Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year to all!

It's Friday December 29th around 8:30 in the morning. I've been at work for 90 minutes and I haven't seen a soul. Just finishing up some last minute items and then I'm outta here until next year!

Remember to make a resolution that you can at least try to stick with, and be sure to include others in your holiday plans. Check out Nokia's New Year's Eve party site for some good music and videos from performances around the world on New Year's.
here's the link:

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year's!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Adventures of Captain Gale: Let the Vacation Begin

From: []
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2002 10:55 AM
Subject: Let the Vacation Begin

Yes, I know, a long delay between emails. When last I wrote, our young hero was about to take on Charlestown, SC. I coerced my friend Bri to come down from Charlotte, NC for a bacchanal evening. We took the night by storm, and as always, the day took us right back by storm. I'm beginning to hurt just thinking about it. Let's move on.

Once past Charlestown I hit Georgia and more weather delays. With the weather forecast of 35kt winds with and higer gusts along with scattered instances of 6+" rain, I decided topause for a bit. I headed for a marina.

Now, I don't want to disparage this "marina" in rural (read: deserted) GA, especially when everyone I met was nice and helpful. But let's just say that when the wind would calm I could hear banjoes play, and I expected Burt Lancaster to paddle down the river at any minute.

One of the nice things about all these weather delays is getting to meet my fellow cruisers. People seem to be drawn to a young guy going it alone in a small boat. I think I remind the moms (remember that everyone I'm meeting is 55-65) of their children, and they worry about my culinary talents, and they fear I may be starving, a thought I try to encourage. Some might call that deception - I call it steak and potatoes with all the fixins' instead of hot dogs and lights out by 6:30

At the Deliverance marina I meet 3 nice couples, two of them from RI of all places (Portsmouth and Charlestown). Fun people. Good cooks, too!

My birthday was eventful. I woke up in southern GA next to Cumberland island, a nature preserve. I watched wild horses grazing in a foggy field as I ghosted past. A couple hours later a Coast Guard helicopter started buzzing me. Strange. Finally a 25' Naval gunship approached at mach 1. I stopped my boat and the boys let me know I must halt untl a nuclear submarine exits the river I'm in. What a sight, following this masive ship.

That night I hit Florida, and by the beginning of this past week I was finally in shorts. My father met me in West Palm Beach on the 19th, and we cooled our heels for a couple of days waiting for a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We spent our time hassling the extremely wealthy of Palm Beach during the day by daring to walk on their streets - him dressed like a hiker model for L.L. Bean, me in my bright red Hawaiian shirt. At night we locked ourselves in the boat. Hey, we were in Riviera Beach - I got solicited by a hooker at 9:30 one morning, and dad was offered drugs the next!

Finally this morning 12-22, the first day of winter, the 12 footers in the Gulf Stream subsided to 5-6 footers. We left at 1:45 and made it to Wes End, Bahamas just after noon. We cleared customs and Dad was in a cab towards the airport by 1:45. I'm currently enjoying a rum and coke whilst the sun disappears. 39 days and 1683 miles later, the vacation has begun.

I hope everyone has a happy holidays. My mom comes to the Bahamas on the 25th and my sister on the 26th, so we'll be celebrating a day or two late. My sister claims that as a minister she has to perform Chrismas services. But mom and I know the real reason - the Dollar stores have the best deals on the 26th.

Take care,
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Vacation - Part 2

So when I last wrote (a couple of days ago) I was recounting my trip through the Caribbean. I had left off on the island of St. Thomas,in the US Virgin Islands. We had taken a shore excursion that ran us over to some of the highlights on the island. We went to Blackbeard's Castle which snaked and wound it's way down the hills from the top of the island right down into the main shopping area on St. Thomas. If you are a fan of jewelry and high fashion, this place will be right up your alley. I am not a big purchaser or Coach bags and Rolex watches, so we continued on down through the art shops and knick-knack stores and eventually found a surf shop. We picked up a couple of t-shirts, spent the afternoon taking in some more of the sights, said "no" to the 400 times we were asked if we needed a taxi and eventually made our way back to the ship.

