Pam’s birthday cruise, part 2 – rescue at sea!

Wow. We had such a good night’s sleep last night. Sound sleep straight through until 7:30 AM. Nice. Today is a full day at sea. There’s just a light wind, and the seas are very calm. It’s hard to tell we’re moving at around 16 knots.

Pam headed off to the gym while I dawdled in the room. Finally headed up for breakfast an hour later, and pigged out on bacon, eggs, ham and grits. And some of the good coffee. Yum. We hung out for a couple of hours on the Lido Deck, trying to help the sun break completely through the partly cloudy skies. It was a nice warm morning, so the break from the sun wasn’t uncomfortable at all. I headed back to the room for a while and repacked my SCUBA gear for Grand Cayman diving tomorrow morning.

A couple of hours flew by, and when I looked out the window I noticed we were almost stopped dead in the water. I looked at one of the ship channels on TV and saw we were circling back to the north just a bit, very slowly. That’s odd. It was a little before 1 PM. I heard the ship’s bell and the cruise director came over the speaker system. He announced there was a small boat off our starboard side, apparently in distress. I walked out onto the balcony and there it was in the distance. Hmmm. I headed up to the Lido Deck and had a discussion with Pam about promptness (and my lack of it). Oops.

But just then I was saved by the ship’s bell. The cruise director came back on and let us know what he knew. It’s a small boat, they’re in some kind of trouble, we’re in contact with the US Coast Guard, awaiting instructions. Interesting. Drama at sea. I headed back down to the cabin and grabbed the cameras. Snapped a few pictures then uploaded them to my laptop. Zoomed in a bit more using the editing software and could count twelve people on board. And there probably were some more folks that I couldn’t see.

Some time passed and as we drew a bit closer the people on the boat started yelling and waiving, pointing off in the distance beyond their boat. And then we could see – there were three people in the water, one around a mile away from their boat, and two more even farther off in the distance. Jeez. That’s not good. What are they doing? Why would they abandon their perfectly stable and safe boat?

We watched the drama unfold over the next hour as the first swimmer made it safely back to his boat. Then, a while later, the other two finally made it safely back. Whew. Thank goodness. There’s no telling how long they’d been swimming. It was at least two hours, cause that’s how long they’d been in the water after we first saw them. Could they have been swimming toward our ship, trying to signal us? Crazy. Individuals are so small in the water, almost impossible to see unless you know exactly where to look. A boat is so much bigger, so much easier to spot. And as our ship came to a stop, we had circled around to the opposite side of the little boat, which left the swimmers a long way away. Maybe that’s what they were doing, but regardless, they’re very lucky to have made it safely back.

The ship’s bell rang again, and the cruise director made another announcement. For security reasons we can’t take the folks on board, but we’re going to send some food, water, and sunscreen over to them. Then he lets us know there are 22 people on board the little boat. Man, that’s packed. They’ve run out of gas and unfortunately our ship’s fuel isn’t compatible with their outboard engines. I snap a few more pictures and upload them. As I enlarge them

I notice the boat had a FLORIDA REGISTRATION.

Interesting.

Our rescue boat came around the stern of our ship. I looked at Pam. She had tears streaming down her face. These pitiful people, trying to escape from Cuba. This wasn’t people on TV news for just a couple of minutes and then gone to be forgotten. . . These were people we’d been watching for a couple of hours. At 3PM our rescue launch, loaded with supplies, pulled aside their boat. The people looked so relieved. Our boat made a couple of trips back and forth from our ship, carrying more goods and a doctor, to make sure they didn’t have any life-threatening problems. They were sunburned and dehydrated, and all but one looked to be in OK condition. One guy didn’t look so good, though.

The cruise director made another announcement. We still can’t take them on board. But there’s no way we can just leave them behind. The Coast Guard has a cutter on the way, and we’re going to remain in position until we hear otherwise from the Coast Guard. They’ll be here in seven hours or so. Wow.

