Author: Richard Telling

Choosing the Right Cabin in Cruising

  • PRICE. Rooms on the top decks are pricy. Do you want this luxury or would you rather spend your money on other things? We wanted a comfortable cabin with enough space to move about and dry our laundry. When our travel agent called and said he could upgrade us to a more expensive cabin with a veranda we turned down the deal.
  • POSITION. Your travel agent will supply you with a plan of the ship. Study the plan carefully before you reserve a cabin. Our cabin was in the middle of the ship and on the same floor as the lifeboats, which made the lifeboat drill easy. The door to the promenade deck was just a few feet down the hall and we walked as often as we could.
  • CONVENIENCE. It’s convenient to have a cabin close to elevators and stairs. One of the things we liked best about our cabin was that it was close to the laundry. Our ship would do our laundry for $32 but we could do it ourselves for a $2.00 washing machine fee and $1.00 dryer fee. We would put a load in the washing machine, go back to our cabin and watch television for a while, and then dry our clothes. Passengers who were not close to the laundry had to wash their clothes at odd hours. Do not reserve a room across from the laundry because you will probably be disturbed.
  • VIEW. Some of the rooms on large ships have no windows at all. Do you want a cabin with a view? You may choose a lower deck cabin with a porthole or an upper deck cabin with a rectangular window. We chose a cabin with a window because we wanted natural light, wanted to see other ships, and wanted to see geographical changes. There were times, however, when we had to close our drapes because so many people were walking by.
  • TRAVEL COMPANIONS. If you are traveling with friends you probably want a cabin on the same deck and/or hallway. Your travel agent will be glad to arrange this for you. Our friends were just a few doors away and we often met them for lunch and activities. Being near each other helped us to coordinate our shore plans.

Isla Mujeres Mexico

This former fishing island stretches to only about 5 miles, and is half a mile wide. You can reach it by traveling 8 miles across the Bahia de Mujeres from Puerto Juarez in Cancun. Because of its small size, it is easy to navigate around the island, including the downtown area. Even though people have a tendency to make Isla Mujeres just a day trip destination, the island can actually hold its own as the prime tourist island.

Those who are seeking for a quieter, more serene yet beautiful environment will absolutely adore Isla Mujeres. An added plus is that the island is actually more affordable than Cancun. The highlight of the island stay is definitely the beaches. Most of these sandy stretches feature crushed corals and turquoise blue waters. Some travel experts even argue that these beaches are better than those found at other premier Mexican vacation spots like Holbox or Cozumel.

Some of the best beaches on the island are on its northern most tip. The sandy stretch at this area is called Playa Norte (North Beach). This popular white sand beach is equipped with bars, restaurants and hotels. Playa Sol is the less-crowded neighbor to Playa Norte and is known for its stunning sunset views. When you head out to the southern end of the island, you will find Punta Sur beach with its old lighthouse, modern art sculpture park and Mayan temple.

There is also no end of activities to keep you entertained while on Isla Mujeres. Scuba diving and snorkeling are highly enjoyable activities as the waters surrounding the island are teeming with tropical marine creatures and colorful reefs. Some of the best places to dive include the reefs of Manchones, Punta Norte, the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks and two sunken ships. On top of this, you can also go sailing, kayaking, take fishing excursions, or arrange a trip to see up close the marvelous underwater sculpture museum of the artist Jason de Caires Taylors. This underwater display is the largest of its kind in the world. On dry land, one exciting thing to do is to rent a bike, a golf cart or scooter and drive around the island.

If you are visiting with small children; they also will love experiencing the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, an endangered sea turtle hatchery and rehabilitation center, run by the government.

About Sunken Ships

A lot of sunken ships explored in the recent years have provided a glimpse at the lives of a by-gone era. The Mary Rose, a ship that sailed in the 1500’s offered valuable information regarding seafaring, warfare and life itself during that time. The SS Thistlegorm, aside from being an interesting dive spot provide a habitat for many types of marine life and actually supports the ocean’s ecosystem. And the universal appeal of pirates’ treasures buried in the ocean together with the sunken ships. Because of the rich history and valuable treasure that may be acquired in sunken ships, more and more organizations are seeking to protect sunken ship sites, however, the fact that these lie on the oceans signifies that no country or no one has jurisdiction over sunken ships. Thus, anyone who has the resources may actually just dive and loot sunken ships. The Sub-Aquatic Cultural Heritage Protection Convention ratified stricter measures in preserving and protecting sunken ships which are proven to be rich sources of historical and cultural information.

