Prepping for Fleet Week SF

This is a little touch & go usually, last year I went out both days.  This year I was planning on going out on Saturday with the same crew from last year, my pilot friends with their family.  Then I took some childhood friends out a few weeks ago who asked to go on Sunday, so my H proceeded to fill the boat up for Sunday as well.  I just got a txt from the first couple canceling, now I’m chess piecing a crew together.

Here’s how I do it, if I asked people last year and they never got back to me I don’t ask them again.  The pilot friends are guys who had a blast last year, they also have done me a ton of favors throughout the years and I feel like the least I could do is have them come along with me.  It makes me feel good to finally be able to “pay back” in some way.  Then I leave a day for whoever my H wants to invite.  Last year he didn’t go, I invited a very funky political mix and in my briefing said, “No politics” before we shoved off.

I’m coming out of Emeryville, what they do is block off a runway rectangle on the water right in front of SF and I sail up to the city front by the ferry building for the first leg if there’s enough wind.  That way we get some sailing in too, because for the rest of the time we’re going to be motoring.  I slowly go around the “runway” with just enough speed for rudder to dodge the other boats.  It ends over Alcatraz, by that time I’ve crawled over there and can just drop downwind back to Emeryville.  It’s a fun day, a lot of work for me though if I don’t have someone else who can take the helm and dodge the boats so I can pee from time to time.  When we get in I can’t even drive!

Last weekend I introduced another pilot friend of mine to sailing with his wife and 3 year old son.  We had a blast, we sailed to Angel Island (my personal favorite, because usually there’s a hike/nap/latte involved).  Their son got to play in the water at the beach for a little while, he loved it!  It reminded me of when my oldest was that age playing at the beach there, how fast that all went by.

On the way back I asked their son if he liked sailing or flying more and he said, “Sailing!!”  My friend said that’s saying a lot, he loves flying.  When we docked he said, “You’re the captain!”  I said, “You’re dad’s a captain flying” and he said, “Yeah, but this is your boat and you’re the captain!!”  OK, I love this kid.

 

Drone Shots

Forgot how much I like flying the drone when it comes back and mission accomplished.  They asked me to take some pictures of a regatta that was a few miles out, I haven’t practiced launching (or landing) from a boat so I had to do it on land.  There are a ton of FAA restrictions that limit me from great footage, one is line of sight.  I’ve never put my drone out that far, there’s just no way you can see it.  The other thing was wind, there was a warning the entire time to bring it back that I ignored since it wasn’t losing altitude.

After 20 years of volunteering, I usually don’t volunteer work stuff.  Suzie Ormon has a quote I love, “Free work leads to more free work.”  It’s led me to pay people right away for services, it’s their time and equipment.  If I lose a drone, it’s $1k right away.  For work, there’s a rental fee included just for that purpose.  I’ve lost 2 drones to trees, one was a freebie job in Costa Rica and suddenly everyone was a drone expert without ever flying one.

When I found out how far out the regatta was and the winds, I figured I might have to kiss the drone goodbye.  The first battery my timing was way off on the downwind turn for  the spinnakers to go up, I just wasn’t out there in time.  I had a 20mph headwind making it slow going (maybe 10 minutes) to get out there about a mile then get oriented to where the boats were.  The good news was that it had that 20mph tailwind when the battery warning came on or I would have been screwed.  It landed right where I launched it.

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The second race I was able to time a little better to get the drone out about 1.5 miles out for there downwind with spinnakers.  My Mavic pro has about 20 min of battery using 10 min in that headwind just to get out there, 5 min of shots, then the remaining battery getting back.  If I would have known how far out it was I might have declined doing it at all.  Usually, the races are closer to the marina which would have made for some great shots and given me a lot more time shooting them.  The worst that could have happened is the drone would drop in the water, no injuries, just the loss of my drone 😦

It all went well and I actually learned a lot without the huge expense of losing it.  I have to decide how much volunteer work I want to do with the drone though while other people are getting paid.  I don’t mind doing my own shots for fun and practice, the liability of volunteering for drone shots thinking it’s going to lead to paid work is too great.  So far, none of my volunteer work has lead to $$.

