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Chapter Nine: The Evolution of 4Creature Comforts Continues...

At the end of the last chapter, I mentioned that closing the Bainbridge Island Warehouse was a blessing in disguise. We had just finished the garage we called The Barn at our Owl’s Peak property and decided to move all of our inventory there. Geddy and I went to visit friends in Polaris, Montana for the 1992 New Year. Debbie & Randy Shilling owned Maverick Mountain Ski Area in the Pioneer Mountains and lived nearby in Polaris. Beautiful countryside! Geddy and I went from their home to a nearby ghost town on snowmobiles. We were the only ones there...lovely & a bit eerie. Geddy was exploring a building when I saw a bird wing wedged in a split log fence. I have always loved to honor the Spirit of an animal crafting their dead parts into art pieces. I was reaching for the wing when I had this odd thought: maybe this was a trick and I shouldn’t take it. Well, I did take it and brought it home to Bainbridge Island. The moment we arrived home, I received a call from my childhood friend and neighbor, Linda MacCoy. She was back at my home in Norwell, MA., calling to let me know that my Mom was in the hospital with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. And I thought about the bird wing I hesitated to collect: yes, it was an owl’s wing. Many of you probably know about the mythology that owls symbolize the calling of a name to the other side. Years later, this wing was made into a smudge fan by a native friend, Dwayne. I still use it. I had spent Christmas at home. My Mom wasn’t feeling well but no one had any idea how ill she was. We were scheduled to leave for Tortola in a few days. Geddy went on without me. I flew to Norwell with my cat Sweetpea, the one of eight who told me she was coming. When we arrived, Sweetpea acted as a nurse on a mission. She laid on my Mom all day long as a comfort but slept with me at night knowing the caregiver needed support as well.

I stayed with my Mom, Polly, for 10 weeks before I left to join Geddy in Tortola. With chemo, she was in a slight remission. Both my Mom and Dad insisted that I join Geddy for a while. Sweetpea stayed with them of course!

In my absence, the refit on the yacht Vagabond had progressed well. We were finishing up loose ends, she was painted navy blue and I painted her name on the stern from a bouncing dingy on the dock at Soper’s Hole on the west end of Tortola.

Our rasta friend, Moon, is here with me working away...and a local boy who chipped in:

I painted objects on the walls of the galley and head. Here is a photo of the galley geckos:

We are ready to start our sailing adventures that will continue for the next twelve years. Our friend, Captain Disaster Dave offered to come on our first voyage to lend assistance and train me in navigation. Despite the fact that Geddy was an experienced sailor, I was glad to have the training from Dave. I should have been worried about his name, however. He got that name because in his life he had been on three sailboats that had done a 360! If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a sailboat does a complete summersault at sea but rights itself. This is a rare thing to begin with but to have this happen three times is beyond any odds. In this pic, Dave is the curly blond guy, his girlfriend Nancy, who was Miss Nancy of Romper Room, Moon, and a visiting friend from Hansville, Jim Heggenstaller.

Dave is fitting me with a safety harness. I know! I don’t look too happy about needing one of these, but safety on a boat is paramount. We had been on Tortola long enough to make many friends. We were sad to say goodbye but after a bon voyage party, we set sail.

Our course: St Barts, Saint Martin, Martinique, Grenada, and ending in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela. The duration of our cruise was just under a month. And it went well! No issues...this time! Martinique here and we just ran into an old sailor friend, John, who gave us his book, Letters from Sinking encouraging!

Yes, parrots love ice cream...hard to resist! We planned to leave the Vagabond in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela for about six months. My Mom was hanging in there, but I was anxious to get back to her, my Dad, and Sweetpea. We found a place called the Dockside. Bob, the owner was glad to accommodate us. Dave flew back to Tortola where Nancy was waiting for him. We loved Puerto la Cruz, however. We stayed there for 10 days exploring. There was a restaurant we loved that served whole fish steamed inside a thick layer of salt. The fish melted in your mouth. We explored the local markets finding intriguing goods to bring back for sale...small shipments, not containers. Artisans there specialized in leather-crafted sculptures...beautiful.

We were avid users of the series of navigation books written by Don Street. They were so helpful as he would do small charts and drawings with local landmarks of coastlines around the Caribbean islands. Well, we were sitting on our yacht when we saw him strolling by! Geddy was never shy...he was a master of meeting people everywhere. The next thing, Don was sitting in the cockpit with us. We didn’t drink, but we found a beer for him. He was full of stories and loved the banter.

Geddy convinced me to go for one more trip before heading back to my Mom. We went to Costa Rica for a few weeks. The intention was to explore the west coast for possible ports we would want to sail into. While we were there we visited the charming capitol, San Jose. Then we spend a few days in the cloud forests of Monteverde...hiking, bird watching, and visiting some friends there. This is a haven for birds. Monteverde boasts 248 species of birds spotted here and of the 54 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica, 14 are there.

We decided against sailing to Costa Rica in the end, not the best ports. We rented a jeep and drove to the port of Puntarenas. This is a big container ship port, not yacht-friendly. But the drive was super fun. We stopped at tiny coastal villages like Brasilito, where at our cottages a resident shared his little boa constrictor skin!

We stopped at Hatillo and on to Manuel Antonio National Park… a stunning park. On an early solo morning walk, first I was overwhelmed by an unidentified noise. I stopped, the noise stopped...and then I saw thousands of red land crabs in their migration.

I saw this incredible spectacle by mere chance! Their color was amazing: lapis blue body, robin’s egg blue claws, and flaming red legs. Manuel Antonio is the perfect location for this migration having stunning beaches and lush rainforests. They were migrating from the forest to the sea waving their claws.

We stayed in another little cottage on a beach in a little town close by, Dominical. The owners were very friendly. We went for a horseback ride into a remote jungle. We found rocks with petroglyphs and a tree with sloth claw marks. I was fascinated watching leaf cutter ants marching along their trail with leaf pieces. We saw a large anteater ambling along.

Home to Mom. Her remission was still in effect but it wasn’t long before the chemo wasn’t working….and hospice was the next step.

Mom passed away at home on August 15, 1992, a young 76 years old. I was holding her hand with Sweetpea on her feet. Sweetpea, who was not into exercise, got up and raced the length of the house and back several times. The hospice nurse said this is not unusual with a passing.

The weekend of Mom’s Life Celebration, Bonnie Raitt had a concert in Portland, Maine. We needed mental relaxation, so we planned to go and bring my neighbor Linda, my cousins Susan and Linda, and other friends. Bonnie, a friend, hosted us all backstage and during the concert dedicated the concert to my Mom. I was thrilled and honored.

Keeping busy is my way of dealing with grief. Geddy arranged a trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. His cousin Tony and his wife Claire lived there running a party boat in the bay. A large catamaran named Tristar. We stayed with them for a week and then we went to a luxurious hotel with a gorgeous infinity pool.

When we returned from Mexico, we quickly flew to Kauai. On September 5th, Hurricane Iniki hit the island with winds up to 145 miles per hour, flattening much of the island. We went to stay a month helping many of our friends deal with the aftermath of such destruction.

My former store manager and her husband were hit hard. We camped with them sorting things out as best anyone step at a time.

An island artist, and dear friend, Sally French, made this Iniki doll out of roofing tiles and mud from her destroyed house. It was so symbolic of the disaster, that I still have her.

The last picture shows the owl smudge fan made for me commemorating Mom’s passing.

The rest of the year was spent between Bainbridge Island and working on The Barn at Owl’s Peak. All the inventory had landed in Hansville and there was much to do!

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