Happy New Year! Shakedown Cruise

Travelogue - January 12, 2008

Wrapping up the Holidays

We hope everyone had a pleasant holiday week. We certainly did.

Erica, Peter, Mark, Scott Rick's sister Denise, her husband Scott and their family came to Florida for the holiday. It was a treat to have six "little" feet pitter-pattering around the house. Although at 15 and 12 and 2 (respectively) Erica and Peter and Mark made a variety of noises. Use your imaginations.

On the Sunday before Christmas we joined Scott's parents for an evening at their home in Sarasota. Rick's Uncle Arthur and Aunt Roshni were there as well, and Scott's brother Adam and his three kids. It was a very pleasant evening, and Bruce and Rita proved to be talented chefs of fine Italian cuisine.

Back aboard Sea Gator Peter slept on the settee for several nights and Erica camped out on the upper berth in the forward stateroom one night. It was fun for us to have "company" aboard - even though we were just on the dock out back of the house - and being away from the madding crowd provided a good opportunity for the two to sleep late.

Rick, Peter, Erica on top the dinghy deck We celebrated Christmas by attending midnight Mass. Then Lu hosted her family, Bruce and Rita and their family, and some friends. Twelve adults plus six kids for dinner. As always everything came off like clockwork and a fine time was had by all. Some of us played a rousing game of Apples to Apples with the kids - you haven't played the game until you've played it with the under-13 crowd. They didn't care about putting on a poker face. It was just a hoot.

One of the highlights of the week was a cruise on the boat! We took Sea Gator out on the harbor and she did extremely well. Not a hitch nor a glitch from our fine trawler.

Above right, the family enjoys the ride from the bow. You can see that the sun was too much for Mark's young eyes.

Denise We anchored in about 11' toward the eastern edge of the harbor and everyone except Denise and I went for a swim. The swimmers became bold and soon they were jumping or diving off Bump Head's platform, which is about 15' above the waves. Rick, Peter and Erica get ready to fly into space, above left.

Denise and I had a nice visit and kept a sharp eye out for approaching boat traffic, while Mark napped and the others swam. Right, Denise keeps warm and dry.

On the return trip, Rick let Erica and Peter take a turn behind the helm in the wide open spaces of the empty harbor as he stood close watch just behind their shoulders. They were surprised how tricky it is to keep to a straight course but they both did a fine job.

The next day Denise and her family made an early-morning return to Sarasota for a stopover on their journey home to California. It became very quiet at la Marina.

But we weren't finished making merry.

That evening Rick and I, and Lu and her friend Helen, enjoyed a pleasant dinner out and then a night at the ballet. We took the scenic route so we could enjoy the holiday decorations at the Edison & Ford Winter Estate; Helen said it looked like Fairyland with all the twinkling white lights and I agree.

We made our way to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall at Edison College in Ft. Myers and there we saw The Russian Nutcracker performed by the Moscow Ballet. It was sensational:

The Nutcracker Prince
"The world renowned MOSCOW BALLET will perform Tchaikovsky's great Russian ballet THE NUTCRACKER in 80 cities during its 15th annual holiday tour of the United States. Moscow Ballet's all Russian casts have won rave reviews for exquisite dancing and finely honed classical technique.

Artistic Director Anatoli Emelianov, a ten-year veteran of the Moscow Ballet and its chief choreographer, will star as the Enchanted Nutcracker Prince. With Valentin Federov's stunning sets and costumes, and larger than life puppets, the GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER is the must-see production of 2007."

The performance had everything you want in your Nutcracker ballets, plus a few variations on the theme. For example, in this (presumably) original version we saw more of the Magician. And Clara/Misha had a much greater role, in fact she danced the Sugar Plum Fairy's duet with the Prince.

There were a lot of kids occupying various states of confusion on stage. We assumed they were local dance students enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime and sure enough:

"Dancing with the Moscow Ballet is an unforgettable experience for the many children nation-wide who have had the opportunity to dance with the company's professional Russian cast over the years. Since Moscow Ballet's first U.S. tour, local children have been chosen by audition in each performance city for roles in The Great Russian Nutcracker. On average, 60 children are selected per city. By the end of Moscow Ballet's 11th Anniversary Tour in 2003 the company will have given more than 45,000 children a chance to perform along side top professionals."

It was all wonderful and magical.

This was Lu's and Helen's first ballet ever and it was an excellent introduction. We enjoyed the performance even more because one of Lu's granddaughters is an accomplished ballerina with Nutcracker experience. This year she danced as a Mouse in her company's performance in Providence. So we were all thinking about Kelsey when we saw the mice battle the soldiers. Hi, Kelsey! It was a lot of fun.

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year Well, after the Patriots defeated the Giants to secure their 16th consecutive NFL victory this season, New Year's Eve seemed anticlimactic for Rick and Lu. And amateur night out on the town doesn't interest me.

So we spent a quiet evening reading and talking. And consequently we enjoyed New Year's Day with not a single headache among us.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Boat Works

Rick completed installation of the water sensor! See how he did it in the article Water Level Gauge which now includes installation, testing and conclusions.

