Friday, November 19, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
We’ve learned from experience that while cruising, deadlines are dangerous. You set yourself up to make bad decisions based on the deadline instead of the more important issues…..like weather. In 2008, we made a bad call on the brutal North Atlantic because we wanted to get to Long Beach Island for Mom’s birthday. Last year, we rushed across Lake Michigan to get Nick James back to his Princess (and work) and dealt with terrible conditions. This year, we promised, NO deadlines! Except, Chas had to be in St. Louis by October 9. And Bob and Mary Jane and Brad and Chis had condos rented in Destin. Can we make it there by the end of October? Sure! Another deadline snuck out of nowhere and off we rushed down the Tenn-Tom Waterway. This year, though, everything went in our favor. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We did not see a cloud or a drop of rain from Mackinaw City to Mobile Alabama. We did not munch on one single Triple Ginger Snap to deal with rough and rolly seas. It was warm and sunny and perfect cruising. Backtracking to the first lock on the Tenn-Tom, the Jamie Whitten was a drop of 84 feet. In a previous lock, Gary noticed someone had stuck an advertisement in the floating bollard. Since he had so much time on his hands in the Whitten, he went down below and grabbed a sharpie. I thought he was writing "TESSA was here", but instead he was being wonderfully romantic, writing “Gary loves Lori”. I love my Captain! That night we stayed at Midway Marina and enjoyed a relaxing evening on Taken Care of Business. I fried up some wonderful catfish with a side of home grown black eyed peas, compliments of Bill Magers. Delicious! Sunday we made it to Columbus Marina, where we were greeted by Jacob, who invited us all over "to his wooden houseboat across the dock" for a cocktail after dinner. He should have said "come over and see my classic Trumpe Yacht that looks like a magazine spread for lifestyles of the rich and famous." He has spent seven years restoring her, and Aurora is stunning. The next night was our Demopolis layover, where we met some great people on board a power yacht named Duet. Here is where Walt and Vickie departed with no ice on board, from my previous short update. From Demopolis, it is a long haul (217 miles) to Mobile, which requires anchoring out three nights in a row. The first night was uneventful. The second day, we needed to get through the Coffeeville Lock and make it to Three Rivers Lake, where we enjoyed our hurricane hole last year. Except our timing was a bit off. We first had to wait for a barge to pass our previous night’s anchorage so that we could pull out into the river without interruption. Next we had to wait at the lock for 45 minutes. Our window of daylight was severely compromised. The miles ticked by, the sunlight faded, and Gary called out how many minutes until sunset. We searched anxiously for a cut-off prior to Three Rivers that we KNEW was there somewhere….having seen other cruisers holed up there last year. We did not want to run down the river in the dark. Walt and Vickie stayed close behind, and I was sure they were cussing up a storm as Tessa led them into the river darkness. We both used our spotlights to point out big steel red and green buoys that could sink us if hit. Where was the darn cut-off? We had to have passed it, as the chart showed we were now close to Three Rivers Lake. Shortly, Gary advised that we were there, we should see the entry, but it was so dark that even the high powered spotlight wasn’t picking up any cut in the riverbank. Suddenly, I saw lights from boats at anchor, and screamed to Gary “There it is!” He cautiously steered to starboard and eased into the mouth of the cut, as Walt and Vickie followed. It was such a relief to drop the anchor and call it a night, although difficult to block out thoughts of what could have happened. The last anchorage on the river was another bit of a challenge. We attempted to raft off to Taken Care of Business , but the current fought us and we aborted the mission. We agreed it best to anchor separately, except Tessa’s anchor windlass moter disagreed. Our spirits sunk as we suspected another blown windlass motor, which we just paid $800.00 for in 2008. Gary muscled out the back-up Fortress, tossed it overboard, and collapsed in fatigue and frustration. As the sun set, we chatted with Walt and Vickie on the VHF, to compensate for our planned evening of dining and drinking together. Next morning, we departed at dawn and were on our way to Mobile Bay and Dog River Marina. It was a beautiful trip, sun sparkling off the water, and we were thrilled to see Captain Sid, the shrimper boat we made friends with last year, shrimping on Mobile Bay. The staff at Dog River were welcoming as we fueled up and pumped out. Duet was also there, and we all enjoyed a great dinner at the Mobile Yacht Club. The following day we moved next door to Turner Marine, where Gary and I spent a very enjoyable, economical week last fall. Boat chores had piled up aboard Tessa and Taken Care of Business. We briefly crossed paths as we worked, and stopped in the evenings to cook some great meals. Fresh flounder stuffed with freshly picked crabmeat, and grilled shrimp for night two. The weather was balmy and humid and the no-see-ums drove us all crazy. I layered bug spray constantly, and thankfully escaped with only a dozen bites. This morning, we headed south down Mobile Bay toward the FloriBama Intracoastal, with Taken Care of Business in the lead. Another brilliant sunny day, with brisk winds and agreeable seas. Both Walt and Vickie have exhibited a tendency to play chicken with barges. As a big one approached in the distance, we watched in amazement as Taken Care of Business’s silhouette lined up perfectly in it’s path, just like the closing scene in Captain Ron. The closer they got to each other, the harder we laughed…until the barge blew a loud one-whistle warning and Walt scooted out of his way. To hear what that Captain in the bridge was saying would be priceless! Later this morning, we saw our first dolphin after many months of missing them. It is hard to describe the feeling of finally seeing a dolphin after a long saltwater absence, but suffice to say we CHEERED! Tonight we are in a peaceful anchorage called the “Big Lagoon” where we enjoyed a great meal with Walt and Vickie. Tomorrow,off to Destin, to see our friends before they head north. So far, this does not appear to be yet another dangerous deadline….but nothing is for certain until the dock lines are securly tied at Harbor Walk Marina in Destin! And then we have to be in Carrabelle to pick up Bryan Diveto on November 6………
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
