Caroline’s Update #5

I think Paul has kept you abreast of the islands we have visited, so I won’t comment much on that. What beautiful sights (as the pictures can attest)! Each island seems to have its own unique flavour, and although we can only brush the surface with our brief visits, I think we have gotten a good feel for many of them.

Some islands are more conducive to visiting by boat, others less so. We are currently in a very calm anchorage, off a long white sand beach, while others can be quite rough with lots of rolling and rocking (to which Shelley and Marie can attest!) When we visited with my brother and stayed in the marina at Anse Marcel (St Martin), I actually had trouble sleeping because the boat was motionless! Imagine. Even Noah commented that he did better with a bit of motion! Normally we hear the squeak of the mooring lines, or the mooring ball banging against the hull (in the really quiet anchorages when we literally bob beside the mooring), or even the ropes groaning up on deck. Recently, in the evenings, we can hear the crunching sound of the reef fish feeding, amplified through the hull of the boat. Very weird!

And so, I think I have pontificated quite enough. I hope this is adequate response to the many emails inquiring as to life on the boat. I think of you at home very often, especially those of you who are dealing with illness or loss. You are ever in our prayers. As I mentioned, we absolutely LOVE receiving your messages

Keep well, hug your family and come visit!

Happy winds until next time!


Caroline’s Update #4

I am rather amazed that I haven’t gone totally stir crazy yet! Those of you who know my (introverted!) need for peace and quiet to rejuvenate from the day are no doubt laughing that I am on a boat with my family for 8 months!! Thank heavens for an understanding husband! The chance to spend time with the boys and Paul was obviously a big motivator for this adventure, and I must say, it has been great. It is wonderful seeing the world through their eyes (although sometimes I wonder if they have any idea what they are missing when they don’t seem to be interested in their surroundings.) I had a great night a week or so ago (neither Matthew nor I could sleep) when Matthew and I spent an hour star gazing with our Star Walk programme on the iPad. What a riot. Matthew was totally impressed with “all the amazing stars in the sky” that he had not previously seen! it is not uncommon that one of the boys comes to visit in the middle of the night. Mom is getting caught up on all the missed cuddles. At least the boys haven’t asked me when I am returning to work yet!!! Paul and I have gotten into the groove of complementary duties on the boat…we are becoming a well-oiled little team. (And no, he hasn’t asked when I am returning to work yet, either). While I teach, he does the laundry ashore and cleans the heads (bathrooms)…somehow, I think I got the better end of the deal.

As for the kids, are they enjoying their time? I think so. There are times when they seem much more interested in their electronic games than the happenings around them. The giggling that happens when they jump off the side of the boat makes me smile. They are very comfortable in the water, which pleases their phobic mother greatly! They miss their friends and school (so they say…!) and they absolutely loved having Marie and Shelley around in January, and then adored spending time with their Uncle Andrew and Aunt Deb when we connected in St. Martin. They are really excited about sharing their time here with friends and family. They absolutely love receiving messages from their buddies (as do we, I might add…it is really lovely to hear from you all). I think we have dubbed this the trip of the “lost teeth” as Noah has already lost two and Matthew is next in line. And yes, the tooth fairy does visit the islands. (We had quite the discussion about whether or not the Easter Bunny can get onto boats in the tropics…I guess we will have to see!) While at times, they seem to be at each other continuously, they really have done exceptionally well living together 24hours a day with little exposure to other kids. Most recently, they presented the first Frazer Film Festival… a close friend recommended a programme downloaded from the internet called Tunetastic that allows you to create movies on the iPad with provided or self created sets and characters. What a riot. I highly recommend it!

