Pinned down in Falmouth, Antigua

We are back in Falmouth Harbor on Antigua, which is only a short walk to the very pretty English Harbor where the ambience of 18th c. British naval history is well preserved.  We are back here because Bob decided to call in the professionals to whack the mole that is playing havoc with our SSB.  It turns out that the mole won this round; the SSB is dead.  At the moment there are no new ones available for shipment from the US, so we wait.

Meanwhile, to bide time, Bob met a rigger name Bishop yesterday, and after watching him make some soft shackles, Bob asked if he would be willing to teach us how to do it.  They made a date for Bob to bring Bishop out to Pandora right after work.  I thought I’d stay out of their way (not that easy on a boat!), but Bob thought I’d enjoy learning along with him.  And he was right!  A soft shackle is a bit of rigging that is one of the strongest things ever….way stronger than a typical shackle.  What a little bit of wonder–and Bishop is a good teacher!

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First you make the splice, then with the two ends that come out of the splice you make a knot that ends up looking a bit like a small Turk’s head.

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I practiced this little bit of splicing and knot tying about five times yesterday to make sure I learned it.  Today I’m not so sure I can do it again–I’d better keep practicing.  I’m fascinated by it!  I think there must be some wonderful use for this in kumihimo.  I have lots of time to ponder this, and then I can try a few ideas when I get home.

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While we are back here in Falmouth for repairs and waiting out some strong weather, we went to dinner Sunday night at the beautiful Pillars resort.  I did get my G&T under the canopy in the garden that overlooks English Harbor.  It’s even prettier at dusk!

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There was a bougainvillea that had been trimmed into small shrub right near my leg, and a little hummingbird was flitting all around it.  He was not in the least concerned about my proximity.  He has a little crested head and from certain angles his crest is a brilliant, tropical green.  What a sight!

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As dusk fell we began to hear very sharp tweets from what we thought were little birds that were starting to settle down for the night in the trees above us.  But instead of settling down, the tweets became louder and more like sharp shrieks.  It turns out there are lots of big tree frogs here that are quite loud.  I’m glad we can’t hear them out on Pandora.  There’s no sleeping when these things are calling.

After dinner we took a walk around English Harbor…as pretty at night as it is during the day.

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Today is very unsettled with passing squalls that disrupt the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds that are sailing by in these high winds.  The squalls darken the whole sky and send down horizontal deluges of water.  In the midst of the quickly changing weather we happened to see a rainbow right behind Pandora!  I have never seen both ends of a rainbow before!  What a thrill!  Shouldn’t there be two pots of gold?

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P.S. It’s now afternoon.  I have answered emails and made two two soft shackles for practice. Bob went ashore to consult with Arrougoo, our electronics repair guy, and while there he went to the rigger and bought some finer spectra ‘dyneemo’ line for me to try.

Both of these were supposed to be bracelets, but as you can see I made some miscalculations on measuring the materials for the first one.  It is way to small for a bracelet, yet too big for a ring.  Voila!  A belt for Louis the sailor mouse.  He really wanted a nautical belt.  So, now I know that I must measure 4x’s the length of what the finished item should be. I now also know that the knot is called a stopper knot.  Here is the first bracelet, along with little Louis and his new belt.

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Photos of English Harbor, Antigua

Those of you who know me know that I love taking photos of doors and windows, especially if they are festooned with lace or flowers or vines.  That’s the first thing I want to see whenever we go ashore.  I’ve seen a good deal of lace curtains blowing in open windows over the past week.

We had to get out of St. Barths earlier than we would have liked due to strong westerly winds that made the harbor quite unpleasant.  Before we left a number of boats had already dragged anchor, and two in particular had tangled their anchors and lines with other boats.  This took place in the very dark hours after midnight when these types of calamities always choose to happen.  Murhpy’s Law on boats, don’t know you.

The pre-dawn departure to sail to Antigua that day was no fun, although I’m certain that Bob enjoyed it, especially the part when several of the Caribbean 600 contenders crossed our path–flying spinnakers no less.

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At one point during the journey, when I was fighting a moderate case of mal de mer, I could hear all the cans and jars in our pantry crashing back and forth, and the pots in pans in the cabinets doing the same.  Can you imagine taking your house out in to the elements and letting your possessions get bashed around for a few hours every few days?  That’s one of the main reasons that sailing is an endless game of ‘whack a mole.’  Everything keeps getting bashed about until it breaks.

Anyway, we are safe and sound in Antigua now, and here are some scenes from English Harbor. Lord Nelson was here for a number of years, and these buildings were here then as well. There is a small but well curated museum dedicated to Lord Nelson, that we enjoyed–no photos this time.

