Sunday, April 20, 2014
Hmm, I replied; everything is relative. A couple of examples:
1. Space. Last week I spent 20-30 hours cleaning eight months of accumulated dust and grime out of our 1,250-square-foot row house.
I restocked the pantry and refrigerator and unpacked boxes of clothes and shoes. I spent a day tracking down insurance and property tax bills for a storage garage in which Pope and I own units.
He reminded me of how much easier life was when we had only 200 square feet of storage space and lived in a few t-shirts and swim suits.
Hmm. From my perspective, the boat had to be cleaned regularly, too. I am grateful for a real desk with a real chair. I practice my guitar (which wouldn't fit on the boat) every day, and work out with fitness videos in the living room. I am grateful to be able to squeeze my car into my storage garage while out of town, keeping it off the streets and away from ticket-writers. I also noted that Pope's garage is full of tools, kayaks, and other man "toys."
The clincher, in my opinion: Pope has started seeds for the garden in our spacious dining room.
2. Property taxes, utility bills, leaky toilets. Yes, they are annoying. However, they don't go away while on the boat unless you sell your house. Many cruisers have done that. And, personally, I am appreciating the pleasures of a dishwasher, clean hair, and an occasional hot bath. I am getting used to drinking health-promoting water again, after being hooked on sugary fruit juices all winter.
For four months we had limited access to clean, safe, tasty drinking water. A few markets were large enough to carry bottles of filtered water shipped from Nassau ($2.50-$3.00 per gallon), and a few marinas sold tap water treated by reverse osmosis ($0.40-$1.00 per gallon), which was OK for washing and cooking. No one knew whether the process killed all the e. coli and other germs.
3. Activities. We read dozens of books on the boat. In town, we have resumed zydeco dancing and I am taking a French class. We made new friends at marinas; however, we are unlikely to see them again.
There are other examples: Freedom to roam vs. neighborhood and family ties. Beautiful sunsets and sandy beaches vs. well-stocked supermarkets and libraries. Fresh air vs. shelter from storms and insects.
Dear readers, take my advice and do not take your old friends, walk-in closets, and hot and cold running water for granted. Everything is relative!
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Everyone knows someone who was busier after retirement than before. I'm on a fast track to membership in that club.
Three weeks after walking out of the National Science Foundation, I flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, and boarded a sailboat headed for the Pacific Ocean. Two months after that, Pope and I moved aboard a different sailboat headed down the Atlantic seaboard to the Bahamas.
Six months passed slowly while I sailed, swam, and recounted my adventures and shattered fantasies about bliss on a tropical island on this blog.
Two weeks ago, we returned to our house and neighborhood--and I picked up the pace. In that short time, I have enrolled in a fitness class and a French class, resumed studying guitar and participating in jam sessions, tackled Windows 8 on a new laptop, and brought home a stack of library books. I got together with friends, went to a writing workshop, and dutifully attended two Board of Directors meetings. I bought tickets to concerts and theatre.
Busy, yes. But no surprises there. Long before leaving my job I had looked forward to having time for these activities. The surprise lies instead in what I am NOT doing.
As I met with counselors and financial advisors to plan for my pensioned years, an important part of the plan was to launch a freelance writing business. In preparation, I purchased a laptop and business cards. I sent query letters to magazines and newspapers, proposing to write articles about my upcoming sailing trips.
On both boats, I lugged along camera, computer, paper and pens, and samples of magazines, intending to record my impressions and transform them into clever, humorous travel pieces that readers would gobble up like hotcakes.
As you know, I religiously tended my blog--and loved it. However, I have been less than enthusiastic about writing anything serious. Was that just another fantasy?
You see, when I walked away from my private office with the courtyard view and ergonomic chair, I experienced a profound sense of relief. I was free of deadlines. Free of other people's standards. Tired of taxing my brain to write words that sell.
There will always be problems to solve. But for now, they are my problems, and my solutions, not somebody else's.
Will I return to writing for pay? Writing to please an editor, to get my name in print, and to keep my skills sharp? Stay tuned.
Maybe I am learning from Pope how to be laid back instead of uptight. And that, my friends, may be a good thing.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
I had only seen the boat for 5 minutes in the dark before Pope signed a contract to buy it. It had features he was searching for: a shallow keel for avoiding Bahamas sandbars; a stable beam to avoid heeling when sailing, which was important for minimizing my fear of tipping over; and a self-steering wind vane. When I next saw the boat, in daylight, I suggested we ask for a refund. The boat was full of mold, torn cushions and curtains, bad odors, uncomfortable sleeping and seating areas, dirt, gunk, and general degradation. I suspected the operating systems had also been neglected, which turned out to be true. We had agreed to buy a boat that was ready to live on and didn’t need much work. This was not it.
