06 April 2017 | St Lucie Inlet, Florida
02 April 2017 | Stocking Island, Exuma
01 April 2017 | George Town, Exumas
30 March 2017 | George Town, Bahamas
22 March 2017 | Elizabeth Island, Exumas
09 March 2017 | George Town, Exumas
04 March 2017 | Thompson's Bay, Long Island
03 March 2017 | Stella Maris, Long Island
02 March 2017 | Long Island
26 February 2017 | Crossing from Water Cay to Comer Channel, Jumentos
25 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay to Thompson's Bay, Long Island
23 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay, Jumentos
19 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
16 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
14 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
10 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
06 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
05 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
05 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
A Worthwhile Detour
04 August 2013 | Bonifacio, Corsica
We were urged not to miss Bonifacio on the southern coast of nearby Corsica, which belongs to France. So before leaving for the Balearics we first motored across the notorious, but on this day placid, Bonifacio Strait. Bonifacio is an amazing little enclave at the end of a narrow fjord-like inlet between high sandstone cliffs, topped by medieval walls guarding the entrance. Multi-story houses cling perilously to the top of the cliffs. It's very exclusive and filled with wealthy French and Italian motoryachts.
The waters were roiling in the wake of a big tourist ferry that arrived with us from Sardinia, and powerboats raced back and forth around us, creating havoc and making me a nervous wreck. But Burger steered confidently amidst the madness, making a tight turn at the end of the inlet that surely set a few tongues wagging and boatowner hearts pounding. I waved cheerily and snapped photos as we made our way out again. We didn't try to go ashore as we wanted to take advantage of a weather window to Mallorca. But we're very glad we at least got to see it!
CLICK FOR PHOTOS
August Madness in the Maddelenas
03 August 2013 | Maddelena Islands, NE Sardinia
Photo: A rare view of the Spargi anchorage before the deluge of boaters arrived.
When the weather settled down we sailed as a threesome around the Maddelena Islands, a beautiful Nature Preserve with gorgeous coves, sandy beaches and clear water. To our surprise there was a US naval base on one of the islands, Santo Stefano, right in the middle of the Nature Preserve!
Mario wisely suggested we get an early start so we left at daybreak (6 am) for the short trip to the island of Spargi. We arrived in a gorgeous little bay all to ourselves. In the cool of the morning Burger and I went ashore and scrambled up rocks and boulders for a spectacular view of our boats at anchor below.
Uh oh, in the distance we could see the white streaks of motorboat wakes, all headed our way. We quickly retraced our steps and swam back to the boat before the deluge arrived. The Maddelenas are the summer playground of yacht charterers and large daytripper boats from nearby towns. We'd been forewarned yet were unprepared for the onslaught of at least 50 boats that surrounded us by mid afternoon, jostling us with their wake enough to almost make us seasick. (To see photos of the mayhem, click below.)
We sat in the cockpit all afternoon, watching the antics of the bikini/Speedo crowd, shooing anyone who tried to anchor too close. Thankfully most of them left by late afternoon so we were able to enjoy a quiet evening at anchor.
Together with our friends we visited a few different islands, swimming and beach walking in the morning, napping in the afternoon and taking turns hosting cockpit parties each evening. As is usual among cruisers, the men talked shop (engine repair, rigging issues, etc.) while we ladies caught up on news of mutual friends and exchanged information about places we'd been and were about to go to.
At one island we took our three dinghies for a snorkel expedition. After swimming we found a little cove all to ourselves, and while the men cracked open spiny sea urchins for appetizers, we ladies sat at the water's edge and exfoliated ourselves with sand.
It was a fun, very special few days. From here our paths diverged, with Maltese Falcon
sailing northeast to Corsica, Plankton
south down the coast of Sardinia, while we headed west to the Balearic Islands of Spain.
SEE AMAZING PHOTOS!
In the Midst of Holiday Makers
20 July 2013 | Golfo Aranci, Sardinia
Photo: Halekai is the middle boat at anchor off the beach at Golfo Aranci.
Onward up the coast we sailed to Golfo Aranci, a very pleasant little beachside town with an attractive, newly renovated waterfront park, with lush green grass and flowers and a stone sculpture by Pinuccio Sciola from San Sperate.
