Yesterday was my birthday. I am now 1000000 years old (in binary), that’s an even 100 years in octal, 64 years in plain old decimal and only 40 years in hexadecimal. Regardless of the number system used, it was a fine birthday and I now have many new toys to play with. So here, in the order I opened them, is a tally of the loot.
A neat little ornament for out by our pond. This little dragon will really look cool out there. It was from good friends Janet and Bruce. Thanks guys!
Next was something rather geeky but something I really wanted. Luckily, Jan doesn’t mind buying me geeky gifts. It’s a small equatorial mount and tripod that will allow me to take better astronomical photographs. It has a clock drive to allow longer exposures. In the picture I have my Nikon D80 on the mount.
The next package opened was from son Steev. He got me this really cool T-shirt, one that I had seen on-line and been coveting for a while.
Son Allan and daughter-in-law Jeannette, who live in Germany, sent me this really great Easter basket filled with European dark chocolate – YUM! I’m trying to make it last rather than gobble it down in one day as is my inclination!
The final gift was another from Jan. She really went overboard on me this year. It was a new lens for my camera. Not just any lens either. It’s the Nikkor VR 70-300mm zoom lens. This will be great for wildlife photography and also for candid shots. I’ve already taken some pretty neat (IMHO) pictures with it so expect a post about them soon.
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like bragging. It was such a great birthday that I can’t help talking about it. Everyone should be so lucky.
I don’t want this blog to deteriorate into just bitching about the weather but things are getting ridiculous! Here it is, the day before my birthday, and what are we getting? Snow, sleet, ice and wind! This hasn’t happened since 1973! Look at this. Notice the nice green grass under the trees. Hope the plants still are able to bloom.
The power has been flickering occasionally but so far it has stayed up. Below is a picture of the ice on a guy wire of my ham radio antenna tower. Overall the ice is about 3/4 inch in diameter. So far, no problem but I wouldn’t want to be walking under it when the ice starts dropping off!
I promise I’ll post something positive once good weather finally arrives.
- First, we had the lawn tractor converted from its winter configuration to the summer mode. This is complicated and strenuous enough that I’ve given up trying to do it myself and hire it out.
- Pruning flowers, cleaning flower beds and picking up the winter debris in the yard. This seems to be a never-ending job but worse in this spring.
- Then, tricked by temporary warm weather, we got all the deck furniture out and scrubbed up. All ready for warm spring days and starry nights.
- Finally we got the pond opened up. This is another big job involving draining, cleaning out leaves and dirt, reinstalling the pump and refilling. Again, I would rather pay someone to do this rather than ruin my back while doing a half-assed job myself.
Of course, all of these preparations caused the weather deities to chuckle and chant “Not so fast, Mortal!“, accompanied with lightning bolts, thunder, rain and wind.
So spring has fizzled out. We had some nice days a few weeks ago. Now, because of our hubris – WHAMMO! Hazardous weather, dropping temperatures and a forecast of snow this week. Sorry,- mea culpa. Still, all of you in the midwest should be grateful that we have not yet gotten our Miata out of winter storage. Had we done that, there would be snow and ice covered roads in all the states surrounding Iowa. I’ll post a warning before we take that perilous step.
Updating a friends web site
Once it got too nasty to do stuff outside I decided I would work on some long overdue updating to a friends web site. This should not have been that much of a job, only needing new text for half a dozen pages. But as all easy jobs go, little things crept in. There were links to update, out-of-date references to remove (without breaking the navigation) and fixing the “Oops” discoveries. I had to resist the urge to completely rewrite the CSS for the site, though that will have to be done sometime soon.
And just in case my friend drops by, I have to say I really don’t mind doing this. It keeps me involved in coding and lets me try out new things when I feel like it. Still it does take time.
Preventing office avalanches
Then there is the never ending battle with keeping my office from being listed as a hazardous area. I tend to pile things up and if not careful small children and pets could be lost in the clutter. Sometimes I just have to shut down the computer and get out the shovel. Unfortunately I seem to be able to create clutter faster than I can deal with it.
