Category Archives: knitting

The Democratic Women’s Federation for Handcraft

Does that sound like a bureaucratic department in a communist state? Bingo. I am sorry to report that my visit to the Women’s Federation was a bit different than I expected. Yes, it was exciting…but it was also heavily overshadowed by some restraint on the part of the women I met. They had a reserve that was a bit unnerving to me, and none of them showed the enthusiasm for the handwork we had in common that I expected.

I met Noelis at the shop where the traditional clothing is for sale. Maria Estar was again on ‘display’ in a window making a small crocheted embellishment that would be attached to some item of clothing when finished. Noelis was happy to see me and led Bob and me on a walk for several blocks to the building of the Women’s Federation.

The building was a lovely old thing—I’d guess it was once a 19th century residence, one storey with a lovely front porchl.  From the street entrance we cold barely see into a large, dark front room with a hallway running back. Beyond this was a wonderful view of the inner courtyard that had a lathwork ceiling draped in a bounty of magenta bougainvillea blooms.

3-10-16b 006Noelis took us in to the first room where about a dozen women were sitting in a circle practicing their crochet. There was a man who was monitoring who came and went from a desk at the entrance. Noelis asked us to sit down near the desk while she got the ‘manager’ to come out to meet us.

Some of the women looked up from their work and smiled at me. I was very excited at the prospect of getting to see what they were doing! I was right near them, but I already had the sense that I needed to stay in my seat as Noelis had instructed.

The manager was a woman about my age. She looked very approachable, and I think we could have had a great conversation if we had not needed a translator. Noelis was our translator, and I trusted her, but she had such a deference for the manager that I think she translated my words very formally. Certainly what she told me the manager was saying was also very formal. I was not speaking formally to these women, and I have a feeling from the friendliness in the manager’s eyes that she was not speaking formally to me either. I think a LOT was lost in translation.

They told me the purpose of the federation was to keep the techniques used in traditional textiles alive and make sure the traditional garments of Cuba continued to be valued and worn, if not for everyday use, at least for use in life’s traditional ceremonies, such as weddings and other religious events. The women pay to go to this school (60 pesos for 3 months of study and including a hot lunch), and then have the opportunity to make money with their handcrafts after reaching a certain level of proficiency.

There was a class going on in the lush courtyard and there was a large studio with sewing machines where women were sewing various items of clothing. The machines were all Jukis. The only clothing being made that I recognized with certainly was the men’s wedding shirt, called a guayabera. Noelis told me there are many traditional women’s costumes that have the same details as the guayabera.

The manager’s office was a cramped space with no window. The four of us—Noelis, the manager, Bob and I—were quite challenged in the space. At one point another woman came in and joined us. I know that Bob and I created some curiosity, but it seemed that most of the women did not feel comfortable showing it.

While I could see that all the sewing was being done with commercial white fabric (and I had felt the shirts in the shop, and they were not traditional 100% cotton, but some kind of cotton/polyester blend), I still felt compelled to ask if anyone in Cuba was weaving traditional fabric. Noelis did not recognize words ‘weaving’ and ‘loom’ so while we chatted Bob searched the photos on my phone for images of my looms and some of my handwoven fabrics. Once he found these both the manager and Noelis confirmed that no one is weaving in Cuba. They do not have the equipment, but they said some women ‘do this with a needle.’ Hmmm…. I wonder if they meant some kind of needle lace. They saw some photos of my tapestries (tapisaria) and said that is not done in Cuba either.

We talked for a while about bobbin lace, tatting, knitting and crochet. Bob asked if we could take some pictures, and this is when things got noticeably awkward for the women. The manager said (through Noelis) that we would have to go to the Federation headquarters in Havana to ask for permission to photograph. Hmmm… They seemed a bit leery of us from that point on. I tried to explain that women in the US who do handcrafts are very interested in knowing what women in other parts of the world do. That did not go well either. The manager gave me a brochure about the Federation and told me to visit Havana for permission. Bob attempted to tell them that we are living on a boat ….that this method of travel means we will not get to Havana until mid April and we will not get back to Santiago de Cuba, but they said they could not do anything without permission from their headquarters. So, very sadly, that photo at the beginning of this post is all I have to show.

Noelis took me on the rest of the short tour. It was afternoon at this point and almost all the women were sitting together in the courtyard, all eating the exact same lunch on plastic trays with molded dividers to separate the food items—very 1950s. Lunch was white rice, some kind of meat, and some vegetables. As I looked to the side of the courtyard, along the hallway we were walking down, I saw there was a large kitchen where lunches were prepared. So some women work at the Federation as kitchen staff.

Noelis took me to a group of women at a small table just at the back of the large front room we had entered first from the street. Behind a room divider separating them from the space where the crocheters had sat in a circle for their class was a large Spanish carved colonial dining table (and large, ornately carved Spanish china cabinets along that back wall) where women were sitting practicing their tatting…or frivolite. Noelis introduced me to the teacher and then asked me to show her my tatting. I was a bit horrified because of all the textile techniques I do this is the one I am most UNproficient at doing! I did not want the teacher to think that my work represented the quality of work done by women in the US! I asked Noelis to explain to her that I am very much a beginner, that I only started doing this when we left on our trip a couple of months ago, and that this was my second attempt at a trim of rings and chains for the neckline of a blouse.

