Anilou diving

After a very long break of more than 15 months, we are back in the water. Having just attended a very memorable wedding in Manila where Juliet and I were honoured to be 'Ninog' and 'Ninang' (Godfather + Godmother) - but it is a wedding ok. Ok things are sometimes different than back at home - but that's ok - the day was a splendid success, with the Bride and Groom looking very happy and relaxed.

After civic duty #1 accomplished, we decided that a reward of some quality "us" time was in order - and as Juliet's sister and husband are over from the US; We picked a spot we have already been to - in the hope it would be magical again.

Anilou

Anilou is one of the best places in the world for quality, relaxed and easy access diving. It is especially well know in the macro-photography world for the wide range of simply weird critters that generally crawl around the coral reefs here.

Despite a rather muddled start to the day - we enjoyed a fine lunch before Dora and myself headed underwater.

Dive 1

A basic check out dive - nothing too stressful. We again seem to have an issue with keeping Dora underwater - I had packed a spare weight so we did not have to come back to shore.

Once all our ears were clear - we headed out into the Aquarium - spectacular as ever, and then proceeded down the reef and out to sea. Whilst there was nothing outstanding - the fish, coral and general quality was as good as the last time (well done the Marine Sanctuary)

Max Depth 22.5M dive time 42 mins.

Here is the Video for this dive

Dive 2

As we were not too "loaded" with N2 after the first dive - we warmed ourselves with a coffee and a fresh banana fritter. The objective this time was again to get a little depth - but also to try and find the giant clams. It makes a change knowing that your target is immobile - the only issue now is the underwater navigation !!

We were successful in finding the clams and achieving our depth. Dora seemed to be breathing more heavily than normal - maybe a combination of the cold (25C) and the shock of two dives in under 3 hours.

Here is the Video for this dive

Enter the Snorkellers

Jocelyn Lamship who along with her husband Remmy were also on the small island, and with our backup GoPro - Jocelyn tried her hand at underwater video. The results are quite stunning.

Here is the Video for this dive

The following day Jocelyn also took some video - which is equally impressive.

Here is the Video for this dive

Final Dives

With over 7 dives in 2 days - we feel like we had convered most of the attractions of the Dive n Trek shore dive sites. Alas our time on the island was curtailed by our presence being required back in Manila - where we attended our 2nd Wedding of the trip.

Here is the Video for this dive

Titanic Museum

Belfast and the Titanic

A degree of uncertainty and doubt about the weather, caused us to doubt our Rathlin Island trip - and instead we headed to Belfast where we could go and see the highly recommended Titanic Exhibition.

Driving from the Antrim Coast into Belfast went smoothly - but then our in-phone routing system started getting a little crazy. Several laps of Belfast City centre and the Crumlin road area later - we were parked and checked into the hotel.

After a quick web-site update - we were off again for a nibble and a glass (or two) of the local brew.

Titanic exhibition

The dock area in Belfast has been very nicely upgraded and cleaned up. Standing just in front of where Titanic was originally built in the slips - close to the Iconic Harland and Wolf crane is the Titanic Exhibition centre.

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The outside of the building I think is already iconic - Dora just wanted to add her seal of approval to it.

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We arrived just as it opened - yet already there were people ahead of us. The cost of a ticket was rather a shock at £17/per person, and there was an additional £8/pp for a tour of the surrounding area. Alas the "extra" tour was already fully booked.

Exhibition

WOW I think sums the exhibition. It has some of the best A/V, interactive displays - combined with nice staff and a layout that is world class. Top Marks.

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Antrim Coast

Antrim Coast

The morning drive to Coleraine, went smoothly as I passed some of my past play-grounds. It was interesting to see what had changed - and what hadn't. Overall Northern Ireland seemed to have advanced much more than the North of England.

With dull administration taken care of - we headed off to see some of the great sights - I am not sure if Dora realized with had done 2 laps of the amazing North West 200 bike circuit - alas in a 1.3 Vauxhall it is hardly the same thing as being on a decent motorbike.

Dunluce Castle

Just out from PortRush are the ruins of an old castle. Which was sacked by the local Irish peasants in 1690. Just how they were able to accomplish this I rather wonder about - as it is pretty difficult to get access too.