We marveled at how pleasantly clean the town was, not a speck of litter to be seen in the streets. Come to think of it, we haven't noticed much litter anywhere in Sardinia. What's their secret?
At night we were serenaded by live music on the waterfront while we dined in our cockpit under the stars.
Then we continued north along the posh coast of Smerelda, past huge motoryachts of the rich and perhaps famous, to Golfo di Arzachena. There we anchored next to Mario and Lillian of Maltese Falcon
, last seen when we visited them in Malta last month. Barb and Doug, Texans from sv Plankton
, joined us soon thereafter, and together we weathered a predicted westerly gale in the shelter of a little island.
The nearby village of Cannignione was particularly charming, and we were in luck once again: we took in yet another folklore performance and another pig roast!
CLICK FOR PHOTOS
We Love a Parade
18 July 2013 | Arbatax, Sardinia
It seems that wherever we go, we always manage to just miss the local fairs and festivals, but lately our luck has turned.
Unbeknownst to us till we exited the train, that night was the beginning of a weekend festival. Decorative streamers and music made for a festive atmosphere along the main street, where vendors were selling everything from trinkets and toys to handbags and clothes and -- roast pig on the spit! But still full from lunch, we strolled along, enjoying gelati and free samples of candy, postponing the pork till the next evening.
Late next afternoon we joined the masses lined up to watch the parade. A uniformed brass band, flag twirlers and a wheelchair brigade of the town's handicapped passed by. Townsfolk and visiting holiday makers mumbled their Hail Mary's as the madonna figure was carried ceremoniously along the route.
We followed the parade till we came to the food vendors, and ordered roast suckling pig with crackling, salad and beer. Burger was a happy man! There were also racks of lamb, chicken, tripe, and, of all things, live eels pierced like curling ribbon on spits, their eyes blinking and tongues darting as they were being roasted to death! Where were the animal rights protestors?! (See photos.)
Back aboard Halekai
, we had ringside seats for the evening boat parade. All manner of watercraft, from fishing boats to cabin cruisers to sailboats, motored past our bow and circled twice around the small harbor. There were also three separate boats for local Police, Coast Guard, and Customs, each manned with several uniformed officials.
Costumed folklore dancers performed at the town quay, and a wreath was laid in memory of war veterans. At midnight we watched from our cockpit as an impressive fireworks display lit the sky, set off on the seawall just opposite us. We're glad we came to Arbatax!
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Avoiding the Banditos
17 July 2013 | Arbatax, Sardinia
The following day we motor-sailed up the east coast past rugged mountains and long white beaches to the small port town of Arbatax, where yet another German boat we know was stored on the hard at the town marina. But alas, our schedules didn't mesh and our friends were back in Germany. We could have anchored in the harbor but decided to splurge and took a berth in the modern, affordable marina. That evening we shared a pizza in their upstairs restaurant overlooking the lights of the harbor.
We were planning on renting a car and exploring the Gennargentu National Park, a mountain chain of the Barbagia region of Sardinia. It was named Barbaria by the Romans due to the successful guerilla warfare tactics of the people against invaders. More recently the area received notoriety for the kidnapping for ransom of wealthy Italians from the Costa Smerelda further north. The banditos held their victims in remote locations and communicated by whistling whenever the Cabinieri
tried to track them down.
But then we learned that a tourist train left each morning from Arbatax, taking tourists to the area we wanted to go to, which would be a lot more relaxing than finding our way around bandito country on narrow windy roads.
So next morning at 8 am we boarded the trenino verde
, a little 2-car train on narrow gauge tracks that took us deep into the interior. The ride was bumpy as we gradually climbed higher and higher into the mountains, giving us spectacular views.
After 3 1/2 hours our small tour group was met at the station in the village of Sadalo and taken by bus to a large grotto, where we descended into refreshingly cool temps while being led along from one illuminated "room" to the next. We saw huge, centuries old stalagmite and stalactite formations of bizarre shapes. The final room was off-limits to visitors, left dark for the remaining cave dwellers, bats, moths and lizards.
Back in the daylight, we were bussed to a local family restaurant for a "Sard tipici" multi-course dinner, which began with a locally made aperitif and included a carafe of red wine. Luckily each course was a small portion so we weren't overstuffed by the time dessert (a homemade macaroon) expresso and a sweet lemony liqueur were served. We were feeling very relaxed by the end of the meal! Over all it was very good though the advertised roast pig, which Burger had been so looking forward to, was anything but succulent.
