Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas weekend

We're sure we'll look back on this past weekend with envy when the snow is blowing in a few days or weeks, but for now, we enjoyed the warm weather, had a great Christmas and even got some outdoor things done, like washing one of the cars on Christmas afternoon.

Frances always makes sure that we have a wonderful Christmas and this year was no exception. The mantle in the living room is decorated, stocking and all.

We opened our presents on Christmas morning and even the boat got one. You can see the collapsible four-wheeled dock cart on the right in the picture. Frances got a new cookbook by our favorite food author, Mark Bittman, and a monopod to aid her in taking pictures. (Bill might even borrow it from time to time.) We also gave ourselves memberships to the New Britain Museum of American Art, a place we really enjoy visiting.

Bill has been looking for a new battery-operated drill that could reside permanently on the boat and that arrived under our little tree as well.

Christmas dinner was a pork roast and once that was in the oven, Frances made one of her famous cherry pies. Bill was tasked with taking it out of the oven.

Just to make sure it was OK, Bill tested it.

Frances decorated our dining table for the holiday....

...right down to the smallest detail.

Bill even learned what a "bobeche" is. As we said, it was a great Christmas!

Over the weekend, we took the opportunity to visit the boat. We like to put at least an hour's worth of charge into the batteries every week or so. We also wanted to take some measurements for an upcoming project to install new reading lights in our guest berth area. No real lighting to speak of there so we'll brighten things up a little while hiding any new wiring. After that, the plan is to paint all of the old fabric wall covering just as we did with the galley and head last July. That turned out to be a three weekend project but the results were outstanding. We can't wait to begin refinishing all of that teak trim (ugh!).

We shot some video over the weekend as well. It's fun for us to have and great practice where there is no client involved.

Monday, December 21, 2015

This week: computing, not boating

Before we get started on our "to do" list on the boat, we thought we'd spend some time upgrading the last of the four computer workstations we use here at Large & Page. This last one is the computer that Frances uses so we wanted to make sure we got it right.

The old computer has been there since 2004 and was used primarily to host our HP scanner and the answer one phone line and receive faxes. Yes, we still sometimes get faxes although we can't wait until that technology disappears forever.

We don't buy new computers, preferring to build them from scratch. We save only the computer cases since they really don't change much. Here's an old case with new parts installed and finally working with all of our old files intact.

The reason for the rebuilding effort was at least partially to migrate from Windows XP, which some software packages, such as our accounting system, no longer support. Our choice for a new operating system was Windows 7, which is stable, predictable, and still has about five years of support from Microsoft. Besides, it looks much like Windows XP so there isn't much of a learning curve.

Our "new" computers each have new Intel-based motherboards, processors, memory, 1 Tb. hard drives and new power supplies.

We transfer the complete contents - applications, files, drivers, and even bookmarks and shortcuts - from the old XP computers to the new Win 7 machines using migration software from ZInstall. That saves us hours of work and makes the new computers look and act exactly like the old ones.

A new computer needs a new monitor, of course.

A key element of this workstation was a scanner, which we use quite a lot. We had a good one, a circa 2005 Hewlett Packard that worked perfectly except that HP decided not to provide drivers for Win 7, thus making it completely obsolete. That's a pretty crappy way to sell new scanners, in our opinion. Sorry to see this old scanner go.

We paid $450 for this scanner in 2005. Its 2015 replacement with exactly the same functionality cost $76.00. It's a Canon because we will never buy anything from HP again.

Granted, the new Canon scanner doesn't have an automatic document feeder but that's something that was so unreliable on the old HP that we never used it.

We spent about $300 to get this all done and that's about what you'd spend at Best Buy for just a so-so computer. But, like our boat engines, we like to know where everything is and how it works, so we're happy to do this computer replacement our way.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The pace here is exhausting...

Well, not really, although we did get some things done, one of which was boating related.

On Saturday, Frances agreed to Bill's request and cooked up a big pot of chili.  While she was busy in the kitchen, Bill drove to Portland Riverside, plugged in the boat for a brief battery charge and picked up a new reading light that we hope to use as we rehab the v-berth and guest berth areas later this winter. The marina ordered them for us at a price somewhat below retail.

We have two of these reading lights that we installed two winters ago and we really like them. 24 LEDs make this the perfect reading light. The old ones were white but this time we opted for stainless. $52.00 each ain't cheap but they work for us.

With the weather more like early fall, we headed home to tackle the next exhausting task: wash the car. We did that but by then, the chili was smelling pretty good so we powered down and enjoyed a great dinner.

Sunday also looked like a fairly warm day so we dove into The New York Times early and then went out to wax our newly washed 1990 Mercury. You guys can laugh, but we hate making payments on stylish new cars, so we keep our cars as long as they will run. This particular old girl looks pretty good with some fresh wax and she runs fine even with over 200,000 miles.

