Sunday, December 26, 2010

We are going home for Christmas. Yeahhh. – But the road is long!!

That will be $25 to check the bag. Do you want to pay cash or use a credit card? The question may as well have been asked in Martian as I stared at the Continental gate agent with a blank look on my face. Today was my first real flight in almost a year, the puddle hopper from Georgetown in the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale not withstanding. The look of “oh brother” on her face brought on a flush of frustration to my cheeks. She was just barely professional enough to not roll her eyes! But just barely.

Luggage should be free, I screamed, in my head. Smiling counter agents should take all the luggage presented without question and priority tag it to the final destination came the echo. And where is the concierge that would direct me to the lounge for a cup of coffee and perhaps a quick snack before boarding our flight???  Instead of verbalizing my thoughts, I meekly inquired if everybody had to pay, and she pointed to a sign behind her that indicated VIP travelers were exempted from the fees. With a furious flurry of keyboard touches, she told me that her records indicated that I was no longer a preferred frequent flyer. A very brief flicker of sympathy crossed her face followed by what I imagined to be a demonic chortle as she sentenced me to the purgatory of the waiting room.  Now I know what it means to be a fallen angel!

Since our last posting in August, Pat and I have been the closest we have been to civilization in a very long time and yet we were way off the grid in many respects. Our week in the Riverside Boatyard of Fort Pierce, to repair the damage to our rudder caused by the unfortunate squall off of Arthur’s Town, turned into a protracted stay in Vero Beach. At first it was because we were resting up from our ordeal in the boat yard, and then it was because we were pet sitting for friends, but for what ever the reason, we fell into a routine of going for morning walks and riding the free public bus to the Publix supermarket to visit the food.

Vero Beach is a very livable community. There is decent shopping, a real mall and a community theater that would rival the facilities in larger towns.  Despite the hard economic times, people still manage to smile and carry out their daily activities with an energy that belies the double digit unemployment rates of the local economy. The one blemish on what is an otherwise perfect community is the plethora of for sale signs lining the streets. And it was because of the abundance of homes for sale that our curiosity got the better of us and we began to study the real estate listings.

There is an element of serendipity in a cruiser’s life that becomes part of the way of life. Every day is a new day and every day brings new challenges and opportunities that keep things fresh. One quickly learns that there is no such thing as falling into a rut if you are a full time cruiser, after all there are no ruts on the water!  If someone had told Pat and me, a few months ago, that we would be buying real estate in Florida, we would have thought them to be verging on madness. Yet as unlikely as it may have seemed we ended up buying a little investment pied a terre in Vero Beach. So who could have predicted that one night in a less than desirable anchorage would result in a 1500 square foot condo?

After we finished the condo transaction, we closed up shop and headed back to the Bahamas via the wilds of Titusville, where we attempted to be first in line for a space shuttle launching. I think the crew of the Shuttle Discovery are really sailors because the launch date was constantly being delayed to handle maintenance issues. After a week of hanging around the word finally came through that the launch would be further delayed by at least a month and likely longer, so we took that as a sign that we were now clear to head for the Bahamas.

The pictures that are attached to the blog will chronicle our voyage across but the accomplishment worthy of mention is that Pat and I made it from Miami to Nassau in one fell swoop. In approximately 28 hours we went covered what would normally have taken us at least 2 days. Even better, I managed to survive a night passage without holding my dinner in the palm of my hands. Yee hah, I’m slowly but surely getting over the sea sickness monster. We arrived in the Bahamas in mid November and the boat is now safely entrusted to the care of Bob at Kevalli House in Georgetown until our return from Toronto via another short stay in Vero Beach to finish our reno.

