Saturday, December 28, 2013


Map picture

No, that is not Morse code. Instead it is a representation of what you will see if you look closely at a World Map and focus in on the Caribbean. I am no expert, but if you measure from Ft. Lauderdale all the way across the Caribbean Sea to where the last islands, Trinidad and Tobago, are located it seems to span almost 2000 miles. For the first half of that distance the Islands are fairly large and easily identified on a map, e.g. Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico. South of that however, things become a little trickier, and before long you see a series of dots, and in many cases there are only names because the dots would be too small to see.

Yesterday and today were days of dot visiting. Yesterday it was a dot (Saint Barthelemy), and today it was a dot dot (Antigua & Barbuda). Saint Barthelemy, or as it is generally called, St. Barts is a political division of France, and as such is somewhat like one of our States, as I understand it. The Island is so small it is almost impossible to locate it on a map consisting of only 8 square miles, however it is home to approximately 9,000 people and also 11,000 cars. In “season” it is almost impossible to move along the roads, as I quickly learned in my short outing. The harbor reminded me of visiting the French coast of Monaco because it was so full of really “BIG” and expensive yachts. In a way our ship was the “biggest” of the big, but not by much.

I mentioned in my last letter that I got pneumonia for Christmas. Well, Santa also left a similar little gift for Lisa. Now she has had to stay on the ship; she has been quite ill and very nauseous. Today was the first time she has eaten anything in two days. Well, as I said, “who needs the fat guy, anyway?”

So my tour of small St. Barts was done by myself, but I was fortunate to get a tour billed as a “Full Island Tour with Helene”. I am glad I could hook onto that group because it turns out that “Helene’s” family came to St. Barts in 1493. Even though she is about 40 years old, she is a locally know activist fighting to save the island from wanton development. In her dilapidated little van was a recently published magazine which featured an article on her many causes and charities she had created.

Two things stand out in my mind about this visit. First was my visit to the Islands one and only airport. On our drive, we reached the crest of a steep, winding road when Helene pulled off to one side and said we would wait a moment. It was just about then that I noticed the airport at the bottom of the hill on my right. The runway was ridiculously short, not to mention that from when I was sitting I am not sure how a pilot would get down over the hilltop and to the runway in time. The winds were blowing in my face at close to 30 mph creating a real updraft from the airport, when suddenly and without warning a twin engine aircraft almost skimmed the top of our van as the pilot literally pushed his plane down into the updraft and somehow made the landing. I gather from Helene that not all pilots are so fortunate. We stood there for some time and an aircraft passed overhead about every 7 minutes making quite a spectacle. My second memory was when Helene invited the group into her home for snacks and to see what it is like to live on the Island. Very simple indeed; no air conditioning, but believe it or not they do have a very slow internet on the island. The visit was appreciated by all, but I was anxious to return to Lisa – where we both visited the Doctor together.

Sadly Lisa was again so ill that she had to stay with the ship while I toured a “DOT DOT.” By that I mean I visited Antigua & Barbuda. Well actually I toured Antigua, since we were told that Barbuda is too small to support any tourism. These two little islands together actually comprise a separate country and indeed have a seat at the United Nations. Antigua is only 180 square miles (so a little larger dot, but still a dot). The history of Antigua is pretty much the same as all the other Islands in the Caribbean chain. The islands were owned by some colonial power or other and populated by slaves to grow crops. Antigua was governed by Great Britain until its independence and today still has many vestiges of that British past.

Unfortunately our tour today was not as memorable as yesterday. We were herded into a minivan where we drove around the island for almost 2 hours without stopping for any pictures. And oh, did I mention that 20 minutes after leaving the ship, we received a phone call asking us to return to the ship to pick up two people who had arrived late? After that our bus would stop repeatedly at some picturesque place and our guide would drone on and on, then it would start up giving no one an opportunity to take a picture. At one point, some of our guests became a little vocal at one stop in particular, and we were of course assured we would stop for pictures – as the bus pulled away- so obviously not at that place. Finally we came to a wonderful viewpoint over the island and surrounding bays, and as incredible as this will sound, our guide one again goes into the beauty of this spot, but before anyone can get a picture the bus pulls out and goes back down the hill only to stop at an “outhouse.” Now why in the world does a tour company think they have a busload of old people, with just about each and every one carrying a camera, if not that perhaps they might want to take a picture? Several of us basically said “foo on you,” and we walked all the way back up the hill to take the picture, but I honestly think the little point was lost on the tour guide. At this point I felt the tour had become a “spam in a can” tour, and so I asked if the guide could phone me a taxi to take me back to the ship. “No problem.” Up jumps the driver, “I’ll take you myself while the groups stops for 45 minutes at Nelsons Dock.” It was implied by both the driver and the guide that this would be our next stop. Well, it wasn’t – they made two more stops, stopping each time for 30 minutes. I was getting a little out of sorts when we finally reach the final stop on our tour, but because the bus is running so late he can’t take me into the ship, and so now he goes and gets me a cab – THANKS.

