Unexpected delays and Happy New Year!

So we are still in frigid Minnesota, with no flights scheduled yet to Martinique and our Aquataurus. So this happened: while in Martinique working on AT, I woke one morning to numbness and tingling on my ring and pinky finger of my left hand, that didn’t go away. So as soon as we arrived back in Minnesota, I proceeded to get diagnostic exams (x-rays, EMGs, ultrasound, MRI) to determine the cause. Luckily we have a good friend who is a consultant hand surgeon at the clinic (Mayo) and a racing sailor. He has moved mountains to get my workup tests expedited and we are so grateful for everything he has done for us to get us to Martinique as soon as possible.

Unfortunately all the testing hasn’t resulted in any definitive diagnosis. This is pretty frustrating! But in between all of the scheduled tests, we had Christmas with my daughter, Sheena, and her family.

We stayed with them (after her youngest, Kendra, had her tonsils out, we were able to be the babysitters).

Then drove to my moms (in southeastern Minnesota) for a few days for Christmas Eve,

and to Gregs parents for a few days (in Illinois) for Christmas Day. While in Illinois, we were blessed to spend an evening with good friends.

All of this travel hasn’t been without a bit of excitement! On our way back from Illinois to southeastern Minnesota, the weather decided to turn for the worse and we got light snow covering the roads. The temperature for the past 2-3 weeks has been 0 degrees F for a high, and -20 degrees F for a low at night (tonights and tomorrow nights lows are only suppose to be -12 degrees F). So with the cold weather, we usually don’t get a lot of snow, but we got enough of a dusting on our way home. I took over driving from Greg, and the car was sliding all over the interstate! I could only go 30 mph and got pretty freaked out, cars and semi’s passing me going much faster! I knew we needed new tires, so this was probably the reason (original tires with 48,000 miles on them). Greg took over driving and I started calling around where we were (maps on my iPhone) to see if anyone could put on new tires! Everybody I called was busy (because of the weather) and getting people out of the ditches, etc. So we did limp along, VERY slowly, and got to my moms, finally. Stayed there a bit then proceeded to Rochester, Minnesota (hour drive, in good weather), but the roads were much better and we got to our friends home within an hour and a half. Needless to say, 2 days later we got new tires and it is a HUGE difference!

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So we are staying with friends and family, until it can be decided what to do with my hand! Surgery? No surgery? Further workup. Not sure at this point.

In the midst of everything else that has happened, Sheena’s oldest daughter, Tessa, ended up have an emergency appendectomy done on New Years Day, having such severe pain that a morphine drip couldn’t even touch it. Finally, after surgery, she feels much much better. We are currently staying with them (watching Tessa during recovery).

So this has pretty much been the last month. We are still waiting, and anxious to make the driving trip to Florida, where we will fly from Miami to Martinique.

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Caribbean work finished and home for the holidays

We finished all of the grinding and painting on AT, and returned home last Thursday to spend Christmas with family and friends. I honestly can say that I was dreading the cold and snow, but I am seriously enjoying it! It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it. The chilly nip in the air, the white snow on the ground (albeit there isn’t a lot, just enough to barely cover the grass), the beautiful bright sunny cold days. It just wouldn’t be Christmas for me without these things.

So, to share some “working” photos during our time in the Caribbean. First we ground/sanded out all of the spots of rust that we could see on the steel part of the deck (top part of the boat), to bare steel, then we had to wipe it down and paint on a 2-part primer. The next day, a 2-part white paint to those spots on the deck. You have to mix these paints 2 to 1 (so 2 paints, I guess one is a hardner). This needed to be done twice (so 2 separate days). After the white was painted on the deck, the non-skid needed to be done. The non-skid is the part on most of the deck and is called “non-skid” because it is painted with a paint with sand-type particles to make it rough, so you don’t slide or “skid” on the deck.  So after all that white was dry, I needed to tape the white, so the non-skid paint wouldn’t get on it, and then Greg briefly sanded down these big areas. After that was done, I painted the non-skid, twice, on 2 subsequent days.

This was a lot of work over many days!

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The finished product looks pretty good!

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So once we got the deck done, we needed to start on the hull (the part below the water)! Well first, Greg had to wet sand the entire blue part, what a job he will never do again! All that blue is really soft paint, so he ended up looking like a smurf, for about 3 days worth of work, and dang if I didn’t get a photo! So after all that wet sanding, again, had to find all the spots of rust on the hull. Greg ground them down to bare steel, and I came behind him and wiped them down and painted them with a silver paint for under the water. This will prevent any more rust from forming. We will need to do this every year because she is a steel boat and we need to keep the rust under control.

