Adventures on Epicurus
This is the story of our sailing adventures aboard Epicurus, a 62-foot Deerfoot sailing vessel. We are the Brown family--Peter, Sherri, Katya and Matthew. (You can click on the photos to enlarge them. Most posts are by Sherri, not Peter.)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I was planning to attach the tracks file, but have not figured out how to do that so if you'd like to see where we went send me an email or post a comment and I'll send the file.
Friday, August 22, 2008
July 24-26, 2008 (Thurs.) - At 1000 Thursday morning, we left the Eastern Bay to cross the Chesapeake to Annapolis, making good time and arriving at 1530, where we anchored off the wall in front of the US Naval Academy.
While Peter was extremely busy interviewing yacht brokers and investigating boatyards and contractors, the kids and I spent time walking around in Annapolis, visiting the bookstore and the comic book store and a couple of the small boutiques. The kids were not too excited about doing it, but we took a tour of the William Paca house and gardens. He was one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland.
Ice cream from the Annapolis Ice Cream shop was a daily treat. Most days we bought lunch at a deli near the City Dock called The Big Cheese. The proprietors were friendly and remembered us (and our previous orders!) after the first day.
July 27, 2008 (Sunday) - After lunch, we took up the anchor and motor-sailed the short distance to Chesapeake Harbour, an up-scale marina not far from downtown Annapolis, as the Coast Guard was issuing warnings to mariners to find a safe harbor as storms approached. (We later learned that one of the boats from the Capital Yacht Club sunk that day under the Bay Bridge.)
July 28, 2008 (Monday) - Once again, Peter spent all his time looking into brokers and boat repairs. The kids and I worked on the last bits and pieces of school work for the 2007-08 academic year. In the evening, we walked down the road a mile or so to an small but much-awarded restaurant called, quite simply, the Mexican Cafe. With its colorful, cluttered tropical decor and friendly staff, it was a pleasant place to enjoy a delicious meal.
July 29-30, 2008 (Tues.-Wed.) - At the advise of one of the brokers, we went up the Severn a short distance to pick up one of the Naval Academy's mooring balls (which they only use in extreme weather) in Weems Creek. Peter found it bucolic; I found it boring. We were able to walk to a good supermarket, something that can't be done from the City Dock by the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Also, it was a flat anchorage, unlike the usually rolly conditions off the Naval Academy, but it was, nonetheless, oppressive. A short paddle up the creek in the kayak was the only highlight of our short stay there.
July 31, 2008 (Thurs.) - In the early afternoon, we dropped the mooring ball and spent less than an hour returning to civilization. As we were preparing to anchor off the Naval Academy, we heard shouts of "Epicurus! Epicurus!" Who recognized us, we wondered. To our surprise, it was an Australian family on a large cat whom we spent a bit of time with in Spanish Waters in Curacao. They had met a family from Los Angeles who were spending their summer on the east coast on the Irwin, and the girls from the two boats were out playing around on a Hobie cat. See, I told Peter we were wasting our time up a creek with no one around.
Our kids joined them on the Hobie cat and then the three girls came to visit us on our boat. Peter and I zipped over to Malawi in our dinghy for afternoon drinks with the other two sets of parents, and everyone was happy!
Once again, in the evening, we had to make the short trip into town for ice cream. A light breeze played around in the warm evening air, and the carmine bricks of the buildings and sidewalks glowed in the sunset.
August 1, 2008 (Fri.) - Peter continued running around and talking on the phone with brokers and riggers and surveyors and boatyards as we prepared to leave Epicurus, perhaps, with great sadness, for good, and put her on the market. The kids were increasingly excited about getting home, often mentioning, with variation, "The first thing I'm going to do...." I was the one least enthusiastic about giving up our second home on the water and the luxury of the cruising life. I had grown to like the simplicity and the low stress (most of the time). Particularly as he was having to make arrangements for work and listings, Peter was tiring of all the work involved in keeping our dream afloat.
August 2, 2008 (Saturday) - It was another lovely day. We had been fortunate in having a minimum number of hot and humid days this summer. All the kids got together. We visited our new friends on the Irwin, which the owners obviously sink a lot of money into; she is perfectly maintained and spotless.
August 3, 2008 (Sunday) - We got up early and went right into town to have breakfast at the Hardbean Bookstore and Cafe and shop at the farmer's market on the City Dock. Our friends took pictures of us as we raised the sails and prepared for our short trip down to Solomons, where the boat would be left for repairs and refurbishing.
Unfortunately and sadly, the predicted wind of 10-12 knots did not come up, and we were forced to motor with only 4-5 knots of breeze. We docked at Zahniser's Yacht Center mid-afternoon, finding it to be a well-maintained, nicely landscaped marina.
August 4-7, 2008 (Mon-Thurs.) - These four days went by quickly as I thoroughly cleaned down below, every drawer and lockers and cabinet and surface, and packed up clothes, books, toys and all the paraphernalia we needed to take with us to California. The challenge was getting it all in eight bags for checked luggage, each under 50 pounds. It was actually not that difficult to keep under the weight limit, and I determined that having more than 100 pounds of clothes, books and personal belongings--not just for traveling, but at all--is probably excessive. One thing we have learned from living on the boat is how little is needed to have a safe, comfortable and happy life.
When not doing the very last bits of math and spelling for school, the kids had plenty of time to relax but were actually quite helpful in scrubbing the decks and getting all the canvas down. This was the third time that we had to prepare the boat to be unoccupied and on the hard, and it seemed much less daunting than before.
August 8, 2008 (Friday) - All the luggage was taken off the boat before 8 a.m. and Epicurus was hauled out of the water. Peter and I had last-minute meetings with riggers and supervisors and canvas fabricators while the kids read and played with their Nintendo DS's. At noon, we had lunch on the patio, then jumped in the pool to cool off and relax before taking showers and getting dressed for our trip back to Sacramento.
The taxi, scheduled for 2 p.m., arrived 25 minutes late. Nevertheless, we arrived in time. Luckily, we had a couple hour lay-over in Charlotte, so we had time to relax and enjoy dinner before the long flight across the continent on USAir, which now offers transportation but little else in the way of service.
August 9, 2008 (Saturday) - It was shortly after midnight when we arrived home, relieved to find (after last year) no damage or disasters. We didn't really begin to unpack, but the kids started pulling out neglected toys while Peter and I managed to keep busy turning water and electrical appliances back on. Of course, we were all a bit hungry. Luckily, there was some food in the freezer, so we were able to snack.
August 10, 2008 and beyond! - We quickly settled back in. All the stuff we brought back from Epicurus had left this house, so I was amazed that it didn't all seem to fit back in! Somehow, I managed, though, and order from the chaos of opened suitcases was restored after a couple days. The kids got involved in soccer again. Shopping for clothes and school supplies was accomplished with relative ease. We were welcomed back by many friends at the Racket Club as well as our neighbors. We contacted our real estate agent and have begun the process of finding a new (for us) house in Gold River, where I have wanted to live for years.
Best of all, the kids were accepted at Gold River Discovery Center, Matthew's old school, and they entered the 7th and 8th grades on Monday. They were excited about being with friends and giving up homeschooling, although they haven't been particularly thrilled with the homework or the reduced amount of free time. So far, it has gone extremely well. I am reveling in my free time--7 hours a day! After dropping the kids off, I spend every morning at the club working out or playing tennis. At a leisurely pace, I can run errands and get things done at home before Peter, who does the afternoon run, brings Matthew and Katya home at 3:30.
So, the adventures on Epicurus may be over, but everyone who knows us well is sure that somewhere in the back of our minds, ideas for new adventures are beginning to mature and capture our imaginations.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
With not enough wind to power the sails, we motored up to the mouth of the Potomac and anchored for the night in peaceful Kingscote Creek.
June 21, 2008 (Sat.) – It was another day of motoring. We waited until after noon in order to use the current to our advantage. With storms chasing us upstream, we anchored around 1900 hours off Mathias Point Neck on the Potomac, out of the main channel. Gusts of nearly 30 knots buffeted us for a few minutes as we turned to anchor, but the winds subsided to under 12 knots and the storms passed us by as we sat on deck watching the lightning show at a distance.
June 22, 2008 (Sun.) – We got started at 0600 hours in order to use the flooding current. After I helped get us underway, I slept some more. Once again, it was too calm to sail, but the excitement of approaching Washington that day overpowered the tedium of motoring. We anchored at 1330 hours in Washington Channel in order to use the facilities of the wonderful, hospitable Capital Yacht Club for the next couple weeks.