While Bill was polishing, Frances turned out an apple crisp of some kind that made the kitchen smell great and will make a great dessert for this week.

This year's best Christmas Card
We get a lot of holiday cards but this year we received one of the beat. It's from Ron and Carol Ann celebrating their new boat. We haven't seen it yet but until we do, this card is perfect!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

One more visit to the boat

 It was a beautiful weekend and an ideal time to take care of a few more things on the boat, the biggest of which was to remove one section of the bridge enclosure that has a bad zipper and have it repaired now, rather than wait until everyone else wants their canvass fixed in the spring. The big section immediately to Bill's right in the picture is the one we wanted to remove.

That little project went OK and we took the window section off and down to the car.

 The shed we store the boat in isn't exactly dust free so we hung an old section of tarp over the opening to give us a little protection.

Meanwhile, Frances was in the boat collecting things that she wanted to bring home. It was nice to see her in the galley again, even though we were on dry land.

With the lights and the heater on, it was quite cozy. Collecting the things that needed to go home ended up to be 11 trips to the car. No big deal; it needed to be done. It will be fun to see how much of this stuff comes back to be boat next summer.

Before we left the boat yard, Frances wanted to visit the yard's store, which does a brisk business during the winter. Karen, who manages Portland Riverside, has added scented candles that are made in East Haddam. Needless to say, once Frances got close to those candles, it was major sniff-and-chat time.

Frances found several scents that she liked and we left with something else checked off our "to do" list.

On Sunday, we tacked another job that we had been planning to do for some time: wax Frances car. Frances did a major unloading of the car's contents and Bill waxed the car. Aside from a few nicks and scrapes put on by the late night drunks at American Wharf during the summer, the old Subaru ended up looking pretty good. We finished it just as the sun went down.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A grand Thanksgiving

Frances began what amounted to a very long day of cooking by producing what very well might be the best apple pie on the planet. And, she was just warming up.

She followed that with a 10 lb. turkey that was cooked to perfection and contained stuffing that Bill would be very happily eat all by itself.

 Producing a feast of this size is a lot of work, as everyone probably knows. Frances takes the holidays very seriously and plans every ingredient carefully. Our refrigerator begins filling up several days in advance and this year, we had to move our bread to our enclosed front porch which probably surprised the post man but made a fine storage place.

The apple pie came first and once again, it seemed as though she could put it together blindfolded.

Once the pie was out of the oven, it was time to start on the turkey. Bill actually helped this year, his job being to hold the turkey open while Frances packed in the stuffing. It was - and continues to be as we write this - a perfect Thanksgiving dinner that we will continue to enjoy until the last few bits are gone.

The table was set - with candles - and that made a perfect place to enjoy our dinner.

Once again this year, we set up a cam and let Frances narrate as she put this wonderful dinner together. If you know us, you'll probably enjoy F.H. at her best, doing something she loves to do.

  Working off some of that food
Bill's back has slowly been getting better and on Thanksgiving day, it looked like the right time to get outside and do some real work for a change. No, not on the boat, but on the old Ariens Snowblower.

This thing is probably 40 years old and rather than expect it to work after after not being used for eight months, it made sense to give it some preventative maintenance and adjust the skids so the blades weren't scraping the sidewalk.

 Time to order some new skids, if we can find them, but for now, we were able to make the right height adjustment.  Once done with that, we fired up the engine and it ran perfectly. It also felt good to be outside and do something that required a little knuckle-busting for a change.

We have some fun and learn about goats
On Sunday of this holiday weekend, we followed a clipping from the Hartford Courant and visited Beltane Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut to attend a cheese tasting. That would be goat cheese, by the way.

First of all, Lebanon is really Connecticut farm country and the drive there was beautiful.  Once we arrived, we toured the goat-milking area, learned about how goats are raised and what goes into making some really great cheese. It turns out that goats are really friendly, make great pets if they are raised properly and are as cute as hell up close.

Here's Frances getting to know one of the older residents.

Beltane Farm is really worth visiting if you like great cheese and people who respect animals and the land we all live on.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pump'in the pink stuff

If you have a boat with a fresh water system and you live in New England, it's always nice to see the pink antifreeze filling all the pipes and fittings before the weather gets really cold.

On Saturday, that's what we did even though the temperature outside was in the high 50s. This is always a tedious process since we have to make sure that antifreeze is everywhere, including the shower sump, the water heater, the head and holding tank and even the air conditioning.

So, we pissed away another 10 gallons of the pink stuff and now we're ready for winter.

Frances did the heavy lifting since Bill's back still isn't quite up to it. Bill's back is much better but Frances decreed that for that healing to continue, she'd take charge of anything that weighed more than five pounds. And she did.

We also took a few more things off of the boat, put away lines and fenders and generally made things ship shape.

