Monday, July 30, 2007

CT Canoe Trip, Part 9

Just to recap: dog capsized canoe, snow warning in the mountains, we decided to end the trip because our clothing was still wet, and there was frost on the ground in the morning when we woke up.

We pulled the canoe out in Newbury, VT, which is 5 miles as the crow flies from our starting point.

“Looks like we’re about 5 miles from the car, how are we going to get to there?” Todd asked.

“Well, I am the jogger of the family, I can walk there. It should take me about an hour to get there.”

“Sounds good,” said Todd. I made myself a sandwich, packed a water bottle, and Todd handed me a knife in case somebody tried to pick me up and get fresh with me.

I was about to leave when a man came walking up the boat ramp, “That your canoe?” We said it was.

“Well, then you’re gonna have to move it, because I need to get my boat up the ramp.” We went back down the ramp, and moved the canoe aside. The man backed his truck down the ramp, and we had recognized the truck. This was the man who was trying to get his boat up the bank, unsuccessfully.

“Hey, we know you! You were back there trying to get your boat up the bank,” Todd said.

“Oh, were you guys in the canoe? Yeah, thanks for stopping to see if I needed any help,” the man barked back.

“Sorry, we didn’t realize you needed help. You had 2 other people with you, it looked like you had it under control,” I protested.

“Those two people were elderly, they weren’t any help to me at all,” the man grumbled.

Todd and I walked back up the ramp, and I said to him “So, now I guess asking him for a ride to the car would be a bad idea, huh?”

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Monday, July 23, 2007

I Totally Feel like a Navy Seal

Saturday Todd and I went for a dive off of Gould Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay. Gould Island was a hot spot for torpedo development and testing before and during World War II. Todd and I have recently developed a bit of an obsession with the island, and often speculate about the goings on at Gould Island as we sail by it on the way to Newport and other ports in the southern part of the Bay.

On the northern half of this small island there is a pier and a building from which the Navy used to fire and observe the torpedoes while testing them. They put buoys in the water to mark off the torpedo testing range, though I don’t know that I’ve seen them test anything there recently. (But then, most of my sailing is done on the weekends and at night, when torpedo testing is less likely to occur.) The island has a bit of an eerie feeling to it. Kind of like it’s been abandoned, but you’re not sure if it’s actually been abandoned. Has it been abandoned, or does it just appear to have been abandoned? There are still a few other buildings on the island, along with a large smoke stack. The buildings are vacant now, as far as we know. However the building at the firing pier on the north tip of the island has a security light on 24x7 (Even in the daytime. Waste of energy and tax dollars, anyone?)

When we anchored the dinghy by the firing building, and we could hear a loud hum coming from the building. I am assuming the loud hum is an HVAC unit in the building. The loud hum has launched a fantasy about how the inside of the dilapidated building is really super high-tech, with the most sophisticated computers and surveillance equipment the world has to offer. Why else would the US Navy need to run an HVAC unit on a dilapidated building on a seemingly abandoned island in the middle of Narragansett Bay just a short boat ride away from the Naval Underwater War College in Newport? I am reminded of that scene in the movie “Spies Like Us” where the missile defense station is located in a seemingly abandoned drive in movie theatre. I know that this totally exists on Gould Island. (And if it doesn’t, then I’ll just fantasize about crazy espionage things going on at Gould Island, and it’ll be fun.)

We did the dive, and I actually had a bad gear dive. I couldn’t stay down for some reason, my mask wouldn’t seal. Once I got over my gear hiccups, I actually had a good time. The viz was crap, there weren’t any fish at all. But whatever, I don’t care what I see, so long as I am underwater.

We ended our dive and got back into the boat. We decided that we’d check out the Island while we were there. I had visions of looking in windows of the abandoned buildings on the south side, and discovering some of the crazy espionage-y things that surely are going on there.

We didn’t have any clothes on us, just our wetsuits. We beached the dinghy and hopped out onto the shore, with a loud “squish” of the water trapped in my wetsuit boots.

