Monthly: July 2012

15 Jul

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Fetch; the Midwest.

by

As I was driving down the freeway, my mind was spinning. There was nothing else to do than just keep between the lines and watch my speed (besides looking around, that is). All kinds of questions came through my head. Questions, but no answers. What is this all for? What am I doing here? Is it ok that I’m just driving wherever I want? Shouldn’t I be doing something else, like work? What are these people out there all doing? What is that blackbird doing all day? I think of people I’ve met on this trip and people I’ve met before, of my own family, of my family in Holland, my friends, the women in my life. What is the significance of it all? Is there even a real significance to anything? Do we make it all up through our believes, our churches, our philosophies, our theories about mankind, the world…. I found no answers, just questions and asphalt in front of me. It took me a little over four days to drive from Yellowstone to Cedarville at the top of Lake Huron, so I had time to think.

 

Leaving Yellowstone area

 

 

 

Does that Blackbird have the same questions? Is he trying to redesign his life, because he’s sick of his rat-race? Or does he just go about it, day in day out, year in year out. He sits there on that post, looking around to see if another intruder is coming in ‘his’ field. He’s fanatic about that. Catch a fly once in a while, maybe even catch a fly for his offspring in the nest. Somehow I don’t think he’s bothered by those questions. We humans are and yet, that Blackbird doesn’t destroy his environment, but we do. He is in tune with it and we are not. We try to master it, control it, manipulate it. In the process we screw up royally. We poisoned our oceans, killed our wildlife, clear-cut our old growth forests, burned holes in our atmosphere and so on and so on, again no answers.

 

As I finished filling up with gas, I parked kind of clumsy along the on-ramp to get something in the back. A car pulled up behind me and I waved him to go around me. As I was walking around to go in front, they had stopped to see if I was OK. I thanked them for their kindness. Two local boys of maybe 18. They asked if we were from Washington looking at my license plate (they assumed there was someone else inside). I said I was alone. What was I doing? Fishing? No I was sailing here and there and was on my way to Maine, I said. Did I like it here? Yes, I said it’s nice and green and it reminds me of Holland, similar kind of landscape. Was I travelling around the world? No just the US. Their eyes went big, wow, that was something! I wished them good day and they drove off. I wondered what went on in their minds after they left. One of them may have said that I was nuts. The other might have been inspired, who knows. That’s it, I thought; we need to inspire each other and be kind. That can make a difference; all the rest is just bogus. Driving fancy cars with big rims and skinny tires, big RV’s with fancy decals, flashy speedboats with big fat outboards; all bogus. We seek to be happy by buying all that crap and it doesn’t work.

 

Years ago I spend some time in Thailand with my family. At some point I noticed a couple guys cut logs into planks for the little temple they were building. I couldn’t believe it, just like we westerners did that hundred years ago. A log on saw horses and two guys sawing away with a long saw. It took them a good part of a day to cut one plank. They were happy though and fit. Not stressed out and overweight like we westerners (some of us at least). We westerners came up with machines, to make it easier. Instead of relaxing with our gained free time, we stress out to pay for the sawyer, the outfit that sells it and the truck to bring it over, not to speak of the mortgage of the home we are trying to uphold. We run around faster and faster to make ends meet. Like I said, we screwed up somewhere. No answers.

 

My thoughts kept on coming as I’m driving down the freeway. The day before, driving through Montana, I was getting hungry and went to a small town 2 miles off the freeway. The sign indicated there was a restaurant in that little town of maybe 400 people. I pulled up in front of a café/bar after affirming that this must be what they were talking about on that freeway sign. There where only four other non-resident buildings and they were not it. The street felt a lot like the ones in western movies. Instead of horses tied up along the dirt road, there were trucks parked on a somewhat paved road. The street was wide and desolate, with people sitting on benches here and there, watching the world go by. I stepped in the café and ordered a burger with coffee. The older lady that waited on me had a certain grace about her. I imagined the past, back when the horses were tied up in front, that she was that beautiful waitress that everybody in town was talking about. The walls were decorated with posters from the old days, at least that’s what they seemed like to me. Advertisement about hunting and riffles and bullets for your Winchester. Posters with the American flag saying that we can be free because of the fighting of the brave. Other posters had Christian texts. A family came in and ordered burgers, chips and sodas. I couldn’t help thinking that the two sons were taking all of this in as their reality. The reality of the world that we all live in.

