Friday, April 11, 2014

Hauling Out, Part 2, Living on the Hard

Bella Vita on land - not normal!

Brett and I have been living on Bella Vita for almost five years now, almost two of those out cruising, so we are very aware of all the systems on our boat and how everything works on a normal day.  That said, hauling out in New Zealand would be our first time living on the boat OUT of the water.  Not really an experience that either on of us was looking forward to.

It doesn't look too scary
from this angle, but
trust me,  it's steep!
As our readers may (or may not!) know, many systems on a boat are dependent on water to operate.  For us, this includes the refrigeration system, the engine, the genset, and especially the toilets!  That means that when the boat is out of the water (“on the hard”) and doesn’t have access to water, those systems don’t work.  Yep……think on it….living without a toilet nearby for 10 days.  How does that sound to those of you who regularly get up in the wee hours of the night like I do?  Add to that the fact that to get off  the boat you have to climb down a nice, steep ladder.  Did I mention that I often have to go in the middle of the night…..when it’s DARK????  I know, I know, too much information – but I’m trying to give you a clear mental picture here.  Have you got it?  If not, check out the ladder shot I’ve included.

Okay, so I’m relieved to report that there were toilets located about 400 feet from where they put our boat (soooo thankful they didn’t put us in the back 40, which is like a 1/4 mile from the bathrooms!!!), so at least isn’t wasn’t too far to travel EVERY TIME the urge struck – but not exactly fun at 3am either.

Some of the daily chaos inside...
Add to that the fact that we couldn’t keep our refrigeration or freezer going, so all of our food was being babysat by a very kind cruising friend of ours while we were out of the water.  This can make feeding two people for 10 days a bit of a challenge.  It did, however, help us convince ourselves that there would be no way to live this way without a car – especially since Norsand Boatyard is about a 40 minute walk (one way) out of town.  Knowing we would likely need frequent trips to the boat store, hardware store and grocery store was exactly the push we needed, so we signed on for a cheap rental car – which was worth every penny!

The galley is not exactly
ripe for meal prep, eh?
Cooking was definitely a challenge, but the yard did have a nice BBQ that the boaters were allowed to use, so most dinners consisted of running to the store for items that were easy to barbeque.  Since we also didn’t have the ability to heat water, all water for dishes had to be hauled from the small kitchen to our boat (yep – up that big ladder!).  I quickly devised an easy solution – a big thermos we use during passages was just the amount of water we needed for dishes once a day.  Much easier to haul that to the boat then to haul the dishes to their kitchen!

A real positive was that the yard had showers that were nice and clean, so for a mere dollar a day (each) we could have 6 minutes of bliss with a hot shower after a long day of hard labor.

So other than no toilets at hand, no refrigeration and no hot water on the boat – how was living on the hard? 

Where do we sit and eat???
Not too bad….as long as you could get past the chaos on the INSIDE of the boat.  When you are trying to get back IN the water as quickly as possible, you may be working on several jobs at a time - depending on what stage they are each at.  Every job takes a meriad of support stuff.  All that stuff is normally stored away, but not anymore!  Lockers everywhere spilled forth their contents and at times it seemed every surface was covered.  Why not put it away, you ask?  Well, as soon as you do, you are guaranteed to need it again, so why put the puzzle away at all?  So out it all stays.  Frustrating, but it's really the only way to do things quickly. There were countless times when I would have to tell Brett that if he wanted food, he'd have to create a space for us to sit and eat.  Hunger is a powerful tool it seems!  But understanding and accepting the chaos is not something either of us consider fun. pretty much sucks.

I can't even get out without
climbing over something!
Okay, so it’s not all fun and games, but it really is amazing what you can get used to when you have to.  Plus there is the added bonus of making new friends in the yard, usually while we were all using the yard BBQ to make our dinner (we’re all in the same proverbial boat after all).  We also had the pleasure of catching up with some friends we hadn’t seen in months. A big thanks to Irene and Lionel on Kiapa for having us over to the place they were housesitting for a break from the yard – so needed that!  Add to that a dinner or two out in town and the time passed pretty darn fast. 

Overall, some good, some bad, but something we had to do regardless of how we felt as we have to maintain our boat and that’s where we live.  So you you suck it up and make the most of it.  Think of it as camping out, right?  And it puts us that much closer to being out on the water again for more adventures. 

