Friday, November 1, 2013

Cattitude Adjustment - Sailing Kitty goes RVing

 
 
My Trinidad cat is now 14 years old, feisty as ever and believes that I am here just to serve her.  For the most part, she’s been healthy and hasn’t had to see the vet much.  But when she does – watch out!   As soon as I put her in her carrier and in the car, she howls all the way to the vet – thankfully a very short trip!

Because we will be traveling in a 5th wheel, she needs to be trained to sit up in the truck with me – without the vocalization.  So I have a cage for her now instead of the carrier, maybe that will make her happier.  I’m putting her in it every day and sitting outside with her to acclimatize her to the cage and different scenery.  She doesn’t seem to mind, she’s had a strong interest in “outside” since she’s lived in a house.  She loved “outside” when we were on the boat and sat in the cockpit and watched other boats, dinghies, birds and fish in the water.

Yesterday, after sitting outside with her, I put the cage in the truck passenger seat, where she will be traveling (hopefully silent).  She didn’t seem to mind that either.  I found the seatbelt will go around the cage nicely to hold her in.  The true test will be when I start the engine – we’ll just sit there in the truck in the driveway.  After a few days of that, we’ll take a little drive around the neighborhood.  I’m hoping that this gentle, slow introduction to RVing will enable her to be a pleasant traveling companion instead of a howling monster. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Overnight Passages



I never really minded overnight passages - well, most of them.  This picture was of a sunrise on the way to Trinidad one year - unfortunately, a motor trip, total lack of wind.  It was a very uneventful night.

But then, we had the passage from Margarita, Venezuela one year - the first 36 hours were horrible - confused seas, no rhythm at all AND to top it all off - the autopilot was broken!  By the third day, it was decently calm - but then, we had a call from the US Coast Guard cutter off our stern - they wanted to board us.   Here we were, a day away from land and they want to come over for an inspection and a drug swipe test.  Obviously, since I'm writing this - everything turned out fine.  We were really happy when we anchored after that trip.

Those were two extremes, and there have been others like them - maybe not just like them, but similar.  We were only boarded by the Coasties that once. 

One of my most memorable overnight, multi-day passages was from Margarita (again, different year) to St Thomas.  It was my first solo trip of multiple days.  The plan was to rest as much as possible during the day and at night, take 10 minute naps, get up and look around for other vessels, and take another nap.  It worked out pretty well, and the weather was behaving nicely, seas were a bit high, but they were coordinated with the wind and the boat was sailing along nicely.  I love having the motor off, nothing worse than that diesel chugging all the time! 

It was a bit cool, so I had sweats and a jacket on - yes, in the Caribbean, but it was winter!  And at night, with the wind blowing, it was chilly.   OK, I'll admit it, I'm a wimp and I like to be warm!  I was getting enough sleep during the night with my little timer buddy waking me up every 10 minutes or so, and I became very adept at falling asleep quickly after my search for other lights.  I think I saw only one other vessel, and he was miles away. 

The second night was totally moonless - but the stars were so bright you could actually see the reflections on the water.   There are so many more stars you can see without any ambient light, and they seem so much closer, and  so much brighter.  In spite of my need to sleep that night, one time I woke up, I just sat there and stared at the sky, marveling at the brilliance of light in the sky - it reminded me of glitter.   The Southern Cross was hanging perfectly over the solar panels mounted on my dinghy davits at the stern.  It was an amazing sight, and one I'll never forget. 

Now my plan is to go west in an RV and visit mountains, deserts, canyons and caverns.  I'm hoping I'll see a night sky as brilliant as the one I saw in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.  For those of you who want to follow my travels, join my page on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/LandCruisingAdventure   My wanderlust continues to control my life.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G





Friday, October 4, 2013

Hurricane Season

 
 

Hurricane season this year has been very strange - I really shouldn't say anything until it's all over, but the thought just hit me this morning as I looked at a weather chart with only one system in the entire Atlantic area - and it's only a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

While I was cruising, I'd sit at the radio in the morning and again in the evening and listen to the weather reports.   I would write down the location and other details of each weather system that was reported, then I would know how they developed and where they were moving to.  I remember having 3 or 4 weather systems in my notebook at any one time.  And it would go on like that for months, it seemed.

Of course, I was a sitting duck at that time, so I was much more tuned into the weather systems.  Now, I'm living in a house on land, and having sold my last boat, don't have to worry about a boat.  But, old habits die hard, and I'm still watching the weather coming out of Africa.  It's been very spooky this year, not much has been happening.  It's all about wind shear, African dust, dry air plus some magic and possibly some voodoo. 

Let's hope that this season will just fade away and not create any havoc - I think we deserve an easy year.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Boat Sale - Therapy

 
 
Last weekend, I closed on the sale of my boat, a sad, but good, but  stressful time.   She is really a great little boat, comfortable, solid and great sailing.  I had her up for sale for about 4 months.  Many people came to look and everyone said she was beautiful.  Problem was, the buyer had to have a cash reserve set aside to buy her.  The boat was old enough that she couldn't be financed.

The man who finally bought her was a pleasure to work with, the communication was great and I know he will take care of her as she should be cared for.   When he first came to see the boat, we spent about an hour talking about the boat, cruising and sailing - and then went on to talk about other things for almost another hour.

On closing day, we did the survey, sea trial, and haul to check the bottom of the boat.   The buyer was on board, the surveyor, my friend and I.  It was a beautiful Florida day, bright blue skies, hot sun and no wind.  OK, we knew there was not going to be any sailing up to the boatyard.  We motored while the surveyor continued to poke around the boat, checking everything.  We got to the haulout and watched as the workers put the boat in the sling and raised her from the water.  The surveyor spent about a half hour checking the boat bottom and then she was put back in the water to finish the trip back to our marina, raising the sails to check them on the way. 

Back at the dock, we tied her up again, got the shore power all hooked up again as the surveyor continued to check things.  In all, the survey and haul took about 4 hours.  It was hot in the marina and we were all ready for a good rain shower.  It was another hour before we finished the exchange, signed papers and then located a notary to sign the documentation over. 

I am so glad that the buyer was someone I felt comfortable handing over possession of the boat I'd put so much hard work into.  I could tell he would be someone who took care of his things.


Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Exumas, Bahamas




The Bahamas are great.  The Exuma island chain in the Bahamas is amazing.  On the west side of this chain of islands is shallow water, varying shades of pale blue.   On the east side of the islands is more varying shades of blue, but mostly darker, deeper.  It's all very clear water.

Some of these islands are inhabited, nothing more than large rocks.  We had the opportunity to anchor for a couple weeks in an area known as Ship's Channel, just north of Allen's Cay where everyone anchors to see the iguanas.  To get into this little skinny channel between a couple islands, we had to go single file and anchor in a row.  There were 3 or 4 boats in our group at that time.

