Day 3: Washington Island

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The storms parted around us and we arrived late afternoon in paradise. The marina in Jackson Harbor on Washington Island was small, rustic, and quaint. I was taken back in time to the 1980’s without the big hair.

There wasn’t a big boater’s lounge here. In fact, there wasn’t a boater’s lounge at all. The weather channel was not blasting on a big screen TV. There wasn’t coffee and magazines set out to enjoy. There weren’t any showers or bathrooms besides the pit toilets down the road. There wasn’t a wifi password and most of our group didn’t even have a cell signal.We weren’t constantly bombarded with several forms of media. I didn’t even find out what my facebook friends ate for breakfast.

It gave a sense of seclusion. It took me back to the pleasures of simpler times like having an uninterrupted conversation and being content to watch the sunset.

Instead of modern conveniences, this marina offered amenities such as peace and tranquility. I thought it would be the perfect place for our vow renewal ceremony, except for the no shower part.

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The marina was also the home of old cars and boats. Next to the marina was an area where old cars were parked for a monthly charge. I saw many cars that reminded me of my childhood. I saw an old station wagon like the one my aunt drove. I saw more old cars than newer models which also gave the feeling of nostalgia for times past. I didn’t realize how much I missed the quiet.

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I also took some pictures of the old fishing boats. Shortly after, a man left on this boat to go fishing. He probably thought I was a bit crazy for taking pictures of his fishing boat with all of the beautiful sailboats around me.

City folks come up north to take pictures of trees and country folks go down to Chicago to take pictures of skyscrapers. How easily we tend to become immune to the beauty of our everyday environment…

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There was a feeling on the island of getting away from it all. Getting away from the noise. Getting away from the money, crowds, and big boats. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of tourists.

There was a small cafe and a concession stand on the island with limited hours. There was also a museum of some sort that we didn’t have the opportunity to walk through.

It was my favorite marina by far.

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From the marina we saw this small building. We had to walk across a bridge to get there. The door was unlocked so curiosity got the best of us and we opened it one night. Inside there was a small ice packaging display. Some of the tools looked like they belonged in the closet of some of our states serial killers. But we won’t talk about that today.

We stayed in this paradise for two nights until the wind pushed us in a different direction.

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From Jackson Harbor we were able to view Rock Island. There are no cars on Rock Island. It contains some historical buildings, hike in campsites, a lighthouse, and a sandy beach.

This was the place where I wanted the ceremony, but stormy weather was headed our way.

The accidental overnight sail

I originally posted this when I first started blogging two years ago…the mishap we had this week sailing was partially due to our adventures a few years back when we originally weakened the pin to the rudder…Enjoy! We sure did…many years later.

Last summer my husband and I bought an old 25 foot sailboat. After about a month of ownership, we decided to take three of our friends out for a 3 hour tour. The day before I bought brand new water shoes for the trip. But we had one small problem the evening of the cruise, not enough wind.

It was a warm July evening. I wore my capris and a t-shirt. After supper, the wind picked up out of nowhere. We were ready for the quick sunset cruise out to the lighthouse and back five miles from shore. Once we made it to the lighthouse, the wind was really whipping and there were three foot waves. We thought it would be a really great idea to see how fast the boat could go. We did get the boat to go fast, faster than we have seen it go since. The problem was that the boat went fast in the wrong direction. When we got done testing the speed, we were 15 miles north of where we were supposed to be and it was getting dark.

In the meantime, my friend and I needed to use the bathroom. We had a toilet on board, but we didn’t know how to use it. After using the facilities, we were supposed to pull a lever to empty the contents into a lower compartment. We didn’t do that. As a gracious host, I had my friend use the bathroom first. When it was my turn, I opened the lid as we hit a wave and spilled the contents down my legs onto my new water shoes.

Great, now I am soaked in my friend’s urine. No problem, I had extra clothes on board, right?! Well, no.

Now it was dusk and we were lost.

The depth finder was not working, the GPS coordinates did not take into account that there was land between point A and point B, we had no maps, and our cell phones all died.

To make matters worse, we were almost out of gas. We were in deep water! Every time we tried getting close to shore we would ground out, using what little gas we had left to get ourselves out.

