Knocked one off the bucket list.

Over the weekend I took a roadtrip with 4 girlfriends to Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas.   I’ve lived in Texas over 20 years and have never made it out there.   And it was long overdue.   It is all that they say it is.   Big, beautiful, rugged, inspiring, with mountain, desert and river views to die for.


We made it!

Six and a half hours by car from Austin, we made it to Ft. Davis by about 7pm Friday night.  We had reservations to attend one of the evening Star Parties held 3 times a week at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory, and made it with a little time to spare.   The skies were dark and the stars were out.   The Milky Way was amazing.   The stars and constellations visible to the naked eye were too many to count.  Through the telescopes they had placed for visitors, I saw Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, M11 star cluster, and the 2 star clusters in the Perseus constellation.   If you’re going to make the trip all the way out to Big Bend, you really should combine it with a trip to the observatory.   Get tickets ahead of time online.   They sell out frequently and have to turn people away.


McDonald Observatory giant telescopes on the hill – viewed from where we stayed outside of Fort Davis

Saturday morning we drove to Big Bend and hiked inside of Big Bend National Park.   Saturday afternoon we did the Window Trail – to experience the Chisos Mountains part of Big Bend.   Four hours round trip, a moderately challenging hike, with breathtaking scenery all along the way.


The Window in the Chisos Mountains from the beginning of the Window Trail.


The Window view at the pour-off at the end of the trail. Watch your step!

We started Sunday at Santa Elena Canyon at dawn – to experience the Rio Grand river part of Big Bend.  It was about an easy 2 hour hike roundtrip – though we had to bushwack a bit to get onto the trail.  The Rio Grande has sliced a 1500′ deep canyon through the mountain there.  At sunrise, the face of the sheer mountain walls glow in the brightening sunlight.


The Santa Elena Canyon trail, looking northeast with the sun rising over the Rio Grande.


About a mile and a half into the Santa Elena Canyon trail along the Rio Grande.

Sunday afternoon we hiked the Mule Ears Springs trail – to experience the Chihuahuan Desert part of Big Bend.   A 3 hour hike, moderate difficulty, mainly due to the rough terrain and 90+ degree temperatures.  Packing water with you is a must!


Mule Ears, in the distance on the left, from the Mule Ears Springs trail.


From the Mule Ears Springs trail, looking back south to Santa Elena Canyon in the distance.


Chihuahuan Desert scape, looking north to the mountains from the south side of the park.

Another very awesome trip.  We hiked our butts off.

Super hunter’s moon 2016.

I enjoyed playing with my big-girl-camera while photographing the moon last night.  The first one was right after it rose above the horizon, and the second was shot a while (and many frames) later.  I was especially pleased that I got a good shot or two given that I took them from the boat.  It’s a magical time for a moon dance….



A new game.

During my last visit to Seattle, my sister taught me a new game called Ten Thousand.  It’s played with six dice, and a pencil/paper to keep score.   Two or more people can play.

We’ve played it on the boat the last few times we’ve gone out… and have only lost one die in the lake, so far.   I’ve been repurposing them from other games as I go. 🙂


I’ve been told the game is similar to Farkle, but I am not familiar with that game to say if that is true.   Here are the rules we use for our version of  Ten Thousand:

Order of play: Each player rolls 1 die to determine order of play, highest one goes first, turns proceed clockwise around the table, as follows…

The general idea:  To begin, all players start off with a score of  zero on the board.  Each player’s turn is made up of one or more rolls.  A player must roll the dice to accumulate points on each turn, according to the scoring combinations outlined below.  She can keep rolling as long as she rolls a scoring combination, but she risks losing all points on a turn if she busts (i.e., rolls without a scoring combination).   Each player must first accumulate 1000 points or more on a turn to get “on the board” and to begin recording a score.   If player n cannot reach 1000 points or more on her first turn, no points are recorded for that turn, and play passes to the next player.  Player n must then try to get on the board on each of her subsequent turns.  Once player n is on the board, she can stop at any number of points to end her turn, and those points are added to her score on the board.   If a player busts on any turn, no points are recorded for that turn.  Standard play ends when one player’s score on the board reaches 10000 or more.  At which point each remaining player takes one more turn to see if she can beat it.  The player with the highest score after that final round is the winner.

Method of scoring:  To start a turn, a player rolls all the dice.  To keep rolling, she must roll something that matches one of the scoring combinations.  She must then set aside at least one of the scoring combinations as ‘counter(s)’ on each roll that will count towards the point total of that turn.  She then rolls the remaining (non-counter) dice to continue her turn.   If all 6 of the dice are ‘counters’ a given turn, player must roll all 6 dice again, to continue adding to her total points for that turn.   Once a player is ‘on the board,’ she can decide to end her turn with any number of points and add them to her total on the board.   However, if a player rolls resulting in no scoring combination for that roll, that player ‘busts,’ her turn is over, and no score is recorded on the board for her on that turn.  Play then passes to the next player.

Scoring combinations (* note that ⚀’s are special):

On any roll:

⚄ = 50
⚀ = 100*

In a single roll:

3 of a kind equals that face value in hundreds (e.g., 3 ⚄ = 500).
3 ⚀ = 1000 *

6 of a kind equals that face value in thousand  (e.g., 6 ⚁ = 2000)
6 ⚀= 10,000*

A run = 1500 (i.e., ⚀⚁⚂⚄⚃⚅ )

Three sets of pairs = 1500  (e.g., ⚀⚀ ⚃⚃ ⚄⚄…. or even ⚂⚂ ⚂⚂ ⚅⚅, etc).

I hope that made sense.  Now find 6 dice and give it a try!

Scenes from the weekend.

We rafted up with Marty & Sue in Bee Creek over the weekend.  No wind, but we had beautiful weather.

