Adventures of Berkeley East

10 June 2018 | Bolgheri and Piedmonte, Italy
08 June 2018
04 June 2018 | Cinque Terre, Italy
27 May 2018 | Florence, Italy
23 May 2018 | Italy
17 May 2018 | Roma, Italy
06 May 2018 | Umbria, Italy
23 April 2018 | Gaeta, Italy
30 September 2017 | Ischia, Italy
21 September 2017 | Procida, Italy
20 September 2017 | Naples, Italy
16 September 2017 | Capri, Italy
14 September 2017 | Galli Islands, Italy
12 September 2017 | Amafi Coast, Italy
10 September 2017 | Salerno, Italy
07 September 2017 | Palinuro, Italy
05 September 2017 | Cetraro, Italy
04 September 2017 | Calabria, Italy

Navigating a pandemic

30 March 2020 | Lake Norman, NC

We awoke to a calendar item: "Lufthansa Flight 429 to Munich / Barcelona departs 6:30 pm." Obviously, that flight was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but the notice on our phones was a stark reminder of how quickly things have changed.

Just a few weeks ago, we were managing all our house, doctor and financial meetings in anticipation of being away, on Berkeley East, for many months. Boat parts and supplies were laid out on the bedroom floor in "must go" piles, along with a "would be nice if there is room" stack. Sea trial appointments were set for Berkeley East upon our return so necessary engine parts could be ordered and shipped before the Easter holiday break. Travel plans were being made for our long-awaited exploration of Spain's Basque Country. Dinner discussions were almost always about where we should sail in 2020.

The fact is, we were pretty certain we would be delayed going back to BE this year. We had been following the Coronavirus spread in Italy, were cautiously watching the situation developing in Spain, and wondering what would happen in the US; while we were hopeful, we were also realistic.

The news we heard from our friends in the EU prompted us to begin social distancing sooner than many. While others went to restaurants, bars and gatherings, we stayed home; we couldn't risk getting sick in the off chance that we were able to make our flight to Spain. But we are lucky because our years on Berkeley East have helped train us for isolation. Long passages alone, weeks without stepping foot on land, traveling in countries where we could not communicate, we know how to occupy ourselves without going crazy.

We cannot count how many times we have heard someone say that the boat is the best place to be in circumstances like this, "you can just sail away," is often the comment. While that sounds like the perfect solution, it is a complicated one in cases of emergency.

We left Berkeley East five months ago, buttoned up, in the water, in Barcelona, Spain, before COVID-19 was even on the radar. All of BE's systems are shut down, and there is no food, water, wine, or toilet paper on board. While Costco delivers most of our needs to the front door here in North Carolina, provisioning in Barcelona requires multiple trips to multiple markets, on foot, with our trusty shopping trolley. And finding toilet paper for BE's marine toilets in Europe is next to impossible unless we are willing to pay ridiculous prices at super yacht stores. Fortunately, a purchasing error some 13 years ago left Berkeley East flush in TP, so it has never been a problem until the last of it was used in October. Who knew there would be a worldwide shortage of toilet paper? Several rolls of "Scott One-Ply" are currently in the "must go to the boat" heap upstairs.

As painful as it is to leave BE sitting alone in Barcelona, we know that we are far better off here, at home, with grocery delivery and good healthcare if needed, than we would be if we were quarantined on Berkeley East amid Spain's own healthcare crisis. And we are very thankful for that.

So while we stay home and wait for the curve to flatten, between jigsaw puzzles, some very chilly water ski runs, and Face Time happy hours with friends, we are reviewing the options for Berkeley East this year.

Over the winter, we developed three possible cruising plans: 1) take BE north to England and the Baltic Sea; 2) sail back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean; 3) spend one last season in the Mediterranean. While Option 1 (sailing to the UK and the Baltic) was winning our hearts pre-COVID-19, at this point, Option 3 (staying in the Med) is looking like the only real possibility. That said, at the present time, many marinas and ports throughout the Med are closed, and yachts from Italy and Spain are being refused entry to those that are open. We have no idea how that might change in the coming weeks, or months. But we are hopeful that we will be back aboard BE soon, and will spend time revisiting some of our favorite European locales. Then again, considering that Berkeley East is in Spain, and her crew will have come from the most infected country in the world, we are prepared for just about anything. BE may just have to change the spelling of her name and remain in Spain for some time - su nombre es "Berkeley Este."

We hope all our friends throughout the world are safe and healthy.