Toronto is home but....I am hiding behind a column in the Fairview Shopping Center in Toronto as the waves of humanity trying to complete their last minute Christmas shopping course around me like a stream around a rock. Unlike the rock however, I am not immovable, and I am starting to hyperventilate at the thought of stepping out of the lee of the column and being washed back down the main concourse by the flood of faces. There are more people in this structure at this very moment than there are in the entire Exuma chain at anytime. If it weren’t for the joy of being with family and friends, I would gladly trade the loot from 100 Christmas stockings for the peace and quiet of the Bahamas

So it has come to pass that Pat and I are no longer feeling like novices. We are now firmly into our third year of living aboard and remembering life before cutting the dock lines is becoming a little more difficult. Of course memories of our new and old friends and fun times are much easier to pull from the cobwebs of land life, but it feels much more natural to be “on the boat” Even the relative calm of Vero Beach seems to be a little too claustrophobic after the seemingly endless living space of the boat. It is a paradox that we can feel completely at ease aboard Threepenny Opera in less than 200 square feet of living space, and yet feel crowded, even crushed in our 1500 square foot condo or the endless miles of corridors in the Fairview Mall.

The next year will bring all manner of wonders. Some events will be good, others will be challenges, but all will be enriching in their unique way. The known world is that we will return to Vero Beach after the holidays and finish the work on the kitchen and do some painting. Also we have arranged to move the contents of our storage locker from Mississauga to the new condo, so that we will have some basic furnishings in place. Our priority however is to dispense with our land duties ASAP so that we can rejoin Threepenny Opera and continue our exploration of the Bahamas and points as yet unknown. We may find ourselves in the Caribbean, and we may just hang in the Bahamas for awhile. We have the luxury of time and the freedom to use it as we see fit, so there is no urgency to formulate anything other than possible outlines of a plan.

As I type the final words of this post, I am at my sister’s kitchen table in Toronto, surrounded by the people I love and who love me. Boats, Condos and new places are wonderful, but nothing beats the glow of being content with where you are at the moment. I revel in my good fortune and wish that a little bit of it will rub off on all who have taken the time to read this far.

Have a great week! I know I will.


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This post is dedicated to our friend Milan – who tragically left us far too soon. Fair winds and following seas.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Farmers to The Abacos – The cycle starts again but we are older and wiser.

Oh S**T we have got to get out of bed before we get thrown to the deck. My head was banging against the mast as I lay in bed and the glasses in the galley were rattling and threatening to fall off the shelf.  Pat and I were on the hook off of Arthurs Town in Cat Island, but it was as rough a sea condition as we have experienced since we left Toronto nearly 2 years earlier. Reeling like drunken sailors we clung to the handholds as we pulled ourselves the 6 feet into the main salon from our forward cabin.

At about 5:00AM I had been awakened by a change in the motion of the boat. The forward hatch was open so I got up and looked outside to see that the wind had swung 180 degrees from where it was when we went to bed. The waves were short and choppy and the boat was bobbing vigorously, but not uncomfortably so. In the distance I could see a low cloud bank that contained the odd flash of lightning. Since it was still dark and the anchor was well set, there really wasn’t much to do except to close the hatches and go back to bed.

Twenty minutes later the first few drops of rain began to hit the coach roof. Within 5 minutes the squall was upon us and the deluge began. We were dry and relatively comfortable, but sleeping was out of the question as the wind shrieked and the thunder rolled around the boat. About 20 minutes into the storm, the surge began. At first it seemed like a heavy wind blown chop, but the up and down oscillations began to grow in amplitude and frequency and within 5 minutes the waves forced Pat and me to leave our bed and move to salon to avoid being tossed onto the floor. There were jarring crashes of waves against the hull and we were tugging and jerking against our anchor snubber as the boat hobby horsed. Combined with the wind and thunder and the noises from the chain there was a Perfect Storm sort of feel to things. At least we were dry and still felt safe. Less than 10 minutes later the squall passed and the conditions calmed as if a switch had been thrown

By now the sky was starting to lighten and a look outside revealed that the squall was rapidly receding into the distance and the sea although foamy from the surge, was settling down. In all the excitement had lasted for about 45 minutes. We dozed on the settees in the salon for about an hour before making coffee and preparing for our departure to Eleuthera about 30 miles of open sea away. Everything seemed normal until I went forward to pull the anchor and called back to Pat to turn the bow to port. The wheel would not turn! It was frozen into place and no amount of tugging would budge it.

