Stars, Sails - the Parallax View
A family of astronomers at sea... coming soon to a galaxy near you...
Veterinary Prep for the Bahamas
Heather/ sunny and 70F
01/06/2012, Key West (Boca Chica)

A little delay in updating this: my apologies! Derek drove me up to Miami on Tuesday and they removed the "surgery" splint I'd been in since they put the plate on my wrist:
Lookit them screws in my wrist! That'll excite the metal detectors...

I know, those screws are pretty long.

They instead installed a Munster cast (no, not the big green guy -- it's designed to keep me from supinating, turning palms-down, which could mess up my future ability to turn palms-up, pronating) that I'll have on for three weeks. It's racier than the previous three-week cast, however, in that it's black:
Back, only this time in black
Back in Black...cast

We stopped a Bobalu's for a take-out pizza. This place is on Coppitt Key just north of Key West, and they have excellent pizza for reasonable prices:
Bobalu's Pizza Coppitt Key

Derek has been very busy the whole time -- not only has he had to take over more of my usual chores, he's been continuing to do his own boat projects. Here is the other base for the helm seat, the one in front of the helm rather than on the back deck. He installed not only the mount, but changed out the hinges on the deck locker and installed bolts to be sure that the locker will stay firm and closed in a seaway:
The deck locker mounted hydraulic helm seat
He then installed an adjustable footrest so that we'd all fell secure at the helm when the boat's underway.

The latest front has almost finished kicking the winds up and temperature down in the Keys, and we are thinking of heading to the Bahamas. And to prepare for that, we need to make sure the cat has all the documents she will need to clear into the Bahamas -- and points south. I found several useful sites. This one has a list of veterinary requirements (Dec 2006) for most of the Caribbean and Bahamas, although is short on links:
Travel With Pets In The Bahamas and Caribbean from "All At Sea" Dec 2006 issue
And this one has links to actual forms, but they would like to sell you their services. Still, the small animal International Veterinary Health form can be hard to find:
Finally, the form as requested by the Bahamas. Note: they will accept a FedExed request and they will fax your permission for an extra $5, as mentioned in their cover page: Application to Import Domestic Animals (including pets)
NOTE ADDED 1/12/2012: The Bahamas faxed back the permit on Thursday, which would be three days after they received that UPS express envelope).

So, today was V-day (for vaccination? vet??):
cat in carrier to see vet

We love that carrier, BTW -- it folds flat and stows on a little shelf forward of the forward bulkhead in the head (accessed through a circular hatch). When you want to use it, the steel tubular construction and strong snaps make setup easy. There is even a little hook to hold the zipper secured when she is in there -- no "kitty pushes her head through the tiny hole where the zipper closes" syndrome. But where to take her?

Being Navy folk, we called the Naval Air Station's veterinary services number and reached Morale, Welfare and Recreation, who told us that there are currently no veterinary services at Key West. Apparently, the Army was supplying the veterinarian, so they wanted the revenues from the service. But the Navy was supplying the building and maintenance, so they wanted some of the revenues, too. And the two just couldn't agree on the proper split, so they canceled the whole thing, for this year at least. Which for the servicemen and women stationed here (and the rest of us) means that an exam and rabies shot that would have cost $5 from Veterinary Services will cost $69 (that's including a 10% military discount). Who's winning this vet battle? Not the personnel, anyway.

Nonetheless, we went to a local vet who does give a military discount, were charmed by the place and the staff and the vet, and recommend him: The Cruz Animal Hospital on Ramrod Key. It's just north of mile marker 27 on the Gulf side, and it can be a little hard to spot (that's A1A Overseas Highway in the background):
Cruz Animal Hospital sign

Their sign is easier to see from the south, but even then it's in among trees.

The parking lot and street-face also doesn't look very much like a business is there (which is kind of charming!):
Street Face of Cruz Animal Hospital

And once you get in, it's a small space with everything you might need.. they even installed boat-style cleats at the counters so that animals on leashes can be easily secured while their human companion checks them in...
Cruz Animal Hospital inside

One thing I loved is that they are considerate. You know how most vet exam tables are stainless steel? To improve comfort and security of the cats and dogs, Dr. Cruz had a closed-cell foam mat fitted to the table top: it's a cinch to keep clean and it must be a LOT more comfortable than cold, slippery stainless! There are pictures of their patients all over the reception area, and some awards Dr. Cruz has received.

Interestingly one such award was for his surgically rescuing Key Deer who had been injured by cars. Key Deer, endangered, protected, are the reason the nighttime speed limit on Big Sand Key is 35 mph. It seems to be working, in that the Key Deer population is much better than it was in the 80s and 90s (and especially since the mid-50s, when the population was estimated at about 25 remaining individuals!): it's around 800 now, but cars kill 30-40 per year: the nice lady in the picture above saw one that had been killed by a car this morning as she drove to work. That's awfully sad, we've driven up and down the Keys multiple times but have never seen them -- we'll have to visit the side road they favor at dusk, I guess, to be sure of seeing some!

