Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On the last day of the year

Local festive cheer.

Happy New Year’s Eve to you from the Captain & Crew!

I’d like to tell you that we’ll be dancing up a storm, and actually, we already are, but not for reasons you might think. Doubtless there will be music from the clubs floating across the water tonight, but we have no plans other than to sit on the boat and eat homemade pizzas with a few friends.

We are already partying because it’s our last night on the dock!  

Tomorrow, we shall take our new batteries (installed yesterday and looking good) and our new stove (the Captain gets a goofy grin when he makes the morning tea now) and head out to the mooring.  There we shall swing in the breeze and enjoy 360 degree views, as well as a smidgen more privacy.

It’s been interesting living on the dock for the past two and a half months.  We've been lucky enough to get fresh mahi mahi when the fishing boats come in and there’s more than enough to go around.  I've also got to know several of the guys that work on the power boats, like Man O’War, Catfish, Wilford, Duffy, and Clive.  It sounds a bit like the seven dwarfs of the dock, but none of them are small and all of them are happy to lend us a hand if we’re ever in need.

Just the same, we’re looking forward to life on the mooring and being able to take the boat sailing again.  Lots of short local trips are on the agenda for January and February, plus many boat jobs for the Captain (and even a few for the Crew.)  I've heard whispers of more sailing adventures for March, so stay tuned…

But tonight, on the eve of a new year, I’d like to wish you the following for 2015:

May the winds fill your sails from behind, pushing you forward,

May the nights on anchor be calm, making your sleep sweet and easy,

May there always be enough water and fuel in your tanks and plenty of provisions in your galley, and

May you enjoy the best that life has to offer, wherever your ship may sail.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Warm & wet island living

Another guest blogger for your entertainment...

Captain' s Blog: Bardate 2014 10 20.

It was feeling a bit damp in Vancouver and a bit cool in Toronto so it seemed like a good time to head south to the warm, sunny Caribbean. Sorry, I should have said warm, wet Caribbean.

Water gushing down from the edge of the gutter.
Since arriving back in Montego Bay Saturday afternoon, we've seen more rain than we did for the previous four months on our Abandon Ship Tour (which included Manchester and Vancouver!) It's been absolutely pissipitating it down with lots of thunder, lightning and some strongish wind each afternoon/evening since we got here. Still, soon be dry season...

The storm is coming in from the left - that grey shadow is rain.
We said our goodbyes to all of Julia's wonderful family after a great Thanksgiving weekend, and headed for Toronto last Tuesday with mixed emotions. Sad to be leaving behind kind, generous family and friends who have let us stay in their homes, fed us to bursting, lent us cars and motorcycles in abundance, shown me real bear poo, and were genuinely (or you're all potential Oscar winners) pleased to see us. But we were happy to be headed back to Diva and the warm, sunny Caribbean – but see above for our disillusion

Rushing to catch the plane, YVR
Then we repeated the mixed emotions scenario after another Thanksgiving turkey dinner with the Toronto gang.

Counting it up, it seems we have slept in 25 different beds since we left Diva in June. So a massive thank-you to everyone in the UK and Canada that made us feel so welcome. That doesn't include Travelodge, they're rubbish.

So now we are back.

the Crew's luggage - just kidding - in YYZ

One or two minor problems.....................

We got back to find that the house batteries on Diva are flat. It is hard to explain how this happened as nothing was left on and the solar panels would normally keep them topped right up. I'm now trying to revive them but it may take a few days before we can switch the fridge on. That is inconvenient – no cold drinks!

Captain's Blog: Bardate: 2014 10 21

So this morning, 1st Officer Julia (otherwise known as the Crew) and myself managed, with only minimal shouting at each other, a fairly smooth docking, Mediterranean style (or arse to the dock with sharp end tied to a mooring). We're a bit rusty, but it seems we haven't forgotten everything.

This has enabled me to use my smart AC charger, plugged into dockside 110V outlet, to massage life back into the batteries, albeit one at a time. 

Oh, and it's raining again!

Best I run now and close the hatches. Love to you all.