We wait and they wait. They look a bit more comfortable now that they have food and water. We can hear them talking to each other and can see them smiling and laughing a bit. I’m sure they were terrified, drifting out in the middle of nowhere, uncertain of any rescue.

Hours pass. We move closer and refugee boat is now within a few feet our ship, right below our balcony. We hear someone from our ship having a discussion with them. Some start putting on shirts, shoes, socks; getting dressed. Someone throws something into the water. Then another. Fishing knives. A couple more go over the side of their boat. The ship’s bell sounds again, and the cruise director makes another announcement: the Coast Guard ship is having mechanical difficulty and will be severely delayed. We’re going to bring them on board. They’ll go through a security checkpoint, checked over in the infirmary, then moved to an isolated area of the ship and kept separate from everyone else. We’ll continue on to our next port (Grand Cayman) and they’ll be turned over to the proper authorities at some point.

More tears flow as they climb one-by-one from their boat onto the ship. As the first one safely makes it, people on our ship start to applaud. With three people remaining on board, one of the guys is passed a bucket of fluorescent orange paint and a roller brush. He is instructed to paint the bow of the boat, which will make it easier to spot. The last three people make it aboard and their boat is once again set adrift, this time without any passengers.

We’re now booking along, doing 23 knots, making up time. We’re still scheduled to arrive in plenty of time at Grand Cayman, so no delays there.

Pam’s birthday cruise – part 1

It’s here! Pam’s special birthday. And our birthday celebration cruise, in honor of her special birthday. Here’s to you, Pam!

Our neighbors from waaaaay back, Cindy and Dave Lober, are able to go with us. Conveniently enough, Cindy’s birthday is next Sunday, the day we return to Tampa. How cool is that? And Dave’s birthday is just a few days after that, and mine another couple of weeks beyond.

As we packed our luggage, I tried to keep remind Pam how over packed we were during our Thanksgiving cruise. On that one I wound up wearing one pair of shorts (actually my swimsuit) almost 100% of the time, and only one or two Hawaiian shirts the entire week. But, the “what if we decide to go to a lot of shows” mentality caught up with us again, and we ended up with a ton of stuff. And when I added another full-sized case for my scuba gear (yes, I’m brining my full wet suit in case the water is under 80 degrees), camera bag, etc, we pretty much maxed out the bed of my truck. I even have a little bag of weights to use while snorkeling – something to keep me just barely buoyant instead of “Mr. Corkbody.”

We arrived early at the ship terminal to make sure we didn’t have to stand in long lines. We weren’t disappointed. We whipped into valet parking, the porter grabbed our luggage and within minutes we were checked in. All that remained was the quick pass through the last x-ray security checkpoint for the carry-on luggage, and we would be on the ship. Lido Deck, here we come!

I’m so glad a dumb-head hasn’t tried to blow up a cruise ship by lighting fire to his tennis shoes. Since no one has, we didn’t have to strip down (including shoes) to pass through the last scan. I did have to take my laptop out of my bag though. But the weights. Ah, yes, the weights. I gently place them on the conveyer belt to pass through the scanner along with the rest of my carry on. Everything slowly passes through the x-ray machine – and I see then start pointing at the TV monitor. I think they noticed my weights. “Sir, are these yours?” Hmmm. They can’t complain that they’re too heavy and the boat will sink. The boat weighs over 80,000 tons. A few extra weights on the starboard side of the ship won’t make that much of a difference.

I’m escorted to my own private room off to the side. Have they heard of some new plot that involves diving weights? Am I about to be strip searched? In the room the security guy takes a look in my little bag, and smiles. “Weights for your diving?” Whew. Someone who understands. He moves the little pouches around and tells me no problem – have a nice cruise. The weights had shown up as a big black mass on the monitor. The guys just wanted to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything suspicious inside all that lead. Like Kryptonite, for instance.

