Following Bob.

Our original plan, to leave the ICW and head offshore in Beaufort, was intended to avoid the challenges associated with the ICW south of there. These include transiting the dozens of ocean inlets that the ICW crosses south of Beaufort where significant shoaling always occurs, often changing the ICW channel depth, making it dangerously shallow, and passing under a number of bridges that are less than the required 65′ vertical clearance with tides than can vary from the mean water level by up to 4 feet. But, alas, the weather offshore has been unfavorable, so we continued on south.

There is a kind soul on the internet, Bob Sherer, who maintains a blog called Bob423 ICW Tracks and Routes where he provides tracks (collections of GPS points) that he has carefully taken and mapped out for maximum depths. The tracks are available for download as GPX files into chart plotting software, like the openCPN that I use on my laptop and the Garmin chart plotter that Lori has at Trident’s helm. Fortunately, Bob’s latest track is as recent as a week or two ago, so it contains safe tracks around hazards that even the Corps of Engineers haven’t moved the red and green buoys around yet. There have been reports of multiple boats running aground this week in those spots. Not wanting to be one of those boats, we have been following Bob’s track. It can be a little spooky when Bob’s green track goes outside the marked channel. But so far, so good.

Bob’s track in green, through the ICW at Snow’s Cut

The bridges are a challenge of their own, especially with the flooding in North Carolina rivers currently going on, and an especially high tide. We have had to wait for the water level to go down on some bridges before passing underneath, but even so, we have bent the springy VHF antenna at the top of the mast back as we passed under 2 of them. That’s a little too close for comfort.

Hopefully, we only have one more bridge and one more shallow spot, at Snow’s Cut, today. Then we will be at a marina in Southport tonight, and pick up Tony tomorrow and head offshore for a leg south tomorrow afternoon. We think there is a 24-hour window that will allow us to get to Charleston without weather drama. But we’ll see how that plays out.

Even with those challenges, it’s been a nice few days since Beaufort. It’s been sunny, with wind to put up a sail. We anchored one night, and were on a mooring ball last night. Very nice.

Sunset last night at Carolina Beach

A thing from long ago.

Julie has moved back to Austin!  She drove, pulling a trailer full of her things behind her.  When she arrived, she told me that she brought my mom’s sewing machine with her.  It is one of the things that Noreen has been storing for me since mom died.   I was very excited to unpack it.  This is the sewing machine that I learned to sew on.  It is a Montgomery Ward Expert BT long shuttle sewing machine, complete with the original manual, attachments, and storage cabinet.  I have vivid memories of sewing on this machine with my mom when I was a little girl.

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I believe my mom bought this machine before she married my dad.  That would make it at least 65 years old, but may be even older.  I cleaned it, oiled it, threaded it, and took it for a spin.  It works great!  What a solid piece of machinery.

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Many, many thanks to Noreen, Julie, and David for getting this machine to me.

Lost. And Found.

We are making more frequent trips to the lake lately to get a break from the endless 100 degree days we have here in Austin.

Last Sunday when we came home from the lake, we realized we were missing our styrofoam cooler. It’s not just any styrofoam cooler, though. It is a cylindrical bait bucket that’s been in Monte’s family as long as he can remember.  And it has been along on all of our camping and boating adventures for the last 20+ years. It makes a great, compact ice bucket. As it has worn thin and broken over the years, Monte mends it with wood and epoxy. One day, I expect it will be all wood. It’s special.

We went back to the lake Tuesday but didn’t find it on the boat. So we sadly assumed it must have blown into the lake from the parking lot while we were loading the car.  Monte added it to our Lost-shit Log of things we’ve lost in the lake.

We looked for it on lee shores as we sailed, but didn’t spot it. Returning to the marina Wednesday afternoon after anchoring out for the night, we learned it had been found and turned in to the office. Awesome!

Sometimes…

I toted my camera and tripod to an overlook above Lake Travis last night to try to get a better photo of the Comet NEOWISE.   Again, I was not able to spy it by eye or binoculars, but I did get some more underwhelming long exposure shots of it.  It is getting very dim.  I took exposures ranging from 10 seconds to about 1 minute.  Still no stunning captures.  No matter, I stayed out there for over 2 hours, enjoying the views.

This is a view about 30 minutes after sunset, with Sometimes Island in the foreground.  The lake level is 668′.  Windy Point juts in from the right; the Austin Yacht Club on the left shore beyond that; and you can even see Starnes Island way back there, if you look closely.