Much love from the Crew too.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Thanksgiving: an exercise in balance

It's official – the Abandon Ship Tour is coming to a close. This is the last post by guest blogger D. Magnuson-Ford, the Dad of Julia (AKA the Crew) who is on the journey home to the good ship Diva. By day this guest blogger masquerades as fundraiser, a fly fisherman, a motorcycle gang leader and a sometimes turkey roaster. He lives with Chef Heidi in Port Moody, British Columbia, where Lake Garibaldi (pictured below) is just one of 34 hikes within 30 minutes of their door. Photos are from dmf dream management.

This weekend we are celebrating Thanksgiving. Family and friends will gather at our house. Hungry mouths will gobble down turkey and stuffing in homes across Canada. Kids in schools will be asked, “What are you thankful for?” Parents and grandparents will remember great family feasts consumed in the days of yore. 

One of my thanksgiving memories includes a mental snapshot of five grown men fast asleep on the living room couches after stuffing themselves with second and third helpings of an enormous bird. Their heads were thrown back as they slept and the tumultuous snores shook the foundations of all the houses on the block.  It was a “carb-crash” par excellence – but times have changed.

The Captain and the crab trap.
Thanksgiving can be perceived as a frantic time filled with preparations and obligations. It can make a person feel trapped like a crab in the trap rescued at midnight in the “Moonlight Madness Crab Pot Caper” - a tale left for the Captain and Crew to regale you with for sure. However, life can change and new times may bring a bit of balance. Something I have learned from Julia.

The three foot long, 20 lb chum salmon below were caught last week and will be smoked. Added to the roasted turkey, the centerpiece of the feast will be smoked salmon and salad. No carb-crash this year. 

Balance has become a bit of a theme for me. 

It would be too easy for me to say, “This Thanksgiving, I am simply thankful for Julia and Captain Phil and their time here.” Of course I enjoy their company, but actually I am thankful for all the time I spend with all of my daughters – and the most excellent chef Heidi. 

I am very thankful for a lot of good things in my life and the balance that it has. I have meaningful work, time for recreation, and I have family & friends - all are important in the balance. My life is “exhaustively busy,” as Chef Heidi says, but I have the wonderful solitude of fishing - with two hundred of my closest friends, standing elbow to elbow, in the river when the salmon are running. In short there is balance and life is good.

Are Julia and Captain Phil looking forward to the close of the Abandon Ship Tour? 
I expect so -  that too is part of the balance. They are headed for new adventures next month and next year. What about you? Are there adventures on your drawing board?

Our blogger and friends in Yellowstone National Park this summer.
Motorcycle tours, fishing excursions and family feasts provide a welcome balance to the tap, tap, tap of the keyboard for this guest blogger.

In each adventure there are memories to make, tales to tell, and friends and family to spend time with. As one saga ebbs and flows into another, a bit of balance will arise. 

The Captain has enjoyed  motorcycle rides and strolls on the beach. The Crew has eaten fabulous meals and toiled in the sinks of each household washing countless stacks of dishes. Sadly we will send them off this week – out of the Vancouver rain into the radiant sunshine of Jamaica, via one last stopover in Toronto. We look forward to hearing details of their latest and greatest new adventure not only because we will miss them but because they allow each of us the opportunity to see the world with new eyes. They provide a bit of balance to our very settled lives.


D Magnuson-Ford - Guest Blogger

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Tales from Tofino

Another post by my guest blogger, D Magnuson-Ford, the Dad of Julia (AKA the Crew). By day he masquerades as fundraiser, a fly fisherman, a motorcycle gang leader and a sometimes blogger. He lives with Chef Heidi in Port Moody BC. Photo credit to Chef Heidi.

So the saga continues with new experiences for all. Did you know that Captain Phil had never seen bear poo in the wild? We went to Tofino, British Columbia, to experience the wind and the waves. Long Beach, Chesterman Beach, Pacific Rim National Park and a trek in the wilderness were on the agenda. Read on Mac Duff…

Captain Phil is a very interesting bloke with an Aussie hat that is full of holes. It might be good for the Caribbean climate but in Tofino it lets out the heat and lets in the wind and the rain. In a word, it is useless.

The Captain starts each day with a cup of tea and launches into breakfasts that are a variation of onions, eggs and toast.