And in an instant we were on the ship – the Lido deck. I don’t know if it was in honor of Pam’s birthday, the first day of the cruise, the fact that it was a New Year’s cruise, or maybe they wanted everyone to be happy, but the free champagne was flowing. Every waiter had a tray of lovely champagne glasses. So Dave and I did our part to relieve them of every last one. Did you know that champagne goes really well with a hamburger and fries? Trust me, it does.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur. Lunch, to the cabins to drop off our carry ons, some exploring around the ship, lifeboat drill, back to the cabins to get ready for dinner. During the lifeboat drill I paused in the eddy of all the people and started to talk to one of the crew. He was a friendly guy, a musician. Told him it was Pam’s birthday, and he said his band would be performing in one of the lounges later and to come by and they’d sing her Happy Birthday! Cool.

Then dinner. When the guy came to take our drink order I told him it was Pam’s special birthday. He smiled and said they’ll take care of her. And they did. Dinner was excellent, and before they brought out dessert they brought out a special dessert for Pam. And a special birthday hat, folded from one of the linen napkins. They led us in Happy Birthday! – one of the most off-key renditions the world has ever heard. People all around were laughing and smiling.

After dinner Pam announced she was going to work out for a while. Eh? After dinner? I stayed in the cabin to grab a quick nap. And suddenly we were off to the lounge. The band had just gone on break before we arrived, we had a warm-up drink and listened to the canned music. In a little while the band, Music Network, came back. First song: “You say it’s your birthday!” in honor of Pam and Cindy. Pam and I looked at each other. Wow! Good rockin’ music! These guys are good!! And they were. Santana, ZZ Top, Queen, The Police, Beatles, and on and on. The guy I met during the lifeboat drill was the drummer. The bass player had a Paul McCartney type of rock and roll voice. They all sang well and had excellent harmony. Bohemian Rhapsody was amazing. They’re going to be playing on the Lido Deck tomorrow after lunch. Can’t wait to see them again.

We wound up dancing and partying until way past midnight. Happy Birthday, Pam! Hope you had a good one!

Underwater

The underwater housing that I’d ordered from Amazon.com arrived today, in time for the little vacation Pam and I are going to take on Sunday. For practice I rented a tank from Divers Supply (best dive shop in the world) and geared up for some underwater fun.

The camera is a Cannon PowerShot SD1000. Really nice camera. The instruction manual for the housing had instructions for setting the camera to underwater mode, which helps filter out some of the blueness that’s always there. Sweet. I hadn’t checked out the various modes for the camera until now.

The audio in the video is the real deal – I didn’t add it after the fact. It’s the audio the camera recorded during the filming. It totally surprised me. I wasn’t really expecting it to record any interesting sounds. So far I’ve tested the case in my pool at 5′ with no leaks. It’s rated to go 130 feet deep. If it works as advertised (and it has so far), this is going to be fun!

I was wearing a full wetsuit including hood. The water was a freezing 68 degrees. At first I tried to wade in wearing just the shorty (no legs), but EEK! that was cold. I’m such a wimpo. Ended up spending about 40 minutes in the pool with the camera, practicing swooping down on an object and taking a quick shot.

During the afternoon session I noticed my regulator was acting up. It was seeping a constant stream of air. Not a lot, but enough to have it checked out before the vacation. I switched over to Zach’s and it had a wide open flow – not good. I drove back over to Divers Supply and the tech was able to get me fixed up right away. I left Zach’s gear behind for a full servicing.

When I got back home I hopped back into my wetsuit (COLD! because it was still wet) and did some night photography. There’s not too much interesting stuff in the pool, although I did see an undersea creature. Shocking.

Roller coasters at Busch Gardens

We went to Busch Gardens on December 26, trying to get the most out of our annual passes, which are about to expire on 12/31. Pam didn’t go, but I took Zach, Brittany, Alix, Jeffrey, and Jeffrey’s sister. I tagged along with them, trying not to be a 5th wheel, and had a great time. They always do a circuit of the roller coasters; it had been a couple of years for me. I usually hang out with Pam and look at animals, ride the train, eat – you know, kinda sedate stuff. But I got my fill of excitement this day.