We were there in the winter and we kept getting cold fronts with lots of wind, so we stayed there since it was nicely protected.  The guys went out fishing every day and we always had fresh fish.  The local fishermen had a building on the top of a hill that they let us use for cookouts.   The fishermen would come in a couple days a week with a load of conch and they would string them together and put them in shallow water to keep them alive until they went to Nassau with them.  Since they were tied together, there was no way for them to coordinate an escape.  The island people sometimes have the simplest fix for problems.

When we left there, we visited the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park, a preserve full of those friendly little birds that fly right into your boat looking for sugar.  Bananaquits are so friendly, they'll sit right on your hand while they eat. 

The anchorage has the beautiful Bahamian water, multiple shades of blue, and so clear.  We hiked up to a hill where other cruisers and visitors had left signs of their boat name or their names and what year they were there.  The pile of driftwood signs was high, but only the latest ones, the ones on top, were still colorful.  Sunlight had faded the ones underneath.

We anchored overnight at Little Farmer's Cay, a sparsely populated island where the locals use the VHF radio, familiar to all boaters, as their phones.  We walked around the little settlement and went into their grocery store.  They obviously did not have much tourist trade - they had boxes of Corn Flakes that were faded from the sun coming in the windows.  Guess the locals don't eat Corn Flakes.  As in most of the Bahamas, the islands that don't see much tourist trade are very friendly.  It's not every day someone comes into their harbor to visit. 

We bypassed a few of the islands and ended up in Georgetown on Great Exuma, the largest island in the chain.  Cruising sailboats (and a few power boats) gather here for the winter months, most of them returning home to the states or Canada for the summer.  There were 500 boats anchored in the various anchorages in the area.  Cruising sailors are very social and there were volleyball games, pot lucks, fishing expeditions, hikes and other activities going on all the time. 

We stayed there a few weeks and then went on to other islands, going east and south as we hopped from one little island to the next.  These are the out islands, and very few people visit them and some are uninhabited.  We enjoyed them all and marveled at the different shades of blue that the waters produced, all depending on depth.  We went on down to the Caribbean islands and cruised there for years.  We found only one place that was a little similar to the Bahamian waters -  the Tobago Cays.  That was one of my favorite places in the Caribbean.  Not much can top the beauty of the Bahamian waters.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G



 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tornadoes/Waterspouts




Tornadoes that happen over large bodies of water are called waterspouts.   Somehow, the name doesn't seem to invoke the same panic as the word tornado, which sounds like havoc about to happen.  During the time I was cruising, I saw quite a few waterspouts, but two will remain etched in my mind forever. 

The first one was in Marathon in the Florida Keys.  The boat was on a dock at a tiny marina on Florida Bay.  This was in back of a fish house that has since been torn down to make way for more lucrative properties.  It was the middle of the afternoon and I was up at the fish house talking to some other residents.  Someone from one of the other boats came up yelling loudly about a waterspout, a giant waterspout that was headed directly toward our boats.  We really couldn't see much from where we were - buildings were in the way, so we all ran down to the docks. 

As we reached the docks, I realized that if it actually did come to our marina, there was no way to help the boats.  We couldn't get them out of the way and if we tried, we could be running right into it.  The only thing we could do was stow the canvas, wrap the sails and clear the decks of anything we had laying around.  It was a big waterspout and we had no way of telling how fast it was coming toward us, it just seemed to be sitting there looking ominous. 

In the end, it just seemed to dissipate.  The funnel detached itself from the water and lifted itself into the cloud.  What a sense of relief! 

The second major one I saw was in Venezuelan waters.  We were traveling from Los Testigos, a group of small islands that are mostly unpopulated except for a few fishermen.  We had been hit by lightning and were on the way back to Trinidad to get everything repaired.  We left early morning and the weather was overcast, but not threatening.  By the time we were about halfway to the mainland Venezuelan coast so that we could run along the coast and stay out of the eastern tradewinds, we were totally out of sight of any land and the clouds were building. 

We knew it would be a soggy trip, rain didn't bother us much since we had a good bimini, dodger, and we put up the side curtains, so we were mostly covered.  Of course, by that time we saw a waterspout, another huge one, off to our starboard side.  Since we had no background except the sky and the Caribbean Sea, there was no way to tell which way it was going - we couldn't just go the other way.  There was no way to figure out how close it was either.  It could have been a smallish one really close or a huge one a mile away.  Again, it just seemed to be hanging there.  We watched it for what seemed hours, hoping it would disappear.  

We kept on moving, hoping we were going the right way to leave it behind us.  We figured we had just been hit by lightning the day before, nothing much worked on the boat because all the equipment was fried -  so why not add some more excitement with a waterspout!  Luckily, it seemed to fade and we could see it disappear into the cloud above it.   Our passage along the Venezuelan coast that night was a bit tense because there were thunderstorms all night - we had already been hit by lightning the day before, but we were the tallest thing out there - and I had my hands on the wheel.  Of course, here could have been more waterspouts, but we couldn't see them in the dark.   Sometimes it's better not knowing.

In both of these situations, we were lucky enough to have those waterspouts dissipate and return to the clouds and leave us unharmed.  What a relief. 

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Linda Ronstadt



Linda Ronstadt is my favorite female singer, I have always thought she had a great voice.  I had her albums from the 60s and 70s, and then purchased the CDs when they came out.  I loved the fact that Glenn Frye and Don Henley, plus two others who went on to become the Eagles, were her backup band in the very early 1970s.  She had multiple platinum albums throughout that decade and recorded covers of songs previously recorded by the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Eagles and others.  And to top off all that talent - she was attractive!

In the 1980s she went on to other, less rock/popular music projects, including songs of Mexican folk music.  She is part Mexican and had written the song "Lo Siento Mi Vida" on the Hasten Down the Wind album - one of my favorites.  She has produced many more projects and won many awards throughout the past 4 decades.  In the 1990s, she adopted 2 children, first a girl, then a boy, although she has never married. 

I read something today that saddened me.  There is a report that she has Parkinson's and can no longer sing.  What a shame that this fine artist has been silenced and is unable to participate in an art that she has produced and loved for decades.

She has written a book called "Simple Dreams", a title of one of her best-selling albums, which is due out in a few weeks.  I know I'll be watching for that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Boat Repo



This is a picture of the boat I was able to sell twice.  She was a storm boat, had been washed up on a seawall during a bad unnamed storm and had a 4' gash in her side.  She was taken to a marina, put up on stands and her owner was supposed to fix her.   Nothing happened for months and then the marina owner told me I could have her for storage fees.  OK, that wasn't much at all.

So, I got a fiberglass man to fix the gash, I had not yet learned the fine art of West System epoxy, and it was way beyond that anyway.  I cleaned up the interior, dried the cushions, cleaned them and made covers for them.  Got a bracket for an outboard for the back of the boat.   The day came when we were ready to put her in the water and get out for a sail.  Of course, we knew nothing about sailing, but hauled up those sails and figured out which way to turn to get the boat to heel over a bit and get going. 