After Peter re-inflated the dinghy (The patches need to be re-done.), we went to shore and checked in at the club. I left Peter to take care of boat stuff and headed off for the Smithsonian. It was wonderful to wonder around without kids or even Peter, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Without others with me, I felt more “present” and found myself interacting more with strangers in the museums and in the street, if only to nod or exchange a quick greeting. After stopping at the Castle to pick up the latest information on the museums, I walked to the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, where I enjoyed taking my time and reading all the signage in the exhibits on Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Ball and the portrait galleries of America’s Presidents. After the museum closed at 7 p.m., I walked around the nearby streets, admiring the architecture, and then strolled through the Smithsonian’s outdoor Butterfly Habitat Garden and the Ripley Garden before returning to the yacht club.
Late afternoon thunderstorms, typical of summer, loomed around the area, so Peter stayed on the boat, since we hadn’t tested the anchor in wind, and I sat in the bar and chatted with members. Also, I booked tickets for our kids to return to us on Wednesday afternoon. They are now both old enough to fly without supervision.
Peter finally arrived around 9:30. We took showers and returned to Epicurus, where I couldn’t go to sleep until I had read over all the information I had collected.
June 23-July 7, 2008 – As the sign in front of the Smithsonian Castle says: “So many museums, so little time!” The hospitality of the members and the convenience of the location of the Capital Yacht Club made our second visit to Washington, D.C. as wonderful as the first. The great variety of experiences kept me too busy to record all our adventures so I’ll just write a brief summary for now of the highlights.
For me, the Monday and Tuesday before the kids arrived were heaven! I visited museums on my own Monday morning, spending most of my time back at the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (which I figured the kids would not like). Peter met me at Gordon Biersch Brewery for a delicious lunch. Afterwards, we strolled to the Museum of African Art to view the temporary exhibits.
Tuesday I started out early and had a great time wondering from place to place. I enjoyed visiting, at my own pace, the National Geographic exhibits on the voyages of Zheng He and the temples and monks of Shaolin; St. Matthew’s Cathedral; the Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle; the tower of the Old Postal Building with its great views and bells; and the Museum of Natural History, particularly the new live butterfly exhibit. Just strolling along the city streets on my own was delightful, and for the first time in a long time, I experienced just being “me,” not a wife or a mother or a family member. It was a buoyant, free feeling.
(At the Natural History Museum, I did some research and discovered that the marine mammals we had seen in the Gulf Stream en route to the Chesapeake were not right whales but pilot whales. Peter, back on the boat, had also done research, on the internet, and had come to the same conclusion. Oh, no! We lied to the Coast Guard!)
Peter met me outside the Natural History Museum and we strolled north of the Mall, looking for a place to eat. Shortly, we came to the Navy Memorial plaza, where preparations for a concert by the Navy Band were underway. We were hungry but we also wanted to enjoy the performance, so we chose to eat al fresco at d’Acqua, alongside the plaza. What a wonderful evening! The food was really, really good, and we had a wonderful table from which to watch and listen to the instrumental and vocal production, which included music from Hairspray and theme songs from old TV Shows such as The Flintstones, Green Acres, and Gilligan’s Island. As we watched, the sky darkened to a deep blue and the warmth of the day lingered in the air. The whole day was perfect! Just bliss!
The kids arrived at BWI Wednesday afternoon, so I spent the morning at museums alone. Peter met me at Union Station around noon, and we took the train to the airport to pick up Katya and Matthew, who had left Aunt Beth Ann’s with reluctance. After getting them settled back on the boat, we went to the mall for a while to visit the Natural History Museum.
The next week and a half, we went to museums every day. Usually the kids and Peter were done after a few hours, but almost every day I stayed until the last museum closed at 7:30. In addition to the Smithsonian museums on the Mall, we also went to the National Archives, took a tour of the Capitol, visited the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo, immersed ourselves in espionage at the International Spy Museum, enjoyed a concert by the San Francisco Boy Choir and Ringmasters at the Kennedy Center, spent most of a day at the Holocaust Museum, wandered around the Bhutan and NASA exhibits at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and—a highlight—saw Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid performed by the National Shakespeare Company. Peter and I couldn’t recall ever having seen a better theatre performance, and we were all rolling in our seats with laughter. Even at intermission, Katya was laughing so hard that she could barely keep upright on the way to the lobby for refreshments.
I was particularly impressed with the Folklife Festival this year. The Bhutanese exhibit included a temple which had been constructed specifically for this event. The brightly colored and carefully carved interior was a delight to the eye. I was lucky to visit when the monks were chanting and playing their drums and horns. The whole spectrum of the culture was represented in various tents, from the Buddhist faith which is incorporated into all aspects of daily life and into much of the arts and crafts, to the manual work of a single monk meticulously creating a sand mandala, metalworking, weaving, cooking, wood turning, basket weaving, and the making of white leather boots adorned with colorful embroidered geometric patterns. All of the participants from Bhutan were genial and open, reminding us of the cultural ambiance that we had encountered in Thailand a few years ago.
IWalking across the Mall on my own after visiting the Holocaust Museum (Peter and the kids left before me), I entered the NASA exhibition area of the Folklife Festival. Having recently spent two days at the Kennedy Space Center and having already spent time at the Air and Space Museum on the Mall, I figured there wouldn’t be anything new here, but I was wrong! In fact, the items on display were not significantly different than those at the museums, although, for the most part, they could be handled, which was a novelty. However, what made the NASA exhibition worthwhile was the presence of NASA scientists and other employees who were everywhere, eager to talk about their work. The excitement was palatable, and astrophysics and space science no longer seemed too advanced or too inaccessible for those of us not formally trained in these branches of science.
The next day, I took the kids to the Folklife Festival, because it truly was a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of another, little-known culture (Bhutan) and to learn about the work of NASA at a more personal level. There were a lot of activities for the kids to do at the NASA displays, earning decals from various space station missions. If we didn’t stop to talk and ask questions, the NASA folks grabbed us to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.
We went to the zoo on the Fourth of July to avoid the crowds on the Mall. In the early afternoon, we joined the members of the Yacht Club for a barbecue and then just relaxed on the boat for in the late afternoon. After nearly two-weeks sighting-seeing and soaking in all the information and culture that I could, I was exhausted and had to nap. My brother and sister-in-law, Randy and April, and their baby Kes from Charlottesville joined us on the boat in the evening to watch the fireworks over the Washington Monument.
We were going to leave the day after Independence Day, but, not unusually, we dawdled in a nice place. I went back to the Sackler and Natural History Museums for a few hours. Also, we needed to pump out the holding tank and take on water, so we docked at the yacht club Saturday evening. By the time we took care of all our chores on Sunday, it was already afternoon, so we delayed our departure until Monday morning, which actually turned out to be closer to noon.
July 7-11, 2008 (Monday-Friday) The new mainsail with the battens which had finally been delivered to D.C. was in place. We were fortunate that on the trip down the Potomac, the wind conditions were right and we got a chance to try it out. In fact, we anchored on Monday evening without the engine and even pulled up anchor under sail the next morning. The new sail is great (and makes the foresails look a bit dirty!).
On Tuesday, we stopped just downriver from Colonial Beach, by Horsehead Cliffs, to hunt for fossils. The layers of compressed clay held mostly fossil imprints. They were distinct, detailed and numerous but hard to excavate without making them crumble. We ended up chiseling off a few large hunks of the mudstone to preserve the imprints and have a few artifacts for our collection.
We got underway early on Wednesday and had excellent sailing conditions. We made it all the way to Eastern Bay before both the approaching sunset and, more ominously, an approaching thunderstorm, persuaded us to drop anchor at the mouth of Tilghman Creek. On Thursday morning, there was little wind. After valiantly trying to sail for an hour or so, we dropped the main and motored to St. Michael’s and up Leed’s Creek to find a secure anchorage for leaving the boat for a week.
Later in the afternoon, we took the dinghy further upstream to enjoy the warm welcome always available at the Morrison-Low’s home. We were sorry to learn that Anne’s mother, a wonderful woman who lived part of the year with them, had passed away earlier this year. However, we were delighted to be regaled with humorously told stories of John’s eightieth birthday celebrations and the village gossip.
On Friday morning, I picked up a rental car and ran some errands while the kids immersed themselves in cable TV and the internet. I packed up everything we needed for the annual beach vacation in the afternoon, and we were just about ready to join my family for another week of idle busy-ness, the traditions of miniature golf, the boardwalk, dinner at Phillip’s Crab House, shopping and endless games of pinochle on the beach and family games—all accompanied by food, food and more food.
July 12-19, 2008 (Sat.-Sat.) Peter shuttled everything from Epicurus to the Morrison-Low’s dock on Saturday morning and packed the car while I cleaned the boat. We used pool noodles as racks to strap the kayak on top of the car. This was a protracted job, hardly worth the effort since we ended up only using the kayak one morning. It is amazing how little time there is to do anything at the beach when we really do nothing at all!
