Well, we are finally back in Colorado in our Louisville townhome, awaiting the delivery of our Audi to the dealership so that we can return to Marina del Reyand Murar's Dream. The next 10 days are getting jam-packed by the minute as new commitments and events arise. In the meantime, we thought it would be good to bring you up to speed on our journey back.
We left Marina del Rey at about 9AM and arrived in Las Vegas at about 2:30PM. We went by the Rio where we picked up our tickets for that night's show-The Platters, Coasters and Marvelettes. Then we were off to the Wynn where we checked in. The room was beautiful with a view from the 19th floor over the golf course at the resort. Andy quickly changed and headed for the fitness center where he did his usual workout-30 minutes on the stationary bike and then assorted weight machines. The facility was top-notch with TVs on all machines as well as free fruit and water. Debra stayed in the room to relax for that evening's events.
We were off to an early dinner at Valentino's in the Venetian, as the show started at 7PM. After some confusion as to which part of the restaurant we were supposed to dine in, we had happy hour in the lounge with four sashimi-style apps (tuna, salmon, swordfish, and another white fish) and two glasses of Barbera. Dinner was quite tasty with Debra dining on veal, and Andy had two apps-abalone and boar sausage. We finished and grabbed a taxi over to the Rio, arriving with only 5 minutes to spare. The show was quite entertaining, and then it was off to the casino to try and offset our expenses in Lost Wages. We walked next door to the Gold Coast where they have $5 craps tables, and after one hour, we were $200 ahead and decided to call it a night. We hopped a taxi back to the hotel and off to sleep for a 6AM wakeup call, as we had at least 10 hours of driving ahead of us.
We were spending the night at Joyce and Craig's in Silverthorne, so we decided to rendezvous for dinner at Moe's Barbeque in Lionshead. After dinner, we drove to Solverthorne and spent the night watching Wimbeldon. Got up the next morning to watch more Wimbeldon and then it was off for a hike up Ptarmigan Trail to the scenic overlook of Dillon Lake. We clearly felt the effect of becoming flatlanders, but we were able to accomplish our goal. It was then off to see Muriel Sharp since we had not seen her for almost a year. After catching up on our respective lives, we returned to Joyce and Craig's for dinner followed by "The King's Speech" on DVD.
This morning we drove to Denver to check on the status of the delivery of our Audi. It should be here next week, so that we will be able to return to LA for a Safety at Sea seminar on July 3rd. We then went for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant-El Paraiso on Harlan just south of I-70. If you live in or visit Denver, this is a must. It is true Mexican food, not the items normally found at your typical Mexican restuarant. We highly recommend the ceviche and the various hotpots.
That's all for now. We will let you know when the next blog is posted.
06/12/2011, Marina del Rey
We have completed our second blue water sailboat race (with Rick Ruskin as our tactician and Rich Hammer again working the sails along with Debra). The first leg was 30 miles from Marina del Rey to the western tip of Santa Catalina island with a return leg back to MDR. Saturday commenced with overcast skies and minimal winds. After about an hour of sailing, the winds began to fill in, resulting in a 15 knot wind slightly from behind. We were finally able to set our gennaker (an asymmetrical headsail-see lead photo) and sail for the final hours at about 8 knots, well heeled over. We finished off of the west end of Catalina Island in 4th place in our category out ot 11 boats. After handicaps were used to adjust our times (due to the variety of boats, they are given different time credits based upon the size, shape and sail configuration of the model of boat), we came in right in the middle of the field in 6th place-a very respectable finish for only our second race.
After finishing, we motored to Cat Harbor where we moored for the night. We lowered our dinghy and motored into shore where the yacht club put on a barbeque with free beer, sodas and water. We brought our own food and used their grills to cook steaks and chicken. After dinner, we sat around a campfire and helped people make smores. We returned to the boat and went to sleep for the night.
We awoke early on Sunday, ate breakfast, mounted the dinghy on the transom, and headed under motor for the start where we had finished the evening before, about 7 miles from the harbor. Weather conditions were not particularly suitable for racing-overcast skies and virtually no wind. After about a 30 minute postponement by the race committee in hopes of building winds, the race was finally abandoned, and we motored and motorsailed (winds did build for a few hours) our way back to MDR. After cleaning the boat and showering, we went to the after race party where we unwound. We are now back on the boat, calling it a day.
