Adventures of Berkeley East

15 June 2010 | In route to the Azores
15 June 2010 | Azores Portugal
10 June 2010 | Madalena Pico Azores
09 June 2010 | Horta Azores
02 June 2010 | Horta, Faial Azores
31 May 2010 | Horta Azores
29 May 2010 | Rough as Promised
27 May 2010 | In route to the Azores
21 May 2010 | In route to the Azores
20 May 2010 | In route to the Azores
06 May 2010 | St George, Bermuda
01 November 2009 | Cornelius, North Carolina
01 June 2009 | Hampton, VA
12 May 2009 | Exuma Cays, Bahamas to Ft. Lauderdale Florida
04 May 2009 | Wardrick Wells, Exumas Cays Bahamas
01 May 2009 | Little Farmers Cay Bahamas
26 April 2009 | Dominican Republic to the Bahamas

Mary and Larry’s “Excellent Adventure” Tour

28 August 2021

Back on mainland Italy; back in Gaeta, Berkeley East's winter marina for two consecutive years. We never imagined a return to our beloved Italia, but COVID thought otherwise, which presented us with an opportunity to revisit some of our favorite places in Italy. And a visit from Chris and Donna gave us the chance to share a few of those wonderful sites with good friends.

When Chris and Donna first talked about joining us on Berkeley East, we assumed we would be in Greece, so we spent much time discussing options in the islands. But when their work dictated an August vacation, Southern Italy became their destination. They had no preference where they went on their trip, they were coming to see us, wherever we were, wherever we were going.

It was a bit daunting to plan someone else's holiday, but we've known the couple for more than 40 years, and traveled with them extensively, so with the help of "What's App" we charted a whirlwind tour, on land, and sea. "What's App" is an app highly used in Italy (much of Europe in fact) as an alternative to texting. Whenever we would call a hotel, restaurant, car rental company and ask "parla inglese?" the reply would be a simple, "What's App me". And we did. Perhaps when we retire from cruising, we will become travel agents. How hard can it be?

We picked up our guests at the Rome Airport, in our newly rented (through "What's App") Mercedes Benz, and the adventure began. So much to see, so little time; 15 stops in nine days. Our stay in any one location would be very brief, but we hoped the memories would be lasting.

#1 - Orvierto - One of Umbria's loveliest towns, Orvierto is just a two-hour drive from Rome. The region known as the green heart of Italy, Umbria is recognized for its many medieval hill towns, lush landscapes and local cuisine, particularly truffles and Sagrantino wine. We had a quick walk around town, past the stunning 14th-century gothic cathedral, Orvierto's crowning glory. Under the town is a maze of Etruscan-era tunnels and grottos, some 2,500 years old, but there was no time to visit. A bite to eat, and we were off on a scenic drive through the hillside.

#2 - Adanti Winery - A winery that we have known for years, Azienda Agricola Adanti is one of the historic cellars of the Montefalco area in Umbria, famous for the production of protected wines such as Sagrantino and Montefalco Rosso. A sampling of some of Umbria's finest vinos and olive oil perked our jet-lagged passengers up. We quickly learned that food, drink, and naps in the car, kept them going.

#3 - Spello - Our arrival in our most loved Umbrian town, Spello, got our sleepy guests' attention. The entrance to Spello is a very narrow road between an ancient stone gate (knowing we would be driving in Spello, we learned how to fold the mirrors in on our rental vehicle in advance). In the gate, up the hill, through a mass of unexpected tourists. Comments from the back seat included "you can't drive up there". They were quite familiar with our driving escapades in foreign countries.

Spello sits in the foothills of Mount Subasio, a walled town, with seven ancient gates. Its winding streets and crumbly old churches attract tourists, photographers, and cruisers from around the world. Nearly every doorstep is adorned with plants and flowers, as if the residents are in a competition for who can have the most, or prettiest, arrangements. The town is also famous for the Church of St. Maria Maggiore and its frescoes that recount episodes from the life of Mary.

After check in at our favorite Spello hotel "Albergo il Cacciatore" there was time to relax. But just a few minutes, as our travel itinerary called for a 'Welcome to Italy" prosecco and dinner at our chosen restaurant, Enoteca Properzio, with Roberto.

