Week One

Well this is the end of the first week and what a week it has been.  After arriving in San Pedro full of wonder and excitement we were met with by a very grumpy “dock master” and the news that the slip had been rented out from under us; we had no right to be there because, technically, it was the previous owner who paid this months rent. And no, we were not going to get a key to gate. We would simply have to wait for someone else to come by and hope that they liked letting in strangers. So we spent two days schlepping all of our worldly belongings from the Soccer Mom Van down the dock (we happen to be almost at the end) and staring in disbelief that all this stuff was somehow going to fit on and into this small(ish) boat.  But somehow, after a couple days of careful placement and artful rearranging, we managed to get it all onboard and stowed enough for sea. We made a few trips to Target and the like while we had the car trying to find things that fit; just a simple utensil draw organizer when your drawers are small is hard to find. We put up the bimini top and readied for a trip.

We set out from San Pedro to San Diego to the Knight and Carver Yard thanks to our friend Kate (she loved that we named the boat after her, ha-ha).  Unfortunately we had no wind, considerable fog, no sun, a two blade folding, offset driven prop, a three cylinder engine and diesel at $5.69 a gallon. But we did see a sun fish, whales, sea lions and HEAPS of dolphins swimming at the bow. I started thinking it was set up by Steve to make me think cruising was going to be as romantic as it sounds! We pulled into Oceanside for the night after ten hours of motoring (not as exciting at maximum 5kts and the engine in the main cabin, a little noisy)  did our first check into a marina and after a bowl of noodles (yes we said a little Ramen before we ate) fell into bed. 

We awoke the next day to a colder, foggier, mistier morning then the day before.  Ready for another day of motoring Steve turned the key and the damn girl doesn’t start. Thankfully it was just a bad battery terminal connection and after we soldier it on the dock with a butane lighter she turned right over (had flash backs of our Ural adventures…oh No!).  The wind picked up a little and we sailed for a few hours but it was another long day and we tied up at 20:00.  I had my first really go with the stove and made mashed potatoes (no milk and used the potato water to cook the beans), chipotle chicken (made extra for lunch the next day) and sautéed green beans with onion and sweet red pepper; thinking I might be able to do this cooking for two, conserving water, use what you got thing.  A the hot meal was very welcome as we spent the day in full wet weather gear, hats and scarves. I thought we were in California?!?!?! 

We spent a day on the dock in K&C before headed down to the Public Police docks at the opposite end of the harbor, but we had great wind and were reaching 6kts with just the headsail up, so were in much better spirits when we arrived.  Got a mailbox and groceries yesterday and found the chandlery.  Steve sparked up the BBQ and made a gourmet meal of Honey Glazed pork chops, grilled fresh corn, grilled purple potatoes and peppers.  With shore power and access to hot public showers (we have to install a proper shower sump as now everything just empties into the bilge and so have spent the last week having a “shower” standing in a Rubbermaid tub and trying to conserve water, thank goodness I had to do the same thing when the pipes frozen during the winter in Canada and so found it nostalgic) we were both warm and satisfied as we retired last nite. 

This morning we put the tender in the water (we are calling it Timmy, think South Park, as it is a little squirrely and slow but steady and reliable) and spent oodles at the chandlery buying shiny new fenders that we needed, and shower sumps and hardware bits and a fold away dock cart; should make going to the store and laundry mat a little easier.  We pulled up the floor to clean the bilge to find out we had a small diesel leak from a vent hose that we then needed to replace and that the fresh water tank vents to low and therefore also spills into the bilge. And so the list continues, yep that’s the pleasure of owning a boat I am told, doing repairs in exotic locations.  Tomorrow we are hitting a local marine swap meet and then more work; we need to get as much done while we are here at the dock for the next 10 days.  SO make a mess then clean it up then make a mess again.  Lots of measuring, lists and researching but we are on the right track and are enjoying making the boat ours. We managed to pick up a San Diego Bay wifi signal and have a month subscription so keep it coming, I just have to stand on one leg holding a coat hanger between my teeth and wear a tin foil hat facing east at 7:18pm to get it, but we are still connected!!!!  Our new mailing address for those of you who still know what letters are and we would LOVE to get them is:
Heather Francis/ Steven Hertik
2726 Shelter Island Drive#113
San Diego, California
We have this for at least six months and they will forward world wide so we can get mail even when we leave the US and A.  I am going to try and do weekly updates for now, please let me know it you want to be off the list.  It’s almost 7:18pm, gotta go up on deck and send this off!!!! Hear from you soon,


Terrible Twos

As week two draws to a close let us reflect on the word “Tobin”.

Now, some of you may know it as simply a name, perhaps a name of a loved one, but we here on S/Y Kate are petitioning it to be the new, latest, catch phase/swear word in the English vernacular. It should always be loudly muttered with sheer exhaustion and frustration in your voice and usually while in a cramped space or difficult position and almost always covered in sweat.  Yes that about sums up our last week onboard. 

It seems all jobs and reparations that have been attempted have be aggravated by the fact that the previous owner, although very well intentioned, was neither a plumber nore an electrician although fancied that he was both.   A very good finish carpenter yes, but that’s about all.  What we envision as being simple tasks have usually turned out to be daily long missions with ATLEAST one extra trip to the chandlery.  But ,thanks to Steve’s perseverance, we now have a shower sump and can have a proper shower onboard, no Rubbermaid involved,  all the battery terminals have been soldiered and properly re-installed, our engine kill switch now works without involving sticking your hand in a hole by the engine itself, and he installed engine and oil overheat alarms, handy items.  Our oven, which worked but then died (thankfully just after our roast chicken was finished!) has been resurrected without spending money on hard to find parts, the minor propane leek as been fixed to boot.  He also installed an accumulator tank on the water line so our pump doesn’t cycle every three seconds when the tap is opened. It worked great for a day, and then our water pump decided to die.  We found a better style pump and hey it was even on sale!!!! And figured it would be an easy install….. Yes, easy after you have all the fittings to attach three different size hoses together….TOBIN!!!! And so I thought I’d help out and replace the galley faucet with a lower profile model we also found on super sale (the original was installed without the measure twice cut once mantra in mind and the faucet was too high and so it was bent so it would fit under the counter overhang), simple, no? Remove some hose clamps, replace faucet, tighten said hose clamps.  HAHAHA!!!! Not a standard hose was used, or fitting and I have had to file out the hole so the new faucet will fit in the countertop.  Our original low cost solution to all the different hose sizes leaked and so off to the chandlery I go (tried to give Steve a break, they now expect him to run in frantically at the end of the day searching for something). Then back to the boat, crawl back in the little hole under the cockpit, lose a hose clamp, search for it, cut the hose too long, now have two very small cuts of hot water hose that are useless, scald myself again with hot water (we practically have an Intsa-Hot for a hot water tap) but in the end, hot and dirty, I got it to work and not leak. YIPEE!

Hot and exhausted we decided to go out for a beer and a burger at the Boll Weevil (yes just as glamorous as it sounds), t is Friday nite and all!  There we could still  just stare at each other across the table all night and talk about the boat and plans for future projects but at least we were off boat for a while. 

The week has had some happy notes:  

We found the Laundromat and did more washing than I thought possible for two people in a week. We finally got our bikes on the dock and strapped the milk crate to the back of mine for added storage during errands. I discovered the wonders of sticky backed cork by the roll -you sure can pretty up a shelf or two, it really adds a bit of charm. I am now cut off…or so he thinks.  With the oven temporarily out of service and the fruit needing to be eaten I whipped up a pan of my famous Jumble Fruit Crisp and cooked it in the BBQ, worked great, just slightly charred on one edge but I just told Steve it has Brandy in it, that’s the smoky taste!(wink, wink) Now that the oven up and running again I will try a sour dough this weekend and make sure that my culture, AKA: Big Momma, that I brought with us in and cooler on the drive all the way across the country is still alive. 

On the weekend we went to the Kobe Swap Met; a GAINT weekly flea market/buy things in a parking lot off the back of a trunk sale, and found some good buys on tools and kitchen bits and found a Home Depot while we were out. This wonderful Saturday excursion was also turned out to be a mission which involved walking around town with Steve dragging our dock cart FULL to the brim and me pushing a shopping trolley also over flowing, and both wearing backpacks full as well. The homeless dudes gave us a knowing look as we walked by the strip joints. The only down side was the uneven side walk, bad California drivers and having to wait for two hours for a cab. If we only had a picture! I also ordered and received my new pressure cooker and accompanying pan, our ultra dry fast towels so everything doesn’t smell wet all the time and our manual washer is coming next week along with our hydrostatic release life vest with hardness and tethers.  Sitting in the park for a few hours stealing WIFI from the Best Western really paid off!    So we provision again tomorrow and hit the Swap Shop for some more bargains and then head to the yard for a month or so to get some more work done, possibly install a new prop, etc etc…  And we are a lot further from anything but within walking distance of the trolley route so that means we can get things when we need them but it takes a little more effort which equals less random buy of “stuff” for the boat.  I think it will be a good thing.  Looking forward to this week, goodness knows what will happen in the yard, it is never what you expect but always interesting as some of you know.  Love getting your responses!!!! Hear from us soon,


Good Things Come in Threes

Well, it has been a fairly quiet seven days here on Kate,well unless it is 8am or 8pm because we are next door to the navel yard and so it is Stars ’n’ Stripes and bugle calls all the way, over the loud speaker morning and night. We've just been working on the boat, getting things rearranged and to our liking.  On Sunday we moved from Shelter Island Police docks to the Knight & Craver yard where we will stay for about a month.  We had lots of fog leaving Shelter Island (as per usual) but it clear and the wind picked up so we ended up having a lovely sail up the harbour. Unfortunately so did the rest of San Diego!!! But at least the breeze was behind us so we didn’t have to tack all the way here.  It has been grey and cool most of the week lending to our "meh" mood and slow starts off the mark in the mornings. 

However we have been busy: Steve removed a hatch facing aft and installed the radar/plotter from the Nav table to the hole so that it can be viewed from the cockpit while underway, handy thing to see while you’re driving the boat hun?  We cut a hole over the stove and used the hatch there giving us not only light but much needed ventilation for steam and fumes.  Now maybe the smoke detector won’t go off when we boil water.  I rearranged the galley… again, moving food stores away from the heat that is given off during engine use and putting our growing number of pots and bake ware together in one place.  With the oven fixed I have had a lovely week of cooking and baking, making my first loaves of sourdough from the starter that we carried with us from Florida and a couple batches of muffins; the bananas got too ripe and the fruit flies found us so time to use things up.  which have been shared with the office girls in the yard.  I have also had a few goes with the new pressure cooker and am glad I made the investment; cutting cooking time drastically will mean not only fuel economy but saves heating up the cabin when the weather gets warmer.  We hit the Swap Shop again on Saturday picking up a lovely small vintage backgammon set complete with Bakelite playing pieces and dice so now we have something other than scrabble to play!!!  Also found some more Pyrex baking dishes for cheap and a few more tools for the toolbox.  Stocked up on CD’s and DVD’s as we seem to have gone through a fair part of our shared collection already and it is early days yet.  We snagged a double DVD set of old “horror” movies from the 50’s & 60’s and so have been watching a lot of Vincent Price-esque black and whites.  A real treat. Steve decided he wanted a plant and so we bought a potted bamboo.  It is potted in stones and have spilled several times since and before being onboard, I keep find small pebbles all over the boat…don’t worry, he has been pig fined, but at least we now have a boat plant.

Today started with water-tanks empty, but we took the opportunity to fix the problem we’ve had with the over flow vents (they were simply too low and just open hose so instead of the water overflowing from the fill hole on deck it overflowed into the bilge, how handy!)  I have had my head stuck in the books most of the week, reading up on sail and navigation theory so I can skip the beginner dinghy sailing class and jump to an intermediate class and something more applicable to our situation.  We made the trek back to our mail box on Wednesday to collect our new inverter, the parts to convert the BBQ from those mini propane tanks to directly off our standard propane tank that’s runs our stove and the new manual clothes washer.  I haven’t tried it yet as the weather has been fairly foggy and damp and the yard is, well, the yard.  Dirtier than I’d like and busy with people, I really don’t want to look like a dirty sailor with my underpants hanging off the lifelines while along side!  I am sure the Mexicans that can see in the bathroom hatch while I shower (well until I realized they could one morning, surprise, surprise on me) would get a kick out of it but not me.  Yesterday we took the afternoon to do a bit of recon and headed to the nearest mall, 5 miles away.  Found a bookstore, because we NEED more books onboard, and a mall full of school kids, loud.  But also found the Food 4 Less, a slightly grotty but cheap ‘cause it’s bare bones kind of grocery store.  However the had Milo (hard to find on this side of the country, and for those not familiar with it, it is a vitamin fortified chocolately drink made hot or cold and SOOOO good) heaps of Mexican food and Tecate (Mexican beer) 30 can packs for $16.99 and cheap wine.  We loaded up with more than could fit in our back packs and the milk crate that is zip tied to my bike rack (seems to be our MO at the grocery store these days as we are slowly stocking the dry stores and tin goods for the future) but managed to make it home, thankfully mostly down hill.  Everyone kicked a goal! 

One thing we did do this week was buy a nice swing bracket and mounted the lovely digital photo frame that our good friends Dani & Rocky from Corrie Lynn gave us before we left.  And appropriate that we did it today, Friday, the Pastafarian Pirate holiday (if you haven’t heard of this one yet PLEASE Google it) and so the shrine to all our idols is up and running.  We are not only being touched by his noodly appendage but are following the hawk & the Hoff and have the pleasure of seeing Rocky in his Mankini walking his surf board. All on a thirty second loop!!!  Thanks guys, our best “house” warming pressie yet!

Tomorrow we hit Tijuana, doing a visa run for Steve’s I-94.  It is just a few stops on the trolley then a walk across one of the busiest boarder crossing in the world! Looking forward to some cheap tequila, more Americans than Mexicans and hey might even return with a piñata!!!  Hope all is well where ever you are would love to have a little update from you too. 

Lots of Love,


And they returned triumphantly with a three foot loofa and the Tijuana Donkey Flu….

Well, not really triumphantly but with both of the above. Our foray into Mexico was slightly anti-climatic. We boarded the trolley with our $2 tickets and made our way the 5.5 mile to San Ysidro, the last stop at the border.  Expecting twenty questions and long lines to exit/entre the countries we found only a snaking hallway and a turnstile.  “Are we in Mexico now?” we both asked confused and bewildered.  Yes, in fact, we were. NO customs, immigration or police of any description were encountered.  O.K.  Get a taxi to Tijuana for 5 bucks and on our way to another dodgy bar and four beers and “free” tequila shots for ten dollars, so who can complain.  We did the pre-requisite tourist activities seeing as this was my first time in Mexico: Margaritas, cheap “sterling” sliver and a photo with a donkey painted as a zebra.  Then stand in line and back to the USA, so Steve can get his Visa renewed.  No, sorry, just a long line and some guy looking at ID’s: no real worry about who you are or where you’re from or if your Visa expires is a week.  Just, have a nice day…NEXT!!!!  What???  No…How long were you there? Anything to declare?  Anyone pack your bags for you? We are back in the US??? What about border control and terrorists and Sadam?  Apparently not a major threat from the Mexicans’.  Now I know why wanted people can just disappear into another country, never to be seen again.  So back at San Ysidro, looking for beer and perhaps ice for the beers at home, after the obligatory stop at the Taco shop for lunch and Steve immerges with a grin from the corner shop, not with beer or ice but with a three foot long loofa.

“Guess how much?” he declares, like a proud kid with a freshly caught frog in a box. 

“Oh, I don’t know, five bucks?” 

“NOPE, $2.25! You couldn’t get them yourself for that much!”  Yes, but who gets to carry the rather phallic three foot loofa home on the trolley? 

We return to the boat and decide tomorrow will be a Sunday at the Swap Shop looking for a table or lumber that we can convert into a cockpit table…and that is ALL we need….right?  We awake early and me with a funny tummy but make the hour long commute to the Swap Shop, finding another new bus route and a way to get to Sea World, a plan for a future excursion. The Swap Shop is busy but we discovered that Sunday is markdown day and find a couple of good bargains between the junk.  It seems to be photo equipment (I avert my eyes and walk away several times) and recipe box day (again I walk away from the dog eared and weather cards full of delights, I am sure).  There are weekly themes to the piles of junk I am discovering.  I find a sprouting jar for my bean sprouts for a dollar,  new DVD for three bucks, a new hat because I keep getting the part in my hair sunburned and looking painfully like a spokesperson for a Head and Shoulders commercials. I find Steve fondling the tools at the tool booth…again. We agree not to buy a new water hose, that we can get along with the weathered and worn we have until it starts leaking seeing as we just bought a new noozle  so we don’t waste so much water during wash downs.  Then, amidst a booth (and I use that term loosely) with tables marked 50 cents to $5 I stumble across the two best finds of the day. Firstly a king sized, made in Australia, 100% merino wool, never been used, mattress topper. We haven’t found a comfortable and suitable solution to our sleeping quarters yet and figure what’s five dollars more for a good nite sleep? Keeps you cool in the heat and warm in the cold. We will eventually end like the Princess and the Pea with no head room, but very comfy.  And a portable picnic table (like yours Hannah but made of wood) that has all the materials we are looking for to make a table and for a STEAL at $5.00, and that’s including a canvass carry bag.  We head home, our pull trolley a little bit heavy but full of potential.  We stop downtown for a treat, a wood fired pizza that I have been craving for a week.  Gobble it up and hop on the trolley again.  Five minutes later almost in synonicity we look at each other and ask if the other recognizes where we are. Nope.  We’ve boarded the wrong trolley.  Get off and wait for another one going the other way, then back to the station to change lines.  Wait that’s our trolley, wait it is not stopping…but it is a block away, on the other side.  Let’s cross and wait another 20 minutes.   Then finally get on a trolley and back to the transit stop and home.  We are both feeling yucky and decide it must be the diary as we’ve had none in a month.  Monday morning I wake up with horrible stomach cramps and spend the day in bed and the nite in the loo.  Guess I am getting over just having a curtain as a bathroom door and you’re roomie a mere three feet away!!  But apparently running the tap for camouflage didn’t disguise my discomfort.

Tuesday I am okay but a little leery of the dairy aisle in the grocery store. I decided to wash down…no new noozle.  The thieving bastards stole our noozle? More water wasted.  Wednesday we decided to go on a trek: we’ve found an alternative to a traditional boson’s chair (what you use to go up the mast for repairs etc…and the model we were looking at was recalled anyway). We decide climbing harness will do the trick.  The store is 11.7 miles away according to goggle map, we can bike (unfortunately we are not in Florida anymore Toto, there are hills here!).  Well it might have been a good idea if we left at 9am instead of 11am and if it wasn’t blazen hot, and we weren’t out of shape.  But we made it and found a nice harness for half what a boson’s chair would cost.  We got a bus back, you can put your bikes on the front, but it went a completely different, and I think shorter, way home.  We decided to stop at the taco shop as we had no lunch and it was three o’clock (see a theme here yet?)  A burrito carne asado for Steve (roasted beef) and a Pollo (chicken) flying saucer for me.  And free corn chips with that? Sure.  I ended up with a plate full of food: a giant corn chip piled high with beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese (oh oh) and guacamole and Steve with a burrito the size of his head.  Nope, no dinner necessary tonite and that will be $15, with beers or course!  We found and even cheaper grocery store and totaled over 20kms on the bikes! 

Thursday we headed back to Shelter Island for the mail: our hydrostatic life jacks with built in harnesses and tethers have arrived, and my parents have sent a clock key and oil so our ships clock will work again. Just down the street we stopped at the chandlery to pick up a few things for our next’s week of work on the boat and happened by a pre Fourth of July Feast. Free hot dogs, potato salad, chips and cookies (haven’t had junk food in WEEKS) and so sat outside on the stoop and enjoyed the free lunch (if that’s what you call free, how much money have we spent there?!?!?!?)  Friday was a holiday here but we woke early and continued the work.  Steve is rearranging the instruments on the helm and installing a blower on the engine.  Had a lovely hamburger BBq for lunch and walked to the end of the dock for an evening of fireworks ( there were seven barges loaded up with fireworks sitting on the dock next to us all week).   We headed to bed, but the water pressure pump keeps cycling, are we out of water…so soon?  Need to fill the tanks but guess what, the thieving bastards stole our hose!!! Shoulda bought the one at the Swap Shop.  Half an hour later the problem solved, just another snag with the vent!  Time to go to bed! 

Yesterday I spent the day transforming the five dollar table into our new cock pit table thanks to Steve's design and endless patience with me and power tools. Yes and scary combination.  Trying to make a bowed and warped boards into a semi square table is a feet unto itself. But much to both or our delights it fits wonderfully and we had our first dinner outside last night.  Just a few finishing touches (sanding and staining) and you’d never guess that it cost all of $18 and a hard day’s work.  What’s more satisfying than enjoying your rum punch (concocted from various bottles available from the yard vending machines plus Mount Gay) after nine hours in the sun, covered in glue and sweat and sun burnt with your drink resting on a table you made yourself? Not too bad from a girl who thought she was dying of the Tijuana Donkey flu on Monday.

It is a pretty sweet life! Hope everything is as good where you are!



Girl Abandon on Sailboat Finds her Inner Carpenter

We started out on a high note, literally, by hoisting Steve up the mast on Sunday morning, testing our new boson’s chair and installing the halyards for the courtesy flags.  I am not sure whom was most nervous, him for going up the mast and hanging like a monkey while trying to drill and rivet on the lower spreaders, (the first arms that hold the mast shrouds), or me for being the one responsible for being on deck on the winch and making sure he didn’t plummet towards the boat, free falling to his death.  Thankfully he made it up and up again to the very top of the mast (I think he was just testing me and my arm strength with this exercise) and back down again, safe and sounds and smoothly.  He installed the halyards on both sides of the mast; the starboard will be used for flying the flag of the country whose waters we are sailing in at the time. And on the port side, and with little pomp and circumstance, we hoisted the Canadian flag which will reside there permenentally.  When our registration is completed (we found out it has been approved just waiting for the papers to come back from Aus) we will fly the Australian flag off the stern.  We will have both countries and crew members represented, nice.

As I noted last week Steve still had not been able to renew his I-94 Visa for the USA and so to simplify it he decided just to leave the country via airplane.  As flying to Mexico was over $1000 (everyone just walks there apparently!)  he took the opportunity to go north and visit an old friend in Vancouver…Canada.  As you can imagine I was more than jealous.  There was of course conditions of re-boarding: he must arrive with AT LEAST an 8pack of Keith’s and bring me back a little something Canadian ( I have recently discovered that I have very little flagging wavin’, patriotic, I AM CANADIAN things on board).  He left at 5 am on Tuesday morning and returned late Thursday night. I would had three whole days and two restless nights on board by myself.  What to do…????