Naturally, the teacher found all my mistakes in a moment! She had Noelis tell me that I didn’t always have the same number of stitches between my picots, and I must strive to always have the same number. Well, yeah… I do know that even though I haven’t managed it yet. Wish I could have explained that I did this work while bouncing about on a sailboat, usually sailing in gale force and near gale force winds…but I realize that would have been just looking for reasons to explain my faults! Then she said my picots were rather good but there were still tiny differences in sizes, and I needed to get more consistent with that as well. At the end she said that if I was a beginner I was doing very well. Still, I left feeling pretty mortified that of all the things I could have shown a teacher in this school, wouldn’t you know it would be the one thing I barely know!

Noelis escorted us out of the building, and as she left us to return to the shop where we met her (in the historic district) once again she said that she hoped we’d come back with permission from Havana, and that she ‘would be waiting for me.’

This incident put a quite a damper on my enjoyment of the rest of the day, I must say. I always get so excited to meet other textile makers, and I usually feel that it is a language we all share and a place where we can all have the same enthusiasm and ability to teach and to learn from each other. The whole proletariat attitude really took the wind out of my sails–sorry for the dumb pun–but I really felt deflated. Here were a group of women I would love to communicate with about subjects near and dear to all of us, and there was this terrible pall over the whole thing. There was a definite sense of propriety that these women exuded, and they seemed to be weighing their interest in talking to me against the rules of what was expected of them in representing this federation.

After a short walk back to the historic district, we were standing in the main parque when we were approached by someone who said he knew we were staying at the marina… I did not recognize him, although he said he works for the customs department at the marina. He remembered us from when we checked in, but I knew I had not seen him. He offered to show us some sights and find a place for us for lunch. In my newly deflated state I wondered if there was some agenda to his offer….

Well, there was, of course, but also he was generous with his knowledge. He took us to a local restaurant that I’m sure was owned by his family or friends. That was okay because it was a great place, and we would have no idea of how to find such a good local place on our own. ‘Paladares’ are family owned restaurants that the Cuban government has now sanctioned. There are many rules for running one of these: a limited number of customers may be served (I think it is 12), and they cannot serve foods that are reserved for gov’t run hotels and restaurants which includes lobster and the better cuts of chicken. Paladares may serve pork, some chicken, and local fish. We let the waiter choose our meal for us, and it was excellent! This particular place was on the 3rd floor balcony of a small residential building (typical Soviet block cement structure), and up on the balcony was an amazing view of the decayed apartment buildings all around that could have been anywhere from Kabul to Cairo with a backdrop of the stunning harbor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3-10-16b 012Some of the surrounding buildings had no roofs, or had makeshift roofs of corrugated tin with many holes and many repairs. All the buildings had windows with no glazing. On one rooftop balcony near us there was a dog that looked very much like our son’s dog Bobi. This gave me a little tinge of homesickness on the very day I was missing my son’s birthday. Well, I was certainly thinking of him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur customs official cum tour guide offered to get us things—cigars, rum…from places that tourists cannot visit and therefore much less expensive. He admitted that he had some ‘relationships’ with these places that would give him a commission for what he sold. It was all a bit overwhelming for me. He said he got his very good job working for the state because of who he knew. He used the phrase “Who you do, who you know,” which sounded like everything was based on what you do for someone and who you know that can improve your own situation. I got that, but he must have wanted to make certain I understood because he added, “one hand washes the other.” –he could not possibly know that I learned this phrase in Latin in high school, about a million years ago! I guess I was too hot and too disappointed in my visit to the handcraft school to enjoy this information. Now, a day later Bob and I have discovered that he does not work for customs at the marina. He’s not the first person to recognize downtown in Santiago de Cuba—every seems to know who we are. I think we were had, but it was kind of fun anyway. Boy, these people know how to turn a trick.

The day was hotter than the previous day, and when we returned to Pandora we had a very cold gin and tonic and a simple dinner of cheeses from France and Italy, and crackers from the UK , that we bought in Nassau. After washing a local mango in a basin full of water mixed with hydrogren peroxide, we ate it. No ill effects today. I might also add that I had a mojito at the paladar and a lemonade at the Casa Granda Hotel, both with ice cubes, and I am still alive. Whew!

National Day for Women in Cuba

Our first trip into downtown Santiago de Cuba happened to be a national holiday for women so the city was hopping. Men and women clogged the streets, children were not in school, street vendors were selling flowers and candy, and there was such an air of festivity all around us.

The streets are old and narrow, and the sidewalks even narrower! It’s a given that pedestrians do NOT have the right of way, so you step into the street at your own risk. Very few intersections had traffic lights and even fewer had the little walk/don’t walk signal. The sidewalks were so narrow that many times you had to step out into the street just to move through the crowds of pedestrians. It was a great day to see this city in full swing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been advised to change our money at a Cadeca (a money changing facility) because the lines at any bank would be frightfully long. As it turns out there were lines at the Cadecas as well, but they were somewhat shorter. It was all very 3rd world and communist. The lines form outside these establishments, on the hot and narrow sidewalks. There is a guard who lets someone into the building each time someone leaves the building. Inside there is a shorter line, and another guard signals the person at the head of the line to move to next free teller. It took us about 20 minutes to get to a teller, and when I saw a couple of banks later in the day I can see that we made the right choice.

Now here is the funny thing about money—the exchange rate seems to be whatever the Cuban government wants it to be. The US dollar is .87 to a Cuban CUC, and I feel quite certain this not supportable in the world market. We had read in two guide books that there was an extra ‘tax’ on US dollars and it is better to have either Euros or Canadian dollars to exchange. We opted to bring CAD with us. Well 1 CAD is .55 a Cuban CUC, so we have only half the money we thought we had to spend here. Yikes! We should have brought Euros, which have an even exchange rate. Because we are from the US we cannot get any funds from our banks, and we cannot use our US credit cards, even the one that we got for use outside the US. When we returned to our boat last night, we took a hard look at what we have and made a budget. I think we can just get by!

