Thursday, September 27, 2012

Koblenz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

Marksburg castle
Marksburg Castle is the best preserved.

Mark rented a Harley in the 1980’s and toured Germany. He fell in love with the wine country along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers, and came home with a taste for the German regional wines, which are what he describes as “apple-y spritz-y.” We have a nice little tradition of drinking a German “breakfast wine” on special occasions. It’s a nice change from a mimosa or Bloody Mary.

Rapunzel's Tower?

“There are castles every half mile,” Mark told me. “You don’t believe me. You’ll see.” Once we found our way to the road along the Rhine River, I did see. One of the first sights, and still a favorite, was a tower which reminded me of Rapunzel, the heroine of the Disney movie “Tangled.” My granddaughter Kailyn would love it.

The Kleiner-Riesen is a sweet hotel
with friendly staff and a great breakfast.

Arriving in Koblenz, and we were a bit surprised to see such a large city. Our hotel, the Kleiner Riesen,is near the city center, the only hotel right on the water – perfect. We could watch ferries and barges plying the waters. The current in the Rhine is swift – you wouldn’t want to swim, and a lazy kayak or canoe trip is out of the question.

Scenic Rhine River, Germany
The next morning we walked along the river past the Electoral Palace to the ferry dock and boarded the Goethe, a paddle wheeler. Since it was a cloudy Monday, threatening to rain, the boat was nearly empty – which suited us just fine. I didn’t have a lot of time to do background research ahead of time, but it didn’t matter. Each town we passed, each castle, was unique and yet they blend to make a perfect Reineland-Pfalz landscape.

During the trip, one of the paddle wheels broke, delaying us for about 30 minutes. It was chilly out on the deck, so we wandered inside to the dining room and ordered a bottle of wine (what else?) If you order the trocken or dry wine, you will find it sweeter than a California dry, but very nice.

Two American couples sat down at a table behind us. They were from the states of Washington and Illinois, but met living in Arizona – snowbirds, as they are called. They were very nice but I had to smile when one of the women asked for “tap water.” Everywhere in the UAE bottled water is the norm, and you must order it and pay for a few dirhams for it. In Europe, it is usually the same, especially at finer restaurants. But more to the point … we were on a BOAT. Everyone who knows boats knows that there really is no such thing as “tap water” on boats. Unless, maybe, you drink river water.

Sorry, but I just had to pick on the American Snowbirds a little.
View from above Castle Katz in St. Goarshausen

We disembarked at St. Goarshausen and walked up the path behind the castle for a view of the river.

Lorelei the Siren

We also visited the sculpture of Lorelei. The legend is that she lured sailors away from the deep waters and onto the rocks.

This monument was built after my relatives left Germany.

The next morning, we went to the huge monument to Emperor Wilhelm I at the Deutsches Eck, and then it was time to hit the road for our next stop – Colmar, France.

Our time in Koblenz was too short. When we come back, we need to take a walking tour of the city, ride bicycles, see the sights, and, of course, visit Pomster and Trierscheidt.

Why these two towns?

My German ancestors, the Youngbloods, were born in Pomster and Trierscheidt, about 80km west of Koblenz. Great-great grandfather Bernard Youngblood immigrated to Detroit in the 1860’s.

Is this where my roots lie?

Looking at a satellite map, Pomster and Trierscheidt today appear to be typical small German villages surrounded by agricultural fields. Koblenz, by comparison, is a large city. I wonder how they compared 150 years ago? Certainly Koblenz was an important city, situated on the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel. But, Pomster and Trierscheidt? Were they much different than they are today?

And is there anyone still there who is related to me?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sailing–ADCA Commodore’s Cup 2012-2013

RACE #1 on Pacer 27 Unwind

#1 ADCA 2012-13 014
Debating whether to tack sooner, or later.

There are thirteen races on the 2012-13 Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association (ADCA) racing calendar September 15, 2012 through June 1, 2013, occurring on Saturday afternoons every three weeks.

Last weekend’s season opener was a 6 nautical mile course that Mark and I had not sailed before. It took us around six channel buoys.

ADCA 2012-13 #1 course
Race #1 Course

#1 ADCA 2012-13 011
That is not a Superman cape, it's a towel.

