Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sea Trials

Part I

It's 8:56 AM. The anchor winch is fixed (that only took 3 separate days of head scratching), the floors are washed, the hull is clean, the rugs are shaken out. Despite the lackadaisical attitude of the boat broker, the sea trials are to go ahead today at around noon.

On Wednesday last, knowing there was a tight time line, we grew anxious when we hadn't heard from the people proposing to buy the boat. Brian phoned the broker. The broker's response was:

"I haven't heard from them either!?"

Brian was not impressed.

They called that evening wondering as well. "We haven't heard from him either" they told us. "What's going on?"

We spent the last week checking things off our ToDo list including setting up a Power of Attorney with one of the kids.

"This is stressing me out!"

"What if they decide not to buy the boat after the sea trials?" Shelley asked Brian.

"You know, at this point" Brian answered "It'd almost be a relief."

Part II

It's 11:13 AM. Brian has washed and hung out our flag. He's polished the brass and cleaned the hurricane lantern. The windows in the wheelhouse have
been Windexed and all the clothes normally on hooks have been hung up. The chart table has been wiped and the salon dusted.

The Bank phoned. Apparently the Power of Attorney we'd set up "according to the legal department" isn't right.

"So what's going to happen now?" Brian asks Shelley after she gets off the phone.

"He's going to look into it and call us back later. Brian!" she explains "The guy at the bank was what (?) 12! I appreciate he's trying to do a good job, but he doesn't know. It's a good thing we decided to do this now, and not just a couple of days before we were leaving."

"Are you going to get dressed?" Brian asks Shelley "They'll be here soon."

Shelley resists saying something cheeky and goes to get dressed.

Part III

It's 4:05 PM. We've both just had a cup of coffee and we've both just moaned, a combination: isn't-this-a-great-cup-of-coffee moan and a gawd-I've-had-a-stressful-day moan.

The boat broker arrived at noon and we made nice for half an hour with him until the couple came. Brian gave the Mrs. a tour through Dowager and Shelley made jokes with the Mr. and the broker.

After the tour, instructions were given on how to start the boat, how to set up the boat for an excursion, how to make up the bunk in the salon, how to back the boat out, how to set up the Loran, how to put down the jump seat in the wheelhouse, how to open the windows and on and on.

We all had a lovely trip out into the harbour and through False Creek, the Mr. proudly steering Dowager marveling at her weight, her smoothness, her general charm. Back at the dock we tied her up and the 5 of us trooped to the salon to talk turkey.

Papers were signed!

"Does this mean I can start throwing out my winter clothes?" Shelley asked.

Everyone smiled and assured her the answer was a resounding "yes!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the Face of It

We just got a call from the woman who is buying the boat.

"We're so excited!" she told Brian on the phone.

We're to do the sea trials on Saturday and if all goes well they'll make the arrangements with their bank and give a cheque to the boat broker the same day.

We've put in motion everything we can to facilitate our move off the boat and to Ecuador and now we're in a hurry up and wait situation.

On the face of it, we're calmly going about our business, checking details off our list and plodding forward with the mundane and humdrum. Floors still need to be washed, laundry done; obligations to the kids, friends and neighbours fulfilled but...'s almost impossible for Shelley not to be a little excited at this point!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Shelley was in the wheelhouse tapping away on the computer. Brian came up from the salon and headed out the door.

"Where are you going?" Shelley asked.
"Need to water the boat."

Dowager has a water tank that we fill up approximately once a week. She holds 100 gallons of water. If we're at sea that 100 gallons can last up to 3 weeks, but we're not as careful when we're tied up to the dock with a hose 3 feet away from us.

Intent on the computer, Shelley still couldn't help noticing that Brian had got caught up with one of the neighbours.

"What were you guys talking about for such a long time?" she asked Brian when he finally returned to the boat.

"I'll tell you as we're walking" Brian replied. "Are you ready?"

Every day is filled with a chore to end up this life and start our new one. This day we were walking downtown to pick out luggage.

"Now I'm really curious" Shelley prompted Brian as they started out on their trek across the wasteland near Molsons, across the Burrard Bridge and up to Robson Street.