#4 - Tili Vini - A good nights' sleep and we were off to Tili, a boutique organic family winery, for a winetasting brunch and comedy show. Maria and her daughter are not only amazing winemakers, chefs, and hosts, they are hilarious with their stories. We could have spent the entire day there being wined and dined and entertained, but Assisi awaited.

#5 - Assisi - While we had plenty to eat at Tili Vini, gelato and coffee were required to keep our California friends alert. Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. The main site here is the Basilica of St. Francis, built in his honor. A massive, 2-level church, consecrated in 1253, it remains an important Christian pilgrimage site to this day.

#6 - Spoletto - Up early for the drive back to Berkeley East with a stop in Spoletto, a tangled medieval town in the foothills of the Apennines. Snug cobblestone streets, bright piazzas, and crumbling churches, much like the makeup of every Umbria hill town, but each has its own individual charm. A stop at the church for sodas and snacks to keep everyone awake for the road trip.

#7 - Gaeta - Apparently the backseat of our rented Mercedes was so comfortable, sleep was almost instantaneous for Chris and Donna. The drive from Umbria to Gaeta is mostly highway, an uneventful path, or so we thought. But a break for a bite to eat presented us with our first request for the Italian Green Pass, Italy's proof of COVID vaccine status, but only available to Italians. When we showed our CDC vaccine cards, which are supposed to be acceptable, the server just shook her head and told us to leave. Luckily boss man knew the rules and let us eat our sandwiches in peace. Back on BE, a quick tour of Gaeta, and we tossed off the dock lines.

#8 - Ponza - Dubbed by some as "Capri without the tourists," Ponza is off the beaten path, popular with Italians but without mass international visitors. Ponza is our absolute favorite island in Italy. Berkeley East and crew have spent more time anchored in Ponza than any other island. It was the perfect spot for a short breather from our hectic travel schedule.

#9 - Procida - The long passage (seven hours) to Procida gave our passengers time to catch up on sleep, day five and they were almost adjusted to European time. A tiny spot of land (under two square miles) in the Bay of Naples, Procida might be best known as the island between Ischia and Capri. We did a drive by of Ischia, but we prefer the slow pace of Procida and love the view from the harbor, a cluster of traditional houses, each one painted in vivid colors that light up with sunset.

#10 - Capri - Perhaps Italy's most famous and most visited island, the Isle of Capri is packed with tourists in summer, and its bays are littered with super yachts, charter and tour boats. The atmosphere is chaotic, but it is still a magical place. The origin of the Caprese Salad, one of our tastiest Italian meals, we stopped at the island for lunch (a Caprese Salad), and a swim, under the Faraglioni, three towering rock formations jetting out of the sea.

#11 - Amalfi - The town that gives its name to the Italy's most beautiful stretch of coastline, the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi was the first of the Four Maritime Republics of Italy, and for a long time had the monopoly of trade with the East. Clusters of white houses that cling to rock are linked by covered alleys and steep staircases.

Taking Berkeley East into the tight marina in Amalfi requires the special skill of the proprietor, Giulio. Typically, with one hand on the wheel, a cell phone or cigarette in the other, looking around while talking, Giulio swings boats into small spaces with expert precision. One day we came back to the marina to find BE in a completely different place than we had left her, with no idea how Giulio had gotten her there, as he didn't have the key.

#12 - Positano is one of the best-known places on the Amalfi Coast, recognized for its picturesque staircases and whitewashed houses. A fast ferry ride from Amalfi, we had a few hours to explore and take in the breathtaking panoramas before moving on.

#13 - Ravello - Having seen the Amalfi Coast by sea, we hired a car to experience it by land. The views are stunning, along the coast road, and from up the hill in Ravello, home to one of the oldest music festivals in Italy. But just as we turned towards Ravello, a "water bomb" exploded, the sky opened to a most unusual August torrential downpour. It was the kind of storm that you read about with flash floods, cars being washed from the road. And you wonder what the people were thinking, why were they out in weather like that?

#14 - Mt. Vesuvius - While we had been to every other stop on our itinerary at least once before, we always wanted to go to Vesuvius, so we added another Italian wonder to the plan and drug our guests up to the famous volcano's crater. During the two-hour drive from Amalfi to Vesuvius, we enjoyed the mountain road view as our driver/tour guide "Super Mario" shared the area's history. Mount Vesuvius is one of only two active, and one of the largest, volcanos in Continental Europe, towering about 1281 meters tall, with a symmetrical central cone and steep wooded slopes. Sadly, its claim to fame is the eruption in 79 AD that destroyed Pompeii and the surrounding ancient cities of the Roman Empire. A walk around the crater revealed the sheer power of that eruption.

