Backing up…

C.E. Grundler

I’d imagine anyone who has lost a significant chunk of writing to a computer hiccup might find themselves a bit backup-obsessed, so I suspect I’m not alone in my various means of ensuring my WIP doesn’t vanish into digital dust. Scrivener is a superb writing tool with much to offer, including peace of mind to use neurotic writers in the form of multiple automated backups. Save a copy when you open, another when you close, not to mention every two second or so that you stop typing, unless you change that number, not that I’ve seen it affect performance either way. With a little tweaking in the Preference settings, you can have backups safely tucked away on your hard drive, the cloud, and everywhere in between, so long as you have the right boxes checked off.

My particular cloud of choice is Dropbox, which works seamlessly with many other programs, including an app on my phone that allows me to view and edit .rtf files. Under File, the Sync option can upload to Dropbox, and check for changes

The end result is a current, and fully editable copy of my work whenever I’m away from my computer. Granted, there’s only so much editing I’d want to do on a phone screen, but it allows me to review passages and tuck in notes while I’m standing on line in Motor Vehicles. Lately, I never know where I’ll find myself next, and that access is quite handy.

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Heading south.

By Mike Jastrzebski

Now that my new Wes Darling sailing mystery, Stranded Naked Blues, has been published (if you’re interested here are the links: Amazon, Nook, Apple, Kobo, & Google Play) I’ve begun to prepare the boat to head south again.

Don’t get me wrong, St. Augustine is a beautiful city, but it’s still too cold in the winter for us. We miss the teal blue waters of South Florida and the Bahamas.

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We plan to head out in October or November and at this time we have no idea where we are going. The Keys? The Bahamas? Both and then on to the Caribbean? We’ll let you know when we know.

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Sota talay

by Christine Kling

We spent a week at Fulanga, and the only thing that made me want to leave was the fact that I have the copy edits of my new book coming on the 16th, and I will need to be somewhere that has Internet. So yesterday, when it looked like the sky might clear of the ever-present clouds around 12:45, Wayne turned to me and said, “What do you think?” We decided to take off and an hour later we were motoring out the pass at the high tide slack water. The pass looked completely different from the maelstrom we had entered through eight days earlier.

Fulanga isn’t a fully formed atoll – yet. It is an “almost atoll.” See, nearly all the islands in the Pacific were formed by volcanic eruptions. The islands started out as volcanic peaks like the islands of Hawaii, and coral reefs grew around their fringes. But after thousands of years, the volcanic islands erode away and eventually all that is left is the fringing coral reef around a lagoon where the volcano once stood. Along the reef, parts of the coral base collect sand and earth and little motus or small islands appear and you have a fully formed atoll. At Fulanga, reef surrounds smaller islands that form part of the remains of the volcanic rim – it hasn’t yet fully eroded away. Inside the lagoon, little pieces of the volcano remain. They are eroding though, and they now look like little mushrooms with narrow eroded bases and wider tops with palm trees growing out of them. When we first arrived after our harrowing trip through the pass, I felt a little like Alice arriving in Wonderland. The sky was half covered with ominous dark clouds, but the late sun was shining through them creating a very eerie light. Our engine had quit and Wayne had disappeared into the engine room. Under mainsail alone, I quietly sailed through the dozens of little oddly shaped islands looking for an anchorage. I wouldn’t have been entirely surprised to see a caterpillar smoking a hookah atop of of those mushroom islands. It is one of the most unusual places I have ever seen.

One of the other things that makes Fulanga so special IS the fact that it is more cut-off from the modern world, although that too is changing fast. We sailed down from Vanua Balavu in a good weather window and we were one of seven yachts to arrive on Saturday or Sunday. We all went in to present our sevusevu to the village chief together on Monday morning. The whole group of us hiked over the hill and we were met at the outskirts of the village by Tai, who would be our spokesperson. He presents us to the chief and formally asks if we may anchor in the lagoon at his island. I had also wrapped a sulu around my shorts when we got to the village, and everyone is expected to wear shirts that cover the shoulders, no hats, and no backpacks. Tai led us to the chief’s house where we entered and sat on the wood floor of the small house.

