Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Let me start off today's post by saying that I'm proud to serve with so many outstanding Americans!

Yesterday morning we left the beauty of Eagle Harbor on Cypress Island after a hearty pancake breakfast.  With the current we made very good time to Deception Pass and went through on slack just as the kids were having lunch.  It was a pretty gorgeous morning and lots of folks were out on the beaches there.  We just enjoyed the trip this time, fully realizing that it may be one of the last times we get to make that transit for a while.  Just beyond the pass was Coronet Bay, a nice little refuge with floats and docks that are part of the state park.  We managed to get on a dock that was right on shore and tied up with ease.  The weather kind of went downhill, but after nap time we all went for a nice long walk down a trail to a beach.  Along the way we chatted with a family who also lives aboard in our marina.  Small world...  The kids even found a bulldozer to play on!
Despite the rain,  Katreina wanted to play on the beach after our walk so she and I got nice and messy while the boys headed inside.  She happily dug at the sand with a shell and managed to find a few crabs!

The whole time we were here there were crowds of people fishing for smelt off the dock.  It was crazy!   They were even here at 6:30 am today!  Nice to see so many families enjoying the outdoors together.

This was definitely not our typical trip.  We usually head to a location, spend a few days at anchor there, then head back.  Though different, I kind of liked this weekend.  I think it gave Frank more time to hang out with all of us and we got to see a lot of places.  Now we're headed home, and of course NOW the sun is coming out.  Looking forward to scrubbing the boat with my little girl!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cypress Island

Now this place is just a treat!  After the excitement of the morning, we decided that if Cypress would work we'd just stop there.  Our cruising guide listed Eagle Harbor as an anchorage, but we were surprised to see a great spread of free, well-maintained mooring buoys!  What luck given the state of our windlass!  This place is just gorgeous and peaceful.  The mist rising from the trees, the bald eagles overhead...paradise.

While the kids napped we got the kayaks down and both Frank and I enjoyed a little solo paddle around the harbor.  Then we took the munchkins for a paddle and a nice trail walk between two beaches.  Katreina really took to running in the woods, and the kids loved checking out all the massive slugs along the trail!  We had such a good time that after returning to the boat for dinner, we headed back out for more kayaking, and looking at starfish and jellyfish.

I really like this's been a very relaxing night for the big kids, too.  :)  But due to the timing of the tides, we're planning on heading out tomorrow morning to get through the pass.  Totally fun day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Underway, La Conner, and a series of unfortunate events!

It was a typical start to a long weekend for us...a short week of work, rushing to get the boat stocked/laundry done/work caught up after a week of leave, then aaaahhhhhh, the lines were cast off Thursday evening!  We didn't really have a solid plan for the weekend, but headed north.  That night was just a quick jaunt up to Elgar Bay where we anchored for the night.  Our big treat there?  The anchor windlass stopped working properly!  The "down" would work, but not the "up"--bummer!  We did a bit of trouble shooting that night, but couldn't get it going.  Oh well, good ole' fashioned brute strength (a.k.a. Frank) got the anchor back on deck and we were underway just fine on Friday morning.

Tides and currents weren't totally favorable for getting us through Deception Pass so we decided to try something new--the Swinomish Channel.  We tried to time it so that we would be at a "0" tide and rising for our trip into the channel.  THAT was exciting!  We heard another vessel on VHF report that is was "now longer obstructing Swinomish Channel."  Great.  Then we saw it at the mouth of the channel right as we started in.  It was nerve-racking for Frank and I honestly could have done without the power boat that insisted on passing us right in a bend with another sailboat coming at us, but we made it!

Once we made it through the channel we decided we might as well check out La Conner.  It gets a lot of hype and we were honestly a little spent after that stress.  We scored with a nice city dock right in the middle of town that was only $.50/ft/nt.  It was rainy, but we geared up and headed into town to play in mud puddles and shop a little.  We scored at an awesome olive shop right up the pier.  YUMMY!  Frank got some ridiculously hot ones, while I went for sun-dried tomato stuffed.  And since the kids had been really good, we got ice cream!  We all got a little cold, but it was delicious!  The kids played around a bit in town, but we were getting hungry so we headed back to the boat.

