Category Archives: Landlubbers

In loving memory of Baxter the wonder dog

On March 1, 2021 I had to put down our little buddy, our best friend, our heart dog Baxter. He was 15 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 5 days old. At least that’s what I’d like to think. When we adopted him we were only told that he was born in October, no specific day. I decided that henceforth his birthday would be October 3 – the day East and West Germany reunited.

The king of Utah

I still remember the day he came to us like it was yesterday. We had been looking on for a dog. We chose him because he looked cute. I had no idea about different breeds and different tempers. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Anyway.

That afternoon, in November 2007, Missy, Baxter’s mom, came over to our rented house in West Seattle with a lady from the agency that runs the petfinder website. He was adorable, and while he was digging a huge hole in the back yard Missy said: ‘Well, you take him or we’ll put him down.’ Obviously we weren’t going to allow that, so Baxter was then ours. Missy left, with tears in her eyes and said: ‘Because this was his last day with us I took him for a car ride!’ I thought about that a lot later.

He also enjoyed riding 4 wheelers

Baxter was 2 years old at the time, and he didn’t have much trouble adapting to life with us. The first night he whined a bit, but looking back I’m pretty sure that was just because we didn’t let him sleep in bed with us. I had never had a dog before. I didn’t want him in bed! Well, that did not last long. A few weeks later we went on a road trip to California. It was one of those occasions where Baxter was blissfully hanging out the window, until we reached his speed limit of about 50 mph. We stopped somewhere in Oregon for the night. I thought fine, this is a hotel room, here he gets to sleep in bed with us. He jumped up and dove under the covers, heavily crashing into my body and passed out with a loud sigh. That was the end of the ‘no dog in bed’ policy.

No dogs in bed!

Baxter was a very high maintenance dog. The reason why Missy was ready to surrender or put him down was, according to her, his aggressive behavior towards their other dog. I never witnessed aggressive behavior. Yes, he was Mr. Dominant. He was literally the bossiest little shit you’d ever meet. That extended towards us – he definitely ran the house.

Baxter enjoying a short ride on TJ’s fishing boat

Visits at the dog park were always hit or miss. It generally started with me opening the gate, and the little nuisance running top speed at the closest dog, barking at the top of his lungs, while people were screaming at us, only to then stop, wildly wagging his stumpy little tail. I always wondered, would it be a great day, or just a nightmare? Thanks to him being so dominant (and so smart that we could never catch the little monster when he misbehaved) he was always happy to harass shy dogs or puppies. He never hurt anyone, but was more than happy to corner them, roll them over, and bark in that piercing voice that was so loud that you’d think you were listening to a Great Dane on steroids.

Raging beast mode

That dog cost me my last nerve so many times. I told him daily he was lucky he was so adorable. Devil in a blue dress.

Devil in a blue dress

Being a Beagle/Jack-Russel mix, I suspect that the aggression came from the fact that he was never properly exercised. The previous owners both worked full time, and all the exercise he ever got was running around the back yard, which is not enough for a dog like that. He had bad separation anxiety, and I suspect that he was abused. You could pick up any magazine and he’d run for the hills.

Poor thing. Needless to say, his life was much improved with in his new home. I took him to the dog park almost every day, and for plenty of walks if the weather was so miserable that no dogs were at the park. He never liked playing ball, so it was hours of walking if no play time was to be had. In fact, he needed 2-2.5 hours of walk time per day until he got sick at age 12.

Seattle was also where he spent a summer teaching a Labrador puppy how to play tug-o-war. It was the cutest thing, seeing my little raging monster mentor this little guy.

In 2009 we left to go cruising. It took him a while to get used to being on the boat while it was moving. We suspected that he thought a moving house wasn’t quite kosher. But he adapted to being in different locations splendidly. We spent the next 4 years on and off in Mexico. The first summer or two we spent in Seattle. That’s when Baxter got to go on his first flight.

The first one he did with just TJ. He was nervous the night after, but then perfectly fine. We didn’t fly a whole lot with him, but after that first time he became quite the pro.

Mexico. In the summer time I always walked him before the sun came up. One morning, I wasn’t paying too much attention, and just let my mind drift. Then something caught my eye. Just ahead of us on the side walk was a huge crocodile. It was easily 10 feet long. I freaked out and started running in zig zag (survival 101), dragging Baxter along. Needless to say, none of us got eaten. People later told me that crocs aren’t dangerous when the sun isn’t up, because their body temperature adjusts with the heat. Not so funny when it’s 80 plus degrees before the sun rises. I’m sure he didn’t nap on the side walk all night.

The best thing about tropical places is the unlimited supply of coconuts.

In Mexico we found this fabulous boarding place. Baxter loved it there. He would go when I went back to Europe to see my family, or for other, shorter trips we took. Melanie would come pick him up, and he always walked out the door without looking back. At her place the dogs each had their own crates, but were only locked in at meal times. She said Baxter didn’t like sleeping by himself, so every night he wandered into another dog’s crate and fell asleep there, cozy with his new best friend for the night.

Looking for fish from the swim platform

In 2013 we bought Rocket Science and spent some time in California, before sailing back to Mexico and, eventually, beyond.

Fearless boy at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, CA

Baxter immediately found all the good, comfy places to sleep.

So comfy

Though I think he really missed the bilge monster that lived on the old boat. She had a door to the engine room, and if you’d flip the water maker switch it made a buzzing noise in there. Baxter would stick his head in there and bark endlessly. Et voila – the bilge monster! It was a great way to keep him entertained.

No idea why he was on the freezer
Mom is the comfiest!

When we got ready to sail across the Atlantic Baxter was happily accepted into grandma’s and grandpa’s home on the other side. He did amazing on the transatlantic flight. When we landed in Düsseldorf he walked out of his crate like he owned the place. He was born to be an adventurer! It was not his first transatlantic flight, as in 2014 we spent a month in Europe and he came along. That was when he started adding a whole bunch of countries to his list. Up until then he’d been in the US, of course, Canada (as we did a couple of trips up there to see the other set of grandparents), Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

Going through the Panama Canal Baxter turned into a tourist attraction
Attacking a Panamanian ocean monster
Baxter and grandpa Volker

In 2014 he added Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to the countries he had peed on. On top of that he has been to 27 states in the US – every one of those made me think about Missy and the ‘last day car ride.’

Lover of car rides

Anyway, 2016. My mom lasted less than 24 hours in which he wasn’t allowed on the couch. That tells you just how charming that little guy was. And head strong.

No dogs on the couch!

We sailed to Ireland, then to England, left the boat in Lymington and rented a car to go get Baxter. The reason we rented a car was that a) the UK is super strict with bringing animals in, as they are rabies free, and only certain airports would even allow flying into with an animal, and b) we only flew him when necessary. The way back proved to be tricky. I had already gotten him a pet passport (which is basically a summary of vaccinations etc, very handy). He just needed rabies and tapeworm, within a certain amount of days. When we finally go to the ferry we were informed that the Belgian vet had put the tapeworm stamp on the wrong page, and he was not admissible into the country. They turned us around, and we had the lovely task to find a vet in Calais on a Saturday afternoon who would correct the matter. 25 € and some broken French later we had what we needed and were finally allowed on the boat.

The things you do for your dog.

Baxter enjoyed Europe. We went to many, many new places, which suited him just fine. Earlier he had turned into a bit of a walk snob. If we stayed in one place for too long he wasn’t much interested in walking the same route anymore. Thanks, but no thanks. I have peed here before. Please, let’s move on. Destination fatigue. The struggle is real.

He loved dinghy rides

While in Europe he visited Spain, Gibraltar, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Portugal. Not in that order. He was always so happy and excited about every new place.