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So between the deck and the hull work, it took us a little over about a week, with all that grinding/sanding, taping and painting.

These were the biggest projects this year! After we got all this done, we went to the smaller projects that had to be done: sanding and painting the anchor,

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cleaning out the diesel filter, etc. During all this time, Greg was in constant daily contact via email, with the previous owner, Peter, asking questions to be sure we are doing everything right! I’m not sure what we would do without him! He’s a gem!

Despite all the hard work, we did find time to enjoy the beautiful weather and beaches, and came back with a pretty good tan!

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On one of our favorite beaches in St. Anne, we saw this sailboat from hurricane Maria. Luckily Martinique wasn’t affected too badly by her, and had minimal damage to land and boats:

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We weren’t without days of rain, however. We were lucky, though, that we had warm sunny weather for our painting! We had only 2 days of constant rain.

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We took Thanksgiving Day off and drove to hike Mount Pelee, which is an active volcano and the highest spot on the island at 4,600 feet. In 1902, it erupted and killed 30,000 people in the town of Saint Pierre, within minutes of its eruption. It was the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. This is NOT a photo of the top…the top is under those clouds!

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One of our favorite places to eat, getting ready for Christmas, just had to take this!:

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The challenge this past 3 weeks was our wifi access. We were suppose to have wifi at our unit, which we did, for a time. But it was super slow, then non-existent! And because I was still doing work while there, I needed the internet access so I bought internet access from the Marina across the street from where we were staying.

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But this was intermittent as well, and I found was the fastest at about 5am! So that was our biggest challenge. I’m thinking that perhaps the hurricanes have affected this, since I don’t recall this being the case when we were here in Jan-April.

So we are finally home for the  holidays! Downtown Rochester, MN:

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We are planning to spend precious time with our families, and hoping to find some time to see some friends as well before we head back down for the sailing season.

Next steps when we get back down to AT is for 4 more layers of paint on the hull before she is put into the water! More work to be done!

Dremel Queen!

We arrived in Martinique Thursday, Nov 16, after a whirlwind of driving to Minnesota on Nov 3, visiting Gregs brother in Kansas City, and home to my daughter Sheenas for one night, to my moms for one night, to Gregs mom and dads in Illinois for 2 nights, back to my moms for one night, and then to Sheena’s again for one more night, then to Gregs son Kenny’s for a night. Finally back to Sheena’s to prepare for travel to Martinique. Did you follow all that?

We spent a wonderful evening on Wednesday with my sister Tammy and her husband Cliff. We hosted them for dinner at a great place called Butcher and Bourbon in Farmington. Great food, great drinks, great friends! They drove us to a hotel close to the Minneapolis airport, so we could take a shuttle for a 6:55am flight the next morning to Martinique.

We arrived in Martinique about 6:45pm that night (Thursday), and by the time we got the rental car and drove to the AirB&B it was close to 9pm. We were exhausted! We walked to one of our favorite restaurants at the marina in Le Marin, Kokoarum, for some dinner. I was getting anxious to see our Aquataurus the next morning!

We got to the boatyard and there she was!

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Ready for LOTS of hard work. She’s steel, so any rust we see needs to be ground down to the bare steel, primed, then painted. The first day, we just got our bearings, took stock on what needs to be done over the next 3 weeks, then made plans for each day.

So we had a good last few days. Today I learned how to work the “Dremel”! I identified all the small rust spots on the deck and railings, and used the Dremel to grind them down. Remember this boat is all steel. So any rust must got. So, if you don’t know what a Dremel is, it’s a small hand held electric tool, with a sand paper thing on the end that spins round and round really fast. It sand blasts anything it touches. So when there was a rust spot, I dremeled it (is that a word?). It is an amazing little tool! Yesterday I sanded, by hand, some rust spots. This tool is AMAZING! And did you know that rust is like a cancer? When I dremeled a small spot, it got bigger because there was lots of rust underneath! WOW! I’ve become a Dremel Queen!

AND I discovered that if you don’t cover the spot that you’ve dremeled (or sanded by hand), the next day, its RUSTY again! So today when I found and dremeled everything I could find, I covered each one with blue painting tape. I did that a few days ago to some that I hand sanded, and they didn’t rust. So, I’m hoping that this prevents rust on the newly dremeled spots.

A lot of hard, hot work, but so worth it. This afternoon, after working on AT this morning, we took the afternoon off and went to the beach in St. Anne. A nice reward for work well done since Thursdays arrival.

 

But we have much yet to do…final sanding, priming and painting of the rust spots on the railing and on the deck; sand, clean and paint the deck, as well as the non-skid; wet sand the bottom (below waterline), prime and 2 coats of anti-fouling, sand; and,  paint the anchor, plus much more. We have only 3 weeks, we’ll see what we can get done.

