Thursday, 30 October 2014

Week 31- Halloween !

For anyone out there planning their own sailing adventure......

Pssttt....have you heard ? Boat work...there is no escaping it !

We have some friends here in Grenada who have put their boat up for sale and they were telling us about one potential buyer who had written them a long list of things our friends would have to replace if they were to buy ; new sails, new rigging,new generator, the list went on and on. These would-be buyers said they had to insist on such a long list because : 

"They were going sailing for three years and they didn’t want to have to do any work on their boat while travelling".......

Haha !  That is the best punch line I’ve heard in a long time ! Those poor people, I feel badly for them for having such high expectations !  Ask anyone who has travelled extensively on a boat and they will tell you the ugly truth : everyone goes through what we are going through at one point or another....even on brand new million dollar boats....there is always something. Some other friends of ours bought their beautiful boat, brand new, seven years ago, and they tell us that they *think* that they have finally gotten rid of the last “bug”  this year ! 

But that is just part of the cruising life, and we knew that going in. So here we are, it been a month since we started the repair work on the is progressing, especially in the last few days, and we hope to have everything done in just a couple of weeks.

Its like if we have our very own HAZMAT team  coming to us every morning !

Is that snow on our window sil ?  (Nope it's just fiberglass dust!)

I know that we are very lucky, "we are living the dream" after all, but honestly this latest boat project has, at times, taken its toll on us. I thought I was a patient person, but I guess I still have some things to learn in that area.  My biggest challenge seems to stem from worrying about the kids with all this. But, as always, they have proven to be the most resilient and adaptable of us, and I remind myself that every one of these experiences, good or bad, helps to make them stronger and better prepared for an ever changing world out there ! 

Thank goodness for events like Halloween which help to keep our minds on the present moment to be enjoyed, here and now ! One of the Marina’s hosted a Hallowe’en party for the kids last weekend. Meghan decided to go as a “Rasta-Cat” and at the last minute Matthew and MC decided on impersonating a couple of shady characters from  Dr Seuss Books....Mark came along as himself and everyone had a good time!

Secret Harbour Marina really outdid themselves with all kinds of games, treats, great decoration and....a BUBBLE MACHINE....a bouncy castle AND a TRAMPOLINE !!!! Matthew was in heaven !  

Then, on Wednesday Oct 29th, the cruisers organized an evening of Trick or Treating for the kids. There was a flotilla of 27 kids who visited 24 boats by dinghy. They gathered lots of treats and had a wonderful time !  This is one Halloween I think they will never forget !  (And, for ONCE: no snow suits to wear under their costume!)

MC has docking  lessons with RYC instructor:

Another way to pass the time.....and because for the last few months I’ve been hinting  that I would like to get behind the wheel more often....and that I would especially like to learn to dock Amelie (when we are coming in for fuel for instance).Of course I have plenty of docking experience with our 16 foot DS on the Gatineau River.....and I have docked larger sailboats while taking sailing courses in Australia...but that was nearly 20 years ago ! Mark thought about this for a while  decided that it was probably best if I learned to dock someone else’s boat he had a chat with Stuart, An RYC instructor at the Grenada Yacht Club....and this is how I got to spend 1/2 day with him and a couple, on a Blue Water learning vessel ( a 46ft long Beneteau ).This type of boat, with its fin keel, has a very quick response, (much faster than Amelie) , it can turn on a dime, but it was great practice and I walked away with lots more confidence under my belt....(and not a scratch made on the Boat in case you were wondering !)  

Well....that’s all for now....but as always we will leave you with a few pictures:

Lots of love

from the 4 (landlocked and dusty) M’s

Grenada Museum, St Georges

Grenada Museum (Meg and Maya)

Our new cockpit table, smaller for when we are underway
Our friends from Fata Morgana know how to "do" Halloween !

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Week 29 in photos

Afternoons are spent at the Port Louis Marina Pool

Meg did the weather report on the "Cruisers Morning Net" this week 

Mark and the never ending boat maintenance: This time he is " Lapping Bearrings" 

Sorel fruit MC bought at the market to make Sorel Juice

Partial Lunar Eclipse

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Week 28; Random thoughts about the wonderful people in Grenada and …..Chikungunya

X marks the spot.......

X- Marine in St George that isthis is our new address for the next little while. Time stands still here; I am no longer quite certain when we got here and even less sure of when we will be leaving......but it is an interesting place just the same with its share of “charm”it's just very different from what we had been experiencing so far.

The way they had us "park" Amelie at the docks reminds me of a car taking up two spots in the parking lot! It's the only way they could fit us in !

