I had fun creating an infographic that depicts Rich’s and my interests, pets, properties, hobbies, shared passions, coincidences, and much more. Click and enjoy the link below!
For the past six years, we’ve chartered a boat from San Juan Sailing/Yachting. This year, like the previous two years, we chartered Tug Time, a luxurious 29-foot Ranger Tug, with everything we could possibly want for the week. Familiar with the boat, we are able to thoroughly relax, not having to wonder how to use the instruments, light the stove and oven, flip the switches on the electrical panels, best way to grab a mooring ball or anchor, and myriad of other “things” one needs to know to go from point A to point B in a boat.
This trip, however, we were bogged down with worry.
In June, Rich was laid-off from IBM, less than two years before his retirement. Happily, he was given six months of severance and other benefits. Nevertheless, it hasn’t eased the challenge of getting another job. His focus at IBM was Linux device drivers for IBM servers, which is the opposite of what employers are seeking. Windows and software (versus hardware) development is the overwhelming focus in the Seattle area.
Meanwhile, I was working gangbusters as a freelancer on Microsoft short-term projects through June. With the start of Microsoft’s fiscal year in July, and announcement of re-organizations a few weeks later, the work dried up. And even though the agency I’d been contracting through kept saying they were going to be busy, no work came my way.
Adding to our stress, we’ve been juggling my mother’s care, listing for sale and then selling our Anacortes lot (yeah!!!), leasing our Coupeville house (we had three potential renters within a day!!), leasing my mother’s house in Sherwood, Oregon, refinancing Rich’s brother’s house to lower the payments (he’s quadriplegic and Rich oversees his finances), and keeping up our Kirkland (primary residence) and Mount Vernon (where my mother now lives) houses. I dream of the day when we have one house!
Shimmering Moon Over Cypress
Our last full day on Tug Time was a reflection of our present lives.
The night before, we had a magical evening anchored off Shaw Island. It was a quiet bay that we shared with several other boats, many of which probably belong to the residents of the island. As the sun started setting, I pulled out my binoculars, and watched a blue heron methodically walk on a floating dock, slowly lifting each leg, bending its knees backwards, and then carefully placing its foot a few inches forward, it’s long, graceful toe flexing, and then spreading out as he easing his weight from one foot to the other. The entire time, it surveyed the water, hoping to find an unsuspecting fish, which it could quickly snatch in its bill, and then swallow in a single gulp.
As the sun set, the ferries that chauffeured passengers and vehicles from island to island turn on their lights. In the dark of night, they look like sparkling fairylands gliding across the shimmering water. We never tire of watching them coming into view and then disappearing. But as the hour grows later, and the day’s activities catch up with us, fatigue takes over and we crawl between the flannel sheets, several warm comforters on top, falling asleep as Tug Time gently rocks in the water, and slowly swings as the wind changes direction.
After our customary breakfast of coffee, frosted mini wheat, milk, and a piece of fruit, we pulled up anchor, and headed to Cypress Island. We’ve been to Cypress Island many times to gaze at the view from Eagles Cliff. Two years ago, when we were admiring the panorama, Rich looked down at this foot, and saw an old coin. When he dusted it off, he realized it was an Indian head penny from 1890.
With clear skies and light breezes, our drive over to Cypress Island was uneventful until an alarm sounded. It took us several minutes to figure out it was the carbon monoxide detectors. The LEDs on the alarms indicted there was no power.
Rich checked the voltage of all of the batteries and realized the starter engine battery was dead. Having reset the inverter switch several time throughout our recent trip, Rich went to the back of the boat and noticed one of the four battery switches was off, so he turned it on. The issue was instantly solved. However, to make sure he was supposed to turn on this switch, Rich contacted San Juan Yachting. They concurred he’d taken the correct action.
We continued to Cypress Island where we easily grabbed and tied up to a mooring ball. We changed into shorts, and then took our dingy ashore. It was low tide, which holds the promises of finding interesting treasures along the waterline. A quick walk up and down the pebbly shore yielded several pieces of rusty metal, including a rat tail file (which I thought was a metal chopstick until Rich pointed out the threading), railroad tie, and several large nails.
Having arrived at Cypress before noon, we had lots of time to walk around the island and see places we hadn’t been before. Although, to be brutally honest, there isn’t a heck of a lot to see besides the Puget Sound and boats zipping between the islands.
Less than 50 people live on the island, which is around 5,500 acres in size. The only people I’ve ever seen are boaters and kayakers.
Having our fill of evergreen trees and picking pebbles off the beach, we returned to Tug Time for our customary afternoon cheese, salmon spread, crackers, white wine, reading or day dreaming. With several other boats in the cove, Rich couldn’t resist breaking out the binoculars to spy on them and comment on their mooring techniques.
With our trip nearing an end, it was hard not to lament that was probably our last charter on Tug Time. In the past, we’d immediately reserve the boat for the following year, but with Rich and I both searching for jobs, we’ll have to “wait and see.”
Adding to our angst is the responsibility of caring for family, wondering what we’re going to do about health insurance if we can’t secure jobs in the coming months, and the uncertainty of the economy with the lunacy of the Republicans.
Nevertheless, we were determined to enjoy our last few hours on the boat… assembling giant burritos from the last of our lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, refried beans, spicy chicken, and roasted green salsa. We then read until dark, admiring the full moon glowing on the still water. It was one of those perfect evenings where everything aligns perfectly like a Photoshopped picture.
After saying good-bye to the full moon, we crawled into bed, and flipped on the TV/DVD player in the forward cabin. We surfed the TV channels from Canada, and then watched the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. We’d brought a stack of DVDs to watch on the boat when we weren’t reading. Most of the movies we brought weren’t memorable except The Queen with Helen Mirren. We’d had this DVD for weeks, but put off watching it, thinking it would be boring. However, it proved to be fast-moving, engaging, and well-acted. We enjoyed it more than Lincoln.
Before we turned off the lights, Rich started up the engine to make sure everything was charged.
Battery that Couldn’t
We planned on getting up at 6 a.m. the next morning to pack, and motor back to Bellingham before the rush of other charter guests at the fuel and pump-out docks. However, Rich couldn’t get the boat started! The battery for the starter engine was dead.
He located a pair of jumper cable, and thought he could use the charge from another battery to jump the starter battery, but no luck. The switch he’d turned on the day before connected all of the batteries so overnight, they must have ALL discharged. It didn’t make much sense because the other batteries were all charged the day before, and it was only the starter battery that was dead when the carbon monoxide detectors went off.
The only option was to call San Juan Yachting and ask them to send a boat, which could give us a jump. Because they were concerned there was a major issue with the boat, and may have to tow it, they sent a 48-foot Grand Banks, which looked small on the water, but huge next to the 29-foot Tug Time.
Once the two boats were rafted (tied) together, they jumped the batteries. We started up the engine, and were ready to return to Bellingham. We followed the Grand Banks for a while, and then told them we were okay and they should go ahead.
Back in Bellingham, we got 63 gallons of diesel at the fuel dock. Over the course of our 7-day trip, we went over 158 nautical miles from Deception Pass off Anacortes and Whidbey Islands to Victoria and Sydney, British Columbia to Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Shaw Island, and several other Puget Sound islands.
Because we’d one most of the packing and cleaning of Tug Time while waiting to be rescued at Cypress Island it took us barely an hour to unload and clean the boat when we got back to Bellingham and San Juan Yachting.
Stay tuned for more highlights of our trip.
(Continuation from “Bus Ride to Remember, Mural, and Painting with the Sun”)
After a delightful day at Thetis Island, we headed to Prince Margaret Marine Park off Portland Island. North of Sidney on Vancouver Island, Portland Island was presented to Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom in 1958 to commemorate her visit to British Columbia.
It’s estimated that Coast Salish natives lived on the island 3,000 years ago, as evidenced by several kitchen middens, heaps of crushed clamshells and other artifacts. The beaches resemble what you’d see on a tropical island, stretches of bright white, finely crushed shells. Interlaced with rocky areas, some covered with layers of sharp barnacles, and others stripped bare by the pounding waves.
The middens are classified as archeological sites, and are therefore protected under British Columbia law. It felt a bit strange to travel to the pristine island in Tug Time ─ equipped with a snazzy galley, featuring a propane stove and oven, microwave, double sink, wine coolers, and teak cupboards and drawers ─ and then walk in a “kitchen,” consisting of little more than well-worn rocks and piles of smashed shells.
While hiking along the forested trails of Princess Margaret Island, we spied several raccoons below, foraging along the shore for tasty morsels. One young raccoon nervously looked around, while snatching a small crab, clam, other crustacean.
We spent the night on a mooring ball off Princess Margaret Island, going through our usual food routine of wine with cheese and crackers as the sun started to set, followed by dinner, reading and nibbling on cookies until it was time to retire to the forward berth to watch a movie on the built-in entertainment system.
For this trip, we brought:
- Two bottles of wine
- Two boxes of Triscuits with assortment of cheeses
- Sourdough bread for dipping in olive oil and fresh ground peppers
- Two boxes of Zatteran Jambalaya mix, augmented with spicy sausage, chopped onions, and green peppers
- Salmon for barbequing
- Zucchini and cucumbers from our garden… sliced and eaten raw
- Dave’s Bread for Rich, and cheese pumpkin seed bread from a Chemanis bakery for me
- Ham and turkey for sandwiches with sliced tomatoes
- Burritos (made one evening, and then eaten cold for lunches and dinners) made from pork, green sauce, chilies, jalapeno refried beans, onions, and peppers
- Fruit and chips (Rich can’t eat a sandwich unless he has chips)
- Candy, dried fruit and nuts, granola bars, and cookies (from last Christmas)
- Cereal for breakfast with hard boiled eggs
The only food we bought was coffee from Pot of Gold Roasting Company on Thetis Island (because Rich brought tasteless Folgers coffee), can of refried beans, six ice creams bars from various marinas, and cups steaming coffee.
