Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moving on up.

Progress reports: Dateline September, 2009.

WORK: After nearly 11 months of varying levels and aspects of training I am once again certified to perform the functions for which I was hired. Although I have a little over 12 years of experience as a front-line manager it took a relatively complete retraining before I could be turned loose to watch over the area(s) and begin to get my feet wet and learn how things work, where things go and who is who here in the workplace. I am tremendously relieved that this process is over, and thankful for the 'education' gained along the way but it has been a longer than expected experience. Robin is not far behind and we hope to report the news of her certification in the next couple of weeks (after a short break for some R&R which will be discussed later). Now the dance begins in earnest as I begin to focus totally on supporting the mission and doing the best I can to provide problem-solving and support for the controllers under my watch.

I can't wait :) ... I do like this job.

PLAY: We are in furious preparation to abandon Florida for a week and take off on a cruise ship for a short jaunt around the Caribbean. It appears at first glance that the Atlantic Ocean has decided that we don't need any thrills along the way and has closed down it's hurricane production line for the time being. We're hoping for a nice ride and fair skies.

The cruise is incredibly inexpensive by normal standards and we will be spending our last smattering of vacation time for the trip. Mom will meet us and we will all board together to reunite with several cruising regulars who are all part of this group.

Plug for George; ... He has done us all well on organizing these group cruises and we look forward to seeing him again.

WORK: Part of the aforementioned "furious preparations to relax" (or FPTR as we know things around here) involve making things ready for what could happen while we're away and what's going to happen when we return. Since we're living a rather nomadic lifestyle right now, and since we have mobility in both our home and with the boat, we have to prepare both the 5th-wheel and the boat for the eventualities of a storm while we're gone (remember that part about a quiet Atlantic?). Hopefully we will go on vacation and come back to a nice, quiet and unchanged scene but the possibility, however slim, that there could be a big wind requires a bit if planning to make sure we won't worry ourselves over this. We figure it's like buying insurance; probably won't need it but if we do, it's invaluable.

So we are going to reduce 'windage' on the sailboat and tie it up as securely as we can. We'll use pretty much every piece of dock line that we have and will do our best to center it precisely between the slips and pilings and allow for enough motion to cope with a storm surge should one come. Reducing windage entails removing pretty much everything that's removable from the top of the boat. We will pull down covers and the bimini, remove extra lines we will remove the front (jib) sail altogether, as it is the one that would most likely self-deploy in a major wind and that would mean a disasterous high powered trip onto land, another boat, or who knows where. We will lash down, macrame style, the main sail so that it cannot get free and then we'll start adding dock lines galore.

The dockmaster informs us that they monitor everyone's dock-line jobs and fix stuff if they see it needs help so we're thankful for that support. Then again, the Atlantic's real quiet right now :)

Next up will be closing up and clearing the site around the 5th-wheel. The unit can stand a much higher wind if the rooms are closed in so we will leave it that way for the time we're gone.

PLAY: So we're leaving bright and early, heading to Orlando and picking up mom then making a b-line to Port Canaveral to catch the ship. Hopefully we'll be aboard and installed in the cabin before 3P.M. and can catch the first Happy Hour before we set sail. Isn't it great to have goals?

We will be bringing our handheld GPS and hope to do a little Geocaching at each of the stops along the way. Maybe we can find a few to add to our list as it's always fun and it's an inexpensive (free) excursion off the ship. We may have an opportunity to go see some Mayan ruins, but haven't decided on that one yet.

I will have the laptop and may be able to post some webcam pictures if conditions and internet availability allow. Other than that, I may get up enough energy to read a book, or I may choose to relax instead. Oh.. the choices.

MOVING: When we arrive back home, we will be hopping right back into action as our work schedule will change and kick in with new days off. Then we will be getting ready to move both the boat and the RV to new locations because very shortly the summer rates change to winter rates (high season) and things up in this neck of the woods (boat slip and RV park) get more expensive. We will be heading back to the first RV park we stayed in last year and will be moving the boat to a marina on the south side of Miami which is not far from where we'll be staying.

The new location of the boat will put us within easy reach of Biscayne Bay and even the Florida Keys. This could be fun as the winter season comes along and we pick up favorable winds for exploring the waterways around the souther tip of the state. We do know that we will be a 'slave to the tides' as the waters are very shallow around there and we will have to vigilant so that we don't end up having to use a tow service to pull us off a sandbar (no, really???? run aground???) The inlet/channel is right at our minimum depth so we will have to plan our jaunts out to open water around the tides.