Unfortunately, we got a terrible start. It was light air, and although we had timed the approach to the line, the wind changed at the last minute. Soon after Mark’s comment that they were all early, we found ourselves buried. Ouch!  We tacked onto port toward Lulu Island, sailed a few meters, and tacked back, all the while watching the Farr 30 Idefix and 1720 Saeeda sail away.

#1 ADCA 2012-13 007
Idefix and Saeeda, ahead.
 Fortunately, Unwind is a light and fast boat, and we have new sails. We caught up with Saeeda on the first leg, in part because we saw what we thought might be good current. Current is hard to understand over here. There are tides, but no tide charts. That made it interesting when I'm on my SUP, too.

Unfortunately, we can’t beat the Farr 30 in light air, especially if there is a downwind leg, because they have a symmetrical spinnaker. The five-boat fleet spread out, with Idefix elapsed time 1:38:02, Unwind 1:44:00, and Saeeda  1:50:25. The other two boats were much slower; the last boat’s elapsed time was 2:58:30.

#1 ADCA 2012-13 006
Match racing.
The Beneteau 7.5 Jr.Yalla Yalla  was not racing; I think it was because the boat was needed for a concurrent match racing event hosted by the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club (ADSYC.) Either that or the French just didn’t show up. Our owner Emiliano wasn’t on Unwind because he was match racing.

I don’t know much about ADSYC; it’s too complicated. They seem to focus mainly on Emirati participation, and dhow sailing which is all Emirati. Adil Khalid, the Emirati crew member on Abu Dhabi’s Azzam in the Volvo Ocean Race, was a key person on the winning match race boat.

You can read about the match racing:
#1 ADCA 2012-13 018
Marina Mall tower has two restaurants
with great views.

It was a beautiful day. Even though the wind was light it was steady, and the scenery was fascinating. We sailed around the Marina Mall break wall toward Musnouah where I believe a new Emirates Heritage Club, which is associated with the ADSYC, is being built. Around here, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on. 98% of what you hear or read is a rumor, and 99% of those aren’t true, I'm told.

#1 ADCA 2012-13 025
There really isn't a word for how large the new presidential palace is.
What I do know for sure is that this is where the new presidential palace is under construction, and it is GINORMOUS. You will see, in the photos, that it dwarfs the Emirates Palace Hotel.

Dubai & AD sailing 028
Emirates Palace Marina at twilight.
 After the race, there was an ADCA gathering at the Emirates Palace Marina. Emiliano, who is a great promoter of ADCA, has been building a relationship with the marina for some time, trying to work a deal where ADCA boats can move there from the marina facility across from the Marina Mall where there is little parking and no decent facilities. Some boat owners are reluctant, worried that even with reasonable slip fees, the cost will go up later and become unaffordable. Meanwhile, they will have lost their slip in the other marina.

Another reason is that it would add time to the sailing day, assuming that we keep using the same start line and courses. As it is, we can get from the slip to the line in just a few minutes. If we are at the Palace marina, we will spend an extra hour on the boat in each direction. For people like Marco, who lives in Dubai, this is an issue. He says he spends too little time with his wife, as it is. A familiar story!

Dubai & AD sailing 019
I wore a prototype  t-shirt
designed by Mark with a diagram
of Wildcard's polars on the back.

From our selfish perspective, Mark and I are hoping that it works out. We live close enough that we don’t have commute issues, and we would love to spend even more time on the boat. Plus, the Emirates Palace Marina is so beautiful, and the facilities are first-class. We bring our food and beverages, but they prepare and light a barbecue for us. And, we are given real wine glasses. AND, plates trimmed with gold leaf! Perhaps some day, if they get the marina filled up, they could even open a food and beverage operation there. Beer on tap, maybe?

Dubai & AD sailing 026
Hot times at the barbecue.

Now, a story about getting sailing gear, hardware and supplies shipped internationally. 

After we got the new sails, Mark spent the summer thinking about improving how the boat is rigged. He’s been talking about getting new lines ever since we first stepped onto the boat but the problem was, where to find them? It soon became evident that he wouldn’t find the ropes he wanted in the UAE.

When I went home to the USA, it sounded like I would be bringing ropes back with me. Which I dreaded. I knew how heavy they would be, and experience has taught me how quickly the weight in a suitcase can add up. I can now tell, by feel, whether a bag weighs 48 pounds or over 50.
I was relieved when Mark found what he wanted at Mauri Pro Sailing in Texas. “International Orders? We Ship Worldwide!” their website says. And they were having a special; free international shipping with orders over $500.