When we went out to deep water we hit some big waves spraying us with water. I was freezing after being soaked with urine and water not to mention the drop in temperature after dark. I used the spider filled sail cover to stay warm.

One of our thrill seeker friends thought it would be a good idea to dance around on the wet bow much to his wife’s dismay. They ended up falling asleep at midnight.

My husband spent the night steering the boat while his other buddy and I worked the jib sheet. Our minds started playing tricks on us and we were afraid of hitting dark objects in the water. At 5 AM I couldn’t take it anymore and had to go to sleep. Geez, all that and I missed the sunrise!!

In daylight we were able to get back to shore. We almost made it to the harbor when we ran out of gas. My husband jumped into the water and had to swim the boat to shore.

We made it home at 7 AM the day after our three hour cruise. My body was swaying back and forth for the next couple of days. The day after we got back I decided to go for a 6 mile run even though I was still swaying and felt like crap. It was the hardest run ever because I ended up coming down with pneumonia that day.

What did we learn from our (in)experience? I am now toilet trained, we carry extra gas, extra water, food, and bought an additional battery charger. I have extra blankets, sweaters, sleeping bags, shorts, pants, coat, robe, and rain gear that stays on the boat just in case we are foolish enough to have another accidental, overnight sail.

We probably should’ve just thrown out an anchor for the night. But what fun would there be in that??

Sea sick

I spent the whole weekend on the water. Sailing by day and fishing by night. My body is swaying to an unheard unsteady beat. I feel sea sick. It is slowly going away.

Saturday morning, Paul and I took my mom sailing for her birthday. Not just my mom, but a whole fleet of boats followed us to a local festival. We also took our daughter Arabella, my sister-in-law Carla, and my autistic brother Matt. Carla and Matt never sailed before.

The trip went better than expected. Matt did really well on the boat, better than Carla who spent a lot of time complaining about how hot she was. It took us a long time to eat lunch with our big group. By the time we finished, there was only an hour left of the festival. We were downhearted about having to pay full price until they decided to let us all in for free.

Paul, Arabella, and I stayed overnight at the marina in town alongside our friend Harv. Harv wanted someone to sail back with him in the morning. Harv is in his mid-80’s. We discussed what to do in an emergency. I piped in that I would probably freak out and never want to go sailing again. It was decided that Arabella would sail back with Harv. They had a great time playing cards together while the auto pilot sailed them home with Paul and I beside them.

I was dead tired when I got home. A few hours after I got home, I received a call from Ted and Cindy who wanted to take me salmon fishing for the first time. They asked a couple of times this year and last year, but I was never able to go last minute. Paul has hell week at the theater, so I decided to go without him.

The three of us left yesterday evening to salmon fish on Lake Michigan. After we got past the breakwater, Ted opened the motor on his boat and we were flying across the waves. I have never been on a boat that fast. It was exhilarating. I was not afraid even when we were in 100 feet of water. Ted cast the lines in the water. The down riggers made a melodic humming noise in the water. It was very peaceful.

Then we waited. We saw fish on the fish finder, but they were not biting. Ted gave me pointers on how to reel in a big salmon. Cindy showed me her big box of lures. Ted marked spots where he saw schools of fish. It seemed like we went in circles all night. We danced around other boats. We saw the lights go on in the towns nearby. The lake became quiet and dark. It was very beautiful. I was cold. Still no bites.

The other boats filled with men left the water. I didn’t see any other women fishing. Still no bites. I could tell that Ted was upset. They wondered why the fish weren’t biting. They looked at me. I hoped they weren’t going to throw me overboard. Maybe I was bad luck. They worried that I was bored and would never come back again. The lake grew dark. The other boats left. No bites. No bites. I was not afraid. Even in 100 feet. Even in the dark.

I was starting to feel sleepy. Ted pulled out the fishing poles. Cindy steered the boat. I put away the glow in the dark lures. I put one away and several others stuck to my clothing. I wanted to be helpful but didn’t know what else to do. Ted opened the motor on the way back in the dark. I was a little afraid of what I couldn’t see. I felt like I was driving with my eyes closed.

We got back after midnight. I almost fell down the steps when I got home. The room was swaying. The steps seemed to move.  This morning I felt hungover. I had a headache. My stomach felt queasy. It was hard to eat. The room moved. I wanted it to stop. My body wanted to fight the feeling.

