Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sailing and the Tropical Depression formerly known as Hurricane Bill

You would think, as long as I have lived on the Coast of Illinois, that I wouldn't be surprised by anything that happens around here. But then, this happened: 
To quote Bob, from What About Bob: I'm sailing!
I know. I have been talking about sailboats ever since the Coast came into existence. But I have to be honest. While I knew the reality of our wooden boat was inevitable, I really never believed that one day I (capital, italics, bold, exclamation point) would be steering anything larger than a modified bathtub.


Rob, who clearly has way too much time on his brain, has nurtured the idea of learning to sail these big boats in preparation for round two of our lives where we charter and sail every body of water out there including but not limited to Gulfs, Seas, Oceans and Sounds. Oh, and Lakes of Greatness. Being the supportive wife, I have let him ramble on about boat types, mooring balls, tidal maps. I was more than happy to take a trip to Tortola and earn my Sailing 101 certification. But the thought of taking the more difficult 102-103 classes, where you learn things like navigation and diesel engines gave me a strong desire to go shopping and have pillow fights.

Using the 'Gilligan didn't have all that book learning' argument, I bowed out of round two of classes, which he opted to take at Lake of the Ozarks, a mere 4 hours away. And, because one must practice what is learned, I found myself the proud renter, for 24 hours, of a 26 foot sailboat.
Only that boat was not available when we arrived. So I found myself the proud renter of a 32 foot sailboat.
Only that boat was drenched, thanks to the tropical depression formally known as Hurricane Bill. It seems that an elderly boat's window gaskets won't hold up to one week of torrential rain. This interesting turn of events landed us in a 36 foot Catalina sailboat. 

The Mariposa

For those measurement challenged out there – 36 feet is the length of a telephone pole, twice the height of an average giraffe or five times the height of Shaq – that would be 5 Shaqs, laid end to end.
This was one big ass sailboat.

We rented the boat through the Ozark Yacht Club. (Okay. I know. Brings to mind a group of those Baldknobbers People in overalls with one strap, a hat with a hole in it, a corn cob pipe and a whole bunch of bass boats. Well, stop it.) The Ozark Yacht Club is just off the Bagnell Dam Strip (where there ARE Baldknobbers in overalls plus nearly as much neon as Las Vegas and the largest population of salt water taffy west of the Mississippi. The club is nestled in a wooded cove, down a frightening hill. It offers several beautiful rental cabins as well as a wine bar, an award winning cafe, a small beach, a swimming pool and a full service marina. 

The Lakeside Cafe. Yummo breakfast, lunch and apre-sail snacks. Also, lovely shower facilities upstairs.

It is also the home of some enormous, expensive boats. All of which I was certain would zoom from their slips and into our path as we maneuvered our boat for the day out of, then back into it's slip.
I am hiding in the cabin so as not to see the huge, expensive boats we are not crashing into.

After Bert from the marina gave us a tour and run down of the boat's controls (it had a diesel engine and AC/DC power although the galley and head were not functional for our visit) we grabbed some big ass sandwiches from the cafe and prepared to cast off. Once out of the marina and in the main channel, I put the boat in irons and Rob hoisted the main sail. 
This is when it started.
I was at the helm, the boat pointed directly into the wind. As the sail went up the boat began to gently, but firmly move. I made constant adjustments to keep our direction. We wanted to start off slowly to get a feel of the boat's capability. It was quite clear. Mariposa wanted to sail. The power of wind and vessel is impressive. It demands respect.
It had taken hold of me.
Sails from the bow.

Rob took the helm and turned us to a close reach, wind over the port. I hoisted the jib and we were off. Not too fast, but moving.
No motor.
Just wind.
There is no feeling like it.
More sails. I can't help it.
This is where the Tropical Depression formerly known as Hurricane Bill comes in. You see, Missouri, Texas and it's Hurricane are only one panhandled state apart. Which means the Coast of Illinois hosted tropical depression rain for five days straight. Including the Wednesday we were planning to sail. In fact, it rained on us for the entire 4 hour drive. I kept repeating 'rain before 7, stop by 11'.
And it did.
Until 3pm.
Maybe 1pm, I really have no idea. By this point I was so wet my eyeballs were blurry. Thankfully, there was no lightening and the wind was quite gentle which was a good thing as we were already under sail. (Safety Police alert – Rob had done his captaining work and triple checked the weather, reviewed our plan with the marina people. There was a radio on the boat. We had raincoats and life vests at the ready.)

