Friday, 13 February 2015

Winter Cruise 2015

Our sea-going cruise for 2015 will be testing Mareda around Brittany, England, and the Channel Islands.  While it will be lovely, it will not be hot.  It never is.  Even when the air temperature is warm enough for a swim, the water rarely gets above 19°C (66°F).  It’s like diving head-long into a gin-and-tonic and getting a big ice-cream headache through your whole body. 

For this year’s winter land cruise, we decided to take it easy and to seek out real warmth to stock up for the year ahead. Taking it easy means no complicated treks through developing countries, and warmth means shorts, flip-flops, and wading into water without the need of Lamaze breathing techniques.

I realize that everyone has a different definition of warmth, and I believe that we are all acclimatized in early childhood to a range of temperatures and comfort zones that follow us throughout our lives.  Growing up in Kentucky with its continental climate, our summers were hot (90°F / 32°C) and winters were cold (sub-freezing much of the time with snow that paralyzed the town for at least 1-2 weeks per year).  I love both.  I need both.  I feel cheated in a winter with no snow, or in a summer where I don’t feel the sting of the sun on my skin and the ecstasy of frolicking in water that just cools the skin without tightening the muscles.

Many people are not aware that there is no summer-like weather (>25°C / 77°F) to be found in Europe or even the Mediterranean in the winter.  Much of the southern and far eastern regions of the Med, for example (e.g., Tunisia, Turkey) have the same temperatures as northern Florida this time of year.  It can be very pleasant, but you’re not going to be plunging into the water to cool off very often.

To meet our two criteria of being easy and warm, we've decided to fly to another part of the globe…all without leaving France.  The island of Guadeloupe, “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, has been claimed by Britain, Sweden, and France throughout its turbulent history, with France gaining control after the Napoleonic wars.  I hope to immerse myself in Caribbean history and culture while there, but for now, I’m ashamed to admit that my image of Guadeloupe consists largely of chocolate, coffee, rum, tropical forests, and palm-studded turquoise beaches. 

Staying in the mountains of the national park of Basse-Terre
And as if it knew that we were heading off for a wet and sandy vacation, my poor Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 camera gave up the ghost last week.  After struggling through 4 years of sailing, skiing, and desert trekking, the motor controlling the focus and zoom grinds pitifully, fails to focus, and throws up an “Error” message on a scratched screen.  It also has a scratch on the lens that I’m sure can’t be fixed, either. 

After hours of web surfing, I finally decided to buy an Olympus Stylus TG-3 Tough Camera, made for taking photos whilst sailing, skiing, desert trekking, etc.  It can be taken underwater down to 15 meters (50ft), frozen, dropped from 2 meters (7 ft), and crushed (100 kilos / 220 lbs).  It takes still photos, video, and time-lapse photos, and has an integrated GPS, compass, and barometer, and all this with a full 2-year guarantee.  Let the tests begin !    

Mimosa after the rain, taken with the new TG-3 !!