The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Goodbye Florida...For Now

OK, it's as done as done can get...we said goodbye to the great folks at Snead Island Boat Works (a little lighter in the wallet), and turned Once Around over to Capt. Steve for the trip to Beaufort, North Carolina.  We will meet him there in less than two weeks.  My lovely lady and I are headed back home to get everything set there for our departure May 1st. This past few days has been hectic, to say the least.

So, tonight we took a few minutes to stop and smell the ocean air.  Here is the view from where we had dinner.

Florida, we'll be year!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Ju-Ju Dance

Ever since we purchased the new boat, my bride hase been adamant we follow the particular ritual for re-naming a boat.  A month ago, she began referring to this ritual as the "Ju-Ju Dance" (in typical Jones fashion where "Ju-Ju" has asolutely nothing to do with the whole thing).  Now, I have purchsed a couple of boats in my life and re-named each one without any fanfare, nor any unusual calamity.  However, Carrie researched the proper way to do this and once you know the superstition, well, you just don't want to take any unnecessary chances, right?

It seems that since time immemorial sailors have petitioned the god(s), be that Neptune (Roman) or Poseiden (Greek, and my favorite) to log the name of every new ship to sail the high seas and to pray for it's good fortune.  Likewise, to re-name a boat, legend has it that you need to first petition Poseidon to first remove the old boat name from his log and then to add the new name.

Somewhere (thank you Google) Carrie found the proper procedure for doing this and was insistant we follow it to the letter.  Arriving ahead of her this week, Leo and I were instructed to remove any reference to "Boundless" from the boat; not only the name on the transom, but key chains, owner's manuals, coffee cups...anything.  OK, fine, done.  Only then could the new name be applied.

Today, we finished the ritual, imploring Poseidon and Neptune (OK, I'm Italian, so I can't ignore the Roman god) to remove "Boundless" and add "Once Around" to his log of the ships of the sea and ask for his protection for all who sail on her.  It involved Champagne (a good thing), although some of it got spent on pouring overboard (for the gods enjoyment, of course), and when all was said and done, well, it was done.  And the Admiral was happy.

Here's me opening the Champagne

And here's Carrie wasting...err...offering it to the gods.

 "Once Around" is official.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leo Goes Boat Shopping

So with all this boat shopping, Leo felt a little left out.  So, today he thought he found a great "starter boat".  He really got excited, take a look:

OK, it was a starter boat, but it needed quite a bit of work:

Thankfully, shortly afterwards, he stumbled upon a boat that fit his budget:

Maybe we've been away too long...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fathers and Sons

Leo and I had been jamming around Florida for a few days when last night he came up with the idea to go to a Tampa Bay Devil Rays MLB game.  "Sure", says I, "go ahead and see if you can get us some good seats for tomorrow night."  Next thing I know I'm handing him my AMEX card, feeling a little nervous.  Oh well, what the heck, it's a father and son night after what we expect to be a long day today at the boatyard.  And we were right.

So tonight, a little tired but excited for just about anything outside a boatyard, off we went to Tropicana Field in St. Petersberg.  I knew Leo had bought seats somewhere behind home plate, and when I stopped for a hot dog and beer shortly after entering the ballpark, he mumbled something about maybe having food service, he thought.  Talk about a couple of bumpkins.  We wound our way around to our section and walked pretty much all the way down to the floor of the stadium before we reached our seats.  Here's a shot from there:

As we sat down in the high backed, fully padded reclining seats (softer and better than first class airline seats) an elderly usher walked up and asked, "First time in these seats gentlemen?"  How did he know?   Well, the hot dogs and beers were a dead giveaway.  Seems we missed the part where we were supposed to go down an elevator to a concierge guy named Angelo and get a wrist band.  I couldn't quite fathom that so as we re-entered properly I took a picture of Angelo greating the guests that arrived just after us:

Also, our tickets weren't just for food and booze service, everything was covered!  Not only beer and hot dogs, but a full blown buffet upstairs in a sky lounge that Leo commented was like the Solon's Club at Raley Field on mega-steroids!  Here's a shot of Leo after a plate of pasta up there.

