Sunday, January 6, 2019

Fear And The Finish Line

Fear is a powerful driver.  It paralyses us - it prompts us to move.  Fear of beginning something new, fear of staying put, fear of failing, and fear of succeeding with your dream... and THEN what?

You would think that just getting out would signify fearlessness.  In many ways that is true, although I will say that we learned our lessons early on to wait until the time is right, resulting in there being much less to fear.  But how do you know when that is?  Do we wait for a sign?  Where is the manual for this?  You can only learn so much from the journeys of those who have gone before you.  In the end we must all write our own manual.  That's where Bruce and I are right now.  What happens AFTER the Dream is realized?  What happens when you actually REACH that finish line???

We've been asked many times along the way, "Why did you go that way? - Why did you choose the route you did? - Why do you move so slowly? - Was there any one place that you would want to settle down and live?"  Since the unveiling of our most recent plan,  questions are rolling in again. And now there's a NEW question.  "Are you finished Cruising?"

Our dream was to make it to Grenada on our own boat.  That was our finish line.  But then I wasn't done.  I wanted to continue on in order to keep feeding the addiction that is only satisfied by reaching the next new destination.  But Bruce is ready for some comfort.  He is ready for some certainty and routine... an easier life.  While there is no guarantee of that with our new plan,  it's what we have decided to do.  We've moved the finish line and so a new plan is born.

When we first started our cruising journey, we had a lot of encouragement from those already out here.  But there were some warnings tossed in there as well...  In my bright-eyed optimistic state, I ignored those nay-sayers thinking that happiness comes from within ~ those are just unhappy people.

But today I heard myself giving similarly ominous advice to a Cruiser-in-Waiting, and it stunned me.  WAIT!  What happened to me?  Have I become one of those unhappy people???  We have had a run of frustration with our generator and it seems that we just can't figure out what's wrong with the damned thing.  It's disheartening to get up every day and work on that same thing again, with the same dashing of hope as a result.  Has it turned me?

We used to attack every challenge with zeal!  We were dauntless, no project was too difficult and we worked our asses off.  Then we cruised and it was sublime.  The excitement of arriving to a new place and the unmatched joy of having an achingly beautiful anchorage all to ourselves FAR outweighed the disappointments and money spent on keeping the boat going.  We pitied those negative-nellies for their loss of innocence.

And then we lost ours.  At least temporarily.  Perhaps staying in one place for so long is the cause and once we get moving again, we'll rediscover the joy.  But there are deeper causes at work here and it's time to admit that our Cruising days are numbered!

There.  I've said it out loud.  Bruce is 21 years my senior.  He is 76 years old, and while he still has a lot of energy, he's slowing down.  He is tired of fixing things.  He is tired of the underlying stress of keeping all the little  items on the maintenance list ticked off.  He is tired of worrying about just keeping the boat in shape and wants to enjoy some leisure time. This has all just become too much work! He remembers fondly the time when the boat was a place he could to go tinker and putter, then he could return home to the modern conveniences.  Conveniences like running water we don't have to make ourselves, electricity that we don't have to make ourselves, refrigeration that doesn't have to be babied, a laundry machine that washes the clothes for you, and the list goes on... Conveniences we gave up - tossed away to pursue the lure of these Caribbean islands.

I have to say that I wasn't happy when he confessed this to me, but I think in my heart I knew it was coming.  And I've just had to admit it to myself, and then convince myself that it was OK.  Remember that fear of failure?  We have not failed.  We have made it to the finish line we set for ourselves.  I've had to adjust my mental picture of our future though, and that's not easy for me.

So this is my farewell to the dream.  It is part of my processing and puts the period on the sentence, as well as the era... our Cruising era.  When I think of no longer experiencing the feeling of smug entitlement derived from floating in these crystal waters right in the middle of "the view" from shore, it makes my chest tighten.  I'm not ready.  I can't go back to a life shackled to land.  I must maintain my supremacy over dirt dwellers.

