Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Maarten!

Day 4: Tuesday the 29th of November

Approaching St. Maarten 0745 am

A beautiful day greeted us when we arose on Tuesday early to watch our arrival into the cruise line terminal in Philipsburg, the Dutch capital of St. Maarten. By 8:30 Marie and I were off the ship and catching a water taxi into town where we asked directions to the nearest car rental agency. As it turned out it wasn’t far away and by 9 we were on our way around the island in the only car available - a beat up Toyota Corolla. The island had had torrential rains the past few days and many of the roads were either washed out, filled with mud or debris, or just awash in a foot of water. It was a wonder we made it in that car as the transmission was slipping and grinding constantly and the back end emitting horrible noises each time I hit a bump. Nobody uses signals or passes safely here but we were able to wind our way up through the Dutch side to Orient Beach on the Partie Française without incident.

At Orient Beach

Arriving at the Partie Francaise
Orient Beach bum

St. Maarten mermaid

Marie and I spent the morning enjoying the warm water and sun, drinking a rum punch and wandering naked up and down the beach with all the other free spirits.  At noon we dressed and continued 
on to Grand Case and south to Marigot. Both these towns were rather dilapidated and the traffic was backed up everywhere due to detours from washed out roads. Perhaps in the 17th century, when the island was better known for the production of salt that was shipped back to Europe, it was prettier and less crowded. Some of the views we caught as we sped around the mountain tops were nice but I couldn’t take my eyes off the road for more than a few seconds as on every turn there was someone flying around it into my lane! Scooters were everywhere and took chances whenever they could on the very narrow roads. We went down into Cole Bay and headed west again to the Juliana Airport and Maho Bay where we had a great lunch on the beach, opposite the now famous spot where the jets land a few feet over your head on their final approach to the runway. If you haven’t seen this yet on YouTube check it out! There was a ton of people there and it was a really festive atmosphere, reminding me in a way of people waiting for a total eclipse or the countdown to the Space Shuttle launch!

Marie in green dress waving arms, Maho Bay!

 We watched a few AA jets land but couldn’t wait for the Air France jumbo that was late as we had to get back to town, fuel the car and get back onboard for a 6pm sailing. Tomorrow we tie up in Basseterre, St. Kitts.  gws

Cruising !

Day 2 & 3: Sun & Mon the 27th & 28th of November

We spent the next two days cruising south towards the Caribbean in dry but very windy conditions, the seas choppy and flecked with foam. Sunbathing became a bit of a challenge as anything not tied down soon became airborne.  Windburn, not sunburn was the order of these two days but there was always something else to do on this giant floating mall. Shops galore, spas, an ice rink, rock climbing, fully equipped gym, mini golf, a full basketball court and Jacuzzis. There are always dance lessons, shows and fun games around the pools and, of course, innumerable bars, all with their own theme and ambience, from an English style pub to an ‘underground’ dance floor.  And did I mention restaurants? All over the ship, some pretty darn fancy that even Royalty would feel at home in and some made up to look like a 50`s drive- in! Yesterday was the first of the formal dinners – suit and tie- and a chance to meet the Captain on the promenade. 

Dinner attire

 This ship was built in 2002 in Finland and hasn’t shown any signs of wear that I could tell. It is definitely a step above the Carnival ship we sailed on in 2004! Still looking forward to a day in St. Maarten. I think we will probably do our own exploring and get away from the crowds, if possible. Weather forecast not too promising though with rain, but warm, none the less! We eat at 8:30 every evening and it is almost time to dress and have a before dinner drink…. gws

Our cabin!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Heading South

A last visit to the cabin, then home to attend Marie's retirement dinner, then a few days to pack before heading down to Plattsburgh, NY on the 20th to catch a DirectAir flight to Florida to begin our 3 weeks in the south. As our cruise from Ft Lauderdale doesn't begin until the 26th we spent the week visiting with Lyn, Don, Shawn, Lauren, Brenna, Mom and Dad in Brooksville and Dee in Land O Lakes. November in central Florida is very pleasant, the humidity gone and the cool nights that come on fairly quickly quite refreshing. We spent three days at Lyns place, going with her one day to film her riding lessons on a horse farm just outside Brooksville. Marie was thrilled to get a chance to ride and looked quite at home in the saddle! I was attacked by the ever present fire ants that curse Florida and will be itching for another week. A visit to Mom to get her computer back up and the television working was essential and then it was time for Thanksgiving dinner at Dee's on Thursday - spiral ham, sweet potato pie and all the fixings. Friday we are off in our rental car to Richard's place in Lake Worth, on the east coast, where we will spend the night before driving down to meet the ship. I will try to update on each of our ports so come back and sea what we are up to!  gws

Muffy on top of the septic tank

Muffy & Marie
Gary & Muffy
DirectAir, Plattsburgh, NY
our rented Lincoln Continental

Mom and horse, Lake Lindsey Road

Marie & Brenna
Lyn, riding lessons



Jane & Lyn
Marie, Butterfly Park, The Groves

Mom & Marie

Dad, Mom, Gary in his 1969 HMCS Skeena cap
Gary, Lyn and dogs, Hamish and Ciara

Ebe and Dee

Marie and Dee, Ukuleles Bar, Land O Lakes

Ukuleles Bar, Land O Lakes

Dee and Marie

Dad pouring a beer
Heading home

Caribbean Cruise

                                             Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Sea!

