Karen Blogs Again

Welcome to my blog site! I've just started blogging again. Don't know how long I'll keep it up. Feel free to let me know what you think.

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Location: British Columbia, Canada

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Blood and Guts

     Finally in Nassau, Bahamas (as of Jan 26) after a long and rough crossing of the Gulf Stream.  Our boat carries the marks of the highs and lows of the trip.
     First the lows.  Guts commemorates the state of my stomach after hours of pounding into waves.  It was just about midnight when we "pulled over" (never knew you could "pull over" in the ocean like you can on the highway when you need a rest) onto a shallow area created by an underwater reef.  Even though we were already into calmer water my stomach signaled suddenly that it was time to purge. I unzipped the enclosure and poked my head out over the side of the boat.  Despite my agony I was aware we were passing behind a small sailboat anchored there. At the peak of my performance  I wondered briefly if the people on that sailboat saw me. I didn't care but I did wonder.  Our boat now has a slight pink tinge from the cherry flavored gravol I'd chewed earlier.  Not as effective as I'd like Gravol to be.
     Now the highs.  Blood commemorates the dorado fish D hooked.  Just as we slipped out of the cozy anchorage at Palm Beach Florida at 5:30 that morning D said "I hope we catch some fish". His wish was answered about an hour later when a beautiful Dorado latched onto the hook.  Green bodies, yellow fins and irridescent all over.  They are also called mahi mahi and dolphin. Not to be confused with the mammal dolphin, though. 
     The fish spatters are much worse!  Lots of blood.  The fish took many blows to the head from the short metal bat D uses as a fish bonker before it accepted its fate as our dinner. 
   This picture doesn't really show the carnage but maybe that's for the best.

Chop Your Head Off!

     It was our last day in Nassau. My sister Sandra was due to fly in later in the afternoon and we planned to head out first thing the next morning to begin our Exuma Islands tour with her. Of course, we needed to stock up on fresh stuff like produce, eggs and milk as it could be weeks before we could buy those things again.
     We were anchored not far from the local fresh market situated under the bridge to Paradise Island where the gigantic Atlantis resort presides over the landscape. The stalls are roughly built with scavenged wood (it seems) and tarps. Several places sell beer and there are rough counters with stools to sit on. On this Saturday morning the customers were locals. Men only, it seemed. They were having lot of fun if the shouting and laughter was any indication.
     We passed a guy polishing a car with old newspapers He offered us his services but of course we declined as we don't have a car. I told him he could polish our boat which he thought was hilarious. We started to walk away and he said "I be glad to see you back." which I think was Bahamian for "I'll look forward to seeing you again" or possibly "I like your butt".
     We stopped at the first produce stall. The elderly lady there told me her goods were from Andros Island which is part of the Bahamas. Agriculture is big there. Then she explained that, sadly, Hurricane Irene had wiped out some crops there and she couldn't get certain produce. However, she did have big beautiful green peppers, plantains, cabbages, sour oranges (for conch salad and ceviche), regular oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, mangoes, small hot peppers, small sweet peppers, sweet potatoes and white onions. We took some of each.   She sweetly picked everything for us.
     Her sweetness changed abruptly, though. A man from a nearby stall came by and took, for a second time, one of her plastic bags from a roll that she had sitting on the potatoes. Her eyes glared needles, her jaw jutted out and she shouted a string of Bahamian at him which I didn't understand but could tell she was pissed. Her final words were clear as a bell: "Am gonna CHOP yo head off!" She did not want him using all her bags!
    Just then Dwight came back to the stall and I told him "You behave or I'm gonna CHOP you head off"! The lady liked that. Her face immediately changed back to its sweet self and she laughed. Loudly. We were friends after that.
    Back at the boat I washed all our goodies before storing them away.  This is the only picture I have. I think of the lady vendor every time I enjoy our purchases.  And of course I remind Dwight that I will "CHOP his head off" if provoked. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My First Beluga Whale Encounter

