Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How did we do that!!!

Our many travels to family and friends have brought our odometer to over 206,000 miles. This feat would not have been possible without the support of Scott and Don Hull of Excel Auto Sales in Grand Rapids, MI. Since purchasing the Sunfire in May of 2006, we have put on an additional 20,000 miles. A car running repeated cross country marathons needs occasional repairs, and Scott and Don have treated us like family. They have taken care of all the work, with remarkably minimal charges for parts and labor. Several repairs have been at no charge whatsoever.
If you are looking for a good used car in the Grand Rapids area (actually, anywhere in the Midwest), we highly recommend Excel. Click on the link below to visit their web site. Thank you Scott and Don for taking care of us.
Excel Auto Sales Web Page

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where have we been?

We have been traveling around the Eastern and Midwestern US for the last 3 months. This map shows our route while covering over 6,700 miles. Add this to our 13,000 mile Alaska trip and we have driven close to 20,000 miles since leaving Amante in May. We are looking forward to getting back to the boat soon, if only to get some work done. Still anticipating our daughter Alessia's upcoming delivery, our next grandchild.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

At the helm

Here's Vinnie at the helm of the big rig. Getting ready to leave Atlanta for our trip to Alaska. We will not be updating this blog, but we are starting another. You can keep track of our adventure at:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Where's the boat?

We have just returned to Atlanta where our latest craziness proceeds. This monstrous creature is the 34 foot 1994 RV which we have purchased with Maria's parents for a road trip to Alaska. It will take several months for us to make the five thousand plus mile trip to Alaska, tour the wonders, and get ourselves back. The "Big Rig", as Vinnie calls it (or "Bubba" as it is affectionately named by Maria's parents) is in good shape and we are getting ready to rumble down the road. Watch out.

In Sandra's backyard

We celebrated with family during a short visit in Grand Rapids. This photo was taken during a family dinner. Alessia and Jim are holding their youngest niece, but they look like they are parenthood ready...

Always thinking

A week is a long time for Norah who makes leaping progress, but very short for us. By the time we left it was clear that the world may be blessed with another philosophy major and deep thinker.

A miracle, we're grandparents

We've changed too. Norah has brought us to the glorious world of grand parenting.

Chiara, James and Norah

Not only did Norah develop before our eyes, we watched Chiara and James change too. Their expressions of fatigue eased and they became more and more the masters of bath time, meals, and baby comforting. Years ago we had a glimpse of their parenting talent when they nurtured us, the feckless, during our visit to China. They translated, guided, and reassured us; an experience which should be helpful when Norah enters kindergarten.

Norah Claire Hemsley

Everyday, Norah seemed more alert and aware. She began to focus on faces and responded with more varied expressions and sounds. Soon she was clearly expressing her insight and humor, but in a language we could not understand.

Bundle of Norah

Chiara and James gave birth to Norah Claire Hemsley on May 31. She holds a mystery, she is the oldest child and a younger sister. We drove to Iowa city to welcome her a week after her birth and a little over a year since the death of her brother Samuel. At first she was a sleeping, hiccuping, wiggling package, but she quickly showed new talents.

Family Migration

We left Atlanta and had short but wonderful visits with family in DC and Virginia. Heading back south we drove down the Skyline drive and hiked through some beautiful country.

Vinnie meets Sacred Harp

During our first visit in Atlanta we went to a small town in north Georgia, near the Alabama border. At the Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church Vinnie was introduced to Sacred Harp at an all day sing. Those who love the music find it moving and stirring. Unfortunately, some are distressed by its resemblance to loud hollering with disturbing dissonance. It can be a long 6 and a half hours and still dazed, Vinnie is not looking for a repeat performance.

Land Locked

In a fast 4 days of travel we raced just ahead of the heavy weather that would keep other boaters trapped in the Bahama's for weeks. Strong winds and 12 foot seas provided an energetic sail back to Florida on only a scrap of jib. After settling the boat on jacks in the boat yard, we began our rounds of visits, driving to Atlanta, then Maryland, then Virginia, then Atlanta, then Iowa, then Michigan, and then back to Atlanta.

