Hey, This Isn't Havana!May 8, 2003
Ottawa Valley - not a palm frond in sight; in fact, not a leaf of any kind
Before we started cruising full time, we looked forward to having the freedom to decide when and where we wanted to go. Our lives on shore seemed to be planned out too far in advance, and we weren't in control of the scheduling. Now we have total control over our future plans. The only problem is that these plans rarely play out as intended. Some people would claim we're unpredictable. We prefer to say we're flexible.
Last summer we thought we'd be heading to Cuba this spring. We spent two months cruising the south coast of Cuba three years ago and really enjoyed it. This time, we figured we'd check out the north coast, starting from the east end and heading west towards Havana. From the Bahamas, where we intended to spend the winter, we could sail to Cuba in a day. We borrowed some charts from friends with whom we visited Cuba before, and invited them to join us on "Little Gidding" once we got there. Other friends had travelled to Cuba more recently and gave us a bunch of school supplies to deliver to a town they had liked a lot. We offered to sponsor an American couple who also intended to cruise Cuba, but were prohibited by their government to spend any money there.
While we were planning our trip to Cuba, Eileen's older sister in Ottawa, Maureen, was planning a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for their parents. Unfortunately, the day of the party was scheduled for when we intended to be in Cuba. David suggested Eileen could fly home for the event while he took care of the boat (suffering in abject solitude, of course). When we were in the Bahamas a couple of months ago, we looked into flights from Havana to Canada. It didn't look very good. Most people travel the other way. David said, "Maybe your parents can reschedule their anniversary."
"I doubt it," Eileen replied drily. "After 50 years, they've sort of got stuck on that particular date."
"Well, you've got five brothers and sisters," David persisted. "Probably nobody will notice if you're missing."
"Forget it," Eileen said. "We've got to be there, and that means we're not going to Cuba this year. Period."
"Okay," David finally conceded, "But it's going to be cold up there in early May and you know how you hate the cold. Don't say I didn't warn you."
So, that's why we left the Bahamas last month and headed north instead of south. Last week we hauled the boat at the Coan River marina in Virginia near the mouth of the Potomac River. Tuesday morning we picked up a rental car and began following the Canada geese flying in V formation overhead. When we were halfway through Pennsylvania, Eileen observed, "There aren't any leaves on the trees here. Do you think they're diseased?" David responded, "The trees are fine. It's still winter here."
Just before midnight - after driving for fifteen hours - we arrived in Ottawa. It was cold when we stepped out of the car. There were three thick comforters piled up on the bed in the guest room in Eileen's parents' house. This morning we borrowed the folks' car and drove over to Maureen's place to discuss the last minute details of the anniversary party. The fields by the highway were bare. The leafless trees looked stark against the slate grey sky. It seemed like all the cars that passed us were flying Ottawa Senator flags. The Ottawa Senators are in the NHL playoffs. "They're still playing hockey here!" Eileen whimpered. "I think they play on artificial ice," David reassured her.
Maureen filled us in on what everyone in the family was up to. We couldn't believe how much had happened since we last visited. This afternoon, Eileen's youngest brother dropped by with his three year old daughter, Meghan. They had flown in from Winnipeg a few days ago. Meghan was twice as big as when we last saw her, and talking a mile a minute. Eileen's aunt just drove up from Long Island, NY. We hadn't seen her for years. Tonight Eileen's youngest sister comes in by bus from Toronto. And then there's Eileen's other two brothers and their families who live here in Ottawa. It seems like ages since we last heard from them all.
Tomorrow is the anniversary party. It's the first time in ten years that the whole family has been together. We don't care if it's a little cool. We can always go to Cuba next year. At least, that's the plan....