 

trucks instead of horses

 

 

 

bullets for your Whinchester

 

 

Other thoughts flashed through my mind. A few days ago, I visited the town of Cody in Wyoming. I was just in time to watch their shooting performance. They reenacted a scene from the past in traditional clothing, where people ended up shooting each other. They acted out an argument between a waitress, a sheriff and a few thugs drinking and playing poker. Before the show everybody sang the national anthem with the actors holding up the flag and their hats on their chests. I am not from this country and it always makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t get along with nationalism very well.  It sets nations apart rather than unite them. After the singing they asked for the oldest person in the crowd and gave him a present. A present was also given to people in the crowd that served their country. Two guys stepped forward and they were applauded. Again my mind was not at rest with that. When on the one hand I observe the business of warfare and on the other I see the way people get recruited and talk about honor, heroes and pride. I can’t help feeling a little skeptical and bitter. I have to say, the ‘social climate’ and propaganda for joining the service is quite strong in these parts of the country. Somehow this area feels radically different than Port Townsend or say, Sausalito. Off course I knew that, but it’s good to experience it first hand. I try to be an observer of it all, but feelings do come up and again, I don’t have any answers.

 

 

 

 

singing the national anthem

 

two guys from the service were applauded

 

 

 

More thoughts poured over me as I zoomed by the countryside. Instead of scenic roads, I stayed on the freeway a while so I would get somewhere. I try to do between 400 and 500 miles a day. That may not seem like a lot, but I am pulling a sailboat and don’t have a co-driver with me. I try to keep it under 65 mph, because that seems a nice balance between fuel economy (ha-ha) and still cover reasonable ground. The speed limit is 75, so I am the slowest vehicle on the freeway, since I’m not passing anybody, but get passed constantly. This is a big county and it takes forever to get somewhere, but hey, compared with crossing the Pacific this is peanuts!

 

Lots of hay around

 

 

Anyway, as for my thoughts; I kept thinking that filling up gas, sometimes twice a day was expensive. That’s about $150 a day. I wondered whether this was OK and how long could I keep this up? Then I realized that, not too long ago, as a family, we were spending that and more every single day, just living and paying the bills. While going nowhere! Just live and work. Living to work, or working to live? …. Off course we were raising kids and that was a worthwhile journey. That did get us somewhere. After driving to the east coast I could be staying at one place for a while and save on gas. Last time I checked, my travels cost me about $1000 per month besides gas. That’s way cheaper than me living in a rental house and paying for utilities, insurances and food. So, in that regard, it is ok what I’m doing. And I am exploring America, and meet new people, and get to sail different waters every time.

Believe it or not, sometimes doubt comes up in me about the ok-ness of this trip. After leaving Cody, I headed up north for a bit till I hit 94 to go east. It was about 95 degrees outside. Somehow I was a little depressed and a voice in me said, hey you could just turn west and be home in a few days! I had been underway for two and a half months, but wasn’t very far from my hometown, because of the big U that I had made. First south to San Fran, then east to Salt Lake and then north to Yellowstone/Cody. I actually thought about it for a while. It made me think of ocean sailors; they must reach moments here and there, where they could just bag it all and wished they were back in the familiar.  I guess it’s the seeking for the comfort of the familiar that’s nagging on moments like that. I imagined people at home wondering what the hell I had come back for, so I decided to just keep on trucking!

 

Another thought I had, brought me to people I had met in Glendive, along the 94 in Montana. As I was driving through the Badlands, I was kind of fascinated by the way the river banks were eroding and all the strata in the hills around me. The layers were totally flat and eroded rather easily, leaving cone-shaped striped hills. They appeared like sediments that were rather young in geological terms. Then I saw signs about dinosaurs, which added to my curiosity. I decided to stop by one of the two dinosaur musea in Glendive. The museum was combined with a music store, mainly guitars. A rather funny combination I thought, but after I got the run down, it all made sense. The store and museum were run by husband and wife. When their daughter was about 12, she was fascinated with dinosaurs and the family often traveled to the Badlands to look for stones and fossils. After travelling back and forth for a while they decided to move from Seattle to Glendive. They started the museum and did what he always wanted; open a guitar store. The name of the store is Hell Creek Music and the museum is called the Makoshika Dinosaur Museum. I asked who this guy Makoshika was and she said it wasn’t a guy, but it meant Badlands in the Native American tongue. The story was that, when the Native Americans arrived in this area, they found these huge bones of T-Rexes and such. This made them afraid of monsters and aggressive spirits in the area and called it the Bad Lands. Later geologists found lots of fossils in the Hell Creek Sediments, hence the name of the music store.

