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Archive for the ‘Caribbean & USA 2015-2017’ Category

Dec
30

2016 Wrap

Posted by Mei on December 30, 2016 Our cruising season began in March 2015 and we had been practically on the go and prepping up for the Atlantic crossing and munching up the miles. We spent January to late May in the Caribbean. In May we went from Florida to the Chesapeake. I have written about the Caribbean and will post some notes on cruising Carib on the blog. It is interesting if you are cruising there and deadly if you are not, so I won’t repeat any of it.

Australia

We went home to have a rest from cruising. Kevin and I were finding it tough to get excited about the east coast of the US. We did enjoy Washington DC immensely and it was a fantastic two weeks. We caught up with Adric and Jared. They are both doing well and are pretty happy with where they are. I’m not going to say more because they hate me talking about their achievements and doing the proud parent thing.
Adric and Em

Adric and Em

Terry and Suzanne kindly let us stay with them. We had a sail on their new yacht and it looks like Reliance will give Whisper HR a run for the money. I visited my parents in Adelaide. They are well and appear quite settled. My father is playing chess with the volunteers and winning. My mother is doing well after the problem in November. She told me she’s happy. Honestly they don’t really have any responsibilities, so can relax and do what they like. We had a lovely time with Maxine and Giles in Adelaide. They were preparing for a trip to Spain and France and it was fun sharing ideas. We caught up with a few of our friends and then we ran out of time.

Los Angeles

We landed in LA and stayed in Camarillo. My cousin Sheila lives there. I haven't seen her and daughter Hannah in years. It was great to catch up. Sheila is an insurance broker, she likes dancing but could not convince Kevin, that salsa class might be fun. Hannah is seriously interested in rock climbing. They are lovely people. Camarillo is known for being outlet central for LA. We could have gone nuts but had already bought most of the stuff we wanted in Oz. Besides our bags were full. Surprised to find that the population in LA is 50% Hispanics. I like California, it feels like an twisted bit of Spain. Dig a little and the Spanish soul is there. Saw a lot of market gardens with peeps with hats, big sombreros not the Viet rice padi hats. Must be harvest time because the fields were jumping.
Sheila and Hannah

Sheila and Hannah

Juvenile Elephant Seals enjoying the sun

Juvenile Elephant Seals enjoying the sun

We traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to San Francisco. We stayed in San Simeon, we spent a few hours watching beached as juvenile elephant seals, parent seals are in Alaska. Apparently juvenile seals are fasting to get used to the idea; when they grow up and become parents and have to sit on the beach for about 100 days without food whilst protecting the birthing mums, pups then fighting off suitors and finally mating with as many females as possible. Sounds exhausting. We wandered past Hearst Castle, not sure if we wanted to visit some republican deity’s legacy. Somehow standing outdoors and observing the elephant seals trumped a castle of a US Newspaper Baron. Just how many castles have we seen? Possibly too many. I like this side of the continent. Carmel is a seaside town. It is gorgeous, lovely beach but the very quaint and original architecture, mostly cottages, makes it quite interesting. The seems a breath of freshness, not a whole lot of square boxes. It's where rich people from LA and San Francisco have a beach shack. We drove into "Carmel 17 mile" road. It hugs the coast and a few golf courses in the sand dunes. Extraordinary. Don’t think that would be allowed anymore.

San Francisco

San Francisco was terrific. My cousin Lin and husband Warren who I haven't seen in 30 years were great. We stayed with them over the weekend.  Warren was happy he had someone to watch the AFL Grand final with.  Yo Doggies!
Google

Google

Warren and Lin

Warren and Lin

Lin is a start up consultant for techs in Silicon Valley . Warren is a specialist working with remediation of contaminated lands and waterways.  They took us to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove down Lombard St,  a really steep winding street with flower beds. Extraordinary full of crazy tourists.  Hard to imagine living in Lombard Street and being photographed like an animal in a zoo.  And the daily traffic jam. ?.. We visited Stanford Uni which had an amazing plaza with church in full Spanish style. Stanford has an endowment of one billion.  It is thought to be the incubator of Silicon Valley' s worker bees and innovators.  Certainly the big tech companies paid for many of the university buildings.
Facebook

Facebook

Standford

Stanford

Stanford

Stanford

Lombard St, San Francisco

Lombard St, San Francisco

We also went to the Facebook campus and the Google campus, we passed by many familiar software names. It was fun to talk to Lin and Warren who have been involved with Silicon Valley in the last 30 years.

