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The Evolution of 4Creature Comforts Continues... Blog 10

Updated: May 23

The night my Dad arrived in Curacao, we saw a comet with the most beautiful tail streak through the starry night sky as we made our way to our yacht by dingy. It was Feb. 16, 1993. I had spent Christmas with my Dad in Norwell, MA. This was the first Christmas without my Mom. I took over hosting the traditional Christmas Eve party that Mom had given every year since I could remember. It was a neighborhood event full of love and good cheer. Geddy and I had gone to Thailand for a quick buying trip in January, focusing on a container of goods that Junkoh from Bainbridge Gardens purchased for the NW Flower & Gift Show.

We had sailed to Curacao before my Dad arrived. We were anchored close to Sarifundy Marina owned by Joost & Honey. It is considered bad luck to change the name of a vessel, but we did! The Vagabond carried the energy of a nefarious past plus we had done such a complete remake of her, that we felt she was a newborn. We renamed her Opportunity...and yes, I painted the name on the stern once again in a bobbing dingy.

At Christmas, I had packed a couple of bags for my Dad to bring with him,

one had a dive tank in it! He was dubbed the sherpa. Dad had always been into boating but he was not a sailor. He always said his favorite way to sail was on land watching a sailboat go by! Well, we did go sailing to an island close by. He had a grand time! He had never snorkeled before and fell in love with it. We rented a jeep and toured the island, even finding a wild boar farm deep in the interior where I collected several skulls. While other yachties spent hours at the marina trading stories over beer, I was boiling and bleaching boar skulls. Dad joined in with the festivities of the carnival before heading back home. Such joyous crowds.

Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are the three ABC Islands. Our next adventure was sailing on to Bonaire, a much smaller island than Curacao, with the picture-perfect postcard white sandy beaches. We developed a friendship with a dive shop owner, Andre. We enjoyed his family and diving. We also made a dear friendship with August and his family. He introduced us to shark liver oil as a healthy cure-all. Bonaire is the home of flamingos and the salt industry... fun exploring both of these avenues.

At the beginning of March, we left Bonaire for Aruba. This was not an easy sail. First, we got pooped by a 10’ wave hitting us straight on from the stern. We had to scramble to batten down dive lockers and gear that was dislodged from the rogue wave. Once we got squared away from that mishap, we lost our hydraulic steering. We were in the channel near Aruba in a storm with mixed currents. We struggled for 18 hours right through the night. We had a tiller but managing a 30-ton yacht with a tiller is not easy. My dyslexic Geddy was convinced he had the tiller in properly but it wasn’t working. He didn’t believe me when I observed that he had it backward. He used up all his strength and I righted the tiller myself. He fell asleep and I steered Opportunity solo all those hours. He did credit me with saving the yacht, but when we limped into Aruba, I was furious. I left sorry for the customs man clearing us in. I wanted only to go to the airport and be gone, but as I recovered, I settled down as well. A highlight of Aruba was meeting Coconut Jerry. He was a homeless man who had found a sailboat on the coast of Florida. No one claimed it. He sailed it to Aruba with no instruments or much in the way of gear. It’s a miracle he got there. He tried to keep land in sight when he could. He had been in Aruba for several years. He made a few dollars to survive by making coconut hats on the beach for tourists. The boat looked like a homeless encampment, with trash all over it! He didn’t have a dingy to get to shore, he just walked and swam back and forth. That’s how we knew him because we offered him frequent rides to shore. The authorities asked him to leave the island. The only way was to sell the boat. We would see him walking potential buyers out in the surf to see it. We left not knowing what happened to him.

At the end of March, we set sail for Grand Cayman. We made a quick stop on a beach in Negril, Jamaica, after a five-day sail to do a quick emergency fix without clearing in.

Clearing into Grand Cayman, the police dog said we were carrying drugs! Geddy and I didn’t drink or do drugs, so we knew the dog was wrong. He kept sniffing by a clothes closet. Geddy punched his hand through the wood to expose the steel haul, showing no drugs. The authorities were all over and under the boat. We were eventually cleared in.

We spent a month in Curacao, a month in Bonaire & Aruba, and one more month in Grand Cayman. Some of the most magical diving is found here… 130’ walls of mystical coral colors and abundant reef fish. We were awed and couldn’t get enough of it. Here I am holding a sea turtle at the Cayman Turtle Center...endless fun!

