Happy New Year everyone.
I don't know how many people are left that actually read my blog. God knows, I haven't written much of them this year. God also knows that I haven't fished much this year. I'm pretty sure I had at least three readers at the beginning of the year. Perhaps I now have at least two readers left. In my defense, I have some pretty good reasons for not fishing as much as usual.
Years are very long. Yet at the same time they fly by in the blink of an eye. At the beginning of the year, I was determined to make this the "Year of Adventure". Now, I doubt that it really was THAT adventurous, but I can only do so much.
Let's go quickly through the year:
It actually snowed twice in Tallahassee in January. The first storm dumped a nice coating on us. The 2nd storm was just a few sprinkles. Still, that was a pretty cool way to start the year.
I became Chairman of a technology non-profit in January.
Oh yeah, this is a fishing blog - kinda. So, some friends joined me and we made a run out to V Tower - in January! It was 40 degrees and choppy. For the life of me, I can't find the photos associated with that trip. We did catch our fair share of Amberjack and snapper though. Trust me, it was a lot of fun. The trip is documented on my site.
I had to drive to Tampa for a business trip. No big deal, right? But the meeting started at 9 am and I had a concert to attend until 11 pm the evening before. I dropped Terri off at the house around 11:30 pm and I headed east on I-10. I drove for an hour or so and said to myself, "Self, this is crazy. You should stop at the next hotel." But then I remembered that this was the year of adventure. Now when was the last time you drove long distance, by yourself, from 11 pm to 3 am? Yeah, me neither. But I put on Spotify and sang as I drove along the highway - my mental state much improved. I arrived in Tampa around 3 am in a great mood. I made the meeting at 9 am. Lost the client, but made the meeting.
One of my close friends moved to Auburn, Alabama. So I drove 5 hours to visit him. We partied, played golf, etc. It was a wonderful trip. It was just for the weekend, but it felt adventurous.
I made an offer on a new office building. My current office is 2700 sq ft. The new office is 12,200 sq ft. Big difference. Negotiations began in February and continued throughout the summer. It was not destined to be an easy purchase.
Okay, this one may not SEEM adventurous, but trust me - it was. Disney World has 4 amusement parks:
Delaney and I met up with one of my employees (Erica) and her boyfriend Josh. We started at the Animal Kingdom. Then, we moved on to Epcot - visited every country. Before we finished that park, I had to leave because I had to drive all the way across Orlando to make a dinner for my brother Pete. He was receiving a lifetime achievement award from his college. I made it to the dinner banquet, witnessed the ceremony, hugged him in the parking lot, then hauled-ass all the way back across Orlando and met back up with Delaney, Erica and Josh inside Universal Studios. Just in time, I might add, to ride the "Rock and Roller Coaster" starring Aerosmith. We rode another ride, but by then it was getting very late. 11 pm., I think.
"Time to go", I said to Delaney.
Her response, "But Dad, we haven't done the last park yet!"
Are you freakin kidding me? I was exhausted. Any other time, I probably would have said, "Forget it Delaney, the old man is tired". But then I remembered that this was the year of adventure. When was I ever going to get another opportunity to experience all four Disney parks in a single day!? So, we sprinted across the parking lot, which is like 3 miles long, got in the Audi, sped across the Disney parks and arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Everyone was, of course, heading out of the park; we were the only ones sprinting in. We made it with plenty of enough time to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain.
All 4 Disney parks in one day! Done! Adventurous? You be the judge.
Began hiring new employees
Continued negotiations, via attorneys, on the new office
Not sure what I did in April. Probably nothing.
Cameron turned 21. Oh yeah, I had a first "legal" beer with him that month:
We did have another fishing trip in May. And this was a great one. It has always been my goal to sleep on the boat offshore with my friends. Yes, I did sleep on the boat offshore once when I first bought it, but we had never really slept on the vessel during a fishing trip. We decided this year was the time.
Nice snapper Jackson.
Even bigger, SJ.
Yes, we caught our limit on snapper. In fact, we caught SO many snapper that we threw a great deal of them back. One of the places we stopped was a waypoint called "Mercedes". We quickly discovered that a Goliath grouper guarded the waypoint. Sam and goliath groupers are mortal enemies. At one point, the goliath pulled so hard, Sam went over the side of the boat. He was NOT going to let go of the pole. I turned around just in time to see Mike grab Sam's ankles. Sam was vertically upside down outside the boat with his head in the water. It was one of the funniest things I have seen on my boat.
