January 2014 ~ St Martin/St Maarten
Day 1205 ~ A New YearJanuary 1st, 2014
Happy New year. Hard to believe as 2013 went by so fast. While living on a boat has taught me to live a slower, a lot slower, time itself continues to accelerate away from us. It doesn't seem that long ago we were leaving St. Maarten for a new season to the south.
The kids did the beach thing with Spirit of Argo, the dogs and the dominos. Everyone came back sandy, smiling and hungry, of course.
Day 1206 ~ Jolly Harbor DayJanuary 2nd, 2014
Elin and April came over in the morning to discuss plans. We need to make it to St. Maarten at the next available weather opening period; I fly out fairly soon, and can't risk getting delayed. Elin and Spirit of Argo are on a more relaxed time line.
We went ahead and checked out of Antigua today since we are unclear on Customs' weekend opening times in Jolly Harbor. We upped anchor and had a lovely downwind sail along the southern coast of the island and then a picture perfect, fast, flat calm reach up the western side before dropping the hook in 2 meters over sand about 3pm. Just in time for the kids to head over and start exploring the massive shell beach at the head of the anchorage.
Lisa and I puttered around Jolly Harbor getting the feel of things. Stopped by the Epicurean market, which is surprisingly First World. There are obviously a lot of American influence here.
Day 1207 ~ Turned BackJanuary 3rd, 2014
We had strategized with What If and Pollux about departure times and routing. It always fun to sail in company.
What If, being smaller and slower, had decided to leave at 3:30am. The moon is nearly full and by the ghostly light of a pre-dawn frost I heard the clinking and clanking of Chris and Dean recovering their Manson Supreme anchor.
I drifted off for an hour and a half and then heard Pollux doing the same. Another hour, and at 6:30, we were right behind them.
However, there was really just one problem. Zero wind. After weeks of howling blasts, the bottom just fell out of it today. Not wanting to be left behind, we motored out for nearly and hour and a half and still the sails were just flapping, the boom banging in the side-on northerly swell. Yuck!
We eventually gave up. Using out Grenada Digicel SIM card, we download a fresh GRIB file which now shows lessening wind all day, and continuing to 12 knots as we moved farther west. Since the prediction was for 15 knots and the actual at 7-8, that didn't look good. Motoring 72 miles just isn't what we do, but I have little doubt that Pollux and What If will just grind it out all day.
DayDreaming Spot (turnaround point)
GPS location Date/Time:01/03/2014 03:03:05 AKST
Fortunately, there's a nice cozy spot called Deep Bay which we have been meaning to check out and were bummed about missing. Guess we won't miss out after all. We meandered into the bay about 8:30 in the morning finding only a single other cruiser boat on the hook. Nice white sand bottom, perfect crescent beach, abandoned fort to the port. Flat calm too. It could be worse.
So, we are back in Antigua anchored in a beautiful bay with ruins on the hillside to explore. Deep Bay, 3 miles north of Jolly Harbor. May as well putter on the project. Paint the hard top edges. Took Pippin to shore on the boogie board for a good run. He loves being off leash and flies back and forth.
Day 1208 ~ Exploring Deep BayJanuary 4th, 2014
Chilled out all morning, puttered around on some projects until the heat tapered off. We headed over to the beach in the afternoon to take Pippin for a walk and climb up to Ft. Barrington.
The Fort's massive stone defenses were built in 1779 and manned up until 1850. Much of it is still in reasonable condition with arched tunnels and dungeon-like interior walls complete with torch niches and mountings.
Pretty cool, actually, and a great view from the top cannon platform.
Day 1209 ~ Poison SandJanuary 5th, 2014
Swedish pancakes for brekkie. Emily Grace came around and anchored. Several other boats came in the bay for a typical Sunday outing. Kids went to the beach to play and found a forest to practice using their homemade bows and arrows. Lisa and I walked through the Grand Royal Antiguan Hotel to see what was on the other side. Interesting place. An odd mix of deserted structures but a few people here and there. Very strange.
A local told us we could catch a bus to town at the roundabout just beyond the hotel property, but we opted not to find out how far that was and instead returned to the beach via the road around the East side of the salt pond.
