Random musings, observations, squeaks, whimpers and perhaps the ocassional rant. About what, I'm not sure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Activations...

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in the Gulf states tonight. We got a taste of hurricane damage last year with Jeanne and Francis, but nothing like the devastation Louisiana and Mississippi are dealing with. I think where its taken a year for things to basically get properties back to normal here in South Florida, it will be years before the recovery and relief efforts wrap up for Katrina along the Gulf and beyond.

There are two local impacts I thought I’d share tonight, both having to do with friends helping with Katrina. First, my friend and our local Fire Chief Tom Billington is one of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association representatives for ESFs 4 & 9, (firefighting and search and rescue) and was activated on the weekend to pull duty in the State of Florida Emergency Operations Center (EOC). I’ll bet they’re scrambling up there to identify needs and task resources to support multi-state search and rescue, assessment and recovery missions. One of the great things about coordinated and integrated emergency management is the ability for command personnel and activities to occur in a “unified command” arrangement, where subject matter experts collaborate to prioritize and focus resources where they’re needed. Hope his work is going well…

EventmakersOn another front, my friends at Eventmakers have a disaster relief and recovery contract with Florida Power and Light, under which they mobilize resources to provide tents (they have the largest portable tent inventory in Florida), tables, chairs and other support gear along with catering and staffing to provide food for FPL’s massive storm response teams. Its a huge and very highly specialized job, but they’ve done it for years and are probably the best in Florida at it. Before the storm hit land, Eventmakers was already staged for deployment, with all the gear and food they needed to support FPL ready to go. FPL pulled the chain today around 10 am, and by 6 pm Eventmakers was serving hot food in Homestead. Unbelievable.

Its hard to imagine the magnitude and significance of impact from this storm. Personal, professional, commercial and economic impacts are huge, and in my opinion won’t be fully understood for a very, very long time.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricane Hell...


Thoughts and prayers are with friends and acquaintances in Gulfport, New Orleans and Pensacola, and all who lie in the path of Hurricane Katrina.  Obviously the hurricane is huge, severe and is hauling hell with it.  If you’ve not evacuated by now, I suppose you’re probably sheltering in place.  If you haven’t done so as yet, seek shelter.  Now.

Progress in Site...

Still playing with a new layout for the Jungle Rules website, but we’ve put a new look and up a few new pages including one with a video/slideshow of August’s trip. More photo galleries, another (downloadable) slideshow, and screensaver download or two are all planned, along some background on the boat, the crew, etc. Probably some background/info/photos of the Marriott and marina in Los Suenos, and the same for the Flamingo Marina Resort (which, ironically, no longer has a marina), which are the places we typically stay.

We’re also going to add a “getting ready” page so Keith can have a reference for his guests, friends and family that might use the boat. You don’t have to know a lot to come to Costa Rica and have a good time, but a little planning in terms of what to bring and what to expect will go a long way. We’ll probably also point to or incorporate content from some other sportfishing-focused sites, so if you know of worthy candidates, feel free to make suggestions.


Trying to talk Keith and Jamie into a little blog action to serve as the Jungle Rules fishing report. Don’t know that either of them will have the time or motivation to keep it up, even if I get it all going. We’ll see – maybe Jamie can phone in reports when he’s in-country and I can post on upgrades/updates to the boat (several are planned, although the Gamefisherman is awesome the way it is). Seems like it would be a good way for Keith to keep his boating friends and family up to date on the Program.

Anyway, more to come. Check out the Jungle Rules site if you have minute, and as always, constructive criticism always appreciated.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

More Nextel Sucks-age...

SuckageHow does Nextel stay in business? This hasn’t gotten any better since the last time I ranted about it… Maybe the radio aspect of the system works in some places, but it doesn’t seem to work reliably anywhere near me. I’ve just about given up on the whole thing and am ready to move my number – hmmm, move it back to AT&T (which doesn’t really exist anymore), or to Verizon (they have a push-to-talk feature, but I only know three people on it), or go somewhere else.

Wish I’d never left AT&T, given that the main reason for doing so was the convenience of the radio. Now I find that a) I’ll start a conversation on PTT or someone will start one with me and we’ll wind up on cell anyway since it doesn’t work worth a crap, and b) people have a tendency to try to reach you on the radio, and when they don’t they don’t follow up with a cell call and leave you a message.