After a few months, my partner said the boat was too small to spend a few months in the Keys.   HMMMM,   guess he didn't read those books about people crossing oceans in boats that size.  OK, so I put the boat up for sale and started looking for a bigger boat. 

The person who really wanted the boat, was really enthusiastic about it, was a young guy with a wife and a baby on the way.  He could afford a small down payment and some money per month.  He was so excited about it, I decided to give it a chance, against my better judgment.  I wrote up a contract stating the facts and that he would be in default if he was 30 days late on a payment.  I included a clause about notification and repossession, should he be in default.  I was really good at writing contracts back then. 

He paid on time every month for about 6 months.  Then one month, he was late and I sent him a late warning - no phone call or check from him.  I called him and reminded him that he would be in default in a few short weeks and he needed to come up with some money in order to keep the boat.  Since the contract also included a clause that I would be kept informed of the location of the boat, I went to check to see if it was safe.   It wasn't where it should be. 

Still no payment when his grace period ended, so a friend and I took off one morning in a boat loaned by a friend - a very cold day to be out on a boat trying to locate a boat when you have no idea where it might be.  We knew where he worked and lived, so we started checking all the little marinas and places there was dockage.   After a few hours, we located the boat, safe and sound in a tiny area that had multiple docks.  She was safe and all locked up.  We elected to come back that evening to do the actual repossession. 

We notified the police that we had a contract that was in default and we were planning on repossessing the boat that evening.  It's standard procedure for repo people to notify them so that when the defaulting party calls in saying the car or boat was stolen, the police will tell them what happened.  We came back at dusk, I climbed back onto the boat I had sold and disconnected the dock lines and tied a line from the boat we were towing with.  I felt like I was stealing my own boat.

Everything was going smoothly until we came to a bridge that we had to have open in order to get under it.   We called the bridge tender, telling him we had a boat in tow and needed an opening.  He said to come on and he would have it open when we got there.   We kept moving toward the bridge and didn't see the gates coming down.  We called again and the tender again assured us he would have the bridge open before we got there.  By the time we were almost at the bridge fenders, it was either go under or turn around - he still had not put down the gates to open the bridge.  We made a hard turn back the way we had come, just in time. 

We called the bridge tender and told him we had to abort because we felt it was unsafe since he didn't even have the gates down  and there was no way the bridge would have been opened by the time we needed it.  He made the excuse that he had someone on the bridge and couldn't get him off.  We told him that as soon as he had the gates down and we saw the bridge opening, we would be coming through.  Everything went through on the second try, but we were not rushing it since we waited until we were sure the bridge was actually opening.

We towed it to a marina that was close to the house where we had dockage for our "new" boat, a 35' Morgan.  The next day, we talked to the owner of the dock about having 2 boats now.  He later called us to tell us his neighbor wanted to buy the boat we just repossessed and he was going to buy his neighbor's little boat.  What a great deal! 

We cleaned up the boat again and a few days later, made the sale.  That's the only boat I was able to sell and made money on it.  What a deal!

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Buying a boat, Selling a boat.......




This is a picture of my 4th sailboat.  I have purchased each boat with dreams of sailing off for an extended time, possibly never coming back to reality.

My first boat was a storm-damaged boat with a 4 foot gash in the side, an old 25' Hunter.  It was almost free, but there was a lot of work to get her ready for sailing.   I didn't even try to work on the gash, I hired a fiberglass guy for that - he made it bulletproof at that spot.  This was my boat to learn on and decide if I really wanted to go cruising.   It didn't take much to convince me and I was trying to convince my partner we needed to take a few months and sail to the Keys to see how great it was.   He told me it wasn't big enough to travel in.

OK, so I started looking at bigger boats.  I had convinced him that we needed to sell everything and visit the Caribbean in our own boat.  He went along with the plan, probably assuming I'd never get it all together.  The next boat I found was a 35' Morgan, an oldie, but solid.   It was in my price range and so I made a low offer and it was accepted. 

In the meantime, I had sold the Hunter - on time payments.  Great idea, I ended up repossessing it one cold winter evening - but that's another story.  It wasn't easy to resell, this time for cash, I made pretty good money on that little boat.

So, after a couple years of getting the Morgan ready for cruising and having multiple garage sales to get rid of everything, I was ready to leave.  I left my rental property in the hands of a supposedly good rental management company.  We sailed down to the Keys and landed in Marathon after visiting the Dry Tortugas and Key West (of course).  When I got my mail, I found that the management company was not doing what I needed, so we got jobs, I put the properties up for sale and we made more improvements to the boat.

Almost a year later, we crossed over to Bimini and moved down the islands to the Dominican Republic and beyond.  By the time we got to Grenada, I had not seen a bigger boat that I liked, but I sure found one there.  She was a CT47, cutter rigged and just beautiful.   And I bought it.  So,
now 2 boats - one has to go.  It took me a few months to sell the Morgan and even though I loved my new boat, I'm glad I didn't see it leave the harbor, I felt very sad about selling her, after all we'd been through.

About 7 years later, 3 years after my partner abandoned ship, I felt I needed to sell my CT47.  It was way to big for singlehanding, all the repairs and maintenance cost a fortune.  It was a tough decision and the day after the sale, I was at the airport walking out to the plane and trying very hard not to cry about leaving my boat and leaving the life I loved.

I landed in Daytona Beach, unfortunately an area populated by NASCAR and Harley fans and not sailboats and sailing people.  Sure, there were a few, but certainly not like I was used to.   After a couple years, I found myself looking at ads for sailboats - and bought a really sweet little 32' Morgan.  And I know when I sell her, I will again try not to cry at the closing.

I know it's not just the sale of a boat, but the realization of the end of the dreams I had when I purchased each boat.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How About a Wine Tasting?



While I was cruising in Margarita, Venezuela, I was contacted by a cruiser friend who wanted me to buy him a case of a certain wine.   Since it's much cheaper in Margarita than most of the Eastern Caribbean, I told him that was no problem.  We knew we would meet up again during the next few seasons. 

I wrote down his description of the wine - what picture it had on the label and the type.  Unfortunately, he didn't remember the name of the winery or brand.  OK, I didn't think it would be a problem to buy a case and I knew just the store to get it in, they had a great selection. 

On my next trip to the store, I went to the wine section and scanned the bottles, to my amazement, multiple brands of that same type appeared with the same type of picture, an old fashioned picture of a mother cradling her baby.  There were at least 10 different brands.  I decided not to buy anything that trip, but had contact with him in the next few days.  He said he didn't know which brand was good, but just pick any one and it would be fine.