One of the women last night who found out I droned it said that I should put the pictures on their art wall.  They put art exhibits up from time to time for purchase.  I have to admit, was totally flattered by that.  This morning, as I do the math, it’s going to cost me about $500 to get some prints together for something like that.

My huge project this week has been actually quilting waves on a quilt I’ve been working on all month.  I couldn’t get it finished before the housekeepers came, I told her to just leave it on the dining room table since I have it all lined up.  Instead of saying how beautiful it was, she mentioned that I have free time.  That bummed me out on a few levels, you mean I’m not an artist??  I just have free time I don’t know what to do with and delusions of grandeur??  (OK – that’s not what she meant, I’m just adding that for dramatic purposes).  It definitely smacked me with reality, people look at me as a housewife with free time whose time and talents are not valuable.

That’s one of the reasons I always support my friends artistic endeavors (and pay them for it).  I know how long things take to make and the expense involved.

One of my first photography jobs right out of college was still shots for a commercial starring Tommy Lasorda.  I drove to the park in O.C. and got some great shots using a film camera.  I had a little pouch on my keychain where I put my lunch money, probably $10 max (mid-80’s).  I left it on a picnic table with my camera bag and someone stole the money…all day, no lunch.  I gave the rolls to the productions company before I left for them to develop, they turned out great!!  When I sent them an invoice, they said there must have been a miss-understanding?  This was a trial or an intern shoot, not a paid shoot, that somehow included them keeping all the work and negatives.  I couldn’t even put the shots in my portfolio.  After that job, I had to get a “real” one and couldn’t afford to “work” anymore.

Just some things consider if you’re an artist or someone about to ask a favor of a friend.

Seattle

Got to be a tourist this past week while my husband had an engineering conference up there.  I’ve been there a few times for work related things, have never really checked it out.  It’s booming!  That’s either good or bad, depending on the companies that are creating that boom with rising housing prices.  Here in San Francisco, low income has been literally kicked to the curb.  We have all the top tech with Monopoly money, no sense of reality of what anything actually costs.  It looks like all that tech has gone to Seattle, after destroying San Francisco.

We stayed downtown at a very small condo AirB&B.  It was a super modern place, really convenient and close to everything including the convention center.  The first night of the conference they had a dinner at the Space Needle.  I’d been in it before for dinner almost 20 years ago, it’s nothing like that now.  The surrounding buildings are so tall, it almost dwarfs the Space Needle, including the roof of the place we were staying.  It’s still cool to go on the rotating floor, plus construction started on my husband’s birthday and finished in my year, I’m the same age as the Space Needle – probably in need of renovation too??

The roof of our AirB&B

Other than that, I walked A TON!!  Going on little tours, the Duck Boat was a fun one.  I did one in Boston and loved it, this was a good way to see parts of the city I would never see otherwise and get a few laughs in.  We spent a few lunches at Pike’s Market, if I could cook I would have bought some fish to fry up in the condo.  We’re on the go so much this week that I couldn’t even send it home.

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I brought my keyboard, the forecast was for rain the whole time so I thought I’d be stuck indoors.  It didn’t rain at all, one of the things I got to do was go sailing for a little over an hour.  That was really nice, always like to see a town from the water.  The keyboard limited what I could bring home, another reason I didn’t pack a cooler from Pike’s.

 

From the “Let’s Go Sailing” boat pier 55

 

Just a heads up about our AirB&B, this seems to be a booming industry as well everywhere.  On the upside, it really was an amazing location and a cool place WAY too small to live.  Not to hip on the hospitality, it sucked.  We paid high rates, got a 10 page instruction sheet on how we have to tip-toe through the concierge so as not to let anyone know it’s an AirB&B, no noise, no nothing.  Our first morning we woke up to find the coffee left for us was decaf, poor form but not a major infraction.  I have headphones for my keyboard, we didn’t make a peep.

