Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Family
Richard, Joanne, Bleu Kitty, Bill, Carol and Lucky
Hurricane Irma paid us all a visit on September 10.  We did not expect her at our location at all!  Forecasts showed her tracking off the east coast of Florida. With each update the forecast track moved slightly to the west.  Our concern mounted as the forecast called for a track up the middle of the state.  We could ride out the storm since our house was built to "Miami Dade" hurricane standards. We planned to stay if the storm continued to the east. We glued ourselves to the TV for each update.

Thursday afternoon the forecast track shifted along the west coast, just offshore as a CAT 4 or 5 - the worst possible scenario, a Perfect Storm.   Irma could be expected to push a wall of water up Charlotte Harbor to flood our house, only 10 ft above sea level.

All week we had been preparing for the storm - putting up storm shutters, gathering insurance and other records, removing the bimini from the boat and adding lines to ground anchors. Wednesday, we also helped install storm shutters at Vincent St de Paul. Additionally, Richard helped put up storm shutters for a widow on our block. Thursday morning Richard and another neighbor finished up that task.  Richard doubled the lines to the ground anchors and set out bow and stern anchors for Indigo Star.  The boat rides securely to pilings that move and down with the tide. It is tied to blocks that slide up and down tracks mounted to pilings. But, what would happen if the water rose high enough to max out the slides?  We didn't know; hence, all the extra work. All this work in Florida heat produced gallons of sweat, believe me.

We discussed parking one of cars in a public parking garage downtown. But what we didn't realize was that a lot of other people thought of the same thing! By the time we got there Thursday mid-morning, only a few spaces were left and those were on the roof level.  Well, better there than in a flooded garage.
By Thursday afternoon Richard wanted to evacuate but I (Joanne) wanted to remain. A decision was made for when we received a phone message from the city recommending evacuation.  It was time to go. Richard finished up with the boat. We packed a few things and stuffed the car with kitty stuff, flashlights, records, some food and hastily packed clothes bags and started driving north. Later, we learned that the police came around three times urging people to leave over a megaphone. It was a "mandatory evacuation."

While Richard was driving about an hour north of Punta Gorda , I noticed a phone message that I had missed.  Upon listening, it was my cousin, Bill, who I had not heard from in some time.  I phoned him and he invited us to stay with him and his wife, Carol, in a condo in Orlando, close to Disney.  It turned out to be a Hilton Resort and boy, we were happy when we arrived and were ushered into a lovely room with a king size bed.  They even welcomed us with our cat, Bleu Kitty, a long-haired Persian.  I knew Carol had allergies to cats, therefore, I was worried.  But, it turned out they have a lovely dog, Lucky, and she now takes allergy meds.  So, NO WORRIES!  We had a great time getting reacquainted and reminiscing about our childhoods, the family, etc. We watched lots of movies and enjoyed delicious meals while the weather channel was going non-stop.

At times it looked pretty bad.  We discussed losing all our possessions, where we might go and what might happen.  As the day moved into night and the hurricane was finally upon us, it veered eastward after demolishing Macro Island. It tracked over land, not over water. The surge forecast change to 1+ ft above ground for us. Still, we don't understand this ground reference since we think of water relative to sea level. Punta Gorda dodged a major bullet at the last hour.  Even, my cousin's home in Naples was spared.  We were so happy to go home again after the storm!

The blessings of this tough time were many.  We heard from friends that we had not been in contact for quite a while.  We received emails from our Friendship Force friends in foreign countries - Western Australia, Eastern Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, Belgium and Canada.  My daughter actually called twice, once at 2 AM Saturday morning when she saw the forecast track going straight up Charlotte Harbor and offered to come and help us recover what was left of our house.  Friends invited us to stay with them.  Wow!  We were so overwhelmed with the goodness of people.  I remember the lessons I have learned in my life - out of tough situations, the sunlight shines.  God is in control, not me!  I am so grateful and blessed.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Caspersen Beach on a hot July Day

Chris, Jan, Joanne, Conrad & Sally enjoyed the beach
We organized a beach day and eight in our boating club, PGIslanders, and one guest had a fantastic time at Caspersen beach on Wednesday, 7/19.  Although it was raining in Punta Gorda, the group headed down Rt 41 North to Venice because the RADAR NOW app showed "all clear" weather. And it was.  As another good omen for the day, a parking space became available just steps away from the rest room and beach path areas.  There is NO charge for parking at this destination, so it doesn't get any better than this!