Paul has been talking about sailing the loop. Retiring on the sea. Getting a bigger boat. Cruising the Caribbean. Sailing to Tahiti. All I want right now is for the room to stop spinning.

Cabin chaos, part 4

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A couple of years back, Paul wanted to learn more about sailing. He signed up for a beginner’s sailing class. At the end of the class, the instructor suggested that the students buy a small sailboat to practice sailing. That is exactly what Paul did. He bought a 1960’s model 12 ft Puffer, complete with retro life jackets.

At the time, the sailboat seemed big. We took this boat up north and learned everything that we could on it. Since we bought a sailboat twice the size the following year, this boat looks so tiny. Now we keep this sailboat up north year round.

There were a few things that happened up north with the sailboat that were a little scary at the time. Now it makes for a humorous story.

We were up north for an unseasonably warm weekend in late September when Paul and Arabella decided to go for a sail. My mom was the one that alerted me of danger. A wind gust caught the small boat and tipped it over. Paul and Arabella were treading in cool deep water.

I couldn’t see them because the boat was blocking my view of them at first. I was worried that Paul got knocked out somehow. I feared that they were drowning or freezing to death. I tend to go through all of the worst case scenarios in my head. 

Paul said that they seemed to fall in slow motion. The biggest danger that they faced was losing the center board which he later secured.

I sent Angel and Alex out on a rescue mission in a paddle boat. I know what you are thinking. Really, a paddle boat?? Did that take a couple of months, or what? We didn’t have any other boats to send out. 

Meanwhile, under the stress of the rescue mission, Angel and Alex started fighting. I watched as my oldest two children started yelling, screaming, and swearing at each other over who had control of the paddle boat. The fighting escalated into pushing and shoving. Next thing I know, Angel was pushed overboard. Eventually, Angel and Arabella swam to shore and walked back to the cabin. I am glad we made sure that all of our kids are strong swimmers.

Paul and Alex struggled to bring the wayward boat back to shore. No lasting damage was done.

Too bad I didn’t get any pictures of that!

 

The travel diaries, St. Lucia part 1

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For our 15th wedding anniversary, Paul and I took a trip to the caribbean island of St. Lucia. It is the most beautiful place that I have ever been. I decided to break this into 2 parts simply because I had a hard time narrowing down the pictures that I wanted to post. Our friends Tom and Lisa also accompanied us on this trip.

We stayed at the Sandals Halcyon resort, one of three Sandals resorts on the island. My favorite resort, however, is the Sandals Grand St. Lucian. It was very large and had by far the best beach. The location was absolutely lovely (more on that tomorrow). Unfortunately, we had a room very close to the bar. It was where all of the hustle and bustle was and was loud at night. I would recommend asking for a quiet room. The beach was very small at the resort and flooded with vendors. I must have bought at least 3 bracelets before the trip was through. There was a dirty man that sold aloe vera on the beach too, rubbing it on the backs of guests for a small fee.

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While we were there, we booked a excursion with Joes Knows to see the Pitons and a volcano tour. We went with our friends and a couple of other people we didn’t know. The tour guides were top notch. They brought out the rum punch first thing. They cranked the party music and we were off. Our first stop was the Pitons. Above is a picture of us with the Pitons in the background. The tour guides said that the water is as deep as the mountains are high. We went snorkeling in the water near the Pitons. The water was very clear to see the tropical fish.

Then we stopped close to a bat cave. It was more of a crevice full of squeaking bats. We saw a resort that didn’t have any outer walls taking the open concept to new extremes. It was a very expensive place to stay. We saw celebrity homes. When we got closer to shore we saw young teens diving off of a cliff like they were performing for us. The tour guides said to not give them money even though they begged because they were school drop outs.

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There really was not that much to see at the volcano as I thought there would be. It was just a big mass of yellow steaming sulfer. Then we walked down the stairs and waited in a short line by a muddy river. We were instructed to paint each other with the mud from the river for pictures. After we finished, we sat with our friends in a dirty mud bath that was hotter than a hot tub. It was very relaxing. I would suggest wearing an older suit that you can throw out afterwards. The sulfer smell lingers in your suit for awhile.

