Sailing the Grenadines - How this Sailing Stuff Got Started

Somehow, this doesn't look - or feel - like France. 
It's not.

But this is kind of where it all started.

We're sailing in the Tobago Cays. 

Tiny islands. Amazing colors. 
Sea turtles. Eagle rays. Dolphins. 

A trail of starfish leads us back to the boat underwater after a snorkeling expedition. 

 We find a sailboat, a 57' catamaran, that needs another couple on it. 

We volunteer. 

With Isabelle, the French chef, and Frédéric, the captain. 
We don't even have to do the sailing - or the cooking - ourselves. 
Three others, a couple from England and one Swiss fellow, complete our crew.

It's very windy - 25 knots - but oh, the colors of the water!

We visit Carriacou. Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau. Mopion. Union Island. Eat lobster on Petit Bateau. 
Petit Tabac. Petit St. Vincent. Everything very "petit". 

Between my feet and that white beach are sea turtles. And fat starfish.

 After a sandy salty week, we return to our rented house in Grenada.
We've been here over a month.

Feels almost like home by now. 

We'd been here before. 

Spice Islands.
Near the end of the chain of Caribbean islands. 

Closer to Venezuela than to Miami.  

Originally, a few years back, we thought we'd wind up buying and living on a sailboat. 

Two years ago, here in the Caribbean, we began seriously learning about boats. 
We read. Practiced knots. Took training courses.

We passed numerous exams, and got our licenses for bareboat chartering and coastal cruising, inland waterways, monohull, catamarans, navigation, and probably a couple of others. 

We hold licenses from the UK, the US, from Ireland, France, and from the EU. 
Countless books and hours of work. 

-Not that it really meant we knew what we were doing - by any means. 

We spent time on boats in Thailand, in Greece, in France, in Myanmar, in Laos, Indonesia, and all over the Caribbean.  I counted 50 islands we'd visited in the Caribbean alone! 

(See where Grenada is on my map? WAY south.)

But: At one point, we realized that - living on a sailboat, even a catamaran, isn't for us. 
Plus,  the idea of dealing with hurricane season - that just made the decision easier. 

So we began to look at canal boats in Europe. 

We considered over 500 boats (!), mostly online. Once in France, we inspected 30 boats from the inside, (here's THAT story) and eliminated another 30 from the outside. 

I made spreadsheets.
And lists.

And - you know the rest of the story.

When I was a kid, we lived in the Virgin Islands. 

Once, I was invited to a friend's birthday party on her parents' boat. 
I was probably in first grade. 

I remember being SO impressed! 

That memory has stuck with me over the years. 
I don't think I could swim yet, but man, I wanted to jump off that boat with the other kids. 

So I did. Jumped off the boat (still a favorite thing to do-) and started swimming. 

Yep. That's when it all started.

Skiing in Austria!

With - ALL the kids and family.

How cool and rare is THAT?

Aidan - Kilian - Mikey - Noah - Iris - Trish - Ray - Erik

First trip ANYWHERE for us outside Languedoc in 2 YEARS-! 
(I don't think I've spent a whole year in one country in my entire LIFE before.)

And - it was AWESOME. 

All the kids made it - from Berlin, from the US. 

In spite of the threat of cancelled flights, new restrictions. 
Even though Austria had just come out of full lockdown. 

And: We had the slopes to ourselves. 

Kilian and Aidan at the top of a lift, above the clouds, Innsbruck below.

Sometimes we were the ONLY people on the entire lift - or the slopes. 
No lines, no waiting. Parking lots empty.

Ray following Erik down the hill. No one else around.

Almost eerie. 

Erik and I enjoy the sun while the others catch up

We rented a big house in Igls, just outside Innsbruck. 
Where my family used to go when we were kids.

And found a big VW van that fit all 9 of us - plus skis.

Noah (5) learned to ski quickly. And fast. 
His parents are both good skiers. 

Mikey, Noah, and Iris in the gondola

Noah was pretty darn excited about the whole ski thing.

Ray was a first time skier too. (Not much snow in Thailand-) 
She also learned quickly, with Erik's help.

Ray, bravely tackling the steep slopes -

Erik, sporting cool hat from Tbilisi, Georgia

Kilian is the only one who's been skiing regularly, in Taos, New Mexico. 
He was also pretty excited. He's been teaching Aidan - another quick learner.

Meanwhile, Stan had the house to himself all day, while we were skiing. 
Which - was just fine with Stan, who was working on a big music project.

This is more his style: 

We did plenty of that, too. 

He and I took the train from Narbonne to Innsbruck, through Switzerland.
Spent time in Alsace and Burgundy and Zürich, staying in cozy hotels, eating and drinking well. 

Me? I haven't been skiing much in the past 10-15 years. 
Maybe a half dozen times, usually with Kilian.

I wasn't sure how it would go. 
But - after a day or two, it felt comfortable again.

And - I'm STILL wearing the same ski suit - the now "retro"
 onesie - that I taught the kids to ski in decades ago!

Teaching Mikey - 1989 Albuquerque Journal front page

Okay, if you go back even FURTHER:

Here I am, in Igls, at the top of Patscherkofel, in 1966. 
Exactly where we are now.
With cable ski bindings and leather lace-up boots. 

And yes, I think that's a St. Bernard beside me. 
Probably wearing the requisite cask of brandy, too.

Totally old style.

We skied every day but one, when we explored Innsbruck. 
Different mountains, including ones used for Olympic downhill and slalom events. 

Some trails had neat little huts located strategically for hot spiced wine.

Kilian, Mikey and Erik make a quick stop.

 Or a picnic and a bit of ski slope yoga in the sun.

So how was the official part -? Covid and paperwork?

This Itchy Feet Comic pretty much says it all:

Not the Swiss - not the French - not the Austrians - even the train people never checked our Senior Pass Cards. Or the negative tests. Or the entry forms. 

NO ONE was interested in all their required paperwork. * sigh *

Yes, we're all triple-vaxxed. (And Noah already had covid-)
Yes, we have to show proof - the QR code on our phones - to enter public buildings. 

Yes, we have to wear masks, even on the ski lifts, which - is kinda difficult! 
Under the goggles and the helmet, over the neck warmer or scarf? 

But - at least there's a system, and - we could go skiing.


The other half of the covid part-? NO ONE WAS ANYWHERE. 

Dijon - in Burgundy

Not in the cities. Not on the trains. Not in the restaurants.

Ok, it was January. It was cold. 

But - still. Kind of eerie. 

We took turns cooking. 

Everything from New Mexican green chile stew and homemade posole

 - to Thai ramen and Italian pasta. 

And plenty of hot spiced Glühwein.

So good to all get together again. And - skiing! 

 It's been a long time. 

SO glad it all worked out-!

Here's what Igls looked like, back in 1966:

Not too much different now.

It's still - kind of magic.