Monday, October 29, 2007

9-15 October 2007: the Home Front

Our home base in Crystal River, Florida is a lot we own in Nature Coast Landings, an ownership RV park up near Citrus County's northern border. It has proved itself a perfect solution for our lifestyle: a safe place to leave our rolling home when we return to the boat and a pleasing place to roll to stop every once in a while when we are back. To the northeast of us is a county park with birding trails we enjoy walking -- around a quiet lake or along the barge canal -- as well as a boat ramp and a bike trail to the Gulf. The villages of Inglis and Yankeetown are just across the bridge in Levy County; Dunnellon and the Rainbow River, with its lovely kayaking are to the East; and Crystal River with its famous springs and manatees and associated water activities is to the south. And last but not least, the whole area has proved to be a fine area to ride motorcycles with many miles of roads through rolling rural countryside, dotted here an there by friendly watering holes and restaurants.

The lots in NCL are well spaced, and now that construction is complete the landscaping is filling in as individual owners have built decks and planted trees and flowers. For the most part our tentative efforts in that department fared pretty well through the long, hot, and reportedly dry summer. The new maple looks good (although not quite as good as those belonging to some neighbors who had irrigation!), and the Knock-Out roses and Mexican petunias were bushy and full of glorious color. The ligustrums, however, looked pinched, with leaves about half the size of when we left them except for clumps of full-sized ones. I suspect they lost leaves to drought and regrew these smaller ones. At least they are alive which is more than I can say for the wax myrtles. Our lot had three wax myrtles planted across the back by NCL that were full and bushy when we left. Upon our return, only the one in the lee of our shed was alive! Very sad. All up and down the park, this was the story – survival here, failure there. The wax myrtles throughout seemed hardest hit. However the silverthorns, also planted by NCL but which we moved back against the fence, are all thriving. My other gardening effort before departure was grass, and from across the street our "lawn" looks pretty good. Only when you walk across it do you see the sandy patches where it just won't grow.

The good news is the wifi is up and running . at least it is now without a lot of users online. Hopefully it can stand up to the job.

Don and I had about a week to hang loose at NCL. Only a few of our neighbors were back, so things were pretty quiet. We used the days to unpack, to walk in "our' park and ride the motorcycle here and there, but our style was somewhat cramped as we couldn't find the key to our storage shed! Fortunately, our neighbor Dale, still home in Missouri had the spare, but we had to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

The highlight of our first week at NCL was the arrival on a beautiful cool Saturday of the kids for a one-day visit. Derek ha to make a run up as far as New Port Richey for work, and he suggested he, Tiff and Kai make a day trip of it. In every way this was a perfect grandparent experience; everything that we imagined, in fact, when we bought the place. The kids arrived mid-morning with all of Kai's favorite paraphernalia – his bike, his scooter, and his soccer ball – to which we added our Colts Nerf football and several golf clubs. NCL, especially NCL with few people around, make a great playground, especially for the bike. Kai is mighty cute pedaling heartily away, especially with his bike helmet, now several sizes too small, sitting on top of his head! Don and Derek had conspired to raise the training wheels about an inch, so there were a few "smokes" when the bike teetered unexpectedly. Kai takes his "smokes" – whether crashes on the bike, trip-ups when he is running flat out, uncaught balls on the noggin or in his face -- all with amazing aplomb. He rolls to his back, stares at the sky for a few moments, and then picks himself up and plunges into the activity all over again! Rarely does he cry.

After the first round of sports, we borrowed a golf cart from neighbors for a ride around the park. Then we drove around the corner for a "hike" in "our" county park, on the hunt for turtles in the lake. After that we barbecued hamburgers for lunch, and after a suitable digestive break we went swimming in the club pool. This, I am embarrassed to admit, was our first time at the pool, which I had promised Tiffany was heated. We found a thermometer that claimed 80 degrees, but it sure felt brisk. Derek and Don were wimps and stayed dry, but Kai, Tiff and I braved that briskness. Kai is at that stage of his swimming lessons where he will boldly jump into the water under assurance that someone will catch him. He may trust his receivers, but he doesn't yet trust the water enough to get properly horizontal, and therefore squanders all his energy in the inefficient bicycle motion. He does kick on a kick board, and he knows how to do the Spiderman creep along the poolside until he reaches steps or a ladder. He even impressed us by hoisting himself up over the side of the pool once or twice, something I never managed until I was big enough to touch bottom!

