Here's some of what we've been up to since we arrived in San Francisco towards the end of 2014:
An birthday treat - a cruise around the bay aboard the Potomac
We arrived shortly before Maryanne's birthday, and were lucky enough to be invited on a tour/cruise of the Potomac by Hugh (one of the marina residents). The potomac is a metal motor boat - once the presidential yacht under Roosevelt, and later owned by Elvis. While pretty basic, it was fascinating and a wonderful way to spend a birthday.
Getting to know Oakland
We both went back to working full time. Maryanne was unexpectedly first. I followed almost a month later, thanks so some signals getting crossed at my company about the end of my leave. This has us both away from the boat most of the time at our respective jobs. Weekends have been short, with what feels like little more time than necessary to complete the backlog of chores and errands that were pushed ahead from the busy work week.
Getting to know San Francisco
The first "Winter" in California was incredibly mild, which did make for some nice days. A persistent high pressure ridge diverted pretty much all of The season's nastiness to the north, leaving us with t-shirt and shorts weather most of the time.
We learned from some of the people at the marina that there was a Coast Guard approved Captain's course in the area that would allow us to meet all of the requirements locally.
We initially studied for our licenses many years before when we were still in Norfolk, Virginia, before we really set off cruising. The problem back then ended up being that we would have needed to drive several hours to Baltimore and Washington, DC on several different occasions in order to jump through the necessary hoops to get the license. That made it really impractical to try to do on weekends, so we eventually gave up on the idea.
In Oakland, everything can be done within a ten-mile radius. It was still a fairly big hassle, but now Maryanne and I are both officially licensed Captains who could technically charge for rides aboard Begonia, although we have no such plans. Getting the license was really just if we found ourselves wishing we had such capability sometime in the future "just in case".
Family Visits provided for some a wonderful memories
In the Spring, Maryanne's sister and father came for a visit from the UK. We enjoyed showing them our new city. Their visit coincided with the Strictly Sail Pacific boat show, which took place at our marina. We had to remove Begonia from her slip to make room for the show, which gave us the perfect excuse to kick up her heels with a bay tour on our way to her interim slip at Treasure Island.
Once we were there, my mom and brother joined the group and we all spent a couple of days in California's wine region for even more fun.
A change of scene as the boat moves to Treasure Island, separate visits from Darren and Warren, and a chance meeting with Catp'n Fatty Goodlander, all help with winter pass along
Maryanne volunteered for a day at the boat show while I was away at work. I was in Chicago in the snow when she sent me a picture of her and Cap'n Fatty Goodlander. Auuggh!! We have been hoping for years to cross paths - we almost did in Greece, but missed him. Now he was smiling into the camera with Maryanne and I was 1,800 miles away!
In late Spring, I was awarded a base transfer from Newark to Denver, making me the number three pilot there. This would take three and a half hours off my commute each way. I could go either to Oakland or San Francisco on various airlines and I would get to spend more time with my oldest friend Geoff, who lives there.
Alas, the next morning, not even twenty-four hours later, the company sent out a memo saying the Denver base would be closing within a few weeks. All bid awards were cancelled. On impulse, I put in a bid for the next closest Houston base, figuring it would at least save me a couple of hours each way.
It turned out to be a horrible mistake. Direct flights between Houston and San Francisco have an irritating tendency to fill way up in the last hours before departure. In four months, I only made it on a direct flight three times. The rest of the time, I had to two-leg it through various cities to get home. I ended up spending more time on my commute than I did to Newark. The schedules were worse as well, giving me fewer days away from work. I kept track and I was gone from the boat an average of 160 more hours per month. Yuck! I bid back to Newark again at the first opportunity. Even though it's a long way, I'm much happier there.
During the busy summer, we managed to get a few big boat jobs done in the little time we had. We replaced our cooktop and oven. The old cooktop was down to one functioning burner. The oven had so many rust holes in it that it wouldn't keep the heat in.
We replaced our trampoline with a stronger, more secure one. The new one came the size of a placemat and had to be stretched into place using a lot of purchase for mechanical advantage and then A LOT of brute force. We must have pulled every muscle in our bodies getting it in place. It's so much nicer to walk and lie on than the old one, though.