Turning 180 degrees at the ocean hole

We arrived at Rock Sound for our first, and probably last, visit to Eleuthra. We located several of its prime attractions, the ocean hole pictured here and a liquor store. The store's owner let us hook into his wireless Internet for free and we sat in the grass by the sidewalk. Like most places in the Bahamas, people in the passing crowds stopped to greet us. We emailed everyone that we would return to the states in 3 - 4 weeks. Walking back, however, we realized that life was waiting for us on the other side of the stream and it was time to head home. We organized, pulled up anchor, and staged ourselves for the long trip back.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Boat Life

Thanks to Cecca and Becca we have a picture of us together in our usual outfits and hair styles. May we still come home?

Harbor excitement

Still moving north and looking for protection, we anchored in a tiny harbor with a 150 foot steel cargo ship on the dock. On shore Vinnie met a very friendly and exuberant crew from the boat. The man was disappointed to hear that we did not have "cold" or "beer" on the boat but he continued exchange pleasantries across the harbor. He would start by shrieking "Vinnie, Vinnie, Vinnie", a very apt copy of Maria's own cry of distress in a code red crisis. Mostly he was wishing us a good night or sharing personal insights, "Respect your wife." Later in the day the boat was repositioned just 35 feet off our stern but the crew assured us that we were not in their way and that they would stay the night. Suddenly at dusk came the shrill call "Vinnie, Vinnie, Vinnie, we are leaving in 45 min." About an hour later, "Vinnie, Vinnie, Vinnie, we don't want to hurt your boat". We had a spot light on deck, rigging lights on, the boat pulled off to the side, and engine running. It was good that we were prepared because they maneuvered past us in deep darkness with only a flashlight on the bow and continuous yelling on all sides. Glad they did not leave at 3:00am.


When we walked away, he was still on the beach and waiting for his next volunteer.

The many talents of Labradors

On a long and lovely beach further north on Cat Island we saw a Labrador doing what Labradors do best, retrieving. When his designated thrower wandered off, we decided to pitch a few but found that there were no sticks on the beach. Not to worry, the Labrador had his own rock and was an accomplished free diver.

Father Jerome

The last church Father Jerome built, Holy Redeemer, is still an active parish in New Bight and we attended their Annual fair and Hoop la on Saturday. Vinnie got some great ribs and we met Deacon Rolle who served as an alter boy for Father Jerome. Deacon Rolle told us about Father Jerome and showed us this picture of him which is kept in the church.

Cat Island and the Hermitage

We left George Town and in one day sail arrived at Cat Island. Last year the blog had an extensive tour and much talk-talk about the Hermitage. It won't be repeated now, but we will tell you that the Hermitage is still spectacular. A path behind the building leads to this cave. Although it was good enough to be Father Jerome's home while the hermitage was under construction, its 4 foot entrance and dark, low interior did not entice us to exploration.

Hey Cecca Becca

Hey Cecca and Becca. Where are you? We miss you and the boat seems so big and empty without you.

Uniform Concerns

But, feline lovers ask, "Why do Bahamian police wear leopard skins?"

Marching Music

The music was wonderful and the band played in front of shimmering blue water and under the Bahamian flag.

Leading the Pack

They had elegance and style.

The Parade

After the races were over, the action moved to a small park. People stood around in the hot sun while a high school band and drum corp entertained. Then a bus rolled in, the crowd pushed in to the park, and things got quiet as the Royal Bahamian Police Band marched in.

Shore Celebrations

Not all the Regatta fun was on the water. Small shacks sold favorite Bahamian food and drink: Rum, coconut water and gin, Kalik beer, pigeon peas and rice, conch fritters, and sheep tongue souse (stew). Everyone dressed up.