Found the kidlets and returned to the boat. Within a half an hour Nana's eyes and nose started burning. There are loads of Manchineel trees on the island and you can get blisters from as little as a raindrop from a leaf. We didn't think about the fact that there would be dried traces on the ground where the kids were playing so can only deduce that this is the source. By 9pm, her eyes are puffy and her face badly swollen. We read up on the Net about it and there's really not much you can do but wait it out. We gave her Benadryl and she attempted to cool her face with water. Poor girl. Nika said she felt a little burning on her face, but it went away fairly quickly; Nina had been content to remain on the beach, thankfully.
Day 1210 ~ The Holy GrailJanuary 6th, 2014
Emily came over to draw and paint. She got blisters on her arms yesterday as well so was quite the pair with Nana whose face remained swollen today, although visibly improved.
Now that we have a full solar bank working, I decided to test out the "holy grail" of the cruiser world -- solar panel-driven water making. Ran the watermaker for an hour and a half or so, making about 22 gallons of fresh stuff. On paper, the solar should be more than enough to drive the watermaker, but the inevitable cloudy patches blew past. The batteries were back to full charge in about a half hour, so I guess that qualifies as success.
Took Pippin for a walk on the beach with April, Cain and their dog, Quinn, from Spirit of Argo. Back for dinner then April and Cain returned to our boat at 7pm for a round of dominoes. Nika turns out to have an artistic sense as well, particularly for that most endearing of all subjects: sailboats. Check out her lines!
Day 1211 ~ St Maarten, AgainJanuary 7th, 2014
There appears to be a wind window today, so we're going to have to take it. We left at 6:45am and arrived 12 hours later at 6:50p. 88 nautical miles. Average 7.3 knots.
GPS location Date/Time:01/07/2014 08:40:51 AKST
Decent sail. Winds started in the 20-22 knot range. A bit bouncy with occasional larger (4 meters) waves which caught us on the stern quarter and added some surfing and twisting drama. Theres's a wicked little shelf on the westerly side Antigua over which the current big ocean waves pile up for a nice lively party about 10 miles wide. We made good time and it felt great not to motor.
The girls and Pippin mostly laid around and slept a lot as their stomachs weren't all that settled. Once into deeper water the seas evened out and moderated making for an acceptable ride. Finally turned completely downwind in the afternoon to take Pippin to the trampoline. I dragged him out shaking like a leaf and managed to get him calmed down enough so he could do his business. Pretty happy pup once back in the cockpit safe and sound.
Quite comfortable sailing in the lee of St. Barth's and everyone perked up. We wanted to stop, but the main anchorage was jammed with rocking and rolling sailboats and super yachts so we opted to give it a miss this time around. Maybe later.
We made it to St Maarten (Dutch side) just after sunset. Having spent a month here at anchor last January, we opted to overnight in the familiar rather than continue around to the French side in the dark and navigate that bay. As with the guys last December when coming from Bermuda, the Dutch Coast Guard met us outside the main bay and escorted us in. A little nerve-wracking as they kept close to our starboard side, which is where we had to turn to drop our sails and then turn for anchoring since we ended up too close to another boat. We eventually got set well after dark and they came aboard, logged our passports and registration papers then left. Nice and friendly but must they stick so close?
Nana had made a nice spaghetti dinner for us so we finally got to eat it.
We'll go thru the bridge tomorrow and set the hook in the lagoon's French side where it's free to anchor (Dutch charge $40USD per week to put the hook in their sand).
Day 1212 ~ Getting SettledJanuary 8th, 2014
I went to town to pay the bridge fee and grab some groceries. We then took the 9:30am bridge opening and got to go through the new "Causeway" swing bridge as well. Lisa did a great job driving, of course.
We found What If and Pollux anchored off the Mercure Hotel in Nettle Bay, right where Chris said she would be. Kids were happy to be re-united while Lisa and I zipped into down to clear in with the authorities and find a Digicel provider with whom to top up our phone.
We love the French Islands. The fact that we had checked out of Antigua Jan 4 and checked into St. Martin on Jan 8 didn't seem to bother anyone. The Harbormaster stamps the paperwork, Customs doesn't even look.
Day 1213 ~ Shifting GearsJanuary 9th, 2014
Lessons, work. Jade, from Wild Vanilla, came over to draw with Nana while Nika and Nina went knee boarding. Lisa and I went to walk Pippin and connect with a French family we met last year while sailing. They were out for 8 months, but recently Philippe bought an existing dive shop that happens to be where we anchored. His wife and kids are wrapping things up in France and will join him in March. Good to catch up.
