Intimate Strangers

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Playing music on Manjack Cay.

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When a small group of traveling women gathered the other day to make yogurt, we wound up talking about passion, marriage, our crazy womens’  bodies, and sex.

It was a really fun, amazingly intimate and empowering exchange. We shared all kinds of useful tips, fears, and secrets and will hopefully never see each other again ( haha).

After that amazing gathering, I asked Albert what they were asking me: what is the secret to a happy marriage? And he said “taking the long view.” Today I asked him to elaborate and he said, “I’ve always thought that people who were married a long time seemed like they were happy, and I knew I wanted that.”

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His remarks reminded me of a newspaper clipping I keep in my inspiration file, of a couple who had been married 71 years (they were in their late 90s). The interviewer asked the man for his thoughts and he spoke about how grateful he was now, how proud, happy, and truly joyful he felt every time his wife walked into the room.

Then the interviewer asked the wife for her thoughts. She thought for a moment  and said, “The first 20 years were hell!”

Well, duh!

Early in marriage, childhood and/or previous relationship issues, parenting issues, career and life frustrations are usually still unresolved. And hormones are not always entirely helpful when you’re young!

For some couples the first 20 years of marriage also involve military service. Young love takes place in situations that have more than enough stress and responsibilities for everyone. And on top of that, marketers encourage us to compare our own imperfect lives with impossible made-for-movies ideals.

There is a boat near us now named “Poly N Easy,” and so of course everyone assumes it is a poly-amorous group. They keep to themselves mostly but otherwise seem like any typical group of friends and family. For some reason we’ve been asked by several people if they are poly or not! (Do we seem like experts? No idea!)  But whatever realities and fantasies about alternative lifestyles,  it seems that no approach to life is any less encumbered than the rest.

Many years ago, when I was 18 years old, I was in an idealistic yet exhausting “open marriage.”  I can remember waiting for my so-called husband  to get out of the shower with my so-called best friend. Not only did I want to use the bathroom (alone!) but our hotwater bill was insane! At some point, in very open-minded fashion I decided I wanted a simpler life.

Almost a decade later, I fell in love with Albert, who only took showers with me! Having been there and done all that, the golden years for me is not having to go through all that confusion again!

Today we went for a hike, swim, amazing snorkel (going again momentarily) , we cooked a nice lunch, then writing/reading. I helped some new friends train their goats.  They gave us a delectable quart of goats milk.

Thirty one years into our adventure together, cultivating our love is still a new, exciting and mysterious adventure, almost more so now than on our first date! And now, we can talk all night without worrying about an alarm clock going off in the morning. I don’t know how many of these “golden years” we will get, but so far, we are really enjoying this one. Thank you Albert!

 

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Christmas in the Bahamas

imageWhen we were first contemplating a long term sailing adventure, I whined that I did not want my life to be about sharing sundowners with strangers. Community is important to me. How can anyone cultivate community while traveling?

Albert insisted, there really is community in the cruising world, and I doubted it. What kind of community Is there when you’ve only just met someone, and you’re already leaving?

But I’m finding out that Albert is right. On Christmas, our mostly transient community put on a beautiful holiday feast. We were part of it. It was wonderful.

We floated in that sparkling sphere of safety and loving kindness and generousity of spirits  that is or can be …everywhere? Maybe there are no strangers?   We surely felt like we were home, with people we’ve loved forever.

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Hot water

For those of you interested in full technical details, I wanted to set our water story straight.image

Magus carries 200 gallons of fresh water in tanks which we filled in Maine before we left. So, we have cold running water aboard, but we didn’t have hot running water until     we got some mechanical help with a fitting in Solomans Maryland. We had struggled to get a fitting off the engine, but the marina there had the right tool for that and completed the job Albert had completed 95% . That ultimately led to new possibilities for cleanliness and comfort as well as new potential for problems!

