08/03/2010, Porto Ercole, Tuscany
Well, sorry that it's been 70 days since I last blogged, but Wi-Fi has been very scanty in western Italy. We were warned about it in Roccelle Ionica, but we didn't listen. Now we're paying the price. The title of this blog applies to this in a way...
Anyhow, now we're in Porto Ercole, our longtime destination since our friends Michel, Joyce, and Alexandria are coming here soon (specifically tomorrow). We are busy now trying to clean up our boat in preparation as well as fix new problems that were just created last night (instruments aren't working anymore after my dad took the wind instrument out to try to fix it).
If you want an update since we left Syracuse, read on. It promises to be a long blog...
We left Syracuse and went down to Portopallo on the SE corner of Sicily where we planned to jump off to Malta. Unlike what usually happens, the plan went right! We did a long day-sail down to Malta in crystal clear, aquamarine water. I mean, the water was like something you might expect to see in the S. Pacific!
Valetta, the capitol, was amazing. Unfortunately we didn't see a whole lot, but we did manage to see the big tourist attraction - St. John's co-Cathedral. The reason it is a co-Cathedral is that there is the first cathedral on Gozo. Instead of naming it for a different saint (St. John is the patron saint of the Maltese islands), the Maltese ruler called it a co-Cathedral.
The rest of the city was pretty cool. It was all just several big forts. We didn't see them all, but when we were entering Grand Harbor it was just walls, walls, walls on all sides. Most of the forts were built while Malta was gaining power so when the Turks came to squash this powerful nation, the forts were completed. It didn't stop the Turks from laying siege to the city (Valetta) for five (?) months. That siege is referred to as the Great Siege.
Valetta was under siege again during WWII, but that was eventually lifted when the Allies managed to get a food freighter into the port. As with every other holiday (there's usually one every day), the Maltese government pays for fireworks since the citizens can't shoot them off themselves.
After Malta we sailed down to Monastir, Tunisia. It was cool to see a different continent, but it wasn't a place I'd want to do back to - either for a holiday (as many tourists had) or just to visit. However, I'm glad that we went there the one time. The market is a lot like a stock exchange building - people shouting, shoving and just generally making a ruckus all over the whole building. Didn't understand a word of Arabic, but we did manage to procure some eggs, chicken, and some very delicious oranges.
We spent a night in the marina at Monastir before heading on the Yasmine Hammamet. The next day we went into town, but didn't find anything interesting before leaving on an overnighter to I. Pantelleria, Italy.
Since we didn't spend much time in Pantelleria, I will go straight to Mazara del Vallo, Sicily where we stopped after Pantelleria. When we got into Mazara at around 6 am, I was asleep. But the breakwater for the marina extends out a long way so we were able to anchor easily. The next morning we tried to leave to Trapani, but the wind was too strong so we turned back. However, the next day was good, so we left in the morning. Well, the wind built and so now we were in 20 knots going upwind. )-: But we made it, and soon we were at anchor in Trapani harbor. Because we didn't have a dinghy motor we didn't go into town and so soon we were under way to Palermo.
We weren't very impressed with Palermo. We had to stay in a marina and we were having a tough time figuring out where to stay when this one guy waved us over to his dock. We were lost and grateful for some direction, so we tied up there. It turned out that it was an expensive place to tie up - and that's about all it was. The water was not potable, there wasn't any Wi-Fi, and I don't think there was any electricity.
We cleared out of Palermo quickly and went to Cefalu (I think). We stayed there for two days because we needed laundry done. We got some Wi-Fi there, but only enough to send some e-mail messages.
From Cefalu we went to the first of the Aeolian's, Filicudi. On our way there we noticed some cool-looking rocks sticking out of the water and so we stopped by there. The snorkeling was good, but we got our chain wound hopelessly around the underwater rocks. The anchor wasn't even doing anything! It ended up with my dad swimming and directing us to get the chain off the bottom. I turned out OK, but it was bout sunset by the time we got done with it.
From there we went to Lipari for lunch. Our windlass broke then and so we were stuck there for a while before we got it repaired enough to get the anchor up. We moved around the corner to some rocks because of the wake in Lipari bay for the evening. But before the sun went down we decided to go to the nearby I. Vulcano.