In this case, the chief was a slender old white-haired man wearing the traditional sulu skirt, but also a T-shirt and track suit jacket with socks on his feet. It is unusually cold here in Fiji this year, and even the Fijians are complaining about temperatures in the 60’s. We all presented our packages of Kava root and the chief and his spokesperson said the ritual thanks, prayed and clapped and all of this was in Fijian. A woman who was sitting off by the door spoke up when the men had finished and she translated the gist of what the men had said. Then she told the group it was okay to take photos of the chief if they wanted to. She was interesting and her English was so good, I grew very curious about her. It turns out she is the chief’s daughter, but when she went away to work at a resort in Viti Levu as a girl, she met an American and married him. She now lives in Albequerque, New Mexico, has seven kids and she drives a big rig. She had come home to visit because her family had told her that her father was not going to church. Strange world, eh?

In addition to the donation of kava, the yachts were each asked to make a $50 FJ donation to the village. In return, each yacht is assigned a host family and one by one we were paired up with our hosts. Our family consisted of Net and Aliote, parents of one daughter who is off at boarding school in Suva. Net is the post master of the village. He took us back to his house and we sat on the floor. His wife Aliote arrived and she served us tea and plain white rice. Net explained that they were low on provisions because the once a month supply boat had arrived in a storm and determined it was too dangerous to enter into the lagoon. They then off loaded the village’s food at a nearby island and the weather had not been good enough for the islanders to go fetch their food.

Getting to know Net and his wife really made our visit to Fulanga. Though Aliote didn’t ever speak English, Net said she understood lots and when she didn’t, he translated for her. Wayne noticed the solar power set up in the corner of the room that first day we had tea, and we learned that the government had added solar power to over 50 homes in the village just over a year earlier. The government paid for it and each home now pays $18/month for their power. We learned that the Post Office has a satellite phone and anyone in the village can use it. And the school has a satellite TV system, so they can get news. Net even said that sometimes at the high point on the island, people’s cell phones can connect to the cell tower on Lakemba Island and they can text their families on Suva. Net taught me my first Fijian words that first day when we left his house. “Sota talay,” he said. “It means ‘see you later.'”

The next day we stayed on the boat working all day, but on Wednesday, we went ashore to meet Net and Aliote and we learned that it was a big day because at the school (which only goes up to grade 8) the kids in grades 3, 5, and 8 were taking exams. So standardized testing is even happening in Fulanga! The mothers in the village prepare the food for the kids, and afterwards, they took us into their home and fed us with a beautiful spread of fish cooked in coconut cream, a grated coconut and spinach dish and cassava (a starchy root vegetable). Even though the ship had not arrived and they didn’t have cookies or propane to run the oven, they will not starve. They grow most of their food and Net said he goes fishing 2-3 days a week. He has two garden plots and chickens and pigs. They were so wonderful and generous to us, we invited them out to the boat for afternoon tea the next day.

Wayne went in to pick them up and they were so cute in the dinghy waving at me and excited. I had baked a cake for them knowing that they didn’t have baking capabilities at the moment, but they arrived with 5 rotis and a huge tupperware of cassava, plus a lovely pandanus mat wall hanging that Aliote had made. We ate and talked and laughed until sunset. They both thought our dogs were hysterical and Net, a typical large Fijian man finished off all the cake. When they left, I gave them a signed copy of one of my books, and I gave Aliote a necklace that had been my mother’s. It had started raining a fine mist, and they had not brought any rain coverings, so I offered Aliote a trash bag to cover her hair. Net wanted one too, and it was the funniest thing watching Wayne standing in the dinghy with his two Fijian passengers with their heads covered with white trash bags grinning and waving good-bye. “Sota talay!” I called out, hoping that somehow, even with all the places I want to see in this world, some day I will return to Fulanga and see Net and Aliote again.

Fair winds!
Christine

This blog was posted by satellite email and I will be unable to read and respond to comments until I get back in range of cellular data coverage. Please don’t let that stop you from commenting though!!

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The wanderer and the worrier

by Christine Kling

Today is a drizzly, gray, stay-on-the-boat kind of day, which suits me just fine. It is a Sunday, and I need to recharge my batteries a bit. There is lovely music playing on the stereo, and the boat is anchored in a safe snug place. I need days like this.

