Sunday, January 24, 2010

El cielo es azul! (The Sky is Blue!)

Our solar panels are back in place and not a drop of rain fell upon Nereid today! Now that the deluge is over, we may be able to get in another hike. For a look at what Catalina looks like on a summer day, turn up your computer speakers and check out this 3-minute flight video.

Today George focused on the dinghy. He's doing finish work now, and in a day or two we'll begin to paint her. This Friday, the Catalina Islander published this article about the dinghy and its builders. (Why does this remind me that my sisters always wanted us to name our tender The Dinghy Sisters?)

Being interviewed was fun, conducted on a sunny day over cold drinks at The SandTrap, a restaurant and bar across from the golf course. The reporter, Jim Watson, is a historian and film maker whose most recent film is Wings Across the Channel (1912-1945). At our prompting, he shared some of the local stories with us. We already knew that the island was once owned by the Chicago-based Wrigley family (think "Wrigley Field" and chewing gum" - how's that for a good match?) and that what is now the golf course was a training spot for the Chicago Cubs ca. 1930. Nowadays its simply a golf course with one very odd feature: the public roadway runs between the first tee--which is high on a hill--and the green--which is at street level, so golfers are required to send the ball over the roadway. Ever since I learned that I can't walk that road without the desire to wear a helmet. But Jim told us a story about the golf course that we'd never heard before, and it's an intriguing one. It comes from an interview he conducted with Lola, whose been operating his barber shop here for 40-some years. As a boy, Lola was caddying at the golf course when two Japanese businessmen arrived, dressed in suits, to play a round of golf. Lola said the gentlemen weren't interested in golfing, but they were very interested in the scenery, taking several pictures of the ridge lines and local scenery before winding up the game. That was shortly before Dec. 7, 1941. Lola always has wondered whether he caddied for spies.
It is within the realm of possibility (and of course that's where the best stories take place). During WWII Catalina was the site of the first U.S. radar installation, and the training center for elite squads.

The evening after our interview, I (Celeste) phoned my Aunt Verniece and learned that her husband, Ashley, was trained and stationed here with the Merchant Marine ca. 1945-46. His unit was housed at the Hotel St. Catherine and The Atwater (which still stands.) It may take us awhile to get around it, but it really is a small world!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weebles Wobble

George and I are waving to and fro, but we're not falling down! We're snugged down in Nereid today. The barometer is at 998 (very low pressure). That creates a vacuum for high pressure winds to drop into the void. The interesting thing on the barometer screen is how rapidly the drop to 999 occurred. I'll upload a photo: if you follow the dotted lines reading left to right you'll see the drop at the far right of the screen.

Our neighbor's flag is not doing well, but it's hanging in there. They've dropped from 5 stripes to 3 in the last 24 hours. They'd be taking their lives into their hands to try changing it now!
In contrast, our little flag is waving off the stern of Nereid, where it's more protected. I think it's a good omen that in the photo of our flag you can see the name of the boat behind us: Tenacious.
Ironically, the small craft warnings flag in the harbor has shredded as well. Maybe it's time to upgrade that to a gale force flag. (Yesterday I panicked when I overheard someone say they had hoisted a hurricane flag. Fortunately, it was only hoisted briefly - if at all.) There was tornado activity, which did some damage on the mainland. There were a couple of trees knocked down on the building where I pick up our mail, and a cashier was complaining about people hording milk. (Mea culpa.) Apparently, she doesn't understand how addicted we sun babies get to milk and honey!

So that's the news. It really is interesting to talk about the weather when you live so close to it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stormy Weather

This is the first time I've been in a town in which everyone battens down the hatches when a storm is approaching. It's kind of fun, in the sense that it is novel: everyone spent Sunday provisioning. The grocery store was as popular as a beach on spring break. Some people were stocking up on beer and ice, others on milk ... it's a very individual thing, deciding what you'll be imbibing for the next 7 to 10 days. You see, if the wind is up no deliveries will make it to the island.

On Sunday George and I stocked up on milk and ice and enough food to last for a week. Plus we did laundry ... twice, since the first batch got wet from water that came over the top of the dinghy. And because it's a law of the feline universe that if the humans wash all the cushion covers that don't have cat stains on them, there will be stains on the remaining cushions when the humans return from the laundromat. We worked from dawn till way after dark battening down, stocking up and making everything ship-shape. And we had fun doing it. Our last load of laundry was in the dryer while we sat under the eaves of a nearby hotel, dressed in foul-weather gear and played Scrabble. Then we walked back to the dinghy dock, taking note of the sandbags stacked against shop doors.

We've made it pretty cozy. Here's a photo of our cockpit, complete with the bouquet that George thoughtfully brought home after I dropped enough hints to dent the floorboards* (*This is a Christmas story, to follow in another post). Those are solar panels stacked to the left, since they only act as sails when the winds blow hard. The golden tubes behind them are our oars. We rocked a bit last night and got plenty of rain but stayed dry and comfortable. Today we had gale force winds, but Nereid held her own at the mooring. In the afternoon it was calm enough for George to row to shore and return with a dinner guest - our friend Bob, who's letting us use his deck to build the new dinghy. After a simple dinner, laced with laughter, we sent Bob home with a gallon of milk. Turns out we were hoarding: the grocery store has no milk left.

The dinghy is on hold for weather but nearly complete! I'll post some new photos in the slideshow, above. Meanwhile, it's time to catch some zzzzz's. Fairwinds, all!