Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 30 St. Augustine to New Smyrna Beach

Another sunny day, even milder than yesterday smiled on Serenity and her crew.  Leaving a mooring ball is infinitely easier than leaving the dock - no lines, power cable or hose to contend with (and no fighting).  Much more civilized and serene, that's for sure.  Gave us time to appreciate another beautiful sunrise.
If one picture is worth a thousand words, what are 2 beautiful pictures worth?
As soon as the coffee was made, we were en route for today's destination, New Smyrna Beach.  Some dolphins stopped by to play in our bow wake, but were gone before I could snap a picture.  Hopefully tomorrow we 'll see more who might have time to play a while longer.

Before long, we encountered our first bridge of the day, Knox Bridge.  The nicest lady bridge tender gave us a "lift" and wished us happy holidays.  We responded Merry Christmas and she sounded relieved to wish us the same.
As the day progressed, the line of boats needing a "lift" increased until we were like a little parade going through, each waiting for the others to catch up and chatting on the radio about "skinny" (shallow) water.

The day passed peacefully.  Though there is not a whole lot to see, some of the scenery is definitely defined as "waterway" specific....'s not too exciting, but lovely to look at as we glided by...
...and very different from Long Island Sound scenery...
Shortly after 3, (and a lovely on board lunch), we arrived at our destination for the day - New Smyrna Beach Marina.   We unwittingly walked into their marine rush hour.  No less than 5 boats followed us in to their assigned slips.          
Not only is this the marina where we stayed when bringing For Us home from FL to NY in 2010, but we were in the very same slip (the captain remembered this).   Actually I should have remembered (I eventually did) because we were directly opposite Bird Island, where yes, birds came and went in large, low flying groups.
I emphasize low flying since as you know, birds terrify me and being so close to these dive bombing creatures gave me a sort of clutched feeling.  After our chores (which involved filling the water tanks, connecting us to shore power, hosing off the boat and shutting down the engine), we decided to settle in with wine and evening snacks.  Not so fast!  The captain wanted Mike and I to put the bimini top over the flybridge up before we go too comfortable.  OMG, I never laughed so hard in my life.  I only regret that there wasn't a film crew nearby to film Mike and I installing the bimini this afternoon.  Picture us standing on the flybridge in the freshening breeze, the canvas flapping, the metal supports collapsing while trying to hold everything in place.  We eventually had to crawl onto the house, where Mike lay on his back with his arms up in the air trying to force the zipper ends together so I could zip the canvas on.  The things we said, taken out of context, would make a great script for a porn flick.   We're still laughing just thinking about it.  I'm sure our marina neighbors were very entertained.  We congratulated ourselves that we didn't attempt this yesterday while on the mooring ball in much breezier weather.

All that work made us hungry, so acting on a tip from a Krogenite who has a condo in New Smyrna Beach, we took a ride in a electric golf cart to dinner at the Spanish River Grill.  Despite being located in a strip shopping center, we had a delicious dinner.  The car ride was entertaining - it's an expanded golf cart with sides that zip onto the frame.  The canvas has plastic "porthole" cut outs.  You climb in, sit very close to the person next to you and hold on for dear life.  I took a picture of the silly thing, but not sure you can decipher it too well...

Crazier than the car is that it's free.  Yup, as in zilch, nada, zip.   The car runs from 10 in the morning until 2 am and will take you anywhere - on demand no less.  The drivers rely on tips and are actually volunteers for some sort of thing.  I wonder if this is a Southern thing.....

After a long day, we headed back to the boat and were delighted to be treated to 2 wondrous sights - a rising full moon (hard to see, but I still had to share)...

...and boats decorated for Christmas...
Some boats had blinking lights, santas and snowmen aboard, greeting all who passed by...
In this place of sunshine and palm trees, it's hard to believe Christmas is less than a month away!  The shops are decorated to the hilt, but somehow, the warm weather belies the season at hand.  I'm going to try to get a couple of bows and a plastic wreath for Serenity to wear before we leave early next week.  I hope everyone had as wonderful day as I did.  Back tomorrow with more of our ICW adventures.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Intracostal Waterway - Southbound

This morning dawned the exact opposite of the day before - bright, warm and sunny.  I was so thrilled to be aboard, that I offered to make breakfast.  Good thing no one was around to see me peering at the controls on the stove.  Even I smiled at my stupidity!  Before long, I was in control of the situation and had a rather impressive breakfast going.

Even more impressive was the setting for that breakfast...
I set the table in the Pilot House to take full advantage of the scenery and to allow the "captains" to enjoy breakfast without leaving their post.