Sunken ships are actually the remains of a ship that has sunk because of a crisis at sea. The reasons behind the ship’s sinking vary, of course, and may include equipment failure; capsizing due to the instability of the ship; navigations errors resulting to collision with rocks, ships, reefs or icebergs; bad weather; violence such as wars, mutinies or pirate attacks; and quite ironically, fire.

Learning to Sail

These governing bodies have designed a series of courses that enable people to obtain internationally recognised qualifications. The courses are rarely run by the national body itself. Private companies can apply to run the courses to national associations/federations and if approved they can then offer recognised courses to people wanting to learn to sail.

Courses are available both on the water (practical) and shore based (theory) for sailboats, power and motor boats, dinghies as well as supplementary courses such as sea survival and diesel engine maintenance. This article will look only at courses for sailing boats and the structure of courses within the United Kingdom.

The the number of people carried on board for the practical courses will vary but normally will not exceed an instructor and 5 students. I completed my own Day Skipper Practical with just one fellow student and the instructor. The higher the student/instructor ratio, the less one to one time everybody gets with the instructor but the cost per person is reduced. It is also preferable, I think, to have a mix of people taking different courses. 5 people taking the Coastal Skipper Practical Course aboard the same boat will have a reduced amount of time in their role as skipper.

Getting started – The first course we’ll look at is called Start Yachting, no previous experience is required and over two days participants will be shown how to steer a yacht, how to handle the sails, a little ropework and an insight into safety on board. The Competant Crew course is again aimed at complete beginners, no previous experience is required. This course last five days and in addition to steering and sail handling participants will be shown how to keep a lookout and row a dinghy.

The first shorebased course is called Day Skipper Theory. A little on the water experience is desirable. The course requires 40 hours and two written exams are taken at the conclusion. Primarily about the basics of navigation, seamanship and the weather, when completed you should be able to navigate a boat in familiar waters in daylight.

The Day Skipper Practical follows and can be completed in 5 days or over 3 weekends. This can be undertaken in either tidal or non-tidal waters and the certificate issued at completion recognizes the distinction. Experience is required, participants should have spent five days at sea with 4 hours night sailing and have logged 100 miles. The course covers boat handling, seamanship and navigation and pilotage. When finished you should be able to skipper a yacht in familiar waters in daylight.

The Watchleader Practical course, as the name suggests, teaches the responsibilitiesof a watchleader, navigation seamanship, safety and collision avoidance. Experience is required, participants should have have logged 100 miles and spent five days at sea with 4 hours night sailing. After the 5 day course you should be able to take the watch on a sail traing vessel.

The second shorebased course is called Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore Theory. This course is in part a preparation for the Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore practical examinations. It continues on from the Day Skipper theory course looking again at navigation and meteorology and also considers safety, collision avoidance and passage planning. Some practical experience is necessary and you should understand theory of navigation to the level of the pervious Day Skipper theory course. The course takes 40 hours and concludes with three examination papers. When completed you should understand the theory of navigation required to undertake coastal and offshore passages.

The Coastal Skipper Practical Course follows the theory. Again this can be taken in tidal or non-tidal waters and again the certificate issued at completion recognizes the distinction. This course is aimed at skippers wishing to make coastal passages by both day and night. It assumes you will have spent 15 days at sea with 2 of them as skipper and have 8 night hours. You should have logged 300 miles. You should have practical skills equivalent to the Day Skipper Theory Course and theoretical navigation to Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore Theory. The course lasts 5 days and deals with boat handling, safety and emergency situations, pilotage by day and night and passage planning. You will be expected to plan and skipper a short passage.Upon completion you should be able to skipper a yacht on coastal passages by day and night.

You can follow this up with the Coastal Skipper Sailing Practical Examination. More experience is required, 30 days at sea with 2 days as skipper and 12 night hours and you should have logged 800 miles. You are also required to hold a First Aid Certificate and a VHF SRC Radio Operator’s Certificate. You should undertand theory to the level of the Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster shorebased course. Course content includes boat handling and seamanship, collision avoidance, safety, passage making and navigation, meteorology and ability as skipper. Upon completion you should be capable of skippering a yacht on coastal passages by day and night and with the additional of a commercial endorsement you can skipper commercial vessels under 24 metres in length up to 20 miles from a safe haven. For one person you should expect the exam to take between 6 – 10 hours, if two people are taking the exam this will increase to between 8 -14 hours.

