Sunday, May 19, 2013

Brilliant Idea for Visually Oriented Cooks

Okay, this has nothing to do with cruising per se, but I saw this article on NPR and had to share. It’s about a woman who, while listening to a friend tell her how to make eggplant parmesan, sketched out the steps instead of writing them down. It makes for a brilliantly simple presentation of the recipe process (there are several recipes given in the article). Now she has fifty of her illustrated recipes being published as a cook book this fall. An imaginative twist on an old standby.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Indians, BVIs

The Indians out of the water
Fish watching Chris freedive

Beautiful colors on the redband parrotfish
Sun shining through the fins of this yellowtail snapper

The Indians are a group of rocks in the southwestern BVIs, popular as a snorkeling spot. We stopped there one morning early, before most of the charter boaters were up and about, so ensure that we could get a mooring. The moorings are scattered around the formation, so you can just hope off the boat and start snorkeling, no dinghy required. On the west side it’s quite deep, so instead of the interesting things to see being below you, they’re beside you on the rock wall. There also were large schools of fish feeding on plankton floating in the water. Though the water was extremely clear, we felt like we were swimming in jelly soup, there were so many ctenophores (grape- to walnut-sized relatives to jellyfish [Mmmm, grapes, walnuts, jelly… Can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet while writing this?]). Back to snorkeling. The east side was quite shallow, a fairy land of colorful sponges and flowing sea plumes and jewel-like fish. I think it was the low angle of the early morning sun that that seemed to brighten the colors so much; often we snorkel later in the day when the sun is overhead and the light seems harsher. Then…the tunnel (That’s for you, Lord of the Rings movie fans.  Which movie, and who said it?). There’s a short tunnel that you can swim through. It’s not difficult, but here’s a good tip: when swimming through a tunnel, don’t stop to see if you can get a second photo, because you float up to the ceiling and have to pull yourself out. By the time we finished our snorkeling, the charter boats were circling like sharks, waiting to pick up a mooring the moment the previous tenant let go. A good reason to get an early start to the day.

Ctenophore (the little pink floating things) soup

Getting crowded as we leave the Indians

Through the tunnel

Monday, May 13, 2013

Yacht Spotting: Rising Sun

I fell in love with the mega-yacht Rising Sun that we saw on the Yacht Haven Grande dock at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. I think it was the burnished-metal finish of her topside details that first caught my eye. I had plenty of time to admire it as we toodled by in our dinghy, since she takes up a huuuge amount of dockage. Someone actually told us that, when Rising Sun is docked, boats needing fuel have to go maneuver to the inside of the fuel dock, since the mega-yacht takes up so much room on the outside of the fuel dock. You’ll notice that I had to take two photos just to get her all in. Also notice in the stern shot, the long rectangular outline on her hull (just forward [to the right] of the dinghy behind the rails. This is actually a door that opens, and inside are a couple of full-sized tenders (boats). Originally owned by Larry Ellison (Oracle Corp.), she now belongs to David Geffen, music and movie producer, philanthropist and, obviously, lover of the large and luxurious. At 454 feet long (61-foot beam), she was cited as being the sixth largest luxury yacht in the world, reportedly costing over $200 million to build (launched in 2005).  She’s got 82 room on five stories, including spa, sauna, and cinema, as well as an outdoor basketball court that can sub as a helipad. For another perspective on her size, look closely at the photo below. This is a picture of Rising Sun passing by Norwegian Gem, an enormous cruise ship that regularly visits St. Thomas. Rising Sun is nearly half of the cruise ship’s length, so she’s actually more like a small cruise ship than just a mega-yacht. And compare their stats:
Rising Sun: 454’ long, 61’ wide, 16 guests, 45 crew
Norwegian Gem: 965’ long, 105’ wide, 2,394 guests, 1,101 crew
A couple of quick calculations gives us about 28’ length and nearly three crew per guest for Rising Sun, versus 0.4’ length and less than half a crew member (think about that one!) per guest for Norwegian Gem. I know those comparisons are rather useless, but I think they’re interesting.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Four Years and Counting

It’s hard to believe, but we started cruising four years ago and two days ago, May 7, 2009. We left Gulfport, Florida, where we had been staying on a friend’s dock to finish up our work and provisioning, at 10:50 am, and spent our first night anchored at Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay.  Since then, we’ve cruised between Maine and Trinidad, had some terrific passages, endured some awful weather, met wonderful people, eaten delicious new foods, and hiked and snorkeled whenever we got the chance. Though we’ve had lots of fun, we’ve also been busy.  Chris has had three books published; Anne has sold five magazine articles; we both revised and published the Cornerstones Trilogy, which we originally co-wrote about twenty years ago; and we released all our titles in ebook format. Through it all, Mr Mac has performed like a champ.  We’re pretty proud with what we’ve accomplished, and somewhat surprised that the money’s not gone (along with the rum), but we’re not done yet!

P.S. Congratulations to our friends Steve and Lynn, who left to cruise on their boat Celebration just a week after we did, and so will be celebrating their own cruising anniversary next week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Voyeurism Can Be Helpful

If you haven’t yet, first read my blog on our experiences with the channel into the lagoon (Warning: French Side of Simpson Lagoon, St. Martin).

What goes up must come down, and what goes in must come out. So, there we were in the lagoon at St. Martin…planning our departure...dreading the moment we would have to face the channel again going out…

Coming in, we had gone aground by being on the wrong side of the green channel marker (we weren’t REALLY on the wrong side, but see the previous blog).  We were determined not to repeat the experience. So the morning of the day we planned to leave, I sat in the cockpit for about an hour before the 8 am bridge opening and played the voyeur, binoculars glued to my eyes, watching every boat that went by toward the bridge. Amazingly, most of them went aground, though only one had to be towed off the shoal. By watching where they went as they traversed the channel, I figured out the path we needed to take: through the first set of channel markers, head waaay over to starboard toward the anchored monohull with the red stripe, then back to port toward the green channel marker, and finally straight toward the anchored catamaran near the entrance to the marina channel. Great! We can do this! That afternoon, we went ashore to check out of the country, and as we returned to Mr Mac, we noticed that THE GREEN CHANNEL MARKER WAS GONE! All right, one of our landmarks was missing, but that’s okay, the rest are there. Oops, except there’s a new catamaran anchored right in the middle of the channel near our original catamaran landmark. Still okay…remain calm. Finally, it’s time to go. Anchor up, through the first set of channel markers, and toward the anchored red-striped sailboat. All’s good, except…THE !@#$%*! SAILBOAT IS MOVING FORWARD AS IT RAISES ITS ANCHOR, so we’re heading TOO far to starboard—not good, there are shoals over there, too. Slowly, slowly, we edged around the port-side shoal, which thankfully was visible in this light, and got to the deeper water by the bridge channel. Yeah! Voyeurs again, we watched several boats go aground (though they all got off okay) as they came down the channel we had just successfully negotiated. After this, navigating across the open sea from St. Martin to St. Croix was a breeze!

Hill-top view of Simpson Bay/Marigot Bay Lagoon