It’s quite a culture shock to jump from the Bahamas to the USA! Apart from the obvious
things like deep water as we sailed along the Providence Channel, there’s the additional
aspects of more people, more cars, more shops, more restaurants, just more “things”
That’s when you know you’ve gone just a little ‘bush’ and been in the islands for
a while longer than expected! The sail to the USA was an easy one: fuelled with fresh
home-baked bread from Anju, we took off from Royal Island Eleuthera for Lake Worth,
Florida, 170 odd miles east. Goose-winged again as the wind was once more on our
stern, we wafted along merrily, enjoying the freedom of not having to watch the depth
meter. And enjoying the sudden influx of shipping – zillions of cruise ships to our
port side (this is the main route between Nassau and Miami), and as many freighters
of one size or another to starboard.
Some interesting VHF conversations! The freighter Neli getting very uptight trying
to call up the big tanker Blue Easter; “You’re on a collision course! What are your
intentions?” No response – eventually a “F...YOU!” from Neli blistered the airwaves,
as the skipper went on to berate the tanker. “You’re registered as Blue Easter on
the AIS but the name on your bow as we scraped past says ‘Mary Jane’. Who the hell
are you?” Meek and mild little voice comes back “Are you calling me, Cap’n?” ‘Discussion’
followed as to the illegality of being registered as one name when the boat shows
another – bit like Joe Smith signing his checks as Mike Bloggs!
And the late night chats between radio operators on the cruise ships – all the gossip
about the new hot chick and/or cute steward (depending on the speaker’s bent!) and
the latest update on the passenger who went overboard from the viewing deck of the
Norwegian Star – some 150-180 feet above the water. “Couldn’t find him,” was the
laconic comment. Did he fall or was he pushed?? Material for a good yarn there!
We sympathised with m/v Neli – we had a close encounter of the scary kind ourselves
mid-passage. About 3am, we were just changing watch (I was coming off, John going
on), and I’d been watching a freighter off to starboard for some time, just chuffing
along merrily alongside us some few miles off. I’d barely dropped off, when I heard
John on the radio, yelling at someone. No reply. More yells. I shot up on deck, to
find the blasted thing had suddenly turned across our bows and was close – extremely
close! John was still yelling at the guy trying to get his attention, I was yelling
at John to get his attention - we needed to change direction – FAST! A smart tack
in the middle of the ocean at full speed – I didn’t know we’d learnt to work so well
together!! The ship shot past us what felt like inches from our bow (everything’s
exaggerated at night in these conditions!!), cursing and swearing we got Al Shaheen
back on course – then the freighter came up on the radio and some Filipino voice
said “Wassa problem, Cap’n?” Anyone have a gun handy???
So to the USA – provisioning in a shop that has so much selection I want to buy everything
I see because it looks so fantastic! Knowing we can buy again tomorrow if we run
out is such a luxury. We landed in the USA at Fort Worth, N. Palm Beach – Al Shaheen’s
first visit to Florida shores. A nasty inlet, lots of pounding sea and big waves
and wind in as always the wrong direction, fighting to miss the maniac sports fishing
boats that scream out at full throttle and skim just below your bows makes for an
interesting ride! And just as we got in, the Coast Guard arrived in their rib, pulled
up next to us for some casual conversation – needless to say, this Brit on board
was fairly terse. “We’d like to get the sails down before we get into trouble here
– can we chat later?”
Spent a couple of days in Lake Worth, provisioning, doing laundry etc etc, and met
up with John Coheleach, a medi-vac who lives in the area – he does a mean shrimp
‘n steak barbecue! And is itching to go cruising, so we’ve promised to find him a
Then it was off to start “ditch-driving” up the ICW (the Inter Coastal Waterway -
below) that runs from Maimi to Norfolk inshore, using a combination of rivers, lakes,
sounds and man-made canals to move you all the way up the East Coast without ever
having to go to sea. It’s an amazing feat. But of course, it’s a dredged channel,
and some places are very shallow – officially it’s all dredged to 12 ft, but some
county’s run out of money and the dredging doesn’t get done, and it all silts up
... you can imagine! And it’s very narrow in some places – especially somehow the
places that cross the areas that are uniformly 2-4 feet deep for miles on either
So, take a shallow ditch, add a narrow strip, throw in a couple of sports fishing
boats or big trawlers that push up large wakes as they pass you – we spend a lot
of time trying very hard not to go aground! (Right: Dolphins herding).
We specifically wanted to do the Florida bit though, having never seen it before,
so stuck it out. After all, Al Shaheen’s used to shallow water by now! So we stayed
in the ICW all the way to Titusville, entranced with the homes along the waterway
(and intrigued by the guy jet-skiing with his bodyguard alongside and an armed guard
on his dock – who is he??) And then took a car and did some Space Exploring.
We’d really been hoping for a shuttle launch (the last launch of the current series
of shuttles) – had been aiming for an early April one which was postponed to the
end of the month – and then postponed to mid-May, too late for us to stay and watch.
We’d heard about how you could sit in the bay and watch the fish jump out the water
as the shuttle blasted off!
The Space Centre was fantastic – well worth the trip and probably worth a 3-day excursion,
there was so much to see. Both shuttles (Atlantis and Endeavour) were on the launch
pads, ready for Endeavour (left) to be launched to the International Space Station
on May 14. She’s due to fix the Hubble telescope, first visit to the telescope in
7 years. And Atlantis is on the launch pad ready and waiting for blast-off if there’s
any emergency or problem with the connection or time up there.
Fascinating place, fascinating look at men (and machines) that have ‘gone where no
man’s gone before’ – what an achievement.
Of course, we both ‘saw’ different things – John was completely absorbed by all the
technicalities and mechanics of the various gigantic rockets on show – I was bowled
over by the personalities and imagination of the people involved, their ability to
step out into an absolutely unknown entity. I mean, even the early explorers who
set off for the ends of the world were travelling on stuff that they knew – land
and sea etc. This was completely alien!
April 2009 (Bahamas)
After a bad start, the Bahamas did become more attractive. If somewhat shallow!
Our first port of call after the abortive attempt to land at Mayaguana was Thompson’s
Bay, Long Island, an overnight passage in gentle winds that died totally at times.
We ghosted along, headsail poled out so we were goose-winged in the pitch black of
a moonless night, just missing Rum Cay with a quick alteration in course, to round
Cape Santa Maria (right) in the early morning.
Of course, all hell broke loose as we rounded! Suddenly we were charging down under
35 knots of wind, desperately trying not to overshoot the narrow entrance to the
channel that would take us from the 1900 metre depths of the Atlantic into the 2-3
metre shallows of the Bahamas Banks.