      Summer of 1981 I encountered a beluga whale for the first time.  Bullets flew in all directions from several boats - including ours - and I thought "this is not water safety!".  Rifle men in the bow of each boat aimed and shot as the whale submerged and reappeared, submerged and reappeared - swimming for its life but needing air.  The hunting boats zigged and zagged crazily to follow the whale.  On shore, family members of the hunters in the boats yelled "taika! taika!" - there! there! - and pointed frantically when the whale popped up for a breath.  Excitement and hope rang out from the shore and across the water to the hunting boats. On the other hand, the men in the boats looked calm, intent and in control.  Bullets flew.
      I was a passenger in a boat - an 18 foot open Moosehead freighter canoe with a motor (40 hp I think) on the flat transom stern.  There were six of us in the boat.  My future husband, his parents, a younger brother (taken out of school for the day) and a 2-year old niece.  We were traveling to Sentry Island just north of the small hamlet named Eskimo Point at the time but is now offically called Arviat. This is all on the west coast of the Hudson Bay.  Sentry Island is a traditional site with many old tent rings and other artifacts. Very important in the Inuit culture for that reason and, also, as a hunting and fishing destination.  Over the five years I lived in Arviat when I was married and had young children, we made several trips to Sentry Island. Each time memorable. Hauling in nets and nets full of char, my daughter falling in the water, being attacked my arctic terns.  Impossible to forget.
     However, it was on my very first trip that I encountered my first beluga whale.  We came upon the raucous but controlled hunting scene as we approached Sentry Island.  No time to deposit us women and children on the beach. The men switched into hunter mode. One in the bow with the rifle and the other steering zig zags to position the shooter for a good shot.  Another wrinkle in the scenario was the fishing net strung out at right angles to the shore.  The whale and boats had to avoid it or risk getting caught up in it.  Eventually, though, the whale entangled himself in it which slowed him down just enough for a hunter to get a good shot.  Good for the hunter but not so good from the whale's perspective. 
     How did I feel about that?  Coming from a culture where my food was grown or raised?  I was excited and jubilant.  I was impressed by the quiet skill and persistence of the hunters. I was impressed that I or no one else was shot in the process.  My eyes were open to what it took Inuit women - typically outwardly reserved - to be excited, jump up and down and shout.  I suppose I felt the triumph and happiness of the hunters and their families.
    I didn't feel sorry for the whale or mourn its passing.  I was impressed by his beauty, size and persistence to preserve his life.  This day, though, he became the valued prize in a competition with humans.  The competition could have gone either way and it often does.  I wouldn't have felt sorry for the hunters if the whale had won. 
    The beluga was hauled on shore. It's a difficult task to get a dead, slippery weight of several hundred pounds high enough on shore to skin and cut it up.  Belugas don't come with hand holds.  The white outer layer of skin and fat (muktuk) was cut away in large squares and rectangles.  Little slits were cut in each piece as handholds. The pieces were divided amongst the people there.  Eastern arctic people don't eat whale meat so the carcass was left to return to the ocean to feed other animals. 
    I tried a small small piece of muktuk that day for the first time.  It's like chewing an eraser. Cutting off the  outer skin and just eating the tissue underneath is supposed to be better technique. It didn't work for me.  Years later I had pickled mutkuk and I was hooked.  Pickling made it soft, flavourful and especially good in salad.
    Years later when we lived in Arviat I found myself in another beluga whale hunting scene similar to my first one. This time I was the driver and my three young children were also in the boat.  I still don't know how I managed to steer the boat in those crazy zig zags under full throttle and in shallow water.  But I did and we captured one of the six belugas swimming in synchronized pairs.  Again, I was ecstatic at our success while at the same time the wild beauty of those creatures brought tears to my eyes.  Today, when I hear the word "beluga" I remember how I felt that day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Visiting My Aunt Polly

