Status

Makai is almost ready to go, now we just have a few errands to re-position the Mears family and Makai to Southern California.

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Like last fall, the temperatures is starting to drop.  The new air conditioner Eric installed in July doubles as a heater.  Most days the doors are closed and the heater is running.  Unfortunately, it only warms the salon by 10 or so degrees, I’m not actually certain of that number, which leaves the bedrooms chilly and everyone still wearing jackets. But as long as we have shore power we can take the chill off.

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I’m really going to miss Maryland.  I love the fields and trees, rivers, marshes and the Chesapeake Bay.  We’ve had fun catching and eating crab and making new friends.  I need tissues to wipe the tears out of my eyes, we’ll miss Maryland and the whole east coast.

The next job is to send Eric with the van to California.  I made the trip two years ago with the kids, Topaz and a whole bunch of stuff we thought we couldn’t live without.  Now after using some stuff, getting rid of other stuff and adding new stuff, he has to do the reverse.  Meanwhile I’m going to try to spend some time with the kids.  I feel like the last 4 months have been one major project after another and they have had to be little orphans.

First on their request list was to make donuts.

Combine 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 3/8 cup of milk and set aside. Then cream 2 TB of shortening with 1/2 cup of white sugar, add in an egg and 1/2 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1/4 tsp of salt, then mix everything together with 2 cups of flour.  Heat up the oil and drop spoons of batter in and flip when brown.  Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with confectioner sugar or cinnamon/sugar. They were so good, we kept the oil in the fryer on the back porch to use again.

Everytime we move one state northward, the temperature drops by another 5-10 degrees.  The next stop north of Buffalo is Canada and you know the nickname for my second favorite country?  The Great White North.  Anyway, everyone was excited when the precipitation solidified and turned white, that’s what it does in Buffalo. Any time after Halloween you can get a snow storm.

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Since I’m feeling this mood of farewell, I have a bucket list for the east coast I have to work on.  Next is a real Friday Night at the Pub Fish Fry. The first week we went to Apollos on South Park and the next week was the Nite Capp two blocks away on Abbott Rd.  With this sample set of two, the Nite Capp wins!  I just wish I could be here for one more Friday for one more fish fry,

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Another project I’ve been promising the kids is to make sandal socks.  Many years ago I bought wild polar fleece socks to wear during the cool Southern California winters.  They were too pricey to buy more than one pair, so we came up with a plan for everyone to pick their own fabric from JoAnn’s and make our own.

We traced my original socks and cut out a pattern.  Now everyone has two pairs of foot blankets and some of our friends saw what we were doing and got a pair too.

Here comes some more snow. It’s a little like pebbles instead of fluffy white flakes.

Marie can still ride her bike.  For the last week we’ve been taking Topaz out for bike rides.  The end of all the streets in this neighborhood dead end at a wooded area.  It’s fun to go to the end and look for the deer and turkeys that live down there.

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Oh, puppy!  Our best pals here, the Parker family, got a new puppy.  Their beloved little puppy, Bo, that we all enjoyed this summer was poisoned.  It was a huge tragedy, but after several weeks, they got a new baby, Taz.

When we come to visit, he runs across the room and leaps into my lap.  I just loved sitting there cuddling on the little guy.

And so does everyone else.

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While we are eating yummy local delicacies and cuddling on puppies, poor Eric is driving.  How about tomorrow? He’s still driving.  The next day, more driving. He did stop for a few days in Colorado to visit his mother, but then there was another long day of driving.

The Ronald Reagan Trail is a series of Cities in Illinois where President Reagan grew up and went to school in the 1920s before his acting career took him to California in the late 1930s.

The Mississippi River is the boarder between Illinois and Missouri on Eric’s path west.

Eric loves cool old things.  I guess that only increases my value as I age.

But sometimes cool old things create problems.  He was struggling with the oil drain plug.  In Colorado he finally got it out and replaced.

Gas prices can vary greatly as you travel.  There is a Travel Center in Arizona on Rt. 40 that always has the best price before you get ready to cross the desert in California.

There it is, home sweet home.  For the last two years the van is the our only vehicle that has been registered and used.  It went across the country through deserts and swamps, over mountains and hills, spent winters at the Harrison’s house in New Jersey, up and down the east coast and back to California.

Here is an authentic conch shell, that was selected for conch salad and discarded for us to turn into a horn to be blown at sundown. Now it greets visitors to our cabin in Angelus Oaks at 5800 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California.

Back in Buffalo, we often have turkeys or deer on the front lawn.

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There is a flock that cruises the neighborhood here.

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The dogs sit in the front window barking at them.  When they’ve had enough, they move on back to their nest in the woods.

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Mom is getting ready for back surgery.  About 15 years ago her back was injured while adjusting a patient. After years of dealing with the chiropractor and spinal injections, non of that works any longer and surgery is the next step.  So instead of setting up the house for her to leave, we’re helping to take care of things so she won’t have to worry about it while she recovers.

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We are very comfortable here with two big bedrooms upstairs and plenty of couch space in the living room.  Occasionally someone decides to sleep on the couch and this is where I found Marie one morning, buried in a cushion cave.

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The extra couches in the living room are necessary because the dogs require their own.

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Dog baths are in order as well.  With JJ getting ready to go to the Parker family while mom is having her back surgery and Topaz going back to the cold boat, they were happy to have their baths with warm water in the basement.

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How about Thanksgiving dinner.  Yes it is a week and a half away, but mom will be in the hospital and we will probably be out to sea.  So stuffed chicken breasts with the fixings should do the trick.

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Monday night after dinner, the snow started coming down.  That’s the signal to all smart Buffalonians to get home.  Jim, Ania, and Patryk cautiously headed down the road.  The kids, Topaz and I are due to leave tomorrow.  I’m sure the 6-8 inches predicted by Accuweather should be plowed by noon and we’ll head towards Eric’s flight into Baltimore.  Until then, lets play in the snow a little.  The kids have been dying to play in the snow after suffering the past two winters in the tropics ;)

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OH OH, when we woke up it was clear that the weatherman underestimated the snow accumulation. We went to let the dogs out potty and all the doors to the house were stuck with at least two feet of snow in front of them.  I opened the back door a few inches and got my arm out just enough to start digging until I could squeeze out.

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Then mom opened the garage for me to get to the shovels and make a path for the dogs.

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The snow is still dumping and blowing nearly 24 hours later.  Anyone who goes out has the job of clearing the path and scraping the snow away from the back door.

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The dogs have been enjoying themselves plowing over the snow piles while the falling snow piles on top of them.

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The storm news has monopolized all the television stations. Buffalo is situated on Lake Erie with plenty of coast line along the south towns. This wonderful location creates a unique weather pattern called Lake Effect snow. Wikipedia defines it as: Lake-effect snow is produced during cooler atmospheric conditions when cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lakewater, providing energy and picking up water vapor, which freezes and is deposited on the leeward shores.  When the wind whips up to over 35 mph the storm can be called a blizzard. See what can happen when a Pacific Typhoon crashes into the Jet stream.

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The band of snow likes to sit still and become a snow machine dumping it’s load in a finite area.  My brother jokingly said  the snow out front was in the lake recently and the storm could just sit there until it drains the lake dry.  Hmm, that would be a trick.  As you can see by the radar picture from the television that if you are located on the north side of Buffalo, the snow band wouldn’t affect you.  Jim and Ania live just on the other side of the line and got an inch and have blues skies.  The news interviewed people trapped at a gas station who said they have friends one mile away that reported clear roads while the rest of us have more than 4 feet piled in the road.

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Genny is standing by a 4 foot fence.  We only have one set of snow clothes here.  Everyone takes turns with the boots, pants, jackets and gloves.  The dogs have to get buy with what ever coat they grew since the summer.  Topaz has an exceptionally thick coat keeping the icicles away from her skin.

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I guess we can check a real Buffalo Blizzard off our East Coast Bucket list.

The TV has a running banner listing all the closures.  The kids are all off for a snow day except the homeschooled Mears children.  It’s a perfect day for cursive practice and math.

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Here are the flowers Eric sent us yesterday.  Aren’t they pretty, Thanks Eric.

Halloween 2014 – The Pumpkin Post

After two great weeks touring in D.C. it’s time to get back to preparations for heading south.  Luckily we did so much work already this summer that the list is rather short.  Our first top is Vane Brothers in Baltimore to have our life raft serviced and repacked. Neno invited us in to watch them open the pod and inflate the raft.

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At this facility they service the dozens of rafts brought by tankers and freighters.  This is the only time we think about all the worst things that could happen.  If we should have to leave Makai, the six of us will pile into this raft, after turning on the EPIRB and our SPOT which will hopefully alert the Coast Guard of our position. I’m also ordering emergency rations and preparing emergency water and other such supplies.

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From Baltimore we continued on to Buffalo.  Marie had a great time with Olivia, our 3 year old pal, this summer, and Sarah, Olivia’s mom, offered to throw Genny and Marie a surprise formal wear birthday party.

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The girls loved having a place to wear their make-up, gowns, heels and crowns.  Marie is a model and Genny is a princess.

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The weather is turning cold.  This is no surprise for people in Buffalo, but we’re always confused when we can no longer wear shorts and flip-flops. Jim and Ania invited us to a pumpkin patch, the sun was shining, but the temperature was 50 with a wind chill that made it feel much colder.

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Several years back, the kids and I were here just before Halloween. The pumpkins are grown out back and there is enough space for lots of fun.

 

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The first thing to draw our attention is the pumpkin cannon.

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The kids took turns on this small compressed air cannon.

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Can you see that pumpkin flying toward the target?  When it hits the target, the poor little pumpkin explodes into pumpkin pulp.

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Next to this pumpkin shooter is a huge cannon that angles up 30 feet from the ground and shoots pumpkins out over the corn fields, over the tree tops and over everyone’s head.  The people all look up as they hear the pumpkin wizzzzzz through the air.

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Look at these beautiful ladies with their ice cream.  How can they eat a frozen treat when it’s so cold out.

I love the bumpy pumpkins.

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The Pumpkin Farm does a great job with photo ops and also entertainment like jugglers, magicians, and pie eating contests.

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The local high schools are invited to compete in a trebuchet contest. Mythbusters used to have a Punkin-Chunkin contest with the trebuchet. Pioneer High School won the highest single shot trophy with 434 feet.

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I’m not sure which school used the barbells below, but a few of their pumpkins actually launched behind the trebuchet.

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The corn maze was fun to duck in and out of corn stalks.

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Everyone was happy to be wearing warm jackets.  The sun didn’t compensate for the brisk wind.

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We had a choice of two hay rides.  The horses were beautiful, but a little stinky, so we went for the tractor ride.

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On the way out everyone selected a perfect pumpkin. The sisters picked a painted pumpkin and Roy opted to get a wheel barrow for his perfect selection.

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The World Pumpkin Weigh Off attracted 1500 pound pumpkins.

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The Pumpkin Farm also had a petting zoo with goats, ponies, a camel and this little baby yak. They also had carnival rides and treats, but we were pretty busy with the pumpkins, corn maze, hay ride and cannons.

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What a great day out with Jim and Ania.  On the way home we stopped for concord grapes and cider.  Concord grapes are the ones Welch’s uses for their grape juice. We ate them all the time when I was a kid. Last night Eric and I went to a wine tasting the Shriners hosted as a fund raiser.  My favorite wine there was made from Concord Grapes as well.

It was a treat to be in town for Sadie’s birthday. Her mom Kelly and I have birthdays less than a week apart. As teenagers we spent our birthdays together and now we either call each other or at least think about each other on our birthday.

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We made new friends on the street and the sisters always have fun running back and forth between the houses.

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Instead of spreading out all over the house like we usually do, everyone made their nests in the upstairs bedrooms.  Marie always over packs.  She’ll bring one change of clothes and 25 Beanie Babies, 5 pillows a few blankets and now she wears a sleep mask every night.

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Back at the boat, this time Topaz came home with us and the weather is getting progressively more like winter. Eric is working on computer projects like crazy.  I’m finishing up buffing out the boat, cleaning cabinets, collecting supplies, etc.  We made new friends on Tangent, a Leopard 40, with a family just starting their sailing adventure and had a few great dinners together.

