Friday, September 25, 2009

A Visit to the Beaches of Normandy

(Catching up from our Europe trip)

Some people take a week or more to visit the museums and coastal towns of Normandy. We did it in a day trip from Paris, with a 3 hour drive each way to get there. But we were able to see most of what we wanted to see. For anyone interested in a short synopsis of the logistic issues that the Allies overcame when planning the invasion, see this website:

We started at the Memorial de Caen, which was originally a WWII museum, but has since morphed into also covering the Cold War, 9/11, etc. We then went to Juno Beach, where the Canadian forces came ashore for the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944.

We drove for about 30 miles down the coast through the little French beach towns, and ended up at Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. We stopped at several small museums along the way, and had a 'stand up' lunch of fresh quiche at a patisserie.

It was a very moving day--full of history and sadness for all the soldiers who died, all the French townspeople whose homes and lives were destroyed. But all this set in the beautiful French countryside, full of flowers and quaint little seaside towns.

A Small Sample of the Monuments

When they kicked us out of the Cemetary at 5pm, we drove down onto the beach.

Dave and Sam Examining a Shipwreck on Omaha Beach

On the return drive, we were running late and starved, so we actually went to McDonalds. McDonalds is kind of a sacriledge here in France, but it does have its place when you're hungry and don't have 3 hours to enjoy a 3 course meal.

We hit heavy traffic going through Paris, and then found that the freeway back to our hotel was closed! We spent another hour driving around in circles (thankfully following the GPS) before we managed to get back on the freeway north of the blockage. It looked like they were just working on the road, but didn't have any 'detour' signs out. If we'd not had the GPS to help us figure out where we were, we'd still be out driving around!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We are in Gay Paree!

We are in Gay Paree!! We had a fun 2 days in Germany (hopefully I'll have time to post a few pictures on this). But now it's time for France.

The four of us (John and Sandy Delappa and Dave and I) took the fast train from Kaiserslautern to Paris yesterday afternoon. Sam and Nancy were supposed to pick up a rental car and come meet us at the railway station. We eventually made contact, just a little late. They ran into horrid Saturday afternoon traffic on their way from the car pickup to the Gare de Est railway station... apparently some big music event/parade in Paris totally snarled traffic.

After they had collected us, it took us another hour of heavy traffic city driving to get back out to the Marriot, which is near Disneyland Paris, about 20 miles east of Paris.

Fortunately, Sam and Nancy have a family friend who lives in Paris, and who helped them find the car rental place, the railway station, and helped guide us around the traffic as we left the station.

More later, we're off to explore Paris!

Friday, September 18, 2009

We Made it to Germany!

They finally got a C5 flight off to Ramstein AFB last night, and it had 75 seats on it (and no Top Secret cargo). We made it aboard with room to spare--there was even a couple of empty seats on the flight.

We had real seats almost like an passenger airplane. The C5 has a huge cargo hold like a warehouse, and a separate passenger cabin. It was pretty comfortable, considering. The seats reclined like normal airline seats. We got a 'box lunch' (which we paid for). Other than an 'inflight fueling exercise', which introduced some turbulence, it was almost like a normal airline flight.

We landed at Ramstein about 3:30 pm local time, and processed quicly through German immigration and customs.

Now that we're here, the next problem is lodging. We didn't make reservations ahead, because we weren't sure where we'd end up. At the time we were confirmed on the flight, we got on the list, but not with confirmed reservations. Getting here, we got one room, but John and Sandy were next in line and there were no more rooms. They are on standby for a room here, and have a room at Vogelwehn, another Air Force lodging facility, but it's a $30 taxi ride away. We now have a car rented, and plan on 2 nights in Germany, and we have train tickets (79 Euros/$118) to Paris on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leaving for Europe Today

We've been too busy with friends, doctors, and shopping to make updates on Facebook or our blog. But we're setting out today on the first leg of our journey to the canals of France.

We drive from Satellite Beach to Charleston today. Hopefully we will get on the military flight leaving Charleston AFB this afternoon for Ramstein AFB in Germany. Then we have a couple of days to get to Paris, where we have a timeshare for a week (thanks to friends Sam and Nancy). We hope to see a little of Paris and some WWII sites as well.

Then on Sep 26, we pick up our 'canal boat' from Le Boat, for a week on the Gray to Branges segment of the canals in Burgundy (Gray is SW of Dijon about 50 miles). We are sharing a 6-person boat with 2 other couples, so the expense is reasonable. We have rented 4 bikes for the week, and only have about 10-15 miles to go per day. So there's plenty of time for sightseeing and wineries.

I'll do my best to keep up with the posts on my blog (which also post on Facebook).

We'll be back in the U.S. around Oct 8.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another Cool New Gadget

This has nothing to do with boating, but with living in a small space.

