Week of FIRSTS!

This was a week of Firsts!  

First First:  Saturday afternoon we launched our dingy, and took it out for about a 4 mile run- the FIRST time we’d gone so far.  Absolutely beautiful.  

Second First: Sunday was the FIRST time we’ve had guests on board!  Two nice couples we met at their nice little church, Steven and Diana, Chuck and Connie, accepted our dinner invitation, and we had a great time. Diana made some “Redneck Caviar” – our FIRST time to experience this delight!  Look it up, it’s real!

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Third First: Monday we put our cool folding bikes in the dingy and took them about 10 miles to Jekyll Island.  FIRST time to try that, and it worked fabulously!  

There were supposed to be bike trails all over the island, but from where we docked our dingy, the first bike trail looked impassible!

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It got even more overgrown past the bridge…

We found the main trail not too far away, and the rest of them were great – including a nice long boardwalk. 

We enjoyed looking at all the birds – and then saw a bird in a tree.  We’ve seen birds camouflaged to look like part of a tree, so here is a tree trying to look like a bird.

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Jekyll Island has a very interesting past, but the most famous part is that in the late 1800’s, a bunch of the wealthiest dudes in the country bought it and formed a private club of the island.  Many of them built “Cottages” to stay in for a few months every year.  Some who didn’t want to do that bought into what is believed to be the FIRST condo in this country.  The FIRST transcontinental phone calls were made from this island.  Here are a few of the “Cottages”.

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The FIRST Condominium

I took some pictures of the beautiful bridge as we sped back to the boat.

Fourth First: This one isn’t so cool… when we came back to our boat, we found our wonderful davit (crane) that lets us move our little boats from the boat deck to the water and back, had for the FIRST time, leaked oil all over the deck!  Ouch!  It seemed to do it only when retracting the boom extension, so we were safe to continue on… but what a mess!

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Our shiny davit before we noticed the oil leak

Tuesday we ran outside the ICW to Savannah.  We put in at a dock right in the center of old downtown… We walked along the riverfront shops that evening.  I figured we’d be in the perfect position to explore historic Savannah, which we were.  But Wednesday I woke up with a lousy cold and did no exploring whatsoever.  But it was fun to watch some of the really huge freighters come by – seemingly very close!  In the stateroom I could tell when they were coming by the sound of the props reverberating in the hull like sonar!  When I thought they were so close to us, and in the middle of the river, then another one chugged by in the opposite direction!  Amazing.  So here is a short video of two ships passing, (Very sped up video), one ship so lightly loaded her prop was 1/3 out of the water!  It is real time so you can see how the big single prop turns so slowly and still has the power to move that huge freighter.  Then a short (Slightly sped up) view of a touristy fake sternwheeler.

 

Thursday we talked to the helpful folks at Thunderbolt Marine, just the other side of Savannah.  They said they could start work on our davit as soon as we could get there, so we moved to their terrific shipyard.  They looked at our davit, and said we’d have to remove the whole boom and take it apart in the shop.  They suspected the top seal was failing, and would have to be ordered from Taiwan and replaced.  They expected about 5 days total, maybe less.  Sigh.  So Friday morning they brought a huge crane to lift part of our crane off our boat. 

Once in the shop,  they found what I’d been praying for… a loose fitting!  Seals were OK, lines were OK, but a fitting way inside the boom, at the very end, had come loose!  So they redid it so that wouldn’t likely happen again, and reinstalled it – all in ONE day!  So fabulous! 

The area called Thunderbolt supposedly got its name when a huge lightning bolt hit and created a spring.  So we got to see how that looked!  We were about to move to the marina side instead of the working side, but delayed because the weather started looking really ominous.  And it came on fast!  VERY heavy rain, and VERY dramatic lightning!  One crack looked like it was right on the dock, and the thunder was instantaneous!  I’m convinced the building next to us was hit and didn’t burn down because of the torrential rain.  OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure felt like it!  I am going to look for new springs in the morning!  After the storm passed we felt more like having dinner than moving, so we will stay put here for now.  The calm after the storm is always beautiful too!

