Nelson

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As I write this post we are stuck in the Nelson airport for fog. It’s a small airport with no security and they have stopped all check-in. The flight board still says everything is on time, but clearly it is not.

This gives me some time to include little tidbits of things we have forgotten to include in the blog before I launch into our wonderful visit in Nelson.

Driving is going very well, and signage is extremely good everywhere. One of our favorite signs next to a rest-stop-like turn out on our drive to Rotorua said,

“Livestock effluent dump. No human waste.”

Love it!

Airport tips and bags through New Zealand.

Carry-on bags don’t really work in NZ.
First, there is no security or liquid checks throughout New Zealand so you don’t need to worry about small liquids. Second, the carry-on bag size isn’t really important. It’s the weight, which is ridiculously light 7kg (a few pairs of underwear and the vitamins). My camera weighs almost 1.5kg. We’ve transferred everything we can to our medium sized check-in bags (which should have been bigger). They seem to be making an exception for us. It’s times like these that I wish they just had a total weigh in. The traveler and bags on a big scale. We would pass with flying colors.

Onto our lovely Nelson experience.

Although the weather has not been great in the “almost always sunny” Nelson area we have thoroughly enjoyed our beautiful stay here. We landed, picked up our car and drove to the Bronte Estates. Nestled in apple orchards and on Tasman Bay our accommodations were again almost perfect. The Bronte farm has been in the family for over 100 years. They grow apples and pears and have added guest accommodations in the last 10 years.

The space-time continuum has created a wonderful surprise: delicious, crisp, fresh-crop New Zealand apples, They are coming to a grocery near you soon.

We spent our afternoon doing a bit of wine tasting and discovered we like the taste of Sauvignon Blanc. We visited the local glass gallery, but unfortunately we are so spoiled with the exceptional high quality of the work in Seattle that we were a bit underwhelmed. We enjoyed some afternoon downtime and took in the view of the big tidal shift. I caught a great photo of a bird we have never seen. It’s common name is grass hen. But it looks like a mixture of a duck and a chicken but it had great coloring black and cobalt blue with red head. Rested we headed out to a yummy dinner on the Maupa Warf at the Jellyfish restaurant . While eating we got to watch a troop of Boy Scouts getting their nighttime fishing merit badges. Complete with head lamps and great enthusiasm they were perfect entertainment.

Yesterday, we woke to pretty rainy weather for a planned kayak and hike in Abel Tasman National Park. First we headed up to the main house for breakfast. The house was quite formal and the table was set for just the two of us. We felt a bit underdressed in our outdoor adventure attire.

Well fed, we headed off to the park. The rain died down and the calm winds made for some fun sea kayaking along the coast with our guide Sophie and an adventuring young woman from Shanghai, “Eye Lee Ann.” Although Jim and I kayak quite a bit we haven’t used rudder and I liked the ease of steering that way.

We kayaked to a place called split apple rock and explored the nearby caves a bit. After kayaking back we ate lunch and then boarded our tour boat for a drop-off at our afternoon hike site. Because of the big tides the boats come close to shore and deploy a long metal gangplank.

There are no resident dolphins, whales or Orcas, but we were luckily enough to encounter a pod of 10 transient dolphins. They hadn’t seen any dolphin for over a month and the crew was thrilled.

They also love their small group of black seals. Of course this is quite underwhelming for us where seals are everywhere, but everything is relative and here in Nelson seeing a seal is a special treat.

We were dropped off at “Tonga Quarry” beach to begin a short hike south from there there to Medlands beach where we would be picked up. It was only 5 Km but as with most coastal hikes, there were lots of ups and downs.

We loved our time in this unusual and extremely dense coastal forest which included lots of fern trees and other unusual plants. We were alone most of the time only encountering very few very strong hikers with very big packs doing the longer trek. The bird songs were wonderful and the weather cooperated. We arrived at our pick-up spot about 20 minutes early and while we were preparing to stretch when we were set upon by very active sand fleas. So we waited for our boat and stretched while standing in the cool salt water which foiled the fleas.

