests as we've made our way through swamps, forests and mountains. Some are closed but recent efforts have seen them find a new life as a store, condos or other commercial purposes. Towns like Little Falls and Fairport were built on the waterway for commercial purposes.

Nowadays we use motors to push our vessels along but there was a day when the big barges carrying cargo were pulled along by donkey.

 Of course, I assumed everyone had heard of the Erie Canal song. Bruce Springsteen did a fantastic rendition of it on his album 'The Pete Seeger Sessions'. This link will take you to youtube at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5209914/bruce_springsteen_erie_canal_2006/

For those of you who are interested, here are the lyrics:
I've got a mule, her name is Sal,


Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.

She's a good ol' worker and a good ol' pal,

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.

We've hauled some barges in our day,

Filled with lumber, coal, and hay,

And we know ev'ry inch of the way,

From Albany to Buffalo.



Chorus:

Low bridge, ev'rybody down!

Low bridge, for we're comin' to a town!

And you'll always know your neighbor,

You'll always know your pal,

if you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.



We better get on our way, old pal,

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.

'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal,

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.

Get up there mule, here comes a lock,

We'll make Rome 'bout six o'clock,

One more trip and back we'll go,

Right back home to Buffalo.


You can find all kinds of info on the Erie Canal - and if you don't have a boat, you can cycle it or you can take a cruise, whatever you like. Check out http://www.canals.ny.gov/

Sunday, May 29, 2011

100 miles and counting

We managed to move Messenger through 22 locks and 100 miles to Sylvan Beach, a resort community on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake by last Thursday and since then, we've just sat. The locks remain closed just past Lock 23 now, so there's still a logjam of cruisers sitting waiting to get home.

We were fortunate that we have friends from home, Stew Patterson and Alistair Robertson to join us today so I could drive home with Reg and Elizabeth as Reg has an orthodontist appointment tomorrow and Thursday (to replace a retainer he lost in Annapolis some weeks ago) and then his sailing instructor course next weekend.

Aidan opted to stay with the crew to help bring Messenger home. So I had to say goodbye to Scott and Aidan along with some of our cruising friends today. My throat had such a lump I could hardly swallow. The first hour I drove it was hard to see for the tears. In lots of ways, it's the end of the trip for us.

It was a good day. I started off making an eight-block dash for public washrooms (we're trying to conserve on space in the holding tank until we get to marina for a pumpout if you must know). Then I grabbed a coffee at the local deli and took a walk alone along the sodden beach while the seagulls circled the overcast sky. It was hot today. I got back to the boat and started making a big breakfast this morning, with everyone else squabbling over who's doing what part of the cleanup.

I loaded up some bags with bedding and one last load for Scott and Aidan and headed to the Beachy Clean Laundromat, really not up to snuff as far as I'm concerned. If it's one thing I know now, it's what makes a good laundromat. That done, I headed back in the sweltering humidity to make up beds, unload the boat and try to tell Scott where all the food is stashed in lockers.

We piled the little Dodge with garbage bags of clothes and stuff from the boat. It's hard to believe the boat is hardly emptied and it's also hard to believe Elizabeth owned that many clothes on the boat!!!

The crammed car raised the eyebrows of the lovely lady at the Canadian customs officials but when I mentioned I had just come from a boat full of crap, she waved us away.

After the tears subsided, Reg, Elizabeth and I talked about the families and people we met, the boats we saw and the beautiful, perfect weather in the Bahamas.

What I'll remember most however are the times we collapsed in laughter at some ridiculous thing we were doing: riding for a mile in our tiny dinghy getting soaking wet at Long Island; dashing around boats in the race at the Georgetown Regatta; trying to figure out what to do with Elizabeth's giant conch at Green Turtle Cay. The memories are deep and wide, just like the ocean that carried us there and back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back in the saddle

We made the long drive back to Messenger last Sunday night and it felt surprisingly good to be back to get her home.

We woke up the next day andScott asked for breakfast and for the locks to be open whenhe got back from taking back the rental car. Well, I didn't have breakfast ready but the locks did open so Tuesday we left early with a convoy: Georgia E our friends Stu and Tony; Wind Sprite with Dave and Marilyn who met last year and reconnected in Annapolis; new friends Fred and Neil on Dollar Boat, a refurbished tug built in Port Dover; and some folks on a boat called Sundance from Chicago.

We were all so happy to finally be putting miles under the keel once again. It was Dave and Marilyn's 25th wedding anniversary (and our 19th the day before) so I started making a cake on the locks. I made the cake, put one tin in, did a lock, put the other cake in, did a lock, made the orange cream custard filling, did a lock, made the orange icing, did a lock and then as neared Amsterdam where we were all headed, I iced it.

They were thrilled. They had also had Reg helping them all day as they hadn't done the canal before and he signed on for one more day as well.

Stu told us Russo's Italian restaurant in Amsterdam was his favourite on the canal so of course we had to go try it out.

It was a fun night. It wasn't fun though getting off the wall the next morning. Fred and Neil gave us a great hand getting off though and we fought the current to get in. A number of the locks had a great deal of debris and we hit a log yesterday and today. Whirlpools and swirls of whitewater marked a number of the entrances to the locks, making navigating into the locks even more interesting than usual. I had forgotten how beautiful this part of the canal is, mind you it's not 40 C and it's early days yet.

Tonight we had a chicken barbecue on Dollar Boat, the four of our crews - yet another great time to relax after a long day on the water.

So far, our plan is to make it at least as far as the canal is open, currently at Lock 23, near Brewerton. Then we'll have a couple of friends meet us and I'll leave the boat with the kids and head back home to get some needed appointments and get ready to take Reg to his sailing course.

It's a bit odd to think we'll cease to crew together, making these days even more precious.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Calling all returning cruisers....time for a support group

So we crossed the border by car yesterday - in a big white Crown Vic as a matter of fact - and boy was it wonderful and weird.

Messenger is being carefully cared for by our buds on Georgia E in Waterford, NY. We needed to come home for a few days to see family and we're heading back on Sunday to see if we can the bring the boat home.

So it's a homecoming, but not really. It felt so very good to cross into our great country and take the Lakeshore to little Port Dover. This is such a fantastic country, 10 months away has reinforced what we already knew about that. But to come home in the spring with the lambs and calves in paddocks lining the country roads, the lilac and cherry blossoms ready to burst, it really made all of us so just happy to be home.

But a feeling of disorientation lingers even today - Reg went to school this afternoon and Scott and I ran around doing errands while Elizabeth and Aidan lined up meetings with friends. It's so odd to be home without Messenger and know we're not quite finished yet. On top of that, we've lived a life apart, a different dimension to living.

It's as if we've been travelling to ourselves, becoming intensely self-aware in addition to becoming so familiar with our children, the good and the bad. We've lived in this other life and we come home to find that our old life has carried on.

Scott and I joked that maybe we should start a support group for returning cruisers, Boaters R Us or something, to help get us through starting back at our old jobs, meeting up family, old friends, our old life.

On Sunday we'll pile into the Crown Vic and head back to the new life, if only for a little while longer.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Never a dull moment

Great minds?
We're still in Waterford, NY and yes, they do have a very decent looking Chinese restaurant but I can't imagine they're as good as Yin's.

Anyway, our friends on Georgia E pulled in last night in the rain and it was Tony's birthday. I was thawing out some Bahamian lobster and cooked up a seafood alfredo with all the fixings and we had a celebration.

What we were not celebrating however was the continued problems on the Erie Canal. Water levels in part of the canal are actually BELOW datum due to construction on a dam, which is due to be fixed by Friday. But the continued rain and flooding is causing a great deal of debris to be churned up and the option of travelling the next 150 miles of the canal seems to have evaporated for now.

So we've got permission to stay tied up at this dock for a few days. Stu and Tony have agreed to watch our boat allowing us to go home by rental car to check in on our family and a few other chores.

This means we have some work to do before we leave however. One of those is repositioning the mast lying on Messenger's cradle because it was a bit unbalanced when we left Castleton. Scott woke up this morning, looked up through the V-berth to the bridge we're under and had a Eureka. He decided the best way to move the mast was to hook up a pulley system with lines attached to the mast and we could shove it back on the wooden cradle. Stu, Tony, Aidan and I gave a hand and it worked, although we often looked up to make sure no one untied the lines where the cars were whipping by. I must say, we're not bored on Messenger.

