Slow Sailing

24 August 2016 | Porto Turistico Di Roma
09 August 2016 | Underway to Rome
29 July 2016 | Thomas Bay, Malta
16 July 2016 | Siracusa, Sicily
08 July 2016 | Anti Paxos, Ionian
30 June 2016 | Paxi, Ionian Islands
16 June 2016 | Syros, Cyclades
05 June 2016 | Poros Island, Greece
05 April 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
31 March 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
11 March 2016 | Lavrio, Greece
28 February 2016 | Lavrion, Greece
06 February 2016 | Ao Po Grand Marina, Phuket
28 January 2016 | Rebak Marina, Langkawi
11 January 2016 | Butang Group, Thailand
26 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
24 December 2015 | Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket
16 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
23 November 2015 | Pangkor Marina, Malaysia
08 November 2015 | Port Dickson, Malaysia

A Few Pics of Rome

24 August 2016 | Porto Turistico Di Roma
Heather
Trying out Flickr...

Rome 001
Rome 087
Rome 151
Rome 165
Rome 206
Rome 240
Rome 253
Rome 224
Rome 066
Rome 062

Clicking on any photo (except the top one) should take you to the Rome album on Flickr. A work in progress.....

Close Quarters

09 August 2016 | Underway to Rome
Heather
Italy continues to be a fun place to explore by boat. It can be frustrating at times trying to make sure the boat is safe while we try to do things inland (there is so much to do & see) since this is the high season, and there aren't that many perfectly protected anchorages but just the same, it is nice to have our home to come back to at the end of the day, away from the business of shore and we are making it work.

When we left Malta, we headed back to Siracusa for a day to re-provision and get checked back in to Italy. Jon saw a swordfish jump along the way but I missed it. We still haven't gotten around to putting out our fishing poles and we don't feel like we'd catch anything anyway. We also don't want to take the last of any kind of fish! It feels that tight in a way. Checking in took 3 hours and there was a whole new set of rules that differed from when we'd checked out a week & a half earlier but who's keeping track? We have sat through a lot of desk arranging and rubber stamping as well. I will never forget the time spent in the office because we had to sit in old fiberglass chairs that left you with itchy legs afterward from all the glass splinters. The best part of the day, aside from getting all the items checked off our to-do list was going to a fancy deli along the market street where we'd seen long lines & delicious looking Sicilian platters on our previous visit. We got there for a late lunch and had this nice sampler of all kinds of meats, smoked fishes, cheeses, little salads and vegetable dishes and even dessert, all in cute little dishes on a wooden platter. It seems one thing about Italy is you can OD on condiments and preserved meats. They really do dry sausage well and mozzarella & pasta are really good too. I'm not sure about this healthy Mediterranean diet.

It took the following 2 days to get to Vulcano Island and through the Messina Strait that separates mainland Italy from Sicily. The whole east coast of Sicily has odd currents and generally confused seas and while we rode this down with no problem, it was less comfortable and slower going back northward. Approaching and going through the straits wasn't particularly fun on the day we did it. I read that there is a marked difference in water temp between the Ionian Sea on the south of Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea which is above Sicily and they meet in the Messina Straits. The Tyrrhenian is warmer & less salty and moves southward at the surface while the Ionian is colder and moves northward below 30 meters depth. The difference in density makes for conflicting currents, bores and whirlpools. It was just really lumpy and we had a lot of spray. All while we were going through, the local swordfish boats were zooming from side to side in the channel scouting out swordfish that swim close to the surface on their migration through the strait. Swordfish boats are unique in that they have a tall tower for a lookout and a bowsprit that is longer than the boat itself where the harpooner stands. There are stay wires all around to provide much needed support. They are on a mission to spot the fish and then sneak up to it to harpoon it. It made me nauseous to watch the guys up in the tower swing from side to side as the boat rocked in the waves.

On the other side of the Straits, everything smoothed out, the water was a brighter blue than ever and we had a nice sail to Vulcano Island where we got the very last anchoring spot right next to a little rocky hill of steaming fumaroles. The water was effervescent with bubbles coming up from the bottom and we wondered if it was eating our anchor up. Nonetheless, it really helped set the mood for being at a volcano although that night when the wind switched and the sulfur was blowing in the hatch, we wondered if we would wake up in the morning. But we did, and we had a great day of hiking the active volcano, and all around the extinct craters. There were also hot springs and mud baths but we didn't partake. We thought the better of staying another night because of the gases and moved to neighboring Lipari island where there's a large shelf to anchor on with gorgeous water. We no sooner got in and Jon found $4 in change on the bottom. Between that, the smooth black sand covered in flounder and the welcome warmer water, we had the best swim we've had in the Med so far.

