Adventures of Berkeley East

11 July 2017 | Capo d'Orlando, Sicily
04 July 2017 | Southern Italy & Sicily
19 June 2017 | Montenegro
01 June 2017 | Croatia
01 June 2017 | Italy
26 May 2017 | Parma, Italy
25 May 2017 | Motor Valley, Emilia Romagna, Italy
24 May 2017 | Fano, Italy
15 October 2016 | Fano, Italy
28 September 2016 | Revenna, Italy
21 September 2016 | Venice, Italy
18 September 2016 | Zadar to Rovinj, Croatia & Venice
03 September 2016
29 August 2016 | Opatija, Croatia
25 August 2016 | Biograd, Croatia
19 August 2016 | Dalmatia, Croatia
04 August 2016 | Dugi Otak, Croatia
29 July 2016 | Dalmatia, Croatia
22 July 2016 | Gargano Peninsula, Italy
21 July 2016 | Puglia, Italy

Open does not necessarily mean finished

11 July 2017 | Capo d'Orlando, Sicily
We were moving quickly to put Berkeley East in a marina for a few weeks while we traveled back to the states. One of the most difficult things about cruising is being far away from home for long periods of time. Things happen, good and bad, which require your attention, and often your presence. As much as this life is mostly cocktails and sunsets, there are times when it complicates, rather than simplifies, reality.

The plan was to go to a new marina in Northern Sicily, but as luck would have it, the marina was late in opening. Just as we were turning south for an alternative option, we got a call, “the marina is open,” the voice said enthusiastically. So we turned left instead of right, and headed north through the Straight of Messina.

The Strait of Messina is the narrow passage between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southwestern tip of Italy, which connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea. The strait was greatly feared by sailors in antiquity because of the rocks and strong tidal currents, which were personified in Greek mythology as female monsters. Legends aside, the currents do present considerable navigational challenges. The main current runs from south to north, but a secondary current flows in the reverse direction. These usually alternate every six hours, and the water falls six to eight inches during the main current.

We’ve navigated the Straight of Messina before. It requires planning for good weather conditions, attentiveness due to constant freighter and ferry traffic, and patience when the currents drastically slow the boat’s forward movement. On this passage, the weather was benign, with flat seas and no wind. We stayed out of the shipping lanes and managed to dodge the gazillion ferries zigzagging around Berkeley East. And we entertained ourselves watching the swordfish boats.

Swordfish have been fished in the Strait of Messina since ancient times. While much of the world now uses more modern methods, here swordfish are still fished with traditional wooden boats, called Felucca. These harpoon fishing boats have cables connected to ladders connected to lookout stations, and a horizontal ladder extending 150 feet from the bow of the boat to the harpooner station. Spotters perched high, locate the swordfish on the surface and the harpooner throws (by hand) a spear into the water to catch the fish. The harpooner is strategically extended as far forward as the cables will support from the bow of the boat so the sound of the engine does not scare the fish away. Clearly, the harpooners have to watch their weight, and be swift on their feet.

Once through the straight, it was a clear shot to the newly opened marina, with a couple of stops along the way. Not known for its beauty, Milazzo is a bustling town engulfed by industrial development, and is a gateway for tourists to visit the Aeolian Islands.

But away from the refineries and busy dock, the town is interesting with the walled city at the top of Milazzo, the "Old Town" of medieval origin at the foot of the hill, and the more modern city at the bottom and along the harbor. Unfortunately, the steady parade of freighters and ferries makes the harbor less than ideal for cruisers at anchor.

Looking to relax for a day before going into the marina, we dropped BE’s hook off Capo Tindari, a large bay and marine preserve. The area is best known for the monastery on the cliff, 750 feet above, which houses a Byzantine Black Madonna thought to work miracles. Pilgrims flock to the monastery to witness the Madonna’s powers, but since she couldn’t elevate us up the cliff in the 100-degree heat, we decided to visit her another time.

While getting BE ready to leave for just a few weeks is nothing compared to the work required when putting her up for the winter, there is still a lot of preparation. We can’t just lock the door and leave. So with four days left before our flight, we went on to the newly opened marina at Capo d’ Orlando. When we saw the new breakwater, we were impressed; it looked well constructed and it was tall, so tall that we could not see the masts inside. As we turned Berkeley East into the entrance, we realized that there weren’t many sailboats, just a couple. In fact, there were hardly any boats of any kind, but there was construction, lots of construction going on. The marina was clearly open, but it was definitely not finished, far from it.

For our purposes, as long as the dock had electricity and water, was protected from the weather, and was secure, we didn’t really care. Fewer boats just meant less chance that BE’s fenders would be smashed between hulls. No stores, restaurants or activities to distract us kept our focus on the work, where it needed to be.

