Whales tales in an uncharted water

Heading out of St. Lunaire we were greeted with a whale display straight out of National Geographic. At least two, perhaps more, large humpback whales were leaping into the air not more than 500 metres from us. They’d lunge straight up, then come crashing back with a great splash. Then they would seem to swim along on their sides or back, waving their massive fins in the air, as if to say hi.

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There are no words to adequately describe it all…

_IGP7559_IGP7565We carried on south, pushed along by the will of Boreas and the power of Perkins. The scenery along this coast continues to amaze. I’m sure a geologist would have a tale to tell of the differing rock structures, going from granite to some form of reddish, gnarly metamorphic sedimentary. Too cool.

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_IGP7574IMGA0274We motor-sailed through the whole day and surfed our way into Canada Bay by late afternoon. There is the community of Englee here, but as usual, we sought the solitude of our own anchor in nearby Wild Cove, which was the perfect tuck in to protect us from the coming high winds.

IMGA0267The following day while making lunch Melvin motored over from his nearby cabin. We had anchored not far off his moored motorboat. He came over to have a yarn, and to say what a lovely sight our boat was to him. We chatted and he then told us his place was wide open and that we were welcome to go stay there, take a shower and replenish our water if needed.

There are no people kinder and more generous than Newfoundlanders :) .

Unfortunately the weather that was shaping up to turned into a true Newfoundland Gale! Winds were now predicted to be 35 knots from the wrong direction, with seas building to 4 metres (which is an average, meaning 8 metres is not uncommon). Way too much for us chicken sailors 😳 . But it also meant we had to move anchorage as Wild Cove was going to be open to the coming worst.

_IGP7575_IGP7579We woke to thick fog, which luckily lifted enough to see our way out. We then made our way north a short distance to another small bay which appeared to offer better protection from the coming blow. Along the way we saw a seal and at least one minke whale.

 

_IGP7581IMGA0284Tucked into yet another stunningly beautiful anchorage, we waited for the next weather window to open up so we could either sail further south, or go more directly on our route across White Bay. As it turned out, we had to wait a few days, but the holding was good and the scenery was spectacular. _IGP7591

After three days we hauled anchor and headed out of Canada Bay and back into the blue yonder. The scenery continued to be stunning, and we even caught sight of Wade’s Coast Guard cutter, the Pennant Bay. It was a good sailing day, but as is so often the case, the wind and seas dictated that we travel more south, rather than directly on our route.

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IMGA0301IMGA0302We arrived outside of Orange Bay. Winds were still pretty high, but crew-Annnneeeeee got the sails down like the old salty seahorse that she is. Then we motored deep into the bay towards what looked like a promising spot.

 

The bay was a long way in, and was a bit tricky to navigate to given the shallow waters and our poor charts, but it was beautiful and calm once inside. It had no name on the charts, so we just called it “Our Shangri-La.”

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There were tons of gulls and terns around, along with bald eagles, dragon flies and loons!

 

We stayed nestled in our little Shangri-La for a few days. We relaxed and read IMGA0325, we cooked yummy meals _IGP7675, and enjoyed our fine boxed wine _IGP7674. We were waiting for the next weather window so we could travel across White Bay and make some headway along the final large peninsula that would take us around Cape St. John and into Notre Dame Bay. We got the right forecast, hauled up anchor and headed out.

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… but as is so often the case, the forecast and reality seemed to disagree. And as we all know, reality always wins :-( .

IMGA0322We left our Shangri-La and sailed into unforecasted thick fog and high winds and seas. This turned our easy sail into a hard-fought slog. We managed to work our way across the 15 nautical miles of open water, and eventually made the headland which only came into sight when we were within a 1/4 mile.

We’d already planned to bypass the first bay because out charts lacked any detail, but given the growing sea state, we chose to risk entering uncharted waters rather than carry on. It was the right choice.

IMGA0338Fleur de Lys turned out to be a lovely safe anchorage. We dropped the hook just out of the fairway not far from the village wharf. And then we proceeded to recover and dry off from our rather challenging and wet crossing. Ann’s shoes had got soaked, and soon became rather aromatic.

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We stayed in Fleur de Lys harbour for a couple more days to once more wait for a decent weather window to move us along. Shortly after we arrived another sailboat came in. This was the first time we’d shared an anchorage since leaving Corner Brook. Heck, this was the first pleasure boat we’d seen (outside of Wade’s in St. Lunaire).

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Oceanus was carrying a couple, and their small dog. They’d sailed all the way from Toronto and seemed to have had a much harder time than us. Their main engine died almost before they left. They fitted an outboard on the back, which got ripped off their stern in the Strait of Belle Isle. Their boat is smaller than ours. They had come a lot further, and were planning to go beyond our destination of Lewisporte. I hope they made out OK…

Just as we were getting ready to leave Fleur de Lys a dory came over with two guys in it. They pulled up and asked if we wanted some cod which they had just caught. “Do we ever!” So we set sail knowing that evening’s dinner would include fresh cod!!

 

We headed out of the harbour and made our way to Harbour Round, which is not to be confused with Round Harbour — a different harbour not far away. The sail there turned out to be one of the nicest ones we’d had in a while.

 

IMGA0347True to its name, Harbour Round is a small roundish harbour surrounded by a fishing village. We dropped anchor out of everyone’s way, and settled in for a good feed of cod and cabbage-caesar salad. Yum! This was our final anchorage before rounding Cape St. John and entering Notre Dame Bay.

This cape, like most others, is not to be taken lightly. Winds and seas love capes. So we studied the forecasts and relied on our expert weather router Donna salty-paws Phillips to plan our next move.

