Flying High in Albuquerque

Flying High in Albuquerque

After a delightful stay in Pagosa Springs, we headed south to Albuquerque in time for the annual Balloon Fiesta. The Fiesta is a week-long celebration of hot air balloons that has been a major event for many years. Just about everything in town stops and focuses on balloons for the week. We planned our stay for 10 days to take advantage of lots of other things to see as well.  So, we pulled into Enchanted Trails RV park – friendly staff and a convenient location – on a Friday at the start of the Fiesta.

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On the fun side was the small retro RV park they had created – and you could rent these !

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There are day long activities, but we wanted most to see the mass ascension which meant a VERY early (3:30am) departure to the balloon grounds. Should mention it was also cold! But just as dawn was approaching the first of upwards of 500 hot air balloons began to launch…. welcome to this iconic New Mexico event. The following pix are just a sample….. loved all the remarkable special shapes.

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With our other free time we visited the local sights, including the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. What an interesting place with native dances, displays of history and culture as well as vendors of native crafts.

On another day we visited the Biological Park. Didn’t manage to see it all, but wandered the gardens – complete with an amazing model train display and a dragon – and one of the finest aquarium displays I’ve seen.

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Turns out good friends John and Tammy, from Wyoming, who are now also full time travelers (also in a Tiffen motor coach), were in town as well. This provided an opportunity to sample some of the local fare. One night we dined at the Garduno’s at Old Town in the Albuquerque Hotel for a wonderful meal.  The most fun was at the Melting Pot – a fondue restaurant. The food and service were outstanding! This was our first experience at a fondue place, and it took some helpful instruction from our server to work our way through the 4-course meal topped off with chocolate fondue!

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As I write this, we are nearing the end of our stay. But made a last trip to the Fiesta to watch the “Evening Glow’ and other events……

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Critical Times

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Given the unfolding events of the past week or so, I stopped to assess my feelings and have tried to ferret out the truth from all the hype and questionable reporting. Based on the responses I see from my on line community, and considering the sense of the Country, it is a remarkably unusual time. I have never seen a more disreputable or dysfunctional Presidential campaign in my 50+ years of experience. We face profoundly important choices in the near term that will affect our children’s and their children’s lives.

I shy away from the conspiracy theorists and extremists of all kind. Yet, recent events cannot be ignored. Evident, blatant campaign fraud; mishandling and destruction of classified materials; clandestine and unethical meeting crossing political and active legal interests; lying to the Congress and FBI; death of an email hacker in a jail cell; apparent conflict of interest and possible fraud in the management of a family Foundation. Granted that these stories are often spun for political gains, but in mass, and given the timing, it doesn’t pass the laugh test to believe there has been no wrong doing. I believe both political sides have their own set of troubling issues.

Others have said it, and I believe it – we face a crisis of confidence in our leadership. Laws are being bent or ignored to accommodate the powerful, examples of inequality/injustice are pervasive – not just in race and life style, but across the spectrum of human activity. The elite behave as though they have the only truth, and the rest of us had better get with the program or be penalized – and the laws apply differently to them, or not at all. These conditions cannot persist if our Country is to survive in a form we can accept, and the Constitution and Bill of Rights promise.

I called for the FBI Director to be fired for what I believe was a breach of justice if not law. After some consideration, and further information, I retracted that statement in part. In fact, the responsibility and accountability rests higher up the chain. The DOJ Attorney General still has the opportunity to set it right however unlikely that may be. Further, the President is culpable in his enthusiastic support of a candidate whose integrity and judgement is very much in question.

I appreciate what this Country has stood for, even with some occasional warts. I have been pleased and proud to be a citizen. Yet the treatment of all our citizens by the government has increasingly restricted our personal freedom, whether in the name of safety from external threats or the imposition their ‘wisdom’ over ours to force changes in our behavior and/or beliefs. This is all very disheartening. Should this trend continue, conditions will become far worse than merely disheartening. I fear increasing and violent turmoil if our leadership doesn’t correct the path we’re on. Worse, I see little or no evidence of that correction, and strong indications that the electorate in general is unprepared and/or unwilling to act in the Country’s best interest.

From a practical perspective, I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the presumptive candidates, leaving my only option to vote for those ‘down ballot’ who demonstrate a willingness to bring thoughtful change to a broken governmental system – I hope other will do so as well.

How the terrorists win:

  •  We stop trusting everyone, except those who agree with us..
  •  We impugn the motives of anyone with whom we disagree..
  •  We hide in our cave(s), afraid to travel or associate in groups..
  •  We give up our personal freedoms, and privacy in exchange for a false sense of security..