All hatches on board Amelie must remain closed and curtains are drawn as we try to keep the dust, cockroaches and mosquitos out ! We couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the air conditioning that we can access while we are plugged into the dock !  I have to say that it has been odd hearing the sound of cars and seeing their headlights just outside our windows as they drive by ....Gone are the sounds of seagulls, and waves crashing on as nearby beach....Now we hear the toot tooting of the buses as they call on potential fares on the streets a few feet away from us .  This comes in handy  if we want to go anywhere though. All we have to do is step off the stern, and walk 30 feet to the end of the dock , onto St George’s main street, hail a bus with barely no effort at all.....just making eye contact with the driver or an unassuming wave of the hand will do the trick...and in just a few minutes we are off....Destination: Grande Anse Beach or the Shopping Centre. 

Every morning, in order to get away from the noise and dust while the X-marine guys are grinding and sanding on boats... we haul text books, Matthew's school supplies, ipad,laptop, bathing suits, change of clothe, lunch and snacks which all have to be lowered into Recess (the dinghy), and then we head off for Port Louis Marina for the day..Maneuvering very carefully from around the many mooring and anchor lines that surround us so that we do not get our new outboard snagged in them..we wave to our neighbours on the fishing boats as we go....

Our Neighbours:I feel like we are living in "The Beachcombers".. the Caribbean version.

Once at the marina, we try to find a shaded  and quiet spot where we can do our lessons.....The last hour almost always being spent right by the pool...where Matthew gets his swimming fix for the day. Of course this means that we need to purchase food and drinks from the restaurant ( in order to gain access to the pool) but we always try to manage this with minimum expense, by sharing french fries or a fruit juice!

YOLO, our new classroom

Recently we have been heading over to YOLO, a restaurants at Port Louis Marina, which  is perfect as the patio offers us shade and shelter from the occasional rain showers and it also offers us quiet table to sit at since the restaurant is not open until later in the day. Almost every morning, just as we start to dig into Math, we get a visit from Esther, who works at the Marina. We met her on or first morning as she was sweeping the leaves off the patio, we started talking and  comparing notes about Canada and Grenada and that’s when we got onto the subject of ........Mangoes... of which Grenada has over 100 different varieties !  

Just 4 of the many many varieties of mangoes Esther shares with us !

This is how our daily sampling of fruit got started; Esther has taken it upon herself to ensure that we try as many types of mangos as we can while we are in Grenada! Being a typical Grenadian lady; she is generous and proud to share the richness of her beautiful island. We love to hear her describe the particular characteristics of each species of mango she pulls out of her bag....and we get to bring them home and eat them ! (I have had to resort to freezing some of them for later use as we can’t keep up!) She also brings us ripe avocadoes, which she calls “pears”, and “chinups”, which are one of Matthew’s favourites.  

A month ago, someone told me : “This island will grow on you....”  and it’s true....this spice island has been a great place to hang out for all these months.We have enjoyed meeting and getting to know the local treasures....who are abundant here in Grenada.

Our favourite Grenadian has to be Phillip whom we’ve previously mentioned in other blogs. This kind and gentle taxi driver once said to me: “Don’t worry I will always be there for your family” and he meant it !  We can call him anytime, sometimes at the very last minute, and he always comes to our rescue. He helped me to find a place to live on land as he drove us all over the South and Eastern part of Grenada in August looking for the best place for our family. He then drove me and the kids from the boat yard to the apartment with all of our luggage when we moved on to land....and back again after two weeks.When ever it’s time for me to do a larger than average provisioning of canned goods, I can trust him to be there....To bring me to the various stores and wait for me and to bring me back with box-loads of food. He takes Meghan to volleyball three times a week and to all of her social events on the weekends so that she does not miss out on the kids social scene .He helped us when our outboard dinghy was stolen and even said he would speak to one of his police friends to see how we could get the police report expedited (for insurance).....and when I asked him where I could find a good replacement for my blender, which had died the week before...he arranged to get me one of those (from a friend who sells them!)...and delivered it to us ! We love Phillip and his little boy who comes along for the ride from time to time. 

