Adventures of Berkeley East

01 June 2017 | Croatia
01 June 2017 | Italy
26 May 2017 | Parma, Italy
25 May 2017 | Motor Valley, Emilia Romagna, Italy
24 May 2017 | Fano, Italy
15 October 2016 | Fano, Italy
28 September 2016 | Revenna, Italy
21 September 2016 | Venice, Italy
18 September 2016 | Zadar to Rovinj, Croatia & Venice
03 September 2016
29 August 2016 | Opatija, Croatia
25 August 2016 | Biograd, Croatia
19 August 2016 | Dalmatia, Croatia
04 August 2016 | Dugi Otak, Croatia
29 July 2016 | Dalmatia, Croatia
22 July 2016 | Gargano Peninsula, Italy
21 July 2016 | Puglia, Italy
06 July 2016 | Brindisi, Italy
05 July 2016 | Othoni, Greece
31 May 2016 | Gulfs of Corinth and Patras, Greece

Better late than never

17 August 2019 | Charlotte, NC and Gaeta, Italy

We usually get back to Berkeley East from our winter break by mid April. A couple weeks of boat prep and we're off on another cruising adventure. But last fall, we decided to do some much-needed work on our home in North Carolina. What began as "deferred maintenance" (paint, new driveway, etc.), turned into a major refit project that will enhance our life on the lake, but it also extended our land break this year significantly. Bad weather, expanded project scope, delayed materials, missing sub-contractors; we thought the work would never be completed. April became May, May turned to June, June quickly rolled into July; every week we would change our flights to Rome and cross our fingers that the rain would stop and the crews would show.

While there was a time when one of us thought the boat life should be a full-time existence, we have discovered that we are not cold-weather cruisers, nor are we fond of living on Berkeley East in a marina over winter, and crossing oceans every six months to chase after summer is just too much work for us, not to mention very taxing on BE. After 12 years of cruising on Berkeley East, we both now feel that a comfortable home base is crucial to a balanced life. So missing a few months of cruising was a necessary sacrifice.

Having owned five homes, one might assume we have experienced the trials and tribulations of a remodel before. But prior to moving to North Carolina, we always bought new homes and moved before any real work was required. So for us, remodeling was foreign territory, in our own country. We were naïve remodel newbies who thought we could put a 26-foot hole in the back of the house in the middle of February and be good to go in just a couple of months. As we had been told, time and time again, by intelligent people that we trust, any remodel is a slippery slope with surprises that always make the project take longer, and cost more, than expected. We ignored the warnings, as we have watched many episodes of "Fixer Upper" and everything always gets done quickly, inexpensively and it always turns out beautiful.

One of our goals in remodeling our house was to extend our time outdoors. Given that we are sailing Berkeley East from April to October, we miss some of the best months on the lake. So we opened the view, and added a porch where we will be able catch the winter sunsets over the lake in comfort.

That was the beginning of the slippery slope. We never planned to replace all of the exterior cedar shingles; it just made sense, what with all the woodpecker holes. What we didn't realize is that the new cement shingles took weeks to ship across country. We also never expected to replace much of the landscaping, but we thought the neighbors and HOA might have a problem with the mud after the tractors destroyed the grass. Little did we know that all the good landscapers were booked months in advance. We added a new bathroom while we waited.

While the delays were frustrating, the result is fantastic.

And there was yet another bright side to our cruising postponement: we got to spend more time on the lake, with our lake friends, in summer. Dinners, parties, skiing, floating, the Fourth of July. This was the first Independence Day that we have spent in the US in nine years. Watching fireworks from boats flying American flags with people singing "Proud to be an American" as loud, and off key, as possible; it was absolutely fabulous.

As we started seeing the light at the end of the remodel tunnel, we shifted into boat mode. We were worried about BE. While we knew she was in good hands with our friends in Gaeta Italy, this was the longest period of time in 12 years that we had not had eyes on her. We looked at our typical boat-prep list and wondered how we could possibly accomplish it all in the blistering August heat. We typically spend two full days on ladders waxing BE's 54-foot hull alone. And while we love the rewards of making her look so beautiful, we were not looking forward to doing that work in 90+ degrees. Kudos to the Captain for hiring the marina crew to do the hull polishing this time, a big bunch of Euros and Berkeley East would be shiny on our return. Who are we gonna leave it to anyway?

And the moment we saw BE, we knew it was money well spent. As the perspiration poured off our heads, BE's hull was glistening in the August sunlight. We still had the coach house and cockpit to wax, along with all our other chores, but we both breathed a sigh of relief that one big project could be ticked off the list.

