I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Saturday morning and it’s Bethany’s birthday today and Fran has a feast of a breakfast planned; crepes with 4 different toppings – peach sauce, mixed berry sauce, Nutella, and lemon & sugar (my favourite), along with bacon, turkey bacon, sausages, fresh fruit platter, and croissants. My head feels normal today and, for once, Fran is going to let me help her in the kitchen. I get started on the two fruit sauces and Fran sends Tom off to the grocery store for the croissants and a couple of other things. He comes back inside to tell us that two of the neighbours have a garage sale. Fran and I go grab some shoes and our wallets. We are both suckers for a yard sale.

Fran buys some plants in lovely pots; I see a cute candle holder lantern and ask Fran if she wants it. She says no so I buy it for two dollars. It’s dusty but once I wash it, it looks fabulous and I decide to give it to Bethany as a birthday present as I wasn’t able to get one yesterday when my shopping trip was cut short. There is a toaster oven for two dollars and I debate whether or not to get it for Ashleigh and Rob, as I know they wanted one and didn’t get one, or a toaster, for a wedding present. I call to ask but there is no answer so I leave a message.

After about half an hour we head back to the kitchen to get on with breakfast. Fran is in a bit of a panic as we have wasted precious time at the garage sales. I go wash the lantern and put it on the kitchen table. It looks great there and now Fran wishes she had bought it. I ask her if she wants it but she say’s no, to give it to Bethany as she will love it. I go to Fran’s stash of gift bags and wrap and pick out a bag to put it in. That done, I get back to the fruit sauces. Ashleigh calls and says that Rob and she have talked it over and they have decided that they can just afford the two dollars for the toaster oven. We both laugh at that and I run back over to the neighbours to buy it.

Once back, I mix up the batter for Alyssa’s gluten-free crepes. Fran has everything else covered so I get stuck in to washing the pile of dishes we have used to get the meal ready. Alyssa and Glen arrive, Bethany and Chad aren’t far behind them. Fran gets the crepes going and soon we are all sitting down to one of the best breakfasts I have had in a long, long time.

Fran refuses to let me help in cleaning up so she, Tom, Alyssa and the boys do it all. They set up the kitchen table to play a game of Carcassonne but I bow out, as I don’t feel like playing. I go to my room and set about finishing my packing up and then gathering up the gifts etc. that I need to take to Ashleigh & Rob. I am eager to get on my way and will be making a stop at my friend, Brenda’s, to catch up and give her a hair cut. She is the only person I still cut and I enjoy it. I load up the car and head out. I am glad my head is better today or I wouldn’t have been able to borrow Fran’s car – she wouldn’t have let me drive. I get to Brenda’s and we have a great chat as I cut her hair. I stay about an hour after her hair is done; we have so much to talk about. Her business is coming along so well and she shows me a web site that she is building. It looks amazing and the tools she used to make sure she shows up in searches astounds me. I will have to remember it if I ever get around to revamping my script supervising website one day.

I am excited as I drive to Ashleigh’s, as I can’t wait to see them. There is a ton of traffic on the road; it’s the ColdPlay concert tonight and this must be everyone driving in for it – it’s the right time. Shonah is going to the concert tonight and I am envious. The last time they were in town I couldn’t go because I was between shows and wanted to save my money, but I vowed I would go the next time they were in town no matter what. I had no idea then that ‘no matter what’ would mean I was without a home and broke. So, needless to say, I didn’t buy a ticket. Besides, I was supposed to be in Guatemala right now, working on upgrades to the catamaran with David.

I eventually get to North Vancouver and load up with the presents. Fran gave me a little foldable luggage cart and I have put Ashleigh’s pile of presents on it; they are tied together with tulle. When I knock on their apartment door and she opens it, her eyes pop at the stack of gifts. We hug for a long time and it is so good to see her and hug her again. I give Rob a big hug and kiss and then drag all of the gifts into the living room. Ashleigh opens her birthday presents first and is taken aback by how many pieces of her dish set she is unwrapping. It’s so great to see and I am loving every second. Then I give them their presents from Florida. They love the picture frame I picked up at Bealls that looks like three windows with awnings over them… very beachy. I suggest they put it up in their bathroom, as the colors match, and put honeymoon pictures in it. They love the idea.

Rob goes off to pick up some pizza and wings that they ordered and I ask Ashleigh about how life is going for them. They both are so happy with each other. And they both bought bikes a couple of weeks ago so that they have something fun to do together on weekends that is also good exercise. They love it and just today spent the day with friends Christa and Jeremy biking the seawall in Stanley Park. Rob comes back and we sit down to eat. Ashleigh looks at me as I take help myself to a slice of pizza and says, “Ok, start talking.” I laugh. “We want to know everything that happened.” she says and they both look at me expectantly. I ask them if they have read any of the blogs and they say they have but not the last few, so I start to fill them in. They keep eating as I talk but I can’t talk and eat at the same time so my pizza goes cold. When I am done, they are finished eating and I bite into my cold food. Ashleigh feels bad that I didn’t eat while it was hot but I don’t mind a bit. It has been so much fun to tell them about moving the houseboat and all that entailed and we laughed a lot. Strange how things that go terribly wrong and are so stressful at the time are so hilarious later. I don't have many of those sorts of tales to tell as a rule, because I am usually so over prepared. This trip has made up for it.

After dinner, Asheigh says, "Rob was wanting a haircut but I guess you don't have your scissors." I say, "You are in luck! I stopped on my way here to cut Brenda's hair so I have my scissors in my purse." They are happy and say that Rob is so desperate for a cut he was ready to let me do it with the kitchen scissors or even the ones on his Swiss Army Knife. No need, a happy coincidence means I can cut his hair with my hair scissors and I get down to business.

Far too soon it is time to go and I leave very reluctantly. I know I am not going to see them again for a while. They have plans to go to Kelowna mid July so I know I will see them then, but that is a month away. We hug each other tightly and I kiss them goodbye. I drive away feeling very happy that I got to spend an evening with them in their cute little apartment, and that I will see them in a month.

By the time I get home, I realize that my head is back to where it was yesterday. That is to say, I am in a lot of pain.

The next morning, I get up early to go to church with Tom and Fran. We are leaving early so that we can stop in at Bethany and Chad’s new apartment and see their new couch. I am looking forward to seeing their place as I have heard it is beautiful. When we walk in, I cannot believe the size of it. It’s huge! The kitchen is one of the biggest I have ever seen in any house, let alone a condo. The living room and bedrooms are big as well. And everything is finished in lovely, contemporary colors and with lots of wide crown molding on the nine-foot ceilings. The main bathroom is huge with a deep Jacuzzi tub and a separate large shower. I am so happy for them and wish that Rob and Ashleigh could get into a place like this soon. Heck, I wish I could get into a place like this soon. It would be a fabulous place to live.

After church, Tom and Fran and their kids are celebrating Father’s Day with a barbeque so I decide to let them have their day without me hanging about, even though they protest that I am welcome to join in, and call Carol, another one of the six mom's, to see if she wants to get together. She does and she comes to get me and we drive down to White Spot for the Legendary Burger and some yam fries. Yay Yam Fries!!! I have missed them so much.

We eat our burgers and yam fries and get caught up with each other’s lives. She has been reading the blog faithfully so is up on what is going on. She is so glad I am not out on the open sea with some stranger. She was not crazy about me going from the very beginning and had a lot of misgivings. But at least she gives me credit for being gutsy.

I have to be back at Fran’s for four o’ clock because Shonah is coming to pick me up at about 4:30. When I get back I finish up packing the rest of my bits. All the winter clothes and other stuff I don’t need just yet are in my big suitcases and a couple of smaller bags and I take them all downstairs and leave them in the entrance hall. Tom will put them in their crawlspace later in the week. I pile the two large duffel bags and my backpack, which are going with me to Kelowna beside the other bags and then go to wait in the family room with Fran. My head is aching from the exertion and I enjoy just sitting there and chatting. It’s not long before the doorbell rings and Shonah is there with the two friends who came down with her for the concert. She told them to pack light so that there would be room for my bags in her trunk. She takes a look at all the luggage in the hall and says, “Oh-oh. We have a problem.” I laugh and tell her that not all those bags are coming with us and point out the three that are. She is relieved and we haul them out and they fit just fine in her trunk. Shonah hasn’t seen everyone for a while so we all go upstairs and visit for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately Alyssa had to leave for work so Shonah doesn’t get to see her. They have been best friends since kindergarten and don’t get to spend time together anymore so it’s a shame.

We hug our goodbyes and then all pile into Shonah’s little VW Rabbit and wave goodbye to the Abbuls. I am so grateful to Tom and Fran for letting me stay for the past few days and I will miss them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Fran drives me to Denise's, my friend who let me stay with her for the five months between giving up my house and leaving for Florida, so that I can pick up my suitcases of winter clothing that I stored at her place, and then to the mall so I can buy Ashleigh's birthday present; some items from her good dish set that she didn't get for wedding presents. When I get to The Bay, I select a cream and sugar, a gravy boat and three serving bowls. The cashier rings them in and they are 40% off so I add a casserole dish and a meat platter to the pile and it still doesn't come to what I had planned to spend so I am really happy. I carry it all out to Fran's car as I don't want to lug it through the mall as I make one more stop to pay my cell phone bill.

