Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Let's Meditate

We are all getting pretty tired of being at anchor in one place. Weather and tides have kept us in Marsh Harbour longer than we had originally planned.

We discussed potential boredom busters and I recommended meditation ... for all of us!
Austin shrugged, but Aaron moved into lotus position, eager to meditate right then and there.

A few minutes later, Aaron moved up to the deck and invited me to meditate with him. We settled in, just forward of the dodger, seated comfortably on cushions. We closed our eyes and
Aaron guided the meditation.

"Close your eyes, Mum. And listen.
Listen to the calm water. The ripples.
The cool breeze.
The night sky. The stars.
Breathe."

Austin blurted out some loud and silly noises in the galley, as he tends to do on his dishes night. Aaron didn't miss a beat and just reminded me ...

"Focus your attention on meditating.
Nothing else matters."

Waiting

 
Anchorage at night
Night zephyrs chase across the bay. Ripples twirling across the dark water. Anchor lights bobbing. The air is heavy and wet. Delicate rain drops appear out of the night. They tease with their sudden appearance only to vanish moments after I close the hatches. An uncomfortable swell wraps around the harbour, rocking the boat unpredictably, my inner ear protesting. 

Not long ago the wind was blowing from the south east, gusting over twenty knots. More wind is soon expected from the north. This is the third front in five days. Each bringing rain and wind interspersed with calm. The worst is still forecast to come. All I can do is wait. 

We've hardly left the boat in days. The pantry lockers are well stocked. The deck has been scrubbed clean. The tanks are full with rain water. The wet weather chores are done. I feel that all the good books have been read. The never ending overcast days have left the batteries drawn down. The wifi signal is weak. The lag making it impossible to lose minutes in the meaningless chatter of Facebook. We have lots of board games but I'm not interested. The awkward roll kills my desire to think. Tempers are short. 

I contemplate a quick night ride on the paddle board. Anything to break the monotony. I crave activity but it's dark and I don't want to be caught out when the winds return.

I look longingly at charts of anchorages with white beaches and coral reefs. I read the ActiveCaptain descriptions that capture glimpses of places that are wonderful to explore in prevailing winds. Anchorages made treacherous by this slow train of fronts.

I must be content. We have chosen this bay for its protection. We are safe. I may be uncomfortable, I may not be entertained but this is a good place to be. I know the anchor is well set. I know we can ride out anything in the forecast. But do we really understand the risks of boredom?    

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bahamas Arrival and Shake Down

A little over three weeks in the Bahamas. Despite coming here on Singing Frog twice before, this is actually the longest we have ever been in the Bahamas. The previous two visits, the Bahamas were just stops on the way to somewhere else. This time we intend to stay as long as possible! Our three week tour of eastern Canada (details in a forthcoming post) were exciting but far from relaxing. It is now our intention to take the pace back a few notches and watch some clouds, or something.

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Backing up a bit, all the way to December 13th. We arrived in Marsh Harbour, Abacos, Bahamas just past sunset after a long day of flights, cabs and much waiting around. Not a single bag or child went missing along the way. A nice fellow met us at the airport with our rental van and after a brief, and in my mind rather ambiguous, set of instructions, left us to get on our way.


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Given our late arrival and then unknown amount of work needed to splash the boat, we decided to rent a cabin on the beach for three nights. The nice family renting the units had gone home for the day but left the side door unlocked for us. If anyone is looking for a nice place to stay in Marsh Harbour we can certainly recommend Pelican Beach Villas. They are not cheapest in town (but also far from the most expensive) but you are right on the beach, there are nice big rooms with lots of beds, a full kitchen and two bathrooms each with their own showers. You can swim from the beach over to the fun snorkelling at Mermaid Reef (and we did!).

Driving in the Bahamas is interesting. Cars drive on the left but a good number are imported from the US (as was our van) so there are a lot of left-hand-drive cars. Except for the main highways between settlements, folks tend to drive nice and slow. There's a single intersection with a traffic light in Marsh Harbour, the only other town outside Nassau and Freeport to have one. Similar to what we saw in the Caribbean islands, the general driving attitude is to be helpful and give way to other traffic. We often saw cars on a main road stop and wave turning traffic through. Horns tend to be used a lot as friendly signals and rarely in frustration or anger. Very nice!


