Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tall Ship Battle Sail!

The Lady Washington - a replica of the original brig from the late 1700s
I have to tell you up front - this is not a budget trip, but it's a great trip and you can budget for it!
Last weekend I returned to the Tall Ships at the Port of Redwood City with my son. We went on a 3 hour battle sail and it was awesome.

 Calm Waters

We sailed on the Hawaiian Chieftain and our "opponents" sailed on the Lady Washington. We motored further out into the bay, then they shut off the engines, unfurled the sails and began maneuvering for position.

Maneuvering To Take A Shot

Each ship had one gunner who loaded powder into small but authentic cannons that were capable of shooting 3 pound balls. Of course they didn't load any ammunition but the powder and subsequent blast were authentic and extremely loud! As one crew member warned, if you made the mistake of not plugging your ears, "you'd never hear in that frequency again!" He was right. I purposely didn't plug my ears one time and afterward it felt like both my ears were plugged up. Luckily it wore off in about 10 minutes.

The Gunner

Tamping Down The Powder
Real Cannon That Would Shoot a 3 lb Ball (if loaded)

Most of the passengers stayed in the stern (back of the ship) where there were benches for seating. My son and I preferred the bow (front). The water was calm, like being in a bathtub, and because it's the bay off the port of Redwood City, it is almost always that calm. No seasickness to worry about!

Thoroughly Enjoying The Battle

Happy Mom

The fresh air felt great; I never got tired of admiring the Lady Washington (our opponents ship), or looking at the rigging and sails of our Hawaiian Chieftain. The crew were very friendly and professional; it was fascinating to watch them work the ship, and of course the "battle" was a lot of fun. I highly recommend this trip.

Using All Their Weight

Pulling Fast

Climbing High

The Captain, First Mate and Awestruck Passenger

If you go:
  • kids must be able to follow directions and stay out of the crew's way. They also have to like loud noises and bangs (plug your ears!).
  • The Tall Ships will be at the Port of Redwood City for one more weekend - Battle Sails March 29 - 30, 12 - 3pm. Then the ships move up to SF where you can try an Adventure Sail.  But don't worry! The ships travel up and down the West Coast; keep checking the schedule to find out when they will return.
  • Tickets for the Battle Sail are $63 adults; $53 students with ID, seniors (62+), active military; $43 children 12 and under.
  • Proceeds from these public sails go to the Grays Harbor non-profit educational programs for students (field trips).
I hope you can go - dress in layers, wear sunscreen, bring water, a camera and have fun!
Wrapping Up

Homeward Bound

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tour The Tall Ships!

Tall Ships: Hawaiian Chieftain

The Tall Ships are in town! In Redwood City, in the Port of Redwood City, to be exact. I went yesterday for a dockside tour and I highly recommend going while there's still time.

What are the Tall Ships, you ask? They are the Lady Washington - a brig that is a replica of the original ship that existed in the late 1700s; and the Hawaiian Chieftain, a topsail ketch "built in 1988 and originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands."

Open For Tours
The ships are currently owned by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority whose stated purpose is to 'bring maritime history to life aboard their two tall ships.' They are based in Aberdeen Washington, but run up and down the western coast offering educational programs for students, public Adventure Sails, Evening Sails, Battle Sails, and much more.

For a $3.00 donation, you get to go on a dockside tour and see this . .

Adjusting a Block

Stern View

Tall Ship Rigging

 . . meet friendly, knowledgeable crew members -

Dressed in 18th Century Style Clothing

Combing out the Baggy Wrinkles to make the chafe gear softer.

The Fuzzy Things Are Baggy Wrinkles. They keep the lines from chafing against each other.

. . and view details like this . .

Lines, Not Ropes (I think I'm right about that).

Anchor Contraption (please don't quote me!)

I'd never been to the Port of Redwood City before. I found it very quiet and peaceful.

Yacht Club and Lawn

Harbor View

If You Go: The Tall Ships will be in Redwood City through March 30th. Then they move up to Pier 40 in San Francisco through April 6th. Check their schedule to see the complete list of times and different kinds of tours.

To Get There: From the south, take 101N and exit at Seaport Blvd.
From the north, take 101S to Woodside Rd/84W and merge onto Seaport Blvd.
Seaport Blvd. runs into the harbor/port. Make sure you go left at the sign toward the Port of Redwood City and not the harbor (like I did of course!).

Go Left Toward The Port
Drive to the Yacht Club and park (parking is free, at least the day I was there).

Yacht Club
Then walk toward the unmistakable masts of the Tall Ships and follow the sign to board.

I enjoyed myself so much that I'm planning on returning for the Battle Sail. It's not exactly budget, but you can budget for it! I will blog about it next.