Bah hum-bug. Nextel sucks… still.

Farewell to Another Friend...


Three weeks ago we lost our faithful pure bred Yellow Lab, Dakota.  His health started declining about two years ago, but he was comfortable with medication and lived a pretty normal life until July, when his maladies started to compound.  All it took was the vet’s comment “he’s in pain now and it won’t get better”, and we had to make the decision to put him down.

Dakota was the best dog I’ve ever had, and one of the smartest I’ve ever met.  Our vet, Doc Smith at Hobe Sound Vet Clinic commented once that he was probably started in the Guide Dog program when he was young… he had some very particular and somewhat peculiar behaviors that indicate he was trained for and that mimicked Guide Dog skills, but this isn’t something his previous owners passed on.  We got him when he was two, from a family that got him from his breeder about 6 weeks before (the breeder was moving out of the area and couldn’t take him along).  Unfortunately, the short-term owners found out their toddler had an allergy to dogs, which made for a tearful farewell for them but good fortune for us.

When you have a pet its not like you don’t know from the start that its not forever, but its not something you think about much, and certainly not dwell on.  There’s nothing like coming home from a hard day and being greeted by a friend that’s always just as glad to see you tonight as the first time, wants to play, and gives back as much as he gets or more.  that’s all hard to find in people, and so easy to find in a good pet.  We all miss him, but we’re really grateful for having him choose us as family in the first place…


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Looking Through the Lens...

LensBroke down and bought the Tamron 18-200 Canon-mount lens this week for my Digital Rebel XT.  Its awesome… much better than the Canon kit lens.  I do business with Dennis and the gang at Stuart Photo on these kinds of items – I might spend a few dollars more than buying online, but the customer service is amazing.  If I have a question or concern, or want a hand sorting out what to buy and what not to buy, I always get honest advice.  They’ve been in Stuart forever (since the early 70’s, at least), and have an amazing reputation – way beyond the small amount of business I do with them.  If they don’t have it they can get it, and the price never seems to be more than a few dollars above the cheapest online price.

This lens should be a great asset on the next Costa Rica trip, but also for my work and for all around shooting.  With an effective range of around 28–300 mm, I don’t expect it to come off the camera very often.

Off to do a little testing, run by Lowe’s for some home project supplies, and then I can see a cerveza and pool duty in my near future…


Sunday, August 14, 2005

On the Rebound...

Keith’s headed back to Flamingo for Labor Day weekend – he’s bringing his 10 year old daughter for her first ever daughter/dad offshore fishing trip. I may join him with a kid or two of my own if I can get away and the flights are not horrendous. Either of mine would really enjoy the trip for their own reasons, but I don’t know that a trip with both of them over just a couple of days will offer enough variety to please both, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

It would be awesome if I can work it out… Leeann’s probably the better candidate, since she’s taken 4 years of Spanish and we could see if it pays off at all (grin), but she doesn’t have a passport and that could be a problem. Jonathan would freak at the waves and the fishing, all in a good way.

The lodging should work out better cost-wise this time – we met a family from Minnesota that owns two condos at the same place we stay at and the cost renting from them is at least a third lower than taking a place through the Resort, with all the same amenities. And, there are a number of good house rental options within a 5 minute drive from the boat. Buena suerte there, for sure…

Friday, August 12, 2005

Back from Costa Rica...

Trip to Costa Rica was AWESOME.  I didn’t have any real Internet access there, so I did up some postings in BlogJet and now will post and backdate them for the days written.  It will be a little funky, but you’ll get the drift…

While I was gone, news reached me of a tragic accident involving a friend from the local FD.  There was a freak boating accident involving some firefighters, and one of them, Battalion Chief Chip O’Hara was killed.  I’ll post on it later.  What a tragedy.  I’d like to offer my condolences to his family and friends, which include over 250 members of Martin County Fire Rescue.

I thought about Chip this morning, and then this afternoon read the following piece regarding FDNY release today of transcripts of 911 calls and firefighters' oral accounts:


“Pursuant to a ruling issued by the New York State Court of Appeals on March 24, 2005, the Fire Department today is releasing additional records related to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. In accordance with this ruling, these materials are being released with appropriate redactions provided for under the court’s decision. Prior to the court’s ruling, the Fire Department voluntarily provided numerous materials related to the attacks. The Department believes that the materials being released today – including oral histories and radio communications – will serve to further confirm the bravery and courage of our members who responded to the World Trade Center. It is the Department’s hope that the release of these records will not cause our members and their families any additional pain or anguish.”