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Splashing the boat generated a bit of anxiety but was uneventful. It took a few more days to really unpack and get everything put in its place. Actually, who am I kidding, we are still working to find homes for a few things!


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Once settled on the boat, we had to wait for a nasty bit of weather to pass and for favourable tides. The boatyard has a shallow entrance so we can only pass through on a high or rising tide. We took advantage of the downtime and the fact we still had time on our rental van to do some driving tours of Grand Abaco. Treasure Cay, a spit of land that's been developed into a resort community, had a lot of interesting houses and an amazing beach. The harbour there is pretty good too so we may go again by boat. We tried to find the in-land blue hole that is reported to be in the area but we were not successful. Still, it was fun to do some off-the-beaten-path exploring.


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Hope Town on Elbow Cay was advertising a fun Christmas Village on the morning radio net. Since we figured we were stuck where we were for a few days, we decided to hop on one of the foot ferries (Albury's Ferries) and go see what was happening over on Elbow Cay.


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The weather eventually cleared, we got our favourable tide and we rode a perfect SSE wind all the way to Fishers Bay on Great Guana Cay. We'd had enough of bustling Marsh Harbour so we decided to camp out here for nearly a week and relax.

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Christmas on the boat this year was low key and intimate. Lots of Lego with a strong Star Wars theme followed by a delicious pancake and turkey bacon breakfast. The adults sure didn't miss all the hustle and stress of the usual shopping-filled lead-up to the big day but time with family was certainly missed.

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One of the venues on Great Guana is called Nippers and they host a BBQ on Sundays. We decided to check it out and got to meet a fun family visiting from the Washington DC/Maryland area. The beach was perfect, just enough surf for the kids to have fun but not be dangerous. Nippers also has a couple guest pools which were perfect after swimming in the salt water (there's a hose to rinse off with first). We left by mid-afternoon as the college party atmosphere was starting to become a little "adult-oriented" for the younger ones.


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Fishers Bay at Great Guana Cay was a perfect place for us to hang out for a while and just settle in. Lots of great sunsets, a relatively calm bay to tour on the paddle boards, decent holding (at least for us). Unfortunately we started to get low on food and water so we had to return to the "big town" in Marsh Harbour. That and we knew some exciting weather was soon to be headed our way and we wanted to be settled-in with confidence before that happened.


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We subscribe to the "painless cruising" philosophy which means we only sail to windward if it's blowing less than 15 knots and the seas are nearly flat. The prevailing winds in this area are typically from the E-SE which means the conditions are not often good to make our way in that direction. We waited an extra day in Fishers Bay and got rewarded with a perfect sail back to Marsh Harbour.


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After waiting out another front (a strong one this time) we are now planning our next move. We feel that we'd like to see more of Hope Town (in the daylight this time) and we'd really like to see if we can do some snorkelling at Sandy Cay down by Little Harbour. Syncing up with school and work are also on the to-do list. But we are also mindful that this is the season of many and strong frontal systems and so there is a desire to just jump through the next window and head south to Eleuthera. We will just have to see ...


Until next time ... The Singing Frogs!

https://www.facebook.com/svsingingfrog/
Singing Frogs in the Bahamas photo album:



Bahamas 2015/16

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Adventure Begins!

On Friday November 20th we boarded a plane to Montreal. For the next three weeks we will be touring Montreal, Quebec City (and area), Ottawa and Toronto before returning to our boat.
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It's three and a half days into our visit to Montreal and the city is amazing. And there is still so much to do and see. The temperatures are hovering right around freezing with a dusting of snow this morning. It's cold but still a very walkable city. While I'm sure things get rather messy in a few weeks when the first serious snow storm blows in, for now, the forecast looks mostly clear.
Our funky-modern AirBnB is just off of St. Catherine St (Rue Ste Catherine). Much to our great, but pleasant, surprise, we woke the first morning to banging and drumming, horns and whistles. It turns out that the annual Santa Claus parade was just getting underway and not 1/2 a block from us! So many vibrant people out to see the performers.
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reboot

It's been quite a while since we posted anything here. A little over 4 years in fact. Lots has happened and lots more is happening. It's time we gave this old blog a reboot.

In short, in 2011 we wrapped up our trip, had an epic drive home, went back to work/school and had several adventures that are recorded elsewhere (or not). We made an attempt at returning to cruising last year but got bogged down with many, many boat repairs. Some were repairs we were putting off in 2011, some were new discoveries. Boat ownership is an adventure and not for the faint of heart (or short of cash).