The docks at the boat yard were almost empty and that's good because the place is full of winter storage boats once again. There was lots of activity among the boat owners with most doing the same thing that we were.

The old girl is back in her accustomed spot between our old neighbors. We have a list of things to do over the winter but thankfully, no heavy engine work.

Looking back at the summer's log book
It's always interesting to see how far we traveled and what all that cost. No complaints from us; We used the boat for five months as our summer cottage and if we never moved it at all, that would still be fine.

For Summer, 2015, we traveled 228.3 miles and used 364 gallons of gas at a cost of $1,217. We ran the engines for 31.4 hours and over the entire May-to-November season, averaged just 7.3 miles per hour.

Costs not shown in the log book include kitty litter for Pooka, the boat cat, who had a wonderful summer basking in the sun and looking at birds he couldn't catch and of course, some Vodka for Bill. 

We're looking forward to doing it all again, next summer.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The reality of autumn sets in

The boat came out of the water this week and we went down on Saturday to check things out and see just how much more stuff we'll take off before it's time to start loading it back on again

It was cold and the wind in the boatyard was blowing up little dirt devils everywhere.  We put away the docklines and generally made things shipshape. Frances collected lots of things she wanted to take home. We still have to winterize the water lines and we'll get to that shortly.

Meanwhile, at home, the maple trees finally gave up the last of their leaves. Most of our neighbors had raked all of their leaves to the curb for the city pick up, which they did earlier last week We've learned to take it slow when it comes to leaves because many of those leaves in our yard will blow away, leaving us with fewer to rake. We also know that the city will return in a week or so and pick up everything remaining. It's one of the few real benefits we get from Hartford's high mill rate.

As you can see from the picture  above, We began hauling our leaves out to the curb on a tarp. That always works for us and, if there are a few leaves left, they can wait until spring when we'll mulch them with the mower.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Taking stuff off of the boat

 To those of us who keep a boat in Portland, "Top Dog" is a familiar sight. Parked right there on Route 66 from spring to late fall, this local couple with their beautiful Checker cab and hot dog trailer feed lots of locals and passing truck drivers every day. If you could look inside the cab, you'd see an elegantly dressed female manikin sitting in the back seat.

As we arrived on Saturday, the Top Dog crew was closing the awning and getting ready to quit for the season. I guess we got the hint.

 Taking the last few things off of the boat
It's never fun but it has to be done. The docks at Portland Riverside aren't as steady as the ones we're used to in Norwich, so it's pretty much a one man job.

 There wasn't much, really. Just four or five trips up to the car to get the last of the things off that might freeze. After a week of temperatures in the 70s, Saturday provided a cold wind which didn't make this chore any fun.

Next stop for the boat: haul out, power wash the bottom and then into the shed.

Removing the "string of pearls"
On Sunday, we drove back down to Norwich to retrieve the black fenders that we keep between the dock and hull of the boat. Unlike past years, they were partially encrusted with small shells and we scraped most of them off before loading them into the car. It was a nice bright day and we were in high spirits to have this job behind us. Of course, we had to do a little shopping on the way home.

We shot some video of our weekend and in this chapter, Frances makes her debut as narrator for part of it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Walking Wounded

Saturday was the day to winterize the boat engines and we accomplished that in a few more hours than we remembered.

A few weeks ago, Bill tried to pick up a large air conditioner and in so doing, did some damage to his back. With some rest (and no heavy lifting) it really felt a lot better, better enough to tackle to winterizing of the two engines. That was a mistake. We left at the end of the day really hurting but the engines were fully protected.

Luckily, it was a really nice day and the engines sucked up the needed antifreeze. It was nice to see them both run so easily as they warned up.

After the engines were nice and warm and we had the oil filters changed, we hauled out the old oil extractor and pulled out the old oil in just a few minutes.

What remains to be done now is to winterize the boat's fresh water system. That shouldn't require much heavy lifting so between now and next weekend, we'll take it easy and see if we're up to it.

Anyhow, you know we'll get this done.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Taking the boat to winter storage

October 24, 2015. Today was the day to get out of Norwich, run west down the Sound from New London to Old Saybrook and then make the long run up the Connecticut River to Portland, just across from Middletown.

The frost on the dock had melted by the time we got there but it was still a very cool morning. We had previously taken on fuel so we were free to take in the lines and let the old Chryslers get warm going down river. There wasn't another boat out that morning until we arrived at New London.

The weather was overcast but the visibility was remarkable. We could pick out the water tower on Plum Island as we passed New London Ledge Light. The Sound itself made for an easy ride: 1-2 ft. seas with the wind from the east. It doesn't get any better than that.

