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January 28, 2010

Still Having Fun

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Oh yes, Life is Good

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George collecting coconuts in his basket.

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This is the famous Kermit, who has the best pie on the island! And if you won't take my word for it, look him up in National Geographic's new book "Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary PLaces to Eat Around the Globe;" page 292, right next to some place in Hong Kong.

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At first I thought Sebby from the Seal came to visit me!! But his name tag says Carlos Fuente; maybe it's his long lost cousin.

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Ft. Zach in the morning

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Egret in the morning

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Spinning Lawn Art

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Lizard getting some sun

Posted by Heather at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2010

Fun with Jeff and Joanne

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Jeff and Joanne and Heather at Conch Republic Happy Hour

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Hogsbreath Saloon, now we're really having fun!

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Joanne's idea of vacation!

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More cutouts, we can't resist

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One man band at Mallory Square

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Sailing away into the sunset

Posted by Heather at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2010

Key West Race Week, 2010

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This is the boat John Peterson is on; he's a buddy from Essex. I only bumped into him once on the street, which was fun! He couldn't make it to happy hour as he was swabbing the deck... heh heh. And I missed his invitations to check out the huge sailors only tent. Maybe next year.

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He's on there somewhere; I was using Scott's triple zoom lens but not the tripod, so the shots came out too fuzzy.

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I think he's that one...


Posted by Heather at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2010

Day to Day Key West

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Our beach, where we spend a lot of our time sunning, swimming and sitting in the waves.

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Key West bikes

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Lunchtime in the bus

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Cute bi-plane

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Kestral that hangs around

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Heather's afternoon reading spot

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Scott's reading spot

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Heather and Scott at the Raw Bar

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Turtle Kraals at sunset

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Blue lights on Boat Row, Historic Harbor Walk

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Ghost Tour guide John

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Bicycle Man one

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Bicycle Man two

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Heather in the mirror

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Scott and Heather watching the racing boats go out for the day

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A trip to the aquarium

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George discovering sea life

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Fishy fishy one

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Fishy fishy two

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Flamingo Tongue Snail

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A trip to Boca Chica to watch the fighter jets take off

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Big orange ship

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The art festival is back with lots of pieces to see in the park. This one is called "tsuki no mon ni: yurei no mori, the forest of ghosts" and you can write messages on it to people or pets you've lost and at the end of the art festival they are going to burn it. I wrote to Mr. Wells.

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See you soon!

Posted by Heather at 02:41 PM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2010

More photos of Alison's visit

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At the Conch Republic

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Finnegan's Wake, most annoying guy ever!!

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George's artistic photo through the shamrock

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Margaritas and Sushi, Yum!

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What kind of dog is this?

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Last day, gettting some last sun before she goes home to snow.

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And Key Lime Pie!!

Posted by Heather at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2010

Let's Splice the Main Brace!

Last week George and I attended a lecture presented by the Key West Maritime Historical Society about The History of Naval Rum. George donned his new Pusser’s Rum t-shirt and we arrived early to get a good seat. Good thing we did, as the maximum occupancy for the room was reached quite early and some were turned away at the door. I hope they are able to present it again for those who missed it, as it was a very engaging talk and we both enjoyed it very much.

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The special guest lecturer was an expert indeed: Admiral Sir Edward Vernon. Born in Westminster England on November 12, 1684, he joined the Royal Navy in 1700 when he was about to turn 16. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a Captain in 1706 at the age of 22, and was in command of HMS Rye. In 1739 Vice Admiral Vernon led a fleet in the famous “War of Jenkins Ear” and with a very small force, he captured Porto Bello during a glorious victory. His later success at Cartagena in 1741 was less than glorious and he returned to England, where he served the last 4 of his 46 years of Naval Service and retired.

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Life at sea in the 1600’s and 1700’s was hard and tough, and Admiral Vernon was concerned with his crew’s well being; most other Admirals of his time were not. A daily issue of alcohol, referred to as a Tot, was to compensate for the hardships experienced at sea, and also helped to keep morale high and was believed to instill courage before battle. It’s no surprise that it also was the cause of many accidents and led to many punishments. In an attempt to prevent these, Admiral Vernon was the pioneer of change to the long standing tradition of alcohol rationing in the British Navy. He is most well known for his proclamation in 1740 that the standard issue of rum was to be mixed with water. Known to wear a Grogram coat, he had earned the nickname of “Old Grogram” or sometimes merely “Old Grog.” Thus the mixture of rum and water soon became known as Grog!