The word is out at the Marina we're leaving and as mentioned before the neighbours are coming by one at a time to say goodbye. Everyone asks if we'll miss the boat (of course). Everyone asks why Ecuador (it's cheap, it's warm, you don't have to cross an ocean to get there). Everyone wishes us a sincere good luck (thank you!).

Apparently our neighbour is thinking of selling his boat too. It's not on the market yet but it will be soon. This neighbour has lived on their boat for over 30 years.

"That hardly compares to our paltry 13 years" Brian said.

"Why?" Shelley asked, surprised about them leaving the water as she supposes our neighbours are surprised at us. (It catches you, the water does.)

Brian went on to explain that the neighbour believed there would be a giant tidal wave in 2012 and that their boat wouldn't survive it.

"Oh my goodness!"

"He said we'd be safe up in the Andes".

"I guess so!"

"The thing is" Shelley asked Brian "I don't doubt there'll be giant tidal waves. The world had a couple last year in fact, but how do they come up with the date 2012?"

"I don't know" Brian said and then he went on to tell her about the rest of the dock gossip.

We got to the luggage store and bought our piece of luggage (Shelley resisted buying yet another hand bag she doesn't need) and we caught the bus home. Both of us, out of some uncontrollable curiosity, looked up 2012 on the web. It's got to do with Isaac Newton and the Bible and Mayan astrology and Nostradamus and something to do with Shemhamphorasch and it just goes on and on. Both of us basically had a mental "huh".

Then...we went about our day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Day

Brian was walking along the upper dock and noticed an official-looking gathering, complete with TV cameras, congregated at "A" Float.

"What's going on?" he asked a fisherman standing with his arms crossed over his chest watching the crowd himself.

"It's the last salmon" the fisherman quipped and walked away.

Brian laughed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Way It Is

One day when we were in Ecuador we went to a people's market. We gawked at fresh baked buns and Ecuadorian chocolate and "ooed" the puppies and kittens for sale in the animal market. We looked at table after table after table of jewelery and smelled the flowers and tapped the fresh fruit and the market just went on and on and on. Jan and Brian ate roast pig and Shelley had a fresh fruit drink and a warm bun straight from the oven.

Nature took it's course and we bumbled around after awhile seeking out the bathroom.

"Donde está el cuarto de baño?"

Bathrooms in Ecuador are really hit and miss (quite often miss). This was a genuine people's market, not an upscale mall. We finally found the bathroom tucked way in the back and Shelley got her dime out to pay the bathroom lady for toilet paper.

Standing in line, her toilet paper clutched in her hand, people crowded everywhere, the toilet paper lady sitting to her left, Shelley couldn't help but notice that men were about a foot away from her, to her right urinating into a trough (their backs to her). Everybody was polite and respectful but it's an unusual circumstance for a Canadian.

She tried not to ogle and waited her turn.

Brian came in after awhile, stopped for a second and surveyed the situation.

"I can't do this!" he said, turned around and walked out.

Shelley continued standing in line, clutching her ten cents worth of toilet paper waiting her turn. A mother, a little boy and a little girl came out of the stall and the lady in line in front of Shelley went in.

Brian came back into the bathroom and walked to Shelley's side.

"Go ahead Brian" Shelley urged him "I'm here. It's just the way it is."

Brian did his duty. Shelley eventually got into the stall, squatted over the toilet taking great care not to touch anything but her ten cents worth of paper. (It was nice paper. It had pictures of little bunnies on it. It was soft.)

We joined up outside the bathroom, Shelley grinning and commenting: "I'm a good camper aren't I?"

"You sure are!"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oh...By the Way

Shelley gulped down her coffee. Brian gave her "the look". He likes to keep her manners in order. We'd just gotten back from having lunch with a buddy and grocery shopping.

"I do that sometimes" Shelley acknowledged.

"Ya, cause you want to get on the computer" Brian quipped.

"No...I don't have to use the you want to?"

"Well how can I lie down and have a nap if you don't go on the computer?" Brian asked.

Shelley smiled and proceeded up to the wheelhouse while Brian settled in for his nap.