Enjoying a dip in the Mediterranean

We spent the winter of 2017 in Gibraltar. That’s when we first noticed that something was wrong with him. He was tested, and the worst possible diagnosis was confirmed: Cushings. If you don’t know anything about Cushings, consider yourself lucky. To quote my very fabulous vet here on Whidbey, ‘Cushings is a horrible disease. I mean, all diseases are, but Cushings is special that way’. True words.

Med mooring was the best!

Cushings disease is usually caused either by a tumor on the pituitary gland, or on the adrenal gland. It makes no difference for treatment. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is 1-2 years. Baxter had to start taking a medicine called Vetoryl, which is similar to chemo. I read the instructions and it said that after I had touched the pill I had to thoroughly wash my hands. And that was what I was putting into my poor little dog. Two months into treatment, after countless trips to the vet, with no car and in a foreign country, his liver failed.

You wouldn’t have known something was seriously wrong with him. He puked Friday morning. We had an appointment for yet another poking session at the vet. I told him and he gave him something for upset stomach. Baxter had the habit to pick up things off the street and eat them, no matter if they were actually edible or not (most notably he ate a cigarette butt), so an upset stomach was a logical conclusion. The vet told me to come back immediately if he puked again. Saturday morning just that happened. The vet did a comprehensive blood test and Baxter’s liver had failed.

He spent the weekend in the hospital. I got an hour of visitation on Sunday. When my time was over, the vet opened the door, Baxter walked out, upstairs and straight back into the crate where he was being treated. He was so smart, he knew he was being helped.

He had to return Monday and Tuesday for 8 hour treatments, and his liver fully recovered. A magical thing, livers.

Cushings is notoriously hard to treat, but Baxter settled in on a dosage of 10 mg of the Vetoryl and was fine. Except it was so little that it didn’t control the side effects of the disease, most notably excessive thirst. The Spanish vet prescribed a human medicine, used to treat diabetes insipidus (the inability of the body to retain water – not to be confused with diabetes mellitus). It worked just fine ad all was well.

Fast forward to October 2018. We had moved on to Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands. I took Baxter in for a Cushings test, which is something that has to be done regularly. The vet noted that his liver enzymes were extremely high. I took him off of all meds, which, let me assure you, is the opposite of fun. All the Cushings symptoms come in in full force, and you can spend all day and night just tending to your dog. He recovered, got back on his meds and all was well for a while.


We were on our way to the vet (for a change…..). Just in front of her office Baxter had a little bit of diarrhea. He seemed perfectly fine otherwise. I mentioned it to the vet, and she decided to put him on some fluids. While he was on the table he started having a bad seizure. A blood test revealed that he had pancreatitis. The vet said to me: ‘I can treat him, but this is really bad. I don’t think he will make it.’

He spent 4 days at the vet’s for treatment. I got to take him home at night. He was so weak he was unable to walk. All kinds of fun, when you live on a boat. On day 5 I dropped him off, only to receive a phone call an hour later. ‘You can pick him up, he is fine! He bit me when I tried to treat him, so I did a blood test and he is fine!’ Can’t blame the guy. I wouldn’t want to be poked and stuck in a cage all day if I was fine!

All remained calm on the Cushings front after that. But Baxter was noticeably getting older, so we decided it was time to buy him a house, which we did, and moved to Whidbey Island in February of 2019. Baxter absolutely loved it. We discovered that he was aware enough of his limitations that we could allow him to wander around outside, without him taking off. What a lovely surprise! Back in his maniac days that would have never been possible.

We found the bestest dog sitter, and in the winter of 2019 we went and sailed the boat back across the Atlantic. Baxter did just fine, despite my secret fear (shared by the lovely Les) that Baxter wouldn’t survive the 2 months he spent with her.

He always made sure to pick the largest bed

In early 2020 covid hit, and just like everyone else Baxter and I got stuck at home, while TJ was stuck at work. Our radius was severely limited, and in retrospect I think it depressed Baxter. That summer, when things started opening up again, Baxter had an accident at the dog park. It wasn’t anything spectacular – he just failed to acknowledge that he was an old man, didn’t get out of the way and got bumped around a little bit. But he was seriously hurt. It was so bad that when we finally managed to get an appointment with the vet we were ready to put him to sleep. The vet ordered strong painkillers and muscle relaxants instead. He improved slightly, but never got a whole lot better. Not well enough to live, not sick enough to die. It was awful.

We had been stuck for so long, we were going bonkers. So we bought a stroller that doubles as a bike trailer for Baxter. He wasn’t exactly enchanted, especially when riding downhill, but he settled in much easier than he would have in his younger years. We had given the bike trailer idea a shot before, in 2016 in Lymington. If you don’t know Lymington, it’s a pretty posh little town maybe an hour and a half from London. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon we loaded Baxter into his trailer and started riding. He screamed (not barked, screamed) at the top of his lungs and refused to stop. Finally we decided to write that trailer off as a bad investment rather than risking to have someone call animal control on us.

He liked the elevated view point of the stroller


We went on a road trip through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. I kid you not, the moment that dog realized we weren’t going home he perked up. He managed (for the first time in weeks) to stick his head out the car window. A week in he was back to normal. I strongly believe that he had suffered from depression. I didn’t think that was even a thing, but not going places had obviously not been good for his health. Sometimes I thought he was a weird alien mix of dog, cat (because he always liked to sleep under our blankets) and human (because he was so damn smart).

Enjoying some rays at Glacier National Park
At Glacier National Park, Montana

In December I noticed something wasn’t quite right with him. His appetite wasn’t great, which is not good when you have a dog who will go to such lengths as to eat cigarette butts. I called up the vet and he suggested we repeat the Cushings test. By then I was already struggling to treat his severe arthritis along with a whole bunch of this and that. The test revealed that Baxter was over medicated. The vet suggested we take him off the Vetoryl for a month.

His winter bed

He had already not been sleeping well. He always wanted to sleep on the bed, but then got uncomfortable during the night, which meant I had to get up, lift him onto the floor, go back to bed. A while later he would get cold, same thing, then again he was uncomfortable. I didn’t get much rest, despite the fact that he had been out on sedatives for better sleeping.

A month without Vetoryl was even worse. The next test revealed that he was under medicated. The vet said that he was pretty sure that Baxter was getting to the end stage of Cushings. The failure of the meds to regulate the disease was a sure sign.

Little old man

Things went downhill fairly fast from there. Every week there was something new. The last two weeks I had to adjust his meds 4 times. He was puking all the time, restless, stressed. When I took him to the park or another of his favorite off-leash areas he acted like a maniac, racing nonstop. If I would talk to people about his health they would say: ‘I don’t know, he looks happy to me!’ Not helpful. Not helpful at all. Not one bit, as I was wrestling with the decision.

Master of weird sleeping positions

His little body was chemically falling apart. Cushings dogs often turn into zombies at the end. They aren’t quite themselves anymore and do odd things. Like a 15 plus year old dog running 2 miles. It’s not natural, but I had trouble conveying that and felt very alone at times. People told me ‘You’ll know when it is time’. Only I thought when a dog gets old there are obvious signs of old age, and then you just know.

He loved the beach

Cushings isn’t like that. Cushings is a bitch. Les said to me at some point: ‘You know, you will always feel guilty afterwards. You will either think it was too early, or you waited too long.’ I left Baxter with her for a few hours. I drove North, across the Deception Pass bridge. It was a stormy day. Low hanging clouds, moving fast. And right when I crossed there was a huge rainbow. Really strong. I asked myself ‘what are you doing’. He is not okay. He is far from okay, and things are not going to get better. And who knows how he really feels? I didn’t know he was on death’s door with the pancreatitis until it got so bad he had seizures. I was afraid he was hiding his true condition.