First up: Montu. Zach and Brittany sitting in the row in front of me. Alix, Jeffrey, and his sister ended up on the next run. I wound up sitting in a row of random strangers, but they were a hoot to listen to. Lots of good screaming. And of course the classic “I wanna do it again!” once the terror was over. Me? I felt like I’d been run through a blender, waterfall, and tidal wave, all in one.

The next leg: Kumba. If you thought Montu was intense, wait till you get a peek at Kumba. Zach and Brittany are to my right; Alix, Jeffrey, and his sister were in the next car behind. I had another good view on the end. Kumba was so much more radical than Montu. OOF!!!! The loops were so much tighter and faster! The ride so much bumpier. Afterwards I felt like I needed to check into the hospital for a few days. Or take a nice, long, Caribbean cruise. Man, totally intense.

(To all the kids who view this: No, I didn’t hold my arm way out to the side to shoot the video. You kidding? I didn’t want to lose an arm! The camera was safely inside the car.)

Next up: Shekra! 90 degrees straight down drop. I’ve never been on it before, and after Montu and Kumba, didn’t know if today was really the day I wanted to. I ended up with a middle of the row seat, but still had a good view. Had the camera all ready to go, just like on Montu and Kumba. But when the park person came by to make sure everyone was strapped in OK, she signaled the controller and my harness popped up. “Put your camera in the bin over there.” Crap. What’s up with that? So I didn’t get to film the action. The ride was pretty cool, though. Not as intense as Kumba, and smoother feeling than Montu. (Anything is smoother feeling than Kumba!) The drop was exciting. I felt weightless for a couple of seconds – seem like 20 – and it felt like we were dropping past 90 degrees straight down – almost a bit upside down. Great rush.

The kids were ready to move on to Gwazi. But by now, I’d had enough. I was really hungry and didn’t need another shakedown, so I sat with the rest of the losers while they enjoyed this one. (We somehow missed the 5th roller coaster, but none of us felt like going back to make the circuit complete.)

On the way home from all the tumbling we popped into Taco Bell for some nice comfort food. It’s good to be alive. : )

The trip from hell

Started off Sunday morning contemplating spending the day playing Call of Duty 4. You know, real productive day. Instead I finally finished installing software into my latest VPC image. I kinda bloated it up. 30Gig! Crap. Too much stuff… I didn’t really need to load the entire MSDN library (3 GB) and the full version of everything on it. Ah well. Then, with SnowstormLife still barfing occasionally with application errors, I decided to hop off Community Server. But onto what? I know, I’ll build something of my own. And I spent the next several hours realizing how much I had forgotten about web development. But It’s coming back to me. And I’ll have a spanking new, barf-free site. That night Pam and I watched “Waitress”, a funny, quirky, fabulous movie. Go rent the DVD.

Monday was the big up and back day-trip to NYC. It has been 14 years since I’ve been here. Early morning flight meant getting up at 3:30, after a short 5 hour snooze compared to the extremely short 2 hours the night before.

I had already checked into all legs of my flights, so when I got to the airport I headed right for the gate. Little did I know the day was going to turn to hell.

Question for Boeing (yeah, the airplane maker): WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE SEATS???? Why do they insist on creating the “legs” for the seats in the most impractical positions for at least one person on each side of the aisle. On my flight from Tampa to Atlanta I was on a 717-200. I had a window seat a couple of rows back from the very back of the plane. And I had a spot exactly 13 inches wide for my feet, angled off to the right side. And the seat itself was slanted to the left, making my body do a very unnatural “S” curve. I wasn’t able to get comfortable the entire flight. Fortunately the flight was only an hour and fifteen minutes long. But it was an hour and fifteen minutes of discomfort.