“It’s like we’re Navy seals! Check us out! We’re infiltrating an island by sea!” Todd exclaimed, laughing.

“Yeah, but Navy seals don’t make this slurpy sound when they walk around in wetsuits,” I laughed.

We walked up from the beach and onto a concrete pad. There was a ramp leading into the water from the concrete pad. Images of helicopters once landing there filled my head. Secret helicopters, containing people carrying briefcases handcuffed to their wrists. Images of people exchanging code words necessary for passage filled my mind, and knowing nods, glances, and secret handshakes of officers departing the choppers. Now there are roughly 463605497 seagulls that have made the island home. Though I suspect even the gulls were squawking in secret code “The squawk squawks at midnight…” or something like that. They were flying around us overhead, circling and circling—making me feel like I was inside some crazy seagull tornado.

“I wonder if the gulls are waiting for us to die here, so they can peck at our carcasses,” I said as I looked up at the gulls, circling like vultures over prey in the desert. We walked onto a path that led into thick bush. Then we heard what sounded like a motorcycle.

“WOW, did they send someone over here on a 4-wheeler to make us leave?” Todd asked. We walked back out to the concrete pad, to see if there was anyone there. Of course there was nobody there; we were on an abandoned island, for crying out loud. The noise was coming from a jet ski that was traveling by the island.

We went back onto the trail, and crawled under the brush to continue on the trail. There were briars, thorns, etc. The brush was way too thick to get to the buildings on the island, which led us to wonder if the briars were actually planted there to keep intruders out of the buildings. You know, to keep the secret goings-on there a secret. We declared the brush impassable, and made our way back to the dinghy on the beach.

I read up on the island later on and discovered that the southern half of the island, where we were, is actually a bird sanctuary, and has nothing to do with the Navy. So, there’s a nice little buzz kill for my little Gould Island fantasy. However what is up with that torpedo firing building on the north tip of the island? What’s up with the loud hum coming from the building, and the always-on security lights? In that building the fantasy lives on.

This is what Gould Island looked like back then. The concrete pad we walked on was actually for seaplanes that were launched from the island. The buildings just behind and to the left of the hangar still stand, the hangar does not exist anymore. The brush is now so thick and it began at the backside of the foundation of the hangar. We could not get through the bush to the buildings that are still there. It is not a far distance to walk, if the brush was not there, it would probably have taken only a few minutes to walk from the hangar to the buildings on the left. The building on the left with the smoke stack is entirely unaccessible from the beach, as it is surrounded by thick brush as well. The buildings are all slightly visible through the trees and prickers. I do not know if the buildings on the right were there or not.

The planes dropped the torpedos in the torpedo testing range at the time. In its heyday, 65,000 torpedo firings have been conducted on this island. In the month of December 1944 alone, some 2,575 torpedos were fired from the island.*

*Source "A Gould Island Chronology" Captain Frank Snyder

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Weird Omen

This morning I got into work and turned on The very first song was by a man named Dan Rockett. I turned to my officemate and said “Wow, the first song Pandora served up is by the man who ran Todd over with his car when we lived in Boston.” I wasn’t sure what kind of omen that would be, and what kind of day I’d have after that.

It was June 1998. Todd and I had just moved in together in May in this great apartment in Brighton, Massachusetts. I had moved there from Melrose, MA—where I had lived for 2 years. In those 2 years I had found things like hair dressers and doctors that I liked in Melrose, so I kept doing those things there after work. It was convenient seeing as how I worked north of the city in Andover, too. Melrose was right on the way home.

I was getting my haircut on that fateful afternoon, the phone rang in the salon and the receptionist said “Beej, you have a phone call.” I took the phone, and it was Todd. “Beej, you have to come home now, I was out on my bike and got hit by a car.” I glanced in the mirror at my half chopped off hairdo. I told my stylist “OMG, you have to finish cutting the rest of this hair, I need to go, NOW!” She swished the scissors 2-3 more times, just to make the hair even then I ran out the door.