I finished sanding and oiling my cockpit table and installed it, and I have to say, she cleaned up very well.  But how could such a lovely tale sit on such neglected and dirty teak grating? It couldn’t, I’d just have to take it out and scrub it clean, might as well do the bathroom teak grate as well. Much better, now what? I finished off a little project I started before, which was moving a speaker that Tobin had paced in the galley, blocking some of little valuable and very easily accessible storage space that we have.  I moved the speaker, cut the mounting board to fit under an overhang and trimmed it with teak quarter round, cut by hand without a miter block.  The speaker panel also has two 12V outlets wired into it, but not enough wire to reach the new location.  I wanted to surprise Steve and have it all finished when he arrived home….can I do electrical work….???  Well, Thanks to our good friend Phil, another Aussie engineer, filling in as the operator on the “12V Electrical Wiring for Dummy’s Hotline” I did, and managed not to buzz myself in the process (he assured me that it is not like it is 110V and couldn’t, well shouldn’t, kill me if I did something wrong).  I seem to be on a roll so let’s keep rolling!

I met the head of the carpentry department when trying to find oil for the cockpit table and as he happened to be walking down the dock (Steve here: Apparently Heather’s gotten to know all the guys in the yard) I asked him if he could help me out with a few questions about the wood used onboard.  I found out that we have ebony counter tops, fret board quality, (I guessed ebony but figured there was way too much for it to actually be ebony) and seeing as they are unfinished the oiling I have been giving them every couple weeks is good maintenance.  The rest of the wood on board is teak (this we did not know, as there is also a lot of it and it is a heavily varnished and older so is a beautiful golden color).  Now for the kicker.  I asked him how hard it would be to make a new sliding door for our galley cupboard (removing the speaker left a hole and a door is needed so things don’t fly out underway).  After a few minutes of head scratching as to how the sliding doors where actually installed into the tract (he too experienced the urge to scream TOBIN I am sure) he popped one out, took some measurements and said he’d see what he in stock, get back to me.  Ten minutes later he comes back, finished door in hand. “How much?” “I found it…” he muttered as he walked away. All I had to do was stain it and voila!  A new door, and by removing the other doors, cleaning the tract, sanding and waxing the edges all the doors now slide freely and barely a swear word is heard when trying make tea or get to the peanut butter in the morning. And then, with sand paper still warm I started refinishing the dry stores hatch: Now that I knew it was teak, think of how pretty it could be without it covered in worn and marked varnish and careless paint droplets (yes another one of Tobin’s signatures).

My nights were just as productive, I turning out my very first batch of strawberry jam, which turned out deliciously! (and I know this because I ate half jar on a fresh batch of bread before Steve got back).  But strange creaks and noises and too much bed room resulted in restless sleeps for me. Steve on the other hand had a room at the Renaissance and called with reports of cable TV, a hot BATH and a toilet that he didn’t even have to pump!  He better bring back Keith’s!!

Inspired by the therapeutic time in the galley and the onslaught of fruit flies I decided to wake up early and bake.  Morning Glory muffins and Banana Chocolate Chip cookies were turned out by 9:15 am and just in time for morning break here in the yard.  So covered in flour and with a plate piled of warm fresh cookies I took to the dock and found many a yard guy to happily taste my wares.  It seems to be all smiles and waves when they pass by these days!

Steve arrived, exhausted from a days worth of travel but glad to home, late on Thursday.  With a whole 15 Pack in his backpack and a seemingly endless array of goodies for me (a small beaver dressed in a Mountie uniform, flag patches, Tim Horton’s paper cup sleeves and a Tee Shirt with a big flag on it as well as a book on how to be Canadian. And a last, but by far not least, the coveted Keith’s ½ Pint glass) he was welcomed back with open arms.  I had my first sailing lesson on Friday; leaving poor Steve home in bed feeling a little under the weather (the hot/cold from the air-con to outside air which we are no longer use to has given him a bit of a head cold).  It went very well,  I motored off and back onto the dock, basic sail stuff I mostly already knew, basic coast navigation  and man overboard procedures, I am looking forward to more.

Another successful week… and I did it mostly on my own…much too both our surprise!



Steve’s is Let In To “The Fold”

Now, as some of you may know, the art of folding laundry is a noble one.  Folding an item to fit into a small space and be brought out in a neatly fashion is not a task to be approached lightly.  As my fellow crew member’s from Corrie Lynn may remember, T-shirts have a secret fold, designed to render a perfect square and fit into small bunk drawers.  The law of thirds applies to all bath and kitchen towel folds, and everyone is allowed to look quizzically at, then bunch up a rather skimmy pair of underwear belonging to the fairer sex.  Or are they???  As  Steve and I share all duties and chores on board he decided to come to the Laundromat with me this week to find out just what happens between me carting a weeks worth of soil, wrinkled towels, clothes and bedding away and returning with a stack of neatly folded, fresh, clean laundry.  What he discovered (as he put it) was my slight OCD tendencies of sorting, folding and organizing laundry.  He paid close attention and took careful notes and upon returning home was tested by having to put all the clean clothes away and make up the vee berth.  I sat amused watching him throw him self around like a fish in its death throws trying to simultaneously make the bed while having to lie on top of it.  But he succeeded and passed with flying colors.  Now, will he venture out on his own next week? I’ll keep you posted.

OOn Sunday we decided to go to a Padres’ Game.  The adverts on the radio had been touting a dollar off beer and hot dogs for a buck for the month of July.  Warm beer and cold hot dogs at discount prices, we just couldn’t resist!!  We got cheap nose bleed seats and had a lovely afternoon watching not only the Padres’ get creamed by the Braves but the hawkers selling everything from snow cones, cotton candy and pizza to peanuts and cracker jacks.  We happen to find a beer stall that didn’t offer just Coors or Bud and that dollar off made the $8 dollar luke warm Stella draught taste oh so good!  It made for a lovely break from a busy and productive week on board.

Steve finished off installing the blower for the engine, boosting the exhaust and extracting a little more fumes and heat from the cabin while motoring.  I returned to the realm of plumbing, with Steve’s assistance and advice, and installed the salt water hand pump in the galley and the fresh water hand pump in the head. While we are cruising this will help us conserve water by reducing the amount of wasted water going down the drain just by using the pressurized tap.  It will also allow easy access t0  salt water which will be used in the galley for washing food, doing dishes and cooking when, of course, we are in clean anchorages or underway.  Water will be one of our main concerns and problem points while cruising.  Although Steve is building a water maker that will enable us to produce 30 gallons per hour of clean, usable, potable water it too will only be able to run when we are in clean salt water.  If we sit at a busy or dirty anchorage it will be filling jugs ashore and ferrying them back to the boat and collecting rain water when possible for general use.  We all take for granted how much we rely on the simple act turning on the tap and having clean water to use.  We will soon consider some of these activities luxuries I am sure.

Excitingly we finally decided on a solution to our refrigeration problems, the main one being the lack of said refrigeration.  Unfortunately we discovered that not many places stock portable 12V fridges, so after looking at the few in San Diego, and that is like saying the few in all of Nova Scotia, we decided on, and by this I mean it will actually fit in the boat and give us ample space, a slightly more expensive Engle 60 quart unit, leaving our existing Engle 40 quart to be a dedicated freezer.  It will be a bit of a job to install but it will hold more than 5 days of fresh goods.  As well it should provide another line of defense from the minions.  And by minions I of course am referring to fruit flies, which have invaded in record numbers this past week.  We have had to employ strict regulations regarding fruit storage, washing up and garbage disposal. Glasses of wine are enjoyed with coasters, for the top of the glass not the bottom, to keep out any kamikaze fliers thinking your pinot noir would be a happy ending to their 24 hour lives. We currently seem to be winning the battle but by no means the war. Another reason I am looking forward to installing this bigger fridge!

We have also encountered another set of invaders- the yard cats.  We have seen them cowering in the shadows and running across the yard when returning from errands at the end of the day, the yard being closed and the machine finally quiet.  But they are wild still and self reliant and untrusting of us human.  That is until old softie me, after seeing them loitering in the dumpster one nite while putting out the garbage from dinner and holding the fruit flies at bay, offered a gesture of compassion- a can of cat food- placed a safe distance away from the boat of course so they would not make any assumptions. And please do not ask why I happen to have cans of cat food on board, it was a sheer coincidence I assure you. This has lead to more regular visits, them crouching at the other side of the dock at 8:30pm, staring, waiting, and the occasion nocturnal ventures onto the boat. They find nothing but battened hatches and a stray beer can in the cockpit and leave only, their dirty paw prints that undermine their stealth missions.  We have three such visitors now which we have named “Guts”, for his unequalled ability to scoff down anything offered at lightening speed, “Garbage Can” for his affinity to dumpster diving and on occasion sharing that with you by suddenly jumping out as you are putting something into the garbage, and “Shadow” a young mackerel cat who slinks about just out of view following the others.  I guess I have opened the proverbial can…of cat food!  Live and Learn…everyday.


And Let There be Ice!!!

Birthdays are funny things.  They arrive once a year, with much excitement and ado and end up just the same as the day before or the one after, but with the added acknowledgement that you are, indeed, older…today.  And so Wednesday was for me, another day of running about town, checking the mail (only a letter for Steve although he said there’d be something for me, he was sure), getting groceries, battling for a seat on the trolley.  I was greeted with a banner and three candles in a mini muffin to accompany my morning Milo. And a darling little birthday card that referred to me as an old fart (I think someone was trying to get his own back for me convincing everyone he was 40 when he was turning 39, ha-ha) And had a lovely BBQ diner and NICE bottle of Pinot Noir as a birthday treat (and by nice I mean over $5 and under $10. Yep that’s nice for me these days).  There were phone calls and emails and lots love from you all, thanks.  But no presents, not that I minded, there’s nothing I NEED and no where to put things we don’t.  Okay, maybe I minded a bit, I mean, who doesn’t like presents? But it was a nice day anyway. Thursday was another day at work, waiting for the fridge to arrive and finishing up some small jobs here and there.  I had gone to check email and check to see if there were any used sew machines for sale on the web when Steve knocked on the door.  Have I got a minute? Can I come outside?  I was just considering putting a bid on a sewing machine on EBay when he interrupted, the auction ending in 2 hours.  Then, there he was, sitting with a big box on a dolly and singing Happy Birthday!  A brand new Sailrite sewing Machine, in the box, smelling of new!! The machine I had been putting off buying but coveting for the last three months.  It was suppose to arrive the day before but FedEx didn’t deliver on time and he had been waiting all afternoon, the shipping department in the yard on high alert. It was perfect!  I took it out and we both looked at it and at each other, and thought, Hummmm…but where will it live on the boat?  I am sure we’ll find a place; it had been mostly in the middle of the main cabin, walked over and around carefully.  Meanwhile I have already repaired the bimini top and the dodger and started designing the mid section that we will need to connect the two.  There are cockpit cushions and interior drapes and upholstery to do as well.  Steve has just realized what monster he had created.

This week I potentially had some work lined up as a crew chef (in the yard and with the galley ripped out I think they reconsidered trying to get someone to cook!!) and was suppose to meet with the manager on Tuesday but when he didn’t call by noon we decided to head out for a sail and try out the genaker for the first time and try some sail reefing while underway, just to get use to things.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, with a nice breeze and I took the helm on the way down the harbour.  Then a switch up for a while and me on the winches breaking in my new winch handle.  I did some reefing exercises (this is when you drop the sail part way, secure it at the boom and sail with only a partial sail, used for when the wind is greater than your sail area will safely handle) and was enjoying the afternoon until I discovered, and although I have done this before on board never quiet like this, why they call it a boom.  I am just a few centimeters too tall for this boat at times and this was one of them. I was stopped dead my in tracks. I actually stood up into in while switching sides to bring in the jib sheet.  It just so happens to have three bolts coming out the bottom forward corner.   I just so happen to have a lot of tears and an instant welt in the middle of my head.  After a brief stop to recover we continued and turned for home, putting up the kite for the reach back to the dock.  It is a beautiful red, white and black design and flies very nicely.   As I was unfamiliar with how to rig it I got to take the helm and be the first one to sail her while flying the kite, a little to Steve’s dismay. It was just the reminder we needed about why we bought this boat…to sail.  We are both excited to get her out in the open and let her go; when she finds her groove it is a wonderful ride!

We have made a friend here at the yard, and not the furry, four legged variety.  His name is Jerry and he owns a 60 foot ketch, heading back home to Sidka, Alaska after having done a bit a refit on the boat.  We have said hello and chatted several times on the dock but he is a fairly quiet man.  After a few offers of a beer he finally stopped by on Monday nite, came on board and had a few on the aft deck with us.  With a life time of stories as a 5th generation fisherman from up north and a life long sailor he is kind and jolly soul.  It ended up being a bit of a late one, finishing up around midnite, the latest we stayed up while aboard, our first real session since we moved on, believe it or not! A somewhat early, impromptu birthday celebration, it was fun to have company after such a long time as just the two of us. He returned the hospitality, hosting us for a BBq on his boat on Saturday evening.  We found some Alaskan ale at the supermarket and brought it with us for a welcomed treat.  We watched the sun set and enjoyed an evening on someone else’s boat.

And after all the excitement of the arrival of a big box on Thursday it was even more exciting when another arrived on Friday morning, our refrigerator!!! We had made installation plan before purchasing it but were hesitant to start cutting until the unit actually arrived and we could measure twice, or three times or four.  To get the big fridge onboard we would have to move the little one, now a freezer, and cut out two fiberglass compartments.  And so after careful marking and covering every possible inch of the inside of the boat with plastic I sparked up the shop vac and Steve got on the jig saw and after a few deep breaths and some reassurance finally made the first cut.  And then another and one last small one and then looked at me and declared that that was as much as we could reach with power tools, the rest would be have to be cut by hand.  And so the arduous task of hand sawing 1/2” thick circa 1973 fiberglass ensued.  But with much perserverence we manage to remove the first compartment abs slid the freezer into place.  Then the big stuff...fitting the new, bigger fridge.  More hesitation, more hand sawing, a lot more swearing but we managed to remove the large section of fiberglass that makes up one half of our “dinning area” without effecting the structural integrity of the boat, THANK GAUD!  And so, we hoist the fridge into place and turn it on.  With two interior compartments and almost twice the capacity of the now freezer we will be able to have enough fresh veggies for more than a week and not have to have them crushed by the yogurt and leftovers.  And hey, maybe Steve will be able to stop drinking warm beer!  The freezer on the other hand will provide long term storage of meats and prepared meals for long passages.  And what’s more, before we went to bed that Friday, I had ice cubes in my water…for a few minutes anyway, and then they melted.  But that does leave potential for a nice glass of rum sitting on anchor one day, and that thought alone was worth having both us and the entire cabin covered in microscopic fiberglass dust for three days and itching like crazy the whole time! 


Dani Comes to Call

There was a buzz onboard this week, and it wasn’t just the vibrations of the newly installed appliances reverb-ing through the hull (something else to fix!).  Our first guest, our 1st Mate from CL, Danielle, was arriving on Tuesday! The whole crew was excited and busy making preparations; we wanted everything to be perfect.  We washed and polished, cleaned and tidied, provisioned and planned.  I bought new sheets for the “guests cabin” (read sofa in the main cabin), made banana coconut & lime muffins for the morning (one of her favs) and gave the old girl a scrub before heading to the airport for the pick up.  Steve organized the destruction left from last weeks fridge installation and relocation of some tool and paint storage,  cleaned the cabin and made sure everything as put away and in its proper place for our return.  I don’t think she was impressed with the adventure back via, bus, trolley, and then hoofing it a few miles over several sets of railroad tracks while pulling her life in two rather large suit cases. But after the long, obstacle filled journey Dani had finally made it to our little boat, and there was Steve, waiting on the dock with her Welcome cocktail.  The bed was turned down, complete with a towel animal (again courtesy of Steve) and of course a crew profile so she would know just whom she was dealing with. After a quick tour of the boat (more like two people trying to squeeze into small spaces and tight doorways) we retired to the aft deck to enjoy our cocktails in the late afternoon sun.  Dinner followed and by this time Dani and I were into the econo-size white wine, well into and out of and into another actually, but whose keepin’ track?  And of course Jerry had wandered down the dock and made himself at home in Steve beer stock.  We had BBQ’d chicken and potatoes, by this time all other vegetable matter and formalities were overlooked, and shortly after dinner Dani crawled into bed.  Here we were worried that she would be disappointed in us, we often are out like a light by 9:30 and here it was only 8:30!!(In all fairness she was three hours ahead of us…but hey that only makes it 11:30) Jerry, Steve and I rattled on, fed the yard cats, had some more wine/beer and fell into bed at 10:30pm, ROCK ON!!!  Wednesday was met with little enthusiaium and a passing around of ye old Advil bottle (yes I am 30 now, no need to bring that up, thanks) and then around 11am we headed out and took Dani for a sail around the harbour.  Thankfully had some very nice wind and with her happily on the helm we went all the way to the mouth of the harbour, with a few drive by’s of the sea loins lazing on the channel makers, before turning back and putting up the genaker again, if only for  a short time.  Lunch was an exercise in team skills with a good wind up and the boat healing at 20 degrees someone always had to have there hand on the crudités and hummus.  But what a luxury to have a third crew member!  Docking and cleaning up went so quickly and with her happy driving it was as if we actually owned a yacht!  We all agreed to a quiet nite and steaks on the Barbie were enjoyed early and after a few rounds of Uno (our latest game craze onboard and much more fun when playing with three) we were all ready to hit the hay.   Thursday we again made the quest into town to drop Dani at the Amtrak station and send her on her way towards home.  After a rather rude encounter at the Amtrak baggage check we hit downtown, killing a few hours before she caught her train, and so after walking around for a while we stopped for lunch and a couple of ciders.  What a lovely afternoon and such a nice visit.  I think we passed the test and are looking forward to many more visitors in the future.

The second most exciting thing this week was receiving our registration back from Australia, which meant that we could finally take down the American flag and raise our Australian red ensign. And so late Friday afternoon, after I picked the old home port name off the transom, Steve did just that and with the crack of a beer to celebrate this long anticipated event we are officially: S.Y. Kate ,Bundaberg, Australia. As she was actually “Rum Chaser” on paper when we bought her we thought it an appropriate home port.  Now we need to get the name redone to meet Aussie regulations and put our new home port on the back. We decided to make the Bundaberg in the same font as the logo on the bottle! 

We have been waiting to make some major purchases and finally bit the bullet this week. Steve ordered our new self steering system, our anchor winch and chain and all the final it’s and bits for our water maker.  We have planned to get pulled out at the end of next week, paint the bottom, put the through hull fitting for the water maker intake and touch up the paint on the transom that is marked from the old self steering mounting system and maybe also paint the boot stripe.  Then we are pretty much done and ready to leave the yard.  Talk is we might check into a local marina just around the corner or drop the pick in the harbour and finish up the other things that don’t require us to be in a yard.  It is finally coming towards the end, and I don’t think we’ll be sad to leave the early morning wake up calls from either the sound of a needle gun or travel lift, and the evenings spent watching the five mile long, double decker trains filled with automobiles screech past until the wee hours.  But we can always come back and visit!

 Now that I finally have a sewing machine I have spent the last week dreaming of cushions and curtains and canvas.  Not wanting to make any major fabric decisions without Steve so that I avoid that look of “well it’s done but what WERE you thinking?!”  He volunteered to come to the fabric store and look.  There is the largest upholstery fabric store just down the street from us and so on Saturday afternoon off we went.  Two hours later, with a fist full of sunbrella swatches, we left.  I had to guide Steve out of the store, making sure he didn’t bump into anything, as he had gone cross eyed looking at all the stripes and spots.  Then to another fabric store and more looking and then home to peruse the sunbrella catalogue (sunbrella by the way is a canvas weight fabric used for outside and boat related awnings and furniture) and just to be sure we also looked on line.  He will not be returning to the fabric store with me on Monday to place the order for foam forms for our cockpit cushions and check on a few more fabric swatches, nore will he be helping me with choosing the pattern for the curtains. Nore do I think will he be giving me that “well it’s done but what WERE you thinking?!”look anytime soon. Something tells me I am on my own in all things fabric related from now on.  Maybe now he knows what I feel like when we spend the day in motorcycle shops or staring at cars.  Hope all is well where ever you are, and remember we love your updates too!


P.S. I am adding our crew profiles for your perusal in case any of you are considering a visit!

Steven “Croc” Hertik
Captain, Engineer, Sail Tactician, Tong Master & 2nd Stew
Although his parents wanted him to follow his fathers footsteps and become a Sherpa in Eq-uador, he couldn’t resist the call of the ocean. His degree in Meta Physics lends itself well to his frequent stints on the barbeque and his attention to all things beer related and obsession with towel animals will be certain to make your stay on board S.V. Kate a memorable one.  His hobbies include beer, racing ferrets, beer, street luge, beer and collection molds, spores and fungus.
Heather “Never had a Nickname” Francis
Helmsman, Safety Officer, Navigator, Muffin Maven, Seamstress & Chief Stew
Leaving her highly successful career knitting winter scarves for  bugee birds she was lured to  the ocean after a near drowning accident. You can often find her in the galley cooking up some mischief.   Her interest in throwing stars and love of wine always makes for an entertaining evening for everyone on board! Her hobbies include collecting clover leaf shaped corn chips, befriending stray cats, bags, studying the life cycle of the fruit fly and cheap red wi


Number Nine

I have mentioned briefly in my past entries that we have to traverse several sets of railroad tracks to enter/exit the yard and reach anything: laundry mat, grocery store, trolley, the outside world.  Well, walking over them with or without a pull cart full of items is sometimes a trick and usually one rides their bicycle over them with care, especially if your milk crate on the back is full of goodies. Other times, however, one rides with wild abandon and a devil may care attitude, challenging said railroad tracks, and losing, only to realize yet again that you are in fact not twelve anymore, not even in your early twenties and falling of moving objects onto concert hurts more than you remembered. Thursday was one of those days, no not for Steve this time, but for me.  What started as an innocent ride to the surplus hardware store around the bend resulted in my getting a front tire stuck vertically in the rut of the track,  falling over at a fairly high speed and being clipped into my peddles via my shoes not able to put a foot down before skidding across the pavement.  Thankfully there was no traffic at the moment and I quickly regained my feet and dragged my bike to the safety of the sidewalk before three motorists, who I guess saw the crash, stopped and asked if I was okay, an unexpected show of humanity.  So I straightened my seat and got back on, not assessing the damage too carefully yet, bleeding only a trickle, and kept on going to the store. They, of course, had none of what I was looking for, and so turn around and head home with a quick stop at the yard store to find also nothing I required but lots of concern for the injured token girl. The offer of a band aid however was refused, that wasn’t quite going to cut it, and besides who wants to cry in front of all the boys at the yard?  When I got to the boat Steve was stuck on the phone so I hobbled into the bathroom and cleaned my road rash, pouring alcohol down my right calf, knee and thigh, swearing loudly while trying to pick some of the asphalt out of my cuts. Steve came into help me clean up and assesses the damages; he is a bit of an expert in road rash you see.   The thing is, it was to be a busy day, we were getting hauled the next morning and had lots to finish up and prep before we got out of the water.   So I bandaged my leg up like a mummy to try and keep the inevitable yard dirt out the weeping cuts and continued working.  I was good until about 2pm, then my knee started aching and I realize that perhaps I hurt myself more than I thought.  Feeling terribly guilty I retreated to the sofa amidst the mess and tried to give moral support, hobbling up periodically to spray another coat on the new anchor chain and finish up a few small tasks I had started early I the day before giving up completely.  Not looking forward to the shower that night or the nights sleep in one position and sticking to the sheets I decided to have a glass of wine…or two.