Perfect Day Once Again in Deer Harbor
Early Wednesday morning, we checked into customs at Roche Harbor. While we waited for the mist to clear before heading back into the Sound, we sipped coffee and watched people coming-and-going… primarily boaters like ourselves and people staying at the many resorts in the area.
Roche Harbor is one of my favorite towns; it’s gorgeous with beautifully restored buildings, cobblestone walkways, gardens, and planter boxes, overflowing with flowers, boutique shops, and quaint restaurants, inns, and houses. It also has a sizable marina with many impressive yachts. It’s the Huntington Beach of the Puget Sound.
After leaving Roche Harbor, we visited Jones Island, which wasn’t overly remarkable. We tied up to the dock and hiked to the top of the island, observing a troupe of porpoises in the waters below.
Our next stop was Deer Island, which is a short distance from Roche Harbor, but diametrically opposite in demeanor. It’s a charming marina with a well-stocked store, nice showers and restrooms (if you boat, you’d understand the allure of nice showers), a couple of low-key inns, and lovely walking paths along the water.
After securing Tug Time in a slip, we enjoyed giant cones of scrumptious local ice cream, while wandering around the docks. There was a silly pseudo junk, painted with saying and pictures, TV at the tiller and spinning sail at the top. The boat resembled a family project. Check out the pictures in the gallery.
The evening couldn’t have been more perfect with a sliver of a moon in a jet black sky, lights from the walkways reflecting on the water, and a restored, older sailboat with a giant light on the top, which shone down on boat and neighboring boats. Earlier in the day, we spoke with the owner of the boat. They live on the boat in a marina near Seattle.
The next day, we reluctantly left Deer Harbor, and spent several hours driving to Anacortes. It was the first time we’d visited Anacortes by water, rather than bike or car.
There’s a Nordic Tug dealer in Anacortes so Rich wanted to go aboard several of their boats. From the outside, Nordic Tugs are sharp-looking boats with pointed fronts, curved windows, impressive smoke stacks, and plenty of room to walk around the deck.
The insides, however, were disappointing. You have to walk up a couple of stairs to get to where you steer the boat (pilot house), and then walk down several steps into the forward berth. Several times, Rich bumped his head. Evidentially, a 34-foot Nordic Tug isn’t as tall inside as a 29-foot Ranger Tug!
Plus, the bed is smaller and v-shaped. Rich barely fit. And if I was in the bed with him, I’d need to sleep in a little ball because there wouldn’t be room for me to stretch out. After we got back to Bellingham, we bumped into a man who’d chartered a Nordic Tug, and without being coaxed, commented the bed would be too small for someone of Rich’s height.
The last night of our charter was spent at Chuckanut Bay, south of Bellingham. We’ve stayed at Chuckanut several times because it’s like being part of a giant diorama with houses nestled in the hills between the turning trees with trains whistling along the water’s edge. Within minutes of our anchoring, a lengthy train started across the trestle, maybe a quarter mile way, clicking-and-clacking and adding to the magic of the moment.
Across the bay, a Coast Guard vessel had anchored, perhaps a training exercise. They spent the night, their lights, like those on a luxury vessel, sprayed across the rippling water, adding to the moonlight. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful trip.
Even better, we immediately put a deposit down on Tug Time, to charter her again next September.
For the past few years, I’ve been asked by other boaters, “Have you visited Montague and taken the bus to the Hummingbird Pub?”
This year, we were able to answer, “Yes.”
Nestled in Galiano Island, Montague Harbor offers pleasant anchorage that abuts a campground, and is a short walk from several small shops and establishments to rent scooters, kayaks and canoes. There are also hiking trails in the area, meandering through forests and overlooking the beaches below.
We arrived in the early afternoon, and tied up to a mooring ball. After taking our dinghy ashore, we surveyed the area, bought ice cream in the small grocery store, ate blackberries along the side of the roads, and determined when the Hummingbird Pub bus runs, picking up campers and boaters, and bringing them into town.
We returned to Tug Time, to catch up on reading and change clothes. As scheduled, the bus arrived to much fanfare, with the driver, Tom Tompkins (a.k.a. Tommy Transit) in a black beret, his tousled, long white hair escaping out the sides, and a smile stretched from ear-to-ear welcoming us into the bus.
If you’d glanced away, you could have heard the bus coming from quarter mile away. Rock ‘n roll blasting out of the speakers, punctuated by Tommy beating on a small drum in the center of the steering wheel, tambourine mounted above the windshield, and other percussion paraphernalia (I wouldn’t go so far as to call them instruments) within arm’s reach.
Adding to the cacophony was the maracas, castanets, and other music instruments Tommy handed out to passengers, enabling them to join the fun, singing, dancing, and joking during the ride to-and-from the Hummingbird Inn. Here’s a clip from a fan.
What makes Tommy Transit so special is that he’s made a huge difference in the lives of over 150,000 people per year who stepped onto the transit buses he drove for 21 years in Vancouver, British Columbia. Tommy became a “bus driver on a mission,” acknowledging people for who they are, and the unique contributions they make.
Following his retirement, he wrote the book, “Bus Tales: How to Change the World from 9 to 5,” which offers insights on how to connect with people and find joy and fulfillment in their work. Watch a news report on how passengers helped him celebrate his 60th birthday.
Along with his musical antics, Tommy pointed out places-of-interest, including the Galiano Island Soapworks, which makes a variety of artisan soaps, candles, skin care products, and even a pet shampoo bar. There was a large farm with many beautiful horses frolicking in grassy pastures. The owner evidentially rescues race horses, which are destined for slaughterhouses.
Within walking distance of the Hummingbird Pub were several quirky stores. One was a clothing resale shop, housed in a brightly painted travel trailer. Another sold artwork and collectibles; the outside of the stop lavishly decorated with knick-knacks. Check out the pictures in the gallery to the right.
The pub is located in what was once a large rustic house. A covered patio was added on one side, and a screened sunroom in the front. Inside was a jumble of rooms, eclectically decorated with a hodge-podge of tables and chairs. We chose a small table near the bar where we could observe people coming-and-going, many of whom seemed like locals rather than tourists.
Not overly hungry, we ordered a small veggie pizza, which turned out to be one of the most TASTY pizzas I’ve ever eaten! It was a combination of what I suspect was locally grown produce, including tomatoes, sweet onions, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, zesty sauce, and mozzarella cheese on a very thin, crispy crust. We savored every bite in-between sipping strong coffee (me) and a local beer (Rich) that had a slight apricot taste.
The bus ride back to the marina was equally entertaining with people picking up an instrument as they boarded the bus, supplementing the frivolity lead by Tommy, now wearing a different hat, and more exuberant with many people waiting to be picked up, and brought to the Hummingbird Pub for good food and camaraderie.
The Gulf Islands: Blooming with Art
The next morning, we visited one of my favorite placed on Vancouver Island, Chemanius. The town works hard to attract and please tourist. The hospitality started the moment we approached the public docks with the affable harbor master grabbing our lines and helping me tie off Tug Time. The pleasure boat-friendly marina is a fairly new addition because much of the town’s waterfront is dedicated to logging and inter-island ferries.
For much of the town’s history the key industries were mining, fishing, and forestry, the latter providing work to Chinese who labored in “bull gangs,” moving huge lumber planks to ships in the late 1800’s. When the land’s natural resources dwindled, the isolated town — snuggled between a mountain range and the ocean — came up with a plan to attract visitor, and eventually, worldwide fame.
It started with a couple of mural in 1982, which today comprise over three dozen, turning the town of Chemanius into an outdoor art gallery. Click through the murals, some of which span several buildings, and are two stories in height.
Adding to the murals are outdoors sculptures, blocks of charming shops, a dramatic art center, numerous art galleries, and a large park with a view of the water and sizable amphitheater. There are also numerous bed & breakfasts, and other amenities, such as bakeries, that beacon visitors as they stroll through the town. It can take several hours to find and see all of the murals, some of which are down narrow streets and painted in unexpected places. One of my favorites is a steam train painted on the side of house.
Of course, Rich and I were drawn into a bakery, purchasing two bags of day-old pastries. Minutes later, Rich spotted what looking like a vagrant in the city park, lying down with a long-straggly, gray beard, and baggy clothes. Rich offered him his bag of pastries, which he initially declined, and then accepted.
I scolded Rich for giving away his pastries, saying I wasn’t going to share mine. Naturally, five minutes later, I gave him half a tasty coconut, chocolate yummy.
After spending a few hours in Chemanius, including visiting the charming Hansel & Gretel’s Candy Company where Rich bought a bag of tangy licorice, we headed back to Tug Time, waited for the small inter-island ferry to depart, and then cast-off for a short trip over to Telegraph Harbor on Thetis Island.
