Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hey guys,
Hope you all had a great Christmas! I had planned on writing a Christmas blog, but with my leaving Christmas shopping till the last minute, and also having to be working on the book right up until a few days before, I didn't get around to it. Seeing as I didn't get out a Christmas blog, I'm going to have to make this one extra good. :)

I was down in the marina the other day, don't worry, I wasn't looking for a boat, I'll make sure to let you know if that happens. But there does happen to be a shiny new red and white Open 60 sitting in the yard over in Marina del Rey and I have to say I'm a little (little is a bit of an understatement) jealous of the people who are going to be sailing her. The Open 60, O Canada, is a very different design from Wild Eyes, but none the less, I have to say that all open style boats are absolutely amazing!

O Canada just got off the ship last month and she's over here for the Transpac, of course that's not for a while so her crew won't be over here till February... maybe I could stow away on board before they leave! Well, it was quite exciting to see a boat like that in Marina del Rey. We don't often get to see boats like that around there. Alright, well enough about the boat now.

We all had a great Christmas over here. A bit smaller then previous Christmases, but a great day all the same. I'm sad to say I did not get a boat for Christmas, but there is always next year! I did, however, get a new water-proof camera, a little bit rinky dinky compared to my big 7D Cannon, but I cant wait to get it rigged up on the bow of the next boat I'm on, or get down to the beach with it.

So, now that the first manuscript is in to the publishers I have quite a bit of free time on my hands lately, a little too much in fact, enough to come up with the idea to get a bagpipe... Yep, I am proud owner of a "practice Chanter". Its what you learn to play before moving on to a real bagpipe. You may wonder how such an odd idea came about. Well, I was sitting in church one day thinking about something new I could do, something that would be fun and take up some of my free time, and the most off the wall, oddest thing I could possibly think up was learning to play the bagpipe, and so that is how it all began.

I also have some plans in the works for possibly getting into smaller boat sailing. At first I laughed at the very thought of me sailing a small boat, but as time went on the idea seemed more and more like something that could be a lot of fun. Of course, there is that ever-present problem of not having a boat, but a friend and I are working on that and are hoping to be able to get one by summer.

And so there you have the happenings of the past week of my life, definitely a bit more exciting than the week before this one! Well, hope you all have a great New Years! As Paul Wellstone said, "The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

A new year is coming and we're all going to make New Years resolutions, and I have to say, when I think of a New Years resolution, I think more of wishes, it seems that so many people want to do things but just don't get around to it (like me writing my blog). Lets do something different this year, don't be afraid to make some big goals, and to have big dreams, but lets be the people who believe in our dreams. The people who make their future their own.

Dreams are great, but they're no good unless you're going to fight to make them come true. Happy New Year to you all!!
Yours always,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Normal Life

Not a whole lot has happened around here lately. I'm working on school, and planning to take my driving permit test next week. Can you believe its taken this long for me to get around to going to get my permit!? I have to say that life at home isn't all that exciting. I miss sailing and wish that I still had a boat to get away every now and then.

I am working hard on my book right now. Its been a lot of fun having that to work on. Its going to be out in mid April and once the books out I'll probably be out doing a lot more public speaking and things like that which I'm really looking forward to. My first few speaking engagements were a little rough, which was to be expected as a slightly shy 16 year old just winging it. But I've done a bit of work and got a good collection of tips going from everyone around me so I'm really looking forward to getting back out and into public speaking a little more.

My baby brother, Paul-Louis (aka. Chuck, Charlie, Louie, or whatever else comes to mind, whether or not it can be related to his name at all) is five months old now. Its hard to imagine I have been home for that long, almost half a year! Watching Charlie grow up has been a good reminder of how long I have been home.

I keep thinking about what to do now. Of course I have planned on finishing high school before setting out on any new trips or adventures. But its been too long, and I've got that feeling you get as a sailor when you've been on land too long - life with all the easiness of being on land becomes uncomfortable and you feel almost trapped.

I know its not long before I'll have finished high school and I'll have found something new to stir up the lives of those around me.

Until then, I'd like to thank all you guys reading this for following my blog, and for continuing to support me. It means the world to know I've got you guys still faithfully following and supporting me!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NASA Visit

Hey Everyone,
Sorry I didn't finish up writing about my last trip sooner! Things have a been a little busy at home lately. We got out on the Chesapeake Saturday, the day after visiting NOAA, and we all had a lot of fun. There wasn't much wind, but it did pick on later on in the day. It was good to get out on the water, even if it was just in a Cal 22 for a few hours. We sailed around for four hours or so and then headed home.

Sailing on the Chesepeake

We didn't have anything planned for the next day, so we decided to go out to Patrick Henry College in Virginia and visit one of my friends that goes to school there. The campus there looked a bit like the University of Maryland, just way smaller. The college hasn't been
around all that long and it was neat to see how much its grown over the years and everything that the students there have done to help make it what it is today.