I’m glad I didn’t know then that things were going to get much worse before they got better.

Am I on a roller coaster ride? That’s what the last 10 minutes of the flight from Atlanta to Newark was like. Strong cold winds had blown into the northeast on Sunday and were still blowing strong. As we approached the airport for landing I could see the Manhattan skyline peeking through the low clouds. It’s such an impressive site – all those tall buildings packed wall to wall. We landed with a huge bounce then a couple of smaller bounces.

Oh my God! We’re not slowing down! We’re not breaking! Well, that’s what it seemed like. But we were. And we did. We hopped the NJTransit train and headed to Penn Station. I played “tourist” and took a bunch of pictures, then we caught a cab uptown. Cool cab – had GPS and an interactive map showing the cab’s location on a monitor in the back. It confirmed the obvious – we were in a huge traffic jam, and we weren’t going anywhere for a while. It had a credit card machine for paying the cab bill. Coolness – I wouldn’t have to burn through my cash right off the bat. But the cabbie had other ideas. We stopped at our destination, I pulled out my credit card and started to swipe. “No, you can’t. I pushed the button. You have to pay cash. It’s too late for card.” Crap. So I forked over the cash. And he managed to stiff himself out of a nice tip. Sorry.

It’s amazing that all cars driving in Manhattan don’t have body damage. It’s a complete zoo.

We still had a bit of time before our meeting started so we went in search of lunch. Found a hole in the wall kosher place near the 9 West building on 57th Street. (Why is it called “9 West” when it’s between 5th and 6th Avenue?) Kosher doesn’t matter to me, but menu looked good. While Dave and I were eating my phone rang – an 800 number. I almost didn’t answer it. But I’m glad I did, because the phone call changed my plans dramatically. It was AirTran calling me. They knew, at 11:30 in the morning that my 7:45 PM flight was going to be late. And that I would not make my connection to Tampa. How did they know that? And if they know that so early, why can’t they do something about it? Crap. So I have a choice – spend the night in the Newark airport or spend the night in the Atlanta airport. I love options. I feel so empowered. I really like having a choice of where I get to spend several groggy, uncomfortable hours. Crap. But I think I said that already.

…. later ….

The meeting went real well. We were on the 17th floor and had a nice view of some smaller (and larger) buildings across the street. But we had to close the curtains during the presentation. Good thing, though, because I don’t think  I could have concentrated on anything but the cityscape otherwise.

That evening with our flight delayed a bit we took our time getting back to Penn Station. The energy I remember from NYC 14 years ago was still there. Crowded. Noisy. The place was alive.

Since I had the pleasure of making a choice, I’ve chosen Atlanta. That’s where I choose to suffer. Only one leg away from home. Whee. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning. My feet hurt. Right now I’m in the Newark airport, the delayed flight is even later than they predicted. Maybe I should just rent a car from here and drive to Tampa. It’s probably only a 14 hour drive. Um, no.

…. later ….

This is the trip from hell. I will never fly AirTran again. That’s what I told the customer rep I was talking to on the phone after we arrived in Atlanta. It was 1:00 in the morning. I was scheduled for an 8AM departure. My options at this point: 1) try to catch some zzzz’s on the ground at the airport; 2) try to find a hotel that would take me in for a couple of hours, cab over there, sleep for a couple of hours, 5:30 wake up call to put my stinkin same clothes back on – the ones that I’d been wearing since 3:30 the previous morning, get back to the airport, run the security gauntlet, and (HOPEFULLY) get on an AirTran plane.

I was tired. I was frustrated. I wanted  to get home. And I didn’t trust AirTran. And by now it was 1:30 Tuesday morning. Crap. The customer rep put me on hold again for 15 minutes this time. That was the last straw. When she came back on I told her to cancel the final leg of my trip and give me a refund. She couldn’t since it was a non-refundable fare, but she could give me a credit that I could use the next time I flew AirTran. That’s when made my proclamation: “This is the trip from hell. I will never fly AirTran again.”

