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ChaliVentures in the Med
ChaliGram 13-3: Sardinia, Corsica & Elba

Dearest Family and Friends,

Since my last ChaliGram on June 6, we sailed up the East coast of the islands of Sardinia (Italy) and Corsica (France) and are now anchored in a lovely bay in the town of Marina di Campo on the south coast of the island of Elba, one of the Tuscan Islands near the Italian mainland.

We spent 2 weeks at different anchorages (which certainly helps with the harbour fees budget!); had to stay in some longer than desired because of ..... WEATHER! then we spent the next 2 weeks in marinas in Corsica. Now we're at anchor again. I'm always anxious to do one after doing the other. Change is good, right?

Last Monday, we bade farewell to our daughter Samantha and her boyfriend Brian, who came to visit us while we were in the town of Bastia, Corsica. We introduced Brian to sailing on a blissfully calm day with just the gentlest of breezes... but enough to move us! We also rented a car and explored the extraordinarily rugged and picturesque interior of Corsica as well as the north coast where Sam and Brian enjoyed a beach that wasn't TOO gravelly..... like the one near the Bastia marina! All in all, a very pleasant 4 days! On the social scene we also had a rendezvous in two different Sardinian harbors with our good buddies Albert & Ineke. Always FUN!

Before leaving French Corsica, we stocked up on our French Faves: Copa, pate de compagne, brie cheese and Casino brand Noir Menthe (mint dark chocolate bars) and Carte Noir coffee beans. Having a GĂ©ant Casino supermarket right across the street from the marina in Bastia was REALLY FABULOUS. We just love it when the essential things in life (food, laundromats) are conveniently located!!!

I'm also happy to report that we finally got to SAIL. Not motor, not motor-sail but pure quiet, blissful, peaceful sailing with all three sails up. Chuck had had our large genoa foresail cut back this year while in Sicily and had been VERY UNHAPPY with the results. But, in really light winds it works just great as long as the wind's not on our nose. Hoooray! In the meantime Chuck has ordered a REAL "Yankee" sail, which is being made in Hong Kong and will be delivered to us when we arrived in mainland France.

We've been enjoying really taking it easy here in lovely Marina di Campo. The anchorage is secure, and the town has pretty much everything we need..... however the bread leaves something to be desired.... 'specially after those yummy baguettes in Corsica! We are really just "chillin'" for the first time this season. The most ambitious thing we do is put the outboard motor on the dinghy and go into town. Yesterday, an Irish flagged Tayana 37 named "Nocturne" arrived and anchored right in front of us. They came over to chit chat. Lovely couple with a gorgeous siamese cat named Bailey. Wish I could remember Bailey's mom's name; his dad's name is James. For the cat lovers among you, you might be amused by following bailey's blog: Very cute. Zoey refused to make eye contact with Bailey. She hates admitting that she's really terrified of cats. Not pit bulls mind you, but cats are DEFINITELY the enemy! Not sure how long we're going to hang out here. We have about 3 weeks til we want to be in Menton, France to rendezvous with our friends from Luxembourg, Anna and Klaus (and pick up our new sail.)

We've made the decision. Finally. We ARE going to have ChaliVentures shipped to Germany in September so we can start exploring the Baltic starting in May 2014 for who knows how many years. Knowing that this really IS our last season cruising in the Mediterranean has us both a little wistful, but, it's time for some new adventures. So we'll do one last tour of our favorite French coastline and end up in Port Napoleon -- just west of Marseilles -- where ChaliVentures will have her mast taken down and where she'll be prepped for truck transport to the little town of Kropp in northern Germany where she'll spend the winter in a shed. All this means that we'll be back in the States more, and onboard ChaliVentures less starting in 2014 since the NICE sailing season is 3-4 months instead of 6 months in the Mediterranean. So, in all our free time right now, I find myself taking advantage of our great Italian internet access and reading about our destinations NEXT year, since this season's waters and destinations are all very familiar now. I guess I'm going to have to spend this winter learning German, at least!

oh well, back to researching. Hope you all are having a great Monday!

Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey


Alison Spinney
Onboard ChaliVentures III in.... Elba, Italy
+39 339 619 9586

ChaliGram 13-2: In Sardinia
06/06/2013, Arbitax, Sardinia

Dearest Family and Friends,

Greetings from Sardinia! Finally. To say that our life has been governed by the weather in the last 2 months would sorta be an understatement!

We were unable to leave our winter quarters in Marina di Ragusa, on the Southeast coast of Sicily when we would have liked (late April/Early May) due to one gale after another. If the Southeast Gales weren't dumping half of the Libyan desert on us, then the Northwest Gales were blowing a lot of dirt on us. Our mast and sail track were so filthy that Chuck had a helluva time pulling up the mainsail the first time. He finally had to haul himself up to the top of the mast with a hose to clean it! Because of our delayed departure in the last week of May, we skipped the Sicilian "coastal hop" and took advantage of a fairly small weather window (or so we thought!) and just blasted across the Sicilian Straits directly to Hammamet, Tunisia. No, we didn't WANT to go to Tunisia again; it's just that EU VAT (tax) issue that required us to "step out" of the EU again; so now we have a full 18 months again to be in the EU. There are so few places to "step out" that we had to take advantage of being near Tunisia. And NO, the weather window didn't pan out according to the forecast, and it was a very uncomfortable 34 hour passage....not the winds.... just the waves. ughhhhh. Happily, we only needed to stay in Hammamet 3 days before another weather window opened up for us to head north. The conditions and timing weren't good enough to go all the way to Sardinia, so we did a shorter passage to Marsala, on the west coast of Sicily. That was only 22 hours, and thankfully, the conditions were nice and calm. Delightful to arrive. We like Sicily so much better than Tunisia. It felt like coming home. I like to think that it's more than just having good access to the internet, but I won't deny that having good, reliable communications and access to weather and info DOES make a BIG difference in our quality of life. How things have changed since we arrived in Northwest Spain 8 years ago! We relaxed in Marsala, stocked up on groceries, cooked more passage food, and waited 5 days for the "Mistral" (strong NW winds) from France to blow itself out and stop creating havoc in the Western Med. So this past Tuesday morning, we set out again at 7am with the goal of reaching Arbatax on the east coast of Sardinia, 180 miles away, by Wednesday afternoon. It started off a little uncomfortably..... big swell and waves again.... for about 4 hours, but by my 2nd watch (Chuck and I do a 3 hour watch schedule), the seas were calming down. Bliss. The sea between Sicily and Sardinia didn't have much shipping traffic, so THAT was good, especially because it was pretty foggy at night. Fortunately, our radar was working, so no worries. Since our goal was to get from point A to Point B as quickly as possible (before weather windows slam shut!) we motor-sailed the entire way averaging about 6 knots. Now that we're on the east coast of Sardinia, we'll actually be able to be in "cruising mode" versus "passage mode", which will be much more enjoyable. No more over-nighters for awhile. yay!

And here we are in the wee town of Arbatax surrounded by gorgeous, dramatic mountains. I'll have to go out and take a picture so you see what I mean. It's relatively inexpensive here, so we'll hang out for a few days before advancing up the coast -- coastal hopping! Our only real deadline is to be in Corsica -- the French island, just to the north of Sardinia -- in plenty of time to meet our daughter Sammy and her boyfriend Brian when they arrive on July 4th in Bastia, Corsica. They'll visit with us onboard for a few days before heading out again.