We had lunch in this historic building that is now a hotel and restaurant, and were underwhelmed by our meal after a couple of weeks of food in the French islands.  However, I think that English food is unfairly maligned–we just had a bout of bad luck.  I’m sure we’ll have other great meals ashore here….we just didn’t pick the best place yesterday–charming spot though!

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English Harbor is charming, isn’t it?–although life here in the 18th century certainly had a dark side. On one of the placards at the Nelson Museum I read that 40,000 English soldiers died on this island (over how many years?–the placard didn’t say) from minor things like heat stroke and similar maladies, often brought on from wearing layers of wool clothing in a tropical climate.  I couldn’t help think about the women and their corsets and their own layers of undergarments.   This is part of the customs and immigration offices, where we checked in.

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The quaint building on the left is still in use as sail loft.  I don’t know how long it has been in use because there is an even older site where a sail loft used to be.  Next door is the even quainter building, with its whitewashed walls, cedar roof and pretty blue shutters. It is a shop full of carved wooden fish and turtles for sale and a good amount of pottery.  The fish were very tempting, but we didn’t buy one.  How to choose?

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These columns used to support a building that housed another sail loft, in use during Nelson’s time.  Now the columns have been restored to enhance a beautiful garden setting for a local resort and restaurant.  I’m definitely giving this place a try in the next few days. I am confident the meal will be as memorable as the setting….

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…starting with cocktails right here!  I will have to have something thoroughly English, like a Pimm’s Cup or a G&T.  Bring it on!

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With our friends Maureen and Bill (from Kalunamoo), we walked out to one of the promontories on this end of the island.  There are a couple of defunct cannon here from the distant past when this harbor needed protection.  I wonder if this tree was sapling back then.

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Walking back into the village I caught our friends and Bob stopping along a beautiful walled garden.

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Yesterday we moved to Nonsuch Bay, and today has been a day of household chores.  Bob has been busy ‘whacking’ the SSB mole, with no success, and I did two loads of laundry.  In this climate the first load dried, flapping in the breeze on our makeshift laundry line at the back of our cockpit, by the time the second load was finished.  I do love having a washing machine onboard….one less thing to search for on shore.

Now that the laundry is done I think I will spend a little time on embroidery while sitting on the shady side of the cockpit.

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Issues in Paradise…or the Ying and Yang of Life

Boaters have all kinds of sayings and phrases for the life we lead aboard.  We know that non-boating people think we’ve sailed off into the sunset on gentle breezes, blowing from just the right direction….like that popular song by Chris Cross.  Here are some of the things that sailors know to be true:

–that Murphy’s Law reigns more supreme on the seas than on land.  If something can go wrong, it will definitely go wrong–and in spades.
–that one year spent cruising on a boat puts the equivalent of 10 years of wear and tear on a boat that is used for weekends and short vacations of coastal sailing.
–Life on board is an endless series of boat repairs in exotic places.
–Life onboard is a strenuous game of ‘Whack a Mole.’  (What’s this, you ask?  check here for a good description)

So I will start this post with some lovely photos of our current paradise, Grand Case, St. Martin. This is the dinghy dock where we come ashore.  It’s not always this peaceful, but aren’t we lucky that this was a perfect day?

This is the sunset we viewed over margueritas on the deck of a beach bar.  I know, you are thinking, SEE?  Just what you’ve been saying all along….

When you get ashore in Grand Case, you are greeted by a charming French seaside town.  Lots of restaurants and shops.

–not to mention tropical gardens enhancing such lovely buildings.

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Even the trash is exotic.

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The pretty Catholic church in the center of town.

The beach is as charming as the village–all those colorful umbrellas remind me of  beaches on the Mediterranean.

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For luxury, you can’t do better than eating in one of the French restaurants along the waterfront.  For Valentine’s Day dinner we chose Ocean 82.  They even make their own flavored rum with vanilla (grown nearby), caramel, and ginger.  I really must give this a try–flavoring rum, that is– when I return home.

It was a beautiful location for watching the sunset, with rain on the horizon, while eating a terrific dinner with our good friends from Kalunamoo!  See the rain shower in the distance?

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I have had a great time ashore in Grand Case.  Here’s some of my swag.  There is a quaint housewares shop call MerSea with wonderful designs from Denmark.  I could not resist the bird fabric used for the travel bag….and our new live aboard, Louis!

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Isn’t Louis adorable in his sailor garb?  He comes with his own bunk with mattress, pillow and blanket.  He is making his way into our affections.  Eventually he will live with Tori, but for now he is having some sailing adventures with us!

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Another incredible bonus of being here is having sting rays and turtles swim right around our boat.  At this time of year there is also the possibility of seeing humpback whales with their calves.  We have been treated to the first two, but haven’t seen any whales yet.