 

 

Casting of a T-Rex found a few hours from the museum

 

Badlands

 

more Badlands (Makoshika)

 

Thoughts of oil came to me as I drove into Minnesota. Back in Montana and North Dakota I had seen a number of oil-pump-jacks in the country side. Funny thing is that in dutch we call those ja-knikkers (yes-nodders). In a café I happened to pick up a local magazine and learned that oil was a booming industry in the area. They had discovered a big oil field called Bakken and there was money to be made! Days before that I was talking to a Danish guy who was driving combines as a summer job. In asking how he had landed that job, he said that most Americans were involved in the new oil industry. Also in that magazine I read that there was some dishonesty going on about how much oil is available in the US. That in fact, there is enough oil to support the US needs for a very long time without the need to import any, but apparently that needs to stay hidden politically. Who knows, more questions and no answers. We all want the truth, but is there such a thing? Maybe it’s all a matter of opinion (and manipulation of course).

 

In holland we call this a Ja-knikker (yes-nodder)

 

I remembered another interesting site I had visited; the prehistoric Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains. After leaving Cody I drove through the Big Horn Basin, an oval basin of about 100 by 140 miles, surrounded by mountains. It was drizzling a bit just as I drove by a bentonite factory. Bentonite is a real fine clay that is surface mined in the basin. Trucks haul this stuff and the road was covered with fine slip. It was getting dark so I didn’t notice till later that my van and Fetch were completely covered in clay slip. Anyway, after climbing the steep road out of the basin (I had to go in first gear) I noticed a sign pointing to the Medicine Wheel, being a sacred site with a circle of stones, a place of worship and an archeological mystery. Having seen stone circles in Britain, I was interested to check it out. I drove up the steep 3-mile dirt road with the boat behind me and thought I was out of my mind, but I was soon rewarded. After parking in the lot it was another mile and a half walk to the actual site. The circle is about 80 feet in diameter and consists of stones laid in a circle with 28 stone spokes connecting them with stones in the middle. There is a central cairn and 6 smaller around the perimeter. The actual age of it is uncertain, but the Native Americans consider it a sacred site of great importance. Last year about 80 tribes from all over the country visited the site. The entire mountain, with an elevation of about 10.000 feet, is now considered sacred and is called Medicine Mountain. In the year 2000 a circle of wooden posts with rope was build around it and now people leave offerings tied to the rope. Quote: “Eventually one gets to the Medicine Wheel to fulfill one’s life.” By Old Mouse , Arikara.

 

Bentonite is mined in those hills

 

Steep road up Big Horn Mountains

 

Areal photo of medicine wheel

 

medicine wheel with offerings of Native Americans

 

 

flowers on sacred Medicine Mountain

 

path to the medicine wheel

 

After 4 days of rambling thoughts and hot weather I arrived at the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Michigan. Located at the edge of the Les Cheneaux Islands at the top of Lake Huron. Pat Mahon, who is the lead instructor, lives across the street from me in Port Townsend, when he is not teaching at the school.  Last winter he suggested I sail in that area, when the water is warm. In winter they get 3 feet of ice and about 160” of snow!

 

Great Lakes Boat Building School

 

I’ll show you some ramdom pictures I took along the way.

 

One of six trucks with enormous wings for wind turbines

 

What's the point?

 

Herd of Elk

 

 

just funny

 

 

cooling down in the water

clouds building in the Lake District

 

clouds coming overhead

 

clouds dumping on me

 

Lake Michigan at sunset

07 Jul

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Fetch; Jackson Lake and Yellowstone

by

Sunday July 1.

I left rather early and took hwy 15 north to Idaho. As I crossed the state line and proceeded into Idaho the surroundings became gradually greener, which was a welcome change. I am just more comfortable when it’s green around me. On one of my rest stops the strangest things happened. I got off the road and parked next to a tourist information building. As I got out of the van I heard a strange hiss from underneath. First I thought it was my propane tank, but instead it was my right rear tire losing air! It had waited to deflate till I was conveniently parked next to a place with vending machines, wifi and air-conditioning. I knew it had a damaged spot on the inside of that tire and that I probably would have to deal with it at some point in time. I was glad I wasn’t emergency parked along roaring traffic on some god-awful hot spot in the desert or something. It took me about half an hour to change tires, had cool drinks and checked emails while I was at it!