Fran says she wants to stop in at Cobb's Bread and the vegetable store so I leave her there and go inside to head to the Fido store. I am walking at a brisk clip in my flip flops and suddenly my feet go out from under me. I realize right away that I stepped on something really slippy, it felt like a piece of fruit or something. I also realize that I cannot recover and I go down hard on my right elbow and hip. I fall right in front of the dentist office and there are two women at the counter talking to two receptionists.

The two women are at my side before I know what has happened. "Do you have any health problems?" the one on my right asks me. I am a bit dazed and don't answer right away. I am thinking, 'health problems? I fell down, I don't understand the question.' The woman on my left says, "She is a nurse. She can help you if you need it." The nurse asks me again, "Do you have any health problems?" "No. Just a bad knee." I say. "My head hurts." I add. "You must have hit your head, it certainly sounded like you did." she responds. I feel the back of my head but it doesn't hurt and there isn't a bump. "I don't think I did." I say. I try to get up but they won't let me, "Just stay there until someone comes." they tell me. I can hear one of the receptionists calling for security. I start to feel silly just sitting there as people go by, turning their heads to look at me. One nice man stops and asks if I am alright and the women explain. Two handsome young security men come up, one is holding a first aid kit and by now I am standing up. I insisted on getting on my feet.

They walk me over to one of the padded benches and sit me down. The nurse tells him I have a headache and he asks me if I know what day it is. "Tuesday." I reply and then realize I am wrong. "NO, Thursday." "Date?" he asks. I want to say, 'sure but don't you think you are a bit young for me ?' but instead I reply "The 18th." "Great." he says. I am rubbing my elbow because it really smarts and I notice it feels funny beneath my fingers. I check the other one to see if I have the same lump in it and I don't so I say, "My elbow feels funny to the touch." He takes a look at it and there is a lump forming already. He takes out an ice pack and has me hold it on my elbow. I look at the other fellow who is just standing there watching and say, "Would you do something for me?" "Sure." he responds. "I am here with a friend but she is outside at the bread or produce store. She is short with dark short hair and her name is Fran. Could you go tell her what is happening?" "Absolutely." he says and goes off. The remaining security fellow asks me a bunch of questions about how I fell and what I was carrying.

Before long the other guy is back with Fran and she asks me how I fell. I tell her. She asks the guy if he has checked my pupils. He hasn't but now he does and says they are fine. My head is killing me now and he says I most likely have a concussion. I tell him I have had one before. Fran tells him how I got it. It was about ten years ago. I was at her house sitting on her couch which had a loose pillow-back with a hard rail backing behind it. She said something funny and I threw my head back in laughter and my head went between the pillows and hit the rail, hard. I actually felt my brain hit the front of my skull and for the next two weeks I had virtually no short term memory. It wasn't until I asked my husband the same question three times in a span of a minute that I realized something was really wrong and went to the doctors. Now the young guy tells me that once you have had a concussion you are more susceptible to another. He wraps up his report and then sits with me until Fran goes to get the car.

Once in the car, I tell Fran that I have to pay my cell phone bill as it is 4 days past the due date so she drives me around to that part of the mall and we go inside and I pay it. She suggests that I should go to the mall administration office and tell them that I am going to go see a doctor for my head as it is really hurting. I decide to take her advice and we walk to a directory to find out where it is. We find it and see it is beside Ingledews, a shoe store. She asks me where that is from where we are and I look up and see The Body Shop at a junction in front of me. Now I know this mall like the back of my hand but, for a full 15 seconds, I have no idea which way is which. It's a really strange feeling and I don't like it. I cannot for the life of me come up with the direction I am facing or where to go from here. Suddenly it lifts and I point to where we need to go. As we walk I tell her what just happened and she says 'That's it. I am taking you to a walk-in clinic as soon as we are done letting them know." I don't argue. That was scary.

We find the office and talk to the receptionist and then Fran drives me to the walk-in. As I stand at the receptionist desk it is all I can do to keep my eyes open. I just want to lie my head down on the counter and sleep. I don't know if this is because of the fall or jet lag but I didn't feel this way before I fell.

I get in really quickly and as I am waiting for the doctor, I hear a mom and a little girl in an adjacent room. The girl has the cutest little voice and, although I can't see her, I figure she is about three years old. She is chattering away and asking questions. Her mom has had enough and says, "Ok now you need to be quiet. This is a doctors office and there are sick people here and you need to be quiet." "But I want to talk." the little girl says. "No. You need to stop talking." "What's that thing for on the wall?" "I said, stop talking." "Do you have new shoes on, mommy?" "STOP talking." "Mommy. I said, are those new shoes?" "Ok, you know what? If you don't stop talking, the lollipop goes back to Miss Jane." "No it doesn't." "Oh yes it does." "NO! You are not my teller." "Oh yes I am your teller." "NO YOU ARE NOT!" "Yes I am. Now this is your last warning. Stop talking or the lollipop goes back to Miss Jane tomorrow." "Where is my lollipop?" "In the truck." "Well I will get it before you can." "No, I will get it first." "No you won't. I will and you are not my teller." "Yes I am." "You are not my friend." "BE quiet. Or it goes back to miss Jane." "NO!" "Ok that's it. It goes back tomorrow." "No it doesn't. You are not my teller and you are not my friend." "Fine then, be quiet or it is going back." "I will take off my shoes and socks and walk outside barefoot." "Well then you might step on something and get hurt." "NO! I will be careful." "Put your shoe back on right now." "Nope." I hear a rustling as the mom, I am guessing, takes her on her lap and puts the shoe back on. The little girl starts to cry. It is all I can do not to go in there and say, "Listen, you can take this for what it is worth but I have raised three kids and I am telling you now, if you don't stick to your guns, follow through on your threats and nip this in the bud, you are in for hell when she is 11 or 14 or 16." Not that I had this problem because I was really firm with my kids for the first three years and after that they knew who was boss. I have seen the results, over and over, of not sticking to your guns with little tykes. But I don't go in there and the doctor shows up for them and closes the door.

Soon it is my turn and the doctor checks me over thoroughly. She tells me that I have a concussion, my elbow isn't broken, and to ice it and my hip and to watch for certain developing symptoms as far as my head is concerned. She makes a lot of notes because there may be a lawsuit, she says. She tells me to take some tylenol for my head, if I like, and to lie down for the rest of the day and no reading or anything else that requires concentration. TV is ok.

When we get back to Fran's she makes me lie down and brings me a glass of water. She asks if I want the TV on but my head aches too much for that. I doze in and out as I lie there. Shonah phones me about travelling to Kelowna on the weekend with her and after 10 minutes of conversation I have to hang up because it is making my head pound. I lie there thinking of everything I have to do before Sunday. I need to go through all of my clothes, both what I took to Florida and what was at Denise's and repack for Kelowna. I need to wrap Ashleigh's gifts, and a few gifts I brought the kids back from my trip. I need to find boxes to pack away all the things I don't want to take to Kelowna, like my books that I took to Florida, and anything that won't fit in my suitcases that I am leaving with Fran. Most of this will take a lot of bending over as I don't have a bed at Fran's, just a big fat comfy foamy on the floor. I can't bend over without extreme pain so I don't know how it will all get done.

The next day, Tom puts a long folding table up in my room and now I can work on my packing. I wrap the presents at the kitchen table and that works well. My head is not as painful but I have developed a stabbing pain behind my right shoulder blade that is pretty harsh. I must have jammed it when I fell on my elbow. The women at the mall said I made a loud crack when I fell, they thought it was my head but I am sure it was my elbow. I am getting quite the bruise on it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


On the second leg of my trip home, I struggle again to get my heavy backpack up in the overhead compartment and collapse into my seat. I am by the window and there is a young guy in the isle seat. The one between us is empty and as the plane slowly fills up it stays that way. As the last few passengers trickle in we look at each other with disbelief. "Wouldn't it be great if no one had this seat?" I say. "Yeah." he replies, "I hope it stays that way." We hold our breath as the last two passengers walk towards us. They keep going. YAY! He quickly moves his bag from under the seat in front of him to under the one in the middle. I tell him that I will put my bag in the space between his bag and the seat once we are up high enough that it doesn't have to be stowed and he is fine with it. I put my water-bottle and thick book on the empty seat so that it isn't taking up the few precious inches of space between my knee caps and the back of the seat in front. That is much better!

He and I get to talking and he tells me that he won this trip from work. He works for Dell computers and he placed high in sales last quarter. He and a few other colleagues are spending 5 days, all expenses paid, in Whistler. He hasn't been there before and wants to know what it is like. I gladly tell him and as I do, it feels SO GOOD to be the one who knows what it is like where we are going, and that I am going home. He gets two free excursions with the package and is going golfing but can't decide between white water rafting or zip lining. I tell him to find out which is the more expensive, use the voucher to pay for that and then instead of using his whole $50 allowance for lunch, go to McDonald's or somewhere cheap for a couple of days and pay for the other because both is spectacular and not to be missed. He thinks that is a great idea and says that is what he will do.

