Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Maite's Miami

When we attended the Miami boat show in 2008, I stayed close to the hotel, venturing out only to the boatshow venues.  Craig was called back to Canada for work so I had a few days on my own.  Miami was the first place I'd been to where I didn't feel safe and I couldn't pinpoint why.  It felt dark and unhappy, and hotel staff warned about high and violent crime rates.  I wondered if it was the close proximity of "Star Island" with some of the most expensive real estate in the country next to neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the US.  The harbour was industrial, noisy, and littered with liquid and solid pollution.  Dozens of long-nosed, deafening speed boats burning 2 gallons of fuel per mile raced between shipping traffic. I wasn't planning to return.

Then I met Maite. We met Maite and Ed at AntaresU in St. Lucia and Ed has become a regular at Alberta Crewed's post-U or boat show repair sessions.  The sessions are always unplanned but Ed is the lucky guy around and rubs his hands exclaiming, "Now the fun begins.  Something to fix!"  Maite was raised in Miami and generously showed us her city.  She took off my blinders and showed me the vibrance of Little Havanna, parks and walkways along the shore, and the art deco architecture of Miami Beach.  Her stories went beyond the building facades as she described how she remembered particular families who lived in the buildings and how the streets were filled with children playing outside.  She went right to my weak spot, taking me to a Cuban Bakery where I drooled over the croqueticas and pastelons.  I left with a bag of pastries and we sampled the melt-in-your-mouth flavours of meats and sauces at Versailles nearby.  The restaurant was filled with laughter, clanging dishes, noisy conversations, and continual movement as we reached over and into each others plates to try as many dishes as we could.  A talented quartet from Spain added to the rhythm and movement.  Now I plan to return.

"Maite Moves: Passing around the soup"

The Maite Effect continues to inform my experiences here in the boatyard.  Last week, I was anxious that Mom and Jack weren't going to be able to spend time on the boat.  The Antares team did everything they could to get the boat finished but because the required parts were specialized, they needed to be to exact specifications and required a couple of send-backs to the shop to be just right.  We looked beyond the chain link fence and went on a treasure hunt for interesting sights.  Craig and I spotted an alligator in a pond while we walked to the mall and are often followed by ibises on the road.

Mom and Jack got their cruise on the Stuart paddle wheel boat.  I explained it was exactly the route along the St. Lucie and Indian rivers we would have taken with them on the boat, except that the paddle boat cruise was less stressful and the food was better.

We found the John MacArthur Beach State Park, a natural area surrounded by coastline high-rises and populated with urban-dwelling wading birds and manatees.  The beach is usually deserted and the nature centre is run by naturalists who will spend any amount of time sharing their knowledge and passion.

So thank you, Maite.  Let's get together again soon.  Sorry Ed, this time we won't have anything to fix.

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