12/25/2009, St. Katharine's
2009 saw the Segue take a trip to Scandinavia. The plan for the trip was hatched more than a year ago when we found out that our grandson Quinn was to play hockey in both Sweden and Finland. Since the Baltic had been on the 'To Do' list, we decided to tick that one off this year.
Scandinavia is truly an amazing place. Denmark's Copenhagen is a jewel of a city. A city of only 550,000 people, and a public Transit system we can only envy in North America. One can travel by train, metro or bus. Almost everyone owns a bus card, but the preferred mode of transportation is the bicycle, and bicycle lanes run alongside roads. No fancy, high tech bikes for the Danes, simple and no gears!
Norway, with its fjords and mountains. A highlight for us was taking a cruise on the Hurtigruten Line from Kirkenes on the Russian boarder down to Bergen, after leaving Segue II in Oslo. We did this in June during Summer Solstice. We ate breakfast at North Cape 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle and attended a midnight concert in a church in Hammerfest. When we came out at 2:00 A.M., it was still broad daylight! No trip to Norway could be complete without a trip on the Flam Railway, one of the world's steepest. Ohs and ahs are audible as the train travels through 20 km. of magnificent scenery of waterfalls cascading down snow-capped mountains, and rivers that cut through deep ravines.
In Sweden we took Segue through the Gota Canal, a canal with 66 locks and just as many bridges culminating in the impressive city of Stockholm, a city of islands.
The Scandinavians impressed us with their safe and efficient cities, their fantastic infrastructure, and their cheerful attitude towards life. It is so safe that on Hanko Island in Norway, where the Royals have a summer home, it is not unusual for the Crown Princess to join the locals at the sole restaurant for an evening digestif!
We ate Bacalao (dried salt cod, prepared in a tomato sauce) and we gorged on the smorrebrod (Danish open face sandwiches), of which our favourites are topped with pickled or curried herring.
We joined Quinn's hockey team in Stockholm. This team was put together by 2 parents with an extraordinary love for hockey. The team was composed of friends and school mates. There were 18 players, siblings, parents and even 2 sets of grandparents for a total of 71 people. The siblings ranged in age from 4 to 16. Everyone got along extremely well, and the entire group presented themselves to Northern Europe as able Ambassadors of Canada. It was indeed a privilege to accompany them.
Segue II is currently moored in London St. Katharine's Yacht Haven where we will once again use her as a London flat to explore London and attend the shows.
11/11/2009, Ypres, Belgium
In November, my sister Mary and I realized a dream, by visiting our Grandfather's grave near Ypres, Belgium. Mary, Phil, Dave and I took the Eurostar train from London to Lille, France. Our grandfather was killed in WWI, 3 months before our mother's birth. No one in our family had visited before. To be in Ypres around Remembrance Day is an extremely moving experience. These people truly remember and 'Never Forget' how their freedom was fought for and won in these 2 terrible wars.
12/25/2008, St. Katharine's Docks
We had 2 births and a 30th Birthday in 2008. The first birth was Dave's new boat, Segue II. Technically, it was delivered to Florida in October of 2007, but she was not quite ready for a sea voyage till March of 2008. The first voyage was through the Bahamas and down to the British Virgins. Along the way we stopped in at the beautiful little group of islands south of the Bahamas called Turks and Caicos. We have visited many islands in the Caribbean, but this one is special. The Turks, not only have the typically beautiful sandy beaches of the Caribbean, but the locals are friendly, self-sufficient and industrious. Hey, didn't these Islands want to join Canada in the 80's? We missed an opportunity by not pursuing this.
Segue II proved during this 1500 mile trip to the Virgins to be extremely safe, sea-worthy, and comfortable. Dave was, and still is thrilled to be learning so many new systems and gadgets.
We put Segue II on a huge freighter in June and she arrived in Las Palmas, Mallorca in July. We love Spain, and were once again happy to explore Las Palmas and our beloved Barcelona. But in August we found the heat oppressive in Spain and decided to go to a more temperate climate. We chose Ireland and we certainly did get the climate we were looking for. We wore a raincoat everyday! The weather was perfect for sight seeing and going on walking tours. We started off in Dublin and ended up in Dingle.