Fast-forward three weeks. Upon our return to Sicily, as we turned into the marina, we saw people everywhere. Shops were open, there was a gourmet meat and cheese cafe, a sushi restaurant, and a wine bar; it seemed this marina was planned with the Berkeley East crew in mind. While it is still not quite done, it is being completed in high Italian fashion. We spent a few days getting BE ready to go again, enjoyed the marina and explored the town, all the while wondering if this could end up being Berkeley East’s winter marina, once it is finally finished.

Do you know this Eddie Vedder?

04 July 2017 | Southern Italy & Sicily
We were sitting in the cockpit of Berkeley East below beautiful Taormina, Sicily, wet from showers and settled in for the night, when we heard a voice. "Do you know this Eddie Vedder?" It was George from The Yacht Hotel, the company that owned the mooring that BE was currently tied to. "Of course," we answered. We had heard that Vedder was playing at the ancient theatre up on the hill. "I have free tickets for you," George said. "Give us 10 minutes," we replied.

Just a few days before, we were 400 miles away in Montenegro, crossing the Adriatic Sea, once again, back into Italy. We had a plan for a very slow exploration of the boot of Italy along the Calabrian coast. We thought two or three weeks, at least, to mosey along the coast, and spend time on land, in an area of Italy that had eluded us for our past seven seasons in the Mediterranean.

But after a couple of days in Brindisi, where we enjoyed our favorite burrata caprese salad, and did a little wedding crashing, we headed through the Straight of Otranto into the Ionian Sea and made our way quickly along the coast to stay ahead of the weather.

We found anchorages along the shore at night, and moved at first light before the big morning swell began.

Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for its iconic lighthouse, built in 1864. It is also a popular Italian summer resort where the food truck craze has taken hold.

The Gulf of Squillace is notoriously windy. The 40-mile crossing would typically take Berkeley East about five hours, but we did it in three and a half. While the wind was perfect for sailing, it was a bit strong for flying. Once again, we had a nail-biting catch. But it has been nearly two years and we still have the drone!

While we wanted to go north through the Straight of Messina, the wind told us to go south, so we headed southeast on a spirited sail across to Taormina, Sicily.

There, we met up with old friends Neal and Vanessa on Amante, spent a few days exploring the town, and celebrated July 4th at one of Taormina's famous beaches.

Set high on a hill of the Monte Tauro, Taormina dominates two sweeping bays below with views of Mount Etna, Europe's highest active volcano. Due to its position, the town has always been considered a natural fortress of great strategic and political importance, with control over the eastern coast of Sicily. Today, Taormina is one of Italy's top tourist destinations, its ancient theatre a major venue for everything from Italian operas to Eddie Vedder concerts.

Just about any performance would be fantastic in a place like the Taormina ancient theatre, but we were excited to see Pearl Jam's lead singer in a solo gig. Surrounded by Italians of all ages, we didn't hear a word of English spoken before Eddie took the stage. But the minute the music began, everyone sang, loudly and enthusiastically, in English. They knew every word to every song. As often is the case with celebrities, politics were brought into the dialog between songs, but it was clear that the audience didn't care about US, or any, politics at that moment. They were there for the tunes, and only the tunes; proof that music transcends language, culture, age and yes, even Putin, Hillary and the Donald.

Black Mountain

19 June 2017 | Montenegro
Legend states that sailors named the country of Montenegro (meaning Black Mountain) because the darkness of the trees was all that could be seen from the sea. We have gazed upon these forests before, and the rugged rocky terrain that seems to rise straight up from the Adriatic, when we visited Montenegro in 2012.

Several things brought us back to Montenegro this year. We needed to clear Berkeley East's V.A.T., a law that only allows the boat to be in the European Union for 18 months without paying a hefty tax on the value of the vessel. We also wanted to see the country by land, as our previous visit was from the sea. And, while we were there, we decided that we might as well stay in Porto Montenegro, one of our favorite marinas, enjoy some sushi, and fill BE up with duty-free fuel.

Just south of Croatia, Montenegro is one of Europe's youngest nations, and is tiny by comparison. The country is comprised of some 5500 square miles, 182 miles of coastline, a rough interior unfit for most mountain goats, and is home to some 650,000 people. Having gained its independence just 10 years ago, Montenegro is fresh and exciting, a place ready to be discovered.

Over the past eight years in the Mediterranean, we have hired cars and driven more miles (and stairways) than we can recall. But there are some times when, some locations where, it pays to hire a driver as well. For us, Montenegro was one of those places. But we wanted to hire a local (not a tour guide), someone who spoke English, who could tell us about the history, the politics, the economy, about the people of Montenegro. We got lucky with the marina recommendation and spent a day with a young woman from the rental car company. It was her uncle's company, and while her education was in the maritime industry, she chose to work with her family; something she said was very common in Montenegro. She was happy and enthused about her life and the future of her country. We were envious of her unjaded view of the world.

Montenegro has five national parks, covering some 8% of the country. We were only able to visit two of the five, but the preview showed us that the others are well worth a return trip.