So that's one more job done. Now we have a big cleanup ahead and we need to get some things packed up to haul home Thursday.   We're all very excited, I am particularly excited to see family and friends and a bed.

Then it'll be back to Messenger on the weekend and hopefully we can start bringing her home.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On our way to the watery weary canal

Dawn at Nyack
We left Manhattan reluctantly but the sun was shining the current was in our favour and we had to get going. We learned too that part of the Erie Canal was to open soon.

We decided to make it to Nyack, home to our friends Judy and Steve on Bentana who we had met in the Bahamas.

We made it to Nyack and just caught a quick visit with Judy and Steve and took a mooring ball, as did our friends on Georgia E. We were just climbing into bed at about 10:30 p.m. and bang! we could see a mast and lights on our transom. We had either dragged on our mooring ball into Georgia E or we had just swung into each other when the current changed. Either way, we had to move, so in the black and strong winds the boys and Scott and I moved Messenger over to another mooring ball. The winds calmed and we were all up in the night thinking we had dragged to shore, it was that still.

We left the next day and headed to Kingston, about 70 miles up the Hudson River. It was spectacular. It was once called the River of the Mountains by the First Nations people and it's easy to see why with the sharp peaks of the Adirondacks. We also passed by West Point. Reg is just studying about Ulysses Grant and Robert E Lee for his world history course and both had attended the historic military academy.

We docked at the Hudson River Maritime Museum and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits. It has a lovely reinvigorated small waterfront. Unfortunately that includes dance bars that played music from about 11 p.m. to about 4 a.m. Boom Boom Boom Boom One Two Three Four Oh My God will it ever stop. That's the synopsis of our evening there. Never again.

Scott and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 6 a.m. to catch the current and took turns at the wheel while Scott took the sails down in preparation of taking our mast down at Castleton-Upon-the-Hudson, a do-it-yourself mast stepping facility and boat club. It's also one of the friendliest clubs on the lake.

It took all five of the crew of Messenger to wrangle that 55-foot 500-lb stick into place on the cradle we had left there last fall. It was growing cold and windy and the rain threatened, finally starting to pour just after we had got the mast down. The boat club was having a striped bass tournament - amazing fish which swim all the way up the Hudson to spawn then swim back to the ocean later this month. The annual migration also attracts harbour seals at times. It's a beautiful area of the river with low lying mountains, green swampy trees and historic buildings peaking out of the forest.

We ended up staying at the club that night and then travelled up to Waterford, New York today to get into position to do a bit of the canal. It's a real frustration to be this close to home and to be facing delays because of the flooding here.

We're not sure of our passages here - the canal is to be fully open next week but the next 10 days call for rain, so it's hard to know what's going to happen. Georgia E had to get their mast down in the Catskills but are hoping to meet us here. The Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario is closed however, so it's not clear how far they'll get either.

We did get some laundry done today, a five-block walk away. Scott picked up some groceries and tomorrow it'll be cleanup, school and we'll pick up propane before heading out Tuesday. Likely again in this cold rain. Yuck. We're very grateful for our little ceramic heater which is chugging away to keep the chill at bay. The Gilligan's Island DVD is helping keep our spirits up too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day in New York

Offshore passages used to terrorize me, I was afraid of the hundreds of things that could go wrong, hitting things in the night, seasickness, and general stupidness that sinks in after so many hours of sleep deprivation.

So, now that I have a few passages under my belt, I've discovered the magic of Scopolamine patches, I must havce subconsciously figured it was time to make it more interesting by losing my glasses just before our last passage offshore to New York.

I don't have great night vision to begin with but when Scott confidently told me I'd have 'no problems' steering at night, I thought, hey I've done this before, what's the big deal.

OK, so the big deal is this: you can't see a DAMN THING without glasses at night. I could see lights ahead but they could have been aliens for all I knew. I didn't know how far, how close, and even with our radar and AIS I couldn't pick out certain lights. On top of that the used autopilot Scott and Aidan worked on for a week didn't have a calibrated compass. It was handsteering all the way.

We also discovered Reg, who also lost his glassesand had a bad fit of teenage crankiness, may have more problems at night. He took the early night shift and in about 10 minutes had us turned around going back to Cape May. We were alerted to the problem when he said he couldn't see Georgia E, which we were folloing. Ay yi yi.

So this plus an increasingly tempermental alternator and damp, soaked-in-your-bones cold made our last offshore passage rather memorable.

But it struck me last night that this could be our last offshore passage as a family. It gave me pause, and helped me overlook the challenges and see through to the good stuff: kids helping out (or at least trying) and all enjoying our beef stew as the sunset over the horizon.

Some things I'll never forget.

We came into New York with Lady Liberty greeting us and Aidan made me coffee, Elizabeth gave me a card, Reg grunted (hey at least he grunted) and the boys had told me they wanted to get me something special in New York. There's nothing more special than what's already on this boat.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cooling our heels in Cape May

I'm hugging the stainless steel bimini frame behind the wheel as Messenger is tossed to and fro. I squeeze my eyes shut, praying for deliverance from seasickness, the cold, the howling wind in any way God sees fit to make it happen.

Then Messenger hits a wall of water and the boat is engulfed in a wave, the dodger and the enclosure are soaked and the water drips through a few tiny holes. I sit up and Reg and Elizabeth and Scott and I all yell at the same time. Messenger is fine and suddenly I am too. A brush with death tends to snap me out of seasickness.

We are rounding the Cape May shoal. It was supposed to be 10 to 15 knots of wind at our back, a nice gentle run down the Delaware to the ocean. It was that for about an hour and then it started to build and the rainstorms never left us. Our friends Stu and Tony on Georgia E were holding their own on their tough Bayfield 36 and we were doing the same, both of us topping 10 knots in speed as we rushed with the current down to the ocean with breaking waves building behind us. Then we had to turn to go around the shoal and we knew it would be bad.

Later Tony and Stu said they thought it was going to be worse. Huh.

We fought our way up to Cape May for about 10 miles and finally Reg succumbed to seasickness and after he asked for a bowl, I ran to the head for a quick trip and opened the door and found all of my makeup box had emptied upside down after flying out of the cupboard. Someone, probably me, hadn't closed it all the way. I had to maneuvre taking down three pairs of pants, doing my business then redressing and emerging all the while trying not to slip on lipstick and mascara tubes. I climbed back into the cockpit in time to help Reg with being sick and then boy was I sick. That's when I climbed behind the wheel with Scott.

We got into Cape May and the 20 knots we anchored in felt like a light breeze. We both tucked in for the night and the next morning we were getting ready to go into Utsch's Marina and Georgia E's anchor started to drag. We finally got in after maneuvring in this shallow harbour.

We met up with some cruisers we had met in the Bahamas from Quebec and they told us that the Erie Canal was closed. Yikes. We checked and yes, not only was it closed due to all the runoff and intense rain they've had, the earliest possible day for opening is the week of May 23 (our wedding anniversary).

So we've been regrouping. Our plan now is stay in Cape May for one more day, then head for our 120-mile passage to New York late tomorrow, arriving Sunday morning. We now have a few days to enjoy New York. So we'll do that: Elizabeth and I are planning a shopping day and I am on a mission to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Then we'll go up the Hudson, take the mast down and settle in at Waterford, NY, the entrance to the canal. Then it looks as though I may rent a car and drive home with the kids and Scott will stay behind on the boat. Once the canal is open, we'll join him and help him bring the boat home. That's Plan A.

We have several other plans as well, depending on a number of variables. It's not the glorious end-of-trip finale I envisioned, but then, what the heck. We're anxious to get home for Pete's sake and Reg has a course he's lined up to take in early June and he may have exams to write as well. So, like the rest of this trip, plans are written in Jello and we'll have to just figure it out as we go along and try not to spend the Earth getting home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Aurevoir Endurance

We said a sad and tearful goodbye to our good friends Tess and Tony on Endurance this morning as we slipped off the dock in Baltimore. They were staying for family reasons and we won't see them again for such a long time.

They're from New Hampshire and we met them when we were anchored at Royal Island in the Bahamas.They dinghied over because they had heard we had dragged in a terrible storm the night before and Tony had heard the kids' voices on the wind.

"I had to come over to meet  you because you have kids!" said Tess. "Do you like board games?"

Then she warned us not to see where we nearly ran aground in the anchorage where pieces of rebar lurked just under the water's surface. "Don't look at it, it bothered me, it'll haunt you," she said.

