Thursday, July 30, 2009

A super-cool sailing link

Mystic Sail

This is how I would do a sailing blog if I was able to 1. Be out there today. 2. Have enough bucks to cover the emailing costs associated with large file transfer (Photo's) and running dialog.

Wonderful stories and pictures. They have no idea who I am, but no matter. I am all about the fun of ocean sailing.

More later!

Ok, I'm back.

Talk about nursing a sailing "Jones", here is a video from Get Lost on Purpose

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sorry for the absence, I was detained elsewhere

It has been a busy past five days. There has been house cleaning, gym additions and other such stuff that just happens on this crazy rock and roll road show we call life.

Friday, I went to Orlando to pick up a Lifestep 9500 Stair Climbing machine. I got it on Ebay for a couple hundred, which seemed a good price considering most of the other 9500's were priced at five hundred bucks above mine. Plus add in a couple bills for delivery, well, you get the idea.

"Why does a lean mean love machine like you need a stair climber?" You might ask.

It seems that I have been inflating like a life raft over the past ten years of being away from the Service, and I really want to drop 23 pounds before I go on vacation to California. Back in the bad ole Navy days, these Lifestep 9500's were in every gym, on every ship. I would do an hour a day and would find that all my tonnage concerns would naturally (without dieting) go away. I could pound beer after beer, sandwich after sandwich, and keep relatively svelte.

I drove down to Orlando, about two and a half hours, found the address and backed up to the house of the guy selling the machine. He wanted to know if I wanted a Bowflex for another five hundred. Seems he was eliminating all his exercise gear.

"No thanks, just the Lifestep", I say.

We heaved it up into the truck and I was away.

Home was another problem. Seems I have no friends whenever there is heavy work, so I slide the machine onto the grass using the device as a lever against the cargo door. I then dragged it to the front door of the house, thankfully finding that there was about two inches to spare on the entry way. I hoped that I could just muscle the machine past the hall door but found myself hopelessly stuck half way in.


I extricate myself slowly past the stuck machine, conveniently laying sideways and into the drywall. I climb over, walk to the other side of the house and find my tool box, grab a bag of wrenches and walk the hundred feet back to the sprawling behemoth. Once there, I curse, and walk all the way back to find allen wrenches.

And trek all the way back to the rear hall. Pause, then return to the tool box for a measuring tape.

Who says you need an exercise machine to get your cardio in?

I remove the foot pads. Still stuck. I remove the electronic box on top and then the hand rails. Some of the allen screws were really stuck, they may have never been removed since manufacture, which was prolly back in '93. Good thing I had some rust blaster in the under the sink storage pile.

So, now everything is off so I drags me macheen on it's side into the gym.

About five and a half feet away.

This is the week about small steps and giant leaps, right?

Now I get to put it all back together. And I did not have any extra parts left over!

Normally, I have extra nuts and bolts and whatever it is is no longer what it was.

The Spousal Unit comes home and is not impressed by my accomplishments. Oh no. She wants to know why there is no scent of clean kitchen wafting through the house? Why is dinner delayed? Where is my wine?

Important questions, for sure.

"But look at your beautiful gym", says I.

"I am hungry and want to know what dinner will be." Pronounceth She.


"Okay". Said the Happy Spouse.

So the Gym is now in commission, and I can say that I think the 23 pounds of ballast shall be removed by October.

Here is some views of the gear and the fauna that also inhabit the locale;

Mao is an interested cat, walking by a Grateful Dead CD. Him likes "Truckin' " and "Sugar Magnolia". But then, so does everyone. I like the other disc with "St Stephen", "Jack Straw" and "Me and My Uncle".

Hyacinth wants to learn what the fuss is about:

This weekend, I got in some parts and goodies. First; We got our two Lucas ignition switches for the Perkins Diesels. I made sure to take a couple pictures to ensure I got the wiring right. They are four position switches, I had to order from the UK. The place in Washington State wanted 70 bucks apiece. I got two from the Manufacturer for a hundred bucks.

An icon from the demon "Lucas":

These will get installed in next day or two.

We had our macerator pump repaired and a new Sony stereo installed, too. They work great. I will thank "Nick", tomorrow. With my check book.

Speaking of Nick, the Yacht club dockmaster called me this afternoon, asked me if I had a maintenance guy doing work on the Barco.

"Why, yes", I said.

"Did you know he is drinking and smells like he has been drinking all day?" Said Todd the Dock Master.

"It's bad for liability and we don't tolerate this behavior..."

Did I not mention that it really is always something?

We will talk about this, tomorrow, too. No big deal.


Before I go, I want to point out silly purchase of the month:

From Mre Depot, a place for thrifty survivalists (Like Me!)

I got the idea from a link at "Ace of Spades". I have not seen canned bacon in years, and I thought I would get some for "Beaujolais" (Roger and Janice). Plus, with a ten year shelf life, I can leave this on the Barco.

It tastes fine, if you heat in a pan. Great for "Bults". There are 54 slices in a can, already cooked.

Speaking of the "Dead", now some Hippy Tuneage:

"Mexicali Blues"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Annoying Meezers

As everyone knows, we at the Barco Sin Vela/Wildebeest III gave up the idea of having offspring, long ago.

Instead, we are infested with Siamese Cats. (Hyacinth lives in her own room and stays weekends on the boat. Tough life)

Mali and Saffy are not quite right in the head. They were barely rescued from being feral, and they still aren't too sure about us humans.

They are not quite there...

Mali loves men in general, and Me and Roger (Beaujolais) in particular. Saffy just follows around, keeping a close eye on her obsessive compulsive sister.

Mali is on the left:

Night time is a time where all Siamese Cats posture and carve out a roosting place for snoozing. Mali will tuck in next to me and Mao will strike out on his own. Saffy likes to be near Mao.

About 0400, this morning; There was an odd sound coming from the kitchen. The Spousal Unit was the first to be annoyed, so she got up to investigate. I rolled over for forty more winks.

The sound was of a plate being pushed around on the floor tiles.

Saffy (Better known as the Genus; Shove-a-lup-i-cus) was shoving a plate around trying to get to the food that had once been there.

Shovelupicus Innocentus:


Teenage kids might be ok, if trained well they can be useful and bring comfort.

But Siamese Cats don't have thumbs, so they can't steal your credit cards and go on a wild spending spree to the Leftcoast.

And they have ways of making sure that we know who is the boss.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great War Bird Story

Stop by and visit Tail Spin's Taless for a great yarn about war birds fighting it out in the air.

Looks like the first tropical system is just to the East of the windward islands, hopefully, a low pressure system south of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will suck this system South, and make the future tropical storm just spin its way to die out in the Southern Caribbean.

We don't need no steenkin' himmicanes in Florida!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jihad Gene brought up a great point

"...our NCO meeting would once a month be held at a neighboring German Army Depot".

Hey Gene; We used to have disaster drills at the London Headquarters. (IRA and other unfriendlies were all over London) So when a drill happened, each branch would depart the building and find their preplanned meeting place for muster.

Operations used the "Vino Veritas" Pub, at Orchard and Oxford street, near Selfridges.

While the roll call would be performed, pints of Lager's and Ales were also passed around.

Great days, indeed.

On the Deutschland Front; I spent some time at Patch Barracks and stayed in the Fontana Therme, over in Vaihingen. Has anyone been or remember the "Schwabenbrau" brewery, by the Bahnhoff?

View Larger Map

Man, I miss some good beer.

Thanks for coming by.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Q-Tip, cakes, wines and other dining events

Q-Tip was the call sign of an A-7 and F/A-18 pilot, Pete Schwab.

Real good guy. One who will be missed.

The last I talked with Pete Schwab, he was asking me to mail a package filled with cookies from the UK; Hob Nobs. His daughters loved those cookies, and I was glad to send them out.