I never grew to love the boat like Pope did. (And even he had some qualms after the engine breakdown and electrical problems.) However, I got used to it. We fixed the mechanical problems. The sitting areas were comfortable and attractive. I covered cushions with plastic when rain threatened and bunkered down when we crossed the ocean; opened hatches and vents to keep odors down; sewed mosquito nets to keep out no-see-ums. I relied on cleanliness and organization to stay sane. Pope tends to lay things around and lose them; I put them away and find them. It's our M.O. at home.
So I moved aboard and served as First Mate, housekeeper, part-time cook, tour guide, and chief finder-of-lost-things. Pope served as primary driver, navigator, mechanic, and handyman. When I cried, he tried to address the source of my fears. When I screwed up or got hurt, he came to my rescue--such as when my fingers got jammed between the anchor chain and cleat, or when I got knocked down by a car on my bike.
- Resets. A technique we learned from another couple: when we can’t agree, and the conversation deteriorates into acrimony, we agree to start over.
- Third-party mediators, i.e., cruisers we met and friends we made. They would listen to both sides of the story, laugh, and suggest another beer or rum cocktail—restoring a proper perspective.
Enlisting the ears --and shoulders--of third-party mediators
All's well that ends well. We are home, more or less in one piece, and still committed to making a life together.
Restoring harmony after a long, hard day on the boat
Saturday, March 29, 2014
As previously reported, we left Ft. Pierce, Florida, in a rush: in a frantic 24-hour period, made decisions, turned the boat over to a broker, crammed half our stuff into a rented van, and carted the rest to a rented storage locker. Spiffed up the boat and hired a cleaning lady. Enjoyed a last supper with the crew of sailboat Pearl, who are living at the Ft. Pierce marina for a while.
Spent the first night onn the road visiting friends Bobby and Joanna and cousin Laura in St. Augustine. The second night, we naively charged up a red dirt road in southern Virginia in our fully loaded, giant rental car--apparently with bald tires. Stayed up late jawing with old friend and fellow sailor Sally at her family farm. By morning, a light rain had turned the infamous Virginia clay to gooey orange mud. We rocked the car back and forth, piled rocks and tree bark under the tires, and dug huge holes in Sally's lawn. Oops. Left her to clean up the mess.
So much for an early start. We got the car back to the freeway, sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Fredericksburg to DC, arrived too late to return the car, and spent several hours in pouring rain lugging giant garbage bags of stuff from the nearest parking space, two blocks away, to our house. Ah well, better than snow and ice.
Returned to a sadly neglected house--quarter inch of dust, sticky kitchen floor, ring-around-the-toilet, and smell of dead mouse in the wall. What! No one cleaned while we were away?!
Finally, the payoff: making cream of broccoli soup and strawberry salad in our own kitchen. Loading the dishes into the dishwasher. The heat is on, the house is dry, and we've got a soft, warm bed on solid ground.
Boy, is it good to be home!
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Saturday, March 22, 2014
So we are paying to stay another expensive day at the dock in the Old Bahama Bay marina and resort at West End, the western tip of Grand Bahama Island, 47 miles from the Florida coast. I am determined to squeeze every penny's worth of enjoyment out of this resort. Yesterday, lap swimming in the lagoon-shaped pool, a half hour on the treadmill in the fitness center, and hot shower.
This morning, a long walk on the beach, followed by delicious coconut french toast at the beach bar overlooking the Little Bahama Bank
Now, borrowing a marina bike to ride to a nearby village. Also available for later: kayaks, paddleboards.
Just like Green Turtle Cay, this is not a bad place to be "stuck".
Friday, March 21, 2014
Nature as art: the water colors at Warderick Wells.
White sand, warm water, and the lively social scene at Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island, made more vivid by the company of Pope, Henry, John, and Carole and her friends.
Highbourne Cay: gorgeous swimming beach, graceful ray under the dock, and friendly motor-cruisers at the marina.
Swimming in beautiful, calm, sandy Gillam Bay on Green Turtle Cay; at secluded Pirates Beach on Staniel Cay; and in the gloriously clear and warm mangrove river on Shroud Cay, shown below (“swimming in place” against the powerful current there).
The tiny pink market on Staniel Cay—my favorite grocery. Run by friendly Eleanor and featuring her delicious coconut bread. (No photo; however, Eleanor may visit us in DC this summer when she attends her god-daughter's graduation from GWU.)
Fresh lettuce salad at restaurants in Marsh Harbor and Highbourne Cay. (Not grown in the Bahamas, probably; a very welcome treat!) Kale and cilantro freshly picked by Leslie, resident of Manjack Cay, in her garden.
Dancing to energetic Abaco musicians at Green Turtle Club and Pineapples tiki bar (Kevin, shown below), and being introduced to the Bahamas-centric ballads of Barefoot Man.