Sailing with Plankton

23 July 2014 | Cavtat, Croatia
23 July 2014 | Montenegro
22 May 2014 | Siracusa May 22, 2014
22 May 2014 | Siracusa, Sicily May 22, 2014
17 August 2013 | Cugnara Bay, N. Sardinia
17 August 2013 | Laconia, Arzachena Bay, N. Sardinia
10 August 2013 | Corsica
02 August 2013 | Isola Budelli, La Maddalena islands, Sardinia
01 August 2013 | La Maddalena Islands, Sardinia
06 April 2013 | Marina di Ragusa to Scicli to Donnalucata

A Fun Day in the Anchorage

23 July 2014 | Cavtat, Croatia
A Fun Day in the Anchorage

Yesterday we took a fine bike ride all the way up to the ancient fortress of Grad Sotol. We finished the day with a late afternoon dinner then I updated the computers and Doug loaded 40 gallons of water aboard. Then we loaded our bikes in the dingy and headed back to the boat for a morning departure from Cavtat. Our last stop was for a glass or two ( or was it three or four?) of wine with Gaille and Ian on Princess Orceni, then back to Plankton and to bed. I turned off the wind generator so I wouldn't have to listen to it and did not set the anchor alarm since we were firmly attached to the bottom in mud.

About 7 AM we hear voices nearby, probably fisherman,and a small motor. No! What's that accent and why are they still beside us? We come out of our berth and on deck to see a huge carbon fiber catamaran off our bow and a big dinghy pushing it away from Plankton. But they can't get away from Plankton and instead of being 200 feet from our anchor, we are 125 feet, now 75 feet, and the wind is blowing 25 knots! What? They have caught our chain as they drug across the bay. After going back-and-forth, Doug is very hot under the collar fearing our bow will disengage from the boat, they get their anchor up with ours attached! Doug cuts the line to our chain and slips our orange anchor ball out with it. We move off and anchor in deeper water with our smaller 40 pound Danforth on a nylon line. That's a good anchor. She holds good.

We sit back for our first cup of coffee. The cat reanchors and the captain and his wife come over with a nice bottle of wine. Its 8 AM and we are thinking about popping the cork! Anyway, nice people. More boats break loose. It's a CF in the anchorage. Boats everywhere. Not everybody was up yet. Doug is anxious to retrieve our anchor and chain, in what?, 25 to 30 knot winds. Okay, whatever. That took a while! Princess O was just behind us so I kept a good watch ( as did Captain Ian!). After a few snags, my good man got the chain on the winch and we sat back as the show continued. Only three boats out of 20 have not broken loose, well , one may be dragging his chain... Geez, it's only 9:30 AM.

Update at 9:54 am. The French boat drug his chain 500 feet before he decided to do anything about it. As he was approaching our anchor Doug was on the bow screaming obscenities (sometimes it's better to be downwind). Princess Orseni just told us last night they had not yet drug . Whoops! Well they have tried to set a few times now. Looks like Plankton is in the clear. All the boats in front of us have moved to reanchor. Hope the wind direction doesn't change. Anyways they all brought up giant hairballs of grass in their anchors. We are in good mud. Doug stays busy with his rangefinder. He is a hawk.

I sit back with my coffee. Time to get back to that peaceful life on the boat!