The next day at a dock in Spanish Wells she loaned me her hair cutting tool she had just used on her husband much to our entertainment and I cut Scott's hair. We shared big deep belly laughs. Of  course we were meant to be friends. (By the way, Tony and Scott didn't laugh that much together but this gave them a moment to share sympathy and bond).

We both cried today as we pulled away, like teenagers heading off to college.

Tony and Stu on Georgia E are travelling with us, great guys from Toronto, and it's wonderful to have a boat buddy.

We made it all the way to Chesapeake City, thanks to a big boost from the current running up the bay. Tomorrow we hope to make it down the Delaware River all the way to Cape May. Then we'll likely stop for a day due to weather and then take a big run offshore to New York where we'll anchor at Sandy Hook.

It was lovely today, about 80, with a fantastic breeze and we sailed the whole way with a surfing sea behind us. Big storms predicted tonight though and then it'll drop to just above freezing with rain. Lovely.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Time for a rest in Baltimore

We love Baltimore. There's so much to do and see here - apparently there are 200 distinct neighbourhoods. Scott and I went for a walk along a designated trail on the waterfront this morning and for a mile we saw at least a couple of those: Felll's Point and Canton.

Friday night we went to a famous pizzeria, Matthew's (est. 1943) and had a great time. That was in a different neighbourhood altogether. This is a marvelous city, rebuilt and reborn with people living in the downtown and jogging its streets, hanging out at cafes that spill onto its sidewalks. There is a vibrant arts community here along with dozens of museums and art galleries not to mention the national aquarium at the Inner Harbour.

We are trying to put the boat to rights and of course, Scott has some new things to fix: our autohelm compass stopped working on the way to Annapolis, the dinghy has sprung a leak and he needs to change the oil and check the engine. I have a monster list of scrubbing out lockers, reprovisioning and laundry, laundry and more laundry as I air the bedding and give it a good once over.

We got a dose of retail therapy at this terrific mall outside Baltimore called Arundel Mills.

Today we might try to get over to Fort McHenry (site of the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to pen the Star-Spangled Banner) and check out some of the eclectic stores at Fell's Point.

Then tonight it'll be potluck dinner aboard Endurance. Georgia E is to join us any day now and we'll start trying to stage our trip to New York. It's a bit of a long way, not even sure how many miles, about 200 or 300 from here??? We may stop a couple of times to anchor at the top of the Chesapeake. Once we're in New York, it'll be about two weeks and we'll be home. Hard to imagine sometimes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chugging up the Chesapeake

This is the lower Chesapeake.We travelled about 55 miles today to just north of the Potomac River on the western shore. It is the large river at the top left of the map. We left Norfolk, Virginia two days ago. We are now in Maryland.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

We had a warm day in Norfolk as I woke early to get the Easter ham in the oven (some things never change) and scurried after the Easter Bunny, helping him hide eggs and drop a few treats for this wonderful morning.

We had a late morning brunch with Tess and Tony on Endurance and Tony and Stu on Georgia E, on the sun deck near our boats where someone had graciously left a set of patio furniture.

We headed to Nauticus, although Aidan opted out. Wise choice. The four of us got there and we were worn out and barely had the energy to enjoy the place. We dragged ourselves back to the boat by 5, had a conference with Endurance and Georgia E and were all heading out tomorrow for Deltaville.

We're going to take advantage of these south winds and sunny, hot weather as long as it lasts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making miles while we can

We've just seen our first Canada Geese, squirrels and pines since we returned. We have had spotty Internet signal through these patches of North Carolinian marsh and wilderness so it proved difficult to have a chance to update the blog again.

We left Morehead City Wednesday and had a terrific sail up the Pamlico River to the Sound where we found an anchorage.We're travelling with Tony and Stu on Georgia E, a sailboat from Toronto, and we are finding great comfort in having another boat to chat things over.

The forecast had suggested the weather was moderating but it really didn't. We commenced down the Alligator River and as we got closer to the narrows of the river as it spills into Albermarle Sound, the waves grew and the wind took us on the nose. Messenger's bow was sprayed with the dark brown tannin-stained waters and we started to worry about trying to cross the notorious Sound in these conditions. The decision was taken out of our hands when the Alligator River Bridge was closed due to high winds (gusts up to 30 knots) and so Messenger and Georgia E had to retrace 7 miles back to an anchorage with a bit of marsh to hold back the winds and squalls. We ended up passing a quiet night and crossed the Sound yesterday with strong easterlies but at least we could motorsail and plow through the winds. Elizabeth and Reg were a touch seasick but soon recovered once we got back on the North Landing River.

Then it grew cold and damp and grey and we started having trouble finding a suitable place to stop. We had expected that a couple of anchorages in our Waterway Guide would be deep enough but Georgia E, always the willing guinea pig with her shallower draft found that wasn't the case.

We tried again and again but kept pressing on, even a few marinas were closed as it was Good Friday or business had been bad and they had closed up for good.

Finally, we reached Great Bridge and managed to squeeze our two boats into the Free Dock - making the day an 84-mile run. We were tired.

We fell into bed and then this morning started heading through a series of bridges and the Great Bridge lock to make our way another 12 miles to Norfolk. We are going to Portsmouth, actually, next door to Tidewater Marina where we'll spend Easter there with our friends on Endurance. The three of us will do potlock and maybe the Easter Bunny will come.

We're starting to see Canada Geese, squirrels and evergreens like at home and it's making all of us quite homesick. Aidan said yesterday it even felt cold enough to feel like home.

Today a soft south wind blowing 20 knots is clearing the skies and warming us up.

We'll stop a few days in Norfolk and the five of us can get off and away from each other, as we've been cooped up together for four days (without showers) and we're getting a bit crazy. I'm actually surprised at how well we did fare, considering the circumstances. Reg found a place way at the back of the boat the night we had to turn back, tuning into his iPod and trying to imagine himself away, I think, as we each sought out a piece of space to ourselves. Aidan and Elizabeth are a bit more acclimatized to life on board but even they are happy to be going to Norfolk.

We'll do some sightseeing perhaps and I can do a monster LAUNDRY and showers and big boat cleanup.

Then we'll plan our trip through the Chesapeake and get ready to jump out in a couple of weeks to New York. The Great Bridge lock is positioned midway between Charleston and New York.

We're getting closer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cape Fear Revisited ... ugh

We had yet another exciting experience on the Cape Fear River again today.

Last fall while transiting the river down to the ICW going 9 knots with a 4.2 knot current on the stern, we snagged something on the prop.

We limped over to a marina where we tied up to the dock and Scott had to jump overboard in his wetsuit in the dark red water and cut away a piece of burlap or net sacking.

This morning we had a fuel tanker come off the ocean and up the Cape Fear River right up to our stern. If that wasn't worrisome enough, a machine-gun toting coast guard pilot boat ran over alongside of our boat with lights flashing and PA that we were within the 500-yard security zone around the vessel. Now, keeping 500 yards away from a ship is very difficult in a narrow channel on the river with shoals on either side. As soon as we could deke out, we did, into deep enough waters. We slowed down to let the big guy pass, as did our friends on Georgia E but wow, a bit shivery and it wasn't just the cold.

So now I'm downloading waypoints to try and avoid shoals up ahead while serving up breakfast and getting school going. We'd like to make 60 miles today, just 40 miles from Beaufort, NC.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Still in Myrtle Beach

A set of fronts is passing through the Eastern Seaboard today, forcing us to stay in Myrtle Beach again today.

Winds are forecasted to exceed 35 knots and there's to be a series of thunderstorms. In those conditions the bridges don't usually open on the ICW. We're just twiddling our thumbs a bit, trying to stay away from the Barefoot Landing shopping strip.

Our need for a barber shop or hair salon is becoming critical. Aidan hasn't had a haircut since Hampton last year in October, and mine was in Vero Beach in Florida in December. My haircutting experience with Scott was not entirely successful so we're all waiting for a professional.

Hard to accomplish this when we're on the move all the time and many salons need appointments. We likely can get this done in Norfolk, Virginia. Another week or so won't make much difference at this point.

Tired today. Down to the bone tired. Not sure why. Seems like a good day to park and rest.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Myrtle Beach and busting out the wallet

So we rediscovered the power of the credit card this week as we toured our first mall in more than four months and commenced staying at marinas with full washrooms and cheap laundry. Wow, we are burning it up.

That's OK though because Scott bought a new guitar with the card and he and Reg are working out a few tunes they can busk on the nearest street corner to help pay the bills.

