Friday, October 24, 2014

That Camel Kicked Me! I Swear It!

Where in the world have I been? Why, to the hospital, of course, being naturally prone to adventures and all their implications, including accidental injury to life and limb.

And off on a wildlife safari, cavorting with a galloping white rhino. Where else would you expect me to be on a rainy day in October following a major injury?

But let's back up. It has been a few weeks since I've posted anything in this space; alas, I have been quite preoccupied. If you followed me on Facebook, you undoubtedly picked up some subtle clues about what I am--and am not--doing this fall.

I am not sailing. (Pope is depressed about all our cruising friends leaving for the Bahamas; please take your turn cheering him up.)

I am not hiking. (I am depressed about missing the crisp, clear, invigorating fall days with the prettiest red and yellow maples; please stop sending me photos.)

Most days, I am holed up on my teal-green sofa, nursing a swollen left lower limb with a broken metatarsal #4 and a sprained ankle. 

That's what I get for sky-diving without certification! Or practicing judo on neighborhood toughs. Or neglecting to defend myself when the gremlins of Capitol Hill's historic swamp rose from the steam to take out their aggression on unwary passers-by. Take your choice.

From my comfortable yet prone position, I have managed to gain 4 pounds while catching up on my reading and editing the manuscript for a book. (No, not my own; not yet.) I have made a colossal mess of the living room from a stationery sitting position--no mean accomplishment.

Last weekend, I heaved myself off the couch and accepted a ride to Columbus, Ohio, for the Science Writers 2014 workshop, for which I had registered months earlier. Got myself a luxurious "accessible" hotel room with steel bars over the bathtub, and a loaner wheelchair.

And then had a blast with my highly entertaining former colleagues and tale-telling scientists (glaciers are melting and coyotes are invading downtown Chicago--oh my!). I even survived hobbling around on crutches in a 26-degrees-below-zero freezer for Antarctic ice cores. Now, that's determination!

Which brings me to the safari. Some of us more determined writers, always in search of a better story than the competition's, and despite any minor inconvenient injuries, sallied off to The Wilds, a wildlife research and conservation park. We were hungry for a glimpse of some sprightly Sable antelope, baying Bactrian camels (quiz: do camels bay?), curious cheetahs, and slinky African painted dogs.

Naturally, it rained on our open-air safari bus. That didn't stop us from getting down and dirty with Thunderball, the one-year-old rare white rhino, who stooped low for an affectionate pat on the head, then skipped off light-heartedly around the backyard, mud flying, like any happy, carefree, 6,000-pound toddler.

A little farther, we jerked to a stop in the bison pasture. My crutches went flying and I went sprawling. Out of the road, ye damn giant beasts!

Should you be sufficiently intrigued to hanker after your own safari, you can visit The Wilds for the day or stay overnight in a yurt with a king-size bed. And make up your own story about a serious injury sustained when one of the resident hellbenders (slimy salamanders also known as "mud otters") chomped down on your unprotected instep.

Many thanks to Pope, Sally, Gini, Lisa, Linda, Harvey, Pat, Wendy, Steve, Jim, and the many others who have conspired to turn what could have been a miserable month of missed opportunity into a merry melange of magic, mischief, and mobility.
Photo by Clay F. Naff

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who's Having Fun? Not.

Pope wants me to be a sailor, like him. He expounds on the beauty of sunrise, gliding across glistening water with engine off, and exotic shores reachable only by boat.
He entices me with gorgeous magazine pictures of lagoons, caves, sea turtles and stingrays, and bright purple coral. Sunny days, blue skies and, crystal clear water.
 Not to mention elegant, teak-trimmed boats with built-in wine racks. 

Enticing, yes? And, indeed, I have seen my share of attractive destinations. But the total experience is often startingly different from the fantasy people envision. You can read about it in this blog; just click on a few of my posts about our winter in the Bahamas.
Even in the local rivers and bays, sailing is not always what it's cracked up to be.

This morning, Pope stayed in bed with chills, fever, and a massive headache--unusual for him, being generally healthy and robust.
Why so run down? Here's his sad story, about a sailing experience yesterday on the Potomac River.

He was very excited to be racing with a military sailing club--a club that made him jump through 20-foot-high hoops to get in, with their incredibly rigorous standards and tests. The club's boats are operated and maintained by members--supposedly to similarly high standards.

First thing that happened: the third crew member didn't show. (In a military club--what's up with that?) Leaving a crew of two for a race to Mt. Vernon in high winds.

Next: the second crew member had the wrong VHF radio channel for the race announcements--leaving him and Pope in the dark when the details of the racecourse were revealed.

Third: when the wind picked up, they tried to reef the sail--but several mechanisms were in poor condition and failed to hold.

Finally: the boat bumped into one of the logs that often float off the banks of Old Town, tearing the rudder loose and leaving the crew without maneuverability, under full sail in 25-knot winds, just off the rocks near Alexandria. 

As I know full well, hauling in sail in strong wind is a challenge for two people, with one of them staying on the wheel. In this case, one person (Pope) also had to hold on to the rudder behind the stern, trying to secure it and at the same time manually manipulate it to steer the boat away from the rocks.

I wasn't there. I can only imagine how panicked I would have been. When even Pope--who adores sailing and sings its praises every chance he gets--comes home traumatized, defeated, and sick....well, my reluctance to take up sailing as a hobby is strongly reinforced.

Who's having fun now? No, not even Pope.

So, let's see can I get out of it?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friends in Important Places

Once in a while it is important to stay home and catch up with family, friends, peers. Not to mention running the vacuum and dusting shelves.

