Thursday, November 30, 2006

Catching Up

Obviously, we have been back in Austin for a while now and I have not posted anything to the blog. I almost blogged myself out on the three weeks we were away sailing. I have actually gotten a few emails to the effect, "What the hell is going on, we know you are home, post something!"

Sorry about that and here goes. We have been busy catching up on going out dancing. It is amazing how much you forget in three weeks. Also, I did not get to do any running on the trip and have been trying to get back in shape since we got home.

Thanksgiving was great! We had dinner with Betty Peterson and her family. Allen and Deborah brought Allysa down to Pecan Grove the next day and we all had a nice visit. Here is a photo of Deborah and Allysa on our patio. Just look at that long curly hair; have you ever seen anything so cute???!!!

Here is one of Allysa with the stuffed turtle we got her; at the moment, turtles are a big deal to her.

A couple of days ago we had a very nice happy hour here in our RV with our new friend and next door neighbor, Sandy.

Ted and Nancy Forcum stopped by Pecan Grove with their RV a couple of days ago while on their way to the Rio Grande Valley. We all went to the Dallas Night Club tonight. A very weird thing happened tonight at Dallas. This was only the second time in our lives we have gone there on a Wednesday night. We bumped into an old friend, Tim Mosely, who we have not seen in at least 10 years. Tim said this was his first trip to Dallas in about 8 years. It was quite a coincidence and great to see him.

I hope this gets me off the hook. More will be coming and, on a regular basis.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Back in Austin

Well, we are home from the sailing trip. Actually got home day before yesterday, but have not had a chance to post anything. Been catching up on a lot of sleep but, to be honest, have gone out running a couple of times and even made it out dancing Friday night at the Dallas Nightclub so it has not been all rest.

Had a few more photos from the trip that I wanted to post. After we got into Tampa, Bob had the boat hauled out of the water and put in storage to sell. The photos of it coming out of the water were fairly interesting, to me at least. I hope you enjoy them.

Here is one of a visitor we had after we entered Tampa Bay. We actually had several of these offshore, but this is the first one we managed to get a photo of. It is very hard to get a shot because they come up so quickly and are so quickly gone. Notice there are two in this photo.

I can't believe we do not have a photo of all four of us together, so I am making do by posting two photos. One is missing Gene and one is missing me - can you guess who was taking the photo in each?

By-the-way, the lift you see picking up Sirena is controlled wirelessly from a hand held controller. It has a diesel generator supplying power to the motors and is rated for 55 tons. Sirena weighs 17 tons, so was no strain at all for the lift. This boat yard also had a 75 ton lift. After lifting the boat, it is driven wirelessly to the storage area where it sets the boat down.

Here is one of Sirena being set down in her new parking space. Notice the yellow thing in the guy's hand behind the boat. That is the wireless hand held controller with which he is driving the lift.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nov. 14 - Tampa, Florida

Well, I am happy to report we have made a successful delivery from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands to Tampa, Florida via St. Croix and Puerto Rico! At the moment, we are all pretty well worn out from the trip and glad to have it behind us. However, we all are very happy to have made the voyage.

Got tied up to the dock about 4:30 PM this afternoon. Since we did not have an internet connection at the marina, Peggy and I went to a nearby motel to get all the posts that have been waiting put on the web site.

The trip from Key West was a pretty quick 30 hours or so. We are going over to the marina in the morning to help Bob get things off the boat and do some cleaning, then we are off to the airport for a 3:15 PM flight to Austin.

The leg to Tampa was mostly windless so we motored most of the way. Here is the Skipper having his lunch today. Notice the glassy water in the background.

And, here is the Skipper sleeping off that lunch.

Sailing a modern, well equiped sail boat is difficult, but much easier than it was just a few decades ago. Sirena has roller furling main, staysail, and jib. All lines can be handled from the cockpit which means there is very little need to go forward while underway. It also allows for infinitely adjustable sail area, which is much easier than tying in a reef.

There are a couple of people that we all agreed needed to be thanked for making the trip much easier for us. First we want to thank Rudolf Diesel who kept us moving when the wind didn't. And we don't want to forget Mr. Garmin who gives us our position any time we want it to within + or - 30 feet.

Nov. 13 - Key West

Got in Key West about 1:30 AM this morning. It is a fairly complicated arrival, but probably easier at night than in the day since the lighted bouys are easier to see. There are about 8 miles of narrow channels with 5 or 6 turning points to navigate through the shallow waters surrounding Key West.