This morning we left Demopolis for what everyone considers the last leg of the trip to the Gulf. There are no marinas until Mobile, so we have three nights of anchoring out ahead of us. Last year we recall many scenic peaceful spots with enough water for Tessa. This year the water is way down and the guys at Demopolis warned us that we have just a few choices to drop the hook. Walt and Vickie are following us. Even though they draw only 4 1/2 feet, they have expensive props that extend below that. All we have is a lead keel to worry about. I would prefer they went first, but they always get their way. Walt is the one who encouraged us to put an icemaker on board, but decided they didn't have enough room for theirs this trip. He just hailed us on the radio to advise that they left Demopolis without ice. If they hadn't just given us a bottle of bourbon, I would gouge the heck of of them at the anchorage tonight. FREE ICE TOMORROW! Today, five bucks a bag!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Saturday, October 16 This morning we departed the Tennessee River at Yellow Creek and began the trek down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It has taken us a week to travel down the Mississippi, then up the Ohio, and the Tennessee River. Oh, what a glorious ride it has been! Tessa screamed down the Mighty Mississippi doing 12 knots, challenging Captain Gary to dodge river debris. We shot past the lock wall at the the Kaskaskia River where we spent two nights last year waiting out torrential rain. We anchored in the Little River Diversion Channel, close to “Taken Care of Business”, and Gary grilled some delicious duck breasts for dinner. Two boats came by to welcome us to Missouri with warm southern hospitality. Soon we were snuggled in our bunk, listening to the night sounds and the hum of tug motors pushing barges past our anchorage. The next day we exited the Mississippi and headed upriver on the Ohio River. It was a smooth trip with little current and we just kicked back and soaked up the warm sunshine all the way to the next anchorage before Lock 52. The following morning at dawn we were told to head to the lock immediately or risk not getting through the rest of the day. Both boats weighed anchor in a mad rush and hurried to the lock entrance. Five miles later, we were heading up the Tennessee River toward the next lock at the entrance to Kentucky Lake. Here we were greeted with really bad news. The wait to enter the lock was predicted to be two and a half hours! We passed the time circling while Taken Care of Business anchored and grilled burgers. Once that frustrating delay was over, we thoroughly enjoyed crossing Kentucky Lake. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon with lots of sunshine and blue skies. We grinned from ear to ear as we broke out the bathing suits in place of the layers of foul weather gear we piled on during the last two trips south. Taken Care of Business crossed the Barkley Canal toward a marina they wanted to visit. We continued on to Kenlake State Park Marina for an overnight stop. As we approached the face dock, the people on their houseboats went inside instead of grabbing a dock line, which was a first in all of our travels. They appeared put out by our arrival, perhaps because we blocked their evening view. Whatever the reason, we just quietly got our dock lines in order and then took a walk before dinner. There was no socializing in our future that night. Pebble Isle Marina certainly made up for that the next night. Several guys ran toward the dock and grabbed for lines, introduced themselves, and invited us to the happy hour party that was already in progress. At least twenty chairs lined the dock, filled with jolly “loopers” all swapping stories and boat cards. We had a wonderful evening making new cruising friends. Since Clifton Marina was to be our next stop, we told everyone about the great time we had last year and encouraged them to stop there. Little did I know that I almost talked us right out of dock space! Instead of anchoring out the next night like they had planned, they all went to Clifton….and beat us there! Sonya was in a panic to fit us all in, so we suggested that Taken Care of Business raft off to Tessa. Our first order of business was to find Bill Magers and give him a big hug! Soon everyone was gathered together having drinks and grilled burgers. It was great to be back together with all of our Clifton friends, and our new cruising friends fit in perfectly. The next day we were looking forward to a lunch date with Bill. Bill Magers is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. But he didn’t stop there! He gave us two shirts! And food out of his freezer, beer out of his cooler, arrowheads from his collection, AND a Billy Bob beer couzie! The best gift of all was the memorable day we spent together, touring the Tennessee hills surrounding the river and hearing a funny or fascinating story around every turn. We returned to the marina just in time for happy hour. Sonya squeezed in a record breaking number of boats and still had time to prepare chicken & dumplings, white beans, cole slaw, and fried cornbread. Another wonderful evening in Clifton spent with good friends. Bill came by the following morning to deliver country ham biscuits and to see us off. As we sat in the cockpit having coffee, I had a bright idea. “Hey Bill, you should call your daughter and tell her to pick you up at Aqua Yacht Harbor and cruise down there with us. Y’anto?” Better yet, give me her number and I’ll call her! We hadn’t met Bridget yet, but I assumed she would have a sense of humor to match her father’s. So when she answered the phone, I said “If you ever want to see your Daddy again, show up at Aqua Yacht Harbor tonight with $50,000 or the deed to your riverfront property.” After a stunned silence she started laughing and later told us her first thought was “What is he up to now?” We informed everyone at the marina that we were kidnapping Bill, he offered the keys to his truck to fellow cruisers who were staying another day, and off we went down the river. We so enjoyed having our own personal tour guide on board. Bill grew up on the river and had a story to tell at every bend. It was another wonderful, memorable day….until we arrived at the Pickwick Lock and were advised of a 2 ½ to 3 hour delay. Which meant that we would probably not lock through until after dark, which meant that we would have to cross Pickwick Lake to Aqua in the dark. Gary claims that the Garmin chart plotter paid for itself that night, as he followed our track from last year all the way across the dark lake and right to the marina without bumping into anything. Bill left us with some delicious homemade Brunswick Stew and headed for the hills, while we enjoyed a well deserved cocktail before calling it a night. The next day Gary, Walt, Vickie, Fred and I met Bill and Bridget at the well known “Hagy’s Catfish Hotel” for lunch. Most of us enjoyed all-u-can-eat catfish and coleslaw. Yummmm! Hagy’s is located in Shiloh National Park, the site of a bloody Civil War battle. After lunch we followed Bill around to some of the popular spots. Then Bill turned right and we were supposed to turn left to exit the park. Somehow, we got so turned around that we went in circles and ended up right back where we started. Vickie took control, grabbed the map, and finally got us back to the main road. We have all navigated boats from Lake Erie to Mississippi, and we had trouble finding our way out of a park. Funny! This morning as we enter the Tenn-Tom, we are a little sad to close the chapter on the river trip so far. It has truly been a wonderful experience. And we already miss Bill Magers! Such is the cruising life. You leave behind so many good friends and memories, but there is always another adventure awaiting with each new day.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
