Friday, June 2, 2017

Not Throwing In the Towel Yet




Gift from the Brookes after watching Dan swim out
to ES from the beach in Fredericksted,  St. Croix. 
       We retired to cruise on board Exit Strategy about six and a half years ago.  Before moving onto the boat and afterward the most common question we were asked was, "How long do you plan on cruising?"

       Our answer has always been and still is simple, "We're going to keep on doing it as long as we're both healthy and able to manage sailing."

       So it was a concern last fall when I noticed the Captain quietly wincing every now and then.  He didn't complain about anything, though.  He rarely does.  But when he began liberally applying NUTMED, his favorite pain relief spray from Grenada, every night before bed, I had to ask what was going on.  He finally admitted that his right shoulder was really stiff.  He agreed to mention it to his doctor in St. Thomas went he went for his annual check up.


          In the meantime,  he also finally succumbed to my suggestion of installing an automatic winch on the boat to help with the main and Genoa. This was a selfish request on my part, as the less the Captain can do, the more the Mate must do.  It arrived in St. Croix in time for Christmas.

                                 

The exercise bans look worn because
they're giving Dan a good workout.
      Long story short- the doc checked the captain out and prescribed a Physical Therapy evaluation.  The evaluation warranted therapy three times a week for four weeks.  This was all accomplished in St. Thomas this spring and ended in time for us to make safe passage down to Bonaire for the bulk of the hurricane season.


       We are far from ready to throw in the towel.   Most mornings now, below the decks of ES you'll find it's transformed into a workout gym.  First & Last Mate Rosie does her yoga poses and stretches in the master cabin while the captain has taken over the companionway and salon. (Those hand holds are really useful!) 
Retirement gift from my "Roomie" Karla at HP School


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Driving Me DINGHY!

Not talking Jamaican Patois, folks.  Just telling it like it is.  Venting, some would say.  What we all need to do at times. Just let off a little steam, so we can keep our cool.

I don't rile easily.  I believe that I've always been calmer and more patient than the average person; however, every now and then I have blown my top with relish.  For instance, eons ago when I was a Special Ed Resource Teacher (in a town that shall remain nameless- I have taught in seven),  I had had a particularly trying session with one of my fourth graders (who shall also remain unnamed).  My emotional beaker, as Rick Lavoie-Sp. Ed. Guru would say, was overflowing!   My Resource Teacher partner/ Good Friend/ Sista-from-Anotha-Motha (yes, she's remaining unidentified, too) witnessed my blow up.  I had just dismissed the student from our room, took a deep breath and said, "I'm going to kill R________   H__________________________!"  Of course,  I DIDN'T, but at the time,  I sure felt like I could have.

So, WHAT IS DRIVING FIRST&LAST MATE ROSIE DINGHY NOW? Well, the dinghy.

You see, I've been working on sewing a canvas cover- also known as chaps- for our dinghy.  I should have made it about two and a half YEARS ago when the dinghy was brand new.  I thought about it.  I even remember trying to use our old cover on it, but the shape of this model was just different enough to warrant a whole new pattern.

Making a pattern involves hauling the dinghy onto the shore and draping a light weight plastic over it to mark and cut and mark and cut repeatedly.  Then on a day with calm winds and low chop in the bay, you lay the pattern over the canvas on a large, relatively flat and clean surface like the foredeck and cut the pieces out. (As seen in picture below.)

Exposed canvas edges can fray, so it's recommended they be sealed which is a painstakingly slow process using a hotgun-like soldering tool.  The cover came away with NO accidental burn marks and I finished the gruesome task with only three burned fingers.


 Then there's the frustration of fitting and marking, cutting and fitting again, followed by sewing and fitting a third or fourth or fifth time.  Sometimes the fitting was accomplished with the dinghy on the beach.  Other fittings were done dangling off the back of the boat taking care to keep the fabric from getting too wet.


The video I watched before starting the chaps also recommended using a two-sided adhesive tape when installing the vinyl around the handholds.  I used this type of tape, but it wasn't sticky enough to work properly and I felt that all my effort was for naught, as I carefully held three layers in place while sewing.  

