October 29, 2012

The wind is definitely up, and it's raining horizontally

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Admiral Fox and I did a quick, early afternoon spin around the town to check on the rain and wind.

We found both.

The forecast has been right on the mark with building winds and lots of rain. Not sure how long we will have power. Everyone keeps announcing that it is likely to go out - and stay out, perhaps for a day or more.

At Village Marine, we were pleased to see that almost all the boats were out of the water - including amigos Eric and Tina Hazlitt's vessel.

The remain boats were rocking and rolling - and the wind is just getting started.

We shot a short video that is already up at the Elmira Star-Gazette website:

LINK: Village Marina, 2 p.m. today

And - we'll shoot another one about 5 p.m. just as we lose daylight - provided we go back out!

October 28, 2012

Sorting Tonga photos and video - while waiting for the big storm

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The predictions and precautions are all dire and serious as the Northeastern U.S. braces for the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, churning her way up the Atlantic Ocean, expected to turn towards land tonight or tomorrow or maybe never.

Maybe never would be my preference.
A Regatta Vava'u race committee boat, Race III

Schools have been cancelled for tomorrow and people are stocking up on flashlights, candles while also checking to see if they will have any heat if the electricity gets wiped out for a few days.

I checked our wine cellar. Looks like we will be fine.

In and among this though, Adm. Fox and I are pulling together photos and video for a presentation in a little over a week at the Hector Wine Company (LINK: Hector Wine Company) about our Tonga adventure. Going back through the photos - while looking out my New York window at rain, wind and temperatures in the low 40s - sure makes me miss Regatta Vava'u. (LINK: Regatta Home Page)

We took thousands of still photos and I thought we had about six hours of video. I was wrong. More like eight hours I think, especially when combined with what Adm. Fox shot on her Canon SLR. That's a lot of stuff to condense into a half-hour.

Below are two shots that I have set aside to use/show: the top one of a Chatham's plane we did not fly on, though it would have been a great adventure.

The second is of the dock and beach at Eueiki where our amigos Mark and Veronica own and operate and eco-resort. That's a resort that's has a strong ecology theme, not one where you shout and hear your voice boomerang back.

Did I really write that? Better get to the wine cellar and double-check those emergency hurricane supplies.

A Chatham's DC3 - still flying in inter-island service
Eueiki Island, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga

October 27, 2012

A Halloween party at the Hector Wine Company - hoo-boy!

HECTOR, New York, USA - Buford and his band belted out tunes, wine and beer flowed like, well, wine and beer as the Hector Wine Company celebrated its second anniversary.

Live long and prosper
Because Halloween is just a few days away, it was a Halloween party, too, with about half the folks there dressed up in some sort of costume-like garb.

Eric Hazlitt and I toast
Admiral Fox sported a very stylish-looking Native American outfit. I alternated between a Star Trek uniform and a customized shirt (altered expertly by Adm. Fox).

It was nice party but when the music stopped at 7 p.m., a lot of the monsters wanted the show to go on. Buford and his amigos seemed pretty tired, however, after playing for two hours.

Many of the folks there trundled north to other parties up the highway. Adm. Fox and I headed south to the Seneca Lodge where Ithaca's Robin Burnett was playing and Salty Dog Rescue was having a benefit.

I now have a new Salty Dog Rescue shirt to wear to Mexico in a few weeks.

Here's a few photos of from the Hector Wine Company party.
Maggie and Dave

Sylvia and Jesse


Roger and Brett


October 22, 2012

A quiet Sunday ends with great music at Two Goats Brewery

HECTOR, New York, USA - Adm. Fox talked me into getting up off the napping couch Sunday afternoon for a drive north to Hector and Two Goats Brewing.

The drive wasn't just for the beer - which was excellent - it was to hear some music.

It wasn't just some music.

Scott Adams, Eric Aceto and cousin Brett Beardslee had a packed house dancing and singing. Singing was easier than dancing - there were a lot of people packed in.

Here's a brief video by subject2change Media of some of the sounds.

October 21, 2012

Hiking to where the elk go a-roaming near Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - My plans for a second day of kayaking were thwarted this afternoon by high winds - really high winds - and some cooler-than-expected temperatures. But as a consolation, Adm. Fox and I took a longish hike up through the cemetery next to the famous Watkins Glen, then all the way to the top of the hill and back around past an animal park where elk roam.

Yup, elk.

Thar be elk inside of this place
On the gateway side of the road, workmen were planting and digging and doing a variety of maintenance projects across a large pond. But across the street, in a huge fenced off area, a trio of elk were taking a break along the edge of the fence. Even at a distance, these animals are huge.

We would have done our usual enquiring journalists thing to ask more about the park, but the workmen were way off in the distance and there wasn't anyone tending to the animals to chat with.
Not camera shy

It is October, though, and tourists are pretty much a fond memory except at the wineries and brewpubs which are still doing a land office business.

We will likely head to Two Goats Brewery ourselves later today to help boost the economy.

Walks in the fall are quite spectacular, particularly now as the trees are either completely turned to color or about to. A few species have already shed their leaves, though they are in the minority.

Our sojourn past the elk park showed me that we actually live only about a mile away - close enough to go chat with the herd anytime I feel like it.

And on our walk down that last mile, we got a glimpse of Seneca Lake and the village park from a different angle than our house, a really spectacular view right now, especially with the colors.

It still looks too windy to kayak though.
View from the highway near the Elk Park

October 20, 2012

Hard aground - in a kayak - near the Watkins Glen boat ramp

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA -  By 3 p.m., today both the front and back lawns at the cottage were mowed. The hot tub and its circulating pump stowed safely. The shade/rain structure used to shelter the hot tub folded up neatly. The solar lights were put away for the season. And the Crimson Tide sailboat is sporting a new tarp to keep the leaves and debris off it for the winter.