As the channel is only about 10 metres wide and only about 2.1 metres deep, it was
a fairly tense time. Remember, we draw 1.9 metres!! Bit inconsiderate in the middle
of all this to be hailed on the VHF by some folks standing on the headland watching
us. “You’re looking great!” they called. “I’m hanging on by my toenails!” was my
We managed to drop the sails, get the motor on, find the channel, and with great
trepidation nosed in. It’s very disconcerting to suddenly be able to see the bottom
just, only just, below your keel. Even more disconcerting to be moving forward at
4.9 knots (the wind was now right on the nose and we had to keep the speed up to
remain in the channel), see the depth drop from 50 metres to 1.2, to 1.1, 0.9, 0.7
– as we hit 0.4, there was a frantic radio call. “Mayday, mayday, we’re aground!”
A catamaran (their depth was only 0.5 metres!) was stuck hard on the Banks to our
starboard. No chance whatsoever of us going to their aid – in fact, they eventually
decided to just anchor there overnight (out in the middle of the “ocean” and wait
for the incoming tide to float them off later). Took us an hour and a bit to negotiate
the channel into “deeper” water and for the next few hours we were cruising with
1.2 metres below us! Considering the fact that coral heads pop up unexpectedly all
over the Banks, I have no idea why we were feeling so comfortable! We anchored in
Thompson’s Bay with 0.8 below the keel: by low water, we were sitting balanced precariously
on 0.0. Oh well, what can I say?
The only time it actually became a problem was a couple of days later when we decided
to go over to the fuel dock to refuel and take on fresh water. We waited for high
water, and successfully made it into the dock. I threw the lines to Alfred, the dockman,
he caught them and started to tie us up – and we hit the bottom. Hard. Abruptly.
Much cussing and revving later, we got the boat out of the rut we created – “Come
round,” says Alfred, “come round t’other way.” But John already had her in Fast Forward!
“No way,” he said delicately. “Take on another half a ton of fuel and water? We’d
never get out of here!” So with friends Trumpeter’s help, John jerry-canned something
like 150 litres of water from the tap to the dinghy to the boat. Oi vey!
We have two problems in the Bahamas: our draft and our dinghy. Size definitely does
matter here. Because of our draft, we are generally anchored way out, and have a
dinghy ride of anything up to 2-3 miles to get to shore. Fine if you have anything
bigger than a little Lodestar with a putt-putt 3 hp motor! Unless there’s no wind
at all, anywhere we went entailed getting soaked. Hence the need to get dressed to
go to church! (See right).
Left: Hard day in paradise
We hired a car to explore Long Island – although called Long, it’s only 80 miles
from top to bottom, and about 4 miles wide at its widest. Cat Island (next one up)
is shorter and skinnier, while Eleuthera (see right - Alabaster Bay) is about 110
miles long and only 2.5 miles at its widest. And all of them are incredibly flat:
the highest point in the entire Bahamas is on Cat Island, at 206 feet above sea level.
Not much help if there’s a tsunamai! Lots of scrubland, lots of casuarinas trees,
lots of magnificent beaches on both the Atlantic and Banks sides. And lots of wonderfully
We met Sara Campbell (right) at the Blue Hole. The World Freediving Championships
were about to take place, and she was doing a training dive. The Blue Hole here is
apparently the deepest in the world: 203 metres to the bottom, and she was aiming
for 96 metres freedive – there and back on one breath, 96 metres in 3 minutes! And
she did it – now holds the Woman’s World Record. See her website www.sarafreediver.com.
One island is much the same as the other topographically; it’s the people you meet
that differentiate them. Miz Knowles, soup-maker extraordinairre in Clarence Town,
the old man who stopped and chatted to us about the slaves on the cotton plantations
in days gone by, Mikey and Trevor we gave a lift to, two local boys drunk as skunks
who spilled the beans about out of country girl-friends (“don’ tell my wife, don’
tell my wife!”), Rosa on Eleuthera with 8 children she has educated and sent off
to achieve all over the world (“yes, my daughter, she has an African child, an Australian
child – and one Bahamian child too!”). Great people, great attitudes to life and
their place in it. As descendants of the original slaves, abandoned by their masters
when the plantations failed, they’ve made things work. Successfully.
We climbed Mt Alvernia, highest point in the Bahamas at 206 feet, to visit Father
Jerome’s Hermitage (left). Fascinating! A tall slender converted Catholic, he rebuilt
many of the churches on the Out Islands, and finally created this small chapel and
living area, complete with bell tower and ingenious water collection system, and
retired there to die. Very spiritual feel to the place.
In fact, the Out Islands have had quite a spiritual feel to them all round: we’ve
been to the Episcopalian Church on Long Island . . .
. . . had a Seder aboard the Jewish boat Dovka (below)
and Easter Sunday service in the Methodist Church on Eleuthera.
John’s been looking for a mosque and a mullah so we can complete the triangle but
they’re in short supply on these islands!
One of the things you do do in these islands is wait for weather!
There’s always another Cold Front coming in from the USA, and the key is trying to
find somewhere sheltered that is also deep enough for us to anchor in. Although I
have to say we’ve got fairly blasé now – quite happy with 0.5 below the keel. And
fortunately the fronts don’t (touch wood) last for long – you can see them building,
moving across, the wind leaps from 5-10knots to suddenly 25-30 knots, all is chaos
for a while, but 30 minutes later it’s history.
And listening to reports from the US East Coast, where the Carolinas are looking
at 50-60 knot winds, I’m happy to be here. It’s comfortable in Paradise!
Friday 20th March
John and I have finally scraped the barnacles of the Virgins off Al Shaheen's hull,
and are right now on passage from Culebra direct to the Bahamas, some 500 miles.
And I've now definitely decided I am not made for ocean passage-making: in my experience,
it's either spit-drying terrifying or downright dead boring. So no round-the-world
stuff for this girl - unless it's at age 88 first class on Queen Mary III, assuming
I can still do the G&T circuit on my own two pins.
As usual - as always! - John meticulously researched the islands, the anchorages,
the weather etc etc in planning the trip. Talked to Chris Parker ad nauseum. Read
and reread every pilot book and guide on board. Wore holes in the charts studying
them. Delayed leaving Culebra twice, but we finally left on dull and dreary Monday
this week, headed for Cockburn Harbor, S.Caicos as our first stop. Bit of a swell
according to Chris, but should be manageable. Hah!
We made it 6 miles before John finally gave in to my whining - the swell was washing
machine stuff, and I couldn't face the possibility of several days of this. So instead
we endured a very rolly night on a buoy off Tamarind Beach at the west end of Culebra.
Tuesday morning I had no more excuses that John would listen to, so we took off.