We spent last night at the legendary Hoppies Marina, south of St. Louis. Chas picked a 16 oz rib eye for his last supper. We dined on Taken Care of Business and celebrated the arrival of their crewman Fred, while Gary and I secretly mourned the departure of our crewman. I offered a warm chocolate chip cookie to the crew of a big fancy powerboat at the dock. The captain asked in amazement "You cooked those on board a sailboat?" As though us cheap sailors wouldn't even spring for an oven on board! I wanted to snatch the cookies out of their greedy little fingers and tell them to go suck up some Dom Perignon on their upper deck. The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. this morning, a cruel reminder that it was time for Chas to leave. We said our tearful goodbyes and quietly walked back to a lonely Tessa. She truly feels empty without Chas' presence. He wakes up smiling, goes to bed smiling, and never stops smiling in between. He belongs on Tessa, and loves her and his Dad as much as I do. This is definitely going to take some getting used to after being together for over three weeks, 24/7. We tossed off the dock lines at dawn in order to make 100 statute miles downriver. The current is pushing Tessa along at 12 knots. Now that Chas is gone, I realize I can listen to Glen Beck without a battle, but it does not feel victorious. I no longer need to look over my shoulder while bringing in the bumpers and dock lines. There is no one accidentally-on-purpose threatening to push me overboard. This is boring! I will get the foul weather gear ready just in case Chas really did take the good weather with him. It is sunny and in the high 70's today....but he didn't predict the weather to change until tomorrow. I will try to remember to water my herbs, the way Chas did every day with tender loving care. Gary will go back to being unquestionably correct in everything he says and does on board, instead of being challenged daily by his extemely intelligent and talented son. And hopefully, sooner than later, Captain and I will stop missing Chas and just focus on the happy memories the three of us just made together!
Monday, October 4, 2010
We awoke in Peoria to blue skies, bright sun, and a soft breeze. Quite a contrast to last year, where we woke to below freezing temps, bitter winds, and dock lines frozen to the deck in chunks of ice. Most of the trip this year has contrasted significantly to last years experiences. Most good, some not so good. After we waited out the high winds in Mackinaw City until Sunday, September 27, the weather window dramitically improved. Gary and I were both dreading the trip down and across Lake Michigan, based on the horrible memories of last fall. This trip was a piece of cake! Sunshine during the days, moonlite nights, and calm seas. The Tessa crew and the Taken Care of Business crew agreed to keep going for 48 hours, all the way to Hammond Indiana, as long as Mother Nature was cooperating. We arranged to unstep the masts on Wednesday at Crowleys Boat Yard on the Cal-Sag Canal. Brother Bill, the great guy we became friends with on the river system last year, lives in Hammond. He was kind enough to run me all over town doing errands and provisioning, while the yard crew and Gary and Chas did the hard physical labor. Bill and I returned shortly after the work was finished. I love it when a plan comes together like that! Last year, we couldn't pile on enough clothes to stay warm. This year, we start off with jeans and a sweatshirt early in the morning. By noon, we've pealed those off and changed into shorts and t-shirts. Last year, Nick James and Don Dunn were so polite and appreciative of my cooking that I was constantly showered with compliments and praise. This year, I still receive thanks and praise, but not without impatient demands. One of the first mornings crossing Lake Michigan, I was exclaiming to Gary that we couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. Chas emerges from his stateroom and interrupts "What would be perfect is if you had my breakfast ready!" Or another morning, my "Good morning Chas!" was answered with "Feed me woman!" Once the breakfast dishes are washed and put away, the questions start. "What's for lunch?" "When is dinner?" "Is there any iced tea ready?" "Do we get chocolate chip cookies today?" And on it goes, day after day...... Last year when we stopped in Joliet, we utilized the restrooms in Harrah's casino like homeless people, trying to escape the elements and warm up. This year, our friends Jim and Jan Herrick joined us for dinner and gambling in the casino, just like regular tourists. Since it was so late in the season last fall, we had the Joliet dock all to ourselves. This year there were several other big power boats tied up in front of us. So Captain and I devised a scheme to quietly sneak away at dawn and beat them all to the first lock. This would give us enough of a lead to get a space for the night at the free city dock in Ottawa, which can accommodate two large boats. As a last resort, Walt and Vickie could raft off to us for the night. To our disappointment and much frustration, our timing was off. The lock was backed up with northbound barges, and a southbound barge was already waiting in front of us. Three and a half hours later, we were still not locked through. We watched angrily as all the big power boats (with well rested crews that got to sleep THREE MORE HOURS than we did) came into view behind us, just as the lock was ready to open. ARRRRRRRRGH!!! The second lock of the day was almost as frustrating. Walt and Vickie arrived first and dropped anchor when the lock master advised an hour and a half wait. We just circled around, waiting for the green light. Again, here comes the last minute arrival of the big power boats, zipping past both of us to be first in the lock. Everyone positioned like the start of a race, glaring at each other. GRRRRRRRRRR! We didn't remember having issues like that until Demopolis last year, where everyone was backed up due to the arrival of Hurricane Ida. Luckily, the big boys with the big boats have big money and were spending the night in a nice marina. They were not the least bit concerned about the freebie in Ottawa, so our two boats had no problem with space that evening. Once secured at the dock, we witnessed an Asian Carp frenzy. They were excited by the vibration of a speed boat, and came shooting up out of the water nearby. We weren't fast enough to capture it on film, but one poor guy landed on the dock and flopped around long enough for us to snap some pictures. Once again this year, Dave and Becky,the friendly and accommodating Ottawa Ambassadors, joined us for an interesting visit. The next morning, we looked forward to visiting the nice folks at Herman's Liquor Store. Then we were off to Henry Harbor. We like this stop because they have a nice bar and cute little town. Chas had such a good time at the nice bar that he didn't see much of the cute little town the next morning before we had to depart for Peoria. Peoria is a great river city with lots to offer, including Chas and Walt's favorite...Hooters. We had a fun evening and were happy that (the amazing) Amanda still works there. Not for long, though, as she is leaving to begin a nursing career. Hmmmmm...Hooters waitress to taking care of old and/or sick people. Not much of a stretch if you really think about it.... Tonight we hope to find a nice anchorage between Peoria and Grafton. The river level is down almost two feet, which is a concern for anchoring. Thankfully, unlike last year, the nice weather seems to holding out. Chas claims he will take it with him on Friday when he departs from St. Louis. It will be doom and gloom after that. Whether that happens or not, it truly will be gloomy without him and we are going to miss him terribly. He has added so much to this trip, not to mention how hard he has worked ON HIS VACATION!! He has reminded me of this dozens of times throughout each and every day, in between harassing me, changing my Talk Radio to the Blue Collar Comedy station, demanding more to eat, and attempting several times to push me overboard. Life as we have known it since Chas' arrival September 13th will be over on Friday. And in spite of all the harassment, I will be the first to admit that the time went by way too fast!