This is where it gets good!  I had ribs in the oven and was about to cook corn when I realized that the gas was out.  No big deal, right?  We always keep the spare filled.  Well not this time!  We were OUT!  At this point it was after 6pm and no where was open.  We salvaged dinner and looked up a place to go in the morning, right on the water, that had propane.  According to the website it opened at 8am which would allow us to get out of the channel on the north side before the tide got too low.

This morning was less than ideal.  As we went to get underway the current was tearing along, right into our stern, and the boat got pushed well away from the pier before I could get on.  I freaked, but Frank kept his cool, got the line onboard, flipped around to point into the current, and got right up to where I could jump onto the port side.  I decided I hate current.  Next we had to find a place to tie up by this marine store.  Well, its dock was full of over-nighters, so we pulled into the fuel dock (which sucked with the current and the no-cleat piers they favor there) just to be told we couldn't pull up there to go get propane next door.  Grrr....  So then we tied up to the northern guest piers (which thankfully had cleats) and Frank ran to go fill the propane.  It was about 8:15am when he left and he returned, soaked from the rain, to tell me that the store doesn't open until 9am.  Curse you, stupid stores that don't post the correct hours on your web sites!!!!!  So we waited.  We didn't want to have to try to pull in anywhere else.  The cool thing was that they Skagit County dockmaster (where we were tied up) didn't give us a hard time about hanging out there and not paying for the hour.  He was really cool.

Ok, so at 9am Frank got BOTH propane tanks filled and we got underway ASAP.  We wanted to be out of this channel before the tide dropped below "0" level just after 10am.  It was honestly tight.  We were behind, and I can't believe I'm saying this, a slow power boat.  At least yesterday when we were coming in if we grounded the water was rising and we'd shortly float off.  Today, the water was dropping and we could be stuck for hours.  But....WE MADE IT!  I'm happy that we "did" La Conner and the channel, but I'm happy to be headed out to the islands right now.  Not sure where we'll end up tonight...Cypress or Sucia???

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is it May yet? Why yes, it is!

This weekend we are out with our friends from North Carolina, Jesse and Rachel. After a week of fun in Seattle we got underway for Port Townsend. We had fun there and even got underway on the tall ship Lady Washington for a battle cruise! The kids loved the canons and it was great to see the crew work all those sails.

Now we're heading back to Everett for the night. It's going to be tough going back to work tomorrow!

Friday, May 14, 2010

"I put on my uniform today."

At times I struggle with missing my family and wonder if I made the right decision to keep pressing on in this career field.  While this underway period has been hard on me (and probably on them, too), I know that this was my choice, a choice that I made after lots of discussion with Frank.  A lot of people can't understand why we've chosen this, and honestly it's hard to explain.  But yesterday I was forwarded the excerpt below.  It was read at the retirement ceremony for a Chief Petty Officer in my community and it really touches on themes that resonate throughout the ranks of our all-volunteer military.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

"I put on my uniform today."

A Navy Chief sat behind his desk, just down the hall from his Commander's office.  As the Chief started on a second cup of coffee and finished the last of the morning messages, the commander stepped into the office.  "Chief," the Captain said, "I hate to ask you this, but you are needed in Southwest Asia in six days for a 90-day rotation.  Can you go?"  With no voiced emotion and without looking up, the Chief replied, "Ma'am, I put on my uniform this morning."