[More Tomorrow…]


Caroline’s Update #3

The sailing itself has been great, although at times, challenging. What an amazing feeling to be slicing through the water with nothing but the wind to keep things going! I should perhaps preface my discussions about sailing to admit that I have a longstanding phobia of water (be they oceans, lakes or rivers), and although I have conquered a great deal of it over the last decade (done mostly when we lived in the BVI), the phobia tends to rear its ugly head whenever I venture outside the proverbial box, namely into unfamiliar waters. Ethan’s shocked response to learning about this was “But Mom, you’re an amazing sailor, how can you be frightened of it?” Yes well, who said phobias were rational? All that to say, while I very much enjoy the activity, it has a (occasionally significant) cost! (Trust me, there have been times where I would have welcomed a nasty code in ER any day over sitting in the boat!) I’m sure you can imagine my apprehension when we did our first night passage from Virgin Gorda (BVI) to St Martin, across the Sombrero Passage. We left around 4pm (after getting soaked in a quick squall!) and watched the sunset behind the island as we headed out to open waters. Of course, we were sailing closed hauled (to you non-sailors, that is as close into the wind as the boat can sail, which is tough going with the boat sailing on an angle) into big waves. In the cockpit, the sounds are something, but down in the cabin, the sounds of creaking wood, squeaking ropes and the huge bang as the hull crashes into the water are many times louder. One would swear that the boat would split apart with each crash, but of course, the boat is meant to do this. The kids seem to prefer the cabin (probably because of the unlimited electronic game rule) despite the noise and the world turned on its head. Fortunately, we had a full moon that night, so things were fairly bright (much better for the anxious among us!). Eventually, Paul took a rest in the cockpit while I sailed for a few hours. Somewhat a lonely experience…just you, the ocean and God. I was overwhelmed with an awareness of just how insignificant we are and how big the ocean really is (and I wasn’t even that far from land!) An hour or two later, we started to see other vessels in the distance…cruise ships, fellow sailboats, tankers etc. The darkness makes depth perception challenging, and often I had to wake poor Paul up to help me interpret their light configurations to see which way they were heading, what kind of boat and how far away they were. At one point, I was watching 6 vessels on the horizon and another sailing vessel silently slipped by us (heading down wind, smart people!) a few hundred feet abeam of us…. a little freaky when my depth perception thought they were a lot farther away! After sailing for a couple of hours, the knots of tension in my neck finally became painful enough that I needed a break, so I had Paul take over. My next shift (after the rain storms that Paul sailed through…lucky him!), I emerged from below to complete darkness…. the moon had disappeared below the horizon. Eek…notch up the angst metre! In its place however, was the most incredible scene of the night sky painted with more stars than you could ever imagine. Incredible. Off in the horizon at this point was the red beacon on the top of St. Martin’s mountain to help guide our way, and although it was still hours and hours of sailing away, it was a welcomed sight. The sunrise was lovely, and with it came views of St. Martin, Anguilla and Saba in the distance. We were almost there. Upon arriving in Simpson Bay, we were greeted by a wind and rain storm that had me dropping sails liketty split…the appearance of hail (albeit small) was something of a surprise to all of us! Once we made it through the narrow passage and to an anchor site, Paul and I were totally exhausted. The kids on the other hand….! Looking back, it was quite the experience. Paul did huge prep work to make sure we were safe en route, so I really believe my experience was all about me dealing with my perceived dangers/phobias. Since then, we have done a few long day passages, which have been quite fun and really incredible. We seem to be continuously heading into wind, to the point that I am convinced that there is no such thing as running with the wind. Paul assures me this is not so. (Personally, I think it is a conspiracy between Paul and Mother Nature!) Am I eagerly awaiting the next night passage…. not really, but hey, life is about overcoming fears and facing challenges, isn’t it? Having said that, I will NOT be crossing the Atlantic in this lifetime.

[More Tomorrow…]

Caroline’s Update #2

Between the meal prep and clean up (I just finish cleaning up one meal and look, it’s time to start prepping the next one….!), I have been doing the schoolwork with the kids. I brought along a number of excellent resources, so some of the teaching has been straightforward. My bigger challenge has been keeping them motivated to work (especially on things that are less interesting) and trying to teach multiple levels simultaneously. I really hope they are learning something, although in the end, it will no doubt be more an education of experience than the traditional. I am very fortunate that they are all voracious readers, as they have been reading many books (Tin Tin books are Matthews current favorites), both fictional and non-fictional. I am very pleased that I got them set up on ereaders before we left, as between Ethan and Noah alone, the book luggage would have been unbelievable otherwise! They are learning about sailing, and courtesy of a very lovely gift from a fellow sailor, they are learning their knots. Great fun until the eldest ties the youngest up in knots! My greatest teaching challenge lays more in the interaction with the kids and less the material. My experiences reinforce yet again my admiration for teachers who can connect with different kids, with different learning styles and different abilities. I suspect I will learn a great deal as a result of this new role: patience, tolerance and adaptability at very least.