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Griquet, Rhymes with Cricket

IMGA0177_IGP7322After our dance with all the whales we headed into Garden Cove near L’anse Aux Meadows. It’s a moderate sized cove with decent protection from the predicted blows that were coming in. And from here Ann could walk to the famous Viking landing site. There’s a community at Garden Cove as there is in just about every semi-protected nook along the Newfoundland shore. We anchored out of the way and watched the activity at the wharf.

_IGP7319_IGP7449Throughout our journey we’ve been seeing plenty of fishing activity. Most of the wharfs have buzzed with the comings and goings of dory sized fishing boats. But we’ve also seen a number of larger draggers and long liners (we think … hard to know for sure). We just wave, and try and stay out of their way, including avoiding all their nets hung down in the water.

With the anchor down, we got back to the important parts of life; reading _IGP7439, eating, watching gulls on the dolphin rock _IGP7366, getting less stinky IMGA0180, staying warm _IGP7473, and most importantly, avoiding storms.

The predicted scary weather finally did blow through overnight. It was one of those massive electrical displays where the darkness and light were almost balanced. Luckily our anchor held well, and we were protected from the worst of it.

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Let the bells ring out and the banners fly — ANN WROTE THIS!!!!:

_IGP7373_IGP7382I rowed to shore and walked to L’Anse Aux Meadows (about 3km) along the road. My boat-trained body parts complained quite a bit about this unfamiliar walking thing, but the trip was worth it.

Joining an interpretive tour hosted by a local man (from nearby Griquet — rhymes with cricket), I learned that Vikings lived at this location for 30 years around 1000AD, that Leif Erikson was among them, and that their sails were made of wool.

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_IGP7414_IGP7419Beyond the site of the remains there is a reconstructed Viking village where the park interpretive employees dress up and bring 11th century Norwegian existence to life. The interior of the sod hall felt cozy especially since dark rain clouds were approaching as I left its warmth. The walk back was quick and a bit wet.

 

 

Although the weather had been pretty nice these last few days, the winds had turned to the east. This built up a large swell and big waves that locked us into Garden Cove for a few extra days. The entrance went from this:

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It also turned our formerly calm anchorage into a rolly, uncomfortable bay. After three days of living in a rolling home I was glad to haul anchor and point the bow out. As we headed off we were greeted with our second iceberg sighting, and this one was much closer.

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There was still a large swell on as we headed around Quirpon (rhymes with harpoon) Island. There is a narrow passage between the island and the mainland, but it’s a very shallow and with the swells running so large (must have been five meters from trough to crest), we decided the long way around was the safer way.

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Finally, at the tip of Quirpon Island we reached the most northerly tip of our journey. We turned the corner, managing the largest swells either of us had ever experienced, and started to head south — heading toward where the butter starts to melt (well, maybe not that far south).

The shoreline all along this northern peninsula had been stunning. As we turned the corner the character became harsher — rougher. With nothing till Ireland or Norway, the ocean waves can build to monstrous sizes, till they crash into the cliffs of Newfoundland.

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_IGP7503After a few hours we spotted the entrance to our next temporary home; St. Lunaire Bay. As usual, there is a village in this fairly large bay. But also as usual, we headed towards a more remote part of the bay so we could anchor away from all the busyness.

We went down to the end of the bay and found the perfect spot.

 

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IMGA0199IMGA0197Later that evening we noticed a small boat approaching. It carried Wade and Coleen and their dog Freddie. They came over to tell us we were anchored close to an abandoned mussel farm. Although they had removed most of the old gear, there was still plenty of junk on the bottom to get snagged onto. Luckily Wade had been involved in laying out the farm, and he thought we were probably safe — as long as we didn’t drag anchor.

The forecast called for nothing but moderate (15-25 knot) winds from the southwest. One of us ( 😳 ) decided we had to try and sail these conditions, otherwise we could get stuck for days, Weeks!, even MONTHS!!! So we went out the next day into a large sea and big winds. Here’s how that turned out:

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Yup.. it was one of those days :-( .

_IGP7518_IGP7519We limped back to St. Lunaire, this time choosing a cove not filled with old mussel-farm junk. It was another stunningly beautiful anchorage, so not too hard to put up with :) . And there we waited. From our little experiment we knew we needed a north to westish wind to make any headway. So we waited…

The next day our new friend Wade came by with his two brothers to deliver us some amazing cod that they had just caught. There is nothing like fresh cod. It is succulent, and sweet. It is nothing like the cod we buy at the supermarket.

 

IMGA0207The forecast was calling for some favourable winds two days out, which we decided was our best bet to make some distance. Wade had offered to help us replenish our diesel, and anything else we might need. So, we hauled up anchor the next morning — in the rain — and motored over to the wharf. This would be the first dock we’ve been to since leaving Corner Brook.

IMGA0206Nearly every community has a public wharf. Some are rougher than others, but they are all designed as working-boat docks. They are also fixed, meaning we rise and fall with the tides but they don’t. This makes tying up to them somewhat of a challenge for us prissy-boat sailors. But we managed.

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Wade met us at the wharf and not only drove us into the village to refill our diesel cans, but also gave us a tour of St. Lunaire. Coleen had a doctor’s appointment in the neighbouring big city of St. Anthony (~2,500 people) and they kindly offered to let us come with them, which we did!

IMGA0230Wade is one of these people that seems to have done everything. He and his brothers were commercial fishers until they sold their boat. He’s also owned a restaurant, ran (still runs) a small sawmill, piloted a tour boat, and is currently a coast guard officer on the St Anthony-based cutter the CCGS Pennant Bay. This is one of the Coast Guard’s newest vessels, and a mighty fine one she is.