I pull out my laptop and get the events of the morning onto it before I forget exactly what happened and then, once my battery runs out, doze or read. It doesn't seem too long before I spot a big mountaintop poking up through the clouds. It's Mt. St. Helen's, easy to identify by the misshapen peak from the big blow up in '80. Sure enough, the pilot comes on and tells us we are beginning our descent. With all this cloud below it seems it won't be a sunny day in Vancouver.

I am wrong. Once I get my luggage, clear customs, and walk out into the reception area, I see Fran and she makes a bee-line for me. We hug. It is so great to see her and to be home. I quickly exchange the US money I have into Canadian at an exchange kiosk and then we walk out into sunshine and then into the parkade to find her car.

As we are driving away Fran tells me that we are meeting Cary for lunch at the Cactus Club in South Surrey. I am starving and really love their food and am so happy that Cary will be there. Fran, Cary and I are half of a group of moms that have met once a week or two for the past 20 years. We started out as a Mom's In Touch group but became such fast friends that we kept on meeting, even after our kids were long out of school. We always have lots to talk and laugh about when we meet and today will be no exception.

We arrive at Cactus Club and take a set on the patio. It's gorgeous out here with long bench seats that have fat cushions scattered on them and even soft lap blankets lying here and there. There is a cool fire pit that looks more like a coffee table on fire, surrounded by couches. The sun is streaming down and I am just loving this. We order some yam fries and I have an Arnold Palmer to start while we wait for Cary. She calls after a bit saying she will be late and to order her a fish taco. Once she gets here it's almost like I never left. We keep up a constant stream of chatter as we get caught up in each others lives. It seems not much has happened since I was gone. Fran comments on how, in the past 5 weeks, my life has been this crazy adventure with so much happening, and yet at home nothing unusual has occurred; life has just plodded along here. Well that is fine with me. One thing that has happened while I was away is all the spring flowers have come and gone. I love gardening and eagerly anticipate the profusion of color that bursts forth in the Lower Mainland once spring arrives. I feel kind of like you would if you found out a good friend from far away had been in town while you were gone. It's a bit sad, really. However, I get over it and we eat and gab and have a great time. As we are winding down and getting ready to leave, Cary makes a comment to me about this being a new start and, hopefully, I will get some 'wind in my sails'. I look at her askance and she slaps her hand over her mouth. "Oh, I am so sorry. Not a good metaphor at all." I laugh and tell her it's fine. "Let me see. What can I say instead?" her face screws up as she tries to come up with something more appropriate. Her next attempt is almost as bad but I can't recall what it was. We laugh and I tell her I appreciate the sentiment.

We decide to go look through some of the stores to see if we can find birthday presents for Lorraine. She is turning 50 on Monday and, although I won't be there while the mom's celebrate at Northview Golf Club, I want to make sure I send a gift along. We comb through Winners and I find a gorgeous, large glass apothecary jar. I'd love to own it myself, and it's the sort of thing that goes with any decor. It would look great Lorraine's bathroom full of soap or on the kitchen counter full of her fabulous biscotti. I buy it.

We go into Urban Barn so Fran can buy a picture that Bethany, her daughter, wants. She and Chad have just bought a new apartment and she saw this picture and asked her mom to get it for her birthday. Fran points out the chic brown couch that the newlyweds just purchased and she tells me to sit on the chaise part at the end to see how comfy it is. It seems a bit on the firm side to me, but I like to sink into a couch. We say goodbye to Cary and I fit Bethany's huge picture into the backseat and we head home.

I call each of the kids when we arrive at Fran's. Christopher tells me he is just leaving work and decides to drop by Fran's place on his way home. I fling open the door when he arrives, and we hug for a long time. I am so happy to see him and have missed him so much. He comes upstairs with me and the three of us have a great hour, laughing and catching up. My kids love Fran and she has always been so great to them. All too soon, Christopher has to leave as he has somewhere to be and needs to get home and shower. I reluctantly let him go as I know I won't see him again before I leave for Kelowna, and I don't know when I will be back.

Tom is away in Pemberton on his annual men's get-away so we will have the house to ourselves tonight. We talk about renting a movie and having a girls only night but by the time we clean up from a light dinner, we are both so bagged that we end up turning in early. At some point after we get home, I realize I left my pashmina scarf somewhere during the day. I know I had it when I left the Cactus Club. I get the phone number for Winners but they aren't very helpful. I call Urban Barn and they tell me they found it on the couch. Fran insist that we will make a trip out there to get it over my protests that it isn't worth it. She says she wants to buy a hanging basket at a nursery near there anyway. I know Fran and I know she is saying that so I won't insist that she needn't run out all that way just for my scarf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


So we do get water hooked up right away and I go turn on the heater. While I wait, I start dinner; chicken, mashed potatoes and carrots. Jake and Nancy have left to drop Bob off at home and then pick up Jake’s car at the Pet Resort. Before he left, Bob gave me a big hug and said he had really enjoyed getting to know me and hoped I'd had a good time in Florida. I tell him that this trip and the snorkeling trip he took me on were the highlights and thank him for taking me out on the water. He thanks me for rescuing him from falling in the water earlier today. He says he totally over-reacted but he was really afraid that he might get run over by the houseboat. I tell him he had a risk of getting crushed between the hull and the dock, the way things were going. He blanches and says he hadn't thought of that.

When Jake and Nancy get back, dinner is pretty much ready and so we eat. Then I get my much longed for shower and I finish off with a cool water rinse. It feels fabulous but the trouble with doing that is, the heat hits you that much harder when you towel off. But it is worth it.

There is a gorgeous sunset and I grab my camera and take some shots of it. It's one of the nicest since getting here and it's like a going away present for me from Florida.

I dry my hair and then try to figure out how to get the blow dryer and the rest of my stuff into my bags. They are literally bursting at the seams but I manage to find just enough space. I put the blow dryer in my carry-on. I decide to haul the heaviest suitcase out to the car. I have been a bit worried about lugging it from the boat to the dock but they are butting up against each other almost level and it’s a piece of cake. Lifting it into the backseat of the car isn’t quite so easy but I get it in and slam the door. One down, one to go.

I get dressed in the outfit I will wear to go home and then sit in the main salon and think I will watch some TV with Jake but he is sitting there watching the Direct TV logo bounce around a black screen. Apparently the dish is not pointing in the right direction, now that we have moved, and so he can’t pick up the signal. I can’t believe he is sitting there, out of habit I guess, watching a logo. He is drunk and so in a mood to regale me with stories again. Some I have heard already but I just let him talk. He has a good laugh over poor Bob hanging onto the side of the boat; he has brought it up at least 8 times throughout dinner and the evening. He asks me a strange question. “As a WOMAN, what was going through your mind when I told you the cleat was at your feet and you saw it?” “The one I picked up, you mean?” “Yeah.” “I thought, he can’t mean this but it’s the only one I can see.” He shakes his head. “What a blond moment.” he declares. “Umm, I hope you realize I wasn’t serious. It was meant for comedy relief.” He doesn’t say anything.

Eventually he heads off to get some sleep and I stay up and read. At about 1a.m. Nancy gets up to see why the light is on. I guess it is bothering her so I turn it off and watch the electrical storm over the everglades for a bit and then go to my room. It’s looking very bare now. There is just my purse, my straw hat, and my backpack. I lie down on the bed and read for a bit and then turn off the light and nap. I doze in and out of consciousness, listening to the wind howl and rock the boat, until 3 a.m. when I get up and put some makeup on for the first time in two weeks. It’s not hot inside and just nice and warm outside and I will be in a climate controlled atmosphere for the rest of the day so I figure it won’t slide of my face in 15 minutes like it has been doing. Once that is done, I try to wake Jake, who moved into the salon and is dead to the world on the couch. I can’t rouse him. This is the guy who told me last night that he ‘just has to talk to himself about what time to get up when he lies down and that’s it, he wakes right on time.’ Ya, right. I decide to haul my remaining suitcase out to the car and when I go to the back deck, the boat has shifted in the wind and now the small cement dock is to the far port-side of the stern. Fortunately I can still step off ok because it has become wedged hard between the boat and the land. The wind has whipped the water into a foamy chop all around the back deck and the water splashes over the carpet. I roll my pants up to my knees and wrangle the bag off the boat and onto land. I try to watch for poisonous frogs and any other critters that like to come out in the dark. It's hard to see much but there is a powerful light on the neighbouring property about a hundred feet away and so it isn't pitch black out. I don't see anything moving. This suitcase is much easier to get into the car. I go back for my backpack and once that is in, I have to try to wake Jake again.

