Archive for April, 2009

April, 2009 - Napa, California

Friday, April 24th, 2009

April 2009
Napa, California

We had a day or two to prep the boat for the trip up the Napa River. The purpose of this trip is to assist Guy and Melissa in a major deck job on their Ericson 46, Aike. We traveled together from Alameda to the Napa area, leaving about 3 p.m.
We took two days for the trip, anchoring near Tiberon the first night. The next morning, we passed an area  that said “Forbidden Anchorage” in great big letters on the chart. We were perplexed until we saw the sign: “San Quentin State Prison”.
Sailing up the Napa River is a novelty. We had to pass under several bridges (4 had to be opened for us), a number of shipwrecks marked on the chart—old wooden hulks you could see above the low tide line– and you could actually smell the cows in the fields and see the vineyards as the river got narrower and narrower. At one point the depth measured only 7 ft. in the middle (we draw 5 feet) and less than that near the shore.
Now we are here at this Napa Valley Marina and meeting some most interesting characters. One couple came and told us all about being hippies here in the 60’s and working a communal vineyard with Frances Ford Coppola and starting a hot air balloon business. Another couple , Maureen and Dick, were from Victoria BC and re-fitting a new (to them) boat  (Delta eagle) to return to Mexico.They had lots of good tips about the Mexico trip.
This Marina seems to be the only remaining place in Northern California you are allowed to do your own work on your boat. The original owners of the Marina dug a basin in the slough and then released levee water to fill it. Apparently everyone thought they were crazy at the time, but it has proved to be a goldmine, and is still run by members of the same family.
Everyone here is extremely friendly and it’s a close boating community. The Marina is surrounded by vineyards, and we hear that the famous “two buck chuck” becomes “one buck chuck” here—or free if it’s bad enough! That remains to be investigated.
We look out from our spot at the Guest Dock to see palm trees (yes, they actually do sway in the breeze). There are a number of resident mallard ducks, a few domestic geese and one very strange bird. This one looks like a Plymoth Rock hen in a Hallowe’en costume. It walks around with wings extended, and looking slightly inebriated. We have also seen and heard mourning doves, turkey vultures, red-wing blackbirds, swallows and finches and many other birds we haven’t yet identified. The air is filled with birdsong all the time.
For miles in every direction there are vineyards. Rows and rows and rows of grapevines are planted on gently undulating hills. The wineries are now large estates, with propane heaters set up with propeller systems to blow warm air on the fields if the temperature drops. Some mornings we have been startled to hear these machines starting up. It sounds like huge helicopters.
The town of Napa is about 10 miles away. It boasts many elegant Victorian homes and we wish we had more time to explore. Doing business there is a challenge. The traffic moves at about 70 mph. The town is spread along the highway, and it seems like we need a different exit for each destination. One exit has the Laundromat and Thrift store, along with a Mexican Grocery store and a coffee shop with a book exchange. Another exit has the only Bank of America. Yet another exit leads to Peetz Coffee (free Internet). There are lots of grocery stores, Targets (like K-mart only huge) Office Max and Home Depot.  Shopping can certainly be an adventure!
In the meantime, work progresses on our friend’s boat and we are luxuriating in the warm breezes and millions of birds here. Waiting to see the hot air balloons we have heard will come sailing over the adjacent hills.
We finally got some hot weather! For a few days the temperature inside the boat reached 96.5F and it was much hotter outside, especially on the deck of Aike.
Work has progressed steadily, with many of Guy and Melissa’s friends arriving to lend a hand and provide moral support. After two weeks of prepping the deck and hull, and cleaning everything a million times, the boat was moved into the Paint Shed today. (Spray painting is only permitted inside an enclosed area).