We had an uneventful overnight sail to the Amalfi Coast so that we could visit places like Amalfi, Positano & Salerno. Unlike SE Asia, there are few fishing vessels and when it gets dark, you are not surrounded by the lights of other boats. There was a decent anchorage in Salerno so that became our base. It was around $90/night for a med-moor berth if you stayed less than a week and we now see that when we were shoe horned into the berth in downtown Malta, one of the many wakes we got must have caused us to bump the boat alongside despite all the fenders and the teak brow was damaged in the process. Oh well, what can you do? It'll be an easy fix with the right tools Jon says. There aren't any boats here that look like ours which is a signal. So for that the anchorage was nice and hey, it was free. We can save up for Rome.

The Amalfi coastline is very mountainous and once again, all the pinks of the roofs, the green of the land and the blue sea is really pretty. Once in the inner harbor of Salerno, the blue water turned sort of greenish brown and wouldn't be appealing for swimming to us but my gosh, just like everywhere in the Med we've seen, any beach or approximation of a beach or pile of rocks or even the underside of a building on stilts that is next to the beach is a good place to lay down your towel or beach chair to catch some rays and dip in the sea. Summertime here is a full on water & sun atmosphere no matter where you go. Kids love it. It didn't matter that a condom went floating by as we were tying up the dinghy. So funny.

We took a bus along the precarious cliffside road that follows the Amalfi coast because that was what was recommended and then got off at the start of the Path of The Gods Trail to hike to Positano. All of this is to see the pretty mountain scenery and experience the tight quarters of the road. When we first got to Greece we both wondered why the cars were so scraped up all along the sides and lots of side view mirrors we're taped together, hanging on their wires or altogether missing. But it didn't take long to realize that driving here involves cramming in to tight spaces, bump & park technique and squeezing through seemingly impossible passageways along ancient roads meant for horse carriages or sometimes, even just pedestrians. The Amalfi area was some of the tightest we've seen so far. Riding in the breadbox shaped bus, we would cringe in our seats as the driver tucked in his mirror to get past other buses. The Path of the Gods was a downhill day hike that offered great views and some quiet time between towns and we both wished it was much longer! The towns were especially cute albeit touristy and busy but strolling around the little streets and sampling the local foods is a nice way to spend a day or two & so unique for us. We visited a couple of churches and a medicinal botanical garden in Salerno called Giardina della Minerva which was the first botanical garden established as part of a medical school in the early 1300's so that students could learn about the medicinal properties of plants. The gardens were situated on 5 levels and had elaborate passageways for the delivery of water from a spring. I find myself going around looking at all this old stuff and thinking that the US has very little of their own ancient history on display. The ancient civilizations that we had weren't building the types of structures that we are appreciating today over here. It's just across the pond, a shorter distance to sail than it was to cross the Pacific, but so different. Interesting.

The next stop on the greatest hits list was Capri. I hadn't really thought much about Capri until I read up that it is known as a getaway for the rich of Europe with a lot of high end shopping & lodging. Oh and it is actually a truly beautiful island with very high cliffs and interesting rock formations. After an annoying morning of waiting for the coast guard office to open so we could get a much needed stamp in our constituto form, we were told by this official that we don't need a stamp and he wouldn't give us one to show the next official who would certainly think we must have one. So we arrived to the anchorage mid day when it was chucker block full of local day boats and it took forever to find a spot. But we did get a good one after a three hour tour that gave the day boats time to leave and it was right near the famous Faraglioni rock pillars that are the most photographed on Capri. We didn't have time to go ashore that day but instead toured the arch & the caves all around the anchorage area where all the tour boats take their guests. Nestled in among the mega-yachts, it was funny to see that some of their launches were practically as big as our boat!