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What you don’t see is that there is often quite a swell coming through the anchorage, so only the hardiest sailors–like Bob– find this a quiet anchorage. I am not part of that club.  And while my photo of dinghy dock was taken on a  peaceful evening, the waves are often crashing on the beach where the dinghy dock juts out into the bay.  That means that you will be landing and taking off from a dock where your dinghy is bouncing wildly as you try to get your supplies just purchased and your self into the boat without too much ill effect.  Being ashore is definitely luxurious but getting there and leaving again is dicey.

Now shall we move on to the repairs we now need in this exotic place.  We’ve only been down here for two weeks, and this is the list of what has been damaged or died from the harsh elements of sea life:
–Damage to main sail during 4-day gale as Bob sailed to BVI, being repaired at sail loft on shore.
–Broken batten on sail, which could not be repaired, so awaiting new batten being flown in from Boston, delayed due to winter storms in New England
–VHF radio with very light signal
–Non-functioning SSB, diagnosed by local electronics guy but not solved at all–nada.
–Dead windlass (that’s the thing that picks up the 100 or more feet of anchor chain which no one human can continue to do by hand day after day.  This is a BIG deal.  Looks like we need to buy a new one.  At least this is in stock in the local chandlery.

And I have suffered a little damage myself, but no hope of repairs until I return home.  The block and tackle on the dinghy davits hit me in the mouth about a week ago.  I was looking the other way, then turned my face right into it!  I was also talking…no surprise….so I got it right in the mouth, on my two front teeth.  I have a chipped front tooth now.  Then a few days later I was doing something in the kitchen so simple that I cannot even describe–just leaning over the counter trying to find something in our deep freezer.  We have very high fiddles on our counters to keep things from rolling off on to the floor in a seaway. Around here you can have a seaway in the anchorage, and that’s what happened.  Somehow I was thrown off balance a bit and the big fiddle bruised my rib.  Now that’s a fun injury, isn’t it?

These are the very big projects facing Bob right now.  We cannot leave until each of these has been addressed and corrected.  So, we may not get out of here for some time to come.  Yes, it’s lovely here, and I’d rather be here than on Pandora in New England right now (though warm and snug in my house is a strong contender).  We are certainly NOT gliding along from island to island on a zephyr, drinking our umbrella drinks.  In fact, although we get to experience such dramatic scenery and wildlife,  and interesting cultures on our travels, living aboard is still very much like living on land.  Each day brings its own demands and challenges, and in fact, procrastinating on boat chores has somewhat bigger consequences than neglecting chores at home.  Boat has more challenges for sure than my cushy land life, but it does have its rewards. One of those is magnificent views.

2-17-17a 021 I don’t expect much sympathy!

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A week in St. Martin

We’ve been here a week now and have enjoyed many of the local attractions.  Yesterday was a particular highlight for me since it was the weekly open air market.  There were plenty of stalls with cheap, manufactured souvenirs , but on Saturdays the locals set up stalls with handmade items, like hot sauces, spice blends, shell creations, beaded jewelry, watercolor paintings.  It was a colorful market, and I bought some fun things.

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We bought several kinds of spice blends and several bags of nutmeg,–of course!  We now live in the nutmeg state, so we had to have some straight from the source. The reason our state has this distinction of being the nutmeg state is because the early trading ships along the Connectiuct River sailed to the Caribbean and brought back spices.

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This was a fun purchase!–a peyote stitch, beaded starfish made by a woman who had set up a booth at the yacht club on the Dutch side, which overlooks the drawbridge where all boats enter and exit Simpson Bay Lagoon. Bob and I had stopped there for a drink to watch the drawbridge open and see what big boats might go through.  Finding the tables of beaded jewelry was a bonus for me.  I just know my beading friends Karyn and Janet will either already know how to make this little gem, or will quickly figure it out when they see this.  The both live on beaches, one on the Jersey shore and one on the Cape, so I think they would enjoy making something like this.

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After years in the Bahamas, I have to say that the best thing about these Caribbean islands is the food!  And on St. Martin it’s mostly French food!  I do not know how they can make bread and pastries as delicious as their mother country when it is so hot and humid here.  The baguettes are amazing and the croissants are too!  At the markets I’ve been able to buy food that looks like it was picked locally each morning, even though it has been flown here from France.  Such fresh baby heads of lettuce…tiny romaine heads and heads of red leaf lettuce.  Cooking is so much more enjoyable with these beautiful ingredients!

Here is the pastry case at Serafina’s boulangerie et patisserie.  Are you salivating?

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Earlier this week we had lunch at a beach bar, and my lunch was so beautifully displayed, and such good food, that I had to take a photo of it.  In the US, you can imagine lunch at a beach bar as a greasy hamburger and fries, or a hotdog, or maybe fried clams on a roll.  Look at this and weep!

