Now that we’re 25 days into this New Year, I’d like to take this
opportunity to wish you all the happiness, health and good fortune you
deserve this year. If you’re unemployed, I wish you a job. If you’ve
lost your home, I wish you comfort in some new digs. If you’ve gone
through financial strife this past year, I wish you the assurance of
knowing that you aren’t alone. If 2009 threw you into stress and
anxiety levels you didn’t know existed, I wish you peace of mind.
And then, there’s Haiti.
My first emotional reaction was to sail down there to volunteer where
we could, but even Red Cross workers have to have had two years
service in-country before they will send them to Haiti. The reports
coming out of Port-au-Prince paint such panic and chaos, that taking a
boat down there doesn’t sound like something I want to risk. If my
family and I were homeless and ravaged with thirst and hunger, and I
happened to see a sailboat anchored off shore, I wouldn’t hesitate to
swim out to it and take anything off it I could that would help my
family survive. That’s just the way it is. When you’re fighting for
your life, morals fly out the window. I understand that and accept
it, so for now, we’re donating from afar.
I haven’t written a log in nearly two months. Part of that was
because I was busy volunteering at Buck-a-Book, the used bookstore in
Marsh Harbour, where every dollar taken goes to support the Wild
Horses of Abaco, and while it was a bit like having a part time job,
the satisfaction I felt each day when I counted the donations from the
book store was more abundant than any paycheck could provide. If you
haven’t read, or missed the log about the horses, here’s the source:
Aside from Buck-a-Book, the other event coursing through my veins was
the knowledge that we’d be surprising the kids with a trip to Rabun
County, GA for Christmas. It was a secret that was nearly impossible
for me to keep, and the preparation for leaving the boat here for a
month, taking off radios and electronic gear that needed replacing or
repair, getting new Permits for Portia to leave and then come back in
to the Bahamas again, was all very time consuming. But in the end, we
did, in fact, keep it a secret, and when we knocked on Jessica’s door
in Dillard, GA on the evening of December 17th, her jaw hit the floor.
It was classic. I wish I’d had a camera out to record it.
I must tell you that, yet again, our angel, Mike, went out of his way,
this time to pick us up at the airport in Atlanta, and drive us north
2 hours to make this surprise appearance on Jessica’s doorstep happen.
We couldn’t ask for truer or kinder friends.
During the next month, Skip came and went from Dillard, spending time
with all his children and grandchildren, and even managed to get to NH
to visit his very elderly, and failing, father for a few days. It
was, we’re sure, the last time Skip will see his Dad, and he’s very
happy that he went.
Meanwhile, I hunkered down with Harrison, who’s 19 months old now, and
let my other three kids come up to see me. None of them knew that we
were coming for a visit, and Jessica didn’t tell them once we had
arrived. As a result, there were more surprised and happy faces when
they started trickling in for Christmas; it was really wonderful, and
it was the first Christmas I’ve spent with all my children in 5 years.
Harrison was the highlight of my trip, needless to say. The
broadening of his vocabulary during that month was not only
astounding, but daily and thrilling as we took ever growing steps to
real communication. Trying to intuit, and failing that, just plain
guess at what a baby is attempting to communicate to you gets
exceedingly frustrating for both parties. There’s nothing I wanted
more than to let him know that I understood his needs and his
requests, because I figured the more he realized that he’d hit Bingo,
the more he’d try.
We sang songs together, we danced together, we drew pictures and
colored together, and on a couple of occasions, we cooked dinner
together – well, I cooked, and he sat on the counter and watched. It
would have been even better if I’d been able to get him out to the
park more than the one time we braved it in the cold, or go down to
the Tallulah River and walk down the beautiful paths there as we did
nearly daily last summer when I visited him, but the weather during
that month was bone-achingly cold, and unrelenting except for three
or four days.
No doubt I’ve grown soft living in sub-tropical temperatures, but I’m
not exaggerating when I say that I found it hard to go outside the
house longer than was necessary to walk the dogs. One day, Skip
called to say that he was flying over the house with David, his son,
in David’s two-seater plane, and that I should bring Harrison outside
to watch the fly-over. I did that, with Harrison on my shoulders,
both of us bundled up, and waited for over half an hour before we saw
the plane. It was a lovely surprise, and Harrison enjoyed the
experience enough that he followed it up with a picture of an airplane
with Grandpa in the window, waving, (with help, of course) which he
proudly carried to the fridge to display. However, it was enough to
give me chilblains.
I managed to get out to do some visiting a couple of days, and it was
lovely to see dear friends and old colleagues. But each and every one
of them lamented the economy in Rabun County, and how severely it’s
affected everyone. Unemployment is rife there, and people we know are
struggling to keep their homes; some have lost them. I’ve never seen
it worse during all the years I lived and worked there. Those who are
still employed are terrified of lay-offs; these are real fears in this
remote part of Georgia, and they are happening on a regular basis. In
a county where the second home market hugely supported the building
and banking industries, there is now a void. No one with whom I spoke
felt that there would be an improvement in the local economy until the
housing market picked up, and consumers once again considered a second
home as an “investment”. No one had any hope for short term
improvement, no matter where I looked. It was very depressing to
Once again, I am reminded of how extraordinarily fortunate Skip and I
were with our timing when we sold the houses, gave away the stuff, and
moved onto the boat. If we’d been trying to do that today, it just
wouldn’t have fallen into place as it did. Aside from the timing, I
count my blessings every day that we are no longer a part of, or
dependent on that system. It reeks of stress and unhappiness, and I
could smell it every day I was in Georgia, no matter where I went.
