829 Southdrive

829 Southdrive

A New Jersey state of mind

Friday, July 29, 2011

Leaf Well Enough Alone

This is my entry and I'm stickin with it.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Now, Let's Go!!!!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Low Key NJ Sailing Club II

I happened to be driving down rt. 31 today, coming home from
camp pick-up in the Poconos, when I saw a sign for Spruce Run
State Park and Recreation Area.  I immediately thought of a sail-
blogger with whom I am familiar, who said he used to sail Sunfish 
and Lasers there a few years back.  There was no clubhouse, no 
trophy room, no carriage house, nobody walking around in navy 
blazers and white slacks, no clay tennis courts.  Just a shed that 
housed all the necessary items to hold races and functions that a 
group of fun-seeking sailors would need.  No dining room 
minimum, no dress code, no dockmaster, no transient slip fees.  
Just  five bucks to enter the park and a ramp fee if you need to 
roll your boat into the water.  Granted, the annual dues are a bit 
steep at more than double those of my club, but they're still a 
bargain and who's to judge what price to pay for happiness?  

I had windsurfed there a few times in the early nineties, although
the wind never managed to blow hard enough to get me planing.
I thought it was a nice place nevertheless, and agreed that to sail
a boat there could be an enjoyable and satisfying way to spend the 
day.  Today, however, I felt as though I was treading on hallowed
ground.  After reading about the racing, the pizza and beer
get-togethers following the races, and the mystery Sunfish sailor guy
 who showed up one day, I felt as if I could have fit right in.
The mystery guy, I instantly realized, was an old friend and
skipper of mine from the mid seventies.  This blogger had struck 
so many chords of mine in so few words that I felt a natural
connection to him, one that to this day draws me to him and his 
site several times a day.  Without getting too mushy, his was 
without a doubt the blog that convinced me to jump into the
 blogosphere head first and not look back.  At least not too often.  

This scene is one that the blogger has probably seen at least a
hundred times.  On the hottest day of the year, I was happy to
feel a decent breeze coming out of the West with this little cabin 
sloop heeling back and forth with the puffs.  I felt the blogger 
behind me, rolling his Laser dolly down the poured concrete ramp.

Just up the hill from Spruce Run, I couldn't resist snapping this
photo.  I wondered if my blogger ever saw this lonely Laser
sitting by the roadside, hoping that some optimistic up-and-coming
sailor would rescue her and dig the potting soil from her cockpit.
I've seen boats in worse shape.  At least the mast step is intact! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How creative are You?

The Tall Oaks Yacht Club in Forked River, NJ
is looking for a new burgee design.  They have
petitioned their members to get creative and 
send in their entries by August 1st.  I have a
few ideas in mind, and only members can
participate, but I thought it would be fun if I
asked my readers (both of them) to join in on
the fun and send me their ideas via email.  Of
course they cannot be submitted as entries
(unless you print out the membership form and
send your $40 to Paul along with the entry). 
I will, however, post any designs sent back to
me (like anyone would actually do it) and they
would of course be open for comments.  Just
 take a look at the club's site, get a feel for the 
club and the kind of folks that we are.  Then,
download the instructions and template.  When
you've finished your masterpiece, scan it and 
email it to me.  If you actually have time to do
something as frivolous as this.

By the way, the burgee at the top is from some
other low-key boat club that's been around
for a few years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Corner of a Triangle

The view of New York Harbor from the pool deck of the Explorer
of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  We were about to
embark on a six day cruise to Bermuda, leaving from Bayonne,
New Jersey.  Oil tankers, cargo ships, ferries, barges of every shape 
and size, tugboats, schooners, racing and cruising sailboats, and 
another cruise ship leaving the pier from the west side of 
Manhattan gave Lady Liberty something to look at this typically 
warm and windy Saturday afternoon.

I was amazed at how fast the Staten Island ferry was.  And how
relatively small it was compared to the floating city atop of 
which I was standing.   

For a time there I wasn't sure we would clear the Verrazano, but
we did and once past the ceremonial start of the cruise, everyone
cheered and ordered another drink.  The bartenders and wait staff 
were immediately at full speed and they barely slowed down
for the next six days.   

