Between La Spezia and Lavanga lie the five remote villages of Cinque Terre, recognized by the Unesco "Mankind's World Heritage" for their unique man-made landscape carved into the hills of the Ligurian coast. The villages, accessible only via foot or small boat, display the wares cultivated from the hills - olive oil, wine, pasta, pesto. Generations have worked to create this monument in the landscape where the stone terraces stretch from the hilltops to the sea held up with over 7000 stones unaided by cement or modern equipment. Until recently the paths between the five towns were the only communication routes; the rough coastline and harsh seas make it difficult to guarantee entry from the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. Today, the land falls under the protection of the National Park and Protected Marine Area and larger boats are discouraged from sailing, fishing and anchoring close to the coast.
On a gloriously hot day last Tuesday, August 26th we boarded the train in Lavagna with Maris Lyons, our fellow sailor from the ARC who had invited us to share time with her in this exquisite corner of Italy. In 45 minutes we were transported to the most southerly of the villages, Riomaggiore from where we began our day's adventures. The town itself was a tiny hamlet with narrow lanes and streets lined with small tourist shops, fruitteria, enotecha, cafes and pizzerias who beckoned to John like mermaids to a sailor. Unable to resist, we often ducked in to pick up fresh foccaccio with pomodoro (tomato and olive oil).
Each town boasts a harbour (a bit of a stretch of the definition) for here a few fishing boats moored and more lined the road sloping directly into the sea. We quickly set off for the next town, Manarola, a mere 20 minutes away along the Via dell'Amore (the road of love) where locals come to propose and surrounding a sculpture of man and woman, hundreds of padlocks representing their love can be found chained to the walls. Manarola was only slightly larger than the first town and we stopped only long enough to visit a local art gallery displaying originals capturing the light and colours of the local landscape.
From Manarola we walked the 2 km to the town of Corniglia, the highest of the five towns. The hike ended with a steep climb up winding steps where we rewarded ourselves with lunch and a trip to the gelateria. Corniglia is a bit bigger than the previous towns with boutiques and specialty stores of pasta, sauces and wines.
From Corniglia we trekked the hardest route that we thought would take us downhill to Vernazza resting on the sea, but we first had to traverse a steep uphill along rough paths and uneven steps carved into the hillside. Two kilometers took us 80 minutes and we arrived tired, dusty and thirsty. With a visit to the dentist awaiting, we stopped our visit at Vernazza and returned to Siestri Levanti via train. The 5 kilometers between the four villages took our breath away - figuratively and literally. Stopping along the paths to rest in the shade of olive trees we would glimpse back at the tiny towns nestled along the sea in the valley of the hills and feel a great sense of accomplishment to have walked the paths taken by many before us. It is with these images that we ended our day in Cinque Terre.
26/08/2008, Levanta, Italy
The Trifecta di Connor
Life on board appears filled with many little rituals, which over time eke into your family's life. Rituals in the eyes' of strangers, but for those of us in the moment, they become our memories, our fondest moments, and our glimpses of what we dreamed this journey would really be.
Months before we set off while I was hashing out the details of my sabbatical at work, a co-worker and dear friend, Tova, asked me very pointedly, "what do you want to get out of this trip?" I never forget that day, for it caused me to surface three very clear reasons that until that moment I didn't know I had defined.
1. John and I wanted to give our kids, Connor and Jenny, experiences and memories that would shape their actions, thoughts and decisions for the rest of their lives.
2. Time for John and me to reconnect as a couple and accomplish a shared goal and make the dream a reality.
3. Give myself some time to do what I love - read, travel, explore, and see the arts.
Today, we watched as some of the simplest rituals, some of the simplest moments became lasting memories as Connor achieved a never before achieved trifecta - win, place and show.
We started with the ritual of games. When we packed (and over packed), we loaded up on games - cards, UNO, Skippo, Phase 10, chess, backgammon, checkers, crib, brain teasers, puzzles. I have long loved to play games, as have the rest of the family, but John and I make it a rule, that we very rarely play against each other as neither can stand to lose to the other. Crib was one of those games that I love to play, but until this trip John avoided playing with me. This last Christmas, under a tree filled with gifts destined for life on Windancer, I received my favourite Christmas gift - a cribbage board from John. Even though he (in the past) loathed playing against me, he gave me a gift that he knew would make me happy and something we could do in the many hours just the family would be aboard. Under the tutelage of Uncle Bob, Jenny quickly learned all the combos adding to 15 and 31. In the recent past she has skunked not only John and me, but BOTH John and me in the same game. Games are part of boat life.
Scrabble is another game that has its place aboard Windancer. I have challenged most of our guests and relished in winning (usually). It isn't that I have a great vocabulary, but learned at the hands of our contractor to play the board, not my letters. Last night Connor and I dusted off the scrabble, yanked out the dictionary and began. Not only did Connor beat me, but also he scored a whopping 294 points with words like EX, QAID, ZOEA and UNCHAINS. He played brilliantly, searching the board for triple letter and word spots to lay the highest point letters. The first of the trifecta - WIN.
This morning, we stumbled across a gem of a town, Portavenere, just outside of Spezia. Under a black and white striped church from the 13th century, the thin multi-coloured homes line the marina. Hidden behind the homes runs the main street, which houses olive, pesto and wine boutiques. From the cobbler's store emanates the succulent aroma of leather and inside the most beautiful bags hang over the hand made shoes. Further down the way we see the pesto/cheese/olive oil vending machine, in case you have a hankering for the delicacies and arrive when the stores are closed. On the way to the church where a cat sleeps under the altar you come across Byron's Grotto dedicated to the great author who lived here. As is our usual ritual when we come to a town in the morning, I found a café and ordered breakfast - cappuccino, brioche and jus presse (freshly squeezed orange juice). This morning, Connor asked if he too could have a coffee. After adding the requisite sugar to his cappuccino Connor relished in his first coffee. The second of the trifecta - in the quaintest PLACE, a hidden gem, Connor become my partner in this morning ritual.
(As an aside, for those of you familiar with Connor's often endless prattling, imagine it on fast forward as the caffeine jag kicked in. As we wandered the quiet streets and tucked into boutiques and the quiet of the church, there was Connor literally hopping, picking up his sister, bouncing off the ancient walls, all the while spewing facts - all accurate facts, but at times totally unrelated to the moments at hand. Ahhh, the power of the coco bean.)
Later today, we sailed the coast of the Cinqueterra, a series of five very isolated towns linked by narrow walkways and home to man-made terraces laden with vines heavy with grapes and olive trees. Unable to anchor in any of these protected bays, we continued to Lavanto where we anchored just outside the beach area. After swimming and completing our other rituals (homework, blogging and photo archiving), we sat down for an Italian dinner aboard Windancer - pasta, bocconcini salad, fruit, pesto and wine. (Today, while visiting in Portavenere, we purchased the most exquisite pesto from an elderly Italian gentleman who worked the front of the store while his wife made fresh batches in the back. We also bought what looked like a giant pizza without any sauces, that is actually pasta that you cut into 5cm squares and cook for 2 minutes. The result is a bready-type pasta that comes to life under a drizzle of pesto, olive oil or other sauces.)