I got my mask and snorkel and went over the side to investigate. I had expected that perhaps the squall had somehow wrapped a piece of line or other debris into the rudder and that cutting it loose was the solution to freeing the rudder. I was perplexed when I went under the boat and found the rudder appearing perfectly normal. Puzzled I went back on board and began emptying the lockers to make my way to the bottom of the steering quadrant, now surmising that the squall had jarred something loose and that it had fallen and fouled the steering cables, rendering them immobile. Again the quadrant appeared normal and nothing was amiss?

Thinking perhaps I might have missed something under the boat, I again donned my mask and snorkel and once I was in the water, I positioned myself to try and kick the rudder free. It was then that I noticed that the trailing edge of the rudder was touching the hull and binding, where previously there was a 1 inch gap. I used my knife and pried away at the trailing edge of the rudder where it met the hull and a small piece of fiberglass broke away.

The rudder would still not move but I went back into the cockpit and tried the wheel again. There was a slight movement, but not enough to steer the boat so a further trip below and a little more scraping removed enough fiberglass to allow about 15 degrees of rudder deflection if one really leaned on the wheel. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to allow some limited maneuvering of the boat. Since the nearest haul out facilities were in Spanish Wells about 120 miles to the north, and we were planning to head in the general direction anyway, we decided to haul anchor and head out into open water. All the while we kept our fingers crossed praying that our damaged rudder would not fall off.

We had been anchored in 10-12 feet of water over a sandy bottom. When the squall came up, the ensuing surge drew the water away from the shore. As the boat pitched up and down in the rising waves, the rudder bounced off the bottom as the water level dropped. The fact that our rudder, which is about a foot above the bottom of the keel, slammed into the bottom, indicates just how violent the pitching was. The sandy bottom absorbed the impact allowing the rudder to remain intact, but the pressure on the rudder post caused it to bend aft, resulting in the binding. The lesson here is that if an anchorage doesn’t look right – leave!

It has been a little over a month since that fateful night. I am sitting in the cockpit of Threepenny Opera as she rocks gently on the ferry wakes of Marsh Harbour. Last year when Pat and I came to the Bahamas for the first time, Marsh Harbour seemed to be a remote outpost where it was possible to buy basic groceries and have a dinner out. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Florida the surroundings seemed pretty austere indeed. Today however Marsh Harbour had grown in our eyes to be definitely the “Big” city of 5000 people. There are cars, traffic lights and even two types of lettuce in the supermarket.

Since our last blog posting our sense of time and space has begun a paradoxical shift in that time for us has both sped up and slowed down dramatically. As I write, it seems like our last posting was only a few days ago, yet a check of the log shows that it has been two months since my last update. The change in time horizons has significantly affected our traveling patterns in that we now tend to arrive in an anchorage and set up shop. In the past, a long stay was 2 days, but today anything less than 3-4 days seems like rushing. Our ten days in Conception seemed to rush by, hence the paradox. There has been a definite shift towards quality from quantity in terms of the experiences we are collecting.

The zen like shift is not something we could have foreseen in the days before we started cruising. We felt that life had slowed down when we were full time liveaboards in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbour, but  we retained some of our land reflexes in that everyday had to have a purpose. Although we were much less fussed about schedules, we maintained the habit of to do lists and time tables however relaxed… was grocery day, tomorrow is laundry day and the day after will be the day we polish the stanchions and so on.

