Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Scramble to Leave Home


The past two weeks have been filled with activities related to family and friends, or preparing for our departure for the Great Loop. We had all six of our kids with us Christmas Eve and day; ok, only three of them are biologically ours, but we claim their fiancĂ©e, husband and boyfriend as ours too, and feel we’re the most fortunate people in the world that all three of our adult kids have settled in with people we like, love and enjoy. For the four days we had kids with us, we slept too little, ate too much, drank good eggnog or wine, talked a LOT, and received great gifts, all of which were things we need for our Great Loop trip. It was wonderful.


Since Christmas it’s been a flurry of packing and organizing bins full of boat gear, electronics, nautical charts and cruising guides, dishes, pots and pans and bedding, making lists, talking to the surveyor and our boat broker about final details on the boat purchase, arranging a place to moor the boat in Florida once it is ours, 15 hours on the telephone and computer sorting out boat insurance: who knew we’d have to develop a Hurricane Plan, a Captain’s Resume, buy almost $1,000,000 worth of Protection and Indemnity coverage as well as Oil Pollution insurance?



And we’ve been on the telephone almost daily with our nephew’s wife, Sara. She and our nephew Tom, just retired from the military after 20 years training or serving as a Navy Seal, are moving into our house the day we depart. They’ll live here for the year or more we’re gone – free housing for them as they transition to civilian life, and free caretaker for us! We call that a win-win.


Our plan is to depart home Tuesday, January 3 and begin the drive south, then east to Florida, hopefully covering the 4,000 miles in 9-10 days, with stops in Yuma for lunch with friends, Tucson for an overnight with another friend, and Houston for a visit with Cathryn’s parents. We’re excited; or at least Cathryn is excited, and Bob is looking forward to it; he can’t actually bring himself to say he’s excited. Now if we could just decide on a new name for that boat . .

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And the Journey Begins . . . .

Following 26 hours of driving around the state of Florida with our fabulous boat broker Curtis Stokes and his wife Gill, and looking at 11 boats, this is the one we fell for. It took from Thursday night when we decided to make an offer, until Sunday morning when we got the email from Curtis telling us price negotiations were successful to know that we were moving on to the final stage in purchasing her.  We’re scheduled for an engine and hull Survey (like a house inspection, only for a boat) and Sea Trial (checking it out underway on the water) on Tuesday, and assuming those  don’t raise issues (and we have reason to believe everything will go well with this step), then we will become owners of this boat approximately January 10, 2012.

So in some senses, this is where the Journey begins, and we’re both excited.  We’ve already spoken with Captain Chris Caldwell and his wife Alyse about coming to spend 3 days on the boat with us January 23-25 to do boat-specific training in maintenance, docking and other areas in which this boat is quite different from the boats we’ve owned the last 7 years.

42’ Jefferson Sundeck underway

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Sundeck and entry door to Salon below

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Guest Stateroom (our one disappointment with the boat, that it has bunks instead of a double or queen bed in the guest stateroom)

Golden Dolphin guest stateroom 12-10-11

Galley (kitchen) with full-size refrigerator

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Dinette across from Galley

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Master stateroom (queen bed)

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Guest head (bathroom)


We spent 30 minutes texting with our son Ryan the other evening about potential boat names, and as we did with our previous boat, we invite you  to “vote” on those that have been suggested already, or contribute additional suggestions for a new name for this boat (to be accompanied by proper mariner’s boat re-naming ceremony).  Because we’re purchasing this boat to undertake a journey around The Great Loop, most of the names contain some reference to “loop”.  The following list is only in alphabetical order, and includes suggestions made by Ryan, the waitress at dinner the night we decided to make the offer, and another gentleman in the restaurant:


Circulo Grande (Spanish variant on the term “Great Loop”)

Curva Grande (Spanish variant on the term “Great Loop”)

Gettin’ Looped

Gran Lazo (Mexican-Spanish variant on the term “Great Loop”)

Grande Cappio (Italian variant on the term “Great Loop”)

Let’s Get Looped


Olalla Bay Associates (the legal name of the Delaware Corporation that is actually buying this boat on our behalf)

Starship (note: the boat is a 42’ Jefferson)


What are your additional ideas? Post under “comments” or email us with your suggestions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

“All I Want for Christmas is a Great Loop Boat!”