Patrick Henry College

Visiting friends at Patrick Henry College

It didn't take long to get a tour of the small campus, then we spent awhile just chatting with some of the students from there. We then headed off to get a late lunch and head back to the hotel. It was also my little brother, Toby's, birthday. So we went out to dinner later that night. They didn't have any birthday candles at the restaurant so Scott downloaded a candle app on his iPhone.

Toby's digital birthday candle

Next day was NASA. We spent the whole day there being shown all around.
I gave a short presentation to a room full of congressional staffers. The presentation
went well, even though at first the slides on the computer wouldn't work. It was a good day there, but rather then writing all about it, I'll post a bunch of pictures from that day.

Toby, the astronaut.

Search and Rescue Mission Team with David Affens, George Theodorakos and Dr. Chen

Tuesday was the day we were flying home, but we weren't flying home till later so we decided to head over to the Annapolis Yacht Club and look around down there. While we were over there we walked over to the the Naval Academy. That was a pretty cool to see. I wish we had had a little more time but it was getting late so we headed off to the airport. It had been a good, but long week and Toby and I were both looking forward to going home.


The NASA Visitor's Center

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 2 in Washington DC

We got up early and headed over to NOAA. Visiting NOAA was great. They showed us all the records of when I activated my Epirbs and showed how right after I set them off two satellites went over me, got my position and then remembered it and passed it down to the first earth receiving station that came in their range which was in Pakistan of all places.

They gave a talk on how the satellite system works. It was great to meet all the people that worked there and I was surprised to learn how often they had signals coming in. We got to walk all through the building, go up on the roof and see where they first get in the signals and everything.

Outside the NOAA Building

After we finished at NOAA, we headed over to the air and space museum where we spent a good part of the rest of the day. It was pretty cool place; one of the few places I hadn't been to already with all the times I've been back there recently!

Toby, me Apollo 11 and an X-15

So all in all it was a good, long day. On the ride home, Scott called around and found a place to go and rent little sailboats, so we had some fun plans for the next day. We went to sleep that night hoping the wind would pick up a little bit for our sail around the Chesapeake!


Amelia Earhart's Plane

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Week In Maryland

Its been a busy past week with me back on the east coast again. I was invited by the University of Maryland to speak at a symposium on satellite technology. There
were a handful of speakers talking about the significant things being done through satellite technology. I was there to talk a bit about my trip andhow the system worked for me, putting a bit of a personal touch on rescue technology.

U of Maryland Engineering Students

We spent the day walking around the campus there. It was so big! I've seen some big college campuses, but I think that was the biggest so far. I really liked it there and while we spent most of our time with the engineering students, I wish I had time to check out their psychology program, since that's what I would like to major in. The people there were all great and even though engineering isn't one of my strong interests, I had a great time meeting the friendly people there.

The first night that we flew in I had dinner with a bunch of young women engineering students at the University. The next day we spent touring as much of the campus as we could in the few hours we had, and then set up for the symposium that was going to be later that night. I was getting a little nervous as the room started to fill up. I only had to talk for
20 minutes and I had definitely spoken in front of more people before, but I guess stage fright isn't an easy thing to get over.

Anyway, after talking for a little bit it got easier and fun, as always, and the night went pretty well.

After everyone spoke we went and had dinner with a bunch of people from the school. It really turned out great! Thanks to everybody there for showing us around!

I traveled this time with Bill Bennett and Scott Lurie from my technical team and my brother Toby, who turned 13 while we were out there. We covered a lot in the week we were there, but that's it for now, gonna save the rest of the trip for my next few blogs! :)


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back on the Water

I'm back out on the water! I’d tell you all about the wind direction and all of that, but seeing as I'm in a 97ft power boat, none of that matters much. We left from Newport yesterday afternoon, and are on our way up to Portland, Oregon. Its been a smooth trip so far, got a little choppy last night but everything has been going well. As nice as it is to be down in a warm boat where you never have to change sails, there is something somewhat enjoyable about the discomfort and rough parts of sailing. I am little sad to say that if things keep up this way, I won't have to pull on my foul weather gear or get soaked or even crawl into any small dark spaces to repair anything. I have spent a good amount of time on power boats, but not much since I've been back. I would have to say that I think I like them even a little less than before. For a whole day straight now we have been listening to the constant roaring of the engine and I think this is driving me a little more crazy than cold lonely nights on a little sail boat.

Needless to say, I'm missing Wild Eyes and endless days on the ocean. Once we get this big boat to Oregon we’ll hop on a plane and fly back home and get back to school again. I did actually bring a few school books along with me... in fact I have a backpack filled with books. I should probably go get them out and get to work. I also remembered to bring a hairbrush this time! Although, had I not, there is a good supply of forks on board, so no big deal if it goes missing during this little trip!

Well, I wrote the last part of the blog hoping to find some WiFi during one of our fuel stops to post it, but that didn't happen, and then things on board took a bit of a turn.