After the calming hot mud bath, we toured a waterfall. We plunged into the cool refreshing waist deep water. Then took an ice cold shower in the waterfall. The hot mud bath and cold refreshing waterfall was therapeutic, similar to a day spent at the spa.

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On the way back to the resort, we stopped at a location where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. I want to say it was called Lady Slipper. If you look closely you can see a high heel shoe in the rock formation. The guides said we could take a break and jump into the water. So that is what we did. The water was remarkably clear giving us the ability to see everything.

The water is so deep in St. Lucia that it is a great location for large vessels. We saw many sailboats and even a large cruise ship in the harbor. It was in St. Lucia that Paul sailed his first sailboat, a little Hobie Cat.

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Back at the resort, one night Paul decided to go to bed early. I always wanted to check jumping into a pool in formal attire off of my bucket list. So that is exactly what Lisa and I did. Tom took pictures, then we came up with a plan to have me talk it up and them to pretend that it didn’t happen until we saw the pictures at home.

There were many things to do at the resort. One evening we were entertained by a local steel drum band. I enjoyed the Piton beer and a special blender drink that I had a hard time replicating at home. We met some wild Canadians that didn’t seem to know what to do in sunlight and warm weather. The guy carried around a boombox on his shoulder that constantly played Fat Bottom Girls.

At night, we sat around the fire. The funny thing was that we met a lot of new people that were all Wisconsinites. We sat around commiserating about the winter weather that we had to return to. It was strange to be somewhere foreign but feel completely at home surrounded by people from our culture. There was also a large group of cats that roamed freely around the resort. Rumor has it that a Wisconsinite saw a large rat like creature in the trees that the cats ate. Who knows? All I know was that I liked seeing them there. After seeing what looked like a cat of mine that passed away, I thought it was cat paradise.

It sure was paradise for me.

 

The travel diaries, Pictured Rocks

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These pictures were taken at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan. The Pictured Rocks consists of 15 miles of sandstone cliffs and caves along the shores of beautiful Lake Superior.

We took a boat tour to view this wonder of creation. We stayed at our friends cabin near Munising on a kid free weekend in August. We were there during a heat wave with temps around 90 degrees. Temps in the 90’s is spectacular since the average high in August is 75 degrees, which is typically the hottest it gets all summer. The picture above almost makes it seem like a warm tropical vacation. It may feel that way on a typical day if you are wrapped in a blanket or winter clothes.

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If you look closely at the right hand of the picture above, you can see a face in the rock formation.

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Adventurers can also explore the cliffs, caves, cracks, and crevices by kayak or canoe.  This can be a rather extreme sport in this area because the water temperatures in summer are right around 50 degrees. On this very hot day, we did see a few people jump in the water but they didn’t stay long. I have also heard that it can be treacherous for boaters because there is a great variation in the depth of the water. If you are looking for a place to get away from the heat this summer, this is the place to go! You can be surrounded by cool water along miles and miles of sandy empty beaches. There are also breathtaking waterfalls along the hiking trails flowing forth from the rock formations.

There is so much to explore in this area that you could spend your whole summer doing it. Again, I would give high ratings to this location if you enjoy exploring nature in a tranquil, remote, and beautiful location. I would absolutely recommend this location for extreme outdoor adventurers, unless you are really into swimming. This location really rocks for geologists as well!

Keep traveling!!

 

The travel diaries, the Door County winery tour

Today I am going to talk about my wonderful home state of WI. Door County to be a little more specific which is the thumb peninsula in the hand print of our state.

Door County has several state parks, my favorite being Peninsula State Park. This park has wonderful biking trails, fishing, camping, weekend outdoor theater performances, and my favorite part is the large sandy beach. This beach is so large that you can lose track of your children when they are right in front of you (yes, I have done that). Another great state park is the Whitefish Dunes State Park which is great for picnicking. It is very scenic with its cliffs and caves which makes it a beautiful background for wedding pictures.We have been there a couple of times when they had sand castle contests. It it amazing what can be built out of sand. It has a great beach for swimming and like the name suggests there are large sand dunes. But before you pack your bags and catch the next flight out, it is winter so you should probably wait.

