21 August 2009...     The Bad-Assest Waterspout I've Ever Seen

We had a good one downtown a couple of years ago but I missed most of it here on Stock Island.  This one was so awesome because it just wouldn't give up.  It kept dissipating and reforming for 30-40 minutes.  This might be a bit of overkill with the photos, but it's fascinating to see the evolution of it.  It was out over the water so there was no damage and no one was hurt.

July/August 2009...   Canadian Whirlwind Tour

My visits home always feel a little crazy.  A lot of driving and a lot of scheduling to see as many people as possible.  Between friends and family, it usually involves at least 4 locations.  This year, there were actually more locations than that.  Calgary-Jasper-Calgary-Willow Bunch-Assiniboia-Tisdale-Saskatoon-Tisdale-Saskatoon-Calgary and home again.  However, the transitions were smoother this year and there were more gaggles...

The first few days of the trip were spent up in Jasper with some of my Cayman Girlz.  We tried to get all of us together but it didn't really happen -many couldn't make it so it ended up being an impromptu few of us.  However, the small group we had was just enough to fit into a borrowed camper and hang out by the lake for a couple of days.  The last I had seen them was our wedding and, well, I was a bit busy!  It was great getting caught up and Leigh and Andy were great hosts!

Back to Calgary and a brief visit with Terena, Brad & Kids before hopping a ride with an old high school friend back to Willow Bunch for a casual school reunion.  Alain and I had been out of touch for 15 years before Facebook intervened and it was a fun drive home.  We had realized that we didn't actually have a place to stay in our own hometown since both our sets of parents had moved away so we set up camp for the few days we were there.  The Jean Louis Legare Park is set in a beautiful well-treed valley and is home to one of the province's top golf courses.  It is also home to one of my first jobs.  My old schoolbus driver still works there!

The reunion wasn't a truly official one, as it came to life on Facebook.  In fact, there were those who still live there who didn't know about it at all!  Regardless, there were many familiar faces present and I was glad I went for a couple of days.  I don't get down to Willow Bunch that much since the folks don't live there anymore and some people were in attendance that I hadn't' seen in a long time.

Back to Assiniboia briefly, then the whole fam damily packed up campers and cars and drove up to Dad's acreage in Tisdale.  Our main gaggle hung out for a little more than a week, with strays coming and going for visits.  We had huge meals and campfires and relaxed and enjoyed each other's company and it saved me having to chase around to see everyone like I usually do.  What a blessing!  I'm so grateful my family did this, as this visit was much less hairy!

Saskatoon was the place that got ripped off this time around, however, we did manage to hook up with a couple of people between airport runs -twice, as I picked up Travis there for the final week (he was working offshore in the Bahamas, so was only able to make it at the end).  Before we knew it, we were back to Calgary and home to Florida heat.  Thanks to everyone who picked us up, put us up (put UP with us!) and made the time to come out and see us on our schedule.  It was a great visit home.

Photos: Canada 2009

January/February 2009...   Chaos!

We had a lot on our plates at the beginning of the year.  Oy!  I could fill up a webpage with only January and February goings-on.  Where to start?

We spent New Year's Eve moving the canvas shop around the corner to its new location.  The move was trying on all of us for a number of reasons.  I was fresh back from Ohio and we still had projects on the go.  The weather had delayed two big projects and we wanted to have them done before the move since we knew it would be a couple of weeks before we were set up.  And could we afford to be shut down for two weeks -which turned into three?  Travis was multi-tasking as he was working on a 3-week project that kept him offshore long days...  Moving was a task, indeed!  The new place was trashed: it took Travis and Steven a whole day to gut the room.  After that there was much scrubbing, scraping, sanding, painting, etc. etc. etc!!  We could have spent a month and not had the place completely ready to go.  Still, after a lot of late nights, we succeeded in moving from 450 square feet to 950, plus storage out back and upstairs.  What an improvement!  We've also added another machine which means no more jockeying projects.  We're very happy with the new space.  It's clean and airy, it feels good and we get a lot of compliments.