Shall I describe what is on the plate?  First, three big prawns with a bit of aioli for dipping. Then a half dozen little snails with a muslin covered lemon to squeeze on them.  Then there are two glass containers stacked at the far end of my plate.  That top dish is a salad of crabmeat topped with alfalfa sprouts and caviar in a lemon vinaigrette.  It was fabulous!  Underneath is fresh guacamole to go on the toast points.  There was also a remoulade sauce not shown here… so a collection of shellfish, served with 3 sauces, a salad and bread!–and a view of the beach to set the mood!

St. Martin is a must stop destination for all cruisers, so whenever you are here you will meet boats you’ve seen in other locations.  Thursday evening we had a farewell party for some couples who were headed in other directions, both back north and further south.  There were 12 of us for dinner at LeCanal, a wonderful French restaurant that sits on a canal on the French side, run by a husband and wife.  They also live on a boat and hope to make a go here for a few years, before returning to France.  They have a beautiful 3 year old daughter who came out to greet us during dinner.

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We are going back today at noon to enjoy crepes for brunch.  Sarah makes the crepes at your table, while I believe the fillings are made by her husband back in the kitchen.  I’m looking forward to this!  The idea is to have a savory crepe first and then a dessert crepe.  There was a time in the distant past when I made Julia Child’s crepe batter almost every weekend.  It’s been a few years since I’ve made crepes.  Today will be a treat!

More later when I have returned from another fun visit ashore in St. Martin!

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More photos, less words…

This year’s trip started with a revisit to a romantic hotel we stayed in 31 years ago.  Where did the time go?  In some ways it definitely feels like a different lifetime ago, but I am stumped at where all that went…so quickly! It’s still a very romantic spot, and dinner here was quite wonderful.  30 years on, I am even more appreciative of a stunning setting and excellent food.

The road in front of the Sugar Mill runs along the coast and looks north to Jost Van Dyke.  Last time that didn’t mean much to me, but this time we visited that island shortly after our evening here, so now I know a little about Jost Van Dyke.

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We made sure we got here in time to enjoy the sunset, which is beautiful from this lovely Victorian porch with cushioned settees for relaxing.  It was very relaxing.  To mark the occasion I had a Pimm’s Cup to remind me of spring evenings in England with my dear friend Lesley.

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The dining room is just as I remember….the stone walls of the old mill yet open air to the ocean.  That’s me at the back of the room on the right, deciding what to have for dinner!

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The Sugar Mill does not show up in any of the guide books we’ve got with us, which is rather baffling.  It is listed in “Romantic Inns of the World,” but that might not be the place you’d look if you were researching where to stay on Tortola.  Anyway, clearly they are doing something very right.  We would have loved to see the owners from 30 years ago, Jeff and Jinx Morgan, who wrote for “Gourmet Magazine” for many years.  We missed them by only a year or two.  I hope that they are well, wherever they are these days.

We are now in St. Martin/St. Maarten which is new territory for me.  The island is a range of tall volcanic mountains, some so steep that there are no roads and no inhabitants up those slopes.  Part French and part Dutch, there is lots to see and do, and two rather different cultures to enjoy.

Here we are at the top of one of the highest points.  We drove partway up with our rental car, then walked the rest of the way.  Our friend Bill took this photo which looks idyllic.  You cannot tell there is a gale blowing up there, and we were afraid to go any closer to the edge for fear we’d be blown right off!

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Aren’t these pretty?  The petals are so like an oncidium orchid that flutter in the breeze, but those long stamens are definitely NOT an orchid. These flowers come in yellow and orange, and my favorite here, a blend of the two!  They grow on a somewhat shrubby plant that has leaves similar to a maiden hair fern.  I would love to have a plant onboard, even a red geranium.  So far, I have not found a nursery where I can buy something green. My friends aboard other boats suggest I get over this.  If I get a plant it will just be taken away when we enter a different island nation.  Sad face….

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Along that road to the top of the mountain were some very impressive villas, and some houses that looked like they’d been built by hands that did not know much about building a house!  I think some of these diy houses were hideouts for people who no longer wished to be known.

Along with wild goats and chickens that roam the roadsides, here there are also wild cows.  They do not cross the road quite as quickly as goats or chickens.   

On our way down we stopped at a large park called Loterie Farm.  It is preserve for wild monkeys, iguanas, and had a maze of zip lines for use in getting a wonderful view of the flora and fauna from some thrilling heights.  That is a bit too much of a thrill for me, but I enjoyed seeing the views from the tree house style tapas bar, where I had a tropical drink with a salad and a crab cake.  Far more sedate than zip lining!

I was happy to enjoy the restaurant views, rather than experience them from the tree tops on a zip line!

Next time it would be fun to rent this tree top cabana near the pool.

