Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm Back

"Let the bells ring and the banners fly; it's too good to be true, but I'm here.  I'm here! 
a la Daffy Duck and my brother, Bruce.

Ah yes!  Back in Nassau:  the city of sunshine, palm trees, unrelenting traffic, sirens, dust, ferral dogs and NO SNOW.  We took off from Toronto airport in a raging blizzard and arrived to a Bahamian cold front with 30 knots of wind.  Mother Nature has my best interests at heart, I'm sure.  She is protecting my fragile psyche from extreme change, one climate and one life style for another, gradually re-introducing me to the world of being "expat".

Leaving behind the country of one's birth, just at its moment of glory, is almost unpatriotic--almost, but not quite.  O, Canada!  Four Olympic medals in one day, the very best men's hockey game in recent history, baby boys being born faster and in greater numbers than bunny rabbits and the hoopla associated with the anticipation of an early spring.  Have you been hearing those cardinals singing their little hearts out lately? 

Buz told the customs official that he would be visiting the Bahamas for a month.  I made it official that Nelson and I plan to stay through April.  You will spot me wearing my Canadian Woman's Olympic Hockey hat, running my dog on the beaches.  Visitors welcome.

Last Friday, I was too busy being captivated by my sweethearts in the Rockies to participate in Follow Me Friday.  Well, I'm back to the boat and back to the blogging world.  What an amazing place to visit.  I am meeting new friends from as far away as Germany and Malaysia and getting insights into life from different points of view.  Come join in the fun.  Follow me and I will follow you back.

MckLinky Blog Hop

MckLinky Blog Hop

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

O Canada!

While I put my garden to bed in late fall, I recite the little rhyme: 
No flowers, no leaves, no birds, NOVEMBER.

After Christmas I start grimly singing my dubious favorite winter jingle.  The lyrics by Gilles Vigneault in 1964 say it all: 
"Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver"
(My country isn't a country, it's winter.) 

photo courtesy of Gerry Walker

As you well know from the theme of this blogspot, I prefer to escape winter and hang out where it's warm and sunny for those early months of the year.  Life's expectations called me back from denial and I have spent the past three weeks facing the realities of being Canadian.  What perfect timing! 

The newest grandson smiled and laughed for me.

The almost 4 years old granddaughter took us skiing. (Wasn't it just yesterday we were teaching her Daddy to ski?)

Canada's sweethearts won gold in Ice Dancing for the very first time.  A long over-due affirmation for the talent and hard work of previous deserving athletes.

I really wanted the red jersey, but at $149.00, I gave it a pass.

At another time, in a land far away, I would have missed these joys.  Thank you, Canada, my home and native land, for these special gifts

Monday, February 15, 2010

Here and There

A Valentines Day wedding, a chance to see the grandkids and a buisness appointment, all conspired to drag us back to the land of ice and snow from paradise. 

Boy do I miss those daily wet sand pumice pedicures.  Never mind shoes and socks, I have had to resort to ski socks and boots to keep warm and dry.  Shorts, sandals, sun hats and sunscreen have given way to full-on Arctic Apparell as the leaden skies glower, threatening snow and more snow. 

Runs on the beach have taken a different spin, but Nelson is just so happy to run free that he never complains (unlike some of us who get tiresome with the constant moans and groans.) 

Hardy Canadian outdoors enthusiasts keep on keeping on, no matter what the weather.  Snowbirds, such as this author, admire their stamina, but still.... 

The sailboats that danced on the waves all last June, July and August, sit shrouded in plastic wrap, waiting until the sun moves further north, the days get longer and warmer and the ice jams clear from the harbour.  I only have to wait until Febuary 25th before I will see the soft white-sand beaches of the Exumas again. 

There are two more key events before we pack up to leave once more:  Olympic Gold Medals for  Canada and a four day visit with the grandkids out west.  Yeehah!!

Totally Virgin

As a little tyke, my hair bobbed in white-blond curls. Mummy cut my bangs so short, they were almost not even there. By the time I was a teenager and could fight off my mother-brandishing-scissors, my locks were ash-blond with natural highlights in summer. In nursing school, I began secretely enhancing the blond with lemon juice and a heat lamp and when that didn't really work, the drugstore stuff. Those first grey hairs, at age 19!!!, were plucked out indignantly. By the time I was having children, I was full on into Lady Clairol. The summer my hair turned carrotty orange, it was time to consult the professionals and the rest, as they say,is history.

This fall I decided to bite the bullet and committ/go cold turkey/go au naturale, even cutting my hair all by myself. Again, it became obvious, I needed professional help (psychiatry anyone?)  Adrianna the hair stylist said, when she gave me this pixie cut, that I am now "totally virgin" artificial hair colour left.  Buz actually lets me out in public now, so I guess it's not all bad.