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Jets Across America

We just finished another week off the boat.  We started the week in Washington State, where we were staying with our kids and grandkids.  It was in the neighborhood of 100 degrees, so water activities looked really good.  Remember Slip-n-Slides? I seem to remember them as a lot longer! (Maybe I was shorter then…)  But the length of the runway doesn’t seem to bother my grandkids!

Another creative way to beat the heat was their little scooters.  But it was so much work to stand on them… so they got their booster seats (From the car) and put them on the scooters, lowered the handlebars, and voila! Sit Scooters!

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Early morning was a good time for bike riding.  There is a very nice trail along the Columbia River.

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Monday noon was Brian’s Taekwondo class… but when we got there, the building was locked and there were several other kids with parents, waiting for the door to open.  But the teacher never showed up!  Rumor had it that his wife was having a baby…  what kind of excuse is that??

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All dressed up with no place to Taekwando!

My son-in-law Loren has what I think is a dream job.  He is an Ophthalmologist (Try spelling that fast!) and works with Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute.  PCLI has set up great teamwork between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in many clinics spanning  several states.  The company has three Citation 3 jets, which they keep quite busy flying the doctors and their surgical teams to different locations to do their awesome work.  Loren gets to fly about once a week in one of these cool jets.  And if I’m really lucky, when I visit, I might just get to ride along!  I got very lucky!

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Loren had a doctors’ meeting in Chehalis, Washington Monday night.  One of the company jets would take him there that meeting, and he would stay there that night.  Tuesday morning they would jet him and a team to Lewiston, Idaho for a day of surgery.  The jet would then go on to Spokane, Washington with another team.  I tried not to plead too hard, but there was a seat available so I got it!  I rode in the back on the evening flight to Chehalis, sitting sideways right behind the copilot.  The acceleration of these planes is amazing!  Sitting with my back to one window and facing the one on the other side, it was all I could do to keep upright in my seat!  It is fascinating to watch the pilots and their  workload.  As we were setting up to land, the pilot in the right seat reached back to a drawer in a little bank of cabinetry that separated us.  He grabbed what looked like a garage door opener and faced forward again.  We landed in a few minutes, taxied around to the PCLI hangers, and the door was already opened!  He had used the opener from our landing pattern!  The pilot slid the plane right into the waiting hanger and we were all set, with no ground crew needed.  Pretty slick!

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The next morning we boarded another jet in that hanger, and took off for Lewiston.  Loren and some folks got off there, but I elected to continue on to Spokane. (Not like I was going to help in the surgery!)  Another short hop and we were in Spokane.  At each airport PCLI has a van waiting to transport teams to the clinic and back.  It’s really a very sophisticated setup.

 

About 4:30, as we took the van back to the jet, we noticed a lot of smoke which seemed to be coming from the airport! It turned out to be very close, but not on the airport itself.  I guess it turned out to be quite ugly – one home lost and three others very threatened.  As we took off there was a lot of questioning on the radio as to whether the airport would be closed or not.  The tower said there were fire crews on their way to the scene.  We did see one helicopter but no other fire vehicles.  We flew off with no trouble.  Enroute to Lewiston we saw another fire out on the plains, which was possibly a controlled burn of a field, but still quite a sight from the air.

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My new friend and Pilot Loren (not son-in-law Loren)

So today we flew back to Georgia.  A funny thing happened that I’d never seen before…  We pulled up to the gate, stopped, and everyone started standing and gathering carry-on luggage – but nobody was moving off.  After several long minutes, the captain came on the intercom: “This is kind of strange… we can see the jet bridge, almost close enough to touch, but it has a flat tire!  We will need to move to another gate. We can use a tug to push us back out, but the tug can’t move us to the other gate, so we will have to start an engine.”  So that’s what happened – only a few minute delay, but rather amusing.  I wondered how long it takes to change a flat on a jet bridge!

So other than that, Savannah welcomed us with open arms… or open skies.  The skies opened with a tremendous deluge!  It started raining just as we got there, and just kept building in intensity.  Puddles were ankle deep in minutes.  It made for an interesting trip south to Brunswick.

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Wipers on High to erase Savannah’s Welcome!

