Monday, September 30

Oh wait, there's more

Well, the last post was about our 'last night' together.  I neglected to tell you that we spent much of the following day together because Patronus wasn't actually leaving until 2pm.  That gave us ample time to drag the goodbye's out even more.  We spent the day taking more pictures, playing and swimming with s/v Cascadura and trying to ignore the countdown.  When it came time to separate and go our own ways...that's when it got real.   There were many tears shed and it was literally heart and gutt wrenching.  It was incredibly hard to watch Patronus sail away.  It was even harder to watch them sail away with Cascadura.  We felt a little betrayed, like we'd lost our best friend to a new friend in town.  We talked and sang and cried on the radio until we no longer had a signal.  We waved and took pictures until they were tiny dots on the horizon.

Jumping off the back of AG

 One for the road

Trying to get Porter to smile for the last group photo

I warned you there were tears

AGP group hug

 Cascadura went first

 Erica blows the conch shell as they sail past us

 Olivia steers us on our own course

 Look out girl

Thursday, September 26

One More NIght

"I've learned that goodbyes will always hurt, pictures will never replace being there, thanks is a feeble word, memories forget the hard times, words can never replace feelings, and heroes often go unsung."- anonymous

This was it, folks.  The time had come to say goodbye for who knows how long.  We stayed together as long as we possibly could.  We changed plans, manipulated courses, yielded to the weather, all in an effort to prolong the inevidable.  This would be our last night together with our buddy boat, Patronus.  Or should I say the Conway family?  It's kinda funny that we call each other by our boat names and not our last names like landlubbers.  We all knew it was coming.  We joked about it, trying to push the feelings and tears aside.  It was surreal.  We weren't going to see them in the next anchorage or on another island somewhere in the Caribbean.  We weren't going to chase each other in circles catching fish or hail "AGP" on the radio or race ashore in our dinghies side by side.  We weren't going to be checking in and out together or search for the local market or laundry lady.  We weren't going to hike up any boulders or swim under a waterfall or snorkel with the tropical fish.  We weren't going to share meals together or play cards or make painkillers (or dark and stormy's).  We weren't going to swap kids, share the ups and downs or pitch in on boat repairs.  It was time.  But not before we had one more night together.  We shared a feast with fine wine (in glass) and a few practical jokes (paper towels, wink wink).  We savored every minute, committing it to memory.  We dreamed up all sorts of solutions and crazy scenarios to avoid having to say goodbye, this one last time.

 Cheers!  Skol!  Salute!

 A beautiful last sunset together

 You can't have a goodbye without a cake!

They look so happy.  What an awesome bunch!

We definitely had a desire to meet other families sharing the same dream; bobbing around the big blue ocean, in a sailboat.  We never expected to meet a family and make such a connection.  We all became fast friends.  It was easy.  That fateful day back in September as we were passing by Martha's Vineyard and recieved a phone call (we still had our cell phones) from captain Dan, telling us that Patronus was in Vineyard Haven.  We abruptly changed course that afternoon and our trip forever changed in ways we'll never know.  If you'll recall, as I walk down memory lane, we met at an ice cream shop there on Martha's Vineyard.  That would be the first of many ice cream cones we would share together.  The kids walked two by two along the sidewalk and danced and sang in the courtyards between the boutiques.  Erica and I hatched a master plan to have the boys take the kids for a little excursion so we could sneak in a little shopping time.  Again, this would be the first of many such scenes.

We took countless pictures and shared even more.  Below is one last 'photo session' documenting our last night together!

 Six girls adorned with matching bracelets

 Bonds that will never break

 Like Minds, Like Hearts

True Friendship 

 Cute as can be

 One Love

One Heart


Tuesday, September 10

Sweet Summer Berries

The Berry Islands....our last group of secluded beauty, perfect bliss and no tourists before heading back to the US.  We wanted nothing more than to savor every single instant and wish on fallen stars that we could stay aboard Anything Goes forever.  The end was near and though it was inevitable, we didn't want to be reminded of what 'home' would look like.  We spent our last 2 weeks of this glorious trip in the Berry Islands.

