Brrr- no jumping off the boat today instead we're enjoying our land travels in the USA. After an active stay in Alameda we've been able to spend time with our nearest and dearest in Three Rivers, Angeles Oaks, La Quinta, Phoenix and now we're on our own in the Grand Canyon. Blanketing the ground is a dusting of snow - quite beautiful. In the spirit of doing school, the boys became jr. rangers at the Grand Canyon. Here are their homework poems:
Grand Canyon rocks are
colorful and amazing
transforming, moving, expanding
making me step back
We're off to Tahoe tomorrow!
Over a year has zoomed by since we began the adventure that took us a decade to plan - you know, sailing the Caribbean and the Mediterranean on our 47 ft catamaran, Azure II. It may not be everyone's dream and in fact when you encounter nasty weather, broken boat parts and sick kids all on the same day, it's more like a crazy challenge. But it's all about the journey. Swimming with turtles, kayaking with dolphins and gazing at skies full of stars have been awe- inspiring. We're grateful to have the opportunity to travel and experience these memorable moments as a family. People have asked:
What we do all day: Snorkel, hike, homeschool and fix stuff. See the sites. Trek to grocery stores. Figure out where we are and where we are going. Host friends & family and socialize with other sailors. Most of the time we are anchored, not sailing.
Surprises: The boys aren't homesick and don't miss TV (their caveat is that they miss it when they see it again...hmm.)
Scariest part: Dragging anchor in 30 knots at 3:00 am in St. Martin.
Stats: Sailed 6000 miles, explored 17 territories/countries,
visited 70 anchorages.
Favorite Places: Columbier, St. Barts - a turtle haven
BVIs- so many islands, rocks & wonders
Horta, Azores - European old world charm
Italy - what's not to like?
Best Part: Spontaneity, nature, sharing our journey w/ others.
Current Boat Location: Vibo Valentia, Italy - it's cold there now.
Family Location: We're warm & cozy at Uncle Jimmy's in Three Rivers!
What's Next? Visiting family and playing in Tahoe. March 2nd, it's back to the boat to travel Greece & Turkey (with a side trip to Germany to visit our friend Anke.) We'll return home in August 2011 in time for Leo to start 6th grade and RJ 8th grade.
We're so lucky to have had phenomenal support along the way and we greatly appreciate the hand delivery of boat parts, volunteer labor, crew help as well as the encouraging notes throughout our voyage! We wish you a happy, healthy and adventurous 2011!
We're off to the overnight train to take us to the overnight plane.....we'll be looking mighty fine when we arrive in SF two days from now! Recently we took a field trip to Pompeii. Here is RJ's report:
The Most Intact Roman Ruin on Earth
Imagine you're living at the time of the ancient Roman Empire, in the average city of Pompeii. Across the street, you see the bakery. You decide to walk down the long cobblestone street to get some bread. Suddenly, you hear a deep rumbling sound. You look up at Mount Vesuvius, which is looming over the city. There's smoke poring out! Then BOOM! Ash pours over the city, some like hail, some like sand, and some like powdery snow. You're blindly stumbling about the street, while you hear the roofs of nearby houses collapsing under the suffocating blanket of ash and rock. You somehow find the main gates, and you sprint out of the dying city. This is what August 24th, 79 AD was like.
That eruption lasted 3 days, and most of its 20,000 inhabitants were engulfed under so much ash that the city was not discovered for 1500 more years. Major excavations of this historic site started in 1748 and are still under way today. Quickly, Pompeii became the most famous Roman ruin, because the ash that blanketed the city preserved the buildings to look just like they did in 79 AD. As technology improved, scientists began discovering strangely shaped human sized cavities in the ground. After pouring plaster into them, they discovered that the strange holes were the imprints of people who were suffocated in the ash. In some of these cavities, they even found human bones which were in strange positions. The people who died in under the stifling blanket of rock were not touched for 200 years, so as their bodied decomposed, they left imprints of themselves trying to escape. If you go to Pompeii today, you can see two plaster moulds of unlucky Pompeians, which have some pieces of their original bones in place.
