July 29, 2009

A day on the water - with thunderstorms ahead today

VALOIS, New York, USA - The weather forecast called for 85 degrees (gasp!), no rain and light winds out of the south and so the Admiral and I (and amiga Laura) declared Tuesday a SLAD (Seneca Lake Appreciation Day). We were not alone in our decision.

We hopped on the Spirit of Louise and toured some of the west side of Seneca Lake, arriving at The Showboat restaurant with Cousin Ruth aboard for lunch.

The Showboat is the waterside restaurant across the lake from us that has good food - but you better like it fried.

Three amigas at The Showboat
Admiral, Laura and Ruth at The Showboat dock

Lazing down Seneca Lake
Slow cruise down the Seneca Lake shore

Such days have been rare this summer - Tuesday was No. 5 by my count - though the lake water has warmed up enough to go swimming if you don't mind a momentary shock when you dive in. We did some swimming at Cousin Ruth's dock at the end of the cruise before heading back up the lake to our dock, where a new swim ladder makes it much easier to get in - and out - of the water.

Last week, we finished a major tree-cutting-and-clearing project opened up the lake view from the house - and also a view of the house from the lake. Now when people drive by in their boats and wonder if we are home, they can spot the car - or us - up the hill. It's changed the orientation of the house back to the lake being the focus.

Sailboat on Seneca Lake
View from the house, sans trees

Schwartz house through the trees
House from the lake

Monday, Sylvia and Laura started a painting project - adding trim to the house. The casa has been a solid white for all the years I have been coming here (18 and counting). But with several trees down in front of the house, the front of the house is suddenly, well, much more visible and the paint makes a nice touch.

This video shows the beginnings of the project. If today's expected thunderstorms hold off until this afternoon (80 percent likelihood according to Wunderground.com), more window trim and other parts of the house might suddenly turn blue, too.

July 27, 2009

A Sunday sailing expedition - a reminder of Mexico's water

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - We were having a late lunch at the Village Marina and Bar (owned by amigos Karen and Michael Schamel) when we spied Eric and Tina Hazlitt and their cousin Doug headed out the dock to climb aboard Doug's 40-foot C&C sailboat for a trip from the marina to the mooring in front of his house.

Before you can say Magic Hat beer, the Admiral went out and chatted with the crew, coming back with an invite for us to travel up the lake - a three-hour tour, more or less.

Adm. Fox demurred from taking the trip, opting instead to get the car back to Valois.

But our amiga Laura - our resident Spanish teacher here and in Arroyo Seco - and I hopped on board for a great ride up the lake, all downwind.

Even though the water was cold, the wind was not and it was sooooo reminiscent of downwind runs along the Mexico coast in our former sailing vessel, Sabbatical.

It was the first sail of the season for Doug - and the boat - and everything worked just fine.

What's up with that?

Sailboat maintenance
Getting the furler working

Eric Hazlitt at the helm
Eric at the helm

Captain at the wheel
Captain at the wheel

Captain and Laura
Captain and Laura

Crew returns to dock
Coming in to the Hazlitt dock

July 25, 2009

Summer day on Seneca Lake - and a Hector parade

HECTOR, New York, USA - The fourth sunny summer day landed at Seneca Lake Friday, resulting in a warm day of boating, swimming and capped with a parade at the Hector Firemen's Fair. Perhaps the best part was that the good weather wasn't predicted. I was battened down for another day of rain.

We did have a windstorm roll through mid-afternoon that sent us scurrying for the dock, but otherwise, a great day all up and down the lake.

And two days ago, our amiga Laura arrived for a stay, escaping the cold confines of Calgary, Canada. Laura will be with us for a week or so. And this fall and spring she will be coming to Arroyo Seco to teach English to the children in the village.

Oh, and to surf, too, to surf.

Laura on the floaty
Laura floats by at Cousin Roger's dock

This weekend is also the big fundraiser for the Hector Volunteer Fire Department, three-days of carnival rides, food booths, a huge beer tent, (of course) and last night an evening parade of tractors and floats.

The parade is all local: fire departments, farmers showing off their new tractors, children twirling batons and lots of waving to neighbors. We camped with Eric and Tina Hazlitt on the front lawn of their casa right on the highway and got a ringside view.

