Cartagena

December 2, 2008

Cartagena, Colombia
10°24.94´N  75°32.72´W
December 2, 2008

Colombia, the Gem of the Ocean

We love it here!

Twenty years ago, we didn’t come to Cartegena because we were scared off by all the bad press about drug wars, pirates and other tsuris. What a mistake. Cartagena des Indias (the proper name) is by far the best town we’ve been to by boat, on this or any other trip. It’s a World Heritage site. The old town (called Centro) is a completely walled island with original 16th century architecture. Think French Quarter of New Orleans, only much better. Forts are everywhere, including the marina we’re staying at, which occupies an old fort (the entrance has no sign; you just have to know where it is).

We’ve learned that Cartagena has always been safe pretty safe, even during Colombia’s time of trouble. It has a laid back, Caribbean atmosphere. All the warring factions have respected it’s neutrality (even drug lords, communist guerillas, and right wing terror squads need a place to vacation). Now, Colombia has entered a period of relative stability and peace, thanks in large part to it’s president (Urribe), who is almost universally admired by Colombians, unlike the situation in some other countries we know (are you listening Chavez, you moron).

We’re staying at the Club de Pesca, a private club that allows transients. Most of the cruisers are down the street at Club Nautica, which has the same feeling (for us) as Georgetown, Bahamas, where 400 cruising boats vegetate for the winter. Endless meetings, dominoes, flea markets, wife swapping, etc. Here, there are about 10 transient boats, and it’s way better. The Club is wonderful and hospitable, inviting us to functions, helping out and being extraordinarily friendly (as an example, we were invited to breakfast at a board member’s house last weekend). This week is their annual fishing/racing tournament, which we will participate in. That means, in addition to the races, free breakfast every day, free dinners at night, and endless parties (something Colombians are very good at). Of course, part of the festivities will involve the Colombian national sport of beautiful women parading around in hardly anything. When we first arrived, they were celebrating Independence Day (which went on for 2 weeks). Most of the celebrations consisted of  gigantic parades through Centro featuring the Miss Colombia contestants (including a boat parade, which we had front row seats for). Colombian women are often quite beautiful, and the Colombians know it and celebrate it. It’s not for nothing that Colombia has had more Miss Universes than any other country. The parades were like an endless Mardi Gras, but much better. Colombians seem to be generally happy and friendly. They like Americans (apparently the only ones left in the world that do), and always have a hola! (hello) for you.

The Club is on a nice residential island called Manga, which is conveniently just across a small bridge from Centro. We walk everywhere, including at night. No fear. The town is full of good, often inexpensive restaurants and shops, and more traditional places where you can buy or get anything fixed. So far, to my amazement, we’ve had our TV fixed, and today, I had a pair of flip flops (my favorite Reefs) repaired (for $1.25). Try that in the States.

The only down side to all of this, is that we’ve been stuck on the dock for so long, living in a very nice floating apartment. It’s nearly impossible to leave, what with all the socializing, going out to eat, etc. When we first arrived early in November, our friends Bruce and Sandy were visiting, so we took them cruising to some local islands for a few days. That was great: we actually had some fishermen deliver cooked lobster to us. I would like to go again (we probably will next week), but boy, are we having fun being degenerates. This also isn’t very healthy for our bank account (neither is the stock market; it’s hard to economize by pinching pennies when you lose thousands of dollars every day). Oh well, one of us is a rich woman.

For the benefit of our sailing friends (who have complained that I don’t include enough navigational information), the trip here from Curacao was a mixed bag. It was supposed to be potentially dangerous (it has the reputation of being among the 5 worst passages in the world). The most wind we had was 35 knots and pretty big seas, but no problemo, “Antares” and crew did fine. Some legs even required motoring, which drives me crazy when going downwind in the Carribbean. “Antares” is a pretty big boat, and needs 15 to 20 knots to sail downwind well, so I prefer windy conditions, to a point. We arrived in a terrible tropical depression, with friends George and Pixie of “Silver Sea”. Getting into Cartagena was tricky; you have to cross an underwater wall at Boca Grande built by the Spanish 400 years ago to keep out the British. It apparently doesn’t work on Americans.

Plans are to stay through xmas, which is, we hear, wonderful in Cartagena. Then to Panama (particularly the San Blas Archipelago, a semi-autonomous group of islands controlled by the Kuna indians, famous for moles [mole-ace] shirts and wonderful soft shoe dancing). We’ll leave the boat in Panama, and return to the States in early Feb. Upon returning in March, we’ll have the boat hauled out for bottom painting, etc. After that, who knows? Maybe Barack will let us go to Cuba.

If anybody is looking for a slightly different Caribbean vacation, Cartagena would be a good choice. If you have any money left, try the Santa Clara Hotel. It’s in Centro, constructed within the remains of an old convent, and wonderful. It’s a bit pricey, but worth much more. We go there to drink, eat and gawk. Did I mention the beautiful Colombian women?

clock-tower

Torre de Reloj  (clock tower) (entrance into old city)

Court yard

Court yard

Dancers in parade

Dancers in parade

Fruit vendors

Fruit vendors

Horse cart

Horse cart

Island home, Islas Rosarios

Island home, Islas Rosarios

Jeff and Bruce at Gold Museum

Jeff and Bruce at Gold Museum

Landfall Cartagena

Landfall Cartagena

Lobster vendor "Not enough dinero, amigo"

Lobster vendor (not enough dinero, amigo)

Colombian Army at the parade

Colombian Army at the parade

Phyllis' 39th b'day party

Phyllis' 39th b'day party

Sandy

Sandy

 With George and Pixie at castle

With George and Pixie at castle

Me and Pedro (Pedro is the sloth)

Me and Pedro (Pedro is the sloth)

Street scene 1

Street scene 1

Street scene 2

Street scene 2

Miss Cartagena contestant

Miss Cartagena contestant

Another beauty

Another beauty

"Mango Vendor"

“Mango Vendor”

"Cartagena Shop"

“Cartagena Shop”

Bonaire

October 17, 2008

Kralendijk, Bonaire

12º 09.175´ N 68º 16.744´ W

October 13, 2008

Tickled Pink on the Island of Pink Flamingos

I almost didn’t write this today, because my mood is a little gloomy. In addition to the general malaise resulting from the financial meltdown which is affecting everyone (thanks all you politicians, bankers, mortgage brokers, appraisers, unqualified borrowers, and everyone else who brought this down on us [including us ourselves]), we here in paradise have been having our own little problems. The weather has been generally awful, hot and muggy with little of the refreshing trade winds normally found here. In addition to being uncomfortable, this results in winds coming from unusual directions, which makes the anchorage here rolly, and sometimes even dangerous, becoming a lee shore. It hasn’t happened yet, but from time to time during these “reversals” it’s necessary to suddenly leave the anchorage. This may happen this week. Thanks for this too, President Bush!