Having never been far enough offshore so there's no land in sight,
I was able to line up the horizon with the railing and really get a good
sense of the curvature of the earth.  Also, the color of the water out
there is a spectacular deep blue.  There was a nice stiff wind and 
the sea was relatively flat, perfect conditions I thought, for sailing
across the ocean.    

Not only did my girls refuse sherpas, but they went up without
bottled oxygen.  I told them if they ran into anyone in trouble
up there, give them your chocolate bar but keep pressing on.
Self-preservation is key - don't be a hero.  Plus, our sit-down
dinner time is 6:00 and they still need to shower and do their hair.

The dark and stormy proved to be my favorite cocktail.  Gosling's 
dark rum and ginger beer.  Ginger ale just wouldn't cut it.  At $5.75,
it was one of the bargain drinks on the ship.  Bermuda itself is quite
expensive on the other hand.  We played many hands of "bullshit", 
which my younger daughter enjoyed shouting out at any opportunity.

The sometimes result of shouting bullshit too many times.

The first morning we were in Bermuda, we arrived in Somerset 
too early for our boat rental.  So we sort of trespassed on this resort
 beach where kids under 16 are not welcome.  We kept telling
Olivia to shut up and quit acting her age.  Nobody seemed to
notice our Royal Caribbean towels on the beach chairs.  

We had lunch beachside at the cafe, where we were reminded
by the server that children under 16 are not supposed to be on
the grounds.  I'm not quite sure what came over me but I looked
that guy right square in the face and swore that my daughter
was 16.  And the other was 18 (which she is) and she'd like a 
banana daiquiri.  There were no more concerns; three
of us ordered $16 club sandwiches.  

It was hard to beat the view from our table.

Weeks before, I had reserved an O'Day daysailer for us to sail 
around the different beaches and lagoons and snorkel from.  Due
to the absence of wind, we decided to rent a small motorboat
instead.  That way, we could go far beyond our rental boundary
and get virtually lost in less than half the time.   

We finally found the elusive "World's smallest drawbridge" after
making a mildly concerned cell phone call back to the rental
office regarding the multitude of reefs we were dodging that weren't
mentioned in the pre-three hour tour pep talk. 

The bridge doesn't appear to actually draw open any more, but
they claim that sailboat masts can fit through the 18" gap when the 
board that fills it is removed.  Provided they don't have sidestays,
I guess.  Lasers and Sunfish maybe. 

The Royal Naval Dockyard at the west end of the island.  The
pier can accommodate 2 cruise ships so this area is always buzzing.

A cab ride east to Hamilton, the main city on the island, 
would probably cost $25-30 easily.  We chose to take the
ferry across the sound.  A fifteen minute ride with the wind
in your hair for 4 bucks a head.  

The Explorer of the Seas, left, is a massive ship with 3000 
passengers and 1200 crewmembers.  An impressive operation.

The second day on the island we chose to go to the famous pink
beaches.  They weren't necessarily pink but the sand did have 
some pink grains in it.  We brought a ziplock, of course.  My 
daughter bought a tubular bracelet that could be filled with that 
famous sand and my wife took the rest home and poured it
between a few patio slabs. 

Not just BBQ flavored

What we thought was more interesting than wading in the waves
was snorkeling and just plain floating around in this little lagoon
adjacent to the beach.  The water surged in and out making it
feel like you were in a washing machine sort of.  What I found
cool was that there were no barnacles, and you could hang out in
the water in the shade of the rock walls.

Near the ferry dock in Hamilton is the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Lunchtime for the junior sailors.  I assumed that a club launch
would drive them out and drop them at their Optis.

Now why would I think that?

There are 180 cooks on the ship, 3 eight hour shifts of 60, prepping
and cooking food 24 hours a day.  Very possibly the cleanest kitchen
I've ever been in.  After some pretty well-publicized health issues
aboard cruise ships in the past decade or two, no chances are taken
and the sanitary codes are some of the toughest in the world. 

I just thought this looked cool.

The Captain said he would be honored if I came and took the helm
for a few hours, and I would have if there wasn't karaoke in the
Maharaja lounge at 9.  I did ask if he could arrange for the entire
kitchen and service crew to come out in the dining room and take 
a bow.  He was quite a sport, and in a few minutes, there they were!

