Adventures of Berkeley East

08 September 2019 | Pantelleria, Italy
31 August 2019 | Favignana, Italy
22 August 2019 | Vulcano, Italy
17 August 2019 | Charlotte, NC and Gaeta, Italy
12 July 2019
12 September 2018 | Cala del Core Ponza, Italy
22 August 2018 | North East Sardinia
13 August 2018 | Northern Sardinia, Italy
10 August 2018 | La Maddalenas, Sardinia Italy
30 July 2018 | South West Corsica, France
19 July 2018 | North West Corsica, France
12 July 2018 | Saint-Tropez, France
07 July 2018 | The French Riviera
25 June 2018 | Nice, France
22 June 2018 | Cap Ferrat, France
15 June 2018 | Lake Como, Italy
10 June 2018 | Bolgheri and Piedmonte, Italy
08 June 2018
04 June 2018 | Cinque Terre, Italy
27 May 2018 | Florence, Italy

Storm Watch

08 September 2019 | Pantelleria, Italy

Sitting at anchor in the Edagi Islands, Sicily, we had been looking at the undesirable weather forecast, weighing our options. We still had an urgent need to get Berkeley East out of the European Union, and back again, before the 15th, so the clock was ticking. There were several possibilities. We could sit tight in the islands, "if no one moves, no one gets hurt" (the sound advice of a weather expert we met in our early days of cruising). Or, we could sail quickly south to the island of Pantelleria and wait for a better window to move BE to Tunisia, but there was no certainty that we could get a berth for Berkeley East in Pantelleria, so the move was risky. Alternatively, we could head east, away from the storms, and clear BE's VAT in Albania or Montenegro, which would alter our plans for the winter in Barcelona. Finally, we could take Berkeley East an hour east to Trapani and do some boat work and land touring while the Mistral worked it's way through.

The coming weather was a mixed bag of wind speed and direction, wave size and intensity, and thunderstorms with varying degrees of precipitation. None of it was even close to ideal. But while we were irritated with our conditions, they seemed benign as we read the news of Hurricane Dorian ready to hit the Bahamas. We could not even imagine 190 mph winds; the mere thought made us shiver. We decided we should embrace our situation, and we called our friend at the marina in Trapani to see if he had room for BE. He told us to hurry, as it was almost time for lunch. As we brought up the anchor, the rain began; huge muddy drops the size of saucers.

The medieval town of Erice watches over the port of Trapani, 800 meters above sea level. A 12th-century village is enclosed by defensive walls and crowned by a magnificent castle. Erice can be reached by road, or cable car, both providing spectacular panoramas to the sea and valley below.

We spent an afternoon walking the cobblestone streets of Erice, visiting its many churches, and taking in the artistic atmosphere of the town.

At the castle, we found a deserted corner, away from the crowds, from which to fly the drone. Like boats entering a huge anchorage are drawn to the only other boat already there, the herding instinct took over and people began invading our space. One by one, they would explore every little niche, peering over walls expecting to see something fabulous, only to find weeds and debris. Just as one group would leave, satisfied they had missed nothing, another group would arrive and follow the same pattern. By the time we had the area to ourselves, clear of looky-loos so we could launch the Mavic, a thick band of fog had rolled in shrouding the view. This is a frequent occurrence in Erice, dazzling sunshine one moment, thick pea soup the next. Luckily, we had the trusty old Sony to capture the magnificent vista before the mist set in.

By the time we had taken the cable car down from Erice, the village wasn't visible beyond the clouds, but the wind was calm and the sun was bright in Trapani. We sat in the old town soaking up the twilight atmosphere, tourist and locals out for the evening, and wondered if we had overreacted to the weather news, perhaps it wasn't that bad.

After a relaxing dinner of swordfish with tomatoes and capers, a Trapani delicacy, we arrived at the marina to find the dock completely full. Expressing our surprise to our dock buddy, he waved his hands and said, "a little wind outside and they are all scared." Our dock pal had his own boat, which we had yet to see move, safely moored at the end of the dock.

While thunderstorms were constant at night, saturated with dirty moisture from Africa, our dock, and Berkeley East, were nicely protected from the wind. We rented a car one day and decided to do some wine tasting. Sicily has become one of the most exciting wine regions in Europe, blessed with a combination of ample warmth, plenty of sunshine and diverse soils. We mapped out the distance between BE and our first appointment in Marsala, 60 minutes, more or less. But Sicily's roads are narrow, potholed and routed through excessive traffic and construction in small towns. And even by Italian standards, Sicilians are wild, careless, aggressive drivers. Passing on curves is the norm; stopping at stop signs is optional, as is yielding for pedestrians in crosswalks. Thirty minutes into the drive, we knew we would be late. But rather than completely missing the tour, we were bumped to a better one full of Americans. We often hear people complain about traveling abroad and running into others from their own country. They are there, after all, to experience a new culture, with new people. But since we travel on BE in Europe for months at a time, running into very few Americans, or even English-speaking people, it was entertaining to share some time, and wine, in Sicily with our fellow Americans.