Bright clear day, the swell was down enough that I could actually walk without hitting
both sides of the saloon, there was a good breeze and we cooked along at 7-8 knots.
However, Chris was now making lots of noise about "huge convective winds hitting
the Bahamas by Saturday". Great! That wiped out S. Caicos - not enough protection.
So now it's Mayaguana, 512 miles instead of 440, eta Friday not Thursday. An extra
dark night on passage. Oi vey!
But (naturally) by Weds the winds had died, and we were down to 'sailing' downwind
with main and gib goosewinged but flapping and flogging and achieving very little.
Or motoring - bit like sitting in one of those old series one Landrovers - the ones
with bare metal sides and no sound-proofing - tiring! And neither way getting us
anywhere very fast!
So here we are at Friday - our eta to Abrahams Bay Mayaguana is now 3am Sat - plenty
of time to duck in before the 'big winds' hit. And the next northerly swell arrives!
But of course you can't exactly enter a Bahamian reef anchorage in the dark (at 3am
the moon's not even up yet), so we'll be frootling around kicking our heels until
the sun is high enough to eyeball those coral thingies.
You might be thinking, why's she complaining - lots of time to do lots of things?
After all, it is only our 4th year of marriage, and as the poets say thoughts do
turn to... But no, our auto-pilot keeps dropping out, requiring an immediate scramble
to get to the helm and re-direct the boat before she takes off for Bermuda and the
So, no sex on this boat on this passage - I just know it would be a case of 'autos
Monday 23rd March
I'm beginning to regret this 'life on the ocean wave'!! We "tucked into" Abrahamas
Bay, this reef-bound supposedly all-weather anchorage. Ja-well-no-fine, to use a
South African term. What we didn't know was that this meant all the weather hit it!
The last two nights have felt like living in a dishwasher, being bounced, tumbled,
shook and swung for something like 38 hours non-stop. The weatherman told us it would
be approx 17-20 knot winds - well, he lied! It's never been below 25, and last night's
max was 42. I'm exhausted and very snippy this morning. And apparently this carries
on for the next 3 days. Oi vey.
It wouldn't be so bad if we could even get to shore occasionally - but this bay is
3-4 miles long and about a mile wide, and because of our deep draft we are stuck
out in the middle of it. When the wind blows like this, the wind chops the waves
up and it's impossible to take the dinghy out - we'd drown instantaneously. So it's
read, clean, cook, play Scrabble.
Oh well, at least sex is possible again: just have to lie back, think of England
and let the boat go through all the motions!
Tuesday 24th March
Couldn't handle Abraham's Bay any longer, so we took a gap between 35 knot winds
and 30 knot winds, hauled the anchor up (the snubber has worked so hard over the
last few days the rope has actually stretched a good few inches!), and hotfooted
it out of the bay and about 5 miles around the corner. We're now hanging by our toenails
off a small beach (no palm trees, but the casuarina trees have a decided tilt to
the north from all the wind), very close in shore - the wind has "dropped" to a steady
25-28 knots, we're rolling like a drunken sailor, but at least we're not in a dishwasher
and the anchor chain is hanging sort of downwards instead of being bar-taut out in
front of us. As degrees of discomfort go, this is Paradise!
We'll be here until early hours of Thursday; the weatherman says the weather's going
to change for the better then. Watch this space!
January/February 2009 (Jenny)
Having put our livers to the test over the festive season in Culebra, it was time
to slow down. We sailed across to for Viegues, and motored very cautiously into Ensenada
Honda, a beautiful remote unspoiled anchorage amongst the mangroves that we had all
to ourselves for the first night. Imagine our horror when another boat encroached
on our private space the next day – but we spent an engrossing evening with Chris
and Yani learning how to make martinis and play a decent game of chess! Of course,
that meant that on our next trip to civilisation, we had to buy a chess board.
We fell in love with Salinas – great holding (once you’ve tiptoed your way in through
a pretty tight and shallow entrance, see right), lots of space amongst the mangroves,
good basic facilities ashore in a lovely little village. We decided to stay for a
week or so, explore the island by car, and generally enjoy the land for a while.
Boy, did we see some strange things.
Our first (and last!) ever cock-fight – what an experience. Apparently Puerto Rico
is one of the few places world-wide where this is legal – and it’s b...i...g money!
Our ‘guide’ into this lifestyle can make $25000 to $30000 on a good night. That’s
not peanuts by anyone’s standards. But it’s a ‘gentleman’s game’ – the bets are placed,
and paid, with no strong-arm tactics, no cheating, no reneging on the debt – all
paid immediately as they become due. Interesting. And it’s an all-ages event – little
kids running around, grannies and granddads shouting the odds as loudly and as excitedly
as the younger men – very fast, very loud, very exciting. But very messy and very
unpleasant from the cock’s point of view – and I wouldn’t go again!
We also landed up in the midst of the most amazing horse event I’ve ever seen – the
annual Paso Fino Horse Parade. We calculated there must have been 1500 horses taking
part – no or very little organisation, just folks rolling up with their horses in
the back of their pick-ups to join the parade – which sort of went from here to somewhere
else and back again!
The horses are stunning, more slender and fine-boned than the usual horse, who move
in this incredibly fast high-stepping paso fino trot, too beautiful to watch. Many
of the riders ride bareback, no stirrups, no reins, just a blanket thrown over the
horse’s back and two ropes placed through the bit in the horse’s mouth.
The riders are a menagerie of shapes and sizes. The horses are the attraction, but
I have to say the riders are something to see too!
When we were here before, we’d discovered Puerto Rico is the pig-roast capital of
the world! The juices had been flowing for days, both of us salivating at the thought,
so we took off on a Sunday up into the mountains to go ‘pigging’ again. Wow, what
a change from our previous experience! That had been mid-week, quiet, delightful.
This was Sunday, and half of Puerto Rico was out eating. I don’t know how many pigs
they slaughter per Sunday, but it was a good few dozen! Delicious food (and cheap),
loud music (every stand had its own band!), jam-packed with people – what a buzz.
Puerto Rican time passed very pleasantly, it’s a beautiful island, but we needed
to make decisions about when to leave for the next legs: Dominican Republic, then
on to the south coast of Cuba. Well, the closer it got, the more we were both feeling
somewhat negative about Cuba right now – add to this the fact that I was getting
reports that my 93 year old mother was not doing too well, and the decision was soon
made. John would stay aboard Al Shaheen, cruise the Spanish Virgins and I would make
a quick flight (well, if you can call 46 hours flying quick!) back to South Africa
to spend some time with Mom.
So that’s what happened – I spent 6 weeks back in Johannesburg looking after oldies,
chasing monkeys out of the granadilla vines, watching the warthogs browse at the
bottom of my garden, taking Mom off to Durban to visit with her sisters for probably
the last time and generally tying up loose ends, while John explored St Croix and
the Virgins with Steve, a friend from Tortola.