This hike was a great little warm-up for our big, 3-day, 24-mile Hollyford Track hike beginning tomorrow morning out of Queenstown. It includes a short helicopter tour and a scenic flight to Milford Sound (weather permitting). Passover begins our last night of the hike so will will bring our Haggadah with us.

The family is spread out this year for Passover. Jasmine and James will be in CA with my parents while David travels to Charleston for business. Saul and Jess are putting on their own Seder with friends in the mountains. We wish everyone a joyful and meaningful Passover as we all deal with our own personal challenges and life lessons. Next year in Jerusalem!

We will check-in again after our trek. Until then we will have no internet or phone.

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Rotorua

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The sulphur smell of Rotorua is unavoidable. It’s so strange to be in a small city intertwined in an active geothermal environment. Steam escapes everywhere. We arrived at the Black Swan Lakeside Inn and were instantly enchanted by our host Gretchen and the lovely facility. Once again Trevor from Southern Crossings hit it out of the park!

We had been eating fish in Bora Bora and s we drove to Rotorua we passed a lot of sheep and cattle which definitely made us crave steak. Is that wrong?

Anyway after we dropped off our bags and washed up we were ready to head out to eat and Gretchen directed us to “1842” a sweet little restaurant with yummy steak!

We slept very well listening to the sounds of the lake. I have had some trouble sleeping more than 5 hours. My body clock was waking up at my normal time in Seattle so it was a relief to get some extra sleep.

Rotorua has been experiencing a drought but luckily for them we brought along our Seattle Rain Fairies. It wasn’t cold, just misty. The heavy rains and thunder storms held off until last night and today (our travel day to Nelson).

Fortified with a scrumptious full breakfast, including really good croissant, we headed out to a day focused on local history.

As we drove to the Maori church by the lake (chanting “stay left” and “turn left to left” or “turn right to left”, not to mention “oh god another traffic circle – which way are those cars merging?”) you could see the thermal steam escaping everywhere. Yellowstone National Park mixed with a small city of about 60,000 people.

The Church had beautiful carvings and another Maori war memorial and cemetery.

From there we headed to the Rotorua Museum a small collection where you learn about the healing thermal waters that drew people from all over the world both before and after a major volcano eruption in the 1880’s. They have a great little movie complete with moving seats to enhance the feeling of being in the earthquake. And the basement exhibit of the early piping systems for the mud and steam baths were really quite well done.

There is also a great Maori exhibit with both historic and modern features. The picture below of the glass sail boat is from a modern version of the Maori stories.

The museum features an exhibit of the 28th Maori Brigade that was mobilized to fight in WWII in 1939. They were sent into very difficult situations in Italy and took very heavy casualties.

After the museum we drove on to see the tallest geyser I the area at Te Puia Our guide Carla was an excellent teacher and guide. We even got to see a live Kiwi on the move which is very rare because they sleep 20 hours a day. They are nocturnal, but they shift day and night in the exhibit for our human pleasure. He geyser here goes of every hour but not at set times. But thanks to Carla’s expert timing we arrived just in time for the show. We ended with a tour of the Maori art school and watched them carve there beautiful wood sculpture.

It was about 5 when we left Te Pao for the highly recommended Polynisian spa and the healing waters. We were pretty tired and Jim who had never tried the natural spa experience was a bit unsure. But he was game for trying it. There were many pool choices, but we choose the Lakeside pools. It was fabulous, peaceful and instantly soothing. We soaked in the pools with views of the lake, flocks of birds and geysers in the distance while we watched the sunset. There were also these magical heated reclining chairs which Jim found perfect for a quick nap. Completely relaxed and healed by the soothing waters e ventured back to the Black Swan. On the way back to the stopped for some yummy Indian food that we took back to our room.

This morning we rose to another yummy breakfast before heading off by small plane to Nelson via Wellington. When I was younger I was afraid of going on small planes. I had always experienced motion sickness and between nausea and feeling awful from the Dramamine it petrified me. But that’s all gone now and quite honestly we could not do this trip if we couldn’t take small planes. It wasn’t until Scott and Jaycee Crowell shared the Grand Canyon trip by small plane and helicopter that I learned Imcould travel,like this. thank you Scott and Jaycee.

