A lifetime of Christmases.

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My Mom gifted each of her kids a Christmas ornament every year.  Many of the ones from the 60’s and 70’s were lovingly handmade.  Each was carefully labeled with our name and year, using some NASA-calibre tape that has held on all these years.  I pulled them out this year and reminisced on the story they tell.

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My first one, top-left, was an angel head (angels were a recurring theme), handmade by Mom, who was living in a trailer in a god-forsaken frozen tundra during a blizzard with four kids under the age of 5 1/2, one a newborn.

Another notable one was a handmade dove of peace, made the Christmas after she buried her second child.  I think the bird must have had special meaning for her.

A styrofoam-topped ice cream cone, with hand-stitched felt, was our ornament the Christmas of the year Colleen was born.  Followed by a mischievous elf on a bell for Francine’s first Christmas (appropriate, in hindsight).

A golden satin angel with a foil halo, also handmade, bears a label written in my little-kid cursive handwriting.  I must have been “helping” her that year.

I did the honors the year that I took shop, making festive wooden shapes for me and my siblings using a bandsaw and a drill press.  Apparently, sanding was not covered in shop that year.

Noreen got in on the fun the year she was an exchange student, bringing home colorful ball ornaments from Japan.

The year we moved overseas, we spent Christmas in a barren apartment with loaner furniture from the airbase, as all our earthly possessions were being shipped over on a (very) slow boat from the States.  In years since, Mom always remarked that she felt bad about Christmas that year for us.   I expect it was hardest for her.  But, nevertheless, she gave us each a Hummel ball ornament that year – she loved Hummels.

A wooden toy horse was the ornament the year Brian left for college, spending that in the USA with Noreen.

The next few ornaments were from Christmases when I was away at college, the first one of which Colleen and Fran were still living overseas with Mom and Dad.  It must have been weird for them to be the only ones home for Christmas that year, before moving back to the States.

A few years later, I was the one that moved away, across the county, for what turned out to be forever.  Mom still gave me an ornament when I came home from wherever I lived each Christmas.  She kept a handwritten list up to date, and stored them for me in a box until I took them with me one year – I can’t remember which one.  Then I became the caretaker of the ornaments and the list.  I don’t hang many of these up, because they are so old, but each one is very special to me.

Thank you, Mom. ❤

B-bye BB’s.

Last night Monte and I went to our local pub for dinner and to watch Monday Night Football. Since we don’t have cable, we have to go out to watch the Seahawks play. We won! 🙂

It was bittersweet, though. Our local favorite and most awesome pub, BB Rover’s, is closing for good in 2 weeks. 😦

I’ve enjoyed lots of good times and good beers in that place over the last 23 years. Post-softball-game celebrations, after-work happy hours, St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinners, darts, Austin Sailing Society meet-ups, live music and open-mic night, and many games of pinochle with friends. It is very sad to see it go.

Fare thee well, BB Rover’s.

Sailing is HARD.

My sailing friends left Galveston on Saturday, December 1st, headed to the west coast of Florida, and arrived five days later on Thursday, December 6th.  I am thankful for this, but it was not an uneventful passage.

The tiny, purple vessel in the middle of this image, south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, was S/V Trident on Sunday evening, as they were making their way along the safety fairway amongst cruise ships, tankers, commerical fishing boats, and other ships.

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Before they left, I told Lori I’d be her land-buddy / emergency contact.  So I carefully recorded all the info for her float plan, and put the various Gulf of Mexico Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centers on speed dial.  Monte was sending them localized National Weather Service weather updates every day, and we had the luxury of being able to see them on AIS as long as they were within reach of a receiver.  MarineTraffic.com is a website you can use to follow boats that have AIS transmitters.  Although, after about 48 hours they were out of range of land-based receivers and their location was no longer being updated.  After that, the only thing we had to rely on was Lori’s satellite device, a Garmin InReach Explorer+ 2-way communicator, which transmitted their position every 10 minutes, and allowed for terse 2-way texting.

This is the their track from their Garmin InReach device, through which friends and family followed their progress.  Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.47.06 PM (1)

On Monday evening, their satellite device stopped sending updates (note the gap in their blue track south of Alabama).   Before Lori left, we discussed what to do in this situation – i.e.,  if their position was unknown and they were not reachable.  We agreed that if I didn’t see updates for a while, and after sending a text and not hearing back after waiting 3 hours, I’d officially start to get worried.

That happenend Monday night.  I waited 4 hours and then called the Coast Guard to ask if they could simply hail them through a VHF relay.  VHF only transmits a distance of 10-20 miles and S/V trident was about 200 nm off shore.  But ships commonly relay VHF messages from one boat to another and/or to the Coast Guard.  After a couple hours, the Coast Guard called back and said they were not able to hail them via a VHF relay.  Later that night, Coast Guard sector New Orleans called me back to say they had dispatched an aircraft to fly along their track to see if they could make contact.  God bless the Coasties.  Semper Paratas.  After 10 hours of not getting position updates, at 4 am, two things happened at the same time:  I got a call back from the USCG saying they had made contact with S/V Trident by radio, and S/V Trident’s Garmin tracker started updating again.   Lori sent a message after that saying that the tracker was buried under some cushions.  Whoopsie.  All good.  🙂

The next day, a cold front reached the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Trident was in its midst.  Late Wednesday afternoon, Lori sent me a message saying that they had lost steering and had not been able to hail the Coast Guard.   They were taking emergency steps and were able to regain control of the boat.  They were not in fear of losing the boat, but they were in distress.  I called USCG again, and the St Petersburg District monitored the situation for a bit, and then decided to send out their patrol boat given the bad weather and sea state at the time.  It took another 4 hours for the Coast Guard boat to close the remaining 40 miles or so to reach S/V Trident, who was still making way eastward.  It took another hour or two for them to establish tow and head back east.

