Tuesday, August 7, 2018

With Concrete Below


Venezuela in the distance.  Trinidad to the left.

I haven’t written since mid-April and this post was to be my first after returning to Trinidad. We had every intention of being back there by now, aboard Northern Star, but as we all know, life throws a curveball from time to time. Rather than complain unduly about that, we are trying to just get on with it; make the best of a change of plans.

Cruising boats at anchor in the Caribbean.

Bear with me, if you will, while I clarify our original plans for the 2018-19 “sailing season.”  As you know, June 1 through November 1 is called, the “hurricane season” in the Caribbean—a good time to not be roaming around the Caribbean. We put Northern Star “up on the hard” (resting on stands, on dry land) in Trinidad, right next to Venezuela.
  
Northern Star on the hard

Trinidad is part of the Caribbean, but our marine insurer considers Trinidad to be below the hurricane zone.  Therefore, Trinidad was a great place to leave our boat while we flew back to the U.S. for a few months to visit family and friends. Round flight airline tickets were purchased in April, departing Trinidad on May 1 and returning on August 1st.  

If we had flown back in Trinidad on August 1st as planned, we would now be busily getting our boat ready to go back into the water and then we would start preparing for a long winter cruise with a rally of 30 boats. The rally takes us from Trinidad, north to Martinique, then on to Curacoa, a small island just north of Venezuela.  

Some of these boats will go with the Rally to Colombia
From there, the true rally begins. December is to be spent in Colombia, then on to the isolated San Blas Islands, Panama, Honduras, Belize and finally Mexico; an agenda extending from November 2018 through April 2019. We’ve made several cruising friends this past year who are making that same journey and we have been so looking forward to traveling with them.

Sailing friends and Jax in D.C.
Raleigh, North Carolina was where our U.S. travels began in April. First, we retrieved our car from where it had been stored in Oriental, NC and immediately put on 4 new tires, a task that you will soon agree was a really good idea.  

We visited friends in Oriental and Raleigh. Then, with giddy anticipation, we drove to Washington D.C. to see Jax and his other human family that live on their boat, Narwhal at the Capitol Yacht Center. 
View from above the Capital Yacht Club

It was so wonderful to see Jax!  He ran around in circles when he saw us. Jax is 14 years old now, and doing really well.  He’s a happy guy, and we still miss him terribly but he is at home in downtown D.C. now and well loved by so many in the marina. 
Brian with a new Master's of Social Work from
Loyola University.
Next, it was on to Chicago for Carl’s son’s graduation from Loyola with a Master’s in Social Work. 
I had the distinct honor of being the first MSW to welcome him into the fold of Master’s level Social Workers.  A HUGE congratulations to him on this achievement!

Newest family members, twin boy
and girl
We drove from Chicago to Memphis to visit Carl’s sisters and their families, which by the way, now includes a new pair of beautiful twin babies. We were a little out of practice at baby holding techniques, but that side to side rocking motion turns out to be instinctive.  

While in Memphis, we had all of our doctor appointments for the year. We have been very pleased with our medical care in Memphis. 
The Little Rock Nine, the first black
students to attend a white high school.
Just for the heck of it, we took a short trip to Little Rock, Arkansas from Memphis. When we headed back to Minnesota, we purposely chose a longer route which took us through the Ozarks in Missouri, an area neither of us had seen before.  We also stopped to visit with friends in Iowa City.

My great niece was Syttende Mai queen
 last year (Seventeenth of May,
Norwegian independence day)
In southeastern Minnesota, we arrived in time to celebrate my great niece’s high school graduation. This milestone is celebrated with great aplomb in Spring Grove, MN. Our visit coincided with the visit of my sister who lives in Florida. 

Six of us seven siblings went on a paddle wheeler on the Mississippi as part of our ritual “Sibling Weekend” (which now can occur any days of the week since all of us are retired.) Sadly, my eldest sister now has health issues which make it difficult for her to travel freely with the rest of us. 
A lovely day on a Mississippi paddle wheeler,  La Crosse, WI

This brings us to mid-June, when we arranged a lunch with friends that I worked with at Gillette Children’s in St. Paul. The fact that I left Gillette nearly 20 years ago seems preposterous.  Apparently, however, the calendar tells the truth. 

Carl, me, son Peter, his girlfriend, Itzel and
my daughter, Liz
The next day we flew out to Portland, Oregon to spend 17 days with my son and daughter.  Between their two households, they took good care of us and never acted as if we had overstayed our welcome. 

You can see at least 4 whales just below the surface.
Whale-watching and kite flying, winery tours, and an outdoor Trampled by Turtles concert were some of the highlights. We got to see my son in three bicycle races, and meet my daughter's new dog. 

Next, we flew back to Minnesota, and drove north to a cabin owned by friends on Clearwater Lake, Ontario, Canada. Fabulous fishing, food and friends! 

Then, back south to Duluth which was our home until we moved aboard Northern Star 3 1/2 years ago.  
An unusually calm evening on Lake Superior


Alas, Carl was phoned by his Memphis gastroenterologist just after we left Tennessee  for Minnesota. The doctor offered his strong recommendation that Carl seek a second opinion on his endoscopy. Seeing as Minnesota is the home of the Mayo Clinic, he followed through with that recommendation here in Minnesota. 
Lewis and Clark, Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO

The good news is that he does not have cancer, but rather, a condition that may precede esophageal cancer and thus requires treatment to prevent progression.  The bad news (although this is not truly a bad thing) is that we won’t be returning to our home with water below for some period of months.  It is unlikely that we will be joining the rally to the western Caribbean this next season—a disappointment but not a bad thing. If we had not discovered the condition that requires treatment so early, that would have been a bad thing.
In Duluth now

We are at the same cabin on Island Lake where we lived the ten months prior to moving onto our boat. Friends own this lake house as their second home and they graciously allow us to call it “home” while we are in Duluth. 
the view from the cabin on Island Lake

So, here we are, back in Duluth—surrounded by good friends and staying in a lovely home in the woods on a beautiful little lake 35 minutes drive from downtown. Honestly, we are fortunate beyond belief. We have moved our medical care from Memphis back to Duluth again since Duluth feels the most like home while we're away from Northern Star. 
Carl launching Pete's kite, Oregon shore.  How about competitive kite flying?  

Our primary challenge now is to figure out what to do with ourselves for the next several months. Neither of us are any good at thumb twiddling. Without our usual routine of boat projects to work on, we feel a bit adrift, so to speak.  But we will figure it out. And it will be okay. For now we are living with concrete below.  
P.S.  Miles driven on the new tires--8,725 and counting.



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