New sails, engine, windows, trampoline eventually are installed (along with cushions, mattresses and what seems like 101 other little jobs are completed)
New propulsion was next. First, we got a new set of sails, and then a month later we replaced our port engine with a re-manufactured one. The starboard was replaced a few years ago just before we bought Begonia, so now we have two low time engines.
After that, we had a go at replacing the big wraparound salon windows. We had new ones shipped in from France. We didn't feel confident enough to install them ourselves, so we arranged with an installer to do the job. They fell through, so Maryanne found another and then another, none of whom ever actually showed up. Defeated, we chugged our way up the steep learning curve of doing it ourselves. It was horrible work that took ages, particularly getting the old ones off, but we got the new ones on all by ourselves. The finished job looks pretty good and there are mercifully no leaks.
After all of the work on the boat, we decided to treat ourselves to some "us" time. Instead of resting, we took a strenuous four-day backpacking trip in one of the local parks along the Coast Range. We were testing out some new gear and refining some of the procedures we would use for longer excursions. The emphasis was on making the packs heavy and going over as many steep hills as possible, including the highest one in the park, as a counterbalance to the relatively short duration.
Some backpacking time in the hills
Notable on the hike were a couple of the creatures we encountered. The first was a rather largish looking black wasp with small, tattered wings. Maryanne spotted it poking it's way from one hole in the ground to another. It was completely unbothered by us and went about its business as if we weren't there.
The other we met as we were resting underneath a tree trying to escape the afternoon heat. We were chatting away when Maryanne suddenly grabbed my leg, lifted it in the air and told me not to move. Out from underneath me, a big tarantula slowly ambled its way over to a nearby patch of dry grass. It too, did not appear to be bothered by us.
Maryanne did exactly the right thing. Had she yelled, "Tarantula!" or "Spider!", I probably would have put my leg down as the first step in jumping up. That would have surely got me bitten. That thing was as big as my hand, too.
After we got home, Maryanne looked up the wasp and discovered that it was a fearsome creature known as a Tarantula Hawk. Apparently, it hunts tarantulas. Entomologists that study it have observed that it wins battles with the much bigger spiders over 99% of the time. It turns out that it also has the most painful sting of any insect. The next most painful is supposed to be the Bullet Ant, named so because it's sting feels like getting shot. The only good thing about being stung by a Tarantula Hawk is that it won't actually kill you even though it feels like it will for about three hours. Advice from those who have been stung is to immediately lie down as it gives you fewer things to run into and fall off of once the writhing starts. I'm glad the thing wasn't aggressive. Not knowing all of that information at the time would have made for a very frightening experience had one of us been stung.
We were sufficiently sore and limpy after that excursion to be in need of some actual fun. For that, we were fortunate enough to be able to meet up with our good friends Kate and Mark for the California part of their vacation. We met them in Santa Monica at their fancy hotel, joined them for a couple of days and then headed north. We spent some time in the Bay Area, including a day sailing aboard Begonia. We then spent the next weekend in wine country sampling and enjoying incredible views. We got there by driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in a rented convertible. It was just about the most perfect vacation ever!
Tagging along with Kate and Mark on their wonderful adventure through California
I had some more time off the following month, so I spent my time doing a little bit of everything while Maryanne went back to her job. My brother Darren and I drove up to visit our dad in Oregon for a couple of days. When we got back, I immediately hit the trail for four days of solo backpacking with an even heavier load than I had the last time. Maryanne and I took a long weekend to attend her sister Sarah's wedding in Sandwich, England before heading to my mother's house in Arizona for a few days of being spoiled and catching up.
A great trip to the UK for Maryanne's Sister's wedding and family catch-up
On to Arizona for more great family time
Some time outdoors
Brining in the new year aboard KiwiCat
The busy air travel season is now in full swing, so I'm back at work again with little time for much else. Maryanne's job finally gave her approval to work overtime, so she's been putting away as many hours as she can in one last push to get the cruising kitty as fat as possible before we both have to try to live off of it. We are missing our time together, but it helps to know it's only for a short while.
I suppose it's a good time for it. Winter is cold and dark. It would be harder to be doing nothing but work in the glorious days of summer. We are both looking forward to the upcoming year.