My good friend Lori, who is a diplomat in Japan, and her two small children joined us Tuesday through Friday at the beach, making our family vacation their first stop of six weeks of home leave. It was a good chance for them to recover from jet lag, and there were enough of us around—22 to be exact—that she had plenty of help with the kids.
The weather was really perfect the whole week. There was not a drop of rain, it was never too hot or too cold, and there was a light breeze—just enough to be pleasant and not enough to blow the playing cards off the tables on the beach.The water temperature was good also, cool but not frigid. Because of storms in the Atlantic, the waves were rough but not it was still possible to body surf and jump over or under the crests. Rip currents were a bit of a problem, and both Katya and then Matthew had to be saved by the lifeguards. (A lifeguard also towed me in. I was actually fine, but I had stayed near Katya until the lifeguard reached her, so the lifeguard felt compelled to help me also.)
We drove back to Tunis Mills and the Morrison-Low’s late Saturday, stopping to pick up pizza for the kids. They stayed home to watch TV and use the internet while the four adults went to a local Italian restaurant to enjoy a particularly delicious meal and bottle of wine and great conversation. Since it was hot, we slept at the house that night instead of returning to the boat, which had been closed up for a week.
July 20, 2008 (Sun.) – The Morrison-Low’s are so welcoming, that it is difficult to leave them—so we didn’t! Peter went to West Marine and I went out for groceries in the afternoon. I forced the kids, under protest, to do a bit of left-over school work, but mostly we relaxed and prepared to depart. Since we had decided not to leave until Monday, we just spent the night in their large and comfortable house again.
July 21, 2008 (Mon.) – Well, we meant to leave, but we didn’t. Peter and I spent time on the boat hauling up excess blocks of lead from the forecastle to donate to the nearby Maritime Museum, and I hauled him up the mast in the heat of the afternoon so that he could adjust the lazy-jacks. So, Anne came home from work to find us STILL here, but we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together and lively conversation.
July 22, 2008 (Tues.) – In earnest, I began getting ready to move back onto the boat and depart, washing sheets and towels and packing our bags. Without the kids being present, Peter and I discussed our plans to cruise to New England and quickly agreed that there is not enough time left before school begins to really enjoy the sights. In addition, there appears to be a series of storms developing in the North Atlantic that may make traveling by sea difficult over the next few weeks. So we decided to leave Epicurus somewhere in the Chesapeake again for the remainder of the hurricane season. Of course, Katya was pleased with the news that we will be going home soon, and Matthew was ecstatic.
Peter immediately began to contact people to get leads on brokers for selling the boat and to work on finding a good place to leave her in the water so that she can be shown to prospective buyers. John mentioned a friend in the area who sells boats, so an appointment was made for 5 p.m. Did we leave on Tuesday? What do you think? Meanwhile, the remaining bits and pieces of schoolwork get accomplished, with geography being wrapped up for good in the afternoon.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Around , we heard a roar and went up on deck to see a rocket hurtling up into the sky. It was the GLAST probe, which was supposed to be launched the previous Tuesday. We were thrilled that we actually got to see a launch after all.
In the late afternoon, we drove to Orlando to meet my best friend from college, Susan Hendricks, whom I hadn’t seen since before marriage—for 14 ½ years. A public defense attorney, she lived in NYC for years but moved to Lake Worth, Florida, a couple years ago. She was attending a conference in Orlando, so it was a great opportunity for us to meet again since we were only an hour away. It was wonderful to catch up on our lives.
Thunderstorms began to approach mid-afternoon, and Peter was feeling exhausted after working in the heat and humidity all day, so we decided to postpone our departure until Friday morning. We finished up our tasks, jumped in the pool, showered and had dinner at the restaurant at the marina.
It took about an hour to take on over 100 gallons of fuel, which was a lot more expensive than Venezuela, but finally we were ready to leave at 1030. We went in the barge canal locks separating the Banana River from the Ocean again. There were even more manatees than before. Although enormous and ungainly-looking, they glided quite gracefully along the surface and seemed to be doing synchronized swimming as they converged in a circle, heads in and tails out, as we passed when the gates opened on the other side.
I talked with Matthew as we were going past Port Canaveral. Science day camp had just ended, and he was ecstatic that he and Jared as a team had won first place in the contests to keep an egg from breaking, even when dropped from a three story building. They surrounded it with balloons and bubble wrap. Although a couple balloons burst, the egg was unharmed. For prizes, Jared got an aquarium fish and Matthew chose the dinosaur excavation kit but was going to share it with Jared since dinosaurs are his passion.
We were able to sail and go with the flow of the Gulf Stream after 1600 hours until the early hours of the next morning.
The royal blue water was beckoning Peter, so at 1000 hours, we stopped the boat and took turns going overboard. He thought the open Atlantic would be a great place to clean the log, which was not working, and the prop. Visibility was wonderful, although there was nothing to see but the sunlight splaying out across the depths and few tiny fish around the prop shaft and keel. I was hoping for a sunfish!
At 1130, we started the engine again and continued northeast. Late, Peter was napping when I spotted a large pod of dolphins, apparently resting on the surface and sleeping also. They were just floating, not diving and cavorting at all. I woke Peter up and we turned back to see them more closely. We got fairly close and cut the engine. We could hear all of them breathing! As we watched, we realized that they were not dolphins because their heads were bigger. Porpoises, we thought. After a while, some of them began to move, sticking their heads out of the water, and we realized they were small whales. Peter has guessed southern right whales, but we’ll have to wait until we get somewhere with internet access to find out. We don’t have a guide to whales. We watched them for about 20 minutes, getting lots of photos and video, before turning north.
We were monitoring a thunderstorm off our starboard side and making our way past it when a large pod of dolphins, sleek with pointed snouts, spotted us and came to play all around us. They love to surf the bow wave, and they jumped and dove and stayed with us, to our great delight, for about 15 minutes.
At 1700, we were able to turn off the engine and enjoy some quiet sailing at around 7 to 8 knots, until the wind shifted too far to the south and lightened, so we had to start the engine again around 2300 hours.
With the seas calm, I was able to cook dinner, something I don’t usually do when we’re under way.
We continued to see storms but managed to get passed all of them. The wind changed direction and came from the south at 10-12 knots around 1500 hours, and we put up the spinnaker. However, because we were riding the Gulf Stream and getting a 3-5 knot boost from it, the apparent wind was only 5-8 knots, so it didn’t work very well. Also, we had just got it set properly when the dark clouds around us began to look more ominous, so we hauled it in and put up the genoa. We were able to sail for an hour with it and get relief from the noise of the engine, but by 1830 the wind dropped to 6 knots and we had to start the “iron genoa” (the engine) again.
On the radio in mid-afternoon, the US Coast Guard reported that right whales had been spotted off the coast around Ocean City, Maryland, and requested that mariners report any sightings and also keep a safe distance. (Yikes, I think were a bit too close, but we didn’t harass them, just floated with them in the current!) We were happy to know that the marine mammals were indeed right whales, and I reported that we saw 18 off them sleeping in the current yesterday. (postscript -- When we got back to civilization and checked the books it turned out what we saw were Pilot Whales. Right Whales are much bigger and would never been seen in a pod of 18!)
At 2000, we stopped the engine and drifted along at 4-5 knots on the Gulf Stream while Peter took a swim around the boat and we both showered on deck to refresh ourselves. I didn’t go in because the dark water at sunset didn’t look as inviting as the bright blue of ocean during .
All in all, it was not a good day for me. My limit is about 48 hours at sea, and then I become a zombie-like creature. My sleep schedule—well, there is no schedule and I never slept more than a few hours at a time! I never felt really sleepy, just not well. I decided, though, that we would attempt to live as normally as possible, and at least the seas were calm so it was not difficult to stay below to make meals. However, there were occasional waves and bumps, and one hit just as I turned away from the pyrex measuring cup with pancake batter in it to light the stove. In a moment, it slid off the cutting board (It would have stayed on the counter if I hadn’t had it higher than the fiddle!) and crashed to the floor of the galley. Luckily, it didn’t break. The incident, occurring right after we had decided to continue on our long voyage, discouraged me, and Peter had to make breakfast for me, even though it was Father’s Day (without the kids).
I read another book; Peter and I played Scrabble and Anagram. When he got tired after two games, I played myself in Anagram (and always won!) and amused myself with a hand-held electronic hangman game and solitaire on the computer. However, the whole day was very dull. We only spotted a couple of dolphins.
Near the coast in North Carolina were an enormous wildfires, and the smoke was blown offshore, making visibility limited to a mile or less, so we had the radar on most of the time. We exited the Gulf Stream, with its beautiful royal blue water, around 2300 hours, and were able to start sailing.
I played many games of Anagram with myself, and Peter and I played one game together as well as a game of Scrabble. He did so well making banana pancakes yesterday morning that he used that last over-ripe banana to make more this morning. They were yummy!