Need I mention the added difficulty of good cruising friends in the bay stopping by to inquire on my progress, luring me away from my sewing machine to swim, have sundowners ashore, or go out to dinner?


I'm proud of the finished product because the chaps make the dinghy seem new again... just in time for our granddaughter Lyla's sleepover with two friends!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

V.I.CATION CRUISE 2017


Carroll Family climbing the rocks at Salt Pond Island, BVI

We are always delighted to have folks on board and are especially tickled when our son's or daughter's family sails with us because they bring the grandkids and, of course,  OUR GRANDKIDS ROCK!  So it was with great pleasure that we had the opportunity to take a nine day V.I.CATION CRUISE with Becky's family in mid March. Their vacation requests were simple.  They wanted to SNORKEL and SWIM, ROCK CLIMB, EXPLORE the BATHS, see a WRECK, HIKE, and RELAX!



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Maya really got into free diving! She kept speeding up to "catch" fish
 and we had to stop her from accosting barracudas and sting rays.
         


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French Grunt hiding beneath Elk Horn Coral near Black Urchin
Becky, Jeff, Maya (9), and Genna (almost 7) flew into St. Thomas, USVI and took the ferry to St. John where we welcomed them aboard Exit Strategy.  This was Maya's 6th and Genna's 5th sail with us, so they quickly made themselves at home in their usual bunks. We spent the first day moored off of lovely Honeymoon Beach in Caneel Bay, St. John where they enjoyed the sandy shore and also got reacquainted with snorkeling.  Both girls are strong swimmers, but chose to wear life vests while snorkeling the first day. But soon Maya began diving and she left the vest behind to be able to view sea life closer. In the morning, we hiked the picturesque trail to Cruz Bay and visited the National Park Center, as much of the island is part of the National Park of the USVI.
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We ride the rail in hopes of a big splash!


The second day we moved on to Leinster Bay, St. John-USVI that also lies on the island's northern coast.  There we took time to snorkel Waterlemon Cay twice, as it is a favorite snorkel spot where you can often see larger fish on the channel side of the cay.  We also hiked to the Annaberg Plantation Ruins and learned a bit about the site's history from one of the volunteer guides.  Later on, the girls used hand lines to fish that Uncle Marty sent, with no result.
The following afternoon, we traveled the short distance across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to the BVI's West End (aka Sopers Hole) where we dutifully cleared into the BVI.  (Well, Captain Grandpa cleared us in and we browsed the local shops.)  We stayed the night and ate a leisurely dinner ashore at Pusser's Pub.



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Surprised to find a Geocache
         
Those are salt crystals along the shore.

In the morning, Exit Strategy headed toward Salt Island, BVI and took an NPS mooring.  We dinghied ashore to wander the uninhabited island taking a worn path that passed a simple graveyard and then  Becky stumbled upon a Geocache site.  After climbing part of the rocky shoreline, we trekked back and found an intriguing salt pond. Years ago, when it was in production, the  Governor collected one bag of salt per year for its tax.  Finally, we donned our snorkel gear to survey the Wreck of the Rhone, a British mail ship that sank during a hurricane in 1867.  Snorkeling a wreck was Genna's special vacation request, but prior to going there she was worried about seeing skeletons of the 123 passengers who died. Of course, there were no skeletons left- just piles of rubble and a huge propeller.
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Hallovers Bay climb
       
Later that afternoon, we motored the short distance to Cooper Island, BVI for the night.  This island is a busy, touristy place, but we generally avoid the main anchorage and drop the hook nearby at quiet Hallovers Bay. The huge, ragged boulders lining the shore here beckoned the girls, and their urge to do yet another climb was satisfied the next morning.  Genna is an avid rock climber and accompanied Becky up to some incredible heights.




The "Welcoming Committee at the Dogs: File Fish and Yellowtail Snappers
Soon after their soirée ashore, we set a course in a northwesterly direction towards The Dogs, BVI, another good snorkel and dive spot.  We were the only vessel moored in the area and found the "tamed" fish eager to welcome us when we jumped in the water.