Captain Phil's sea onions!
It is followed by endless cups of tea throughout the day – did I mention that he is from England? In Jamaica his local name is in fact “English”. Apparently he can be summoned by locals at the Yacht Club by shouting “Hey English, can you…?” In fact Julia is known in that island paradise as “Mrs. English”. Julia has been helpful as a translator when he eloquently talks in English about “push chairs” “lorries” and his “mates”. I have taken to considering this visit as a “cross cultural experience with delightful gastric overtones”.  

The journey to the end of the earth – Tofino, BC, to be specific, took us through Cathedral Grove, a small plot of giant, old growth Douglas Fir trees who are 400-800 years old and tower above the forest floor.

The Captain and Crew's new home, inside a tree.
We also visited the PacificRim National Park Interpretive Centre. The signs were in English, French and the native language of the area’s first nations people. Dioramas of sand, sea and shipwrecks were in abundance. Afterwards we all walked on the beaches and marveled at the sea creatures like the jelly fish. 

Just before we left Tofino, the Captain and your guest blogger went for a ride off the beaten path in search of a new fishing spot. We spent an hour driving and another hour walking down a trail. We can confirm Lost Lake is still lost and good sense prevailed. After the second pile of bear poo was sighted on a trail too narrow to accommodate man AND beast, Captain Phil and this blogger agreed to cut the adventure short. The wilderness is beautiful but we are not its only inhabitants.

It has been great to spend time with the Captain and Crew out here on the wild edge of the west coast. Soon it is back to work. Life is good as you can see by the pictures. Enjoy!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Magnificent meals and motorcycles

It's official - I am failing in my blogging duties. But never fear, help has appeared! Today's guest blogger is D Magnuson-Ford, the Dad of Julia (AKA the Crew). By day he masquerades as fundraiser, a fly fisherman, a motorcycle gang leader and a sometimes blogger. He lives with Chef Heidi in Port Moody BC. 

Life after the wedding has involved endless relative visits, more motorcycle rides and an on-going cooking match between Captain Phil and Chef Heidi.  I thought he had won the match with salmon en croute - salmon baked inside a flaky pastry. 

Not to be out done, Chef Heidi countered with her cauliflower soup, cedar-planked salmon and pear crumble. Read on Mac Duff…

So right after the party started we got the Crew (AKA Julia) a motorcycle helmet and a motorcycle jacket to get her ready for her new persona: “Motorcycle Mama”. The jacket and helmet fit great but when she was all decked out - she still looked kind of preppy, like a young urban professional. (Also, I'm still not a mama, even with the gear.)

She was safe in her gear but initially not too happy. On the first ride she complained of a sore butt after only 30 minutes of riding. We all learned the old saying is true, “when mama ain’t happy – nobody is happy.” She did adapt and discover perhaps she needed her own motorcycle - one with a soft cushy seat!

The Captain and I rode up the Sea to Sky Highway, although this time we did not stop at our preferred lunching spot, Two Birds Eatery.

Our favorite ride is up the Sunshine Coast with a stop at the Porpoise Bay Lighthouse Pub for lunch. It is just outside Sechelt and looks over Porpoise Bay with its small marina and float plane terminal. 

After a great lunch it was a pedal scraping ride for Captain Phil and Julia. The curves were tight - he leaned, she leaned, and the bike screamed around the corner dragging a peg and sending sparks flying– all at 45 kms/hr. It was great fun and set Captain Phil on a new internet quest for a new motorcycle or two and for lessons for the Crew. They might join us next year as we travel the Oregon coast – stay tuned.

Friday, 3 October 2014

By the numbers

It's official - I am failing in my blogging duties. But never fear, help has appeared! Today's guest blogger is D Magnuson-Ford, the Dad of Julia (AKA the Crew). By day he masquerades as fundraiser, a fly fisherman, a motorcycle gang leader and a sometimes blogger. He lives with Chef Heidi in Port Moody BC. Pictures are courtesy of Digital Echo, unless otherwise noted.

When the Captain and Crew arrived in Vancouver on August 28 on flight AC 105, the party started. They met the first wave of relatives while bottling 453 bottles of beer in preparation for the wedding. (One hundred guests consumed all but 6 bottles over the course of the 4 day event – roughly 1.1 bottles per guest per day.) 

