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Dec '96   July '97   January '98   July '98   March '99   June 2000

March '99

Highlights
Aug 98 USA
Sept 98 Peru
Oct 98 Chile
Nov 98 Trinidad
Dec 98 Grenadines
Jan 99 Skiing
Feb 99 Carnivale
Mar 99 Macareo River


Our arrival in the US in late July was timed to coincide with Rob's favorite flying event, the annual Oshkosh Wisconsin Air Show. This event attracts over 800,000 people over a week's time and is the premier aviation event in the world. Imagine 40,000 people camping out in one place in dwellings from $ 500,000 motor homes to others like Rob in a camping tent. Rob enjoyed flying several gyroplanes (a sort of combo helicopter/ plane) and looking at the over 10,000 planes there. Meanwhile Dee was visiting Martha's Vineyard for a family gathering at the site of her teenage summers. The plan was to rendezvous at DIA for our Denver stay with Rob's parents. Upon arrival Rob staggered off the plane suffering from Dengue fever which had been incubating since departure from the Caribbean. After one look Dr. Dubin headed straight to the emergency room at Rose Hospital. A few days later Rob was moving about but not up to full speed for several weeks. Our time in Denver visiting family and friends went by too fast.  One high point was a weekend kayaking in Glenwood Canyon with our river rat friends the Lloyds and Winkellers. The next plan was to fly out to visit Rob's brother Don at his ranch near Lake Tahoe. Our takeoff from Centennial airport was full of promise as we climbed out into a perfect Colorado summer morning. We topped the continental divide near Winter Park and gloried in the sight of Colorado's high peaks seen from above as you can only do in a small plane. As we headed west following the Colorado River through all the canyons we know so well from kayaking the scenery just got better and better. We circled over the houseboats playing on Lake Powell and continued west to our first night's stop at Bryce Canyon. The hiking and camping at the unique geological formations that form Bryce were spectacular. Next morning we circled the scenic red sandstone cliffs once before heading on to Don and Pam's ranch in Minden Nevada. In Minden we went both hiking and horseback riding high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Later Rob even got a chance to cut cattle on one of Don's trained cutting horses. Leaving Minden we circled low over the ranch rocking our wings to say goodbye then headed south for Dee's first view of Yosemite Valley.  The  sight of the valley was magnificent and we flew circles over Half Dome for 15 minutes before landing and renting a car for the drive into the park. We camped here for several nights as Rob showed Dee the places he visited so many times during his years in California at film school. The bears were far more active than 20 years ago and the two nights we camped out we saw several walk within 5' of our tent. Our next exciting stop was Monument Valley site of numerous John Wayne and John Ford movies. These spectacular stone monoliths spring hundreds of feet up from the flat desert. It was great fun descending down low and circling each one until we were in sensory overload and the camera was out of film. From there we headed to Durango to see the Duff family. Next morning after the entire family had airplane rides we headed up to Grand Junction for lunch with Kenny Glen, then on to Glenwood Springs where we stayed overnight with the Lloyd family. King Lloyd and his two boys were airborne early with Rob to for a scenic flight, then Dee and I launched on the last leg of our journey back to Denver. It had been 10 days of beautiful flying, gorgeous weather and fantastic scenery. Best of all was Dee's transformation. Previously she had barely tolerated the flying and now she was a firm believer in the fun to be had in the air. She had taken the controls several times and flew the plane with confidence and skill. Perhaps next trip she'll be the pilot.

 