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My second attempt at capturing NEOWISE.  Sadly, these are the best shots of the night.

A 10-second exposure, about an hour after sunset; very faint:

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A 25-second exposure about an hour and 45 minutes after sunset:

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And just because… a 10-second exposure of the big dipper, on the left, pointing towards the North Star on the right side of the shot:

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Cheers!

My first ever comet photo.

I have been waiting for an opportunity to see the Comet NEOWISE since I heard about it at the beginning of July.  When it was visible over the pre-dawn, northeast horizon last week, the sky Austin was overcast.  This week it is supposed to be visible after sunset.

Last night the sky was clear, so I grabbed my binoculars and camera and headed out to try to find a vantage point looking to the northwest horizon.  I found a parking garage that I thought might provide a view.   Since it was in the midst of Austin’s bright city lights, “visible” wouldn’t mean visible to the naked eye.   I was not able to sight it in my binoculars, either.  Instead, I took a number of shots using long exposure pointing at different areas of the sky in the general direction of where NEOWISE was supposed to be.  I did capture it in several photos.  Here’s the best one:

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It’s definitely not NatGeo material, but I was excited to get it.   If conditions allow, I may try again.   If so, I’m hoping that my experience from last night will help me get a better picture.

 

Exchange of DIY ditties.

Monte asked me to make him a mask, since the ones he’s been using are either too small or uncomfortable.  So I finally knocked out my first homemade COVID mask, custom made to his specifications.  🙂

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I then asked him to make me a frame for a piece of art that our niece, Laura, drew and sent to me.  He knocked it out, custom made to my specifications. 🙂  I just LOVE this drawing.  Laura requested people to send her photos of their quarantine workspaces, which she then drew in watercolors.  I sent her a picture of my craft space in my office, which is where I sat to make Monte’s mask.

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Keeping busy in the time of COVID….

 

 

One head is better than none.

Monte completed the install of our new head on Nirvana this week!  The work was interrupted by this shelter-in-place for a couple of months.  But he made several trips this week and declared it done yesterday.

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So today we went to the lake and took her out.  We anchored and jumped in and floated in the lake for the first time this year.  Water temps were still a tad chilly at 79 degrees F, but we sucked it up.

Nice Thursday!

Twin antennas.

We cut the cord a few years back, and have been watching TV since then using over-the-air (OTA) antennas, which can pick up a number of local HD television broadcasts.  That, in addition to a few online streaming sources, works well for us.

We aren’t big TV watchers.  But, we do have a large TV in our game room.  And I have a small one in my office over the treadmill.  Last year Monte found a design online showing how to make an antenna that might give better reception than ones we’ve tried.   He made one for the big TV and christened it the HD3000.  It works great, much better than any of the others we’ve bought over the years, and it nearly doubled the local channels picked up.  I’ve been waiting patiently for mine, and this week Monte made one for my office TV.  We installed it up in the attic right next to the first one.  We simply screwed the coax cable from each antenna into the existing coax cable that was already run through the attic into the room of the TV to be connected.   It works great!  Now I can reliably tune in KXAN to watch the weather alerts during severe weather, which we’ve had much of, lately.  Yay!

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If you’d like to know how many (and which) channels you can receive where you live, check out this website:  antennaweb.org.

 

This might take a while.

I ordered a paint-by-number kit a month ago to help me pass the time in self-imposed quarantine.  It took a while but arrived today.   Perhaps I should have picked something smaller…  No matter, I will start tonight and take my time.  Wish me luck!  🙂

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All in a day’s work.

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During this prolonged shelter-in-place, when people ask me “what did you do today?” I usually go blank.  But I have been busy!  Aside from the household chores, cooking, and yard work, I have found contentment in these online diversions, which fill my day.

Photography

Nikon is offering their curriculum of 10 online photography classes to be streamed for free until the end of April.  How cool is that?  Link here.

Birding

High Island on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations during migration in April.  But not only is travel not in line with the current stay-at-home order, but the sanctuaries are also closed.  Thankfully, Houston Audubon, who owns and runs the High Island sanctuaries, is live streaming video footage from their Facebook page at 8AM and 3:30PM every Thursday through Monday.  Their Facebook link here.

Guitar

Fender is offering a 90-day free trial of their online guitar, bass, and ukelele lessons.   I’m a poorly self-taught guitar player of nearly 30 years and I’m learning new things by following their lesson progression, and more importantly, practicing again.  Link here.