Our guide met us outside and accompanied us along the quaint streets of Sadalo for a history lesson of the village and the surrounding area. Water water everywhere, ancient springs and fountains and even a small waterfall, right in town. The sole church was Romanesque. We then found our way back to the train station by the 5 pm departure, happy to sit and enjoy the long, sleepy ride back to Arbatax. It had been a long but eventful day. But it wasn't over yet!
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Meeting Up with Makani
16 July 2013 | Villasimius, Sardinia
Photo: Old friends Felix and Monika, sv Makani.
No sooner did we help Gini and Manfred maneuver Mindedal out of their berth than we reunited with another German boat we know well, Felix and Monika of Makani, who were berthed almost opposite us in the marina. It wasn't entirely a surprise as we've been in email contact, but it was great fun seeing them again. We last cruised together a year ago in the Aegean islands of Greece. We first met Felix and Monika aboard Makani in New Zealand, and cruised together with them in Tonga back in 2007, during their circumnavigation. We visited them at their home in Germany in 2009.
We rendezvoused that evening at Villasimius, on the east side of the bay of Cagliari. No sooner was our anchor down than we both dove in the water, the first swim we've had since returning to the boat in May! (Having been in marinas ever since.) Later we dinghied ashore and had dinner together at the marina restaurant. Burger had fried calimari while I had my favorite, octopus salad. Felix's sister was visiting for a week, and they were returning her to the airport in Cagliari before planning to follow in our wake.
All You Can Eat Sushi!
15 July 2013 | Cagliari, Sardinia
Photo: Old friends Gini and Manfred, sv Mindedal
On our last day in Cagliari we did the mundane, shopping and laundry, etc., and then walked together with Manfred and Gini to a brand new, all-you-can-eat (EUR 17 pp) Asian restaurant, named Hasu Sushi Wok. Two giant white plastic horses greeted us at the entrance. We were among the first customers when it opened at 8:30 pm (typical Med dining time), and it was packed by the time we left, mostly with stylish young people. The girls had tattooed backs and tippled along in their CFM shoes :).
All kinds of Chinese and Japanese food was served buffet-style, from sushi to teppanyaki to wok stir fried to order. Manfred and Burger surely ate their money's worth! It was a fitting farewell dinner with our old friends, who once sailed Mindedal to Japan and had stories to tell.
The next morning it was time to part company, as Mindedal was sailing west to Cartegena, Spain and we were heading north along the east coast of Sardinia. When will our paths cross again?
Sound Stone Sculpture by Sciola
14 July 2013 | San Sperate, Sardiinia
First stop was San Sperate, an otherwise nondescript little town just outside of Cagliari. Renowned Sardinian sculptor Pinuccio Sciola lives here, and is responsible for San Sperate's fame. Over 300 murals and sculptures by local and international artists are everywhere you look, on buildings and street corners and parks. (See photos!) We found the Casa de Sciola on a map and toured his stone garden with permission of the caretaker.
What makes some of Sciola's stone sculptures unique is that they are musical! The sculptor sawed parallel slits, sometimes in a grid pattern, which when brushed like a harp produce tones of various pitch. I later found a U-tube video of Sciola "playing" one of his sound stones. Fascinating!
After taking dozens of photos in the garden and along the streets, we drove on to the southeast coast, enjoying the scenery along the way. We then drove across the causeway, past pink flamingoes feeding in a shallow lagoon and past a part of the original Roman stone bridge, to the island of Sant Antioco. There we had lunch on the waterfront before visiting the museum at Tofet, an ancient Phoenician necropolis where where the ashes of cremated stillborn babies were found in clay funerary urns.
From Sant Antioco Manfred negotiated the curvy mountainous road south to the beachside town of Nora, where we planned to visit some Roman ruins. But by then we were "ruined out" so we gave it a pass, opting for gelati and cold drinks instead.
CLICK FOR PHOTOS
Rambling the Ruins of the Nuraghi
13 July 2013 | Su Nuraxi, Sardinia
Thus replenished and refreshed, our goal for the afternoon was nearby Su Nuraxi, the largest and best preserved prehistoric ruins in Sardinia, dating back to 1500 BC. In the museum in Cagliari the day before, we saw an original clay model of the site, which has helped archeologists understand the original appearance and construction of the nuraghic towers.