 But I won’t miss that ladder at all!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Seahawk Antifouling Paint - A Product View

Brett and Bella Vita back in 2012 prior to our departure.

Bella Vita coming out of the water in New Zealand.
Before we left in late summer of 2012, we hauled out to renew our bottom paint.  At the time I was still working at Fisheries Supply and so had a lot of contacts in the marine industry - one of which was Tony Bulpin, West Coast representative for Seahawk paint.  I was very curious about Seahawk as I'd been watching our sales of the product go up and up - so we offered to be a "test" boat for their paint as we would be passing through a variety of waters and putting on a LOT of miles.  After talking extensively with Tony, we all decided that Seahawk Cukote, with a biocide booster additive would be just the ticket to carry us across the many miles we would travel to New Zealand.

Note the mud and growth along the
hull - not there 3 months prior...
Seahawk Cukote is a semi-ablative bottom paint loaded with cuprous oxide (aka copper) that is supposed to be a little bit harder than most ablative paints.  We applied two coats over the entire bottom with one extra coat at the waterline.  We were a little concerned that so many miles would cause an ablative paint to slough off too quickly, but Tony was convinced Seahawk Cukote would perform well. 

After 10,000 miles I'm happy to say that Tony was right!  When you are traveling as many miles as we did this last season, it's very important that the boat stays protected.  Over time the bottom would develop a thin layer of slime (completely normal with all bottom paints), but it would remove easily by simply wiping it with a cloth - considered normal maintenance for cruisers.  When we were getting ready to leave for New Zealand we did this process one last time (as NZ is pretty picky about how clean your bottom is when you arrive) and took a close look at how the paint was aging.....and it looked GREAT!  We still had plenty of coverage and almost zero growth - very pleasing results after thousands of miles!

Bella Vita post-power wash - MUCH better!!!
We arrived in New Zealand and immediately took our boat to the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei, where we left it on pile moorings for three months.  This is some of the most disgusting water we've seen in our travels - it's considered "brackish" (a combination of salt and fresh water) and is so muddy and dirty that you can only see about 3 inches deep.  On top of that, the water is VERY shallow, so you're often resting in the mud at low tide.  We were a little worried about the effect that would have on Bella Vita's bottom, especially since she hadn't sat ANYWHERE for that long since we've owned her.

Even after sanding to prep for new paint, note the
amazing amount of coverage still on the hull, which means
very little paint sloughed off over 18 months on the go.
The morning of the haulout arrived and unfortunately the bottom did have a pretty thick coating of mud and we were a little dismayed to see quite a bit of growth on the hull.  This had happened in just three short months???  But I'm relieved to report that all the new growth came right off with a power wash - so no big deal in the end.

Bottom line?  We are now firm believers in Seahawk paint and feel it's every bit as good as what is being offered by Pettit and International (Interlux).  We strongly encourage any sailors to give it a try as the price is usually competitive and even in a variety of different waters - ranging from cold (Northwest) to warm (Tonga), the paint performed equally well.  If you give it a try we think you'll be happy with the results.

Bella Vita with her new paint - Seahawk Biocop.
In fact we were so impressed that we've put it on again and will continue to see how it performs over the next two years.  We did make one small adjustment - this year we applied Biocop which from what I understand is basically the same paint as Cukote, but with the extra Bioboost already added - much easier!

We'd like to thank Seahawk Paint, and specifically Tony Bulpin and Nigel Hood (the New Zealand Seahawk representative) for educating us about Seahawk products and for letting us test your paint.  If our readers have any questions about our experience with Seahawk paints, please don't hesitate to ask in the comment section below.
Cukote’s high loading of cuprous oxide makes this formulation a top performer, even in the most severe fouling areas. As an ablative, self-polishing coating, there is no buildup of bottom paint over time. Your hull's underwater surface remains smooth and clean. Cukote copolymer can also withstand removal from water without affecting its antifouling properties. Cukote is the premium self-polishing antifouling paint that has established the standard in the industry. - See more at:

Bella Vita ready to face the ocean again.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hauling Out in New Zealand, Part I

Our cradle sitting in the water, waiting to pull us out.
As the sun came up on Thursday, the 13th of February, Brett and I nervously paced the deck, getting things as ready as we could for our impending haul-out.  After extensive research, we had decided to use Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei.  We based this on a combination of safety efforts, price, location and just general vibes after visiting all of the main yards in Whangarei and talking to the owners and their staff.  The only part we were a little concerned about with Norsand is that they don't use a travel lift - for the first time Bella Vita would be coming out of the water in a very different manner than she was used to....