Like many old cities Santiago de Cuba has a public park every few blocks running up Aguilera Boulevard from the harbor up the steep hill that eventually leads into the rural Sierra Maestro range. This is the oldest part of the city, crowded but beautiful, with old colonial architecture. Santiago de Cuba is known for having the unspoiled colonial architecture, along with the oldest surviving building in all of Cuba, the house of Diego Valazquez, built in 1522.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd it is also known for having the most motorcycles in Cuba, and this is what pedestrians must take care to avoid when walking about the streets. It is amazing how many motorcycles there are, most with no mufflers. They dart in and out of traffic, so that you can never be sure when you step off the curb that one might not suddenly cross your path. The streets were full of interesting vehicles and all seemed to love honking, all day… old American and European cars that had been repainted many times. We’ve heard that the engines are most likely no longer original, but a mixture of whatever can be found and refurbished. Many of these cars have Russian or Eastern European engines. There were plenty of small Russian Lados on the streets, and our driver, Noel, shuttled us about in a car with an unrecognizable name from Czech Republic that was 30 years old . Many of the American cars, being so much larger, had been converted into ‘buses’ by removing the back seat of the car and adding on something like a pickup truck bed on a larger scale. There were benches back there that could hold 10 or 12 people, and these vehicles seemed to be getting a lot of business. I was very glad to have a driver with a car! He’d been recommended to us by a Canadian couple who were just leaving this port when we arrived.

This Carmen Ghia is now a taxi. Tempting…but quite small for taxi, don’t you think?
3-8-16b 009We had planned to spend our day walking through the historic district, having lunch at the Casa Granda Hotel, then touring the Casa de Diego Valazquez. But just walking around took longer than we expected, and by the time we got to lunch—roughly 3-ish—which also took longer than we expected, we decided to relax on the balcony of this stately old hotel at a table overlooking the square with a delightful breeze blowing straight up from the harbor. So we never made it to Valazquez’s house. We will definitely get there before we leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier in the  morning we stopped at a café and had a wonderful Cuban coffee with steamed milk. After that we walked along the Jose A Saco Boulevard, which is for pedestrians only (thank heaven!) and has many shops and street vendors selling crafts from woodworking to leather work (very little textile handwork). It was fascinating to us that so many shops sold exotic birds. I wonder if Cubans keep birds for pets the way we keep dogs and cats. I’ve never seen so many colorful parrots and lots of other beautiful birds that looked like variations on quail or guinea hens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe shop entrances are a bit high off the street, maybe just above knee height, and there are the tiniest little cement block steps to enter these shops. There are no railings to hold on to, but sometimes a metal bar in the wall that you can grab if you are feeling unsteady on your feet. I am always feeling unsteady on my feet! Only one person at a time can go up or down these tiny steps so that seems to manage the flow of who is coming out or going into the shops.

The highlight of my day—and probably the biggest reason why we did not have enough time to see the Valazquez museum—was that I saw a woman sitting in a large unglazed window doing some very fine crochet work. Her window was next to a shop full of men’s wedding shirts. I went into the shop thinking I could access the room she was working in from there….but no. There was a door that probably led to where she was, but it was closed. So I went back out on the street and talked to her from there.

3-8-16d 013First I should say that I had already questioned a few people, and then tried to confirm my knowledge with Noel, about the Spanish words for various types of handwork. Crochet is crochet, ‘tejer’ is knitting, ‘bolillo’ is bobbin lace. Noel, our driver, said that many women do handwork but that he is not familiar with names of all the things they do. He said his grandmother had been doing ‘tejer’ for about 75 years, and he confirmed that it is knitting by saying it has two needles rather than one. I said that I had been doing ‘tejer’ for over 50 years, and he found this amazing. It made me think that his grandmother is probably only a bit older than 75, and that he did not realize how young many women are when we learn these techniques.

So I tried to have a conversation with the woman doing crochet in the shop window. I asked her if ‘muy mujeres’ did crochet in Cuba, and she said yes! Most women do lots of ‘projects’ in their homes. I was quite enthralled to learn this. I took out my tatting-in-progress and asked her if this called ‘frivolite.’ Yes, it is.

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After a few more minutes of struggling to communicate, the crocheter called another woman over who spoke English very well. Her name is Noelise, and the crocheter’s name is Maria Estar, and they both work at a local school for textile handwork. I immediately thought of the lace school in Via de Conde, Portugal, and thought that I may have hit pay dirt here in Santiago de Cuba.

Noelis asked to see my tatting and said something like many women in Cuba want to learn this. I was not certain if that meant that no one knew how to do but want to learn, or if it is a popular thing to do. She said the handwork school was closed for the national holiday celebrating women, but that it would be open today. She has invited to come to see it this morning , so that is the focus of my day! She said she will wait for me at the location where I met her yesterday, and she’ll take me to the school. Her last words to me were, “I will wait for you tomorrow!” So charming!

So I don’t plan to dawdle this morning! I have a lot to learn!

Shameless Landlubber

We have spent some wonderful days ashore between Fernandina, Savannah and Beaufort, SC.  I can’t walk 10 feet without taking a photo– of window boxes, planters, a beautiful front door or porch.  Clearly I miss land! –in spite of my little container gardens on Pandora.

Our last day in Savannah: camellias, cherry trees– even a few that have already begun leafing out!—azaleas, pansies.  It is full spring here.