There is also Joel, who lives with his lady on a sailboat close to us here at X marine. Mark gave him a couple of our used batteries when he replaced ours onboard, and when Mark told him that Meg and I had been looking for a fish to cut open (for science...long story), he took the task at hand.....calling us over on afternoon to pick a freshly caught one from him. Old batteries for a fresh fish, seems like a fair trade to me !
Seems like everywhere you go around here, you will meet someone who is happy to shake your hand and warmly welcome you to his/her island:  “How are you enjoying Grenada?” When we first got here, months ago, I have to admit that we were a *bit cynical* as to what motives were behind such overt friendliness (thinking: “Ok, what does THIS guy want to sell me?”), but no, after a few minutes of chatting you realize that they just wanted to say "Hi!", find out about you and wish you a lovely stay in Grenada !
Walking around it is not rare to hear people singing or calling out hello to you from across the street:  "Hello !  I am going on a trip today, I don’t know if I will see you again !”  from one happy guy I had never seen before, suitcase in hand, as he waved to me just the other day ....or when I heard a male voice singing opera loudly and with much heartfelt emotion.....I was a little bit surprised when I saw that it was coming from the open window of the police station! My favourite of all encounters though is when a cool rasta dude treats us as one of his own and initiates a “fist pound”  or a slick handshake (slide palms together and make a fist & pull it in across your chest to pound your heart) does not happen very often but when it does ...I can’t wipe the smile off my those guys !

A “regular check up” for the kids at the dentist office turned into anything but Matthew experienced a moment of terror which I was not expecting, (so I was not on my toes as I usually am)........As he tried to run out of the room screaming as loudly as only he can,  (probably spreading his terror into the minds of all the little kids who were anxiously sitting in the waiting room right next to us-judging by the wide eyed looks we got from them as we left).....but with the patience and understanding of both the dentist and his assistant, we were able to accomplish our mission in the end. Matthew even got to keep the little mirror which the dentist insisted he take with him as a souvenir !

The other night we went out to celebrate our captain’s 46th birthday at Patricks Restaurant. We love this place, with its  endless platters of local food prepared in an array of delicious sauces.   It is a very welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, with no frills and no worries !  Even when  Matthew felt that he needed to demonstrate the extend of his vocal ability and how far he can project his voice across a room, commanding the attention of every patron in the place for a few seconds before all went back to normal , no harm done! 
Our waiter, for the second time,was Milton who is SUCH a nice guy, very cool and laid back........even after I tried to break into his house during dinner ! It happened after a couple of rum punches, and I had wondered down along side the restaurant , looking for the restrooms....I came upon this little building with two had a little figurine on it, (which ,to me, looked like a girl-ie ladies room) I was jiggling the handle back and forth....pulling and pushing , Milton shows up: “Hello” he says to me,  “Oh, hello Milton..., say you wouldn’t happen to have the key on you, would you?”... “Why ....Yes I do!” , he says with a smile, “  ..‘cause this is my house !” Yikes ! Red faced, I apologized for trying to break in too his home as he directed me to the actual restrooms....silly tourist ! 

In other news : "Chicken-what-now?" 

Chikungunya ! This virus is “alive and well” in Grenada.This C-word  seems to be on everyone’s mind in Grenada these last few months.....While the rest of the world  has been keeping their eyes on the Ebola virus as it migrates from Africa....there is another, though much less deadly, virus which has been wreacking havoc in the Caribbean....This mosquito transfered disease, which has been compared to dengue, has been here a while, but really hit hard after carnaval..People come down with a high fever for a couple of days, have painful arthrtic pain throughout their joints which keep many in bed for a few days, unable to walk or even hold a spoon. I have heard from two different people who were affected that the whole time they were in bed, they were thinking of their elderly grandparent and could at this time, finally emphasize with what it feels like on a daily basis for them...this nasty disease then leaves the body, but not without leaving an itchy rash before it goes.....
Authorities think that the disease has hit its peak a couple of week ago.Which makes me DOES one determine this ? I ‘ll have to ask next time I meet a statisticians,...if ever I meet one...but when Julie, my latest friend to acquire the disease told me that 80% of the population in the North of the Island had itI believed her.....It's not hard to see that it has hit this island hard !  It seems that every one has been affected one way or another, businesses have 50% or more of their staff affected, you can visibly see the decrease in staff in the grocery store...many of the boats we know have had at least one of their crew members we are just waiting for our turn....hoping it will miraculously miss us....but knowing odds are good that one of us gets it.....I just hope that it's not the kids !
Well...could be worse, could be ebola I guess...

Kids are well....stoic, as always in these times of change and chaos. Meghan never ceases to amaze me in how well she has adapted to this life....and in her ability to remember boat names !  People we have met over the course of this trip: she will see a boat and say: “ Oh look it’s ‘such and such’ a boat, we met them in St Martin !” And Matthew growing up so much these last few months !  I am really quite proud as to how he has been handling all of this too. He seems at ease in his new life style.....taking everything as it comes, getting in and out of the dinghy twenty times a day,  being careful and attentive to where he should be walking while near the busy streets, he seems calmer and more in tune with it If I could only get him to stop trying to take off his shorts while he’s swimming …He's such a devout nudist !
Thanksgiving is upon us I have found a turkey breast which we will cook up with some sort of root vegetable, no doubt..We hope that you will all have a wonderful, tasty and loved-filled  Thankskgiving over there in beautiful Canada !