Oh, yeah, and we saw a great ballgame.  Tampa Bay 4-3 in a 10th inning walk-off two run home run!

Cost of these two tickets:  Ridiculous.

Being at a ballpark and getting served like a country club:  Over the top.

Being with your boy at a ballgame:  Priceless!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

East Coast-West Coast, What's In a Name?

I have flown back and forth from California to Florida more times in the last month since we bought the boat than I ever thought possible.  My jet lag is jet lagged.  I wake up in the middle of the night and am at a loss as to where I am.  (Carrie would probably say tell you that this is my normal condition, but it's not usually this bad!).  At least twice today I heard workers referring to the "west coast" or "east coast".  It took me a while to realize they were talking about each side of Florida, not the 3,000 miles over which I had been bouncing to and fro!  East coast, west coast, my butt!  Maybe I am losing it...

Speaking of my First Mate, she bailed out on accompanying me on this trip, purportedly because her broken toe is too sore to participate in the chores planned for this week.  While that is true, she is the one losing it if she thinks I do not know that the real reason she stayed at home was her BUNKO group's meeting on this coming Thursday.  Her BUNKO group is akin to my RAT group in that the ladies have become very good friends over the years, and this will be her goodbye to them for a year.  I don't know what the big deal is, instead of all that stimulating business stuff we RATs talk about, they talk about "girl stuff"...yech!   However, there are two things I have learned not have an opinion about, Yoga and BUNKO.  Well, there are probably more things than that if I really was honest...

Lucky for me my son Leo (22, 6'-4" and strong as hell) was happy to fill in for his mom.  He and I travelled out here to supervise the work in the boatyard, aka, continually authorize additional spending (hey, I could run for congress) and to unload the container full of equipment (and our dinghy) which we had shipped from the shop last week. After a hard day's work our stuff is now in a different container at the boatyard.  That is due to the fact that we cannot really get it on the boat, because the workers are swarming over, under and around every part of it.  In addition to the crew begining to install the dinghy lift, today there were two electricians installing an inverter and thruster wiring, another two guys working on the shafts and seals, two more mechanics working on miscellaneous items and at least two guys outside working on paint repair and buffing out the hull.  Once Around is being babied and dolled up.

Meanwhile, Leo and I are enjoying the Florida sunshine.  Of course, BUNKO is Thursday night, so Friday the Admiral is hopping a plane to join us, aka, make sure when we move our stuff from the container to the boat this weekend we put everything in exactly the right place.  Well, I guess that's better than doing it twice, right? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The People You Meet, Part II

Back when I first started writing about our adventure I mentioned that almost every Looper we have ever spoken to who had done the Loop said, "The best thing about the Loop is the amazing people you meet along the way".  Early on, I told you the story of Kymble and Judy, who we met on our first day in Florida.  The second installment about great folks comes from another unexpected source.

From the minute we met Tom and Elaine, the sellers of "Boundless" (soon to become "Once Around"), we hit it off completely.  Tom and I shared the constuction industry, community banking, good taste in first mates and obviously boating.  They have been amazing throughout the process, but most of all since the sale was completed, helping me sell the dinghy, taking the boat to the boatyard and basically being an extension of us as we tried to ready the boat for the Loop from California.  Tom has loaned me all the charts for the great lakes and sat with me for hours talking about various highlights of their trip, encouraging us to go here or there.

To imagine that we could become friends seems impossible, but these are truly special people.  Today we received the photo and note below it from Elaine.  Perhaps it illustrates what I mean better than I can say:

Dear Carrie and Frank,

You are about to embark on an adventure of  a lifetime that only a few dare to experience, the Great American Loop!  Everyday will bring amazing things into your life, wonderfully kind people, nature in all her glory, incredible sights and personal accomplishments.  You will fall in love again with yourself, with your mate and with all that you hold dear.

