July 31, 2007

Days on the lake and visit from Ric & Rose

VALOIS, New York, USA - When we first arrived back after our California trip, everyone asked us if we had brought back good weather.

Somehow, we did - or at least we are going to take credit for it.

The weather has been great with lots of boating (and outside projects) and also featured a visit from friends Ric Brown and his wife Rosemary Papa from Sacramento. Ric retired this year from Sacramento State after serving as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Faculty used to say he was the last honest man in the administration at the University. Don't get me started on all that. I'm retired, too, after all.

Ric's wife Rosemary ran the Center for Teaching and Learning at the university, about the only bright spot around the school which was (and is) much beloved by faculty. The center, of course, was (is?) under constant attack from - you guessed it - the administration. Don't get me started on that, either.

The subject of the university never really came up - we were too busy wine tasting at Lamoureaux Landing and also out on the Spirit of Louise for a tour of both the east and west sides of the lake. No Lamoureaux Landing wine was consumed on that voyage but when I opened the champagne and lost the cork overboard (OK, I was trying to hit a seagull with it), we did polish off the bottle.

wine conference
Ric studies the wine list while the Admiral and I confer

Rose on the bow
Rosemary and the Admiral on the bow

Rick at the helm
Rick at the helm, with a captainly looking cigar

Our boating has been slightly hampered by the sudden growth of seaweed - so thick that we actually got stuck several days ago right off the end of the dock and had to shift the boat motor in and our of gear several times to break free.

A little problem when you go to back up

After that experience, we borrowed a weedcutter from cousin Ruth Bills and my mornings now include a half-hour or so of weed harvesting - usually when there is a nice offshore breeze blowing. Otherwise, it all comes ashore and smells like Lake Erie did in the 1970s when industrial pollution killed everything in the lake.

Don't get me started on that, either.

Today's project, in case you are interested, is plumbing - repair and replacing the toilet and system in the guest cabin.

Give me those weeds on the lake anytime.

weed cutter
Weed-cutting tool

July 28, 2007

Furniture shopping means a trip to Montour Falls

MONTOUR FALLS, New York, USA - While it is unbelievable that we might need some furniture for the house in Valois - considering how much I am hauling out and putting on the highway with a 'free' sign on it and that I haven't even touched the stuff in the basement - so it was that we found we needed a new piece for the remodeled downstairs bathroom. We tore out the cabinets and, well, we need shelves for the historic collection of towels.

In California, that would mean a quick visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, or if absolutely necessary, Wal-Mart.

But such sojourns here at Seneca Lake almost always involve a trip to a used furniture shop in Montour Falls, a few miles south of Watkins Glen that sells all kinds of neat stuff - not just furniture. It's hard to go there and not come back with something.

On our recent foray, I found a perfect computer desk and hutch ($18), assorted handtools (about $1.50 each), various DVDs for $1-$2 (no copy of Captain Ron, darn it), and some excellent already built shelves, but too small for the space we needed.

Furniture store
Used furniture store in Montour Falls

The other reason to visit this shop is a tiny dog that hangs out on the counter top - some kind of Chihuahua - that will actually sing. Yes, sing. It's doubtful it would win on American Idol (Hmmm, seen that show lately, maybe the dog does have a shot), but it does make a noise like singing and it is an attention hound, not matter what other background it has.

The Admiral hopes we can find just such a pooch for our new house in Mexico.

Little doggie
But can he sing, "As Times Goes By"?

July 27, 2007

The Spirit of Louise is back on Seneca Lake

VALOIS, New York, USA - The Spirit of Louise is back on Seneca Lake and has taken its first evening cruise to look at brother-in-law David Schwartz's semi-collapsed pier at his cottage a few miles up the lake.

We retrieved the boat from Morgan Marine Wednesday, complete on its new trailer, with a new water pump installed in the engine and after we had the servicing done (new spark plugs, etc...) that I probably should have done when we first purchased the vessel.

Quelle dommage!

On the lake parlay
On the lake parlay with Ruth Bills

The day was not without mishap, however. (What blog entry would be worth anything if there wasn't a disaster or two?)

After hooking up the trailer and towing the boat back over the Seneca Lake - a very nice, easy trip thanks to the pulling power of brother-in-law Dan Schwartz's Toyota pickup truck - we went to Smith Park (a few miles downlake from Valois) to launch.

We were very impressed with one aspect of the new trailer - a set of steps leading from the front that make it easy to climb on the bow of the boat when in drydock. The steps worked great - the small railing (which I thought was quite cool, at first) worked less great.

In fact, the railing let go when I put weight on it coming down the stairs and I fell ass-over-teakettle, crunching my back on the pontoon of the boat.

