Thursday, 29 May 2014

Week 9 Virgin Gorda, Norman and Cooper Islands (British Virgin Islands)

It’s baaaack.......

In case you can't see it….there is a helicopter in between those boats !

The News Helicopter crew  (like the one we saw in Antigua during Race week) were with us again this past Sunday.....back at doing their low flying stunts....amongst all the sailboats and between all the masts....honestly I don’t know how they do it.....the pilot must have nerves of steel.....Anyways, this time they were capturing the “Annual Poker Run” here in the BVI’s..... The Poker run is a one day event where boats race from island to island picking up cards to get the best poker hand at the end of the day. ....This event attracts all kinds of very loud, very fast speed boats, (most come from Puerto Rico, we have since discovered)...….We tried to stay out of their way as much as times we were almost swarmed by the boats coming in from all around us.....SO fast....SO loud....(picture the loudest Harley Davidson you have ever heard) . So it was definitely not a relaxing Sunday sail ... but neat to see all the same !  

Fast AND Loud 

Being back in the Virgin islands has been great,we feel very comfortable here , having visited twice before (in 2010 and 2011) we know these islands well...but it is also very different from what we have become  accustomed too over the last few months. What I mean is that here in the BVIs we are surrounded by holidayers (who charter boats for a week or two) and some of these might be relatively new to sailing....This was evidenced a few times when we had to change course to get out of the way of people who clearly did not  know the  rules of the road/ or understand right-of-way).....there is also a rather obvious lack of knowledge about radio etiquette or how to pick up a mooring ball....but  hey...... we were there once too and  not that long ago......Still under these circumstances it feels very different for us . Every other place we have been, we are usually surrounded by seasoned sailors.....I have to say, i feel much safer when we are around people who have been doing this awhile ....and we sleep better too.....people who charter boats for a week are generally “here for a good time, not a long time”...and so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... night booze-fests  with loud music is a common occurrence here.

So....It is not the same community as we’ve seen with full time cruisers who are are generally more neighbourly….where it is very common for people to stop by and chat as they go by in their dinghy, or on the docks....Capt’n Mark  is especially good at this (that is why he is the designated social butterfly for our boat)....having grown up in  small town Alberta, he is used to “kicking the tires” with just about anybody...he’s got that knack of starting up conversation with anyone standing right beside him. The first thing I hear Mark say when he gets back from errands is: “ So I ended up having a chat with.....”  ...telling me about the new people he has met, where they are from, where they are going....I personally much prefer that community feel, and the unspoken rule that everyone looks out for one another...., and  it is all about information sharing too : anything from the best place to find a good service, or boat parts, or places to visit, or places to avoid.I love it !  We have met some incredibly interesting and lovely people while cruising ! 

We did have a lovely encounter early last week:  While anchored in Marina Cay for the Full Moon Party (see my last blog),  we met the Crew from “AMELIE” from the UK (Stephen and Debbie).... As they “dinghied” past us they hailed us : “Hey ! Great name for a boat!”.  We met up with them later on and learned that like us, they had named their boat after the film (Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulin)....and like us, they felt it was a great name...Amelie brings happiness to others !  This wonderful couple has already taken Amelie (or I should say that Amelie has taken them) around the world once  (they were part of the Oyster Round the World Rally)...and they are going again...this time, more slowly. We had much to share with each other, and we enjoyed a lovely snorkel together followed by a beautiful meal onboard their Amelie…..they served us swordfish, caught on the South Africa-South America crossing. Delicious !

What we have been up to this week ....

Last weekend we took a break and just lounged around. To the delight of all on board, Cpt’n Mark raised the hammock over the water AND the swing out on deck was a ideal place to enjoy the great beauty and many hues of blue found in the Virgin Gorda Sound.  

Cpt’n Mark and MC  even got to have a night out “sans-children” on Saturday Night, from 8:30-10:00.......our boat was moored a mere 20 feet from the Saba Rock restaurant....Matthew was already asleep and Meghan was happy to have some quiet time to work on a school project. We took our hand held radio with us, just as a precaution so that she could call us if needed, but really she could of hailed us from the boat deck...we were that close !  Still it was nice to have a mini get away !

MC was so happy to have a chance to take part in her “Book Club”with her friends back In Ottawa (thanks to the technology of Skype and Facetime).....although the connection was not ideal with some delays and image/sound issues) was still SO great for her to hang out with the girls, share some wine and swap good stories....oh and we talked about the book too of course.....called “The Rosie Project” , in case you are looking for a good read this summer, it is a very funny and easy read. 

Meg and her dad dove the wreck on of the Rhone and got some pretty spectacular footage on the go-pro camera (hopefully be able to share with you soon). In total, so far they have gone on four dives together and all have been very successful ! 

We did pull ourselves out of the hammock last weekend, just long enough to go for a  brisk hike on Virgin Gorda....Meghan made a comment that our hikes always seem to be UP HILL!  Well, I guess when your starting point is always “Sea-Level” it is hard to do anything but “go up!”.... haha....It is always a good cardio workout for everyone and there is inevitably a rewarding view we get to the top ! This hike was no exception... here is a view of the sound and of Saba Rock. 

