2015 - Our Year in Review
January, 16, 2015
It's that time again when we bid farewell to our family, close up the house and head back down to the boat for the winter
season.  Had a fine flight into San Juan, P.R. and stayed at the Airport hotel since we had a late arrival.  A bit pricey but
better then trying to head out in a rental car after dark.  The next day we headed out to Puerto Del Rey Marina, just south
of Fajardo and got a pretty early start making sure Dreamtime was ready for the big splash.  She was in good shape and
since it was Friday and we weren't planning on painting the bottom we hit the water and went into a slip.  Lots of work
ensues - blah, blah - finally 2 weeks later we head out for a shakedown to Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands about
25 miles east of P.R.
Looking back on Puerto Del Rey Marina, huge,
with somewhere around 1000 slips!
Our approach to cruising has changed in the last few years.  We've slowed way down and have begun to enjoy spending
larger chunks of time in one place, exploring and getting to know the people, amenities and anchorages at a deeper
level.  Since we plan to store in Puerto Del Rey again this summer we are planning on staying in this general vicinity for
the duration.
This is a shot of the Dakity anchorage in Culebra, just
behind a reef.  Ed took this on one of his many hikes.
Culebra, Puerto Rico, a part of the Spanish Virgin Islands 25 miles east of the mainland and 12 miles west of St. Thomas, is
wonderful place to hangout in, in that it has a pretty good ex-pat and tourism base, so the grocery stores offer a bit more
products from the USA.  Also, there is a ferry back to the Fajardo area of P.R. from where you can catch a "publico", usually
a van which holds 10 ppl or so, over to shop at the WalMart and West Marine stores for a few $ each way.  Or rent a car
and tour the island, which is very beautiful.

After several weeks spent hanging out, on our own and with some long-term local (fulltime) cruisers we were ready for a
change of scenery and the weather was about to co-operate.  A last laundry session ashore and a big shop and we
headed around the east end of Culebra to the anchorage called Almadovar, also behind a reef.  It is a really pretty bay with
a lot of nooks and crannies, all of it mangrove-lined with a sandy bottom.  

We did a gunkhole tour of it by dinghy the other morning and observed a lot of bird activity.  Great Blue Herons, Great
Egrets, Hawks, Kingfishers, Pelicans, Terns and Frigatebirds all out and about.  A few more pics of the area are below.
I know he's probably non-native but he's
pretty.  Ed came across him on a hike in the
Another shot taken from the Dakity anchorage
looking towards the entrance channel of Ensenada
Honda Harbor.
Shots taken around the Almadovar anchorage.
There's always some maintenance to be done on board (as evidenced above) but you must also make time for
enjoyable pursuits.  This season I decided I wanted to have a craft-related activity to keep busy with so I brought
along some vibrant batik fabric "tubes" to use for handicrafting purposes. So far I've made purses and table  
trivets, which are essentially wall art until put to use protecting the table from hot items.

The fabric was sewn into casings while we were in the states, then pressed flat for travel, ready to be stuffed with
polyfill, swirled into shapes and hand stitched to hold their shape. It's been great fun and very engaging, and I've
sold quite a few. Here's a photo sampling of a few to give you an idea of how they look.
April, 2015
All part of the cruising experience is the work that must be done if putting the boat to bed for the hurricane season.  Bear
in mind that we're in the tropics in June and the sun can be brutal.  We start out by going into a wet slip for a week or so
and doing as much as we can while our little A/C window unit provides some relief in between jobs.  This year we decided
we must refinish the Mahogany boom gallows which really took a beating last summer and looked pretty bad. The last time
we refinished it we used Bristol Finish which, when compromised, lifts in the surrounding areas.  This time we went back
to Cetol Marine Light and Gloss which is more tolerant of bumps and bruises.  I would complain about my part in the effort
except that Ed was in the engine room changing the transmission fluid and engine oil (better him than me!)
June, 2015
Ed's hike up to the lighthouse was rewarded
with this shot of Dreamtime at anchor.
A shot of the Almadovar anchorage from atop Culebrita
The view from "our" mooring inside the
Almadovar anchorage
From the lighthouse Ed was able to see the  
smallish anchorage on the north end of Culebrita.
Another great shot looking south from the hilltop on
Culebrita, the tiny island on the east side of Culebra.
A shot of the Palominitos island, a tiny cousin to the
bigger Palominos, quite close to the main island. Rather
busy with visitors from the El Conquistador resort
An awesome brown halo around the sun.  Growing up in
Rochester NY I've seen ice crystal halos but this looked
different, perhaps the Saharan dust in the air made it
look browner than usual.
This schooner sailed by the Dakity anchorage and handily
dropped sail then motored in. A closer inspection showed
it was a bit rough around the edges but still kind of cool.
This has been a great season here in the Spanish Virgin's.  Granted, we didn't go very far but that was because the
ambiance was wonderful. Between the very kind people, shops, and the beautiful water (and beaches) for swimming,
snorkeling or just plain staring at, we couldn't think of any place we'd rather be.  