The reality is that we are done cruising now. With multiple business and personal trips planned, we'll likely be anchored in St Martin for months, two at least, and probably more like four or five. Other than living in a floating home, my life and world are no longer much different from yours. I get up in the morning and immediately think about what my bosses are going to expect that day, and how best to achieve it, while balancing other demands such as taking care of the garbage and acquiring and preparing the 10,000 calories our pack needs each day.
I dinghy around instead of driving a mini-van; we call our friends on the VHF instead of a cell phone. But does that really matter? Why would you care?
Living my dream aboard has taught me many lessons, some of which I'm still too close to to focus on clearly. I'll probably post some things from time to time, but, from now moving forward, the blog will become mostly a photo journal of our kids growth into adulthood, responsibility and, hopefully, the chance for each of them to live their dream as I have been exceptionally blessed to live mine.
Day 1214 ~ January 10th, 2014
Lessons, work some more. Water run to Philippe's dive shop, laundry/Budget run to town. Jade came over to play Bubble-topia with Nika.
Day 1215 ~ January 11th, 2014
Sanded and made a mess. Lisa sanded the stool I made. Kids went off to knee board. Nina came back then the motor wouldn't start. Ripped it apart and found the gear is not right. Good timing, I leave in a week.
Day 1216 ~ January 12th, 2014
Dean picked me up to take the dogs for a walk. Lisa went off to to Philippe's club to go diving and the girls and I had Swedish pancakes. Pollux loaned us their extra 3.5 hp dinghy motor so we would have a mode of transportation this week. Mid-morning girls and I with Pollux, What If and Windchasers to the beach to watch the KLM 747 arrive. It appears to be heading right toward you.
All came back and the kid went right in the water to knee board. Then, while Jen stayed behind, everyone else piled on to What If to help them get into the boat yard for repairs. Tight spot, backed in. Lots of help on shore. Interesting yard. Made a quick grocery run then dinghied back slowly and ran out of gas just out of the marina.
Couldn't figure out where the engine was leaking and didn't see any oil slick, but the dinghy was coated in gas which I thought was due to the gas can expanding in the heat. Finally figured it out once back. I put the motor up while it was towed and forgot to close the vent. Fuel must have spilled out from there as it bounced along behind the big boat.
Invited Philippe and Dimitri over for dinner. Both have families back home in France and South Africa waiting to join them here and back home, respectively, once the boat sells. Enjoyed the visit.
Day 1217 ~ January 13th, 2014
Pollux gave me a ride to the Dutch side to get parts and the girls did their lessons. Found all at Budget. Returned, then went to French side to find the guy to do the repair. Returned in time to take Lisa to the dock to go with a friend to the grocery store in Phillipsburg.
Girls played with Pollux boys. I went to shore for my teleconference. Lisa returned about 4pm.
Day 1218 ~ January 14th, 2014
Lessons. Paint the hard top - test area to see how it works.
Later, I went to get my parts on the French side, but seal needed. Wouldn't be over 'til 2pm so went back to the boat. Kids went off to swim after lunch. Kris brought Derek to play.
Day 1219 ~ January 15th, 2014
Lessons. I went to French side to get dinghy motor parts and returned to put it all back together. Got Dimitri and Tim to help attach it. Spent rest of day working on the computer. Time is running out as I leave on Friday morning. Still have a boat load of things to complete beforehand.
Kids went knee boarding with Pollux boys. They're off to the BVIs soon, so the girls don't want to miss any chances to play.
Day 1220 ~ January 16th, 2014
Last-minute craziness. Good intentions for spending a relaxing last day with the family. Swedish pancakes for starters, then moved the boat closer to shore.
After that, it went downhill. Piled in dinghy to get parts on French side for awnings, but motor making high whining sound. Not sure if it was going to quit or blow up so turned around and stayed put. Got a ride over with Dimitri then helped What If off their moorings and out of the marina.
New boat kids came by to knee board. Kids went off and had fun. I attached the rail for the awning system we're having sewn. All came by at 6pm for a going-away bash. I leave in the morning, What If and Pollux head outside of lagoon tomorrow and then on to BVIs on Saturday morning. Dimitri remaining for most of the time I'm gone.
Day 1221 ~ January 17th, 2014
PETER - Dean took me to the airport as our dinghy motor is on the fritz. Flew all day. Stayed the night with our former AK pastor who now heads a church in Bellevue, WA.
LISA - Lessons. Dimitri towed our dinghy to mechanic but when I had him go for a test drive with me and, of course, the motor sounded a bit more normal with him listening. Nevertheless, he didn't seem to think it was a problem. Went to start for home and the motor went back to whining at all RPMs now that the mechanic was no longer there. Dimitri followed me home.