We took the dinghy to a deserted beach after school one day for the official “baptism” of Amelie’s tender.....Mark decided that “Recess” was a good name for the dinghy since it usually takes us out somewhere fun after school.....and so “Recess” was unanimously accepted by the crew on AmelieIV.

Since Meg and MC have finished reading “Treasure Island” just a few days ago,we felt it was necessary for us to sail to Norman Island. This is the island which is rummoured to be the one that R.L. Stevenson based his “Treasure Island” on.  We had a FA-BU-LOUS snorkel at the CAVES and enjoyed exploring the beach.....looking for the big black X….but we didn’t see it ! 

Privateer Bay, Treasure Island (Norman)

The best snorkelling happens at the Caves (Norman Is)

So we leave tomorrow morning for a three day (non-stop) crossing....the kids longest so far....we are well prepared, the kids have all a list of  planned activities to do while underway, , we have a watch schedule (taking turns at the helm and to allow for rest times for all).  MC made all the meals ahead of time...the goal being : to simplify our lives as much as possible while we are sailing. The menu is quite simple: yogourts and granola and fruit for breakfasts, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, cheese and veggies for lunch and for dinners : pasta, chicken and rice and even a quiche !  

Quiche "A- la- MC"

Upcoming plans : 

Like I said we are starting our descent South tomorrow morning. It should take us 2 1/2 - 3 days to sail to Martinique....where we have another maintenance stop  (it never ends). 
 We will then head over to the Grenadines and then Grenada, where we will spend the bulk of the Hurricane Season (until September/October). There we will enjoy our summer break, meet up with other cruising friends and are really excited to greet our first guest onboard Amelie, when MC’s sister, nephew and niece will come down for a two week visit at the end of July !!!

Soon MC will have to write an end-of-year school report to the homeroom teacher. She looks forward to sharing all the progress that both Matthew and Meghan have made in the last few months....Meghan still has a few end of year projects  (LA, SS and SC) and one exam  (Math) to come as her core subjects are wrapping up nicely, We will be doing some other subjects in June (Health, French, Art and Music) to end the year.Matthew will not have any exams to end his school year, but a “progress report”  will outline all of his great progress.
Meg's Poster on the HIstory of Flight 

School has been great, ...YES ...really !!   Both kids have applied themselves and seemed to have enjoyed the process and as for MC , she feels a tremendously honoured to have been able to teach her children again........but everyone is looking forward to summer break so that we can have more time to do special 

....our puppets play* to finalise and rehearse.... (* see Globetrotting Puppets Blog)
....the never ending boat improvement projects (list keeps growing)
...playing more games together and with other boat friends.
....going for walks in the mornings when it is still cool out.
....sleeping in ?  (highly unlikely.........but I can dream ....can’t I ?)

Random Pictures taken while in the BVI's : 

Meghan leanring how to turn on the engine
For Meghan's Treasure Island Movie Trailer project, we had to use what we had on board to make a "parrot" for Long John Silver…this is  a  brush for washing dishes….

How long before I finally give in  and cut his hair …?.
"The Indians" (Near Norman Is)

Matthew and Meg playing their daily game of "Life" together
A small friend

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Meghan On Amelie- May 2014

 Hello everyone! In case you don’t know me already, I am Meghan the youngest of the "4Ms sailing" family and many people have suggested that I start a blog myself so wish granted! Welcome aboard the “Meghan On Amélie Kids Blog” (our adventure from my perspective)! I will try to do a blog about once a month for all the kids out there (this blog is mostly meant for kids, but adults are certainly welcome to read too).

As the youngest aboard Amélie IV (4) I am known (sadly) as swab! Yes, swab is the lowest class you can be on a ship but hey, I didn’t get too bad of a deal considering I have the most comfortable room in the boat with the most storage!

On board Amélie, we all do different things so I am here to talk about what I do aboard. 

As you probably know, my mom home schools me and Matthew which is what takes up most of my time. The big question everyone always wants to know is: “Do you like homeschool?” so I will answer that question once and for all. I enjoy what we are doing in every subject but it is not exactly what I expected. There are both ups and downs to homeschooling rather than regular school (in my perspective). 

One of the ups is (without bragging) I only have school until noon! That can also be a down though because I sometimes feel sometimes rushed through my work that I’d like to take more time on (but I am a huge perfectionist which affects that too!). Another up is definitely that I can really experience things I am learning about (or extra curricular things like scuba diving, museums, etc.) that I couldn't experience in a classroom. For example, when we went to see a volcano (Dominica Boiling Lakes-see blog: Week 3), I learned about how a volcano erupts while standing right beside one! The most obvious down though is that I don’t have my friends with me in class which was a hard thing to leave. It still is pretty cool though to meet up with other boating kids and ask what they do for school and if they like homeschooling. I hope that answers the question (by the way, here are some random pictures from the past month of school)!

Matthew showing off his great skills!                                                                   Science: Great Parachute Launch!