We were glad to see Grace was still afloat when we made it back.  Not that I was worried, but I’ve never really worried that somehow my house would sink when I wasn’t there before!  Did have a little problem, though.  Something happened and the 24V system shut off while we were gone.  I reset everything, and got it all going again, but the bad news is that both the refrigerator / freezer and the separate freezer had quit.  So lots of frozen food we’d stockpiled we piled in the dumpster. Sigh.  Life goes on! Great to be back on Grace and in the water!

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So here is a little map of the last couple weeks.  Red lines are commercial flights, orange are the PCLI jets, and blue are where we drove.  So cool that we live on a boat so we can see the country! 😉

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Traveling Across our Great Land

We spent the 4th of July flying across our great land… We landed in Denver, and got to our hotel in time to see literally dozens of fireworks displays across Denver from our 8th floor balcony.  The next morning we were driving towards South Dakota to meet up with our kids and their kids.  We spent Thursday night with Cherryl’s niece and her husband (Crista and Josh), and Cherryl’s sister and brother-in-law (Steve and Jeanne).

Steve was telling us how he’d gotten to shoot a Kentucky Long Rifle, and I thought it sounded like fun, so Steve, Josh and I went Friday morning to shoot a bit of history.  These are exact replicas of old guns used in the revolutionary war.  Muzzle loading flintlocks.  Pretty cool.  First you pour some black powder down the barrel.  Then a lead ball wrapped in a greasy patch of cloth is tamped down with a ramrod.  Then a little black powder is placed on a tray just above the trigger.  When the trigger is pulled, a flint strikes a metal plate, creating a spark near that powder, which then burns with a flash, and ignites the powder in the barrel, which burns explosively, pushing the ball out and speeding towards the target.  Hopefully.

Steve had done pretty well the day before, so I really hoped I could do as well (Or better!)  I donned the recommended ear and eye protection, and after listening carefully to the instructor, made my first shot.  I couldn’t see any hole in the target.  Sigh.  Then shots two and three… Couldn’t see any evidence of damage to the target.  At the fourth shot the instructor said he thought he could see a hit… My fifth and final shot – nope, still couldn’t see any evidence of a hit.  Then I took off the safety glasses and noticed how much clearer the targets looked! (But I still couldn’t see any bullet holes…)

Here is some slow motion footage of us shooting… watch how the powder first flashes right above the trigger and the delay before the main charge goes off.  My shot is first, then Steves…  Mine is slow, and I’ve slowed Steve’s down even further.

So after we’d finished our shooting, the instructor walked out and retrieved our targets.  He showed Josh his; he’d done pretty well.  He showed Steve his; he’d done even better than his previous shooting.  He was holding mine behind his back.  I said “Please don’t tell me I never even hit the target!”  He pulled it out and said “I’m proud of you!  You have a close pattern and hit 4 of 5 times!”  Next time I’ll try it with just my own glasses on…

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So we then picked up my oldest daughter Karen, her husband Loren, and our Grandkids Ashlyn and Bryan at the airport.  Loren had flown them in a beautiful Beechcraft Bonanza.  We stuffed all our gear in the rented van and headed for Mt Rushmore, where we met my other daughter Becky, her husband Kevin, and Grandkids Dayna and Peter. The afternoon at Rushmore was great, and then we headed to our campground at Pactola Lake.  Kevin and Becky had rented a trailer to pull behind the Jeep I’d left at their place.  The rest of us stayed in borrowed tents!

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We spent the next day at the lake – crowded but lots of fun!  A canoe and paddle board added to the fun, but the kids were just as happy playing in the water.

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Little Peter is determined to launch the canoe!

We really enjoy cooking in the campfire, so dinner is a special time.  After we were done with the dinner and S’mores, Kevin put something in the fire to make unusual colors.

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Sunday we toured Bear Country, where we drove around and saw lots of animals, but especially enjoyed seeing some bears escape the heat playing in the water.  Then to Storybook Island for some lunch and imagination.

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We also toured the Black Hills Caverns.  An hour’s walk in fascinating cave formations, and over 40 degrees cooler than above ground!  It felt grand to escape the heat!

All too soon we had to leave… At least Loren got to leave in style! (I love how the camera shutter speed makes the prop’s rotation look alarmingly slow!)