The next morning we hiked up the mountain to the summit. Granted, it isn't a very big volcano, but we were still puffing hard when we got back to the boat. It felt so good to go swimming, despite the jellyfish!
We left in the morning for a short sail to Panarea. We found a nice anchorage there and spent a peaceful night. In the morning on our way to Stromboli we saw a mega mega-yacht with a helicopter!!!! We saw that mega-yacht two more times at places I can't remember, unfortunately.
Stromboli is an active volcano, so there was a continuous stream of smoke coming out of the crater. Supposedly if we were to go around to the north side of the island at night we could see the lava flow. We didn't and we heard from a guy who did that on the night we were thinking of doing it that he couldn't see it very well.
Mainland coast (Tropea - here):
We left Stromboli rather early in the morning on our trip to Tropea. Tropea was only 30 (?) n.m. away, but it was almost 6 by the time we got in. We pulled up the most cove-like bit of coast we could find and settled in for the night. The only problem was that the waves were running perpendicular to the coast while the 2 knot current was running parallel to the coast. Around 8 or 9 p.m. we got out our stern anchor and set that. We spent a peaceful night after that.
We had Wi-Fi then, and so we made full use of it by staying the rest of the day before setting off at sunset for Naples. We couldn't make Naples the next day, so instead of going there we went to the Amalfi coast just south of Naples. We stayed there for a night (the mooring buoys were â'¬60 per night!) at anchor and moved on the next morning.
That afternoon we arrived at the place that would anchor us for the next week - Baia. It was there that we found the Fiart manufacturing company and where we had our dinghy motor repaired (it works fine now! Yay!). We took little excursions out from there and saw Procida, Ischia, Capri, and Ventotene - little islands around the bay of Naples.
The dinghy motor was finally repaired and we took the overnighter that eventually got us here by way of Santo Marinella.
That is the events I remember happening between here and Syracuse (with a little help from mom's notebook).
06/20/2010, Syracuse, Italy
We just completed an overnighter from Roccella Ionica last night. It was a very rough and confusing night -- the wind was trying to come from two different directions making the seas confused and the breeze unsteady. Sometime during the night right after there had been no wind for several hours, the wind piped up at twenty knots from the North. Then, right when we got close to Syracuse, the wind completely died before switching around to the South! But the main thing is is that we made it here (even if we did get everything all salty).
Unfortunately our dinghy motor broke as soon as we wanted to go into town. We need groceries, but we aren't too desperate -- not yet anyway.
Syracuse looks like a nice place. There is the old town -- the largest Greek settlement in Magna Graecia -- built on the point protecting the large bay. There is a large wall built around it. However since the wind is strong and our dinghy motor is broken, I wouldn't know anything about it. :_(
06/18/2010, Roccella Ionica, Italy
Just an update...we're leaving soon.
06/18/2010, Roccella Ionica, Italy
This part of the coast of Italy is incredibly inhospitable with miles of white sand beaches and no coves or marinas for miles. Usually when we do find a marina to stay at, it's incredibly expensive, too, because there's nowhere else to go. But we struck the jackpot with Roccella Ionica. Here it's free unless they decide to collect. Normally it costs 20 euros a night regardless of the length of the boat, but the staff usually doesn't collect their money. No electricity, but we don't need that with our new solar panels.
We're just getting ready to go to Syracuse on Sicily this afternoon. Should be another overnighter -- the second in a row.
06/14/2010, Brindisi, Italy
Well, we've just completed a weeklong tour of the major tourist cities of Italy - Venice, Florence, and Rome. We started off in Venice with a long overnight train ride into the city. I must've gotten 2 hours of sleep (or at least the equivalent of 2 hours). When we arrived in Venice and got to our hostel, I was so tired I went to sleep right on two of the waiting chairs! But I was eventually woken up and we got some breakfast before heading out to see the city.
I survived that and slept through lunch (after which I was feeling marginally refreshed). Then we continued on to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, and a smoothie shop. By then I felt like I actually had some energy and we took vaporetto #2 around the Grand Canal and other areas. Then we returned to the hostel for a half-hour before meeting up with my dad's friend, Michel. We stayed up late with him eating dinner (I must've eaten 10 fries and had a couple bites of chicken). But, it was fun, and I think I would go back if I got the chance.