All went well, until we asked for either a late check out or baggage storage.  We weren’t supposed to be there, the concierge scowled at us every time we walked by, we knew from our instruction booklet not to bother them for anything.  The answer from our “hosts” was “We cannot accommodate your request.”  They suggested we leave our bags at Nordstrom??  Really??  You buy a place right next to a convention center and no clue on where we can leave our bags until the conference is over?  I panicked, thinking I might have to lug my keyboard around all day.

It turns out there are Bag B&B’s, a separate entity start up requiring it’s own app…genius.   My husband ended up putting our luggage behind the check in curtain at the conference, all but my 50 lb backpack.  Off I went to the water to get on it.

I loved it there, it was clean and safe.  If the Winter weather wasn’t miserable, it would be a place I could see myself.  The times I’ve been there I’ve hit some decent weather.  Seems the time to go is during the summer before that kicks in.  Lots of building going on, lots of tech is already there.

I have to bring up an incident in the airport as just an aside.  After carrying 50lbs around with hours before our flight, I splurged for a 15min neck and shoulders massage.  This woman sat down in the area, very disoriented.  At first I thought she was cutting in front of me in line waiting.  The guy asked if she was waiting for a massage and she said “no.”  He said it was the waiting area, that’s when I noticed she was completely out of it.

I sat next to her and then noticed a smell, she lost her bowels as well as looked totally lost.  She started trying to pick up her backpack and I said, “Do you need some help?  Are you here with someone?”  She said “yes” she was there with someone (she wasn’t) and that she didn’t need help.  She stood up, then collapsed hitting her head right out of my reach.  People rushed over, a Dr. & nurse traveling (separately) were first on the scene.  I saw a motorcycle in Santa Fe, thank God these professionals are first to pull over.  I know CPR, that’s about it.  The only input from me, besides saying what happened before the fall, was that she needs to go to the hospital.

The medics came, they figured out who she was by getting her cell & ID.  An Alaska airlines rep was there for info on where she was traveling from…Palm Springs to San Jose??  How did she get re-routed through Seattle for a 9pm flight making an hour flight into an all day nightmare??  Even I might be disoriented and shit my pants after that!!

My mom is 81, I haven’t let her travel alone for years.  I suck it up, get on her flight through L.A. and make sure she gets home OK.  Sometimes I just stay at her house on either end of the flights so I’m with her the whole time.  We were stuck in a 3 hour TSA line in Newark once, I’ve slept in airports and zig-zagged across the US to get home due to weather.  Anything can happen when you travel, apparently winding up in a hospital in Seattle is on that list.  I hope she’s OK 😦

I just write this as a warning to myself that there will be a time when I’m too old to travel, coming in at midnight with a keyboard and 50 lb backpack at 55 years old is no cake walk either.  Speaking of, if I ever did move to Seattle you will find me at Royal Cupcake with my latte and fig/honey cupcake every afternoon.

Windsurfing Committee Boat

I was on the water all week, either in Tahoe or here in the Bay area.  Sailing is taking a boat out and waiting for everything to go wrong, picking and choosing your battles.  Our father’s day plan was that I would take my husband out to Angel Island for the night on the moorings then have my son and fiance ferry over.  I got a message asking to use my boat as the committee boat, checked the forecast, then changed my plans.  It looked like a small craft advisory, making it for a miserable FD weekend.  After Fridays sail, I wasn’t up for it.

Because my fuel gauge doesn’t work, what I do is write down the hours and gallons to fuel to determine my GPH (gallons per hour).  It’s diesel, my calculations give me around 1 GPH, it’s been quite a few months since I filled up and 17 hours on the meter.  I’m planning a trip next weekend where I’ll have to motor quite a few hours, time to make sure it’s full.

Before heading to Berkeley, we hit the fuel dock to fill up.  I knew I had a small leak I couldn’t find, but one of the things I did was unscrew the top of the fuel tank to see how hard it would be to replace the floater to get my gauge working again.  Well…there’s a dissolved gasket that wasn’t visible when I screwed it back on, so when I fueled up, that’ where the leak was.  It was a smelly mess, I still smell like diesel fuel.  The leak wasn’t enough to deter me from taking my boat out to anchor for the Cal Cup race.