To add to the fun, Calico Jack was hauled out for some major projects just a few days into the New Year.  The hull was sanded right down to the barrier coat and repainted, complete with new graphics.  Fiberglass was added to the roof and another post for our second wind generator was welded to the radar arch so it had to be completely removed.  Rudder bearings replaced... thru-hulls (more holes in the boat!)...    Inside saw many improvements, as well.  A new refrigeration box was constructed, painted and finished with laminate and much of the woodwork was sanded and refinished.  A lot of this work was done by us, as time permitted.  It was labour intensive and exhausting given everything else that was going on, and what a mess!!  Fortunately for us, we had a place to stay.  Travis' boss, Sean, put us up in his guesthouse and even the Brown Dog was invited.  What a blessing!  Honestly, we wouldn't have redone the inside if we hadn't had safe refuge.  Six weeks in the yard with the inside of the boat torn up would have been the end of our sanity.  Seriously.  Have you ever slept in fiberglass dust?

Photos: The Yard

In the middle of all this, Miss Sadie had another incident -an encounter with a german shepherd that didn't turn out in her favour.  The kid stood her own but she came out of the altercation with a nickel-sized hole in her hind quarter.  She departed the vet's with stitches and a conehead.  Ya, she doesn't do well with the cone so it was a fulltime job just watching her to make sure she didn't lick the wound open.  Like she isn't a handful already! We tried everything to keep her away from it but she did manage to escape our watchful eyes a couple of times.  We superglued it shut, as recommended by the vet.  Tell someone you have to go glue the hole in your dog's butt shut and just see if you don't get some funny looks!

In an effort to keep her from chewing her stitches, I got creative with an old shirt.  The first attempt turned out like hip-hop pants.  Hilarious, but not so effective.  Much like actual hip-hop pants, they fell off her butt despite the packing tape.  The knotted t-shirt/dress a la Daisy Duke was much more functional, without robbing us of the "hilarious" factor.

January also saw a trip to the University of Miami for the opening of John's exhibit.  He is Travis' Mom's husband and an artist, a genius with many mediums, especially wood.  As Mary went through many lengthy treatments and hospital stays, John used art as his outlet.  He sat working in the waiting room one day when one of the doctors complimented his work and suggested he do something with it.  The first exhibit was set up at Mass General Hospital in the summer of 2000, a tribute to Mary's valiant fight with ovarian cancer and a stark educational tool all in one.  Since then, it has traveled to seventeen cities throughout the country raising funds, awareness and hope for ovarian cancer research.  The exhibit recently found a permanent home in Philadelphia.

Key West Sail & Canvas was open again by the 3rd week of January and by mid-February CJ was back in the water.  It took much longer than that to get both shop and home put back together completely, but at least we were somewhat settled again.

Top of Page

March 2009...   Sucker for Punishment

I was back to Ohio for another 2 weeks of canvas school and it was just as cold as it was in December!  Another brown-out for Port Clinton as I cranked the heat in my hotel room...  My classes were in advanced canvas techniques and it was amazing how it all seemed to come together in my head.  I learned a lot and it's definitely made me better in the shop.

March 2009...   Mako

As the Propellor Turns...  2009
April 2009...   The Bloody Battle 2009

Even though we were still in the thick of things, TowBoat Ranger wasn't engaging in battle this year.  The result?  Much better photos of our annual food fight at sea!  For the full story on this event, check out 2008's log here.

Photos:  The Bloody Battle 2009

May 2009...   Costa Rica

We travel a lot.  I often say it's because the only way I can score a day off with Travis is to physically remove him from the country and leave his phone behind!

For our first anniversary, I was planning a surprise trip to Costa Rica.  Travis had never been there before and I'd told him how much I'd enjoyed my visit to the volcano, hot springs and rainforest.  However, when he started talking about the taxes we owed and the projects we had lined up, I decided to put the trip on the back burner.

Then one day, after several consecutive weeks of work and burned out, he discovered that we had accumulated a ton of airmiles on the credit card.

-"Wanna go to Cayman for a long weekend?"

-"Ummmm... Wanna go to Costa Rica?!"