"Brian!" Shelley shouted down and then waited for his acknowledgment.

"What!" He somewhat testily answered. The "now" implied in his tone of voice.

"I'm not trying to bug you or's just that I thought you'd like to be's my birthday tomorrow."

Brian jumped off the settee. "Oh thank you! Thank you!"

"I kindof thought you'd forgotten. I almost forgot's just that I looked on the calendar and there it was. I keep thinking my birthday's not 'til Saturday 'cause Sammy's taking me to the movies."

"I've got to go out!" Brian exclaimed. "Do you want to go for a walk? I've got this chore to do."

Shelley got dressed again in her street clothes and we went for a walk to Granville Island. She looked at hats while Brian did his mysterious chore.

He never did get his nap.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's Starting to Happen; Friday to Tuesday

We've got a pretty busy week ahead of us, culminating with Shelley's birthday on Friday, June 20th. This morning (Friday, June 13th) is the day after Sammy's Birthday. Shelley always told Sammy she would have been born on the 13th except the Doctors pulled her out with forceps the day before. After being in labour for over 24 hours she thinks the Doctors and Nurses just got fed up with the whole thing and yanked her out. Jaci was born on the 13th of August. The Doctor didn't have to pull her out, she was almost born in the shower at the hospital.

We got up in the morning and both did our thing with the computer. Brian cruises boats on the web and checks out YouTube and later on, Shelley emails her Dangling link buddies and visits Face Book to keep up with the kids.

We'd mailed a cheque to the insurers of the boat on June 1st as the boat's insurance was due June 14th but the insurer never received it. How come it's time sensitive financial stuff that always goes missing in the mail?

In any case, we had to put a stop payment on the cheque ($12.50) and go downtown and put the insurance on Interac.

Brian stayed on the bus after leaving downtown and went to meet a bunch of his work buddies. The big boss had come along so Brian got a free lunch (!) and was filled in on the antics and goings on at Intercon.

Shelley went home and played some more with Face Book applications until she became disgusted with herself. "It's almost a complete waste of time!"

Later on, we had another prospective buyer look at the boat. Shelley escaped just prior to his arrival and wandered around the Marina, went to Tim Hortons for an Ice Cap and chatted with several boat neighbours who wondered out loud why she was drifting around looking lost. "I'm hiding", she'd explain. Brian discussed kayaking and the Octopus Islands with the prospective buyer and even got a few words in about the boat.

That evening the prospective buyer phoned and made a verbal offer (this makes the 3rd verbal offer we've received so far). Brian got quite excited.

"Shelley, we've sold the boat!" he exclaimed.

Shelley remained passive much to Brian's annoyance. The irritation didn't dent Shelley's refusal to get excited.

"I'll get excited when I see the cash."

Undaunted, Brian got in touch with the boat broker. The broker wasn't as excited and ready to leap into action as Brian would have liked either. Nevertheless, information was exchanged and the whole thing left in the his hands.

Saturday, June 14th, we went to lunch at Memphis Blues with the kids. It was a: Father's Day, Mom's Birthday, Sammy's Birthday kind of thing, except the kids paid! We all stuffed ourselves with fatty meats, coleslaw, baked beans, corn bread and bar-b-q sauce. Generally a good time was had by all. Jaci bubbled because she'd been accepted into a elderly care training program, Brennan showed off his new camera, Sammy was her typical exuberant self and Nathan was graciously tolerant of us all.

We walked home trying desperately to reduce the cholesterol sludging through our veins and ran into the Vancouver Francophone Festival. Apparently the French have been in Vancouver for 150 years now!

Sunday we did chores, got a couple of loads of laundry in, and moved the boat back into our regular slip. Three weeks ago we'd lost our spot to a fisherman (they basically own the place) but he'd finally gone out for the season so it was time to take it over again. We took a lovely trip out to the harbour and goggled at the kites flying around the Planetarium, checked out the building of the Olympic Village and tried to take a panorama picture of the Burrard and Granville Street Bridges.