I have a habit of "Calling the Moment" on special occasions. This picture above was my moment for the day. I almost never drink on the boat, but we were anchored; we weren't intending on leaving until morning and Gene was grilling up fresh snapper and vegetables (below). The weather was perfect. Mike opened a beer for me and snapped a photo. Love it!
See the clouds behind me in the last picture? Well, as the night went on - they grew bigger. Although there was lightning way off to my East near Cedar Key, I was never really worried because I couldn't hear any thunder. Slowly, but surely the lightning in the distance grew from the East to the South. Then to the West, and finally to the North. Once again - very far away - but we were surrounded. It appeared that there was no immediate danger to us where we were anchored 55 miles offshore, so we decided to bed down. Gene and I had hung hammocks from the T-top to the stern. It was a brilliant idea on land, but offshore as the boat rocked, I kept bouncing off the gunwale - which was annoying. As the clock hit 2 am., I tried to sleep like everyone else, but it just wasn't happening for me. Then, my hammock slammed into the gunwale as a large wave hit us. That was a little unnerving. Then, 3 minutes later, WHAM another large wave. Immediately, the temperature dropped 7-8 degrees. Nope, not gonna happen! I bolted up out of my hammock. Gene bolted up out of his hammock also.
"No sir, I replied. I got a bad feeling. We are heading North out of here".
Everyone else was asleep, but we woke them and got PFDs on everyone. I started up the boat and set a course for home.
Now here is what I want you to imagine:
- Imagine that you are on the salt-flats in Utah
- You are driving a car at 40 mph
- All of your windows are covered with a black sheet.
- You can't see ANYTHING outside the car! No moon, stars or lights.
- You know that there might be other cars or obstacles on the salt flats (i.e. crab traps), but regardless you must drive with no visibility for the next 2.5 hours to get home
- Your car is responsible for driving itself
That was the experience. It was unnerving.
Now I know what it means when pilots are forced to "fly by instruments only". The pitch black you see in my cockpit windows above. Yeah, that is EXACTLY what I see also (or what I don't see in this case). Very creepy!
Gene had been having trouble getting the radar working all day. I know, I'm the Captain and that is supposed to be my job, but whatever. Anyway, just as we get the boat going in the pitch darkness, he magically gets the radar working. The radar is on the right. The big red blob is the thunderstorm that we just unknowingly out-ran. It was moving from right to left. Had we left 10 minutes later, we would have been pummeled. Even though I couldn't see it, I could feel it. The temperature drop and the two large waves gave it away. Trust your instincts, people.
But as we head North in the darkness towards home, we see, on radar, more severe storms building. As I get about halfway home (remember we are travelling about 40 MPH in the darkness), I take another picture of the radar:
Sorry for the crappy quality (we are hauling-butt), but see the HUGE red blob on my starboard side? That is well, death. And death is approaching very quickly. It is 3 am. It is pitch black. Except for Gene who is keeping me company, everyone is asleep. I can take a chance and continue to head north to Panacea and attempt to out-run this massive storm or I can take a hard left to port and head to Carrabelle, hopefully getting in that harbor safely. I actually stop the boat to consider this. I have people's lives at stake here. Head to home port risk: We may have to go through that massive storm. Carrabelle port risk, I don't know that difficult channel and navigating it in the dark would be extremely challenging, if not fatal, in bad weather.
I decide to head home. The storm gets RIGHT NEXT TO US, then dissipates. Another storm approaches, it gets RIGHT NEXT TO US then simply disappears. We get drizzled on, but that is the extent of it.
Thank you God. I have no other words for this strange, but gratuitous phenomenon.
We arrive safely back at the Rock Landing dock at 4:30 am. I'm exhausted. We head directly to the Shak and go to sleep. Around noon the next day, we return to the dock, tell our stories to everyone at the restaurant and clean all the fish.
Now THAT was adventurous!
Where did I leave off? Oh yes:
I graduate "Leadership Tallahassee" - Class 35. That leadership program was a lot of fun as we learned a great deal about how Tallahassee works. Here is just one of our adventures (we had many):
This is me/LT 35 purposefully doing a controlled forest-fire burn north of Tallahassee. We burned 8 acres.