But it sure is good to be back “home”, to our “2nd home”. I feel comfortable here, being back to familiar surroundings. I’m loving Martinique, the people, the island, the food, and yes, the language. I’m thinking I need to get serious about learning French.

 

What a whirlwind!

What a packed week! It’s hard to believe all the places that we’ve driven to and things we’ve done, since the end of the last blog (only 12 days ago)!

From Washington, we drove south to southern Oregon to a town called Jacksonville. For only 1 night there. It’s located between Medford and Ashland, Oregon. Our AirB&B was like a little cottage, it was adorable!

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We found a little wine bar there and did some wine tasting that evening. The next morning, on to Middletown, California, to another AirB&B for 2 nights. Long driving days. We thought we would be closer to Napa and wine tasting, and were a bit disappointed in the limited wine tasting opportunities. It IS September, and not high tourist season, so many of them were only open on the weekends. We did find a vineyard and ranch, WAY out into the mountains, called Six Sigma Vineyards (seemed like it took us forever to get there, on dirt roads!). It was pretty good wine, but that’s the only one we found.

Next stop…on to Lake Tahoe where my good friend, Sandy, lives on the north side in Incline Village, Nevada. We had a wonderful 2 days with her. We visited the city of Genoa, Nevada, which boasts of having the oldest bar in Nevada. Of course, we had to check it out with a beer!

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After visiting Genoa, we headed to Gardenerville, Nevada, where many of the “Basque” sheepherders settled. Apparently these shepherds came from the basque region of Europe (from Wikipedia: Ancient DNA cracks puzzle of Basque origins: DNA from ancient remains seems to have solved the puzzle of one of Europe’s most enigmatic people: the Basques. The distinct language and genetic make-up of the Basque people in northern Spain and southern France has puzzled anthropologists for decades). I never knew this was a completely separate European culture! Early Basque immigrants to America were for the most part single men who came seeking sheepherding work. Many arrived by railroad, with little or no English language skills. For this reason Basque hotels and their restaurants were frequently located near the train station, and some of them still are. Mostly are located in the Northern Nevada and central valley of California. So Greg did a google search and found J.T.s in Gardenerville.

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The granddaughter of the original immigrant still runs the restaurant, and she came over and talked to us about the Basque culture. 

So dinner went like this, it was served “family style” with a bottle of local restaurant wine included with dinner. They first brought a large bowl of homemade soup and a ladle to help yourself. After the soup, they brought a pork and beans dish and an ox-tail stew. AMAZING! OH, and a salad. Then we each ordered a meat: sirloin, lamb, chicken or stroganoff. Sandy and I each ordered the lamb, and Greg had the stroganoff. AMAZING! Oh, the homemade wine was pretty darn good too! THEN, to top it off, ice cream for dessert, and coffee. The entire meal was a very nominal fee, and we took leftovers for Sandy’s dinner the next day. It was an amazing experience! And highly suggest if you ever have a chance to find a Basque style restaurant, TRY IT! Here’s the link:

JTs Basque restaurant

From Sandy’s in Nevada, we drove the long day to Logan, Utah, to visit and stay with Gregs high school friend, Tony. What a desolate drive! On one stretch of the desolate road, we were running low on gas and was hoping and praying that we’d find a gas station! Well, we did, but it was still pretty desolate out in the middle of no where!

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Our final long day arrival in Logan, Utah: a rewarding, beautiful sunset.

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During our stay in Logan, Greg and Tony (and his dog Keno) hiked Logan Canyon, and we all 4 (Greg, Tony, Keno and I) hiked Providence Canyon. Beautiful area.

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Toto didn’t care all that much for Keno, she’s a big blood hound with lots of energy and just wanted to play with Toto. After a while, although she was curious, she left Toto alone.

Finally, we moved on to a more permanent location. From Logan, UT, we drove to Superior, Colorado, which is maybe 10 miles from Boulder, CO. During our drive, we drove through snow-not fun! I guess I got my “snow fix”!

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We will stay at this AirB&B for the next month, visiting Jeni and family, and getting in lots of hikes. Today, we hiked to Gem Lake in Estes Park (trailhead):

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It was a great “saunter”, as John Muir would put it, with amazing views of the snow covered mountains.

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We had lunch at Gem Lake.

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As we were leaving the parking area of the trailhead to Gem Lake, we noticed all these cars parked on the side of the road! There was a huge herd of elk hanging out under an area of trees! The bull elks were moving around and bellowing. It was pretty cool to see. Not too sure these photos do it justice, but here they are:


After Gem Lake we found a little local microbrew, Cut Rock Brewing Co. in Estes Park, for our celebratory glass of local beer, it was pretty darn good!


