Our Ever-Changing Backyard

19 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
14 October 2019 | Savusavu, Fiji
27 July 2019 | Tavoro Waterfalls, Taveuni Island, Fiji
15 July 2019 | Viani Bay
23 June 2019 | En route to Savusavu, Fiji, from N. Minerva Reef
20 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef
17 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
13 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
12 June 2019 | Marsden Cove Marina, Ruakaka, NZ
06 May 2019 | Paradise Taveuni Resort
04 March 2019 | Koro Island
05 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
01 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ

Cavtat - our first taste of Croatia. In which we enjoy Croatian cuisine, take some walks, do some boat work, and reset our anchor twice in one night during a bora

18 September 2022 | Cavtat, Croatia
Vandy Shrader

Cavtat, Croatia

When we awoke on our first morning in Croatia, Awildian was floating languidly on the calm water of Uvala Tiha; tall gray mountains rose up to the east, and the Adriatic Sea - dotted with a couple of low, rocky islands - lay to the west, sparkling in the morning sun. Through our "fish TVs" (the glass escape hatches in each hull), the water was a bright turquoise and so clear that I could see sand and weeds on the bottom, twenty-five feet below.


Awildian in Uvala Tiha

After breakfast, we took our dinghy the short distance into the small boat harbor, and tied to a ring set into the rock wall surrounding the harbor. We'd come to explore the little town of Cavtat (pronounced "tsahv-taht"), but also with more mundane intentions: buy some groceries, buy a postcard to send to my dad for Father's Day at the post office, replace the bottle of Aperol that had smashed during our passage. I'm happy to report that we accomplished all of them.

As we wandered along Cavtat's main street, some things stood out to us:

1. The buildings and streets are OLD. Like, really old. Centuries old. Buildings and streets that have been in continuous use since they were built, back in the days when the Native Americans still had North America to themselves. We gawked at the sturdy buildings, at the narrow cobblestone streets, at the forest green shutters beside the windows, utterly charmed by the medieval ambiance. You can't find anything like that in the US, or in any of the other places we'd sailed.
2. You can't throw a rock without hitting an ATM. Seriously, there is one about every fifty feet or so, on average, along Cavtat's one main street. The Croatians make it very easy for you to extract money (kunas) from your bank account...
3. ...to spend at the many restaurants and souvenir shops. There are almost as many of these, as there are ATMs. The lunch menus of the restaurants were all pretty much the same, offering pizza; fried or grilled squid, octopus, or fish; salads; and pasta dishes. Most of the restaurants had pleasant harborside seating, under canopies to deflect the Mediterranean sun. We chose one and enjoyed a nice lunch, with a small glass of one of the local beers (Ožujsko).
4. Almost everyone speaks English, and most of the signs include English along with Croatian.


Sometimes, he throws me a fish

After lunch, we strolled along the shady path that follows the shoreline of the rocky, tree-covered peninsula that juts out from Cavtat.



Along with the tall, pointy Mediterranean cypress, were Aleppo pines, which produce a sublimely sweet scent that wafts lightly in the air, and is uniquely Mediterranean. Looking down through the trees at the water, I was surprised to see how clear it was, and how it took on many different shades in combinations of blues and greens, which stood in beautiful contrast with the white rocks. Except for the different foliage, the shoreline reminded me of those of New Zealand.



The lack of a sandy beach didn't dissuade sunbathers, who perched or lounged on the rocks, sprawled under the hot sun, slowly baking their skin; we saw swatches of the entire palette of pink, magenta, and red on display.

After our walk, we set off in search of groceries, visiting a produce stand and all three of Cavtat's small markets, including one up a big hill that rewarded us with a commanding view of the town, the harbor, and the sea beyond.


The view from the top

Back down the hill, we fetched our dinghy and returned to Awildian.

We decided to have dinner out that night, at Restauran Ivan, (yes, "restauran" is a Croatian word) a restaurant at the edge of the small boat harbor. This time when we arrived with our dinghy, Ivan himself, an distinguished-looking elderly gentleman with a menu tucked under his arm, helped us tie up our dinghy, and offered me a hand to help me up onto the wall. As he walked with us into his restaurant and led us to a table, he told us that he had "fresh fish dinner for two, very good, I filet it for you."