Peru & Chile


Leaving our boat for some inland travel in South America our first stop was Lima Peru where we met our friends Lee & Dee from the sailboat About Time Together we visited the Nazca lines, giant man made carvings in the dessert that can only be seen from the air. The Nazca lines were made by pre-Inca cultures and depict people, monkeys, hummingbirds and other geometrical shapes.   Nearby was a Nazca burial site where we saw mummified remains in burial chambers open to the sky and winds. Walking out over the sandy dessert we could simply reach down into the sand and pick up skulls, thigh bones and the like. Next stop was the fascinating Inca city of Cuzco at nearly 11,000'. After a few days of acclimatization we headed to a main attraction on our journey- the famed ruins of Machu Picchu.  Machu Picchu, like the Grand Canyon, is one of those places that you simply can't prepare for by looking at photographs beforehand. It is simply too staggering. We spent a night at the ruins so we could see them at sunset and again at sunrise. We climbed the peak overlooking Machu Picchu and gloried in the brilliance of the ancient Inca civilization that could build walls as precise and yet more beautiful than most of our modrn construction. Machu Picchu is an entire city with temples, living quarters, farming terraces and even running water diverted in canals from nearby streams. Machu Picchu was every bit as spectacular as we had anticipated. After saying goodbye to Lee and Dee we departed for Lake Titicaca via the roughest 10 hour train ride imaginable. Lake Titicaca borders Peru and Boliva and is the largest lake in So. America. At 12,500' it is a very deep blue color. Here we visited the floating islands of Uros. These island are made entirely of tortoa reeds and literally float. Walking on some parts of them is like walking on a waterbed. Ocassionally the various islands will drift too far apart and they will use boats to pull them back closer together. Our last adventure in Peru was to visit the Amazon river near Iquitos. The statistics on the Amazon are hard to comprehend. It drains 6 million sq. miles, 1/5 of the world's fresh water that drains into the oceans comes from the Amazon, each day it deposits 3 million tons of sediment into the ocean, and in the rainy season it rises a hundred feet and floods the jungle for a dozen miles from its banks. We boarded a small launch and traveled down the Amazon for 25 miles to the Napo river where we turned off then headed upstream for another 30 miles into the jungle. The next several nights we stayed in small jungle lodges and saw pink dolphins, red macawas, green parrots, monkeys, and lots of rainforest. In one place we visited a scientific lodge where we walked along a 12" wide suspension bridge 100' up in the rainforrest canopy for a close look at the plant life. Departing the Amazon we headed to Chile's Lake District near Puerto Montt. Here we rented a car and spent a week car camping and driving around the lakes and towering volcanoes. One day we found a late season ski area still open and went skiing on the volcano far above timberline. The views were stupendous and after skiing we descended to our campsite and soaked in the natural hotspring joining the river by which we were camped. After a week of camping we met some sailing friends in Puerto Montt and watched as they prepared their boat to sail to Antartica- what brave souls. We boarded a car ferry with a bunch of twenty something travelers for a trip through the Chilean fjords. The fjords were very dramatic with glaciers calving right into the water. Upon leaving the ferry we hiked around the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park with some of our young friends. We were almost to the Straits of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego and Dee's mission for coming this far south was to see penguins. Unfortunately at the last minute we found out the penguins had not arrived back to their breeding grounds near Puenta Arenas. Rob scoured the town for information about where the penguins were and finally found a place in Argentina that very few tourists visit though it has the second largest penguin colony in So America. Getting there proved quite difficult but we persevered and what a reward it proved to be. Dec was soon shedding tears of joy as we scampered among the nests of over 150,000 penguins. We watched them waddle out of the ocean and up the beach looking very self important in their tuxedos. We stood only 6' from them and watched them sit on their eggs. We laughed as the Jackass penguins called to each other in their throaty bray. Finally as the sun set we watched them head for their nests and we too headed for ours. Our connecting flight home took us from 53 degrees South of the equator to New York 43 degrees North of the equator then South again to Trinidad- a distance of eight thousand miles.


Boatwork

The definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places.

Trinidad means two things Carnival and boatwork- yes we do work. From mid October to early December we gave Ventana her yearly fix up. We painted Ventana's bottom we did engine maintenance, replaced lines, machined new or replacement parts and in general got the boat ready for another season of cruising.
    Trinidad has far more parts availability than any other island so we pause there to do our work. Still it's a challenge. Let me explain. Say you need to replace a widget- in the US you drive to the store buy it, return and install it-- a 30 minute job at most. Here is how you do it in Trinidad. The widget you need is a left handed widget in a size 9. You're off at 8 am to get the parts. Dinghy to shore, get on the bike, ride two miles to store one. They have left handed widgets but only in sizes 8 and 10. Ride on to the next store another mile- they have size 9 but only right handed widgets. Ride on to store three- they have no widgets at all. Return to store two buy the size 9 widget even though it's a right handed one- you'll make it fit somehow. Bicycle back get in the dinghy but the outboard motor won't start. Probably the carburetor - of course your tools are on the boat so you hunt around to find someone to loan you a wrench, An hour later you have the dinghy motor running. Unfortunately since you had just been planning on running errands you wore "nice" clothes they are now all greasy from the engine and can be permanently relegated to engine work. Motor out to the big boat. Try the size 9 right handed widget. The only way to make the right handed widget work is to have a machine shop make a new widget holder. Repeat the process back to shore with the dinghy, bicycle, etc, The machine shop is two miles away and when you get there the boss is gone but "he commin just now". An hour later he arrives and can do the job "no problem mon pass back dis way in tree days and it be ready mon". After 6 days and 3 trips to the shop the new widget holder is actually ready and low and behold it works perfectly. No worries mon... your 3 0 minute job only took a week-- but hey we're cruising so who cares.