From there we went to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI to anchor for the night.  We dingied in to find some ice cream treat.  However, a uniformed man, complete with clip board, met us at the dock and informed us of a $2 per person charge to come ashore.  As much as we all wanted ice cream, THAT was RIDICULOUS. To benefit Maya and Genna, a short lesson in economics ensued and we sadly returned to the boat, where I tried to whip up a sort of coconut pudding that turned out to be too sweet to eat! (Imagine that...)


The Baths are located just east of Spanish Town along the leeward shore of Virgin Gorda. They are the top tourist destination of the BVI, but they truly are a "must see" site that affords a memorable hike through gigantic smooth boulders. We moored the boat off of Spring Bay and hiked the trail backwards.  Genna and Maya acted as scouts to find open passages that adults could squeeze through.  They did a fine job considering the largest in our group was their 6 foot 5 inch dad, Jeff.  Luckily, we made it through pretty far before meeting up with a tourist group of 100 (!) being lead through in the opposite direction.  
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Maya leads the way
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Genna cannon balling at the Baths
























We over-nighted at anchor in Road Town, Tortola, BVI where they recently renovated their cruise ship dock.  Dinner was had ashore that evening at Maria's By the Sea where we had ICE CREAM for dessert. Genna and Maya took in the sites and sounds of the busy harbor while relaxing in the hammock.  In the morning, Captain Grandpa cleared us out of the BVI while we girls made a quick stop at the local grocer.


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Hawknest Bay, another pristine anchorage within the boundaries of the National Park of St. John-USVI was our next destination.  The crew of Exit Strategy had not been here in years and were pleased to find the beaches still beautiful, the shoreline still relatively undeveloped, and more NPS moorings.  Snorkeling here netted multiple sightings of small sting rays and Hawksbill turtles, for which the bay is so named.  On the beach, the girls also found a treasure map and dug up some booty!
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Christmas tree worms on coral
       
On many evenings during the cruise, we played a variety of games including Dominoes, SPOONS/MONKEY, Skip-bo, and Uno. However, that evening in Hawknest Bay, we relished a bit of Face Time with our son Bob's family in St. Croix.  The four cousins (including Lyla and Aslan) shared secret hiding places to use on board Exit Strategy while playing Hide-and-Seek.
 




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The next morning we made our way back to Cruz Bay, St. John to officially clear into the USVI. An ice cream shop was conveniently located near Customs and Immigration, so a few of us succumbed one last time. 


Our final night with Becky's family was spent in Christmas Cove, St. James, USVI.  Upon arriving there, we jumped  in for a swim and snorkel and were rewarded with seeing sea stars, more rays, and an octopus on the hunt. The girls tried fishing again and Becky caught a small yellowtail snapper.


At rest, an octopus resembles a clump of dead coral.
  I happened to spot this one when it finally moved.

On the final morning of our V.I.CATION CRUISE 2017, Captain Grandpa maneuvered Exit Strategy to Brewers Bay, St. Thomas, USVI.  Brewers Bay has a nice, sandy stretch of beach and is located adjacent to the airport's runway.  However, "you can't get there from here", as there is no close dinghy dock to access the airport.  So after taking some time  to swim and play on the beach, Becky's family packed up their things, said good-bye, and taxied to the airport.  Although we are always sad to say "Good-bye" we know
                            THEY'LL BE BACK...


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

R & R with Marty


Photo taken at Buck Island's Lookout Point by hiker
 who identified himself as "from DC and currently between jobs".

      In mid-February, my brother Marty joined us on board Exit Strategy for a little R & R. In all honesty, Captain Dan and I were in need of REST and RELAXATION, too! The week before his visit we had the boat hauled out at St. Croix Marine in Christiansted for the simple job of  changing out four thruhulls and replacing the backstay. It should have taken no more than two days, but Exit Strategy's time in the yard morphed into eight days for various reasons of which boat owners are sorely aware (experienced technicians hung up on someone else's boat, wrong size tools or equipment, and my personal favorite- waiting for adhesive to set or paint to dry). 

At daybreak, we hooked a couple of tarpon that wildly danced
  over the water before spitting out the hook!
 (Our hands were full, so no pics.)
   