Commander Schwab said he would be sure to look out for the Wildebeest III while he was flying, and would be sure to buzz us if we ever came near.


After our return to normal life in London, we carried on with our jobs and routines. We would wake up about 0530, trudge up to the St Katherine’s Dock offices for a shower (Hoping that there was still hot water!) return to the boat and I would prepare my suit and tie for wear. (Read as ironing white shirt)

At 0700 I would walk to the Tower Hill bus stop, grab a 15 or 7 bus and read while passing all of the tourist areas of the City of London. By about 0725 I would hop off at Oxford and North Audley and make way to the Building. There, I would use my striped ID card to go through the turnstiles and go up to the first floor where I would show my ID again to the sentry. I would go left through the double doors and slide my card in a reader and punch in a five digit combination code. If no one had beat me in, I would have the fun of using the dial combination to open a outer door, then slide my card into the card reader and push the five digits.
Otherwise, alarms would go off and rifle-armed Marines in Combat gear would come rushing up from the basement looking to defend my office from intruders.

Not like that had not happened five times. Maybe seven times.

Once inside, I would prepare for the Navy Day. Sometimes, I would be required to give the daily European Theater Brief to the N-Codes in the Command Center, to be followed by re-giving the same Brief to the Four Star in the Ops Telebriefing Room.
Afterwards, I would return to the Double Secret Music room and pretend to do something useful. Like ordering boat supplies from a West Marine Catalog, or putting out some sort of emergent tasking from other folks higher up than us.

Mostly I passed info along via faxes or by computer, while maintaining various personnel rosters.

For entertainment, I would mess with the Commander. Pete was a very nice, professional officer who had about eighteen years in the Navy and it was clear that he was about where he was going to be. O-5 and done. He had been an A-7 and F-18 pilot back in the Fleet, and his most recent flying had been in Key West with the Composite Squadron there.

He had also flown F-5’s and F-16’s.

CDR Schwab might have liked me because I had been a Helicopter search and rescue swimmer, and that I had been qualified as an Air Warfare Specialist and wore the Surface Warfare pin. Finally, I wore the gold wings of Naval Aircrewman. So those pins made me interesting to him, especially in a world of Cryptologic Technician weenies who rarely saw sea duty much less venturing away to other disciplines of the Navy.

Not that being a Crypto Tech was so bad. If I could do it again, I would want to be a Cryppie. They got promotions.

I think Q-Tip also appreciated my endless cockiness and my undeserved sense of entitlement.

After all, I owned a forty three foot boat in a foreign country.

As an Enlisted Man.

Why do I mention all this?

Because it was a fun time for me. My job in London was ten times better than bouncing around the ocean on board a Frigate or Destroyer. Not that serving on a Man O’ War is always a bad thing; it’s just that my hours were better.

Here is a good sea-story;

The good Commander was having a tonnage issue, seems his uniforms were shrinking in the closet.
The Lt and I would visit the gym downstairs; sometimes do a five mile run in Hyde Park. This kept me svelte and ensured long lunches.

Well, the Commander never had time for anything more than a 30 minute visit to the gym, maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Add in all that great home cooked food… You get the picture.

“Hey LT, check this out.” I said.

I brought up a Sara Lee Coffee cake, you know, the kind with 6000 calories and no cholesterol. I placed the open cake on the conference table, with paper plates and a knife for all to eat.

The Lieutenant says, “You can’t do that, that’s disrespectful.”

“Oh, shut up. Watch the fun as the Commander eats the entire cake.”

“Man, that is so messed up; I don’t want any part of this.”

The Good Commander comes in, immediately notices the baked goody on the table.

“Hey, is this for everyone?” The Pete’ster asked.

I tried to look as bored as possible.

"Oh, sure thing, Commander." “Have at it.”

I kept my snickering down as the good Fighter Pilot took a respectfully small piece, carefully places it on the plate and walks to his desk and picks up his phone and eats while talking on the phone.

The Lieutenant gave me evil looks for my jackanapery.

When Pete walked out, I said, “This is going to be funny as hell; “I guarantee he will eat the entire cake.”

The LT said, “Bullsh**”.

Lunch came, I went and did my run and came back at 1300.
The cake had another inch, or two missing.

1400- Another inch takes off. The cake is now 2/3rds gone.

I surreptitiously watch as the power door opens, it is the LT, who also looks at the missing cake.

“I guess the CDR has been snacking,” he snickered.

1630 comes around, and there is a one inch wedge, looking decidedly lonely on the plate. The power door opens; I am changing into my travel-‘cross town clothes as the Commander walks in.

“Hey, do you want anymore of this cake? “ Says he.

“Oh no, Commander. I had all I could eat, today!”.

"Well, have a great rest of the day. Thanks for bringing the cake in, it was excellent.” As our portly boss devours the last piece and throws the pan into the trash.

The LT was over in the other corner, putting on his civvie shoes, shooting me his “Oh no, you didn’tlook”.

I walked out giggling and snickering, it was a small victory, but a win for the enlisted side just the same.

Helo’s versus fixed wing, baby.

Another day:
Norman Hummerstone calls me one day, and asks if I would be good enough to come over to the site of the Queen Victoria Rifles drill hall, by Oxford Street and Davies Street. Bring your Captain and Commander Schwab, we will have lunch at the Officers Mess. Be there at 1100, sharp.

I pass the invitation to my boss and his boss, we accept and a few days later we arrive as advertised.

After we make the introductions, Norman has us move next door to the Running Horse Pub, to have a pre-lunch Bitter and chat about the Regiment. Now, Norman had been a member of this Regiment, starting in 1937, so there were some great stories about that particular neighborhood and all of the changes he had seen in sixty years.

At 1130 sharp, we were motioned to enter the Mess where a Corporal showed us to the lounge and we were given Gin and Tonics. This is called “Elevenses” in the UK and for that matter, the entire British world and apparently was very popular way before the Empire had become a distant memory.

At Noon, lunch was announced and we formed a line to the Roast Beast which was being carved by the Corporal and his Assistant. We were then seated at a large antique table that was at least one hundred and sixty years old.

Lunch was the normal roast and Yorkshire Pudding (A biscuit fried in beef tallow) along with potatoes, rolls and two kinds of wine; a Bordeaux, white and red.
Whenever a bottle was emptied, a soldier would come and replace it; whether it was water or wine.

The Cheese and Biscuits were brought out for dessert. You could have cake but everyone went for the cheese. Then a decanter of Port arrived.

Norman gave the story of how the Army would have Port and that there was a ritual for drinking it; First, each glass was charged, and the “Loyalty Toast” was offered.
“The Queen”.

And another person would say something like, “Long may she Reign”. We sipped our Port.

Another toast was made to the “President of the United States”.

To which we politely replied “The President”. Where we sipped again, the half filled Port Glass.

Norman continued with, “Now the Port Decanter is passed to the left and not rested until the decanter is empty.”

So we filled our glasses and passed the bottle to the left. Drinking slowly as this happened, after all; Port is a fortified Wine, and at 20% is quite powerful. We passed until it was empty, and rested the decanter at the end of the table. It was now 1330.

I hear our host, Norman start to snicker when the Corporal brings over another decanter.

Captain L**** saw what was happening and sussed it out, immediately. He offered his gratitude and regrets, and prayed that he be allowed to leave; For he had business at the office.

Norman thanked him for coming and as the Captain was leaving, the Captain told the Commander and me to stay, and be sure to keep the pride of the US Navy by continuing our participation in the Lunch activities.

It was Norman, a couple of elderly Chelsea Pensioners, another Army Officer and Commander Schwab and Yours Truly, being the only enlisted dude in the Mess.

Norman says, “Once again, the Port Decanter will be passed to the left…”

So, in the interest of maintaining the Pride of Naval Aviation, both Fighter Pilot and me, (representing the Helicopter side of Aviation), we continued our drinking of the Port.