Brian got his Father's Day calls and then talked to his friend Jan and played with Skype for awhile. It was very frustrating as the call kept being dropped. They tell us they are going to improve our band width down here at the Marina so perhaps Skype will work better for us after they've done that.

Later in the day Face Book caught Shelley once again (she's got to get this under control) as she discovered a couple of old friends from high school. Phenomena: seeing pictures of old friends one hasn't seen for 34 years causes one to look in the mirror and examine their wrinkles.

Monday took us to Vancouver Island to visit with Brian's brother Gene and his lady Dianne. It was a whirlwind trip; we left the boat at 8:30 a.m. and got back to the boat at 6:30 p.m. On the Ferry we indulged and had a Starbucks coffee. Gene and Dianne picked us up on the other end looking very dapper in their matching summer outfits. They teased us because we had coats on (coming from wet cold Vancouver) and ribbed Brian about his long hair. It was lovely on the Island. "Welcome to Paradise!"
We ate at a Pub and went for a brisk walk along the water after our leisurely meal (another free one (!) Gene bought). Brian and Gene caught up on the Island relatives. Dianne advised of their plans: off to a Wedding for one of Dianne's grandchildren and then on Thursday they're off to Alaska in the Fifth Wheel! It was opportune we chose this Monday to go see them.

"With any luck by the time they get back from Alaska we'll be in Ecuador", Brian explained.

We told them about the verbal offer we'd had on the boat.

"I refuse to get excited", Shelley told them.

Brian pointed out he'd phoned the broker that morning and was told they were simply waiting for the bank to transfer the down payment.

On the Ferry and bus ride home Brian asked about our Medical Coverage:

"When do we cancel it?"
"Just before we leave."

"We've got to talk to CPP."
"I know. When we get a signed agreement."

"Are you listening to me?"

In any case, it was a lovely day!

Tuesday dawned wet and rainy. The floors were supposed to be washed and the rugs shaken but the boat broker came over with offer papers that precluded our more mundane routine. We sat and argued about the difference between wordings: possession vs closing, in-trust and payment date vs registration date, etc. After an interminable amount of time we came up with wording we all felt was adequate and sent the broker off to make a counter proposal to the buyers.

"Ok Terry, leave now" Shelley instructed. "We've got things to do."
Terry laughed.

We phoned CPP and set in motion our affidavit of earnings. We phoned the translator & the lawyer & the Ecuadorian Consulate and collected details. We phoned the Vancouver Police. We both got headaches and were a bit testy with each other.

After lunch we set out to the Vancouver Police Department to get Shelley fingerprinted and have a criminal record check run on her. We also decided to pick up the other piece of luggage that we need.

The Police station is located at the corner of Main & Hastings. For those of you who don't live in Vancouver, Main & Hastings is pretty much our slum area. Our bus got trapped and stopped moving because of construction so we got out a few blocks before the Station. Our walk had us passing people shooting up in doorways, numerous men sleeping on the street and several ladies dressed somewhat dubiously. Shelley commented on the tight band beginning to squeeze her head and Brian was becoming quite officious. We agreed not to talk to each other for awhile.

Upon arriving at the Station we waited in line about half an hour to be told we needed a document stating why we needed a criminal check. Apparently you can't just go in and get one, you have to have paper proof of a reason. At the suggestion of the lady at the counter we then trecked to the Carnegie Community Centre; the closest place to go on-line. You have have to recognize the Community Centre's membership consists of the people from that community and that community is Vancouver's slum.

Everybody was very helpful at Carnegie while we took out our membership ($1) and used the computers. Shelley made friends with Dave in the computer room. She got on line, downloaded the Ecuadorian Consulate's Pensioner Visa requirements and printed them off. After shaking Dave's hand it was back to the Police Station.

The line was even longer than before and we waited for over half an hour. Shelley made friends with the lady behind her in the line. She's going to school part time to be a social worker. Once at the wicket, we were relieved that indeed our piece of paper from the Internet was "good enough" and they proceeded to check Shelley's criminal record and fingerprint her. The record should arrive in the mail within 20 working days we were told.

"Twenty days!"