The Berry's are a small collection of islands in the northwestern "out islands" of the Bahamas.  They are surrounded by gaping ocean waters on the south and east where the tongue of the ocean begins.  And, on the western side are miles and miles of crystal clear, shallow turquoise water stretching from top to bottom.   This was by far, the shallowest waters we had encountered so far.  These islands are so remote in fact, that there are only 2 out of the 30 islands that have any sort of facilities, like a marina, fuel and even groceries.  They are both very popular with the sport fisherman crowd because the fishing is spectacular in the Berry Islands.   What more could we ask for?   Islands all to ourselves and plenty of fish to go around!  Nevertheless, the islands are small,  mostly flat, with next to no vegetation and very shallow with narrow cuts in between and lots of of open water.  Definitely not a place you want to be in bad weather.  With that in mind, we ideally wanted a good weather window to feel comfortable.  Consequently, we had plans to spend another week in the Abaco Islands, but that said weather window presented itself and we decided to take off the following morning!  Plans, schman's, that's life living on a sailboat.  

Smooth sailing in the shallow, protected waters of the Abaco Islands, heading south to go out the cut and sail to the Berry Islands. 

Waves splash the windows in the North Cut

We strategically left at 9am in order to reach the "Hole in the wall" before nightfall.  It was a good 20 miles south to the cut and out the breezy, shallow waters of the Abaco Islands.  The hole in the wall was yet another 20 miles south,  where the fishing was supposed to be unbelievable.  We heard stories.  We were pumped.  We were like salivating dogs waiting to pounce on the multiple lines singing zzzzzzzz with every fish on.  We wanted to be there in the daylight in order to zig zag back and forth to make for some freezer filling fishin'!!  As we exited the North Cut, the opposing tide to the wind chop made for some really rough seas.  Let me rephrase was hellish and scary!  I was driving to avoid getting sea sick (which works much like driving a car helps aid in car sickness).  I punched the throttle down in order to get through it as quickly as possible.  But the waves were huge, nearly breaking over the bow.  I had to slow down and soon it felt like we were standing still, proceeding to be pounded by every wave.  Did I mention that there are reefs with jagged rocks and crashing waves on either side of us?  That freaked me out and Craig had to take over, reassuring me the whole time that we would make it out without breaking the boat, running aground or going backwards!

This is the best dolphin photo yet, don't you agree?!

Ahhhh, finally.  As soon as we made it to the other side of the cut and the waves subsided, it was smooth sailing all the way.  It's a good thing the dolphins were so pretty because that was the only action we were awarded before the sun slid behind the horizon.  There were NO fish in the "hole in the wall".  Or at least they weren't hungry.  We zigged, we zagged, we chased birds, we chased Partronus....nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada!  It doesn't take a genius to realize that the morale on the boat was pre-ttee low that evening.

Approaching Frazer's Hog Cay

We forged ahead, altered course and sailed on through the night.  There was an abundance of thunderstorms coming and going, surrounding us.  It was much like playing frogger...trying to cross the road without getting hit by a car.  Trying to keep out of their way was the game and it made for an exciting night and helped pass the time quickly.  We had to sloooooowwwww way down in order to arrive in the Berry Islands at dawn (remember our rule of not entering an unfamiliar harbor in the dark).  The fact of the matter was we wanted to fish during dusk at the Hole in the Wall....which put a cramp in our style of arriving in the Berry islands during daylight.  An overnight passage was the only way to accomplish both of those.  Anyway, at one point, I had so much time to spare, I actually turned around to avoid a thunderstorm, waited for it to pass and then headed back on course.  Let me tell you how AH-Mazing it was to observe that thunderstorm on the open ocean.  It was directly in front of me, roughly 7-10 miles.  The night sky was an inky, jet black.  The few stars that filled the cloudy sky were bright enough to reveal the horizon.   In an instant, the clouds lit up with a brilliant outline of towering fluffy cotton balls, illuminated like a night light.  At precisely the same time, a razor sharp lightning bolt reached out and touched the water that irradiated a glow as far as the eye could see along the horizon.  You don't see that everyday.  I wished I had a camera inside my eyeball.  It was more beautiful than words can describe.  And, let me add that it was this beautiful because I was watching it from a distance.  Had I been right under it, not so much!