We do not have a whole lot of photos this week…..we would all look pretty dusty in them if we did !  (Just kidding…not really)

Here are a few: 

Taken a few weeks before being land-locked- Teaching Matthew to  Wake board-Step one

Step two….he is learning to hold on to the handle !

A rather large tree at the Beautiful Port Louis Marina

 A Famous Brazillian Racecar driver's "Sailboat" ( used to be a motor boat, converted to sail), At Port Louis Marina.
It has a full sized gym in the stern !

More neighbours….as we drive by on the way to market in the morning…they wave to us ! 

Dinghy's New Look ! (New outboard, painted by Mark)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Meghan On Amélie-September 2014

The month of September has been quite eventful aboard Amélie IV (who is now back in the water). Let’s start at the beginning though.

Homeschooling… “The Sequel”!
“Take 2” of homeschooling has started and I am officially a jr. high student! YAY! I find that what we are learning this year is more specific and more outlined than last year since last year, we were mostly just finishing up where I left off from normal school. Although there are some things we (my mom and I) can’t do to make it exactly like a real jr. high school (like changing classes for each subject) we still tried our best to make it as close as we could. For example: my mom gave me a locker (that does not lock) in my bedroom where I put all my books and supplies, I have to make sure I bring the right materials for each class and I got to choose two options per term which I do after school (I also get a bit of homework each day). 

Sketch of how a four stroke diesel engine works

The options I chose were: art (which my mom teaches) and diesel engine work (which my dad teaches). In art, we are practising sketching lines and discovering what pencils can draw but we will eventually do real sketches and eventually water colouring. In diesel engine work, I have learned how a diesel engine works and what the difference is between a two stroke engine and a four stroke engine.

Here are some pictures of what I am doing in each subject right now (in language arts I am learning how to write paragraphs and compositions so please tell me if I am doing a good job!) .
Drawing of the interactions in my ecosystem-Science

Similarities between three First Nations groups-Social Studies

Experiment to figure out the purpose of wetlands-Science
Birthday card in French for my loving, little cousin Marianne

Keeping up with Physical Education with hikes

Experiment to find out if snails exhale CO2!
Experiment to find out which material decomposes the best-Science

Kids Ahoy!
Before we came to Grenada, we heard that during hurricane season (May-November), Grenada was home of the cruising kids and that is definitely right! At the beginning of June and July, there weren’t many kids but then when August and September came along, it was almost like Grenada was dragging all the kid boats in! It is especially good for me because I am right smack in the middle of all the ages so I have the choice to play with the younger kids and be the oldest or I can play with the older kids and be one of the youngest (I mostly play with the older kids though). At least once a week we (the older kids) have a “kids reunion” day when we either play a game on someone’s boat or we go outside and swim. Once we even took all our paddle boards out and went surfing! 

As well as the kids reunion days we also have volleyball at Secret Harbour Marina 3 times a week! We have even started doing a “kids volleyball bus” on the volleyball days where one of the girls named Emma picks us all up in her dinghy! The best part is that it is as easy as pressing a button and saying for example: “Rafiki, Rafiki, Rafiki this is Amélie IV” on the VHF radio to get in touch with them or (since most of us kids know how to drive our dinghy) we can just pop by kids’ boats and invite them over to play! Sadly, there is one down side to this since we are cruisers and we don’t stay in one island forever. Eventually, we will all leave Grenada and there is a small chance we will go on the same route. I think I do speak for all the cruising kids in Grenada when I say that we are all trying to soak up all the friendship time while we can!
Big game of Apples to Apples

Break time photo at volleyball

Scuba Diving… IN THE DARK!
For months, I have been bringing home company brochures and begging my dad to get us to go diving with a dive shop (since in Grenada you are not allowed to go without one) and then finally we heard about a night dive happening at a wrecked ship called the Veronica and so we signed up! We had to do a bit of reading on night diving so we were prepared to do it safely while still enjoying ourselves. Of course in the books, they always talk about the worst case just for safety reasons but I am that kind of person who takes things seriously and gets all worried about it so when I started reading about what to do if you lose your buddy or how to deal with fear of the dark, I looked a little bit like this cat right here! When I met the dive instructor and got on the boat though, I felt better. 

