Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back at the boat

 After our last blog posting there was more of the same.  Just the things one does when visiting 'home' once per year.  We drove to Galveston several times for a night or 2 in a hotel and that is always fun.  

There was a really nice reenactment in period costume of Texas artillery during our war for independence from Mexico.  This was held on the dock next to the tall ship Elissa on the day of the opening of the new Texas Navy exhibit at the Seaport Museum.  Attendees were treated to a most informative speech and presentation by a historian about the ships of the Texas Navy.  Next year, for the very first time, information about the Texas Navy will be added to the history books that every 7th grade student in Texas is required to study.  About time!  And we also learned that during the Texas war for independence that the Yucatan peninsula sided with the Texians.  They did not want to be ruled by the Mexicans.  Two of the Texas Navy ships sailed down to Cozumel.  One of the captains went ashore and planted the new Texas flag, claiming the territory as property of the new Republic of Texas.  Wow!  Wonder how it ended up back in the hands of Mexico.  I assume because Texas did not push the matter and insist on their claim to this land after winning independence from Mexico.  We took a lot of photos of the costumed men and women firing the cannons but for some reason I cannot find any of those photos.

Bill and Elisabeth.  She is wearing flats and
he is 6-ft tall.  She is still only 13.
Going to be a tall woman.

We drove down to Corpus Christi one weekend.  That was fun, of course.  But someone in Corpus shared their upper respiratory virus with me.  On top of the bronchitis which I had enjoyed for several weeks prior to this trip.  After Corpus we drove up to east Texas to visit friends Barbara and Bob Bradford; and I then shared this virus with Bob.  Apologies to Bob.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Barbara and Bob for a few days.  And especially enjoyed the fabulous steak dinner to which Bob treated us.  The restaurant owners must also own their own cattle ranch because the quality of that meat was way above prime.  I was so sick with the bronchitis and the added head cold that we cut our visit short and returned to Houston several days earlier than planned so I could visit my doctor.  Little good that did; the meds did not help much.

It was a good l-o-n-g visit to Texas.  Thanks much to Aaron and Lynn for putting us up and for putting up with us.  Very nice of them to open their home to us for 3 1/2 months.  We extended our visit for an extra couple of weeks so that I could be available to babysit the infant granddaughter, Rose, while her nanny took a holiday.  Since Rose is still too young to receive vaccinations for measles, she should not go to a day care facility.  There are just too many people not vaccinating their kids these days and measles is too contagious to take any chances.  Much better to keep the baby at home.  So we stayed a bit longer.  No hurry to get back to the boat anyway since we will remain docked until the end of April.

Rose Annette Rouse
Baptized Lutheran March 2015
Just before we left Houston Rose was baptized.  She wore the same baptismal gown as her elder sister.  None of us realized how much Rose resembles her sister at that same age until we pulled out photos of Elisabeth (BeBe) in her baptismal gown.  They look almost identical.  
Baptism naked

This church does baptisms differently than where the other grandkids were baptized or christened.  At this church the baby is stripped and dunked naked into the baptismal font.  Mom lowers the baby into the font and then the priest (or I guess he should be called the pastor?) uses his hand to pour water over the baby's head and face.  The water is heated and Rose loves baths, so there was no crying.  I sort of expected her to wave her hands and splash water all over everyone, but she did not.  She was a doll during what must have been a strange experience for her.  

Priest, Lynn, Rose, Aaron, Damien, Elisabeth (BeBe)

Afterwards a large group of us, mostly maternal relatives, went out for a celebratory lunch at a nearby restaurant.  I am glad we were able to share this day.

This turned out to be a perfect time in infant development for us to get to know Rose.  When we arrived she was sitting up.  During the time we were there she learned to crawl, pull up and walk, feed herself, wave bye-bye, and several other things.  She was not truly walking yet at 9 months of age, but she was taking a few steps when we left and you could see improvement in movements by the hour daily.  I was very glad to share those times with her.  Even though she will forget us long before we see her again in a year to 18 months or so.  At this time we have no idea when we will return to the states again; just know that we are crossing back to the Caribbean early January next year.