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On our way back to Denver, we got to see some dear long time friends, Giny & Joe.

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We stayed with awesome friends, Lonnie and Laura, for a few days in Denver.  Got caught up on our dental visits with Dr Mike Lueck at McArthur Dental (Ever heard of that place?)  Shared some great meals with friends Kevin and Steve and Laura and Nigel and Monica and Lonnie and Laura… well, you get the picture.  (But no pictures…)

Then off to Washington State to stay with Ashlyn and Bryan while Karen and Loren went away for a few days to celebrate their 15th anniversary!  How Tempus Fugits!

So today we went for a bike ride, where part of the fun was riding through the sprinklers!

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The rest of the morning was at Vacation Bible School, and after lunch a trip to the water park.  100+ degrees makes a water park especially appealing! (And popular!)

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My guess is we all sleep really well tonight!

Sweet Georgia!

We love the dolphins that like to play alongside our moving boat.  Sometimes we have several at a time!

So now we have made it to Georgia!  We had a 90 day permit for Florida, and our mechanical delays made us past the exit time. Great to finally get out.

Along the ICW you encounter many bridges.  Some are very beautiful.  The big ones have 65 foot clearance and some are drawbridges that we need to have opened.

Some cruisers don’t like the hassle of going under drawbridges…  This is still new enough for us that it’s great fun calling the bridge on the radio and having them open up for you… and having them say “Have a great day, Captain!”.

Below is a little video showing the boat actually moving…  The first bit is going through a drawbridge on the ICW.    The second bit of the video shows going under a railroad drawbridge, which is a little different, in that it is always open.  If a train comes, they stop on the bridge, ask the computer to lower the drawbridge, and it checks to be sure nobody is under the bridge and closes it.  After the train leaves, the bridge checks surroundings for safety and opens again.  Kinda cool.  You may notice it looks like we go really fast through the bridges… Ha!  The video is sped up a lot so you don’t fall asleep watching!  The rest of the video just shows views from the boat (At normal speed).

 

A lot of the ICW has speed limits, or the requirement to go slowly enough that you create a minimal wake.  In the fast stretches, it often has a 25 knot speed limit… not a problem for us since we would be hard pressed to do over 10!  But the minimal wake requirement is a bit more vague.  How small is small enough? So one time, in one of the minimal wake zones, we were plowing slowly along northward, and a sheriff’s boat passed us going south.  We waved (minimally) and they waved back, so I figured we were within limits.  Then we got a call on the radio… “Motor vessel Grace, this is the Sheriff, please go to channel 68”.  Everybody is supposed to monitor channel 16, but you don’t chat on it.  You move to another channel for conversations.  So I acknowledge “Going to 68” and as I dial it up on the radio, I’m thinking, “How do you get a speeding ticket in a boat?”  When I call them on 68 they said “Motor vessel Grace, first off, you’re doing fine.  In a few minutes you will be passing under a bridge (A 65 foot clearance bridge, not a drawbridge) and there are a lot of stand up paddle boarders there.  Some of them seem pretty inexperienced, so you might want to watch out for them and give the newbies a pretty gentle wake.”  I thought that was really great… not only was I not getting a ticket, the cops were protecting the newbie paddle boarders.  Fun.

 

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Newbie paddle boarders under the bridge.

 

When we have chartered sailboats, I will admit to being a little nervous the first few times spending the night anchored, or “On the hook”.  How well can I trust an unknown anchor?  So it was with Grace… this was our first night on the hook.  Proper procedure is to drop the anchor, and slowly back up so the anchor rode (chain) lays nicely along the bottom for a ways.  Then you back up more firmly to be sure it holds you, and then you monitor (sleep lightly) to make sure it continues to hold.  You take bearings to nearby landmarks so if your anchor drags you will notice it.  The first night we anchored was in Ft Pierce, and it went fabulously, so we were a little more comfortable the next night, in Cocoa (Just as we saw no bunnies in the Playboy Boatyard, we saw no chocolate in Cocoa). Our third night on the hook was at Daytona Beach.  It feels very trustworthy now!

Here is somebody whose “Someday” came!