We also got a tour of their other sailboat, the Kuan Yin. She’s a ketch-rigged steel sailboat, all fully equipped and ready to go. Wade and Coleen are selling her for the incredible price of only $25,000, so if you’re interested in a boat that would truly go anywhere, including the Northwest passage, this is an incredible deal.

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IMGA0233While in St. Anthony we spotted two other sailboats tied up to wharfs. They are both headed to Lewisporte, but the one from Europe had a pretty tight deadline, so we probably won’t see them again till next Spring.

The kindness of Newfoundlanders seems to know no bounds. Coleen and Wade not only helped us restock and gave us these grand tours, but also invited us back to their home for dinner, oops, supper. There we met their grand daughter, along with their five house cats. What a wonderful day it was!

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IMGA0210IMGA0265Wade finally drove us back to Pachina Mia, and we settled in for a night at the dock. We said our goodbyes, and then climbed back on board. The boat never feels right tied to a wharf, and there were very odd bumps and bangs that kept us both awake much of the night. We also had to leave with first light to make our next destination.

IMGA0264It was a chilly, early morning. But the winds were workable, and the seas had dropped. We headed out of the bay and pointed the bow south. Not far along we were greeted with a sight straight out of a Newfoundland tourist ad:

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

IMGA0050IMGA0058With the fridge in and working perfectly, and all our stuff either stored aboard or moved to Lewisporte, we finally ran out of excuses to stay. We had one final cockpit drinkies/going-away party with our good friends Gord & Leona, along with Brian. Then the next day we were off.

 

 

IMGA0063On the way out we passed another of our many Corner Brook friends, Kenny. He was just coming back from a night out at Woods Island. We said our so longs as we passed by, sadly going in opposite directions.

Given what happened to us last year, we were somewhat nervous about stopping at Woods Island. Last year we did that and didn’t move for almost two months. But it was the perfect jump off point to leaving the Bay of Islands. So we slid in through the narrow passage and dropped the hook one last time. It felt like coming home!  

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IMGA0074We waited two nights for a good weather window to open up for our first big hop north to Bonne Bay and mountains of Gros Morne. It’s a 35 (nautical) mile jump, and the longest we’d travelled in over two years. We passed  Weeball (Gurnsey Island) and headed north.

IMGA0091The last time we had been to Gros Morne it was on a road trip some 25 years ago. It was quite a bit different arriving here again in our own boat.

 

IMGA0099IMGA0094The sail up was great. It felt wonderful to hoist the old rags and feel Pachina Mia show us what it meant to be a sailboat once again. And though the wind and seas piped up a bit, we made it safe and sound in a few short hours. We sailed, then motored up the fjord to Neddy Harbour, then dropped the hook just outside of a mooring field.  

 

 

_IGP7204_IGP7194People think of Newfoundland as wild and remote. It is that, but it is also thinly but pervasively populated. It seems that nearly every nook that is remotely safe from the elements has some sort of town, village or just gathering of shacks. And so it was in Neddy Harbour.

 

 

IMGA0103While we waited for a good weather window to make our next big hop (over 80 nm) we relaxed in the relative calm of this snug little harbour. After a few days we had our chance.

 

 

 

 

Getting up before dawn, we ate, hauled anchor, and  motored, then sailed our way north to Port Saunders area.

_IGP7218IMGA0151It was a brisk sail with 25+ knots of wind, and large rolling seas. Luckily, most of it was on our aft quarter, so we managed with reefed main and small jib. We flew into Hawkes Harbour just south of Port Saunders, and found a beautiful little bay to drop anchor and enjoy the life around us.

 

 

IMGA0118Our next jump was to be an easy and relatively short one. Unfortunately the weather had not checked with the forecasters, so instead of south winds blowing us along, we ended up with north winds on our nose. This, along with a counter-current, produced those steep choppy waves all sailors love to hate. The short easy sailing day turned into a long, grinding slow slog.   

 

 

IMGA0138IMGA0125 (1)We finally made our destination for the night: St. John Island. At the mouth of the bay we were greeted by some very odd shaped rock outcroppings, and a reminder that not all boat journeys end well. 

  

 

IMGA0134_IGP7234Inside the harbour we found a couple of fishing camps, and gentle waters. and were treated with our first new animal sightings; first caribou, then moose. I’m used to seeing Lake Superior caribou. This big boy looked twice as large!  

We left early the next morning for yet another large jump, heading for Flower’s Cove. With Ann at the helm we pointed our bow north once again, heading for the opening of the mighty Strait of Belle Isle. On our way we spotted our first seals, and then some dolphins!

Someone once called the Strait “the world’s most dangerous waterway.” 😉 This may have been a slight exaggeration, but it is certainly a stretch of water to take very seriously. The cold Labrador Current cuts through here. Winds funnel and build, and the tidal currents ebb and flow, sometimes reaching over three knots. We had to get both the current and winds right if we were to have an easy passage.

All this meant another stay, this time anchored just inside the harbour mouth of Flower’s Cove. We dropped our hook off the fairway and set up to watch the trawlers and smaller dories go about their constant business as they fished the waters off the cape.

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IMGA0150While sitting in Flower’s Cove we enlisted the aid of Donna to help  us figure out when we should run the Strait. We needed to find the right combination of tides and currents; a task that Donna took to like the old crusty salt that she is (or dreams of being 😉 . With Donna’s guidance we found the right moment, so hauled up anchor once again, and headed around the cape. 

_IGP7279The sea temperatures, which had started at a balmy 15 ºC in the Bay of Islands (Corner Brook), was now down to around 7.5 ºC. This quickly makes everything a lot cooler, so out came the fleece and toques. It truly felt like we were north.

