Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sarasota Florida

Sarasota Bay
Me looking out at our anchored boat and the Ringling Causeway Bridge 2012
Before we ever dropped anchor in Sarasota it was on the list of places we would like to live on the water so when we actually had the boat and were ready to head somewhere it is not a surprise that Sarasota Florida was our first real destination. Norwood was much more familiar with the area having grown up there but for me it would be my first time getting to know the place. Besides the Ringling Art Museum (highly recommend this to anyone in the area) which we had visited in the past I was not really sure what there was for me to do there. We were also not really sure how much time we would spend in the area because we had plans to sail around Florida and someday make it over to the East Coast as well. So we played it all by ear and decided to start our time there doing the things that tourists would do. One of the first things we did was join the Selby Botanical Gardens ( We spent days just drinking tea and enjoying the gardens. We met some great people who were on a visit to Sarasota at the time and chatted with them. Overall it became a daily hangout for us while we were in Sarasota.

Shelby Botanical Gardens (16)
Norwood ringing the bell at Selby Botanical Gardens 2012

One day while sitting in Whole Foods in downtown Sarasota(our other daily hangout) I noticed an advertisement in Natural Awakenings for Yoga Teacher Training at a local studio. I had been practicing yoga at the time about 8 months and I really wanted to take my yoga practice farther and dedicate more time to it and in my mind participating in yoga teacher training was a way to do that. After talking it over with Norwood I decided to visit the studio that would be hosting the yoga teacher training and see if it was at all a possibility.

yoga teacher training 3
Me (in yellow) adjusting one of my fellow students in Yoga Teacher Training 2011

Graduation Cake for Yoga Teacher Training
Cake! Nothing better than a yummy cake after 5 months of yoga.

Turns out the people were friendly and knowledgeable and I felt I could definitely spend five months of my life with them. Dedicating myself to the yoga teacher training meant one thing though… we would have to be in Sarasota for at least another five months. Although we had planned on leaving for the Keys in November 2011 we all decided that the yoga thing was something that I needed to do while we were in Sarasota. So we there we were anchored metaphorically and literally in Sarasota until January 2012. My yoga training is a whole another adventure that I will talk about in later posts and writings. But to give you an idea here is something I wrote while enrolled in the program…

Besides my yoga training there was just one thing left for me to do before all my land commitments were fulfilled and we could officially set sail and that was complete the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012. That of course is another adventurous story that I will have to share in yet another post but for now let me just say that… I finally finished that marathon!

Walt Disney World Marathon 2012
Me (in the red) with some friends after the WDW Marathon 2012... check out my medal!

So it was a week after the completion of my Yoga Teacher Training that we finally set sail. We left Bradenton on January 23 and started to make our way south. Our first stop was Sarasota (we went back to Bradenton just to take care of the car and a few other loose ends) then we headed out in a long first trek to Gasparilla Island… which I will tell you all about next post.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Harry Potter series are now ebooks!

Dear readers of Weekly Zen I am not sure if I have ever expressed here how much I truly enjoy the Harry Potter series but let us just say I am a huge fan. I find myself reading my very well worn paperback copies twice a year. Since we have often lived what we like to call and alternative lifestyle (you can read this as small spaces that move a lot) I have replaced many of my “books” with ebooks and both the Kindle and the Nook. When making the switch a while ago I was somewhat disappointed that my favorite series, the only books I find myself reading each year were not yet ebooks. Well as of March 29, 2012 that is no longer the case. Harry Potter is now in ebook form! And they are available for any ereader device out there. You can find them at your local libraries that have digital collections now thanks to Overdrive and Abode Digital Editions. You can also find them DRM from places such as Open Books which will allow you to read them on any reader. And you can also find them available for the many generations of Kindle.

I have also noticed at my local library that there are MP3 audiobooks of the Harry Potter series also available. Guess who will be loading up her iPod and Kindle with Harry Potter this weekend…. this girl. Happy Reading!