We went through a second bottle and it was now 1500, the Mess Corporal was begging us to call it a day!

Norman insisted in taking us to the Running Horse Pub for post lunch pints of bitters.

At 1630, the Commander said we needed to get back to the office, and we bid Norman adieu, and thanked him for one of the most memorable lunches, ever.

We limped on back to the building, three blocks away, and went up to the first floor. I returned to our secure office and logged out and locked safes. I decided I needed a pit stop, so I walked down to the head. There were some puking noises, emanating from the locked head.

I felt like the little kitten in the “Sylvester and Tweety “ cartoons, where he is wailing about how his father was such a failure because he can’t catch a little mouse.

Of course, I had to loudly mention that F-18 Pilots never show that they can’t hold their liquor… Why, any Helicopter Aviator could and would!

The Commander came out of the head , wiping his face and replied, “But they never try to keep up with their British Hosts! That was the most I have ever had to drink in years.” He was laughing.

Pete Schwab was a real class act.

That lunch became a quarterly routine, and I would make sure to bring guests. The other thing I made sure of was to schedule these lunches on a Friday.
Liver is bad and it must be punished; Just not on a work day. One must give it a weekend to recover.

There are no pictures, cameras were strictly forbidden at my work so there was no opportunity to catch photographs when we did these events.

Other regular social events that we enjoyed was Little Ship Club nights, which are held on Tuesday evenings. It helps break up the week. There is a grip and grin from five o’clock to seven, a Boating Lecture from seven to eight and finally dinner. After dinner there are drinks and it all wraps up at ten o’clock.

We would usually stay until eleven, if the Club President was visiting. Then we would catch a cab back to the boat and call it a night.

In October, the Navy would hold a “Navy Ball”, celebrating the Navy and all who served. This would be a Formal Ball held at the Park Lane Hotel, across the street from Hyde Park. The Honorary Host would be the United States Ambassador to the Court of St James, Admiral Crowe. The current Admiral would also be there, and it was the “thing” to be there. All ranks were invited, uniforms were encouraged, but Black Tie was minimum dress.

The Spousal Unit and I would always bring guests from the community, Norman Hummerstone being first on that list, followed by Roger from Beaujolais.

1997 has us all present, each had brought a date. I brought my wife, instead. (She gets mad if I ask to go out on a date.)

I’m not joking. The other fella’s got to bring dates. Why do I have to go with my wife? (I really wouldn’t go with anyone else)

We really had fun on these formal nights. I think we would go to an average of six formal occasions a year.

On the boating front, we would sail to Queenborough on a regular basis. There was also sailing on the East Coast with friends on other boats.

One does what one must when keeping up with the locals.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cool Music on Saturday

Johnny Ramone's last song with Slim Jim Phantom; "Viva Las Vegas".
I really like the Dick Dale sound.

One of the reasons I like Johnny Ramone (besides the back to basics music style) is that he stood up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said, "God Bless The United States of America and God Bless President Bush".

That was too cool, in my book.

Have fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Normal Life in London

After we returned form Calais, we were suddenly considered as one of the "Cool Kids". We partied and carried on as if that was what we did in America, not. The Londoner's have this sense of joie de vivre that requires a "Roman" style party for every reason. Holidays, festivals, Friday, it's all good and will require a gathering with everyone dressed in their Sunday best.

If your Sunday happens to be an inauguration into public office, that is.

We found out early June that our friend, Paul Ferris had resigned from the Little Ship Club.

Resigned? Paul? Committee Leader Paul? Member for past twenty years?

(You forgot to mention the London Rally, Paul hosts that, too.)


Guess who gets invited to fill those big shoes with two weeks notice, who also happens to live in the marina hosting the Little Ship Club London Rally?

So with that bit of depressing news, (Our friend resigning, that is) we prepare for this party. The Rally was for the Fourth of July, that year. So lucky for me I had a three day weekend.

I arrange for dockage for the boats that will be visiting, and I set up a menu for the dinner to be held at the LSC. We decided that dessert would definitely be American style apple pie with an American style crust. Not the dense, thick and chewy British crust, this would be a crust made with shortening like Mom made. The filling was specially made using less sugar and corn starch so that you could taste apple and not gooey paste.

The Catering Staff was quite cross with my heavy handedness, but I told them it's my way or the highway.

Speaking of my way and highways, the Little Ship Club had a strict Jacket and Tie policy.
Here are some typical views of the clientele of the Little Ship Club:

Forget that. The theme of MY Fourth of July Rally was "Independence Day" If you folks want me to do this on such short notice, well, we will need to adjust the rules.

Collared shirts and nice casual for the ladies. The Commodore was fit to be tied.

I met a young person working at the Navy Exchange who claimed to be a free lance DJ, so I offered him a hundred pounds to do the Rally party on Saturday night.

It was all coming together, and we couldn't wait to spring the final surprise; We were going to have a "Tea Party", protesting Taxes and everything else that oppressed us!

The big weekend comes and the first thing that goes wrong is the DJ. This person decides he can't do the gig and does not bother to call me. I call him all day and finally get hold of him an hour before I need to be there and he says he can't come.

Panic in the grey room, NOW!

I run over to a neighbor boat, Cornelius, and ask if I can borrow his stereo, and I invite him to the dinner along with his lovely girl from Sweden. Then we cab the gear to the party.

Commodore's Table behind SWWBO. Notice how we weren't good enough to sit with them.

Cornelius is next to Ulrika

About fifty guests are there (way more than I expected, but so many wanted to see us mess up!)

I give a welcome speech which went sort of like this;

The Crew of the Gnu would like to welcome everyone of you to this year's London Rally. We were given the responsibility of doing this on short notice, but we hope that you will enjoy yourselves none the less.

We would especially like to welcome those of you who braved the Mighty Thames River, who dodged flotsam, jetsam and logs bringing their boats safely to St Kat's!

Break for hilarious laughter.

I'm glad you found that funny... (Someone says giggling, "He said 'Logs'...")

So off to dinner. We had a great meal and the Commodore (Wearing a Cravat because he always wears a tie) Gets up to do the "Loyalty Toast";

"Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the Loyalty Toast: "To the Queen.... Coupled with the President of the United States."

There was a nanosecond of uncomfortable silence... "The Queen!"

The laughter broke out almost immediately!


Oh that was precious. President Clinton had just had the news sent around the world that involved the Oval office, a blue dress and some young chick who happens to like cigars.

I chose that moment to give a speech about the Fourth of July, and its meaning to all of us Americans, and to an extent, our British Brethren, who we have so much in common with. This was when I explained the Boston Tea Party and the root of our Rebellion against Taxation Without Representation.

"Now, I would like to invite all of you to come forward, grab a pinch of tea from this tin, and join me in tossing tea into the Thames to protest all that oppresses us."

Just then, I grabbed a hand full of Tea and turned to toss it into the Thames.

The Thames river level had subsided. It was at low tide. The water was about thirty yards away from the Club Dock!

To save face I blurted out, "I see the Thames is a proper, British River, and it will not tolerate any tea party shenanigans!"

Everyone was of good cheer and tossed pinches of tea into the mud and I set to turning the stereo on.

"Barometer Soup" was again the first song to start off the Nautical Themed Dance and the night went on to be quite enjoyable for the hosts and the Club.

The next morning, My good friend Cornelius was good enough to host our Sunday Morning Mimosas and Snacks on his 60 foot sailing Barge, and many of the Rally participants came by to partake and join in on the boating camaraderie.

An added feature was an appearance by the local contingent of the "Swedish Blonde Bikini Team".

Summer was really coming together, nothing like sailing vessels and good friends to make a happy time.

(Pictures in a couple hours, I promise!)
Commodore Hunter Peace and Tom Davey

Norman and Debbie and the others from LSC

sorry about the double hit earlier. What a maroon!

