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…

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Save the little flowers.

We brought our vulnerable outdoor plants in when the weather turned cold last week. Most of them are in the shop. I brought a few small ones into the house. I’m enjoying this one, a pretty pink impatiens.

Impatiens walleriana

Boat run.

We are pet sitting this week – our niece, Julie’s, dog, and Doray & Tom’s parrot.   Because of that, we have been sticking close to home.  But, today we took the opportunity on this beautiful day to take a drive.

We stopped by several vantage points around the lake.  With the emergency flooding situation behind us, Lake Travis is dropping about 1.5 feet a day now, currently at 695′ above mean sea level.   The butterflies were thick today, which makes me very happy – so much of what humans do have hurt their populations over the years.  It’s nice to see them out there despite us.

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I believe these are Queen butterflies, on blue mistflower.  I think I’ll plant some of this in my yard!

We also stopped by the marina to check on our boat.  Our marina’s staff has been doing a wonderful job keeping all the docks floating and clear of obstacles.  They are running a shuttle to the docks for boat owners, since the lake is still flooded, and the water level is still about 15 feet above the parking lot.  Everything looks fine.  Our batteries are doing well (electricity has been off to the docks for 12 days, so far).

I brought my completed propane bag out to the boat and hung it.  It works great, and I found the perfect spot for it.

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Dam it.

Lake Travis is still rising, slowly.  We took another drive out to the lake, to join the other lookie-loos.  We got a glimpse of the backside of Mansfield Dam from the park off highway 620.  The lake level in the picture below is 702.6′ above mean sea level, inching closer to the dam’s spillway.

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Four flood gates were open, releasing floodwaters into Lake Austin below.

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And, as always….

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Looking for a snack.

I spied this crested caracara atop the telephone pole at the end of my driveway.  I had just enough time to go back in the house for my camera and take this shot before he flew away.   It’s not a terribly clear photo, but the best I’ve gotten of one of these big birds so far.  Caracaras are in the falcon family, but they often hang out with vultures.  You may have seen one feeding on a dead animal in a field or on the side of the road.  They they also will eat small animals and birds that they can swoop down on and pluck off the ground.  I think that is what this guy was scanning the area for.

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High water.

It’s been raining around Austin since Labor Day. And the cold front that came through yesterday morning has been dumping rain in the Highland Lakes’ Basin. The Llano River rose to march its historic high of 40′ this morning, taking a bridge out. Sandy Creek, the San Saba, and Pedernales Rivers are over flood stage as well. Lake Travis is the flood control lake in the chain and it has risen over 25′ in the last week, 16′ of those since last night.

678′ MSL and rising

We drove to the marina today. The lake’s rise is almost visible while you’re just standing there looking at it. So far, our docks are fine, being let out as the lake rises. But the rain continues to fall, and the lake is supposed to go up another 12-15′ by tomorrow, flooding many places along the shores of Lake Travis. This flood has yet to play out, so we’re watching carefully.

Brrr-ski.

Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.

All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!