04/21/2012, Marina di Ragusa
We've decided that it's time our blog said something other than "Happy Holidays"! In spite of all our good intentions, we just haven't had time to update it lately. The six months we spent at home in Canada seemed to go by in a flash. On the good days we enjoyed happy family get-togethers and pleasant evenings with friends; other days were consumed by work obligations and the usual worries of every-day life. Suddenly, it was time to pack and head back to Sicily. I must admit, our feelings about leaving home were even more mixed than usual as we said our goodbyes.
After a 24-hour journey, we landed at the Palermo airport and were relieved to discover that all of our baggage, including a folding bicycle and an outboard motor crane, had arrived intact. Our cab driver surveyed the massive pile with dismay and asked "How many days you stay in Sicily?" Fortunately, we were able to store the bicycle and one large bag in the storeroom of the Hotel Garabaldi during the three days we spent touring Palermo. (We hope to tell you more about that later.) The next question was whether everything would fit into the Fiat Panda we had rented for the drive to Marina di Ragusa. Amazingly, it did.
We made the trip from Palermo to Marina di Ragusa in just under four hours, not including a one-hour stop in the chilly hillside town of Enna.
The view was great, but it was entirely too cold to linger, so we grabbed two takeaway cappuccinos at a gas station (served in plastic cups with straws, but absolutely delicious) and continued on our way. Closer to sea level, spring had arrived. The fields that had been dry and brown in autumn were now a lush green and the roadsides were adrift with wildflowers. As we approached Catania, we had a fantastic view of Mt. Etna, still covered in snow, but showing no signs of the eruptions that have been occurring with increasing frequency in recent months. Last Friday, it erupted for the 6th time this year. I guess we won't be hiking up the slopes as we had planned!
Arriving in the marina was almost like a homecoming. Many of our cruising friends have spent the winter here, while others like us who returned to their permanent homes for the winter are beginning to filter in. Today there was a "farewell" lunch for those who will be throwing off their docklines before the end of the month. We, on the other hand, are just settling in. Although Aisling seems to have wintered well, it will take us some time to deal with the remnants of sahara sand, volcanic ash, dust, rust and general wear and tear that accumulated during the winter. The next few weeks will be a "working vacation", but we're happy just to slow down the pace of our lives. And after all, as Rat famously said to Mole, "there is nothing -absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats"!
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