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Portugal - Florida

Frank Robben - September 1994

Dear Friends - We finished our research project in Portugal in the beginning of March, completing the 24th probe trip covering the same line in the ocean off the southern coast of Portugal. More than 1000 expendable bathymetric (temperature measuring) probes were dropped and some 60 expendable floats were launched to track the motion of the water flowing out of the Straits of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean. It was a successful project, Kialoa functioned faithfully, we enjoyed the people, students and faculty who accompanied us, and there are already interesting preliminary scientific results described in a short paper.

My daughter Katie, with grandson and husband, my son-in-law's uncle Bengt, and an old University friend from Germany and his wife accompanied us to Madeira. We also made a one day stop at the small neighboring island of Porto Santo. Interesting islands, Madeira is quite rugged with lush semi-tropical vegetation. This Portuguese island is extensively cultivated, well kept and neat, and a fairly popular tourist destination. We enjoyed our time there.

In Madeira we were joined by Kenyon, a friend of my son Michael, and George and Tina, friends from previous trips. We had an easy Atlantic crossing, all downwind, taking 18 days to Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. In the beginning of the trip we made excellent progress, averaging over 200 miles per day, but towards the end the wind died and we went by engine for three days until the wind returned. The ocean is beautiful, never quite the same, sunsets and sunrises, the stars at night, varying wind and clouds. And one is carried along with the steady, slow progress of a ship under sail, comfortably consuming food, tending to the operation and maintenance of our vessel, and generally enjoying ourselves.

I find it interesting how many places we visited in the Lesser Antilles Islands of the Caribbean in a relatively short time. Following is an abbreviated itinerary:

Island            Port              Date

St. Lucia       Vieux Fort        16 April
   "            Anses Pitons      19 April
   "            Castries          21 April
   "            Rodney Bay        27 April
Martinique      Fort de France    28 April
   "            Anse Arlet        30 April
   "            Fort de France    02 May
Dominica        Roseau            03 May
   "            Prince Rupert Bay 09 May
Marie-Galante   Gran Bourg        10 May
Guadaloupe      Point a Pite      11 May
Il. de Saintes  Le Bourg          13 May
Guadaloupe      Deshais           15 May
Antigua         Falmouth Harbor   16 May
Barbuda         Cocoa Point       19 May
St. Barthelemy  Gustavia          22 May
St. Martin      Philipsburg       23 May
British Virgins Roadtown          25 May
   "            Norman Island     27 May
   "            Virgin Gorda      28 May
   "            Trellis Bay       29 May
   "            Tortola           30 May
   "            Jost van Dyke     05 June
   "            Virgin Gorda      06 June
   "            Tortola           08 June
   "            Leave Tortola     12 June
Bahamas         Nassau            18 June
   "            Leave Nassau      29 July
Florida         Ft. Lauderdale    31 July

Many of these islands, formerly colonies of various European nations, are now independent countries, struggling to maintain a viable economy and a somewhat democratic government. While in the islands I read a bit of the competing powers and struggles within some of these countries, and compared this with the surface appearance of the people, countryside, infrastructure of housing, farms and industry, and tourist accommodations. Interesting, much food for thought on the culture and behavior of both our European forebears and our present Western society.

In some ways the trip seemed like a kaleidoscopic view of these islands, their distinctive characters and beauty, the differences and similarities of the local populations and governments which have been derived from the slave cultures of the 18th and 19th centuries. We saw a lot, and missed much more. I would love to spend some time hiking around the mountains of Dominica, and Martinique and Guadaloupe would be most interesting to enjoy and explore further.

The crew on Kialoa changed slowly as we progressed through the islands, some leaving, some joining. After arriving in the British Virgin Islands our last crew (Josef) had to return home and missed an important event: Cynthia and I were married in the capital, Roadtown. This event took place June 2 on Kialoa in a pleasant ceremony, and we were accompanied by friends from neighboring yachts.

I met Cynthia in Sri Lanka in March of '93. She and Maria (her youngest daughter, now 7) joined me (and Kialoa) in Portugal and we had been together since then. How can I describe my new wife to friends who have not met her? She is a pleasant, friendly lady of easygoing and tolerant disposition. If you wish to know more you will have to come and visit, either on Kialoa, or when we return to San Francisco next summer.

Cynthia and I sailed Kialoa, with Maria's help as well, to Nassau in the Bahamas, 6 pleasant days of easy sailing. We spent 5 weeks anchored in the harbor of Nassau, working on getting visas for Cynthia and Maria from the United States Embassy there. That was neither a pleasant nor easy experience, but while there we made friends with a very nice British couple on a boat anchored near us. They had previously sailed around the world, and now had come to Nassau for the wedding of their son. He flew in from Australia with his fiance and her three children and we became part of the wedding party. As a result we had a very enjoyable time in Nassau.

I had started a longer and much more detailed description of this trip, too long for a newsletter. I would like to write more, a bit on sailing adventures, experiences of my life as seen from my present perspective, and philosophic thoughts. Grandiose ideas. And what would I do with such writing? For the moment this newsletter will serve the more immediate purpose of keeping in contact with interested friends, and perhaps encourage you to join Kialoa on our next voyage.

Just now Kialoa is parked in Port Canaveral, Florida and we have returned to Berkeley for a month or so to attend to various affairs and to see my mother (who is 86 and fine). We will bring Kialoa back to San Francisco and would like to have some compatible, interested and enthusiastic company as we sail to some interesting places. A very rough itinerary is as follows:

Early Dec: Lv Florida, 1 week at sea to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Dec. - Feb: Cancun, then Belize, then on to Guatemala. Try to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tical.

Early March: Transit Panama Canal

April - May: Cruise north up coasts of Costa Rica, then Mexico. A bit into the Sea of Cortez, at least to La Paz.

l June: San Diego

Added in March 1996: We had a good time on this trip! See my December 1995 newletter.