Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Bonus Day

Once the leftovers had been packaged up and the mess cleaned up, Bruce and I were left to ourselves for the rest of this long holiday weekend.  No Black Friday shopping for us!  We are making use of the boat while we still have it.  Off we went mid morning on Friday to Port Aransas.  There were few people at the marina when we arrived.  It was occupied by the "locals".  Our dock specifically was occupied by this nice Great Cormorant couple.

I've never seen them sit still when we approach so I was thrilled to get a look at them.  Once Bruce passed onto the boat I kept inching closer and closer snapping pics.  They looked a little nervous but stayed put.

Finally when I was less than 10 ft away, they took off and I was ready! What a way to start our weekend. 

We had no agenda for the day but had evening plans.  What to do with this whole day alone?  Boat projects of course!  Well, the weather was so beautiful, light winds and warm sunshine... we decided to forego the boat projects in favor of a walk on the beach.  But... the boat had other plans for us.  When Bruce went aboard to drop off our bags, he noticed the bilge pump running but no water coming out.  Long story short, an hour later we were sure that the pump had given out... so the boat got a brand new bilge pump.  Funny how they do that just out of warranty. 

But all was not lost.  We cleaned up that mess then headed for the jetties.  There was still time for a walk out on the rocks.  Here we found more natural beauty in this Snowy Egret.  He was hanging out like us on the rocks enjoying this bonus day.  We went out a bit then found seats to sit and watch the people and the ships passing by.

We left the jetty and walked hand-in-hand along the beach.  The water was cold when I first dipped my toes in... but it was invigorating and before long, I was wading happily along with my love at my side. 

You just never know what you'll find on the beach...  We spotted this little Objet d'Art from way off.  It LOOKED like a turkey... but surely not.  Upon closer inspection we found... well- THIS!  I would have loved to have met these people. We would surely have become friends.

We finished our walk and went back to the boat to rest and get ready for the evening.  We checked in with Ken and Carrie, who were just arriving.  What was the plan?  We got a visit from Bill and the plan took shape.  Their boat for a leftover-swap before leaving for the Third Coast Studio.

Bruce and I had never been, so when Bill suggested we join Ken and Carrie there for the Larry Joe Taylor show with Deryl Dodd, I got busy finding tickets.  The place was small and it took some local know-how to find it... but we did.  I had been left to choose between the Friday night acoustic show and the full band on Saturday night.  I opted for the more intimate acoustic show and I think we were all happy with that.  We arrived early enough to get second row seats, but there isn't a bad seat in this very small venue.  I loved losing myself in the guitar strings and we laughed along all evening as these two entertainers worked off of one another.  It was quite a treat and Bruce and I were both hooked.  We'll be back to this place for sure. 

It was a late night for us... bed at 11 pm.  But we were still up before 6 am on Saturday with only the morning to spend in Port A, we had our coffee and made the best of it.  First on the agenda, a drive about town to find breakfast.  We ate at Beaches Cafe and Bakery.  The biscuits and Gravy, and the giant cinnamon roll were devine.  This place will do well.  Next we took a drive on the beach.  It was another beautiful morning, but we were on borrowed time.  There was a norther' coming our way and the winds were to pipe up after noon. 
Next stop for us... Charlie's Pasture Nature Preserve.  This little known Gem is coming along nicely.

We practically had the place to ourselves, just us and a few birds.  There is a pamphlet you can pick up with all of the birds you might find here listed for marking off when sighted.  I picked one up but am so unknowledgeable about the different species here, I don't know what they are when I see them.  I feel a budding hobby coming on...   

We walked the boardwalk looking for critters.  The only thing we found today were the winged variety...

It was so quiet that you could hear the flocks of ducks flying overhead... not their quacking, but the sound that a hundred wings makes as they beat the air.  There were lots of ducks flying about.  This is a Nature Preserve but the dummies were leaving this safe ground and flying away to where we could hear the sounds of Pop Pop Pop as they came within reach of the hunters out on the flats.
We spent the remainder of our free time walking this place but didn't cover it all.  We'll leave something for the next trip out as there are trails all throughout Charlie's Pasture.  It is so nice to see a city spending some money on this type of facility.  Every time we come here we vow to bring the kids out but it hasn't happened yet.  For now... it will remain ours to share and a good way to spend our Bonus Day!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day 2011

Well... long story short, I wasn't going to have Thanksgiving Dinner at my house... then I WAS!  The girls were going to spend the Holiday at their Father's house.  He has recently been diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy on the heels of a grueling surgery.  With less than 2 weeks to go, Melissa began to worry that he wouldn't be up to the stress of having a lot of company over, so I volunteered to host!  I called my Mother and Carla, Mark and Laura...