We never used the LCD TV that we had onboard, so we sold it at a cruiser's flea market earlier this year. But while we've been 'on the road', several times we've wished we had television capabilities. So I researched what might be available to get TV on my laptop.

Before we left the boat, I ordered a Hauppauge USB WinTV-HVR-950Q. It only costs $70 from The package includes the tuner, which is a USB device a little fatter than a memory stick, a small antenna, a remote control the size of a PCMCIA card, and a USB extension cord (in case you are trying to squeeze it in with something else in 2 side-by-side USB slots). Plus a connector to feed an external video source into your laptop.

I finally got it set up and got time to play with it today, and I'm impressed! Sitting at my dining room table on the ground floor in Satellite Beach, with the supplied mini antenna, I'm getting about 10 digital channels out of thin air (most from Orlando and Daytona). You can also hook a cable feed to it, but that's not what I'm after. It will also pick up old-style analog signals, and I THINK it will do the European PAL format too (will let you know after we go to Europe).

Not only does it tune TV channels on your laptop, but it can also function as a DVR (digital recorder), so you can record shows for later playback.

In about 10 minutes, the supplied software had scanned for all available Analog and Digital channels, and from then, to change channels, you just up or down arrow on your keyboard. (There's a remote, but I haven't played with that yet).

It seems to run fine on my Eee 1000 laptop, as long as the signal is strong enough. It can run full screen or in a smaller window. I've got 3 Internet Explorer sessions, Outlook, and the Windows Performance Monitor and I'm using up less than 50% of the CPU.

The software that comes with it is a little klunky, but there's a new version coming out soon. It does the job, it's just a little less intuitive to use.

I'm currently using a 21-day free trial of a $99 software product called BeyondTV. With an internet interface, it effortlessly provides the on-screen programming content that we've all become used to with Cable TV Smart Boxes.

This is a great option for 'road warriors' who want to get local news and weather on their laptop.

And for a boat or house 'installation', before you go out and spend big bucks on a hyped 'digital TV antenna and amplifier' (in the $100-$200 range), check out this video on how to build your own TV antenna out of coathangers. I haven't made one (yet), but it looks like fun and supposedly does a great job.

Have fun!

Back in the USA!

Yes, we made it back from Ecuador. Other than the 45 minute delay in pulling away from the gate... caused by a 'fueling problem' (???)... it was a good flight on American Airlines.

Miami Airport is way more hassle than Ft. Lauderdale, and I think that next time we fly, if I have a choice, I'd take Ft. Lauderdale. But other than we were sweating getting to the French Consulate before they close at 4:30 (and getting stuck in rush hour traffic in Miami), it was not painful. The biggest problem is that American was late on the flight.

We made it to the French Consulate on time, and picked up our 'Long Stay Visas' for French Polynesia. For $200 each, a lot of paperwork, and 3 months waiting, we are legal to stay in French Polynesia for 6 months next year instead of the normal 3 months. This give us time to really enjoy FP and not hurry through like the rest of the cruisers, who are trying to make it to New Zealand by November. And our plan is to come back from Hawaii for another 3 months in 2011, before moving further west.

The visas were official looking full-passport-page stickers that have our photo on them. We had to bring our passport in and have them apply the sticker. Our visa starts 1 Mar 2010.

The traffic getting out of Miami at 5:15 wasn't nearly as bad as we'd feared. We stopped in Ft. Lauderdale for a run through the biggest West Marine store in Florida, and then at Big Red's BBQ place (just off I-95 on 84). I'd been thinking about good Florida-style BBQ for days... By the time we finished dinner, the traffic had died out and we had an easy run back to Satellite Beach.

The next day, we drove the rental to my brother's house, where Dave's car is stored, and picked it up and dropped the rental at Daytona Airport (with about 30 seconds to spare on our 1 day rental).

Yesterday, we started the round of scheduled doctor's visits, and shopping. Between Walmart, Beall's, and the Base Exchange, we spent $450 yesterday!!

Dave is off playing golf with buddies today, and I'm catching up on other things, and going sailing in the Rum Race at Melbourne Yacht Club this afternoon.

It's good to be back! (but we're leaving on Tuesday for Europe)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sunday Afternoon in Quito

With only 2 days in Quito on this trip, we were having a hard time deciding what to do with our time. The weather was great so we decided to just walk around 'Ciudad Viejo' (old town) and experience Quito on a Sunday afternoon. It was a great decision. We hooked up with a solo Australian lady named Raylee--or rather, she hooked up with us. And took off with map in hand.

The Plaza Grande was totally packed... mostly with Ecuadorians just out enjoying a fine Sunday afternoon. They close down the central area to cars for a few hours, so it's very relaxing to just stroll the streets.