All too quickly, our month passed and we flew back to Marsh Harbour,
Abaco on January 17th. I can’t adequately describe how wonderful it
was to step back on the boat again, in balmy warm air. I looked
around the galley to see what I could scramble up for dinner, and
smiled at my 6 plates, 6 bowls, 6 stainless steel mugs, 3 saucepans,
and just enough knives, forks and spoons to cover a dinner party for
not more than six, which would be a real crowd in our saloon.
I unpacked our clothes from the trip (having left behind all the
borrowed warm clothes) and scanned our wardrobe. All the clothes that
Skip and I own fit in 4 drawers 12”x12”x10”. We don’t need any more,
and it makes laundry easier.
I don’t know whether it’s just us, (weird old us), who get off on this
simplistic lifestyle, or whether everyone would if they could just
give it a try. Of course when you’re caught up in “the system”, it
becomes impractical, if not impossible, to live minimally. You have
to have a car, for instance, unless you live in a city with good
public transportation, and even that becomes a real chore unless
you’re within walking distance to groceries. So that means oil
changes and new tires periodically, and insurance payments, not to
mention car payments for most people. And then, there’s the spouse or
partner going in the opposite direction to work, and that means
another car. More oil, more tires, more insurance. And then there’s
the housing, the utility bills, the cell phone bills. Do we really
need to have cell phones? Do we really need to be in instant contact
with everyone? Well, if you live in the system, yeah, you sort of do
now because it’s expected. It’s expected by your friends, and your
family. It’s even expected by your boss. How crazy is that? And
then there’s the wardrobe that we need to wear to go to work, let
alone play. Suits for a lot of people, khakis and golf shirts for the
lucky ones, but most people don’t get really lucky and wear a uniform
to work. (There’s the answer to the wardrobe dilemma in my opinion).
And so it goes on; the vicious circle of setting yourself up to live
in the system of going to work to get the paycheck to support the
lifestyle of going to work. Of course, you may be fortunate enough to
get enough of a paycheck that you can support a fancier lifestyle than
just going to work – there may be some golf, live concerts, dining out
or other recreational fun that’s also affordable – but in the end, you
spend what you make, so you’re inevitably stuck on the same
I was a loan officer for 16 years in Rabun County, and I had customers
whose incomes ranged from minimum wage to half a million dollars a
year or more. So I will tell you this with absolute certainty and
confidence: expenditures rise to meet your income. And unless you are
truly insightful and very out of the ordinary, you won’t even notice
that happening, let alone be able to control it. It’s the great
financial malignancy, and it’s been so virulent for so many years that
personal economic deaths are finally occurring in record numbers.
Less is more. Believe me.
Since we’ve been back on the boat, we’ve been exclusively focused on
installing the various replacement electronics which, as a result of
age and corrosion (always, on a boat) had either shut down completely,
or had become unreliable. These particular Tasks-du-Jour have, like
everything else on the boat, taken a great deal longer than I’d
anticipated. It’s really astounding how long it takes, for instance,
to drill a hole in a one-inch stainless steel pipe, which houses a
half-inch radar cable which can’t be removed. Suffice to say that it
requires the better part of an afternoon with a great deal of
patience, and four hands if you want to avoid drilling through the
cable as well. Patience isn’t my forte, but I did pretty well today.
Once we’re finished with these immediate boat chores, we’ll watch for
the next weather window and head south to George Town, Exuma which is
about half way down the Bahamian chain of islands. At the very best,
that could be the end of next week.
Meanwhile, Portia has really proven herself to be an uncomplaining
traveler. She flew over to the States in her carrier, which counted
as hand luggage for me and which we wedged underneath the seat in
front of us. From the time we arrived at the airport in Marsh
Harbour, to the time I opened her carrier and let her loose to explore
at Jessica and Peter’s, we never heard a peep from her.
Surprisingly to me, she remembered the dogs (Bentley, Nigel and
Oliver) and also remembered that Kitty, (who’s a tad mentally
challenged following two accidents in her life that rattled her brain
a bit), would emphatically not wish to be her friend at the very
least, and may likely morph into DoberKitty on a seek and destroy
mission at night, at worse. Predictably, this happened, but Portia
was none the worse for wear, and by the end of the month, Kitty seemed
to have relinquished her alpha position.
Bentley, the Chihuahua (and my first grandson) was a courteous
companion, as always, and he and Portia shared the bed sometimes.
Oliver, the blind Pekinese, made Portia his sole “focus”, tirelessly
following her wherever she went. Portia understood very quickly that
Ollie was blind, and delighted in ducking into corners, watching Ollie
march on by. I expect that by the next visit, they’ll become friends,
too. Nigel, the alpha Puggle, acted like he’d really love to have
Portia for dinner, but towards the end of the visit, she felt
comfortable enough to tiptoe past his bed while he was sleeping with
one eye open. Jessica and Peter’s house is a lovely old Bungalow, and
the floor plan is such that you can go down the hallway and through
the office, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room and back
into the hallway on an incessant circular route. Portia loved this
layout – it made for great games of chase.
For the most part, Portia slept up in the top shelf of Harrison’s
closet during the day where she was out of everyone’s reach, but could
see down into the room. Harrison loved this, and was obviously
delighted to have her in there during his nap hours. I think it made
him feel special that she had chose *his* room. It was very sweet to
watch him walking through the house, calling her (with perfect
pronunciation). I expect he misses her as much as he misses us.
All in all, and despite the weather, it was a perfectly wonderful
visit Stateside. And as I said to Skip, it’s important for us to have
that perspective every now and again, for it reinforces our
appreciation of living off the grid.
Alas, if I am to uphold my mantra of Less is More, I have spilled a
great deal more here than I expect you care to read, so I’ll stop.
Take care, be well, be happy.
S/V Flying Pig
Morgan 46 #2
"The only way to live is to have a dream green and growing in your
life - anything else is just existing and is a waste of breath."