Who knew? Underneath all those years and years of hair dye, there was a quavery-voiced version of Ann Murray all along.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Follow

Week Two of a new game.  How fun is it to meet new friends in the blogging world, increasing your own readership at the same time--just lovin it.  Last week I read poetry, window-shopped for jewellery, read happy, funny and sad stories.  Lots going on.  If you want to join the fun, just grab the button and go.  If I could do it, believe me, anybody can.

While you're at it, check out my blog and tell me what you think--leave comments, questions, remarks.  I will respond.  Hope you have a Happy Family Holiday (aka:  Valentines Day).  We're going to a wedding on the 14th.  Somebody is soooooooo romantic.  :)

Here are a couple of photos of us 3 Valentine's Days ago, learning to sail in the BVI.  We went with Moorings Charters on a 43 foot Beniteau and took a captian for 9 days.  We challenged 3 levels of American Sailing School and passed, leaving us to sail solo for the remainder of our 2 week charter.  The BVI is a super easy place to do this, as everything is line-of-sight, there is a dependable and significant wind, and it's really pretty.

Sailing is much more work while underway than motoring is.  There is always something to do, no lounging with a book or doing crosswords on this trip.  We studied every night, worked in our homework books every morning and did drills all day long.  Captain Steve Surprise was our instructor.  He weighed 375 pounds and was literally on his last legs.  He succumbed to morbid obesity at age 45, just 6 months after we met him.  He was an outstanding instructor and we truly missed him when we returned for a second time 2 years later. 

On our second excursion to the BVI, we chartered a 45 foot Lagoon Catamaran.  Another family joined us for their March Break after Buz and I brushed up on our sail skills with a different captain for 3 days.  This gentleman was a wealth of local knowledge and charm, illiterate and a heavy drinker.  Beers for breakfast?!!  We learned the difference between sailboats and catamarans:  they have a different point of sail, they have different amounts of living room and they have different drafts.  This translates into being able to do different things with each boat.  We liked the intimacy and sailing experience of the sail boat.  We enjoyed the room and flexibility with the cat.  Overall, we would choose a sailboat over a cat if we were to purchase one, but that is neither here nor there, as we already own a 47 foot motor vessel and are very happy with that, thank you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Knot A Problem

They say a well-tied knot could save your life, or in my case, be the bane of your existence.  My first introduction to knots was in Brownies, where we learned the Reef Knot:  right over left and under, left over right and under.  Hurray, I could tie my own Brownie tie.  Then came Girl Guides and the world of earning badges for life skills.  For the campers and hikers badge (is there really a badge called "Campers and Hikers"?) I had to master the Sheep Shank, the Clove Hitch and the Bowline.  To this day, I have no clue about the shanky one and the clove hitch gets me positively dyslexic, dizzy and disorientated.  The Bowline is another story altogether.

Now any sailor worth her salt is a master of a complete repetoire of knots.  I am a "boating person" who has trouble with knots.  The Reef has been my life-long friend: that's one for my list.  Fishing taught me the Surgeon's Knot, which is basically a Reef with a couple of extra over and unders:  number two.  Something I have no name for, but which ensures I will never loose my end-tackle from failed line connections makes number three.  So far, so good.  My fenders never fall off, so whatever I am doing there seems to be working and my vessel has never come unloosed from the dock either.  All good on that score.  I must confess:  Yes, Judy, I did hear you when you quipped, "If you can't tie a knot, tie alot."

In my own defense, I have had remarkable success in the decorative knot department.  Case in point, two lovely and often admired floor matts for our decks and long-needle tatting which is just a two-sided hitch and nothing else, over and over again.  Beauty.  

The Monkey Ball will be next.

Back to the Bowline.  All I truly learned in Girl Guides about this naughty knot was the mantra:  The rabbit goes out of his hole, around the tree, and back into his hole.  In the past 8 years, since we bought our boat, I have laboured long and hard at getting the hang of this one.  Occassionally there would be some measure of success in that I could get it one day but not the next.  Finally, this summer, eureka!  I finally figured out which side of the tree that rabbit starts on his "go around" and I realized it matters where, exactly, he goes down the hole.  Now my dingy is never in jeopordy of coming loose when I leave it sweetly tied by bowline loop to the dock.  My dog is secure when I forget his leash and use a painter instead, attached to his collar with, of course, a bowline.  YES!  Proudly I say, "That's a bowline," when I recognize my now favorite knot, tied by someone else. 

Last week, I died again.  An Old Navy Salt completely deflated my ego when he informed me I was no sailor until I could tie a  Bowline.  Behind.  My.  Back. 