Now, for those of you who have hosted Connor for dinner, you may be familiar with his food peccadilloes - neither pasta nor rice. But tonight, Connor choose to try the unknown and ate not a piece of pasta, but actually 2 helpings of weird flat pizza type pasta. Trifecta number three - Connor SHOWS his courage and looks his fear of pasta straight in the eye.
These simple moments - a scrabble game, café in the square, pasta on board -rituals to outsiders, but not to us. These are our memories, our triumphs. These are our quiet ways in which we subtly shape our children's experiences and, with any hope, their futures.
Dedicated to Connor for trying, to Tova for asking and to Sandra, Richard and Meghan Mary Barbara for playing a part in our games.
25/08/2008, Pisa, Italy
Pisa Was Meant to Be
Whenever a group of sailors gets together, one of two things happens. The first occurs when two ships are heading in the same direction and an impromptu, unofficial regatta suddenly starts, each claiming "it is not a race". The second occurs when there isn't enough wind for a non-race and then the sailors' tales begin, each besting the other or providing warnings and advice of future ports of call.
When we were just beginning our Med sail, we were often the recipient of an earful about the Cote d'Azur and just how awfully crowded, hot, expensive and snooty southern France could be. Now, the source was often English sailors and it seems the French and English live to keep their love-hate relationship alive. We also had heard how great Italy could be the further south you went, but just how hard it was to find anchorage along the Ligurian and Tuscan coasts and almost impossible to find dock space. And if you have a catamaran whose dimensions make you almost a perfect rectangle, you might as well pack it in now.
So as we meandered along the southern French coastline, we discovered crowded beaches, hot towns where the sweat trickled down your back before you stepped ashore, expensive boutiques and the occasional snooty Frenchman. But we avoided the beaches in favour of the small towns and islands, adjusted our schedules to miss the mid day sun, shopped the local markets and never stepped foot in a boutique and found ourselves charmed by the subtle humour of the French waiters and the patience of the shopkeepers as we made our almost daily market purchases.
We approached the home of pizza, pasta and gelato with a bit of anchoring trepidation - even the chart books showed few anchorages along the coast and we have a date with a dentist in Lavagna on August 26th (that is a whole other story). After we had left Elba and her lovely bays, we were bound for the Tuscan coast and Marina de Pisa, a small town just 10 km from the world-famous Pisa. So far we had pretty good luck, but our captain had his doubts we would find a place to dock and as we started up the River Arno, it looked hopeless. Lining the river were massive fishing nets and not too far ahead were overhead cables that would further thwart our attempts. But to our pleasant surprise, our radio call was answered in broken English, "head to dock 19". We docked stern to, settled in and John, Jenny and I headed to Marina de Pisa, a mere 4 km walk into town. (Connor stayed on board to finish the Da Vinci Code, one of the many novels he is chewing through these days). With the exception of the best gelato and pizza, there isn't a lot in Marina de Pisa, particularly no car rental.
We boarded a bus heading to Pisa with a plan for Jenny and I to get off at our marina and John to head to Pisa to find a car to rent. With no idea where the bus stops and watching for our marina, which in essence looked like a bunch of houses with some masts in the background behind hedges and construction, we rang the stop bell 'now', hoping for the shortest walk possible. Seems we nailed it and literally walked across the street. And seems John nailed the only car rental in the vicinity of the bus station who just happened to be open til 7 and happened to have one car left, a tiny blue FIAT with tires smaller than our fold up bikes. He was home in no time and we happily jumped in and returned to Pisa with a less than detailed map.
With no wrong turns, we parked along the street, paid our money in the meter and walked towards the Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracle Square). We could see the dome of the cathedral up the street and to the left, the Baptistry. But it was only as we entered the square that we spotted the belltower. There SHE stood, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She is beautiful, clean, simple, and leaning, almost foolishly, but perfectly. It was the strangest feeling to be standing directly in front of her after all these years of seeing her in text books and post cards. The first thing we did was what every tourist does - snap photos of us 'holding' up the tower. We wandered to the ticket office and bought tickets for the tour the next morning and a few souvenirs. We crossed the grounds and then headed to a small restaurant for pasta.
As we returned to the boat John and I just looked at each and agreed, it was just meant to be. First, a dock spot in the most unlikely and ugliest of marinas. Then a bus ride stopping directly in front of the marina. Next, the only car rental in site, stays open and has one last car. We drive into Pisa, get a parking spot a block away from one of the Seven Wonders of the World and pay 1 EU for the meter when it costs $35/day to park in downtown Toronto to go to work. And then, we are greeted by a site that took our breath away, so majestic and pure as the evening sun lit her up. Pisa was just meant to be.
And it gets better. The next day, we got up early all ready for our trip back to the tower to climb up to the top. As we got in the car, John turned the key to ...silence. Dead battery. So what are the odds you can actually communicate, 'do you have jumper cables' in Italian? But lo and behold, the guy looks at our problem, walks back into his workshop and drags out a battery with cables on a cart and boosts the car. We make it back into town with 10 minutes before our scheduled tour, walk back into the plaza, stow our bags and head for the tower. Walking up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is no mean feet. Exactly 300 steps that slope to the outside of the building, then get steeper and then slope to the inside of the tower as you round each level. The view from the top looks over the thousands of Pisan roofs, terra cotta as far as the eye can see. After the designated time, we are instructed to leave for the next tour of guests. Tours run on the half hour and are limited to 15 with a strict no bag policy; they are serious about their Tower and protect her with a maternal love.
We head back to the car and with a full rental day ahead of us, decide to drive into Chianti country and explore a little of the countryside. We are immediately surrounded by fields of sunflowers turning their heads under the Tuscan sun. We speed along the Fi-Pi-Li highway (Firenze, Pisa, Livorno) and in no time land in Firenza, or as we like to call her, Florence. Knowing that this renaissance city takes a good 3 days, we choose to continue to Chianti country, but when we spot the roof of Brunelleschi's famous Duomo, we alter course and vrooming down narrow streets, hit upon the high end fashion district right around the corner of the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore and Campanile belltower. It was meant to be. John parks the car outside of Gucci, while the kids and I quickly venture across the square to take a few pics and marvel at the beauty of the church and Baptistry. We traded positions, I stand guard over our illegal parking spot while John quickly walks around.
We head out of the city making our way through streets spilling over with tourists and market stalls and stop for gas and some of the best pizza we have ever had, made by the guy who works at the Speedy Pizza in the gas station. We continue to Greve in the heart of Chianti country and just before we hit the town square, we turn up a winding road to the small town of Montefioralle, which is just a few tiny streets with beautiful doors and vines and bougainvillea climbing the walls. We turn into an Enoteche, a wine store, and sample the wines from 2004 to 2006 and purchase a few bottles. We wandered the triangular plaza in Greve under the watchful eye of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the statue of the local boy who made good as the first European to see Manhattan in 1524.
Driving back to Pisa we took the scenic Chiantigiana road and stopped in a 'mall' to provision for the next few weeks. Running late, we made the choice to take the car back to the rental place and then take a taxi to the boat, but the rental owner gives us a grace period so John drives us back to the boat, returns the car and catches the bus back to the boat. All in all, Pisa was just meant to be.
20/08/2008, Isola Capraia, Italy
We sailed from the island of Elba (famous for the exiled home of Napoleon) to Isola Capraia 40 miles north of Elba. We anchored in a little bay just north of the town of Porto Capraia.