Dropping Anchor in Sarasota

The view (2)
Sarasota Bay near Island Park
After our first long sailing trip we were hoping that the next day would be uneventful, especially since we were only a few hours away and had the whole day to make it there. Wrong again. The actual travel to Sarasota went fine. It was a beautiful day and there were no more bridges so it was smooth sailing… literally. It was not until we actually were in the Sarasota Bay and right outside Marina Jacks in the mooring field that we ran into trouble.

I would not say that I am particularly clumsy, but I would not say that I am graceful either. I hover between a disaster and lucky most of the time. The day we first dropped anchor in Sarasota my luck was on vacation. We have a windlass so all I really need to do is press a button with my foot and the anchor will come up or drop down. Easy right? Well if everything goes smoothly then yes it is easy, but as I mentioned my luck was on vacation that day. As I was dropping the anchor the chain started to build up and it became stuck on the pulpit. Without really thinking I reached down and grabbed hold of the chain to yank it and let it start to fall again. My feet were off the buttons but the gears had not stopped moving. It all happened in just a matter of seconds. In the time it took me to grab ahold of the chain the gears moved and pulled back and there was my hand stuck between the chain (on top) and the gear which the chain moves over the windlass (on bottom). Screaming at the top of my lungs all alone at the pulpit I could not think of what to do. At this point it did not hurt but I could see what was happening and I was scared. Without moving my eyes from my stuck hand I reached my right foot out in hopes of hitting the button that would drop the chain and release my hand. Luck seemed to reenter my life at that moment because I was able to release my hand just as Norwood came up to the pulpit to see what was going on. It was now that the pain started and I could not stop myself from crying as I looked at my swollen broken looking hand. My hand was so swollen that I could not move it. I had never had any broken bones before so when Norwood asked me if my fingers we broken I could not answer. All I knew was it hurt more than I have ever felt anything hurt before and I could not move any of my fingers on my right hand.

Time seemed to stop at that time as Norwood figured out a way to get me off the boat and to the hospital that was only a mile away. After what seemed like an eternity I was on shore and Norwood was asking a family if they would give me a ride to the hospital. I got into the car with them as I said goodbye to Norwood, he had to go back and finish anchoring the boat. Four hours in the Emergency Room and as it turns out I had a contusion on each of my fingers (except my thumb who narrowly missed all the excitement). No broken bones but possible nerve damage in my ring and pinkie finger (both had taken the worst of it).

It was not until 6 months later that I completely regained all the feeling in my fingers. I have to say that this experience really did not put Sarasota in my favor. Now even months later the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sarasota is not the months we spent there “living” but the almost broken fingers from my first day in Sarasota. Next Sailing post… 7 months in Sarasota.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Beginning of a Sailing Journey

June 2011 Norwood and I decided that life as a fulltime RVers just did not hold the same excitement it once did. We had seen much of the US (you can count on one hand the states that we have not spent time in) and we both felt that we had seen what we wanted by land more than once so it was time to do something different, something neither of us had done before... travel by boat. So much of what we wanted to see in the RV was near the water but RV resorts are not really (in many cases) near the water. It only made sense to move to the boat. Neither of us was sure if we would last long on the boat. Sure we spent time in close quarters before, but there was so much more to sailing than there was to RVing that we were just not sure about. Our relationship, strength, confidence and so much more was going to be tested and in the end we had to decide if all the work would be worth it. Here I sit 10 months later with quite the story to tell and the journey has only just begun.

As you have seen on this blog before the adventure began in Bradenton Florida in a little marina called the Twin Dolphin. We bought the boat and on the advice of the people who sold us the boat we spent a month in a marina to get the boat ready for living and traveling. Future sailors let me give you a little advice… spend a month in a marina getting to know your boat even if it is not your first boat. Norwood and I are experienced in living off grid and even we had things come up that we did not think about before “getting on the boat.” It was nice to have the car nearby and an easy way off the boat and to land quickly. So even if you have sailed before, I highly suggest that if you plan on traveling by boat for a long time, stay in that marina first and get the boat set up, it makes all the difference in the end.