We pulled into the Conch Harbor Marina and found the fuel dock and tied up for the night. Around sunrise we got a knock on the hull to indicate the fuel dock was open and we filled our fuel and water tanks.

After moving the boat out to an anchorage, we all took a well needed shower and hopped into the dingy to spend the morning in Key West. First stop was Customs and Immigration where they simply noted our passport numbers and sent us on our way.

It was great to get out and walk a little after lying around like a couch potato for over a week at sea. We didn't need to buy much since we stocked the boat pretty throughly in Puerto Rico, but we did pick up some fresh fruit and a chart for the remainder of the trip to Tampa, Florida.

Got back out to the boat just before lunch and decided to get underway. It takes about an hour and half to run through the channels to get out to deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. Peggy had lunch ready for us about the time we made it to the end of the channel.

Here we are leaving Key West as we pass the cruise ship docks.

As I write, we have been headed for Tampa for about 24 hours. We are currently making 7 knots which will put us in there in about 5 hours, at about 4:00 PM this afternoon. Next post will be from Tampa.

While we were in Key West they were having power boat races and I thought this overly wide boat on it's trailer was well worth a blog post.

And the truck that was pulling it was very cool too.

Nov. 6 - 13, At Sea

Here is a close encounter of the freighter kind.

This is going to be a fairly long post because we have been at sea for a full week and I will not be able to post it until we reach Key West tomorrow night.

We had barely left Puerto Rico and were less than 10 miles offshore when we started thinking about skipping the Turks and Caicos and going straight to Key West. The reason we were considering this is that it is difficult to get out of those ports once you are in due to the reefs and prevailing Easterly winds. It necessitates a long beat to windward which none of us were looking forward to – they don't call it a “beat” for the fun of it.

The big issue was how were we going to let anyone know since everyone was expecting us to check in from South Caicos in about three days. So here we were with everyone on deck with a cell phone trying to get a signal from Puerto Rico since we could still see the lights. Finally, Bob managed to get a digital roaming signal strong enough to get a call through to his brother, Ken. We gave Ken all our contact numbers and he said he would let them all know not to expect us for a week or so.

As I write this, we have been at sea for six days since leaving Puerto Rico. As of about half an hour ago we were 170 nautical miles out of Key West and making about 5.7 knots. Should be into Key West around 10:00 PM tomorrow night.

We have been having a great time and eating like Kings. Peggy has been feeding us very well. Even though we are sleeping odd hours, we pretty much all wake up and eat together three times a day.

Bob, Gene, and myself are standing watchs of 2 hours each which makes it 2 on and 4 off, round the clock. It is not as bad as you might think grabbing a few hours sleep two or three times throughout the day. After a week of this, we have fallen into a comfortable routine and it is no big deal.

All of us on this boat are very old friends and, since we have now been together on this boat since the 28th of October, I think it is safe to say we will remain good friends after this is over. I think I can speak for everyone when I say it has been a real pleasure to be together so closely and for so long.

I have known Gene for over 20 years and Bob for well over 10 years and yet, have learned a few things I didn't know about them. Although I knew Gene played guitar, I had no idea how good he was and especially how well he could sing. It has been a real pleasure to listen to his music at night when we were in port.

I have also learned that Bob played tuba in his high school band and also plays the piano. And, although I knew Bob could sail, I had no idea what an excellent sailor he really is. In fact he is, by far, the best I have ever sailed with. And, when I say excellent, I am not comparing him to your weekender or day sailor. He is one that knows his business offshore, which is a whole different ball game.

Most lifelong friends are made early in life in high school, college, or military service. It is rare to make those kinds of friends late in life but, I can say without hesitation that I will be friends with Bob and Gene from now on.

We have had good weather except for one night of a cold, windy rain that lasted all night long. Two hours at the helm in that was not fun but, we did make good time because it was really blowing. We have had some periods of light winds but, all in all, the weather has been close to perfect.

Last night was an excellent night for sailing and we were making 6.5 knots through the water with a 2 knot following current as we came up through the Bahama Channel along the north shore of Cuba. We really made good time and had a 24 hour run of 152 nautical miles. Some time tomorrow we will cross the Gulf Stream and into Key West.

Nov. 5 - Puerto Rico

This is another one of those posts that will be put on the blog after the fact. No internet connection here at this marina in Puerto Rico.