The next level is the Yachtmaster Offshore Sailing Practical Examination. Canditates are required to have spent 50 days at sea with 5 days as skipper you should have logged 2,500 miles. You should have made 5 passages in excess of 60 miles including 2 overnight and 2 as skipper. Again you are required to hold a First Aid Certificate and a VHF SRC Radio Operator’s Certificate. You should undertand theory to the level of the Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster shorebased course. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability as the skipper of an offshore sailing yacht, including questions on collision avoidance, navigation, pilotage, meteorology and boat handling. After a sucsessful completion you should be able to skipper an offshore sailing yacht by day or night. For one person you should expect the exam to take between 8 – 12 hours, if two people are taking the exam this will increase to between 10 -18 hours.

Back on shore for the Yachtmaster Ocean Theory Course. This provides the knowledge required for those wishing to sail long distances. It covers ocean passage making and astro navigation including the use of a sextant. I’m sure the purists will disagree but personally I’m not convinced of the relevance of astro navigation and the sextant. I once crewed across the Atlantic for a couple who were making a circumnavigation. Seeing the sextant on board I asked the skipper if he could give me a demonstration of it’s use. He pointed me in the direction of the book that went with it saying he’d relied upon GPS for the last 12 years. “What happens if the GPS packs up?” I asked. “We use the spare one” he told me. The course lasts 40 hours and when completed you should understand how to plan and navigate on an ocean passage.

Finally the Yachtmaster Ocean Sailing Oral Examination on passage details and sun sight information. You must have successfully completed the Yachtmaster Offshore practical exam. You should have made a 600 mile passage as either mate or skipper and be able to take sun-run-sun sights and compass check by azumuth. You will receive questions on the techniques and problems of ocean passage making, including navigation, passage planning and ocean meteorology.The exam lasts a minimum of 1 and 1/2 hours and upon sucsessful completion you should be able to skipper a sailing yacht on an ocean passage.

Sinking Feeling

It is said that the happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day she buys a boat, and the day she sells it. Truer words were never spoken. It has also been said that owning a boat is like standing in a cold shower tearing up $20 bills. This is not true. You’re tearing up $100 bills, at least.

All my friends were shopping madly, all over town, buying clothes, shoes, furniture. I was at Home Depot melting my Visa card on stuff like stainless steel piano hinge. Wood plugs. Router bits. I do have every power tool known to God and Bob Vila, so Tim Allen, kiss my…keel. I was committed to this relationship. Committed? I was certifiable – I lived on my boat. And what a harsh house-mother she was, too.

As you read this, raise your arms so your hands are close together, right over your head. Keep them there for four hours. Every spring, I was forced to do this for days at a time. Holding a ten pound grinder. Carpal tunnel? I had the entire carpal subway system.

Every task I undertook involved a toxic chemical. My life became an EPA Superfund site. Most of the containers had a warning label that said – “A brain tumor in every can” – now that’s what I call a warning label!

The first summer I had the boat I was determined to practice safe boating – I wore a TyVek suit when I was painting her. Have you ever worn a TyVek suit? When it was 100 degrees? It’s like being locked in a sauna for hours at a time. I did lose 10 pounds that summer, though – in addition to about a billion brain cells from the paint fumes.

The entire relationship was co-dependent. The boat wanted to dissolve like an aspirin, and I had to prevent it from dissolving like an aspirin. Bit by bit, the boat was winning. The teak decks leaked no matter how many times I re-caulked them. The engine developed multiple personality disorder. The lines would fray even if they were coiled up in the rope locker. The fenders deflated. Then she tried to throw me overboard – the lifeline stanchions on the starboard side all broke at the same time.

This was a fight to the finish.

It was that old relationship conundrum – divorce? Never! Murder? Quite possibly. The boat did have reason to wish me harm – I HAD grounded her within fifteen minutes of our first voyage together. And there were the groundings in the Piankatank River, Boston Harbor, Rockaway Bay, and Sandy Hook.

She harbored a grudge.

And after everything I did for her, too.

I gave her a complete makeover from top to bottom – I rewired and painted her mast, I replaced her batteries and rewired the cabin, I completely redid her hull with the BEST isophthalic polyester-resin (say that three times fast) – I gave her all of my spare time and more than all of my spare cash. I even bought her jewelry – new rudder fittings made of silicon bronze that cost over $2,000. I’ve never spent that much on jewelry for myself!

We had wonderful adventures together – trips to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod. We sailed up the Hudson River and down the coast to Cape May.

But it was never enough. She always needed, demanded more.