That was exciting and hectic!  It was 30 knot constant winds, with quite a swell out there and a flood tide.  There were 6 of us on the committee boat, 6 windsurfers that dropped down to 3 for the last race because it was too windy.  With the tide and wind from the same direction, anchoring was pretty easy.  There was a problem with my windlass, turned out it was just the circuit breaker which I quickly fixed.  The boat held while it slammed up and down on the waves.  Compared to those windsurfers out there, it was nothing.

Motor started, the windless brought the anchor up, success!!  I just didn’t think I could get the boat back that night, it was too hectic to get out there once let alone go back.  Thought I could overnight dock it at BYC (Berkeley Yacht Club), it looked like a tight squeeze with another Pac Cup boat there heading for Hawaii.  My friend took the helm, by the time we flipped it around another boat had docked there.  I was a little relieved, I’m a pretty good docker and I didn’t think I could pull off a tight squeeze in those winds. On that particular dock it would have been a 30 knot crosswind.

He went to an open slip and we docked, no problem.  I shut down the boat and locked it, expecting to come back to possibly spend the night.  That never happened, I went back home to sleep it off.  On father’s day we asked friends to meet us in Berkeley.  The winds were a little calmer, the forecast was similar so my sail plan was going to be to get out of the slot ASAP to head for the city (San Francisco).  I had arranged a guest dock for lunch over there.  Fully briefing my new crew, went to start the engine…nothing.  In my hasty shut down, I forgot to turn off the engine battery.

My friend that docked for me happened to be at BYC and brought me over a shore power cord to re-charge.  We waited…nothing.  I cancelled the guest dock  in SF, then headed to Spengers for a fathers day lunch to wait out the charging.  Several hours later, nothing.  While the crew partied it up at the dock, my mind was going into troubleshooting gear/panic.  Several things occurred to me, I might not be able to move the boat back was one.  The other thoughts were us stuck at either Angel Island (the original plan), no engine for the windlass after the race with the whole committee stuck out there overnight getting pummeled by the waves.  Not a bad place to be stuck in all reality, close to BYC which has bathrooms and a bar.

Then I looked at the microwave to see it wasn’t on.  My shore power line has 2 plugs, most have just one.  I might not have been charging the battery the whole time?  I rudely excused myself, not sure if anyone would notice because there had been quite a few drinks consumed by that time.  I drove back to Emeryville to grab my shore power cord, plugged it in, an hour later the engine started for a killer sunset back to my dock.

I’m constantly learning things about my boat, my limits, plan B, C, D’s.  A good thing to know is limits, sadly, a kayaker went out while we were out there for the race and died.  We never saw him, those waves must have knocked him over.  A massive Catamaran motored out, then turned around to head back in while we were pulling up the anchor.   A boat that won’t start in a dock with a bunch of booze isn’t so bad.

 

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Off-line for days

Wow was that nice!!  Went to Tahoe to try and fish, something I’ve only tried a few times.  On the way up I stopped at a Bass Pro Shop/Outdoor World that looks like Disneyland.  I was so overwhelmed that I ended up going to the Walmart next door and buying a pole & line for $30.  What I caught was the bottom of a small lake, then I caught a really porous rock at the Truckee River.  It’s all catch & release up there, which of course I didn’t know how to do but I wasn’t too worried about even catching anything.

I stopped when I couldn’t cast it anymore, since I got the cheapest line it got all tangled when I reeled it in despite my youtube instruction on how to put the line on it.  It was still fun casting, years ago I did a fishing guide trip in Redding where I just reeled them in and the guide did all the dirty work.  I brought a cooler and had salmon for a few weeks for dinner.  When I got back I finally youtube’d how to release and I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own quite yet.  Driving home I stopped at that Bass Pro Shop to get some tips and better line.  Surprisingly, the pole was a Big Ugly from Walmart and is actually decent.

The funny part of my trip was sailing on Donner Lake, I’m totally bruised and battered.  It was a little plastic cockpit with one sail.  There’s a beach on the West side that has a $5 entrance fee and rents the usual, kayaks, SUP’s, and these mini-sail boats.  I ran into a guy who’s son played soccer with my youngest…feel kinda bad I never remember his name, not an uncommon event lately.  When I see people, I automatically figure they don’t know my name and try to eliminate that awkward recollection by saying, “It’s Heller” right away.  No such luck with this guy.