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The top of the list for this week is provisioning.  The sisters and I went to the nearest Costco, 45 minutes away.  We started the shopping spree with a classic hot dog special at the food court and then with each of us pushing a cart proceeded to spend many hundreds of dollars.

We went up and down every aisle, looking at each item.  If it’s something we use, how much will we use in 24-30 weeks.  That should take us to Hawaii, if we make it that far.

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Don’t forget the kibbles!

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It took two days to pack 30 bottles of spaghetti sauce, 20 packages of Mac and Cheese, enough soap to keep everyone’s body squeaky clean and of course there are the paper products.  At the end I just couldn’t bear to face the 150 lbs of flour.  By the weekend I was refreshed and transferred the three 50 lb bags into 30 ziplocks along with Krusteaz, brownie mix, and sugar. Yes that does look like a lot, but this year we used all but two ziplocks of flour.  I made playdough for the girls today with last year’s flour so we can start on the fresh stuff with our next loaf of bread or pizza.   I still have to go to BJs, a smaller warehouse store but close by the marina, just before Makai pulls out to load up on freezer items, produce and dairy.

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Everyone is also excited about our new grocery carts.  Our first season the kids and I wandered through the streets of the Caribbean Islands with one cart and several bags. Last season we ordered another cart that turned out to be half the size we expected, but it was still helpful to buy a watermelon and fresh milk available in the Bahamas. Recently I saw these beautiful carts for $20 from Whole Foods.  I was so excited I bought two.  One for Roy and one for Genny, Marie gets the small cart from last year and I’ll take the old one.  Maybe no one will have to carry bags this year.

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The one thing in D.C. we wanted to do but missed out on was a White House Tour.  This tour is arranged by your House Representative.  If you are planning to visit D.C. send an email to your representative with the dates you’ll be in town and they will arrange the tour. No reservations were available while we were staying in town, but luckily Solomons is only an hour and a half away and Becky invited us to stay overnight. We walked through about 10 rooms on the ground floor.  The halls are lined with photos of famous people that visited the White House and the rooms display portraits of Presidents and their wives. Everyday around noon, the last tourist leaves and they roll the carpets back out, store away the ropes and stanchions and leave the house back to the first family.

Becky lives about a mile and a half away.  We’ve stayed there a hand full of times and just love to hang out with her and Dave. They made us our favorite dinner of burgers and fries, a glass of wine and Dave brought the kids pumpkins, popcorn and caramel apples.

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I think that this is Topaz’s first visit.  Becky took us down the street and around the corner to the only patch of grass in the neighborhood for Topaz to sniff.  Later Dave took her for a walk.  We kept her downstairs so Becky’s cats could keep their privacy without a dog snooping around :)

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I’ve never carved a pumpkin in the dining room of such a pretty city house, normally its outside where pumpkin guts could freely drip on the ground.

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Marie used an interesting hole punch to make leaves on a vine and Genny followed a pattern for a witch on a broom.  Roy had me scrape the inside because he was involved in a book.

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Afterwards he carved out a classic jack o lantern.

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We lit them and decorated the front steps.

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Fall in in full bloom in Maryland, next time we go to New York, the branches will be bare.

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Topaz hasn’t been on Makai since June and when she left us Makai was in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.  One minute she hops in the van and the next she’s in southern Maryland.  Even after her excursion to Becky’s house in D.C. she knows her home and cuddles up on the couch.

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Halloween is just a day away, Roy left his pumpkin to decorate Becky’s porch and scraped out his New York pumpkin here on the dock.

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The plan has been in place for several weeks now.  Emily and Abby got out of school early and their mom drove them down to their boat in the marina to trick or treat with us in Solomons.

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With everyone dressed up and ready to trick or treat we pass through the pub and hit the streets.

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A great time was had by all.  The weekend has been cold, rainy, windy and miserable.  But the girls had sleepovers and spent the whole day in their jammies.

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Topaz wishes she could go for her daily bike ride, but it’s just too miserable out there.  I did stand in the parking lot and let her chase leaves as they blew by.

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We only have a few more tasks then back to Buffalo to wait for Eric to reposition the van back to California.

 

 

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More Washington D.C. 2014

How could I ever think driving up to D.C. from the marina for a day or two would give us enough time to cover this city?  Here we are on the second week with so much left to do.  We started the week with the three branches of government that the U.S. Constitution laid out for us in 1789.

Last year the Washington Monument was covered in scaffolding, this year it’s the Capitol Building and headquarters to the Legislative Branch.

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Eric sent an email to our Representative, Allen Lowenthal of California’s 47th district,  requesting a tour of the Capitol.  Becca scheduled our tour and we met her at their office in the Cannon House Office Building.

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When the federal government moved to Washington D.C. in 1800, the unfinished White House and Capitol Building were the only government buildings in D.C. at the time.  Taverns were still a prime meeting place and the swamps made the town a muddy place to do business.  Today our 435 Representatives have offices in Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn Office buildings.  The Senators in the Russell, Dirksen and Hart Buildings as well as the Representatives in their buildings have access to the Capitol and Library of Congress through a Tunnel System.  Check the link, it’s fascinating what is included in this underground city. There is a subway connecting most of the buildings as well as a convenience store, food court, and hair salon.

From the Cannon Building, where our representative has his office, we walked along the tunnel to the Capitol. This is where the Congressional High School Art Exhibit is displayed. Since 1983 the Congressional Institute has sponsored this competition.

In 1793 President George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol.  When he died in 1799 the designers asked Martha if they could build a tomb for her husband, she agreed.  Then in 1827, after the Capitol was rebuilt due to the fires set by the British in 1814, the builder’s oversight omitted the tomb and then Washington’s will and the current owner of Mount Vernon didn’t allow for his body to be moved. So, George Washington’s body remains in Mount Vernon and this room below the Rotunda and the columns supporting the floor above is still called the crypt.

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A marble compass is set into the floor to mark where the four quadrants of the District of Columbia meet.  Our tour guide said that path the president walks on his way to his inauguration takes him through this room.  Each President makes a point to step on this compass like all of his predecessors for good luck.

The Capitol is a beautiful building, full of art. The Rotunda is a circular room 180 feet high, the Statue of Liberty at 151 ft could stand tall in this room. painted on the dome is the Apotheosis of Washington, a fresco depicting Washington becoming a god and sitting among heavenly figures.  You’ll have to read the link for a full description of the symbolism.  But, in my opinion, I don’t think George Washington would have approved of this painting.  I don’t think he wanted to be thought of as a king or a god.

Around the Rotunda there are eight huge paintings depicting scenes such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Resignation, explorers like Columbus, the Pilgrims, and famous surrenders. In the Rotunda as well as throughout the entire building are statues of famous people.

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Statuary Hall, just south of the Rotunda, was the House Meeting room from 1807 – 1857.  A new meeting room was constructed because the domed ceiling made echos so it was difficult to hear discussions and debates.  Starting in 1870 two statues were contributed by each state. By 1933 the hall starting getting crowded and there were concerns about the floor holding all that weight. Since then the statues have been distributed throughout the Capitol.  Becky joined us for the tour, she and I worked together in Hawaii and now she lives just a few miles north of the Capitol.

The Statue of Freedom in bronze tops the dome of the Capitol.  A plaster model of the statue is on display in the Visitor Center.

 

When the Federal Government moved to Washington D.C. in 1800, this building housed the Senate, their meeting room and offices, the House of Representatives, their offices as well as the Supreme Court and their offices. Wow, a lot of business went down here. Over time, these groups all grew out of their original spaces. The Senate met in the chamber pictured below from 1810 to 1859.  The Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate (good to know, I always wondered what he did), and sat at the curved desk with red canopy. Facing him are 64 desks for senators, two from each of the 32 states at the time. When the Senate moved out, the Supreme Court moved up stairs to this room until they got their own building in 1935.

The Capitol also displays plaques to honor events and people.  For instance, a plaque on the wall reminds us that on May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse in the Old Supreme Court Chamber sent “What hath God wrought” in Morse Code, a bible verse from Numbers 23:23, via electric telegraph to Alfred Vail at the B&O outer depot in Baltimore.

Bronze plaques are on the floor of the Old House meeting room to honor the presidents that once sat in that place as a representative.

Another plaque remembers the citizens aboard United flight 93 who overtook Al Qaeda hijackers on 9/11/2001 which less than 20 minutes from Washington D.C. crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  This heroic deed, killing all 33 passengers, saved the Capitol and lives of countless people working there to run our country.  Our American history tours have taken us to memorials erected in New Jersey directing our view to the empty sky in Manhattan where the twin towers once stood and Baltimore in front of the World Trade Center built there on the water front.

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The Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, leaders of Woman’s Suffrage, in the Rotunda also displays an unfinished piece of marble.  Wikipedia says this is to represent the unfinished work of women’s rights, contrary to the information given on our tour that the space is reserved for the first woman president.  Wikipedia says that the space isn’t large enough to carve a bust.

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Exiting back down the hall to the Cannon Building, we have a beautiful view of the Capitol’s dome. Thanks to our tour guides, law students and interns for Representative Allen Lowenthal.

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The Thomas Jefferson Building is the oldest of three Library of Congress buildings which was finished in 1897. Before that, the library was housed in the Capitol Building. We enjoyed our lunch out front. Most days we set out to tour D.C. just before noon and are ready for lunch soon after we arrive at our first building.

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The Jefferson Building is also part of the Capitol Tunnel system.  The original Library of Congress was established in 1800 with 740 books and 3 maps ordered from London. By 1814 the collection grew to 3,000 volumes, which were destroyed by the invading British when they burned the Capitol building.

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Within a month Thomas Jefferson offered to sell Congress his collection to pay off debts.  Jefferson’s collection was that of a scholar instead of a gentlemen’s collection for display.  Congress accepted his offer and received 6,487 books for $23,950. By 1851 the collection grew to 55,000. Unfortunately another fire destroyed 2/3 of the collection, including 2/3 of Jefferson’s books.  Within 10 years hardworking librarians managed to replace all but 300 of Jefferson’s original books.

Thomas Jefferson’s books are on display in the Library.  We previously learned about his love for books while visiting Monticello last year.

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In 1897 the library moved to the Thomas Jefferson Building and the collection changed direction from a research library for Congress to our National library. Today the Library of Congress includes 32 million books in 470 languages, millions of manuscripts, newspapers, comic books, films, maps, sheet music, photographs and the largest rare book collection in North America including a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and one of the three known Gutenberg Bibles from the 1450s.

The Library of Congress, built during the Gilded Age, is considered to be one of the richest public interiors in the United States. The ceilings and walls are covered with murals and paintings created by more than 50 American painters and sculptors. I really feel like I could have spent more time looking at the art in this building.

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The library contains 838 miles of books, you can get a library card, but can’t take any books home with you.  Instead you get to spend the day in a reading room like this one.

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The current Supreme Court building and home to the Judicial branch, was finished and occupied in 1935 thanks to the efforts of Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

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The Supreme Court was established by Article III of the Constitution and currently consists of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. The Supreme Court Justices are responsible to ensure the President’s actions and Congress’ laws are Constitutional. They also hear cases from State courts when it is thought that the ruling is not in accordance with the Constitution.  There is no term limit for the Justices.  The swear in Presidents and rule over Impeachment proceedings.

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Up the marble stairs and in through the brass doors leads to the columned Great Hall lined with busts of the 16 former Chief Justices that have lead the court since 1789.  The building is large and grand but relatively plain because it was built during the Great Depression.

One unique feature in the building is the two marble spiral staircases.  Each ascends five stories and is supported only by overlapping steps and by their extensions into the wall.

The only large statue we saw in the Supreme Court Building is that of our fourth Chief Justice, John Marshall. He was the longest serving Chief Justice and served during six presidents from John Adams to Andrew Jackson. He is credited with strengthening the power of the court and encouraging the hand down a single majority opinion rather than individual opinions from each justice.  For the very first time his court overturned an Act of Congress which set the principle that the Constitution is a set of laws that the courts may interpret, and the Supreme Court may declare null and void any new law that conflicts with the “laws” of the Constitution.