Dora at the entrance

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The castle as it looks today

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Dora the Ulster Explorer

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Fantastic Location

The castle is literally perched on top of some rocks by the sea.

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The Giants Causeway

A few kms past the small town of Bushmills (which should be more famous for it's distillery than some rocks) - is the National Trust site of "The Giants Causeway". Now I know it had been 30 years since I last went there - but in those days - you could drive down in your own car. Today the NT have a car park bigger than a large ASDA/Tecso - and change you very handsomely to go to the site. They additionally omit to tell you that there is a long long walk (but a bus ride where they can extract extract $$$'s from you) - being mean - and liking the walk we opted for the walk, and were thoroughly glad we had done so.

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This is what all the fuss is about !!

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Dora enjoying the view.

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There are more images including these in the photo gallery

HMS Trincomalee

Hartlepool - (once the monkey hanging capital of the British Empire), alas is not overly well stocked with National Treasures however over the past 10 or so years there has been much investment and development of the marina/dock facilities. Once of the success stories has been the Royal Navy Museum, Hartlepool.

With this being the last day of 2016, we decided to go and see what the deal was for ourselves.

Hartlepool Museum

Free - take note York Minster !! An excellent collection of things relating to old and modern Hartlepool, with more focus on ships and on the Wars that took a very heavy toll on their shipping.

HMS Trincomalee

Floating, and yet surrounded by an 19th century houses sits HMS Trincomalee, which was build on the island of Sri Lanka. Restored in Hartlepool and has been exhibited here for a few years.

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Main Deck

Crewed by 240 men, when you first walk onto the top deck - you think there will be enough space. It is only as you descend into the ship - that the feeling of closeness starts building upon you.

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The masts with their myriad of stays, were howling in the wind as a decent north east breeze whilstled by.

Dora tried her hand at steering - only then to find out that up to 5 men were deployed in this task for real !!

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View from the bow - looking astern. fn

Gun Deck

As we dropped down a deck - we entered the main gun-deck. This deck was the main fighing deck - and would have been amazingly busy in a battle. After about 2 minutes I was reminded about a vow I made several years ago when sailing to India - never sail on a yacht I can not stand up fully in!!. The gun deck had pockets that were 193 cm tall - but most of the time I am walking bend double.

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Captains cabin

In stark contrast as to how the enlisted men were treated - the captain had a splended cabin.

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The high tech cot for the captain.

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Lower deck

With modern lighting this deck did not seem to worrying - but I then tried to imagine how dark it would have been in reality - with few lights - or candles - simply navigating your way around here would have been very difficult.

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Orloop Deck

The final deck - where you could clearly see the keel - and the lead ballast. Interestingly was the steel water tank for the fresh water - which seemed a very sensible idea for the time.

Here and there were small access hatches - which no doubt all had a role to play on a warship such as this.

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The Headland

After leaving behind the oldest floating warship in the world, we indulged in some fish and chips before having a very bracing walk along the breakwater.

The North East winds were really blowing - and for the first time on the trip, Juliet felt cold to the core.

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Andy Capp

I am not just sure which paper the cartoon used to appear in - but Andy Capp was alledgedly a monkey hanger - so it was great to see his statue overlooking the mouth of hartlepool harbour. Juliet joined in the pose as you can see.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

York

York

With the days starting to tick away on this short break, we continued to explore the North of the UK - this time heading towards the city of York.

York turned out to be better than we had thought - and we had a great time there.

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Olde World Charm ?

York has some of the finest collection of old streets and buildings in the UK. I am not 100% sure that they always have the best quality items inside them - but that is a subject for another day.

Here were a few slight oddities that you do not see everyday in general old part of the city.

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Tudor Buildings

There seemed no-end of Tudor looking buildings, Some even caught the attention of Dora !!

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York Minster

Having visited a few big religious buildings such as The Vatican and Notre Damme - I thought that Dora may like to appreciate some English stonework and culture. The other two places were free - but here in the UK - £10/per person !!! So we got to look at the Minster from the outside. More in protest rather than being mean .... on second thoughts it was mainly becuase I was mean....

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There were lots of very fine looking church buildings around the Minster grounds- no doubt those £10 pound entrance fees for the minster being spent well.