The amount of meds he was on in the end

He was such a fighter. He defied all odds, and defeated all expectations. But in the end, I decided I didn’t want him to suffer worse than he was already, and I had to help him to the other side.

Little old man

I’ll spare you the details. He has been cremated, and when I can get myself to do it we will spread some of his ashes in the orchard and put up a little memorial. I want to bring along some of the ashes when we go travel and spread them in beautiful places. He wouldn’t have liked to just be in one place.

Happy place

It’ been almost 3 weeks, and I’m still more heartbroken than I ever thought possible. He was the most adventurous, special little dog. No encounter with a crocodile or ride on a ferris wheel could faze him. There will never be another one like him.

I do believe there’s something that comes after our life here on earth. I know the story of the rainbow bridge. How dogs are supposed to enjoy themselves on this side of it, until their owners come and they can go across together.

Best dog there ever was

I doubt that it what happened. Baxter was always fiercely independent when it suited him. Wherever he is now, I know he’s having the best time and not worried about me at all. Because that’s just how he was. If we are one day reunited again, when it is my time, I image he’ll sprint by me top speed, briefly pause, wag wildly to say hello, and continue on his merry way.

Baxter turns 15!

 With no sailing going on these days, we get to write about the dog.

 Unbelievably, little B turns 15 today.

 He came to us as an out-of-control rescue dog a few days after his second birthday. He had already burned out two sets of owners, and owners #2 were planning to put him down if he wasn’t adopted, and soon. He was (and is) super smart, but also headstrong, demanding, dominant of other dogs (but never aggressive), and generally a royal pain whenever he decided to act out.

 However, we came to love him deeply despite all his flaws. Really, he embodies all of the traits that make dogs so special in spades. Loyal, trusting, always wanting to be with us. The best friend one could ever hope for.

 I remember reading an ode to a dog like him in ‘Outside’ magazine years ago. It concluded- “You know, I’d take a bullet for this dog. And someday, I probably will”. Well put, sir, well put.

  His first two years were with us in Seattle, first in a rented house while we were waiting for Western Explorer to be shipped up from Costa Rica, then on the boat. He took to boat life immediately. Every little noise from the bilge was a new mystery to investigate. The little pre-feed pump for the watermaker made just the right whine to drive him absolutely bonkers. If B got too be too much of an imposition, a short flick of that switch would result in him sticking his head into the bilge for at least a half hour. We employed the trick often. I’m sure that that pump had 10 times as much use as a dog distraction than it did in making water.

 Our first shakedown cruise with B was a lap around Vancouver island in ’08. That went well. The next year, we sailed down to Mexico with him. After some difficulty getting him to use his fake turf on deck to do his business, we were all set.  B took to life at sea very well. We spent 4 years living aboard there, with a couple of annual cruises down the coast.

 In ’13, we started sailing on Rocket Science. The new ride proved to be quite a bit more dog-friendly. With her swept back rig and higher speeds, VMG sailing is the way on her. This results in the boat essentially only being laid over to one side at a time, rather than the wallowing, dead downwind sailing so often done on heavier, slower boats. B would just position himself on the downhill side of the cockpit, and comfortably relax on passage. Perfect!

 We had some great adventures with B on RS. From remote, tropical beaches to the rugged wild of Newfoundland, each new place was a source of great excitement and interest for him.

 We opted not to cross the N. Atlantic with him, instead flying him ahead to stay with Jenny’s mother in Belgium. After we arrived in our winter berth in England, we rented a car and fetched our somewhat fatter buddy.

 The next 3 years were spent in Europe. Baxter, like us, preferred the Northern portions of the continent. He wasn’t enamored with the Med. Too hot and too many anti-dog laws on the beaches.

 He did find some brief respites from the heat in our freezer, however. We’d drop him in there for a few minutes from time to time on the hottest days.

 Alas, he developed health problems while there. He was drinking huge amounts of water, and he was found to have Cushing’s disease. This is caused by a tumor on the Pituitary or the Adrenal glands, and it’s fatal if not treated. Unfortunately, the treatment is quite harsh, being like chemo. He had a couple of near-death experiences while there, thankfully both in Spain, where veterinary care is good and extremely cheap. He was given a year or two to live. This was in late ’17.

 It did become pretty obvious to us that his offshore sailing days had come to a close, though. So, we bought our dog a house to enjoy his remaining time with us.

 Life with geriatric Baxter is a pleasure. He spends most of his time asleep, and we can simply leave the doors open and let him go in and out as he pleases. 5 years ago, this would have been impossible-he would have gotten onto a scent and vanished into the woods in pursuit of whatever had captured his interest. Nowadays, he never strays far, content to lounge on the grass and waddle off after the occasional bunny.

 We nearly lost him again a few weeks ago. He got bumped into by another dog at the park, and it seems to have caused some kind of an injury. The poor dude was obviously in a lot of pain, and after several days of it, we resolved to go to the vet, fully expecting him to recommend that he be put down. Instead, he hopped out of the car, and scampered around wagging wildly. The vet gave us a bit of a quizzical look, obviously wondering what we were on about.

 A few days later, he was perfectly fine again. Tough little guy.

All told, Baxter has visited 19 countries, 27 states in the US, and has sailed with us for thousands upon thousands of miles, and has been a valued companion all the way.

 Happy birthday, buddy.

Cartagena to the Islas Canarias

After our welcome foray into the mountains, we returned to sweltering Cartagena to handle a few small maintenance items before the last 900 or so miles to the islands. The plan was to make this run with just a single stop in Gibraltar.

First, though, we had one last bit of business to take care of while in Europe- Barcelona! I’d never been there, and Jenny had only been there once as a teen, so it was high time for both of us to head over there.

Joining us there were Bob and Cheri, another Alaskan fishing couple. I’ve known Bob for 25 years or so, and he’s a valued ally on the fishing grounds, but we’ve never really had the opportunity to spend time outside of a work setting. Nice.

Barcelona was great. We hit as many of the highlights as we could in the couple of days we were there. We had planned to spend 3 nights there, but only managed 2-Westerlies were expected to fill in our our route to Gib, so we had to cut it a bit short to avoid that. Such is the life of a sailor.

Next up was the 275 mile trip to Gib. The 4 of us had a fine time of it, even managing an 8 hour uninterrupted spinnaker run, which is pretty rare in the fickle Med. Good stuff. We motored the rest of the time, of course. The trip took a little under a day and a half.

We had a couple of days with our amigos in Gib, Jenny spent one day hiking up to the top of the rock with them-13 miles and 1400′ of vertical gain. I stayed home with B, and after seeing them drag themselves back home, I was pretty happy to have been nominated babysitter.

The following day was a little trip to Cadiz, which mostly involved a little walk around and lunch in this ancient city. It’s reckoned to be the place that’s been continuously inhabited for longer than about anyplace in Europe, so it’s well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

Finally, we bade Bob and Cheri farewell, and enjoyed a couple of quiet weeks aboard before our passage to the islands. Finally, the weather looked light but favorable, and we chucked the lines for the 600 mile ride to the islands. The first 24 hours were basically windless, contrary to the forecast, leaving us motoring uncomfortably in a big swell. Finally a bit of breeze filled in, and we had some really spectacular, fast sailing. It was nice to be back out in a proper ocean swell again, surfing away on our trusty ride. Jenny hit 16 a couple of times while I was snoozing at 3am. I came up for my watch to find her grinning away, claiming to have been nervous during the fastest runs. I’m not so sure, it looked like she’d been having a ball to me.