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The Executive Branch is also the home to the First Family. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, if you want to send them a party invitation or Christmas card.

Our visit came just after a breach in security where someone jumped this fence and ran into Mr. Obama’s front door. We did notice security everywhere inside and outside the fence. Police in cars in the driveway, out on the street on horseback, wandering around near the fence and the sneaky ones were hiding so we didn’t see them.

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We signed up for a tour of the White House but none are available.  Instead we walked around the perimeter and toured the visitor’s center across the street. The visitor’s center did a great job of reminding us that while the President’s office and offices for his staff is in the White House it is also a home.  They had a great movie/slide show with interviews by Presidents and their family members who lived in the White House.  Mr. Clinton talked about how exciting it was to live in the same house where all our previous Presidents, except George Washington, lived.

By 1900 the White House was getting crowded so they expanded with West Wing office space, and in 1946 the East Wing was finished for social events and as a reception area. In 1927 the second floor residence space was expanded by renovating the third floor attic. After all this in 1948 it was decided that the house wasn’t structurally sound and was rebuilt with an internal steel frame and new interior rooms. Wow, that’s remodeling. Below the First Family’s living quarters is the ground floor and State floor and a two story basement.

One morning Eric turned on NPR and heard that the President would be at the dedication of the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.  ”Hey Kids, grab your stuff we’re leaving in five minutes.” Off we went with our friends from Dream Catcher, racing up the street, late as usual.  When we arrived at the location, we found that tickets were required and tickets were available, so we all got in.  We passed through security, were directed to a seating area in the back, and almost immediately the program started.

Security was posted on the top of the surrounding buildings, a helicopter circled above and I’m sure plenty of observant people were mingling in the crowd.   The flags were presented, we sang the National Anthem and did the pledge of Allegiance.

We heard from Lois Pope , Gary SiniseHon. Sally JewellHon. Robert McDonaldDennis Joyner and  Arthur Wilson. They each spoke about disabled veterans from their own experiences. Each speech really made me think about the people who offered their lives for our freedom, returned from war and will live the rest of their lives with the scars. The last speaker was President Obama.  His entrance was announced with Hail to the Chief.  We didn’t shake hands or anything, but it was still exciting to see the President in person.

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If you want to watch an hour of the absolute best speeches on the topic of the sacrifice our military gives to our country from several points of view, please watch the Dedication Ceremony below.


Like every day here in D.C., the day was filled with exhausting hikes from one side of the mall to the other.  Today, we walked the full length of something just over 2 miles.

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At the opposite end of the mall from the Capitol is the Lincoln Memorial. This memorial was dedicated in 1922 to honor our 16th President. We all see pictures of this memorial nearly every day on the $5 bill and the penny. Lincoln fought to keep the Union together during the Civil War and each of the 36 states in the Union at the time are inscripted along the top of the building.

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Lincoln’s statue is 19 feet high, if he were standing up, President Lincoln would be 28 feet tall. Panels on the wall display his Gettysburg address, given in 1863 near the Gettysburg battlefield reminding us of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and preservation of the Union, and Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, delivered after the end of the Civil war and days before his assassination discussing rebuilding the Union. These speeches, as well as the ones delivered at the Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial and many other great speeches are rather short but the words are wisely chosen.

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The Lincoln Memorial became a venue for Civil Rights. In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson, a contralto singer, perform before an integrated audience at Constitution Hall.  Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for her to perform before 75,000 people on the Lincoln Memorial Steps. In 1963, 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech, MLK is now honored with his own memorial across the street from here.

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In the park along the south side of the reflecting pool is the Korean War memorial. At the end of WWII Korea was divided, at latitude 38, the United States supported South Korea while China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea. In 1948 both North Korea and South Korean had established governments and both claimed to the be legitimate government of Korea, neither respected the division at the 38th parallel and full on war broke out when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United States’ involvement in Korea’s Civil War resulted in more than 35,000 deaths and 8,000 MIAs.  North and South Korea committed numerous massacres on each other and in the end an armistice, cease fire, was negotiated in 1953 and the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission composed of Swiss and Swedish armed forces has been stationed near the 38th parallel to keep the keep the peace. Our Grandpa Mac was shipped off to the Chosin Reservoir as a Marine reservist right out of High school and fought in the brutal 17 day battle that was a turning point in the war.

The Vietnam Memorial’s wall contains over 58,000 names of people killed in the war.  Like Korea it was a civil war with communist countries backing one side and non-communist on the other.

Communism is an effort to produce a stateless, classless and moneyless society, structured upon common ownership of the means of production, similar to hunters and gatherers of prehistoric times.  They feel that after an initial struggle between the classes people will be able to live peacefully. The problem seems to be that they can never get past that initial struggle.

In front of the Eisenhower building is the 1st Infantry Division Memorial. They are the oldest continuously serving division, since 1917. After WWI this monument was erected, and plaques have been added as the 1st Division continued to serve in subsequent wars.

The WWII Memorial is at the opposite end of the reflecting pool from Lincoln.  This is a huge memorial with arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and 56 pillars representing the U.S. states plus territories, a fountain, and plaques.

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We sure do miss Topaz.  She spent the entire summer in Buffalo with my mom and her dog JJ. The kids and I visited her when we spent August in Buffalo, but Eric hasn’t seen her since June.  There were plenty of dogs walking along the Mall.  The old Golden was watching the people go by with his owner, the young shepherd is in training as a search and rescue dog, and the Nova Scotia  Duck Tolling Retriever was spotted several times walking along the mall with his family.

Enough with the pups, we’re off to more memorials.  The Tidal Basin is situated next to the Mall and in between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel (where Makai is anchored). The area was a marshland, breeding ground for malaria, dumping of sewage and detracted from the city’s visual appeal. In 1889 the basin was dredged out and designed to capture water at high tide, then redirect the water through the Washington Channel to flush away silt and keep the water from becoming stagnant.

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Today it’s a beautiful little body of water with paddle boat rentals and surrounded by monuments and the famous Japanese Cherry trees. For about 1500 years the Japanese have been enjoying picnicking under their cherry trees. The blossoms are depicted on everything from Kimonos and art to WWII planes. Around 1900 Mrs. Scidmore and Dr. Fairchild worked to bring cherry trees to Washington, trying a few here and there. In 1909 a Japanese Chemist Dr. Takamine and the Japanese Consul Mr. Midzuno decided to help out and donated 2,000.  When they arrived a year later, they were found to be infested with bugs and had to be burned. In 1912 a second donation of over 3,000 trees arrived in D.C. These were planted and by 1935 the first Cherry Blossom Festival was held.  So what about WWII and our friendship with Japan?  In 1952 Japan requested assistance replanting the grove where our stock was taken from, their trees were damaged in the war, so the National Park System shipped bud wood back to Japan. In 1958 this pagoda was given to the people of Washington D.C. from the Mayor of Yokohama to symbolize friendship.

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The Tidal Basin’s newest memorial is to Martin Luther King, Jr., completed in 2011, 48 years after MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 100 years after Lincoln emancipated the slaves. If you research any of these monuments you’ll find the design is loaded with symbolism.  One such fact is that the MLK memorial is located at 1964 Independence Ave, a reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The inscription wall contains 14 quotes from Dr. King’s speeches between 1955 and 1968. Wikipedia has a list of the quotes, each one with words selected to make an impact.

The nice thing about visiting the memorials is that we get to stroll through the park.  The kids collected acorns and offered them to squirrels we met along the way.

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The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial stretches 7.5 acres along the Tidal Basin. The memorial is sectioned off to represent each of his four terms as President of the United States.  Yes, it was after FDR that the  presidental term limit of two terms was enacted.

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The FDR memorial consists of sculptures, quotes, and a waterfall.

The last memorial we visited was Thomas Jefferson. His statue is in a beautiful domed building surrounded by inscriptions from the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson is one of the most influential founding fathers with a long list of credits including primary author of the Declaration of Independence and being our 3rd president.

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While museums are interesting, Roy is always looking for a little fishing.  Too bad, it’s not allowed in the Tidal Basin.

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Our walk back to the anchorage passes by a huge fish market. There were several shops with heaping piles of seafood. Roy couldn’t resist the jumbo Shrimp, we got four shrimp in one pound. Becky came by and we all had Roy’s shrimp plus Chinese take out.

Our daily walks to, from and along the Mall take us past numerous buildings.  Some have impressive architecture and others are just important places of business for out country.

We would walk by one building and think of the many times we’ve heard or seen the department in the news or on paperwork.  It was neat to see people going in and out of the buildings instead of just a stamp of approval or a new regulation.

We got sidetracked for the week and finally returned to the American Indian Museum.

The exhibits were a pleasant change from the usual moccasins, pottery and tools we’ve seen at the Native American Museums in the West. This museum covered native people in all of North and South American.  We spent quite a bit of time watching short films about various tribes and their way of life as well as animated stories explaining popular legends. We learned about the people in the north hunting whales, seals and salmon, and people in the south living in the mountains with their pack animals. One room was dedicated to the Native Americans and their struggle to maintain their land and culture. The white man’s treaties and ultimately broken promises.

The one last Smithsonian Museum on the Mall is the National Gallery.

We were surprised at the number of pieces from famous artists and how close we were able to get to the paintings. A few years ago the kids and I worked out way through an art book and online class and probably all of the classic examples of style by famous artists were here in the National Gallery.

I asked one of the security officers about why we’re able to photograph and get so close to the paintings, she said the National Gallery is supposed to be for the people.  I’m far from knowledgeable about art, but strolling through the gallery was exciting.  I could answer questions the kids have by googling questions on my iPhone, it’s great to have the answers in my little device.  We miss that ability when we leave home and have limited internet access.

It has been a long time since we visited a zoo, so we checked out The National Zoo, a couple of metro stops up from the mall. All the museums greeted us with bag checks and security, but we could walk right into the zoo, no ticket booths or anything. The girls took a ride on a fun carousel.  The animals are all exotic zoo animals, including a blue crab, Komodo dragon, meerkat,  rinoceros, a bison and many more.

 

Everyone was excited to see the Giant Panda, but the closest we got was a bronze statue or something from the gift shop.

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They had all the usual zoo animals as well as a farm exhibit.

We walked through the reptile house.

My favorite was the big cats.

We settled in and got very comfortable in our spot at the anchorage. We even got used to the helicopters.  Several times a day, actually every few minutes, low flying choppers flew over us. I’m sure the Washington Channel must have a dotted line on it for the helicopters to follow.  Occasionally we would see three big ones labeled United States of America. There are 35 helicopters, based in Quantico,  in the Marine One fleet. Helicopters to transport the President or Cabinet staff and foreign dignitaries are often used instead of motorcades.  When the President is on board the helicopters fly in a group of three to five, the president on one and the rest are decoys. Helicopters began landing on the White House Lawn in 1958 so Eisenhower could have a quick ride to his summer home in Pennsylvania. In 2009 Marine One flew with the first all female crew. By the amount of overhead noise I would say Marine One is plenty busy these days.

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We were lucky to have buddies in the anchorage.  The kids were always interested in where their friends were, but often everyone was exhausted after the families went out to explore museums and monuments. We made friends with a family of seven from Florida on Take Two, and an Austrian boat with one boy anchored next to us, and of course our long time pals on Dream Catcher.

 

 

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Washington D.C. 2014

After a month of boat work at the dock, a month off the boat, Eric working in CA and the rest of us in Buffalo, and more than two weeks of hard work on Makai in the shipyard, we’re finally off on an adventure.  The trip to Washington D.C. is nearly 100 miles up the Potomac River and we can only travel during the day light so it will take about two days.  Our first evening is in Quantico, VA.  This little town is bordered by the Marine Corps Base on three sides and the Potomac River on the fourth. Quantico Marine base is the largest in the world and includes DEA and FBI training as well as the Presidential helicopter squadron and the Naval Criminal Investigative service headquarters. This is a busy place, but from the river it is very quiet with a beautiful sky as the sun sets.

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Everyone pretended to get along this morning. Snuggling and reading in bed.  It sure makes a mom happy to see a scene like this.