The sports fisherman all came out around 0600 this morning, on my watch. With the smoke, it reminded me of approaching Ocean City inlet two years ago in the fog. Luckily, there were not 500 boats, only a couple dozen.
There was not enough wind for sailing. Sometimes there were small whitecaps, but for much of the passage, the sea looked like a sheet of gray-green, rippled, leaded glass. I missed the deep blue of the Gulf Stream, not to mention the shimmering turquoise of the Bahamas and the Caribbean already!
At 1830, we tied up at a private dock--the same one Peter used a year and a half ago, on Lake Wesley at Virginia Beach. A very nice man, Mason, welcomed us, and four people came out to help us with the lines and fenders. Mason used to cruise himself and said he always appreciated hospitality then, so now he tries to help others by giving them a place to dock. (The last time Peter was here, Mason even let him use his car!)
It seemed like we used the engine a lot over the last three and a half days, but Peter calculated that we only had the engine on about 50 hours and only used about 45 gallons of diesel. Considering how much fuel other forms of transportation use, it is amazing how little it takes to move 27 tons through the water.
As the sun set, a cool breeze blew in from the north; the temperature and humidity below deck dropped dramatically very quickly, making it quite comfortable for a good, full night of sleep.
Mid-morning, Mason and Donna visited us on our boat and took a little tour. They are wonderfully easy to talk with, epitomizing southern hospitality in its typical understated way that makes it easy to take it for granted. We went up to their home, which is an older wooden house built in the 1940s, sitting in contrast to the new, huge brick and concrete mansions on the other side of the water. The unimpressive outer walls of their house, however, belie the charm inside their comfortable house, which is actually much bigger than it seems from the waterfront. Donna cut fresh herbs from her garden before we left.
The wind was not favorable for our direction of travel, but the seas were calm and dolphins escorted us as we motored into the Chesapeake Bay. Across the mouth at Hampton Roads, we found a lovely place to dock for the night at Salt Ponds Marina, nestled among the wetlands with lots of birds to enjoy. I tried taking the helm dock since the wind was light, but Peter had to take over. At least he missed getting a line to the dock hand so I didn’t look like the only slightly incompetent one. I did a great job with the lines! We seem to have become used to our chosen tasks but obviously need practice with the jobs we don’t usually handle.
We walked about ¾ miles, mostly along the beach, into the middle of the town of Buckroe Beach to have dinner at a small restaurant called Mona Lisa. The restaurant was not much more than a pizzeria, but it was pleasant and the food was delicious.
It was a quiet evening as we walked back. The nearly full moon shone like a brass disk above the water, orangish-gold from the remaining smoke in the higher atmosphere. The air we were breathing was clean, though, a refreshing relief after the dismal gray, particle-filled miasma we had endured for nearly two days.
After lunch, we cast off and continued on our way north. As we passed Langley Air Force Base off our port side, the British Red Arrows, a squadron of poppy-colored jets similar to the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds in the U.S., put on a spectacular air show. They even went right over top of us a couple times.
Once we entered Mobjack Bay in the late afternoon, the wind increased to almost 10 knots and, even though we had to tack several times because of the direction, we enjoyed sailing at our leisure. It has not been often over the past three years that we have sailed merely for the fun of it; we always seem to have set destinations and deadlines (usually sundown) which force us to motor if the wind is not favorable to hold a straight course.
We went up the East River, passing bucolic, verdant green shorelines with large farmhouses and barns sheltered in the tall pines and deciduous trees near the water, and anchored in Put In Creek. All that we could hear before sunset were birds. It became even more still as the full moon rose, and, lying in the cockpit enjoying the peace, we could only discern the usually unheard ticking of Peter’s watch.
After lunch, we motored up to Deltaville to anchor. Thunderstorms started rolling in before sunset and, safe at anchor, we enjoyed the grandeur of the lightning and thunder and the sheets of rain pouring down. Between two storms, a rainbow appeared in the east before the sky darkened. We fell asleep to flashes of light and the patter of rain above us.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Early morning and the kids are still asleep in the forward cockpit, the most comfortable place to sleep on a passage.
Easy sailing. The instruments show we're doing 6.7 knots with just the two headsails (the mainsail was ripped). The wind is blowing 16 knots aft of the beam.
This one didn't get away.
Matthew and Desmond locked in battle. This is over the Bahama banks and the sea is flat. I think we were sailing, not motoring.
More detail of the galley looking aft. It's well laid out with lots of storage space and a double sink.
Aft of the galley are the washer and dryer and the microwave. The door in the background is to the aft head.
It's hard to get a picture of the aft lazarette. This picture does show the massive rudder stock but not much else.
The forward lazarette has lots of space for lines, sails and anchor rode. It is looking full in this picture because the new mainsail is down there, waiting for the battens to arrive so we can actually use it.
Last, the work bench in the engine room. Behind it is the water maker, to the right the air conditioners and underneath the refrigeration compressor and the generator.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
May 10, 2008 (Sat.) – It was another hot but beautiful day. We noticed a strange looking motor boat as it was anchoring off our stern. Before it swung on its anchor chain, we could only see the front. Peter said it looked like the Dashews. I questioned this, but indeed he was right, which we could see by the size and lines of the motor yacht when she turned. Steve and Linda Dashew have been designing boats for decades, and our boat is one of their creations. I’m sure Peter would have rushed right over in the dinghy, but he was busy with the lovely job of working on the toilet from the aft head, which was leaking.
After breakfast and chores, Matthew and I went around the harbor picking up kids—Josie and Justin from Rio Luna, a new girl named Daphne from Windborne, Margot from Fandango and Jeremy, who had just arrived with his French-Canadian parents about an hour before. When we went over to invite him to join the crowd, I asked his father if he could speak English well. His father indicated he was somewhat fluent. In reality, he and Matthew carried on a non-stop conversation from the moment he jumped in our dinghy. Not only was his English quite good, but he was fluent in PlayStation.
While I was out rounding up playmates for the kids, Steve Dashew had come by in his dinghy while Peter was on the stern swim deck cleaning parts of the head flushing mechanism with a wire brush. Steve recommended more vinegar as he introduced himself. Of course, he recognized Epicurus even though he hadn’t seen her since she was built over 20 years ago.
The sun was scorching and the humidity was high; the kids had great fun using our boat as a diving platform to play in the water. After they tired of this, they went down below to watch movies and play games. It was hopeless to think of keeping the boat tidy or cleaning around the kids, so I was not pleased when Peter told me that he had invited the Dashews over in a few hours. I told him that he would have to see if he could change the date until Sunday. Not only was it too hot and too crowded with kids to clean and get ready for guests, but we had been invited to Fandango for dinner that evening to join Dave and Donna on their boat as well as Tracy and Mike from Rio Luna. The plan was that we would barbecue and eat on deck while the kids entertained themselves below decks.
As Peter and I were on our way to Fandango, we were hailed by kids en route to our boat. They had decided they would rather hang out separately from the parents. It’s a good thing I hadn’t bothered cleaning for guests yet! We had a very nice meal, conversation (mostly about boats and sailing), and a tour of Fandango, which is much more posh if not as large as our boat. When we finally returned to our boat around 11 o’clock, our kids were exhausted—and hungry; they had been waiting all evening for Peter to deliver steaks to them so had not eaten the hot dogs that had been sent over for the kids!
May 11, 2008 (Sun.) – Peter remembered it was Mother’s Day just in time to have Katya draw some manga creature on a piece of paper for a card before I woke up.
The boat was filthy as I had put off cleaning it until the day of Desmond’s arrival. Instead of having all day, however, I had less than two hours as we were expecting the Dashews at 11 a.m. At least it was not quite as humid as the previous day, and I managed to get Epicurus presentable if not thoroughly cleaned. This was as good as it got, because after their visit, I just didn’t feel like getting back into cleaning mode before Desmond arrived. (I don’t think he noticed that my standards for cleanliness were not met!)
We, and Peter particularly, were a bit in awe of the Dashews, but they proved to be down-to-earth and friendly people. Steve gave Peter a lot of good advice about improvements that will help to sell the boat when we are ready. Linda and I spent the time talking about traveling and home-schooling children.
After lunch, I swam and Peter and the kids took the dinghy to the small reefs near Black Point to show the kids the lionfish Peter and I had seen. Katya, who, for reasons I just cannot comprehend, does not seem to enjoy snorkeling, so she was out of the water before Matthew discovered not one but two large lionfish hiding under a ledge. The small reefs close to the shores are like nurseries for many juvenile fish, the prey of the non-indigenous lionfish. Despite the predation, we saw a number of grouper, mojorra, damselfish, Spanish hogfish and jacks. There were not many parrotfish; perhaps they suffer more from the unintentional introduction of the lionfish.