Named in 1851 after HMS Thetis, a 36-gun Royal Navy frigate, Thetis Island has a population of 350 people, with the few settlers arriving in 1874. The key industry seems to be tourism with between 1,000 and 2,000 people flocking to the island during the warmer months, for the day or overnight, at one or the many bed & breakfasts or the two pleasure boat marinas. We chose to stay at Telegraph Harbor Marina because it offered free Wi-Fi so we could use Sputnik (our netbook) and my Windows Phone.
All of the community services on the islands, except the school, are provided by volunteers. It being early in the afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore the lightly popular populated island. One of my favorite aspects of boating is the anticipation of the unexpected. Thetis was exceptional: From the cobbled-together buildings, which comprise Thetis Harbor Marina and Pub, to the sites on our walk to-and-from Telegraph Harbor Marina.
Because we prefer showering ashore, rather than using up the water on our boat, our first stop was to check-out the bathrooms and showers. We walked up a short, nicely landscaped pathway to a door, which lead to a covered, wooden, outdoor staircase. As we climbed the stairs, we could see the rooftops of the other marina buildings. The stairs came to another door, inside was a narrow hallway with three showers to the right, and two small bathrooms to the left. It was clean and tidy, and latter provided plenty of hot water!
Next, we ventured to the small marine store and post office, on the opposite side of the marina complex, and also up a set of somewhat rickety wooden stairs. Rich and I are always on a quest for ice cream. We found none in the store, but I was intrigued by the breath of generic canned goods. Shelves of cans and boxes with white labels, stating what’s inside and the ingredients. No brands. Simply rows of cans and boxes of fruits, vegetables, meats, spaghetti sauce, pastas, and other staples.
There was also a liquor store, located inside the marina restaurant. Everything a boater, or local resident, could need was in an odd assemblage of buildings, half extended over the water on pilings, half on the terra firm or up flights of stairs. According to one website, the first building at the marina was an old chicken coop that had been floated up the bay in 1940.
A short walk from the marina was the inter-island ferry landing. It had just pulled up, and was unloading passengers, including the raggedy old man who Rich gave his pastries to in Chemanius. He was carrying several bags of groceries. I have a feeling he wasn’t poor and homeless, simply a recluse who lived on Thetis Island and visited Chemanius to get his groceries… or maybe to enjoy the ambiance of the larger town.
Within walking distance of the ferry was probably the largest enterprise on the island, the Capenwray Harbour Bible School. The evangelical Christian post-secondary institution hosts with up to 140 full-time students during the year, and over 4,000 participants in Christian-oriented course offered during the non-school year. The campus was immaculate with Tudor-style buildings, acres of mowed lawns, outdoor amphitheater, pens of happy animals, and many dormitory and support buildings.
Around a couple of bends, we came to a farm store. In front was an elderly man, stooped over a long piece of wood, thick goggles covering his eyes with a magnifying glass in one hand, held over one spot on the wood. Intrigued, I dashed across the road.
The artist was Bud Hnetka, a self-taught Canadian artist who using a technique called solar pyrography, which focuses the strength of the sun through a lens to burn images onto wood. The process is slow, deliberate, and as Hnetka wrote on his blog, “I generally work in public and the spectators think that I’m either the most patient person in the word or just plain bonkers!!”
To create deep layers, he might pass over a spot on the wood 40 times. The result is extraordinary. The pieces took my breath away, especially the ones with the multiple trees and foliage on pieces of wood with distinct grains. To add depth, he adds a little color to the etchings. See the photo gallery below for a sample of one of these pieces, and read more about the amazing art of Solarbud
As we walked to the Telegraph Marina, we passed by many blackberry bushes, the berries satiated my thirst, and stained my fingers purple. Because the Gulf Islands are so far north, blackberries that start ripening in Oregon in July, don’t turn purple in Washington until August, and are finally sweet in Canada in September.
There’s a night and day difference between Telegraph and Thetis Marina. The former is pristine with swathes of groomed lawns, flower-lined paths, tidy store with a soda fountain, offering milk shakes, sundaes, fresh baked pies, and other goodies, including cups of Thetis Island Pot of Gold Coffee. You can eat in the bistro or have them deliver food to your boat.
Like Rosario Marina on Orcas Island, Telegraph Marina is park-like with covered areas, comfortable chairs, picnic tables, swings, volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and other amenities. We stayed for a few minutes, warming ourselves in the sun, and looking over the beautiful expanse of the bay.
On our walk back, we stop at Pot of Gold Coffee Roasting Company, located in what may have been a house, decades earlier. The family-owned business has been roasting coffee in Canada for over 30 years, using Gertrude, a Gothot brand coffee roaster from Germany, built in 1953, and Ferdinand, a bigger roaster purchased in 2011.
We got to see both machines, along with the bags of green coffee beans, waiting to be ground and shipped out the following day. We purchased a bag of Mexican Organic Oaxaco Ky-Chee coffee, which had been roasted a few days earlier.
The company offers 25 varieties of coffee, which is only available through mail order… or if you happen to visit Thetis Island. As I write this article, I’m drinking a cup of their coffee!
Having explored a small slice of the island, we returned to Tug Time to read, nibble on cheese, and drink wine. While lounging, we heard a noise in the background, which aroused us from our stupor. We watched as a float plane whizzed over the water within 30-40 feet of our boat, touched down, glided to the dock, dropped off a passenger, and was then back in the air within ten minutes. Cool!
It was the perfect ending to a glorious day.
It’s been a few days since we returned from our annual boating trip around the Puget Sound and Canadian Gulf Islands on the amazing “Tug Time”, a 29-foot Ranger Tug. Not only did we have extraordinary weather, and Rich expertly plotted the course and itinerary, but we found ourselves in the middle of a super pod of orca whales! It’s taken five years boating in the Northwest to see even one whale. To see dozens within the span of half an hour was unbelievable.
We started our trip very early Saturday morning after spending the night on the boat. We charter from San Juan Sailing in Bellingham, which allows you to attend the safety, orientation, and check-out meetings on Friday afternoon, along with stowing food, clothing, and other stuff on the boat so you’re ready to go in the morning.
Earlier in the day, Rich and I visited our Mount Vernon house to pick produce (piles of zucchini and cucumbers, which we gave to the San Juan Sailing staff), and also collect our boating gear, linen, pillows, and other stuff we’d been accumulating for the trip.
With an hour before the start of the mandatory safety meeting, we visited the Marine Life Center at the Port of Bellingham, where we watched a marine scientist feed a live crab to a hungry Giant Pacific Octopus. The latter quickly wrapped its body and tentacles around the crab, and according to the scientists either drilled a hole in the crab’s shell with its beak and slurped out the meat or crushed the crab, and then picked through the shell for edible morsels.
More pleasant to watch was the delicate shrimp, colorful sea urchins, starfish, and anemone, and humorous crabs. One tiny crab, with long thin legs camouflages itself by “gluing” bits of plant life to his body and legs. It resembled a fragile plant with long stems with puffs of greenery. According to the scientist, once a week, when the tank is refreshed with seawater, the crab re-decorates its body.
It was late at night before we slid into the cozy bed on Tug Time. We had to make an emergency trip to get Haagen Dazs bars… and three boxes of vintage candy. Throughout the trip, we made similar shopping excursions, such as buying giant ice cream cones at the Deer Harbor marine store on Orcas Island.
Because we were able to leave Squalicum Harbor very early in the morning, we were escorted into Bellingham Bay by a herd of seals, who camp out by the fish processing plant at the entrance of the harbor. I barely had time to grab my camera before they dove under the water in search of their breakfast.
Our first stop was the Canadian custom’s dock at Pender Bay, which was over five hours away (32 nautical miles) so there was no dawdling. Thankfully, we only had to wait a few minutes to pull up to the custom’s dock even though several boats were ahead of us. We docked, checked-in, and left within ten minutes. Our records in the Canadian database must say, “Dull, middle-aged, American couple. No need to ask too many questions.”
We had a choice of mooring balls in the Beaumont Marine Park, further into the bay. Using Rich’s new-fangled carabineer/polypropylene contraption, I was able to easily grab the pennant on a ball, tie-off to a cleat, thread in two lines, and then hand the lines to Rich to walk to the bow of the boat. In non-nautical terms, it significantly sped up grabbing and tying off to a mooring ball.
After a quick lunch, we took our dinghy ashore to hike around South Pender Island, and climbed Mount Norman. The highest point on the island at 320 meters (1,050 feet) Mount Norman was worth the effort of putting one foot in front of the other for 4 long, steep miles. The view from the top is spectacular. Check out the pictures!
The next morning, we dilly-dallied before heading to our next destination. As we headed out of Pender Bay, Rich saw a collection of boats in the distance, and on channel 16 (Coast Guard) on the VHF radio, a boater mumbled about seeing an orca whale. I quickly turned to channel 79, which is used by the whale boat operators. Rich meanwhile, gunned Tug Time!
Minutes later, Rich stopped the boat, and I clambered onto the bow with camera in hand. The whales were coming from three different directions, most likely we saw three different pods of whales, converging in what’s known as a super pod. By law you can’t get too close to the whales, and because the whales were coming from several directions, the best plan was to stop, wait, watch, and hope they swim close to your boat.
Ten minutes later, we were rewarded with four or five orcas surfacing within a few hundred feet of Tug Time! You can see how close they got in several of the pictures. Unfortunately, they swim crazy fast, and are above water for only a few seconds.
