Archive for August 23rd, 2021

August 23, 2021

Windjammers Barefoot Cruises, Fantome!

This is a memorable experience that have been kept in my heart for many years when as a young men cruise the Caribbean sea from island to island! Those were the seafaring days of youth and single in Florida! I like to bring back this memorable moment of mine and hope you enjoy it too. Let me tell you a bit more of the Windjammers Barefoot Cruises, Fantome!

I had in my earlier life enjoy cruisings especially the singles kind… This was wonderful cruises to the Caribbean and it was awesome (see post on my sailings). Even now the memories are vivid and nice even in the sadness of it all.  I came many many years back into the Windjammers Barefoot Cruises and was booked a cruise to the Caribbean British Virgin Islands I believe was like in 1987-1988 but can’t recall exactly. I went on to two more cruises into the Roatan , Honduras and Costa Rica areas but the Virgin Islands was tops. 

As I came up with articles to write in my blog; I read the book, and I decided to rend hommage to the folks who took these cruises and especially those that perished at sea on the SV Fantome! Here is a bit of their story.

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The Windjammer Barefoot Cruises was a leisure cruise line based in Miami Beach, Florida.  Founded in 1947 by Michael Burke, the company scheduled one and two week cruises in the Caribbean and Central America, using a fleet of sailing ships. The ships were former yachts and commercial vessels that were refurbished as cruise vessels, accommodating 60–100 paying passengers and 20–40 officers and crewmembers. The ships were refitted to resemble 19C sailing vessels called windjammers. Caribbean itineraries included the British Virgin Islands, French West Indies, Grenadines, the ABC islands, and the Bahamas. Recent and former Central American itineraries included Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Belize.

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In September 2007, Windjammer’s entire fleet was suspended from operating any further cruises. All remaining parts of the company that were still operating were shut down in April 2008. Later that year, the company’s assets were auctioned off. The four ships they operated are all laid up and were left in a neglected state of condition. It was a sad ending to a tragic event.

My boat, the Fantome was a 679-ton staysail schooner. Completed in 1927 for the Duke of Westminster,  it was purchased by Windjammer in 1969, and became flagship of the fleet. During its twenty-nine years of service in this regard, Fantome offered cruises in the Caribbean and the Bay of Honduras. She was lost in October 1998, during Hurricane Mitch.

tortola BVI going ashore from fantome 1988

A bit of the story of the Fantome I like

Originally ordered for the Italian navy but before completion was purchased by the Duke of Westminster, who finished her as a yacht  in 1927.  The Duke of Westminster used the Fantome only a few years before it changed hands twice in short order. Ultimately, it was acquired by Irishman A. E. Guinness, heir to the brewing fortune that bore his family’s name.  Guinness had taken her into the Pacific in the late 1930s and when war broke out in Europe in 1939, the Fantome was in Alaskan waters. Reluctant to cruise further or return to Ireland, he elected to lay her up in Seattle (Washington State USA) for the duration of hostilities. At the end of the war she was stranded in Portage Bay for 14 years, barred by  King County from sailing pending the payment of back taxes. In 1969, Windjammer owner and founder Michael Burke flew to Greece to purchase the schooner directly from Aristotle Onassis. He bought it, sight unseen, in exchange for a freighter. Windjammer then set about refurbishing Fantome, which became the flagship of their fleet of six vessels.

On 24 October 1998, Fantome departed the harbor of Omoa in Honduras for a planned 6 day cruise. Hurricane Mitch, then over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away in the Caribbean Sea, was expected to pose a risk to Jamaica and possibly the Yucatán Peninsula. By dawn on the following day, however, Mitch seemed to change course. Fantome immediately changed course for Belize City, where it disembarked all of its passengers and non-essential crew members. The schooner then departed Belize City, first heading north towards the Gulf of Mexico, in order to outrun the storm!

The plan was to make for the lee side of the island of Roatan (Honduras). In case Mitch made landfall in the Yucatán or Belize, by being on the southern side of the island, it would provide her with enough protection to keep it from getting damaged by large swells and high winds. However, Mitch, now a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 180 mph (285 km/h), took a jog towards the south, directly towards Roatan. The Fantome made one desperate attempt to flee to safety, now heading east towards the Caribbean. Mitch’s forward motion picked up, though, and Fantome was unable to outrun the storm.  It has been recorded that around 16h30 (4:30 pm) on 27 October 1998, with Mitch having weakened but still at Category 5 intensity, Fantome reported that it was fighting 100-mile-per-hour (160 km/h) winds in 40-foot (12 meters) seas. They were just 40 miles (64 km) south of Mitch’s eyewall. Radio contact was lost with Fantome shortly after that.

On 2 November, 1998 a helicopter dispatched by the British destroyer HMS Sheffield discovered life rafts and vests, labeled “S/V Fantome,” off the eastern coast of Guanaja, Honduras. It was all that was found of the Fantome!  Sadly, all 31 crew members aboard perished, and a memorial service was held for them on December 12, 1998. RIP many of them I have come to know and were good hard working humble folks from many Caribbean islands trying to make a living. They were happy and proud to serve on such a wonderful ship ,the Fantome will be remembered forever so will they. Thanks for the memories; this is my humble tribute to them all.