All seemed to be good at that point.   But, then at 4AM, Lori texted that one of her crew had been injured, her sister, Janet, was thrown down the companionway in the violent seas.  The towing Coast Guard boat arranged for another boat to intercept with paramedics aboard.  Janet had fractured both her hips and endured 6 or so hours flat on her back in pain, on a boat thrown about in high seas.  Once inside Tampa Bay in the morning, she was transferred to another USCG vessel and to hospital where she is recuperating.  Thank goodness.

Sailing is hard.  You have to be ready for anything.  Sometimes all at once.

God bless the Coast Guard.

Headed East at sunrise.

Today is the first day of December 2018. It is also the first day of my dear friend Lori’s cruising dream realized.  After a lifetime of planning and one hellacious year of hard work, she left Galveston this morning, setting sail for Florida, and then on to the Caribbean.

She and her crew on this leg, Mike, Janet & Will, will take S/V Trident across the same Gulf that Monte, Joe and I crossed with her back in February.

My heart is full, as I see them pull away from the dock this morning. You did it, Lori. 🙂

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Fair breezes, safe seas, and Godspeed my friends!

G’nite y’all.

We had a bit of a Wii frisbee golf-a-thon tonight. As I turned out the kitchen lights at the end of the night, the silhouetted tulips caught my eye. Keeto says, “night night go seepies.” So, off I go… 🙂

Save the little flowers.

We brought our vulnerable outdoor plants in when the weather turned cold last week. Most of them are in the shop. I brought a few small ones into the house. I’m enjoying this one, a pretty pink impatiens.

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Happy anny.

We recently celebrated our anniversary.  Tonight, we had Lori and Pooh over for dinner and popped open one of our oldies.

It was a bottle from a winery that we visited on our honeymoon – an almost 20 year old chianti that we brought back with us.  The cork didn’t leak or budge in the last two decades, so the wine was really pretty good!  I am very happy to be able to share it with friends.

Wrapping it up.

We took the scenic way home from Rachel’s, dropped Rebecca and Aaron off, and then came home and whipped up a delicious risotto for dinner.

The next day we stopped by my nephew Jared’s new house, and then had a fun family get together at Noreen and David’s.

Then, FINALLY, we had one glorious, clear summer day on Hood Canal. Jake went for a hike with us and then we met up with James for dinner.

These are two pictures from the same place, taken at about the same time of day. The first is from one of the smoke-filled days, the second one was taken 5 days later.

I MUCH prefer this one….

Blue sky days.

We headed west with a mission to see where the Pacific Ocean meets the state of Washington.

Along the way, we stopped in Aberdeen, home of Kurt Cobain, former frontman of Nirvana. We stopped at a modest but touching memorial to him.

We thought this sign at the neighbor’s house was especially funny.

And we did finally make it to the coast. It was our first smoke-free day, and it was lovely. We spent a day at Ocean Shores…

And another clear sky day at the coast, this time at Westport…

We spent the night at our niece, Rachel’s, new home, joined by Fran, Aaron, Rebecca, Noreen and David. We had fun exploring the area and enjoying our time together.

Island hop.

The next day, we drove to Colleen’s house. She cooked pulled pork, from scratch, and it made for delicious sandwiches. We visited with her, Lee and Jake all night. The next morning we headed to Whidbey Island for a day trip.

The smoke and haze was very bad. But it’s a beautiful destination.

Whidbey Island Distillery makes a nice whiskey, and delicious berry liqueurs. They use a continuous still, homemade – see the copper pipes and tubes in the second picture below.

I walked down to the beach to get a view of the Deception Pass bridge…We popped into the Admiralty Point lighthouse…Then we hopped the ferry to Port Townsend…VERY smoky. This is a shot from the deck of the ferry of the sun setting over the beautiful Olympic Mountains. 🙂

Boats, et cetera.

We toured the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain tall ships with Francine, Rebecca & Aaron. It was fun to learn they would be here during our visit.

The next day we ambled through some antique shops, and then took the ferry to Seattle to visit Pat, Nga and the boys.

A photo of the Southworth ferry (manipulated with the Prisma app)…

They have a beautiful new home in seattle with a view of the Sound. Another pic, manipulated with the Prisma app that I so enjoy playing with.

Will helped Monte hang their dartboard. And the throwing ensued.

We walked around the neighborhood garage sales, and all the beautiful yards.

Then blackberry picking…

Then we made a wonderful seafood dinner. I sautéed some Manila clams. They were eaten so fast I only got an after photo…

Pat grilled salmon and it was perfect!

Nick and I put together Lego dinosaurs after dinner – well, I helped. 🙂

Hazy dayz.

We made an overdue visit to the Pacific Northwest to visit family and friends.

Fires are burning all across the area, and in Canada as well, so smoke was thick everywhere.

A drive up into the Olympic mountains made for a lovely day trip, but you could not really see the mountains, even standing amongst them at 5700′.

Port Townsend is one of my favorite places. I just can’t visit there too many times. We walked through the Maritime Center and watched shipwrights work, and walked the docks where the Wooden Boat Show will be in a few weeks.

The next day we took the ferry to Seattle and spent the day exploring the waterfront, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Center.

The Seattle skyline was barely visible due to the smoke
The regular stop at Pike Place Market for fresh seafood
A couple of pints at Pike Brewery
The Museum of Pop Culture
The stunning Chihuly Museum
The tall ship Lady Washington in Sinclair Inlet on a sunset cruise