Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thoughts ending 2011

2011 was quite a year!  It is hard to believe that one year ago tonight we sat in the cockpit in Patong at Phuket and watched the fantastic fireworks display.  And those thousands upon thousands of lighted Chinese lanterns floating skyward all night were unforgettable.  A cherished memory.

Little did we know that night that about a week later we would be caught in a circulating tropical storm in the Bay of Bengal, with the eye repeatedly changing directions unpredictably.  Unlike circulating tropical storms with which we are familiar, in the Bay of Bengal storms move with no predictable pattern.  The storm seemed to jump around all willy-nilly.  We broke out of the storm 3 times and were sucked back in each time.  29 people were killed on the island of Sri Lanka and more than a million people lost their homes during this storm.  One fellow sailor abandoned his boat less than 20 miles from us during one of the worst days of the storm.  Luckily, he and his crew were safely picked up by a commercial freighter, but the sailboat was lost.  Our 1100 NM passage from Phuket to Sri Lanka took 1608 NM, as I remember.  Hope we never go through anything like that again!  The experience proved to us that S/V BeBe is stronger than her owners.

While docked in Sri Lanka we met the Danish owners and crew of S/V ING.  The family of 5 and their 2 crew members were later captured by Somali pirates a short distance before they would have entered the eastern end of the IRTC.  A 3 million dollar ransom was later paid and all 7 were released after 7 months of the horror of captivity.  We also met the owners and crew of S/V QUEST in Sri Lanka.   

After another rough sail from Sri Lanka to Cochin, India, Bill updated our records of pirate attacks for the previous 90 days and we immediately saw there was no way we were going to continue through the Arabian Sea.  Pirate attacks had increased 13 times higher than the same 90-day period the previous year.  In 2011 the pirates inundated the entire northern Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.  We decided to transport BeBe on the deck of a container ship.  Bill asked the owner of S/V QUEST if they also were interested in transporting, but Scott said it was his lifelong dream to sail a complete circumnavigation.  We did not press the with everything involving sailors, it is always the captain's decision where and when and how to go. Two weeks later, all 4 persons aboard QUEST had been captured by Somali pirates and murdered.  We will always regret not showing Scott our updated chart reflecting how severe the pirate activity had become during the previous month.  Maybe he would have continued to sail; but maybe he would have considered transporting his yacht to the Med instead.  No one can know now.

We are forever grateful to Randal on M/V DORA MAC for forwarding us the contact information for Mike Heffer, the agent for SevenStar Shipping.  Bill worked with Mike and located 13 other sailboats that also wanted to transport.  Thanks to Michael on S/V B'SHERET for helping in the rate negotiations.  Four boats sailed from Cochin down to Male, Maldives to join the other boats awaiting transport.  The final number of yachts participating in this transport shipment totaled 18.    And all arrived safely in Marmaris, Turkey in late April.

We enjoyed a couple of months in Turkey, then 3 months cruising the Greek Isles, joined by 2 of our grandchildren.  Our youngest son and his family joined us for 3 weeks.  Then we sailed from Crete to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where we are docked for the winter in the new Karpaz Gate Marina.  

In early December we returned to Houston for the Christmas holidays and for Bill to do his annual physicals.  One lab test had questionable results, requiring a biopsy for which the results will not be available until late January; thus delaying our return to Cyprus by at least a month.  We are spreading our time in Houston between Bill's brother's townhome and our sons' homes.  We figure 2 weeks at each home is enough to intrude upon the lives of others. Lucky us that we have so many relatives and friends living in Houston and that they all have extra vehicles to lend us.  Saves us the cost of hotels and rental cars.

Old school friend Tim Mulally

The highlight of this visit for Bill was an impromptu reunion of several high school classmates.  Bill attended a Catholic high school and was in a relatively small class.  Eighteen people met for dinner at a Cajun seafood restaurant in Beaumont.....some driving in from Austin, Dallas and even as far as Baton Rouge.  After dinner several of us gathered at a local pub for several more hours of visiting.  Bill thoroughly enjoyed visiting with his old friends and wished there had been more time.

Christmas 2011

Christmas Day was celebrated at our older son's home and most of the family attended.  Dinner for 22 people requires days of cooking.  It was wonderful to see everyone.  Just wish we had more time to visit with each person.  The day passed too quickly.

Christmas 2011

As always, Christmas is mainly for the children.  Wrapping papers and ribbons and bows were strewn throughout Trey's house.   It was a lot of fun.

Grandson Damien 

Damien loves trains

On New Year's Eve we visited our good friends Donna and Bruce at their country home.   Donna is a fabulous cook and the meals and pies were delicious.  We enjoyed a very quiet evening and watched the movie "The Help."  Four adults in the room and 3 of them had been reared by black maids in the South.  They could relate to this movie.  Bill did not like the part where 1 maid said they didn't get any Social Security.  Bill's father always paid Social Security for their maid, Clara.  He wanted to make certain that Clara would have retirement income during her old age.  It was nice that a few of the maids in the movie told positive stories about their employers.  Not all employers of housekeepers of the time were like the white women in that movie.

Fireworks at midnight and then we were quick to bed.  We are too old for late night celebrations.  It was really nice visiting with Donna and Bruce and we hope to see them again before we fly back to the boat.  They gave us a lovely gift......a framed stained glass mounting of nautical flags spelling out our boat name -- BeBe.  We like this so much that we are having flag graphics produced to put on the mizzen boom and also on the stern of BeBe.  Below is a graphic of our boat name spelled in semaphore by nautical flags.  I cannot include an image of the framed stained glass that Donna and Bruce gave us.  It is already packed away with lots of other items we are accumulating for the trip back to the boat next month.
BeBe in semaphore -- spelled out in nautical flags

BeBe spelled out in nautical flags with the use of "Repeater" Flags