I look to my peers to see what they're doing.  And then I see that so many of the cruising couples we've met and followed are changing things up as well.  They're leaving the boat part of the year to fly to where their families are... they're taking jobs and renting apartments or buying RVs to live in part of the year.  And they're OK.  In fact, I think it increases the appreciation of time spent on the boat after the initial thrill of the early cruising days has passed.  We can get that back!

So, I adjust my mental self image and my self-defined role in this world, and go back to being just a person who has a boat.  No longer liveaboards, no longer truly Cruisers.  I remember wanting that title so badly and how proud I was to achieve it.  Cruiser Class of 2013!  Happy days!

But you know what?  I'm not sad about this.  I'm not ashamed or regretful.  We did it.  We made the cut and we did it our way.  And now... we aren't going back.  We are going forward.  And we are answering the question: "Is there any one island that you've been to where you could imagine yourselves settling down?"  The answer:  "YES!  Puerto Rico!"

And we won't be dirt dwellers... we'll be ROCK Dwellers!  And are we giving up Cruising entirely?  Well in the purest sense, we are.  But we are keeping the boat for a while longer so that we can spend more time exploring the VI.  The more I think of it, the more I realize that this plan is good.  In fact, it's BETTER than Good.  It's GREAT!  We will have a new home, with a pool and a BEACH at our doorstep, AND we can still pop over to the boat and tinker.  And when we're done with that, we can take the boat on a short sail to one of a thousand amazing anchorages.

We can become "Locals".  We LIVE in the CARIBBEAN for pete's sake!  Who could be sad about that???  We can help others find their way in our territory.  We can offer cruisers a place to stop over and maybe a run to the grocery store or a load of laundry.  And we can explore our new island home in leisure.

There she is!  Negative-Nellie be GONE!  And while there will always be some lingering fear, I think we have been given a sign. This plan just popped up before our eyes and fell into place.  We are turning the hour-glass-of-life over, beginning a new chapter in the manual, and re-positioning the finish line!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Remember That Year We Lived In Grenada?

New Year's Day, 2019. If you don't think about it too hard, things are just the same as they were yesterday.  You just do whatever's on the agenda for today and suddenly a year has passed.  But the new year brings reflections on the old year.  What did we do?  How did we pass the time?  How is it that we have spent the whole year in Grenada???Looking back on it all... it's all a blur!

Found a neat soft coral snorkelling in Prickly Bay

We never intended to stay for a year.  After being on the move and motivated to get somewhere for much of our Cruising life, it was actually nice to just stop. With every passing day we made more and more plans.  It was convenient to be in a place long enough to order parts and invite visitors.  At first it was just temporary, but as time went on, each thing on the agenda kept us another week, then another month and before we knew it... we realized that we should have bought that local phone plan after all!

Jezabelle enjoys being stationary.
We got here last November and wanted to spend the holidays with the Cruising community. We met some nice people and got comfortable with the island. Our goal of reaching Grenada on our own boat had finally been reached and we were feeling the languor of having no place we had to be.  So we enjoyed that feeling and settled in - all the while knowing that we would head out for some more adventuring next week... or maybe the week after.

Our days began to fill with exploring the island, hanging out with new friends and old, and doing the ever-present boat projects.  Plans formed and changed and were replaced by totally new plans.  And that is the way of Cruising Plans... like they say, they're are made in sand at low tide.

One of many projects - we made a new manifold for our fresh water system
Camp Grenada ~ as it is sometimes called ~ can be difficult to leave.  There is always something going on here.  We never thought it could happen to us, but the struggle is real!  So what have we been doing all year?  Well the highlights are described in blog posts of their own, but all the little things that have filled our days deserve a mention.

Taking advantage of a downpour for scrubbing the deck!
There is a lot to be said for being in a place that is protected from the weather.  Hurricanes seldom threaten Grenada, although it can happen, we felt so snug in our little world that we even stopped listening to Chris Parker's weather forecasts!  The Bays on the south coast are big enough to hold many boats, and while the water is always "active", it is mostly comfortable.  Once the anchor goes down, it's difficult to find motivation to haul it up again!  We did move around a little bit starting in Benji Bay, then moving to Clarke's Court in Woburn, and eventually settling in Prickly Bay for the conveniences it offers.