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Beer was originally the standard issue for seamen; each man was given 1 gallon per day. Small beer was very weak and spoiled within a few weeks, but was better and lasted longer than water stored in casks. Strong beer, which was frequently watered down, lasted longer and was therefore issued on longer trips abroad. India Pale Ale was a highly hopped beer and very strong so it was able to survive the long voyage to India. Beer, however, was a constant cause for complaint; it spoiled quickly and took up voluminous cargo space.

Only so much beer could be stored on board and captains would replenish alcohol stocks with whatever was available: Wines from Portugal and the Mediterranean; Fortified wines (brandy added) such as port or sherry; Arrack was a strong drink made in the Orient from fermented palm sap, fruits, rice, or molasses; and of course Rum which was made from sugar cane in West Indies and Caribbean.

Columbus introduced Sugar Cane to the West Indies in 1493. The first rum was made in Brazil, Barbados and Jamaica. By the mid 1700‘s, Rum was made throughout the Caribbean. The sweet juices from the sugar cane are first turned into molasses. This syrup is then fermented and distilled into rum, which is then aged in casks giving it the gold color, or charred casks for darker color. Rum was cheap in the West Indies. It also stowed easily and didn’t deteriorate. Sailors instantly preferred the taste of West Indies & Caribbean Rum to the beer they had been used to.

When Vice Admiral William Penn’s fleet conquered Jamaica in 1655, shipboard supplies of beer were diminishing so Rum was purchased locally. This was the first use of Rum in the Royal Navy. Admiral Vernon served in the West Indies from 1708 to 1712, commanding the 60 gun ship Jersey.

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Before 1740 the daily rum ration per person was one half pint (80z), measured out above, of 96 proof. It was drank neat in one gulp with no “heel taps,” which meant without putting it down. Besides the ships stores of rum even more was smuggled aboard by enterprising sailors.

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The Scuttled Butt on Deck

On August 21, 1740 Admiral Vernon ordered the standard issue of one half pint of rum to be mixed with one quart of water. It was mixed on deck in a scuttled butt (open cask) to ensure no man was defrauded his allowance. He also ordered that it be rationed out in two servings: the first between 10am and 12pm, and the second between 4 and 6pm. He encouraged the addition of sugar and limes, which was also helped in the prevention of scurvy. The original ratio in 1740 was 4 parts water to one part rum, however this resulted in discontent. The standard ration became 3 parts water to 1 part rum; two part grog was more popular but not a standard measure, and Officer’s were allowed “Neaters” or pure rum.

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Admiral Vernon calling "Up Spirits!" on the boatswain's pipe

Following dinner at 1 bell (12:30), the petty officer of the day would remind the Officer of the day that it was time for “Up Spirits”. The boatswain was called to play “Nancy Dawson” or another lively tune which was the signal for the cook of each mess to repair to the Rum Tub. The requisite amount of rum from the spirit room was brought topside and mixed in the Scuttled Butt with water. The Store’s Assistant- “Jack Dusty” was to keep track of how many rations went to each mess. He was nicknamed Jack Dusty because he was in charge of making the bread, and was usually covered in flour.

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Rationing out of the Scuttled Butt

Still, even mixing water into the half pint of 96 proof rum didn’t reduce the accidents, or behavioral problems and resulting punishments; many began to advocate a reduction in the daily rum issue, beyond the watering down. In 1824 the Admiralty reduced the rum ration to ¼ pint per day, and compensated the seamen with a monetary bonus and increased meat ration. Grog was also restricted to noon issue only. Conveniently the Imperial Gallon was introduced that same year, which increased measures by 20%. So while the ration was reduced in theory, the actual amount was not much different.