Pope and I aren't ones for following the crowd, though, at least in regard to the staying-in-DC-and-doing-the laundry part. We like taking our social life on the road. (Or the river. Even, sometimes, on the sea.)

He is in western Washington visiting a fellow sailor, former Capitol Hill neighbors, and his daughter in college.

I am on Megabus returning from New York City after whirlwind visits with a fellow yogi, a former roommate, and a zydeco dancer. I like variety! I even mixed up transportation modes--buses, trains, subways, feet.

Anita, formerly of Yoga in Daily Life in Alexandria, now resides on the beautiful New England coast.

Can't seem to stay away from boats, even when touring as a landlubber.

Tea was served on a tranquil patio overlooking the Connecticut River.

Then it was back to the madness and mayhem of the Big Apple, where historic porticos vie with soaring glass and steel.

At midtown Macy's, $125 Michael Kors flats share the limelight with old wooden escalators.

Elegant HanGawi vegetarian restaurant is on Korea Way, aka 32nd Street, in Midtown. Maitake mushrooms and wild mountain roots were on the menu.

My fine-dining companion, Satoko, previously shared my home in Virginia and hosted me in Japan. Now, she runs the Newsweek Japan bureau in New York. My friends get around!

Then, it was off to Brroklyn for the night and a lovely breakfast in the garden with Leslie, a popular zydeco dancer in NYC, DC, and Louisiana.

One last subway ride, and a 30-minute push through crowded sidewalks, to catch the DC bus on the far side of Manhattan.

Ah, but it's nice to have friends in important places. Or should I say, important friends in interesting places.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Beast and Beauty

After this morning's post about things that go wrong on a boat, Pope says that, to be fair, I need to give equal time to the positives. So here they are. Positives, from a pessimist's perspective.

The solar lantern, though bruised and battered and missing its base, still works great as an anchor light.

Pope got the running lights working while sitting at a dock waiting for diesel. No bolts or nuts were lost overboard (like last time). We only lost 45 minutes waiting for the diesel guy to get to us.

The wind picked up about 4 pm and blew away the biting flies and no-see-ums. What a relief. They were so aggressive they swarmed my water glass (driving out the no-see-ums) and chewed up Pope's legs and feet--a rare phenomenon. But now all is well.

After two tries and numerous untanglings of sheets snd halyard, Pope whipped the colorful spinnaker into fine form. It raised our soeed to 5.1 knots!
Pope practices flying his beautiful kite, a joy to behold.

Last night was blessedly cool at our mooring in Whitemarsh Creek. NO mosquitoes!

The overheating engine cooled down quickly this morning with the addition of more water in the new heat exchanger. We only lost 1/2 hour waiting for it to cool down.

Despite the delays--which only means we will miss happy hour with our friends on S/V Pearl and Chinese carryout for dinner--we'll get to Solomon's Island in plenty of time for nightcaps! 


3 in 12: A New Record?

You've heard me say it before: There's always something going wrong on a boat.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

There was the time Pope sprained his foot leaping off the boat onto.a wet, slippery dock. (Oops, I mean stepping carefully off the boat...)

And those little snafus with the crankshaft when we tried to leave Nassau.
Albert the Bahamas diesel wizard, on board

Water pump in North Myrtle Beach.
Shiny new water pump

Sandbars in Georgia and Pipe Creek, Bahamas.
Towboat US to the rescue; the marine equivalent to AAA

Lost cap that holds the oar in the oarlock on the dinghy. Straps and fabrics disintegrated by sun.

I could go on. But you get my drift. (Pun intended.)

This time, I think we should get a prize: 3 times in 12 hours. Auto pilot cranking and groaning from possible stripped gears, running lights shorted out,  overheated engine from lack of water circulating in heat exchanger.

What's next on our marine adventure? What records will be break? We left our mooring at 8 am sharp. It's now 10:15, and we're waiting for diesel at a fuel dock. We have a 10-hour trip to Solomon's Island, and we have 10 hours of daylight.

Stay tuned for thenext 12. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Glory of Sea and Sky

As much as I enjoy activities in DC--this week: yoga class, gym, Shakespeare play--there is no comparison with a day on a boat in the visual sense.

I walk out of the house to fast-food trash on the sidewalk, broken car windows in the street, delivery trucks, street signs, homeless bodies on stoops of retail shops.

In contrast, last night at Galesville, where Pope races sailboats on Chesapeake Bay, I was treated to these glorious spectacles:

Maybe I should take up photography! In addition to guitar, harmonica, French, fitness, housework, theatre, museums, sewing, cooking, writing ..........

Copyright on all photos: Amber Jones, 2014. Cannot be reproduced without permission. To be published in my next coffee-table tome!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Incredibly Boring Routiness of Life on Land

If I'm not sailing, how can I blog? Would you like to hear about our ongoing problems with Comcast (the cable company)? 

The discovery of a photo of my great-grandfather? 

My learning a second cajun song?

A thrill a minute. I know.

How about the giant 9-foot inflatable dinghy in the living room???!!!
(Sorry, we already deflated it before I got a picture...)

See, I knew it. It all comes back to sailing...sigh.... it's the perfect subject for a spicy tell-all. What can be more suspenseful (and amusing) for armchair travelers than an invasion of mayflies, a prop disabled by barnacles, or a heat exchanger so rusty that it fell off in Pope's hands?

You get to gloat and say, "See, we told you so. That's why we stay home and watch TV."

Of course, it's staying home and watching TV that caused the problem with Comcast in the first place.

See, I've come full circle with nothing new or interesting to say. I give up. Time to take myself off to bed.