We had left the boat at around noon and got home at around 5:00 p.m. Needless to say we did not pick up our new piece of luggage, did not get the floor washed, did not shake out the rugs. The broker phoned at 5:30 p.m. and advised everything was still on track.

Shelley continued to refuse to get excited.

"I want to see the cash."

Brian bubbled and bounced and was now undismayed by Shelley's reluctance to celebrate.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Burrard Street Bridge

We're moored in False Creek between the Granville Street Bridge and the Burrard Street Bridge; closer to the Burrard Street Bridge. Over the years we seem to have developed a personal relationship with the Burrard Street Bridge. She stands there in her Art Deco majesty, imposing and dominating our wheelhouse view when we're at the dock.

A few years ago they did seismic upgrades on her and for 2 1/2 years we watched intently while the workmen scaled her stanchions and graded gravel around her footings. Every day they were out there shouting at each other over the roar of the graders. Across the water sound carries and we could hear them like they were in our back yard; which I guess they were.

On a regular basis we hear "shouters" crossing the Bridge screaming their demented anger at the Gods. It's not uncommon to hear a lone person shouting about the injustices of the world from up-top her walkways. Occasionally there's a jumper and traffic slows and Police cars and boats surround the poor soul.

"It's because St. Paul's Hospital is just down the street", we were told by one of the Fishermen. "They get the bad news and then walk down to the Bridge."

By contrast though, the Sun Run flows across the Bridge 50,000 strong bringing hope. Hundreds of boats flow under the Bridge each Symphony of Fire night to watch the display. Protestors march across the Bridge from time to time, and banners are thrown over her side urging freedom for various good and sundry causes. We stand on the deck of our boat and watch humanity in it's many guises and the Bridge continues, silent, imposing, towering.

We've taken countless pictures of the Bridge (see Bridges) and still it fascinates us.

Several years ago we went for a boat trip to Chatterbox Falls in the Princess Louisa Inlet. Yachters from around the globe agree this trip is one of the best boat trips in the World. Royalty and movie stars make the trip! We anchored just south of the falls and listened to it's roar for 3 days. Upon coming home we both noticed the Bridge sounds very much like a large waterfall. It's so much nicer to take in the ambient noise as something imposing and wonderful rather than a City annoyance.

Wikipedia tells us: The Burrard Street Bridge is a six lane, 1932 Art Deco style, steel truss bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. This high, five-part bridge on four piers spans False Creek, connecting that city's downtown with Kitsilano. Its two close approach spans are Warren deck-trusses, while its central span reverses to a through Pratt truss, to allow shipping. The central span is masked on both sides by extensions of its masonry piers into imposing concrete towers, connected by overhead galleries, which are embellished with architectural and sculptural details, creating a torch-like entrance of pylons. Originally unifying the long approaches and the distinctive central span were heavy concrete railings, topped by decorative street lamps. Busts of Captain George Vancouver and Sir Harry Burrard-Neale in ship prows jut from the bridge’s superstructure (a V under Vancouver’s bust, a B under Burrard’s). The design architect was George Lister Thornton Sharp, the engineer John R. Grant.

On a bus tour of Vancouver with a friend a couple of years ago, the tour operator said something about the then Mayor of Vancouver telling the people that if Vancouver wanted to have tourists then they'd have to build beautiful bridges. The Burrard Bridge was the result. We searched the internet for the quote but couldn't find it.

We're lucky to have lived in a place long enough to have developed a kinship with a Bridge. Not many people have that opportunity! One day we'll move away from her and miss the comforting background roar but until that happens we'll continue to enjoy her implacable commanding presence.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Check Lists

We've made up a check list of all the stuff we have to do between selling the boat and moving to Ecuador. We'd started out using a check list gadget in iGoogle, then ran out of room. (It only have space for 7 ToDos.) It's now on a check list gadget in iCalendar on our Mac and it seems to be growing. We have to have a criminal check done, or rather Shelley does. Brian, because he's over 65 doesn't have to have one. Presumably if you're over 65 you don't have the energy to be a criminal any more?

"Ya", Brian commented "I could be Tony Soprano and they wouldn't care."

