Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Crab, Halibut, Steelhead Trout, and Tomatoes

As we made the approach to Ketchikan we were overwhelmed with the amount of sea traffic: ferry boats, fishing boats, float planes, cruise ships, tugs, and trawlers. On reaching Bar Harbor Marina we radioed to the harbor master on channel 73 and he assigned us slip 11-2, starboard tie, saying, "Just go in between dock 11 and 12 and take the last slip on the left. You will be right next to the ramp."  The current was running so we ferried our way through the entrance and headed down the fairway.  Two dock crew were there to take our lines and they were as friendly as friendly can be, staying a while to chat and finding out that our last port of call was Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua'i, Hawai'i, 21 days ago.


We stepped onto the dock and started hooting and hollering, dancing about. We kissed the dock.  Then Connie and I ran up the ramp to find actual earth, just to touch it.  As I jumped into the grass, Connie held me back from stepping right into dog poop.  How appropriate.  We kissed the ground, symbolically.
I checked in at the office where they were quite friendly and conversational, getting our whole story and then giving us tips as to where to provision, do laundry, have dinner, etc..  Back at the dock, we were kept distracted by all the people coming and going, most of them pausing to say hello and talk us up.  We started in on the wine by early afternoon.  One boater came by and gave us a jar of home made salmon berry jam and a fresh flower arrangement clipped from her anniversary bouquet. Then later her husband stopped by, drink in one hand, and chart in another, and made himself comfortable in the cockpit while he pointed out all the wonderful places to visit nearby.  His wife returned and we had a nice sunset party.

 

We were told that our mooring spot was reserved for special boats, being right next to the ramp and the fish cleaning station.  When I checked our slip number, I found that the spot was the frequent mooring of the fishing vessel Sylvia, the same boat we hailed when we came into the coast looking for an anchorage.



A young family came by with a big tub of crab and the husband started cleaning them.  Fairly lubricated by then, and always gregarious with new people anyway, I joined them to watch the process.  We met the kids and talked to the wife and when they finished the husband looked at me and said, "Bring me a plastic bag and I'll give you some of these."  I did, and soon we found ourselves back in the cockpit cracking crab, making a feast out of it. They had 2 small children who were happy to eat our Oreo cookies as a token of our appreciation.




Soon it was dark and another couple came by the fish cleaning station and started processing halibut.  He made it look so easy as his sharp knife filleted the big fish.  Of course, we came over and watched, and talked, and made friends and ended up with two pounds of fresh halibut in the refrigerator.  These Alaskans, they are very generous.




The next morning we got Randy off to the plane and Connie and I started taking apart the boat, opening up the storage areas and dragging every thing out into the sunlight.  Much was wet.  Some things were starting to mold.  So we made a project of it and right now the boat is such a mess you can barely move.  We will wash every stitch of clothing and all the bedding and towels.  This will take us a few days.  We couldn't be in a better place to get our act together.  The price is cheap, the store and laundry are close by, the neighbors are friendly, and the weather is good.

Everyone knows our story now.  Strangers come up to me and say things like, "21 days from Hawaii, right." or "I'd never in a million years cross that ocean."
Crab half

Tonight, we're having the halibut and just now, a guy I've spoken with a couple of times came by and knocked on the boat.  "Would you like some fresh tomatoes? I brought these up from Oregon on the ferry."

Happily on land,

Scott, and Connie



Update:  This morning a guy came by and cleaned a 32 inch long steelhead trout.  Now we've got a pound of trout in the freezer.

Also, I've placed some pictures in the previous posts that we submitted while at sea.  View previous posts if you want to see those.
Bar Harbor, Ketchikan Alaska








Saturday, August 20, 2016

Landfall - Clarence Strait, Alaska

Connie sights land
This morning we rounded into the Dixon Entrance off the north end of Queen Charlotte Island. When the low clouds finally parted and the fog drifted off at around 10:00 we could see Cape Chicon looming ahead. We are now running up Clarence Strait using the current to help move us at 6 knots toward our proposed anchorage at Dol Bay.