The next wave of relatives was encountered at the Magnuson family BBQ. It was also a celebration of birthdays; Julia’s Opa - Dick Magnuson who turned 83 and Julia’s sister - Erika Magnuson-Ford, at twenty something, just to be polite. It was an opportunity to connect Julia to cousins she had not seen in years and introduce Captain Phil to more family. 

The party continued with motorcycle rides, cooking competitions between Captain Phil and Chef Heidi and then drifted to Galiano Island on September 5th for Karen and Pat’s wedding on September 6th. Read on, Mac Duff...

Karen and Patrick

Wedding rings from three generations
It was the Magnuson-Ford/Gordon wedding of the century. Some came early and stayed late. Some fell in love with the island and got a realtor to show them houses before they left. Some sojourned from Vancouver the morning of the wedding and were piped off the early ferry by a Scottish Bag Piper named Daniel Cameron. 

He led the merry band of wedding guests up the street to a wonderful breakfast of "salmon benedict” hosted by Peter and Jackie Gordon, Pat’s parents. One third of the guests were Karen’s relatives, 1/3 were Pat’s relatives and 1/3 were their friends. People came from Germany, Spain, and the United States. They traveled from far and wide including New York, Toronto, Fairbanks, Alaska and Parowan, Utah. 

Erika, Karen, Julia and Heidi (Photo credit to Steph.)

All admired the beautiful scenery and marveled at the logistics of gathering and feeding the multitude. Chef Heidi grabbed the limelight cooking the post-wedding brunch on Sunday for 75 early morning risers. There were 8 dozen sausages and 10 dozen eggs, scrambled and wrapped up in tortillas with cheese, salsa and fresh onions. There were 73 pieces of smoked salmon – caught and smoked by this blogger. Plus each hungry guest got to sample a huge apple-slaw, 5 kinds of homemade muffins, again made by Chef Heidi, and trays of dainties made by the aunties.

'Boss Julia' emerged at the very end, dropping her 'guest' persona to organize the cleaning of the kitchen. She ordered the Chef out of the kitchen and commandeered Aunt Betsy and Uncle Jeff to wash some nasty pans. She brow-beat her sister into cleaning one pan that had foiled “Mr. Clean” himself. Thankfully, 'Bossy Julia' disappeared after her work was done and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Readers please note, the kitchen did get cleaned and no friends or family were harmed in the process.

Stay tuned for another installment of the world according to my dad.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Where, oh where?

Sometimes when I get behind in blogging, it feels really overwhelming to try and catch up.  So I avoid it.  Then I get more behind, then more overwhelmed - you get the picture.

Here is my attempt to start small.  Please comment below on who is in the picture, where they are, and what is going on.  Bonus points if you were there too!

I see you.

Hmm, maybe not so smart after all.

Look at those smiles!

Two fistin' it, of course.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Your travels have brought you to

As it has been previously noted, the Captain and Crew are not exemplary travelers.  Yes, we go many new places, but we tend to miss most of the "must see" tourist destinations and have been known to stay inside all day if it looks like rain.  The Captain likes tea in the morning and beer in the evening, no matter what the locals drink, and the Crew likes exotic desintations only if they have good internet.

However, we do have one sightseeing guideline - when not sailing, do and see things that you can't do on a boat.  (This once led to a horseback riding excursion, to the Captain's regret.)

These last two weeks have been "round two" of the UK part of the Abandon Ship Tour. Alongside the meals and drinks shared with people we love, we've tried to do "things you can't do on a boat."

Adventure #1: Walk the Grand Union Canal

We did walk a bit of the canal earlier in our trip, but this time we walked from Stockton to Leamington Spa, a distance of about 14 km.  It took us three and a half hours, and there isn't actually that much to report, other than the fact that you can't do that on a boat. (Well, if you had a narrow boat, you could travel the same route, but we discovered that because of all the locks, it is faster to walk along the towpath than to motor at 4 knots per hour.

Snacks along the way. (This photo is for my Dad.)
We made it - yay!
Ok, these lovely ladies didn't come with us on our walk, but they were happy to see us when we got back.  Lace is sitting up, Pumpkin is lying down. They live at the Captain's sister Barbara's house.

Adventure #2: Astle Park Traction Engine Rally

"Oh, a traction engine rally," you say, "What is that?"

Exactly what I said.

