This Eletter with all the links to incredible award-winning photos is at:
The last eletter left us in Titusville staring at launch pad 39B. Shuttle mission STS-116 was sitting there waiting for a weather window. Our eventual vantage point was away from Titusville and the lights of the bridge and turned out to be excellent. The launch pad was lit up at night and beautiful through binoculars, and the assembly building looked close (turns out, it was FIVE MILES away- one BIG building!). We used the delay in launch to explore the Kennedy Space Center and offsite museums; this was a personal childhood dream, for I was born at the dawn of the “space race” and followed every step from Mercury through Apollo to the modern Orion vehicles.
What a treat to walk the Space Center, ride out to the launch pad, and actually see the rocket just hours before people would ride it into space. Reliving the excitement of my youth, and feeling the pain of the tragedy that took my ‘friends’ Ed, Gus, and Roger in the Apollo fire was very emotional.
I rode in a centrifuge [not my first time] and got to go right up to the launch platform, the crawler transport, launch control building, and of course, the giant assembly building. I will not waste bandwidth here describing all these things in detail as the NASA website is excellent, but I will whet your appetite for this experience and perhaps entice you to make the worthwhile trip to Cape Canaveral with these tidbits:
The assembly building was the most voluminous building in the world and its HVAC system must cope with unusual problems such as prevention of interior cloud formation and RAIN!
The launch platform is the base upon which all the shuttle components are put together in the assembly building to take to the launch pad; It is the same one used for the Apollo missions - reconfigured for the shuttle.
The crawler transport fits under the platform and hauls it to the pad at 2MPH [takes all night]. It gets 35 FEET / gallon. The old one has 2500 MILES on it!
Launch control at Kennedy is only in charge for countdown & ignition. Once the vehicle clears the launch pad tower [6 seconds into flight] control is transferred to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The night launch was spectacular. The photos do not do it justice – it is an awesome feeling to be there. At ignition, the whole sky lit up BRIGHT all around but completely quietly. As the shuttle cleared the tower and Houston Control took over, the water suppression of the assembly platform ceased to muffle the sound, and it roared to life. The flames and smoke and sound were in full effect as it rose into the night. The thrust of the solid rocket boosters and the main engines were visible for a while after launch, and the smoke trail crossed the sky. We watched it become but a dot for a long time, but the clouds obscured the view enough for a good photo of separation.
The STS-116 crew took pieces of the ISS with them, installed them and did extensive work on the infrastructure of the station. Bob Curbeam was the main mission specialist and performed extensive electrical work on the station, even being forced to adlib on an extra spacewalk to fold up an old solar collector. (He now has the most extra-vehicular experience of any astronaut!) He has what would have been my dream job if the program had moved forward at a faster pace; I attained flight status and the highest security clearances in the USAF, and studied electrical engineering and became a Certified Master Electrician with a goal in the back of my mind to assemble power-generation satellites in space. Alas, we have vast power requirements in the US and abroad, but mostly destructive and unclean ways of production. The powerplant satellites I dreamed of putting together [will] be huge and provide lots of clean, renewable power for decades with minimum maintenance.
We are not yet in enough dire straits to go for this – I guess more generations must suffer the cancers and deaths caused by fossil fuel usage.
We spent another month along the East Coast of Florida, visiting the Bales and our Wisconsin friends in Vero Beach the Yunkers, seeing unusual boats (one old friend, Blue Moon, we anchored next to for three days in Chicago on 11-13 September 2001), backpackers from everywhere, millions of migrating ducks [from Wisconsin, eh?], and someone having a bad sailing day.
Besides day trips with the Bales, Chuck came with me for a nice day on the ocean taking Windigo down to Miami. He needed to crew because Karin had returned to Wisconsin to spend the holidays with family. I needed Windigo in Miami because that’s where the Good Doctor was flying into for another Windigo adventure. Yes, Sandy Baim did not have enough sailing excitement on his last voyage [SEE: CHARLEY!] and came down to visit the Bahamas. But alas, the weather did not cooperate and our attempted Gulf Stream crossing was aborted after a few hours.
We returned to Miami and the Hawk Channel and made our way to the Dry Tortugas once again, sans hurricanes! We enjoyed many days and nights at sea, and a complete visit to Fort Jefferson. A mostly uneventful trip, if you leave out the snagging of the crab trap float line during our return; which the Good Doctor made quick work of going over and cutting loose. After a week of relaxation and good food, we pulled into Miami to get Karin from the airport. Once back on the boat, we began preparations for the voyage to Bahamas. These tasks included renewing drivers licenses, complete continuing education for my Master Electrician Certificate, getting a physical for the renew of my USCG Master Document, and a bit of system maintenance on Windigo.
Now we were ready . . . to go BACK up to the Bales for their SuperBowl Party!
On our return to Miami, we were kicked out of our anchorage in Ft. Lauderdale after three days when we had just spent 10 days there a month ago. A foreshadowing of terrible things to come for Florida and the US.
Our very first fouled anchor was experienced, but because we use a 70# claw with 3/8” chain, even this disaster held us for three days! Note: We had a tree on our ground tackle in Ashland City, TN in October 2001, but this latest foul only involved our own ground tackle [and a Mardi Gras necklace!??]
We sailed past a YACHT which was hosting a party – shuttling guest to-and-from the airport in their helicopter. Nice dinghy. We also passed on the Miami Boat Show; we have been to DOZENS, I have even worked a couple for Lats & Atts magazine; and it was like $50 to get in!
A final 4 days at the Rickenbacker Bridge near Key Biscayne to fuel up and provision allowed us to watch international Olympic Class sailing. Several types of boats from many countries were on the Bay, and we even walked over to their base to watch the activity. The 49ers were very exciting to watch. Teams practiced maneuvers again and again among all the traffic on Biscayne Bay- what good athletes!
With Windigo ready, we weighed anchor and spent a day floating south on 4 to 6 knots of wind to Carysfort Reef, miles south of Miami. This gave us a good angle to reach Bimini in The Bahamas while encountering the Gulf Stream, the largest ‘river’ in the world. Some 11 billion gallons a second flow through the Straits of Florida and this 3+ knot current affects the navigation of any vessel in its path. Although the adjustment south added 15 miles to the route to Bimini, we still completed it easily in one morning.
Next time = Why does everyone in Bimini want to be like an American?
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Capt.KL & Karin Hughes
S/V WindigoIII • PMB 365
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