Some days, it certainly feels like I do nothing but prep, pick up after people and deal with the constant “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”. Between the sunshine, the busy-ness and the toll of stress (more on that later), I find myself quite exhausted by the end of the day. (No, not looking for sympathy here!!) Having said that, it is a different kind of busy-ness than my usual, and as a result, it has been a welcomed break. I can say with honesty that I was professionally burnt-out by the time our adventure started, and there was a great need to retreat, regroup, re-evaluate and rejuvenate my love for medicine and the patients that called me to this profession in the first place. Standing back, I am amazed at the work we (as health care professionals) do every day…have you ever stopped to reflect on the number of decisions we make every minute of every patient encounter? The multi tasking is remarkable. Add to that all the other challenges (fatigue, limited resources, etc etc etc), and it is quite impressive that we continue to do what we do, as well as we do, every day. You are an amazing group of people, all of you, and I remain in awe. Have I missed medicine yet? Well, honestly, not really, although I do miss my hospital/office family a great deal. Having said that, I have just recently started opening the medical books I have brought along, so I think I might soon be ready to sink my teeth in again! Fortunately, I have had little need for medical skills on our trip thus far…narrowly missed suturing Noah’s split lip the first week (one of my favorite injuries — not!) and recently did some minor surgery on Paul’s toenail (another of my favorites…. and no, you ER nurses that know me well, I did not faint!). Must be the rum.

[More Tomorrow…]

Caroline’s Update #1

Well, after being on our way for about 7 weeks, it is about high time I actually put pen to paper (figuratively) and wrote a little about our adventure. Paul has been extremely diligent about posting updates on our travels; my ongoing contribution has been the photos, so I have been doing something!

Time has definitely passed quickly. As you know, the first few weeks were spent awaiting repairs on the boat, and then getting ourselves outfitted for our adventures. There were a number of fun and not so fun challenges during that time which were most useful… humbling to remind us of the forces of mother nature, informative as it challenged us to get better acquainted with our boat and a good dry run for what life on a boat would be like. As a result of much of our learning, Paul has been very busy making adjustments and repairs to Legend ever since, and we have become very acquainted with the various chandleries (boat stores) in the Caribbean. We are now finally dry on passages, which is a delightful improvement!

Life has been busy in a very different way from my usual. Those of you who know me well will be shocked (yes, seriously) that I am chief chef on the boat. Yes, the galley is my domain…that means shopping, planning, preparing and cleaning up three meals a day. I say you will be shocked, as those who know me, know that I positively HATE cooking, and if I do any, it likely will involve EGGs as the main dish. I am proud to say that I have embraced the role with zest, and while I will never be Julia Childs, my family seems to be enjoying the food and eating well. (Now, if I can only get my youngest son to eat a vegetable….) Even Shelley and Marie (our first guests, friends from the office) seemed to survive my various culinary experiments (I think). The boat has the additional challenge of trying to cook in a miniscule space, with minimal freezer space (i.e. almost none) and minimal counter space. I have my little systems down, so at least I can find what I need with reasonable ease. Chopping vegetables on a 45 degree angle and cooking while crashing over waves adds yet another dimension to creative cooking. No blade injuries thus far. The food selection has been reasonably broad along the way, although food prices are extremely high (as expected). I grieve every time a fruit or vegetable goes bad before we get to it. At least the rent is reasonable!

[More Tomorrow…]

A New Voice

Exciting News.  You’re going to get to hear from more than just me.  Caroline has put together a big update from her standpoint.  It’s longer so I am going to split it up and let you read it over a few days.  The truth is that she’s already been involved in the blog in that most of the pictures are taken by her.

My job, thus far, has largely been to document the wonder and beauty of our adventure.  In Caroline’s text, she’s going to give more of broad perspective of life on a boat.

So, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy the new “feature” of the blog.  In a couple of hours, you’ll hear the first installment in Caroline’s update.

Hope all is well with all of you and if you want to send us a message please do.