The second leg of our trip included a quick stop in front of Mount Vernon.  We visited George Washington’s home along the Potomac last fall so this stop was just to lower our antenna to prepare for a low bridge up ahead.

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Here comes the bridge. Interstate 95 goes over the Woodrow Wilson bascule bridge so the operators are not inclined to open this 76 foot high bridge for us.  Our mast is 70 feet high and the antenna adds 8 feet  which is just a little too high.  Good thing Eric lowered the antenna, because here we come.

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Whew, we made it! There were workers inspecting the underside of the bridge.  Since we all were watching the mast and the bridge, we noticed the guys and gave them big waves.

After the bridge is Alexandria, VA and Washington’s National Airport.  The river is on their flight path as they land so that was exciting for our mast as well.

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We arrived at the anchorage in the Washington Channel.  This is a great location with the Potomac River off to the West and the Anacostia River off to the East.  The northern end of this channel almost touches the Tidal Basin which the Jefferson Memorial overlooks.  This is a prime location.  Two blocks in one direction is a grocery store and Metro (subway) station, 3/4 of a mile in the other direction is the Mall filled with museums and monuments.  The marina in front of us offers the use of their dinghy dock, laundry, showers and bathrooms for $10/day.  We have a nice view of the Washington Monument and are also on the flight path for giant helicopters that make Makai’s mast vibrate as they pass overhead.  We also have our pals from Dream Catcher anchored next to us as well as new friends on Take Two with three boys and two girls on a catamaran down the channel.

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The only thing that could make this place better is if the construction at the waterfront were complete. Very recently all the buildings have been demolished and massive construction is underway.  Each day on the way to the Mall we walk past this piling driver that forces us to plug our ears because we can’t walk past the machine fast enough.  The National Mall is nearly 2.5 miles along Constitution Ave, Independence Ave or the walking paths from the US Capitol to the east to the Lincoln Memorial to the west. And 1.5 miles from the White House on the north side to the Jefferson Memorial on the south.  We will be getting plenty of exercise while we’re here.

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The Smithsonian Museums are of the highest quality and FREE.  Thanks to its own endowment, contributions, government support and other revenues.

James Smithson was the illegitimate son of an English Earl.  He studied chemistry and mineralogy, traveled and published papers about his findings. He was wealthy from inheritance and never married or had children. He left his estate to his nephew but if his nephew died without heirs, then the estate was to be donated to Washington D.C. for the founding of an educational institution. In 1835, six years after his death, the United States Government  was informed of this gift.  It arrived as eleven boxes of gold sovereigns totaling about half of a million US dollars as well as some scientific notes, minerals and a library. Wow, someone made quite a few wise investments for half a million dollars to produce the Smithsonian Institution we have today.

For 70 years the United States consul in Genoa maintained Smithson’s grave in Italy until the grave site itself was to be relocated in 1905.  Alexander Graham Bell who was on the Smithsonian’s board of Regents orchestrated moving James Smithson’s remains to Washington D.C. where it was escorted by the U.S. Calvary.

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The other side of the Castle faces the National Mall with a statue of Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, out front. Joseph Henry established the principle that James Smithson’s gift would be maintained as an endowment and focused the Smithsonian on research, publications and international exchanges.  He dedicated his life to support American science, housing young scientists in the Castle as well as traveling to promote science abroad.

In contrast to the 12th century European style architecture of the Castle, most of the Smithsonian museums around the mall are huge concrete and marble mammoths housing millions of artifacts.

With nearly a dozen museums in front of us we attacked them in the usual Jackie style, haphazard and chaotic. Each day we did a floor or a room from a couple different museums, plus a tour, a lunch or a stroll through others.  There are just too many exhibits to thoroughly cover each building, plus the kids and I lose interest after awhile.  When the complaining and suggestions for other activities start to overtake the enjoyment of the museum, the kids and I would bail and find some friends to play with while Eric went back to read more signs. The following photos are just a few highlights.

The Natural History museum has impressive display of fish bones.  Roy was drawn to this display and the beautiful skeletons of fish he loves to see on the other end of his line. On the right side of the display is his favorite Mahi Mahi.  When our friends on Dream Catcher saw this display, the texted a picture of it to Roy.

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We spent quite a bit of time in the gems and minerals section. Oooh, shiny, that always draws my attention. Here the Hope Diamond is on display. The Hope Diamond at 45 carats doesn’t even come close to making the top ten, which range from the Golden Jubilee diamond at 545 carats, to the Millenium Star diamond at 203 carats.  The Hope diamond isn’t the most beautiful, or the most rare, but does have a great story.  The Hope diamond came from a mine in India and was brought to France and crudely cut into a 115 carat triangle. From there is passed through Kings in France and England, diamond dealers and jewelers, worn by wives and mistresses, and passed through the Hope family in the 1800s giving it the name we refer to it now. In 1910 a salesman presented the diamond with a fantastic aura mystery to Edward and Evalyn McLean.  The young couple tried to back out of the deal for fear of the gems past, but a the editor of The Jewelers’ Circular-Weekly published an article stating that there is no evidence of ill luck to the owners throughout history. In 1949 a diamond merchant, Harry Winston, purchased Mrs. McLean’s entire jewelry collection which was sold to settle debts.  Mr. Winston was persuaded to donate the diamond to the Smithsonian for a proposed  national gem collection and in 1958 it arrived via registered mail in a brown paper wrapping.  The post office charged $145.20 for $1 million insurance coverage plus postage. Today the jewel is priceless but insured for $250 million.

Yes the Hope diamond has changed hands many times and many of the people who came into contact with it have died unfortunate deaths, but we were attracted to the exhibit because it is, SHINY!

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Entering the American History Museum you are greeted with the Star Spangled Banner.  When I came here as a kid and even when Eric and I came here in 1993ish it always hung from the wall in the main foyer.  From 1999 to 2008 the flag was restored and now the exhibit has its own room with a proper environment. The original 15 stripe and 15 star flag from the War of 1812 was 30 X 42 feet.  After the battle, the Armistead family, George Armistead was the commander of Fort McHenry, possessed the flag and occasionally gave away pieces for souvenirs. Eight feet have been cut off the end and it is also missing a star.  In 2011 a snippet of white and red cloth was sold at auction in Texas for $38,837 and was presumed to be a piece of the flag.  This piece joins the rest of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner in 1814.

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Ho Hum, no pictures. The National Archives had the same rules.

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Another great exhibit is the First Ladies’ dresses. It first opened in 1914 and contains 26 gowns as well as china and furniture. The exhibit addresses the changing role of the First Lady through the years. We enjoyed seeing how fashion has changed over the years. Our concern about the first woman president is if her husband’s outfit will be entered into the gallery?

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If you have something cool or old or unusual, you can consider donating it to the Smithsonian. Faith Bradford donated this Dollhouse in 1951. It was a beloved part of her childhood.

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There was a 1964 Worlds Fair exhibit that was of interest to our family.  First of all, that’s the year Eric was born.  This spring we were in New York and Eric was planning a trip to the site of the fair, but our plans were changed and we had to leave before he could get there. It is also interesting because Walt Disney unveiled It’s a Small World here and used the project to perfect his system of Audio-Animatronics. Other Disney attractions like Carousel of Progress and the PeopleMover, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and animatronic dinosaurs were also developed for this World Fair.

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The floor around the exhibits in this area displayed headlines from 1964.

And of course memorabilia. The Smithsonian is often referred to as America’s attic and you can find common items that most of us have owned or cleaned out of a garage or famous items like Mohammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Dorthy’s slippers and Google’s first computer.

Moving on to MONEY!  After a few attempts to arrive between the designated tour hours we finally made it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This is where our paper money is made.  Before 1861 each state made it’s own money, but the federal government started printing paper notes which were essentially IOUs to fund the Civil War.

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Today they produce over 6 billion notes a year at an average cost of 10 cents a note.  There is a whole team of designers creating notes that prevent counterfeiting. Besides a small visitor’s center you can take a 40 minute tour that walks visitors through the production process.  The notes go through printers several times adding colors, emblems and serial numbers.  Inspectors both human and scanners check the product periodically. This was a fascinating tour as everyone here is interested in the good old American green back.  Which is actually green on the back :)

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The National Air and Space Museum is loaded with planes showing America’s progress from the Wright Brother’s first flight in 1903 to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon sixty six years later in 1969 as well military planes, space shuttle exhibits and private enterprise looking toward space.

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Spaceship One, the white plane on the right blasted off in the Mojave Desert in 2004 and we were there!  It exited Earth’s atmosphere and just touched space before returning.  This is historical because its the first manned private space flight.

“The Eagle has landed”, Neil Armstrong announced when he landed on the moon in 1969.  If you weren’t there when it happened, you can come to the Smithsonian and watch the video on the monitor in front of the Eagle.  Eric tells the story of how his parents sat him in front of the TV and says “WATCH THIS”.  He still remembers it.

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Eric was in awe of the planes on display.  If he were writing this post, you would have plenty more photos and descriptions. Last year we visited Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brother’s made their first flight.  This museum has a great exhibit about the events over the years that led up to them lifting off the ground.

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We visited the National Archives one day simply because we noticed it hiding behind the Sculpture park.  No photos were allowed anywhere in here.  The archives house thousands of documents, videos and audio recordings.  All the signed correspondence with the federal government. From national leaders who scribbled their name on a menu, to Charles Ingalls’ request for a homestead, bills signed into law, a request by George Washington for advise on how he should resign from the army, and military service records to name just a few. In the Rotunda, the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights are displayed for us all to see the documents of our freedom.

I got up bright and early one morning and marched over to the Washington Monument to pick up free tickets reserving a time for us to visit the inside of the monument.  An elevator took us up to the top floor just shy of the full height of 555 feet.

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We had great view to the North, South, East and West.  To the east is the Capitol.

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And 2.5 miles to the west of the Capitol is the Lincoln Memorial.

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The window facing the south has a great view of the Jefferson Memorial which overlooks the Tidal Basin.  The Potomac River is off in the distance and on the left is the Washington Channel, Makai is anchored right behind the cranes in the channel.

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We still need to dedicate more time to the American Indian Museum. But that’s the way we’ve been visiting the museums, a little at a time.

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The Cafe came highly recommended so that was our main attraction on this visit.

When everyone’s feet hurt and we can’t manage to look at one more exhibit, the mom’s text each other and set up a rendezvous point for playing.  The kids come rushing out of the museums to play frisbee, baseball, climb trees and play tag.

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Roy and Marie toss a giant coin they got from the gift shop at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

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We can only handle a few days of touring before all the kids need a break.  Roy has three boys to play with.  This has been very rare for Roy as most of the boats we meet up with are full of girls.  Take Two not only has boys but they also have a sister that our girls have been having fun with and a toddler girl too.

In the evening when our sore feet are resting and we’re getting ready for bed, the Washington Monument is in full view, lit up in the night sky.

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Now that we’re satisfied with our accomplishments touring around the mall, we feel we can branch out and take the metro somewhere a little farther.

Last fall we took a short trip on the Metro and I was shocked that it cost $30 for our family to travel round trip.  At that time we had the van and could have driven, but now our only choice is the Metro.  After a little research I found that the paper ticket you purchase in the Metro station requires the user to pay an additional $1 fee on top of the $2 fare, but if I buy a plastic rechargeable Smart Card for $2 the fee is waved for all trips.  Armed with our smart cards we headed to Federal Triangle’s Metro Station.

Looking around at these impressive Roman buildings made out of Concrete and Marble adorned with columns and a frieze along the top depicting some sort of government related scene prompted a short discussion about how low the buildings in DC are compared to places like NYC.  I just learned the reason is not a law that states the buildings can’t be higher that the 555 foot Washington Monument. In 1899 the law stated a building can’t be higher than the 28 story Capitol, but the current 1910 law is an amendment that states a building can’t be higher than the width of the street in front of it plus 20 feet.  There are a few exceptions that increase the 20 feet to accommodate buildings up to 160 feet tall.

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The Metro is certainly a swift and efficient way to travel.  Jump on and the train shoots through tunnels, over rivers and delivers passengers without waiting for pedestrians, traffic lights or traffic jams up on the street.