A turtle strolls along with the locals
The water was warm and calm as we all skinny dipped in (OH, just kidding!)   Some looked for sharks teeth and of course, found a few.  Some of us brought our snorkels and were rewarded with schools of fish feeding from the plankton on the rocks.  After lots of fun and conversation, we headed down to Sharkey's.   Can you believe we got a fantastic table for 9 under the shaded patio and on cue, a coolish breeze filtered through.  The seafood lunch was great and everyone enjoyed the drinks, too!  Summer is a great time to become a tourist here - no swarms of people, lines of cars, etc. - -civility, peacefulness and tropical breezes were the order of the day. 
Sally, Conrad, Trudy, Chuck & Mahala enjoy lunch at Sharkey's

Those attending were:  Leaders - Joanne & Richard Collins, Sally & Conrad Pinches, Jan & Rick Petroski, Trudy & Chuck Millburg with niece, Mahala, visiting from Illinois.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Local newspaper pet photo contest

Our local newspaper is having a pet photo contest.  Today we entered the following 2 pictures (one per person) of our cat, Bleu Kitty, our 6 year old Blue Persian.  Wish us luck!

Bleu Kitty loves to smell the flowers!
Bleu Kitty is dressed for the summer in his straw hat and tie

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Visiting Pam & Don in Henderson Harbor, NY

Brockport Viking Apartments - lived there 41 years ago!
Snowbirds, Pam & Don Brandt, treated us like family

At The End of the Road on the Eastern Shore of Lake Ontario

Gorgeous view overlooking Lake Ontario from Pam & Don's back porch.  Note the Inuksuk (rock man) that Don built!
Our Punta Gorda snowbird friends, Pam and Don Brandt, asked us to drop by their summer place the next time we were in New York State.  Since we were only a few hours away, this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  It was fun for me (Joanne) because I lived in Brockport, NY (which was on the way) over 41 years ago.  I had not been to the area since then, so it was a trip down Memory Lane.  I remembered the Genesee River and some of the Rochester area.  I really enjoyed seeing Brockport.  After all these years, I found the apartment building that we lived in so long ago.

Inuksuk Man
We arrived at the CAMP as Pam and Don call it and it was great!  They treated us like family - we enjoyed touring the 1000 Lake Region, hearing Lake Ontario waves right outside the window of the backyard, viewing Pam's fantastic garden, seeing Don's awesome boat that he restored after 13 years and hearing about their family and meeting their friends.  We attended a wonderful 4th of July BBQ on Sunday at the Henderson Harbor Yacht Club and had dinner at a terrific restaurant.  The 3 days went by very fast and before we knew it, it was time to catch our flights.

Garden Yard
What a fabulous vacation we had to Detroit, Canada and upper New York State!  Lots a memories, good times and wonderful friends! 

Bottle Tree - I want one!
Renovated lake home with a cupula that lights up!

Nod to Florida

On the SnakeFoot Trail
Lake Ontario Meets Its Eastern Shore

Wildflowers against rustic fence

Henderson Yacht club on Protected Henderson Harbor

BBQ at Yacht Club

BBQ at Yacht Club

Fog horn at Tibbett Point

One of the Islands

Lunch on the St Lawrence River, Clayton, NY

Boat Going By

Passing Over the St Lawrence River to Wellesley Island

Victorian Homes on Wellesley Island

On Wellesley Island - Note High Water Covers Gas Pump

Friday, June 30, 2017

Two Days in Niagara Falls

Richard and I hadn't been to Niagara Falls in a long, long time.  Since we were in the area, we decided it was time for another visit.  Both of us really enjoy waterfalls and it was time to ride the Maid of the Mist!

Maid of Mist Below Falls
Niagara Falls
We received a 5 hour ride from a club member, Joanne MacPeek, from Haliburton, Canada to Buffalo, New York. Joanne spent most of her adult life here and was a teacher in the local Catholic schools.  She showed us around Buffalo and we were impressed by the beautiful waterfront area.  We enjoyed lunch with her at the Marriott and then she dropped us off at the airport so that we could pick up our rental car. 