I was bound and determined that it would be a "no stress" event for everyone.  I had a simple menu of the old favorite dishes.  We had the potential for over 20 people attending with the kid's Dad and his family, both of my girl's boyfriends and their respective parents.  I was sure to need a ham and a turkey.
When the day arrived, the plan had undergone several changes with the end result being that my Ex Husband was feeling well enough to entertain, his mother was able to cook for him, so my gathering became the first of two for the kids.  This meant we would be eating earlier in the day than planned, but no sweat.  We had purchased the bird after the final plan change so it wasn't enormous!  We popped it into the oven after 8 am and had most of the morning to put the last touches on things.  People arrived and we had time to relax. 
Matt's parents didn't make it down this year.  His sister isn't well enough to travel so they stayed with her in San Antonio.  Michael's parents did come down though and Michael had neglected to mention that his mother has her foot in a cast from a hiking accident during a recent vacation.  The poor thing hobbled around and I could tell she was tired of it.  I had never met Pat before today.  We met Sam last Thanksgiving on a visit to Melissa's house.  It was nice to get to finally meet her.  I had been very curious how it would be.  You see... her maiden name is also McNamara!  Understandably there were thoughts running through my mind that we would meet and I would see something "familiar" in her.  But... other than a very sweet woman with a great sense of humor... no other resemblance.   

Those with no kitchen duties watched some ballgame on TV while those of us in charge began pulling it all together.  The scent of ham glaze and the promise of a heavily laden cheesy potato spoon drew hungry hopefuls...  I guess it was too hot in the kitchen for Matt! The guy knows how to stay out of the way of the cooks. 

The turkey was a bit of a mystery.  My meat thermometer never did rise to the "done" level.  We kept putting it back in to cook but finally decided that the thermometer was on the fritz.  The legs were practically falling off.  Please don't let this bird be dried out!  Melissa was in charge of mashed potatoes and Mother made the gravy with her secret family recipe... (McCormick) while Brittney and I made room for everything on the serving table.
My brother has assumed the honor of carving the bird in our family.  He does a great job and nobody else wants to do it so every year we flatter him into doing it again.  This year he had an ardent admirer in Leila.  She just KNEW that if she was on her best behaviour, someone would take pity on her and pass her a scrap.
Ta Daaaa!  Finally, it's all done!  Everyone brought something to share and we ended up with so much MORE than enough.  It all looks so good and we're so hungry!
We all lined up and filled our plates!  I don't have a table large enough to seat everyone together so we had people in the dining room and on the patio.  Kind of a reverse "kid table" phenomenon occurred.  The kids have taken over the world.  The parents are relegated to the kid table.
In all the frenzy, we never got around to taking any group pictures as I had hoped we would.  But we had a lot of laughs and fun with one another.  It was nice to be done with the cooking and have time to visit for a while.  The kids took their boyfriends off with them to their Dad's house for round two, leaving the old people to talk about them behind their backs.  Don't flatter yourselves kids, we had lots of other stuff to talk about besides you! 

Our family is very informal and we don't have the praying and hand holding that many families do around the table on Thanksgiving.  But that doesn't mean that I don't take the time to reflect about all of the things I'm thankful for.  I have a very good life.  I have a husband who adores me far more than I deserve; I have two beautiful, confident, intelligent daughters that seem to think I'm OK most of the time; both of my daughters have found guys who idolize them as much as my own husband does me; I want for nothing monetarily and I know how to be happy.  Now if only I could somehow arrange for world peace, everything would be groovy.  But... for now, I'm thankful for all that I and my family have.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last BYC Cruise of 2011 Aboard Endless Summer

Bruce and I have our boat all cleaned up to show and Walt and Judy needed some swabbies to help them get Endless Summer out to Flato Cut for the last BYC Cruise of 2011, so it was a ready made match!  We signed on as crew on Saturday morning with a forecast for extreme winds, but we'd been plagued with issues all year for our scheduled cruises and we weren't letting this one slip away.  Two boats opted out but the turnout was great!  We set sail in winds blowing in the mid 20 kts.  We had a bit of indecision about what sail configuration we would fly, but finally settled in with main only and motorsailed the whole way.  The ride was solid and we had a great time between snacking and dolphin shows... it took us about 2 1/2 hours. 