And just a few more doors…..I can’t help myself! Note the gas lamp at this door.  There were many in Savannah.


Elegance on elegance…..would love to get a peak inside both these places!



This gate with ivy is so pretty I can only imagine how lovely the garden must be on the other side!


 Lunch was fun in a well known English style pub with good pub fare:  bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, ploughman’s lunch.  I took this photo to show my dear friend Lesley, but I wish I’d taken a photo of my lunch so she could see I was having a Branston pickle!


We visited the maritime museum that also happened to have a lovely garden surrounding it since the museum is housed in an historic house with beautiful grounds.

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The museum had quite an extensive collection of ship models, but what caught my eye were some of the very few other items, relics from various ships.  There was a wall of scrimshaw in one room, and I was intrigued with these lovely carved rolling pins. I don’t even have a rolling pin on Pandora since I only make a pie once or twice during our time onboard each year.  I use an empty wine bottle….we always have one on hand!


And of course I had to take a photo of this lovely scene of children with a lamb.  Not your standard scrimshaw image!

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And just before leaving Savannah we had our photo taken by a couple of tourists after Bob offered to take theirs.

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From Savannah we moved on to Beaufort, where I looked forward to visiting one of the friendliest yarn shops, Coastal Knitting.  Just walking through the charming business section of town—so many beautifully tended shops and interesting restaurants—was delightful.  And the residential areas were beyond wonderful!  There were gardens in luscious bloom everywhere.  Here is just a sampling!





This morning, just one day after leaving Beaufort, I found a comment here from a woman who lives in Beaufort, and who just returned herself from a couple of months onboard her trawler, armed with both knitting projects and a tapestry project.  It is a thrill to know that there are other weavers out there!  It can get so lonely out here without other weavers to talk to!

Non-weavers often recommend that I get an inkle loom or a little rigid heddle.  I love these small tools and enjoy using them when I have a certain project in mind that suits them.  But they in no way replace that urge to weave the type of cloth that I love.  It’s just not the same, and an inkle loom is never going to satisfy my need to design and create fabric.  Anyway—it’s very nice to be in touch with another weaver.  Laura Burcin plans being onboard for a longer period next winter.  I look forward to connecting with her in person.  In the meantime, I feel I have gotten to know her a bit through her blog.

Should I talk about my “For Irene” sweater, which I have ripped back in order to make the lower body smaller?  I certainly don’t want to!  It has not gone as simply as I envisioned!  I knitted most of this sweater in Portugal on my rosewood, interchangeable Knit Picks needles—size 4.  At the airport in Lisbon, as I was headed back to the US, they were taken from me.  Now that I’m trying to match the stockinette on the body of sweater, I am finding that none of my other needles are able to match the gauge of those particular needles I lost!  UGH! I have started and ripped back five times now!  This is a crisis! I did try to replace those needles in Coastal Knitting in Beaufort.  They don’t carry the interchangeables, but they did have size 4 circulars from Knitter’s Pride which I have heard is the same manufacturer as Knit Picks.  Alas, no luck on getting the same gauge!

I wanted to wear this sweater to a wedding in a little over two weeks, and now I’m rather convinced it won’t happen.  Ah well, time to make peace with that.  When I get home I can order a replacement for the needles I lost….

Short Time and Underway…

That’s a phrase I hear every morning when we listen to the Cruiseheimer’s net on our sideband radio.  Boats on the move to new destinations….some heading north to get above the Florida border before hurricane season starts on June 1….or people headed ahsore for provisions and/or sight seeing.

One week from today I will be winging back to the US for a visit with my older son and his girlfriend at their home on the outskirts of Baltimore for a couple of days. In the meantime, we have a full  week of beautiful destinations planned as our final week aboard and as a tour of the Exuma chain for Rob and Kandice.

Before they arrived I tried to finish up on my small tapestry exercise of circles within circles….didn’t quite make it!



The piece will end in the area where the threaded bar is so I’m not too far from the finish line.  It’s been a fun project, but I guess I will have to spend some time on it at home.  I cannot bring it with me, so it will sail home with Bob.


On our walk to the airport to meet Rob and Kandice, we passed lots of roosters and chickens with their chicks.  There were big black roosters and white ones, and lots of colorful chickens.  The roosters are very good at avoiding our camera, and the chickens are pretty good too, although they are encumbered by their brood of little chicks following them around.  The best shot we could get was the backsides of a retreating family!


A very different kind of trip to the airport than what we normally experience! At the airstrip we sat in a gazebo to await Rob and Kandice’s arrival!


And then there was Rob, waving to us from what should be the co-pilot’s seat!  He had a wonderful time sitting next to Chester the pilot.  Rob took some amazing shots of the flight and videos on his Go Pro of the flight and the approach to Staniel Cay.  He even saw Pandora at anchor as they made their final approach.


The kids have played with the pigs on Big Major’s Spot, and we’ve seen just how quickly little piglets have grown! Bob probably could not pick up that little pink pig anymore!  Rob and Bob went snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto at low tide yesterday, and Rob took a lot of video of the fish and  a sea turtle that he swam with for a while outside the far end of the grotto.

We’ve seen some wonderful sunsets, some shooting stars, and some amazing clouds…



Today we will have a short sail to Over Yonder Cay.  This is a private island, beautiful beyond belief, and entirely self-supporting with their own energy.  There are three large windmills on this island….later today we will get a guided tour from the island manager, Ethan, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more about how this stunning place operates.

The rest of our final week will include time at Warderick Wells, Compass Cay, and Shroud Cay.

