Adventures of Berkeley East

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
12 July 2018 | Saint-Tropez, France
07 July 2018 | The French Riviera
25 June 2018 | Nice, France
22 June 2018 | Cap Ferrat, France

2020 Hindsight

09 August 2020

As we stared at the photo of Berkeley East being towed out of the berth she had occupied for the past 10 months, we whispered in unison, "this was a bad year to have the boat in Barcelona."

But when we made the decision, last summer, to return to Port Vell, no one could have predicted that COVID-19 would turn the world upside down. When we left BE for the winter, we never imagined that the European Union would block our return. As we flew across the Atlantic from Spain to North Carolina, pandemic, lockdowns, financial crisis, death, destruction, at no time entered our minds. We will think differently in the future.

We were so excited to sail Berkeley East into Barcelona last September. BE spent her first Mediterranean winter in Port Vell, 10 years ago, and it was a fantastic experience. We had been planning another visit from the moment we sailed away. One of the few marinas located in the heart of a bustling city, Port Vell provided us the opportunity to use Berkeley East as a hotel while we explored Barcelona and the surrounding areas. And that is exactly what we did in 2010, and again in 2019. Our plan was to go back to Spain in late March to visit other areas of the country. But when our flights to Barcelona were cancelled due to the Coronavirus, so were our travels.

It turns out 2020 is a bad year to have a boat stranded anywhere, let alone Barcelona. In April, May and June, most marinas were closed and boating was actually banned in many European Union countries. Over the past months, stories have emerged of cruisers stuck on their boats around the world, quarantined, unable to enter ports, living at the mercy of local officials; not the free and easy lifestyle typically associated with cruising.

For the past seven years, BE has sat on land over winter (a preferred position), but in Barcelona, she stays in the water, in one of the most expensive marinas in the Med.

We never intended for Berkeley East to live in Port Vell indefinitely, so with the European Union closed to Americans, we began considering our options. We could apply for an exception to the travel ban, although we didn't have a reason that was deemed acceptable. We could try to skirt the rules and find a way into Spain, but Barcelona is just one of many stops we would need to make, not to mention that we prefer to respect the requests/laws of the countries we visit. We could sit tight and hope the EU would let us in before the end of the cruising season. We could suck up the expense of Port Vell and leave Berkeley East in the water for another nine months, perhaps more. Or, we could have BE moved to a dry dock and hauled for the short, possibly long, term.

In the past 13 years, we have had delayed starts to the cruising season, but never a total miss. But as we entered August 2020, we were seeing the writing on the wall. COVID-19 cases were rising in the US and Spain; there was no sign that the EU would open up to Americans any time soon, and even if they did, we weren't certain that we wanted to travel thousands of miles to Spain and move Berkeley East through multiple countries in the middle of a pandemic. Boats aren't meant to just sit in the water; movement keeps the bottom clean and the systems engaged, so a move to dry dock was the obvious choice. And it needed to be done while there was space available.

It was a very tough decision because no one has ever moved BE without us on board. We have always overseen hauling, and personally prepared and pampered Berkeley East for winters, walking away knowing she was safe and secure. But thanks to the "Boat Doctor" the process went smoothly, with the exception of an engine malfunction that required Berkeley East to be towed out of Port Vell. She is now sitting comfortably on land less than a mile from her previous home. And as luck would have it, the timing was perfect given that all the zincs (protective anodes) on BE had completely disintegrated.

We feel very fortunate that we had choices for BE, and the means to execute them. And we are thankful that to this point, we have avoided the virus, which has harmed so many. Hopefully there will soon be treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19 so the world can return to normal, or perhaps a new normal. Until then, we will continue to do all that we can to be part of the solution, while embracing every day and appreciating every sunset.

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.

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 - Dominican Republic April 2009
Photos 1 to 6 of 6 | Caribbean 1500 2008 (Main)
Cap Cana Beach
Cap Cana Beach with no one there but us
Cap Cana Beach Club - with no one there but us
Santo Domingo - Zona Colonial
Altos Chavon
Altos Chavon

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