The RV park is Larry and Penny Thompson, right next to the Miami Metrozoo. It's run by the Miami-Dade County and is very well maintained. We enjoyed it last year and are looking forward to returning. They have a very nice area to walk or ride bikes around, there is ample shade and several shelter areas to set up picnics if you're so inclined and, oh yes, there's a swimming pool complete with on-duty lifeguard. There's a 'community house' where they often put together pot-lucks and other activities to allow the campers to get together and socialize.
Last year we were unable to get "plugged in" because we were doing a lot of exploring and working to get our 'plan' together. Hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of some of the benefits they offer this time. If all goes well, we should be there throughout the 'winter' months (I realize that's a relative term coming from a former Colorado resident:)
Alright, we gotta pack...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hot Times in Miami

We kind of knew what we were getting into. We'd talked about it and conjectured what it would be like and thought about life running from air conditioner to air conditioner but the reality is you just have to experience it to know what it means. It's been in the mid 90's for the past couple of weeks. The humidity has been in the mid 80%'s and as high as 95% (well, higher when it rains) and it does indeed 'hit' you when you step out of the house, workplace, or car and realize that the heat index is pushing 110 degrees.
The first thing you notice is that your glasses, having been cooled to the ambient temperature of the room or vehicle, will fog up nearly instantly and within a few seconds you are totally IFR. The next phase is that the heat seems to 'surround' you. It's hard to explain, but coming from Denver, you could know that the sun was hot and could identify where the heat was coming from. It seems that it's not so when the air is pretty close to a wet sauna state. It slowly but inexorably drains your strength and any ambition you had toward outdoor projects. The sweat begins slowy enough, but the wet air does not allow evaporative cooling to happen so suddenly you're dripping and blotting at your forehead so you can keep seeing. Physical labor generates more sweat compounding the overall problem.
All of this happens between the time you open the car door and the time you reach the cool safety of Starbucks. Ahhh... I'll have a Frappuccino please, then I can revel in the brain freeze :)

And now, the update:
Robin and I have been diligently pursuing the elusive Certification as supervisors here in Miami and I am happy to say that it is now very near. Within a few more days both of us will become actively engaged in the the day to day activities that we were hired to do and we will be able to constructively contribute to the safe operation of the Center. It has been quite a ride and we are thankful to be nearing the end of this long and extensive training program. We've attended some very good classes both here in Miami and in Robin's case out of town and out of state. All of this leading toward being able to positively influence the folks that are working with and for us.
It has been very cool to be sharing the same time off and same shifts at work. The commuting situation has been relatively easy to manage when we can both come to work together and we hope that we can soon be assigned to days off and crews that will allow some of the same conveniences. We will know that soon; likely before the first of October and definintely before the end of October. The bidding for crews and vacation time will soon commence and that will set our schedules for the upcoming year.

The S/V Robin has been receiving some attention, although the amount of time we have been able to devote to projects and sailing has been limited by a pretty long run of severe weather. I am told that it is unusual to have as many thunderstorms as we have been happening, but that the same 'big picture' weather influence that is causing these seemingly perpetual thunderstorms may well serve to ward off tropical storms of hurricanse that may form up and be pointed our way. So far so good.
We've been keeping a very close watch on tropical weather because this is the first time we have ever had to consider it as a true threat. Both of us receive Tropical weather updated on our cell phones and we rely on the National Hurricane Center ( ) to keep us up to date on what is where.
The projects on the boat have included replacing the bimini (the shade) and it is almost finished. What we find is that everything is pretty custom, and to try to run to the store and buy something that'll just drop in and fit is almost never going to work...but we did anyway. We are pretty close to having the installation complete and all that is remaining is to drill a few holes in the deck (gasp) and relocate the mounting hardware. This will ultimately involve epoxy, and sandpaper so we will again add to our list of things that will take a full day instead of an hour to complete. We want it strong and watertight so it is well worth any additional effort to make it good the first time.
The other project is the paint job. This has been a doozy of an attempt, starting with the concept that boat paint is probably on par with airplane paint as far as expense goes and it requires a lot of surface preparation and about 16 hours between coats for the epoxy-based paint to cure. A very different project from painting a house of touching up a barbeque. I am probably about 25% done with the topside and it looks pretty good for a pure amateur. I'll post a couple of pictures next time.
On the inside we've been doing jobs like sanding and polishing the stainless steel sinks and removing long lines of adhesive which had previously been strips of velcro for mosquito netting attachment. We'll deal with that particular problem when faced with it after we set out on more than day sails.

So far all is well. And we intend to keep it that way :)