Monday, March 26, 2012

Up, down, up down, once more for good measure

One of the issues we've had is water collecting in the bilge. This meant a trip up the mast for Mark to suss out the reason since we've checked out all the possible deck leaks. Yup, there are 2 mounting holes at the top of the mast that are open. So down Mark came to purchase the necessary stuff to close it up. Up he went again to install the plugs, down again once he realized he needed a different size. Up once more for good measure with the proper sized plugs and now hopefully we've stopped the water ingress. We really appreciate our ugly mast steps just now. they might not be pretty but they certainly made this job a whole lot easier than it would have been without them.

While he was up the mast, Mark did a bit of investigation to determine why our steaming light comes on when we power up the anchor light. Seems we have a short circuit in the wiring. The question is- is it at the fixture or deep within the mast? We are hoping its at the fixture and the installation of our LED tricolor will cure it. Of course, with our luck it will be the wiring which is toast. The good news is we have an unused wire for a strobe within the mast we can swap out for the wire currently in use. The bad news is this will still be a pain in the butt when we were hoping we just had to have a new tricolor mounting fabricated. We've got to get this sorted as we have a quickly approaching deadline...

While Mark slaved away at the top of the mast, Maura had her favorite cousin over for a sleepover. What do 12 year old girls want to do on perfectly warm, sunny Spring days? Join the madness that is the Kemah boardwalk in Spring. $20 for a ride the roller coaster and spinny rides until you puke wrist band makes for some seriously happy kids. They returned giggling and breathless and full of giddy exuberance. We have to put up with traffic, crowds and noise at the marina but sometimes having a mini amusement park right next to the boat is a pretty sweet deal. If we didn't have a tween it would be something less than awesome but since we do, it works.

While the big girls ran around the boardwalk, Kitty and I stopped by to check on the progress of the wiring. Kitty likes to answer her own questions. "Where Daddy? Daddy on he boat". Kitty looks forward to these little visits through out the day. I do worry about her coming up with some weird associations though.

Currently, her favorite video is the Backyardigans Pirate Adventure and she has used this to form her own association boat=pirate. While we were driving, Kitty piped up from her seat with important information for me- "Daddy on he boat. Daddy a pirate. Daddy say 'arrrgh'". I suppose if you are almost 2 it makes sense, pirates have boats and say 'argh'. Daddy is always on his boat so that must mean he is a pirate although he indulges in far more colorful terms while dealing with the boat than 'argh'. I should probably take this opportunity to tell her that pirates are actually the bad guys and explain the socio-economic and political reasons piracy exists but she is not yet 2 and its just too cute when she says "arrgh" so we will just  skip this opportunity to educate her. I'm sure there are saltier than thou types who will feel I am allowing her to glorify piracy but they can deride me as they please. I promise I won't buy her a little plastic AK 47, at least until she is 3. ;-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let There Be Light

There are times when my desire to just get going conflicts with Mark's desire to get going when the boat is just as he would like it.  Some times he comes up with improvements he would like to do that I argue are just a time sink. Then there are times when he finishes these project and I have to admit that the functionality we gain was well worth the extra time he spent. Never the less, there is a self imposed time limit so we have to pick and choose which projects will give the most functionality knowing we can not do all of them.

Wiring in engine compartment lights might seem like not a big deal unless you are having to sort out Old Perky in a space that previously would have made an excellent mushroom farm. Now instead of fumbling around with a flashlight or trying to find an out of the way area to hang a utility lamp we can  flip a switch and VOILA! Let there be light! This will make a huge difference in making engine trouble shooting and maintenance a bit less of a pain in the rump. Well it will still be a pain but it will be a well illuminated pain.

In other news, Salty Gene came aboard to inspect Mark's wiring. A former marine electrician, he has specific ideas of what constitutes proper wiring. He declared the new wiring on Ceol Mor as "first class". Mark was absolutely chuffed with this pronouncement. Its nice every once in a while to get a little validation.

So work continues. The autopilot computer is being relocated so that all the electrical components are in one area. We are finishing up the new plumbing plan and I'm coming up with my galley wish list. Best of all, we are just days away from taking the boat out to check all of our work thus far and to actually shake out the sails I am so excited to leave the dock, if even for a few hours. That means we are back to an unfinished item on the list- learn how to sail the boat.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meanwhile, back on the boat

While we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation, there has been no rest for the weary- or wicked. Or something. The day after we returned from the UK it was back to business.