911I’m sure these materials will cause at least a little more pain for those most intimately affected by 9/11, but I hope there are still lessons to be learned from the events.  I’m interested in the first-hand accounts as reported to the FD’s own folks, which I think will have a different flavor than media-captured events.  No info yet on how to obtain the materials, but I’m sure its a load of stuff, hopefully already in an electronic form.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow...

Here we are… its Sunday morning, and we’re steaming out for the last outing of the trip. Its a bright sunny day with just a bit of morning cloud cover in spots, which will probably move on and burn off before long. The seas are calm, and we just passed the rock outcroppings that ring Bahia Portrero, where the town of Flamingo is. We call the rocks “Seahenge”, since they look a lot like Stonehenge when you pass them.

On my first trip to Costa Rica, a couple of years ago, we spent a few hours riding around the bay and got close to the rocks. They’re huge - one of them looks just like a mountaintop sticking 300 feet or so out of the sea. Which, when you think about it, it is. The other rocks are smaller and dispersed over a half mile area, and when you’re close you can see all manner of caves and cutouts, some cutting all the way through the rocks, and big enough to drive a tractor trailer through.


The last day of a trip/vacation is the hardest, I think. Its hard to keep thoughts of “the world” from creeping in and stealing away part of the fun. Back to work thoughts, the stuff to do at home, touring colleges for Leeann… its all waiting for me when I get back. The travel day never seems as bad to me for some reason - maybe because I expect to be thinking about all those things. But, the trip doesn’t end until tomorrow, so today I’m taking photos, editing a slideshow of stuff I’ve already shot, and working on redesigning the Jungle Rules website. Should be a fun day…

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Saturday Night Special...

Its Saturday 6 Aug, and our second to last day of fishing for this trip. Our usual Flamingo routine... anglers up at 6 (crew up at 4:45 and heading for the boat by 5:15), coffee at 6:45 and on the beach waiting for the water taxi by 7.

While waiting we saw the fueling operation in action. A fuel truck parks on the road next to the beach, and stretches several hundred feet of hose over the beach and out to the boat to be fueled, which idles around during the procedure. Something to see - one of the things that makes fishing Flamingo all about the logistics. When they’re working, they work well. If you’re not prepared and they’re not working, you’ll get your ass handed to you. Needless to say, Jamie was well prepared and it was smooth sailing for us, so to speak. Logistics is one of his real strengths - thanks Jamie.

Pacific Sailfish

The day’s fishing log…

Ran up to the northwest about 20 miles, lines in around 8 am. Jamie ran until he saw a couple of Pacific Sailfish swimming around on top close to the location he was looking for. Tried them – couldn’t coax them to bite.

At 10:15 a nice Blue Marlin came up in the spread. Piled on the left long teaser, sniffed around Keith’s bait for a few moments, and then took off. We teased the fish back into the spread once, but no bite. Jamie estimated the fish at about 200 lbs. Nice fish.

Lazy Sailfish bite around 11:30. Its plenty hot by now (about 98 degrees without the heat index), but the fish wasn’t… just sort of slid into the spread, chased the left teaser a bit, but then took a look and turned his nose up on the ballyhoo. Didn’t come back.

That was pretty much all for the day. But, that’s fishing. I took advantage of the time to start putting together a slide show as a prototype for one Keith wants once we’re home, and to edit some logos he’s had for the boat for awhile. Passed the time, and was a productive effort at the same time. Nothing like a fully air conditioned salon and 110 power, brother

All for now. We’re on the water hose mooring in Flamingo, the sun’s setting and the crew’s in washdown mode. Keith and I will hop off in a few minutes, hit the grocery to re-provision the boat, and then I hope its a leisurely evening and a good sleep before fishing our ever loving asses off tomorrow - our last fishing day for this trip.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Das Boot...

In case you’re curious what we’re fishing on, this is the Jungle Rules. Built in Costa Rica, the boat belongs to Keith and Lauren Carroll of Stuart. Very pretty boat – great to fish from. Much more comfortable and practical for sportfishing than Keith’s previous Costa Rican ride – same manufacturer, but it was a few feet smaller in length, and laid out entirely differently.

