Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Wonder of Wind

The roof was lifting--literally.  What a noise.  Pounding, ripping, flapping, raging.
I'd called ahead. 

-Yes, the power is out, there is no hot water or hair dryers, but yes, come ahead if you can pay in cash.

We all know a woman will suffer for vanity, and this was a classic case in point.  After four months in the nether-regions of Exuma, I had to get my hair cut.  Getting there was a challenge.  I had to stop my car and clear the roadway twice.  Certain roads were closed off completely, and in some instances, I had to wait my turn in line, driving towards oncoming traffic to avoid fallen trees, branches and piles of rubble.  My arrival was marked by whole sheets of shingles flying off the roof of the salon. 

Winds reached over 100 kilometers an hour in our neighbourhood, ripping up century trees by their roots, snapping others in half, throwing them through fences, windows, roofs and walls, tearing down power lines, exploding transformers and generally wrecking violent havoc in every direction.  Schools dismissed early, shops and malls closed their doors.  Traffic lights were no longer cuing drivers when it was safe to proceed at intersections.  The power was out for 12 hours to four days, depending on location and prioities.
52,000 homes are still without power tonight.

The question on many minds was--
How will we cook dinner?

The bigger question was--
Will we have power to watch The Royal Wedding?

While Southern Ontario was  merely buffetted by high winds, Alabama was devestated by winds of tornado propotions.  What amounted to inconvenience here, was nothing compared with the loss of so many lives, homes, buisnesses and livelihoods in the cities where the monsters touched down.  My heart goes out to the families dealing with such painful loss.

  Please forgive today's photos taken with my cell phone.  The quality is not up to my usual standards, but they will at least give you an idea of what the streets around my house looked like this week. 

What you can not hear, is the antiphanal roar of chainsaws, singing in chorus from one back yard to another as people began the process of rescuing their gardens, their cars or their roofs from burdening tree trunks.

Some ingenious people tried to prevent trouble by strapping their trees to something they hoped would hold them from toppling.

Did your neighbourhood feel the effects of violent weather this week?  Is your house and home secure, or are you picking up the pieces today?  Maybe you are still shovelling out from more spring snow, or are you mowing the grass yet?  However life finds you, I wish you well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Waking up to Alzheimer's

Rain drummed a steady rhythm on the skylights, accompanied by riffs of distant thunder. Her face-plant opened one eye.  Unfocused gaze drifted to the window. The rest of her body was still asleep, breathing slow and even, limbs rooted to the mattress. In a sudden volcanic eruption, the duvet heaved as she flipped onto her back. She yawned. She stretched. A scratchy groan escaped her dry throat--
I’m awake. I'm home!

From the sublime to the ridiculous….

It is apparent I am either well on the road to late stage Alzheimer’s, or there is just too much going on in my crowded brain to retain anything more. After four months away, I no longer remember the multitudinous pin numbers for the various cards in my wallet. Phone calls were no help. One had to turn up in the flesh to different bank branches and jump thru hoops to affect change. I’m getting sly in my old age—to lessen the strain on my brain, I have decided to make all the numbers identical!
So many numbers: phone numbers, house numbers, birthdates, bank balance. How many digits, in how many variations is it possible to retain and for how long? It’s bad enough I am forced to carry a wad of plastic in my wallet, but to have to go thru mental gymnastics to use them is beyond the pale.

How about you? What coping mechanisms have you devised to remember your pin numbers?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day's Done

Welcome to the interactive blog of the day.  As you read, you have to sing the words to Taps and imagine a bugle playing soulfully in the background.   Ready?  Here we go.....

Day's done....

Gone the sun...


From the hills,

From the lakes,

From the skies.

All is well,

Safely rest.

God is nigh.

End of song.  A new beginning has begun...
The sun has set on my winter in the Bahamas.  Steadfast has gone to rest in Stuart, Florida for the next two seasons, and I have gone home to Canada.  A 30 degree temperature adjustment has been in order, but the sun has made its appearance, the daffodils are up, and Sonny boy  has mowed the back lawn.  Life is good.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the life of a landlocked sailor for the next two seasons.

What's up in your world?  Do you have plans for the spring and summer seasons?  Lots going on landside for me:  visit to Western Canada (travel-log posts upcoming), a summer wedding (mother-of-the-bride posts to look forward to), a family reunion (August-in-Maine posts in the offing) and general life on-the-hard musings and photos (now that Blogger has miraculously allowed me to resume posting them)!!!   I hope you will continue to be loyal followers and encourage me in my writing endeavours.  For my part, I will try my hardest to offer entertaining and informative blogs of note.  If you have trouble with that, it's "only" another 8 months until Steadfast resumes her sea voyages, adventures, palm trees, sunsets and seascapes.

He is Risen.
Happy Easter. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Once in A Hundred Years

When I first saw the thing, I was sure it was an aid to navigation, worn out and left to rot. Everywhere one looks in the islands, one can find things lying where they fell at the time of their demise, sometimes twenty or thirty years passed. One case in point would be the airplane downed by gunfire in 1979, now a “natural” reef right in the middle of the channel at Norman’s Cay. At every turn, one finds broken ribs and spines of ships, abandoned, windowless cars, dismembered planes, roofless houses no longer habitable.