Great, now it's my decision - and there's so many!!  I decided this was a good excuse to have a wine tasting party.  That way, we would all rate the different wines and I would buy what the majority thought was the best of the bunch.  I talked to a few people and they thought it was a great idea and a wonderful excuse for a party - like we needed excuses! 

A California couple on a catamaran insisted that we do it on their boat, they said they were wine connoisseurs after having lived in California.  We decided what type munchies we should have and I bought numerous bottles of that type wine and settled on a date. 

We all gathered together on the catamaran.   Because the California couple had been to many wine tastings and had some of their own, they wanted to organize the tasting.   Fine by me, I knew they were more experienced than I was.  We had a great time doing the test and surprisingly, a lot of us agreed which were the better wines.  Everyone agreed that the party was a success and that it was great to do something different for a change.

My friend and his wife were thrilled when I delivered the case of the most popular wine and thought our selection was great.  I told them the story and thanked them for the wonderful party we had.

Betty Karl

http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G


Friday, July 5, 2013

Want to be a Landlord?




Way back when I had a really good job, I decided that buying rental houses or a duplex would be a great idea.   It all started when I got divorced and bought my first house.  I was ready to move to a nicer house in about a year and I was convinced that I should keep my first house as a rental.  It worked pretty good, my second batch of tenants took pretty good care of the house and when I was ready to sell it, purchased the house from me.  They had lousy credit and the only way they could own is to take over my mortgage and get a second one.  I took a balloon mortgage from them for a certain length of time and made out pretty well with the interest. 

During that time, I was ready for more experimentation with being a landlord.  I had a friend who was a real estate broker who would call me when he had a property he thought I might be interested in.  I had a real estate license myself, but never worked at it.  I did know quite a bit about the area I was in and the values of properties there.  I figured I could buy properties, paint, recarpet or tile and make them look a lot better than what I'd been seeing.  So, I bought a duplex.  Started fixing up one side, got it rented out.   Fixed up the other side, got that rented. 

Most of my tenants were single moms and I had a couple long-term ones in that duplex, after I weeded out a few deadbeats.  If people didn't pay rent on time, I charged a late fee.  I would work with them if I saw any indication they would be paying soon.  If they didn't pay after my written warning, and I had a bad feeling about not seeing any money, I could go to the county office and start eviction proceedings.  While those proceedings are going on, they are living in your house/apartment without paying rent.  You know that they're not taking care of the place, in most cases, they're damaging it.  To make things worse - even though you'll never see any money from them, you have to pay to have them evicted - and wait a certain length of time before the officials actually go out and physically move the people out.  Most of my non-paying renters knew exactly how many days they had until the officials showed up - and left the day before.

Even so, I had a positive cash flow on this property, so I bought the house next door and fixed that up, rented that out.  And a year or so later, I bought another one in another area of town.  Still the same problems, but all of these had good cash flow.  Tenants would break things and expect immediate response to their problems.  My response to their problems was determined on their prompt (or otherwise) payment history. 

After every tenant left, I would have to repaint the entire place.  It wasn't too bad, since these were small units.  I became a very good painter.  Sometimes I had to replace carpeting, sometimes I could just get it cleaned.  After one couple left, there was a large hole in the drywall where it looked like he shoved her head through it - just the right size and height.  One dog chewed up one of my doors and there were other unsavory damages and leavings.

One young couple was very good with paying rent - and as a bonus, they would bring big bags of bagels, since they worked in a bagel restaurant.  One month, they were late and I thought it was odd, since they had always been on time.   I drove up to the house, knocked on the door, no answer.   Looked in a few windows and saw that all their furniture was gone.  They left with no notice, but at least they didn't do much damage.  I was kind of disappointed with them, because they had been so nice.

When I left to go cruising, I sold all the properties because I knew no one would manage them like I would.   I did try a management company for a few months, but there were always excuses for no cash flow and they were making my mortgage payments late.

Yes, I made money while I had them, made a little when I sold them because I bought them right.  No, I won't do it again.  It was way too much of a hassle and I just don't want to deal with it.  But, every once in a while, I see a fixer-upper house and my mind starts telling me I could make some bucks if I just bought it, repainted, recarpeted.......   NO!!

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Vacation!



Vacations are great.  Weeks before you leave, you find yourself getting more excited about leaving.  You're deciding what clothes to bring for the destination you planned.  You might even go out and buy a few new things to take with you.  Be sure your camera batteries are charged, the camera is clean and you have enough memory cards to take with you.  Get out the passport, can't forget that.   About this time, I have my suitcase in my extra room and I have tossed things in there that I absolutely can't forget.

Finally, the day arrives and you get up extra early for the drive to the airport, doing a last minute check of all the things you need to remember.   Don't forget the pre-printed boarding passes, what a great idea they came up with!  I usually find myself driving to the airport in the dark, reaching the parking area at dawn.   Even though I've allowed myself plenty of time, I always think there will be a holdup.  Security is always a holdup - even though I have nothing on but my clothes, when I go through the scanner, it seems that they always have to pat me down.  I don't think I fit their profile, but something prompts them.  Or their scanner is defective?  This time, they even took my glasses and put them in a container to go through their scanner with all the other luggage.  I'm sure there's a reason for that, I just can't figure out where I'd hide anything in my glasses.

Then you sit and wait to board the flight and endure the change in planes at another airport and finally arrive at your destination.  Within hours, you are whisked away from your life and have been placed in a totally different location with a totally different agenda for the week.  It feels great!  You just know you're going to have a great time and things will look different when you get back home.

You do all the things you planned - hiking, snorkeling, sailing, eating the local food so different from where you live.  You're happy and content just sitting and gazing at your surroundings for extended times.   It's so different from where you live, and you want to imprint it in your memory because you know a photo will only be a reminder of the great view you are seeing. 

Too soon, it's all over and you're packing to go home.  In some ways, it feels good to be going home because you're relaxed, you just know that things will be easier to deal with.  OK, so maybe you haven't missed your job, and you're not anxious to get back there, but maybe it won't be so bad when you get back.  Maybe they've kept up the work so you don't have a stack of it.  You can always hope. 

All too soon, you're back home.  The house is the same, the cat is whining that you left her for a full week.  It doesn't matter that she's had company once in a while and she's had food and water and sleeps most of the time anyway.  What she's really upset about is that YOU weren't there to be with her, but she gets over it and is much more affectionate than usual. 

Back at work for the first few hours, or maybe even a couple days, work doesn't even seem that bad.  Then you realize no one kept up with things and you have a pile of problems to deal with.  Did you really think that someone would take care of things like you did?  Silly thought.  After a few more days cleaning things up, you're pretty much as stressed as before you left.  Then you start thinking you maybe should have "missed" your flight home.  