I loom over him and poke his shoulder, “JAKE!” I say loudly. His breathing changes. This is progress. I repeat the process and his breathing quiets. I repeat one last time and he wakes up with a laugh, of all things. “Hehehe… I was right out of it there.” he says. “It’s time to get up, we need to get going.” I say. It is now 3:35 and I wanted to leave at 3:30, as in - driving away. Nancy has heard us and gets up to make Jake a cup of tea to take in his thermos cup. By the time we are in the car and pulling out, it’s 3:45. Jake say’s it takes an hour and a half to get to Fort Lauderdale Airport. My flight leaves at 6:30 and I want to be there no later than 5:00. He says I don’t need to be there ‘till 5:30. That is shaving it too close for me, thus my wanting to leave at 3:30. Looks like we have split the difference.

He moseys on at a leisurely pace, going 40 in a 55. At this rate it will take two hours to get there and I start to worry. He picks up the pace a bit but the whole way there he keeps dropping way below the speed limit and then, eventually, getting back up just to drop back down almost right away. I am on pins when the clock reads 5:30 and there is no airport in sight. Not even a sign on the freeway saying the airport is ahead.

Eventually those signs start to appear and the road divides repeatedly and more than once I have to call out, “You need to be in that lane there!” Or “You have to exit here.” “Where?” “There, coming up on the right. Now. NOW!” I can finally see the airport on our right and the exit for it is clearly marked as right ahead. The two far right lanes both exit and he is in the left one, which also leads to a second exit. He misses the exit we need and now we are headed onto a different highway, despite my calling out, “You need to go right. You need to BE OVER THERE. Great, you missed it.” He gets annoyed. “Maybe you should drive.” “No, I just want to get to the airport and we are short on time.” It is now 5:40. He, once again, takes this opportunity to say, “I don’t know how you think you could go sailing. You can’t handle a bit of a problem without panicking.” I want to tell him to sod off but I say nothing. He takes the next exit and now we are on a normal street. He turns right at the first light and it’s a private road leading into some sort of work-yard with a big security gate. He pulls a U turn and when we get back to the light I see a sign that says to turn left for the airport. I tell him to turn left and, thankfully, he does. I keep my eyes peeled for more signs for the airport and eventually, with me telling him when to turn, we get there. He asks me which terminal I am going to and I have just seen the sign that lists them and they are color-coded. I quickly pull out my E-ticket but there is nothing on it about what terminal. Jake has just seen a sign for Continental Airlines and so follows the yellow signs. I tell him to get in the far right lane for departures but he stays where he is and we go down a level to arrivals. It is now almost 5:54 and I am really worried. He stops at the Continental sign and I jump out to go find a cart for my bags. When I get inside, the place is deserted except for a big guy in an orange shirt waking towards where I am. I see the baggage carts but they cost $4 in coins and I don’t have any change. I practically accost the poor fellow and beg him to help me. I tell him that the person who drove me missed the exit for departures and I need to get up there as soon as possible. He asks where I am flying to, I tell him and he knows my flight number. I tell him I don’t have the change for the carts. He asks me where my bags are and I tell him they are outside still. I walk to the doors and he comes with me. When we get out there, Jake has literally dumped my bags all over the sidewalk. They are upside down, on end, and my backpack, which contains my laptop, is lying on its side. I don’t think of it right then as all I am concerned with is getting to the check-in desk but later I wonder if he tossed my bags and if my computer will be ok. Gladly, when I get on my flight in Houston, I get it out and turn it on and its working fine. Jake is getting back in his car and I am sure would have just driven off and left them there, but he sees me and asks, “Do you have everything now?” I say that I do. He gets in the car and drives of without so much as a good-bye. I was planning to give him something for gas and tolls. Oh well.

The big guy takes both of my large bags and lifts them. I tell him they have wheels and he drags them inside and to the elevator. I follow behind pulling my backpack, which is also on wheels. When we get to the check-in the line-up isn’t too long and I am relieved to see it. The fellow drops my bags right in front of the desks. I thank him profusely and press $2 into his hand. He doesn’t want to take it but I insist and tell him I wish it were more, as he has been a hero, but it's all the small bills I have. He takes it and leaves and I wait my turn to check in.

I am soon called up to the ticket desk and then the agent promptly walks away and leaves me standing there. I look down and realize that I need to check myself in on the computer that is there. It takes two tries as it won't read my passport but it finally works. Once that is over and I pay for just one overweight bag, even though the other was one pound over but she let it go, I head back downstairs to security. I hate this part. I have to go through the line with the thing that puffs air at you and I don’t like that either. It always makes me jump when it goes off. Then when I go through the metal detector, I set it off. I forgot I had my cell phone in my pocket. I take it out and go through again. All is good. Well, not so fast. They are looking at the x-ray of my backpack and see something they don’t like. They call a guy over and he asks whose bag it is. I say it’s mine and he takes it and me over to a table to go through it. He opens it up, removes a couple of things, pokes around at what is left and then puts it all back together. That was easy.

When I get to my gate, which is close to security for once, they are already boarding and have just called my row. I walk right up and, once my pass is checked, right onto the plane. That is a first for me. Usually I am there 2 to 3 hours before boarding. I hate being stressed out with last minute rushing and so never, ever check in less than 3 hours before my flight, and more often 4. I really wanted to buy a bottle of water as I am parched but there was no time. When I get settled into my seat, I am in the back of the plane, second to last row. The drink tray starts right at the front. The couple beside me sip, somewhat smugly it seems to me, on the lattes and waters that they had time to buy before boarding. Ah, well. I am on my way HOME and other than a dry throat, I couldn’t be happier.

I am leaving Florida without seeing Key West or going to Disney World, the only two places I would think to go if I was going to take a vacation here. It seems a shame but, one day, I will come back and do both. With some or all of my kids.

I didn’t get to learn how to sail, or dive either. My whole purpose for coming never happened. But it wasn’t a waste of time. I got to spend time with my cousin who I hadn’t seen for 18 years. I have a fantastic tan and feel very rested. I got to go snorkeling and see everything in perfect clarity, thanks to my prescription mask. I saw dolphins in the wild and experienced the thrill of one swimming with our boat. I made a new friend. And best of all, I had time to think about what is really important to me in this short life and, as I always knew, it’s my kids. Even though I was feeling like my job was done and they didn’t need me anymore, I now know I couldn’t leave them for more than a few months at a time. They mean the world to me and my world without them in it isn’t much of a life. I can't wait to see them.

Monday, June 15, 2009


It’s Tuesday, the big day. I am awake early but don’t want to leave my room just yet so I sit in bed and type up my blog for the past few days. I get carried away and before I know what time it is, Jake knocks on my door and says I better get up. I poke my head out and see on the wall clock that it is 9:30 already. “You have about 20 minutes before we have to get off.” he says. We can’t be on the boat while it is on the lift. I hurriedly dress and grab my camera, phone and water bottle. I down my vitamins and run a comb through my hair and catch it up in some clips. It’s getting really long and I am thinking of going short again when I get home. And blond. Really blond.

We get off the boat and I take pictures as the process of getting the boat off of the supports and lifted begins. It takes a while. I walk out to the dock for a better vantage and look down into the water to see a huge school of Parrot Fish. Looking closer I see a small Ray of some sort as well. He is just sitting there not moving. I take some pictures of the fish and one of the ray and then I take some of the boat as it is driven to the water and lowered in. The houseboat looks so much smaller once it is in the water. It's weird to see it that low. They turn off the big rig’s motor and everyone walks away. I turn back to the water and look for more fish, and there are lots of them and I snap some more pictures

Sam, the owner of the boatyard calls out to me and asks where Jake is. I say I don’t know, that I thought he was over with him. “No. That cheque he gave me, the bank says there isn’t any funds.” “Sorry, I don’t know anything about it,” I say, “I am just visiting.” “Oh.” he says and walks back to the rig, fires it up, and lifts the boat back out of the water and lets it dangle there as he walks away. Ok, that's not good. It’s then I realize that Jake’s car is gone and he has left yet again without telling me and now I have nowhere to go. I can’t go on the boat, obviously, and it’s blazing hot out here with the shade rapidly leaving. I am not happy. I walk down the dock to where the people who live in a small houseboat there have set up a little makeshift bench of breeze-block and a plank. It’s in the shade and I sit down. I check the clock on my phone and it's almost 10 o’clock, which means it’s almost 7 at home. I dial Ashleigh so that I can wish her a happy birthday. I hope I am not waking her. I needn’t have worried as she is on her way to work. We chat for about 20 minutes and she tells me she can’t wait to see me. I feel the same and talking to her just makes me long all the more to get back. I am so glad tomorrow is the day!

Jake comes back while I am on the phone and when I look up after hanging up, he has gone again. Now there is no shade and I am broiling. Half an hour or more ticks slowly by and just as I think I might pass out he pulls in. I tell him Sam was looking for him and he says he knows. “That idiot tried to cash the cheque before we are even out of here.” he says. “I have been back and forth to the bank to sort it out.” “Is it sorted?” I ask. “Yeah.” I ask if that is why Sam took the boat out of the water and he says, “Of course it is. That’s the problem with being a thief; you think everyone else is a thief as well.” Funny because just the other day he was telling me a story about how he used to steal steaks in California, stuffing them down his cowboy boots and inside his jean jacket. He claims he did it so the kids could eat but I don’t think they needed steak. Takes one to know one I guess.