We crossed paths with the fishing vessel Sylvia so I hailed her and talked to Skipper Murray about anchorages. He pointed out one near by, Stone Rock Bay, and also talked about Dol Bay further up the inlet. I have no paper charts of this area and my cruising guides say very little about this place so the local knowledge from Murray was nice to have. This brings to mind the sage advice from Captain Ron from the movie of the same name. His navigation method is just to pull in somewhere and ask, "Where the heck are we?"



So we are "beating feet", motor sailing with the current to try to get to Dol Bay before the ebb tide and nightfall catch us foul. Connie just put the champagne bottle in the reefer and I'm thawing two fat steaks so we'll have a celebration on the poop deck this evening. Tomorrow we'll sag on into Ketchikan and get to work with all those pesky landfall chores.

Thanks for following us.

Scott, Connie, and Randy
Dall Bay, our first anchorage in Alaska

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Charging Batteries

Knock, Knock. "Hey, it's six am." I'm woken by Randy for my six to nine watch. Connie moves closer so I can climb over her, leaving the warm blankets behind. I dress quickly but stupidly. I layer pajama pants with fleece bibs with nylon pants with Gill Goretex foul weather bibs. On top I've got a silk shirt with a cotton loggers shirt with a poly zip up jacket with a fleece jacket topped by a huge Gill Off Shore jacket. My head gets a knit cap. My feet get fuzzy socks inside Sperry top-sider boots. My gloves are still wet but I put them on anyway.

Once outside in the cockpit I look around the horizon at the grey sea and grey sky. We are fogged in with visibility about 500 yards. The wind is light out of the west, barely enough to fill the partially furled headsail. The seas climb up on the port quarter in a five foot swell. I sit for a while getting my brain engaged then realize that I have to pee. So down below I go to peel off many layers and try to find my shriveled up penis somewhere in there. Soon, I'm back in the cockpit after checking the GPS, the AIS, and the VHF. I've got a thermos of hot tea and a muffin.

We are 70 miles west of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island), headed toward the Dixon Entrance. I brace my legs against the side cockpit lockers as each swell sweeps under the boat. Traveler rises up, tips to starboard, then slides down the wave and tilts to port. Our 50 foot mast describes a big arc in the sky and the jib looses all its air only to reclaim it with a jolt as she comes back to center.

I hear a strange sound. What's that? I press my ear to the bulkhead, look down below, then climb out on the side deck. Nothing heard. But then, there it is again. It takes me a while to realize that I'm hearing a fog horn coming from behind the boat. The AIS had told me there were two container ships back there (targets, they are called) passing me seven miles away. Creepy.

Everything in the cockpit is wet from the last 16 hours of fog and rain. I'm sitting on a squishy cushion covered by a very damp, if not wet blanket. Inside all my clothing I'm fairly warm but it's not a fun time. I'm ready for it to stop. For 20 days now I've taken my watch sitting here on the aft locker with feet braced on either side. On day 21 we will drop anchor somewhere in SE Alaska. Connie sings, "We drop anchor with a sigh."



Later when Connie relieves me I go down below and make scrambled eggs with ham and cheese for everyone. With the dim morning light the seas build a little more and the wind drops slightly. As usual, when Connie takes her shift, she checks the set of the sails and makes her adjustments. With less wind to hold it open, the jib slap is getting worse. As I lie below I hear her grinding something in, then letting something out. I hear her clomp up on deck then return. The jib goes "Bam!" again, shaking the entire boat. I can feel the boat changing course, taking the rollers from behind. That's a good ride when you have the speed, but now the jib is blanketed even more and collapses regularly. We can turn to port, into the wind, to something near a beam reach and the sail will fill but the rollers coming directly from the side will turn us into an oscillating madness.

Connie soldiers on, doing little adjustments until finally I hear some cursing then the grind of the sail getting rolled up. A click tells me she is shifting the gearbox into neutral and then the engine explodes into life. Clunk, it goes into gear, the engine rattling at idle. Then Connie powers her up to 15 thousand RPM and suddenly life changes as Traveler ploughs through the waves, setting up her own momentum to rival the force of the swell. It's loud, but it's smoother.