Our flight was delayed by weather but they held the connection.

Again, Trevor has found us the most charming place nestled I the vineyards of Upper Moultere by the sound. The tide is way out and will come in about 5 feet tonight. We dropped off our bags and are off to some wine tasting and art galleries with a bit of lunch.

Tomorrow we have a full day of kayaking and boating in Abel Tasman Park. the adventure continues.

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Melting through Papeete

No problem taking the boat to the Bora Bora airport. Absolutely no security, or air conditioning. But it’s quick turn around. We strategically took seats on the back of the plane so we could be the first to disembark. It worked and we were first off the plane. The airport was much smaller than we remembered. I waited for our luggage while Jim used the facilities.

I quickly learned that we had gotten off the plane on the wrong Island! The guys on the ground had a good chuckle and led us back onto the plane. We had gotten off on Morea and they never said anything about where we were landing, at least not in English and our French has not improved in 5 days.

But, no harm, no foul. We left the plane for good on the correct Island, gathered our bags and made our way for the international gates and Air New Zealand.

Unfortunately, those gates wouldn’t open for about 1.5 hours. So we ventured back to the small, hot little cafe were we settled down with a couple of cold beers, a small baguette sandwich with some ham-like substance and purchased internet. We did some texting a got to video with Jasmine and James. He thought it was pretty funny that we were in the IPad and he tried to play catch with us. The internet didn’t work vey well, but it was great to see them both.

Poor Jim had begun melting while we waited at the Bora Bora airport and kept melting when we landed in Papeete.

When it was time, we headed to security hoping we could get to a cooler place before Jim completely melted. It was strangely comforting to see the real security. Unfortunately, we had an issue with my carry-on bag due to the amazing polished conch shell that we were given as a gift. Again no harm no foul. We ended up checking it and that led us to the air conditioned cashiers room. The temporary cooling allowed Jim to stop melting. We tried to buy other things so we could stay in the cooler space, but she was pretty quick, so we ventured forth to the Air New Zealand terminal hoping for a cooler spot.

Alas, the Air New Zealand terminal is not air conditioned but it does have much better air flow. We each washed off in the bathroom with some cool water. I procured some cold diet coke (which I almost never drink, but it was ridiculously good given the circumstances) on ice (given grudgingly) and some chips so I could get some salt into Jim who was clearly in need.

It’s almost time to board and Jim is cooler and revived. We are ready to enter the space-time continuum and jump from Sunday night to Monday night in just 6 hours.

It was a long day, but we have arrived in Auckland.  We slept very well in a lovely soft bed and are ready to face the day with a quick tour of Auckland and then we are on to Rotoruaimage by car. We will have to engage  our team driving on the”wrong” side of the road.

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First Stop Tahiti

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Today we begin our South Pacific Adventure. This trip has been 7 years in the making. It was supposed to be Jim’s 50th birthday adventure, but it was not to be. Life, family, work and finances got in the way.

To avoid the long flights we’ve added stops in Tahiti the way out and The Cook Islands on the way back.

We’ve read, planned, gotten advice and packed light.

Our trip began with a joyful escort to the airport by Jasmine and James. I experienced wonderful flashback memories of taking my Grandparents, Naomi and Saul to the airport during their travel phase of life. It makes me smile with warm memories.

We will miss James so much. He will be quite the toddler when we return in 6 weeks. We’ve been lucky enough to catch him starting to walk and trying to talk (although we haven’t learned his language yet)! He’s pretty darn good at sign language though.

After a few days in Tahiti we head to New Zealand, then Australia and finally the Cook Islands. We plan to hike, scuba dive and enjoy all the adventures this part of the world has to offer.

We leave knowing that Dick’s is in the capable hands of Walt and Jasmine and Cre8ive Empowerment is going to thrive and grow under Saul and Jess.

We can’t wait to share our True Love Adventures: South Pacific Style with all of you. We hope you enjoy the blog posts!

Arrived and in our dream room over the water!
I always thought this would be cool and it really is. The Pearl in Bora Bora is truly lovely. The view and architecture is beautiful and we are floating over coral nurseries that are growing like flower gardens. It really is enchanting and certainly feeds the soul of this Pisces. I get to be one with the warm salt water and the beautiful fish!