The Hyatt Caper
Heather/ sunny and 62 F
12/29/2011, Miami

Seriously, enough about the wrist: more on boat life, I swear -- we go back aboard tomorrow.

Tuesday we came to the Miami area to keep my Wednesday morning appointment with the hand specialist. We stayed in the Doral-MIA Extended Stay Deluxe, which, although roomy and not expensive for the Miami area, also was a bit iffy - vending machines and security, a vestigial complementary breakfast (no really, it has two "e" s -- no matter what the hotels usually print!), and one bed, with a sofa sleeper for Grant. Want more than one coffee? Buy it in the vending machine (yes, the coffee room-packs, in a vend-o). Want more than one fork in your kitchenette? Better go buy that, too.

Now, about the Hyatt...

But then came my hand appointment and in addition to the medical coolness I described yesterday (like the fluoroscope), they have a standing arrangement with the Hyatt across the street from the clinic: same price as the Extended Stay, but miles nicer! Just had to mention the clinic's name. Most excellent. Grant loves it. The room is huge and pretty, with two double beds, a desk with work area, and a large sectional sofa sleeper. And all the coffee you'd want. A small Starbucks-based cafe facility at the desk. Makes the other place look like a penitentiary (or that could be the lighting).

Today was Operation Day. Everything went well, if a bit slowly. The Miami denizens are all complaining of the chill in the air -- definitely unusually cold for this place, it went into the 50s last night. The medical building is kept at something like 68F -- fine if you are coming in from Miami heat, not so great if it's only 60-something outside as well!

When you have to go 18 hours without food or drink (even water), consider pre-loading at a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse). We had lunch yesterday at the Texas de Brazil (part of a churrascaria chain, we've eaten at the one in Las Vegas as well, since Grant LOVES these places -- possibly serving the steak from swords is part of the appeal). I was not allowed to eat or drink anything from midnight on, and my appointment was not until 11:30, but it was hardly any problem, due to the immense amounts of food a churrascaria will gently offer to you until you turn up the red side of the little card (meaning, "please, no more!"). After 90 minutes in the waiting room, I will admit that my tummy rumbled a little, and I missed morning coffee, but I had my Kindle and I knew that Derek and Grant would be having a nice lunch and a day's adventure together, so no big worries... aside from getting one's arm cut open and hardware installed ;-)

Spent a few hours in one of the gurney-beds, waiting for the next phase. Thank goodness for the staff being willing to supply warm blankets! They tell me my wrist will not be magnetic after this -- stainless steel, I guess. Gee, and I was considering designing a line of jewelry based on rare earth magnets...

The operation took a little over 30 minutes, but was not started until about 4 pm. There were so many operations in a single day! This is a very efficient practice. It was chilly in the facility, but as mentioned, they had a blanket warmer and were willing to bring warm blankets if patients (or even people in the very chic waiting room!) got cold. Conversations among both patients and staff were about 50-50 Spanish and English, although my impression is that all of the staff are bilingual. Anaesthesia was a "block" of the sensory and motor nerves below the elbow: again, very efficient and healthier for the patient, as it will cut down on postoperative meds a little (the block lasts from 12-24 hours depending on the individual. Mine is still completely in place at 8 pm. NOTE: but was gone by 9 pm. I must be a mutant).

Had another fun astronomy discussion in the O.R. There are a LOT of astronomy fans in that practice! I'm going to have to send them some nice piece of astronomy memorabilia... will think on that.

Derek and Grant made sure I was comfortable in our room, and have now gone out in search of adventure and/or pizza. The first thing Derek got me when he came to pick me up was a Starbucks latte. He da maaan. The second was my prescription for the pain meds. The third was a bowl of chicken soup from the snack bar downstairs. They are both awesomely thoughtful! Grant helped me on with my "astronomy" fuzzy socks, a set of star-spangled blue ultrasoft socks for keeping one's feet warm (much needed after that chilly day).

The Miami Operation
Heather/ sunny and 65 F
12/28/2011, Miami

We drove up to Miami yesterday so that I could be on time for an appointment with the hand specialist at 08:30 this morning. The hand clinic is really professional and the people are great! They took new X-rays (had a good discussion about astronomy with my radiologist: Mike?) and used a fluoroscope to look at the wrist while it was moving. Because of the additional angles the doctor could get this way, he was able to see what the three-angle view of the previous X-rays missed: the distal end of the radius was not only smashed into the bone shaft, but it was not symmetrically smashed in, so the whole end of the bone had rotated about 20 degrees off where it was supposed to be for the wrist to function. Oh, I guess that would explain why the ulna moved, too. So it needs a plate. So they are doing this tomorrow. So, that was fast...