I raced home, and found Todd lying on the couch, clutching his chest. His arm was bruised and scraped up. His bike was leaning against the wall by the front door, mangled and tires flattened.

“What happened?” I asked.

Todd was riding his bike on the sidewalk by the Bread and Circus supermarket. He was crossing the driveway for the store, and was hit by a car, and launched ass over teakettle into the air. Witnesses later said that he’d had about 6 feet of air, and then he crashed onto the pavement. One of the witnesses called 911, and he lay on the pavement while first the police, then the ambulance, then a fire truck arrived.

“Why is the fire department here?” Todd asked.

“I think they just come when someone calls 911,” someone replied.

“Maybe I should set my bike on fire, you know, to make it worth the trip for them,” Todd laughed, then clutched his chest.

The EMTs walked toward Todd, with their gear and a stretcher. “Do not touch me,” Todd said, “I cannot afford you. I do not have health insurance.” The EMTs stood by while Todd painfully stood himself up to give the police officer his statement.

Todd told the cops what happened, and then the officer asked “Do you want to press charges?”

“No,” Todd said, “I don’t. It was an accident.”

“You’re not from around here, are you?” the police officer asked, and chuckled.

The fire truck left, the ambulance left without giving Todd any medical assistance. The police officer left, the crowd dispersed. Todd and the driver of the car exchanged information. The driver was a man named Dan Rockett.

Todd walked his mangled bike back to our apartment, arm bleeding, his chest on fire with pain. On normal conditions it was a long-ish walk back to our place, and it was uphill. I cannot imagine how long it took for him to get there, in pain and dragging the bike.

I got home, and convinced Todd to go to the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s hospital. “What if you have a broken rib or something?” I asked him.

He was x-rayed at the hospital, and sure enough he’d broken his number 1 and number 2 ribs. There really isn’t anything you can do for a broken rib—just make sure it’s lined up and wait for it to heal. The doctor cleaned and bandaged the road rash on his arm.

Over the next few weeks we went through the frustration of settling an accident. No matter how amicably the parties behave, there are the inevitable speed bumps. Todd and Dan agreed that Dan would buy Todd a new bike, and Todd would pay for the hospital visit himself—seeing as how they were both broke 20-somethings. Over the course of settling the accident, we learned that Dan was in a band. He gave us a CD of his band, called the Rockett Band. This CD is actually in our CD player at home right now. It’s a great CD, and it often finds its way into the player. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than track 5, “Shake Your Ass for Jesus.”

Just recently I learned that Dan has put out a solo album. I’ve only heard it on, but it is a ridiculously well done song. Beautifully written and executed. I look forward to hearing the rest of it.


Monday, July 16, 2007

An Example of My Husband's Brilliance

I took some pictures of one of Todd's latest inventions just to illustrate Todd's MacGuyer-esque quality. I raced to our computer, memory card and Oreo cookie in hand. It took me a few seconds to realize I'd nearly put the memory card in my mouth, and the cookie into the card reader. So, I nearly commited a random act of stupidity while preparing a post on how smart my husband is. There's a joke in there about me being the yin to his yang. Or something.

Anyway, during the day we tie the dogs behind our house on a dog run. Todd has created an elaborate run that clips each dog onto both a harness and a collar. Just in case one of my Houdini dogs manages to get free of the collar, he cannot get free of the harness. And vice versa.

Todd has built out quite the outdoor environment for our boys. He installed an automatic dog watering dish that will keep a constant supply of cold water on hand for them. The hard top of my Jeep rests on the picnic table and serves as shade on a sunny day as well. At one point he even fixed some sort of rope toy with tennis balls on it to the actual dog run so that they would have something to play with while tied out. I actually envy my dogs for this dogtopia that Todd has created. He had even had a web cam positioned at the back door so we could log on and see what they were doing. It was then I knew who ate the lattice off the bottom of the deck. (Nemo, I am watching you, little dog.)