OMG - we visited Myrtle Beach's boardwalk today complete with Ripley's Believe it or Not. Believe it or Not, it was almost worth the $76 admission for the five of us. It sure seemed like a better value than the $26 we paid last night for four ice cream cones. Yes, four.

Today we ate lunch at McDonald's - an orgiastic experience for all of us, except the fries were so salty we actually didn't finish them.

Then, to top off our salute to North American-style capitalism, we headed to the mall where I proceeded to slide more plastic around than a ClingWrap factory. The kids tried to comfort me by telling me we had 'saved money' at Aeropostale and elsewhere because of all the sales. Right.

There's no way to justify the junk I bought at Wal-Mart.

It's been so long since we've spent much money because our needs were so simple in the Bahamas - you buy fuel, water, food and occasionally laundry.

Why did we leave?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What a ride - 400 miles, 47 hours

We left Green Turtle Cay last Wednesday, Reg's 17th birthday to head to Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited island on the north Bahamas Bank. We were hoping we could sail to conserve fuel as we started the first day of what could be a four-day trip back to the United States, hopefully Charleston.

It was a fantastic sail, with dolphins and clear, clear water and we flew in the light chop, easily making the 60-mile run by sunset. We had a quick chat on the radio with Civil Twilight as we tucked into bed for a good nights' sleep.

The plan was to get up early on Thursday and make our way to the Gulf Stream, trying to reach the waypoint for the maximum strength of the current. Alan on Civil Twilight had talked to Chris Parker, a kind of weather guru about the lat and long and so on his advice we set our course.

We reached the Gulf Stream about midday and by the time we got to its centre axis, we were humming. We motorsailed and started picking up speed, 5 knots, 6 knots, 7 until we started to reach 10 knots. The south wind filled our sails and every now and then Messenger would dip her bow into the waves, pushed down from the speed of the boat. It was breathtaking. (To convert knots to statute miles, multiply by 1.1).

Best of all though, no one was seasick. Reg, Elizabeth and I all wore scopolamine patches behind our ears - they're good for three days. Reg felt so good he was able to stand a watch from 9 p.m. to midnight after I helped get him set up and he did the same thing the next day.

Friday's sunrise was spectacular. Aidan stood our early morning watches at 5 or 6 for two hours, giving Scott and I a much-needed break. However, Scott never really sleeps off watch, he struggles to relax while not at the helm. That changed a bit on Friday night though when he kind of collapsed on the salon berth tucked in a lee cloth to prevent him from falling off.

I had made all of our meals at Green Turtle on Tuesday, sweating furiously in my bathing suit in the galley and boy were we glad. We had baked chicken, beef stroganoff, beef stew and on Thursday while underway I made homemade bread and stromboli (a baked sandwich) for a special treat.

On Friday we managed to not only sail all day but to also average about 10.5 knots, the same speed as momtorsailing. At one point we had hit 11.7 knots and Reg said no one at home would believe it.

At dusk the wind was shifting and light so put on the motor and started to work our way off of the Gulf Steam to head toward Charleston. This is somewhat like trying to step off a giant converyor belt going full tilt. Messenger was tossed in the swirling eddies and building seas and winds in the night, making for a very bumpy ride.

We slowed down to come into Charleston in daylight. We were welcomed into the beautiful harbour by a flock of pelicans.

We slipped into a dock at the Charleston City Marina and our friends on Endurance came in later that day as well!

We spent the next few days visiting my cousin Tom and Sharon, and getting ourselves and the boat back together. Tom took me to Wal-Mart to re-provision where I was dizzied by the choice and amount of food in one store. I overcame that though and managed to fill up two shopping carts. We topped up fuel, water, propane and we'll head out today to go down the Intracoastal Waterway for the next big leg on this incredible journey.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting ready to say goodbye

We came into Green Turtle Cay Sunday. We rounded the Whale Cay Passage and it was so pleasant and glassy when Elizabeth came up she didn't recognize it, it was that differently looking in calm conditions.

Dolphins jumped in our bow wake and as we came into Green Turtle, giant rays greeted us as they majestically swam by.

It was beautiful here, with friends on Civil Twilight, Artful Dodger, Marguerita, Sheet Music, Diamond and Falco all gathered here.  Such fun.

The cruising families decided to go on a snorkeling expedition so we all headed out for the ocean beach with its spectacular reefs. Unfortunately, Reg had to finish his CYA course so he stayed on board but he said that he had enjoyed diving so much the day before he was OK with taking a break.

Elizabeth was the star that day, diving down 18 feet or so to grab a giant Queen Conch. Scott got two more, as did Craig on Diamond and Christine on Sheet Music. We made conch fritters that night, using a recipe from a Bahamian cookbook mom had given me.

Lisa from Sheet Music and I decided to share a big walk down the beach after snorkeling, as we are all leaving the Bahamas over the next few days. We had a great conversation, catching up on our adventures.

We talked to Alan and Geri on Civil Twilight about leaving together - funny as we came here together from Lake Worth in Florida four months ago. They have more experience than we do - and they're a lot of fun as well. We're taking from their courage and we're going to try to capitalize on a fantastic weather window opening up later this week.

We'll try to sail to Great Sale Cay - an uninhabited island in the north Bahamas bank tomorrow. It's a long run, about 60 miles. Then the next morning we'll head out early and run to the edge of the Bahamas bank, and enter the Gulf Stream and hopefully ride it north all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. It's about a 360-mile passage (I think) and we should arrive on Saturday sometime. It's a long passage and our biggest worry is the calmness of the seas and the need to motor. We carry just enough fuel to make it but we'd like to try to sail to take the pressure off our fuel reserves.

Today we're running into New Plymouth on a golf cart to pick up a few groceries for the trip (and for Reg's birthday) and we'll head back this afternoon for laundry and cooking up our meals for the week. We'll also get Reg started on his seasickness meds tonight to ensure he enjoys this big adventure.

Then it'll be time to say goodbye to some friends here and to the Bahamas.

What a gift this trip is - Reg and I took a long walk on the beach yesterday searching for sea hearts - I found my first here Sunday - and it was so lovely to share that time with my teenage son who is too quickly growing up.

That's not something that would have happened at home.

The time spent here is so very precious. We've managed to grab some time to watch our children grow and explore a beautiful piece of the planet.

We have so much to hold in our hearts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Time to change scenery

We love Treasure Cay for lots of reasons but we've been here a week and it's time to go. A series of fronts and the need for high speed Internet for Reg's CYA sailing course, PADI deep sea diving and other reasons have kept us here.

We are all itching to head to Green Turtle Cay.The trouble is that we tide to get out, we need calm conditions to do the Whale Cay Cut - a passage that is infamous for its 'rages' of white water and dangerous rocky lee shore.

Once around the Whale, we can slip over to Green Turtle - the island where we dropped anchor last December 12, dinghied in to get our Bahamas cruising permit and headed to the lower Abaco islands.

It sounds like a great settlement with lots of interesting local colour, restaurants and marinas. There is currently a forecasted very big blow (gale force) winds on Tuesday. Green Turtle looks fairly protected. On top of that, we have several friends there, some with kids. It's a great spot to stop and watch for a weather window to carry us across the north Bahama bank, out to the Gulf Stream and then over to the United States.

We're not sure if we'll head to Fort Pierce, near Jacksonville, Florida (an overnight passage) or to Charleston (a three-day passage). The big variables are weather, weather and whether Reg's stomach can handle it.

We have stored up Scopolamine(spelling?) patches for him,and we provisioned by car in Marsh Harbour so we're pretty much ready to go.

It's time to go. We'll have to see if the winds agree.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Warm breezes, lazy clouds ... trying to soak up the Bahamas in our skin

The last two days have been quite blissful. It's warm here, about 85 today, with a strong breeze. The kids are hanging by the pool, with only Elizabeth and I taking a cool dip.

We were going to go to Man O War today but the forecast hinted at possible squalls tonight with gale force winds so we decided against it. Not hard really, when it's this gorgeous.

We are all relaxing, trying to absorb as much heat as possible before we start cross the Gulf Stream into spring and cooler weather in the southern U.S.

I bask in the delight of a grocery store that has just about every basic thing you can think of, mind you, it's pricier than at home, but it's just so great.

One of our favourite things here is Cafe Florence, where Florence herself bakes up giant cinnamon buns dripping with warm icing each morning along with a rich cup of coffee and soft, sweet bread. Reg had one of the buns this morning for breakfast. He Hoovered it in less than 5 minutes. A great way to start a great, lazy day.