Jungle Rules - 42' Gamefisherman in Flamingo, Costa Rica

Its an operation to get a boat from Florida to Costa Rica. From Palm Beach the boat went to Fort Lauderdale, where it was floated onto a specialized freighter for the trip down. The freighter is outfitted with ballast tanks that allow its deck to be sunk, boats floated onto it, secured to the deck through welded supports and then refloated, drying out the deck/hold. Sounds freaky but I guess it works. A couple of weeks passage down to and then through the Panama Canal and the boat winds up in Golfito, Costa Rica, where the deck is again flooded, boats are floated off, and the freighter back on its way. Would have liked to have seen that maneuver…

Now that its down, Jungle Rules will stay in Costa Rica for a while - as much as two years, perhaps. Since the boat is privately owned and American flagged, it won’t be chartering in Costa Rica, but Keith will send down a few guests – he knows a lot of people through the insurance agency. Can’t wait to go back…

Mi Casa, Tu Casa, Picasa...

Been playing around with Picasa from Google lately. Its a photo editing/photo organizing program. Also playing with Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 3, the eval of which for some reason likes to crash when I launch it about 70 % of the time.

Photoshop CS is overkill for what I do, I think, even though I’m using it for some things too. If I could find one application that would let me do my basic editing and composition and also database and organize the photo files, I’d be a very happy camper. I think either Picasa or Elements can do this, and with several thousand photos on the HD and another thousand from this trip, organizing, logging and being able to find all this stuff is going to be a challenge if I don’t start right now.

I wonder if either of these apps has an offline storage capability, where I can archive photos to a CD or DVD but still have the thumbnail and an indication of where the master is within the app/DB. Had a program for the Mac many, many years ago that organized media like that – don’t know what that is in the Windows world.


I found my favorite Picasa feature this morning. Select a handful of photos, click two buttons and *poof* out spits a photo collage like these. Great little gimmick… I’m sure I’ll tire of it before long, but what a great way to summarize and idea or trip with very little work. Pretty slick!


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Black and Blue...

IMG_1231Its Thursday evening, and its been an exhausting but exciting day. All I can say about the fishing is “Wow”!

Today, as in our past trip to northwestern Costa Rica, we hoped to have an opportunity to do something many will never do. In sportfishing, catching a Grand Slam on your own boat can be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. The species vary, but in Costa Rica, an offshore Grand Slam is catching three fish of differing billfish species. The candidate fish are Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, and theoretically Swordfish, but they’re apparently pretty rare here.

Fish3So we start the day off by catching and releasing a Blue that Jamie estimated at 250 lbs. What an amazing bite - the fish’s whole head basically came out of the water, slashing Keith’s pitch bait and it was game on. After about a half-hour fight the crew brought the fish to the side of the boat, cut the leader and the fish swam off healthy. Got some good if not great shots of the fish jumping near the boat once hooked, but no really good release shots. Maybe next time, I figured.

Then, fishing slowed down like it has a tendency to do through the Noon hour. Saw a few sailfish, a couple came up on the teasers and we caught one or two. Then, around 2:40, all hell broke loose.

“Fish on the left teaser, left teaser! Its a Sail!” When billfishing in Costa Rica, spotting the fish early is imperative, as seeing the fish drives what rod & reel combo and more importantly what bait will be “pitched” or presented to the fish. With Pacific Sailfish running up to 150 lbs or so but Blue Marlin running up to or over 1,000 pounds for the luckiest of anglers, you can’t very effectively use the lighter tackle on the heavier fish. It can be done, but its much harder…

So, Keith pitches a bait to the Sailfish as it moves from the left side to the right side of the spread, bill and dorsal fin plainly visible. We’re trolling teasers at about 20 feet and 40 feet from the transom, so when the fish shows up, you know it. Its actually sight fishing, which is one of the reasons I love it.

As Keith is setting up for the strike on the Sailfish, two more fish show up in the spread, all over the teasers. Two fish are hooked, both on light tackle - Shimano TLD-20 reels and 20# mono. Having a triple on is a dance at best, and during the fight one of the fish was jumped off, the line retrieved and the rod stowed. Keith finishes up with the first sail, and then starts fighting what he expects is the second sailfish. All that went by the wayside when the fish breached fifty yards or so from the boat. “Its a MARLIN!” was the call, and it was game on.