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There is and always has been evil in the world. Fighting it is a continuing challenge. The ISIS threat is not new, though it may be different in kind in some significant ways. It feels extreme and a fundamental threat to civilization. It cannot be allowed to persist.

Individual citizens have incomplete information, and likely false information in part, on which to judge government actions/policies. Determining who/what source(s) to trust is a separate challenge.

For these, and other significant reasons, deciding how to respond to the Syrian refugee issue is especially problematic. Compassion says open our doors, caution says no, wait or some variant prompted by concern for imbedded ISIS threats. I choose to believe that no one wants these individuals to be thrown to the wolves. Deciding how best to help those fleeing from terror, without impugning the motives of those who have different views, should be the goal of a sensible and useful debate.

Listening to disparate news reports and the very personal attacks and counter attacks by our leaders is singularly unhelpful. Leaders of both political parties, especially the President, should be ashamed by their behavior to date.

I for one, want to help those truly in need, AND I want reasonable assurance that my government is protecting us – personally and our way of life – AND our ability to safely enjoy it. These may be conflicting goals that call for some accommodations by all of us – citizens and leaders.

Let’s start by focusing on solutions, sharing fact-checked information, and dispensing with rhetoric and name calling … those can’t do that are not being helpful and should get out of the conversation.

Silly season notes

I try to avoid political comments , but can’t resist this time …..

So, here we are again in the early days of the ‘silly season’. The packed field of candidates that filled the stage last night – for both GOP debates – certainly offered opportunities to confirm the appropriateness of that title. But the consequences of candidate performance and the substance of the issues are anything but silly. I believe the coming election will be pivotal for our Country, and will offer very distinct choices for our future direction. Let’s hope our final choice, whichever Party, has the wisdom to begin closing the divide(s) that continue to stagnate progress.

I watched both debates with some hope for a clear sorting out of the field. It is too soon to be picking winners, but here are a few quick observations. The sooner we get Trump, and his unwarranted, unhelpful arrogance, off the stage the better. Fine that he’s rattled the cage of the political right, but he has little of substance to add, and provides an unfortunate and inaccurate picture of mainstream political conservatives. He surely doesn’t represent me. On the positive side, Carly Fiorina offered a clear, thoughtful and articulate contrast to Trump’s later pompous rants. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t on the same stage, but I believe that will come. The remainder of the field did less to distinguish themselves from the flock, though Carson offered a refreshing view from outside the political establishment. Too bad there wasn’t better time balance for all the candidates. The questions were pointed, issue-oriented for the most part, and candidate were generally responsive.

It will be a long stretch to the election, and I’ll reserve judgement till we see more significant debate on issues, and the other Party gets their candidates up on a similar open forum……. It is not too early to begin watching the large field of candidates with a critical eye – and a good sense of humor…

Freedom of the seas

Is that a reality? The implication is that we can get on our boat and sail anywhere that our draft allows – unobstructed. Just stay clear of the debris gyre, lost containers and other floating hazards. Moreover, we can anchor wherever our fancy suggests, and for however long a time we’d like. While a far more complex issue, there are a few highlights worth noting.

One could argue that international laws about entry and exit aside, and associated costs, at a global level this isn’t too far from the truth. But now scale down to U.S. coastal waters where the vast majority of us sail, and it becomes a bit more problematic. Regulations relating to obstruction of navigation, safety and restricted areas imposed mostly for security reasons are minor nuisances. On another front, we are on the cusp of expanding off-shore development to include large array wind energy generation. New permitting along the east coast (e.g. MD & VA) promises such development in areas that are commonly transited by sailors. To what extent those developments will become hazards to navigation, or interfere with current wind flow patterns, remains unclear. Such wind energy development is well along in other parts of the world.

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A good review of the status and extent of off-shore wind development globally can be found at the BOEM web site http://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy-program/renewable-energy-guide/offshore-wind-energy.aspx .

Of more immediate concern for most of us is the growing interest in some States to control traditionally free water travel along their coasts and inlets. These are clearly ‘waters of the U.S.’ and subject to Federal jurisdiction – generally the Army Corps of Engineers. A case in point is the effort underway in parts of Florida to impose local ordinances that would effectively close many anchorages. These proposed ordinances fly in the face of established State law and policy, yet State agencies are caving to pressure from waterfront residents to follow a process leading to such outcomes. Already many communities have established mooring fields – usable for a fee – that restrict anchoring opportunities spatially and economically. Hopefully, saner heads and existing State laws will prevail, and the movement of boats up and down the east coast of the U.S. will continue unimpeded.

**Those who care about such things should complete the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLA-ANCHOR . Hearings are imminent in Florida.