The first time we realized that we had a spouting water issue was as we approached Charleston SC. We were about 12 miles offshore in 8-12 foot breaking waves at 4 to 8 second intervals — not at all a comfortable place to be –when the bilge alarm went off. Fortunately, we weren’t sinking, but our bilge had filled with fresh water. So not only did we have a fresh water leak, but  the bilge pump was not working. At anchor, Albert reattached some wires that had loosened in the rough passage, and got the bilge pumps all working again. It took a lot of sleuthing but  another hundred miles later, he also found and fixed a slow leak in our pressure water system. A copper pipe had worn thin over 40 years of rubbing on the hull and it was leaking. Albert cut it out and replaced it with reinforced pressure plastic hose and clamps.

imageWe filled our tanks again in Florida and set out across the Gulf Stream, arriving at West End for our check in, first snorkel, and a good nights sleep. Then we set out across the Little Bahamas Bank towards Great Sale Cay.

There was very little wind, so we had to motor sail, but we were feeling full of ourselves, joyful, and it was a glorious day. The water was very quiet and so very clear and blue. It finally felt like, we’re on vacation! We were excited and happy. Everything was easy. Magus chugged along smooth and comfy.

And as the motor was running we had all the hotwater we could ever need. I indulged in the luxury of cleaning and cooking as we made our way across this balmy blue expanse of magic.

But unlike hotwater at home, our boat hotwater can get to be boiling hot. Unbeknownst to me, as  I busily sanitized and suds and played house on the sea, our poor plastic pipe and fitting was getting too hot, expanding and losing it’s grip.

At first I thought we had a pressure pump problem, but by the time we got to Great Sale Cay, we realized another full water tank -100 gallons!- had poured into the bilge. Whoops! The plastic pipe had expanded and slipped with the heat. At least the bilge pimp was working!

So now we know that we need to either wait a day for the hot water to cool before having a hotwater splurge or just to be very judicious in running boiling water through flexible plastic pipe! In Green Turtle Cay we have refilled our tanks with reverse osmosis water! No splitting wood this year, but definitely carrying water!image

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The whole world

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I’ve always been told I’m too sensitive. Maybe that’s why I love swimming so much. In the water, I feel soul molecules. No one interferes with how much I feel when I am swimming. I accomplish nothing, want nothing, am nothing. Submerged, I merge.

We’ve been gone from Maine for almost four months now. Green Turtle Cay reminds me a lot of our home port of Peaks Island. The community is about the same size, 800 with 50 kids in the elementary school, and then many tourists and part time residents. The school does have a gardening program, which we intend to support. If you are sailing to the Bahamas, do bring along one of those plastic (vermin-proof) composters and give it to the elementary school. That can really help prevent and alleviate hunger! It’s an easy thing we can do! Colored chalk also makes a nice gift for schools and kids here, where paper is expensive but there are miles of cement pavement available for coloring.

This week several people from our home port in Maine have died. I feel homesick, regretting that we are not there in this time of grief. One loss was my best friend for several years, then we had a hard falling out. We slowly became cordial again and then she became sick, she suffered terrible losses as honorably as anyone ever could and now she’s gone.  I never saw her courage until I saw how she faced that final challenge. I feel her and go through my catalogue of many lost lives. I find them in the water. My mother, my father, my friends, a universe of souls, merged. No coming, no going. Everything constantly changing. What beauty, what peace, to feel it.

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Bahamas Babe

Our Bahamian Adventure as middle-age Grandparents is understandably different from when we were newly married, beginning our family and on our honeymoon adventure  to Jamaica 31 years ago.

imageWe’re reminded of how awful young love can be as we’ve observed two boatloads of young ‘uns quit in mid-adventure out of young love drama. In retirement, we don’t question or doubt or test our love.   We just laugh a lot. We conspire. We strategize the best way to squeeze the most out of the day.  We don’t need to go over all that stuff from our childhoods anymore. Our conversations are more here and now.  Its almost like our snorkeling behavior (point! Squeeze hands! Nod! Squeeze hands!!) has expanded to become the way we are in general.