Day 1222 ~ January 18th, 2014
LISA - Went shopping since I forgot my wallet Friday. Did a load of laundry as well while there. Managed to prop a small line at the supermarket dock and broke the pin that allows the gears to change. Very frustrated, but several very helpful guys at the lobster place just next door and they found a piece of wire and reattached it for me to get me on my way. Once back, Dimitri gave me a pin.
Took kids and Pippin to the beach to paint our calabash bowls that we did in Grenada a couple months ago. Painted stool too.
Nana made lasagna and no one liked it. After a few bites, they all gave up. You're right, tofu is NOT "better than Ricotta" the liars (they didn't know it was tofu and I ain't gonna tell 'em). Oh well. Pippin ate some w/o noodles and didn't throw up in the night so it wasn't all in vain.
PETER - Flying in morning. Steven picked me up at the airport, went to eat ____. Crashing at Steven's for Sat and Sun nights. Jane was able to get the Driftwood starting Monday, so I'll be there after that until they fly in next week.
Pretty sleepy by 7:15pm AST.
Went shopping at Freddies here in JNU and got a pair of pants, shoes and a belt. Something were on sale, others not. Got toothpaste too, fortunately remembered that.
Day 1223 ~ January 19th, 2014
LISA - Swedish Pancakes. Made potato salad for the potluck. Potluck at 2pm over on the French side town. Took Jade. Stayed 'til 5:30p. Nina made dinner.
PETER - Just about to head into first staff meeting at 3pm AST. Guess we ll see how things go.
Was locked out of the building, so had to call someone on the inside. In a nice cozy office now, #100, great view. Nice and quiet.
Day 1224 ~ January 20th, 2014
LISA - Lessons. Nana and Nika did math until at least 3 or 4pm. Totally emptied Nina's room, sprayed for bugs, wiped down everything with vinegar water in an attempt to rid her room of ants.
PETER - Tough day. Woke up at 4:14 and couldn't get back to sleep so eventually gave up. Had arranged for a car pool from Steve's house to the capitol, but after sitting around for an hour decided to accept his offer for a ride in. Got there about 7:30, dead quiet.
Eventually got my key and door entry card, so that helped. We had to do a presentation for the caucus, what introduce each of us (4 press people) and talk a bit about what we do. Covered a few web things. Went pretty smooth, everyone loves the new site so smiles all around.
So busy I hardly had a time to talk with Wes, Gayle or Chuck much, although I did see all of them at one point or another since they are all on our floor (convenient). Also caught up with Dan S some which was fun.
The local supermarket here by the Driftwood has become an IGA store, so it was pretty weird walking around and seeing the same plastic silverware etc. Talk about a time and distance warp.
Mike P texted me. He should be in town late this evening and we are planning to get together for dinner tomorrow evening.
Day 1225 ~ January 21st, 2014
LISA - Lessons, shopping with Jane. Checked out new area by West shore. Small grocery.
PETER - Kung Fu peanut butter. Had dinner with Mike this evening, fun to catch up. Life with two little ones has them running around pretty crazy.
Day 1226 ~ January 22nd, 2014
LISA - Lessons, girls were busy making birthday stuff. Lisa took Pippin for a walk, then a kid boat from MA came by to play and visited 'til dark.
PETER - State of the state tonight, so everyone is in a tizzy. All at the office even though it's 7pm.
Day 1227 ~ January 23rd, 2014
LISA - Lessons, then invited to YogArt, a build your own yogurt creation place with Meridian and Fabuloso, two kid boats we met recently. Went to Meridian's boat so the kids could play a bit, stopped by the grocery on the way home.
PETER - As it turns out I have more experience than just about everyone on this floor. I really don't want to be the guy who knows polling, and writing, and op-eds and web and strategy and how to outmaneuver the dems etc. If I don't get an alternate office soon, I'll be in a vortex of demand. I can't get anything done with constant interruptions in the main office.
On the theme of being too valuable -- they actually offered to pay to fly you all here if I would stay. It was said half jokingly, but it wasn't a joke.
Day 1228 ~ TreadmillsJanuary 24th, 2014
Normal day at the office. Phones ringing under flourescent glare. I am realizing more and more that I am just not used to building air. All rooms seem stuffy, suffocating. I smell things I didn't used to notice.
