Category Archives: Cruise

Good Christmas season and a nice family visit

Mrs. Poolman and I spent most of the past two weeks lounging around and doing not much of anything. Mrs. P worked for two days the first of Christmas week and then again on Jan 1-2. In between, we had a great holiday, and then a three-day visit to see my middle-sister, Maggie, and her family at Lake Hartwell, near Anderson, S.C. We didn’t do any floating in the lake on this visit, but one afternoon, the clouds parted and it was nice enough to take a boat ride. So the nine of us piled into the neighbor’s pontoon boat for a winter afternoon’s boat cruise. Very nice.

The view from the back deck.

The view from the back deck.

My niece with her "child," Norman the Basset.

My niece with her “child,” Norman the Basset.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Sister and Mrs. Poolman enjoying the day.

Sister and Mrs. Poolman enjoying the day.

Sister with the center of attention.

Sister with the center of attention.

Mrs. P enjoying the ride.

Mrs. P enjoying the ride.

A busy day…

Today has been interesting, in two parts. This morning, we hosted a “state visit” by a group of roughly 65 VIPs, including the state Board of Regents, a bunch of university presidents and senior university system staffers. Most of these people have never been here so it was a pretty big deal.  I have been working to plan this event since mid-January and have fretted over the details and coordinating with the two other institutions in town. As it turns out, everything went very well. Everyone did what they were supposed to do and they did it well. No hitches and I heard nothing but compliments. Big load off.

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What's wrong with this picture?

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the cool things about my job is the opportunity to get out and take an occasional boat ride. This afternoon, I went along on one of our small skiffs to shoot some video for a promotional piece we are producing to market our research vessel.

Tough duty out on the water today.

Tough duty out on the water today.

The weather was gorgeous, roughly 80 degrees and sunny. We were out for about an hour which was just enough to sunburn my face. Duh. I did get one cool shot with my Canon point ‘n shoot camera. We frequently see dolphins around here, but it’s tough to get pictures because they don’t surface where and when you are expecting them. I did get this shot this afternoon, which was pretty pleased with.

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

A cruisin’ vacation

I’ve been off the grid for the last week, but for a good reason. Mrs. Poolman and I joined a bunch of family members on a cruise vacation.

The whole idea originated last winter with our son, Poolboy, who wanted to organize a family vacation. He picked the cruise, the destinations, the dates, etc. and then called us to see if we wanted to go along. We had a good group, including daughter (Writer Princess), Son-in-Law (SIL), SIL’s brother and wife, Mrs. P’s sister, her son and daughter and their significant others, and a couple more friends of theirs. All told we had 16 people in our group, all adults. Since booked last winter, we had a great price.

We drove to Tampa last Sunday and spent the night at the Candlewood Suites in Clearwater. Once again, were very satisfied with our stay at this relatively little-known chain. Primarily designed as an extended-stay hotel, they offer great facilities for a ridiculously low price. We had what was essentially a one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom, two TVs, etc for $66/night including all taxes. We upgraded to the suite because Mrs. P’s sister stayed with us and it advertised a sofa-bed. We didn’t realize it was actually a small apartment until we got there, and were very pleasantly surprised.

On Monday, we boarded the Carnival Inspiration bound for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico and two days at sea.

The Inspiration (left) at the dock in Cozumel with the Carnival Triumph

We are not exactly novices when it comes to cruising. This was my tenth cruise and Mrs. P’s twelfth. (She took two cruises with her father and sisters in the 90s.) Of my ten cruises, seven of them have been on Carnival. I guess we like it because we do keep coming back. Our biggest adventure came when Writer Princess graduated from high school. We and two other families organized a “graduation cruise,” essentially the same cruise we originally planned for our trip last week. The group grew and grew to eventually reach 10 adults and 18 teenagers. We had an absolute blast. Ten years later, the kids are still talking about the afternoon at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel.