The awkward part of that one was that he and his buddy were taking out one of these itty bitty boats the same time I was.  He re-introduced me to his wife, then suggested I take her out on my rental.  She declined and I was relieved, it’s not like my boat where you just kick back, relax & chat.  Sure enough, when I got on the thing I barely fit.  I have no idea how two of them went out on it?  I had to slide way up to use the tiller, then lay down for the boom to cross over me and hop my butt over to the other side.  These tip over, it was the only way I had any control over that.  Man was it a blast though!!  Super responsive, when I got a gust I jammed.  Always good to just sail on a small boat to go back to the basics.

The next day I rented a SUP from the East side of Donner lake.  I have a blow up one I wasn’t able to get out of the garage before I left, it was easier to just rent one for an hour. I stayed at the Truckee Donner Lodge that was once a Holiday Inn Express where we stayed when the kids were little to go skiing.   There’s also a camp ground Frank & I stayed at once when we brought his dog back to her homeland, we adopted her in Tahoe.  It’s walking distance from the hotel, so I got a really nice hike/SUP in before I headed back home.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Tahoe throughout the past 20 years, not much of it during the summer.  It was just great!!  I love coming back down the mountain too, as much as I love the call of nature, I hate bugs.  I’ve got a couple of nasty bites and bruises, there was also a run in with a snake that made me hesitate crossing a trail thinking it would swallow me.  Finally I reasoned it was probably more scared of me, I never saw a rattle.  Any fin I see in the water is a shark, any snake is a rattler, any spider is a black widow or California brown.  Always good to be cautious for worst case scenario I guess??

The Sierras

Back at home, the last few days were spent in Mammoth with a friend I grew up with.  From Vegas, I went up Hwy 95 (not too scenic) to Hwy 266 and cut over into the Sierras to Bishop, then Mammoth.  The quicker alternative would be to go through Bakersfield, then up I-5, a route I do all the time back and forth from LA.  From google, it looks to be around 8 hours and I was so wiped out from driving I’d have to split that up to possibly stay in Bakersfield.

Mammoth was perfect!  Growing up, especially in high school, my friends dad would take us up there every other weekend from LA.  Our high school ski club had an infamous trip there in 1980, where I got busted for spotting and being a bad influence on everyone and sent to my room.  Of all stupid things, I hitch hiked to the liquor store at 17 years old.  I watch WAY too much Law & Order to ever think of that now!  Rumor had it at the time that the mountains were safe to hitch hike.  The altitude didn’t help, I got drunk faster than my normal pace.  Cleverly (I thought), I hid the bottles at the bottom of everyone’s ski jackets, which is the first place our chaperone checked.  Those were the days, my parents never found out and I just had a hangover for skiing the next day.

This trip was about going places I’d never been, which ended up being kind of true for Mammoth too.  I didn’t recognize anything, it had been too long.  Ever since I’ve been in NorCal, Tahoe is my place to ski.  When I go there now, it just reminds me of my kids being little and how fun it was when we all skied together.

A friend I grew up with lives in Mammoth now, it was SO good to see her!  It’s hard to believe we’re 55 now?  We talked like we were little girls again, or maybe high school girls about when we were little.  Because I was traveling alone this whole time, I’ve been super careful not to let people know that so I really haven’t talked to anyone this whole time.  I hope I let her get in a few words?

The Tioga pass through Yosemite opens Monday, to get home I cut through the Sonora Pass instead.  The snow was rapidly melting, the roads were totally clear.  Another place I’d go in college with an old BF was Yosemite with his family, it was their favorite place.  The only reason I bring this up is because I passed by Mono Lake, never went there when we’d go to Mammoth and it’s so close.  I had been there a few times in the 80’s on those Yosemite trips.  As much as I’d like to see Yosemite again, I’d need more time than just an exhausted drive through.  Yosemite is close enough to me, that’s a trip in itself.

