Last Year's Wrap-up
05 June 2013
It’s been 10 months since my last post to our sailing blog. There really isn’t any excuse except that I had started to get really tired from all the travel. By the time we reached Elba I had been traveling non-stop for 13 weeks and it was taking a toll on my energy level. In hindsight it would have been better to leave out some of our destinations and spend more time in a few areas. Specifically, the French Riviera would have been better left off the itinerary. We could have gone from the Balearic Islands straight to Corsica and enjoyed these more fully.
A major problem that had developed during the trip was trusting our anchor. It’s like living in San Francisco and trying to park your car without good brakes, you never know when it’s going to let loose. Because of this, I had spent many days on the boat or within eyesight of it and quite a few restless nights worried about it dragging. It did have a positive effect on increasing our skill with setting the anchor and using our anchor alarm to warn us if we were not holding position. However, on with the story.
We spent 4 fantastic days on Elba. I’d still say this is one of the top spots of the trip and would recommend anyone to visit if they are in Northern Italy. We toured the area Napoleon was exiled and saw many incredible views from atop the city. A memorable meal was had at Grace’s complete with zucchini blossoms and fantastic wine. Grace had to keep Tom from using balsamic vinegar on all of his courses!
From here we needed to get to Rome, where Jeanne, Elaina, and Tom would fly back to the United States and Stosh’s son Stephen was coming in from Alaska to help get the boat to Greece. In between Elba and Rome lies the island of Giglio, now infamous for the Costa Concordia wreck. We made a night passage and arrived early in the morning to witness the disaster site. There was much security around the ship, however we were able to get a really close look from our tender. Wow!
Giglio isn’t a large island, and the Concordia was a very large ship, so proportionately it really blights the area. In case you haven’t read about this sinking, the Captain, Shitinko (I’ll get his name right later but this works for now), steamed past the island at near full speed to do a “salute” to another captain who lives on Giglio. But, in his haste to show off he didn’t check his charts and hit an obvious reef. This reef is so obvious that we saw it on our dingy and had to steer around it. His neglegancty resulted in many deaths, around 20, and the loss of the ship.
The only thing he did do right was to take the listing and quickly sinking ship close to shore so it wouldn’t go straight to the bottom. Then, he jumped in a life raft and went to shore. If you want to listen to a not so funny conversation, google the Coast Guard commander telling Shitinko to get back on his boat and organize the evacuation. Wow. Well, the salvage operation is still underway and they plan on refloating the boat this summer (2013) and hauling it to be scrapped out.
Giglio, as many other islands in the Mediterranean, was prone to piracy attacks in its past. Since it was so small, they built one fortress at the top of the island and all the villagers would flee to it when under attack. It was well worth a visit and provided us with some needed exercise. After a nice dinner on Palarran, we made another night passage to Rome’s main marina. This was the third night passage for Tom since he arrived and we really appreciated his help on watches.
Nick and David Hit Rome
On the day that Jeanne, Elaina, and Tom flew out, Nick and I decided to go into Rome via train and spend the day touring the city. I had been to Rome twice before but this would be Nick’s first visit. For those of you who have been there before, you will be able to appreciate our aggressive tour schedule. We arrived at 10 am and went to the Coliseum first, then the Forum, Parthenon, square ???, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Vatican. We did all this walking, talking, and enjoying some father/son time. By evening, we where pretty parched and found a nice English pub to quench our thirst. You know you’ve found the right watering hole when the bartender, without saying anything, pours three shot’s of whiskey. Two for us and one for him. Well, as you can imagine, things went uphill pretty quickly and before you know it (4 hours later), we were schnockered. We found lots of camaraderie with Americans and UK patrons. There was no chance with our meager mental capacity to get a train back to the marina so we hired a cab for the 50 minute ride back. It was the best 90 euro cab ride ever.
Rome to Greece
Stephen Nemethy arrived the next morning and we promptly set out for Greece. We had 2 weeks to get from; Rome to Greece, to the marina, haul out Palarran, get to Athens, fly to London, overnight, then fly home. The total distance sailing would be over 650 nautical miles. My original plan was to spend some time in the bay of Naples and visit Ischia, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Aeolian Islands of Sicily.