Our trusty helper David.  Note the "high tech"
pole he used (an old Shakespeare antenna).
At Norsand Boatyard, due to the location and tidal restrictions, they are not able to use a classic travel lift.  Instead they have developed a very slick system where they pre-build a cradle to fit your specific boat, submerge it in the water on their ramp and then have you float up onto it during high tide.  Once you are secured between the cradle arms a huge front loader (a type of tractor for those of us that don't speak Caterpillar) pulls you up the ramp and out of the water.  While we were a little bit nervous about the process, I can honestly say that the two workers in charge did a great job, moving slowly and cautiously through the complete process.  So slow in fact that the whole thing takes about 2 hours.  Amazingly, since boats can only be hauled at high tide, they can only do two boats a day!  Yes, two boats a day coming in or out, it doesn't matter.  Can you imagine the yards in Seattle only hauling two boats a day?  There wouldn't be a yard under that economic structure - but things are different here in NZ where everything moves a LOT slower.

Bella Vita being pulled out of the water.
But I digress, back to the actual haul-out!  After being safely hauled out, then waiting for a catamaran to be hauled out and power washed, then having our boat power washed, we were placed in our final yard location and officially blocked at about 4pm!  Yes - that's right - we started at 7am and were not technically finished until 4pm.  Can I just say that with two people doing this process for which we were charged about $350, I think it's safe to say this is not exactly a huge money-making enterprise for the yard.  More like a loss-leader.  Just say'n.

The crane is set and ready to lift the mast out.
Once we were in our "home" we quickly went to work on finishing the prep we needed to do to pull the mast - scheduled for 8am the next morning.  We were trying our best to only be out for one week and the clock was ticking (imagine $10 bills just floating away from you......continually.....and you'll understand why we wanted to keep our stay short).  Thanks to the wonderfully long days of New Zealand summertime, we finished the mast prep around 7pm.  Plenty of time to have dinner and relax a little before the big lift in the morning.

Check out how cool this crane looks!

At about 8:15 the next morning the most immaculate crane I have ever seen pulls in and starts setting up.  I'm talking bright red paint and not a dent or scratch to be seen.  Do we have to pay extra to have a crane this nice????  It was practically a piece of artwork!  But it performed as promised and soon enough the mast was out and set up next to the boat, ready for all the work we wanted to do.

That's Jerry way up there attaching the hoist.
The main reason we hauled the mast was to run new VHF wire and unfortunately the old pipe was already so chock full of wires that we couldn't add or subtract anything.  This meant we needed to run a new plastic tube the entire length (65 feet!).  Why not just drop the wire down the mast you might ask?  Lots of room in there right?  Well, that would mean the wire would be banging around in there making all sorts of noise and potentially interfering with the lines that run through for our halyards.  Electrical wires need to be protected, which means a pipe that is somehow fastened to the mast so it also stays stationary, even in rough seas.

She's out!

To do this you have to basically rivet the plastic pipe to the side of the mast - easier said than done!  Here's the steps:
Step 1: Run the pipe (the only easy part).
Step 2: Drill a hole where you want the rivet.
Step 3: Try to hold the pipe in place through a tiny hole while you drill the plastic pipe to match the hole you just put in.
Step 4: Feed the rivet in without dislodging the pipe.
Step 5: Swear a lot as you try to realign the dislodged pipe and the two tiny holes again.
Step 6: Repeat steps 4/5 until you actually feed in and expand the rivet.
Step 7: Say a prayer and test that the rivet placed is holding.
Step 8: Repeat steps 2 thru 7 about 25 times along the length of the mast.

I think Brett and Jerry are relieved to have the mast safely out!
The good news?  After two days of some fairly serious swearing the pipe was in place!  But the terrible news we discovered two days before re-stepping the mast and going back in the water?  The rivets we'd used were too long and the wire WOULD NOT PASS through the tube.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??????  Suffice it to say that was a very dark moment for the crew of Bella Vita after so many hours already spent.  It also didn't help that we didn't discover it until we had completely reassembled the rig in preparation for Monday (putting the spreaders back on, each screw carefully lubed and tightened, all rig back in place, lines run, etc.) and we were actually feeling a little smug about being ahead of schedule.  NEVER GET SMUG.  Talk about a smack-down.  We had to work all weekend to redo the pipe....IN THE RAIN!  Lets just sum it up by saying it was not a happy weekend.  But thankfully we did finish it in time and ran the wire immediately after to prove that this time the rivets were properly sized.  Phew!