"So," you ask, "what have we done for FUN since my last Chaligram.... since passages aren't that fun?" Gosh, in the almost 2 months since I last wrote, our time was filled mostly with social events in the marina, laundry & grocery shopping, spring commissioning jobs on the boat, and a few little trips. For those of you who live in homes with washing machines, it's probably hard to imagine how doing a load or 2 of laundry can take up a whole day, and be the source of way too much gleefulness to discover the washing machines available, and then relief to have the chore done. One benefit to the Marina laundramat though was the opportunity to meet new friends. We participated in a "car share" from April 15-May 15, so we had access to wheels to do chores and go exploring a little. We celebrated Chuck's birthday by driving to the lovely inland town of Vittoria and had a DIVINE seafood lunch! Later on in the evening we went to a local restaurant for dinner with our good friends Sandy and Martin and Albert and Ineke. In April, Albert and Ineke and we also went exploring inland to Modica as well as to Piazza Armerina which is near the Casale Villa Romana, site of an enormous Roman Pallazzo from the 4th Century AD that featured exTRAORdinary mosaics -- thanks to being underground for so many centuries. (see the pix in the link below). Our Sicilian friend, Gioi, whom we met way back in 2007 during our first visit to Palermo, came to visit us for a weekend with his girlfriend. It was wonderful to see him again. There's something very special about making friends with the "locals." And for those of you who've been receiving these ChaliGrams since at least 2010, you might recall that Gioi became Zoey's "godfather" when he researched/vetted and recommended a good Vet Clinic in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy back when our little 4-legged angel developed a herniated disc. We had the passage from hell getting from the Peloponnese, Greece to Reggio, but ..... we made it, and Zoey got cured. *sigh*. Zoey is still doing fine; We don't take long walks with her anymore. At 14.5 years of age -- which puts her over 100 in human years -- she doesn't have the same stamina of course; and.... she leaks like a sieve, AND she has arthritis in her hind quarters, AND she's as deaf as a post, but she still seems happy. And the doggods know, she certainly makes US happy! During our passages, she was perfectly content and felt very secure to sleep in her little doggy-tote bag in the well of the cockpit.... all cuddled up in her soft blanket. Like a little baby, she pretty much peed in her diapers during the entire passage. awwwwwwww. precious little thing.

We have also spent a lot of time researching about whether to 1/truck the boat overland to the Baltic, and if so whether we should 2/do it this Fall, or next Spring, and if this Fall, then 3/where to store her for the winter. THIS is a big reason that having good connectivity is important to us..... researching future adventures. No decisions are made yet. There are a few passport issues to consider and quite a lot of expense involved in this plan, not to mention that the season is very short up there, and we need to make some purchases and improvements to ChaliVentures so we can tolerate the cold. Going to the arctic circle on the west coast of Norway next June/July? Having daylight 24 hours a day for days on end? Stay tuned...... I have to say that the weather in the Med so far this year, doesn't exactly make this such a wonderful place to be!

PHOTOS: Since I got my new MAC, it seems that the new Picasa and/or Safari has changed my sharing options. If this link doesn't work, please let me know. I can have Picasa send you the album directly. I just like including the link in the Chaligram, that's all.

Hope all is well with you and yours and you're enjoying a lovely spring!

Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey of course

ChaliGram 13-1: Back Onboard
04/07/2013, Marina di Ragusa, Sicily

Dearest Family and Friends,

Wow.... after 5 months of living on land (which is longer than usual), being back onboard ChaliVentures has been quite an adjustment....seems to take longer every year to get acclimated. Do you suppose that means we're getting old? It's been a week since we've been back in good old Marina di Ragusa, along the eastern end of southern Sicily. I actually started writing this ChaliGram 5 days ago, but had no internet yet. The internet STILL isn't right, and I'll have to take a bus into the big(ger) inland town of Ragusa tomorrow to get it fixed, but at least we have SOME means of communicating, albeit expensive.

The flights themselves were fairly stress-free, even though our late departure from Washington, DC meant we missed our tight connection in Amsterdam to Rome. So we had the pleasure of waiting 4 hours in the Amsterdam airport. The next 2 flights were uneventful, thankfully. At least I got to see 2 movies I'd been wanting to see: "Life of Pi" (FABULOUS... did the book justice!!!) and "ARGO" (fascinating story!) Arriving in Sicily was breathtaking, I have to say. With the setting sun, everything was such a gorgeous green! Mt. Etna was covered in clouds, but the rest of this beautiful island looked the way you imagine (green) Ireland to be. Except that Sicily's rugged mountains throughout make it quite unique. Naturally we missed the bus from the airport so we decided to live large and take a cab .... to the tune of $260.00 ya gotta love those holiday weekend rates! Next time I need to be much more cognizant of holidays when I book our roundtrip flights!

