16 October 2017

Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it?

So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

  • I've been thinking a lot about lizards lately. Does that seem weird to you?
  • Every time I walk from my boat to the marina office, I encounter at least 37 lizards. Sure, I know I'm a tiny bit prone to exaggeration, but not in this case. They're really are a lot of lizards here. Go on, try it yourself. Next time you're at Indiantown Marina, walk around and see how many lizards you count. But make sure you look up from time to time or else you might walk into a boat in the parking lot and that would hurt.
  • I guess it's a bit strange to find boats in a parking lot next to cars. I'm used to it now and hadn't really thought about it in a while. You know because I've got lizards on my mind lately.
  • Lizards are cute in their own reptilian sort of way. Sure, they're not going to win any sort of cuteness contest against kittens, but they might win the Miss Congeniality award.
  • The lizards here are tiny. You could probably stuff at least five of them in your handbag and still have room for your wallet and keys.
  • Not that you'd want to stuff lizards in your handbag. Although there are people who stuff dogs in their handbags.
  • What would you rather have in your handbag - lizards or a dog?
  • I know what I'd rather have. Lots and lots of money to buy ridiculously expensive stuff for our boat. And chocolate. I'd buy a lot of chocolate too.
  • I wonder if lizards like chocolate? Personally, I'm never going to find out because I don't like sharing my chocolate.
  • You know what else has been on my mind lately? Lint. I always clean the lint out of the dryer after I'm finished with it so that the next person can chuck their clothes in and not worry about it. Some people think it's perfectly okay to leave their lint in for the next person. When I find out who's been doing that, I might stick a couple of lizards in their handbag. 
  • The Canadians are back. Busy season at Indiantown Marina is upon us. 
  • They've been doing the usual touch-ups around the marina in anticipation of the busy season. They painted the women's bathroom yellow. It was yellow before. I was hoping for a different color this year. Or polka dots. Polka dots would have been good.
  • Maybe they should have a suggestion box. You know what I'd suggest? Polka dots in the women's bathroom.
  • They also put in a new faucet on the sink. Same sink. Different faucet. At least, I think it's a different one.
  • When I went to wash my hands I got a little freaked out. I didn't remember the faucet looking like that. Everything else was the same. Yellow walls. Garbage can. Mosquitoes hovering in the corner waiting to bite you. But the faucet was different.
  • I started to worry that I had been transported to a parallel universe. Everything seems pretty much the same except for a few small details in parallel universes. And, of course, who won WW II. It's possible I've been watching too many episodes of Man in a High Castle.
  • I decided to ignore the whole parallel universe thing for a while and wash my hands. I'm sure they have hygiene standards even in parallel universes.
  • Then, as I walked back towards my boat, counting lizards along the way, I noticed the trash dumpster wasn't in the same place as before. Freaky. 
  • What's even freakier is that there used to be two trash dumpsters. Now there was just one. Maybe this parallel universe isn't too bad after all. They've managed to do a better job at recycling and not having wasteful packaging and need fewer trash dumpsters.
  • That's probably enough randomness for this morning. Have a look around you - notice anything that's not quite right? Something not quite as you remember it? Maybe you're in a parallel universe too. The good news is that they have coffee over here.

What did you think about over your morning cup of coffee, tea or other favorite beverage? What did you have for breakfast?

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13 October 2017

Cruising In The Bahamas | 2017 Season Recap, Pt 2 - Provisioning, Cooking & Eating Out

This is the second in our >>Cruising in the Bahamas 2017 Season Recap<< series. In our first installment, we talked about the route we took, the anchorages we stayed at and shared some fascinating and not-so-fascinating tidbits, like our average cost per night and what TV shows we binge watched.

In this installment, we talk about something far more interesting - food! I'm one of those people who needs regular feedings, so when my next meal is going to happen and what it's going to be is always top of mind for me.

Grab yourself a snack, sit back and read on and we'll tell you all about the provisioning we did before we left for the Bahamas, grocery shopping in the Bahamas, what we cooked on board, and eating out in the Bahamas.


I was looking back at a blog post I did about provisioning aboard our boat in New Zealand and not that much has changed since then. I make a list of what we need and stock up, I buy a few things we don't need and will never use (hello can of three bean salad), and squirrel stuff around in the various cubby holes in our boat.

We've cruised in the Bahamas before, so we had a good idea of what to stock up on before we left and what we could buy there at relatively reasonable prices (like chicken, ground beef, hamburger buns, butter and government cheese, which is surprisingly tasty).

Everyone's provisioning list will be different, but here's an idea of the types of things we took. It's probably worth noting that we have a fridge, but we don't have a freezer.