More personally, someone stole my folding bike off a dock during the Regatta, (a famous annual sailboat racing event here), and a mechanic ripped me off. Not only did this, as usual with these kinds of things, make me feel violated, but it also made me think less of the place, which previously has been high on my list of favorite places (we’ve been here several times before. In fact, Phyllis and I came here first 35 years ago to dive, immediately after getting certified in SF. We were also here several times during our last cruise 20 years ago).

Now for something completely different (Lyle, you may want to avert your eyes just now; this may be more than you want to know): Lyle was conceived on an island 35 miles east of here, twice! (the first time, it didn’t stick). Both times, exactly one year apart, Phyllis confirmed she was pregnant, in Bonaire. In fact, Lyle’s name is from the French L’Isle, which means from or of the island.

So, Bonaire occupies a special place in our lives. It’s also a wonderful island. It’s one of the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), which are part of the Netherlands Antilles. As such, it has wonderful people, who are either Dutch, or a mixture of Dutch, Black and South American. The native tongue is Papamiento, which is a patois of all of the above. Everybody also speaks English and Dutch, which makes things very easy. The people are very friendly, organized, and generally honest, as opposed to those in some other countries we know (are you paying attention, Chavez?). It has world class scuba diving (we have finally been getting a lot of use out of our Airline unit, which is a floating compressor driven by a Honda engine, making tanks, BC’s, etc. unnecessary). It also has some very strange and beautiful scenery, including the Goto Meer, which is a huge brackish lake with hundreds of pink flamingos, iguanas, and other creatures not generally seen in Brooklyn.

We got here about 2 weeks ago, after a delightful cruise through the offshore (mostly uninhabited) Venezuelan islands of Tortuga, Los Roques, and Las Aves. Lots of free diving (we even finally got our [temporary] fill of lobsters). We especially liked Las Aves (again), which are 2 sets of horseshoe shaped coral atolls like in the Pacific. We anchored in the lagoon in the middle, with almost no land in sight, and dove every day on the countless coral heads nearby. Very romantic (although unlike previously, no children were made, thank you), almost no people (we were visited several times by the local Venezuelan Coast Guard, who were 8 kids, one with a submachine gun, in a leaking skiff. They were apparently bored to death, and visited us to talk and drink beer.)

Today, we’re waiting for the arrival of our friends on “Silver Sea”, who have been carrying a care package for us for several weeks. We are also waiting for mail. We plan then to depart for Curacao (a much bigger island with lots of provisioning opportunities), where we’ll be joined by Bruce and Sandy, who’ll sail with us to Columbia, probably in about 2 weeks, weather permitting.

Tomorrow is our 30th anniversary. Thirty years of unrelenting bliss! Can you believe it? (I can’t). Because of our outrageously expensive trip to Argentina and Peru (which we gave to ourselves as an anniversary present) and because we now have no money thanks to the financial crisis (are you paying attention Lyle?), we’ll just go out to eat at a nice restaurant here (called, interestingly “It’s Raining Fishes”).

Postscript: my mood has improved considerably. I just dove down below the boat (we’re in about 25 feet) and found the fork I accidentally threw overboard last night, and also found a pair of $200 sunglasses (not mine; they’re Versace) and a fishing lure. Now, I have the fever. I intend to cruise the entire anchorage in snorkeling gear on a scavenging mission. Just as soon as I awaken from my nap.

PPS: 10/15/08

Bad weather was predicted, as I alluded to above. Interestingly, nobody could predict exactly what would happen. Just in case, we prepared the boat for a quick get-away, and went to sleep on the night of 10/13. At 2AM 10/14 (our anniversary) we were awakened by a tremendous squall, with lots of rain, thunder and lightening, and winds of 40+ knots from the west (exactly the wrong direction for us, putting us on a lee shore). That started it. We were up all night, with the engine, radar and all navigational instruments running, debating whether or not to run. Finally, at daybreak, we decided to try to go into the marina for refuge. Just at that moment, Phyllis yelled “there goes our dinghy!” A shackle on the painter had bent and opened,, casting our dinghy (think car) adrift. Without thinking (stupidhead!; please don’t tell my mother), I jumped into ferocious seas, swam for the dinghy (which was about 50 feet from destruction on the rocks), got in, attached the starting lanyard (which I suddenly realized I had been hiding for safety against thieves ever since my bike was stolen), and, in one pull (thank you Yamaha), started the engine and backed away from the shore in 15 foot breakers, 2 feet from destruction (mine and the dinghy’s). I motored back to Antares, to find Phyllis on the stern, ashen faced (she still loves me, or was frightened that she couldn’t run the boat herself). Then I realized I would have to get aboard, with the stern of the boat rearing 8 feet above my head (ouch!) Phyllis threw me a line, I got the dinghy tied off, timed it, and jumped. I’m still here (stupidhead!) Yee-ah!

We dropped our mooring lines (a feat in itself in those conditions) and motored into the marina, very shaken. Interestingly as soon as we started to move, everyone else in the mooring field did the same. We were the first of many boats (cruisers, locals, Venezuelan fishing boats, etc.), to go into the marina (which is now like a parking lot for boats) for refuge. We, and everybody else, should have done it the night before. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

So, we spent our 30th anniversary on Antares, in a marina, in pouring rain, eating soup and sandwiches washed down with large volumes of rum and soda water for me, gin and tonics for P. We were going to go out to a local restaurant, but they were all closed due to what has now become Hurricane Omar. The town is a wreck, with numerous seafront facilities ruined (including the docks of the little marina where my bike was stolen from). An anniversary to remember!

Working on the Blog

Boats on Moorings at Kralendijk waterfront (later destroyed by Tropical Storm Omar)

Restrooms in the Bonaire desert…….