Rapids Above Falls

Maid of Mist Below Elevator Tower

On the Maid of the Mist
The Blue Man
Maid of Mist Under Falls
A short time later we checked into our hotel and went down to the falls.  Luckily it was a beautiful late afternoon so we decided it was time for the Maid of the Mist.  We paid our admission and donned our raincoats.  Oh, it was glorious seeing those falls and feeling the spray hit us!  Of course, Richard took lots of pictures.

Whirl Pool Rapids Along Niagara Gorge Rim Trail

The next day we hiked the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail and then  toured of Old Fort Niagara.  It was well worth the trip.  The tour was excellent and there were lots of soldiers playing the part.  We certainly refreshed our school learning of the War of 1812 and enjoyed the firing of the muskets and history of the place.

Swirling Whirl Pool

Old Fort Niagara - Western Bank of Lake Ontario 

British Infantry Solider


British Artillery Solider

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Haliburton Friendship Force Club

We hitched another ride with Sue and Rob for an approximately 4-1/2 hour trip northeast to the lake area of Haliburton.  We arrived at the home of our hosts, Mary Lou & Bob Macklin, who have a gorgeous lake home.  We were housed in the "Bunkie" - Canadian term for the upstairs garage apartment with its own bathroom.  Very nice!   We stayed a week with this wonderful Friendship Force Club (June 21-28).

With our Wonderful Hosts, Bob and Mary Lou at Wintergreen for Welcome Breakfast 

Cottage Road
Bunkie over the garage where we stayed

Great welcome BBQ

Lake below Cottage
The next morning our group was treated to a Welcome Breakfast at Wintergreen.  This place was really cute.  It looked like an old-time cabin in the woods featuring a lavish breakfast with homemade maple and other flavored syrups. 

Sampling syrup flavors with Owner Operator 

Wintergreen Restaurant, Wedding Venue, Maple Syrup Producer and Possum Brotherhood Headquarters 

We traveled to a fish hatchery for a tour, then onto a Sculpture Forest Tour (fantastic sculptures in the woods) and finally, our group of 20 were treated to a Welcome BBQ at the Macklin's cottage.  They have a very active group (about 50 in the club) and it seemed that most of them were there to welcome us.

Fish hatchery Tour

With Jack at the local radio station

Meeting one of the Disc Jockeys
Ice Cream in Haliburton courtesy of Jack

The Curling Club

Before Breakfast at the Legion

Downtown Haliburton

Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trans Severn Waterway, Highest in the World

Canoes and boat dropping down

Hundreds of canoes celebrate Canada's 150 birthday!

Close up of canoes transiting lift lock

Geocaching at Kinark Outdoor Centre, a Camp for Autistic Children & Their Families 

On Friday, we went geo-caching at Kinark's Outdoor Center and were hosted at a lovely salmon dinner at the home of Paul & Jan Mutter.  Saturday's agenda was a trip to Petroglyphs Provincial Park, a Canadian Canoe Museum Tour and for us, the highlight was viewing the canoes transiting the Peterborough Lift Lock, the largest lift lock in the world on the Trent Severin Waterway.  Sunday's highlights were the Camp Wanakita Strawberry Social and a Voyageur Canoe Ride.  Monday incorporated a Visit to the Wolf Center where we saw baby wolves nursing (many of our Canadian friends had never seen this).   We then had a lovely tour and lunch at Abbey Gardens, Tour of Haliburton Wind & Solar company and their Brewery and Tasting Room.  We had a delicious ham dinner that night at the home of members, Joan & Jim Cochlin.  On Tuesday, we toured the town and had a rousing Farewell Dinner at Peppermill Restaurant.  As with Stratford/St.Mary's, it was difficult to say goodbye to these great Canadians! 

Baby Wolves nursing

A GREAT looking group after Sculpture Garden Tour

On the Voyageur 3 Canoe paddling along on a wonderful Sunday afternoon

More Friendship Force Canoers

Richard, Joanne, Sue and Rob enjoy the visit!


Joanne LOVES Canada!