Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Conch Republic

So we have made it to the end of the cruise. This morning we are docked in Ft. Lauderdale. Some of my old friends still live here but I don’t recognize a thing. I head for the rental cars and will try to find my way to Key West. The waters in Key West are as beautiful as any in the Carribean and I have always wanted to visit Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Driving south on A1A is one stop light after another but I wanted to see the sights. After about 2 hours we arrive at Shorty’s BBQ in South Miami. The BBQ is a good as any we have in Texas and I loaded up on the baby back ribs. It was fantastic. Next it’s on to Key Largo and begin to drive down the Keys. The keys are a chain-like cluster of about 1700 islands.They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida and extend in an arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. This drive, which is mostly over water, is longer than I thought. In 1982, the Border Patrol had established a roadblock and inspection points on US Highway 1, stopping all northbound traffic returning to the mainland to search vehicles for illegal drugs and illegal immigrants. The Key West City Council repeatedly complained about the roadblocks. After unsuccessful complaints against the blockade failed, on 23 April 1982 Key West declared the independence calling it the "Conch Republic". After one minute of secession, the mayor surrendered to an officer of the Key West Naval Air Station), and requested one billion ($1,000,000,000) dollars in foreign aid. Long live the Conch Republic!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Exploding Tomatoes

As we sail from Nassau to Ft. Lauderdale I’ll take the time for a recipe I promised. The cruise ship had cooking classes and we enjoyed being in the kitchen with the other couples. In this summer of exploding tomatoes from the garden, it’s time for King Crap in Spicy Tomato Sauce. This is really good spaghetti sauce.
• ½ cup sliced green onions
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 ounces tomato paste
• 1 ½ pounds tomatoes puree
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 4 king crap legs, cooked and cut into 2 inch sections
• ½ teaspoon tarragon
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 3 tablespoons brandy
• ¼ cup parsley leaves
In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the oil and butter until translucent. Add tomato paste, puree of tomatoes and herbs, cook for 45 minutes over low heat. Add white wine as needed to maintain consistency of the sauce. Add the king crab to the skillet and ladle warmed brandy over the crab. Light the brandy and gently shake the skillet until the flames go out. Simmer the mixture, stirring for one minute and serve over spaghetti.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nassau, Bahamas

The cruising phase of this journey is drawing to a close. One last stop before reaching Ft Lauderdale, the Queen of the Bahamas, Nassau. Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial center of the Bahamas. I could tell it’s civilized, my Starbucks card worked. We did some early morning sightseeing around the island, met some of the local artist and had my picture taken with the flamingos. We found a local eatery on the water and watched the conch being cleaned and then had conch fritters and conch salad for lunch. This meal is against the law in the US. But After lunch it was out to Paradise Island and Atlantis. This is Las Vegas on steroids. The rich are different, I can’t even begin to tell you how true this is. But the rates to stay at Atlantis are surprising reasonable for a normal room. I didn’t ask about the rate on the suites. After the long walk over here it made sense to take a taxi back to the port.

Monday, June 21, 2010


It seems like our march back to civilization is occurring in giant steps.  Curaçao has trailed its sister islands of Aruba and Bonaire when it comes to attracting vacationers, largely
because  oil refining and financial services, rather than tourism, dominate its prosperous economy.  Curaçao is located approximately 35 miles off the northwestern coast of Venezuela but they still have and active fish market with Venezuelans coming in by small boats.  They bring in fish and all sorts of fresh fruits.  This is still one beautiful place with low humidity due to the constant northeast breezes, and it enjoys a mild tropical climate.  In the old town the houses were built out of materials found on the beach and contained a lot of salt.  Because of this the old homes had to be painted twice a year.  All of the residents of these old homes have moved out to new homes and the government has taken over the restoration of these historic sites.  Curacao’s name means the “isle of healing” and is another place we could enjoy for life.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Note on the San Blas Islands

My sweetheart really wants to go back to the San Blas Islands.  She has been reading the travel ads on this page and found a really high dollar resort on one of the islands.  The island we visited had a hotel that cost fifteen dollars a night and came with breakfast.  The hotel was operated by the Kuna Indians and was made out of unpainted concrete blocks.  Compared with the other resort that’s  a saving of $335 dollars per night.  Sounds good to me, if they only had screens on the windows.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oranjestad, Aruba