Culebra also has a privately funded Library which needs all the donations it can get to keep going.  They offer computers
& wifi usage for a small fee and have many books, both fiction and nonfiction.  It is probably one of the best reasons to
hang out here, at least as far as we are concerned.  Please help them if you are in the area.

It's getting to be time to think about the haul-out process and get down to it, oh goody!
May, 2015
All better now.  The "instant" gratification factor is the
thing that makes woodwork tolerable to me.
A shot of the Puerto del Rey Marina from some
elevation, it's HUGE!
The view from the apartment unit we rented for 3
nights after we had filled Dreamtime's below decks
space with sails, dodger, bimini, jerry jugs etc.
Dreamtime all blocked and strapped - hopefully the
summer will be mild and no storms will come calling.
We finished-up at the marina mid-morning and had time for a nice lunch at Lolita's Mexican restaurant (which was a real
treat) then a quick ride up to El Yunque.  The road was very narrow and twisty with only a couple of overlook areas, but
here's the view from one of them.  We had never seen a BEE sign warning before so we had to have a pic.

Now we are back in the states for the next few months looking forward to visiting with friends and family.
After flying in from Puerto Rico and having a few relaxing days getting unpacked and squared away back in the states we
started tackling the projects that needed to be done to make the stateside digs presentable.  Too hot in Florida to get much
done during the summer months but we did do some inside work.

Ed's idea, let's go on a 6-week car touring/camping trip out west to let things cool off and to find some cooler air for
ourselves.  Great idea!  Packed up our Ford Taurus X with our camping gear and headed west with the only fixed plan being
to catch the USA Pro Challenge Cycling Race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado by mid-Aug.  

After several very fast "hit & run" type trips out west in past years (catching several National Parks on one trip not to
mention several states) we decided to concentrate on just the Rocky Mountains this time around.  It turned out to be a great
strategy.  We stayed in several campgrounds around the state and got to explore several mid-sized towns, such as
Montrose, Gunnison, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, Crested Butte and Glenwood Springs, in some depth.

We use 2 different setups depending upon how long we are planning to stay in one area.  The Tent and the Cabana.  Both
are super easy to setup and provide privacy and access to the sleeping area in the back of the car.
July - Sept, 2015
Anyway, after our very nice relax in Arkansas we headed out towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado area
and (with the 100 Best Campground in Colo Guide Book in hand) we made our first camping foray at the Pitkin
Campground about 35 miles northeast of Gunnison.  We had a great site beside Quartz Creek and opted to stay for a
week.  2 days into the stay (which was fantastic BTW), at 9,400' elevation, we got that cooler weather that we were looking
for in the form of
HAIL and overnight temps in the 40's. Made sitting around the campfire at night a real pleasure.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge and Grounds, several hiking trails handy too.
The USA Pro Challenge Cycling race in and around Steamboat Springs was fun.  We got a ring side seat in town at a local
watering hole where we could enjoy the start/finish of Stage 1 & a locally-crafted IPA (beer, and yes, yummy) then went
down and met the peloton while at full speed on their way to the Araphoe basin for the completion of Stage 2.  

