SSCA Islesboro Gam

Back in the days of pre-planning for cruising life, Brian and I became members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). At that time, the SSCA had assured me that cruising communities did exist. We’d read through monthly bulletins “ooo-ing” and “aahh-ing” about exotic destinations throughout the world. When we began cruising, the SSCA provided a link through which to access a cruising community when we had questions, sought assistance, or simply wanted to socialize with people who could empathize with our situation. We’d look for the SSCA burgee in anchorages and often dinghy over to say hello. Now that we are living aboard, we’ve joined the ranks of the SSCA cruisers. We can now answer questions, provide assistance, or offer a friendly conversation over cocktails. This year for the first time we attended an SSCA Gam in order to mingle with our peers.

Our Islesboro hosts (fellow SSCA members) shared their beautiful home and property with us as we joined roughly 60 other members for the event.

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This was the largest pot-luck I’d ever attended! I’m not a fan of pot-luck; having always been a bit of a picky eater I survive pot-lucks by eating a hearty breakfast. So I contributed my signature chocolate chip cookies and then sampled the wine while Brian chowed down on every entree imaginable. Not only was there an eclectic mix of food, there was also certainly an intriguing mix of cruisers. Several had circumnavigated, many were avid racers, all were full-time or part-time livaboards. Here was a gold mine of knowledge, experience, and fascinating stories!

Brian and I are typically on the young end of the spectrum when we gather with cruisers. Here was no exception, we easily had 15 years on the seemingly younger attendees. We schmoozed easily with the 50-60 somethings only this time was a bit different than our previous interactions. This time we’d met others who were just starting out, having recently retired, and they were eager to learn of our experiences. We were eager to share! We also couldn’t resist picking the brains of those well traveled cruisers who continue to inspire us. They’ve been there, done that and blazed a trail for our curiosity to follow.

The day’s highlight was guest speaker, Rob Snyder, who represented the Island Institute. Rob held a captive audience while he presented a brief history as well as current issues pertaining to island communities in Maine. He and his colleague, a physical oceanographer, work with Maine’s island communities and collaborate with island communities throughout the world to ensure that this way of life may continue successfully.

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It had been a beautiful day at Islesboro and Brian and I look forward to meeting our old friends (pun intended) and new friends out on the water!

Welcome to Jamaica, Mon!

We sailed into the West Harbor of Port Antonio, Jamaica with a new day’s sunshine lighting our way. The entrance channel was well marked and easy to navigate, although we did throw in an extra tack to avoid colliding with a fisherman on his skiff. We hailed the Errol Flynn Marina, where we’d planned to stay during our visit, and received docking directions. Errol Flynn Marina is a Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) cruising station. Just as we rounded the corner, we fired up the Perkins to bring us smoothly into the dock.

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We were tired, but very excited to see our friends when we arrived. Serendipity had arrived the previous night and had already enjoyed a restful night in the calm harbor to refresh from the passage. Nila Girl and EZ were at the docks and as soon as Rode Trip was secure Ren and Ashley stopped over to say hello. We received a very warm welcome from Paul, the General Manager of Errol Flynn Marina. Our quarantine flag was flying along with the Jamaican flag. Now all we had to do was wait for Quarantine, Customs & Immigration, and Coast Guard to give the go-ahead to explore their country.

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Check-in was a simple process; all of the officials were very professional and pleasant. In between their boarding our boat, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Ren, Ashley, and Nick. Ahhh it was wonderful to have some fresh food! Ashley cooked up a feast of scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, lobster, potato, and topped with sprouts, in addition to cheesy grits, and a dazzling plate of watermelon. Brian and I shared a loaf of bread we’d baked that morning while en route; boy was it delicious once spread with butter and jam! Nick cooked a hearty plate of bacon that disappeared shortly after being placed in front of the hungry crowd.