The drive back to Berkeley East went right past a famous Sicilian archeological site, Segesta. For us, ruins are like churches, we have trouble passing by without having a look. We had been to Segesta before, so there were no expectations or surprises, but that was part of the draw, we knew the site was in a spectacular setting where we could hike from the entrance to the temple to the theater, absorbing the beauty and the history. Once again, we wanted to fly the drone, and being the good law-abiding tourists that we are, we asked the park official for permission and were immediately told "impossible." Once again, the old Sony came in handy.

While we were enjoying our time on land, BE's VAT clock was still ticking and the wind was abating, so we asked our dock master to help us secure a berth for Berkeley East in Pantelleria. Typically, we can reserve dockage online, or call and find an English-speaking contact, but not so with Pantelleria. And since there are no tenable anchorages, and very few docks, it was reckless to go the 80 miles without confirmation. Once out on the water, it was clear that the wind had been blowing at a brisk pace. The seas were big, rolling, and uncomfortable. But the sky was clear, at least the heavy showers had ended.

As we arrived at the dock in Pantelleria, the Guardia Coasta called us on the VHF radio; they wanted to know where we had been, where we were going, who was onboard, etc. Docking Berkeley East with just two people is difficult enough without one of us having to be on the radio, so we answered the questions very quickly, which caused confusion, and we were met with instructions to go to the Guardia Costa with our boat papers. While Berkeley East was in complaint with European Union VAT laws, she had been put in bond over winter to extend her typical 18-month time in the EU, and it is a well-known fact among cruisers that the issue of "bond" is open to the interpretation of individual countries, and the mood of individual officials. We swallowed the lumps in our throats and explained that we had just come from Trapani, they misunderstood and thought that we were arriving from Tunisia and needed to check into Italy. With everything understood, thinking we were in the clear, we were told to bring our papers in before departing the port.

Technically, if a boat is 12 miles off the coast of any country, it is, technically in international waters. We took pictures proving that fact as soon as BE was 12 miles off Italy. But like the "bond," this theory is open to temperament and opinion. For months, we had been doing everything we could to stay under the radar; we were just 96 miles from Tunisia.

Putting our worries aside, we set out to see some of the Isle of Pantelleria. Suspended between Africa and Europe, Pantelleria is considered "The Black Pearl" of the Mediterranean. It is the largest satellite island of Sicily, not belonging to any archipelago. Of volcanic origin, Pantelleria is exotic, rugged and sparsely populated with windswept landscape and jagged lava cliffs. We rented a car and drove the island, taking in its splendor, enjoying leisurely walks and long lunches, while BE jostled in the winds at the dock; at least there was no rain.

The unofficial symbol of Pantelleria is The Elephant, a sea stack that is connected to the mainland, which resembles an elephant drinking from the sea.

A large nature reserve and a natural lake, called Specchio di Venere (Venus' mirror). It formed in an extinct volcanic crater, and is fed by rain and hot springs.

After four days, we crossed our fingers and took our boat papers to the Guardia Costa, where they directed us to the Carabinieri to have our passports stamped out of the EU. And that was that, we could breath again. That night, we were preparing Berkeley East for her sunrise departure when 40-knot winds hit BE on her side, followed by a long torrential downpour. There was nothing we could do but go to bed and hope it would pass by morning.

Chasing the internet, and insurance

31 August 2019 | Favignana, Italy
When we first began cruising, 12 years ago, we had to put our computers in watertight bags and take them to shore to access the internet at a local coffee shop, or bar. Boat to boat communication was done via VHF or SSB radio; calls were made with a satellite phone, or more often, from an old fashioned pay phone on land. Today, we are spoiled, and blessed, with many technological conveniences on Berkeley East. While access is still not as simple as it is at home, we have local sim cards in our mobile phones, international calling and texting capabilities, and modems on BE for surfing the web in nearly every country we visit, although finding good coverage is often challenging. This is the situation we found ourselves in while waiting for documents from our insurance company.