You will encounter mountains of pink granite in the Benjamin's, a great restaurant only accessible by water, the grand lighthouse of Mackinaw Island, exquisite gold courses in Northern Michigan, the thrill of floating thru downtown Chicago, the best cheesebhurger at Alton, Illinois Fast Eddit Bonaire, the magic of Wal-Mart and laundromats, and the most romantic place on earth, Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys.  You will discover places with the clearest water you could ever imagine and places so quiet that you can actually hear yourself think.

All along the way, "Boundless" will carry you wherever you ask her and she will do so safely and in style.  As you arrive into each port of call aboard this majestic vessel with her elegant navy hull, you will be met with those in awe of her beauty and inspired by your adventure that many dream about but only a few will experience.

In the refrigerator on you new home, you will find a bottle of wine.  We invite you to raise your glass upon your departure and with us in spirit, make a toast to an adventure of a lifetime.  As your trip comes to end and you cross your wake, you will both look at each other and say, "That was one helluva trip, let's do it again!!!"

                                                                               God Speed -
                                                                                        Elaine & Tom

We understand that Tom and Elaine have already chosen their next "Boundless", and the deal is to close in the next week or so.  They plan to cruise this year to the northeast.  We hope to cross paths somewhere along the eastern seaboard.  We wish them calm seas and good cruising.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's Good to be King!

OK, I'll admit, I am spoiled.  Buying a boat 3,000 miles from home is one thing.  Getting work done on it, and getting everything from California to Florida has been a real challenge.  Lucky for me, the guys at work are resourceful, talented and motivated...if only to get me the hell out of here!

Bright and early this morning, the Admiral and I went in to the shop and sorted through all the stuff we had set aside to send to the new boat. I am not at all sure it will all fit in Once Around, but it is on its way!  I plan on meeting it there next week.  If everything is on track the boatyard should be ready to set the dinghy on the new hydraulic swim platform and launch the boat.  Then I can load all our STUFF, so the boat can be sent to North Carolina where Carrie and I will catch up with it around the first of May.

Today was a great milestone.  Shipping our dinghy and personal belongings from the shop to the boat yard in Florida was no meager effort.  One of our vendors was arm twisted by Eric Jr., one of my managers, to truck an aluminum container (for a price) across the Country.  A bunch of the crew pitched in to help me load the container and move one step closer to departure.  Eric S., our resident carpenter, built bunks to ship the dinghy on, and the rest of the shop crew pitched in to help load and secure everything.

Some of the guys apparently will miss me more than others.  Our truck driver, Todd, for example.  He has been driving for us since my children were in diapers, and we have a kind of "special" relationship.  (Todd does a great imitation of Forest Gump, but that dog don't hunt with me!).  Most of you would think that the owner of a company our size would know what is going on throughout the firm.  Bull-%#&*!  Whenever I want to know what's happening around the company I seek out Todd.  He hears all the gossip, from Arizona, LA, Las Vegas, Spokane, wherever we are working, most of which is nonsense, but some of which hits home.  Anyway, Todd (acts like he) is convinced he only keeps his job by my good graces.  That, of course, is also nonsense; good drivers are hard to find (and keep).  But, don't tell Todd that, PLEASE!  Besides being a great driver he cracks me up!

My first mate and I worked hand in hand today, and we are exhausted.  We both have our "list" of things we need to get done to keep our dream on schedule.  And it seems like every time we cross something off one of our lists we add two more items.  However, as she pointedly noted today, "The difference is that you have people to delegate your list to...and my list is all mine to do".  I just smiled and said, "It's good to be king..."  She threw her water bottle at me!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Venus, Mars and the Un-Answerable Question

This has nothing to do with boats.  I had debated even writing it, but when the subject came up yet again this morning, I knew I must.

As you know last weekend we spent a few days in The Big Easy with our RAT friends.  One afternoon a group of us stopped for a cocktail around 5PM, and then returned to our hotel to rest and clean up for dinner.  I took the usual 15 minutes to shower and throw on a pair of chinos and a rumpled looking linen shirt and settled in comfortably to wait for my lovely bride.  I was pretty mellow and in no rush.  Translated:  My defenses were down.