Oh, give me a break.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Follow

Well, this is all new to me, but I LOVE the blogger world.  Getting people to read and critique my writing is important to here goes.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Captain At Work

"If it's not one thing, it's another."  A famous quote from Guilda Radnor, but these words are heard on cruising boats all over the world.  One sailing friend recounted a torn head sail repair, followed  by an autopilot breakdown, followed by we-were-afraid-to-ask issue.  She put it this way:  "Crusing is all about fixing things in beautiful places."  How true.

Captain aboard Steadfast is a Jack of All Trades when it comes to keeping his vessel in tip top condition.  He has proudly boasted saving thousands of dollars in Water Maker repairs by doing it all himself.  He only looks mildly sheepish when confronted with the million dollar long distance phone bill to the techie in California who talked him thru the process.

From electrical wiring, head pumps, water maker, generator, radios, refrigeration unit, ice maker, air conditioning, propane oven and BBQ, teak rails and gel coat repairs, to keeping his crew in line, this captain is always busy with some major boat system.  After all, we wouldn't want our boat to look like some in this harbour, half submerged, listing and peeling.

Did I mention navigation and weather watch?  There is no point in delegating these last two tasks, as the First Mate will tell you, because Captain always has to go over everything himself to make sure, to put his mind at ease, to be in control. 

Servicing the windlass (pulls up the anchor).

Pulling Wire in the forward head pannel.

Dog in his kennel, man in  his den aka: engine room.

What is the equivalent for "housemaid's knees" in boating parlance?

Welcome to the inner sanctum.

Way back in there.

Carefully, stay inside the lines.

Chemical formulations...honey teak.

Final coat. 
Bristol Condition.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Development in the Exumas

Readers beware: contents may contain upsetting photographs.  Read on.

Now that you have seen lots of pretty pictures of the beautiful Bahamas, you won't be too, too upset to see some not so pretty ones.  I have waited a while to post these, as they may upset those who hate change and want the islands to remain untouched. 

Compass Cay is one of our favorite island stop-overs in the Exuma chain.  Tucker Rolle is the state-appointed island  manager and so he gets number one say in how things are run and developed here--number one that is after the government.  Tucker recently purchased a new mega-gallon fuel tank and a very large John Deere generator to aid in running his enterprise.  He has several building projects underway, but he has had to put them on hold to fullfill government demands for containment basins for both the generator and the fuel tank. Protection of the environment is a grave concern in the Bahamas, as tourists won't visit polluted, dead ocean reefs anymore than they will stay at home--they will just go and spend their money elsewhere. 

The heavy equipment shown here was used to move the tank from the beach landing area and  place it strategically in its best operating location. Also moved sand from one end of the island to construction sites. Too bad the tractor treads took out major swaths of folliage along the pathways, but that jungle growth is never held back for long.  By next season, you won't even notice a tractor had plowed thru here. 

Over Yonder was sold by June and her husband two years ago.  They are now living on their boat on the back side of Staniel Cay while their new, bigger and better home is being built close to the airport.  We were not able to find out who bought Over Yonder, or what his plans are for the island, but Boy, O Boy! ! Look at what he has done so far:  8 wind generator windmills, roads, bays, dust, noise and confusion.  Whatever it is going to be, it is going to be BIG.

A private development is going on Joe Cay (on the Sound side of Pipe Creek.)  Dreddging and road building are happening now, a house will go in later.

Wax Cay (off Norman's Cay) has been developed beautifully with a lovely collection of houses, balconies, walk-ways, and a protected, small-craft marina hewn out of the coral rock.  Copper sculptures of Herons, Komodo Dragons and Fish adorn porches.  Each cottage has its own beach with gazebo and stone jetty.  Problem is, it is not yet completed or operational.  A little bird told me one can call Mr. Smith to ask for tie-up permission inside the marina.  (If you really want to know, contact me for the phone numbers.)

Norman's Cay has a new, up-dated bar and grill at MacDuff's.  The government has asked for $150 million performance bond before they will allow any new development to take place.  End of story there.

Royal Island in Eleuthra area was purchased for $160 million last year.  Developers came in and immediatedly cleared the east end of the island for an 18 hole golf course.  They put up a club house and four cottages.  When the government wanted a cachement constructed to drain the fertilizers from the golf course to protect the amazing Egg Reef just to the north, the money dried up.  That isn't the end of the story either.  Here is the gossip:  buisnessmen in Spanish Wells had made their own investments based on the contracts they had received with these developers.  One buisness purchased the where-with-all to provide local cement.  The materials and equipment sit, still wrapped in plastic, on their loading docks, unusable, a very expensive write-off.  Many local individuals and companies were left holding the bag, when the developers just up and vanished in the night.