My shawl is on the final repeat of the lace pattern….now what am I going to work on during my flights home?  Wondering if it’s still cold enough in Connecticut to wear wool/silk socks…


So Much Water over the Bridge!

Weeks have passed since my last post….a combination of rough weather and lots of sailing has prevented me from keeping up here.  I cannot use my computer when I am seasick, and I’ve been seasick a lot!

But that is not to say that I haven’t had some wonderful times during the past couple of weeks.  We have had some great times on shore!

Today we are back in Staniel Cay in order to meet our son Rob and his girlfriend Kandice when they fly here tomorrow afternoon.  The weather is finally settled and promises to be springlike for the next few days! …Although at this very moment the dark skies to the southwest are rapidly approaching, and I think we will get quite a violent squall any minute now! During squalls like these we have sometimes seen water spouts….I hope we won’t experience one!

We have lots of plans for things to do with Rob and Kandice, starting with seeing the pigs on Big Major’s Spot and snorkeling in the local grotto, named after the old James Bond movie “Thunderball” where the filming took place. We have not seen Rob and Kandice since early January, so we are really excited for their arrival!

Yesterday we sailed about 50 miles from Rock Sound, Eleuthera, to Pipe Cay in the Exumas.  (Perhaps I should mention that just a week earlier I also endured a 70 mile ocean run from Thompson Bay, Long Island, to Rock Sound Eleuthera….go me!) While we were getting under way, Bob heard on the Cruiseheimers net (on sideband radio) that someone caught a big tuna, so he could not resist the temptation to try catching something himself.  He put out a line and within an hour or so he had a mahi mahi giving him a good fight.  As he got it closer to the boat we could see it was a whopper!




That fish yielded us over 8 lbs of filets! We had our friends Maureen and Bill (from Kalunamoo) over for dinner last night, and we have at least four more meals waiting in the freezer.  We will definitely have it for dinner one night while Rob and Kandice are here.

And what a wonderful time we had on Eleuthera!  This was our first visit there.  Easter weekend was lovely in Rock Sound.  We decided to visit the Methodist Church for Easter service, while Bill and Maureen went to the Catholic church….there were numerous other choices as well.  As luck would have it, just before the service started Nancy and George from Trumpeter (Nancy taught me to make Bahamian coiled baskets last winter) came and sat next to us.  They have attended this church every Easter for several years.  The service was very festive, with lots of music, a liturgical dancer and plenty of enthusiasm in the congregation.  We estimated that there were over 100 people in the congregation, about 40% white and 60% black.  This Methodist Church is one of the oldest churches on the island, and has already celebrated its bicentennial.  The sanctuary is deceptively modern, with an elaborate sound system and a power point projector.  It was a hoot!


On Easter afternoon we met Bill and Maureen at the local blue hole, right in the center of the town park in Rock Sound, for our Easter dinner picnic.  Maureen had baked some of their own frozen mahi mahi for us, along with freshly baked beer bread!  This blue hole is quite impressive since it is only a few feet shallower than Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island, which is the deepest blue hole in the world.  And Rock Sound’s blue hole sits in the middle of a lovely park where we could have our picnic right at the edge of the water, in the shade of a big tree.  It was a perfect afternoon!


We also rented a car for two days and toured the rest of Eleuthera with Maureen and Bill.  We visited the Glass Window on a mild day and were very impressed with the force of the ocean even in calm conditions. Our photo does not show how much force the calm waters have when they hit the tiny isthmus here.  It was dramatic! I can only imagine what that surging bit of the Atlantic must have looked like the day it moved the bridge about 12 feet.  Yikes!


We drove north to a spot called Preacher’s Cave, a place where some English settlers found refuge after their ship was wrecked on the Devil’s Backbone (back in the late 1600s) at the northeastern side of Eleuthera near what is now Harbour Island.  The cave is impressively big, so it’s easy to understand that it provided a wonderful refuge for those weary and distraught settlers.


Along the way on our 90-mile drive north we also stopped at the Queen’s Baths, another spot where the mighty Atlantic surges against the coast into a cave creating lots of foam and bubbles. Can you see Maureen and me picking our way across the far side of the Queen’s Baths?


Walking along these craggy shores is a lot harder than it looks in this photo.  Here’s a close up to give an idea of how rough going it is!  The rocks are some kind of very sharp limestone….lots of small (and sometimes large!) craters have formed in these rocks so getting a flat purchase for walking is virtually impossible!


The shopping and restaurant options on Eleuthera were quite a bit more civilized than we’ve experienced in the Exumas!  We had a lovely lunch two days in a row.  The first day we visited Rainbow Inn and sat on their upper deck overlooking Exuma Sound, and the second day we stopped at Tippi’s and sat in an open air dining room that overlooked the pink sand beach and the Atlantic.


And here is a shot of the pink sand beach at Tippi’s.


Eleuthera was so much more civilized than the Exumas that they even have a ‘camauflaged” cell tower.  All through the islands we recognize the distinctive red and white towers of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (Batelco) and anchor nearby these towers whenever we can so that we can have cellular internet, such as now!  But Eleuthera has a cell tower camauflaged as palm tree!