Last Thursday, Rich and I celebrated our ten year “civil” wedding anniversary. In 2002, we had a “shotgun-like” wedding a week before Rich left for Austin, Texas. Two months later, we had a formal wedding at the Broetje House, in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Prior to leaving for Texas, Rich was getting push-back from IBM about our not yet being married. He feared they won’t my home furnishings unless there was a wedding band on my finger. Hence, three weeks after we’d jointly proposed to each other, in rinky-dink Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, Rich call me at Intel where I managed and wrote the Intel Home Computing website. He was going to pick me up in an hour to get our wedding license, and he’d made arrangements for us to get married the following afternoon at the county courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.
To this day, I don’t know how he had the correct paperwork, such as my birth certificate. Needless to say, I giggled all the way to the courthouse, and didn’t stop until the clerk handed us the license.
The next day, June 21st, summer solstice, was sticky and unusually hot. After work, with two hapless co-workers in tow, I changed into a sleeveless, green dress with large rust-colored roses, twisted my hair into a chignon, and firmly clutched my grandmother’s wedding ring and my father’s wedding band, which I’d taken out of storage the night before.
Rich wore a pale green, patterned silk shirt with off-white pants. He’d zipped by grocery store on the way to the courthouse to get a bouquet of flowers, sprayed green, and a matching boutonniere. They were tacky and fabulous at the same time.
Having forgotten his camera, Mike Jastad, his friend from IBM, and best man at both of our weddings, purchased a disposable camera.
We were married by Judge Don Letourneau who was gracious and understanding as we fumbled the rings (my grandmother’s was a bit too tight for my finger). Fifteen minutes later, we were husband and wife. Eck!
We thanked the three people who witnessed the wedding, celebrated by having Thai food, rushed back to Rich’s house, put on grungy clothing, and then stayed up until the wee hours, preparing for a yard sale we had the next day. As a married couple, our first order of business, which we achieved, was to sell stuff we didn’t need, including my beloved 12-year old Red Toyota Corolla. It didn’t have air conditioning so we decided sell it and not bring it to Texas.
Ten years later, we’re no less harried.
On Thursday, I’d planned to leave work earlier, but at the last minute had a call with a company who was making me a job offer (stay tuned for the details). After accepting the offer, and squealing in delight, I drove home.
Earlier in the day, I’d stopped at Pinka Bella Cupcakes in Redmond Town Center to purchase ten different cupcakes to celebrate ten years of wedding bliss. Okay, ten years of adventures. Pinka Bella makes the most decadent, delectable, imaginatively decorated cupcakes in the entire Seattle/eastside area.
As I’m approaching our house, my cell phone rang. It was agency I hired to help with my mother. They’d had a home visit that afternoon and wanted to discuss the visit. I pulled into our driveway and started talking. As soon as I hung up, the woman whose been helping with my mother for the past few years called, wanting to report on what took place that afternoon.
Rich, realizing I was in the driveway, jumped into action, pulling my car into the garage and unloading my bags, including the cupcakes, which I had planned to present on the crystal platter that once held our wedding cake. I’d cleverly placed the platter in the back of my car the night before!
Deciphering Rich’s hand signals that we were running late, I said “good-bye” and rushed into the house. Rich then instructed me on what to wear for our celebratory evening. He was pulled clothes off the hanger, as I removed one set and put on another… jeans, two shirts, jacket, Converses…
We then scurried out the door, camera-in-hand, and headed towards downtown Seattle. When we parked near the water, I knew we’d be taking a boat. Sure enough, after scrumptious chowder in a hollowed-out sourdough bowl from Ivar’s, we walked to Pier 54 to take a sunset cruise on the 70-foot Obsession sailboat.
It was a beautiful night so I knew it was going to be a great experience. What I didn’t know is they’d allow Rich to sail the boat… for most of the trip! He had an amazing time, sailing in strong winds, through the Thursday night sailboat races near Shilshole Bay Marina, and then back to Pier 54.
After getting home, we split two cupcakes, raised our forks, and toasted ten years of adventure, accomplishments, and most of all love.
Bedwell Harbo, Bellingham, Chuckanut Bay, Cypress Island, Eagle Nest, Ganges, Gulf Islands, Haro Straits, Julie Lary, Puget Sound, rajalary, Rich Lary, Roche Harbor, Saltspring Island, San Juan Sailing, San Juan Yatching, scribbles, Shaw Island, Stuart Island, Sydney, Sydney Spit, Tug Time!
Rich and I just returned from our most relaxing, fulfilling, and truly amazing vacation we’ve ever taken. It was a major undertaking considering we were boating in the unpredictable Puget Sound and Gulf Islands, in late September (i.e. a recipe for bad weather), and on a powerboat versus a more familiar sailboat.
Last September, after the mainsail ripped from the self-furling mast on the usually fabulous sailboat, Wave Dancer – for the second year in a row – Rich decided our next charter would be on a small tugboat. We paid a small deposit to reserve a week on a 25-foot Ranger Tug. However, six month later, we were told the boat was pulled out of the charter fleet. Would we be willing to upgrade to Tug Time!, a 2010, 29-foot, Ranger Tug?
Months before our charter, Rich and I took a motorboat class to learn how to drive and dock a “single screw” boat so we were familiar with what to expect. Plus, while biking in Anacortes in June, we saw a group of Nordic Tugs, some of which were for sale. We decided to explore and while walking down the dock, I noticed Tug Time was sandwiched between several larger boats. I commented to Rich, “Isn’t that the boat we’re chartering?
The couple on the boat was spending the night at Anacortes, and was happy to give Rich a tour so he could get an advanced look at the electronics. This meeting proved fortuitous; Rich noticed the chart plotter on the boat was the same brand as his GPS. In the weeks leading to our charter, he put the wave points for our trip into his GPS, and then inserted its “chip” into the Tug Time’s chart plotter.
Voila! Our routes were instantly available on the chart plotter.
When we made changes to our trip, Rich would use the charting software on our netbook – Sputnik – to update his GPS, and then place the chip back into the boat’s chart plotter. Technology!
Doom and Gloom Lead to Zoom
This year, we decided to attend the Friday evening captain’s meeting, sleep on the boat, and then leave early Saturday morning. In the past, we’ve arrived early Saturday morning, loaded our stuff onto the boat, attending the captain’s meeting, and if everything went well, were able to leave Bellingham by noon.
On Friday evening, however, when we arrived, we learned the weather had been horrific for the past few days, and another large front was arriving with heavy winds and rain. I was convinced we weren’t going to be affected. Rich was more cautious.
Recognizing Rich is the captain and I’m the first mate, I tend to acquiesce to his decisions. However, since we were able to leave early in the morning, and had a powerboat, I talked him into going “as far as” possible on Saturday. The decision was to skip our first planned anchorage on Patos Island, and head straight for Stuart Island, a picturesque island with around 800 full- and part-time residents, squeezed into less than three square miles. The island can only be reached by boat or private plane, and has no stores or amenities… aside from a few outhouses by the campgrounds.
The islands claim to fame is the Turn Point Light Station on the very tip, which is the farthest northwest point of the United States. The view is magnificent on a clear day… and not too bad when it’s overcast. Rich and I sat on the point for few minutes, waving to passing whale-watching vessels, until the sun started to set. We then scurried back to Tug Time, anchored in Prevost Harbor.
Along the way, we chatted with a woman who was inventorying the contents of one of the island’s “treasure chests.” The chests are stocked with t-shirts, cards, hats, and other souvenirs. Each item comes with an envelope. If you want to purchase something, you take the item and the envelope, and when convenient, enclose a check in the envelope and drop it in the mail.
The woman said most people are honest and pay for the items they take. Nevertheless, they’ve had some thefts.
Even though it was a stormy night, we had no issues or concerns about being washed onto the rocks because we were securely tied to a mooring ball. The next morning, while overcast, we had no rain as we drove to Bedwell Harbor on Pender Island to check in with Canadian customs.
When you go through customs, only the captain is allowed to leave the boat (or even stand on the dock). We had a perfect docking, after which, I got back onto the boat and Rich walked up to the customs offer. He returned minutes later. Evidentially, our personal information is already in the Canadian database, and they asked only a few questions.
The Only Rain in a Week of Rainbows
With the sun breaking through the clouds, we zipped to Ganges on Saltsprings Island. The wind had picked up so we were thrilled when three men appeared to help as we pulled into a slip at the Saltsprings Marina. After tying up the boat, they asked us about the conditions outside the marina. Hearing the weather had improved several boaters cast-off and headed to other destinations.
We trotted inside Tug Time, gobbled our lunch, grabbed our rain parkas, and headed to the town. Just as reached the street, a rain squall started; happily, we were able to wait it out in the harbormaster office. It drizzled on-and-off for the rest of the afternoon, but for the most part, we avoided getting wet, by ducking in art galleries, shopping at the local supermarket, and seeking shelter under covered porches.
Saltspring Island is home to many artists, their work displayed in the galleries in Ganges. You can find everything from bronze sculptures costing tens of thousands of dollars to Aboriginal art (wooden masks and carvings), beaded jewelry, fine oil and watercolor paintings, ceramics, handmade furniture, and outdoor art pieces. One gallery had carvings from woolly mammoth tusks, unearthed in the Yukon Territory.
We wandering off the main “drag” to a co-op gallery where we had an interesting conversation about living on Saltspring Island, and US versus Canadian politics. Evidentially, during the school year, there are three water taxis called The Scholarship, The Graduate and The Ganges Hawk, which pick up children living on Galiano, Mayne, Saturna, and Pender Islands, and take them to schools on Saltspring.