 

flat tire

 

At Idaho Falls I got onto the 26 east toward Jackson and entered a pretty valley with irrigation everywhere and therefore very green. The Snake River runs through that valley and had carved out some nice canyons. Further upriver a dam had created the Palisades Reservoir. Half way along the lake I found an unusually quite camp spot. There were nicely kept up out-houses and a few car campers were casually spread out in the field along the lake, but there was no fee. One of the campers told me that Uncle Sam hadn’t discovered it yet. One of the guys had a chainsaw with him to cut up firewood and his kids were trying to shoot birds out of the tree with a bee-bee gun. Maybe I was approaching the Wild West?

 

lots of irrigation

 

Snake River

 

casual campground at the lake

 

The next morning I followed the Snake River into Wyoming toward Yellowstone National Park. Driving through Jackson (Jackson Hole as it’s called) it seemed bigger than I expected, so I stopped for supplies and to take care of my busted tire. At a tire place I had them put a new tire on the rim and change out the trailer tires for new ones as well, because they suddenly seemed very bald to me.

Somewhere along the way there I stopped by a truck weighing station to have my rig weighed. The van was about 7000 lb. and the boat and trailer about 1800 lb. (4000 kg total) (for those who are interested in this kind of stuff). I was interested in the weight because the van was lugging up the hills slowing down to 40 – 45 mph at times. Every day I was dumping about $100 of gas in the thing to keep up with it’s thirst. I figured it would cost me about $1000 in gas to cross the country this way…Still, it could be worse AND I was having a bunch of free nights and cheap meals because of the van. Again the van was very comfortable and kept me cool during the ride.

By some magic trick they seem to keep the Grand Tetons hidden until you actually drive into the park itself. Suddenly there they are; a beautiful row of ragged snowy peaks along the Snake River. In the approach from where I came from I hadn’t seen any of it. Along the river were wide open fields with Elk and Bison. Apparently I would have to start watching out for Grizzlies and other wildlife as well.  All the delay in Jackson had cut into the day considerately and by the time I drove by the campgrounds, most of them had filled up. I had to pass Jackson Lake (where I wanted to go sailing) for about 15 miles to find a campground with openings. Tomorrow I just would have to go back to the lake.

 

 

 

Snake River with Grand Tetons behind

little Fetch with BIG mountains

 

 

 

Tuesday July 3.

I had breakfast in the Lodge of the campground, which had wifi. I had hoped to update my blog, but it was so tediously slow, that I barely was able to get my email so I didn’t bother with the blog.

I drove back to where I wanted to put in. A guy at the information center in Jackson, who sailed a Laser from there, had recommended Signal Mountain campground, which had a boat launch. I had stopped by Colter Bay on the way down and I agreed that Signal Mountain was far nicer. The Grand Teton Mountain Range rises directly up from the lake to the west. The lake has an elevation of 6772’ and the Mount Moran (adjacent to the lake) is at 12605’. That’s a 5833’ rise! (1778 meter) Grand Teton to the south is the highest at 13770’.

 

Launch ramp at Signal Mountain campground

 

First thing to do was to secure a campsite. They all fill up in the morning as soon as people leave their spot, since it is high season. I then launched Fetch, which was a bit of a headache. First of all there was a lot of fetch (ha-ha), so the waves spilled water in my bicycle box. Second, the ramp was really shallow, so it was hard to get Fetch off the trailer, without backing my whole van in the water. Third, the dock was too far from the ramp, so that I couldn’t hold on to the bowline to let her drift to the dock. She ended up square between ramp and dock and almost on the rocky beach. Bad design I would say, to put just one dock on the leeward side of prevailing winds (and too far away). I guess one has to be in the boat and drive it to the dock, but how do you do that under those conditions when you are by yourself?

Soon all this was forgotten when I set sail and made my way toward the gorgeous looking mountains. The wind came right off those high mountains and was very uneven and gusty. I started off with two reefs and storm jib, but that was too slow going, so I shook one reef out. That worked well by just easing the main a bit in a gust. There was only one other sailboat in sight. The water and the sky were bright blue, the white caps crystal white and the mountains were enormous. They rose straight out of the lake, which was spectacular.

 

 

only one other sailboat around

 

 

I headed for Elk Island and found a nice looking sheltered cove on the leeward side. There were some folks camping on the shore and watched me sail in. I drove Fetch gently on the beach and dug my anchor in the velvet grass. The deserts were definitely behind my, all around me was green and greener. The mountain peaks loomed over the trees and made this spot picture perfect.