So, thanks to our little speedy part in the middle, we arrived in Lanzarote in just a few hours over the 3 day mark. We’re settled in here now until the hurricanes stop blowing, and the winter trades get established, and then we’ll head for the Caribbean via the Cape Verde islands.


I don’t exactly remember how my obsession with mountaineering books started. It was one of those things that slowly creep up on you. Before I knew it I had read a ton of them. I’m aware of the fact that I’m not physically capable of being an actual mountaineer, and let’s be honest, isn’t it enough to have one hobby where you frequently suffer (sailing)?
However, you don’t have to be a climber to go spend some time in the mountains. Somehow the dream of doing the Mount Everest base camp hike manifested itself within me. As if it was meant to be we met Molly, Baxter and Kala the dog this summer in La Coruna. Molly and Baxter had done that trek for their honeymoon. Baxter decided to go back and climb Mount Everest! I was in awe and even more excited and determined than before. Those 3 are pretty cool, by the way, check out their blog:

Since I have zero experience in the mountains we decided to start off easy and, at the same time, kick another item off the bucket list: Machu Picchu. Now there are different options on hiking there. Of course there’s the Inka trail, but 500 (!!!) people walk that trail EVERY DAY! Can you imagine? That sounded just awful. The Salkantay trail sounded a bit too advanced for little beginner me, so we chose the Lares trek.

The Lares trek is very remote. It leads through two villages deep in the mountains, where you have the chance to meet the locals and experience how they live. That sounded right up our alley.
We decided to book the 4 day/3 night tour with Alpaca Expeditions out of Cusco. The choice was somewhat random. There are roughly a million tour operators in Cusco. Alpaca Expeditions had some good reviews, and when I sent an inquiry I got an answer within a few hours. Good communication is an important point!
Since we did this as part of an extended vacation there was a lot of traveling involved and we arrived in Cusco only the afternoon before we started the trek. It is recommended that you arrive 2 days early to acclimatize, but it was hard to fit all the pieces of the trip together as it was, and all of it last minute as usual, so much acclimatization wasn’t in the cards. We spent the day before in Quito though, so that helped.
Anyway, we arrived in Cusco after a rather dramatic almost plane crash in Lima and were happy we made it there in one piece.
That evening we had a briefing at Alpaca Expeditions. First we were told that we were going to be in a group of 6 total. That seemed like a fine group size. After a few minutes (and some confusion) it turned out that the other 4 people had booked a private tour and weren’t going to be with us. Meaning? We also got a private tour!
The details here are funny. The other 4 people were Canadian family, father, mother, a 13 year old girl and an 11 year old boy. They had had a travel agent book all of it for them, since they had also been traveling for a while and all over the place. The travel agent booked the private tour and they had no idea. We ended up meeting anyway, because we were going the same route at the same time, and even though all of us tried to convince our teams that we could just go together we didn’t get to.
The next morning our guide Manuel picked us up at the hotel bright and early at 5 am. We drove through the Sacred Valley to the Lares Hot Spings, where we got to take a dip and had breakfast.

Alpaca Expeditions indicated on their website that since you were going to meet the locals it would be a good idea to bring some gifts along – for example school supplies for the children. If you ever get the chance to ask TJ about the story with the tooth brushes in the San Blas Islands please do so, and then you’ll know that we immediately knew school supplies weren’t a good idea. Instead we asked our trusty guide Manuel for recommendations.
So we stopped at a local market and bought a bunch of little round breads, oranges, coca leaves, cute little hair ties and ginormous over sized safety pins.

Back in the van and off we went to finally start the trek. The first stretch wasn’t too far, maybe 2 hours or so and then we stopped for lunch. The scenery was already stunning, and I had a slight altitude headache. I drank tons of water and coca tea and it went away. I also had a power nap after lunch on a plastic tarp in the sun.

Off we went again, and now the trail started ascending, not too gently.

After another maybe 3 hours we arrived at our campsite just over 4000 meters. It was a stunning site at a lake. Our team had been ahead of us and had already put up our tent. I’m not sure why, but the entrance was about 3 feet from the edge to a good drop down to the lake. I was idly wondering if I’d just break an arm or maybe even my neck if I got up at night to pee and forgot about it.
(Spoiler alert: nobody fell into the lake).

The campsite was right by a small village. Two little girls were eyeballing us. The locals there speak the old Inka languages and mostly very little Spanish. Manuel grew up in the mountains and is thus familiar with those languages. He called the girls over and we gave them bread and oranges. Here we found out why Manuel made those choices for us, too. Up there the locals have a little bit of agriculture, but they mostly grow potatoes, so they mostly eat potatoes. The bread and oranges were a welcome sight.

Before dinner Manuel took us to visit one lady in her house. The kitchen and the living/bedroom were two separate houses. We were invited into the kitchen, and Manuel and the lady went right to work, trying to stuff TJ into a traditional outfit. I had a good laugh, until it was my turn, and then TJ was the one laughing. All the while we were watched suspiciously by a bunch of guinea pigs. For those of you who don’t know, they eat guinea pigs in Peru. We were wondering if they got to live in the kitchen so that one could be grabbed and roasted at random when hungry? Manuel grabbed one, and handed it to TJ saying ‘Look, this one is friendly’. The guinea pigs looked rather horrified, and TJ wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do with the poor thing.

We each took a Diamox for altitude sickness before bed, just in case. I slept really well, opposed to the first night in Cusco where I woke up gasping for air.
The next day the real fun began. Before we took off Manuel announced a team meeting. We all stood in a circle, feeling slightly awkward, and he had the guys introduce themselves to us. TJ then introduced us to them in Spanish. They didn’t speak any English. They seemed to appreciate that. I have the sinking feeling that not everyone makes an effort to connect with members of their team aside from the guide.

We started our ascend to Condor Pass after breakfast around 7 am. Within 3 hours we hiked from just over 4000 meters to 4680. It was steep and challenging, and I loved every minute of it. It wouldn’t be fun without at least a little bit of suffering now would it?
The scenery was stunning. The weather not so much. We had everything from rain to snow and hail and finally a little bit of sunshine revealed some stunning glaciers.

At about 4500 meters I started to feel my fingers going numb, then my arm, my cheeks. I suppose that was due to altitude sickness, too.
On the summit we were joined by the Canadian family and their team (the teams included one master chef, one assistant chef, one porter and the guide). We celebrated with hot coca tea and an assisted head stand.

On the descend we all walked at our own pace, and we spend some time with the Canadians which was nice. After another 3 hours we arrived at our camp site. We were all pretty tired.

After a short rest Manuel took us into the village to say hello to the villagers. We brought gifts and were well received everywhere. It was interesting to see how the people live there. Its’ a very simple life. In the first village Manuel told us they had gotten electricity just 3 years prior. Meaning they have light in the evenings, but they were still cooking on a fire.

During that night I woke up because it was raining. I was somewhat distraught because I didn’t want to have to hike in the rain the next day. But in the morning it was still raining. We were, however, greeted by a fine white dusting on the surrounding mountains which was beautiful.

The rain conveniently stopped right after breakfast. Breakfast that morning started with a cake. Not any cake, no, a seriously fancy cake that Adolfo, our fine master chef, had just spent 2 hours cooking on a camping stove. I was impressed. That was a serious piece of art, that cake.

With a very full belly we took off for the last stretch. Manuel must have figured we had graduated from hiking school for beginners and moved right along. The weather was inconsistent and we had some rain, but never for long and not too much. The 3 hour hike down to the end point was interesting. The change in vegetation and landscape was rapid. I learned that Peru has 80 micro climate zones!