My baby turned 40 yrs old right before we left Houston
Travel back to Sicily was awful.  The worst travel experience thus far.  We bought tickets from Luthansa from Houston to Rome, with separate tickets from Alitalia from Rome to Catania.  Luthansa then changed our itinerary to be Houston to Washington DC to Frankfort to Rome.  With the first segment partnered to United.  When we checked in with United in Houston the counter agent said that United does not interline baggage with Alitalia, so our 3 overweight large bags could only be checked to Rome.  We had paid $100 for the extra 3rd bag and had weighed each bag to be sure each was 50 lbs or less.  Well, guess what.  Those bags weighed slightly different on the United scales at the counter.  One was 50.5 lbs; one was 52 lbs; and one was 54 lbs.  United wanted to charge us $108 per bag for being over 50 lbs.!  We balked at that and rearranged contents, ending up with 49 lbs in one bag; 50 lbs in second bag; and 61 lbs in the third bag.  Where that extra 3.5 lbs came from, I cannot fathom.  At any rate, we were only now supposed to pay $162 for the one overweight bag.  Why the overweight charge was now $162 rather than the $108 stated five minutes earlier; no idea.

Then the fun began.  I checked in with the two 50-lb bags and got a boarding pass.  But Bill could not check in because he was no longer shown as a passenger on the ticket.  An agent tried to fix the problem and was unsuccessful.  Another agent tried to fix it.  And then another agent tried.  Eventually they managed to print a boarding pass for Bill, but just for the first flight.  We would have to deal with Lufthansa in DC for the other boarding passes.  The good news was that during all this confusion, the agents forgot to charge us for the overweight bag.  Lucky us.

When we got to Luthansa gate in Washington DC, the Luthansa agent said that they DO interline with Alitalia and she re-checked our bags all the way to Cantania; and gave us new baggage claim check tickets.  She also encountered difficulty because Bill was no longer shown as a passenger on our tickets.  He showed up on the ticket and we had a printed copy of that, but in their computer system he was no longer shown as a passenger.  After much hassle they eventually got boarding passes printed for him for the flights to Frankfort and onward to Rome.

When we landed in Frankfurt, Luthansa was on strike.  Isn't that just great!  There were lists of flights that had been canceled due to the strike.  But we again lucked out.  An airline called German Wings (never heard of them) took over the Lufthansa flight to Rome on which we were ticketed.  We arrived in Rome right on schedule.  The Alitalia flight to Cantania also was right on schedule.  

We arrived as scheduled but our bags did not.  Not a single one.  We had arranged for a driver with an oversized vehicle for transportation from Catania airport to Marina di Ragusa.  This is a 2-hour drive and the large vehicle and driver cost 150 Euro.  Had we known there would be no baggage then we could have taken the bus for 10 Euro each.  And everyone knows how I hate to waste money.  The next day all 3 bags were delivered by courier to the marina.  And all 3 still had the original baggage claim tickets affixed.  The Lufthansa agent in Washington DC had failed to attach the new baggage tickets sending them onward to Catania.  We were very glad these bags were found so quickly because there were many boat items in those bags that we cannot purchase locally.  We would have been hard pressed to replace those lost items.

31 hours travel time from door to door, Houston to boat, for this trip.  Glad we will not be doing that again.  Ever.  Travel back home from the Caribbean is so much easier, and that will be our future.

BeBe was much cleaner than we expected to find her after such a long absence.  That was a nice surprise.  I felt like being on a charter boat at first.  Could not remember simple things like where I keep the salt and pepper.  Maybe it was jet lag.  We are settling back into boat routine and already looking forward to end of April when we will get moving once again.  I am ready to begin our passages towards Martinique and end of April seems a long time off.

And I already miss the kids and grandkids.  

BeBe docked at L2 berth in Marina di Ragusa