Our trip was pleasant and uneventful.  In the spirit of the ICW, there are always things to look at - like this huge (and rather ugly) car carrier.
Of course there are the numerous bridges to be navigated.  Some open on demand, others at specified times.  Sister Creek Bridge at the mouth of the St. John's River near Jacksonville opens on demand...
The bridge tender was very accommodating and pleasant.  Gave us plenty of time to transit the opening before blowing the warning horn indicating the bridge was ready to close.
We cruised along between 7 and 8.2 knots, depending on what the current felt like giving us.  We didn't care - our music was playing, the sun was shining, lunch was delicious and we were in no hurry to get anywhere quickly.  We just sat back and enjoyed the view...
The picture above is a part of the ICW  between Jacksonville (Fernandina Beach) and St. Augustine.
It wasn't long before another bridge loomed ahead - the Bridge of Lions.  This was a bridge with scheduled openings - every half hour.   We had about 15 minutes to cover the distance ahead of us to make the 1 pm opening.  The most gorgeous sailing vessel I had ever seen was ahead of us.  Tom radioed to let him know we would be right on his tail going under the bridge.  Serenity had to sprint to keep up, but she did a good job.  Good thing, cause as we went under the bridge, lots of traffic was lined up on either side, waiting for us to go through.
Our mooring for the rest of the day and night was waiting just on the other side of this bridge.  I was quite excited about this new adventure.  Serenity had never grabbed onto a mooring ball before.  Luckily Mike was with us to show us the proper way to approach and secure the boat to one of these floating "anchors".  Not that easy it turned out.  Following Mike's hand signals, the captain did a fabulous job to getting right over the mooring ball on the first attempt.  Mike picked up the pennant (which by the way requires quite a bit of brawn) and got us secured to mooring ball number 22.
Once attached to the mooring ball, we surveyed our new domain.  What a beautiful sight to feast our eyes on...
We were just settling in when the launch driver stopped by to ask if we were planning to go into town.  You bet we chorused!  After quickly gathering our belongings, we jumped into the launch and off to town we went.  As we sped away from Serenity, I couldn't resist taking this picture of her looking so pretty in the afternoon sun....

In less than 15 minutes we were checking in and off to an adventure in the city of St. Augustine.  It really is a beautiful city.  A portion of the city is designated as a pedestrian only area, while the other parts are surrounded by palm trees and quaint brick-lined streets with wonderful shops in the background.  From the marina... was a short walk into town.

More of town...
There is even a village green complete with a decorated Christmas tree and Christmas "gifts" already delivered by Santa and under the tree.
You can't go to St. Augustine and not visit the country's oldest church.  This church was built in 1565 and truly a work of art to behold.

Before long, it was time to make the last launch at 5:30.  We walked to the marina to get in line, when this amazing sight caught our eye.  Someone had placed a mark on one of the pilings showing just how high the storm surge rose.
Sure glad we weren't there then!

The launch was filled to capacity, so off we went at 5:30.  We dropped off 2 couples at their sailboats before heading to Serenity.  There she stood in the early evening light, anchor light shining, ensign waving in the soft early evening breeze and all her lights glowing in a welcome home light.  Before settling in for the evening, we took time to enjoy an evening cocktail while enjoying the most beautiful sight...
Another beautiful day comes to a close aboard the fair Serenity.  Tomorrow we'll be on our way at sunrise, to enjoy another idyllic day of cruising and soaking up the beautiful sights.

OMG! I'm Finally Aboard!

So, at VERY long last, I've been reunited with my beloved Serenity!

The alarm chirped at 3:30 am on Wednesday, November 28th.  Most normal people would groan at this indecent intrusion in the virtual middle of the night.  Not yours truly.  I literally leaped out of bed and was catapulted into motion.  Today is the day I've been impatiently waiting for since the day Serenity sailed away from me.  I did all my morning "stuff", jumped into my clothes that were laid out on Sunday night when Tom said they would be coming to get me, and trotted to the waiting town car.  All this happened between 3:30 and 4:30 am.  Soon we were speeding on a deserted LIE to Islip's MacArthur airport where my Southwest flight awaited me.  The airport was practically deserted - the security personnel were arguing who would get to check me in.  Luckily, the most important kiosks were open - Starbucks and the place to get a NY Times.  After what seemed like an eternity, my flight was announced.  I had spot A 42, not so bad considering the flight was far from full.  We took off on time - actually 5 minutes early and landed in Baltimore with a good margin of time to make my connecting flight.  Of course we landed in section A and my connecting flight was section B and yes, you guessed it, gate 15 as in gates 1 - 15.  I finally relaxed once we were airborne on our way to my final destination - Jacksonville and SERENITY!

Once landed and in a cab, I drove the poor guy nuts asking (what I thought was casually) where we were and "about" how much longer.  $67 and 40 minutes later, we were pulling into the parking lot of the Fernandina City Marina on Amelia Island.   Serenity (and Tom who I haven't seen in nearly 3 weeks) were within hailing distance and I was breathless with excitement.  Serenity was the very last boat along the dock, but when I saw her, I broke into a trot.  The guys were just coming out of the engine room when I was pounding on the door.  What a sight to see my beloved Serenity waiting for me!  Though the day was gray and very chilly, the sun was shining on my beautiful girl!