March 2009-road trip North

Friday, April 24th, 2009

March 2009
February is over and March has come in like a lion - 30 mph winds and steady rain predicted for the foreseeable future. (Beats the snow in the Pacific Northwest, however). Along with continued boat projects, March will unfold with a drive up to Canada and a few House Concerts (Victoria March 19th, 2009). Research is in full swing for the trip to Mexico this summer.
The trip to Canada was a mixed blessing. It was  exciting to drive from California to Vancouver (a first for Pat). Thanks to the generousity of Guy and Melissa, we had a truck to use for the trip. The plan was to sleep in the truck and use it as headquarters for the trip. This was especially important, as Pat’s cat allergies have returned with a vengeance, so it’s not possible to sleep in some of our friends’ houses. What we did not realize- and this was a big surprise-was that Canadians are not permitted to drive a US licensed vehicle in Canada! Luckily, we had a funny feeling about it and called a few days ahead to clarify. This information put a spanner in the works, but after a bit of scurrying around we managed to find someone who could pick us up in Bellingham and drive us to Vancouver. We would then hope to borrow Cameron’s van (our old van) for the rest of the trip. But Cameron was on tour and not picking up phone messages, so it wasn’t untl we reached Bellingham that we confirmed the use of the vehicle. This caused much consternation, as we had booked a million appointments and a couple of Concerts thinking that we had the truck for the trip. Doing it by Public Transit would have been a nightmare!
But all was well in the end. We drove exactly 12 hours the first day, stopping in McMinnville for a warm and welcome visit with a good friend we haven’t seen in ages. We ate and sang and bathed and exchanged stories, and reluctantly departed the next morning. 4 hours later, after getting thoroughly lost, we found the highway again and managed to get to Bellingham by 4 pm. The entire drive had involved driving rain interspersed with sun and rainbows, but mostly rain. In Bellingham, we were greeting by John McGarrity, a former Merchant Mariner, Journalist, Political Activist. We unloaded the truck, had a cuppa, introduced John  McGarrity to John Porter, our coastal pilot friend who was rescuing us with a ride back to Canada. The two Johns exchanged Maritime stories and with great reluctance to end the story-telling, we dashed off for the border. The crossing was a cinch, and although John’s van threatened to die in the dark and stormy night, we actually reached Vancouver and Cameron’s house without incident. Another unloading event, and finally we were able to stay in one place for a couple of days. It was wonderful to visit with family, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Cameron, Phoenix and our rapidly growing granddaughter Frankie. Hanging out with an 18 month old is better than TV any day!
The next leg of the trip took us home to Vancouver Island, where stalwart friends Marvin and MaryAnn and Josh and Ely have been minding some of our stuff for us. They had an elegant and delicious dinner waiting for us, with fancy table-settings and a live concert by Josh. We had a too-short visit to catch up on news, register admiration for the way the boys are growing up, and then drive on to our next stop in Sidney. There we did lots of medical appointments, caught up with a number of friends, and practiced for our Concert the following night.
The House Concert in Victoria was lots of fun. We were delighted to catch up with a number of friends, meet some new folks, and share some old and new songs. Many thanks to Sharon and Ken and O’Dain for organizing this event and making it all run so smoothly.
Unfortunately, Pat developed a scratchy throat and cough by the end of the evening, and by the next day was feeling miserable with THE VICTORIA COLD AND FLU. It is so terrible to be ill while traveling. You hate to go near anyone while you are sick, and yet you don’t want to miss your one chance to visit. It was difficult to even think about arranging visits, and it was a strain to get through a bunch of appointments and business while feeling run over by truck.
The best solution seemed to be to stay in one place, with our patient, brave and considerate friend Brian, and limit miss out on lots of visits. We sure hope we didn’t pass the “dreaded lurgy” on to Brian. A couple of short visits with family on the Island-good to have a visit but we wished we had all been feeling better–We did notice that a number of Victorians said they had experienced this bug, and that it was a particularly virulent strain.

There were a few visits during the week, including some treasured time with good friends who become more and more valued as we travel.

In the end, we managed to get most of the urgent business done, and saddened by the fact that we missed visits with many dear friends, we returned to Vancouver. Pat was beginning to slowly recover by then, and we managed to get in a few visits and catch up with some of the Vancouver Folks.
Tom and Karen, our Vancouver hosts, kindly offered us a ride back to Bellingham (We had been planning what we could ditch if we had to go on the bus).
One more House Concert, and then heart-warming visits with Bellingham friends, (thanks, Emily, for co-ordinating a delightful and eventful visit) and we were back on the road, headed south. What a joy it was to head into the warmth and sunshine again. We left Bellingham at 11:30 am and drove through till midnight with one stop for a quick dinner. A sound 6-hour sleep at a rest stop set us up for the next day’s driving. When we crossed the state line, just before midnight, we were surprised and delighted to be welcomed to California and given a state map by a friendly officer in what looked like a toll booth (it wasn’t). The rest of the trip flew by so quickly that we felt we could take an hour and stop by for tea with our friends in Winters. Even so, we were home by 1:30 pm with the truck washed and unpacked and vacuumed. So now we know that, if we needed to, we could do the drive to Canada in one 18-hour day.

