Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Days on the lake and visit from Ric & Rose

VALOIS, New York, USA - When we first arrived back after our California trip, everyone asked us if we had brought back good weather.

Somehow, we did - or at least we are going to take credit for it.

The weather has been great with lots of boating (and outside projects) and also featured a visit from friends Ric Brown and his wife Rosemary Papa from Sacramento. Ric retired this year from Sacramento State after serving as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Faculty used to say he was the last honest man in the administration at the University. Don't get me started on all that. I'm retired, too, after all.

Ric's wife Rosemary ran the Center for Teaching and Learning at the university, about the only bright spot around the school which was (and is) much beloved by faculty. The center, of course, was (is?) under constant attack from - you guessed it - the administration. Don't get me started on that, either.

The subject of the university never really came up - we were too busy wine tasting at Lamoureaux Landing and also out on the Spirit of Louise for a tour of both the east and west sides of the lake. No Lamoureaux Landing wine was consumed on that voyage but when I opened the champagne and lost the cork overboard (OK, I was trying to hit a seagull with it), we did polish off the bottle.

wine conference
Ric studies the wine list while the Admiral and I confer

Rose on the bow
Rosemary and the Admiral on the bow

Rick at the helm
Rick at the helm, with a captainly looking cigar

Our boating has been slightly hampered by the sudden growth of seaweed - so thick that we actually got stuck several days ago right off the end of the dock and had to shift the boat motor in and our of gear several times to break free.

A little problem when you go to back up

After that experience, we borrowed a weedcutter from cousin Ruth Bills and my mornings now include a half-hour or so of weed harvesting - usually when there is a nice offshore breeze blowing. Otherwise, it all comes ashore and smells like Lake Erie did in the 1970s when industrial pollution killed everything in the lake.

Don't get me started on that, either.

Today's project, in case you are interested, is plumbing - repair and replacing the toilet and system in the guest cabin.

Give me those weeds on the lake anytime.

weed cutter
Weed-cutting tool

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The last party on Sabbatical - at least until?

ALAMEDA, Calif., USA - The last cocktail party in a looooong series of such things was held last Saturday on Sabbatical in her slip at Marina Village, commemorating six years of ownership/cruising and the transfer of the ship back to her builder, Don Tiffin.

Don will be arriving in Alameda this week to start getting the boat ready for a trip across the Pacific and asked me for a list of things I would suggest he do before he starts out.

Quite the reversal, as I am usually on the receiving end of such lists.

The party including Dan & Lorraine Olsen, their sons Scott and Lance, as well as Capt. Sanders Lamont (who just moved his boat Good News to the slip across the dock). And, of course, the Admiral and I were there with son Dylan, too, from Berkeley.

And the headline says last party with a question mark because Don Tiffin has already invited us to come back to the ship when we return to California in September. By then he will have worked at least partway through that list I'm preparing and a celebration will definitely be in order.

Three Olsens
Scott, Lorraine & Lance Olsen

Last cocktails on Sabbatical
A subdued party - compared to most

While Captain Lamont and I were readying Sabbatical for her party guests early in the afternoon, we spotted a rare sight on the sailing vessel in the slip directly adjacent to Sabbatical (and across the dock from Good News) - a sunbather. While Alameda can get warm, it's rare someone gets brave enough to wear a bathing suit.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo was taken strictly for historical purposes to note the rarity of the event.)

Neighbor at marina
Sunworshiper in Alameda

The weekend also included a surprise visit - in Sacramento - from Alex Schwartz, Alex of the Seneca Lake/Horseheads, NY Schwartz clan, now a student at Sacramento State and a resident of Davis, Calif., where he resides with his girlfriend.

Alex pedaled the 15 or so miles from Davis to Sacramento and stopped by to say hello, where by happenstance his cousin, our son Dylan was about, cutting a deal to buy our much-loved (and much driven) red Miata, purchased three years ago from Alex's father, Dan. (Is all this as confusing to you as it is to me?)

Alex, Sylvia and Dylan
Alex, Sylvia and Dylan

Dylan head out in new wheels
Dylan give the new-owner wave

What I neglected to give Dylan, before he headed out Sunday, was the same kind of list that I have to give Don Tiffin for Sabbatical - the car needs new rear brakes, there is a troubling oil drip from the transmission and the back window in the convertible top has given up all its stitching in favor of the always-open mode - great in summer, less great in the rain.

Cars and boats have a lot in common.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The tale of the lost pooch has a happy ending

- The tale of the lost dog ended happily late Saturday when the owners of 'Cassie' showed up to pick her up.

It turned out she lives about 15 blocks away and had dug herself out of her backyard, wanting a little free running room.

She got it, but unfortunately, couldn't find her way home after a little burst of freedom.

Her very-worried owners posted a notice with the local Animal Shelter, which Admiral Fox contacted and after a few phone calls, the dog is now back with her family and we have a very nice 5-pound bag of dog food for the next stray that takes up residence in our front yard.

Case closed.