Mom and I decided that we were going to go snorkeling. On the way there we saw sole fish-a flat fish that will camouflage into what it is on, such as rocks or sand. We kept snorkeling and we saw a jellyfish and thought that we could go back now. When we were heading back we saw a bag but didn't know what it was. Suddenly I saw a head looking at me, then I saw a tentacle. It was an octopus! "MOM! it is an octopus!" And then all of a sudden it stared to move. "CONNOR - OCTOPUS!" Connor swam over and then dad came in the dinghy. We took some pictures. Dad swam down and poked it. When it was poked it turned colours or swam away. Then Connor and I saw sole fish chasing a crab. Later that day, after we dried off and played some cards, we went to town, came back, and had dinner aboard. By far this was the best snorkeling I have seen so far in the Mediterranean.
16/08/2008, Portoferriao, Elba, Italy
I awoke early this morning for no particular rhyme or reason, and began to read my newly started book, The Da Vinci Code. Mom was in a get it clean mood so Jenny and I picked up the mounds of who knows what off our cabin floor, while my Mom "prepared" our cereal breakfast and my Dad worked away on his computer. We had decided to leave on the dinghy at 10:30 for Portoferraio, the town Napoleone was exiled to. We walked along the board-walk eyeing clothes, shoes and perfume stores for Mom and Jenny, WIFI for Dad and Napoleone busts for myself. We trudged up a steep set of 135 steps, Jenny keeps count, to the residence of our short friend Bonaparte. We bought our tickets and headed off to the foyer where I saw the nicest exile I've ever seen, if when my parents sent me to my room it looked like that I would be wreaking havoc every moment possible, as if I don't already. We passed his bedroom, equipped with a tall bed, draped in golden sheets and with beautiful carvings at the head of the bed, unfortunately the bed was so high up that I suspected Napoleone may have needed a ladder to have access to it. Bonaparte had many Tuscan mirrors and pictures of himself and his son, the King of Rome, a goofy name huh, I thought so too! At the exhibition upstairs we saw his hat, clothes, English lesson pages and his travel kit and tooth cleaning kit! We saw the original flag he christened when he was exiled there, and I thought I knew the definition of vain and control freak! He even had an inkpot clock with himself on it. Over all, it was a neat experience to be part of history.
Legend has it Napoleon hated Elba and counted down the days until he could leave. However, my Dad figured out why he disliked his house, beause he didn't live on the beachy west side of the island!
14/08/2008, Bastia, Corsica
We Couldn't in Cannes, But Can in Corsica
Night sails have their rewards. At the moment, in the sheer darkness, it can appear that there isn't anything rewarding about sitting on deck, alone, peering at radar to spot ships, tagging them to check the distance until our paths cross, all the while huddled under a blanket, watching waves crest with crossed fingers...please don't spray on to the top deck...please let me stay dry.
But as the skies slowly lighten, the fear, no, not fear, but more apprehension also lightens. Suddenly what appeared ominous or mysterious, is normal in the light. And then, as the sun crests the horizon, the true rewards arrive. Brilliant sunlight brings warmth along with the early morning stragglers as they stumble out of their bunks. A smile, a little friend to offer a hug. And then the reward of being off watch and returning to your bunk for a few hours more of sleep.
Sighting land is another reward and Wednesday morning after we sailed from Nice we spotted the Corsican shore about 10 am. On course for St Florent, a small town at the intersection where your index finger and thumb meet in the shape of the island of Corsica, we spied a beach and altered course. Like a mini Illettes of Formentera, we were rewarded with crystal clear warm waters and a sandy beach. After a day of playing in the waters, we anchored a short distance away off the St Florent marina. Thursday morning we dinghied ashore for our typical quest for a boulanger for fresh baguettes. A short stop in a restaurant along the marina for a petit dejeuner (café au lait, croissant, orange presse) and then a return to the boat where Connor was still sleeping, a sign of his imminent voyage into his teens (Sept 22 he will be 13).
We sailed up the index finger and around the finger tip in good winds between 10-20 knots until we passed the finger tip taking us from the west to the east coast. At the Cap Corse, we encountered the predictable 25-35 knot winds and anchored in the first small bay offering us shelter. We fell asleep to the stifling heat of a windless night to awaken to the wind whistling through our hatches. After a slow morning we set sail and sail we did.
In Cannes we hunkered down in the marina when the winds gusted to 35 knots, our guests grateful for the reprieve from the potential upheaval such gusts can bring. In Corsica, knowing that Windancer was good for it and the crew were game, we set sail down the east coast of Corsica towards Bastia. With Connor at the helm, John reefing in the main and Ziggy correcting the jib, we reached a maximum of 10.4 knots speed over ground (SOG) with a double reefed main and triple reefed jib. The wind gusted to 47 knots periodically dropping to 35kn. You could see the wind as she gusted over the water bringing with her ocean spray. In the lee of the island we were saved from big waves, but when water sprays over the hull in 40 knots, it feels like being hit by a pea shooter at close range. Oh, the glorious feel of truly sailing after almost three weeks of no wind in Southern France.
After we anchored just south of the old village in a some-what sheltered marina, I glimpsed up at the Corsican courtesy flag, a black profile on a white sail of a bandana-toting pirate-esque figure. In the winds he seemed to move forward and kiss the line holding him tight. Now, at rest, he winked down at me as if to say, "For you see, in Corsica we do things our way, even the wind is better than in France."
12/08/2008, Nice to Monaco and Back
With the realization that we had to remain docked in Nice until parts ordered from the US arrived, we decided to rent a car and tour the coast. Docking, albeit refreshing after a few days at sea, isn't my favourite place to be. I would rather be anchored a short distance from shore, knowing we can travel to town in our dinghy when we want or remain securely in a quiet bay. Harbours are by nature safe havens and offer shelter from weather, but without wind, comes immense heat. Although we have adjusted our schedules to meet with the midday searing spike, there is no reprieve unless ducking into stores and stores mean tourists and tourists mean crowds or closing ourselves into the air conditioned comfort of Windancer. When anchored, we trust there will be a small breeze and there are always the crystal clear Mediterranean seas to dive into.
The Nice Marina is home to the tiny and the tinsel - small sailboats, fishing boats and the ever-present mega yachts. A mere 15 feet from our bow lies Samar, a 77 metre yacht with its own helicopter and Mini Cooper. Behind her lies Christina O, the original Onassis boat who in her prime must have been splendid, but looks a wee bit weary now. Across the way is Martha Ann, a new 60 meter navy blue beauty. Samar, a Kuwaitee corporately owned boat hosts the owners this week (although it seems that the actual owners of the boats spend only3-4 weeks aboard each year, and unless in charter, the yacht sits in a marina throughout the rest of the year). Accompanying the owners of Samar is a huge chocolate lab who doesn't have to rely on the crew for shore leave, but instead has his own room on board. Ahhh, the dog's life. (By the way, I have been remiss in my writings, but promise to load a few perspectives including: A Dog's Life, A Month is Southern France, Barcelona - the Quiet Beauty, and Rituals.)
So, sequestered in the Nice Marina, we got a few chores under our belt including washing the deck from bow to stern, cleaning heads, defrosting the fridge and changing the oil in our port engine. After lunch and showers, we picked up our 2 door Corsa and headed out of Nice for Eze, one of the perched villages slightly inland.