People wondered why we didn't just skip this season and stay home to enjoy our nearly new house. It was August for gosh sake, and we would soon be doing all the boat prep to leave Berkeley East for winter. The thought had crossed our minds, but BE needed to get out of the European Union to clear her VAT (Value Added Tax) clock and she couldn't move herself. Any US-flagged boat can only be in all EU countries for 18 months collectively without checking into a non-EU country, so our cruiser responsibilities took precedence over admiring our remodel success. We had also already booked Berkeley East into Barcelona's Port Vell for the winter, so while it will be a short cruising season, it should be an exciting one.

Even with the hull waxing completed before we arrived, it still took 10 days of solid work in grueling temperatures and sky-high humidity to get Berkeley East ship shape, provisioned, and ready to roll. We still don't understand how the Italians can walk around in heat of the day in jeans, long sleeve shirts and no hat without even breaking a sweat. We got through all the work in as little clothes as possible, and what we call "cloud cleaning," a method of working below until a cloud shrouds the sun, then running up on deck to finish a topside chore.

When we speak Italian and the Italians speak English, we forget how easy it is to misinterpret conversations. When ordering 18 bottles (or three six-packs) of water to keep us going until we had BE's water maker fully operational, 18 bottles was heard as 18 six-packs, or 108 - 1.5 liter bottles of water. While we had been consuming water at an alarming rate, this was a lot of H2O, but we didn't have the heart to tell our new friend Danny about the misunderstanding after he had hauled it all to the dock. Stowing the 108 bottles on board was a challenge.

Although August isn't the ideal time to re-commission BE, it gave us an opportunity to spend time in Gaeta in the high season. In August it is full of life with Italians on holiday; festivals, concerts, puppet shows, open-air markets, lively restaurants, quite the contrast to the sleepy town we have come to know in the spring and fall.

Festa di Madonna di Porto Salvo also known as - "The Feast Day of the Sea" is a tradition dating back to 1926, when a specially decorated boat carrying the statue of "La Madonna del Mare" on its stern takes to the sea. Other boats await the Madonna and follow in procession outside the port, where prayers are said for the safety of sailors and fishermen while a garland of flowers is tossed into the water.

As we paid our substantial marina bill to get Berkeley East out of hock, and said our last goodbye to Gaeta Jane (as we have come to call our friend, interpreter, problem solver, and BE's guardian while we were away), we left open the possibility of a return some day. After all, we didn't plan to come to Gaeta two years ago; we were headed to Spain. And we never ever imagined that we would come back to Gaeta again last year; we were going to Spain. So anything is possible. But first: Ponza, Sicily, Pantelleria, Tunisia, Sardinia, and Spain.

One last look at the USS Mount Whitney watching over our Gaeta marina.

Delayed Start

12 July 2019
Larry Ivins
We have been delayed with matters on land. All is well. We will be back on the water soon.

Full circle

12 September 2018 | Cala del Core Ponza, Italy
We seldom end a cruising season where we began. In fact, we typically prefer making new discoveries to repeating past experiences. But this year was an exception. While we had hoped to be in Spain for winter, our longing to revisit Northern Italy, the French Riviera, Corsica, and Sardinia, combined with European Union restrictions, made a return to our previous winter marina in Gaeta, Italy the logical choice. So we did a loop, to the north, and the west, then south. And when weather dictated a move from Sardinia, we completed the 150-mile crossing east to Ponza, the beautiful Italian island where Berkeley East had her first landing of 2018.

Berkeley East can only travel about 95 miles in late-summer daylight hours, so it was essential that we do an overnight passage for the 150 miles to Ponza. We've had some wonderful night crossings, and we've had some pretty rough experiences as well; dealing with issues in the dark adds a level of complexity to sailing. With one-night passages, it is easier to plan for good conditions, which is what we did, so we enjoyed the benefit of a nearly full moon and rather benign conditions. A little sailing, a little motoring, a bit of boat traffic, a bit of rain; we arrived in Ponza tired, but unscathed.

We had just over two weeks left before taking Berkeley East into the marina for her winter preparation and pampering, and we hoped to spend our last days aboard BE in Ponza. We have a love-hate relationship with Ponza, having spent some of our very best days there, as well as some of our most difficult nights. But we have learned how to handle Ponza's turbulent personality. When any wind comes from the east, any wind at all, we go to the west side of the island. And when conditions are from the west, north or south, we protect ourselves behind the cliffs on Ponza's east side. It's simple.

To truly appreciate Ponza, one must gaze upon the island from the sea. Sheer cliffs in a full palette of whites and golds, with splashes of greenery, fall into azure waters. Sandy beaches, ancient grottos and rocks resembling works of art complete the enchanting picture. There is nothing like feeling the gentle roll of Berkeley East while relishing the magnificent views of Ponza.