There's only one problem with the beautiful dog world in back of my house. When we'd come home from work, the cables for the dog run would be horribly tangled. Over the course of the day, the dogs would change their mind about the optimal lounging spot approximately 435825 times, or get thirsty and would have to change positions throughout the day. As a result the cables would tangle into something that resembles those metal puzzles that you have to finagle the ring off of to solve. It would literally take 5 minutes to untangle the blasted things.

On Saturday morning Todd developed this.

Not sold in stores, ladies and gentlemen. It is a multi-dog run swivel thingy that will keep the lines from getting horribly tangled. Manufactured from a space-age polymer, this multi-dog run swivel thingy will keep your dogs free to roam the yard in search of that one perfect spot to pee for the entire day.

Look out Ronco, here comes Toddco.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Broken Laptops and 3 Day Weekends

Our trusty IBM Thinkpad broke down about 2 weeks ago. Todd’s been busy and hasn’t had a chance to move all the stuff from that hard drive onto our new trusty Sony Vaio. Todd has the mad computer skillz, and could migrate the hard drive in his sleep. But I think he’s been too busy to sleep lately too.

Do you know what that means?

That means I will either have to make the time to recreate the next installment of the canoe trip story from memory, or wait until Todd migrates that hard drive to the new computer—on which I have the story all written out already.

So now you’re thinking “Beej, you were on that trip. Surely you remember what happened next.” But life has been crazy. Work has been nuts, and the last thing I’ve felt like doing lately is to look at another computer when I get home from work, because I spend all day at a computer at work. Lately I’ve been wanting a bit of a break from spending that much time in front of a computer because the weather has been so nice lately. The idea of copying and pasting an entry is a lot more appealing lately, than actually sitting down at a computer to write one. I am a crappy blogger.

Last weekend my in-laws came into town. My in-laws are very fun people, and always up for a good adventure. They came down for a 3 day weekend, and Todd and I took Monday off from work. This time their visit was a bit different. In the summer when they visit we usually will go somewhere like Block Island for the weekend. But my father in law was suffering from bronchitis on this visit, and didn’t feel like he’d get good rest sleeping in the v-berth of the boat.

Friday night they arrived precisely at the moment Todd and I were installing a brand new stove in our kitchen. (OK, so the laptop broke, and the stove too? Oh, and the washer bailed on me this morning too. How psyched do you think I am right now? Not very, actually.)

Saturday we sailed the boat back to our home mooring from Jamestown. Our brief (one night) living aboard stint has ended, for now. But we had a beautiful sail all the way back. Uneventful, which is exactly the kind of sail we were hoping for. For once in our sailing career we weren’t sailing directly into the wind, and managed to actually sail most of the way. The dogs basked in the sun, the people drank beer, ate sandwiches and laughed all afternoon.

Sunday we headed to Newport to fly kites at Brenton Point. Todd has a collection of 2 line and 4 line kites that he can do tricks with. He also has tons on single line kites, and windsocks that he’ll fly as well. When we go to the beach he’ll drag all these kites out and throw them up to the sky with every single windsock he owns. I swear you can see our spot on the beach from satellites. It is for this reason that our friends call Todd “Toddicus Kiticus.”
Monday we went to the beach. And not just any old beach. We took the boat over to an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay called Prudence Island. There are residents on Prudence, and the only way to get there is by a ferry that runs to the eastern side of the island. We anchored the boat just north of Prudence, and dinghied at least a mile over to the beach on the island.

Just by our anchorage was a man quahogging. What exactly is quahogging? Well, it’s the fancy Rhode Island way of saying clamming. The man was raking for clams, so Todd took the dinghy over and bought 100 clams off of this man for $20. It’s good to live in the Ocean State for all the fresh seafood that’s so easily accessible to us. Now, if only there were shrimpers. Or Quaimpers?

We had the beach to ourselves. The dogs ran and swam all day. Todd and my mother in law snorkeled and watched the blue crabs crawl around underwater. Quite possibly the perfect day.