Rewind to two Wednesdays past. 

We rose early and pushed off the dock for a rather quick motor down to Shelter Island (there is never any wind here until at least mid morning). We had an appointment at Rigworks.  Ron had been by the week before to check our roller furler bearing. And as we noticed, it was seized.  Not unusual for this vintage, they have since remodelled the design allowing for drainage.  SO that is to be replaced and also our life lines (the wire that runs the perimeter of the boat helping keep you in).  They are not urgent but will have to be done in the next few years and so we decide that it’s safety first and do them now before we need them and they are not there. Apparently another design flaw, plastic covered wire that was popular once is found to trap excess moisture and cause more harm than good.   I scurry off to do the mound of laundry and talk to a guy about getting some signs cut for the boat.  Steve does the milk run to West Marine, San Diego Marine Exchange and the mailbox as well as picking up our new anchor winch and 400 feet of chain.  After a quick stop at Hector’s for lunch ( the BEST burrito in San Diego hands down and we have tired a lot of them, and just a little hole in the wall, but it somehow calls to you like a siren whenever you are in that part of town) we sail home.  We picked up new sheets for the genaker (the old ones were not long enough) and decide to try and jibe with the kite up.  With Steve at the helm and me at the rigging it didn’t take us long to find our rhythm and dart across the bay homeward at a nice pace.  Then how about a wing and wing (the main sail and genaker on opposite side of the mast like you always see in photos)?  No problem!  The old girl is itching to go; we are making 7kts in light breeze.  We got back to the yard at 5 ish and George was there to take our lines.  It was a great day, lots accomplished and a great sail too.  We go to bed hopeful for tomorrow, hahha.

Fast forward to Early Friday Morning

We were greeted by the usual sound of the travel lift being sparked up and as Steve was dressing my wounds Graham (another friend from white boats and also our project manager in the yard) comes knocking. The boys are ready for us.  So we drive her around and as soon as they have her lines and with a cup o’ Milo in hand we hope off and watch the spectacle of Kate being hulled out.  Well, I did, Steve had already seen her out of the water during the survey and had to talk shop with the boys.  Lots of happy snaps and an hour later after a god pressure wash we were up on blocks and ready to go.  Our plan was to paint the boot stripe (the stripe at the waterline) gold so we’d be green and gold, Aussie colours. A seemingly simple job, right? Scuff up the paint, tape it off, and repaint.  OOH, WAIT, it’s a BOAT!  There were lots of strange tiny bubbles in the boot stripe, indicating either a bad primmer job or something was not dried properly before painting.  SO, what does this mean George? (He’s the paint foreman and later becomes my Yoda) Well, that means sand it back…..to the original gel coat please.  Did I mention she is 35 years old?  Did I also mention that I am now hobbling and oozing, the coffee buzz wearing off?   And the lines themselves were horribly wobbly; someone was either A. Drunk or B. Painting while sitting on a raft in the water.  So George pulls the top line and explains how I have to sand it and that we will help me pull the bottom line, fixing up the aft and making it right.  So I drag around the scaffold where I will practically live for the next week and get into it.

Steve is however busy with the guys from the fibreglass department, among other things.  Upon removing the old anchor winch he discovered that the deck under may not be as sturdy as we would like and none of the mounting holes match up.   To do it properly it should be reinforced with fibreglass, holes sealed and new ones drilled.  But he is no fibreglass guy, so we call in the pros.  And unforeseen expense but it has to be done right.  We decide also to partition the anchor locker and add drainage.    The yard is really good about letting you do as much or little work as you want and so to cut costs Steve can grind and make templates and do prep work for the install.  After the frigging around with the fridges I was looking forward to more fibreglass dust in the boat…NOT!  And that is was, five days worth of dust. Despite Steve’s best efforts to contain things it still manages to creep out from the tiniest crack in the plastic and dance all over the boat, leaving its tell tale itchy fingerprints for you to find hours or days later.   SO after you’ve cleaned up at the end of the day, pulled the mattress back inside and made the bed again, had a hot shower and think you are itch free we still find ourselves in bed, exhausted, wondering how the hell there could be fibreglass dust in the sheets! Or is it just permanently imbedded in our skin?

Steve has also been making a bracket for the engine mounted pump of the water maker, helping with the boot stripe, doing some carpentry for the anchor winch mount and generally stressing about getting everything straightened away before he leaves me and the boat.

Saturday is another day of sanding, thank god for the $5 palm sander from the swap shop!  And after the power gets cut off at 8am (perfect time to do maintenance San Diego Light & Power!!)  We are thankful for our recently installed inverter onboard and I manage to get the last of the boot stripe done by 9:30am, just in time for George to show up.  He has said that he had to come to the yard anyway and that he would help me put tape the bottom line so we can start priming.  What he really said is that he’ll take time out of his weekend and come and help us out by doing the whole tape job himself, in 10 minutes.  And with a few tips on primer he is off and I am covered in grey paint.  Wait two hours and another coat is put on then we call it a day at 4pm.   We are back on schedule!  And tonite we have been invited to Graham & Christina's for dinner and drinks and a nite off the boat.  SO we clean up best we can and just in time for Graham, who so kindly offered to save us the two hour commute, to pick us up.  What a treat, dinner cooked by someone else, new faces and conversations and best off all no fibreglass or trains.  We slept until 8am, a real treat, and were very reluctant to get back to the yard and into the mess again.    But after a little bit of prep work and a coat of paint we decided that since it is Sunday and more because we both have run out of clothes we are willing to ruin, it is a trip to the laundry matt and a bit to eat.  Hell, it is Sunday, it is 2pm and we haven’t eaten breakfast yet! And tomorrow is another Monday!


A few other notes from the week:

Ø  I have finished the curtains and upon returning home with the fabric (white background BIG green tropical leaves) Steve did give me that “What WERE you thinking?!?!?” look but has since decided he quite likes them.  We have also ordered the foam and fabric for the cushions but looks like it won’t be until after we are back in the water until I get to that.
Ø  Thanks to a connection through Dani, Steve has found some work up in San Francisco for six weeks and will leave some time next week, hopefully we’ll already be back in the water (cause I can’t drive this thing yet!)


One IS the Loneliest Number

I have to tell you folks that I thoroughly enjoying writing these weekly updates and much apologise for the tardiness of the last few weeks.  We have been so busy onboard that it has been more of a get up at 6:30am work until 5-8pm, shower and TRY to get clean, clean up the boat, eat, stare at each other, talk about work, itch from the fibreglass, fall asleep, be woken by a train rattling past at 100 km/h at 5am with horn on full blast, get up and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.   One day seems like the last and there has been no discernable weekend to mark a start/finish of the week.  So here is a brief recap of the past couple of weeks and hopefully I will be getting back on track, and being more regular about things!

Now, I realize that most of you may not see me as a morning person.  Maybe it is months of having to great up before the sun and start cooking, (although some of you who were witness to those months may still not consider me a morning person), that has conditioned me into my usual early rises.  I enjoy the morning, making a coffee and sitting quietly considering the tasks ahead of me, especially if it is only me up and I don’t have to talk to anyone for half an hour. The beautiful thing about mornings is the potential you can see in day ahead. No matter how crappy yesterday was today is a fresh start, a new beginning, there’s a chance that it won’t be as bad as the day before and that things won’t go wrong.  The magical few hours of sleep you managed between trains rattling by three feet from your bunk, shaking the boat so that you worry it might fall off its supports leave’s you inexplicably optimistic and ready to try again. And so this week I have been up earlier than usual (the yard also starts work at 7am and as we had guys coming to work on the boat we obviously had to be ready for them at 7am), a head full of work lists and things to get done before the end of the day so we can stay on schedule.   It is a restless and stressful week for us both and although very productive the daily deadlines are taking their mental toll, leaving us dirty and tired and itching of fibreglass.

We put another coat on the boot stripe Monday and then under the guidance of George (AKA.Yoda) I do the third coat by hand on Tuesday, taking my time and tipping it gently.  It turns out beautifully!  Then prep the bottom for the anti fouling (which the yard has to do for health and safety reasons but that’s just fine with me, OH the fumes!), a little priming needed after some sanding but we are in general good shape.  Then, onto the transom.  After taking off the old self steering vane and along with it some green paint we decide to do a little touch up.  Enter the sticky, messy, and extremely fussy world of two part epoxy. After several good college tries and much expert advice from “George’s School of Painting Boats” I have come to the conclusion that although I did well in Painting 101; “the boot stripe”, I might not have been ready to skip Painting Level 2 and jump right into Painting 1000.  We will have to live with the end result, not at all horrible but you can tell it has been painted, and that’s a sure sign of a do-it-yourself-er.  I spend the week climbing scaffolding, trying not to rub against things with my now scabby road rash and full of paint (I swear I only have to think about paint and it is all over me and any object close to me), and calling to Steve to move me about and pass me things so I can try and minimize paint drips, good luck!  But I have learned lots and am very grateful for all the time and advice from George, a lovely man that is not only a wealth of knowledge and can work magic with paint but had a real passion for boats.

Steve on the other had spent his week juggling five jobs at once.  We are fortunate to be in a yard that will allow to do to as much work as you are able even when you are contracting them to do a project for you so this meant that Steve was able to sand, grind and create templates for the fibreglass work for the anchor winch and locker and subsequently save us some money.  This also meant he spent the week masked, covered and hot, trying to cram himself into a small space all while getting covered in microscopic fibreglass dust despite his best efforts to contain it all. He did a wonderful and careful job but had a few grumpy evenings itching and tingling as a result.  This, along with changing the propeller (another TOBIN moment unto itself when we find the shaft has been ground down 1/8” inch and the new propeller will not fit, so ring and get another one overnited!), helping with the painting, trying to get the bracket for the water maker clutch fabricated and keeping track of the yard guys and projects and all while under pressure to try and get back in the water before he left at weeks end.  Yep, Steve got some work and headed off to San Francisco for 7 weeks, leaving me here in San Diego to try and recover after a very hectic week up on the hard. But who can refuse a bit of work and a little more cash for the piggy bank?

After all our hard work on the bright yellow boot stripe the dark green hull was starting to look a little neglected  so I decided to spend two days washing and hand polishing it.  It is a wax on wax off type of process, a product recommend by George, and after more scaffolding and a bag of rags I am very pleased with the results, clean and shiny and most of the fender burn came out nicely.   We had to change the signage since registering the boat in Australia and so as a going away gift to Steve I made the seemingly epic journey to sign shop late Thursday afternoon to pick up the vinyl so I could put it on before he left.  With the transom needing another coat to cover the mess I made days earlier I cannot put on our new home port on yet but in the fading light of twilight I manage to get put “kate” on both sides of the bow and Steve and I stand back and admire what is finally feeling like OUR boat.  We decide that we’ll have a quick shower then out for our last supper together, it is already 8pm and who could be bothered to cook, especially while still up on the hard?

5 am seems to come far too quickly and by 6 Steve is waving goodbye as he walks out of the gate and towards to trolley to take him to the airport and his new job.  I am left to continue painting, polishing and cleaning up after such a busy week. And so, with a whole day of waiting to be put back in the water and the yard backed up all morning waiting for the trains I take advantage and finish polishing the hull and carefully putting the last coat on the transom and generally tidy things up. As I putter that afternoon, waiting to go back in the water, I had several complements on the new name and three yard guys ask if she had a new paint job as well!!  All that work paid off.  An end of the day splash and a quick check of our new through hull fitting before they released the sling and we moved her around to tie up at the dock.  As the day drew to an end I watched two 180+” motor yachts pull up and tie along side me.  I have quick shower just before the water runs out, and I remember I do not have a hose to refill the tanks, lucky it waiting until I was finish rising my hair!  So, hop on my bike and a quick trip to Target (not sure there is such a thing) to make it home before dark and fill the water tanks.  Of course the fitting on the dock doesn’t work and thankfully one of the regular guys is still around and finds me two more lengths of hose so I can reach the nearest fitting over 150” away. Sometimes even the easiest of things can seem like a mission. Saturday is just another work day, the hull looks great but the decks are in need of a scrub!  So I spend hours on my hands and knees trying to undo spending a week down wind of a pressure blaster.  The rest of the afternoon is spent repacking the boat. 

The giants that are docked beside me rumble and carry on and I soon realize how all those sail boats we tied up along side during our charter season throughout the Caribbean felt. How when they complained about the generators and our exhaust they were right, they are just big, stinky, white boats.  When they put there underwater lites on at nite I scoff at the waste of precious power, wondering why in a dirty old yard you would bother with underwater lites. And the few times when the crew members pass me by, dressed to the nines, going out for a Saturday nite, they barely mutter a hello and I realize that I am no long one of them, and quite frankly don’t miss it.  This epiphany spreads a smile across my face a mile long and as I sip on our last beer and make a modest supper I am happy to be home. Not even having to close all the hatches just to drown out the noise of the generators to sleep can stop me from grinning.

On Sunday Graham comes down and helps me take the boat down the harbour to our new home, Pier 32 Marina, a newly built facility, fully secure and complete with gym and wifi and laundry facilities.  It over looks a park and is a quiet spot free of much of the weekend traffic and most importantly the trains.  I decide that it would be a perfect way to spend a Sunday, quietly doing nothing, enjoying the view and relaxing. And so I do.

Love ,

Intermission….Not Just a Trip to the Lobby

After a week of scrubbing and polishing, packing and stowing I was almost ready to leave Kate and head to the airport.  Double checking to make sure everything was turned off and locked and then checking it all again I headed down the dock full of excitement and a little angst.  Glad to be heading back to Canada but sad to be leaving the boat and disappointed that Steve wouldn’t be making the venture back with me.  First stop; a week in Toronto with my newly relocated best friend, Emily.  I boarded a 10:30pm flight out of San Diego via Washington DC and NYC and discovered why it is called the red eye.  Little sleep, little room ( I somehow ended up in the middle of the last row for my first and longest leg) and lots of busy airports later, I gathered my luggage, found the bus to the subway station, found the correct car and then finally the right street corner.  Then after traversing the street car tracks (are you sure I left San Diego?) I finally find Emily’s flat. Of course she lives on the second floor!, and it involved squeezing me and the luggage (remember I am gone for five weeks!) up a rickety wrought iron, steep fire escape.  But I am rewarded at the top- a beautiful space, cold Keith’s (HFX beer) in the fridge, and big bathtub- it didn’t take me long to make myself at home.  Warm and clean, and buzzing off one can of beer I passed out on the sofa, catching up on much needed sleep, after all, Paul (Em’s musician boyfriend) is playing a gig out of town tonite and we have some catching up to do! Left to our own devices: read a big plate of nacho’s, a few bottles of red wine, red lipstick and a couple pairs of insanely high heels (well for me anyway) we spent the nite on the stoop catching up- it was suddenly 1am, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to start my trip.  The weekend was a blur of Kensington Market, Queen Street West, Chinatown and seemingly everything in between. I was trying best to put my best fashion foot forward but priorities have changed in my sailboat centric world but I think I fell sadly short in Emily’s eyes. My practical shoes and drugstore makeup did not find approval in her uber fashionable closet in Toronto.  Month’s of being dirty and barefoot, living in a small and minimal space has left me with a very healthy perception of what I NEED verses what I just plain want.  And besides, with only two drawers, one shelf and shared single hanging closet when new clothes come, something else has to go to make space!  It became painfully apparent that I was not only out of style but had no desire to try and find in and fit in again…sorry Em!!!  And so, my last day I decided to both torture and redeem myself, I went shopping for jeans, something I actually needed.  After a whole day of high end stores, 80’s high waisted and crack revealing denim I found my perfect jeans at the Gap ( who have thought!). I also picked up a pair of flat, practical but silver and glam Dr.Martens and we slipped right back into our groove, it was great!  A lunch date with Nick, a long time friend and personal investor on Bay street and I was beginning to feel very “city”, living in it not just hovering on the out skirts and venturing in to collect mail or go shopping.

However, after a week in T.dot I was looking forward to heading home, back to the Maritime’s.  And so another airport or two (but quiet and civilized one’s where people smile and say excuse me) and I stepped out into the mist and the fog, waiting for my sister beside a row of old men smoked Export “A” green cigarettes.  Yep I am home, and I breathed it in deeply, up wind of course.  With a date for tea with Hannah and John in the morning and a hair appointment with my sister Angeline, which I have been waiting FOREVER for, in the afternoon I fall into bed in my old bedroom, with the window open and sounds and smell of Nova Scotia wafting in, and try and get some sleep between waking up disoriented and afraid of falling out of a bed that isn’t build into it’s surroundings.  The weather is perfect, cool but not cold, jeans but bare feet and sandals, a light jacket and possibly a scarf: Autumn.  The weekend was a page out of a tourism brochure: Sunny and warm, spent outside on the deck at Mom & Dad’s in Prospect with the kids husking 4 dozen corn purchased on the side of the road from a farmer just in from the valley with harvest, surrounded by family.  It was buttery and delicious and topped off by a FANTASTIC blueberry pie fresh out of my Mother’s kitchen.  Who could ask for more? This was jus the beginning.

Hannah, my other best friend and former gallery cohort, and her husband John decided to have a BBQ to launch there new design/film/photography business “TrueFaux” and I would finally be in town to help celebrate. After missing their wedding, pregnancy and birth of their lovely 7 month old daughter Sofie-Anne, and a HUGE opening of Hannah’s photography show in Toronto, it was great to be around to put some faces to names and help out in the kitchen.  The drizzle let up in spurts and people moved from kitchen to backyard and back, of course sipping beer and chatting about art and politics (I forgot that Canadians are not only very informed but opinionated about the global political environment).  The rest of the week was quiet, I didn’t want to let the cat out of the beg about being in Halifax just yet, I was enjoying my relative anonminty, And besides, the next weekend was James and Chantelle’s wedding and you can’t crash a wedding if everyone knows your coming.

Having driven past but never had the reason to go in I was inspired by the quaint and simple church that James and Chantel chose.  The interior was rough and exposed appearing more like the hull of a ship than the frame of a building.  Through the silence breaks in the ceremony you could hear the rain on the roof, appropriately sounding like the waves of the ocean that these two have chosen to sail on together.  The reception at James’ dad Jim’s house, Rum Hollow, on St.Margret’s bay was just as lovely. Despite the drizzle most of it was outside, us hardy Nova Scotians not letting a little rain ruin the fun.  As I sat on the step with Nick with a Keith’s in one hand and a view of the bay I reflected on long friendships and old times.  There were several people here I had known over a decade and a few like Nick, Kelly (who’s wedding I had missed the weekend before) and Cheryl well over twenty years.  Although I sometimes dread large gatherings and “catching up”, this afternoon there was a comfort in familiar conversation and friendly faces.  These people spoke like me, drank my kind of beer and laughed at my jokes (well not really but I like to think they did), I was home.  And as we partied on well into the nite we ended all clamouring onto James’ cape boat the “Clarabella” that was tied at the dock or squeezing into Jim’s kitchen, it was a real Maritime event.

It was so nice to be home and get to actually spend time with everyone.  I had a lovely afternoon baking with Evan, Nolan and Cameron, great little helpers!  Nolan certainly surprised me by cracking 6 eggs without getting one piece of shell in the batters!
I had coffee with Rebecca and tea with Hannah, impromptu lunches with Mom at the shop, cooked dinner for anyone willing to let me into the kitchen and enjoyed the “hussle bussle of Halifax to the mostest.  A quiet but alive town, it was nice to be home and walk the streets and run into people you didn’t care to run into.  Nachos and beer at the Shoe Shop were a given, beer with the stock brokers at Trader’s a must, a gallery opening and cocktails at the Fireside to round everything out.  I stopped by my old college to say hello to everyone in the photo department, had a Tim Horton’s coffee, not because I enjoyed it but because it was so Maritime, and bounced from second hand store to second hand store while in town.   I went to Wolfville with my sister one morning to visit Jenn and her new baby Joesphine and stopped by not only a farmers market to pick up BAGS of dulce but also a stand on the side of the road selling apples and pears, you take what you want and leave your money in the “honor box”, an Export “A” tin nailed to the table, I knew I was home!!! Crisp air, CBC, the market on Saturday morning, good beer, middle eastern food, samosas, oatcakes.
A month of couch hopping between my little brother Sams, My older Sister Angeline, My older brother Thomas, Hannah and John’s and Mom & Dad’s and I was about ready to get home to Kate and my own bed.

The nite before I left everyone came down to Mom’s for dinner. Roast beef with fresh horseradish from their garden, cucumbers and sour cream (such a great old recipe), carrots, beets and potatoes with a zucchini chocolate cake for dessert.  It was so nice to have everyone around the table.  The kids are getting so big, Cameron in school, Abbey and Paige two little women, really, and Nolan, older than his years,  and Evan not far behind everyone, giving out sloppy, sweet, open mouth goodbye kisses that only a two year old and get away with. It was a bittersweet night, enjoying everyone’s company and knowing I would be leaving in the morning….I suddenly realized how much I missed home.