Though we did all kinds of tours, from the Rebellion to the Titanic one particularly interesting tour in Dublin is the 'Literary Pub Crawl'. This tour is great fun as it is run by actors, and as one walks from pub to pub (usually where these famous writers would pop by for a pint) the group is treated to perhaps a scene from a play, or a reading from a book. An interesting anecdote is that Trinity College in Dublin still receives royalties from the sale of the rights to 'My Fair Lady' which is based on the play by George Bernard Shaw 'Pygmalion'. The people of Ireland are friendly, open and welcoming, and we could return there anytime.
In September we shipped Segue II to England where she is moored at St. Katharine's Docks, right near the Tower of London. It is a great spot, and we spent several weeks there in October and November, enjoying the walking, exploring and attending shows.
Dave and I are well and keen on continuing our travels. Next year we will go to the Baltic. Our grandson, Quinn has a Hockey Tournament there. So we will join Shannon, Trevor and the kids for the tournament and a short holiday.
12/31/2007, Stuart, Florida USA
A major change in our life this year began about this time last year when we made the decision to change our boat from a sail boat to a power boat. Dave had always told me that when our sailing days were over we would switch to a Nordhavn trawler yacht. We sheepishly broke the news at our local monthly 'Blue Water' meeting and it has been an interesting process watching the reactions of our sailor friends. They fall into many camps from the sailing purists who are horrified to the 'natural progression' group.
So, the process began and we ordered a boat, a little bit larger than our sail boat, but with many more comforts. The boat is an American design, built in China and is called Nordhavn 47.
In the spring we spent 6 weeks in our beloved Barcelona, where our sailboat had wintered. We readied the sailboat and floated it onto a barge in Las Palmas, Mallorca which brought it back to Florida. Then Dave and friends sailed it up to Annapolis, MD and put it up for sale.
Now, it was on to following the 'birthing' process of the new boat.
We were told that we could visit the boatyard in China, where the new boat was being built. It was a tempting thought, which grew into a trip that was to be the highlight of our year.
We hit all the high spots from Honk Kong to Beijing to Shanghai. All the time we kept saying to ourselves l.3 billion people live here in this country. We felt extremely safe at all times and we admired the Chinese people for their work ethic and their discipline. The work ethic was particularly evident in the city of Xiamen (pronounced Shauman) where our boat was being built. Xiamen was a nice surprise - a very comfortable city with a nautical feel and not over run by tourists.
Beijing was bustling getting ready for the Olympics. We were there almost exactly a year before this great event will take place. The pollution was still quite bad, but upon expressing our concern we were assured by locals they will not heat with coal this winter and they will close down the factories prior to the great event. We have no doubt that after seeing some of the beautiful costumes and make-up at various shows we attended, that the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Beijing will be a 'not-to-be-missed' event. We wish them the best of luck.
The cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai are busy, bustling, crowded with fabulous 5 star hotels and historic landmarks such at the 'Bund' in the colonial part of Shanghai.
While we were suitably awed by the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, one of our most memorable and not-to-be-missed sights is the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an (pronounced Shian). It is one thing to see images of these warriors in books, but nothing can prepare the visitor for coming face to face with an army of thousands. These armies were made to guard the tomb of an Emperor over 2,200 years ago. They were unearthed in 1974 by a farmer digging a well. This was during the 'Cultural Revolution' and when a famous archaeologist, who had been sent to the countryside for re-education heard of the find, he pursued its preservation. And thank goodness he succeeded. Each warrior has its own features and character. No detail is overlooked, and we can even see the rank of the warrior by the way he wears his hair. This exhibit covers the size of several football fields and work continues at this site. Xi'an is on the Silk Road, and as the people of Xi'an say 'The Silk Road starts in Xi'an'.
We were the only 2 people on our China tour, and thus we developed a close relationship with our guides. We talked a little politics with them. They were all well educated and informed.
It was great to be able to make this trip to China just a year before the Olympics when the country will be on display to the world.