Door County is a wonderful place to go boating, or in our case sailing. Sturgeon Bay has a water passageway that connects the bay to Lake Michigan. Plus in the summer there are many places to shop, have a fish boil, or check out local maritime artists. It is a great place to pick apples and cherries to make pies. Grapes grow plentifully there in season. Which brings us to the topic today of the winery tour.

A few years back we decided to take a day trip with our most adventurous friends, Tom and Lisa, for their anniversary. Tom and Lisa were with us on the accidental overnight and rescue sails that I posted about earlier. We had a driver lined up and we were going to spend the day winery hopping. The evening was going to end with a meal hosted by a winery attended by a local celebrity. At the first stop, we sampled some wine and shared a bottle while enjoying live music by a woman that apparently liked Janis Joplin hits. It was great, we did a lot of laughing and a little dancing. But after we were there a short time, the music ended and it was time to move on. We went to a couple more wineries before we stopped at the last winery before our meal.

We did some more wine sampling at this last spot. Then we went outdoors where a band was set up. There were probably 50 chairs set up with about 40 patrons sitting and listening to the music. That is not what we did though. We got out there and started dancing which caused people to get up from their chairs to dance. People seemed to be having such a great time that the owner of the winery came up to us and offered us free drinks for livening up his party. Free drinks, free drinks, free drinks! We probably didn’t need anymore drinks at this point, but we had a driver….so free drinks, free drinks…..we found another couple looking for excitement and ended up inviting them to spend the rest of the evening with us. We took pictures out in the vineyards…danced, free drinks, free drinks..

Then it was time to go to our meal. When we got there, they opened the gift shop for us but no one was there to check out our purchases. Tom grabbed a couple of items, settling up his purchases later at the meal. We were into the first part of the meal when Paul, Lisa, and I decided to take a bathroom trip. It was at that time that Tom decided to find someone to pay for his purchases, except we didn’t know that. When we got back, someone took Lisa’s place. There was a beautiful 20 something year old woman sitting really close to Tom. Maybe she was sitting close because she couldn’t hear him, I don’t know. Lisa was getting upset, so upset that Paul went up to the girl and told her to leave Tom alone because he was there celebrating his anniversary with his wife. But she wouldn’t leave which caused everyone, including our new friends, to feel really uncomfortable. A heated discussion broke out at our table right as the local celebrity began to talk. It was all a horrible misunderstanding. We finally finished our meal and were ready to head home. To make matters worse, as we were leaving Lisa’s heel broke on her boot as she was coming down the stairs which caused her to miss the last few steps. She hurt herself and had to be carried out to the car.

It ended up being a long ride home.

What frozen tundra?

It has been raining a lot since yesterday. Water pools on the green grass and harvested fields. Wait, what? Green grass? Isn’t the tundra supposed to be frozen this time of year in Wisconsin?

The constant dripping of the rain like a tapping on little drums awakens me from my slumber. Yesterday I awoke to the rumble of distant thunder. It was as if my grandpa woke me up on the 15th anniversary of his death to reminisce about summer. Think of the better days…the days when we were all together, not of the dark days that I have been gone..

I have never heard of a thunderstorm here in December. It should’ve been a blizzard. On very rare occasion, I have witnessed snow thunder probably two or three times in my life. Snow storms and thunderstorms usually don’t mix. But we didn’t get any snow yet, just rain. It has been very warm for this time of year. This month we broke some record high temps and are on schedule to have the 5th warmest year ever recorded. Yesterday I even saw geese flying north. The birds seem as confused as we are. I am not complaining. I was able to run outside several times already this December. I have never been able to run outside in December before.

The ice fishermen are complaining though. In about two weeks, the ice should be thick enough to walk on. In January, you should be able to drive a truck on the ice. But this year the ice hasn’t started forming yet. Some people have been desperate enough to get their boats out of storage. It’s a shame, we could’ve gone sailing. I’m sorry, if I’d known that buying cross country skis last year would have this kind of effect on our winters, I wouldn’t have done it. Geez.

On these dreary days, I just want to sleep or curl up next to the fireplace with a good book. Except I don’t have a fireplace. So I will settle with curling up next to the Christmas tree with a good blog.

The 1st (planned) overnight sail

Last year for my husband’s birthday, we planned our first overnight sail on our sailboat. Technically, it wasn’t our first overnight sail. But we won’t talk about that. If you want to read about everything that could go wrong without sinking the boat, feel free to read the accidental overnight sail post. It was pretty funny, but not at the time. 