Girl's Room
Guess which is the girl’s and boy’s?
Dashboard Saint.....Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, patron saint of Venezuela
Dashboard Saint…..Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, patron saint of Venezuela
Flock of pink flamingos in Goto Meer sanctuary, Bonaire
Flock of pink flamingos in Goto Meer sanctuary, Bonaire
Flamingo landing
Flamingo landing
Colorful lizard, Washington Nat'l Park, Bonaire
Colorful lizard, Washington Nat’l Park, Bonaire
Iguana looking for a handout
Iguana looking for a handout
On the road, Washington Nat'l Park
On the road, Washington Nat’l Park
Making use of a going away present
Making use of a going away present
Visitor in Los Roques
Visitor in Los Roques
Bonaire waterfront before Tropical Storm Omar
Bonaire waterfront before Tropical Storm Omar
Los Nevados (Venezuelan Andes, near Merida)
“Los Nevados” (Venezuelan Andes, near Merida)

"Mother Ocean"

“Mother Ocean”

"Waterfront"

“Waterfront”


Venezuela

September 2, 2008

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
October 2, 2008

Matilda, She Take-a Me Money and Run Venezuela
Harry Belafonte

We had booked a 1 week land trip to Merida, a western Venezuelan city in the Andes. After discovering that it would cost about $900 to fly there (it’s only a few hundred kilometers from PLC), we decided to take a bus (18 hours with 2 rest/eating stops, and, as it turned out, a shakedown by theGuardia National, who stopped the bus at 2AM and made everyone disembark, collect their luggage, go through a portable x ray machine, and get back on). Our Venezuelan friend Ricardo took us to make a reservation or buy a ticket. Upon arrival, the very attractive chica (don’t worry, all you N. Californians, this is not considered derogatory in Venezuela) told Ricardo we could neither buy a ticket, nor make a reservation. Why? Because they don’t take reservations, and don’t sell tickets more than 3 days before departure. Why is that? She smiles sweetly, and shrugs her shoulders. Ricardo says “let’s go, we’ll come back 3 days before departure”. As we turn to leave, the very same chica, looking furtively from side to side, calls us back, and puts our name on a reservation list. As we left, I asked Ricardo what just happened. Ricardo is very intelligent, speaks nearly perfect English, and is a native of PLC. He just shrugged his shoulders and said “In this country, everything is possible, and nothing is possible, at the same time.” I have decided to call this phenomenon “La regla de Ricardo” (Ricardo’s Rule), to explain everything in Venezuela which is, to me, inexplicable. (By the way, we returned to the bus station 4 days before the trip to buy the tickets. The very nice woman I spoke to before recognized me in the ticket line (she was working in the shipping line that day). She closed her line, motioned me over, and with a big smile, sold me the tickets at half price. Upon arrival at Merida, 8 days before we were to leave, they sold us our return tickets.) La regla de Ricardo.

We stayed in a timeshare in Merida that we got by trading points from our timeshare in Lake Tahoe. It’s supposed to be an equivalent trade. Here are some of La Regla de Ricardo as applied to our time share:
1) The dining room opened for breakfast at a) 8AM b) 7AM or c) never. This isn’t a multiple choice quiz. All the answers are correct.
2) Our breakfast was a) included b) not included or c) half and half. Again, all are correct.
3) The pool towels were not available at the pool. I guessed this in advance, having become a student of La Regla. We went to the office, where they “rented” pool towels, which we did. We then proceeded (where else?) to the pool. There, the pool boy asked us for identification. We had none. Finally, I understood that we had to have one of those plastic bracelets one sees everywhere at places like this. Where does one get such a bracelet? Why, at the office, of course. We walked 300 yards back to the office, and asked the very same receptionist who had rented us pool towels moments before, for our bracelets, which she cheerfully provided. I asked her with wonder why she hadn’t given us one when we were given our towels. She shrugged sweetly. La Regla.

There are many other examples. Of course. The best, however, occurred when we returned to the pool. I was admiring my new bracelet, which had a symbol of the hotel (Aldea Valle Encantado) telephone numbers, internet address, etc., and the motto “Donde se escuela el silencio” (where one can hear the silence). The hotel is indeed set in a beautiful environment-a small valley surrounded by beautiful mountains and vegetation, done in neo Andean adobe and stucco with red tiled roofs. I turned to Phyllis, who was sitting in the pool chair right next to me, to point out the motto. Unfortunately, she couldn’t hear a word I said, despite the fact that she was sitting right next to me. My words were drowned out by the ubiquitous, astoundingly loud, bad Venezuelan rock ‘n roll, heard at every pool, marina, restaurant or any where else there are more than 2 Venezuelans.

Despite all this, we loved Merida (again, having been there 20 years ago). It’s a special place with great weather, beautiful scenery friendly intelligent people, and lots of outdoorsy things to do. The highlight was a trip to a small town (Los Nevados) at 3500 meters. The teleferico (cable car) which is Merida’s main tourist attraction, has been broken forever. We took a harrowing 4 hour jeep ride on a road so bad that the jeep nearly turned around. We stayed in a very nice posada, where we were told we couldn’t go back the next day, because the road was closed for repairs. Instead, we would have to ride mules several miles, to a point where we could meet our jeep. It turned out to be horses, not mules, which I loved, but Phyllis was terrified. By the way, the road wasn’t closed (our jeep passed us on the way).

As for the rest of our time in Venezuela, I’ll resort to the old admonition not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say. Our friend, el Presidente (not Bush), who is now despised by most of the Venezuelans we met, has totally screwed up what was previously, for us, our favorite country.

Tomorrow, we leave for a leisurely cruise through the offshore islands of Tortuga, Los Roques, Las Aves, and then to Bonaire. We can’t wait to be sailing and cruising again. Hasta la vista!

Andean Village

Andean Village

Farmer

Farmer

Los Nevados

Los Nevados

Our posada in Los Nevados

Our posada in Los Nevados

hammocks on the terrace

hammocks on the terrace

Family on horse back

Family on horse back

View from our posada

View from our posada

Our horses for the trip down the mountain

Our horses for the trip down the mountain

Our friend Angel and our luggage on the mule beside him

Our friend Angel and our luggage on the mule beside him

View on the way down

View on the way down

City bus in Merida

City bus in Merida

Joia, our tour guide in Merida

Joia, our tour guide in Merida

Jeff in the Parador

Jeff in the Parador

Butterfly kisses

Butterfly kisses

Peru

August 8, 2008

Lima, Peru

August 5, 2008

Ink-A-Dink-A-Dink-A-Dink-A-Dink-A-Dink-A-Do

Jimmy Durante

Rama-Llama-Llama-Llama-Llama-Ding-Dong

The Edsels, covered by Sha-na-na

And now for something completely different…..

Argentina and Peru, despite being neighbors, couldn’t be more different. Argentina (should be) a first world country which seems always to be trying to become a third world country. Peru is a third world country stumbling to become a first world country. Argentina is European, Peru indigenous.

Our Peru trip was the first arranged trip we have ever had. It was a whirlwind tour of central Peru. We visited Lima, Puerto Maldonado (in the Amazonian rain forest), Cusco (the capital of the Incas at their height), the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Ica (Nazca lines). It was all Inka, all the time. It was a great trip, but boy, are we tired (the altitude sickness and turista didn’t help).