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We set out in the middle of the day, without rush hour traffic and for $2 each, we were delivered a few miles away to Arlington Cemetery.

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I brought the kids here on a quick American History tour about 4 years ago.  We enjoyed a brief visit to the museums and playing around on the green on the way to the monuments, but I knew we could never obey the ‘silence and respect’ necessary at Arlington.  This time with my fingers crossed, we entered the hallowed grounds where our military and influential Americans were buried without incident.  Two thumbs up, we spent the whole day there with good behavior.

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The National Cemetery is over 612 acres of rolling hills overlooking Washington and contains graves of more than 240,000 service members and their families. There are also Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Explorers, and 3,800 slaves.  There are also numerous monuments and memorials.

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One of the highlights is the Kennedy grave site where John F. Kennedy, his wife Jackie and two of their premature babies are marked with an Eternal Flame.  John Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999 off of Martha’s Vineyard.  His remains were recovered and subsequently scattered returning them to the sea.  Caroline Kennedy continues to serve the United States as the Ambassador to Japan.

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Currently there are roughly 8,000 burials a year here.  There is a long list of eligibility requirements to be buried in the ground but there is also a columbarium for the ashes of any person who has had an honorable discharge.

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Audie Murphy was the most decorated combat soldier of WWII.  He received every decoration for valor this country had to offer plus five from France and Belgium.  After the war he went on to make 44 movies but died in a plane crash just before his 46th birthday.

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There were also group burials for people who died together in ship wrecks and other such disasters. The mast in the background of the photo below is part of the Memorial for the wreck of the USS Maine where 163 Sailors and Marines are buried.  In the foreground are monuments for the two space shuttle explosions, the Columbia and the Challenger.

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I remember watching the Challenger.  I was in ASW training school in the Norfolk, VA, together with a room full of fellow Seamen watching the launch.  Eric was working part time at the Naval Ocean Systems Center.

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We also watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The unknowns were each selected from four possibilities by a decorated soldier from that war.  He was given four identical caskets to choose from.  The WWI soldier was selected in 1921, the WWII/Korean War soldier in 1958 and the Vietnam Soldier in 1984.  In 1989 the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed and new DNA testing identified him as 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie.  His crypt remains vacant with an inscription “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

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So where did Arlington Cemetery come from?  The last stop on the tour was Arlington house.  After their father’s death, George and Nelly Parke Custis lived with their Grandmother and her husband George Washington.  George Washington adopted them and raised them as his own children.  After Martha Washington’s death, her grandson inherited the family fortune including the land in Arlington overlooking the Potomac and Washington D.C.  Here he built an estate he called Mount Washington to honor his grandfather George Washington but eventually became know as Arlington house after the family’s homestead on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

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In 1831 Mr. Custis’ daugher Mary married Robert E. Lee who served 32 years in the U.S. Army. For thirty years Arlington House was their home where six of their seven children were born.  When Virginia declared its secession from the Union in 1861 Lee rejected President Lincoln’s offer to head the Union Army and followed Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

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With Arlington House on high ground and Robert E Lee off to join the Confederacy, the Union took the opportunity to acquire this property.  The law stated that property tax must be paid in person and with Mary Lee behind Confederate lines and Robert E. Lee off fighting battles against the Union, Union troops moved in.  By 1864 surrounding cemeteries were filling up and the Union began burying their dead on Arlington property.

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Wow, there is quite a bit of content in this post.  As with most posts, I researched the places, things we’ve seen and heard, collecting all kinds of knowledge along the way.  In some cases, like with the Hope Diamond, I read articles from Wikipedia, the Smithsonian, online news articles, and other blogs and posts.  After swamping my mind with facts I cut out half of what I originally typed and try to condense it.  Sorry I didn’t include many links to support my comments, but I used my phone for most of the research as our wifi connection for the computer wasn’t very strong.

We still have many more places to visit.  The three branches of the government have visitor centers and tours, there are still many more museums and monuments, and another week of touring.

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Haul Out 2014

Oh yea, remember those days.  Swimming in the warm clear water.  No schedule, work consisted of cooking and playing, a little computer work and some school work.

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The fun and games are over for the next few weeks. Every two years the boat needs to be hauled out and painted.  The ablative anti fouling paint we use to keep barnacles and scum from growing on the bottom is designed to slowly slough off over two years providing a fresh surface to fight growth.  Eric has been keeping a mental list of jobs for us during the haul out.  Most ship yards require you hire their employees to do the work and pay for each day the boat is in the yard which will jack up the bill in the end.  We got lucky that here at Dennis Point Marina, you can slave away on your own for as long as you want for a reasonable monthly rate.  In the end we spent a full fourteen days working from the moment our eyes opened up to when the sun no longer provided enough light to work.

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My first job was to sand 47 feet of hull twice.  Once on the port side and then on the starboard side. The first few days Southern Maryland heated up to a steamy 95+ degrees.  We wore bathing suits so we could run over to the pool and jump in to bring down our body temperature.  The sanding took four days.  The first day I only wore goggles and a little mask over my mouth and nose.  By the end of the day my eye lashes burned and I started developing a rash on my neck.  The next day our neighbor Bob loaned be a full face mask and by the 3rd and 4th days the temp plummeted 20 degrees and I could wear the full oompa-loompa suit.

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Unfortunately, everywhere the dust from the Micro 66 paint had touched sensitive areas of my skin, it swelled up with an itchy burning hive like rash.  Meanwhile, Eric started working on his nine day thru-hull adventure.

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The thru-hull is a pipe fitting that goes through the hull into the sea water on the outside and attaches to a valve and plumbing on the inside.

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Makai is 13 years old and Eric noticed that the metal was looking corroded and pink which are signs that the valve could fail at any time.  That would leave the fitting and Makai vulnerable to sea water.  Eric began to rout out the old one, fill in a few holes he planned to do away with, fill gaps with epoxy, mount new backing plates, caulk in the new ones, then add the valves and new hose plumbing on the inside.

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Back home Eric’s Jeep friend Tom made our backing plates.  Thanks Tom!  When Eric went to work in CA for August he visited with Tom and picked up the backing plates.

With all these steps he could only do two a day.  In the end he replaced 12 fittings and glassed over 6.

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From the inside you can see daylight coming through the hole.  If Makai was in the water and the fitting failed this would be a 2″ fountain of sea water coming through.

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Wow, isn’t that pretty.  Tom’s backing plate epoxy making it part of Makai’s hull with a new fitting and valve.

By the end of the week the garbage pile was growing.

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Once the bottom paint was on, you could barely see the hole he filled.  There is just a slight ring and bump to the left and down of the newly replace fitting.

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In the middle of the grinding and sanding, Eric took a day off to install our propellers.  At the end of July when we left Makai, we stopped at the Post Office to ship the propellers to Washington state to have them refurbished. The factory replaced a few parts and coated them with an anti-fouling paint.  Eric added a razor sharp line cutter just in case we run over a crab pot, don’t want to mess up the prop shaft, and new sacrificial zinc to suck up the electrolysis instead of the propeller and shaft.

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Another small job was to reverse the anchor chain.  The last few months of cruising the anchor chain was skipping on the gypsy.  The gypsy is a wheel with spaces on the edge exactly the size of the chain. As the chain comes up each link sits in the gypsy and feeds the chain up and into the chain locker.  Apparently, after a time the galvanization on the chain wears off from dragging over sand and gravel on the bottom and then the chain rusts.  When it rusts, metal wears off and now the links are thinner making them further apart.  All of a sudden the chain is no longer the right size for the gypsy and pulling up the anchor and chain is no longer a smooth operation.  Lucky for us, we have 300 feet of chain and usually only put the first 100 feet in the water.  So by dumping it all out in the parking lot and putting the rusty end in the boat first, we should be able to use the clean end for anchoring next season.

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Now that the sanding is finished I can get to painting.  When we hauled out the yard guys pressure washed the scum, scraped the barnacles and acid washed the tannin from the white topsides.  The pressure washing blew much of the boot stripe off.  This stripe is purely aesthetic at the waterline. Separating the bottom paint under the water from  the white top sides.  Every day I lightly sanded the boot stripe, wiped with acetone and painted another coat for a total of four coats in four days.  Meanwhile Eric was still doing thru-hulls.

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My next task was to dig the caulk out of the keel bolts. Then grind the area down with 50 grit sand paper on a rotary sander wearing the full oompa loompa suit and face mask.

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One morning the weather changed and and I had to wear a sweatshirt.  I cleaned up the bolts, and taped over the spaces with gorilla tape preparing it for fiber glass.

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Eric mixed up some epoxy, we soaked fiberglass cloth in the epoxy and covered the bolts.  Now the area is water tight but can still be accessed by cutting into the fiberglass if needed.

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A coat of bottom paint does wonders on any project area.

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Sunday a bike race started and ended here at Dennis point.  They had a super band that had us rocking out while working.  They played all the classic rock we love like Cheap Trick and The Kinks.  Genny gave me a ‘look’ because these guys are old.  Humph, I guess I’m old too.  I told her that 30 years from now she would hear Gangum Style or What does the Fox Say from across a parking lot only to be reminded of her own age.

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Eric heard some scratching in the dumpster.  Apparently a family of raccoons hopped in for a snack and when the sun came up they decided it was a nice place for a snooze.

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Ooo, they’re so cute!

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Matt used the fork lift to tip the dumpster over.

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A few at a time they ran out to find a nap spot in the woods.  One guy was still fast asleep and needed to be poked with a stick to wake up.

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Since the weather is right and we have land to spread out on, I decided to do a little varnish in the galley.  We have three large cabinet doors and two smaller ones.  Over time water dripped down one from the sink, another’s varnish wore thin around the handle and the one where our trash is stored was just plain grungy.  I taped, sanded and varnished 4 or 5 coats to make the galley look like new. Eric is finally finished with the thru-hulls and now is replacing the plumbing.

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After a full two weeks, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, bottom paint.

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We suited up again so this stuff wouldn’t drip on our skin. Eric got out the power mixer to thoroughly blend in the toxic particles.

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I could own a sweet collection of jewelry for the amount of money this stuff cost.  Instead we rolled this thick stinky paint over the bottom.  Six gallons gave us two full coats of paint and then a little more on the water line and leading edges.

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We found that while sailing in heavy weather, water would slosh up the rudder posts and into the back lazarettes and down into the bilge.  Several times an hour the bilge pump would go off and pump the water out.  While we weren’t in danger, listening to the bilge pump was a little unnerving.

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Eric lowered the rudder and replaced the seals.  While he was doing this he found a cracked fitting to take to the welder for repair.

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For the last two weeks we worked on things inside cabinets, under the water or right at the waterline where no one notices.  My last job was to buff the top sides to a mirror shine.

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Matt brought me a scaffolding which moved like it had square wheels in the gravel.  I went up and down, inside and out buffing the gel coat.  Genny brought me bottles of cold water to keep me going.  The buffer got really heavy and I even needed Eric to the last few feet.

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But boy oh boy, it does shine!

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The next morning I scrubbed any residue off with Simple Green and Dawn preparing the surface for Permanon. This is a product recommended to me by a friend on the Leopard Cat Group.  He said he did it in the spring and it still shines like the first day.  We’ll see, this is one of these too good to be true products, sort of like the Emperor’s New clothes.  I just mixed up a spray bottle with water and a few ounces of Permanon, squirted it on and squeegeed it off.  No elbow grease required.

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A little spritz of water to prove that this relatively expensive, odorless, colorless liquid in the spray bottle actually made a difference.  Water beads, whew!

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Our parking spot in the yard is right next to the forest.  We hosted this interesting butterfly for an afternoon and had daily visits by swarms of mosquitoes. The kids burned citronella in the cabin which really did the trick.

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The starboard forward locker is Eric’s tool storage.  After two years of carting around everything he imagined he would need before we even left to go cruising, he decided to thin the collection a little.  We’re trying to remove as much useless stuff as we can since the van is going back to California and can take our unused treasures with it. It is difficult to reach all the way up to the bow, so Marie was sent in to drag items out of the pointy part.