For nearly four hours we shared the lake with two other sailboats and a couple of jet skis. The lake was calm, the wind fairly steady but gentle. We topped out around 3knots. Not very fast, especially for a big boat with it's sails full out. But plenty fast enough for someone who is incapable of judging distance on the water and has an over-heightened fear of destroying someone else's very expensive boat, dock, house on the shore.
As Rob pointed out many many times, I can drive a car. If something is coming at me in a car, I turn. Same with a boat. But here's the thing. A boat doesn't have a break. I can't slam on the pedal with both feet and STOP. Sure, I can turn the boat into the wind (in irons) or just drop the sails and it will stop (nearly)dead. I have had a lot of experience doing this, by mistake.
I spent an equal amount of time grinning like an idiot because I was so happy and wishing I had a prescription for 1million Xanax because my anxiety over destroying something was higher than the 40 foot mast.
This is something I may need to come to terms with.

The desire to continue on past one more cove, around that next corner was strong. So was the wall of rain we could see further down the lake.
We returned to the marina without incident. Unless you count my sudden urge to BUY the boat, which just happened to be for sale.
I got over that as Rob listed the number of things needing 'upgrading' and the cost of each.

Our hope had been for a full live-on-a-boat experience. 
interior shot. sort of a floating camper in need of a little love.
As the boat was not outfitted for showers and cooking, we used the club facilities. (No. Not an outhouse and garden hose.) The Ozark Yacht Club provides it's members, and boat renters, a fully equipped club house. We had our choice of several private bathrooms – each extremely clean. The club also has a full service kitchen and a club room connected to a long balcony with tables and chairs. (These amenities were not part of our access, which is not to say I didn't 'investigate' them. All very clean and void of anything made of corncob.)
We had dinner at Lil' Rizzo's, an Italian restaurant about 15 minutes away. We have eaten here several times on trips to the lake, each time finding the place completely by accident. I can only believe that Lil' Rizzo's is actually a mobile figment of my imagination which just pops up when I am starving. House salads, light, flaky, herb-y dinner rolls, spaghetti with meatball, supreme pizza, a glass of wine each – yum!
On the way back to the boat we stopped and grabbed desert at Pete's Market– chocolate covered graham crackers.
Rob and I both spent time in the Ozarks as kids. We have both skied the lake behind power boats until our arms were ready to fall off and our hands couldn't let go of the tow rope then passing out dead asleep in shared cabin bedrooms or tents.
That was the kid us.

The grown-up us spent the remainder of the evening on deck with a glass of wine, reading and just enjoying the quiet lake. Oh, and this:
 And this:

And for about 30 seconds, this:

Because of the threat of rain overnight, we opted to sleep on the fold-down table bed in the center of the boat where we had a fan. We chose to ignore the fact that the metal mast (lightening rod) ran through the corner of the bed by Rob's feet.
Our morning looked like this:

Rob went on a coffee run and I sat on deck with my book, watching a fish jump and a duck quack its way around the shore. One of the best mornings ever.
And that's when it really happened.
I know now. Deep down, so much that I actually read and enjoyed an article about installing a water maker on a sailboat, that this is something I want to do. Not because someone else wants it.
But because I want it.

That is an amazing feeling.
Sort of like sailing.

Of course on the way home, this happened:
The Mississippi Ocean. The Arch can be seen mid-right, if it were SUNNY.
Who knew the Coast of Illinois would actually become a real Coast...

For the purpose of full disclosure – I have no financial gain to be made from any of the mentions above. Sadly. I would even be willing to be paid in boat rentals. And those flaky, herb-y dinner rolls.

Check out the Sailing Page – there is an awesome video documenting our evolution to sailors, courtesy of my Dad. Thanks Dad! Oh, and one of my favorite songs – Morning Coffee - by my brother, musician, Karl Schloz.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Nomination and a Whole Lot of Love

What a surprise. I open my email on the train ride home only to discover I have been nominated for a *Liebster Award*! I have to admit, my first thought was courtesy of Sally Field: 'They like me! They really like me!'
No, really.
It still amazes me when someone tells me they have read my writing, that they find it entertaining or, on occasion, want to use something I have written.
So when Suzanne from Adventures of Empty Nesters sent me a nomination I was thrilled. Suzanne writes a fabulous travel blog.To be included in the list of other writers she nominated is a thrill. I read the work of many of these ladies and always take away a little something that helps improve my own writing.

Please take the time to click on Adventures of Empty Nesters, read Suzanna's own nomination questionnaire, check out some fabulous adventures and click on the links of the other nominees.

As for me, well, I nominate the following ladies:

Bonnie is a fellow sailor, an avid kayaker and a long suffering plastic giver-upper.

Mo is a fellow Cornfield, USA gal who knows her way around a road map and a good glass of wine.

Beverly is one of my first blogger-buddies. She has a unique, risque outlook on life and is willing to sometimes bare it all! 

Karen is a surfer, a writer and a woman after my own heart! 

These ladies never fail to make me laugh or heaven forbid, make me think. I am passing on the same questions given me. Can't wait to read everyone's answers.