We had just, reluctantly, left Italy to begin the trek to Tunisia in order to clear Berkeley East's European Union VAT (Value Added Tax) clock. After 2015 terrorist attacks in Tunisia, our insurance company removed Tunisia from BE's usual approved navigation zone, so we had to get a special rider for the trip. It would be understandable if the reasoning to omit the African country were the turbulent weather in the south, or even perhaps the extensive freighter traffic in the crossing, but Berkeley East could still transit in France, Spain, Turkey, the United States, all of which have been victims of ugly assaults by radicals, so the reluctance of our company to provide insurance coverage was frustrating. What should have been a simple process to allow BE to sail to Tunisia, turned into weeks of emails, calls and texts, therefore, we had to make sure we were always near a cell tower for communication.

We had planned to make haste through Sicily and get in position to cross to Tunisia; a few nights at anchor on Sicily's north coast, a stop in Trapani for fuel. While Sicily is technically Italy, the huge island and its people are very different from mainland Italia; more like distance cousins, as opposed to intimate family. So while we have toured, and thoroughly enjoyed, Sicilia many times, our hearts didn't break at the thought of moving through quickly, especially given that the need to clear Berkeley East's VAT was nearing a critical point.

The days of travel were long and hot. When afternoons faded to twilight, when we thought we had gone as far as we could, we would dip BE's bow close to shore while holding the cell phone high in search of a signal, then drop the hook to wait for news from our insurance agent.

We connected to the net easily in Cefalu, and the anchorage had the added advantage of being peaceful and protected from the August sun. Beautiful music wafted to Berkeley East from a hotel, an agreeable accompaniment to our dinner of Lipari pork involtinis and Caprice salad. No call about insurance ever came, but a good nights sleep did.

The next evening, we were thrilled with even faster internet response, but not so much with the tunes from the beach, broadcast over loud speakers in the manner a Spanish soccer announcer might call the plays of a rousing match. Nice sunset, no positive insurance news.

On our way to Trapani, we were clearly in close proximity to a cell tower, as we heard the familiar sound of our doorbell, our "Ring" doorbell, at our house in North Carolina. We love these "Ring" camera doorbells. While on Berkeley East, our cell phones often tinkle with the motion of the gardeners, wind, rain, birds, even insects; we can access live images from the cameras to get a glimpse of the lake if we are homesick; and our friends occasionally come by to leave us a message, or sing Happy Birthday.

So when we answered the "Ring" of our front door at home, from the deck of Berkeley East in Sicily, we fully expected to see a familiar smiling face ready to share neighborhood news. Instead, there was a stranger at the door trying to deliver our new shuffleboard table. We could see a large van backed down the driveway and tools spread out on the concrete, men beginning to work. The man at our front door seemed surprised at the voice booming from the doorbell telling him he had the wrong house, although the address he had was ours. We watched as the men slowly loaded the truck and drove away and we wondered, had we not answered the "Ring," if they would have just assembled the table and left it on the patio, a nice surprise on our return.

Trapani is an important fishing port in Sicily and gateway to the Egadi Islands. We had visited the large town years before, exploring the surrounding historical sites. There was no question if Trapani would have good internet coverage, we would appreciate a night onshore, and Berkeley East could use some fuel for the passage to Tunisia.

The stop in Trapani was entertaining, watching the fishermen sew, and launch, their enormous nets, taking long walks to stem the land sickness, and visiting Trapani's beautiful old town.

When it became clear that the insurance rider was imminent we left Trapani and positioned Berkeley East in the Egadis to be closer to our next stop, the island of Pantilleria. The Egadi Archipelago consists of three islands and two small islets a short distance from Trapani. While the islands offer activities on land, most people come for the crystalline waters of the Egadi Island Marine Reserve, the largest protected marine area in Europe. The weather was becoming unsettled, so finding protected anchorages with consistent cell coverage to manage our insurance situation required moving two and three times a day. But we knew it wouldn't be long.

After another week of emails, texts and discussions with our soon-to-be-replaced insurance agent, after constantly moving BE around the islands for comfort and connections, after making multiple plans of alternatives if the insurance coverage didn't materialize, we received the document we needed to go to Tunisia; just in time for a weather system to develop that would bring storms and high winds for at least a week, preventing us from making the trip.

The farewell tour

22 August 2019 | Vulcano, Italy
One evening during our winter in North Carolina, when it was snowing outside, and there were holes in our house, we had the brilliant idea to book Berkeley East into Barcelona's Port Vell for her next winter break. While we typically only commit to a winter berth about halfway through the cruising season, we thought, "Why wait?" We were definitely going to Spain this year, definitely, and we didn't want the marina to fill up; Port Vell is the ideal place to live on BE while immersing ourselves in the city of Barcelona. The action also gave us something to dream about as we tried to keep warm while sifting through the house remodel dust.