These days we tend to do what the mood strikes and perform needed chores only when the need arises. Surprisingly, our clothes, at least the few that we wear, are clean, there is no shortage of gourmet meals aboard and the boat is still neat and tidy. Maybe we have been doing it wrong all these years, or maybe we have just fallen into the cruiser’s groove? Fortunately for us the cruiser’s groove also helped us rise to challenges in a much more serene manner because I’m relatively sure that previously we would have been much more “freaked out” had we awoken to find our rudder bent and jammed to the point of immobility.

Our evolving time horizon has allowed us to spend over a week on Conception Island which is a totally deserted island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. We explored isolated coves by dinghy, beach combed and horrors just stayed on the boat grabbing a few rays and reading. In the past it would have seemed like a prison, these days it was a real pleasure. We enjoyed Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, spending nearly a week in these places, exploring as the mood struck and hibernating when it did not.

Now we are heading back to the US to replace the rudder as I decided after consultation with Catalina that a repair, while feasible, would always leave me wondering if the fix was going to fail. It has taken the factory about 3 weeks to build us a new rudder, but we are installing the new, improved and much heavier version of the C42 rudder. To make the best use of our time back to the States we will also replace our refrigeration system with a more powerful and efficient one, as the Adler Barbour system installed by the factory system is severely taxed in the high air and water temperatures of the Bahamas. Best of all we get to visit with our friends Richard and Connie.

Georgetown, Long Island, Great Exuma, Conception, New Bight, Rock Sound are just a few of the place names in our log book since our last posting. Each of them have their memorable individual charms, but on the whole, they are blending into our new cruising diaspora. Until now it was always about the destination, but we are now more attuned to the voyage. We are looking forward to adding more place names into the log book, but there is no substitute for just being content with where you are at the moment.

Enjoy the pictures, they are really the chronicle of where we have been, and have a great week, I know I will….wherever I am.


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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Marathon to Little Farmer's Cay Exumas - Escape from the Boot Key Triangle

I am sitting in the cockpit and the air is almost still. Pat is below putting dinner together and I will set the table for a quiet supper al fresco. There is just a whisper of a breeze, but it is sufficient to bring the temperature to a very pleasant 80 degrees. A full moon is rising out of the dim shape of Highbourne Cay and the water in our anchorage is so clear that the bottom is visible 20 feet below. I have heard the cliché about water so clear that it is difficult to tell the difference between the sky and the water, but I never believed it until now.

Tonight is the reward for the last few weeks of the trials and tribulations we had to overcome in order to get away from the US. When we were in Marathon, we often heard about people who came for a month or two and were still there after several years. Sometimes it happens because Marathon is just a really laid back place to hang ones hat, and other times it happens because the boat is in need of repairs and either the lack of funds or the maybe tomorrow attitude conspire to create terminal sloth.

For Pat and me, we arrived in Marathon last October with the intention of spending the winter before heading towards points south. It was a good plan because the winter of 2010, was one of record cold temperatures and generally unpleasant weather conditions. Our hearts go out to the minions who were on fixed schedules, and who had to get their cruising itch scratched within the confines of a single sailing season. I’m sure they eeked out some satisfaction, but not without incurring some serious challenges along the way. As we listened to the frustration building from the sabbatical crowd, Pat and I were smug in the fact that we had the luxury of time, and that we had a plan to wait until everybody left before we headed out.

Cruising as we have found out is one of those activities where patience is usually rewarded and type A do it now type behaviour can create some serious problems. It took us awhile, but Pat and I have both weaned ourselves from wearing wrist watches, preferring instead to glance occasionally at a ship board clock or just relying on our inner clocks to give us an approximation of the time. After all when one is sitting on a mooring ball in Marathon, the only really important time of the day is sundowner time at sundown, and one does not need a watch to figure out when that occurs.

The downside of losing track of time however is that one forgets how long it actually takes to get things done. Since we had a plan to leave after the end of the cruising season, we really didn’t do much to prepare the boat or ourselves for leaving until early April. I had several major boat projects to knock off the list prior to departure, but since none of them would take more 3-4 days at the most, I could afford to wait until April and still have plenty of slack. I was wrong!!