Canned / Jarred Veggies & Fruit

Tomatoes, corn, beans (black, kidney, baked, white, chickpea, refried), potatoes, chipolte peppers, green chilies, jalapenos, sun dried tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers, sauerkraut, peaches and pineapple.
Note: Scott is not a fan of sauerkraut. That doesn't stop me from trying to feed it to him periodically.
Canned chicken, canned ham, smoked oysters, shelf stable chorizo, kielbasa (goes great with sauerkraut!), brats, ham steak, deli meat, pork loin and Aldi's pulled pork.
Note: Overly processed meat products, like brats, last a long time in the fridge. Sure, they're not great for you, but they're tasty in their own over-processed, sodium enriched way.
Fresh Produce
Apples, cabbage, carrots, butternut squash, onions, garlic, potatoes, lemons and limes.
Note: Wrap lemons and limes in tin foil and they last a really long time. Your gin & tonics will thank you.
Beer, wine, gin, tonic water, cola, root beer, lemonade, tea bags and milk (UHT and powdered). Oh, and a ton of coffee. You can never have enough coffee.
Note: Beer costs a fortune in the Bahamas, like $40 a case. Stock up before you leave.
Spices, Oils, Condiments & The Like
Your normal jars of spices, curry paste, stock cubes, hot sauce, sriacha sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, cooking spray, syrup, tahini, ranch dressing mix, onion soup mix, gravy packets and taco seasoning packets.
Note: The ranch dressing mix is for the spicy pretzels that we like to have with sundowners. Also, a popular addition to cruiser get-togethers.
Grains & Legumes
Lentils, rice (basmati, brown minute rice, jasmine, long-grain, ready-to-cook Mexican and yellow rice packets), pasta (spaghetti, rotini, elbows and tortellini), barley, couscous, quinoa and dried beans (black, pinto & chickpea), udon noodles and oatmeal.
Note: I prefer to used canned beans rather than dry. They're ready to use and you don't have to use up your precious water supply to soak them.
Baking Stuff
Flour, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, chocolate chips, brownie mix, pancake mix pecans, walnuts and raisins.
Note: Yes, I use pre-made pancake mix. Don't judge.
Other Stuff
Granola bars, coconut milk, crackers, pretzels, Aldi's dark chocolate bars, instant mashed potatoes,  peanut butter, jam, dehydrated vegies, pesto and tortillas.
Note: Tortillas last forever and take up very little storage space. Love them. 

Are you confused by the picture above? Are you thinking - "Hey, that's not a grocery store!" That's true it isn't. It's the kitchen next to Vernon's grocery store in Hope Town where they bake bread, pies and make other treats. But, it does give you an idea of what grocery shopping can be like in the Bahamas. You'll usually find small mom n' pop / corner type stores (like Vernon's), but you can also find large, modern type grocery stores like you might find in the States in larger settlements.

While we brought a ton of food with us, we still needed to hit the grocery stores for things like fresh meat, milk, cheese, butter, fresh veggies (usually onions, cabbage and carrots), fresh fruit (usually apples) and the occasional ice cream sandwich bar.

We also ended up buying cans of cola a few times. We seriously underestimated how much soda pop we would be drinking. But when it's really hot outside, a cold can of pop tastes amazing. Soda pop can be really expensive in the Bahamas. We steered away from the name brand and got the cheaper, generic stuff.

We do a lot of cooking from cans and jars on board. I remember when we were getting ready to move onto our first boat in New Zealand, I did a lot of experimenting with recipes made from canned goods. I was amazed what you could make without using a single fresh ingredient (with the exception of onion and garlic).

The picture above is from one of the times I made lentil curry. Saute some onion and garlic with jarred curry paste, chuck in some dried lentils, add in cans of coconut milk, tomatoes and potatoes, pop in a stock cube and bam, you've got a vegetarian meal that you can easily make from what you have on hand when you're miles away from a grocery store.

This season in the Bahamas, I stocked up on canned meat (chicken and ham) for the first time. While we had relied on shelf-stable sausages before, we had never really cooked with canned meat before. It actually worked out better than I thought it would. I brought Walmart's Great Value canned chicken, cans of chicken salad (add curry powder, dried onion and dried garlic and you've got a delicious topping for crackers) and a couple of Dak Premium canned hams.

I used the chicken in soups and stir fry dishes and didn't notice a real difference from fresh. I used the ham in bean soup, as well as pan fried some for breakfast. The ham was really salty, so it probably worked better in soup (skip adding any salt that the recipe calls for) and not so well on it's own.

The other thing I experimented with this season was dehydrated veggies from Harmony House. I got a sampler pack from them, along with two larger jars of bell peppers and onions. I loved the bell peppers and chucked them in everything (pasta sauce, soups, curries etc.). I'd definitely buy them again. I used the onions a few times when I ran out of fresh. They worked well too. My favorite from the sampler pack was the broccoli (good in stir fry dishes). I'll probably by a larger packet of that for next season.

See that picture above? That's our grill. See what it's dangling over? That's water. Grilling is a heart-stopping operation on our boat. Will a power boater speed through the anchorage, creating a huge wake and causing your hamburgers to slide off of the grill into the water? Will the chef drop the pizza when he's flipping the crust over and end up feeding the fish instead of the crew?

Surprisingly, everything that we've cooked on the grill has ended up on our plates and in our bellies. I attribute that to Scott's superior grilling skills and ability to balance on a boat. Scott does all of the grilling on board. I think we all know that if I was in charge, then we'd lose a lot of food overboard.

We grill the usual suspects - hamburgers, brats, chicken - as well as things like pizza, twice-baked potatoes (or in this case, twice-grilled potatoes) and pita bread.

Grilled pizza is one of our favorite things to eat on board, but it does require a bit of preparation (making the dough and sauce from scratch and getting the toppings ready) and then you have to work like clockwork while you're grilling the pizza so that it all gets done in time without burning (grill one side, flip, add sauce, cheese and toppings and grill some more).

Scott and I played a game recently where we listed our top ten favorite foods. You can probably guess what was at the top of my list - yep, that's right chocolate chip cookies. I made them a few times on board, except they weren't so much cookies as bars. One of the issues with marine ovens is that they don't heat evenly, making baking challenging.

I've done all of the things people recommend - baking stone on the bottom of the oven, rotating the cookie sheet and lighting candles at Cookie Monster's shrine, but it never works. So I just plop the dough in two small pyrex dishes and make monster bars. Then, in a surprisingly display of self-control, I put the rest of the dough in the fridge for the next day.

This is what baking on board is all about - adapting to the conditions. Actually, that's what life in general is like living aboard a boat - you adapt constantly. You quickly learn who's in control and generally it's not you. (If you want to see a funny and very accurate account of how you have to adapt bread recipes on board, check out Sailing Totem's post.)