Today alone, Nassau's daily newspaper, The Tribune, has three pages notifying of buisnesses going into receivership and/or closing completely .  The latest recession is not abating in this part of the world and things seem to be going from bad to worse as the economy gets tighter and tighter.  Nassau's usual number of home break-ins this time last year was 20 a week.  Now it is running at 60.  Crime is definitely on the rise, as young people can find no work and are left with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

From our first-hand experience at the Department of Agriculture yesterday, we can tell of government inefficiency.  We could hardly beleive our eyes. 5 people in one office:  a receptionist who answers the phone (most usually taking  personal calls), a person to type up simple one-page forms, a different person to stamp the forms once typed, a veterinarian (dressed in scrubs no less) who initials said forms, and one on-looker with nothing to do.  This in one small room of a three story building.  hummmmmmm.

On the other end of the stick, building lots are going for a mere 5.5 million dollars in Lyford Cay, on the extreme east end of New Providence, and Atlantis on Paradise Island, although having laid off many staff, is still going strong.  Recommendations from casual observers would be, "Start Small, Expand Later".  Why not put in 20 - 40 slip marinas instead of 150 - 200 slips?  It's just plain embarrassing to see these huge developments make the big splashy beginnings and then fail so utterly.  The individual developers as well as the Bahamian Government should not be so greedy.

Enough bad news for one day.  The weather is hot and sunny, there is no snow to shovel and no frost bite to speak of.  Making new friends on the docks, many from Canada, snow birds like us.

Comments anybody?  Anybody?

Monday, February 1, 2010


You know you're a live-aboard cruiser when: 

  • the chores list is longer than the number of hours left in the day to complete it.

  • laundry has been sorted into the following categories:  -worn once -the spots are small, no one will notice -starting to smell, wear only on board  -fellow crew members are complaining, it's officially dirty and relegated to the sack.

  • Kraft Dinner looks appetizing and frozen fish is your standby dinner fare.  It thaws out quickly and is mindlessly easy to prepare.

  • any and every excuse to get out to play is pounced upon.  Hours in snorkle gear searching for someone else's lost propeller is considered play.

  • The Captain recommends to fellow cruisers the use of Rum as sugar substitute on cheerios  and they take him seriously.

  • "Go fly a kite" is taken as a viable option.


MacDuff's: aka: Norman's Cay Club

After several days of boating food, a night out to a real restaurant sounded like a very good idea.  First we had to make sure the anchors were set properly to leave the boat unattended in the 5 knot current whipping thru the anchorage.  Yes, I said "anchors".  This is the Bahamian Achoring system where you place one anchor for one wind direction, and a second for a proposed change of direction, thus ensuring your boat does not swing on the change and end up on the reefs nearby.  During this week's full moon, we are experiencing the lowest tides of the year.  Captain is truly on his toes these days, and especially these nights when he really wants to close his eyes and sleep without worrying.

It's a 10 minute walk, down a crumbling paved road, across a working air strip and into the grounds at MacDuffs.  An oasis in a barren land, this is the NEW Norman's Cay Club.  Steffan tends the bar and doubles as waiter.  The chef is newly arrived from Peru, and manages to put out the same-old, same-old conch fritters, fish burgers and fries as we find everywhere thruout the islands.  He does give a really mean ceviche though.  If you're like me, you'll want to ask him to hold back on the hot sauce, or suffer the consequences. 

Indoor seating is nicely appointed with many island flora and fauna decorations.  If you happen to hang around for a while, there are games, books, and various diversions to keep your attention.  Who is studying Spanish this hard????? 

Outdoors, the easy chairs, couches and sofas are comfy and relaxed.  Vintage pieces give a feel of whimsy and nostaglia.  While you're there, check out the bathroom:  rattan walls and roof, tiled floor, the most lovely provincial commode, all give the impression that one is back in time and space to a Victorian retreat in paradise. 

Three resident dogs welcome visitors of the four-legged variety, making for an easy-going time of it.  When the supply boat comes in, so does the band.  Hacks at best, and drunk to boot, they are all the entertainment needed for a hearty sing along.  This piano was brought here last month on the deck of an open boat, all the way from Miami.  It sits outside under a loose tarp.  Any bets how long this not-so-finely-tuned instrument will hold its pitch????

There are several cottages for rent in this club and "the pretty people" hang out in the bar along with the cruising riff-raff in smelly tee shirts.  It's a good opportunity to hob-nob with the rich and famous and make new friends. 

As the sun goes down, the mood mellows and Captains begin to wonder how things are going back in the anchorage with the tide change.  Let's wend our way home, flashlight in one hand, dog leash in the other.  One last pee for pouch on land and it's back to the gently rocking boat--our craddle for the night.