We stayed at the Steamboat Lake Campground, a huge area on a lake with several big loops and all the expected
amenities such as hot showers and laundry.  Spent the better part of a week there too.  It was really nice to not be on a
schedule per se, and to be able to be flexible in the where's and how long's.
We also visited Lake Tenkilller in eastern OK, Tennessee to visit our friends formerly of s/y Libertas Shawn and Joe, and
Lake Blue Ridge in northern Georgia before heading back home.  A really great trip all in all.  

If you enjoyed this small sampling here's a link to a 5 minute slideshow on youtube with a few more pics.

After the race we headed down to Redstone Campground (just outside Redstone) and used that as a base for touring
around the area.  One day we took the scenic drive through Aspen and over Independence Pass (12099' elevation) at the
Continental Divide.  Quite cool up there which allowed the wildflowers to hang around for my viewing pleasure, lol.  
Another day we went down to Marble, a very small town that has a huge marble quarry and had lunch at a great BBQ joint
called Slow Groovin BBQ. Really creative and delicious food.  

Marvelous Marble, Colo link
Ed is a driving enthusiast (in case you didn't know that about him) and the only way he would face 2000+ miles one way is
to do it in a very comfortable, very driveable vehicle.  The Taurus fits the bill perfectly.  We removed the 3rd row of seats
and Ed designed and built a deployable platform upon which we set up our 6" full-sized air mattress.  It raises for storage
underneath and comes out and flips around to be used at a picnic table off the tailgate.  Pretty cool. (I love engineers!)   
Add to that the Rhino-Rack carrier up top for the tent, bbq, stove, chairs etc. and we're pretty well set.  
                                     **  Ed sez "No Tow! and No COW (condominium on wheels) either".  **

We have a Texsport tent which is specially made for SUV camping.  It has a fabric tunnel which goes over the tailgate and
back half of the car allowing ready access to the sleeping area from within the tent.  We kept most of our non-food items
in the tent to protect them from weather and keep the campsite looking neat.  During the day we dropped the tunnel and
fastened it down to the base of the main tent then drove away for touring.  Great setup which worked well for us when we
were spending more than one night at a campground.

The other setup is the Cabana, a small privacy enclosure that goes over the tailgate as well.  We made a stabilizing
modification to it adding a PVC piece at the trailing top edge to give it some stiffness and body.  It has loops at the bottom
corners for either tent stakes (if the ground is soft) or suitable rocks if setup on asphalt as it is above.

After all the last minute hectic craziness we decided to head for the Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge in western
Arkansas which Ed had read about and chill out for a couple of days.  Just the ticket too.  At almost 2700' elevation it was a
bit cooler with spectacular Smoky Mountain-like views and pastoral grounds.  Beautiful, fully renovated rooms and very,
very nice.  It was like being pampered at a spa.
Another neat campground we stopped at was Saddlehorn, within the Colorado National Monument.  The sites afford a
gorgeous panoramic views down in the valley.  Lots of hoodoos and neat geological features in the area.  Took the Rim
Drive, of course, and saw a lot.  Sensory overload much?!
Lake Tenkiller (left), Shawn & Joe's in Tennessee, and sunset at Lake Blue Ridge, Morganton, Georgia
Back in the groove again, handling various other projects at home.  Clearing out clutter, organizing and doing a bit of
deck/dock maintenance.  Catching up on internet stuff, doing some sewing and crafting and having fun seeing friends.

First up were Lori and Ken from
's/v Reality Check' who joined us for a few days.  What a blast.  We met them (in person)
last season while in Culebra after hearing them as net controllers on the Coconut Telegraph SSB net.  Turns out Ken is
another Alabamian and a very funny guy and Lori is an amazingly talented artist and author of a couple of children's books
that can be found on Amazon (shameless plug goes here:) Her watercolors are just fantastic!!
October, 2015
                                           Lori and me, plus Ed and Ken out on the deck at our house.  

