Back to reality.

Fantastic journey.

I have been off-line for 10 glorious days – sailing through the British Virgin Islands.  We just got home, and I have hundreds of photos to dig through.  In the mean time, I’m posting a map showing each leg of our trip.

We headed to Tortola a week and a half ago:  12 sailors, 3 sailboats, 10 nights, 9 days and a ton of good times….  Our boat was a 51′ sloop called No Horizon.   We shared it with Marty & Sue, and Tommy & Bobbie.   Lori, Dave & Jake were on Sea Mist, and Wally, Kurt & Rod were on Pinta.   The map above shows the route we took on No HorizonPinta and Sea Mist joined us for many of the legs, but everyone took their own route through the islands.

While I slept well on the boat every night, it’s going to be nice to sleep on my bed tonight and shower for as long as I want to!   If I make it through my first day back at work tomorrow, I will pick several photos to post.  More later…

…I go to come back!

My year.

Year of the dragon.

Today is Chinese New Year’s Day.   2012 is the Year of the Dragon.  The dragon symbolizes power and good fortune.  Of all the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, the dragon is the mythical one, and therefore the most powerful & mysterious.

I was born in a Year of the Dragon.   I am a dragon.   I hereby declare 2012 to be my year.

Happy New Year!

A reminder.

Winter sun setting.

My Uncle Bill passed away this morning – 1 month since his brother died, and less than 2 months since he learned that he had cancer.   My heart goes out to my aunt and my cousins who have had their world turned upside down so quickly.  He is loved and missed terribly by his family.

It is startling to realize how quickly our lives can be taken out of our hands.   And that as much as I fret about things day to day, I really don’t have any control at all.   I guess what’s important is that we get the most out of each day we have.

The shot above is of the sun dropping low in the sky on a crisp winter day.  The tree in the foreground has lost its leaves, but you can already see the buds along the branches getting ready to pop in a month or so.   Life goes on….

Things not to take for granted.

Loved ones.  Good health.  Lake Travis.

One of my favorite artists is Mary Doerr.  You can browse her extensive collection of prints either in person or online at Images of Austin gallery.  The image below is a link from her online gallery of the print entitled Lake Travis.   Monte gave me this print as a gift several years ago.   The vantage point of the view in her print is above the lake overlooking Marshall Ford Marina and the basin.  Across the way you can see Windy Point, the land on the left fading into the distance is Hudson Bend.  There are no signs of Sometimes Islands in her print (which only start to show when the lake drops below about 658′), as she has captured the basin as we love to see it — full.

Mary Doerr's capture of Lake Travis.

Below is a shot from a similar vantage point taken today with the lake at 626 feet. Sad to see. Let’s hope for LOTS of rain in 2012.

View of Lake Travis basin from St. Luke's.

But, even with our lake low and dropping, we can’t stay away.  So, after our stop to look at the lake, we continued on to our marina.  I joined Lori, Laura, Ann and Ireni for a ladies’ sail on Camelot.  Monte and Joe went out on Cupholder to find some fish.  It was a beautiful day, as you can see in the picture.  Light northerly breezes made for a nice sail.

Today is Friday, New Year’s Eve’s Eve.   Just 3 more days left of what’s been a great vacation from work.   Here’s to not taking anything for granted.  Cheers!

Goin’ fishin’.

Hot cocoa.

Today we headed out to the lake to spend the afternoon on the boat.  It’s been a long time since I have been out there.  I’m happy to report that our dock is still attached to land.  It has rained several times since the beginning of November (thankfully), so the lake has risen several inches, and at least has not dropped, so they are holding off on moving us offshore.

I made a steaming hot batch of cocoa for the thermos, so that we could fend off the cold, and packed the peppermint schnapps and mini marshmallows.

We picked up Joe on B-dock and motored out into the cove armed with Joe’s fishfinder and several poles to see what we could catch.   I caught a small catfish.  Monte got a small bass.  Mostly we just listened to Christmas carols on the iPod and watched the blobs go by on the fish finder.

It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.

Deck the Halls: Check!

2011 tree.

Well, I ended up working all day yesterday, and most of today.   An “emergency” set of meetings came up out of the blue.   At least I didn’t have to travel to New York to attend in person.

One of my goals for this vacation is to get back on a normal sleep schedule.   I would really like it if the sleepy leg syndrome would stay away until at least after 9 or 10pm.   As it is, i’ve been falling asleep on the couch early in the evening and getting up at 1 or 2 to offically turn in.   This morning, I woke up on the couch about 1 AM.  Before I went to bed I checked my email and learned that my uncle in San Antonio, who’s been ill, passed away a few hours earlier.   Makes me very sad.   But I’m very glad that we had a visit with him recently.   On the other end of the happy/sad emotional spectrum, a friend’s first grandchild was born yesterday.   Life.  Happens.  We should enjoy every minute of it while we’re here.  And hug those important to us as often as possible.

I peeled myself off the phone at about 3PM and decided to finish decorating the tree.  This might actually conclude the hall-decking at our house.   If i get the tree decorated, a wreath on the door, a little manger put up, and the stockings hung, I feel like I’ve got most of the bases covered.

Celebrate every day.

Crepes!