Wayne and I are slowly learning the ways we are different and trying to learn how we function as a cruising team. He is the happy serendipitous wanderer while I am a bit more of the planner. Okay, I’ll admit it — the worrier (perhaps this comes from all those years alone as single mom, head of household, not certain that I was up to it). Wayne is always sure that things will have a happy outcome, while I am a bit more of the catrastrophizer. I’m always looking ahead and thinking about what might go wrong, and how I can be prepared for it. Wayne has lots more skills than I do, and he just wanders along feeling confident and deals with whatever happens when it happens.

In the week or so we spent at Vanua Balavu in the Northern Lau islands, we ended up visiting three different anchroages, Bay of Islands, Bavatu Harbor, and the main town of Lomolomo. Each was spectacular and lovely in its own way. We had thought we would be able to get some more food supplies in Lomolomo, but both stores were closed when we visited on a Thursday afternoon. We only saw three or four people in the village which seemed a bit odd. We met one fellow and chatted with him and he told us that he was from that island, but he had moved to Suva as a young man and had now returned to do business on this island. His was one of the two stores and he was just getting it ready to open. It didn’t have anything on the shelves – they were rennovating. The other was locked up. So my hopes of replenishing our meager supplies were dashed.

Friday morning we got up and made our way across the lagoon to the southern pass. The forecast looked good to try to make it the 110 miles or so just slightly east of south. The prevailing winds here are the southeast trades, but the GRIB files I’d been downloading predicted it would go east and a bit north of east. We sailed in much more boisterous winds than predicted all day and night. We could see three other boats on AIS who had left the island out the north-western pass. Around 2:00 in the morning when I relieved Wayne he told me, “This is it, no more easting.” The lighter winds never arrived and it was another slog to weather. One of the boats near us was much faster than the rest of us and she made it to the pass into Vulaga (pronounced Fulanga) about an hour after high tide. The rest of us did not have such luck.

What little information I had about this narrow pass on the eastern (windward) side of the island stated that when the tide is falling there is a 4 knot current in the pass. And when the wind is strong there are very large standing waves like river rapids. While low tide was at 2:20 p.m., the blog I had read also said that slack water wasn’t until 2 hours and 15 minutes after low tide.

We arrived at the corner of the island around 9:30 a.m., but we couldn’t quite point high enough to make it around to the windward side, so Wayne started the engine. We were trying to motor around the reefs when the engine quit. We were blowing down on a reef with only the reefed main up. Wayne jumped down into the engine room and I asked, “Can’t we start the engine for a minute so I can tack her around and we can slowly sail away from the reef?” Wayne said not to worry about it. I sat there worrying myself sick watching the reef get closer and closer. Wayne came out and tried to start it again and it wouldn’t start. I said, “We’ve got to get the headsail out and try to sail off.” We got the sail out and then we couldn’t get enough speed up to tack without sailing even closer to the reef. I swear, I was terrified. Our track on the iPad showed us actually on the reef, and in this case, the charts were quite accurate. Finally, Wayne tacked and I held that jib tight until I knew the sail had backed and we were around. It was far too much excitement for me.

We sailed around and Wayne worked on the engine for the next four to five hours. There were two other boats out there and they both had iffy engines, too. Wayne determined that our issue was bad fuel, so he changed filters and pumped fuel through a minor polishing and into a saddle tank instead of the bilge tank. Wayne was fairly certain the engine would run when we sailed close to the pass just after 3:00. We knew slack water wouldn’t be until 4:30 but we were losing the light, and we needed light to see the pass and the coral heads inside, so we started the engine and went for it. The waves were something! Wayne wrestled the wheel as we went through very close 4-5 foot waves that weren’t just standing, they were breaking. It was like riding the rapids and the pass was only about 100 feet wide. With the engine running full tilt we were only making about 3 knots of headway. We made it through and began searching our way through this incredible lagoon filled with these little mushroom islands, when the engine quite. Fortunately, we had kept the reefed main up in case the engine were to quit, and while Wayne disappeared down into the engine room again, I set about trying to see my way into someplace that would provide us a protected anchorage where we could sail the anchor down. Unlike most lagoons out here in the Pacific, this one was shallow and I was seeing depths from 35 down to 15 feet. But with the low sun, it was very difficult to see through the water. The chart for inside the lagoon is terrible, so I was using a cached image from Google Earth and hoping that what I thought were clouds weren’t really coral bits.