As I drove to town with Dad after a teary good to my Mother, it was the start of what has been reported as the “prettiest fall in memory”. No rain and warm days with cool nites, has resulted in picture perfect hard wood trees, heavy with coloured leaves.  I made it to the airport earlier than expected and with a very long day en route in front of me I decided to spend a couple of hours at the bar having a few last Keith’s and convincing the American’s that a Ceasar is really much better than a Bloody Mary!  I had lovely conversation with a older man from Moncton who worked on the rail way and before I knew it was time to go.  Well good bye Halifax, and Canada and hello, American Airlines and 15 hours of commuting time.  I figured it was a well spent $30 to get home via taxi cab at 10pm and was glad to see the old girl just as I left her, plus a little dirt!!  Crawl into bed and figure out where I am when morning comes!


Oh Kate…We’re Not in Canada Anymore.

It was a late touchdown, especially since I was travelling east to west and was four hours ahead of local time.  But here I was, back in California, with all my luggage and treasures intact.  I took a cab and was home in fifteen minutes rather than the hour it would have taken me on public transport, and after a quick assessment of the boat all her systems check out ok; bilges dry, sea cocks re-opened, toilet flushing but smelly, water pressure functioning, nothing growing in the fridges. I unpacking most of the deck equipment from in top of and then making my bunk, falling into bed exhausted, it is 2am in Halfiax.  I awake to next morning completely disorientated as to my surroundings.  Okay, I am on board Kate but am I facing forward or aft?  I stubble out of bed, shake off the cobwebs and try and figure out how the toilet works again!  Thankfully I bought a bagel at the airport Starbucks the nite before, there is peanut butter in the cupboard and I smuggled some tea from home along with a new/old teapot, and so I sit and have breakie and begin to reassemble my life.  One cool grey day leads into another and I spend the weekend drifting in and out of conciseness jetlagged and depressed, sleeping both because I need it and it prevents me from reality.  I am alone, Steve is still working in San Francisco, and although it is nice to be back on board I am not happy about not being in Nova Scotia.  I wake up at odd hours, fall asleep mid afternoon and awake with the sound of Dad’s guitar so real in my ears that I think I am home….until I open my eyes.  I exist on cans of beans, instant noodles, hot sauce and copious pots of tea. I cannot bear to even go out for groceries let alone wash. 

After two days of squalor and melancholy I begin to think Steve is getting feed up with me and he isn’t even here.  I realize that if I don’t actually DO something nothing will change,  so Monday morning I shower and head out to check the mail and get some fresh veggies, I think I can feel the scurvy setting in.  I arm myself with my MP3 player, not quiet ready to deal with the crowds on San Diegian public transport yet, I make the hour trip across town to the mailbox.  After a quick and minimal stop at the natural foods store I decide to do a herbal cleanse and have a raw foods diet for the next few weeks.  As fall has arrived it is a perfect time to restart my body and get back on track (well I was on vacation for five weeks!)  This seems to help.  Unfortunately, with fall comes back to school and I happen to be on the trolley just as school lets out. The high school kid’s swarm onto the car, taking up every possible inch of space and I am jammed into the corner with my bags heaped on my lap.  I fight my way through the crowd towards the door, nobody here moves aside to let you out but everyone gets an attitude when you have to practically knock them over to get by, and make it off the train just before it pulls away.  Harrumph!  This doesn’t help my condition any.  But a meal of beans and vegetable and more pots of tea and my Monday doesn’t seem so bad after all. Now if only I could get a decent nites sleep!

In the morning I roll up my sleeves and give the boat a wash, after nearly six weeks she is looking rather bad, covered in dust from the adjacent highway and although it doesn’t rain in California the evening dew has left the deck streaked in black.  The water line is growing a green beard and the stainless looks like it had never been polished.  A full days work get things look OK again, but it will be a while before she looks as good as when I left her.  Regular deck maintenance is now part of the weekly schedule.

 The marina we are staying is newly opened and very modern, laundry facilities, guest lounge with full satellite TV, very nice bathrooms and showers and a gym, fully open to the air and over looking the docks.  I decide that since I am using the showers ashore I might as well work up a sweat before hand and make it worth it.  And besides, as I jog to nowhere on the treadmill I can catch the latest instalment of Project Runway or another useless American reality show. Seems logical and productive, just what I need, and it feels good to get some exercize other than climbing scaffolding or cycling through traffic.

Later in the week I also tackle a project that has been awaiting me for months: the cockpit cushions.  I have the foam and all the fabric and after a quick trip to the upholstery store down the street the rest of the necessaries to get going.  I consulted the little old Mexican dude in the workshop at the store and decide that I will forego piping this set of cushions, as they are outside it can just promote pooling of water and therefore mould and mildew.  Besides, I know the little Mexican man makes it look easy, bit he’s been doing it forever, and like George the paint guru at the yard, when it’s just not!  After hours of fighting with thread gauge and tension, fabric pucker and needle size I called the help line at Sailrite and found some helpful information that is just not in the catalogue.  So, I hold my breath and make the first cut, sew it all together and manage to squeeze the foam in and close the zipper, I beam with pride. It looks great!   One down three to go! By the end of a long day I step back and admire my hard work, seams straight, patterns match up, the corners are fairly square and you can barely see any of the blood from my fingertips that now look more like pincushions! It is a very comfortable dinner out in the cockpit, perched atop our new cushions, bundled up from the cool evening air, watching the last buttery rays of sun fade from the sky.  If only I has Steve to share it with!   Unfortunately I have to place another order for a few miscellaneous bits before I can start the interior cushions so that will have to wait another week.

And I am not the only one who is a little home sick, Steve is sounding worse and worse in San Francisco.  Working 12 hour days and usually 6 days a week he is getting worn down.  It is, of course, good money coming in, making our trip a little longer or less stressful dollar wise, but unfortunately he is the “day worker”, which translates into getting all the jobs no one else wants and being blamed if something they do doesn’t work out.  Launch dates have been pushed back, everything is behind schedule and it is starting to be crunch time.  A thankless job, with little reward.  So I decide that I will go up and visit, try and brighten his spirits, take care of him, make him dinner and give him a break from the get up work, come home, shower, make supper, sleep, lather, rinse repeat routine of late.  And hey, it’s been almost two months apart, the longest we’ve been separated in the last two years   (but by far not the longest time apart) and it sure would be nice to see him again.  And so I get packed, get prettied, repack up the boat, check and recheck everything, close up and lock down and head off. Another airport, another plane, another city.  Thankfully this time I will not be heading home alone, I will be heading into the arms of my Love, and this makes me smile…the first time all week long.


So I am Heading to San Francisco…now what About the Flowers for my Hair?

I decided to head to San Fran on Saturday afternoon, Steve would be getting off work hopefully by 6pm and generally has Sundays off, so we could have a quiet nite and leisurely a Sunday morning breakfast.  I have the directions to get from the San Francisco airport, the subway runs directly to the airport, to an Oakland subway stop where we would met and then head to Alameda (both are a suburb of San Francisco, just across the harbour from downtown).  Flying on the newly launched Virgin America was great, being seated beside a crazy woman with an over active bladder and her very vocal cat that she had been estranged from for two months, not so much.  However, the flight was short and the volume control to the TV worked so things were fine.  A little late getting to the gate and off the plane I dilly dallied to leave the concourse, stopping to freshen up and check out duty free, I had another hour on the subway, what’s the rush to sit down again?  And so I made my way out of the airport and was suddenly stopped in my tracks when someone called my name. Steve had gotten the afternoon off and rushed out to meet me. He had been wondering if he was at the wrong gate I had taken so long. He almost didn’t recognise me and my new hair do so he called me from behind to see if I’d turn around, and when I did had a lovely bunch of flowers and big smile for me.  What a lovely surprise!!  And so after another hour of commuting we were on the door step of the rabbit warren of apartment complex where he and the rest of the crew live while the boat is in the yard.  We sat and had a drink and chatted trying to decide what to do for the evening.  Ended up as was usual for a Saturday night we met John, another engineer, up the street for “a drink”.  And of course, we didn’t end up having a quiet nite, it was Saturday after all, and a few of the boys showed up a little later for “a couple beers”.  At 1 am and three bars later I put Steve in a cab and went home, he had been staring off into the distance for the last half and hour now and hadn’t touched the beer in his hand, a sure sign the nite is done if anyone of you knows Steve!.  But seeing as it wasn’t going to be a late nite when we left the bed wasn’t made. So between propping up Steve and manoeuvring two slightly different size and thickness single mattress to the floor side by side, then making “the bed”, I somehow managed to fall into it unscathed if not fairly cold. 500 miles north really makes a difference in the weather! 

Sunday ended up a lovely sunny day and after a sleep in, which is 8am to Steve now that he gets up for work before 6, we somewhat grogily enjoyed a toast and eggs breakfast and caught up, exchanging photos and stories and adventures form the last two months.  We fall back into our rhythm; finishing each others sentences, knowing what the other will say next, anticipating………...  Suddenly I realise that we are both calm, happy and content, as if being together is exactly the counterbalance that we’ve been struggling to find.  The world is right again.

Not wanting to waste his day off inside Steve took me out to show me the town.  It seems everyone in Alameda has a bicycle and somehow Steve found a rickety old thing for me to ride/squeek around on.  We first went to the “Land of 100 Squirrels”, a local park that really has a seemingly endless amount of very large and tame squirrels, as well as several flocks of Canadian geese. We rode by the seashore and he pointed out all the local attractions (grocery store, bowling alley, diner, coffee shop).  It is a cute little town with lots of pedestrian traffic and independent shops  downtown and so we decided to poke our heads into a few of the cavernous antique shops on  the main street.  With three floors each, packed floor to ceiling with everything you can think of we have fun imagining all the possibilities of vintage wine glasses and fragile dishes, if only we lived on shore. I marvel at the complete sets of 1940’s disposable party ware that enables the dutiful wife to spend much more time with her guests by being able to simple throw the used dishes in the trash instead of having to wash them. There are toys from the 80’s, vinyl from the 60’s and every tacky and “collectable” trinket from the last hundred years that you can imagine.  We try on funny hats, play the “Did you forgot your…..” game and try and guess the uses of some strange and wonderful items. There are photo ops right and left and after several close encounters between my knapsack and a table of breakables we head off.  It is a packrats delight, we leave empty handed. 

During a nice lunch on a patio the phone rings, it is John the British engineer that Steve has befriended: Yes we are just around the corner. You and a few of the crew are having a beer?  Sure we would love to come over for a beer or two with you guys.  There are just a “few” bars between where we started and the front door of the apartment and little did I know that we would be stopping at each one for a drink on the way home.  And so the evening ends, well after dark, me pushing my bike around after a missed attempt at mounting it, which resulted with me turtled on the sidewalk, bike heaped on top of me. There is nothing damaged but a few bruises and my pride, way to impress the guys!  At least I gave them something to talk about during Monday morning coffee break!

The week was spent meandering around town, hitting second hand stores and revisiting the antique shops, shopping for groceries, making dinners and packing lunches, doing laundry and trying to ease a bit of the monotony for Steve.  The week whizzed by, the temperature dropped and suddenly it was Friday afternoon.  As it was Thanksgiving weekend back home I decided to make a roast dinner and asked Steve to invite a few of the crew around for supper. The boat has been undergoing a complete refit since January and although the crew has been given a monthly food allowance, the hours are long and I think the meals scarce. I am no one has had a home cooked meal for month.  A cool and windy Autumn day made for a perfect afternoon to be in the kitchen next to a warm oven. I made a leg of lamb, English roast potatoes, baked beets, roasted baby carrots and a fresh loaf of bread for dinner.  Finished with a pear, cranberry and hazelnut spice cake……….  What a pleasure to have company, some wine and good conversation into the nite.  Luckily Steve managed to finagle both Saturday and Sunday off, so no quarter to six alarms! And with an antique car show in Alameda on Saturday afternoon and the air show in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon we had a lovely weekend “on vacation” together, enjoying the brisk fall air, the sunshine and each others company. 

But Monday morning arrived too soon, the alarm jarring us from a contented sleep before the sun had full crested the horizon.  There was much grumbling on both parts as Steve pried himself out of bed and shimmied into his permanently stained work overalls, grabbing a quick cup of tea before cycling to work for another long and dirty day.  We kissed goodbye, both knowing that my flight would leave later that afternoon, neither of us wanting me to get on that plane.  But it was a little less sad knowing that the boat would be launched soon and that meant Steve would be back on board Kate within weeks and we could continue our preparations and planning for our departure, which is quickly approaching.  So after a bus and a subway ride and another flight and a bus and a subway I walked the 15 minutes back to the marina, my wheelie bag trailing behind me.  I noticed that my pace quickened as I stepped through the gate and headed down the dock towards the boat, I was excited to be home, alone or not.  She was of course fine and just as I left her plus the requisite dirt and funk when I flush the toilet.  I unpacked and rearranged, mentally assessing the projects for the coming week. I had stopped and picked up a few groceries on the way home and settled down to a hot bowl of noodle soup, letting it warm from the inside, fighting the chill settling with the evening air. And although I made up the bunk and crawled into bed early that nite, this time I was looking forward to getting up in the morning.



Stick That in Your Piping and Sew It!
Monday dawns and I am awake for it, hiding under the blankets, listening to the drone of the highway filtering into the cabin via the open hatch directly above my head.  I have been up for hours, randomly awoken at 4:17am and cannot get back to sleep.  I eventually get up to face to day, make a cup of tea, slightly unwilling as it is cold and dewy and it involves opening the companion way and venturing outside to turn on the propane tank, and sit grumpily rubbing the sleep from my eyes.  Breakfast is hot oatmeal with strawberries and honey, trying to fight off the chill in the air while we wait for the fog and clouds to burn off in another couple of hours revealing a sweltering day into the mid to high 20’s.  It is errand day and so I get cleaned up, dressed and packed and make my way instinctively towards the trolley station.  It will be another hour before I reach the mailbox, but I have decided to start to make the best if my time by listening to Spanish lessons on my headphones, another well intentioned project that has been put off, and repeat out loud random vocabulary and phases while on my morning procession. At least when we get to Mexico I will be able to tell the ladies at the train station platform that I am from Canada and that once they were skinny…and politely!  Thanks to the wonder of the “track a shipment” feature on the UPS website I know for sure that my sewing supplies to finish the setae cushions is awaiting me and this pilgrimage is not in vein.  I also discover the last issue of my Bon Appetite (cooking magazine) subscription has arrived heralding all that is Autumn and harvest in the food world, taunting me with recipes for large family get together and delicious deserts for crowds involving pumpkins (which are not in stores yet).  There is also a delightful surprise from my friend Kim (we worked together and were roomies on Lady M II) a notebook/journal for the journey, something to scribble down ideas for these letters and “Things To Do” lists, designed in Savannah, Ga where we met. How lovely!  I collect my mail, chat for a minute about the pending election, the housing crisis and impending doom that my mail man feels in looming on the horizon. Pleasant.  A few more stops, a few more bags and once again I am weighted down and heading home.

I wake Tuesday full of determination and with all supplies in hand I tackle the seatee cushions.  The week before I had downloaded some instructional videos from the Sailrite website and I decided to watch these one more time. As I do not have sound on my laptop any longer (another hazard of getting your computer fixed down island!), I tried my best to decipher what was going on without sound, muddling through reading lips and then guessing when it was just a flurry of hands and a blur of the sewing machine needle bobbing up and down. Between this and my five minute tutorial at the upholstery store last week I feel ready to go, it is already 7:30am.   I think I may have startled the security guard on his 8 am round, furiously pinning my carefully measured pattern onto the fabric which I had spread out on the dock.  Dressed in what I like to affectionately call my “circus pants” (rainbow striped thermal long johns) and tee shirt my hair haphazardly pulled back and a crazed look of morning caffeine and adrenaline in my eyes.  I think the marina employee who showed up shortly after to “check the meter” may have been acting on a dare…I am starting to feel like an aptly dressed circus character. So I gather up my cuttings and head inside to the beast, to start to construct.  I have decided to pipe these cushions. Piping, for those of you not in the upholstery know, is the little tubular fabric covered edging on things like your sofa that give it a professional and tailored look. On first inspection this seems like a simple addition to the standard cushion form that I now feel like I have somewhat mastered since I made four identical cockpit cushions.  How is this achieved you ask? Well let just say that it involves lots of patience, a couple rolls of double sided seam basting, a few bleeding fingers and a six pack.  At the end of day one I had one completed and with excitement I cleared the space of the carnage of the day and checked the fit. And it does, beautifully!  And comfortable!  I can’t wait to start the other!! But wait, does that look a little too long to you? Oh CRAP!!    Thanks to the wise advice from the dude who sold me the foam and insisted that if it was cut two inches larger than the actual measurements it would compress and fit perfectly.  Well maybe not. So somehow, as if I’ve reached some supreme state of sewing Zen, I calmly rip half the cushion apart, remove two inches of length and then carefully and patiently sew it back together, hiding the seams and mistakes (this is where the six pack comes in).  The sun sets on day one and I am happy (partially due to the beer) and look forward to the tomorrow and another session on the sewing machine.  I push the mess aside just enough to fit a dinner plate on the table and afterwards spend the evening curled up reading, falling both off half and asleep on the new seatee.  Day two goes a little quicker, and by mid afternoon I am finished the second cushion, this time with little frustration (which is good cause I am out of beer).  The foam itself is not a great fit, I had to stick the new foam on the old cushion form, making the cushions a little to full and the seam between the to piece very obvious. So that afternoon armed with a couple cans of spray adhesive, a bread knife, kitchen sheers and rolls of Dacron batten I hit the dock again, hacking, snipping, gluing and forming the perfect shape.  Strangely another marina staff member wanders by…I am beginning to wonder who is winning the bet!  It takes all the restraint I can muster to let the glue dry completely before I squish the final product back into my fabric creations.  But it all pays off and ends up fitting nicely, looking great and most importantly being EXTREMELY comfortable. Steve’s evening phone calls are beginning to enquire if that is my new favourite place to perch as I am spending all my time snuggled up here.  The forest green that we finally chose makes the space appear so big and inviting that you can’t but help to be drawn to it.  I am finally feeling like the boat is our home, it reflects us and is comfortable like an old pair of jeans.  But after three days of sewing the rest of the boat is looking more like a hair ball that a giant cat horked up, bits of fabric and thread have migrated to every corner and crevice and the double sided seam basing has left sticky tracks that are quickly being crusted in dirt.  I can’t stand it and spend two hours cleaning and putting away projects that I will have to dig out again in the coming days, organizing and tossing piles of papers and scraps of notes that have taken over the chart table.  I find dust bunnies in the corners and realize that I haven’t really done a good clean since I got back; no wonder things were feeling a little lack lustre.  Weekly interior maintainence is added to the work list.

I have not only garnered the attention of the marina staffers but the flotilla of newly arrived Baja Ha-ha-ers who have taken over the marina.  The Baja Ha-ha is a sailing event that starting in San Diego and hops down the Baja Peninsula and this year has over 180 boats registered.  It is followed by a complement of doctors and mechanics and gives the opportunity for some of the more timid or inexperienced boat owners to do some off shore cruising with a safety net.  It is a varied crowd that has taken over the marina, making any walk down the dock (we are tied at the very end) a rather chatty event, saying hello and answering inquires weather or not I am in fact  a Ha-ha-er, which boat it mine, what kind of boat it is...etc etc etc.   My sunset yoga on the dock sessions and early morning fashion shows of bedhead and circus pants or head to toe bright pink PJ’s when seeking out to turn on the propane have turned a few heads. After the first couple of days I am starting to dread taking out the garbage and having a shower on shore becomes a social expedition.  They are all very nice but a very excitable bunch and after a few “No, I am not a Ha-ha-er” they tend to stick to themselves, seeing me as more of a live aboard poser, sitting on the dock when they are really getting out there!  Little do they know.  The weekend is a flurry of equipment inspection and sail changes, peoples belongs strong on the dock, couples feverishly filling the bilges with provisions.  Last minute purchases of wind vanes, VHF’s, life rafts and safety equipment and I can hear cash registers at West Marine happily working overtime.  There is much excitement and frivolity on the dock, the laundry room is busy, everyone commiserating about the last time they’ll do laundry in a while, and the Sunday evening the march to the showers is none stop.  Before I know it they are gearing up to leave in the morning and I’ve been told that it might not be a bad idea, seeing as we are tied on an end dock, to be ready with a fender in the morning…just in case.  And so I am up before 6am, nothing new, and watch as silently one by one the boats throw there dock lines and motor into the sunrise and out of sight, not once reaching for a cautionary fender as they pass by.  There is calm excitement in the early morning air and I begin to wonder if this is what I’ll feel like when we start our adventure: full of anticipation and reverence towards the journey and task ahead. As I sip my coffee and snap a few photos I wish Steve was here to enjoy this morning with me. It is only another week and he’ll be finished work and we can start planning for our departure, I can’t wait for him to come home. I am excited to sail into the horizon and towards the future together.



4 am Phone Call

It is usually a 4am phone call that people dread as bearing bad news. I, on the other hand are use to being woken in the middle of the nite by a far away voice. Usually it is Steve calling while teetering home from a bar, telling me how much he misses me, unaware of the ungodly hour and that I and most of the rest of the hemisphere are asleep.  Or perhaps it is someone calling from down under, understandably miscalculating the time difference, catching up from thousands of miles away, crossing date lines, calling from the future.  I am accustom to unknown numbers and foreign accents when I pick up my phone.  And due to my job in yachting I realize plans change, often at the last minute and so have had to adapt to be more flexible and less ruffled by such events.  All of this however did not prepare me for the voice at the other end of the phone at 10am on October 28th.

 “Hello, Heather, this is Emily from Pangaea, has anyone from the boat called you today?”

This was not an odd question, not that I had ever gotten a phone call from anyone from Pangaea (the boat that Steve has been working on in San Francisco for the last three months) before, but there was a possibility that they would require someone to fill in as crew chef while the full time chef went on vacation for a week or two when the boat came to San Diego, and I was put forward.

“No, not yet. How can I help you?”

“Well I wanted to let you know that Steve was hit by a car this morning on the way to work, he was taken to hospital.” I sit down, the day has come to a screeching halt, my mind runs at a thousand miles an hour, best case, worse case and every other scenario flashes through my mind in a millisecond. She is still talking, pay attention. “He has a broken leg, and they are not concerned about head injuries or anything else, one of the girls is with him, she is going to call as soon as she knows something more, I will get her to call you directly, he has no cell coverage in the emergency room. He is being admitted and may have to have surgery.”


“Are you okay?”

Not really. I am worried, helpless, uninformed and 2 hour plane ride away, but what can you say? “Yes. Yes, I am fine.”

