As we sail around the Mediterranean, we count ourselves fortunate to have a nice "yacht". We feel Berkeley East is luxurious by sailing boat standards, with a water maker, washer dryer, microwave, electric winches, etc. We struggle with space, where to store everything and even miss some of the conveniences of home, but overall feel we have it pretty good.
Occasionally, we see the "other life" of mega-yachts. Last year in Malta we got to go aboard the Maltese Falcon (the 2nd largest sailing yacht in the world at 289 feet) and see how the other half (or .1%) live.
But in Siracusa, we came across a new level of luxury: "ACE," a 280-foot super-yacht with five decks above the waterline, room for 30 crew and 12 passengers. We run across super-yachts like this from time to time, but ACE has something special that we have never seen before, "Garcon".
Garcon is a 220-foot "fast support yacht" purposely built to haul all of the toys that anyone might want or need when on ACE, including a submarine, helicopter and landing pad, Donzi offshore speed boat, fishing boat, jet skis, two rigid inflatables boats...
We also have a "fast support craft" for Berkeley East, but ours is a 13-foot dinghy that hauls us, boat parts and groceries to and from the shore.
VESSEL: "The problem is the Captain is crazy!" What was your favorite place?
This was one of the first things we heard after leaving Marina di Ragusa, Sicily to begin our 2013 cruising season. Bound for Siracusa, on a nine-hour passage to shake the cobwebs out of Berkeley East, the distress call over the VHF took us by surprise. "Vessel calling Malta Radio - What is the problem?" "The problem is the Captain is crazy!" The question was asked, and answered, exactly like that several times. "The problem is the Captain is crazy!"
It is very likely that this sentiment has been felt on just about every boat at one time or another. With the flexible nature of cruising, and the unpredictability of wind, sea and human beings, even the most logical decisions can later be deemed insane. Like the idea that we could return to our winter marina and have Berkeley East ready to go in just one week. In looking at the To Do list, it seemed practical, but when one factors in gale force winds in the marina, with the occasional hail storm, seven days easily turned into 17 and the Captain's plan seemed a bit nuts.
Then there was the attempt to wax BE's hull from the dingy while the boat was heeled. In retrospect, this probably looked ridiculous to some passersby who quietly suggested to us that it might not be the best day for waxing. Luckily the Captain choose a calm day to go up the mast and put up the sails.
A view of Berkeley East taken by the crazy Captain from on top of the mast, 74 feet above the water, hanging from a halyard"
The wildest proposal yet was to leave Siracusa, one of Italy's most beautiful and charming cities, two days after arriving. That was just plain silly. The Captain was crazy!
A better plan was to stay in Siracusa and enjoy ourselves, to pretend we are retired, cruising on our boat in the Mediterranean, with no schedule, just living the dream. Imagine that!
Berkeley East at anchor in Grand Harbor Siracusa, Sicily
Lunch menu at the local sea-food restaurant - La Finanziera
Our choice "Zuppa di pesce" delicious
A local winery fills jugs from the tank
Isola di Ortigia - The heart of the city of Siracusa
Piazza Duomo - Everyone waiting on the procession for the patron Saint Lucia
When we return home for the winter, our landlubbing friends and family typically ask this impossible question. Last year, we visited 75 ports, in 7 counties, not to mention all of the cities that we saw by land. There just isn't one favorite. Each has its own charm, and what makes them all unique is the combination of the place, the experiences, and people. The local people that go out of their way to help us, the other cruisers we meet, the new friendships, this is what really makes make what we do special. A couple of examples:
Driving back to Berkeley East from our land trip to Umbria, we decided to stop at a winery in Le Marche. While trying to find the winery, our GPS finally gave up and said "drive off road". We wound our way around for a while, gave up and stopped for directions. Most Italian small towns have a square where the local men sit, drink coffee and talk, so we stopped there and asked, in our broken Italian, for directions to the winery. One of the men quickly got up and signaled us to follow him. He got in his car and proceeded to drive up and down hills for 10 minutes to the winery. Pointed it out, smiled, waved and then took off. At the winery we were shown around first by the owner's son, then his daughter. When the owner eventually caught up with us in the tasting room he was beaming with pride talking about his children, not the wine. People like this are what make us treasure our visit to Le Marche.
Another time, we were at anchor off Dugi Otak Croatia, when a couple in a dinghy stopped by to admire Berkeley East and they asked if we were going to dinner at the restaurant onshore. We had planned to eat on board, but based on their recommendation we decided to go to the restaurant. They said that they knew the owners and would call the restaurant to make a reservation for us, which they did.
Over the next few days we got to know them a little better and confided in them that we were struggling with Croatia, as there were so many island and places to go we just couldn't find a clear path through the country. We also had the itch to get to Greece quickly. They had been cruising in Croatia for over 10 years and insisted on sharing their insights. So after 2 ½ hours of going through charts, guide books and all the business cards they had collected, we were even more overwhelmed. But we developed a plan and as a result, we extended our time in Croatia by six weeks, had countless wonderful experiences and ate at some of the best food we've had in Europe.
As much as we will remember all the great places we have traveled to, the beautiful scenery and interesting history, we will remember the people and our interactions equally as much.
Our path last year (2012)
Where are you cruising this year?
Whenever we get back to Berkeley East in the spring, our cruising friends typically ask us "where are you going this summer and where will you leave the boat for the winter?" For the last two cruising seasons, we have started with a plan of sailing through Greece and on to Turkey for the winter. So our standing answer has been that we plan to cruise in Greece and winter in Turkey. This plan always seems to falls apart quickly, as we find there is too much to see and do on the way and we cannot tear ourselves away from the fun. So our plan for this year is, once again, to sail to through Greece and put BE in Turkey for the winter.
What was your favorite place?