Friday, November 15, 2013

Sailing In The America Cup Races – For Real!!!

Good Morning Everybody,

DZ2_5899We  finally spotted land – St. Maarten's in the distance on Day #9 of our crossing.  I think everyone was really ready to burn off lots of their pent up energies from the long crossing. DZ2_5894 Don't get me wrong, I love the crossing.  There is plenty to do on the ship and for many it's the perfect place to enjoy a totally relaxing experience.  Nevertheless, many of us were "chomping at the bit" to get ashore and get our feet on solid, non-moving ground.  As we departed, we got a photograph with Captain Dimitrios Manetas, the Master of our ship, the Celebrity Eclipse.

Off To The Races

Today LaDawn and I had scheduled an unusual shore excursion.  We were planning to be crew members on the yacht, Stars and Stripes.  This was Dennis Conner's famous $80,000,0000 yacht that recaptured the America's Cup from the Australians in 1987.  Yes, the ship was the real McCoy. 


DZ2_6021We along with 10 other shipmates didn't know quite what to expect as we climbed aboard this magnificent vessel, listened to our instructions from Captain Morgan and his 3 man team, and prepared to do racing battle with True North, Canada's entry in that same race so many years ago.

We hit the starting point and the race was on.  The captain was shouting orders to his new crew of winch wenches, primary and secondary grinders, and time keepers.  Everyone sprang into action making the necessary adjustments to the sails as we raced across the waters. What a thrill!  


The winds were a brisk 17 knots that day making the sailing experience about the best it could have been.  Yes, these racing yachts do lean over at those perverse angles you see in Sports Illustrated but this time we were IN the racing yacht experiencing that racing excitement as we manned those sails speeding through the waters and clipping the tops of the six to eight foot waves before us.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We hit the Bahamas early tomorrow morning and finally arrive back in the good ol USA early Saturday morning. I'll try to check in next week so have a great weekend and I'll see you soon,


p.s. Hey gang, I broke this post into two separate posts.  Please be sure to read the “Crazy” posy following this post – it’s a good read.  David

Every Now and Then…. You've Got To Do Something A Little Crazy

Good Morning Everybody,

I decided to break the above post and this post into two separate posts because speaks to one of the more crazy things I’ve done in my life. Please do not attempt this at home ;~)  Anyway, just read on and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Every Now and Then…. You've Got To Do Something A Little Crazy

DZ2_6300Many of you reading this post probably don't have any idea as to St. Maarten's other claim to fame.  But it’s the coolest thing of all to do on a visit to this luscious Caribbean paradise. St. Maarten is home to one of the most exciting airports in the world - at least for St. Maarten beach goers. 

Why? Because of the location of the Princess Juliana International Airport on the small island, the runway is a little shorter than usual compared to a large metropolitan airport.  That means that when the jets make their landing into St. Maarten's they must approach the runway at a very low altitude and very close to the heads of the beach lovers.  

RaggaeWe headed out to Sunset Beach to check out this usual airport phenomenon.  The place was jammed packed with other thrill seekers.  LaDawn and I made our way into the Sunset Beach Bar and Restaurant, found ourselves a comfy seat with a good view, ordered mahi-mahi burgers and beer, listened to the steel drum players and Reggae Island music with cameras in-hand we prepared to watch and see this spectacular show!

The landing times of the larger planes is common knowledge with all the servers and they are even posted on a surfboard chalkboard.  We were do for the landing of the very large KLM jet in just about 30 minutes. Watching the smaller planes land was interesting but not spectacular.  

It’s Showtime! 

DZ2_6254DZ2_6257About the time our food arrived, LaDawn spotted a large jet in the distance.  It looked to be the KLM jet.  As I watched the distant horizon I could easily see the large jet make a sweepingly big left hand turn and line up nose first with the airport runway.  It was heading right towards us. This was looking to be a pretty exciting event.

DZ2_6278The jet’s distance to the airport was several seconds away and that added appreciably to the experience.  You could see the jet’s size gradually grow larger on the horizon.  Yes, it was getting closer, much closer!  You could hear the roar of the jet engines amplifying as the jumbo jet grew even larger and MUCH closer to the beach.

Everyone was waiting in excited anticipation.  It didn't take but another moment to reach that climatic moment as the giant KLM jumbo jet blew across the heads of the multitudes on the beach. 


WOW! That plane was close to the ground.  As it sped overhead rapidly losing altitude, it seemed to just miss the chain link fence surrounding the airport and then touched down just a few hundred yards from the awestruck and cheering crowd.  It was pretty cool!

Now Its Time To Really Get Crazy – Really Crazy! 

Seeing the planes land right over your head was the fun part. Now let me tell you about really dumb things people do at the same beach.  OK, it's cool be on the beach and watch the big jets land.  But these same jets use the same runway for take off too. 