Hello Motrin!

Not supposed to bend
Not the best of designs

Bent at connections
A few more bolts might have helped

Except for that particular little farble (which didn't seem so little while I was pinned over the pontoon), the day's enterprise ended happily with the boat returned to the boat lift and the cooler refilled with ice and beer. Some of that ice found its way to my lower back to keep the swelling down. The beer was used for strictly medicinal purposes in lieu of painkillers.

Now we are going to wait out a couple of days of thunderstorms before venturing out again - or maybe not. We do have a roof on the boat, after all.

Spirit of Louise on trailer
On the trailer at Morgan Marine

Ryan wires up the truck
Ryan Morgan gets the brake lights working

July 26, 2007

The last party on Sabbatical - at least until?

ALAMEDA, Calif., USA - The last cocktail party in a looooong series of such things was held last Saturday on Sabbatical in her slip at Marina Village, commemorating six years of ownership/cruising and the transfer of the ship back to her builder, Don Tiffin.

Don will be arriving in Alameda this week to start getting the boat ready for a trip across the Pacific and asked me for a list of things I would suggest he do before he starts out.

Quite the reversal, as I am usually on the receiving end of such lists.

The party including Dan & Lorraine Olsen, their sons Scott and Lance, as well as Capt. Sanders Lamont (who just moved his boat Good News to the slip across the dock). And, of course, the Admiral and I were there with son Dylan, too, from Berkeley.

And the headline says last party with a question mark because Don Tiffin has already invited us to come back to the ship when we return to California in September. By then he will have worked at least partway through that list I'm preparing and a celebration will definitely be in order.

Three Olsens
Scott, Lorraine & Lance Olsen

Last cocktails on Sabbatical
A subdued party - compared to most

While Captain Lamont and I were readying Sabbatical for her party guests early in the afternoon, we spotted a rare sight on the sailing vessel in the slip directly adjacent to Sabbatical (and across the dock from Good News) - a sunbather. While Alameda can get warm, it's rare someone gets brave enough to wear a bathing suit.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo was taken strictly for historical purposes to note the rarity of the event.)

Neighbor at marina
Sunworshiper in Alameda

The weekend also included a surprise visit - in Sacramento - from Alex Schwartz, Alex of the Seneca Lake/Horseheads, NY Schwartz clan, now a student at Sacramento State and a resident of Davis, Calif., where he resides with his girlfriend.

Alex pedaled the 15 or so miles from Davis to Sacramento and stopped by to say hello, where by happenstance his cousin, our son Dylan was about, cutting a deal to buy our much-loved (and much driven) red Miata, purchased three years ago from Alex's father, Dan. (Is all this as confusing to you as it is to me?)

Alex, Sylvia and Dylan
Alex, Sylvia and Dylan

Dylan head out in new wheels
Dylan give the new-owner wave

What I neglected to give Dylan, before he headed out Sunday, was the same kind of list that I have to give Don Tiffin for Sabbatical - the car needs new rear brakes, there is a troubling oil drip from the transmission and the back window in the convertible top has given up all its stitching in favor of the always-open mode - great in summer, less great in the rain.

Cars and boats have a lot in common.

July 22, 2007

Happy ending to the tale of the lost dog

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The tale of the lost dog ended happily late Saturday when the owners of 'Cassie' showed up to pick her up.

It turned out she lives about 15 blocks away and had dug herself out of her backyard, wanting a little free running room.

She got it, but unfortunately, couldn't find her way home after a little burst of freedom.

Her very-worried owners posted a notice with the local Animal Shelter, which Admiral Fox contacted and after a few phone calls, the dog is now back with her family and we have a very nice 5-pound bag of dog food for the next stray that takes up residence in our front yard.

Case closed.

Cassie the dog goes home
Happy to be at home

July 21, 2007

A canine problem arises just days before we leave

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - This morning's walk was interrupted before it even began when we found a pooch, wide-awake, camped out on our front lawn.

At first, the dog was very skittish - she jumped up when Admiral Fox approached and looked like she was going to bolt. But after a handful of dog treats thrown in her direction, and a few motherly mutterings by the Admiral, she calmed down.

And right now she is sleeping at my feet inside the house, having eaten enough dog treats and chicken strips to fill the belly of a dog twice her size. She has also made herself completely at home by taking a world-class dump in the middle of the backyard.

Admiral and new friend
Admiral makes a new friend

We sprang into action when we found her at 7 a.m. and within an hour we had a notice (and photo) posted on Craig's List, as well as posters with a photo of the dog posted all around the neighborhood. Unfortunately on many of the light poles where I posted my signs there were lots of other notices for lost dogs and cats, too, sprinkled with those ubiquitous yard sale signs.

