Independence, Huzzah!

Independence, Huzzah!

We had fantastic plans to spend Independence Day weekend in Yorktown. Yorktown, for you non-history nerds and other strange people, was the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington. Are you getting excited with me yet? Celebrating independence at the very site of victory, Huzzah!

We’d sail down Thursday night and grab a mooring ball, which we had reserved several weeks in advance. There would be a parade in the morning, beach time, and walking around the lovely historic town. After grilling kabobs, we would eat dessert and drink wine as we watched fireworks from the aft deck. Fourth of July perfection, right?

Then this guy came along.arthur

The outskirts of the storm that became Hurricane Arthur was supposed to be reaching the lower Bay just about the time we were hoping to leave Thursday night. We had to decide what to do, and since we had the kids with us, we decided to hunker down in the marina until it passed. In retrospect we probably would have been alright if we’d left when we originally planned, but by the time we realized that, it was too late to change our decision.

Our good friends Matt and Sarah and their son Dallas joined us, and we had a relaxed Independence Day at the marina, playing and swimming. Late afternoon we all drove to Yorktown, where we parked in a field with the rest of the crowd, and trudged to the waterfront with our cooler and chairs to wait for fireworks. We thought longingly of our vision of grilling on the deck as we waited in long lines for food and envisioned our relative solitude on the boat as we waited in more long lines to use port-a-potties. Ick.

The company was lovely though, and the kids got to play on the beach and had lots of fun helping to corral the very inquisitive Dallas.

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And there was a nice fireworks show.

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It really was a very nice holiday. It just wasn’t what we had envisioned.That, however, more or less came the next day.

On Saturday, Matt and Sarah headed home, but we sailed/ motor-sailed up to Reedville, a historic town known for its menhaden fishing industry. We had heard they were having fireworks that night. It was a beautiful day and a nice little trip up there.

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We passed the historic smokestack and arrived during their Independence Day parade. We caught glimpses of fire trucks between the houses, and could hear their horns and sirens. After finding a spot to anchor on Cockrell Creek, we took the dinghy into town. It is really a lovely town. Every house was festive, with flags and banners displayed for the Fourth.

We had read in online reviews that there was a nice place to get ice cream. Some kind local folks were more than happy to give us directions there and wish us a pleasant stay. We located the ice cream shop, Chitterchats, and decided to come back after dinner. We rode back to the boat and grilled those kabobs we’d been wishing for the previous night, then returned for ice cream. The line was long, but the ice cream was delicious.

After dark were more fireworks. It was so much more pleasant to watch, knowing my bed was right there below waiting for me when they were over. The town put on a very nice fireworks show, which was followed by some pretty impressive private fireworks from the opposite side of the creek.

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The weekend went so quickly. After sailing back and cleaning and packing Sunday, we had to begin the long drive home. Alan went right to DC as he had to work the next day, so the kids and I made the trip back to PA without him. It’s always a long drive, but this time it was especially painful, due to an earlier accident on the Potomac River Bridge, which added about 2 slow, painful hours to my trip. I will be ever so grateful when our trips to the boat are no longer bookended by that drive.

Fall sailing trip

Fall sailing trip

Our rough plan for our fall trip was to sail to Annapolis. I was really looking forward to taking the tour of the Naval Academy, but we’ll have to do that another time. Instead, we spent some time on the Eastern Shore and had a really lovely time.

Our trip started out on a beautiful day. There were boat races going on out by Solomons, which was cool to watch as we slowly made our way through the spectator area.

039That evening we walked through the Holiday Inn parking lot on our way to pick up some beer. On the way through, we saw two of the racing boats and their crews cleaning things up and getting ready to go home. We got to look at the boats up close and the kids got autographed pictures and hats, and we got a pair of koozies from them. It was pretty neat.

That night our propane system failed when we started to fix dinner, so we stayed in Solomons another day to get parts and fix it. That delay is the reason we didn’t get all the way to Annapolis. It turned out to be a pretty happy change of plans.

We headed to Oxford, Maryland the following day. Oxford is just a lovely, perfect little town. We so loved just walking around the town in the perfect September weather.

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The kids loved playing in this beautiful park. As we watched them, the church bells in the church next door played beautiful music at noon for ten solid minutes. It was just unbelievably idyllic.

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The Oxford Market had everything on our list that we were looking to pick up. I was actually already thinking the town was perfect before I found Mystery Loves Company, Oxford’s very nice new and used bookstore.

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We enjoyed lunch at The Masthead and the ice cream was amazing at the Scottish Highland Creamery. We also did a little bit of boat shopping while we were there…

After spending a couple days in Oxford, we decided to move on and head to St. Michaels. We went in the back way, anchoring in the San Domingo Creek. Quite honestly, St. Michaels did not impress me. It was crowded and touristy and mostly nothing but shops and shops and more shops. There was one real gem we found in St. Michaels, though. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was really, really wonderful. Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the boat that day, but seriously, if you go to St. Michaels, check it out. Lots of good stuff for everyone, and it’s spread out over a large area – there are many different buildings and outside exhibits, so there’s plenty of sunshine – you’re not spending the whole time in one big building. The museum gives you a comprehensive overview of life on the Chesapeake Bay: history, culture, boats, fishing. Plus, the Hooper Straight lighthouse is there, and we always enjoy checking out a lighthouse!

