Saturday, January 31, 2015

USVI 2015 - Day 1 - Red Hook to Christmas Cove, St. Thomas

 1/16 continued! 

Bags claimed and welcoming rum samples sampled, Jenn and TQ and I jumped in a taxi van that took us on a beautiful ride over the mountains to Red Hook. Island Yacht Charters is based at American Marina there; we paid our driver, grabbed our bags, and went and found the boat. Here she is, the Kinja, our Island Packet 440 - I actually took this on the last day because on the first day I forgot to, too much excitement, I guess!

Capt. Kat was checking in with Skip, the owner, and suggested that we drop our bags off and then run on over to the grocery store where Lenore and Dave were already doing the shopping. 

Groceries in paradise! The market was right across the street and a couple of the staff helped us bring it over to the boat. 

Stowing it all was a bit of a process, but with five of us helping out, it went pretty fast. Capt. Kat's plan was to be underway by 4:00, sunset was going to be around 6:00 and although our first anchorage, Christmas Cove, was right around the corner, we still wanted to be there while there was enough daylight to sort out anchoring, if necessary. 

I think we were underway pretty much on time; we did have to make one stop when Capt. Kat realized we'd forgotten our snorkel gear (an absolute MUST!), but Skip was still with us at that point (Island Yachts sees their boats in and out of Red Hook) and had us pick up a mooring ball and run back to the dock in the dinghy to get our stuff. Phew! After that we were properly underway. I think we even sailed a little bit.

Our first night's anchorage, Christmas Cove. No mooring balls - there were something like 4 here and this is a popular spot. 

Preparing to anchor. Or maybe pulling the anchor back up after the first try didn't go well. Or preparing to try again. Or pulling up the anchor again after the second try didn't go well. Etc., etc. You get the idea. The primary anchor on this boat turned out to not be a very good one - it was a plough anchor, and Skip had told Capt. Kat that it might need somebody to swim down and plant it by hand; we didn't do it this time and we weren't sure it was really set when we finally stopped trying, we'd let out a ton of chain, but it seemed to be holding, and there wasn't much wind forecast for the evening so we decided it would be do; we watched our position like hawks for the rest of the evening and it continued to look OK. 

Tired from the anchor dance, we had a simple dinner of salad, chips and salsa, and pepperoni slices, along with a celebratory bottle of champagne, then we all turned in for a good night's sleep. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Let's start at the very beginning

Because I hear that's a very good place to start. Although I'm a little unclear on the order in which it started - this was another everything-just-fell-together trip. Possibly not quite as serendipitous as the Finland trip, which, as some may actually recall, came about because I just happened to go to the Manhattan West Marine to pick up a couple of Eldridges (east coast tide and pilot book and a very handy thing for a tide-sensitive boater to have), ran into Capt. Kat, who was there picking up something of her own, and left with my Eldridges and an invitation to go sailing in the Gulf of Finland (yowza!). 

This time, there was more of a confluence of events, and it was definitely Facebook-driven. I actually can't remember what happened first, but at some point in the fall, Jenn, who I met on the Finland trip and with whom I've stayed in touch, said something to me on Facebook about how she and Captain Kat had been talking about a USVI sailing trip. Around the same time, TQ announced that he wanted to go on vacation -- yowza again!

We haven't really done a just-us vacation since he moved to New York (and in fact for a while before that when he was in PA - that involved a string of weekends in the country for me but for him that was called "home"); we've traveled to a couple of family gatherings and had a couple of pretty nice staycations, but no going away and playing with boats together like we really like to do. In the meantime I've run off and had three adventures without him (Hawaii in 2010 for my 25th reunion, Finland and Estonia in 2012, and of course my solo trip down the Hudson last summer, which we'd actually discussed doing together, but which I'd also dreamed of as a solo trip for years, long before we started dating, so when things fell into place for the solo version, I just did it); I'm not sure whether that makes me a bad girlfriend (because I leave my poor guy at home while I run off and have fun) or a good girlfriend (because I don't guilt-trip him when he can't join me for one reason or another, I just go anyways) but I'm a pretty independent cuss and (to quote that "True Facts About" guy on YouTube) that is how I do.

But he was finally in a position to join me on something now. Fantastic.

At first I'd thought he was talking about something around the Thanksgiving holiday. Short notice, this was already November, but I'd already planned to take that week off and I was game. When he clarified that he was thinking more about a nice thawing-out trip in January, for a moment I was off-balance, because that's not a time when I would usually take vacation, but when I thought about it I realized that that's actually not a bad time at the office - there are a few January projects that would have to be done before I left but some late nights would let me do that, and we don't really start into the budget until February (Really Big Children's Book Company's fiscal year is June to May so late winter into spring is Budget Hell and a vacation request would be met with derision - but January's OK).