The new normal

31 October 2019 | Barcelona, Spain
As we sat on Berkeley East watching clouds of black smoke rise high over the city, the deafening roar of a police helicopter hovering directly above BE's mast, we wondered what had happened to our beautiful Barcelona.

Berkeley East spent her first Mediterranean winter, nine years ago, in Port Vell Marina, Barcelona. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and relaxing much of the season on small islands, landing in one of Spain's most vibrant cities was exciting, to say the least. Back then; the marina was an eclectic mix of liveaboards, cruisers, local sailors, and the crews of a few luxury yachts. Just steps away from the charming Barceloneta quarter, a short walk to the city center and all the treasures that Barcelona had to offer, Berkeley East was in the heart of one of the most historic cities in the world.

But our Barcelona experience of 2010 was much more than touring monuments and visiting museums, the marina's location was like living in the neighborhood, the people we met were our community, fellow cruisers became family that we would travel with for years to come.

Ever since we sailed away from Barcelona in 2011, we have dreamed of returning one day; Port Vell is one of the few marinas in the world set at the foot of a major city, making it possible to merge the casual cruising life with a stimulating land existence.

A lot has changed in Port Vell since our first visit. Now called One Ocean, the marina underwent a massive renovation and has become a premier destination for super yachts. We were surprised they even allowed entrance to small vessels like Berkeley East. Gone are the quirky boats with gardens growing on their decks, absent is the lively international liveaboard vibe, missing are the fun and laughter of frequent dock parties. BE's neighbors in 2019 are the likes of 369-foot "Reah," 276-foot "Pacific," and 273-foot "Savanah." One Ocean has room for 151 yachts with space for ships as large as 625 feet in length.

We arrived in Barcelona on October 1st, anxious to get reacquainted with the city.

With our list of favorite places in hand, we began wandering the small twisting streets, thrilled to see familiar spots, eager to discover new ones. We had a month, plenty of time to get Berkeley East ready for winter, so we began alternating boat chores and exploring. From famous landmarks to hidden gems, cooking classes, art galleries, churches, concerts, boat shows, markets, beaches, wine bars, and restaurants; the plan was to soak up as much of Barcelona as we possibly could.

At the boat show one of us was trying to downsize, while the other was thinking big.

The Basílica de la Sagrada Família, a large unfinished Roman Catholic Church, is one of Barcelona's most iconic landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it was designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi, combining two contrasting styles, Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau. It has been under construction since 1882; when completed in 2026, the enormous sanctuary will have 18 towers, each one with its own dedication.

Barcelona has been celebrated in artistic circles for centuries through its Gaudi architecture, Joan Miró sculptures, and world-renowned Picasso museum. Today, the city is a globally recognized center for the graffiti and street art.


More street art at here

While some are commissioned pieces to enhance the doors of businesses, most are illegal works created during the night, even in disguise, to avoid discovery by police. The art changes regularly, or is removed by the city's cleaners. For many Barcelona residents and visitors, it is a conflict between appreciating this form of expression and the desire to keep the city clean.

We had been having a terrific time learning to live in Barcelona again. Then, on Monday, October 14th, our boat guardian stopped by to warn us to be cautious; there would be protests throughout the city. We wondered what the issue was, as we set off for the phone and internet store to restore our lost connections. We hadn't gotten far when we noticed fewer people than usual, no cars, and streets blocked by police. In 2017, the people of Catalonia voted to become independent from Spain. The Spanish government declared the referendum illegal, arrested the organizers and jailed them for two years during prosecution. On this particular day in October 2019, the courts handed down very hefty sentences, sparking shock and outrage among pro-independence groups in Catalonia, throughout Spain, and around the world.

What followed was weeks of protests, marches, and violence. The airport was occupied one day, trains were blocked, highways and roads became grounds for demonstrations. Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police), and Spanish Policia Nacional, along with the country's Guardia Civil, lined the streets, helicopters watched from the sky. While the demonstrations were meant to be peaceful, protestors and police officers were injured, civilians arrested, trash bins and cars set afire, business and tourism fell. And yet, for the most part, life continued as usual in Barcelona, and around Catalonia, albeit with delays, and concern. Apparently, this was the new normal.

While the chaos was not far from Berkeley East, our marina and surroundings were like a bubble of calm, but for the frequent racket of police choppers overhead. We began monitoring planned demonstrations in order to avoid the conflict, never strayed too far at night, and took a couple of road trips to escape the madness.