We're trying to get ready to gear up for big travelling, but for now, we'll take a rare few quiet days.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On laundry

One of the many things I miss about my house is my washer and dryer. They are lovely, time-giving appliances which toil away down in our basement. The washer, a new front loader, whirls things around quickly, the dryer works like a charm. Both sit down there every day waiting for me patiently to load, unload, load unload.

On our trip I have become something of an expert on laundromats and machines as well as how to do hand laundry using as little water as possible. Not to mention losing my inhibitions about hanging out my underwear and over-the-shoulder-boulder holders (as Scott likes to affectionately refer to my lingerie).

In the United States, most washing machines cost around $1.75 to $2 a load. This means hoarding quarters, sometimes raiding the kids' wallets. Sometimes the pricier machines work better, so it's usually fair no matter what. The dryers cost about a quarter for 10 minutes so it takes about four quarters for most loads but then you can fiddle with the loads and spread out towels and flannels for better bounce as they dry off. This is the part I call managing the laundry.

In the States, laundromats are pretty common, they're in almost every marina and every small town on the way, so it's pretty easy to keep on top of, really. I try to enlist family members for the haul-in but often they are more cheerful about loading up my backpack and my dolly and letting me go off for my hike to the nearest one. I get a chance to check on daytime TV - none of you are missing anything by the way - and maybe sneaka chocolate  bar or junky magazine or book.

In the Bahamas, it's a bit different. The cost of laundry is actually a line item on our budget. Here at Treasure Cay, I just spent $46 on four loads. That includes a folding service but still. That's why the free laundromat at Emerald Bay made me so delirious with joy.

Really it's kind of a chore but then sometimes you meet the most interesting people and the flavour of the community in these laundromats. In Georgetown, the central laundromat had a bank of lawn chairs, a 14-inch colour TV blaring above dozens of ancient machines and Trevor, a 6 foot 2 administrator decked out in camoflauge gear (including a cap) manning the machine. He didn't really rule the place though, that was for the intimidating lady behind the counter who barked out each customer name in order. It was hot too, with a giant fan valiantly trying to keep a breeze flowing.

In Cocoa, Florida, a lady in the upscale marina laundromat gave us good tips on going to Universal Studios. A lady I met in the downtrodden Spanish Wells laundromat is a volunteer turtle tagger with the University of Florida and in between loads lined up giving me all kinds of educational materials for the kids on the marine life in the Bahamas which she did later in Staniel Cay.

I also came to appreciate the availability of laundry and services though when I was forced to do hand laundry a few times to keep the loads from piling up or as a desperate bid to keep us in clean underwear. After my morning coffee, I sort emergency items from the rest and toss things up through the hatch. I then drag out a trusty plastic bucket and a bottle of ammonia, clothes pins and sunscreen (for me).

Messenger only has capacity for 80 gallons of fresh water plus another 5 or so in the hot water tank. We carry two (used to be three) jerry cans with 10 Canadian gallons for refill.

My friend Heather gave me this tip: fill up half a bucket of fresh water, put about 1/4 cup of ammonia in the bucket and let the clothes sit for about 15 minutes.

I tip the jerry can and let the sweet water spill in. I toss a few things in and knead like bread.I sit and wait, watching boats come and go in the anchorage or watch for fish under the boat. Then I squeeze and hang to dry (I did lose some underwear this way) and the smell evaporates. The sun and wind dry the clothes. This method came in handy a few times.The clothes take on a soft, outdoorsy smell, much preferable to their odour before the dunking.

This is the way life can be so much simpler on a boat. Fresh water is a precious resource, something I hope we never forget when we return to our Great Lakes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Revisiting Royal Pain in the A** Island and riding the High Seas across the Ocean

Exumas to Royal Island to Abacos
We had some big travelling days the last few days. We spent our last day in the Exumas visiting the endangered iguanas on Leaf Cay in a dicey anchorage, then moved off to a secluded anchorage where we snorkeled, Reg stared down a big barracuda and we had a quiet night.

Then we left at first light for the 45-mile or so passage from the tip of the Northern Exumas back to Royal Island. We dodged a minefield of coralheads in unbelievably clear water where we could see starfish and urchiuns dotting the bottom as we skimmed above.

We were headed to Royal Island where we had such a bad experience two months previous - we had dragged our anchor in the midst of a nasty series of squalls and then a gale. Funnily enough we were travelling once again with Painkiller, Beth and Scott, who we travelled with since the Abacos. Beth shared our feelings too about Royal. We saw clear to the bottom in the anchorage and noticed a piece of steel I beam, old mooring balls and all kinds of garbage on the bottom, perfect for fouling anchors and rodes not to mention the possibility of damaging a boat.Yikes. It was calm but none of us slept well.

The forecast for the next day was about 10 to 12 kt winds. We had that sitting at anchor and by the time we got out and turned north to the Abacos the winds were rising and so were the seas.

We had a wild ride with building seas 8 to 10 feet and winds 18 to 22 kts. It was on our stern quarter though so we were able to surf but had to handsteer the 60 miles. Scott took the brunt of the helmwork, and I spelled him off and later Aidan. Unfortunately Reg was terribly seasick, didn't give him his medication early enough and we're determined to try the patches next. We need to manage that for our big jump offshore to the United States.

For now we're recuperating in Treasure Cay - our first major stop after we reached the Bahamas. We'll spend a week or so in the Abacos waiting for our friends on Endurance to reach us and for a good weather window to cross.

Our time in the Bahamas is coming to a close.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back to the Abacos

We left Staniel Cay last Friday with our good friends Tony and Tess on Endurance to make an attempt to visit Rocky Dundas and the othergreat spots at the southern end of the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Rocky Dundas is an underwater cave that divers can enter at low tide when the entrance is exposed.

We had a terrific sail the few miles up the Exuma Banks and dropped our anchors about a mile and a half away near Bell Island. We divided up kids between the two dinghies and we started across the open waters to the caves.Wow,what a crazy ride. It was very choppy but with extremely shallow reefs and sandbars and then we had to take some swells from the cut to the Sound (the ocean), only to get to Rocky Dundas and realize it was way too rough to enter. We bobbed about and decided to go to 'Rachel's Bubblebath' - a lovely little inland tidal pool where waves from the ocean crash over coral breakers and then slip into the pool as bubbles.

It was delightful. We snorkeled around a coral ledge in about three feet of water where we saw a variety of fish, all tiny, a kind of nursery for the big reefs.

We took the long way back, shared a cocktail with Tony and Tess and then they went back south to pick up a friend and we headed north to Warderick Wells, where we had stopped before but without Reg.

The winds started to pick up and Sunday and Monday it blew very hard - topping 30 knots at times.We were snug on our mooring ball. We celebrated Elizabeth's 12th birthday on Monday (and alsosent birthday wishes to Uncle Chris and Cousin Stella by email) with a hike, snorkeling and a big super sweet chocolate cake, barbecue steak, fettucine alfredo, mashed potatoes and peas. It was delicicous. A number of our cruiser friends sent messages and little gifts to Elizabeth and she ended up having a very special day.

Reggie is hard at work at school and is still homesick but is loving the snorkeling here -it is spectacular.

Aidan is plugging away at school as well and is looking forward to our return to the Abacos,which he loved.

We're happy to be turning our faces home but sad to know we'll never have a trip like this again. We left our boat name on a piece of driftwood on top of Boo Boo Hill here in the park as so many others have done. Funny to think it will likely still be there next year when we are still shovelling snow and back to our lives at home.

We leave today for HIghbourne Cay (30 or so miles,a fivehour trip) then we go to Royal Island the next day,we hope (about 60miles)then the next day across the ocean gap to the Abacos (about 60 miles)-aseriesof 3 long day trips. And so the long travelling days return.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunsets

Reg took this just near our anchorage at Big Majors Cay - close to Staniel Cay
At home we rarely had time to take in a sunset. Maybe we'd catch it if we were racing on our sailboat, but that's about it. Usually we were making dinner, picking up one kid from piano lessons, the other from hockey or stuck at work.

Every day here the sunset is an event. Cruisers plan 'sundowner' parties, skippers grab their conch horns (horns made of conch shells) and trawler captains get ready to blow their big horns.

We all watch for the green flash - the last gasp of blue meeting orange as the sun slips under the horizon.