We have to get proof of our income and then have the documents translated into Spanish and then notarized by a lawyer and then stamped by the Ecuadorian Consulate in Richmond. Beyond that there's the "little" things, like stopping the phone and the mail and the TV etc. Shelley wants to buy 6 chocolate lypsols before we leave (they don't sell them in Ecuador) and Brian needed a new pair of shoes (that's been checked off the list; we got them on a half price sale).

We're still doing maintenance on the Dowager (that check list never gets finished). Brian replaced a light fixture and we ventured down to Powell Street the other day (interesting neighbourhood) and got a new solenoid for the anchor winch. Brian put the new solenoid in between rainy periods and things went as per usual for a boat job (it took 3 times as long as he thought the job would have).

We're off to Vancouver Island to visit Brian's brother and his lady. The brothers don't visit often enough, but with our tentative impending move it was time to get at least one more in. (Mind you, if the boat doesn't sell, we may have years to get that last visit in.)

The off loading of stuff from Dowager continues. Today another large garbage bag hit the compactor. Deciding what to keep and what to throw away (not knowing when we'll sell the boat) continues to be a challenge. Keep winter clothes in case we're here for the winter but get rid of that BackPack that Jaci used to use; Brian hasn't worn that sweatshirt for 2 years now; Shelley's never going to get those jeans over her hips again. We took a load of books we haven't gotten around to reading up to the Marina bookshelf and then promptly picked out a dozen different ones (we have a tendency to panic if we don't have a backlog of things to read).

We've got long term lists and routine lists and event lists and Shelley's Sigred even has Lists*. There's lunch with the kids on Saturday coming up and a movie with Sam next week. There's our trip to Vancouver Island and shopping and laundry and boat chores. There's always a birthday coming up and we're now making regular appointments to show the boat (even when they don't come, you still have to prep like they were going to)...and it just goes on and on.

What makes us different than anybody else? Not much. Shelley's lists are in computers and on paper and she bounds off the couch while watching TV when she thinks of something to put on the list. Brian's lists are in his head. It's a mild annoyance between the two of us. (Gotta have a few.)

They say it's when the lists dwindle and diminish to nothing; that's when you've got to worry. Keep the body and mind active. In any case, with Brian's retirement we're not having trouble filling up our lists.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Through the Eyes of a Tourist

When we initially decided to go to Ecuador for 2 months, our first order of business was to go to downtown Vancouver and buy ourselves a couple of pieces of luggage. We spent a fair bit of time exploring the whole luggage mystique. Carry-on vs checked luggage, convenience vs capacity, different sizes, shapes and colours. What we ended up with was 2 pieces of what was supposed to be carry-on luggage. They were gray, so as not to show the dirt. They had wheels for easy movement. They also had back-pack straps in case we got into a situation where the wheels weren't practical. They had hand carry straps and retracting handles. We thought we had it all! Turns out we over packed them to the point that they were not carry-on luggage anymore and we had to check them. Best laid plans of mice and men.

Throughout our trip in Ecuador they bumped over cobble streets, were dumped into the trunks of tiny taxis and pushed into the luggage compartment of large buses next to bundles of sugar cane and bags of corn. Filled with dire stories of luggage going missing or being stolen, we kept an eagle on them whenever not directly at hand but never had a problem.

These days, preparing to move to Ecuador permanently, we've had to consider how much stuff we absolutely must take. Brian has a few books and the beautiful brass horn he feels obligated to take as his friend Jan gave it to him for Christmas. We both have some essential clothes along with our CD collection, our new Mac computer, and so on. Family heirlooms and hard copy pictures have already been distributed to the children. We went back downtown to the store to see what the largest piece of luggage was that the airlines would allow. With that one, plus the large piece of luggage we use to do our laundry every week, it would give us 2 large bags as well as the original 2 small carry-ons. So now it's a matter of reducing all our personal possessions to fit this space.

Another one of our preparing-to-leave projects is to take pictures of Vancouver to show our new friends and neighbours in Ecuador.

Your perspective changes when you start looking at your own city through the eyes of a tourist. Old buildings you see every day and take for granted, turn into photo ops. The SkyTrain becomes an attraction; Science World a major site. Then there's the nostalgia factor. What will we miss when we move?