So I had her create a credit that will never be used. I hope their accounting department goes into convulsions trying to figure out to do with it one day. I walked over to Avis and was lucky enough to be able to rent a cheap car, one way to Tampa this close to the holidays.

Road trip! Now 2:30 in the morning. Been up since 3:30 the morning before. 6+ hour drive staring me in the face. My blood was boiling thanks to AirTrap, my adrenalin pumping. I knew I would be able to at least get a whopping hour outside Atlanta before getting drowsy.

Dark outside. Can’t see anything except the boatload of trucks on the road. Don’t know if I’m in mountains, plains, near a lake. (Well, actually I did know all that stuff because I kinda know the topography of Georgia, but I couldn’t see it.) Just the interstate. And me. And my rental. And my sleepy mind.

Just south of Macon I hit the wall. Hungry, tired, bored. The novelty of a road trip long gone. The reality of what I was doing staring me in the face. Crap.

I pulled into a Waffle House. Thank God for Waffle House. Scrambled eggs, toast, grits, hash browns, bacon, and 3 cups of coffee. Aaaaah. Foood. Good food. Now I was awake. I grabbed a another cup of coffee for the road, left a generous tip for the waiter and cook then headed to the gas station next door. Bought a Coke and some sunflower seeds, oh, and swiped an empty coffee cup for the shells. Yeah. Sunflower seeds. My buddy Ken recommended them as a way to stay awake while driving. Gives you something to concentrate on. And it works. I hit the road again and was booking along I-75 southbound.

Unfortunately, all the coffee I had at Waffle House and all the Coke I was drinking because of the salty seeds kinda put a kink in my mileage plan. I had to stop every hour or so to relieve the pressure. But I guess it was a good thing, cause each time I started back up I was fresh again. If I could just make it to daylight without wiping out I knew I would be OK.

When I crossed the Florida state line I pulled into the welcome center, totally beat. I went inside, rested for a few minutes, wondering what to do. Take a short nap? Press on? I set the alarm on my phone for 15 minutes, eased back the car seat, and closed my eyes. Solid cat nap. Refreshed. I looked to the southeast and noticed it was starting to get light. Morning! Yes!!! I started the car and pressed on for home, still stopping every hour or so because of all the liquid I’d consumed.

11:00 AM and I made it home. Dropped off the rental at the Tampa airport, got my truck and drove home. Home! What a lovely site.

UNGH! 36 hours in a suit, overcoat, and pair of tasseled loafers. It’s time to go fishin. And I’m never flying AirTran again.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I woke up real early this morning and never did get back to sleep. Real early as in 2:30 AM. Ouch. I popped wide awake and figured I’d go check on the software installation on one of my VPC images. One of the long steps had finished and I was able to start the next installation. As I kicked that off I decided to check e-mail (waiting on Pat and Ali of bumfuzzle to reply back to me 🙂 )  then started surfing the web. That was a mistake. It’s so easy to lose track of time… and suddenly it was 5:30. At that point I knew more sleep wasn’t going to happen for a while. I had a tennis lesson scheduled for 7:00 and didn’t want to fall asleep just to wake up groggy a half our later. So instead I played some XBOX Live, Call of Duty 4. That’s a fun game. Favorite part – the way a stun grenade affects you. Bloodshot eyes, foggy brain, slow movements – exactly like I was feeling in real life at that moment.

My tennis lesson didn’t last too long. Jacob is back in town from visiting with his brother in Denver for a few months. He and I hit for a couple of hours on Thursday, bashing the ball back and forth as hard as we could. No points, no scoring, just whaling away at the ball. Good clean fun. Except I broke the strings in two of my rackets. My third matching racket already had busted strings in it from my first-round playoffs defeat in the K-Swiss league. No new free pair of shoes this year. So on Saturday morning, here I was with my 13-year-old backup racket – an old Dunlop that I used to play with all the time. As I took it out, Fernando noticed my different weapon, and made a comment. I explained the broken strings in the other rackets (and that I’m a lazy bum and didn’t want to restring them yet). But, I told him if the strings broke we could just go have some breakfast. Much more appealing for me, after only 2 hours of sleep last night.