It must also be added that the ‘Corps’ continues to suffer from budget restrictions that prevent the effective control of shoaling along the AICW. The controlling depth of 8ft MLLW is specified in Federal statute, and is not maintained in many areas. With occasional depths below 5ft the passage of deeper draft boats is restricted. This impediment to travel on the AICW has become chronic and is progressive, making future use of the Waterway problematic.

Change is inevitable, and an essential part of life, but freedom to wander on the waterways of the world feels equally essential – at least to some of us who sail.

Risk is a four letter word

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Many activities we undertake for work or pleasure entail some degree of personal risk. The legal system has a long and complex history of dealing with risk, especially in the work place, and how/where to assess responsibility for harm. It’s less clear in certain areas of the recreation arena. Recent crises and loses, and the reactions to them in the sailing community, raise issues about risk.

We have become a very risk-averse society. The predominant view appears to be that any bad thing that happens must be the responsibility of someone, and steps must be taken to assign blame, assess for any loss and to prevent such from ever happening again. This view makes moot the notion of ‘accidents’,i.e. no one is at fault, and raises real questions about who, if anyone, should decide for each of us what level of risk is appropriate or acceptable for us to accept.

Two events and recent weeks prompted me to revisit my concerns about this trend, and to try to condense the issues at they relate to the sailing community in particular. First, a family set off to cross the Pacific with two young children aboard. The younger became ill, required a significant rescue effort and resulted in the scuttling of the boat. The family is well and working to recover. Second, four very seasoned blue water sailors were returning a boat across the Atlantic, lost a keel and their lives. Their bodies have not been found.

In the first instance, the parents were severely criticized in the media for putting their children at risk. The criticism came largely, if not entirely, from sources that had no relevant sailing experience. The cruising community has come to their defense, and provided much needed support.

In the second, an extensive and largely futile effort was mounted to find/recover the sailors against severe odds. When the search was first called off, there was a loud and massive cry to continue – long after any reasonable chance of finding the missing sailors. That ‘forced’ a re-start of the effort with unsuccessful results, put more folks at risk, and escalated costs.

There were enormous financial costs and personal risks to the rescuers/searchers in both cases. It can be argued that in neither case were the experienced sailors undertaking any unusual or even unreasonable risks. They went off shore in competent boats with adequate experience.

The questions these events raise with me are in the realm of risk assessment and response, including costs. In no particular order: 1) who, besides me, has any right to decide what level of personal risk I may willingly accept in undertaking a voluntary activity? 2) who should be financially responsible for the costs of responses such as were mounted in these cases? 3) should anyone besides the parents decide what degree of risk to impose on minor children, and if so who and how?

I have my personal answers to these questions, at least in part. 1) no one; 2) probably some combination of insurers, public services and the private party depending on the specifics; 3) ‘No’ should be the default, but as a society we clearly believe in protecting minors from irresponsible parental behavior – irresponsible being the operative word. Who’s the judge?

I believe the case can be made in the sick child instance that where it occurred is irrelevant. There are many other remote scenarios that would likely not have raised the same public response. How is an at-sea response any different from a remote shore-side response where an insurer would pay for an ambulance – other than the magnitude of the cost? Parents would likely not have been criticized in such on-shore cases. And, would the public response have been different had it been an adult that needed medical attention? Clearly history says yes. See the following for more, and a thoughtful response to their critics.

The Kaufmans’ journey on their sailboat, Rebel Heart, comes to an alarming and heartbreaking end, igniting a surge of media attention and fury at the rescue’s estimated $663,000 price tag and raising concerns for the safety of their young children. Charlotte Kaufman, mother of two, speaks publicly for the first time.

http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/June-2014/After-the-Rescue-The-Kaufman-Family-Speaks/

In the case of the four sailors lost at sea, the relevant questions are cost-based and who decides, by what criteria, to call off a search. In my view, the professionals conducting the search are in the best position to judge – they did in that case, but unfortunately succumbed to uninformed pressure to continue.

In the end, our personal decisions to accept risk come also with the acceptance of consequences. We shouldn’t have to answer to anyone for those choices. In the case of responsibility for others at sea, minors or otherwise, there is well-developed maritime law. I think the Kaufmann’s made responsible decisions and their public response (see above) make the clear case for them as competent, responsible parents.

The sooner we accept that ‘accidents’ can happen, and that individuals are free to accept risks associated with their personal activities, the better in my view.

 

Poplar Island Progress

What a great restoration story!

See pictures and description of the restoration of Poplar Island. Tremendous progress has been made in about 15 yrs, from a beginning when only about 4 acres of the original island remained.

Follow the link below for an outstanding photo essay…….

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                                 Photo by Steve Droter

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/blog/post/photo_essay_poplar_island_restoration_brings_critical_habitat_back_to_bay