Once aboard, it was as if I never left.  After getting settled, Mike (our "assistant" captain) and I decided to explore the town.  It was just as I remembered it from my trip north in 2010 on Serenity's younger sister, For Us.  We strolled the palm tree lined streets, had lunch, then hopped in a cab to get some "provisions" at the local Publix.  A couple of hundred dollars later, we had our groceries and called our cab to pick us up.  Back to the boat we went.  As we headed to Serenity, we saw another Krogen making its way to the dock.  It was our buddies from the Rendezvous.  That Krogen, Serenity and Serenity's twin sister who was docked just in front of her made it a Krogen-fest.  I rushed to stow our groceries cause we were invited to cocktails on Silver Bay, Serenity's twin.  After cocktails, Tom, Mike and I headed to dinner on the dock.  By 8:30, I was calling it a day.  And what a day it was!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

As I write this, Tom and I are having the most unique Thanksgiving of our many, many years together!
He is aboard Serenity (alone) in Morehead City NC, while I'm home (alone) on Long Island.  Thanks to Hurrricane Sandy, the nor'easter and a multi-day gale in Tom's neck of the woods, we are apart.  The plan was for me to jump aboard in Charleston so we could spend Thanksgiving together aboard Serenity.  I guess when it comes to weather and water, weather rules.

I called Tom and gave him the pro and college football game schedules for Thanksgiving.  The games along with a re-run of all the Godfather movies will keep Tom happy all day.  I watched the (entire) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, clapped when Santa appeared and spent the day puttering to my heart's delight.  To be fair, I had to fend off no less than 8 dinner invitations, but the allure of spending an entire day at home and not running around trying to cram too much into too few hours, proved irresistible.

All too soon night has fallen and another Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror.  Despite the fact that I'm not with loved ones (except for our cat Zoe), I did not forget to give thanks for my incredibly fantastic life and the wonderful people who are a part of it.

I hope you all had a wonderful day and celebrated in the spirit of the word "Thanksgiving".

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One Week into Her Trip South....

So hard to believe, but Serenity has been on her way for a week.  The "boys" seem to be on schedule and sound like they're having a grand old time for themselves.  They certainly are eating well - Tom's prowess at both the stove and grill combined with what was in the fridge/freezer guaranteed there would be no "franks and beans" night (though they are on board).

The weather cooperated enough for some offshore runs, but not enough for any overnights yet.  Tom tells me that yesterday (it could have been the day before), they took a 30 degree roll.  Everything that wasn't already put down, was now down, including my birds from Amelia Island.  I'll need to sharpen my surgical skills and re-attach a head and a beak or two when I get aboard.  I told those men not to trash my boat, so what do they do..........?

They had some excitement today when the Coast Guard pulled up alongside them while they were underway and announced that they were going to board Serenity.  Poor Tom, that must have been a moment he'll not soon forget.  Mike was cool, he's been this way before, but it was a first for Tom - at least where his personal boat is concerned.  Serenity got a clean bill of health - we were asked to remove the "gift wrap" from our fire extinguishers, but otherwise all was shipshape.  Here's Tom after the "boarding".  He looks pretty cool.

So that you're not bored with too many words and not enough pictures, I asked the captains to take some pictures.  "Of what" was Mike's first response.  I can only tell you the part of my answer that's fit to print - "the scenery, what else?"  They obliged me with a few boring pictures, but at least they did get some.

This is a photo of the carriers, Enterprise and Lincoln, I think somewhere in the Virginia area.  Of course they just sent the photos without identifying the location, so I had to guess.  At least we have a caption, so we know what we're looking at!

After over 950 miles, Serenity got thirsty, so the boys found a nice fuel dock so she could refresh herself.

Since like many of the places they found themselves in, this marina was the only game in town; because it was late, they were permitted to remain at the fuel dock overnight.  Meanwhile, I get a text alert from Chase indicating that there may have been a fraudulent use of our card.  Apparently Serenity's "drink" cost over $900 and since it was for fuel in North Carolina as opposed to Bloomingdales in New York, they got suspicious.  Can't say I blame them - that purchase was clearly out of our spending pattern.

Some places they've visited/passed along the way, heading south out of NY: Cape May in NJ, the C & D Canal, Annapolis, Solomons Island, then onto Norfolk, several marinas in North Carolina - I think places I've heard are Coinjock (THE place for the best prime rib this side of the Mississippi), Alligator River, Bellhaven....