John Cadley from "Fran"

Someone chatting Number One from the Swedish Blonde Bikini Team
(Biggify this picture: That's the Wildebeest about 50 yards behind me. It's infested with Siamese Cats!

John and Emma from "Fran" (They were very, very kind to us over the years.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday planning

WE have reached the middle of the week and can start thinking of weekend freedom.

We are not going to plan anything. Other then me finding out the reason the starter switch will not engage when the key is turned for the Port Diesel. Next, I will have to replace plug ends on at least one power cord, the old ends are bad and unsafe and turning black.

Resistance is futile except in electricity.

One of my boat owning colleague's came up with a wonderfully simple (which is why I didn't think of it) solution to the Bateau's plug problem; Put the plug inside vice outside.


Now I won't have to get fiberglas mix and cloth to plug the hole permanently, and it gets to do its job as designed.

Maybe I can work up the enthusiasm to try my hand at varnishing some of the trim.

Prolly not.

That is some hot work in the Florida Sun! But it does need to happen this year, before it all goes to natural silver color.

Have a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday morning in Calais

We moved the boat at about 0400, got underway for London. As we were preparing to go, Tom and his crew were up, too. Only Tom had fallen into the cockpit of Gallivant the night before, shattering his right wrist. He came up hung over and in pain, the Spousal Unit splinted his wrist so tightly that Tom felt he was able to sail back.

Gallivant had a good crew so we left them to their sailing, we had our own adventure ahead. Gallivant got home with no issues.

Don UFO left when we did, the Pigeon Sisters were sullenly in their crew attire ready for the journey, while Roger was looking a little tired from going out Sunday and staying late.

This story comes out later about Don UFO's trip; Roger gave the Pigeon Sisters the helm and control of the boat, asking them to maintain a Northwesterly course while he took a little nap. When he awoke somewhat refreshed, he discovered that the girls had steered the boat on a SOUTH Westerly course and that they were on the way to Cherbourg! I guess they didn't know which way the sun rises, and all that. We had such a howl laughing about that trip.

The Sisters were never allowed near the helm again.

For that matter, they soon vanished from the club.

I guess Wildebeest and Don UFO were rough on crew.

We were sailing to the Northwest and I went below for a snooze.
About an hour or two later, I could hear some arguing, as Spousal Unit was telling Rich to head to the right to avoid the Goodwin Sands. Rich was saying no, we were on a good course.

Was I going to have to come out there with the belt?

I had to come up and take the helm. A few minutes later, I pointed to a berm of beach that appeared in the middle of the Channel and said, "Goodwin Sands; Graveyard of the Channel."

We skirted to the East of the sands and headed for the Estuary. We caught the tides perfectly and were moving about ten knots over the ground with fair winds and nice sunny skies. Before we knew it, we found ouselves circling St Katherine's Dock waiting for a lock in.

Secured the Wildebeest at our dock on the East Basin by 1730, a great weekend was had by all.

The biggest lesson learned was that Wildebeest was a fine sailing boat that could take a big pounding in the ocean and keep her crew safe and dry. Another thing was the confidence was building for the big trip that was going to be inevitable, the trip home.

The Crew of Wildebeest now had some serious street cred with the Little Ship Club boating membership. The English Channel is not a smooth lake or river, but a highly congested bit of world class waterway. We were approaching Junior Varsity status as boaters.

I wrote up a article for the Little Ship Magazine chronicling our trip, we won the Alderney Tankard Award for our description of the weekend to Calais. Not too bad.

Another great benefit was we developed a really close relationship with Norman Hummerstone, MBE, FRIN. He became the Grandfather I never had who's knowledge and mentoring made us into better sailors and more importantly safer on the water. He also took an interest in helping my career along. There are some great sea stories coming up about that.

You might ask, "What ever happened to the Calais Twins, after ten years?"


In May of 2007, Roger (Don UFO and Beaujolais) was getting married in Wales and asked us to be there. After arriving in London we knew that Norman would be in Calais for the Rally, so we hopped on the train for Dover hoping to get a hovercraft to Calais.

The Hover craft was a little more pricey, but you get to the other side in about twenty minutes, vice two hours, so it seemed the way to go. We will get there, have lunch and scoot on back to the Little Ship Club, where we were staying. We looked on the internet and saw that Hoverspeed website, and decided to go.

Once we arrived at the Dover Train Station, we hopped into a black cab and asked the driver to take us to the Hovercraft Port.

He looked annoyed and said, "Are you taking the piss on me?"

I was confused. "No, we would like to go to the Hoverspeed Terminal, why?"

"Mate, there hasn't been hovercraft service for the past two years. You have to take the ferry."

We did not notice that it was the stupid Google Cached website of the hoverspeed service.


We went to the ferry terminal, knowing that we were screwed. The next ferry was full so we had to wait another two hours to get underway to Calais. We called Norman and explained the situation, asked if we could stay the night on his boat. He was gracious and said we could, so we had lunch and made our trip across a foggy channel.

Arrived in Calais, took a cab to the Basin Ouest, and found a cheerful Norman at his dock. he invited us aboard and offered some champagne, you wouldn't know we hadn't seen him for eight years.

We talked and talked, he said he would have to leave for an appointment, after we finish the bottle.

I mentioned that I had heard that Jean Plancke had passed on and that we were glad to have known him.

"I hadn't heard that," said Norman, "I don't think he has, either".

"I'm having drinks with him at five o'clock."

So we walked the mile to the club, crossing the old bridge and passing by the Lock and the Harbor. This Gent is 87 years old and walking like a person forty years younger.

Arrived at the Commerce Club, headed up old familiar stairs to the bar, we were greeted by our old friend Dr Jean Plancke, who pretended to remember us from the last century.

No matter.

We were proud to buy the first two rounds of drinks with these heroes from another, better era.

We finished up and said our good-bye's, and took Norman out to eat. Afterwards, we returned to the boat and had Port and Cheese.

I want you to know that it was now 2100, we had been boozing and eating since 1600. So we start on the Port and Norman wants to watch a film on his portable DVD player.

We polished off the bottle and prepared for bedtime.

What will I need to do to be like Norman when I get another forty years on?

By the way; Did you notice the rack of bottles?

This is just the "Ready Bottle" rack. There are six kinds of Gin, six of Whiskey, both blended and Single Malt, Various Aperitifs and more Port and Champagne in the concealed lockers.

And maybe one bag of crisps and a jar of olives for your dining pleasure.

Norman ROCKS!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sorry, but this video needs posting

I try to keep politics to a minimum here, I prefer to write and chat more about fun things, but right now Americans are facing a Government that is more interested in social engineering and emptying the national treasure chest. And if a person is unhappy about the lack of service and efficiency of our elected leaders, pro government pundits will label you as a Racist Rethuglican, or Christian Whacko, (like only conservative christians are whacko). Don't get me started on Earth Worshiping Whacko's.

Please watch and enjoy this video, it is about responsibility and I feel the same way; Congress needs term limits and and needs to
relearn that they serve the people;

Please send a tea bag to your Representatives and Senators.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Okay, I'll return to Calais

About 1700, we returned to the Wildebeest to change into glad rags. Rich put on his nicest rugby jersey and Dockers, I wore a suit and tie. Mom and Her Lynneship were dressed in finery.

Off to the Chamber of Commerce Club we went, where a fine dinner was being prepared.

We went upstairs to the bar where we were greeted by our Host, Dr Jean Plancke, Honorary Life Vice President of the Little Ship Club and Co-HMFWIC of the Calais Rally.

I noticed the little red rosette that Jean wore on his suit, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. I immediately knew this to be a very important person, and I was happy to extend respect to this War Hero and grateful to have an opportunity to share a drink with this man.