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to leave nearly 5 weeks of vacation for the end of the year, but that’s the way it turned out.   So, after a long-ish Thanksgiving vacation just a couple weeks ago, we are now both officially on vacation for the rest of the year!

To ring in the vacation season, I made crepes this morning.   They’re SO YUMMY!   If you now have a craving, you can find the recipe in this previous blog post.

I hope I can decompress a bit in the coming week or so.  But as much as work can seem to mess with my life and mindset, I really have nothing to complain about.

My mind this week is especially on family members that are experiencing real challenges.  My sister-in-law is in the hospital recovering from surgery to treat recently diagnosed breast cancer.  She is a strong woman, though, beating her first bout with cancer several years ago.   One of my uncles recently was diagnosed with cancer as well a few weeks ago, and is preparing for surgery.    Another uncle is dealing with long-term health issues as well.

So, today I’m sending thoughts and prayers their way, and starting this vacation acknowledging how very blessed I am — and celebrating with crepes.

Welcome to the Dam tour. I am your Dam guide.

Longhorn sailors.

Joe suggested a cruise down the lake to see the Dam.  It’s rare to see the basin when the lake is so low – at 627.85′ today.   It’s really not a basin anymore.  Sometimes Islands are all the way out of the water, and connected to land, so, islands no more.   The original river channel winds all the way around them.  Windy Point looks more like Windy Acres.  And many of the marinas have scooted out to what would normally be the middle of the lake, but is now the edge of the shore.

Monte and I joined Ken and Joe on Prelude for a sail.   It was a beautiful day.   We had nice breezes on the way down.    The closest mile marker to our marina is mile marker 14, and the Mansfield Dam is at, well, mile marker 0.  So, round trip was close to about 30 miles.

As we passed the Austin Yacht Club we got to see several of their regattas underway.  The shot above is of some of the University of Texas Sailing Team’s Flying Juniors fleet.   The 2012 Nationals will be in Austin.  So they’re working hard to get ready.  Good luck Longhorns!

Here’s a sight we don’t see very often…

MM 1.

And, finally, we snugged up as close as we could to Mansfield Dam.  They have a string of bouys in front to keep people from getting too close – which foiled my plan to get a shot of myself touching the dam.

Upstream side of Mansfield Dam.

Construction of the Mansfield Dam (originally called Marshall Ford Dam) began in 1937 and was completed in 1941.   Mansfield Dam and Lake Travis are the only structures in the Highland Lakes chain specifically designed to contain floodwaters in the lower Colorado River basin. The lake can store as much as 260 billion gallons of water.   Some other factoids from the Lower Colorado River Authority website:

Elevation when full: 681 feet above mean sea level (msl)
Volume when full: 1,135,000 acre-feet
Historic high: 710.4 feet above msl on Dec. 25, 1991
Historic low: 614.2 feet above msl on Aug. 14, 1951
Normal operating range: at or below 681 feet above msl
Spillway elevation: 714 feet above msl
Top of dam: 750 feet above msl

The floodgates are at the bottom of the dam and are used to generate electricity and for flood control.  The spillway openings are on the right end of the dam in the picture above.   Water will start to spill over them at 714′, but it’s never happened… yet.  The highest I have seen the lake was 701.5′, which was over the July 4th weekend of 2007.  Hard to believe there was ever that much water in the lake.

We had a really lovely sail.  A nice Sunday adventure.

I shake my tiny fist at this drought!

I see…

One last try.

I’m determined to take one last day off before going back to the grind.  Monte worked til noon.  I took the entire day off.

I do not like wearing glasses all the time.  But in the last 5 years or so my eyes have been changing so much that my glasses alone don’t do the job.  I can’t wear one pair of glasses because I can’t see up close and far away with a single pair of glasses.  I can’t wear my contacts anymore because I can’t see close up.  The logical next step are bifocals or progressive lenses, but I’m looking for an alternative to glasses..  The latest thing I’ve tried out are mono-vision contacts – one lens is for close up, a prescription for reading; and the other lens is for distance.  You put both contacts in and your brain has to figure everything out.  I have used this set of trial lenses for a week or two and I like them (!)   I made an appointment for this morning to have one last fitting so that I can order a supply of them.  I am so ready to not have to wear glasses (multiple pairs) during the day.

This morning Noreen called to tell me that mom is back in the hospital today, this time for several bloodclots that have developed.  I’m waiting to get an update tonight.

In the mean time… while I was on the phone with Noreen, I heard a terrific racket out back.  It turns out that monte found the culprit that had been tearing up the backyard for the last several weeks – an armadillo that I suppose was foraging in the daytime for water.  Suffice to say that this particular armadillo will not be a problem anymore.

Later on, we took advantage of a free afternoon to cut down the remaining dead trees in the back yard.  Large brush collection is next week so this is an opportunity to get all the brush carried away, and we don’t want to miss it.  By the end of the day we have a huge pile of brush on the curb.  Let’s hope they cart it all away next week.

At the end of a busy day, I have mixed feelings.  I’ve had lots of sleep on vacation and am rested.  I am tired from working in the heat of the day.  I’m worried about mom.  I’m happy to be home.  I’m remembering the fun times at the reunion over the weeked.  I’m looking forward to next weekend on the lake.  For now, i’ll say goodnight.