We're leaving the boat, a major life style event. We've gotten used to the coziness and minimalist nature of the boat. Will we suddenly feel a strong need to fill up closets once we have closets again? Will we be able to stomach all the shopping necessary to refurnish a whole life? Will we miss the sound of halyards in the wind and rocking on stormy nights?

Sure...we'll miss it all. It'd be a lot sadder having spent so much of our life on something if we didn't miss it when it ended.

These days, with the funny mind games that we're having to go through regarding selling the boat, it sometimes feels like it'll never happen. And that'd be OK too. This fall we'll go for a boat trip, dangle at anchor somewhere and enjoy the peace you find on the hook that's nowhere else in the world. This winter if we're still here, we'll listen to the endless rain on the deck head, cozy and comfortable in our salon with our satellite TV and our new Mac computer to provide entertainment. Maybe Brian'll volunteer at the Retirees Radio Network and his dulcet tones will be put to use once again. We'll see. Life is an unknown adventure.

Friday, June 6, 2008

February in June

Here we are - it's June - 10 degrees, pouring rain and it feels like February. Brian's lighting the stove. FloCat is sitting beside the computer, intently staring at the screen, trying to figure out what's happening. It's been raining for 2 days and expected to rain for another 5. It is very hard to get motivated to move out of the boat and into the world.
Our projects for the outside of the boat have been put on hold. We need to Cetol the rub rail and the box for the running lights. (For those of you who don't know Cetol, it is somewhat like varnish but without the fuss. You can Cetol over old Cetol without a lot of sanding. We love Cetol!)

When we were in Ecuador we ran into an American woman who was interested in where we were from. "Canadians are so adventuresome", she gushed at us. We weren't quite sure if she'd formed that opinion because she'd met Canadians in "adventuresome" parts of the world, or if it was that we weren't afraid to leave our igloos? In describing Vancouver to her, one of us commented that it was on the Top 5 Best Cities in the World List. Presumably then her American pride stepped in. She pointedly asked about the rain.

"It rains there all the time there, doesn't it?"

We confirmed with grim looks on our face and she got a satisfied one on hers. Not a place she'd like to live. I guess not! We were all in Ecuador on the equator, standing in the hot during this conversation.

Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction has one of the heroes embracing the rain, not hunched against it. Our hero strides around, head high, wearing minimal clothing somewhere on the West Coast of Washington State. It sounds wonderful! Why fight against nature?

Poor FloCat gets cabin fever and tears from one end of the boat to the other chasing imaginary mice. She cries to be let out and then comes back 10 minutes later, her long hair slicked with water eager to cozy up to the heater. We'll venture out at some point and have our daily walk but are grateful we now have a computer and a TV to entertain us in the downpours.

The active embracing of what nature hands to you sounds idyllic in a book. In real life, you simply get wetter. A better idea is probably to have clothes suitable for the climate you're in. We're not wearing shorts on our walks, we're wearing a coat and socks and shoes and a sweater under the coat and a hat and carrying an umbrella. That's the way to embrace the weather (!) clothed in a rain coat with an umbrella and a hat!

Hard to get FloCat to wear a hat though.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let's Keep in Touch

Both Brian and Shelley have retired a couple of times. Shelley worked at a place for 19 years once. After leaving there she didn't hear from any of her work buddies ever again. Brian worked in the radio industry for 35 years. After he retired from his last job in the industry, he also never heard from any of his work buddies ever again.

We've both got kind of a jaundiced view of the easily thrown out "Let's keep in touch", but perhaps practice makes perfect because this retirement for Brian is going a whole lot better.

When we were in Ecuador we sent out regular emails to a group of people and regularly got back comments from several of them. Brian has been having lunch with a couple of his work buddies on a regular basis, touching bases with the goings-on at work. While interested, Brian often remarks that he really does not miss the stress and congratulates himself on being retired.

The word is out at our Marina that we're leaving as soon as we sell the boat. We've been surprised a couple of time when a fisherman has knocked on the door with a small gift and words of encouragement. It's funny how the most unexpected things touch you.