I didn’t feel like cooking dinner, so we decided to go to Peace and Plenty. By the time we got ourselves ready, it was almost time to pick up Desmond by the market in town, where Peter had arranged for a taxi to bring him from the airport. It seemed best to wait for his arrival so that he could join us for dinner. The kids and I waited at the hotel and restaurant—and they used the internet—while Peter, with another captain, waited for the taxis. We waited and waited; I walked to the store. Apparently, the plane from Nassau was late. By the time the taxi arrived from the airport with passengers, the restaurant had stopped serving dinner. In addition, Desmond was not in the taxi! The taxi driver had said he had refused to get in since the driver couldn’t remember Desmond’s name or the name of our boat! It seems growing up and living part of his adult life in South Africa has made him extremely distrustful and he didn’t know that most Bahamians are honest and helpful and it’s less dangerous here than most places in the world.
Peter took the kids and me back to the boat, where we ate soup and sandwiches, whatever I could put together quickly as it was now nearly 9:00. He went back to the Peace and Plenty to wait since he had asked the hotel to watch for Desmond after they had nicely contacted another taxi. His plane was the last to arrive that day, and he showed up with the taxi bringing in the pilots and crew from the flight as the airport was closing down.
Nevertheless, we were delighted to see him, and he had brought a gift of chocolates for Mother’s Day.
May 12, 2008 (Mon.) – Conditions were perfect for sailing back to Conception Island, 12 knots from the west. We pulled up anchor around 10:00, made our way through the coral reefs to the south entrance to Elizabeth Harbour, and set sail across Exuma Sound with the spinnaker, averaging 7.5 knots. As we approached the anchorage on the east side of Conception around 1630 hours, we spied Rio Luna, and they spotted us. Four kids were ecstatic!
There was a large reef off our starboard stern, and Desmond, Peter and I swam to it. (Our kids were with Josie and Justin.) There were the usual fish and coral and sponges, and I saw one large shark.
May 13, 2008 (Tues.) – We managed to get some school work done in the morning, and the kids took themselves to the long, white beach to play in the waves and explore. Peter, Desmond and I swam to the point on the southern end of the anchorage, but there wasn’t much to see other than a large school of palometa near the sandy shore. The wind was picking up from the east, and we were concerned about the kids getting the dinghy off the beach through the growing breakers so we went in to rescue them. Matthew and I swam back to Epicurus while the rest took our dinghy, dropping Josie and Justin off at their boat. Unfortunately, Katya’s new mask, which Peter had just bought for her three days before in Georgetown, got left on the beach and we didn’t realize it until we had moved to an anchorage on the west side.
In mid-afternoon, we all went to Rio Luna to help celebrate Justin and Josie’s 13th birthdays a few days early, which Tracy had decided was a good idea since they could have friends to share in the birthday brownies.
The wind had shifted to the northeast, creating an uncomfortable surge. We took the lead leaving the anchorage around 1700 for the west side of Conception, followed by half a dozen others. The surge was hooking around the northern end of the island, so the new anchorage was no better than the east side. However, we had the opportunity to explore the marshes on the interior of the island in the dinghy before dark, although going in and out of the cut was a bit of a whitewater adventure! It was very peaceful inside, and we saw a few turtles swimming serenely near the surface. We meandered a mile of so up the waterway, avoiding the shoals. When we turned back to return to Epicurus, Desmond, Matthew and I hopped overboard with our snorkeling gear and allowed the current of the ebbing tide to carry us back to the entrance, jumping back in just before being washed out to sea.
After a quick dinner and preparations for a night sail, we pulled up anchor, bid a final farewell to friends on Rio Luna, and set off at 2300 hours for Big Majors Spot. With Desmond on board, I didn’t have to do any watches. The wind continued to blow from the northeast at 12-15 knots, allowing us to sail at 6 to 7 knots with the two headsails. According to the log, it was gusty and turbulent in the night, but I missed it!!!
May 14, 2008 (Wed.) – We anchored around 1100 hours on the west side of Big Majors Spot in the Exumas, beside the Dashew’s Wind Horse. We quickly ate some food and headed off to snorkel at Thunderball Cave off Staniel Cay. We had just missed slack water, so we had to fight the incoming current to enter and get through; we couldn’t peacefully drift and observe the tropical fish as we did two years ago. Nevertheless, we were able to spend time with large butterflyfish and some really large queen angelfish among the other colorful marine life.
We stopped to visit the wild pigs on the southwest beach of Big Majors Spot on the way back to the boat. There was a dark, cute juvenile among them. I snorkeled back to Epicurus by myself, spotting a cowfish which I couldn’t correlate to the descriptions in our tropical fish guide and also a 6-inch true tulip crawling along the sandy bottom.
Later in the afternoon, Desmond, Peter and I visited the Dashews on their motor yacht. The hull and deck are constructed of unpainted aluminum, selected for functionality. The exterior is in stark contrast to the interior which, although also designed with the idea that form follows function, is warm, bright and elegant. While Desmond and Peter spent time with Steve discussing the equipment and specifications on Wind Horse, I took a tour of the saloon, galley, staterooms, heads and engine room down below. The Dashews, for all their fame and expertise, are gracious hosts, generous with their time, knowledge and experiences. Peter could have stayed for hours more, I’m sure, but we did leave before we had entirely worn out our welcome.
May 15, 2008 (Thurs.) – We woke up to another beautiful day, still anchored off Big Majors Spot. The kids and I focused on school work, trying to catch up after too many days in the last couple weeks during which little or nothing was accomplished in order to allow them to play with Josie and Justin and other kids.
We watched an amphibious plane glide in on the water near us to drop off Sarah Dashew for a visit to her parents’ yacht. It seemed tiny next to their boat! Peter and Desmond did some exploration on land before lunch. After lunch, we pulled up anchor and motored, since there was little wind, to Warderick Wells to visit the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We picked up a mooring ball off Rendezvous Beach. I swam to the point south of us while the rest took the dinghy. Katya, as usual, preferred pacing on the beach while the rest of us explored the near shore reefs.
The most exciting encounters were with the enormous spiny lobsters sheltered under the overhanging coral of the reefs. There were also large Nassau and marbled and yellowfin groupers, red hinds, and a grasby among the other reef fish and colorful, healthy coral. A great barracuda joined us on the first reef and became our constant companion as we explored other small reefs and swam along the limestone headland to the soft, pure sandy beach. He finally left us when we were in about a foot of water. Peter thought he expected food, but I thought he was just curious and friendly.
May 16, 2008 (Fri.) – In the morning, around 0900 hours, we dinghied to the park headquarters to pay for the mooring and see what we could find in the shop. We purchased a guide to birds of the West Indies, an identification card for shells, and the third of the set of reef life guides, the guide to invertebrate creatures. I’ve become quite good at identifying tropical fish and reasonably good with coral and algae, but there have been mollusks and sponges and other creatures for which I’ve had no reference. Now I can move on to the phyla of porifera, cnidaria, ctenophora, platyhelminthes, rhynchocoela, annelida, arthropoda, ectoprocta, mollusca, and enchinodermata! (If only my kids were as interested as I am! If I could find some way to transmit the information via iPod, Katya might become excited.) Looking through the book, I can remember seeing but not being able to name bearded fireworms as well as a variety of segmented worms, of which the radioles extending from their tubes are all that can be seen. In fact, we have mistakenly called the Christmas tree worm an anemone! I realized that some of the tiny creatures Peter and I saw along the reefs of the waterfront in Bonaire were banded coral shrimps and the one creature with red and white legs and an imperceptible body was probably not a shrimp at all but a type of sea star called a swimming crinoid. The sea cucumbers come in a wide array of sizes and colors, but I have always lumped them together as the same species. There is so much to learn!
May 17, 2008 (Sat.) – We moved on to Leaf Cay, among the small islets in the Allen’s which are the only home of large, ugly, indigenous iguanas which hustle on to the beach to greet anyone who comes ashore, expecting food. (The day-tours from Nassau have spoiled them.) I snorkeled over the grassy bottom near shore, finding an abundance of live juvenile conches, smaller than the legal size for capture, as well as a great many larger but empty shells. Other than the marine parks, the conch haven’t a chance against human predators.
I spent some time with the kids doing school work while Peter and Desmond went out—unsuccessfully—with the spear hunting for dinner. Along the southwestern reefs off Southwest Allen’s Cay, they saw many large groupers, an enormous spotted eagle ray and a school of Atlantic spadefish, but they were elusive when the spear came out.
