Friday, April 20, 2018

I joke about "the weather weasels"...


Check out the forecast for tomorrow - the area circled in red...




That isn't how "gusts" work.

;-)


Happy 4/20 Day...


No, there will not be a full moon tonight and it won't be green.

"420" is slang for lighting up a joint - started (presumably) by the time high school kids get out of detention.  As in: "See you at 4:20 and we'll get baked."

Not me... I'm high on life.

I headed out solo on the boat this morning; mostly overcast, very light breeze, and temp in the low 70s - a nice way to start my morning.  Heading out the canal...


Coming out of the canal and into the ICW, this was the first thing I saw...



Two bait shrimpers hip-tied, only one running.  One of them was having a better day than the other.

Less than a mile from home, the first dolphins of the morning...





Not a lot of activity - looks like they are feeding and resting; nice to watch them as they get their day going, too.

Looking over my shoulder...


A Great Blue Heron taking flight...


Another bait shrimper and a work boat going by...



Slowly moving down the channel, more dolphins, same behavior...


Quite a few small fishing boats (likely charters) out this morning...




Circling the island at "the Y" (Dead Pecker Island), more dolphins - this boy has a raggedy dorsal fin...


An osprey keeping an eye on things from his perch on a daymark...


Heading back towards the turning basin, another dolphin sighting...


And more working boats...




A pretty Blonde dockhand grabbed lines for me as I came back to the dock.  Rufus got some "deck time" while we enjoyed our fruit appetizer and then bacon and eggs outside on the deck.

Nice way to start the day.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

When you gotta go...


... you gotta go.

Joan asked about a trip into Brownsville today; yeah, that is "the big city," for us.  (Brownsville has a population around 200,000)  It is our closest big city, but we don't go there very often.  Amazon delivers to our house.  ;-)  Today, though, we felt the necessity to take on the traffic.

The reason?  Thanks for asking.  The cable TV on our island is undergoing a change: every TV will need to have "a box" to get the digital cable signal.  That means everyone on our island will have to go to Brownsville or Harlingen, to the Spectrum office, to pick up a box.  The change for us will happen in the next month (they just notified us yesterday) - we thought we'd be ahead of the crowd by going today.

Before leaving, I played some music for Joan and Rufus - they are both an appreciative audience...


Getting off our island is easy - there is a bridge.  The bridge opens to allow boat traffic on the ICW to pass.  This means: if the bridge is open, you are waiting in your car.  It is part of life here, so no point in getting worked up about the occasional wait.  Today, the wait was about 15 minutes - a bait shrimper was slowly making its way towards the bridge... during the wait, we had a great place to enjoy watching dolphins fishing by the pilings - two momma dolphins, each with a youngster.  No camera with us, but it made the time pass pleasantly.

Next stop: Brownsville.  We pulled up to the Spectrum office to find one parking spot available; going inside, it looked like the crowd at the DMV...


There is a place to check in as you come in the door - we were #14 in line.  A scant 42 minutes later, our name was called.  I asked the guy at the counter if this crowd was typical - "This is light.  Next month, we will be making the change for Brownsville - we're expecting 3 hour waits to be typical."

What a waste of man-hours.

Since we were in the big city, we did a bit of shopping before having lunch.  Joan found some good buys on sandals and boots for me at Academy.  I have been craving Chick-fil-a... and there was no wait there.

Back home.  Once again, we managed to make it through the border city traffic unscathed.  Whooohoo!  Sometimes you just need the outing, because... Chick-fil-a.  ;-)




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Set your watch back...


25 years or so.  That was around the time we first visited this area.  Back then, shrimping was the main industry... not so much these days.  Every now and then, we like to take a boat tour through the Port Isabel Shrimp Basin.

It was blowing in the mid-20s this morning, we predictions of more of the same through the day.  Around 2:00, I looked out and the trees weren't moving as much.  The wind was down to 18 miles per hour; checking the hourly predictions, it looked to be about that for the rest of the afternoon.  Yes, I agree - we should probably take the boat out for a short cruise.

With the wind coming from the south southeast, we decided to skip heading towards the ship channel, when we generally find dolphins.  Oh, we poked around in the turning basin, but it was still pretty choppy looking down the channel.  Still, it was nice to be out...



Upper 70s, low 80s - the neck gators we're wearing are for sun protection, not to keep us warm.

We turned the boat to the east, staying in the protection of our island...


From here, it is just a bit north to the old shrimp basin.  Along the way, these crewboats that don't seem to have moved in quite a while...


There are a few shrimpboats in this channel - used to be scads of them...



We continued up this channel a ways.  It gets narrow and there is no passage through unless you are in a kayak or a dinghy.  Some of the covered slips that are left along here...


Nothing fancy, it is a place where people can keep their small fishing boats.  We turned around and headed for the old shrimp basin.  Last year, new docks were built here - surprising, because there are hardly any shrimpboats left.  We found out it was for the pipeline operation.  I would imagine that when the LNG plants bully their way into the Brownsville Ship Channel, these same docks will be a temporary home for some of their work boats.  For now, they are mostly empty...


Those few shrimp boats that you see to the far right are being worked on.

The local economy has been transitioning from shrimping to tourism during our time here.  The changes have been interesting.  Some can only be seen from the water.  Like today.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Take your pick...


It has been a while since I've discussed guitar picks on my favorite guitar forum.  Two new picks from Charmed Life Picks arrived today... necessitating more playing time and comparisons.

For a lot of guitar players, a pick is a disposable bit of some kind of plastic used to pluck the strings.  For almost 50 years of playing, I felt that same way; mostly I spent those years going through a gross of Wabash Blue picks.  Then, about 5 years ago, I discovered that there really is a difference in the sound generated by various picks, both in the material it is made from and the thickness.