 Yosemite

We drove to Yosemite national park.  Yosemite Valley is a long Valley enclosed by very steep mountains.  There was a lot of tourist traffic, and almost felt claustrophobic, that is until the sun came out. We went for a few walks.  Beautiful place.  Spent a while watching the climbers on El Capitan. A sheer rock face. We spent a few days there and loved it.  Not fit enough to do the seriously strenuous walks though.
El Capitan. There are climbers on the wall.

El Capitan. There are climbers on the wall.

Mei and Half Dome, Yosemite

Mei and Half Dome, Yosemite

We drove to the Taulume grove, to check out the giant sequoias. We began to notice that some of the ponderosa pines were completely brown, I.e. The pine needles were brown. Trees were dead.   Pine beetles were killing the trees.  The drought in California was reducing the sap in the trees and they became vulnerable to the pine beetle infestation.

Death Valley

Land was almost vegetation free,  salt bush here and there,  looked rugged, barren and harsh.  Basically same land as yosemite,  but 0 water.  Something about all the moisture being knocked out by the Sierra Nevadas (yep same name as the mountains behind Alhambra, Spain). There were some beautiful areas. We walked into Mosaic Canyon thinking what would we see that we couldn't from the road.  Well the there was these amazing curved rock formation of pure marble.
Kevin and Death Valley

Kevin and Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Mosaic Canyon Death Valley

Mosaic Canyon Death Valley

Mosiac Canyon, Death Valley

Mosiac Canyon, Death Valley

I think Death Valley would be amazing at dawn and dusk,  the lighting would have been gorgeous.  There was a look out on the southern edge. It was lovely. We stayed at an Indian casino hotel. Oddly seemed entirely full of Latino workers. The waitress mentioned that the management would come from Las Vegas. It seemed like it was popped out of some assembly line motel.  We've been to a few and can recognise the blah interior design. In some States only the Indian reservations can have casinos,  and it is improving their quality of life.  Although I thought employment was part of it.  Hmmm.... In Nevada any business can have slot machines, so are found at petrol stations, grocery stores and brothels. I was walking to the loo in a petrol/grocery store and past a guy bemoaning that he just lost $50 in a slot machine. The thought "Chump" leapt instantly to my mind.

Las Vegas

We could get Circus Circus for $55/ night Sunday to Thursday and $275/ night Friday and Saturday.  We were there on Friday so just drove through during the day. Couture shopping strips, big ticket singers and faux Beatles. Probably missed the nightly carnival experience. Ah well.

Zion Canyon and Ring of Fire

We drove through Zion Canyon, its so busy they wont let tourists drive into the heart, but we couldn't get on the bus, it was full and drove past us. Damn. We kept going and drove into the Ring of Fire National Park. If you think you've seen one canyon you've seen them all, you would be wrong. Colors and structures just keep changing. Ring of Fire had very red rocks. Interesting formations and petroglyphs.

Bryce Canyon

This one is stunning.  The Queens garden walk is beautiful. There is an amazing court of pinnacles that fill an entire cliff side. It looks like a gathering of very impressive royally clad statues of people having a serious conference. We spent a couple of days having a look at the place, lovely walks. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92103269 https://www.nps.gov/brca/learn/historyculture/americanindianhistory.htm
Bryce Canyon NP

Bryce Canyon NP

Bryce Canyon NP

Bryce Canyon NP

Pinnacles  can be found in WA in the Cervantes National Park and at the Mulu Caves National Park in Sabah, but are nowhere as spectacular.