In addition to baking sweet treats like sour cream coffee cake, apple cake and baked oatmeal, I also made a lot of bread. Seriously, a lot of bread. You can buy freshly baked bread in the Bahamas and it's delicious (coconut French toast, anyone?) but at $4-5 a loaf, it adds up. Plus, we're often anchored in places far, far away from any stores. So, if you want bread on board, you have to make it yourself. Or you could go on one of those low-carb diets and not have bread. Yeah, not gonna happen on Tickety Boo.

One of my go-to books for bread recipes is The Boat Galley cookbook. Not only does it have great recipes (onion bead, yum!), but it also has helpful tips for folks new to making bread on boats and in general. My mom taught me how to make bread when I was young. It's always something I've enjoyed, but I never do a lot of unless we're out cruising.

Who doesn't love snacks? Snacks make people happy. I think if they served more snacks at the United Nations, we might actually have a chance at world peace. It's hard to find diplomatic solutions that make everyone happy when stomachs are grumbling.

Okay, here's the thing - when we provisioned for the Bahamas, we didn't stock up on a lot of sugary, salty, bad-for-you-but-delicious snack food. The theory was that if we didn't have snacks on board, then we couldn't eat them which would result in a healthier lifestyle, smaller waistlines and glossy, shiny, thick hair. (Yeah, that hair thing probably wouldn't have happened, but a girl can dream about her fine, stringy hair being transformed into thick, lustrous locks, can't she?)

Sure, we got around the lack of sugary treats due to my baking efforts, but eventually the pretzels and crackers we brought with us ran out. Those were dark days. Fortunately, we discovered these things called Stax. They're like Pringles, except they come in a plastic can which is totally wasteful. But they're coated with awesome sodium flavor particles (yum!) and they're relatively cheap at Maxwell's grocery store in Marsh Harbour (yay!). 

The only problem with Stax is that the lid on the can doesn't work. Seriously, you eat a few chips and put the lid back on the can in order to save the rest for the following day and then the lid pops off of the can all by itself flying into mid-air allowing the sodium flavor particles to waft about making any self-control you might have had disappear and forcing you to finish off the rest of the chips. Stupid lid. They really need to look into that design flaw. 

The cracker shortage was pretty traumatic too. What were we supposed to eat our government cheese with? We lived without crackers for quite a while and then managed to find some Jacob's cream crackers at the grocery stores in George Town and at Rock Sound. Order was restored in our universe. Crackers and cheese, together again.

Those of you who follow our cost of cruising posts, where we document every penny we spend and what we spend it on, will know that one of the ways that we try to keep costs down is by minimizing how often we eat out. We actually find that what we make ourselves is almost as good as what we can get in a restaurant. That's not always the case, but there have been a number of times where we've said, "Hey, we could have made this ourselves for half the price and it would have been as good." Of course, the downside is having to do your own dishes.

So, given our cheap and cheerful approach to eating out, how many times do you think we ate out while we were in the Bahamas?

While you're thinking about that, here are some fascinating and not-so-fascinating tidbits related to food. Once you've read these, scroll down to find out the answer.

[Note: RO = reverse osmosis, making fresh water from sea water. We have to buy water to cook with and drink.]

The answer is three. Did you guess right?

The first time was at the coolest laundromat ever - Miss Ida's in Black Point. She serves snack type food in the shop next to the laundromat which you can eat out on the verandah overlooking the anchorage while the wash cycle is in progress. The first time we were there, I had a chicken pattie (kind of like a curry pastie), Scott had conch fritters and we both had a can of soda pop. We liked it so much that we went back the next day for more of the same. Total cost for both visits - $13.50.

I expect for some of you, snack food at a laundromat wouldn't qualify as eating out. But, that took care of our lunch both days, so it totally counts in my book. Plus, it was a definite cultural experience hanging out with the locals and learning from Miss Ida how she makes her patties. And as a bonus, we had clean clothes along with our full bellies.

The other time we ate out was at a church fair in Rock Sound. We split a chicken dinner, Scott had some conch fritters and we each had a can of soda pop. Total cost - $13.00. Another great experience dining with the locals and enjoying some delicious food.

Going out for drinks can be expensive in the Bahamas, so we had our sundowners on board, rather than go out. We did make a couple of exceptions when we were buddy boating with our pals in the Abacos having a beer at the Jib Room (which we think is one of the prettiest spots in Marsh Harbour) and having beers outside of the liquor store in Hope Town (they have some benches out front where you can sit and watch the world go by while you're sipping on a cold Kalik).


I'll leave you with some more fascinating and not-so-fascinating tidbits. Next up in our season recap series is about daily life living and cruising on a sailboat - the mundane (like how we did our laundry), moments when naughty words were uttered (like that time we found maggots in the v-berth), repairs on the hook (such as sewing without electricity) and the like. Should be fun. See you then

If, for some strange reason, you want to know more about what we ate in the Bahamas, check out this blog post about a week eating on board Tickety Boo.

What's your favorite meal? Do you prefer cooking or eating out? How often do you grill and who does the grilling in your household?

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11 October 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Sailboats & A Ferris Wheel, Scarborough, England

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Scott took this photo when he was working outside of York. He took a drive to Scarborough on one of his days off. 

2 - I'm pretty sure he took the photo because of all the sailboats.

3 - I would have taken it because of the Ferris wheel. 

4 - Ferris wheels are fun. Especially when you can see sailboats from them.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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09 October 2017

Cost Of Boat Projects & Liveaboard Life | August & September 2017

We track and report every penny we spend living aboard and cruising on Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat for a couple of reasons.

1 - It helps us see where our money is going, helps us make informed choices about where to spend our money, which in turn helps us stretch our money further so that we can keep adventuring longer.

2 - We found it really useful to check out other people's cost of cruising when we were starting out, so we figure we can return favor by sharing ours.