One day our group met up with another couple of our cruising friends, Nancy and John of
's/v Silver Seas' who are testing out
the ambiance/amenities of Jacksonville during the summer (hurricane) break.   Had a great lunch at one of their favorite local
haunts, the
Derby on Park restaurant in the Five Points area of Jacksonville. Great food and craft beers on offer.   Lots of
laughs together then we headed over for a walk-through of the Cummer Art Gallery, a very nice gallery on the lovely St.
Johns riverside grounds.
Very cool mural on the side of the building,
Nancy and Ed join me in a couple of shots.
Later in the month we had a reprisal of our last "Derby" run with Nancy & John after a disappointing showing at the Riverside Arts
Market, held every Saturday and usually very full of vendors, both arts/crafts and food, patrons and featuring live music to boot.  
Found out later that there was a match-up of fierce rivals GA Bulldogs and FL Gators at the stadium and all the action was over
there... oh well, next time.
Ye Old Guardian/Delta Management Systems worker-bees. Thanks for organizing it Sherri.
In the ongoing beautification of the home front, we had a decorative concrete coating applied to our old, discolored and tired
driveway.  Ed did a bunch of prep-work with grinding and epoxying the cracks, as did our contractor and it looks fantastic
Late Sept, 2015
Now that there was some drier air on tap it's time to clean, repair and caulk the deck, stairs and dock surfaces in
preparation for hitting it with Rescue-it by Olympus.  We had used it a few years back and liked its performance.  

Ed did most of the grunt work down below while I painted the railing around the deck level. Don't have any action shots
from Ed's efforts but he did great work and it's wonderful to have that project done.
November, 2015
Another thing I enjoy is playing around with silk flowers.  After years in
a saltwater environment I found my green thumb has turned black, so
silk is the way to go for me now.

This is a small trellis that I put up to inject some floral color into the
deck environment.
This year for Thanksgiving Mom's step-daughters were coming from California/Arizona for a visit.  Clan get-togethers can
be fun and this one was no exception.  Lynn (Calif) and Dianne & Dennis (Az) made the prospects of cooking the traditional
Thanksgiving spread much more appealing - it's hard to get psyched for all that involves when there's only a few of us to
eat it.  Mom and I had a blast getting food all together while the rest of the gang worked on the table settings and other
logistical items. Everything turned out delicious.  Thanks Mom for your great (family hand-me-down) recipes!!
Late-Nov, 2015
The big event, YUM!
Ed and Dennis
Lynn, Mom & Dianne     
Towards the end of the month a reunion get-together was planned with my ex-work buddies at a local eatery, the
Stonewood Grill.  These folks were good, good friends for many years and this was the first time in almost 10 years that I
was physically here to be included.  It was so great to catch-up with everyone.  In fact, we didn't get all caught up but the
wait staff was getting a bit anxious to get their table back on a Friday night. Hope I'll be here for the next one - I heard
bowling, which we used to do as a group from time to time.
December, 2015
It's time to get it in gear for the Holidays!  I love to cook, decorate and handmake some of the gifts for my family,
so Christmas time is my time to have fun!  Some of what we've been doing to follow in pictures.  Making the trip to Destin to
see our daughters and their families, as well as attending Mom's Sunday School classes Christmas Luncheon was on the
docket, as was baking Pumpkin-Cinnamon Rolls and swapping out summer/fall florals for Christmas florals.
Lynn, Mom & Dianne     
Lynn, Mom & Dianne     
Pumpkin-Cinnamon Rolls
Seasonal silk florals
Mom's Sunday School Class's Christmas Luncheon at Gigi's
Jacqui & me with Grace in the background, then the entire family, Grace, Matt, Jacqui, Jackson and Ed & I bookending things.

This was just a quick visit but  we enjoyed it very much.
The "men"; Shawn and Matt and Ed with his beautiful daughters Michelle (right) and Jacqui (left).
I'm so happy that they let me claim them too!