DZ2_6347They taxi out the same runway, make the left hand U-turn at the same chain link fence, and lineup for take off.  But this time with engines pointed at the crowd of crazy onlookers ready to kick in the powerful jet engines at full throttle for the take off.

You see where I'm going with this. Yes, people do chose to STAND behind the fence directly in the path of the jet’s exhaust.  Warning signs are everywhere alerting the more daring (crazy) folks of the possible impending danger of being “fried” by the jet’s exhaust.  Still hundreds of would be observers line up behind the jet on the beach side of the fence to watch (feel) the full brunt of the jumbo jet’s take off.

There it was rolling towards the fence ready to stage it's takeoff - the large jumbo KLM jet we watched land just an hour or so ago.  It made the turn at the end of the runway and aligned itself with the asphalt pavement. 

DZ2_6350The curious (crazy) crowds began to gather along the fence only about 50 or so yards from the jet engines.  

I too made my way, not so close but at least to the beach which was still about 100 yards from the exhausts.  I felt I was at a safer distance but standing there for just a few seconds I knew I might be in trouble since I could plainly feel the heat of the idling jet engines.  I decided to move a greater distance away.  

And then it happened!  The pilot got the signal from the control tower that all was good for take off. In just a few seconds all H-LL broke loose.  The pilot roared the huge engines to full throttle and the gases screened viciously at the unwitting crowd.

IMG_1077Everything happening at lightning speed – I quickly forgot any photographs I wanted of the take off.  Everyone was being pelting with what seemed like a machine gun of BB's. The tiny black projectiles were targeting the crowd relentlessly,  I heard screams everywhere, "OH SH-----T !!! OH SH-----T !!!  OH SH---------T !!! As everyone tried to dive for the safety of the beach.  It was pandemonium x10.

Yes, yours truly was part of that pandemonium.  Finally with the jet was further down the runway and the pain and confusion subsided.  Everyone was shocked, amazed, and fortunately unharmed by the experience.  The black pellets, pebbles and sand dropped from our clothes thankful leaving no ugly stains.

I totally missed shooting the experience because I was diving for cover too but check out the You-Tube video below which really gives you a good idea of the craziness.  It’s short but it’s a “hoot” and captures the exact feeling of the insanity ;~)

I found LaDawn in the fray or more correctly she found me.  She had wondered into the perimeter of the danger zone and thought she was filming the entire event.  She too was caught by surprise of the power of the jet engines at take off and was diving for cover herself.  A quick check of her video verified the experience.  The footage looked like it was from the Blair Witch Project or the Charles Manson Helter Skelter movie – it was total chaos in motion ;~).  

To call the experience a BLAST would be an understatement ;~) But I have to say watching the planes land and take off (at a safe distance) is the absolute best "cheap thrill" a person can have on St. Maarten’s.

DAZNOTE:   Turns out that this was more than just another jumbo jet landing at St. Maarten’s airport.  We saw news crews with video cameras rolling during the landing event.  What was the occasion?  We learned from our taxi driver back to the ship that the King and Queen of the Netherlands was onboard that KLM jet.  A nice surprise ending to a great and crazy experience.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We’ve had some crazy times down here in St. Maarten’s but the memories will certainly be worth it.

Adios for now, David

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Most Beautiful Day

Good Morning Everybody,

I know I've been offline for the last few days but crossing the Atlantic will do that to you;~). After eight days at sea. The cruise, with the exception of bad weather the first few days, was soon forgotten as we sailed into the warmer waters of the Caribbean seas. 

Our first day of full and glorious sunshine was coupled with the calmest seas and most beautiful skies you could only imagine.  I spent a good deal of the day just photographing the changing seascape - it was an exciting visual experience many times throughout the day.

A Most Beautiful Day

Let me share a few of these beautiful views, from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, of November 10, 2013 with you.

Photo 1.  This image was captured the morning about 6:30 a.m. just after sunrise and shows how the day first presented itself to all the passengers aboard the Celebrity Eclipse.  The soft warm colors of the new day was an early promise of even better views to come. 


Photo 2.   A few hours later about 8:00 a.m. a glance at the horizon showed the calming seas with the first of many beautiful white clouds against the rich blue skies. After a pretty stormy first few days there was something about those very soft waves that carried the mode of the entire day.


Photos 3 & 4. By 11:00 a.m. the waves had settled into an even more gentle nature.  That coupled with the clouds breaking up into even smaller versions of their previous selves made for a hauntingly provocative view of the sea. Here are a few views of that late morning beauty.



Photo 5. Two and a half hours later about 1:30 p.m. the sky took on a completely different look.  The light was doing something different with how the rays hit the particles of moisture hanging in the air.  This is probably my favorite view of the day. 