It took a whole day to put away all the boat supplies and our 8 month supply of vitamins/medicines etc. into our limited storage space. Too much weight; too many bags: fees! ... all in all an expensive return to our floating home. It's pretty windy, and it rained like a sonovagun last night. I need to wait for our canvas to dry and for the wind to stop blowing so I can waterprooof our bimini (aka cockpit roof). That will make things more comfortable.

Our Dutch buddies, Albert & Ineke (whom we visited in Amsterdam last November) returned on Wednesday and Sandy and Martin will be back on the 11th. Other friends will be drifting in throughout the month. We're going to start participating in a "car-share" starting on April 14th so we'll have wheels at least once a week. Until then, it's a matter of riding our bike to the grocery stores in this wee little town of Marina di Ragusa. We'll probably be here in the marina til early May.... depending on the weather and our readiness. Still lots of Spring Recommissioning jobs to do. We're renting a car with Albert and Ineke this week to do a couple of day trips this week here in southeast Sicily.

Our cruising plan this season will be to make our way up to lovely Savona, Italy where we have secured a 2013-2014 winter reservation. (Getting our winter reservation is always step 1 with us, then we work backwards.) Savona is about 25 miles southwest of Genoa, Italy. We spent 10 days there last June and really enjoyed it. We'll be cruising along the east coasts of the (large) islands of Sardinia and Corsica, then Elba, then maybe over to the French coast (again! -- we just love France), then onto Savona. Our PLAN is to put the boat to bed early (early September) then go "land cruising" via train and/or car with Martin and Sandy through northern Italy, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania -- at least -- before turning around and coming back to Savona. We'll probably fly back to the States in early November, per usual. Since the boat is going to be wayyyyyy up in the northern Mediterranean for the winter, we MAY put her on a truck next Spring and ship her across to the Baltic Sea, so we can cruise new grounds in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, etc..... or not. We'll have to wait and see.

Our 5 months back in the States were action packed: trips to New York; Knoxville, TN; Boulder, CO; Cary, NC. Plus Chuck, Zoey and I did the normal "Annual Medical 500. " Happily, all is well...a clean bill of health for another year. I also had to settle my aunt's estate; Chuck was interviewed a couple of times (we'll let you know when Chuck makes his Aljazeera debut), and in our free time, we renovated our condo (new floors; knocked down a wall; repainted yadayadayada). We had lots of social events with our family and friends, and now.... I just want to rest!

So that's what's going on in our lives. It's blowing like hell right now; it's chilly, and it's supposed to start raining any minute. Not what you imagine when you think of southern Sicily, right? Yesterday was nice though. Chuck just came back from the bakery. He's fuming, because the bread blew overboard while he was re-attaching our bike to the dock cleat.

If you're going to be anywhere near Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Elba or the Riviera, give us a shout!

Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey of course

Alison Spinney
Onboard s/v ChaliVentures in...

ChaliGram 12-6: Italy-Tunisia-Sicily
09/22/2012, Marina di Ragusa, Sicilia

Dearest Friends and Family,

This is how I ended my last ChaliGram: "We hope to get out of here, all repaired, by the end of August at the latest. We'll mosey on down the coast before hopping over to Sicily, and going down the east coast along the straits of Messina, then around the SE corner and eventually into our winter destination at Marina di Ragusa. We have LOTS of friends who are going to be there, so it'll be like old home week."

Well, the last sentence is true. But we did NOT do what we thought we'd do. Welcome to the world of cruising.

(For many of you who are on Facebook, a lot of this will be old news, since I tend to update Facebook much more frequently than I send out ChaliGrams. It's a very effective and efficient way of sending out quick updates!)