Before we got in the water, they told us to turn our dive lights on and point them down so we could see where we were going but when I shined my light down, I saw nothing but black after black after black! When I got to around 15 feet down though, I could see the bottom. We went through the ship and explored the insides of it and all around it and ended up seeing some really cool creatures! The other divers who were with us had dove with this dive centre all week and had talked about seeing a really cool creature called a frogfish. My instructor was pointing at something that I thought was coral at first but when I looked at it more closely, I realized it was a fish (the frogfish). There was another very gentle creature (that we even got to pet lightly) called a slipper lobster. We also saw some normal fish we see in the daytime like squirrel fish and a few little red crabs but there was another little creature that caught my attention. At first I wasn’t sure if it was even living (but I did figure out it was) but it looked like a living piece of linguini! It kept jiggling and wiggling around but at one point, it came quite close to me so I tapped it gently with my light so it wouldn’t touch me (in case it was poisonous) and it split into about 5 pieces! When I touched it again, it split into about 15 pieces! I was worried I had killed it but I later found out it was most probably something called a colony. The coolest thing by far though that I saw on our night dive was the mini glowing green plankton. My instructor had told me I could block the light by putting it on my stomach and wave my hand around and when I did, hundreds of glowing green particles would appear and then disappear! When I just floated there, it felt like I was floating in space!
Slipper lobster


When I got home, I told my mom all about it and now, I am officially an Adventure Night Diver and an Open Water Diver (you can read about when I became an open water diver in my first blog- Meghan On Amélie-May 2014)!

Mt. Airy Young Reader’s Program
Every Saturday there is an organization for any local children (cruising children can too) to come and get better at reading with cruisers who will tutor them and we (my mom and I) decided to try it out. The lady who organizes it was really nice and seemed to have a great place and system for the kids to learn. Before we started to read, we sang a few fun songs like “Bingo” and a song that makes kids want to read called “Go Read a Book” and then we prayed. After that, we were put into reading groups. I was lucky the first time I went because I was paired one to one with a little girl named Aran (pronounced Erin). She had a bit of trouble reading (since she was only 5) but could easily recognize the words: “the”, “and” and “I”. For the other words, I took her letter by letter and we eventually got through the book and she was very proud of herself. After that, we played a few games until snack time came along! She was a very shy although sweet little girl and I know she will only improve on her reading skills. 

The second time I went, it was a bit more difficult because although there were two of us tutors working with two kids, the kids were much harder to deal with. One of them was a very quiet although stubborn little girl who was still sweet but wouldn’t stay with us and ended up going with another group. The other one was a little boy who had a very short attention span and had a lot of energy! Both of them couldn’t read so we read to them instead and made them right their names and other simple words with foam puzzle letters which they were good at but after that, they kept running off to get games which we never ended up playing. They would basically take the games, open them and take everything out and not clean it up. But while we (me and the other girl who was tutoring with me) would clean the games up, they would run off without us noticing and open another game! They were still very kind kids just very energetic with short attention spans. When it came to snack time, Kennie the little boy would follow me everywhere and didn’t want to leave my side! I was really touched by that and all my frustration with the game pieces everywhere went away! I really enjoyed having that experience of tutoring kids of a different nation and I may go back again this week.
My new little friend Aran!

Globetrotting Puppets: Our First Gig!

In case you don’t know already, my mom and I will be doing puppet plays to kids in schools to teach them about Canada (see blog-Globetrotting Puppets for details about the puppets). We have two puppets: one sporty, outgoing 10 year old girl named Chloe who lives on a sailboat and is from Nova Scotia (which I play) and one goofy, patriotic grizzly bear from the Rocky Mountains named Rocky (which my mom plays). We have done a “pilot” of our show which you can find on an earlier blog called: Keeping up with the Puppets.

Now that you know a bit of the background, I can talk about our very first public presentation we did for a group of cruising kids who were in a book club. Most of them seemed to love the puppets and were really enthusiastic when the puppets talked to them. Some of them were a bit scared or embarrassed around the puppets but they all seemed to enjoy the show! After the show, Chloe and Rocky helped out in poetry reading and Chloe even played a round of charades with them! After the book club was done, we got a lot of good comments and some good feedback too such as: we need to speak louder which we will take into consideration. Turns out, the message got passed along and we already have 2 and potentially 3 or 4 more shows booked!

You have basically heard it all but here is just a little bit more news about what’s happening on Amélie IV. We will have to be in a marina for a few weeks to repair our decks which have had a minor problem. Also, our dinghy Recess was stolen but was returned back to us (without the engine) by complete strangers who took their morning just to search for our dinghy. Either than those two little things, everything is happy and good in Grenada!