I’m off on another sailing adventure: Charleston to Annapolis.
Most years I post a summary of the previous 12 months here on Sheila365 – summarizing moments from fun trips, visits from friends and family, and other adventures and highlights from the year (like these summary posts from 2019 and 2018). Unfortunately, on this last day of 2020, there isn’t much to report, as COVID has curtailed most highlight-worthy moments.
Instead, today I went back and looked at my first post from the beginning of 2020. In that post, I included a picture of a beautiful sunrise that I took the previous year – as we were at the dawn of a new decade. I had to chuckle and shake my head reading this statement a year after I wrote it: “I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.” Well, I can now say that I was in NO WAY ready for what 2020 would bring.
BUT, I am still here, as are my loved ones, thank God. So, I am grateful, and I am simply trying to roll with it.
To end the year, I will just leave you with this, a picture of a beautiful post-sunset scene that I took at anchor in the Ashepoo River in South Carolina. Tomorrow is a new day.
I grilled a delicious cedar plank salmon for Christmas dinner, recipe below. Julie joined us and stirred up a tasty risotto dinner. Nom nom. Sunset was fleeting, but lovely.
Grilled cedar-plank salmon:
- soak a cedar plank in water for several hours ahead of grilling
- slather a boneless salmon fillet with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of garlic powder
- place fillet, skin side down on the pre-soaked cedar plank
- place cedar plank & salmon over direct coals for 20-30 minutes
Halls decked. One creature stirring; not a mouse.
The sky in late autumn and winter can be so beautiful. This was taken at sunset as we left the marina on Thursday.
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.
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:
A 25-second exposure about an hour and 45 minutes after sunset:
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:
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:
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.
Today’s morning sun illuminates the blooms on my Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) also known as Red Bird of Paradise. Whichever, it’s gorgeous.
I ventured downtown over the weekend to snap a picture of the University of Texas at Austin’s Tower bathed in burnt-orange light, to honor the graduating Class of 2020. My friend’s daughter graduated this year and I took this shot for her.
Congratulations to the Longhorn graduates!
I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in. Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera. The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits. Welllllll. I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.
I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:
A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo. I caught him here mid-song:
And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers. They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving! This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:
Nice. Very nice. 🙂
Okay, I’m a tiny bit ecstatic. I finished the mainsail repairs today. And the slow, endless rain of the last week or so has moved on. So we drove out to the marina and tied the main back on, then took Nirvana out for a sail for the first time in about 3 months. We hoisted both the main and the jib. It was the first time taking Nirvana out since I repaired each of the sails. The winds were light, but I loved seeing them out and in the wind.
During winter, the low, rising sun shoots a blinding ray of morning light through the east-facing windows on the house. An illuminating spotlight passes through the house quickly. I caught this moment as I was walking through the living room this morning. I could almost see the light move slowly across the wall as I stopped to take the picture.
This is one of my favorite sunrise pictures from last year. It is from the trip up the Keys; I took it as we pulled up anchor at Rodriquez Key, just off Key Largo. It is a beautiful, colorful image of the sun’s glow on the horizon at dawn. It’s a good image to have in mind at the start of this brand new decade. I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.
This year sped by, but it was jam-packed with short adventures, wonderful visits with friends and family, lots of good food & wine, and a few projects squeezed in.