Lima is a fairly typical capital city, with an urbane center and atrocious shanty town slums surrounding the center (like a lot of Latin American cities). The interesting thing is, Lima is the largest desert city in the world. The coast of Peru is a complete desert (it almost never rains there), but it’s cool, like SF, almost always enveloped in fog.

Puerto Maldonado is a wild west town on the Rio Madre de Dios in the Amazonian rain forest, used as an embarkation point for trips to various ecohotels on the river. For some reason, everybody with us knew what was coming, but we didn’t. At the embarkation point, the guides made all of us consolidate our stuff into one bag (our allotment), which caused a frenzied scene of people unpacking their unmentionables (“hurry, my friend, hurry!”). We were then herded into a motorized canoe for a 2 hour trip down river to the lodge, which was beautiful the way it blended in to the jungle scenery, but not in the fact that our room had 1 dim bulb (which was shut down at 10 PM) and a very cold shower. The jungle was interesting, but I wouldn’t want to live there. We did see lots of monkeys, caimans, parrots, turtles, tarantulas, and an anaconda (I thought they were all mechanized props, but the guides swore they were real.)

Cusco is a great town at a very high elevation (about 3500 meters). It’s an international hang out, full of tourists from all over. It was the capital of the Inca empire, with numerous Inca ruins, colonial stuff, etc. The Cusquenos (people, not beer) are very proud of their Inka heritage, and most even speak the Inka language (Quechua).

The Urubamba River flows through the Sacred Valley from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are numerous Inka ruins and colonial sites. I think we saw all of them (“It’s included, my friend”). Our guide in Machu Picchu was Charlie Evans, who is also masquerading as an emergency doc in Ukiah.

We could have skipped Ica (the Nasca Lines).We were awakened at 3am, to take a bus to some town south of Lima, then a car to an airport in the middle of nowhere, to wait 4 hours for a flight on a single engine Cessna that lasted 30 minutes, to see lines scratched in the desert (“now, now, look my friend, under the left wing, the parrot, the parrot!). I don’t believe the whole thing. I’m sure the lines were made by extraterrestrial taggers, or Walt Disney.

The highlights of the trip were, of course, numero uno, one of the 5 most important tourist sites in the world, the “lost city of the Inkas”, damas y caballeros, I give you Machu Picchu. This is one of the few places we’ve been to that actually looks way better in reality than in the glitzy tourist brochures. It’s too wonderful to describe, so I won’t. You just have to go see it yourself.

Also wonderful was Lake Titicaca. It’s very high (allegedly the highest navigable body of water in the world), looks like Lake Tahoe in winter, although it’s way bigger, is in Peru, not California, and has lots of amazing stuff to see, like reed boats, and inhabited man made floating reed islands, that are anchored to the bottom. Puno, where we stayed, is a frenetic little town, inhabited by, in addition to Peruvians, almost every conceivable nationality. We had drinks in a very Peruvian bar, where they were playing Jimmie Hendricks and Bob Dylan, and the bartender, who spoke little English, kept on calling me “man”. Far out!

I also fell in love with Andean music. If you think you’ve never heard it, you’re probably wrong. I was wondering why every time we heard an Andean band, they were playing the Simon and Garfunkle song that goes “I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail, Yes I would, If I only could……”. The song is “El Condor Pasa” and is typical of the flute, bamboo pipes (zampona), guitar and drums of Andean music (for some reason, they also always played “Guantamanero”, which is Mexican, and “Yesterday” which is Beatles; anything for the tourists). I even bought a zampona, which I intend to drive Phyllis crazy with. Here’s an important personal historical aside: my first ever date, in the sixth grade, was with Karen Garfunkle, Art’s sister.

The other custom which “turned us on” (one of us more than the other) was the free use (in fact encouraged use) of coca, which is the plant used to make cocaine. The Incas chewed the leaves to get energy for working in the thin atmosphere (smart cookies, those Incas). Nowadays, it’s still used freely, in tea (mate de coca), candy, soda (Inka Cola, which is what Coca Cola was before our puritanical forebears banned it), etc. One of us became so enamored of it, that he or she drank about 20 cups a day (it’s available in every hotel lobby). He or she hasn’t stopped talking since we got to Peru. Oy!

Peruvian, or more specifically Andean, people are shy but friendly, honest, hardworking and reliable, unlike some other people we know. Those characteristics are typical of the Incas, and formed the cornerstone of their philosophy. The kids are completely adorable in their “typical” clothing (which they really wear in normal life), holding baby llamas or alpacas, posing for pictures for “un sol, senor”. They are the actual descendants of the Inkas, speaking the same language. Before I visited Peru, I had only vague ideas about the culture and history of the Andes. The Inkas were the greatest, but also the last, of the Andean empires. Their civilization lasted from the 13th to the 16th century, when they were conquered by Francisco “Franky” Pizarro and his band of merry men and not so merry priests. Franky was one of the many lovable Spanish conquistadors who destroyed the various Mexican, Central and South American civilizations in a quest for gold, more catholics, cute Inka girls, and gold. The Inkas, despite their many admirable qualities (they were great engineers-see Machu Picchu), were not such good guys themselves, having conquered much of South America, not always by being good arguers. However, they had a knack for incorporating the civilizations that preceded them, thus improving on a good thing. There are pre-Inka temples that are as old as Egyptian pyramids. This is (to me at least) seriously interesting stuff, but I better stop with the history lesson, already. What does all of this have to do with sailboats?

On the negative side, I am bummed out by the Peruvian government and tourist industry’s abominable exploitation of tourists, and of the Andean people themselves, who they seem to use as a colorful backdrop to suck money out of tourists. Here are some examples: the entrance fee for Machu Picchu is 122 soles (pronounced soul-ace), plus a 30 soles bus ride, per person, for a day ticket. By contrast, Yosemite National Park charges around $10 or $15 for a 7 day pass. Plus, they charge 1 sol to use the toilet, and, you have to bring your own toilet paper and seat, and you’re not allowed to throw the used paper in the toilet (don’t ask). This could cause serious problems for those of you with obsessions in this particular arena, so make your travel plans carefully. There is a hotel right at the entrance to the park, which looks like a bad Holiday Inn, that charges $1000 dollars per night, for their cheapest room.

We stayed at a hotel that charged 6 soles for bottled water from their mini-bar, which one could buy on the street next door for 1 sol. That’s a 600% mark-up (actually, 1200%, because they buy it for 0.5 soles)! The tour book we used, Lonely Planet, was published in 2007, presumably with 2006 information. Everything had least doubled, in 2 years. Things may not be as expensive in non tourist areas, but, by some bizarre coincidence, the tourist areas are where tourists go. Despite what you may have heard, Peru is not cheap. I intend to sue the government of Peru, the Peruvian Tourist Association, my travel agent, Franky Pizarro, and the Inkas.