So off we went for a week.  We flew into San Jose and immediately transferred to La Fortuna, a little town at the foot of Arenal Volcano.  Travis was surprised by a gorgeous view from our hotel balcony the next morning!  This was our base for the next few days as we packed in everything we could possibly see in the area.  We hiked up to La Fortuna Waterfalls, hiked through the forest around the volcano and even went cave spelunking.  Shimmying through the tight spots in the caves was one of the high points of the trip and Travis may have just found his new career should this whole boating thing not work out!

We spent our actual anniversary day at the posh Tabacon Hot Springs.  This beautifully landscaped resort has over a dozen pools fed by a steaming river from the volcano.  They vary from very natural pools lined with tropical foliage, to the swim-up pool bar where one ought to remember that the boozy goodness from that coconut hits your system a little faster when you're soaking in hot water -I was more careful this time around!!  We enjoyed lunch and dinner and a wonderful massage to relax for the day.

We could have spent another week in La Fortuna, there was so much to do.  However, there was more to see elsewhere so we made our way to the Monteverde area by boat and van.  The cloudforest is magical here and we enjoyed both day and night tours in the area, checking out the local wildlife.  Also a highlight was the canopy tour -zipping along cables that had us dangling high above the valleys up to 450ft high over a distance of 2500 ft.  How crazy that we were responsible for our own braking -that would never fly in the US!

While we were only gone a week, we packed each day with so many activities that it felt like a good solid time away -literally dragging our butts out of bed every morning saying, "Ok, what's next?!".  And it was a well-deserved break for Travis as he was on day 65 when we passed his phone on to the next poor sucker before we left- sorry Glen!

Since we never took our honeymoon we have decided that we would like to take a trip each anniversary, as long as we can afford it.  It seems like a good tradeoff!  Second anniversary: the Inca Trail in Peru.

Photos:  Costa Rica

Video:  Extremo Canopy Tour Tarzan Swing:

Top of page

May 2009...   Sinking the Vandenberg

The old shop.  It was only 450 sq. feet, but still one of the busiest shops in the Keys!We were really packed in here. In an effort to make do with the old space, we had expanded our table to take up almost all of the open area.  It still wasn't enough.The new shop, just around the corner in the same building.950 sq. feet here in the shop, plus we have the whole upstairs open for storage.  There are also 175 sq. feet of locked storage out the back door.Our old shop was about half the size of this table! HeadquartersThe brown dogs like the new shop, too.
Shrimp boats at Safe Harbour
John and his piece "Day17"The FamilyA fantastic photo of Travis and his Uncle Bill.  This is "Echo", John's latest piece for the exhibit.Janet with "Survivor"John and Annie.  She is taking an active role in promoting the exhibit as well.
This was a cash dare:  he made $100.
"Artificial Reefs of the Keys is a non-profit group in Key West, working to bring the de-commissioned USAFS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg to our waters to become an artificial reef. At over 520 feet and 13,000 tons, this will be the largest ship ever intentionally sunk for this purpose. This ship will become a world-class diving and fishing destination, but it will also offer many other benefits to the environment and to education and research. Meticulously cleaned and prepared, the vessel will become a habitat and breeding site for countless marine species."
"The ex-USAFS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg has seen a long and varied history, commissioned twice and serving two services under two different names. Launched in 1944 as the troop transport USNS Gen. Harry Taylor, she served in the Pacific, and later as a "Magic Carpet" ship bringing troops home from the ETO. Taylor was the first ship back in New York after VJ Day. After the war, Taylor transported European refugees to new lives in the US and Australia. Many of those voyages departed from Bremerhaven, Germany and traveled to New York. Called to action again in 1957, the ship transported refugees from the valiant, though failed, Hungarian Revolution to Australia. In 1961, she was acquired by the US Air Force and completely re-fitted as a missile-tracking vessel, carrying the highest technology of the day. Newly commissioned in 1963 as Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, she served in the Cold War between the super powers and in early NASA programs."
"The Vandenberg Artificial Reef will be a world-class site for all levels of diving experience. The keel and screw will rest at 140' The tops of the bridge, com rooms, crow's nest and the vast dish antennas will be only 40' below the surface in normally clear gulf stream waters. Lying outside the reef line, about 6 miles offshore, the wreck will often be visible even to snorkelers and glass bottom boats. This site will be the signature dive of Key West and the Florida Keys, and will become one of the most famous warm-water wrecks in the world. All 4 upper decks will be opened to divers, with access vertically through the 18 stair towers, elevator shafts, and cargo holds. The spaces will also be accessible horizontally through 7x10' holes in the hull. The fuel tanks, tank-top, and first platform will be sealed and ballasted to insure upright positioning."
Preparation for sinking has taken months of inspections and cleanup to remove contaminants. Workers hauled off more than a million feet of wire, 1,500 vent gaskets, dozens of watertight steel doors, 81 bags of asbestos, 193 tons of potentially cancer-causing substances, 46 tons of garbage that could come loose and float to the surface, 300 pounds of materials containing mercury and 185 55-gallon drums of paint chips.