So now I am in the final stages of my winter away.  I’m not certain now much more work I’ll get done on my various projects.  Perhaps my tapestry will not be finished when I leave….sigh…  but I do have two pairs of socks finished (one of them being those fun ‘skewed’ socks!), a fair isle sweater knitted up to the armholes waiting for inspiration on how to proceed for the upper body shaping, several small table embroideries from decades back now finished!….and the last project:  Boo Knits “Sweet Dreams” shawl that I just started yesterday.  Shawl knitting is quite addictive… I often find that I knit the whole thing in one go.  I’m into the final lace area already, so I guess I would say this project is hard to put down. I’m using Verdant Gryphon “Mithral” in the colorway “Bathsheba,” which has lovely woodland shades of bronze/evergreen/burgundy that reminds me of fairies!  Queen Mab would love this shawl!

We’ll spend the next 10 days with our kids traveling north through the Exumas.  We hope to take the kids to Compass Cay to swim with the sharks and see the beautiful beach there, then to Warderick Wells for more swimming and snorkeling in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  Bob has stumbled into a wonderful connection with the manager of Over Yonder Cay, where we may get a private tour ….if it works out I will definitely give details!

By the end of the first weekend in May we must be back in Nassau for the kids and I  to meet our flight back to the US.  I will stop in Baltimore with Rob and Kandice for a visit at their house and some time with my favorite dog, Bosun!  Bob’s crew will arrive the day I fly out with the kids, so he will begin his journey back to the US the slow way.

I am so excited to be headed home for a beautiful spring on the Connecticut River!  I hope some of my bulbs will still be blooming, and I hope I have some Danish flag poppies in bloom from the seeds I planted last fall!  On my first day home (if I can get one of the cars started!) I will be heading out to my local weaving guild meeting!  Lots to look forward to!

Dry Cleaning, Cruiser Style

We have left the Exumas and headed east into the Atlantic to some of the islands we visited last year.  We are currently on Long Island, a far cry from the island of the same name we are so familiar with!

Ocean Breeze resort is one of the places where cruisers flock to do their laundry.  It’s a pristine little resort, and the laundry room is spotless. You can sit on a deck overlooking Thompson Bay drinking a cold beverage or even having lunch as you do laundry.

Bahamas Ocean Breeze Long Island

Last year, while I waited for my wash, I met Nancy from Trumpeter who took an hour or so to teach me how to make the local basket which is a tightly coiled technique using Silver Queen palm fronds.  We have bumped into them again this year! Here! How serendipitous!  Nancy makes about 100 baskets each season and delivers them to school children back in the US, when she and her husband George do a program on cultural differences.  This year she has made a wedding present basket that is truly amazing.  I hope to get a photo, but for now here is a photo from last year when Nancy was patiently instructing me.


So….back to laundry.  This is one of those places I count on.  Yesterday morning Bob had already taken the sheets off the bed when a little voice told me I should call Ocean Breeze on VHF radio, and when I did I learned that their water maker is not functioning so there is no laundry available!  Oh no!  That made me realize a few things:  first, I have thought that water makers have made life on these islands so much easier.  While people still do collect water in cisterns, mostly during the hurricane season, and ration water at all times whether from the water maker or from the cistern, I never thought how fragile it is to rely on these modern conveniences.  When mechanical things break down out here it is not so simple to make repairs.  So, Ocean Breeze is carefully rationing their water now.

So that brings me to dry cleaning.  We have heard of this and have now we’ve experienced it!  When cruisers cannot do real laundry they take their sheets and towels and hang them out in the breeze and the sunlight.  I imagine that there is some benefit to this…. clean air and bright sunlight must have some cleaning properties.  Anyway….this was our only option.  Next hope of laundry is either Black Point in the Exumas or Rock Sound on Eluthera.  Must get it done before next guests arrive!

When you visits places like this, you have to expect some inconveniences….like resorting to cruiser style dry cleaning.


We have had a little tragedy onboard Pandora.  My wonderful little window box, full of very happy plants, fell overboard!  You cannot imagine how sad I am about this.  Whenever we move location we put the window box in a safe place, usually in the dinghy that is up in its davits.   One day, last week we just moved from one side of Elizabeth harbor to the other and we didn’t even give my precious little gems a thought.  I was at the wheel, and I didn’t even see them go over.  My chives had somehow figured out it was spring and were bursting into bloom.  I was looking forward to having the flowers on salads.  The geranium was full of happy red flower heads, and the parsley had gotten quite full and delicious.  We didn’t realize it had all gone overboard until about an hour after anchoring.  Bob took off in the dinghy to see if by chance it was floating in the current.  There was a pretty strong current taking it out to sea, and he only found the empty window box.  The plants had fallen out and probably sank.  I feel just miserable about this.   All the islands and cays down here have such a desert climate that my little window box was quite a bright spot in my days.  I am so sorry about its salty demise. I don’t even have a recent photo of it, but this is from a month ago or so…


Lastly, I dug out an old sock project that I brought on board.  It is the “skew socks” from Knitty Winter 2009 by Lana Holden.  I am having a great time finishing up this crazily fun design!  The straight sections are basically diagonal knitting , and the shaping of the toe and heel is quite creative!  I don’t even know how I would begin to envision this on my own, but I am certainly having a great time following the directions.  The heel ended up being a flap that jutted out on only one side of the circular row.  After knitting the entire heel flap (which looked nothing like any heel flap I’ve done before!) you put half of the flap on each of two dps and graft them together with a bit of spare yarn.  The working yarn ends up just where you need it to be to continue knitting around minus the heel flap that just got grafted together.  The graft ends up being a vertical line rather than the typical horizontal, and that is part of skewed-ness of the design.


Five years ago, I posted this photo from the instructions on knitty, and now I am even more smitten by the cute photo and the designer’s sense of humor and love of math!