We have decided to head back to Colorado next Sunday, as our Audi is getting close to delivery in Denver. We will then return to the boat after Independence Day, as we continue our sailing adventures.
|Marina del Rey Activities||
06/10/2011, Marina del Rey
We decided to take a trip to Anacapa Island, the easternmost of the Channel Islands, 40 miles west of Marina del Rey. We knew that it would be a headwind trip over, so we left early (6:30AM) under motor. June Gloom has arrived (cloudy or foggy in the AM with final clearing in the afternoon). Fortunately, the winds never built up beyond 10 kts., so we arrived, as planned by early afternoon. We anchored in Frenchy's Cove on the westernmost portion of the island, sheltered from winds, except out of the northwest to northeast. Shortly after anchoring, the winds shifted to northwest, so we checked the weather report on our VHF radio, which forecast strong winds that night out of the northwest. This gave us no choice but to head for Santa Cruz Island for a cove protected from NW winds. The trip across of about 5 nautical miles went fine, and we located Smuggler's Cove on the eastern end of Santa Cruz. We anchored by late afternoon and after securing the boat, we enjoyed a dinner of Thai curry. We started with the entire cove to ourselves but were eventually sharing the cove with one other Beneteau that night. The cove is big enough that we only knew their presence, there being well over 100 yards between us. Then, as we were heading for bed, a powerboat arrived to anchor, but again we felt totally private.
We arose the next morning and prepared breakfast. We then took the motorized dinghy for a short trip around the eastern tip of Santa Cruz to check out another possible cove for the second night-Little Scorpion. Were able to view a blowhole up close, took a bunch of pics (check out the photo gallery) and decided to leave Murar's Dream where it lie at anchor in Smuggler's Cove.
Upon returning, we launched the kayak and checked out the rocks along the eastern end of the cove. We were joined at anchor by a second sailboat, so we decided to paddle over and say "Hello." It was a ketch (2 masted) skippered by a sole sailor. He sailed across from Channel Islands Harbor, only 12 miles away, for an overnight stay. Being a regular visitor to Santa Cruz, he gave us recommendations of the best coves for any future trip (we needed to return to MDR the next day to get ready for our weekend regatta). We returned to our boat for a leisurely afternoon of rest and reading.
Late that afternoon, we were joined in the cove by a second sailboat. We again decided to kayak over and say "Hello." Again, it was a solo sailor, but a very interesting person. He worked for Seaworld, tagging fish for research and catching fish to ship to aquariums around the world. He had just caught 15 baby sharks which he was about to ship off to Las Vegas for an aquarium in one of the hotels there. He was based out of Ventura Harbor, about 20 miles away, but regularly traveled around Southern California. He was scheduled to come to MDR and Catalina Harbor (to where we are racing tomorrow), so we may bump into him once again.
We left the next morning to return to MDR, expecting a nice trailing breeze which should build as the day progresses. We started under motor and were able to sail for about one hour, just east of Anacapa, when the winds decided first to die and then shift to our nose. Unfortunately, that meant motoring home, which was the order of the day. We docked at about 5PM, cleaned the boat, and went out for dinner.
That's the story of this adventure. Look for our next blog on Tuesday after we have completed our regatta to Cat Harbor and back this weekend.
|Marina del Rey Activities||
05/28/2011, Marina del Rey
What takes 53 hours and alot of commitment? Try sailing non-stop from San Francisco Bay to Marina del Rey, and that's the easy direction! Debra and I are back from our first true bluewater sailing experience. Last Tuesday, we were given the opportunity to crew a 58' Beneteau which finally needed to return to the MDR dealer from the Oakland sailboat show. I had previously lost the opportunity to crew on a 40' catamaran on the same journey, but now the opportunity opened for both Debra and me.
We spent Wednesday provisioning in preparation for a drive to Richmond on San Francisco Bay along with the captain (Jean Marie) in a rental car rented at LAX and to be returned to Oakland Airport. I did all the driving, as we left at 8:30PM and arrived at the marina at 3:30AM. After unloading the car, we were able to hit the sack by 4:00AM in anticipation of my task of returning the car and then finding my way back to the boat. I left at 6AM to avoid rush hour traffic, arriving at the rental car agency at 6:30. After taking the shuttle bus to the airport terminal, I hopped on the bus which took me to the BART station for a train ride to Richmond. I then had to catch a taxi to the marina which was still many miles away. After a stop at a gas station to get coffee for Debra (there was no cooking or heating available on the boat), we got to within 3 miles of the marina when the taxi had a flat tire. I walked down the street to a boatyard which called another cab for the remainder of my journey. I finally set foot back on the boat at 9AM.