This is something I will miss.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life in the beautiful northern Exumas

We are slowly making our way north after leaving Emerald Bay Monday morning. The waves were breaking over the boat as we motorsailed out, a bit nerve wracking - I actually couldn't look it was that crazy.

A few moments later and we were back in the deep blue of the sound with big seas occasionally picking up Messenger's stern and swinging her bow to starboard. It was smoother under sail so we threw up what we had and we flew along at 7 and a half knots.

Soon enough Reg and Elizabeth were wedged in the cockpit along with us while Iron Stomach Aidan was in the washing machine down below sleeping in then casually wandering around eating a bowl of sloshing cereal while reading a book on the Kindle.

Reg mastered seasickness by taking the helm and did a very good job. The bonus was he started feeling better. We put on some tunes and munched ginger cookies until we reached Galliot Cut, our way off the  Sound (really the ocean) and back onto the beautiful banks of the Exumas.

We soon had an exciting sprint through flat seas but with strong winds. We made it into White Point where Folie a Deux was anchored. Reg and Elizabeth slipped over to the shore for a bit of exploring and we tucked in for a good night.

The next day we decided to run to Staniel Cay and try to work our way into the Thunderball grotto but tides were against us and we did it the next day.

We love Staniel Cay - the water is unbelievably clear and crisp, we see nurse sharks and rays gliding by and the rocky cays are just gorgeous.

Today I did some shopping in Staniel with my friend Tess off Endurance while the kids dove on the Thunderball Grotto with Folie a Deux. We bought some lobsters tonight off some local fishermen and made LOADS of lobster.

Tomorrow we'll have to make a bisque with the leftovers. Oh well.

Made some awesome bread today along with Stromboli - kind of a stuffed Italian bread. That's pretty much gone.

I dove in for a late afternoon swim and dashed around the boat keeping out an eye for rays and sharks and then had a quick shampoo.

Elizabeth had a friend over from Sinn Fein, a boat from Port Stanley. Scott and Tony are trying to troubleshoot a prop problem on Endurance.

There really isn't a dull moment here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Georgetown Regatta

Going for broke

This photo was taken by a couple on Amaryis from Quebec who happened to dock next to us in Emerald Bay

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh yeah, I remember feeling stressed....

Before we left to go on this trip, I honestly didn't think I'd make it. Our lives were a hectic whirlwind of sailing school volunteering, church volunteering, work work, driving kids, cleaning house, caring for cat and of course, due to my mid-life crisis I headed back to school and contemplated a career change.

All the while we're trying to figure out what to take on the boat and how the heck we were going to manage.

Those stresses are forgotten now - it's different in a cruising lifestyle. There aren't the usual stresses of life at home, but there are stresses.

However this week I had a taste of that old panic-strickness. Reg is signed up to take a Canadian Yachting class which we didn't realize needed a big bandwidth, much more than my more little blackberry-as-modem can handle. On top of that he's taking two online high school classes. We also need the computers and internet for weather, etc. Then the our new PC laptop couldn't handle the demands and crashed.

We had loaded up the old PC laptop and so it was handling things OK until we got to nowhere this week at Children's Bay Cay and it decided to disconnect the Blackberry as a modem. For two days we stewed and fretted. I lost sleep. I got up at 6 am. and started in on the old PC. Five hours later I did a system restore and it finally got working - for a day. Meanwhile we decided to reset the entire new PC with its startup disk (I had packed it but forgotten about it - Scott found it, bless him). It did reset the computer but we lost most of our precious photos and it still seemed wonky.

Today I finally got the new one almost back to itself - time will tell if we can get this Blackberry working properly as a modem - critical for Reg's courses. And we're at Emerald Bay again for its great Internet signal for his CYA course.

I'd rather not have that stress again thank you. Let me go back to just figuring out weather fronts and how to navigate the next cut to the ocean and whether or not the bread has risen enough.

Speaking of weather, incredibly beautiful here - cool nights, warm days but lots of challenges in the forecast.

For now though, I'll trundle off to the laundry room here - geez we love this marina...

Monday, March 7, 2011

In memory of Siobhan

We are deeply saddened today to hear of the sudden death of our neighbour Siobhan Ringrose. We've known her since we moved to Temperance St. E. 13 years ago.

We learned of this just last night and wish we could slip home if only to offer our sympathies to her family.

She was a kind, artistic soul and she will be missed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Race day

We're heeled over more than we should be, the wind is gusting up to 25 knots and we were screaming our heads off.

It's the in-harbour race in Georgetown - a race amongst various shoals,coral reefs and about 300 anchored boats and private yachts with a crew composed of people from all over the world, some of whom had never sailed a monohull before, let alone knew where Messenger's main halyard was.

The race is part of the Georgetown Regatta held by cruisers. Our crew was Scott,myself, Reg and Aidan and then we had Alan and his 16-year-old daughter from Vancouver (Alan originally is from Johannesburg, S. Africa), Tony and his friend Jeff from New Hampshire and Ken Sadler, originally from New Orleans.

Aside from the brisk conditions in the harbour, the tricky thing was deking around the hundreds of anchored vessels directly on the race course. I'd never raced a keelboat as a spectator sport before. It was a bit unnerving to cut so close to someone's stern that they could pass you a sandwich, but once we'd done it a few dozen times,we almost got used to it.

The crowds were great, people were screaming and cheering us on from their boats.

We acquitted ourselves quite well, not sure of our place yet. Those results won't be known until after Wednesday's race around Stocking Island. We're not sure if we're going to do that one yet and not sure yet if we're staying in Georgetown much longer.We'll see what the weather suggests. I'm longing to leave, to stop at Emerald Bay for great wifi, laundry and showers, oh, the showers. Then on to the northern Exumas again, to walk on secluded beaches, see the striking cays, reefs and waters. Then Spanish Wells (likely), the Abacos again and homeward.

But for now, Georgetown beckons forcefully for the kids. Lots to do and and some kids to hang with. Hard to beat. Reggie is entering the dinghy sailing race tomorrow and there a couple of other activities they'd like to do.

Whipping by Georgetown
In any event, this was definitely one of the most exhilerating days yet, made so much better by this collection of new friends in our crew.

Pics to follow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Georgetown - home to cruiser nation

There are literally hundreds of cruising boats in Elizabeth Harbour outside Georgetown for regatta - it's non-stop people, a bit overwhelming actually.

We head to opening night festivities tonight then a coconut challenge, dinghy sailboat races and big boat races and lots of socializing in between. Trying to get our laundry done today along with some provisioning and getting our cruising permits extended. We also needed to get fuel and water during a downpour today as it's supposed to really blow hard for the next couple of days.

We're frantically trying to get caught up on school, etc. as we ready ourselves to hunker down for festival and the blow.

Kids are having a blast, so that's great. We're here for a few more days at least.
Our more tranquil day Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island. Note the free diver who is taking a rest on the raft in the middle
of the blue hole. His record to hold his breath is 3 minutes, 14 seconds.

Monday, February 28, 2011

To Long Island and then north!!! back to Georgetown

We have had some Internet issues so haven't been able to post for awhile.

We also had a darn good time in Long Island. We sailed there on Wednesday, actually motorsailed, on a lovely warm day.

It was spectacularly beautiful, rocky keys, translucent blue waters and we were travelling with a couple of boats we knew quite well: Skedaddle and Painkiller.

We set anchor at Thompson Bay and meet up with some friends that night for cocktails and stories.

The next day we arranged to rent a car because while Long Island is not only long - 80 miles - but tricky to navigate for our deep draft boat. We had an mile ride in on the dinghy - a wet one too with a 1 to 2 foot chop, five people jammed in our 9-foot inflatable and gear to boot. We were drenched in salt water but most of us changed in washrooms at Long Island Breeze, a great new restaurant and cruisers' hangout with laundry, etc.

We drove to Deals, a settlement where we had heard that Dooner Misener from Port Dover had a place. Sure enough, we no sooner had parked the car than I saw Dina Misener walk across the road with Vaughn Anstee. I had gone to school with Dina and said hello. They've got a lovely spot there and Dooner brought back another load of Port Doverites, including Diane and Bill West to stay at his beach bungalows. It was a hoot. We had a great lunch and headed back.

The next day we drove down to Clarence Town and then headed to Deans Blue Hole where we snorkeled in an amazing 660 foot blue hole just steps from the beach shore. We could have been there all day.

It was gorgeous.

We drove back to the boat and readied ourselves to head to Georgetown. Our first northerly trip since August 23. We had a great sail back just in time to register for some regatta events.