Some of their days have been as long as 18 hours.  When you cruise in a trawler at this time of year, the going is slower than usual due to uncooperative weather and short days. When they're not "outside", they're subject to the traffic, bridges and wake zones of the inland waterways.  At least they travel in comfort - they've been able to watch the college football games they both enjoy, eat decently and are warm at night.  I don't dare ask if they've been doing laundry, but I do know they've been sampling the stocked-to-the-gills wine fridge at night.  I can tell you that they have not been very diligent with the sort of baths Serenity is used to.   They had the nerve to send me this picture of Serenity's waterway moustache.

The plan is to get Serenity to Southport in South Carolina before Thanksgiving so Mike can jump off and visit family in FL for the holiday.  They'll get underway again a week from today.  Once that happens, they'll be able to give me their ETA in Jacksonville, FL where I will be waiting at the marina to be picked up.  The plan is for me to complete the trip to Stuart with the boys and get some helm time in along with docking and whatever else I can learn in that time.  The "whatever" may require that the captain be tranquilized, but that's what Mike is for.  It's a known fact that few husbands can teach their wives anything, and Tom is no exception to that rule.  Since Mike is aboard, is a captain, has a Krogen of his own - and is not my husband - voila!  The perfect recipe for a wonderful learning experience.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 3 Without Serenity

The crew arrived in Liberty Landing on Saturday afternoon, around 1:30.  I think they planned to get there early enough to settle in for the football games on Serenity's 42" flat screen HD TV.

To be fair, they were up early and had the lines off before most of us were up Sunday morning.   Serenity made great progress, all the way to Cape May, though the seas were "sloppy", according to the men.   Tom kept re-assuring me that with 1-2' seas with whitecaps on Serenity's nose, I wouldn't have had fun.  I would have liked to make that determination myself, but I know when to give up the fight.  They essentially put in an 18 hour day Sunday, not anchoring until nearly 10 pm.  Poor guys told me it was too late to cook themselves dinner.  I couldn't resist the comeback that if I was aboard, they would have had a gourmet feast waiting for them.  Tee hee.

This morning found them at the entrance to the C & D Canal, with their destination, Solomons Islands where the Krogen Cruisers Rendezvous was held last month.  They have been blessed with fair weather, permitting an extended offshore run.  As I write this, I'm waiting for my next update on their progress.  I think they have Norfolk, VA in their sights for tomorrow.

I've been told that my beloved sunflowers in their gorgeous antique vase are a PITA.  Not happy to hear this.  They were relegated to the cockpit to get out of the way.

 That's men for you - no sense of esthetics.  I did warn that if anything happened to either the flowers or vase, they would be sent on an extended shopping trip until a replacement that satisfied me could be found.  I can tell you now (and I told them), I will be inconsolable and not happy with any replacement.  Silence at the other end of the phone, by the way.

Just received my last position update of the day.  The "boys" are tied up in Chesapeake City.  They had a nice dinner and are watching football.  Sounds like just what the doctor ordered after a couple of long days at sea.  I'll be back with their next adventures.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Serenity Heads South

This morning dawned clear and bright - a very welcome change from our most recent weather, that's for sure.  It was a perfect morning for a boat ride - without me aboard!  Tom and helper captain Mike were taking Serenity to Stuart, FL for her winter vacation.

After several weeks of preparation, Serenity was ready for her trip.  Her fuel tanks were brimming with immaculate fuel thanks to her ESI fuel polishing system (the captain LOVES this system).  You may remember that this is the system that caused us to be towed by Sea Tow on one of our trips aboard our 1st KKY, For Us.   The captain was so enamored, he forgot to re-open the valve after the polishing was done, effectively starving the engine of fuel.  We don't talk about that much.  There were enough provisions on board, both food and liquid, to feed a crew of 100.   I spent several hours yesterday cleaning, polishing and primping our girl for her trip.  That's amusing seeing I pay someone to do that for our home.

I brought bagels and pumpkin Dunkin' Donuts coffee to the crew to give them a jump start on what would be a long day.  That gesture by the way, along with my offer to help with the lines, was a thinly veiled attempt to get aboard one last time.  You have to understand my feelings here.  Serenity was our shelter during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the snowy nor'easter that blasted through our region on Thursday.  After spending 10 days aboard, I was more in love with her than ever before  - how is that possible?  She was our respite, a warm and snug cocoon that took care of our every need.  All too soon, the last line was off, Tom and I were hugging and kissing goodbye and she was off.
As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I followed her progress with my camera..

I've never seen her heading away from the dock before, so I was a bit mesmerized.  What a gorgeous girl she is!  I warned the men not to trash her while they used her as their "man cave".  The thought makes me shudder.  I kept walking down the dock until I got this final picture of her heading away from me...
 My consolation is that the men will let me know several days before Serenity nears either the Charleston, SC or Jacksonville, FL inlets.  At that point, I'll be hopping on the next Southwest flight that will get me there.  I have the animals and house sitters on standby, informed my employer of this plan and told both Tom and Mike that my bag is already packed and that "I WILL BE ON THAT BOAT".  It will be a wonderful opportunity to get some helm time, probably in the ICW, and pick up some tips from Captain Mike (we all know how it is to try to learn from a husband).  Hopefully, we'll have a day or two to get Serenity settled in her new slip and introduced to her new Krogen friends at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart.  We'll be taking monthly trips to visit her starting in either December or January until the first week of April, when she comes home to us.