Bad weather for Al Shaheen meant he lost the windex and the VHF antenna – it sheared
off somewhere between there and somewhere else! So after a glorious sail across to
Green Beach Vieques to collect our mail from Badgersett who had just got back from
UK, and making a trip back to Culebra to meet up with Belle Brize at last, we hot-footed
it back to St. Thomas for repairs. Spent Monday night in Honeymoon Bay at the drive-in
– a sheet hung between two palm trees, popcorn and beers from the golf cart, a spectacular
sunset behind if you don’t like the movie: it’s really hard to enjoy yourself in
Paradise, you know!
Weather window looks like next week, so watch this space – we should be off to Bahamas
15 January onwards (John)
Jenny left this morning from San Juan for six weeks in South Africa to be with her
mother who is 93 and declining slowly. As a consequence we have cancelled our plans
to go to Cuba and will now sail in mid-March from Puerto Rico or St Thomas to the
Turks and Caicos, then the Bahamas and then into the USA.
Salinas (right) is a beautifully sheltered backwater on the south coast of Puerto
Rico but with excellent road access to San Juan. After a week on my own there doing
maintenance, I took advantage of the weakened trade winds with a SE slant and decided
to sail the 100 miles to St Thomas in three stages. Firstly, I sailed 50 miles from
Boca del Infierno (mouth of the inferno) to a beautiful beach anchorage at the western
end of Vieques where I anchored off the deserted palm fringed beach with no other
boat in sight. Wonderful in the setting sun. The next day I beat 25 miles slowly
up to Culebra in a 15 knot breeze and anchored in another deserted anchorage behind
a reef in Bahia de Almodovar.
The third day was a stiff beat 25 miles to St Thomas where I anchored in Honeymoon
Bay and stayed over the weekend in order to watch the “drive-in” movie on the beach,
sitting under palm trees with a white sheet between two palms as the screen!
Then followed a week at anchor in Charlotte Amalie painting the fore-cabin, which
turned into a much bigger job than I had anticipated and rapidly had me bored and
itching to go to sea again. Fortunately, an American friend, Steve, from Tortola
came over and we spent 3 weeks sailing to St John’s, St Croix, Culebra and Vieques.
I hadn’t been to St Croix before but it was a disappointment, partly because the
weather was poor and the anchorage in Christiansted is very exposed. Still, we had
a wonderful 50 mile broad reach from there to Culebra at an average 7.5 knots.
. . . where the water stretches out as far as the eye can see.
But the Ditch runs down a very narrow channel and woe betide you if you stray out!
Lose concentration, move out an inch more than you should, and the depth alarm is
screaming.And the water has gone from the crystal clear blue of the Bahamas and Caribbean
to a frothy brown tea-coloured! Al Shaheen has a brown whisker all around the hull,
which from what I remember is going to take some serious scrubbing to get off.
Every marker post is occupied. The ospreys have decided that the markers make for
far safer nests than the trees in the area – certainly no predators can get close.
But what it must be like at night when these lights are flashing, I have no idea!
The parent ospreys are hard at work, some out finding food, some perched watching
for intruders – and there’s great chirping and chivvying if your boat gets too near!
They haven’t quite dive-bombed us, but they’ve come close.
As far as I know, there is an organisation that comes along and rebuilds the nests
once the birds vacate, in order to encourage them to come back again the following
season. But the boats must frighten quite a few off, as sometimes the channel runs
very close to the markers. I guess that’s what you get for being in a choice neighbourhood!
Arriving in Norfolk, we are tied up to the Naigle’s Dock, right next to NOAA (weather
gurus) and PETA (protection of wild animals??
I know they staged protests where they threw blood all over fur-coats, and had personal
experience of their strong-arm tactics in a showdown with captured elephants in S.
Africa), and under the eagle eyes of the US Navy – we’re surrounded by warships of
all shapes and sizes here.
And we’ll be here for a while – repairs and maintenance calls on the one hand, and
John is man-down sick on the other. So, time for some R&R, as they say. That means
flat on his back in bed for him, while I wander the bookstores with his credit card!
An offshore overnight passage from Florida to Cumberland Island, just to give us
a break from the Ditch, then we whiled away some time on the island. Used to be a
cotton plantation, many many years ago, Cumberland Island is very special – thick
luscious palm greenery, wild horses, a national park with “basic” camping facilities
(basic means no hot and cold running water and no shops!).
We rented bicycles, planning to do a 10 mile trip up island – well, after 2 miles
along soft sandy, very sandy tracks, my thighs gave in and I bailed on the exercise!
Made the side trip over the dunes (pushing the bike!) to the Atlantic side to see
the horses, then rode down the harder sand along the sea shore. Needless to say,
however, we both felt the pressure the next day!
The Man has turned 70! Doesn’t look it, doesn’t act it, certainly doesn’t feel it!
(And I should know, shouldn’t I??).
John decided he wanted to be at sea for his 70th birthday, so off to sea we went
– an overnight offshore passage from Florida to Cumberland Island, Georgia – we celebrated
on board with Zoo biscuits specially brought back from South Africa!
Another overnight passage to Hilton Head, Savannah. These 180-something mile hops
out to sea make a nice change to driving down the ditch and watching we don’t go
We passed the Brazilian Navy on the way in – the US Coast Guards were out in their
ribs, machine-guns on the bow at the ready, chivvying us all out of the way, but
the Brazilians took great delight in waving as they past! Apparently the International
Task Force (who’re they???) have been conducting serious manoeuvres, as we have been
hearing them on the VHF for the past few days. “Warship 321 calling Warship 309,
go channel 21 alpha.” Of course, they’re always channels we can’t hear – love to
be a fly on the wall!
So into Savannah, and another experience awaited us. Through the OCC, we’d contacted
Harvey Geiger, who’d offered us the use of a free dock in his gated community, Wexford
(right). Little did we know that Al Shaheen was going to be sitting amongst the rich
and famous – never has she had such a cushy berth! Bit dicey getting in though: Wexford
has its own lock system just off the creek, once again very narrow (once again very
shallow – we went in at 0.2 under the keel), but once we were in it was WoW!! Croquet
lawns, glorious mansions – Harvey collected us for lunch in his olde Bentley, polished
and chic. Boy, this is the life.
We spent several days in Savannah, staying with old friends at Hilton Head and doing
the tourist thing. In fact, between Savannah, Beaufort S Carolina and Charleston,
we have been soaked and saturated in Civil War stories and history! It’s been a most
interesting and stimulating experience. Also a great pleasure staying on land with
Alun and Margaret – the first day I got not only a bath, but a spa bath! Boy, life
on the boat is never like this!