That behind us, we did fit in some time to explore some of Florida and make some new cruising friends. We did eventually get the Singing Frog back to the Bahamas where she is now waiting for us to return from our summer/fall in Vancouver (and hoping this hurricane season ends without any more excitement).

Keep watching this space and/or our facebook page as we get the 2015/16 season underway!

If it's been a while and you want to re-experience some of the more interesting images from our first trip, or you are new here and want to see some of what we were up to, we invite you to head on over to our new Photo Album page. We'll be adding more as we get this season underway (13 days and counting)!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hunting in Florida for an Endangered Species

We've just spent the past two days hunting through the Florida Everglades (and turnpikes and back lots and front lots and curb sides) for that elusive class C motor home that is in good condition, low miles and less than $10,000. This is indeed a very rare beast and nearly extinct in these parts due to over hunting and very high demand. Driving around we also saw lots of strange (to us Northerners) road kill. There was something that looked like a flattened snake (a big one) and we saw more than a few armadillos legs pointed skyward.

None of the dealers have anything that works for us, so the next step is to start calling the 30 or so matching craigslist ads for private sales. And we're considering doing the trip by tenting it (with a few motel stops I'm sure) in a mini-van or something cheaper/more available. But that's all going to have to wait until after the 4th of July celebrations!

After a bit of a cleanup, we're going to head out and join the crowds in Stuart and share in the fun. Forecast is calling for 20% chance of rain or thunder showers but the radar is clear for now, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for the big fireworks show tonight.

Need to run. Aidan just rescued a wayward fish from the head.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Big Day on our Transformer/Sailboat

We are no longer a sailboat. The boys at Cracker Boys yard made quick work of bringing the rig down with their crane. Now she's just a slow motor boat with a draft far too deep for her. She's so deep we've been using the keel to seek out the edges of the channels in the ICW. Yup, we made some new discoveries. Bump, quick reverse, scratch heads as this is *supposed* to be the deep part. Let's try over here ... looks like we made it ... bump. Nope. Hmmm. There were a couple places where we resorted to Carla and Austin going ahead in the dinghy with a weighted line to find the "deep" water (more than 6 feet minimum, 8 is OK, 10 is nice and 12 or more is bliss). After a while it clicked that we should be thinking of this like a river (it's narrow with a current, duh) and use river water signs that we learned paddling to give us hints as to where the deep water really is. For exanple, take this stretch of water. Don't go over on that side. See where the bank eases gently into the
water and it ripples, those are shoals ... better on the other side which is the far bank in a curve; more current on the far, steep bank which usually means deeper water. This worked quite well with only one more grounding in 3 hours. We've been following the ICW creed of "go slow!" so none of the groundings have been bad or ones that we couldn't just reverse off. And I'm sure we've left, on the ICW bottom, more than a bit of the St. Martin/BVI/Bahama reef that's been growing on that hard-to-reach bottom side of our keel.

All in all it was an amazing day for getting things done. We cleared in (amazingly short and painless - a surprise when arriving in the US). We unstepped the mast. Carla managed to blast off a couple critical work-related emails (who knows when we'll find available wifi again) and we made it more than halfway to our next destination (Stuart) when we were expecting to not start this part until tomorrow. And we lost - and - found our Olympus underwater camera. We were more upset about the photos we would have lost, than the camera - after all, the opportunities to take underwater photos are mostly behind us now. Fortunately, the good people at the Marina office, where we had distractedly set it down, kept it safe for us. Lucily, as we passed the marina after getting our mast stepped, Carla hopped into the dinghy and tracked it down while the boys and I carried on up the channel as slowly as we could.

Oh, and how could I forget. Not more than 5 minutes after we went by in our dinghy on our way to clearing in, a boat in the anchorage blew up. Boom. We looked over and there was a huge plume of smoke and flames leaping out of the cockpit. For a few heart stopping moments we couldn't tell if it was our boat or not. Finally we overheard on a nearby radio that there were two victims just being pulled from the water with very bad burns. Very scary. The fire boat arrived too late to really do anything other than chase down the fuel tank when it finally broke free, caught fire and threatened other boats. By the time we got back, there wasn't much more than a smoldering hulk in the water. We hope the two injured people manage to survive.