Mark started to sort out the wiring from the mast. Either the builder or a previous owner thought it would be a good idea to run all the wires from the mast under the sole of the boat. Good in theory but perhaps lacking a bit in execution. What do you do with a drunken sailor? Let him route wiring apparently. Instead of running the wiring through conduit neatly in as direct a manner as possible, the unnamed person responsible for wiring just put them any old place. This meant our bilge and under sole area looked like this:

Not only did this mean tracking down any problems would take three times as long as it should but it meant that we could not use the area for storage and with 4 peeps aboard we need every inch of storage we can squeak out. The chaos and disorder also caused Capt. Perfecto's left eye to twtich funny.

Mark has been painstakingly repairing crappy splicing (if you find your wires are too short, just take a stab at splicing with an exacto knife and duct tape. Still too short? Do it again! Measuring cable is for girlie men!) and routing the wiring neatly under the sole. Thanks to a combo of expandable braid and cable conduit it now looks like this:
All the cabling now is decently spliced, labeled and running through conduit which is neatly tucked away. Now we have a place for storage (we are designing a sliding tray system to hold canned goods) once we move on to the plumbing which has been routed in a similar haphazard manner. Oh and now that I can actually SEE the bilges I think I will be painting them in the very near future. Fantastic! Another project. Whee.

And now that the wiring is nearly done and the plans for the plumbing refit are being finalized we are getting to the fun part. I'm figuring out exactly what I want to do with the galley while Mark and Kitty continue to research our options for electronics. ELECTRONICS! Once we start installing them it means we are really on the down hill side and getting to the bottom of the refit list and I for one will be really, really glad to take that list with every little box ticked and set it on FIYAH! I may or may not dance nekkid around the burning refit list. If I do, I sure as heck won't be posting photos of that on the blog. Somethings are better left to the imagination.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
 In 2 short weeks Texas went from its winter state of dead and brown to full on, sprouting, blooming springtime madness. Weeds have been reproducing with wild abandon in the garden, the grass spouted well past ankle height to the dismay of our HOA and the roses have utterly taken over. I spent 3 days just trying to tidy up the grass, weed the beds, trim the crepe myrtles that have arisen from their slumber with a jolt and cut back the roses which have formed a hedge worthy of Maleficient. I did have some pretty cute helpers, although Kitty prefers to pluck roses and throw the petals like confetti at a parade more than anything else. Maura is an ace weeder though- with a bit of prodding that is. Our reward at the end of the gardening marathons were beautiful, big as saucer blooms through out the house. Nice.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One last look at Scotland

One of the items on our to-do list while in Scotland was to check out marinas. On the west coast, there are lots of options and Mark is familiar with some of them but our schedule didn't allow time to check them out. On the East Coast, your options for dockage that doesn't dry out with the tides is limited- I think there are just 2.

We stopped by Port Edgar in South Queensferry near Edinburgh. South Queensferry was one of the locales in which I felt comfortable. Mark was surprised "There's nothing here! Its just a tiny, ancient seafront village." Sometimes, the heart has its own reasons.

Port Edgar is where Mark learned to sail as a youngster. He commented that it was smaller and tattier than he recalled. I think that's true of any place of your youth to which you return as an adult. While the facilities are decidedly simplistic- especially when compared to US marinas where a pool and hot tub are required amenities, the staff was the exceedingly helpful, polite and full of good humor. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that MONKEYS ARE VERBOTEN! No fear of marauding gangs of monkey's climbing your rigging here.

 Mark thought it would be nice to book a last night in a "swanky" hotel. Carnoustie is a famous golf course. The hotel is on the golf course. I suppose this is more impressive if you actually give a fig about golf. Neither Jess, nor Kitty nor I care but we did enjoy a few bitterly cold and windy moments on the beach. Mark thought we should walk along the paths but I was worried about errant golf balls. Mark said that the people who played this course were all outstanding players who knew what they were doing. I said if that was the case why is the guy we passed 25 minutes ago trying to get out of a sand trap still trying to get out of that exact same sand trap. Since our other option was to walk towards the firing range from which we could hear gun fire or dodge golf balls, we played on the beach for a bit before heading to St. Andrew's.