Connie peeks her head around the cabin door. "Charging batteries." she says with a wink.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Or did I say Ketchikan?

Details, details, details. It's all in the details, isn't it? I'm reading John Vaillant's "The Golden Spruce" which takes place on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island) and Connie is reading Jonathan Rabin's "Passage to Juneau." Both those books talk about the treacherous Queen Charlotte Strait and the evil conditions that result there when wind opposes current. So much for pleasure reading. We are headed directly for Queen Charlotte Strait.

I spent time pawing through our two marine guides, "The Waggoner" and "Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska". In order to get everything I can out of these guides I have to spend hours tracing routes and reading about approaches, comparing the two books. Where one leaves off, the other might go into more detail. Plus, I've got the BC charts on my little chart plotter so I can measure distances and figure currents at various times of the day. The upshot of all this study (think of me in the cockpit, holding books on the table, reading by headlamp during my midnight shift) is a strong conviction that if Traveler is to take the safe route, she will avoid driving against the current. After entering Dixon Entrance, we'd have about 60 miles to go before entering Prince Rupert. Entering on a slack, we'd be able to run with the flood for 6 hours (30 miles) before it starts to turn ebb, current against us. Then we'd be stuck, struggling to make our easting. No bueno.

If instead, we run in with the flood and stay to the north of the channel, we'll make Point Chacon by slack water and be able to pull into one of the secure anchorages there. This will be in the state of Alaska so it will be perfectly legal. Note that we cannot anchor in Canada without checking in at Prince Rupert first. So Alaska it is.

Ketchikan is just around the corner from Point Chacon, about 30 miles. So if we anchor for the night, celebrate our arrival with champagne, then proceed the next morning we can catch the flood again that will wisk us into Ketchikan. Ketchikan, where no passport for Randy is needed. Ketchikan, where Alaska Airlines has two non-stop flights a day to Seattle. Ketchikan, where we can watch chain saw and log climbing competitions along with a thousand cruise ship passengers. While Ketchikan is further away from Seattle than Prince Rupert, the benefits of pulling in there outweigh arguments against.

Since we were not planning on going to Alaska, we don't have paper charts. I'm sure they'll sell us some. And we'll need tide and current tables because from here on out, everything will be taking place in tidal channels where the way to go is with the flow. I'm pretty happy thinking about it because cruising the inside passage means that we get to anchor every night. No more night shifts!

But I better not count our salmon before they are hatched. First we must get to land. Land fall is about 230 miles away right now. Three more nights at sea. We'll time it to arrive just offshore at 06:00, right at slack tide at the Dixon Entrance.

Scott, Connie, and Randy

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Route Planning Conundrum

Here we are, four days from the BC coast, motoring through the biggest stretch of windless water I've seen. The motor has been on for four days straight. If we do get a puff of wind, we scramble to get the sails set only to see them start flopping within minutes. I'm watching the fuel consumption and we are doing OK as Traveler only uses a half gallon per hour and we started with 120 gallons of diesel. We are about half way through our fuel supply now and are 500 miles off the BC coast. We travel about 120 miles per day usually.

A few days ago the weather GRIB files showed a big blow building just off the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This gale is predicted to build and spread over the next six days to become a 200 mile wide stretch of 30+ knots wind stretching from Oregon up to the tip of Vancouver Island BC. Of course, that's right where we must cross to make our landfall into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. What to do?

When in doubt, go to Prince Rupert!

So we've turned the bow of trusty Traveler to point at the beautiful little seaside town of Prince Rupert BC, Canada.

Now that a few days have gone by, I see that those strong winds are now predicted to die down in about 7 days. So another option is to just stop the boat, heave to, and wait for three days before proceeding. That does not sound like much fun to me. We are jonesing to hit land, wanting the pizza something bad. Our crew, Randy has itchy feet and wants to get back to Santa Fe. If we don't get him to shore, he will have a conniption fit. Connie and I want fresh veggies. What to do?

Another twist to the situation is that Randy did not bring his passport with him. That's the first thing CA customs will ask for. Thus, when we hit the liberal shores of Canada, their customs folks might not be too happy with us. But I figure we can plead that it's an act of "Dog" and we had to come to their country because of bad weather. Any port in a storm, Ah?