So, 20 minutes into the lesson – pop! – the strings broke. Lesson over! I had to smile. Raised my hands in victory. Time for breakfast!

The rest of the day was a foggy blur. Periods of dozing followed by periods of semi-lucidness, mostly spent trying to cure my case of the munchies. By the time evening rolled around I contemplated adding some of the Captain Morgan rum we’d gotten in St. Thomas into my coke, but it would have knocked me out for the count. And Pam wanted to watch Live Free or Die Hard, which I was up for. I managed to stay awake for all but the last 10 minutes of the movie. I woke up and the credits were rolling. Rats. Don’t know how Bruce saved the world. Ah, well….

I updated the home page of SnowstormLife.com, finally changing from the default stuff that Community Server installs to something a bit more interesting. (Just a bit.) But as I was doing so I seem to have broken something. Now every couple of page clicks a nasty error message throws up in my face. Ugh. Probably something I did….

…. later …

I think I found it. I’d put an ampersand on the home page, and included a single quote mark in my blog title (instead of the escaped code sequence that represents the single quote mark). I think one of those two changes was causing the rest of the site to freak out. Hopefully it’s fixed for now.

More rain tonight – absolutely pouring rain with thunder. Just like a good old fashioned summer thunderstorm. The weather service has posted some tornado watches for the area, but it looks like the worst of the storm will pass to the north of us. But, Zach’s going to have to cut the grass Sunday. During the dry spell he was able to get by a couple of weeks between cutting. But with 2 good rains in the past 48 hours, it’s growing like weeds again.

Me? I’m going to spend Sunday relaxing and trying not to think about my trip to NYC early Monday morning. They’re supposed to get pounded by a winter storm with highs in the 30s. Eek…. I still haven’t found my overcoat. Probably because I haven’t started looking for it yet. I guess I’ll spend a couple of hours doing that on Sunday, after hopefully getting a good night’s sleep.

Rain

Yeah. For the first time in I don’t know how long it’s raining. A good downpour. Olga (at least I believe it was named Olga) the tropical depression that wasn’t, turned into a nice little band of moisture that’s coming through the state. Plus there’s a cold front moving down from the north (which has most of the eastern half of the country snuggling up for warmth), making for a nice collision. And rain. Looks like I won’t have to get up early for tennis after all. It’s been in the 80s all week long, and last week, and I think the week before that. Really nice, but makes it hard to get into the holiday spirit. Next week we’re going to be in the 60s during the day and 40s at night. Just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately on Monday I’m going to be headed deep into the cold – have to travel up to NYC to visit with a client. Then on Thursday & Friday next week I’m off to Atlanta for some planning. Going to be a chilly week. Now where did I put my overcoat?

Thanksgiving cruise, 2007 – thursday, november 22 – st martin – underwater

Just back got the pictures I took using the inexpensive underwater camera I bought on the ship. It was pretty cheap (only $15) and it’s reusable (35MM film), so I figured what the heck, it’s worth a shot. The pictures came out pretty good. Sure, it’s a big hassle to have to drop the film off for developing then go back to pick up the pictures & CD a couple of days later. But it sure is a lot less expensive than buying an underwater digital camera for a few hundred bucks.

Anyway, here are some of the results.

c1  c2

Shark’s eye view of the family. Zach, just before a large eel swam out of the hole and scared him to death.

c3

 

Some little fishies

c4  c5

A couple of shots of the submarine. Even though the sub was in only 15′ of water, I was really wishing I’d had my scuba gear with me. 

c6  c7

Zach, on his way down to 50′ – a new personal best for him. Most of the coral was dead, except for the little bit here.

c8  c9

Alix.   Port holes of the sub. 

