William Martin McClain

El Gringo Viejo

William Martin McClain

On the WordPress blog I was The Old Gringo, but somebody took that name before me on TravelBlog, so I have translated it into Spanish as El Gringo Viejo. I was a Chemistry Professor at Wayne State University until 2010. Now I am retired, and with my wife Carol I travel a bit every year. She loves the Spanish speaking countries, while I prefer countries that don't really exist any more: ancient Rome and Greece and the Greek colonies of Sicily, Italy, and Turkey; maybe also Tolstoy's Russia. I promise not to write up the boring parts.

Oceans and Seas » Pacific » Tasman Sea February 14th 2016

11_Sydney Harbor 10 Feb 2016 We docked in Sydney at about 6 AM, a night and day and another night out of Melbourne; about 36 hours at sea. We were well away from the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian shore, and saw nothing except ocean and a few more ships than usual going the other way. Out on the rear deck at 9 AM, already docked, the famous beauty of the Sydney Harbor was not apparent. We could see two bridges and a lot of industrial activity, but not the Opera House. We should have been on deck at sunrise to see those famous sights as we sailed in, before we turned a corner into our dingy docking area. We will be ashore here for five days, so maybe we will see them on a ... read more

Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Auckland February 13th 2016

Feb. 1 and 2 In New Zealand In the early morning of Feb. 1 we sailed into the Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand. I got a nice shot of the sun rising, but it was foggy and the famous scene was not at its best. There was tender service to a nearby small island, and ferry service from there to the mainland and other islands, but we stayed on board. The main offerings ashore were hikes that were longer than I was up for, and parasailing from a special boat outfitted for it. We saw the parasailers extremely high, just a dot at the end of a long tether. The infallible wind is provided by the forward motion of the parasail boat in a steady straight line, and a powerful winch ... read more
2016-02-01 16.08.46WaterLillies500
2016-02-01 16.12.20GiantLillyPads500
2016-02-01 16.12.41Martin,Carol,Don500

Oceans and Seas » Pacific » Tasman Sea February 12th 2016

10_ It’s not salt pork and hardtack I’m sure you have read of the dietary privations of a long sea voyage- food that starts out alright but soon degenerates into a daily ration of rum, with moldy salt pork and worm-eaten sea biscuits. And then come all the vitamin deficiency diseases- ricketts, scurvy, etc. I assure you we are not suffering from any of this. Ms. Amsterdam serves five main meals every single day. We have a buffet breakfast with offerings of Eggs Benedict (five varieties) waffles, crepes, omelets to order, fresh fruit, grapefruit halves, several kinds of sausages, German cold cuts, sweet rolls, smoked salmon with cream cheese and fresh baked rolls, and every day some surprise that we have not seen before. Then I go up to the library to read the New York ... read more

Oceans and Seas » Pacific February 1st 2016

Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 181ºW Every morning when you go up to breakfast, the little blue rug in the elevator tells you what day it is. At midnight Monday, the rug stewards pick up the Monday rug and put down the Tuesday rug; etc. This is very convenient because one day at sea is very much like another, and people are apt to get confused. However, last night they picked up the Wednesday rug and put down a Friday rug. This prevents the Phineas Fogg confusion of arriving back in London with an extra rotation of the earth beneath you, so that your count of days is one ahead of everybody else in that majestic city. Still, rational as all this is, you can’t help being puzzled at the moment it happens, more or less 180º ... read more

Oceans and Seas » Pacific January 27th 2016

7_Jan 27 Sayonara until I find some free internet I’m sure you thought my choice of photos was peculiar in the last blog (Rangiroa). The reason is, I aborted the photo upload after about 30 minutes (more than $15) of exquisitely slow internet connection, with only two photos uploaded. It makes me nervous to burn money at this pace, so this is my last post until we reach some civilized place with free wifi; maybe New Zealand, maybe Australia, maybe Detroit. My e-mail is even worse; I am not going to burn money at this snail’s pace, bringing in the 90% of my emails asking for political donations, or trying to scare me about Republicans. So here are a few personal messages: Dear Gail and Don Dawson: We very much want to see you in Auckland. ... read more