We ended the day at the beach right near Princess Juliana Airport, where some of those adventurous zip lining people line up at the end of the runway to be blown off their feet whenever a jumbo jet lands or takes off.  There is no end to the risk taking you can experience on St. Martin.  I’m happy to watch from the safety of the nearby bar, thank you.

 

 

 

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Traveling with Friends

It is early February, and I am writing from Simpson Bay Lagoon on St. Martin in the Caribbean.  We are later this year in slipping our moorings in New England and moving aboard Pandora.  Lots of things contributed to the delay, but we are here now, anchored near some dear sailing friends who are introducing us to others who will become friends as the months and years pass.

After entering this harbor on the first bridge opening this morning, we anchored near the ketch Kalunamoo, whose owners are friends who took us under their wings five years ago to lead us through the Bahamas on our first trip down there.  Now they will surely be our tour guides though the Windward and Leeward Islands.  We see each other each summer when our boats are back in north Atlantic waters, but this is our first winter rendevous in three years.  It’s so comfortable being together again by water.

Before I left home another dear friend, one I’ve known as a weaver and land-based friend, sent me her map of St. Martin.  She and her family spent a couple of weeks here only a month ago, and she wanted to share with me a map highlighted with the things they enjoyed doing, the restaurants they visited, the boat excursions they took.

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Now that I’m here and am beginning to get my bearings, it’s wonderful to see the places she visited and know that I will follow in her footsteps.  It’s going to be a fun part of this trip, finally visiting places that some of my friends have been before, even if they traveled very differently than Bob and I are doing.  It should help me feel less isolated this year than I have in the past–especially last year, in Cuba.  That was a wonderful trip in many ways, but it was also the most isolated place I have ever been, since at the time, the US allowed no communications with Cuba.

We left home a week ago, and already I get daily photos of my new granddaughter, the Tiny Super Moon named Tori.  She is such a joy to both Bob and me.  He still gets teary every time he sees a new photo of her.  I get the lightest feeling in my chest….such happiness!  Here she is beginning to celebrate her 2nd month birthday, although she won’t actually be 2 months old for another week!  I guess it was a great photo op for her parents. 1-IMG_0293 Before I left I tried my hand at a bit of embroidery that I found on Facebook.  It’s astounding to me what I stumble on perusing fb.  I’m glad to know this technique–I think it will come in handy for all kinds of projects.  I embroidered this little onesie as a practice, and clearly I need more practice.  But I’ll get it eventually.  I’ll do some spring colored onesies in this technique soon.  Hmmm….no photo.  Where did it go?

I have started a little sailor sweater for Tori.  It is one I made a few years back for my niece.  It’s a design by Debbie Bliss and uses her soft eco cotton.  This time I am using a soft green/blue color that I call faded robin’s egg, with cream.  I love it.  I’m still stumped by what I feel is a bad design for the collar.  Sorry Ms. Bliss, especially since I love your designs! It’s the focal point of the sweater and I still cannot make peace with wrong side of striped garter stitch showing.  For my niece I knitted the collar in a single color.  I am debating what to do for this version.  I have time to decide.

After 4 days in the BVI, making very quick visits to West End, Jost Van Dyke, and Bitter End on Virgin Gorda, we have made the long, 100-mile passage to St. Martin.  The weather has been challenging for the past month (since before I got here), and our weather router suggested that it is quite UNlikely that there will be a good time to head east for the next several weeks.  So we took the lesser of bad weather days to slog eastward yesterday.  It took us 15 hours to travel 100 miles, in fairly rough conditions.  They were very rough for me, but nothing like what Bob and his crew endured getting down to the BVI.  I was very sick for the full 15 hours.  We anchored out in Grand Case Bay on St. Martin, which I understand can be very lovely in calmer weather.  Last night there was quite a swell rolling in there that kept us rolling side to side.  We entered Simpson Bay Lagoon on the first bridge opening this morning….not a moment too soon.

We have reconnected with our good friends and will join them for dinner tonight at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Little Jerusalem, where we will start to meet people we’ve heard of many times through various groups, and whom we’ve spoken to on the radio.  The beginning of new friendships.  I wonder if I’ll meet a knitter or a weaver.  You never know.

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Promises Made

It may be the dawn of a new year, but I am not writing about resolutions.  I am writing about promises. These are the promises I made during the past year.

The first was a rather casual statement I made to my husband, Bob, after finding out that it would cost over $200 each for simple throw pillows for the main salon of our new boat, about a year and a half ago.  In spite of the fact that I’m not the best seamstress, and my blood pressure goes up whenever I plug in that sewing machine, I offered to decorate our main salon with pillows that I would make myself…. because for that price I was willing to endure the possibility of  having a stroke to make our our own decorative pillows for about 1/4 the price.  Early this year I found great fabric choices at Mac’s in West Palm Beach.  It’s great town to visit, and for me, a dip into Mac’s is the pinnacle of all the wonderful things to do in West Palm!