In the meantime, I have to placate myself with photos of my girl, and line up hair, manicure and pedicure appointments so I'm ready to go when I get that signal.   I'm going to miss my trips to the marina, friends in tow, but at least Serenity will warm during the winter and not wrapped up like a ghost.  Mike's SPOT tracker will keep me tuned in to their whereabouts - those updates will be the highlights of the next week!

Bon Voyage sweet Serenity!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gas, Glorious Gas!!

This morning dawned snowy, gray and frigid.  Never mind, I was on a mission - I simply HAD to find gas.  I hopped out of my warm bed on Serenity, showered and dressed in record time.  The minute I was ready to go, I feverishly began to check for an open gas station near the marina.  At 7:13, there were no updates, just the grim "No Fuel" notation I have come to dread.  At 8 am, Has Fuel flashed on the screen from the Mobil station mere blocks from the marina.  I raced across the snowy and slippery dock to my car - which I think was colder inside than it was on the outside.  Off  I sped to the station praying all the way that the information was accurate and not a hoax.  Me who usually believes what I'm told, has become suspicious about gas and power rumors.

As I approached the station, I was dismayed to see the gas station attendants shoveling snow and not pumping gas.  I followed the line to the end, which I estimated to be about an hour long.  Not bad I thought as I made a wild U-turn to get into line.  A Jeep coming the other way had designs on the same spot to which I was headed.  As our grilles just about touched, I put my hand up and furiously pointed to the spot I had claimed as my own.  With that, I put 2 wheels on the sidewalk and voila, I was in line.
We've become a society of gas-starved desperate creatures with only one focus in life - a full gas tank! For the next 45 minutes, I endured such cold that I got out of the car and rummaged in my "barn box" for something to add to my attire.  I found a fleece jacket and a towel.  I put the fleece on over my sweater and vest and under my jacket.  The towel was draped over my legs and feet like an old lady's lap quilt, but it kept me from suffering frost-bitten toes.  There I sat shivering, not wanting to turn the car back on until the line began to move.

By my watch, I got into line at 8:03 (who's watching)?  The line was at a standstill, but since there were people in line with their gas cans, I figured they had first-hand information about gas availability from the attendants who were standing by the pumps.  I called Tom and told him to jump into the Explorer and head to the gas station, it was now or never.  To my indescribable ecstasy, the line began to move around 8:49.  Little by little, inch by inch we approached the mecca of the pumps.  As I neared the gas station, I realized that I was so tense, my shoulders were actually hunched up close to my ears.   Soon I was being directed to a pump.  I tried not to run over the poor soul directing desperate drivers to their respective pump.  When the attendant asked what I wanted, I burst into tears and kept calling him my hero.   Though he smiled politely, I think he thought I was nuts.  When I heard the nozzle click, I urged "my hero" to squeeze and squeeze until not another drop could be fit in.  After paying $4.45 per gallon for regular, my credit card showed a total of nearly $47 to fill my little 16 gallon tank.   I would have paid $45 a gallon to get that tank filled.  I drove off half crying, half laughing, like someone in a low budget movie.

I am now driving like the folks I used to flip my high beams at - I'm actually doing the speed limit to conserve as much gas as possible during my trips.  No more lurching forward a second before the light turns green, no more passing slower drivers, just smooth (and much slower) driving for me for now.  I'm carefully planning my route tomorrow since I took a personal day off to get Serenity ready for her trip south on Saturday.  As of tomorrow, we're on odd-even license plate number gas rationing, so I don't want to find myself close to E on the wrong day.

Like everyone else, my life has been re-arranged dramatically.  My usually jammed schedule has been reduced to going to work and returning to the boat (one of the reasons why I can do a post each night).  Dinners, appointments and meetings have been re-scheduled.  I haven't seen my sweet Tucker since the Sunday before the hurricane - I have to make do with pictures my daughter texts to me.   I used precious gas to go to the barn last Sunday to bring blankets and carrots to Wiggles.   I would have been distraught on these cold days/nights if he didn't have his warm blankies.  The wonderful angels at the barn who are my helpers have done a fantastic job of taking care of my precious horse this week.