Exercise

Lori recommended some beginner yoga sessions on YouTube, from “Yoga with Adriene.” I’m a yoga-newbie and am enjoying them very much.  Link here.

I use an app called “30Days” to help me to do higher and higher reps of traditional strength exercises like plank, situps, pushups, etc.  You pick the exercises, set your starting point, and for 30 days the app will gradually increase the reps, giving you days-off every few days.  I’ve used their app for years, on and off.  I’m 27 days into my latest 30-day stint and am back up to planking for 3 minutes.  🙂   The app isn’t fancy, there are prettier ones out there, but it’s free and it works for me when I use it.  Link here.

Amy recommended an app she used to train herself from couch-surfer to running a 5K over the course of 8 weeks.  They also have a 10K version which takes you from couch to 10K in 14 weeks, which is the one I’m using.  I’m on week 4 and am still enjoying it. They are both free to try for 7 days, and then you have to pay to upgrade to unlimited access.  The provider, Fitness22, actually has an entire collection of fitness apps.  Link here.

After 6 years, I am still wearing my fitbit One tracker every day.  I need to upgrade to a watch soon.  Either way, I use their app daily to track my activity and food.   Link here.

Things to listen to

Amazon Music, one of the perks of Prime membership, has a great selection of music; 2 million songs from their 50 million song library are free to listen to for Prime members.  You can search by song, album, artist, or listen to existing playlists and curated stations for something that floats your boat.  Keeto enjoys George Winston.  Link here.

Amazon Music has a channel on twitch.tv where they are hosting live-streamed webcasts.  Look for #togetherathome hashtag.  I listened to Hayes Carll play live for an hour on his patio last night.  The audio was very well done.  Link here.

I’ve gone overboard subscribing to and listening to podcasts, true crime is my addiction.  I have new content to listen to each day.  I use the Stitcher app to listen.   Link here.

Foreign Language Learning

I still use the free app Duolingo to practice my Spanish every day or so.  Link here.

Things to watch

The British National Theatre is streaming previously recorded theater performances every Thursday in April, on their YouTube channel.  We watched the first one, a comedy called One Man, Two Guvnors, last week and really enjoyed it.  Link here.

The Metropolitan Opera is streaming videos of previously recorded opera performances, a new one every day.  Link here.

Acorn.tv is offering a 30-day free trial of their British TV shows’ episodes (which we enjoy very much) for new subscribers, instead of their normal 7-day free trial.  Use the code FREE30 when signing up.  Link here.

Videochat

Ok, hands down, I’ve adopted Zoom for video chat.  The free version allows unlimited video meetings with a 40-minute time limit on each, which works for me.   Link here.

Online multiplayer games

We have spent many hours playing online games with friends and family.  I think that trickstercards.com and boardgamearena.com are both well done for this.  We combine them with a zoom video chat.

Food & Drink

Virtual wine tasting from Becker Vineyards.  What’s a virtual wine tasting?  Well, Becker is selling different 3 pack bottles of different varietals each week, which you can order to be shipped to your home.  And then a few days later, you tune into their Facebook Live sessions to participate in a group tasting of each bottle with experts from the vineyard.  I just bought the 3rd tasting pack.  It should be good!  Link here.

I posted previously about my ongoing on-line grocery shopping adventures for delivery and/or curbside pickup.  I’ve been pretty good at keeping an order scheduled a week to 10 days ahead of time, to keep fresh food in the house.  Let me say, again, HEB is awesome!  Link to my previous post here.

 

 

 

 

Hunter, gatherer, … e-shopping commando.

I am taking this social distancing thing seriously.   But that means getting food in the house is a challenge.  I’m not really concerned about the amount of time it would take me to shop in these current times, with lines and limitations on the number of people allowed in a store at a time.  But I would really like to remain outside of COVID-19’s chain of transmission for a while.  Not to bring it home.  Not to pass it on to multiple other people.  So, I have taken to the interwebz to find delivery service and/or curbside pickup service options for my nearby grocery stores.  It’s not as simple as I thought.

In-store inventories are low, though continually being restocked.  So, even if I am able to find an item in a specific store, it may not be on the shelf when my real-life-shopper-hero goes to find it.  So there will be items substituted for the ones I wanted; some of which I get to pick, some I just have to live with.  Different grocery stores, even of the same chain, carry different items.  So, I have had to search individual stores to find specific items.

The bigger challenge has been finding a delivery window or curbside pickup window.  Most of the stores and services I have looked at in my busy corner of Austin have either no open windows at all, or the first ones are a week to 10 days out.  So I’ve had to be patient and persistent.  And, I have taken to placing an order ahead of time for each week and it is working ok for now.  Once an order is in the queue, I can add a few last-minute items to it before it is fulfilled.