A Very Nice Day

23 July 2014 | Montenegro
I awoke from a night of crazy dreams to a soft rain. The day before we left Bar under angry gray skies encountering 2 meter swells as we passed out of protection of the harbor. The swell was going with us but we had only a few gusts of wind off the mountains all day and tucked into the small cove at Bigova for the night, anchoring for the night with our new friends, circumnavigators from Kemah, Texas, S/V Bebe. The cove was tranquil and well protected from the swell. Two or three other boats were there.
Shortly after I woke the next morning, the rain came down hard but with little wind. I commented to Doug "the sky is falling, chicken little". We played a few games of Farkle. The downpour lasted over an hour then the boat beside us begin to pull up his chain and we followed shortly after. S/V Bebe had boat chores to do and decided to linger another day.
Out in the sea, the boat ahead of us rocked madly. We set our main and pushed on out. We were parallel to the swell for the first hour and took a few rolls before turning down swell and surfing into the protected bay of Montenegro under a fair wind directly from behind. The mountains were beautiful, draped in clouds and the the sky was clearing. I rehung our laundry in the cockpit. As we made a near 180 to head south, I shut down the motor and we sailed at 2 knots along the beautiful bay we had entered. The water was deep. None of the boats were at anchor. Passing along the shore at Zelinika, we noticed boats on mooring balls in 50' of water close to shore and also boats tied at piers by the restaurants. Cool! We're hungry!

We zigzagged thru a narrow passage observing a rusty old Russian warship and a couple of submarine tunnels. Ahead lay the town of Tivat, 5 miles across the new bay we were entering. Just to the right, due south, lay two coves with an ancient church perched on a rock at water level between them. This bay was once a glacier. The two coves are separated by a medial moraine of the glacier. This is important information. The moraine is composed of gravel with some boulders and lots of clay. This means we should be able to anchor in mud. Tonight highwinds are expected and, tomorrow, a lot more rain than today so we want really good holding. Alora! but for now we are coming up on a small village with piers. I move to the bow and scan the waterfront for restaurant with a pier. Two men stand in front of a fish house. They see us coming. I take the helm and Doug quickly drops the main. I put Plankton in a slow circle and kick off the fenders while Doug prepares a couple of lines to throw to the men. I bring Plankton alongside and Voila! We are tied and marching to a table.
This is the kind of place I like. Nice country blue and white pinstripes on the tablecloth. Ironed cloth napkins with the restaurants' monogram. Two professional waiters in white shirts, dark trousers and long black aprons. Bring it on! Doug and I have lately taken to eating a big lunch out every couple of days. We take a long time for this meal then retire to the boat afterwards for a nice afternoon nap. The first course is homemade bread, white and wheat, soft and chewy. We're now in the Russian grainbelt. The bread is delicious and is served with a wonderful dipping sauce made with parsley, olive oil and lots of finely chopped garlic with a squeeze of lemon on top. It's is so thick you could spoon it onto your bread.

Doug orders a beer. I'm having water. I had two glasses of wine during our bay cruise. We look over the menu. Doug decides on a Greek salad. I have a salad of wild greens with ripe red tomatoes and cucumbers. We split some grilled green peppers. Our entrée is 10 to 12 huge shrimp wrapped in calamari and grilled. All the tiny arms of the squid are festively tossed in a little purple pile while a couple of zucchini have been sliced thin and long ways, then ruffled like lace on the corner the plate. Potatoes stewed with green spinach finish out the plate. Yum! My salad was so big I could only eat a few of the calamari. Donna gallantly finishes them. We take our time afterwards. We sit back and rest for a while. One of the greatest pleasures of dining in Europe is a universal and sacred belief in the importance of good digestion, most often accomplished thru herbs added to your meal, not just for flavor, and the relaxing aftermath of a full stomach. After a nice long break time to allow this sacred process, our waiter returns with the finish, a nice cup of coffee. Mine is a cappuccino with such a perfect foam on top that it's more like a dessert. I look over at Doug's coffee Americano with a bold thick creama on top, that lovely brown foam created on the perfect cup of coffee. We sip langourously.

At the table next to us are three women, most likely three generations of one family. The youngest, a girl in her 20s, gets up from the table and walks over to Plankton and takes a picture of our American flag. As we leave, the waiter gives us two maps of his country and a guidebook. I thank him and we stroll out to Plankton and jump aboard while the two waiters untie our lines and push us from the pier. I am liking this place. We head down further into the cove and carefully motor towards the shore. The charts are not reliably in Montelegro. It has not been charted since World War II, 70 years ago. I point Plankton towards a leadline reading at 29 feet. As it shallows up to 22 feet, Doug drops the anchor and I back down on it. We hang! Not sure if it was a rock or mud but it feels snug.
We drop into our comfy cockpit seats for a nice nap. The perfect finish to a fine day!