Capri gets the prize for the highest cliffs we've seen in a while and the most steps to get up to the towns that sit on top. Once up there though, there are buses to bring you to the corners of the island on more hair raising roads. We took a bus to the blue grotto cave on the NW side of the island where a really nice coastal trail starts that then meanders its way back to Capri town going over Mt Solaro, the highest point and through some beautiful countryside. It was an awesome hike and beautiful weather day. We got a good look at what it is like to live in Capri outside of the tourist towns and what the countryside looks like. Frequent groups of laughing Italian men sitting around a table outside shooting the breeze. Toward the end we met an interesting German guy on the trail named Eric who was a joy to talk to. Turns out he organizes the Luxembourg Marathon, among other races and he's cruised around on a sailboat as well so we had lots to talk about. Like Malta, Luxembourg is another tiny country that we haven't thought much about, but we won't be sailing there! Maybe could run the marathon someday though... We ran into Eric the next day while we were walking in town and had coffee together, which was nice.

We've found that cruising the Med is different in that there aren't many international cruising boats around and there's no pattern to where people are going since movement is not dictated by the seasons. It could be different if you wintered over and we think we could do that someday but we have decided that we really would like to head out of the Med this season and back to our own backyard for a while. It has been five years already and we are kind of tired. Of course now there is this thought that we need to pack as much in as we can so we feel busier than ever. Plus I frankly think that a lot of stuff on this boat is just about ready to break after all the salt & heavy use these past few years. Jon was sitting in his cockpit chair reading while underway the other day and I leaned in to give him a smooch gently placing my hand on the back of his chair. Well, the rusted out interior frame broke and the chair went tilting back in a hurry so now we have 1 1/2 chairs- like I'm not sure I want to cross the Atlantic in a chair that no longer has any back support! And this chair is not cheap in the US so can't imagine what it will be here. And that is a small item. We are loving having more to do than we can actually muster the energy for, even though we do miss cruising with friends. Now we do get to enjoy close quarter boating though since just like driving, people here seem to like to pass close and anchor closer even if there is plenty of space. Last evening we had a little powerboat get his anchor caught on our chain and we were a few feet apart as he was trying to get it free, this in this huge anchorage where we were the only two boats! Like Jon says, fiberglass is magnetic. He did manage to get free and we shut the engine back off and went on with our evening. We had moved from Capri to a small island just above it called Procida to see a new spot as we are ready to head to Rome and wanted to make some progress toward it. We walked in to the old town and saw how the more regular Italians live and I have to say, I really liked all the open green space of Capri better! It was a gorgeous island and there were so many nice things to do! No motorbikes or cars were allowed in the storefront areas and there were so many stone pathways & stairs that were also car free. Not on Procida! But we did notice that the electric bike was more popular in Procida than ever. We probably saw 50 of them as we strolled around. You can buy one there for $1200 Euros.

I had wanted to come to this anchorage because part of it is formed by an island named Vivara that is connected to Procida by a footbridge and it was set aside as a bird reserve. I read online that the reserve is closed because there was $150 million appropriated toward development of visitor facilities that dissapeared and has not been accounted for. This is not the first of this type of thing I've read and so, I guess Italy is not unlike any other country with some rich fellows getting richer. And there is no bird park. But we noted that the bridge and the adjacent rocks are really popular for sun bathing.

In his down time, Jon continues to work on his website Venture Farther and now it has the ability to upload soundings data and display it on sat images. Although I wasn't expecting it, many of the anchorages we visit here have little or no soundings. Sometimes there will be one depth recorded. So we've been doing some depth recordings ourselves and then Jon adds them on Venture Farther. It is unique and of course enhances the usefulness of the satellite images.

I was bummed out to see that Google went ahead with their cost saving measure to get rid of Picasa because we subscribed to it to house our photos and could then link them to Sailblogs easily so that they could be seen there. It worked great and we've been doing it this way for over a decade. Google Plus doesn't offer linking. Well I guess it saves us money because we can't subscribe anymore! And I only get to post one photo per blog entry. We've gotten some really good ones lately too. You'll have to use your imagination to get what I'm writing about until we figure out something else.

We are underway to Rome today. We plan to put the boat in a marina there so that we can do our touring worry free. It might mean that we get another ding but hopefully our boat won't float away if someone should pick up our anchor again! We can't wait to see the big sights and hopefully get into the mountains too.

Under Pressure

29 July 2016 | Thomas Bay, Malta
Heather
Hello from Malta. It wasn't like we were tired of Italy but since Malta is only 85 miles from Siracusa in Sicily, it made sense to go now! We've been here for a week and a half.