The Shake Down Cruise That Wasn't

Sea Gator aground at the dock Yeah, well. The northern storms made themselves known. Mid-week brought gales of 30+ knots and temperatures in the 30s, so we sat tight. Very tight. By January 2nd the north winds had blown the water out of Charlotte Harbor and subsequently out of its canals. Sea Gator was aground at la Marina.

You'll look at the photo (right) and muse "Well there's that barrel-looking thingy, the stern thruster. Looks like half of it is high and dry." And you'll wonder, "Isn't the thruster supposed to be completely submerged?"

Yes, it is. When Sea Gator is afloat as she should be the sea laps about 1" below the narrow white band just above the dark blue bottom paint. Yeesh.

The photo can't convey the smell of the newly-exposed canal bottom. It's not offensive, but it's very distinct. Ripe, one could say.

We've never seen the water this low. Notice the exposed barnacle-encrusted rocks shown near the right edge of the photo. I measured the water surface at 4.5' below the bottom of the dock; the average is about 18" below (conversely, a few weeks ago Rick reported that water was lapping at the underside of the dock, and that's as high as we've ever seen it). It's been a month of extremes.

Anyway, Sea Gator was rocking slightly, teetering on her keel, so there was still enough water to help hold her upright. But she isn't going anywhere. It's a good thing we don't have commitments out and about. And it's really a good thing that Lu hasn't kicked us out yet.

Company Coming

While we were aground we spent our time catching up with clients' projects, packing away Christmas decorations, provisioning and cleaning.

I've been able to go on a long walk or bike ride nearly every day and that feels really good.

By Monday, January 7th, we were more-or-less provisioned and packed and - fortunately - floating once again.

Tuesday evening, we all car pooled to the SW Florida Regional Airport. Rick and I were happy to be there to fetch Lu's friends, Marge and Fee. Marge and Fee had been kind and courageous enough to loan us their car while they were gone for the holidays, which made things very convenient for all of us. Thank you Marge and Fee!

Aunt Claire That same evening Lu read her book for awhile in the cell phone lot, then retrieved her sibling Sister Claire (whom you met in last year's travelogue when the family came to visit us in the town of Goodland) and her cousins Theresa and Irene (both of whom you met in our first season's travelogue about a day with my mom and the ladies at the flea market). It was a busy evening for all of us.

Sister Claire was very happy to have arrived in sunny Florida. But we were dismayed to learn that she had serious misgivings about being in the same house with a cat. She told us frankly that she had never personally known a cat and had feared them her entire life. She had even formulated a back-up plan for alternate accommodations. But on the second day she took a deep breath - and gently stroked Goldie's fur! It was a demonstration of true courage. I don't know what the experience was like for Goldie, but Sister Claire seemed relieved and pleased and I know I was proud of them both. Thus, Goldie's calm temperament forges another bond of friendship between the human and feline communities.

By now Ma t'ante Claire and Lu are settled in for the month. Each sister believes she is present to help and serve, and that the other should rest and take it easy. Who will win this battle of kindness? We don't know how it will shake out but I'm sure the two devoted sisters will find a system that works.

And so Rick and I finished provisioning and making all the last-minute adjustments to Sea Gator and on Thursday, January 10, we cast off.

On the Hook in Pelican Bay

Good Times Too Midway across the harbor we passed the ferry which runs from Punta Gorda's Fishermen's Village to the restaurant dock at Cabbage Key. The folks had lunched well and were friendly. "Hi!" In the background, on the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor, you see the condos at Burnt Store Marina.

We saw a dozen or so dolphins and many water birds. Other than that the trip was uneventful, but still I managed to stay awake.

Coming into an anchorage always provides plenty of opportunity for anxiety: Will there be room for us? Will our anchor hold? Mostly, will our anchor hold if the weather turns sour? Well rather than just worry helplessly, our intrepid entrepreneur Captain Rick devised and constructed a solution: a homemade stand-alone portable GPS-based Anchor Alarm. We tried it for the first time as we arrived at Pelican Bay. I've asked him to write an article about it - as soon as he can add data to the "Conclusions" section we will post it on this site.

Meanwhile it was a calm and beautiful evening. Goldie took her first stroll about the deck and gave me nervous fits. We still haven't built up the nerve to give her swimming lessons, as Sally and Ron urge us to do. That is: gently drop her in the water plop! and encourage her to find her way aboard. Ack!!

My technique is different. I just worry and fret and chase the cat around the deck:

Goldie exploring "Goldie, where are you?"

"Goldie, come in here."

"Goldie, no running on deck!"

"Goldie, what are you doing?"

"Goldie, where are you going?"

"Here, Goldie!"

"Come on, Goldie!"



No wonder people leave us plenty of swing room. Hmm...

Anyway, here we are. Our first night "on the hook" should have been the most relaxing ever, what with the anchor alarm working its reassuring magic near Rick's left ear. But I was up and alert most of the night. It will just take me awhile to settle in to life on the water, as usual.

We had a fine hike on the island today, which is an excellent start!

Best wishes everyone. Please keep those cards and letters coming.

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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