St. Andrew's was lovely. A bit touristy and pricey now because of Will and Kate fever but a great place to potter around the shops and ruins of the cathedral and castle. And that's the last of our UK trip and now it is on to my next post which is all about wiring and bilges, sanding and painting. Did I mention I was really glad to have a break from the refitting?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Traveling with Toddlers

There were several products we used which were key in helping us to successfully complete 2 10 hour + flights, 10 hours of train time and 2 weeks of nights in a different hotel each night with a toddler. If you are traveling with a toddler who is as active, busy and opinionated about her surroundings as Kitty some of these might help. While most are geared towards traveling by conventional means, some will translate nicely to sailing and living aboard.

1.BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light 2, Silver
- If you have ever struggled to open or close a conventional Pack and Play and had to schlep the heavy, awkward thing around you will appreciate the simplicity and light weight of this design. We had to assembled and disassembled in less than a minute. While the folded dimensions are bigger than a standard Pack and Play it weighs only 11 pounds and is incredibly stable once set up. We hauled this thing, along with our luggage and toddler all over airports, rail stations and buses with ease. Its the weight that makes it easy. Kitty is one who likes consistency in her sleeping arrangements so being able to have the same bed every night, rather than a hotel crib that may or may not be comfortable and may or may not be safe was key. They are expensive- but worth it. British Airways took it as checked luggage with no additional fees.

2.CARES Child Aviation Restraint System We were loathe to schlep around Kitty's HUGE Britax car seat, especially since most of our travel was by train. This harness is designed for kids 22-44 pounds and made the flight portion of our trip much less stressful. It is simple to install, provides much more protection during takeoff and landing than holding the kid on your lap and it was also useful in keeping Kitty in her seat for a large portion of our flights. It doesn't have a crotch strap so really wiggly toddlers might be able to escape but we found that Kitty just accepted it, probably because she is used to wearing a harness in her car seat. Its small and comes in a carry bag which is easy to slip into your luggage. You can find them to rent on Ebay if you only need it for a one off trip.

3.Goldbug Animal 2 in 1 Harness, Lion We got so much use out of this! Kitty prefers to walk but there were times on busy streets and in bustling train stations when her lightening fast dodging abilities had to be tamed. This allowed Kitty to feel that she was independent while allowing us to keep her out of the path of oncoming traffic or to prevent her from running through airport security like a little terrorist on her own (Which she tried to do. Twice) Its got a tiny backpack which was the perfect size for a small notebook, crayons and stickers which was handy when stopping in restaurants to eat or riding on buses or trains.

4.Melissa & Doug Sticker Collection- Blue These were very best purchase we made- hands down! We got the pink and blue collection. The pages are large so I cut the sheets in 2 and along with a composition notebook, we had the answer to "how do I keep the toddler entertained for hours"? We carefully selected the animals for our farm, we fed the puppies,  we made up pirate stories, we dressed sticker kids in sticker clothes for hours and hours. Once done with stickering, we made up stories for each page and Kitty would happily flip through her book naming all the items. This kept Kitty happy and entertained for the majority of our travel time. On the 5 hour train trip to Edinburgh and on the 11 hour flight back to the US, Kitty shared a page of paper and a sheet of stickers with 2 toddlers who were suffering melt downs and they were both instantly engrossed and entertained for a long, long time.  No more crying. Happy fellow passengers. WIN! They are rated for kids 3 and up but we like to live on the edge and gave these dangerous stickers to toddlers. No toddlers were injured by this product.

5 .Beco Gemini Overall-Sierra We didn't buy this for our trip but have used it extensively while sailing, traveling  and just generally living life. We like the Beco Gemini because it allows you to pass the toddler off to the other parent without taking them out of the carrier. It is rated for kids up to 35 pounds and allows you to carry on the front or back. This carrier is extremely comfortable and made hauling luggage and a toddler around the London Underground simple and easy.  Kitty would sleep while in the front position and was happy to trek while on our backs. There are several carriers on the market that offer the same functionality but do not waste your money on front carry infant carriers like the baby Bjorn- they don't offer the same flexibility for different carries and they aren't comfy for the kid because they put all of the kids weight on their crotch- OUCH! Stick with a Beco Ergo Baby Carrier Black with Camel Lining , BabyHawk Mei Tai Baby Carrier Feeling Groovy on Espresso Straps with Bonus Dainty Baby Reusable Bag or the like.

6.Wee Squeak Baby Girls Hot Pink Peony Maryjane Shoes 4 How I love these shoes. These are so useful when you need to have your back turned- like checking into a hotel or waiting in line to purchase train tickets. Your toddler is done being carried, done with being restrained in general and is insistent on going free range. These shoes allow you to keep tabs on your little one by following the squeak the shoes make. We use these on the boat too  because no matter how vigilant you are, there are times when you are below that you will have your back turned. We can hear when Kitty is climbing the companionway steps for instance. They are well made, slip resistant,comfy and cute too. You can also remove the squeakers for times when silence is golden.