Doug Goes to Fill the Water Jugs.

22 May 2014 | Siracusa May 22, 2014
Barb/ great weather
Doug Goes to Fill the Water Jugs

We have three, 20 liter water jugs that we fill at the fountain beside the marina. We are, of course, not staying in the marina, but rather, out in the bay, at anchor. There is a little outdoor bar by the fountain and a nice shade tree. We needed 45 gallons of water, that's three dinghy trips to the fountain. The dinghy pulls up about 30 feet from the fountain so the water does have to be toted very far. This is a 'blue' job so off Doug goes early one morning.

I'm having my first cup of coffee when he returns with the last load. I catch the dinghy line and tie it to the back of the boat. Doug offloads his three jugs to the boat. After he fills the tank, he comes into the cockpit and announces "I'm in!". He grins ear to ear and proudly announces, "I am a local now.".

It turns out there were three Italian guys writing a tour guide in English, Italian and German under the shade tree. They were poring over translation book and asked Doug to proof their English, which he did. He was rewarded with a free beer. This type of honorary treatment is not taken lightly by my sweet, beer drinking, German descent husband. Not only that, on his last trip for water, the lady in the bar also gave him a free beer and told him he did not need to bring his hose next time. He could just use hers. Two free beers? He's "In!".

The Market

22 May 2014 | Siracusa, Sicily May 22, 2014
Barb, great weather
The Market

All the cruising boats love Siracusa. It has a fine harbor, not deep enough for major commercial traffic, but large and accommodating for yachts and very well protected from the sea. The ancient Greeks sailed into this harbor and enjoyed a sophisticated life here. The Temple of Apollo towered over Ortiga and, on the adjacent hill, a pleasant walk from the center of town, was the amphitheater. The first playwrights in Greece held their performances, in the 4th century B.C., as today, beginning just before sunset.

Between the two knolls of Siracusa lies a canal separating the main harbor from the bay to the north. It washes seawater through the canal. Stone walls from Roman times line the sides of the canal. The fishing fleet and a couple of tour boats line one side of the canal. Along the other side, the larger ships in the harbor can tie up for fuel, usually just one at a time. The dinghy dock is just past the first bridge in the canal connecting the ancient city of Ortigia to modern Siracusa. It is a short walk from here to all the cruisers needs from the chandlery to the bodega, laundry, beauty shop, bus stop, sightseeing and, best of all, the market, only one block from the bridge.

The first booths are for the tourists, selling sunglasses, hats, clothes from Morocco and handbags. As you turn the corner the market come to life with people jostling thru a cadre of booths spread with all manner of vegetables. Five varieties of pomodoro's (tomatoes), cherries dark and sweet, beautiful dark green rosettes of broccoli, giant peppers both red and green, tiny melons, watermelon and cantaloupe, fava beans with big fat green hulls and bright purple mottled hulls on Doug's favorite bean, fresh bunches of carrots and rugala, the wild and flavorful lettuce the Italians love. Big strawberries and small baskets of wild berries..Everyone encourages you to taste!

Contributing vastly to the mayhem are the fishmongers screaming at the top of their lungs today's specials. Sardines and merzoletti's and other small fish are stacked on ice along with a tray of fillets and several gleaming varieties of fish 8 to 12 inches long, just right for dinner. To one side are heaped the Cozze's, the dark shelled mussels that are so good when boiled. Behind the fishmonger are huge chunks of salmon, ready to cut into steaks.

Now I turn around to more fruit and vegetables, plump dark purple eggplant, peaches and pears, a gnarly big lemon that is all white skin inside. This one you eat topped with balsamic vinegar and throw away the juicy part. Big piles of red and white onions and strings of garlic. Then there's the butchery and the spice vendors and one of my favorites, the man who only sells cookies made from the almond flour. I buy 1/2 a kilo.