After the operation I will possibly be out of commission for a time, and I am not sure how fast this blog will be updated. Most likely it will, anyway, even if (gasp!) Derek has to type it :-) But of course, it's New Years and we hope you all are having your own wonderful busy times, so that you will forgive us for the gaps of days in here.

The marina at NAS Boca Chica is working with us to try to keep us in some kind of slip while I am recovering. The doc here is willing to let me do the physical therapy in the Bahamas, how cool is that, so eventually when the next cast comes off we should be good to go. I will not be 100% at that point, but if the bones are all in the right places, I will at least be likelier to be able to push and pull and twist and turn a helm wheel and so forth... kind of necessary.

We went to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol tonight, not because we are big MI fans (although I certainly was as a kid!), but because Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) directed it: his first big-budget live-action film. Lots of beautiful locations and dramatic visual effects. And the technology works pretty well but there's always something that could have gone more smoothly, which is nice because in the real world people and things get messed up and tech does not always do everything it was supposed to do in the expected way, and there is operator error as well. The biggest no-no in that film was the idea that a nuclear missile can be deactivated at the last minute (seconds before impact and well after the ballistic phase inception). Ah, well, no, not unless things have changed drastically in that biz.

But recallable nukes or not, tomorrow is D-day for this wrist... more in the next post.

Things to do in Key West (while healing)
Heather/ scattered showers and 81 F F
12/22/2011, Key West (Boca Chica)

Well, what the doc is telling me now about the broken wrist is that it's a compressed fracture, meaning that the radius was smashed in on itself like smacking a wooden peg with a hammer until it bows out along its length and gets shorter. That's actually better (in some ways) than what I had feared -- that I had torn a ligament connecting the ulna to the radius.

The downside is that it will take a long time to be able to use the hand/wrist well and - perhaps - without pain. We are supposed to start 3x/wk physical therapy for 3 weeks, but the first available appt is the 30th. Getting a second opinion, since being the long-term use of a limb it seems like a good idea.

That's out of the way, now on to the good stuff: being tourists for a while.

First off, Key West is chock full of expensive good places to eat, and a few less expensive but still good, and a few more the other way 'round, and some standard strip-mall fare. We decided to have breakfast at the local Denny's... and aside from serving Denny's usual menu, the scenery was probably the nicest we've seen in a Denny's. Here's the view past the cash register (below the bottom of frame is a parking lot, left that out b/c they look the same everywhere):
Denny's Key West view

And if you are seated far from the Gulf view, this is what you see:
Grant and Derek by the pool at Denny's
Yes, that's a tiki bar and pool with fountains in the background. Grant wishes I would not take so many pictures... I think (hope) someday he may appreciate them.

On to even MORE touristy things! We have been here for weeks and never took Grant to the Mile Marker Zero on route 1, so here goes. You can see some very nice Key West southern homes in the background:
grant at Mile Marker Zero

We also had never taken him to the Southernmost Point buoy, so we just HAD to do that, too, even though it is not actually the southernmost point on Key West:
Grant at Southernmost Point buoy

Finally, we went to the Navy base which contains the actual southernmost land on the island. You can't get to that tip, restricted area. Got closer than the "southernmost buoy" though :-)
The real southernmost point on Key West, rendered safe.

And Derek, after our using a tall barstool as our helm chair for two overnight passages (difficult, not all that stable in a seaway), finally found what he was looking for: Attwood's adjustable height pedestal extra-tall fishing chair, from the the Swivl-Eze 238 family of fishing chairs and mounts/pedestals/bases. He installed the "storage position" base for it already - like, the day it all arrived, yesterday - and you can see the chair in this picture of our Christmas tree:
Oh Christmas tree

Even better will be when the "D base" (not "debase!") arrives. That (the "D" is so that it can mount on the available portion of the cockpit deck) will allow us to mount the helm chair at the wheel when we are underway, and it will be tall enough to allow the helm to see where we're going and stable enough that the helmsman won't have to wedge his/her feet in order to not be knocked over when it's rough. Woo hoo! I feel more secure already.

And even better in this image of "Papa" (not Hemingway) and his fighting helm chair:
Helm Chair arrives

As for the penguins stealing his sanity, well, no one is sure, but there are theories... Linux's symbol is a penguin, and recently the poor dear had to change his entire operating system to accommodate the latest versin of the Kepler data. Things broke, as they generally do when changing out operating systems, and it was a few-days mess for Derek. I think that adds some heft to the penguin character assassination going on on this tee shirt!