These villages perches were built on hilltops around a fortified chateau in the early Middle Ages as safe havens from a series of invaders coming from the coast or the hinterland. They were chosen for the 360-degree vantage points and the towns were built in the local stone to blend in with the landscape.
Leaving Nice we had the choice of three corniche roads leading to Monaco. Snaking one on top of the other, you can take the high road, the coastal route of the middle road. We headed along Moyenne Corniche (the middle road) for what seemed like just minutes and arrived in Eze located just 14 km from Nice. Parking in one of two parkades, we started to walk up the steep walkways into Eze, situated at the top of a 1400 foot hill. Built on sheer rock, the fortified village is possibly the most perche of all the villages with narrow lanes, twisting alleys and crooked stairs. Originally founded as a Ligurian settlement, over the years Eze has been sacked, burned and destroyed countless times as the Phoenicians, Romans, Lombards, Saracens, pirates and French fought for her occupation. Finally, in an era of peace, Eze began to rebuild herself, only to fall to the forces of nature as an earthquake of 1887 destroyed the fortress and split what remained of the town walls.
Today Eze is like an open air museum filled with galleries, restaurants and craft shops including the olive wood carver who makes the smoothest bowls, salad tongs and craggly old faces. (My personal quest is to buy a salad bowl but I am holding out for Africa to get a better price than the 150EU asked in France.)
We hiked up to the Jardin Exotique, a collection of cacti and sculptures leading to the top of the hill. From our vantage point we could see down in to St Jean Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Nice (and on a clear day all the way to St Tropez). Thunder, lightening and a smattering of rain greeted us on the top of the hill, something we welcomed after almost two months without rain. We huddled under the remains of the fortress and then made our way back down to the car.
We made our way east towards Monaco slowed by traffic as we crossed Cap d'Ail, the small little luxury village lying in France. We made our way into the smallest European principality, a mere 1.5 square miles, and drove through the town, past the Hotel de Paris and Monte Carlo Casino along the Monte Carlo race course and back out of the town. What I had not realized before we cruised the Cote d'Azur is how close all of these famous enclaves are to one another. Nice to Monaco is a mere 20 km. We stopped in the beach of Cap d'Ail and let the kids go for a swim before heading westward along the Basse Corniche which meanders along the coast. We entered the lush, green point of the super luxury villas and hotels on St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Driving through this exclusive enclave, we could only glimpse the villas behind gated drives, high hedges and hidden cameras.
We continued to Villefranche, my personal favourite of all the towns on the Cote d'Azur. From the quiet anchorage we had spied her neon signs but it was only ashore that we discovered the beauty hidden in the trompe l'oil facades amidst the purple bougainvillea covered walls, covered streets, steep lanes and fortress. There is a certain charm in her streets and the many restaurants greet the guests from the yachts anchored in the bay between Villefranche and Cap Ferrat and the drivers from Monaco and Nice. We dined along the water in a restaurant where the waiters had to cross the lanes of traffic to deliver your meals. John and I have become fans of the local cusine including Moule Frites (mussels and French fries), Salade Chevre Chaude (baked goats cheese on baguette slices nestled in greens with pine nuts) and rose wine.
Returning to Nice, a mere 5 minute drive, I thought of our day inland versus the days at sea. We have looked at the land from both sides now. Although faster to get to and easier to access via car, the villas of Cap Ferrat can only be enjoyed from the seas. And there is something to be said for the feeling of 'we-made-itness' you experience when you anchor in a bay and dinghy ashore to the hidden gems of towns along the Cote d'Azur.
10/08/2008, Nice, France
Today we bid a sad farewell to Uncle Dan, Aunt Nancy and Cousin Misa as they returned to landlubber life safely back in Columbus, Ohio. I joke about the "landlubber life" comment only because I just received a besutifully written "thank you" e-mail from my brother and one of his comments stated thanks for having "patience with the landlubber aboard"!
But the Farslow family visit was incredible, stealing more lines from Dan's e-mail, "getting better as each day past, too fast I(he) might add".
We were extremely fortunate to travel to three countries, France, Monaco and Italy in nine days, seeing the famous ports of Nice. Monaco, St. Tropez and Cannes, and getting berths in three of the four! Dan and I think we have finally figured out the system of securing a berth in France in August (the busiest of holiday times) - the best French attempt at communications and simply showing up and never taking no for an answer! All really great fun and very rewarding being on the dick in these spectacular, world class cities and boating meccas
So when guest leave, just like at home, a big clean is always in the cards. After a restful Sunday aboard Windancer, Monday started with a brisk cleaning of the outside of the vessel by the crew while the captain work diligently to arrange for the delivery of the necessary parts currently stuck in customs and in limbo.
By early afternoon, the boat was spotless and a customs broker in Nice harbour had arranged for the delivery of the two courier packages. Tres Bien!!!
PS - our dockmate (seen in the picture) is the motor yacht SAMAR, the 36th largest private motor yacht in the world!
03/08/2008, Marina Saint Lucia, St. Rafael, France
Our time at the Monte Carlos casino in Monaco was incredible. It truely deserves it's rank as the richest country and city in the world with more millionaires than anywhere else on the planet! The casino, which you pay ten euros for the privilege entering and lossing your money, was spectacular. Watching the real "players" betting rectangular 500 or 1000 euro chips like chump change and collecting their winnings of 25,000 euros in large, rectangular 10,000 euro chips!
We continued on to anchor overnight of a small Italian town, then returned to Monaco to re-provision Windancer IV before heading out on the Farslow family's first overnight experience. Nancy stood watch with Connor from 2300 to 0100 and Dan with John from 0500 until we arrived in St. Tropez.
The mooring gods were not with us in St. Tropez so after enjoying a few hours shopping in the "place to see and be seen" for the rich and famous, we sailing a few hours and we lucky to be given a berth in Marina Nord in Saint Rafael.
It is now 1430 and we are "gathering the crew"(Uncle Dan went to visit the old town and the girls and Connor headed to the beach) and departing en route to Cannes to anchor off the beautiful island of Isle Margarite", Tomorrow - CANNES.
02/08/2008, Monte Carlo, Port of Monaco
Birthday in Monte Carlo, Monaco, Cote d'Azur
Peak holiday season on the Cote d'Azur, the beaches are covered with tourists from all over world in various states of nakedness and the marinas are full of the largest and most opulent yachts in the world. John and Zig tell us the sun has been shining and the seas gloriously calm since they turned around Gibralter for the Med two months ago.
It is our fourth morning on Windancer IV, this one a little later and slower than the others, the result of being in Monaco and going with the flow of the local crowd. The evenings start well after the sun goes down. It is no misconception that this is the playground of the rich and famous - with heavy emphasis on the rich.
During our passage from Nice to Villefranche sur Mer to Monaco we were (and still are) in the company of about 15 of the world's largest one hundred private sea-going vessels and it was made clear to us in every harbor that despite being a large and graceful catamaran, we are not a member of that group.
Getting a berth in the harbor in Monaco took very thick skin and determination, to overlook our first denial two weeks prior to arrival, then being ignored over the radio as we called in during our approach to the marina and finally the First Mate being told face to face that there was no room for us. Not giving up, it took all of Captain John's charm and magic on a repeat visit to somehow sway the Monaco Port Authority to put us up after all, side-to, perfectly located, steps from the city.