Turns out, Wikipedia has some things to say about traction engines, and also about the rally, also known as a steam fair. The short version is that it is like a country fair, with a lot of old machinery of various types (cars, motorcycles, tanks, straw balers, organs) on display. Fortunately, you can buy ice cream and other good things to eat if your attention should sway (just for a moment) from the marvels of historic engineering.

The Captain and Crew next to the real deal - a traction engine.

The engines burn coal to heat the steam boilers, so it can get a bit smokey.

There was a parade of the traction engines.  I'm pretty sure these gentlemen are as old as the  machinery they are driving.  The best part of the parade was when they all let loose on their steam horns!
The weather was glorious, which was good, because the second day (today as I write this post) is pouring down with rain and I'm sure the whole field is a soggy muddy mess.

Surprisingly, I only saw adults on this carousel, no kids.
World's greatest thrill - are you sure about that?

Very short video of a fair organ - also an early twentieth century "thing."

We wandered through the entire grounds of the fair.  I'm sorry if you were interested, but I didn't get any pictures of the classic cars, old military ambulances, or of the kiosk selling "magic extendable hoses." I did get some pictures of these brightly coloured beauties:

"Oh look, a baby one."
Well, the sign says it was designed for Scottish crofters who presumably didn't want a big one.
Many thanks to the Captain's sister Julia and her husband Adrian who provided this marvelous "off boat" adventure.  The end of the day saw us all relaxing with a beer alongside the parade arena, although not as relaxed as the man sitting across from me.

We have another week of British-flavoured adventures and then we're on the move again. If you are in the T-dot, give me a shout, because we will be in your neighbourhood next.

An English country sunset, a variation on our regularly featured tropical ones.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A birth, a wedding, and a gargoyle

The Captain and I have been on the move over the last two weeks.  Diva is safe in the harbour in the Caribbean, but we have been on planes, trains, subways, buses and cars. We've visited family and old friends, and made some new ones along the way, like this friendly looking creature.

She lives on the Arc de Triomphe in Barcelona, Spain.
One of the important stops was in Cardiff, Wales, where the Captain met his new granddaughter for the first time. As you'd expect, Mom and Dad look tired but very happy, and the little one is off to an excellent start with ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes and bright blue eyes.

The Captain meets Verity Scarlett Bella. 
We spent a few nights in Flackwell Heath (where the Captain spent his early years), to celebrate the wedding of Adam and Mandy. They own a great pub in the village where the reception was held and it went on and on and on, with plenty of drinks, food and even dancing.

The atmosphere at the wedding was thick with well wishes and joy for these two.
We got a lift from the ceremony to the reception in the back seat of an Alpha Romeo.
 Apparently it was the first time that four adults had ever been in this car at once.
Because we were already across the pond, darlings, we just HAD to spend a week in Spain, of course. Actually it was cheaper to spend a week in Barcelona than in London, and we ate well to boot.

Fountains in the Placa Catalunya.  It was hot in the city, so catching some spray from the fountains was a good way to cool down.
The city was full of architectural gems, so many doorways and courtyards lead to even more interesting things to look at.
La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that has been under construction for over a 100 years and it is still not finished.
 Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece.
We met up with fellow Jamaicans-by-choice and they introduced us to Spaniards-by-choice, who took us to a corner of the city where tourists never go.  After having been to the cathedral where tourists covered the entire block, half of it just people standing in line to get in, we were even more appreciative to hang out with the locals.

L-R, Nick, Marta, Georgina and the Captain.
The cedars on top of Montjuic were cooler than the city centre and smelled good too!
View over Barcelona commercial harbour.
One evening, a chance glance at my facebook feed lead to a lovely night out with Jayne Davidson, who we met in the islands of the San Blas, Panama.

"Look who we found!"
The National Art Museum of Catalunya, also home to the Magic Fountain, which was one of the highlights of the trip so far.

As usual, we ate well.  We toured the market on Las Ramblas, which had a gorgeous array of fresh and prepared produce, including things like whole skinned rabbits and sheeps' heads!

Delicacies at the market place cafe.
I stuck my toes in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time - much colder than I'm used too!
The Abandon Ship Tour continues in England for a few more weeks, fingers crossed that our luck with sunny weather holds!