Like right now, our entertainment is a young rasta who is piloting a boat he doesn’t know how to anchor. I’m posting while watching him panic, dump anchor, power right over his anchor, throw out second and third anchors, slam into reverse, then power forward. “Stop!” I yell, and he kind of listens, but then he overpowers and drags all the anchors and his boat almost into the sailboat behind him.  Albert and I squeeze hands, point, nod, squeeze! Look at that! We still try to intervene with life, but often the best we can do is shout out warnings. image

Albert and I have always loved snorkeling and swimming together. The Abacos has the swimming and snorkeling of our dreams, absolutely breathtaking clear blue water sandy beaches, abundant complex fisheries, healthy beautiful coral reefs. On Manjack, we hiked a beautiful mile or so long trail to the most beautiful beach I’ve ever experienced. We swam and swam. On the way back Albert wanted to walk slow so that he could take pictures and not sweat. I wanted to walk fast to give the dogs and myself a well rounded workout.  We each did what we felt like doing, of course! Did we really used to argue over our walking speed? I swam back to the boat and Albert rowed. We work as a team better than ever. image

Right now, we’re in Green Turtle Cay, Black Sound.  We came in here for protection from a strongish Norther coming through now. We hope the rasta kid’s enormous power boat doesn’t drag on us. We’ve had conch fritters for lunch, and great conversations with the woman who made them. She told us that the island school here goes til 5th grade, like on Peaks Island, and then the kids go to the mainland ( Great Abaco Island). We will volunteer at the school while we’re here.

Albert is responsible for dinner tonight. I’m so glad we were fully stocked when we got here, because though we found a few tiny grocery stores here, one squash is $12.50! Fortunately we still have squash from our garden on board, and I’ve learned how to combine dried seaweed super well with our potato recipes!  Our boat has more food stores than the food stores! image

 

Other things we are thinking about: there sure is lots and lots of plastic trash that washes up. The USA should probably chip in to pay for some of that clean up. Also, there are lots of no see ums.

And while this is a great place for wealthy vacationers, it’s a challenging, expensive, environmentally vulnerable fragile place for families trying to raise children. And there are loads of beautiful kids here, playing basketball, braiding hair, playing house, skipping along the waterfront wall.

 

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Florida

We are just getting ready to cross the Gulf Stream tonight after several weeks in Florida. It is just miserably hot and surprisingly urban. For this Mainer, Florida has been a shocking juxtaposition of wild exotic jungle and cold high rises. The evidence of great wealth that we saw in portions of the coast while in Maine have become more great the further we go South. One thousand miles of  yuuuge vacation homes!  My Bernicratic sensibilities struggle to reconcile the evidence of climate change with the evidence that wealthy people don’t worry about climate change.

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When we arrived in West Palm beach my idealistic brain was startled by the contrast between how I imagined Florida (like Maine only warmer) and how it actually is (like a stretched out city). It reminds me how I felt when I first saw Old Orchard Beach and I was so surprised that it wasn’t a beautiful beach surrounded by apple trees. Florida is a land of high rises waiting to get washed away or fall into sink holes. If you believe that climate change is real, it makes you tear your hair out.

Everytime we try to swim, we’ve been warned away by locals who are concerned about discharges from lake Okeechobee, or else the water is gross looking, or today it was so clear we could see the masses of jellyfish. Do I sound complainy? Sorry but I’m so HOT and my family back home are enjoying the first ice storm of the season!  I guess the grass is always greener, or the weather is somehow better somewhere else. This adventure has been quite a lot of work so far, but soon we’ll be able to swim off the boat. We checked passage weather and windyty, and we believe wave height will be low and getting lower through the night, and we should have a westerly breeze that will also die down as we approach West End Bahamas in the morning. It’s been three months and now we are ready to play!

 

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Gulf Stream

We left Palm Beach (Lake Worth inlet) in the dark. I was ready to leave earlier, after speed boat wakes had tossed me head over tail in the cockpit, but Albert wisely had us time our West End arrival for daylight.

The crossing itself was beautiful. We used passageweather.com and local NOAA to check wave heights and wind direction. There was heat lightening. The inlet was kinda scary going out, confusing lights, and then a watcful coast guard boat zoomed up to make sure we weren’t terrorists. But then we were sailing across a star filled ocean.

We headed due South/ Southeast for over an hour and then started across the stream. The sea was just as predicted and we sailed through soft rolling waves sparkling with phosphorescence, heat lightening giving us glimpses of the lovely sea. Stars stars stars! Half way, the wind died out and we had to motor. We have already gone for a beautiful swim and snorkel.

I’m hurrying to write this on my phone and get it posted before we head out today to a place where there is plenty snorkeling, but no wifi!

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