Of the shore excursions, the day in St. Martin was the best one for me. Nice waters, nice beach. And we didn’t have to drive around on any twisty, narrow, mountainside roads like we did in St. Thomas. (Although MJ and Magic seem to prefer St. Thomas… they both have homes there.)

Umm, that’s not a fish

Pam and I went fishing last weekend. It was a beautiful, calm day. Glassy water. Air temp 80 degrees. Water temp 72 degrees. Goodbye tomato soup (the 90 degree water in mid-summer wasn’t all that refreshing.) It had been a while since we’d spent a few hours on the water. Pam started the day by catching a couple of nice sized Spanish Mackerel. A few minutes later she caught a little black tip shark. Then I got into the shark action. Caught three in a row, not really meaning to. Then another one at the end of the day. Unusual for us – we’d never caught any in that location, although we’d seen a bull shark swimming in the shallows nearby before. Anyway, these definitely weren’t bull sharks: three black tip and one bonnet head. All around two feet long. Little guys. We were able to release them all after I realized their teeth weren’t two inches long. (But I’m sure they would have really done a number on my finger or hand if they’d gotten in their mouths.)

thanksgiving cruise, 2007 – wednesday, november 21 – st thomas

Wednesday morning I woke up and we still hadn’t docked. To the west was a rainstorm that we’d passed through, complete with its own little rainbow.

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Click on the picture to see the rainbow. At one point we even had a little rainbow right off our balcony. It started at the cabin above us around to the cabin below. Very cool.

We ducked off to another delicious breakfast on the Lido deck (scrambled eggs, french toast, grits, bacon, coffee). One thing about the coffee. It’s really good. I like coffee (love the way it smells), but usually put enough milk in it to turn it into a light brown color (actually, more milk than coffee), and a couple of packs of sugar. Pam drinks hers black. But the coffee on the boat was so good, and I wanted to try an experiment to see how little milk I could drink during the week, so I had mine every time with just half a pack of Nutri-Sweet – no milk. Had it at breakfast, while sunning on the Lido deck, while killing time in our room, with lunch, dinner, after dinner snack. I’ve become a coffeeholic.

We headed back to the cabin after eating and looked  outside – LAND HO! St. Thomas had snuck up on us.

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Our first look at St Thomas.

We headed on down to meet our tour for the day: A romp up to Blackbeard’s place (one of many on the island), a winding road ride to a scenic overlook, then down to a beautiful bay where we were able to swim and relax on the beach for a couple of hours. We didn’t know we were going to the beach until after we’d already left the boat. So we didn’t have our snorkeling gear or swimsuits. Luckily (heh, imagine that) they had a shop at the beach, fully stocked with swimsuits. Some of them were extremely expensive. But we all found some reasonably priced, rented a couple of beach chairs, and off we went! The water was gorgeous, warm, and very clear.

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  Remember: we’re in Taxi 504! The view from Blackbeard’s.

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A tropical bay, where in just a few minutes we were relaxing on the beach and swimming in the clear waters.

After the beach we were taken to the tourist trap shops near the harbor where we stocked up on some duty free alcohol. Our 2 liters of rum and whiskey should last us a few years back in the states. We’re more beer drinkers than anything, but we got caught up in the moment, and the prices were unbelievably low. Oh, and Pam stocked up on some heavily discounted cigarettes (duty free, of course).

That evening at dinner we heard that one of the tour busses had been in an accident and several people from our boat had to be taken to the hospital. Most were OK, but a couple of people had to end their trip and head back to the states because of injuries. How sad. The boat was delayed from leaving a couple of hours while waiting on the folks who checked out OK at the hospital and were able to return to the ship.

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RCCL’s Freedom of the Seas departing St. Thomas. It’s cool how these huge ships can turn themselves on a dime without the aid of tugs.