Sunday, December 28, 2008

Global warming

Last week it didn't seem like global warming was having much of an impact on this winter; cold, cold and more cold! This week is a different story with temperatures near 70 degrees, rain, thunderstorms and even a tornado warning. (Within a week of New Year's day!) Today was warm enough for me to take the GSXR out for a romp. A short romp as the wind chill at speed sucked some of the warmth out of the day. The bad news is, with at least 2 and a half months to go, I got to thinking of spring. I have been spending a lot of time reading about sailboats trying to get through this winter.

One fun present for me this Christmas was a subscription to "Good Old Boat, The Sailing magazine for the REST of us!" You can read that as "those of us with little money." It is a good read with lots of boats older than Nomad that look in their prime. Good articles about servicing and replacing older systems fill the pages and somehow they make most of it sound like fun. (That's a pretty good trick if you have spent any time working on boats.) I've also found some good places on the web to read boat reviews and have run across a make or two that I hope to learn more about, maybe look at when we get to the next boat show. Also, if plans hold, I'll be in Ft. Lauderdale for a couple of days at the end of January. That would be a good time to find a boat or two to look at, maybe pretend that I can actually buy one of these days. Maybe I should just look for a job down there?

One of those boat reviews was on the Island Packet 460, close to the 465 that Deb and I looked at while in Annapolis. It sparked warm memories of a very good trip, and that's just the kind of thing a person needs to get through a winter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas away from a frozen boat

It is getting pretty close to Christmas. There will be family get-togethers, lots of fun, laughter and celebrations. I'm not sure what my schedule will be since there is a flight hanging out there I will probably have to cover, but I will get a chance to be with all of my girls over the next few weeks. That is a pretty special thing.

In a way Christmas has gotten a bit harder. I can't be all the places I want to be. My parents are near Pittsburgh, as is Deb's Dad and Step-Mom. Brothers and sisters are also in Pittsburgh with one hanging out near Charlotte. Amber, Mike, Catherine and Mary are in Cape Cod, and though we will see them in a couple of days (Yeah!) next year their Christmas will be in Cape Cod. Kristin and Brian will Christmas in Indy this year, Kristin way too close to being due to venture too far from home. (Yeah again!) My family is now three families which sounds pretty amazing until I realize that I can't even count how many families my parent's "family" has become; seven, eight, more? Hard to tell.

Maybe one day Deb's and my Christmas will be celebrated rocking gently at anchor somewhere warm. (Please! The older I get the less I care for this "4-degree" stuff.) Even though we haven't been to the boat in a couple of weeks thoughts of being back on Nomad and ghosting across the lake again help with the cold, short days of winter. Already today the sun shone one minute longer than it did yesterday, tomorrow will be a bit longer again. But if we ever make it to that warm beech on a Christmas morning, thoughts of family will surely fill that day as they do these.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Musings of a "perfect" day

The rain hitting the windshield at 220 KIAS was making an amazing amount of noise. A rogue early winter front had stirred up thunderstorms and tornado watch boxes that slashed across every place we were supposed to go this day. One storm had settled over the Memphis airport closing it to inbound traffic. This was a bit of a concern since Memphis was our stated alternate should the clouds at Tunica be closer to the ground than we were allowed to get on the GPS approach. Normally we would carry enough gas to have an alternate to the alternate but the first stop of the day had been in Caruthersville. That airport is only 4000 feet long. Hauling a bunch of extra Jet A in and out of there, along with 6 passengers, was really not an option.

Our little jet's RADAR was painting a solid bit of red just ahead so I turned to ensure that the passengers all had their seat belts tight and had stowed the normal stuff corporate people have out in the back of an airplane, charts, books, computers, etc. It looked like the rest of the ride into Tunica was going to be a bit bumpy.

By day's end we would do two GPS approaches in rain and thick clouds, dodge a couple of thunderstorms, shed a little ice, and finish a night ILS approach with a landing on a rain soaked runway in a 15 knot direct cross-wind. It was a perfect day of flying.

I suspect the folks in the back of the airplane had a different opinion of how good a day it was. For them it was a bouncy, loud, somewhat uncomfortable day spent going from place to place in a narrow little tube; a part of their job they simply had to endure. Like most of the people I have worked for, (even one who fired me) they were really glad to have me up front on days when the sun wasn't shining, the wind wasn't calm and the runways weren't very long. They would rather have stayed home but there were people to meet and places to go...

Had we taken Nomad instead (and if the route was over water instead of land) it would have taken about 3 days and 16 hours to cover the 491 nautical miles flown that day. (Which is slightly longer than it took the Apollo astronauts to get to the moon. Weird.) A journey that long in Nomad would seem like a major adventure to me. Add in the same kind of rain and wind and I'll bet I would be wondering just what the heck I thought I was doing, going out in such stuff. And yet I know there are sailors in our little marina who would consider such a trip nearly perfect. Some day I hope to be one of them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter's cold

"Winter's cold," can be interpreted a couple of different ways. "Winter is cold," is one. "Winter's cold," is another, taken that the chilly temperatures that belong to winter are being shared with us. And then there is the "winter's cold" that includes a stuffed up head, sniffling and constant cough that just won't go away. Around the St. Louis branch of the Akey clan all three takes on "Winter's cold," are equally valid.

This morning Deb had to run up to spend some time with Melanie so I was free to clunk around the house, run out to the airport, or go visit little Nomad to see how she was doing. The first thought was the airport, it isn't that far away and there are folks there I like to see. But Nomad has been on her own for a couple of weeks now and temperatures in the teens have returned for night time lows. I convinced myself I was feeling pretty good this morning so I headed out to Boulder.

The marina was completely empty, as in not a single soul anywhere. The ice has crept back into the dock area and several boats are completely encased. Even surrounded by bubblers Nomad's stern has ice against it. The boats with bubblers have ice whiskers growing off the hulls right at the water line where cold water gets splashed. Fenders are growing frozen stalagmites that trail onto and hold in place perfectly round little ice islands. Bubbler and ice noises are the only sounds.

With just enough of the cover open to gain entry and the heater on, Nomad's little interior warmed up pretty quickly. It also seemed like a good idea to put a top charge on the batteries and I turned on all the interior lights to chase the gloom away. There was a little ice in the bilge so I dumped in the last of our anti-freeze, checked all the dock lines and poked my head into both cockpit lockers looking for trouble. Everything looked shipshape so I retreated back into the warmth of the cabin. Inside I managed a quick repair on the toilet seat (there is always something to fix). But once again I had overestimated my personal energy state. Though I was hoping to putter around the boat for a good part of the day it was clearly better to head for home. The drive was a long one.

It isn't even officially winter yet but I will be glad when "Winter's cold" starts to give way to felling better and getting warmer.