The strange pole with a pattern of vanes at odd angles towered over the jungle growth on Compass Cay. I hadn’t remembered ever seeing it before, and when asked by guests as we motored past, I opined it to be man-made and forgotten. It wasn’t until the middle of March that Deno told me what it was…not a man-made thing at all, but a living, growing and flowering plant.

Because they flower so infrequently, people named it the Century Plant. If fact, these plants flower about every 28 years and the plants themselves live less than 50 years. They are succulents, related to the yucca. They have several names: Avage Americana, American Aloe, or Century Plant. Potted in tubs for decorative use in gardens, they grow wild in hot, dry regions of Mexico, the Caribbean and South Western United States. How long it takes them to flower depends on the health and strength of the plant, the condition of the soil and the climate where it lives.

Humming birds and the larvae of moths and butterflies love these plants, but indigenous peoples find many uses for this plant as well. It is used to make certain medicines, sisal hemp for weaving, and for food in various forms. You may be interested to learn that Tequila is distilled from the sap of the flowers. Didgeridoos are made from the dried out flower stalks.

Photo Google Image
Have you ever spotted one of these? 
 Have you ever mis-identified something growing for something man-made?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rain or Shine

The latest weather report? Check the automatic daily emails or go on-line for weekly forecasts. At the dock, it’s easy. Reading the wind is as simple as looking at the flags. Are they straining to be free from the staff, or are they a lifeless rag in the doldrums? The sky shines pure crystal or blankets everything in wooly grey. Look at the sea: gentle swells, white caps or charging elephants? Are the waves coming from the east or the south? That’s good. From the west--things are “clocking”. From the north, watch out! A front’s coming—rain, gusty, strong winds, and cooler temperatures are on the way.

One thing is sure: each morning arrives raw and fresh, independent of 9 to 5 Gridlock. Reading the weather is an old-time skill that city life has buried over time. Living on a boat prescribes relearning and honing this skill set as a life-saving measure. “What’s coming and where will we be when it hits?” are captains’ concerns and responsibility. No one wants to be caught off-guard in open water where there is no place to seek shelter.

At the dock, it’s really easy: sing a little rhyme and drink a little wine. Tomorrow is another day in Paradise.

Red sky in the morning—Sailors take warning. Red sky at night—Sailors’ delight.

What's your favourite weather forecasting trick?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Twos and Threes

The first Laughing Gull made his presence known. A softer version of his voice made something between a wheeze and a whine, again and again. He hovered in flight and then gently alit on top of the finger pier piling. With his black head cocked back, raising his beak skyward, he called repeatedly until his mate obeyed and fluttered down to perch beside him. They stood so closely together, the new arrival’s left wing draped over the back of her mate as if she were giving him an early morning caress. Their black feet and backwards-bending knees folded under them. They nestled down together, cooing, touching their beaks together intimately.

Movement off the stern caught my eye. A pair of Spotted Eagle Rays was circling the marina basin. Modest flashes of grey-white underbodies were exposed as wings rippled to maintain forward motion. As frigate birds coast the high altitude air currents, the rays drifted in silent, lazy circles under the sea. I got into my dinghy and drifted over them with my “lookie bucket”. That wasn’t enough. I donned snorkel and fins and got right into the water. I had a great view of the beaked faces, the fanned caudal fins and their amazingly long, thin, black tails. Their tails were 8 to 10 feet long! It was the distinctive patterning on their backs that accurately identified them: grey circles within circles over a black background.

Low murmuring voices across the marina were suddenly lost in the roar of a low-flying plane—a very low, strafing run by a WWII vintage plane. What a show!

Wow! A bright yellow, single prop, overhead-canopied, 2-man plane banked sharply over my head.

Wow again! Wow! A shiny red one, just like the first.

Oh my goodness!! A third, brown, black and orange. It roared past in low-level fly-by. Okay, now I was really awake.

Liz’s account of her front row seat for dawn’s serene performance (written for The Stories You’ll Tell) had encouraged me to rise and experience the early morning for myself. One never knows what is just waiting to be discovered if one is open, awake and aware enough to see
ps.  As Blogger is still refusing to allow me to paste photos from my computer, I am painting pictures with words.  I hope you can see them as vividly I do.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

As The Anchor Drags -or - Payton Place Bahamian Style

I slept thru the fireworks—missed the whole thing.  Of course, the drama has been building for weeks and this was just the latest installment in the soap opera.  The cruising community is a small one, and as it turns out, an incestuous one at that.  There is no reason to be surprised.  The story is as old as time.
Have you ever wondered where TV gets the plots for daytime soaps?  Who could think up that silly drivle?  Who would believe it in the first place?  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, mopped the tear-stained faces, consoled the bruised and battered, I wouldn't have believed it myself.  But there you are--life happens. 