Doing this job was a real back-breaker!  But music helped.
So what else did we do while we were out?  Here's some of the fun stuff we worked on:
  • Re-bed the forward hatch (readers may remember stories of major leaking when sailing to weather).  This involved taking off the hatch, removing all of the old caulk, digging out the base around the frame, filling that base with resin, fairing the resin after it cured, re-drilling the holes, re-caulking and then saying a prayer as we won't know until we're sailing to weather again if it's actually fixed.  But I don't know what else we can do to fix it if it didn't work.  
  • Clean the stains at the waterline.  After 3 months in the Whangarei Marina in Town Basin - which has some of the most disgusting water we have ever been in - the entire waterline had about two inches of brown stain above the bottom paint.  After spending 2 hours working on the stain and getting nowhere (and about to start crying), a fellow boater took mercy on me and came over with a magic potion (also known as Marykate On & Off) which takes the stain out in about 3 seconds.  Seriously!  It's basically acid so it also takes off any wax - so only use it if you plan to re-wax!  But I almost kissed this person with the magic potion as I had been just about at my wits end on how I was going to remove the stain.
  • Prep the hull and apply bottom paint.  That means vacuum-sanding the old paint (which we had the yard do as it's a nasty, nasty job), fix and fair the joint between the keel and the boat, fix and fair any little gouges that happened in the last 10,000 miles, sand a little more and then wash off the dust and apply 2 coats of bottom paint everywhere below waterline, plus an extra coat at water line.  More on the paint we used in a future post.
The furler drum, per-maintenance.

Brett replacing the Torlon ball bearings.
  • Completely service our genoa furler - which means taking apart the entire thing, cleaning all parts, installing new bearings and re-lubing everything before putting it back together.  A total pain but boy did she purr afterwards!

  • Rebuild the sheave for our main halyard as we discovered the bushing was badly damaged.  I think it's important to note that we knew we had a problem but couldn't see it from just going up the mast, even when looking directly at it.  This is yet another excellent reason to pull the mast every so often and inspect EVERYTHING thoroughly.  It wasn't until we pulled it out that we found the bushing was almost 50% worn and barely functional.  Not cool!
  • Clean and wax the entire hull above waterline using a buffer.  Sounds easy, but actually encompassed two full days of hard labor.  Exhausting work but boy does she look pretty when you're done!
  • Clean prop and shaft and put on new zincs.  Take a look at the before and after pictures - nice! 
BEFORE: the prop fresh out of the water after
three months in mucky water - yuck!
AFTER: this is what it's supposed to look like!

  • On a rainy day midweek Brett also did a bunch of prep to re-insulate our refrigerator and freezer with expanding foam.  This meant taking everything apart (a good time since we were not using the fridge) and drilling LOTS of holes for the foam to go into and relief holes for the excess foam to come out.  More on this project in a future post...
  • Re-bedding all the tangs where the rig attaches - much easier to do when the mast is out and the rig is off! 

Getting ready to go back in.  They bring over the hydraulic
lift, but have to take off the big wheels so it can fit
under the cradle frame, seen at the top left.
That's the main list, though there were many, many other small jobs that I can't even remember.   Suffice it to say that we ended up being out for 10 days (not too bad considering everyone had bets we'd take two weeks) and we did so much work that we basically fell into bed exhausted every night.  Think 12-14 hour days for 10 days straight.  Ugh.  Cruising is just soooooo glamorous!

Here's David installing the small wheels...
But after over 10,000 miles in 18 months Bella Vita deserves some serious tender love and care.  I'm happy to report that while we spent about 3.5 months of our budget during this 10 day period (not good), we did a ton of work and Bella Vita is ready to go back out there and take us to some new and hopefully wonderful destinations.  While it's tough to know we are WAAAAAY over budget, it's a good feeling to know we've put the work in and hopefully it will pay off as we travel to exciting new places.