We got to the site of our last meal with the team before the team arrived. We were all proud of ourselves and decided that meant we were finally acclimatized. Since we had been too fast and had some time to kill Manuel wanted to take us for a walk. Right around the corner we bumped into our mini van which was just arriving. Instead of a walk we went for a ride.
It was shocking to be back in civilization. I had relished the quiet time in the mountains. I really enjoyed being around the team, too. Everybody was just so easy going and relaxed. I made sure I figured out how to say to Adolfo in Spanish that I was extremely impressed by his superior cooking skills, too. The food was always good and there were tons of it. We had a nagging suspicion that they made extra large amounts to be able to give the leftovers away to the village people, but really, that made us love them even more.
Our first stop in civilization was a little fruit stand by the side of the road. We sampled some strange fruit I’ve never had before. Never even heard of before! Also some strange looking pink drink which was quite tasty. Manuel insisted on us standing behind the fruit stand to take a picture of us. The fruit stand lady was highly amused.

Then we went to an Inka museum, which was interesting, well, if you like museums.
Then we rushed back to the camp site to not be late for Adolfo’s lunch.
I don’t think we ate any guinea pig, by the way. At least I hope not.
After lunch we climbed back into the mini van, off to see the salt panes. When we got close the gentleman at the entrance informed us that it would indeed be a very bad idea to drive down the muddy hill after all that rain. Manuel decided we could take ‘a little walk’. To take a short cut he had us climb down a hill side that was so steep that I thought one wrong step and I’d fall down the hill and be dead. TJ laughed at me when I told him, but it was pretty steep.
The salt panes were way cool. We bought some souvenirs, got a quick tour and then, keeping the pattern, got to take the back entrance which meant balancing on the edge of the salt panes (‘just stretch your hands out, no problemo’, Manuel said). We walked by some locals that looked us up and down, laughed and told Manuel we wouldn’t be able to make it. I’m happy to report that we did indeed make it, without any major incident. Or minor ones, as a matter of fact.

After the ‘little’ 45 minute walk to the salt panes we then got to go on another ‘little’ walk down to the village where our trusty mini van was waiting. No complaints, but we were definitely a bit sore from the day before.

The mini van took us to Ollantaytambo. We took a nice break at a restaurant with hot food and free wifi (gasp) and then hopped on the train to Aguas Calientes.
That was one hell of a train. If you have ever taken a train in Germany, you will understand why I was impressed with this one. First of all, there were ticket and passport controls at the door to the train car. There was assigned seating (at no extra charge). Once we got going we got free drinks and cookies! Never mind the fact that the train was on time, unlike the German ones half the time…
We got to Aguas Calientes late, walked to the hotel, took a real shower and passed out. The next morning we had to get up super early and meet Manuel in the lobby with all our stuff, which we would leave with the hotel for safe keeping. We had a quick breakfast while Manuel told us if we got to the bus station at 5 am we would most likely be at Machu Pichhu woth the first 1000 people. Yep, really. 1000. Horrible.
After the time in the mountains the crowd at Machu Picchu was overwhelming. Manuel gave us a two hour tour, then we were free to roam around for a while, and meet him for lunch back in Aguas Calientes.
What can I say. It was cool, but the grand part of this trip, the amazing, wonderful, ass-kicking, overwhelming one was the day when we hiked up to Condor Pass.
I can see many more mountains in my future.


With our trusty ride parked for the winter, Jenny and I decided to take advantage of the time to cross an item or two off the bucket list. The choice? Macchu Picchu! While we were planning the trip, I recalled one or two times when Jenny had expressed a desire to check out the Galapagos. We’ll likely not visit them on the boat-I’ve sailed there twice, and it’s not really a very good cruising destination. So, we decided to roll a short visit there into our itinerary, since we were going to be in the neighborhood already.

Jenny flew first to Seattle, arriving there on the same day as I did on the Constellation.

Jenny also got to meet Paul Bieker, the mad wizard of boat designing and Rocket Science’s creator for the first time.

After a few days, mostly spent wrapping up the year’s duties on the boat, we departed for Quito.

We had a free day in town, spending in the area around the ‘Mitad del Mundo’, with a little hike to a nearby crater thrown in.

The following day, we left early for the flight to the islands. We were greeted by a genial chap holding up a big sign with the name of our boat, and plastered with 2 stickers to put on our chests to help the folks on the other end identify and shepherd us along efficiently. This was, however, not a surprise.

A note about the Galapagos is in order here. It’s really not like anyplace else that folks commonly travel to. 97% of the land is part of a national park, and it’s forbidden to venture around on your own. A naturalist has to basically guide your every move. It’s a bummer, but it’s also necessary to minimize the impact on the fragile islands. So, you have to be prepared to accept this kind of tight control when you sign up.

But, the folks in charge of all the tourists are generally very good at what they do, so it’s not too bad.

We got a great last-minute deal on one of the newer, more luxurious boats in the trade. The Santa Cruz II is about 200′ long, and holds up to 90 passengers. We had 79 aboard, from all around the world. I was the only American, interestingly. The ship itself is awesome. Clean, great food, a couple of hot tubs, and really good service all around. There are some pretty run down boats in the islands, so we were happy to discover our upscale surroundings.

After getting settled into our cabin, and getting the obligatory safety briefing, we began our mini-cruise.

We spent the next 4 days touring the eastern islands. Each day would consist of an AM and a PM excursion at a different site, with plenty of free time and gourmet meals in between. Excursions were split up into 7 groups, keeping things at least somewhat intimate. I believe the park service requires this, anyway. We had a fine bunch, a couple Australians, some Brits, a couple from Hong Kong, Jenny and me.

We’ll let the pictures tell most of the story on this one.

Next stop, Cusco, Peru and some very thin air!

A break from sailing… Road trip!

We hung around La Coruna for a few days, finding it a really fantastic small city. It’s got a nice waterfront, a great mix of old and new, good walking, friendly people, and a cool, agreeable climate. The only downside is that the marina there is subject to a lot of swell, so we had to put lots of dock lines on, and several got pretty well eaten up by all the surge. No matter.

We also both felt like we were re-entering the cruising community for the first time since leaving the Caribbean. There were lots of boats from all over Europe there, some going north, some south, some west. We had more interaction with our fellow boaters in La Coruna over a couple of weeks than we had in the previous year put together.

Anyway, we’d planned an inland excursion to Avignon in southern France. Friends from the Florida marina we’d stayed in a couple of years ago were on an extended holiday around France, so we used their visit as an excuse to get off the boat and see something new.

We fetched our rental car and went off with only a loose plan. We wound up spending a couple of nights in Bilbao for our first stop. It’s the Basque capital, and a very attractive place to boot. We stayed at a hotel way up at the top of a long, steep hill, so all got plenty of exercise tramping back and forth. Even Baxter was pretty worn out, which is quite rare, even at his advanced aged of 11.8.

I have to say that the north coast of Spain in general was really an unexpected surprise for both of us. What an absolutely gorgeous part of the world that is. It’s made the short list of places to live should we decide to retire outside the US.

Next stop was the principality of Andorra. Neither of us had ever been there, so it seemed like we should drop in while we were in the neighborhood. I found a hotel that was part of a ski resort, and it was simply spectacular. I suspect that the place probably fetches $500 a night during the ski season, but it was cheap and glorious during the summer season. A spa and the best hotel breakfast we’ve ever had were also included. Nice! Great walks were close at hand, and while we suffered a bit with the thin air at first, we had a fine time of it there. Jenny also took advantage of the lack of VAT to get some hiking boots.

Finally, we arrived in Avingon with a brief overnight in Narbonne. Avignon is a very old city, with the medieval ramparts still intact. It was home to several popes several hundred years ago, and the architecture was, of course, magnificent.