And we shrimped out every day, every night – I thought I might say I’d eaten enough
shrimp, but no – there’s always room for just one more!
Back into the Ditch again, another 35 odd miles up to Beaufort – that’s Bew’fort
S. Carolina, not Bow’fort N. Carolina! Again, friends from the OCC gave us the use
of their dock at the end of their garden – we’d met Alan and Cathy in Maine last
year, and it was a great pleasure to spend time with them – and all the friends and
neighbours! Alan’s a pilot with his own small plane – in fact I think he was sorry
we didn’t want to just ‘hop down’ to anywhere!! Both John and I keep reiterating
how good an organisation the OCC is: we have met some amazing folks through it, and
had some incredible hospitality here in the USA. Houses on offer, car keys handed
over with no question, showers, laundry, shopping – people can’t do enough for you.
Wonderful like-minded adventurous folks!
We borrowed the Rae’s “car” to do the touristy thing in Beaufort– an olde banger
that at some stage has been completely painted grey – and I mean completely! The
chrome bumpers, the door handles, every single spot that is not glass window or rubber
tyre has been hand-painted a uniform shade of battleship grey – was that a Confederate
statement or was the guy in the Navy???
Anyway, she goes like a cracker – so long as you turn off the air-conditioner before
putting her in gear: no power otherwise! And the bench seat in the front no longer
moves, so if you’re short you have to have a cushion to sit on. And every time you
open the door it feels like it’s going to break off, protestingly! But she’s a classic,
and a great ride – although she does draw some strange stares when you drive her
through some of these very upmarket gated golfing communities!
Up the Ditch again from Beaufort S Carolina to Charleston, then on via a couple of
stops anchoring just off the main drag until we got to the inlet at Wynah Bay where
we planned to do the next overnighter, this time to Beaufort N Carolina. John had
talked of maybe getting in the water and washing down the hull a bit – it gets very
stained in the tea-coloured water of the ICW – but after passing a flurry of rather
large alligators on the banks, decided another day would do better! There’s been
a huge variety of birdlife along the ICW; ospreys nesting in the marker buoys, lots
of various terns and gulls, red cardinals, and dozens of little things that I cannot
recognise. As my son Garth will tell you, I am not the world’s best ornithologist!
The weather is definitely changing, and I don’t mean just that it’s getting colder!
So often know the conversation revolves around “It didn’t used to be like this” or
“It’s not supposed to do this at this time of the year” – global warming or what?
And for years I’ve heard this term “cold front” – we’re always running to get away
from a cold front chasing us or running to avoid a cold front coming in! But for
the first time I actually SAW a cold front coming in – the most frightening mass
of broiling black clouds, a long sausage-like accumulation right ahead of us, bearing
down on us at the speed of a freight train! Fortunately it was a narrow front, and
the big winds and gusts and squalls were short-lived that time.
But right now we’re in Oriental, N Carolina, once again hunkered down waiting out
a cold front! This one arrived yesterday afternoon, and will be over us for at least
another 24 hours – lots and lots of rain, some wind but not too bad – and enough
cold that John is right now commissioning the diesel heater in the boat!
Still, the cold nights make for warm sleeping!
End of the season! It’s finally here – haul-out day and the end of the season. Sad
day in one way, but you know what – after 10 months at sea, I guess it’s time for
some land-stuff now! And Murphy’s Law, we had some of the best sailing of the season
over the last few days – nice gentle winds so we could fly the spinnaker with abandon,
beautiful sunny Maine days, crisp and clear (no fog, WOW!!).
We meandered along no major pressure to go anyway or do anything, except what came
We popped into South West Harbor – great to see the site of ye olde wedding – and
great to meet up with some old and some new friends again all along the Maine coast.
Lots of socialising, lots of chatter: that’s been the name of the game lately. Perry
Creek – a mini OCC port officers’ rally aboard Al Shaheen, the only non-port officers!
And gosh, we met up with John McLeod again, last seen in 2006 up in Nova Scotia teaching
his wife to drive his new motor boat!!
Winter Harbor, Seal Bay, Cranberry Island – a great dinner with another crowd of
OCCers, another mini rally. Then an invite to the CCA Rally and a wonderful spread
put on by Susie Hohner (we met her with the Marvins back in Newport in 2006, another
raucous evening!). Swann’s Island, in one of my favourite harbours, Burnt Coat, serenaded
by the singing pirates drumming up support for the evening’s show of Sweet Chariot.
Put on each year by a contingent of professionals from all over the country, we watched
a show of international standards – all under the leaking roof of an old community
hall they’re trying to salvage. Wonderful spirit.
Our last night was spent at Carvers’ Harbor, small (very small!) working lobster
boat harbour, no room to anchor as everywhere was swallowed up by mooring buoys.
But a welcoming lobsterboat gave us a mooring for the night, and we swung very close
to all the others all night long. But quite safe. The same lobsterman came over later,
and sold us lobsters fresh from his boat - $4 each!! Best price so far in Maine.
He also gave us a crate to keep them in, tied off to the boat, hanging in the water
just next to us. All very civilised, dinner on a string. We spent the day in town
exploring, gave the lobster crate a put to check all was well when we got back on
the boat later. We’d been hearing all sorts of stories about the drama at Matinicus
Island – lobster wars, territorial fighting, lobster traps being cut, boats being
sabotaged, houses being burnt, and finally the “guilty” encroacher being shot.
All very Old Wild West!
So, giggling somewhat about all this, John put the water on to boil for the corn
and lobsters, put the butter on to melt, and went to collect the lobsters from the
crate. Oops. Someone had not only stolen the lobsters, but taken the crate as well!
Very carefully and quietly untied the rope while we were aboard – was this a message
to us as the lone sail boat in the lobster fleet – did someone think WE had stolen
their lobsters and crate?? All very mysterious. But the lobsterman was very concerned
– offered us a crate-full of crabs in replacement!
Then a last, final gentle spinnaker run back to Camden in order to haul out at Wayfarer.
I can’t say I enjoy haul-out time – so much clearing out and emptying of lockers,
chucking out of food (although we had pretty much eaten ourselves out of house and
home!), deciding which clothes to take and which to leave on the boat. It’s always
an issue that – I can never remember what I’ve got where – and always want to wear
the one outfit that is sitting somewhere else! The Bruces very kindly gave us the
use of their “west wing” for a week or so: bliss to have a shower and a decent bed
to fall into at the end of each day! Much backwards-and-forwards discussion about
getting Al Shaheen repainted – huge job, John is insistent on being present when
it’s done, it all comes down to how to fit it all into our schedule of UK, SA and
But finally it’s all done, boat’s clean as she can be, all is packed and sorted,
and we’re on the plane back to a “Family Celebration” – a week in Devon with 19 family
members – wow!