And so the burning question is what-the-hell-to-do with this pooch?

She's not flying to New York with us Monday at 6:35 a.m.. (And whether she is a she or a he has not been determined.)

But at the same time, while taking her to the dog pound (ok, Animal Shelter) is an option, the likelihood she will be found by her real owners there - or adopted - is remote at best.

I hear the question: Yes, the dog has a collar; no, she is not sporting any tags.

This adventure will have to play out for the rest of the day and perhaps Sunday before it's resolved.

A lost python on the front lawn would have been a lot easier to deal with.

Well, maybe.

Lost dog
Do I look familiar?

July 20, 2007

Ready to wing back to Valois on Monday

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - My faculty office has been cleaned, textbooks ordered and the various course outlines, well, ok, they are not done, but I have them on my laptop.

And with a stroke of a pen today, Sabbatical will be transferred back to former owner Don Tiffin for the next round of cruising.

All of that adds up to a very early morning flight Monday back to upstate New York via Midway Airport in Chicago. We are returning via Southwest Airlines - about the friendliest of skies to fly these days. The planes might be a little small but the flight attendants are, well, attendant and even going cross-country, it's not a bad flight.

I do need to find a good book to read, however.

On our last fly-through at Midway, we stopped at a Blues Brothers display to check things out and I had my photo taken with Elwood and Jake. Well, my photo was taken with plaster replicas anyway.

Michael with the Blues Brothers
Visiting with the Blues Brothers in Chicago

And in keeping with the theme of my most recent posting on From Where I Sit, here's one of the most famous lines from the Blues Brothers movie:
  • A mission from God
  • July 12, 2007

    A lot of water under the keel since the last entry

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - There has been a lot of water under the keel since I last posted anything - and a lot of air miles, too.

    Close readers will notice that this is being entered from Sacramento.

    Sacramento? What the hell????

    We received word a few days ago from Don Tiffin - former owner of Sabbatical, about to become owner of Sabbatical again - that he would be winging his way from Australia to San Francisco to take delivery of the ship early next week. And so, frequent-flier miles in hand, we bravely boarded a Southwest Airlines' flight from Buffalo, NY to Sacramento early Wednesday morning. Very early Wednesday morning.

    And it went off without a hitch. I mean, the flight attendants were even, well, pleasant.


    But before all that, we had lots of adventures and a few minor mishaps.

    Spirit of Louise gets towed home
    The Spirit of Louise gets towed home by cousin Roger

    After days of fun - and about 18 gallons of gasoline - the now-named Spirit of Louise pontoon boat (named for Sylvia's mother) had its first serious hiccup, a burned-up waterpump in the engine. We were headed home after a day of touring the lake when suddenly some white steam started coming out of exhaust port where water is supposed to stream out. The Admiral spotted it before it became an issue and already the folks at Morgan Marine have fixed it so we can pick it up when we return in about a week. I burned up a lot of those pumps on Lake Chautaqua many years ago.

    Spirit of Louise captain relaxes
    Relaxing at the Bills' dock early in the day

    We had plenty of wild boat times before that, with a good part of it spent down at Ruth and John Bill's dock. July 3 - arguably the nicest day on the water I've had in years, we swam off the dock and also watched cousin Roger pulling a three-person tube with his boat (that can go about 70 mph). I had the opportunity to jump into the tube and ride with Jen Bills and her friend Kristen, but decided that my slowly healing shoulders might not be able to stand the excitement. To show how conservative I am about these shoulders, the Admiral encouraged me to climb in the tube and I still opted out.

    Carumba! What was I thinking?

    Instead, Jen's cousin, Brett (Roger's son) hopped in the tube for a wild run around the bay. Only a single scream punctuated the air when they took one particularly sharp turn. I'm not sure if any of the three owned up to who let out the yelp.

    When three is not a crowd
    When three is definitely not a crowd

    Jen & Kristen test the waters
    Jen and Kristen test the waters before the tube ride

    The adventures of early July included an old fashioned barn raising, except that there wasn't a barn, it was a dock. And instead of a legion of Amish farmers and women dressed like the 19th century, it was a lot of sunburned beer drinkers in bathing suits, adding a new piece onto the dock at the Bills, a dock that now will have nice shady deck for those broiling days.

    A nautical barn raising
    Karl, Jen & Michael pound nails

    Nautical barn raising with Jen & Michael
    Jen and Michael hammer away

    As in any construction project, it's important to have the right tools and so when I arrived to work on the deck, I discovered that John Bills had made sure that the nailing crew would remain hydrated through the day by putting a cooler full of cold drinks on the end of the dock. We dipped into the cooler lightly early in the project - our fingers needed protection from poorly aimed hammers, after all - but by 3 p.m. when the deck was all but permanently tapped into place, we relaxed.