The trip started out great. We were all a little tired after the first night, you know how it is the first few nights, even with a few crew you don't sleep too well. The first day and night passed uneventfully which I suppose was a good thing. All that didn't last long though.

The second day we started to have trouble with the auto pilot. I managed to fix it as it turned out to just be a problem with the settings. Later that night, I was off watch trying to get some sleep in the cabin down below when I felt the boat turning in circles. It felt so familiar I was almost happy jumping up to go take a look and see what had happened. Up on the bridge, my dad was on watch and he was hand steering. I messed around with the auto pilot settings some hoping that it was the same problem as before. It wasn't the same problem as before and after a good half hour I was out of ideas (This auto pilot could have belonged in an antique shop I might add. It was so old, I had never seen one of them before!)

Looked like we were going to be hand steering, at least until the morning when we could get a better look at the thing. Luckily, there was myself, my dad and Peter, so hand steering wasn't all that bad a thing as we had plenty of people to take turns. The weather was picking up, it had been all day and we had 6-10 foot swells coming right from behind us. Now normally this would be great, especially considering that we were going north. But in this boat, it wasn't great, in fact, it was down right awful. A ten foot swell isn't much to complain about, but Travoto wasn't exactly designed for any type of weather. The swells would catch up with us and Travoto would go sliding down the front sending us down sliding all over the place. We were surfing down so fast that the boat was plowing into the swells in front of us one after the other. You had to steer hard either way to gain any control of the boat as she went flying down.

After four hours on the helm I was pretty exhausted and good and ready for a break. The next morning we pulled into Crescent City to fuel up. A bit tired and worn out, we got a weather report, fueled and had a mechanic come out to take a look at the auto pilot and the steering. It's still under debate between the three of us why the steering was so bad. Anyway, the mechanic wasn't able to sort out the auto pilot, and didn't have much to offer on our steering problem either. We considered staying there a little longer, but we had a short weather window, and we weren't going to be finding any more help in Crescent City. We headed out again.

The day went on, the conditions picked up more and more. We decided to take one hour shifts during the night, and to keep two people on watch all night. We were in for a rough night and none of us planned on getting much sleep. It got later and the chit chat and joking around stopped as the night dragged on. We were all up through the night taking our shifts. My watch was for an hour, but things seemed to be dying down some and I was pretty wide awake so decided not to hand over the wheel quite yet. About two hours later, I handed the wheel over to my dad. He had just gotten off the phone with the Coast Guard to check on the conditions in the Columbia River.

We planned to reach the Columbia River around three in the morning, we had timed it to be with the tide so we could make it in over the sand bar. But the Coast Guard had closed down the bar due to a small craft advisory. There wasn't a whole lot we could do about that. The Coast Guard reported 14 foot swells going over the bar, not much, we had had a few swells at least that big out at sea. It was just managing to keep enough control of the boat through the narrow channel.

We started to turn around, planning to just head into it until day light. The Coast Guard called us again saying that they had a small boat out there and if we wanted to give it a try they would lead us in. It would definitely be easier having the other boat to follow in as part of our steering problem was that there was no compass on the boat. We were going off a computer hooked up to a GPS that had about a 40 second delay.

Well, we decided to go for it. We all pulled out our foulies, and headed out into the pouring rain to the bridge. It was too wet outside to bring out the computer with the chart of the marina on it, so Peter and I ran back and fourth yelling which direction my dad needed to go to stay in the channel. Surfing along, we made it over the bar and on into the marina. It was an intense few hours as we wound our way up the river. About six in the morning, we came to an anchorage where we dropped the hook planning to wait until daylight to continue on up the river.

After the engines had been turned off we all sat down below, tired, wet, cold and somewhat dazed. We eventually all made our way down below and slept for a little bit. We woke up around 9 the next morning all feeling a little better after getting some sleep. We had some breakfast and made a few phone calls and then around 11 we headed off up the river. We had a good six hours to go!

Those six hours passed by somewhat uneventfully. The steering had improved quite a bit with being on the flat river. We got up river to where the boat was going to be kept and at first we couldn't see where we were going to have to put the boat. It was like putting this huge boat through the eye of a needle. We looked at the tiny space that the owner wanted my dad to wind the boat into. I thought it was impossible, in fact, I thought it would be slightly crazy to even try and get it in. My dad did it though. Not only did he get the boat in, but he decided to back it in, and did so without Peter or I needing to fend off the other boats and docks even once. I was thoroughly impressed by that docking job. I don't know any one else that would have been able to pull that off.

It was over. We gathered up our stuff and headed off to the airport. Sitting in the airport all pretty much exhausted from all that had happened in the past few days. As Peter said, it was like living a lifetime in just four days. It was true, we had been through so much, yet we all somehow managed to bring away only the good from the challenges we experienced. Even sitting in the airport not yet recovered, we were all looking forward to the next trip.

So, that's what I’ve been up to lately. Now that I'm home for a bit I'll be back on the school books and looking forward to the next adventure, even if it is only four days long.