|It's Better in the Bahamas
Happy Spring ! We are glad for DLST…for us it means we can see the beauty of God’s world for another hour a day…while we still enjoy the moon and stars and seeing the bottom of the ocean when there is a moon….albeit the bottom is 15-30 foot down !
March is un-describable on Stocking Island, in the Exumas….You have to experience it to understand it. The very famous Georgetown Regatta is a very busy time. All kinds of activities beginning with the Pass and Review of the Fleet…We were fortunate to have several native Bahamians on board for our “pass and review” (We passed by the King’s standards, but several sailboats ran aground….pays not to have such a big thing on your bottom like Bad Boy does!) Again, we enjoyed the Bahamians’ company tremendously. Julius, Krystal and Randy et al were such great company, and friends now for life!
After the pass and review of the fleet, we put 700 coconuts in the water and raced to see who could pick them up the fastest. Not much fun, as sailboaters are too quick and it was almost over before it started! We had bocci, softball, volleyball and Texas hold ‘em tournaments and the list goes on and on….The pet parade warrants description….I have never seen so many dogs in sailor’s suits with sun glasses on. However, what got our hearts was the two children who had conch shells on leashes parading them around as pets ! (Quite creative!) . The children home schooled here on boats are so amazing….
We also have to brag that for the first time in history the annual softball game between the “Cruisers and the native Bahamians” was won by the CRUISERS…Of course it was rigged, as you should have seen the Bahamian team…true to style they arrived late (island time, again, folks!) and looked like they were the heavy weight wrestling team…Our team (the “cruisers”, mostly over 55ish, many in their 70’s) put on a comedy softball show with a Blues brother in suit as empire, and our very own Sue……She warrants another whole issue of “It’s better in the Bahamas”, but that is for later. Mark played 3rd base and made several great plays…. Gwyn was a bleacher cheerleader for the Cruisers. Catherine, Josh, Bad Boy, Rich, Tangelo, and many had fun…..
A really nice thing we did at the end of Regatta was to volunteer at the “Variety Show”. This is a show put on by the Cruisers (i.e. us sailors) to benefit the “Family Regatta”, i.e. the native Bahamian Regatta… As is his tradition, Mark bartended at the Variety Show, but Gwyn wasn’t invited to dance (what happened to those legs?)... she sold tickets! (Boy, does Gwyn miss the Rose Valley Variety Show where her legs are appreciated!)…
(Rose Valley Variety Show, 2008..in case you’re having difficulty Gwyn’s legs are on the far right)
Mark went all out for Regatta…he signed up for several events…Race around the island (see below), bocci (he made quarter finals; Gwyn got eliminated in the first round), softball and competitive volleyball (total opposite of Fun-volleyball) …So folks, my Markie got a concussion and a fractured toe in the practice session of competitive volleyball (didn’t even get to play. You should have seen the other guy, Eric, with ice packs over his entire body...the nurse is called to duty again with her conch cracker as a reflex hammer and ice pick as a sensory tool! Fortunately, Mark is almost healed. No one has seen Eric since the event?)
Mark signing up for everything at the Regatta, 1968-2009
Meanwhile, we won the Regatta Sail Around the Island Race/Fishin’ contest (had you any doubt?) with one of our smaller catches… a 37.5 inch (dolphin) mahi-mahi…From what we are told, it has been years since a fish was caught in the sailboat race around the island…But the best thing was having 14 folks for dinner to eat the thing….The brochure is correct….”You can cater for a large crowd on the Robertson and Caine Leopard Sailboat”. Because we were so busy catching a fish, we lost the concurrent sailboat race and the baking contest….Many people decided the entire contest was rigged as Gwyn’s fruit pizza had to be the most delicious and unique baked thingee…….and brownies out of a box won ?????? (This is a sore subject, but she will continue to cook and bake anyway as she always does…(Girleees..Imagine… baking such a delight while 7 men sailed your (one) boat, loosing the race, and caught one (1) fish, the winner, while you cooked this beautiful fruit pizza for the masses, i.e. 300 sailors! Oh, please…..)