Yeah, it doesn't take me long to catch on to some things.  ;-)

For most of those 5 years, I have gravitated towards Gravity Picks (see what I did there?), in acrylic and their Gold Series, made of, technically speaking: some cream colored stuff that sounds real good.

In the last year or so, I have been using Charmed Life Picks, a "boutique" offering from one of the participants (Scott) on the Acoustic Guitar Forum.  Scott offers picks in several different materials and thicknesses.  My favorite is the N Series, made of some space age material (unobtanium?) that is supposed to sound like a tortoise shell pick.  Tortoise shell is illegal to harvest because the world is running out of tortoises... many years ago, I was given an actual tortoise shell pick and I put it aside because of all those Wabash Blue picks I had - kinda the equivalence of: I parked that vintage Ferrari I was given so I could run around with those skate boards I already had.  Yeah, I'm digressing again, but when I did pull out that tortoise shell pick about 15 years ago to use while playing acoustic guitar, I was mesmerized with how good it sounded and played.  It eventually wore out, I and looked for another... and found out you can't get 'em anymore.  Well, this Charmed Life N (for: natural) pick is pretty darn close.  Besides getting one in the natural color, I got a red one today (1.15mm thickness vs the .95mm of the natural).  These are outstanding picks - they do make a difference in tone and reduced "pick sound."  (that "clicky" sound that some picks make)

Now, if you aren't a guitar player, you probably haven't read this far.  So, here's a photo, because it is worth 1,000 words...


a - The Charmed Life Red (1.15mm)
b - The Gravity Gold (1.1mm)
c - The Charmed Life Black Series (1.0mm)
d - The Charmed Life N (natural) Series (.95mm)
e - The Gravity Acrylic (1.5mm)
f - The Charmed Life Brown Series (.75mm)

Each of these picks has a slightly different sound, and it varies with the guitar.  Since my carbon fiber Emeralds are what I spend the most time with, I logged some time with each of those picks with my X20 and X7.  My favorites on each of those guitars have been: The Charmed Life Brown on the X20 and the Gravity Gold on the X7.  The new favorites: The Charmed Life Red on the X20 and the Charmed Life Natural on the X7.

Realistically, any of these 6 picks sound great.  There are differences in the brightness and the warmth.  Also, the feel... I've noticed that the Charmed Life picks Brown and Black need to "warm up" a bit so they feel less slippery between your fingers and thumb.

For those who have never paid more than $1 for a pick, these go for a bit more.  Some, quite a bit more... from $5 to $40.  Yes, for a pick.  They wear forever.  All of them sound better and make less (or no) pick noise, compared to the more typical picks.

Just don't lose 'em.

;-)


Monday, April 16, 2018

Thriving...


Rufus was on his tower this morning, keeping track of all movements, inside and out.  I know I am biased, but the boy is lookin' good...



While he has put on weight since we first got him, his fur has gotten thicker, longer, and more luxurious.  I am crediting a healthy diet, no stress, grooming, and nearly constant petting.  And, how could you not be petting this snuggly boy?

When we first got him, there was no mane.  The fur on his back was thin, short, and felt like straw.  Now, it is thicker, longer, and feels silky.  His belly fur is so full and luxurious.

This was from when we first met him...


Yeah, that is the same boy.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Back where I belong...


No, not Bill Bailey - it was great to get back on the water today.  The wind of the last couple days eased up, and it was a lovely day out on the water.

Heading away from the dock, the obligatory view down the canal...


That view makes me happy.  Out the next canal and into the ICW - hoping to find some dolphins, but just happy to be out on the water.  Joan checking out some views on the nature side of our island...


Blooming cacti...


We live on the water, but it is a semi-arid climate.  Heading into the turning basin, we checked out some of the commercial boats currently in there...






In the Port Isabel Channel, on the way to the Brownsville Ship Channel, we saw our first dolphin...




Close (too close for the lens)...



Yeah, I really like that!  We moved south to the ship channel...


All the room in the world, and one boat has to pass another close by.  No idea why.  Looking ahead - more dolphins...





This group was more active!  Tail and belly - it's a very good day!  A group of jetskis came roaring towards us - I expected them to run right over the dolphins... but, they didn't...


One in a row! It was a group of rentals; they slowed and looked for a few seconds, then took off again.  (Paying for them by the hour ;-) )  This barge came our way...


It must be all the snow reports I am seeing from the northland where we used to live - this reminded me of a huge snowplow!  From the side...


It is full of timbers; they have been used for a roadbed by some of the heavy equipment that is putting in a pipeline south of the ship channel; helps them not get bogged down in the sand.

Back to the wildlife...






Speaking of that heavy equipment, as we got close to that operation, there were more dolphins feeding in what was being churned up by the propwash of the tug there...







Men at work...


Dolphins with South Padre Island in the background...


Face...


Dolphins with the causeway in the background...


Yeah, there were a lot of dolphins...




This shrimper was coming down the ship channel, heading for the Gulf...


We expected some bow surfing - wasn't disappointed...



Lots of photo opportunities...



Did I mention the dolphins?




Yes - tail slaps...




We headed for home... happy... glad to be back home.  A bit of bird watching on the way back in...




Home in Texas...


With the boat back at the dock, Joan put down the sun screens on our deck while I cleaned up the boat.

No, we didn't take Rufus out on the boat.  Well, not while the boat was moving - after we got back, I did bring Rufus to the boat to get a preview...


He was curious, but not fearful - that's a good start.


We've been back a week and a half, and this is the first time out on the water (other than bringing the boat to our dock from the ramp)... what a lovely day!

Oh, and the water temp: 73ยบ