After prepping the boat for the journey, we were officially on our way by 10AM. We manouvered through the northern bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge--quite an experience. Before getting to the bridge we had our first crisis when one of the parts necessary to operate the stay sail (a smaller headsail which is mounted inside the regular jib sail) failed. After fighting to get the sail under control and on deck, the captain and Debra finally secured it in the sail locker on the bow and we headed for the bridge. After a few tacks to get offshore, we turned south and began the long sail downwind. We continued to sail for the rest of the day with a nice tailwind. After two days and one night of uneventful sailing, we had to tackle the most difficult part of the journey-rounding Point Conception which is notorious for difficult wind and wave conditions. As we passed the point, the winds began to build to 30MPH and the seas similarly increased in size of trailing waves. This brought about the second crisis as the autopilot decided that it could no longer handle the load created by the wind and waves. Following an unexpected 180 degree turn of the boat at 2AM at night in pitchblack conditions, we were able to regain control after about 30 minutes (and several "Oh shits" by the captain each time he was having to fight the wheel) under extremely difficult and harrowing conditions after "reefing" (making smaller) both the jibsail and the mailsail. It took the captain about an hour of manual steering in very cold and windy conditions even under reefed conditions before we felt comfortable again using the autopilot, but it did work again.
Being somewhat nervous about another autopilot failure, the captain and Debra remained on watch as I caught some shuteye after having done a triple shift (6 hours). The captain had gotten so cold that when I arose, he was sitting in the salon trying to warm his body while Debra stood halfway into the salon of the cockpit staircase, semi-protected from the cold winds by the canopy (There was still a strong tailwind that blew in from the rear of the vessel). I took over the watch when Debra and the captain finally retired for some well-justified rest as daylight began to reach us.
We continued our sail towards home port having to "jibe" several times (switching direction of the sails as the wind passes around the rear of the vessel-something quite tricky under high wind conditions). We had two additional autopilot shut downs, but we were ready this time. As the winds continued to build, we were forced into a second reefing session where Andy learned a lesson about how to control the jib sheet (line that controls the angle of the jib) as the wind jerked it from his hands, finally being saved by a block (pulley) and a figure 8 knot at the end of the line. Eventually the winds began to calm down so we motorsailed the remainder of the trip as we were anxious to get home. We were really looking forward to some good food as pre-cooked, cold oatmeal (every morning), pre-cooked cold spaghetti (first dinner) and store bought, cold roasted chicken (second dinner), thinking that there was a microwave when there was none, really make you appreciate the true pleasures of life. We finally docked at 3PM, and I returned to pick up my car as Debra helped unload the vessel.
Debra was dog-tired, so she caught a catnap while I did some laundry. She eventually awoke, and we went to our favorite sushi restaurant for dinner. We returned to the boat for a long night's sleep, only arising after 9AM, our latest morning yet. Today are gale force winds, so we are not going out on the water today as we contemplate activities for the remainder of the day and into the future.
|Marina del Rey Activities||
05/19/2011, Boulder, CO
Well, we are officially back in Colorado, arriving at the house last night at 10:30PM, so here is the final chapter of our European journey:
The next day in Prague was once again very eventful. We expected a restricted day due to a forecast of heavy rain, but it did not materialize (only a period of showers in the middle of the night). Our first stop was to the Jewish Cemetery where they are buried 12 deep due to the fact that Jews were not allowed out of the ghetto from the 1100s until the mid-1800s, which included their dead. Quite a site, as the cemetery is only about one block square. Once the Jews were allowed out of the ghetto, 90% left the country. We also toured a couple of the old synagogues which are now no longer in use for all practical purposes. We followed up with a visit to the Museum of Communism, where they went through the period of Soviet occupation from government to everyday life with one in six Czechs being members of the secret police! We ended the tourism day with a visit to the National Museum which covered the 20th Century. The building was amazing being located in a park on top of what appeared to be the highest point in Prague. The view of the city was worth the climb, on foot, from the subway station to the hilltop.
On our way back to the hotel, we decided that we did not need another day in Prague so decided to head back to Germany a day early. We booked a hotel in Erding, a small town outside Munich and just a few miles from the airport. We then dined at the hotel and off to bed for a good night's sleep before another day of driving on the motorways and Autobahn.