As I mentioned briefly previously, I got my first ear cartilage piercing for my 40th birthday. I am a very ritualistic and rule oriented person, at times borderline OCD. My world consists of order, rules, rules, rituals, and more rules. My rules. My structure. I am an extreme person. That is just the way I am. So, I got my ear pierced for my birthday. It required cleaning 3 times a day for 12 weeks. Ok, I got that, no problem. My husband’s birthday was exactly 12 weeks to the day after I got the cartilage piercing. It would be perfect to change the earring right before we left for the overnight sail, or so I thought. I had a hoop earring that I wanted to try. 

Removing the back of the earring stud required a lot of yanking. My ear was “ear itated” before I got the earring out. Then it started to swell and bleed. I tried to get the hoop in which was impossible. I could barely get it into my regular ear piercings. Hmmmm, now this is where I really went wrong. I put a nickel earring stud into the ear cartilage piercing and left for the overnight sail. 

It was a perfect early fall day for a sail. It was warm and windy, but not too windy. We sailed several hours to get to the resort. Once we got there, it was during the week and the pool was closed for the season. There was not much to do. By the time we got there, my ear doubled in size. I thought that maybe my piercing was infected. I was so stressed that I couldn’t eat. Worried. This is the point when my acid reflux acted up again as an adult but I didn’t know at the time what it was. 

The next day we headed back home. I called the ear piercing place and they said I was probably allergic to the nickel earring. I found that strange because I didn’t have problems with nickel in my regular ear piercings. They suggested putting the piercing stud back in. This was problematic because I was on open water and didn’t have any other earrings with me. The minute I got home, hours later, I put my piercing stud back in and haven’t taken it out since. I am almost afraid to. I felt bad that my seemingly great idea turned my husband’s birthday into a big mess of anxiety. I have only stayed overnight on the sailboat once since then. It was for our anniversary when the big unexpected storm hit. 

Why does everything have to be so eventful in my life?? Well, it sure gives me things to write about and at times things to laugh about. 

Trying to sail through life’s storms

We made it back home safe about 2 hours ago. I thought I would let everyone know since I left everyone hanging yesterday with some hard decisions to make about whether to weather the storms. After we last spoke, things did get a little dicey.  The first round of thunderstorms came through after blogging. We holed up on the sailboat. After the storm went through, we headed to the pool. We didn’t want to spend our whole anniversary huddled over our iPads scouring weather reports. We decided at that point to possibly wait until the next storm went past to head home. It was going to take some schedule juggling to stay another day. 

At the pool, we received reports of the big storm that was to come. Strong thunderstorms, 50 to 60 mph winds, large hail, possible tornadoes. It was one big blob of reds and purples over the whole Midwest. We met a man at the pool with his daughter, son-in-law, and two young granddaughters. They made a point of teaching the children how to be respectful of adults in the pool which was greatly appreciated. They had a small motorboat and were determined to beat the storm because plans couldn’t be changed. 

The large cold front came in. The clouds rolled, the sky eerie, lightening flashed, and thunder boomed. The man left with his family about 5 minutes before the torrential downpours with a bit of trepidation. I ran into the boat to grab some clothes while Paul closed things up for the storm. I ran bikini clad through the strange silence of electrically charged air into the shelter of the bar. Inside, Paul saw an old college roommate. Always nice to meet a group of people for the first time in a bikini when others are fully clothed. Priceless. The lights flicker. The winds blow, it starts to hail. An elderly couple at the gambling machines momentarily express worry because windows were left open at home but head right back to the machines. The band is set up to play next to the window. They abandon equipment to play their instruments closer to the bar. The music is quiet while the thunder cracks loud.  When the storm finally ends, it is late afternoon. Now we face the prospect of sailing through small bands of storms in the dark. We decide to stay. 

When we get back to the boat we find that the wind blew our hatch open. All of the clothes, pillows, and my sleeping bag is soaking wet. We try with some success to dry everything. If we saw the storms on Saturday morning, we probably would have stayed home. We faced cooler weather conditions, strong winds, and 3 foot waves most of the way home today. But we made it home safe, which might not have been the case the day before. Another adventurous anniversary in the books.