We were first visited by Quarantine. The woman looked a bit perplexed when she asked whether we had any meat aboard and we replied, “canned meat, we have no refrigeration.” We also explained our composting toilet to her as there is a strict no dumping policy in the harbor. We were asked to not bring any canned meat ashore and to use the facilities. No problem! Customs and Immigration squeezed five people onto Rode Trip. “You don’t use the air conditioner?” one of the gentlemen asked after taking a seat on the couch around our little cabin’s table. They shuffled papers around and requested copies of our documents. We were prepared with copies of our passports, boat documentation, and crew list. There is no cost to enter Jamaica. I would say this was no sweat…but you can imagine with a full boat of people sitting at a sunny, breezeless dock there was actually quite a bit of sweating going on! Finally, the Coast Guard boarded the boat. We provided them a copy of a crew list and a copy of the boat documentation. Free and clear!

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While docked, we filled our water tanks which were much more empty than we’d anticipated. Water is $ .12/gallon at the marina. Then we invited some Finnish tourists aboard for a tour and had a good conversation about traveling. We anchored Rode Trip in the harbor; use of the marina facilities at anchor runs $12/day.

After business time it didn’t take us long to hit the streets with our friends. We walked out of town to get away from the hustle (LOTS of HUSTLE) and bustle and just start to admire the scenery.

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We had a bit of refreshment while walking up a very steep hillside. Ice cream for only $50 Jamaican dollars – what a bargain! ($ .50 USD)

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Not only did we take in a magnificent view of the harbor from the top of the hill…

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…but we also came away with a backpack full of fresh mangoes!

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Bonfire at Hoffman Cay

Brian and I were puttering around the boat deciding what to do with ourselves. The weather report told us we wouldn’t be leaving White Cay until possibly Thursday. For some of you I’m sure having at least three, possibly five, days with no schedule would be glorious! You’re probably jealously reading along right now thinking, “those lucky, ungrateful, little devils!” Well we weren’t being ungrateful so much as we just weren’t sure how to approach a day without scheduled events. For us staying put in an area that seemed to offer few opportunities for exploring was a challenge! We did our usual breakfast, wash the dishes, shake rugs, sweep floors, tidy the boat things. Yup, Brian even helped since his boat projects are few at present. I went about cleaning out cupboards to ensure that things were staying dry. Then, a pleasant interruption. Our neighbors whom had introduced themselves the day before stopped by to invite us to a beach party later today. We were to meet at 4:00pm at the beach near the Blue Hole trail, bring something to share and bring any burnable garbage. Great!

The afternoon came and went. Brian did some fishing which is quickly becoming the ‘ol standby of pastimes, and I got started on Spanish lessons to prepare for our possible Western Caribbean venture. I also prepared a pasta salad and packed our drinks, plates, and utensils ready for the beach party.

At 4:00pm dinghies were on the move from the five neighboring boats. We headed ashore and were looking forward to meeting other cruisers. All the dinghies anchored at the beach and out came coolers and buckets be be used as tabletops. Brian helped to find scrap wood for building a fire. I discovered I’d brought the wrong dish as nobody had brought their own plates and utensils. The sharable things were brownies, cheese and crackers, and chips and salsa. Doh! I apologized and was told, “it’s not a pot luck, sweetie.” Beach party and bonfire at dinner time translated into picnic to me. I envisioned spread out blankets, roaring fire, swapping stories and maybe someone would have a game of bocce…fun times. At our next grocery opportunity I’ll have to find some sharable finger foods to keep in my back pocket.

Some of the guys started a fire, which wasn’t really for admiring but was truly for burning garbage. Brian and I sipped our drinks and chatted wherever we could find common interest. Everyone was very nice but we felt we didn’t have much to add to conversation, this being our first visit to the Bahamas. The others had been coming here for years. At sunset a conch shell was blown. This tradition was introduced to us in New England by The Great Catsby, also a yearly Bahamas cruiser. Shortly thereafter the no-see-ums came out in full force. It was time to go, I was being eaten alive by bugs and was also quite hungry myself. We gathered our non-sharable things and politely excused ourselves from the party. Back at the boat we had left-over porgy to eat along with a delicious pasta salad!