Perhaps in a perfect world where projects unfold as they do on do it yourself TV shows we could have made our schedule, but as we all know perfection is only a goal, it is never a true state of being! Once I got started on my list of refrigeration improvements, solar panel retrofits and electronics rewiring, it became obvious that things were going to take a little longer than previously planned. For example, the refrigeration upgrade, which entailed adding insulation to the inside and outside of the box, turned from a simple glue a piece of foam to the underside of the lid, into a full fledged fiberglass and gel coat construction project. I learned a lot about working with these essential boat building materials, but instead of a couple of days, the project took over a week to complete. The climax of that project, was the injection of closed cell polyurethane into the hull spaces behind the refrigeration box.

Injecting foam looked pretty easy to do in the U-tube instructional video provided by the foam manufacturer, but I quickly found out that watching a professional do it, and doing it myself was a completely different matter. Although I followed the prep stages to the letter, or the picture as in this case, I did not figure that foam spraying nozzles could slip off the end of the injection tubes, causing a geyser of chemically hot, and very sticky green foam to spray all over me and the galley. Thanks to some quick action by Pat, I was saved from becoming a permanently green foam covered bunny rabbit. I wish I could say that all of the stains have been removed but I would be stretching the truth if I did. At least the refrigeration is working more efficiently and I now have a steady supply of cold beer to help me forget.

The plague of  problems continued as I moved into the other phases of our pre-departure projects. When I got to the electronics, it seemed that the pretty pictures in the Raymarine catalogues were stage props. Nothing seemed to work right, until I started over with a new wiring harness. It seems that when you are working with small voltages over very fine wires that the tolerances are very tight. Even small imperfections in wiring can cause electronics to not work, or even worse, work only intermittently. Who knew that Raymarine would design electronics that were only marginally water and humidity resistant?? All it took to overcome the challenge was 150 feet of wire and about 10 days or crawling and cursing!

As we stamped out the gremlins out one by one, our energy levels dropped. It seemed that the end would never arrive, and the smugness that I felt earlier in the year, turned into the same despondency I heard from the sabbatical sailors. Let that be a lesson kids on not gloating at others expense!!. The coup de grace occurred just prior to our setting sail, when Pat and I awoke to find that our dinghy had disappeared during the night. A subsequent search of the shoreline of the harbour by several boats revealed nary a trace. As much as I hated to admit it, it seemed that Threepenny Opera had fallen victim to petty thievery that seems to occur during periods when the harbour is emptying for the season.

Serious Kudo’s need to be given to Drew Robertson and his team at Robertson and Robertson Yacht Insurance in Toronto, because a single telephone call set the wheels in motion. The service received from Robertson was nothing short of legendary. Consider the following time line. Our dinghy was discovered missing on Sunday morning, a claim was filed on Monday AM, by Wednesday PM we had a new dinghy and motor, and by Friday the claim was approved and paid. If it were any other company, we might still be in Marathon trying to get our affairs in order.

For one last kick at the can, the dinghy that arrived so promptly on Wednesday afternoon, turned out to be a lemon. By Saturday, four days after receipt, the transom started to fall off and it appeared that the tubes were in danger of splitting at the seams. Again the vendors came to the party, and agreed to repair the transom to ensure safe operation as they sourced and shipped a new dinghy from their distribution center. While I would have preferred to have avoided the problem all together, I cannot complain about the service we received once the problem was discovered. The new floating chariot has performed wonderfully, so I'm cautiously optimistic about long term satisfaction.

It took an extra 10 days to sort out the dinghy situation from start to finish, which was extremely frustrating, but in the end it gave us time to catch our breath, so that we actually felt ready leave. When we finally put the Boot key channel markers behind us on May 18, 2010 we ready to go both physically and mentally.