We're currently at Indiantown Marina in Florida waiting out hurricane season and working on boat projects/upgrades to get Tickety Boo ready to head to the Western Caribbean this coming season. You can find details of how much we spent during August and September 2017 below.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves (on Tickety Boo, camping across the States and our previous boat in New Zealand) and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist.


Cost of Boat Projects & Liveaboard Life  | August & September 2017

Okay, so here's the headline for our spending over the last two months - we spent a fortune! Maybe not a fortune compared to what other folks spend each month, but it was kind of shocking to add things up and realize that we spent >> $4,805 during August and September <<.

But, if I'm looking at things glass half full, then I guess it's good we spent that much because it will have mentally prepared us for what are likely to be some really high expenses over the next several months as we tackle a number of boat projects and buy a bunch of expensive stuff for the boat.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising costs.
(b) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition.
3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax.

GROCERIES | Total = $749

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

I'm actually okay with what we spent in this category. It averages out to less than $400 a month, which is kind of what I like to aim for.


This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $516

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.

We spent far more than we normally do in this category in September. But we have a good reason - fun. Yep, we had tons of fun when we were in Atlanta staying with friends during our Hurricane Irma evacuation. Lots of that fun involved going out to eat and having drinks out. So, although it's more than we would of liked to have spent, it was totally worth it.


Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $60 monthly prepaid plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. During August, we ended up having to buy extra cellular data to satiate our internet needs. Fortunately, our friends came back to Indiantown Marina because of Hurricane Irma and they've been letting us piggy-back off of their Wirie Wi-Fi extender which means we can get marina Wi-Fi on our boat now and not have to rely on ultra-expensive cellular data.

BOAT FUEL | Total = $34

As part of our Hurricane Irma prep, we got extra gas for our jerry cans. We took them with us on our evacuation to Atlanta, thinking we might need it for the car or generator given the fuel shortages. Fortunately, we were able to find gas on the road, so we'll end up using the gas in the generator for our outboard motor and generator when we're out cruising next season.

PROPANE  | Total =Nil

We have a propane/LPG cooker on our boat, which we need to replace as the stove no longer works and replacement parts aren't available. While we're at Indiantown Marina, we use an electric hotplate and a crockpot for cooking, so we haven't had to spend any money on filling our propane tanks.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,166

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit - which we tend to do two or three times a month.

BOAT STUFF | Total = $505

This category is for all the stuff we buy for the boat, as well as repairs and maintenance costs. One of our big purchases over the past two months was a stack pack kit for a 16' boom from Sailrite. Normally, they go for $264, but we bought it during a sale and got $20 off. Sometimes, it pays to wait and keep an eye out for sales. We also bought some other miscellaneous sewing supplies for repairs to our bimini, dodger and sun shade from Sailrite.

The other big expenses in this category are related to some of our boat projects - materials to build a folding table in the galley (more counter space - yeah!) and replace and rebed the portlights in our saloon.

TRANSPORT | Total = $190

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. We also track other transport costs, like the Uber we took in Atlanta.

We ended up spending a lot on gas during September due to evacuating to Atlanta as a result of Hurricane Irma, far more than we normally spend each month. We also bought new windshield wipers ($14).


This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

It's always nice to report nil spending in this category.

OTHER | Total = $1,461

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry.

Yep, this was the budget breaking category over the past couple of months. Scott's laptop once and for all stopped working (he nursed it for a long time), so we got him a new one. Cha-ching. The other electronic gadget we bought was another Kindle. No more having to share.

One of the other big ticket items was Scott's ticket back to Scotland. He'll be heading back there this month to tend to work and other matters.

We also bought Scott some new clothes. Those of you who know Scott will be amazed that he agreed to buy new clothes. He got some new Keen sandals (his old ones literally fell apart) and some new t-shirts from places we visited in Atlanta (most of his other t-shirts are "official boat project t-shirts" because they have holes or stains on them).

We also spent a whopping 79 cents on a can of dog food for a dog we found wandering the streets of Indiantown all on his own. Fortunately, his owner came and rescued him. The dog was so cute so the 79 cents was a totally justifiable expenditure.

Did we spend more or less than you would have expected? Do you track your expenses? Any frugal living tips to share?

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06 October 2017

September In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) Hurricane Irma's projected track which at one point put Indiantown directly in her path; (2) Operation Portlight Replacement commenced; (3) Refinishing projects; (4) Great pancakes in Atlanta; (5) Our favorite Ethiopian dish - doro wat; and (6) The church where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach at.

It's time for our usual monthly recap by the numbers. This past month is probably best summed up, not by a number, but by one word >> hurricanes <<.

Most of our energy in September was focused on prepping our boat for Hurricane Irma, evacuating Florida to Atlanta to get our of Irma's way, waiting and worrying to hear what the impact of Irma was, making our way back to Florida and getting our boat back in order, then worrying about whether Hurricane Maria was to come our way, watching the news unfold about the destruction that Irma and Maria left in their wake, and feeling devastated for all of those folks impacted as we .

We did manage to have oodles of fun while we were in Atlanta visiting our amazing and generous friends, Duwan and Greg from Make Like an Ape Man. Our evacuation turned into a bit of a vacation, which was a nice distraction from the waiting and worrying.

Once we got back to Florida and went through a bit of hurricane decompression, we also managed to start in on our boat project list.