Friday, September 24, 2010
Since our departure a week ago last Friday, the trip has been pretty much uneventful. When cruising, uneventful is a GOOD thing. Our first stop was Port Huron on Saturday afternoon, where we had a great time with Walt, Vicky, and crewman Dave Underwood, who are buddy boating with us on their yacht "Taken Care of Business". Vicky made lasagna, served on real china, which was a special treat. Although I have no inclination to run out and purchase any. While underway, we have dented a metal frying pan. China would not make it through the first big swell. Next stop was Rogers City on Monday, where we were weathered in the next day. A big Hatteras pulled in after dealing with the big winds and high seas, and we watched them carry out broken pieces and parts of the dashboard and interior. Glad we stayed put. Monday night Gary, Chas, and Dave bowled at our favorite Rogers City bowling alley. They performed so poorly that the desk guy comped their games. Tuesday night, we all went for pizza and bowling, but it was league night with no lanes open. Wednesday we did a long day run from Rogers City to Mackinaw City. We've been here since then, waiting out the rough weather. Yesterday 30 knot winds and nine foot waves were forecast. Today is ten to fifteen foot waves and 50 knot gale force winds. We are occupying our time doing boat chores, watching movies, shopping for the best fudge deals, and drinking PBR's at the famous Keyhole Bar. Captain and I are very frustrated that we have this big, able-bodied, experienced crew member on board, one that we hoped would get us all the way through mast unstepping and into the river system, who is instead vegging out on the couch watching Walker Texas Ranger episodes. Such a waste! We really, really want to get underway again. But I must admit this is kinda fun......in a lazy good for nothing way.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday morning at dawn we woke up in our comfy bed in our comfy condo and I wondered if we were REALLY ready for another departure. It would be so easy to stay. It is so much work to go. Gary calls it the "Easy Chair Syndrome." Some days that easy chair beckons so strongly to us that we are tempted to just plop down and stay there for the winter. But not yet!!! For the third year in a row, Bryan DiVeto tossed off our dock lines and bid us bon voyage. Rich McCleary and Captain Kirk were there to send us off. Got under the 5:30 bridge and away we went toward the Detroit River. We plan to do an over-nighter and meet up with Walt & Vicky and David Underwood, our good friends from Clinton Reef Club, cruising on their yacht "Takin Care of Business". They also departed today and plan to "buddy boat" with us all the way to Fort Myers. We will all follow the same route we took last season, on the river system south toward Mobile. Preparing for departure was as hectic as usual. Chas arrived this past Monday morning to accompany us as far as we can get before his leave is up on October 11. He and Gary worked frantically to complete all the boat chores that had to see closure before we left. Chas worked so hard that I now have a new nickname for him. SON SLAVE. We would not have gotten out of Port Clinton today without his help.
I spent the last couple of days concluding the summer chapter of our lives in Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay, and planning and provisioning for Season Three of Adventures of Tessa. D-day always comes upon us too fast, and from the looks of Tessa down below, I am NOT getting any better at an organized departure. No worries, there will be plenty of time to stow everything during the next 24 hours. Weather is expected to be calm. Even though we are motoring, it feels great to be out here with Jimmy Buffet playing and Lake Erie cooperating with Tessa beautifully. Lamb chops are marinating. The three of us are taking deep, relaxing breaths. The hard part is over, we are away from the dock and on our way. The new canvas enclosure and crystal clear strataglass is AMAZING. It is like we are looking out a big picture window with fantastic visability. (THANKS to Rick and Sue and Rick's Mobile Marine Canvas!) Much more to come........