The next day (Thursday) was another "sea day". The weather wasn't so great so we took it easy, visited with our friends and went wine tasting in the Pinnacle Grill. I think I forgot to mention that we had dinner in the Pinnacle a couple of nights previous - The Pinnacle is a fantastic restaurant on the ship that requires a reservation and a small extra charge. The Ship already has excellent food, but the Pinnacle takes to the next level. It reminded me of a very high end steak restaurant - and the Fillet was superb. I highly recommend the Pinnacle Cut fillet, with a couple of side dishes and the Molten Chocolate Cake to finish up.

Thursday night was a big show entitled "Stage and Screen" and the cast members did a fabulous job! Afterwords was a comedy show and then some late night schmoozing with friends and Dj Sparky again in the Northern Lights club. This night our new friends we had met on the ship -Amy and Joel and Geoff and Erika- came out with us and had a great time. Friday morning came a little soon for some of them but luckily it was just the private island of the cruise line.

We went ashore on Friday the Half Moon Cay and laid in the sun, did some Jet-skiing (in the open ocean mind you - it was wicked!) and then came back to a huge on-island Bar-b-Que lunch. We visited with friends the rest of the afternoon...everyone knew that the trip was quickly coming to and end. 3:30 came and the "All-Aboard" blew and it was time to head back to the ship.

The wife was tired and took a nap so I spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the ship taking most of the "stock" photos you see on the Flickr page. It was nice because the vast majority of the guests were either packing or resting for one last night of fun!

Dinner was excellent (as usual) and we said our good-byes to friends we had met and to the wonderful crew that had helped us all week. It was sad to have to good-bye because we had such a great time...but we had made some great friends and we hope to hear from them soon. We had seen an old friend and we will miss her, but she'll come home to visit in a few months.

Lots of people had told me that cruising, especially on a Holland America ship was meant for old folks, but if you're young at heart, you trip is what you make of it. The service, cast and crew were second to none and the only thing I found wrong with the trip was our fault...we only booked a 7 day trip. I guess that means it's time to start saving for that 10 day cruise next!

Take care and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Next up, a special Christmas edition of the Adventures of Captain Gale-

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Not gonna try to be PC here, I celebrate Cristmas and that's what I'm going to wish to all of you. Please be safe and be sure to share that holiday spirit in everything you do over the next few days!

I'll be back on Tuesday and I'll send out the othe vacation post today (likely latter tonight)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Vacation! - A brief retrospective

Hello all! I have just returned from a week's vacation with the lovely Ms. aboard the ms Zuiderdam!

What can I had to be the best vacation I have had in a long time! Vacations are great, but we had the time of our lives while visiting an old friend on the ship. We were introduced to the entertainment cast and crew and partied like rock stars every night. I have included a few pics here in the post, but if you'd like to live vicariously then click on my Flickr link down on the left to see all 800-and-something photos!

Our trip started Friday night December 8th at around 10:00 PM PST as we took a red-eye flight from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale by way of Dallas/Ft. Worth. There is something rather odd about wandering through DFW at approximately 5 in the morning looking like the living dead (no sleep on the first leg at all). Finally arriving in Ft. Lauderdale (Hollywood FL actually) we took a crappy taxi ride to Pier 26. We are now at about 10:30 AM EST. It was spitting rain ever so slightly and we were trying our best to get in line and on the ship as quickly as possible. They processed our paperwork and had us in-line to get on the ship in pretty short order, but then when they let us on they wanted to take photos of us as we were going aboard..mind you this is the photo that people were going to see every time we boarded or left the ship, every time we purchased something on the ship, etc etc wasn't pretty.

Once aboard our good friend Krista was waiting right there for us! We had a private tour, she decorated our cabin door and told all of her friends and co-workers we were coming on board. The first day was tons of fun! We had a quick bite of lunch, took a brief nap to recharge since we had been up for some 30+ hours and then off to lifeboat drill before the ship set sail. Nothing like seeing a bunch of strangers in silly life jackets before you even leave port to break the ice. Next we were off dinner and the opening night show! Nuri & Nur were our dining room staff and Paul, our Wine Steward. All three of them worked so hard to make our entire trip an experience of a lifetime and I can honestly say they excelled in every way. We had an excelled dinner and the show (called a "Bumper" - kind of a preview of the week) was excellent. After the show our friend Krista came out with us for a bit and introduced us to Carlo and the team up in the Crow's Nest lounge. Have you ever noticed that there is a bar or lunge everywhere you look on cruise ships????Something tells me they planned it that way.