During high season, mainland-Romans descend on Ponza in droves, either by ferry, or private yacht. Those without their own boat rent small inflatables to explore the island, a valid drivers license being all that is required, no boating experience necessary.

But modern Romans are not the first to enjoy Ponza's unique beauty. In Imperial times, nobility built villas on the island with panoramas of the rocks and sea. After the fall of the Empire, the island was abandoned until 1734 when Porto, Ponza's main town, was founded. Despite its summer popularity, Porto has retained much of it simple fishing village ambiance. Cafes, produce stalls and fishmongers surround the port, fishing boats fill the harbor, pastel buildings create a picture-perfect mosaic backdrop.

We were just a few days shy of September and the Italian holidaymakers were still out in force. But this was a different atmosphere from the Sardina jet set. These were typical Italians; lively and loud, smiling and happy, friendly and inquisitive as to what such a beautiful American-flagged boat was doing in Ponza. Boats would circle Berkeley East, moving uncharacteristically slowly, to look at her hailing port. Families happened by in small ribs and lingered asking questions about our life. Power boaters waved and yelled as they passed to see if we were really American. Swimmers paddled around BE until we came on deck for a chat.

Our brilliant strategy of coping with meteorological challenges in Ponza worked well. With an east wind, we moved Berkeley East to Chiaia di Luna, the gorgeous beach on the island's west side where a hotel on the cliff played classic music as the sun set into the water.

If things got dicey from the west, north or south, we parked BE near Porto, under the famous bleeding heart.

The weather was good but for a few passing storms. One evening we were setting the table for dinner when one of us said, "It looks like rain." "There's none in the forecast" was the reply. "I see lightening," was the response. "But it's not at all close," was the retort. "It's raining." "Just a few drops." As we were grabbing dishes sliding off the table due to the fact that Berkeley East was heeling with the 40-knot gusts, and a deluge of water pounded the deck, the tension was cut when one of us asked, "Shall I plate?"

After the first week, the Italians went back to work and the atmosphere calmed considerably. We slid into a routine between time on land, and time on the water. The woman at the market stopped asking for a pin with our credit card. The server at our favorite restaurant always had our seaside table ready. The fishermen smiled when we squeezed our dinghy into the corner just outside the "Riservato" sign on the wall.

We did a little boat work, waxing and polishing until Berkeley East's topside was shining bright.

We got out for some day sailing, launching the spinnaker for the first time in a very long while. The light-wind sail is huge, about 2,000 square feet, weighs about 50 pounds and is stowed deep in BE's sail locker, so it takes planning and effort to launch the monster. And the wind speed and direction must be precise to keep the sail full. Day sailing off Ponza, we were able to pick the right time, the right direction and just sail to the wind.

Once we spent the better part of a day watching the recovery of a 130-foot motor yacht that ran up on the rocks, 50 feet from shore. It was amazing to observe the process. The anchors and chains were dropped to remove weight from the bow and fenders were floated marking their location. Divers stuffed pillows in what must have been a hole in the hull and pumps were brought onboard to manage the flooding. Tarps were draped to hide the damage and the name of the yacht. It was surprising that a small salvage boat was able to pull such a large vessel off at high tide and tow it into the harbor. Fortunately, the boat didn't sink and no one was hurt, but the captain's career certainly took a beating.

The days passed quickly. September is truly our favorite month to cruise in the Med. There are fewer boats, fewer tourists, cooler temperatures. But the timing of the Mediterranean cruising season often conflicts with special events and occasions back home; while we are on BE making new memories, we miss a lot of memorable moments with the people in our landlubber life. So we were happy to be going back a bit early to attend a good friend's wedding. We would stay out on the water, in Ponza, as long as possible, soaking up the end of summer.

After 18 days, we said goodbye to Ponza and made the 30-mile crossing to Gaeta. Anchored off the town on our last night out, watching our last sunset of the season, we were contemplating the week ahead, and reminiscing about the past months. We recalled meeting a couple in April who were new to cruising. They had a plan to go from Italy, through Croatia and Greece to Turkey, then all the way back and north to England, in one summer. They had a list of countries that they wanted to say they've been to, even if it was only a drive-by. Coming off nearly three weeks at one small Italian island, the thought of such an ambitious schedule was horrifying to us. We used to be in a hurry as well, often being the first of our cruising group to leave the winter nest. But after more than a decade of traveling on Berkeley East, we have learned that it doesn't matter how far we go, or how fast we get there. What matters most to us is savoring, and appreciating, every experience; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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
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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 28 January 2008
Chistmas 2007 in St Maarten with other crusiers and Mike and Linda (frends & meighbors from CA)
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Created 21 November 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.
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Created 22 July 2007
4 Photos
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