Monday, January 28, 2013


I had a good day skiing at Alta before the forecast storm. At a lunch

I was fascinated to watch someone produce a MRE back. He was related to a soldier and had got it to try. It came with a handwritten list from the relative saying what to trade, what to throw away and then the good stuff. I got to try a couple of things and unlike the British COMPO rations this stuff was tasty.

After dinner I joined a ranger lead tour explaining about the resort and it's relationship with Salt lake City. A surprising fact was that the snow we were skiing on is a big part of SLC's water supply. I suppose that explained the heavy penalties for making yellow snow. An even more surprising fact was that it is only 24 hours from snow on the slope to someones tap.

They are a little behind the continental resorts in their avalanche control systems.

Yes that is a gun, big gun, a big old gun. They use it to fire shells on predetermined settings to start avalanches after storms. The ranger says that they have got it wrong on a couple of occasions and either fired on the wrong angle [ you did say 45 degrees NO %$ YOU IDIOT ] putting a hole in a lift shelter or loaded two bags of propellant instead of one. It was thought to be a dud but in fact arched high enough to clear the mountain and land in the next town. No one was hurt but many kids had something special for show and tell that day.

It snowed hard that night

and I had a late start with the intention of missing the traffic snarl ups but was even later as I had to deice the car after shifting the snow.

The Canyons resort had a different feel to it from Alta, for a start they allow boarders and there are upmarket condo developments all over the slopes. But like Alta there were almost no queues and the sun was often out. However it was really really cold as you can see from my pic. Silk balaclava, inner gloves and an extra layer under the jacket was the rig of the day.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Well I had had a good day for my first day on the slopes at Snowbird. I knew I was not skiing very well and did do one run to many. I felt a little stiff that evening but nothing prepared me for the way I felt next morning. I could barely stand, it was if I had been beaten with a rubber hose. Walking like a VERY old man I made it to the pharmacy for some ibuprofen and embrocation. By the evening I was moving a little better and made it to the poker game I had found in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City Meetup is an online site which helps like minded people meetup. I had registered for the poker section and put my name down for a game while still in the Caribbean. I received my instructions from the organizer and home owner Eric on where to park and where to walk to with the additional instruction that I had to be really quiet and not ring the bell.

I arrived with another guy and was ushered into a splendid home with a downstairs basement complete with a poker table. Eric is serious about his home games. It turned out that he has a child who is a light sleeper and we have to be quiet to avoid waking her up. It was a fun evening and I came away in the black but still feeling crippled.


Friday dawned and wonder of wonders I felt better, the stiffness was gone and I could move normally. So it was off to ski Brighton. I was a bit depressed on the way up as I knew I had been skiing badly at Snowbird and wondered if the skis were to heavy or I was too old and out of condition. The weather was a bit dismal as it was raining as I drove up Big Cotton canyon to Brighton where the rain had turned to very light snow. I trudged up the steep slope to the first lift and clipped my skis on. At the top of the chairlift I set off and as I needed to make the first turn I remembered the magic word I had been given by my first ski instructor in Sauze Doux some 35 years ago as he taught us carved parallel turns.

Shouting "HOOPLA" I up unweighted, changed angulation,moved the outside ski forward,changed edges, all while planting the ski pole. It indeed was magic and I made an effortless carving turn with feet and skis tidily together and one knee socketed in behind the other.

GERONIMO! IT WAS BACK !! I COULD STILL SKI!!!. I spent the rest of the day exploring Brighton and skied most of the runs. Like Snowbird there were no lift queues. I stopped while there was still some gas in the tank and don't feel too stiff this evening.

Another bit of good news was that the inversion over Salt Lake City is breaking up, things are getting warmer,

well the icicles by my room are melting but the air quality is still poor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I found my ski boots and here I am again back on the white powder. After a a whole load of hassle including a call on one flight "Is there a doctor onboard" followed by hurried preparations to divert I found myself in Salt Lake City skiing at Snowbird.

It was unbelievably quiet even allowing for the fact it is a weekday. I was expecting some crowds as they had announced that it was to be a 'BLUEBIRD DAY' with 20 % discounts on lift tickets.

You can see from this pic. that the chair lifts are going up empty. At lunch the restaurant was also near empty.

Now why was it a 'BLUEBIRD DAY'? Well maybe this pic. shows how bad the pollution in Salt Lake City is. That is not a lake but the top of the inversion which is giving SLC the worst air quality in the USA. Worse than LA!

When the pollution gets this bad, Snowbird drops the price of it's lift tickets so the locals can get to breath some clean air in the mountains.

Now it is with some sadness that I retire another tried and trusted old friend. My Olympus C2 digital camera with it's 2 megapixcel image size and 16mb memory card needs some rest. I was so impressed by Jan's Pentax WG II that when I saw one on sale I bought it. It is a tough everyday pocket camera and waterproof down to 40 feet [ or so they say! ]

Saturday, January 12, 2013


We have spent a couple of days wandering around Fort-de-France the capital of Martinique. The town has been rebuilt many times. After the fire of 1890 and the hurricane 1891 many of the public buildings were reinforced with a metal skeleton.

The most striking of such buildings is the Schoelcher Library. Displayed at the World Fair of 1889 in Paris before being dismantled and transported to Fort-de-France. At first it accommodated the collection of books offered by the abolitionist Victor Schoelcher now it has the resources of a modern library and remains open to all.

It also provides space for local artists to display their talents.

The designer Henri Picq was also responsible for the cathedral.