Cassie the dog goes home
Happy to be at home

What to do with a lost canine who has adopted us

- This morning's walk was interrupted before it even began when we found a pooch, wide-awake, camped out on our front lawn.

At first, the dog was very skittish - she jumped up when Admiral Fox approached and looked like she was going to bolt. But after a handful of dog treats thrown in her direction, and a few motherly mutterings by the Admiral, she calmed down.

And right now she is sleeping at my feet inside the house, having eaten enough dog treats and chicken strips to fill the belly of a dog twice her size. She has also made herself completely at home by taking a world-class dump in the middle of the backyard.

Admiral and new friend
Admiral makes a new friend

We sprang into action when we found her at 7 a.m. and within an hour we had a notice (and photo) posted on Craig's List, as well as posters with a photo of the dog posted all around the neighborhood. Unfortunately on many of the light poles where I posted my signs there were lots of other notices for lost dogs and cats, too, sprinkled with those ubiquitous yard sale signs.

And so the burning question is what-the-hell-to-do with this pooch?

She's not flying to New York with us Monday at 6:35 a.m.. (And whether she is a she or a he has not been determined.)

But at the same time, while taking her to the dog pound (ok, Animal Shelter) is an option, the likelihood she will be found by her real owners there - or adopted - is remote at best.

I hear the question: Yes, the dog has a collar; no, she is not sporting any tags.

This adventure will have to play out for the rest of the day and perhaps Sunday before it's resolved.

A lost python on the front lawn would have been a lot easier to deal with.

Well, maybe.

Lost dog
Do I look familiar?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Caught by surprise and without my camera handy

ACRAMENTO, California, USA
- The doorbell rang about 10 a.m. this morning, a ding-dong that would bring Jimmy Hoffa back from wherever he rests.

I knew it wasn't the UPS or FedEX guys - or even any of my neighbors. Nobody, I mean nobody rings doorbells in Sacramento, unless they are with the Jehovah's Witnesses on a neighborhood sweep for lost souls.

Now if you think this is going to be a rant about those people who go door-to-door, handing out Watchtowers and keeping an even keel while people slam doors in their faces (and worse) you are dead wrong.

But a doorbell? Kee-rist (sorry).

Aha, I thought, looking through the stained glass window.

On my doorstep were two of the most gorgeous blonde women I have seen outside the pages of Playboy magazine. (I read the magazine for the articles, like everyone else, but the women are hard to miss.)

I realized that I had been harsh in saying that the only group in Sacramento who would ever ring a doorbell was linked to the Witnesses. I had forgotten about the one group of people ranked down at the bottom of the social order with journalists, used car hacks and lawyers - Realtors!

So when I cracked the door (after quickly making sure my shirt wasn't sporting any remants of my morning's tea) I expected that these two long-legged women would quickly ask me if I was interested in selling the house, or if any neighbors might be willing to talk with them.

But that's not what they wanted. They asked me if they could help me with my soul.

Nope, they weren't demons, I was right the first time, Jehovah's Witnesses. And looking up and down the street, I quickly saw that it wasn't just the two runway models on my doorstep. Damn near (oops, sorry again) every doorway up and down 4th Avenue had two well-dressed tall blondes ringing doorbells. I was so stunned I neglected to run and get a camera. Without a photo, I find it hard to believe myself, now 12 hours later.

But what a great strategy for the Witnesses. Instead of guys in poorly fitted suits, or mothers dragging kids, you have a pair of every middle-aged man's dreamboats showing up on the doorstep. Hell (oops, sorry one more time), I even took the literature and dawdled at the front door for a few minutes before the two angels wandered off to find other souls to save.

One neighbor up the street - who golfs religiously every Sunday - kept chatting so long with them while he raked his yard that he wore his newly planted grass down to bare soil in a three-foot circle.

I'm sure he'll tell his wife the gardener did it, though he could be more accurate and quote the late Flip Wilson:

"The devil made do it!"

typical jehovah's witness rep
A more typical doorbell ringer

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Off the lake and into the air to Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - There has been a lot of water under the keel since I last posted anything - and a lot of air miles, too.

Close readers will notice that this is being entered from Sacramento.

Sacramento? What the hell????

We received word a few days ago from Don Tiffin - former owner of Sabbatical, about to become owner of Sabbatical again - that he would be winging his way from Australia to San Francisco to take delivery of the ship early next week. And so, frequent-flier miles in hand, we bravely boarded a Southwest Airlines' flight from Buffalo, NY to Sacramento early Wednesday morning. Very early Wednesday morning.

And it went off without a hitch. I mean, the flight attendants were even, well, pleasant.


But before all that, we had lots of adventures and a few minor mishaps.

Spirit of Louise gets towed home
The Spirit of Louise gets towed home by cousin Roger

After days of fun - and about 18 gallons of gasoline - the now-named Spirit of Louise pontoon boat (named for Sylvia's mother) had its first serious hiccup, a burned-up waterpump in the engine. We were headed home after a day of touring the lake when suddenly some white steam started coming out of exhaust port where water is supposed to stream out. The Admiral spotted it before it became an issue and already the folks at Morgan Marine have fixed it so we can pick it up when we return in about a week. I burned up a lot of those pumps on Lake Chautaqua many years ago.