Hopefully this weekend Todd will have the time to migrate that laptop so I can continue the story. But then, we’ll probably be doing things like going to the kite festival in Newport, going sailing and maybe taking in a dive.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

40 Winks

Yesterday was the 4th of July, and we spent it on the boat. We had a few friends out to go sailing, eat some burgers and dogs, and drink the insane quantities of beer I had purchased for the day’s festivities.

In the afternoon it had begun to rain, and our friends had gone home. Todd and I watched the fireworks over Newport Harbor from our state room in the aft end of the boat. The rain continued, and the wind picked up. We had heard that the wind would be up to 30 mph overnight. Not a problem, hell, we were on a mooring on the boat when Hurricane Charley came through here. Though by the time the storm got to RI, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Still the winds from that storm were way stronger than they were last night, so we weren’t worried about the weather.

The roof over our stateroom leaks. When it rains, we cannot sleep in our comfy bed in the state room, and have to sleep on the bunks in the v-berth (the very front of the boat.) It’s nice and dry in the v, but not as comfortable as the aft stateroom. We settled down to sleep, as the wind tugged our boat taut from the mooring. The mooring lines clomped against the side of the boat. The boat rocked up and down, and side to side. I held my body rigid in my bunk so I wouldn’t roll out of it. Holding one’s body rigid doesn’t make one want to sleep, however.

I tossed and turned. I listened to the wind howl, I listened to the mooring lines clomp clomp clomp against the hull. I drifted off, only to be woken by a squeaky beagle. He must have woken up on his pillow in the aft state room and realized that his people were not in bed, where he could easily climb up between them, to siphon off of their body heat. Nemo couldn’t jump on the bunks in the v. They are too high for him to make the jump without a running start. There’s no room for a running start with the compression post from the mast right in the middle of his runway. I helped him up, and he nestled up to my legs, and promptly dozed off.

Beagle snoring.

Clomp clomp clomp of the mooring lines against the hull.





Holding my body rigid, trying to drift off again. I decided I’d had it, and decided to sleep in the aft state room.

I surveyed the bed in the aft state room, and discovered that only 1 corner of the mattress was wet. I set myself up on the other side, and settled down to sleep. I drifted off, to a blissful sleep.

I woke what seemed like 2.4 seconds later to something repeatedly touching my face. Another leak had sprung just over my head, and was drip drip dripping against my cheek. I scooted my pillow toward the center of the bed, and drifted off again.

Then I heard it. Bam! Bam! Bam! The wind had shifted, and the kayak tied to the back of the boat was now slamming into the back of the boat, just outside of where I was trying to sleep.




“You’ve got to be kidding me” I thought to myself, as I listened to the kayak repeatedly ram into the transom of the boat. I contemplated getting out a knife and freeing the kayak, and then considered the wet, cold air that waited for me up on deck. I decided that warm, dry(ish) and noisy was better than wet and cold. Eventually the kayak caught up to the shifting wind, and pulled itself back from the boat. I drifted off once again.

“BJ?” I heard from the v. “Beej? Where are you?”

Again I thought “You have got to be kidding me.” I nestled down deeper into my blankets. He’ll figure out that I came to sleep in the aft state room. Todd came padding into the stateroom, and felt the edges of the bed, “Beej, this bed is soaked on the edges, how are you sleeping in here?”

I mumbled something about less noisy, and how it was dry on the spot where I was sleeping. He went back to his nest in the v.

Then I heard it. Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding.

The wind was slapping the halyard against the mizzen mast, which is right above the aft state room.

Ding ding ding ding ding ding.

Damn. We had not secured the rope that raises and lowers the mizzen sail, and now it was slapping against the aluminum mast.

Ding ding ding ding.

Bam. Bam. Bam. The kayak was fighting with the boat again.

I jammed the pillow up over my head, and then I heard it.

Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

The alarm clock going off in the v. Time to wake up and go to work. Todd pushed the snooze button, and we drifted off once again.