Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nikon Coolpix AW110 - A Cruiser's Camera

I finally bought a new camera! Some of you already know the sad story. My old camera was inside its case, inside a fabric pouch, under the dodger when we attempted to sail from Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands. Nevertheless, salt water found its way into the battery compartment and “Old Faithful” could not be revived. 
It was a cheap Nikon point and shoot - no bells, no whistles, but I’ve taken a lot of pictures with it over the years and finding a replacement has been difficult. Anticipating the explorations and adventures ahead of us, choosing just the right camera seemed of momentous importance. The more online research I did, the more confused I became. In the meantime I was using Mike’s camera most unsuccessfully. The touch screen was awkward for me and I missed a lot of pictures trying to figure it out. I also took a few dozen photos with a thumb or finger hanging over the lens. So, I had a pretty clear idea of what I didn’t want, but only vague ideas about what I did want.
Mike wisely suggested that my new camera should be waterproof; not just to keep the water out, but to keep out sand as well. I didn’t think my budget could stretch that far but I found there is a whole range of rugged, waterproof cameras available. With guidance from a local camera store I put myself on the list for a Nikon Coolpix AW110. It hadn’t been released yet so there were no user reviews online, but I was tired of shopping and ordered it with fingers crossed.

Oh Happy Day! This camera is a dream! Not only waterproof and rugged, but also lightweight, easy to operate and takes great photos. It doesn’t have much zoom but I knew that I couldn’t have everything and the stabilization is amazing.

I put it to the test the other day when we took a 4-hour dinghy ride to explore San Diego Bay. Taking pictures from the dinghy is a challenge because it is always moving. Even at a dead stop the lightweight dinghy bounces on the smallest waves. Of 97 photos, only 3 were blurred and that could probably be attributed to operator error.
With my new Nikon toy I'm becoming a photo-taking fanatic. 
Next post - Around Shelter Island (with lots of photos!).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Second Look at Old Town

Everyone said: “You are going to love San Diego!” But I just wasn’t feeling it. For me it has been a difficult city to get to know. Maybe it’s because I quickly developed a little comfort zone out here on Shelter Island. Our marina is in a beautiful location and has a gorgeous pool with a large hot tub. There are several really good restaurants within walking distance and, just two blocks away, a nightclub with live music every night of the week. We went there a few nights ago and had a great time dancing zydeco for hours. So, in spite of having transit passes that will take us anywhere throughout the Greater San Diego area, all we really need is right here on Shelter Island and we’ve been staying pretty close to the boat.

Fortunately we had guests from home last weekend and we ventured out to explore the city with them. Mike and I had been to Old Town before. Old Town is a State Historical Park and on my first visit I was disappointed that it is much more commercial than historical. I probably wouldn’t have gone back, but, we were nearby with our guests and thought we should at least show them this well-known tourist spot. It was a bright and sunny Sunday so lots of people were out and about making for a very festive atmosphere.  It was pure energy created by vibrant colors, live music, enticing smells, sunshine, gorgeous gardens, interesting architecture, and happy people.  There is much more to Old Town than I had thought. I’m looking forward to a return visit and excited to continue exploring San Diego.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just a Little More San Diego Zoo


Isn’t this just too appropriate?


What is it about flamingos that they manage to look
gorgeous and elegant and absolutely ridiculous 
all at the same time?

It is March, almost spring, so all of the animals had one thing on their minds. Yes, we were at the zoo during mating season. Sorry, no photos, but I do regret not snapping the flamingos in action. Talk about awkward! 

Because it was Sunday there were many families with school aged children and I overheard some interesting parent-to-child conversations while the animals were busy doing their spring thing. “No, honey, they aren’t fighting. That’s just the way monkeys play.” “You know how you like to wrestle with your friend, Jimmy? Well, that’s what those antelope are doing.” “I don’t know why all the boy ducks are chasing the girl duck. Let’s go get an ice cream.” I even heard one Mom at a monkey cage say “Quick, look away!”