The call to seats was made and we looked for our names at a table. Norman came over and asked us to have our seats and pointed to the head table, where our boat name was prominently marked next to Doctor Jean Planck.

No way!

What an honor. I was humbled that we had sailed over and were invited to sit with Jean and his lovely bride.

My Mom was glowing with pride and she too, knew that this was incredible and we were going to be in for a dinner of a lifetime!

As we took our seats, wine was poured for us and I took a small sip and immediately, Jean called sharply for the waiter and gave a wave. The wines were snatched back and the funny thing was my Mom; She was about to take a sip and the glass was yanked out of her hand as it was half way to her mouth!

Jean spoke quickly, asking the waiters to bring wines that were to his liking.

Oh yes, this was turning out to be interesting!

We chatted about boating, and I was sure to ask Jean about his relationship with the Little Ship Club.

Jean and Norman were known as the "Calais Twins", they share a birth day from 1920, and I think that the two have been friends since the War.

Jean was in the Resistance, and I think Norman was involved in that, too. Norman's Regiment, "Queen Victoria's Rifles"

World War II
In World War II after initial deployment to France as part of the BEF, the regiment lost two battalions at the Defence of Calais (2nd Bn KRRC and 1st Bn the Queen Victoria's Rifles(TA)) where a Green Jacket Brigade held up the German advance to enable the evacuation of the allied armies at Dunkirk. Redeployed to northern Africa the unit began to see success, continuing with actions in Italy, Austria, Germany and in the Battle of Greece and Crete (where its 9th Battalion, The Rangers (TA), served with 1st Armoured Brigade Group). The 1st Battalion served in the 4th Armoured Brigade that failed to link up with the 1st Parachute Division at the Battle of Arnhem. Post war the unit was deployed in Germany.

The Queen Victoria Rifles had defended Calais during the German Blitz.

No wonder Norman and Jean were such friends.

Since 1940.

And I was dining with these folks.

I am not worthy. That's what was running through my head.

Did I not say that the trip was going to be great???

More side notes: What I was about to learn of that days events was when I had raised our "Battle Flag" earlier that day, no one had seen that there was an American boat in the harbor. There was no flag showing our representation up by the Yacht Club. Apparently, someone reported our flag being sighted and Jean Plancke had gone NUTS because he felt we had been slighted and proper hospitality had not been shown to the American Guests! Sort of a a French "faux pas" (How often does a person get to use Faux Pas in a French situation?) which he felt was a tremendous insult to us (Wildebeest III) and the American Allies in general. So the call was made to find an American Flag, tout suite, and get it up the flagpole out front.

This is no exaggeration.

We had a wonderful dinner with White wines for starters, Red for the Beouf, and finally Port and Champagne for dessert.

Speeches were made in French and English, Norman gave a short speech welcoming all and closed with this hilarious joke; An English person having breakfast is always happy with the menu because "one egg is always an oeuf".

Dr Jean made a speech also, and then I was called on to thank everyone for our wonderful dinner and to thank our hosts for having us.

Then the dinner was over and post dinner drinks and short speeches were made with each table giving a speech where they would insult other tables by "damning with faint praise". I suppose this is a European version of playing the "dozens". We were thoroughly entertained and the evening was fabulous.

2200 came and it was time to shut down the hall and let the staff go home. We shook a hundred hands and left to HMS Puncher for nightcaps. Our party had grown from the crew of the Wildebeest III, to now include Don UFO (Roger) and also the Paul of Ferris (He was the gent who helped us race in the Frostbite Rally).

We arrived at Puncher about seven minutes later, but noticed that the vessel was silent. Having a nice buzz, I asked the quarterdeck OOD to send for the Captain, who from last night was my "Buddy".

The Captain came up and invited us into the wardroom for a quick glass of wine and beer. He explained that he wasn't feeling too sociable due to one of his Officers having caused a severe discipline issue the night before. I won't mention what it was, but it was worse than you might think and it meant the end of an Officer's Career.

It was a real buzzkill and I was shocked.

We were invited back next year and we took our leave and went to the boats.

Was the party over?

Oh no, it wasn't.

We got back to Wildebeest, Mom went to bed. So Roger, Rich, Spousal Unit and me went over to Don UFO, where there was allegedly some potent potables available for drinking.

We climbed onboard a darkened sailboat and loudly crashed into the cabin where we found the "Pigeon Sisters" in their bunks wearing footy pajamas and night caps!

They began to rebuke us loudly like scalded cats and demanded we leave this boat immediately because they were trying to sleep!

The Pigeon sisters were not at the dinner.

This struck me as hilarious, so I sat down on one of their bunks and began drinking another beer asking them how their night had been and why don't you join us for some cocktails?

The Pigeon Sister who's bunk I had sat on shook like a terrier passing a peach pit. She was mad.

Roger thought that his guests were not appreciating the fact that it was eleven thirty on a Saturday night, a time for all good sailors to be out of their bunks and indeed, they should be partying with other sailors!

We made quite merry at the expense of these prudish dolls, (Especially at the footy pajamas) but after about ten minutes, we decided to leave them and return to the Wildebeest, where I knew for a fact there was champagne and Rum.

And music.

About this time, while sitting in the spacious cockpit, other boats took notice of the Americans.

Tom Davey came over from Gallivant, (We were tied to Gallivant) asking (slurred) for whisky and for us to play some of that Jimmy Buffett music.

Then people came from other boats and we had a literal Parrot Head party in Calais France. People thirty yards away called for us to quiet down but Wildebeest, Gallivant and Don UFO were not to subside. There was singing and a dancin' on the three boats. I think there had to be about twenty people in our cockpits and alcohol was flowing and never seemed to run out.

Remember the Scottish Lass from the Queenborough trip? She wound up on our boat by mistake, looking to join the party, she didn't notice who the hosts were! We howled with laughter when she recognized that she had wandered back in our cockpit and tried to get away from us when I said "hello"!

The next thing I remember, I was describing my total dissatisfaction with my Vodaphone Cell phone, and when pressed why I kept the phone I answered, "You're right!"

I threw the phone into the harbor!

Oh, that ended the party. Especially when someone mentioned to the Spousal Unit of my deed, and she came over to me and asked if I had actually thrown a hundred seventy five dollar phone into the water.

Oh well, it was indeed late. Maybe about eight o'clock in the morning, everyone went home to bed.

About ten thirty, someone came to the boat asking if we were going to go to the meeting at the Yacht Club?

No way. I was into the worst hangover of my life, I was going to just lay in state and hope to just die. The Spousal Unit trudged up there like a soldier, and it was a good thing.

Towards the end of the meeting they called for the "Americans, where are the Americans?"

She , dressed in ballcap and dark rayban sunglasses went up front and received an award of a Normandy Flag and a tea tray.


Awards had been given for smallest boat traveling the greatest distance, Yacht Club with most attendees, etc. We got an award for being the "American boat."

Did I mention the hangover? It was so bad I am still feeling it, twelve years later!

We left the Wildebeest in company with Don UFO looking for the famous Moules and Frites (Mussels and French Fries), you can get a bucket full of both for about three bucks.

I almost puked. Both of us were feeling rough, my Mom (feeling really chipper) said, "That's what you get for staying up too late".


We got back to the Wildebeest about four o'clock and slumped into the cockpit. Tom Davey and John Stoneham took pity on us and tried to get us up by giving us "Medicinal Madera" and homemade "Meade" .

Tom happened to make Meade from his beehives, and fashioned this ancient drink from the Bee Excrement.

It helped.

So did the Madera.

We finally felt more human by about eight o'clock, so we celebrated this by going to bed.

Not Gallivant. Tom and his crew went out partying.

There was still one more day before having to return, they were going out in style.

The Return home from Calais.