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Again Tudor buildings abounded - opposite this is a very interesting looking sundail. The wrong lense stopped me from attempting to take a picture of it.

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This doorway is the enterance to a school.

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Post Box

A wonderfully well kept british post box.

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Jorvic Centre

We visited one of the Jorvic centre's exhibitions in the town - and the only really interesting thing is this is (alledgedly) how you spell Dora using Runes.

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The Abbey of St Mary

Found in the York Museum garden, is a ruined Benedictine abbey. It is a Grade 1 listed building - and makes for a lovely walk around in the afternoon sun.

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Dora enjoying the ruins.

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Whitby for a birthday treat

With my dad not being just 100%, we combined a treat for him with a trip for me and Juliet - and headed off to the coast, to the well known town of Whitby.

Whitby has lots of attractions

  • Abbey
  • Sea side
  • Surrounding countryside
  • Dracula (Uk Landing point, in some books)
  • Fish 'n Chips

Those planning on their first visit should be aware that the local seagull population are food stealing specalists. No please do not feed the seagulls.

SandsEnd

Easy to get to - go to Whitby and walk North on the beach. When then sand stops, you have reached the village of SandsEnd - I suspect it was some local joke name at one point, the joke name rather stuck.

Very pretty - but seriously cold with the North Sea breeze coming gently ashore. There were people in the water Surfing, and Paddle Boarding !!

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1920's Shelter

Perched on the cliff tops overlooking the harbour entrance, is a wonderful Victorian style wind break - which in the mornings sun-light looked simply wonderful.

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The famout Whale Bone is aprox 200m south of this point.

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View south looking down to the narror harbour entrance.

A working port

It sometimes difficult to remmeber that Whitby still is a working port - and whilst I am sure it is nothing comapred to the fishing industry that once existed here - there still are quite a few boats that are based from the town.

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A walk to the end of the pier

The piers in Whitby have great pedestrian access, until the final 1/3rd - and then as you have to walk along planks people who need to use a walking stick I think would have a difficulties.

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Here we saw a small crabber head out to check their pots.

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Dora the Whitby explorer

In case you are wondering where she is .... yes she was there.

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RSPB Saltholme

RSPB Salthome

It came as quite a surprise to find out that there is an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) sanctuary sitting in the middle of Teeside/Tees-Port.

Why ?

The whole area looks like some evil scientists chemical lab - with countless towers belching steam/smoke - pipes litter the scenary - plus the Nuclear power-station some 5 kms down the road. Hardly the place to go wildlife spotting eh ?

Well - you would be very wrong. So Dora the Bird watching Explorer and I headed there this morning - so see what was going on.

Who was here ?

I do not condone vandalism, but this morning I made a slight exception.

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It was rather chilly to say the least.

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The Walks

There are at least 6 seperate walks which depending upon the time of year would yield a different set of birds. Never having been there, and despite the bracing weather we did more of a walk with some bird-watching.

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You must be Quackers

With some excellent hides it was really easy to get close to some of the birds life. In fact this brace of duck were doing a good comedy act of showing how to walk on ice.

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Countless other birds were there - but as I had not packed "the big lense" - some were too far away to see.

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An excellent day out - highly recommended.

Dora goes Mountain walking

Dora does Mountain Walking.

With some Sun !! and no wind, we took the opportunity to get out and about and go and explore the North Yorkshire Moors - which lie aprox 4 kms south from my parents village.

Dora was happy to try something new - not fully realising how cold and much hard work this would be. I also forgot how much mud we would possible have to walk through.

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Up up and more up !

The walk up to the summit is quite hardwork - But the fresh air and the wind provided much needed at times encouragement.

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Grand Views

At the top we were treated to wonderful views -stretching across to Captain Cook's Monument to the industrial development in Teeside.

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The Wainstones

A local feature - these rather strange rock outcrops attract walkers, climbers as well as photographers.

There always seems to be something new when you visit this place - which for me was over 30 years ago.

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If you go down to the woods today ....