February 2009, Alameda, California-visit and rigging

Friday, April 24th, 2009

February 2009
This month we spent some time helping prepare for a Workshop presented by Guy and Melissa Stevens (Real World Cruising). This was the first of a series, and involved a real treat for us, as Brion Toss, Christian Gruyere and Gordon Neilson came down from Port Townsend to participate in the presentation called “Rigging Your Own Boat”. We were thrilled to have an unexpected reunion with these much-loved friends and the week has been a whirlwind of prep and follow-up, with lots of eating, drinking, singing and laughter and a million stories told. We had the privilege of having Gordon stay with us on our boat, and felt honoured to have this special time with him.
The visit culminated in an amazing day on the water. We left just after 7 a.m. on Guy and Melissa’s boat, Aike. The goal was to motor up to Richmond (3-1/2 hours away), pull two masts, Aike’s and another one, and then return to Alameda. On board were a number of highly-skilled sailors and riggers, including Brion Toss, Gordon Neilson, Guy Stevens, Tony, John Koons, and Derrick, (Pat was on board to assist and look after care and feeding of crew). The day was a glorious one, with warm sunshine all the way. It was a sight to behold when we docked in Richmond. This bunch of experts stepped off the boat, prepared a mast for pulling, pulled it, got it onto sawhorses, motored Aike into position, prepped her mast for pulling, pulled it, and then, without prior arrangement or discussion, proceeded to down-rig Aike’s mast. After taking this huge aluminum spar apart and removing, packaging and labeling all the hardware, the gang efficiently stowed and lashed the pieces back on deck ready for the return trip to Alameda. This was at least three days’ work done in one, with everyone excited and happy, co-operation top-notch, and ending with a rousing shantey before Christian and Brion loaded their car to drive back to Port Townsend. A very tired but happy crew arrived back in Alameda about 12 hours after departure and enjoyed a tasty dinner at the best Pizza Restaurant in town (Bowsers).
On Forbes and Cameron this month, work continued on a million projects and we had a revelation about the water pump problems. After yet another pump bit the dust we finally determined that we should not use a sprayer attachment in the sink. With that little piece of equipment removed, all is working well. Routine maintenance continues to take up time, and we are loving the new sound system. We are now learning more new songs because we can listen to the CD’s we have.
February also brought a wee bit of illness in the form of miserable colds and some other virus. We haven’t been sick much at all since we started this adventure in 2006, but you can’t avoid it forever. As a result, we sadly missed out on a trip to sing with Shanteyman David LoVine in San Jose.

January 2009-Alameda, California

Friday, April 24th, 2009

January 2009
Took about a week to recover from jet-lag and find our bunks on the boat. Had to move all the sails off the double bunk aft before we could use it. But that meant putting away the suitcases we bought for the Australia trip, moving a whole lot of other stuff and hauling the sails to the afterdeck under the tarp. Our galley water pump had given up the ghost just before we left, and it needed replacing, so we were getting our water from a 5-gallon jug on deck. Doesn’t make for easy dishwashing. Tony spent several days acquiring materials for the new stereo installation (a donation from Tom North and Susan Averill in Nanaimo). Guy is helping us through the labyrinth of replacing our computer and connecting it all up with the sound system, ham radio and everything else. Nothing like having someone who can take you by the hand and guide you out of the House of Horror. He is also advising is about the wind-vane steering. Tony is helping Guy with his decks and dinghy.
It’s lovely coming back to Alameda. Guy and Melissa have been so welcoming and Ken and Jan have too. We took 10 people (including ourselves) to the Chantey Sing at the Hyde Street Pier on Saturday night. Although none of them had been to a Chantey Sing before, most were experienced cruisers who appreciated the content of the songs as well as the music. Although we missed Peter Kasin (the usual host) and Shanteyman David Lo Vine, who were both out due to illness, it was still a well-attended event. This time we sang on Eureka, an old paddlewheel ferryboat with classic cars on the car deck. Many rousing shanteys were sung, and we particularly took note of a few we had never heard before.
Since then, we’ve been hard at it. Tony has been making patterns for the box to hold the stereo system, and has been doing lots of hunting and gathering for materials. Last night we got the galley pump working again—actually had to buy a new one-the rebuild kits don’t seem to work for us. At the same time, we installed one of the new faucets brought back from Australia. The galley is in great shape now.