Though I'm happy Serenity will be going on vacation this winter, I'm going to miss knowing she was only 4 minutes from home.  She was our solace and protector during the aftermath of the hurricane.  We're indebted to her and always will be.  We'll be flying down to visit her each month during the winter, so she won't be too lonely.  She's heading to Sunset Bay Marina within walking distance of downtown Stuart where she will have the company of at least 20 other Krogens.  So tonight and tomorrow, I'll be sprucing her up and making sure she is pristine for her trip south.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There's a Nor'easter on our Doorstep!

A mere 9 days after Hurricane Sandy punished Long Island for some yet to be determined transgression, her little sister arrived to take another swipe at us.  Sometime around midday, I looked out of my office window to see slushy snow accumulating on car roofs and grassy areas.  Several hours later, the wind started howling and the snow cover extended to the streets.  The weather deteriorated to the  point where parts of the infamous Long Island Expressway was closed and the LIRR suspended service.  Homes with newly restored power lost it again, and we were plunged into dark chaos once again.   I was by now waiting for the biblical locusts to descend.  What else could Mother Nature throw at us?

Though our power was restored this morning, I cautioned Tom that we should remain aboard Serenity throughout the storm since our home is subject to power loss in anything more than a breeze.  Besides, there is not a morsel of food or any sort of goodie to be found at the homestead since everything was moved aboard last week.  I'm sure despite his better judgement, Tom returned to the boat after ensuring our cat Zoe's comfort and safety.

Since I again drove to work with one of the company's partners, we did a little gas search on the way home.  The search (fruitless) and the horrific road conditions turned a 25 minute trip into a nearly 1 hour ordeal. The roads were scary - slippery and dark.  Downed trees and wires made the trip even more precarious.  By the time we arrived at the marina, the tide was rising and the wind was gusting to 60 mph.  I have to confess that as I made my way down the dock, I was truly scared witless.  Though the dock lights were on, the wind was gusting to a point that I felt I might be blown off the dock into the rapidly rising water.  The black, roiling water was a mere inches from the dock that was now covered in a slippery slush.  I bent down, mincing my steps, nervously glancing at the rising water.  By the time I reached the mid-point, my heart was hammering in my chest and my breath was sounding ragged in my ears.  I can't remember the last time I was so very frightened for my safety.  By now, I picked up my pace to a trot and soon saw Serenity's welcoming lights beckoning me to just come a bit farther to safety.  By the time I literally jumped into the cockpit, my legs were trembling.  I burst into the warm salon where Tom was waiting for me with a warm dinner and wonderful 2007 Barolo.

As I type this blog, the wind sounds like something in agony.  Things are banging around all around us (hope it's nothing expensive).  Serenity is rocking, but I am not in the least bit uneasy.  Serenity has always protected us and she will continue to do so.  Having trouble with my wifi, so will sign off now. Be safe everyone who lives in this godforsaken part of the world!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Only Tuesday, but it feels like Friday!

I love living aboard Serenity, but it's incongruous to be leaving the boat every morning dressed for work.  This morning, I was outfitted in a cute grey heathered  dress, complete with black tights and black Coach ballet flats (my pearls were hidden beneath my winter jacket).   A nice-looking man toting several fishing rods passed me going the opposite way - I tell you, he looked me up and down, not once, but twice!  Can't imagine what he was thinking, but it was clear it's not a common sight on that dock to see anyone dressed that way.

Getting even more creative in devising ways to get to work without a car (on Long Island, this is like trying to fly without wings), I resorted to the infamous Long Island Rail Road.  Again traveling with one of my company's partners, I drove to his house (which is close to the marina), jumped into his wife's car so she could drop us off at the train station, just 3 miles away and hop onto the train (after shivering in the cold for what seemed like an eternity until the train arrived).  Less than 20 minutes later, we were in the Hicksville train station, our office building in sight.  Not so bad after all.

That sentiment was short-lived.  We arrived on the cold platform for the 5:37 home, only to be greeted with the announcement that our train was 6 minutes late due to "signal problems".  That's LIRR lingo for "we don't know why the train is late, it just is."  Several minutes later, the announcement increased the delay time to 7 minutes.  Oh oh we thought, we could be here all night.  Moments later, the headlights of our train were visible in the darkness - I guess they got their "signal problems" fixed.

The train was standing room only, but at least we were aboard and on our way home.  I had a dinner date with the captain, so I was anxious to get in my car and head to the restaurant.  Foiled again.
As I turned onto the main road, I was greeted by the flashing lights of many police cars.  Oh no, now what for heaven's sake?  I actually used a more strongly worded question, but this is a blog for nice people, so I'll restrain myself.  I immediately regretted my thoughts as a police office stopped the car ahead of me to have a brief conversation.  He was apparently stopping each motorist to advise us that a police officer had been involved in a serious hit and run accident earlier that day.  They were anxious to know if we had any information and that if we did hear anything, to report it to the local police precinct.  What an awful thing in the middle of such misery for so many people.