Cousin Brett's van
Cousin Brett parades by in his '57 VW

Parade vendor

Tractor float
Tractor 'float'

The Red Cat
The Red Cat from Hazlitt's Winery tours in a '65 Triumph Spitfire

July 22, 2009

Taking a break to attend the wine festival - and the race track

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The weeks since our last national holiday (July 10) have flown by, with all the usual great lake stuff and this past week a sojourn to a huge wine festival, held at the Watkins Glen race track, better known for its NASCAR racing events.

But it transformed nicely for the wine event.

The great lake stuff included more sailing with my sailboat partner/co-owner Jennifer, who sadly had to leave Seneca Lake with her family to go back to Arizona and work after only one week here in Valois. :-(

She reached her goal - and very quickly. She wanted to learn the basics of sailing which she picked up in just a couple of days with a little direction from me. By the time she left, she was watching the wind on the water all the time - and then (like a good sailor) racing to take advantage of the weather window to get some sailing time in.

She did not miss many weather windows in her short time here.

Jennifer solo one
Jennifer solos for the first time

Jennifer with first passenger
Jennifer with her first passenger

Admiral Fox and I took out the Red Rocket for a sail a few days after Jennifer left, covering about five miles in a very short time. With some practice, we should be ready for this summer's Peachy Dandy sailboat race in the August. The annual race is part rum, part pureed peaches and lots of wind, most years. The past two years I have crewed for cousin Roger Beardslee on his boat. But this year it is time to strike out alone to see what the Red Rocket can do - unless we have 25 knots of wind that day, in which case I will see if I can jump on Roger's vessel (a stout 25-foot rig) again.

Here's last year's report on the Peachy Dandy events and race:
  • Peachy Dandy Race - 2008

  • The other regular summer event around the house has been evening barbecues. After years of struggling with those $20 tiny portable units (the ones that last one summer and then turn to rust), the Admiral and I bought a full-size barbecue and have been cooking everything but scrambled eggs on it. (The eggs seem to fall between the grill bars... I must be doing something wrong.)

    And a favorite - in addition to the normal burgers, steaks, chicken and sausages - is to barbecue vegetables.

    Veggies cooked for Anne
    Veggie night at the Fitz/Fox house

    Last weekend, though - when we went to the race track to attend the wine festival (our first time attending) we were not disappointed.

    Ironically (for me), we went up early in the day (10 a.m.) and though I came home with bags full of goodies by early afternoon, I never touched a drop of wine - though it all was tempting. We saw many familiar faces, including amigo Brad, marketing director for Hazlitt Winery, who showed us one of the Hazlitt offerings, a four-pack of one-serving bottles of Red Cat wine. Red Cat is the signature wine of the company and attracting a lot of national attention.

    In the photo below, I am wearing one of my purchases - a hat made of genuine sea grass while attempting to mooch some vino from Brad. Sea grass? Ok, that's what the vendor said it was. It could be ragweed for all I know.

    But it fits, dammit, it fits. And it is soooo comfortable.

    Red Cat promotion
    Brad shows me the Red Cat four-pak, but my glass stays empty!

    Sign of the Red Cat
    Sign of the Red Cat

    Hazlitt's had their own large tent and display area set up at the race track, but most of the area's winery's clustered in other large tents, making for great people watching, even if it was a little crowded.

    We stopped by the Pompous Ass Winery booth - not to sample the wine (which is supposed to be good), but to pick up some souvenir T-shirts.

    Are the shirts obnoxious? Absolutely... And that's the point.

    Pompous Ass Winery sign
    Pompous Ass Winery

    The capper to the day at the wine festival, however, was hopping a ride in a pace car.

    I have driven at speeds in excess of what the pace car did (100 mph) but never taken sharp curves at that speed!

    When I got in the car - a Toyota Camry hybrid - I asked the driver if I really needed a seat belt.

    I think he drove even faster than he normally would have, though the video below seems almost sedate compared to what it felt like riding in the car.

    July 11, 2009

    A great birthday cruise - and The Red Rocket gets delivered

    VALOIS, New York, USA - My birthday cruise day around Seneca Lake yesterday was fantastic. Great weather, warm temperatures, cold beer and wine - and flat water.

    What a B-day.

    We started with a lunch-time cruise to a restaurant up the lake a few miles called The Showboat, where you can get almost any food you want - provided you like it fried. These people probably fry lettuce before they put it on your hamburger. Now that I think about it, the lettuce and tomato on my burger were extra crunchy.