Day 1: Saturday the 26th of November

Today Marie and I left for our cruise on Royal Caribbean’s the Navigator of the Seas from Fort Everglades, Florida. We arrived the day before, having driven south on the 75 from Dee’s, then spending Friday night and Saturday morning at Richard’s condo in Lake Worth. Marie and I drove out to the water for breakfast at “Benny’s on the Beach”, and then walked to the end of the jetty. 

It was a warm, windy day and the surf was pretty awesome but we didn’t have much time to enjoy the beach as we had to get back, pack the car and lock up the condo. It was a short drive south to the airport at Fort Lauderdale, where we dropped off the car, and then took a taxi to Port Everglades where the ship was tied up.

waiting in line!

Unfortunately we had to wait in line with 3000 other people in the hot sun for over 2 hours to board and I hoped it wasn’t an omen for the rest of the trip!  The Coast Guard were conducting their annual ship’s readiness inspection and refused to let anyone board until they were done. After boarding we found out that day was the busiest in the history of the Port! Nine cruise ships carrying over 55,000 passengers were scheduled to sail before us and we didn’t get going till past 6pm that evening. But - our cabin is nice, with a large porthole, lots of storage space, a couch, and writing table…and a king size bed! The ship is amazing and even with over 4000 people on board (passengers and crew) we are able to find a quiet spot for a drink or to read. I am writing this in the ship’s library and it is as quiet as a church. We enjoyed our first dinner aboard with a couple we met from Venezuela – there are people from everywhere and many, many older than us, but very few children. It should be a pleasant trip! Sunday and Monday are sea days, not much to do but sunbathe, swim, drink beer and read. We are scheduled to arrive in Phillipsburg, St Maarten on Tuesday morning at 0800 and have to be back on board at 5:30PM. See you then!  gws

leaving Port Everglades

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Friends, colleagues and family gathered together at a downtown restaurant on Friday the 18th November to celebrate and remember with wistfulness, nostalgia and pride the long and amazing career of my wonderful wife Marie. Now, as she now takes leave of her 35 years in the Canadian Federal Public Service to embark on the next voyage in her life, I will try to summarize what an amazing run it was in the service of the public! Graduating from the University of Ottawa in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science and not yet 20 she entered on her long journey with the Canadian Goverment, rising from a clerk to become an admired and dedicated director general. Marie's enthusiasm, ethics and concern for her staff will be her legacy.

 Marie began her career as a Human Resources clerk as a CR 2 for the Department of National Defence, moving up to the position of Staffing Assistant in 1978.

Later, in 1981, she became an Administrative trainee in Materiel Management where she was involved in Treasury Board submissions for Capital equipment, procurement and inventory management. But this was just a stepping stone to the next level for in 1982 Marie became a Purchasing Officer PG 2, still with National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, but now in the officer ranks!

As the new Repair and Overhaul Liaison Officer, Marie was now involved in the repair line of the CP140 Aurora aircraft,a Canadianized variant of the P-3 Orion aircraft used in the maritime surveillance role by Canada and many other countries. For the next two years she was employed as a National Inventory Procurement Officer in the Directorate of Procurement and Supply Common User, located in the old Constitution building on the corner of King Edward and Rideau Street, Ottawa. Marie also joined the Reserves in 1981, getting her Commission that year!

Logistics Officers Training Course 1981, Borden, Ontario

Constitution Building, Ottawa

CP 140

Commissioning Presentation, HMCS Carleton

Marie wasn't going very far geographically but she was moving steadily up the ladder, her eye always fixed firmly on the next rung. This is when I met her for the first time and remember vividly that day in 1983 when she walked confidently through the section and into her new office, wearing a large hat and tailored suit. This was Marie's first experience as a supervisor and she was out to make an impression! That morning all eyes were on the new "boss" who was making her statement to the world that she had arrived! It seemed inevitable however that Marie and I should hit it off together professionally as well as personally and we soon became the talk of the 8th floor. My posting to Halifax followed in 1985 and it was with much soul searching that Marie followed me east, taking a position at Base Supply, Halifax as the Support Systems Manager-Procurement, managing the implementation of the new computer systems that would quickly change the way we did business.

Marie and children in Halifax

CFB Halifax Dockyard, Nova Scotia
 In 1989 Marie moved across the harbour from Base Supply to become the Section Head of Supply Services at Defence Research Establishment (Atlantic) in Dartmouth. It was a welcome change from the Base and Marie eagerly returned to what she enjoyed the best, managing budgets and, most importantly for her, helping develop and mentor a small staff. Although she was only there for a year it proved yet another opportunity to advance, moving just up the road to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

File:DREC Atlantic Building.png
Defense Research Establishment (Atlantic), Dartmouth, NS
For the next two years, until 1990, Marie held the job of Section Head Science Procurement at the  Bedford Institute of Technology as a PG 3 working closely with the Department of Supply and Services, implementing regional policies and meeting with client organizations. But as we had now moved to the beautiful Annapolis Valley and driving in from Paradise was becoming too much every day, Marie sought a position closer to home. During this time she took on an assignment as a Fish Plant Inspector and worked on Nova Scotia's French Shore in Meteghan and Digby for 6 months. She was issued a a uniform and a car complete with CB radio during that time and often came home in the evening smelling of the fish!