Soon after we sat down, Ivan came over with a large platter, on which lay two different, good-sized fish. "Orada or sea bass," he said. "Very fresh. They were swimming this morning."
To which I couldn't stop myself from replying, "Well, I guess they're not having a very good night."


Ivan and his fresh fish

We ordered the fish-for-two dinner, both choosing orada (Croatian for sea bream), along with a bottle of Pošip wine (pronounced "poship"), a white that my sister, Tara, had recommended after her recent visit to Croatia. The fish's arrival was presaged by our waiter coming over and sliding an extra leaf into the side of our table. Soon another young man brought our fish, which had been grilled whole, and which he proceeded to filet for us with tidy precision, as we chatted with him.



We asked him why it was that many of the Croatians - including him - spoke English with an American accent. He said that in his case, he'd studied at a hospitality academy in Dubrovnik, where the courses were taught by American instructors, in American English. He also mentioned that he was a member of the family who owned the restaurant.


A yummy dessert

It is so nice to be able to chat with people again! Our limited and very basic comprehension of Italian, really kept us from being able to have meaningful conversations with most people while we were there. Here in Croatia, where English is spoken by most people (at least the ones in the tourist centers), we can do that again, giving us more of an understanding and insight into the people and the place.

The next morning, after another calm night, we took care of a few boat projects - I cleaned the helm station and back porch (will we ever get rid of the Sahara mud?), we set out our cookbooks, which had soaked up most of the Aperol that had leaked from the bottle that broke on our trip across the Adriatic, and Eric organized his workshop.


Drying out the cookbooks


The forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms - which did develop in the mountains inland of us, giant white chef's hats blossoming into the sky, but didn't come our way - and the evening's entertainment would include a bora.

According to Wikipedia, a bora is "a northerly to north-easterly katabatic wind in areas near the Adriatic Sea." Basically, the wind blows down the tall mountains. Sometimes at hurricane force. Though the most powerful boras tend to happen in the winter, some do occur at other times. Sometimes they're forecast, sometimes not. Some places are more prone to them than others. There's a place in northern Croatia called the Velebit Channel, that's got a bad reputation for often having gale-force winds. We're not planning to go there.

Anyway, some strong NE winds were forecast for our part of Croatia overnight. We had set our anchor in a patch of sand, and while we had no reason to doubt its abilities, we always set an anchor alarm, to alert us if we've moved a certain distance outside of the area circumscribed by the length of anchor chain we'd let out, which would indicate that we were dragging. This night, as we were getting ready for bed, the wind started blowing from the NE, at 20-25 knots, with higher gusts.

Just to be ready, in case our anchor dragged, we made some preparations: we checked that Awildian's spreader light would allow me to see what I needed to, in order to work with the anchor, while not blinding Eric in the helm station. Check. We put the headsets that we use to communicate during anchoring (and other procedures) on the table, and made sure they were charged. Check.


Cavtat sunset

I wanted to trust our new anchor, I really did: it was heavy (88 pounds), it was the size recommended for our boat, it was sunk into some sand (which usually has good holding), it is classified as a Super High Holding Power anchor by Lloyd's of London, it had scored extremely high in all sorts of tests, and it had cost a pretty penny. I wanted to trust it, but as it hadn't been tested yet in much wind, I didn't. Not yet. Trust is earned, even trust in an anchor. To further complicate matters, the NE wind was exactly the opposite direction from the one we'd set our anchor in, which not only meant that Awildian's stern was now pointed at the shoreline (not all that far away), but also that the anchor would have to turn completely around and reset itself, to hold us in the new wind direction. Our anchor had scored really well in tests for re-setting, but how would it perform here, in this anchorage of sand and seagrass, an anchorage whose holding has been described as "unreliable"? So many unknowns. Too many for me to settle enough to go to bed, so I sat up, frequently checking Awildian's GPS track on our nav station computer.

When an anchor is set well, the boat will carve an arc along the edge of the circle at the limit of the anchor chain. I watched Awildian's track: it was creating a thick, roughly-crescent-shaped blob of tracks at the edge of the circle. Not the smooth arc I was hoping to see, but not the straight line back that would indicate the anchor was dragging. The wind was a steady 25 knots, gusting higher. During one particularly energetic gust, I saw Awildian's track bulge out, and then begin tracing a straight line back, toward the shoreline. Shit shit shit! We were dragging.

