Adventures of Berkeley East

26 July 2021 | Caprera, Italy
22 July 2021 | Balearic Islands, Spain
01 July 2021
09 August 2020
30 March 2020 | Lake Norman, NC
31 October 2019 | Barcelona, Spain
30 September 2019 | Mallorca, Spain
15 September 2019 | Sardinia, Italy
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

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.

Does this look like Quail?

22 July 2021 | Balearic Islands, Spain

We were in a shop stocking Berkeley East's wine bilge and asked the clerk for Laurel, a Spanish wine that we were familiar with. He looked perplexed. We repeated, "Law-rehl, from the Priorat, Clos i Terrasses". At that, his face lit up and he said, " Low-relle', si'!". We knew that many Spanish words are spoken much differently than how they look, but we had never heard this wine, that we knew so well, pronounced with an "o" and an accent at the end.

Our speech impediment continued throughout the Balearic Islands. For Port Soller, we'd say "So-ler," they'd counter with "So-lyay". Andratx, for us was obviously "An-thrax," their response was "An-drath". And so it went, Ibiza is "ai-bee-thuh". Mallorca is "muh-yaw-kuh".

Sometimes, even when we said a word correctly, it was heard differently, as was the case at a restaurant in Palma. In ordering the Menu del Dia, there were several main course selections, we both ordered the quail. When the food arrived, we thought it looked very different from the quail we had eaten in the past, but it was interesting. And as we cut into the stuffed pastry, we wondered how they got so much meat from such tiny birds. When the gentleman next to us was served the same plate, he said, with a British accent, "no, I ordered the kale," at least that is what it sounded like to us. We thought it odd since there was no kale on the menu. A short time later, he was presented with a dish that looked very much like quail as we know it. Our plates were empty, whatever they had given us was delicious. As we exited the restaurant, we glanced at the menu again and discovered that while we had said "quail," the waitress heard "tail," as in ox tail. We thought it was a good mistake and were very happy it wasn't sweetbreads.

While much of our time in the Balearic Islands was spent at anchor on Berkeley East, we took some time to wander through the streets of Palma, visit the historic cathedral, enjoy one of the prettiest towns in the islands, and explore options for some new art .

It was high season, so marinas were expensive, and hot, and the coves were packed with boats, more than usual for July (it seemed that the Spanish rediscovered boating as a COVID escape). And there was a new regulation that prohibits anchoring in the seagrass (Posidinia), with hefty fines for violations, so finding a place to drop the hook in sand was tricky.

We decided to revisit places we had been in 2010, our first time in the islands, which became a quest for the tastiest sangria, with friends Mike and Linda from SV Aquilla, and their guests Ray and Mikey. The six of us spent several days, in Mallorca and Ibiza, tasting the Spanish specialty in every possible variation, with red wine, white wine and sparkling cava, until we found our favorite libation.

We were excited to learn that Roxy's Beach Bar, our 2010 Sangria Competition Winner, was still open. But we quickly learned that 2021 was very different from 2010. Reservations were now required, so gone was the spontaneity of pulling up to the dinghy dock, whenever we felt like it, and grabbing the first table available. Also missing were the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of smiling, laughing people on holiday, and the chill music that created the unique island vibe. While the cava sangria was still delicious, we think the tweaks we have made to the recipe over the years make "Captain Larry's Cava Sangria" the current star.

The weather was a bit unsettled, and we found ourselves in a pattern of enjoying a couple of beautiful, calm days, then running for cover from the wind and waves. Coves that felt like paradise in the afternoon could turn to rocky horror by evening. Our plan to rediscover our 2010 haunts disintegrated; Café Del Mar in Ibiza was booked weeks out, The Blue Marlin, while available, was in an untenable location, the beach bar at Trenc was no longer in existence. So, we searched for new anchorages, and found several more than suitable for swimming, paddle boarding, relaxing, and trimming the caulk on Berkeley East's deck.

Every five years or so, the caulk between the boards on BE's deck needs to be cut to be flush with the teak. This involves running a razor blade across each line of caulk. Berkeley East is 54 feet long and nearly 16 feet wide, which is a lot of caulk. It is hard on the back and the fingernails, but the smooth result is worth the effort.

We wrapped up our time in the Balearic Islands in the quaint town of Mahon, on the island of Menorca, where we splurged for a marina berth and gave BE a 200-euro wash. Since leaving Barcelona, it appeared that Spain, especially Catalonia, had become the current COVID hotspot in the European Union. When we told the marina office that our last port had been Barcelona, they said "no". Fortunately, we had our vaccination cards and had been in the Balearics Islands for more than two weeks, so they let us dock. Next stop, Italy, assuming they don't say "no".

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 [...]
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Added 22 July 2007

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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