Earlier that day Carrie had purchased a pair of open toed sandals that quite frankly weren't her style.  She was trying to find anything that would look somewhat nicer than the clog looking shoes she had been wearing to protect her broken big toe.  I told her at the time I thought she was crazy to risk someone stepping on her toe, but...

I think I dozed off waiting for her to shower and get ready.  As she walked through the door into the sitting area of our room, I was surprized to see that she had on a very sexy fitted dress along with the aforementioned sandals (which took away from the otherwise great look of the dress).  She asks me, "Does this dress look allright?" 

Now we have been happily married for two and a half decades, and that didn't happen by me being an idiot...well, not often at least.  Every married guy worth his salt should have recognized that she has asked a very deftly disguised version of, "Is this dress too tight", or the real root best never answered question, "Does this dress make my butt look big?"   However, after one martini and a snooze, I was not at my sharpest and responded, "You are dressed much nicer than I am, and I am pretty sure everyone else is dressing pretty casual tonight, too".  She responds, "You think it looks too tight, huh?"  I knew I was in trouble, but dug the hole a little deeper by saying honestly, "It does look a little tighter than what you normally wear, but it looks gr..."  Game over, she spins on her heels and heads back into the bedroom to change.  I quietly leave to join my friends at the bar downstairs, knowing this is not going to end well.  I had started out not wanting to tell her the shoes didn't do justice to her dress, and I had ended up making her think she looked bad in it.  Great!  What a moron I was!  I would probably never again see her in that sexy dress.  Worse, I might have really hurt her feelings.  Why do women ask those dumb questions anyway?

A few minutes later Carrie joins us looking great in a pair of designer jeans and a low cut blouse.  As often happens when she enters from across the room, she takes my breath away, and I break into a great big open smile having completely forgotten that she might be upset over the dress incident.  It is a good thing my smile was genuine, too, because if she thought for a moment my it was just a way to make up to her, she would have my head in a basket.  She half-jokingly reminds me of the dress discussion, but doesn't seem to be holding a grudge.

Then, this morning, three days later as she is unpacking she comes accross the dress.  Walking to her closet I hear her mumble something about taking it back to Nordstrom, or wherever.  I know this is not over...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Farewell to RATs

We are returning home today from New Orleans, Louisiana.  We have been on a five day mini-vacation with four other couples enjoying the weather, the food, the music and most of all the time with good friends.  It is our annual "RATs with Wives" trip.  With only a month to go before we leave on the Loop, this trip could not have come at a less opportune time, but we just could not miss it.

RAT is a group of seven CEOs from companies in the Sacramento area that have been meeting for nearly fifteen years now.  We meet all day every other month or so and share common business problems along with performing business reviews annually on each individual company.  Sounds pretty boring, huh?  Well an interesting thing happened over the years as the seven (originally eight, we lost Hal to cancer in 2004) of us spent so much time together.  We developed a very deep friendship.  We began early on inviting our wives once a year on one of these mini trips, and soon they too became close friends.  All of us have shared not only the ups and downs of business, but we have also shared the trials and tribulations of raising children and watching as they grew up and began to make their own way in life.

Sometimes we think we should have named our group CATS, (as in difficult to herd), as no matter how far in advance we plan these trips, it always seems that one or two couples get pulled away by the press of business or family issues.  So sadly Steve, our fearless leader and Jim, our guiding optimist, and their wives were unable to join us this trip.  We missed them.  Nevertheless, the five of us remaining (Todd, Robbie, Stan, Buddy and yours truly) and our wives did our best to sample as many of the fine eating (and drinking) places as possible in this craziest of all American cities.  It is Sunday morning and my head is aching despite three cups of strong New Orleans French roast coffee!

Two of the funniest episodes this trip both (not surprisingly) came from Carolyn, Buddy's bride. 