 

We left with the early light of morning.There are few safe harbours along the Newfoundland shore of the Strait, so we had to make our next anchorage before the tide turned. This was another 40 nm hop. Our TOP boat speed is 7.5 knots, so we were counting on the current and winds to push us along fast. 

IMGA0163The currents did their job. Unfortunately the wind never really materialized until far later in the day. So our grand scoot through the Strait was done entirely under motor. Easy peasy… Who ever said it was the “world’s most dangerous waterway” 👿

 

 

But while the journey itself was uneventful, the sights more than made up for the boredom of motoring. First there were the gannets torpedoing from great heights to spear their fishy prey. Then there were the dolphins and whales which were becoming a regular, but always exciting, sighting. And finally there was the distant white thing on the horizon. 

“Is it a ship … nah.” “Must be a building on the Labrador side of the Strait … but that doesn’t make sense.” Wait!! It’s an ICEBERG!!!!!  Our first Iceberg!

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It was distant, but unmistakable. What a sight! 

IMGA0165_IGP7293We eventually rounded Cape Norman and Cook’s Point and headed into our safe refuge of Ha Ha Bay. On the way in we spotted numerous minke and humpback whales. I’ll never tire of seeing these amazing animals.

In Ha Ha Bay we anchored somewhat off the village of Raleigh; a “traditional fishing village” — or so the tourist signs said. We didn’t actually see any fishing activities. But the bay was big  and beautiful, and the village looked tough and rugged and very northern.

We had seen a number of whales as we entered Ha Ha Bay, but they seemed to stay outside — until nighttime! 

I awake to a “poosh”. Then another, much closer. Then our boat starts rocking as if a big rolling wave had just hit us. Then more poosh, poosh. Whales! There are whales swimming right next to our boat! 

I bolt out of bed, and run to our cockpit. It is nearly pitch black, but I can hear a whale swimming very close off the stern, and then I hear it breath: poosh! And then I can see the boiling froth of water not 20 feet from our stern as the whale breaches and breathes. 

By now Ann is up and we both watch and listen with amazement. But it’s freakin’ cold, especially in naught but our skins, so we head back to bed, only to be awakened shortly thereafter by more poosh, poosh as another whale comes in to take a look at us.  

Amazing… 

IMGP7309The morning dawns, and a somewhat threatening forecast convinces us to to move on from Ha Ha, and head a short distance over to what looked like a better protected bay. It was also close to L’anse aux Meadows — a place Ann had to visit. So, perfect.

We head out of the bay to navigate a short, but tricky cluster of islands and sunkers. No sooner are we out of the bay that we begin seeing our nighttime visitors once again. Whales are incredible.    

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As we round one of the trickier points I spot a large vessel washed up on one of the islands. This is a reminder that this land takes no prisoners. It is beautiful, but we can’t get lulled by this.

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Chills, thrills and metaphorical hills to climb

IMG_1702The cruising life is one full of joyful “hellos 😀 ”, but also ripe with tearful “goodbyes :sad: ”. We’re into the second part of the cycle right now. Our good friends Paula & Byron left a few weeks ago on their big journey south. Now we’re faced with saying goodbye to all the rest of the grand people we’ve gotten to know here in Corner Brook as we prepare to head off ourselves.

… but more on that later.

IMGA0025With our near-death sinking experience behind us, we returned to the tasks of getting our floating home more functional and livable. We cleaned and sorted things, we made some minor repairs, we installed the windmill, wind vane and reconnected the solar systems. And we sent the little monkey (Ann) up the mast to reinstall our wind instrument.

 

 

IMG_3329With our floating home in some semblance of function, if not order, we finally turned our attention to the major project of the season: replacing our well-worn old fridge. The old one had been installed in 1995, and was well past its prime. But we’ve been limping along with it because, just like with so many things on this boat, it’s virtually impossible to work on, let alone remove. But like lemmings running toward the cliff, we finally threw caution to the wind and started the job of getting the damn thing out.

This took a full day of grunting, cursing and blood letting, but the job was finally done!

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Of course, this was just the beginning. Once the old fridge was out we realized the ice box itself needed some repairing and repainting, The compressor compartment was a total mess, and the shelving had nearly completely rotted out. So while Ann got to work cleaning and sanding and painting, I dove into the electrical side of things (which had been an equal disaster of spaghetti wiring).

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Finally, everything was done — all except the new shelf. Our other good friend Kenny volunteered to make us one. He brought back a beautifully-crafted board that was so nice, Ann made him sign it. Now, a little bit of Kenny will always be with us 😉 .

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With the cabinets all cleaned, painted and prepped, and the wiring in place, we then unfurled the many feet of copper tubing, and slowly threaded the new cooling unit back into place. After further cursing, grunting and blood letting, everything was back together, screwed in and bolted down. I plugged in the final wires, pulled the switch and … and…

Nothing.

OK, I’m messing with ya 😛 . There was ‘nothing’ for about two seconds, and then she fired up and has been running perfectly ever since. We now have a freezer, cold fridge and cool fridge (three sort-separate areas) that are freezing, cold and cool. PLUS — and this is the big one — it’s operating at about 1/3rd of the power draw of the old one.

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What this means is that we are now pretty much self-sufficient when it comes to electricity. We don’t even have to run the diesel (boaters will understand this). But most importantly, the beer and wine still gets cold 😀 !

IMG_5216While sitting at the dock, slowly doing our work, we manage to meet some wonderful new people who were cruising through. Todd (and wife) from Halifax. Mark, and his crew Tony and Barb. Mark was also heading to Lewisporte, so hopefully we’ll reconnect once we get there.