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The day has arrived.  After over two weeks of hard work, Makai takes a ride back to the bay.

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The travel lift surrounds the boat and slings are lifted under the hulls.

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Then she is driven down through the parking lot and onto the dock specially designed for the travel lift’s width. Slowly Makai was lowered into the water.  Eric ran around to check for leaks in his plumbing, all was good, start up the engines and motor around the corner to our slip.

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We still had two full days of putting the inside of the boat back together, loading on the sails that were being patched up at the sail maker in Solomons, and scrubbing more yard dirt off the decks.

We did a lot of work but had many people to thank.  The kids took care of cooking, laundry, their own school work, and kept themselves occupied for 2 weeks.  Someone asked why they didn’t get in there and get dirty.  The short answer is that the work it heavy, dirty, and uses extremely expensive products.  We need to thank the yard guys. They were always willing to offer tools and bring equipment by. Thanks to our pals on Dream Catcher for making meals and bringing Jeanette to play with our girls, also friends of White Magic and Pas de Deux, and Livin R Dream for consulting on technical issues, offering supplies, a great BBQ and nightly camp fires.  Every evening after a long shower and a snack all I wanted to do was dive in bed, but hanging out at the camp while the kids light sparklers, and roast little sausages or smores, made us feel like the day was more than just one dirty job after another.

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Roy is back to fishing off the back of Makai, the girls got their hair dyed blue, all fabric we could remove went to the laundry, the refrigerator is loaded and now we’re just waiting for the wind on the Potomac to clock around a bit for us to head up to Washington DC.

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Meanwhile, Nannie send a picture of Topaz and JJ doing what they do best.

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Adios to NY

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog duties, but I’ve been just a little bit busy.  The internet is impossibly slow at the marina so we all went out to a big buffet lunch and then settled down at the Lexington Park Public Library.  This is a beautiful library that we’ve been escaping to when the work or heat just got to be too much.  I sat down to sort out the photos and came upon a few from Buffalo that I wanted to share.

The last of the pool was finally carted away with Waste Management’s Bagster.  I spent the rest of the week digging up and moving around gravel and sand.  Mom had a great idea to dig the sod out from under the chain link fence surrounding the back yard and filling it in with left over pool sand.  This will keep the grass and weeks from growing under the fence where its difficult to trim.

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The only thing mom saved from the pool was an old vacuum hose.  JJ had a grand old time dragging it around and shaking it to death.

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We had to say goodbye to our friends like Olivia from down the street.

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Our friends the Parker family and Miranda from down the street.  Marie and Miranda had a great time playing with toys, doing crafts, watching netflix in the tent and riding bikes up and down the street.

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We sure had fun schmoogling on the pooch.  We’ll sure miss those two fuzz-a-lumps, Topaz and JJ.

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Topaz got excited that she might come home with us, but quickly realized that she was going to stay with Nannie and JJ.

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Not to worry, the couch is a great place to spend a few hours, days, weeks or even months.  In the end she will have spent a total of four months at Club Nannies where pups get frequent trips to the grass, three meals plus snacks, couches in the living room and dog beds all over the house.  This summer she and JJ had the pool to cool off in and soon the leaves will be blowing around which are fun to chase.

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The last day was spent collecting all of Marie’s belongings.  Each of us had a box and maybe a bag full of ‘STUFF’, but Marie had several boxes and bags of all sizes.  Marie’s stuff filled the entire back seat and floor in front of her.  At the last minute, instead of putting her bicycle away in the garage, we packed it in.  Because we had to wait for UPS to bring our propellers back from factory refurbishing, we got a late start.  Bruce picked Eric up at the Philadelphia Airport and we all met up at the Harrison’s house in New Jersey.  One last road trip to southern Maryland and then the fun and games are over, work begins.

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Erie County Fair and more Land Activities

I’ve been going to this fair all my life. When I was little, my mom’s cousin lived down the street from the fair grounds.  He used to come and pick me up in the evening and take his son and me to watch the fireworks from the parking lot. Everyone in town schedules their day at the fair to enjoy the exhibits, animals, food and midway rides.

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This year is the 175th anniversary of the Erie County Fair. One of the highlights was a demonstration by Nik Wallenda, a local celebrity for his historic tightrope walk across Niagara Falls in 2012, check out this link of his walk across the falls, it’s great.

We always park outside of gate 2 and the Nya:Weh Indian Village.  They are part of the Seneca Nation which is part of six in the Iroquois Nation.  We read about this powerful, organized nation last year in our history book.  Much of the geography in Western New York has Iroquois names.  The town my mom lives in is West Seneca and our high school teams are the Indians.

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Today was a special day at the fair.  Celebrating the 175th anniversary, the midway had free rides for an hour and a half.  I was more excited than the kids because they usually buy a wrist band giving them unlimited rides all day.  The only ride I like is the Ferris Wheel.

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When I was a kid the fair had a sky ride and a double Ferris Wheel which was two separate wheels rotating as well as unit that attached them to each other. The regular Ferris Wheel is still fun.  The view from the top made the fairgrounds look small, even though my tired feed didn’t believe it.

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In Roman and Medieval times the fair was a holiday.  Traditionally in America the fair is a place to show produce and animals, new products and offer entertainment.

The 911 Standing Tall exhibit by Steel Crazy Iron Art was on display as a fund raiser. This sculpture has been on display all over Western New York since Sept 11, 2011 at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base, soliciting funds to create a 3 acre sculpture park in Buffalo.

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Every year we look forward to the Peking Acrobats show. At the top of their Facebook page they thank both the Erie County Fair and the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA.  That’s cool, we live in Orange County, CA but never see them perform there because we’re always here in Buffalo during the OC fair.

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Today only, to celebrate the 175th anniversary, many of the food vendors offered items for $1.75.  We had funnel cakes, cotton candy, french fries, pizza, French Waffles, and by then we were so sugared up and full of grease we couldn’t remember eating anything else.

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Ahh, the favorite ride of the day is always the foot vibrator.

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After a great morning with Amy and Maria Evancho (Amy and I were neighbors as kids and we reconnected when the girls played during the summers), we met up the Kelly Parker and her family (Kelly and I met when we were 13 and now get together daily when we’re in town for the summer. My maid of honor too!).

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As you can see by the way we’re covered up, the weather turned chilly.  Normally, we’re all sweaty and sunburned looking for places to fill the water bottles.

The girls got wrist bands, $20 with a coupon from the grocery store, for unlimited rides all day.

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A few days later we returned for the Demolition Derby.

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As with all sporting events the Demolition Derby started with the National Anthem sung by Douglas Allen, the Anthem Guy.  His biography is great, he graduated from a local high school the same year I did, went to college to be a music teacher, goofed off, had fun and now sings for sporting events, gatherings for public holidays, weddings, funerals, church camps and most important he sings for Jesus at the Fellowship Wesleyan Church in West Seneca. Like our favorite California Church, Sea Coast Grace, the Fellowship Wesleyan Church offers sermons online, no need to leave home to listen to how Jesus wants to be in your life.

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There were 8 heats with different categories.  They started out with drivers who never participated in a Demolition Derby and went up through professionals on tour.

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The cars started by lining up back to back for a style judging.  Some of the cars were painted and decorated with themes ranging from cancer awareness, to princesses and snowmen.

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The cars tried to smash the rear ends avoiding the radiators and other important parts under the hood.  Occasionally flames would shoot out from the front end and the firemen would rush out there to put out the fire.

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At the end of the show we got lost leaving the Grandstand and exited through a room we hadn’t seen.  We were really bummed that everything was closing down and we didn’t have time to explore this room.

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They had quilts, table settings, flower arrangements, paintings and photography, antiques and crafts.

This paint dripping exhibit with 175 for the fair anniversary gave us some ideas for leftover paint.

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Then when we exited the building a crowd was gathering for a laser light show.  Marie scooted to the front and found a seat despite Roy’s insistence that we should go home.  It was a great show!

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All kinds of characters that we recognized were set to motion with music. Beautiful colors and kaleidoscope patterns combined with music from the generations got everyone dancing, singing or just rocking in their seat.  Thanks to Genny and her new collection of pop music I was able to recognize the new music as well.  You know “What does the fox say!” and how about “Roar”.

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The finale was a tribute to America with scenes from 911, the moon landing, and famous art and sculptures celebrating America.

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Buffalo was once a great steel town with industries along the lake and transportation for all of these manufactured goods that made money contributing to the national economy.  Now most of it is gone and sent to places where the labor is cheaper.  But people of my generation remember how our parents and grandparents worked in that industry and there is still a very strong sense of pride for the American worker.

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What else did we do, how about trying to join the “I thought I killed the Van” club.  About 15 years ago, my brother borrowed the van to take a California Road trip, the screws came out of the cabinets in the back, the air conditioner stopped cooling the stories could keep a crowd entertained for an evening. Recently our pals borrowed the van for a road trip and the transmission blew up on them. So it really wasn’t a surprise when after driving the van all morning on errands it decided not to start for one last errand.  I had Eric on the speaker phone tracing wires and using the volt meter (which is about as foreign to me as a scalpel in an operating room).  By morning I decided to try hot wiring it by touching a cable from the battery to the starter solenoid. Wowsie, it started.  The kids and I danced around the driveway, the van could go to the mechanic under its own power.

He found a corroded connection to the transmission/ignition area, cleaned it up and we were off to the movies with all the kids in the neighborhood.  Yesterday I took the van into a tire shop to have it’s tires rotated and the guy there said he loves working on out of state vehicles and ours is in great condition.  Huh? This is about a vehicle that has an “I thought I killed the van” club.  Thanks guys, you made the van happy.

The van also transported a gaggle of girls to Savers thrift store for dressup clothes.  Everyone got beautiful formal wear at half the price you would pay for a Disney costume made for a toddler.  We’re planning a formal wear party for the fall.

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We also had a great evening at Jim and Ania’s house celebrating my brother’s birthday.  Normally we’re in Canada on our fishing trip for his birthday, but this year we all cancelled so one of our fishing mates could recover from a health issue.  It was a fun evening with family and a few of his neighbors that dropped by.  Ania always makes some delicious Polish treat while we show up with a supply of smore ingredients and little sausages.

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Other land activities we’ve been enjoying are things like laying around on the floor with dogs piled all around us.

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Or how about using the curling iron.  Eric would have great anxiety if he saw a heating element like a curling iron come aboard to suck up Makai’s batteries.

Marie has new neighborhood friends.  Last year several houses on the street turned over and new families moved in.  Miranda, Christina, and Jesse are on one side of the street and little Olivia is on the other side.  Marie loves playing with Olivia, she’s so cute!

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Miranda and Marie spent the day at Olivia’s birthday party, the weather was chilly, but the pizza was hot.

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The weather has its ups and downs, some days it’s chilly and others we’re out at the pool swimming with the pups.

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Really, the dogs own this pool.  They enjoy it more than anyone else, the two of them are nose to nose at the opening of the gate.  When the gate opens there is some sort of a competition for who can get to the water first.  They push and shove each other racing the 8 feet from the gate to the water and then leap in.  The People take turns standing at the stairs and throwing toys to keep the pups out of trouble in the pool.

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The pool sounds great, but mom is tired of taking care of it.  Pools are very common in WNY but they can only be used in July and August when the night time temps are warm keeping the pool water temp from dipping too low for people to enjoy their swim.  Also, the pool requires chemicals, testing, cleaning and structural maintenance. This pool is over 20 years old and while it works great today, at anytime it could fall apart.

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So Mom decided to have it removed.  We called a guy that said he has someone who would love a free pool, drain it and he’ll be there Saturday morning to haul everything away.

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But when he arrived he decided it was too old to take down and reassemble.  OH BOY, it’s drained, we can’t use it, and he’s not going to take it!  I mentioned that if he had come a day earlier to tell us he didn’t want it, we wouldn’t have drained it and we could still use it until the end of the summer.  He said this and that, I said a that and this and then I suggested that he get in his truck and leave as quickly as he could because we didn’t want this 2 minute conversation to go on any longer.