#15 - Pompei -When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it engulfed two flourishing Roman towns, Pompei and Herculaneum, as well as the many villas in the area. While the lava from the eruption flowed to Herculaneum, Pompei was smothered in ash. Since the mid-18th century, the ruins have been continually excavated and as the ash was removed the vast expanse of the commercial town of Pompei became visible in its well-preserved buildings. It is the only archaeological site in the world that provides a complete picture of an ancient Roman city. On this visit to Pompei, we splurged on a private, guided tour and learned many little-known facts about the town. Our guide pointed out things like speed bumps in the road to slow the chariots, and signs which indicated what "services" were provided by the ladies.

One more quiet night enjoying Berkeley East and Amalfi brought Mary and Larry's "Excellent Adventure" Tour to an end. Designed to give our friends, Chris and Donna, 15 reasons to love Italy in nine days, it was exhausting, but we believe even fleeting moments are worth the effort in this fantastic country. And there was an added benefit of the tour: good friends enjoying each other's company and creating new memories. A big thanks to Chris and Donna for making the trip during a difficult time.

Donkeys, and other jackasses

09 August 2021

We made the 150-mile crossing from Menorca to Sardinia in calm conditions, under the guidance of a full moon. Rather than barreling into darkness (as is often the case with moving at night) Berkeley East bobbed along steadily, the only sounds being the hum of BE's engine, and the squawk from the VHF radio. An American warship announced live fire practice and urged all ships to maintain a safe distance, good advice, we wondered what a safe distance might be. A British chap hailed a 300-foot tanker and calmly asked the captain if he could see their boat, as their AIS showed a CPA (closest point of approach) of zero feet in 10 minutes. A French woman decided that channel 16 (the VHF emergency channel) was the perfect vehicle for showing off her singing skills, or possibly her imitation of a cat being strangled, it was hard to tell. There were burps and giggles, people get bored. As always with night passages, we appreciated the first glimmer of dawn.

We approached Sardinia on the northwest corner and wove Berkeley East through the Asinara National Park to a mooring off the island of Asinara, named for its large population of wild Albino donkeys.

In 1885 a quarantine health facility and prison were established on the island, and all residents were forced to move. While it was used as a prison camp during several wars, post-war periods saw the arrival of the greatest supporters of Italian terrorism, mafia, and organized crime. It is often called the Italian Alcatraz, as escaping from the island was quite impossible.

Until 1997, when the prison closed, Asinara's only human inhabitants were the prisoners and their keepers. For more than a century, nothing was built on the island, the beaches and ponds remained untouched, the animals lived free. Today, Asinara is uninhabited but for the donkeys, horses, mouflon, wild boar and some 50 different species of birds. One can visit via boat and explore the island by electric car, or bicycle. There is only one paved road, two bars/restaurants, and one shop selling local products like Donkey Soap, perfect for Christmas gifts.

We traveled from one end of the island to the other and learned what a challenge it is to keep an electric vehicle charged, the batteries fill very slowly. The island is riddled with remnants of the prison and homes from Roman times, the rest is rock, limestone and rustic foliage framed by crystal clear water.

We stayed on the mooring in Asinara for a few days, enjoying the quiet atmosphere, and the fresh bread brought to our boat each morning by our mooring guardian. The weather was disturbed from the south, and the sky literally rained mud. We renamed Berkeley East "Pig Pen" and moved on to the La Maddelena Archipelogo.

Lying at the southern end of the Straight of Bonifacio, the La Maddalena Archipelago is a cluster of seven islands, known as the seven sisters, accented by more than 50 tiny bits of rock and land. An Italian geomarine national park, La Maddalena encompasses more than 20,000 hectares of land and sea, along 112 miles of stunning granite coastline chiseled by severe winds and currents.

We had been to the archipelago twice before, and there were fond memories of Cala Garibaldi, a beautiful, unique inlet of artistic rock formations that create natural swimming pools. It was not as crowded as most of the coves in La Maddelana, perfect for relaxing and swimming. While there were some day boats, most would leave at night, creating a space for a magical evening, at least that is what we recalled.