Hear the tune in your head? Pretend Bob and Cathryn are singing the song, only pretend we also know how to carry a tune (not!)

We flew to Florida Tuesday, then spent Wednesday and Thursday with our amazing boat broker, Curtis Stokes and his wife Gill Stokes. Curtis drove us about 900 miles all up and down the west and east coasts of Florida to look at 11 boats, a list we’d generated together in the previous weeks by our looking online from Seattle, and Curtis previewing about half the boats in person. Curtis and Gill are hilarious:  despite being only a few years younger than Cathryn, they have the energy, tenacity and calm demeanors to put any 30-year-old to shame, and certainly us!  They sleep very little, eat only infrequently, and don’t need to use the restroom half as often as we do.  Wednesday we were racing around the state from 8:30 am until 9:30pm, and Thursday from 6:30 am until 7:30 pm, spending both nights in Fort Lauderdale.

Golden Dragon

This morning we’re making an offer on a 42-foot Jefferson named “Golden Dolphin”, currently located in Stuart, Florida. If we reach agreement with the Sellers on price and contract terms, we will conduct a survey and sea trial on Monday, then fly back to Seattle late Tuesday to get ready for Christmas with all three of our kids and their fiancee, husband and boyfriend.

So . . . “All I Want for Christmas is a Great Loop Boat!” seems an apt description of our current frames of mind. Having said that, we also received a phone call last night from a friend of 30 years informing us her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this week. We are so, so terribly sad about that, and hope he is successfully treated. Meanwhile, it reminds us that life and good health are precious, and we should be doing exactly what we’re doing, enjoying adventures around the world, together, while we have the health and resources to do so.

Monday, November 28, 2011

“Bob, Look At That Weird Log Floating By!”

Living on Colvos Passage where there’s always a current, we often see things float by, particularly after a heavy rain.  We have seen, and sometimes gone out in the dinghy to retrieve:  kayaks, mooring buoys, rafts, a friend’s sailboat, as well as observed, but not retrieved lots of trees, limbs and general “stuff”.  Today Cathryn called out, “Bob, look at that weird log floating by!”


Because this is a close-up photo, a close look will reveal that it’s actually a couple of sea lions taking advantage of a nice, calm, sunny day to float by, flippers in the air, relaxing and getting some solar warmth.  Let me tell you, at first glance without the aid of binoculars, it was not all that obvious.

We love living on the waters of Puget Sound, as there is always something going on outside the windows!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

“Loopers” In Training

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you’ve read about our plans to do the “Great Loop” boat journey in 2012. It’s a 6,000-mile trip up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Florida to New York, then west through the Great Lakes, and finally south on the inland rivers back to the Gulf of Mexico.  And 2012 is only weeks away!


As part of the transition from people who like to travel by plane, car, “rig” (our truck and 5th wheel trailer, to those of  you uninitiated to that term) or our pocket cruiser into “Loopers” we’ve been honing our boating skills by taking U.S. Power Squadron courses.  So far we’ve take the America’s Boating Class, Boat Mechanics,  a First Aid Course and various specialty seminars.  Currently we’re enrolled in a Seamanship class. And yesterday was our on-the-water-training-day.

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At 9 AM sharp we reported to the Port Orchard Marina and boarded our instructors’ 46-foot Kha Shing trawler for a day of hands-on seamanship.

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Our instructor Kevin, in the white sweatshirt and navy blue hat, began with a boat briefing and then began our drills. Photos  are courtesy of Kevin’s wife Jean Marie.

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Each of the 8 students took a turn at the helm and spent a few minutes familiarizing ourselves with the boat’s handling characteristics and controls.

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We then took this 20-ton twin-engine behemoth into the dock and were expected to do so without injury to either the dock or the boat.

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We’re pleased to report that we both succeeded with flying colors! Of course it helped that there were no other boats on the dock, no wind, little current, and an instructor standing alongside to take over if we screwed up!

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Nonetheless, we came away with increased confidence that we could actually handle a boat like the ones we’re currently shopping for, trawlers in the 36 – 44 foot range.