It had been a busy morning and afternoon and so I considered simply collapsing on the couch when I got home to North Glen Avenue. Just mowing the lawn had proved daunting. It hadn't been touched since before Labor Day and had grown to about five inches tall in spots.

But the 20-knot cool breezes that had kept me cool up the lake suddenly let up here in Watkins Glen, making a quick kayak voyage seem like it might be in order.

Watkins Glen creek, approaching the channel
And it was a spectacular fall trip.

I paddled south, into a light breeze, following a flock of ducks who led me straight onto a sandbar where I experienced a kayaking first for me.

I ran hard aground with a crunch that had I been in a fiberglass boat, I would have been concerned.

Normally it's easy to rock my kayak off the bottom and simply back out. But oh no!!!!! Not this time. These wily quackers had lured me up onto some kind of ridge and it was only with a lot of effort, muttering and saying a string of magic words like these: (^^#*$^(*^&()%)) that I was able to get free.

I was not going to wade to get the kayak floating again. Well, not if I didn't absolutely have to. The water is very cold already.

In my paddling, I saw that the marinas are all emptying quickly with only a few holdouts left in their berths in the canal off the lake. Some of the holdouts were aboard their vessels as I paddled by, heaters running and cups of grog in their hands. No grog was offered to me however, even after several folks witnessed my encounter with the ducks and the sandbar.
Not many yachties left at the Watkins Glen Yacht Club
The weather forecast for Sunday is good enough that I left my kayak in the truck, all ready for another expedition. That probably guarantees precipitation.

But I'm going to risk it anyway. I'm too tired to haul the kayak out of my truck.

October 18, 2012

Seneca Lake days are over, packing for Mexico gets underway

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Adm. Fox and I pulled the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat out of the water Wednesday, a harrowing affair in 15-20 knots of crosswind at a shallow launch ramp.

But after three tries, I finally drove the boat up onto the trailer (risky business, indeed) and summer officially was over for the Valois Point Yacht Club.

Doug Hazlitt offers a Heineken salute
At Village Marina we found Eric and Tina Hazlitt just about to head out for a final summer sail and were lucky enough to jump aboard for a few hours of sailing. Eric's cousin Doug Hazlitt was out and about on his newly built sailboat and, well, of course we raced!

 No need to dwell on results here, except to say it was a lot of fun in some pretty stiff breezes. It was so windy I could barely hang onto my wine glass as we tacked back and forth heading back into the dock.

We left the Spirit of Louise in the Village Marina parking lot overnight and will take the ship down to brother Dan's shop in Big Flats today where it winters under some heavy tarps.
At the helm with Tina Hazlitt tending the jib sheets
Getting the pontoon boat out of the water means it's time to get serious about packing for Mexico as well as ramping up our efforts on preparing stories and photos about our trip to Tonga and the Regatta Vava'u.

Adm. Fox set a date of Nov. 8 for us to put on a show-and-tell slide/video show at the Hector Wine Company about the trip. Gulp. Where did I put all those video chips?

And in the midst of all this, granddaughter Samantha turned 15 yesterday. Fifteen. Jaysus! Happy Birthday, Sami... We'll Skype tonight.

October 10, 2012

Heading to NY after 4 weeks on the road, in the air, and on water

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Admiral Fox and I head back to Watkins Glen this afternoon after a month-long sojourn that included stops in Sacramento, Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga.

We had fun everyplace we went but it will be really good to be home. Plus, we have several thousand photos to look at, hours of video to compile and edit and stories to write for several magazines and newspapers.

I just got very tired.

Tonga - more specifically the island group of Vava'u - and the Regatta Vava'u was what launched this whole trip. I was sorting through some photos last night of the Pub Crawl. Gawd was it fun. The regatta was so full of interesting stuff I filled two notebooks with almost-legible scrawl that I now have to decipher.

The Pub Crawl notes seem the most hard to read. Go figure.

Here in Sacramento, we had a great time, too, staying with Pam DiTomasso and her husband Steve Lovotti in their gorgeous home on 46th Street. We also had some drive-by visits with amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont in Murphys, Calif. and Jen and Scott Noble in Elk Grove. We need to be cloned so we can see all these people and our amigos in New York and Vava'u now, too.

Last night - as a great capper to the whole month - we celebrated granddaughter Samantha Rose Allen's 15th birthday. Her 5-year-old sister Kami tried to steal the show, as usual. There was a lot of loose talk about Sami, Kami and mom Anne coming to visit us in New York - or even Mexico.

Woo-hoo! We're ready for the visit.

Here's pix of the birthday girl with her mom and me getting a hug from Kami.

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October 1, 2012

Last night on the beach in Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga

VAVA'U, Kingdom of Tonga - We are sitting in on of our favorite haunts here, The Aquarium, after a whirlwind last full day.

First we had a windy, slightly soggy ride in from The Reef Resort, then a great lunch with Regatta Vava'u organizers (and new friends) Ben and Lisa. We capped it with film interviews with Billy and the star of his theatre production, a fellow named Augustine.

Watch for an announcement on YouTube when that video goes up.

Tomorrow we board a plane at 8:15 for the main island of Tongatapu, then it's off to Fiji and parts east (like LA and Sacramento).

We have literally thousands of photos, hours of video, and pages and pages of notes to turn into stories, photo essays and rockumentaries.

Sad to leave here, but can't wait to start pulling this stuff all together.

At Treasure Island, I shot the photo below of one of the island guys (Rusty, a retired Canadian firefighter) getting his haircut from Vickie, a young lady who hails from Australia.

More on life on Treasure Island when I am back where the blogging program can do justice to these photos...

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