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More Orca!

As our adventure comes to and end we wanted to share with you a great Orca video The Captain took on his Iphone.  The best part is at the end!

We are currently in Puget Sound heading for Elliott Bay.

Thanks for sharing our adventure.

The Captain and First Mate of the True Love.Image

Epic Orca Experience Foreshadowed on Dent Island

Dent Foreshadows Epic Orca Experience

I bet you are all wondering if the fishing excursion was a success.  It was!  After arriving at Dent Island Resort we supped on some lunch on the lovely view deck and then headed out with Herb.  Herb has lived in and around Dent most of his life.  He’s “Papa Bear” on the VHF radio and the winter caretaker for Dent Island.

It became very clear, very quickly why we were not catching any fish on our own.  We had no downrigger with a 10 lb weight so our lines were not going down deep enough — that of course and the years of knowledge and local experience catching fish in general and fish around here specifically.

DSC_0906Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day to be on the water and we headed out towards Johnstone Strait and then back to Fredrick Arm.  It was very quiet from a fishing

perspective.  The guides communicate via VHF and not much was happening.  As we passed other fishing boats, people were napping and dancing.  Not a good sign, Herb said.

But after about 2 hours at the head of Fredrick Arm, Herb saw an imperceptible wiggle of the line (that both the Captain and First Mate missed entirely) and he leaped into action, releasing the 10 lb weight from the line with a powerful yank.   Herb then handed the pole to the Captain and the First Mate grabbed her camera.  The fishing pole that snagged our fish was Mike Marshall’s pole.  From Billie’s fishing stories we think this is the biggest fish Mike’s pole has ever snagged.

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After a good fight, the Captain reeled our 9 lb Chinook next to the boat where Herb scooped him up with a net.  A great success!

That evening we supped at the Tapas bar on Dent Island:  an intimate gourmet affair with a remarkable view of the rapids.  DSC_0914Two of the other 10 people sharing dinner were a couple we knew from our political circles in Seattle: Mike and Kay Lester of the M/Y Anaya.  It’s a small

world.  They spend a month up in Dent every year fishing and frolicking in North Desolation Sound.

DSC_0924Dinner prepared by Chef Pascal and his assistant Misty was scrumptious:  scallop seviche and chilled watermelon soup; dungeness crab ravioli with chives and scallions; duck comfit and wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil (the winner of the night!); grilled halibut tacos; steak asparagus and chive mashed potatoes (really not necessary, but yummy); and a dessert of grilled pineapple, sorbet and cashew crumble (the grilled pineapple was a fantastic idea).  Obviously we rolled ourselves out of there very, very full.

Monday: July 29th:  Spectacular views, Orcas & Jellies

When we woke Monday morning we were still full from dinner and after an elixir and some coffee we headed to the cute little workout cabin to run on the treadmill there.  The workout cabin at Dent Island in on the water and has a spectacular north view up the channel and while running we were treated to our first view of Orcas!  Clearly we caught our fish just in time, because when the Orcas swim through, they don’t leave many fish for the humans to catch.  What we did not know is that this was a merely a foreshadowing of the “Epic Orca Experience” we would have later in the day.

After our run we soaked a bit in the hot tub before shoving off with the slack tide around 11.  We headed into Bute Inlet one of our favorite spots to enjoy the views and eat a light lunch while underway.  DSC_0946As we were cruising south out of Bute Inlet, past Sonora Island, we began to monitor “orca radio” on VHF channel 7.  Around Dent Island, there are a lot of orca tour boats, and they all share information on VHF channel 7 about where the beasties were last seen,  along with dolphin and bear sightings.  There was some talk about orcas in our general area so we brought out the binoculars and searched.

As we approached the mouth of Bute Inlet and turned south we spotted a pod of Orcas in the distance.  What we didn’t know then was that this was the beginning of a 2-hour Orca Odyssey.  A pod of five Orcas followed our path as we traveled towards south then east toward Toba Inlet and Pendrell Sound.  DSC_1186Our goal was to get to Pendrell Sound where the water is the warmest in Desolation Sound (mid-70’s) for some swimming.  We didn’t know we would be entertained by Orcas for almost half the trip.  And we had the Orcas all to ourselves – the tour boats never appeared.