Traipsing around ruins on a guided tour in the blazing sun is not my favorite thing, but exploring on one's own was not an option. First our guide spoke on and on for the Italians in our small group, then gave a short translation in English for the rest of us. We climbed up and then down into the large, multi-story conical tower, and poked around the many small, dark, and blessedly cool alcoves inside.
The stone walls were constructed without mortar and with surprisingly sophisticated architecture.Though there are theories it's not really known if the towers were used as ceremonial temples or for defense against enemy attack. Or both. There are numerous nuraghic ruins all over Sardinia.
We ended the day with a shopping spree at Lidl's, our favorite German discount supermarket, a chain found all over Europe with imported foods not found in local stores. Navigator Burger directed Manfred to one using a Lidl Finder app. How did we manage pre-Ipad??
CLICK FOR PHOTOS
Horesemeat Before Culture
13 July 2013 | Barumini, Sardinia
Next morning we set off for Barumini, north of the city. As we had done together in Greece last year, Manfred did the driving while Burger navigated on the Ipad. Gini was the backseat driver (slow down, Manfredo!) and I was the route planner, with the help of our Rough Guide and the excellent travel notes of Judi and Dan, sv Koa, who had been berthed next to us in Marina di Ragusa.
We were all hungry by the time we arrived in Barumini. It was a hot day and we were happy to find a small hotel with a cool, rustic dining room. The men ordered grilled horsemeat ribs -- delicious! -- which tasted just like beef. Gini and I had homemade filled pasta. Cold beer hit the spot. Ahhh.
12 July 2013 | Cagliari, Sardinia
Next day the four of us wandered about the small city on foot, first hiking up the narrow cobblestoned lanes to the medieval walled Castello. Here we visited the Museo Archeologico, a good introduction to Sardinia’s past, with its collection of Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman finds. But the most impressive exhibits were the bronze age statuettes, bronzettis, of the nuraghic culture (see photos). I was fascinated by the warriors holding bows and arrows, just like those of American native culture.
On our way back to town we took in the views of the port and lagoons and surrounding mountains from the top of the Bastione San Remy. We had lunched on seafood and pasta and cold beer at a little sidewalk restaurant, then had gelati and expresso for dessert on the waterfront promenade. Before heading back to the marina we hunted for a car rental agent, and Manfred bargained a good deal so we could explore the interior of the island over the next two days.
CLICK FOR PHOTOS
11 July 2013 | Cagliari, Sardinia
Our 56 hours of mostly motoring from Marina di Ragusa to Cagliari (KAL-yer-ee) cost us dearly, at EUR 1.84 ($2.45) per liter. Yikes, that's nearly $10 a gallon!!
After filling the tanks at the fuel dock upon arrival, we radioed St. Elmo's Marina where Mindedal and another boat we know, Interlude, were berthed. Upon approach we were waved into a free slip by two young redshirted men. Only after securing the lines and fenders did we realize that we were in the wrong marina, the very dilapidated but cheaper Marina Del Sole. We learned later that this was a trick often used by the Del Sole staff, to lure in unwitting customers. When Manfred heard what we were paying, though, he was only too happy to move Mindedal over to be near us, rather than vice-versa. He and Gini had only just arrived too, having spent several days hopping along the southern coast of Sicily before crossing to Sardinia.
But the Engine Wouldn't Start
10 July 2013 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Photo: Beach at town of Marina di Ragusa, with the Porto Turistico marina in background.
Back in Marina di Ragusa, the once sleepy little town was now in full swing. Bikini and Speedo clad Italians filled the beach, bronzing in the sun. We did some last minute shopping and laundry, as we wanted to leave before high season marina rates kicked in.
It was finally time to throw off the lines and leave for our next destination, Sardinia. Prevailing winds are northwesterly, right where we were headed, so we wanted to take advantage of a weather window of low wind. Gini and Manfred of Mindedal were leaving with us and we planned to sail the 300 nautical miles together.
I stood ready to cast off the lines as Burger started the engine. But ... the engine ... wouldn't ... start. Oh no! There was water in the oil! The siphon breaker had evidently malfunctioned the last time it was started, a couple of weeks before. Changing the oil didn't help. It took a whole week, with the help of a competent diesel mechanic from Pozzallo, to get it working again.