We wait around for 15 minutes or more for the guys to come back and put the boat in the water. When no one shows up and we are both dripping with sweat, he gets in the car. “It’ll be cooler in here.” he says as if I am stupid for not thinking of it myself. “Yeah it will. If it’s running and the air is on.” I reply. “What?” he says. I don’t repeat it. He starts the car and I get in. I have no idea where we might be going but I don’t care. The air is blasting and it feels fabulous and that is all that matters at the moment. He drives up to the yard office and gets out, leaving the car running. As I sit there I notice that there are three buttons on my arm rest and they each have a picture of a car seat on them. Two show waves of heat coming from just the seat on one and then from the seat and back on the other. The third button does not have waves, just a bright sun beside the seat. I push the button and immediately my seat cools right down. Amazing. Before long Jake is back and he tells me that when Sam lifted the boat back out of the water, a lot of water ran out of the bottom. I tell him I didn't notice that. Now Jake is freaking out that the welding job isn't good and the boat leaks. “Why doesn't he come and put the boat back in and take it out so you can see for yourself.” I say. “That’s what he’s gonna do, isn’t it.” he snaps back at me. Okay then. So that is what happens and I stay in the car and watch while there is a lot of talking and arm waving between them. Then Sam goes back to the lift, drops the boat back in the water and starts to maneuver it out of the slip. I turn off the car and get out as it seems wasteful to sit there with it running for so long. The heat hits me like a wall. Jake gets on the boat and one of the yard workers comes to help move the boat to the dock. I watch the slow process of easing out of the slip. Once it is free of the lift it starts to float to the dock and I can see that it is going to hit it. I run down the dock and get there just before the boat does and reach out to try to hold it back but there is no way I have the strength to push it away and it hits with a loud crunch and bounces off. I see that it has smashed one of the lights on the bow and it now dangles in pieces at the end of the wires. Jake runs forward and I say, “You just lost one of your lights.” “Oh, thank you very much. I really wanted that to happen.” he snaps at me. I am way too hot and cranky to take it lying down so say, “Oh, I’d guess you’d rather not know then? Rather I not tell you?” He doesn't reply, just gets the bow rope and holds it out to me. I take it and hand it off to the yard worker who ties it to a cleat and then I notice that the back end is drifting in towards a small dinghy that is tied up to the dock. “Oh no, we are going to hit that boat.” I say. I run back to see if we will clear it "We aren't going to clear it!" I yell, and we don’t as the boat hits with a sickening crunch. The yard worker runs to pull the dinghy out of the way but it is tied up too tight, there is no slack to move it. Somehow we get the houseboat down the dock enough to clear the dinghy and then I grab the stern line and tie it up. Jake gets off and then I see that it’s a bit loose so I go to tighten it up and he grabs it out of my hand. “THIS is how you tie up a boat.” he says and proceeds to do it just as I had. “I know how to tie up a boat.” I say. He scoffs and then yells, “Look at you getting angry because I am showing you the right way to do it. THIS is what you did.” he says and then proceeds to make a mess of it that looks nothing like what I did. “THIS is what you should do.” and then proceeds to do exactly what I did. I just get on board and walk inside.

He leaves again without saying a word and while he is gone I take another look at my luggage situation and hit on a solution of sorts. I am going to be overweight no matter what so I decide to put all the heavy stuff in one bag and therefore have just one overweight bag to pay for. Not ideal but the best I can do. So I set about switching everything around and because we now have no power on the boat and so no air conditioning, I am sweating like a pig. But I am so focused on what I am doing I barely notice. And to think I never used to let myself break a sweat. It seems that is all I have done since getting to Key Largo.

Jake returns in about an hour with Bob, the captain of the dive boat that took us out on Sunday. He helped Jake get the boat to the boatyard 5 weeks ago and now will help to get it back. I am relieved that Jake won’t be doing this on his own.
Bob asks Jake, "Are both motors running?" Apparently they weren't when they brought the boat here; they came the whole way on one engine. Jake replies, "I don't know." and I can see that Bob is not impressed. He shakes his head and grimaces as he heads for the cockpit.

Bob turns the key for the starboard engine and it starts up right away. Twenty seconds later there is a loud constant beep from the console. Bob groans. "Something is wrong with the engine" he says. He turns it off and goes back to where Jake is at the engine. They can’t see anything wrong but Bob thinks maybe it needs oil. Jake takes off to buy some oil. While he is gone Bob tries to fire up the generator but it won’t start. He calls Jake and tells him to pick up some starter fluid.

Jake gets back and they do whatever they need to do and the generator runs fine and now we have power. As for the engine, apparently the connections to the battery were really loose and have now been tightened. Once Jake is out of earshot, Bob shakes his head and comments to me how unprepared for this trip Jake is. Five weeks of sitting high and dry with nothing to do all day, Bob thinks that would have been a great time to check the engines and make sure the genny was running well, not to mention cleaning up all the crap on the decks so that a person could actually get to the ropes without tripping over something. I can't disagree.

Bob starts the starboard engine and the beep starts up again. They can’t figure out why but they decide to go with it. We cast off and Bob is soon yelling that he doesn't have any steering. We bump hard into the dock on the stern. Jake is yelling from back there that we are hard on the dock and Bob yells back that there isn't any steering. He turns off the engine and goes back to see what is up. Jake is yelling something about fluid leaking all over the place from the genny or somewhere. They seem to get that taken care of in about ten minutes and then Bob starts up the engine and tries again. He still doesn’t seem to have steering and Jake is yelling that we are about to hit something. And we do, hard. Bob tells Jake to take the wheel and he goes outside. It isn’t long before he yells, “JAKE!! HELP. QUICK!!!!” He sounds terrified. Jake doesn’t move. “JAKE!! QUICK, GET OUT HERE.” “WHERE ARE YOU?” Jake asks. “PORT SIDE FRONT. HURRY!” Jake doesn’t move. I yell, “HE NEEDS YOUR HELP JAKE, HE'S FRONT PORT SIDE.” I cannot believe that he still isn't moving so I run out onto the front deck. Bob is hanging onto the side of the boat with his fingernails and toenails. The fly screen is zipped up all around and he can’t get in and he is about to fall off. “HURRY!” he screams. I can’t find the zipper head. I reach down but can't feel it and then up but it isn’t there and then down again and find it way at the bottom tight to the hull. I force my hand in and rip the zipper open, flinging the netting out of the way. “GRAB ME!” he yells. I grab his arm thinking that there is no way I can keep this big guy from falling off and I can't see how he is going to be able to step over the railing from where he is without losing his grip. I suddenly see that there is a gate right in front of me in the railing and I yank up the catch and kick it open with my foot. I am still hanging onto Bob for dear life with my right hand. Jake now decides to come out and says “Just step in Bob, for f***s sake.” I pull hard on Bob’s arm and he makes a giant step sideways and falls onto the deck. Meanwhile, the houseboat is drifting and Bob yells “We are about to hit that wall!” and we do with a loud crack and a shudder. Jake runs to the back to push off and I lead Bob inside and he collapses on the couch. He is shaking like a leaf, sweating, and his face is beet red. All that coupled with his laboured breathing has me worried he might be having a heart attack. "Are you ok?" I ask. "No." he says. Ok so now I am really worried. "Are you having chest pain?" I ask. “I’ve hurt my back.” he says. I ask if he wants something for it but he doesn’t. “This is a disaster.” I say.

After a minute or two of rest, he gets up and takes the wheel again. Apparently it was just a spasm and he is fine now. Jake yells from the back that we are about to bottom out. We have drifted into the shallows. Bob is pulling forward and Jake yells that the props are hitting the bottom. Bob yells back that they aren’t, it’s just really shallow and it’s kicking up silt from the bottom. Jake comes in and says, “Then why did I hear thumping?” Bob hands the wheel over to Jake and tells him to guide the boat out to sea by keeping the sticks on the port-side and the boeys on starboard to stay in the channel. “STICKS ON THE LEFT, JAKE!” he yells. “I AM TRYING” Jake yells back, “I HAVE IT HARD OVER TO THE LEFT.” I guess boating terminology goes out of the window at a time like this. “YOU NEED TO BE HARD TO THE RIGHT JAKE, YOU WANT TO GO BETWEEN THE STICKS AND THE BOEYS.” I can't bring myself to look out of the window. I just don't want to know. Jake finally turns the wheel. I am wondering why Bob doesn’t just do it himself. He is a captain, after all.

By some miracle, we make it out of there without totally wrecking the dock, running aground, or otherwise hurting ourselves or the boat. But I am seriously wishing I had taken up Nancy’s tongue-in-cheek offer to spend the day at the Pet Resort with her. She wants so bad to be here for this but at the moment I think she is having the better day. I am just praying we get there alright. I am having serious doubts.