These products made our travels relatively stress free. The only real mistake we made was in buying a cheap stroller. The thought was that it would come in handy and it was cheap enough to leave behind but really, with the Beco and backpack harness we never used the stroller. The stroller was just a hassle on the buses, trains etc and next time we will just skip it all together. Fortunately, it was cheap so ditching it was no big deal.

So there you have it. My 2 cents on what works for traveling with a toddler and keeping your sanity intact. Now if you will excuse me, I've got to go purchase stock in Melissa & Doug. Did I mention how much we loved their stickers?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Back to Edinburgh, London and the Hotel of 100 Smells

We spent 2 days with family in Edinburgh. Mark and Kitty went off to feed the swans while I went ice skating with our nephew Laurie. Laurie is a very talented figure skater. Many years ago, in an ice rink far, far away I skated as well. My toe looping days might be long past but I was pretty stoked not to have my butt meet the ice- not even once.WIN!

We headed back by train to London before flying out of Heathrow. We spent the afternoon riding the tube to get to Kensington Gardens for one purpose only- the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Mark at first thought we were going to some monument for a dead princess and complained loudly until I assured him we were going for Kitty to have a bit of fun.

The playground is based on 'Peter Pan' as J.M. Barrie met the boys who inspired the work in Kensington Gardens. There are swings and slides but also Tee Pees and Captain Hook's ship. Guess what was the only thing Kitty wanted any part of? that's right- the boat. We couldn't get her off of it and had a few heart stopping moments because its really designed for older kids but Kitty has never let that stop her.

 And so after a day of sailing captain Hook's ship, we headed back to our lodging for our last night in the elegant and cosmopolitan city of London.

We stayed at the Travel Lodge at Waterloo Station at the beginning of our trip. It was clean, if basic and had a decent lounge area which are the only requirements we have for a hotel. Buoyed by our success we booked our last night at the Travel Lodge King's Cross on Gray's Inn which should be more correctly names the Hotel of 100 Smells.

To say this was a vastly different experience than the one we had at Waterloo would be a gross understatement. As we made our way through the labyrinth of fire doors we were greeted at every turn by a new smell- sausages, strawberry air freshener, body odor, funky gym socks, nag champa and some sort of weird, musky yet flowery disinfectant. It was so bad, tight wad Mark even skipped the cheap breakfast rather than risk contracting some food borne illness.
The awesome view from our room at the Hotel of 100 Smells. The view did change regularly though- every 20 minutes a loud train would roll by and rattle the windows. All. Night. Long.
We survived the hotel, made it to Heathrow, boarded our plane and survived an 11 hour flight with an overtired toddler. We arrived home to a big girl who missed us and boat that still required more work. No rest for the wicked so back into the bilge Mark went the next day to start tidying up the wiring under the sole, refurbishing the bilge pumps and begin the task of rewiring the mast. More on that later but for now, I am so glad to have gotten a break from the never ending refit. We might not be able to cast off the dock lines just yet but we should be ready to do some day sailing soon. March in Texas brings wind and every time I am outside feeling the breeze on my face I think how much better use that wind would be filling our sails.

I've got one travel post to do, one of a smattering of photos from the trip and then its back to MORE WIRING and then- PLUMBING! WOOT!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


We headed into Aberdeen for a day. We had a really full schedule for the day but managed to get through it all with only a few bumps along the way.
Not in Aberdeen but in Leven which is too small to get its own post. I <3 bees.
We headed into the city early to let me get a feel for the area. Aberdeen is the most likely candidate for our next home port and Mark wanted me to get an over view of the city. I was uncertain as to how it would all pan out as I've heard from friends who lived in the city all sorts of dire warnings about Aberdeen. For me, I found Aberdeen to be a place I could live quite happily. Its small in size but the city center area feels like a very cosmopolitan city. The locals seem to really be kid friendly and you can feel that you are in the country after just a 10 minute drive. If only the house prices will come back to reality...

The highlight of the day for Kitty was attending a Singing Kettle performance. She was excited by all the kids in their costumes in the foyer of the music hall, the lights and stage set but when the Kettle crew came on stage, her jaw dropped and then she began squealing with glee. She was absolutely entranced and it was so much fun to see her singing along and clapping. She made it through all but the last 15 minutes of the performance when fatigue over took her and we decided to scoot out early but not before procuring a Singing Kettle t-shirt which she LOVES wearing. Baby's first concert tee.