We managed a couple of trips to the Maritimes this past year, and in October we were in Cape Breton for the 'Celtic Colours Festival'. What an opportunity to see the fabulous range of yellows to reds of our Canadian maple trees in the fall, and appreciate the musical talent of Nova Scotia at the same time.
12/31/2006, Port Vell, Barcelona
In late January , Dave and his ski friends decided to renew the tradition of
the 80's and 90's and make one last pilgrimage to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
What sparked the renewed interest was the fact that the famous Jackson Hole
Tram was to be removed after the close of the 2006 winter. I decided to go
along with Dave because of an interest in the town of Jackson Hole. Though
I am a duffer when it comes to skiing, I put the skis on again after about
10 - 12 years, and thoroughly enjoyed myself getting out in the crisp winter
air, getting a little exercise in the brilliant sunshine. Jackson Hole, is
a cowboy town, and has not only a fabulous western Museum, but many, many
art galleries. I did take one trip up the famous Tram and could only
marvel at the places that the braver skiers venture. They duly win my
Dave left Calgary in early April to ready our boat Segue for our summer
travel. The boat had over-wintered in Malta, and I arrived a week later and
then our friends Lynn and Terry (excellent sailors) arrived the third week
of April to join us on the first leg of the trip from Malta to Barcelona.
Malta is a small island (27km by 15km) smack dab in the middle of the
Mediterranean, south of Sicily and just north of Tunisia. Malta has a long
and turbulent history and its importance in history has often been out of
proportion to its diminutive size. Its fortresses erected during the
Crusades are imposingly visibly as we sail in and out of the harbour at
Manolla Island. Napoleon visited on his way to Egypt and it also bears the
distinction of being bombed as much as London during WWII. Today it is
still a very Catholic country and Dave was lucky enough to be there during
the Easter Week Festival and the Good Friday procession with the pomp,
ceremony and colour of the priests carrying religious statues through the
streets. All 4 of us experienced the Fireworks Festival in the first week
of May. Each Parish celebrates its Saint during this time. After the
religious procession of St. Populus, we went down to the wharf for dinner
and fireworks to end the evening.
Our next destination was Tunisia, perhaps the most visitor friendly of the
North African countries. We docked Segue in the port of Sidi Bou Said, the
town itself is perched above the cliffs, and a climb up revealed a bustling
souk (market) complete with beautiful handicrafts only to be won by fierce
bargaining. Thankfully the French had great influence on the cuisine here
and we had some wonderful meals in French restaurants. Another highlight
was a meal of very large shrimp, bought from a local fisherman who
approached the boat. We lightly sautéed the shrimp in olive oil and garlic
with just a splash of white wine.
Then it was off to Menorca, the small sister of Mallorca. What a pleasant
surprise that was. The British influence was very much in evidence in the
architecture, particularly in the windows which have small square panes.
Nelson spent 3 years in the fabulous natural harbour of Mahon.
We arrived in Barcelona in mid-May, where Lynn and Terry met their son and
his wife and ventured off to further land travels. On the next stage of the
trip, we met up with our friends Donna and Calvin on Exile. This is the
third year that we have sailed with them. We headed to the north of Spain,
across the Gulf of Lion to Marseilles, visiting many ports such as Sanary
sur Mer, Ste Maxime and Nice. This portion of the trip can only be
described as a 'Culinary Adventure'. It started in Northern Spain, when
some 'foodie friends' offered us reservations (which they had made a year in
advance) at the No. 1 restaurant in the World, called El Bulli. Of course
we could not refuse this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and prepared
carefully for the experience. The meal must not be rushed, and it took
about 4 hours to eat. It is a 'tasting menu' with 29 or 30 different items.
We ate everything from white asparagus to truffles to foie gras. Each
item is merely a spoonful, but El Bulli's secrets are in the preparation.
There are many preparations, some in foam and even dry ice. We never felt
full, and the attention to service and detail was truly exceptional.