The way back to the car - was supposed to be easy - quick and better than staying up on the top of the hills. Err.... instead is rather became mud infested obstacle course. Apologies

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View towards Hemsley

As we neared the end of the walk, there was a very pleasant view looking towards Helsley/York. The sun was rapidly becoming weaker and the wind rising - so we were glad to have had a Walk in the Woods. fn

Maseriah 2016

Trip excuse

As I had to work the previous "National Day" for Oman, and this weekend was the UAE National Day ("good for Juliet") I was able to slip away from the office for 1 day TOIL, and we decided to head to the island of Maseriah.

Dora looking happy as we had arrived at the ferry.

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Why Maseriah ?

  • Juliet had not been there ever
  • It was 11 years since I was last there (Alas when Eilse McKiver passed away)
  • Oppertunity for an IOTA activation

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The national ferry company nice new ferries which run to a schedule !! Next time we will 100% use these guys.

Getting there

From Muscat Maseriah is about 8 hours by road, and I break this down as

  • Muscat to Sinaw 2 Hours
  • Sinaw to Film 2.5 Hours
  • Film to Shanna 0.5 hours
  • Ferry 1.5 Hours

Grand Total... 6.5 hours. But you said it was 8 hours ? Well spotted - you see there is only 1 ferry company with a published set of sailings - and that is the goverment National Ferry Company (looks very nice by the way). Everyone else needs to use a private ferry - and they only sail when they are FULL.

When I say FULL I mean you can not fit a Fiat-500 on the deck unless you start stacking cars.

On the way out we waited a mere 3 hours for the ferry to fill up, on the way back - a mere 20 minutes.

When you get off the ferry the nicest camping areas are at least 1 hours drive....

8 Hours is the time from Muscat to Maseriah camping !!

Packed Ferries

As it was the UAE national day the ferries were very busy indeed. 80% of the cars going over were UAE - we witnessed a group of Indian expats hire their own private ferry (at some cost) - but we along with lot of Emiratees sat and waited for our ferry to slowly fill up.

When we eventually left - the 90 minutes trip only felt like 2 hours.. as there is nothing to do. We were at least able to get out of our cars - some people we packed in so tightly - you could not even walk past their vehicle.

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South to campsite

On leaving Hilf (which I confess looked just the same as the previous times I had been there)

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We headed out to the Indian Ocean side of the island - past where the BBC site used to be - opposite there is now a very large police station and what used to be the Crown Plaza Hotel, has been rebranded. Down the Indian Ocean side we drove, until Dora - who was the "unwell explorer" needed a rapid exit from vehicle. In fact she tested all her bodies emergancy evaucuation routes in about 5 minutes. This was worrying - as it is usually me who suffers from aliments when travelling - but if Dora has it first....

I found what I though would be a nice campsite - and leaving Dora in the car, set up the tent, shade etc. After some fluids and Advil colour slowly returned to Dora's cheeks.

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Maseriah Camping

Simply excellent - we had a nice spot, had only 1 set of visitors - who were happy to chat to us in Arabic, and seemed happy how we were parked (off the beach, clean - no lights etc) - not stealing from their fish traps we had spotted also probably contributed to the generaly good behaviour from both sides.

IOTA

A little frustrating to be honest. My KX3 seemed unable to output more than 5W of power, despite recent improvements via the firmware regarding the output power. I tried to check if this or that setting was to blame - but in the end, I feared that the recent ATU and 2M modules had somehow caused something unpleasant to occur.

I managed to work 10 countries - the furthest being Luxembourg - and the closest being the UAE - which ironically was much easier in AS-014 rather than from Muscat.

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KX3 Problems

On returning home, I discovered that the power leads are simply to skinny - and by replacing them with thicker core leads I am able to pull higher power. Sometimes the simple things are the most difficult to find.

BuddyPole Problems

I am continuing my love-hate relationship with buddypole, whilst it is a well thought out - easy to use system, it is one that has a 0% chance of surviving if anything goes wrong. With a few string gusts of wind this weekend, one of the tent pegs was pulled out of the ground and seconds later the whole things crashed to the ground. The result 2 totally broken poles. An exact replica of Dec 2015 !!

I can fix the current breakages I think with a set of jubilee clips - but I lost 18 hours of opererating due to this failure.

Wildlife?

Nothing, we saw nothing cool except

  • flamingos
  • partridge
  • wagtails
  • Egyptian Vultures
  • Ospreys

And as for fishing...

Gallery

There are lots more images in the gallery.