Knitty skew socks

Creative Outlets

Sometimes while we are hiding out from storms the waters are actually calm enough for me to work.  It hasn’t been often!  On good days, we tend to set off sight seeing and shell collecting, but on others I manage to get a bit of work done!


I started my tapestry idea (a shelf of spools) a few weeks ago by doing some sampling, and learned a lot by the time I unwove the whole thing.  I’d done about eight spools at that point and had worked out that I wanted the circles to be all different sizes and different shapes, and the little cardboard tubes and empty space inside the tubes to be fairly (but not perfectly!) consistent.

This is the first tapestry I am making without a cartoon!  …. it is very freeing! Archie Brennan is always talking about the ‘open journey,’  by which he means not making too many decisions ahead time, letting the work at hand determine what should come next, and this is my first attempt at that.  I’m doing the same with color choice, choosing colors based on what has just been done.  Naturally, I wish I had a lot more choices onboard with me, but so far I have not been disappointed to make do with what I have.

I am facing my blank warp and creating as I go.  I do ink on a freehand circle or two before I weave, and each circle I draw is based on the circles that have come before them, and each color choice for the circles is based on the colors I’ve already used as well as the loose ‘plan’ of where I hope to go.  This is really a fun journey…..I would call it a tapestry vacation!  A little side trip along an untraveled road (for me) with lots of beautiful scenery!  A playland!



My other big project onboard is a sweater that was posted on Pinterest with a link to Ravelry.

knitting kauni rainbow on ravelry

When you click on the floral sweater photo on Pinterest you get directed to this sweater on Ravelry.

Kauni rainbow squares

The floral sweater is far more appealing to me than the little squares version!  Finding the origin of this sweater was a bit challenging, but when I get focused on something I can be a bit maniacal.

The little squares pattern is by Ruth Sorenson, and her directions call for 480 grams of Kauni Effekt “Rainbow” (EQ).  I had planned to use traditional Shetland Fair Isle construction for a loose fitting jacket with front opening, and I decided to increase the amount of yarn to 600 grams. With a little searching for the thistle pattern I found this designer, who used the thistle pattern for a shawl she calls “Mrs. Barrista,”  which was available for purchase in English.  Bingo! (I don’t know if she is also the designer of the sweater, but it’s not on her blog.)

After doing a gauge swatch and determining that I’d use 10 repeats of the thistle pattern for the body, I cast on for corrugated rib and steeked the front opening, and have just been zipping along up to the armholes.  Now I am at the armhole openings and thought I’d better make a plan.


While traditional Fair Isle construction makes for such easy knitting, it is not the most flattering look on me.  I look better in sweaters that have a bit of armhole shaping, and even more importantly I need sloped shoulders.  These two issues that are quite important to me will necessitate some fiddly knitting.  Here is my sketch.

3-20-14b 004

I will bind off an inch or so of stitches at the beginning of the armscye and start the steeks.  When I start the sleeves I will pick stitches along the armhole opening, and I will work back and forth (HORRORS!) until I fill in that 1” of bound off stitches, and then I can resume knitting in the round down to the sleeve cuff.  It will only be fiddly for about a dozen rows or so…maybe less…

The other fiddly bit will be making my shoulder line sloped.  I have not yet settled on a definite plan for that, but I think that may also require working back and forth for the last several rows at the top of the body.  It shouldn’t be that bad!  I’m forging ahead with the sweater since I don’t need to worry about the shoulders for a while.  Maybe something else will occur to me by the time I get to there!  I am thinking of making a short row plan…

If there are any knitters out there reading this, please weigh in on what you’d do if you were making this sweater!  I could use some input!


I wonder how many of us use cooking as a creative outlet, especially when we can’t do what we really want to do!  I enjoy the challenge of cooking down here, where getting food is a hit or miss scavenger hunt.  Thursday, I happened to hit the pink store in Staniel Cay as they were bringing in fresh produce from the mail boat.  I got both fresh mushrooms  and a head of cabbage on the same day!  (Only someone traveling down here can appreciate the rarity of fresh mushrooms in the Bahamas!)

Cabbage, which I hardly ever eat at home, is quite a staple down here, and it always brings back great memories of cooking in college with my brand new edition of the Moosewood Cookbook.  It had a catchy name I no longer remember, but I do remember that the Russian cabbage pie was one of my favorite meals from that book.  Thank you, Molly Katzen! I’m sure I could have googled the recipe if only I had internet.  Since that was not an option, I had to do the best I could on memory alone.

I remembered the pastry crust had cream cheese as well as butter.  So I made a crust with 4 TB butter and 4 oz. of cream cheese.  I made 4 hard cooked eggs, sautéed the mushrooms and set them aside to sautee the cabbage that had been salted and left to wilt for about 20 minutes.  I seasoned everything liberally with dill and a little salt and pepper.  I layered all this in my pie shell, along with the other 4oz of cream cheese left in the brick.

Since I do not have a pie dish onboard I made this dish in my 9” springform pan.  It has come in very handily as a substitute for many other pans.  I’m glad to have it with me!


Dinner was delicious!  Who knows how far from the original I have strayed, but we enjoyed it just the same!  It does take a bit of doing to make something like this on a boat in a galley that is smaller than a NY City apartment kitchen.  If not for the space it takes to pre-cook all the separate parts of this dish, I would definitely say this would become a staple meal on Pandora.  It may become a staple in spite of the space challenge!

We are in the Bahamas!

