Dawn and I have been visiting family in Minnesota & South Dakota since last Wednesday & it's been just a bit chillier than SC. A few days ago we woke up in Brookings SD to -28* F temps, plus about 20 mph wind. Brutal. But it's been really nice visiting with family over the course of our Christmas celebrations, as we don't anticipate making it back until springtime.
Backing it up a bit since it's been a week since I've posted...last Tuesday we spent a full day at the boat doing last minute projects that needed done before raising the mast, plus installing the engine room insulation. It looks nice.
Wednesday we dropped Piper off at DogVacay and then headed to the airport. The flight to Atlanta was open but the connecting flight to MSP had filled up so we went through Indianapolis. We got there a bit later taking three flights but got to sit together in Delta Comfort Plus the whole way. We stopped off at our old apartment to pick up a package and at our storage unit to grab our winter things before heading up to my folks for the night. Several of my siblings were there & I got to hold my 5-week-old niece Haven for the first time. Precious.
Thursday we were on the road to Dawn's parents in Rosholt, SD. Along the way I called the boatyard and was happy to find out that most of the chainplates were done and installation had begun. Also on Thursday, Atlantic Boat ACR got on the boat and repaired our air conditioning by replacing the control panel, and Tidal Marine Electronics began the process of installing the new instruments, chartplotter and autopilot. Whew!
After stopping by the in-laws to pick up some mail, we headed out to Watertown to apply for our South Dakota drivers licenses and then in Sisseton we transferred titles and obtained SD registration for our Xterra and motorcycles. I must say, South Dakota bureaucracy is shockingly efficient and pleasant.
We spent all of Friday hunkered down indoors as the South Dakota deep freeze began in earnest and snow began falling to boot. Dawn's brothers, sister-in-law, and nephew Jordan were all there so we did lots of visiting, baking, watching college football, and setting up Asus tablets with CM93 charts and OpenCPN plugins and all the sailing apps one might need. Ok, only I did that last one. I also called the boatyard and got an update.
Saturday we headed down to Brookings SD where we had rooms booked at the Hampton Inn and tickets for that night's concert by Home Free. A few years ago my family began a Christmas tradition where in lieu of gifts we all get together for a concert, play, or comedy show (ok, the nieces & nephews still get presents!) and this year Dawn's family decided to follow suit. I wasn't really expecting to enjoy a Christmas concert by an acapella quartet but knew Dawn and her mom were really excited, so I kept an open mind and actually ended up enjoying the show. The guys from Home Free are obviously talented & are good, funny entertainers as well. Their all-vocal repertoire turns out to include EDM genres like house and dubstep. I'm not even kidding. Many South Dakotan minds were blown.
Sunday dawned sunny, breezy, and stupid cold. We weren't sure how the roads were going to be and our rental car had Texas plates and tires that might've as well been racing slicks in the snow, so we headed east early. Even the back roads turned out to be just fine and 3 hours 45 mins later we arrived early at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo, MN. My family's Christmas outing this year was a performance of "A Gone Fishin' Christmas," a two-act comedy play. Pretty funny if a little over-the-top silly in parts. Afterwards we had an early dinner at Dehn's Country Manor, a supper club that's been popular in the area for ages. Both of my Grandmas were with us and they both used to go to Dehn's back in the 50s through 70s. I think the same waitresses were working there back then!
Yesterday was another lazy day at home, though my brother Jon and his girlfriend Heather stopped by early and stayed the whole day. Later my sister Rachel came with her toddler Emory, and then my brother Josiah and his wife Nessa showed up with Haven & Oaklyn. I worked on my mom's non-profit organization's website & we planned Mom & Dad's visit to Windbird in the Exumas in late March. It turns out my brother Steve is also going to be in Florida in early Feb, and he's going to try to do the crossing to Bimini and Nassau with us. Steve is a keen sailor (he and I used to own a 21' Santana together) so I really hope that works out.
Last night Mom, Dad, Dawn and I travelled down to my sister Sarah's for dinner & to see the house that she and new hubby Scott just bought. Scott's daughter Emelia is a bit older than Sarah's kids Justice & Ariella, but not too old to play, which along with their giant poodle Chai and new Chihuahua puppy Essie (and Scott's older daughter Kayla) makes for a VERY busy household! For those keeping score, I have five siblings (3 brothers, two sisters), the three youngest of which are married and have 7 kids/stepkids. I'm the oldest, & our house growing up was just as loud & chaotic as Sarah's is now if not moreso. My parents are absolute saints as far as I'm concerned - they deserve a late-winter escape to go pet some swimming piggies in paradise!
Yesterday I called the boatyard and got confirmation that the chainplates and stem iron are mostly back in the boat and the mast may be ready to go up as soon as this afternoon. We'll see. Dawn and I were up at 3am to catch the 6:25am flight to Detroit...all the flights to Atlanta filled up (surprise, surprise). We should be back to Charleston around noon and will be at the boatyard this afternoon. I am so looking forward to seeing Windbird's new rig go up, and to getting her back in the water where she belongs. I go to work on Thursday and have very few breaks until the New Year, so we'll see when we actually get her launched. But the end of the beginning is finally in sight; we can now look forward to turning our bow southward and leaving winter well astern.