We tied up about at six and started our stay by watching the Ferraris drive past the harbor road. The plan was to clean up and celebrate a birthday by going up the hill to Monte Carlo for dinner, visit the famed Casino, and watch the beautiful people enjoy the night. One only hears about the opulence; that Monaco holds more per capita millionaires than any other place in the world, that helicopters ferry folks in and out of their estates and to and from the yachts.
Off to Monte Carlo after the sunset, about 9:30, early by local standards, past the Versace, Gucci, Hermes, and Valentino shops, to the Hotel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino, favorite haunt of the mythical James Bond. As we approached the Casino crowds of elegantly dressed folks in black and white and diaphanous gowns were making their way into the evening's show. The road was littered with Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls, Porsche and massive elegant vehicles who's names I didn't recognize.
Dinner was at the Cafe de Paris on the circle across from the Casino and the Hotel de Paris, outdoors on the patio in a cozy back corner with views of the winging angels lining the top of the Casino. It was almost midnight when we finished but the tables were still full and more people coming in all the time. Out front the place was packed, cars going round and round and folk coming and going from the Casino.
The kids were tired out and went down the hill while we paid 10 Euro for the privilege of going in the Monte Carlo Casino to lose our money. Strangely enough, it was well worth the price of admission! The interior is ancient, taking you back to the 1800's, massive domed ceilings, painted with murals and chandeliers glittering over the roulette tables. It is easy visualize James Bond among the high rollers.
Then there were the gamblers, a dashing dude in white with silver pointed-toed shoes, young ladies sheathed in black twittering and watching their men lose a bundle and shabby folk cashing in bundles of chips. One elderly gent was playing 500 Euro minimum blackjack by himself at a table, four and five hands at a time, while a crowd watched from behind. At the roulette wheel the Captain taught me what the betting was all about as a swarthy guy playing green chips took in over 26,000 Euro in two turns of the wheel.
Unfortunately, we know our place and were "tourists" at the Casino, only able to vicariously experience the thrill of the win and agony of the loss. As John pointed out, very few of the active gamblers looked happy. At three o'clock we walked down the hill back to Windancer, completing a birthday not like any other.
Well, there was the part about driving a red Ferrari F355 Spyder roadster around the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One course through town, but that's another story........
30/07/2008, St. Laurent de Var, France
At dawn, we hauled the anchor and motored into the port of Saint Laurent de Var, France that is perfectly situated for picking our new guests up at the Nice Airport.
Ziggy taxied to the airport while Connor and Jennifer finished the final "boat school" lessons for the week. Our deal with the kids is that while we have guests, school is on holiday!
Team Farslow was visibly exhausted but eager to begin their Cote D'Azur sailign adventure, so we motored in calm conditions past the city of Nice and entered the harbour. We were extremely fortunate and were granted a perfect dock assignment with some wonderful neighbours (see above picture).
28/07/2008, Cannes, France
Bon Jour France
Monday, July 28 - Tuesday, July 29th
Ile de Porquerolles, St Tropez and Cannes
We sailed into France on a perfect day, albeit with little wind. The sea day was a welcome return after so many days doing so much. Back to homework, cleaning and just resting. These days are great for us to re-calibrate our itinerary and make any adjustments. We originally didn't have Italy on our radar, but after so many rave reviews from other sailors, we are attempting to squeeze it in and cutting France a little shorter. But if France turns out anything like our first two days, we may see a battle wage between these countries for visiting time.
We were heading to a set of four islands off the coast of France near Toulon. Up on deck we were playing crib and reading when suddenly Connor spouted, "What the heck is that? It looks like a submarine!" He was right and, after altering our course to get a better look, we were passed by a French sub on her way to Toulon, a large Navy base. Now, you don't see one of those everyday.
We anchored in a crowded, but peaceful bay on the Ile de Porquerolle, the island which inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. We swam, had a lovely salmon dinner followed by banana splits - our welcome to France meal. Early on Tuesday morning, John raised the anchor and departed for St Tropez.
It seems very surreal to say "We are spending the afternoon in St Tropez" aloud. Entering the Med was a big moment for us, but there is something about actually being in these famous towns that doesn't quite seem real. But here we are. We were bracing ourselves for an over-the-top town, filled with the beautiful, the rich, the famous, the wanna be's, the wanna be seens. But St Tropez pleasantly surprised us. Oh, for sure, the mega yachts graced the harbour and marina with the crew bedecked in their matching gear chauffeuring their guests between yacht and waiting Rolls Royce, but once ashore, we found ourselves in a bustling small town with ice cream shops and easels of art lining the boardwalk. The side streets and the roads up the hill were filled with tiny boutiques home to local artisans and gourmet shops and the bigger names of Hermes and the like. We wandered through the morning market and ate a late lunch at a local café. It feels good to speak our limited French after struggling unintelligently in Portugal and attempting a few lines in Spanish.
We returned to the boat around 4, went for a fast dip to cool off and then headed the 25 miles to Cannes. We passed the hours reading and lying about with our only interruption the countless helicopters buzzing overhead - we can only guess they are taking guests from St. Tropez to Monaco for an evening at the casino.
As we entered the harbour of Cannes, we couldn't believe the number of mega yachts, so large we thought they were cruise ships. As some waited for entry into the marina, we ventured further into the harbour and, puzzled, observed the countless small fishing boats and pleasure craft lined up neatly in a row. After surveying the area, we realized it was fireworks night in Cannes. We anchored amongst the boats and were welcomed to Cannes as the symphony played and a brilliant pyrotechnical show burst overhead. If this is how France welcomes their guests, even those of us in the modest 45ft catamarans, we can hardly wait to see what Antibes, Nice and Monaco have to offer.
26/07/2008, Cadaques, Spain
July 26th, 2008
Barcelona to Cadeques
After three glorious days reveling in the architectural wonders and energy of the worldclass city of Barcelona, we left in the evening for an over night sail to our last stop in Spain. Arriving early in the morning of Sunday, July 27th at Cadeques we were greeted by another perfect sunrise. The small town has a certain vibe to it, although in many ways it was nothing special. The white square hotels and apartments nestled against the hill and sloped down to small beaches of stone. A few tourist shops, restaurants, cafes and a flee market in the central square.
We dinghied ashore and, after the usual stops to check our internet access and pick up water at the local grocery store, we hiked a kilometer over the hill to the small bay of Port Lligat, home to the Salvador Dali House, where he lived his summers for many years. The museum required reservations which we didn't have, so we held a reservation for later that evening, with the hope of leaving our current anchorage and motoring over to the bay. We hiked back to Cadeques and after a fast swim on the rock beach, we returned to Windancer.
After sailing over to Port Lligat, we tried anchoring three times with no luck. The heavy weeds made it tough to get a secure anchor and we decided it wasn't in the cards to stop here. So that night we said adios to Espanol after nearly a month touring the cities of Valencia, Barcelona and cruising the Ballearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentara. The next morning we would say Bon Jour to France.
25/07/2008, Barcelona, Soain
We already miss our guest frm Vancouver, but have brother Dan and family joining us on July 31st in Nice and need to re-provision and get the boat cleaned and ready for ou new guests.