The story was recorded in the book The Ship and The Storm by Jim Carrier (ISBN 0-07-135526-X). Of course, I have the book, see pic.

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There is the webpage Caribbean Compass on the Fantome tragic end: https://www.caribbeancompass.com/fantome.htm

There is a youtube video short and nice on life aboard the Fantome:

This one is for you and me ,friends, for the memories and for those who sailed with me ,before and after on the wonderful Fantome; memories to last a lifetime. If anyone is reading from this experience feel free to leave your comments. Much appreciated. Thank you.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

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August 23, 2021

Molina de Aragon!!

Oh yes another wonderful old town of my dear Spain; this is deep country and our road warrior trips at its best. There are so many towns that will take you a life time to see them all, and each is unique. Let me do a mix here update an older post and add new text and picture for a complete look of Molina de Aragon. Hope you enjoy it as I.

I go around these towns a lot on my roundtrips between France and Spain, and sometimes wish I could have spent more times in them. Molina de Aragon is in the province of Guadalajara in the Autonomous Community (region) of Castilla La Mancha.

A bit of history I like

During the reconquest it was taken by the Aragonese king Alfonso I the Battler (Batallador)  in 1128. Around 1139, the lands were taken again by Manrique de Lara, and the zone was constituted in independent lordship, in favor of this later, that granted to the town of Molina  in 1142. king Enrique II of Castila donated Molina to his Lieutenant Bertrand du Guesclin (famous knight of France), although the people, in the context of the war between Castilla and Aragon, rebelled and decided to put it under the sovereignty of Aragon in the year 1366, culminating the process three years later with the acceptance on the part of the Aragonese king. He finally returned to Castilian hands in 1375, to be given the lordship in the marriage of Leonor ,Infanta of Aragon in her marriage to the Infante Juan de Castilla. During the Spanish war of Independence(or peninsular war ), the behavior of resistance of the inhabitants to the Napoleonic troops, motivated that these, in retaliation, burned the villa. In recognition, the Spanish courts granted the city with the title of “very noble and very loyal city”.

And for the main item in my opinion is the castle of Molina de Aragon , with a second the former Monastery of San Francisco. Let me give some history and info on them I like

The Castillo de Molina de Aragón castle, also called Fortaleza de Molina de los Caballeros fortress, is in a state of consolidated ruin, and it is possible to visit it on request.  The origin of this fortress goes back to an Alcazar that raised the Andalusians on an old Celtiberian castrum between the 10C and 11C, and in which they placed their residence the Kings that governed this Taifa (moors kingdom or territory). Until it was definitively snatched from the Andalusians  by king Alfonso I of Aragon in the year 1129, which ordered to rebuild it, giving it its current aspect of a Romanesque castle,history goes on but I just tell you that after many change of hands finally, the fifth lady, Doña Blanca de Molina, finished giving it  the size and the current aspect of today.

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It is the largest castle of those that are currently in Guadalajara province. It has an outer wall, with numerous defense towers, which surrounds the perimeter and protects the fortress itself. The inner castle came to have eight towers, of which are preserved remains of two and four other in good condition.  The fortress has two enclosures: the exterior or large proportions, 80×40 meters, defended by various battlements and the interior, where the castle is raised with six towers, four in good condition or restored.  The exterior enclosure has five access doors: The north Traicion gate (betrayal), the Caballos (horses) to the south, the Campo (field) to the east and the Puertas (doors) of the clock tower and Puerta de Hogalobos gate to the west. In addition to these ,there are others on the wall that surrounded the medieval city, such as Medinaceli, Baños, Valencia and the Puente (bridge).  The access to the exterior enclosure of the fortress is carried out by the door of the clock tower and to the interior, after crossing the Patio de Armas (Arms courtyard), by the door located in the tower of Veladores (lookout sailors)  on the interior enclosure; Next to it are aligned the central tower or of the arms and the tower of the Homenaje (homage)  or Doña Blanca. On the north wall is the Cubiertas (covered) or Caballeros (knights) tower.

The Molina de Aragon tourist office on the castlehttps://www.turismomolinadearagon.com/castillomolinadearag%C3%B3n

The other sight to see here is the former Monasterio de San Francisco, a franciscan monastery founded in the 13C ,now is a senior citizen home managed by the Hermanas de la Caridad de Santa Ana (sisters of charity of Ste Anne), and on another space there is a small museo Comarcal de Molina de Aragon or town museum on its history.

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This monastery was founded in 1284 for Blanca Alfonso de Molina who was granddaughter of king Alfonso IX of Léon. In 1810 the invading French general Roquet put fire to the town with a quarter of its buildings destroyed; the Franciscan left town after been heavily damaged. By 1836 due to the laws of Mendizàbal (separation church and state!) officially declared the religious Franciscan prohibited from living in the monastery. The monastery became property of the State and a hospital was created there. Finally in 1886; the church monastery was occupied by the Hermanas de la Caridad de Santa Ana creating a hospital for the poor called Hospital de Santo Domingo.