The Inspiration and the Triumph at Cozumel

We had only one disappointment on this cruise. Our first stop was to be Grand Cayman where we had plans for “Stingray City.” Unfortunately, one of our fellow passengers burst an appendix the first night of the cruise, so we diverted to Key West for a medical evacuation. Key West became our replacement port. It was OK, but we would have much preferred Grand Cayman. Oh well, no point crying over what you can’t control.

Key West

The rest of the cruise went just great. In retrospect, once our shore excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled, we should have gone ahead and booked something in Cozumel. If you don’t book some sort of organized activity, there isn’t much else to do there. We got off and took a cab into town and wandered around some. But after awhile, one gift shop looks pretty much like the last one. And we’re not big shoppers.

The shopping strip in San Miguel, Cozumel

The non-stop attention from the Mexican “barkers” trying to get you into their store gets to be annoying.

One thing that is never a disappointment is the food. Supposedly, Carnival is not known for gourmet cuisine, but you’ll get no complaints from our crowd. At times it seemed like everything else on the cruise was just there to fill the time between meals. We found we actually had to pace ourselves, by not eating too much early and filling up too soon.

Early on in our cruising days, our family established the custom of meeting each night for dinner in the dining room. (A casual buffet is the alternative.) When we started this, it was Poolboy and Writer Princess who objected. These days, it was the two of them who were telling the cruising neophytes of the benefits of this custom. And since the dining room is where you find the prime rib, rack of lamb, lobster tails, etc, it’s not a real hardship.

Now, we are back to dry land and life-as-normal — no one to make the bed and serve us great food every night. Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Cream of Artichoke Soup

charlotte-amalie-harborWay back in the late 1980s, Mrs. Poolman and I went on our first cruise. During a stop in Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas, USVI, we had lunch at a small outdoor café. I had a bowl of cream of artichoke soup and French bread that was outta-sight. That memory stuck with me when I made my first pot of corn chowder (See yesterday’s post.) I experimented a little and here is what I came up with. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Note: I revised this post to make it a little easier to follow, without reference to yesterday’s recipie.

Cream of Artichoke Soup (my own adaptation)

* 1 large sweet onion, chopped

* 2-3 stalks of celery, finely chopped

* 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

* 1 tablespoon of flour

* 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

* 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

* 2 cans of artichoke hearts – chopped fine

* 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

* 1 cup half-and-half

* kosher salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Saute onion and celery until soft.

2. Add the garlic, paprika, and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

3 . Add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir smooth.

4.  Stir in the artichoke hearts, broth, and half-and-half and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

5 . Transfer half the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine.

6.  Divide the soup among individual bowls.

For presentation, I toast a few slices of French bread under the broiler with garlic salt, butter and parmesan cheese and float one in each bowl. I also sprinkle a few flakes of parsley just for accent.

Notes:

1. I almost ALWAYS double the recipe.

2. In a double recipe, the SIX cups of broth equals three normal cans of chicken broth. In a double recipe, use 3 cans of artichoke hearts.

3. If you don’t have smokey paprika, regular paprika will do.

Yum, yum!

Hunting the doliolid and a leap of faith

Two of our scientists are taking our ocean-going research vessel, the R/V Savannah on a four day trip looking for the elusive doliolid (doe-lee-OH-lid).

R/V Savannah

R/V Savannah

“What is a doliolid?” you may ask, “and why do I care?” Good questions. These little critters are tiny, not quite microscopic, gelatinous (like jellyfish) organisms that look like little beer barrels.

Doliolid

Doliolid

They occasionally “swarm” on the continental shelf. The changing ocean environment, especially a falling pH, may create conditions ripe for these critters to proliferate. It would be nice to know what they eat, what eats them and how they fit into the whole oceanic food-web scheme of things. Right now we know very little.

Actually, I would love to go along on the trip, but I cannot justify four days at sea for about an hour’s worth of photography work. So I have turned over one of our institutional cameras to the marine tech and asked him to snap away.  In the past, I have not been very successful in getting useable photos from amateurs. (Not that I’m any great shakes, but I can get it in focus and properly exposed and framed frequently enough to get some serviceable photos.) Actually, our marine tech is a very sharp guy and so I am optimistic. I’ll let you know how it turns out.