Not wanting to burden people unnecessarily, we started this blog. Those curious about Shelley & Brian can check in from time to time and keep in touch without the minor obligation of emailing back on a regular basis. It's such a bore for some.

That's not to say we don't want to hear from you (!) especially when we go to Ecuador. It's always a good day when friends or family say "hey".

The kids have been going through an on-going adjustment to the thought of not having Mom or Dad within easy money borrowing distance. Two of them disowned us for a time; one's back. One them disowned us quite awhile ago and has recently deigned to resume tentative contact. One of them quit their job, moved back home, dumped their significant other, got a better job, found a nicer apartment and got a better companion, all in the name of getting themselves together while the ol' safety net was still around. (Way to go kid!) Between Brian & Shelley there's currently 5 kids, 3 kid-in-laws, 2 grandkids and a couple of step-grandkids just for good measure. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who's mad at us and who's not.

On the other hand, all of the kids seem happy to perhaps have an exotic, cheap place to go visit and most are making plans to come to Ecuador as soon as we get ourselves there.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pay Day Once a Month

All our lives we've been programmed to pay day being at least twice a month. As kids, allowance day was once a week! We'd get our twenty-five cents and go to the movies and have popcorn and a drink. Getting out into the working world, sometimes pay day was on the 15th and the 30th. We didn't like that. The best one was getting paid every 2 weeks (you get 2 extra pay cheques that way).

Now that we're both retired, pay day is the 3rd to last working day of the month (except in December - then it's 3 days before Christmas).

We're currently just learning to live on our new budget. Last month we did pretty good! We stayed in budget... except for buying the computer, the new microwave (as the old one died) and a new toaster (since we were buying the microwave; the toaster had died the month before). We also took the boat up on the ways and that cost us $4,000 more than we expected and Shelley had 2 Tim Horton Ice Caps and got her hair cut. Neither of those were in the budget either.

Pretty good huh!

We're hoping to do better this month.

All the kids have been warned extravagant birthday presents are now a thing of the past. "It'll be all we can manage to get birthday presents for the grandkids," we explained. What with the kids getting married and acquiring partners, the load has pretty much doubled anyways. "Everybody'll get a card" we told them. "The grand kids are the ones that really need presents".

Apparently the grand kids are NOT the only ones who really need presents.

Over the years we've already cut out most extravagances. Eating out costs us $2.95 at the little Chinese breakfast place down the block. Two eggs, toast and hashbrowns for $2.95. How can they afford that? Taking the bus home after an extremely long walk is a treat! Shelley hasn't bought new clothes except for underwear and shoes for years. The Sally Ann on 4th Avenue is a regular haunt.

Our new Mac computer has provided us with a lovely budget program, so now we can tell in advance that we're spending more than we're taking in. It's a year and a half wait and then Shelley's other pension kicks in. All we have to do is manage on our savings and basically within our budget and then we'll be rich. (The extra pension will provide a couple hundred dollars more a month.)

Come the 3rd to last working day of the month, the pay day delight is really quit high. We're taking our spending money out in cash. "That way it's more real," Shelley explains to Brian. "We can actually see the money disappear". Brian reluctantly agrees, but generally prefers the spend-all-your-money-until-it's-gone theory of budgeting. Pay day takes us to the bank where we get $50 for the laundry and spending money for groceries and Nicorettes. (We quit smoking, not for our health, but because we can't afford it any more. They say the reason doesn't matter, the result does.) We've down-graded ourselves from 4 mg Nicorettes to 2 mg Nicorettes and buy 2 boxes of 195 on or near payday (still almost a $100 hit).

"When do you think we can stop buying Nicorettes?" Shelley inquires of Brian.

Brian generally looks off into the distance and finds a bird to point out or some other subtle way to change the topic. "Hey have you gained weight?"

While staying in Canada and living within our means is possible, moving to Ecuador will bump up our standard of living considerably. Ecuador considers $800 per month, plus $100 for every extra dependant, to be more than adequate. When we move there we may even re-instigate birthday presents to the children...if they haven't all disowned us by then.