     How is that memories expand as if to fill - no create - a universe of their own.  But when I go back, follow the thread that connects me to the important people in those memories I find myself not in a universe sized space but instead the tiny confines of a seniors care home bed.
     After a shameful (to me) absence of years I sought out my Aunt Polly's whereabouts today. I knew she was  in a care home. I got the location from her daughter in law and proceeded to wind my way to the home in the west end of Calgary. (They don't call the west of Calgary "the west end". That's an Edmonton term, I just realized.)  And wind my way indeed. I, of course, didn't follow the directions properly - I always get even the best directions confused. I went past my turn by one too many turns but I've learned if I ask directions often enough I will eventually get there.  My spouse, on the other hand, spends his "asking directions" time up front and has exact directions in hand before getting in the car. I swear he even knows where he's going to park at his destination before he starts the engine.  I have learned to incorporate my "wandering and asking directions" time into my trip. In fact, the wandering time becomes a trip within a trip. Enough on that for now.
     I found Aunt Polly.  As far back as I can remember she was always larger than life to me.  And I loved her. Still love her.  A photo of her sits on her dresser and is proof of her youthful beauty.  She embodied beauty in my child's eye. And she still does.
    I'm close in age to her daughter Valerie. During the weeks I spent with her at Aunt Polly's house on summer and other holidays, I absorbed (unconsciously now, I see) how she filled her space, her home, her life with a strong force.  I felt different in her space.  Like I could be something or someone else that my own regular life didn't have the right soil conditions for.  I don't mean a better life - just a different life. A life that was loud and strong. With likes and dislikes clear cut and out in the open.
    She could yell (or at least talk loudly) and swear but I knew she loved me.  "You little shits", she'd say to us. But the way she said it, I felt loved and included.  No sweet terms of endearment from her.  No that's not true. When I arrived and left she'd hold my face in her hands, kiss me and call me "honey"or "dear". That was it. In between it was "you little shits" or "you little buggars".  She wasn't mad - well, not really mad when she called us that.  She was just being Aunty Polly.
   I have so many memories of her. They play in my mind. I recolor them, touch them up just like Hollywood does with old movies.  I've wanted to tell her about those memories.  I might have left it too long. Or maybe not.
    I don't know if she really knew who I was today. On her daughter in law's advice I talked about people and things from a long time ago. Forty five years ago, in fact.  About summer holidays at Christina Lake when our families would meet there. How us kids would mistake her for my mom and vice versa.  It was always a laugh back then.  How Valerie and I would collect bottles every morning and cash them in at the local hotel bar to raise our pinball and ice cream money for the day.  (I don't know if she ever knew that.)  I told her how I loved being at her house during vacation.  That I remembered her getting us up in the morning (too early for my taste back then) to help her play tv bingo.  (She had so many cards we had to put up card tables to hold them all.)  I told her about Valerie and me going to the Calgary Stampede grounds every day during one summer stay, and staying all day. She sort of laughed and raised her eyes as if to say "You little buggars!"  I told her she was beautiful as always, and I love her.  Always loved her. She smiled her big Aunt Polly smile, her eyes shone and she said she loved me too. She rubbed my hand a little.  We kissed each other on the cheek.
    It wasn't too late to tell her how much I loved her. She understood that.  The other stuff may have faded away too far to retrieve now but she remembers love.
   I teared up when I left her room.  I stopped for a minute in a small side hallway to let the tears do their thing.  My chest hurt. I hurt.  Not sure why.  I think the pain is realizing how quickly this beautiful life passes by. How short the trip is.  One day you're larger than life and one day a while later your life can be contained within a hospital bed.
    As I drove away - meandering my way back to 16th ave - I saw the scene around me as huge and filled with wonderful ordinary things.  The Bow River, a bridge, trees, grass, stores, roads, vehicles, people, sky. ("And I thought to myself, what a wonderful world" -  Louis Armstrong.) My ability to roam about may very well shrink and shrink until I'm confined to a scene made up of bedding, curtains, walls, a few special photos, and medical apparatus. I may not be able to comprehend even that.  In my mind, though, hopefully I'm inhabiting my infinite universe of memories.
    And, my dear lovely Aunty Polly, I hope you are, too.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Polar Bear Encounter