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What to do now?  Roy and I got out screw drivers and started to take it apart. We called Jim to come and help rescue us and by the time he arrived the pool was rolled up and stacked in the driveway.

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Jim came with power tools and safety gear, a bagster (dumpster in a bag) and we got to work.

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By the end of the day all pool related items were out front and there was nothing left to do but deal with the gravel, sand and mud.  The girls decided to make it a spa day.

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Jim and I decided to drink beer and think about what to do next.  A few days later we borrowed a pick up truck and took the metal to be recycled.  The recycling place said that ours was the third pool that day.  Later we delivered the filter, heater and stairs to Kelly.  Now we’re left with cleaning up the gravel and sand, then spreading topsoil and planting seed. I alternate working on this project with other projects like replacing the wooden thresholds on the porch, yard work, van maintenance, and homeschooling of course.

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The day after demolition we joined Jim and Ania and cousin Patryk at the Elmwood Festival of the Arts.  The street was lined with vendors selling artsy crafts, beautiful jewelry, pottery, clothes, paintings and photos.

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There were also two music stages and a kids area with crafts and games.

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At 4pm the parade came by which was about 20 feet long and consisted of band instruments, clowns and people on stilts.

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They headed to the stage at the end of the street for dancing and speeches closing the festival.

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At 5pm the mounted police rode up and down Elmwood Ave. announcing first that the festival was over and then that everyone had to get on the sidewalk.

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Living on Land

Even though we LOVE living on Makai, especially anchored in front of some deserted sandy island surrounded by pristine water and white sand beaches, living on land has it’s good points too.  After putting Makai away for the summer, we drove through Gettysburg and did the 2 hour battlefield audio driving tour, then up to the Harrison’s house in New Jersey.  The van felt like it was going home because Ginger and Bruce have been storing our van at their house in the winters. We met the Harrison’s about eight years when they moved into the cabin at the end of the road in Angelus Oaks, CA.  We were best cabin pals for about four years and then they moved back to New Jersey.  It was sad to see them go, but now we have someone in New Jersey to visit.  First thing the next morning Bruce took Eric to the Philadelphia Airport on his way to work and the rest of us went to the beach.  Yea, Jersey Shore here we come, from the land side!

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Normally going to the beach consists of a short swim or dinghy ride to shore.  We don’t bring anything except maybe a bottle of water and shoes if we think we’ll go beyond the sand.  From Ginger’s in Milford, NJ on the border with Pennsylvania, we drove to her sister’s house in Trenton, NJ and then to Seaside Heights.  Nearly two hours later we dragged bags of beach gear to the sand and experienced the beach from the dry side.

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Roy was the only dude among 9 dudettes, so he dug a hole and buried himself up to his chin. Ginger’s daughter Amy is a Marine Biology student in North Carolina full of answers to questions you might have at the beach. Like pointing out the little jelly orbs which are squid eggs.  She was also happy to swim with my kids.

Amy was pretty much my first and most consistent babysitter when she lived in California.  Since Eric was usually busy taking care of his fleet of jeeps or doing projects, Amy would hang out with the kids in our cabin so I could go to visit with Ginger, have dinner at the Harrison’s cabin and have quiet shopping trips down the hill in Redlands.  Later, Amy’s sister Tess went from my helper on weekends to another babysitter.  Thanks ladies!

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I thought the water was cold, but I must have been wrong because they spent quite a bit of time in the water.

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I was surprised how clear the water was when I saw the photos.

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Our experience as we sailed along the coast was that the water was murky, mucky, and muddy, but this was beautiful.

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Well, that’s that for that, pack up and on to the Boardwalk.

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Ginger and her siblings spent the summers here at their grandparent’s house when they were young.  They have decades worth of stories, traditions and favorites.  In 2012 as the kids and I were preparing to drive from California to the East Coast before flying to Makai in Grenada, Hurricane Sandy was destroying this coastline. Follow this link for shocking before and after photos of the neighborhood Hurricane Sandy devastated. Part of the community’s rebuild they started a ‘Sponsor a Bench’ program.  Ginger and her siblings chipped in to have this bench engraved with their grandparent’s names as a tribute to their childhood memories and love for the Jersey Shore at Seaside Heights.

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The kids and I rode the sky ride down to the amusement pier.

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It was a long way down to the sand, but the view from above the boardwalk was unique.

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We were drooling as we passed the treat shops.

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Finally, it was pizza time. Do you want a large, how about 24 inches large.

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A single slice requires a big appetite.

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How about desert.  Tesse ordered this Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich.

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What a great day, the sun is setting and we have a two hour ride back home.  Everyone has thoughts of a nice hot shower and a soft cozy bed.

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How about a relaxing day hanging around the house.  Oops, maybe not, its moving day.  Ginger is moving out of the antique shop she was showing her wares at.  We had a great system going on.  Ginger was in the basement directing the movers, Marie was tasked with calling the elevator down when the movers yelled down the shaft, Amy, Genny and Roy were the movers, and I packed the boxes into Ginger’s pick-up and our van. After two truck loads and a van load of antiques were transferred from the basement of the shop to the basement at home, we got our reward.

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Ice cream sundaes for dinner!  Everyone scooped their favorite flavor and topped it with magic shell topping, whipped cream, sprinkles, banana, and cherries.  No room for dinner :)

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Never a dull moment.  Today a regular old trip to the grocery store includes blueberry picking.

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A sunflower field.

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Pretty girl selfie. Then a stop at the Amish Market for a snack.  Apparently the Amish from the Pennsylvania Dutch area in Lancaster Pennsylvania come here and treat us with their specialties.  We were pretty hungry and all enjoyed pretzel wrapped hot dogs, fudge, chocolate covered bacon and wished we could stock up on everything in their hot deli, meat market and ice cream shop.

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No time for all that, we had to get our groceries home.  Bruce took over the kitchen and made sausage stuffed zucchini and a yummy sausage stew to be served on buns.

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Ginger and I enjoyed sparkling wine with mashed blueberries. A great way to end another action packed day.

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Early the next morning Roy and Bruce headed out to a favorite fishing hole.

Even though Bruce and Roy make it look easy, it’s not as common to catch big fish in the rivers as it was for Roy to catch the same size fish as they swim under Makai in the Bahamas.

That afternoon, the girls and I packed up the van to rendezvous with Bruce and Roy and continue on to Buffalo.  Ginger said to go out her driveway to Church Rd and make a right.  But the GPS said to go left and the iPhone disagreed with the GPS.  Come on, which way should I go?  I followed Ginger’s advice and went to the right.

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We picked up Roy and continued on another six hours to Buffalo to see Topaz, Nannie and J.J. Oh yea, shmoogle on our pup.  We’ve missed cuddling and smooching on her ears, rubbing her back and scratching her belly.

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Topaz and JJ, Nannie’s Duck Tolling Retreiver, have been enjoying their own private swimming pool this summer.

But now that we’ve brought kids, they have to share.  So far they’ve had to swim with our friend Maria whose grandma used to live two houses down and her mother was my first neighborhood friend, Hannah whose grandparents are our family’s oldest friends, Sadie who’s mom is my pal from our teen years, and of course my hooligans.

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Marie made a new friend whose family just moved in down the road.

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But there are bonuses for the dogs to share their private resort with kids.  Times like breakfast when they can try for a morsel from an unsuspecting kid.

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Topaz went from her favorite corner in Makai’s cockpit to sharing couches with JJ.  Even though they are ‘only pups’ for most of the year, they are very good at sharing couches, the water bowl, prime begging spaces, and can even lick a plate together.

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Back to fishing, Roy and my brother Jim had a great day at the Genessee River. Jim caught a massive 18 inch trout.

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Jim and Ania wrapped it in foil with dill and butter and baked it for an hour.  We all ate our fill and still had the little ones left over for another meal.

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The kids and I also went to work.  We trimmed the hedge and bushes, mowed the lawn, weed wacked, pulled weeds, washed the windows, trimmed Topaz’s nails and gave her a haircut, and a few other odds and ends.

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Marie was so exhausted she needed to rest with visions of a day at the spa dancing through her head.

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Another project Eric set us up with is the Raspberry Pi.  This is a small linux based credit card size computer. It comes to you with nothing more than a circuit board and usb, hdmi, and SD card ports for you to plug in accessories. After a few days of dealing with the knotted tangle of wires, we went out and bought a piece of Plexiglas and some zip ties to mount the pieces.

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I spent many hours trying to get the Raspberry Pi connected to the local network here with no luck, so Genny decided to play with a programming game on it called scratch.

We are part of a very small family, so it’s always special to visit with my brother and his wife.  Their house backs up to a tennis court and the kids like to go on an ‘egg hunt’ to collect stray balls.

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Ever since out campout with the Aanonsons, smores have been on our mind.

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Why have a regular smore when you can have a giant one.

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While we were discussing fun activities for us to do together, it was decided that after dinner we should run over to the Botanical Gardens in South Park.

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The main event is Morty, their Corpse Flower. The long line meandered through the gardens which gave us a chance to read the signs and more slowly and carefully enjoy the other exhibits. The Amorphophallus titanum is a native to rain forests in Sumatra and Indonesia.  It only blooms for a few days every 6-8 years producing a dead flesh stink.  Roy was excited to see it because of he has read stories and seen cartoons that feature a stinky rare flower.

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It sure was big, but we didn’t smell the stench we had hoped for.  This bloom was less than 24 hours old and should have been stinky.  I think the gardens had fans blowing most of the smell away.

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When I was a kid my family toured the Botanical Gardens after Easter Mass at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. I remember the gardens smelling so fresh decorated with lilies and other spring flowers.  In Buffalo there could still be snow on the ground, but the Botanical Gardens was a pleasant break from winter.

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Back at Nannie’s spa, Marie is relaxing in the sun.

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The pups continue to swim.  Apparently Topaz doesn’t need a boat in pristine water, just a big tub of water in the backyard will do.

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I like to stand on the steps, receive the toy and toss it out again.

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Ah yes, this is the life.  Too bad it only lasts for a month or two, then you have to pack up the pool and put away the lounges, bring out the coats, boots and hats and prepare for winter again.

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If JJ and Topaz aren’t cute enough, how about Bo, Kelly’s new puppy.

The kids have their lists of needs.  We usually save them up and then have a kid appreciation day.  Genny and I had a relaxing stroll through Khols in the morning and then Roy and I went to the newly opened Cabela’s.  Apparently, you can never have too much fishing gear.  We have learned this traveling because every new body of water we visit is a new habitat, different fish and a different set of gear.

Living on land also means enjoying the fruits of the farms.  For many years we’ve joined Jim and Ania and cousin Patryk blueberry picking in East Otto. Burdick’s property is beautiful with a vegetable garden and seasonal flowers and 40 acres of blue berries.   At the farm stand we buy containers or weigh our own and then climb into a modified pick-up truck for a ride out to the field currently being picked.

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The employees direct us to the next row to be picked.  Everyone has their containers ready to fill.  The clusters of fat juicy berries drop off easily into our small containers we use to fill up the bigger boxes.

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We noticed how our berry picking with the kids has improved this year. The day is usually hot and the kids get whiny quickly, but this year they quickly filled the baskets with minimum complaints about the heat.

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The best part about picking berries is TASTING berries. I don’t think I’ve ever seen blue berries as big as these in the stores. It is a good thing they didn’t weigh me before and after picking, I’m sure I would have had to pay extra for all the berries I consumed.

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Jim and Ania make jam and freeze their berries.  Patryk had plans to take his to a pot luck he was attending this evening.  We’ll take ours home and freeze most of them, give away a few, and eat the rest.  After picking we set ourselves up at a picnic table under the trees for snack before returning home.

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Makai Hauled Out

Today is the day Makai has been waiting for.  The last time she was out of the water to service hull below the waterline and apply anti fouling paint was in November of 2012 in Grenada.  This job should be done every two years as the anti fouling paint only lasts that long if you are lucky. In May before leaving the Bahamas we scrubbed the bottom clean and smooth to reduce drag for maximum speed on our travels up to New York. After leaving the Bahamas we could never see very far into the water for a glimpse of what might be growing on the hull. Eight weeks later we pulled into the marina here and the reef began to grow on Makai’s hull.

