Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How About an Update?

Matt & Kelley's Basement

We've been a bit busy, but we wanted to update everyone. Matt and Kelley have been able to get into part of their house to retrieve some personal items. They may be able to eventually retrieve more if the structural engineer believes the building can be stabilized and made safe for access. Much of their furniture, kitchen, dining room and living room will be a total loss.

Dining Room

Brenda and I purchased airline tickets back to Punta Gorda (for the second time) prior to the house explosion. Since we were concerned about a potential tropical storm that was forming in the Gulf I flew down to Wrinkles to do some storm prep. Our good friends Don and Gail picked me up in Ft. Myers and delivered me back to Wrinkles. Brenda stayed in Madison to help the kids get back on their feet. She will help them get organized, preview some possible apartments or houses and anything else to help the kids out. It feels pretty strange being on opposite sides of the country as we are rarely more than 50' from each other.

Today I pulled the sails off Wrinkles and removed the outboard from the dinghy before it started pouring rain. Tomorrow I plan on removing the dodger and storing the dinghy on the deck. Hopefully the rain will give me a break tomorrow and let me finish the storm preparations. Right now the weather gurus say we should expect 60 mph winds and 5-7" of rain. This storm may fizzle out or head north of us, but I can't wait around and just hope everything will miss us.

Brenda will book a third flight to Punta Gorda in a week or two and I'm hoping she actually uses her ticket this time. No more doctors, dentists or house explosions please! I miss my wife, but I know she is where she should be right now.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Somebody is looking out for you.

There used to be a house here.

Our son Matt and his fiancé Kelley live in a duplex near Madison, WI. Well, they used to live in that duplex. Just 30 minutes after leaving their house to meet us for dinner their home ceased to exist. The house next door to theirs exploded and disappeared. The blast also destroyed their home and trapped their two dogs inside. A wonderful fireman entered their home and dug the two dogs out from the debri and removed them from the cages which likely saved their lives. Thank you Chief Pulvermacher.

Matt and Kelley's house.

The living room and kitchen area of their home - where they normally would have been - was blown apart. Broken glass, debri, drywall and lumber were blasted right through their living area. Someone was looking out for them as just 30 minutes before (or on most any other week night) they would have been right in the middle of the mayhem.

The house that exploded was just to the right in this picture.

Thank you to all the amazing firemen, policemen and emergency workers for their quick and professional response. The house has been deemed unsafe, so Matt and Kelley are not allowed to enter it and retrieve any of their personal belongings. All they have is what they were wearing at the time. Friends have already stopped by with spare clothing, shoes, gift certificates for food and more. What amazing friends they have.

Brenda and I are just thankful that Matt, Kelley and the dogs are safe. All the rest is just stuff.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Visiting Family and Friends

Scott & Penny's Lake House View

We've really enjoyed our time visiting family and friends in Wisconsin. We stayed at Dee's (Mike's mom) house where we were spoiled rotten and fed like visiting royalty. As soon as we waddle home we plan to fast for at least one month to get back to reasonable weights.

Spending time with our family filled some our days (in between Mom's meals) with laughter and fun as we caught up on each other's lives. We had great visits with all three of our children (John, Tina and Matt) along with John's girlfriend Brittnie and Matt's fiancé Kelley. Mike's sister Kim and her husband Roy were in Wisconsin visiting family as well and we met up with them at Mike's younger sister Lisa's home. Lisa and her husband Mike deal in antiques and are in the process of remodeling the living area on the second floor of their building. Lisa has an artist's eye and an amazing ability to create a style all her own. It was fun to see her art in progress.

It is always great to get together with friends you haven't seen in a while and we did our best to see lots of them. Jim & Joni, Scott & Penny, Roger & Kay, Lori & Mario, Susan & Phil, Dan & Michelle, JoEllen & Lance, Kay (Kelley's mom), Carol & Dave, Barb & Jerry, Marcia, Justin, Lisa F., Marion and Helen. We're hoping to visit with a few more friends before our flight home. Whew!