Time flew by and suddenly–during the week between Christmas and the new year– it was time for Bob to start packing for his long voyage to the eastern Caribbean.  I have to admit that I had not given those pillows much thought in the months since I’d bought the fabric.  It was time to get sewing.

The first hurdle was making the bias cut binding for the welting that would go around the pillows.  There is an efficient way of cutting bias binding that I can never quite grasp.  I may never get this down, so thank heaven for YouTube where I can find almost anything right when I need it.

My four pillows needed 11 yards of bias binding that would then turn into cording.  I need to hear gasps here….puh-lease11 yards.  It was a LOT of sewing, and it was daunting for me.

Just pinning the 11 yards of binding around the cording took an age.  I really need some shout outs here for enduring this effort…. And, just so you know, that box of pins was full to overflowing before I started pinning the 11 yards of binding.

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YouTube to the rescue again on how to make a pillow with a bias binding welted edge AND a zipper.  Yep….that was no small feat for me, the intrepid and not so dexterous seamstress. You really can learn almost anything on YouTube, thanks to the efforts of countless folks who are so willing to share their expertise.  Here is my source for inserting a zipper into a welted edge.

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Happily, the pillows are now adding a touch of elegance to Pandora–two of the four.

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On to my next promise….made more recently in time.  In fact, it was April, in Havana, when I had the thought that I knew plenty of bobbin lace makers, tatters, knitters, and embroiderers who would be thrilled to share their excess stash with women in Cuba who love to work with their hands, but have so few choices of materials to use.  The generosity of the women I know through various groups was quite astounding.  The most touching incident happened during one our Cuba talks which were mostly geared to sailors.  Diane was in the audience at a local yacht club for one of Bob’s talks, and she approached me to say that her sister had once owned an embroidery shop.  When it closed Diane had offered to store some of the excess embroidery threads for her sister– beautiful threads, such as Danish flower thread, hand-painted embroidery cottons and silks from Watercolors by Caron Threads, and a treasure trove of other exquisite threads for handwork.  Huge thanks, Diane, for letting these treasures go. The New England Lace Guild also contributed fine lace threads, books on bobbin lace, tatting shuttles and threads, and even a large stash of knitting needles.  The bounty just bowls me right over.

Where’s the photo?  Well, right now it’s on the camera that is traversing the north Atlantic with Bob who is on his way to the Caribbean!  What a snafu!  He took a fun photo of me siting on the floor ensconced in piles of beautiful lace and embroidery threads.  He is out of internet range for the next 10 days, so I just have suck it up that there is no photo.

Well, now Bob has landed in Tortola (1.11.17), and is enjoying soft tropical breezes under thatched pavilions, drinking fruity concoctions with little paper umbrellas in them.  And he has sent me the photo.

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Bob packaged up all this swag in vacuum seal bags that are now aboard Pandora on their way to the Caribbean, where they will then get transferred to other sailboats that are headed for Cuba in the spring.  Mail to Cuba is not yet an option since I’ve been warned that packages get opened and raided.  These packages will get delivered directly to Adriana in Havana by various sailing friends.  I know she will share them generously with other women.  All good! A promise well kept.

I am in the midst of my most recent promise, so I cannot yet tell how well I will fulfill it.  I never made this promise out loud, but in the depths of my heart I made it, which is perhaps a more binding place for promises.  My father died over 5 years ago and left my mother in the care of my sister and me.  He died with his whole family surrounding him, including four grandchildren.  My mother has not been well since long before he passed away, and she has endured the past 5 1/2 years mostly alone….not so much in actuality, but certainly in her soul.  She was not an easy person to care for, and my father’s death was in part due to the heavy burden of caring for her. She has been hurtling toward death for the past few months.  Although she and I were not close, I felt a strong desire to help her– to be whatever she might need to me to be, in order to help her make this transition. Over the past weeks I have touched her –held her hand, stroked her hair, rubbed her shoulders– more than I remember her ever touching me or my sister.  I hope it gave her solace.  I hope she felt comforted.

Her time came this afternoon.  It is so fresh I am probably rash to write of it so soon.  It’s certainly too soon to say if I’ve kept my promise.  Neither my sister or I was with her, but perhaps that is how she wanted it.  Her favorite nurse was with her, and that means a great deal to me.  In the coming days of this new year we hope to honor her memory and scatter her ashes as she would want.

Only today I realized what I might miss most about her — her whistling.  It was a brilliant feat of delicacy and finesse. It was a mystery of nature–of human dexterity.  I hope I will always be able to hear her trilling the piccolo part of “Stars and Stripes Forever” in my memory.  I hope she’ll be whistling for others wherever she is–they will love it!

