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Petaluma Cruise
May 22-25, 2009

(If you like, you can skip down through the prose and go straight to the pictures below!)

This page is under construction.

"Stratus", the weather service calls it. "Fog", most people call it. But the summer time "night & morning fog" common to San Francisco Bay was very much in evidence as the Islander fleet gathered for the run to Petaluma. Recovering from a minus 1.5 foot low tide, the Bay was flooding at a great rate early in the morning. As Vanishing Animal passed Hunters point about 0715, is was running at 3 knots against her.

But that didn't stop six Islanders from assembling at the Southampton Shoal rendezvous point a few minutes before 1000. With all in radio contact on channel 72, Commodore Corky Stewart declared "Go". Rich Watters and Takae had Tacoma Blue just north of the shoal, Rick & Sandy Van Mell were abeam the shoal and had Vanishing Animal sailing well, and coming up fast were Gary & Pat Salvo with Ophira, Dennis & Judy Bush on Natural High, Charles & Kathryn Hodgkins aboard Mischief and Commodore Corky & Anna Stewart rounded out the flotilla with Brigid.

We were sailing at 6 knots when we started, plus a tidal current push to about 7 knots over the bottom. But the wind eased off until radio chatter invoked the "3 knot" rule (Dennis even voted for a "4 knot" rule) - and some boats started engines. The winds gods took offense and blew life back into the breeze as we passed beneath the San Rafael Bridge. That cleared the fog too and we sailed on into San Pablo Bay with a rush of a tidal white caps and eddies.

Our course to the six mile channel leading to the Petaluma river was almost deal down wind. That had everyone sailing wing and wing for a while at a relaxed 4 to 5 knot pace. We picked up a little speed as the channel turned from north to northwest and west just before the river. Then it was sails down as the wind swept down the Petaluma River valley from the north - dead on the nose for our 11 mile run up the river. The scenery was great motoring past rolling vineyards, tiny picturesque Lakeville and "Papas Taverna", then the splendid tranquility of green marsh grass on both sides, framed in the distance by the hazy brown hills on both sides.

We paraded by the Petaluma Marina and swung to port under the 101 Highway Bridge, on past some rusty relics of work boats, and filed through the opened D Street Bridge into the Basin at Petaluma. Natural High and Ophira grabbed some open dock space on the far side of the basin, while the other four Islanders grabbed the last dock space at the far end of the club-side dock. That is right where a fixed bridge and no water mark the end of navigation. By 1530 we were all tied up and enjoying life.

Petaluma Yacht Club's great weekend festivities started at 1700 with the beginning of the "Tropical Island Theme Drink Contest". As noted in their flyer, "Gifts and bribery of the judging panel will provide entrant a distinct advantage." Judges worked their way down the dock past powerboats that literally rolled out the grass carpet and fake palm trees to advertise their concoctions. There was even a bubble machine! Commodore Corky held up the Islander honor with his "Caribbean Sunset" offering. They must have liked it -- they came back for another taste saying they had to break a tie. (Maybe they just wanted more!)

Our crowd of 12 climbed aboard Vanishing Animal for nibbles and dinner. Gary brought a great bottle of Irony - 4 times the size of a regular bottle. And after cheese and crackers and crab dip for appetizers, we moved on to a great dinner. Starting with Rich & Takae's outstanding clam chowder, we munched on through mouth-watering seafood, sausage, pasta and veggie dishes, leaving room for Kathryn's chocolate cookies for dessert. It was a well fed and watered crew that turned in early.

The advertised "night and morning fog" was solidly in place on Saturday morning. It was after noon before the sun blazed through to quickly send the temperature soaring. It was time for boat projects, wandering scenic Petaluma or just kicking back. Several islanders played PYC's Poker Run game, going from store to store and drawing cards to see who has the best hand.

Tom Furlong arrived with Vitesse, plus Elizabeth, Paige and Katie around 1315, and Art & Betsy Fowler drove in, leaving Zenith in her slip. That rounded out the Islanders representation at 8 boats' worth - and a great time was had by all.