After getting some details and being reassured that he is both fine and in good hands, I hang up and start to wait.  Wait for another phone call, an update, someone to tell me what to do, anything. I can’t think straight.  I irrationally call Steve’s call phone repeatedly, knowing full well he won’t answer and listen to my breathe catch at the sound of his voice when the messaging service picks up.  I spend two hours, trying to keep busy, wearing a groove in the floor pacing and not kidding anyone with my “calm façade”. Finally the phone rings.  This time it is Suzi, a stewardess whom I met on my last visit to San Francisco, she and Steve were sharing an apartment.  She reports that he is in good spirits, a bit banged up and indeed has a broken tibia and fibula, but all else checked out fine. They will have to operate tomorrow to put a pin in his tibia; he is being moved to a ward later in the day.  He is groggy and drugged up but doing fine.  He will call me when he gets moved upstairs.

I finally breathe.

I have already checked on flight times, I can’t wait for his call this afternoon, I must see him before surgery.  Besides he will just tell me not to come for a couple of days, he’s fine; it’s just a broken leg. It is already 11:30, there is no way I can make a 2 o’clock flight even if I cab it, so I book the 5:30pm which will put me on the ground at half past seven, an hour on the subway then a cab, I should get to the hospital around 9pm.  Before I have even finished these calculations I have entered the credit card number and mentally assessed what I have to do in the next three hours to secure the boat and make it to the airport on time.  Confirmation code in hand I get busy.   Fridge and freezer, the later of which is half full because I have started provisioning for our departure, are emptied, turned off and cleaned.  I donate my frozen meats to a couple I have spoken to only in passing down the dock, most of the fridge contents are thrown out.  Thankfully I am on top of laundry and quickly throw my carry on suitcase together, packing practical, comfortable clothing for what I assess to be about a week away, remember hats and scarves and socks for the cooler weather up north.  I madly toss all the contents of the deck inside and lock up what can’t be put inside. I double check all the dock lines and press up the water tanks before I head to the showers onshore.  After securing the hatches and seacock’s and I notifying the dock master that I am leaving due to an emergency, would he just keep an eye on things, I head to the trolley station.  What a time for my MP3 player to act up!  I find the trip longer than usual, somehow closter phobic and it takes all that I can muster to stay calm.   I check in at a kiosk and go straight through security so have a half an hour before we board, I head directly to the bar. A tall cold beer slides down easily, and I order one more, keeping to myself, quietly trying to avoid the typical airport bar babble that the guy next to me wants to engage in.  The second goes down quicker than the first and I head to the gate with enough time to buy a few magazines before boarding.   Feeling a little less on edge now I am able to tune out reality, if only for a few minutes, while watching reality TV on the plane.  However, as we land and the cell phone beeps that a voice message is waiting for me, it is Steve, finally able to get a call out.  I call back and finally hear his voice, still jovial but tinged with pain.  I tell him I am just an hour away, I will be there as soon as I can, it sounds like a normal conversation.  My legs carry me where I need to go, my brain makes decisions that are rational and purposeful, I am functioning as if this all makes sense. As the cab pulls up the hospital it is after visiting hours and I enter through the emergency entrance.  I am not sure what I expected from the Highland Hospital in Oakland, California but this was not it.  I stepped into a waiting room full of noise and commotion, a quick scan revelled crying babies, old men coughing so violently I was afraid of what might be brought up, older ladies fiercely guarding over flowing shopping carts, a room full of dirty and down trodden people, there is a violence in the air….and thankfully a security desk.  I make a bee line and after a few phone calls to the nurse’s station upstairs I am directed to the elevators.  When the door finally slide open on the 7th floor I step off and am blanketed by sterile smelling air.  I seem to suffer from white collar syndrome, where even the smell of a local doctor’s office sends my heart racing and my stomach clenches.  It is all I can do not to gag, my stomach heaving.  As I walk down the hall the whole day of worry comes rushing back.  I hesitate just briefly outside the door, take as deep of a breath as I can muster without vomiting from the smell and step inside.  I find him, sitting up in bed, is face oozing from road rash, knuckles already scabbed up, IV’s and EKG patches and tubes running everywhere, and his left eye the deepest inky shade of aubergine and so swollen shut he doesn’t see me until he turns his head…and smiles at me.  He is broken.  I can only hold back the tears that are welling in my eyes. Suddenly the gravity of the day falls upon my shoulders, forcing me to sit down. My heart wells with the possibility that perhaps we are still riding that lucky streak, he is battered and bruised but it is only just a broken leg.  I spend over an hour with him and I am not sure who does more comforting, him or me.  It is late and we both need our rest so I kiss him goodnight, tuck in him and head to his apartment for some rest.  It is well after 11pm when I fall into bed, squeezing my eyes tight, hoping I will wake up in the morning and this will all be a dream.

But the next day breaks and I mechanically get out of bed; find the bus stop, a Starbucks for coffee and breakfast and the next bus to the hospital.  I am exhausted and this is only day two, I can’t imagine having to do this for months on end.  I arrive to the security desk check in at 3 minutes to 10. Visiting hours do not start until 10am, and I will have to wait until then.  I though perhaps my first impression of the hospital was tainted slightly by the duress and late hour last night, but this morning I see much of the same faces and then some. The gentleman in front of me when I return to the security desk two and a half minutes later has no shoes on and his jeans are so dirty you can barely tell they are jeans.  I check in and head upstairs to wait.  Although he was scheduled for a 7:30 am surgery I fully expect it to closer to midday before I see him. But I want to be at his bed and the first smile he sees.  I should be waiting for him, not him waiting for me. I have come armed with a stack of magazines to pass the time.  His room is a buzz with activity.  Besides his bed there are two other patients in the room.   The large black man, Mr. Crawford, in the bed facing has finally had an amputation to his leg, after 14 surgeries over two years.  They were unable to salvage anything below his knee and in fact had to take much more above his knee that expected. He seems to know the whole nursing staff by name, as well as several patients and calls out to them all loudly in a deep booming bass voice as they pass by the open door. He is entertained by a TV on full volume, but does not seem bothered by the fact that without an antenna it is mostly static, buzzing more loudly when any of the nursing staff walk around his bed. Beside Steve’s bed and behind a curtain is a Vietnamese man, Mr. Woo, who has had some type of throat or neck procedure done and who now cannot swallow properly.  He spends his day with his finger on the nurse’s call button and hacking violently, spitting and apologising to the rest of the room from behind his curtain.  I sit for hours reading and re-reading the same pages of magazines, not that I could tell you what was written, but somehow I am calm and assured that everything is fine and he’ll be wheeled back up anytime now.  That is until after fixing Mr. Crawford’s TV for the fifth time he decides that he should put his two cents worth in, exclaiming that for such a surgery he should definitely be back already, hope everything is alright.  It is almost one o’clock and I have been pushing the very same thought out of my head for an hour now, having someone verbalize it doesn’t help.   I go for a walk down to the lobby to get a juice or something sweet, but this doesn’t help much, and while I am down there the hospital goes into lock down, no can enter or exit or move about the buildings, I over hear whispers about a lost baby, I try and remain calm. After my return to the relative sanity of the 7th floor, I inquiry again with the nurse and she says she’ll call downstairs and see if he is in recovery yet.  She doesn’t return for almost another hour, and by this time I have let panic seep in the cracks of my calm, stoic reserve.  I go out to the nurses’ station just in time for her to remember that she was suppose to let me know that he is fine, and full recovered and will be up very shortly. 

And shortly after hearing this he is wheeled in and hooked up again.  He is groggy but positive; the orthopaedic team gave him a good report after the surgery.   They have cut his knee, moved his knee cap aside and inserted a titanium rod down the middle of his tibia, anchoring it at ankle and below the knee, although it took two men to wrestle his leg back to alignment, all went just as planned. After they settle him I pull the curtain around his bed, shielding him from the noise of the room, maybe if we can’t see them, they don’t exist.  No luck, apparently there has been this much commotion all night long, he barely got any rest between the TV, the hacking and the nurses coming in to wake him up just to ask if he needed anything.  Yeah, sleep!  He nods on and off all afternoon, I fill the awake time with news from friends and family, nothing important, just something to fill the silence.  As the afternoon wears on his aesthetic wears off and they put him on a self administered morphine drip. I notice that between dozing he is pressing his button more often than he’d like, but as he clicks the button against his forehead each time I cannot help but smile.  They may have broken his body but his spirit is still intact.  I decide by 5pm that I really can’t do anything for him, so best to leave him and let him rest, he agrees and I head home.  While waiting at the bus stop I make a few phone calls, Steve’s parents do not know what happened; he is not fully lucid to call.  I am now the early morning phone caller bearing bad news and my throat tightens as I remember how I felt just yesterday when Emily called.  They take it well, more of a scare and shock, but glad he’s in good hands, I a sure them that he’ll call as soon as he is up for it, I will keep them posted. 

A fitful night’s sleep for both of us.  The morphine plays tricks with his mind and the traffic in the room doesn’t let up all night long, when I return in the morning he looks worn out, he says he’s done with morphine.  I bring lunch this time, which he cannot eat, no appetite, but the weak black tea is welcomed.  After a surgery they monitor your bodily functions and lack of urine after 8 hours is a sign that you may have reacted to the aesthetic.  However, peeing while in pain and lying down is apparently not an easy task and as a result of there impatience somewhere around 2 am they decided he needed a catheter.  Obviously an unwelcome event, even more so when the attending physician apologised in the morning, it wasn’t necessary! 

The third day in hospital goes by much the same as the day before, me  filling the waking moments with idle chatter, nurses coming in and out in an endless stream to check vitals, IV’s, just to check, the TV blaring fuzzy noise, Mr. Woo drowning in his own spit.  I try to comfort Steve, move a dinner tray closer, fix a blanket, stoke his arm, but it seems every move I make is clumsy and causes him more pain than comfort. Neither my good intentions nor my quiet attentiveness seem to help matters, I am not playing the Florence Nightingale character well, he is the model patient. 

Despite it being only 24 hours after surgery the physio therapist has come to get him up and on crutches, the nature of the repair makes his leg 50 % load bearing already.   Although he agrees I can see that the pain killer he has just taken have not yet taken hold, and I call his bluff as she leaves the room.  They may not be able to spot his strong man act but I can and he admits that he would like to have another half an hour to relax and sleep hoping the vicodin will take the edge off the pain.  I find her in the hall and let her know, no problem she assures me.  He is up and able when she returns, teaching him to stand, sit and walk properly, he is happy he can get up to go pee.  In the afternoon she return to do a session on the stairs, how to properly use the rail and the crutches to bear your weight as you manoeuvre up and down.  She is very impressed by his mobility and says that unless the Attending has any objection that he may be discharged later today.  He is moved to a smaller and much quieter room for the afternoon, and he is finally able to rest.  Soon after we arrive he is snoring and doesn’t stir for over a half and hour, the longest I’ve seen him rest in days.  By now the news has gotten around and my voicemail is full of good wishes and concern from friends and family. It may be time to start fielding phone calls.  By 7:30 we are wondering when he will be discharged, he is dressed and chomping at the bit to go home.  I head out to the nurses’ station again to get some info and thankfully find Dr.Sipowsky, one of the Orthopaedic team that worked on him, signing off on his records.  I have been asking all day for some details, which no one has been able to give me and with him I finally get some answers as to what was done, how it went, what to expect and what to watch for.  He is young but intelligent and fields my questions with answers that are informative and not belittling, and I return to his room in an informed calm.  The head nurse kindly photocopies the contents of his medical file for us to take home, they know that we plan to head back to San Diego before his two week follow up where they will remove the heavy splint they have put on after the surgery and fit him with a walking cast, and we will need these to present to the next hospital.  His prescription is filled and we are finally discharged.  It is a bumpy cab ride home, Steve sitting in the back seat with his leg across the seat, and he has to put his stair climbing to the test, the apartment is on the second floor.  But we arrive home, and a night in a real bed without a room full of noisy people is a welcome thought.  What Steve was most looking forward to was a bath, it has been three days since a proper wash and we figure with a bath tub and a few plastic bags he might get a chance to soak.  But we are wrong, the bath tub is too short, his splint much too heavy and we can’t seem to find a position comfortable enough not only for his leg but his knee. SO he braces himself tensely as I wash away three days of pain and suffering.  He is clean but not comfortable. Emily has arranged a double mattress for us, but without a frame it is too low to the ground, so he sleeps alone and I in the bed beside him.  We set an alarm for 4am for a vicodin dose and both try and get some sleep.  It is good to be out of the hospital but we are both looking forward to getting home



4 am...Part 2

The next two weeks are spent a relative haze by both of us.  Steve spends most of his time lying in bed, stiff on his back, his leg on a pillow, flopping outward under the weight of the splint.  He wakes intermittently and calls from down the hall, is voice lost in the hollow empty apartment.  On the second day back home he tries to kick the pain killers, the vicodine is a heavy dose of acetaminophen laced with opiates, the latter of which is a little “trippy” and plays with his unconsciousness making it hard to sleep.  He refused his evening dose and does not want to be woken up for the 4 am dose either.  And so late the next morning he hobbles out to the living room- I hear the clicking of his crutches and his rhythmic grunting before I see him and so get his chair ready, a glass of water and the kettle on for tea- I’ve been up for hours already.  I sit back down, consciously forcing myself to wait for him instead of running down the hall, letting him make his way out threshold before asking if he needs me- of course not.  He looks worn out and unrested despite being in bed for over 12 hours.  Exhausted from fighting the pain, perhaps the worst I’ve seen him.  He sits and stares blankly at the TV, declaring that it was not a good nite, not a good idea and that he needs some “candy”.  He swallows two in one gulp, has a cup of tea and says that he is going back to bed.  I go ahead of him and quickly change the sheets; he has been running a slight but acceptable fever that I have been monitoring every few hours; as well he is getting hot and cold flashes from the pain.  I rearrange the pillows and put a new glass of water beside the bed, clear any debris from his path and then lay out a clean t-shirt for him to put on.  When he arrives I check his temperature, prop up his leg as comfortably as possible, tuck him in and close the blinds.  I return to the living room and spend the rest of the day in solitude, catching up on reruns of cooking shows and drinking cups and cups of Milo.  When Steve emerges later that evening, in time for his next vicodine, he looks better, I tell him so, exclaiming that this morning he looked like he got run over by a car…..he smiles slightly and says he did. SHIT, way to go Heather!  He feels like he would like to attempt a shower, he must be feeling better.  After scrounging for a plastic bag (must put that on the things to buy list) and a roll of blue tape, being a crew apartment they seem to be lying in every corner, he covers his leg, strips down and with several awkward pummel horse type movements gets his leg into the tub.  Standing up is not an option, so I tuck the shower curtain under him and leave him to enjoy the hot water while sitting on the side of the tub.  It is 15 minutes before I hear the water turn off and go in to help him get back out, the splint is so heavy, his knee sore from the surgery and the bathroom slippery that he needs something solid it hold onto.   After getting dressed and feeling much better for the shower he stays up on the sofa to have a lite dinner and watch a few programs before he retires to bed again, leaving me on my own.  It is Friday nite, Halloween, one of my favourite times of year. The crew is having a big piss up at a local pub but we obviously are not going despite me trying to convince Steve that he could go as a very convincing accident victim.  I think of my two little pumpkins that are waiting to be carved back on Kate, crack a beer and look for a scary movie on TV.

When Saturday rolls around he is doing much better, the 4am alarm I set to give him his vicodine is doing him well, I am feeling a little worse for wear.  He has decided that he needs to sell his bike; yes he bought another motorcycle while in San Francisco, a Honda XR650!!  Originally he had a Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday off and he figured that being so close to wine country and some good roads he would be able to get some nice rides in.  However that all quickly changed as the work loaded increased and time off became only a hopeful thought each passing week. He put only 60 miles on the thing in a month and since he is now unable to ride it back to San Diego he is determined to sell it here before we leave.  In the rain on Saturday morning I went out and took a few photos of the beast and he posted it on Craig’s List, the exact same spot he found it.  Within hours he had phone calls and Sunday afternoon was spent hobbling up and down the stairs to show the bike.  But, like all bikes Steve seems to own, it takes a bit of finesse to get it going. Acertain finesse that sometimes it seems only he possesses.  Some people tame wild horses, others have TV shows teaching dogs new tricks, Steve is a bike whisperer- the more particular and strange the better. But undoubtedly, with a few tweaks, a kick and a twitch of the nose he gets it going and running smooth. And so I spent the afternoon pushing strangers around the parking lot while they tried unsuccessfully to give it a running kick start, all the while Steve is shaking his head and shouting directions.  No one is successfully, even with me pushing, although Steve has managed a running start by himself before the accident.  Then, third customer lucky and along comes Eduardo, a curious Italian guy who rolls up in a noisy white VW bus.  He gets it started with a pair of jumper cables but it dies shortly after, yet despite this and several laps with me pushing him around the parking lot, he agrees to buy it.  He says that his life it surrounded by machines that don’t work, and so this will fit nicely, the screeching of some belt in his VW that is calmed only when he revs it in neutral is a testament to this.  He puts a hundred dollar deposit down and says he will return tomorrow with a friend.  And to his word he does.  Steve stays upstairs, worn out from the three times he went up and down the stairs the day before, so I am the middle man.  I watch curiously as Eduardo and his Latino friend squeeze the bike into the back of the VW, tie it to the frame of the closed passenger side door through the open window all while telling me how he drove all the way to Vegas like this once. He piles his friend into the back barely on a seat and screechs away with that belt screaming again.  However, I have the cash in my pocket and he a smile of his face, looks like everyone has kicked a goal.  I tell Steve he has to start going to meetings, Bike-aholic Anonymous. He is still in denial.  I have a feeling he may be in for a life long battle. 

Over the next few days the crew starts to drop by, they have been anxious to see Steve but have been working overtime trying to get the boat ready to head to Hawaii, already behind schedule several weeks.  John, the English Engineer that Steve go along very well with, and the boys stop by one evening for drinks, the first time since his accident that Steve has had a beer.  Although I know he really shouldn’t be drinking, he is moderate and it looks like it is doing him good to have a few of the guys around for beers.  It is nice to see him laughing again.

Originally we thought and planned that we would only stay in San Fran a few days after Steve was discharged, just enough time for him to get is footing, so to speak.  However I quickly saw and he slowly realized that perhaps have a normal bed you can sit down on rather than climb up onto,  a real sized sofa to stretch out on, a bath tub to half shower half bath in and a TV would be easier than moving onto the boat ASAP.  Maybe we should stay for the two week follow up appointment and see the same Orthopaedic team; they will remove the heavy splint and replace it with a walking cast. Maybe it would be more comfortable for Steve. However, the lease is up on the apartment we are in, the crew as moved back on board and we are here alone.  We tell Emily, the girl in charge of seemingly everything, that we would like to stay another week.  No problem, we will just have to move into the guest suite of the whole apartment complex, they need to vacate and sell the remaining furniture.  She also offers a few days of day work to me, cleaning up and organizing.  As I am spending my days staring at the television I figure why not, a bit of money won’t go astray now that we are staying in the US for another few months.  We pack up and start the move, which really entails me walking back and forth between apartment pack horse style with arm loads and bags full, boy am I missing my little wheelie cart right now! I can see it frustrates Steve not being able to help much, but I insist that he can’t manage himself and an arm load luggage too.   It doesn’t take long and we are settled in again, and this time in a full furnished guest apartment.  It is lovely and clean and doesn’t smell like four boys. It even has a coffee maker and coffee so I sit and enjoy a cup, oh the little things.

Emily drops off uniforms and I start in the morning tidying our old apartment, sorting what can be taken to Goodwill, kitchen stuff, clothes left behind etc, and what needs to be thrown out.  As the some of the crew have been in these apartments for over a year there is a lot of random stuff that has been thrown out, your bedroom is not as big as your cabin on board.  I find a trash started in one of the boy’s rooms and continue cleaning. As I am taking an oversized garbage bag, one big enough to dispose of a large human body, full and sagging down the stairs and across the parking lot to the dumpster one of the grounds keepers offers to help.  I hand over the bag and turn away only to hear a rip and a crash.  The bag has broken and all its contents empty into the walkway.  Included are a couple dozen condoms, in various colors and flavours off course, and an opened deck of nudie cards which land mostly face up.  I quickly start picking things up, peering up from the sidewalk explaining to the smirking Spanish man that these aren’t mine, I don’t think buys it.  Thanks Boys!!!

The next few days I am working in the 400 building, which I learn is an old aircraft hanger on the abandon Navel Base that is now a storage facility for the shipyard.  The boat has undergone a complete refit and this hanger is where everything that came off the boat was stored. It looks like a giant picked up the ship and shook it like a toy until everything fell out, scarttering into random piles all over the floor.  It is my job to sort and organize, separating anything useful, donate able, salvageable or needing to be disposed of properly.  It is dirty and cool but I enjoy the solitude and sorting through great piles of interesting things.  I find lots of medical supplies that Emily has told me I can take and suddenly my medical kit back on Kate is fully outfitted with a dental repair kit, suture kits, stethoscope, sterile laceration kits and the like.  Hopefully not ever to be used, but always handy to have. I stand contemplating piles of teak that were removed from the boat, dreaming of things to do with it.  Steve comes by one afternoon to see if there are any engineering parts that might be useful to us.  He finds lots of “good stuff”. I am there to insure that they are things we are really going to use as I am the one that will have to load them into the car then into the dock cart then down the dock then onto Kate. 

Suddenly it is Wednesday, I’ve been here for two weeks, and Steve gets his cast changed in the morning.  We move again, this time into a hotel for the last few nites.  Emily and the boat have really taken care of us, they have no idea how much more difficult this could have been for us, we couldn’t ask for more.  She has arranged for a rental car for me to pick up in the morning to take Steve to the Orthopaedic Clinic, then for the drive back to San Diego.  We have too much stuff to fly and it would probably be too uncomfortable for Steve, at least in a car he car have his leg up in the back seat.  I met her outside in the fog and she drives me to the rental place to make sure everything goes smoothly.  I head back to pick up Steve then battle 9am traffic to the hospital.  We are on time but of course the clinic is backed up.  Four hours later, after an infuriating process of signing in as a foreign citizen with foreign insurance (although they accepted it all when we were discharged two weeks ago) Steve is finally called into the Clinic to wait again.  When a doctor finally comes in, with charts in hand does not introduce himself and then asks Steve what happened to his ankle, foot, leg and which one.  He doesn’t look at anything but sends him to the next room where a technician removes the splint and the staples and recasts it.  I have been waiting, camera in hand, to be able to see his leg and take a few pictures but am told I cannot go into the casting room where it is all being done; they do not have curtains between the beds so there is not enough privacy.   My frustration of this hospital reaches a new height.  Finally after almost five hours we are ready to go home.  Steve’s new cast is tight and uncomfortable, holding his leg in a new and painful position.  He is looking forward to lying down for a few hours, the new cast is fibreglass and lighter and smaller than the cumbersome splint. 