We are in the Bahamas! It seemed like it would never happen, but here we are sitting on the hook in Little Farmers Cay. Our tans are evening out, and we have bee supplementing our food supply with fresh fish. In the past 3 weeks we have only spent 3 nights in marinas, and then only because there were no other practical alternatives. The cruising reflexes are starting to rebuild, and while we no longer feel like the neophytes we did when we first left Toronto, we are still firmly in the learning new skills mode.

Good things come to those who wait, and the nights on the anchorages looking at the moon rising out of the water is payment for those with the patience. From here we are heading to Georgetown for a few days in a fancy Four Seasons/Sandals resort to celebrate Pat’s birthday, and then it is back to the wild! I can hardly wait to see the largest breeding flock of Pink Flamingos in the world on Great Inagua Island. Few cruisers make it there because it is so far off the beaten track. It might take us awhile to get there, but Patience is a virtue, and I’ve been taught a very valuable lesson about gloating.

Enjoy the pics and have a great week.

I know I will.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cruising Just Happens. Our youngest Cruiser was just 14 months...our oldest was just...old

It’s boat show season, which means that the weather is freezing cold up north and sunny and warm down south; or at least that is what it usually means. The winter of 2010 will be remembered by many as the coldest in recent memory as the Florida Keys were swamped with masses of arctic air that took our temperatures down into the 40’s for days on end. When Pat and I returned to the Keys after our Christmas visit to Toronto, we had packed shorts and T-shirts into our precious carry on space so that we could do the airport quick change upon arrival in Miami. Sadly we found that not only was Miami cooler than normal, we were quite comfortable wearing the same clothes and outer wear that we wore in Toronto.

The good news however is that cold weather causes our northern friends to start searching the internet for flights to places where the likelihood of shoveling is somewhat reduced. Perhaps it was the aligning of the required planets, or some other phenomenon of nature, but the month of February has seen a veritable horde of folks from home descending on Marathon. We like to think that they all came down to see us, but it was more likely the fact that just looking at a palm tree will make you feel a little warmer.

They came by land, sea and air, they came in all age groups and they came with very different ideas about what constitutes a good time. On a couple of occasions, Pat and I had to split up in order to accommodate everybody who came to visit. The funny thing about the visitors is that virtually every body paid a visit to the local West Marine store. Somehow they found WM, when other essentials like supermarkets and even liquor stores eluded them. I guess WM to a boater is like an elephant is to water.

PCYC cruises are legendary on Lake Ontario, as we tend to arrive in armada strength, with the logistical organization worthy of a UN Peacekeeping mission. For most of us cruising is as natural as the wind in our sails or the ice in our drinks. Therefore it should come as no surprise that if there is more than one PCYC boat within VHF hailing range of another, the old cruising reflex takes over and a cruise just happens. If we throw in a couple of retired VC’s who no longer need to maintain decorum and add a pinch or two of spirits, the cruise goes into hyper-drive.

The PCYC fleet in Marathon this year consisted of Tecumseh, Cakaro, Con el Viento and of course Threepenny Opera. Each boat rose to the occasion to host our friends from home. I think the record was a group of 12+ who gathered on Cakaro for dinner one evening. The funniest thing was meeting Meg and Ron on the dinghy dock the next day as they brought two large green garbage bags stuffed with the remains of the previous evening. As the saying goes, “A good time was had by all”, even if it means they slept until noon….

Here’s a new concoction for the Chart Room that is guaranteed to liven up a gloomy post boat show winter afternoon. Take 2 parts diesel, 1 part jet fuel and a sprinkle of gasoline, shake it well over a few thousand miles, garnish with northern gales 40 and serve with a dash of Blarney and you have the Warm-up Winter Cruising special. Maybe we’ll see you next year!

Have a great week, I know I will


P.S. Let us know you are out there by subscribing to the blog. Click on the “follow this blog” link, just below our profile photo.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The incoming Marathon Class of 2010 - Will you be part of the class of 2011??

