Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

The Danger Map of the World: Really?

If we didn’t know better, we might take a look at this map and decide to never leave the house. Or at least, never to venture outside of Europe, Australia, Botswana, the United States and New Zealand. Fine destinations indeed, but what a globe of missed travel opportunities. You mean to tell us that we should have never visited Bolivia, Iran, or Myanmar?

We’ve traveled to plenty of places under the ominous cloud of travel warnings (published by various institutions, so we’re not singling out any one governmental agency or international body) and found an on-the-ground reality that ranges far from what some misguided travel warnings convey. In fact, I recall early in our cruise on the west coast of Baja, when SAGA was approached by fisherman in a fast panga. We remembered warnings we had received before leaving California–to be wary of fast approaching fishermen, as they might want to steal from us. On the contrary, these unfortunate “banditos” had their cooler break down on the boat. Instead of  boarding us, they started throwing live lobster into our cockpit! Until I said, “Bastante!” (Our fridge was on the fritz too!).


The problem with these sorts of maps is that they are perfect media for our times: they are infographic, they are reductive and they can be slapped together with a little bit of link-and title-bait to draw a nice argument. (If you click on the map and go to the original, it’s interactive. You can click on a country for the danger details).

But informative? Hardly. Real information does not come in the form of color codes, and rarely can it be comprehended in the blink of an eye.

Instead, when we’re on the ground, we meet people, we face the ogre of hospitality and invitations into people’s homes for tea and food. Even in places with a bright red, “Avoid all travel” label like Iran. We didn’t venture into these countries blindly. We made informed decisions based on multiple sources, then mustered a little bit of courage to go and find out for ourselves.

The upshot? Consider stepping back from the government travel warnings, take them with a pinch of salt, then do a little bit of research that puts you in touch directly with someone who can provide firsthand time-relevant impressions – all with the goal of reducing your degrees of separation from the on-the-ground reality. After all, the Danger Map was produced by the Government of Canada, where there seems to be no danger what-so-ever! But we know better, right?

For cruisers or those traveling by other unconventional means (such as by bicycle, like my friend Bob), we have to do our best to get all the info, from those whose wake we follow or from recent blogs. We can’t always rely on governments to tell us where we can go safely, yet we have to be concerned about pirates in certain parts of the world. Fortunately there are some good sources of safety information available online for cruisers, such as Noonsite.com, SSCA.org and the CruisingWiki.org.

Going abroad? Here’s some good tips from the folks at Uncornered Market:

Informed Travel Decisions 101

1. Look around you and ask. Especially if you live in a diverse city (more and more places qualify by the day), there is likely someone in your personal or work circle who knows someone from the country you are considering visiting or someone who has been there recently. You could always pose the question first on your Facebook page and go from there. You might be surprised by who comes out of the woodwork if you just ask. And don’t give up after the first inquiry yields silence. This happens sometimes.

2. Contact a blogger. Do a search and find a blog post or two about the country/region in question and send the blogger a quick email with your concerns or questions. Even better, find a local or expat blogger with lots of recent experience there. We get loads of emails on all sorts of topics and we are always happy to respond to people who have safety or travel concerns. We know how reassuring it is to talk with someone who has been there and how that perspective goes a long way to assuaging fears and informing decisions.

3. Find locals or expats on Twitter. Go to Twitter and do a search for a specific city or location under the people search. You’ll likely get a long list of people living there. See who perhaps has a blog or who is actively tweeting about that place and send them a quick note publicly via Twitter (you’ll have to set up an account if you don’t already have one) asking about safety or other issues. Avoid travel or tour companies at first, as they clearly have an economic incentive in your visit. Here’s the bonus when you go personal: you’ll likely get good local insider information for when you do go, and you might even gain a new friend.

4. Ask in forums. Post a question to an online forum asking for advice on whether a destination is safe or if there are certain areas to avoid as a visitor. In addition to travel forums (e.g., Lonely Planet ThorntreeBootsnAll), many cities have expat forums where English and other foreign languages are understood.

5. Check other government travel warnings. We know we’ve been bashing government travel warnings, but sometimes it’s reassuring to get a second (or third) opinion. If you’re from the United States, consider checking out the UK or Australian government travel warnings. Be sure to check the date when the last warning was posted to be certain that it’s still current.

6. Ask about areas to avoid. While the majority of a country might be safe for travelers, there may still be certain areas that are best avoided because of environmental disasters or violence. This does not mean, however, that the entirecountry should be avoided. Mexico is a perfect example of how a few areas addled with drugs and violence manage to tarnish the reputation of the whole country in the eyes of many. Our long walks across the town of Oaxaca well after midnight serve as proof that the entire country of Mexico is not under siege.