For reference, $1= 2.7 soles, a Peruvian pensioner gets about $80 per month, a laborer makes about $8 a day. The colorful indigenous people one sees mostly live in serious poverty. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable. (Interestingly, after my terminally ill girl poem gaff, I’ve been accused of suddenly developing spirituality, perhaps from schlepping all over Machu Picchu. Not true. I’ve always had spirituality [I was a Sufi in my youth, but that was probably just to be able to hit on naked girls]. I think I had to suppress my spirituality in order to counter balance all those oppressive liberals surrounding me in Northern California). Write your congresspersons!

Despite all the above kvetching, our trip was really fun and interesting. I give it a B+.

We decided to give this trip to ourselves as a thirtieth anniversary present. Because it was so expensive, we now have no money to spend on our actual anniversary, which is October 14. Can you imagine-30 years of unrelenting bliss. Gifts (particularly money) will be cheerfully accepted.

Next up is “home” to Antares in Puerto La Cruz, a couple of weeks of boat work and lazing around the pool in the marina, another (short) land trip to Merida, Venezuela, then back to sailing the seas, to Isla Tortuga, Los Roques, Las Aves (all Venezuelan Islands where it’s supposed to be safe, presumably because, being so far offshore, there aren’t many Venezuelans there).Then on to Bonaire, Curacao and maybe Aruba (the Netherlands Antilles), where we’ll probably stay for a while, in particular for the great scuba diving. We expect to be in Cartegena, Columbia, around mid November, and stay at least through the first of the year. Hey, somebody has to do it.

Two monkeys in the jungle

Beautiful Baby

Catacombs in Lima

Cusco

Dance judges Lake Titicaca

Eco-lodge Rio Madre de Dios

Finally Made It

Machu Picchu

Floating Island, Lake Titicaca

Flute player

Pre-Inka Funeral Tower, Sillustani Site

Goodbye

Huachuchina Oasis

Inca Chief

Packers on Inca Trail

Turtle sex

Lady in Lima

Lady with llama

Love

Machu Picchu

Market in Aquacalientes
Market in Aquacalientes
Monkeys in jungle
Monkeys in jungle

New Friend

Old man
Old man
On the road to Titicaca
On the road to Titicaca
Paternal instincts
Paternal instincts
Peruvian baby
Peruvian baby
Peruvian kitchen with guinea pigs (for dinner)
Peruvian kitchen with guinea pigs (for dinner)
Rare vicuna
Rare vicuna
Reed boat and floating island
Reed boat and floating island
Sillustani site
Sillustani site
Sky King and Penny over the Nazca lines
Sky King and Penny over the Nazca lines
the albatross!"
“Under the left wing: the albatross!”
Steet musicians in Aquacalientes
Street musicians in Aquacalientes
a train on the street!
Aquacalientes: a train on the street!
Sun god at the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu
Sun god at the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu
Tall American, short Peruvian
Tall American, short Peruvian
The climb to the top of the jungle canopy
The climb to the top of the jungle canopy
View from the canopy
View from the canopy
Traditional custumes (Lynn Meadows on left
Traditional custumes (Lynn Meadows on left
Too much mate de coca
Too much mate de coca
Aqua Sueno
Aqua Sueno
Butterfly Kisses
Butterfly Kisses
Mate de Coca
Mate de Coca
Show Your Work

Show Your Work

Argentina

August 8, 2008

Buenos Aires

Argentina

July 18, 2008

Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina

Evita

(Boy, it was tough sailing here.).

We thought we had died, and gone to restaurant and service heaven. Buenos Aires has, by far, the best combination of great restaurants and impeccable service we have ever experienced. Coming from Venezuela, the contrast was especially striking. Perhaps the whole country was like this…. Pero, no!

More about Buenos Aires later. Here are a couple of “cute” stories. The first is called “La Gran Aventura del Acondicionador de Aire de Iguazu” (the great Iguazu air conditioner adventure).

We took a side trip from Buenos Aires (BA) to Puerto Iguazu, near the superb Iguazu Falls at the triple border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Right away, there was tsouris. Aerolignea Argentina, the national airline, has not paid its employees for several weeks. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work so well. Our flight left 5 hours late (even though it was listed as on time before we left the hotel). Not only that, but they killed us with small tortures, changing the departure time and gates every 1/2 hour. Not only that, but one of their other flights to Iguazu, that was scheduled to leave after our flight, left before ours (you can tell I’ve discovered how to use the underline function in Word; now I’m going to have some real fun).

We stayed at the 4 star Hotel Esturion. Upon checking in to our room, the bellhop went through the usual ritual of showing us how everything worked, including how to turn on the air conditioner (as many of you probably already see where this is going, and, in interest of fairness, I’ll point out that Puerto Iguazu, being in the southern hemisphere, is in winter, but has a delightful spring like climate {high seventies}). It was a little hot and stuffy in the room, so the next morning, I reported to the front desk that the air conditioner wasn’t working. The unfriendly front desk person, dressed as they all were in identical faux safari outfits, made a big show of taking my room number, indicating it would be fixed quickly, perhaps even faster than I could get back to my room. Instead, we went out for the day. Upon returning, we noted the air conditioner wasn’t working. I spoke to the very same explorer at the front desk. He explained, with a straight face, that the air conditioner only goes on about 9 or 10:00 PM in the winter (of course, this makes no sense, as it’s hotter in the daytime than at night, even in the Southern hemisphere). However, trying to be good emissaries for our country, we accepted this explanation in good spirits.

As you might guess, it didn’t go on at 9, 10 or any o’clock. The next morning, I cheerfully approached the very same clerk, who this time explained (with the same straight face) that the air conditioner does not work at all in the winter. I calmly asked to speak to the gerencia (manager). He graciously listened to my story, and asked incredulously, why I didn’t say something to him sooner, so that they could put a fan in our room, which they did.

There’s a humorous follow up to all this. After our first comfortable night, the maid came in to make up the room. There’s another funny long story (that I’ll spare you) about how they deal with electricity, but the short version is that they turn it off (inconsistently-some do and some don’t) when they make up the room. So, when we got back, the fan didn’t work. I didn’t realize the electricity was off. I asked the maid to show me how to turn the fan on. With a pitying look (these stupid Americans), she turned on the electricity, and, like a miracle, the fan went on. On her way out, she asked “Why don’t you just use the air conditioner”? I didn’t have an answer.