It was also Luau Dinner day at the yacht club, and the great Petaluma YC team had it well in hand. Gail Swift was the overall Event Chair, with dedicated teams under Commodore Levi Swift, Vice Commodore Francesca Smith, Rear Commodore Diana Holmes, with breakfasts coordinated by Alona Thomas, raffles under Doug Xigues, Drink contest Judges under Keith Jones, and greeters Tina & Steve Powell. Three cheers for a job well and truly done!

It wouldn't be a real Luau without a roast pig, and they did it up right with a beauty on a spit over real wood fire. The line stretched a long way right at 6:30 when dinner started. A packed clubhouse left diners out on the porch and parking lot, though a cool breeze sent some back to their boats to eat. Shortly it is was all hands on deck for the festivities.

Commodore Swift welcomed the commodores of visiting clubs with an induction as Real Admirals of the Petaluma Navy, complete with certificates from the City of Petaluma. Then it was on to the raffle - cruise tickets, golf outings, wine tote and other goodies were drawn one by one -- with our own Rick Van Mell getting the case of wine. When it came time to play the poker hands, Corky's 4 Kings and 2 Queens topped the list -- and he got an artistic vase & two splits of champagne. Then it was on to dancing for the energetic.

Right on schedule the "night & morning fog" set up camp again for Sunday morning. That didn't stop the PYC crew, they had a delicious, piping hot brunch ready to go at 0900. Hot sausages fresh off the grill, scrambled eggs with salsa and Tabasco, perfectly done pancakes, plus fruit and yogurt, washed down with plenty of coffee and juice stoked us all for the day. All served up with ease and style. The early risers of the fleet really enjoyed themselves.

Two restless Islanders, and two other sailboats opted to head home on Sunday. The forces of nature held a grip on the entire fleet with a minus 1.4 foot tide which left outboats in the rafts planted in the mud. Optimistic calls had been placed to the D Street Bridge tender that they wanted to leave at 1200 hours. At 1145 engines were started and all hands helped move the outside boat back to ward the basin to let three inside boat out. It took several tries, but finally her keel was pushed through the mud. Four boats twisted free with long lines pulling their bows around and engines pushing them through the solft silt to be ready for the birdge. At 1210 it opened, and Mischief led the little parade into the river.

Cautiously slow at first, we picked up the pace after passing the Petaluma Marina. The flood was running at 2 knots against us. Before we were half way down, at Lakeville, the river looked like it was bank full - but the tide remained strong against us. It remained between 1.5 and 2.0 knots all the way down. But, the sky was blue, the breeze gentle -- what could go wrong?

San Pablo Bay is one of the uglyiest lobes of water in the whole Bay area. Swept by westerly winds most days, with strong ebbs creating square waves, it's no fun trying to get home from either the east, Napa, Vallejo or Benicia, or the north, Petaluma. As Mischief and Vanishing Animal swung into San Pablo Bay from the Petaluma River, it was clear this would be one of those rides. Even on the open bay, adverse current persisted from channel marker 19 right down to # 3. This day the wind was modest at best -- hardly more than 15 or 16 knots most of the time.

At Point San Pablo, the current turned and the ebb started it's classic square waves. Passing San Rafael Bridge, the wind piped up into the 15 - 20 knot range against the building ebb -- more square bumps. Vanishing Animal held high and set a jib, not yet sure if they would push on to their home port of Btribane, two hours below the Bay Bridge, or take Mischief up on their gracious offer to join them for dinner at Encinal Yacht Club.

By 1700, as salt spray flew, power sailing south, boat speed hit 8.0 knots, but now the ebb, instead of pushing us forward, was putting on the breaks and speed over ground was dropping under 7 knots. That "night and morning fog" stuff got a jump on the day and had already swept in over San Francisco and the South Bay (a bit south of it's usual position). We're not sure who had the worst "hung dog" expression, but between Teak and Sandy, it was easy to say, "We're turning left into the Estuary and joining Mischief for dinner.