Of course, it’s a bit complicated to ship to the UAE, where there are no street addresses. If you read the earlier stories about sending visa paperwork, you know that this greatly complicates sending documents and packages. Not  deterred, Maya from Mauri worked with Mark on a shipment to the UPS office in Abu Dhabi. Mark requested for UPS to call him for pickup when it arrived, which would be in about 10 days.

Two days later, Mark got a call. The package was being delivered to our apartment! Could he give the driver directions?

And, Wildcardtravels is in Mauri Pro's September 2012 newsletter:

So, you never know. Sometimes things can go better than expected.

ACDA Commodore’s Cup #2 is October 6th, and it will be a “long course.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Art for Art’s Sake

The Mystery of Abu Dhabi International Sculpture Symposium
Art - Officers Club 022
Some sculptures are more vulnerable to the elements than others.

Several months ago, on one of my first bicycle rides, I discovered a paved lot dotted with sculptures. I photographed them through the fence.
I wondered: what’s the story?
Weeks later I found my way into the lot and rode among them as I explored the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Officers’ Club. It was too hot then to stay out riding; I had to head home. 

I vowed to come back when I had more time to take photos of these mysterious, ghostly pieces of art.

Art - Officers Club 092
Field of Dreams

Art - Officers Club 002
Fabricio Dieci – Italy
The weather cooled and I’ve returned and solved the mystery – at least part of it. I had many questions. Where did they come from? Who made them, and why? How long have they been there? I could see that they were made by different artists, to be installed in public places. But where? For the new Ladies’ Beach under construction nearby? And, why are they exposed to the corrosive salt air and sand-laden winds? I’ve seen what look like sculptures at a construction site across town, covered with protective wrapping. What will happen if these are left out too long?

Art - Officers Club 009

My first clue came when I discovered a signature. Most of the pieces were signed and dated – 2010. In 30 minutes I took 101 photos, including signatures when I could find them. Getting ready to leave, I noticed chunks of marble along the edge of the pavement. Could these pieces have possibly all been made onsite? In fact, that began to seem more logical to me than transporting them here, only to leave them out in the elements. My curiosity was piqued.

Art - Officers Club 008
Jo Kley – Germany

I went home and immediately downloaded the photos and began “googling” the artists’ names. An Italian, whose website was in Italian. An Austrian. A German. A Bulgarian.

Then I found it. They are eighteen sculptures by eighteen different artists, and a nineteenth mystery sculpture. They are the result of the Abu Dhabi International Sculpture Symposium 2010. ADISS was directed by His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan - the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of Zayed University (ZU) to help establish Abu Dhabi as the Middle East’s leader in culture and the arts. From February 27th to April 7th, 2010, a group of selected artists produced commissioned works based on proposals. The criteria was that the work be:

Art - Officers Club 056
Konstantin Dimopoulos – Australia
“Inspired by the U.A.E., its history, and its culture, and be linked to the theme of ADISS: ‘Bridging Societies Through the Language of Art.’

Art - Officers Club 001
Elements of "LOTUS"
Masahiro Hasegawa - Japan
are installed in the Officers' Club roundabout.

The website goes on to say, “At the conclusion of the Symposium, the new monumental sculptures will be permanently placed at selected public spaces throughout Abu Dhabi, which will complement His Highness Sheikh Mohammed's vision for a cultural city with artistic landmarks."
Now my questions about who, what, when, why and where the sculptures were created have been answered.

Art - Officers Club 044
Billy Lee - UK
Was once shiny, now getting rusty.

More questions remain.
Why were they not installed? Who will take possession of these monumental works of art, when will that happen, and where will they be installed? What will happen to them, if too much time goes by? Will they be forgotten? That’s hard to believe. But a few of them, the ones made of metal, are already seriously weathered. Sun, sand, salt and heat have taken their toll. Why have they not been protected or moved, installed, cleaned, maintained and enjoyed by the public?

The ADISS website call for inquiries for the 2011 ADISS is the most recent update. Perhaps, as happens with so many arts efforts, funding ran out or people’s energy was directed elsewhere. It happens. But still, something should be done with these amazing sculptures. If nothing else, auction them for the benefit of Zayed University.