The First Mate took over 1,000 photos and it took us over an hour after dinner to go through them to pick out some of the best.  It’s hard to explain in words the enchanting experience.  We were cruising slowly, listening to music, dancing in the sun and taking pictures of the orcas as the orcas swam along the shoreline on our port side.DSC_1093

At the intersection of Raza Passage and Ramsay Arm, just SE of Francis Bay, the Orcas began to frolic in the more open area.  DSC_1328We watched them jump and play and then they crossed right under the True Love before we said our goodbyes.  They headed DSC_1416 DSC_1422 DSC_1443 DSC_1444back up north and we headed east down Pryce Channel to Waddington Channel before we turned into Pendrell Sound.

Note to Saul, Jasmine, David and Baby James:  we can’t wait to share this with you!

DSC_1488As we headed into Pendrell Sound we watched the temperature in the water rise.  It briefly hit 76 degrees.  We dropped the anchor and planned to go for a swim, but then stopped.  Why?  About 20 feet down in the crystal clear water were hundreds of huge jellyfish.  The First Mate was extremely concerned. DSC_1503 But, after we watched for quite a while and confirmed that not a single one was swimming up to the warm water at the surface, we decided to take a chance.  The First Mate was still uneasy (obviously a latent jelly fish phobia) so the Captain jumped in first and after awhile we pulled out the snorkels and goggles and floated while watching the “jelly-galaxies” float below us rewarding the crew of the True Love with another enchanting, magical experience.

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After our swim we kayaked a bit and secured our shore tie with some team kayaking.  After a shower we grilled up our Chinook and said a special prayer of thanks.

Before collapsing in bed we took a look at the stars and were lucky enough to catch the space station passing overhead with its tell-tail speed and bright to fading reflection.  Life really does not get much better than this!

Tuesday July 30st:

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Our morning in Pendrell Sound began with a long kayak and then a swim before we raised anchor and headed south out of Desolation Sound.

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We ended up in a wonderful little anchorage we found last year on the north side of Lasqueti Island in a quiet little gunkhole in the Fegen Islets.

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The sounds of the wild entertained us as we watched a spectacular sunset.Eagles, herons and seagulls flew by as about 20 very vocal seals called out with strange guttural sounds and splashed in the water.

Tomorrow we will head further south past Nanaimo, through Dodd Narrows, and onto Poets Cove on South Pender Island.

Wednesday, July 31st:

After a calm and uneventful cruise we are safely anchored in Poets Cove, having dinner and drinks and catching up on our email and blog posts!  The only fun wildlife we saw today was this mother and fawn deer just south of Dodd Narrows.  DSC_1598Our plan is to chill here for a couple of days and then possibly head out to Sydney to see some friends before traveling back to the USA on Saturday.

The Captain and First Mate of the True Love!

Through the Worm Hole:

Through the Worm Hole:  From the Urban Jungle to the Secluded Marine Park

The last week has been remarkable, successful and eclectic.  I’m back to writing an update to the True Love Adventures on the south side of Octopus Islands, a small group of islands on the NE side of Quadra Island.   We are relaxed and rested.

Our vacation break in Seattle was busy.  Back at our Alpental home, the new brood of humming birds had hatched and were swarming around our feeders.  I was able to capture several good shots.

We began our “week back” with the very successful 60th Anniversary Edmonds-area High School Dance on Friday, and ended our trip back on Wednesday, helping local music superstars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis record a music video for their “White Wall” song on the roof of the Dick’s Drive-In on Seattle’s Broadway Avenue.

Thanks to Saul’s tenacious outreach efforts, we finally got in contact with the correct people and the Macklemore music video shoot transformed from idea to reality.  It was touch and go right up until the actual event.  Although it was supposed to be a secret, it leaked out and the crowds we always expected arrived early.  Dick’s was the center of attention with stories in almost all of the Seattle print, radio and TV media.  Here are a couple of links to the Seattle Times, the PI and the Capitol Hill Blog.  We even made CNN!  Jim, Saul and I weren’t done working until after 1:30 AM.