Months later, when we were saying our last goodbyes to Italy, there was more than a hint of regret that we had to leave our favored European country; beautiful, vivacious, spellbinding Italia. We fell in love with the republic eight years ago; the moment we turned Berkeley East into San Remo and a portly man on the dock spread his arms, smiled broadly and bellowed "Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy!"

It is a well-known fact that Berkeley East has accumulated more time in Italy than any other country, including the US. She has spent five of her nine European winters resting comfortably in Italy, she has sailed into nearly every Italian port between the borders of France and Slovenia, visited more than 40 Italian islands, circumnavigated Sicily, and survived the utter madness of Sardinia. BE is proud to be an American, but Italy is her adopted homeland.

We began our farewell tour of Italy with a 35-mile shakedown cruise from Gaeta to Ponza. It was the middle of August and the biggest Italian holiday of the year, so half of Italy was following Berkeley East to the Pontine Islands. Having such a late start to the cruising season, we were on a tight schedule to get to Tunisia, then Spain, so we had to choose our stops carefully; Ponza would be crowded, but it was the perfect first anchorage after weeks of boat prep. We used to complain about the August crowds, boats anchoring too close, the Italians' erratic driving and excessive speed on the water. Actually, we still get annoyed, especially when boats fly by Berkeley East causing her to buck and roll, the contents of cabinets being tossed about to the breaking point. But more often than not, in Italy, the pounding motion is followed by the all-too-familiar Italian accent chanting "U! S! A!" or, singing "God Bless America." Smiles come to our faces, BE settles and all is forgotten. You gotta love Italy.

This was our fourth time in Ponza, and we could easily go there four hundred times, if we weren't leaving Italy. We spent three days anchored off the island; the stunning cliffs never get tiring. On our first trip to town, our trusty 12-year-old two-stroke outboard engine sputtered, then choked and clunked to a stop just as we were pulling up to the dock of our favorite Ponza restaurant; time for lunch.

After tracking down a mechanic, on a Saturday, in August, and someone to translate, he waved his hands frantically declaring it would be much too difficult, then very quickly insisted on coming to the dock to have a look. It is the typical Italian way and much of their charm; cranky and disagreeable one moment, then cheerful and all is right with the world, the next.

BE's Captain had spent much time over winter mapping out the quickest, most efficient route to Tunisia: Gaeta to Ponza, an overnight to Ustica then Trapani, a quick stop in the Egadis and finally, Tunisia. But, there was also the perhaps less logical, but more enjoyable, path. Why barrel blindly through darkness, only to be so tired on arrival that it takes days to recover, when we could mosey comfortably in daylight, relaxing, reading, stopping at night to savor last glimpses of some of our favorite Italian locales? We weren't in that much of a hurry, really. After much discussion, we decided that we would visit a few memorable spots but still move at a swift pace in somewhat the right direction. While we would have loved to linger, we were just happy to spend a bit more time in our beloved Italia.

Our detour began with the Isle of Capri, an island not quite as beautiful as Ponza, but far more infamous. It is one of the most photographed places in Italy, Europe, possibly the world. While Capri is considered "too touristy" for many seasoned cruisers, we view Italy's most popular draws as fascinating parts of the country's allure, and take every opportunity to play tourist. It had been years since we had explored Capri and we yearned for one last look before leaving Italy, so we set our course for the anchorage at Piccolo, a deep cove under the watchful eyes of the legendary Faraglioni limestone stacks. In daylight is a wild, rough, somewhat dangerous place full of fast-moving tour boats, but the tall cliffs shaded Berkeley East from the harsh August sun and as night fell, so did silence, and the cove was softly lit by the glow of some of the world's most extravagant super yachts.

In stark contrast to Capri, Capo Palinuro, on the Tyrrhenian coast of mainland Italy, is nearly void of international tourists. Here, where the mountains of the Cilento National Park touch the sea, nature and history fuse, and campers leave the land to visit caves in the rocks on the water, we watched as the local Italians enjoyed the best that nature has to offer.

We toasted Palinuro with a glass of Prosecco and felt sadness that Berkeley East was getting closer and closer to leaving Italy.

As the farewell tour of Italy continued, Berkeley East was sailing to the Aeolian Island Archipelago. We had heard of recent eruptions on the island of Stromboli and hoped we could time our passing between explosions. When the island came into view it was smoking from the top and sides. A week after we sailed by Stromboli, the volcano blew again, sending a massive cloud of smoke and ash more than a kilometer into the sky, red-hot lava running down to the sea. Good timing on our part.