May 18, 2008 (Sun.) – Peter and Desmond wanted to return to the reef with Matthew and me (we’ve given up on Katya!) to show us the ray and the Atlantic spadefish (which they had not positively identified). We should have gone in the early morning before the current became strong, but we forgot to take this into consideration. By 0900 hours, it was difficult making headway in the dinghy to the south side of Southwest Allen’s Cay, and the current was too strong, particularly for Matthew, to make it from the beach, through the cuts and to the outside. Peter walked Matthew the short distance to the north side of the horseshoe-shaped island, where he was happy to play in the sand and the water. The three adults dinghied back out to the outside of the little islands off the point. Desmond and I donned our gear and jumped overboard. The current was still too strong to get to the reef safely, so Peter threw out a line and towed us to a place from which we could drift with the current along the reef and then swim through the cut where he could pick us up on the lee side. We were probably pushing the limits on safety, but we survived. We didn’t see the ray but we did make a positive identification of the Atlantic spadefish.
We pulled up anchor at 1100 hours, an hour later than Peter had wanted, and headed north for Nassau so that Desmond could catch his flight to London that evening. We skirted the dreaded Yellow Banks to the west. I was down below when we almost hit a wreck, probably recent, the bow of which was jutting out of the water as the stern rested on the bottom in less than 20 feet of depth.
We had intended to stay at a marina, but when we radioed for rates and availability, we found the least expensive marina charged $4/foot, which equals nearly $250 for us, for one night. The mega-resort Atlantis wanted $7/foot! Needless to say, we anchored in the harbor off the yacht club and found it not bad at all, even though the guides warn of strong currents and a bottom covered in debris from centuries of use as a primary port. We took the dinghy ashore to a restaurant, where Desmond was able to eat the local seafood for the first time on his vacation with us, since we had been unsuccessful in trawling for fish. After dinner, he was able to get an exorbitantly priced taxi to the airport and we went back to Epicurus.
Although it was not late, I was exhausted and got ready for bed, leaving the kids and Peter to take care of themselves. Earlier, Peter had visited a sailboat from Canada with two kids. As I was lying in bed reading, Jim, the dad, came to visit us and see the boat. He and Peter arranged to meet up the next day at Bond Cay in the Berries.
May 19, 2008 (Mon.) – As soon as we got up, we got dressed and took our dinghy to Atlantis to have breakfast. One of the first places we saw in the marina village was Jamba Juice. The smoothies cost twice as much as in the States, but we were excited to get them. We walked along the docks admiring the mega-yachts and then went in to the small part of Atlantis which is free to enter. Everything is very modern (although pretending to represent the architecture of a lost, sunken city) and slick, stylishly furnished and decorated in tropical colors. It’s definitely over the top and artificial, but it is large and varied enough to keep people entertained for a week’s holiday without ever leaving the premises.
At 1030 hours, we hauled up the anchor and had a pleasant motorsail to Bonds Cay, with the exception of a small squall around 1500 hours. After we had quickly taken down the spinnaker before the rain hit, Peter handed me the halyard, which I fastened to the base of the mast before I started taking up the slack. Unfortunately, I hadn’t fastened it securely, a fact I realized when I noticed there was no tension on the line after I had cranked the winch a few times and looked up to see the end dangling about 15 feet above the deck. As the rain began to pour down, Peter climbed up to the top of the boom with the boathook and attempted to snag the end of the halyard. The wind kept blowing it away from him and there was really no good holding for the hook. As he was giving up, I thought to try the long-handled fish net, and this worked. We were soaked, but the rain didn’t last long, and we dried out in the sun pretty quickly.
Peter was bored with motor-sailing and decided to try once again to catch some fish with the Cuban hand line. He immediately got a hit and pulled in a lovely 18” cero. It wasn’t long before he caught another, only slightly smaller. I couldn’t watch as he brutally killed them by whacking their heads on the deck. I guess it was better than suffocation, though. Next, Peter caught something really big, and it took him quite a while to pull in a great barracuda, whom the kids named Bob. Barracuda often have ciguatera, so we had to throw him back after Peter wrestled with him to release the hook. We all waved good-bye to Bob as he leaped of the swim deck and darted away.
Around 1800 hours, we anchored in the sand west of Bonds Cay. Peter invited the family from Canada over for dinner to share the catch. We parents ate on deck while the kids ate down below. They decided to watch a movie together, even though it was nearly 8:00. Unfortunately, our feeble attempts to get them to choose a short DVD did not work, and they selected one of the Lord of the Ring movies, which lasted nearly three hours. Jim kept falling asleep and the rest of us, although we had enjoyed conversation over dinner and wine, were not too lively as we impatiently waited for the movie to end. It is nice to meet others, but my enthusiasm for socializing, after the social whirl of the Exumas, was getting worn.
May 20, 2008 (Tues.) - At 10:30, we pulled up anchor and headed for the northern Berries to anchor someplace where we could easily get out before dawn the next morning. The first few hours we were motor-sailing, but the wind picked up to 12-14 knots by 1400 hours, and we sailed up to Great Harbour, where we anchored on the west side of Goat Cay. We managed to get some school work done. There were a couple other boats at anchor, but I told Peter I needed a rest from meeting more new people and persuaded him not to go out visiting in the dinghy. We had a quiet evening and went to bed shortly after sunset.
May 21, 2008 (Wed.) – Peter and I got up at 0400 hours and got ready to head northwest to Grand Bahama to visit Andrew, whom we hadn’t seen for a year and a half. We were underway shortly after 0500 hours, gliding out of the harbor and into Northwest Providence Channel. At 0630 hours, Peter noticed a large, dark cloud approaching from the west, and at 0800 hours, we were caught in a squall, which Peter had tried to avoid by making a u-turn. The wind clocked from the southwest to the northeast but returned to the southwest after the front passed. By 0845 hours, we were close-hauled and sailing nicely. We arrived at Bell Channel at Lucaya at 1545 hours and were docked (after several attempts and nearly dumping Andrew into the drink as he was trying to catch lines) by 1620.
We all felt right at home. Matthew was effusive in his excitement, and both kids were pleased to have access to the internet and cable TV and episodes of Dr. Who.
May 22-26, 2008 (Thurs.-Mon.) – We relaxed, enjoyed Andrew’s company, and got back on a regular schedule for school work. Andrew volunteered to teach the sections on algebra, which I agreed to readily since math is his area of expertise and he has a lot of enthusiasm for the subject. Since we had missed many days over the past several weeks, we had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but the kids did not complain. They have become quite good about recognizing that it is the amount of work accomplished that matters, not the time put in. Although our goal was to finish everything by the end of May, we still have work to complete in science, geography, first aid, vocabulary and writing, but we should be able to polish that off in a week.
Andrew hosted a barbecue on our last night in Lucaya, inviting several of his friends, all interesting people—including Pete from South Africa, whom we were delighted to see again. Matthew easily persuaded him to throw him into the pool while seated on a chair, an exciting experience Matthew had remembered from over two years ago.
May 27, 2008 (Tues.) – We cast off from Andrew’s dock in Lucaya at 1315 hours, en route to Cap Canaveral, Florida, anticipating about 24 hours of sailing. After we exited the channel and set our course, we hoisted the genoa and the staysail and were homeward bound for the States—and Disney World!
We changed watch around midnight, wishing each other a happy 14th wedding anniversary!
May 28, 2008 (Wed.) – Katya took a watch for an hour and a half in the middle of the night, so, once again, I did not have to be disturbed. We had favorable winds until 0600 hours, when they had died down to 6 knots and we had to turn on the engine. We motored the rest of the way to Harbortown Canaveral Marina on Merritt Island. For the first time, we made use of a lock to enter the Canaveral Barge Canal. There was only a negligible difference between the water level on the Atlantic side and the Banana River, so it was uneventful other than being accompanied through the lock by dolphins and two manatees.
We got settled on the dock at the marina, which is quite protected but still has a breeze coming through. Peter picked up the rental car and we all went to clear customs and immigration. After, we headed for Target, where the kids were eager to spend their money and I bought supplies and birthday presents for Matthew. Then, we went to Publix, a large supermarket, to get food, finding everything we wanted at reasonable prices, always a delight after the Caribbean and Bahamas, where you get what you can and pay what you have to.
As the day ended, anhingas came to roost on the pines near our boat. It was peaceful and it felt good to be home (although we miss the turquoise water already).
May 29, 2008 (Thurs.) – We went to the Kennedy Space Center today. The excitement of imminent launches was practically palatable. The shuttle was scheduled for launch at 1702 on Saturday, and Tuesday, a probe was being launched. We regretted that we would already be at Disney World on Saturday before the shuttle launch, which we could have seen from our boat.
Matthew remembered many of the exhibits and attractions from when we visited when he was 6 years old and was excited to visit again. He particularly enjoyed the Robot Scouts exhibit. During the short talk in the rocket garden, he was eager to impress the tour guide with his knowledge of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Even though we had seen it before, we were still amazed at the size and complexity of the Saturn V rocket on display. The shuttle and its rockets were clearly visible on the launch pad when we took the bus tour of the center, as was the crawler, which had recently carried it to the pad from the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building.