The second story is called “La Grand Adventura de la Piscina Iguazu” (the great Iguazu swimming pool adventure). We had decided to ignore the standard advice that “Iguazu is only worth 2 or 3 days” (it’s “worth” much more than that), and stayed for 5, planning at least one day lazing around. The hotel has 2 parts: the main hotel (with pool) and a second, mysterious “lodge” somewhere, also with pool. The main pool was being repainted when we got there, but we weren’t ready for our down day yet, so it didn’t matter. We were told the pool would be available “manana, (that dreaded word) en la tarde”. A few manana’s later (I refuse to bother putting a tilde where it belongs) we were ready. I asked my explorer friend at the front desk if we could use the pool. “Of course, senor”. Unfortunately, the pool “boy” (about 82 years old), told us we couldn’t. There were no towels there, and, the water was “fria”, because it was just pumped in from the river. “Use the pool at the lodge”. He pointed across the street. Dutifully, we packed up our stuff, and went across the street to find the other pool. Nothing appeared to be across the street. A taxi driver asked us where we were going. He indicated that it was down the street towards town, on the same side as our hotel. We walked about a block, and found another pool. Unfortunately, it was in another hotel. We almost used it anyway. Instead, we went back to Jungle Jim, who decided to escort us to the pool. Incredibly, it was across the street, through a huge, ancient, unmarked gate, and down a long jungle path, the nerve shattering scream of jaguars clearly audible nearby. By the way, there were no towels at that pool either, and the water was the coldest we’ve ever swam in (this from someone who has stupidly swam in the Pacific Ocean, temperature 68 degrees). It was a beautiful day, though.

Iguazu Falls is in a national park, at the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. The falls are breathtaking (Eleanor Roosevelt, Zsa Zsa Gabor, or someone like that, upon seeing them said “poor Niagra Falls; it makes them look like a kitchen faucet”). The surrounding park is full of exotic plants and animals. We were lucky enough to be there on a full moon, so we also took the excursion at night, only available 4 nights a month. Wow!

The town is charming, and in spirit reminds me of Healdsburg (around the same size, with lots of interesting restaurants). If it weren’t for Tarzan, we’d give the whole trip an A.

BA is also wonderful. We went there because a very charming man we met from Montevideo , Uraguay (how’s that, Hector?) told us not to miss it. “It’s the best city in the world” (he’s been around). I already mentioned the restaurants. Portenos (people from BA) are obsessed with good food and service. We stayed in a charming neighborhood (Palermo Viejo) which reminded me of Greenwich Village, North Beach and the French Quarter. Small, tree lined, cobblestone streets, with great restaurants, shops and green squares everywhere. We walked all over the city, also using the easy to understand subway system. The Portenos, despite their reputation, are friendly, and very attractive and stylish in an understated way. I have no idea how they stay so thin, the way they eat. The national dish is parrrilla, which consists of a huge plate of several dead cows and pigs. Restaurants don’t even open until 8PM at the earliest. Then, everyone goes out to boogey until early in the AM, and still manage to get up to go to work.

Even the corny touristy things were fun, like the tango show we went to, and the Evita museum (an historical note: after she died of ovarian cancer, Eva Peron was embalmed. Her corpse was stolen, and hidden in Spain for 14 years. During that time, her face was smashed in and she was raped [that’s after she was dead]. After her husband Juan Peron died, his hands were cut off and stolen. The magistrate who has been investigating the case had his office broken into just a few days ago, and all his records were stolen. These people know how to do politics). If you like shoes, leather coats, dogs, little children and wine, you’re in the right place. BA is very European, like Paris.

Here are some shameless commercial plugs: the Hotel BoBo, where we stayed, was wonderful, particularly the 3 chicas lindas at the front desk, Vanessa, Belin and Gabriella. The travel agency we used to arrange our Peru trip was equally great (Mawa Travel on Malabia). Our favorite restaurant (a tough choice-they were all good) was Don Julio (probably the best for the money I’ve ever eaten in). Malbec wine from Mendoza is delicious. Try it.

Next up is Peru, and all the usual suspects, like Machu Pichu, Cuzco, and, that perfect name for all of us with a 12 year old boy’s mentality, Lake Titicaca. More later.

Puerto de Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Cematary

Coatamundes at Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Falls with Rainbow

Fresh Produce

Public Display of Affection

We have their CD

Palermo Viejo

A great restaurant on every corner

No speaka the signish

Tango

Tango 2

I give you the 15…oops….10 commandments

Three corners: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

July 2, 2008, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Yeah, we’re still here. Fixing things that can’t be found in this country. Like batteries. The ones we need are $400 each in this country if you can find them and we need 12. We did get our bilge pump from France without incident. That was a surprise. When workers say they’ll show up, they frequently don’t. Manana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it means “not now”.
I’m driven the craziest by the fact that its difficult to move around in this town. It’s too dangerous to walk outside the marina so we have to take a taxi if we want to go anywhere. It’s especially dangerous for a woman to walk around the town alone. We’ve removed all of our jewelry including our wedding rings so we don’t get any fingers chopped off during a robbery. Other than that, it’s a nice enough place . We’ve had some great meals at the restaurants and the people are friendly (the ones that don’t rob you). So far, we haven’t had any cockroaches on the boat but some have joined me in the marina showers. I’m going to kill the hotel’s parrots because they screech all day long. I already have a reputation for murdering parrots. We use the hotel/ marina pool everyday, except on weekends when its full of running, screaming, urinating Venezuelan children . Weekends also include unbearably loud Spanish disco music from nearby restaurants until 3 in the morning and the wake from passing motor yachts knock us off our feet. Other than that, it’s a nice enough place.
As my friend Michelle used to say, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”.
But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Sunday we leave for Buenas Aires! Yeah! Then to Iguazu falls in Argentina . And then to Peru to visit Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. I’m bringing an extra duffle bag for shopping. Maybe I can talk Jeff into Tango lessons.

P.S.  I think that my friend Louise and I have amebic  dysentery  .  Other  than that , its’s a nice enough place.

Andy from Uruguay and crew on the boat next to us at Aquavi

“Lulu” an Oyster 63 looking great after her haul-out Owners Gary and Louise

Party boat on the canal….these Venies love to party

“Dream Images” Painting done from pen and ink drawing

Drawing for “Dream Images” Pen and Ink

“Just for Fun” Pen and Ink

“Iguana” Pen and Ink

Hola

June 8, 2008

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
10∞ 12.1’ North
64∞ 39.8’ West
June 7, 2008
3:30 PM VST
Hola!