Like many parts of the Med, I didn't really know much about Malta until recently since we've never traveled over here. Now we know it quite well! Historically, its strategic position only 60 miles from the tip of Sicily and 220 miles from Libya and the fact that it separates the eastern from the western Mediterranean, has ensured that pretty much everyone in the area has taken turns ruling it over thousands of years. But it was from 1530 onward when the Knights of the Order of St John took over and started creating the incredible architectural fortifications that make it what it is today- a Unesco site. Because of all the varied influences, not the least of which is Arabic, there is an interesting mixture of things here and understandably, the most impressive fortifications we've ever seen. A phrase in a museum we were in described Malta as having had "grace under pressure" because such beautiful architecture came out of the need to ward off the enemy.

Malta has three main islands- Gozo, little Comino and the main island of Malta. We proceeded to the Blue Lagoon anchorage on Comino the first night since we were coming in late and knew the day tripper boats would have left for the evening. Its a pretty spot, and the water is very clear & blue with a nice backdrop of low, sandstone cliffs & formations. The next morning, we were just about ready to leave the boat to do some sightseeing in the dinghy and then hop the channel to Gozo to check in when this couple came in on their sailboat and put their anchor atop ours. When they fell back on top of us he decided he was too close so he guns the engine, then puts it in reverse and she gets on the windlass remote and is struggling to get the anchor up while moving backward fast and the windlass is chugging away until up their anchor comes with our chain strapped around it and our anchor just below the surface. All the while we are both at the bow trying to motion that they have our anchor. Then we did a 180 and our bows headed in for a big kiss! We held the boat off with our engine until they managed to drop our chain. We then went about trying to make a new plan while they made their way to the next boat, getting that person's anchor rode caught in their prop. Before too long, they were limping out of the anchorage trying to motion apologies and us & the other boat met in the Mgarr Marina office an hour later because there was no safe place to leave the boat, obviously. We never got to explore Comino.

But money does buy happiness since as soon as we got the boat securely fastened in the marina, we spent 3 worry free days exploring the island of Gozo. It is the quieter, smaller side of Malta and we liked it. The weather has been spectacular since I don't even know when and the temp has been wonderful too. It gets hot on land when you're in the sun but the shade is perfect and the water keeps the interior of the boat cool till evening when it cools down even further.
From Malta
From Malta


The capitol of Gozo is Victoria and it has an old citadel that has just been refurbished and a new visitor's center built with EU funding. It has what we thought were really high walls (until we saw Valletta!) and nice views of the brown landscape since it is full on summer here and all the fields are scorched. Apparently, from pictures, it is quite green in the spring. A lady told me that water is more precious than wine in Malta. All of their water is from a desalination plant and it is in our experience, of low quality. It has so much salt left in it you can't quench your thirst and if you rinse off the boat it is still salty. So most people drink bottled water instead. We are enjoying our watermaker water.
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta

We signed up with a dive shop to do a day of diving since this is the only place that has interested us so far in diving and our compressor wasn't working yet. Bummer!! Jon spent a whole morning troubleshooting why it was still smoking despite the ridiculous amount of money we spent on new parts but to no avail. The day we left the USA to head back to Greece, we actually chased the UPS truck around on his route in order to get this package at the last minute. It had all new pistons & rings and all 4 stages for the compressor. These are the parts that the genius's in Phuket said we needed before returning our compressor back to us in pieces there. We got to do the 2 most popular dives- one was the blue hole and azure window and the other, the "Inland Sea". Both of the dives were shore dives and we would gear up at the van and then shuffle to the entry point. The first dive was the longest walk we've ever done in our gear even though we've done practically every shore dive on Bonaire. On the way out, we thought we were going to have to carry each other. The dive was interesting, we went through the longest tunnel passage we've ever done and the water clarity was excellent. There wasn't much for life really aside from a few fish and small stuff; it was more about the big scene.
From Malta
From Malta

The second dive started closer to the van and we slipped into the shallow water that makes the Inland Sea. You then descend at the entrance to a cave tunnel that leads some 80 meters out to the sea. It was looking pretty good and there were more fish, we saw a large nudibranch, the tunnel was cool, the colors and shafts of light were lovely and then one guy on the dive had a panic type of event and the dive was aborted. We had to go back thorough the tunnel and then wait there at 20 feet while the diemaster got the guy back to the surface and by the time he came back down for us, the dive was pretty much a bust and I was cold from hanging motionless in the dark. Oh well! What can you do when you dive with a shop? That is why we like to dive on our own. A friend we made at the marina where we were hauled out this Spring said that the water in the Med got downright hot in the summer. Well, we haven't found the water to be hot, and now that we think about it, the guy that told us this was from Norway so... we cut ourselves some slack for getting chilly on the dives.
From Malta