We didn't get out of Gaeta until September 2nd. Our time on the hard wasn't tooooooooo bad. Or else maybe we're just getting numb to it. No fridge (just ice), no air conditioner (just fans), no toilet (just a bucket), and a 12' ladder to go up and down to town, to the laundromat, to the shower/bathrooms. Finding bags of ice for the fridge proved to be a very expensive proposition....about $5.50/1kg bag (2.2 pounds!) highway robbery!!!! Needed 2 bags a day. The repairs were done satisfactorily, so now we just start the game of getting reimbursed by the other guy's insurance company. It's supposedly "in the works." Upon launch, we met an American gal, Jayne, who'd just arrived in her boat and who has lived in Italy for 27 years. She was lovely and full of very useful information, since she's been cruising a long time around here. She also had a good refrigerator repairman whom she called to come take a look at ours. Happily, he fixed the problem, and so now our fridge works while we're underway and using our motor. ICE CUBES! hooray!!!!! Needless to say, we were anxious to get moving after being in Gaeta for 4+ weeks, but, we only got as far as Salerno (located in the "arm pit" of the Sorrento peninsula, where the Amalfi coast is), were weather bound for 4 days.

By this time, we had pretty much decided that we better play it safe and leave the European Union, so we could re-enter and re-start our 18 month VAT-free holiday (a requirement for non-EU registered boats--unless of course we WANTED to pay a ~22% tax on the value of your boat! uhhhh, no thanks!) Not that ANY official in the last 7 years has ever mentioned this restriction, nor asked us to prove we hadn't exceeded our 18 months..... but what with the economic situation in Italy, and the fact that the govt. recently imposed a new tax for ITALIAN boats, it just seemed like it wouldn't be a big stretch for the Customs Dept. to figure out that there could be a gold mine in fines/fees/taxes among all the non-EU boats in their waters. We WERE going to just wait til next Spring, but based on the (bad) luck we've had this season, we decided to play it safe.

SO! instead of "moseying down the Italian coast to Sicily," we did a 3 day/330 mile non-stop passage to Tunisia, having to MOTOR 52 of the 54 hours it took us (but ohhhh, those 2 hours of sailing were total BLISS!) An expensive trip, fuel-wise. Fortunately, fuel is much cheaper in Tunisia than in the EU, so we filled up there. In case you're wondering...... yes, we were in Tunisia when the whole Islamic world reacted 'rather emotionally' to that awful video from America about Mohammed. What was I just saying about our bad luck? Foreign countries frequently equate an individual nutcase in America (home of free speech, sort of) with AMERICA and all AMERICANS. Sadly, it's probably the same way that Americans perceive all Islamists by the nutbag, radical Islamists who give their religion a bad name. The good news is that we were in Yasmine Hammamet which is a vacation resort town. Nobody there seemed to care about what was happening in Tunis. Plus, speaking French and walking Zoey gave me good cover. No one would think an American had taken her dog on vacation to Tunisia for heaven's sake! We took the American flag off the stern of our boat. No point in attracting attention, right? We ended up staying in Tunisia longer than intended because ..... WEATHER. A Mistral was blowing out of the Gulf of Lion (France), which affected the whole western/central Mediterranean. By last Sunday, we felt the seas would be calm enough, yet we'd still have some wind so we could SAIL for a change directly to our final destination of Marina di Ragusa, Sicily. And sail we did. It was glorious. It reminded us how much we enjoyed sailing, which after the previous two long passages of almost total motoring, we'd forgotten! Typical Mediterranean conditions.... either too much wind which brings horrible waves, or no wind at all. But, we lucked out this time, and the seas weren't even too bad. The 2 nights we were on passage, there was no moon. As such, we had a rather spectacular view of the stars. Just gorgeous. And of course I just love the sunrises and the sunsets at sea. I'm NOT crazy about having to dodge and weave our way through the shipping channels, and the straits of Sicily are VERY BUSY. And lucky us, we got to transit the straits both going TO Tunisia and going from Tunisia to Sicily. oh boy. But.... a little stress makes those 3 hour watches just fly by! "Are we on a collision course? Must I take evasive action?, or will that giant container ship pass in front of us/behind us?" gulp.