Great Races

Giving up our shore seats, on the last day of the races we took the dingy well off the first mark. The beautiful boats came at us, rounded the mark, and flew away. We saw near collisions and quick maneuvers. Race veterans scoffed at our enthusiasm and yearned for the frenzy and aggression seen in previous years. They told us about boats crashing into each other and crew in full fledged warfare with hand to hand combat and beer bottle assault missiles. To each his own.


Shooting through the anchorage and crowding up on the mark from all directions, racers enjoy some risk too.

The Race

Winners at the Regatta win big cash prizes and enormous prestige, adding fuel to the intense competition. Feckless cruisers are warned to stay out of the way or get run over. Fools who anchor on the marks or within the course are fair game for trouble.


Each boat is packed with crew to manage the boat and provide ballast.

Family Island Regatta

Travelling through the islands, we saw traditional Bahamian boats being built off the side of the road, in the weeds next to a house, and in small boat yards. They are impressive in their cradles but attain the rank of glorious under sail.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Plenty of room

Fortunately, we had room enough since Cecca and Becca adapted to life on a moving house that changes neighborhoods several times a day and can be quite boisterous at night. They also fit well in the 33 foot boat, four people sharing life in an area smaller than their bathroom at home.

Beach swing

After several days cruising the islands, we returned to George Town and the land of civilization. Cecca and Becca found that in addition to swimming, hiking, iron shore scrambling, and beach combing there were some quiet pleasures.

Together on the beach

It was wonderful to have all these lovely places to ourselves, but difficult to get a group photo. Fortunately, we have an engineer aboard.

No No No

Returning to George Town we passed signs of human habitation. Obviously, the owners of this island take their rights of occupation as seriously as their their belief in the total depravity of the general public. Simple language, repetition and the threat of three bad dogs should keep even sail boat bums away.

Jungle Exploration

Ever the intrepid explorers, Cecca and Becca waded up jungle streams to search for the source of the Nile.

Lizard Sports

Although we did not find any people, there were other inhabitants to share the sand. Sometimes they were willing to participate in games and informal competitions. Although we could not get enough players for regulation volleyball, this iguana on Leaf Cay played catch me with Cecca and Becca, but only once.

Quiet beaches

As we traveled through the islands, Cecca and Becca found themselves the sole owners of uninhabited islands and empty anchorages.

Meet the neighbors

On our first morning at Lee Stocking Island we met Patti and Scott who camped on a nearby beach during the night. For 10 days they have been kayaking through the islands. Now on their last day they were heading for hot showers, real bathrooms, and a restaurant. Their last dinner of a macaroni and cheese mix with a summer sausage appeared to be a factor in their enthusiasm for the spoils of civilization. We were able to lure them aboard for lunch and had a wonderful time together. They were are only human contact and a high light of the trip.

Fun on boats

They quickly began to appreciate the joys of sailing and found themselves indulging in the many exciting activities of boat life.
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Cecca Becca adventure begins

Francesca and Becca flew into George Town Saturday night and in the dark took a dingy ride out to the boat. Early Sunday morning they were heading out of the harbor and into the deep blue ocean for islands to the north. Although the wind was blowing and the boat was heeling with a reefed main, they were very comfortable sailors.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Long way from home

Cecca and Becca have left Grand Rapids and are somewhere in a warm place with gentle blue waves, fish, toe dancing crabs, and coconut ice cream. More news on their travels soon.
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Saturday, April 21, 2007


The day has finally come, Cecca and Becca arrive tonight and we are nearing ready. The wash is done and drying, the boat is clean, stuff has been shoved into places where we will never find it, and the water tanks are getting topped off.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A brief quiz

Most beach trash is easily identified: shoes, buckets, bottles, light bulbs, sea beans....., but this was a real puzzle. Here is your challenge, "What is this?" It is aluminum, 8 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and 16 feet long. One hint: it is not a Klingon war ship.