So, enough with all of those words, here's the usual random nonsense recap by the numbers:

  • 1 - Number of pancakes I ate while in Atlanta. I love pancakes. I love them more when someone else makes them for me. I love them even more when they're gigantic and larger than my head. The Thumb's Up Diner delivered. {Jo Ann and Vic - thanks for taking us there!}
  • 113 - Number of beers that people gave us as we wandered around the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. We love Cabbagetown and its inhabitants. Some of the coolest people you'll ever meet. Blog post on what make them so awesome coming your way soon.
  • 2  - Number of chicken legs we got in our doro wat at the Embilta Ethiopian Cafe in Atlanta. The nice lady knew we were sharing the dish, so she popped an extra leg in for us. Sweet! {Ethiopian is probably our favorite cuisine and we try to find a restaurant in every new city we go to.}
  • 39 - How old Martin Luther King, Jr was when he was assassinated. Last month wasn't all about eating out and hurricanes. It was also an opportunity to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site. On our tour of MLK's childhood home, we had two Muslim ladies, a family from India and an African-American family. The mother of the African-American family talked about how important it was to have monuments and historic sites focused on African-Americans and how happy she was to show it to her children. Such a good reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion. 
  • 4 - How many leaky portlights we need to replace in our saloon. We're doing them one-by-one, taking each one out, dismantling everything, cleaning all the old sealant and goo off the frames, cutting new acrylic windows, reassembling everything and reinstalling them. It makes me tired just writing about it.
  • 22 - How many hours it took us to get from Indiantown, Florida to Atlanta on our evacuation. 
  • 3 - The number of new t-shirts Scott bought. Getting Scott to buy new clothes is worse than pulling teeth. I consider this to be quite a victory. They're really cool t-shirts too from places we visited in Atlanta.  
  • $383 - How much we spent on entertainment last month. Much higher than we normally spend but a good reflection of how much fun we had in Atlanta and all the delicious food we ate.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite blog posts from last month:

Captain Ron, Squalls & Support Groups
Evacuating the Hurricane Zone | Stinky Chickens & Dodgy Motels
Going for a Walk with a Load of Laundry | Spanish Wells, Bahamas

How did last month go for you? What are you looking forward to this month?

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04 October 2017

Simon The Time Traveling Cat Gets A Visitor IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question is:

"Have you ever slipped any of your own personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below.


Image via The Graphics Fairy

"Simon, where are you?" I looked around for the grouchy, old gray cat that decided to move onto my boat about a year ago. "I've got a surprise for you."

Simon peered out from behind a throw pillow. "It better be a good, lady. Last time you brought me a surprise it was a leash. As if any self-respecting cat would let themselves be taken for a walk," he said with a snarl.

I looked down at the ball of black fur cuddled against my chest. "Look, it's the cat from the boat next to us."

Simon narrowed his eyes and growled.

"You know, Blackberry Jam," I added. "It's on account of the fact that she's got black fur, only her humans call her Jam for short. Isn't that just the cutest name?"

Jam looked up at me and purred at the mention of her name. I put her down on the settee next to Simon. She ran up to him and sniffed his nose by way of greeting.

Simon responded by hissing loudly and swatting her across her nose with his sharp claws.

Jam ran back, jumped on my lap and gave a few pitiful meows. While I stroked her back, I stared at Simon.

"Why are you being so rude to our guest?"

"Who asked you to bring over a guest?" Simon lazily washed behind his ears with his paw. "Besides, lady, that stupid cat isn't even real. She's just a figment of your imagination."

"What are you talking about?" I scratched the top of Jam's head. "She's sitting right here. She's real."

"Oh, come on. You told me once that you used to have a black cat named Jam. You're just using stuff from your real life in this stupid blog post because you're too lazy to make up any new stuff."

I shook my head. "Sure, I had a cat named Jam, but for your information, mister, this Jam is nothing like my cat. See, she's sitting on my lap, purring away. The other Jam was skittish and wouldn't let me get within ten feet of her, unless I was feeding her."

Jam meowed and nudged her head against my hand so that I'd scratch under her chin. She was such a sweet cat. Maybe I could trade her for Simon with my boat neighbors.

"Is you want to delude yourself about that stupid cat, go right ahead." Simon stretched out on the settee. " But, how do you explain the main character in that stupid cozy mystery novel you always claim to be working on? She's just like you."

"What do you mean? She's nothing like me!"

"Of course she is. She's obsessed with chocolate, she thinks aliens are real and she's not very good at sailing. Sound familiar, lady?"

I decided I didn't like the direction this conversation was taking. "You know what Simon, you go ahead and stay in here and be grumpy all by yourself. I'm going to use that leash of yours and take Jam for a walk."

Jam meowed excitedly at the sight of the leash and eagerly let me fasten it on her. As I started to carry her up on deck, Simon called out, "Hey, while you're out get some more milk, lady. And make sure it's the full-fat kind, not that stupid skim milk you always try to pawn off on me."

If you're a writer, do you slip personal information into your characters? Which cat would you prefer to live with - Simon or Jam? What's your favorite cat or dog names?

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02 October 2017

Cruising In The Bahamas | 2017 Season Recap Pt 1 (Route & Anchorages)

Some of the great things we saw and experienced in the Bahamas.

It's been a little over two months since we came back to the States after cruising in the Bahamas this season on Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat. Where does time go? It's hard to believe we've been back at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida for so long. It's also hard to believe that hurricane season will officially end in a couple of months. I think we'll all be glad to say good bye to this particular hurricane season. It's been just awful in its devastation and destruction.

Because our blog lags reality by many, many weeks, we just finished up posting about our Bahamian adventures which means it's now time for our season recap. (You can find links to all of our Bahamian posts here and there are also links to selected posts below in the recap.)

We'll share the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as fascinating tidbits - like how many ice cream sandwiches we ate, what TV shows we binge watched and how much beer costs in Hope Town. We'll also share some not-so-fascinating but vaguely interesting tidbits - like how many gallons of diesel we bought, how many nights we stayed at marinas vs. at anchor and the number of times we flushed the antifreeze.

So, sit back, relax and grab an icy-cold beverage (preferably a Kalik beer if you have one) and read all about our adventures cruising in Florida and the Bahamas this past season. Don't worry, we'll do the recap in a few parts. After all, we wouldn't want you to run out of beer before you reached the end of this particular post.