 

arriving at Elk Island

 

landing in quiet cove

 

paradise

 

One of the guys came up and we had a nice conversation about this that and the other. I had lunch on a log after which I set out again. I was planning to go around the island and come back to the same spot. I noticed a wildfire to the east. The huge billowing cloud looked like a volcano eruption. Later I heard that there were a lot of wildfires around. Hundreds of acres of forest land including houses had burned down.

 

wildfire to the east

 

After motoring out of the lee, I set sail and had a somewhat blustery ride; kind of a roller coaster, with gusts coming and going. I came up with the idea to sail up to those mountains a bit to get a real sense of scale. However, as soon as this thought was broadcasted the mountains gave me a fierce blast of a gust (I guess to make me change my mind). The gust was so strong, that I automatically ducked down and released the main in a hurry. The pressure was even too much for the storm jib so I let go of the jib sheet as well. The poor jib flapped so hard that the two sheets balled up in a tight knot. I was holding on wondering what would happen, but it blew over and I was able to relax a bit again. I lowered the jib and undid the knot. I listened to the mountain’s warning, left the jib down and turned downwind. I had lost all interest to tack up into it. I think this was the most wind Fetch had ever felt. Sailing down wind, I had to watch out for gust from unpredictable direction. I gave that up as well and turned on the iron horse. I made it back around the island and beached Fetch in the same spot I came from. It’s amazing how an adventure can be had so easily and unannounced.

 

heading around the island (before I got hit by gusts)

 

The guys from the campsite were just starting a walk to the tip of the island and walked by Fetch. I asked if I could come along and got my stuff. There are no human trails on the island, just from wild life. There is elk and deer abound. The views were spectacular and at the tip of the island we ran into a group having BBQ on the beach. It was a commercial outfit that does three trips to that spot every day and provides food. Participants look right at that mountain range. I think they operate out of Colter Bay. While walking back, I told the guys I hadn’t planned on staying out, so my food supply was restricted to pasta and water. They promptly invited me over for dinner. Steak, corn in the cob and potatoes was on the menu (and beer, yahoo).

 

hike to the south tip of the island

 

dinner at the camp

 

view from camp

 

sun is going down

 

The three adults knew each other from working on a submarine out of Bangor, less than an hour away from where I live. I believe that Larry and his son Louis together with Jeff and his son Nate had driven up from Missouri in one day. Bob and Tamara with their sons Calvin, Orion and 2-year old Logan had come up from Camano Island, just north of Seattle. Because of wild fire danger we were not allowed to make a fire, but the food tasted delicious nonetheless. On top of it all, we watched a huge full moon slowly rise across the lake. They insisted I came back for breakfast the next morning.

 

three guys had met during service on a submarine

 

full moon coming up

 

 

 

this deer kept hanging around

 

I put out a stern anchor and had a quite night. The moon was bright and there wasn’t a ripple on the water. At about 5:30 in the morning I heard oars dipping in the water nearby and stuck my head out the companionway. Larry had gone out in his brand new drift boat to photograph the setting moon over the Tetons. He gave me a ride to where I could take pictures as well. If Ansell Adams had been in the boat, he would have shot a winning picture I bet. His camera didn’t have image stabilization like mine however.

 

sun rise while moon is setting over the tetons at 5:30 am

 

sun rise

 

 

Wednesday July 4.

Breakfast was bacon with scrambled eggs with cheese and coffee. While they packed their boats after breakfast I started motoring on glassy water toward the boat ramp. There were no waves this time, so loading up was easy. Shortly I was on the road toward Yellowstone Park.

 

 

I took care of the bacon

 

Going north on the 191 one drives along some nice canyons alternated by green valleys. Between Lewis Lake and Yellowstone Lake one crosses the continental Divide. Water in each lake, only a few miles apart, will eventually reach an entire different ocean.

 

Snake River down below

 

 

 

over the hump: continental divide

 

When I arrived at the Old Faithful, there seemed to be a million people there. This is a huge established tourist attraction. Big impressive lodges, restaurants, gift shops, hotels and endless parking lots. Yellowstone is the first national park of the US, so they had some time to work things out. People from all over the world made their way to see the geysers. The main attraction seems to be the Old Faithful Geyser itself. Every 90 minutes, give or take 10 minutes, he/she gives a show of about 5 to 10 minutes. By the expected blow time people gather around and wait in anticipation. The geyser first gives a few teasers to warm up the crowd and finally spouts water up in the air and the crowd cheers. After the show everybody gets up again and continues walking around.