Sonora pass was perfect!  Popped out into Copperopolis, from there I could see Mt. Diablo.  I’ve done some work up there with landslides and the drone, I knew where I was.

Oh, BTW, I never used a map the whole trip.  I used my phone, then wrote down the Hwy’s before I headed out in case I didn’t have cell coverage.  Not super smart, I never got lost though.  My mom bought me a Garmin InReach for flying and sailing, I turned that on coming back from Mammoth.  If I press “track” it pings my location every 10 min, I just send the link so it tracks me.  That way, if I’m off in a ravine somewhere, they’ll at least have an idea of my location.  There was no cell almost the whole time though the Sierras until I got to Hwy 395.  The passes have nada.

Maybe I’ll have more insights on my trip in a few days when I recover?  Right now, I’m just happy not to drive today.  A few thoughts though, first is that my childhood only involved going to grandparents in AZ unless my friends parents took me with them on their trips (am I too old to blame my parents?  haha).  The other thing is I should have spent more time in places.  I’d spend 2 nights max, leaving my one full day in a place as a sightseeing/recover from driving/zombie day.  My back only bothered me at the very beginning, that was a blessing.

Looks like I have a wedding to watch (royal) and a wedding to help plan now (my sons).  But first, a shower!

Featured image is Mono Lake
Then Hwy 266 cutting across from NV & Mammoth Lakes w/ Timber.  The map is my Garmin pinging where I am on my last leg home.  I had cell almost everywhere but on the train to Grand Canyon and through the Sierras.  The InReach lets you txt anywhere too.

Vegas!

Ahhhh!!  A nice hotel again, finally got some sleep.  From Williams, AZ it’s a few hours drive to Vegas.  I made it a little longer by stopping in Kingman for a Starbucks, then Hoover Dam.  Vegas is a funky place, I’ve only been here a few times for work.  It’s a little overwhelming for me, not really a gambler.  The couple times I’ve been here I’ve seen some great shows though – Elton John, Brittney Spears, the PBR (Pro Bull Riders) finals.  That’s how I found this place, South Point, was an extra night I stayed once where the MGM tripled in price for that night.

South Point is off of the main strip, with coffee in the rooms.  One thing about Vegas strip is no coffee???  You have to do the $10 walk of shame and stand in line at the Starbucks.  I had to find the solution to that after my first trip here, I have my own little folding kettle with the pour over travel mug.

On one shuttle ride back to the airport, I was chatting with a woman from England who comes here every few years, just to Vegas, of all places?  If it wasn’t for work, Vegas wouldn’t be on my list of places to go.  From the Bay Area, it’s pretty cheap to hop on a plane, stay here just to see a show.  This also seems to be the gateway for the fellow tourists I saw throughout my trip.

Hoover Dam was a great stop, glad I did that.  It’s free parking if you keep driving over to the AZ side of the dam, the first parking lot in NV is $10.  While I was still in the parking lot, I overheard these couples talking about how we need another president like Hoover to build something like this again.  Trump is the guy who’s going to get things like this done again, everyone needs to get over the Russia investigation.  Look at what he’s done so far for creating jobs in America and taking it away from China.

Admittedly, I hate Trump.  I barf in my mouth a little thinking he is our president and that this is what America has come to, a new Jerry Springer episode every day.  Stop reading now, I’m about to rant.  Obviously, Fox news didn’t report in their 45′ RV’s that Trump just created jobs for China regarding ZTE that day.  Then, with a little twist of their heads they can take a look at the water line to see it’s a major drought still.  Comparing Hoover to Trump is insane (asinine?).   Saying he’s going to build something like this is even more insane.  How can someone look at this masterpiece of engineering and give Trump credit for it…at all??  My trip has been Trump free so far, mostly because I’ve been listening to music with no TV this whole time.

One thing I did hear was his pull-out from Iran, I had to check the news because the gas prices sky-rocketed overnight.  How is it creating jobs when people can’t afford to put $100 worth of gas in their trucks to get to work?  I always thought the big crash started with the gas prices and tumbled from there.  People put together a house of cards financially, then the gas prices went to $5.  Here it comes again, have fun in that RV while it lasts.