Pigs Bite

Friday the 13th: Rules for visiting swimming pigs008

Rule 1: Take food. Lots of food, whatever scraps, and leftovers you have. These freckled pigs are hand-fed by lots of boaters and they’re greedy. As soon as they hear a dinghy engine, they’re primed.

Rule 2: 006Let the pigs swim out to you. Preferably in water deep enough so they can stand. They may stick their big ole snouts at you to beg and open their mouths to show off lots of sharp teeth, but they can’t climb into your dinghy or step on your feet. So you have the upper hand and can make a fast get-away if necessary.

Rule 3: Arrive in a group of boats. You will have less attention paid to you and that’s a good thing. Being descended upon by a herd (or whatever a bunch of pigs are called) is definitely intimating, even if most of them are still piglets. Even one sow outweighs most anyone and they don’t move easily.

Rule 4: Get your camera out only once you’ve fed them. Anything in your hand is food according to pig perception and a hungry sow does not discriminate.

We broke all the rules. This wasn’t our first time to go to Big Major to visit the pigs. I mean, how many places can you go and be met by swimming pigs? We had a perfectly fine day to take this on again, so we hauled our dinghy out of the cockpit locker, heaved it onto the dock, inflated it with the foot pump, and slid it back in the water. This part took an hour. Then we proceeded to load it: life jackets, plastic zip-lock bag with camera and cell phone, towel, paddles, motor, spare battery (we have an electric outboard), water bottle and crackers for our consumption.

We were the only dinghy approaching the beach and as soon as a big sow saw us she got up and started for our dinghy. That’s when we realized we had forgotten to bring food for the pigs. Rather than wait for her, we beached the dinghy and I jumped out and pulled it onto the beach. I wanted photos. Then what looked like a big sandpile unfolded into a dozen little and medium sized 006piglets, jogging toward us. The sow got aggressive. Guess she wanted to make sure she got her share before we were so caught up by the cute little piggies that we ignored her. We know these pigs get aggressive, last visit one tried to climb into the dinghy to steal our red gas can thinking it was 017eatable. Our main concern then was having a hoof stab the inflatable and we’d be without transportation back to the marina. Like the baboons in Africa, these pigs are opportunistic.

This time, as I was trying to get the dinghy further onto the beach, this big sow stepped on my bare foot. I now carry a hoof-shaped bruise. Pushing a sow must be like cow-tipping; it usually doesn’t work. This gal weighed a lot more than me. I remembered our cheese crackers and I quickly tore this open and threw them as far onto the beach as I could. It wasn’t enough. She came back with a vengeance and bit my arm. I think she thought the camera I had in my hand was food and she wanted it. Our saving grace was the arrival of two more dinghys. 005The pigs and mamas took off in search of more food, swimming out to meet the boats. I wrapped my bleeding arm with Ed’s handkerchief and all the way 003back to the marina, I was thinking of all the things pigs put in their mouths. My injuries will heal but the scar on my forearm will be a reminder to be armed with a big bag of food scraps and to stay in the dinghy and make them first swim out to us. I mean, after all, what’s as unique as swimming pigs!015

This was only the morning and not the end of the story of Friday the 13th, but that will be a separate post.

Janet and Ed on Sable

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When the Wind Blows

Feb. 7, 2015. Those of you who don’t sail, may think this is a good thing for a sailboat, but it all depends on the direction and strength of the wind as well as the height of the seas. Sometimes it means staying in port longer than you want to. So it was on Great Harbor on the very north end of the Berry Islands.

After one false start, we had a very successful crossing from Grand Bahama Island. Honestly we weren’t looking forward to Great Harbor. 025We had last been there two years ago and the best part was moving on. We were most pleased to find that things have changed. The marina facilities have been upgraded, the staff is competent, helpful and very friendly. The only thing missing to make this a really great stop is a decent restaurant. There is one, of sorts, at the top of a small rise with a pool. But the pool is empty except for some green slime and the deck is littered with dead palm fronds and leaves. Not pretty. For $12.00 you can get a decent hamburger. The first night we did enjoy the Grill and Chill with lots of the other sailors. 005

011So, on day 2 waiting on a change in the weather, we decided to rent a jeep (actually a Geo Tracker) and tour the island. This lovely vehicle was $40.00 including gas. A really good deal if you’re looking for adventure. I agreed only if Ed was willing to drive. The first option looked better but wouldn’t start, the second one had a flat tire, but our little red one ran, sort of.

First the convertible top didn’t latch so the first wind gust blew it back. When this happened, Ed made a hilarious remark. He said, “See if that did any damage.” The driver’s window was permanently down which was a good thing since there was no window crank or door handle on the inside. 002The gear shift was so mushy that it even took Ed awhile to finally find two forward gears and reverse. The emergency brake worked but the headlights and turn signals didn’t work at all. The emergency flashers did which could have been useful if we ventured out after dark; we didn’t.