July 2009 (cont'd)
Gosh, it’s almost time to haul out already! How time flies when you’re having fun.
We’ve decided the real translation of the word “Maine” is “fog” – there have definitely
been more ‘fog’ days than not since we crossed the border! We’ve used up all the
gas in our gas foghorn, and John is now having to resort to blowing the ‘trumpet’
old fashioned style. Travelling from Port Clyde to Camden – 5 hours in pea soup whiteout
- there were a few others doing the same.
The sound of seagulls squawking has been replaced by the mournful feeble drone of
sailors blowing their own trumpets! Even the osprey chicks are joining in – frantic
chirping from the nests to desperately remind their parents where they are at dinner
Of course, there are zillions of lobster pots to be dodged – but the upside of that
is lots of lobsters to eat. Who can really complain of a state where lobster is cheaper
However, when the fog DOES clear, Maine has to be one of the most beautiful cruising
grounds in the world – pristine little harbours and coves by the hundreds, all begging
to be explored and gunk-holed.
And, for us the most appealing, predominantly deep water! And of course, we’re back
in the land of tidal range. Gone are the days of the Caribbean when the difference
between high and low was at max one foot – now it can be a good twelve – fifteen
foot range. Does leave some folks high and dry!
We took the ferry out of Port Clyde across to the artist colony of Monhegan Island,
as there’s very little room to anchor safely there. Well worth the $32, as the Captain
took us to watch the seals on the way there, and then did a circum-navigation of
Monhegan on the way back, and a young ornithologist on board took great delight in
showing off the gannets nesting on the dramatic cliff-faces, and flocks of arctic
terns. We’ve had a plethora of bird-life, especially ospreys, herons, cormorants
and gulls – I’m sure there are several types of the last two, but couldn’t tell you
which was which! I just know they swarm around the lobster boats when the pots are
being pulled and all the not-wanted fish life is being thrown back into the sea!
Monhegan is a delight: probably only 40 odd (some very odd!) folks live there year-round,
but a lot of artists spend their summer months painting and sculpting, which gives
it a very different feel to the usual lobstermen/fishermen working feel of most of
the Maine islands. Lots of galleries to visit. And as 80% of the island is nature
reserve, many trails and paths to walk and explore. Unfortunately it had been raining
for a couple of days and the trails were waterlogged, so we didn’t get very far!
But we did make it out to Jamie Wyeth’s home, stark on the headland. I’d spent the
previous day in Rockland doing the Wyeth exhibition at the Museum, so was intrigued
to see some of the settings. Certainly Jamie’s gulls were in full throat – suddenly
his Seven Deadly Sins series came to life!
You do realise though how difficult it is to live on these isolated islands, when
you realise the only way to get stuff is by unusual transport – the ferry obviously
brings groceries and mail etc, but anything heavier has to come via ex-Vietnam era
landing craft! Some of the islands, like Matinicus, are almost impossible to land
on by boat, so access is by small plane only – the islanders are a tough, hardy breed,
and visitors are rare! Big puffin colony though.
It had been Wyeth day in Rockland, as I also got to see the house above Maplejuice
Cove where Andrew Wyeth (father) painted his famous series of Christina Olsen – I’d
not appreciated Christina’s World until actually going there! Here was this crippled
woman (he painted her crawling through a field of grass towards the house on the
hill – very poignant – but walking through her house and being in the kitchen (her
world) was very moving. And a little eerie??
Camden Maine was as good as always, made the better by visits with Doug and Dale
off Bluewater and Paul and Marty – hosts last time we were here. Interesting though
– I did find myself spending far less time in the fabulous bookshops here and far
more time checking out the baby shops – John’s complaining that we’ll need another
suitcase to fit the baby stuff in – that’s what happens when there’s a promised grandchild
9 years after the last!
Camden, like so many other places, was foggy when we arrived. Very foggy. And we
took off in the dinghy headed for what we thought was the Yacht Club to meet the
Bruce’s – only to have to ask a moored boat “Which way to Camden?” Coming back in
the fog later that night was quite a circus! This fog is not fun.
We have met up with some fascinating folks here in Maine, and spent many delightful
hours swapping yarns and sea stories! Peter and Marina in Wiscasset, on Sea Bear:
Peter has taken Sea Bear 125 000 nautical miles, mainly single-handed – that’s a
lot of travelling! Dana and Martha in Maplejuice Cove – we met them on Sarah Jane
back in Culebra way back in 2007, and have only just now caught up with them again.
John and Sue are new friends, met over chowder at Port Clyde, New Yorkers on vacation.
Non-sailors, but we’ll forgive them that! Not to mention all the folks on boats we’ve
been sailing with: sometimes we sail in tandem for a few days, sometimes we meet
up unexpectedly in a little cover somewhere, sometimes we actually plan to meet!
Bluewater, Daq Attack, IWanda, Evening Star, Blue Yonder – not to mention all the
radio net folks, dispersed now between Sallyander back in Deltaville to Belle Brize
down east in Roque Island.
The OCC NE radio net is going well: some days there are only a couple of stalwarts
around, other days John has 10-12 boats answering the call to check in. It has evolved
into an information net, as well as a ‘where are you’ check, which hopefully the
people using it find invaluable. Lots of available mooring positions being passed
on, information on favourite coves to visit, rendezvous to make. Very useful net.
Just a pity more of the folks out there sailing don’t make use of it.
One good thing about being fog-bound is that some more jobs get done: this has definitely
been the fix-it season, this one. John’s had to replace seals in the heads, both
of them, at least twice – nothing worse than wet feet when you flush the loo! And
the propeller seemed to be fouled, so John bravely squeezed into his 1972 wet-suit
and spent a very short, very cold, period down under the hull checking it out. I
stood on deck in full foul weather gear! Took him a couple of cups of hot tea, a
hot shower and a brisk rub-down to get his circulation back!
We’ve added a new AIS system (for identification), a new VHF radio which gives us
a cockpit command module as well – so much better in any kind of emergency to not
have to dive below to talk on the radio! And upgraded the radar and chart plotter
– bought the latest cruising guides for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – we’re set
Right now though, we’re off to brave the clearing fog through Fox Island Thorofare,
maybe aiming for Perry Creek tonight. But who knows? Plans change!!
It was time to get out of Huntingdon – while we were having dinner with Charlie and
Julie Weaner (the nicest OCC Port Officers on Long Island Sound), there was an almighty
storm - winds up to 60 knots that caused at least 3 boats to drag and crash into
others, and shredded several spinnakers – quite a mess (see below)! So we took off
for points further north, doddering around until 4th July.