Before our anchor alarm had even gone off, I had woken Eric up. He turned on the foredeck light. We put on our headsets. He went to the helm station and started the engines. I went onto the foredeck, opened the anchor locker, and began pulling up our anchor. When it came up, I could see that it was cradling a big lump of muddy sand and seagrass plants. Apparently, before it could reset, it had encountered a patch of weeds; an anchor fouled like that couldn't bite into the bottom and reset itself.

As Eric moved Awildian forward, I poked at the muddy plant blob with a broom handle, clearing the anchor of its load. Some distance away across the black water - much farther from the shoreline - we decided to drop the anchor again. Since it was nighttime, I couldn't tell whether we were dropping in sand or weeds, so we just had to wing it. I dropped the anchor, which grabbed on the bottom and held. We both watched our GPS track for awhile, until we confirmed that Awildian's track was tracing a crescent. The wind was still blowing 20-25 knots, with those higher gusts. But at least it wasn't raining.

It took awhile before I was settled enough to go to sleep, but eventually I did, at 2 am.

I awoke to Eric saying, "Van! The anchor alarm is going off!" It was 4 am. We went upstairs and looked at our GPS track: sure enough, for whatever reason, our anchor had stopped holding us and we were dragging. Again. UGH!

We repeated the process as earlier. When I raised the anchor, it had a big wad of mud and weeds again. This time Eric drove Awildian all the way to the other side of the bay, which was upwind, where we'd have the entire bay to drag across, should the anchor let loose again. We dropped the anchor, set it, and watched our track. When Awildian began to trace an arc, we both went to bed.

The anchor held for the rest of the night. When I snorkeled over the anchor in the morning, I could see that it was set in sand. The wind was much calmer for the next three days, so calm in fact that we made plans to catch a bus from Cavtat to Dubrovnik, to explore the famous walled city.

Some Croatian words and phrases:
zdravo = hello
hvala = thank you
uvala = cove
tiha = quiet
restauran = restaurant
konoba = tavern
orada = sea bream


Dobrodošli u Hrvatsku (Welcome to Croatia) - In which we endure a nightlong carnival ride, Eric goes on a treasure hunt, and I keep Awildian from bashing against a concrete quay

30 August 2022 | Cavtat, Croatia
Vandy Shrader
Our trip across the Adriatic Sea from Monopoli to Cavtat would take eighteen hours at an average speed of 6 knots. The harbormaster's office in Cavtat didn't open until 8 am (getting there early was no good as we'd be required to continue on to Dubrovnik, another two hours north, to check in), so we left Monopoli in the early afternoon. The weather forecast was delightful: light winds and almost no seas - and a full moon to light our way. We'd be motoring again, continuing the trend we'd begun in Salerno two weeks earlier.

Eric and I were almost giddy as we steered Awildian out of Monopoli harbor, turning left and heading straight out across the Adriatic. It felt good to be crossing some open water, going to a new place.

Early on, we were in the company of a lot of other boats- fishing boats, mostly - but then a couple of hours later, we crossed the shipping lanes, which were chocka with big ships coming from the north and the south. As we watched them approach from both sides, we were glad once again to have our AIS on board, to help us determine how close we might get to those behemoths, and whether we'd need to change course to avoid them. And to let the ships' operators know the same about us.

When I lay down for my first off-watch (7-10pm), the sun was still out, the wind was 8 knots (apparent) from right in front of us, the sea was flat, and Awildian's engines (Thing 1 and Thing 2) were purring along. When I got up to stand my first watch, the wind had risen to 19 knots apparent, and the sea had taken a decidedly gnarly turn: rollers of ½ to 1½ meters were now impacting Awildian's port bow and beam, every 1 or 2 seconds. The waves themselves weren't all that big, but their short period ensured that one hull would be on a crest while the other was in the trough, turning our motion into a lurching, corkscrewing, carnival ride. Fortunately, neither Eric nor I is prone to seasickness, but I can tell you, it was very uncomfortable.