The second day brought us a "sea day" where the ship was sailing full steam to the island of Grand Turk, but not just yet. Sea days also bring lots of goofy activities, a chance to laze around the pool and meet your fellow cruisers. We had a ball - I for one visited the Bloody Mary bar at the Lido pool as soon as I could see. We goofed off all day and tons of fun and eventually headed out to dinner. Formal night and the wifey was dressed to kill. Dinner was fantastic and then off to watch Krista and the cast in a Broadway style show! the show was spectacular and the cast had energy to spare. Such professionalism is rare to find these days and it was such a treat to see a performance of this caliber while aboard such a fantastic ship. After the show I dropped by the cabin to leave off my jacket and freshen up to go party the night away. Our Cabin Steward Comang had fashioned (what we would later learn was a nightly treat) a Elephant out of rolled towels. Comang was just a stud and he worked so hard to have good conversation and remember our names each and every time he saw us - If hew was clear down the hall he would welcome us and come down and have meaningful conversation any time of the day or night! (well ok not at 3 am when we usually returned but come on!)

The third day (Monday) brought us to the cute little island of Grand Turk which is part of the Turks and Caicos Chain of islands in the British West Indies. We had signed up to take the "Island Safari" excursion and along with 8 other passengers set out on our island adventure with Michael, our guide. Michael was from Jamaica and had brought along with him plenty of "Medicine"...Fruit Punch and 151. It'll fix anything that'll ail ya - or at least make you so rummy that you wouldn't remember your troubles. Michael took us by the local prison where his tour company buddy kevin worked. Kevin reminded me fo the guy from Police Academy - you know the one who could make a million different sound effects with his voice - only Kevin was crazy - perhaps a previous condition caused him to have a long term prescription for that 'Medicine" I was talking about!

After our tour the only thing left to do on Grand Turk is to go to the new Jimmy Buffett's Magaritaville! I am just a little bit of a fan, so having the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" along with a Lattitude beer was right up my alley. We ran into some of the cast members there and had a great afternoon. After that a little swimming in the crystal blue Caribbean waters and then back onto he ship for another fabulous dinner and another show. Tonight's entertainment was a couple of brothers who call themselves Whyte. they were a Beatles cover team that were just out of this world. the show was spectacular and on to another night of late night parting at the "Northern Lights" disco with DJ Sparky (Daniel) until the wee hours. We made some new friends in the disco as well and had a blast!

Tuesday (Day 4) brought us (later in the day) to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Since we arrived a little late we got right on a taxi that took us to a ferry boat to get us out to Virgin Gorda to the Devil's Beach and the world Famous Virgin Gorda Baths. The ferry boat ride was long and the day was getting late. After the ferry another short bus ride to the top of the path to take us down to the beach and the baths. We took a short but fun hike down to tho the baths through caves, tunnels and lots of water - but the end result was paradise on earth (see my Flicker photos) The water was incredible and the sand was the softest I had ever felt. Our friend Krista was able to come along with us and I think she enjoyed it as much as we did. I took tons of photos and enjoyed a swim with the wifey.

On our way back up the path the wife kicked a rock like a soccer ball and broke her toe. She was in a ton of pain, but was a true sport "What can i do, I broke my toe, get me up to the top of the path so I can have some Rum" she said. She hardly complained and we did everything we could to help her out, buut she just wasn't going to let it ruin her vacation - **Important side note** She's a Dancer and Dance teacher - kind of a major deal for her. Back at the top of the hill Rum Punch and a fantastic view of the sunset over Virgin Gorda. Another ferryboat ride back (this time right to the ship) and on the ship to dinner...but...