This week promises to be terrific with racing, parades, parties and socials. More pics to follow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happiness is....

sparkling seas
sunny skies
warm winds
pink sand
having our family together again

We said our goodbyes to my mom and dad, sister, husband and sweet Stella last night and headed out of Georgetown as they did the same early this morning.

We motorsailed in the coral strewn passage between Great Exuma and Stocking Island and headed out to Long Island, about 30 miles south.

I stood on the bow and watched the bow carve through the turquoise waters and realized I was suddenly so happy. Not that I haven't been happy on our journey but it was a complete contentment along with happiness. I realized it was because it was our first day travelling as a family, just the five of us, on our boat heading to an exotic island.

This is what I had always dreamed of.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The visits

We haven't posted in several days as we've been busy visiting with family and sorting ourselves out in Georgetown.

Reggie arrived safe and sound and has officially moved aboard. Scott's parents Jack and Molly escorted him here and we had a great visit with them. We ended up renting a car for a week and basked in the deliciousness of showers every day and free laundry, wifi and a gorgeous marina complex as we stayed at Emerald Bay Marina north of Georgetown while Jack and Molly stayed at the Palm Beach Club.

We took a drive to Williamstown and to the north end of Great Exuma and we also took a water taxi like a tourist to Stocking Island.

Georgetown has plenty of services and a few interesting shops but we were a bit taken aback as it wasn't as picturesque as other places we've visited in the Exumas. In addition, we've spent the last few weeks in small villages or remote anchorages so the hustle and bustle of vehicles and the hundreds of cruisers in the harbour take some getting used to.

Lisa's parents Terry and Lesley and Lisa's sister's family, Allison, Mark and Stella came to visit with a two-day overlap with Scott's parents. Lisa's family stayed at February Point.

Lisa's dad rented a 17-foot boat for a few days and that's made getting back and forth from our anchorage much easier. It's hard to get too close to the Georgetown shore with our keel depth. The harbour itself is beautiful with lots of neat little islands and coves including Stocking.

Only two more days with Stella and gang and they fly home to the frigid north.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A holiday from the holiday

Rachel from Sisu giving Elizabeth a ride
So we're still at the Marina at Emerald Bay. There is a forecast of strong winds from the northeast and if we move down to Georgetown, there's a good chance we won't get to shore for four or five days because it'll be too dangerous in the dinghy. So we've rented a car for the week, during which time Lisa's mom and dad and Lisa's sister Ally and her husband Mark and little Stella will come here. This way we get to still see them as we can drive down to their villas.

It's a bit tough saying goodbye to all of our friends, and the kids' friends too as they make their way to Georgetown but we'll get there by the end of next week anyway.

The snorkeling here is fantastic and this is such a fabulous spot, it's not hard to stay.

Molly and Jack came, bearing gifts of Shreddies and Rice Krispies - real treats here given their cost. Elizabeth-Anne and Aidan had also saved up Christmas money and other money they had brought and had ordered an iPod touch and a PSP Go.

Elizabeth's new iPod has a feature on it called Facetime. She called her Aunt Shauni and Rebecca on Rebecca's iPod it was so cool - better quality than Skype.

It was great to have a face to face conversation with them.

Well, back to school work today, a Saturday - we're trying to get up to date before our family arrives so we can miss a bit of school when they're here.

Reg is registering to get online with his courses so that's working out well too.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nirvana for cruisers

The anchorage at Lee Stocking Island
We left Lee Stocking Island yesterday morning, home to the Caribbean Marine Research Centre, a division of NOAA, the U.S. meterological office.

They were going to give a tour but we wanted to be under way so we left at first light and headed out to the Exuma Sound, on the ocean side of the islands.

There was a gentle swell and the water was a clear blue. Once again Scott put out his fishing line and once again, no luck.

It was so tempting to stop along the way at a cay here or there, it was so gorgeous. We had to motorsail, first time in a while actually, but we had Emerald Bay Marina to look forward to.
Boy were we thrilled. This marina has everything and more, at $1 a foot ($2.25 if you want electrical plug in). Free laundry, free wifi, free trash disposal, free shuttle to the market nearby (I nearly swooned at that) plus fuel and water (not free of course). On top of that, the propane truck stopped by and we got a tank filled.

Best of all though, the staff are incredibly warm and we have so many friends here, and the kids do too - there were several watching movies last night in the sailors' lounge (air-conditioned, four rooms with DVDs, magazines, two flatscreen TVs, galley, and billiards' room all in a fabulous decor).

It's been well over a month since we've taken a dock so it's been well over a month since we had a hot shower with a continuous spray of water. I nearly wept at the joy of the hot water and soaps in the gorgeous washrooms. No bumping elbows here.

Usually we take a solar powered shower quickly in the cockpit or if we're desperate, we use our shower in the head but it's a bit of a mess to clean up and we hate bringing too much water into the boat where it will cause mildew, etc.

So we're getting ready to have Reggie move aboard, that means a big clean today and a sorting of clothes. Scott and Aidan have been re-rigging Aidan's pilot berth with a new cushion donated by Pirate, a fellow cruiser. We're also installing crew bags to hold small stuff and trying to sort out clothes and whatnot to send home with family. We are very excited to finally have Reg back and he's getting himself oriented with his two online courses he's taking for school. He's also taking a CYA course by correspondence and maybe SCUBA with Aidan, so he'll be busy!

We think we might stay here until Scott's parents and Reg arrives as we're only 10 minutes from the airport and it's easier to move Reg aboard if we're at a dock.

It is blissful here and it's so funny how all the cruisers walk around with big smiles just because everything here is so easy and accessible.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hello Friends!

On Friday we were just getting ready to head into town for some festival activities here at Farmers Cay when we heard our friends on Folie a Deux on the radio, heading for the cut to come here!

We had met Tim, Tracey, Eric, Brian and Lucy in the Chesapeake last fall and we all get along so well. We finally met up with them, caught up on all of our news and shared dinner that night. The kids went ashore for a bit and then we gathered them up and just had a blast.

Yesterday we took them to the caves, we headed into the village again for lunch at Ocean Cabin and there were still races going on, a band playing and all kinds of activities, although no one seems to have a schedule or any clear idea of what's happening from one hour to the next. Last night was games night. Today Folie a Deux has decided to travel back south again for a bit to Lee Stocking Island where there is a marine research centre that does offer tours, so we'll try for that tomorrow. Tony and Tess on Endurance, and another boat Nrivana Now are also travelling with us.

We then plan to head to Emerald Bay where we will go to the marina and scrub theboat in anticipation of our family visiting us. It's then just 10 miles to Georgetown.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Indiana Jones eat your heart out

We had such a terrific day yesterday. We're anchored at the west side of Little Farmers' Cay - a tiny island inhabited by about 60 people all descended from a free slave who settled there many years ago.

The island has a big festival tomorrow - the 5 Fs - first Friday in February at Farmers' festival.

We had a good day in the morning at school then a wonderful couple from Newfoundland, Marilyn and Vic on Whisper had invited to explore caves with them on Big Farmers, just near us.

We ran around the island on our dinghy to meet up with them and Vic told us he was taking us first to see an Osprey nest - it was huge, about three feet tall and maybe two in diameter. It was perched on a rock outcropping from Big Farmers, which is uninhabited. We then beached our dinghies and walked along a beach absolutely made by shells - big, little, some perfect, some not, it was amazing in itself. The shore was rocky with thin slabs of limestone and coral rocks. We really have to research Bahamian geology, it's so different.

Anyway, we headed on a small trail that led inland and Aidan saw a bright green gecko perched on a bush, so cool. We saw the osprey on a post as well. Then Aidan said it looked as though the little valley was ready for Halloween - the soil and the bushes were all orange and black. Vic and Marilyn and their friend Kathleen were great company along our hike.

We almost missed the entrance to the cave but we grabbed our flashlights. It was hot outside and as we descended into the cave, it got steamier. The cave was amazing, with deep still pools of fresh water and stalactites and stalagmites. It seemed as though no one else had ever been there. The cave went way deep into the island but we stayed near the entrance and the light. Scott and Vic explored a few of the crags further in. Someone had left a pail to catch the drips maybe 50 or 100 years ago and it was becoming covered in limestone.

We decided to keep on hiking after the cave, so we went over the ocean side where there was a beach and we looked in vain for sea beans or hamburger beans, small brown beans that some say travel in the ocean all the way from Africa. Then you can polish them and they look terrific in necklaces, etc.