The rest of January has been occupied with the usual hunting and gathering, stowage, problem solving and maintenance, and some terrific musical events.
The Hyde St. Chantey Sing led to an invitation from the Morris Dancers to join in a “Wassail” the following Saturday  in Alameda - very close to home for us. A quick bus ride to the first house, and  Pat was in Music Heaven. Everyone rehearsed a Wassail Song, which we sang outside each of seven houses throughout the day and evening. After singing to the Master and Mistress of the house, we would be invited inside for refreshments and dancing would take place either inside or out. The dancers were not in their usual “kit” but were all interestingly attired in colourful outfits and had their bells and handkerchiefs with them. There were many Morris Dancers representing a number of different groups in the San Francisco area. All were welcoming and quick to offer rides to the next stop. Pat felt right at home with this very friendly and welcoming group, and looked forward to connecting with them again.
A few days later, we finally managed to make it to Faith Petric’s San Francisco Folk Club gathering. These sessions have been going on for many years, every second Friday night in the Haight district. We traveled there by bus and BART. The transportation system here is terrific. It took us about 1-1/2 hours to get there, door to door. We have learned that you really need earplugs when the BART goes through the tunnel from Oakland to San Francisco, as it screeches like mad and can hurt your ears. We also had a reminder to bring lots of change and leave time to find the connecting bus stops, but everyone on the street was helpful and friendly. We arrived in good time and had a chance to meet Faith before the session began. There were three rooms of music, with a song circle in the main living room, and various other instrumental and singing gatherings in another room and the basement. Everything is very well organized, with soup made by Faith herself, goodies brought by some of the musicians, newsletters and CD’s for sale, and a warm welcome for out-of-town guests. The theme this week was “weather” and everyone had come with several songs to share. When we asked how late it went, Faith said, “Till everyone leaves”. (This usually means the wee small hours of the morning). We were lucky to have a ride home at the end, as the BART and buses do not run all night.
Later in the month we had the opportunity to spend some time with Dick and Carol Holdstock, highly regarded folk and sea song musicians, who now live in Winters, not far from Sacramento. We’ve known Dick and Carol for about 20 years and had visited them about 10 years ago. Dick works as a consultant at the Museum of Science, and in this capacity he travels in to San Francisco a few times a month. To get to Winters we took a ride on the Amtrack train to Davis, California. This train ride was a fun adventure. We took the usual bus from right outside our door to the Fruitvale BART station just across the bridge in Oakland.
This BART station was, sadly, the scene of a devastating shooting on New Year’s Eve. A young man was shot and killed there by one of the BART police, and this has led to many demonstrations and much angry reaction from all facets of society here. It was sobering to see the scene of the event, with flowers and other Memorial messages, along with some signs left over from the huge demonstration that followed. (We had watched the military helicopters, eight of them, hovering over the demonstrators the previous week).
From the Coliseum BART station it’s a slightly confusing walk over to the Amtrack Station, but we had left extra time so we had a pleasant wait for the train in the sunshine. The trip to Davis took several hours, so there was plenty of time to enjoy our picnic lunch and to see the landscape. We passed the Mothball Fleet of old Navy Ships, and watched the terrain of rolling hills. We were also excited to see the Maritime Institute, where our friend Katie trained as an engineer.
Dick and Carol warmly welcomed us at the station in Davis and filled us in on the history of the area as we drove to Winters. So wonderful to re-connect with old friends, and we enjoyed many cups of tea and shared our stories throughout the weekend.
For dinner that night, we went to a favourite Mexican restaurant. Dick and Carol explained that the restaurant is quite authentic, although it has been “done up” recently. The food was delicious and all of the people who worked there came over to greet Dick and Carol and be introduced. Throughout the evening a constant parade of interesting folks visited our table. Dick and Carol are obviously popular here!