Moab

We stayed in a town called Moab. It felt like the wild west.  It's in Utah so you see some Mormon influence but this is mostly swamped by the tacky souvenirs, tee shirts etc that you've come to expect from a tourist trap. The place is entirely filled with huge chain motels and fast food chains. Fortunately for us social media like tripadvisor help us locate local cafes, restaurants that are not chains. We found the number One food joint was a caravan selling quesadillas, its a wrap with a vege meat mix, with an salsa verde or roja, it was indeed terrific. I was pleased to find a diner, but in fact they are sorta faux diners trying to look like what we'd expect from a movie portraying the fifties, it was art imitating life, now life imitating art. Its confusing and bizarre. I found out what grits taste like, sorta like polenta with a mild stock. Biscuits for breakfast is a dense bun, and the gravy is like thickened cream of chicken soup straight from the condensed soup can. Moab did have one fascinating shop. The area is a heartland for rock buffs. It had giant cuts of petrified wood, and a giant Mei sized geode of Citrine, lots and lots of polished rocks and little fossilised fish and ammonites and trilobites, and Indian spearheads made from obsidian. From Moab we went to the Arches National Park and the rock formations here are impressive and very interesting. We got there in the late afternoon and there was no queue, got some lovely shots near sunset.

Canyonlands

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

The next morning about ~9-10am we noticed the very long queue into the Arches and decided to go to Canyonlands National Park instead. Al and Irene from Darwin Sound mentioned this was like the Grand Canyon. It certainly had the spectacular view over a huge drop.

Arches

Arches NP

Arches NP

Arches NP Gossips

Arches NP Gossips

The next day we went to the Arches about 6am. The gates were not manned and we just drove through. It was October and it was chilly, we walked to see the landscape arch. We eventually walked around to the other side of the primitive trail for a couple of miles.  It was lovely and had very few walkers. It started to warm up and by 10am tee shirts and shorts were the norm.  Then it got really hot. Glad we left early.  Much easier walking in the cool. Lots of people had those trekking poles. They seem to climb up a steep rock scramble without having to actually grab the rock with their bare hands

Salt Lake City

We drove through Salt Lake City. Headed for the Backcountry.com store.  Thought their gear would be displayed,  but no,  you needed to have trolled through their catalogue and picked out want you wanted to try on. They would get it for you and then you could try it. Very frustrating.  We went to REI and discovered it was like the Bunnings of outdoor gear.  This is where you would come and try to get the fit,  then get it at backcountry if it was cheaper there.  We found a terrific Vietnamese restaurant.

Tetons and Yellowstone

We headed towards Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Jackson is an amazing town.  People in the area service the very rich people who have homes there.  I read about how dot com people buy ranches for such huge money the locals can't resist selling. The local ranchers stay on work the ranch to add to the ambience, and provide a backdrop like garden gnomes. It is totally bizarre. The shops here are really interesting. The one that stood out had a skull of a Triceratops for sale. Giant ammonites and a skull of a sabre tooth tiger. Trinkets for the obscenely wealthy.
Jenny lake, Tetons

Jenny lake, Tetons

 
Struthiomimus

Struthiomimus

Triceratops

Triceratops

Sabretooth Tiger

Sabretooth Tiger

We liked Jackson Hole but stayed at the Teton Village, where the Jackson Hole Ski fields are. The Teton National Park is gorgeous with the lovely mountain ranges.  We got to see a large Elk in the wild sitting in a glade minding it’s business.  With about a dozen tourists taking pictures. Lots of them with very huge lenses. The ones as long as your arm and weighing 3 kg. Some of these people didn't even have tripods so would have been struggling to hold it steady. I think for me I’d want a 40x optical compact zoom camera under 500g. Otherwise it's too freaking heavy to lug around all day. The camera better have some serious photo stabilizers, so I don't need a tripod.
Moose, Tetons

Moose, Tetons

Chipmonk

Chipmonk

We went looking for Bison. Saw five near Mormon Row, a long way in the sage fields. Mormon Row has some barns and houses that were built a couple of centuries ago. In fact they are deserted, but the locals have rebuilt some of them to preserve that heritage.
Mormon Row, Tetons

Mormon Row, Tetons

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

One early morning we found about a hundred Bison near a hot spring, the closest could have touched the car. We stayed obediently in the car for about an hour, then Kevin decided to get out of the car to take more photos with at least 5 people walking around. I guess he got to within 10m. Yellowstone reminded me of Ruapehu, steam coming out of the ground. Saw Old Faithful blow. We didn't have time to do any walks.  It was snowing. Looked out for Yogi bear. No luck. The Yellowstone was closing down for winter. Some roads were already closed.