Britain passed the first law in 1807 banning the slave trade and finally banned slavery in 1833 but it was not until 1848 the final decree of abolition of slavery was signed by the Victor Schoelcher in Martinique.

Those buildings were both magnificent but it is the back streets full of narrow three, four or five story wall houses, most with metal balconies that exactly match the look of old French towns that charmed us most. A total change from the housing of the English speaking islands, these houses are mostly decaying gracefully with the odd one or two being spruced up and re roofed.

We also liked this little bridge,

and some of the well executed graffiti.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Elephant's Child brought in the New Year anchored off from Anse Mitan, a resort, that celebrated with a grand fireworks performance at midnight. Just so everyone knows, it woke us both up. John got up and glanced at it from his vantage near the cockpit and Jan watched the entire display through the front hatch. The solar panels were dutifully faced away from the display by the Captain prior to his retiring to his bunk!

We were greeted by a spectacular day with winds out of the NE at 15-20 and brilliant sunshine all day. It was a perfect day by Caribbean standards. The breeze kept the temperature down while letting us enjoy the sunshine. We spent the day on and around the boat, leaving for a snorkel that was so close to us we swam rather than taking the dingy.

For a fairly low visibility snorkel we found lots to snap pictures of including: cuttle fish in a fishpot, a jacknife fish, big eyes, squirrel fish, a moon jellyfish, a sandiver and tons of beautiful coral. Thanks be to Picasa for it's wonderful way with photos in lower visibility water.

As we sat in the cockpit sipping our sundowners,

we were treated to a GREEN FLASH on the horizon, and a lovely colorful display that held on for a long time before darkness closed in. It's been a relaxing Holiday day spent in the cockpit reading, snacking and enjoying the ambiance offered by this lovely country. The French make a BIG thing of New Years so going ashore would have meant nothing open, just sightseeing in a more modern, populated area. We opted for the boat! That's not to say there are no enticements ashore; yesterday the ice cream we had was yet another demonstration of the French talent for all things dairy. John was disappointed to see that there was a strike by the longshoremen that resulted in no Camembert or Brie on store shelves…... as he stood there with two baguettes in hand ready for the cheese and wine to go along with it. To be clear, Jan wasn't voting against fact she deferred to him given his height and general presence, thinking it would be more effective in getting results.

Martinique, as you can see from the picture across the bay from us,

has some tall, pointed peaks surrounded by what appears to be worn down mountains. This topography is in fact the result of a Andesite or ash type of volcano that produces pyroclastic flows (hot gases that roll down at speed from the volcano). Martinique had it's last big eruption in 1976.

Another volcano of the same type that is more familiar to most is Montserrat. So the appearance of low lying mountains is in fact the accumulation of ash flows. This ash produced very fertile ground easily depleted when used for mono culture (bananas). Most of the Caribbean islands were given a protected European market for their bananas at roughly twice the going rate. That went away with the GATT Agreement in 1994 leaving farmer's with two insults to their income: hurricanes and disappearing government price supports. Bearing this in mind, it's interesting to compare Martinique with Dominica, where an effort was made by Dame Eugenia Charles to resist over reliance on bananas and tourism preferring the smaller cruise ships primarily used for eco-tourism to the large cruise liners. She set out to make Dominica as self sufficient for food and financial solvency as possible. Eventually even Dominica gave in and built a large cruise ship port.

The cruise ship industry , as well as the Cruisers, are now a major source of income throughout the islands. It has been clear on every island we've visited that there is a real effort made to protect visitors from any difficulty. In the case of the cruise ships, they just stop coming with marked financial repercussions. In the case of the Cruiser's a few mentions on a blog such as the Grenada's Cruiser's Net and yachts just don't come inflicting a real financial penalty for the actual or perceived lack of safety. In the 90's when John was visiting Bequia, a local person stole his dingy during the night returning it the next morning clearly expecting a reward. After giving him $40 for his efforts, John snapped a picture of him and made his way to the local police. The Sargent didn't seem to need the picture after hearing John's brief description of the incident. Later the same day he was called to the police station where the man who ''rescued'' the dingy was in a chair waiting with a battered and bruised appearance. John was asked to confirm the identity of the man and stood by horrified as the police proceeded to further beat the man as he watched. This is not to say everywhere is safe, it's not. But there is no reason to find yourself in a place you shouldn't be if some common sense is used. The cruising guide written by Chris Doyle is very good at providing some guidance and information about the interesting things in most areas of the Windward Islands. We were delighted to have him anchor next to us for a few nights while we were in Rodney Bay on his catamaran, Ti Kanot. While in Grande Anse D'Arlet John wrote to Chris Doyle about the new mooring buoys throughout the bay to let him know they were there only to receive a note back saying he knew they were planned. As with most mooring in the Caribbean there's isn't a plan for regular maintenance. There is a reported fight over who will get the revenue that will eventually be generated from their rental. Currently they are free.

It is with deep sadness that we have to report the demise of yet another camera; John's faithful companion for four years of underwater exploration has finally given up the will to live.

He is heating up a soldering iron for an attempt at reviving things....admitting it doesn't look good. I suggested he try some intravenous fluids....but John suggests that an excess of saline might indeed be the problem.

Despite it costing only $40 it has produced some excellent pics but the limited capacity of only 35 pics and no zoom has me itching for better, but what? I can't make up my mind and wonder if a $400 camera will get better pics.

OK OK I am a tight Scots git !

Whitney, on the other hand, received her mother's request for a camera purchase on eBay. Pentax WG-1, if you please!!

Finally we saw this go past us. Wonder if he is a car dealer.