The starboard side was facing the sun and grew this six to twelve inch grass.

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After lunch the yard guys were ready for us. There is only a few inches clearance between Makai’s 24 foot beam and the docks, so Eric and Roy nailed carpets on the dock to protect from scratches.

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Eric maneuvered Makai into this narrow space in reverse.  Then the travel lift rolls onto the dock and we adjust the sling under the hulls.

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As you can see Makai fills the space.

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When everything is secure the lift raises the straps and Makai is suspended exposing the mess that has grown on her bottom since leaving the Bahamas.

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I was shocked on the number of barnacles that have attached to the hulls.

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Last summer Makai was in the Marina in Solomons, MD for 3.5 months and at the dock in New Smyrna Beach, FL for another month and only grew a hand full of barnacles.  This is just crazy.

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Makai went for a ride to the cleaning station.

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There the yard had big scrapers to pop the barnacles off the hulls.  The yard guy said our hitchhikers were very young, we’re convinced that most of them attached in the three weeks we’ve been here in this marina.

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The whole cleaning process took several hours.

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Four people scraped, then they got out a power washer that blew away scum from the bottom and the water line.  The power washer even got scum on the water line that I had been unable to scrub off.  Unfortunately, much of the blue boot stripe was removed as well.  I guess repainting that can be added to the work list.

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The anti fouling paint is designed to slough off over time. Keeping the boat moving will swoosh the scum off the hull and the paint slowly sloughs leaving fresh paint to combat marine growth.  In 2012 Eric and Brian rolled red paint over the blue paint.  As you can see most of the red paint has disappeared.

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Next an acid solution was used to dissolve the tannin stains.  The brackish river water contains tannin from the leaves and trees that fall and soak in the water.  This brown stain is really an eye sore and can only be removed with an acid wash.  In the past I’ve used Starbrite Hull Cleaner from West Marine and recently used an acidic toilet bowl cleaner which is much less expensive.  Unfortunately, the stains start appearing again after just a few days back in the water.  I may wait to wax the boat until just before we leave the Chesapeake Bay in November as the acid wash not only removes the stains but also removes the wax.

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It is pretty cool seeing Makai parked in the bushes.

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From the deck looking out into the parking lot I felt like it was a long way down to the ground.

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Eric removed the propellers, they will be shipped off to Washington State to be refurbished.

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The travel lift moved Makai to the upper storage area to be blocked on land.

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According to a diagram published by the Leopard Catamaran manufacturer, Makai was set on blocks under structural bulk heads that can support the weight.

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Here she is with the van parked next to her.  Now she’s a stranded RV in the forest with the cicadas buzzing and the lightning bugs twinkling. We spent the day stowing everything on the outside of the boat.  While we’re gone everything needs to be protected from the weather and reduce the temptation for sticky fingers.

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Yes, we’re back to camping.  There is a water snake in the middle of this photo.

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A giant mushroom grows in the moist undergrowth.

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Our next adventure begins in the morning.  We’ll drive up to Gettysburg and take the audio car tour we didn’t have time for last year.  Then continue on to Ginger and Bruce’s house in New Jersey.  Wednesday Bruce will take Eric to the airport in Philadelphia on his way to work while the rest of us tag along with Ginger and her crew on their adventures.  Over the weekend the kids and I will head for Buffalo to spend the month cuddling on Topaz and JJ and visiting with friends and family in Buffalo.

After Labor Day Eric and I will return to Makai to replace thru hull fittings, remove a few and glass them over, seal up the gap between the keels and the hull, sand and paint the bottom, do a little waxing between the hulls where it’s impossible to reach when the boat is in the water, and dump the anchor chain out and turn it over so we can use the end that doesn’t normally get used.

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Dennis Point Marina – Part 2

SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE  The Aanonson Boys and their grandparents are here.  The boys are our neighbors in California and are spending a few weeks with their grandparents in Florida.  After the July 4th holiday, Mark and Sandy packed everyone up in the RV for a road trip to Tennessee and then up to Niagara Falls. Hoping they could stop here along the way, I sent them an invitation to please come visit us at the Dennis Point Marina and Campground, and they accepted! But, I was being sneaky and didn’t tell the kids they were coming.

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Mark and Sandy pulled in after midnight, so we decided to meet in the morning.  When the Aanonson’s were awake, fed and ready for the day, I took my kids up to the playground to play a bit of badminton. We played in the road so we could get a bit of shade and relief from the heat.  Occasionally a car would come by and we would move to the side.  Then this Jeep came up to us and just sat there, what’s up with that, we moved aside, they should keep going.  To the surprise of the Mears kids, Tyler and Cody crawled out.  I never saw such a look on Roy before in his whole life.  Now, everything is right with the world, he has fishing, crabbing, great electronics, beautiful scenery, his favorite boat, internet, a car and FRIENDS.

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Right away the kids set out to do everything.  On a steamy hot day in Maryland, the swimming pool is always a good idea.  Hey kids, don’t forget your sunscreen!  The good news is that their mono-brow, mustache, and goatee won’t get sunburned, but what about the rest of their body.

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They must be getting older. An organized game of Monkey in the Middle (Pickle in the Middle to some of us) kept them occupied for quite awhile.  They had a system where the bystanders rotated into the game when the Monkey got the ball.

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Badminton was also a big hit.  They played taking turns serving, counting points, using court boundaries and had some great volleys.

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One minute we’re cruising, the next we’re camping.  Mark got a bunch of firewood and we had a campfire to roast marshmallows on.

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The kids took turns on Mark’s scooter.

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They ran in the big grassy field, shooting air rockets and goofing off.

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Give a kid some motor powered speed and they’re hooked.

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As the sun went down, the lightning bugs came out and the bushes twinkled. The boys love to play with fire so they lit the citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes.  The east coast is very wet, swampy, mossy, rainy, and green.  No one here worries about wild fires, its nice to relax and not feel like the kids are going to burn down the neighborhood with one wrong move.

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The project of the week is to replace the fore stay and service the roller furling. In the last few months of sailing, rolling up the jib was a struggle.  One person would grind away on the winch while the other would go up front and help the sail turn on the fore stay.  Each time we rolled it up I was thankful that we managed to safely stow the jib.  The roller system consists of slotted tubes that slide onto the fore stay and a drum that turns them.  When the jib is raised up in the slot, the drum should turn the tubes and roll the jib up on the fore stay.

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Eric tied a line to the top of the  fore stay and disconnected it.  Then Ken walked the drum at the bottom down the dock and past Dream Catcher while everyone else tried to keep the tubes straight while Eric lowered it.

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Don’t worry, those poor kids had plenty of relaxing movie time. Jeanette from Dream Catcher, Cody, Genny, Tyler, Roy and Marie relaxed in the air conditioned salon with fresh cold fruit and a movie. After 4 days with their California Pals, the Aanonson’s were on the move.  Sandy would be flying back to California with the boys to safely deliver them home.

 

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Eric had a lot on the project list this week.  First was Van appreciation day.  When Beth and I picked it up in North Carolina after it’s emergency transmission replacement, we noticed it was running really rough.  We took it back to the dealer and they gave us a story about burning off the stickers and excess fluid on the under carriage.  Eric decided to replace the spark plugs and change the oil.  When he got in there he found that one of the fuel injector wires had come off so it was only firing on 7 cylinders. The van was very happy to be firing on all eight after it’s personal mechanic took care of it.

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After years of service the fittings and connectors on the roller furling system were pretty well corroded. For the rest of the week Eric drilled out the the old set screws, replaced parts, serviced the bearings in the drum and retapped and screwed the tubes back together.  The heat and humidity was intense, Eric used an umbrella for a little shade, but that only helps a little.

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After several days of struggle, trips to town ten miles away for tools, and assistance at a machine shop, he finally got the drum apart, replaced the bearings and put it all back together. Next he had to measure and cut the wire for the new fore stay, string the roller tubes on it and install a Norseman fitting at the top that attaches to the mast. Whew, Eric decided next time this has to be done he is going to hire a rigger to come take care of it.

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There is always something you can learn along the way.  Like for instance, this can of WD40 is clearly labeled that it can not be sold in California.  If you look at the bottom in the safety hotline box it shows that the WD40 company is in San Diego, CA.  I suppose it could have been made in some other state and not sold in California.

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After a string of hot humid days there are usually a few rainy days.  When it rains here you would think someone was holding a huge bucket of water over the town and just pouring it down on us.  While Eric was taking a break after the rigging project, the rain came down and one of our front windows began to leak.  We filled up bowls of water and soaked several towels.  This would be a huge mess if left unattended while we leave the boat in August.

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Eric removed the ports, cleaned out the old caulk and rebedded them.  The hose test proved that the job was a success.

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We went to visit friends that we had met last fall. Last October I noticed Casey in the library with four school age kids during school hours and introduced myself, hoping to find homeschool friends to do daytime activities with.   We had some great afternoons at the park and learned about the Schnitker family’s adventure.  They had just sold their house and were working on purchasing a 128 acre farm.  We were excited to see how it all turned out. They had been to farm school and spent countless hours researching and learning about natural farming.  Rotating the animals so they can do the work of fertilizing and loosening the soil and clearing the land.

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Since their farm is new, so are all the animals.  They have a new puppy who is being trained as a working farm dog and kittens to keep control of the rodent population.  All of the working pets get lots of love from the four children living at home.  They also have two older brothers, one is in College and the other in the Army, plus a baby on the way.

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We got a tour and met the pigs.  They are contained by an electric wire.  They spend their day rutting around in their corner of the forest, eating the ground cover when they don’t have their head in the trough. Every few weeks they get moved to a fresh piece of forest to clear and rut around it.

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The puppy is so small, but is learning about her farm and following us everywhere.

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They spent the winter repairing the out buildings.  This is an old tobacco barn.  It is open and airy to hang the tobacco plants for drying.

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Nick gets to learn to drive by transporting pig feed in the little pick up truck. Check out the two kids in red shirts in the red truck.

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Even the little ones drive the tractor with a cart of water down there.

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Marie and Clair took turns cuddling the kittens.

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The fields around the house still grow leftovers from crops of previous years.  There is wheat, corn and grass.  I wish Casey was writing this post because she gave me so much information I couldn’t possibly remember it all. The chickens also get moved around with their electric enclosures.  In one pen there are laying hens and in another are meat birds. Jeanette and Henry found eggs.

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What great fun.  Another day everyone came to the marina for a swim and to play at the playground.

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Roy got back to business with crabbing.  Everyday about an hour after low tide for about two hours the crabs are active.  He ties a chicken leg to a line and throws it in.  One time he brought up a turtle eating on his bait.  Normally, Roy brings in about half a dozen crabs to be steamed each day. The males greater than 5 1/4 inches get put into a bucket of ice to chill out while waiting for the steamer.  Small crabs and females get returned.  This female scuttles around the dock with her claws up ready for a fight.

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Roy has learned to steam his catch.  When he gets six we boil two inches in the bottom of the pressure cooker pot and then toss them in for 20 minutes.

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Afterwards the crabs cool in a tray and I clean, crack and pick them collecting enough meat for a delicious crab cake from each critter.  All this crabbing really took its toll on Roy’s net so off to the Tackle Box fishing store for a replacement. This is Roy’s kind of store!

I took the kids off to Walmart for Kid appreciation day.  They got little crafts like a face paint kit and cross stitch projects, a movie from the $5 bin, and boxes of candy.  As the weather cycle turns, this week is cold.  Genny and Jeanette have to wrap in a blanket in the chilly morning. No need to fear, steamy days will return.  Some days after the rain the humidity drops and everything cools off, on other days it just gets worse as the rain evaporates and raises the humidity hovering over the ground.

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Dream Catcher left and now its time to begin packing.  Soon Makai will be hauled out of the water, Eric will fly to California to work at the office and the kids and I will drive up to Buffalo to see my mom and Topaz and JJ.

We went through each cabin and every locker packing things we want to use next month and also things we want to remove from the boat.  Some of the excess stuff went to the dumpster, other stuff got donated and the rest will be transported back to California in the van when it gets repositioned this fall.

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