This day distilled the reason we interrupt our cruising and come back to the US. Kai's joie de vivre runs full bore until, of course, he runs out of steam. And here's the good news: when the kids come for a day trip like this, they pack up and go home leaving the old folks to peace and quiet! What could be more idyllic?

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Friday, October 26, 2007

28 September – 9 October 2007: Once Again, Back to the US of A

The silver lining to traveling solo from Fiji to LAX is there’s a better chance of getting a row to oneself to stretch out in. When Don and I fly together what usually happens is we are seated together and then after I doze off in a pretzel-like curl, he prowls the plane for an open row to himself. I wake up in a knot with the unused space of the vacated seat(s) mocking me!

This year the best priced itinerary – which we booked through daughter Tiffany’s easy-to-use new travel website ( – was aboard Air NZ to L.A. and US AIR from LAX via Las Vegas to Tampa. Ignoring the fact that LAX was a mad-house of crowds, slow luggage (mine was last!), uptight security people and expensive coffee, both halves of my trip went smoothly. Having a stopover in Vegas was actually kind of nice, breaking up the long wait we usually have in LA, although I’d have swapped all the jangling slots in the Vegas airport for a sit-down restaurant option for dinner. As you might guess, the approach and take-off over the city of lights was impressive! You could pick out individual casinos! It did make the red-eye part of the flight, and therefore any chance of sleep much shorter, and when I landed at 6am, Tampa was still dark.

A Welcome Dose of Family

How nice to have a son-in-law meet you in the terminal, collect your luggage and roll it and you to the parked car! How nice to have a grandson – who hasn’t seen you for six months – welcome you despite the early hour with a sleepy “GZ!” and arms outstretched for a hug! I’d allotted myself four whole days to wallow in the delight of our little family while trying to adjust to the eight time-zone difference before facing the Annapolis boat show. Tiffer’s #1 Mom Cindy, who lives next door, made me welcome in her guest room. I spent the time between my late-awake nights and my late risings kicking soccer balls, throwing footballs, racing Jeff Gordon NASCAR models, and marveling at the dare-devil figures Kai cuts with the two-wheeler he could barely pedal when we left! Not yet three, this is one athletically gifted kid. How much a child grows in six months! Gone are the baby talk and (for the most part) diapers, but never fear, he’s still a cutie patootie with a million-watt grin.

One of the best parts of my long weekend with the kids was the sense of optimism in the air. For Tiffany this is owing to her involvement in YTB Travel. YTB Travel is an internet-based company that seeks to revive the concept of making money from travel. For more information anyone interested can read about YTB on Tiffany’s website -- – or email her at

The 2007Annapolis Boat Show – October 4-8

This must have been a record year for the Annapolis Boat Show. Where last year a nor’easter had the tents billowing, the rain falling and us shivering in as many layers as we could find, this year saw five days of 96-degree sunshine. My suitcase was packed with all my show clothes from Oakland – jeans, turtlenecks, fleece! Fortunately I checked the morning before my flight and added in shorts at the last minute.

Officially, the “Annapolis Show” is the United States Boat Show, and it takes place in two parts run back-to-back: The Sailboat show the first week and the Power Boat show the second. Each show is squeezed into the tight harbor right off the Annapolis waterfront, with the show boats and interconnecting docks meshed in like a jigsaw puzzle. The changeover between shows begins promptly at the close of the final day of the Sailboat show, and the spectacle annually draws a huge crowd. The shoreside vendors, on the other hand, are strung out in a rabbit warren of tents crammed into any available tarmac around the harbor. If you don’t make a sale to a customer while you have them, who knows if they can ever find their way back! My boss Steve of SeaTech Systems, like many vendors oriented to cruisers, only attends the Sailboat Section…for which I give many thanks! As it is, it is five long days on your feet!