 What is your dream destination?
I have a ridiculously romantic vision of Morocco, thank you Bogie and Ingrid. I will be the breathy woman in the lovely fitted white linen suit sipping a cognac and guilt-tripping a ruggedly handsome man.

What places have you visited that you thought were highly overrated?
I have to admit. I have never really been anywhere that completely disappointed me. Although, for our 20th anniversary, we went to the fanciest casino in St. Louis (stop laughing, it is connected to a Four Seasons Hotel, which is still one of my favorite hotels) and I was pretty bummed to find that there was a much higher percent of sweat pants to evening gowns and tuxedos. And WAY more smoke than any James Bond movie.

What is your favorite U.S. destination?
This is a tough one. I absolutely love Destin, Florida. The white sand. The emerald ocean. Sure, the traffic in the summer is obnoxious and it can be super hot in July, but it's an ocean heat. I would be willing to make the 12-14 hour drive at the drop of a suitcase for even just 24 hours on that beautiful beach. My other favorite place is good old across the river from home: St. Louis, Mo. St. Louis is overlooked by everyone. We have some of the best restaurants, a diverse musical scene, a wealth of history, a rich literary past, a honkin' big Arch and a museum with the world's biggest pair of underpants. How big are YOUR underpants, NYC??? 

What makes you happy?
Sitting on a deck or patio, warm breeze gently blowing, nice glass of wine, a delish appetizer, classic rock being played by a band or an ipod surrounded by my family and friends...nirvana.

Why did you start blogging?
I started Coast of Illinois as a goof, based on a running joke at work regarding the number of vagabound hairnets spotted on the walk to the parking garage. It doubled as a way for me to keep up a little creativity when work and life didn't allow for time to work on fiction writing. I can't believe I have been maintaining the site since 2012! There have been times I considered quitting and times when I can't seem to write fast enough to get everything I want to say posted. I stumbled over Suzanne's site a year ago and thanks to her invitation to join Women of Midlife, a facebook blogging group, I feel that my little blog might actually go someplace. At the very least, I have met an incredible group of women who share a love of writing and bring to the table a variety of talents, experiences and support.

What are your top three bucket list items?
In no particular order: Live in a city apartment for one year, where I can walk to the store, stop at a cafe, visit a museum and return to my lovely city view to write. Actually finish a novel (and get it published, she whispers. And have people actually purchase it, she hints out of the other side of her mouth.) Spend however long it takes to do the Moveable Feast tour of Europe/Cuba/KeyWest – fishing for trout in Spanish rivers, sipping coffee and whiskey in French cafés, writing the truest sentences one can write from my palm tree lined veranda outside Havana, winning the Martha Gelhorn look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe's in Key West. (Did I mention I am a hopeless romantic?)

What is one piece of advice you would offer or one saying you live by?
"Try three bites before you decide if you like it or not." This was the rule I taught my Brownie Scouts when it came to trying unusual food. But honestly, it applies to everything.

What is the best thing anyone has ever said about your blog?
My family and friends have been incredibly indulgent and supportive of my writing. I love when they mention something I have written, without prompting from me. But my absolute favorite thing to hear is 'you made me spew coffee all over my computer screen'. I always thought this was an issue only my sister suffered from, but apparently, it is occasionally an epidemic.

What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
Curling up on the couch in the middle of a perfectly good day, diet pepsi and popcorn in hand, ridiculously bad SciFy movies on TV. Think – Sharnado, Anaconda, any worm movie starring Kevin Bacon, or an apocalyptic end of the world movie in which Dennis Quaid, Will Smith or Lou Diamond Phillips, assisted by robots, saves the day. I will not apologize.

What is one product or service you cannot live without?
My super fab hairstylist Vanessa (Salon Lofts, Ladue). As a woman with naturally curly hair, who lived the first 40 years of her life with pixie cuts and bad poodle shags, I can not stress to you the importance of finding someone who knows what I want to do with my hair, even after I say "oh you know, sort of angled, shortish. You know with caramelly colors. But not too dark. Or too short."

What two countries make you the happiest to visit?
We took a quick trip to Canada last summer, and it was one of the most beautiful, clean, happiest places I have ever been. Even the panhandlers were pleasant. And Tim Hortons?! Best coffee ever.
In the fall of 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to Tortola, BVI. I have been to Europe and Mexico but never to the Caribbean. I had no idea what to expect and once again, everything surpassed my preconceived notions of what island living might be. I can honestly say, if it hadn't been for our kids we would have chucked everything and stayed.

*The Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. The blogger who is nominated answers a set of questions provided by the colleague who nominated them and then pass the fun on to other bloggers. The purpose is to give some well deserved recognition to newbie bloggers, provide their site with an exposure boost as well as seek out and network with other newbies. It is also a way to show some love to a favorite blogger, or to a blog you look up to. It’s a little bit of ‘Pay-It-Forward’ and a little bit of ‘Team-Building’ all in one.