Older children, who are involved in sports, music, and other activities, which take place after school hours, can stay with families on Saltspring and return home on weekends.
Ganges is the main town on Saltspring so the grocery store is stocked with a wide variety of goods, including high-end products, wines, meats, cheeses, produce, and pastries. Last year, we indulged in almond tarts from the store, which I quickly sought out this time!
The tiny tarts are amazing with a flaky crust, and layers of raspberry jam, almond yumminess, white glaze, and drizzles of chocolate!
After we got back to the boat, Rich checked out the weather forecast, and learned a front was hours away. He immediately jogged up to the harbormaster and paid for another night at the marina. Sure enough, by early morning, the wind was blowing and the rain pelleting down. It rained, hard, for over nine hours!
Meanwhile, we were cozy warm in Tug Time, watching some crazy kite boarders in wetsuits fly around Ganges Harbor… for hours! I got cold just watching them catch air and then land in icy cold water!
By late afternoon, the rain slowed. Unexpectedly, we were offed a ride into town, which provided a much needed opportunity to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We also chatted with a couple who were on a boat near ours. They too rushed off their boat when the weather broke.
Visits to Our Favorite Towns
The next morning, Monday, we were greeted with blue skies. We headed to the Sydney, at the tip of Vancouver Island. We’d briefly toured this town a few months ago when we spent a long weekend in Victoria. It’s a darling town, and like Ganges, full of art galleries, bookstores, and small shops. It also has many bakeries and chocolate shops, thick with people sipping coffee and snacking on ornate desserts like tarts, small frosted cakes, chocolates, and flaky pastries. Rich, who has more willpower than I, successful negotiated us away from sugary temptations.
Instead, we bought a box of crackers and carton of milk at a supermarket. Boring!
Note: We had on board York Peppermint Pattie brownies, which I made for our trip so we wouldn’t be deprived of chocolate. In addition, I brought powdered hot chocolate with ground-up candy canes for warming up on chilly nights. Yes, I’m the scavenger who buys boxes of slightly stale candy canes after Christmas.
After leaving Sydney, we zipped across the water to Sydney Spit, a favorite picnic area. During the warm months, a water taxi takes people from Sydney to Sydney Spit. Plus, boaters come from Vancouver and other surrounding islands. Being it was late September, we were one of only three boats anchored near the spit.
Even though the sky was darkening, we lowered the dinghy and went ashore. Happily, the wind pushed the darkened sky another direction, and after half an hour, we saw clear, blue skies. Hooray because Sydney Spit has some of the finest beaches in the area, making it a great place to take off your shoes and walk in the sand, beach comb, watch flocks of seagulls, tour the site of the old brick factory, and wonder if you’re going to get wet wading across rivulets because you misjudged when the tides was coming in!
No, we didn’t get wet, but we did gather rocks and shells, a rusty hand-wrought nail, and half a brick. We also took lots of pictures.
Rum, Pears and Potatoes
The next day, Wednesday, was even better weather than the day before. We left Sydney Spit and headed to the Haro Straits where it’s been reported orca whales swim. I have my doubts because we never see them. I’m convinced Disney created orca automatons, which are programmed to surface whenever a whale-watching vessel passes by. The automations never appear when other boaters are in the area.
We spent about an hour in the Haro Straits, toying around, waiting to see if an orca appeared. No luck. Next year, we’ll spend the night in Victoria, which will necessitate traversing the full length of the strait and thereby increasing the probability of an orca siting.
By law, you need to check into US customs when you cross into US waters from Canada. This requirement makes it necessary to either visit Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor. We chose the former, which is a charming, picturesque, resort-like town. Check out the pictures I took of the town and the sculpture garden.
The only thing disagreeable about Roche Harbor was the customs officer who not only asked Rich lots of strange questions, but wanted to come aboard Tug Time and question me!
While still in the customs office, she queried Rich about the amount of alcohol we had aboard. Rich said we had part of a bottle of wine we’d brought from the U.S., an unopened bottle of wine from Canada, and several beers (we took three beers and when our charter ended, Rich had managed to drink two).
The officer then implored, “Any rum?”
Rich was dumbfounded by this question. The only conclusion he could draw was she saw on our passports we’d been to the British Virgin Islands twice, and were perhaps Rum-alcoholics
When the officer came onto Tug Time, and took a look at me, she wondered why I didn’t look like my passport picture (taken ten years ago), and when she asked to see my driver’s license, Rich commented, I wouldn’t resemble that photograph either! In both pictures, my hair was longer and I weighed a “bit” more.
The officer then wanted to know what was in the canisters on the counter.
“Coffee and hot chocolate.”
She opened the former to verify I was telling the truth. She then pointed to a bag of pears and asked if they were my potatoes. I said, “No, they’re pears.”
Her next line of questioning was where we were going. Rich said “Blind Bay off Shaw Island.” She wanted to know “what was there.” Rich in a flat tone-of-voice said “Mooring balls.”
I don’t think she was impressed with his answer because she probed further. It was obvious she knew little about boating and the surrounding area because Shaw Island is a popular, protected anchorage, which is close to Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Rosario, and other marinas which fill up quickly during the summer months.
Even though Shaw Island is privately owned, with only 240 year-round residents, and very few commercial or tourist-oriented facilities, it’s a great place to bike and walk around. We went ashore and bought a few things at the store, pet a large black-and-white cat, spoke to some semi-tame deer, walked for an hour or so, and took pictures.
As we were leaving, a Washington State Ferry arrived, which afforded me the opportunity to take pictures of the ferry from water-level at twenty or so feet away. At night, the ferry is awash with lights and looks like a floating palace. Even though few people get on-or-off the ferry at Shaw Island, the ferry is very large because it starts at Anacortes and drops off people and cars at several different islands.
Perfect Vacation Comes to an End
Thursday, our last day on Tug Time, was equally wonderful. Early in the morning, we went to Cypress Island, grabbed a mooring ball, and then rowed a shore. We didn’t put the outboard engine on the dinghy because we needed to carry it onto the shore so it wouldn’t float away when the tide came up. Most of the places we visited during our trip had dinghy docks.
With camera and Windows Phone in hand, we hiked to the top of Eagle Nest, the top of island, which provides 360-degree view of the Puget Sound from Mount Baker across to Canada. Using my phone, I shot a 1-minute video, which I edited when I got home.
Last year, we found an 1899 Indian Head penny wedged in one of the rocks on Eagle Nest. Rich decided to leave a penny this year and see whether it’s still there when we return in the coming years. It’ll help answer the question as to whether a coin from 1899 could have remained hidden for over one hundred years.
Needing to get Tug Time back to San Juan Yachting by noon on Friday, we decided to spend the night at Chuckanut Bay, south of Bellingham Bay. It’s a lovely area that reminds me of a model train diorama with pretty houses nestled among evergreen and fall-colored maple trees on a hill overlooking a calm bay, dotted with sailboats. Every so often, a train weaves through the houses, appearing and disappearing behind the trees.
With the clickity-clack of the train in the distance, and Tug Time gently bobbing in the water, we fell asleep, our vacation nearly over. The next morning, we fueled up, eased it into its permanent slip in Squalicum Harbor, cleaned-up the boat… and then reserved it for another week-long trip next September!
I wonder… will I ever finish writing about our trip to the Chesapeake last May? Well, this is my last article!
When I last wrote, we were pushing off from the city dock in Annapolis and heading back towards Rock Hall, where we originally chartered, Carol Catie, a 32-foot Hunter sailboat. After two amazing days in Annapolis, the next day was a blur. We sailed, motored, and then anchored overnight, in the Chester River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.
According to “local lore,” in 1774, in defiance against King George III, colonist boarded a British’s ship anchored in the Chester River at Chester Town and threw overboard its load of tea. The deed, which mimicked the Boston Tea Party, became known as the Chestertown Tea Party.
The tea-partiers of yore destroyed crates of tea. The tea-partiers of today are destroying the entire country. How times have changed!
As we approached the Chester River, we watched as the clear sky turned stormy and streaks of lightening flashed in the distance. I wanted to anchor and get away from all metal. Rich opted to man the wheel and keep the boat in the center of the river, away from the banks. The entire time, I rehearsed what I would do when Rich got struck by lightning, as it traveled down the mast, up the wheel, and through the top of his head.
Two rule of lightening safety is to 1) get out of the water, and 2) avoid all metal objects. And if you’re on a boat, stay in the cabin, away from all metal and electrical components.
In spite of lightening crackling around us, pelting rain, and bellowing thunder, we avoided getting electrocuted.
As the sky lightened, Rich looked around for a place to anchor. Normally, or at least in the Puget Sound, you anchor close to shore. In the Chesapeake, however, where the middle of a river is a staggering ten-feet deep, you stay away from the even more shallow shore. So, we anchored smack dab in the middle of the Chester River. It was weird beyond words to spend the night, anchored in the middle of a river.
The next morning, we zoomed back to Rock Hall to return the boat, and put the pedal-to-the-metal to reach Falls Church, Virginia, where we’d be staying for the next three nights. Our motel was less than a mile from a metro station and the train to Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian.
Rich had his handy-dandy GPS so we simply needed to listen and follow the directions, straight through Georgetown, during rush hour. Lovely Georgetown where the speeds down the main drag approaches five miles per hour!