Tobago, with a population of 45,000, is part of the nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Our ship anchored in Man-O-War bay near the fishing village of Charlotteville at 8:00am. We went ashore around 8:25am for our days excursion. This day we were off on a glass bottom boat and snorkeling trip. Because of being on a small boat I decided not to carry my bigger camera. All of these pictures were taken by Jan with her Canon S400.
The glass bottom boats left from a small harbor on the Atlantic side of the island, at a charming little resort called The Blue Waters Inn. It looked like the kind of place to go to relax completely.
Snorkeling here was great. The reef had a great variety of fish and I could only identify a few of them. Wish I had had an underwater housing for the camera. The picture on the right shows me getting my gear on.
And here is a shot showing my bald spot in all it’s glory. I paddled around between the two boats until I was getting exhausted. I really enjoy snorkeling in these warm, clear waters.
After a while we returned to shore and had the traditional rum punch that seemed to conclude every excursion we went on.
This was, effectively, the last day of our cruise. But we still had a little time to celebrate that evening. To top it all off we were treated to a total eclipse of the moon shortly after sundown. Here we are toasting the end of a great cruise. Left to right, George Sheldon, Jan, me, and Joyce Sheldon.
It had to be an early night as we had packing to do to be ready to depart the ship at Barbados in the morning. In order to have time for breakfast, get through immigrations and customs, and get to the airport for an 8:30am flight; we needed a 4:30 am wake-up call. Talk about a sudden return to reality!
Grenada is the smallest independent country in the western hemisphere. It’s 133 sq. miles with approximately 100,000 people. We docked at 8:00am and by 8:10 we were heading off on a tour of the island.
Our first stop was a spice drying station where farmers bring their spices for processing before export. At one time Grenada was the number 2 producer of nutmeg in the world. Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2005 seriously damaged the nutmeg trees and it will be years until they recover. Other products include mace (also from the nutmeg tree), cinnamon and cocoa.
In order not to loose essential oils, nutmeg is dried in the dark attic of the building. Cocoa, on the other hand, is sun dried in large trays. The trays are on wheels which allows them to be rolled under the building in case of rain.
Banana plantations are also scattered over the island. Since the hurricanes they’ve become a major export crop as they can produce fruit in as little as 9 months after planting. The nutmeg trees can take as long as 15 years to begin producing.
Our next stop was at the Grand Etang Lake visitors center near the volcanic crater lake. From here we could see a lot damage to the surrounding rainforest. It’s hard to imagine what that hurricane was like to cause such destruction.
From Lake Etang we went to one of the many waterfalls (sorry I didn’t make a note of the name of this one) This was a beautiful setting and very popular with both tourists and locals. A group of young men put on a ‘show’ of jumping from the cliffs above the waterfall into the pool below.
For the sake of brevity I won’t try to cover all of the other things we saw on this tour. It was a long and very interesting day. Of all the islands, Grenada is the one I would most likely want to visit again.
Next post – Tobago
On Thursday our destination was Mayreau, It is only 1-1/2 sq. miles with a population of 200. Today was a beach day with a barbecue lunch on a beautiful private beach. We went over on the tender at mid-morning and found a good spot with shade close to the water.
I thnk nearly all of the Wind Surf passengers came ashore and spent the day sunning, swimming and walking the beach. It was a gorgeous day, with perfect temperatures and a light breeze. The beach had plenty of room for people who wanted to find seclusion or stay with a group.
Here is Jan and friend, Joyce, enjoying the water. Joyce was trying to put her swim-fins on but the surf was giving her some trouble. Besides water activities there was a small beach bar, a steel band playing, and various people selling t-shirts and local crafts.
It was a very relaxing and enjoyable day. Food, drink and good company. Pure decadent enjoyment with no cares at all. I could get used to this kind of life!
Next day – Grenada
Wednesday was the first morning when we could sleep in since we had no formal tours scheduled. The ship anchored off the Pigeon Island National Park. which has been a pirate’s lair, fort, quarantine station, whaling station and US Navy station. Even though it’s called Pigeon Island it is actually connected to the main island via an artificial causeway. In the picture at the left you can just see the fort on the farthest peak
We took the tender to shore around 10:30am and started exploring the park. It turned out to be quite a climb up to the old fort but it was worth it for the view. It was easy to see why Fort Rodney was built on this high point.