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Your Cruising Editor offers up this new boating publication for your consideration. YACHTING TIMES Magazine is the first bi-lingual (Spanish-English) boating publication in the USA! Based in Miami, YACHTING TIMES is published quarterly and can often be found on coffee tables in waterfront mansions in South Florida. I interviewed Editor-in-Chief, Dolores Barciela who started publishing YTM in 2010. She cruised to the US in her 30′ sailboat and made her home in Miami.

Or Click HERE to view the video.

Look for my articles in YACHTING TIMES:

1. Review of the Hacker Sterling Runabout
2. Cruising the Spanish Virgins

in the Winter 2011 issue online now. View the e-Mag issue!

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Vieques is the perfect holiday destination. Just 15-20 nm from the US and British Virgin Islands, six nm from the east coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques is one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, also referred to as the “Passage Islands”. Less crowded then their southern counterparts and ringed with white sand beaches, the islands are still relatively untouched by developers and tourists alike.

Read my Guest Blog on TRIPATINI here: http://www.tripatini.com/profiles/blogs/vieques-top-10

Tripatini Blog

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Escape the winter blahs and join the fun and excitement of participating with an all-woman crew
in beautiful St. Thomas, USVI, March 2011

SPS logoSausalito, California – October 7, 2010 – Safe Passage Sailing, LLC invites you to “sail with the best” in a world class regatta with world class skipper and mentor Suzette Smith, leading an all women’s crew. This will be an experience not to be missed!

Whether it’s the adventure of cruising or the excitement of racing, there’s no place like being on a Safe Passage Sailing Charter. If you’re an intermediate to advanced female sailor, now you have the opportunity to join in on all the fun of the 38th International Rolex Regatta. The only requirement – Just The Desire To Be Part of the Team, Race and Have Fun!

The St. Thomas Yacht Club and title sponsor Rolex are the hosts for this regatta known as the “Crown Jewel” of Caribbean racing that boasts “reliable breezes, warm azure waters and world-renowned Island hospitality.”

SPS Program includes:
• Exclusive charter of a Swan 51’ – Northern Child
• 2 race training days, lay day, 3 race days
• Racing pro (Suzette Smith), licensed skipper, 1st mate and additional racing support crew (see below)
• All race registration/entry fees
• All berthing fees, fuel, on/off shore maintenance support
• Race equipment including spinnakers
• Breakfast at the St. Thomas YC on race days
• Lunch, snacks and beverages each day on the boat
• SPS stow bag with shirts, hats, and other gifts for each guest
• Event management
• Event and crew photographs
• Transportation will be provided/arranged from/to airport, marina to YC parties

Program Cost: $3275 per person
Participants: 11 maximum
Register now to ensure your spot. Accommodations and airfare not included. Group hotel accommodations and transportation options TBA.


SPS suzette smith


Racing Pro Suzette Smith International Racing and Cruising Specialist will be onboard Northern Child in the role as coach/mentor. Suzette Smith is a seasoned licensed charter captain with a USCG Masters 100 ton and ASA certified instructor on boats 38’-70’+. In 2006 she was named ASA’s “Outstanding National Instructor of the Year.”

Ms Smith has participated in numerous high caliber sailing campaigns such as Team Pegasus, the first and only all-woman America’s Cup team, America 3, which raced in the 1995 America‘s Cup defenders series, as well as other notable regattas around the world.

Additional Crew:
RYA licensed Skipper/Owner Christian Reynolds and First Mate Lucy Jones will be onboard to assist and facilitate during the regatta.

the Island of St Thomas
SPS Rolex Regatta Itinerary
Arrive – Monday, March 21
SPS welcome reception at the St. Thomas Yacht Club to meet your mentor and crew, and enjoy beer, wine and Hors d’oeuvres.
Tuesday – March 22
Training day 1
Wednesday – March 23
Training day 2
Thursday – March 24
Lay day, Rolex welcome reception at the Yacht Club
Friday – March 25
Race day 1 – Harbor Race. The morning course offers a downwind start and stretches to Charlotte Amalie Harbor, giving racers an opportunity to see St. Thomas’ beautiful and historic capital. The afternoon race starts in town and finishes back at the yacht club and festivities.
Saturday – March 26
Race day 2 – St. John Race. Round-the-rocks racing takes you along the south shore of beautiful St. John finishes back at the yacht club and festivities.
Sunday – March 27
Race day 3 – Pillsbury Sound Race. The final day’s racing takes place on scenic Pillsbury Sound, in and around the beautiful Cays.
The Rolex Awards Ceremony takes place on the beach Sunday evening highlighted by the presentation of an abundance of prizes and video by t2p.tv.