After a day in St. Michaels, we started heading home. It was a long, wet, rough ride back to Solomons. We were all ready for hot chocolate by the time we anchored.

126131And now we find ourselves in the market for a new boat… but that’s a story for another time. Anyone in the market for a Bristol?

Puppy love

Puppy love

It was only a few weeks after we got engaged that Alan called to tell me he had a “new little buddy.” Some random person had offered him a puppy, the last of a litter he was trying to find homes for. And so we ended up with a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, a fuzzy little bear of a pup.

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He was always a sweet dog, although he showed his naughty side often enough. He was a sucker for a chance to go exploring. As he got bigger he would knock me over to push through a half open door or pull his collar or leash right out of my fingers (or drag me behind if I was too dumb or too dumbfounded to let go) to tear off into the neighborhood. I was always afraid he’d get into trouble. He could look scary to someone who didn’t know him. Luckily, he never got hurt, although he did come home in the back of a police car once, and there was at least one dead chicken with some pretty convincing circumstantial evidence that may have pointed his direction…

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He settled down quite a bit in the last few years as his snout started to grey, although I still always saw him as that same crazy, excitable young dog, and he certainly played the part when the kids wanted to play. Late this summer he developed a tumor in his abdomen, and last week he died. It was so hard to see him fade away in the end, acting nothing like my Buddy.

The kids wanted a new dog right away, an impulse I do understand. I really, really didn’t want a new dog right now. I have bad childhood memories in this area. After my beloved golden retriever Sandi died, I wanted a new one immediately. We got another golden, Maggie. Maggie was a sweet dog, but inevitably, she was very unlike Sandi. I really kind of resented her for a while. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

It was awful lonely around here without a dog, though. Especially those nights when Alan works. Buddy was my companion once the kids were in bed. When things went bump in the night I could always figure it was nothing to be concerned about if Buddy wasn’t disturbed by it. I also tend to stay up way too late on those nights, working on various projects, but Buddy always made me go to bed at a fairly reasonable hour because he would start going nuts if I didn’t get into bed. Now there’s no one keeping an ear out with me, no one making sure I keep an eye on the time. I’ll concede that the cat does keep me company, but goodness knows he wouldn’t lower himself to show an interest in my activities.

And then… Alan started looking into breeds that we might look at. I happen to be a sucker for mutts. So I started looking at rescued dogs to see if any fit the kind of dog he was thinking about – just to throw the idea into the conversation, really. And then I happened to find one that seemed to be just what we were probably looking for, even though I didn’t really want to look yet. And now I find myself about to go meet a new dog tomorrow – a new puppy, really. A new 70 pound, 9 month old puppy that we might be taking home with us. I want to be ready for this, but I really don’t know if I am, or if any of us are. The great thing about most dogs, though, is that their hearts are big enough to compensate when ours fail us. It may have taken me a little time to completely warm to Maggie, but I surely did grow to love her just as much as I loved Sandi. Just maybe a new, big-hearted puppy is exactly what we all need.

Sail to the Historic Triangle

Sail to the Historic Triangle

Our longest and farthest trip yet is finished and I am declaring it a success. Since there did not appear to be any good options for anchorage in the James River, we sailed down to the York River and used Yorktown as a base to see all of Virginia’s “Historic Triangle”: Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg. Our weather was beautiful. We had a few brief storms, but only one rain day in two weeks. We saw one shark, a bunch of dolphins, lots of stingrays, herons, pelicans, and ospreys, and oddly enough, a ridiculous number of dragonflies.

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IMG_5348IMG_5313Our first two nights at Yorktown we anchored across the River in Sarah Creek. We celebrated Alan’s birthday with a made-aboard-from-scratch cake. My super secret keepers helped keep it a surprise by assuring him multiple times that we were definitely not having dessert that night, especially not cake! He was totally shocked.

IMG_5052The next day we made our first foray into Yorktown. The river was too rough to dinghy across, so we took a taxi across the bridge. We thought we were going to the Yorktown Victory Center, a living history museum of the Revolutionary War that is run by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Instead, the driver took us to the Yorktown Battlefield, run by the National Park Service. I felt a little cheated. There’s not much there besides a very small museum and a bunch of cannons. There is a self-guided driving tour that might be good, but it wasn’t any good to us. The kids liked the cannons, though.

IMG_5057One of the greatest things about Yorktown, though, is the free trolley that runs through the town, as well as the free buses that run to Williamsburg and Jamestown. After exploring the battlefield a bit, we jumped on the trolley and visited the Yorktown Victory Monument, and the home of Thomas Nelson, a signer of the Declaration.

IMG_5065We couldn’t have anchored on the Yorktown side of the river because of the wicked currents, but the county has some mooring balls right by the riverfront for a very reasonable rate, so we decided to grab one the next day and stay while we went to Jamestown. We so enjoyed everything the area had to offer, we stayed for three days. In Yorktown, we enjoyed the beaches, the Watermen’s Museum, and the Yorktown Victory Center was great when we finally got there.