We expected a big bill from the marina for our extended stay (their summer rates was EUR 104 = $137/night for a boat our size), but we were given the week free of charge, having been good customers since last fall. How nice!
The wind was light and off we went, across the Tyrrhenian Sea to Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.
That night to help keep me awake on watch, I composed jingles:
The engine's fixed, hooray, hooray!
At long last we're on our way!
To-do list's done, it's time for fun.
We're on our way To Sar-din-e-ay!
01 July 2013 | Fiesole, Italy
Photo: View of Florence from the hill town of Fiesole. It was a hazy day but you can see the Duomo in the background.
How should we spend our last day in Tuscany? We were going to daytrip to Lucca and Pisa but we got off to a late start, then decided we'd had enough sightseeing, the duomos and piazzas were starting to look much the same. So we scrapped the plan and drove up to the Florentine hill suburb of Fiesole instead.
Getting there was half the "fun." We thought our chosen route would keep us out of trouble, but instead we got into heavy traffic and closer and closer to the center of Florence. We tried to follow the nav program but it started sending us in circles, till we realized it wasn't getting a GPS signal. So with no detailed paper map at hand we just kept going in what we hoped was the right direction till we finally saw a sign to Fiesole. We do get overly dependent on these electronic devices!
Halfway up the hill we saw a parking lot and decided not to try our luck parking further up. A footpath led up the hill right near us, which looked far more inviting than the asphalt road that was being repaired ahead of us. How nice to be on a shady trail, with frequent benches and beautiful views of the city below. Cold drinks and gelato restored us when we finally reached the medieval town at the top.
Only later on did we realize we hadn't done our homework: there were significant Roman ruins that we missed. (So that's where all those tour buses were going!) But by now we're a bit jaded: seen one amphitheater, seen them all. Well, not exactly. The photos we discovered of it belatedly looked spectacular.
PHOTOS OF FIESOLE
Florence After Forty+ Years
30 June 2013 | Florence, Italy
That afternoon we drove from Cremona to Florence and again with the help of www.booking.com, we stayed at the Cascina De' Fagiolari in the suburb of Lastra a Signa. It was a charming family-run hotel set amongst vineyards, this one with a swimming pool and a particularly good restaurant. While parking the car we were chagrined to see a large wedding party and a music band arrive, and feared a noisy night. The receptionist assured us that we wouldn't be disturbed since the wedding recepton was held on the opposite side of the building from our room, and she was right, we didn't hear a thing.
Next morning we parked the car at the nearby train station (we are slow learners!) and took the train into the city, thus solving the parking problem.
We shuffled through the crowds in the Piazza surrounding the Duomo and past Michaelangelo's David replica, and walked across the Ponte Vecchio, which was different from my recollection as a college student over 40 years ago (!). Gone were all the silver filigree jewelry and leather shops of my memories. We purchased two small watercolors we liked from a woman artist, which will surely cost more to frame than we paid for them.
Our pre-booked tickets got us into the Ufficio without too much of a wait. Inside the museum it was hot and crowded and full of the kind of medieval and Renaissance art we don't really like. I wonder how many tourists really appreciate it, or just pretend to be impressed. I felt sorry for some very bored looking children I saw being dragged from room to room by their parents. But seeing the three amazing Rembrandt's and an El Greco were the redeeming factors for us.
Stradivari Slept Here
28 June 2013 | Cremona, Italy
From Colle Val d'Elsa we drove north to Cremona, birthplace of Antonio Stradivari, where Burger has always wanted to visit since his days of building violins and experimenting with violin varnish.
Through www.booking.com we found a good last-minute hotel deal, Locanda Del Carrobbio, a lovingly restored farmhouse filled with antiques and located in the outskirts of the city. If we weren't using our Ipad nav program we would never have found it: it was accessible only by a narrow one-lane road that appeared to be a bike path, with irrigation canals on either side and few turn-arounds. Luckily there was one when we needed it, just wide enough to pass an oncoming tractor!
It was summer solstice that day, and after dinner in the garden restaurant we strolled along paths through the surrounding fields at sunset, then watched the full moon rise. How romantic is that?
Next day we drove in to the city, where we once again struggled to find a legal parking spot. Our Rough Guide made Cremona sound barely worth a visit unless you had an interest in violins, so were were surprised to see what a sizable and attractive town it was.