It was 1900 when Mischief led the way into her slip, and Vanishing Animal slid into Natural High's slip at Marina Village. (Thank you, thank you Dennis!!) Teak jumped ashore and raced for the grass after seven hours of bouncing. Eating dinner at Encinal, with the beautiful wooden Master Mariners fleet tied up to the docks, was truly heaven. Back aboard, Teak was the first to snore, a bit before 2100, but Rick & Sandy shortly followed.

Meanwhile, there was a full day of games and the Great Beer Weigh In going on at Petaluma YC. Hopefully, we 'll get reports shortly, and pictures too. But for now, we can simply say, "It was another great Petaluma Yacht Club success."

Pictures by Charles Hodgkins, Takae Watters & Rick Van Mell. Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return. If you would like original images, email Rick Van Mell.


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Hunters Point @ 0715
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Early birds ...
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congragate and ...
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confer.
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Chilly going
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Here comes Ophira
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Natural High
Mischief
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Tacoma blue
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Ophira takes a hitch
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Red Rock
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On our way ...
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some in line
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San Rafael Br astern
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Rocky frame
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Mischief & Mt. Tam
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Into San Pablo Bay
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Natural High ...
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is flying.
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Tacoma Blue
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At Pt. San Pablo
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Fair winds
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Passing the Sisters
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Into the channel
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Mischief looks ...
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at Vanishing Animal ...
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looking at Mischief ...
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passing ...
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Mischief who ...
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concentrates on ...
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Vanishing Animal
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Not me.
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Into Petaluma River
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Corky takes the lead
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We fall in line
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Great ride
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Brigid passing ...
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fine vineyard.
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Nice house!
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Beautiful day
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Marsh & hills
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A planted mast?
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'Round the bend ...
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past the shallows.
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Islander Freeport 41 ...
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Echo has ...
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great home-made ...
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burgee ...
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Owner with Charles.
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Looking sharp.
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The Islander raft ...
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tucked in the corner.
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Great image
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Rest of crowd.
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Ophira & Natural High
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D Street Bridge
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Petaluma YC
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Rigged for ventilation
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Good for me
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Is the movie for ...
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these guys?!
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Just mail it in.
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Now if they
could read ...
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and not get lost ...
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This helps.
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Refreshing
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Water tight ...
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steel traps.
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It's the Islander gang!
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Is Gary worth it?
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Drink contest judges ...
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get great taste ...
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and bubbles too ...
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left in their wake ...
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waiting for results ...
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Commodore inspects ...
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judges taste ...
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lookers look ...
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Corky adds the ...
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finishing touch to ...
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Islander's Caribbean Sunset
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Judges arrive ...
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take notes ...
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group taste ...
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really like it ...
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all smiles!
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Far from source!
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Crowd leaves
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Gary has the answer ...
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with great Irony ...
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4 to one!
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Let's celebrate ...
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all hands.
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Eating begins
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PYC VC joins us
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Food fest is ...
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good eating.
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Happy Rick
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Teak too
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Ditto Takae
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What about me?
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Tacoma Blue looks ...
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at Vanishing Animal
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Back to break a tie
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Really, really good ...
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the Judge declares ...
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but a navigator?!
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Rich guards bridge ...
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Takae notes MUD!
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'Morning Rick
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Swan fleet
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Saturday afternoon
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Uploading web
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Petaluma YC Shines
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Islanders got
company!
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Luau headquarters ...
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getting set up ...
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coals coming along ...
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but watch out, you ...
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might get this.
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Yummy!
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Great service ...
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and surprise!
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Island theme ...
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everywhere.
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Saturday nibbles ...
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Tom's aboard ...
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Katie too.
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Come aboard ...
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look who's here.
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Art & Betsy join ...
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MORE!
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Luau begins ...
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Tina's still working
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Commodore inducts ...
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Rear Admirals.
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Happy cruiser ...
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Kathy
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Raffle time ...
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Rick wins!
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Pirate Sherry's ready ...
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to dance.
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Evening colors.
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Sunday breakfast ...
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cooking up.
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Juice & fruit.
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Sandy's ready ...
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Corky & Charles too
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Breakfast club.
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VC Francesca &
Event Chair Gail
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Early riser.



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