Navigation on this trip didn't exactly strain our skills. There are only two waypoints, first at Bartlett Reef and then at "Bell 8" just off Old Saybrook.  After we were a few miles past Bartlett Reef, Frances pointed out the inner light at Old Saybrook inlet. Bill spotted what she was referring to and said that it couldn't be Old Saybrook because we were still nine miles away. He declared that it must be a sailboat. However, noting that the target spot didn't move at all, Bill finally had to admit that what we were seeing was, in fact, the Old Saybrook inner light. Funny, Frances is the one who has vision problems, or so she says.

 Bartlett Reef

If the sun had been out during our trip up the Connecticut River, we would have experienced the best fall foliage in memory. As it was, the colors were still impressive and there were lots of people on the upper river out for one last fall cruise.

For those of you who have followed our boating adventures over the years, we can report that our old engines performed perfectly. We ran at 3000 rpm for a SOG of about 15 miles per hour. All the work we did on them last winter really paid off.

We shot some video during the day. Can't take a real cruise without video!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

It's getting late

Even if we had planned for it, this wasn't the weekend to leave Norwich for our winter home in Portland. The warm whether turned cold somewhat quickly and our original plan, to leave next weekend now, seemed like good sense.

We continued to take stuff off the boat on Saturday. We started the engines, after checking all the fluids, and let them warm up for about 30 minutes. Everything worked fine.

On Sunday (after a nice warm night of sleep thanks to our old AC unit on "heat" mode) we really began loading up. We also put on and tied down our winterizing supplies because it's a very long walk from the car to the boat once we get to Portland. We had a lot of laughs figuring out how to run a line through all of those anti-freeze jugs. But, even if we run into some rough weather, the jugs won't be able to slide all over the deck.

Also on Sunday, our dockmate Sue had her boat, "Obsession," hauled out at the boat launch at nearby Brown Park. We've seen this done a hundred times but we had to shoot some video of it, anyway.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mid-October. Time to leave.

Even the birds know that we've not going to be here much longer.

This weekend, all the A-dock folks (or many of them) gathered on the dock for one more pot-luck supper and it was are fun. Sure, it got dark fairly early but who cares?  This is one of the last weekends when we'll see people that we really like and have spent the past summer with (and probably many others).

Bad sentence. I'll have to edit that. But, the thought is still there.

On Saturday, we took a walk around the marina and shot some video. Deep blue skies and no wind. The leaves are beginning to turn across the the marina. One more weekend then then we have to leave.

The video isn't our best work but it gives you some idea of what our marina was like in one weekend on October.

The next morning, the off-loading began. Take down the canvas,, unload the coolers and haulm all that stuff back to the car.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

No hurricane

On Sunday morning, October 4, it was still cool and a little windy but the sun was out, finally. There were even a few people around while we enjoyed one of Frances' great breakfasts and our Sunday New York Times.

As nice as the weather was, it is time to begin planning our exit.  We've done this so many times before but somehow, actually saying that we've leaving on October 21 hurts a little.  After all, we've had a great summer and admitting that it's over isn't easy to do.

We took a walk around the marina. Most of the "seasonal boaters" were still there. The marina is showing a little wear but from here, it looked just fine.

The big news is that on Thursday, a barge and tug arrived, we assume to repair the docks damaged by last winter's ice.

Not a minute to early, we'd say. That dock wasn't going to make it through another winter.

We took a mini-road trip on Sunday to complete the purchase of the stuff we'll need to winterize the engines and the water system on the boat once we get to Portland, were we store for the winter. No sense buying these  things at the last minute when paying attention to the prices can save some money.

Wal Mart came up with a discount on the -50 degree pink antifreeze that we use to protect the water pipes, tank and pump. Tractor Supply (one of our favorite stores) provided the 10 quarts of engine oil and the two filters that we need. That all came to $91.54, about $9.00 less than we paid for the same stuff last year.

Next, we check the engines one more time, fill the tank with gas and then head out for one more winter.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Never too late to have a party

Our weather has become suddenly very Fall-like with bright warm days but very cool nights. Those on our dock are beginning the fall ritual of taking stuff off their boats and getting ready to leave for the upcoming winter.

But, being a hearty crew, it was decided that one last dock party was in order. A few years ago, we used to do these affairs in July but this year that didn't happen so before we scatter for the winter, why not have one more pot luck supper?

This year, the kids became very interested in fishing and several adults on the dock showed them the basics and even how to bait a hook.  The fish were small but the interest was intense.

At about 5 pm, the food began to come out and there was everything that you could want. We brought chili and we had enough left to eat for a week (which we will).

Sometimes, the kids get bored with what all the adults are doing but there is always someone who can help show how to color within (or outside) the lines.

A dock party isn't successful without corn and our dockmate, John H, provided all that we could eat, boiled for just three minutes from his big gas-fired corn pot.

All in all, we had a great time and are looking forward to doing it again next year, mabye even a little earlier.