Off to the fish plant!

Meteghan, Nova Scotia

Bedford Institute of Technology, Bedford, NS

Marie then had the opportunity to participate in a competition being held in Kentville, less than an hour away, which ensured she would be closer to home permanently. So for the the next 5 years, until 1997, Marie was now the Aministrative Officer (AS 5) at the Atlantic Food and Horticultural Centre in the small town of Kentville, one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's national network of 19 research centres.

First day on the job!
Here she was involved in everything from real property management, vehicle repairs and maintenance, health and safety, procurement, financial management and operations, human resources staffing and pay, meetings with town officials, downsizing and reorganizing to French language interviews on Radio Canada. Surrounded by the 188 hectares of flowers, trees and 10 kilometres of trails that lead to two look-off points over the Valley, ponds, waterfalls and many streams, as well as the masses of rhododendrum and azalea bushes and the blue sky framed in the floor to roof windows of the Centre, it was a relaxing place to work.

Kentville Agricultural Station, Kentville, NS

June 12, visitors are invited to the research station’s annual Rhododendron Sunday. Tour Atlantic Canada’s largest collection of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Rhododendrons, Kentville Agricultural Station

In 1997 Marie went back to Ottawa, on secondment for a year as an Integrated Management System Analyst, to assist in the configuration, implementation and training related to the SAP ERP, especially the CO Module.  During that time Marie was travelling back and forth, every month or so, between home and Ottawa and managed to take up ballroom and latin dancing and to compete successfully in a few competitions.  In collaboration with her team, she enjoyed ensuring the system was well implemented and suited the needs of the many users nationwide across the Department.

In 1998 we all moved back to Ottawa as Marie had then been reclassified to AS 6 and was implementing the Federal Government's Financial Information Strategy or FIS and continuing to assist departmental SAP users. This lasted until 2000 when she transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as their Client Services Coordinator for Central Region, acting as a mediator between clients and managers of corporate services. After six months,  Marie took a leave of absence from the Federal Public Service and went to work for DMR Consulting as a Senior Consultant. During that time her contract was for the implementation of FIS for the Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade. But it was to be onward and upward for the new century was only just a year old when Marie was back with the RCMP as an AS 7 and the Regional Manager for Business Systems. From there it was a short jump to the Executive level and in 2003 Marie, still with the RCMP, became the Director of Business Improvement, Corporate Management and Comptrollership, Finance Branch.

Presentation of EX1 Certificate
25 year service  award

Senior Consultant, DMR Consulting (DFAIT)

  Marie began her acting career in January 2005, moving on as an EX 2 to Social Development Canada in the Vanier Towers to become the A/Senior Director Financial Management and Control (Deputy Controller). When the newly formed Department was merged back to it's former Department - Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in February 2006, Marie headed back to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as the A/Executive Director, Results-Based Management, Strategic Management, Corporate Service Branch with a staff of 25. This time shes was in the Sir John Carling Building, one of the more pleasant locations of the hundreds of government buildings scattered across the National Capital region, on Carling Ave at the Central Experimental Farm. She would be there until December 2007 before moving on to Public Safety Canada in the new BMO Building downtown on Laurier Ave as the Director of Financial Planning, Analysis and Reporting, Comptroller Division, Corporate Management Branch first as an EX 1 and then an EX 2. Phew...staying there for 3 years and taking on the responsibility of Acting Comptroller (EX 3) position for 6 months.

CMA Designation, Toronto, 2007
File:Place Vanier.JPG
Vanier Towers, Ottawa
Sir John Carling building
BMO Building, 269 Laurier, Ottawa
In March 2010 Marie was able to transfer to Montreal, principally to be closer to Phil and Fernanda who were expecting their first child, our first grandchild, Patrick. It was here at the Complexe Guy-Favreau on Rene Levesque Blvd, she took on the challenge of her last position as Director General Finance and Administration for the Quebec Region of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.  

Guy Favreau Building, Montreal

Retirement Seminar, Ottawa 2010
 In this last position Marie was responsible for approximately 150 employees, providing a variety of services to support the organization and directly to Canadians. It was a position she was extremely happy in and a fitting environment to bring to a close her career. But all good things must come to an end and, after 35 years of service to the country, Marie was now ready to move up to the last rung of the ladder, to look back for a short time on all her accomplishments, and then to step away, soaring into the horizon where sunny days of retirement beckoned...but first:
The Retirement Dinner! This was held at the Papillon Bleu restaurant in the old financial district of Montreal and Marie was honoured by her boss and some surprise guests who had come down from Ottawa. We didn't have alot of time afterwards to prepare for the next exciting event - our western Caribbean cruise the following week! I will update as we visit for a week with the family in Florida before embarking on the cruise ship Navigator of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale! See you then! gws