Danny and Allison, along with Remy and Jensen, their young twins, arrived the same day. It was nice to catch up with them. For some reason, Remy is madly in love with Jenny, so those two in particular had some serious bonding time. They had a funny episode at a restaurant. The lock wouldn’t work on the door of the women’s room, so they agreed to watch the door for each other. While it was Jenny’s turn, Remy was on guard duty when someone approached. She looked them right in the eye, and said ‘Jenny’s in there. If you go in, there’s going to be BIG trouble!’. This was almost certainly the surprised Frenchwoman’s first time being stared down by a 6 year old…

Anyway, all things come to an end, and Avignon was it for us. We trucked it back to Coruna in a long day, and started some proper cruising. Actual leisurely cruising! This has been a bit of a rarity for us of late, and it was just great to enjoy some civilized boating. We’ll update shortly on that portion of the travelogue.

Surgery, fun for all

I arrived in Orlando on a Thursday, and had managed to schedule the removal of the offending organ for the very next day. This was actually quite an achievement. I cold-called probably a dozen places, and just couldn’t get any traction with most of them. My side of the conversation generally went like this:

‘Hi, I’m in WA, but need to have my gallbladder removed in FL, and soon.’
‘I don’t want to do it in WA, I want to do it in FL.’
‘I don’t have a primary care doctor.’
‘I know that I need to have it removed because the ER doctor in Anacortes says that it has to be done. I have the paperwork.’
‘No, I’m not willing to schedule an appointment with your preferred primary doctor in March. This has already been diagnosed, and needs to come out’
‘No, I’m not a FL resident.’
‘I don’t have a home address other than a mailbox, I live on a boat.’
‘No, it’s not because I’m homeless and can only afford to live on a boat.’
‘Who said anything about being indigent? I don’t need to go to the damn county public health service.’
‘Good god, thanks for your time, I’ll keep calling around.’

Finally, after endless variations of this, I found someone who would actually schedule the procedure in a timely manner.

The OR was booked, and we arrived at the FL hospital on Friday AM. I got prepped for the surgery, and after a couple of hours of waiting got to meet the surgeon, Dr. Childers. I don’t think that he was really briefed ahead of time about my case. He seemed a little bit confused about how I came to be in his care. I explained that I had been at sea on the W. coast when it happened, but lived on a boat in FL currently, but didn’t really live here either. We talked a bit more about our lifestyle, he looked at my info from the ER in WA, and decided he was fine to proceed, and we’d go into the OR shortly.


He turned to leave, then stopped and turned back, and looked at us with the most queer wistful look on his face.

‘So, you’re 43 and spend half the year sailing all over the place on your yacht?’
‘Well, yes, but it’s really not all that spectacular most of the time’

Another pause.

‘I’m just standing here wondering what I’ve done with my life, I haven’t done anything really special’

Wow. Jenny and I exchanged a look. I told him that he was a SURGEON for god’s sake, and his accomplishments and contributions to humanity were in an entirely different league than our little self-indulgent wanderings. I was pretty gobsmacked by the exchange. I would not expect to be envied by such a man. I guess he’s probably dedicated his whole life to education and work, and he probably needs a year off. I hope he takes it sometime.

Anyway, the surgery was uneventful. They told Jenny that my gallbladder was actually really bad, and the procedure was a little more traumatic than usual. Something about it being stuck to the liver. Yuck.
Jenny got to experience hospital staff that really cared and made an effort to ensure that the patient’s loved ones were well taken care of. They had a special surgical waiting area where she had to sign in, got assigned a number under which she could be reached by the doctors if necessary, and got TJ’s assigned patient number. Up on a board that reminded her of the arrival/departure monitors at the airport she could follow the stations TJ went through: prep, surgery, wake up room.


A great service for a concerned wife, not to mention the comfy chairs, blankets, tea, juice and good coffee. Yes, good coffee, not the shitty stuff!

I got to spend the night in the hospital, really just a blur of morphine and popsicles for me. It hurt like hell even with the drugs. At least Jenny got to enjoy the nice view.



The following week was a pretty druggy haze for me too, but once I got the drain tube out (which I was to learn was stuck nearly a foot into my torso-it felt really weird on the way out), I started to recover quickly. It’s now been 2 weeks since the operation, and I’m about at 100%, just with a couple of new scars. I’ll fly to Alaska on Tuesday.


I’m very happy to have this all over with. In retrospect, it was really the best possible outcome. Of all the things that can go wrong in one’s torso, I’m quite happy that the one thing that went wrong was a non-essential component. Everything else is good. Many many thanks to Dr. Childers, who did an excellent job and actually took time to make sure I was okay and to hear my life story. Nowadays doctors always seem to be in a hurry, and it was nice to meet one that made us feel well taken care of. Big thanks to the fabulous nurses Katie, Joy and Angie and the Florida Hopsital.


Life continues on as normal.

The Gallbladder Blues

After the usual delays and chaos of trying to get our beloved Constellation out of Seattle and on it’s way to Dutch on time, we managed to leave just a day late. That’s pretty much par for the course.

We elected to transit the inside passage as far north as Queen Charlotte Sound or Dixon Entrance. There was a bit of a blow happening offshore, and running up inside for a day or two would give the guys some time to get everything secured for the crossing of the gulf anyway. This choice of route would influence our thinking in what was to follow.

I managed to get a short nap and then turned up for my watch at 2300 or so. All was well, the boat was running fine. Our engineering team seemed to have everything in good order. Time to settle in for the first night watch of many.

At about 0100, I started to feel the most peculiar pain in my back. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I wrote it off as just some soreness, though. I hadn’t been doing much in the way of physical work lately, so perhaps that was the culprit. By 0300, the pain had migrated around to the front of my torso, and by 0600, it had moved up right into the middle of my chest. It was really pretty excruciating, and while I felt like I was able to tough out a belly ache, pain in the chest is a different matter.

Remember that we’re navigating a boat with 32 people up through narrow passages. There’s really no room for error. While I didn’t really think that I was having a heart problem, there weren’t any other symptoms indicating that was happening, it was a possibility. It would have been irresponsible to just ignore it and carry on without consulting our shoreside medical provider. Besides, by this point, it hurt like hell all through my torso. Something was definitely up.

So, reluctantly, I picked up the phone. I got the answer that I expected from the doctor. There’s really no way to diagnose this sort of thing from afar. Pancreas, spleen, ulcer, and kidneys were all thrown out as possible culprits, but he was pretty confident that there wasn’t a heart problem happening.

Well, that was good enough for me. One of the things we big tough fishermen pride ourselves on is our indestructibility, after all. I wasn’t going to let a little bellyache stop me from going north.

Until I laid down…. Holy shit. Agony. I gave it about an hour and then asked Robbie to see if Tate could drive up to Anacortes and hop on the boat while I got checked out. There was just no way I was going to be able to perform my duties with this going on. I needed to find out what was happening.

We were about 70 miles past Anacortes, so we told the Canadian traffic service what we were up to, and that we didn’t want to put into a local port just to get avoid the hassles of customs. That was fine with them. When we got back into US waters, however, the traffic folks there were already well armed with questions and a few numbers to call. I called the USCG myself to explain what was happening, and that there hadn’t really been a casualty, but that I suspected that I’d passed a kidney stone or a gallstone and we decided to swap crew out while we were able to do so easily. VTS was ready to send 3 fire trucks and an ambulance to meet us at the dock. (I think that they have really boring jobs, so they get all excited when they get to do something unusual.) I got them calmed down and got ready to hop off the boat.

Just on a personal note, I was feeling pretty down about the whole episode. I’ve been fishing for 25 years, and have never had so much as a hangnail (not officially, anyway). Now I was responsible for the boat having to turn around and head back to port, losing time and money.

