Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Johnson's New Years Letter

Wow, how time flies.   This is   our 4th year sailing on Side-by-Side.  The friends we made, the laughs we had and the memories we formed will be cherished for life.   As you will see, 2009 was the year of Plan A turning to Plan B then Plan C Option 2a. 
Parker, our conscientious, studious 7th grader, thrives on wakeboarding, cliff jumping, hanging with other kid boats, and non-tropical diversions such as Legos, and electronics.   He did spear his first lobster this year! Sabrina, our attentive 5th grader, remembers everything and everyone, and has become a great swimmer and snorkeler.  Whenever possible, she finds a way to get on a horse.  Several Bahamas kid-boats we met had wonderful young ladies aboard, now all good friends of Sabrina’s.  (From left to right, Kaitlin, Emma, Sabrina, Claudia, Ally and Caroline) 

With our kids  now working semi- independently on school, Angie and I spend many mornings kayaking or snorkeling.    For “testosterone therapy” I dive for conch and stalk huge lobsters.  I’m always dreaming up ideas for the next “work” stage of my life to allow for future adventures.   Angie  is the family navigator, chef, weather tracker, bill payer, and communicator.    For her, it has been the year of injuries.  She left a chunk of her leg on a tree, mountain biking in Idaho, folded her ankle over in Montana, has a shoulder protesting its every move and she got a pinched hip nerve doing who knows what.  Thank you acupuncture. Seems to be safer for her to stay on the boat!

Last Christmas, all we wanted from Santa was a new mast and sails…instead we received a denied insurance claim.    Hey kids, if you like metal and money, become a PhD forensic metallurgist like Dr. Paul, our new best friend.  First, using his electron microscope, he vindicated us with the insurance company.   Then, he agreed our newly installed rigging wire should not rust after 3 months and “encouraged” the company to make it right. I think the mast coming down was the least stressful part of the whole ordeal.   

While Side-by-Side was docked in Fort Myers for repairs, we escaped to Utah in January for some snow and ski time.  During Sundance, we caught glimpses of Cuba Gooding and Kevin Bacon.  With our claim denied, the boat repairs un-started, grandparents arriving and getting more grey hairs by the minute, we left Utah.   Finally, 6 weeks after arriving, we cast off the dock lines the second the contractor stepped off.   

From Marathon FL, sailing out of the great abyss of the Gulf Stream onto the gin clear shallows of the Bahamas Banks under moonlight was indescribable. In the morning, the sun saturated the Bahama blue water as far as the eye could see. Oh how sweet it was to be back ‘n da ilans’.  With the Johnson’s just-in-time planning, we were a whole day early to pick up the Case family for a wonderful week with them.  Dr. Chris, though, had to practice his ER skills on Marc’s head.

 At cruisers week in Georgetown Bahamas, Angie’s mom visited and joined us dancing under the stars.  We competed in the crazy events of coconut harvest (kids won, adults did not), beach golf, sand sculpture, (Parker’s and Sabrina’s entry won) and the sailing regatta.  The Mima/Side-by-Side “no talent show” entry won 3rd place and garnered huge laughs.  New to us Bahamian islands such as Eleuthra, Cat Island, and Duncan town (just try and find that one) called us.  By April, we had a flotilla of kid boats which helped fill the void when Mima went back to the States.
With a punch list on our new refit, we headed to Ft. Lauderdale in May with plans to cross to Europe. The juxtaposition of multi-million dollar yachts against the addicted homeless “living” on the benches near our boat was dramatic.    Getting that dreaded phone call, we flew to Michigan just before Grandpa Ray died at 92.  Then on to Saratoga just before the death of a dear family friend.   It was a time of great sadness and loss. 

As hurricane season was underway, we sailed Side-by-Side bound for Panama now, not Europe.  4 days at sea and 100 miles from the Caymans, mechanical issues caused a turnaround. 8 days later we fueled up in Marathon and headed to North Carolina for hurricane season.  

With Side-by-Side out of commission, it was onto plan F, get an RV!  I spotted an unadvertised 38 foot land yacht on a car lot that had been repo-ed and was priced to move in the Michigan economy.  On August 8th, we headed west supplied thanks to garage sales, thrift stores, Craig’s list and parents’ basements.  August and September in the northern Rockies was incredible. Wal-Mart and Flying J parking lots had better amenities than most marinas in the Caribbean.   Our trip started with the Corn Palace of SD, of course, then WY, ID, MT, Alberta Canada and ended in UT where we put our RV in storage. We visited 13 National Parks, friends, and even cousins and hiked, biked, learned and photographed the west. 

In October, we returned to Side-by-Side and rejoined many Bahamian kid boats for the Annapolis boat show.   The cold dismal weather pulled us south after a quick visit to Saratoga.  In November, the storms passed, the seas settled, and a voice said “carry on Side-by-Side and fair winds”. After saying goodbye to friends in NC, we did a straight 1500 mile passage to St. Thomas for Thanksgiving in the tropics with the Watts.

Since then, we’ve meandered through the BVI’s, where Angie and I first learned sailing 18 years ago.  The detour to St. Croix, USVI, the most under-rated island of the Caribbean, was a highlight of the trip.

On New Year’s Eve we were anchored in Gustavia, St. Barth; the place to be seen in the Caribbean. Anchored around us were maxi, mega and the new giga-yachts. Some with not one but two helicopters on deck, tenders longer than our boat, water slides strapped to the side that are 4 stories tall, on deck swimming pools, crews of over a dozen and annual operating budgets in the millions. And they say times are tough?  Now, we are enjoying our last cruising season with plans to sail to Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and back to the Bahamas….. and then home.


“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Thoreau