Jim & Joni dancing at Sunset Bar


Kelley., Matt, Brittnie, John, Brenda, Mike, Joni, Dee

Mike's 40th High School Class Reunion was being held while we were in town so we attended that as well. Roughly 50 classmates spent the evening reminiscing and getting reacquainted. So many interesting people leading such diverse lives.

We certainly accomplished our goal of seeing family and friends after our first year of cruising. Taking the opportunity to visit everyone reassures us that we haven't "lost" our friendships due to our absence. It has shown us just how important our extended family is to us. We will certainly miss all of them as we prepare to begin the second year of of our adventure.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Planes, Trains, Buses and Automobiles

Tina and Brenda

I guess we don't do much in the way of "ordinary" any more. Given the fact that we don't have a car or even car insurance any more, we have to get creative when traveling. In order to get from the Carlyle Lake Rendezvous to Madison, we took a unique approach. Steve and Sarah kindly drove us from their house to the Amtrak train station in St. Louis. We stopped at a new brew house for lunch and a final chance to say thank you to our good friends.

Train Station
Boarding Gate

We hadn't taken an Amtrak train before and we were really looking forward to it. We boarded the train for our trip and settled into the quite comfortable seats. They offer more leg room and width than either a bus or airplane which Mike really liked. It was fun and relaxing - maybe too relaxing as Mike fell asleep within minutes of leaving St. Louis. The scenery was interesting and the train's ride was quite smooth. The train offers free wi-fi, but it is slower than our sailboat. Cornfields, trees, towns, graffiti and did we say cornfields kept us entertained as the trip quickly rolled by. Oh yeah, there were cornfields.

St. Louis Arch
Tina playing Giant Jenga

Once we entered Union Station in Chicago we hustled around to make our bus connection to Madison. We were taking the 9:30 p.m. Van Galder bus, so we only had 20 minutes to find the bus stop. We found the unmarked spot only because we remembered where we had picked up this same bus route a couple of years before. Once safely on the bus and crammed into their much smaller seats we relaxed knowing our next stop was back home in Madison, Wisconsin.

Dan, Michelle, Matt, Kelley, Tina

Mike's mom stayed up late to pick us up in her car at midnight. It seemed strange to be "visitors" in what has always been home to us. Mom whisked us home and we all slept like dogs.

Evening on Lake Mendota

Let the feasting begin! Mom is one of those gifted people that can cook and bake amazing food. Neither of us gets too excited about cooking, so it is fun to watch someone talented in the kitchen have so much fun creating food art. We are considering booking an extra seat on our return flight just to carry all the weight we are gaining while we are here.

We excitedly contacted friends and family to make plans for visits. We visited with Mom, our son Matt and his fiancé Kelley and our daughter Tina. We had great visits with several of our friends including Susan & Phil, Michelle & Dan, Penny & Scott, Kay & Roger, Carol & Dave and Joni & Jim. We will also get to meet up with our friends JoEllen & Lance tomorrow. Finally we will visit with Mike's sisters Lisa and Kim and their husbands Mike and Roy. Whew, we sure are making up for lost time.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

CLR 2016

Carlyle Lake Rendezvous

Once again Steve and Sarah hosted a fantastic Carlyle Lake Rendezvous. In addition to the rendezvous, we were fortunate enough to partake in their generosity as they invited us to stay in their lovely home.

We flew from Punta Gorda to St. Louis where Steve and Sarah picked us up and whisked us away to their house. The next morning we packed up for a full day and headed to the lake. West Access Marina on Lake Carlyle (Illinois) is very accommodating. Soon we had Steve and Sarah's boat in its slip and welcomed some of the other sailors.

Our scheduled sailing time was 11:00 but Mother Nature had other plans. Winds were non-existent. So we chatted in the marina's galley for a bit, then decided to walk to the Wheelhouse Restaurant for lunch. Let the stories begin as we caught up on everyone's adventures since last year and became acquainted with our newest CLR attendees. As we talked you could see each of us peering out the window wistfully hoping for a whisp of wind. As we were finishing our lunches, the leaves starts swaying and the flag actually unfurled once or twice. Quick...let's hit the water.