So, off we went from one end of the island to the other. No difficult even without a map, there really is only one road plus the one that circles the town of Bullocks Harbor. We discovered everything the island had to offer including beautiful beaches.

017We found the Beach Club restaurant on the east shore. It is entirely open air and with the wind howling we didn’t stop to eat. 019Next the airport, but our best discovery was finding a ’74 VW Beetle the same color as our ’67 Stewball.

009Ed stopped so I could take a photo. We met the owners and were invited in to their lovely house on the east shore where we could observe the white caps that were keeping us in Great Harbor for this extra day. All in all just another adventure in Paradise.

The following day we would leave for Chub, one day too early as we discovered. Friends who stayed behind made a wise choice. It was a long, rough ride down the east coast of the Berrys. 009

On to Nassau,

Jan and Ed on Sable

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Go-No Go-Go-No Go

Jan. 29, 2015. 006This doesn’t happen very often but sometimes it’s the only thing to do. The first plan was to cross from Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Great Harbor at the north end of the Berry Islands. For us, this is a 9 hour run at 7 knots. The entrance to Great Harbor is a bit tricky and you need good daylight. So, got up at 5:30, checked www. Windfinder.com, and found the weather-wind and seas to be marginal for this long crossing. Made the decision to wait until Friday and went back to bed for an hour.

Now up again, checked the weather by going outside and changed our minds. But now it was 8:45 and if we left immediately AND nothing slowed us down we could still make it. So we scurried back to the boat and got off. The forecast was 15-20 knots from the NE. This would put the wind behind us and if nothing more, we could motor-sail. However, the wind was 25 knots on the nose (S) and seas 3-4 feet mostly from the SE. Not very comfortable but doable. So we decided to carry on.

After an hour, our speed had dropped to 6.3 knots, wind had increased and so had the seas. There was no way we would make our destination in 9 hours and sun set was 5:57 pm. Ed recalculated and we would not arrive until 6:25, well after sunset.

We turned around, called the marina to make sure they had a slip for us, changed our reservation at Great Harbor and were back in Lucaya by 11:45 002tied up in a slip with only one disaster. We left in such a hurry, not everything was stowed as it should be and a glass coaster few across the cabin, breaking into many pieces on the floor and setees. While underway, I swept the floor but once in port, I vacuumed everything so we do not get glass splinters in our feet from the floor or our bottoms form the seat cushions. We plan to go tomorrow. According to all reports, even the local Bahamians, the winds are to die down and the seas as well. So, we will be up again at 5:30 and plan for a first light departure of 6:45. But that’s sailing.019

Whether you go, or whether you stay depends on the weather.

Ed and Jan on Sable

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Throw Off the Lines

Jan. 17, 2015: I thought I’d share some of my musings as we start on this next adventure.

001First, I take off my rings and cut my fingernails; these hands have a lot of work to do. Nail polish and long nails are not part of it. I’ve realized if you’re compulsive about clean, don’t like wet and must have wrinkle-free clothes, you are not going to enjoy sailing. No matter what, water is part of boating. Decks wet from dew, drips from a hose, or water onboard, you will find your clothes, at least parts of them, damp. It’s life onboard. Hair is styled by the wind047 and “matching clothes” has a new meaning. On a boat, if it’s clean; it matches.

Halifax Harbor 019Throwing off the lines isn’t as quick and easy as it sounds. First there is provisioning (for me). On Sable I have a nice big freezer so we carry steak, lamb chops, hamburger, frozen vegetables and even potatoes. Then of course there is wine. And beer, when the weather gets warmer. Then there is checking the engine, coolant, oil, transmission (for Ed). Then all the navigational instruments and radio. Since we haven’t been out since our trip last year, there is that bit of anxiety. Will we remember everything we need to do to look like experienced sailors? What have we forgotten? Whatever it is, we will go without or buy it along the way. Ready except to check and recheck weather.

Finally on Jan. 18 the sunrise was beautiful and at 7:47 we were away from the dock with no problem and no help. 006

Lines are stowed, electric cord coiled. Weather is cold (for fair weather sailors like us) but wind was behind us and it was comfortable. A short day to Titusville, 47.6 miles. Sun is shining and so are we. A successful send off.043

“Oh, oh, what a beautiful day/Oh, oh, won’t you come out and play/Think of what you might miss/It don’t get better than this.”

More to come.

J&E on Sable

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Traveling with a Plan

Oct. 5, 2014. 006We have been in Paris more than a month now. This is the first blog I’ve written and it’s not about Paris. It’s about traveling to southern Germany and what we have discovered about ourselves and travel.

This may sound like a travel-log, but for us, it was following -or perhaps leading- in the footsteps of the main characters in our novel-in-progress. We know we most enjoy traveling when we have a goal for the travel. Our rally through Africa (May, 2014) was like that and so was this trip. We went with a purpose, to experience several different settings for our story.