Most people go back into their lives, happy with the memories and stories and they will be content to wait for next year's vacation.  I never quite get that feeling.  You realize that the wanderlust you've kept hidden deep inside has surfaced, like a monster you've kept at bay.  You want to become the perpetual tourist, the permanent traveler.  No one understands except possibly another kindred soul. 

Betty Karl

http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G





Monday, June 17, 2013

Senior Pets

                                             


I adopted my teeny kitten in Trinidad in 1999 when she was four weeks old and named her Sloopy.  Since she was feral, I spent extra time with her so that she would bond with me and be a good pet.  It worked, and she's a very affectionate cat, on her terms.

Earlier this year, I noticed a lump near her shoulder and took her to the vet.  This is where she shows her true feral colors.  She crouched in her cage in the back seat and  yelled all the way to the vet's office.  In the waiting room, she was quiet.  She was fine in the exam room.  Until they opened the door and tried to get her to come out.  Not a chance.  They had to raise the back of the cage and basically pour her out.  She came out hissing. 

I always bring a heavy beach towel to the vet's office because I know that there's no way a stranger is going to touch her, even in her own home.  In a strange place, she doesn't want to be touched by anyone, including me.  She's just in survival mode.  By the time the vet tech put on long, thick gloves and tried to hold her still so the vet could check out the lump, she was growling and hissing at me.  Kitty swearing.   After all, I was the one who brought her to this torture chamber and allowed these people to manhandle her.

After the vet checked the lump, they let her walk around the room and crouch in a corner, glaring at everyone.  As we talked, the vet looked at me and said, "But, is she a good pet?"  It was humorous, in a way, because no one would believe that she was an affectionate pet if they had seen that display of wildness.  I explained that she's was always fine at home and even though she's stubborn and wants everything her way. 

She and I have been together for over 13 years.  Recently, I've been noticing that she sleeps more than usual.  She's still climbing all over the place, but I've noticed that she sometimes has trouble jumping on the bed or sofa to be with me.  On some occasions, she misses the first time and then sits down with a confused look on her face to contemplate why she didn't quite make it up on the sofa.  Then she tries again and makes it the second time.  She's also more vocal if there's not enough food in her dish.  In her mind, the last half dozen little pieces of food are not worth eating - she wants a big pile!

I know she's getting old and I'm going to lose her one day.  It will be a very upsetting time and I'll swear, yet again, that I'm not having any more pets.  Then, one day, I'll see a tiny little kitten that desperately needs a home - and so the cycle will begin again.

Betty Karl

http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G


Monday, June 10, 2013

Lost in Georgetown, Bahamas



Georgetown, Bahamas is a gathering place for cruisers who come down from the northern states, stay for a few months and then go back to the northern states for the summer months.  Some cruisers do this year after years, but a small percentage of adventurous cruisers go further south to the island chain.

Because cruisers keep coming back year after year, it's a very social place.  Cruisers are a social bunch anyway, but while staying in one area for months at a time, it becomes more social than usual.  There are multiple beaches in the area, Volleyball Beach and Hamburger Beach are a couple popular beaches.  Yes, there is volleyball at Volleyball Beach and there is food at Hamburger Beach.  There are cookouts on the beach, get-togethers at the local eateries and happy hours happen on lots of boats in the different anchorages. 

There are multiple anchorages in the area and as many as 500 boats at any time during the season.  Unless you're paying strict attention, or have your GPS with you, this could be a problem getting home after dark with the forest of masts that don't look familiar, especially if you've had a few.

Cruisers usually have their VHF radios on when they're home and awake.  It's like a party-line, everyone can hear what you're saying.  One night, we were home having a quiet evening and it was probably about 10 PM.  A call came on the radio requesting the location of a certain boat.  After listening to numerous conversations with a few other boats, we learned that the owner of the boat mentioned had been circling the area in his dinghy and couldn't find his way home.  One of his neighbors took pity on the guy and went outside to signal him with a flashlight.  Turns out he wasn't even in the general area, but did find his way eventually.

Everyone we saw the next day was chuckling about it and teasing the poor lost soul.  We shared our secret of finding our way home - we had put reflective tape around the top of the mast.  That works well, we found it helpful a few times.  Of course, that's assuming you remember to have a flashlight with you.

Betty Karl

http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Car Dings!!



You're right - the photo has absolutely nothing to do with car dings - but it's prettier than car dings....

Last year, I was driving around in a 1996 Toyota.  It had served me well for 5 years but I knew the time was coming that it would need work done on it.  Expensive work.  The car was homely, basic white with gray interior - not fifty shades of gray, maybe only one or two.  The body was in decent shape, not very many dings in the doors, no dents, just a bit of rust around the top of the windshield.  I parked it anywhere and didn't worry about it getting dings in it - after all, it was old.

I had been searching for a car to buy and I found a 2006 Toyota that was in pretty good shape, mileage that was considered low today but years ago, would have been considered high.  It had a couple dings on the body, but everything seemed OK.  They even replaced the steering rack when they noticed the boot on it was ripped. 

So I bought it and it came home with me the same day.  Since then, I've been taking better care of it than I did my old white Toyota.  The color is called Desert Tan, which I consider a gold, with light brown interior.  I have probably washed it more times in the past 8 months than I ever washed my old white Toyota.  I've even waxed it. 

Usually I park way out in the parking lots and hike to the entrance of stores.  Sometimes I don't, when I'm in a hurry.  I try my friend's theory - if you park between two cars and you're only going in for a short while - you'll be OK because usually the same two cars are still there when you come out.  Well, maybe it works for him - but it hasn't for me. 

I don't know how this car seems to collect so many dings from other people's car doors.  One of them even scraped the paint off and made a slight dent in the driver's door.  I left it in airport parking last month and a few new ones appeared, I had no control over where it was parked. 

I don't know if people are more careless than usual.  Maybe it's because people are fatter than they were 20 years ago, and they can't get out of their cars without damaging other cars.  Maybe people just don't respect anything anymore.  I'm not sure what it is, but this car has collected more dings in 8 months than my homely looking car did in 5 years, and it was parked anywhere it was convenient. 

It's depressing.  I wanted something nice for a change and I can't have it.  Times like these, I wonder what I did in my previous life - I must have had one hell of a time!

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Garage Sale People



As usual, the picture doesn't relate to the content of my blog (usually), but it's just to make it a little more interesting

I had a garage sale a couple days ago.  I really needed to clean out stuff I had packed away and hadn't been using.  I mean, really, how does someone end up with 3 different desks in a small house?  Well, it was easy, I kept seeing ones I liked at other garage sales....

My sale gave me a chance to watch people and analyze them.  It was very interesting, especially having recently come from a job where everyone was complaining and unhappy, and that included the staff as well as the customers!

I kept an open mind and as I watched everyone.   I realized that, for the most part, people were friendly, and considerate of my belongings.  Some of them wanted to have discussions about what was for sale and why.  I got into a couple long conversations with a few people who wanted to know more about things I had done and wanted to know what it was like. 