It seems that the movie Pirates of the Caribbean has had quite an impact on tourism. On two different islands we saw ships riged up as pirate vessels, flying the Jolly Roger, firing mock cannons and taking tourists for day excursions.
I was completely lost trying to identify the flora and fauna here (and on other islands). I finally did get a photo of this indigenous humming bird. You can see and hear them zooming by at high speed but it took a long time sitting quietly before I could get a photograph of one.
Next post – Mayreau
On Tuesday at 8:00am we docked at Roseau, on the island of Dominica. We had to be up early as our rainforest tour departed at 8:10am. Dominica seemed to me to be rather economically depressed, maybe because of the smaller number of boats in the harbor or because of the poor condition of many of the buildings.
At the dock we boarded minivans that carried us up into the rainforest. There we were to take the Rainforest Tram for a ride up to one of the lower peaks. I was a little skeptical when I saw exactly what the “tram” was – more like a glorified ski lift. Eventually we decided it was safe enough and boarded. As we left it began raining lightly but the tram cars were covered and we had brought light jackets.
The guide in our car kept pointing out all of the different plants, birds and insects, complete with scientific names and details on their habits. By the time we got to the top I was wishing he would leave a little silence so we could just enjoy the scenery for ourselves. At the upper tram stop we all decided to hike back down to the midway point before getting back on. This took us over a pedestrian suspension bridge which spanned the Breakfast River Gorge.
After we got back to Roseau we did a little sightseeing in town and went back aboard ship for a late lunch. One interesting thing in the harbor was a three-masted barque called the Picton Castle. It turns out this is a training ship for people who want to learn to sail the tall ships. Their web site is here.
Next post – Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia
This beautiful island covers only 7 square miles with a population of 5000. The Wind Surf anchored at 9:00am in Admiralty Bay and we were soon off on a tour of the island. The transportation was “interesting.” Small Nissan pickups with bench seats in the bed and an awning over them. They seemed to be a standard form of transport on the island and were more comfortable than I anticipated.
Our first destination was the Moon Hole at the SW end of the island. It’s named for a natural bridge that supposedly frames the setting moon twice a year. The original owners of the property built their home underneath the arch of the bridge. When a large rock fell and damaged one bedroom (luckily unoccupied) they decided to move the house to the top. Now the house sprawls over the surrounding area where it has grown over the years.
Some people refer to these distinctive open-air dwellings as “Flintstones” houses. Built of local stone with all building materials carried up by hand including many bags of concrete. There is no electricity, phone, or other services. They do have a propane powered refrigerator and stove plus small solar panels that produce enough power to light a few lights and run the CD player/stereo. See this site for a lot more pictures and information.
Before leaving we had drinks out on one of the many patios. This one had a hammock strung up and there were several large tortoises wandering around. When our hostess got into one hammock a tortoise would crawl underneath and push with his shell, imparting a swaying motion to the hammock and occupant.
Next we went to the Model Boat factory in Port Elizabeth. Model boats of all sizes and types were made on-site. We even got to see the workshop with many models in various stages of construction. Prices are high but the detail and workmanship of the models was exquisite. From what I could tell, one of their specialties was building models of real yachts for their owners. I’m sorry I couldn’t get any good pictures inside but you can see some of the models here.
The next post will cover our stop in Dominica.
In the previous post I mentioned that we had to leave early to avoid the bad weather that almost kept us from the cruise. The picture to the left was scanned from our local newspaper (click on it for a larger image) and shows what we missed. Though not a high quality iamge, you can see the row of downed power poles that the ice overloaded.
Before this storm actually hit we were able to change our travel plans to get us safely to Miami on Friday. After a night there, we resumed our original schedule. Got to Barbados late Saturday and, as we could not board the ship until Sunday, spent the night in a very nice hotel. It was probably too fancy for just an overnight stop.
Finally got on-board around noon on Sunday and settled into our cabin. The accommodations were excellent. The best we’ve ever had on a ship. Here are a few pictures of our stateroom.
We had a great time that afternoon and evening exploring the ship and meeting up with some friends who were also on the cruise. The ship was supposed to sail at midnight and we wanted to stay up for that. Unfortunately we wilted fairly early and only vaguely felt the ship move when it pulled away from the dock.
In the next post I’ll cover our visit to the island of Bequia.