Got lots of photos, but the fish stayed away from the boat if it was up top, and sounded about a dozen times. We were fortunate to have been fishing in only 300 feet of water, so the fish couldn’t go down where it normally would - like a thousand or more feet down if it could get there.

Marlin Motoring

Long story short, Keith fought the fish for an hour and a half, and on much lighter tackle than you’d normally use for Marlin. And, the fish turned out to be much bigger than originally thought - over 600 pounds. Got the fish to the boat, leadered it up to the transom and then released. Its hard to describe how big the fish was but I’ll give it a shot. First, from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail I’d say the fish was 10 feet long. Around its shoulder, maybe 4 feet, and with big dorsal fin and bigger tail. Simply amazing.

Funny thing is, this might not have been a Blue, but a Black Marlin, given its markings and the way its pec fins looked in most of the pictures. It doesn't really matter since we didn't have time to catch a Sailfish, which would have given us the Grand Slam. Next time...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Candid Camera...

IMG_1076Man, do I love my Canon Digital Rebel XT camera. Its been an invaluable tool on this trip. I have to admit I still have a lot to learn about it, though. Like many tools, you can pick it up and use it without a lot of research or reading, but to understand its capabilities I really have to stick my nose in the book.

This trip I've been exercising the “Sport” program setting, which puts the camera into a fast shutter speed/multiple shot mode. Its worked well for shooting fish up for the bite or jumping - got some great stuff that way. And, I played with the Macro program a bit in Los Suenos, but I have to admit the manual features still largely escape me. Been years since I’ve had to do any “real” photography, so I think I’ll bone up on theory and practices as well as the camera’s features. Maybe even get back into the zone at some point.

Framed copy

Next trip down I’m going to bring some backup gear. I’m sure there are a load of guides on the Web about how to provision for a trip to nowhere, but here are a few of my thoughts. One, if you’re solely going to shoot photos, you need a backup plan. In my case I just threw the Rebel, the kit 18–55 lens, a UV filter, battery and charger into a bag and off I went. Not thinking to bring the 75–200 lens or D30 body I lent to a friend a couple of months back (for his Costa Rica trip, coincidentally), and not having enough time to get a circular polarizing lens (but thanks for trying, Leeann).

Next go around, I’ll bringing both bodies - the D30 just to back up the XT and probably to let others shoot with - and the 75–200 unless I invest in in the Tamron 18-200 lens (which I think nets out to around 28–300). A circular polarizing filter would have been awesome for in-water shots (the couple I got were OK, but they would have been awesome sans glare). Extra lens caps or a tether (lost the cap yesterday), maybe an extra XT battery. Couple of extra UV filters (in case I bang the filter/lens on the boat – nearly done that a couple of times). Probably covers things unless I think I can get away for a day, and then I’d add a light tripod to the mix.

All in all I’m very happy with the Rebel XT. I have a calendar project coming up at work that I used the D30 for last year, and I’m really looking forward to shooting it this year with it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bad News Reaches Costa Rica...

This morning before we headed out from Los Suenos for our 4 hour run up the beach to Flamingo/Guanacaste, I received some bad news. There was a freak boating accident in Stuart on Sunday where a personal watercraft was struck by another boat, killing the operator of the watercraft. He was a friend from the Fire Department, and it turns out some other firefighters were on the other boat involved in the accident, including one of our Flight Medics who was apparently injured as well. All this reported in the local paper (Stuart, that is).

Chip O'HaraWhat a shame. The person killed was a good guy, one of the FD’s Batallion Chiefs; someone who had grown up in and with the Department and was very well known. The Flight Medic was flown to the trauma center by a neighboring program. All in all, I can’t imagine what that call was like.

Thoughts and prayers are with the families directly affected by the tragedy, and also with the Fire Rescue family. If you’ve not seen or been a part of it, I don’t know of a more tight group of people who work and play together, help each other or who watch out for each other like Firefighters. When one hurts in a department they all hurt; I’m sure there’s plenty of that going on right now while people struggle to process what happened, understand it, and then wrestle with the “why” of it all.

So sad. A young life cut short, and many others affected.

Wishing I was home to comfort my friends…