There were a few others who tested my patience - there were a couple of women with a child who was allowed to touch everything, play with things and ended up breaking something, which they didn't pay for.  At least they purchased some things, which made it all worthwhile. 

One man had a smartphone out and was checking prices on it, criticizing my pricing.  Since I had already checked the pricing the previous week, I knew I was underpriced by more than half from the new cost of the item.  What he wasn't checking was the size of the items, both of which came in numerous sizes and I had the largest sizes of each.   He assumed he was right and kept muttering about people overcharging.  I said nothing because there were other people around and didn't want to create a scene, so I just walked away from him.   I'm sure it was his way of requesting a lower price, but that doesn't work with me.  I wouldn't have taken a nickel off for someone like him.  I'm not sure what an arrogant man like that was doing at a garage sale. 

The people who joked with me and nicely asked for a lower price or offered a lower price got the deals - quickly and happily.  One woman was buying things she was going to make craft projects from - not that they were craft objects, but everyday objects she was going to paint and arrange and hang.  She kept picking up things and I gladly gave her a package price she was thrilled with and I was happy to let her have them.  She was one of the more fun, likeable people of my day. 

It does take all kinds and certainly the day was a lesson in how to get the type of service you want in a store or other business situation.  Now, if we could somehow train some of the harder-to-deal-with people, the world would be a more enjoyable place.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Week Without Facebook



I just returned home from a week in upstate New York visiting my brother and his family.   It was good to get away and good to see them again, since I hadn't been there for five years.  They kept telling me that the week I was there was the best they've had all year.  And then they accused me of taking it back with me, because it was reported they would have rain for about 4 days when I left.  They kept telling me how warm it was, and since I'm from Florida, I felt silly having long sleeves on.  They were in shorts and I was in jeans, but I was perfectly comfortable.

My brother has a computer and I checked my email a couple times a day and a few other things while I was there.  I decided I should stay away from Facebook and other sites where I waste too much time.  I didn't even play one game of Spider Solitaire, and I'm really addicted to that!  Instead, we spent quite a bit of time in the evening in front of the TV.  I still don't have a TV, I watch a few shows on my computer and that's the extent of my TV knowledge.  Amazing how many channels there are, how much stuff that I've never heard of.  And I probably don't want to ever see most of it again.

I really didn't have withdrawal symptoms from the lack of Facebook.  I'm sure I missed some fun pictures and funny little signs.  When I got back, I didn't have the impulse to scroll down for hours looking for things I had missed.  I was fine.   Of course, now that I'm back, I do spend time looking at postings from everyone and making a comment or hitting like.

If you know anyone who thinks they can't live without Facebook, Twitter, or other sites, let them know it really is possible to survive without it.  It's an interesting site and I enjoy it but it's not the end of the world if I don't keep up with what everyone is doing.  Try it, see how long you can last.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Customer Service?



Have you noticed there is very little customer service left in the States?  You can never find someone to help at Walmart and even if it's a 24 hour Walmart  - and the electronics department doesn't open until 9 AM, at least at my store.  If you do find someone, chances are they don't work in that department.....  If you call any office (except mine, it seems), you'll have to listen to a voicemail forest, pressing different numbers to try to get someone to talk to - if you're lucky.  Most of the time, you get to talk to a machine and maybe get  a call back in a couple days - or not.

I use internet in numerous places, mostly at home and at a couple different offices I work in.  In all those places, I get the message that my browser is "not responding".  This could mean that it will wake up sometime soon, far in the future, or never.  Usually, I get out of the program and go back into it.  It's frustrating.  Sometimes it's just slow.  I've had better, quicker service in places like Trinidad and Venezuela.

At home, my provider would give me a "great deal" if I had a home phone - also known as landline.  The deal would get better if I had a TV to connect to their great service.  All I need or want from them is internet service - good, reliable internet service.  And for that, I pay quite a bit per month because they penalize me because I don't want a phone or TV.   For the price they charge, I would expect great service, I would really like to get great service.  They entice you with the fact that it's "road runner", assuming we're all going to think it's really quick.

A few nights ago, I was on the computer at home on the internet.   I have a laptop with a router, which means I can take the computer anywhere in the house and it still works, very convenient.     Anyway, the other night, all of a sudden, it stopped working.  No excuse, no storms in the area, nothing going on.  I went in where the modem was and of course, there were no lights blinking.  OK, cable was out, according to my modem. 

I called up the service center and got some woman on the other end of the phone who told me to reboot the modem, which I had already done - I've been through this before with them.  Then, she said it looked good on her end and it should be working.  OK, but there are still no lights on my modem.  Somehow, she learned that I had a router and told me that must be the problem - she told me to disconnect everything - again - the modem and the router, both from power and the incoming cable.  After half a minute, she tells me to connect it all together again.  Then it magically works. 

She started telling me that every once in a while, the router needs to be "refreshed" and there was nothing wrong with their service.  Seems like I never had that problem at work, where there is also a router.  Also, the router in question is relatively new, having only been in service for a couple months.  The previous router worked for a few years without being "refreshed".  I told her that and then asked her where she was.  She had a bit of an accent I couldn't place, I knew she wasn't in India - I know that accent.  She told me she was in the Philippines.  I don't know how long that's been going on.

As a side note, that same company supplies the company I work for with internet - I had to call their office one day.  Seems that I can get a human on the phone but the office that takes care of the business accounts doesn't open until 9 AM.  What about the businesses who open at 8 AM?

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Urge



Most of us have urges – they could be as benign as a shopping spree, you just had to do it. A lot of my urges have to do with food – mostly things that are poisonous – cookies, candy, sweets of all kinds. I know they’re bad for me, I know it as I savor the taste of the chocolate. When the urge strikes, sometimes you just have to go with it, it’s unstoppable.

My most powerful urge was so strong it could be labeled a “force”. Once started, there was no stopping me. That would be the urge to go cruising on a sailboat to the Caribbean. I dreamed about it for years and finally, I realized I absolutely HAD to do it! There was no waiting until retirement – I kept thinking I may never live that long. This force became so strong that I had a panicky feeling that if I didn’t take steps to make this long-time dream come true that I would regret it forever.

It didn’t matter to me that I had to sell numerous houses (some of them producing income). Didn’t matter to me that I had to sell my 1966 red convertible Mustang that I loved. I was determined, I was going to do it, no matter what. I realized that we would lose track of friends when we left, they would keep in touch for a few years, but then life would get in the way and we would lose touch with them. People always say they’ll stay in touch, but usually they don’t. As far as I was concerned, I knew I was never coming back to the same place.