In spite of moving at slug-speed, it was fun to see the many stores, everything from Georgetown Cupcakes to Abercrombie & Fitch, Anthropologie, BCBG, and Brooks Brothers… to United Colors of Benetton, Urban Chic and Victoria’s Secret. Sprinkled among the stores are over one hundred restaurants of every ilk, salons and spas, pharmacies, electronic and telephone stores, art galleries, shops for toys, fabrics, home décor, and boutique and hotels, including the Four Seasons to Ritz-Carlton.
It’s amazing the density of commerce and activity. The sidewalks were three- to four-deep with people. There wasn’t space along the curbs to even accommodate a Smart Coupe, let alone delivery trucks, which were forced to park in the middle of lanes, further impacting the ability to drive much more than a few feet at a time, and then wait through multiple signals to move to the next congested block.
With the throngs of people, each year, the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) Clean Team collects more than 80,000 bags of trash. Daily, they clean more than five miles of sidewalk!
After creeping through Georgetown, we encountered minimal traffic to Falls Church, a suburb with less than 12,000 people, but home to two Fortune 500 companies – defense conglomerate General Dynamics and Computer Science Corporation (CSC) – and the headquarters for aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman.
As we drove into the parking lot of our hotel, we noticed a helicopter hoover overhead with a man balanced on one of the landing skids. As we later learned, the utility company checks power lines via helicopter!
After chucking our stuff into our rooms, we took a Metro train to Foggy Bottom (downtown Washington D.C.). With most of the Smithsonian museums closed (some stay open until 7 p.m.), we opted to see the outside sites, including the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt memorials. We skipped the Vietnam Memorial, but spent time in the Korean Memorial, which I find fascinating. It features life-size sculptures of soldiers, in rain ponchos, carrying heavy backpacks and artillery as they slog to an unknown location – perhaps a battlefield or an encampment. Their faces filled with exhaustion.
Because Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minster of Israel, was visiting President Obama, we couldn’t get close to the White House. Although, when we walked across a field, we could see it in the distance.
When our legs felt as if they couldn’t take another step, we headed back to Falls Church where we argued about where to eat dinner. I wanted to drive around and stop when we spotted an interesting restaurant. Rich chose to use his GPS to find a “Mexican” restaurant. After several false turns, we arrived at the restaurant, which served both Mexican and Salvadorian food.
I’d never had Salvadorian food, so I decided to be adventurous. Rich concurred, and we both chose a combination plate, which provided a wonderful assortment of foods from fried cassava root (yucca) to chunks of chewy pork, cheese pupusas (thick hand-formed tortilla filled with cheese and then fried) and fried plantains. Everything tasted wonderful, even the pickled cabbage with a tangy dressing.
Unfortunately, it was after 9 o’clock at night when we reached the restaurant and gobbling plates of heavy, spicy Salvadorian food wasn’t conducive to sleep.
The next morning, after a breakfast of raisin bran and bananas, we were ready for a day on the “Mall.” Our first stops were the National Park Service exhibit (the only place open early Saturday morning) followed by the National Aquarium, the oldest aquarium in the country. The tropical fish gave me pause, remembering seeing many of the same fish while snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands.
Rather than just showing random fish, the National Aquarium focuses on the fish and plant life one would find in National Marine Sanctuaries, such as the Florida Everglades (alligators and turtles) and Keys, Channel Islands near Santa Barbara, California, Fatatele Bay in America Samoa, Flower Garden Banks off the coast of Texas and Louisiana, and Gray’s Reef off Samelo Island, Georgia.
There were also critters from the Rio Grande, Potomac, Colorado, and Mississippi Rivers.
I think we went to the Air and Space Museum next. It’s hard to remember because the next two days were a blur with us plodded through the National Portrait Gallery on Sunday afternoon, completely exhausted and virtually brain dead. It was sad because the pictures in the gallery were extraordinary, but I struggled to walk from room-to-room and absorb what I was seeing.
To thoroughly see all Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian museums, art galleries, zoo, gardens, parks, monuments, and other exhibits in the area — such as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Library of Congress, and Supreme Court — would probably take a month. It takes at least 4-hours to walk at a brisk pace, scanning most of the displays, in a larger museum like the National Museum of American History.
In spite of much of what we saw congealing into a blur, two museums stood out: National Building Museumand United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The former is a dramatic brick and terracotta building, designed after an Italian Renaissance palace, with a massive 15-story interior with eight Corinthian columns that are 75-feet high. One of the pictures in the slide show associated with this article shows Rich standing in front of one of the columns.
One of the exhibit at the National Building Museum was America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930’s, which showed the homes, transportation, and cities of tomorrow. Very little of what they envisioned became reality. Although, many of the buildings from the Dallas World’s Fair still stand, and Rich and I were able to see them when we visited the Dallas State Fair.
I was scared to visit the Holocaust Museum, but Rich insisted. Early in the morning, we waited in line to get tickets to enter the museum later that afternoon. To see the exhibits, you start by getting an “identification card,” which provides the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. You then ride an elevator to the fourth floor, which opens up to a huge picture of what American soldiers found when they liberated the concentration camps in 1945. As you walk through the exhibits and down the floors, you learn about the “Nazi assault,” final solution,” and then “last chapter.”
It starts off showing how the Nazi Party formed and the initial euthanizing of crippled or mentally retarded individuals. You learn how the Germans did research to show how they were the superior race and could determine Aryan nationality by the size of a person’s head, eye and skin color. Soon, Jewish businesses are forced to close and Jewish and other “undesirables” were rounded up.
A large number of Jewish and other nationalities, which I didn’t know, were killed by convoys of German soldiers driving to villages and cities, rounding up people and then killed them. For instance, in 1942 in the Czech Republic village of Ludice, all 192 men over 16 years of age were murdered on the spot. The rest of the women and children were sent to concentration camps. The village was then burned and leveled.
There were also gas vans with airtight compartments in which exhaust gas was piped in while the engine was running, resulting in the death of the victims inside by carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas chambers replaced these vans because the drivers found the victims screams distracting and disturbing. More pertinent, it was faster and more efficient to kill large numbers of people in gas chambers.
As we walked down the floors of the Holocaust Museum, we passed through the Tower of Faces, a three-floor-high exhibit of pictures from the Jewish community of the Lithuanian town of Eisiskes. One the eve of the Jewish New Year in September 1941, the community was ordered to surrender their valuables. The following morning, they along with 1,000 Jews from neighboring towns of Valkininkas and Salcininkai, were assembled in the main synagogue and its two houses of study. They were kept there for two days with no food or water. On the third day, the men were shot at the old Jewish cemetery. The following day, the women and children were taken out and shot near the Christian cemetery.
Also in the museum is the entrance to a reconstructed Auschwitz barracks, prison bunks and food bowls, railroad cars in which people were transported to camps, prison uniforms, stacks of shoes and hair, handcart to transport deceased prisoners, and much, much more.
We spent over four hours in the museum and didn’t get to see all of the exhibits on the first floor. It was an exhausting experience.
At the start of our tour through the museum, we’d taken three “Identification Cards,” which detailed what happened to each person. On the first floor, we learned about Gabrielle Weidner, a Dutch woman whose father was a minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She ended up being sent to Ravensbrueck camp in Germany, where she died of malnutrition days after being liberated by Soviet troops.
Carl Heumann was one of nine children born to Jewish parents living in a village near the Belgian border. He and his family were deported to the Theresienstade ghetto in Czechoslovakia; however, after being caught stealing food, they were deported to Auschwitz, where it’s believed everyone perished, but one of his daughters.
Born to a Jewish family in Prague, Charles Bruml was also deported to Theresienstadt, and then Auschwitz. Three years later, when the Allies approached, he was force-marched to Gleiwitz, put on open coal wagons to Dora-Nordhausen, and finally the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Miraculously, he was liberated by the British army in the spring of 1945.
Millions died during the “final solution,” including homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, Roma and Sinti (“gypsies”), persons with disabilities, blacks, and Soviet prisoners of war. I can’t imagine it happening with today’s rapid exchange and sharing of information. On the other hand, genocides are occurring today in the Congo, and Sudan, and watch groups are monitoring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Burundi, and Chechnya, Russia.
In my last article about our May east coast sailing adventure, we were staying in a delightful marina in Baltimore. We woke to clear skies, enjoyed our usual breakfast of cereal and bananas, coiled our lines, and then eased out of the slip. As we sailed out of Baltimore Inner Harbor, we enjoyed seeing the many cargo ships, waiting to be unloaded and loaded.
Because it was Sunday, there were few boats on the water and little activity on the shore. As the wind picked up, we raised our sails and tacked back-and-forth, and then circled around the Baltimore Lighthouse several times, trying to peek inside through the tattered curtains.
A few days later, Rich purchased a small watercolor of the lighthouse at an art gallery in Annapolis. The painting now hangs in his office, next to his many other sea-themed paintings.
That evening, we dropped anchor by Dobbins Island, a small, kidney-shaped island in the Magothy River, which is a popular for partying, water-skiing, and hanging out in the calm and shallow water. When we arrived, quite a few boats were anchored, and many small boats and dinghies dotted the shore with people in bathing suits, sun-tanning, drinking libations, and talking loudly.
Across from the island, was a large house, which had a sizable replica of a lighthouse, complete with a bright light on the top. The house, built on Little Dobbins Island is very controversial because it was constructed without permits. In 2005, the county ordered the lighthouse, pool, and gazebo be torn down. Fortunately, for us, the lighthouse stood and was operational, six year later.