Amazingly Pompeii looks like a ghost town, with all of the buildings still intact with an exception of their roofs. The1 streets look exactly the same as they used to, with carriage wheel markings worm into them. In2 the streets are giant stepping-stones about every 50 feet, which allowed you to cross the street at night. They flooded the city every night to cleanse it, because the streets were the city's trashcans. Nobody6 wanted to get wet! In Pompeii, you can visit the houses of average Romans, as well as the houses of very wealthy and prosperous people with frescoes still on their walls. One of the most popular places in Pompeii is the Forum. Although it is the most ruined part of Pompeii, you can still see its importance and grandeur. It used to be the place where Pompeians gathered to shop, talk, and make sacrifices to Jupiter (the roman name for Zeus). Along the Forum there are many places where statues used to be, but they were transported down and put in the Archeological Museum of Naples. Pompeii is definitely the largest and most intact roman ruin on Earth.
RJ and Leo were definitely missing their favorite day of the year in Alameda - Halloween. While Italy is not the place for Halloween, we did see a couple of decorations that made us think something might be happening. Like what? Fortunately, after scouring the stores, we found a pumpkin, orange balloons and peanut m&m's. Establishing the obvious pirate theme, we invited over our marina friends - five Brits and a Russian, and we had ourselves an Italian marina, int'l pirate, Halloween boat party. Since we had some fun and the boys got candy, it sort of eased the pain of missing the best-loved Alameda holiday.
We're back on the boat after 2 1/2 weeks touring Italy. Our last day was spent with our yacht club friends Charles and Kathryn. Charles' mom, Barbara is a sculptor and lives in Italy near Carrera, famous for its marble quarries. She took us to meet several of her artist friends at the marble sculpting studio. What a fascinating experience! We were awe struck by the accomplished and intricate works of art. As we strolled the studio we were able to observe the artists in action and the boys had a supervised attempt at using the marble cutting power tools. Flowing down the hillside next to the studio is a river filled with remnants of marble from the hills - this was a big hit for RJ and Leo as they were able to collect beautiful, natural souvenirs. We then drove up the winding roads to the quarries to see first hand where these large chunks of white marble, like the one used to make Michelangelo's David came from. Charles and Kathryn were generous sharing their time and knowledge as our own personal tour guides.
Many of our other days were spent in Lucca, a small pedestrian friendly town 45 minutes from Florence and the birthplace of Rodney's grandmother, Lucille Landi. The town has medieval origins dating back to 180 BC. It's claim to fame is the protected wall that surrounds the city which was started by the Romans and completed in the 1500's. The four kilometer wall saved the town from many an intruder, including the nearby Florentine's and Pisan's. Today the wall is a popular running, biking and walking path and inside the walls is a quaint Italian village w/ shops, restaurants, cafes and minimal cars. Lucca was our jumping off point for a variety of day trips. We went to Pisa - it was interesting to see the tower, but the climb up the tower was not worth the 15 euros per person. We also traveled to Cinque Terra - five towns connected by trails that are in the hills along the Italian Riveria. We hiked two of the scenic trails. The first one is known as lovers lane was established in the 1930's and enabled the young adults from neighboring villages to rendezvous. Today couples from around the world come here to fasten locks to the trail fences, rails and any possible place to seal their love. Our other days in Lucca were spent homeschooling, biking around the wall, playing in the park, shopping, cooking, climbing towers, etc. We've now returned to Vibo Marina - being back at the boat feels like home, but it's getting rainy & cold and most folks have left. Seems like a good time to be temporary landlubbers - we'll be visiting CA in a few weeks!
Navigating the trains, streets and sights of Rome is way more complicated than guiding a boat across the ocean! Add in two tired, overwhelmed boys and you get a family bonding opportunity! I may sound like a commercial, but thank goodness for Rick Steve's Italy audio tour downloads. Instead of tired bodies fumbling through the guide books while blankly staring at sites like the ruins of the Colosseum, we were entertained and informed by these down home audio tours. We also visited the Pantheon, Sistene Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. All were of course spectacular - but the thrill is lessened when you're shuffling through w/ the masses . We didn't know that October is still high season in Italy - huge crowds and no vacancies. In Florence, Rome and now Lucca we've been staying in small affordable apartments rather than hotels. They've been "cozy" but well located. The place we're at now in Lucca (Tuscany) is a bit roomier which is great b/c we're staying here ten days. We're living inside the historic walled city and we've rented bikes for the week (so happy to get on a bike!!) There is a tree lined 3 mile loop on top of the wall that is showing off it's fall colors. Being "inside the wall" is kind of like being on the island (i.e. Alameda) - don't leave unless you must!