We arrived in the little town of Marina di Ragusa on the south coast of the eastern side of Sicily on Tuesday morning at 7:30AM to a welcoming committee of some of our old cruising pals. It was GREAT! The words, "CHEAP NEW MARINA" spread through the Mediterranean Cruising Community like wildfire, and so this marina is already crowded with lots of cruisers whom we've met over the last 7 years. We're moored right next to our good friends Martin and Sandy on Mystique, whom we hadn't seen since May, 2010 when we left Marmaris, Turkey....same with Johann and Eva, our Scandanavian-Canadian friends onboard "Northern Lights" who are just down the dock from us. Albert and Ineke, our Dutch friends on "Joshua" were also here, although they went home to Holland the day we arrived. We'd seen them and cruised together earlier this season. So, it really is like old home week here. Friday night happy hour last night probably had over 50 people! And there are lots more to come. I think the largest percentage of cruisers here are American, then Brits, then French and German, with a few Swedes and only a couple of Dutch. It's a large marina. We need our bike just to go over to the office or the shower block. The town is a vacation town with a beautiful soft sandy beach, lots of restaurants, hotels, several grocery stores and a Tuesday farmer's market. Martin and Sandy participate in a "car-share", whereby a bunch of cruisers share in the monthly cost of a long-term car rental. As soon as someone goes home, we'll join, too. Having access to wheels makes a big difference, if for nothing else, then getting all those heavy items (gin, tonic, scotch, beer, cokes, juice, you know, the important stuff) from the grocery store...

We'll be arriving in the states on Nov. 7th by way of Amsterdam, where we'll be visiting with Albert and Ineke in their little town of Harlingen for a few days. We plan to be back in our land-based home in Virginia for 4.5 months this time, so, we'll look forward to seeing many of you while we're back!

Happy Autumn!


ChaliGram 12-5: Italy
08/12/2012, Gaeta, Italy

Dearest Friends and Family,

I know, I know.... it's been almost 2 months since my last Chaligram written on Father's Day from lovely Menton, France. My my, where has the time gone?!

We are currently anchored in the bay at the town of Gaeta, which is about a 1 hour train ride south of Rome. We really liked this town when we were here back in 2006, and so we had established this place as our rendezvous point with my sister Jenny, who flew to Rome in order to visit us, after attending the London Olympics.

Gaeta happens to be the place where the flagship of the US NAVY's 6th fleet is moored. Can you imagine how surreal it is for us to wake up every morning to the "Star Spangled Banner"? The Italian national anthem follows. I chuckle every morning. Even though my sister has already come and gone, it seems as if we're going to be staying here for at least another 10 days to 2 weeks. There is a full-service, "all-repairs" boatyard here, and..... well...... we sustained some damages to our floating home that need repair. I guess I need to back up a bit.

After leaving France in June, we headed to San Remo, Italy and met up with our dear Dutch friends Ineke and Albert onboard s/y Joshua. We'd met them in 2010 in Crete, and again in 2011 in Sardinia and Barcelona. We cruised together up the western Italian Riviera and had a thoroughly enjoyable 10 days in Savona, Italy.... a surprisingly delightful town with a good, secure and strangely inexpensive marina. We should have stayed there much longer! But we didn't. After passing Genoa to the left, we sailed on to the itty bitty town of le Grazie in the nice, secure anchorage there. Secure that is, unless an unusual summer wind comes up from the northeast. For those of you who've ever been to Cinque Terre along the northern west coast of Italy, we were very close to that. We were happy to be at anchor in a little town that seemed to have most of what we needed.... (laundromat! grocery store, butcher, baker, veggy guy).... and a bus to the bigger town of La Spezia. While we were there, I received word that my dear brother-in-law, Bruce Pavlovsky, my sister Dori's husband, was in his last days of his 4 year battle with cancer. 5 TIMES he had various treatments, and 4 times he had complete remissions.....only to have that horrible and aggressive disease beat him in the end. Can you imagine the cruelty of that roller coaster ride? As recently as February, his CT scan indicated that he was clean. Bruce epitomized the "CAN DO", "WILL WIN" spirit. He was the ultimate 1970's,80's and 90's IBM salesman until he "took a package" and started his own TAKEOUT Taxi franchise. Big skiier, big hiker, big biker....Lance Armstrong was his hero. It was so very heartbreaking to lose him in the end. I managed to get to Knoxville, Tennessee just in time to say goodbye, with about 12 hours to spare.... and then I stayed on with my sister Dori through her first week without Bruce.