We picked our way in through the Flato Cut channel at a snail's pace.  No need to go aground with this winged bulb keel on the first time out...  We used the boat's GPS chartplotter and my iPad to navigate ourselves safely into the Cut and were met by the Welcoming Committee... Johnny and Cynthia.  They have been here many times and were our unofficial Dinghy Drift organizers for the Cruise.  Click here to see Johnny's Video Photo Album of the Dinghy Drift.
We got the boat positioned and the hook down... all of these things "firsts" for Walt and Judy's maiden voyage cruise.  We relaxed for a while and enjoyed the relative peace of the anchorage with winds still gusting into the upper 30's.  We were the "Host Boat" for the cruise so Judy and I opted to stay behind when the Dinghy Drift got going so that I could help her prepare the snacks for the hungry hordes that would soon be converging on Endless Summer.  It's difficult to be of much help in the confines of a sailboat galley so Judy ended up doing the majority of it but I was there lending as much moral support as I could.  With these winds, it wasn't too long before the Dinghy Drifters had all of that kind of fun they could stand, and the wet laughing BYCers headed our way.

We were boarded as if under seige by more than 20 sailors piling on practically on top of one another to get aboard. 
Judy had the spread of snacks set out down below where some early-birds reached the prize...
The cockpit soon filled to bursting with BYCers and the chatter was on!  I made my way up from the galley after tasting some of the goodies, so that I could allow room for another to take my place in the coveted spot at the table.  Now how am I going to get out there?
I climbed over heads and backs and finally made my way to the princess seat on the stern, where I sat and stared as the buzzing talk going around and 'round made me dizzy.  There were no less than 4 different conversations underway simultaneously at any given time... which one would I join? 
Click to see the rest of the pics I took
I pretty much sampled each one that sounded interesting to me with plenty of times where I just wandered off with my own thoughts and enjoyed the beauty of the setting sun in this (formerly) peaceful anchorage. 
I would say that that we had 12 or more boats attend this gathering, a good turnout by any standards and a great turnout considering the winds.  Those who didn't make it out missed a fun time and a calm cool night. Most of the people left us just at or after dark to get back to their own boats for the night.  We had Mark and Brenda, Bill and Jan, and new member, Kevin stay until late (almost 9 pm) during which time what happens on Endless Summer stays on Endless Summer... We spent a restful night in their guest cabin and awoke at 6 am to enjoy the sunrise in the cockpit while Walt and Judy got those last few Beauty Winks.  Boats left the anchorage one by one... until it was just us, Merlin and SeaFlight.  Bill and Jan came to say goodbye as they and SeaFlight were headed back to Port A.  We raised anchor and set sail under jib alone for a rockin' and rollin' sail across the Bay with the BIGGEST dolphin I've ever seen following us for a while.  Thanks to Walt and Judy for inviting us aboard for a great weekend to end our Endless Summer.  This Blog Entry is being brought to you by the makers of "LifeBouy Soap". 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

First Wave of Possession Erradication

For weeks I've been trying to "see" my stuff anew.  Our Townhouse community has a yearly yard sale which we have missed for the past two years.  This year Bruce gave me a pass on helping him with a regatta, so that I could make good on my promise to begin ridding mysel of those pesky treasures collected over so many years.

As I've walked though our home in the last couple of weeks, I've laid eyes on each of the many things we have collected which have made our home so personal and so pleasing to us in the years we've lived here.  I hardly ever leave the house that I don't bring home something as a souvenir.  These weeks I've been mentally preparing myself to let them go.  It is these things that I've pledged to do without so that we can move closer to our goal of cutting the dock lines and becoming full-time liveaboards.

I took the day off work on Friday so that I could actually begin moving things towards the door.  We hit the ground early and I just went from room to room, taking things down and depositing them in the living room to await pricing.  I went through closets and we decimated the attic storage, where we found things we had forgotten long ago.  Who needs 'em!  Out! 

Brittney came over in the afternoon to help me price things and I will admit, some of the things she questioned and I caved... they can't go now!  But, most of the stuff I had brought out did end up either at Brittney's house or the homes of some stranger (sniffle) at a ridiculously low price.
I was very scientific in my pricing strategy... if I didn't mind keeping it or if it was a particularly pricey item, I priced it high (by yard sale standards).  If I didn't sell it, I would bring it back in and await the next annual sale.

As the day wore on, we moved things around and at the end of the sale, we had only a very few items left.  I brought a couple of things in and restored them to their rightful place... reprieved!  The rest we stuffed into a few small boxes and made a mad dash to the Goodwill store before I lost my nerve and my resolve.

 How do I feel about it?  Well I would like to say I'm saddened by the loss of my treasures, but honestly, I can hardly remember what all we sold!  All in all, a success in bringing us closer to our goal!  A little more money for the cruising kitty and a little less stuff to dust while we're still here.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Every Good Adventure Starts With A Plan...