As I write this, we are still without power (day 8) and my gas gauge is even closer to the 1/4 mark.  In between discussing the election returns, we are hearing dire warnings of the coming nor'easter which is now promising us strong winds and a dusting of slushy snow, thanks to the ridiculously cold temps for this time of year.  When hearing that we are still living on the boat, concerned co-workers ask how we will get through the coming storm.  I can honestly reassure them that if Serenity could handle hurricane force winds, a nor'easter would be an inconvenience, but nothing more (we hope).

Here's hoping that the coming days bring power, gas and more hospitable temperatures.  I'll let you know how we weather the coming storm.  Please stand by.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Been a Week Now....

At 2:30 pm this afternoon, we have been officially without power for a week.  Unheard of in our neck of the woods!  Pre-Sandy, folks lost it if we were without power for more than a few hours!  As strangers meet, the first thing asked is "Do you have power?"  The second is "Do you know where to find gas?"   Long Island is like a newly emerging third world country these days.  All the creature comforts we took for granted, without thinking, are now precious commodities.  Speaking of precious things, our Serenity comes through yet again to take care of us.  We have been living aboard since Tuesday October 30th. She is well lit and warm (rocking a bit in tonight's breeze), our fridge/freezer and wine fridge still well stocked and our TV keeps us in touch with the world.  Despite the shift from our everyday lives, I find it wondrous to wake to the sound of seagulls and the sight of water reflected on the ceiling - on a workday!

In my office this morning, there was a rumor that a near-by gas station was providing gas to first responders and nurses.  One of the partners and I hopped into his car, my nursing license in hand, only to be turned away by a genuinely sorry police officer.   He explained that a nurse was not their description of a first responder (I sure hope he never finds himself in a situation when a nurse is the first responder to try to save his life).  Besides, the gas station was only open between 8 and 11 each day as long as the gas supply held up (it was 11:05).

I got creative Sunday morning and asked another of the partners to carpool with me.  Since he only lives a very short distance from the marina, this was a great idea.  On the ride home, we both got even more creative and decided to try our luck on the Long Island Rail Road tomorrow morning.  The normally busy Pt. Jeff line has limited service for now, so we decided to try the 9:36.  Luckily for us, the office is the 3rd stop, a 17 minute ride, and lets us off right across the street from the office.  As a former commuter on the LIRR, a 17 minute ride sure beats my 62 minute ride (each direction) every day!

Hurricane Sandy taught Long Island a lesson in humility.  For all the taxes we pay, we are no better off in receiving restored services than the towns many Long Islanders would never consider driving through, never mind residing in.  We have to wait our turn for power, gas, food and the other services that make living here so special.  Our very topography - gorgeous beaches, heavily treed winding roads and streets discreetly lit by ornamental lamps - has made our communities vulnerable to Mother Nature's wrath.

 Our days are now spent wondering when our lives will resume its usual rhythm, when our homes will be lit and warm again, when we can drive our cars without anxiously peering at the gas gauge every 20 seconds and squirming in frustration when stopped at a rail crossing for more than a minute.

One valuable lesson I think we all learned is that despite our inconveniences, discomforts and annoyances, all that matters is that those we love are safe, with a roof over their heads and out of harm's way.

Seems a simple fact of life, but Sandy had a way of re-arranging our thoughts.
I hope that any of you recovering from Sandy's after-effects get your lives back to normal quickly - and in a better way than ever before.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

5 Days Post Sandy

Well, on Monday Sandy tried to knock Long Island down.  Today is Saturday and though we are still without power and have empty gas tanks in our cars, we are still able to revel in the beauty of mid-fall.

I took this picture from Serenity's bow this evening.  I was reading in the pilothouse (yes, reading as in sitting in 1 place) when I looked up, grabbed my camera and took this picture - and this one...

In fact, while I was searching for a cell signal late Tuesday afternoon, I drove to the beach near our marina where folks said they were able to get a signal (I was unsuccessful).  The tranquility of the scene less than 24 hours after Sandy roared through was astounding.  Out came the camera to capture the moment - and to again thank my blessings to even be there and have the ability to take this picture.  It's all about the simple things in life that we take for granted.

 Today a dock neighbor and I took a walk to do do something normal - we got our nails done!  What was amazing is that the salon was packed with people trying to do the same thing - return to their pre-Sandy lives when we hopped into our cars and thought nothing of driving to a supermarket to get fresh food.  We did all this without constantly checking our gas gauge and feeling a knot in our stomachs as the needle edged from full to half to a quarter full tank.  It is gratifying to see signs in windows of salons with power offering free hot shampoos.  Although not many make a full stop at non-working traffic signal intersections, drivers will allow each other some courtesies when all arrive simultaneously at an intersection.  The usual hand gestures are absent as is the deafening cacaphony of blaring horns.