We awoke the next morning and packed up. I took the bags out to the car only to discover that my driver's side widow had been smashed out--Some thief saw our portable GPS (a cheap one at that!) and decided that he wanted it badly enough to break the window at about 12:30AM--It was caught on surveillance tape. Why we did not hear it is beyond us as our room was only about 50 feet away, and the window was open. I guess that we are both sound sleepers. After spending an hour cleaning up all the pieces of shatterd glass from everywhere in the car, we had no choice but to drive to Germany without a driver's side window--The chance of finding an Audi dealer in Prague to replace the glass seemed highly unlikely. It was 50 degrees and overcast but fortunately no rain. We went back to the Audi delivery spot in Ingolstadt in hopes of getting assistance in getting the window replaced. After several phone calls by the Audi staff and mixed messages (one dealer claimed that the glass was different in an American vs. German version such that finding replacement glass on such short notice was slim to none as we had to turn the car in in 48 hours), the woman who helped with the initial delivery found a dealer in Erding who was willing to fix the window the following day. We drove to Erding, met with the service advisor, and the window was ordered for delivery and installation the following day.
We went to the hotel, the local brewery's personal hotel, checked in, walked around town, and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel where I had two glasses of the local brew-Erdinger Weissbier. The following day, we took the train into Munich and walked around the city center where we were able to experience the ringing of the Glockenspiel and their local food market where we enjoyed some good food at the small stands (sandwich, fresh juice and apple pastry). It was back to Erding where we picked up our bags, returned to pick up our now-fixed Audi and then delivered it to the drop off facility at the Munich airport, where we were scheduled to spend the night. After another German dinner, it was off to sleep in preparation for our flights home. Both Debra and I took advantage of the hotel's spa with 1/2 hour massages to relax our weary muscles for what we knew was going to be a long day of travel.
We arose early Wednesday AM, checked our bags in for the flight and went into the Business Class Lounge to await our flight out of Munich. The flight left right on time, and we landed at Dulles where we had a 3 hour layover for the Denver leg. After passing through immigration and customs, we went into the Red Carpet Lounge to await the Denver departure. Due to equipment and weather problems, we were almost 2 hours late leaving D.C. and arrived at DIA in some of the poorest weather conditions I can remember. The clouds were so low that you could not see the runway lights until just moments before touchdown, and it was so dark and rainy that you could not even see the terminal building or concourses until we were almost on top of them. After returning to our car, we drove home and went right to bed.
That's the end of this story. We return to Murar's Dream next Tuesday and are both looking forward to getting "home."
Debra and Andy
05/15/2011, Prague, Czech Republic
Well we on our second full day in Prague. Yesterday's weather cooperated as the rain which was expected in the afternoon held off until after midnight. Now to bring you up to speed:
After Auschwittz, we detoured to a rock salt mine outside Krakow. After descending almost 400 steps, we walked over 3 km, passing through numerous caverns created by the mining. Of these, several contained two Catholic chapels, one of which was huge. Apparently, the miners would go to mass (with a mine priest) each morning before going off to work since the death rate was around 20% before electricity was used for lighting in the early 20th century. The mine was started in the 13th Century, when salt was as or more valuable than gold (It was used to preserve meats for the various expeditions by invading forces in wartime).
We returned to Krakow where we dined at an Argentinian restaurant where they had steak with chimichurri sauce (good but nothing like Little Havana in Miami).
The next morning we began our longest drive of the trip to Prague. It took over 7 hours, even though most of it was on motorways with 80 MPH speed limits. The few times we went through small towns and a huge traffic backup getting out of Krakow really slowed us down. The motorways in Czech Republic were very bumpy concrete, which made the ride slightly uncomfortable. We arrived at our hotel in the suburbs of Prague and have a beautiful view out our balcony, as we sit atop a hill. We went into town on a tram where we dined at the Savoy Grill which was recommended by Radek of L'Atelier Restaurant. It was a good recommendation. We walked around a bit after dinner, but we were tired from the journey so returned to the hotel via public transport (subway and bus).
Yesterday was walking day-5 hours of walking tours. The first was of the old town and the latter was a trip to the castle across the river. We learned alot about the history of Prague from its founding through the liberation from Communism. This was a country which seemed to be occupied alot, starting with the Austria-Hungary Empire and ending with the Soviet occupation. They were finally liberated only a week after the Berlin Wall fell, even though the Czechs knew nothing about the collapse of the Soviet Empire! They simply had a public uprising consisting of 200,000 people clinking their keys on the plaza-a messageto the Communists that their time was over. We culminated the day with dinner along the river at Kampa Park, another of Radek's recommendations. Extremely fine dining with a table right on the river in warm, sunny weather as we watched the cruise boats going up and down the river.
It was supposed to be raining all morning, but we seem to have lucked out as it stopped during the night. Therefore, we will continue exploring the city on foot. Today is museum day because they are closed on Mondays, and we head back to Germany on Tuesday.
That's all for now.
Debra and Andy