Before we left St. Croix, in addtion to a fairly brutal windward beat of about 6 hours just to get there, we must have worked another 8 hours getting ready to leave. We were all exhausted by the time we left port. Here is a view from the top of mast that Bob took while we had him hoisted up there. Just checking things out and mounting radar reflectors.

We sailed all last night and arrived here around 10:00 AM this morning. We have already filled our water tank and, at the moment, I am sitting here on the boat at anchor. We launched the dingy and Bob went to get us checked in at customs while Gene and Peggy are buying groceries. I am just sitting here writing and trying to keep my foot elevated to help the swelling go down. Here it is after 4 days on antibiotics. Yuk!

I think we will probably make it out of here by 5:00 PM or so this afternoon. We may stop in the Turks and Caicos on the way. That is roughly three days from here, although I have not plotted it out. Will try to do that before everyone else gets back from town.

I will be keeping a record of each days sail but, probably will not see an internet connection for at least three days. Hopefully, I can find and internet cafe or something in the Turks.

Here is a photo that has nothing to do with Puerto Rico but, is one you might like to see. This is Sirena under sail while Gene and I moved her to St. Croix. Bob or Peggy took this photo from Cruzan Gold.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Nov. 4 - St. Croix

Just a quick post to say we moved both Sirena and Cruzan Gold to St. Croix today. Bob and Peggy took Cruzan Gold and Gene and I moved Sirena. It was about a 6 1/2 hour beat, which was pretty tiring. We are leaving Cruzan Gold here and all getting aboard Sirena for the trip to Tampa.

We have been doing a lot of last minute things all afternoon and plan to head out for Puerto Rico about 9:00 PM this evening. Should be a really nice run to Puerto Rico with a full moon. Here is Bob up the mast mounting the radar reflectors and inspecting the mast head.

I will try to post again from Puerto Rico.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nov. 3 - Still in Red Hook

We were supposed to be out of here today and in St. Croix by this afternoon. That is now put off until tomorrow. A few things cropped up.

First, a couple of days ago I managed to puncture my skin on my ankle with some coral. No big deal until yesterday afternoon. In a matter of about six hours it went from a 1/16 inch hole to a very ugly dark red to black area with a pretty big center which rotted out. This morning my foot was pretty swollen as well.

Tried to go to the VA clinic here on St. Thomas and after $65 in cab fare and getting the royal heave ho from the VA ("go to emergency room, I am too busy with my 2 patients," worthless bastards), I returned to Red Hook and walked across the street to a clinic and $200 and 15 minutes later was on my way to a cure. I am about to change my high opinion of the VA since this is now the second time this has happened in two years. Let me think about this for awhile and, if I get really pissed about it, this subject may turn into my next rant. I actually feel it coming on now by just typing that last sentence. Serenity Now!!

Trust me, MRSA is not fun and is terribly painfull. I can think of at least 5 women who know me pretty well that are going read this and say, "You big baby, it probably doesn't even hurt." Well, just Google MRSA and see what you say then. The doctor told me he is seeing 20 cases per week in his clinic.

I had to laugh during my visit to the doctor. He told me that if it formed a cyst while at sea, I would have to cut it open with a scapel, get the puss out, wash it, and pack the hole with a wick to keep the puss out of the wound. I mentioned to him that he was talking to someone who weak kneed at just the very thought of a flu shot.

Anyway, I am on an antibiotic that is supposed to work and am feeling better every hour. Bob, Gene, and Peggy are a lunch at the moment. I am just so happy to have an internet connection that I am skipping it. I think this is the fourth post I have made today.

Another reason for waiting was that Bob wanted to get a new dingy motor for Cruzan Gold and it is not being delivered here until 5:00 PM. So, we will do the St. Croix thing tomorrow. I know I will feel better tomorrow because I absolutely could not put weight on my left leg this morning, much less sail Serina, even with Gene's help.

That about all that is going on today. Spending a lazy afternoon here in the coffee shop surfing away.

Nov. 2 - Back in Red Hook

After we all had breakfast this morning, Bob hollered up from below, let's go to Red Hook. Gene and I took us out of the cove on St. John's and headed out for the hour and a half run to Red Hook over on St. Thomas. No doubt, this was a test to see if we really did know how to read a chart because Bob never came up from below until we were in the harbor. I bet he was looking out a port hole though and hoping we didn't run his boat up on a reef. ;-) He may think I didn't know it was a test, but I know the professor too well.