The Priorat is a small dynamic wine region about a three-hour drive from Barcelona. We are fortunate to know a woman from home who makes wine there, very good wine, and we were lucky she was in for harvest and graciously found time to show us around a bit. We spent a few days enjoying the famous wine country, with a quiet stay in the village of Gratallops, known for its top producers, where there are 23 officially certified cellars, some 200 people, and what seemed like an equal number of cats.

While our time in the Priorat was peaceful, our thoughts were not far from the events in Barcelona where the protests raged on. Tens of thousands of "freedom marchers" converged on the city from outlying towns, blocking roads in the northeastern region of Spain, to join in a General Strike that brought Barcelona to a standstill, closed the Sagrada Família, and united 600,000 demonstrators for one cause. But by morning, the waterfront was abuzz again, like nothing had ever happened.

Another road trip took us to three countries in one day: breakfast in Spain, lunch in France, and dinner in Andorra. Andorra, a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, is known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status. There was not enough snow for skiing, but the shoppers were out in force to capture duty-free bargains in the giant shopping mall. We enjoyed the scenic drive and added one more country to our list, only 260 to go.

As our time in Barcelona came to an end, we noticed a dramatic drop in the number of tourists. It was the end of October, but tourism counts were 60 percent less than was typical for the time of year. Travel agents, airlines, hotels and tour groups reported a growing number of cancellations; cruise ships skipped their stops in Barcelona. It was sad for Barcelona to lose so much income, and equally as sad for the travelers who were being deprived of such a wonderful city.

We questioned when the controversy would end, but knew it wouldn't be any time soon. The Catalans say they are committed to the cause; they want the prisoners released, they want to vote again on independence, and they are willing to do what it takes. On our last morning in Barcelona, we had our usual read about the previous night's issues, only to emerge from Berkeley East to find a beautiful, bright sunny day; the neighborhood was humming, the beach was alive, as if no one had a care in the world, it was simply the new normal.

We dedicate this blog to Pam Steele, our friend and fellow cruiser on SV Eirene. Having met in Barcelona in 2010, Pam became an important part of our Mediterranean cruising experience. She was fun, adventurous and full of good advise. And while we didn't always take her counsel to heart (such as her intelligent suggestion to not go north in the Cyclades in summer), we appreciated her attempts to try and keep us from doing stupid things. She was a very special lady. This is one of our favorite photos, taken in Portofino, Italy in 2011.

Vessels of freedom

30 September 2019 | Mallorca, Spain
The drone of the engine was exhausting. We had been motoring for 26 hours, through black lumpy seas, towards Menorca, Spain, the light of the moon frequently slipping behind dense clouds. The air was heavy, the decks were damp, Berkeley East smelled like a wet dog. At least the sun was beginning to glow in the distance, signaling the end of a long night passage; we had just four more hours to go.

We heard Kenny Chesney serenading us from the stereo, "boats, vessels of freedom," a favored song with romantic lyrics, but we had been experiencing just the opposite of late. We had things to do, places to be, so sailing BE "any way the wind blows" was not an option. And with recent weather issues, "sailing, takes me away to where I'm going" made no sense at all. "I'm on a boat, on a boat, I'm on a **** boat" was more relatable.

We were especially cranky because it had been nine days since we had spent any time on land. The sway of Berkeley East, while normally soothing, was getting on our nerves. Regardless of how pleasant we both are to be around, or how comfortable Berkeley East is, nine days of constantly moving a 54-foot boat long distances in spirited conditions, without other people or outside stimuli, tests ones sanity. At least there was the occasional dip in the sea, and glass of cool vino, at the last wink of the day; "harbors of healing."

Our plan for a land break in Sardinia was thwarted upon arrival by an unexpected weather pattern, the typical prevailing northwest wind was nowhere to be seen; in its place we had a feisty breeze with energetic waves literally pushing Berkeley East to Spain, albeit, in a less-than-comfortable manner. Climate change perhaps, but more likely just the typical unsettled September atmosphere. And it was better than bashing BE into a northwest wind, so we didn't complain.

We were crossing 215 miles from Sardinia to Menorca, the eastern-most island in the Balearic Island Archipelago, on our way to Barcelona, Spain where Berkeley East would be spending her winter break. She was expected in Port Vell on October 1st, so we had to time our movements carefully. A couple of weeks in the Balearics would cap the season nicely; a little relaxation, a little activity, very little moving, or so we thought.