Oceania January 27th 2016

Jan 22, Friday, Rangiroa Rangiroa is an atoll; that is, a ring of land barely above sea level enclosing a lagoon. It is volcanic in origin, but the volcano is so ancient that it has been completely pounded down by the sea. All you see is a rim sticking up a few feet, and the inevitable coral reefs that grow when sunlight penetrates to a solid support. The ring is never entirely closed; there are gaps where boats can dangerously maneuver through; here in Rangiroa atoll there is one gap big enough for a cruise ship. This lagoon is about 40 miles in diameter, so when the tide is falling, lagoon water rushes powerfully out; when rising, powerfully in. Ships have to run through the gap with the current; if you try to oppose it, your ... read more
IMG_2040Atoll entrance closer

Oceans and Seas January 24th 2016

Jan 22, 2016 The Marquesas Islands Probably you have never heard of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, but it was one of the most famous islands of Polynesia in the 19th century. It is where the hero of Herman Melville’s first novel, Typee, jumped ship and had many adventures and a famous love affair. There were two tribes, the noble Happar along the coast, at war with the cannibal Typees of the interior. The love interest was a beautiful Hippar child of nature, quite racy and naked for 1846, and it was an instant best seller. Some people consider it better than Moby Dick. Melville lived on Nuku Hiva for about 28 days, a very long time compared to the three hours we have scheduled. Nuku Hiva could have been ours. It was claimed for ... read more

Oceans and Seas January 18th 2016

Jan. 17, 2016 Fourth day at sea Or is it the fifth? Time is beginning to warp out here with nothing definite to mark its passage. After three or four 25 hour days (due to our westward course) we get sleepy at odd times and take long naps, waking up in our windowless cabin with no idea of the time. There is a schedule every day: lectures, exercise groups, classes (painting, cooking, etc.), special sales of incredibly expensive jewelry, and then of course there is the library, and next to it, the casino. I can’t tell you how many bars there are; at least six or seven, but none of the liquor is free. We heard a story before we left about a guy who went on a ten day Caribbean cruise and lost $60,000 at ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Panama » Panamá » Panama Canal January 13th 2016

Jan 10, 2016 The Canal This morning at 7 AM we arrived at the entrance to the Panama Canal. I did not see it or hear it, but when we went up to breakfast, there it was. We were already in the third Gatun Lock. (See photo 1). It was all very slow and majestic- no scraping or bumping. When the lock filled, we were drawn by “mules” that run alongside- very small powerful tractors. You may remember when Jimmy Carter turned the Canal over to the Panamanians, many people said that such backwards people could not possibly run this complex enterprise. Actually, of course, it was like the great non-disaster of the calendar in 2K. Pro forma, we were boarded by a Panamanian official who acts as temporary Captain while passing through Panamanian waters. We ... read more
1_Our prow deck
2_Out onto Gatun Lake
3__Gatun dam, breakfast

Oceans and Seas January 11th 2016

Friday, Jan.8, 2016 Sea Gypsys We have been at sea three days, and we are beginning to find our way around the ship. She is big, but not one of the monsters; she carries 1500 passengers max (right now we have “a bit over a thousand” aboard) and she fits through the Gatun locks with a good foot to spare on each side. The biggest new ones carry 5000 passengers and don’t even come close to fitting through the canal. Obviously, it is a profitable business; even now Holland-America has several new ships of the “dam” series on order: MS Rotterdam, MS Amsterdam, MS Koningsdam, etc. First, about sea-sickness. It doesn’t seem likely. Sometimes we feel a little side-to-side roll, and in certain places you can feel the engines, but mostly it is glassy smooth. We ... read more

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