Friday, September 17, 2010
Mom waved good-bye from the front porch this morning with her usual bright smile. After a long weekend of her 83rd pre-birthday celebration, we hugged each other extra hard. It would be our last hug until December, when Gary and I come home for Christmas after our next trip south. I pulled out of the driveway and beeped and waved excessively until she was out of sight. How many times has every member of our family done the same silly routine? It doesn’t matter who is leaving, or how long they will be gone. Rain or shine, wind, sleet, or snow. Everyone who is not leaving stands on the front porch and waves. The person or persons leaving beeps and waves all the way down Lamme Road. It’s silly and corny. It’s just what we do. 5020 Lamme Road. The three of us had to memorize that address before the start of first grade. So many kids would end up memorizing many more street addresses as their families changed or relocated, but our family address has remained the same for almost sixty years since Mom and Dad moved to Dayton. If you were to flip through the pages of our family album of life on Lamme Road, the majority of our pictures were taken on the front porch. We posed on the front steps for first communions, birthdays, and every holiday. At the beginning of each summer, young Cindy, David, and I had to scrub the porch down and hose it all off in preparation of Mom and Dad’s seasonal entertainment. We were also assigned the horrendous task of sanding and painting the front porch metal latticework glider and chairs, which today could easily be considered child abuse. How could any one child be expected to paint across those tiny little square holes without drip marks? Our work was not complete until the picnic table was sanded and varnished. And don’t forget to re-web the folding chairs. Looking toward the future, several marital disputes were based on cutting and laying indoor/outdoor carpet on the same front porch and stairs. Speaking of child abuse, how about being forced to pick row after row of home grown green beans in the hot summer sun. This was supposed to be our SUMMER VACATION, not prison camp. Next, we had to sit on the front porch and snap basket after basket of said disgusting green beans. Sure, it sounds all Norman Rockwelly, until you grab a furry squishy smelly yellow green bean worm between your fingers. All that torture for a pot of Mom’s day-long steeped ham, beans, and potatoes. I feigned disgust at that dish during my teenage years, but can still remember the delightfully sinful taste of it all smashed together with a few big pats of butter floating over the entire mess. Home grown health food! Dad prided himself on his locally famous garden, and since there were no child labor laws enforced in our neighborhood, we were expected to tend to the driveway produce store during the summer months. Each tomato had to be wiped clean and polished to perfection before being placed in neat rows along the picnic table. (We ate only the blemished ones.) Our family baby scale was used to weigh the customer’s selection, and at the end of the day the money collected was hidden in a big brown beer mug in the china closet. No robber would ever think to look there! Sadly, there were real neighborhood thieves. Whenever we went away, Dad would place a sign on the picnic table stating “Help yourself and put money in mailbox on front porch.” This worked for years, until one day we came home to a sold-out empty picnic table….and an equally empty mailbox. We felt so betrayed after all the years of neighborhood honesty. Dad’s garden drew visitors from near and far. His Pittsburgh relatives and Detroit cousins were his biggest fans. They would pull into the driveway after a long road trip, and walk straight to the garden with salt shaker in hand, to sample the vine ripened tomatoes. Mom would prepare plenty of snacks and everyone would congregate on the front porch for cold drinks and lots of food and laughter. When we were younger, Mom entertained the three of us playing car games from the front porch. We each had to pick a car color, and for a specific amount of time we kept score as each car went past on Lamme Road. As we grew older, our porch games got a bit more “mature”. I shared my first kiss on the glider on the front porch. When one kiss led to too many others, Mom or Dad would flick the porch light on and off in a warning gesture, and suitors would tend to make a quick getaway. Today, on hot summer nights, I still recall that romantic, sweet smell of the Moraine Locust trees surrounding our house, accompanied by the drone of the locust and crickets. All three of us posed for Prom and Homecoming photos on the front porch. Graduation announcements, bridal showers, and wedding invitations were addressed on TV trays on the front porch. Firewood was stacked on the front porch to last through the long cold winter months. We would, not voluntarily, take turns going out to replenish the wood basket. Once, after an important Pittsburgh Steelers loss, I caught teenage brother David crying in frustration on the front porch…and announced it to anyone within earshot. I was absolutely giddy with sibling revenge for all the times he made me cry. How cruel he was as he and his friends sent my Michael Jackson 45s sailing from the front porch across Lamme Road like Frisbees! During high school, the front porch was a very popular impromptu hang out. We never admitted to a premeditated party, but the parents would leave for a night out, and Dad was convinced that we threw our garden hose across Lamme Road so that friends felt the bump and knew the coast was clear to congregate on the porch. Cars lined our driveway, the neighbor’s driveway, and eventually our front yard. Parties ensued and the following mornings excuses of innocence prevailed. Seriously, we DID NOT plan the party! In my early twenties, the front porch was where I went for solace after I found a “suspicious lump.” Mom and I sat on the front porch while she held my hand and calmed my fears. Even as adults, Cindy, David, and I and all of our friends continued to enjoy spending time on the porch with Mom and Dad. We would cram in as many folding chairs as possible, fill in any gap with tv trays covered with snacks, and talk and laugh way into the night. When Gary and I met, he quickly and naturally became part of our family. It was not uncommon for me to call him, wondering why he wasn’t home after a long day at work. His excuse? “I’m sitting on the front porch with your Mom and Dad having a Manhattan.” What a beautiful, wonderful, loving testament of his love for my parents, not to mention a perfect alibi for getting home late from work! The front porch is where Mom and Dad spent most of their quiet relaxing time, later in their years. It is where we delivered Mom’s 75 roses on her 75th birthday. It is where the events of our lives unfolded, winter spring summer and fall. This past Sunday night, Mom and Cindy and I sat on the front porch like so many countless times before. We watched the world go by, reminisced about everyone that sat here with us in the past, laughed, and cherished each sweet and special memory. As I sadly continued to beep and wave goodbye to Mom this morning, I drew strength from that familiar, warm, comfortable, “front porch” feeling. Knowing that, no matter what this life holds for us, we will all stay together forever, gliding in the glider, posing for a family photo, holding a tomato and a salt shaker, snapping a bean, or toasting with a Manhattan. We will never stop excessively beeping and waving and loving each other. It’s just what we do. Happy Birthday Mom! We love you!