By the way, we’re in the process of remodeling our blog to reflect our new Great Loop adventure. Near the top you’ll find a new page, by clicking on the words “Looking For The Perfect Loop Boat” which describes what kind of boat we’re shopping for, and over on the top right corner of the home page, a map of the Great Loop route.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sapa, Vietnam Slide Show

Here are more photos from our time in Sapa, which we wrote about HERE and HERE. This was early in our trip, but it was one of the best  opportunities to learn something about the culture and the changes that were going on in Vietnam.  If we got something wrong, let us know; we learned so much we probably got at least some of it wrong.



Vietnam is 85% ethnic Vietnamese, the remaining 15% made up of 56 different “minorities” ranging from the Chum (a group that for 1,000 years was dominant politically in much of southern Vietnam and Cambodia), to many various “hill tribes”. In northern Vietnam, in or near Sapa, we saw Red Dao, Black H’mong and Flower H’mong people.  Each group had distinctive native dress, and many of the women continue to wear the traditional dress. Like elsewhere in the world we’ve traveled, with the exception of Morocco, the men all wore western attire.


When speaking to ethnic Vietnamese, there was a clear sense of superiority over the “minorities”, and when speaking to a member of a particular minority, there were strong stereotypes, often negative, of other tribal groups.

“Touched By Tourism”


“Touched by Tourism” was a phrase we heard a lot in terms of describing a location or village.  This term was used both to reflect that local customs had been influenced by the presence of tourists, but also with a generally positive connotation, in that tourism brought money.  We were also told  that some areas and even individual villages were “not touched” because they were uncooperative with or resistant to government policies.

Touched by Modernization


We heard a lot about the rapid economic development that has taken place since “normalization” with the U.S. in 1995.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Vietnam lost its’ patron that had subsidized the regime.  Five years later after much economic hardship, the government normalized its relations with the US, and opened the country to foreign investment.  Much has changed, and in the view of those we talked to, mostly for the better since then. Government control remains of the communist variety, but the economy is clearly more capitalist.


One change which we  saw just the beginnings of was the impact of the increased use and geographic availability of electricity.  We drove along the hillsides around Sapa, looking down the steep valley walls at the rice terreces and rivers below them.


We were told that 5 hydroelectric dams were being built.  So in 10 years if we were to come back, we would see large new lakes down the hillsides, the result of the dams. It would be easy to adopt a preservationists attitude from the comfort of our life style, when thinking about the lost landscape and displaced villages, but the people telling us these stories seemed to regard it as something positive in terms of the dam’s future impact on their standard of living.

With that, here is the slideshow. Hopefully the background will add some context to the photos.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mekong Delta

We’ve been home a week, jet lag is largely behind us, and we’ve caught up with our basic chores.  Bob has finished editing our 1,200 photos, so we’re going to post some of the more representative ones.  We’ll post more soon.

First up is the Mekong Delta.  We made a day trip here from  Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) as we reported HERE.

These hours in a small boat were one of the highlights of our trip. We believe we got a glimpse of the traditional life on the river. As you look at these pictures, try to imagine the life that goes with these images!

Technical details:  If you double click on the slide show below you can see the pictures in a larger format. If you use Apple products, like an Ipad, you will not see a slide show on this page, since Apple does not support Flash. If you put your cursor over this Mekong Delta  it is a link to the slide show that will work for you.  If anyone knows how  to solve this problem, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Closer Than A Slow Dance At The Prom

We took the MTR (the subway) back over to Kowloon again this morning. Because we got an early start, we caught the end of a Monday morning rush hour. The MTR trains are 10 cars long, each car 90 feet in length. While we spent most of our weekend subway trips standing, we discovered what "crowded" really looks like this morning. Luckily we're married, otherwise our closeness would have been inappropriate. No eating or drinking is allowed on the subway, so the ubiquitous Starbucks cup we see on Seattle buses is notably absent. Instead, every person has a smartphone or gaming device in hand and is tap-tap-tapping away on a touch screen.

Hong Kong, with 7 million people, is reported to be the world's most vertical city, defined as having the largest number of residents living above 14 floors high. Not hard to believe when looking at it. Lots of tall buildings are draped in scaffolding, but here it is all made of bamboo, not iron or steel, even when 40 stories high.

