Just peachy.

Monte and I took a drive out the Highway 290 wine trail on this windy day in May.  Our mission was to pick up our wine club quarterly selection at Becker Vineyards.

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Future wine on the vine!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We made a few stops.  In Johnson City, we took a pass through some of the antique stores, and found vintage cowboy/cowgirl boots, of course.  Take your pick…IMG_7916 (1)

It’s peach season!  We stopped at an orchard in Fredericksburg, to bring a few home.IMG_7924 (1)

 

Sometimes the stars align, sometimes they don’t.

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A week ago, I flew to the Bahamas to crew on Trident with Lori and Mike to bring her back to the United States.  Our destination was Charleston, and it would take about a week to make our way from Marsh Harbour, allowing a bit of time to wait on a weather window.

We pulled away from the slip less than an hour after I arrived, right on schedule.  But as soon as we did, there was a problem.  We couldn’t make more than two knots in forward, regardless of RPM.  I guess the problem had been intermittent, but deteriorating, and it was not a good situation to make a gulf stream crossing.

So, we dropped anchor in Marsh Harbour and started to do problem determination, and then line up a mechanic.   Things work on island time in the islands – go figure.  And so responses by phone and email/texting could take a day or two.  After consults with several mechanics, a couple of whom visited the boat at anchor, and a few calls to boatyards and part suppliers, a week had flown by.  But, finally, on Monday everything came together to make a plan.  A Yanmar-certified boatyard would haul the boat out, order and install the needed parts, and do some other minor maintenance.  The crossing will have to wait.

Things didn’t turn out as originally planned, but we made the most of it.  In between Lori & Mike coordinating with mechanics, we made visits via water taxi to Hopetown on Elbow Cay, Man-o-War Cay, and a visit with old friends, Tony & Michelle, on Green Turtle Cay.

The meals are always excellent on Trident, and on our last night, we had surf, turf, and yet more turf, as we tried to eat the best of what food was left in the freezer, which had to be emptied and disposed of in preparation of hauling the boat out.

So, I flew back to Austin last night from Marsh Harbour, instead of Charleston, and am happy to be home.

I enjoyed spying some of the local bird species, logging a bunch of lifers!  I enjoyed a full moon, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, some snorkeling, and a dose of sea air.

During our week at anchor in Marsh Harbour, the boats near us were constantly changing, as they would come for a day or so and then depart.   One day we came up to the cockpit, looked around, and saw that we were anchored between S/V Northern Star and S/V Southern Cross  🙂  so I guess S/V Trident was right where she was supposed to be at that moment in time.

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Pretty birds.

Memories of most birds that I identify through binoculars reside only in my mind’s eye.  Though, occasionally, I am able to capture a clear photo.  These are a few of the 100+ species logged on my trip to High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend.

Chestnut-sided warbler:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-winged warbler:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mom and Dad Great Egret at the nest with their babies:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-billed cuckoo:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern kingbird:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neotropic cormorant:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Bikes and birds.

This is the weekend of the MS-150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. I served as sherpa again with Doray and drove Laura and her friend Patty to Houston on Friday night.

This morning we helped her get to the start and then we drove east, instead of west, so we could do some birding on the coast.

We had a great day, logging over 80 species, and turned in at the hotel late and a tad tired. Tomorrow is another day!

Migrants.

Over the weekend I made a trip to the coast.  The Spring migration is underway, and I wanted to see some colorful birds arriving after their Gulf crossing.  I thought the cold front headed for the coast might make for favorable chances of a fallout.  As it turned out, the front passed north of where I was, so weather conditions were not exceptional.  I did end up seeing lots of birds – almost 70 species.  But, I had to work at it.

Scarlet tanager eating a juicy mulberry…

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Painted bunting and common yellowthroat…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-necked stilt, standing daringly close to an alligator…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Play ball!

We went to the ballpark tonight to watch the Round Rock Express play baseball; they are the Triple-A minor league club for the Houston Astros. It was a good game! We won, too.