You observant ones may have noticed that I entered a time for the first time. VST stands for Venezuela Stupid Time, which is 30 minutes behind Atlantic Standard Time, which everyone else in this part of the world observes. Our friend Hugo Chavez created his own time zone just to be different, thus further screwing up his country.
We got here to Venezuela proper yesterday, after making a stop at an offshore island called La Blanquilla. It was a 450 mile straight shot across the Caribbean from St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, our first long passage for this trip. Mostly, it was OK. We ran into a local wind phenomenon south of Isla Margarita where the prevailing winds went from 23 knots to over 30 sustained, gusting to over 40. Other than the admiral asking me every 5 minutes if we were going to die, we did well (we didn’t die). Antares was reefed way down, and didn’t even notice.
If anyone ever gets a chance to go, St. Croix is very nice, and different than the other Virgins. It’s 30 miles away, which probably explains some of it. It’s also big, and was mostly Danish until recently. A pleasant surprise. St. John is beautiful, mostly pristine (much of it is a park donated by the Rockefellers), but somehow unreal, like a movie set. We did get to eat and drink at Skinny Legs bar, rated as one of the best in the Caribbean.
As we approached La Blanquilla, a voice boomed out on the radio “Antares, Antares”. It was the first voice we’d heard in a long while, as most people don’t approach Venezuela from that route, and, as we had been sailing for almost 3 days, was startling. There were 2 boats at this very remote anchorage, and, apparently, they had been anticipating our arrival (it’s a long storey). As it turns out, we were just around the point of the island, so they couldn’t see us. Five minutes later, we came into sight, flying all our sails at nearly 10 knots, looking good. It’s always a hoot to impress the locals. The movie rights are for sale.
We spent the next couple of days with “Silver Sea” and “Panda” in Blanquilla. One day, we had gone ashore to a beautiful beach, where we found mucho poopo of unknown origin, about which we had a great time speculating. Later that day, over sundowners, we noticed several white donkeys on the beach (definitely not native to La Blanquilla, which is nearly uninhabited). Naturally, the donkeys and the poop started a long conversation about the Democratic party, which is second only to the above named Presidente in screwing up (other than the Republicans of course; I have to remember that many readers are from Northern California, and I wouldn’t want to appear to be showing favorites in the screwing up area).
We’re at Marina Aqua Vi (very nice, with internet, TV, pool, restaurants, and a horrible slum outside the gates) run by our old friend Victor, who worked on our previous Amel “Lily Marie” over 20 years ago, and who claims to remember Phyllis (these Latins are such charmers). The town is larger, more expensive (but still pretty cheap), and a little more run down than I remembered (but then, so am I). Plans, such as they are, are to get some stuff done, put the boat to sleep, then leave for Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and maybe Brazil by the end of June, through end August, for a land trip. Previously, we were going to leave Venezuela shortly thereafter, mostly because of security concerns, and head for Las Roques, Aves (my favorite place last time), ABC’s, Columbia, Panama, Roatan, Belize, Yucatan, then the Florida Keys and Ft. Lauderdale. However, seeing as how we haven’t been killed yet, and it actually seems quite nice here, we may stay in Venezuela a while when we return from our land trip. Quien sabe?

Puerto Rican Salsa

Morning, starboard tack

Skinny Legs Bar and Grill in Coral Bay, St. John. Definitely worth the hamburgers and atmosphere.

Our arrival at Christainsted Harbor, St. Croix. From St. John it was a 35 mile close reach.

Cafe in Christainsted. We both agreed that St. Croix was our favorite Virgin Island.

Christainsted sidewalk

El Morro waterways of Puerto La Cruz. This was just being built when we were here 20 years ago.

Aqua Vi Marina

Stern to the dock is preferred .

Antares has her own gangplank.  Note the message on the life ring. It’s a going away present from my students.

Dewey, Isla Culebra
Puerto Rico
18∞ 17.33¢ North
65∞ 16.35¢ West
May 12, 2008

I like to be in A-mer-i-ca
OK by me in A-mer-i-ca
West Side Storey

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Dominican Republic. Motoring to windward against the tradewinds sucks, so you have to pick a good “weather window’ (which, ironically for a sailboat) means as little wind as possible. We had an unusually long period of light winds, so we had to go for it. We made it across the dreaded Mona Passage, between DR and PR, relatively unscathed, arriving in Boqueron, PR, where we hooked up with “Jule”, our traveling companion. Now, we feel like we’ve climbed the mountain, as most of the hard stuff is behind us. We only have a few more miles (with lots of frequent stops in cool places), before we get to hang a right, and sail to Venezuela. We may even sell the motor (which, by the way, has been wonderful, due in part to the engineer’s frequent attentions).
What we saw of the DR was nice. It’s like King Kong’s Island, especially after the flat Bahamas: large, green and mountainous. We stayed in Ocean World Marina for a few days. It’s a very well done place, near Puerto Plata, that has a Marine World and nightclub as part of the complex. One can swim with the dolphins in the daytime, then pick one to eat in the restaurant at night. We picked up 2 new crew there (see picture). I told her she has to take off the hat on the boat. (Just kidding about the dolphins.)
Puerto Rico is a surprise. It’s pretty with nice people, has great cruising areas (especially the “Spanish Virgins” of Culebra and Vieques) yet has all the usual American conveniences, like free cell phone calls, mega-stores, malls, etc. We’ll use the time in Ponce as a pit stop, to re-provision, do boat work, etc. We’ll also meet our niece Lara and Aaron, who are spending two weeks with us.
We stopped at Cayos de Cana Gorda, otherwise known as Gilligan’s Island. There’s a storey of how that got started, but I can’t remember it. However, it’s a beautiful place with great diving and snorkeling. I also got to fulfill a lifelong dream by meeting Ginger (“the movie star”), who I’ve been in love with since I’ve been a little kid. Of course, she’s about 102 years old now, and doesn’t look so good, but neither do I.
We hooked up with niece Lara and Aaron in Ponce, where I was made an honorary member of the Ponce Yacht Club. After an insane day of shopping (Sam’s Club, Sears, and all the other exotic Puerto Rican stores), we took of for short hops along the south coast of Puerto Rico. Then, we actually sailed again to Vieques, one of the “Spanish Virgins” Vieques and Culebra are just like the Virgin Islands were 20 years ago, which is to say less crowded, more interesting and more attractive. Vieques in particular was, until 3 years ago, used as a bombing range for the Navy. More than half the island is “restricted” because of unexploded ordinance, and therefore, completely empty and pristine (except for the occasional unexploded bomb and craters). Most important, no people and plenty of sea life. We caught our first lobster there. We also had to send a snorkler into the water (me) when anchoring, to make sure we didn’t drop the anchor on a bomb, which would have been a bad way to end the day. I saw a bomb in the water, but I didn’t try to spear it.
In a few days, we’ll go to Fajardo, on the East coast of the “mainland”, drop off Lara and Aaron, visit El Yunque (the only tropical rain forest in N. America),. then come back to Culebra to se the rest of it (and, hopefully, get more lobsters). Then to St. John, and St. Croix, where we’ll wait for weather for our straight shot across the Caribbean to Venezuela.