Back at the pad I treat myself to a small portion of smoked salmon and blueberries, Alaskan treats that taste amazingly wonderful after years without. Then I just feel the need to get out and take a walk. It's a warm evening, perhaps 42 degrees F. I instinctively walk towards the water and then turn left on a sidewalk that parallels the shoreline. The tide is out, way out. Even with a moonless night, the water ripples are defined by the reflections of lights from Douglas Island, a mile away. It's beautiful. It's home.
The walk is invigorating. I look to the right and squint to make out what my eyes seem to be showing me. There, across a wide thoroughfare, is the Alaska Club gym. At 10pm, like me, another guy is walking, but he is striding on a treadmill, clearly perspiring, with a towel around his neck. He's pacing out steps surrounded by other sweaty people in a world that never changes, guided, as it were, by a light as artificial as those above him. He's walking, I'm walking. The motions are the same. The effort is the same, but he's going nowhere, staring ahead in a daze at the back of the guy in front of him while, just 30 yards away, the air is crisp and clear, the smell of the sea is alive and the scenery changes with each step. In addition, this poor guy is paying for the priviledge of using the treadmill.
I stop and study the scene for a long moment. A subaru zips past. It occurs to me that the only thing keeping this guy in his plastic cage is fear. The small risk it might take to expose himself to the cold, the dark and the unknown freedom.
Back in Lisa's world, it was more of the same. Lessons and the girls helped her empty Nika's room so she could wash walls and deep clean. Got rid of a bag full of stuff.
Day 1229 ~ January 25th, 2014
PETER - Went to Costco. The nice lady printed me a slip of paper saying I was Jim McCall and basically being a temporary card. I bragged about it to Lisa and Steve then I lost it. No way to check out. Cart loaded with all the goodies. No one there we knew. Nice lady was out to lunch. Very frustrating. Hope to make it back sometime this week. car is available, just need a card. I didn't want to pay $55 for salt and pepper.
I went to dinner with Wes and Gayle and they have a spare room. Much larger, nice place than here at Fred's. Said I could use the room this coming week if needed. So, I think I will move there tomorrow when Fred & Jane come in.
Day 1230 ~ January 26th, 2014
Ah, a day of rest.
LISA - April came to work on awning. Started cleaning out starboard hallway cupboards.
PETER - Scrambled to pack only to find that Fred and Jane's flight diverted. Skyped the family.
Day 1231 ~ January 27th, 2014
LISA - April came back to finish awning. Dominoes, walked dog. Finished starboard cupboard.
PETER - Tough day today, many meetings, jerked into social stuff, etc. Time running short and so much to do. I went and picked Fred and Jane up at the airport, then hauled their luggage up the stairs for them. Then I drove Janen to Costco and got a few things with her card. No problems. Then I hauled all that up to their apartment. Was glad for a chance to help them out and it was really good to see them.
Day 1232 ~ January 28th, 2014
LISA - Lessons and cleaned Nana's room.
PETER - More meetings today, but some actual coding progress on the website as well. Not quite so harried a feeling. Overcast and drizzly all day, typical juneau weather, but not cold enough to freeze.
Did manage to get to Costco with Jane, so have most of the items. I literally spent every dollar I had on hand and with no ATM card didn't have any other options.
Had salmon at every opportunity. Almost tired of it, but not quite.
Staying with Wes and Gayle is a real treat. Plenty of room and fun conversation this evening, showing them boat photos and swapping stories.
Day 1233 ~January 29th, 2014
LISA - Lessons, took girls and Pippin for a walk. Cleaned Salon.
PETER - Better day today as moved offices to Ken's old nook in Room 413. Muuuuch quieter, darker, perfect. Had the head phones on for half the day so actually go some real stuff done. Feels good.
It actually stopped raining this afternoon. Imagine that.
Day 1234 ~ January 30th, 2014
LISA - Lessons and a bit of cleaning then lessons. Elin anchored by us so came over to play dominoes, then ended up making pizza for the crew while Kalle and I went to the grocery store for toppings.
PETER - Tough day. Exhausted. My brain and backside are cooked. Four meetings, some harsh coding. But good things too. New digs in 413 are working out good, so that's a real plus.
Going over to Fred and Jane's for her favorite tortilla soup. Looking forward to just getting out of the building. I'll probably come back later this evening and work some more.
Day 1235 ~ January 31st, 2014
Normal day of lessons and clean up before Papa's arrival in a couple days. Lisa worked to deep clean the galley, a messy job and now the boat is done.