Spirit of Louise captain relaxes
Relaxing at the Bills' dock early in the day

We had plenty of wild boat times before that, with a good part of it spent down at Ruth and John Bill's dock. July 3 - arguably the nicest day on the water I've had in years, we swam off the dock and also watched cousin Roger pulling a three-person tube with his boat (that can go about 70 mph). I had the opportunity to jump into the tube and ride with Jen Bills and her friend Kristen, but decided that my slowly healing shoulders might not be able to stand the excitement. To show how conservative I am about these shoulders, the Admiral encouraged me to climb in the tube and I still opted out.

Carumba! What was I thinking?

Instead, Jen's cousin, Brett (Roger's son) hopped in the tube for a wild run around the bay. Only a single scream punctuated the air when they took one particularly sharp turn. I'm not sure if any of the three owned up to who let out the yelp.

When three is not a crowd
When three is definitely not a crowd

Jen & Kristen test the waters
Jen and Kristen test the waters before the tube ride

The adventures of early July included an old fashioned barn raising, except that there wasn't a barn, it was a dock. And instead of a legion of Amish farmers and women dressed like the 19th century, it was a lot of sunburned beer drinkers in bathing suits, adding a new piece onto the dock at the Bills, a dock that now will have nice shady deck for those broiling days.

A nautical barn raising
Karl, Jen & Michael pound nails

Nautical barn raising with Jen & Michael
Jen and Michael hammer away

As in any construction project, it's important to have the right tools and so when I arrived to work on the deck, I discovered that John Bills had made sure that the nailing crew would remain hydrated through the day by putting a cooler full of cold drinks on the end of the dock. We dipped into the cooler lightly early in the project - our fingers needed protection from poorly aimed hammers, after all - but by 3 p.m. when the deck was all but permanently tapped into place, we relaxed.

Right tools for the right job
Keeping hydrated is important

Although being back in Sacramento for a short time is fun, (like having lunch with daughter Anne today and getting to see grandaughter Samantha over the weekend and next week, too), my mind is already thinking about a proposed new stairway to the water at the Valois house, the three huge bonfires we are going to have with the debris from the beach cleanup, and getting back out on the Spirit of Louise with our dock-building mates and everyone else.

Captain Karl at the helm
Karl take a turn at the helm

But first there are some California adventures ahead, too, including going on a San Francisco Bay cruise with several hundred newspaper publishers tomorrow night - one of the Admiral's perks for being a California Newspaper Publishers Association consultant.

I'll try not to mention that I use Craig's List all the time and haven't bought - or even read - a classified advertisement in a newspaper in probably three or four years. If I do slip up and mention Craig's list, I'll make sure I am nowhere near the edge of the boat. Accidents happen when you mix smartass Journalism professors, free liquor and newspaper publishers who are watching their advertising revenues spiral down like water in a kitchen sink.

The SF Bay water is only about 59 degrees right now. Hell, that's colder than Seneca Lake.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The boat is secure, the hot tub is, well, hot...

VALOIS, New York, USA - Our Mexico (and California) amigos Dan & Lorraine Olsen arrived two days ago, bringing with them some colder weather after a visit with their son Scott in Chicago. (It was about 42 degrees last night.) But since they arrived we have started the Great Beach Cleanup Project (nearly done) and tied up the Lady Louise FloteBote more securely to project the ship (ok, boat) from summer storms.

Yes, it seems like Lady Louise is sticking as a name for the boat, but lobbying for another name is heavy - very heavy.

Despite the colder weather yesterday, I waded out into the chest-deep water to add some heavy docklines to secure the boat. The lake temperature was in the 70s last week (some people claimed), but now I would bet it's in the mid 60s.

But the hot tub - after two days of slow heating - is finally up to its max of 104 degrees.

Hot tub therapy
Michael thaws out slowly after a dip in the lake

Later last evening a windstorm rolled down the lake from the north (don't put too much money in the forecasts from Wunderground.com, at least for this part of the globe), testing my work, which I am happy to report held just fine. With luck it will warm up today enough to take a little lake tour. Wunderground.com says it will be cold all day. Hmmm...

As July 4th looms, people are starting to arrive at the lake and the sound of fireworks started last night and will continue through next weekend, I'll bet. Recent arrivals included Sylvia's brother Dan and his wife Diane, and Sylvia's other brother David. A family party is in the works for tonight from which there should be lots of photos. We have some of the finest of box wines in the refrigerator already chilling. (Thank God for my camera's autofocus.)

Roger & Nancy's soiree II
Ruth Bills (left) with Dan & Diane Schwartz

Our July 4th plans include a cruise down the lake to Watkins Glen to watch the fireworks from the deck of the Lady Louise (work on that name, will you please?) weather permitting. If we do head down, we will be bobbing around in the waves with several hundred other boats, all vying to see who can get the closest and who can have some fireworks debris land in the water nearby.

And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air...