The fun kind of boat project!
Another of Bruce's favorite boat projects - cleaning the bottom of the boat and the dinghy!
There is a small marina in Prickly Bay that has a restaurant, laundry, tiki bar and even a small grocery store.  It's a hub for shopping busses and their restaurant is always a nice fall-back plan for those nights when you don't want to cook! If you go in early you can even get fresh baked bread and pastries, CHEAP!

Yes, that is a bird standing next to Bruce's plate!
Cruisers spend hours sitting in the open air restaurant nursing a drink so that they can use the wifi!  There are long tables with power sources, 110 and 220, so you can plug in your computer or charge the iPad while downloading and updating or even Skyping with the family!  It's a very nice convenience for when the Cruiser's Wifi is on the fritz... which is often!

Portions are large enough to share!
Every Friday night there is a Steel Pan Band playing to keep us in the island mood!
Lovely cider - sparkling and light
If we get tired of the Marina restaurant, a short hike up the road brings us to the West Indies Beer Company for lovely beers and even ciders for me!  We've had many a happy hour and birthday celebration here.  Most of the time we started at the Brewing Co. and then backtracked to Aziz for a lovely dinner.

Caught in a downpour outside of Budget Marine
While Cruisers love their happy hours... even more important is having a convenient chandlery.  The second most important reason for staying so long in Prickly Bay was the proximity to the Budget Marine!  We have made endless dinghy trips here and almost always found what we needed to complete our projects.

But the number 1 reason for remaining in Prickly Bay is that the #1 bus comes within walking distance.  Just around the corner and up the road from Budget, we can catch one of the numerous vans that serve as public transportation here.  In fact, during the less busy hours, the buses will go off route and we can sometimes get picked up right up the street!  While this deprives us of some much needed exercise, it also gets us out of the rain!

I love the ladies dressed up!
The island is served by a web of "bus" routes with hubs in the larger towns.  The #1 bus runs from the hub in St. Georges to the round-about near us and we can find most of what we need somewhere along that route.  Bruce and I have never felt the need to take another bus, although we've talked about riding to one of the other towns just for a day trip.  Funny how in a year we've never found the time to do it!

The buses are an acquired taste and I love to watch the faces of visitors when we take them into town on one.  To the outsider they can look dirty, and maybe they are... But along with the passengers squished in elbow-to-elbow, the loud music pumping and the bouncing as we barrel along the narrow roads, we get a main-line infusion of what it's really like to live here.  These busses carry people to their jobs, to the grocery store and to school.  Afternoons find us packed in with the smartly uniformed school kids.  Even the youngest ones ride the buses safely home, and it is common to see the drivers go out of their way off route to drop the kids closer.

The riders are mostly very quiet and stoic as the driver careens through the streets.  Some unwritten bus etiquette must demand this reserved behaviour because we seldom even hear a conversation on the bus.  We sometimes try to talk to our fellow passengers and even the children look at us as if we are to be indulged.  Once recently, a little girl asked her mother "Why are white people so silly?"... Her mom shushed her but I laughed!  These bus rides are a treasure and I never take a ride that doesn't fill me with a feeling of connectedness and contentment that fuel a growing love for this island.  And it smells so good!!!

When we first arrived here, one of the first things I noticed were the lovely fragrances.  Flowers, curried food, rainforest freshness and salt air all combine to give the olfactory sense a workout!

Did I mention the flowers???

The Franjipani Horned Worm steps the flowers from the plant!

And then there are the not-so-good smells... like the Fish Market in St. George's!  Early on we learned that we could come here in the mornings and often find this bustling market full of wonderful, fresh fish!  Tuna and Mahi-Mahi are the favorites and they often "finish" early, so if we want to get it, we have to get it fast!

