December is always a fun time of the year, we always get to start it with our Princess’s birthday. This year Paige turned 14 and to say we were a little worried may have been an understatement, a teenager with no access to her friends and nothing social planned could have been an absolute recipe for disaster, luckily for us Paige is an absolute trooper. A little decoration and a wake up call from her not so in tune singing sisters, she stumbled out clearly not expecting much more. The tears started seconds later when she found her present, a paddleboard, something that was impossible to get on the island she thought it was hopeless and had resigned herself to not getting one until we stopped at another island. It really was touch and go but we had managed to get it shipped in and had only received it the day before. It’s tradition in our house that the girls have a say in their birthday cakes and then i attempt to make them, this was the first year that didn’t happen and it was very strange, they were all still expecting me to start making one but when Simon appeared with a good old Baskin Robbins ice cream cake there was stunned silence all around, before they piped up with “Are we allowed to have it now for breakfast? Really?” No-one needed to ask twice and it was quickly demolished.
With the mast removed the rigging needed to be measured and ordered, as this was our first time and an item where it was imperative it was correct we decided to put our trust in the rigger rather than ourselves, It would take a few weeks for the parts to ship in and clear customs but fingers crossed there was a chance it may be ready in time to be able to leave the marina for christmas. Our 2 neighbouring boats who also had their masts removed the same time were more experienced than us and had decided to do the rigging themselves, so we offered a hand if needed and paid close attention learning as much as possible, neither one minded and in fact it actually started what would become a valuable friendship.
Our beach of choice this time was turtle beach, as was becoming the norm we turned up with 3 excited girls, all jabbering on with excitement not really listening to what was coming out of their own mouths nevermind paying attention to what anyone else was actually saying. The area looked small and at first very busy but, we had timed it just right as a coach load were about to leave, snorkeling gear at the ready everyone was in within minutes. It didn’t take long before the first turtles were spotted, the girls were in awe, you could even hear the muted squeals, the turtles were coming really close and seemed to be checking us out rather than the other way around, and can you blame them, the Griffiths clan really are one of a kind, catch them while you can or they’ll be gone. Trying to take as many pics as i could it actually turned out to just be a few as my phone in a waterproof case didn’t seem to work too well, it was just luck though that we would find our waterproof camera when we got back to the boat. It was such an enjoyable place to be for everyone, however, there were a few people that just took it too far and started trying to stroke and touch the turtles, they instantly started swimming away and retreating to deeper waters. Seeing as they had spoilt it for all we swam around looking at the fish when both Simon and I came across a sea snake, the girls luckily didnt hear us discussing it and carried on. It wasn’t until we were leaving the water that we heard Hope, she’d spotted the snake and became rather nifty on her exit. The car journey back was rather animated, Maisie chiming in ” It was cool seeing all the turtles but ugh!! so gross swimming in all the fish guts, i stepped on so many fish heads ugh!!” When Hope mentioned the snake we got a sharp reaction from Paige ” Snake, there wasn’t a snake!” Once we confirmed there was ” Nobody told me, i would never have gone in if i knew there was a snake, why didn’t someone tell me?” Why indeed?
The adorable Moses arrived, a giant schnauzer, he instantly got the girls attention and it wasn’t long before Brian his owner realised that there was no keeping the girls and Mo apart. Nevermind rushing through schoolwork to go to the beach, it was done in almost double time to take him for a walk or give him a treat. Rather quickly though he started making his own way to us and would wait in the cockpit for them to finish. A trio of cruising families turned up one night to see off one of them for the holidays and had organised amongst them that the kids would put on a talent show. Without really being invited fearless Maisie instantly jumped at the chance to be around other kids, she grabbed some dog treats and led Mo straight to the “stage” and put on a show for all. No idea where she gets her confidence from but its so refreshing when the rest of us are a little more diffident.
We were like every other boat out there, there was always something that needed to be done and it felt like each day brought along some other surprise that required us to really get in there and learn something new. This time the macerator decided to pack up, we got stuck in trying to figure out if it’s completely given up or not, being elbow deep in urine at 1am was not something that our noses would easily get over, especially when the fact that we hadn’t really used the heads on board meant we were elbow deep in someone else’s pee ugh!!! It turns out the macerator was completely dead, none were to be found on the island so once again we would need to wait a few weeks for DHL to express ship and hold for a while. Next up we had managed to find somewhere to reupholster the sofa cushions, thus leaving us all sitting around on wooden benches for a while. Window seals were in need of replacing and so much rust work and metal polishing was on the cards. Seeing as we’re all racing fanatics meant that all we had to say was “If its not finished we can’t go and watch the final race!” Almost everyone got their butts into gear, the work was swiftly done and we were off to watch the race. It didn’t quite go as expected for some when it was Hope celebrating the results, Simon and Paige ruefully objecting what they had just witnessed.