After our "Swamp Tour" which involved watching alligators being tempted to show themselves to the tourists for marshmellows and hot dogs, along with some beautiful backwoods scenery, several of us decided we needed a beer and some munchies.  Carrie and I caught up with them just as their order arrived:  Deep fried onion rings, deep fried calimari, deep fried artichoke hearts and yes, deep fried crawfish...mmm good.  Just as the food arrives Carolyn quips, "Buddy, this looks like dinner at your grandma's house!"  You see, Buddy's family hails from Alabama, so he takes Carolyn's jab as a compliment!  We proceed to clear the plates...

Shortly after being seated at our second group dinner (this one at K-Pauls), I told Eric our waiter to be sure to keep an open bottle of red wine close to Stan all night, I didn't want to have to listen to him whine like he had the previous night about slow wine service.  Eric takes me seriously and looks askance at Stan, but breaks up completely when Carolyn adds, "And if you have a little bag of Cheerios and maybe some color crayons, that should help keep him quiet, too!" 

Unlike my grandchildren, the RATs and their wives understand what a year away means and a lot of the discussion was us schooling them on our loop route, as well as some of the logistics of our trip.  They are all supportive of our insanity, and I imagine some, if not all, of them may join us for a visit.  I even floated up (no pun intended) the idea of a "RATs with Wives" trip for early to mid-September in Chicago.  They seemed to like the idea and will run it by the others.

This weekend may be the last we see of many of these great friends before we leave for the east coast.  To us they are like "the family you choose", and we will miss them sorely.  Farewell my RAT brothers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

To Thrust or not to Thrust?

We will begin with yet another addition to our (Unofficial) Glossary of Boating Terms:

Bow Thruster-an electric motor driven propeller mounted in a cylinder cut into the bow of a boat below the water line that is controlled from the helm, allowing the skipper to "adjust" the direction of the bow in small increments while docking or otherwise manuevering the vessel.  Photo below (not our boat).

After another whirlwind trip to Florida, the new boat has now been moved to a boatyard off Tampa Bay on the Manatee River, where she will undergo a few minor repairs and a few major upgrades.  I met with Dave the mechanic, Rick the marine electrician, along with Barb the sign lady who will be applying the new name Once Around to the boat once Steve the foreman's crew is done with the patching and painting required, after they remove the old swim step...and another vendor installs the new hydraulic step...whew! 

The only tough decision was whether or not to spend the money installing a bow thruster.  My first large boat did not have one.  The Testa Dura does, and I have to admit that I have become a little spoiled.  It is a tough decision for two reasons; first, it is not cheap (see BOATT) and second, purists (experienced captains who don't have bow thrusters on their boats) will tell you not so subtly if you knew how to handle your boat, you wouldn't need one!  It would be easy if the things were quiet when operated, but the damn things make a loud whirrrring sound, so everyone on the dock within a quarter of a mile hears the poor skipper who needs to make a last minute correction to avoid hitting the dock or some other calamity.  Heads turn and they smile inwardly as they wait for the rookie to finally quiet down. 

So, using a thruster is a last resort for me, but it's still better than banging the boat around the slip or swinging away from the dock in the wind.  Once as I pulled Testa Dura into my slip in Ventura, our friend Bobby from Amore Mio a few slips away walked over to assist us with dock lines.  The wind took me a bit. I tapped the joystick and a brief WHHRRRR (it always seems louder when I do it) brings a smile to Bobby's face.  He shows his true colors a bit however when he says, "Showoff" (see, he really wishes he had one!).  Gloomily I respond, "No, showing off is having one and NOT using it".

Now given all that, it seems wierd to me to spend that kind of cash on something you would just as soon never use.  The closest analogy I can come up with are those cool safety features they are advertising on the new Mercedes, especially the one where the car knows if you are falling asleep at the wheel and wakes you up.  Imagine if that were an "option" on which you had to decide on it or say, your new jet ski.  You'd find yourself thinking...Wow, that's cool as heck, I think I'll spend a small fortune on it...hope I never need it! 

I finally decide that I am going to be doing a boater's lifetime of docking, locking and other manuevers in the next year.  Purists be damned, I tell the boatyard to go ahead and order the new bow thruster.  My dad used to say, "Discretion is often the better part of valor".  I think that applies here somehow.