They cut huge tuna using a machete and a wooden stump, just whacking away as they chop the fish into two inch sections.  Grenadians chop everything into "cuts" that we are unused to and it can be disconcerting, but we do the best we can to avoid bones and satisfy our American sensibilities.  The low price for fish as fresh as swimming this morning is a small trade-off and seeing where our food comes from takes us back to basics, which is one of the reasons we came out cruising!

Visits to St. George's have become a weekly event.  We love the hustle and the vibrant life that flows through these ancient streets.  I love how the people here waste nothing.  These old buildings, many of which were built using the ballast stones from slave ships, are still in use today.  It's a delightful mix of old and new and it seems that the people consider it not a big thing to simply use what's here for them instead of tearing it all down and building shiny new buildings.  Such a waste that would be.

There aren't many flat surfaces so buildings are modified to fit the slope.
The old Library near the government buildings is beautiful, if somewhat crumbling
What secrets do these old windows hold?

I am fascinated by the fact that structures built in the 1800s are still in use today.  When I read about bridges and other modern structures in the US and other countries, that have fallen, while these have withstood the ravages of time, it simply amazes me.  These most basic of structures have lasted and served their purpose well.  The walk through the Sendall tunnel that runs beneath the hill where Fort George stands, never fails to jazz me - even though I try to act nonchalant and unimpressed like a Local...

Most often our visits to St. George's are motivated by the need for tomatoes.  Yes.  Tomatoes!  The more modern IGA grocery store where we do most of our shopping will often run out of fresh veggies between supply boats.  We have to turn to the open-air markets in town and other nearby stops, to find veggies grown here on the island.  They're actually more tasty anyway!  So why don't we always buy our tomatoes from the local market?  Because sometimes we go long weeks without ever seeing a tomato, or an egg for that matter!  When you find things, you buy them, because you never know how long it will be until you have another opportunity!

Smaller vendors set up shop along the sidewalks of town
Fridays and Saturdays the square is blocked so that vendors can spread out!
It is hard to say no to these lovely ladies...
Another scent that floats through the air is that of roasting corn!
I can't tell you how deeply connected we feel to this island.  Over these many weeks, and months we have had all of our basic needs met.  Maybe that's what it takes to truly "live" in a place.  

We have been pleased to find our healthcare needs met as well.  Bruce had laser surgery on his eye.  We walked into an ophthalmologist's office, got a same-day appointment.  She examined his eyes, listened to his history, then proceeded to allow me to look into his eyes through the scope so that I could see what she was talking about.  She offered to do the surgery right then and there.  No waiting, no return appointments...  The entire surgery cost about what we would expect to pay for the initial exam and lab work in the States.  

I had to have a rum drink after my biopsy!
We have seen a dermatologist who performed a full body exam on us both, as well excision and pathology on a couple of bumps we had.  The specimens were sent for pathology, which took a while, but the prices were a fraction of what a single visit would have been back in the States, and we got in same day.  In Corpus you wait six months!  And as a bonus, there was a bar right outside the office for me to have a shot of rum to calm my needle-phobic nerves after the procedure!

I had a basic workup done and lab work as well.  The Doctor sat with me for a prolonged period of time and even apologised that the bloodwork results would take about two hours and we would have to return.  We went for lunch and I had my results and another long session with the Doctor afterwards.  And my cholesterol is down!  Again, cost less than a regular visit in the States!  Starting to notice a pattern here?

Bruce had need of a dentist and we LOVE Dr. Nedd.  She's a dental surgeon and has the BEST bedside manner.  Healthcare here is just simple, no-nonsense, no waiting, no huge cost and basic goodness.  So maybe the equipment isn't the latest and greatest... maybe the air conditioning was on the fritz... but we're good with that.  The Dental Surgeon did Bruce's cleaning!!!  He got partial dentures made for less than the cost of a basket of groceries!!!

 With all of our needs met and expectations exceeded... what else is there?  That leaves time between boat projects to enjoy the island where life is slow and easy.

A closer look reveals the beauty that is everywhere.  It's in the regal bearing of the ladies as they walk the streets.  It's in the lilting music of the voices we hear from many countries.  It's in the sparkling sunshine both warm and the liquid variety.