 

 

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I’m in orbit around the moon!

The first real snow of the season is falling, and I’m watching it out the window next to my computer, as I drink coffee late into the morning.  It’s the end of an exhilarating week, and we’re all in free fall toward Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, which fall so close together this year.

Our grandchild arrived on Monday evening this week!  We were on the Jersey Turnpike , heading south, admiring the rising supermoon when our son called to say the baby is a girl!  She has a lovely moonface, and I’m calling her Tori Tiny Super Moon.

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She’s blessed with a full head of hair, isn’t she??  –Just like both her parents.  Rob’s hair fell out when he was about 4 months old, leaving behind lots of blond peach fuzz, but Mom kept her head of thick hair.  We’re very curious to see what happens to our Tiny Super Moon’s head of hair.

Also, she has dimples!  I didn’t know that babies could have dimples when their cheeks are so well padded to help them suck.  Well, she’s got big ones!  Her parents were wondering where on earth the dimples came from– and then I arrived!  When I smiled at Tiny Super Moon they both noticed!  Voila!  She has a little something from me.  You cannot imagine how happy this makes me!

Like the heavenly lunar body she is, she wakes up in the evening and shines all night.  She sleeps during the day.  We are satellites in her orbit.

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That last photo was taken in her adoring Grampy’s arms.  I happened to have caught the ring that Bob got from his father when his father passed away.  Boy, would he have fallen under her spell.

When we left to drive to Maryland, I had not yet finished Tiny Super Moon’s Christmas outfit!  Horrors!  I figured I’d knit in the car on the way down, but I completely misjudged the high state of emotion I would experience!  Then came the days of visiting in the  hospital, running errands for the parents, doing a few little chores at their house.  No knitting!  Finally, on the night before the new family were to come home I got out the little sweater and knit ’til it was done….ran all the loose yarns into the wrong side of the sweater and lightly blocked it.

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Finished!

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On the drive home I found that my hands were itching to knit something else for my little lunar gem.  I just happened to have brought some yarn and this little book with me–yeah, just happened! I never go anywhere without at least two extra projects on hand!  I started the sheep, Spud….and as the years go by, maybe I’ll knit the whole barnyard!

This is not a good photo of the book.  I took it as it lay on my lap in the car! Isn’t Spud adorable?

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When she’s older I will knit Chloe, giving her the appropriate hair and eyes of our tiny one.  I am so looking forward to watching her grow!

If Tiny Super Moon and her dad are sleeping it must be daytime!

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We are going back exactly one week from today (not that I’m counting the days or anything) to visit for Christmas.  Uncle Chris will join us from San Francisco.  Tiny Super Moon is so excited about her first Christmas, and mostly about seeing me again!

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A Matter of Scale

Our first grandchild is arriving in only 3 weeks, if not sooner.  I am over the moon with anticipation at seeing the child of my son and his wonderful wife.

Can you imagine how I’ve been knitting for this new little Osborn?  First, a sweater by Stephanie Pearl McPhee called “Nouveau Ne” that made my heart race.  How perfectly she has interpreted the delicacy of babyhood without designing something too feminine. Little rows of brioche stitch separated by a garter ridge…lovely!  You see, we do not know what gender this little Osborn will be, so this pattern strikes the perfect note of sweet babyhood without femininity.  I think this sweater is just luscious, made even more sentimental to me by my addition of buttons made from shells that we collected in the Bahamas, where this baby’s mother and father visited us for two winters in a row. The yarn is a wonderful blend of superwash merino and silk.

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Then came a baby blanket, a lace design by Eugen Beugler called “Lace Plumes.”  I don’t think it’s too feminine of frilly either.  It is a slightly heavier weight of superwash merino and silk.  Only the finest for our new Osborn!

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Little Nugget (as we’ve been calling her/him for some months now) will be arriving anytime between now and December 14 (you may ask how I know that!  …because if Nugget doesn’t arrive by then she/he will be brought into the world on the doctor’s schedule, due to some conditions that are a little worrisome), so of course Nugget needs a Christmas sweater! And Nuggets’ mom has asked for knitted baby pants to go with a Christmas onesie.

I’ve just finished the pants but will wait to adjust the elastic waistband when I know what size to make it. I liked the proportions of this knitted fabric which was made with Cascade “Forest Hills.”

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Yesterday I started the Christmas sweater, a design by Sorren Kerr called “Anders.”  It is adorable…. but it called for sport weight yarn.  Hmm….

..I’m not so pleased with how the yarn looks at this scale.  It seems a tad bulky for a baby.  So I started it again in the same yarn I used for the baby pants–Cascade “Forest Hills.”  This yarn is a 50/50 blend of merino and silk.  It is not superwash so there could be some disaster in wait on its first wash.  I’m willing to take that risk.