Finally, at the very end are two fine deli vendors with great cheeses, bruschetta they push in your face to try. I love the campanada made with eggplant. We order some spicy sausages. Two links are quickly snipped off with scissors. We sit down next door on two vegetable crates and a table is quickly improvised of three larger crates. We are served white wine and a tray of selections from the deli, mozzarella di bufalo, the cheese from the water buffalo, goat cheese, truffles, ham, salami topped with soft cheese, a spicy pepper sauce, mascapone on tomato slices with fresh basil, Sicilian aged ham wrapped around ricotta, all served on a large flat rectangle of white bread that is shaped like a cutting board and drizzled with olive oil that serves as our plate. Lots of people crowd by looking at our delicious lunch. We chat with a German couple on holiday. A lady whisks by and topples my wine glass on my pants and the ground. No worries, more wine arrives. What else could you have four glasses of wine, a huge deli assortment and all this entertainment for €11!

We stroll out of the market, stuffed and sated. After a walkabout in town, we hop in our dinghy and head back to Plankton for our afternoon siesta. I think when I wake up I'll have a couple of almond cookies and a little limoncello.

Plankton Goes Aground

17 August 2013 | Cugnara Bay, N. Sardinia
Barb/ Good weather thank goodness
I believe I ended my last post on a morning ball at Port Cervo, harbor of the rich and famous. That was just before we got run off the mooring ball. Even thou there were 8 mooring balls there was only one taker at 175€ per night. Hello it was not Plankton. We politely unhooked and picked a bay another hour and a half south for the evening.

Okay I need to backtrack now. We left Arzachena Bay late in the morning after a last visit with our new friends, Max and Piña and also with our old friend from MdR, Paul, on Bellanova and his sweet dog, Linda. I flipped on the hockeypuck to activate the boat wifi and nothing happened. It would not even turn on! So no Internet aboard Plankton! Also Doug commented that the alternator was not charging the batteries. No worries he can change out the alternator at our next port. We have two spares. I will have to wait two days to go into Olbia and find out what's wrong with the hockey puck. Minor stuff. Kicked out of millionaire row, more small stuff.

We head down to Cugnara Bay. Our friends on Maltese Falcon anchored there. Doug even has their anchorage coordinates. If its good enough for MF, it's good enough for Plankton. We have followed Mario into more than one good anchorage. It's a long bay. We motor past a marina. It's also a shallow bay. We pick a spot between a fishing boat and a trawler, very close to Mario's coordinate. I swing wide into 8 foot water to make a 180 into the wind. Doug is yelling "hey it's shallow here!". Yeh, well 8 feet is shallow in the Med.

Plankton stops. Uh oh. I am still in forward. Whoops we're aground. I throw it into reverse and power up, swiffling our 7 turn wheel to back out. Oops, not going anywhere. Power up hard this time in forward. I am going to make my own channel. Not!! A few more times of forward and back. Now we drag out a big anchor and Doug hauls it in the dinghy out to 15' of water. We crank and pull and crank and pull some more. I did try to tell Doug the water between the anchor and Plankton was only 3.5 feet deep. Finally he takes our pole and stabs it around the boat from the dinghy. Okay anchor up! Poor Doug, a 45 pound anchor weighs a WHOLE lot more when you have to disengage it from the bottom and lift thru the weight of the water. We select a new spot, over by where we pulled ourselves into this mess. We cranked and pulled and pulled and cranked. Progress was made. 4.8 feet of water instead of 4.2 feet. Our draft is 5.5 feet. We called the Coast Guard since there is no Boat US to call and continued to struggle and crank. Eventually a little tug shows up headed straight for us. Doug goes out to retreive our anchor again. Don't want to have to come back for it. I am pulling in our 100 foot 1" line and telling the tug where the mudbank is located so they don't try to pull us over it. They want 'our' line. Oh boy. Doug detaches the anchor in the dinghy and I rerun the line thru the lifelines for them.
They call Doug over in the dinghy. Only one person allowed aboard. Coast Guard rules. I have to be moved to their tug. They start pulling on Plankton. Doug yells " take the boat out of gear". I move to the helm. Heck we are free! 6.2 feet of water. We're afloat!!!. I go to the back of the boat and dutifully get in the dinghy and move onto the tug. Doug goes back to Plankton as the tug tows us out into deeper water. The captain asks me if we want to go in the marina. Are you kidding? The last place wanted 175€ for a buoy. I tell him we will anchor. He says okay, then you come to the office in the marina. Okay. The tug pulls alongside Plankton and I hop aboard. The tug heads back to the marina.