Our first landing in the Balearics was set just outside the capital of Menorca, in Mahon. As we wove Berkeley East through the small anchorage, people waved enthusiastically from their boats, civilization at last. Having just settled BE, we were approached by a tender, an English gentleman wanting to have a chat. While fatigue was setting in, all plans for a nap were postponed for some welcome interaction with a complete stranger. We talked about boats and weather, politics and Brexit, as if we had been mates for years, our new friend hanging onto BE's rail as the wakes from passing boats rocked his rib.

We saw another boat arrive, the owner quickly tossing his dinghy into the water to rush to shore. We couldn't imagine the urgency after such a long passage, then we saw the dog that clearly had crossed its legs for some time. Lyle Lovett sang from the stereo, "And if I had a boat I'd go out on the ocean. And if I had a pony, I'd ride him on my boat." Love that song, but we had to laugh. While Berkeley East was emitting the scent of a St. Bernard, we were thrilled that there wasn't actually a pooch, or a pony, onboard; we had enough to deal with.

The next morning, we took Berkeley East into a marina in town (we needed time on land, and BE needed a bath) where we were met by Americans from South Carolina. We were in heaven, not just the English language, but also American-English conversations with cruisers, and nice ones at that. And there was land, glorious las tierras.

Mahón (or Maó as the locals call it) is set around the second largest natural harbor in the world, with islands, fortifications and eclectic architecture built throughout the ages. The upscale waterfront was bustling with shops and restaurants where we indulged in long lunches and dinners; it was as if the menus were written especially for us featuring ceviche, squid, and Spanish tomato bread. The historic town up the hill was cozy and oozing of charm with views over the magnificent harbor below.

We would likely still be in Mahon, getting fat, and possibly purchasing a condo, but the weather, and marina lady, told us otherwise. A blow was on the way, and the marina didn't have room for a massive, stunning boat like Berkeley East to wait out the storm. So while we wanted stay, or go to some beautiful calas in the south, we needed to move north to unknown territory.

We spent the next week trying to stay out of the fray, but quickly discovered that the weather forecasts were never accurate for the area, and we were constantly finding ourselves "sailing into the mystic" spray of the sea. Routes and destinations were often changed while underway when conditions were less than desirable. Our plans to make just a few hops to get in position to cross to Barcelona turned to seven moves in 10 days. Through it all, we found some interesting places to hide, and learned a lot about Spanish architecture.

From the drone perspective, Arenal d'en Castell was amazing, but pictures can be deceiving. A large, almost circular bay, it had one good side with attractive homes on the hill, the rest of the landscape was riddled with ugly apartment blocks and giant hotels. It was obvious that it was a popular holiday spot by the number of people on the water. We tried to always keep our gaze in the more pleasant direction, not a simple task with Berkeley East spinning in the constant wind.

Puerto de Fornells was a long inlet that offered cover from the strong breeze, and kept the heavy seas at bay. From the anchorage, we could see white cubes clustered on the shore, unlike Arenal d'en Castell, development there has been a bit restricted. When the weather calmed, our "dinghy of freedom" took us in where we found a small resort and fishing village surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty.

The town of Ciudadella is an architectural gem, a successful blend of old and new. Its harbor is the most ancient in the Balearics, notorious for its current and tides, which can rise and fall very quickly.

While much of the town caters to tourism, there is still a small very active fishing fleet, delivering their fresh catches daily to the local markets and restaurants.

A couple of days on a dock in Ciudadella was a welcome respite from the erratic wind and waves before making the crossing to Mallorca, where we would wait for good conditions to do the 115-mile passage to Barcelona.

After a short search of the northeast tip of Mallorca, we found what we hoped would be our final anchorage of the season in Cala Formentor, a large, shallow bay that would provide protection and allow for an easy departure in the dark. We spent our remaining bits of summer reading, swimming and deciding which of the striking homes on the shore we would prefer to live in. Then, on September's last morning, at 3:oo am, we raised Berkeley East's anchor and set a course for "one particular harbor" - Barcelona.

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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Created 17 May 2013
Extra pictures for Croatia
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Created 5 September 2012
Venice June 2012
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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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Created 4 May 2009
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Created 22 April 2009
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Created 19 April 2009
Pictures from our trip to Los Testigos, Venezuela - March 2009
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Created 11 April 2009
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Created 28 March 2009
Pics form the 2008 Caribbean 1500
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Created 26 November 2008
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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Created 28 January 2008
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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
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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.
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