We enjoyed a pleasant dinner and evening, reading and planning the next leg of our trip. Around 10 p.m., we decided to call it a night. Rich checked his GPS one last time to make sure our anchor was holding. It hadn’t!
We threw on warm clothes, started the engine, pulled up the anchor, and circled around to find a good place to once again anchor. After two attempts, the anchor held when the engine was revved up in reverse. Rich reset the GPS to track a circle around the anchor, and we once again got ready for bed.
Throughout the night, Rich woke briefly to check the GPS. If our boat started to drift, the GPS was supposed to sound an alarm. Around 3 a.m., Rich woke and thought the water breaking against the boat sounded funny. He flicked on a flashlight, picked up the GPS, and screamed, “We’re dragging anchor! Get dressed!”
Rich threw on some clothes, started the engine, and pulled up the anchor. I was a bit slower and more thoughtful, flipping on the “instruments switch” in the control panel, and popping off the cover of the depth meter as I scrambled onto the deck.
It was pitch black outside, but I could see three things: The anchor lights on top of the masts of the two sailboats by Dobbins Island, and the light in the mini lighthouse on Little Dobbins Island. The latter was maybe 100 feet away, which meant, we drifted across the Magothy River and were dangerously close to grounding the boat.
When we studied the GPS track, days later, there was no doubt that we’d grounded the boat, but it’d miraculously rocked off the sand and was “floating” when we discovered we were no longer anchored.
With the depth meter, we could navigate into the deeper areas of the Magothy so we had a least a few feet of water beneath our keel. To make matters worse, it was rainy, windy, and cold outside. Barefoot with rain gear, I tried to discern where Rich wanted me to drop the anchor, but was often drown out by the wind or the anchor would hit bottom within a few second, but not catch and the boat would quickly drift from where he wanted to anchor. Our first three attempts were failures. One attempt was perfect, but as the boat started to spin around, we noticed we were within a foot of a channel marker.
Another attempted seemed to hold, allowing us time to dry off and make some coffee. But after watching the GPS for an hour, we saw once again, we were dragging. Throughout the ordeal, words were exchanged until we came to our senses and realized screaming at each other wasn’t going to make the anchor hold.
For our final attempt, around 5 a.m., we decided to drive away from the island and the other sailboats to deeper (20 feet) water. The anchor held, but with an hour until daybreak, we opted to have another pot of coffee, catch a few winks while sitting up in the galley, and then, sail to Annapolis.
Tired, but relieved we didn’t have to call a towboat, we pulled up anchor as the sun started to rise. The anchor as surprisingly heavy, and as it got towards the top, I noticed a red string tangled in the chain. At the end of a string was a brick. The extra weight of the brick may have been enough to set the anchor! The boat, a 32-foot Hunter, had only a light anchor, ten feet of chain, and the rest was line (rope). There probably wasn’t enough weight to hold the boat in windy weather, especially on a sandy bottom.
The morning was drippy and very windy. We raised the sails and Rich let me take the wheel. We flew down the Chesapeake at up to 7 knots! It was some of the most accelerating and fun sailing I’d ever done. I stood up, feet wide apart, hands gripping the wheel as the boat skimmed across the waves.
Rich took over as we approached Annapolis so I could research the marinas in the area. There are a lot of marinas and not finding the Annapolis City Marina, we called the harbormaster. We were looking in the wrong place! Plus, the lack of sleep had caught up with us.
The harbormaster, recognizing we hadn’t the foggiest idea what we were doing, asked if we wanted to stay along the seawall. “Sure, why not? What’s the seawall?”
We were directed down a narrow channel, smack dab in the middle of downtown Annapolis. Because it was mid-morning, we got a perfect spot and didn’t have to negotiate, thankfully, around many boats.
Unfortunately, Rich, unlike me who’d tied off the boat and was walking back-and-forth on top of the seawall, didn’t realize the sidewalk was a few feet beneath the seawall. As he stepped off the boat, he stumbled and fell off the seawall. I thought he’d broken something. The harbormaster wanted him checked out by a paramedic.
Annapolis, however, proved to be lucky place for us. After a few days of taking Advil and a little hobbling, Rich was back to normal with nothing more serious than a few bumps and bruises.
After eating lunch, we walked a few blocks to the United States Naval Academy. After having our ID checked, we waltzed over the visitor’s center to watch a short flick and then take a formal tour of the campus. I didn’t know what to expect because visiting a military academy isn’t high on my list. However, I was enraptured with the architecture, size of the buildings, and the physical, mental, and emotional rigors cadets must undergo during their four years at the academy.
The tour guide’s husband and son had both gone through the academy so she could relay first-hand the challenge of the Plebe Summer and the first and subsequent years in a cadet’s life. Plebe Summer is “designed to turn [1,200] civilians into midshipmen.” It’s seven weeks in length with each day beginning at dawn with rigorous exercise (in Maryland humid heat) and ending at dawn. There’s no television, leisure time or movies.
Those who survive Plebe Summer, return home for a few weeks before starting their first year, which is equally regimented with midshipmen earning more privileges and freedoms as they complete each of their four years at the academy. A typical schedule is:
- 5:30: Arise for personal fitness workout (optional)
- 6:30: Reveille (all hands out of bed)
- 6:30-7:00: Special instruction period for plebes
- 7:00: Morning meal formation
- 7:10: Breakfast
- 7:55-11:45: Four class periods, one hour each (midshipmen can choose to earn one of 22 majors that lead to a Bachelor of Science degree)
- 12:05: Noon meal formation
- 12:15: Noon meal for all midshipmen
- 12:40-1:20: Company training time
- 1:30-3:30: Fifth and sixth class periods
- 3:30-6:00: Varsity and intramural athletics, extracurricular and personal activities; drill and parades twice weekly in the fall and spring
- 5:00-7:00: Supper
- 7:30-11: Study period for all midshipmen
- 11:00: Lights out for plebes
- Midnight: Taps for upper-class
Midshipmen are issued several different uniforms and hats, which they must keep in regulation condition and wear for almost everything they do from attending classes (khaki pants and blue shirt) to working out (blue shorts and white tee-shirts or fatigues for military exercises) to getting an ice cream in downtown Annapolis (white pants, shirts, and shoes). They march to meals, are expected to keep their rooms ready for military inspection, and are required to be in their rooms, studying for several hours per night. They are also issued a cap, which they wear for four years, and then ceremonially throw up in the air upon graduation.
Since 1845 more than 60,000 young men and women have graduated from the academy, served in the military, and then gone onto various careers, including President and nearly-President of the United States (Jimmy Carter and John McCain). Click hereto see the photos on the academy’s site.
Once accepted into the academy, everything is paid for including tuition, housing, food, books, computers, uniforms, dry cleaning of uniforms, athletic gear, and personal toiletries. Plus, midshipmen are given a monthly allowance for extras they may want to buy!
I recall the tour guide saying it costs around $350,000 per cadet over a four-year period. Do the math. To graduate 1,200 midshipmen costs $420 million!
The entire 338-acre campus of the Naval Academy is a National Historical Landmark. Founded in 1845, the academy is home to numerous magnificent Beaux-Arts style buildings built by Ernest Flagg, a brilliant architect. The largest is Bancroft Hall, which is the largest college dormitory in the world with 1,700 rooms, 4.8 miles of corridors and 33 acres of floor space. The central rotunda and first two wings were built in 1901-1906. It later was expanded to encompass eight wings on five floors.
The Hall has its own zip code. It houses midshipmen, has offices for officers and chaplains, a barbershop, bank, travel office, small restaurant, textbook store, laundromat, uniform store, cobbler shop, post office, gymnasium, full medical and dental clinics, and optometry and orthopedic clinics.
The next stop in our tour was the Naval Academy Chapel, which had dramatic stained glass windows and a serene ambiance. In the crypt beneath the chapel is John Paul Jones, America’s first naval hero who exclaimed “I have not yet begun to flight,” when the ship he was on, the Bonhomme Richard, was confronted by the British frigate HMS Serapis. After heavy fighting and extensive damage to both ships, Captain Pearson of the Serapis surrendered. A few days later, the severely damaged Bonhomme Richard was sunk.
As a side note: Yesterday, for Seattle’s Seafair, Rich and I were on the USS Bonhomme Richard. We’d applied and been accepted to take an all-day trip on a military vessel, but didn’t know whether we’d end up on a Canadian ship, U.S. Destroyer, U.S. Coast Guard ship, or the Bonhomme Richard. A few days before, I was writing about John Paul Jones and when I learned he’d commanded the Bonhomme Richard, I tracked down Rich and announced I knew which ship we’d be on. Sure enough, I was right!
The massive marble and bronze sarcophagusin which Jones’s body is interred is a bit creepy. My imagination doesn’t allow me to get past the vision of a skeleton with bits of putrefied flesh, yellowed teeth, tangled hair, disintegrated clothing, and tarnished war metals.
After visiting the chapel, we scurried to Preble Hall, where the U.S. Naval Academy Museum is located. We found this exhibits so interesting we returned the next day. I was enthralled by the Class of 1951 Gallery of Ships, one of the world’s finest collections of warship models from the 17thcentury to modern times. The ships, made of wood and bone, were built to show what the actual ship would look like when completed. The detail of the ships is extraordinary.