I have always loved writing. At one time my dream was to write for Saturday Night Live, and in my spare time Rolling Stone Magazine. Life got in the way, as life is wont to do, and instead of moving to the big city I moved to the Coast of Illinois where I became a nurse, married my best friend and life style instigator and raised a writer son who creates fantasy card games and a daughter who juggles pulmonary research and fire clubs. No. Really. I returned to writing somewhere around 2008, writing short stories. I have met some of the most interesting people through writing – both in 3D and cyber-space.
A big THANK YOU for all your encouragement and support!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just Messin'Around in Boats...again.

Finally, a beautiful Saturday here on the Coast of Illinois.

Oh sure, from April 1st until November 30th there is always the threat of 700% humidity. And lately we have the added fun of attack by 3D, ultrasonic radar enhanced green, red and orange bands of rain with occasional lightening bolts and tiny spinning cartoon tornadoes.

But this past Saturday had a minimal amount of danger and we drove Blue Sky down to Rend Lake to crash the Midwest Messabout at Rend Lake. (I should note that we only went for the day, gawked at some beautifully crafted boats then beat it home before the storms rolled in. We didn't really get to talk with many attendees, but as usual, those we did talk with were delightful.)

For those of you new to Coast of Illinois – a small boat messabout is a gathering of small boat enthusiasts. Usually these boats are handmade. They can be powered by sail, motor or human. There is usually camping, a potluck, much discussion of epoxy, many tall tales and then everyone puts their boats in and takes pictures of one another sailing. I personally would love to see some water gun battles, perhaps a re-enactment of Mutiny on the Bounty and then a rip-roaring game of Beer Pirates, where we quiet sailboats cruise past the floating heads of pontoon boaters and grab the beers from their outstretched-to-protect-their-beers-from-lake-water- hands.

Maybe next year. 

We arrived to see this gorgeous boat being set up. The Libby Rose is the fifth boat it's owner has built.
Here she is at sail during a brief bit of sun.

I swear, it is more overcast than sunny but still a great day.

Life vests were the order of the day. Here a sailor is hoisting the gaff rig.
This is a gaff rig or as I prefer to call it - a san-pan sail, because it reminds me of the boats in the book Ping!

I have no idea what type of boat this is, beside beautiful. (oh wait, just found the info - it is a Skiff America20!)
Sailing. Seriously sailing. I left this uncropped so you could get the full effect of the waves and the wind in the sail.
I believe they are either searching for enemy submarines or preparing to bring in the big shark. The head, the tail, the whole damn fish.
Who wouldn't want their own tug boat?
Taking pictures of people taking pictures. So fun!
If anyone from the Rend Lake Messabout recognizes their boat here, please contact me at I would be happy to send you a copy of the pictures. And if anyone happened to get some snaps of a blue, Bermuda rigged sloop named Blue Skies, please contact me. I would also love pics. It is surprisingly difficult to get a picture of your own boat at sail!

THANKS! To Tom B, who sent these 'action shots' of Blue Skies! 
Looks like smooth sailing from here on out little buddy...

See that spray at the bow? Well, the next one soaks me.

Heeling is my favorite!

Love how the main sail is curved here!

I have also added a new video to the Sailing page here. It incorporates all that I love about being on the sailboat, the sounds of the wind, the sails and the splashes.


AND THIS JUST IN!!! Midwest Mariner picked up this issue of Coast of Illinois! Please check out the link: MidwestMariner

Friday, June 5, 2015

Salad Bar

It has been one of those weeks here on the Coast of Illinois. Consequently, this is a rather random post.

Last weekend we moved our youngest to her city apartment.
We are officially 'empty nesters'.
NO – we have NOT been running around the house naked.
             What is is about kids moving out that seems to turn everyone into nudists?
YES – my house looks like Allied Van Lines burglarized it.
              Things missing: one table, two chairs, one bed, two lamps, three rugs
               yet, I still have about 200 coffee mugs in the kitchen cupboard.
Am I freaking out?
Yes and no. I am so excited for our kids – both are living busy lives, on their own, yet close enough to stop by for dinner or laundry. 

Thank you, Universe.

On a healthy note:

This weekend we will be having the first of many fresh salads from greens grown right here in my little garden! Tonight's salad will also include quatre radis français. (That's four French radishes for you non-Francais.)  I have no idea what nationality the greens are. I am topping it with an herb vinaigrette. The herbs are fresh from the garden also. I believe they are of Italian, Greek and French descent.
clockwise from top - baby kale, baby spinach, baby mixed greens and four French radishes.Take THAT salad in a bag!

 Bon Appétit!

Coast of Illinois Vinaigrette
2Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Any combo of fresh herbs, painstakingly tended and gently harvested at their utmost freshness.
(tonight's combo includes flat and curly parsley, chives, basil and thyme)
fresh ground pepper