Then in Marseille, we found out that our boats were moored below Julia
Childs's apartment building. The markets in France during June kept getting
better and better, and inspiration was everywhere. We ordered freshly
shucked oysters, brought them back to the boat and quaffed them down with
blush wine. The fresh vegetables, cheeses, pates, fresh pasta, and Irish
lamb were readily available everywhere. It was a pleasure to shop almost
daily. We left Segue in Menton near the border of Italy in mid-July.
Right now, Segue is in Barcelona for the winter. Dave, his brother and
another friend returned in September to bring it to Barcelona, via Corsica
and Menorca. We had several weeks to experience this truly fantastic city,
Barcelona. The influence of Gaudi is everywhere, and we had opportunities
to experience concerts in the very beautiful Palau de Musica. As always we
walked everywhere, and the markets in Barcelona are second to none. Many
good restaurant experience awaited us too, in Barcelona and one which stands
out is visiting a Tapas bar called Cal Pep where one waits in line to get in
to sit at the counter and be brought dish after dish of either carne or
12/31/2005, Crossing the Atlantic
As I write this letter we are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the
clipper ship Stad Amsterdam. We left the Canary Islands on November 21 and will arrive in Antigua on December 9th. More about this later.
Our winter travels during January and February included a trip to London,
Vienna and Venice. London is one of our favourite cities and certainly did
not disappoint. We rented a flat and saw several plays almost one a night
including the ever present Mama Mia, new ones such as 'The Producer', and
even 'Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang' where we wished our grandchildren could
have been present.
Then it was off to Vienna, a physically beautiful city with its grandiose
architecture, organization and the Danube flowing through. We spent several
days there visiting museums, churches and of course the famous Viennese
coffee houses. It was also very special to see and hear a concert in
Mozarthaus, a monastery in which Mozart lived briefly, and where he played
several times in its Sala Terrena, a small salon, with marvelous accoustics
and atmosphere, holding only 35 people.
We then went to Venice, a city of narrow streets, no cars or motorbikes, and
only the very odd bicycle. The canal lined by houses of muted pink and ochre
against a slate blue grey sky, and palaces richly furnished with frescoes
and ornate furnishings. We were there for a few days before, during, and
after the Carnivale. The costumes were fabulous, many professionally done -
heavy with velvet and rich in gold trim. The atmosphere is heightened by
the face painters, university students from the faculty of art, Cassanova
being one of the favourites.
In April, we returned to Slovenia where we had left Segue, our boat. We
got the boat ready and set off in May for a few months touring the dramatic
coastline and the 1000 islands of Croatia. Croatia, part of the former
Yugoslavia, is across from the east coast of Italy. Everyone has been here
- Greeks, Romans, Turks, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians. It is a most
interesting country where one can see Greco-Roman ruins, fortified medieval
towns, sleepy fishing villages, National Parks and secluded anchorages with
superb clear, clean swimming water. The city of Pula, on the Istrian
Penninsula, and about one quarter of the way down the coast boasts a Roman
ampitheatre about 300 metres from the Port. Favourite islands with medieval
towns were Hvar and Korcula on the islands of the same names. We left the
boat at one point and travelled inland to the capital of Zagreb, climbing up
the mountains on a super highway tunnelling its way through the mountains,
one such tunnel spanning 4 miles.
We returned to Calgary early in July just in time to take in Stampede and
get into some hiking in the mountains. Calgary is booming once again. The
housing communities are stretching out further and furher. We have not seen
this much activity since the early '80's. There is a shortage of qualified
workers and there is hardly a store without a 'help-wanted' sign.
Dave returned to Europe with his brother and a friend to take Segue to Malta where she is laid up for the Winter.
Back to the Stad Amsterdam -- it is a Clipper ship built in 2000 by a Dutch
entrepreneur in conjunction with the city of Amsterdam. Above deck the
sails and equipment are traditional, however below deck the cabins, lounge,
dining room and galley are very modern. We signed up for the Atlantic
crossing together with 26 other guests. We have become part of the crew
taking part in watches, sail raising and lowering, washing dishes, swabbing
decks, and all other duties involved in the maintenance and running of the
ship. Dave has been up the mast and out on the yards (a fantasy for any