Once we are clear of the shallows and out where there is no danger of hitting anything other than a turtle or another speed boat, I take my water bottle and sit in a chair I have moved from the roof onto the bow deck. I am watching the water and I can see all the way to the bottom. I can’t see any fish down there, we are going too fast for that although we can’t be going more than 5 knots. Along the way I see a small fish skip along the top of the water like a rock. I ask Bob what that could have been and he tells me it was probably a needle fish. That’s what it looked like to me, I recognized it from seeing one when I went snorkeling, but I didn't know they could do that. He tells me it is how they escape their predators. Every now and then I see a big splash ahead but I never manage to see what made it. At one point it feels like we're veering back and forth and I look back at the wake; sure enough. We aren't 10 minutes underway and Jake's already having trouble keeping the boat on a straight course. I can't imagine what it'll be like when he's had half a dozen or more beers.
A bit later I come inside and see that Bob has blood all down the sleeve of his left arm. "What happened to you?" I ask. "Oh nothing much. I was down in the engine compartment fixing a leaky hose and rubbed up against the fan-belt. It's nothing." I am thinking how I boated for 6 years or more and not once ever did anyone go into the engine compartment while it was running and fix something. I can't believe that it's a very safe practice or a good idea.
This is going to be a long trip, apparently it took 9 hours to get the boat to the boatyard. Bob doesn't think it will take that long to go back, "At least I am hoping not." he says. They both crack open their second beers and then I am hoping it doesn't take that long either. If both of them are going to drink the entire trip, they won't be in any shape to tie it up to the mooring balls and dock when we get there. And I know I won't be able to do it. I am more than a bit worried about the drinking on this trip. I am a firm believer in not drinking while underway on a boat. It just isn't safe. And considering the trouble we have just had while they were both sober, it just doesn't bode well. I decide I better be keeping a sharp eye out for the rest of the trip.

We motor past Ocean Reef, the exclusive community on Key Largo where we went snorkeling from a few days ago. Bob points out a HUGE house and tells me it belongs to the family that owns Chiquita Banana. He says that they bought the property with a big house on it for 7 million and then bulldozed that house and built this one for 20 million. Oh to be wealthy. What must that be like?

The weather is changing and over to the left just past Ocean Reef there is a bank of dark clouds and forked lightening. We never sail into it but the sky does cloud over and it cools off considerably. Earlier in the trip I tried sitting on a deck chair up top but I came down after 20 minutes, it was just way too hot, and sat back down on the fore deck. As we get closer to the canal that goes through the mangroves I spot a dolphin in the water ahead. I jump up for a better look and it swims right towards the front of the boat. I am worried that we will run over it and it appears that we have. I lean over the bow to see if it's OK and there it is, swimming in our bow wake. I yell to the guys that there’s a dolphin. Bob comes out to look. I just took my camera inside. I run in to get it and by the time I get back he is gone. DANG! Up ahead I see two more dolphins breaching and I snap a picture but it’s just as they go under. They swim right towards the boat again and I am hoping they will swim in the bow wake when a wave runner races up and scares them away. That’s disappointing. Bob tells me that he is out on the water almost every day and has been for the past 25 years and has only seen that happen one other time. "It's a rare treat," he says. "I am thrilled to have seen it and even more so that you got to." he tells me. What a sweet thing for him to say.

It's been about 5 or 6 hours since we banged our way out of the dock of the boatyard. We have just passed under the bridge that links Key Largo to the mainland and are making our way to the property where I can see Nancy is waiting in her truck. We slowly troll up to the first mooring ball and Jake hooks it with the boat hook on the first try and then gets me to take over and lift it out of the water so he can clip the line onto it. That goes off without a hitch, thankfully. Now, in theory, the current will swing our back end around towards the cement dock tied to the permanent dock. It doesn’t happen and what ensues is a back and forth, pulling lines, yelling at Nancy to grab the stern with the boat hook she is holding (yeah right), bottoming out with the props, and so on. After about an hour of this we are finally lined up. Jake has to get off the houseboat and onto the pontoon boat and bring it around for the second line, which is then tied to the second ball. At one point Jake is on the pontoon boat just off our starboard bow and he tells Bob that he can tie the line onto the cleat right at my feet. I look down and there is a cleat there all right, but it isn’t screwed down to the boat, it looks like a spare or something. “Down there, right at your feet!” he yells impatiently. So I bend over and pick it up and hold it out. “This cleat?” I ask. Bob cracks up and so does Jake. He doubles over and doesn’t straighten up for a full 30 seconds or more. Turns out there is another cleat that is screwed down about two feet behind me. Not exactly in my line of vision, nor 'right at my feet'.

Now if we can just get the water hooked up and heated so I can take a shower and use the head. I have been dying to go all day.

Our Voyage Marked in Red

Sunday, June 14, 2009


It’s Friday and I am back at the Holiday Inn Pool. I no sooner get settled in when Carolyn shows up. “I can’t stay,” she says, “I lost that hat I was wearing at the Islander yesterday and I need to go see if it is there.” “Do you want me to come with you?” I ask. “Sure, if you want to. It’s Alberto's hat and I didn’t tell him,” she says. “He asked me for it this morning and I told him it was in my car but when I went to find it, it wasn’t there. I didn’t tell him. If he knew he would never let me borrow anything of his again.” I am gathering up my things and as soon as I have it all together we walk to her car. “We may as well stay down there for the afternoon.” she says, and I readily agree. I am happy to have another opportunity to go down to Islamorada as it is much prettier than Key Largo.

On the way she makes a stop at a little clothing boutique that often has sales. She wants to check it out today. We spend about half an hour there. I wander around and find a house-wear section in the back. There is some lovely beach themed kitchen and dining goods but the prices make me put them down as fast as I pick them up. It’s shocking. Carolyn puts a couple of skirts and a shirt on hold and then we head over to another store, a huge sporting goods shop on the waterfront. It carries a lot of a popular brand down here, Tommy Bahama, and I take a look through the racks to see if there is anything for Christopher but the prices are out of this world; $35 for a plain t-shirt and over $100 for a short sleeve button down. And there isn’t anything that I think Christopher would wear anyway. I do find a display of Sanuk shoes and one style is on sale for $14.99. This is a steal and I search through them for a size 10 and finally find one. I will buy them for Ashleigh for her birthday next week. They are tan with alternating pink and green stripes; she will love them. Just as I am telling Carolyn what I have scooped, a woman shopping nearby tells me to be sure to buy a size larger than needed as they fit small. I am dismayed as there was no size 11 in this style. Carolyn is just trying a pair on and she is a size 8. She exclaims that she can’t even fit into it. She tries a 9 and they are too tight. I hand her the 10’s very reluctantly and they fit her perfectly. Well they aren’t going to fit Ashleigh then so I let her have them. I am really disappointed as I know she would have been thrilled.

Carolyn pays for the shoes and we walk back out into the sweltering sunshine and drive over the road to The Islander. I find two empty deck chairs where one is in the shade of a palm tree for me; I don’t want to sit in this heat today. Carolyn heads over to the bar to see if they have a lost and found. She soon walks back triumphantly holding the hat high in the air. She is very relieved that she doesn’t have to go back to the sporting goods shop and pay $40 for a new one.

I spy that gorgeous woman from last time we were here and I decide that I am going to talk to her sometime today. But she leaves shortly after we arrive and doesn’t return for the rest of the day.

We spend all day between the pool and the deck chairs, taking half an hour to go over to the bar and split a quesadilla for lunch. It is delicious. Back at the pool I am deep into my book and Carolyn is in the pool when the loud bang of a small explosion somewhere behind me causes everyone to jump and then look around for the source. I can’t see anything amiss in the row of lounge chairs behind me. There are towels draped over two of them and a purse on the ground between them. There is a small table that has a bottle of water on it. Then I notice that an ashtray and a pair of sunglasses are on the ground in front of the table, as though they fell off. I get up and walk over to take a closer look. I see on the towel a small piece of what looks like green glass. I pick it up and it is plastic. I look around and there under the table is the top of a lighter with the straw still attached. The body of the lighter is nowhere to be seen but I am sure I am holding a piece of it in my hand. The heat of the sun has caused the gas to expand and the lighter exploded, I deduce. I put the pieces on the side table along with the sunglasses and the ashtray and go back to my chair. Carolyn is looking at me questioningly and I explain what it was. When the woman returns to her chair a few minutes later, I see her looking at her stuff and can tell she is wondering why it isn’t exactly as she left it so I go over and explain. She is relieved that no one was messing with her things.

All too soon it is time to drive back to Key Largo and we gather up our things and leave. This time I remember to get a picture of the sign on our way out.

Once back at the houseboat I take a quick shower, fighting with the temperature of the water the entire time. I have no idea why, but as soon as I got it just right it went red hot and even when I turned it all the way to cold it didn’t change. I was trying to rinse my hair without getting scalded when it suddenly changed and it was all cold. I quickly fiddled with the controls and it stayed warm for the rest of the shower, thank goodness. I just hate not having a consistent temperature when showering.