SUP with Terry 015
It's not easy to find unless
you know where it is.

For now, this fascinating field of mysterious artwork is there for you to see.

 If you can find it.

You can read all about the sculptures and see them when they were new at

Click to enlarge

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Returning to the UAE–Is it safe?

Dubai & AD sailing 006
In every culture, there are a few "twisted" individuals.
Unfortunately, they seem to get the most attention.
 I have been asked this question countless times, and my short answer is always the same: YES.

The longer, more complicated and more thoughtful answer is another question: What, exactly, is the definition of a “safe” place?

You don’t need me to tell you that violence is not confined to the Middle East.

But maybe you do need to be reminded that the words “Muslim,” “Islam,” “terrorist” and “violence” are not synonyms.

Our many Muslim friends here tell us again and again what they wish all people to understand: this is not them, not their faith, not their Islam, not their way.

Theirs is a religion of peace and generosity, prayer and family.

It’s the Al Qaeda who promote violence against the US and others. Al Qaeda commits egregious acts of violence in the name of the Muslim faith, with no regard to the religion itself.

Despite crowds, traffic, celebrations and rampant nationalism,
the UAE's 40th National Day was peaceful, safe, and a lot of fun.

I have been following the wave of violent demonstrations following the tragic death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three others. I have read accounts and opinions in the UAE newspapers and in US newspapers. One reads and hears many things, some conflicting.

So, I can only give you some of my impressions, as someone who just returned from the US, only to have the Libya attacks happen the very next day.

I flew back into Abu Dhabi on September 11, 2012. Do I feel safe here? Yes, just as safe as anywhere in the US and, in some ways, safer. For example, I think there is much less chance of being mugged here than in a large US city. In fact, a friend told me a story about two of her friends who recently went to a big-league baseball game. After the game, they were robbed of their money and jewelry in a dark section of the parking lot.

And no, it wasn’t in Detroit; it was a different city. But hey, let’s talk about Detroit, or any major city where sports fans can get violent. Our team won! Let’s riot. Our team lost? Lets riot! And it doesn’t just happen in the US, either.

Disneyland 173 (2)
They were rioting just 4 miles from
the Happiest Place on Earth.

Moving on. In July, when I was at Disneyland with my granddaughter, we watched the fireworks show on our last night there. As part of the production, we were promised that a slide show would soon appear in the sky. Instead, we sat with the crowd in quiet darkness, wondering about the helicopters hovering above. The fireworks show finally began. Only when we arrived back at our hotel did we learn that there were people rioting at the Anaheim Civic Center, four miles away. A police officer had been involved in a shooting incident.

It's great fun to dress up in an abaya
and visit the Zayed Grand Mosque.

People of Muslim faith do not require anything of me, as a non-Muslim, except to respect their faith and customs. I do not have to cover my head with a hijab, and I can dress in my normal style. I know that covering upper arms, and legs above the knees, is preferred as a sign of modestly and respect. I do so if I am going to be someplace where doing otherwise would be inappropriate. That said, I don’t worry about it much any more.

Here in the UAE, people are more western, more modern, than in many other places in the Arab world. But that is not to say that those other places are violent! They are just more socially conservative and traditional. Less westernized. And perhaps, less prone to western-style crime? I can’t say for sure.

This violence that you are hearing about is being committed by a small number of people, and many of them, I have heard, are bored, disenfranchised youth. “Hooligans.” Just as in the US and other countries, such people often see trouble as just something to do to relieve their frustrations. Just what Al Qaeda, and other extremist groups in other countries including the US, are looking for.

Violence, I am seeing, is really a series of isolated events. Sometimes they merge, sometimes not. The race riots in Detroit in 1968 were happening just a few miles from my quiet suburban neighborhood. I was very young, and they didn’t amount to much more than a rumor to me at the time. But of course, they were a terrible, terrible event. Yet, was I safe in St. Clair Shores with my family? Yes.

One of the world's  most dangerous places
to drive is the UAE.
 I understand much more about the Middle East than I did before I moved here. My parents were afraid for me, coming here, although they tried not to show it. I told them I would be safe, but I couldn’t explain, very well, why I thought this to be true.