The Budweiser Clydesdales were there, too. It was a treat to see them up close.

On campus.

I’m always looking for opportunities to visit our local museums. I heard about a new exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center on design and the Arts & Craft movement. So we took a trip to the University of Texas campus to see it today.

It’s a small museum but I enjoyed browsing the show.

We walked around campus a bit and grabbed lunch afterward.

Spring break.

We have a tradition with Tim & Fiona…taking their family fishing on the lake during spring break. They have three great kids, who are a pleasure to be around. We had a wonderful day today. The weather was perfect and the fish were biting. A good time was had by all.

Braving SXSW.

I had an unexpected opportunity today to go see a screening of the movie Maiden downtown today with Lori at the Stateside Theater, as part of the SXSW Film Festival. I usually avoid downtown during the 10-day conference and festival, but I was not going to pass up seeing this movie. And it was so worth it!

Maiden is a documentary film telling the story of the first all-female crew to participate in the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, skippered by Tracy Edwards. The name of the sailboat was Maiden, after which the movie is named.

It’s the fascinating and awe-inspiring story of a young woman breaking barriers in the sport of professional sailing, and through sheer determination, making history. It was a treat to see it. It will be released in June 2019, so watch for it! And check out the trailer for the film.

Better late than never.

Monte and I grabbed lunch in South Austin today at Evangeline Cafe, a long-time Austin favorite for Cajun food and live music. I cannot believe it has taken us so long to make it here! It was the first time for both of us. And it was goooood. I want to come back again soon.

The hallway is covered with music posters for performances at the cafe over the years.

Mardi Gras is only a few days away, so maybe you should check them out, too!

My Hill Country happy places.

We took a drive out through the Hill Country this week; out Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg.   It was a beautiful day.  We left early to beat the morning rush hour and stopped at Pedernales Falls State Park to visit their bird blinds.  We stayed for less than an hour, but saw canyon wrens, ladderback woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, lincoln and field sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, black-crested titmice, cardinals, spotted towhees, and more.

Field sparrow…

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Lincoln sparrow…

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Along the way we stopped at the Pedernales River several times and saw wild turkeys, buffalo and longhorn cattle.

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Then we stopped at Wildseed Farms to buy fresh flower seed to plant after the last freeze.

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After lunch in Fredericksburg, we headed back east, making stops at the tasting rooms of Grape Creek Winery, and Becker Vineyards.

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Our last stop, Hye Rum, was a new one for us, having opened only a few years ago.  Monte especially enjoyed their barrel-aged dark rum.  Check them out.

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We made it back home before the afternoon rush hour.

All good!

 

Next chapter.

I’m headed home today. This closes the “Help Lori get to the Islands” chapter for Monte and me. One year ago today we were in Bradenton, Florida readying the new-to-her boat to cross the Gulf of Mexico to bring Trident née Ariadne to Kemah for fixes and updates in preparation for cruising by the end of 2018.

It’s been a lot of work – a labor of love; but also a real treat to have been aboard for shakedown cruises and the trip through the Florida Keys and across to the Bahamas. I’m thankful to Lori and Mike for sharing their adventure. Bon voyage Trident!

I’m looking forward to the next adventure/project/travels/chapter – whatever 2019 brings.

Here are a few highlights from the last few days in the Abacos…

Dolphins swam along in the bow wave on our sail from Great Sale Cay to Allans-Pensacola Cay!

The Bahamian sunsets never get old…

I landed this Spanish Mackerel!

New Plymouth waterfront, on Green Turtle Cay…

The Atlantic Ocean…

I even found a few bits of sea glass on the beach!

We go to come back…

Super Bowl Sunday.

We’ll, the Seahawks didn’t make it this year. Instead of cheering them on in the big game, I continued to crew for Lori as she takes Trident across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

After spending over two weeks in Biscayne Bay waiting to go, Sunday was the first ideal weather opportunity, and it was a short window.