 

Old Faithful showing off

 

It’s a fascinating place. As you walk around on the boardwalk, you find more and more holes in the ground. Holes that bubble, holes that hiss, holes that seem dormant and suddenly spout water up, holes with muddy water. Some holes are literally boiling and the idea of falling in one is not inviting at all. One gets fried before one drowns I imagine. Some holes have a small chimney around them, some are just flat. Some have bright colors of orange, yellow and browns contrasting with the clear blue water inside the hole. It’s one of the few places where one has some inclination of something going on inside the earth. Often the holes are on top of a low dome and water drains through little streams that appear to be acid, because of the colors. Eventually it all drains in a small river that runs through the park and gets taken far away. It probably all ends up in the Mississippi River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico if it didn’t get deposited somewhere along the way.

 

boardwalk through the park

 

 

holes of all sizes and colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a lot more to see in the park, but I was ready to move on with my trip east. I headed toward the east entrance and drove by Yellowstone Lake. This lake is huge and I didn’t see a single boat on it. I could have sailed here as well, but I wanted to keep moving. The surrounding wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Jackson Lake anyway. At several spots along the Lake one drives by more thermic hot spots, this time without any tourists and barely any signs except some warning signs. Those spots were almost more worthwhile being in their natural environment, without parking lots, gift shops and restaurants. I had had the same feeling in the redwoods, where one enjoys them more outside of a park setting.

 

hotspot along Yellowstone Lake in natural setting with boiling water along beach

 

lots of burned forest around

 

I drove out Yellowstone Park toward Cody through a long valley between high mountains of the Absaroka Range. In the Shoshone National Forest I found a quite campground to spend the night. There were warnings for Grizzly and no tents were allowed, just hard sided vehicles.

 

mountains of the Absaroka Range

 

deer at campground instead of Grizzly.

 

Funny, I’m writing this at night, sitting in my van, with lights on and iTunes going, while outside there might be a Grizzly sniffing around. They have been sighted lately on this camping and only hard-sided camping vehicles (no tents) are allowed, because of bear danger. Wait, did I hear something?…..

 

 

07 Jul

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Fetch; Nevada and Great Salt Lake

by

Thursday June 28.

In planning to go east, I had considered three basic routes. One was going a bit more south (from the Bay Area) stopping by the Grand Canyon, Powell River and such, but people warned me that it would be very hot down there. I don’t do well in hot weather and that was the reason I didn’t go down to Catalina Island, like I originally was thinking of doing. My very first plan last winter was to head south to Mexico first, but I wasn’t comfortable with that for a variety of reasons. The second route was hitting highway 80 all the way to Des Moines and then go north to Sault Ste. Marie. I want to stop by the top of Lake Huron before I go into Canada on my way to Maine. This route (80 all the way) seems the fastest but rather dull as well. The third alternative would be to start on 80 and then head north at Salt Lake City toward Yellow Stone Park and then make my way east one way or another. Possibly as far north as hwy 2 along the Canadian border.

I took the heat warnings to hart and headed out toward hwy 80 instead of going further south. As soon as I left the Bay Area I drove through the Sacramento Valley where it was plenty hot. The heat didn’t bother me much while driving, because the van has good air-conditioning. I don’t recommend anybody driving there without it, because driving with the windows open is just to darn loud and it doesn’t make it much cooler. I cruised right by Lake Tahoe, because I didn’t feel like stopping already, in spite of the fact that it’s a nice lake. Shortly after that, I entered Nevada and I was in for kind of a shock. It was like being in another country, very dry and desert like, billboards all over the place. Hundreds of miles of dry valleys alternating with even dryer hills which all seem to produce nothing useful. Occasionally there seems to be a small farm along a riverbed, but everything just seemed to dry. Once in a while an irrigation system produced some green patches where they harvest grass for hay. Here and there cows huddled around a well, I couldn’t imagine what they were living off. They also seem to irrigate around the few towns, because they were settled in some green patches. I couldn’t help wondering what all these people were all doing there surrounded by desert. Not my kind of place, I like water!

 

Nevada

 

 

 

 

 

I found an RV park in Winnemucca with showers and wifi. It was almost filled up with RV’s, some seemingly trying to outsize the others. Most have those slide-outs, which makes the interior incredibly spacious. It sure makes my van look impossibly small. I wonder if I, one day, will be seduced to that amount of luxury. It’s just like boats, all trade-offs. Most of them left early next morning.  Granted, they have their act together, leaving early and probably arriving early. Not like me, leaving late and arriving late. That morning after breakfast I worked on my next post. I had some catching up to do, which just happens when you as tardy as I am.

