Adventures of Berkeley East

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
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

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.





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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.


Out of Africa

15 September 2019 | Sardinia, Italy
After a stormy night in Pantelleria, we pulled the dock lines just as the sky began to brighten, and inched Berkeley East, as quietly as possible, out of the small harbor. While we had dodged any controversy concerning BE's VAT (Value Added Tax) clock with the local authorities, we didn't want to give anyone an opportunity to change their minds. It was finally the last leg to Tunisia to get Berkeley East out of the European Union and give her another 18 months in the EU.





In preparation for entry into Tunisia, we inventoried alcohol, electronics and cash, and stashed the drones in sail bags, as far out of sight as possible; drones are illegal in Tunisia. We had heard horror stories about entering the African country, with searches of everything, right down to spare nuts and bolts. In other instances, a little baksheesh (bribe) was paid and all was good. We wanted to be prepared for anything.

We chose the port of Gammarth for its proximity to Pantelleria, just a long day sail. It is an unfinished marina, so there were no facilities, and it was far from anything one might want to see in Tunisia, but we planned to get in and get out of Africa as quickly as possible. We had just five days left of our Tunisia insurance rider, no time to risk getting trapped by weather.





The trip was uneventful. On arrival in Gammarth, we were directed to the fuel dock and greeted enthusiastically in English. The immigration officer spoke excellent English, so we were able to understand very clearly that he wanted a gift to help us have a "special" entry, including the original stamped document of our entry into, and exit from, Tunisia, "something not everyone receives," he said.

We were prepared to pay bribes if necessary, just a few Euros to make things go more smoothly, it is part of their culture. In contrast, we have cleared into Montenegro several times; it cost about 100 Euros for a boat Berkeley East's size and took about 30 minutes, with no inspection and no bribes. In Tunisia, the process costs nothing officially, takes hours entering and exiting, inspections are at the whim of the officials on duty, as are requests for gifts.

After giving the immigration officer 20 Euros for the "special" entry, he asked for something for the customs officer so we could have a "quick" inspection. He then asked if we had a drone. We wondered if he had Googled Berkeley East and seen the pictures. We ignored the drone question, made a "we don't understand" face, said that we had food and wine, and handed over another 20. The inspection was very quick, just cursory glances in a few cabinets, everyone was happy.





The next morning, when we went to check out of the country, our English-speaking friend with the "special" entry process was nowhere to be found. In his place was a very formal, serious officer who spoke no English at all. We didn't receive the original stamped document as promised, only a copy after we pantomimed it was needed. Before we were allowed to leave, there was another inspection of Berkeley East, by the same customs guy who received 20 Euros for the "quick" search; we wondered what they could possibly think we had acquired since arriving the day before. This time, he opened nearly every drawer, cabinet, appliance, purse, bag, but somehow managed to miss the liquor cabinet. It was hot, so we offered them some aqua, their response being "vodka?" Given the language barrier, they had no idea how to communicate their request for a gift, but it was clear they wanted liquor. Mid search the word "vodka" was repeated, unfortunately we didn't have any, so we offered tequila, or wine; they made a face and left. And so did we, setting a course directly back to Italy. After several weeks of planning and much effort to get there, less than 24 hours of arriving in Tunisia, we were happily headed out of Africa.

It would take us about four hours to be officially out of African waters. Within just a few minutes of our departure, we discovered that we had actually left Tunisia with something that was not on BE when we arrived, a boatload of flies. While we would have liked to return them, we carried on, killing at least a hundred in the next hour.





While getting from the island of Pantilleria to Tunisia was a day sail, moving to our next destination of Sardinia would take about 24 hours, at least at BE's typical speed. The journey began with some beautiful sailing, the seas were a rolly and the sky was menacing, but Berkeley East was flying at 9 knots, and at that pace, we would arrive too early. We prefer to not land at an unfamiliar port in darkness, but we knew conditions were likely to change so we took the wind, and speed, while we could.





Night passages are not the leisurely evening cocktail sail around the harbor, as one might think. Thousands of miles offshore, 24-hour watch schedules, traffic schemes to cross, the possibility of floating containers toppled off ships, sleeping whales just under the surface, unlit boats, military vessels rousting sailboats in the night, rain, lightning; all things possible, all adding a level of concern and complexity to moving BE in the dark.





Luckily we had a nearly full moon to illuminate the lightning that was striking all around Berkeley East. We were surrounded by electrical activity, but it was as if we were in a protective cocoon that was keeping the storms at bay.








Anxious for the sun to rise, we were happy to see the clock strike six. But our enthusiasm was dampened with thick cloud cover and 27-knot winds as we were weaving through rocks to our Sardinia anchorage.





Still, we were out of Africa, and back in Italy, mission accomplish. We planned to sleep for a day, and spend the next few days on land exploring the south of Sardinia. Then we looked at the weather forecast, which told us to keep moving through the wind and waves to get in position for another overnight passage to Spain; Sardinia would have to wait.

We skirted along the coast in 25-knot winds and six-foot waves, both of which were predicted to be behind us, making for a comfortable sail on BE. But most of the time, the swells were rolling Berkeley East gunnel-to-gunnel. While neither of us gets seasick, these types of conditions are unsettling. We have learned to keep BE stocked with an assortment of Pringles suitable for every situation. We never eat the crisps on land, but the light salty flavor keeps any queasiness at sea under control.








After three days of moving, Berkeley East was anchored in Isola di San Pietro, an island about five miles off the west coast of Sardinia, 190 miles from Menorca, Spain. We would make the passage as soon as the seas subsided.


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.
Extra:
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 - Day sailing with friends
Photos 1 to 6 of 6 | Caribbean 1500 2008 (Main)
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Rick, Donna and Gail: Rick, Donna and Gail
Rick on the bow: Rick on the bow
Rick and Larry: Rick and Larry
Phil on lookout for whales: Phil on lookout for whales
Phil relaxing after the hard work at InnerCircle: Phil relaxing after the hard work at InnerCircle
Gail and Donna: Gail and Donna
 
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Profile & FAQs

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

Our travels

Itinerary:

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