As soon as Nancy and Jake get home, she changes and we head out to Sharkey’s for dinner. They have a big barbeque outside that looks like they know what they are doing when it comes to meat and the price is right for their ribs. I ask the bartender if the meat is usually falling-off-the-bone tender and he says it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. I like it when it is and despite the ambiguous answer, I decide to give them a try. I have a choice of garlic mashed potatoes or fries; mashed it is – no more fried food! When it comes, they aren't as tender as Earl’s ribs but they're pretty good and I enjoy the meal. Tonight, instead of going to The Big Chill after dinner it is decided by Jake that I need to see a new place called Snooks. When we get there, the place reminds me so much of the BVI that I fall in love with it instantly. It is a rustic bar overlooking the water and the sun is just setting so all is cast in that magical shade of lavender and pink. There is a live band playing and small white lights are strung up over the bar, which is a large ‘L shape with the short lower part facing the shelf of drinks and the long upper part looking out over the water. All those seats are taken but we settle into seats right in the corner so that we still have a view. Jake and Nancy order a beer and I ask how much a glass of house wine is and the guy tells me $4.50. Just as soon as I say “Great, I will have a glass…” a woman bartender corrects him and says $6. He apologizes, telling me he is new. I don’t want to pay that much but I go ahead and order a glass of Pinot Grigio. We sit there sipping our drinks and enjoying the music and the view. Jake tells me that they used to live just around the corner, right on the water and tells me a story of when he had his two girls and a couple of their cousins out on the water in a small boat and suddenly a tornado appeared out of nowhere. He was blown to the rocks and he tossed one of the kids onto the shore, but before he could grab anymore, the boat was blown back out in to the ocean. He managed to wrestle it closer to shore and Nancy had waded out into the water and managed to hang onto the boat and keep it from crashing onto the rocks until the storm passed. Honestly, these guys need to write a book.

When it comes time to settling the bill, I have been charged $8 for my glass of wine. I complain to the woman who said earlier that it was $6 and she takes a look at the bill. She tells me that they don’t have a house Pinot Grigio. I remind her that I had specifically asked how much a glass of house was and then ordered and if there wasn’t a house of what I ordered, that would have been the time to tell me. She shrugs as she moves away and says that the guy is new and didn’t know. I am really annoyed and am explaining to Nancy as she couldn't hear over the music. The woman overhears me and says, ‘Fine! Just take the two bucks off then.” She sounds more annoyed than I feel and I am appalled at the attitude. I really like this place but I wouldn’t come back if I lived here.

Jake has informed me that, tomorrow, I am to go out on Bob’s boat and go snorkeling. Nancy talks Jake into going along as well. When I get home I get all my gear together. I am excited about finally getting this opportunity. And I can’t wait to try out my brand new prescription mask.

I am up at 6:30 as we are supposed to leave at 7. Last night Jake said he wanted to drop Nancy off at work and then we would continue on to Ocean Reef, an exclusive gated community up the island. It turns out that was drunken babble. Now he scorns that and says we will leave at 7:45. I could have slept another 45 minutes.

When we finally get going, he regales me with descriptions of this gated community we are driving to. Apparently it is known as “the place billionaires go to get away from millionaires.” It has its own police and fire departments as well as shops and airport. It has two golf courses and a huge marina. When we get there, we have to go through a security gate but we are following Bob and he has cleared us to go right through. We are given something to put on the dashboard and the gate lifts.

We have to go into the dive shop first to sign a waver. There will be just three other people with us for the morning, a mother and her two teen sons, and when we walk over to the boat I see that it is a huge pontoon style boat that would easily hold 35. As we slowly glide out of the marina on water that is as smooth as glass, we pass several large yachts. I am informed by Bob that, the season being over, there isn’t the usual display of massive vessels that would dwarf the ones I am looking at now. Bob is about 60 – 65 and has the typical big beer belly that all retired guys around here sport. Not that he is retired, or he wouldn’t be the captain of this boat. I mention his size and age because it will be important information to have in a few days.

As we head out into the open sea, the water is a bit choppy and I wonder what kind of current we will be swimming in. When I was in Mexico I went snorkeling on a reef in the Caribbean Sea where the current was so strong, I was exhausted after 15 minutes. I am hoping I won’t have a repeat here.

It takes us half an hour to reach the reef and once we are tied to a buoy, we gear up and jump in. The other three go off the front but Bob tells me to go off the ladder at the side as it is easier and I do. I am no sooner floating when I look down and see a huge stingray slowly swim right beneath me. I follow him as he gracefully skims the sand. He stops and settles in and then blows the sand in front of him to uncover food. I stop to watch and realize that there is hardly any current here at all as I am moving very slowly away and it doesn’t take much effort at all to keep stationary. My mask is fantastic. I can see everything as clear as a bell. I watch the ray for a few more minutes and then when he swims off in one direction, I go in another to where the other three are. There are more fish here than I saw in the BVI. I prefer to swim along side the big reef as it is very shallow in places and I fear rubbing up against it. And there are lots of small clumps of coral that has plenty of life around it. I watch, amused, as a yellow and black Sergeant Major darts at any fish that comes too close to his clump of coral. As I swim over he darts at me but stops halfway and goes back. I guess my size intimidates him as he tries over and over to scare me away without getting too close. I swim on and see lots of Parrot Fish and Blue Head. At one point I look down just in time to see a mean looking Barracuda glide by. He was only about three feet long; apparently they can get as big as 6 or 7 feet.

All too soon, it seems, I am tiring and I swim back to the boat to find out that I have been in the water for an hour. It feels like 20 minutes. We let go of the buoy and head over to the lighthouse. Apparently there is usually a large school of Tarpon swimming beneath it and we are going to see if they are there today. I had decided I was done for the day but once we are tied up I change my mind. I can’t pass up this opportunity so gear up and get back in the water. Am I ever glad I did. The amount of sea life here is many multiple times that what we just left. I see a school of Midnight Parrot Fish, one over a foot long. As I swim towards the lighthouse I come across a fish that has strange antler looking things on its head. As I float above it, trying to make it out, it turns away from me and suddenly the antlers come together in a smooth point and I realize it is a squid. I swim around him and he follows me, and it seems to me he never takes his eyes off of me. I swim away a bit and he follows. He is so cute I want to laugh, but that’s hard to do with a snorkel in one’s mouth. I swim on and look back but he has lost interest and is moving back to his lump of coral. I never see any Tarpon. I don’t really know what they look like, but I know that everything I am looking at isn’t Tarpon. When we get back to the boat the mom, who has snorkeled this area a lot and really knows her fish, tells Bob that there were no Tarpon there today. Too bad. I really wanted to see them.

On the way back to shore, the deck hand points out turtles in the water. I can’t see them. I ask him how he is spotting them and he tells me to look for their heads poking out of the water and then a swirl as they dive under. I strain my eyes looking but can’t see a thing. He keeps pointing them out and I look just in time to miss. But then he points to one directly in front of the boat and says we will go right over it. I manage to see it just before we do. Apparently it is mating season and this area is full of them. I wish we could have snorkeled here. That would have been something to see!

I stop into a couple of the little shops near the marina to see if I can find a T-shirt for Christopher that has a nice ‘Ocean Reef Marina’ logo. I find one I really like for $20 and when I go to pay for it, they don’t take cash! Just credit card or charge to your room card. I guess there is a hotel here somewhere about but I haven’t seen it. I leave without the shirt.

When we get back home I make a sandwich and then Jake drops me off at the Holiday Inn. It’s another scorching hot day and the pool is starting to get so warm that it isn’t refreshing anymore. It’s as warm as a bath. Nevertheless, it’s better than no pool at all and I get in and swim around. Soon the couple who live aboard their boat, Phillipe and Terri, show up and we stand around in the water and chat. Soon another two guys join us. I have seen them here almost every afternoon and Phillipe introduces me to them. I thought they were father and son, the older looking my age and the younger about 30. Turns out they are friends and the younger one is 45. I am shocked as he looks so young. I don’t say this until the guys have swam off. Phillipe laughs and says he will wait until I have gone home next week but then he is going to tell them but change the story a bit. I look puzzled and he says “I have been telling them it is time they stopped spending so much time together, people are getting the wrong idea.” I realize he is going to tell them I thought they were a gay couple. “You better make sure you wait until I leave.” I say. He laughs. When they swim back over to us a bit later on, I watch Phillipe and I can see from the look on his face he has a moment where he is considering saying it now but then changes his mind. After the guys leave I say as much and he laughs at me and I know I was right.