We successfully hired 20 new employees. Yes, we are, at this point, ALL still working in a 2000 sq ft building. We have approx 5 people per office. Things are very cramped. The single bathroom is just gross.
Delaney turns 16 and starts to drive. Now this is a different type of adventure. In all honesty, she turns out to be a very good driver.
She gets a white Hyundai Elantra for her 16th birthday.
Delaney, Terri and I take a vacation to Iceland. Cameron is unable to join us as he had just started a new job in Jacksonville and had college finals. Iceland is simply beautiful. "Breathtaking" is another perfect adjective. If you want to sip margaritas on the beach and get a tan, go to the Caribbean. If you want to hike volcanoes in 50 mph wind and 35 degree weather in their summer, see the most amazing landscapes and waterfalls you could ever imagine, hike a glacier, then go to Iceland!
Bottom line: If you want an adventurous vacation - go to Iceland! Ain't nothing easy about it.
Closed on the new office at the end of August.
We all moved into our new 12,000 sq ft office space in September. PCG up to 30 employees now!
I hit Delaney's new car with my truck and crushed the entire driver side door:
Oops. Sorry Delaney.
A few weeks later, another driver hits her car when she is drinking coffee inside Black Dog Cafe and messes up her back bumper.
Ooops. Sorry Delaney.
Delaney continues to be a good driver... Her car, not so much.
Some adventures you simply can't plan for:
Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm, bordering on a Category 5 hits shore just West of us on October 7. This storm is... pissed off! It causes complete devastation to all areas just West of us. I'm certain you have all seen the pictures on the news, so I won't re-post them in this blog. As far as we are concerned, well let's just say that as I am typing this on December 31st, I STILL have trees to chainsaw. We lose about 10 large trees in our yard. Fortunately, none hit the house. One does hit the truck but does very little damage. Unlike thousands of other people, we were very fortunate:
Tree-house takes a direct hit.
Truck takes a glancing blow.
This tree is right next to the driveway and is about 80 ft tall.
I killed my chainsaw cutting it up.
Now I have a new chainsaw.
The new chainsaw and me - best friends.
How did the Shak and marina at the coast fare? Well, not so good. Have you ever cleaned mud out of an entire building? Yuck! Smells like low tide. We had to remove everything from the Shak, then squeegee out the floors, spray bleach on everything, remove all the cabinets, etc. We lost the refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, air conditioners, heaters, cabinets. Well, just about everything in the Shak. Still, we fared better than most people.
Yes, that is mud. Thanks for all your help, Gene and Tommy.
The marina floors looked just like mine. Nasty!
Everything has to come out.
And I mean Everything!
We had to demolish and remove all the kitchen cabinets because they were full of saltwater and roaches.
But the Shak will survive and be ready for Spring fishing! The place even has central heat and air now!
The floor survived, although the seams separated somewhat.
Fun Halloween/costume party at the new office:
Started restoring the Shak:
The Shak kitchen, almost back to normal again. Instead of pressed wood cabinets, we went with stainless-steel tables. Much easier to clean if it ever floods again.
One of my administrative staff members (Grace) is an excellent runner. She has completed many marathons. She mentioned that there is another half-marathon in New Orleans in February, 2019. I have never run a marathon, so I started training in November. Three months isn't much time to train, but I am up to 18 miles per week. Well, at least I was until this week when I pulled a muscle in my hip (okay buttocks) and now I am struggling to walk with sharp pains going down my leg. I am awaiting an appointment with a chiropractor. I don't give up easy though. You can be assured that I will return to running soon because I'll be extremely disappointed with myself if I miss this half-marathon due to an injury. Besides, I already bought the ticket and made the hotel reservation. A few selfies of me running around town:
I turned a year older in November. 53 now. Ouch.
I am no longer the Chairman of a technology non-profit.
Christmas employee stockings at the new office. There are some creative people who work for me:
Lucas is Delaney's (very tall) boyfriend.
So that about wraps things up. No pun intended.
It is New Year's evening.
It is 11:30 pm.
Cameron and Delaney are at parties.
Terri is asleep in her chair.
I have just spent the last four hours summarizing the entire year.
I intend to press the Publish button in exactly thirty minutes.
All in all, I suppose it was a pretty good year. I purposely set out for this year to be adventurous, but I don't have a personal theme for next year. And no, I don't have any New Year's resolutions. Fix my buttock and run that damn marathon, I suppose!
Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for reading.