So with that in mind, I emailed Jenn and Capt. Kat about their January in the USVI plans - picturing the situation as being that they already had things lined up, and if TQ and I were lucky there would still be space on the boat. As it turned out the deal was nowhere near as done as I'd pictured -- more of a  "Wouldn't it be fun to...?" talk over margaritas. However, when I emailed them saying, "So this trip you have planned, is there any chance...?", things went from theoretical to real in a blindingly (and delightfully) short amount of time - TQ and I were in, Kat and Jenn were serious about it, 2 or 3 more people would make it work. Jenn had another couple in mind, one of her oldest friends, Lenore, going back to elementary school, and Lenore's husband Dave. Lenore had never been on a trip like this but they're an adventurous couple and had loved Jenn's stories from other trips, and when they got the email, there wasn't a moment of hesitation.

Within a few more days, we'd agreed on days (first from Jan 16th - Jan 23rd, then extended to the 26th when we saw that Island Yacht Charters, the charter company in St. Thomas with which Capt. Kat was planning to line up the boat, had a 10-days-for-the-price-of-7 deal right at the time we wanted to be there -- once again YOWZA -- lotsa yowzas going on --). Pretty soon there was a contract for an Island Packet 440 (we'd hoped for a slightly smaller boat but those were all booked), and then we were sending Kat deposit money, and then we were buying plane tickets, and then there was a string of what-to-expect emails (Kat's great at that)...well, this whole flurry of things happened in early to mid-November, so then there was this long period when the trip just seemed so far away, and then it was finally January and I had to start scrambling to get all my work things done and then there was shopping to do (I need shades! I need cute yet practical shoes! I need a long-sleeved white shirt for the middle of the day! I need shorts! Jeeze, do you know how hard it is to find shorts in Manhattan in January? I need books and a journal and pens and bigger SD cards! So needy am I!!!) and then all of the sudden it was the night before and I was up all night obsessing over my packing and then we were driving to the airport and then...

Waiting to board, early in the morning at JFK --

 Land ho! Approaching Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. I think that's Water Island straight down from the wingtip - a few night later we anchored there, that was our jumping-off point for the longish day sail to Vieques. 

Look, sailboats! That'll be us soon! TQ was actually taking these, this being his first trip down here I'd given him the window seat, but I did ask him to take some pictures of the approach. 

 About to land on St. Thomas


 Hurry up and wait. Jenn's flight had gotten in a little late, so she found us here; we got our bags, she led us to the gentleman with the rum samples (how did we miss that guy???), and then it was off by van to find our boat. Let the adventure begin!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I don't even know where to start...

10 days, 6 friends (plus one of the friends' awesome nephew for a couple of days), 5 islands, one very comfy 44' boat -- and 450 photographs (and that's after a major cull). Well, here are a few to start with! Click on the first one for a slideshow view. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sebago sailing...

I couldn't make it because I had errands to run but a couple of clubmates got in a lovely (if cold) day on the water last weekend. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Turnbacktime Tuesday

Because I'm going to be kind of busy on Thursday, and also in honor of FINALLY writing down the last day of my Hudson River paddle in my journal. Yes, I just did that tonight!

Not that I hadn't done a writeup - I did cover that day when I did the trip reporting here on Frogma, which was pretty soon after I got back, but all the other days involved transcribing from my journal. I didn't actually write in the journal on the last day, though - I'd been very good about writing something for all the other days (plus quite a bit about the lead-in with the prep and all) but the day I got back, there was helping Carolina move stuff, getting my boat back to the club, unpacking and showering and lunching and napping and then taking the poor fella who was so sweetly waiting for me at Valentino Park after I'd abandoned him for ten days to go waltzing all over New York State out for some highly deserved sushi. That used up the rest of the day, and then it was back to work, and then once I had the day typed up here I guess I just lost track of getting it into the paper journal. I looked in that journal the other day and was quite surprised to find that it ended in Yonkers! Oops.

Next adventure starts soon - this time TQ gets to come with me (yay!) and although I got a new journal, because the old one was almost finished and I didn't think there would be enough room left for 10 days if sailing in the US Virgin Islands, I just decided that I wanted to have the Hudson River log put to bed before I went.

So that's done, and in honor of that, here are a few pictures from that summer adventure that didn't make it into any of the posts (there was a lot of mileage to cover, literally) but that I'd liked enough that I'd had vague intentions of putting them up. So here you go. If I could turn back tiiiime...

The Bronck Island Flyswatter of Mercy - courtesy of the Hudson River Watertrail Association, my "host" for most of the trip (my campsites were mostly Watertrail sites).

Pretty not-flowers - I think they're actually winged seed pods, but flowerlike in color

Actual flowers, catching the morning sun on Esopus Island

A small riverpool at one of the waterfront parks along the way - fun to see.

USCGC Penobscot Bay - they're breaking ice now, read more about her here.

Some people keep kayaks or rowboats or sailing dinghies on the beach at their waterfront homes. Some people.