The first live polar bear I saw was a cub and it was in a family's house watching tv.  It was 1980 in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, which was then home to several hundred people.  Then it was still part of the Northwest Territories.  Repulse Bay is smack dab on the Arctic Circle.  I think it was October and the ground was frozen with a skiff of snow covering it. 

A local hunter shot a female adult bear not knowing she had a cub.  So he brought the cub back to town and kept it at his house until the wildlife officer could come to Repulse Bay to pick it up.  The cub was the size of a large puppy and very very cute. 

The family living in the house included quite a few people which is typical for northern housing which is often overcrowded with several generations and extended family living under one roof.  Of course there were babies, toddlers and older children in the mix as well.  The house was a 3-bedroom bungalow about 800 sq. ft. and part of the government's social housing program. Most housing, by far, was social housing at that time.  There is now more privately owned homes but at the time you got your housing through your employer or through social housing.

I'd heard about the bear cub and was very interested in seeing it.  I went to the house of the hunter who'd shot the mother bear and was the temporary guardian of her cub.  The cub was the main attraction in town that week. 

You're not required to knock on the door when visiting a northern home. In fact, knocking and waiting to be let in is considered impolite as someone inside has to come to the door and open it to let you in.  Totally unnecessary by northern etiquette standards.  However, you are expected to make some noise in the cold porch or on the stairs leading up to the house so those inside are alerted to your imminent arrival.  For example, stamping your feet in the porch to knock the snow off is one very common way to let people know they are about to have company.  I learned about and started practicing  this noise versus knocking thing early on when I moved to the easter arctic.  I wanted to be polite according to local customs.  However, I found that people inside were often a little surprised when I opened the door and they saw it was a "kabloona" or white person.  I sensed a quick (but very subtle - Inuit are masters of subtlety) shift from a relaxed, chillin', laid back repose to a look or body language that implied (to me) wariness and perhaps anxiety. About what?  That I was a high demand visitor and they felt pressured to make me comfortable and welcome in a way that would take effort or even be impossible?  (I don't know because I never checked out my perceptions so all of this remains my own thoughts.)

When I walked into the cub's temporary housing folks were not too surprised because Repulse Bay was so small everyone knew who was in town - especially kabloonas from Rankin Inlet working for the government.
People would come out to see who got off and onto the weekly flight.  I was in town as the brand new regional recreation development officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories.  I'd already met with the hamlet council and a few of the folks most involved in organizing social activities like dances and traditional games.  So after making the appropriate sounds and opening the door, I was welcomed into the house with smiles and slight nodding of heads.

I stayed by the door and took in the calm chaos in the living room.  There were quite a few people in the small room but the one I picture most vividly is a baby in a walker. The tv was on and the cub seemed to enjoy watching it.  The cub stood up on its back legs and batted at the tv with its front paws.  I remember the sound of its nails on the tv screen.  The cub was unbelievably cute and more than one person in the room was moved to pick it up or play with it as you would a puppy.

I later heard that the cub tried to nip a baby in the house. I wonder if it was the baby in the walker. Or if the baby remembers today the cub or the attempted nipping. That "baby" would be over 30 years old today.  Anyway, after the attempted nipping, the cub was kept away from people until the wildlife officer came for it. I wonder if the bear got to watch tv wherever it ended up - probably at a zoo - and, if so, what its favorite shows were.