Cruising Route & Anchorages

All in all, we put 1,735 nautical miles underneath Tickety Boo's keel this season in southern Florida and the Bahamas. That brings me up to around 4,000 total nautical miles sailed and Scott up to around 13,000 total nautical miles sailed.

Our season was 141 days long - 43 of which were spent in Florida and 98 spent in the Bahamas. We spent far more time in Florida then we would have liked due to boat issues and weather.

While we prefer to anchor when we're out cruising (it's usually free), we did end up having to go back to Indiantown Marina twice for repairs, which meant marina fees. We would have loved to report an average of zero dollars per night, but we ended up spending an average of $3.86 per night due to 14 days at the marina. {Boo hiss.}
We started off the season on March 9th, leaving Indiantown Marina and heading eastwards along the Okeechobee Waterway and then south on the ICW (intracoastal waterway) to Lake Worth. It was kind of a late start compared to other cruisers, but in some ways it worked out better as we avoided a lot of the nasty weather early on in the season that everyone complained about. We got back to Indiantown Marina on July 28th before the height of hurricane season was upon us.

Leg #1 - The South Florida U-Turn (March 9th - March 27th)

Coconut Grove anchorage in West Palm Beach, Florida

We set off intending to stage ourselves in Lake Worth, wait for a weather window and cross the Gulf Stream over to the Abacos. That didn't happen. While we were anchored at Coconut Grove in West Palm Beach, we decided that we should head back to Indiantown Marina to check on our bottom (we were concerned about our bottom paint), pick up our camping stove since our propane stove decided to stop cooperating with us, and get a new controller for our solar panel.

Fortunately, that turned out to be a relatively quick trip. We hauled out the boat and decided the bottom paint would make it through the season. We quickly took care of our other bits and bobs and only had to spend two nights at the marina. Boom. We were back in business.

Leg #2 - The Abacos (March 28th - May 1st)

Brush fires at Smokey the Bear's Lair anchorage at Great Abaco Island

We finally made it across the Gulf Stream on March 28th with some really yummy cookies. Cookies are important if you're going to sail in the dark. Just saying. Not that I should have to say it. Everyone should already know that cookies make everything better.

Since we had already spent time cruising in the Abacos when we first bought our boat, our plan was cruise through the area kind of quickly, head to the southern Abacos, wait for a weather window and then cross over to Eleuthera.

You'd think by now, we'd know better than to count on a weather window. They never happen when you want them to.

By the way, don't you just love the names of the some of the anchorages in the Bahamas - like Cave Cay, Crab Cay and Smokey the Bear's Lair. Okay, we might have named that last anchorage ourselves due to the brush fires in the area. The anchorage wasn't on the chart so having naming rights seemed like fair game.

While we were waiting for a weather window and hanging out at Matt Lowe's Cay, a ferry sped through our anchorage at an insanely high speed, leaving a huge wake in its path and causing one of our dinghy davits to break. You can read about the whole sad saga here, but the upshot was that we ended up having to head back to Florida to pick up a new dinghy davit.

Leg #3 - Back To Florida (May 2nd - May 21st)

Indiantown Marina with extremely low water levels.

We really hoped that our second return to Indiantown Marina would be a short one. When we got there our new dinghy davit arrived promptly and we installed it without too much fuss. It was all looking good. We were feeling optimistic about things.

Silly us. It was too good to be true. While we were at the marina, we found out that the fresh water pump on our diesel engine was leaking. Yet another thing that needed replacing. And like most things boat-repair related, it wasn't easy. {Sigh} We ended up having to source a spare part through a tractor supply place. Finally, after 12 days at the marina, two Little Ceasar's pizzas and one Taco Tuesday, we managed to escape Indiantown.

Leg #4 - Back To The Bahamas (May 22nd - May 29th)

Anchored in the canals of Ginn sur Mer, an abandoned housing development on Grand Bahama Island.

This time, we decided to head to the Exuma Islands. Everyone raves about the Exumas, so they were definitely on our list of places to get to during the season. Our friends on S/V Wind Spirit were also planning on heading to the Bahamas, so we picked them up in Stuart and we all headed down to Lake Worth to stage for the crossing. It was a short-lived buddy boating experience. They ended up having engine issues and decided not to make the crossing with us. At least they said it was engine issues, maybe it was us. {Spoiler alert - we did end up hooking up with them later in the season.}

Our plan was to cross over to Ginn sur Mer, an abandoned housing development near the West End, anchor in the canals and wait for a weather window to head south to the Berry Islands. Unfortunately, we weren't going to make it to the entrance to Ginn sur Mer before dark and decided not to risk going through an unfamiliar channel into an unknown anchorage. Better safe than sorry.

After anchoring on the Little Bahama Bank for the night, we made it to Ginn sur Mer (which is a little spooky at night), waited out some weather and then did a night passage to the Berry Islands, anchoring at Goat Cay for a night.

We didn't spend much time exploring the Berry Islands, but we did spent a few days anchored at White Cay and had fun exploring the area, especially swimming in the Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay. Then it was off to the Exumas with a stop at the worst overnight anchorage I think we've ever experienced - Rose Island near Nassau. It was like sleeping inside of a tumbler dryer. Fun.

Leg #5 - The Exumas (May 30th - June 25th)

Going for a hike on Stocking Island.

We finally made it to the Exumas and discovered we're not posh people. Well, okay, I think we already knew that we aren't posh, but seeing all the mega-yachts anchored at Highbourne Cay really confirmed it.