Cruise ships are often in port
The beautiful cemetery on the hill above St. George's

Iconic Christ of the Deep
When we need to get away from it all... there's always the BEACH!  Grand Anse beach is our favorite for perfection.  Yes, it is beach perfection.  Perfect white sand.  Perfect clear water that is calm and soothing.  The salinity is such that you can float as if in a chair... without a float!

A short bus ride gets us to this awesome spot where a vendor rents chairs for a few bucks a day.  He also has cold water and beer and many times, other vendors will come by selling anything from burgers to cake - as well as trinkets.  But they soon learn that we aren't the average tourist.  No... we live here!  So the BS dissipates and the prices come down and we aren't bothered as insistently as the folks from the cruise ships.  We are left to relax and enjoy the paradise unruffled.

Crystal clear!

We laughed and laughed that day as the waves rolled us in the sand! Here is Bruce about to get his pants packed!
Nothing better to do than watch these crabs remove sand balls from their homes!
The perfect moment
Vendors waiting for the lunch crowd up the beach at the Spice and Craft Market
And if all of that begins to get old (it never gets old), we have another beach right in our anchorage!  Calabash beach is a short dinghy ride away and we've spent many an afternoon floating in chest deep water with friends and fellow members of the ARG (alcohol research group) AND every other Sunday with the artistic crowd at LAE Cottages.

Fellow Cruiser-turned-Local, Cindy was the instigator of this little invitation-only gathering.  Somehow I got on the list and we wiled away many hours beneath the shade and soaking in the cool waters while listening to an ever changing rotation of musicians jamming.

Drinks and food flowed freely from the little bar and prices were not bad at all.

Our little bay in the late afternoon.  
We periodically took time off to explore the island.  There are organized excursions broadcast on the morning net, and sometimes I would put one together myself.  The island has so many beautiful stops and it takes a year to see them all properly.

Paradise Perfection

Stunning views become commonplace

Then there are the simple dinners with friends.  Friends are what makes Cruising Life go around.  We are all out here, far away from our families and long-time friends from "home".  We form friendships that are different from those.  They burn fast and bright, then we say goodbye, and it's OK.  Hopefully we will see these faces again, but if not, we will always have the unique memories of our times spent here in Paradise where only a fortunate few have been.

If it was Friday night, chances were good that we could be found at either Options, or the Container Park.  Just up the road from the Budget Marine, toward the University, there are two collections of restaurant/bar vendors that are literally working out of shipping containers - thus the name Container Park.

Cruisers would join university students there for a wide variety of foods from different countries.  The Cuban Corner and the Schwarma place were our favorites and it was always a struggle to choose which one to eat each week.  What wonderful times we had sharing meals and drinks with "The Cool Kids" where there are never any changes in season or work woes to stress us out.  Just boat projects! There was always someone with whom to commiserate about whatever boat issues were driving you wild that week...  It's good to have people around who understand the travails of Cruising Life!

Lucky US!

Cindy, Karen, Marge (bottom left to right) Me and Pip
Looks a little devilish, doesn't she?
Now and then more recently, the aforementioned Cindy would plan a special afternoon luncheon for a small group at the University Club.  This is an exclusive (well, sort of) club in which Cindy is a member.  She would invite us here for a relaxing afternoon in the pool with drinks brought to us to fuel our shenanigans... followed by a delicious lunch cooked by someone else!  The meals were always unique and maybe a step up from what we are used to, so it always felt like we were doing something wickedly above our station in life.  Fun times!

Girls Secrets and support aided by awesome pina coladas!
We even invited the boys along one day!  Fewer shenanigans but fun too!

We've seen many full moons over these bays, and every one was stunning!

These and so many other little things have filled the hours, days, weeks and months that have made this year-PLUS just fly by.  So many slow, lazy days... So many frenzied days in which the rule "Never try to do more than one thing in a day." is proven again and again.  We've been tired, we've been amazed, we've been frustrated, and we've felt so incredibly fortunate...  All of it has come together to make Grenada a profoundly beloved place in our hearts.  Grenada, we will always love you!