It was a long night making the crossing to the Bahamas.  I’m very thankful that it was a LOT easier than last year, but there were still a couple of hours of boisterous wind and waves that I could have skipped.  This is the dawn that greeted us after we’d been sailing on the banks for several hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis year we cleared in on a small cay in the Berries called Chub Cay.  It doesn’t look at all like the Exumas, being much more lush….rather like the Abacos. Here is the little church at the main cross roads on the island.


And here is Pandora sitting at anchor while we visited the Chub Cay Club.  Even on a second visit to these waters, I am stunned by how beautiful it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The water all around us is full of sea life:  red starfish, ramoras, barricuda, sharks!….even little puffer fish.  Here is a shark that was checking us out….I think he knew that Bob wanted to clean the hull of Pandora, and maybe he thought he might get lucky and snag a couple fingers or toes if he waited… (and there is nothing to get a sense of scale in this photo, so I’ll tell you this shark is about 8 feet long).


When Bob did clean the hull (and I stood on deck keeping watch for the sharks, with a big screw driver in my hand, ready to bang on the hull to give Bob a warning to get out of the water!), all the fish hung out all around him.  The ramora stayed right by his side, and we’re thinking he was enjoying the little bits of stuff that Bob was scraping off the hull.

The second night we were here we saw the green flash!… and then there have been wonderful sunrises, sunsets, and even a rainbow and a water funnel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday we left the Berries and sailed for Nassau where we will meet Christopher in just a couple more days.  While we wait I think I might take a look at the shops in Atlantis…. now there’s a thought! We are anchored right off some docks with a pretty restaurant called Luciano’s.  Dinner there last night was quite memorable! We ate on the terrace, shown here, overlooking Atlantis across the harbor.

2-11-2014 Lucianos terrace nassau

And I’m celebrating that I finished the first Oktoberfest sock!  Go me! I know the photo is too dark.  Sigh….it was getting late in the day.  I am happy with the pattern.  The barley stalks remind me of bubbles, and I love the frothy finish at the top! ….the color is quite reminiscent of a Blue Moon!  I might not see one of those ’til I get home in May…


Warm and humid

It was actually too hot today.  It doesn’t seem possible!  We drove only moderate distances for four days and went from single digit temperatures in Connecticut to what feels like the heat of a sultry August day.   I almost wilted today…

My little copper pipe loom is not completely assembled yet or I would have had the perfect opportunity to warp it up today…. in the shade of the pavillion next to the building with the laundry room.  I did four HUGE loads of laundry today and got a fair amount of knitting accomplished on my first Oktoberfest sock (instead of weaving little circles!).  I am almost ready to turn the heel.

A couple of manatees were in the harbor today and one of them visited our boat for a while!  He is gigantic, isn’t he?!!

2-2-14a manatee Ft. Pierce

There was a large turtle near our boat, and Bob declared it a freshwater turtle, so the water in this harbor must be fairly brackish.  We watched the ibises congregate in the mangroves for the night…. it is such an impressive sight. There are lots of pelicans here.


I also worked on a bit of embroidery, something I haven’t touched in about a decade.  All in all, it has been a very relaxing day… culminating with watching Renee Fleming sing the national anthem at the Superbowl (the only part of the game I watched!). Tremendous!

Living Small in Big Way

What a luxury being at a marina in for a few days in Ft. Pierce.  We are staying at the Harbortown Marina, and there are several boats here that we remember from the Bahamas last winter.  It’s a small world!

I always go through a bit of mourning when I come onboard.  Everything is so small.  Once again I’ve got too much stuff with me.  This time around I think I will mail some clothing home.  I can’t fit it all into my three small drawers!  But this time around I have a 3rd set of bedsheets for when there is no  laundry for weeks and weeks on end!  This year I know that sheets are non-negotiable!

Last night we met some of our new/old friends at the little open air bar at the end of our dock.  It was a slightly chilly evening so we sat at a large fire pit that had gas flames flickering up through a large bowl of colored glass fragments.  Very hedonistic!  Just off from our dock are a few large mangrove bushes, and as sunset passed a huge flock of ibises began landing in the mangroves for the night.  They looked like large puffy white blossoms on the bushes.  Intermingled with them were a few blue herons and pelicans, but it was mostly an amazing vision of fluffy white ‘blossoms’ on the deep green mangroves.  I hope to get photo this evening!


To ease into boat life I had planned a very simple dinner with virutally no cooking.  I made a large salad of greens and vegetables with goat cheese for a bit of protein.  My mistake was that I’d recently had a delicious salad dressing at the Old City House Inn restaurant in St. Augustine, and I had just had to see if I could re-create it.  It was a roasted shallot vinaigrette, so naturally I had to roast some shallots!  And since I was doing that I figure why not roast a head of garlic as well which will surely get used in the near future.  Well, imagine a slightly oily baking pan from the roasting,  a messy miniature food processor from pureeing those shallots,  a salad bowl, all the raiments from cutting the vegetables….in other words, I managed to make a HUGE mess in my tiny galley on an evening when I was just going to do something simple with no fuss.  Ugh!

Today promises to be picture perfect!  Blue skies, a gentle breeze, soft temperatures.

I have started my first “Tsock” pattern from the “Tsarina.”  It is called “Octoberfest,” and I love the bright golden colorway, including a light frothy ‘head’ for the top of the sock.  I enjoyed trying out her toe beginning.  For my other toe-up sock, the “Skew” sock from Knitty, I started by wrapping and casting on to two needles held parallel.  For Octoberfest you cast on half the number of stitches and work back and forth in short rows to create the toe.  It was easy and somewhat mythical watching the toe emerge from this simple technique!  Today, if there is time after the endless chores, I will knit the straight stockinette bit of the foot toward the heel.

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