      For as long as I can remember, Marty has enjoyed being IN and ON the water. He's been an avid fisherman ever since our Uncle Casey, his Godfather, tucked a cane pole under Marty's arm and walked him through the pasture down to the lake on the family farm.  Marty, in turn, taught many of us to dig worms, tie on a hook or lure, and attach a sinker and bobber.  Most of us still like to fish and practice CATCH & KEEP as often as possible.  During this trip, Marty treated us to a day of fishing off St. Croix's northern coast with Captain Brian. 

      


      Marty is likely responsible for me learning how to swim, as Mom always put him in charge of keeping us kids from drowning when we went to the beach. His lessons were simple- "Sink or swim."  I also vaguely recall him getting a snorkel set once that he willingly shared with us to get up close and personal with the clams and minnows hiding in the reeds and seaweed along the shore at Van Auken Lake. 
          
           Diving deeper at St. Croix's Fredriksted Pier

Lush coral and sponge growth on Fredriksted's Pier


      

     My brother's sailing vitae is extensive, beginning with 10-year-old Marty crafting a few rickety rafts that did float on the shallow pond behind our Grandpa's house as long as none of us got on.  As an adult, he's built a small sailboat, a canoe, and a fishing boat and bought a couple of larger vessels. Currently, Marty has a 34' O'Day that he sails on Lake Michigan and his fishing vessel is a Boston Whaler. 

    
 
Miniature orchids grow wild along St. Croix's Buck Island trail.

       To prepare for his arrival in St. Croix, USVI, we studied the local weather and charts to propose an itinerary.  One plan included short stops around St. Croix while the second had a sail up to St. John's southern bays. We were not surprised when Marty selected the float plan that included the 5 hr. passage (one-way) to St. John. Most of our visitors prefer much shorter sails, but Marty clearly enjoys the go.  In fact, Dan had Marty take the wheel as we exited Christiansted's anchorage and Marty was reluctant let go and allow the autopilot to kick in over three hours later! 



Self-Guided Tour of Fort Christianvaern in Christiansted
Little Lameshur Bay, St. John as seen from Yawzi Point Trail



 

   

 


 

   
         Of course, time was spent visiting our son Bobby's family at the St. Croix-YWAM base. Bobby gave us the nickel tour of the property and explained the historical significance of the Diamond Ruby Plantation. He also graciously gave us cart blanche in his organic garden. 
     
             Bob and I harvesting crispy fresh veggies.

       THANKS to Marty, Captain Dan and I were totally revived and eager for the coming cruise with our daughter Becky's family.  (To be featured in our next blog.)
Exit Strategy at rest in Buck Island's calm western anchorage



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

STX Part 2: SHORE LEAVE

Now for the fun part of our SHORE LEAVE in beautiful St. Croix-

       We anchored in crystal clear waters, north of the pier in Fredriksted, St. Croix just before 2016's last Sunday of Advent.  We missed the annual Boat Parade and a couple of parties, but we still had enough time to prepare for the main event. The grandkids helped us throw up our usual Christmas decorations above and below deck during a sleepover.  We began making cookies- this year with a new twist, as Lyla has become quite the little baker. At times, she even creates her own recipes.
Lyla, Emma, and Sophia made Zebra Cupcakes (chocolate & vanilla)

       Christmas always includes PIEROGIS, but this year the usual pierogi elves were pulled in many different directions, especially with Bob and Joy getting ready for their trip.  Luckily, one of the mission builders on base was happy to help.  Joanne and I, with limited assistance from Bob and Lyla, produced less than usual- only four batches of dough that yielded about 120 total (3 types: potato & cheese, fried cabbage, mushroom).

Christmas Eve dinner with at YWAM with staff and visiting DTS Teams

       While Bob and Joy were away, Aslan and Lyla spent a few nights on board Exit Strategy that was anchored in Fredriksted.  St. Croix's Carnival took place during that time and the parades were in Fredriksted.  We made a grand effort to watch the Childrens' Parade whose posted start time was 10 AM.  We allowed for ISLAND TIME  and claimed a good spectator spot along the route around 10:30 AM and waited... and waited... and waited.  We took turns wandering around town to get snacks and window shop.  Around 12 NOON we finally saw the first sign of parade activity way up the hill in the distance.  It moved at a snails pace- L I T E R A L L Y.  By 12:30 PM it was nearly in front of us and we noticed that some of the paraders were about to collapse!  We returned to Exit Strategy by 12:45 PM.