Learnativity has a huge main anchor. It is a 70 kilo Rocna, and we sailed the anchor down with our in-boom furling main which cannot be dropped in a second or two. We were traveling at about 3 knots and when we hit the end of that chain, boy did we come to a nice stop. We got the main down and for the first time in 36 hours, I was able to stop worrying. Wayne shot me that confident grin of his that seemed to say, “See, I told you it would all work out okay.” And as usual, he was right.

Fair winds!
Christine

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Better and better

by Christine Kling

Every day I think to myself, nothing can top this. But the next day does. Fiji truly is a land of exceptional beauty.

This evening we are anchored out far from it all and off the grid again. I will have to post this blog with our Iridium-Go satellite communicator again, so sadly, I cannot include any photos. We are anchored in Mbavatu Harbor off the northeast coast of Vanua Balavu in the Lau group of islands. There is one other boat anchored in another arm of this big bay, but we cannot see him. We can only see the impressive sheer cliff of gray, black and reddish rock on our starboard side and the thick green jungle-clad hillside on our starboard. The deep water (anchored in about 75 feet) is an amazing sea green. The rocks around us are under-cut and the sound of the wavelets lapping at the underside of the rock is startlingly loud. Off in the jungle some sort of animal (a bird I think) is making a noise like a cross between a bark and a hoot.

We left Vurevure Bay in the Tasman Strait’s corner of Taveuni Tuesday night at midnight and we crossed the 60 miles to the Lau group overnight. The weather window called for NE winds, but in fact they were so light we motored almost all the way and at one point we saw 5 boats other than ourselves on the AIS. Everyone else decided to come across at the same time. We made it through the pass and proceeded down to the village of Dalconi where we had to take a bundle of kava to the chief in an Traditional ceremony called sevusevu. I wrote before that most of the land in Fiji belongs to the village clans. Each village oversees a certain area — that is called its vanua. You must go to the head man and ask for permission to visit any of the bays or lands that come under his authority. To not ask permission would be comparable to having some strangers pitch their tent in your backyard without permission. As Fiji transitions into more of a western nation, these traditions can seem silly to some, but I hope that people here will continue to observe them. There were at least 6 boats that had to do this when we arrived, and we were glad to be the first ashore. Already the chief, who did not speak English, seemed pretty bored as he said the words of the traditional thank you and welcome. I guess this island will see about 200 boats or more this season. But, that doesn’t change that we are in his backyard. The woman who was translating for us also told us that they were requesting a donation for the village. We had heard about this before — they had started several years ago asking for a $30 Fijian per person anchoring fee, and many yachts had grumbled loudly. They now make it voluntary which is much better all around, however, I think that these out of the way islands that mostly live off the land and the sea have every right to ask yachties to contribute to the village. If that money pays for better schools, sports equipment, medicine for the clinic, fishing equipment, etc. I am happy to pay that modest amount.

We spent our first several days at the Bay of Islands. It is another beautiful spot. Hopefully, when we next get Internet I can share some photos of all the cut-away limestone islands. Our first evening there we saw these large fruit bats go airborne right at dusk. The next day we had a great time in the inflatable kayak exploring through all the little islands and bays and we found a tree full of fruit bats hanging upside down. We had the dogs with us and they heard the noise of the bats flapping their wings, but they didn’t know to look up. That’s probably a good thing since they would have gone nuts if they’d seen them.

One of the challenging things about navigating here is that the Navionics charts we have on the Raymarine chart plotter and in the apps on the iPads have this island set about half a mile out of its charted position. Today we moved around to this bay using a combination of Google Earth and the captured Bing charts on the Navionics app that managed to update one of the iPads. Mostly, the best navigational tool is the old eyeballs, but with chop and cloud cover even that can fail.

The temperature here continues to amaze us. To us, it’s cold! We’re sleeping under a blanket and when showering on deck or jumping into the water there is lots of shreiking (on my part). Overnight lows have dipped below 70 and that’s just not what we expect in Fiji. Even the locals are commenting on how cold it is this year.

Tomorrow we plan to hike up to the top of the hill across the bay where there are supposed to be impressive views of all the lagoon surrounding this island and down into the Bay of Islands. It’s difficult to believe that anything could be as beautiful as what we’ve seen so far, but every day it just keeps on getting better.