Craig and Maggie were up on duty the next morning and brought in the sails as we approached Frazer's Hog Cay, our first stop in the Berry Islands.  It almost never failed that after a bad fishing day, we'd hook a fish at the exact moment when it was most inconvenient.  And that was when we were winding down, getting ready to enter an anchorage and drop the hook.  You see, we have to turn our boat around, into the wind in order to drop the sails.  It's a much bigger production than say a boat with a furling system in which you only need to be off the wind slightly (still going the same direction).  We do realize that beggars can't be choosers, so we never complained but it was bad timing, I have to admit.  As they brought in the sails that morning, we caught a huge Mahi or something but it shook the hook free.  Darn!  Then, just like clockwork, they caught a Cero as we had to navigate the shallow and narrow entrance to Frazer's Hog Cay!  A happy but stressful arrival.

Our one and only fish of this passage.  Again, not complaining but it wasn't anywhere near the Hole in the wall (just saying')

Grilled to perfection with lemons, garlic, butter and a splash of white wine

The acclaimed "Yacht Club"

I can tell you that this was no yacht club, just a building with a bar and a few tables.  The help didn't speak english and didn't seem to understand english either, even though she nodded her head as if she knew exactly what we were talking about.  Whatever.  We did spend a rainy afternoon here talking with 3 young people that were traveling on a small sailboat.  Rachel, from Australia, joined the two young gentlemen on their journey to Nassau.  I guess you could say they were modern day gypsy's of sorts.  Their boat was falling apart and frankly, I was worried about them making it in one piece.

The dude that was really in charge of the whole yacht club operation.  He went out to the end of the dock after I ordered a conch salad and fetched and cleaned my lunch right then and there.  Now that is what I call fresh.

Olivia catches another fish off the back of our boat, this time a remora!

s/v Cascadura was waiting for us in Devil's Cay.  

We stayed one day longer at Frazer's Hog Cay due to weather and were excited to meander around the corner to Devil's Cay.  Our friends and fellow kid boat, s/v Cascadura were waiting for us.  But wait, where is Patronus going and why are they not moving....????

Oh I see, they tried to sneak around the back side into some crazy shallow water, unbeknownst to them (their chart said it was plenty deep).  Hmmm, they look like they ran aground.  Let's go help.  Everyone pictured here is hanging on the starboard side trying to list the boat to free her off the sandy bottom.  No such luck.  Eventually, we got her to list far enough by connecting a halyard to the a dinghy and pulling the boat over on its side with the dinghy motor at full throttle, Patronus was free!  Chris always said he wanted to clean the keel.  Digging her in the sand did a pretty good scrub job!

Our room with a view

Kids will be kids, playing tirelessly

Liv stakes her spot in the hammock on Cascadura

Shannon (mom on Cascadura) pulls out her jewelry making supplies....have you ever seen so many beads?  

Girl Power - busy making bracelets

Horsing around on the swing

Reese, Kate, Katie and Maggie

Another view from our room

Anchor's away in the crystal clear water

Olivia catches a Rock Hind off the back of the boat

Reese supervises while Olivia butcher's her fish

Having a good time on Cascadura.  We eventually threw some food on the table for a cruiser style potluck.

The boys fished earlier that morning and caught some fish and gathered some whelks and clams.  They were excited to build a bon fire to cook their catch, Liv included.