So the die is set. We head toward Prince Rupert. If the forecasts change over the next couple of days, and they always do, we might set our sights further south. Port Hardy, on the north end of Vancouver Island would be nice. And perhaps, just perhaps, the wind will fail in its promise to be a bad boy and it will diffuse soon enough to let us sail south along the outside of Vancouver Island and sneak into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to make landfall at the famous pizza tavern in sunny Port Angeles.

Send good karma thoughts to the weather goddesses to push those bad winds south, towards California where they belong.

Scott, Connie, and (itchy feet)Randy

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

It just kills me

It just kills me when I see an advertisement for a boat with words such as "Mexico Vet, ready to cruise" or "Just returned from a circumnavigaton, let's do it again". As I'm seeing with Traveler and as I've talked with other folks, after an ocean crossing or a full season cruising, almost all boats are suffering in one way or the other. While cruising, items that might be listed under "deferred maintenance" multiply quickly.

When you use a boat day in, day out, you wear it out. Ultraviolet eats your running rigging, plastics, sealants, paints, varnishes, and fabrics. Salt tarnishes your stainless and soaks into everything, inside and out. Fasteners rust when they've become wet in a place with no air. In waves and wind, a sailing vessel twists in response to the forces applied to it. This movement eventually results in cabinetry, partitions, and bulkheads developing a groan or a squeak. Chafing is a big problem on a boat at sea. The slightest rubbing back and forth, multiplied by 24 hours in a day over a period of weeks will rub a hole in canvas, wear the sheathing off running rigging, or mar your fiberglass, wood decks, and cabin tops.

All this has happened and is still happening on Traveler. Even though we've recently refitted many major systems aboard, we've got lots of deferred maintenance waiting for us. Connie says, "I'll get a job. Your job will be to work on the boat." She's right. That's what it will take. I guess I know what I'll be doing for the next year or so.

When I was boat shopping I looked at a big Robert Perry design 44 footer at Shilshole Marina. It truly had just circumnavigated the globe. A group of four young executives bought the boat, loaded her up with gear and did the trip. On return, they gave her to the broker to sell and they walked away. A great design, the boat sure had good bones. But there were so many details that needed attending, so many little patches, bits of wire, hose clamps, and parts just worn out. "Ridden hard and put away wet" my grandpa would say. A nice project boat, but not something you could just hop aboard and sail around the world.

When I was boat shopping I also looked at boats that got all the TLC you could imagine. You could see how the owner had added little items to make cruising more pleasant. The stainless was shiny as were the electronics. But when I ask about where the boat has been, many times it seems she'd spent most of her life at the dock, at the dock being prettied up. These kind of boats are a risk because their systems have not been tested and the boat has not been subjected to real life abuse which happens in rough seas or long hours. Heck, even brand new boats are known to have gear failures, that's part of the break-in process.

Having said all this, I'm thinking the smartest move when buying a boat is to get one that has stretched her legs with some sea time but also has a skipper who has kept up with the maintenance and made good sturdy improvements over time. It's ok to see homemade fabricated items that might not quite match what the designer intended. I've got friends with very sturdy boats, not the prettiest, but strong. When they show me their new paint job or a repaired item they will throw in the little caveat that after all, she's a "working" boat. I like that concept. Traveler is a working boat. She's got a job to do, and that job is to get me to Puget Sound safely. Then it's pay back time and I'll get to work.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Rafiki

Every night at 03:00 UTC, that's 5:00 PM Hawaii time, I tune into the Pacific Seafarer's Net. They have about eight land based stations that check in each night from all around the Pacific basin. With this many stations, they can reach just about any boat plying waters 2000 miles in any direction from Hawaii. After a warm up session, they each, in turn, ask if there is any emergency, priority traffic from any mariner. After they've scoured the ocean for boats in trouble, they start the roll call of boats in transit.

When I left Hawaii 12 days ago, I joined the roll call and became boat number 11 on the list. So now each night I listen to the controllers locate and take a report from all the boats on the list ahead of me. I write down the latitude and longitude of the boats that are making the Hawaii to mainland transit and note the sea conditions and wind. This helps me figure out what it might be like for us when we get to those locations later. We are currently about 4 days behind most of those folks who left before we did.