The seas were so calm they mirrored the white clouds of the sky in a very unusual and almost eerie way. The almost monochromatic view was just as it appeared – no post production of any kind was done to this photograph. 

Looking out over the watery vista seemed to be a view into an almost surreal world of water and sky.  I, for one, was transfixed with its tranquility, beauty, and mystery.


Photos 6, 7, 8, & 9. The day continued with it’s constant visual surprises well into the early evening climaxing into a spectacular sunset that LaDawn and I would soon not be forget.  I bet most of the passengers,  equipped with any camera at hand we're shooting away.  The others just looked on in inspired amazement of the spectacular beauty ending one of the most visually exciting days any of us had ever experienced at sea.   Please enjoy the following series of sunset images which transpired over a very short 12 minute time span. 

5:41:17 p.m.


5:45:27 p.m.


5:45:39 p.m.


5:53:13 p.m.


The cinematic display of light and color was without equal most places in the world on November 10, 2013.  What a joy it was to be part of the pallet of colors, shapes, and form painted by the best artist of all.


Cruising memories are mostly the result of fabulous on board entertainment, exciting shore excursions, good food, and making new friends.  But the unfolding of the day of November 10, 2013 from sun up to sundown was the best and most exciting visual feast for the eyes, heart, and soul many of us will never forget. These images capture a small part of that excitement but the real experience is etched in our hearts and souls for that day will not soon be forgotten.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Somewhere In The Middle Of The Atlantic

Good Morning Everybody,

Ship locationIt’s been a while since I’ve checked in at DPT.  The reason, we’ve been at sea for 6 days and the internet on the ship is very expensive, very, very slow and many times non-existent.  But I thought I’d give it a try today just to provide you with an idea of our where-a-bouts.  Anyway check out yesterday’s post that wrapped our travels in Cornwall right here.

After we left Cornwall, England we made the 4 hour trek back across the bottom of England and finally arrived in Southampton mid-afternoon.  The sun tried to peek out and managed to do so for a few very brief moments or two but for the most part, we’ve been seeing mostly gray skies for the last 4 days.  Who cares though, we’re in England ;~)

Heading Out To Sea

We settled into our hotel for the evening and were up reasonably early the next day and headed down to the docks to board our ship for the two week crossing back to the good ol’ USA.  We had made the crossing in the Spring and were looking forward to this trans-Atlantic journey as well.

Eclipse 5

Eclipse 1The cool thing is that we were on the same ship, the Celebrity Eclipse, a magnificent ship in every way.  We spent three weeks on the Eclipse in the Spring and got to know a lot of the staff on board.  and were hoping to catch up with several of our friends we had made in the Spring.

We got settled in and began checking out the ship once again. Yep everything looked just as grand as the first time onboard in the spring. We finally got to our stateroom, unpacked for the two week journey and were underway at 4:30 p.m.  I have to tell you, LaDawn and I took our first cruise last Fall traveling the Mediterranean and I fell in love with the experience. This cruise would be our forth and I couldn't wait!

Catching Up With Old Friends and Making New Ones.

It’s kind of fun walking the decks and a few of the ship’s officers and staff recognize you from the Spring cruises.  Sue Denning, Cruise Director for the Eclipse spotted us in our regular third row seats right away during the opening night performance. We caught up with Sue after the show and had a great reunion visit with her.

One of my favorite things about cruising is just meeting and visiting with the other passengers on board and sharing travel experiences with them.  Everyone has a story about work, family, children, travels… and it’s just so pleasurable to visit with new acquaintances.  There is no reason ever to be lonely on a cruise ship, that’s for sure.

A Rough Crossing – Maybe!

As we pulled out of port the wind was picking up.  As we were heading to dinner I spotted a few of the cruise staff strapping down the deck chairs.  I had to ask.  Yep, my suspicions were confirmed with their answer. It was going to be a rocky next few days.

Just how rough was it you ask?  That evening as we lay in bed you felt that you were lying not in a nice comfortable bed, but a swing hammock as well;~)  By Day 2, folks were queuing up outside the medical officer’s office seeking a little relief.

The waves were hitting at 15 feet, winds of 60 MPH, gray, cloudy and temperatures only in the low 50’s so it also felt quite cold.  The seas were indeed rocky and even with the ship’s stabilizers running at “full tilt boogie” everyone on the ship, including the staff, looked like a drunken sailors walking the decks.  They even drained the pools because the waves were rocking the ship so much.