We visited a display of famous violins in one museum and the Stradivarius section of another. A security guard whisked us quickly through the many art sections--we almost missed the lone Caravaggio--to the last room, where violin making tools of Stradivarius were displayed. The guard and I waited patiently while Burger took his time perusing the exhibits, then accompanied us all the way back to the entrance. Since many people come to Cremona specifically to visit the Stradivarius museums, why, we wondered, did they locate their famous exhibition so remotely?
Unfortunately by the time we found the International School of Violin Making, it was closed for the day.
27 June 2013 | Tuscan Tower Towns
After visiting the medieval tower village of Monteriggioni and tasting wine in one of the many wine shops, we had a really good dinner at Officina della cucina popolare in Colle di Val d'Elsa that night. Our waiter from Canada, in Italy on a wine apprenticeship, gave us some great Tuscan tips.
Next day we tramped around the medieval village of San Gimignano, where we had champagne grapefruit gelato at the award-winning Gelateria Dondoli. Then we toured yet another tower town, Volterra. Had a lovely light lunch of octopus salad and grilled shrimp at a Trattoria along the way ... we ended the day picnicking on bread and pecorino cheese and a bottle of Rose in our hotel room. Does it sound like all we do is eat and drink??
PHOTOS TUSCAN HILL TOWNS
Touring in Tuscany
26 June 2013 | Colle Val d'Elsa
sunny and hot
The day after returning from Malta we headed by bus for Catania, where we flew nonstop to Florence. We rented a car and spent a lovely week touring Tuscany, before the heat and deluge of summer tourists. It was lush and green in Tuscany compared to Sicily, with pink and white oleander bushes and red poppies blooming along the roads, and Burger's favorite tall, slender cypress trees dotting the landscape of rolling hills and valleys, romantic villas and vineyards.
We survived the attempts of pickpockets and crazy drivers, though we did pay dearly for a small dent someone made while the car was parked in Cremona. Our policy of not paying for extra insurance backfired this time, but over the long run I'm sure we're still way ahead.
First we spent three nights in the once-impressive but now somewhat dilapidated Hotel Villa Belvedere in Colle Val d'Elsa, and drove to nearby Siena next morning. It was a hot day and as we approached the outer city walls, and the roads were full of traffic. We finally found a parking spot and set off to see the sights of the city (see photo link below). When we returned we discovered to our horror that we had parked across the street from the main police department in a reserved-for-police parking section, and all the other cars on the street were gone! But no ticket was on our windshield, and we hope not to get a fine per mail, as we have read is possible. See our captioned photos:
TUSCANY, SIENA PHOTOS
A Lucky Father's Day
19 June 2013 | Gozo 36.0500° N, 14.2500° E
sunny and warm, high 80's
On Father's Day Mario and Lillian were busy with visits with their families, so we took the ferry across to Gozo, a small island just north of and belonging to Malta.
We took a taxi to a little seaside fishing village recommended by our friends, where we celebrated Burger's fatherhood with lunch in a restaurant up the hill from the cove. We had rabbit stew, a specialty of Malta, washed down with a bottle of cold Rose. The view was so beautiful that I reached for the camera to photograph it--uh oh, the camera was nowhere to be found! We had left it in the taxi!
Dejectedly we made our way back to the taxi stand, where the taxi drivers couldn't help us since we hadn't taken note of the taxi number. A kind soul suggested that we stop by the police station just around the corner, in case the taxi driver brought it there. We took his advice and indeed, there it was! It was easy to identify as ours by showing photos of ourselves. Our lucky day! But alas, no photos of our lovely lunch view :(.
Malta the Easy Way
17 June 2013 | Malta
sunny and warm, low 80's
Photo: Mario & Lillian, sv Maltese Falcon
, who we met last year in Turkey.
Two weeks to prepare and provision for departure from Sicily have turned into a month ... partly due to an ever-increasing to-do list (i.e., equipment needing to be fixed); one gale after the other that brings welcome cool temps but hefty seas; and then the decision to do some land travel now before marina rates increase to summer highs. When Burger's hands started aching from two much manipulation of tools in tight quarters, it was time to take a break.