Thank you Melvin and Morrelli for designing my small kitchen (aka galley)
March was good to us also in that it brought us Josh. How many people have you known that crewed on Larinda? (Mark and Josh!). Josh is a most sincere, wonderful young man from South Carolina, who was a crew member like Mark on Larinda, a tall ship, only at a different time (boy those stories are history!) Interestingly, their lives intersected at the same helm and in the same berth on different years. We so enjoyed having Josh with us, and thank Catherine for introducing us to Josh.
The thing that didn’t go well for us during March was our performance at Trivial Pursuit on Sunday evenings…we seemed to have a worse score each week, and finally Kathy designed a booby prize for us (Candy canes!) It was so bad, that one Sunday night I said “I’m not going…it is embarrassing and no longer fun”, and then on the marine radio (Channel 68) for all to hear, we hear, “ALA, ALA, get over here…we need a looser!” I try to rationalize this by saying our minds are full of important things, not trivia! So be it…it is just not our game..
Many people start leaving the area in March as The Bahamas is where people go for the winter….At beach church we sang a song in March that I want to share with you. Beach church will still be there, but people move on………….
I’m counting up what I got to show for all this time afloat
A dog-eared passport, a very weathered face, and a great boat
A story or two that might be true and many a battle scars….
Days of sparkling waters and nights of moon and stars
We’ve got sea-shells, we’ve got souveniers; We’ve got songs Gwyn penned…
We’ve got photographs, We’ve got memories, but mostly,
WE’VE GOT FRIENDS
(Adapted without permission from Eileen Quinn’s “Not to be used for Navigation”)
We were truly blessed to meet the folks at Stocking Island, and become part of a community which we hope to have the opportunity to join again….
March brought us home for 2 weeks (taxes, medical appointments, work, etc). The most wonderful things are to see our neighbors and hug our birds…We are truly blessed to live in “Walleyworld, aka Wallingford” which we would not trade for anything …But consider, how many people in the world get to sit and hug God’s angels from heaven? When was the last time you sat still and cuddled with a bird? It is, I must say, a wonderful and peaceful experience few ever experience and for which we are thankful. While no children, we do have 4 parrots who are our children for life….
So, for now, we will give thanks under the casarenna trees back on Stocking Island, in the Exumas, and be happy that we experienced this unique world … just a fragment of the wonderful Bahamas……and a wonderful life... Thanks for listening, THE END…
Mark and Gwyn Vernon
|What's Your Destination?
|May 2, 2007
“What’s your destination, how long will you be gone, where are you going, when will you be back?” These questions were asked of us by so many friends and family members. Folks
seemed to be uncomfortable with our monosyllable answer---“south”.
We left Annapolis, Maryland, on November 29, 2006 aboard ALA, our beautiful Leopard 40 sailing catamaran. Heading south, period. Free
at last to journey, explore, just live daily life. Relieved of schedules, meetings, deadlines---hooray! I didn’t understand the “destination questions” at first, then I
realized that people are bonded to schedules, routines, demands, focus. It must be hard for many to abandon the comfort zone. Looking back, I guess I had a tiny bit of that in that I do
vaguely remember feeling a bit of unease saying goodbye to that secure job! My friend, Lucy (who accompanied us for the first three weeks) and I used to dance around the boat singing joyously and fearfully “No
paycheck” to a familiar rock tune. Fortunately it was a short-lived feeling and now gone!
When we left Annapolis, Captain Mark, Admiral Gwyn, Associate Admiral Lucy, and Instigator Rich (Lucy’s husband) each picked a
word for what we were to experience. Our four words were trip south, journey, excursion and adventure. Notice no one picked “destination X”!. We were all open and ready to create a
new path. And that we did….Other than heading south, we were following the wind, our interests, and making plans for the days as they came. No long term “destination deadline!”