Which gets us back to joys and sadnesses (if that’s a word). We’ve decided to move to Lewisporte this season. This means saying goodbye to all the friends and folks we’ve met and become close to here at the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. There are almost too many to mention, but along with Byron & Paula have been such wonderful people like Gord & Leona, Brian, John & Doris, Kenny, Roger and Graham, Keith, Don & Lisa and numerous good acquaintances and dock mates.

IMG_3336But despite the sadness, we’re both pretty excited to be moving once again. We rented a big cargo van the other day and loaded up all our stuff (stands, blocking, winter frame, etc) and drove across the Island to Lewisporte. We left it all, including our car, at our soon-to-be new home port, and then drove back to Corner Brook.

We’re stocked and almost ready to go. Just a few more small projects over the next couple of days, and then we’ll be looking for a weather window to begin the journey. It’s not a long trek, but it is through some waters that can be challenging. As usual, we’ll be going slowly and safely. You can follow along using our tracker.

route to Lewisporte

On some plane, this all makes sense…

IMG_1679We spent the week living in the lap of luxury at Byron & Paula’s place. We were in no rush to get to the boat since the Newfoundland weather was being distinctly Newfoundlandish; cold, damp, and cold. Besides, we were having way too much fun hanging with friends. We even got Paula interested in learning to play ukulele — so much so that she went off and bought one.

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_IGP7143IMG_1676But after nearly a week getting spoiled with a warm bed and good food at Paula & Byron’s place, we finally girded our loins and moved back onto our little floating home of Pachina Mia. Except of course, she wasn’t floating yet, and was a complete disarray.

Slowly, over a matter of a few days, we managed to get the boat more livable, and prepare her for launch. Of course there were a few necessary jobs to do first. We had to  paint the bottom with new antifoul to keep the critters from attacking our hull. And we had to change the sacrificial zincs to keep the water from corroding our propeller and shaft and just about everything metal.

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IMG_3304Launch day finally arrived, and Pachina went in without a hitch. It was a smooth, easy lift; the best we’ve had. And she floated off the trailer looking strong and proud. Unfortunately she was sinking — fast. A thru hull was leaking, and was letting in water at an uncomfortable rate.

IMGP7082Despite the valiant efforts of Byron, we could not stop the leak. So a few days later we hauled out again and surveyed the damage. We did indeed have a cracked thru hull, likely caused when we hauled out last fall. There was nothing to be done except replace it.

Byron once again came to the rescue by donating an unused thru hull, so then all we had to do was remove the old one, and insert the new. Of course no boating job is ever as easy as it sounds. But after much banging and sawing, cursing and swearing, we finally managed to get the job done.

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IMG_1685A couple of days of curing (during which we moved back into P&B’s — what are we going to do without you :-( ) we re-launched … and she wasn’t sinking!! So we moved back on board with the comforting knowledge our boat still floats, and our bilge pump works pretty damn well 😉 .

While we were dealing with all our struggles to stay afloat, B&P were busy launching their own boat, getting the mast on, and preparing for the big sail south. Like many of us, they’d been working towards this goal for many years, and with work and health issues mostly settled, the time had come.

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All too soon they were packed up and gone. The club already feels lesser for the loss, but luckily we can all stay in touch with them via their blog: C Whisper.

IMG_1681During all this activity I managed to turn 52. I received some wonderful notes and gifts, and Ann even cooked me an amazing moose stew. The moose was given to us by new friends Jaimie and Nick. They are fellow sailors who also are moving on from Corner Brook.

But the best gift of all came from my wonderful nephew (great nephew?) Connor. Who could ask for more:

 

Now that we’re back in the water, and not sinking too fast, we’re slowing bringing the boat back to life. We have a few small jobs, and one major one to do yet. If all goes well though we plan to cut the dock lines once again and sail north around Newfoundland, over to Lewisporte. Will we make it? Who knows…

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Being here, being there, being somewhere in-between

IMG_3163IMGA0991Our time in Calgary is always relaxing and fun. We expanded our repertoire on the ukuleles, and ended up playing as a quartet with Sam and Donna on guitars. We caught a live show by Canadian folky David Francey IMG_3158 IMG_3150, and Peggy hosted the gang over at her place for a yummy dinner, and good times.

 

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And yes, we did a lot of yackin’ about Life, the Universe and Everything — and even some baking:

IMG_1546FullSizeRenderUnfortunately the time to move from here to there came upon us, so we packed up all our troubles in the old kit bag (little red car), and headed off into the great in-between. We pointed the bow eastward and began the long and boring trek across Canada’s Great Western Prairies (except I’m not sure where the “great” comes from 😛 ). We hit our now standard stop in Moose Jaw, and then went on to another regular stop in Kenora.

IMG_1550IMG_3206Our good friends Paul & Julie (and Coralie) always welcome us warmly, and with a comfy bed. So we moved in for a few days, enjoying their hospitality, while swapping stories and sharing plans for the future. We also got into cooking some great meals, just as we used to do when living at the Lakehead.

 

One glorious afternoon was spent with our friends Ben & Sherilyn, along with my favourite Olivia and now favourite Molly in the whole world! It’s so much fun hanging out with our younger* friends. They continue to host our little travel trailer full of junk, er, I mean keepsakes (;-) ) from our landlubber past. But mostly it’s a wonderful priviledge to be able to stop in and watch the family and the farm grow. Each time we visit there are more improvements to the home, and more height and words added to Olivia (and now Molly!).

(*Funny…  I used to be the younger friend to my older comrades, but somehow this is starting to change. 😕 )

IMG_1554After too few days we loaded up little red and headed east again, but this time only for a short hop to our friends who live right on the Lakeshore, just east of Rossport. Along the way we drove over the fancy new cable-stayed bridge near Nipigon — the same one that cracked and closed the Trans-Canada highway in 2016. Luckily, it stayed together during our drive over.