We took the train to Munich. Arriving during October Fest, 006which for us was only an inconvenience. We rented a car and proceeded to our first stop, Wernberg, Germany near the Czech border (that’s significant to the book.)

014We picked a castle hotel, Hotel Berg Wernberg which dates from 1280. This castle had been a hotel for only 16 years and before that was privately owned. 015Imagine that. We ate our first 2-Michelin Star meal. Once we had selected our meal, we were presented with our personal menu, signed by the chef. 005Our characters, Sam and Renate, spend a weekend here and we came away with many details to add to our book.

The stop in Wernberg actually was planned for another reason. Much of the novel takes place on the U.S. Army base in 1952 in Grafenwoehr some 15 miles from Wernberg. Ed was stationed here for air observer school in 1957-58, and Sam was in 1952. We wanted to get on the base to refresh Ed’s memory (I’m sure Sam remembers it all). 019No more grass airstrip and enlarged barracks houses Germany military as well as U.S. troops.

Mr. Franz Zeilman, from the office of public affairs was our enthusiastic host. He spent much of the day showing us around the base and making sure we had the opportunity to visit the air field and all the areas we wanted to see. The only disappointment was discovering that there is no longer an 033043 Officer’s Club (which does play a role in our book) . The building is there and it is now the (water) Tower View restaurant.  We made one 056more stop in Vilseck.

Next to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Sam and Renate spend a winter weekend and rode the cog train to the top of the Zugspitze. 032We had been here before and it is unchanged. Still a beautiful Alpine village. We walked the same streets, crossing the Loisach river just 040as Sam and Renate did. It’s hard to imagine that this town looks any different now than it did in 1952.

Last stop was Berchtesgaden and the 013Obersalzberg. We really wished we had planned more time for this stop. Since our story involves people who lived here during Hitler’s conversion of the  Obersalzberg into his second seat of power, this was an important stop. It is hard to imagine this 024beautiful, peaceful area as the headquarters for the most horrific regime in modern times. Yet this is the setting his propaganda machine used to portray him as “a friend of the children, close to the people, and a good neighbor”. (by the way, he took over the land and bought out or drove out the owners of the houses for his own purpose.)

Then back to Munich and a train back to Paris. Our on-the-ground research was done. We saw picturesque villages, spectacular 051mountains and met friendly, helpful people. We learned much that will make changes and additions to our novel. And we learned our travels are more meaningful when we have a specific reason for the trip. Guess we’ll just have to continue to write in exotic settings.


Jan and Ed


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Africa Safari rally is offically over

August 11, 2014. 004Stewball is back. Complete with lots of African dust and dirt, 025but also the 004



Cuban cigars Marco gave Ed on the rally. Doesn’t look like customs touched anything. Maybe the dirt served a purpose. Today we  left Daytona Beach, Florida where we had spent a week on our sailboat, mostly sweating and sometimes writing. We  received word last Wednesday that Stewball had finally arrived at the warehouse in Port Wentworth, Georgia.

003He left Cape Town, South Africa a few days after we finished our rally through five countries in the south of Africa. Details are available on earlier blogs from May, 2014.

His journey was much longer than our was. He returned via Singapore, through the Panama canal and then up the East coast of the U.S. to arrive in Georgia. He was gone so long we were really beginning to wonder if he decided he liked the wander-life and would ever return.

He refused to start and had to be pushed out of the container. (More evidence that he didn’t want to come home?) Ed had this problem the day after the rally in Cape Town. He is convinced the automatic choke isn’t working. He did get the car running that day but even for Ed, Stewball wouldn’t start today. One more possibility. He is out of gas. Shippers require not much more than fumes in the tank when you leave the car to be containerized and Stewball was running on fumes when we drove to the warehouse in Cape Town.  That trip was several miles longer than we anticipated and I was seriously worried that we’d end up pushing him to the dock. Tomorrow we will fill the tank and try to tow start him. Should be interesting. It would be embarrassing to have our Beetle guru tell us the only problem was lack of fuel. After all, we just finished 5,000 miles of driving, you’d think we knew something about what it takes to keep a car running.

So this rally is over. It was a difficult re-entry. This was our most memorial one yet. We made some wonderful new friends 021

and reconnected with some old ones. We saw life as we had never seen and animals that we only knew from zoos.

Africa is a special place and it grows on you with all  0632.jpgexotic animals and landscapes.Vdub and trees




We were not the only ones who felt this way. Other ralliests described the void we felt as well.