It soon became apparent to us that the cruising community is indeed a huge family just like the military was, now we’re a little older and wiser though to really value it, you don’t necessarily have to have anything in common except own a boat to kick-start a conversation and from there you’ve made a friend whom you can check in with or question anytime. Holy cow!! We’ve come across some corkers and struck gold with the ones we met here, we soon went from bouncing ideas and lending a hand to evening gatherings for dinner to afternoons leading into evenings of playing Mexican train – a new domino game that we were taught and thoroughly enjoyed, although there were some eyebrows raised around Donnas rules. We had to say bye to Donna and Ron a fascinating couple from Vancouver Bay who were heading for Bonaire aboard Primula, we spent many nights listening to some fascinating tales and as they are very technical we found ourselves trying to take in as much as possible hoping not to have to pull out pen and paper or our phones to take notes.
Christmas had arrived, it sure as hell didn’t feel like Christmas though, there was no cold wind, rain or even snow, no dark mornings or evenings, there was however 3 crazy kids walking around in Christmas hats all the time blaring out Christmas tunes while doing school work. They spent Christmas Eve each baking cookies which Maisie’s friend Vetle had even come around to help with, Hopes cookies didn’t quite make it but hey ho! She gave it a good go. Christmas morning was no different than usual, one uber excited girl runs around like a maniac waking everyone else up, and to our amazement we heard “Wow!! Look!! We got more than I thought we were going to get”. At 5 gifts each this really filled us with appreciation for each and every one of them. This was then followed by the cookie delivery around the marina and many facetime calls to family and friends.
The restaurant where a large group of us were meant to go for Christmas dinner cancelled at the last minute so it was a race against time to try and find something else, luckily after trying what felt like everywhere on the island and then resorting to sending someone out for pizza we finally found somewhere that could fit us in, crisis averted. It turned out to be a fun a night and following on I got to learn the Nutbush, an Aussie must at Christmas – we all know the song but it was the dance that was a first for me. After a couple of drinks the only thing we could think of that was similar was the ‘Oops upside your head’ routine which we explained but sure as hell were not going to demonstrate to an Aussie, Swede and Dutch audience, they already thought we were crackers enough.
Our little trio of mastless boats had started trying to find ways to appease the fact we were all going to waiting until the new year for the rigging, customs was holding on to items and ours turned out to be incorrect items shipped. We had started with dinghy races, with Els and Roeloff in the Dutch dinghy, Rebecca and Magnus in the Aussie/Swedish dinghy and we had the overloaded British dinghy. I have no idea what the coastguard must have thought as we whizzed past on numerous occasions, even managing to stop off for an impromptu picnic on what I can only describe as a cargo ship mooring ball/platform. It got a little hairy at one side thinking we may end up with a few punctures and what could end up being a clown show of a ride home, but no sweat, down wind it all calmed down. After a few drinks and some of Rebecca’s home made hummus and what we all agreed must have been cardboard the kids named our newly acquired island Magnus island.
Mosquitos, they are everywhere, hiding in every shadow. We are now getting to grips with the little buggers, slowly reducing the amount of dots that seemed to have taken over our limbs. If you see anyone walking round the marina looking rather red, its not from being sunburnt no…. it’s from doing the mozzi dance, its an absolute must be it on the boat, in the tiki hut, doing the laundry, showering or yes you guessed it, you even have to slap yourself silly and do a little jig whilst on the privy. Not the most enjoyable thing when you’re hoping for a little personal space but it seems to be the only thing that works.
The locals seem to have a tradition that when they finish work, be it for Christmas, New Year or I can only assume any other holiday in the year, they light fire crackers in the car park. Now this doesn’t seem like much but, when its every business in the area and it’s hundreds of firecrackers each, it really does feel like you’ve got your head in a tin barrel while everyone plays the drums on it. Due to covid the country had seemingly got a ban on fireworks, god knows what it would be like without the ban. The poor marina dogs spent the majority of their day and night hiding in the shower cubicles. After an afternoon eating drinking and playing games with everyone we got to see the fireworks from miles around at the top of the marina, the year may not have gotten off to the best start but it certainly ended full of hope, smiles and laughter.
A few more pics from the last month.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.