The best place to spend the 4th July has to be in America! Friends, fireworks, festivities,
food – everything that goes to make for a great day. Especially when you’re travelling
with a British-flagged boat on the day the Yanks declared their independence from
Queen and country!
We spent this 4th July with great friends Stan and Julie in Pocasset, anchored at
the bottom of their garden. They had a houseful of guests, lots of young ones, and
the name of the game was combining everyone’s talents to decorate the float for the
Pocasset/Wing’s Neck 4th July parade.
Stan was banned from winning this year, as he takes the prize every time (in the
name of his young grand-daughter of course!).
But it was a good show of co-operation between Brits and Yanks – just shows it can
From Pocasset through the Cape Cod Canal, spat out doing a fine speed of 10.2 knots
over the ground! This time the exit was calm; the last time we hit wind over tide
and it was a hairy few minutes fighting the bucking waves and big seas.
For the first time in ages, there was some wind, so the planned trip to Provincetown
was abandoned for a sail through to Gloucestor – have to grab the wind when it comes
these days! Of course by midday it died, and we motor-sailed in to tuck behind the
breakwater wall for the night. Anchoring, as always, requires my being up on the
bow, doing my thing. As my grand-daughter Jamie would say “Gosh, Nana, your butt
does look big!” Jawellnofine, as we say in South Africa!
Next day Bentley on Salty Paws enticed us out on a grey gloomy morning by telling
us about the glorious sunny sail they were having – we had a foul wet cold miserable
cracking sail all the way to Richmond, with me muttering imprecations about never
listening to other sailors about sunny days!! Richmond was cold and miserable, and
we tucked behind the causeway for the next day or so. Somewhere along the way we
cut through about 80 boats all under spinnaker, the start of the Marblehead to Halifax
race. Quite a spectacular sight, although they were all only doing about 2-3 knots.
Portland was our next main port of call, and we spent almost a week in and around
these environs. Once again met up with some great people – I find it is so special,
all the incredible characters you meet travelling like this!
Like John Flood, ambulatory vet – has a practice in town, but twice a week or so
takes his specially fitted motorboat/surgery out to the outlying islands and sees
furry patients ‘on the fly’. What a brilliant idea!
And some fancy machines. Huge fishing boats in the harbour, some beautiful sailboats!
These East Coast folks really do like their boats, and the designs are quite spectacular.
And some very interesting “other” boats – take a look at the guy who decided to combine
his love of boating with his love of his Sunbird car! Quite a sight to see, a car
screaming across the water!
We’ve just installed a new radio, one that gives us a second command mike at the
helm. So we have constant entertainment from channel 16 – it is a circus sometimes!
Like the recent one we listened to while cruising under spinnaker up Harpswell Sound,
from the very panicked old lady who called up “anyone, anyone, we’ve run out of gas,
Coastguard did their usual efficient “Give us your position” call.
“Wait, I need to find my glasses first...We’re next to a little island, it has a
white house on it...” Most useful in this environment of zillions of little islands
with white houses on them!
Her husband was yelling in the background, she was getting more panicky by the moment,
not helped by the Coastguard insisting they all put their life-jackets on and their
(practical I thought) suggestion to drop an anchor.
“But please ensure the anchor’s attached to the boat,” says the CG – voice of experience
“Please hurry, it’s getting very bumpy out here!”
In the middle of complicated manoeuvres in getting a tow, her final comment was a
querulous “Well, what’s life without a little excitement!”.
Of course we are decidedly eating our way through Maine at the moment – pigging out
on shellfish whenever possible. Especially lobsters!
And it’s interesting watching the whole process – from dodging lobster pots (which
are like confetti scattered on the water), watching the lobstermen pick up the pots,
buying the creepy crawlies from the dock – to the final and most pleasurable part,
We’ll be pottering around here until we haul out mid-August, stuffing ourselves on
We do love Maine!
And even more excitement – we’ve just heard that my daughter Tracy is expecting her
first – wonderful news!
New York, New York!
A sea entrance a la the old emigrants past the Liberty lady, a skyline missing two
towers, innumerable bridges, screaming sirens, an incredibly busy waterway with ferries,
tugs, all sizes and shapes of tourist boats, garbage barges, motor yachts, sailboats,
fishermen – oi vey, does this place make an impression! We eventually switched off
the AIS system, because the alarms were screaming non-stop “Dangerous Target! Dangerous
But to backtrack slightly! We had a good rest in Norfolk, met up with a lot of other
OCC boats who were making use of Gary and Greta’s dock facilities, did lots of fixing
of things (including the engine which suddenly decided to give up the ghost!), and
generally spent some good time with some great friends.
We took off for a few days to sail a few miles up the Chesapeake with S African friends
Jan and Terry (left), down from a conference in Washington. Introduced them to southern
hospitality on the Poquoson River – Stephen Ross Hogge, a “river hippie” as he terms
himself, tipped a bucket-full of live blue crabs into our boat with instructions
to “rip off th’ penis, rip off th’ back, rip off th’ face, shake out th’ goo and
you’all got yo’sel sum good eatin’!”
John spent a hilarious half-hour trying to get these pincer-waving, nipper-snapping
things out of the bucket and into the pot! Several escaped and hit the galley floor,
creating some serious mayhem. Jan, who likes his food pre-packaged, neat and tidy,
did a sterling job “ripping” the various bits off! But what a bargain, 28 blue crabs
for the price of a promise to send Stephen Ross Hogge a postcard from some exotic
Back to Norfolk to re-provision for the OCC Chesapeake Rally – some 16 boats arrived
in Fishing Bay for a few days exploration of the Rappahanock. The anchorage at Jackson
Creek/Deltaville has a somewhat interesting entrance – the red and green buoys take
you through an extremely shallow (for us!) channel which puts the boat almost on
Mr. Benton’s front porch before making an abrupt turn to port – judging by the position
of his porch chairs, he takes great delight in watching folks foul up!
We managed that one quite easily, but then had to call Towboat US out the next morning
to haul us out of the mud. Several of the boaters had tried to assist – we had dinghies
hauling down on the halyard to heel Al Shaheen over while Dovka steamed full ahead
trying to pull us out – no chance, we stuck tight! Needed those big diesels to pop
The rally was great fun – organiser Bob Crampton gave us some culture by getting
us to museums and art galleries and providing some very interesting after-dinner
speakers (see left!) but fortunately fortified us with a visit to a vineyard and
some good cocktail parties too.
Sadly not much sailing – the weather wasn’t very kind, but the scenery was beautiful
and encouraged us to come back.
