Friday, 21 October 2011

A Pride of Inflatables - transportation to check out a US Boat Show

Boat Show At Night.  Sailors' Delight.  Boat Show in the Day. Vendors Make Hay!
Report from Annapolis By Pat Whetung

Sailors be aware. 
Each autumn boaters flock to historic Annapolis, Maryland trying to hang on to the last vestiages of fall. The port city, nestled on the banks of Spa Creek in Chesapeake Bay, hosts the annual United States Sailboat Show. 
They come in cars. They come in inflatables.  Some sail in.  The common goal for all visiting sailors is to collect, connect and collaborate. The talk is all about boats, cruising, racing and significant events on and around the water. 
There are hundreds of boats on display to tour and, if the price is right, buy.  On land there are scores of vendors hawking anything that might seperate a boater from his wallet!
Lining up for tickets. Photo by Paul Horn
In fact at this year's boat show, the vendors were  selling just about everythingboaters’ needs and wishes.  Walking through the stalls and visiting the boats in the harbour that this year at Annapolis the yacht show was all about: Boat design, on the water comfort and efficiency, water collecting systems, electrical and power-saving devices,  life-saving equipment, go fast equipment and finishes, new gear  (functional and fashionable) and marketing on-water cruises.
Floating Displays - Photo by Paul Horn
Although the vendors look to be fewer this year, the enthusiasm and camaraderie is viral. Step onto the grounds and you will catch the fever to participate in the sport of sailing. This year, car license plates indicate visitors from every state within driving distance  of Maryland was there. And there was a huge contingent from Canada -- Northerners try to extend their season or simply taking a break from haul-out preparations back at home. 
Now in its 42nd year, the United States Sailboat Show, the October events attracts more than 50,000 boating enthusiasts from around the world to the waterfront of historic Annapolis, Maryland. 
The Chesapeake Bay community is also home of U.S. Naval Academy. Recognized across North America as the premier sailing showcase, this is the sailing event to buy, sell or dream.

Kicking the floating tire - Photo by Paul Horn

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Breaking the ice - introduce Iceland's Dive Shop. River Diving in the lava fields


Stephen Weir on the steps of Reykjavik's Sport Divers Club

A cold clear rift river in the Thingvellir National Park
It is cold. There is snow on the nearby mountain tops and  most days the moon is up longer than the sun.  It is late fall in Iceland and the fresh water dive season is still going strong!
There are at least three dive operators  this time of year in Iceland offering guided scuba fresh water tours to rift valley river  in the Thingvellir National Park.  One shop offers a second safari to a geothermic lake near the capital city of Reykjavik.  There are ocean dives offered as well but are very much weather and sea condition dependent.
Thingvellir Park is the most visited site in Iceland for three reasons.  It is a region where two tectonic plates  - the North American and Eurasian Plates all but  touch. It's a place where the continental plates have meet and are now drifting  apart at a rate of about 2cm per year.  
The continental drift between these two gigantic plates has ripped the ground apart creating large picturesque canyons. It was in one of these canyons that Iceland's first government in 930AD held its first outdoor parliament, an annual governmental gathering that continued until 1230AD.  The glacier fed rivers that cut through this region are clean, cold and also the most popular spot on the island for diving.
"These rivers are so clean you can see 50 metres down and 150 metres straight ahead," said our Icelandic guide on a recent October tour. 
As she walked over a bridge spanning the  narrow deep Coin Fissure River she told an oft repeated myth " It is said that if you can see your coin hit the bottom your wish will come true."
I threw in a Canadian quarter.  I saw it hit bottom 10 seconds after I tossed it in.  Sigh. My wish didn't come true.
For divers, it is a 45-minute van ride from Reykjavik to the Silfra Fissure River in the park.  Divers kit up in dry suits at the side of the paved road . One walks into shallow still water but within steps the river deepens and the current picks up -- it is now a drift dive  towards the lake  through a deep sharp canyon filled with ice cold clear water.  
The PADI Diver Centre Iceland describe it "diving in a crack between the American and Eurasian continents.  
"The visibility  that you will experience will rarely be surpassed, if ever. 100m+! The reasons for this clarity are twofold: the water is cold ( 2°C - 4°C all year ) since it's the melting water from a glacier about 50km away and has traveled through the lava fields for many years before coming out at the north end of Thingvellir Lake through  underground wells."
 The rift offers amazing visibility and it continues to be considered the  one of the three best fresh water diving destinations  in the world according to leading dive publications. The visibility reaches end-of-sight and is rated at 150 to 300 meters. The water is 50 to 100 years old once it reaches the lake from the melting glacier through the lava field, and is quite drinkable.
The dive shops supply all the gear (except for woollies to wear inside the dry suit), transportation and snacks for a cost of about $300.00
The same shop also offers day trips to Lake Kleifarvatn, also less than hours drive Reykjavik.  What makes Keifarvatn unique is that divers recently have discovered geothermal hot springs at the bottom of the lake.  Divers can swim down to these holes in the lake where hot sulphuric water bubbles out of the rock -- it is one dive where the water gets warmer the deeper you get!
Silfra Fissure River - you can see two white dive tour vans near dive site