For being on the ship an average of seven months at a time, 
virtually every crewmember appeared happy and pleasant at any
given moment.  We were made to feel welcome and appreciated
and the whole trip was an experience we'll never forget.  

I heard that just for our particular cruise, the crew planned
a flash-singalong.  I was amazed at how in tune they all were.
Now, where's my dessert?

P.S. - On a serious note,  I would like to thank my
Mother and Father in law for taking us on this wonderful
cruise.  Their generosity is extraordinary and we 
love them with all of our hearts.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Independence Day

Every year just about this time, we Americans get all sentimental
and patriotic about the history of our great nation, including the 
events leading up to our bold and brazen declaration:  
" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness............"  Damn.  I get all fuzzy when I think about it.
And it's good to feel that way, I think.  As someone who was born
and raised in America, it's only natural for me to have a deep
sense of pride when I think about my country and the sacrifices 
of all my fellow countrymen and women over the centuries who 
have selflessly put their lives on the line so that I may enjoy the
freedom that defines being a citizen of this great land.

There are, however, myths associated with some of the 
more widely-believed events regarding this short period in
American history.  Here are just a few:

America's independence was actually declared on July the 2nd,,
1776.  Two days later, the document justifying the declaration
was adopted, thereby causing the confusion.

Unfortunately, the scene depicted in the above image of all of
the delegates signing the Declaration on one day in the same room
is inaccurate.  Most of them, apparently, signed the document
on August the 2nd, and several did not sign until later.  What I
will always believe, regardless of what I hear to the contrary,
is that whatever the date was that summer that they signed the
Declaration of Independence, it must have been m*th#rf^(k!n
hot in that room.  I was there in April and there were times
where I could have dropped like a lead balloon.

The Liberty Bell was never rung in celebration of the 
Declaration of Independence.  If it was, apparently
nobody noticed.  It did, however, receive its name in the
early 19th century as a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.

Poor Betsy Ross.  Not only did she not design or sew that
first flag with the 13 stars in a circle, but she never lived in
the house designated to this day as the Betsy Ross House.
Word has it that after 150 years of being buried in a colonial
graveyard, she was exumed and re-buried on the grounds of 
the  house she never inhabited!  

In April of 2007, a large group of my wife's relatives from Italy
came to visit.  They started in Washington DC, came up through
Philadelphia, then New York, and culminated the trip in North 
Jersey, where many of their cousins presently live.  Living the 
closest to Philadelphia, my wife and I were the designated hosts
for the day.  I arranged to have an Italian-speaking tourguide
 lead us around, because I only spoke kitchen Spanish.  It was a
day none of us will ever forget.  My wife's relatives are the most
loving, caring, and hospitable people I've ever met.  When we 
visited them in Italy two years before, they treated us like royalty.
The least we could do was try to treat them in the same manner.

The tourguide was a great liaison and made our job so much easier.
Most of these folks had never been to the states so you can imagine
how exciting this must have been for them.  Especially Massimo with
the Handycam, who filmed just about every moment of the trip.  At
one point, we laughed when we saw him following squirrels with his 
camera, as if they didn't have them in Italy.  As it turns out, there 
aren't many.  I'd actually like to get copies of his videos.  

Most of the Italian women in front of Independence Hall.  
They were not too concerned about the exact 
date the Declaration was signed.

We can't see the crack from this picture, but legend has it that 
the crack in the bell wasn't from it being rung vigorously, but from
it not being a well-made bell to begin with. Cousin Claudio who 
took this photo was also not too upset about the origin of the crack.

When we congregated in front of the Betsy Ross House in the
courtyard for lunch, I don't think they would have enjoyed their 
cheesesteaks from Jim's any less if they knew Betsy didn't actually
live there.  And man, did they enjoy those cheesesteaks!

Thing is, they were all just so damn happy to be here in America
after hearing so many stories for so many years about their 
American cousins and the different lives they led.  They knew
the general story of our country and our fight for independence.
And they appreciated our ways of life, just as we all did when
we visited them in their homeland.  It's no different really.
The way I see it,  after 50 years of seeing our history one
way,  a different light shed upon it won't change the pride 
I feel for my country and the way I celebrate independence.
Happy 2nd of July!