By the time we left the museum, Rich was in a lot of pain from his fall earlier in the day. We returned to the boat so Rich could lay-down while I busied myself by cleaning the outside of the boat with buckets of water (from the river), white-wall cleaner, and a sponge. It kinda’ fun… if you only do it once or twice a year during a charter.
As the day drew to a close, groups of midshipmen started to emerge from the Academy to enjoy the cool evening, frequent restaurants, shops for stuff, visit with other midshipmen, etc. They wore white pants or skirts, white shirts, white hats, and white shoes. They walked with confidence and civility, and most likely, relief with the end of the school year drawing to a close. Many were probably days away from graduating and getting assigned to a ship or other role within the Navy.
The streets were also filled up with local folks: Couples on dates, parents with young children, pierced and tattooed teens with their skateboards, senior citizens holding hands, and boat-owners, like Rich and I. It was a perfect evening for strolling, bopping into the many small shops that line the narrow streets, people- and cadet-watching, and of course, tracking down and eating ice cream (our priority).
Downtown Annapolis is picture-perfect with historical brick buildings, including the capital buildings, charming restaurants and shops, ornate early American churches, boutique inns, and extraordinary row houses from the simple to ornate. I loved walking around Annapolis!
The next day, we awoke to flooding. Unusually high tides combined with unusually large amount of rain resulted in water seeping through the seawall and covering the parking lot and bricked plaza with a foot or so of water. Most of the water didn’t reach the nearby buildings, but did make a mess of the recycling and trash that’d been left out for garbage pick-up. Check out the pictures in the slide show.
Within a few hours the water receded, and life returned to normal. We chose to further explore Annapolis, taking a bridge across Spa Creek to an older part of town where a small maritime museum was located. Unfortunately, when we arrived, there was a cadre of teachers and parents waiting for bus-loads of children. We opted to skip the museum, in spite of the occasional dribble turning into a full-blown downpour. By the time we got back to the boat, we were soaked!
We spent the rest of the day ditching raindrops as we toured the Maryland State Buildings (Annapolis is the capital of Maryland), St. Anne’s Church (each kneeling bench was covered with a unique needlepoint pillows, which must have taken the members years to create), Banneker-Douglass Museum, and the Annapolis National Historical District, which has more than 1,500 restored and preserved buildings and houses.
That evening, we once enjoyed the ambiance… and I worked up the courage to stop a group of midshipmen and ask whether they’d pose with me for a picture. They were very polite and patiently answering my numerous questions.
We spent the rest of the evening, sitting in the cockpit of our boat, marveling at the city and its residents until our eyelids grew heavy. Sadly, we climbed into the galley, falling asleep listening to the voices outside. The next morning brought clear skies as we pushed off the seawall and headed to our next destination.
Traveling, especially across country, in today’s topsy-turvy environment of terrorist threats, exacting TSA requirements, and unpredictable weather is tentative at best. Adding to the uncertainty, are unforeseen consequences, such as landing at Chicago O’Hare and taxing for seemingly half the length of the flight – across runways, over freeways, by scores of lumbering planes, past several terminals, and around a flock of wandering Canadian geese and their goslings.
While we thought we had over an hour between our connecting flights from O’Hare to Reagan International in Washington, D.C., we had minutes to sprint and line up to board. So much for leisurely purchasing and eating one of Chicago’s famous hotdogs with screaming yellow mustard, relish, onions, pickle spears, tomatoes, and a dash of celery salt!
Then again, the start of our trip wasn’t particularly relaxed.
We had decided to take an afternoon flight the day before our sailboat charter so we we’d have a full day to drive to Rock Hall, Maryland where we were chartering a 32-foot Hunter sailboat, called Carol Cattie. It was a good plan. We’d have Thursday morning to finish packing, tidying up the house, and getting everything ready for the pet-sitter – a necessity with six cats and four birds.
The morning started with my checking my work emails and then dashing to the dentist to have my retainer tighten, a dreaded device meant to straighten my bottom teeth. When I got home, after a quick check of my work emails, I dove into packing, cursing at myself for having not started sooner. I’d amassed a pile of clothes and necessities on the bed, which Rich was supposed to cram into one of two huge canvas Army duffle bags. Having traditional suitcases on a boat takes up unnecessary space.
As expected, my desire to have 1.5 outfits for every day of our vacation wasn’t a workable plan, given the limitations of the duffle bags. Rich proceeded to have me choose which pink shirt of the two I wanted to bring. Did I really need four pairs of shoes for ten days? And why was I taking three bathing suits?” There was actually only two bathing suits, but Rich counted the top and bottom of one suit as two suits. Men!
Heated discussions ensued as we debated whether to pack light with shorts and short-sleeved shirts (the last time we chartered in the Chesapeake, it was scorching hot) or bring heavier clothing, which was more in line with weather forecasts. Adding to the uncertainty was a co-worker’s comment that 80-degrees in Virginia with 90% humidity feels like 100-degrees.
Along with having to cram our clothes into the duffle bags, we had electronic and sailing gear (two GPS’s, VHF radio, walkie-talkies, binoculars, camera, camcorder, and chargers), non-perishable food, French coffee press (charter boats typically have substandard percolators), reading materials, maps, toiletry, pills, sunblock and sunburn goo, three sheets, two pillow cases, towels, and “handy-dandy stuff” like rubber bands, paper clips, twist ties, baggies, wet wipes, and pepper grinder.
Once the duffle bags had been packed and re-packed, we set to work with the household chores of cleaning kitty litter boxes, taking out the trash, closing up rooms (and ensuring no cats were hiding in them), and watering the indoor and outdoor plants.
Finally, ready to go, we hopped in the car, took a deep breathe, headed down the street, went back to the house to make sure the garage door was shut (it was), and then confidently zoomed down the freeway to the airport. We arrived seemly hours before our flight, but time zipped by and before we knew it, we were buckling up our seatbelts and stowing our carrying-on bags under our seats.
Because we planned to have a famous Chicago-style hotdog at O’Hare, we only brought nibbles for the flight. The latter proved to be our only substance until 1:30 a.m. when we visited a 24-hour McDonald’s across the street from our motel in Arlington, Virginia… more about this adventure later in my convoluted tale.
With clear weather, we had an uneventful flight to O’Hare, reading and nibbling on Jellie Bellies, dried fruit and nuts, packaged crackers and peanut butter, two cookies, and two bags of mixed mysteries, which were distributed with our Dixie cups of soda.
When we finally got off the plane – after nearly 45-minutes of taxiing everywhere, but our gate – we had no choice, but to sprint to our Washington D.C. flight. Our delight of getting on the plane was quickly replaced by concerns the car rental company would probably close before we touched down. Our concern rapidly eroded into a reality as we waited to take-off… and fumed over the missed opportunity to have a Chicago hotdog!
Rich meanwhile, frantically called the car company. We were expected to land around midnight. The car company, which was several miles from the airport, closed at 12:30 a.m. Their advice, “Get on the shuttle bus once you land.”
And that’s what we did. We landed at around 12:20 a.m., and Rich, with the bag of electronics, sprinted across the airport while I leisurely made my way to the luggage carousels, wondering how I was going to carry over 80-pounds of duffle bags plus my carry-on bag, and my trusty netbook, Sputnik.
Rich made it to the car company seconds before they locked the doors. I retrieved our bags, putting the heavier bag over my shoulder along with my carry-on and Sputnik. I then lifted/dragged the other duffle bag, pausing every thirty feet or so until I made my way out the terminal and across the street to where Rich picked me up.
Once settled in the car – and figuring out all the buttons and switches – Rich booted up the GPS he brought and we were on our way…kinda’. Rich was very tired and kept taking the wrong exit. When the “helpful voice” on the GPS said “turn…” Rich would turn before he heard the rest of the instructions. The “voice” would promptly respond, “re-calculating!” Granted, D.C. isn’t the easiest city to negotiate with many freeways and large, fenced and guarded complexes, necessitating going “around” instead of “through.”
We finally reached the Days Inn in Arlington, Virginia, which was two motels melded into one: A three-story, blocky building with a Thai restaurant on the bottom floor and a handful of rooms on each floor located off a central hallway, and a traditional, L-shaped two-story building with rooms accessible from the outside. We had the last room on the second story of the blocky building. Before we lugged up our duffle bags, we checked out the room…
Bizarre is the word that came to mind. It was a huge room with two fans lazily spinning on the ceiling. Taking up about a quarter of the room was two queen-sized beds with attractive bedspreads and fluffy pillows. On the wall, where the door was located, was a rickety, pressboard entertainment center with a television. Several inches below the top of the entertainment center was the switch for the fan and lights. Rich found it by following the electrical cord from the fan, across the ceiling and down the wall!
Next to the entertainment center was a small desk with a chair and lamp. Across from the door was a worn sofa. And in the middle of the room was a low, circular coffee table. Check out the picture to the right.
Concerned about cooties, bed bugs, and other critters, I insisted that our luggage be confined to the middle of the room, preferably on the circular table.
At one time, I suspect the building was a small apartment complex, which was why the room was so large. In spite of the room having a strange aura, we were happy to have a place to sleep!
Our final to-do for the day was to fill our stomachs, which were on west coast time and demanded attention even though it was 1:30 a.m. Amazingly, across the street from the motel, several fast food restaurants were still open. We opted for McDonald’s. Rich had a hamburger and fries while I opted for their snack size fruit and walnut salad. Very tasty!