Barry, the project manager for the boat, has invited us and Emily out to dinner as a goodbye.  We met them for at a Chinese restaurant just across the street for a lovely dinner and conversation.  At the end of the meal we open fortune cookies.  Steve’s reads “You will never know hunger”, mine says “A delay is better than a disaster”.  It is eerily appropriate and perhaps foretelling; perhaps this unfortunate set back has saved us from a worse fate.  Maybe we are a lot luckier than we think.  Time will tell.  We bid them good nite and head back to our room, it will be a long day tomorrow, but being home, in our own bed will be well worth the drive.



Home Again

I had loaded the car the day before so all that was left was the small suitcase in our hotel room- but I was honestly wondering how even that was going to fit it the car.  Emily had asked for a standard sized rental but all that was available for a one way drive to San Diego was a compact.  We were filled to the gills, complete with half the back seat folded down and a VHF antenna thrusting between the front seats- yes, lots of “good stuff”.  We woke early Friday morning, a quick breakfast at the hotel and hit the road by 8:30am.  This meant that, pending traffic, we would hopefully get home by 4pm and before dark. Driving in California is bad enough, who needs to be navigating the freeway during rush hour in the dark? As we head into the tunnel under the harbour between Alameda and San Francisco we are both happy to heading towards the boat and away from this place. There is an optimistic feeling in the car as we are closing this horrible chapter of our adventures and starting a new one.  It always feels good to have a clean page of paper to write on. 

We snake our way through Oakland and onto the I-5 which should take us all the way to San Diego, not that I am excited by this, I would rather drive several little roads then spend all day on the interstate but it is the most direct route. It is hazy and the horizon is blue with smoke blowing from the wild fires burning in Mendocino County, threatening the winter mansions of several celebrities. The radio host on the local rock station sounds very concerned, I have trouble mustering sympathy.   As we race down the highway at 75 miles an hour I find myself, regardless of which lane I am in, being passed on both sides and having to pass slower drivers ahead of me, accelerate then slow down, accelerate then slow down.  After a frustrating hour of lane changes and trying to predict traffic patterns I give up and stick to a middle lane. They can whiz past me at 90 on both sides, they can honk, they can drive like Grandma’s, I don’t care.  I am, as Steve puts it, driving my own drive.  It is only when the magical car pool lane appears that I get some relief. The Car Pool Lane, for those of you who live in place where such things need not exist, is a lane closest to the center barrier that you can you can only enter/exit it at designated points, it is for vehicles carrying 2 or more passengers.  As this is a fairly rare occurrence in America, having more than one person in a car that is, it is most often empty and the road surface much better. I make a well timed zigzag across four lanes just in time to enter and find myself alone, with miles of prime concrete stretching into the distance.  I push the cruise control button, set my speed at 75mph and for 60 wonderful miles have a nice drive on the interstate.  Until my magical car pool lane ends abruptly and without warning and I am again thrust into the fast and the furious who don’t know what an indicator is or when to use it.  By the time Steve asks if I am ready for lunch I am more than in need of a break, it’s been four hours.  We pass several exit before getting off the highway, our choices are limited: would you like a burger, a burger or a burger and fries.  We opt for the latter.  A bit of food and slurp of sugary pop wakes me up but I can see Steve is suffering.  This is the longest he’s spent with his leg down in a long time, certainly since getting the new cast on, it is swollen and uncomfortable.  After several persuasive suggestions he agrees to sit in the back seat.  I rearrange the car, moving luggage forward and blankets and pillows back.  He wriggles in between the VHF antenna and the piles books and I prop his leg up on backpack.  As the blood starts to drain from his leg so does the pain on his face, he slowly leans against the locked door and closes his eyes to trying rest.  We continue on in silence for a few more hours, he stirs only when I change lanes, ask directions or loudly swear at the crazy drivers.  The traffic thickens as we skirt LA and for 50 miles the drivers get even crazier, but my car pool lane reappears and takes me almost all the way to San Diego and back to some sanity.  Although the sun is getting low on the horizon we decide that it would be best to check mail and get a few food items before we get home.  There is more mail than expected waiting for us (the wind generator has arrived and some secret shopping I had been doing for Christmas too) and it is shoved ever so gingerly onto of Steve who by now is getting cranky and wanting out.  I pick up some bread, veggies and beer and then battle home through 5pm traffic.  When we finally reach the marina it is almost dark.  I load up one dock chart with only what we need for the nite and decide to finish unpacking in the morning, I can’t bear all the lugging and organizing right now.  Kate is fine, just the way I left her plus a little more dirt and dust.  We realize it has been three months since Steve has been onboard, he has spent more time away than on board since we bought her, he is more than glad to be home.  A few beers, a light dinner and we hit the sack.  Steve decides that the sofa looks like an easier sleeping arrangement for him than trying to crawl up into the bed so I tuck him in with lots of blankets, it is cold without central heating, and we call our good nites from our separate cabins.  We are lulled to sleep by the creaking of the dock lines and a gentle rocking when the calm water is disturbed; it is great to be home.

The following week is rather mellow, Steve still needs to have his leg up most of the day, his sleep is sporadic at best and although he is slowing up on the vicodine I think it is more out of will than necessity. He forces himself up the dock for a shower daily, using the short walk and the trip up and down the stairs as exercise.  I am left to pick up the slack onboard, and with no surprise keep myself busy washing, cleaning, sewing etc…  It is good to be working again.  Kate from Knight & Carver stops by and drops off a basket of goodies and a get well card from the yard, it is lovely of them to think of us.  She invites over to the monthly yard BBQ lunch at the end of the week but when Friday rolls around Steve is just not up for it.  We make plans only for the next day and are prepared for them to change depending on what kind of night he has had.

By the weekend Steve is getting cabin fever and is itching to get back to work. He is good for a few hours then needs a break, frustrated that everything takes three times longer then it should and he can’t do it all on his own.  I become the body and he the brains of the operation, which scary considering my clumsiness and most activities involve power tools or sticky white chalking.  But we mutter through; Steve finishes wiring up the anchor winch which he installed before he left in August.  I am told to drill holes in the foredeck to install the foot controls, it is my turn to put a hole in the hull, he says. I have not had great success with the hole saw in the past and am not looking forward to the challenge. And honestly I don’t want to put a hole in the boat…ever. No choice. I hold my breath and carefully drill the holes in Steve’s triple measured marks, I am also famous for “just eyeing” things.  PERFECT!  Next I am given a tube of 5200 (marine grade sticky white chalking) and a screwdriver to install the foot peddles, permanently affixing them to the deck.  Several rags and a bottle of alcohol later (that’s how you get the sticky stuff off of anything before it dries) they are complete, look good and are in the right place.  After some careful cleaning up no one will know that for a few minutes me, all the tools and most of the foredeck were covered in 5200.

The self steering gear (the hydrovane) that arrived in six boxes the week before the accident has been taunting Steve from the cockpit, so he sets about unpacking it all and taking stock that everything has arrived undamaged (I wasn’t about to attempt this as I have had a bad run on losing small parts screws recently).  We decide that installation will be easiest if we put the tender in the water, we can tie it to the dock behind us and use it to work on the transom.  Timmy, our tender, is a 10’ zodiac with removable floor boards that you can deflate, roll up and put away when not in use.  When we bought the boat it was inflated and spent a morning cleaning it up and then put it away in the yard before we were hauled out for the bottom job.  Technically we haven’t put it together before; this is a realization that only comes to me later while sweating and swearing on the dock.  Like most good puzzles there is a key piece that goes in last, finding which one that is without instructions is always a jolly good time isn’t it?  Steve hobbles off to the bathroom to let me struggle on my own, I am not much better off when he returns but eventually, after a little lively “conversation”, it is inflated and hoisted into the water.   Steve crawls in and assesses the installation: we will need to fabricate some pads to take up the space between the supports and the curve of the transom, it would be nice to use teak but they are 8”X4” and would be too expensive to buy.  And then it dawns on me!  Jerry, our Alaskan friend from the yard, had piles and piles of teak on his boat when he bought it and he kept telling me that if I ever needed some to take it. At first I figured it was just a passing gesture. But he kept bringing it up so in the end, when we helped him move a couple piles below decks I grabbed a few pieces. At the time Steve was shaking his head at me, why was I taking great hulking pieces of teak?  Where were we going to store them?  Well, they neatly got put under the cockpit, and this was the time we’d use some.  I scurried off and pulled out an 8”X8’ plank in pristine condition.  “What do you want with all that teak Heather?” I announce beaming with a mocking smile as immerge from the cabin.  He shakes his head grinning, knowing that he will be hearing these words more than once in the coming days.  But it is a perfect fit and now we are BOTH glad that I took Jerry up on his offer.  He next two days are spent scuttling between the dock and the tender, covered in saw dust trying to get these two pieces of wood to fit perfectly between the angle of the transom and the angle to the supports.  The first one is completed in an hour, deceiving easy I later discover. The second is a bit more work and by the end of the second afternoon there is a jig saw, hole saw, hand sander, files, drills, a grinder, chisels’, splinters of wood and bits of sandpaper strewn all over the dock.  I manage to only grind a small hole in my left index finger before I stop, completely frustrated, cold and near to tears. Steve assures me that he will finish it up tomorrow, for now just forget about it and so I do. It is American Thanksgiving today and although Canadian Turkey day was last month and we did not get a turkey, they only grow them as 10lbs or more and we really don’t feel like eating turkey for a month, we have a chicken to roast.  It has been quiet cool here at night and without a heat source or insulation the boat is also cool, so any opportunity to turn on the oven and heat the cabin is welcome.  It is a dinner with all the trimmings; stuffing, potatoes, squash, gravy and cranberry sauce.  A much needed treat after a long day! Sure enough, the next morning, with a new set of eyes and some persistence Steve does some final sanding and gets it right, sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees.  For the rest of the day Steve is in the tender drilling more holes in the hull and I am in the cockpit holding, heaving, passing, taking pictures, being a third hand and a second opinion.  There is more 5200 and thankfully another bottle of alcohol and by the end of the day we have finished the installation, done a dry run of the rest of the construction and have both suffered only minor digital injuries. Great success!!! 

We decide that Sunday will be a day off-literally.  Steve hasn’t been past the men’s showers here at the marina in two weeks, he is starting to forget what a road looks like.  So we treat ourselves, call a cab and head downtown for the day.  Without prompting Steve suggests the mall….I am beginning to think that he may not be feeling well enough to be out, he actually wants to go to the mall?  But who am I to resist?  We have a lavish soy drink at Starbucks and walk around, Steve suggesting that we go into Banana Republic and the Gap, now I am starting to get scared.  He is a trooper and takes the stairs instead of the elevator, walks a much as he can and generally enjoys shopping.  I buy two cheap t shirts and a few DVD’s and we are done.  Time to head across the street and have a beer-I now know why Steve suggested the mall, it’s near the Yard House, a bar with over 100 beers on tap.  He orders a Chocolate Stout and I get a cider and we enjoy each others company and an afternoon out.  That is until the bill shows up and we realize why we haven’t gone out in the last three months but we both agree that it is good for crew moral.  Since we will have to take a cab home as well we hit a near by grocery store and make it worth the fare.  Steve is over the moon at the electric buggies with shopping baskets on the front and spends his time zooming up and down the isles honking and beeping at people, doing donuts and general being a terror.  He is appalled when some woman gets up from her buggy and walks half way down an isle to pick up a can of something. He is annoyed people are not at all accommodating, seeing him more as a hindrance to there daily grocery shopping and he loudly announces that “no one cares about the cripple!” as we are standing in line at the cash.  I am only slightly mortified.

Before you know it we are back on boat.  After hobbling around all day Steve is ready to put his foot up, so we open a new DVD and spend the night on the sofa.  Steve surprises me by wanting to sleep in our bunk with me, his leg has been feeling good enough that he can sleep on his side now.  As we get settled, his leg up on a pillow, me a careful distance away, it is beginning to feel like things are getting back to normal.  We whisper our good nites and I fall asleep listening to him snore, it’s nice to have him back.



I’ll be Home for Christmas…..

Sometimes you wonder if things are being decided for you. Not in a someone telling you what to do kind of way, but in a universe, higher intelligence, fate kind of way.  And so it was, one cool weekend morning Steve and I were finishing up a lovely toast and eggs breakfast (toast just an excuse to open the oven and heat the cabin) when the phone rang.  My friend Em, in Toronto, just calling to chat.  As we caught up and giggled to each other we spoke about her up coming trip to Halifax for the holidays and our fairly unconsidered new plans for Christmas in San Diego.  Steve was due to have his cast off days before Christmas and we figured it would be pretty quiet, just the two of us.  We reminisced of holiday parties and snow storms of past and when we hung up I had a wistful far away look in my eye.  Steve, meanwhile, had been on the computer, listening to our conversation and secretly hatching a plan.  As I hung up the phone he called me out to the cockpit, he had something to discuss, and by the tone of his voice it sounded important and perhaps my fault.  But before I could sit down the phone rang again, twice in one day, a new record.  It was my folks and after a few hellos and general catching up they inquired if I had considered coming home for Christmas.  I hadn’t in fact; or rather I wouldn’t let myself.  They understood if we couldn’t, and really unless we could stay more than a few days it wouldn’t be worth the 8 hour flight.  I bushed it off saying we would talk it over but really it didn’t make much financial sense, we had budgeted to be drinking 50 cent, not 5 dollar beers by now.  I refused to seriously consider it up until now; I could not bare the disappointment. I hung up a half an hour later, and sat down next to Steve, “You had something to talk about?” I said, disappointedly. 

“Well,  I was already looking into this when you were talking to Em.  I want to take you home for Christmas.”

I lit up like the proverbial tree, “What? Seriously? How?” 

“I just found some cheap tickets; we can both go for around $1300. I know you really want to go home for Christmas.”

Well I did, these hot and humid on the beach Christmas’ just don’t satisfy this Canadian girl’s holiday spirit.  And that was an awfully good price, but still, was it really a good idea?

“Look,” he said, “I just worked for three months so we could have money to do what we want.  It will be my Christmas present to you, a white Christmas Honey!”

It was definitely the universe trying to tell me something, and after a half an hour debate with myself I listened. An hour later and a little more searching we had booked the tickets for two hundred dollars less.  The rest of the morning was a blur. I was flitting about, discussing what we should pack, where to go, who to see, while Steve was lying on the sofa trying to stay clear of my excited frenzy. I was already considering what warm clothes and boots to borrow, would Steve’s jeans fit over his cast, could we get spikes for his crutches and grips for his shoes, could we get the cast off in Halifax and how would get get home formthe airport at 10pm.There was long discussion, mostly with myself, over just showing up and surprising people or calling and telling them now.  I couldn’t contain myself and had told someone, so I called Em and put an appointment in her very busy schedule while she was at home five days. I figured that the family would be sending cards, parcels and such to us soon, especially since I had been hinting at my sister for a care package of her holiday cookies, and so I called and told my parents that we indeed we coming home.  Everyone was happy, and plans for a late nite airport pick up by my brother Thomas were settled, but how was I going to wait two and a half weeks?

We decided that we would really need to get a move on and finish up a few more projects before we departed.  First up was to sell a few items.  We acquired a couple of folios of British Admiralty charts, one of them being for the Mediterranean, and since we are not planning on sailing there in the next few years at least, they were just taking up valuable space.  In good shape and updated in the last two years they are worth $35-40 a piece new so we figured post the lot on eBay for $4 each and see what happens.  We also had the self steering system that came with the boat when we purchased it, the Capehorn.  In “like new” condition and used only 6 times by the previous owner we thought it too complicated and inefficient for us and so we replace it with the Hydrovane.  Although Steve had unsuccessfully posted it last summer and it failed to reach its asking price we thought we’d try it once more and perhaps be a little more conservative with our reserve.  After a weekend of answering email inquires and checking on bid status’ we were disappointed that the charts did not make it much past a hundred bucks.  That is until one of the bidders emailed and asked if we’d still be interested in selling them, he'd give us our asking price!  The Capehorn on the other hand ended up being a last minute bidding war and fetched $2200, well over our $1500 that we were willing to settle for.  And the best part was the dude who bought it in Hawaii frequents San Diego and so we don’t even have to worry about shipping.

I set about fixing the bimini, well, extending the piece that fits between the dodger and the bimini, so that we have complete cover in the cockpit, making the jack lines (webbing that runs the complete length of the deck and are used to clip our safety harness to underway) and a few other small projects while the sewing machine was out.  I also figured that since Timmy was still in the water I would scrub the waterline; the old girl had a nasty green beard growing!  The marina is at the base of a fresh water river called Sweetwater, because of that and the sun shining on one side of the boat all day long we get dark green fresh water algae growing very quickly. I had scrubbed the waterline before I left for San Francisco and it was ten times as bad now.  So, after washing the topside I armed myself with a scrub brush, mitt and chamois and I tried not to float away in Timmy or fall in the drink while cleaning both the boot stripe and the quickly polishing the hull.  She sparkled and gleamed!  We had barely any pictures of her in the water from the water so we rowed out and snapped a few in the late afternoon light.  It will be nice to get one without a dock in the background sometime soon too!

One of the last things we wanted to do was rent a car and drive up to Minney’s in Newport Beach, a second hand marine store.  Steve has decided that we should have a spinnaker pole so that we can pole out the jib downwind catching a little more wind.  The spinnaker pole attaches to a car that runs along a track mounted on the mast.  We have the track, but the pole and car and attachments were removed and sold before we purchased the boat.  And to top it off, it is all a strange design and is no longer manufactured. After detailed emails, photos and much conversation we found out the car that belongs to the track that was sold to Minney’s a few years ago is indeed still there, and he also had a large selection of poles. So we rented a car, packed up the charts to be mailed and a few miscellaneous bits and bobs we’d take to get some trade in value and drove up to Newport.  I had a few reservations as driver, not just because we were still in California, but because this spinnaker pole was at least 17 feet in length.  Our car, despite it being a Dodge, was not.  It was either going to be hanging out the back or being tied to the side mirror, in a jousting stick fashion.  Neither of which I was looking forward to.  It was a relatively relaxed drive up, a stop for coffee and gas and we were there.  Minney’s itself was a treasure trove of all things marine.  Bins and bins of old instruments and fittings, more bins of parts still in packages, rooms of hatches, piles of teak, engines, breaker panels, sails, anything you could dream of. And outside, a variety of anchors, outboards, masts and poles.  With a very excited puppy running around vying for our attention we sifted through the piles and boxes.  After much measuring and considering we found a little gem, all in working order, with all the right fittings, and in its own canvas bag.  I had joked that we could find the perfect pole and cut it in half to get it home (although I knew it would be 17’ long I wasn’t expecting 4” round), but Steve didn’t think this was funny.  Our little gem was the perfect solution; it had all been done for us!  A two part pole, with at least a one foot over lap, properly sleeved and bolted to fit together.  Since we were only using it to pole out the jib it wouldn’t have too much stress put on it. Best of all, it was only 9’ long; it would fit completely inside the car!  A few teak hand rails (I had to get something teak into the basket!) and of course the car for the mast track and we were on our way, satisfied customers!  We stopped for a quick soup and salad lunch and found a boutique liquor store that sold both Toohey’s New and Magners Cider so we treated ourselves.  The drive home was better than expected; there wasn’t nine extra feet of spinnaker pole hanging off the car making manoeuvring through traffic a hell of a lot easier.  Because of this we made a few stops on the way home, to the mail box to send off the folio of charts (they were by the way 2’X3’, weighed 40lbs and were made of flexible paper. You can imagine the scene of me in the middle of floor at the mail box place trying to concoct some kind of envelope for them with cardboard boxes and red duct tape, not pretty but pretty funny) and to the grocery store, why not stock up with dry goods while we have a vehicle?  Of course that meant that Steve could once again terrorize the shoppers in his motorized cart, so he was up for it!

We decide to take the old girl out for a sail, try out the self steering gear, the new prop Steve had yet to drive and really just stretch our sea legs, it’s been a few months.  We ended picking a cold and grey day with the wind a steady 15 knots.  We both got bundled up, knowing it would be even colder as we punched up the bay against the wind.  I had been squirreling away a few presents for our then Mexico Christmas, figuring that what I was wanting might be hard to find down there.  One of them was a pair of hats that I got my friend Rebecca, an incredible knitter who I caught up with in Halifax during my visit last summer, to knit for us and mail down.  I had been planning on giving him his just before we headed to the airport but I decided today we were both going to need a hat so I made it a breakfast surprise.  He loves it! And ended up wearing it all week long as it was especially cold and grey here.    Getting off the dock was a bit of a trick, Steve not yet used to the particularities of this new three blade propeller but once underway it was fine.  We reefed the main before hoisting and had a good heel most of the morning.  Steve sat at the wheel and I manned the rigging. The test run went well and it was nice to be out again, to be reminded of what is to come (and hopefully it will come a little less messy, we apparently were not as secured as we thought and most everything ended up in the floor, thankfully it all landed on the sofa cushions which also slide off.  Another project to add to the list!).

The next week was spent tidying up, making lists, checking things off and getting ready to go home.  I packed and repacked, organized and scheduled and just about made Steve crazy.  He is improving but does have a couple of bad days where all he can do is rest on the sofa with his leg up and sleep a lot.  He has mostly kicked the vicodine, saving them for those bad days, just before bed so he can sleep the night through. And he has an occasional really bad day when he has very little appetite, refusing even a beer.  Suddenly it was Friday, and we were climbing into the bunk, all packed but the morning necessities, cab scheduled at 7 am, teapot on standby, boat closed up and secured, alarms set.  By this time tomorrow night we’d be in Nova Scotia. We’d be home for Christmas, it wasn’t just in my dreams.