The Tourist Police were also out in force, watching over all the tourists. Downtown Quito can be dicey for unsuspecting tourists... pickpockets and all. Dave and I took the barest minimum--only what we could fit in secure pockets, and one of the things in our pockets were personal cans of pepper spray.

But Raylee had a big camera and backpack, and was warned twice by the police to be careful and carry the backpack in front of her. Fortunately, nothing happened.

The street performers were out in force, too. Musicians, artists, and just plain pan-handlers.

After we'd tired of walking around, we took a cab up to the Teleferico, a cable car to the top of a nearby mountain overlooking Quito.

It tops out at about 13,500 feet... the air is thin and cold and the wind was blowing. But the view was spectacular. We hiked around the paths at the top of the mountain and tried to figure out what we were looking at below us. We could see 3 volcanos in the distance, in different directions. And of course, the whole city of Quito below us.

The last stop was to see a couple of churches... the Basilica, the most recent large church constructed in this century, and the Compania (the Jesuit church). Unfortunately, both were closed on Sunday!

The best part... we managed to find our way back home (to the Secret Garden Hostal). We had a really nice time at happy hour, watching the sunset over Quito, and dinner on their 5th story patio.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Well, we are on our way back to Melbourne... via a bus to Guayaquil, another bus to Quito (about 10-12 hours total travel time), an airplane to Miami, and a rental car from Miami to Melbourne. We'll spend 2 days in Quito, just sightseeing. And we fly into Miami on Tuesday.
At 09/05/2009 8:00 AM (utc) our position was 02°12.97'S 080°55.33'W

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bottom Paint and Epoxy

Well, we finalized the deal for almost $3,000 worth of Hempel brand epoxy product and bottom paint today... here's the plan:

2 coats of Low Viscosity Epoxy Primer. This is a thin 2-part epoxy that flows easily. It is supposed seal up the fiberglass and fill in the pin-holes.

2 coats of Mastic

2 coats of Coal Tar Epoxy

1 coat of Chlorinated Rubber. This is a 'tie coat' that preps for the bottom paint.

4 coats of Hempel Globic Bottom Paint (in 2 colors).

We are hoping this will seal up the fiberglass bottom, keep from having more blisters, and provide good bottom paint for about 4 years of cruising the Pacific.

I've uploaded our spreadsheet with all the detailed Hempel paint product numbers. Here All this stuff was provided directly by the Hempel dealer in La Libertad (near PLYC).

I know you Facebook-ers probably aren't interested, but our fellow cruisers might be. Those of you with questions... email Dave! He'll probably put a more technical post in his Workshop section of the website when he gets a chance.

For now, we've stored all the paint stuff in a locker under the boat, so we can start applying the stuff as soon as we return.

Dave With All Paint Packed Away

The Cats Supervising the Paint Organizing

Dave Checking the Hull Moisture Level One More Time

Friday, September 4, 2009

Boat Surgery with a Chainsaw

A new boat has been put in the vacant slot next to us in the boat yard. It is a wooden Ecuadorian fishing vessel, about 50 feet long.

We were astounded to hear the distinctive sound of a chainsaw coming from next door. Dave went to investigate and found them performing 'surgery' on the stern, below the waterline, with a chainsaw (and they are still at it today).

Because labor is cheap, and import duties are high, it is much cheaper to keep an old old vessel running than to try to bring in a new one from outside the country.

Just the beginning of their surgery. This picture was taken early yesterday, and they are STILL running the chainsaw. (More subsequent pictures below)

Getting the Varnishing Done

Ignacio Varnishing

We don't have much exterior teak left on Soggy Paws, but we try to keep what little we still have looking nice. This time, with the help of another cruiser, we found Ignacio to do our varnishing.

Our friend Cameron, the captain of Morning Calm III, met Ignacio while out surfing in Salinas. Ignacio is a young Ecuadorian who loves to surf.

Though Ignacio already has a 12-hour night job at the local 'fish factory', Cameron hired Ignacio to help him do cleaning and sanding on Morning Calm for a few hours a day, in exchange for a surfboard. And Cam told us that Ignacio was a really hard worker. So when Cameron had no more work for him, we took him on.

Though he's never varnished before, he's a quick learner and follows direction well. Dave has coached him through the steps to prepare the teak and apply the varnish, and he's done a beautiful job on Soggy Paws' teak, with minimal supervision. This has freed Dave and I up to continue working on other things.

Dave also had him clean the topsides and polish all the exterior stainless. He's quick but meticulous, and really a hard worker.

Ignacio speaks a little English, and is working hard on learning more. He has helped Dave with some of the Spanish vocabulary when he was trying to deal with other people in Spanish.