After action report

We put the little boat in the water and headed across the river for the first Card station. It was bumpy, and our little boat could barely go fifteen knots into the wind and waves. It was quite brutal, our kidneys aren't too happy with the abuse and the pounding was getting a little unnerving.

The second station was in the Ortega river which was smooth and we managed to make some time. There was a third stop at some one's home where we all had refreshments before heading across the St Johns a second and third time.

On the third crossing, which was the worst, we noticed the boat trying to lean right. We motored on and soon were reentering Pirates Cove for the fifth and final card. We taxied up to the dock and tied up.

Upon stopping, we noticed that the boat had about six inches of water, which annoyed the heck out of me, since I had repaired the bilge pump yesterday, and it should have kept the boat dry. This was something that should have been working, obviously the pounding had dislodged the pump.

We started to bail with a bucket, when I spied a stream of water coming out of the bilge pump drain hole. And the water level was increasing instead of receding.

We are sinking.

I hopped out of the boat to get the truck and trailer, got halfway to the trailer when I noticed that the trailer lock key was still hooked to the ignition on the boat!

The chain was on the trailer so I tied it to the bumper and brought the truck around to the ramp. I hustled over to the boat and got the key and asked that the motor get started so we can get the boat moved before it goes under.

Bill and his son Ryan were there giving help to the Spousal Unit and Bill climbed in and drove the Bateau to the ramp. I backed the trailer into the water and got out to help pull the boat on the trailer, all the while there was furious bailing of water.

Bill hooked the wire cable to the loop on the bow while I pulled the engine into the stowed position. I hopped off the boat and got in the truck and pulled the boat to safety.

You should have seen all the water flowing out, it ran for at least three minutes.

While the boat was taking a pounding from following seas, the motor slammed forward and knocked the plug from its hole, allowing the water to flow unfettered into the boat. The only thing keeping us afloat was our moving forward. Once we stopped we resumed sinking.

Here is the offending plug hole and you can see the damage caused when the motor ripped out the plug:

These are a couple of plugs that I still have, not the bent pin, so this means the motor has done this before.

We parked the truck and trailer and headed to the club for a beer.

Thanks Bill and Ryan!

What a day. It's all good!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bateau is ready for action

There is nothing like trying to work on a boat in no wind, blazing hot sun and finally the the fun of finding new flaws that need immediate attention. I made about four trips to hardware stores and West Marine.

I disappointed Mom yet again (I do this to her all the time), she read that I was going to come by and hang blinds. I should have gone, I would have been in air conditioning.

But the Bateau is ready for the mission today; Find the ingredients to the Perfect Mai Tai using a treasure map and following cryptic instructions. I guess you win a hangover.

Spousal Unit and I enjoyed the Friday steak with a wonderful Cotes du Rhone followed by a nice champagne. We started gossiping about this one feller at the Yacht Club who thinks that people want to know him. This person used to be some sort of sales executive for a publishing house in NYC, so when you get cornered he will bring the subject to books and authors.

Actually, I do like books and authors, so it was sort of fascinating to chat with this guy at first. The real fun is watching him flit back and forth tackling the club glitterati; I watched this guy jump up midway through dinner, run to the door way to grip and grin with some cat named Ed Austin. (I think Ed is a former Mayor or something like that)

He actually ran over grabbed this cat's hand and pumped and pumped and would not let go. There was the trapped animal look in the victims eye!

All the while, our subject is tossing the victims salad, kissing ass, and all that.

This retelling of the tale last night , kept us in stitches for at least a half hour. Especially because we knew that the subject was probably at that very moment at the Yacht Club bar performing his act.

This reminds me of a recent run in with a former mayor; Tommy Hazouri was mayor of Jacksonville back in the early 90's. I was aware of him from his regular tv appearances and the fact that he had a unique hair style.
Anyway, I never voted for him and he seemed to do a fine job as Mayor, whatever, right?

Me and the Spouse are sitting in Moon River Pizza, and Tommy walks in. He locks eyes on me and I just involuntarily growled, "Tahhmmmyyy..." Like I knew this cat, personally.

When in doubt, take the offensive!

So Former Mayor Tommy, politician he is, runs right over to us, grabs my hand and makes like he has been my buddy for years, like we talked just last week.

"How's the pizza guys?" "Great to see you, ya look good... what should I order..."

I about fell over laughing, remembering our buddy from the yacht club.

///Break Break///

There is a great search for more pictures from Calais, I promise you (My Mom believes my promises, honest) that we will return for the dinner party and the bacchanalia that followed.

Today there will be some boating.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Took a day off

I will be working on La Petite Bateau and maybe stop by Mom's to put up some blinds. It's always something, around here.

Meanwhile, take a minute to watch this great Buffett tune, maybe you can transport yourself mentally to a trade wind cooled beach via this song;

Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Intermission on the Calais

I started the last post waxing on and on about there being no stores open in London past working hours. This was a constant theme over four years, the inability to acquire anything when needed.

We Americans don't like to wait. This is why we have refrigerator's large enough to store a gored ox, we don't feel the need to stop by the market on a daily basis. Plus, we want to ensure that we have plenty, the market may run out of something when we need it most.

Especially cheez whiz.

My friend Rich, was flying in to the UK, as was my Mom. We were coughing up some serious cash for all this to happen, not to mention the expense of living in London.

The price for participation in the London Rally was supposed to be about fifty or sixty pounds a person, included dinner at the Chamber of Commerce Clubhouse, drinks on Puncher and Champagne breakfast at Puncher on the Sunday morning, with "Bacon Butties" making up breakfast part.

Bacon Butties are usually English Bacon, butter served warm on a baguette. Sometimes, some Brie will be slipped in there, very tasty.

The Wildebeest version is called a "Bult" which consists of any kind of bacon, tomato and mayo. The lettuce is UA.

Back to the tale.

After the expense of our guests, we asked Norman Hummerstone, the Host of the Calais Rally, if we could pay the cost of two dinners but that we would skip the meal and make other arrangement's for our boat's crew.

The real reason we were skipping dinner (we could just put the cost on a credit card) was that my friend did not have a jacket and tie. Absolutely no chance in us finding a Men's Store in short notice to get a jacket and tie.

Remember the stores are closed.

After we arrived at Calais, we checked in with Norman at the club on Friday night. He quietly pulled me aside (This is a large almost eighty year old man of quiet dignity) and says, "I expect that your guests will join me for dinner, tomorrow night."

"Thanks, Norman, we have to decline, one of our guests does not have the required jacket and tie, sorry". "Also, we did not pay for them."

"You will bring your guest's just the same. Make the Gentleman look presentable." Norman was making a pronouncement, not a discussion.

Well. That was indeed, that.

More to come!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Off like a herd of turtles, to Calais

The infamous Calais Trip; or—Our first voluntary voyage to the unknown!

The New Year with our boat started really slowly, we had much to learn about living aboard in a foreign country without the accessibility that we take for granted in America.

For instance; if I need a new t-shirt at 11:00 PM, I have the option of finding an open 24 hour Wally World or Tarzhey. For that matter, if I need a tuxedo shirt, I can get one after 6:00 PM at just about any open Men’s Store in Jacksonville.

Not in the City of London. Nor in Westminster. Shops close at 6:00 PM sharp on Oxford Street. In the City? Shops are closed by 5:00 PM.

Fuhgeddabout boating supplies and parts. There were three “Yacht Chandleries” near the Thames River. One is Adlard Coles, a fine shop near Liverpool Street Station, they were more for charts and navigation supplies and a good place to get nautical publications. Closed at 5:00 PM. There was another one on the highway, about three hundred yards from the Old Mint, but they closed at 6:00 PM, but did not have quite the inventory. Finally, there was a really nice Chandlery by the Charing Cross Station, closed at 6:00 PM and more of the marine stuff that a tourist or non-boat owner would want.

None would have whatever I really needed at the moment, but they could order for me any part if it was in their catalog.