I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

It was an early morning but I was awake before the alarm even sounded, too excited to sleep most of the night.  Everything was planned and laid out so our groggy 6 am brains didn’t have to work too hard.  We got up and dressed, had a cup of tea, closed up the boat, packed the last few morning toiletries away and headed down the dock.   The cab was waiting and we arrived at the airport in no time.  After a frustrating few minutes at the automatic check in teller (where half the time the airline workers have to A. help you check in or B. check in your luggage anyway so I fail to see the point of the stupid machines) we had our checked luggage paid for (yep, gotta pay for each checked bag now) and were heading to security.  After removing our shoes, sweaters, belts, watches, laptops, and toiletries and handing over Steve’s crutches we went through separately. NO problems, but would you mind if we did a swab of your cast? Please step over here Sir (casts are a common way to smuggle stuff through airport security, apparently). So, as I packed everything back into our carry on, and got properly dressed Steve was searched and swabbed by a separate agent.  Of course the obvious question “What happened to your leg?” is asked, but by now Steve is tired of the obvious answer to the question EVERYONE asks, and so he answers with a dead pan face “Weiner dog attack.”  Without turning my head I squeeze my eyes shut, both so I won’t snicker or gasp, this IS airport security we are dealing with here. “REALLY?” the officer asks, believing him, as he places the swab into the machine to analyze it.  I ever so slightly shake my head, not quite hearing the rest of the conversation, but watching out of the corner of my eye the little curl in Steve’s lip that I have come to know means he’s fibbing. I collect our things and stand beside, but well away from Steve and the officer.  He’s cleared and we hobble off together to the gate.  When we get there we settle in for a “coffee”(hummm hmm) at he bar just across from the gate and over the intercom a woman asks that if you’d like to have early boarding or need assistance to please notify them.  So, I head to the counter and simply tell them that my husband (don’t get excited here people, it just makes it easier) has a broken leg and crutches, we’d like to preboard, and perhaps if there is, oh, a seat with extra leg room or a whole row for just the two if us? Smile, twinkle.  “OH, dear, well he gets a courtesy upgrade to EconomyPlus due to his disability.” She taps a few keys and replaces our boarding passes. I say my thank you’s as she was a genuinely nice and cheery woman at 7:30am and sit back down to finish my “coffee”.  We agree that finally the cripple card was a benefit and pass by everyone to board the plane. We have a nice flight and a tail wind gets us to Chicago O’Hare Airport 45 minutes ahead of schedule, affording us the luxury of sitting to have a bit to eat, have a beer, call my brother Thomas to let him know we are on time, in fact may be early if we keep this tail wind, and hobble to the next gate.  It is a smaller plane and we are not sitting together but he’s tired and will try and catch a few ZZZ’s so what does it matter anyway?  It was a relatively quiet flight; Steve snored quietly, if that’s not an oxymoron, as the man beside him spoke into a Dictaphone and scribbled notes on a stack of papers, I ordered a glass of wine or two.  As I leaned forward to pass Steve a pen and his Canadian immigration papers to fill out I noticed the heading on the man’s paper said “Capital Health”, something I found familiar but couldn’t quite place.  After a little more observation I noticed the word orthopaedic appear a few times and that he was stamping his notated papers with an official stamp, it read QEII Health Sciences. Of course!  He was a doctor from the Halifax hospital, and appeared to be in orthopaedics.  I leaned forward “Excuse me Sir; sorry to be looking over your shoulder but I was wondering if you might be able to answer a question for me?”  Yes, no problem he said. “My husband, beside you (yes, yes, alright, don’t get excited again) is due to get his cast removed next week and I was just wondering, well, I am originally from Halifax but haven’t lived there for a few years, do we just go the emergency room and tell them what’s going on or is there an Orthopaedic clinic to contact?”  At first he simply told us that yes, just go to emergency room; they’ll forward you to the ortho clinic.  Then after he packed his work away and we started our decent he and Steve started chatting and we suddenly had an appointment with him that Thursday, his secretary’s name and phone number, and all our details that he would pass along to her. (Did it help that the doctor was taking his family to Australia soon and asked for some travel destination advice?) I smiled at the possibility of this happening because we were finally in Nova Scotia!  Customs and immigration was quick and suddenly we were loading our bags into Thomas’ van, pulling our toques (that’s Canadian for hat/beanie) down tight over our ears and being whipped by a cold northern wind. It was flurrying (a lite snow that doesn’t accumulate much) and as we drove down the highway I stared out the back window and smiled, it was great to be home again.

We were greeted with open arms at Mom and Dad’s, along with a lovely red wine, Keith’s beer and my father’s Lobster Thermidor (the lobsters being caught and delivered earlier that DAY), what a homecoming!  One thing lead to another and suddenly it was 3am and we were all still sitting around the dinning room table chatting.  Sunday was the WHOLE family for dinner. We all squeezed around one table, literally elbow to elbow, for homemade baked beans and brown bread.  It was crowded and loud, you had to ask for things twice and help the littlest ones but it was all delicious and, despite a SLIGHT hangover, just perfect!  Steve was a hit with my nieces and he had great fun convincing the boys that was a pirate, hitting his cast with a wooden cane to prove he had a wooden leg.

To get us in the holiday spirit and to show Steve what a traditional Christmas tree is REALLY all about I took him into the backyard, the old buck saw in hand, and picked out our very own tree.  There was much debate about size and shape, fortunately we’d brought a beer, a camera and the weather was quite mild so Steve was content to listen to the pros and cons of each tree before we (I) decided on one.  We set to work sawing it down, taking turns getting covered in sap and impaled by spruce needles as our poor victim fought against fulfilling its destiny of becoming this year’s Christmas tree.  I trim the butt end and get the old family cast iron tree stand out and fit it on.  We bring it inside and try to stand it up: it’s a couple of feet too tall.  After a just few modification and trimmings it is up looking every bit the part: full, but with a few holes, sparse, you can see right through it, slightly gangly and reminiscent of Charlie Browns tree.  Every bit of what I remember from my childhood.  Now if I had a drill and some time I could have added a few extra branches and it would be perfect! (I have been told this is not an original idea in my family, so at least I come by it honestly) As the weather has been above freezing for the last week there’s no need to let the tree thaw and relax before we decorate it so we get down tot business.   As we untangled strings of long forgotten lights and started hanging decorations we share Christmas memories. I put on the finishing touch, tinsel, and as the sun faded we plugged in the lights, our masterpiece was complete…well almost! Another turn or two, and three more days of driving Steve crazy by making “small adjustments”, inspecting it from every angle and adding “just one more” ornament and then it’s done.  We sit back and admired our creation, turn on CBC and watch Dr.Suess’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”.  It was beginning to feel festive!

As promised we spent an afternoon at Thomas and Heather’s making gingerbread men with my nephews.  Last time I was home I made muffins and a cheesecake with the boys and in a high speed mishap I managed to cover them, me and half the countertop in cheesecake batter. This time, as we were measuring out ingredients into an electric mixer I dripped almost a ¼ cup of molasses on Nolan’s head before I noticed it running down his face and onto his t-shirt.  He took it very well, reminding me of the last time when got him dirty too!  We picked out Christmas cookie cutters, including the Christmas rooster (what Nolan proclaimed the turkey shaped one to be!) and they helped cut them out and then bake them. After they cooled I piped on the icing while they used it like glue to affix the assorted candies and dried fruit; we had a happy assembly line going.  Cameron used a yellow M&M as a star for the top of a tree and Nolan dipped the snowman shape in sugar so it would look like it was covered in sparklie snow, a half a cherry for a smiley mouth, chocolate sprinkles became hair, raisins looked like pockets. They are very imaginative boys!

On Thursday we went into town for some Christmas shopping and more importantly Steve’s appointment to remove his cast.  It was still pleasantly warmish, for a Canadian winter, and the sidewalks were fairly clear so we headed downtown for a little walkabout.  So we hit a few indie shops and stopped for a coffee, generally enjoyed being “oot and aboot”, well kind of. Steve still wasn’t getting much sympathy from strangers and found the stores a little too cramped and hazardous to manoeuvre through easily with crutches.  I think he is missing his motorized cart! We headed of to the hospital, braced for a long afternoon but compared to the last visit to an ortho clinic this was a breeze. Within two hours Steve was checked in, seen by doctor, cast removed, X-rayed (which showed good bone growth and good alignment, the surgeon said the doctors in California did a very good job, thank gaud), examined by the Surgeon we met on the plane, AND went to see a physio therapist.  He was advised to have a walking boot fitted; a Darth Vader contraption with buckles and Velcro that went up to his knee with a rocking heal.  It is designed to give support and protection during everyday activities but can be removed at will so you can bath/sleep/relax etc. Although a little disappointed not to be free of any and all contraptions this was a good compromise, at least tonight he could have a proper bath!  As we sat in the casting room waiting for the attendant to get the walking boot I noticed that a couple of older men in leg casts had a nice little half sock over their toes, I figured their wives must have knitted them (I had counted no less then three women knitting in the waiting room). Then, as they finished up a woman’s cast the technician reached into a draw and pulled out a half sock and slipped it over her toes.  OF COURSE! They give them out, a little cosy to keep you unprotected toes warm from the cold winter. The same people who volunteer to knit hats for preemie babies must knit these too. I was thrilled at the idea.  When the guy brought back the walking boot I asked if Steve could get one too.  Although usually reserved for patients who are getting a cast he obliged and happily handed him his very own “Toe Toque”. Everyone was pleasant and calm, quiet and happy to be doing what they were doing. And all UNDER 2 hours.  Steve was in a bit of discomfort, his leg was no longer in the same immobile position it had held for the last seven weeks, the new relative freedom of movement came with a price, pain.  We caught a ride home with my brother and Steve headed for the tub. As this the first time he’s been able to wash his leg in two months you can imagine it was a little smelly when the cast came off, especially since he had gotten it wet once or twice and it was slightly soft at the heel inside. After  an eternity of scrubbing and rubbing most of his cracked and rough skin, what he’d work on for years by not wearing shoes unless publically necessary, seemed to peel away revealing baby soft new pink skin underneath.  This however was initially very sensitive and tender making it even harder to walk.  Getting the cast off was more than he expected, didn’t even feel like his foot at the end of his leg and that after seven weeks it seemed his leg forgot how to move normally.  By 8pm he is crawling into bed exhausted and in pain, asking for his “candy” and a book.  When I checked on him in an hour he is asleep. 

The next few days were quiet, we cancelled plans to have dinner with a friend and stay at my sister’s house over nite. Steve wasn’t up for it, he needed rest.  By Sunday he is up for the annual Wickwire (my mother’s side) family Christmas potlatch, this year held at my Aunt Dorothy’s.  It had been years since I had been home for a family gathering and I was looking forward to catching up with everyone.  Steve blended in nicely, looking very much Frankenstein walking around in his Vader boot. He is especially happy when dinner rolls around and  Dorothy’s made her famous cabbage rolls, a dish she’s made for years and one I always look forward to.  As the afternoon wore on the pending storm set in. The drive home was almost a white out but everyone got home safely.  Steve and I stayed at m brother Sam’ s in town and the howling wind shook the windows at in his flat, it was blowing hurricane force winds of over 100km/h.  We bunkered down for the night and enjoyed the sounds of winter; thank goodness Sam doesn’t pay for heat!  In the morning Steve and I had a few more errands to run, that northerly wind was still gusting but so we bundled up and braved the -25*C.  Later, as I stood in the dark at a bus stop after my hair cut, heading back to met Steve at Sam’s again, watching for the bus over the snow bank because the shelter was covered in salt, being whipped by the wind that seemed to blow right through me making my every cell shiver, I mentally filed this feeling of cold.  There would be some nite in the south Pacific, so hot and humid I would lay unable to sleep. As I lay awake, too hot to touch, finding it hard to breathe and listening to the buzz of a lone and indestructible mosquito, I wanted to be cooled by the thought of being this F*in cold!

Before you knew it, it was Christmas Eve and we were all finishing up he last minute details, wrapping presents, getting ready for the festivities, making sure everything was stocked for the five day weekend.  There was a slight power flicker, the one that is just long enough for you ponder if you just saw your own blinking or was it a power flicker. Then another, you stare really hard trying not to blink just to rule out any possibilities, then a few minutes later it when out.  Due to ice on the lines and trees down from the wind storm, power outages had been reported across the province but according to reports it was all getting back to normal.  One hour passes then two, the back and forth of phone calls confirms that parts of Halifax are without power, many businesses are closing early.  Three hours, pushing four.  Mom and I, our Christmas spirits never flagging, are starting to plan on orchestrating dinner from the BBQ and lighting all the candles we can round up and with 14 of us there will be plenty of bodies for warmth.  Then, in our own little Christmas miracle movie way the power comes on, flickers off and on then stays on.  The evening will happen as planned, our family tradition Christmas eve dinner of Tourtiere (French Canadian meat pie). As a special treat I made a first course h’ors d'oeuvres of fois gras canapés with a white wine gelee and for dessert, wine poached pears atop Mom’s date nut loaf.  The kids had their own table this time so we all had a little elbow room to enjoy the meal.  After the dishes are done, much to the torture of the children who wait impatiently, we all sit around the tree and exchanged presents. Mayhem ensued: wrapping covered the floor, boxes strewn aside, toys ripped from packages, small people running about exclaiming the virtues of their gifts and big kids excited about their toys too.  The excitement slowly dies, more rum is poured and soon the little ones are sleepily changing into PJ’s to be packed into cars to go home to wait for Santa Claus.  The five of us settle into the sofa for another holiday tradition, watching “A Christmas Carol” starring Alistar Sinclair.  As Steve hobbled up the stairs I snuck a few last presents under the tree. Although I did not have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, I hadn’t had THAT much rum, I did feel like Santa Claus had already come and gone, being home was a perfect present. 

I woke up early, Steve says thankfully not at 5 am like last year, and quietly went downstairs bundled up in my pj’s and housecoat to do what I do every Christmas morning:  make a pot of tea and sit and enjoy the splendour that is the Christmas tree, alone, in the quiet morning light. BEAUTIFUL!  After 8:30 I can’t stand it any longer and quietly start waking the house by playing Christmas CD’s. I creep in the basement and place my brothers cell phone next to the bed, the alarm set to play Christmas songs every 5 minutes until he turns it off.  Slowly the house wakes up, unfortunately before I get to the Jimi Hendrix version of Little Drummer Boy, on full volume.  We all still play dumb about what “Santa” left in out stockings, despite a stray price tag that my mother inevitably misses every year.  Steve is surprised by my stealthily shopping habits, especially since he had claimed to the family that the boat is too small and you can’t hide anything, yeah right! We are spoiled by everyone and very grateful to be among family.  We all sit down to a bacon and eggs breakfast cooked by Dad and a vegemite vs. marmite taste test/argument ensues, yes we happen to have both in the house. Dad and I independently decide that brie on toast wins hands down!  After the dishes are tidied away Mom and Sam set about stuffing the bird, an 18lb turkey, and instantly the house smells of Christmas. Everyone seems to be poking around the kitchen even though we are all full from breakfast.  I managed to find 25 of the 300000 incorrect solutions to an impossible puzzle and after 15 minutes my mother solves it. (I can report that I have found 57 more wrong solutions, but alas not the correct one)  By mid afternoon Angeline, Danny and the girls have arrived. The girls are dolled up in there Christmas outfits, complete with bags and carry alls full of all of their booty, keen to show and explain it to one and all: it reminds me of Ange and I as children.  We sit around in our paper Christmas cracker hats, telling silly jokes and enjoying the Christmas feast complete with Figgy Pudding and Foamy Sauce for dessert. It is one of the best meals I have had in ages; my Mother has outdone herself again.

The rest of the long holiday weekend is relatively quite.  The cold starts with my Father, then my Mother gets the sniffs and within a few days Steve is feeling a little ordinary too.  We managed to get a lunch in with good friends Hannah and John and an evening out with a few close friends but most of the social engagements are missed.  It was rest and family that we went home to and that is what we got.  By the time we are leaving Steve is improving, the swelling subsiding and the pain less everyday.  Our last night is spent at home. The weather has turned mild again so we decide, to make Steve feel more at home, that the steak can be cooked on the BBQ.  It is accompanied by a couple bottles of lovely red and great company.  We stay up again chatting past midnight; it is hard to say good night when we leave so early in the morning.   Thomas arrives at 7 am; he has time to drop us at the airport before heading to work for the day.  We say our teary good byes and settle in for a long day, it will be well over 14 hours before we get home, weather holding.  And ironically it does, we manage to fly into and out of Halifax with out even as much as a delay, we are however rerouted to LA due to fog blanketing San Diego and spend another few hours on a Greyhound bus before we get home to Kate.  Luggage is left in a heap, only the necessities are turned on, and we immediately crawl into bed exhausted.  Tomorrow will be another day restocking the fridges and cleaning the boat up but for now we huddle together against the cool California night, surrounded by the orange light and buzz of the adjacent highway too tired to feel anything but heaviness of our eyelids as we drift off to sleep. Or may be that us just the sinus cold setting in...


Happy New…Aaa-CHOO

According to the news reports, Halifax was hit by a mega storm closing the airport and leaving many stranded. We missed being stuck in Canada by a mere 24 hours; I was more than a little disappointed.  However, after the cold night onboard it wasn’t feeling much different in California. Well no snow and slightly above zero, but virtually the same…kind of. It was New Years Eve and Steve woke up feeling like crap. Thanks to 12 hours of breathing recycled air in confined public spaces the sniffle that Steve had in Canada had developed into a full fledged head cold, and it had started it’s migration into my sinuses.  With the cupboards bare and the fridges empty, I did a run to the grocery store, just for the essentials; you know beer, meat…bread.  I splashed out on a few nibblies for the occasion and a bottle of their best sparkling wine, not that it meant much when the price scale starts at $1.50, but I tried.   I also hit the “Dollar a Day” movie kiosk and picked up a few DVD’s, it was shaping up to be a thoroughly exciting New Years Eve.  By 5pm we were snuggled on the sofa, hot water bottle between us watching a flick, snacking on crackers and pickles and trying to stay awake.  The second movie went in not long after the first.  I failed to see the whole middle of that DVD, falling into an attractive drooling coma not long after it started and Steve was busy being suffocated by the invisible elephant that had perched on his head.  A few beers and phone calls from home at 8pm, it already midnight there, and by 9:15pm we were in bed, happily.  Steve woke up feeling slightly better; I woke up feeling considerably worse, a great way to kick off 2009.  The weather was cold and grey, making our cold seem worse. It seemed like days on end of wearing our toques all day, finding endless reasons to use the oven and therefore heat the boat and generally slothing about.  I had fully stocked the medicine cabinet before heading home and decided to take full advantage of it; I can restock before we leave. It was Tylenol sinus non-drowsy, gotta take advantage of the uppers of course, during the day and hot toddy’s at night, an almost perfect combination…until 3am when everything wore off and I was left suffocating in a puddle of my own mucus.  One afternoon around four o’clock, I was starting to feel poorly. It was either time for another hit of meds or a hot toddy.  Steve was sleeping and I thought it might “help” my writing, get the thoughts flowing you know, so I poured myself a hot toddy, maybe a little stronger than the one’s Steve had been feeding me the night before.  Three toddy’s later, Steve woke up.  We had dinner and I had a few more toddy’s; they were starting to be more toddy and less hot, but by this time I wasn’t feeling any pain and didn’t care anyway.  I stayed up late trying to get caught up on my writing, fooling around with the website, jacked up on caffeine and rum.   Steve had long gone to bed before I finally closed the computer, my eyes blurry and practically square from sitting in front of the screen for 8 hours.  I woke up feeling a little crappy but chalked it up to the sinus cold and took some more “medicine”.  That evening Steve offered to make me a hot toddy, a little something before bed, maybe put me to sleep.  He looked for the rum on the countertop, rummaged in the cupboards and then turned to look at me, questioningly.  I would have to settle for tea with honey, the rum was gone…oopsss.  When later that week I went in search of Mount Gay rum I was confronted, sadly, only by the evil Captain Morgan and his rival Bacardi. As I am a fan of neither, I nicely asked the Spanish man looking at that vodka beside me if the random bottle of Guatemalan rum was any good. He replied in broken English, yes, not bad.  Can you drink it with water I ask? (My drink of choice: rum with a splash of water) Yes yes, good with coke, he replied.  No, just water? Better than Captain Morgan? I inquired. Oh YES!  And so, for $10 I risked it.  When I produced it at home to Steve he inspected the bottle, pointed out that it had several floaty things in it and told me he’d leave me to my “Guatemalan Greeblies”.  I figured it was just a bit of sediment, and at 80 Proof anything floating in it would surely be at least sanitized. As it turned out it was, as the man had told me, pretty good rum!

Finally, as Saturday drew to an end and we were enjoying a pot of “Mexican” Chicken Soup I had made from the leftovers of our “everything must be roasted” chicken dinner a few days before, we both felt like we were on the mend.  So much so that I was treated to a big bacon and eggs Sunday morning breakfast (you have to turn the oven on to toast the bread!). I hear a strange rustling sound outside, and possibly a splash or two. I stuck my head out and the water was covered with birds, hundreds of cormorants and pelicans.  Something was running and they were all there chasing it, literally.  It was like watching a dance sequence, carefully choreographed groups of birds taking off and landing, the cormorant taking slapping running starts on the water before finally being able to lift off.  One changes direction and the whole flock followed its lead, disappearing in sight around the rock jetty. I tried in vain to get a few pictures but failed to capture the beauty of the event. 

Now that we are both feeling better we get back to working on the boat. Steve busies himself with the wind generator which must be mounted atop a 9 foot pole and supporting struts.  Where to put it all so that is it efficient, yet out of the way, takes several days of consideration and trial runs involving us both holding long lengths of aluminum tubing at various angles, balancing precariously around the cockpit, then trying to do things like turn winches and speculate on sheet angles to figure out if there is enough clearance.  It is finally decided and he starts all the drilling, caulking, bolting, sawing, shimming and swearing that is involved with most projects onboard.  I have revisited the carpentry department, finally finishing off the trim for the fridges.  It feels good be to working again and for the first time I use teak plugs, hiding unsightly screw heads and giving the whole project a finished and professional look, as best as me and a rubber mallet can manage anyway.  But, at least now you can barely tell that we cut out a whole fibreglass compartment and put in our small freezer, it turned out much better than either of us expected.