So tomorrow will bring yet another Dot, St. Lucia; I am sorry I sound so negative. Chalk it up to still feeling under the weather and worrying about Lisa, but right now I am hoping for something just a little different than the average island.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Who Needs The Fat Guy Anyway

Map picture

Who Needs The Fat Guy Anyway!

I mean truth be told I may have to start some group or other against Santa. In fact, come to think of it I’m sure there already is one!

Christmas Eve arrives, and we dutifully hung our stockings on our door with utmost care in the true hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there. We nestled down in our bed with the requisite visions of sugar-plums in our heads. This was followed by a loud clatter as the fat man tried to land on a moving ship with his “eight tiny reindeer.” This raucous behavior was followed by the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. This fat guy dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, stumbled along looking like a peddler just opening his pack. Yes, he had dimples, and his cheeks were like roses, but when it came to his eyes – well “his eyes-how they twinkled;” and in my opinion, they had an evil malevenance about them when he looked in my direction. Fearing that I would mess everything up, I ran back to bed and covered my head, all the while listening for when the fat man would give a whistle and fly off like the down of a thistle…..

When he was gone, I fell asleep only to awake on Christmas Day to see what the jolly ole’ elf had left for me -- it was a fever of 101.5F and a “touch of pneumonia” although I don’t know how you get a “touch” of pneumonia any more than you get a touch pregnant. So “thank you big guy” and don’t think I won’t remember this, and may I suggest you approach with stealth next year just in case by then I am still a little touchy on the subject and am waiting in the shadows.

So, rather than enjoying two quiet days at sea, I am swallowing medicine and seeing the ship’s physician twice a day even though I am protesting that I am doing fine – the damn fever keeps giving me away.

Today we arrived into the old city of San Juan, Capital of Puerto Rico. Fortunately, Lisa and I have been here many times, once even flying ourselves here in our Cessna along with our good friends, Gary and Cheryl Morris. So, there was no reason that I could not just stay onboard the ship as “ordered” by the Doctor, but that phrase was like a red flag in front of a bull, and I was determined to at least sneak away and see a little of old town.

This was also the first time I was able to enter San Juan in the morning which would allow me to capture a photograph of the massive Fort El Morro which guards the entrance to the harbor. This fort is part of a massive complex of fortifications known as The Castillo de San Cristobal. It is the largest fortification ever built by Spain in the New World, and when it was finished in 1783, it covered over 27 acres, and basically wrapped around the old town of San Juan.

Lisa and I took a taxi from the ship to the other side of the old city from where we were docked and then slowly, and I mean slowly walked back. Walking early in the morning allowed that the heat was not too bad, and we were back on the ship in less than two hours.

I will post some photographs later today if I can, and then tomorrow we are off to St. Barts where I really hope I can get off the ship.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Open Letter To Santa

Map picture

An Open Letter To Santa

December 23, 2013

Dear Santa:

Lisa and I had to leave Kansas City so quickly because of the “forecasted” Severe Winter Storm which was approaching that we never got the opportunity to be sure that you would know where to bring our gifts – well, actually “gifts” for Lisa and “toys” for me. I can assure you that we both have been quite good during the last year, and for certain you should find our names on the “Nice” list. Whoops, there was that incident – surely that has been long forgotten, so let’s think positive, we will both be found on the “nice – nice” list.

Right now I am sitting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida watching the Lawrence Welk show on PBS. I can assure you that this was not my choice, but alas, I am married which I am sure you understand. During intermissions NORA has announced that it has received early warnings of you and your reindeer departing on your long journey – good luck!

For your records, please note that we will be leaving tomorrow on board the Silver Spirit, the largest ship in the SilverSea fleet, hosting around 500 passengers. During the next two days we will be cruising leisurely towards San Juan, Puerto Rico--our first stop. It has dawned on us that this will mean that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will be at sea, so locating us might be somewhat difficult. Also given this late notice, perhaps it will be difficult for you to catch up with us in San Juan. Just to be sure, let me share with you our remaining schedule just in case. Here are our stops in order.

St. Barts, French West Indies

St. John’s, Antigua

Castries, St. Lucia

Bridgetown, Barbados

Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

We will be at sea on New Year’s Day

Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands

Samana, Dominican Republic

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

I realize that we will not have a chimney for your use, nor a good roof on which the reindeer can park, so just in case, you may leave our presents at our home – we will be back on January 6th.

In the meantime, Lisa and I wish you, and all of our friends for that matter, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.