Now if you’ve read this far, you’re thinking about what a stubborn person I can be. I’m not really, but like I said, this powerful force was driving me and I’d I had convinced my partner that I would take care of everything, if he would go with me – I told him how much fun it would be and the wonderful places we’d get to visit. Unfortunately, even though he did go with me for a time, he would have been happy to stay behind and keep on working and having two days off per week and maybe a week off sometime during the year.

I was tired of working to pay for a house, cars, insurance and all the things necessary to live on land and keep a job. I was never getting enough time off to recharge. Every year, I had taken trips to the islands, diving or Windjammer cruises. Every year, I was so unhappy to be headed home, it was all I could do not to cry on the plane. When I took a vacation, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t mind being back at work – for about 2 hours and then I realized how far behind I was. It felt like punishment for being gone for a week and having a good time.

Obviously, I have a bad case of wanderlust – I always want to go places and see things I’ve never seen before. Possibly I have gypsy or nomad blood somewhere in my past. Maybe in my previous lives, I never got to go anywhere and I’m trying to make up for it in this life. Whatever it is, it’s a very strong force – the urge to travel.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Medical Costs Outside the U S

 
LaGuardia, Venezuela
 
 
Medical care is always scary, but especially so if you happen to be in a foreign country and need something done. Most of my medical care has been in the States, but I have had medical procedures done in two other countries where I happened to be when I needed something done. I needed to be a hospital patient in both cases, luckily only on an out-patient basis meaning I was in and out on the same day.

The first was in Trinidad, a simple procedure and I had been to this doctor numerous times during my visits to Trinidad - I liked him and trusted his judgment. I can’t say it was enjoyable because when I woke up in the recovery room, I was freezing, no blankets. However, I can’t say anything bad about the care I received there.

I also had imaging and lab tests done there. In the States, we go to the doctor to get the order, go to the x-ray facility and then go back to the doctor for him to tell us what’s wrong, or not. In Trinidad, we get the order, go to the imaging facility, and then sit in the waiting room for them to develop the film and print the reports and they hand it to us. Great, no visit to the doctor unless we think there’s a problem or we need further discussion with him. This saves time, money and makes much more sense. Same with the lab, although I had to go back on another day since the blood testing took more time to complete.

All of these services, and medications, cost way less than it would have in the States. You can actually afford to go to a doctor and pay for it in these places.

My second experience was in Puerto LaCruz, Venezuela. I went to the hospital for checkin, much more complicated since I had to go through their translator, my meager Spanish was not enough. They were great in the recovery room, they had a nice blanket on me AND a hose pushing heated air under it! I was nice and warm, very comfortable. Again, this was done at a fraction of what it would cost in the States.

Medications were easy to obtain in Venezuela also, and cost only a tiny percent of the money we fork out in the States for the same thing. Certain medications that require prescriptions in the States were available over the counter there also.

A cruiser woman I knew was having treatment for cancer in Puerto La Cruz while I was there. Her husband told me that they had gone back to the States for a visit and checked in with their former doctor. He went over all the information they had brought back with them and told them that the treatment she was getting in Venezuela was the same that he would have ordered for her if she had been treated there in the States. And way more affordable.

If people go out of the States to get medical care and receive the same level of care we have here, why are our costs so high? The cost of insurance is outrageous and I don’t think it’s going to get any better. Doctors pay amazing amounts for malpractice insurance because they are open for lawsuits for any reason a lawyer might think of. Drug companies say the cost of medications is high because of the research and development, not to mention advertising, of any new drug. If that’s the case, why are the same medications available from the same companies in these other countries at a fraction of the cost? And yes, we’re talking about the name brand drugs, not generics.

I know what my opinion is and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but think about the information in the previous paragraph. The answers are there.

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G

 
 
 

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How To Buy a Boat


  Sea Turtle


Back in time, I was looking for a sailboat to go cruising in.  You know, just sell everything, hop on the boat and get out of the States for an unknown time frame.  Destination – Caribbean!

We went to a large yacht sales office in St Petersburg, Florida and one of the salesmen started showing us some used sailboats, about 35’.  We spent a good part of a day looking at all kinds of boats.  The only thing that caught my eye was a 35’ Morgan with a centerboard and an aft cockpit.  It seemed solid and the layout was pretty good, although I grew to hate the fact that the galley was along the starboard side of the boat instead of being a little U or L shaped area near the companionway. 

We were going through the storage lockers, looking under the cushions and generally poking through things.  My partner found the cable that brings up the centerboard or lowers it and started playing with it and checking the little winch for it.  He jiggled things around for a while, then left the cabin to talk to the salesman on the dock. 

I sat down and looked around, just soaking up the atmosphere – it really didn’t have a bad closed-up-boat smell.  Then, I realized I heard an alien noise, there was water gurgling and it wasn’t the waves lapping the hull on the outside.  This was inside the boat!   Not a good sign! 

I called up to the guys on the dock – “Hey, I hear water running in, you better check it out!”  I heard the salesman make a comment to my partner, “She’s just hearing the waves on the hull.”  Furious, I stuck my head out the companionway and said “You can think that or you can stop this boat from sinking, it’s up to you.”  And I climbed out and got on the dock with them. 

Something about my attitude worried the salesman and he decided to check below and see what was going on.  Sure enough, when my partner was checking out the cable for the centerboard, something snapped and allowed the water to leak in the bilge from the tube encasing the cable.  It was the last touch that it needed to break apart from age and use.

We left the salesman there dealing with the problem and went home.  I did like the boat and it was the only one I liked that was in my price range.  The next weekend, we called the salesman to see if the boat had been saved and what the story was.  The problem had been fixed and the boat was still available. 

We went to see it again and decided to make a low offer, figuring the owner would be glad to get rid of it because it was just costing him money at this point.  The offer was accepted and in a short time, the boat was ours and would take us from Sarasota, Florida and on to the Bahamas, through to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and then to the Virgin Islands and down the island chain to Grenada.  And that’s where I found another boat I liked…….

Betty Karl
http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G
 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nassau Rum Factory Tour

                                   
 

We got into Nassau at the end of a long day, just squeaking by a cruise ship that was on the way out the pass.  We anchored near town and got settled for the night.  The next day, the captain searched for an old mooring, the best way to stay put in Nassau since the tides run through the anchorage at a good pace.   He finally found a giant old ship’s anchor and attached our anchor chain to it.  We were now stuck for the duration.
 
We got together with a couple off another cruising boat and decided we should do a tour of the Bacardi Rum factory.  We found out from the locals which bus to take to get close, then we would have to walk up the road to the actual factory.

We arrived about noon the next day and walked into the welcome center.  It was set up as a small bar, with all the products displayed against a mirrored wall behind the bar.  The friendly bartender gave us a great big smile when we asked about the tour.  We weren’t smiling when he told us that the factory was closed for another two weeks.  But, he said, have a seat and I can serve you some of our products, whatever you want, mixed with whatever you want.  OK, then we started smiling.
 