A Marina Sign You Can Read FROM SPAAAACE
Heather/ sunny and 81 F/ ENE 20
12/15/2011, Key West

Because of my broken wrist, and then because of our starboard engine, we extended our stay in Key West a bit, but that means we will have to move the boat around a bit. The first place we are moving her is Oceanside Marina, which is right across an apparent stretch of open water from the Navy marina we're in, but... not really. These are shallow turtle grass beds and sandbars, so we actually have to go out the channel from this marina to marker 3, turn right, head for the next channel southward's marker 3, and then come back in -- 3.5 miles, although it looks to be 1.2 miles as the kite-boarder flies ;-)

Anyway, that is what we are doing today and tomorrow - first, shuffling sideways to the slip beside the one we had been occupying (the Next Boat scheduled for this slip has arrived), then tomorrow morning first thing, heading out to Oceanside so Mark can work on the engine with easier access. We stay overnight at Ocean View (so goes the plan) and return to the Navy marina for a few more nights. As plans go, about standard -- where mechanical stuff is concerned, I never weight the probability of things "going exactly according to plan" at more than about 33%.

Thing is, we used Google to make sure we had to go that way, no channel across existed... yup. You can see all that easily from Google maps! And the data are 2011 USGS satellite data. Next, we checked out the marina itself, and you can see individual boats, awnings, masts, booms, and you can read the logo painted on the roof of the main building: "Key West Oceanside Marina"... from space! How cool is that?!
Marina Sign visible from space

More later, after we accomplish the "sideways slip shuffle" (sounds like a form of line-dancing... oh, wait, it IS... we take the lines and do a little dancing, with the wind blowing us in the correct direction).

Twenty Years. It's a tiny blink in time.
Heather/ sunny and 78 F/ NE 10 --> 28!!!
12/13/2011, Key West (Boca Chica)

Twenty years ago today, my mom passed away. It was very sudden, it was only ten weeks after her father (96 at the time) passed on, and Derek and I had been married that spring.

The first long cruising under sail we undertook was a direct result of that event: I was depressed as a result of the double loss (Grandad had lived with me and Mom for years before I went off to college, and lived with Mom until his passing) and had lost my zest for what I was doing in science. Derek saw taking a two-year break and going to sea together as a healing experience for me, and he was right -- I know Mom (and Grandad) would have approved.

We had such wonderful, funny, annoying, amazing experiences on that cruise (on S/V Paradox, our 1978 Allied Princess ketch, resold after returning) that when our son was born, we began planning Cruising Under Sail Part Deux. And my father, who grew closer with the family after my mother's death and the birth of Grant, was excited about this new cruise; he was looking forward to following it vicariously through this blog. I hope he's somehow aware of it now, that he shares in the beautiful moments that have already happened and the "more" that is to come.

And to everyone reading this: I hope you enjoy sharing in this, too! If you are a sailor and find our blog in a Google search for some useful piece of advice, or a friend from our travels or longer, or a family member, we love the idea that we can keep you up-to-date this way, and we treasure your informative "comment" posts and/or emails!

May the winds blow fair and not too hard for you, may the gentle rain bring you flowers, fruit, and flourishing life, and may you share the love in your heart with people who love you as well!

First Christmas Party (last night)
Heather/ mostly sunny and 75 F
12/10/2011, Key West (Boca Chica)

Last night I lit our Christmas lights for the first time since there was a first-of-season Christmas party at the Navigator's, the base bar and grill here at the marina (closest to the airfield). There was a guy with an amped guitar playing (pretty good!), and the intent was that we all buy drinks and hang out. Did that, sang along, sang Happy Birthday to one of the boating ladies, and danced with the group.
Navigator's Christmas Party Dec 9 2011

Navigator's Christmas Party entertainment

Went home early, walking down to our end of the dock with Ginger and Maury and Charlie, while Grant was still playing Skyrim (reward for completing school).

When it's light out, the only "Christmassy" thing is the wreath. At night, the rails are lit and there is a triangle of Christmas lights that comes up in the usual sailboat way.
Parallax Christmas

Got to say, getting those lights up the top-o-mast flag halyard was tough with one arm :-) Night pics of that later...

Had lunch with Grant in town at Garbo's Grill, which is a little, quilted, shiny metallic food trailer that serves at one corner of a car-park lot near the intersection of Greene and Simonton. Tasty freshly-prepared food to go (try anything with grouper or mahi in it. We also stopped at the Croissants de France at Grant's request, he's a fan of the pain au chocolat.

Then we came back to work on grading (me) and school (Grant).

Grading and Kepler Conference
Heather/ cloudy and 62 F/ NW 10
12/08/2011, Kew West (FL) and NASA Ames (CA)

This is the last week of my classes, and I am spending a lot of time grading. Derek is in California at NASA Ames at the First Kepler Science Conference, and so was on hand for the big announcement about the "Earth-like" planet Kepler 22b. They have been streaming the talks, but they have not put the recordings up on the Kepler website yet.

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S/V Parallax
Who: Derek, Heather and Grant
Port: Pensacola
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