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Today is the first day both of us has been off work together since we arrived back to Port Clinton in May! Since that time our routine, if you can even call it a routine, has been hectic. We get up by 7:00, shower and head to work. Gary goes either to West Marine or Put-in-Bay to work at the Skyway. I jump on the Jet Express and head for the Put-in-Bay WInery. Sometimes we even get to ride the Jet together, which is a treat. In the evenings we meet somewhere for a quick bite to eat, Gary hands over his paychecks and tips, I combine them with mine, toss them on the counter, and we flop into a hot sticky bunk on board Tessa. The tips have piled up since we have no time to spend them! We will need all the cash we can accumulate to pay for our new cockpit enclosure, dodger, and bimini top. Tessa is still on-the-hard, waiting impatiently for us to complete her summer makeover and get her back afloat. We may launch this afternoon if the last minute projects come together. If not, we will launch tomorrow for sure. All three of us are very anxious to be back on the water again. Hope to be able to do more detailed updates when the chaos is over and order is restored on board!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
THE BROTHERS JORDAN It’s early morning. Our boat is charging through the Atlantic waves, sails trimmed to perfection. We’re making good time, averaging 8 to 9 knots. The journey from St. Augustine to New York seems to be successfully underway. Then I look aft. A man is holding the carcass of a tuna in his hands, munching along it’s backbone as though it were an ear of corn. He lifts his head and smiles at me as blood trickles down his chin. OMG, I wonder as I look on in horror. What is in store for us for the next nine days at sea with the Brothers Jordan? Jim is amused by my reaction, and enjoys informing me that Brother Bill also likes to eat eyes, hearts, and various other organs. I gasp and go down below to gag in private. Using perch eyes as bait when you run out of minnows is one thing, but eating fish eyeballs crosses some sort of line, doesn’t it? I need to focus on the bright side. We have two able bodied, experienced sailors to crew with us to New York. We have a freshly caught tuna. Might as well move beyond the blood and guts and start cooking. We dined on Tuna Eggs Benedict, Tuna Ceviche, Sesame Seared Tuna, and Tuna Mediterranean Style. As the winds increased to 30 knot gusts and the waves built to 10 to 15 feet, the brothers pulled in and filleted three more nice tuna. The aft deck was a blood bath, the guys looked like deranged murderers splattered with tuna DNA, and their grins were from ear to ear. Captain Gary needed a power nap late that afternoon, so Jim took over the helm. He opted to hand steer, as the autopilot could not react to the huge swells. I wasn’t reacting all that well to them either. I purposely avoided looking out the ports while I remained down below trying to read. Jim and Bill thought they could tease me into a better mood, until I shouted up through the companionway to Jim “STOP TALKING TO ME! FOCUS ON STEERING!” They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves in these conditions. That night, about thirty miles out, a cute little bird joined us on board. We marveled at how this teeny little guy we nicknamed Woodstock made it out that far. Apparently, he wanted to take a nap because he kept fluttering around down below. We tried shooing him away numerous times. Once he even rode back up into the cockpit on Gary’s head. He finally ran out of steam and fell to the deck. Jim tenderly picked him up in a towel and held him until he died. It was sad. A while later, along came another bird. We considered that Woodstock I died due to lack of food and water during his long journey, so we tried to feed Woodstock II some bread soaked in water. He wasn’t interested in anything but flying down below until he calmed down and sat on my hand. I was in an uncomfortable position, so I shifted him to the corner of the cockpit and draped a towel around him. He didn’t make it through the night. The next morning, I was ready for a break from the waves and eager to head into Southport NC. Gary was debating whether to continue on to Beaufort. Bill witnessed our exchange of opinions. (AKA fight) After that, Gary and I were down below trying to nap amidst the chaos of the wave action. One big swell sent our conch shell off the shelf and SMACK into Gary’s forehead, slicing open a gash above his eyebrow. I applied ice, then a bandage. When my patient emerged from our stateroom, Bill acknowledged the bloody band-aid by commenting “So, I guess we’re going to Southport!” Even though the joke was on me, I have to admit that was funny stuff! Especially since we WERE going to Southport. Docking was a challenge in the dark with opposing winds and currents. Tessa, not Captain Gary, decided she would back into the slip next to the fixed dock at The Provision Company. Gary suggested we simply pull her the twenty feet across the well to the floating dock. For at least an hour, all four of us had a line in our hands and pulled with all of our might while Tessa refused to budge. It was like she was saying “I’m tired, I’ve had enough, just leave me be!” Eventually we muscled her over, secured her, and knocked back a cocktail before bed. 30 to 35 knot winds were forecast to blow until Wednesday. We were officially weathered in at Southport. It was a nice opportunity to relax and become more acquainted with Brother Bill after the two challenging days at sea. Chas drove down from Fayetteville to hang out with us Monday and Tuesday, and we used his wheels to provision at Wal-Mart. Monday evening, we went to our favorite Southport restaurant, Mr. P’s. They serve the most wonderful Oysters Rockefeller, and the appetizer special was a delectable soft shell crab. Later that evening I prepared a second round of sesame seared tuna which Chas devoured. During both days, The Brothers Jordan’s assignment was to frequent the Provision Company for food and drink as often as possible. This in exchange for our complimentary dockage. We didn’t have to twist their arms to fulfill these obligations, especially since they enjoyed the antics of the friendly bar staff (especially Sheri and Laurie). Jim didn’t tell us that Bill was a hunter and gatherer along with his strange culinary tastes. Wednesday morning a