Thursday, 04 March 2010

Strange worlds, never ending journey

Though this blog was meant to be about my family's travels down the isles of the Caribbean, I lost the steam halfway and never completed the tale. I look at pictures and wonder about the people I met, what they are now doing. I was lucky enough to go sailing again in Trinidad, Grenada and the Grenadines around Christmas and New Year 2010. I met some of the people I have been wondering about. They are all fine and continuing with the business of living. How absolutely wonderful.
I was back in that familiar world, where I am perpetually a stranger looking from the sea onto the land and yet when I arrive on the land, I am content to be looking out at the sea. Grenada was as always amazing. We were welcome with huge smiles and hugs and everyone missed Ingrid. She made quite an impression on the islanders-they all sent their regards to her.
Trini was as it always is though the pomp of the petro dollar had faded with the dwindling money stocks in the world. But they were not fazed, the Trinis. At Christmas, they were preparing for the February Carnival. That's advanced planning!
The people of the grenadines were recovering from New Year's parties.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Visa nightmares

Oh poor us with passports that no one seem to respect. Good thing I love my country, I at least can appreciate the irony of being refused entry in a country where you have no desire to live.
Dear dear Ingrid was subject to the most bizarre visa story. A saga developed as soon as we were told she needed a visa. It became even stranger when I tried to excricate an explaination for this refusal since I also possessed a South African passport. Oh, it's because you have an American visa in yours, I was summarily told. Now don't ask me to explain illogical ideas but safe to say that I failed to understand how my having a visa to a different country and thus getting entry into another one had any relation. I thought that was only reserved for the EU and the Commonwealth! We were turned back with stern warnings that Ingrid cannot go on land unaccompanied. A migration officer would be provided, at full charge of course, to escort her around. Her own private bodyguard in state uniform who has nothing to do all day but accompany an African woman as she looks at paintings, visits music stores and cafés. mh, this was deemed to be interesting.

I am still around

I am jotting notes from this travel though I am nowhere close to finishing the travelogue for the voyage down island.
Bear with me and many notes will come your way.
ciao bella

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Blog wins South African radio competition

Dear Friends
Just to brag a little and to thank my friend Linda who had the brilliant idea of entering our little adventure in a competition held by Radio 702 in SA. They liked the blog and the idea of travelling by sea with a family.
Thank you Linda.
Ocean Odyssey out

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Despacho, dismay and the laws of the land

We were welcomed with bravado to the Dominican Republic. It too exactly 2 minutes for the naval commander to spot us from wherever his vantage view was. As we made the final adjustments on the anchoring manouvre, a skiff with three men pulled along side, and a man in an interesting mixture of English and Spanish announced the arrival of the anticipated commander. They summarily jumped onto our boat, polite enough to ask if they could be allowed to keep their boots on, and requested boat papers. After filling in a long document in many duplicates, the commander via his non-english speaking second in commander who then looked at the translator, asked for a present. I laughed and I was reminded of the Congo. Cadeux. That word I had not heard in a year. Ha, welcome to the third world Pamela.
There was also a litany of papers waiting for us to be signed at the immigration, customs, agriculture, tourism and whatever else office the Dominicans could dream up. This was all starting to sound familiar. I swear, were it not for the Spanish, I would have thought I was in central Africa. IAs I was the one checking us in, I got my pen, all our papers, my charm and patience ready for the hours ahead. And the commander had made it clear that we could not wait longer, no time for another cup of coffee, he adamantly expressed. "You have to check in immediately," after which he departed our boat with a smiling translator who was trying to sell us a Dominican Marine Courtesy Flag. I doubt he, the translator, would get anything of the 'present'. Ergo, he had to push his own businness. As they say in South Africa, i-job yi-job. Viva la vida. I had my own job to do: filling out papers and getting through the authorities with non-existent Spanish.

Wednesday, 07 January 2009

Dominican Republic

Here we come
For me who had never been to a Spanish speaking place, I was delighted to have a chance to see the people of this island Hispaniola. Ingrid and I had been attempting hard at learning some useful Spanish which contained phrases about food, directions etc. The best we could come up with from our several lame tries was 'Animate' with an exaggerated Spanish accent which we thought would be useful to cheer up any reluctant customs officer. Mads left all the linguistical challenges to the female crew. Not to be outdone, we imagined that our African French tinged with a bit of slow Spanish would suffice. How wrong we were. We did not understand anything. NADA baby. Flagrant gestures and wide grins were the saviours of our days.

We had a pleasurable sail from Turks and Caicos due south to Luperon harbour on the north coast of the DR, the amber coast as it is sometimes called. By early morning we found ourselves some 10 miles west of Luperon. We had to quickly make it to the anchorage before the trade winds started piping in at 25 knots. We coasted along the beautiful landscape, which we had seen from a distance. It is an amazing trick to the eye when you set your eyes on DR from a distance. Coming from flat Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, it is awesome to see the towering mountains of this island. You are almost deceived and think that the island is closer that it is, only to realise you are still a good 30 miles out.

We made it into Luperon, a harbour in the mangroves, protected by reefs on each side. Here the water is very murky so we had to slowly make our progress into the western channel. There were more boats than we had anticipated and by the look of things it seemed we could not find any space to anchor. We were also weary to continue further down the channel as we knew there were shallow areas in the middle of the anchorage. We found one spot and decided we would return to it if there was nothing better further down the channel. Not clever. We got stuck in the mud. The depth went from 4 metres to 1 metre in a matter of seconds. We had thought we were quite clever and we could avoid running aground if we sailed really close to big boats. Ah well, that just shows you that you can't always trust your eyes especially when you cannot see the bottom. Though everyone was in the middle of breakfast, lots of dinghies came out to push us out of the mud. We were showered with friendly laughs and were told that we were the third boat to have fallen into the same triap that morning. That made us feel much better. You don't want to be the only clown in the circus.