Next stop was the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, a 22-mile stretch of the Exuma Islands where the marine environment, fauna, flora and history are protected. We anchored at many of the well-known anchorages in the park including Shroud Cay (definitely take your dinghy up the creek and go exploring), Warderick Wells (home of the famous Boo Boo Hill where cruisers leave signs with their boat names) and Cambridge Cay (good snorkeling and a close call with a sea plane).

The Exumas are also famous for their swimming pigs. Who are we to pass up a touristy must-do? We spent some time at Big Major's Spot, feeding the pigs, snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame (a little disappointing) and exploring Staniel Cay.

By this time, we were starting to run out of clean clothes. Fortunately, we found the best laundromat ever at Black Point. They even serve snacks and cold sodas while you're waiting for the wash cycle to finish. My kind of laundromat.

Armed with clean clothes and jerry cans full of fresh water (it was a bit of a saga getting water), we headed south to George Town, the cruisers mecca. I don't know if it was the fact that we were there during the off-season, but our reaction was kind of "Meh, is this it?" However, it was a good stop for re-provisioning and getting diesel, gas and water. We did a bit of socializing and had a nice walk on Stocking Island, and managed to extend our visa while we were there. Then we waited for a weather window to make our way south to Long Island. We waited some more and some more and some more. Then we gave up.

Leg #6 - Cat Island & Eleuthera (June 26th - July 7th)

Anchored at Half Moon Cay (aka Little San Salvador Island), where the cruise ships drop off the punters for the day.

Instead of going south to Long Island, we headed east to Cat Island. Sadly, I didn't see any cats while we were there, but we did see possibly the most amazing thing in the Bahamas - the Hermitage. It might possibly be my favorite place in the Bahamas.

People say that living and cruising on a sailboat involved being in a state of constant fear. You're always afraid something bad might happen to you or your boat (after all you are subject of Mother Nature's whims), but it's a matter of degree of how much fear you feel each day. I don't know if that's true or not, but what I do know is that I was afraid we might lose our sailboat on a lee shore when a storm cell moved in on us in the wee hours one morning at Fernandez Bay on Cat Island. {Yikes.}

The good news is that Tickety Boo is fine and still floating. We got the heck out of dodge and headed for the night to Little San Salvador Island, aka Half Moon Cay. It's one of those islands where cruise ships drop off the punters for the day. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but we had fun exploring it after the cruise ship left the anchorage that evening.

Then it was time to keep heading north to Eleuthera. We ended up spending several days in Rock Sound (a great all-around protected anchorage) while Scott recuperated from a back injury. If you have to be stuck in an anchorage for a while, I can highly recommend Rock Sound.

Next up was a night in Hatchet Bay and then off to Royal Island near Spanish Wells. By this time, we had run out of clean clothes again and went into Spanish Wells in search of a laundromat and other supplies. We weren't able to wash our clothes, but we did have an interesting walk around town and a delicious cheeseburger at Buddha's. Seriously, the place is called Buddha's and there's even a large, glittery gold Buddha head on the bar just in case you forgot the name of the joint. 

Leg #7 - Heading Back (July 8th - July 28th)

Dinghy dock at the Hope Town sailing club.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. The height of hurricane season was coming and we wanted to be tucked back up in Indiantown (a hurricane hole in southern Florida between Stuart and Okeechobee) by the end of July/early August. We debated which way to go back to the States - via Bimini and Ft Lauderdale / Miami or back up through the Abacos and over to Lake Worth. After much discussion, we flipped a coin and headed to the Abacos.

While we were in the Abacos, we tracked down our friends on S/V Wind Spirit, did some buddy boating and experienced some of the best snorkeling in the Bahamas we've had at Sandy Cay. We returned to some of our old haunts, like Hope Town and Marsh Harbour, and headed through the Whale Cay Cut and made our way back.

We had thought about taking our time cruising in Florida before going back to Indiantown, but it was just too darn hot. Seriously hot. So hot that all we could think about during the day and dream about at night was our portable A/C window unit waiting for us back in Indiantown. We got back there on July 28th, tied up in our slip, plugged Tickety Boo into shore power and fired up the A/C. Ahhh...bliss and the end of the season.


Here's a fun map of all the places we anchored at during the season. If you click here, it will take you to an interactive map where you can zoom in and see everything in more detail. You can also see where we anchored during our 2015 Bahamas season and I'm also starting to add in all the places we anchored at when we lived and cruised in New Zealand.


I'll leave you with some more fascinating and not-so-fascinating tidbits before I go. Next up in our season recap series is cooking and provisioning. You'll want to tune in then, if for no other reason than to find out how many ice cream sandwiches we ate.

For those of you who have visited the Bahamas, what did you enjoy the most? For those of you who cruise, do you prefer marinas or anchoring? If you could name an anchorage or an island, what would you name it?

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29 September 2017

Captain Ron, Squalls & Support Groups | Back To The States From The Bahamas

Note: Our blog lags reality by many, many weeks. So, while you're reading this post about our cruising adventures in the Bahamas, in reality we're back in Indiantown Marina for hurricane season working on dreary boat projects. Cruising in the Bahamas was far more fun. {Sigh} 


Image source vis The Graphics Fairy

As I was looking back through our log book at the entries for our last days in the Bahamas before we crossed the Gulf Stream and headed back to the States at the end of the season, one thing stuck out at me - squalls.

Then I remembered that famous line from the classic cult movie, Captain Ron:

"It's just a squall. They come on ya fast and they leave ya fast."
A few seconds later, I looked at Scott and screamed:

"What have you done to me? I'm quoting lines from Captain Ron to myself! What kind of monster have you turned me into?"

He looked up from his computer and shrugged his shoulders. Then he went back to what he was doing. I'm guessing he was probably on some sailing and cruising forum chatting with other folks about how much they love the movie Captain Ron.

For those of you who haven't heard of Captain Ron, I'm guessing you don't have a boat and aren't into sailing. Because, at least here in the States, you're not allowed to buy a boat and sail in US territorial waters unless you've watched Captain Ron at least ten times.