Now I am number 5 on the list because some boats have made port and have dropped off the list. New boats have joined the list so I'm not the last one any more. When I joined the list, the sailing vessel Rafiki was the first on the list, and as it turns out, he's been the first for some time because he's going so slow.
Rafiki, from a You Tube video being towed by the Mexican Navy four years ago.

Listening as I do each night I've learned that Rafiki's sole occupant, Andy, lost his engine and cannot use it to charge batteries. He also lost his auto pilot and had to hand steer. His radio works, we know this because he calls into the net each night. Early on when I was tracking him, I heard that he ripped his mainsail and that he couldn't do anything about it because the seas were too rough for him to go out on deck.

As I tracked him, I saw he was headed northwest, making about 50 miles a day or less. It appeared that he was headed to the tip of the Alutan (SP) chain of islands. But no, I asked the net controller what Rafiki's destination was and was told British Columbia.

A few days ago Rafiki reported zero progress in zero winds for that day. The next day he had moved east for the first time. The next, he made 80 miles progress moving east. The net controller asks him each night if he's doing alright and the single hand skipper, Andy, always says yes. Last night the controller asked specifically how his store of food and water were holding out. Andy said he missed the special foods and snacks and was down to dry goods but he had provisioned for six months at sea. Six months! He also said he was able to repair his wind steering system so that was helping his progress.

Tonight I'll tune into the Pacific Seafarer's net and log the location of Rafiki. We will continue to chart Andy's progress and hope he can eventually make landfall in lovely BC.

We are about 8 days off the coast of Victoria Island. All is well aboard.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

AMIS Glory meets APL Qatar quite suddenly

We must be in the shipping lanes between Japan and the US West coast because since yesterday the AIS system has been reporting ships in our vicinity. When a ship comes into our AIS view which is a radius of 48 miles, the screen lights up. At night we see this, wondering "who turned on a light in the cabin?" Then we see the ship Gorgoypikoos is 42 miles to our north and will pass us in two hours with 30 miles to spare. Nothing to worry about.




If the ship is calculated to pass within 6 miles of us then a little alarm will sound when it is 6 miles away. That's handy. Then we can scan the horizon and maybe find the culprit. Earlier we had a ship that was predicted to pass .7 miles to our south, then a few seconds later, 1 mile to our north. Clearly we were on a collision course. We watched that guy carefully until he eventually passed .5 miles to our south. Whew! On the AIS report on that ship was the description "Not under command" That's unsettling.

And then there was the kicker. Two vessels were on a converging course and both were to pass each other only 5 miles to the south of us. We watched them on the AIS screen until we could see them visually on the horizon. The AMIS Glory was at a range of 7.39 miles, speed over ground 12.2 knots, on a course over ground of 189 true. AMIS Glory was headed to Osan Korea. The APL Qatar was headed to Balboa, range 8.94 miles, SOG 19.4 knots, COG 99 true.

We watched those two little arrows approach each other on the screen. We went to the cockpit and could make out both ships approaching each other on our horizon. One had towering cranes on board for unloading containers. The other was an oil tanker of some sort. Suddenly the VHF radio erupted with one ship hailing the other. It was hard to make out what they were saying but we assumed they were agreeing on how to pass, starboard to starboard, or port to port.

Suddenly we saw a flash of light south of us and the radio started chirping. As we watched we could see fire coming from one or both of the boats as they now looked like one ship. And then we heard the mayday distress call on the radio. "Start the engine, let's turn into the wind." I said. We did so and rolled up the genoa, watching the speck of fire on the horizon. I went below to the chart plotter and found the two vessels on screen with an X through the triangle. Then I made that position a way point with an established latitude and longitude.

From left, Georgios, Dimitris, Elias, Alexandros, and Bob

We headed Traveler south towards the waypoint and the little flame on the horizon. I tried channel 16 on the VHF radio but could raise no one. It took us an hour to motor to the location. As we grew near in the late afternoon light we could make out one ship leaning hard to port, its bow awash. The other ship was a mass of containers, some floating, others sinking as we watched. We looked for survivors. I switched off the engine so we could hear better and since it was dark by then I swept the scene with our big hand held searchlight.