The Sport Divers Club (Sportkafaraf√©lag √ćslands) of Reykjavik will be making a night dive in the Thingvellir National Park en-masse on November 3rd. The club is bringing together divers from around the world to submerge themselves at the same time to set a world's record for night diving!

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Best From Facebook: Vignettes About A Recent Trip to Peru part 2


At the chicheria in rural Peru - drink twice chewed and then brewed
(from a series of Facebook postings that received strong readership and approval)
Chicha is a popular working class drink in Peru. Made from fermenting corn, the beer-like beverage can be made in just 3-days. It is cheap (about 60 cents a glass) and easy to drink. There are an estimated 2,000 chicherias in Peru. Most don't have signs, just look for the universal Chicheria sign - a red flag over the door. 
I paid this woman 60 cents for a glass of chicha and strawberry juice. Drink was invented by the Incas. Back in those days the corn was chewed by women before being put in fermentation vats. Nowadays the kernels are boiled before being placed in the vats.
Maria plays for drinks. She lost
 How to find a chicherias in Peru. Look for a red flag over the door. Usually dirt floors and no electricity. 
Corn drink is cheap and not all that alcholic (3%). Big attraction at many of the underground bars is a game where you try to toss a coin into the mouth of a bronze statue of a frog ... just another game where we can end up buying corn drink for the house. Pictured, my wife Maria Nenadovich takes on our guide, and looses. I pay up.  I tried. Did worse. Luckily everyone was corn drunk out!
Oops - neglected to post a picture of the secret symbol of a chicheria in Peru. No signage for these working class bars, just look for the red flag. That's our vehicle and this particular bar is a favourite for tour guides showing tourists the underside of Peru - light.  Most people walk to their favourite chicheria.

The red flag indicates bar inside

A political graffiti is painted on side of chicherias - on the road to Lake Titicacca

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Best From Facebook: Vignettes About A Recent Trip to Peru

Crossing the street in Cusco Peru - One part art, One part danger, One part daring do!
(from a series of Facebook postings that received strong readership and approval)

Crossing the Street in Peru Part 1 In the city of Cusco the police use humour to fight jaywalkers on their main street. As mentioned previously, crossing any street, even with walk/don't walk lights is a life threatening experience. Most days during business hours the police dress up officers in Punch and Judy costumes, cucumber-nose masks and Peruvian sheep whips to confront people trying to jaywalk. It works (till they go home) Check out companion posts of a pair of buskers/breakdancers in the middle of a busy street!

Crossing the Street in Peru Part 2:
A different kind of breakdancing

Busker/breakdancer performs in the middle of a busy Cusco street in Peru. I paid him $2.50 for letting me take a picture of his act. Does it when the light is red. Most drivers in Peru seem to ignore red lights, so his act is more dangerous than it seems. He seems to make about 30-cents per light change from bored motorists.

Crossing the Street in Peru Part 3 Crossing any city street in Peru is a life threatening experience. Imagine my shock to find buskers/breakdancers using the cross walks to perform when the always ignored street light is red. Two men took turns running out into the street and performing (see pix of his partner above).
From Stephen Weir Facebook, October 2011