A quick breakdown:
- States traveled to/within: Texas, Florida, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia
- Countries traveled to/within: US, Bahamas
- Siblings visited: Noreen & David, Brian, Colleen, Fran & Art, Susanne, Gene & Jo
- Nieces & nephews visited: Rachel, Julie, Neil & Miranda, Jared, Rebecca, Aaron, Jacob, Pat & Nga, Dan & Erin, Patricia & Florian, Michelle, Amy Lee & Chris
- Great nieces & nephews visited: Diego, Tionna & Alex, Will, Nick, Grace, Aly, Mae, Austin, Copeland, Anna Sutton
- Great-great nephew visited: X’ander
- Births celebrated: great-great-niece Aubrielle
- Iron-men cheered on: Jamie
- Weddings celebrated: Neil & Miranda, Dan & Erin
- Friend & family visits to Austin: Noreen & David, Susanne, Rob & Owen, Asha, Fran & Aaron, Rachel & Becky, Irene & Liz & Keith, and Noreen (one more time) 🙂
I’ve picked one photo from so many enjoyable moments of each month below:
January: Sailing from Venice, FL through the Florida Keys, to Biscayne Bay; on a mooring ball at Garrison Bight Mooring Field off of Key West. This was a magnificent trip. The Keys are amazing. We had enough time to really enjoy Key West and see the sights and maybe have one too many cocktails. We hopped up the outside of the Keys, anchoring a few nights. If I did this again I’d spend many more days in the Keys. We ended anchored outside of No Name Harbor near Miami for two weeks, which sounds like a long time but I thought it was a really nice place to be stuck, waiting for a weather window to go east to the Bahamas.
February: Sailing from Florida to Great Bahama Island and through the Abacos; dolphins in the Great Bahama Banks. We enjoyed a really tame crossing to the West End from Miami, then spent several days making way through the bank and through the Abacos to get to Marsh Harbour. It was a real treat to be back there for a while. Sadly, Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abacos this hurricane season, and they will rebuilding for the foreseeable future.
March: Springtime in the Hill Country means wildflowers. I simply LOVE spring in the Hill Country. Monte has cultivated an amazing bluebonnet patch at the chez. I can’t wait to enjoy next year’s bloom, only 3 short months away.
April: Spring migration means birding trips; a visit to the bird blind at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. I spent much less time birding this year than I would have liked. But I did make several trips to the coast at the peak of migration, and will definitely do it again this coming year.
May: A visit to the Pacific Northwest; a view from Mount Rainier National Park. I have always loved Mount Rainier. We picked a nice, though not an absolutely perfect day, to go up to the mountain. The views on the way up and down are almost as stunning as the views from Paradise Visitor’s Center. I also made it back to the Bahamas for a week in May, but this trip to Washington was the highlight.
June: Roadtrip to Colorado and back; one stop was Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo. We had fun on our trip to Estes Park. And on the way home.
July: A two week trip up the ICW from Charleston, SC to Portsmouth, NC; the full moon rising just as we anchored near the Neuse River in North Carolina. It was an amazing experience to take this trip up the Intracoastal Waterway. I learned much, saw many birds, enjoyed the changing scenery along the trip, and never tired of the company. If you ever have a chance to do something similar, just say Yes.
August: Summer heats up in Austin, lots of fun times on the lake, including enjoying Cupholder back in the water. We enjoyed having both Nirvana and Cupholder on the lake this summer. We love having boat guests for the day and / or night. We enjoy our boat friends immensely. And we really need to spend more time out on the lake next year.
September: One of several visits with out-of-towners to Barton Springs Pool to cool off. I have my own custom tour of Austin for friends that are visiting. Sometimes we walk around doing it. Sometimes we do an express version by car. But I love sharing my town with my friends and family when they come for a visit. If the temps are anywhere near 100 degrees F, then we must visit Barton Springs Pool.
October: Let the boat canvas and sail projects commence! I finally organized my various and sundry craft/project supplies in my new, amazing closet workspace. Looking forward to knocking another couple dozen projects of my to-do list next year.
November: Enjoying the Christmas decorations going up at Donn’s Depot. You can walk in the door a Grinch, but as soon as you enter Donn’s Depot after Thanksgiving, you can’t help but feel the Christmas Spirit warm your heart.
December: A trip south along the coast from Charleston, SC (Rainbow Row, below) to Brunswick, GA, via Beaufort, SC and Savannah, SC. Our last trip of the year took me to a place I used to live MANY moons ago, and a few places I’ve never been. I would like to make a followup visit to these parts again.
So many great moments! I’m looking forward to the ones 2020 brings.