Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Sanford to Stanford and back

Happy New Year, everyone, from the crew of Vector, still nestled in the municipal marina in Sanford, Florida. We are at the six-week mark in this spot, an unusually long stay for us, and we are beginning to feel restless; it won't be long before we drop lines to head back downriver, perhaps early next week, although we have not yet set an actual date.

The tree and walk-through gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel, with Louise in her festive Santa hat.

When last I posted here I was seated on an airplane headed for California, where we spent a full week catching up with friends and family. I picked up some kind of crud on the flight back (not COVID -- I've tested five times in the past week with negative results) and have been mostly out of commission since Christmas, getting almost nothing done around the boat. Some of my list will still need to be tackled before we can drop lines.

The view from one of our five different hotels, overlooking a mini-golf course I played decades ago, somehow still hanging on in the insane Silicon Valley real estate market. The hotel's property was a landscaping materials business back then.

We arrived to San Francisco Airport late enough that we headed directly to an airport hotel for the night, returning in the morning to collect our pre-paid rental car. That did not go to plan, as the car the consolidator had booked turned out to be electric. Normally that would be fine with me, but we had a planned round-trip to Monterey, and no guarantee we could charge it while we were there. After some back and forth at the counter, I ended up paying another 2x what I had already paid to upgrade to the cheapest gas car they had. This turned out to be a high-zoot Nissan Rogue which could basically drive itself on the freeway, a first for us.

This electric car hangs in one of the newer buildings on the Stanford campus.

We had left plenty of extra time in case things went sideways at the rental counter, as they did, and with a couple of hours before our first appointment, we took a trip down memory lane. Instead of the freeway, we cruised the whole way from the airport down El Camino Real, ending up with a drive around the Stanford University campus, where I worked for several years. A lot has changed since we left the area two decades ago. We also took a quick tour through the old Varian campus, where Louise worked, some of which is now home to electric-vehicle maker Rivian.

One of my old haunts, Castro Street in Mountain View, has been closed to vehicles. Fall comes to this part of California in December.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of visits. Many of our motorcycling colleagues were kind enough to switch their regular Tuesday evening dinner meetup to Wednesday to accommodate us, and our good friends Kevin and Angela graciously hosted the whole affair at their beautiful home. We're sorry to have missed the few folks who could not make it, but we had a great time catching up with those who did.

Evan summons our Waymo self-driving ride.

In addition to our round trip to Monterey and gallivanting all over the peninsula and south bay, we spent an afternoon and evening in San Francisco, where our niece now lives in a shared apartment. We enjoyed visiting one of her favorite neighborhood bars with her boyfriend Evan and taking in the view from the roof of her building before heading across town to North Beach for dinner at Acquolina. That involved our first-ever ride in a fully self-driving car; unlike our freeway-driving Rogue, which complains if you take your hands off the wheel, this car had an empty driver's seat.

My view from the back seat of the Waymo. We needed two of them to transport all six of us.

A huge storm, which had not been in the forecast when we departed Florida, hit while we were away. We're very grateful to our good friends here who checked our lines, set out more fenders, and taped up our flybridge hatch just before the storm hit, at great personal cost. Vector came through unscathed, as did the boats of our friends nearby.

The view from our niece's roof. Golden Gate Bridge is at left, Sausalito center. The Nob Hill neighborhood is to the right.

We returned to Florida absolutely exhausted, but we were able to enjoy a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at the home of Liz and Gary along with their adult children, mutual friends Dave and Stacey, and recent acquaintance Imelda. Dave fixed a nice ham along with all the trimmings for Christmas dinner aboard Stinkpot, and we generally had a peaceful and relaxing holiday all the way around. We were very fortunate to have good friends nearby for the holidays.

Cocktails at Harper & Rye, San Francisco.

I think we've hit all the other restaurants in Sanford since returning, including La Famiglia Italiana (don't bother), Christo's (hearty Mediterranean-American fare with draft beer), and Sanford Brewing (house brewed drafts and a limited casual menu). We also hit local bar Tuffy's on the evening we rented a golf cart nearby to tour all the holiday lights in the historic district. I got driver duty and somehow missed getting any photos.

We found the holiday tree and decorations right where we left them in downtown Sanford.

Dave performed at The Sullivan pub for New Years Eve, so of course that's where we were to ring in the new year, after a casual dinner at Buster's. Our marina neighbors were thus spared the mighty Kahlenbergs, which I otherwise test each year as the clock strikes midnight.

Falcon Heavy launch as seen from our deck. The photo does not do it justice; for comparison that is the nearly full moon at lower left. A Falcon-9 launched just a few hours later.

No end-of-year post would be complete without a by-the-numbers look at the past year. 2023 saw us cover no new cruising ground, came in as our shortest-mileage year ever at 3,130 nautical miles in 524 engine hours, the fewest states transited (9) apart from our very first year, and our longest-ever stay in one singe place -- the 5.5 months we spent at the shipyard in Mamaroneck, NY -- in two full decades of nomadic life.

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