Got it in my head that I wanted to take a picture of an Amtrak train looking like a train in a travel poster. This was pretty good. Driver saw me taking pictures as the train approached and gave me a friendly little toot-toot on the horn. I waved and grinned like a kid.

Interesting art/graffiti on a driftwood log

Old building from NYC's Catskill water supply - anybody know more?
Amy Moran waiting for time to go - I'm a member of a Flickr group for Moran tugs, never got around to posting this one.

DEP skimmer Cormorant - mentioned in Tugster.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ice Flight Pix -

Hello from a very chilly NYC! I don't like it much when it's so cold that taking a deep breath outside burns all the way down to the bottom of your lungs, but there's one thing I DO definitely enjoy about the cold weather, and that's watching to see whether the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club is going to get to have a season.

Having a cold snap that lasts for a few days is usually enough to get me checking out

Just thought to check this afternoon - they're not there yet, but there is ice on some stretches of the Hudson and the first ice flight shots are up!  

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Oahu 2010 - Songbird singing on the Aiea Loop Trail

Old Man Winter is finally paying NYC a visit after a delightfully mild start; it's cold and gray and snowy. So how about a distant white-rumped sharma singing in the Hawaiian sun?


I was actually inspired to dig into my files from 2010, when I last made it home to Oahu, by a lovely video of the same kind of bird that was posted yesterday in one of the Facebook Hawaii groups of which I'm a member. I'd filmed this during my hike on the Aiea Loop Trail because the song was so beautiful. I don't recall hearing this song when I came here as a kid but as I mention in the YouTube description, I don't know whether that's because these birds, members of the thrush family introduced from Asia, were not as established back then, or because this time I was hiking quietly on my own and when I came here as a kid, it was always as part of a riotous pack of Girl Scouts. The video's not perfect but it gives the idea (and it's just so nice to watch on a cold and snowy day).

Here's the video that sent me first to the internet to see if I could ID the bird, then to my own files to see if that was the bird I'd heard. I hadn't actually seen it during my hike, just heard it, but Joe gets a good look at his and actually has a whistled conversation!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Goodbye, Captain Doswell

North River Tug Race and Skills Contest, 2006

Welcome speech at the 2012 tug race awards ceremony

Presenting the award for Best Tattoo, 2012

I met John and his life partner Jean Preece back when the Manhattan Kayak Company moved from Chelsea Piers to the incomparable Pier 63, run by the incomparable John Krevey. Krevey passed away a few years ago, he was shockingly young and when I read of his passing it shook me horribly; although Doswell (Krevey and Doswell were both frequently called by their last names) had been ill for a while, it still hit me very hard when I found out yesterday that he was gone. He was such a good guy and I'm so glad I had the chance to know him (and so honored to have been invited to Jean and John's commitment ceremony last August - what a warm and wonderful day that was).

What a loss to our waterfront. I dug out these pictures from a couple of the Great North River Tug Race and Skills Contests that I attended because John was truly in his element as one of the organizers of these unique events.

Rick Spilman over at the Old Salt Blog has done a very good job of summarizing Capt. Doswell's accomplishments, and has also posted Jean's statement on John's passing. Please visit, it's worth the read.

1/5 note: Mai Armstrong, a good friend of John's and one of his close associates at the Working Harbor Committee, posted a fine tribute to him on the Working Harbor blog this morning. Click here to read 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Sebago Frostbite Regatta 2015 Edition!

With a forecast that was clearly and emphatically calling for winds gusting up to 30 mph, TQ and I were half expecting the paddle section of the annual Sebago New Year's Day Frostbite Regatta to be cancelled, but the morning of the 1st dawned with no updates later than the "Come on out, it's gonna be great!" one that went out a day or two in advance. If there'd been rain or snow in addition, I'm pretty sure it would've been off, but it takes some truly foul weather to stop this event (I think the paddle has been called off once since I joined the club in 2006, we'll paddle in snow, we've crunched through the ice, pretty much takes an actual blizzard to shut us down) and aside from the high winds and slightly nippy temperatures it was an absolutely lovely day, so off we went. And two of us saw seals! The winds were just as forecasted though, so just south of the entrance to Mill Basin, half of us cut our paddle short while the other half decided to go look for more seals.

You might be tempted to say that those who went for the distance were the hardcore set, and I do have to admit that this was probably the shortest paddle I have ever gotten winter-geared up for - but those of us who headed back earlier WERE the ones who stopped outside the basin for the traditional New Year's Day rolls, so maybe we can just say it was 2 different kinds of hardcore. At any rate, it was a nice morning out on the water, followed, as usual, by great food and catching-up back at the clubhouse. Happy 2015!

Gusty winds and clumsy neoprene gloves did make taking pictures a little tricky but I did get some nice shots (sorry, no seals, they were peeking, not posing) and have put together a gallery. Click here to view. Happy 2015!