Rossport computerWe spent a wonderful couple of days with Cathie and Joe. As always, their hospitality and their friendship is warmly felt. While there we also managed to get the motorcycles running (C&J continue to house our little bikes), and Ann put on her her Apple Genius hat to give a Mac training session.

IMG_1558We’ve now done this route so often we know where our next stops are going to be, so after Rossport we stopped at the little cabin motel outside of Sault Ste. Marie, and then a cheap motel in North Bay near a great pub (which we didn’t visit this time).

This Spring has been another soggy one for Ontario and areas east. The further south we got the more signs we could see of flooded lands. And this flooding included a 30 km stretch of the Trans-Canada south of Mattawa. This is our normal route, so we took an alternate smaller highway south of Algonquin Park which turned out to be a really nice drive.

But as we approached the Ottawa River the signs of flooding became all too apparent:

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IMG_1587IMG_1582We pulled into our Ottawa “home” and moved back to our comfy “room” all warm and cosy beside the fireplace (that never runs). We were greeted by Mom and Sis (Kathy) and our/their little Hammi Cat.

Over the next few weeks we just hung out, did some repairs IMG_3223, worked on our Waterway Guide assignments IMG_1625, ate, drank (and drank, and drank 😉 ) IMG_1620, had some basic medical/dental appointments. Most importantly, we got to see Connor and Colleen!

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As luck would have it, Mom’s 75th birthday happened while we were there. Kathy had already booked a cabin in Prince Edward Country, and we convinced Mom that Ann & I would stay in Ottawa to look after the cat. However, the REAL plan was for us to follow a few days later and surprise Mom … It worked 😀 .

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We managed to sneak onto the cabin’s side deck, and catch Mom’s eye. She went from fearing for her life 😯 to surprise 😮 to happiness 😀 . It was perfect.

IMG_3235IMG_1634After that we spent the next few days relaxing, Waterway Guiding, and of course eating and drinking. It was great. We even managed to reconnect with some other Belleville friends: Marvin and Gary. We actually did this the night before surprising Mom, so it all worked out wonderfully.

Sadly the time in Southern Ontario finally came to an end. We said our goodbyes — for real this time — and headed off east towards Newfoundland, but with a stop over in Nova Scotia to visit another old friend Chet (read that both ways 😉 ), and a new friend Margie.

IMG_1645Chet has been a friend since our days in Marathon. He introduced us to sailing, and even got me into motorcycling. In many ways, it’s all Chet’s fault 😉 . It’s been about four years since we last got together, so it was great to be able to divert down to Sheet Harbour and spend some time together.

As it turned out, Margie had just sold her home in Truro where she’d lived for something like 50 years, AND she was recovering from a health crisis. So our timing was not the best. But Chet and Margie still took us in, gave us a place to stay, and showed us how they live their own version of the vagabond lifestyle.

Sheet_HRBWe spent the week chatting and planning ( 😉 )and singing and eating and drinking and exploring part of this area known as the Eastern Shore. Chet and Margie both live in seasonal trailers in a small park right beside an arm of Sheet Harbour. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place.

 

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IMGA0019IMGA0020Despite the upheavals in her life Margie generously vacated her own trailer to let us basically live there for the week. So we not only get to spend time with old and new friends, but we also got to experience trailer life. It was none too shabby, and compared to life on the boat, very easy and comfortable.

Finally, after a week of easy living we said our goodbyes to Chet, Margie and their neighbour and our newest new friend Shawn, and we began the final push to Newfoundland. We had booked the overnight ferry so had lots of time to get to the terminal. This allowed us to take the scenic/slow route along the way.

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A final dinner in Canada IMG_3279 and we were off on the big ship headed for the Big Rock IMG_1668 IMG_3282. As the sun dawned we were greeted with a typical beautiful morning in Port aux Basques:

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A short drive later we arrive in our home port of Corner Brook. A few more minutes took us down to Pachina Mia — our watery house. She survived yet another nasty Newfoundland winter with only a few new battle scars to add to her collection. Now the work begins to bring her back to life.

IMG_3288But for now, we’re enjoying the grand hospitality of Dukie and his sailing parents Paula & Byron. They have once again opened their home and their hearts to us homeless bums. We are so blessed with good friends nearly everywhere we wonder. Thank you all. We couldn’t do this without you 😀 .

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The cycle of life


IMGA0971IMGA0967Our last few weeks in Penticton flew by rather quickly. In fact everything seemed to accelerate with the turn of the season. February had been colder and snowier than normal in our little BC town. But now March was breaking records for warmth and sunshine. The snow that had lingered since before the new year seemed to disappear in a flash.

And it wasn’t just the deer that felt frisky. A flicker (a type of wood pecker) discovered that it could amplify its mating call by banging on the cap of our chimney. It was incredibly loud and annoying as it echoed down the pipe and through the house.

This went on for over a week. Each time I’d go out and throw a snow ball at it to chase the damn bird away. But eventually it stopped — must have found a good mate with all that racket.

Funnily, I had been complaining to Byron and Paula, our friends in Corner Brook Newfoundland, about how cold and snowy Penticton had been through February. For some reason, they were unsympathetic. Here’s the picture they sent me of their front yard.

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Happily, we were in Penticton, where the change in weather not only pleased the local wildlife, but also the Master as well. Maxi the Cat started staying outside almost all day; only coming back to demand food, and then he was gone again.