Monopoli to Cavtat

Inside Awildian, some things were sliding around a bit - most notably our wine and liquor bottles. As I'd not thought to put a layer of non-skid underneath them, they had knocked together hard enough to break a bottle of Aperol, spilling its sticky, fragrant, bright orange contents all over the enclosed shelf, seeping into seams and trickling down the wall underneath. I threw a towel in with the bottles to soak up the mess; I'd deal with that later when the carnival ride stopped.

I was amazed that nothing fell off its shelf all night long, including the dozen spice bottles that we keep on a narrow shelf in the galley; I'd thought for sure these would be the first to take a dive. But no, they just hung out there through it all. Our catamaran-cruising friends had always told us that things stay put on their boats, and I'm beginning to believe it.

The crazy motion got our dinghy swinging in its davits like a battering ram, and I woke Eric up so we could secure it. When he got up at 1 am to begin his watch, I flopped down, face-first, still in my PFD, onto the settee in the main cabin, where the motion was less rambunctious than it was in the hulls, and slept there until I awoke for my 4 am watch.

When I climbed up into the helm station to relieve Eric, he said, "Welcome to Croatia!" sweeping his arm across the eastern horizon, where dark peaks poked up into the lightening sky. Then he was off to bed.


Sunrise in Croatia

By the time that Eric had finished his morning coffee, just after 7 am, the sea conditions had improved considerably, and we watched the Croatian coast come slowly into focus. At 8 am I called the Cavtat harbormaster on VHF channel 16. I got no response. I repeated my call several more times as we approached the coast, with no response. Eventually I gave up, and we began to tie on fenders and docklines, readying Awildian for docking at the Q (quarantine) dock in Cavtat Harbor.

The route into Cavtat took us past several small, rocky islands that lie just offshore of Cavtat Harbor. Composed of white stones, topped with fragrant pines and scrubby bushes, and sporting a halo of exuberant gulls, this was our first view of the terrain that we will forever associate with the Dalmatian coast.

Gliding into little Cavtat Harbor, we looked for the Croatian flag and giant yellow Q that would indicate the quarantine dock, where we were required to berth Awildian. We saw it, at the very rear of the harbor. Not having any practice at the "drop your anchor, back up, and stern-tie to the concrete wall" technique, Eric steered Awildian to come in for a side-tie, which we had executed many times before.


Cavtat Harbor

As we approached the quay, a young man came running along it, shouting, "No, no, you must stern-tie." Great. Well, no time like the present, to learn a new skill. So Eric turned Awildian away from the concrete quay, motored forward a bit (how far out are you supposed to drop your anchor?), and when we thought we were far enough (it was already 30 feet deep) I dropped the anchor. I dropped chain as we backed slowly toward the quay, and when we got close, I ran to the stern and threw the young man our stern lines. He tied them to some nearly-invisible loops of rope that were embedded in the stones, then told Eric that he would show him where to go to do the immigration paperwork. Eric picked up the folder containing our passports and the documents he would need to clear in, put the passarelle down, walked onto the quay and followed the young man into the town.

While he was away, my job was to keep Awildian's transoms from coming into contact with the concrete quay, which wasn't all that far away. I kept both engines running in neutral, ready to juice one or the other, or both, to move forward. Which I had to do every couple of minutes, when a small puff of wind would push us back, or a boat would go by, causing waves that would bounce Awildian menacingly close to the quay. Adding to that was my lack of confidence that the anchor was set properly, as we'd done a quick job and hadn't used as much distance as we usually do. Eventually I gave up on making adjustments and just kept both engines in forward idle, maintaining a reasonable distance from the quay, as far as our stern lines would allow.


A bit close for comfort

Meanwhile, Eric's quest for clearance into Croatia was taking him on a meandering tour of the town of Cavtat. The young man had taken him first to see the police, as this is who takes care of passport control here. The policeman asked Eric if we'd had a nice trip from Monopoli. When Eric looked surprised and said, "yes," the policeman said that he'd watched our AIS track all the way from Italy. Here's a tip: DON'T try to sneak into Croatia.

