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…

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…

Brushing up on Texas history.

Austinites have several nice museums to visit.  The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is one, and  it is loaded with a number of permanent and rotating exhibits about all things Texas.  On the first Sunday of each month, admission is free, or to be more accurate, HEB picks up the tab (another reason HEB is the best grocery store, hands down, ever).

I like to visit a couple of times a year to see the new exhibits.  In particular today we went to see the Becoming Texas exhibit, and to see the new permanent exhibit for the 17th century recovered French ship that wrecked off of the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1686, La Belle.

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The 54′ La Belle, or at least the portions of the timbers that remain of it, on display at the museum.  This ship crossed the Atlantic, brought munitions, provisions and trade goods to the New World, and then sank off the Texas Gulf Coast.   If you live in or near Austin, you should check out the museum.  Ideally on a free First Sunday.

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Afterwards we visited Zilker Brewing; we’re slowly working our way across all the breweries in Austin.  One must have goals.

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A beauty of a day.

We spent our first 2019 day on the lake yesterday, and it was gorgeous! Light winds, 74 degrees, not a cloud in the sky.

Joel joined us on Nirvana for a nice long sail. Kurt, Kevin and their friend took Camelot out. That boat sure is fast!

2018 happened.

The year was full of the usual fun times spent with Monte, our friends, as much family visits we could squeeze in, and my girl posse.  I stopped coloring my hair.  I gained too much weight.  I missed my mom often.  I was continually enchanted by Keeto.  People often ask me what I do with my oodles of free time.  On the spot, I usually can’t think of what the heck I’ve done to fill the days and weeks of this year of retirement.  So, I spent some time today scanning the photos I took this year, to jog my memory for some highlights.

January brought many birding day trips and a number of lifers.  More special were visits with 2 of my high school friends.  Pilar was in Austin for business and looked me up.  We hadn’t seen each other for … decades, not counting one brief wedding visit that happened many moons ago.  We’d reconnected on social media several years back, but it was really wonderful to get a face to face visit in.   Another friend from high school, Irene, texted me to see if I could join her in Lubbock, of all places, while she was there for her son’s sports event.  And so I took a road trip and saw some interesting things along the way.

February brought a huge leap of faith, a drive to Florida with Lori, Monte & Joe, and then a journey across the Gulf of Mexico by sailboat to bring Lori’s new-to-her sailboat home to the Texas coast.  It was an awesome and challenging trip.

March brought a really memorable road trip across Arizona and New Mexico.  We celebrated Monte, Gene and Susanne’s birthdays together.  I saw a couple dozen lifer bird species.  Tucson, with its Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, is a truly amazing birding destination.  And on the way home, we saw some glorious works of nature and man.  We spent 2 days on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, staying overnight in a cabin sitting about 50 feet away from the rim.   We marveled at a ginormous meteor crater off of I-40 on the drive to Santa Fe.   Then we spent 2 days in Santa Fe, staying at the luxurious Spa at Loretto.   We saw more new birds there, but the highlight was a visit to the Loretto Chapel, with its spiral staircase that legend says might have been constructed with divine intervention.

April brought a number of trips to the coast; one special one to visit High Island during a Spring fallout, and another girl’s trip to Kemah to officially rename Lori’s boat, S/V Trident.  But if that wasn’t enough, I joined Irene again, this time for a week in Italy.  I thoroughly enjoyed Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terra and points in between.

May brought more trips to the coast to help Lori with Trident repairs and projects.  It also marked the return of warm weather and lots of fun boat outings on Lake Travis with friends and family on Nirvana.

June and July were full of projects at the house, in the shop, and in the yard.  We popped down to the coast again, a time or two, and really enjoyed our almost full lake during the peak of the heat of summer.  We delivered a beautiful table that Monte made for Doray and Tom in their new home in Wimberly.

August brought another trip to the Texas coast – to crew for Lori and Mike on their first shake-down cruise on Trident since she arrived in Texas.  We sailed out to the Gulf of Mexico and down to Port Aransas.  We stayed for a couple nights in the municipal marina there, and enjoyed one of our favorite towns on the Texas Gulf Coast, before our return sail to Kemah.  Then we popped up to Seattle for a very overdue trip.   We stayed two weeks, encased in smoke from the nearby fires, but did enjoy immensely seeing our family, and a bonus of 2 clear days on the Pacific coast of Washington.

September brought a month of non-stop rain to Austin.  So we busied ourselves with more projects in the house.   I began to dabble with sewing canvas projects for the boat.  Monte made sawdust and honed his web site and various GPS apps.

October brought another trip to Kemah.  I became a novice diesel engine mechanic.  We also experienced historic flooding amongst the Highland Lakes.   Monte worked on shop projects for a client or two.  Autumn arrived in Texas, which I love only second to Spring in Texas.

And then it was suddenly November!  Monte made another trip down to Kemah to help with last-minute projects.  Thanksgiving happened.   Then we made one final trip to Kemah together at the end of the month to bid bon voyage to Lori and Mike, and their crew, Janet and Will, taking Trident back east to Florida.

December brought the usual whirlwind of decorating, baking, parties, Christmas shopping, visiting with friends, and eating too much.  And now, POOF, it’s the last day of the year.

Tomorrow, I will gear up to do it all again – starting a new year with an as-yet-unknown set of trips, projects, visits, fun and (hopefully only occasional) troubles that lay ahead.    I am truly blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

Very merry.

I joined some friends yesterday at Ann’s house for nibblies and libations.  Then we all walked down to Mozart’s on Lake Austin to watch their Christmas light display.  It was a beautiful night, with a clear sky and a nearly full moon.  You should check it out, too!

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Counting birds.

I participated in my 3rd Christmas Bird Count today.  Our small group of four birders hiked for over 6 hours and logged 45 species.  Our counts will be rolled up with the other teams’ results.

A foggy morning over the Pedernales River….

turned into a beautiful day above the Pedernales River.

What a lovely day!

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 country, 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.

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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… 🙂