The next morning we drove to San Francisco, where Dick invited us to spend the day at the Museum of Science while he did his consulting. We marveled at the colourful and cleverly crafted exhibits. What a treat to have such close-up views of so many sea creatures and rainforest inhabitants. We especially loved the colourful frogs, sea horses, sea dragons and butterflies that land on you as you stand and watch them (just the butterflies, not the seahorses and frogs). We enjoyed a delicious lunch with Dick and some of the Museum staff, another group of fascinating folks of all ages. On the way home, Dick took us to a spot close to the Golden Gate Bridge, giving us yet another view of this marvelous architectural monument. Then back to Winters under a golden afternoon sun.
The next few days brought a whirlwind of singing and parties and hanging out with Dick and Carol and meeting many of their friends. Everyone was excitedly preparing for the Obama Inaugural Ball taking place in Winters the following Tuesday.
One day we bustled around getting ready for a singing party at Dick and Carol’s house. We had a grand time and met lots of new musicians as well as some we remembered from our visit many years ago. One day our hosts drove us to Sutter’s Mill, the site of the first gold discovery in California. There we picnicked on the banks of the river where the original gold was found, learned about the history of the area, discussed the equipment that was used, and took a leisurely stroll through the Museum.
The last day of this visit took us to Berkeley, the scene of numerous street vendors, huge bookstores and colourful homes. We attended a party in a magnificent old house. As we arrived, we heard bagpipes playing Gallacian-style music. There was a rehearsal going on in the garden, with about 8 musicians playing these ancient-looking and sounding instruments. The house quickly filled up with musicians and food-another bunch of folks who love the music and good company.
The following Tuesday was Inauguration Day. Pat attended a Berkeley Morris practice, which became a celebration, with champagne and goodies. Lots of fun to be included in the dancing, as it’s been a long time since Pat has danced. This a a very lively group of dancers, and the practice moves along at a quick pace. In typical Berkeley Morris fashion, Pat’s original contacts, Beth and Mike, have offered a ride to and from the practice anytime. Since then Pat has attended several practices and has found that she really loves the chance to dance and sing and play with these folks. Beth has also kindly loaned a bicycle, complete with helmet, lock, and biking gloves. This has made a terrific difference in mobility as Pat can get all over Alameda Island quite easily now (there are no hills and there are lots of bike paths). Pat thinks she will want to get hold of a bike in other places if we stay for any length of time.
Another musical joy involved yet another visit with Dick Holdstock (this time he came to the boat and stayed over). After a lively curry dinner and a visit, we drove to Berkeley, where we were delighted to be welcomed at a song circle called “In Harmony’s Way”. This took place in the Carl Marx Library and involved about 30 a acappella singers (no instruments). This was an intense evening of strong harmonies and we loved it. Such a wide variety of songs, from British Isles and American traditional to Gospel and Blues.
Projects on the boat this month have included continued work on the sound system and computer, and continued prep for the wind-vane installation.

Folknik Review-Faith Petric

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Pat Thompson, We Need to Sing.
Contact: 1201 Colville Road, Victoria, BC, Canada V9A4R2;
Remember when folk music was mostly someone with a guitar singing a song? On stage, in a kitchen; it didn’t matter. Listening to Pat Thompson’s CD gives me that “coming home” feeling and some deep relief.

As her friend Richard Scholtz comments, “Pat Thompson is a real folk singer. The songs she makes her own are those with meaning for her and the people in her life and work… Pat’s deceptively simple presentation reveals a long and subtle relationship with each song she sings.”

Songs on this CD are extremely varied, as what’s important in a life is bound to be. Backed only with herself playing quiet guitar, Pat has recorded songs by SFFMC members Van Rozay and Jane Voss, by Pete Seeger and Ewan MacColl, and ten other less well-known but top song writers such as Ken Hicks with “All The Good People”.

Join this lovely-voiced singer for one singing session, and you’ll find yourselves listening to and singing with her over and over.

—Faith Petric