Round House bucket filled with fresh clams appeared on board. Bill had dug them up during low tide. Jim could hardly wait for us to get underway and start grilling clams on the aft deck. They were fantastic! A good weather window opened Wednesday morning and remained for the rest of the trip from Southport to New York. The guys would have preferred more wind in order to sail instead of motor-sail, but it was just fine with me to calmly make way at six knots. We were cruising along Virginia approaching Maryland just before dawn Thursday when my cold and weary Captain came down below for a nap. I snuggled against him, trying to thaw him out, and he immediately fell sound asleep. Minutes later, through our closed hatch, and over the drone of the Perkins, I ever so faintly heard the now familiar zzzzzzzzzing of the reel. FISH ON! I jumped up onto our bunk, threw the hatch open, and called to the brothers. “Check the rod, I think we have a fish on!” Bill reeled in a big Bluefish while I apologized to Gary for scaring the heck out of him. As the day progressed, the brothers reeled and reeled, and the filet knife was flying. Soon their cooler was filled with eight Blues, both were covered with fish slime, and the two of them (and Tessa) smelled like one big smelly fish. The rod zinged again and I elbowed them out of the way to reel one in myself. Bill was on the aft deck fingering through a pile of fish innards. “Bill” I warned “I swear to God, if you put that in your mouth I will puke on you right now and I am NOT kidding!” He laughed but did resist the temptation. Each afternoon, Jim would pop open a bottle of wine and serenade us with his guitar. We were about as relaxed as we’ve ever been on the mighty Atlantic. The Bluefish tasted wonderful blackened and poached. The conclusion of the ocean voyage was near, and the Statue of Liberty would soon be greeting us in New York. We docked at Liberty Landing Marina Saturday night, and celebrated with “Dark & Stormy” cocktails, Roast Duck, and fine wine. A perfect ending to a very successful journey. The brothers wanted to turn in early in anticipation of a long drive home Sunday, and all four of us looked forward to the first uninterrupted night’s sleep since Southport. Sunday morning, as we waved farewell to The Brothers Jordan, we were hoping that the trip was memorable and gave them an opportunity to do some brotherly male bonding. I think it worked for Jim. For example, one day Bill was face down, sound asleep on his bunk, with his little yellow reading glasses still perched on his nose. I commented to Jim that he looked cute. Jim smiled for a moment, then said tenderly “Hey! Let’s put a couple of dead fish next to him so when he wakes up he’ll be sleepin with the fishes!” You could just feel the love!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
After a nice reunion at Vero Beach with our friends Tom and Lynette on Por Fin, we turned in early in preparation of the trip to St. Augustine Tuesday morning. We were warned, yet still unprepared for the what was to come that night. Vero Beach is a wonderful place with one exception. NO-SEEUMS! Other cruisers carry separate, very fine screens specifically to protect from no-seeums at Vero Beach. Last fall, I got about a dozen bites, but we remember now tha we had all the hatches closed due to cold weather. Monday night, it was hot and humid. I had been alternating skin-so-soft and "Off" all day in order to avoid any chance at bites. We had happy hour on Tessa with Por Fin and some new cruisers who have a Gulfstar 44, and as soon as the sun began to set, I locked myself down below. However, we did have hatches open with our normal screens up for air circulation. The biting rat-bastards woke us both in the middle of the night. "GO SPRAY YOURSELF DOWN AND CLIMB BACK UNDER THE SHEETS FAST!" Gary urged. I quickly closed the hatches and doused myself with Cutter 50% Deet. The light in our stateroom revealed hundreds of them covering the headliner. My worst nightmare! I pulled the sheet up over my head and prayed maybe they weren't the no-seeums that I am so allergic to. Maybe they are some other kind of insect. Maybe...... The next morning, the bumps were already forming into blisters. By afternoon, I was covered with countless bites literally from head (scalp) to toe.I dreaded what was in store for me for the next four days. I know the cycle all to well. It takes a half a day before all the the blisters appear. The next forty eight hours are pure hell. They itch horribly and burn and hurt all at the same time, and are especially aggravated by heat or sun. As my body reacts to fight the poisons, I experience alternating chills and feverish symptoms and nausea. I am absolutely miserable. Poor Gary feels my pain yet knows there is nothing he can do to help. I've tried everything that every pharmacist recommends with no relief. I've done research on internet sites, where the best advise is simply to avoid areas where they are. No magic remedies. The first no-seeum attack a few years ago, I sought medical care and was prescribed steroids. We tossed the pills aside after we read the side affects and decided I was better off just suffering through the discomfort. Yesterday afternoon, Gary suggested that fishing might keep my mind off the discomfort. "Big Chuck" had the Hoo Lili lure, the rod Cuzzin Debbie and Mike donated to Tessa had a balleyhoo lure. No hits before dark, but as I reeled in Mike's rod, a big fish hit the balleyhoo, broke the water, did a back flip, and bit off the lower half of the lure.....right below the hook! Gary was right! I didn't itch for the entire sixty seconds it took to miss this fish! Now, we are at a dock in St. Augustine, hatches closed tight and air conditioning running to sooth the burning and itching. The dockmaster confirmed that they do have no-seeums here....but only of the wind stops blowing. I may just have to be content experiencing St. Augustine by reading my Waterway Guide from our bunk. Life is still good, this is just a bump (pardon the pun) in the road.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Ahoy fellow fishermen and women! Yesterday I caught the first deep sea fish to be brought successfully on board and onto the fillet board. Today I prepared a Tahitian style ceviche that we had numerous times on our honeymoon in Tahiti. Raw tuna marinated in lime juice, then mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, covered with coconut milk. Served with crusty french bread for sopping up the sauce. We are definitely livin the dream! At Vero Beach, tomorrow heading north back out on the Atlantic up to Saint Augustine. There we will rent a car and drive back down to West Palm to pick up crew. Better to have Tessa as far north as possible to continue toward NY with crew. Love to all, Lori
Friday, April 16, 2010