-Language Arts:            
Treasure brainstorm before we commence the awesome: "Treasure Island"!

                       Science: Paper Airplane Test Flight- Meghan vs. Dad!


Another thing that the “swab” has to do aboard Amélie IV is chores. I do actually (most of the time) enjoy doing chores, mostly because I know I get a pretty good amount of money at the end of the week but also because I know it helps keep our beloved ship clean inside and out. My chores are in categories of: Daily Chores, Weekly Chores and Twice a Week Chores. There are some nice easy ones in there like making my bed but there are also some trickier ones (that yes I sometimes avoid) like washing the heads (bathrooms). 

-Newly PADI diver going to go scrape the bottom!

Hobbies I like to do on my free time (especially in the evenings) include doing art, reading or doing creative writing. I have just started to really like watercolour so I have done one painting so far. Right now, the art project I am working on is something that looks like stain glass but is really just a drawing with many pieces that has oil on it (I will post in a future blog when I am done). 

My watercolour painting of cuddle fish I saw snorkelling in Les Saintes.

I also (as most kids do at my age) enjoy doing these elastic band bracelets called Rainbow Looms. I have even (as you see) made my own Rainbow Loom Shop (all bracelets are free!)! If you would like a Rainbow Loom bracelet, I will try to send one to you (wish me a lot of luck though!)! 

                   One of my books I am writing: Gabreaella Gobbles


It is true that I don’t particularly love (but I still do like) reading but about a week ago, I looked at all my dozens books and decided that at least one has to be read! So I picked up a book called: Ella Enchanted by: Gail Carson Levine l  which is actually a really interesting book. It is about a princess who gets a curse when she is born and every order she is given she has to obey whether it is eating something she doesn’t want to eat or even cutting off her own head! As well as reading books, I also like to write them. They are just for fun but I do have a dream that one day, they might be published! And then of course, there is swimming which has no need for explanation (just pictures)!
Walking the plank!-j-Underwater Selfie!

Now that you all know what my role is aboard, I will tell you a bit more of our adventure “not on board” (on land or not everyday things).

Scuba Diving
As you heard in the last blog (from my mom) I took my open water dives down in St. Maarten and am now officially an open water diver (PS: If you read this, thanks mom for letting me explain the dives and for advertising my blog!) I had a very funny and enthusiastic instructor named Henry who was my teacher through all 4 open water dives (in my pool dives back in Calgary I also had an excellent instructor so thanks to Ginny too if you read this!). On the first two open water dives, we saw some really cool wrecks like a sunken helicopter, boat, plane and merman figurehead (sadly I had no camera with me so I have no pictures). But after seeing a sunken sidewalk with white plumbing tube railings, I figured the dive site had sunken it all for us! We saw other cool creatures too though. While we were swimming and looking at the wrecks, my instructor stopped and picked up this type of weird sea urchin (do not worry, it was not a spiky one like Matthew stepped on-see blog: The Moments in Between-March 2013). He let each of us hold it (oh right, I was with 2 others who were doing their open water dives with me) which was really cool because all the little tentacles stuck to your hand. One of the hardest skills I had to perform was taking my mask off for 30 seconds (trust me, it is a lot harder than it sounds!). Imagine this, you take your mask off, your eyes are closed in water while you are thinking: what if my instructor lets go of me, what if I get water up my nose, what if he goes more than 30 seconds, how long do I have to stay in this darkness! It actually was more like that in my pool dives so I was more used to it this time.

On my two final open water dives, it started with a very bumpy ride over (not to mention… WET!)! When we got underwater though, there was fortunately no current! We saw some really amazing creatures on these dives (ones that I thought I’d only ever see at the most twice in my life!)! We started by seeing a sea turtle which was amazing for me since they are my favourite animals! Here is a very important note though, if you ever see a sea turtle, don’t go too near to it (stay a couple of metres away) because if you don’t it will scare them and they will forget to swim to the surface (which would kill them). Probably, one of the coolest things (if not the coolest thing) I have ever seen was the rays. They were hiding in the sand at first so all you could see was their tail. Then my instructor shook some sand near it which made it realize it was found so it shook off and swam away. To give you the full picture, it was about the size of me (probably bigger)! We also saw a miniature cleaning shrimp (like the one in Finding Nemo), a non-blown up puffer fish (also like in Finding Nemo), a big (around 3 feet) trumpet fish and a moray eel (who was not too happy about us visiting his home! No harm done though!)! 

Just to end it off, here are a few random pictures of life aboard in the past few weeks!

-Big Cheese in St. Maarten!

Aargh! Me's a pirate!                                                                                    Funky Tree in the BVIs!

-Fire dancers at the Full Moon Party, Virgin Gorda!
-Caves, Virgin Gorda

                                                Just relaxing!

Painted "Recess!" the dinghy!

I hope you enjoyed Meghan On Amélie blog #1 and please do give me your feedback about things to improve, things to add/change or anything since this is my first blog and I am looking for any way to make it better every time! 

Goodbye from everyone aboard Amélie IV!