 

Friday June 29.

After a few more hundred miles I got to Wendover, which sits right on the edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert. Boy, what a weird place. Bars, hotels, casinos, gas stations and fast food edging this huge expanse of flat white nothingness. This desert is about 120 miles long, about 60 miles wide, with high mountains surrounding this ocean of white. I later learned that this once was a huge lake called Lake Bonneville and had since dried up for the most part. Great Salt Lake is what’s left of it, which is where I was heading. I felt a little intimidated to enter this space, but I filled up with gas and went for it. As I came down the hill I saw three straight black lines cutting through this white desert, two from the highway and one from the railroad. It took me a full hour, going perfectly straight to cross this expanse. I felt like on another planet this time.

 

Great Salt Lake Desert

 

 

a lot of them are pulling two trailers

 

 

At the other side, it gets a bit greener and one goes around a few hills to end up seeing the deep blue color of Salt Lake. One passes several salt mining plants along the way, apparently two million tons of salt get extracted every year. Suddenly there are birds around again, like seagulls, avocets, terns and cormorants. In the past few days, just about all I had seen in terms of birds were a few lost ravens trying to scratch a living out of nothing and a few desperate vultures. I stopped by a marina (Great Salt Lake State Marina) to see what was up and ended up staying the night there for two bucks.

 

salt production

 

Great Salt Lake

 

 

sun set

 

sun rise

 

Saturday June 30.

There was a bad smell around the marina and upon asking I learned that decaying Bryan shrimp caused this. Just where I was parked, next to the beach, the smell was so bad that even at night every breath was difficult to bear. The lake is so salt that almost nothing can live in there except those shrimp. It’s 12% salinity compared to 3% of seawater. I went swimming at some point and it was amazing how much your body wanted to float on the surface. You couldn’t keep your feet down.

The original Lake Bonneville was big and deep. One guy claimed that, about 10,000 years ago it broke through and dumped massive amounts of water down the rivers, creating the Columbia Gorge. Wikipedia however states that instead, the Snake River Canyon was created that way (thanks you, Steve M. for the correction). After it had dumped most of the water, no more water could flow out because it was trapped in the basin. Evaporation over centuries further lowered the level and increased the salinity. When you look up the slopes of the surrounding mountains you can see several hints of previous lake levels. It looked like horizontal roads cut in the hillside, but they were historic beach levels (see picture). Still the lake varies through the seasons about 4 feet and through the years more like 20 feet. The docks in the marina had long pilings just like in a tidal marina.

 

previous lake levels can be seen on the mountain slopes

 

Around noon a predicted mild northerly breeze started to come in and I launched Fetch. I sailed for a few hours in very light breezes. As soon as the wind died, flies came hanging out around me, so it was either motoring or pick up a bit of wind again. This mild wind is typical they said, but sometimes severe bursts can come up real fast. One has to watch out for dust starting to kick up on the western shores, because that announces strong gusts up to 70 knots in no time. A few years back they measured 200 knots during a severe storm. It picked up catamarans and dock ramps and through them on the pavement. Since then catamarans are banned in the marina.

 

 

 

That evening, the yacht club was throwing a once in a year party, with a large variety of cheeses, wines and baked goods. As a visiting sailor I immediately was invited as a guest. How lucky was that! We all huddled in the shade, because the sun was seriously hot. I got to tell about my trip and got advise about places to go. One woman laid out cheese sticks showing the next few states, pointing out how to get from one lake to the next. Upon her advice I were to visit Jackson Lake to sail right next to the mountains of the Grand Teton National Park (Grand Teton is 13770 feet high).

 

 

 

she showed me how to get to Jackson Lake with cheese sticks

05 Jul

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Fetch; Oakland estuary

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June 22.

Another week went by working on the centerboards and rudders. After fiberglassing they got painted with two coats of barrier coat (two part primer) and two coats of Easypoxy paint.  They looked good and would last for many years to come and Stefan (the customer) was happy.

 

 

Stefan (middle) with some of his employees

 

Saturday I picked up my tools, cleaned up my corner, said goodbye to the folks at the shop and went back to Sausalito to put Fetch on the trailer. I was amazed how much growth I had on the bottom after only two weeks in the water. Either I hadn’t sailed the boat enough or the anti fouling paint was getting tired. It’s always worse where the sun gets to it. While cleaning the hull, people stopped by to ask about the design. Fetch has started many conversations.