Finally, I found a cute little Yoga Studio in Boulder, “Yoga Loft”, where I’ve signed up for the next month (unlimited classes).

It feels good to stay in one place! I don’t think we want to do anymore 1-2 overnighters. I think in the future, we will stay in one place by the month. It’s nice to just unpack and and be “home” for a while.

 

 

 

First week adventures…

We left MN on Monday morning. The back of the CRV full, the roof carrier full of pretty much all our belongings that we will be living with the next 6-7 weeks, when we return to MN.

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Drove to Rapid City, South Dakota (uneventful drive), and Tuesday we drove to Bozeman, Montana. The snow-covered mountains were beautiful!

 

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From Bozeman, we drove a LONG 11+ hours to make it to our first Air B&B in Mossyrock, Washington. Our Air B&B is located in a very secluded, very quiet area.

Mossyrock is a very small town. We chose this location because it is 1.5 hours south of Mount Rainier, and 1.5 hours north of Vancouver, Washington (a place we may consider buying property at some day). Mount Rainier is where Gregs brother, Geoffs, ashes are. In 2015, the family spread his ashes there (Geoff passed away in 2012, very suddenly. He lived in Olympia, WA and loved Mount Rainier).

So first order of business after arriving in Washington, was to get our Washington Drivers License, and register to vote. So on Thursday, we headed to the Drivers License office located in Lacey, WA (just outside of Olympia). SO…..as I’m standing at the counter the lady looks at me and says, “your drivers license is expired”!!! WHAT??? Yep, it expired on my birthday this year. I never got a reminder in the mail, but then again, we were in the Caribbean until April, and it probably got forwarded to Kenny, or Kenny never got it. Well, that’s water under the dam, now I need to get this fixed. How? you ask? WELL!! I needed to go to a driving school (located 6 block away, thankfully), and take both the written and behind the wheel tests! YEP! Can you believe it! Well, it had to be done, I couldn’t be without a drivers license (as it was, I’ve been driving for 4+ months without one!). So, I take the written test, got 9 wrong (could only get 8 wrong to pass), so I had to take it AGAIN! At the instructors availability and she was busy. Needless to say, I passed with only 2 wrong the 2nd time. THEN I had to take the behind the wheel test, again, at the instructors availability. So, this was a all day affair, but I passed, then had to go BACK OVER to the Drivers Licensing office to get a drivers license. That went easily enough. But what a day that was!

The next day, we drove to Mount Rainier to visit Geoff. We drove first to Paradise Inn at the base of Mount Rainier, this was one of Geoffs favorite places. And I can see why. If you’ve never been here, I highly recommend it. It is a beautiful chalet built in 1917 without one nail. Great beautiful craftsmanship!

After having a beer there, we drove down to where we spread Geoffs ashes, had a beer for him, and had lunch. A beautiful spot that I’m sure Geoff agrees.

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The next day we drove to Vancouver, Washington, to discover the town. We rode our bikes on the trail paralleling the Columbia River, saw sailboats, and apparently they have sailboat races on Tuesday nights during the summer! Vancouver had a good feel to it, so far.

Aquataurus and Irma

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Last week we were anxiously watching the path that Hurricane Irma was taking. Since Irma left the Caribbean, we have seen the devastation she left behind on some of the beautiful islands that we had visited in the past which include the USVI and BVI. Before this, we had even considered sailing up to the USVI and BVI in the coming sailing season. But now, I don’t think they’ll have the resources for sailors, let alone their own population. That being said, we will probably stay in the southern Caribbean this coming season.

As you can see from the map above, Antigua and Barbuda were in Irmas path and were some of the hardest hit islands, with 90% of the islands destroyed. So Irma’s path was further north than where Aquataurus is located on the island of Martinique. We feel very lucky! We have sailing friends down in the Caribbean that we have been in touch with, and they are safe. There are others who have not fared as well, loosing their home/sailboat (but they are safe). We pray for those sailors as well as the locals who inhabit the islands. They count on tourism for their livelihood, so this will be difficult for them to rebound from. Below you can see Nanny Key in Tortola on the BVI, before and after photos. Total devastation. We’ve been here years past.

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As we inhabit our home for the last days of our time here, we look forward to travel in the US, visiting family and friends before we return to Aquataurus for a few weeks in November and December, back to the US for Christmas, then for the sailing season in January 2018. The hurricane season lasts until the end of October, so we continue to watch the weather. Until next time…