Since that first encounter I saw bears in Arviat from our living room window hanging around in the fall waiting for the sea ice to form. Come November 1 they would be gone. Not a coincidence as that's the day bear hunting season starts and hunters lucky enough to get a bear tag are intent on getting themselves a bear.  (I wrote a newspaper article on a 5ft Inuit woman who shot herself a bear.)  Leading up to November 1 everyone in town was cautious about the lingering bears as sometimes one would come to town. Halloween in Arviat had an extra scary edge for trick or treaters. Not only did you have to watch out for ghosts and goblins, but also live bears. Most trick or treaters were driven around on ATVs by their parents.  Plus, the by-law officers patrolled the edge of town on Halloween night and kept an eye out for any bears in costume sneaking into town to get themselves a Halloween treat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shark Encounters

Yesterday Dwight and I watched a couple tv shows about sharks. The programs were about marine life and the health of coral reefs and the fish and other creatures that depend on them.
Apparently, the greater number of sharks the healthier the marine ecosystem in any particular area.
White tipped and black tipped sharks, reef sharks, and tiger sharks. It was cool to see so many of them and filmed close up so I could see the distinctive markings. The tiger sharks definitely have stripes. They are also the ones to be afraid of.
We've seen many white and black tipped, reef and nurse sharks in the Bahamas. We've snorkeled in a marine park with them around. Dwight almost landed on one when he dropped backwards off the side of the dinghy into the water. And when we're spearfishing we're always thinking about sharks being attracted by the prospect of being able to steal what we spear. (Not too much worry for me as I have yet to successfully spear anything but lobster. They don't thrash as much as fish which is important as you'll see next.) Sharks can hear the sound of a thrashing fish a kilometre way. The thrashing means a fish is in trouble and probably easy pickings for the shark. Upon spearing a fish the spearfisher zooms to the surface without delay and raises the spear tip with fish attached into the air so avoid attracting sharks. That's the working theory and everyone feels better believing that.
I was circled by a reef shark this past winter in the Bahamas. I knew it would probably turn out ok for me but it didn't stop me from hyperventilating. I was leisurely spear fishing when I saw that distinctive shark shape materialize out of the murky water below me about 50 metres away. Usually calm in a crisis (the meltdown gets deferred until later) I went over the tips I'd heard about what to do in a shark encounter. Maintain a large shape, keep eye contact with the shark, if it comes close enough tap it on the snout with your spear, and never never thrash and try to swim away!! The last part is familiar to Canadians who learn what to do in case of bear encounters. Nonetheless, it's easier said than done.
So Mr. Shark keeps coming towards me. Doesn't veer off. I wonder how much pain I'll feel if he bites my calf. I hyperventilate into my snorkel. He'll soon be close enough to tap with my spear. Aaah, he's turning a bit. Maybe he's leaving. No, he's starting his circle around me. I keep my arms and legs spread wide and I'm upright in the water. Holding my skinny yellow spear in front of me like a shield. He slowly swims around me and I also slowly turn. Staring danger (and possible death ?!) in its beady little eyes.
Local knowledge picked up from local fisherman and fellow experienced cruisers runs through my mind. No one can recollect ever hearing about a shark attacking a human in the Bahamas. Sharks are curious and want to get a look at you. (Hasn't this guy seen enough by now, I wonder?) Nothing to worry about when a shark's under 5 or 6 feet. (I'm sorry I didn't bring along a tape measure.) A tap on the nose is enough to get them to back down. (I'm not sure. What if this guy has anger management issues?) Reef sharks aren't aggressive. (Yeah, but their teeth are still pretty big.)
This is what occupies my mind for what seems like a long time in a world that's slowed down to almost a standstill. Then he goes. That dorsal fin disappears back into the shadows. I have the rope tied to the bow of my kayak in my hand. The kayak follows me while I'm snorkeling and I can let go of the rope when I'm going to dive down to try to shoot something. I pull the kayak to me now and haul myself onto it. (It's a sit on ocean kayak - very stable.) When just my legs and feet are still in the water I get butterflies in my stomach and imagine Mr. Shark taking hold. Abandoning caution, I kick hard and lots to get the rest of me onto that kayak and safety.
That's my shark encounter story.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's a new decade and time to evolve my long neglected blog into something new. Inspired by Jocelyn's (a friend of Kymme and Mary of Koocanusa fame) blog, I want to not only record what's going on in my life but also offer my take on my life. Something I think I'll be good at given that it's my life and my take on it. So here goes.