After leaving the marina, we wound our way up the one-lane narrow road above the bay of Kotor, with stunning views, sheer dropoffs, serpentine twists and 25 harpin turns.

Lovcen National Park is known for its natural, cultural and historical heritage. It is located at the junction of two climatic zones, the Mediterranean and continental, which resulted in the development of a rich flora and fauna.

Located on the second highest peak of Lovcen mountain, at 1657 meters, is the highest mausoleum in the world. After climbing 461 steps we arrived at the magnificent tomb of Montenegro's greatest historical person: Petar Petrovic II Njegos, a prince-bishop, poet, and philosopher.

Inside the mausoleum, under a golden mosaic, is the grandiose sculpture of Njegos.

Skadar Lake National Park is located on the border between Montenegro and Albania. Montenegro owns two-thirds of the lake while one third of the territory belongs to the Republic of Albania. The Montenegrin part of the lake has 40.000 hectares (98.842 acres), its coastline is jagged, with numerous bays, peninsulas and capes, mostly swampy, overgrown with reed. With an area of 370 to 540 km, depending on the water level, Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans.

An Adriatic playground for the rich and famous, the small island of Sveti Stefan is home to the five-star Aman Resort, also in our plan for a return trip to Montenegro.

After a couple of relaxing days at anchor, we pulled into the fuel dock to fill Berkeley East's tanks. Because it was duty free, the cost was less than one half of what it would have been in Croatia or Italy. And with BE's 1,000-liter capacity, it was quite a savings.

The downside is that in order to get the reduced price, you have to leave the country immediately. So we were off once again, on an overnight crossing of the Adratic Sea, to Italy.

Vessel Name: Berkeley East
Vessel Make/Model: Hylas 54
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA
Crew: Larry & Mary Ivins
About: We quit our jobs in July of 2007 and began our adventure, sailing the US east coast in the summers and then spending our winters in the Caribbean. In 2010 we sailed across the Atlantic and will be cruising the Med for the next few years.
FAQ Q: Did you go to UC Berkeley?

A: No. The name Berkeley East came from a ferry boat, "the Berkeley", that we met on over 30 years ago in San Diego. The East came as a result of seeing the boat being built in Taiwan. There was 30-foot Chinese symbol on the wall behind her during [...]
Berkeley East's Photos - Caribbean 1500 2008 (Main)
Photos for blog post
15 Photos
Created 2 August 2016
18 Photos
Created 17 May 2013
Extra pictures for Croatia
12 Photos
Created 5 September 2012
Venice June 2012
20 Photos
Created 12 July 2012
Tuscany trip summer 2011
30 Photos
Created 18 July 2011
Pictures from June 2011 - The Ligurian Coast of Italy
29 Photos
Created 29 June 2011
Wardrick Wells - Exuma Land and Sea Park May 2009
11 Photos
Created 4 May 2009
6 Photos
Created 22 April 2009
20 Photos
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24 Photos
Created 19 April 2009
Pictures from our trip to Los Testigos, Venezuela - March 2009
5 Photos
Created 11 April 2009
4 Photos
Created 28 March 2009
Pics form the 2008 Caribbean 1500
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Created 26 November 2008
Octopuses Garden Highborne, Exuma Cay, Bahamas
15 Photos
Created 22 May 2008
4 Photos
Created 22 April 2008
13 Photos
Created 28 January 2008
Chistmas 2007 in St Maarten with other crusiers and Mike and Linda (frends & meighbors from CA)
6 Photos
Created 28 January 2008
5 Photos
Created 23 December 2007
5 Photos
Created 21 November 2007
3 Photos
Created 5 September 2007
4 Photos
Created 28 August 2007
7 Photos
Created 28 August 2007
6 Photos
Created 22 July 2007
10 Photos
Created 22 July 2007
In early July 2006 we made a quick from Sydney, Australia to Kaohsiung, Taiwan to check on the construction of our Hylas 54. She was a little behind schedule, but the build quality was excellent.
4 Photos
Created 22 July 2007
4 Photos
Created 17 July 2007
After 28 days aboard Sigrun Bolten from Taiwan, Berkeley East arrived in Port Everglades Florida. Mary and I helped unload her and motored up the river to be hauled and rigged. We where joined by our friends and next door neighbors (from CA), who were in Florida cruising from California to the Caribbean.
5 Photos
Created 17 July 2007

Profile & FAQs

Who: Larry & Mary Ivins
Port: San Diego, CA

Our travels


April 2017- Return to Fano, Italy

May 2017 - Touring Italy and waiting for boat parts

June 2017 - Croatia and Montenegro

July - September 2016 - Tyrehenian Sea, Sicily & Sardinia

October 2017 - Somewhere in Italy then fly home to Charlotte

Vbr/> Berkeley East's Winter port 2016/2017 - Unknown