20 December, 2016

Merry Christmas

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, US

Another year has flown by filled with lots of exciting adventures.

We have a new, and different adventure to look forward to in the new year. After selling Rachel last January we knew that we still wanted to travel. We've really enjoyed the RV and still plan on lots more exploration in it but we also enjoy immersing ourselves into other countries and cultures. The hard part had been deciding what country, or even continent, to explore next.
Our Christmas Screen

After talking to quite a few friends and acquaintances, and searching the internet we have decided on Vietnam, Everyone we've spoken to who has been there has had wonderful things to say about the country and the people. So in January we will make the long, arduous flight (21 hours) to Hoi An, Vietnam and base ourselves in this UNESCO World Heritage Site for 3 months.

We want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We'll be spending the Christmas season with various family members and we hope you will all have a fun and festive holiday season also.

Drop us an email and let us know what's happening in your world, we always love to hear from you.

With much love and many Ho Ho Hos to you all.

31 October, 2016

It's Not Our Fault

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, US

It's not our fault! Really!

You may recall that we went to visit Mark's cousin Nancy and her husband Chris in Seattle a few months ago. They invited us to their place on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands for a long weekend. Then, while we were there they invited us out for a sail in their 23' sailboat. So, it's obvious, right? You can see how it's really their fault, and not ours, right? Right!

What's that you say? Your fault about what? Oh! The boat, of course!

What boat? you ask

Oh. Hmm... maybe we'd better explain. Cue the flashback music, please...

It's a beautiful summer day in the San Juan Islands. Clear blue sky, about 8 knots of wind, and we're sailing for the first time in almost 2 years. Feeling the wind in our faces gently pulling us along, we both realize how much we miss this. The word “visceral” comes to mind. A quick Google search finds the definitions “Derived from or prompted by a natural tendency or impulse"  and Of, relating to, or arising from one's mental or spiritual being". Visceral. That's what sailing is to us. We can't help it. It's not our fault.

So, just for fun (and we've talked about this before), we start discussing what sort of boat we might (hypothetically) look for (if, in fact, we were ever to look for another boat, which we aren't). We tell ourselves we're just day dreaming, and we pretty much believe us.

We think something with less draft would be fun so we can go to some of the shallower places we've never been able to get into with Rachel's 6' draft. We want something a bit smaller, more stable, but we're reluctant to give up much living space.

It starts to sound as if a catamaran might fit the bill (even though we've never sailed one), but they're much more expensive than a similar length monohull, so that's pretty much out of the question. We kick it around some more on our trip back east, but don't really get anywhere, and set it aside. Grand children, house upkeep, visiting friends and family all keep us pretty well occupied and we're just not thinking about it any more. It's all hypothetical, anyway, right?

When we took off in the RV a year and a half ago, we left Wanda the Honda with some friends near Deltaville, VA where we used to keep Rachel. We catch a ride back up with other friends to pick up the van, then head over to the boatyard and marina to visit with even more friends before heading back to Blacksburg.

Some time during the day, a funky looking catamaran appears in “the field of dreams”. This is a small yard owned by the Deltaville Maritime Museum just across the road from Deltaville Boatyard. We call it “the field of dreams” because the museum accepts donation boats which they then resell. Many of the boats are in pretty sad shape, but in some cases, if you're willing to do some work, you can get a great boat for a really good price. Many otherwise unreachable dreams have come to fruition as a result. 

 So it's not our fault – we didn't ask for that catamaran to suddenly appear.

We wander over and take a walk around the boat. It's a 33' 1996 Gemini 105M. Cosmetically, on the outside, it's a mess – dirty, moldy, leaves and leaf stains, black sail covers now dark green with moss etc. But, since we're always willing to look on the bright side and put in some sweat equity if we can get a good deal on something, we see a lot of potential.

Some of our friends say “It would be cool to see what it looks like inside.” So now it's their fault. They are what we call “Big Enablers”!

In a moment of weakness, we call and arrange for the museum's boat guy to meet us and let us inside to look around. We're pleasantly surprised – a bit of trim and one floorboard are damaged from a persistent leak, and we notice a few other issues, but overall, it's in much better shape than we expected when we were looking at the outside. It smells nice, no mold, it's clean and bright, and it even has new settee cushions. The asking price is pretty low for a catamaran, but still higher than we're willing to pay. On a lark, Mark mentions a low-ball number (not really an offer – just an “I wonder if they'd be willing to go that low?”) and the guy says he'll take it back to the museum board and see what they say.

So we go back to Blacksburg, forget about it for the most part, and a couple of busy weeks pass. Some friends from England are flying in to check out their boat in Deltaville, and we make arrangements with several other friends up there for a get-together while they're in the US. The day before we leave to head up for the shindig, Mark remembers about the boat, and thinking it's probably already been sold, calls the museum. He is told “Sorry I didn't get back to you, the board accepted your offer.”

EEP!! So now it's the museum board's fault – first for calling it an “offer” then for accepting it. Now what?

Still trying to convince ourselves that we're not really serious, we make arrangements to get the key so we can give the boat a good going over for a couple of days.

