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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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Posted on Jun 12, 2013 | 0 comments

The Most Beautiful Beaches

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

For the week before Memorial Day this year, Dan, Carter and I went on a family vacation to Panama City Beach (“Home of the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”) with Dan’s whole immediate family. Starting out at a bleary 2:00AM we had a 14 hour drive with a 2 year old ahead and wanted to maximize our “sleeping baby time”. Luckily, we made the drive with no problems, baby or car related, but we did eat dinner at an interesting little BBQ place in Montgomery, Alabama. Considering the looks we got when we pulled in and the handwritten sign on the door reading “No Masks, No Hoods, No Weapons”, we may have been the first white customers to come in quite some time. That was okay with us though because man they had some good barbecue.

Our evil plan seemed to work

Our evil plan seemed to work on the ride down to PCB

Don't judge a book by its cover...or a restaurant by the sign out front!

Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a restaurant by the sign out front!

When we got to PCB, we were immediately amazed at how beautiful the house and community was that our hosts, Dan’s second cousin Tom (or is it first cousin once removed?) and his wife Laura, lived in. They had renovated a burned out shell of a house that they nursed back to health in spectacular fashion and lovingly renamed “Creme Brule”. It was definitely nicer than any hotel we’ve ever stayed at, with much better company! Tom and Laura wasted no time in getting us down to the beautiful beach only a few blocks from the house and taking us on a tour of some of the famous 30A beach communities nearby. The most famous of which, Seaside, is where the Jim Carey movie The Truman Show was filmed.

Our introduction that first night was a preview of what most of our vacation would be, time on the beach followed by some fun sight seeing. In addition, we were able to do diving twice while we were there and had a great time! Dan and Kyle brought along their new pole-spears for the trip as spear fishing is fairly popular in the PCB community and we were not disappointed with their great catch that we brought home. (Anyone have a good recipe for grouper?)

It’s amazing what one week on the beach has done to our perspective. Thanks to our gracious hosts we had an amazing time in (and on!) Panama City Beach. We got a serious taste of what early retirement could look like outside of and in conjunction with our cruising plans and let me tell you, it tasted pretty darn delicious. We certainly were sad to leave and had some major cognitive dissonance going on as we drove north away from the warm weather and beautiful ocean.

On the Beach Black silhouettes

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Posted on Jun 20, 2012 | 0 comments

It was a breeze

We had the opportunity to sail our MacGregor 25 on Saturday with Michele’s sister Melissa, Kyle, and Kyle’s wife Becca. In 13 knots of wind. Thanks to our sailing classes, we had a great time. The confidence that Michele and I have gained from our classes is what made the difference between a great sail and another misfire. We launched out of Detweiller Marina and were quickly underway thanks to our new-to-us 7.5HP outboard. Our trolling motor just isn’t cut out for more than 7 or so knots of wind and waves. Then the outboard decided to take a break. Sound familiar?

No worries, however. We were in an area of the marina that is very protected from the wind… namely the narrow mouth of the harbor. We quickly let out the mainsheet to allow the boom to point to wind (we were only 20° or so off the wind) and begain raising the mainsail. That is the time that we realized someone (me) hadn’t been paying attention and tied the mainsail to the wrong end of the halyard. Normally there wouldn’t be a “wrong” end of the halyard on a MacGregor… but there was this time because it was tied off to the wrong cleat on the mast. This shouldn’t have been an issue because the fix is as simple as quickly lowering the main, untying the halyard and properly retying the halyard. This was the point in our voyage, however, when the divide between those who have taken a sailing class and those who have not became evident.

A suggestion was made to lower the bow anchor, forcing the boat to point to wind, prior to fixing the halyard mishap. Lowering the anchor would have definitely pointed us to wind and allowed us to easily avoid crashing into the rock seawall we were beginning to drift towards. There were a few problems with this suggestion, however. We were nearly completely blocking the mouth of the busiest marina in Peoria, the rocks were getting quite close, the jib was fully rigged and lying on top of the bow cleat that we would attach the anchor to, Oh, and the anchor was in the stern locker. Without an anchor line attached, mind you.

Michele quickly lowered the main and retied the halyard while the others were debating the anchor suggestion. Good idea!