We were treated to an exceptionally stunning sunset Saturday evening.  This photo is not edited; the colors really were that amazing.


And in the morning we were surrounded by hazy fog rising off the warmer-than-air lake water.


Twas beautiful, indeed.

Late bloomer.

I planted a 2-gallon sized Pride of Barbados shrub yesterday.   It’s a bit late in the season, but I’m hoping that planting it now will give it a good month or so to acclimate to its new home before the cold weather hits.  That should make for a good winter’s nap before spring.  We’ll see.  If this one doesn’t pan out, Monte’s starting a few from seed.


Birdies above. 

At home I am feeling the absence of the little birdies and squirrels lately.  They started making themselves scarce about the same time a hawk was spotted swooping around the trees in our yard.   Hopefully this won’t last long. 

In the mean time, I was thrilled to see a flock of 20 or more Monk Parakeets flying around the Lamar & 51st street area as we headed home from dinner tonight.  We stalked them for a while but didn’t get a great shot. 

This is a picture of them near one of their nests.   I count 16 or so in this shot.  Kind of reminds me of a musical scale with the birds as the notes. 

Subterranean Jazz. 

I met some girlfriends downtown last night to listen to a band at The Elephant Room –  Kris Kimura’s Wasabi Grande Big, big band.  Now, that’s a big band!

Low-light shot of the back of the room. 

Boat repair.

A week or so ago, we were at anchor and rafted-up in a cove with another boat when we experienced the largest boat wake we have ever seen on Lake Travis, courtesy of a motorhead who is ignorant of the damage that his wake causes other boats and docks along the lake.  We never saw him, but his wake caused our two boats to smash into eachother, resulting in our port-side gate stanchion breaking.

The next day I got on the phone with Catalina Direct and ordered a replacement.  That was the easy part.  The fun-part remained:  figuring out how to access the nuts & bolts below deck to make the repair.  Suffice to say that it was not a Catalina 320 design point to make access to the stanchion bolts easy or straightforward.  The Catalina 320 owners’ association discussion forum was a helpful resource, with some threads describing the repair.  I decided to document our experience, along with some photos, in the event it helps another sailor down the line.   This is a two-person job, as screwing and unscrewing the nuts requires one person above deck, and one person below.  Oh, and the below deck person needs to be small enough and able to contort his/herself in a very confined space for the duration.  This repair took about 4 hours.   While this post documents replacement of a port-side gate stanchion, I imagine it would be a similar experience for replacing any other stanchion, but the location will dictate a different set of steps to gain access.

In the photo below (new part on the left, broken part on the right)  you can see that the threaded rod of the port-side gate stanchion’s aft leg was broken off at the deck.  It’s actually a great design, in my opinion, because even though the stanchion was bent significantly enough inboard to pop the weld on the threaded rod, there are no outboard through-deck bolts to damage the deck by being pulled out when the damage occurs.  Another thing worth noting is the width of the “h” on the new stanchion was about an inch less than the old one.  You can kind of see that in the photo.  But we were able to remedy that by a gentle, but firm, pull on the legs to spread them enough to make the bolt holes line up with those on deck.   Don’t forget to order the new nuts/bolts/washers that are recommended in the listing for the stanchion on the Catalina Direct website.  They have to be ordered separately.  Our old bolts were bent pretty good, and the washers were cupped a bit.


The life lines on our 320 connect forward at the bow pulpit.   Easy enough to remove for the repair.


Now for the fun part.  On a 320, the bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion are located behind the aft galley cabinet.  The bolts for the forward leg are behind the middle galley cabinet, where the microwave sits.  You’ll want to open both of them up to gain access.   I recommend taking the divider wall between the two cabinets out as well to make maneuvering a little easier.  There is a molded fiberglass cable chase/run behind the wood trim inside the cabinets.  You will need to cut away part of that to access all the bolts.  A previous owner of our boat had cut some of it away for some other repair or installation.img_1147

When I first opened things up to see what I could see, this is what I saw in the aft cabinet.   Some of the fiberglass panel had been cut away already, but not enough for this repair.


I used a Dremel tool to cut away another 4 inches or so.   BE CAREFUL to not damage the cabling behind the fiberglass panel!  Also, take precautions to not work around live electric cables, to avoid damage/death to yourself.     I also recommend eye protection and wearing a mask to protect yourself from breathing in the dust while making the cut.   And, beware, that cut fiberglass edge is sharp.img_1142

This is an upclose view of the 3 bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion.   The big one is the broken outboard threaded rod.  The 2 inboard ones are the smaller through-deck bolts for the aft leg.  I had to lower the cabling that was fastened below deck to get access to the bolts.  I found that there was no clearance below the threaded rod to allow me to use a socket of any kind.  So I had to use a wrench to turn the nut, little by little.  As I did, the top of the broken-off rod rose slowly above the deck, eventually enough to be able to put a vicegrips on it above deck, to keep it from turning as I removed the nut the rest of the way.   I also will note that the recommended bolt/nut/washer kit that we ordered contained new stainless bolts for the inboard holes of the aft leg that are about an inch longer than the old ones.  That might make using a socket difficult, if you don’t have a deep enough one.


This picture shows all 5 bolts – the 3 of the aft leg, and the 2 of the forward leg.  It also shows how nice it is to not have the dividing wall between the cabinets there.  It made reaching through with tools easier.img_1143

We first removed the inboard bolts of the aft leg.   Monte unscrewed the bolt above deck, while I held the nut below.


This is a shot of the deck with all the bolts removed, and the old adhesive scraped away.   We used fresh marine adhesive, liberally covering the area of each foot.  All that remained was to install with the new hardware.


Voila!  repair complete.