Instead of sailing the 50 miles to Malta per the original plan, we took a fast, two-hour catamaran ferry across, where Maltese-Canadian friends Mario and Lillian were busy preparing their sailboat, Maltese Falcon,
for summer cruising in Italy. What a treat to have them meet us at the ferry and take us sightseeing around the island! We spent three nights in a hotel right across from the marina where their boat was berthed.
We took the ferry shuttle across the harbor to Valetta, the massively walled city where the Knights of St. John's were once headquartered and fought bloody battles, defending Malta from Muslims in the 16th century. The collection of armor in the museum of the Grand Masters was amazing! (See photos, link below.)
One evening Mario and Lillian took us to a village festival, one of many held on summer weekends around the island. See photos of the bizaare, funny statues of saints and disciples (link below)! The fireworks were beautiful but deafening. Our ears were ringing on the ride back to our hotel.
They also took us to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mnajdra, one of the many neolithic ruins on the island, where the oldest standing walls in the world predate those of Easter Island and Stonehenge.
CLICK TO SEE CAPTIONED PHOTOS OF US IN MALTA
22 May 2013 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Photo: Nancy the self-appointed "librarian" of the cruiser bookswap shelves, located in the marina laundry room.
It was blowing like stink when we arrived back aboard Halekai a week ago. From all accounts it was a nasty cold windy winter in Sicily, so we're glad we weren't here! The deck was covered with red Saharan dust. Burger climbed the mast with water hose in hand and washed the rigging while standing on the spreaders, making me a nervous wreck! (He was tied on, but still ...) We're now busily fixing, cleaning, shopping and stowing in preparation for departure as soon as the weather gods allow, hopefully by the end of the month.
It's been exactly 20 years this month since we christened Halekai in Portsmouth, Rhode Island!
Land Touring in Italy
01 October 2012 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Photo: The Aqueduct near the Appian Way
Before leaving Italy for the winter, we visited some of the sightseeing destinations of Sicily: Ragusa, Agrigento, Piazza Armerina, Taormina, and Mt. Aetna. Then we flew from Catania to Rome for a few days of sightseeing there.
Here are links to our captioned photo albums:
AGRIGENTO and PIAZZA ARMERINA
TAORMINA and MT AETNA
Time for Italia!
01 September 2012 | underway from Pylos to Syracusa
hot and sunny
Photo: Full moon rising over the city of Syracusa, our view from the cockpit our first night in port. So romantic!
The forecast was for moderate northerly winds, perfect for crossing the Ionian Sea to Syracusa, Sicily, 300 nm due west. We set off in the morning together with SV Mindedal, but being a larger, faster boat, we soon left them in our wake. it was our first overnight trip (actually two nights at sea) since sailing up the Strait of Malacca two years ago. It was almost full moon, best time for a passage.
Electronic navigation makes passages ever so much easier than in the past. From the comfort of our cockpit we monitor our course on the iPad, using Navionics software. The AIS system lets us know if any ships are on collision course. But almost invariably their AIS alarm has alerted them to our presence and they've changed course to avoid us miles before we see them. There is of course the exception: we just had to sail around a Greek freighter that's adrft in the middle of the sea, with no one visible aboard. All dead of the plague? Or just awaiting orders to proceed to port.
The wind eventually petered out and we had to motorsail the rest of the way, our autopilot keeping us on course. As we approached the coast we could see Mt. Aetna looming in the north, almost 11,000 feet high. We passed the ancient fortress guarding the entrance to Syracusa and anchored in the Grand Harbor, 50 hours after leaving Pylos. Mindedal
arrived the next morning.
Shortly after we arrived, two American couples dinghied over from their boats to welcome us. Instant new friends! We launched our dinghy and took our passports and boat papers to the Coast Guard office, but as we'd heard from others, it seemed an inconvenience for them to have to deal with us. In fact, they didn't seem to know what to do with us. The officer made a phone call ("Americanos, Passeporte") and then shuffled around for a form for us to fill out. No passport stamps.
Our duty done, our next priortiy was to find the phone store and buy a SIM chip for 3G Internet. We then ambled around the old town in the midday heat, past ancient temple ruins and down narrow alleyways, and had our first gelati.
In the next few days we explored the city, which has one of best markets we've been to, and visited the Archeological Park of Syracusa. Here are a few photos of Syracusa and also Ragusa. Syracusa and Ragusa...