While I work for an excellent organization, human nature (particularly in today’s very litigious world) does sort of cause people to change one’s view of an employee when they have a medical issue. A guy can go from being an asset to a liability in a heartbeat. I had just signed a 75 day contract 12 hours before this happened, meaning that my employer was on the hook for this despite me being insured personally. The timing might be seen as suspicious. Now, I’ve never had anything like this happen before, and I would have investigated it prior to going to sea if it had, but not everybody has the same scruples.

Anyway, suffice it to say that over the years I’ve seen some good guys get hurt or sick and they never show up on the boat again. I’ll see them in Dutch working for somebody else. This hasn’t really been the case with my current outfit, but it does happen pretty often.

Of course, I don’t honestly have these concerns, this is obviously legit and not a chronic problem that would cause concern to my bosses about long-term liabilities. But, in the lead-up to this all happening, the potential career consequences were something that I couldn’t help but consider. And at this point, I really didn’t know what I was dealing with. A heart problem would basically mean that my USCG license goes into the shredder… Scary stuff all around.

So, after muddling through all the self-imposed psychodrama, we arrived in Anacortes last night, and I made my way up to the emergency room. After a few hours, an ultrasound and way too many tubes of blood, it was determined that my gallbladder was loaded with stones and pretty badly inflamed. It needs to get cut out ASAP. They will let me fly to FL and do it there, so that’s good. Jenny can tend to me while I convalesce. My understanding is that it’s really a pretty basic thing, and I should be back up and in Alaska within a couple of weeks.

For my part, I’m probably the first guy to ever be ecstatic about getting the news that I need to have a part removed. The problem has been identified, the fix is not terribly hard, and everything else checks out just fine.

And it turned out that turning around and getting off the boat potentially saved us from a much bigger problem later, when the logistics of dealing with this would have been much harder. It was the right call in the end despite my reservations.

Time to book a flight and get home. I should be fishing by the first of February.


Texas – Land of the Killer Attack Skunks

We arrived in Florida at the end of November, and cruising is on hold until March. We can’t really ‘cruise’ FL anyway, thanks to our mast height and draft, so we’re just sticking around one place doing some boat chores and enjoying the warm temperatures. We’re pretty happy to just stay put for the season anyway. Our only complaint is all the no-see-ums. Everything from the knee down is awfully itchy most of the time around these parts.


With all our free time, we’ve taken the opportunity to go to Seattle to update some of the training that I need to stay current on for my USCG license.




We also drove our little cheap beach car (his name is Hans-Dieter) all the way to Texas and back for a visit with some old friends.



Dennis and Linda are long-time boaters who we first got to know in Puerto Vallarta. We occupied the same dock for a couple of years. At about the time we purchased Rocket Science, they sold their very nice Hunter 460 and moved onto a large plot of land outside Austin. Dennis is a chiropractor, and he’s opened up a practice there.

We hadn’t seen them in a couple of years, so we were looking forward to doing so. After getting off I-10, our navigator had us traveling down smaller and smaller roads out in the middle of nowhere until we got the announcement that ‘our destination is on the left’. A gate stood there with a one lane dirt track leading off over a hill. Dennis buzzed up on his 4 wheeler and let us in, leading us down the 1/2 mile long driveway to their house. This struck us as a rather unusual departure for them, having always been on or near boats, but it was a fine piece of land with lots of open space for their 2 new dogs, with plenty of hunting opportunities. More on that later.





We were pleased to pick up right where we left off with those two, everybody babbling all at once catching up on what had happened in the past couple of years. Old friends are really the best kind. It turned out that they saw a good opportunity in their field in TX and decided to give it a go, rather than return to their original home turf in Oregon. It seemed like they were doing just fine there, enjoying a lot of the more rural aspects of living there. Dennis in particular is a keen sportsman, so he was really enjoying all the time he got to spend outside.

Baxter loved the place, of course. He tried for all he was worth to keep up with the 11 month old Labs, but our old guy just doesn’t have that kind of zing in him these days. Several times a day, one of us would hop on a 4 wheeler and run the dogs at about 30 mph. Baxter, never wanting to be left behind, would run along behind for a half mile or so. One of the first times I took them all for a run, I stopped to let little Bax catch up, and he sat down right next to me with the saddest look on his face, so I asked him if he wanted to ride along with me. He started wagging straight away, and our new system was for him to run along until he got tired, and then I’d pick him up and ride around with him happily perched on the gas tank while the other dogs ran along.







Even so, the poor mutt was totally wiped out at the end of each day. We took the whole pack to Cabelas (an outdoor store) one day, and Baxter just couldn’t bring himself to walk along with us at the store. He spent our time there riding around in the shopping cart. Our little prince.


In other dog news, one of the neighbors there has a huge Armenian hunting dog. Linda and Dennis were concerned that Baxter might get himself hurt by this beast, as their dogs had had a few dust-ups with her. Well, as soon as this monster saw Baxter, she flipped over onto her back and became the most docile, submissive animal one could ever imagine. She was totally in love with her new pint-sized buddy. Nobody could believe it. I guess our little stud’s still got it after all these years.






Some background on Texas is in order for those who don’t know. First, they REALLY like their guns in that state. Dennis had us do some target practice. Jenny took to that pretty well.


Second, they have real problems with wild hogs. And skunks, we were to learn later. Dennis is happy to do his part to help control the critters. This is best done at night.

So, our first night there, I saw Dennnis outside. He was holding a rifle up to his shoulder, his eye bathed in an eerie green light. Night vision! How cool is that? I went out with him and took a look around, and he told me about all the problems with hogs, and how the skunks were always burrowing under the house and spraying both the house and whatever livestock or dogs came too close. It was his mission to eliminate both. Well, ok, I’m not all that keen to shoot animals, but we were in Texas after all, and if that’s what they see as necessary there, it’s not my place to disagree. When in Rome and all that.

He also told me that the local skunks had the very unsettling trait of running toward whoever was shooting at them. So, if you miss the first time, odds were good that one of them would charge you with the intent of really ruining your day.

Now, I haven’t shot a gun in years, and really was never very good at it in the first place. But, testosterone being what it is, I was honor bound to immediately profess my desire to engage in this seemingly foolhardy activity. Jenny also agreed to come along. I don’t remember if we told her about the attack skunks beforehand.

Night 2 found the 3 of us walking around out in the pasture. Jenny and I were completely in the dark except for a bit of moon, and Dennis was scoping around for hogs with the night vision. I was secretly hoping for hogs at a distance. The damn skunks could stay in their burrows. I wanted no part of them.

Suddenly, Jenny tapped me on the shoulder and said that there was something small moving about 10 feet in front of us. I put the flashlight on it, and was horrified to find a mutant skunk staring back at me. I really didn’t want to blast the poor critter, but that was the stated goal for the night, so I did. Fortunately, he was pretty close so I didn’t miss him and get to test out whether or not he was going to charge.

I still don’t really know what to think about the whole episode. I understand the need to take care of vermin around a country house, but I did feel a little guilty for blowing this little guy away while he was really just minding his own business. A bit of a moral dilemma for me.

Anyway, that shot ended any chance of hogs coming around, so we concluded the night’s activities.

We spent 4 very enjoyable days there, and then made our way home. I’m happy to report that our little beater beach car performed flawlessly. All in all, we felt like we did all the appropriate Texan things: shoot, eat red meat and buy some Cowboy boots!



We returned home to take on our major chore for this stop, changing the bearings on one of our steering pedestals. This will probably warrant it’s own entry by the time it’s done.

Happy holidays to all.


Fall and Winter 2014

The last 3 months of 2014 were slightly turbulent – high time for a blog update!