Fair winds!
Christine

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EXHIBIT A. It’s rock solid. The worst work is over. It’ll float, run, and it won’t leak, but there’s still more to go.

C.E. Grundler

Some things seem to take waaaay longer than they should. Boat work, for one. (See Exhibit A., pictured above. ‘Nuf said.) And editing, especially with a work in progress that’s been derailed and restarted several times over now. (The book, not the…okay, the book AND the boat.) But when you’ve reached a point like this, where 90 percent of the worst is over, suddenly the momentum starts to build, and every day brings you closer to something solid and complete. And in both cases, things actually start to get fun as everything comes together.

Today’s agenda includes yet more work on the boat, and hours of keyboard time, hunting down the Backtracks. (Writing first, then boat. Always writing first.) Backtracks are what I call those bits of inspiration that weren’t in the original outline, weren’t even in the first draft and how could I not have seen it in the first place, if a certain character said “X” back in the third chapter, then that sends ripples to the second act, which shifts something else and…you get the idea. In the past, the moment one of those derailing little bits of sidetrack hit, I’d be finding the right spot to make the right adjustments, chapters back from where I’d been, and that’s a good way to spend time writing without really moving forward. The rule became: KEEP MOVING FORWARD, and ONLY FORWARD. Whatever page I’m on is where I stay. Period. No exceptions. I simply type <<BACKTRACK – Whatever idea, boiled down to abbreviated notes,>> and then continue on right where I was. Sort of like those bits of blue masking tape stuck at random points on the boat, flagging something I noticed while working on something else. I buy blue tape in economy packs, and you can usually tell where I’m working by the amount of blue tape visible — for example, the salon windows. Just stick the tape or type <<BACKTRACK>> as applies and keep moving. It’s a great way of keeping focused and actually making headway in many aspects of life.

As for headway, on Tuesday, my daughter, her boyfriend, and my car all exited New Jersey on their national highway Great Loop. Here’s a snapshot of the general route, give or take. Screenshot 2015-06-25 09.07.35

With the boyfriend’s sedan, it would have been half the trip in less space. My diesel Jetta easily gets double the range on the same fuel, and could hold a summer’s worth of clothes, cookware, tents, second hand donated camping gear, and so on, which meant double the trip on the same shoestring budget.

An hour after they pulled out, I officially wrapped up the second draft of Evacuation Route. Now, it’s just a matter of rounding up all those bits of tape little markers and making the appropriate changes.  And before the kids drove off, they said they expected two things when they returned: a finished book to read, and a floating boat to read it on. Which means it’s back to work for me.

And my car? Currently, it’s at marker #2 and the center of a campsite somewhere in the woods of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, in north Michigan.

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Beach Candy

Nauset-Beach1

by John M. Urban

Summer is here. It must be time for some beach candy. No, not bathing suit-clad eye candy along the shore. Beach candy. As in, salt water taffy and fudge.

Although this may be more of a Northeast phenomenon, I recall scores of shoreline stores selling boxes of salt water taffy and corner shops doling out freshly cut fudge, and this practice continues. From Hyannis to Edgartown, from Rockport to Glouchester, Portsmouth to Kittery, Newport to Narragansett, Sag Harbor to Montauk, Point Pleasant to Margate, and on.

Me making fudge
(Fudge making in Rockport, MA – quite obviously a precise undertaking)

I have spent time on Chesapeake Bay, southern waters, too, and I believe this food extends to those areas, as well, although I will look for confirmation from readers who possess better local knowledge. I do, however, speak with some authority on the prevalence of beach candy in the Northeast United States.

As for myself, I have had no desire for these sugary foods during the summer months. Salt water taffy? Absolutely, but not really in hot weather. Fudge? Oh, yeah, but better left for those months when winter clothes conceal extra pounds.

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(You know you’re on to a good business when you can amortize your marketing and print budget over a fifty-plus year period)

Yet, someone is buying this stuff. This must be. The proof lies in the fact that these shoreline dispensaries have been in business for years, for decades, for generations. Unless undercover news reporters are able to reveal that these local fudge shops are cleverly disguised fronts for money laundering, I must assume that they are going concerns kept alive by continuing sales.