While I was gone, Chuck and Zoey were having their own nightmare. Ahhhhhh yes.....that sweet little secure anchorage in Le Grazie.... sure enough, an unusual summer northeast wind kicked up to about 35 knots and caused real havoc in the crowded anchorage. A neighboring Italian, who was anchored way too close under the circumstances, had his anchor drag -- at 4AM of course! -- and his heavy steel boat collided right into the bow of ChaliVentures. Not good. Howling wind, rough waves. Awful awful awful. Poor Chuck! He had to eventually leave the anchorage and go into a typical, outrageously priced marina in La Spezia..... let's see 110 euros/night was about $138/night. OUCH. (Just as a point of comparison, a night at the Cannes, France marina was 37 euros or about $47!!) I don't know how Italy gets away with it. Now you see why we like to find a good anchorage (free) instead of going into marinas in Italy! Upon my return from Knoxville, I joined Chuck while he was still at the marina in La Spezia, and then we went back to the anchorage in Le Grazie. The good news is that the colliding Italian was still in the anchorage and approached us knowing that he had caused us damage, and he provided us with his insurance info. Chuck was fairly confident that the damage was not structurally compromising, and that we could sail/motor south in time to meet Jenny near Rome. So.... we had a mostly pleasant 46 hour/260 mile passage to Gaeta under a full moon during the 2 nights at sea. In the 10 days that we've been here we've gotten an estimate of repairs from the boatyard; a marine surveyor has been by, and now we'll have to arrange to have the boat hauled out of the water and stored on land for about a week in order to get the repairs done. Not looking forward to that. But, oh well. At least we like this town. And after all, they play the Stars Spangled Banner every morning.... as long as the ship is in port, that is. They love Americans in this town. Everyone is very friendly, and the food is very good. We've indulged a couple of times in one of the local Gaetan specialties, "tiella," which is a savory pie/torte. Our favorite is Tiella di Polpo with octopus, tomatoe, olives, salt, olive oil, hot pepper, parsely and garlic. (Fresh) Buffalo mozzarella is another specialty we've indulged in, and of course with tomatos, fresh basil and olive oil makes a rather fabulous lunch! The anchorage is pretty clean, so on really hot windless days, we even go in for a swim. And..... there's a "self-serve laundromat" that really was full service, but for the same price! LOVE IT!!

We've had a number of challenges onboard with the fridge/freezer.... i BARELY have enough ice cubes for my afternoon scotch on the rocks or G&T. We're talking disaster here. As far as food goes, we can always buy what we need on a daily basis. After all, cheese and eggs don't need to be stored in super cold temps. Chuck has also had to replace the toilet's pump (his all-time LEAST FAVORITE job). I took notes while he was doing the repair and counted no less than 115 F**K's GD'its, and so on....rather boring dialogue!

We hope to get out of here, all repaired, by the end of August at the latest. We'll mosey on down the coast before hopping over to Sicily, and going down the east coast along the straits of Messina, then around the SE corner and eventually into our winter destination at Marina di Ragusa. We have LOTS of friends who are going to be there, so it'll be like old home week.

I hope that my next ChaliGram will have happier, better news. In the meantime, hope you're all having a great summer.


Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey

Chali-Gram 12-4: Last port in France
06/17/2012, Menton, France

Hello dearest friends and family,

Well, I WAS waiting until we entered Italy before sending out my next ChaliGram, but we're having such a hard time leaving France, and... I was due to write another Chaligram, so..... The last one was for Happy Mother's Day.... so it seems appropriate to send out a Happy Father's Day Chaligram....