    Right tools for the right job
    Keeping hydrated is important

    Although being back in Sacramento for a short time is fun, (like having lunch with daughter Anne today and getting to see grandaughter Samantha over the weekend and next week, too), my mind is already thinking about a proposed new stairway to the water at the Valois house, the three huge bonfires we are going to have with the debris from the beach cleanup, and getting back out on the Spirit of Louise with our dock-building mates and everyone else.

    Captain Karl at the helm
    Karl take a turn at the helm

    But first there are some California adventures ahead, too, including going on a San Francisco Bay cruise with several hundred newspaper publishers tomorrow night - one of the Admiral's perks for being a California Newspaper Publishers Association consultant.

    I'll try not to mention that I use Craig's List all the time and haven't bought - or even read - a classified advertisement in a newspaper in probably three or four years. If I do slip up and mention Craig's list, I'll make sure I am nowhere near the edge of the boat. Accidents happen when you mix smartass Journalism professors, free liquor and newspaper publishers who are watching their advertising revenues spiral down like water in a kitchen sink.

    The SF Bay water is only about 59 degrees right now. Hell, that's colder than Seneca Lake.

    July 1, 2007

    Another day of work and an almost clean beach

    VALOIS, New York, USA - While the Admiral went to Ithaca to hunt and gather for tonight's family soiree here at the house, Dan, Lorraine and I went to the beach with rakes and shovels and a chainsaw to put the finishing touches on the Great Beach Cleanup Project.

    The beach has never been cleared, according to David Schwartz, who admitted that one twisted pile of iron and steel buried the underbrush was the remains of a boat hoist that landed on the shore when a high wind picked it up and flung it, perhaps 30 years ago. Note that sentence is written in the past tense. We dug up all of the stuff and stacked in on the cliff.

    Here's a photo of the beach as it looked last year, before we started cutting it back.

    Beach 2006
    Seneca Lake beach in 2006

    This year, the brush and weeds have been cut back to the cliff, with three piles set for great bonfires, when everything dries out.

    Cleaned beach
    Piles ready for burning

    The project did require a chain saw for the big chunks, and sometimes to get down the get the roots loose, too.

    Capt. Dan Olsen ably handled a chainsaw lent to us by brother-in-law Dan.

    Beach cleanup 3
    Capt. Dan hunts for roots

    The only remaining questions are:

    1. Did we get too close to the poison ivy on the cliff?
    2. How long does poison ivy 'poisoning' take to show up on the human body?

    Oh, and the third question:

    Is that bottle of Calamine Lotion from last year still good?

    The hot tub is filled, the boat is secure - ahhhh

    VALOIS, New York, USA - Our Mexico (and California) amigos Dan & Lorraine Olsen arrived two days ago, bringing with them some colder weather after a visit with their son Scott in Chicago. (It was about 42 degrees last night.) But since they arrived we have started the Great Beach Cleanup Project (nearly done) and tied up the Lady Louise FloteBote more securely to project the ship (ok, boat) from summer storms.

    Yes, it seems like Lady Louise is sticking as a name for the boat, but lobbying for another name is heavy - very heavy.

    Despite the colder weather yesterday, I waded out into the chest-deep water to add some heavy docklines to secure the boat. The lake temperature was in the 70s last week (some people claimed), but now I would bet it's in the mid 60s.

    But the hot tub - after two days of slow heating - is finally up to its max of 104 degrees.

    Hot tub therapy
    Michael thaws out slowly after a dip in the lake

    Later last evening a windstorm rolled down the lake from the north (don't put too much money in the forecasts from Wunderground.com, at least for this part of the globe), testing my work, which I am happy to report held just fine. With luck it will warm up today enough to take a little lake tour. Wunderground.com says it will be cold all day. Hmmm...

    As July 4th looms, people are starting to arrive at the lake and the sound of fireworks started last night and will continue through next weekend, I'll bet. Recent arrivals included Sylvia's brother Dan and his wife Diane, and Sylvia's other brother David. A family party is in the works for tonight from which there should be lots of photos. We have some of the finest of box wines in the refrigerator already chilling. (Thank God for my camera's autofocus.)

    Roger & Nancy's soiree II
    Ruth Bills (left) with Dan & Diane Schwartz

    Our July 4th plans include a cruise down the lake to Watkins Glen to watch the fireworks from the deck of the Lady Louise (work on that name, will you please?) weather permitting. If we do head down, we will be bobbing around in the waves with several hundred other boats, all vying to see who can get the closest and who can have some fireworks debris land in the water nearby.

    And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air...