And One More Thing: If you enjoy stories about ships from the late 1700s - early 1800s, I highly recommend reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels. The stories are terrific, the main characters endlessly compelling and the action is authentic!  You may have seen a movie they made based on the series - Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe. And by the way, it's also a great movie that did justice to the books.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, March 10, 2014

San Francisco's Special Jewel - The Conservatory of Flowers

from their facebook page
Conservatory of Flowers - photo courtesy of CF's Facebook page

On a rainy wintry day (actually, it's sunny right now), what better place to warm up than San Francisco's Conservatory Of Flowers, located in Golden Gate Park. This Victorian wood and glass greenhouse first opened up to the public in 1879. It's gone through many re-births, and most recently, was re-opened in Sept. 2003.

The Conservatory has four standing exhibits which include rooms devoted to Aquatic Plants; Highland Tropics; Lowland Tropics; and Potted Plants. It also has a changing Special Exhibit.

The Aquatic Plants Exhibit shows water lilies - including one that can grow up to 6 feet in diameter!

I don't remember which exhibit this plant was in, but they're all great!

I'd say the most exciting exhibit is always the Special Exhibit, which runs for a limited amount of time. My family and I have gone to the Conservatory a couple of times, and because of the changing special exhibits, we know we will return again. The last time we went, the Conservatory was running model trains through a recreation of San Francisco's Barbary Coast. They did a great job entertaining and educating their visitors.

They even had some special effects . .


 The current exhibit, which runs through March 16th, is called Butterflies and Blooms. Visitors can share space with butterflies that are flying around a greenhouse garden. The next special exhibit, called, "Chomp! They Came From The Swamp," runs April 11 - Oct 19th, and features carnivorous plants.

Admission is cheap: $8 for adults or $5 for residents of SF; $5 for seniors over 65 and youths 12 - 17; $2 for children 5 - 11; and Free for kids 4 and under.
Hours of Operation: Tues - Sun: 10 - 4:30 (last admission at 4) and Free 1st Tues. of every month.

If You Go: On Sundays, please note that John F. Kennedy Drive is closed within Golden Gate Park.

If you bring young children: Greenhouse temperatures can exceed 85F, so do not overdress your children and babies. I'd also recommend bringing some water.

This is a great budget trip - as long as you can take public transportation or find cheap parking in SF! Also, bring a lunch! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Tuesday - Sunday: 10am - 4:30pm (Last entry is at 4pm).
Monday: Closed, except Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- See more at: http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/visit/hours#sthash.byXIhlKY.dpuf
Tuesday - Sunday: 10am - 4:30pm (Last entry is at 4pm).
Monday: Closed, except Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- See more at: http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/visit/hours#sthash.byXIhlKY.dpuf
Tuesday - Sunday: 10am - 4:30pm (Last entry is at 4pm).
Monday: Closed, except Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- See more at: http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/visit/hours#sthash.byXIhlKY.dpuf

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Tips From A Napa Trip

Proud Of Their Dad

Our family recently went to the Napa Valley to watch my husband run a marathon. It was great fun, but didn't make the best material for a budget day trip. However, I can pass on three tips:

Tip #1  If you're driving north to Napa along route 121, just south of 116 is a terrific fruit stand called The Fruit Basket. Not only do they sell fruit that is fresh and abundant, they also sell packaged nuts, candy, trail mix, dried fruit, granola, beans, pasta, jam, bread . . You can really stock up here and the prices seemed right.

The Fruit Basket

Quite A Variety!

Tip #2  The Chablis Inn at 3360 Solano Avenue, Napa, CA, is a very good budget hotel. They just replaced all their mattresses and pillows with new ones, and I can testify that our queen size bed was very comfortable. This wasn't a pretty hotel, but it was comfortable and clean, and the price was good. So if you want to go the budget route, I recommend the Chablis Inn.

New Mattresses And Bedding!

Tip #3  I've saved the best for last. My two kids really didn't want to share a bed, which is understandable as they are now ages 12 and 10. So my ingenious solution was for my son to bring his sleeping bag; then at the the hotel, I untucked half the sheets and covers on the kids' mattress and pushed them to one side of the bed. We placed my son's sleeping bag on the other side - sans sheets/covers. My daughter got to have all the covers - no sharing - and my son got his sleeping bag on a comfortable mattress, with a hotel pillow. Guess what? They didn't fight over the covers, they each stayed on their side of the bed (it's hard to stretch out in a sleeping bag) and they slept great! My son says, I'm a genius, and in this case, I have to agree with him.

Happy Children After A Good Night's Sleep

So if you go the budget route in Napa, I hope these three tips help. But honestly, I think the Napa Valley is a trip that's best for adults, staying in a non-budget B&B, doing some non-budget dining and wine-tasting. Well, we can dream, can't we?

If you have some tips for traveling with children in the Napa Valley, please feel free to share them in the Comments section! Thank you.