Minnesota

We promised Skip and Bobbi to visit them in Minnesota. We caught a train called "Empire Builder" from Spokane, Washington. Why so far off the beaten track? We needed to return the damn car and Spokane was the closest. We alighted at Minneapolis - St Paul, and Skip and Bobbi met us at the station. Skip drove us to their house on the banks of Green Lake. The leaves were just turning the glorious fall colours. It was pretty.
Skip and Bobbi

Skip and Bobbi

Green Lake Minnesota

Green Lake Minnesota

We met Skip and Bobbi in Langkawi, Malaysia and we shipped our yachts to Turkey at the same time. We sailed together around Turkey and Greece. We learnt how to med moor and play backgammon. We met them again in the Virgin Islands. Skip showed us his very impressive wood-work shop.

The Chesapeake

We returned to the marina in the Chesapeake. Hurricane Matthew missed our marina a few weeks before. We were glad we were not in the vicinity. There was nothing we could do. The yacht was on the hard and apparently braced for action. I saw the bracing and it was fairly puny compared to the bracing in the Caribbean. Glad they weren’t necessary. We finished some jobs and caught up with Alison and Chuck, off Charliventura. We had met them in Cartagena, Spain. They had a dream run in Europe, having cruised there for 10 years. We headed south as the chill began to nip at our heels. The foliage had not started to turn color. The local Chesapeakinese told us time after time that a long Indian summer meant a cold and bitter winter. Eventually even the meteorologists were espousing the same theme.
Delataville, Maryland

Deltaville, Maryland

Delataville, Maryland

Deltaaville, Maryland

 

Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)

aligator-river-icw
ICW

ICW

alligator-river-dawn We managed to motor from Norfolk Virginia to Beaufort North Carolina through the ICW. We did it before the real cold set in. We stepped out into the Atlantic with a north wind blowing us south. We couldn’t stay in the cockpit it was way too bitter cold. Luckily the heater worked a treat.

Charleston

We went to Charleston and stayed in the marina just by the old town. Charleston is interesting especially the old town.  But like many old towns that are quaint it was deluged by tourists. The old slave market / fresh food market has been replaced by souvenir/craft as the tourists begin to outnumber the locals in the streets. I read “South of Broad” by Pat Conroy. It gives a sense of the place and the people. Spanish Moss hangs off trees called Live Oaks. They are a type of Bromeliad.
Spanish Moss Carolinas

Spanish Moss Carolinas

Spanish Moss Carolinas

Spanish Moss Carolinas

Florida

In Florida it was just warm enough for shorts. We sailed into Fernandina Beach and the municipal marina had been wrecked by Hurricane Mathew. The cost to fix the marina was 24 million and a little town of 12,000 would not be able to afford it. But apparently FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) could be tapped to pay for it. They seem to be the disaster aid fund. They have also been proactive because in some districts along the ICW, FEMA paid for houses to be raised several feet in a flood prone zone. Kevin was driving a rental car to Fort Lauderdale. He drove into the Florida Turnpike and turned north instead of south. We couldn’t turn around for 40 miles and eventually had to go 80 miles out of the way. He was spitting chips. The journey took 3.5 hours instead of 2. Naturally the toll queues were at a standstill, only two of the five booths were open. Fort Lauderdale is a maze of concrete flyovers and roads going every other way. Two days before Christmas; traffic was in total meltdown. It was a zoo. We are now in Vero Beach and have visited the Kennedy Space Centre. It’s also the last place to stock up before we get to Cuba. We plan to day hop down the coast and jump the Gulf Stream from Key Largo to Cuba. After that we will head to Panama. We wish you all a Happy New Year