The issue of grog came under fire many times. Eventually a ¼ pint a day was still considered too much, and “Rum Rats” always had a way of getting extra supplies on board. In 1850 the ration was cut in half again: 1/8 pint per person per day. When discussions began of ending the tradition, there were disagreements of how and when to ease off the rum consumption. It would be difficult to deal with the response from the seamen during peace time, while they also considered it equally offensive to end it during war time. Finally, it was determined there was “no place for rum in the modern sophisticated Navy” and the long standing tradition of daily rum rations ended on August 1, 1970.

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Enjoying a tot of grog

The American Connection
During the war of Jenkins Ear in 1739, the North American Colonies provided 3000 volunteers to assist the British Navy. Serving along side Admiral Vernon was Lawrence Washington who, upon returning to Virginia, built his plantation and named it Mount Vernon after him!

The American Colonials serving with the Royal Navy became accustomed to their daily grog. The Continental Navy issued ½ pint per man each day and the US Navy (which originated from the Continental Navy) re-established the tradition in 1795 and also began issuing ½ pint of rum per sailor per day. In 1806 they tried to substitute whisky as it was considered “more American,” but the sailors objected. By 1835 the rum ration was restricted to Officers only, and on September 1, 1862 Congress and Lincoln ended the “Up Spirits” ration, over 100 years before British Royal Navy.

Some Terminology

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While ashore, British Sailors sometimes referred to their rum by the compass: a “Northwester” was a 50:50 mixture of rum and water; a “West Northwester” was two parts water to one part rum; “More Northing” is a request for more rum in the mixture; and “Due North” is a “Neater“, or pure rum

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Square Rigged Ships
The line controlling each end of the yard (horizontal bar) is called a Brace. The Main Brace is the largest and most important of all the Braces. The Main Brace could become worn and damaged in heavy weather, or from shot during battle and could part. A parted Main Brace must be spliced, which was an exacting task demanding speed, resilience and knowledge. A small reward was thus justified, so the sailor was given an extra ration of rum or grog. This would disgruntle the other sailors who wanted the rationing to be fair and even for everybody. Eventually whenever the Main Brace was spliced, the entire crew would be included in the reward of an extra ration. “Let’s Splice the Main Brace!” became a signal or invitation for all to drink.

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These flags mean "Splice the Main Brace"

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Uh oh! Looks like George is enlisting!

All the information and images in this post are credited to the Key West Maritime Historical Society. The presenter acknowledged the book "Nelson's Blood, The Story of Naval Rum" by James Pack.

Posted by Heather at 12:20 PM | Comments (2)

January 16, 2010

It's been a few days...

Hi! It's been a few days, so this will be a long post! We've been very busy having lots of fun fun fun!!

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Alison flew in on Thursday, and Scott arrived in his super cool VW a few hours later.

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Alison seemed to have brought the nice weather with her, from where who knows, but we're not complaining! It's been the nicest weather we've had so far.

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We spent some time at Ft. Zach soaking up the sun!

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And we've been to Mallory Square to see some of the performances.

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Angel Statue

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Fire Eater

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George and Scott and an old wreck; near the Wrecker's Museum.

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Duval Street: first stop is Shorties to pick up some beers for the walk.

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George took us to the Hard Rock Cafe to admire their amazing collection of Rock and Roll paraphernalia.

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To Alison's and my delight the second floor ladies room is haunted! Here we are in the haunted bathroom stall.

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This room is in the haunted area, and some people feel a cold draft when you open this door to nowhere. We didn't feel anything.

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George really liked these snake skin boots, worn by Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones in the late 60's. His new work boots?

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Scott and Paul McCartney's guitar.

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Scott, Heather and Alison in front of Led Zeppelin's display and David Bowie's red suit... or pajamas? No, I think that was his suit.

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We had fun... even though we didn't see any ghosts.

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These mannequins look familar.

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Interesting knife holders; They call this The Ex.

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A late night snack at Virgilios; a very nice bar.

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Heh heh... funny stuff.

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And another late night snack at the Bottle Cap.

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Where they were having karaoke night!! Woohooo!!!

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Heather singing Dr. Dre and Eminem's "Forgot About Dre"; it was a duet but I sang both parts. It was so much fun I had to do another!