We headed via subway (note to self - Barcelona is one of the most amazing cities and it has an awesome public transit system - including a very extensive and efficient subway) to the center of Barcelona to see a few Gaudi designed buildings.
We also found one of the two famous 100 year old grocery stores situated in the town's old downtown - Colmado Quilez. Thoughts of the Longo family starting their grocery empire filled my mind as I purchased some wine in this mainstay of grocery retailing!
We continued to the main grocery store (unfortunately the historic grocery store had a very limited selection and no fresh fruit or veggies) and completed a full re-provisioning for Windancer. Exhausted once we returned home, the crew took a much needed na while I headed to the local wifi spot and tried to source the necessary maintenance parts we require.
A good decision was made to stay an extra day and night in Barcelona and the entire crew enjoyed a restful sleep. Tomorrow we will finish washing Windancer, take the cable car ride to the Montjuic (huge city park) and sail overnight to our next port.
23/07/2008, Barcelona, Spain
After 12 amazing days while the crew of Windancer IV enjoyed our first "boat guests", Karen, Emily and Kate Walker, often referred to as the three bears, boarded the Aeroporto transit train and headed home to Vancouver via Philadelphia and Seattle where they will spend this evening.
The visit was beyond amazing, far more than my words can tell, and the four cousins spent the "time of their lives" playing, swimming, diving, snorkelling and exploring whatever Spain and the Balearic Islands had to offer. I can honestly say that I have not seen a more incredible bonding experience happen before our eyes - it was as if these kids hap never been apart. No fighting, no arguing, and to end it all off, on the return passage from Ibiza to Barcelna, we enjoyed a swim in 5000 feet refreshing Mediterranean water and while drying off, Connor spotted four dolphins swimming towards the boat. What a thrilling finish to a spectacular trip.
21/07/2008, Formentera, Balearic Islands, Spain
Having family join us on our trip is so incredible. We have always lived 1000's of miles away from our family and now seeing the cousins play, do crafts, talk, giggle, laugh and truely enjoy each others company is the best thing anyone could ask for.
ENJOY LIFE - It's a BEACH!!!
20/07/2008, Formentera, Balearic Islands, Spain
This week in the Balearics has been the highlight of our trip. Starting in Soller, Mallorca and traveling to our current destination of Formentera has left us with nothing but memories of an amazing vacation. Our Balearic travels began with 2 days in Soller. We rented a car and went to the cities of Valdemossa and Deia. Small cobbled streets, local stores, and blooming flower boxes were some of the most spectacular things on our day trip. We all got a scare when we traveled down a steep windy road about 4 metres wide to a secluded swimming area for a mid-day dip. A few days later we arrived in San Telmo where we spent a day tubing, snorkeling, and roaming the small town.
A day later we arrived in Palma, Mallorca. We took a short walk to drop off the laundry and visit the local farmers market. We made our way to the main shopping district and visited stores such as tous and El corte de ingles. As we continued our shopping excursion, we found ourselves in small alleyway like streets filled with small boutique stores. On our way back to the boat we found the Palma Cathedral. The next day we toured the Cathedral and found that it was breathtaking. Our tickets to the cathedral included entrance to a museum of relics, and other religious artifacts.
From Palma we sailed about 45 min. to a busy resort beach called Cala Portals. There was an island within swimming distance near the boat. All four of us (the kids) swam to the island and walked up most of it (until we got too many splinters to count). Uncle John took us on the dingy to the raft off of the beach. We all took our turn doing flips and dives until we were picked up again by Uncle John.
That night we sailed to Ibiza and we all took turns doing watch (Jenny, Kate, Karen - 9:00 - 10:00pm, Emily, Connor - 10:00 - 12:00pm, John - 12:00-3:30am, and Zig - 3:30 - 8:00am). In the morning we went to the "hippy market." There were tons of stalls with hippy apparel, music, jewellery, and crafts. We got a few great things but I will never forget the amount of dread locks, incense, and B.O. that I witnessed. After the market we took a taxi back to the port and made a few phone calls. That night we left for Formentera and arrived there around 9:00pm.
Our first morning in Formentera was like a dream, the clearest water I had ever seen and a beautiful shore. The downside - a whole lot of naked people. We went a shore and took along walk along the beach. We ended up swimming back to the boat for breakfast. After lunch we went back to the beach and rented motorized little boats. For half an hour we took the boats around the bay and stopped by to say hello to Aunt Zig and Uncle John. Connor and I took the little boat around a nearby island and were hit by a wave which brought water into it. After returning the boats we came back to Windancer for a swim. That afternoon we took the dingy into the town and took a taxi to yet another hippy market. This one was much smaller and was filled with handmade crafts. After a long bus ride back we took the dingy back to the boat for dinner (pasta night).
This morning Uncle John and Aunt Zig swam to the beach to collect shells and snorkel. After they returned Aunt Zig was wading in the water talking to us and was stung by a jelly fish. While her wound was healing we all went up the mast and took some pictures on the boat. This was followed by a short craft break and a scuba diving session. Uncle John taught Kate and I how to scuba dive and we both took a short turn trying it out. Currently, we are about to eat lunch (Tacos!), and Uncle John will be taking the dingy into the town to post this. We plan to set sail tomorrow for Barcelona, for more adventures including the Picasso Museum and possibly a wholesale bead market (for craft purposes). In conclusion my week in the Balearics has been full of new experiences and great adventures.
16/07/2008, San Telmo, Mallorca, Spain
Any boater can tell you that a collision at "sea" is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone - dangerous, damaging......real trouble.
The crew of Windancer IV enjoyed another perfect day in another great cala (bay) here in San Telmo. After a gourmet dinner aboard, we enjoyed watching the local festival boat playing music and crsuing through the anchorage. Everyone heads to bed for a well deserved sleep.
I woke to the sound and feel of bumping n the starboard side - the our side - and as I sit up and loko out our small "porthole" - terror fills my body.
Another sailboat, a sloop maybe 35' long, is bumping Windancer, their crew on their foredeck with flashlights beaming into our porthole. GET UP - LET'S GO.
I've never been so impressed at Ziggy's response to this "trauma" situation. I head to the bridge, Ziggy tries to fend off the other vessel who obviously had dragged her anchor through the harbour and into Windancer.
"Raise the anchor" is the call, Ziggy jumps to action in the dark night, and within moments, "CLANK CLANK CLANK" is the sound as our new Danforth anchor is hauled abard. "Anchor's UP" is the word from the foredeck, and I shift both engines into forwardand move Windancer slowly out into deeper water in the bay.
"OHLA OHLA OHLA" is what I hear, and as I look to astern of Windancer, I realize that we have not only hooked the other vessel's anchor, but that we are dragging the other boat with us as we exit the achorage!!! "Ziggy - too the helm" as I rush to the bow and release of anchor chain. Over the bow sprit, and while balancing on the bridle, I lower myself down and grab the stranger's anchor and free it from ours.
We're free - "Gracios, Gracios" we hear from our neighbouring vessel and newfound friend. Break time - take a breath - what now....
It's 0300, we planned on sailing to Palma at dawn - "SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?" Calmer minds prevail and we settle into a few more hours of sleep securely moored to a purchase bouy! The morning comes and we sail to our nest destination - PALMA!
