Monday, March 11, 2019

My Friend


As we go through life we cross paths with many people. Some we like. Some we don't. Some who make a little impression on us and some who make a big impression on us. We make many acquaintances but only a few who we can consider as true friends. Donnie Schmeisser was an individual who I considered a true friend.
For most of my life I didn't even know Donnie existed. But that all changed in 2008 when we pulled Tourist into a slip on B-Dock at Legacy Harbour in Ft. Myers.
The days passed while we got settled in. My parents wintered some 20 miles south of the marina and were frequent visitors. But when they weren't there we got to know some of our dock mates. All were friendly but one guy stood out amongst the crowd. One that looked like he had been baking in the sun for months. One who spent his winters at Legacy with his wife Marilyn and dog Chloe.
Each day Donnie would pass by several times while taking Chloe ashore to do her business. (And catch up on marina happenings!) Each time stopping to talk if Pam or I were outside. I'm pretty sure that it was at one of these impromptu meetings that we learned about "Docktails". Seems Donnie and I both had a liking for Rum!
Time passed and we got to know each other better, often times offering our limited knowledge to the other about life and it's complexities. (Better known as bullshitting). On trips to West Marine or China Town (Harbor Freight) Donnie would ask if I wanted to ride along. He and Marilyn even offered their car for us to use if we needed it. Pretty nice and much appreciated.
Over the years I learned a lot from Donnie about the surrounding area both on land and water. I'm not sure who was happier about the times we were able to get away from the dock and anchor out at Cayo Costa, Keywadyn Island, or travel to the mooring field at Ft. Myers Beach and bitch about "Capt. Poop" who somewhat managed the moorings and ran the pump-out boat.
Every day better than the last and every day ended with "A drink of Rum" as Donnie would say.
We had some good times for sure.
If you didn't take the time to get to know Donnie he could be misconstrued as somewhat of a curmudgeon. And I'm sure to this day that a few still hold that impression. He suffered no fools.
But once you got to know him you realized that he was just a big teddy bear hiding behind that gruff façade. I think Pete, one of our dock mates said it best when describing Donnie.
"I've never met a man who tried so hard to hide a tender heart".
I could go on and on about the good memories that Pam and I have about our time at Legacy. And when I think about those times most of them include my friend Donnie.
B-Dock and Legacy will never be quite the same for us without you.
 Waldorf & Astor (Muppet Show) solving the world's problems.
 Marilyn, Donnie, Mary, & Harry @ Legacy X-Mass Party

Always posed well for a picture!
Gordy, Donnie, & Mike deciding the days agenda.
A rare family picture.
Gone but not forgotten.
Rest In Peace My Friend
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marilyn, Chloe, and the family and friends who grieve your loss.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Day Dreaming in Winter about Summer

As I sit here at the kitchen counter looking out at the falling snow I'm wondering just how long it will be before we can chop a hole in the ice and get Tourist back in operation. Not anytime soon from the looks of it.
So as I often do when faced with reality, I space off into my happy place.....On the water!

Here are a few random pictures of some past happenings.

A colorful meal being prepared by Mike.

Checking on the neighbors.

Nancy & Pam solving the worlds problems.

Eirean heading out. (Mike & Nancy)

Bill, Pam, & Barb relaxing on the bow.

Mike lookin patriotic on July 3rd.

Raft ups waiting for July 3rd fireworks.

Setting a stern anchor to keep the armada in place.

Captain "Fiddle F..." trying to figure out his camera.

The start of the air show.

The highlight of the show. An F-18.

Trouble comes in fours.

What's for dinner? KFC of course! It's tradition.
Princess Chair raft up.
Southbound tow.
It's been a few weeks since I started this posting. In that time we have accumulated 39 inches of snow and recorded a low temperature of -29 at our home. The river is frozen all the way across and Tourist is resting comfortably (although cold) inside a building at Island City Harbor in Sabula, Iowa. With more snow predicted it could be awhile before we're floating again. It's enough to make a guy take a drink!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wake Up Blog!!!!

One of the things that I always question when a blog I've been following goes quiet is "I wonder what happened. Did they quit cruising or maybe worse have health issues or get a divorce?" Any number of thoughts pass through my mind as I ponder what could have happened.

Well I'm happy to report that in our case the answer to all of the above is NO. Although our cruising has been curtailed quite a bit since we made that left turn onto the Tennessee River.

As well as Tourist making a left turn so did our lives as we'd known them for the previous few years.
The passing of my Dad was the beginning of our directional change. That was followed by Pam's Dad being diagnosed with cancer and her Mom's on going battle with arthritis. That combination prompted the selling of their multi-level house and moving into an independent living facility. A hard move to make but a good one for them and peace of mind for the rest of the family.

A few months later we moved my mother into the same facility when she was diagnosed with dementia. She had been living at home alone and in general not taking care of herself. Getting her to move took a little convincing but once the move was made she hasn't looked back.

We now have my Mom and Pam's parents not only in the same facility but across the hall from one another. No one can make a move without us hearing about it!