We spent some time sitting in a park during our morning explorations to get off our feet. It was fun to watch the Hong Kong version of the YMCA's Silver Sneakers class: Couples playing badminton, some very elderly women doing exercises, and one guy jogging very slowly around the tennis court (more than we were willing to do in the heat).

Hong Kong is an interesting finale to our SE Asia trip. It's been great fun, and we're ready to head home!

Kowloon's Temple Street Market

Last night we ventured across the bay to Kowloon for the first time. This area is just as urban as Hong Kong Island, but even more Chinese in character, with far fewer signs in English and a smaller proportion of people on the street being other than Chinese.

We explored the Temple Street Night Market, one of the top 10 sights in Hong Kong, according to our guide book. Hong Kong markets are very crowded with shops and people, but the selling is much more low-pressure than in other markets we've visited on this trip, making it more fun. We bought a hand-made tapestry for our bedroom wall.

Exploring Hong Kong

We set off by bus this morning, traveling up and over central Hong Kong Island to the town of Stanley. We shopped in the market, stopped for a cold one along the waterfront, visited a temple and finally hit the pier. A busy morning.

Outside the temple we found a father and daughter trying out what may be the next "big thing", something that married a skateboard with a unicycle; we didn't catch its' name.

By early afternoon we were back on the bus to downtown Hong Kong, "Central", where we walked through Statue Square. This square is the hub of Hong Kong high finance 6 days a week, with the headquarters of many banks, including HSBC (Hong Kong Singapore Bank Corporation). On Sunday, it's a much different place. The square is taken over by domestic workers who come here from poorer countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. They congregate in the square to socialize with each other, have lunch, and from the looks of things, to do a little protesting against their working conditions.

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Crowds, Glitz and Expensive

We are happy to be in Hong Kong and think 3 days will be enough. We are spending a lot of money here, and not because we are shopping.

In the morning we took the tram to The Peak where 360 degree views of the bay and islands are beautiful. Next we experienced The Travelator, a 1.5 mile long escalator that goes up the hillsides of the city to restaurants, shopping and apartments. Late in the afternoon we rode the Star Ferry for an hour-long Victoria Harbor tour.

95 percent of Hong Kong residents are Chinese, and it's obvious they have had sufficient nutrition for at least a generation. They are MUCH bigger, both in height and weight than their Vietnamese and Cambodian neighbors. We don't feel like over-sized mooses here.

The array of very tall, very modern, very showy buildings is unlike anything we have seen anywhere. This place is very dense and fast-moving. The subway and buses are pretty easy to figure out, and very fast and easy once you do so. Jim J if you are reading this: on our way into town from the airport we passed a bus operating base, which included a 5-story structured parking garage for parking buses, not cars. Land is very pricey here.

The most expensive home in the world is here. It sold for $950 million in 2007, but only half that much when it sold again recently. All of you who are underwater on your home mortgages can be glad that is not the home you bought.

The air is very smoggy. And hot, but not as humid as Vietnam or Cambodia. There are, of course, no water buffalo or elephants here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Arrived in Hong Kong

After a long day with flights from Siem Reap to Saigon, a 5-hour layover, then a flight to Hong Kong and a one-hour bus ride, we arrived at our hotel at 1 a.m. We're traveling on our own now, without an English speaking driver/guide to pick us up at the airport, so had fun figuring out the bus. We expect to be in culture shock going from Cambodia to Hong Kong, as this place is huge, crowded, modern and very, very prosperous and expensive. Not much in common with Cambodia except for being part of Asia.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cambodian Tourism: No Pirahna

In the evenings we’ve been taking tuk-tuks downtown for dinner and explorations.  Siem Reap, a city of 300,000 is heavily influenced by tourism.  Over 2 million tourists visit Cambodia every year.

One “attraction” offered which we had heard of but never seen, is a foot massage provided by fish!  On many corners, a tank full of fish is set up with signs that say “Fish massage, no pirahnas.”  Bob and David, after experiencing their first pedicure only one week earlier, agreed to give it a try.


For $3 you get a 30-minute massage (really more like a partial pedicure, as the fish are simply nibbling at and removing dead skin), and a beer!


The first 30 seconds is pretty weird, having dozens of fish nibbling on your skin; after that it begins to feel quite good, although odd to see.

Bob, at least, has decided he prefers to have attractive young women working on his feet instead of fish.