Whew! We anchor, first on a submarine cable. We're tired. I tell Doug we have to pull up and reset. He' s not happy. We get anchored and, while he is in the shower, the tug guys return in a dinghy to tell us we need to see the captain Pronto! He is ready to go home for the day. They wait while we grab our our boat papers and wallet. This is going to hurt the wallet. We ride to the Capitainarie in their hi speed dinghy. We are surprised, upon arrival, to find that the Capitan (harbor master in Italy) was driving the tug that freed us. He takes us into his air conditioned office. He shows us the rate sheet for pulling us free. 150€ per meter of boat. We are 13.8 meters. 13.8 times 150€. Not good. Then he looks at us and says, well it was not too hard to pull you off so we will only charge our rate for putting a boat in the slip. Phew! Only about 200€! Nice guy. I am sure he could see the relief in my face. We go to the front counter to pay. He says arrevederci and domani to the staff and shakes our hands. We are taken back to the boat in the hi speed dinghy by a guy that speaks 6 languages fluently! We fell asleep right after dinner.

Well it had been a long time since I had driven Plankton aground. Later when we discussed it, I commented to Doug that Mario must have been lucky not to have gone aground. Btw did you recheck that LatLong? Doug sez he took the yellow magic marker dot off the cruising guide and created the LatLong himself! Wwwwhhhaattt! I thought Mario gave you the LatLong! That magic marker just indicated they anchored in that bay, not EXACTLY where they dropped the hook!
Oh boy. A little miscommunication aboard Plankton. Usually I carefully select my anchoring spot but this time we had a LatLong from a trusted source. Well not Mario, if you are reading, you are still a trusted source of information. This wasn't your fault. The left hand had no idea what the right hand was doing!!!

Today's update: since all this occurred while we had no Internet! I took the bus to Olbia and got the hockey puck fixed (and a nice haircut). Doug determined the alternator was okay. We had just sucked down the batteries with too much electronics running. We are now in a beautiful bay. All is well aboard S/V Plankton again.

A Sardinian family business

17 August 2013 | Laconia, Arzachena Bay, N. Sardinia
Barb/lots of sunshine
We have stayed now several days in a sweet little anchorage behind a small rock island with a line of rocks just below the surface extending to land. A couple of them poke up enough for a seagull or two to land. This small barrier protects us from the swell and most of the boat wakes arriving from the passage lying about a mile north of us. That is the main passage from the west to the east side of Sardinia. There is a fine statue on the rock island looking out into the Bay of Arzachena.

We first anchored here with friends and weathered a light blow before heading off to explore the La Maddalenas. Now we are here again to prepare for our sail to Cagliari at the south end of the island, 200 miles away. We refueled and loaded our water tanks at the end of the bay when we first arrived. We then bicycled around the Nuraghi villages inland a few miles. These Nuraghi people lived in this area 3800 years ago and were still here just before the Romans came in 300BC. They knew the Egyptians and probably traded with them. They may still be living here as many Sards still live in the mountains and have little to do with the modern world.

Beside our anchorage is a small dock with a pontoon. It is painted a bright turquoise. It is owned by one of these mountain families. They probably always kept a little fishing boat here. There is an old traditional wooden boat tied to a buoy near us, mostly likely the grandpa's boat. Now the whole family comes down for the summer and they rent the space on their small pontoon to the smallest powerboats and the largest dinghies. They are all here! We thought there was a hamburger joint at their dock when the family lined up for lunch! There are at least 20 in this brood. They allowed us to tie our dinghy to their dock with the understanding that, should they rent all their space, they would pull our dinghy up on their beach. They offered us cheese and bread and some kind of white lightning one day when we came up. We are not sure where they all stay. They have a 24' sailboat with ragged sails that at least a couple of them sleep on.

