Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to Scout!

Scout looking all 'aw shucks' over the attention he's getting at his birthday partyScout turned one year old yesterday, April 28. To celebrate the occasion, his doggie daycare people at the Animal Nanny ( threw him a big party, the first one they've ever done for one of their clients.

I took a few photos when Nan and I dropped Scout off in the morning and then Colin, the owner of the business, took a bunch during the party later in the afternoon. I have put them all together into a slideshow, along with a soundtrack of the Monkees singing "Happy Birthday to You" from their old movie, Head. Here's the Windows Media Player version of the slideshow: And here's the Apple QuickTime version, which is higher quality: Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sailing the Spanish Virgin Islands, Part 1

Captain John smiling from the helm as we depart St. ThomasCaptain John Kretschmer's original plan called for picking Nan and me up at the St. Thomas airport in his inflatable dinghy. Honestly. He was going to anchor in Lindberg Bay, which is right next to the airport terminal, so all we would need to do is lug our heavy baggage across the parking lot and down the rocks to the water. In the dark. With no predetermined meeting place. Fortunately, we received an email message from John's wife Tadji the day before we left indicating that we should meet John at Crown Bay Marina instead.

I called John from the airport to find out that he and the rest of the crew were waiting for us at the marina's restaurant. Crown Bay is just two bays east of Lindberg Bay, so the taxi ride was a quick one. As we passed the parking lot for the beach at Lindberg Bay, I told the driver that we were originally supposed to meet our captain in that vicinity. He looked over his shoulder at me and said in a serious tone that it was not a safe place to be at night. A look at the broken glass and empty beer cans littering the parking lot confirmed it. After a short drive through a marine industrial area, we came to Crown Bay. The driver pointed down a walkway bordering the water as he unloaded our bags and said that the restaurant was on the left at the end.

From a waterfront table, John stood up to give us both big hugs and then introduced us to Dallas Murphy and Genie Leftwich, who would be joining us on the five-day sail to Ponce, Puerto Rico. The three of them were nice enough to hold off on ordering dinner until we arrived even though it was almost 9:30 when we arrived. We ordered cold drinks and seafood dinners, and settled into conversation about our upcoming trip, sailing and writing. Dallas is an accomplished author of both fiction and non-fiction works, most recently of To Follow the Water: Exploring the Ocean to Discover Climate. His girlfriend Genie is the managing editor of Fitness Magazine. They live in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side. John, too, is a writer, the author of At the Mercy of the Sea and a columnist for Sailing Magazine. Nan mentioned that I was writing a book about Charlie, our golden retriever who died of cancer last April, and that turned the talk to dogs. Dallas and Genie were considering getting a dog again after having owned two dogs together in the past, but they weren't sure if they could handle the eventual loss of another one. It was clear that six years later, they were still mourning their beloved Pippa.

Dallas showing Nan how to coil and hank a dock line on the first day outQuetzal, John's 47-foot Kaufman cutter, was conveniently slipped at the next dock over from the restaurant. She looked good with her stout new Selden mast, replacing the one that was lost in a tornado over in Grado, Italy late last summer. Nan and I tossed our bags in the starboard aft berth and unpacked a couple of gifts, a couple of sets of heavy-duty plastic drinking glasses for the boat and a loaf of Nan's home-made pumpkin bread to share later. With bedtime approaching, we thought of the sleeping bags we had packed, reasoning that it would still be cool in mid-April, but it was so warm that night and all week that we never needed them.

We were up early the next morning, excited to get underway. After cups of coffee in the cockpit, it was time to grab a quick marina shower, the last one until we reached Ponce since there is no hot water on the boat due to a persistent problem with the heat exchanger. While the rest of us wandered around the marina, window shopping and checking email, John went to get some final provisions and check us out of St. Thomas with the customs office. When everyone was back onboard, we cast off the lines and motored out into West Gregerie Channel. After reaching open water, we rounded up, raised the mainsail and unfurled the jib, and steered westward with the Trade Winds in a nice broad reach. We were off and sailing to our first destination, Culebra.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ponce, Puerto Rico

Parque de Bombas on Plaza las Delicias in Ponce, Puerto RicoGreetings from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Nan and I are off the boat after an enjoyable one-week cruise from St. Thomas.

We met up with John Kretschmer, Dallas Murphy and Genie Leftwich at the Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas on Sunday night and set sail on Quetzal, John's 47-foot Kaufman sailboat, the following morning.

Catedral Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe on Plaza las Delicias in Ponce, Puerto RicoWe moored and anchored at locations on Culebra and Vieques in the Spanish Virgin Islands and then sailed on to the Puerto Rican mainland, ending at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club on Friday afternoon. I will put together a description of our sailing trip, complete with photos, when we get back home.

On Saturday morning, John caught an early flight home, and Dallas and Genie opted to stay on the boat. Nan and I took a taxi into town and checked into the Hotel Melia on Plaza las Delicias. We wandered around the plaza, sat on a bench eating ice cream from King's Cream, and checked into trolley rides and restaurants for later. Dallas and Genie met us for an excellent evening of dinner and talk at Cafe de Tomas.

Today we will take the sight-seeing trolley around town, tour the Museo de Arte de Ponce, and maybe meet Dallas and Genie again for lunch or dinner. We fly home early tomorrow morning by way of San Juan and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Scout's Graduation

Scout graduating from his first PetSmart classAt Nan's prompting, Scout and I enrolled in a Beginner Education class at our local PetSmart at the beginning of February. Over the course of eight Monday nights, we worked on all the training basics, and he did pretty well for an eleven-month-old puppy. He still has difficulty with stays due to his extremely short attention span, but he's got the rest of it down fairly well, including sit, down, watch me, leave it, drop it, and heel, plus some that I taught him outside of class, like shake, this way, where's the ball/toy, and roll over.

What I learned was the magic of the clicker as a reinforcement tool and that Scout will do absolutely anything to get a treat, running through his entire repertoire of tricks when he can't figure out what I want him to do. We'll keep working on it and maybe enroll in the Intermediate class sometime soon.

Monday was graduation day. Scout and his classmate Greta donned their mortarboards and received their diplomas. Monday was also the first anniversary of Charlie's death. I couldn't help but think of him often that day and wonder if Scout will turn out as well as he did.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My father's regret

When we were back home in Wisconsin last summer, my father said something to me that has stuck in my mind. He said he regretted not getting more involved with sailing.

Naturally, my father was instrumental in getting me involved with sailing as a boy during our summer vacations, even buying the family an AMF Alcort Minifish in 1969. But he didn't really pursue it much beyond that level, except for a single terrible experience with seasickness on Lake Michigan while crewing on a friend's racing sailboat many years ago. I don't think he has sailed at all since then, but time seems to have changed his feelings about sailing now to ones of regret.

In thinking about my father, I am trying to figure out a way to include him somehow in my sailing dreams. Most of the recent effort in my "boat quest" has focused on the southeast coast for this reason. My parents own a vacation home on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia, which would make a perfect home base from which to undertake retrofits and launch shake-down cruises in anticipation of a circumnavigation. If I could find the right boat and sail it to Savannah, I can envision my father and me working together on repair projects, and taking Nan and my mother on sailing trips to Hilton Head and Charleston. It would be an opportunity for me to help my father overcome his regret and to give back something meaningful to the man who has given me so much.