I have two of them. Maya is five and Emma is two and a half.
This past Wednesday Emma was over for a visit. She found the "birdie" scissors that my kids used to snip many a craft back in their preschool days. They are beautiful kid scissors with plastic birds attached which, of course, earns the long standing name of "birdie scissors". What else?
Emma's eyes lit up when she saw them. "Scissors!" she announced. She looked at me with the shine of joyous discovery on her face. Then she noticed something else. "Hair!" she exclaimed. My hair. Her shine switched to high beam and she trotted over to me with the scissors gripped in her chubby little hand, her arm outstretched. Scissors + hair = haircut for Aana. Of course! Not yet, however, my little sweetheart. Let's get you some instruction first. You'll have to wait.
We spent the next hour cutting paper. I held while she cut. Operating the family heirloom birdie scissors with two hands. The tradition lives on.

I talked to Maya on the phone today. She lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut with her "tata". That's the short version of "attata" which is Inuktitut for "dad". I asked her if she liked the two piece bathing suit I sent to her. "Uuhuhh." She sounded so grown up. When I saw the suit in a store in Florida last April I thought it would look cute on her. I told her that. To reassure me or as a simple statement of fact, she said "It does look cute on me". I have not a shred of doubt.
Maya is very courteous, sophisticated even, about getting off the phone when she's ready to. "Would like to speak to Tata?" Her tone implies I would be crazy to pass up the opportunity. The suggestion in irresistable. "Yes, I would." Tata comes on the line and my life is better for it. At least that's what I believe after Maya's gracious transition.
Marc (aka Tata) tells me Maya went wild when she saw her new bathing suit has two pieces!! Of course she put it on and slept in it. Her friend's swimming party at the community pool was the next day. Maya was ready.

I want to have a way to wrap this up. Something that ties these little vignettes together. I have nothing. Except maybe the joy and lightness in my heart that comes with these magic (for me) moments with these magic little people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Florida and Island Breezes

Here's Island Breezes, a Pearson 323 sailboat with a Yanmar deisel engine. Dwight bought her last spring. Now it's June, 2007 and we're getting ready for our maiden voyage with her. She's been stored at a slip at Cut's Edge Marina in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This is a closer look at the dodger (keeps wind and rain out) and the bimini top over the cockpit.

A quick look below decks. The settee area with a table and cushion seats that make into a bed. In the background you can just see into the V-berth sleeping area in the bow. There is a "head" with a shower and toilet before the V-berth.


I flew into Tampa and Dwight met me. He'd arrived a few days earlier by truck. We spent the next week buying supplies, cleaning, repairing and getting the boat ready. It was HOT HOT HOT and humid. Tough acclimatizing. We spent one day with an instructor (Wayne from SV Imagine) who showed us the basics of sailing and how to operate the sail set up on Island Breezes.


We made our way down the west coast of Florida to Venice and Naples. We ended up staying 2 nights in Venice anchored out. One night and a day in Naples before heading out about 6 PM for the overnight crossing to Marathon in the Florida Keys. The overnight crossing was pretty smooth - not a lot of wind and clear skies - which was the best conditions for us novices! We did have waves coming from the corner of the stern (I think it's called quarter aft) which causes the boat to roll in a very uncomfortable way. I had applied a patch (Scopaloderm) 12 ours earlier. It kept the worst of the motion sickness at bay but I ended up christening the boat. I managed to doze after that.