        A definite plus to our SHORE LEAVE on St. Croix this year was having the opportunity to meet and get acquainted with Bruce and Joanne (Joanne helped make pierogis) who were serving as Mission Builders at YWAM where our son's family live and serve.  They lived near and sailed on the Great Salt Lake for many years and were now considering sailing the Caribbean. They are both in their 70's, and I admired their energy and openness to new adventures!  We invited them on a day trip to move our vessel from Fredriksted to Christiansted and it morphed into an impromptu 2-day overnight trip to St. Croix's Buck Island.


(L to R) Kim, Joy, Lyla, Bob, and Aslan 
       We also took a day trip to Buck Island with Bob's Family and Kim, a YWAM Staffer. While there, Bob, Dan, and I went diving at the far northeastern point of the island.  The coral formations there are remarkably different.  We observed multiple cone-shaped piles of dead coral upon which some live corals were growing.  Bob lead the dive and I felt like we were swimming against the current the entire time although I also felt like we were swimming in circles!  At one point, I signaled to Dan to check his compass and he motioned that all was OK.  Somehow, Bob guided us right back to the dinghy! 

Lyla insisted on competing even though she was ill.  She placed 2nd in her age group! 
      Dan and I relish time with all our grandkids and always enjoy attending the sports events in which they partake. Lyla (9) and Aslan (10) have been involved in St. Croix's Kids Tri-Athlon for many years.  This month, they raced in a Run-Bike-Run event at Altona Park which was located adjacent to our anchorage in Christiansted.  
Grandpa passed out water while I tried to take photos.
        We thoroughly love our annual visit to St. Croix, as it puts us in the hugging zone of family and good friends at YWAM that are sorely missed.  Thank you all for every-little-thing YOU did to make us feel right at home!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

STX Part 1: SHORE DUTY

      Shortly after the festivities of Christmas 2016, our son Bob and his wife Joy left for Mumbai, India for a two and a half week mission trip. Subsequently, we were happy to be left in charge of their children, Aslan and Lyla.  Have you seen the movie PARENTAL GUIDANCE (2012) starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler?  The kids insisted that we watch it that first evening after Bob and Joy left and I must admit that it was rather funny.  Time flew by while Bob and Joy were away, but our tour of duty with the kids was not even close to what transpired in the flick.

BEACH was not a daily subject.

       My number one focus was to try to keep the daily activities routine for Aslan and Lyla while their parents were gone.  We conducted HOMESCHOOLING five days a week that always began with Bible study and then included the usual Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Math.  Most days when two of their young friends from the YWAM mission base called them out to play, they had to wait an hour or so before Lyla and Aslan were finished with lessons for the day. I found planning and teaching lessons again exhilarating and the children seemed especially excited about their Reading activities. That pleased me a great deal knowing that children learn to read through grade 3 and then read to learn for the rest of their lives!


"FLAT STANLEY" (AKA Lyla)






         One night during the first week when I got up to check on the kids, Lyla was not in her bed!  I looked in the bathroom and she wasn't there.  I went into the living room to check if she was on the couch, but she wasn't there either.  Then I thought, Maybe she crawled into bed with me and I didn't notice.  My anxiety peaked when I didn't find her there. I tip-toed upstairs to search for her in Aslan's room and still didn't locate her. Finally, I went back into her room and moved the rather flat, but crumpled blanket on her bed. And VOILA!  (Be still my heart!) There she was!




It was hard to keep the cherry tomatoes picked.




      Gardening has always been great therapy for me, and Bob was thoughtful enough to leave a list of things to do in the dirt, IF I had time. So each morning while the children were doing their daily house chores, I went out to the garden to water the seedlings.  Then, almost every afternoon, I gladly made time to weed or transplant or harvest whatever necessary.  Our son Bob gives us so much fresh organic veggies and fruits while we are in St. Croix and I am always happy- no EAGER- to do my part. (I have volunteered to help gardeners down island, but none have taken me seriously- yet.) 