Sarah at the helm.

In short order seven boats followed the leader out of the marina, much like a flock of ducklings all in a row. It wasn't long before sails were raised and you could see lines being pulled and leech cords tweeked in order to eek out as much speed as possible from the meager puffs of wind. Photo ops were abundant as we slowly passed by each other. Our goal quickly became, "Let's get to the raft up spot so we can jump in the water."

Time to swim.

Ahhhhh...that's much cooler. Boats were viewed from the waterline up to inspect paint jobs, motor mounts and various other modifications. After our fingers had turned to prunes and our core body temperatures returned to near normal, we climbed back in the boats for a leisurely sail back to the marina.

After showers and a brief sit in the air conditioned day room, we headed off to Bretz Winery and Restaurant for dinner. We were ready when the waitress asked what we would like to drink. "Kalahari Nooner" was our prompt reply. Despite the name and associated picture on the label (a lion and his mate having a good time) this is one of our favorite wines. Conversation slowed just a bit as everyone dug into their dinners and quickly resumed as tummies began to fill.

Back at the marina, stories were swapped and strategies for the upcoming races were developed, several of which involved figuring a way to slow Matt down...hanging a bucket from the back of his boat, duct taping his mainsail slot closed, and adding copious amounts of weight were the most popular. Somehow Matt would still win even if we did all these things.

Tuesday morning arrived with little to no wind. Since the pursuit race was scheduled for today, everyone sat around in the Galley with fingers crossed. As the 11:00 start time approached, the group decided that an early lunch might be in order hoping for some wind like the day before. True to form, the wind picked up a little and the race was on. Steve and Matt marked out the course with buoys that they claimed you could see from across the lake. None of us could see them. We were in Steve's boat and even though he knew where the buoys were, we still couldn't find them. After some jockeying around for position we sent the Com-Pac 16’s off first followed by the cat boats. The Eclipses and the committee boat brought up the rear.

Brenda at the helm.

Matt ran away with the race as we all knew he would. The rest of us just enjoyed the sail and followed his trail. Since it was so hot we felt another long raft up was in order. You could hear the water sizzle as we sailors jumped into the water. A few cool drinks and a lot of BS later we were all refreshed.

Wednesday we sailed and swam all day until we were ready for dinner. Meeting in St. Rose at Popeye's Chophouse we all enjoyed a great meal.

Rich in his Com-Pac 16

Thursday was race day and we all hoped for good winds. Once again the flags barely fluttered as eager sailors checked the weather forecast. By 1 pm everyone decided to motor out onto the dead calm lake and bob around or swim. With the race course set and boats milling around hoping for wind we swam in the refreshing water. After a couple hours the faintest breeze was detected and everyone scrambled onto their boats. Wind! Not strong, but it was definitely picking up. We quickly arranged the race start and several boats slowly sailed across the start line. The gentle breeze and some decent puffs of wind got all the boats moving with Matt and Rich in a battle for the lead. It was fun to watch as the boats all worked so hard to maximize the wind they had to use. Eventually Matt pulled away and claimed first place.

We returned to the West Access Marina to clean up and decorate for our Gilligan's Island themed party. The party was a hit with great food, music, a corn hole toss game (Brenda was the undisputed star), awards and cute costumes.

Chris, Steve, Al
Sarah and Carol (Loveys)
Roger and Steve

Friday was the day for some to pack up and head home. Fortunately for us Rich and Chris decided to stay. The winds started out calmly, but then picked up to a fun 7-10....just enough to get us heading down the lake. We took turns at the helm and soon found ourselves well past Hazlet State Park. Rich and Chris made it to the train trestle before they turned around and met us for a refreshing swim. Then it was a race back to the docks to pull boats and head home.

What a great week of sailing and partying. You meet the nicest people whenever you are around sailboats.