Soon we heard yelling off our port bow. I started the engine and headed to port, then switched off and listened again. We launched the dinghy and I rowed toward the sound and soon found a small group of people in the water, their orange PFDs glowing in the blaze of my flashlight. I got on the handheld VHF and directed Connie to steer traveler to me. Then I was surrounded by men in the water yelling in a foreign tongue. We got them all aboard by heaving them one by one into the dinghy then onto Travelers deck.

Connie got out the blankets and we got them all seated on deck and in the cockpit. We had eleven survivors. "Get the rum!" Connie says, "We have a little Bacardi, will that do?" "Better get the Havana Club." I said. Connie gave me that look. You know that look. I shrugged my shoulders. So our eleven Greeks downed our two bottles of Havana Rum as quick as you could say, "Bob's your uncle."


Later, we inventoried the food stores, started soaking pots of beans, and broke into the cookie supply. The way we figure it, we can get the boat to Seattle with all 13 people and have barely enough food to keep us all fed. We might run low on toilet paper and coffee. Most importantly, we have 15 bottles of wine. That's two bottles a day meaning the Greeks get one bottle between them all and Connie and I split the other. We are locking our wine in our cabin. So, it looks like we'll see you in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, that is, unless the Coast Guard insists on finding us and taking off our Greeks.

That would be shame because Connie is teaching them the words to "Drunken Sailor" and they are starting to get the harmony down quite well.

All the Greeks ran forward so they could take this picture of Connie


Note: the first three paragraphs of this blog entry are quite true. Not so for the last seven.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Halfway Day

Connie is issuing party hats today because it is Halfway Day! Eleven days out of Nawiliwili Bay, Kauai, we hope to reach the "throat" of the Strait of Juan de Fuca eleven days from today. That will be Sunday August 21st. It's another 56 Nm to our landfall at Port Angeles and fresh pizza. So perhaps the crowd should plan on gathering at the PA welcoming pier on Monday the 22nd at noon. No pushing or shoving. Wear your nice seafaring clothing. We will have a raffle and whoever wins gets to trade me their keys to their Chevy for the keys to this darn boat. We will turn our backs to the sea and walk inland, kicking the dirt and kissing the hard cold ground.

Not.   

But seriously, we are about half way and that is a thrill. Is that right, my crew? ..... I'm receiving a muted response.

We are in the groove, doing our 3 hours on 6 hours off watches. I'm sorry there is no misery or dismay to report. Actually, it's kinda boring. So what can I write about? I'm thinking about that and maybe I'll come up with something. In the meantime we'll keep you posted, just not as often.

You get on back to your boring life and I'll get back to mine. I'm needed on deck right now so I can lay on the cushions and stare into the sky, looking for Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Panda bears, and smiley faces in the puffy clouds floating by.

Scott, Connie and Randy

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Seattle Bound Day 9

Special day for me today as it is my birthday! Blue blue sky with fluffy white patches of cloud drifting overhead. The same little fish is riding our bow wave - has been now for three days and nights. About 15 inches long, slender, brown with white vertical stripes. Hitching a ride to the Salish Sea.

We are not quite half way home, still skirting the big high pressure zone. Our router says we have 13 days to go on a 22 day passage. I guess we've been lucky, the engine has only been on 55 hours thus far. Other boats we've been following on the radio have been motoring a lot more. Our scheme is to only motor when we cannot keep up more than 2 knots of speed under sail. Thus far our slowest sailing has been about 3 knots.

If someone feels like it, post a comment on my facebook that I'm spending my birthday in the vicinity of Latitude 40 degrees north, longitude 158 degrees west.

We cracked the last melon today, all we have left for fresh veggies are a 17 apples. Still got potatoes and onions, etc.. and of course, the bilge is full of wine.

Maybe tonight I get to have some of that wine with my birthday dinner which is rumored to be pizza. Glorious pizza!



Scott, Connie, and Randy

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