Needless to say our focus has changed.

As far as the blog is concerned I'll try to do a few recaps over the next few months of what's been happening in our lives. There could even be some boating involved.

I covered 2016 in previous posts so I'll start randomly in 2017.

Since we've been home most of our time has been spent locally. We were able to sneak away in June of  '17 for a few days to Las Vegas where we met Rick & Sarah (M/V Private Affair) and Mark & Kate (M/V Mar-Kate). Of course what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas so sorry, no incriminating pictures. Let's just say we had a good time!

Pam and I did take a one day side trip to the Grand Canyon where we were able to take pictures. So here are a few.

Our first stop out of Vegas was at the Hoover Dam.

Looking out at the low water of Lake Mead.

One of the Lake Mead marinas. Notice where the water level used to be on the mound in the lower part of the picture.

Looking down river from the Pat Tillman Bridge. The old road is visible on the right side of the river.

Pat Tillman Bridge that took traffic off of the dam .

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead from the bridge.

From  Hoover Dam  we continued on and picked up I-40 at Kingman, Az.

Who could resist stopping at the Road Kill Café in Seligman, Az.

Grand Canyon
Bright Angel Lodge lobby
Of Course we found the bar at Bright Angel
The big ditch

Back in Vegas the temps outside were HOT! I know. It's a dry heat so it's not that bad right? Bullsh-t! 100 degrees walking across concrete and asphalt. You can feel the soles of your shoes melting away if you stop moving.
We did however have a few fleeting moments of insanity to get a couple pictures of the Strip.
We stayed at Mandalay Bay which is on the lower end of the strip. Our room had a nice view of the airport and of what looked to be an outdoor concert venue directly across the street. Little did we realize that a few months later it would be that venue that made headlines when a shooter opened fire on the Jason Aldean concert goers who packed the grounds.
Looking south at Mandalay Bay Hotel (gold building)
One thing that struck us while we were in Vegas was the huge number of families who chose to drag their kids with them to this largely adult oriented playground. So many so that it was almost annoying. You had to keep a sharp lookout when you walked around the hotel and the town. At any moment you could get run down by a non-supervised RugRat!
All in all it was a good time. We saw some sights. Took in a show. And oddly enough, won a little money. And the best part was being able to re-connect with some boating friends.
Until the next time Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When Turning Left is Right

You may remember last spring when Tourist pulled out of Fort Myers and headed north. Our intention was to work our way back over familiar waters to the Tennessee River and make a right turn with a final destination of Tellico Lake in mind for the summer. We had gone so far as to check out a few marinas on our drive to Florida the previous autumn. It looked like a beautiful area at the foot of the Smokies to explore for a summer.

As we made our way north something just didn't seem right in either one of our minds although for a good part of the journey we never openly admitted it to one another. Finally someplace north of Columbus, Mississippi we simultaneously came to the conclusion that we should shelf the idea of Tellico Lake and make a left turn on the Tennessee River and head home. Of course this meant battling the fast moving waters of the Mississippi for 580 miles. Our trip is documented in earlier posts if you missed it.

Looking at the Tennessee River. Right or Left?

Several factors played into our decision to change plans. For one we hadn't been home with Tourist since 2009. It would be fun to spend time cruising the home waters once again.
Another was grandkids. Pam was particularly concerned that she may be losing precious time in her efforts to turn Ellie into a "Priss" like her!
And of course there was our parents who were not getting any younger.

Our left turn decision turned out to be the right one for us as we were able to enjoy friends and family and have Tourist docked just a stones throw from our house.

We celebrated my Dad's 90th birthday last August. As it turned out it would be his last birthday with us here on earth. As fall progressed into winter his health deteriorated. We were fortunate to have him with us for one last Christmas. It's as if he knew it would be his last for shortly thereafter he began to go downhill getting weaker by the day. He spent his last days at the Galena nursing home being cared for by their excellent staff.

On February 12th we met with a Hospice nurse who asked if the family lived close by because she didn't think Dad would be with us much longer. Everyone does but my son Ryan who lives in Denver and was planning on coming back mid-week. Her advice was that he should get home A.S.A.P.
Ryan made it to the nursing home by 9:30 that night. It's as if Dad knew he was coming and waited for him.

At 10:03 pm Dad made the peaceful transition into his next life with us at his bedside.

Through the years my Dad wore many hats and was always determined to make whatever venture he was involved in work to it's fullest potential.
He was my hero and I'll miss him greatly.

Lew Hillard  1926-2017

The early years.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Navigation has come to a close on our part of the Mississippi. The lock at Dubuque officially shut down on December 13th. Maybe they knew something when that date was scheduled because by late the following week there was ice on the river, snow in the air, and temperatures heading to below zero. It's comforting to know that Tourist while still cold, is escaping the harshness of the winter winds and snow tucked safely inside the building at Island City Harbor. 

Merry Christmas!!
Last tow of the season. M/V Wisconsin southbound in the snow.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are We really Doing This!?!