All to the tune of $8.6 million.

What's most remarkable, though, is that it took over 10 years to complete the project!  This event has been highly anticipated by both dive shops and Key West in general to boost tourism here in the Southernmost City.  "Sink the Vandenberg" bumper stickers abound and I've been hearing chatter about it since my arrival here in 2003.  It is expected that tourism revenues will be up to $8 million.
27 June 2009...  Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Airplane

Travis tried to kill me for my birthday.  It was a blast!  Freefalling for 40 seconds at 120mph kinda sucks the saliva out of your mouth. 

And the dirt spot on my shorts is from the landing.  Yes, I've heard it already: the brown smudge is from the outside, not the inside, thank you very much.

Video: Skydive Key West

Since TowBoatUS had a hand in helping with the sinking, we scored front-row seats to the event.  We were able to approach closer  than the perimeter that was set up for almost everyone else.  There were plenty of bitter people expressing their displeasure on the VHF radio!  We were all aboard this barge along with National Geographic who filmed the whole event.  Explosives attached to the vessel's hull were detonated  and she sank in less than 2 minutes, as predicted by the people in charge.  It was flawless, and she sits neatly on the bottom exactly as planned.
Way cool having such an interesting piece of history right here.  By the way, Travis and I had the approval to be married on the bow of the Vandenberg.  We decided against it for a nujmber of reasons.  Only the two of us and Janet would have been allowed on board -the rest of you would have been spectators from the dock.  Also, everyone would have needed to be cleared for access onto the coast guard base.  However, on the up side,  our wedding photos would have had us donning hardhats!  How cool would that have been?!

(Yup, tried to detail all the stats myself, but noone says it like the pros.  Excerpts taken from www.bigshipwrecks.com.  Check it our for more photos and info).

Video: The Sinking of the USAFS Vandenberg

Top of Page
S/V Calico Jack
01 July 2009...   Introducing Jackie

It was high time we needed an extra set of hands at the shop.  Jackie and I had met at the canvas school in Ohio when I was there in December and we had kept in touch so I gave her a call.  She proclaimed that there weren't "enough boats in her life" and she was down here as soon as she could wrap things up at home.  Travis found her a boat to live on and a cheap slip here at the end of our dock.  The boat is a baby Calico Jack, a 30-foot Chris Craft Capri with a dark blue hull.  We dubbed her Calico Jackie!  She was, however, a fixer-upper (cheap boats DO come at a price!) and Jackie stayed with us here on the mother ship for about a month and a half as she cleaned, painted, hooked up plumbing & electrical, etc.  It's great having her here and she's been a lifesaver at the shop -it's seldom we work a weekend anymore, yay!

This is a photo of Jackie in the impossible pretzel cushion we busted our butts on.  I tell ya, this thing defied the laws of physics!

22 August 2009...   Our First Dive on the Vandenberg

It was a lovely day, but wow, the current was screaming!  As I struggled on the surface to get down I almost had the mask ripped off my face.  We followed the buoy line down and it was better once we were tucked up in the wreck but as you can see in the photos, we're all still holding on -as carefully as possible so as not to damage marine life.  Once down, I wondered why I had Medusa hair -the current was so strong it absconded with my scrunchie!  Still, despite mildly adverse conditions and my first encounter with fire coral, it was a nice dive.
4 October 2009...   Weekend Camping Trip

I suppose our camping trips are a little different than those of most people.  We don't have to worry so much about what to pack and what we've left behind...  just need to make sure there's enough rum and ice!