France is just so BEAUTIFUL. And this town, Menton, the last town along the French coast is the prettiest of them all. Not just the town itself with its yellow, pink, and orange old buildings going up the hill, but the surrounding mountains are just breathtaking. What a view to wake up to every morning. If I were still a beach bunny, I'd only have to walk about 50 yards to get to the beach. We were here last July in the old port and loved it, so we were looking forward to coming back. Upon arrival, we were disappointed to learn that the old port had no room, so we had to go to the expensive new marina on the outskirts of town. But! after 2 nights there, we tried calling the old port again, and happy days, one of the permanent berth-holders just left for his vacation to Corsica, so they said, "come ON OVER!" We had made friends with a French couple last year who live on their boat here in Menton, and they're still here and remembered us. It's so nice to come back to a place and be welcomed in. Other friends we met last year wintered here and were still here, so it's been fun socializing with them again, too. We were especially happy to get to Menton since we'd been at anchor for the previous 6 nights sitting out 30-35 knot winds.... which... on the ocean aren't so bad, but here in the Med those winds really kick up a nasty sea. So.... we try not to venture out in such conditions. We were at anchor behind Cap Ferrat, protected from the west and in fairly spectacular surroundings. The Alpes-Maritimes Provencal are the most dramatic up at this end of the coast.... and the real estate along the coast ain't too shabby, either. We were just beneath the Rothchild-Ephrussi Villa among other gorgeous mansions of the rich and famous. We were pretty stir-crazy and anxious to get into civilization. Speaking of civilization, prior to our 6 days at anchor we'd spent 9 days in Cannes. We liked it even better than last year. In fact, it has real potential as a winter-over marina. Not this year, because we've already got a winter contract in Southeast Sicily, but maybe next year depending on where we go in the 2013 sailing season. Cannes has EVERYTHING.... very conveniently located, and ironically, not very expensive. And the laundry machines in the marina are the bargain of the century. An express bus to the Nice airport stops right in front of the marina, along with busses to everywhere. In fact, we took one to Antibes to check it out. Another old city, originally colonized by the Greeks in the 500-600's BC, with a big medieval fort pointed to its neighbor and enemy, the city of Nice in Savoy, back in the 16th century, among many other lovely old buildings.

After Sanary sur Mer where we were when I wrote my last ChaliGram, we went to Le Lavandou, Cogolin and Frejus before Cannes. We couldn't get into last year's favorite town, Saint Raphael, because they were doing renovations in the old port, so we went right next door to Frejus. It was one of those Condo/Marina complexes, and I was leery of staying there after our experience in the huge complex at Cogolin on the St. Tropez Bay, but it was smaller, and we were well located and it wasn't very expensive, so it turned out better than I dreaded. Cogolin was enormous, and the visitor docks were WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY out in purgatory. There wasn't even a RESTAURANT nearby, much less any stores for provisioning. We didn't have much of a choice though, because once again, we were sitting out F8 and F9 winds and rain and were stuck there for 4 days paying high rates. I just hate it when high rates aren't worth it. Anyway, Frejus had a nice old town about 1 mile inland, and had a bigger population during Julius Caesar's time than today. We caught a bus (since Zoey just can't handle long walks anymore) and enjoyed a nice lunch in the town after seeing the sights.

It's hard to believe that we've been in France for 6 weeks already. Our rendez-vous in Tuscany has cancelled, so we're just sorta taking our time. We need to be in the Rome area (Gaeta, just south of Rome) in 6 weeks, since my little sister will be visiting us there. That's a lot more coast line to cover in the next 6 weeks than we've just covered, so we'll have to get moving pretty soon. Italian marinas are so much more expensive than French marinas, that we won't be as tempted to stay put for as long in certain places. Plus, there are only a few anchorages along the way. We've gotten spoiled by only going about 10-12 nautical miles between destinations in France. I suspect we'll be doing longer daily passages in Italy.

Next stop is San Remo, 12 miles away along Italy's "western Riviera" to check in and get our cruising papers.

'Ta 'Ta, until the next time.

link to photos:

Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey

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ChaliVentures from the Mediterranean to the Chesapake Bay
Who: Captains Chuck and Alison Spinney & Zoey the Jack Russell Terrier
Port: Annapolis, Md
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