Knowing navigational rules, sure that's kind of important, but being able to quote Captain Ron, that's the golden ticket to becoming a full-fledged sailor.

As an aside...you realize that you folks who haven't seen Captain Ron are the only ones who are going to read this blog going forward. All the boat-loving sailing types are going to shun me now. They'd probably be understanding if I said that I ate stir-fried kittens for breakfast, but not loving Captain Ron, well, that's enough to get you marooned on a deserted island somewhere.

When we were visiting our friends in Atlanta during our Hurricane Irma evacuation, everyone got all excited about watching Captain Ron one night. Everyone except me, that is.

While they chuckled away during the movie, I messed around on my computer looking for support groups for folks who aren't obsessed with Captain Ron. There aren't any by the way. There are, however, support groups for folks who eat bugs, mothers of alien hybrid children and people who yell at inanimate objects. You'll be reassured to know that I don't feel the need to join any of these groups.

So, anyway, back to squalls. We had a number of them. There you are, happily sailing along when >>Bam!<< the wind kicks up, it starts chucking down rain, visibility goes down and you see lightening circling around you, threatening to strike your mast and sink your boat. Lightening can be kind of evil that way.

Most of the squalls were minor annoyances. As Captain Ron says, they did in fact come on us fast and leave us fast. Some had heavy enough rain that we were able to strip down and take a shower on deck. (I know that might sound weird to some of you, but, hey, when you don't carry a lot of water on board and your last shower was a couple of days ago, the chance for a fresh water rinse courtesy of Mother Nature, is always welcome.)

Then there was the squall that had us bobbing around for an hour trying to wait it out rather than sail through its ominous clouds, thunder and lightening strikes. That one was annoying. But it eventually passed too.

Oh, well, that's part and parcel of sailing. Sometimes the weather is with you, other times, it isn't. As Captain Ron says:

If anything is going to happen, it's going to happen out there.

See, there I go again, quoting Captain Ron. Where's a support group when you need one?


Cruising Log | Thursday, 20 July 2017 - Friday, 28 July 2017

Anchor up at Marsh Harbour at 9:30 AM. Two fun-filled squalls. Calm conditions thru the Whale Cay Cut. Had to wait for the tide to go into White Sound at Green Turtle Cay. Anchor down at 2:45 PM.
Nautical Miles = 22. Engine = 5 hrs 15 mins. Spending = $9.97

Got 5 gallons diesel and 5 gallons water at Green Turtle Club Marina. Anchor up at 9:45 AM. Depths in channel out of White Sound lower than expected. Catamaran came into channel as we were making our way out. Wish they would have forewarned folks on the VHF and waited until we got out. Tight maneuvering, skinny water, fortunately no grounding occurred. Three fun-filled squalls. Squall #1 okay. Had to wait for Squall #2 to move on. Squall #3 brought lots of heavy rain and an opportunity to take a rain shower on deck. Anchor down at 3:15 PM at Allans-Pensacola Cay. Only one of two boats anchored there.
Nautical Miles = 23. Engine = 5 hrs 30 mins. Spending = $25.24 (diesel and water).

Anchor up 8:45 AM. Anchor down 6:00 PM at Great Sale Cay. One fun-filled squall. More rain showers on deck. Lifeline broke, same place as before.
Nautical Miles = 35. Engine = 7 hrs 45 mins. Spending = Nil.

Fixed lifeline. Cleaned off knot meter. Made bread and put soup in Wonderbag to cook while en route. Anchor up at 9:45 AM. Sailed without chartplotter for fun. Never know when it might stop working (like that time we were trying to get out of Georgetown). No squalls - hallelujah. Anchor down at 7:00 PM near Sandy Cay on the banks. Got really rolly overnight. 
Nautical Miles = 43. Engine = 9 hrs 15 mins. Spending = Nil.

Scott got up at 2:30 AM to prep engine and boat for Gulf Stream crossing. Ellen got up at 5:30 AM to make passage food. Anchor up at 6:30 AM. The crew is feeling cranky and tired. Fought the tide getting out of the banks. Not a great day for sailing. Should have been great, but it wasn't. Wind was either non-existent or on our nose for the most part. Boo. Challenges with tide getting into Lake Worth inlet. Went to our usual spot to anchor but folks were there. Didn't they know we were coming? Ended up anchoring further south in Lake Worth. Finally got anchor down at 8:00 PM. Cleared in with Customs & Border Patrol over the phone and then off to bed.
Nautical Miles = 64. Engine = 13 hrs 45 mins. Spending = Nil.

25 JULY - 26 JULY
Very hot overnight. Moved up to North Lake Worth. Stopped at fuel dock at Riviera Beach Marina. Very hot during the day. Went to Publix (close by anchorage). Very cold inside. Air conditioning is awesome. Lazed about and complained about the heat.
Nautical Miles = 6. Engine = 2 hours (including oil change). Spending = $99.10 (groceries & diesel)

Anchor up at 8:50 AM. Anchor down in Pendarvis Cove (near Stuart) at 3:00 PM. It's still hot. Nautical Miles = 28. Engine = 6 hrs 10 mins. Spending - Nil.

Anchor up at 9:00 AM. Back at Indiantown Marina that afternoon and into our old slip. It's still hot. #1 priority after docking - plugging into shore power and getting the portable A/C unit turned on.

Ever seen Captain Ron? If so, what did you think? What are your favorite movie quotes? What movies have you seen more than once?

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27 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Shadow People

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Sometimes you just have to take a moment and be silly.

2 - I look so much taller in shadow form than in real life.

3 - That's a really weird pose that I'm making. 

4 - Scott's shadow makes him look like he's wearing a long skirt. 

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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