Altogether, we were 17 hours on the crossing. Almost all of that was out of sight of land. We had the GPS and auto steering so we navigation wasn't a problem. If we'd lost either of those it would have been a different story.

We anchored just outside 7-mile bridge at Marathon and swam and napped before entering Boot Key Harbour. It was our first time to radio a bridgmaster and ask for the bridge to be opened. It was pretty neat. (We need 45 ft clearance.) The master called me "captain" and told me to keep on coming on. I felt like a regular ol' sea dog.

We spent a few nights a Boot Key Marina. The first day I took the Key bus to Key West - a popular tourist spot. The bus ride was interesting and took us through all the small towns/whistle stops along the way. I spent about 2 hours at Key West and most of that was going through the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. Very interesting day for me.

SUNDAY, JUNE 24 - Dwight's entry re: waterspouts

It was another boring day down here in the keys. We started out with grocery shopping, to get set for the next few days of slowly traveling. Then we left our safe little harbour and headed out. We got about two miles when I was feeling uncomfortable about some vibrations and opened the motor hatch to se the motor jumping almost off the mounts. It appeared that the shaft was bent and was rotating off center. It has been a slightly suspect arrangement, and this was bad news, meaning a possible haul-out and expensive repairs. Further inspection revealed that on the coupling between the shaft and the trans. had sheared 3 of 4 bolts, and the coupling was off center, a fact that I discovered later. This was at first so depressing that we just dropped anchor and went over the side for a swim. At least that was fun, and we swam around the boat for about an hour. We were sitting in the cockpit when the radio came on with an excited voice from the harbour we had just left and were a couple of miles away from. Waterspout! Big one, a tornado over water. We looked up and there was a huge funnel cloud forming, which moved from water the touch down on the key just near us. Then a second smaller one formed beside the first. And the first became truly huge, with a smaller one forming in the middle. It was coming towards us, and we were crippled and couldn't make more than about 3mph for fear of shearing the driveshaft completely. The radio was alive with panicked people shouting, and the tornado touched down in the marina we had just left and turned over some dingies at the dock. It was very tense for us, not being mobile. Boats were scattering all around us, but the funnel cloud disaapered. Good! In a few minutes it re-formed and kept on coming. Just like the storms you see on tv. Luckily this one also died out before it came t o us. We regained the key and tied up at a fuel dock, where we visited with a man that had been really friendly in the morning when we fueled, and he said that the twister had gone right over his head, while it was up in the air. He could look into the hole in the center, and see papers and stuff flying around. We visited for a while and he suggested that my shaft probably wasn't bent, as we hadn't hit anything, and said to get new bolts and tighten the coupler. This seems to have worked, and we will try leaving again in the morning. Another dull day down here.


Well, we're making our ways up the Florida Keys to Key Largo. We've abandoned the goal of getting to the Abacos. It would be another week of hard travelling and then it would almost be time for me to come home. Instead, we're going to hang around the Keys and get into holiday mode. I slept until noon today so I'm defintely doing my part.Found the library here in Islamorada so we've stocked up on books (50 cents each) and are able to access e-mail. We found a nice place to snorkel yesterday and saw lots of multi-colored grouper fish and large barracudas. The picture of the lighthouse below is where we snorkeled. The fish congregate underneath and in front of the structure.

We also visited a State Park on Indian Key. It was the site of a small town of 55 people established to get the salvage from ships that would wreck on the shallow reefs just off the island. We also practiced our sailing skills by hauling up the sails and seeing what we could do. We did okay, I think, for awhile but then the wind changed direction and we ended up turning on the motor back on to get to where we wanted to anchor for the night. We had to make our way through several channels dredged through the very shallow water between the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys. We anchored just off the little town of Islamorada. The wind came up pretty good last night but our anchor held. The thunder and lightening show was also pretty good. We'll stay in this anchorage another night and then move a bit further north to Cows Pen. We may take a tour into the Florida everglades on one of those flat bottom boats.