Peter is at the pool and we talk a bit and he tells me that a woman he met a week or so ago in Miami is coming down to see him for the weekend. I remember when he told me about her. He said he had met “an ugly fox at Coyote Ugly and that the sex was fantastic”; way more information than I needed to know and I told him as much. I also wondered, at the time, if I had heard him correctly. Did he really call her an ugly fox or was he mixing up his words with the name of the bar? I didn’t want to ask, so I wasn’t sure. At some point while I am talking to Phillipe and Terri the woman arrives and Peter gets out of the pool. I look up and see her walking towards him and watch as they embrace. I am far enough away that I can’t make out her features, it doesn’t help that I am wearing my old prescription sunglasses that I don’t want to replace because I paid a fortune for them but the prescription is not strong enough any more. She has a great figure though. Huge boobs barely constrained in a low-cut black tank top that turns out to be a bathing suit under jean shorts. They sit at the bar for a while and then decide to come in for a swim. She strips off her shorts and when they come into the pool I can see that he wasn’t mixing up his words when he described her. She looks to be about 60 or more with leathery wrinkled skin from being perpetually tanned. She has long wavy hair that has blond highlights. But she is not pretty, not by any stretch. He totally ignores me as if he has never met me. Whatever.

When Carolyn shows up about two hours later, she comments on the woman’s looks and says that Peter didn’t even acknowledge her. I tell her, “Same here.”

That night when I get home, we have dinner and after I clean up I see Nancy is putting on makeup. “Are you going out?” I ask. She says yes and asks if I am coming. I ask where they are going and she says The Big Chill. I don’t want to go there at all; why would I want to risk a repeat of last week? So I say I don’t want to come and will just stay home. They leave and I watch a Hallmark channel movie with Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen about dead people. It wasn't as bad as it sounds, and it's the first movie with Mary in that I have seen since I worked with her a couple of years ago so it's nice to watch now that I know what a lovely person she truly is.

The next day I hang around the boat with Jake while Nancy is gone but she comes home early and we head out to Gilberts. It’s a huge bar and restaurant, all outdoors on the waterfront just across the bridge from the property. I had heard music from there a couple of Sundays ago when I was sitting on the barge at the property and they told me it was a great place to go. There is a live band playing and they are good but very loud so we find seats in the shade away from the stage right next to the water. Almost as soon as we are settled a small coconut falls from the tree above me and misses me by about two feet. If that had hit me on the head it would have hurt like stink, but not killed me as it wasn’t full size. Jake finds it too hot and goes to look for seats under the Tiki roof at the bar where there are huge fans blowing. He finds three and we move over into full shade but now we are right in front of the stage. It’s very loud. We have to yell to talk.

Eventually Nancy and I order some lunch; chicken strips and a Ceasar salad to share. It's delicious. Jake makes fun of us for paying for 'grass' - the salad. We stay for about two hours in all and then leave because the sky has darkened and a storm is threatening. Once home, I work on my blog for a while and then join Jake and Nancy to watch a DVD she ordered from Netflix. It's an old British comedy show called 'Fools and Horses'. It's alright but after three episodes, I have had my fill and go to bed.

It’s Monday morning and yesterday, at Gilberts, I asked Nancy if she would mind if I went into work with her and then take her truck for the morning. I said I hated to ask but I had some errands to do before I leave. She says that is fine. I am dressed and have my door open a bit and I hear Jake and Nancy talking. I suddenly hear him hiss, “…it pisses me off that she EXPECTS it.” I immediately realize that he is talking about me using the truck. I hear Nancy say, “No she doesn’t. She asked if I would mind.” I don’t hear him reply. I want to go get Nancy a thank-you present and see if I can find something for Christopher before I leave. I also need more mineral water and we are out of bread. I wouldn’t DARE assume or ‘expect’ that I can just use their vehicles after the time I said I would like to take the truck to Sharkey’s in the evening to Skype Shonah. If I did, I would have driven off in his car the other day when he drove off in the truck without telling me and left me in the boatyard all day, thus I asked Nancy if she would mind. I don’t understand how one day he makes it sound like it is a given that I will take a vehicle and then others, it’s a problem.

When it is time to go, I realize that Jake is going with us as we left his car at the Pet Resort yesterday and my heart sinks. I feel like I can’t get away from him. We drop him off at his car and then keep going to the property to feed the cats. When we turn down the road it’s on, there is a white peacock in the middle of the road. I don’t know if I have mentioned it yet, but there is a house on that road that has loads of them. One day the girl who bartends at Sharkey’s was driving down the road at about 5 miles an hour, to see the puppies, and one of the peacocks ran under her back wheels and she killed it. Apparently she cried the rest of the day. Anyway, this peacock is amazing. His tail is fully open and I haven’t seen anything like it before. Nancy stops the truck as it isn’t getting out of the way and I take out my camera and snap some pictures of it.

When we stop at a closed-down gas station to feed the cat that the owners used to have there but abandoned when they left, Nancy calls me to come out of the truck to see something. I get out into the already warm air, and walk over to her. She points to a dish of water that has gone a bit green and sitting in it is the biggest frog I have ever seen. She tells me that it is poisonous to dogs. She had one in the Pet Resort yard once and a dog bit it and the frog excreted a venom out of its cheeks into the dogs mouth. She knew what had happened as soon as she saw the dog foaming at the mouth. She hosed its mouth out and then took it to the vet straight away and it didn’t die. She said she has them all over the property. They burrow deep holes under the concrete slab and come out at night. Ugh.

When we get to her shop, there is nowhere to park as the county is digging a big trench right in front of her place to put in sewer lines. We pull off to the side and she isn’t happy about her customers not having anywhere to park.

I spend a couple of hours on the computer, killing time until the stores open. I don’t want to go back to the houseboat. As soon as it is 9:30 I leave and go to the gift store that I like on the highway. It has the best stuff of any place around and their prices are some of the best as well. I saw one of those fabric cutout things that has a whirly gig on top. I don’t know what they are called. But it is of a dog lounging in an Adirondack chair with a beer. The whirly thing looks like a sun umbrella above its head. I think it is perfect for the Pet Resort’s front yard and a perfect ‘thank-you’ present for Nancy. Fortunately, I have found some money in my wallet that I totally forgot I folded up and tucked away so I am not as strapped for cash as I thought I was.

I leave there and head for Bealls, a discount store kind of like Ross and look for a T-shirt for Christopher and can’t find one I like. I look through the cotton shirts but they only have about 5 in a size small, his size. I see a medium one I really like and think he would too but he would swim in it. I decide I am done looking for a shirt for him and will just buy him a box of the coconut chocolate candy that everyone sells around here. It’s a product of Florida and it will just have to do. Guys are just too hard to buy for and Christopher is particularly picky. I have bought the same thing for Rob as the only shirt I found that I thought he would like didn’t have his size either. I tried. I did find a lovely little sundress for Izzy for her birthday, which is today. I hope it fits and that she likes it. She is so tiny.

After I pick up that and the other bits I need at the grocery store, I drive back to Nancy’s to see if she needs anything and give her the whirly gig thing. She loves it. She doesn't need anything nor my help at the shop as it's slow again, so I take off.

I drive to the boat praying that Jake has left already. He wanted to go up to the property to put the cement blocks in the water that he is going to tie boeys to. I know he will do that in the morning as he will want to be at Sharkey’s all afternoon as usual. As I pull into the yard I see that his car is gone. Thank you. I get inside and make a sandwich and just as I sit down to eat it, I see Jake’s car pulling into the boat yard. Dang. He doesn’t even say hello when he gets on board so I ask him if he managed ok with the cement blocks. He says he did fine despite a sore elbow.

I had noticed that one of his elbows is really knobby, almost like there is a golf ball right at the joint. It turns out that it just swelled up one day, really big, and when it went down that bump was left behind. He says the bump is like a ball of gristle. That was about two years ago and the doctor had no idea what was going on. Now the other elbow is going the same way, although he says it isn’t half the size the other one was when it swelled. He says it is really painful and he couldn’t sleep last night. It looks very tender.

He says he is heading off to Sharkey’s and is going to take the truck so if I want to go to the pool I should get my things. I do and we leave. Carolyn isn’t at the pool today, she is with a friend all day. I spend a quiet day reading and bouncing between the pool and the lounge chair until Nancy arrives and calls over the fence for me to go. When I get in the truck they tell me that tomorrow is the big day. The boat will be going in the water. I am glad that I will get to be on it for the 6 hour trip around the island to the property. It seems such a crime to be in Florida and not get out on the water so I am excited.

After I clean up from dinner, I decide to start to pack up my things so I get my bags from the storage bedroom down below. I try to divide up the heavy stuff between both bags to keep them under 50 lbs each but once they are full and I weigh them, they are both overweight. And I don’t even have everything in them yet. I have no idea how this is happening. I am going back with less stuff. I ate most of my vitamins, used a lot of body lotion – I am not even taking the half used bottle back with me, I am leaving behind some clothes I don’t want along with the 8 books I have read since getting here, which kills me. I ponder this problem as I go to bed. How am I going to make this work?

OH! I almost forgot. After dinner I hear my phone beeping and so I go check and there is a message from the agent who has my script to call him back. I do and he tells me that it came back from coverage with ‘no rewrites needed’ and he has read the script now and loves it. He sees it as a Hallmark production, as do I. He says I should hear from him within two weeks and if not, to give him a call. I can hardly believe that I might have a script of MINE go to camera. It’s so exciting.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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