Could it be the addictive nature or the soft texture of comfort food? Maybe. Could it be the reasonable price point of these modest treats? Probably. Or is it the continuation of a summer tradition. Yes, that, too.

I cannot imagine the viability of opening a new fudge shop in any of the towns I listed above, nor can I imagine that there is fragility to the existing shops. Yet, when times change, it frequently occurs rapidly. The emergence and then absence of flip phones – occurred in a snap of time. The ubiquity and quick fade of AOL – looking back that was almost overnight. Will taffy and fudge shops eventually run their course? I guess. It seems, then, that I better get some soon, if only for the novelty.

Maybe. Then again, the lines are always long in those shops. I think I’ll just put on some shades and sunscreen, grab my powered-up Kindle, and head to the beach.

LC

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Gone with the wind

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by Christine Kling

We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind generator complaining. When the winds get up above 30-35 knots, the generator essentially takes itself offline and starts freewheeling. The speed of the turning blades goes way up and what we hear in the aft cabin sounds like you’re inside the belly of a whale with indigestion. BOOAAARRRRR!!! The boat was sailing on the anchor and it was clear the wind was gusting into the 40’s. Now, two days later, though the winds are not quite as high as they were that first day when I wouldn’t let Barney go pee on the foredeck because I was afraid he would get blown away, it’s still honking out there.

One reason why we are not more protected from the wind is because we are anchored off the extreme northern end of the island of Taveuni in an anchorage known as Matei. Actually, we are well protected from the swell out here because we are surrounded by reef, but we are quite open to the very strong ESE wind. In these two side by side pics you can see where the chart says we are (on a reef) and where Google Earth says we are. We are getting some protection from the two tiny islands (rocks, really), but not much.

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Lest those of you reading this blog think that we are out here in Fiji spending all our time basking in sunshine while sipping umbrella drinks on the after deck, we are sometimes faced with extremely strong winds and gray skies. We go for days without getting off the boat and we keep the hatches closed due to the frequent rain showers and what feels to us like a cold wind. To be honest, it’s not that much fun. For us.

But not everyone feels the way we do. We are here with our friend Philip aboard the S/V Blue Bie, and he loves this wind because he is a kite surfer. Here at Matei, he is not alone. There are folks who come here on holiday just to go kite surfing. They stay at resorts on the island and every morning they are driven to this one sand bar off Naselesele where they can easily launch their kites. Some of them are beginners and there are teachers giving lessons on the beach, while others are already expert.

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Sometimes, looking from the boat off in that direction, we have counted more than ten kite surfers out in the 35+ knot winds and rain and what looks to us like miserable weather — but they seem to be loving every minute of it. The way the colorful kites swoop and dance is like a ballet of sorts, and if only I had a camera with a wide enough angle to capture it all on video, it would make an amazing film. I used to love windsurfing, and part of me is dying to try kite surfing, but the high winds that are necessary for the sport will probably prevent me from trying. For some reason, winds this strong make me feel more concern than elation.

Right now the forecast is for the winds to lessen and to switch around briefly to the NE on Monday night. If it still looks good for that when Monday night arrives, we will take off on the overnight passage to the island of Vanuabalavu in the Norther Lau group. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for forty years, and there we should be anchored on the leeward side of the island, so we won’t care how hard the wind blows.

Fair winds!

Christine

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Road trip = a clean bottom!

2015-06-18 15.33.41C.E. Grundler

Over the last few weeks there’s been plenty of prepping, packing, and building excitement. I’ve been going over every inch of my car, from fresh headlights and new tires, and every bit of maintenance it’ll need for the next two months and 10,000 miles or so, as the Jetta plays connect the dots between assorted national parks across the country. No, I won’t be going along — my daughter and I are trading cars for the summer. And while she and her boyfriend will travel in a car larger than either of theirs, but one that gets double the mileage and stretched their travel kitty to add more time and miles than the original plan. And me? I got this…

2015-06-16 14.39.33 That’s scaffolding in the foreground, lining up with the waterline, not a bunch of equally spaced holes. And that’s Alex underneath, working his way towards the transom.

 

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R.I.P Miss Belle (01/13/2004-06/14/2015)

By Mike Jastrzebski

Our dog Belle died this morning. She has been our sailing companion and friend since she was 8 weeks old and Mary and I will miss her dearly.

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