Here’s the difference between a sport weight version and my lace weight version.  I have re-written the pattern to get the size right in the lace weight yarn.  I like it!

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I got the Ewe (love) Ewe at Knit New Haven when I visited the Andean weaving exhibit at the Yale Art Gallery back in September.  I think this yarn would be fine for a toddler or pre-schooler so I’ll just save it ’til then.  Meanwhile, maybe I’d better see if I can get another ball in the same dye lot so I have plenty for that larger size.

So….just saying….I prefer fingering or lace weight yarn for babies.  This means I have to re-write the whole pattern for Little Nugget, when time is short.  Still, what a nice way to spend my time as I await the big arrival.

 

 

 

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Keep on Keeping on!

Years ago I knew an editor who said that we must all find a rhythm in life that we can maintain for at least 30 years.  I’m still struggling with that.  My last birthday put me into a new decade, and at this age I’m not sure I will ever learn what speed I can maintain.  So must settle for the mantra to just keep on keeping on….

This was an excessively busy week which seemed perfectly do-able when I first signed on to participate.  First came a 2-day workshop on rep weave with Lucienne Coifman who recently published a book on this subject.

Setting up my Baby Wolf for this project was rather daunting.  A pre-workshop on Lucienne’s method for warping a rep weave project should be a must-do in order to have a stress-free experience.  I think that’s entirely possible if you take an on-going class with her.  This was her traveling 3-day workshop crammed into 2 days for our guild’s annual November workshop.

There were 18 participants in a round robin class, where each of the looms had a different rep weave structure, from traditional Swedish designs to Lucienne’s designs. It was impossible to weave all 18 designs in the space of 2 days, so it was somewhat stressful.  Most of us skipped breaks of any kind, including eating lunch.  But look what we got!

This is Lucienne’s sample of the structure she gave me to put on my loom.  This is in her new book.

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Other designs we wove:

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The little tags were for identifying different treadling methods.

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There were more wonderful designs choices to weave than there were hours in this class.  As the last hour approached we all had a moment of disappointment at the designs we did not get to try.  When we cut off the yardage on our looms we brought them all to the front table.

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Lucienne gave a number of lectures during the two days.  It was hard to tear myself away from weaving to listen and take notes, but all the information was important so I had to do it!

I still have a bit of warp on my loom with which I will weave some samples for the women who did not get to my loom.  And I sure hope there will be enough warp left over for me to weave a little something useful–perhaps a book cover–for myself!

So Friday evening we all packed up our looms to leave–no simple feat.  I unloaded my car and then reloaded with the tapestry paraphernalia that I needed for the next morning’s talk at the state guild meeting.  I was to give a program for the morning open lecture that is part of our regular meeting agenda.  My talk on images in contemporary tapestry was well received.  I was quite nervous about doing this talk, mostly because I had almost no time to prepare for it.  But I slept well the night before, especially after two intense days of weaving rep weave on strange looms!  I woke up Saturday morning calmer than I’ve been in months for which I was very grateful.  A couple of good friends promised to attend to give me moral support, and nothing beats that!  Quite a few people signed a list to receive more information from me on how to get started learning how to weave tapestry, and that was the point of the whole thing!  So I guess that means it was successful!

The afternoon program this month was given by Norma Smayda about her experiments weaving ondule fabric with a fan reed.  Schiffer Publishing will soon be coming out with Norma’s new book on this subject!  I can’t wait to get it.

Norma took us through her entire process, and that gave me quite a bit info for doing my own experiments.  I have almost bought a fan reed from Sara von Tresckow of the Wool Gatherers twice but balked at spending so much on something I had no idea how to use well.  Look what Norma has been doing with it.

If you plan your stripes you can accentuate the movement of the reed.  You can also get undulating selvedges or straight selvedges, depending on how your thread your reed.

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After buying a reed that had fans going across the entire width, Norma then ordered some fans she designed herself with straight pins for part of the width and fanned pins for the rest.  It allows her to have areas of straight weaving and areas of undulation.  Quite beautiful! The blue/orange wall hanging is all one piece, with straight weaving on the left and undulations on the right.  Try to ignore that bit of another woven piece in red at the right edge of the photo.  I did not want to touch Norma’s work so I could not get the red wall hanging out of the way.

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And here is the red piece from the corner of the previous photo–it’s so graphic it vibrates!

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Norma is wearing a vest that she designed.  I don’t remember who sewed it for her, but she did a fabulous job!  There is a placket at the back of the jacket where the seamstress inserted one repeat of the ondule fabric…such a wonderful touch!

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As you can see, I’ve had quite a week!  I went to bed at 8.30 last night because I could not keep my eyes open any longer!  My head is full of ideas — now just to find the time.  I just have to keep going, even if it’s slower than I’d like.

 

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