With the small wheels the lift goes underneath, picks
Bella Vita up, and we're soon back in the water.  Phew!
 Stay tuned for Hauled Out, Part II - what it's like to live on a boat out of the water....

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Home

After our first 15 months of cruising and landing safely in New Zealand, it was time for the crew of Bella Vita to finally make the trip home to the states to do a little visiting.

For Thanksgiving at our house we go by age - eldest first!
When we first arrived in New Zealand, to the town of Whangarei, it was a bit of a shock as suddenly we were no longer traveling in a third world country.  We marveled at the copious amount of goods that were available wherever we looked.  I almost passed out with happiness when I walked into the produce section of the local grocery and saw that not only did they have mushrooms, but I could also buy.......asparagus!!!  The colorful array of delicious looking fruit and vegetables made me feel like a nomad coming out of the desert and jumping into a swimming pool.  How soon could I start cooking?

While the youngest kids (Gwyn, Kyndal,
Lexi, Lucas and Andrew) have to sit and wait.....
While making the transition to the states wouldn't seem that different, it's a little like being in a car that rockets from zero to sixty in 3.2 seconds.  Don't get me wrong, New Zealand and capitalism are walking firmly hand in hand, but it is nothing compared to what you see in the states, where capitalism and the pursuit of entertainment have been elevated to a god-like status.

My brother Dan and wife Robyn with my brother-in-law
Scott and sister Alisa, post-meal but pre-nap!
The United States is this amazing place where virtually any item you need is just a short drive or a few clicks away.  We've all grown so accustomed to the superstores and malls that we take it all completely for granted.  But when you've been living in third world countries, it all seems wonderful and completely overwhelming at the same time.  As we made our way from Los Angeles to La Quinta we saw every store you could imagine and marveled at the purchase power of this amazing country and it's people.  We also quickly understood the expectations of our fellow drivers - which was to go FAST!  Fast is the order of the day in the USA for sure.

After the ladies did the cooking, the men have
to clean!  That's my brother Greg at the sink.
The first stop in this journey home of ours was to spend some quality time with the entire family (on my Mom's side) which included 13 adults and 9 kids - definitely a big group!  My Mom (Judy) and Lloyd love to host the family for Thanksgiving at their home in La Quinta and we were delighted to be there this year.

While we worried that going from a quiet twosome to a rowdy 21 would be overwhelming to say the least - I was pleasantly surprised at how great it felt to be among my family again.  It was almost as if we'd never been gone and it was wonderful to hang out and catch up on what we've missed with all the kids (though I'll admit pool time was still a little too much for me as it's complete chaos!).

A post-Thanksgiving football game on the back lawn.

Thanks for hosting us Teresa!
The time with everyone passed WAY too fast and soon we were off to return the car to LAX and then fly up to Seattle for a 3 week stay.  Our good friend Teresa was sweet enough to pick us up AND offer a place to stay until my brother's family returned.  We had a great weekend hanging out with Teresa and her cat Bobby, visiting some favorite old haunts and some cool new ones too.  Teresa is a fantastic cook and we have always loved to be her "guinea pigs", so with temperatures dipping into the low 20's, we had a great excuse to make a fire, have some great meals and enjoy her classic Queen Anne house - a favorite place to spend time before we left.

After my brother Greg and his family returned, we descended on their spare room, preparing for 3 weeks of shopping and a wide lineup of social gatherings.  Our calendar quickly filled - first all the nights for dinners, than it was lunches and we even squeezed in some breakfasts too.  We have so many great friends and our families also came to town, so there was a LOT of visiting to do and we didn't want to miss a minute of it.  I kept asking my sister-in-law Suzanne, "are you SURE you don't mind having us for so long???", but she aptly pointed out that we were hardly going to be there with all the things we were doing.  Good point Suz!

Ready to brave the cold for a birthday breakfast!
I couldn't believe how quickly the weeks went by.  We are humbled and amazed by the wonderful people in our life at home.  So many friends had us to their homes and it was a perfect time to share our adventures and get caught up on the past 15 months of their lives too.

Taking a break from the cold to warm up with....Fireball!
The first big highlight was a weekend out with all of my girlfriends to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my BFF Susan.  Yep, you heard it right, 20-some girls on a bachelorette party in the middle of winter with the weather in the mid-teens!  We all took the train down to Portland - which seemed a good middle ground between the Seattle and California contingents.  Suffice it to say that what happens in Portland....stays in Portland and even though it was frosty cold, we had a GREAT time.  Congratulations Susan!!!