PS - No damage was sustained by Windancer except for a tired crew!!!
14/07/2008, Palma. Mallorca, Balearic Islands
We have had a busy last couple of days since arriving in our new favourite place in the world, the Balearic Islands in the Med, just south of Barcelona, Spain.
We enjoyed a full day this past Sunday exploring Barcelona's amazing, historic downtown with it's classic "La Rumbla" main street that hosts the best flower shops the world has to offer and street erformers of all shapes and sizes. By late afternoon (local time) the jet-lagged Walker crew were ready to board Windancer IV and we promptly began our first overnight sail with the new crew, arriving safely in Soller on the North coast of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands.
This picturesque anchorage was perfect for the rested crew after a good nights sleep and the day was spent swimming, snorkelling and tubing in clear, salty water. The next day we hired (rented) a car and and toured three towns, Deja, home to the famous author Robert Graves (deceased) and an artists hang-out of late, Villamosa, more of a tourists spot but still maintaining the Mallorca n beuty and finally the town of Soller, rumored to be the birthplace of Chirstopher Columbus.
Ziggy has said she will write more on our travels on this coast. We continued along the north coast of Mallorca in calm weather because no archorages are to be found until we round the NW corner of the island and pass the small island of Dragonera before anchoring in a great harbour called San Elmo (nicknamed St. Elmo's Fire in tribute to Ziggy;s favourite movie).
This morning we set sail (motor-sail) for Palma where we are moored for the evening. THis city incredibly alive - it is currently 2345 (almost midnight) and the streets are full of people, locals , and tourists, families and partiers - everyone is "out on the town".
We'll write much more on our experiences in Palma later. Tomorrow we'll sail overnight to Ibiza and onto Formentera before returning to Barcelona on the 23rd/24th to get our guest to the plane on the 25th. Stay tuned for more blogs from the other crew members soon.
13/07/2008, Barcelona, Spain
Last night we decided to have an early night in preparations for the arrival of our family from Vancouver on Sunday morning. Ziggy was planning on heading to the airport by herself, but the MacKenzie children had a different idea.
Connor was up shortly after 0700, something that rarely happens these days for our son who will be teenage soon. Even more shocking was the sight of a fully dressed and very cheerful Jennifer MacKenzie, who can normally sleep until the late morning or beyond. Her only comment was "I can get up when there's something important".
We head to the train station and after getting subway instructions from the transit employee, we transfer through two subway trains and promptly get very lost before deciding to surface and catch a taxi to the airport as time is quickly running out until the scheduled 0835 arrival of our first guests.
The plane is another 30 minutes late and after a brief delay to reclaim their luggage, Karen, Emily and Kate emerge from the arrival gates at Barcelona International Airport. It was a classic family reunion, thousands of miles from anyones home making it even that much more sppecial.
The return trip to the boat was much easier, and we learn that the directions we received earlier in the morning were totally incorrect and we can take a direct train from the Marina Vell station on the Metro straight to the Aeroport, and after only three stop, were walking towards the boat.
The crew of Windancer IV worked very hard in preparation for our guests arrival, washign the boat inside and out and rearranging the interior to allow Karen and Emily to take Connor's cabin (Connor will take the foreward crew cabin during the stay - no worries) and Kate playing room-mate to Jenny. It works perfect.
Karen and the girls are tired but willing to take a couple of hours to tour the central city and the La Rambla district of Barcelona. The plan is to return to Barcelona for three days before the girls return to Vancouver on July 25th.
We enjoy a spectacular day walking for three hours before returning to the boat to ready the entire "new" crew for an overnight passage to Mallorca. We depart in good conditions and enjoy a good passage and safely arrive in a beautiful harbour called Puerto Soller on Mallorca's North West coast.
12/07/2008, Marina Vell, Barcelona, Spain
We arrived in Barcelona early this morning after a quiet night passage of 165 nm that was uneventful, except for the night sighting of an offshore oil platform that looked like a mid-ocean Christmas Tree.
The Marina Vell is a sailors marina right at the foot of the city of Barcelona. A truely amazing location only steps from the Santa MAria del Mar church that dates back to the 13th century and is dedicated to sailors and their families who would light a candle inside the church to wish there loved ones luck on returning home.
We continued on to the main street in Barcelona called La Rambla, a spectacular boulevard that is dotted with street performers, flower shops and local artists.
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Karen Walker and cousins Emily and Kate for a tow week visit that will include a trip to Mallorca.
11/07/2008, Valencia, Spain
Friday, July 11, 2008
Lat 41 12.750'N
Long 002 06.050'E
As we head into Barcelona to meet with our sister-in-law, Karen, and our nieces, Emily (13) and Kate (9), we come off a 26 hour passae from Valencia where we spent three days exploring the city.
We were docked in Port America's Cup, a modern marina built to house the 32nd America's Cup in 2007. The rules of the cup specify that the winning team hosts the next cup; in 2006 Switzerland won and, as a land-locked country, arranged with Spain to build a port to house the 2007 cup. The port sits along Valencia's largest city beach and boardwalk and the houses built by each of the team line the entrance way - Prada (Italy), BMW Oracle (USA). If you are a sailing fan, you may know that the 2008 cup location has yet to be determined, as the Swiss team won in 2007 but the American's protested the results on a technicality and it is under review. The talk is the US and Swiss will enter catamarans in a special 'play-off' this year to determine next year's host.
Valencia itself is an often over-looked city in terms of tourism, yet proved to be a combination of history, modern and historical architecture and the home of paella (the rice-seafood dish served in a huge frypan type dish). After our overnight from Ibiza to Valencia, we spent the morning recouping and napping, as we have discovered that those nights as sea and the 3-4 hour watch schedule John and I share requires a catch-up nap the next day. On a multi day passage, we simply nap on and off throughout the day, but on arrival days, the tendency has been to immediately head out into the city. We have learned to take it easy the first day. The kids unloaded the bikes and explored the park and rode the Formula 1 race way being built around the marina for August while John and I napped and cleaned up. Later in the day we headed into the old town via city bus and spent the late afternoon, early evening walking the city past beautiful old churches and museums. Simply the doors on these buildings were works of art, large 15 ft carved wooden masterpieces. We passed the ritzy shopping area and encountered a very rare and somewhat magnificent site - a Starbucks. Ziggy couldn't resist.
We stopped in at the largest department store to pick up some groceries before heading to a market filled with wine and coffee bars. Jenny wasn't feeling well, so we jumped a taxi and returned to the boat. The next day, John and Ziggy took the bus to the Market Central, the largest fresh produce market in the city and stocked up on fresh vegetables, fruit and spices. We packed our goods in our tote bags and knapsacks as we have decided, after witnessing countless shopping bags floating in the Med, to make an effort to go bagless. Makes it easier to carry and hopefully, a small difference in our environmental footprint.
Later that day, we cleaned the boat while John worked tirelessly away on the internet to book us marinas in France, although it appears that, being a mere 15 metres does not qualify as big enough on the Cote d'Azur - when we grow up to 50 metres, then we can start talking.
