Rolling on the Mekong

Cruising the Mekong River

Cruising the Mekong River

One of the things I most looked forward to on this adventure to southeast Asia was cruising the Mekong River.  I had no expectations, just curiosity and a desire to take it all in.

Mekong RiverThe Mekong is a long wandering highway originating in China and passing through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.  What I experienced was from Phnom Pehn to the outskirts of Saigon, and each part of the journey opened my eyes and challenged me to think hard about life and appreciate how lucky I am.

Mekong RiverOn the water, it appears that any vessel that floats is acceptable.  Some are for commercial transport, some for ferries, some for fishing.

Mekong RiverAlong the banks of the Mekong are developing industrial complexes, fish farms and fields of green where much of the work is done by hand.

Mekong RiverPopulation on this part of the river is fairly dense, and houses are built of whatever materials one can find.  Some are on stilts, others seem to be floating platforms.  The people are poor, but, surprisingly, each house appeared to have a TV antenna.  Asked why, a guide said that most of the people are illiterate, so they use their ears in place of reading.

Mekong RiverOne of the things that continued to surprise me was how hard women worked whether it was on the ground or in the water.  It is no wonder they are so small!

Mekong RiverAlways there are markets, some floating, some ashore.  In both cases, the trade is brisk and there is everything from fruits and vegetables to seafood to rats to chicken heads and feet.  I was hoping some of these items were not going to appear on my plate.

Mekong RiverWhen night fell, all these scenes were blotted out and good food and fun on the boat took over.  Aussie and British companions of the Traveling Sisterhood proved to be very good company, and we all enjoyed sharing our views of the day’s experience.

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Yesterday & Today

Growing up in Florida and living in Texas, there have been numerous opportunities in my life to prepare for a hurricane.  In Maine, however, this was a first.  It wasn’t certain that Irene would hit the coast, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so many precautions were exercised.

Rockport Harbor looked like mid October with many boats being pulled

and floating docks were attached to moorings to keep them from splintering in high winds and rough seas.

Though the hurricane did not hit directly, she sent rain and howling winds that caused boats to bob up and down like toys from early Sunday evening and on into the night.

Pipe Dreams weathered the activity better than most as she sat solidly in the harbor.

The water was murky and angry,  crashing  loudly against the rocks,

and limbs and leaves were everywhere.

Morning broke breezy, clear and warm, leaving all traces of Irene behind.

Notice that the boats have shifted in the harbor and rest more easily on the water.

Waves have settled, the water slides smoothly over the rocks,

and the kayaks are still in place.

All I can think about is how much work was done to ready for the projected storm and how much energy it will take to get all those boats back in the water. It’s possible that many are done for the season.  When a storm doesn’t hit, it seems like a lot of effort wasted, but, again, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Rockport Harbor, A Special Place

Years ago, Charles Kurault referred to midcoast Maine’s Rockport Harbor as one of the five most beautiful places he had visited.  I’ll not disagree.

  It is home to about fifteen lobster boats, the sound of which wake me most mornings,

and more than a hundred pleasure craft, all sizes and shapes.

At one end of the harbor is a boat yard specializing in building wooden boats

and at the entrance from the bay is a classic lighthouse.

Lime was once the lifeblood of the harbor.  Now all that remains are the kilns

and a train engine that might have pulled loaded cars away.

Rockport Harbor’s real claim to fame is Andre, an orphaned seal that the then harbormaster took under his wing, raised and trained to do tricks.  Stories about Andre and his antics are still being told by old-timers, and he is immortalized with a bronze, oops granite, sculpture that enchants kids, young and old.

No matter the time of day

or the season, Rockport Harbor is a most special place that touches my soul.

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How We Explore Maine’s Islands

Here’s a bit of trivia for you.  There are roughly 3,000 islands off the coast of Maine.  If you connected them all and included the coastline, Maine would stretch all the way to Key West.  There was a time when about 300 of the islands were inhabited, but as times changed and boats became faster people moved to the mainland where life was easier.  Now, only about 15 of Maine’s islands can claim a permanent population.

If you are going to explore the islands, a boat is a must.  For many years we were sailors, and while we still love the idea of sailing, once we decided we wanted to explore as much of Maine’s waters as possible we became stink potters, a term describing power boaters.  Initially, the sound of engines was troublesome, but once I realized how quickly we could move from place to place the noise became less of an irritant.

Our boat is called Pipe Dreams, which aptly describes the years we dreamed of spending more time in a place we had fallen in love with.  She is a powerful craft, and we have not only cruised the Maine coast but have taken her to Boston and New York and up the Hudson River to Burlington, Vermont.  She’s also been south to the Chesapeake, another boater’s playground.

We’ve had many a picnic aboard.  Lobster rolls are always a favorite.

Munchies are good for an afternoon cruise

and when there’s an overnight trip there’s no problem making a yummy dinner

or breakfast to be enjoyed aboard.

On our island explorations,  the tablescapes are not ones that would make Martha Stewart proud,  but that doesn’t take away from the taste of what is served.  In fact, there’s something kind of nice about living simple on board and enjoying the experience.

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