We got to sleep about 2:30 AM, slept about 4 hours, got up, did some few last-minute chores and then boarded our seaplane at the north end of Lake Washington for the flight back to April Point.  This time we flew in the smaller “Beaver” seaplane vs the larger “Otter” seaplane we flew on our trip back to Seattle the previous week.  I must say I like the Otter better:  it’s faster and quieter than the Beaver.  But I still loved the seaplane experience.  When the seaplane landed back at on our dock at April Point and we stepped out into the fresh air and got back on the True Love, it truly felt like we had been transported gone through a magic portal to a completely different space and time.  It reminded us of the worm hole in “Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.”

Needless to say we were pretty exhausted.  We only had enough energy to enjoy a light dinner at the April Point Resort before collapsing in bed.

Friday was a long transitional day.  It began with a ride on the only cab on Quadra Island to the little grocery store where we reprovisioned for the rest of our vacation.    By the time we were done and restocked it was noon.  Our goal was to reach Octopus Islands, but we weren’t sure all the tides, winds and currents would work out.  We fought a strong North-West wind all day.  It was even windy in Calm Channel usually true to it’s name, but not on Friday.  So we explored a little bay on the west side of Calm Channel.  The Captain decided to drop anchor so we could take a break while we waited for slack tide at the Hole-In-The-Wall rapids, which was our last chance to reach the Octopus Islands before dark.

It was very nice to get out of the wind and we spent a couple of hours there sunning, resting and watching two seals play “my tail makes a bigger splash than yours” in the bay.  It was a perfect break.  The strong winds were in our face again as we turned west towards the Hole-In-The-Wall channel between Maurelle and Sonora Islands.  But, we only had to travel about an hour for this leg of the trip.  It was still about an hour before slack so we were up against a pretty stiff current, but well down from the 9-knot peak.  Even so, we watched small whirpools form around us as we went through.

It was all worth it as we approached our favorite “gunk hole” (a small bay in which to drop anchor) just outside of Octopus Islands Marine Park.  The Captain and the first mate of the True Love prefer to anchor away from the crowds and even with a NW wind ranging from 20-35 knots, this little spot was perfect, with no waves and barely5 knots of wind.  An Imageeagle greeted our arrival by flying overhead and we watched as she then carried a branch to her nest in the small rocky island just in front of our anchorage.

We settled in, lit the Sabbath candles and said a special prayer for all our blessings before we had some macaroni and cheese for dinner, showered and collapsed.  I really didn’t realize how exhausted we were until we woke up 12 hours later.

Saturday has been a perfect day of recuperation.  We had a very leisurely morning, drinking in the view all around us and bathed in the warmth of the sun while we enjoyed our protective little cove.   Before kayaking we splurged on some freshly made cherry ice cream topped with organic fresh cherries.  We love making homemade ice cream on the boat.

At low tide the animals come out to the shore to forage for food and we were entertained by lots of momma and baby raccoons Imageeating at the shore as we kayaked around the islands that make up this Canadian marine park.  When we got back to the True Love we enjoyed a yummy steak “linner” with coleslaw.  During our meal we watched a pair of juvenile herons trying to fish while being taunted by a much more successful kingfisher.DSC_0831

We even fixed our water pressure device!  We brought a replacement pump with us and thanks to Ben Rhoades’ (our often mentioned boat guru) instructions and preparations we were able to swap it out with virtually no problems.  As I finish writing this entry the Captain is taking a shower and the new pump is working perfectly.

DSC_0776The soft pink in the setting sky is reflecting on the water as we end our day.  Tomorrow we head to Dent Island, an oasis of luxury in the wilderness near Big Bay.  It’s a short trip there.  We just need to leave around 9:00 AM to get through the series of rapids at slack tide, beginning with Hole-In-The-Wall.

We have scheduled a guided fishing excursion for Sunday afternoon.  The First Mate is really looking forward to a good fishing lesson and hopefully catching a big salmon or two!