During the fourth month of our journey, Jimmy Buffet’s words grabbed us. “You need it, I need it, we all need it…………” We “moored” for
a month in a great community in Marathon, Florida. Made friends, scheduled dinners with others, went to marine programs and even volunteered at a local wildlife rescue. We tuned the radio
in daily at 0900 for the daily community chat. Had we lost our free spirits? Were we confining ourselves to a schedule? Organized living? Commitments to others? Perhaps
a bit, but I’d rather view it as part of the ongoing journey, a place to rest and catch our breath, a place to enjoy fishing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, bicycle riding and a time share
common interests with others.
So perhaps, we need a bit of both to make life interesting---the roaming and the settling. In the words of John Schaar, “the future
is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination”. We are
now on the move again and in this spirit, we now continue our journey……….
-Gwyn M. Vernon, Aboard ALA
|Fulfilling a Dream...a Catamaran
|April 11, 2007
Despite the fact that catamarans are gaining in popularity, many sailors are still curious, “why would you switch from a monohull to a catamaran?” Our story is quite simple….to
fulfill a long desired dream and complete a natural evolution in our boating lives……
Mark and I (now in our 50’s), have been around boats and water since childhood. Mark’s family had a powerboat
and they enjoyed fishing off the New Jersey shore. I grew up in Delaware between the Atlantic beaches and the Chesapeake Bay. My family toyed with paddlewheel, pontoon and houseboats. Recently,
Mark and I recalled that our first exposure to sailing was at our respective childhood camps when we were eleven years old….Mark at Pine Bush, PA and me at Camp Pecometh, Chester River,
As a young couple we owned a 16 foot Hobie first, then a 16 foot Prindle. We enjoyed sailing in state parks in PA, DE and
at the beaches of DE and NJ. Looking back, I wonder how we hoisted those masts up and down….ah…youth ! We read Multi-Hull Magazine beginning in the mid-1980’s and
just about any other sailing magazine available while becoming boat show “groupies”. Rarely did we miss a Philadelphia or Annapolis show, eventually including Miami in our annual
route. We enjoyed several chartered sailboat vacations in the Keys, North Carolina, Colorado, California and the Chesapeake. We couldn’t drive by a boatyard without stopping to look
at “the boats for sale”. I felt like “always the looker, never the buyer!”.
One cold, rainy day in March, 2000, Mark suggested we take a drive down to the eastern shore of Maryland to look at boats. I
love it there, so I’m up for the trip but sick of looking, “We always look and never buy. Let’s go look at antiques.” Needless to say, that very day we bought
our first “real” sailboat, a 1985 Seidelmann 295 which we named “First Born”. Not yet the catamaran we still dreamed of, but affordable for us at the time while we
continued our vision. We had six great years on the Chesapeake with our monohull which solidified our desire to spend more time sailing and to have more room and comforts, ie. energizing
us to continue our dream for a catamaran.
We began to start seriously narrowing down brands of catamarans in 2005. We weighed pros and cons of many, as well as
new vs. used. Lots of spread sheet columns of pluses and minuses! One of the important influences for us was timing---if we were to invest in our dream boat, we also wanted to assure
we would have the time to enjoy it. Now was the time, and we placed our order for a beautiful Leopard 40 catamaran at the Miami boat show in February 2006, taking possession in October, 2006. We
have been living and sailing aboard ALA since, enjoying every moment. No, we would not trade in our experiences for anything, and are glad we have achieved “our dream”.
For us, the advantages of a catamaran:
- Space for living (currently we are living aboard for 6 months)
- Storage for toys (we enjoy diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and carry a lot of stuff!)
- Stability of platform for diving, snorkeling, fishing, without giving up sailing
- Great performance sailing and speed
- Easy boarding and walking about, safety (gaining importance as we age!)
Possible disadvantages of a catamaran (hard to think of any!):
- None of the exhilarating feel when you heel over (I hate it anyway)
- Width makes docking choices narrower (We love anchoring and mooring anyway)
- Monohulls still look sexier! (Can’t change that!)
Gwyn M. Vernon
Gwyn and Mark Vernon currently live and sail aboard their 40 foot Leopard catamaran, ALA, in Florida and the Keys. Home is Wallingford, PA where they live with their four parrots. ALA
will sail in the Chesapeake this summer, 2007.