Aidan and Elizabeth did find old green bottles in the tiny cove where some were swimming. They cleaned them up and brought them back to our very crowded boat.

Today we have friends coming into the island for the festival so we're looking forward to that and to exploring the tiny village itself.


We are planning on heading to Georgetown this weekend to meet up with our visiting family and Reggie.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sand, sand everywhere - what's left at the beach???

I've decided there's nothing I hate more than sand in my sheets. This Bahamian sand is remarkably like cement, clumping and dumped from one end of the boat to the other.

One cruising mom I talked to yesterday told me that when they returned to Kingston last summer, they had imported about a ton of sand. Whoopee. My job today is to try to fight the good fight and take the broom to the cabin. I've almost given up on the cockpit.

But then, I could be shoveling snow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On top of Boo Boo Hill

Some folks took this picture on top of Boo Boo Hill in Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Legend has it that a shipwreck which claimed many immigrants just in front of the hill two hundred years ago haunt this hill. On a full moon you can hear the faint hymns the ghosts are singing.

It's a great story and I choose to believe it. Of course, there is the matter of several blow holes in the area....


Note the boat names on boards in a heap - a cruiser tradition. Messenger is just behind us.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Black Point

We are in Black Point still this morning and after three patient hours Scott finally got our Blackberry connected to the laptop so we're in business.

We are planning on taking a run to White Point this afternoon - only a couple of miles away. There's a pretty beach there apparently.

We hesitate to leave Black Point, there are several activities going on here and the people are very friendly. Yesterday I did five loads of laundry at Ida's laundromat and picked up a few things at the yard sale in front of Lorraine's Cafe. I managed to stub and maybe break my middle toe and so whined enough that Scott ran in to get a pizza and we basked in the knowledge that we were sleeping in clean sheets that night.

The kids have loved hanging out with Sheet Music and Ruahk and we've enjoyed their company too. Marty on Ruahk offered to amputate my toe but seeing how he is a DENTIST not a surgeon, I declined.

Anyway, we're getting ready to try to navigate our way to Georgetown once these easterlies blow out this week - we are considering Farmers Cay where there's a festival this Friday but not sure about it, so we'll see.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thunderball!

Today we pulled a James Bond and dove on a spectacular cave where the film was shot. hard to believe it is natural with a skylit torch and hundreds of colorful fish and coral. We also finally met up with Sheet Music and the three kids aboard. They are travelling with a family from Ontario with six kids aboard. yay

We are loving the area around Staniel Cay here in the Exumas. The water is warm and shifts with depth from sapphire to pale turquoise.


The trick here though is to dance around various cays and rocks to stay in their protection from the winds.

Tomorrow we head to Black Point to do a monster-sized laundry and explore the village.

Scott is just popping two loaves of bread in the oven while we sit and rock and roll at our anchorage waiting for this howling wind to shift or die.

Still have not conquered my Internet connection so grateful for my Kindle.

Monday, January 24, 2011

weather is everything

we made it to the exumas eight days ago after a romp across exuma sound and ran into a week of fronts then hot weather. Onc again we're goimg to dash around som islands to miss two days of howls. We'll post again once I figure out my new Internet connection. Geez we love this kindle. Oh yeah I baked bread today. Aidan said it tastes like cake. It is that good.

We are in the Staniel Cay area.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exumas at last

We had a fantastic 40-mile run from Rock Sound in South Eleuthera to Highbourne Cay in the Exumas Sunday. The wind was on our back and we ran at about 6 to 7 knots, helped considerably by our spinnaker pole Scott set to hold the jib.

We travelled with our friends on Painkiller and Endurance. About five miles from the Exumas, we got a message on the radio from Tess on Endurance that Tony had caught a giant skipjack tuna and she was freaking out about the blood in the cockpit.

We congratulated them then we set about taking our spinnaker pole and getting ready to maneuvre the cut when zing! we heard our pole go with a big fish on the other end. I was on the helm and Scott raced to get back to reel the big thing in - he started to reel it and it fought, he reeled, it fought. I was wondering what the heck we were going to do if got the thing into the boat. Scott yelled for me to slow down - a bit hard when we're sailing with full main! Then snap! the line, the fancy lure and the big fish got away.

Scott berated himself for not reeling properly but we were all cheered by Tess and Tony's promise of a big feast that night. Sure enough, we got together and had a potluck. That fish gave eight of us such a meal - tuna steaks that were so meaty and juicy - Tony is also a great chef.

We had a great night with Pictionary with all of them. The next day we were told we got a mooring at the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells - it was a bit surprising as it's sometimes hard to get a spot here.

We came in yesterday and had the most fantastic day today - hiking through the trails on the island, swimming and snorkeling. Elizabeth was a bit put off from her first experience but we need to find a place with less current for her to find her fins.

Our friends Heather and Murray Rand on Windswept heard us on the radio and we connected and hope to see each other soon. Another boat that we had heard of through mutual friends also contacted us and we hope to see them this week too!!

This is a marvelous place with sparkling secluded beaches, marked paths and fantastic coral reefs with massive pieces of coral.We have so much to talk about with the kids for science class! We hope to bring Reggie up here because we all said how much he would have loved it. Aidan said that this is what he imagined the Bahamas would be like.

Elizabeth-Anne was excited tonight to get an email from the editor of an Eleuthera magazine that wanted to interview her after reading her blog, elizabethssailingblog.blogspot.com. She put together her answer including observations about Eleuthera and sent it back. She's starting to develop a following.

Scott just saw some huge ugly fish in the clear waters under our boat tonight. Spooky.
The interior of Warderick Wells Cay, along the trail

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Exumas, here we come

Tony and Scott brave the waters to explore the blue hole near Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We've stayed a while longer than we expected in Rock Sound but we've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We've spent some time with Beth and Scott on Painkiller and Tess and Tony on Edurance. We're all on kind of the same plan to get to the Exumas.

We've had a great deal of fun with them - a games night aboard Endurance and then yesterday we had a series of activities: We all drove our dinghies to the blue holes just off the beach here and Scott and Tony were the only ones brave enough to jump in the cool water and snorkel to peer at the holes.

Then we went back to the boat, rinsed off our salt water spray and headed to Northside Cafe, on the Atlantic Ocean.

We called Dingle's Motors and they called Rose, who owns the restaurant. She picked us up in her 'gets me to and from' tired Honda and headed up the hill to her home. She has the most fantastic view  of the ocean.

We were upset though at the garbage on the beach that had washed up - plastics, shoes (?), bits of glass and debris, much of it apparently from the passing cruise ships.

Still, it was such a terrific afternoon. We lounged on Rose's enclosed front porch out of the wind and she whipped up a series of Bahamian dishes: grouper in tomatoes and okra, plantain, jerk chicken, coleslaw, warm potato salad, cracked conch and homemade sauces for sides. There were eight of us and we actually couldn't quite finish everything.

We heard about Rose's children - most live in Freeport on Grand Bahama, where she's from, but one, her son, lives in Mississauga - for now 'until he figures out he doesn't need to live in Canada and he needs to be at home' said Rose.

We heaved ourselves out of the restaurant decorated in beachcombing finds and shells and a dried turtle and pufferfish (!) and Rose took us back down the hill, letting us out to buy fresh produce from Mr. Hill. We have had the best fresh tomatoes, peppers, tangelos and today we had giant papaya. You can't believe that people grow food on the thinnest of soils here but apparently it's very rich. There are also mango and guava groves too - we also bought a watermelon filled with pits and flavour.

The kids are getting anxious to see our cruising family friends - we know Sheet Music is on its way to the Exumas too and our friends on board Folie a Deux have had a scare with their son having an attack of appendicitis. After a trip back to the U.S., the family is back aboard together in Georgtown. We very much want to see them, particularly after their ordeal. Plus, we just love to visit other cruising kids, everyone just hangs out and has such a good time.

Aidan's been very busy with a number of projects helping Scott as well as trying to finish up his English and French courses - he is resisting Romeo and Juliet even though we tell him how it will help him with the ladies!

Elizabeth is plowing through her math and English and is enjoying her Poisson (fish) project for French.

We're trying to get through some subjects now to make room for several science field trips and labs their teacher has planned.

We are so fortunate to have such good cruising companions with us and we are all enjoying sharing stories and experiences. Sailing seems to be the perfect way to cultivating great relationships.

We're off now, leaving the friendly folks in Rock Sound for the Land and Sea Park and the cays of the Northern Exumas.

Followers