Boca Grande is only a few hours away by Calico Jack Power and so there's very little excuse not to get out there more often -except for life getting in the way, that is.  When we got back from our Caribbean trip, we vowed that we'd get off the dock at least once a month.  Hm.  We've only been averaging 2-3 times/year, how sad!  In any case, we always enjoy our excursions to Boca Grande.  It's usually quiet, there's a nice beach to kayak the dog to and if we anchor far enough away there are no bugs to contend with (learned that one the hard way!).  This time, though, we had some company -some planned and some pleasant surprises but it turned into a weekend of good fun AND a good test of our new anchor system!  Overnight, we had two other boats rafted up to us.  We were in a ripping current and the change of tide meant that we clocked a complete 360 degrees and the anchor held.  The following day: the same three boats, plus two other smaller fishing boats, plus a skiff and a kayak.  ALL on our one anchor!  Recall our disappointment with our old anchor system -we almost ended up with a beachfront condo in Mexico the first week of our big trip.  From that point on, anytime the wind picked up in the night my head popped up and I was awake, concerned that it would happen again.  I am rejoicing for this new anchor system means a better night's sleep for me!!

Photos: Boca Grande Oct09

6 November 2009...   New Vehicular Unit

We are now a 6-wheel, one propellor family.  Meet the new baby: 2002 Honda Shadow Spirit 750cc.  Since I haven't been riding in about 15 years, I wasn't planning on going over 650cc but she was available locally, in great shape and at a good price.  My weekend joyride.

15 November 2009...   Powerboat Races: What Travis Does

Once a year, the floating Harleys come to town.  I say that because when those engines start up here at our marina it sounds like somebody has parked a Harley Davidson on the bow of our boat.  More peaceful alarm clocks there have been!  Still, it's good revenue for the city at a slower time of year even if we must endure more puffy-chested men parading around town with their arm candy than usual.

Every year, TowBoat is employed for the races.  Free of charge, they will pull any boat off the course should it become disabled, i.e. the engine dies, and bring it to safe port.  Yep, the company is out there free of charge to the boaters, not being reimbursed for fuel or labour.  They make their money only if a salvage is to be performed, i.e. the boat is wrecked/flipped/sinking/sunk.  They do this at a price that is agreed upon by the race committee and discussed with the racers at a meeting ahead of time.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  If only!  TowBoat is treated like a band of scheming pirates.  In fact, one comment overheard by the boss' girlfriend at the bar would indicate that they think our boys follow them around the race circuit like buzzards, waiting to profit from their misfortune.  Every year it gets worse as the boaters refuse to pay TowBoat for their services when required.  This year, Travis was told, "F@#$ you, sue me."  I was out there one of the race days this year and was disgusted by their attitude towards the people who are out there to help them.  Next year, they'll find themselves thrown to the REAL buzzards, as TowBoat has decided that the races aren't worth the bad publicity. 

Ahem, please excuse my strong opinions.  At the very least, the following photos will give you an indication of what it is that Travis does, even if only a small part of it.

Photos: Powerboat Races 2009

24 November 2009...   Travis' Birthday Trip

We still had our airmiles saved up so we decided to take off for a long weekend in Grand Cayman.  On the agenda: some days off for Travis, some banking, some chillin' with friends and some fun diving.  Travis' requirements for fun diving are simple: the absence of oil or diesel and maybe something more fun to look at than the bottom of a Coast Guard cutter!  We managed to accomplish all goals and even squeezed in a birthday brunch and some playtime with the stingrays.  It was a nice weekend of relaxing with good food, good friends and a cocktail or two.

Photos:  Grand Cayman Nov09

Captain Travis & CrystalJennifer & CristianJeanne & DarrenChristmas Cheer!
12 December 2009...   Key West Lighted Boat Parade

Our annual Christmas fun and this year Calico Jack was up.  We came to realize that simple, thoughtful and classy will never win over loud, obnoxious overkill -and that's just fine with us!!  We had a great time as we always do.  The apple cider was piping hot and delicious, the company grand and the Brown Dog well-behaved as everyone came by the dock for a visit afterwards.  We stayed the night downtown and brought CJ back home in the morning.
As the propellor turns...