Thursday, August 16, 2018

Our Crazy Summer Ashore & Aloft

It's absolutely incredible to me that it's already mid-August, the summer is almost over, and Windbird has already been on the hard for over two months. We've been quite busy working, visiting friends and family, traveling, and doing other fun land-based stuff in that time, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down at all between now and when we head back to Puerto Rico at the end of October.

First, I'm glad to say it's been a very quiet Atlantic hurricane season thus far, not just for our sake but also for all the islands and communities still rebuilding from Irma and Maria. The sea temps in the tropical Atlantic have been average or below-average, with persistent high upper-level wind shear that has prevented much cyclonic formation. We had one category I hurricane, Beryl, go through the Lesser Antilles and weaken to a tropical storm before passing just south of Puerto Rico in early July, but all activity since then has taken place in the subtropical Atlantic, where sea temps are above average. Of course we are just now entering the heart of the storm season, from now until late September. Here's hoping it continues to underwhelm.

When we left Windbird in early June, we spent one night in Old San Juan and then flew to Atlanta, where our Nissan XTerra was parked in an ATL airport employee parking lot. This was Piper's first time being shipped by air, and he seemed to handle it very well. I was jumpseating on the same flight in my pilot uniform, and was thus able to go out on the ramp and check on him & give him a little snack both before and after the flight. Once we landed in Atlanta, we had a lunch with friends Kevin & Jeannie and then hit the road, driving to Nashville. Unbeknownst to us, CMAFest was in full swing at the time, and downtown Nashville was CRAZY! Piper handled the commotion remarkably well, just a year or two ago he would have been shaking with fright. I think the cruising lifestyle has really helped him get over his fears (namely, adult strangers, bicycles and loud noise).

The next day we drove all the way to Minneapolis, and the day after that to Rosholt, SD where we moved in with Dawn's parents for a couple months. Tom and Marg live on Lake Traverse, which forms the border between MN & SD. Shortly after moving in, we installed a mooring system off of their dock and I helped Tom set up their 25' MacGregor sailboat, so Dawn and I have been able to do a little lake sailing! But actually, I've spent very little time in SD considering how busy we've been.

I started flying a full schedule in June. Because landing currency isn't a problem for me in the summer, I've been bidding almost all Europe flying on the B767-300ER, with layovers in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam (and U.S. layovers in New York, Orlando, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh). I've also made getting current in small planes a priority for this summer,  which has led to some really cool experiences. On a Frankfurt
layover, I flew an Ikarus C42 microlight from Flugplatz Mainz-Finthen up the Rhine River Valley, and in Paris I flew a classic taildragger Robin DR.221 out of Saint-Cyr-l'Ecole airport (both of these with an instructor, as my FAA license does not automatically transfer to JAA). In my hometown of Princeton, MN, I got checked out in a rental Cessna 172 so I can take my nephews and nieces flying this summer. And this past week, I used a long Orlando layover to go to Jack Brown's Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, FL, to start a 2-day seaplane rating course in a Piper J-3C floatplane. After I finished the work trip, I flew back to Orlando for day two of training and the checkride, which I passed with "flying colors." It's been really enjoyable getting used to flying small planes again. Dawn and I both miss owning our Piper Pacer, and the question of what plane we'll buy "post-boat" has been a frequent topic of discussion.

Another disused form of recreation that we've revisited this summer is riding our motorcycles. From July 7-18, we took off on a 2500 mile trip to the Black Hills, Colorado, and Utah. Dawn's been wanting to ride out there for years, and it proved to be a pretty epic trip with beautiful riding, good hiking and nice camping. We spent time in Arches, Canyonlands, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, which were all eye-poppingly gorgeous. The bikes ran quite well considering I had only recently resurrected them from two years of disuse. We did, however, wait just a little too long to replace Dawn's rear tire, leading to a flat about 20 miles outside Page, AZ. The bikes are currently stashed in a storage unit near Salt Lake City airport, and we'll be heading out there next week for a 5-day ride to Portland OR with my best friend, Brad Phillips, who bought a bike in SLC for the trip. Hope we can avoid forest fires, this has been a crazy fire season out west.

Also in July we headed north of the border for a weekend to visit our friends Dane, Mak and Isla from S/V Sea Otter. We camped together at Falcon Lake (90 mi east of Winnipeg) for two nights and then hung out in Winnipeg for a 3rd night. Just before our arrival, Dane and Mak shared the exciting news that they're expecting their second child (a boy)! Sea Otter is still for sale in Ft. Lauderdale; they'd like to return to cruising in another five or six years, once the kids are old enough to appreciate it. It was so good seeing these guys, it's like we've known them for years though we really just hung out for several weeks this season. We hope to have them all down to Windbird sometime in the next few years. Incidentally, we took Piper with us on this trip as Isla loves playing with him, and he's very good with kids. Canada is the sixth country Piper has visited.

For the first part of August, we moved to my parents' place in Princeton, MN, as Dawn has been helping my mom in the runup to her annual charity 5k race, which takes place this Saturday. Being closer to the Twin Cities has made my commute to Atlanta easier, and we've been able to hang out with my family and catch up with our Twin Cities friends (some of whom will be coming to visit the boat this winter). Last week I had lunch with my first flight instructor, Jerry Graham - it was really good seeing him, he's one of the people in my life who was instrumental to me becoming an airline pilot.

Our next big adventure (well, after the next motorcycle trip) is in mid-September, when we'll be taking Paul to Europe for two weeks. He's never been outside the U.S., so we'll enjoy showing him around Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands. We're renting a BMW 3-series to thrash around the Autobahn, will be in Munich for Oktoberfest, and are visiting the famed Nurburgring racetrack for a few practice laps on a "Tourist Day." We'll be flying back on October 3rd.

And then finally in late October, we'll return down to Puerto Rico and get Windbird ready to splash the first week of November. In the meantime I'm having a throughhull replaced, the bottom repainted, and some carpentry work done to the aft cabin sole. After our crazy summer, I'm looking forward to the more relaxed pace of cruising!