Pat and I were in our dinghy heading to shore when we saw him. He was standing on the deck of his shiny new sailboat, his shirt was off and he posed with his hands on his hips as his eyes scanned the broad expanse of Boot Key Harbour. The sun darkened head and the white body of someone who has been outside but bundled up, was the dead giveaway of his newbie status in the South of Florida and of his entry into the Marathon class of 2010. By spring the colour of his belly will match the colour of his face. Every year there is an exodus boats making the trip from colder climes to the warmth of the promised land in the southern states and this year, despite all of the prognostications of economic doom and gloom, is no different.

I remember sitting on my boat at anchor in Pryners Cove, at the junction of the Upper Gap and Adolphus Reach on Lake Ontario, thinking that I could really get used to this boating lifestyle. (The moment is captured in our blog ID photo) It was nearing the end of our annual three week sailing vacation, and in a few days we would be back into the world of business attire, airports and incessant meetings. Perhaps it was the wine, the perfect sunset, or perhaps it was the relaxing effects of three weeks without a hard schedule, e-mail or cell phones, but whatever the cause I broached the idea of sailing off into the sunset to my wife Pat.

It wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed my mind, but dreams have a way of getting paved over by too many years of mortgage payments, raising a family and annual performance reviews. Instead of getting the “are you crazy” look, she responded with several practical questions that needed to be answered. Who will look after the kids? What will we do with the house? Do we have enough money? What if we don’t like it?

The questions were indeed practical and important, and answers were not immediately at hand, but the important thing to me was the fact that she didn’t outright refuse to consider the possibility nor did she ask me if I was “nuts”, although I’m sure the latter question must have crossed her mind. For me it was cathartic just to get the suggestion out into the open, and so our journey to become live aboard full time cruisers began. Perhaps even more importantly the basis for a successful cruising relationship was laid, because with the exception of handling the boat in an emergency when debate can be fatal, unilateral decisions ultimately tend to lead to grief when you are living within the confines of a boat.

It has been several years since that day in Pryner’s Cove, and from that first conversation we watched our youngest daughter graduate from university, we emptied the contents of a four bedroom house into a 42 foot sailboat and an 8x10 foot storage locker. We have put over 4000 miles under our keel, and in the process learned that there is a real difference between making a living and actually living. We have also made more new friends than since we started elementary school. Friends that go beyond an entry in a contact file, but people with whom you share a common bond and with whom working to get to know better is a genuine pleasure.

Over the past year we have enjoyed experiences that will last us for the rest of our lives and yet I cannot help but feel a certain melancholy. The sadness is not for ourselves but for the friends and family who are still toiling away doing the things that they feel they must. In the past 12 short months we have received news of friends and colleagues who are no longer with us and of others who are fighting for their very lives. Our hearts go out to them, and we pray that they, and their loved ones will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As I write this, I’m sitting on an Air Canada flight from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal, and despite the minus 18C temperature that awaits Pat and me when we land, we are excited to be on our way to visit with friends and family over the holiday period. It seems like an eternity ago, but December 20, 2009 marked our entry into the Marathon class of 2009. When we return to the south we will be equally excited to meet and greet the Marathon class of 2010. Not a day goes by when we do not count our blessings for the fact that we have been fortunate enough to make a break from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Hopefully somebody who reads this will become part of the class of 2011.

Have a great week, I know I will.


I was camera challenged over the last few months. My Nikon D300 met with some unfortunate contact with water so I was out of commission for awhile. As a result there aren't as may photos as usual, but it's all good now!

P.S. Let us know you are out there by subscribing to the blog. Click on the “follow this blog” link, just below our profile photo.
Double click on the picture for the captions, run the slideshow to view the pics full screen. if you do not see any pictures below, make sure you have Adobe flash player installed. To install flash copy this link into your browser