Dan painting the balance beam supports.

      

      Grandpa also had a few important work requests while we were in St. Croix this year.  He studied designs online and made a balance beam for Lyla's 9th birthday.  The tools available in the workshop at YWAM made the task easier.  Soon after it was finished, Lyla began to practice doing cartwheels across it!  That project is sure to get a lot of use for years to come. 



Grandpa & Lyla sitting pretty on the new cushions.




        Another task required a joint effort by both of us.  Joy had selected some fabric from a donation of remnants to reupholster their dining chairs.  I dismantled the seats and used one cover as a pattern.  Next, I sewed each modified box seat cover in the coordinating fabrics chosen.  Then Dan cut new cushions out of foam, wrapped them in poly, stuffed them into the cover, and stapled them on.  They came out really fine!

Seems like this shot has appeared before, doesn't it?

      It goes without saying that BOAT fixes are ongoing.  Exit Strategy was hauled out in order to replace four of her thruhulls. She also had her backstay replaced and new anchor chain attached.  Some stitching on the head sail needed attention, so we dropped it and hauled our Sailrite machine onto the foredeck to get the job done- a task that requires one person to man the sewing machine while the other helps "steer" the sail in the right direction. Our Spectra watermaker has historically been finicky, so Dan tackled that problem- again.  One other installation is in the works: an automatic winch.  




      All things considered, there was no down side to completing our shore duties during this trip.  Yes, we experienced the usual frustrations that these tasks often bring, but GREAT times with family and friends were interspersed and that made it all better.  Stay tuned for ST. CROIX Part 2:  SHORE LEAVE! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Vanity, Oh VANITY!

You all know that I color my hair, right?

Vain creature that I am, that practice began in my early forties after the few strands of gray in my shoulder length and longer hair got to me.  I searched for a box of hair color at the local Walgreen's that would match my natural shade.  My older, wiser sister* had always identified my hair color as "Mousy Brown".  Oddly enough, I couldn't find that shade among the multiple brands of home coloring products, so I purchased a box of "Medium Brown" L'Oréal because I was "worth it."(Younger readers may not recognize my reference to that commercial.)

Dan, 61, with his cougar babe of 60.



When I turned 60, I stopped coloring my hair for awhile, but the gray made me look like a "cougar" when Captain Dan and I were out and about.  So I decided to continue to cover my gray until his gray comes in.  (If his hair's like his mother's, that means I'll be coloring until I'm in my nineties!)






Why am I writing about this on a blog that is largely devoted to adventures on our sailboat Exit Strategy?  

Good question, read on!



This afternoon the Captain had just finished showering and announced in his sweetest "Honey-Do" voice that the shower head was once again working perfectly.  I was in my head (bathroom) in the middle of touching up my very gray roots using Garnier's Nutrisse #60-Light Natural Brown. (BTW, I still cannot find a "Mousy Brown" shade.)  I thanked him lavishly for fixing it, once again. He was beaming with delight and proceeded to rinse his hands at the sink.  But NOTHING came out of the faucet!




At the time, we had two- count them 2- water pumps located under the sink in the aft head, but neither was working.  What that means is that although there was plenty of water in our tanks, not a drop was being pumped into the water pipes, so nothing came out of any faucet.  Not good news when you are midway through timing your color for 20-25 minutes before rinsing well with fresh water.



Well, you can imagine the flurry of action and exclamations that followed.  I timidly offered a few suggestions for the fix that were not received with gratitude.  I began wondering what would happen to my hair if I were forced to rinse it in salt water.  Would it turn a strange color?  Would it fall out or break off? 

Lucky for me, Captain Dan got one of the pumps to operate in less than five minutes.  His ingenuity has saved me/us countless times and I that is one more reason why I am forever his First & Last Mate.


*Lee, maybe when I'm still coloring in my 90's I'll use pink or blue like those old ladies that used to crack us up at church.  :)