On the up side, she only draws 18” of water with the centerboards and rudders up (talk about shallow draft!!) and is only 14' wide, so can fit in a regular travel lift. Because she's a catamaran, she has a huge cockpit (easily seating 10 or 12) and front deck, and can seat 6 (or more) people at the dinner table. A queen size master berth, a full head and shower, a small but workable galley, and two guest cabins fill out the accommodations. She also comes with an 8' Caribe dinghy with outboard, a Honda generator, and a big, expensive chart plotter, all of which seem to work.

We do find a few more issues, none of which are real deal breakers, but all of which potentially add up to more than we're willing to spend on repairs. So, in a half-hearted attempt to get out of the whole deal, Mark goes back to the guy and offers him even less. The guy leaves, then calls back an hour later and says “You have a deal.”

Oh! Hmmm! So whose fault is it now?

Yep, we're boat owners again. Previously named “Cat's Paw”, we decide to rename her “Rachel”.

We expect it'll take a month or so of hard work before we'll be able to put her back in the water and go for our first sail, but we find ourselves looking forward to it. We do love a project.

Our work will be cut out for us next spring when we get back from Vietnam – oh, oops, guess we forgot to tell you about that, too. Looks like we've already found a topic for the next Khronicle...

See? Told you it wasn't our fault!

26 August, 2016

Heading East

One last brief “catching up Khronicle” (with lots of photos) brings us home to Blacksburg.  Then we'll be back on our usual, totally random schedule.

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

We crossed the Canada / US border and got through customs with no problems at all. Now that we're experienced RV border crossers, we know what to eat or get rid of before re-entering the US, and we passed through with flying colors.

Teton National Park - where we met up with old cruising friends who were heading west as we headed south and east

Arches National Park – awesome

Canyonlands National Park – also awesome

Then up the hill to a BLM campsite in the Price Canyon Recreational Area – long, steep, but really nice. Walk up to old growth bristlecone pine grove. Some of these trees are over 1000 years old. Met a very interesting fellow who claims to be one of the top Ponderosa pine guys in the world.

Cortez, Colorado to visit ex-boater RV friends we met in Baja California, Mexico. Ended up staying for 2.5 weeks to work on camper and hang out enjoying each others company.

Mesa Verde National Park – also awesome.

Great Sand Dune National Park – pleasant surprise.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve – bison, ticks, and very tall grass.

Memphis, Julie's old stomping grounds.

And finally, back to North Carolina and Virginia to our kids and grand kids and our house in Blacksburg.

Whew! Fast trip, eh? We traveled 30,000 statute miles in the last year and a half. Crossed the country coast to coast twice, and from the tip of Baja California, Mexico to Vancouver Island, Canada, visiting lots of places in between. It took us 8 years to go 25,000 nautical miles in Rachel. Traveling sure is a lot different at 50 mph!

We hope you enjoy the following photos.

 Mount Ranier, Oregon
 Craters of the Moon National Park

Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1), the world's first nuclear power plant
 Photo of operator using the remote grippy things
 Mark gets to try the remote grippy things - not as easy as it looks
 An unscheduled visitor to EBR-1
Another visitor - a fox trying to race with us beside the RV - it was surprisingly fast
 Grant Teton National Park
Lovely to spend a couple of days hiking and having fun with old cruising friends
River boating with same friends on the Snake River
 Antelope Island near Salt Lake City, Utah
The island sits in the Great Salt Lake and is accessible via a 14 mile causeway.  Home to one of the largest herds of free range bison in the US.  Also lots of pronghorn and bighorn sheep, mule deer and many varieties of birds. 
Great trails on Antelope Island but unfortunately in the July heat we only took advantage of a couple of short ones in the early morning
 Bristle cones at Price Canyon Recreation Area, Utah
 1,000 + year old bristle cone pine tree
Arches National Park

 Careful! Don't push too hard!
 A double rainbow

This trail led up a precipitous path to a spectacular arch.  Luckily is wasn't too busy so we got to hug the high side and walk really slowly! 
Visiting friends in  Cortez, Colorado and doing RV repairs.  Can't have fun ALL the time
Cathleen & Derek - look familiar?
We came across this herd of sheep on a back road to Tulluride, Colorado
 ...about the ride up to the ski slopes in a gondola.  Julie said she's much prefer the Venice variety.
Last day in Cortez with our ex-boater RV friends whom we met in Baja
Mesa Verde National Park
We never realized there were so many cliff dwellings here

They are littered all over the place and very spectacular 
Great Sand Dune National Park. We had no idea this was here. There are two rivers that carry sand down from the mountains.  In the spring, they erode the dunes, carrying sand downstream.  
 The rivers dry out in summer, and the prevailing wind carries the sand back to the dunes.  An amazing cycle of erosion and renewal.

 Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.  Cow and nursing calf
 That's some tall grass!
 Loose buffalo?
Oh, now we get it

 Julie and her new friend in Branson, Missouri
 Mark signing Elvis' wall at his (Elvis', not Mark's) home in Memphis, Tennessee
Nearly home now