The Tobago Cays A Cruising Dream

We spent the month of December and part of January in the Tobago Cays. When people dream of going off cruising the Tobago Cays are what they have in mind. A half mile wide semi- circular reef breaks up the waves and the wind howls overheard keeping things cool and our batteries charged via our wind generator. The water is turquoise blue over perfect white sand. Anchors hold very well and there is no civilization nearby. At night we sleep under a blanket of stars. We snorkel several times a day and this year we learned to windsurf from our friends on Katimavik a charter yacht run by pro windsurfers. The four tiny islands behind the reef each have a beach backed by curving palm trees and small hills to walk up for a view. Each of the islands can be walked around in a leisurely 20 minute stroll. This year we celebrated Christmas and New Years in the area. Katimavik hosted Rob's old kayaking buddy John Wasson and family. Rob & John had traveled together climbing and kayaking in Nepal, Mexico and of course Colorado so lots of reminiscing was in order. Colorado friends the Robinson's on Columbine also joined us along with Trigger.  Dick on Trigger, Phil on Columbine and Derek on Katimavik are all excellent guitarists so we experienced wonderful music in the Tobago Cays and later when we all moved up to Bequia the tunes continued.  Bequia was also picked so we could hear our British friends who live there play some of their fabulous jazz. Called the Honky Tonics, husband and wife team of Louie and Jan are Bequia residents and locally famous for their music. Jan is a world class sax player and we spent many hours listening to the sweet sounds of her saxophone. 
    December was all the reasons we love this cruising lifestyle.


Carnival in Trinidad

Carnival in Trinidad - Just the worlds conjure up the sounds of Calypso music and images of costumed beauties dancing through the streets.
Trinidad Carnival like New Orleans Mardi-Gras is a pre-Lenten festival, except in Trinidad the preparations last all year long and the parties start six weeks before lent. The parties or fetes as they are called usually start around 9 pm but nobody really arrives until midnight. By 2 am things are going well and it continues until dawn when the crowd thins a bit. The entire time the music is played at mind numbing levels and the dancing is non stop. Leading up to carnival week are the competitions to select the best calypso singer, the best soca singer, the best pan band and the best costumes. Calypso is rhyming political commentary and for the extempo calypso competition the contestants pick a topic to sing about out of a hat and 60 seconds later they start singing in rhymes on that subject- it's wonderfully creative and inventive. The costumes for King and Queen of Carnival must be seen to be believed. They are usually built on a sort of rolling frame and are worn/rolled by only one person. They run up to 18' tall and over 20' wide and 20' long. Like a one person parade float full of sequins, feathers, flashing lights, fireworks, etc. Construction often takes a year. In addition to the traditional old time carnival characters that appear each year, there are 'mas bands". Mas is for masquarade and bands are not musical bands but large groups of people all in similiar themed costumes. These costumes are usually very skimpy and
covered with sequins and often topped with tall flowered headdresses. The women often coat their bodies with sequins or glitter. The mas bands number anywhere from 100 to 5,000 people. In all perhaps 60,000 people "play mas", and 40,000 of them are the most beautiful women you have ever seen. Trinidad's blend of East Indian, South American, African and Carib blood seems to have produced spectacularly beautiful women. This is not my opinion alone as the current Miss Universe and several past ones are Trinis.
Carnival proper starts on Sunday night at 2 a.m. with JOuvert or opening. We played JOuvert by covering our bodies with mud and multi colored house paint and joining one of the mas bands. That night everyone gets down and dirty and lets loose with dancing through the streets. The mas bands are accompanied by 18 wheeler flatbed trucks packed with speakers blaring at full volume. At close range it's deafening. The dancing continues for 9 hours until Monday mid morning when you sack out for awhile. Those who did not play JOuvert then take over with Monday day mas wearing the pretty costumes mentioned earlier. They dance through the streets and past the judging stands. We missed the day mas but revived in time for Monday night mas where we wore special costumes and again danced in the streets from approximately 9 pm until about 2 or 3 in the morning. After 4 hours sleep we headed back to town for the real event Tuesday's Pretty Mas with the most exotic costumes and the groups of up to 5,000 people, Each mas band parades around town and across the main stage dancing for the judges The parade lasts 15 hours. At midnight is last lap as the final partiers dance with what energy they have left. The next day is Ash Wednesday when the revelers are supposed to be in church but most are hung over or just exhausted. Carnival is over for another year.