We finally left all the fun and games behind, and motored straight out through the
Chesapeake entrance, off to sea again bound for New York. Hoping for a sail! Thwarted
hope, however. We motored in dead calm seas and 1-2 knots of wind for 30 hours, eventually
deciding to take a break (from the noise of the engine more than anything else!)
and overnight at Cape Henlopen on the Delaware bank. Quiet night, except for the
weirdest noise for several hours – audible when we were down below, but not when
we were on deck, it sounded like either frogs or myriads of birds settling in for
the night – but why couldn’t we hear it on deck??
Then off again, once again motoring – occasionally in desperation John would put
a sail up, but would furl it a short while later as it simply flogged around, doing
nothing. Still, we got to play with our new AIS system quite a lot; quite fun being
able to determine what that light off to port is! AIS, for those who don’t know,
is the Automated Identification System, law for all vessels over 300 tonnes and being
used more and more by smaller vessels too. It throws up a little purple triangle
on our chart plotter for every target it finds. When you click on the triangle, it
brings up all the information on that vessel: name, tonnage, destination, speed it’s
going at, etc etc.
And sets off a very strident alarm when the vessel comes into your ‘danger zone’.
Of course, the commercial fishing boats (who are a real hazard up the New Jersey
coast) don’t have AIS – and no military vessels show up (for obvious reasons!), and
only a few yachts like us have it – so you’ve still got to keep your wits about you
and your eyes open.
And finally New York! Nothing much has changed (apart from the obvious missing towers);
it still hums and throbs and buzzes, the city that never sleeps – not surprisingly,
because the blanket of light that surrounds it blots out the stars completely!
The weather was foul, cold, pouring with rain – but it stopped enough for us to sneak
in an outdoor concert.
Chuck Brown playing some foot-tapping hand-clapping fusion and blues.
Even the youngsters got into the groove!
And we had an unexpected visitor in the shape of my eldest son James from Vancouver,
who sailed with us for a few days up Long Island Sound. Well, motored up part of
it, then sailed for two days at least! He did a great job helming for the first time
– I could see him on the first day going “This is a doddle” – no wind, flat sea.
Then the second day, the wind picked up, the sea kicked up, and suddenly he was having
to hold a course in 25 knots of wind and doing 7 knots over the ground. Couple of
moments of panic crossed his face, but all in all, I think he had a ball.
We’re off Huntingdon Bay Yacht Club (very nice, wifi, launch, showers etc etc – all
for $45), waiting for John to see the dentist this afternoon – he broke a tooth eating
potato chips! Well, also waiting for some wind! We’ve decided this motoring is for
the birds, so we’re sitting tight until enough breeze comes along to sail. Then we’ll
make for maybe Mystic or straight to Cape Cod – we’ll see.
May 2009 (cont'd)
The ICW has been a fascinating experience –
not one I would like to do regularly, as there are too many days of taut tense “driving
the Ditch” and trying not to go aground - but also long days of absolute pleasure
in the surroundings. The stretch up to Norfolk has been a lot like that: one minute
it’s vast grassy wetlands, then it’s quiet secluded backwaters of green fairy banks.
And lots of sounds . . .
John just stuck his head out and very seriously remarked "This is such a great life,
isn't it?" I can only concur! Here I am, sitting in my brand new "love chair", lounging
on the front patio in glorious sunshine, only the hum of bees and various birdcalls
to break the silence (very occasional hurrumph from the lions, but being cats, they're
asleep most of the day!) - using our newly installed wifi net to connect with the
world. What a life! Of course, that begs the reality that we have to have wifi because
the landline cables keep getting stolen, but why quibble??
John is, as usual out here, up to his eyeballs in projects: so far he has created
new seating for our barbecue area, built a new barbecue, started a new toolshed (he
got tired of the locals helping themselves to the tools in his workshop, so this
will now be under armed guard!!), hung new curtain rails in the 2 bathrooms, collected
and carted 2 loads of sand, 14 poles, one load bricks and one of manure - the latter
being direct from the cows on the neighbour's property, under their noses so to speak.
Bit of a problem when the bakkie got stuck in 18" of wet cowsh...t, but a few good
pushes from our local crew got it slurping along merrily again.
Also extended the front patio(below right), covered it with new lattes and shade-cloth
- he's been a busy boy! And is now busy putting electricity (limited!!!) to 2 of
the staff quarters - the third needs solar power as it's too far away from any electrical
And just in case you think I've been sitting on my butt all the time - I've created
a new veggie garden (5 metres by 8 metres with 5 separate beds), dug down to 2ft,
composted and manured and planted - we ate our first lettuce for lunch today and
the tomatoes are going rampant!
And moved 32 trees so far - that is, dug up baby ones from elsewhere on the property
and replanted in appropriate places. It's always a bit hit and miss explaining to
the locals here - they look at you with great willingness shown, lovely black faces
breaking into great white smiles when you say "OK?" and much nodding of heads and
grins of agreement - and then go off and do something completely different!!
But with such enthusiasm you really can't complain - I mean, so what if a proposed
10" hole turns into a 6ft deep pit - it's only a hole isn't it??? Find something
big to bury in it!
And of course I've had my 94 year-old mother to look after (I bring her out to the
farm in 3-day doses - anything longer than that and both of us are ready to kill
each other!), and the two grandkids to fuss over as much as possible - ballet, horse-riding,
scouts, just general living.
There's just so much for a Nana to get involved in!
And cat-fights to monitor - had to salvage a feral cat from the claws of my own FatCat
the other night - although FC's feeling the effects of trying to do the pugilistic
thing today - at 8 yrs old, he's not exactly in the prime of youth anyway and his
painful progress around the room today shows it! And my pregnant daughter to organise
- she's still teaching and hubby's flat out at work, so somebody had to take on the
job of moving them!
Talking of moving, the roads here in Johannesburg surrounds are an absolute nightmare
- everywhere has been torn up, is being torn up, is being (supposedly) rebuilt, all
for the 2010 World Cup soccer event in June next year. The resulting chaos has people
getting out of cars and walking to work because it's faster!! Any 30 min trip now
takes a minimum of an hour, if you're lucky. I spent 35 minutes and moved 300 metres
across a bridge the other day - none of the traffic lights work, so everything is
a 4-way stop (which the local black taxis treat as their God-given right to blast
through anyway!), there's a breakdown or a bumper-bashing every 500 yards or so -
it all makes one long to be back on a boat on the open seas.
And fit in a trip to the Kruger Park to do some serious animal watching - first time
in years! And a couple of 60th birthdays - such youngsters! And a Canopy tour - more
adrenalin than us oldies need, but I had to check it out for the grandies' Christmas
present!! The things we do for our kids. Needless to say, we're running up to Christmas
and the chaos/enjoyment that brings, 28 for Christmas lunch being a starting point -
maybe 2010 will be a bit calmer. She says in hope!