So we spent our month in the marina and then we took off for our first sailing adventure to Sarasota. You can read about our first outings in Egmont Key and Desoto Memorial and Bradenton Florida .

Where the story left off on the blog was our first landing in Sarasota. It was a rough trip. At our first bridge we our Jib line, which was slowly (unknown to us) wrapping around the prop while we did circles in front the bridge waiting for the opening stalled the engine. There we were with the bridge opening and the engine stalled. Over the VHF we could hear the bridge telling yelling at us asking if we were going to go or what and Norwood realizing what was happening ran to the front and dropped the anchor. He had to stop us from drifting into the bridge and then jump overboard with a knife and cut the line from the prop. An hour later the prop was free and we were ready to head through the bridge and continue our journey to Sarasota.

After the first bridge debacle we thought there was nothing else that could happen and we would most assuredly make it to Sarasota that night… nope. Unfamiliar with the area we were not sure which channel to take to head towards Sarasota. We took the one that looked the biggest… we were wrong. Apparently the biggest channel in that area was a small one that would take you to a little island only at high tide. It was low tide and needless to say we hit the sand bar and became very stuck. We had of course Boat US (every sailor should have some sort of tow service) so all we had to do is wait for them to come and pull us off and tow us to a safe anchorage.

Although it was not the best trip, it ended on a good note. We anchored in a safe place and would start off a new day in a new city. Next sailing post… dropping the anchor in Sarasota for the first time.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

The Technologists: A Novel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In my review of The Professor’s Assassin last month I stated that I was eagerly awaiting the release of Pearl’s new novel The Technologists and that from the preview that was included in The Professor’s Assassin it looked like it was going to be one of his best. Well needless to say I was not disappointed. Pearl delivers yet another page turner that had me guessing “who done it” until the very end.

The Technologists is set in Boston 1868 and starts with, of all things, seven shipwrecks. For those who do not know, currently me, my husband and super pup Maverick are on a sailboat sailing around the entire coast line of Florida. It was somewhat eerie to begin the book on a foggy and raining day while sitting on a boat only to discover that Pearl was painting a similar picture in his new novel. Besides the riveting poetic language from sentence number one I was hooked simply because I truly felt the picture being painted around me. But the mysterious disasters did not stop there. As the book progressed more unusual, seemingly hard to explain catastrophes were happening to Boston. The police force was at a loss for answers so they had to make the choice of turning to one of the two colleges in the area, Harvard or the new formed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They choose to place their faith in the college that was not shocking the city with their “technologies” and sought the help of the professor of science from Harvard. Harvard’s science department unfamiliar and unwilling to accept the new way of looking at the world that was present in MIT was unable to adequately explain what had happened or what would happen next. It looked as though all was loss for Boston until a secret group formed within the walls of MIT began to investigate from the shadows. Quickly the MIT students begin to see how the experimenter was tormenting the city, their only question left was, how would they stop him.

For readers whom this is the first Pearl book you have or will read I must take a sidebar in this review and tell you that if you enjoy it, buy the other three… you will not be disappointed. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Pearl’s novels but I do have favorites. The Last Dickens published in 2009 is my favorite of his works but it has some serious competition with The Technologists. It is not often that I read a mystery and do not pick up on where the author is going long before the culprit is revealed. In Pearl’s latest I suspected many people and was surprised to find out who was really behind it all. For that and Pearl’s attention to detail in his meticulous research I gave The Technologists five stars. Hats off to Pearl for yet another masterpiece.

Novel Moments:

“Throughout his boyhood in a port town, he’d heard so many people spoken of as “lost at sea.” Now it seemed to him the strangest turn of phrase. As long as he was in the water he could not be lost.” (Kindle Location 200)

“Technology is the dignity that man can achieve by bettering himself and his society.” (Kindle Location 892)

“When you stop the mind from inventing, you stop nature.” (Kindle Location 2339)