The end finally came one day in November of 2000 – I’d given all I could give. I’d reached the end of my rope, and my checkbook.

I’d reached the second happiest day of my life – I sold her to a family that fell in love with her at first sight.

The poor slobs.

As I watched her sail away, I felt a twinge of sadness. Then I thought of my checkbook, which now had a positive balance. A VERY positive balance!

I’ve heard that my former significant other is still up to her old tricks – it took her new owners almost a month to get her from Long Island Sound to Gaylesville, Maryland. The engine’s multiple personality disorder kicked in, and the mainsail did its “look at me! I’m shredding!” trick – but her new owners are determined to keep her happy. I hope they have a fat checkbook – she’s a hungry old girl.

So I’m single again – but I’m a hopeless romantic. I’m eyeing charter boats in the Caribbean.

Marina of Sotogrande in Spain

On Sundays and Wednesdays there is a market which sells both local crafts and antiques. The marina was originally built in 1987 and has a total of 739 berths, of which 33 are 25-30 metres, and 8 are over 30 metres. These are often fully booked, particularly when one of the major sporting events is taking place such as the Volvo masters. Construction is well under way to increase this number to over 1000. There are a variety of restaurants, bars and shops to suit all tastes but many clients feel that the marina lacks atmosphere and can be rather soulless, particularly out of season. There are much prettier and more intimate marinas further up the coast such as Duquesa and Cabopina.

Mooring is available both alongside and stern to. The maximum length of yacht that can be accommodated is 70 metres and the maximum draught is 4.5 metres, with a maximum beam of 14 metres. Prices vary between 90 euros in high season to 50 euros in low season based on a 24m plus yacht for a 24 hour period. The nearest International airport is Gibraltar approx. 25km away, and the nearest heliport is 20km. Facilities available at the quayside include electricity, fresh water, fuel ( both petrol and diesel ) sewage removal, and direct line telephone. Parking is available but is extremely difficult in high season. Cable TV is also available. Workshops are available for both major and minor repairs.

Puerto SotograndeTorre de ControlSotogrande11310CadizSpain Tel: 0034 956 790000Fax: 0034 956 790109

Mountain Region of Svaneti Georgia

This region is absolutely so stunning you may not want to leave – ever. Its natural gifts, which include Europe’s highest mountains and incredible glaciers, are well complemented by the presence of medieval villages, old houses and towers. Svaneti is home to the Svans, known for their chivalry and bravery. The whole mountain region covers an incredible amount of land. So much so, it is divided into two regions: Upper Svaneti and Lower Svaneti. It will take multiple days to satisfactorily enjoy both subregions, but the time spent here is well worth it.

Svaneti has earned the World Heritage Site distinction of its magnificent landscape that features well preserved human settlements built way back during the medieval times. You can begin your journey around Svaneti in its capital Mestia, which also has it fair share of the iconic stone house towers. These house towers were built in such a way as to not only act as homes to villagers but also as defense posts against potential invaders. If you want to see almost 200 hundred of them up close, head out the village of Chazhashi and you will not be disappointed. Make sure to have your camera with you.

Hiking is one of the main activities in this mountain region. Hardcore trekkers travel from one town to another on foot. This is a great way to really enjoy the scenery. The most popular hiking path has got to be the one starts from Mestia and ends at Mazeri. Along the way, you will pass through several villages, some of which are situated on the Dolra River basin. While conquering this track, you will be visually rewarded with the sight of the Ushba-Mazeri massif, considered to be one of the most inaccessible mountain massifs in the Caucasus.

Take note that although you get some information at Mestia about this path, there is no guarantee that you can get a copy of the map. The mountain village of Mazeri is known for its beautiful natural landscape. The village is the usual gateway to Mount Ushba, which is a prominent trekking spot and is one of the highest mountains in Europe.

Tviberi River Valley is another popular hiking route in the Svaneti region. This route starts from the Zhabeshi village and goes all the way to two spectacular glaciers, the Qvitlodi and Tviberi. The trail is perhaps one of the easiest, featuring a length of 5.5 kilometers but with elevation of only 730 meters. Because of the relatively level elevation, it usually takes 6 hours to walk it.

Bargain Cruises Guide

You may consult a travel agent who has specialization in cruising. There are so many travel agents that are specializing in Caribbean, Alaska or Rhine etc. You’ve to just meet an experienced travel agent who has specialization in the area where you want to spend your vacations. Sometimes the agent has not any experience about that place so you should choose travel agent carefully.