I think it was a good show for SeaTech. Certainly the good weather brought out the crowds. The traffic on and off the show boats must have set a record, since the show is notorious for losing one or two days to obnoxious weather. Ironically, for us in the tents the heat became pretty wearing on the soul, and between my jetlag and my colleague Marti Brown’s night shifts at the hospital she works in, there were two women in the booth with screwed up bio-rhythms!

For me, salesmanship does not come naturally. What makes working for SeaTech relatively easy is that I use the products I am selling and I know what today’s cruisers are using out there! Incredibly, a little quick accounting reveals that I have been working for SeaTech now for about three years! More and more customers are coming into the booth looking for me because they talked to me in the past, either here at Annapolis or at other shows like Philly or Miami. Additionally, with my Admiral’s Angle column in Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine now more than a year old, I am getting name recognition and feedback from that. Furthermore, there were not a few people who introduced themselves as fans of this website! All in all very gratifying for the old ego!

The Women & Cruising Seminars that I have been doing with Kathy Parsons and Pam Wall add to that. Although I was not officially on the bill for the Cruising World Magazine-sponsored seminar in Annapolis (I had not thought I would be back in time), we had a great turnout, some 180 people! Cruising World, which has just added its own new section for women cruisers (Hmmmm???), was very pleased by the enthusiastic response of the audience to our format! I am officially on the bill for the next three presentations of Women & Cruising scheduled for the St. Pete Boatshow (Nov. 1-4), the SSCA Convention in Melbourne (Nov. 9-11), and the Miami Boatshow in mid February.

One of the main highlights of working the Annapolis show usually is running into old friends. By good fortune our friends Dennis and Lisa of Lady Galadriel were passing through town on their way back south from their summer season in New England, so I was able to have dinner with them one night aboard and see first hand all the refurbishments they wrought last year. Uncle Bill, who was with us in Fiji in August, passed through the booth looking at equipment I may have persuaded him he needs, and Elaine Lembo, my contact at Cruising World also touched base.

I also had a wonderful sit down lunch with Amy Ullrich, Managing Editor of SAIL Magazine. Amy and her two adult children came for a learn-to-dive week with Don and me aboard Whisper back in 1996 which resulted in a great article in SAIL. Our lunch gave us a chance to catch up (and share grandchild pix), but also to explore the possibilities of my writing for them as well as Lats & Atts and Cruising World. This writing stuff is starting to get serious!

Finally, this year saw the debut of the first ever Lats & Atts Party in Annapolis. Annapolis has traditionally leaned a bit toward the more formal yacht club mentality. A fixture of most of the Sail America Boat Shows, the Lats & Atts crew bring back the element of fun with the rockin’ beachy sounds of the Eric Stone Band, free beer and pizza, along with raffles for prizes that Bob always manages to talk vendors out of! The party was officially part of the SSCA Annapolis Gam and was held at the close of their day-long event out at the Port Annapolis Marina in Back Bay (I think!). A super venue for it, the marina had a covered pavilion that made a great dance floor, and the band was the best I’ve ever heard them. Unfortunately for the SeaTech gang, the turnout was bigger than expected and the pizza we’d been counting on for dinner ran out before we got there. Since Steve has to stay to the very end to give out one of the two grand prizes (a free satellite phone!), this made for a very long evening for us. Still I managed to dance much of the night away with Lee Chesneau, the NOAA weather expert, which made up for the big omelets we all had at Denny’s at 11pm.

Don Returns

Back in Florida, Don arrived Stateside by the same routing I took exactly one week after me. (For details of his last week in Fiji, see the final entry in our Fiji Blog…which I HOPE HE WILL SOON WRITE!) Don, too, enjoyed the delights of the kids, the grandson, the backyard sports, and the two-wheeler antics. On Monday afternoon, however, Derek drove him up to Hernando Beach where we had the Harley stored in Diane and Alex’s garage, from where, after he figured out how to get it started (!!), Don rode it the rest of the way up to the coach in Crystal River.

Don found our rolling home in good shape, but the battery all but dead on the Saturn. Unfortunately our jump charger was equally dead, but a neighbor was able to step in and help get the car running again so that Don could collect me from the airport in Tampa the next day. The Suncoast Expressway straight to the airport made that round trip a piece of cake, and I can sure tell you that there were two captains ready for a quiet break!

We have a whole week to ourselves ....before we hit the ground running again!