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IMGA0939IMGA0940With time ticking away we managed to get a few projects done that we’d brought with us from the boat. Using one of Dave’s amazing sewing machines, Ann managed to restitch our two sail covers that had been coming apart. Meanwhile, I was drying and packaging food to restock our boat supplies. We now have about a month’s worth of dried veggies and meat.

And speaking of sewing, I also used Dave’s machine to finish a sewing project which I actually began about five years ago. It is supposed to be a solar food dehydrator. I got the basic plans from an old Hippie sailing book (Sailing the Farm). It ain’t pretty, but I think it will work.

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In addition to the small projects, and general servitude to Sir Demands A Lot, Ann kept up her incredible swimming pace, while I practiced with the Tuneagers community choir. This was in preparation for our big spring concert which happened just days before our departure.

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Despite having to sing a medley of tunes from the Sound of Music, pukethe concerts went off without a hitch, and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. I was even invited to sing with a small sextet that performed the southern spiritual Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.

I have been so warmly welcomed by this wonderful group, and I will sorely miss them. It’s certainly one reason that makes me want to come back to Penticton again. Who knows, we may still might…

IMG_3141Another tug at the heart is our nice neighbours, Carol and Mike (and Missy their dog). We’ve gotten to know them over the years we’ve been wintering in Penticton, and we managed to get in a couple of final dinners and card games with them. First over at their place, and then we invited them to ours.

Dave and Leslie, our wonderful house owners, finally made their way back from Arizona. It was great to see them again, and to spend a nice afternoon/evening swapping stories and hearing about their adventures. They have been so great to us, and have already invited us back for next winter. We shall see…

IMGA0958We said our final goodbyes. Packed our little red car, and headed to the land of the big sky. It was sad to leave, but it feels good to be travelling once again. We now get to spend a week or so in Calgary with Donna & Sam who generously support our vagabond lifestyle by allowing us to stay with them.

IMGA0981It’s always great to reconnect with Ann’s side of the family. Everyone is so sweet, and kind, and … funny :-) . Ann fits right in 😉 .

As the saying goes, you can run but you can’t hide. The horror that is constant curling followed us from Penticton. They even made me watch the final game. Or maybe bribed me is more accurate.

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Everything seems better when viewed through the lens of a margarita 😉 .

You said we wouldn’t need a shovel!

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“Hsssssss … I’m not happy :-(

It’s been snowy and rather chilly here in our winter retreat these past couple of months. Snows came after X-mas, along with lower than normal temperatures. It’s still pretty easy and mild compared to just about everywhere else. But Maxi the cat doesn’t like it… Hsssssssss!

_IGP6888IMG_1519Otherwise, life moves on here in our wonderful Okanagan house-sit home. The occasional hot tubbing, mixed with singing and swimming, good beer and yummy food. Life is good. We got to experience the recent lunar eclipse. And used the excuse of our approaching anniversary (31!) to justify going out to see Old Man Luedecke at a small local pubby/restauranty concert venue.

Actually, this concert outing was supposed to be on the first night of Donna’s visit to us in Penticton. Unfortunately her plane got diverted back to Calgary that first afternoon due to fog. Luckily her plane managed to get through late the next day.

We spent the next few days playing around, exploring the area, drinking and eating, and generally have a fun time:

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_IGP6869While in Penticton Donna and Ann concocted a plan to take Ann away, leaving me all alone and sad :-( . So, a couple weeks after Donna’s departure, Ann flew off to Calgary, ostensibly to do some “work” for middle sister. This left me all alone in Penticton for nearly a week.

Well, not quite alone. The beast had to be served:

 

Luckily the week went by fast, and thanks to FaceTime, I still got to be part of the Calgary events, including a dinner at Peggy’s, and a remote jam session featuring two guitars and a ukulele.

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IMG_3098The week of sadness and longing went by without too many tears, but it all culminated with Ann driving back to Penticton with Cailan! My favourite niece from Peggy’s family came for a near week-long visit.

As IMGA0925like Donna, she showed up with a cold, but a few days of relaxation and quality kitty time, and she was as good as new.

After a day of rest, and study for Cailan, we jumped in Peggy’s HUGE car and went on a mini road trip through Oliver and Osoyoos. It was a beautiful day of small mountain towns, wonderful vistas, and vinyards at just about every turn.

But then we spotted the road. Actually, “road” might be too grandiose. It was more like winding dirt trail switchbacking precariously up the edge of the mountain, disappearing into the ominous clouds.

Whenever Ann sees a winding mountain road she gets this twitch in her eye and lead in her foot — “WE MUST DRIVE UP THERE!” And so we did.

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IMGA0928It was nice to just hang out with Cailan for the week. We chatted, and ate and drank, and made her watch crazy movies like Guardians of the Galaxy. And best of all, Maxi the Cat started sleeping upstairs with Cailan. Amazing how much extra space there is on our wobbly water bed when not having to work around a cat!

Cailan discovered the joys of a dark chocolate porter, so the following day we visited Cannery Brewery for some tasting and good eats.

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Sadly, the visit was way too short. Cailan claimed she had to leave because “she wanted to graduate this year.” Bahh says I, “There’s always next year.” But for some reason this didn’t persuade her to stay. So off she went, back to Calgary.

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So now it’s back to normal life of a little work, a little play, some singing and swimming, and ukulele practicing.

Nothing much ado

IMGA0834IMGA0832Our vacation life here in Penticton continues to be easy and fun. We arrived near the end of October, and it felt like we’d stepped back in seasonal time. The grass was green, the leaves were still on the trees, and after one brief dusting of snow, we saw none of the white stuff until after Christmas day.

We’ve established our lazy daily patterns of late breakfasts, TV and computer watching, and generally just taking it easy. Ann is swimming. I’ve done the occasional walk. And we’re both still practicing the ukulele.