We both seem to be having fitful nights sleep, especially Steve.  His leg is healing nicely, the swelling has gone down considerably and most days he is up and about, still hobbling but mobile without crutches or his brace while working on and around the boat.  One morning he woke up and his foot and ankle are purplish and twice their normal size.  Within a few minutes of having his foot down while sitting and enjoying a cup of tea I notice that his toes are red, looking more like overstuffed Vienna sausages that are long past their best before date than human toes. I order him to have a day of rest with his foot elevated.  He reluctantly obliges, hating to sit still after months of being virtually sofa ridden, but knowing, and feeling, that it is best.  By afternoon, when he’s had enough laying about and being waited on (yeah hard day Steve), and wanders outside to enjoy the last of the sunshine with his feet over the side, it swells again and this time looks like someone has had a too small elastic around the middle of his foot. I take his temperature, poke in various places asking if it hurts, what can he feel etc... He has symptoms of several possible afflictions I have found on the internet, and with my hypochondriac tendencies in full effect I declare that if this doesn’t improve by morning we are heading straight to emergency.  He smiles and shakes his head knowingly at me.  The next morning he is back to normal, the swelling gone as fast as it appeared and it never returns. 

Steve got a phone call one afternoon that Scotty, a friend from yachting we’d met several years ago in Singapore, was in town for a few days while on his way home to Oz for a visit.  We made plans to catch up one afternoon downtown and were both looking forward to the diversion of being off the boat and socializing, something we haven’t been doing a lot of recently.  Steve donned his Vader boot and crutches; we call a cab and head to the trolley station.  We decide that since it is a day out we might as well get a bit of business done as well and so we head across town to the mail and the chandlery, picking up a few its and bits for the current projects we are both working on.  Steve does well managing the crowds and stairs and pushy people but by the time we are to meet Scotty we have a few less things done than planned but are more than ready to sit and relax, especially Steve who’s leg isn’t bothering him as much as under his arms where the tops of the crutches are starting to chaff his skin.  We have a few beers and a few more and suddenly it is 9pm.   By the time we catch the trolley, then a cab home it is past 10 and well past our bedtime.  It was a long day for Steve who hasn’t been around town on foot since he left in August.  We still have a few more errands and so decide to the next day another day about town.  This time we are heading out to pick up our Iridium phone that, although we found it on eBay, of course, is from a local business and so we can actually go in a and check it all out/talk to real people, what a concept!!.  An Iridium, or satellite phone, is a phone that will work anywhere on the globe, at anytime, meaning we can call any of you from a fabulous tropical beach while sipping umbrella drinks and tell you all about the beautiful blue water and golden sunshine.  It also means that we can call in case of an emergency, anytime, ANY where.  My folks have generously offered to buy us the hardware and so Steve found a good, very lightly used model, with a few hundred minutes still on the SIM card online. As with all technology, as the newest/latest version is released lots of people buy it and ditch their hardly used older version: you must have the latest, greatest, smallest one out there.  The business, although somewhat nondescript from the outside, is bustling with employees and phones calls, has a wall covered in “Thank You” Polaroid photos from various teams over the years that have either bought or been sponsored by them in a Baja Motor cross races and other events.  It settles our mind that we are buying a quality product-we can’t wait until February 1st when we can spark it up and try and make a call (that’s when the SIM card will be activated).

The other big goings on around on board have been in the galley.  I had decided that the original way I organized everything just didn’t work. To bake anything you had to lift up the very counter you were trying to work on to get the ingredients stored underneath that you needed.  And since I have started provisioning for the future when simple things like canned tomatoes and grains will be not only hard to come by but very expensive, I have started to consider just how much space is wasted, how to store things more efficiently and what we will really NEED, four different varieties of flour may not be one of them.  So for a whole afternoon I moved, re-moved and moved back containers of dried goods and hampers of canned goods until satisfied that things were better.  I broke down and bought a whole slew of square (more space efficient than cylindrical containers) airtight proper storage containers that I have been coveting for months and spent an afternoon pouring and measuring and covered in flour dust.  After I was done not only did there seem to be more room, but now you can get to something without taking out fifteen others first.  This meant that cooking has become a pleasure instead of a chore and, more importantly, while underway you can get to things without getting them out onto the counter risking them toppling over and making a mess.  This also meant, that as Australia day rolled around, Steve was more than happy to make a batch of ANZAC Biscuits for the occasion. ANZAC stands for Australian, New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC biscuits were developed as rations, eggless and milk less, meant to last a long time and provide quick energy and nutrition.  They were DELISH and didn’t last very long at all, perfect for dipping in your afternoon tea, and with the cool afternoons we always seem to have a pot on around three, perfect! And, a few days later he whipped up a batch of Empanadas, dough and all, from scratch, which were a close second for an Aussie pie.  I, on the other hand, have been doing my best at “working with what you got, not what you might want”.  This meant cobbling together dinners with leftovers and things in the freezer, resulting in a few gems that with Steve’s firm encouragement I have written the recipes down for (I am not good at that or measuring with predetermined measuring instruments either).  While trying to make rissoles (what I can only describe as a mutant baby of a meatball, hamburger and meatloaf, and as ingrained in Australian culture as the former three are in North America) I came up with what Steve has dubbed “Sailor Pie”, kind of a potato-less Cottage pie without gravy.  And while trying to master the art of cooking eggplant, because as many times as I have tried it never is particularly edible, I discovered a surprisingly delicious “Stuffed Eggplant”. And because I have a hard time cook for less than 6 people it then became “Stuffed Peppers” and then again “Stuffed Peppers with Chipotle Tomato Sauce”.  And the best thing to come out of the galley is “Pancake Saturday”.  We get up, turn on the PBS radio station and Steve makes a batch of pancakes.  We have a great cast iron pan that we found at the Swap Shop some time ago, which fit three regular sized pancakes. Unfortunately our burner only covers the inner half of the pan, resulting in almost burnt inner edges with barely cooked outer edges.  When cooking on Corrie Lynn I would always take the last bit of batter and make one big pancake, dubbing it a “Rocky” pancake after our Italian deckhand, Rocky who had a very healthy appetite.  So, in the great pancake making tradition Steve made a Rocky pancake only to have it turn out perfectly golden and puffy.  From then on he made them all Rocky sized pancakes; we have one or two each with peanut butter, honey and cut fruit, saving the rest for snacks and brekkie the next day.  One might even say they are flippin’ amazing. It is the perfect way to start a weekend! 


I Say Provisioning, You Say Hoarding

For the last 6 weeks I have spent at least, AT LEAST, 80% of my time thinking about food: talking about it, analyzing it, writing lists about it, budgeting for it and planning around it.  That looks really bad when you write it down doesn’t it? But I am use to it. I spent over a year being paid to cook for 8-25 people on a boat.  Steve is most thankful that I no longer dream about it, read about it, talk about it over beer, lose sleep over and wake up in the middle of the night to jot down notes about it.  But I am not just obsessive about he next weeks grocery list or even the next month in Mexico (provisioning is suppose to be good right down the coast), mostly I am concerned about six months from now when we are bobbing around the South Pacific where canned goods are ten times the price and fresh veggies are either locally grown or flown in and have taken so long to get there they are practically inedible even if you wanted to pay the high prices.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am really looking forward to tasting the local fare, in fact I can’t wait to see what will tickle my taste buds, but when you read about starchy vegetables that are considered staples some places and are described as tasting like wall paper paste. And another vegetable where it is recommended in wearing rubber gloves and peeling it under running water because it emits a sap that sticks to your skin, impossible to get off resembling dried krazy glue, you feel compelled to stock up on a few things. As the sole able bodied provider for the last little bit I have been slowly and surely stocking up every time I go to the grocery store.  You buy an extra couple of cartons of soy milk, cans of tomatoes, tuna, packets of chicken breast, tins of Milo or a tube of honey and squirrel them away, making them magically appear at key moments when needed or moral is low. I watch the flyers of all the local grocery stores, buy things when they go on sale and stock up little by little.  And to make things even easier I have discovered a pedestrian path that goes from the parking lot of the marina and travels almost 3 miles, one exit  a mere three blocks from the supermarket!  This makes my trips a little less scary, (my bike is equiped with a milk crate on the back meaning I can load up, perhaps, sometimes a little precariously) I only have to be concerned about losing my balance and falling over a stone encrusted 10 foot embankment into a muddy bird sanctuary, a far better thing than having to navigate the traffic lights under the interstate and California drivers, especially considering recent events.  And so it was that on a usual afternoon I hopped on my bicycle, empty backpack and full wallet and headed to the store.  I was just going for the usual (read beer run) plus anything I thought we would need.  What I came back with was the following:

30 cans of beer
8 cans of beans
1 dozen eggs
1 pineapple
4 large buns
1 lbs bacon
1 package sausages
1 bottle of dish soap
1 bottle of Sri Ratcha
1 sm bottle Sambal Oelek
4 small bags of pasta
2 bottles of crazy glue
12 X 1 litre tetra packs of soy milk (on sale for $1.28)
And 1 bottle of Guatemalan rum (I ran out…again)

It was a record; eeking out my mammoth ride back from the upholstery store with all our new cushion foam tied to the basket, just slightly.  But I realized that to stock up I really need to start paying attention to how much we consume and how quickly. So I have been accounting for how much we eat, how much we cook, how many meals we get out of one pot of soup/pound of ground meat/batch of rice. I have taken inventory, started actually measuring when I cook and compiled notes on the very important things such as how long does one jar of peanut butter last and how long can I go before I open another.  Now you’d think I have some sort of disorder, besides a peanut butter addiction! 

And so I started collecting dry goods, the things I was fairly certain I wouldn’t find easily or economically south of the border I stocked up on and vacuum packed in units that would just fill the storage jar when I ran out.  Quinoa, millet, couscous and good brown rice were high on the list; when the potatoes run out who wants to be eating plain white rice six nights a week?  Flour, sugar, corn products are staples wherever you go, I will leave a major stock up until Costa Rica, just before the big hop westward.    I picked up some oats, regular and quick cooking, figuring when cereal ran out I could start making granola again and a bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning will keep you going for hours. Some more canned goods, some good olive oil and a few treats rounded out my list.  Mind you finding a place to put everything was a bit of a trick, but with some creative thinking I managed to stow it all in only mildly awkward and annoying locations. Each week a little more of everything and pretty soon I was feeling confident that we were fairly well off. There would probably one or two major trips before we did the crossing but now I had months of food hermetically sealed and squirreled away for meals in the tropical south Pacific.  That is until departure loomed in the very foreseeable future, then panic set in, we needed more! Too much is always better than not enough right?  Armed with my wheelie cart, a back pack and a lot of determination I set off for one final provisioning; do or die trying I was getting it all home in one go, I was sick of shopping.  Steve sat spell bound later that afternoon as I slowly unpacked it all, laying it out on the galley countertop, pulling out can after can and pilling bags of dry goods on top of one another.  I was even astounded that I managed to hit four stores and navigate the bus during rush hour, all without giving myself a hernia or dislocating a shoulder.  My wheelie cart is a little worse for wear, but if that is the end of it I think we got our 25 bucks worth.  Here’s what I brought home:

1 Large Bottle of Ketchup
1 Bottle of Molasses (Steve’s been baking gingersnaps; don’t want him to run out!)
1 Lrg Bottle Pancake Syrup, for Sundays of course
1 Bottle Fish Sauce & Sesame Oil, 4 packages of Nori & 1 Sm Can Dry Wasabi (counting on fresh caught sushi!)
10 sm cans Tomato Paste
7 Lrg Cans Whole Tomatoes
10 sm Cans Diced Tomatoes
6 Cans Beans
3 Cans Beets
1 Bottle each Paprika and Oregano
6 Packets Asian Noodles
6 sm Packets Pasta
9 lbs of Rolled Oats
9 lbs of Quick Oats
3 lbs of Grits
1 Lrg Box Cornmeal (on Sale)
4.5 lbs of Rice
8 cups of Quinoa
4 Cups Millet
8 Cups Couscous
Wheat Germ
Wheat Bran
Flax Seeds
3 Litres of Olive Oil

A few fresh goods (Onions Zucchini, Asparagus, Peppers, Apples and Tomatoes)
And…….10 Jars of Peanut Butter

Another round of vacuuming and stowing and it magically all disappeared, hopefully I can remember where I put it all in 6 months time.  We now have a slight list to port, but I have assured Steve that he will thank me for it later. And besides, when we are being tossed on the briny blue ocean he won’t notice anyway.


Please Prepare the Cabin for Departure

We had tentatively set a date of Feb.12 to depart. We both felt like it was time to go and needed a foreseeable goal to work towards (procrastination is a powerful drug).  Steve has been off of his crutches and Vader boot free for over three weeks now, feeling more like himself and improving noticeably every day, I was confident that he was seaworthy.  Besides, he was back up to usually beer rations so I knew that he was alright again.  He had a few projects left to finish, the water maker being a major one, and although he was back on his feet I had forbade him from getting back on a bike, wonder why?  He had most of the parts needed but still required a few hydraulic hoses and so I was sent to the hydraulic hose company to order the parts.  Steve kindly sat me down, drew a simplistic schematic drawing, wrote down what I needed to order and sent me on my merry way.  After a few stops to get metric bolts (difficult in the USA) angle iron (the dudes at the machine shop were confused, looking at a random chick on a peddle bike that wandered up and wanted only a foot of angle iron and so they gave it to me for free, yeah being a chick!) and a few other bits and pieces, I wandered into West Flex Hose and Fittings.  By now I am used to the bewildered look on men’s faces when you arrive at such places, alone, and wanting to purchase something, from them and not the shoe store next door.  I proceed to explain what we are making, what we need, take out the drawing, trying to sound confident about pressure valves and elbow joints and male to male nipple adaptors as I can (this is not easy to do without when talking to a stranger about nipple adaptors).  But it seems to work and after double checking a few things with a supervisor (more about nipple adaptors) everything is ordered and should be in within a few days.  In fact, I even had a man come out from behind his desk and remark that he hadn’t heard a woman sound so knowledgeable about such things in a long time…I wasn’t sure if it was a complement or a pick up line, considering the vernacular, but I politely smiled and said thank you. I was a little deflated when a few days later I picked up the parts for Steve to discover that we ended up with all FEMALE ends, not the male ends we needed, not sure if it was my fault or simply a miscommunication. But he reordered them and they arrived the day before we were to depart Pier 32 Marina. We planned to head up town and closer to the mouth of the harbour to sit on the transient docks for a few days before heading off, the pre-departure cross check one might say.  We realized that the parts were in and needed to be picked up in the middle of packing the boat away.  I was waist deep in organizing the space below the vee berth, already ripped the bed apart and had to climb over several things just to get into the boat. I had just finished dismantling and stowing my bike when we made the discovery.  Did I mention it was 4 pm on Friday afternoon and no, they were not open tomorrow?  Quick on his feet Steve remembered that the Marina offered bikes for rent. So after a long discussion we decided it was best for him to go, making sure that he got exactly what he ordered and nothing less.   I nervously watched him walk down the dock having given him a lecture about wearing his helmet and taking his phone just in case, and coming straight back, no doddeling.  He was gone for what seemed like an eternity and my imagination was getting the best of me.  He finally returned, with all the right parts and more spring in his step than I have seen in along time.  After two months of being “house” bound, he had got back on the horse, conquered MY fears and most importantly did something all by himself again.  His independence and confidence were restored, he had his twinkle back.  This of course could also have been because he stopped for beer and pick up pastries for breakfast, a surprise for me.

Although it was good to being throwing off the dock lines we knew that it marked the end of our quiet, comfortable and extremely convenient way of life. We left on a Saturday after both having lingering under long hot showers and doing a last minute load of laundry, all of which was just at the end of the dock.  It was a miserable and rainy day as we bid goodbye to the marina staff and headed up town.   We’d spent some time at the public docks in June when we arrived in town, they are modest, but the bathrooms/showers are clean and locked and at $10.50 for the first five days we couldn’t complain.  We arrived, managed docking with no major mishaps (our funny little engine/propeller combo isn’t fond of reverse in any direction but sideways) and assessed the surroundings.  There were a few boats around, most of them looking like they couldn’t travel far without what was heaped on the decks being lost to the ocean or causing serious bodily harm.  The catamaran that had a double bow patch/extension job with rotting plywood was one of my personal favourites.  The fact that they had a matching set of pit-bull/boxer cross dogs that they let roam around the dock was even better. The once clean and locked bathroom/showers were under construction and we were greeted with two port-a-potties that apparently are not serviced on the weekends, but frequented by people with very poor aim says Steve.  On Sunday we took our friends Graham and Kristen out for a sail, something that we’d been trying to do for months but never seemed to be able to co-ordinate.  It was a lovely sunny day on the water followed by dinner on board. It was so nice to finally have “house guests” and even better for them that we were up town instead of a 45 minute commute.

I had gotten my sourdough starter back from Graham, who had kindly been minding Big Momma since I left for Canada in August, and was keen to get it started again.  Much to my surprise the first batch turned out wonderfully, in fact better than any of my past attempts.  It was light and fluffy and rose to a beautiful domed loaf.  I was just ready to pop it in the oven and it happened, the slightly foreseeable but, hopefully, avoidable. The oven wouldn’t light!  We’d been having a few hiccups with it over the last few months; the safety seemed to be failing, causing the pilot light to go out and the whole operation to cease.  Whenever this happened in the past Steve had taken it apart, cleaned it here and there, gave it his magic touch and after reassembly it sparked up again, no hesitation.  However I had already fussed with it for thirty minutes before I mentioned it to him, and another hour later it was still a no go.  This was a double problem:
1. I had bread ready to bake 
2. The damn thing hadn’t been in production for nearly 20 years, where to get parts? 
I solved problem number one by lighting the BBQ, figuring it could be oven like with a closed lid. I didn’t figure on the bread not quite fitting in with the lid closed.  As a result it fell, burned ever so slightly and had to be flipped upside down to ensure even baking. But in the end, and after a good scraping of the burnt bits, was extremely tasty!  I would deal with the scorched pan later. Now, to find the parts.   Steve and his Google button found a dealer in Fort Lauderdale that had parts, in fact in stock, and could ship them to us UPS 2 day delivery.  He recommended getting not only the safety switch but a new pilot light as well, if it wasn’t one it was definitely the other.  Better to be safe than sorry, and when else might we come across parts, we took his advice.  Our luck, San Diego had a risk of frost warning that night, and we had no dinner to roast! We slept in our toques.

It was time to buckle down and get the last minute things done; this would be the last time that we would be minutes away from stores that we knew would stock the needed parts and pieces to finish up the last few projects.  Steve spent a few days alternately climbing in and out of tight spaces, making lists and taking trips to the chandlery.  Things were looking good.  By now the stove parts had arrived and the galley was up and running again, thank goodness, it was a cold couple of nights!  I had one last provisioning run, I swear it was the last, and we were stocked and ready to go…almost.  We were waiting on a package, some supplies that I had ordered and that should have arrived by now.  As Thursday came and went we knew that we’d be spending the weekend, the dock was getting busy and so decided to sit on anchor, rent free.  There is an anchorage in behind the public docks available for weekends only, and as this was a long weekend we’d be able to stay four days. It would be a good test run for our ships systems and for us.  It was Valentines Day on Saturday and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a romantic holiday than on anchor, no neighbours, just the two of us and the boat.  Apparently most of the traffic that appeared Thursday afternoon had the same idea and  we motored around the corner early Friday morning to get a good spot, figuring the locals would show up later that afternoon to spend the weekend “on the boat”.  And show up they did, but not exactly the crowd we’d expected. A few boats from the public docks, piles of wood and all showed up, and brought thier friends.  All of whom were of great interest to the police because all weekend we watched as they did their rounds every couple of hours, even boarding one vessel on Saturday night, towing another away, and I don’t think they were stopping by for tea.

As a treat for Valentine’s Day “Pancake Sunday” was moved to Saturday morning and Steve went the extra mile and made me special heart shaped pancakes. I was very much impressed, they tasted even sweeter than usual, and we ate them smothered in syrup, licking our sticky fingers until we were stuffed.  We decided to go ashore, check the mail but knowing said package would not be there, and spend our $20 gift card to Blockbuster.  When we came back the bay was full of kids in dinghies, a sailing class having a bit of a race weekend.  The wind was up, the sun was out and they provided some good entertainment so we sat in the cock pit and sipped a beer while we watched them weaving their way around the anchorage.  Then we both noticed a large motor yacht across the anchorage, dragging sideways and moving quickly.   There didn’t seem to be any movement on board and no one else seemed too concerned about the situation.  However, with a yacht club on both sides and another just across the channel on the third Steve and I couldn’t stand by and watch an accident happen.  We got in the tender and sped out to the boat. As we rounded the stern we noticed the aft deck door ajar, someone was on board, just not paying attention.  Steve came round the leeward side and t-boned the bow full throttle in an attempt to head it to wind and maybe slow it up a bit, it was heading side on into five docked yachts upwards of 100’, not a cheap afternoon.  I banged on the hull trying to get the attention of anyone on board.  Finally someone appeared on the sundeck. A man. Shirtless.  He didn’t seem too concerned when we mentioned that he was a drift, in fact he had drifted 500 meters, easily.  He said thanks,fired it up and punched it into gear.  As he weight anchor and motored away a woman appeared out of no where beside him. He didn’t return. We figure we must have interrupted his Valentine’s afternoon, ooopps, so sorry!

As it turns out the weather had turned on Sunday, bringing two days of rain and 35 kts of wind, we’d not been able to leave anyway, or if we had it would not have been a nice ride. As we hunkered down spending a day inside re arranging things…again, I started to feel a little less guilty for inadvertently holding up our departure. It was the snow day I had been asking for and it was lovely to be trapped, listening to the wind and drink pots of tea to ward off the chill.  By Tuesday morning we were keen to get tied along side again, top up the tanks, do the last bits of laundry and pick up the mail (UPS tracking said it had finally arrived!) so we could get going.  I had just finished talking to my brother the night before explaining that the house batteries and the engine start up batteries were isolated so that if someone did something stupid and we drained the house batteries we’d always be able to start the engine and get out of trouble.  On Tuesday morning when Steve turned the ignition key to start up the engine struggled, groaned, spat but didn’t turn over. Nore did it spark up the second time he turned the key.   We were essentially dead ship, exactly what shouldn’t have been able to happen did, we’d drained the start up battery somehow.   I have unwavering faith in Steve in these situations; I’ve been on enough bike trips with him to know that he has a magic touch when it comes to these things.  And sure enough, after rerouting a few things and holding his nose the right way, when he gave the go ahead for me to turn the key the engine roared to life!  I let a little sigh of relief, and we added another project to the “To Do List”.

Suddenly it was Tuesday night; we were packed and stowed, checked out and ready to shove off in the morning.  Figuring it to be a 12 hour trip to Ensenada, out first stop and check in point for Mexico, we decided to depart around 4:30 so that we’d arrive in port while it was still light.  As we crawled into bed that evening I had butterflies in my belly.  After almost of year of talking about it, it was finally happening, we were starting to sail toward Australia.  This was only the beginning.