Thankfully the waters and winds began to calm, the sun trying to break thru those stubborn, gray clouds by about the fourth day at sea and everyone was getting back into the spirit of enjoying themselves in no time.  Temperatures have warmed up considerably reaching the low 70’s.  Take a peek at the navigational map below – like I said – we are right in the middle of the Atlantic! Of course the good news is that we are also traveling into much warmer waters as we approach St. Martin’s.

Life At Sea

Life at sea is not just a great way to relax with a good book although that’s at the top of many cruisers list.  It’s also a great way to participate in activities that you may not regularly do back home. During our first 6 days at sea, we had taken maximum advantage of the on-board activities and amenities. 

LaDawn and I both enjoy the speakers that present each day on topics from how to be a stand up comic – one of favorites – to 20th century history lectures. The evening entertainment on-board the ship range from musical performances to comedy routines by performers that easily bring tears to your eyes. Add to that the big production extravaganzas and the time really passes quickly.

Eclipse 3

We make landfall and our first port early Tuesday morning.  It will be the first land we have seen after being at sea for 8 straight days. But I have to tell you, there is still something very romantic about crossing an ocean by sea just like our forefathers did so many years ago.  I know we are on a luxury cruise liner. but still the fact that we crossed on water is much more exciting that flying that same distance.  My thoughts anyway.


Hey gang, that’s going to it for today.  I’ll plan to check in with everyone next week and give you the latest updates before we finally arrive at port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida next Saturday.  Have a great rest of the day in whatever part of the world where you may be reading this and I’ll see you soon.

Adios for now,  David

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Adam and Eve & Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Good Morning Everybody,

0010_Cornwall-DZ2_4394Between weather, internet, travel plan changes I didn’t have time to post this before we left England last week so let me bring you up to date on the last few days of our visit to Cornwall.

I mentioned in the last post that Cornwall is a great place to visit not only for it’s history and geography but also for it’s photographic beauty as well.  Visit any of the small fishing villages along the coast, point you camera anywhere the image is postcard perfect.

In Search Of Adam And Eve

DAZ- RichardWe had visited several villages and captured some great images but Richard and his son Aaron, the perfect hosts at the beautiful Barclay House where we were staying mentioned the Eden Project, one of England’s most visited attractions and only about an hour away.  That’s Richard and I in the photo to the right.

The Eden Project is a sprawling horticultural wonderland that is home to thousands of plants from all around the world.


0022_Cornwall2-DZ2_51350020_Cornwall2-DZ2_5113Although it was quite fascinating to visit the various exhibits, I liked people watching even more.  Turns out that our stay in Cornwall coincided with “half term” – think Spring/Fall break -  for all the schools in England. Our anticipated quiet visit to the Eden Project didn’t quite turn out the way we expected as the center was jammed with of families and especially younger children enjoying the wonderful activities provided in anticipation of Halloween. But even with the larger crowds, LaDawn and I really enjoyed our visit and had fun capturing some nice images.

Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous – Well, Mostly Rich

LaDawn and I are pretty big fans of the BBC show Downton Abbey.  The story is set in one of the large Manor Houses in England – in this case, Highclere Castle.  Try as we might we could not pull off a visit because it was closed during our stay on this week as well as our earlier visit in the spring. We did hear about Lanhydrock House, an equally impressive property in England and only about an half hour away.  Lanhydrock is one of the grandest and most visited manor house destinations in all of England.  Hit the link right here for more detail about the magnificent estate – really impressive.


We spent several hours there touring all 50 rooms and three floors of the estate.  It was definitely a peek back into time and the class structure within England over so many years.  Most of these large manor houses no longer exist.  They simply became too expensive for the families to maintain anymore. 

0026_Cornwall2-DZ2_5217Part of that was the result of higher taxation by the government but more importantly because after WWI – the Great War – many of the menfolk were killed in the war and there just were not enough people to hire to fill all the positions necessary to run these large houses. In the case of Lanhydrock House the owners donated the house and all the property to the National Trust. 

This is pretty cool thing in England.  The National Trust undertakes to preserve these properties for their historical value making this history available to the general public.  There are many such venues throughout England.  For the reasonable cost of an annual membership you can visit as many as you can fit in your visit.

The highlight of our visit was the tour of the extensive gardens of the property. Even though it was quite late in the season the gardens were still full of color and vibrancy.


We cut our stay short in Cornwall by a day once we discovered that our 4 hour drive back to Southampton may be much longer than that due to weather, traffic, etc. It was a good decision because we could make the long drive in fairly good weather without the time constraints that would be put on us if we traveled the next day.  It turned out to be a lovely drive through the English countryside in spite of the short rain bursts and some traffic along the way.  Why not enjoy a few images from our two stops mentioned above.


Hey gang, that’s if for me today.  Check back soon – we should be on a cruse ship sailing across the ocean heading back to the states the next time you hear from me.  More later.

See you soon,  David