 

I had one more dinner with Laurel, a woman I had met a few days before. An interesting lady who had written a few spiritual books, had lived all over the world and just had moved on a boat in Sausalito with her cat Arthur to continue her work. She was working on her boat with a local shipwright Jeff and once in a while I added suggestions about woodwork between conversations on spirituality.

 

Laurel with Arthur

 

Laurel's 'yacht'

 

I said bye to Marti who had set me up with the marina, which had been very convenient for those few weeks. Marti and his wife live on a sailboat as well. He is a very energetic guy full of ideas and always trying to pull off the next project. Just about every time I was in town I would run into him, sometimes even twice, usually on his bicycle racing through town, while nothing escaped his keen eye.

 

Marti's boats

 

I had my last breakfast at Café Taste of Rome, nodding goodbye to the regulars that I had seen for a few weeks now. Most folks knew each other by name and just about everybody pulled out a laptop at every session. Often 9 out of 10 were connected to the web while enjoying breakfast and coffee. Days later I was talking to Dan Phy later about yuppies and fancy cars in Sausalito and he asked me if I knew what BMW stands for: Basic Marin Wheels.

 

cafe Taste of Rome

 

Sunday I visited Keith and Shari in Tiburon for lunch and a visit to the wooden boat festival in the local marina. His friend Mark joined us. Keith had crossed the Pacific with Marcelle, who I know from Port Townsend and she recommended I meet with him. He had owned many boats in the past, but now had reduced his fleet to two stand-up boards, which he liked a lot due to their simplicity and versatility. On the way over to their house I took pictures of an America’s Cup Boat and a fast catamaran. The Bay is always full of surprises and activity.

 

America's Cub boat

 

 

Keith and Mark

 

Wooden Boat Festival in Tiburon

 

 

 

 

Monday June 24 through Wednesday 26

Monday morning I drove over to Oakland to meet folks of the Potter Yachters. Dan Phy had invited me to join them to sail on the Oakland estuary with Don Person and Jim Kirwan. The four of us had sailed and beach-camped a few weeks earlier on Tomales Bay. Don organizes a sail out of the Oakland Yacht Club just about every Wednesday. It’s very convenient to be able to tie up in a slip, have a shower ashore and buy breakfast in town. It’s interesting sailing on the estuary. Often lots of wind without the waves, lots of Optimists and Lasers and such on the water with youth learning to sail. Next thing you know is sailing up to an enormous steel hull of a freighter being loaded with containers. You turn around and a high speed ferry passes by along with a tug and a barge. At the end of the estuary you enter the San Francisco Bay with the skyline of the city, the Bay Bridge right there and the Golden Gate en the distance.

The first day (Monday) we didn’t go as far as the Bay and we had to reef and use a storm jib. Fetch sails nicely with that combination. Tuesday we sailed out to the bay and went up to the first tower of the Bay Bridge, with fairly light winds and an incoming tide. On the way over we were dwarfed by the container ships tied up to the cay with huge cranes reaching over them. Containers loaded on deck, 16 wide, 6 high and about 20 fore and aft! That’s about 2000 of them, just on deck and who knows how many more down below. You wonder how much junk is in there, stuff we don’t really need. Cheap stuff from overseas that in a few years is either broken or outdated. I know, I know, there are quality durable items shipped as well. Like our Toyota Corolla from Japan; now that was a durable item that lasted without big problems for over 23 years and is still going.

Wednesday three more Potter 15’s showed up and we sailed out the estuary in very light wind to end up at the Bay without any. We turned around and headed for lunch at the yacht club. That afternoon we had a nice breeze. I had a chance to try out Dan’s Montgomery 15 and liked the way she sailed. Very responsive with that big Ida Sailor rudder. The wind was laying down so I couldn’t try her out thoroughly, but the big cockpit, the running rigging and basic layout seemed to all work quite well. The interior is spartan, but comfortable without a trunk or compression post in the way.

 

The three of us tied up at Oakland Yacht Club

 

Kees chasing Don in his P15 (pic by Dan)

 

 

Jim in his M15

 

Dan in his M15

 

Yours truly captured by Don

 

about 2000 containers on deck alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

picture by Dan

 

approaching the Bay Bridge

 

picture by Dan

 

 

picture by Don

 

under the bridge

 

heading for lunch

 

down wind sail

 

debriefing with gin-tonic and smoked oysters in the shade on Jim's boat

 

Thursday morning we loaded up on the trailers and each went their own way. My way was going to be east! For about 3300 miles….brrrr.