S/Y Northern Child

The S/Y Norther Child


About Northern Child
Northern Child was built in 1984 for an Italian owner, who has since become the owner of Nautor Swan. She is one of naval architect German Frers’ outstanding all-round designs and shares the same performance pedigree of Blizzard, a famous 51’ Admiral’s Cup racer, except that Northern Child was also fitted with a lavish cruising interior and the hull sections were enlarged to accommodate the increase in displacement. Fast and easy to sail, Northern Child is a fine balance between a racing and cruising yacht.

Racing Resume
Northern Child recently recorded her fastest transatlantic crossing during ARC 2009 and was placed 5th in class
• Placed 12th out of 50 in JP Morgan Round the Island Race 2010
• Top Swan Yacht in the BVI Spring Regatta 2008
• 3rd in class & highest placed Swan Yacht in ASW 2009
• 1st in class and second overall on the ARC 2008
• Swan Transatlantic Challenge Trophy

SPS All Women Banner AdFor more information regarding SPS “Sailing with the Best” events, or to register for this event, please visit our website at www.safepassagesailing.com. Please feel free to call or e-mail SPS for more information:
Randee Fowler
Safe Passage Sailing
415/381-4773 direct
415/637-4051 mobile

You can download our Press Release HERE!
Rolex LogoSt Thomas Yacht Club logoSt Thomas Rolex Regatta

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Dubai-based airline Emirates is behind an amazing new Apple iPhone language application which acts as a translation tool by taking a picture of the handset users mouth and then animates it to produce a range of handy phrases.

Built by Lean Mean Fighting Machine in London to translate English into French, German and Arabic, the app is a bit rough around the edges and tricky to set up initially — but it works.
Here is a demo video.

First you take a photo of your mouth. then the app works by taking the digitized picture and working out where the corners of the mouth and lip line are located. (Hint: If you’ve ever created a funny card at JibJab, you know what’s entailed).

Users can then select topic areas such airport, inflight, taxi, hotel, sightseeing and shopping and choose a phrase — “Could I have an aisle seat”, “Could we leave our baggage here?”, “Could you rub some suncream into my back?” etc — to animate and reproduce with audio using their lips.

You can select a male or female voice and adjust the pitch to make it deeper or higher. Each language has a full version with all 400 phrases, or a ‘Lite’ version that can be downloaded via 3G.

It’s clear from the video that it breaks the ice immediately, even in France!

Clever, funny and so, so useful.
The only question is: When will we get the Spanish Language version?

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Jim Bandy has just announced that he is “giving up” The Rag of the Air SSB Net. The “Rag” is the best SSB Net for Cruisers in Fiji and is found on 8173 KHz at 7am local (1900z) and was run by Bandy for the past 10 years.


The Bandys at Also Island

A Brief History

Jim & Kyoko Bandy aboard ALSO II, arrived in the Lau Island Group of Fiji in December of 2001 and began one of the toughest ongoing humanitarian projects in these parts.

Jim Bandy and visiting dignitary

Jim Bandy with visiting Fijian Dignitary

In May of 2002, the village granted the Bandys’ the island Qaraicikobia (a small island just off shore from the main island and village) for their home, and accepted them as part of the village. They renamed the island – ALSO Island. Jim then began seeking investors to start up a boat building company that is still on Vanua Levu. He has succeeded against all odds; dealing with major political unrest, cultural mores consisting of little or no work ethic and setbacks around every corner.

“At this time, two hours a day is just more than I have to give at this point,” Jim told the CC in an email.

“Meanwhile back the boat yard we are working on the catamaran every day. There is more work than I thought but it is coming along. We have been lucky with the cyclones this year. We have not had one. We are nearing the end of the season and the only thing I have seen on the weather is some activity in the convergence zone North of us.”

Cruisers As Humanitarians

During our first years of cruising onboard Saga, we met folks as different as their boats were from ours. From nouveau riche “dot-comers” to DIYers who built their own boats and traveled on a serious budget. One thing they all had in common – their willingness to help others.