Today Internet offers great information about bargain cruises. At present every cruise line has its own web site and they offers complete information about their cruise. You can book your seats in advance by getting information via Internet. You can also get discounts by reserving your seats in advance. Cruise lines updates their sites regularly to give latest information about cruise. You can also have a look of floor plan of ship and its cabins from their website that will help you in making right decision. You should search for unsold empty cabins for getting heavy discounts.

Generally last minute cruise bargains offers heavy discount because the cruise lines are trying to fill empty cabins at the departure time. So it is the best option to choose the cruise that is going to leave within next two weeks. Those people who can manage all the arrangements on a short notice can enjoy bargain cruises completely. The people who can’t travel on such short notice it is not good for them. Sometimes cruise lines offer discounts of 50% or more for the last minute reservations.

Repositioning cruise is also great option for bargain cruises. It will offer more time to enjoy ship’s facilities. You can also visit some odd ports where the cruise traffic is less. These cruises are also known as ‘repo cruises’. If you’re planning before several months it is the best for you. You should always keep in mind that the overall cost of repo cruises is more than ordinary cruises. They don’t require advertisements because they’ve standing reservation for every season. Cost of repo cruises is large because it offers amenities for three or more weeks.

John Muir Way Scotland

John Muir Way starts in the west from Helensburgh and goes all the way to the east coast, finishing at Dunbar. Named after a man who is widely known for his conservation efforts, John Muir gives an unbelievable perspective of the country. Dunbar was actually the hometown of the great John Muir, who is also the founder of America’s National Parks.

John Muir Way was built to join the already established network of hiking trails across the country. John Muir is actually part of the North Sea Trail. It is also linked to the West Highland Way, which showcases Scotland’s magical countryside. This new soon-to-be-iconic Scottish route is broken into ten sections to help travellers calculate and organize their trekking journey.

The sections makes it easier. It takes approximately 7-12 days to complete this trail. If you decide to cycle, it will most probably take you half of the estimated time. But the presence of the sections allows you to decide on day-long trips and partially trek the route easily. In addition, there is available public transport, usually in the form of buses and trains, that can bring hikers to many select points along the route. Thus, there is no real pressure to walk the entire way.

As you make your journey along John Muir, a diverse set of gorgeous landscapes will unfold. The route leads you through hills, old roads, railway lines and rural regions. You have the opportunity to stop by castle ruins and stay at quaint farmhouses. One of the famous spots along this route is the Blackness Castle, whose history goes all the way back to the 15th century.

Another interesting landmark that will greet you on your journey is the Roman ruin called Antonine’s Wall. Falkirk Wheel makes an interesting stop as it represents the look and feel of the modern architecture of the 21st century. If picturesque mountain and lake views are what you are looking for, make sure to stop by Stoneymollan Road, which reveals the outstanding landscapes of Loch Lomond. Other captivating spots along John Muir Way include the Strathkelvin Railway Path and Campsie Fells.

As you go further, the route will them bring your to more industrial and urban settings at the heart of Scotland. After going through significant places like ancient Linlithgow, Forth at Bo’ness and the Forth Bridge area, it eventually winds down to vibrant Scottish capital of Edinburgh. Although the route goes through major parts of the capital, it does not run into its central district.

Traveling With Comfortable Suitcases

Carry-on bags

These bags are small and compact in size. They are a little bigger than hand bags but still can be carried as a hand baggage. The carry-on bags come with 4 heavy duty wheels which enable users to move them comfortably in all directions. A good carry-on bag consists of many exterior pockets for last minute packing. It should also be made up of durable and shock resistant material for long lasting use. Good carry-on bags are multi-purpose and often more useful than suitcases.

Personal items bag

A personal items bag is like a backpack, laptop bag or vanity bag which contains ones personal items like books, laptop, tablet, hand towels, magazines,toiletries etc. It is one of those bags which cannot be missed. These bags are very useful and can be carried around anywhere. They easily fit into the overhead compartments in flights. Even a college bag can be used while traveling.

Duffel bags

Duffel bags are big handbags which are slightly different from suitcases. It is a big yet lightweight handbags which can be used as a last minute resort to keep extra items. While we are on tour, we purchase several things which requires an extra luggage bag and at that time duffel bags come handy. These bags too come with wheels for a comfortable use.

Wheeled suitcase

A 26 inch wheel trolley bag is more than sufficient. It has space and is durable as well. It comes with four heavy duty wheels which not only carries the load of a filled suitcase easily but also moves conveniently.

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