The next morning (after I'd tried to go to sleep and ended up unconscious) we took a high-speed train to Florence (Firenze in Italian). The high-speed trains are quite nice with little to no graffiti on them. They don't even have a special car for the engine (which is electric and uses 340 volt). The first class coach is in the engine car.
Florence is a pretty cool place. Things aren't too far away especially if you've gotten a hotel between the Duomo and the train station. We weren't so lucky, but our hotel was nicer than we expected. It is called Hotel Alamanni and is on Via Alamanni (go figure!). But it was kind of out of town, so we had to walk awhile before we got into the tourist area.
The Duomo is awesome. It's free to go in, and tourists use that to its full extent. The church is still used as a church, so they want you to keep quiet, but nobody wants to, so they have to keep reminding everyone. But the workmanship is so detailed and amazing. Unfortunately, someone could get a pressure washing job for several years if they wanted to.
We went to the Uffizi gallery next and saw a lot of famous pieces of art (including Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus'). It was amazing, but also quite boring (I thought). You see one Renaissance piece of art by an obscure artist, you've seen 'em all. However, what I thought was the most interesting was the frames. Some of these frames are gold plated with exquisite columns carved on the front and elaborate carvings around the edges. Others are just your plain 12' by 12' gold plated frame.
The Galleria d'Accadmie just had the David by Michelangelo and a bunch of other paintings. If they didn't have the David, I doubt they'd be able to charge as much as they do -- there's nothing else there.
From Florence we took the slow train to Rome. Rome's cool, but it'd be nice if it wasn't so modern. It kind of degrades the sense of how old the ruins really are. We saw the Coliseum (Colossi), Forum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica and Square, the Jewish Ghetto, the Pantheon, and the Hippodrome. The Ghetto, Pantheon, and Hippodrome are free. The Ghetto is just an area, and while the Pantheon is an actual building, the Hippodrome is just a grassy field you can fly kites in. The Coliseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill are all on one ticket (12 Euro). However, the Vatican Museums are separate (goes to show that the Vatican is its own state, albeit the smallest) and cost a number I don't know - we skipped the line (I'm glad we did - the line must've been a couple football fields long) and went on a guided tour. That was neat, because we saw only the necessary stuff, although we missed a lot. I bet we'd still be there if we had gone by our self!
St. Peter's Basilica and Square were cool. The Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the world and is built on the remains of St. Peter. There is an Egyptian obelisk where he was killed and the Square is built around it. The church itself was worked on by 4 architects through a succession of 22 popes. Michelangelo himself worked on the dome (the largest in the Catholic world) but couldn't see it because he died. He was 79 when he started work.
That concluded our tour. The next day we took a brief walk-around tour of the Palatine and Forum before we jumped on our train and headed back to Brindisi. Overall the trip was awesome. I'd go back to some places again, although I probably won't do the whole thing. At least I know what to see!
P.S. The photo is of the Coliseum.
05/20/2010, Dubrovnik, Croatia
...that we have found to be important in our cruising lifestyle include fast Wi-Fi and warm (or at least semi-warm!) weather -- both of which we have here in Dubrovnik.
When we were woken up this morning at 8:45 (we stayed up late the night before), it was to find 20 knot winds on our beam. We were reaching under double reefed main and jib about 5 n.m. away from our destination -- GruÅ¾. We'd picked GruÅ¾ because of its size and proximity to Dubrovnik. It was about a mile from the old town (restored from bombing during the war with the Serbs) and relatively small in size -- we didn't want a Bodrum where we paid $200 for an agent to check us in. So we came around the point and docked up at the Customs dock.
After that we had brunch (we hadn't had any breakfast) and headed out to take a boat tour (by Nelson's Croatian Boat Tours) of the old town. I wondered for awhile how my dad planned to get the boat onto the streets of the old town, but I soon stopped worrying when it became evident that we weren't going to tour the old town -- just the outside walls.
Anyway, the castle from the outside is magnificent. It is so much better and well preserved than Mandraki (Rhodes), I wish that we could tour the inside too. But we couldn't, so we motored back to our now a lee shore anchorage.