TJ left for Alaska in early October, expecting to fish for a trip or 2, then come home and sail Rocket Science to the Caribbean. Instead he ended up returning to Seattle on the ‘Constellation’ on November 30 and all Caribbean dreams flowed down Narragansett Bay. We just didn’t have enough time to get down there and settled in before TJ had to leave again for work. Also, leaving New England in December’s pushing it a bit on the weather front, not to mention damned cold. I’ll spare you the evolving of plans A – F and continue with what actually happened.

Baxter got to spend a few days in a doggy hotel and I flew to Seattle to welcome TJ home and (gasp) go condo shopping. When it got colder in Rhode Island it became clear that Rocket Science wasn’t meant to be a winter liveaboard. Dripping hatches were the least of my problems. The heater kept up until the temperatures got down to the 20s, but the Nomex core in the boat turned out to be a less efficient insulator than we had hoped. Every bulkhead you touched had the same temperature as the outside. After spending almost 5 years in the tropics I was slightly miserable.

When the weather was nice it didn’t bother me as much, and luckily that was the case most of the time. Fall was glorious.







When it got rainy or snowed it got uncomfortable. I had to empty my clothes locker approximately once every 10 days because everything in there that touched the hull was soaking wet. All in all, not an ideal situation.



It was nice to return to Seattle. It’s been a few years. It felt like home, sort of. The weather was perfect, just cold. The night of November 30 I waited at the Ballard Locks to see TJ and crew go through. I had to wait for an hour (and so did they) because the large lock was putting through another big boat. Brr. I saw them briefly and then headed down to Fishermen’s Terminal.

It was good to have him back, though the next few days were rather busy. I camped out at Starbucks a lot while TJ had meetings and various work issues to attend to. On the 3rd we went to look at condos and actually found one we liked. Long story short, American banks apparently think they are the Holy Roman Inquisition, which put us off a lot, and then they rejected the building because of a projected 9.5% surplus in the condo budget, they wanted to see 10%, so they rejected the original loan but did offer us another loan at a full percent higher on the interest rate, translating to about 1100 bucks per year of pure profit for them. We said no thanks. It would have been nice to have sort of a home base, but apparently it’s not meant to happen at this moment.

We returned to Rhode Island late on the night of the 6th of November, got up before dawn on the 7th to leave Cove Haven Marina at high tide. It was cold but calm.





We spend a few days winterizing the boat, then left her at New England Boatworks in Portsmouth, RI and headed out on the 10th to start our trip to Europe.

Getting there was not easy since we were taking little Mr. Baxter. I didn’t want him to have to go on more than one flight, so we drove to New York and flew from JFK to Milan, Italy. There I had rented a car.

Now the car rental story will give you a pretty good idea about Italian attitudes! If you have a US license you are allowed to drive in a bunch of European countries, but Italy isn’t one of them. Since I wasn’t too happy about driving everywhere we asked the car rental lady if we could put TJ on the contract as an additional driver and he would only drive in France. She told us not to worry, he could drive in Italy. Her words were something like ‘The cops don’t like it too much, but you can always pay a little fine and get away with it.’ All hail to the Italians! We also had to purchase supplemental insurance, since there are 6 countries on earth where AMEX won’t insure a rental car. North Korea, Lebanon, Israel, Jamaica, Syria, and ITALY! Go figure. They didn’t seem to drive any more or less maniacally to me than the French did.

The drive to Nice, France was exhausting. Neither one of us slept on the plane, and driving in the European cities is no visit to the pony farm. We finally arrived at our apartment at 5 pm. This was the first time we had rented a place on We figured it would be nicer (and cheaper!) than a hotel. Hotels and dogs don’t go together very well, anyways. We found the place pretty basic, but it fit our needs. It was close to a grocery store and a park, very convenient.

In France we went all over hell. We visited St. Tropez, which the travel guide described as ‘sleepy’ in the off season. We found that ‘comatose’ was more fitting. Somehow we had envisioned it to be grand, but it wasn’t. Since we weren’t just playing tourists but also scouting out possible places to visit on Rocket Science we decided that was one we could skip, no problem.




















Monaco was a whole different story. We liked it a lot! The scenery is, as most places on the Cote d’Azur, stunning. If you think the Formula 1 race there looks insane on TV, you should go check out the place. I don’t know how they do it without killing the whole lot of them every race. If I win the lottery I’ll definitely go and watch one.










Aix-en-Provence was sort of blah, definitely not worth the long drive out there.

Antibes was nice, a pretty little tourist trap.






















We liked Nice itself a lot. We went to the Christmas market there, which I enjoyed tremendously. They even set up ice skating rinks! Very fun. We ate a lot of pastries and French stuff. I don’t think I can look at an American chocolate croissant the same way ever again. It’s not the same (or even close!).

















After 10 days we headed back to Milan from where we flew to Brussels, Belgium to spend Christmas with my family. We were in Germany/Belgium for only 4 days. We then ditched Baxter with his grandparents and headed to Rome.

Rome was fantastic. We stayed at a very nice hotel. It used to be a monastery, but has been converted. Mostly, anyways. There are still some nuns who live there, and they also have a chapel. The first day (afternoon, really) we spend wandering around Trastevere and exploring our neighborhood.













On day 2 we went to Ancient Rome. We visited the Capitoline Museums with artwork thousands of years old (and bathrooms… those are hard to find in Rome). Wesaw the Collosseum and the Forum Romanum. We didn’t go inside because the crowds were unreal.



































Day 3 we visited the Centro Storico with an abundance of old churches and of course the Pantheon.














On December 29, day 4, we took a day trip to Naples and Pompei. That was TJ’s favorite day. Naples seemed crowded but like a fun place. Definitely worth a stop on Rocket Science! Pompei was very impressive, especially because it was a gorgeous yet cold day, and Mount Vesuvius’ presence in the background reminded us of how this city was buried by its ashes almost 2000 years ago. It was incredibly well preserved and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Our guide explained that there is some damage every year caused by tourists, but that the Italian government still chooses to give people access to this incredible place rather than lock it away because things like this just need to be seen. It was a long drive, 3 hours each way, but definitely worth it.






























The next day we were tired from all the running around and sightseeing and getting up early. We went to see the Spanish Steps, which were, well, steps. Not very exciting. At the various monuments one can find people dressed up as Centurios, trying to make a buck by having the tourists take pictures with them. Of course I couldn’t resist that!








December 31 we went to the Vatican. When we saw the line in front of the Vatican Museums we decided it would be a good idea to take a tour, especially because everything was going to be shut down at 1 pm. With a tour one gets to skip the line, and there must have been hundreds of people waiting. I had been looking forward to the tour of the Vatican the most. It was stunning, but the crowds took away so much that the experience was mostly stressful. Our guide let us know that on an average day 25 000 people visit the Vatican. A busy day can see up to 50 000. We were there on an average day, and I had to fight back panic attacks several times.

The museums were interesting. I thought they’d be full of Christian art, but it was quite the opposite. I asked the guide about it and he explained that the catholic church learned early that art is a good investment. Makes sense. When the Vatican was established they decided that all this beautiful art should be shared with the world, and now one can see it at the Vatican museums.

The Sistine Chapel was the highlight of the tour. The artwork was stunning, and somehow there was a very special vibe in there. Despite the masses. We did not get to see St. Peter’s Basilica. It was closed because the Pope was preparing a special mass for New Year’s.




























We returned to the Vatican the next day to visit St. Peter’s. We quickly abandoned the plan when we realized about 1500 people had the same idea and were waiting in line. I was bummed out, but so done with crowds I was willing to skip this experience.








All in all we had a very good yet exhausting December. TJ returned to work on January 2 and I went back to Germany to stay with my family.