Day 122

We woke up to smoother seas and had a light breakfast before the morning lectures. For a change, we ate on the rear balcony of the ship outside La Veranda.

Terry introduced us to “The Times of Edward Vernon.” Who is that you ask? Someone who left his mark on history and was not remembered. He was born December 12, 1684 in Westminster and joined the Navy in 1700. At this time, there was international interest in the Spanish royal succession. Something equivalent to a world war at that time broke-out, with most European empires taking sides in the War of Spanish Succession. He cited many land and sea battles leading up to the 1714 Treaty. Vernon was there, as Captain, in 1706 at the victorious Naval battles of Gibraltar and Velez Malaga in southern Spain. The returning British fleet would be wrecked in a storm off the Scilly Islands. Vernon would spend the next 10 years on half pay and minor missions to Spain, Jamaica, and the Baltic; but got bored and entered Parliament. In 1731, Spain inflicted severe discipline on an English pirate and smuggler, Robert Jenkins, by cutting off his ear. Britain could not let this act go unpunished; so began the short War of Jenkins Ear. Vernon was placed in charge of a fleet that sailed to Porto Bello near Panama. Spain used this port to ship Peru silver back home. Vernon’s taking of this port on November 21, 1739 made him famous at home and, to recognize this victory, composer Thomas Arne wrote the music that became – Rule Britannia! Following this victory, he set his eyes on Cartagena with its huge vaults of treasures. Despite his overwhelming force of ships and men, he did not succeed. He provisioned in Jamaica and attacked Cuba at Guantanamo Bay and only succeeded in introducing yellow fever to the indigenous people. During these years, serving under him was a Lawrence Washington, half-brother to George Washington, who, after leaving the Navy, returned to his Virginia farm. He so admired serving under his Admiral, that he named his homestead – Mount Vernon! One more thing, Vernon was known as “Old Grog” because of the grogem cloth coat he always wore, but he concocted a sailor’s drink ration made of water, rum, and citrus juices in order to dilute the rum strength and use the foul water flavored with a citrus juice. His sailors called this drink mixture – grog! It was recognized that sailors on his ships seldom contracted scurvy, but no one at that time made the connection. He retired in 1746 and died in 1757. Those are Vernon’s contributions to history.

Rob Warne spoke on Central America, briefly mentioning the violence, gangs, and corruption afflicting Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Nicaragua is going through some turmoil with protests against President Ortega. He spent most of his time on Costa Rica and Panama, the next places we will visit. Costa Rica is the size of West Virginia with 4.5 million people. There is high income and life expectancy. The population is mostly European and agrarian. Slaves were not introduced because there was nothing there the Spanish thought worth exploiting. Ninety percent of the population live in the cooler highlands. One-quarter of the land is in preserves, which makes them eco-friendly and kind to its bio-diversity. One-half of their economy is tourism based and the middle class is growing. The future is in question with growing deficits and the rise of opposition parties. Panama is a similar size but with 25% population considered poor. He mentioned the history of the canal and its transfer. The canal was reaching its capacity with 144 world trade shipping routes crossing the canal. Canal fees were keeping the economy afloat. With a view to maintaining their role, Panama enlarged the canal so that it can handle 2.5 times more shipping. Now 79% of container shipping passes through the canal compared to 45% before expansion. China obtained construction rights from Nicaragua for a canal there. It is still in early conceptual stage.

At the noontime games, we played Family Feud and came in second for points. We had a quick lunch and I went to a photography workshop at 1pm while Pat spent some time in the sun on the Pool Deck. At 2pm, I dashed off to the slots tournament and won that with the highest score the pit boss has ever seen on these tournament slots. I got one lucky super huge hit for about 700,000. I left that and looked for Harris in the Internet lounge for ping pong time. We waited our turn and another couple showed up so we played doubles; a first for us. We played a close game but came up short. Later, Harris and I played and he had a better day than me. I did not feel right. I met Pat at the suite, had a brief rest and went to Mensa and Trivia, the first was good and the second was our usual out of scoring range.

This evening was our friend and neighbor Ruud’s special birthday dinner. Ruud had invited 10 guests for an Indonesian feast, so we were given the only 12 person table in the dining room. We knew everyone there, all world cruisers. The dining room staff and chefs did a great job cooking and serving this special meal, along with a nice dessert cake. Everyone sang, “Happy Birthday,” but Ruud played his recording of his 4 and 6 year old grandkids singing to him in Dutch from earlier this morning. He is Ompa Ruud to them. It was a very enjoyable dinner. We went directly to the theater from here, since it was nearly 9:30.

Tonight’s headliner was Doug Cameron, a wonderful violinist from California, who impressed me immediately with his renditions of “If I Were a Rich man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” and the theme from Fiddler on the Roof. He, with our orchestra, played several songs from Riverdance, some Spanish music, Orange Blossom Special, Time to Say Goodbye, and a few others. His young sons are also accomplished violinists. We are looking forward to Doug’s next show.

Tomorrow we will be in Willemstad, Curacao.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac