Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seattle, Washington

Thursday, September 10 - Saturday, September 19
It's time for a family fix! We're off to Seattle to visit Stacy's family. We get to spend 8 days with them on dry land, and we're planning to make the most of it. Granted, it isn't quite as easy to travel these days as it used to be...

Living in a house (or even on a boat in a marina), you don't typically have to think about whether your home will still be there when you return. Will it still be in the same place you left it? Or will a storm have come up and blown it off its foundation? As a full-time cruiser, if you want to leave the boat to visit family and friends, you have three options: 1) keep the boat in a marina tied to a dock/slip; 2) anchor the boat; or 3) keep the boat on a mooring ball in a mooring field. The marina option is the most secure option, but it's also the most expensive. For a boat Pipe's size, we're looking at an average of $100 per day, and we wouldn't even be on the boat to enjoy the marina's amenities! Option 2 - anchoring - is a great way to save money (i.e. it's free), but we're not ready to leave the boat anchored for an extended period of time without being around to check on it. We've had a few experiences with a dragging anchor, and we'd rather not risk the boat not being there when we get back. Option 3 - a mooring ball - is a great compromise; it's cheap and secure, but there aren't a lot of mooring fields available in the southeastern US. Enter Fernandina's a nice town with a city-run mooring field, and it's fairly close to a major airport. Perfect!

Next up, we need to figure out how to get to the airport. We don't have a car, and biking the 27 miles to Jacksonville airport with luggage is out of the question. How about a taxi? Nope, we have to get the cats to the kennel before we leave. Okay, a rental car...just as long as we're willing to pay a drop-off fee for the one-way rental ($35 each way) plus insurance coverage ($10-20 per day). Oh,'s not like we get a rental car often. So...transportation to the airport, check.

What else? Kitty care! Since we don't live in Fernandina, we aren't familiar with the local kennels. Thank goodness for the internet! Stacy finds a few vets and kennels within 10 miles of Fernandina Beach, and we get lucky with one. "Kozy Kennels" has kitty condos that will allow Tux and Tawny to stay in a 3-story space together. The people seem like real animal lovers, and the kitty condos have glass fronts that let their occupants look out onto the fish tank and resident birds. So...kitty arrangements, check. Oops, wait a do we get the cats from the boat to shore? Into the cat carriers they go, and Tux and Tawny get to experience their first ride in the dinghy. They aren't thrilled, but they handle it much better than expected. Fortunately we pick up our rental car the day before our flight, so we can drop the kids off at the kennel that afternoon and have plenty of time with our last-minute boat preparations. We even have time to get together with friends and boat neighbors, LA & Susan. They're talking about leaving Fernandina Beach before we get back, so this may be our last visit for awhile.

Thursday morning we load our luggage into the dinghy, move the kayaks and man-overboard pole into the cabin, and lock everything up. Nothing is left topside - even the wheel has been removed and locked in the lazarette. As we dinghy to shore, we're both struck by how strange it feels to be leaving the boat. This is the first time we've spent any real time off the boat in over six months, and we're like nervous parents leaving their baby overnight with a sitter for the first time! We're sure everything will be fine, and the trip to the airport goes off without a hitch. We take a commuter to Houston and use our last President's Club pass to enjoy our 3-hour layover in comfort; we finally land in Seattle by 6pm local time. Let the "vacation" begin!

The next week is filled with family dinners, visits with old friends, and a side trip to the mountains. We stay with Stacy's grandpa, but see her mom and step-dad every day. Mom has just retired (congrats!), so she and Ken are in the process of renting their house and heading to sunnier weather for the winter. The house is getting low on furniture and cooking utensils, so Papa's place makes for a much easier gathering spot! Saturday we meet up with Stacy's aunt, uncle, and 10-year-old cousin, Matt, for pizza at one of the family hangouts, Pegasus on Alki. Matt's such a great kid, not to mention an outstanding student and baseball/soccer player. It's great to see him and his parents, and we hope to see them again before we leave. Sunday we have dinner with Stacy's friend, Andie, and her kids. Stacy and Andie have known each other since they were 2 years old, and we try to get together every time we're in Seattle. Our visits are always too short, but at least we have a chance to catch up.