Prepping the clams and whelks (snails) to be cooked over an open fire.  Don't tell the kids, but they tasted like old seaweed.  Yuck.  But I give them an "A" for effort.

More sailing fun with Cascadura and Patronus

Tuesday, September 3

Boat School: Fact or Fiction

I was not afraid to set sail into the big blue ocean or leave my house, family or friends behind.  I was not afraid of cooking on the boat nor was I afraid of storms or pirates (well maybe just a little).  What I was most afraid of, was home schooling my children.  Six years ago, in our backyard, we listened to countless stories of adventure that our friends had just experienced on their 2 year cruise with their 3 children.  As I listened on the edge of my seat for hours, there was a nagging thought I couldn't shake.  There was no way I could get over the intimidation of home schooling.  Of course, Rennie could do it, I thought to myself, she had been homeschooling her kids living as a landlubber in Seattle.  She had a teaching certificate.  It was an easy, natural transition, it made sense for her.  She tried to reassure me that it was easy, 'no sweat' she said.  I knew it wouldn't be that easy for me.

The thoughts of cruising for a year was always a nice dream and all, but then reality would set in and the dreaded homeschool subject reared its ugly head.  Every. Single. Time.  Frankly, it was getting on my nerves.  How would I know what to do?  Where do I get the subject matter and materials?  Would my kids listen to me as a teacher?  How would I cover all the subjects with three kids?  How would I stay organized and would it be fun for the girls??  Would they have to repeat once we returned home (gasp!)?  However, there was a silver lining folks and believe me, it was the only thing that kept me going.  Craig, my hero, would be available to teach as well because he wouldn't have a full time job!  Well, you know what I mean, an outside the home/boat job.  Keeping up the boat was a full-time job!

Little by little, I gained confidence in my boat schooling abilities.  Rennie gave me the name of a great book, The Well Trained Mind, to start with.  I bought it, read it (most of it anyway) and was all of a sudden excited about homeschooling.  I liked the philosophy and the many teaching tools that were available using the same mindset written by the same authors.  I also sought out other families cruising with their children and read everything I could find on the subject.  I wanted to know what other women were going through and how they felt about it.  What were the struggles and successes they experienced.  I remember stumbling upon an article that interviewed 12 cruising families.  They asked the same 12 questions to each family, answered from the mother's point of view.  I remember abandoning all responsibilities of my own family as I read that article word for word and then once more!  I loved it and loved everything they had to say about cruising in general but especially about boat school.  That was the turning point for me.  I suddenly felt like "I can do this".

As we got closer to our departure, I approached the kids teachers, counselors and principles for more information and guidance.  They were instrumental at further putting my mind at ease.  We followed our districts curriculum and started gathering the materials.  For a list of textbooks and workbooks used, click here.  I found many of the books used through Amazon (used and new) and Ebay.

Keeping to a schedule was a key ingredient to a successful classroom aboard Anything Goes.  The girls  kept track of their time and moved on to the next subject (mostly) by themselves.  Maggie (8th grade) did most of her work independently.  Kate (5th grade) followed suit with a little extra instruction and Olivia (1st grade) needed the most hands on guidance.  If you are interested in what our daily school schedule looked like, click here.  We never did school work when we were underway or if we had a big shore excursion.   As a result, we did school work any day of the week were weren't moving or trekking.  No one was keeping track of what day it was anyway, so it didn't matter if we were having school on a Sunday!

Olivia does her school work outside in the cockpit

Sometimes we had guest teachers, like John, in Hampton VA

The kids had fun learning with other boat kids.  Kate and Roan (s/v Por Dos) have science fun making slime.

Music lessons on the Ukulele

Cooking class

Science:  how to fillet a fish



Serious concentration

Kate and Maggie hard at work

We definitely had our share of "I don't want to do school today".  It happened more than once and sometimes multiple children at once.  

Doing school work together was always more fun!

Visiting other schools was a learning experience too.  3rd grade students at St. John's Elementary School