Alameda and the Grand Marina continue to be our home for October through most of November. We plan to head down to San Diego and then Mexico after Thanksgiving.

Some days on board Cetacean are filled with repairs, sewing projects and installing new equipment; others are spent visiting family and friends, or, exploring near and far. We’ve been hiking above the Berkeley hills, walking or running around Lake Merritt, biking throughout Alameda, criss-crossing the Bay to Palo Alto, Marin, Walnut Creek. The sun shines. It’s wondrous and blinding for these Pacific Northwest pilgrims.

Our floating neighborhood is filled with friendly folks, some of them cruisers getting ready to join the “HaHa” for Cabo; some living aboard because it’s the least expensive way to have a home in the Bay Area. Everything is expensive here. Groceries and fuel give us constant sticker shock. The Bay Area is a paradise with an unfathomable price tag.

We visit the Alameda Saturday Market. Exotic snapshots and sounds bombard our eyes and ears. Women mix and browse the jeweled market stalls wearing berkas, or saris, or skin-tight jeans. A young man, his dreadlocks crowned by a top hat, trumpets his excellent hummus on pita. At an Indian food stand, we are handed delicious samples of spinach-stuffed nan topped with sweet chili sauce and masala. An elderly woman made up and coiffed like a silent movie star cautions us to get horns for our bicycles (“I was nearly killed by a cyclist,” she asserts as we gape at her).

Outside a Peets coffee shop, an Asian gentleman plucks the strings of a beautiful Shamisen producing a delicate and yet poignant melody. The air is redolent with the smells of curry, baked bread, grilled chicken.  Temptation is hard to resist on an empty stomach.

“Come on, come on, come on – take another piece of my heart now baby!” shrieks an apparition from a stage across the street.

We arrive at an Asian vegetable stall. “What is this?” I ask, pointing to a spiny green cucumber or zucchini-ish looking vegetable. “Bitter melon,” replies our teenaged merchant. “Is it sweet?” I ask too quickly, thinking of “melon” and not “bitter.” The question of the innocent, the ignorant, the confused falls out before being stopped by common sense. “It’s bitter,” our young attendant replies gently.

Back at the boat, we Skype with Lisa and Madalynn.  Our granddaughter smiles in real time and we hope it’s at us and our foolish grandparent antics, made all the more comic by our bitmappy images on screen.

Ron researches “bitter melon” on Google. He reports that different parts (the skin versus the interior) are eaten depending on the bitter melon’s maturity. It apparently tastes best when it’s cooked with “other things” like onion and garlic. Ah, another metaphor: we combine the bitter stuff with things we can stomach, i.e., the sweet or the savory, to make the best of a complicated situation or decision. We’ll try this “bitter melon” for dinner and see what happens.