Monday morning we head to Mt. St. Helens with Stacy's mom. St. Helens erupted on the morning of May 18, 1980, killing 57 people in the process. The blast flattened 230 square miles of forest and blew ash over 60,000 feet into the air. The ash cloud could be seen from over a hundred miles away, and anyone living in Washington state at the time can still tell you where they were and what they were doing that day. The volcano was active as recently as 2004, but has quieted down in the past few years. Three visitors centers have been built near the mountain, detailing the eruption, its victims, and the return of plants and animal life that has occurred over the past 29 years. None of us has ever been to St. Helens - either before the blast or after - and we've been looking forward to our visit. Wouldn't you know...we've been so lucky to have beautiful sunny weather for the past few days, but the clouds have found us on our drive to the summit. We get to the Johnston Ridge Visitor's Center around 1:30pm, just in time for the 15-minute movie detailing the eruption. It's a dramatic presentation, opening with the last words of geologist and St. Helens victim, David Johnston, at the moment of the eruption, and ending with the raising of the curtain to reveal the crater at eye-level just 5 miles away. It's an impressive sight, and would be even more so were it not for the clouds covering the top of the mountain! Sigh... We wander through the center, reading survivor accounts and details of the blast, and head outside to follow the "eruption trail" that winds along the edge of the ridge facing the crater. Much of the landscape is still barren from the blast, and dead trees can still be seen on distant hillsides, flattened like toothpicks in the direction of the blast. As much as we cajole and threaten, Mother Nature won't listen to us, and we never do get to see the full crater through the cloud cover. We still have a great time, and make a few more photo stops en route to our hotel late that afternoon. The hotel is built on the edge of Silver Lake, 45 miles from the summit of Mt. St. Helens. We can feed the ducks from our balcony, and can even see the mountain (and yes, the clouds have thinned since we left the summit...grrr).

The next morning, we wake to a beautiful blue sky. We're going back to the summit! We make the 45 mile drive through the winding mountain road, passing the replanted forests on either side. The Weyerhaeuser Company owns much of the land leading up to the mountain, and signs tell us the types of trees and years planted of each section of forest. Back at Johnston Ridge, we walk up the trail below the visitors center for a good vantage point. The clouds have remained light, and we're finally able to get a close-up view of the crater. There's no snow on the mountain this time of year, so you can really see where the north face just blew away. It's an awe-inspiring sight, and we're really glad to have made the trip.

Wednesday we're back in Seattle. We've heard rave reviews from the family about a new waterfront restaurant in Tacoma, and make a date with Grandpa, Mom, and Ken for lunch at CI Shenanigans and a visit to the Museum of Glass. CI Shenanigans has fresh seafood dishes and incredible views of Puget Sound. (If you have a chance to go there, try to sit in Marcus's section.) The Museum of Glass has become famous, thanks in part to Tacoma-native, Dale Chihuly. (If you've been to the Bellagio in Las Vegas, you've probably seen his glass artwork on the lobby's ceiling.) The "Bridge of Glass" is a 500' overpass that connects the art, history, and glass museums, and includes both a wall and a ceiling filled with Chihuly pieces.

Thursday we have a semi-rest day at Grandpa's, and Rene makes his "world-famous" lasagna. It's the last chance for the entire family to get together before we go back to Florida, and we're thrilled that Sue, Don, and Matt can join us on a school night! We already know that we won't be able to be with either of our families over the holidays, so getting to spend this time together means even more to us. We're still trying to convince the family to come visit us, either in the Bahamas or on the East Coast next spring or summer. We'll see!

Friday night we take the red-eye flight back to Florida (via Houston). We arrive in Jacksonville around 11:30am, and are eager to pick up the kitties and get back to the boat. They're definitely a little freaked out, but seem happy to be back on the boat with us. The boat is fine when we get back, and we're happy to see that LA & Susan haven't left while we've been away. We'll get to spend a bit more time with them before we both head to our next destinations!

Pictures for this Blog chapter:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey! Nice to see the whole Seatelite band!! We miss you guys ;) - Chris