The beautiful bride to be, our most excellent Susan!

The great Harrison feast!
Directly after the girls weekend it was time for a visit from my Dad and step-mom Linda, all the way from Colorado.  It was definitely a full house with all of us (Greg, Suzanne, their 3 girls Gabrielle, Delaney and Gwyn; Dad, Linda and Brett and I) but we had a great time and kept so busy that our time together was over when it seemed like it had just begun.  My personal favorites while we were together were buying and decorating the Christmas tree, playing liar's dice with the whole family and the dining on the Harrison customary meal of pork roast, Yorkshire pudding with gravy, and green beans cooked just about forever.  What a fantastic meal and if you're a Harrison you know it's all about the food!

Selfie with Linda!

Which one?
Trimming the tree...
The finished product!

Look at that perfect Yorkshire Pudding!
Couldn't have had a better time with this great group of people and a big thanks to Suz and Greg for hosting everyone in their house.

Next we were off to Gig Harbor (south of Seattle by about 45 minutes) to stay with Brett's uncle Ike who was hosting us along with Brett's folks - who had come down to visit all the way from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.  This is not an easy or quick trip (think a very long drive and an even longer ferry ride, than a bunch more driving), so we were very thankful they were willing to make the trip to see us. 
Siblings Ike and Bibi (Brett's mom)
Ike had the house decorated and ready for a traditional Swedish family gathering.  It was wonderful to get to spend some time with Brett's parents (Bibi and Kent) and we even got to spend some time with the world's most adorable toddler (Alrek) and his dad Leif (Brett's cousin and Ike's son).   Ike and Brett's mom put on a great meal with all the traditional fixings (meatballs, ham, potatoes, brussel sprouts and sil salad).  A big thanks to Ike for opening his home and allowing us to stay - it was great to see everyone and we only wish we'd had time to stay longer!

The traditional Swedish Christmas meal...
Three Swedes - Ike, Alrek and Leif

Expert gingerbread house decorator at work!
Soon, Christmas Eve was upon us and we had another great day with the Harrison clan.  In the morning we started a 1000 piece Santa puzzle that consumed various people throughout the day.  There was also gingerbread house building, drink mixing (Suz is the MASTER bartender and made some incredible Cable Cars - highly dangerous!) and of course food!  What kind of holiday would it be without another amazing meal?  This time it was prime rib and all the trimmings (including my personal favorite, mashed potatoes!).

Suzanne's brother Mike, wife Kim and daughter Lexi joined the fun, along with my grandpa Harry (my mom's dad) to complete the family gathering.  Much fun was had, much eating was done and we finished the night with another Harrison family tradition - the chocolate fountain.  I'm not posting pictures of that to protect the innocent....
Prime rib cooked to perfection by Suz

Greg, grandpa Harry and Stacey

Sisters: Gwyn and Delaney

Late night, but finished!
Oh - and that puzzle?  Since it was our last night there, Greg, Brett and I stayed up to 2am finishing it and the time spent together was worth every minute of lost sleep.  I can't express how grateful I am to have had so much time with my brother and his wonderful family.  You guys are the best and we can't thank you enough for welcoming us into your home. 

Alas, our time in Seattle had to end, and while we LOVED catching up with all of our friends, family and past co-workers, we were kind of exhausted and ready for a little R&R after all our running around.    So off we went back to La Quinta to spend some time at THE place to relax - Wiebe Casa South.  Our stay there was just what the doctor ordered - totally chill with a good amount of quality time with my Mom (Judy) and Lloyd.  

While most folks envision that our boating trip is comprised of the harshness of being at sea or the mellowness of chilling with a cold beverage on the beach - the reality is there is constant pressure from a long list of chores that need to taken care of.  So even when you ARE enjoying your beverage of choice, there is a mountain of maintenance hanging over your head.  Having 3 weeks to just relax and do almost nothing was a rare treat.  I can't believe how many books I read!  It was thanks to Mom & Lloyd that we were able to come home at all, so I remain eternally grateful for our time together and only wish it hadn't flown by so fast.  Thank you for make this trip home a reality - it was everything we could have hoped for and more.
Thanks Mom & Lloyd for bringing us back to visit!