    Michael and Ruth at the Showboat
    Cousin Ruth and Michael toast at The Showboat

    Cousin Ruth went along on the first leg of the day's outing, having lunch (fried, of course) with the Admiral and I at The Showboat. We had pondered taking Ruth's boat on that first part of voyage, instead of the Spirit of Louise, but our pontoon boat is soooo comfortable (and easy on gasoline) the we took with our vessel instead.

    And it was a great trip.

    We hope save Ruth's gasoline for later in the summer when it's time to water ski.

    Tina and Eric sailing north
    Tina and Eric Hazlitt sailing home

    We did a wine cruise in the evening, going from dock-to-dock (begging for Sauvignon Blanc or other white wines) and had a great time, running into lots of amigos including Eric and Tina Hazlitt sailing their rig home after an nice evening on the water.

    By then, we had already picked up amigo Brad and his faithful companion Arnold-the-dog, and as Brad works at the Hazlitt Winery, our begging for wine was no longer necessary.

    Good thing - we were running out of daylight and it was getting a little chilly.

    Arnold points the way
    Arnold sights in on the Hazlitt sailboat ahead

    Today, post birthday, the Admiral and I spent the morning recovering from yesterday's festivities (me much more than the Admiral) and then late in the day, we went down the hill to see if my boat partner Jennifer had arrived from Arizona and was interested in starting to do some sailing.

    We didn't have to ask twice and within a few minutes of catching Jennifer at a party at her family's home, Jennifer and I had launched The Red Rocket out into the lake and were zooming across Seneca Lake - the third time I have actually sailed the rig.

    I discovered that the boat has a slight design flaw. With two crew members (sitting too far aft) the open center board pours water into the boat like a fountain. And the automatic bailing system doesn't work all that well.

    Regardless, we had a great sail, but cut it a little short when the wind piped up to over 15 knots and we started lurching a little too far over when tacking. But now the boat is at Jennifer's beach (400 yards from ours) and ready for some sailing lessons.

    Tomorrow is another day. And we have a duct-tape solution to the leaking in the planning stages.

    After the sailing voyage, the Admiral and I hung around at the Fitch house, where a party was in full swing. The party was to celebrate the high school graduations of several family members. And the dancing just got better as the night wore on...

    July 10, 2009

    A national holiday of boating - if the weather cooperates

    VALOIS, New York, USA - Today is a holiday, at least around this house, as the Admiral and I celebrate my birthday, a day I always declare a national holiday, despite Hallmark's continued reluctance to include it with all those other special days of the year that litter the calendar.

    And for the day, I have planned some sailing on the new sailboat, a trip on the Spirit of Louise to a bar/restaurant called The Showboat for lunch, and lastly a cocktail tour this evening, going dock-to-dock to check in with friends.

    Weather permitting, of course... Weather permitting.

    Sails up!
    Evening sail, just before the wind died

    If the summer of 2009 was a child who had just reached maturity, we would have to say we have failure to launch.

    Weeks of rain and cold weather have shifted to, well, less rain and slightly less cold. It's July 10 fer Chrissakes! As I write this, a brisk wind is blowing out of the south - a little too brisk for the new sailboat. And the temperature? Well, at last glance it was 63 degrees, about 17 degrees shy of what I want for today and all the activities planned.

    Despite the relatively inclement weather, the annual July 4th party at the Schamel's came off without any hitches and this year featured a great dance band. While the Admiral and I had planned on having a couple of glasses of wine and then beating a retreat to the relative warmth of our house, we stayed until the band ended its run instead.

    Travis gives the high sign
    Travis, cleverly disguised as Travis

    Guy Schamel postulates
    Admiral Fox listens to Guy Schamel

    Spilled drink
    Quelle dommage - a spilled beer

    The next set of adventures here - once recovery from today's birthday celebration is achieved - will be to give some sailing lessons to my amiga Jennifer who is half-owner of the new sailboat, tentatively dubbed The Red Rocket. She arrives tonight and I am sure will want to be out sailing early Saturday a.m.

    The Admiral and I met Jennifer and her family last summer here at the lake and after a few minutes of conversation, cooked up a scheme to buy a sailboat together - provided I threw in some sailing lessons for she and her family.

    With any luck, we will get some light winds to keep students - and sailing instructor - out of the water.

    Sailing off into the sunset
    Sailing into the sunset (Photo by Admiral Fox)