We moved anchorage Saturday night to just inside the ocean between Fisher Key and Virginia Key. It provided a great view of the Miami skyline.

We left Miami Sunday morning at 3AM, on a course Lori set for West End on Grand Bahama Island, where we clear customs and spend one night before making our way farther east to the Ábacos.

I never crossed the Gulf Stream before, and I’ve learned how it should be navigated as a part of this whole adventure. Our destination, West End, lay about 82nm NE of Miami (a bearing of 53 degrees on the compass). But we can’t simply head directly for West End on a course of 53 degrees, because the Gulf Stream will push us north 2 to 2.5 nm every hour we stay in it, which is 10-12 hours. Not good. So, instead, we aim south of our desired destination by about 25 nm (a course heading of 71 degrees instead of 53) and if our math is right, we should pop out at West End at about 3PM.

It was a very calm day so we motored the whole way. Sunrise…

We arrived on time, at the right place, and pulled into our slip at the Old Bahama Bay Marina. We hoisted the yellow quarantine flag until Capt. Lori went ashore to clear in the crew. We skipped the big game but enjoyed our fill of conch and island drinks, which was my real superbowl. Sunset at the marina…

Two weeks before the mast.

With less than 18 hours preparation, Monte and I packed a bag and grabbed a flight to Naples, Florida, to meet up with Lori and Mike to crew for Trident’s crossing to Key West, and their trek up the Hawk Channel to the southeast coast of Florida.

Sunrise at Naples City Dock as I left for an early morning provisioning run with Uber…

Our spreaders were full of rose-ringed parakeets…

The overnight crossing was uneventful, except for an endless procession of crab pot floats to be avoided on a moonless light. The Southern Cross is visible from down here, and I’ve seen it low on the horizon nearly every night. What a treat.

We spent 4 nights on a mooring ball in Garrison Bight on the northwest side of Key West. It was a 15-20 minute dinghy ride to shore. So we got pretty wet most rides, but the showers and laundry ashore were well kept. There is a free shuttle about a mile from the dinghy dock that loops through the historic and tourist attractions, which we took every day we were there. Lori and I got tattoos! Well, temporary tatts – they’ll last two weeks or so.

Chickens everywhere in Key West…

Trident on her mooring ball at Key West…

We took a day trip to nearby Sand Key to snorkel which was surprisingly nice. Florida’s marine sanctuary system is great – all well marked reefs with free mooring balls…

After leaving Key West, we enjoyed a lovey long day sail with all sails up and engine off. We were treated to a personal air show from four U.S. Navy pilots off Boca Chica – circling the boat and one even buzzed over us upside down about 200 feet above the boat. Pretty cool. We anchored off Bahia Honda overnight.

The next day we headed to Marathon for our first marina stay in a week. We stopped at Sombrero Reef Light for another nice afternoon snorkel. The Marathon Marina is nice. We stayed for two days and nights, full of boat work and provisioning. We did treat ourselves to a pub crawl the last night by dinghy to a couple places and were treated to yet another beautiful sunset.

After Marathon, we anchored off Long Key. And the next day headed to the south end of Key Largo. We stopped along the way at another snorkel spot, Hen and Chickens Reef. We saw a nurse shark, turtle, many barracuda, and reef fish. We anchored at Rodriguez Key for the night.

My shark buddy… can’t believe I’m saying that…

We had to decide whether to stay a couple more nights anchored off Key Largo, or make a longer-than-usual run up to Biscayne Bay to anchor and find shelter for the big cold front headed our way. We decided to head for Miami. We wanted to anchor in the tiny but well-protected No Name Harbor at Cape Florida, but it was pretty packed. So we anchored outside and weathered the big blow overnight and the following day or two.

Sunrise glow in the horizon leaving Key Largo…

Cape Florida Light on Biscayne Bay…

The view from the Boater’s Grill at No Name Harbor – good eats but no vacancy…