We had to go to Hell! Really, there is a tiny town called Hell. We mailed many postcards to friends & family just for the postmark from the post office. We sailed around the island to the North Sound for more diving and spending delightful hours at what they call Stingray City. There is a huge shallow crystal clear area where the rays have learned to come to be fed. It’s quite an experience. As we were getting ready to sail to Guatemala, we came into the yacht club marina only to be told we couldn’t get water since we weren’t paying guests. The captain of the Alchemy, a power yacht, came to our rescue. We rafted next to Ken enabling us to restock water. His girlfriend, Babydoll, is the only person I have ever met with a split personality….actually, several personalities. She changed her outfits as often as her was astonishing. Babydoll, many years younger than her sugar daddy, was insecure that she couldn’t hold his attention much longer. The stress of this was the major cause of her different personas emerging.

On April 28th, we started our sail to Livingston, Guatemala, at the mouth of the Rio Dulce River. It was the most beautiful beam reaching 6 day sail. It was a bit tricky following the narrow windy channel into the mouth of the Rio Dulce, but it was worth it. A charming small port town. Check out the drying fish on the street! We became fast friends with Manley, sailing with his girlfriend, Beth. He made us this useful cool rug! The Rio Dulce River is 27 miles long. The river took us through diverse landscapes, including narrow gorges, lush foliage, and natural anchorage areas. The narrow river runs through a canyon with high cliffs full of macaws and toucans. Our traveling companions were mostly Indios in their dugout canoes.

We sailed into Lake Izabal where we anchored in a bed of water hyacinths. In the small town of El Estor, we found a local man willing to take us canoeing up the Agua Caliente stream...a few miles up this remote jungle tributary, we came to a series of hot springs that create a variety of hot pools in the stream, of different temperatures. Some were extremely hot. At the time, this was not on the tourist maps. We were happily alone in of my most memorable life experiences. Back in the lake and river, we saw pink manatees and dolphins….can you imagine! Pure bliss! A boy was selling this iguana...of course, I bought it and let it go far away!

We went to Mario’s Marina, a few miles back. Screech, this tiny little flightless owl due to an injury, lived here. I fell in love! He hopped around the marina to my pure joy. He inspired me to paint him on a wall in the salon by a bunk. I eventually saved this painting and have it still. We left Opportunity there on May 23rd and flew off to a colorful colonial town, Antigua. The main purpose was to visit a friend, Paul, who owned a billiards factory there. Antigua boasts a rich history and is home to several remarkable ruins. Here we are at one of them.

We traveled on to Panajachel by Lake Atitlan, arguably the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. It is the deepest lake in Central America. This is the heart of Guatemala’s highlands. Panajachel back then was a charming sleepy village. It was easy to become a part of the community, sharing meals and stories. Close by is the Mercado Chichicastenago, an enormous market of Mayan artists. Here we found goods to bring back for sale at 4 Creature Comforts.

We traveled home by way of Los Angeles & Santa Barbara, visiting family, and arriving back on Bainbridge Island on June 3rd. After getting caught up with home life after traveling since mid-December, I decided to do a wholesale sales trip in late June with a dear friend, Lone, to Canada. I loaded up my van with goods and we hit the highway. Sales weren’t abundant, but laughter was! We had a ball!

My Dad came for a visit around July 4th. He planned to design us a house to be beside the “Barn”. This journey was the beginning of preparing the building plans and permits. We were soon under construction, but we had to leave our house on Bainbridge as it was going up for sale. We found a perfect rental house on Kingston Farm Road with a fabulous view of the Kingston Sound. Moving is always daunting but triple that due to the number of statues, massive furniture, and inventory in our possession, We achieved our mission, however.

I made a short trip to Norwell in August for Mildred’s memorial, my Mom’s business partner. Mildred was a second Mom to me. Her passing impacted me deeply.

Geddy and I made a sales trip in November to Sun Valley, Boise, Missoula, & Coeur d Alene. Here he is in what we call his warlord coat, handmade for him in Thailand. Meanwhile, on Nov. 28, we received the 40’ container from Thailand we had put together earlier in the year...the one with the goods for Bainbridge Gardens along with water hyacinth woven furniture. Unfortunately, the container got wet at sea causing extreme mold. We hired a staff of people to work frantically to clean up the mold. We were successful!

Geddy left for Guatemala on Dec. 13th...I would catch up with him after Christmas in Norwell with my Dad and the traditional party, ready for yet another year of adventure.

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