As I wrote earlier, at this point I was getting very tired of the constant travel and therefore decided to constantly travel all the way to Greece, mostly non-stop. Before my Atlantic crossing this journey would have seemed daunting but now it was like going across the state. We did stop in Capri for the day and found it to be beautiful with interesting rock formations. Stromboli, an active volcano in the Aeolian island group, was also an interesting 4 hour stop and then it was haul ass to Greece. I wanted to get there, to get near the end, to stop.
We made the Messina Straights, which separates Italy and Sicily at dusk. This is one of the most heavily traveled shipping channels in the world and if it wasn’t ferries crossing your path it was small fishing boats with nothing but a candle to illuminate their location. The mental focus required to avoid all the boats was ridiculous and by midnight when my watch ended, my brain was toast.
The next two days of sailing, and we actually did sail, allowed me to get recharged. The wind for the first time was near perfect and Palarran enjoyed fast sailing speeds. Steve, like his father, is a fisherman and set out the poles. We hadn’t trolled for fish since entering the Mediterranean because I had read that the sea was basically fished out. Well, I learned a lesson that if you don’t have a line in the water, you will never catch anything because on the second day Steven had two strikes and landed one nice small tuna.
We made landfall on the island of Zakynthos, the most southernly of the Ionian Island chain. Specifically, we landed at one of the most photographed beaches in all of Greece, Shipwreck Beach. We were the second boat of the day to arrive and it was stunning. Take a minute to search for photos of “Shipwreck Beach” to see what I mean. The small freighter that washed up on the beach and has since rusted to a skeleton was interesting. Visitors have for a long time written their names on different parts of the hull. Steven wrote “Palarran 2012” on a large stone and then stood on Nick’s shoulders to lodge it on a high ledge. I have to believe it is still there and look forward to checking later this summer (2013).
From the beach we made our way to the southern most part of the island and anchored off a small village with three restaurants right in a row. By now all crew was chanting “Gyro, Gyro, Gyro” and our hunger would not be simply satisfied. As we walked past the second of the three restaurants, a waiter came bouncing down the steps and said, in English, “Welcome my friends, are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Come in and sit, we will make you some food.” Now, this was a significant turning point. The first person we spoke to in Greece was nicer to us than anyone else had been on the whole trip previous to this. In fact, since then, every person I’ve met in Greece has been so welcoming and kind.
This young man did in fact make us food, tons of it. And our beer mugs never went empty. But he went further and took Nick and Steve under his wing. He and a friend took them later that evening to the island’s nightclub district and showed them the ins and outs of clubbing Greek style. They showed back up to the boat at 6:00am pie eyed. From here we visited the islands of Cephalonia, Ithaca, and finally settled in to our favorite spot of Nidri on Lefkas. We spent 4 days in Nidri, 3 of them tied to the town quay (pronounced KEY). When I asked how much it cost to tie up, the taverna owner who owned this section shrugged her shoulders and said, have dinner.
Nick and Stephen made friends with a diverse group of guys from around the EU. They would hang out until 11:00pm then hit the nightclubs until the morning, sleep all day, and restart. I made use of the days by preparing Palarran for her long winter haul out and exploring the small neighboring islands by dingy. One night we had a party on Palarran and the parents of the boys Nick was hanging out with came onboard. The taverna owner made us food and brought it to the boat. We set up the beach chairs on Palarran’s bimini and had a great night of conversation.
From Nidri we headed straight to Messolonghi where Palarran was to be hauled out and stored on land for the winter. This is a newer marina and they do all their haul outs by crane. For Palarran they used a 160 ton monster and it went smoothly. We worked hard to leave the boat in a clean and proper condition but in reflection neither were done correctly. I’ll detail that in another post.
We took a bus from Messolonghi to Athens and got a hotel for the night as we had a noon flight to London. Stephen and Nick woke very early and walked to the Acropolis to get a quick tour. We also had to overnight in London before catching our flights back home. All the travel went without a problem and after 4 months of travel, I arrived back to Kalamazoo on August 27th.