I am using a combination of Shipt.com’s delivery service, from HEB, and HEB curbside pickup.  I’ve been happy with both.  Target also offers drive-up (in their parking lot) delivery, which has to be initiated from their app, not the target.com website.  I haven’t tried it yet.

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Wine and beer aren’t being delivered by most grocery stores, as that would require interacting with the delivery person to check the recipient’s ID, and the delivery companies are really trying to make each delivery interaction-free to keep their employees safer.   So I wanted to find an alternative source that would deliver alcohol to the house as well.  Solution:  Costco delivery!  Thanks for the tip, Lori 🙂  Costco uses Instacart.com for their same-day deliveries.  I had to wait a day and a half for any delivery window at all to appear, but one eventually did this morning.  It is 5 days away, and I grabbed it.

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There have been a couple of food items that have been extremely hard to locate, but I stumbled upon Amazon.com’s Amazon Fresh store online, available for Prime members.  Yesterday I ordered found a couple of items I haven’t located anywhere else, and they were delivered within 2 hours!

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I know I am one of the fortunate ones to be able to afford this luxury.  And I am thankful for that.  I hope my using the service and tipping well helps the workers on the front lines.  My goal is to try to avoid placing a MEGA grocery order for things I really don’t need right now.  And, rather, place several small orders, spaced out over the next few weeks to get only things we need, leaving the rest in the store for others to buy.

Shop on!  And be well.

P.S.  I just love HEB.  They are more than a grocery chain to Texans.  They are integrated into their communities across the state, especially in times of disaster, be it a hurricane, mass-shooting, or pandemic.  Their motto is “No store does more than HEB.”  That is the truth.  Here is a great article on their preparations for the times in which we find ourselves:   https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/heb-prepared-coronavirus-pandemic/

 

New tricks.

Social distancing is turning into social isolation. To keep my sanity, I’ve been trying to find new ways to play with old friends. Like making up new games to play on zoom video conferences and WhatsApp group chats. Here’s one: an endless game of “picture UNO.”

My sister is going to teach me how to play Settlers of Catan together using zoom video conferencing.

I found a surprisingly well done website for multi-player card games like pinochle; it’s called trickstercards.com. You can play in a browser or on a mobile device using their app. Tonight we played 4-handed pinochle with Doray and Tom from our respective bunkers.

Now I need to find one for cribbage.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Distantialism.

Distantialism; a word I made up to capture the way of life we have all been suddently asked to embrace due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Keeping in touch via technology:  We have been keeping to the house for the last week or so, even before the City of Austin declared a shelter-in-place order last night for the next 2-3 weeks.

I’ve been using video chat apps like zoom and skype to keep in touch with multiple groups of friends and family at a time.  Alternatives didn’t meet my needs; Facetime doesn’t run on non-Apple platforms, and WhatsApp only supports chats amongst 4 people at a time.

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My niece introduced me to the marco polo app, which I can only describe as a group texting app, except instead of just asynchronously texting eachother, you can send video clips to eachother which can be viewed by the recipient(s) at their leisure, and then subsequently responded to.  You can also use it for real-time communication, though, in which case, as my niece describes it, it works kind of like a video “walkie-talkie” where each person takes turns “talking” by sending small video clips.

Grocery shopping without going to the grocery store:  I have tried using our local grocery chain (HEB’s) delivery and curbside services.  I can’t say how that has gone, though, since the first delivery slot available when I placed my order 8 days ago, was for tomorrow.  So I get to wait another day and see what actually gets delivered.   Their curbside pickup/delivery timeslots are booked 10 days to two weeks ahead of time now, so I’m not sure how much more experience I’ll get with them.

I signed up for Shipt.com, in the hopes that I could schedule a much sooner grocery delivery.  The membership fee is about $99 for a year, or $15/month.  They had an opening for the next day, so I decided to try it out.   It actually worked well.  My shopper texted me when an item that I wanted wasn’t available, so I could pick a substitute from the available items.  There was a bit of a snag on the delivery end, but it all worked out in the end.  🙂

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Entertaining myself:  I’ve been taking walks in the neighborhood and nearby parks, streaming TV shows and movies, watching the many now live-streamed instead of in-person events, gardening, and whatever else my heart desires (that I can do in the confines of my house and/or yard).

I hope you are all faring well.  Take care.