After spending most of the day there but still not doing everything, we returned to the boat for dinner. Katya, Matthew and I went out to shop some more in the evening. We couldn’t forget goodie bags for celebrating Matthew’s birthday with three of his cousins when we arrived in Disney World on Saturday!
May 30, 2008 (Fri.) – Matthew was eager to celebrate his 12th birthday and open presents, but we insisted on finishing our tour of the Kennedy Space Center and visiting the Astronaut Hall of Fame first. We saw both 3-D movies at the space center and visited the museum on the early space program. Matthew went to the Robots Scout exhibit again. At the Hall of Fame, I spent more time in the museum section. I hadn’t realized that Neil Armstrong was the first civilian astronaut or that scientists were not hired and trained as astronauts until the Apollo missions. There was a lot of fascinating information, including the fact the average astronaut was married and had two children, one dog and one Corvette!
Back at the boat, we had cupcakes for Matthew’s birthday and he opened his presents from us, which included Yu-Gi-Oh! cards from Katya and the game of Clue from us as well as a gift certificate for Target. He can use it to purchase a new video game for the Wii system that is a gift from everyone in my family, which he won’t know about until tomorrow in Disney.
We played a game of Clue before starting to pack for our eight-day vacation at Disney World with my sister Beth Ann, her husband Rich and their children Kirsten, Olivia and Jared. We hope that we can survive it!
May 31, 2008 (Sat.) – Although we had planned for 9:00, by 11:00 we had everything on the boat secured and everything we needed packed in the car and were on our way to Disney. We stopped at a Publix near the park to get food for breakfast and snacks and more birthday cupcakes. Shortly before 1 p.m., we arrived at Port Orleans, Riverside, and Beth Ann and her family arrived a few minutes later. She and I had to negotiate a change of building and rooms so that we could be close to the main pool and the food court, and then we settled in. After dumping our stuff, we all went to the pool, where the four younger children had fun using the water squirting tubes we had picked up at the dollar store. We celebrated Matthew’s birthday again by the pool. He was excited to learn that a Wii was awaiting him at Beth Ann’s house.
That evening, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the special Princesses and Pirates Party, the boys dressed as pirates. There were treasures to be found and a special fireworks display in addition to the attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Beth Ann had purchased Disney trading pins on e-bay, supplying each of the five kids with 17 pins, a new lanyard, not to mention an autograph book. This was just the beginning of late nights and intensive immersion into the Disney experience.
June 1, 2008 (Sun.) – We spent the entire day—more than 12 hours—at Animal Kingdom. In between stopping every Disney cast member we saw who had trading pins, we enjoyed the rides and the animals from around the world in the zoo-like parks. Our first stop was DinoLand, where we went back in time to the Cretaceous period on DINOSAUR in order to bring back a living specimen, being accosted by various prehistoric creatures, not necessarily in the proper time and place. The kids and I went on the little roller coaster, which jerked us around the corners but had no big thrills. Much more exciting was Expedition Everest, where the tracks are torn up by the Yeti and the cars hurtle backwards into the darkness. Matthew and Peter, not liking the sensations of thrill rides, sat that one out, as well as the Kali River Rapids, which is not at all scary but a lot of fun—and we got WET! It felt good, because it was a hot day.
We split up into various groups throughout the day, depending on what people wanted to do. Somehow, Beth Ann and Rich ended up with all the kids in the afternoon, and Peter and I had a couple hours to walk along the wildlife trails and to see the Flights of Wonder show, which featured amazing birds.
We all saw the Festival of the Lion King and It’s Tough to Be a Bug show together in the late afternoon.
In the evening, we had special tickets for a evening safari ride through the Africa area followed by a dinner at the Tusker restaurant—where we actually enjoyed Tusker beer along with delicious food. There was African music and the restaurant was noisy; Matthew was overwhelmed by the noise and commotion, so he went outside for a while for a respite but recovered his spirit when Chip and Dale, those charming chipmunks, made a special visit.
June 2, 2008 (Mon.) – We spent this day at EPCOT. We found Innoventions and the other science-related attractions lacking in any in-depth descriptions or displays of real science, and the corporate sponsorships were blatant in the advertisements. The purpose seemed to get people exciting about general ideas and products rather than educating them or allowing them to experiment. However, we enjoyed the mock game-show where Matthew and Katya competed against each other to make the highest stack with Velcro blocks and Peter competed against another man in a race to diaper the most baby dolls. The two co-hosts of the show were really funny.
The whole family met up to see the Energy Show with Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. It was entertaining but didn’t really have much to say about sources of energy or conservation. After that, we went on Mission Space. Peter, Matthew and I chose to go on the less intense green version while the others were happy to pull more G’s on the orange ride. Matthew really enjoyed the Advanced Training area after the ride, where we were able to participate as astronauts or mission control to fix problems on a spaceship and compete against another team for speed and efficiency. The three wimps went on the Spaceship Earth ride and then to see “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” and the “Journey into Imagination with Figment,” while the more adventurous crowd went on the Test Track. Splitting up into a different configuration of people after that, I ended up by myself(!) at the World Showcase, where I watched a Japanese woman making elaborate animals from corn-syrup candy and a short taiko drumming performance.
We all went to a special international dinner where the hosts were really lame. People who were celebrating birthdays or anniversaries were congratulated, which included Matthew (12) and Rich (really old) as well as Beth Ann and Rich (25 years) and Peter and me (14 years). Fortunately, we decided not to go down to the stage area with the other anniversary couples, who were embarrassed by the hostess, asking them what had kept them together. It was cloying and trite and went on entirely too long. Minnie and Goofy finally arrived to enliven things, and my kids were on the floor dancing away—and even asking me to dance with them! Oh, the magic of Disney!
There was a downpour after dinner, when we were scheduled to get preferred places to see the Illuminations show as part of our package. (Beth Ann arranged everything and we didn’t inquire about the cost!) The rain diminished to mist and sprinkles right before 9 p.m., and we rushed over to our place to watch the pyrotechnics and the ever-changing illuminated pictures on the globe with coordinated music. Despite the bad weather, it was a great show.
June 3, 2008 (Tues.) – The next day was the Magic Kingdom. The girls and Peter stayed at the hotel while Beth Ann, Rich and I got an early start with the boys for the much-anticipated trip to Tom Sawyer Island, full armed. Rich and I both wanted to see the show at the Hall of Presidents, so Beth Ann accompanied the boys. The animatronics show was good, but the best part was the historian who kept us enthralled with Presidential facts and trivia for about 20 minutes before the doors opened. Rich and I found the boys and the five of us boarded the raft back to FrontierLand. On the other side, we were corralled into a holding area at the exit and then, along with the other passengers for that trip, were presented with special blue caps with Mickey ears for the 2008 celebration of a Year of a Million Dreams. (We already received the 2007 version a year and a half ago.) The magic just never ended!
Peter and the girls joined us for lunch at Liberty Square for lunch; then we all went to the classic Haunted Mansion. We all did “It’s a Small World” also. Katya really wanted to get her picture taken with Ariel, so the Browns stood in a long line for the privilege while the Powells went on to other adventures. Later, the boys wanted to go back to Tom Sawyer Island, so the dads took them. Katya and I took a quick tour of Minnie’s house in Toontown and went to AdventureLand to see the show at the Tiki Room. We were all supposed to meet at 4:30 by Space Mountain, but the dads couldn’t find the boys. Katya and I stopped to the show about Mickey’s Dream in front of the castle (wondering how they perform in those heavy costumes in the extreme heat). By the time Katya and I met Beth Ann and girls in TommorowLand, she was frustrated because they had done nothing in order to get to the designated meeting place by 4:30. (It was nearly 5:00.) I left Katya with her for Space Mountain and went to meet Peter and Matthew for Peter Pan’s Flight, for which we had Fast Passes. Disney magic saved Richie, because while they were waiting in the Space Mountain arcade, Beth Ann and the three girls were randomly chosen to play for free and even received special award certificates!
After they finally rode Space Mountain, they were ready to return to the hotel. Matthew, Peter and I stayed on to do Pirates of the Caribbean again, the Tiki Room show and the Jungle Cruise.