After a bit of a foot tour of the city area we are considering living in, we drove out to a nearby rural property we've been looking at with some seriousness near by. Its a building plot with an old derelict mill ready to be converted to a home. We had gotten plans and plots for the property around 8 months ago and were looking forward to viewing it. It offered the option of buying the plot and doing nothing for a few years while we cruise, then building a home.We loved it. 15 minutes from the city, on a rural road surrounded by farms and forests, sheep, ponies and a creek. We had a lot to think about.

We talked back and forth about this property for 2 days, mulling over logistics, finances and possibilities. There were negatives to consider- getting  good contractors in Aberdeen is nothing short of a miracle, the project would likely take a few years to really finish it, etc but this is really a perfect place for our forever home. Then Mark said something that changed everything "a project this big means we would have to give up sailing after our cruise and sell the boat". That did it. A home, no matter how beautiful can not take you anywhere and at this point the call of the ocean is louder than the desire for home. This might change after a few years cruising but I am sure we will be able to find something when the time comes. It probably won't be as perfect and idyllic as this property but hopefully I will have lots of wonderful memories of sailing and cruising to fill up the less than ideal house we end up in. I did feel a bit of wistfulness but cruising means making different choices and sacrifices and this is just one of the many things we will have to give up to make it happen.
Pittenweem harbor, Fife. On the way to Aberdeen....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Highlands

We drove up to the Highlands to the Hilton Craigendarroch in Ballater. We were a little bit unsure of booking rooms in a Hilton and were pleasantly surprised to find that while it might be owned by an American company, it still felt decidedly Scottish. The old part of the hotel was once the summer home of the Keiller family- the inventors of marmalade and maintains its 19th century charm. The new addition has been completely refurbished and you can sense the pride the staff has in the renovations. Since we were going in the off season, the rooms were an incredible deal.

 If you are going up to the Highlands with kids old enough to complain about being bored by nothing but bucolic walks in the hills, this is the hotel for you. Gorgeous indoor pools, a snooker table, table tennis and squash court as well as several playgrounds and a dry ski slope will keep mutiny at bay. The included breakfast was one of the best we encountered- fresh mushrooms and tomatos, haggis, black pudding, fresh sausages, real eggs, potato scones, an assortment of breads and pastries, cereals, porridge (they even set out a flask of Drambuie for your porridge!), yogurts, juices, etc.

Every night, Mark's mom Jess would stay with Kitty after she went to sleep and Mark and I would slip down to the bar for an hour or so of adult time. If you pop into the bar and see a lovely Scottish woman with dark hair, bright eyes and a winning smile tending the bar be sure to tell Lillian we said hello. She made our stay at the hotel all the better with her sense of humor. She had just returned to Scotland after working the resorts of Spain for a few years and was lamenting the lack of sun. If you sail to the British Virgin Islands in a few years, keep an eye out for her. I have a feeling she will be there as quick as she can. Oh and she is 100% ready to crew- what could be better than a crew member who is not put off by the work involved in cruising? A crew member who can mix a darned fine cocktail, that's what.

We had intended to leave Kitty at the hotel with her Granny and head to Aviemore for a morning of skiing. Of course, the ways things happen for us we were treated to record high temperatures and no snow. We checked the ski site and saw that the funicular railway at Aviemore was open so we packed up the car with Kitty and Jess and drove for 2 hours to Aviemore. Once there we were of course greeted by rain and wind gusts of over 100 m.p.h. and a closed funicular railway. The only thing we saw in Aviemore was the public toilets at the train station and the shop at the base of the slope where we could purchase ski gear if we were so inclined. We live in the subtropics so were not so inclined, so after a cup of coffee and a bit of chasing the toddler around we headed back to the car. This is how Kitty entertained us in the car and I hope she never learns to say 'twinkle' properly.

Mark was kind enough to give into my sheep obsession and only once said "I've brought you to one of the most spectacular places on earth and you want to go play with sheep!". Yeah, but I really like sheep. Someday I will have a pet sheep and name her Agnes but until then I am forced to play with other peoples sheep. I am also obsessed with Highland cows (Heeland Coo!) and full credit to Mark to detouring an hour out of the way and getting lost on the way home in order for me to see some cows. That's love people.

