Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
All the best from both of us to all of you. It's been quite a year with lots of changes and adventure. Bonnie and I are now at home in Canada and it has been a white Christmas.
Hope you have the equivalent at your home this season.
It's exceedingly strange to be sitting at the window of my mother's cottage in Cape Breton, writing about Ithaki. Is it really only four weeks since the storm in Vlicho Bay? It feels like half a lifetime.
Behind me, Kelly's mountain is ablaze in autumn colours. The wind is roaring out of the Great Bras d'Or, kicking up whitecaps on the blue waters at the mouth of the lake. It would be a perfect day to sail to St. Pierre, but heaven help the person who wants to sail upwind to Baddeck. Carey's Point at an outgoing tide could make the vortex of Charybdis seem like a millpond. I realize it has been too long since we have sailed in Nova Scotia and suddenly feel an intense longing to be out there, on familiar waters, surely the most beautiful sailing grounds of the world.
How much longer? Rick, who has remained behind in Halifax to deal with a roof repair, has spent a day weighing options. He sends me an email that is bursting with ideas. The Aeolian islands next spring and Croatia in summer? A winter in Rome? Seville? Morocco, Madeira, Cap Verde to the Caribbean, then the Panama Canal and the Galapagos? It is an alluring menu. Exploring the Adriatic would require us to turn back to the east, but it seems ridiculous to bring Aisling home without seeing it.
Originally, we had intended to spend three summers in the Med. Unbelievably, we have just completed our fifth. It is impossible to see it all, and we leave each country with a long list of places not visited and anchorages not explored. As we'd pushed eastward, I had reassured myself that we'd have a second chance on the westward journey. Travelling west, the departures are more difficult. "You never want to leave" says Rick. It's almost true, but when it's time to fly home, I'm always ready. Even though the transition is always a huge adjustment, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Does every traveler experience this tug-of-war between the urge to explore and the longing for home? We've met some cruisers who rarely return to their own countries, happily living aboard winter after winter in foreign lands. For a long list of reasons, that's not for us. Our Dutch neighbor at Marina di Ragusa agrees. "If I didn't go home for the winter" he said "I'd lose touch with my family and my friends. And if I had no one to tell my stories to, what would be the point of cruising?"
No, we're not selling Aisling (or at least, not yet). But we'd like to introduce you to Fairwyn, a lovely Sparkman and Stephens boat formerly owned by well-known Haligonian Charlie MacCulloch and winner of the Prince of Wales cup in 1959. We had the pleasure of meeting the current owners Nancy and Stephen when we anchored beside them in Syracuse harbour. We get pretty excited when we see a Canadian flag in a Mediterranean anchorage, let alone a boat that spent the first 25 years of its life in Halifax! Nancy and Stephen hail from Vancouver, but we're convinced they were Maritimers in another life. We benefited from their warm hospitality on two occasions (including an unforgettable party for eight in Fairwyn's cabin one stormy September night) and have had the chance to see firsthand what a lovely boat Fairwyn is.
Nancy and Stephen will be wintering in Malta on Fairwyn, but are ready for a change of pace. So, if you want to cruise the Med without the inconvenience of a making a transatlantic crossing, take a look at their listing!
Fairwyn Listing on Yacht World
It could be worse. We could be on the hard. But honestly, our living conditions get a bit trying when we're in the last stages of getting Aisling ready for the winter.
We sailed from Siracusa to Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa last Thursday, and since then we've spent an inordinate amount of time fixing all the leaks that we discovered during the storm in Vlicho. Rick thinks the weeks Aisling spent on the hard during the extreme summer heat in Kilada are to blame. Whatever the reason, we have to ensure that things are watertight before we leave. Getting the right supplies isn't easy either, especially since 90% of the Italian yachting world seems to be at the Genoa boat show. On Monday, I hiked along a lonely road on the outskirts of the town in search of a tire tube for the mast boot. Do you know how to say "tire tube" in Italian? Me neither. It all worked out and I got a nice-sized tire tube for a mere 12 euros, but just as Rick got the old seal off, another thunder and lightning storm arrived out of nowhere. Water was literally pouring down the mast...so much that we filled two buckets in the space of about half an hour.
Rick decided he might as well take a nap while we waited for the storm to blow over, then felt water dripping onto his hand from the window above our bed. Another new leak! We think we've got them all fixed now, but I've put all our books into plastic bags just in case.
To add to our tale of woes, Rick somehow twisted his knee a couple of days ago and can hardly walk up the dock. Fortunately most of the heavy-lifting jobs are already done, but we won't be going sightseeing as we had hoped. I've booked wheelchair assistance for him for the journey back to Halifax (and he didn't even argue, which must mean it is really sore) but it does seem better today.
In spite of this, we actually have been having fun. Marina di Ragusa is a nice little town with a beautiful sandy beach. In between thunder storms, the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny. Sicilian food and wine are even better than we'd remembered. I love the sound of Italian being spoken in the streets, and the way people keep on speaking to you in Italian even after you've clearly said "Non parlo Italiano". There's a great group of cruisers in the marina, and most nights we can be found sitting on one afterdeck or another, sipping wine and telling tall tales. I've been walking every morning with Krissy and Joanne, but any calories we burn are typically offset by the cappuccini and brioches we reward ourselves with at the end of the walk. In short, life is good. So good that we toyed with the idea of extending our stay. But it is time to go home. We have a Thanksgiving turkey to cook. Or at least, I hope we do. Has anyone done the shopping?
Hopefully the long flight back will give us time to finish our unfinished blogs about Ithaki, Lefkada, Victoria and Donald's visit, and our stop in Syracusa. In the meantime, ciao!