June 4, 2008 (Wed.) – We were at the bus stop early, ready for Hollywood Studios. We wanted to get there early enough to get the boys front-row seats for the Jedi academy training by Star Tours. We actually had plenty of time to do other things first. The girls and Rich and Beth Ann took off for the Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Matthew, Peter and I did the new Toy Story Midway Mania ride in which we shot at various arcade-style targets featuring different Toy Story characters. Then we all watched the High School Muscial/School’s Out performance on the Streets of America. While the girls went back to the roller coaster, we went and sat for over a half hour for the Jedi training. We were told that the kids were chosen by their level of excitement, and that it didn’t hurt to have a parent behind them gesticulating wildly for attention. I did my part for the two boys. Matthew did not have to fake any enthusiasm and was chosen quickly; Jared was much more reserved and lucky that he had me behind him, pointing emphatically at his head, and he was chosen also. They were trained by a man who looked quite like Obi Wan. After their training, Darth Vader emerged and they each had a chance to battle against him even as he was trying to persuade them to come to the Dark Side. All of us did the Star Tours ride also.
Next, we rushed to the Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show. We also wanted to see the Indiana Jones show, so we left the stunt show before the big finale, upsetting Matthew, and then we were too late for Indiana Jones anyway. Peter, Matthew and I stayed on at the theme park while the rest returned to the hotel for naps after we all had lunch. (Beth Ann was having problems with her asthma from all the running around in the heat.) We did see the next showing for Indiana Jones and then returned to the hotel.
That evening, we went to Downtown Disney. Matthew loved the Lego store and tried to persuade me to by the 10,000+ piece, $500 set of the Millennium Falcon. Instead, he got a Bionicle. We all had dinner at an Irish restaurant, and the kids returned to the hotel while the four adults remained to enjoy the comedy shows at various clubs on Paradise Island. Beth Ann and Rich and their friend Jerry, who had joined us at dinner, stayed on until nearly closing, but Peter and I returned to our room by 1 p.m.—finding our kids still up and watching TV!!!
June 5, 2008 (Thurs.) – This was a day of relaxation. We didn’t set alarms! In the late morning, we rode the bus over to Typhoon Lagoon and enjoyed the water slides and wave pool. That evening, we stayed at the hotel. Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Ron from Sanford came with their granddaughter Stacie and her mother Linda to see us. We hadn’t seen Jeannie and Ron since Grandma’s 100th birthday party three years ago, and they had never met Katya. It was a nice little reunion. Jean seems to be doing well. Ron also seems content and healthy for 85, although Alzheimer’s disease keeps him from remembering any of us, although he does respond to Mom and Dad’s names.
We went to the shop at Riverside to see what was on the pin board and met up with a manager, Chris from New Jersey, who made some trips into the back room to get things we were looking for. He didn’t have all of our hearts’ desires, but he made a list of the pins missing from the kids’ collections and told us to meet him the next day after 4:30 in the French Quarter! What magic!
The four adults and Kirsten played pinochle while the kids watched TV and got themselves ready for bed. We just never wear out!
June 6, 2008 (Fri.) – This was the first day of Star Wars Weekend. The boys had their light sabers and their autograph books and were quite excited. We boarded an early bus and arrived at the park even before it opened. Most of the day was spent collecting autographs from and getting photographs with many Star Wars characters, including Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Boba Fett, Luke and Leia, and Jedi Mickey! There was also a parade featuring many of the characters, and music from the movies played continuously throughout Hollywood Studios all three days!
We had lunch at the Sci-Fi Café, seated in fake cars as if were at a drive-in movie. A truly un-magical thing happened while we were waiting for the food. I was reviewing the photos on our camera and deleting bad ones when I accidentally erased everything—the Jedi training, the video of battling Darth Vader, the photos with Ariel—everything! I was devastated.
After lunch, Matthew and Jared and Beth Ann and I stayed at the park to get more signatures—and more pictures! Peter called me after about an hour to say that he thought he had found a website that would enable him to recover the deleted files. He’s a saint and a genius!!!
After pictures with some bounty hunters and then Darth Maul, we returned to the hotel where I had a much needed nap while Peter worked his own magic!
After meeting with our connection for pins, Chris, in the French Quarter (He had everything he had promised!), we went back to Hollywood Studios just to see the phenomenal Fantasmic show.
June 7, 2008 (Sat.) – Matthew and I got an early start for Hollywood Studios. He and I did the Star Tours ride again and collected more signatures and photos. Around 11 a.m., we took the boat to EPCOT. Everyone else was still resting at the hotel. Matthew enjoyed fish and chips in the British area of the World Showcase while we watched a comedy troupe perform a show about Camelot and King Arthur. We were encouraged to yell, “Rubbage!” in British fashion in response to the really lame jokes.
Since it was our last day, we did as much as possible. We went on the boat ride in the Mexico area and then went back to the Advanced Training area of Mission Space to compete in mission control and as astronauts three times before meeting the rest of the family. We split up into various groups again. Peter, Matthew, Rich and Jared and I listened to a rock music performance by Celtic-influenced musicians (with a bagpipe) in the Canada and watched the 360 degree show on that country. By myself, I saw a musician playing a traditional string instrument in China. Then I was joined by Katya, Peter and Matthew, and we watched the Chinese children acrobats. After the 360 degree movie on China, we met up with the other in the German section, where we enjoyed a great buffet dinner and show. We made our way through the areas on China, Norway and Mexico, where the kids collected parts of the international masks, and we rode the rides. We stayed on at EPCOT to shop, and Katya and I watched the Illuminations show again at 9:00.
Beth Ann and I made one last stop in the Riverside store and were able to bid farewell to Chris.
June 8, 2008 (Sun.) – Matthew and Katya flew to Ohio with my family, leaving me and Peter on our own for two weeks. Matthew is going to science camp and then to church camp with Jared. Katya’s vacation will be less structured, which will suit her fine. They all left Port Orleans at 7:30 a.m. Peter and I got everything packed and then relaxed by the pool for a while before checking out at 11 a.m. Peter had decided to buy a Indiana Jones hat, so we returned to Hollywood Studios. Peter suggested seeing the Muppets 3-D feature, which surprised me. As we were standing in line, I mentioned that I didn’t realize that he liked it so much that he would want to see again two days later. He had forgotten that we had just seen it! The whole Disney experience just overwhelms him! We skipped it and made our escape.
We stopped at Costco for supplies on the way back to the marina. We were anxious to get back and relax, though. Peter was also looking forward to getting the new mainsail which had been delivered in our absence. As seems to be usual with anything involving parts or repairs to the boat, things were not what we expected. The sail and the cradle had been delivered by FedEx, but the battens had not.
It was very quiet on the boat that evening without the kids. I was exhausted and unable to unpack everything, so I left the mess. After a quick swim in the pool and a bit to eat, I went to bed after talking the kids, who were doing fine without me!
June 9, 2008 (Mon.) – I unpacked everything and put things away while Peter started sending e-mails and making phone calls to track the missing battens. Apparently, they had made it to Puerto Rico with the other two other packages that had been shipped from Barbados but had been sent back for unspecified reasons. The FedEx agent in Barbados said that the people in Puerto Rico had complained about the size of the 20 foot long tube and refused to send it on. (Why it made a difference whether they shipped it northwest to Florida or southeast back to Barbados is beyond me; either way, they were handling it.) The Barbados agent said he couldn’t do anything about what went on in Puerto Rico! The man at Doyle suggested Peter find battens here in the States and he would pay for them. This would seem like a simple solution, but most sail lofts do not stock the size that we need.
Meanwhile, we took the old mainsail off the mast and Peter cut off the hardware and sections of cloth which might have other uses before it went in the dumpster. I went out shopping for groceries and other supplies.
It was quite hot. We jumped in the pool before sunset to refresh ourselves. Then we had a quiet, pleasant dinner of Portobello tortellini prima vera. I talked with the kids. Matthew had quite a lot to say about science camp, which has provided the challenge of making something that will allow an egg to be dropped three stories onto a board with breaking. He has ideas for using straws, parachutes, gel packs, silly putty and other items. Beth Ann and Rich will have their hands full helping him with his inventions, which must be ready by Friday, particularly if Jared also has several alternative solutions planned.
Even though I had two naps during the day, I was ready for bed by 11 p.m. I attribute it to recovering from Disney.
June 10, 2008 (Tues.) – We slept until nearly 9 a.m. After breakfast, Peter began making phone calls to various sailmakers, none of whom could supply the battens we need. Peter was eager to try out the new sail and is feeling quite frustrated. I suggested that, although the FedEx agent in Barbados had threw up his hands, Peter call the international FedEx office about the problem. He finally did this and spoke them quite firmly (for him, who is usually very easy going), and they are now working on getting the battens to the States. However, they are going to have to ship them further north, as Peter and I need to start heading up the coast in order to get to the Chesapeake Bay and Washington in less than two weeks to get our kids back. We will just have to manage with the headsails and the engine a while longer.
I have been busy today getting this blog up-to-date. Peter spent the afternoon shopping for marine, electrical, plumbing and other supplies. It has been hot and still today, and we have had to use the air-conditioning most of the time. The brief showers earlier today did not reduce the humidity much.