Catalog sales in the 90’s?

You bet. You see, there was not much different between me outfitting my boat and say, Ernest Shackleton preparing to order provisions and supplies for his Antarctic Expedition in 1914. The catalogs and the telephones were the same. Actually I’m being unfair; Shackleton had better access to marine supplies.

The Londoners are fiercely proud of their resistance to change. Why even bathroom plumbing is the same as it was before the war. WWI, that is. The hot water faucet is still on the left and the cold water faucet is on the right. Water apartheid.

But one good thing about Londoners and boating; I could not have picked a better place to learn about real sailing. Other than a small elite in Florida, the average St Johns River sailor has no idea how to really navigate (like your life depends) or for that matter how to do small tasks like reef sails (make smaller sail area when wind strength grows) or anchor when conditions require.

So as annoyed as I was at the time, I can look back and understand that I had to learn about patience.

I still have no patience, but I can try to be better nowadays…

The real problem was that I had a job that required me to be at one place from 0730-1700 and my personal life had needs that could not be met except between 0900 and 1700.

Fortunately for me, I had a boss (0-5) who’s boss (0-6) were very, very supportive of an enlisted person trying to do something untraditional that gave plenty of personal interaction between a US Navy Sailor and the London sailing community at large. This meant that I had some liberal flexibility in afternoons/days off.

Owning a live aboard sailboat had some challenges, though. I had to learn how to heat the boat in winter, with a U.S. based electrical system. I told you how we acquired propane for cooking. Lucky for us, there was a Safeway across the street. So the food thing was taken care of.
As we were gaining social acceptance and knowledge, naturally, the topic of conversation turned to the big Little Ship Club Rally in Calais, France. This event has been held since 1926 (War years excepted) and it is the first big event of the Sailing Season for the East Coast of UK sailors.
Read this cruising news article from the West Mersea Yacht Club

Naturally, Wildebeest was going to be at the Calais Rally.

I put on a brave face, talking incredible crap about looking forward to the trip and all that. The other thing is I have a lot of faith that things work out, so I go along with the flow.

Maybe the weather will cause us to wave off?

Not at the end of May Bank Holiday, traditionally one of the nicest weekends of the year.

I saved some money and invited my Mother to come out, and also my partner in crime Rich. Rich was in the Navy, serving at VR-58 at NAS Jacksonville as a Jet Mechanic. I loaned him the money to come out, also. This trip to Calais would hopefully be the highlight of our collective sailing careers. here is Rich the year before, on Wildebeest III:

Mom was flying into London Heathrow, Friday morning of the trip. I had CDR Pete Schwab’s favorite London Chauffeur go pick her up. This fellow was a great driver, he would throw a quick tour of the City at no extra charge to our Official Guests, and I asked him to give the tour to my mom as well.

Rich was flying into Gatwick, I explained how to catch the train to Victoria station and gave him the phone number to call when he got there, and I would get a cab to run him to St Katherine’s Dock.

This trip was becoming a logistical exercise; We had to ready the boat for sea, drop off the Siamese onto a friend’s boat for the weekend, gather special foods and most importantly: DO Not Forget the Mount Gay Rum!

After much running about on Friday morning, Rich called; I went and got him personally. He was not amused, having spent the last fifteen hours traveling without sleep. He began whining almost immediately.

I told him to shut the F&^%* Up, and for him to enjoy himself; this is going to be the greatest trip, evah!

We got back to the boat at about 1130, with the tide about to ebb; we had an hour to play with regard to locking out of St Katherine’s Dock and to depart to the East down the Thames. There are no openings except during high tide. Plan accordingly!

Mom showed up at about 1145, she was completely dizzy from her fifteen hour travel and the rapid tour of all the London Must-See sites out and about downtown, the Buckingham Palace, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, the Strand, Fleet Street, the Tower and finally St Kat’s.


We bundled Mom onboard and almost immediately got underway.

“What, no time for a sandwich?” sayeth the Mom.

With the boombox blasting out the first cut of my then favorite disc; “Barometer Soup”, by Jimmy Buffett, we headed out the Thames River.
While speeding along with a following current, (we must have been doing about ten knots over the ground!) we pointed out the Cutty Sark, Greenwich, the Naval College, oh look; on the left is the “Prospect Of Whitby
"We’ll be sure to stop there next week…", I told Mom and Rich.

On past the Docklands, I pointed out the ruin where “Full Metal Jacket” was filmed which was supposed to be Hue City in the film. (Kubrick didn’t like to leave London, apparently)

Passing the Thames Barrier

Soon, we found ourselves approaching Sheerness, and our overnight destination at Queenborough. We tied up at a buoy about four PM, and settled into some dinner and wine, celebrating our two guests and the great journey.

We finally got to sleep around 9:30PM, looking at the tide going out by 4:00 AM, so be sure to wake up early!

I was wound up, and it was tough to get to sleep and equally tough to wake up at 3:30AM…

Reveille was held, I noticed a fog. Uh-oh. The tide waits for no man, and we nervously slipped our mooring and headed South down the Swale, heading for the Thames Estuary. We noticed another boat quietly departing, also. No doubt, heading for Calais.

It was dark and foggy. We drove with all eyes peeled for markers, using the trusty GPS to take us to our next waypoints. We were out of the Swale and began heading east, the tide carrying us swiftly towards the channel. It was wet, the winds were relatively calm and I could have turned a lump of coal to a diamond, with the tenseness I felt. There was a swell following us, and you could hear the water breaking on the shore, I was really feeling the fear.

Should we turn back to the safety and “known” situation at Queenborough, maybe go to Calais tomorrow, when the weather will be clearer? Press on?

The braver character in this story, Super-Spouse, tells weenie boy to quit second guessing and press on.

Breakfast and coffee was served up to Rich and I, it was toast and jam, with English Bacon for everyone in the crew. Good stuff!

Mom was slow to get up; she had jet lag keeping her down so I saw her sitting up trying to have coffee while the boat was hobby horsing up and down. Not looking too pleased about this trip, at all!

Soon, we found ourselves at Margate:

View Larger Map

The seas were picking up and the Southwest winds soon picked up to 15 knots. I whimpered to myself, “Here is where the fun begins!”

I called for Rich to help unfurl the head sail, because there was no way we were going to be able to just motor across twenty plus miles of choppy seas.

But to stay on the safe side, I was going to leave the engine running, 1. Because it did not start right up when I needed it a couple of weeks ago. 2. To increase our movement through the water. The Channel was looking fairly rough (It was nothing, believe me…) and I wanted to minimize the time spent in the open water.

Did I mention the two lanes of rapidly moving shipping, passing right to left?

The 150 Genoa rolled out and filled with air with a resounding “boom”, and we were off for the races! Wildebeest III was at a 45 degree angle, pushing shoulder into the mounting waves, I could feel that this boat was running like a thoroughbred, wanting to run as fast as it could. I mean, the boat felt truly alive!

A new experience, for sure. My oncoming Mal De Mer disappeared instantly, and I rode the wind and waves for the first time, feeling the vibration of the wind through the helm, and hearing the boom of water bouncing off our hull in a foamy wake.

As we rode the waves, I checked my Mom, who was hiding in the Vee Berth, lying on her back with her feet firmly pressed on the ceiling, holding her in place as the front end jumped too and fro.

“Mom, if you want to rest, you can go back to our berth; it is a lot calmer back there.”

“I’m fine”, she quietly replied. “Just leave me here… okay?”

I went back to the helm after noting our position. We were about a third of the way through and it had only been an hour and a half in the channel. We dodged a couple of freighters and maintained our beeline to the harbor of Calais.

We started seeing large ferries, traveling East and West, and the fog started to lift. It was still breezy, but I was really getting into the hang of driving the boat. I must admit that I was feeling more exhilarated than I had ever felt while sailing. We got to the dogleg turn into Calais Harbor; there is actually a Red Light/Green Light for entering the yacht harbor, due to ferry ships buzzing in and out at rapid clips.