Wasn't this Paradise?  Wasn't this the place to escape the crap we left behind in the real world?  It seems life is the same everywhere.  History repeats and repeats and keeps repeating.  The human propensity for sin goes unchecked, people get hurt, the wicked prosper.  If I didn't believe in a final judgment where all things will be made right, I would totally dispair. 

There is one week left until I go home to Canada.  Til then, I am focused on the sun, the sea, the warmth, and my freedom to enjoy them.  The fireworks of tragedy, the splashy colours of hurt and loud noises of pain, will never be far off.  I will observe, study cause and effect and write stories with happy endings to make it seem more palitable.  Restoration is my constant hope and prayer for those who have been hurt here this winter.  May their hearts not harden, but recover peace, hope and joy once more. 


ps.  Blogger is not letting me access my computer photos.  What's going on?  Anyone have any suggestions????

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hester's Other Side

After ten years of visiting Compass Cay, I decided it was time I hike the trail to Rachel's Bubble Bath at the north end of the island.  Rachel's is well-worth the visit, but I have always gotten there via dinghy on the Bank.  Buz has already left the Bahamas for home, taking Nelson with him, and on my own, I have been looking for entertainment.  I stuffed my back pack with a water bottle, a note book, my camera and a VHF radio and I was off.  Slathered with sunscreen, shaded with hat and cover-up, fitted with solid sandles, I was good to go.

The sand path took me to the center of the island and I headed north.  As I approached Hester's House, the path took a little jog and I found myself on a beach on the other side of Hester's.  I never knew it was even there.  It had been as if nothing existed beyond the ruins at the end of Compass' crescent beach.  For ten years, I had never ventured further. 
Hester lived here a very long time ago, and her house is now a tumble-down ruin.

Now the hike began in earnest.

From this point on, the sign advises it could be another 4 hours before I see the marina again.  I didn't read that part and forged ahead. Tucker told me to follow the red bouys marking the trail.

Following the path through sand, over coral and rock, twisting, climbing, I came to the mangrove creek.

Because the islands are so low-lying, it doesn't take much elevation at all to get good views.  In this photo, we can see the Creek, which is in the middle of the island, on one side and the Sound (the open Ocean) to the right side.

Close to shore, there are coral outcroppings, dangerous reefs and lovely views.

It was obvious I wasn't the first one there that morning.

I keep getting these tantilizing finds, but I want one with nobody home!  This is called a Helment Crab.

As the hour hand moved slowly across the face of the clock, I began to weary.  My water supply was insufficient for the exertion and heat of the day.  My feet began to shuffle and catch on weeds and roots and I struggled to keep my balance as I lurched ahead.  In some parts of the trail, red bouys were not so obvious and I looked for the cairns previous hikers had erected to mark the way.  On the way back, when I was even more fatigued, my own distinctive "Sketchers" footprints were a good guide.

Suddenly, blogger isn't letting me access my photos.  I can't show you the views from the north end of the island.  By the time I made it back to the marina, I was barely putting one foot infront of the other.  It was 95 degrees in the shade.  Why hadn't I choosen a cooler day to do a 4 hour hike?  Why had I stopped to comb the beach and take photos.  What had I been thinking?
Oh right.  I hadn't been thinking at all.  One gets silly in the tropic heat.
Next time....

Friday, April 1, 2011


That wicked mule kicked me hard in the stomach again and again as the hours slowly turned towards dawn. It’s been 8 months of blissful freedom from the tyranny of Menieres Disease, but no matter where or when, that mule eventually finds me, no matter how carefully hidden I make myself.

The torture was relentless as hour after hour crept by. I heaved my guts inside out, while the bed spun out from under my sweating/shivering body. Tears slid down my cheeks. Puddles of bitter bile pooled in the hollow of my throat. Watery mucus dripped onto my pillow. The damp sheets tangled around my legs.

-Hold on. Keep your eyes closed, don’t move. This too will pass, I told myself.

I smile as I recall my Mother’s words of days gone by:

-I wished I would die, but was afraid I might!

For the past three months, word has spread that there is a Registered Nurse at Compass Cay. I have never used my skills as much on holiday as I have this winter. Falls, infections of bowel, skin and ears, scrapes, cuts, deep open wounds, gashes needing stitches,concussion, broken bones, and most recently high blood pressure with chest pains and irregular  heart beat. Boaters helping boaters, is the motto around here. We pull together and share the load, as per our gifts.

This week it was my turn to need a nurse. At six-thirty in the morning, Jenni came to my rescue. She dumped the vomit bucket, dosed me with new meds, ginger ale and electrolyte powder, held my hand, and checked with me every half hour until she decided I was definitely going to survive. What a sweet, loving friend, with a gentle bedside manner to boot.

When was the last time you had to depend on a friend? Don’t you wish we were always as supportive and kind to one another as we are when there is crisis to face and work through? Still, it is in the painful times that we learn who we can trust and rely upon. I am blessed to have good friends.