My bloody phone is beeping and buzzing while I'm at the dock - You see I use a Sony Ericsson K790a camera phone for my camera and so it's getting reception when we gert back into town in Tortola. Who the heck is IMing me? Jayce - that piece of crap (just kidding jayce) is messaging me reminding me that I need to hook up with a friend of his while I'm in town. I was supposed to call her when I first got into town but because we were running so late it completely slipped my mind. He told me I could meet her at the a local pub just off the pier and that she had something special for me. Sun soaked and a few Rum Punches and Red Stripes later I was off the ship onto another adventure. Jayce and I were IMing (Thanks T-Mobile) and he was talking to her from his landline in Seattle to her mobile in Tortola (isn't technology great). I met Miss Simone just outside the treehouse and we had a nice, but short conversation. She was just the nicest lady (and very attractive might I add - hook it up Jayce). She had brough me all kinds of goodies and RUM to share and take home. We had a few laughs and I was on my way about a half an hour later back to the ship. Side note to Simone - Our good friend Krista is in Tortola once a week and it's always good to keep good people connected. I will be sure that each of you gets the other's contact information so you all can vist with each other!

Tortola was a late night sailing and of course there was fun to be had as usual after hours with DJ Sparky at the Northern Lights. I think this was also the night that I was yanked up on-stage to play family feud by our new friends Gary, Tammy, Auntie and Grandpa - sorry guys that I let you down, but did I mention there was lots of RUM this day???? What a ride!

Wednesday brought us to St. Thomas... where you can buy anything and everything. We took an "Ultimate Island Adventure" tour and saw more things than I can even remember, but Meghan's Beach was one of my favorites. Again beautiful crystal blue waters and incredible weather. We also went to Blackbeard's castle and, of course, the Cruzan Rum factory. St. Thomas had lots of shopping and we window shoppend and picked a few things up, but overall the downtown area was hectic and busy. Traffic was terrible.

More to come in my second post (tomorrow I promise)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Adventures of Captain Gale: South = Cold?

From: []
Sent: Friday, December 06, 2002 9:24 AM
Subject: South = Cold?

Greetings from the icy depths of the southeast. Another week down the East Coast, with 19 days left to get to the Bahas for Christmas day (mom, I PROMISE I'll be there). On reviewing my journal, it has not been as intersting of a week as those past. After fixing the water pump last Friday, I've had nothing worse than a loose alternator belt, which means only one of two things must be happening:

a) I'm geting the hang of repairing things, or
b) the engine has a complicated and nefarious new plan that it's working on.

Only time will tell.

I mentioned that the firepower has increased as I have continued south. On Sunday the South really upped the ante in the shape of the LeJeune firing range. Essentially it's a five mile stretch of the ICW that they shut down at random intervals to shoot stuff. There's no warning, there's no close place to wait it out if they ARE shooting, you just round a bend and there's either an armed "patrol" vessel waiting to stop you or there isn't. I rounded the bend and foun no such welcome, so I continued south, hoping that the patrol boat didn't get bored or cold and knocked off a little early...

The place was deserted. And just plain eerie. You come around a bend and find where the amphibious vehicles have been practicing crossing rivers, including one vehicle stuck in the bank. Around another bend you find a couple of tanks, a few other abandoned vehicles, various towers. It's like an enormous version of some kid's sandbox, and I half expected some booming mother's voice to remind the kid to pick up after himself.

On Wednesday night I made it to South Carolina. The first thing you come to in SC is an enormous outlet mall with a free dock. I'm sure there's a New Jersey joke in there somewhere... I was thankful for the free dock, but with temps dropping into the 20s at night still, I was not up for shopping.

The rest of the week has been cold and rainy, but thanks to the water temperature (55), I have been spared the freezing rain that some of the rest of the state has been blessed with. Needing groceries and a chance to warm up, I showed up in Charlestown this morning and am treating myself to a day in civilization. It's going to reach the 50s by the weekend, something I've not experienced since Maryland. I keep saying it, the warm weather has GOT to be right around the corner...

I hope all is going well with y'all. Next week will find me in Georgia and possibly Florida. Send warm thoughts, I've GOT to get out of this foul weather gear!

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