IMG_5126Jamestown was awesome. We did both Historic Jamestowne (the actual site) and Jamestown Settlement (a living history museum) in the same day, but to do them justice, in the future I would plan a full day at each. At Historic Jamestowne, they had uncovered a skeleton of a horse about a week before we were there. I couldn’t convince Sammy it wasn’t a dinosaur.

IMG_5081Historic Jamestowne was even better than I remembered and gave me goosebumps, but the kids loved Jamestown Settlement more.

IMG_5098We’d been planning to leave Friday morning, but we decided to stay one last day to make it to the Carrot Tree Restaurant’s all-you-can-eat crab night at the Watermen’s Museum. Unfortunately, that week’s event was canceled due to forecast thunderstorms that never came. (Boo.) We decided to go to Williamsburg for our last day. We went and walked around a bit and had lunch there. We weren’t able to stay for long though, after getting a late start because we wanted to get the head pumped out first and the dock didn’t open until 10. We’ll definitely have to go back to the area another time when we can spend more time at both Jamestown and Williamsburg.

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What I’ve Not Been Up To

I have no exciting knitting to share. I’ve been very busy not-knitting, actually. I seem to have gotten into a bit of a knitting funk. I just have no motivation to pick up my needles. Savannah’s Harry Potter sweater is very close to completion and I just have not done it. I’m not sure what to blame this on. The pattern is very not exciting, for starters. It’s all stockinette. Once I finished the not-really-intarsia letter H there was nothing to keep it interesting. Is my attention span so short? Yes, apparently it is. And somehow, while I’ve been busy not-knitting it, it got to be May! At this point, I’m thinking there’s already no way possible that all my big projects will be completed for Christmas. And I’m thinking that’s okay. I’ll have to decide, once I’m feeling knitty again, which projects take precedence. I also think, however, that I kind of burned myself out with the number of projects I ended up making for last Christmas. Moderation: it’s good for all things. Anyone have any tips for getting out of my knitting funk? I really would like to start knitting again, but night after night, I just don’t. Hm.

While I’ve been not-knitting, we’ve also been not-sailing, which is a bit of a bummer. We spend Mother’s Day down at the boat trying to finish up the maintenance necessary before putting it back in the water. It’s very close now and it’s scheduled to go back in Memorial Day weekend. Of course, this would be easier if Alan – who is not a runner – hadn’t signed up for a 50k race on June 1. Why would he do such a thing? So… getting the boat ready and finishing up training will both be packed into the next two weeks. This should get interesting.

So what have I been doing whilst busy not-knitting and not-sailing? There have been softball practices and games and church activities. There was a First Holy Communion and a party. And there has been reading, which is a plus. It is hard to find the time for both knitting and reading (and I found out the hard way not to try to mix the two). I was inspired by the release of the movie (which I haven’t seen) to re-read The Hobbit, which I just finished. I intend to go on and read The Lord of the Rings books and The Silmarillion, but we’ll see.

So what have you not been doing that you should be or would like to be doing?

Recent reading

I just finished The Poisonwood Bible, which has been on my to-read list for at least 10 years. I need to read more Kingsolver, I just love the way she writes. I can add The Poisonwood Bible to a couple of other books I’ve loved that have dealt with the history of the Congo in various ways, particularly Heart of Darkness and King Leopold’s Ghost. My historical education has been rather lacking in African history, which is a lack I would really like to fill.

Savannah is flying through the last third or so of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a while ago but needed a bit of a break before finishing the series. I loved the Harry Potter series and I love watching her experience it as well. She thinks it’s rather funny that she’ll have read the whole series in second grade, as her school doesn’t allow kids to check the Harry Potter books out from the library until third grade.

Savannah has also read Friendship with Jesus, which is a beautifully illustrated picture book that includes children’s questions about the Eucharist, and answers by Pope Benedict XVI. It’s a perfect book for kids preparing for their First Holy Communion.

Sammy and Lissie have loved How Rocket Learned to Read. This book is adorable, and perfect for pre-readers and budding readers. Felicity at this point can recognize a few common sight words and knows letter sounds but isn’t quite at the point where she can start to sound out words she doesn’t know. This book is great for gently starting to introduce that skill. The sequel, Rocket Writes a Story, is definitely on our to-read list.

Arrr, The best playhouse in the world!

Arrr, The best playhouse in the world!

Felicity said it better than I could: “We’re going to have the best playhouse in the whole world… even in Chinese!”

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Alan is building the kids a pirate ship playhouse. A pretty massive, awesome pirate ship playhouse. He used plans here as his basis, although he has modified them somewhat. Our version is longer to allow for the addition of a second mast so the kids can climb the rigging between them.

Construction began early in January, when the ground was still frozen.

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IMG_4439Our clever neighbors began to ask if we were concerned about floods.

IMG_4479One suggested that years from now, when the kids are done with it, we take it to the Bay to “see how well it floats.” I’m pretty sure there would be some hefty fines associated with that experiment.

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IMG_4593IMG_4594 IMG_4595At some point after the boat itself is complete, he’ll cut down that tree and add a swingset to the side coming off one of the masts.