We are still in Marathon waiting for these ferocious 25-30 knot winds to subside. As the saying goes "Marathon is a nice place to visit but we wouldn't want to live here!" Tomorrow looks favorable for a first light departure, arriving in Stuart Sunday afternoon if all goes well. Our friend Jage lives there, and she has kindly offered her car to pick up Myassis Dragon and his brother in West Palm on Friday the 23rd. We have even discussed blowing by Stuart if the weather window is comfortable early this coming week and getting as far north as Fernandina Beach, then renting a car and driving down to pick the crew up. The days of favorable conditions, we are learning, are few and far between! We have been following our "new best friends" Jon and Shawna on their beautiful Formosa 50 all the way from the Dry Tortugas. They are our new best friends for a number of reasons. First because they are absolutely wonderful people with very similar tastes in fun, food, and wine. Secondly (but more importantly I'm thinkin to Captain Gary) is the fact that they draw 6 1/2 feet, which is a lovely 6 inches more than we draw!!!! Every time we weigh anchor, we do the polite thing and insist that they go ahead of us. While weathered in, we have made the best of it by eating lots of sushi, stone crab claws, and key lime pie, accompanied by some fine wines and dark chocolates. How good is this??? Our best to everyone following the adventure, Lori & Captain Gary
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Gary, Lori and Tessa departed Ft. Meyers Beach on April 4th and headed to the Dry Tortugas. Lori borrowed a Satellite phone and called her sister Cindy to let them know they had made it safely. The plan is for them to be in Marathon this weekend.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I stepped out on deck this morning to a glorious blue sky, warm sun, and a gentle breeze….for the second day in a row! But instead of jumping for joy and screaming HALLELUJAH, I stared at an empty mooring ball and shed a few tears. Tracy, Diane, and FAITH were gone. We had a bon voyage dinner on board TESSA last night. When I went back down below this morning, I found Diane’s lovely goodbye note, appropriately written on the lyrics to our favorite song. Next I saw the weekly Thursday night pizza party invitation that Trace left me, handing over the baton as boater’s social director. Gary came out of our stateroom and looked at my tears with concern. “I miss them already” I explained. He just smiled. Shortly after we met Trace and Diane last December, we ran into them in the Matanzas parking lot. Trace was happily unloading some great bargain wine he had found. Not just a bottle or two, but at least a dozen 1.5 liter bottles. “We’re going to get along great!” I announced. And so our friendship began. We learned that we have an amazing amount of interests in common. Sailing, naturally, but also good books, funny movies, good food, cheap wine, and the pursuit of the cheapest happy hour. Diane and I share the same hometown. Most importantly we all share a love of adventure and laughter. A lot of the laughter caused by Trace ripping on me at any opportunity, at which he became very good. Recently I asked Trace if we knew the new mooring ball arrival, a boat named BULLSHIP. “Yeeeahh, I’d expect you know them, you’ve a lot in common with their boat!” he replied and then couldn’t resist complimenting himself on his insult. Even though I am usually the brunt of his cutting Brit wit, I think I enjoy it the most. Trace and Diane are avid cyclists, and met during a cycle trip through Thailand. “Yeeeahh, I fancy that!” he muttered when he first laid eyes on her. He was on his way home to England, and he inquired where Diane was heading. Vietnam was her next destination. “That’s funny! That’s where I’m going!” he lied. Off they went, and have continued on their journeys together for sixteen years. They’ve cycled all over the world, and spend part of the year living on their river boat on the Thames. Diane is a lockmaster there. Trace runs a business finishing fine furniture and antiques. Winters they enjoy here in the states spending some time in Dayton with Diane’s family, then cruising on their sailboat “Faith”. Another commonality we share is the driving need to socialize. It didn’t take long before Trace began coordinating social events for the Matanzas Pass boating community, and bartering with the local merchants for volume discounts. Gary and I volunteered to co-hosts these events, since Diane was busy running Matanzas Inn front desk five days a week. Our first event was a New Years Eve oyster party, which Trace dubbed a “Slurp-n-Burp”. About twenty of us slurped over 240 oysters. We were in mollusk heaven! The next event was a grilled Shrimp fest, which was such a success we were asked to host a few more. It was at one of these parties that we got into a bit of trouble. Diane had printed off the lyrics to “Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates” and after a few toddies, everyone felt inclined to gather round and have a boisterous sing-along. A little too boisterous, we were told the next day by Matanzas management. Even though we were properly chastised, it didn’t diminish the gleeful camaraderie we felt that night, a memory not to be forgotten by any of our merry band of boaters. Who can forget the Thursday night pizza parties at the best Fort Myers pizzeria, Surf Pie? Trace negotiated with the owners Tony and Lori. Or I should say beat Tony up for an incredible price of $5.00 per person for all-you-can-eat eat pizza. Trace has to nickname everything, and this became referred to as “Piranha Pizza Night”, appropriately so after witnessing the speed at which boaters can consume mass quantities of pizza just to be sure they get their money’s worth. Trace doesn’t admit to regularly attending happy hour. It’s called “going for a sherbet”, which does in fact sound more innocent when your wife is at work while you are at Doc Fords with a $1 Yuengling draft. We shared many a sherbet together. One evening, the boys had a few too many sherbets and both ended up in the drink. Once we knew no one was injured, and I knew Gary’s new cell phone was safe, Diane and I could only laugh as we helped dry them off. We cooked the most fantastic meals together. The four of us love bold, spicy, adventurous recipes, and we took turns trying to outdo each other’s culinary skills. The best type of competition! There are no losers when you are eating good food with good friends! It won’t be the same around here without hearing Trace shout out “Hey Swabs!” as we dinghy up to visit on FAITH. He fancies himself to be a British version of Captain Ron, and decided he is “Super Swab”. I don’t know how long I can go on without a good dose of Diane’s ever present optimism. She just recently gave me a talking to about embracing the weather, as there is nothing you can do to change it. I told her I wished she had lectured me sooner since I spent most of this winter p*$#*d off at Mother Nature. There will be an empty place in our days, and our hearts, here at Matanzas without our buddies on FAITH. Diane’s goodbye note said she is sure we will see each other again. We’re sure we will too, whenever it is meant to be. We have faith!