They might be teachers bringing much needed school supplies to poverty-stricken children in poor villages of Central or South America; doctors offering free care to remote locales around the globe; or folks like you and I, helping wherever there is a need, cruisers are generally a helpful lot and over the years, they have been busy setting up humanitarian projects the some pretty interesting places.

We first met Jim and Kyoko Bandy back in December of 1999. We had only been cruising for a few months, since leaving the San Francisco Bay Area in May. Having both started from the same place, it was inevitable that our wakes would cross.

Anchored off of Cabo San Lucas, Baja during a boisterous ‘norther’, the roadstead anchorage quickly became untenable and we decided it was time to head into the crowded marina and see if we could find a slip.

We tied up to the fuel dock and as it was Sunday, and thought we’d be able to grab a few hours of sleep before the rather long process of fueling began. After our naps we jumped ship to stretch our legs and found the Bandy’s a couple of slips away onboard their sailing yacht, ALSO II.

Shortly thereafter, the Bandy’s sailed west and we sailed south and it wasn’t until some years later that we got back in touch through the auspices of the Seven Seas Cruising Assoc. Jim was Net Control for the “Rags of the Sea” SSB Net covering the South Pacific. I was the Editor of the Commodores’ Bulletin for the SSCA, looking for new Cruising Stations to bring onboard.

Also Island Boat Shed

Also Island Boat Shed

They had cruised for two years ending up in Fiji in December of 2001. And so began their involvement with the people of Udu.

Landing in Fiji

They had planned to spend the cyclone season (six months) in Fiji and then continue their adventure around the world. Within the first three hours of clearing customs in Savusavu they had met more local people than they had met in their three-year cruise.  “These people were very warm and friendly,” says Jim.

January of 2002 found them in the district Udu at Cawaro Village.  There was no road, no telephone or electricity at the village.  Their village boat had a broken engine, so naturally they decided to offer to fix it.  After purchasing an engine for it and having it shipped from Tonga; Jim installed it and got the boat working again.  This took four months. According to Jim, “time moves slower here then in most places.” Then Jim left for a month to visit his mother in the States.  Upon his return Kyoko announced that she was not leaving and it became Jim’s responsibility to figure out how to get a long-term visa.

In May of 2002 the village asked them to stay, granted the Bandys’ the island called Qaraicikobia (a small island just off shore from the main island and village) for their home base, and made them a part of the village.  About that time Jim met Vitu, then the Chief Executive Officer of Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau (FTIB).  He offered them the opportunity to become investors in Vanua Levu, as a boat building company.

By July of 2003 “ALSO Island Limited” had been incorporated and funded; FTIB had granted Jim and Kyoko a certificate to build and repair boats and by the end of the year they had secured a 50-year commercial lease on seven acres of Qaraicikobia Island. Their cruise was officially over and although one adventure had ended, another had begun.

Now the Work Begins

By the end of 2003, they had cleared the area for the current facility, built a tool storage shed and a workshop.

During the same time they rebuilt the village boats’ hull and repaired upwards of 40 outboard motors at no charge.  Several yachts had come to visit to see what they were doing and enjoy the hospitality of the village.

By the end of 2004 they had installed a 20,000-liter water system, electrical system, added a kitchen, a deck and an extension to the shop floor to cover the boats they were working on.  They decided to purchase a derelict local fisheries boat, then rebuilt it and installed an engine. It is now called the “Lady K”.  It carries local fish to market and is the supply boat for ALSO Island and surrounding villages: Cawaro, Nukusa, Qaranivia, Lagi, Nubono, Nukondomo and Vunikundi.

Somewhere along the way they also built a 16ft punt for Isei, the chief, a 12ft punt called “ALSO IV”, a 19ft half-cabin runabout called “ALSO V”, a 15 ft punt named (wait for it…!) – “Banana Boat”, a nesting dinghy for the ALSO II, an 18 ft punt for one of the locals called “ALSO VIII”, a Takia, outrigger canoe, a 17ft fishing punt with shade cover, named “KOKO”, and another 24ft half-cabin, runabout affectionately called “ALSO XI”.

launch of the Lady K

The launch of the Lady K

When Jim and Kyoko started their Humanitarian work, the locals had no experience with a job, much less with tools and equipment that one normally uses. Nor did they possess the discipline necessary to manage or sustain a business.  They have now trained several men to use power wood-working tools, epoxy, fiberglass and paint in the repair, building and maintenance of boats.  In addition, they have trained a couple of men to do mechanical work on outboard motors.  Currently they have registered 15 employees with the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF). Similar to our Social Security, this project was established in 1966 to provide financial security for workers when they retire at age 55. The FNPF also provides for permanent incapacity, and survivor’s benefit in the event of the demise of the employee.