Wow it's been a long time since I've had time to sit down and blog.  I've made it through the roughest part of launching electronic health records (EHR) at my office and I finally hear the return of laughter in my Business Office.  We see the light. 

The year since our "Go Live" has been nearly as rough as the system build but we're getting better. 

Back when my dear departed friend Mimi was still working with us, Bruce and I had planned to get "out there" and had even begun the process to the extent of selling our home and purchasing a townhouse.  The plan was to rent it out and leave.  However, the townhouse was a "fixer-upper" and it ate up our cruising kitty pretty fast while providing us with distraction from our plans. 

Now, 7 years later... we have paid off the townhouse, the EHR project has life, my Mimi is gone and my kids are confident, competent, self sufficient individuals who no longer require my physicial presence in their daily lives. 

I have a feeling that time is short and that it is time to revive the cruising plans.  I read that if you don't have a date, you don't have plans... well, we have a date - or at least a season in mind.  We have made definitive moves towards throwing off the docklines and are on our way.

The rhumors are out there.  The other day while walking to my car from the office, a woman from my building told me that she heard I was leaving.  I had no idea the news had spread and I told her that it would be a while.  But since then, we have made strides towards the date.

The Plan:  Sell Elan, buy a bigger boat, transition from townhouse to live-aboard, pack away my "treasures", give the girls first dibbs on the rest of the "stuff", have an estate sale, rent out the townhouse, finish out the time at work until my youngest gets her degree (thus the Spring 2013 target date) then set out for Florida, up the East Coast where we will join the other Cruisers in making our way South. 

Now the first rule in Cruising is that there is no rule... the second is that plans are made to change, more like guidelines or a general inclination.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I set my plans with certain well thought out goals and targeted deadlines in mind, then I tend to make a mad rush to the finish line like I'm stuck on fast forward...  Well, I'm really trying not to do that, but the only thing keeping me from it is the fact that we must sell our boat if we don't want a big loan payment on our shoulders.  So in the meantime, we are plugging away at the baby steps while playing the Texas Lotter twice weekly. 

Every day however, I am reminded how precious my time with my husband Bruce is, and I renew my efforts and my resolve to get things going so that we can live our dream all the sooner.

The Reality:  What have we done to prepare?  Well, we have lists.  The "Biggie" is to sell Elan. 

Well, I took a week's vacation and Bruce and I spent it cleaning the boat.  I went from bow to stern inside with cleaners, rags and scrubbers and brought it to better-than-when-we-bought-her condition. We made discoveries of things that needed repair, replacement or just attention and either have addressed them or they are in process.  We cleaned the hull outside and recoated it with a shiny new finish which looks great!  During that process we made the call to remove the boat's name.  Elan is no more.  She is officially a no-name boat.  (there was a bit of sadness in that, but we're on a mission!)

We just took delivery of a new mainsail cover and binnacle cover yesterday and they are very nice.  We still have a list of things to do which we will take care of as time allows, but we have "For Sale" signs on the boat as we speak.  We won't get too excited about selling until the new year but will probably do the "For-Sale-By-Owner" thing until then once we finish sprucing up the exterior and get some pictures. 

We have taken some money out of the 403B in preparation for having a down payment for our new boat and I have been pouring over the online brokerage sites.  We took a weekend trip to Kemah a few weeks ago to look at some boats we had our eye on.  Good thing we did this as it brought "clarity" to some ideas we (I) had.  We discovered that a 38 ft boat was probably not going to suit me. We looked at several of the boats I had found pleasing and one of the forerunners was shot down entirely... my personal favorite will never suit Bruce, so it's off the list (at least that's what I say out loud).  After all of the searching, we have narrowed it down to a few that we would love to have but probably can't afford (playing the lottery...) but there is one that we would really love to have and both of us are, at least mostly, satisfied.  So... we'll watch those online and bide our time while checking off things on the list and compiling a "boat fund". 

Hopefully I won't die of impatience before we get there.  I guess I can put a few pictures of my handiwork after the cleaning frenzy since there isn't any photographic proof of the process other than the one of the pile of stuff we took off the boat...

The poor van was loaded down and we raised the waterline on the boat about 2 inches.  If only Bruce had known this was possible back when we were racing!  And he was so diligent in removing my silverware and emptying the water tanks prior to each big race...

The interior is nice and neat...

and the galley shines!  Now if only we can get through the winter hanging out with our BYC friends who have moved their boats to Port A, without messing things up again!  Stay tuned for more on our Journey to Cruising... This is only the beginning!