Another EU funded project is the organization of the Coastal Trail, a hiking trail that circles the island & passes through some great scenery. We did a couple of these while on Gozo and they were a highlight. It seems like we're really wearing out the soles of our shoes lately. They weren't always that well blazed though so we had to be on our toes. The high cliffs and rock formations on the west coast were really impressive. There are also several watchtowers scattered around the whole island, the first we'd seen of this type. All the signs say "if the flag is flying, the tower is open!" Well of all the towers we saw and all the flags a flyin', there were no open doors to any of them. We didn't realize how many projects the EU helps to fund. I suppose Malta gets their share of them. We also see that Malta is a shipping headquarters so they must make some money there. We looked up the population of Malta & its about 423,000. Vermont is about 650,000. What a small country!
From Malta

We were ready to move to Valletta. After seeing the name on so many mega-yacht sterns over the years and looking at pictures of the famous city, I couldn't wait to see it. Known as one of the most beautiful in the Med, Grand Harbor does make a great impression when coming in by boat. We have never seen such high fortifications and the immensity is significant. I couldn't get it in a photo. An amazing natural harbor in itself, over the years and all the turmoil, every finger tip so to speak got a new fort and fortification on it so that everywhere you look there is another golden stone protector looking back at you. We pulled in to a marina for a couple nights but then headed back out to anchor because we found a great finger in the harbor with good holding and a spectacular view, and a fort for protection!
From Malta
From Malta

We explored most every corner of Valletta, sampling the street food, hit a few museums, gardens, walked the walls. Then we started hopping on the bus and heading inland. We visited another hugely fortified old city- Mdina- which has been a work in progress for over 3000 years. I kept getting twinges of the Game of Thrones.
From Malta

In the area just outside the walls of Mdina is the town of Rabat and it was there that we visited the St Paul's Catacombs (underground cemetery). I never knew this but during the Roman period, there wasn't much space for above ground burials and there is very little soil anyway but the stone is soft to carve and it was decided that underground cemeteries would be built to house the dead. And there would be passageways around these huge underground tunnels and then why not have tables for food and stone "sofas" for hanging out beside the tables while eating meat & fish & drinking wine while visiting your deceased loved ones? And so it was that all of these remained and then were excavated and made into this museum where you learn all about it and then get to walk through the tunnels stooped over (they were really short back then!) to see what it was all about. It was such an interesting day & we learned so much.
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta

Mainland Malta advertises heritage walks that you can do on your own similar to Gozo and we tried 2 of them in particular, but both were pretty bad! We were all excited about one of them. When the British ruled here, they decided to build an extensive, high wall across the entire island and fortify the wall with additional forts and guard towers and they called it the Victoria Lines. There's a trail that runs along the whole wall and is according to a glossy pamphet, a great walk in Malta. It was a Sunday and true to this part of the world, everything all but stops on Sunday. It is seriously Catholic here. We managed to get a bus out there only to find that we hated the trail and aborted our plan. It took forever to get back and we decided just because there's a pamphlet doesn't mean its good.

On the same day that I lined up the dives and Jon was swearing at the compressor, I also lined up a Coultri Sub service center here in Malta to take a look at the thing. So we moved over to an anchorage close to the shop 2 days ago and brought it in. Apparently it is the crankshaft which sort of makes sense, given most of the other parts are new! The Maltese speaking owner had a friend there who was helping to translate and he told us we shouldn't have bought a Coultri if we'd wanted it to last, because it is made in Italy! But for whatever reason, we could get a new block here whereas we supposedly couldn't in Thailand because we asked and they weren't offering that anymore. GRRRR! So we went that route and picked the compressor back up this morning, looking pretty new. Jon got it hooked up and its running like new too. So hopefully, we're back in business! There's more diving we want to do here, just not with a shop.

After getting the compressor sorted, we spent the afternoon playing in the water- at the surface.. The rock formations and caves around here are fun and the water is crystal clear. I found a small, live cowrie today. I didn't expect they would be here.
From Malta
From Malta

And we're cleared out now to head back to Italy. Malta has been a unique country to visit and a testament to the grand things that people can create that can stand the test of time. Hopefully our compressor will now too.
From Malta


Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands of miles of beautiful sailing, [...]
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EVERGREEN 's Photos -