The church of the monastery was build in a Gothic style but later in the 16-17C was modified. The church has one nave, and covered with vaults that rest on columns. One each side are chapels of a renaissance style with the one of the Evangelio Chapel ,the most ornate as well as the Chapel of the Epistola. At the height of the church you see the choir of great dimensions. The founder Blanca Alfonso de Molina was buried here in the center of the monastery church. Later in the 19C due to the laws of Mendizàbal they were transferred to the Church San Gil in town. After the fire of the monastery that destroyed the church in 1915 these burials were lost. The tower of the church monastery is of a square shape with three bodies two of which are higher than the monastery, there is one with bells, one another has an archangel on top bearing a flag that is know locally as the Giraldo de Molina.

The Molina de Aragon tourist office with some info on the former monastery and museum: https://www.turismomolinadearagon.com/museos-y-espacios-culturales73b68a92

Other things to see here with more time are

The Church of Santa Clara, a wonderful example of roman style architecture.  It was built in the second half of the 12C, the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor de San Gil with a nice retable and baptismal fonts. The Church San Felipe 17C Gothic style; from outside see the roman style Chapel de la Soledad, Church Santa Maria del Condé, Church of San Pedro all modified in the 17C. You see the picturesque puente romano or viejo or old roman bridge over the Gallo river, a medieval work.

As an anecdote, the Vuelta de España or tour of Spain bicycle race passed by here last August 17 2021 on the 4th stage won by Fabio Jakobsen of Netherlands. The course was from Burgo de Osma to Molina de Aragon.

The Spain tourist board on Molina de Aragonhttps://www.spain.info/en/destination/molina-aragon/

For reference the town of Molina de Aragon webpage: http://Noticias | Microsites (molinadearagon.es)

There you go folks, another dandy in my beloved Spain and wonderful region of Castilla La Mancha, in country Spain from its foundations. Enjoy Molina de Aragon , the town and the thrill of driving in mountain barren areas is good indeed.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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August 23, 2021

Arcas del Villar!!!

So I am on a binge on taken you to seldom seen places of my beloved Spain, after all driving is heaven in Spain ,everything under the Sun! We drove many years around here with wonderful memories of my dear late wife Martine and the boys, always on the road warrior ways to find jewels in the arid lands of Don Quijote! And we arrived in the Province of Cuenca , in the autonomous region of Castilla La Mancha to the nice small town of Arcas del Villar and its wonderful Church. I like to tell you a bit more on this off the beaten path jewel.

Arcas del Villar is located 8 km from Cuenca by the N-420 road  ,very popular indeed ,at an altitude of 959 meters. You ,also, can reach it from Cuenca on the road N320a and then the local CM 220.  In the town including several small villages, the highest peak is the  Monte Talayuelo at 1273 meters. It has a mountain pass call La Tórdiga at 1200 meters. The town is cross by the San Martin river and has several lakes on the complex Lagunar de Arcas, this declared a Natural Reserve. If dwelling into nature, the Lagunar de Arcas or lagoons are a must.

The port Tordiga in the Mount Talayuelo is even more country and need specially a 4X4 vehicule. It is accessed by car by a dirt road in good condition that leaves from the slopes of the port of Tórdiga, in the south slope, and goes between fallows until entering the zone of the lower mount and woodland before the summit of Mount Talayuelo. Good for mountain walkers and nature lovers.

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on the Lagunar de Arcas or lagoons : http://Visit Arcas Lagoons | TCLM (turismocastillalamancha.es)

However, for this road warrior, the best to come and see here is the Church or Iglesia de la Natividad de Nuestra Señora. Church of the Nativity of Our Lady. The style is Roman turning into Gothic from the 13C. The exterior has a flat wall annex to the main building with arches to hold three bells and the front door romanique with five arches; the interior there is a nice Chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Higa (fig) and a Christ.

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It is a Romanesque transitional church, from the 13C, from a single nave from which the presbytery is passed through a triumphal arch of half a point. It has a semicircular apse with a Romanesque window in the center and an eave with carved corbels. The entire apse is lined with ashlar stone. Outside there are the belfry, apart but attached, with arches aimed at sheltering three bells and the Romanesque façade with five archivolts also targeted as it corresponds to the transition of both styles. Its decor is austere with bowel , except for the overall nave that has a very simple geometric decoration. The capitals have a vegetal decoration.

Inside, both the nave and the presbytery are covered with coffered ceilings. It got a choir at its lower base, wooden. A side chapel covered by a vault was built in 1623. The image of the Christ and that of the Virgin of the Higa are venerated.

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This Church of the Natividad de Nuestra Señora is a rare Romanesque specimen because of its situation quite south of the area of expansion of this style in the Iberian Peninsula.

The city of Arcas on its history: https://www.arcasayuntamiento.es/pueblo/historia

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on Arcas: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/arcas-del-villar-63731/descripcion/

There you go folks, another dandy in lovely countryside of my beloved Spain, you need a car to see these beauties and well worth the price. Enjoy the post on Arcas del Villar as I

And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!!

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