The Highlands are absolutely beautiful- even in Feb. with no snow, no green and not a whole lot to do. I loved it. I could stay there for quite some time, but only if there are sheep to play with.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Driving the wrong way

Kitty was pretty annoyed at this sign. There was no elephant here. LIARS!

We drove from Glasgow to Leven to pick up Mark's mom and head to the Highlands for 3 days. Mark knows that I love driving and so offered me the chance to test my driving skills by doing it on the wrong side of the road. Yes dear Brits, you do many things quite right as a nation but building a road system is not one of them.

It went something like this- Okay, I got this. Put the car into gear and drive slowly on a road marked 70 mph because it is the width of a parking space and huge buses are bearing down on me and praise me for not screaming in terror at the delivery truck drivers who like to straddle the center line on curvy roads that give you no way to see what's coming at you at 70 mph until they are 3 meters ahead of me. I struggle with the gear box because even though I drive a manual at home I don't shift with my left hand, which is the WRONG hand. Manage to get the car into gear, blood pressure drops until I see yet another g$*d*&@ed round about which has no stop sign at eye level to tell you to stop but merely a few lines painted on the road. Stop, think its clear and enter the roundabout to the panicked screams of Mark shouting "LOOK RIGHT NOT LEFT!". Manage to get through the roundabout without hitting anything but miss the road I wanted because I can't get left in time. Keep on the roundabout, find the correct road and repeat the terrifying game of chicken with the trucks. Try to decipher road signs which only have mysterious symbols on them, not useful text or anything of the sort.Get the car into 5th gear after only 3 tries and drive on the tiny, windy road. Curse the lack of an automatic transmission. Oh look, another roundabout. Pull off into a parking lot and tell Mark I am never driving a manual transmission in the UK again. Mark makes the mistake of letting me know that an automatic transmission is an upgrade at the car rental place. I have no words at this point but just stare at him. He decides to drive the rest of the way. I really do think it was short sighted to give me 2 separate challenges at once.

We had more fun once in the Highlands with the rental car. If you are in the market for a new vehicle I have to say the Vauxhall Meriva should be your last choice if you live anywhere with more than a 5 degree slope. It does 0 to 60 in about a week. There were several times we were wondering if we would be going up the hills or sliding down.

And that is how I- the person who loves nothing more than driving on new roads in new places, came to spend 2 weeks only driving a combined time of 15 minutes. Thank goodness the Brits DO have an awesome public transportation system and thanks to Mark who hates to drive but did it for me anyway and not once teased me about my inability to shift left handed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Before we headed up to the Highlands, we stopped off in Glasgow for 2 days. We are hoping to move to Scotland sometime after our Caribbean tour (just waiting for house prices to come back to reality) so we wanted to spend a bit of time in Glasgow as it is on the short list of possible residency locales.

The weather was pretty rotten while we were there and it might have colored my perception of Glasgow. I just didn't find it to be a city where I felt comfortable. Mark lived there for several years and assures me its a good city to live in but I remain unconvinced. Some places just feel right and I never got that feeling from Glasgow.

We did have the best traditional meal of the entire trip in Glasgow. Do not be out off by the location of Cranachan in the swanky shopping arcade of Princes Square, they take food very seriously here. I had a starter of smoked salmon with creme fraiche that was very good and the best fish and chips you can imagine. Seriously- skip all the other opportunities in the UK to eat fish and chips and save the calories for Cranachan. Light, incredibly fresh, melt in your mouth fish with nary a hint of grease. Outstanding.

Our hotel Jury's Inn was fine if a bit business like, very similar to what you will find in the US. If you are missing US style accommodations you'll probably be happy here. I thought it was a bit spendy but then again, I am a tightwad traveler. It did have a good shower though. I base a large portion of my praise for UK hotels based upon the shower facilities. If you think this odd you obviously haven't been to the UK yet.

We spent the majority of our day in Glasgow at the Kelvingrove Museum and thought it was outstanding. Not just because it was FREE but because it was very kid friendly and had a good variety of exhibits. Kitty loved the animals, I loved the Mackintosh and Glasgow style section and the Spitfire and Scottish cultural exhibits made Mark swell with National pride.

We might very well end up in Glasgow- it does have somewhat reasonable housing, employment options and the West Coast of Scotland offers fantastic sailing/cruising grounds. I promise to try to learn to love Glasgow if it ends up in being where we end up but I can't promise I'll actually love it, just that I will try and that is all anyone can ask.