Wednesday morning we scrubbed the decks and changed the oil on the port engine before we headed to the Arts and Science Centre, a beautiful, large series of modern buildings housing a Hemisphere (home to IMAX movies), Science Museum (home to hands-on exhibits for kids and adults alike, a temporary Marvel comics exhibit and other science shows) and the Oceanarium, where we started our day. The Oceanarium is a series of 10 aquariums displaying different habitats and marine life from sea lions to the penguins of the Antarctic, to the belugas and walruses of the arctic to the sharks, fish and rays of the Caribbean to the biggest dolphin pools in Europe where we watched the most amazing dolphin show. After seeing them swimming in our bow on most days as sea, it was wonderful to see them showing just how smart they really are - performing, jumping, singing on cue, tossing their trainers 15 feet into the air all on cue. Although I often approach zoos with an ambivalent feeling - torn between the awe of seeing the animals and sadness of their caged existence, the feeling was absent this time; perhaps knowing that these shows may secure their preservation by educating people as to the beauty and wonder of the animals.
John, who is sporting a very sore knee, left after the Oceanarium and returned to the boat after picking up water and a few last provisions. The kids and Ziggy returned later that evening where we enjoyed a lovely dinner, stowed all our gear in anticipation of an early departure and headed to bed.
Now, with the sun on the horizon and following an RCL cruise ship into port, we make our way into Barcelona to enjoy the splendors and hospitality of this famous city.
07/07/2008, Valencia, Spain
After enjoying a huge day celebrating the birth of ZIGGY, it was tough getting the crew ready for the mandatory overnight sail from Ibiza to Valencia, Spain on the Costa Brava coast of Spain's mainland. Preparing to set sail involves a large checklist of items to ensure that nothing is lost or broken while under sail and that we are al safe and secure.
When preparing for a night crossing that list doubles in size because we most often are not sure of the conditions to be encountered during the 100+ nm crossing at night. Rain, heavy seas, high winds and difficult maneuvering around other vessels in the dark that range from small 4m fishing skiffs to large container ships that would consider Windancer as a mere scratch on her hull if they were to run over us at night.
Never the less, we set sail at 1800, after a light meal and into stronger then forecast conditions creating an uncomfortable start to what was expected to be a 12 - 14 hour passage over approx. 90 nm of open Med sea. After we set into the usual routine of the sailing offshore, life was fine, the winds calmed down, the watch schedule was adjusted to account for crew that were not feeling 100% (sorry Zig) and we arrived in the hoarbour the hosted the 32nd America's Cup in 2007 around 0730 on July 7th.
The harbour is brand new, built for the huge America's Cup race and now is has been taken over by the Spanish government who is looking for a private company to make the huge marina a sustainable enterprise. We have no problem locating a berth that is larger than any we have encountered on this trip - we assume because we are among 100 other boats in this marina that was constructed to accept more than 500 yachts, many of whom were MEGA yachts!
After mooring Windancer stern too (all mooring in the Med is in this fashion with everyone "backing into" the dock with a bow line keeping the boat from hitting the dock. It allows easy access off the "sugar scoop" transoms on a catamaran. The family heads to the nearest bus stations (a 5 or 10 minute walk from the dock) and we get a tour of Valencia from a locals prerspective as we head to the "Old Town centre". The highlights were the beautiful architecture, the colourful building and amazing, landscaped fountains that adorn the main city squares.
We are lucky enough to pass by the Conjunto Catedralicio, that holds true to the belief that the "Holy Grail" resides within her walls. We also walk past the Palza de Toros, the coliseum looking structure that holds the actual "Bull Fighting" events. Ziggy is relieved to hear that the first bull fight is not until the middle of August - sorry Connor, no fun for you.
A quick stop at the El Corte Ingles supermarket (www.elcorteingles.es) and we head back to the marina, with a little girl that appears to be suffering from over-exposer to many days of extreme fun. Unfortunately, Jenny is exhibiting the beginning signs of a cold with the coughing, runny nose and low grade fever that no-one wants to have.
It's a quick cab ride home, onto the boat for some medicine and puffers and off to bed she goes, while I put the computer in the backpack and ride one of the folding bikes (note to self - the folding bikes are awesome and a must for sailors). No wifi sign to be found in the harbour so it's off to the boardwalk where, after only a short tow minute walk, I wind a strong wifi signal offering free internet for the taking. Check the e-mails, responds as required and make a few skype calls to family and friends before heading back to the boat to finalize the upcoming plans for our French travels and the arrival of brother Dan family in Nice. Best wishes for a health Jenny tomorrow!
06/07/2008, Cala Salada, Ibiza, Baleares Islands
Happy Birthday Ziggy
July is a special day every year for the MacKenzie family. It is the say when we celebrate the birth of a very special person in our lives - ZIGGY. Okay, maybe Ziggy doesn't like her birthday as much as I do (usually there is a month long celebration in November culminating in the November 27th party day - sorry, this blog is suppose to be about Zig's birthday!).
The day normally begins aboard Windancer at dawn, currently about 0700, but on July 6th I got up a little early, made "Happy Birthday Ziggy" signs to decorate the inside of the salon for the big day. We anchored last night in a quiet cove called Puerto de San Migel on the north side of Ibiza in the Baleares Islands. I take that back, if you haven't heard already, the Balearics are the Meds idea of the Caribbean with the party tone of Cancun during March break! As is true in Cancun, not much is authentic except for the drunken Brits who come here to have one huge "blow out" party week. So the clubs go all night, but we are lucky that we are anchored far enough away from the noisy, "Boom Boom" clubs that we can have a peaceful night.
The kids wake around 0800 and we put the finishing touches on what looks a little like a mini-Christmas morning, decorations, a perfect setting and yes, coffee in bed and presents on the table when you rise. We enjoyed a nice morning breakfast before hoping in the dinghy and motoring ashore to explore the tiny cove and the small resorts that round the cala or bay.
We lucked onto a small "efficiency" style hotel/motel where a primarily British clientele enjoyed an all-inclusive vacation while the MacKenzie clan had a café con leche (Ziggy) and cerveja (John) and watching the kids cherish the fresh water pool! After dragging two waterlogged children from the pool, we found an internet kiosk and quickly checked e-mails for birthday wishes (thanks to Inge for the early b-day note!) and then bought chocolate to sprinkle on the special birthday cake prepared by Connor and Jenny.
Back to the boat, quick lunch complete with birthday cake (it doesn't get any better than that!) and then some water fun - swimming, snorkeling and rowing the windsurfer over to a deserted cave. The final birthday surprise was when the kids took Ziggy for a ride on the tube behind the dinghy. Cruise director Jenny spotted while dinghy captain Connor expertly maneuvered the craft through the various other sailboats and safeyly back to Windancer.
The day was a huge success. Connor asked Ziggy during lunch "Mom, what was your favourite birthday?". "This one" was the only answer heard.
03/07/2008, Baleares Islands, Spain
We left what was described as the most beautiful beach in the world and headed for a snorkelling spot off the island of Ibiza. The anchoring was difficult, but once set. we had our first family snorkeling experience in 5-15 metres of warm, clear water with only one problem...... jellyfish. Lots of jellyfish, watch where you're swimming, jenny with her hand securely with her father (for one of the first times in a while) and all was well.
Amazing quantities of tiny fish - thousands, maybe more.
Oh ya, and yes, as we completed a marathon one hour snorkel around a large rock formation, within a few feet of safety aboard Windancer IV, CONNOR GOT STUNG!
More to follow......... and yes, he's fine.