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I Guess not everyone has fun on the ICW…  We several boats in very sad shape.  If a sailboat runs aground, and the tide goes out further, it will heel over dramatically.  But hopefully not take on water!  A few boats were in that position, but several were half sunk and just abandoned.

 

We were told St Augustine was a beautiful stop, so we planned on spending the weekend there.  We arrived on Friday, and picked a marina near the old downtown area.  When we plugged into the 50amp shore power, we turned on all three air conditioners, and within minutes tripped the breaker on the shore power pedestal (Where you plug in on the dock).  So I shut everything off, reset the breaker on the pedestal, and started over.  Yep, in a few minutes it popped off again.  I called the dock master, and asked if I could run my line to another slip’s pedestal, and once that was done, I shut off all our breakers on the boat, so I could start all over.  The power seemed fine, all air conditioners were working fine, but one of our two 24 volt panels would not come on.  When I tried to turn on the main switch for that panel. it would just spring back to the off position.  The good news was the A/C was working; the bad news was the interior lighting, the refrigerator  and the water pump were not.  It’s now after 5pm on Friday, and this breaker is not a common part. I have spares of almost everything, but not a breaker that size.  We had plenty of drinking water, we put bags of ice from the ice maker (a separate box from the fridge) in the refrigerator, and used the marina’s facilities and our flashlights to get through the night.  Oh yeah, one more thing… the engine’s computer “ignition” was on that panel too, so we couldn’t have started the main engine.  So in the morning I called a supply house, we figured out how to use a smaller breaker to get by till I could find a proper replacement, and we rode our bikes to pick it up.  I took the malfunctioning breaker out, (Only 6 wires on it!) and was idly flipping it on and off while I got ready to install the new one… and it dawned on me it was flipping on and off just fine in my hand!  So was it not working only when powered?  Too weird! Then it dawned on me it might have been the guard on the switch that keeps it from being accidentally switched off.  I reinstalled it, without the guard, and it worked fine!  The guard had just gotten misaligned enough it would switch off and not back on.  Properly aligned, it worked fine, and the supply house even took back the unused breaker!

That afternoon we finally got to see a bit of St Augustine.

Cherryl couldn’t resist making someone’s baby look and smile so they all could take pictures…

A fascinating old fort, built by the Spanish when they held Florida.

 

They even showed us what a complicated procedure it was to fire off one of these cannons.  I have dropped all but the firing from the video…

 

Sunday morning we decided it was time to get out of Florida.  Instead of following the ICW, we “went outside” to take the faster way, a straight line in the ocean.  It was a beautiful day, but a long one.  And we saw one nice turtle, but almost no other sea life.  We did make it a ways into Georgia, stopping in a nice little marina.  We decided we will leave the boat there while we fly out to go camping with our kids in South Dakota. So Monday we spent washing every square inch of the boat.  That boat has a lot of square inches!  But she really looks great now.

Entering the inlet at Brunswick Georgia we were called on the radio by a large freighter leaving the bay.  He wanted to know my intentions… which side of him I would like to pass on.  He was a HUGE ship! About the size of Pittsburgh…  Seeing it from a distance I first thought I was looking at the stern and it was going in the same direction we were.  No, that big blunt end is the bow! It was fun talking to him and then seeing up close how fast these things move.  The channel was very narrow so we were quite close.

 

Tuesday I decided to try and put together our sailboat.  We have a small sailboat aft on the boat deck that we have never had in the water.  We have a little 2hp outboard for it, or oars, or sails.  I’d made a new bridle for it a while ago, so we can lift it with the davit (Crane), but hadn’t launched it yet.  I tried the outboard, but even with new fuel it runs so poorly I think it will need a good tuneup before I use it.  The oars would work fine, but who wants to row when you can sail?  It felt kind of like putting a puzzle together – a unique puzzle where I had to find parts stored in various places, figure out how they fit together, and ended up with a complete working sailboat!  My kind of puzzle!  We had pretty light variable breeze, but it handled pretty well.  Fun!

 

Brunswick has many gorgeous old homes, and even an Oneida Street.  So Oneida, this one’s for you!

So this is where we have to leave our boat for a little while…

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Our next adventure will be crossing the U.S. to spend some time with our kids.