Macareo Jungle Adventure

A Rainforest Adventure



In company with Mike and Terry on Door Into Summer we decide to leave Trinidad in early March and visit this remote area that is seen by less than a dozen sailboats a year. The first challenge is finding the mouth of the river and getting in over the shallow mud bar. Our ocean charts have the area marked as unsurveyed and as we head for the river we feel like true explorers. In the early days of sea exploration the edges of the charts usually had ominous markings like "thar be dragons here". We don't expect dragons but we are uncertain what we will find. Our hand drawn charts were made by friends who visited the area a few years previously and they are sparse on details.
Our trip to the river is marked by adverse winds, a 3 knot current against us and the most uncomfortable  anchorage any of us have ever experienced.  Now we begin to understand why more boats don't come here. We are racing daylight and the tides to get to the mouth of the river. Finally just at sunset with Ventana in the lead we cross the shallow bar and have the deep water of the river beneath us. We are not in the river 5 minutes when we are greeted by pink dolphins playing near the boat. Moments later we fall silent in awe as a flock of scarlet ibis fly overhead and come to roost in the trees nearby. The ibis are a color so red you can't believe it could exist in nature. We are barely anchored before Indians in dugout canoes paddle down to us from somewhere up river. Their canoes are made of hollowed out tree trunks and ride only a few inches above the water like a kayak. They speak their own language called Warao which only uses 16 letters but some of the men understand a bit of Spanish so Rob can communicate. They all want to trade or "cambio". They offer wonderfully made baskets or fresh caught fish or carved wooden items and in exchange want sewing  needles, thread, material, sugar, rice , flour, fishhooks, magazines with pictures or old clothes. We have so much and they have so little we want to give them everything, but we do not want to turn self- sufficient people into beggars. We try to tread a fine line here. We give candy and cookies to the kids and to the delight of the little ones Rob blows up balloons for them. No one ever asks for money and we doubt they would have anywhere to spend it so trade is the form of commerce. The next day we move farther upriver and anchor near a village of maybe 18 houses and 90 people. Their houses are built on stilts over the river and consist of a platform about 20' square with a thatched palm frond roof There are no interior walls and with up to 15 family members living on each platform the only privacy is darkness. Their diet is mostly fish as the surrounding mangrove swamps are too wet to grow crops. This village has a nearly completed building of solid plank construction. We learn it is a school and is the first ever school on the river. It opened 2 months previously but is not yet completed construction. After some time getting to know the villagers we ask if we can help with the school. At first they do not know how to take this offer but after awhile they welcome us. In a few days we make windows and hang doors. We make desks and benches for all the kids to sit on replacing the tree stumps they had been using. Our power tools of course come in very handy. When I pull out sandpaper to smooth the tops of the desks this is an unbelievable mystery to the locals. While Rob builds Dee hosts dozens of kids on the boat each afternoon with cookies and popcorn. One villager, Collins is from British Guiana and speaks English. He soon takes us digging for land crabs. This involves finding the proper hole along the muddy river bank and plunging your arm in mud to the shoulder. When you feel a claw snap down on your finger you scream and whip your hand out of the hole--- hopefully with the crab still attached. The crabs tasted good but were lots of work. And the mosquitoes dined best of all with us being the main course. Days later Collins and a few Warao Indians take us far into the jungle to where the palm trees grow. The hike is through waist deep stinking mud with our machetes clearing the trail the entire way. They show us how they chop down a type of palm tree they call a moriche, eat the heart of palm, then chop up all the inside bark and mash it up and turn it into a sort of starchy flour substitute. After lots of difficult work the all day expedition nets 4 pounds of the flour and we are struck anew how difficult are their daily lives. As we proceed upriver the exploring by dinghy gets better and better. We go out often at sunrise and sunset in the small winding "canos" or side streams which enter the main river. Our only companions are monkeys, green parrots, great blue herons, wild turkeys, fishing cormorants, pink fresh water dolphins and dozens of birds we can't identify. At some villages we hand out crayons and coloring books we have brought and in exchange they offer bananas, limes, fresh caught alligators or iguanas and iguana eggs. Farther upriver the land dries out and we see crops growing and cattle grazing and the people are better off. Returning to the first village on the river we learn more about their customs. When I ask why I see lots of kids under 12 but no teenagers they point out several very young mothers. We learn that when a girt has her first period her parents cut her hair signaling she is of marriageable age. By 14 most kids are married and have a child. While we bemoan their loss of innocence, perhaps it is appropriate. Their entire world consists of 10 miles of river, learning to fish, paddle a canoe, cook on an open fire and raise children. Maybe in a world so small one knows most of what's necessary by age 14. Prior to the arrival of the school two months ago illiteracy was nearly 100% but now both kids and adults flock to school with a true hunger to learn. With the new school and a health clinic attached to the school their future may be brighter than ever.  Preparing to leave the village is difficult.  They have welcomed us into their lives and we have brought them into ours.  The night before we depart they invite us to a dance ashore.  The next day half the villagers will move into the woods for a few months to harvest the Moriche palms and the dance is to assure a good harvest.  Before we depart we go ashore to say goodbye and give a few special presents.  The children cling to Rob's legs and do not want us to leave.  As we pull up anchor one of our favorite children, 8 year old Samantha with the golden smile paddles her dugout into the swift current  to give Dee a basket she has woven herself.  With sad hearts we turn Ventana toward the waiting ocean and wave goodbye as the entire village comes out to bid us farewell.  In years of cruising we have said many goodbyes yet none have been as hard as this one.

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