One of our dock neighbors stood on our dock box and took this picture of the dock on Sunday evening - before Sandy made her entrance.  We were told today that the reason the dock lights are not yet on is because the lights were filled with water.  The water actually rose to the top of the dock pilings.  We (and our boats) were fortunate that the water didn't rise beyond the pilings to which are boats are tied.  The docks float, but they can only float so far before the unthinkable happens.

As I post this, we are hearing that the governor has lifted the obstacles to getting oil tankers unloaded into terminals so that fuel trucks can get desperately needed gas into our local gas pumps.  I can withstand many things, but the inability to get to my grandson and horse are not among them.

I hope that my local followers and their families are safe and will soon be looking back on this experience as a lesson to value all that is important in our lives.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy Paid Long Island a Nasty Visit

Unless you live under a rock (WAY under a rock), you all know - or have experienced first hand - Hurricane Sandy was not good to Long Island.  Much of the news coverage focuses on New Jersey and Manhattan - I don't diminish their misery - but we are in bad shape on affluent Long Island.  Sandy didn't care how big our homes are, how many cars are in our garage, or the balance in our bank account - we were beaten up, left without power or phone lines, empty gas tanks and destroyed homes and property.

Each night's news coverage tugs harder at my heart strings.  I almost feel guilty that we and our loved ones are living in relative luxury.  Yes we're inconvenienced, but still alive with everyone and everything we hold dear intact.   As I am fortunate enough to post this, Tom and I are living aboard Serenity, a mere 4 minutes from our ravaged neighborhood.  Thanks to Serenity's more than adequate generator, we have lights, hot water, food and numerous other creature comforts.  We can even do laundry!  Today the marina regained power, so we turned off the generator and now have wifi.  In direct contrast, our neighbor across the street is dealing with the remains of beloved trees felled during the storm.

The sound of chainsaws is replacing the sounds of birds and squirrels scampering among the leaves.  There are so many leaves on the ground right now, that the streets are actually aglow in the fall colors.  It would be pretty if we were unaware of how all those leaves were driven to the ground.

As I drove to visit my horse for the first time today - the barn manager had sent everyone a text late Monday night that all  horses were safe - I passed the bottom of our street.  We have been unable to leave our street in the usual way since we were blocked by 2 enormous felled trees.  As I drove by, my eyes popped out of my head as I surveyed the reason.  I couldn't resist pulling over to take this picture...

Though there is no scale with which to judge the height of the branches, trust me that it is significant.  Judging by the extent of the mess and the fact that we're pretty far from the beaten path, I suspect that it will be quite some time before the lights come on.  I forgot to mention that this pile of trees has power lines mixed into it.  I think you might agree.

After spending Monday night at home in the cold and dark surrounded by horrific, howling winds (albeit by candlelight), Tom and I decided to move aboard Serenity.  First we had to find a way out of the neighborhood.  Once that was accomplished, we drove to the marina to be sure it (the marina) was still there.  We could see Serenity in her slip and almost fainted with joy.  We sped to the marina and rushed down the dock to really get a good look at our girl.  She was in great shape, not even a leaf on her decks!  We had to rush through our initial check because the water was almost level with the dock and  it wasn't quite high tide yet.  The dockmaster later told us that on Monday, the storm surge created a new high water mark at 4 feet over the dock.  We went home, threw some things into a bag and headed out again.  Warmth, lights, fresh food, (a tad of wine) and just the feeling of being safe and comfortable never felt so good.

As we watched the news for the first time, we were mesmerized by the sights flashing across the TV of destruction and misery all across the mighty, tri-state area.  To see huge waves crashing over the battery in lower Manhattan and flooding once teeming sidewalks was a sight to behold.  I cried with the people  who told reporters their story of loss.  I looked around my surroundings with even more gratitude than  usual.  Here we are in the lap of luxury while others live in shelters, having lost everything.

Once I established contact with our daughter, I learned that they were not only safe, but had never lost power.  Thank goodness Tucker was safe and warm in his nest!  Our barn manager sent a text that the horses were safe, but that the barn was without power.  By now, hearing that there was no power was nothing new.  What I didn't expect upon arriving at the barn was a team of roofers on the roof of my horse's barn.  Apparently, much of the roof covering that barn blew off during the storm, leaving rain to pour in.  Thanks to the diligence and hard work of the wonderful men who keep the barn running, they got on the roof in the storm and put a tarp down to protect the horses.  They were hard at work today nailing down the base of the new roof.

Wow!  There was so much to worry about these past 3 days (it seems like much longer than that)!  First, the ones I love - daughter, son-in-law, grandson, friends, horse. Then the physical things, house, cars, boat, property.  Living through such a widespread disaster helps to prioritize what is important in life.  Just the ability to make a phone call, flip a switch for light, or drive anywhere with a full tank of gas - it's a luxury now.  As New Yorkers, we will get through this as we have in other disasters.  I just hope it won't take too long.