The Captain, somewhat taken aback, thought to herself, "The Chief doesn't usually talk in riddles.  Has this veteran of 20 years gone off the deep end?"  The old protector of the enlisted corps smiled and began to explain.  "Ma'am, I made a promise to myself more than 20 years ago, that I would only put this uniform on as long as I'm available for duty.  You see, while it is obvious to most Navy members, it seems to completely escape others.  'Available for duty' means more than the desire to negotiate and select the premium assignments.  It requires us to go any place in the world the President or officers appointed over us determines, at any given time.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't want or receive our preferences.  It does mean we'll go when and where we are needed and called.  Now this may seem overly simplistic, but I think everyone can agree--when it comes to defining service to our country, the answer is just that simple.  In today's world of 'What can you do for me?', it's very easy to lose sight of what 'service to country' is all about.  Service goes far beyond the individual; it affects the well-being of our nation.  Sitting in comfortable surroundings, at your dream base in CONUS, it's easy to forget the sacrifices we agreed to endure in service to our country.  Sitting in Saudi, Iraq, Bosnia, Japan, or maybe Korea, the sacrifices become much clearer.  The bottom line today is that we are an all-volunteer force, and though our force has been reduced by 30 percent in the last five years, it remains a highly mobilized, continually-tasked 'corporation.'  Everyone is vital to its continued success."

The Chief continued by saying, "The Navy will go on tomorrow with or without any single one of us; however, the efficiency of any one of its specific units may be adversely affected by the loss of only a few.  All of us have the responsibility to report our availability for duty.  If someone has a family problem or special circumstances that preclude them from being available, they need to report it immediately and especially prior to being deployed.  If any member does not deploy when called upon, another member must fill that slot.  So, any time someone cannot or will not deploy, the ripple effect is felt throughout the Navy.  Everyone's family would like them to be home for the holidays.  I can't think of a single person wo would intentionally miss their child's graduation.  And we're all aware of the pain of losing a loved one and know how the grief can be compounded by not being at their side in the final moments.  Yes, we are all continually asked to make sacrifices.  Yet some seem to forget that we are serving our nation, and that we are all volunteers.  Who said it was going to be easy?  The leadership of our country depends on us for being good and true to our word.  Every day, each of us needs to look into the mirror before getting into uniform and ask, 'Am I available for duty?'  If the answer is 'No,' then we need to notify our supervisor, division chief, or commander immediately!  Then the next step is to determine if the non-availability is temporary or permanent.  Then the toughest question must be asked--should the person resign, separate, or retire?  There are no grey areas.  Everyone must decide for themselves."

Finally the Chief looked at his commander and said, "Ma'am, as I said earlier, I put on my uniform today, and I'm available for duty.  Do you still need a 'yes' or 'no' answer to your question?"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a little shout out to the women who bore us and then put up with our antics for 18 years (ok, maybe more)--thanks, Gretchen and Sue!

As for me, even at sea I'm having a good Mother's Day thanks to my awesome hubby.  Before going onto watch at 0230 this morning I received emailed photos of a card from Katreina and colorings from both kids.  But that's not all!  After watch I was very surprised to find an email with an audio clip of the sweet voices of my loving family.  It's so nice to know that you're being thought of!  I think I'm going to listen to this clip at least 100 times today.  Love them!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

DV Dinner

So last night I got the pleasure of dining with Mr. Yoshimi Inaba, COO of Toyota Motor North America, and his wife Yoko as they were guests onboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.  I will be the first to admit the following:  I personally love my Toyota and want to buy another; I think Toyota could have been more forthcoming about the issues they identified; and I think that the company has been beat up severely by US lawmakers to make it look bad so more US cars will sell.  But that's beside the point here.

My first impression was this was a guy I was going to like.  He's a major figure in a large international corporation and he arrived sporting Dockers.  No showing about from either he or his wife (who I must say is lovely!).  Throughout the meal, Mr. Inaba and the Admiral talked about the challenges of leading a company and a strike group, and how similar they are in many ways, but they also talked about golf and family.  I was most impressed to hear him talk about his 42 years with Toyota.  This is a company he's been with since college and despite the challenges it's currently facing, he is not going anywhere.  I truly respect his dedication and hope that I can find similar character within myself when the going gets tough.