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January 6, 2002

Happy New Year 2002!

Happy New Year!
... now that I've finally recovered enough to write

We spent New Year on the boat and had a lovely time, though the temperature has dropped rapidly since then. It was 0c here on Thursday night and the people of Florida have been walking around looking a bit shocked by the icy conditions - though some of them are still wearing shorts. We passed a guy walking down the main street with a chainsaw and a crazed look on his face the other day, so I guess the cold weather affects people in different ways.

We're still anchored in Titusville as we're due to fly back to Europe in another week or two, but things have been fairly interesting in the anchorage this week. Everything was quite calm on Wednesday afternoon when we were suddenly hit by a squall with winds up to 50 knots (100km/h) and torrential rain pounding down. We were confident that our anchor was dug in well enough so that we wouldn't move, but the danger is always that you'll get hit by another boat as it drags across the anchorage. Several boats appeared to be on the move, but one in particular caught our attention. There was a red sailing boat with apparently no-one on board that looked like it was coming straight for us. Nina and I grabbed our waterproofs and got out onto deck, ready to fend it off, but it slid by with some space to spare. The wind had dropped to about 35 knots now, but the red boat continued dragging and was on course to run into Titusville swing bridge, which is about 500m away from us. I called the bridge operator on the radio to warn them that there was a boat adrift heading towards them, then Nina and I grabbed lifejackets and climbed into the dinghy to go over and try to board it. As the rain was falling so heavily, it was flattening the worst of the waves down, but the dinghy was still full of water and the rain was just running down our faces and into our mouths. We made it over to the red boat as it was half-way over to the bridge, Nina stayed alongside in the dinghy with the engine running in case we had to get away fast, and I got on board. There was a wind generator hoisted above the foredeck which was going crazy in the storm, and I had to duck down low so that I wouldn't get hit by the spinning blades. There was definitely no-one on board, so I let out all of the anchor chain to slow the boat down, then put out another anchor. Slowly, her bows swung around into the wind as the anchors began to dig in, and she stopped drifting. When we were sure that she was safe, I crawled back under the wind generator, got back into the dinghy, and we returned to Zamindar, very, very wet. In the evening, however, we noticed a puzzled couple returning to their relocated boat after looking all over the anchorage for it!

January 16, 2002

Swimming in January

It wouldn't have been right to spend time on the boat without going swimming and so today we had a refreshing dip here in Titusville. We dropped a lock over the side while we were lifting the dinghy out of the water and after lots of fishing for it with a very large magnet, we heard it clunk onto something and thought we'd found it. Unfortunately, it's been getting down to freezing at nights here lately, so the swim to retrieve it turned out to be more stimulating than I'd expected. With my fins and snorkel on, I went over the side into the water, and felt instantly like the people you see on Russian documentaries who have just cut a hole in the ice and jumped in. Swimming in marinas is not the most pleasant thing to do at the best of times due to lots of boats pumping their waste out regularly, so as you can imagine the water was fairly murky. Nevertheless, I swam down and pulled what I thought was the lock out of the mud, rose to the surface with it, and found myself holding an empty brandy bottle!

This evening, while we were cycling back from Taco Bell, we were lucky enough to see a rocket take-off from Kennedy Space Centre (or Center as they insist on spelling it). The sky was dark and completely clear so it was quite stunning to see it light everything up like daylight as it climbed out of the atmosphere. We didn't have much time to watch it though as our tacos were getting cold.

At the moment I'm reading 'Notes from a Big Country' by Bill Bryson, which, as well as being one of his best books, is essential reading for anyone who's interested in what living in America today is really like. It's nice to see that I'm not the only one banging my head against beaurocracy, inefficiency and the world's worst payphones, but, I don't care, for tomorrow we're off to the airport and leaving the US behind for a month or two (if they let me back in then). We fly to Reykjavik for a breakfast of raw fish and then catch a connection onto London where I shall head to the nearest pub while Nina rushes across London to Stansted to try to catch a flight to Copenhagen.

January 23, 2002

Flying out of the USA

Back in civilisation. It feels great to be back in Britain and I'm currently in Bristol staying with Chris.

Getting out of the US turned out to be more interesting than I'd hoped for. Due to the increased security in Orlando airport we had to queue for an hour for the security check, during which I advised Nina to get rid of the nail files and other offensive weapons that she regularly carries around. As normally happens, however, I was the one who set off the metal detectors and was taken aside for 'special attention'. After further searching, removal of items from my pockets, and managing to convince the security officers that the smell from my shoes was not hidden explosives, but my socks, I was still setting off the alarms and a portable metal detector was put down my trousers. It was then that I dug deep into my pockets and discovered my long lost pocket knife! Unfortunately, they failed to share my happiness with this find, and went off to update my FBI records to 'suspected terrorist'.

January 24, 2002

Going to Copenhagen

Tomorrow I fly to Copenhagen at 18:40 (arriving 21:30) on BA 0820.
Live arrival info from Copenhagen airport is here.

January 31, 2002

One of the things about

One of the things about being in Denmark is that internet time is cheap after midnight. Much as I try to avoid it, this gradually starts to shape my time here, and I find myself sitting in a dark room lit only by the glare of my laptop screen at 2am as Windows tells me that it's crashed again. I've just upgraded to Internet Explorer 6.0, and the main improvement is that I now get a pop-up window when it crashes. Thanks, Bill.