Back in Red Hook we sat about getting the boat ready for the return trip. Transferred a bunch more stuff off of Cruzan Gold onto Serina and bought more groceries. We picked up the newly repacked life raft and now have it stowed on deck. We also have the dingy stowed on deck and are pretty much ready to head out for St. Croix tomorrow.

Bob and Peggy plan to take Cruzan Gold and Gene and I plan to take Serina over to St. Croix, where we will leave Cruzan Gold and all get aboard Serina for the trip to Florida.

Peggy fixed us all a great Spaghetti dinner tonight and, at the moment, she and Bob are installing lee clothes on all the bunks. Hopefully, I will get to post this tomorrow along with the last three days when I had no internet connection. I think I saw one internet network the whole time we were in the BVI and couldn't connect to it.

We stopped at the Indians to do some snorkeling and saw this little kid (maybe 18 months) riding on his daddy's back with his mother swiming next to them. Notice the pacifier in his mouth. Just thought it was worth a photo.

By-the-way, I know my formatting is screwed up. I am writing in Open Office while off line and posting in Blogger when I get a connection. Doesn't trasfer just right and I never get a connection long enough to fix it.

Nov. 1 - Wreck of the Rhone

I had hoped to post yesterday's blog today, but no internet connection has been available. Should have one tomorrow evening, since we will back in Red Hook on St. Thomas.

Had a very interesting day today tooling around the British Virgin Islands. Went first to The Baths, not to take one, but to dive. The Baths are a huge pile of granite boulders, some larger than most houses, piled up on the Western shore of Virgin Gorda. Very interesting to swim among and see the sea life.

Below is a photo of Serina moored at The Baths.

Afterwards, we headed to the 150 + year old wreck of the British steamship, Rhone. It was quite a sight to see this huge ship lying on the bottom in the exact spot where a hurricane drove it up on the rocks.

Now, we are back in an anchorage on St. John's in the USVI for the night. Tomorrow, back to Red Hook to start getting ready to leave for Florida. Hopefully, we will be on our way by Saturday.

On the way to our anchorage this afternoon we snacked on cookies and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Now peanut butter cups have always been one of my favorites and, as a school kid, it was not unusual for me to spend my lunch money on them instead of lunch. However, after a couple hours in the sun today, these were to the point where I would not even touch them. That didn't stop Bob though who opens one up and promptly runs liquid peanut butter cup all down the front of his shirt. Peggy offered him a wash cloth, but he declined and spent the next 10 minutes sucking chocolate out of a shirt that was none to pretty to begin with after three days of sailing. Now that is a guy that likes his Reese's!!!

Oct. 31 - Tortola

Got up this morning at the ungodly hour, for us, of 7:30 AM. No use trying to sleep too late on a boat with Bob aboard! I am not sure what time we first heard him up, but I did open one eye enough to see that it was still plenty dark outside.

The plan today was to leave the US Virgin Islands at St. John's and go into the British Virgin Islands for a few days. We went through Customs and Immigrations on Tortola around lunch time today. Below is a photo of the Customs House taken from Sirena's mooring in the harbor.

Bob, Gene, and myself motored ashore in the dingy to clear Customs while Peggy stayed on board Sirena and fixed lunch (we took her passport and filled out her paper work.) It was something to see these very formal British Custom's officials in their starched, dress uniforms. I felt they needed a flashing neon sign that said, “Warning – Bureaucracy Ahead.” There was form after form in six point type and triplicate.

The only undotted “i” was that Peggy (who was not there) had forgotten to sign her passport. It was not an issue but, when we got back to the boat, we told her it was a HUGE problem and they wanted to see her in customs immediately! Furthermore, we were told that the three of us could not come back ashore under any circumstances and that she would have to take the dingy in by herself (which she had never driven). This had the potential to become a practical joke that would go down in the record books until Bob couldn't contain himself and cracked up. All it would have taken was another two minutes and we would have had her into the dingy and launched.

A couple of minor electrical problems to repair in Tortola and we were on our way into the British Virgin Islands. Stopped at Sand Island for some snorkeling and saw a lot of interesting sea life. I think Peggy's experience was the most interesting in that she had a Barracuda, almost as big as she was, pull up next to her, within arm's reach, and swim along in formation for awhile.

Afterwards, we sailed on to a nice anchorage and went ashore and had dinner. It was Halloween night and lots of kids, dressed as pirates, kept coming in the restaurant to trick or treat. It was a lot of fun. After we got back out to the boat I tried to get an internet connection to post this, but couldn't quite do it. It was there, but just a little to far away. Darn, I will hold it until tomorrow.