Now I know what I suspected then: there is danger everywhere, it’s an inherent fact of life. Sadly, the most dangerous activity here is driving, particularly on Sheik Zayed Road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Dubai & AD sailing 014

Every place and every people has its dark side, but fortunately for most of us, we can see the light. Please don’t judge everyone in the Middle East by the violence you are hearing about.

May peace be with you.

Sailing in the Midwest: Detroit

This was my view of the world as a teenaged sailor.

Sailing Cal 25’s in Lake St. Clair

In August, instead of returning to the UAE as planned, I suddenly and unexpectedly went back to Michigan for a second time. The reason was that my father needed some help regaining his health and independence. While I was disappointed that I would be delayed returning to Mark and our Middle East adventures, I considered it a gift to be able to help Dad and spend more time with him.

Annie Mayme sailed the Cal25 Nationals
in 2004 with a family crew.
From bow: me, Doug Harvey, Dad,
my brother Paul, my daughter Nicole.

Separation from family and loved ones makes you appreciate them all the more. Besides, my father gave me one of the greatest gifts I have: my love of sailing.
So, when I received a forwarded email to the Detroit Cal 25 fleet about an upcoming Saturday YRA race, I hit “reply all” and said I was in town and available if anyone needed crew. I figured Dad wouldn’t mind.

Couples that race together are
somewhat rare.

The first response I got was from the skipper I’d hoped to hear from -- Dale Marshall. He and his wife Jenny have been racing their Cal 25 Clytie since the early 1980’s. That’s a long time but not as long as Dad has owned Annie Mayme, which he bought in 1968 and raced continuously until 2010. Both Dad and Dale have been YRA and NOOD champions multiple times.
Dale and Jenny are members of Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, as is Dad, and that’s where I met them at the boat, right next to Dad’s old boat well, which was empty. The Detroit Cal 25 fleet, while still strong, is suffering the same fate as many sailing fleets – a drop in participation.

Never Alone sailed over us and got away.
Never Alone, rolling us to weather.

The other crew offer that I got was from a boat called Never Alone, which I didn’t know as well. I mentioned this to Dad, and he told me that Never Alone had been winning lately. “Well,” I said, “now I know who to beat.”

The race was hosted by Crescent Sail Yacht Club in Grosse Pointe Shores, and it happened to fall on the Detroit Regional Yachting Association centennial, so there was a party planned to celebrate 100 years of sailboat racing in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.

Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is gorgeous from any viewpoint.

The start line was off of CSYC, and the course was a triangle that took us around channel buoys between Crescent and Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. This meant that there could be no adjustment of the course marks. Usually, racers prefer to use inflatable marks so they can set the course according to the wind direction, with an upwind leg to the first mark, then downwind, then possibly another upwind leg to finish, or sometimes it’s two or three laps around the course. In the old days, we usually had triangle courses but now upwind-downwind is generally preferred, sometimes with a “wing mark” at the weather mark or perhaps occasionally a reaching leg.

This is what you want to see at the start.
Things were looking really good.

“Get out in front and open it up,” Dad once told me, is the best way to win a race.

At the start, conditions were very light. The boat was very quiet. Dale’s start was textbook perfect: at the line with speed, taking up the boats to weather at the committee boat, and walking away leaving the rest of the fleet to tack away for clear air. The first leg was a tight reach that turned into a one-legged beat, with a dead downwind second leg and a close reach to the finish.

How come they're so fast?
Where'd they get that boatspeed?

The only boat to pass us was – you guessed it – Never Alone. Somehow, no matter how we adjusted our sails and weight, we couldn’t match their speed on the first leg. It didn’t help that we were getting bad air from a larger boat to weather, but Never Alone somehow sailed right through their lee. They did a “horizon job” on us, and the rest of the fleet.

With a young woman dinghy sailor driving, this boat was threatening to overtake up.
Forty Two threatened us at the finish.

Still, it was an exciting spinnaker finish, with the next boat behind us, named Forty Two, threatening to pass, right up until the last seconds. We finished second in our fleet of seven boats.

Finish line at CSYC. We held on to our second.
Finish line and party tent.

We stopped by CSYC after the race, where there was a big tent set up for the awards and centennial party.

BYC & Blue Goose 006
Dad, Nicole and I enjoy The View.

I guess I must be growing up though, because I chose to go hang out with Dad and tell him about the race.