Oh, and of course Maxi, or as I’ve taken to calling him: Sir DemandsAlot, is his normal cute self — most of the time 😉 .

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For those who have not visited us, the Penticton house is on the edge of town, in a semi rural area. We get a fair bit of interesting bird an animal life, including quail, owl, doves, deer and new this year, racoons (no pics though).

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IMG_3065Christmas season had me singing with two local choirs. There were four concerts over the span of a couple of weeks, and it all went well. It’s nice to be singing with a group again, even if the music is not really my favourite stuff. The Tuneagers is a choir for seniors, although in this case “senior” means anyone over 50.

There are some good singers in the group, although it’s not what you’d call a great choir. But it is fun, and the music is challenging enough at times.

 

IMG_4132_IGP6862We celebrated Ann’s 56th Birthday with a nice dinner and some relatively fine wine. Oh, and more than a few Irish coffees. The flowers from Ottawa are still on the table, and still looking pretty. Maxi loves them too!

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Since moving back in here I’ve been baking lots of bread and tortillas. Nothing new there… but Ann has become the master desert maker. Yummy chocolate chip-peanut butter cookies are her standard, but recently she tried her hand at cinnamon rolls. They turned out amazing:

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IMG_3074IMG_3073December rolled on to the big santa day. We enjoyed the gifts from Calgary and Ottawa. Normally we cook a full turkey dinner on the big X-mas day, but this year we were invited over to our neighbours for the big meal.

It was a wonderful evening of eating and chatting. Mike & Carol have done some amazing things, including travelling via RV and canoeing. They seem interested in our sailing life, so we bored them with some pictures and a short video. And then we played cards, where somehow I managed to win big time. Guess I’m highly skilled at random chance 😉 .

IMGA0872IMGA0849The following day (Boxing Day) it snowed for real, which finally made it feel more like x-mas. This Penticton weather is pretty nice, but I do miss real winters and heavy snow. It was nice to see it coming down (even though it meant shovelling). We cooked our big meal, and have been enjoying turkey dinners ever since.

And not to be outdone by the Calgary crowd, Ann picked up the Globe & Mail monster crossword. She’s been working on it ever since.

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She even gets some help from a certain fuzzy master:

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The New Year beckons. Happy 2019! For Auld Lang Syne…

A western life (for now)

IMG_2368Time in Ottawa was brief, but good. It was nice to hang out with the kitties, and to see Mom, Sis, Colleen and Connor. After a few more health checks we loaded our life back up in our little red car, and headed north and then west.

IMG_2986.JPGThe drive through Ontario is always the longest, but stunningly beautiful in places. And we’ve done this so often now that we’re starting to develop regular stops. The first was North Bay, with the requisite pub visit. Then in Wawa when we woke up to the requisite snow (sans snow tires, of course):

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IMGA0806IMGA0811This whole trip west happened way too fast this season. Our wonderful house owners in Penticton wanted to leave earlier this year, which means we had to be there early as well. Sadly, this also means we had little time to stop and visit with our many friends along the way.

Cathie and Joe in Selim (Rossport) are dear friends whom we love spending time with. But sadly we had to keep our visit to a few hours this time. And even Thunder Bay was reduced to a couple of nights. Still, we managed some great time with Paul, Julie & Coralie along with Tony and Maryann. Paul, who is recently retired, has discovered the joys of 3D printing. While we were there he printed a new visor clip for our car, and helped us with our tire change through the loan of some equipment.

Of course, a visit to Thunder Bay would not be complete without spending time with Ben & Sherilyn’s growing family. Olivia is my favourite Olivia ever! And now I have a favourite new Molly.

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There are so many other people we would have loved to see, but time was too short, so with snow tires now installed, on we pressed. First stop: Kenora. Then on to the lovely and ever-stimulating Prairies :-( .

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Thank g-d for trains:

IMG_3002We spent one night in Moose Jaw at a motel we’ve now stayed at a few times before. Decent rooms and cheap rates; that’s our ambition. It even has a nearby restaurant full of family nuts 😉 .

IMG_3024We pulled into Calgary and moved into one of our growing ‘homes away from home,’ staying with Donna & Sam. The following day D&S hosted a late Thanksgiving meal, which brought out the whole Phillips clan, including even Tasha who flew in from Toronto just to see us (at least, that’s what I choose to believe 😉 ).

IMG_3023During the few days in Calgary we helped Peggy out a little with her house, patching a drop-ceiling tile. We ate well at home, and at a fancy french restaurant (thanks to S&D), and we got to see Donna’s new office digs … pretty snazzy!

IMG_3031But the highlight — at least for Ann, was learning to play ping pong, or as the snooty-snoots call it: Table Tennis.

 

 

 

IMG_1481The time passed all too quickly, and we had to hit the road once again, making our final push to our winter home in Penticton. This is our third winter here at our Penticton house-sit, so it really does feel a bit like a second (or third, or fourth…) home now.

Unlike previous seasons, the drive through the mountains was uneventful and easy. We arrived in plenty of time, and got to spend a whole day with house owners Leslie & Dave. It’s always nice to see them, and to catch up on their adventures. But mostly it was great to see our little grumpy Maxi is still doing well:

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UkuleleIt’s been a week now, and we’re both settling into our Okanagan life. I’ve joined a local “senior’s” choir (senior is anyone over 50) … two actually. Ann is busy swimming. And we’ve both decided to take up learning the ukulele. We’ve even bought our own.

… did I mention the ukulele lessons are being taught through the nearby Senior’s Centre … yes, we’ve joined that too. I guess this means we’re officially Senior Citizens now.

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