The turn was made and we immediately got waked by a monster of a ferry, causing us to rock from side violently, until the Westerly wind caught our sail and balanced us out. This is when our fifty pound transformer, perched precariously on a counter decided to enter freefall and crash into our nice wooden deck, pointy side down creating a transformer sized divot. Spousal Unit gave me a wicked “what for” look rebuking me for not having placed the box in a more secure spot.

Sorry. I didn't think it would budge.

Green light for go came up and we whizzed as fast as five knots would take us into the waiting area, where we tied to a mooring ball awaiting the bridge opening into the yacht basin. It was about noon, local, I had been on the helm continuously for about eight hours.

What a trip! I was giddy, like a little girl at her biggest birthday party. With the sunshine we all came up on deck chatting with other yachts, and we said hello to the boat that followed us out of Queenborough. It turns out they had no idea where to go, but noticed that we had an American flag and RADAR, figured we knew what we were doing and so followed us out and along.


Looking at the next Google View, you can click on the minus sign and see the entrance to the Harbor, but at the bottom of the picture you can see the little boats moored, waiting for the Basin Ouest bridge/Lock for an opening:

View Larger Map

After about a half hour, the bridge opened and about ten of us made a mad dash to get in, and once in we milled around looking for a dock to tie up.

Being 13 meters, we did not want to be on the outside of a smaller boat. Remember the flail-ex at Queenborough, a couple weeks back? We don’t want to cause damage to a smaller boat, so I looked for a large boat. Just so happens that “Gallivant”, owned by Tom Davie (Former Commodore of the Little Ship Club!) was free, so we tied up. We made secure with fore and aft lines, spring lines and about a six pack of fenders.

Good thing we were tied to Tom, we did not have a ladder and a ladder is required to get on and off the boat onto the quay (pronounced “key”) at low tides. The tidal range was about eight feet.

We went ashore to sign in. I noticed a row of flag poles with flags of all the boats and nations present in the basin. I didn’t really think about mentioning our nationality, since I knew that Customs would be upon us in a minute. We said Bon Jour and all that, paid our weekend dues and went out to get a snack and drink at the Calais Yacht Basin club.

After the club closed for the afternoon, went to the Wildebeest III and noticed a UFO 34 sailboat called, “Don UFO” tied up outside us, with two odd looking ladies flitting to and fro.

“Oh, boy,” thought I, “Just what we need, frumpy English Ladies…”

Just then Roger (Nowadays of Beaujolais) pops out of the hatch!

Roger from later onboard Wildebeest III

Roger in Panama, two months ago.

We can’t seem to get away from this guy.

Roger and his boat partner “Terry” brought two passengers from the “Skippers and Crew” from the Little Ship Club.

By the way, we had briefed Roger all about our little deal from the past trip to Queenborough, but you can’t have bad luck in passengers twice, can you?

(For those of you familiar with foreshadowing, the last paragraph drips with it.)

Terry, Roger, Mom, Rich, Spousal Unit and I settled into some snacks and shared some wine and beer. Come sunset, we would all cruise over to the Basin Yacht Club for the Friday night party. We stopped by HMS Puncher (Royal Naval Training Ship) for a beer with the CO and XO.

HMS Puncher is invited annually to be part of the Little Ship Club’s Rally at Calais. This reminds the Club membership of close ties with the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve before the War, and the Royal Navy shows gratitude for the memory of the Little Ships of Dunkirk (Many of those civilian vessels flew the Little Ship Club Burgee).

Anyway, Puncher always shows hospitality to the LSC members by carrying plenty of beer and wine. So we introduced ourselves as Active Duty USN, having sailed the ocean blue from London to Calais, and boy are we parched!

This began a boisterous night of sailor-like craziness and fun. Mom decided to try out the French Rums, and the rest of us enjoyed to local wines and beers.

Closing time came at 11:00 PM, and it having been a long day, we left for the Wildebeest III. With a convenient stop at the HMS Puncher with the Captain of said vessel, who invited us for a nightcap of champagne.


Reveille came at the crack of eight, hearing rustling coming from next door. During all of the hoo-raw of the night before, Spousal Unit had invited Roger and Terry and the crew of Gallivant over for Beignets and coffee.

It all seemed like fun the night before, but now we had to scramble about and straighten out the wreckage and make room for guests. I started coffee and the beignet mix, while SWWBO started heating the frying pan. We managed to serve about four dozen beignets and about four pots of desperately needed Melitta filtered Coffee.

We began the second clean up cycle when I noticed a sound of a beer can being opened;

Terry had reached into my special cooler and helped himself to a Pabst Blue Ribbon! WTF!!!

“What’s a Pa-st Blure Ribbon?” That is the spelling of what I heard.

“Only the finest beer made in America.” I replied.

“I haven’t heard of it, do they export it?”

“No, only in wartime”, I snarked.

“Pity, this is a fine Lager” complemented Terry.

I raised up our Frigate-sized National Ensign up the rear shrouds, to allow every shellback, polly-wog, snipe, and land-lubber the opportunity to know that the USN was in da howse!

You could actually hear a gasp, when people saw the huge Colors hit the breeze. John Stoneham, from Gallivant decided to raise his “Special Ensign” to answer ours, but his began to tear in the freshening breeze.

I. Felt. Horrible. That flag was a special end of World War II ensign that incorporated all of the Allied Flags in one. And it was very old and frail.

In typical British Stiff Upper Lip fashion, he shrugged it off and said he would have it repaired. John felt that our ludicrously large flag needed an answer Flag. (But he really enjoyed the nerve we had in displaying the flag, especially that it was indeed a Naval Ship’s Ensign.)

SO, now back to the cockpit, join Terry and Roger as they lay waste to my precious case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. As the moments passed, other sailors came by wanting a can of this illusive Blue Ribbon treat, all passed complements for a fine and excellent import, and how they really preferred it to Budweiser.

The case was gone by noon, and everyone broke up for the afternoon. Some went to town, others for naps.

Mom emerged from the Vee-Berth around 11:00, none the worse for her big evening out. We got situated and walked into down town Calais, to check out the local scene.

More later, and especially more on the Pigeon Sisters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Been a scorcher

July has brought the normal nasty summer back to Jacksonville. On Saturday the fourth, it roasted so bad that I didn't feel cool until 0230, with full a/c blasting in the Barco.

We discovered a fault in the ignition system on Saturday evenong, the Port engine would not turn over. Batteries were strong but the alarm would sound and the familiar one turn and vroom was conspicuously missing.

We applied a screwdriver to the solenoid and the motor fired as usual, so I think it will be a flaw in either the ignition switch or some safety lockout has engaged. This is one of those annoying maintenance deals, not even a worry.

Like everything in a person's small solar system of orbiting concerns, one must be constantly touching or operating each of the little widgets that make life interesting, otherwise they cease operating for what we feel are unknown reasons. The same for family, friends and acquaintances; Lose contact and you lose the benefit and opportunity that each person brings to you personally.

But in the Barco Crew, we have our tentacles stretched from Southern to Northern Hemispheres, Eastern to West. Thankfully, we have Skype and the Internet to help bridge those gaps. This morning, we spoke to family members in Eastern Russia via Skype.


At five minutes to eight, literally five minutes to "late" for work, we are talking to people in Russia.

Fifteen years ago, I spent an hour trying to explain a friend from Helsinki to the Naval Investigative Service, when I was in the process of getting an advanced security clearance. Seems I didn't mention that I had friends in non-Communist countries.

Today, I show Russians two of my Siamese kittehs via a web cam to two kids who speak three words of english, just like it was nothing.

And it was.

I promise to get back on the trip to Calais.

Have a nice day!