The people were more interesting than the animals.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The New Me at the San Diego Zoo

If you know me at all then you know that I am terrified of heights; not just scared, but purely, sick to my stomach, absolutely paralyzed, terrified. 

 If you know me at all then you also know that I am passionate about travel. I possess a serious case of wanderlust, more than a desire, but a need to explore new places, experience new adventures, and see new things.

Often the fear interferes with the exploration. I’ve tried to overcome it, but it is always there, a part of who I am. I was too afraid to go on an ultra-light flight over the Hungarian countryside, too afraid to go hot air ballooning in Tuscany, too afraid to ride the London Eye, too afraid, even, to take the elevator to the top of the Space Needle.

That photo of me on the viewing floor of the Santa Barbara Courthouse? I had to inch my way cautiously with arms outstretched, reaching for the railing and then focus on looking out - never down. In my head I know that the railing prevents my falling but my stomach is doing flip flops and all sorts of improbable and even impossible scenarios are flitting across my imagination. What if a there is an earthquake? What if a sudden gust of wind picks me up and dashes me to the ground? What if a deranged person lifts me up and throws me over? What if I faint and somehow in fainting I fall over the railing and off the building? Seriously, this is what I am thinking whenever I am more than 10 feet off the ground.


Yesterday we went to the San Diego Zoo. We walked through the gates and looked at the map. Mike asked me “Where do you want to go first?” Without a moment’s hesitation I said “I want to do that” and pointed to the aerial tram. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. Mike asked if I wouldn’t be scared and I said “probably”, but for once the fear of being scared didn’t stop me.

 Our car left the gate with a few big bumps and before I knew it I was in the air. There was a moment when the panic started to set in but I made myself focus on the experience rather than the fear and it was perfectly amazing. I even looked straight down! I’m fairly certain that I am still afraid of heights and I know without a doubt that I will never go sky diving or bungee jumping, but it was a  very liberating  experience and today I’m feeling positively empowered.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

We arrived in San Diego on Saturday and so far we’ve stayed pretty close to the boat. Ennui has set in with a vengeance.
Maybe we are just tired. It did, after all, take us five and a half weeks to get here from San Francisco! The last two days were tough. With no wind to speak of and seas as flat as glass, we motored all day Friday and again on Saturday. Other cruisers will understand. Sailing is exhilarating and energizing. Motoring hour after hour in the hot sun is boring and exhausting,

The jellyfish tanks were mesmerizing.
Having not yet begun to explore San Diego, I am going to seize the opportunity to tell you about snapping shrimp and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
As soon as we were tied to the dock in Monterey I started to notice an unfamiliar crackling sound that Mike wasn’t able to hear. It was soft and subtle, like the rustling of tissue paper or maybe light rain on the deck, but it wasn’t raining. The sound seemed to come from everywhere; crackle, crackle, snap, pop, crackle as if the boat were sitting in a huge bowl of Rice Krispies. For 2 days and nights it drove me crazy, trying to locate and identify this crackling sound that to me seemed louder by the minute but Mike could never hear.

Can you find the seahorse?

Then we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Wandering around this amazing collection of marine wildlife I thought I could hear the mystery noise following me, and was beginning to think that I might be going truly crazy, until I realized that the sound was coming from a speaker in the wall next to a detailed description of snapping shrimp. I’d never before heard of such a creature but we have continued to experience them in almost every marina down the coast. It seems they get louder (maybe larger?) as we move south and Mike is now hearing them as well. He had experienced them before in Mexico, but hadn’t realized that it was snapping shrimp I was hearing. Now that I know what they are, I am actually enjoying them and missing the sound in the few marinas where they haven’t been present. They are fascinating little creatures that stun their prey with bubbles of air shot from their snapping claw. The noise, which is actually the bubble collapsing rather than the claw snapping shut, is so loud underwater that it interferes with sonar research and made it difficult to detect enemy submarines in World War II. Amazing!