We left Africa and this event with a special memory that won’t fade. Our 38th anniversary was the day the rally ended and we were presented with a limited-edition print from Botswana that everyone had signed. It now hangs in a special spot our foyer and we pass it each time we come into the house.Africa_anniversary_38

So what next? Paris is on the docket for September and we will meet up with some of our rally friends there. We have begun to look at other rallies-after saying this would be our last one.The Alpine Trial? Cape Horn? New Zealand? All possibilities if only time will stand still. We’d return to Africa for another rally in a flash. It will be repeated  in 2017. Are we crazy (as in too old) to plan that far ahead?

Don’t answer that question.

Next blogs will be from the sidewalks of Paris,

Jan and Ed

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This Time Zimbabwe

It was Day 11: 010May 12, 2014

Our first night in Zimbabwe would be in a “tented camp” at Matopos National Park  046but before that we had to cross the border at Beitbridge into Zimbabwe. We were warned this  would be a very difficult border crossing. The rally organizers had arranged for us to be met by the Zimbabwe Tourist Authorities on the Zimbabwe side and we were only to answer to them. The crossing was long and tense. No photos here, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. This is a big border crossing with lots of trucks jamming the parking lot, pedestrians, beggars and con-men offering help-like to watch over your car while you completed the paper work. It was hard to know which was more important, protecting whatever you had with you, which had to include passports and car papers, or to protect whatever you left in the car. All in all it meant long slow lines and constant vigilance. Much more difficult for the open cars than for us. Just one more time we were glad to have our innocuous little Beetle. We all got  through except for our Australian friends who had been left behind with their broken Jag. 025They would cross on their own at 2:00 am , two days later.

Lesson learned. Don’t drive Zimbabwe on your own and never at night. Our friends had now a rental SUV-new and white. It stood out and they were tourists traveling which meant they had money. Zimbabwe has lots of people who look like officials that are not. I’m not sure if this entered into the picture at the border, but it did later. This border crossing is sort of in the middle of nowhere and someone slashed their tire and then followed them on the two lane road leading away from the border. 044We saw mule drawn carts and overloaded buses but in general not much traffic.

Fortunately J &G are experienced travelers and as soon as they were aware of the flat tire, Greg did not stop to change it  but drove back to the police station, riding on the rim and ruining both the tire and the rim. The police said, “Oh, they didn’t shoot the tire, just slashed it?”

Later on the road, they approached one of the many traffic police checks. We all had this experience, but this was not a real police check and when Greg realized it, he ran the check and sped away. Not a good way to be introduced to a new country.

Zimbabwe is not South Africa. The police checks are everywhere and I did not talk to one racer who was not stopped least once. This included us. These stops are set up in the road, usually with barrels that you have to zig-zag through, stopping if they flag you over. We saw the check in the road ahead of us and made two mistakes. We were on our own at this point, none of our cars in sight. We were ready to change drivers. There was a good place to pull over just before the check point. This was our first mistake. Stopping before the check elicited undo attention from the police. As we changed places, I wanted to photograph images along the road. second mistake, don’t take photos in sight of the police 077even of houses or animals.

As we pulled back onto the road and into the check, one of the officers pulled me over and demanded our (international) driver’s licenses. Then another asked me to step out of the car. He wanted to see my camera (by the way, we were told not to declare a camera at the border-just more paper work.) He asked what I was photographing and then told me I didn’t have permission. He said I would have to go to court. I said, okay, give me a court date. This didn’t satisfy him. I think this was the point that I was suppsed to ask what “fine” can I pay (on the spot) to avoid going to court, but I didn’t ask. Finally he took my camera and walked away. I followed him and we finally agreed, after much discussion that I would delete the photos. This had taken up so much time that by now several of our rally cars were at the check point and I think when he realized we were part of a group, he was glad to send me on  my way. An interesting point is that most of these traffic police do not have radios or cars so I really don’t know what they can do if you refuse and simply drive on. I didn’t try it, but others said they did.  In the end, it didn’t cost us anything but time. Most ralliest paid between $20 and $40 US (depending on how many officers it needed to be divided among) and didn’t receive a receipt. Go figure.

049We ended the day at our “luxury tent” site. I think this was a bit of British humor, but get this. We had dinner under a candle-lit tent with white linen table cloths, silver cutlery, china and a good selection of wine which was appreciated since we had such a long, slow day that we had  skipped lunch.062We even had a turn-down service that included very fine chocolates on our pillows and one more surprise. Ed climbed into bed first to discover something warm and fussy at the foot. His first thought was what had climbed in while we were at dinner? He knew it wasn’t me. Our hosts had placed hot water bottles at our feet. This almost made up for getting up in the middle of a very cold night and making my way -by unzipping our tent-to our “en suite” 051toilet. It did have tenting around it, but the roof was stars. I didn’t want to even think what might be sharing my space.

P.S. Neither of us used the shower in the morning. 050Our next stop would be the Victoria Falls Hotel, built in 1904, in Edwardian style, with its old world charm. That seemed well worth driving without a cold shower.

Janet, Ed and Stewball

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