We sat there for a few hours, listening to his stories of the island and the factory.  He was the perfect spokesman for the factory, he kept us entertained and made sure we weren’t upset about the lack of factory tour.  We sampled quite a few of their products, and of course, bought some to take back to the boat. 

Later in the afternoon, we decided it was time to wander down the road to the main road to catch our bus.  He told us he was going to close up anyway, and he would take us to the bus stop so we didn’t have to walk.  Good thing, I was really too relaxed at that point to think about walking very far.


No factory tour for us that trip, but we sure did have a nice relaxing time with a good storyteller from the islands.
 
Betty Karl

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Salt Cay, Turks & Caicos


 
 
 
 
We left Grand Turk about 9:30 one morning, got to Salt Cay about 11:30, a nice little sail.  We anchored, had lunch, then dinghied to the island.  We stopped at the Brown House (which is NOT brown) and talked to Michelle, who we had known from Marathon. This is a huge house, full of history, and she was trying to refurbish it into a Bed & Breakfast.  Lots of work to be done, but it's a gorgeous setting.

She imported 14 cats from the Marathon fish house when she left.  When she walked around town, they followed her and the locals were in awe of this woman with all these cats. 

We had dinner that night with Michelle and she talked about moving there and how she was adjusting to island life.  She showed us her art work, she had collected plastic fishing floats and painted windmills on them to sell to tourists.  We decided that we should stay there a couple days, it was a very quiet island, the kind of place where you could disappear and never be found.

Town is about a mile long, dirt road, buildings built along the waterfront.  Everyone had a stone fence with conch shells cemented into the tops of the fences.  Old stone or wood houses are falling down right next to newer ones.  It’s all very picturesque.  Less than 100 people live on the island.  Right across from the houses on the beach are the salt pans.  They are still very well marked with stone walls separating them.  Most of the windmills were broken up, but someone was refurbishing them and one looked like it almost might work. 

We walked to the navigation light on top of the hill, an old cannon was found there and had been refurbished.  An old cemetery was on the way, with its own stone fence and iron gate.   Most headstones looked centuries old,  none marked, only a few newer-looking concrete box-type coverings, and only one of those was marked with name and dates. 

Horses and donkeys wander around the entire island, including the town area.
During the evening, we noticed cows appearing on the beach right after sunset.  We noticed a bull (with horns) wandering around the streets in town also.

Along the way, we collected some of the fishing floats that had washed up on the beaches and rocks of the island.  We took them back to Michelle so she could paint more windmills for the tourist trade.  She was so happy, she presented one she had finished the day before.  We were so happy to have a memento of our stay in this unique little island paradise. 

We sailed away the next day, on to more islands and more unique experiences. 

 Betty Karl

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chacachacare - Trinidad's Abandoned Leper Colony

                                                       http://youtu.be/DYT1Exsgjjy





Chacachacare is an island about 7 miles off the coast of northern Trinidad.  For years now, it has been inhabited only by the lighthouse keeper, iguanas and other wildlife.  It does include Trinidadians who arrive on boats for weekend camping and cookouts.  Cruisers also anchor there for weeks at a time.

In the past, it was a leper colony, but since leprosy was brought under control, the last patients left in the early 1980s.  It was just abandoned, no one bothered to clear out the furniture, medical equipment and records or other personal items.  The buildings are slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature and time.  This was one of my favorite places in Trinidad, the buildings were great examples of wonderful architecture of the islands, set on the hills surrounding the bay.  Large windows and doors brought in the light and fresh air – no air conditioning for this community. 

The community was self-contained and included a bakery, hospital/clinic, movie theater, library,  numerous churches and dormitory-like buildings for the patients.  Patients well enough to work built the buildings, worked in the gardens and helped in other areas.  Patients were taken care of by Dominican nuns, who lived in buildings across the bay.  There are a couple cemeteries on the island, most notably, one by the nun’s quarters that contained graves of the deceased nuns who had worked there. 

These days, it’s deserted most of the time.  When we were there, we would always take a hike up to the lighthouse, about an hour walk.  There were great views of both Venezuela and Trinidad from the top of the hill.  The lighthouse keeper was always friendly, they had a rotating staff, but they still got lonely being the only person living on the island. 

Unfortunately, Chacachacare was downwind from Trinidad and the bay was open to the east.  During heavy rains, trash would flow into the rivers to the bays of Trinidad and over to Chacachacare, catching in the big open bay.  Every time we would go over there to stay in a quiet, uninhabited place for a while, we would go over to the beaches and make a big pile of the trash and burn it, trying to clean up the place for the next visitors.  The idea caught on and we found that other cruisers were also cleaning up the place when they went over. 

I felt like the island was a museum of sorts, a look into the lives of people who were unfortunate to have a disease that separated them from everyone they knew.  Some patients spent most of their lives there and had no idea what life would be like when they moved back to Trinidad when the colony closed.  Cleaning up the beaches in the bay was the only way I felt that I could show my respect for the island and the people who had lived there.

Betty Karl
Chacachacare slide show - http:/youtu.be/YT1EXsgjjyY











Monday, February 11, 2013

Arriving in the Dominican Republic





We left Sandy Cay in the Turks and Caicos right after noon - weather report says 10-15 knots of wind, 5' seas, sounded good. Reality is another story altogether - 20-25 knots of wind, and over 8' seas. We were making good time with double reefed main and tiny part of the jib, about 5-6 knots.

 At over 30 miles out, I was off watch, trying to nap in these lumpy seas and smelled electrical wires burning. Of course, my first thought was that we were hours from land in any direction and the water was VERY deep where we were – all in a flash. I kept sniffing, trying to locate the source of the smell – of course it was in the engine area. I finally located the general area and called my partner down to investigate further while I went up on deck to be sure everything was OK.



The problem turned out to be a faulty monitor that was supposed to check for fumes in the bilge area. Luckily, it wasn’t something critically important and since I couldn’t sleep, it was found right away when the problem happened.

I was sitting at the wheel when my partner came up to the cockpit to tell me what it was and that it could remain disconnected until it could be fixed. As the nervousness left my body and I relaxed, I realized I could actually smell land. It smelled distinctly like rich garden soil, green growing things, very lush vegetation smell. We had heard and read that this would be noticed, but I didn’t realize how powerful the smell would be. Possibly it smelled even better after the scare we’d had.

By dawn, we were only about 5-6 miles out, and in the distance we were seeing very high hills, then more mountains in the background. The smell of land was definitely more noticeable.

So much of a change from the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos - what a nice difference in its own way. We found our way into Luperon harbor with no problem and went into the inner harbor and anchored. The hills all around the anchorage were lush green vegetation, palm trees on the tops of hills, so very different from Florida and the Bahamas. 

Such a great landfall, a new island, new country, new day and so different!   So happy to have arrived safely.

Betty Karl

http://amzn.com/B009RCO02G