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My second song was Dynamite Hack's cover of Eazy E's "Boys in the Hood". The small crowd was very amused by a white chick attempting some gangsta rap... and I was GOOD!

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Having a laugh before bed

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Alison and I took a tour of the USS Mohawk this morning.

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And we've spent the afternoon at Boca Chica trying to get photos of the fighter jets taking off. I'll get Scott's photos and post them soon.

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This morning was also the Wounded Warrior Ride. A group of wounded veterans rode their bikes all the way from Miami. They rolled into Key West around 11:30, and it was a very inspiring reception.

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The color guard standing ready.

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Here come the riders!

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National Anthem

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Posted by Heather at 04:03 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2010


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Oh! Watch out for that fin!! This blog is dedicated to Chrissy, who was so eager to see a fin in the water on our vacation. Even though it isn't the shark she was hoping for, maybe this will compensate anyway.

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I wasn't able to get a really great shot, because they were pretty far away. So instead I've posted a LOT of pretty-good-but-not-great shots. Quantity over quality today.

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By the way, it's still cold down here.

Posted by Heather at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2010

Beach Day

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George caught a fish! Easy enough... lots of fish have been washing ashore because the water is too cold for them to survive.

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Looking for sea glass is much more rewarding!

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The sun feels great, once you get out of the wind.

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Back to the bus to warm up!

Posted by Heather at 02:26 PM | Comments (2)

January 10, 2010

Biking around town

It's been a chilly week down here, which has limited the outdoor activities we usually enjoy, and also our motivation to even be outside. So when the temps went up to 70 on Friday we jumped on our new Key West bikes and took off to enjoy the sun!

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I love this hat.

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On our way through the cemetery we came across this headstone that had been completely grown over by this very large tree. Very cool!

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Posted by Heather at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Our Feathered Friends

We've been hanging out near a bird sanctuary and we've been visited quite regularly by some great looking birds. The first five photos are of one bird, and the last four photos are of a different bird. George thought the second one was a kestrel but I'm not so sure after seeing it's white speckled belly. I think Dirk will be able to clear this up for us, so I'll email him and then re-post what he thinks they are.

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Posted by Heather at 03:13 PM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2010

BVI, 2009

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Our family trip to the BVI was a wonderful week of quality time spent together. The night before we sailed off we had dinner at a mountain top restaurant on Tortola called Sky World, where we watched the beautiful sunset.

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Mom and Dad

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Pat and Chrissy

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Julie and Heather

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We were all excited to begin our trip!

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Family photo just before leaving the dock

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We were all very optomisitc for a great trip!

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And then I got sick... really sick; and with no improvement by the second evening we were back in Tortola and I was in the hospital with 3 IV's sticking into my hand. Not the best start to the trip...

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So, skip ahead to New Year's Eve, 2 or 3 days later; It's pouring rain and has been for a day and a half. We are anchored in White Bay on Jost van Dyke, and this harbor was experiencing very rough swells so we didn't want to stay on the boat. While Mom and Dad kept an eye on the anchor, the kids all spent the day sitting at Gertude's bar trying to convince ourselves it was sunny and hot out.

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The hole in the roof didn't help much...

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But playing Flip Cup did!!!

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The sun finally came out on the last day, and a nice wind with it, so we were able to get in a great sail around Norman Island. We stopped at Money Bay where we found great snorkeling and comfortable seclusion.

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Julie enjoying the last day

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Sailing around Norman Island

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Our last sunset.

The trip was fantastic, despite 4 out of 6 of us becoming ill at some point and the rough weather around New Year's.

But no matter what we experienced, we went through it together, and that is what a family vacation is all about. Good or bad, we are there for eachother, to support and care for whatever need's may arise. Through all the stress and discomfort, the love still shines through stronger and brighter than the sun would have been, if it had decided to come out and play. I would do it all again in a second, though I would first invest in some heavy duty raingear and a life's supply of Dramamine.
Also, it was better than being stuck in freezing cold CT!

I love you Family! And miss you already!

For more photos, especially from those days I missed when I was sick, please visit Mom's and Julie's blogs:
www.kathymccurdy.com and www.juliamccurdy.com. They should have some posted soon.

Posted by Heather at 04:51 PM | Comments (4)