They also attached a fine mooring ball to a strong chain and a concrete block about 8' x 8', I believe thinking we might prefer it to being at anchor. We would but we are anchored in good sand and the ball might command a high price this week in the middle of August. Down by the marina they want 10€ per square meter of boat. They don't have many takers. Besides if there were to be a storm we could latch on to it from our boat. We tag it every time we drift past. We have new friends that have rented a mooring ball beside us for a month. The electrical storm we experienced a week ago ruined this mans alternator and he is awaiting parts being shipped from Germany. He has an annual contract in the marina for all but the month of August when rates go up to an extreme price, most likely 100€/ day.

This man and his family are enjoying being tied to the mooring. It's not far to the Sard families dock. A good thing since his family uses 200-300 liters of water per day. They have a 200 liter soft bladder that they fill at the dock. It lies like a beached whale in their dinghy. With a hose and a small pump they can easily refill their water tank every day. This family includes Max and Piña and their 3 children, Mikala, who will turn 18 next week, Luka, who looks to be about 13 and Traicha, the only girl, about 8. The boys look very Italian and take after their mother, a pretty woman, whose family is Italian from Calabria, far down in the toe of the boot. She was born in Germany, however, and Max is German as are the children. Both boys are very Italian looking with handsome dark features, the little girl has long blond hair. She loves horses and all three kids love the boat. Oddly they do not like sand and much prefer swimming off the boat to hanging out on the beach. We have enjoyed visiting with them. They sun and play in the water and take their nice rib for a spin most days. We sit and drink wine with them in the evenings.

Just day before yesterday some friends arrived in our bay and we have had a few visits. The girl, Gabby, left to fly home to Germany for a week, so we have been visiting up with Paul, a very interesting British fellow. He and Gabby met up nine years ago in Turkey. Both were single handers, a boat phase for sailing alone. Gabby s boat was a roomy large steel ketch which they kept, only changing the paint job from pink to maroon. It is a nicely kept boat. Gabby made her living sewing canvas for boats in Turkey and still does a little canvas work. I could have used some advice on my Bimini top. She got away too quick! That's a whole 'nuther story but I will be sewing another one while we are home this year! Paul was a university professor and facilitated many boater discussions last year at MdR. He and I originally connected at a weather seminar since we both taught meteorology in a previous life. We shared our weather observations from this summer. They also have a sweet older dog named Linda. Linda enjoyed the spaghetti dinner we had last night. She opted out for the fireworks in the evening however. Such a cute dog. She rides on the side pontoons in the dinghy like a person. She has lived all her life on a boat.

Now I see my blog for today is long winded. We sailed to Porto Cervo today and are tied to a buoy. This is the center of the Costa Smeralda, the most exclusive superyacht community in the western Med, next to the French Riviera. We are enjoying the big boats. And it is naptime!

Enjoy your day and keep those cards and letters coming. We love to hear from all of you!

Barb & Doug
S/V Plankton
Vessel Name: Plankton
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan 462 Ketch
Hailing Port: Cat Spring, TX
Crew: Barb & Doug
About: Doug and Barb met in their sailing club in 2000, bought a boat together in 2006, got married in Dec. 2008, quit their jobs in 2009 and moved aboard.
Doug and Barb left the dock in May, 2009 and spent the summer in the Florida Panhandle and Alabama on the Redneck Riviera. They returned to Kemah in late summer for the birth of Barb's first grandchild (well her fifth counting all of Doug's!). In 2010 they left Kemah to sail across the Atlantic [...]
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Plankton's Photos -

About the crew

Who: Barb & Doug
Port: Cat Spring, TX