It was a bit touch and go whether we would get out of Heathrow on Sunday morning, as so many flights were cancelled because of the snow; but we were fortunate enough to take off only a little over half an hour late. First the plane had to be de-iced: I imagined that we would taxi through some giant warm warehouse rather like the railway sheds we went through when the train bogies had to be changed as we passed from Mongolia to China on the trans-Siberian railway many years ago; but in fact two lorries with cranes on top came to attend to us, dowsing us with appropriate liquids from long arms. They looked like maternal animals gently stroking us in preparation for flight. We left Heathrow in minus 1 degrees, and arrived in Miami to enjoy a very pleasant plus 27 degrees.
We spent the night in an excellent hotel. I dislike smart pretentious hotels, but this one somehow managed not to be a all pretentious – though we were somewhat surprised to be put into an executive suite with two double beds. The next morning we did a tour of inspection of the boats in the harbour (always essential as one member of the family is a member of the Harbour Board!), then had a long leisurely swim to cool down a little. It was a change to be seeing lizards, dragonflies and parakeets instead of our friendly robin and blackbird who have been grateful for our bird table recently. I hope someone else is looking after them now.
The US is a country of dizzying contrasts. At Miami airport a long floral wall display assuring us that ‘All you need is love” welcomed us to the country that prefers to put an armed guard in every school rather than to ban the lethal weapons. Then, although the population is multicoloured, the society appears to be astonishingly stratified, with blacks and latinos doing the work while whites enjoy the party; yet the US has now twice pulled off the miracle of electing a black president. Barack Obama started his second term the day we arrived, and was sworn in the next day which happened, by happy coincidence, to be Martin Luther King Day.
Having flown four and a half thousand miles at around 500 mph to get here, we are now chugging along happily at about 25 knots. I’ve often wondered about the word ‘knots’ for speeds over water, and I’ve now discovered that it comes from the days when a rope attached to a log was knotted at intervals of 47 feet 3 inches and paid out over the stern of a boat. The number of knots that ran out while a 28 second sand-glass emptied itself gave the speed of the ship in nautical miles per hour. As with most knowledge, however, that fact leads to more questions, such as ‘why 47 feet 3 inches between knots?’ and ‘why 28 seconds?’ Discussing this at breakfast, Hugh reckoned that the 28 seconds was to measure a half minute, allowing for turning the sandglass over, and the 47 feet 3 inches is probably the same fraction of a nautical mile as 28 seconds is of an hour. Does anyone know if this is correct?
Anyway, just in case you didn’t know, a knot equals 1.15 mph over land.
It’s quite difficult doing this blog on a very slow connection. However, I was told firmly that I had to include photos of us, so here we are setting sail yesterday.
Next stop Montego Bay, Jamacia.