The sail away party in the afternoon after Santa Marta was wonderful watching Columbia vanish in the distance.  Next stop, Oranjestad, Aruba.  Aruba is just seventeen miles north of Venezuela.  But it seems like the other side of the world.  Colorful markets, wondrous coral reefs and landscapes dotted with curiously bent divi-divi trees.  Aruba is the "A" of the Netherlands Antilles' famous ABC islands. (Bonaire and Curacao round out the trio.)  Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, wind blown landscape. It also has cold beer, great eateries and white sandy  beaches.  And  I’m in part of Holland and far enough south to be out of the hurricane belt.  This is like south Florida and any of us could live here with no problems.  We would love to live here.  The island is definitely European and not South American which leaves one with a comfortable feeling.

Bucket Lists

A little about “bucket Lists”, those lists of things you want to do before moving on.  This trip covered two of mine.  First was to cruise the Panama Canal and second was to visit Fort Jefferson, that defender of the Gulf off Key West.  More about Fort Jefferson later in the blog.  Another on my list was to enjoy a fine single malt scotch over hail stones.  My opportunity came early in May and the eighteen  year old Bowmore  over the hail was fantastic.  The roofing inspector’s is now on the roof assessing the damage.  Moral here:  Be careful what you wish for.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One thing you really want to do in Santa Marta, Columbia is take a tour.  Hopefully to someplace nice.  All trips have a low point and Santa Marta was ours.  Don’t believe that this is a charming coastal gem, and  more than the average tropical paradise.  It is hot, humid and no wind.  Don’t explore the downtown shopping unless you are shopping for pirated CD or stuffed dolls.  The exchange rate is 2000 to 1.  If you take money out of an  ATM don’t take much unless you want to bring it home as a souvenir.   This is the oldest city in Columbia and it has some catching up to do.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The first stop after leaving the canal was the San Blas Islands.  The islands of the archipelago are strung out along the Caribbean coast of Panama. San Blas is a series of 378 islands of which only 49 are inhabited by the fiercely independent Kuna Indians. The Kuna Indians, who run all the islands as an autonomous province  have their own economic system, language, customs and culture, with distinctive dress, legends, music and dance and thus have avoided traditional tourism development. San Blas is famous for one of its arts and crafts, the mola. Kuna women make rainbow colored fabrics, emblazoned with fish, birds, jungle animals and geometric designs that would impress Picasso himself. The men still fish from canoes as they did before Columbus came. They still run up to the corner coconut palm trees for something fresh and cool to drink each morning, just as they have for untold centuries.  These pictures were taken by my sweetheart while I relaxed and finish a Clive Cussler novels on board the ship.  She says I always miss the best things

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I planned to get up early and watch us enter the locks.  But I slept late and when I looked out the sun was high and we were in the locks.  Coming out of the locks we entered the first of tw o lakes that make up the canal, Lake Miraflores and Lake Gatum.   The canal is about fifty miles long and runs from southeast to northwest, so it is cutting back on itself going from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  It takes about eight hours for a ship to get through the canal.  Larger cruise ships are too big to get through.  Our ship was 950 feet long and 105 feet wide, the maximum for the canal is 106 feet wide.  Tight fit.  Cruise ships  are charged about 100 dollars per berth to go through the canal, so the Statendam has 1250 passengers and 700 crew or 1950 beds for people to sleep in and pays a fee of 195,000 dollars. By four o’clock we were out of the Gatum Locks and in the beautiful  Caribbean.  Blue water from here on out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Panama means the “place of many fishes”.  Panama City is the gateway to the Panama Canal.  After leaving Puerto Quetzal we arrive off the Fuerte Amador at 5:00 pm.  There are many ships waiting to enter the canal and we have to tender ashore.  It was about a ten minute ride from the ship to the dock.  We were heading over to the Miraflores  Locks, to see the ships coming through at night.  On the ride over there we saw the housing and facilities left behind when the Americans turned the canal over to Panama.  Panama City has over one million inhabitants and is an impressive city.  I asked one of the locals what he thought about the US coming down and taking Manuel Noriega.  He said the Panamanian people were more than happy to have him sent to Miami.  He said to “Keep Him”.  The US still has the obligation to protect the canal.  We were told American jets from Miami can be there in less than two hours.  We made it back to the dock by 11:00 pm and set by the water with a glass of wine until 11:45.  We were the last to return to the ship.  We’re to enter the first lock at five in the morning.