So about this time in years past  Pam & I have been getting ready to return to Tourist for the winter months. This year we're preparing Tourist for a long winters nap instead of getting her ready for another season. WAIT! Did I just say that? I must have fallen and hit my head.

Well I checked with Pam and I didn't hit my head. We are putting Tourist up for the winter.

Fortunately I could still access some old files that contain 3 pages of winterization notes that I used for Tourist when this exercise used to take place each winter. In reading through them nothing jumped out at me as being too difficult. Just perform each step in a methodical manner and don't rush or cut corners.

The only thing I didn't consider is that I'm now 8 years older than when I last did this task. Add in that we also had to remove everything that would freeze from Tourist for the first time in 8 years!
Along with winterization, and liquid removal we also decided to go through every nook and cranny and take most of what we found off the boat. Amazingly we could see the waterline again after unloading. (I'm pretty sure removing all of Pam's shoes made a big difference!)

Well as you can guess the winterization didn't go quite as smoothly as planned but item by item it got done. Generator, water system, water heater, heads, washer/dryer, and the list goes on. Once in storage we open the under floor compartments, refrigerator and freezer, closets, and anywhere else that may trap stale air or moisture.

Well the day came for us to make the 45 mile trip to Sabula. (We had taken our car there a couple of days before so we would have a ride home.) The weather was a cool 45 degrees, windy, and overcast. Probably a reflection of my mood.

 Leaving Frentress Lake Marina and our slip.

As we entered the main channel I could see a southbound tow a few miles ahead of us negotiating one of the bends in the river. Trawler speed allowed us to catch the Joyce Hale where the channel straightened out.

 Leaving the Joyce Hale in our wake.

Once clear of the tow we put Tourist on plane to get some distance between us and the Hale and increase our chances of getting through Lock 12 without delay.

We went past "Hale's" one of our favorite anchorages now deserted for the winter.

We also slid by Chestnut Beach which too was deserted.

Chestnut Mt. ski resort waiting for snow.

 Chestnut again with a little color in the trees.

It was just past Chestnut that I picked up some chatter on the vhf. The towboat Wisconsin was just lining up for Lock 12. 
By now we were back at trawler speed and with the Wisconsin ahead of us only a couple of miles we put Tourist into float mode and let the current do the work.

Our slow pace allowed us plenty of time to view where we had stopped on our topless car ride. The Offshore Bar & Grill is the structure middle left flanked by a Baymont Inn on the right and a small reception hall on the left.

Even just drifting with the current we floated into the arrival zone of Lock 12 just as the Wisconsin was backing out from putting her first cut in the chamber. While waiting I called the lock to let them know our intentions. His response was polite as he told us we would be next but it would be an hour and a half.

L & D 12 with the Wisconsin waiting while her first cut of barges lock through.

The Wisconsin (2nd cut) now in the chamber. You can see that the Wisconsin has a telescoping pilothouse to allow it to negotiate the low bridges of the Illinois River more handily.

It took an unusually long time for the Wisconsin to get both cuts lashed together and push out of the lock. Once out she still had trouble getting positioned in the channel. So much so that the lock raised the water and locked us down. This is what we saw when they (the lock) blew the horn signaling it was ok for us to leave the chamber.

You can tell by looking at the bluffs in the distance which way the channel goes. Knowing that and knowing what the Wisconsin was trying to do prompted me to call the tow on the vhf  before we exited the chamber and ask him how we could best stay out of his way . His response was very courteous as he told us to sit tight for a few more minutes while he continued his flanking maneuver and that he would let me know when to come around him. He also gave us instructions to pass on his stern and then continue on his port side. He was concerned about his wheel wash and told us he would cut power when we went by his stern.
These guys know their stuff. All you have to do is contact them and be willing to cooperate with them.

I forgot to mention that before we entered the chamber the Joyce Hale caught up to us! The locks are the great equalizer on the rivers.

Back underway we soaked up the scenery as we paddled south.

Iowa bluffs.

Is that the sun brightening things up?

Once again we crossed paths with the Twilight on its voyage from LeClaire to Dubuque, Iowa.

Palisades Park where we had been on our car ride.

The Sabula RR Bridge. Our last obstacle before turning into Island City Harbor in Sabula, Iowa.

We cleared the bridge and after a brief wait for a houseboat to clear the fuel dock we pulled in for one last pump out. (Pam was on the boat!) Then it was on to the dock where we would leave Tourist in the hands of the marina staff.

Now the sun comes out!

 Tourist pointed out just in case I change my mind!

The last drink of the season.

I wasn't quite as happy as Pam.

We returned to Tourist the next week just to double check on her condition once inside the building. As I expected there was some water in the bilge from the winterization process that shook itself out as we made our way to Island City. Not much but for me 1 drop is too much.

We found Tourist covered in clear plastic from bow to stern. And no the Carver isn't touching Tourist although it's pretty close.

Assured that things were in good order we buttoned up the plastic and reluctantly headed home.

Don't worry Tourist. We'll visit a few times throughout the winter. (Plus it's a good excuse to go to Manny's Pizza just across the river in Savanna, Illinois!)