BE's next stop was the quarry anchorage on Lipari. The island of Lipari is covered in pumice and the pale rocks from Lipari are shipped worldwide. The abandoned pumice quarry mine provides a haunting backdrop to the shallow turquoise waters of this enormous anchorage, where Italian boaters lay in the sun all day until the ball of fire dips behind the hill and there is a mass, chaotic exodus of boats from the bay.

One afternoon, as we were enjoying the view, two Italian men motored by BE for a chat. They wanted to hear our story, talk about the boat. When the conversation was done, they presented us with a bottle of wine, waved "Ciao!" and went off.

A visit to Lipari, or the Aeolians, would not be complete for us without a stop at Lipari Town for some of our most familiar provisions: octopus salad from the deli, involtinis from the butcher shop, tomatoes and a basil plant from the produce stand. And lunch at our preferred restaurant. On our arrival, we navigated inside the tiny eatery, bags and menus in hand, sitting carefully at table so as not to disturb the wall of wine bottles behind. Once settled, we were abruptly asked to move to another table. Gathering our wares, again tip-toeing so as not to bring bottles crashing down, we complied with the request, moving outside. For the next 45 minutes, we had constant smiles, conversation and impeccable service from the gentleman who had gruffly pointed out our misstep. A subtle apology for being so stern with us, possibly; or perhaps he just thought the table outside was best.

On our final night in the Aeolian Islands, in a small anchorage on Vulcano, we watched as an Italian family on a powerboat took turns trying to wakeboard behind a jet ski. They were laughing and clapping as, one by one they would attempt to stand, some successfully, some not so much; the jet ski driver racing around the anchorage all the while. We were astonished at the sight, not because they were wakeboarding in the anchorage, or that the jet ski was traveling at such hasty speeds around other boats and people in the water. We were shocked to see a tiny child, in a teeny tiny life vest, sitting in front of the jet ski driver, giggling as he zipped, zoomed and swerved. It gave us a better understanding of why the Italians are so happy-go-lucky, have no fear, and a love of all things fast; they learn it from a very young age. You gotta love Italy.

Vessel Name: Berkeley East
Vessel Make/Model: Hylas 54
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA
Crew: Larry & Mary Ivins
About: We quit our jobs in July of 2007 and began our adventure, sailing the US east coast in the summers and then spending our winters in the Caribbean. In 2010 we sailed across the Atlantic and will be cruising the Med for the next few years.
FAQ Q: Did you go to UC Berkeley?

A: No. The name Berkeley East came from a ferry boat, "the Berkeley", that we met on over 30 years ago in San Diego. The East came as a result of seeing the boat being built in Taiwan. There was 30-foot Chinese symbol on the wall behind her during [...]
Berkeley East's Photos - Caribbean 1500 2008 (Main)
Photos for blog post
15 Photos
Created 2 August 2016
18 Photos
Created 17 May 2013
Extra pictures for Croatia
12 Photos
Created 5 September 2012
Venice June 2012
20 Photos
Created 12 July 2012
Tuscany trip summer 2011
30 Photos
Created 18 July 2011
Pictures from June 2011 - The Ligurian Coast of Italy
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Created 29 June 2011
Wardrick Wells - Exuma Land and Sea Park May 2009
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Pictures from our trip to Los Testigos, Venezuela - March 2009
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Pics form the 2008 Caribbean 1500
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Octopuses Garden – Highborne, Exuma Cay, Bahamas
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Created 28 January 2008
Chistmas 2007 in St Maarten with other crusiers and Mike and Linda (frends & meighbors from CA)
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Created 23 December 2007
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Created 21 November 2007
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Created 5 September 2007
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Created 28 August 2007
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Created 22 July 2007
In early July 2006 we made a quick from Sydney, Australia to Kaohsiung, Taiwan to check on the construction of our Hylas 54. She was a little behind schedule, but the build quality was excellent.
4 Photos
Created 22 July 2007
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Created 17 July 2007
After 28 days aboard Sigrun Bolten from Taiwan, Berkeley East arrived in Port Everglades Florida. Mary and I helped unload her and motored up the river to be hauled and rigged. We where joined by our friends and next door neighbors (from CA), who were in Florida cruising from California to the Caribbean.
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Created 17 July 2007

Profile & FAQs

Who: Larry & Mary Ivins
Port: San Diego, CA

Our travels


July 2019- Return to Gaeta, Italy

August 2019 - Gaeta to Sicily, Tunisia and Sardinia

September 2019 - The Spanish Balearic Islands

October 2019 -Barcelona Spain

November 2019 - Charlotte, NC