If not for pictures and previous blog posts, we would seriously question our memories, as Garibaldi was none of what we remembered. The rock outcroppings were still amazing, but the boats had tripled in size, and numbers, the traffic through the anchorage was ridiculous, swimming was risky. Still, we sat on Berkeley East in Girabaldi, constantly astounded by the ginormous boats, the excessive speed, the recklessness, while keeping the chaos at a safe distance.

One of the newer trends in the world of yachting is the support, or shadow, vessel. This is a second ship to carry all the toys: speed boats, helicopters, sailboats, SUVs, submarines, jet skis, to name a few. Vessels Casa and Playa have taken this trend down from the mega-yacht realm to superyachts. Each boat is under 90' long, so this pair of superyachts are much easier to fit into small harbors. Casa is the primary vessel with three luxury cabins, while Playa follows along with the entertainment including a basketball court, wake-surfing boat, SUV and a 10' outside television (we watched the Olympics from across the harbor on Berkeley East).

Even with the increased crowds, La Maddalena was spectacular, but the archipelago lies just south of Corsica, where The Mistral reigns terror on small boats like Berkeley East. We have encountered The Mistral (which blows from southern France to the Northern Mediterranean) before, pinned down for days in winds that often exceed 50 knots. As the wind swirled, we moved from anchorage to anchorage down the east coast of Sardinia to find refuge. A freshly washed BE (scrubbed by the crew at anchor) quickly became coated in salt, as boats sped by sending waves crashing over Berkeley East's decks, dodger and bimini.

The bays were crowded with Italians on holiday. It appeared that the shortest distance between two points was always across Berkeley East's bow, or stern, so BE was in a nearly constant roll. While night clubs remained closed in Italy due to COVID, dancing prohibited, restaurants on shore buzzed into the wee hours of the morning. There was no doubt that we were back in Sardinia, in August, everything was fast and loud.

With a break in the wind, we made way for Olbia to check Berkeley East, and crew, into the country, and end our status as illegal aliens in Italia. While they welcomed the beautiful American yacht, the police insisted they could not stamp our passports. It is typical in Italy, that every port, every official, has their own set of rules and regulations which they apply as they wish. At our next landfall, the harbor master informed us that we should have been stamped in at our first check-in locale, Olbia, and we must wait for the next port. So, BE's motley crew is to remain merchant marines, in the country legally, but confined to the boat for the immediate future.

Follow the checklist

26 July 2021 | Caprera, Italy
We have been very disciplined about flying the drone over the last five years and have completed more than 250 flights without incident. While the drone is not overly complicated, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be in sync. To manage this, we have a preflight checklist, just like airline pilots. We don't want to lose an expensive piece of equipment, not to mention the need for the safety of ourselves, and those around us, so the checklist is followed religiously, almost always.

Also, flying from a moving object (boat), whether at anchor, or while sailing, creates unique challenges. It requires two people for takeoff and landing, boat movement impacts both, and the boat is not at the takeoff point immediately after the drone takes flight. The drone software has a very nice feature to return the drone to the takeoff point if there is a problem, but on a moving, or spinning, or heeling boat, the takeoff point quickly becomes water.

Today we got a little lax in the flight process and didn't use the check list. We were in one of our favorite Sardinia anchorages, Cala Garibaldi, La Maddalena. It was crowded with boats, so the appropriate action was to take the drone straight up to 100 feet so to avoid any nearby masts in the cala.

After it settled at 100 feet an alarm sounded that there was a critical power shortage, and the drone was "landing". The boat had moved about 10 feet from the takeoff point ,so if the drone landed it would make a big splash.

Attempts to cancel the landing were ineffective. Avoidance maneuvers were required to offset the drone's desire to land. Pushing the drone to climb, while moving it toward the boat, seemed to stabilize it momentarily, but the drone seemed intent on going swimming. At the last second, it came close enough for a one-handed grab as it descended toward the water. A lucky catch and rescue from a certain death in the Mediterranean Sea.

Turned out the iPad battery was low. While the drone and drone control battery levels had been checked, the iPad slipped through the cracks. Lesson learned, follow the checklist.
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)
Street art from our 2019 stay in Barcelona
25 Photos
Created 7 November 2019
Photos for blog post
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Created 2 August 2016
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Extra pictures for Croatia
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Venice June 2012
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Tuscany trip summer 2011
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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 22 May 2008
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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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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.
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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.
5 Photos
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