The rest of the voyage was uneventful (unusual for us, I know), but we were able to practice a few maneuvers that we hadn’t done before in our large-to-us boat. I admit that gybing in our MacGregor 25 would have been a non-starter if I hadn’t practiced multiple times in a laser beforehand. We have gone from chickening out in 15 knots of wind to having a great time in it… all thanks to the confidence gained from our dinghy sailing class.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Jun 6, 2012 | 1 comment

Bull Shoals Houseboat

We were impressed all around by Bull Shoals.

Michele and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend a few nights aboard a 60 ft houseboat on Bull Shoals Lake recently. I was quite impressed with both the lodging and the diving. It’s no Caribbean, but it’s way better than anything around us. The houseboat was a four bedroom, 2 bathroom (ok, head) model that was custom designed by the owner of the boat dock. I’ll get to how we met the (super nice) owner later…

The main reason Kyle, Becca, Michele, and I decided to go on the trip was for Kyle, Michele, and I to finish the open water portion of a few scuba certifications… advanced for all three of us as well as rescue for Kyle and I.

Not what I was expecting. (Credit: BSLBD website)

To be honest my expectations were quite low. I’ve seen houseboats on the Illinois River… and, well, they look like houseboats on the Illinois River. Most are barely more than tents or campers precariously perched on a few rusty pontoons. Not so with the houseboats from Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. The boats were open, clean, and basically felt like a house inside (I know).

The diving was varied… a recent lack of rain coupled with unseasonably high temperatures has created a large algae bloom, reducing visibility to 5-10 feet in places. Below the thermocline at 26 feet the visibility greatly improved to 50-70 feet. Unfortunately the temperature dropped from 75-80 °F above the thermocline to around 55-60 °F below… too cold for our 4/3 wet suits.

The dives consisted of a few wall dives, some sunken machinery, and a ton of fish. My favorite dive, however, was our advanced class “deep” dive. Deep in quotations because we’ve already gone deeper in the Caribbean. Don’t tell PADI. When the Bull Shoals dam was built a huge swath of land was flooded, creating Bull Shoals Lake. The houses were dismantled prior to flooding but the trees were not. On our deep dive we were able to swim through an underwater forest of decades old trees… it was unreal.

Bull Shoals Lake

While preparing to descend for our night dive Michele was injured by Kyle accidentally jumping in on top of her. One of the instructors was bringing us over closer to the boat’s lights so he could explain the dive plan more easily. In the time between Kyle checking the water and announcing he was about to roll in, we entered his drop zone. We should have been aware divers were still entering the water. The instructor with us (who was facing the boat) should have been aware divers were still entering the water. It was dark. Kyle followed the proper procedures for entering the water… accidents just happen, however.

The owner of the boat dock was simply awesome. He instantly picked Michele and I up in his speed boat and brought us to a waiting ambulance at the dock. He then was kind enough to pick us up from the hospital at 3 in the morning after Michele was discharged. If you are ever in the area, I would highly suggest renting a boat from Rick at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. I am confident Rick will take great care of you.

Fortunately the three of us were able to complete our additional scuba certifications despite the accident. Kyle and I are now ready to begin divemaster training! The road to our dream won’t always be easy, but it is a path that is worth taking. It felt great to live on the water, if only for a few days. We can’t wait until it becomes full time.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on May 23, 2012 | 1 comment

Divemaster Update

As you might know, I am in the process of becoming a PADI divemaster. I have finished the class portion of PADI Rescue Diver in addition to being certified as an Emergency First Responder. I had completely overlooked the EFR class and didn’t know what to expect. SCUBA classes make sense, the things you are supposed to do or not do are intuitive. The methods we learned for rescuing someone underwater are challenging… but I feel that they are a valuable tool for both SCUBA and sailing.

The lessons on the EFR class were completely new to me. CPR? Emergency Response? I am a non-medical staff member at a medical practice… that stuff has always been for the “medical” people. The skills learned in the EFR class are not taught from a SCUBA perspective but from a general “emergency” perspective (think car crash). Nonetheless, the lessons are extremely valuable. There will be times when Michele, Carter, and I will be far into a crossing and it is definitely a comfort to know that I have the skills to at least stabilize an emergency situation.

We will be at Bull Shoals, AR this weekend diving off of a 60 foot houseboat with Kyle and Becca. If all goes well I’ll pass my Rescue Diver certification! Next class: Divemaster.

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