In 2005 the Bandys’ began construction on a new facility and purchased the equipment to press coconut oil.  In June of 2006 the FTIB granted them a certificate to press oil and they proceeded to acquire all of the required licenses to run this new business. This project is awaiting final licenses before it can begin production.

In the past few years they have been awarded a number of contracts to rebuild and repair various boats.  And although they have purchased engines and materials, the funds have been frozen and they were advised to stop work.  They continue to repair punts and eventually when the funds are released they will finish those projects as well.

While they have enjoyed much success, they say that their efforts have been frustrated by difficulties they continue to experience with their visas, the Reserve Bank, FTIB and VAT.  Although they have made every effort to fully comply with the rules and laws of Fiji, their efforts are often compounded by lack of information or unanswered correspondence or foot-dragging on the part of the bureaucracy. Their effort, although much appreciated by the locals, have been hard-won and difficult to achieve.

In a recent report Jim told me, “While we have made many friends in Fiji, and early on there seemed to be help and encouragement, the bureaucracy (particularly under the last government) seems to be determined to make it so difficult for us possibly hoping that we give up and leave!

But we stopped in Fiji and have decided to make it our home because we love the people and have found a place where we can make a much-needed, positive contribution. Here is a place where we can truly make a difference. And we have made a difference!”

kyoko shares kava with tribe

Kyoko participates in a Kava ceremony

In 2009, the Bandys’ were building a new supply boat, along with ice-boxes to expand the fish-buying operation to other villages and go on working with the current government to get an ice plant built in the area, which they want Jim to build and operate.

Says Jim, “Because we believe in what we are doing, we are convinced that with a continued, concerted effort on our part and some help from our friends, we wi1l continue to be successful and provide additional economic opportunities and employment for the local people.”

In addition to all the boatworks, Kyoko has devoted her time to the local children and women. They currently sponsor local students for schooling both locally and in Labasa.

Kyoko's classroom

Kyoko's School room

As long-time members of the cruising community, Jim and Kyoko also manage to fit in hosting visiting yachts, (they are currently listed as an SSCA Cruising Station), backpackers, friends and family visitors. They provide accommodations for local and foreign business visitors as well as accommodations for government visitors.

What the future may hold

As tourism develops in the area Jim feels that there will be opportunities for some joint venture endeavors such as a diving operation.  They are already looking for a local who could become skilled in diving enough to run a small dive operation to help attract backpackers and visiting yachts.

From the humble beginnings of a planned $50,000 investment, ALSO Island has now invested more than $400,000 to date.  Jim and Kyoko have invested their retirement funds in ALSO Island and continue to enjoy seeing people learn and develop.  It is their hope to be instrumental in assisting young people in learning how to provide for their families and care for their environment.

ALSO Island has turned into a rather significant development in the area and Jim and Kyoko hope to continue to bring some limited prosperity to the area. If you’re interested in finding out how you can help on ALSO Island, contact us me (cruisingeditor at gmail.com) and I will forward your email to Jim.

Jim and Kyoko were nominated by SSCA members Luc and Jackie Callebaut, Sloepmouche; Michael and Kendra Homsany; and myself, to receive the Seven Seas Clean Wake Award for Humanitarian or Environmental Efforts. I accepted this prestigious award on their behalf at the Annual SSCA Gam in Melbourne, FL in December 2008.

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Human bed warmers? A novel concept.

Hotel operator Holiday Inn has launched a new ‘human bed warming service’, which is being trialled at three properties across the UK to ensure that guests are kept warm during the cold weather.

The complimentary five-minute bed-warming service is being provided at the company’s Kensington Forum, Kingston South and Manchester Central Park properties between 18-25 January.

Sessions at the three properties can be booked between 9-11pm each night, which will see bed warmers dressed in all-in-one sleeper suits act as human electric blankets to increase bed temperatures.

Dr Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said: “There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show that sleep starts at the beginning of the night when body temperature starts to drop.

“A warm bed – approximately 20 to 24 degrees Celsius – is a good way to start this process whereas a cold bed would inhibit sleep.”

Holiday Inn spokesperson Jane Bednall added: “The new Holiday Inn bed warmers service is a bit like having a giant hot water bottle in your bed, warming it up before guests climb in to give them a great night’s sleep away from the cold. And of course they jump out before you jump in.”

From: /www.leisureopportunities.co.uk

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