This is our new crew from Dominican Republic. Jeff picked out the uniforms

Dominican fishing boat

Our niece, Lara and Aaron join us for 2 weeks cruising in Puerto Rico

I think they call this a rear entry

Oops,unsuccessful rear entry

Aaron tries next

Success!

First Lobster

Not a lobster but almost as large……what is it?

Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Island….So far our favorite

New painting by local artist purchased for Antares

Aaron catches a barracuda

A visit to El Yunque Carribean National Forest. The only tropical rainforest in North America

Sunrise in Salinas, Puerto Rico

Out of Dodge

April 18, 2008

Ocean World Marina
Dominican Republic
Latitude 1949.67 N
Longitude 7043.79 W                                        April 18, 2008

Out of Dodge

We finally escaped the tender trap of George Town. The weather, visitors and boat projects kept us there weeks longer than we intended. It’s a great place for snowbird sailors who come down every year for the winter, but it can get rather tedious. We’re now thoroughly tired of volleyball, basket weaving classes, Pilates groups, bridge, wife swapping clubs and beach church (‘non denominational Christian”). If it weren’t for the weekly meeting of the AA (Alcohol Appreciation) Society, we’d be fried. Several projects were completed while we were in George Town, including installing a new hot water heater, fixing the generator, the autopilot, and the water maker. Pretty good for a retired Jewish doctor.
The thing we’ll remember most fondly about the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos was the brilliantly blue, gin clear water.
We made it to the Dominican Republic (DR) by way of Conception Island, Mayaguana Island and several stops in the Turks and Caicos, including Provo. We’ve been traveling in company with 2 boats, “Jule” (an Island Packet) and “Sojourn” (a Hans Christian).
It’s tough to go east against the trade winds, but we picked good weather windows, in part due to regular weather reports on the SSB radio from our gay weather guru, Chris Parker. All we have to do now is make our way east along the north shore of the DR, then cross the dreaded Mona Passage to Puerto Rico. There, we’ll meet up with our niece Lara and her boyfriend Aaron. Then, a 3 to 4 day crossing of the Caribbean due south to Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez promises to give us free fuel. This should, finally, turn out to be a sailboat trip, rather than a motorboat trip. After that, no more sailing to windward ever (never say ever).
Anatares is a delight to live aboard. She’s comfortable and spacious, and even sails well. Phyllis particularly loves the barbie doll dishwasher and washier/drier. Jeff likes the water maker.

Jeff checks the anchor

The last swim in Bombay gin

“Jule” motoring in Turks and Caicos

Ocean World Marina

Ocean World Marina

Sketch done while sailing   “Flying Fish and Turtle”

“26 down”  Painting inspired from section of a photo taken by good friend and previous crew mate, Rick Tang

Leaving George Town

March 25, 2008

The blog has been strangely deficient lately. Mostly, it’s because I’ve been too “busy” (read drunk) to type. I’ll try to catch up.
We went “home” to the States for 3 weeks. We saw many of our friends and family, which was great. Special thanks to Steve and Janet, Charlie, Jordy and Cindy, Bruce and Sandy, Marie and John, who put us up, despite my obsessive need to “get everything done”. Next time, we’ll have more time to play, We saw Phyllis’ family in Sacto, and Jeff’s in Fort Lauderdale. We got to see “number one son” Jack in the Haight. We even ate at (ready for a blast from the past) Magnolia’s, which was called Magnolia Thunderpussy and had better food, back in the day. If anyone can tell me the name of Magnolia’s most famous dessert then, they get a special prize from me the next time we se each other (Lyle is eliminated because he knows the prize, and Jack because I’ve already told him the answer).
We went skiing for a week (a vacation from the vacation [eat your hearts out, you working stiffs]). We got to see a lot of Lyle and Shannon, (which was wonderful). We even skied together. Thanks so much to Charlie, for putting on a wonderful party for us at his beautiful house in Healdsburg, where we got to see a lot of the old gang from Ukiah Valley ER. Ditto to the Carneys, where we saw many old Healdsburg friends; Lastly, and only after much soul searching, we went to see Dante at our old (and his current) home in Healdsburg. He looks great, seems very happy, and is sporting a rhinestone collar (on a pit bull!). Thanks so much, George and Jerry for all you’ve done. I’m still willing to convert, but to paraphrase Groucho, I shouldn’t be allowed to join an organization that would accept me as a member..
The trip back and forth was a long story in itself (the moral is fly Bahamas Air if you want to be treated as a real person, but you also want to loose everything). We came back with a ton of boat stuff, which I am just now installing.
Anatares was amazingly intact when we got “home”. Things have changed here in George Town. People are leaving in droves (most heading north to French Canada, [a suburb of a country which isn’t real], but some heading “south” to mysterious places.)
Our plan is to head south. Before doing that, we have to get the boat ready. Mostly, she’s already ready, but we have been convinced by the obsessive/compulsive gods of the seas (that’s you, Joel), that we have more to do. For example:
I have spent the last two days fixing the generator, and installing a new hot water heater. After 2 days of sheer agony, I have fixed the generator (which now actually generates electricity), and have installed the new hot water heater, (which actually makes hot water). The old hot water heater looked nothing like the new one, but I’m sure the new one is better, because Joel (the god of such things) and Ray (the facilitator of such things) told me so.
Because of my extraordinary efforts to comply, it was necessary for me to take large doses of ibubrofen last night, in order to simply be able to get out of bed to pee, another unfortunate necessity of old age. Every time I fix something important on the boat, I do a little jig (think Elaine on Seinfeld, but worse dancing). It makes me feel good, but embar assesses Phyllis.
There’s another front coming through tomorrow. After that, we hope to leave for the Turks and Caicos, the Domican Republic, maybe Puerto Rico, then across the Caribbean to Bonaire or Venezuela. My niece Lara and Aaron plan to join us.
More to come (please send ibuprofen).

chart-plotter.jpg

This is a photo of our chart plotter as we entered the “third hole” where we stored our boat during a visit to the states. Note: all the areas that aren’t white are “too shallow” for Antares. Also the dashed black and white line is our route (think Hansel and Gretel and breadcrumbs). The scrambled part is where we ran aground.

maj-on-the-beach.jpg

Mahjong on the beach

sea-sick-again.jpg

Sea sick again