The policeman opened our passports to a new page and "chunk!" "chunk!" stamped us into Croatia, said "Welcome to Croatia," and showed Eric a map to the next stop on his treasure hunt, the harbormaster's office. Apparently the map wasn't very clear, because after walking up and down the street a few times, Eric still couldn't find it. But he did find an ATM along the way, one of the many lining Cavtat's main street, and got some kunas (the Croatian currency) to pay the young man who'd caught our lines.

Eventually, Eric stopped into a restaurant where a waiter was setting tables, and asked him where the harbormaster's office was. This resulted in a blank stare from the waiter, but then a woman's voice from behind him said, "Come with me."

Eric's thought of "uh oh," must have shown on his face, because when he turned to look at the woman, she smiled and said, "I work at the harbormaster's office."

Eric walked down the street with the woman, having a nice chat, then they climbed some stairs along the side of a building which looked very much like a house. In fact it had no sign on the street at all, indicating that it was the harbormaster's office. The woman looked through our documents, then sent Eric down the street to the post office, where he had to pay our clearing-in fee (756 kuna, or about $105). He paid our bill and also bought a T-Mobile SIM card for my phone while he was there.

He went back to the harbormaster's office, where he gave the nice woman a receipt showing that he'd paid our clearing-in fee. She gave him three stamped copies of our crew list, returned our passports and boat docs, and gave him our cruising permit. Then she sent him back to the policeman, who was now sitting in a cafe near the waterfront. They walked back up to the police office and Eric gave him two copies of our crew list, and hurried back to the Q dock, about 45 minutes after he'd left, fully aware that I'd been working to keep Awildian off of it.

The young man saw Eric and walked with him to the Q dock. Eric paid him 100 kuna, I put Awildian's engines into neutral so that he would drift close enough to the quay to allow Eric to get on board, the young man untied the stern lines, we motored forward, picked up the anchor, and motored out of the harbor.

Very relieved to be away from the concrete dock, I sat on the trampoline, chatting with Eric on our headsets, as he steered Awildian around the pretty, tree-lined peninsula that separates Cavtat Harbor from the bay on the other side, where we were planning to anchor. A few minutes later, I dropped our anchor in 25 feet of clear water over sand, and we set it properly this time. When we pulled back on the anchor and it didn't budge, we both felt happy relief: after months of looking for our catamaran; dealing with paperwork; finding, ordering, and installing equipment on Awildian to get him ready for cruising; and busting our butts to get out of Italy, we were finally resuming our cruising life again!

Eric shut off the engines and we sat on our front porch having a celebratory arrival drink. Then we called our dear friends, Annie and Liam, had a very nice chat, and then collapsed into bed for a few hours' sleep, as Awildian floated gently on the placid water.


Awildian's first anchorage in Croatia: Uvala Tiha
42º 55.869'N,17º 09.832'E













Working and playing in Monopoli

21 August 2022 | Monopoli, Italy
Vandy Shrader
We had chosen to stop in the marina at Monopoli, rather than continuing on to some of Italy's other clearance ports farther north, because a strong north wind (maestrale, mistral, or maestro, depending on your location) was forecast to come roaring down the Adriatic Sea in a couple of days, lasting for two or three days, and because many of the anchorages on the Adriatic coast of Italy didn't offer much shelter from the wind and seas, being in a marina seemed like the best option. Also, as an Italian port of entry, Monopoli has all the officials necessary for clearing into or out of the country, clearing out of Italy being our goal. From Monopoli to Cavtat, the Croatian town where we planned to check into the country, was only 122 nm, an easy overnight trip.

One of three small marinas in Monopoli, ours was called Cantiere Nautico Carpentinox and consisted of one floating pontoon, and a busy boatyard.



The two were connected by several platforms that moved somewhat independently of each other in the constantly surging currents of the harbor (think "moving fun house platforms"), creating an interesting symphony as their various metallic and wooden pieces ground together. These were anchored to the ground by a fat chain attached to one of the platforms and then tied around a large boulder near shore.


The fun house platforms (1,2,3,4 in red) and the boulder (circled in blue).

As marinas go, this one wasn't particularly "flash," but it had what we needed, the people were friendly, and it was in the right place for us. Plus there were lots of cats living there, too.



The morning after we'd arrived, Giuseppe, the owner of the marina and boatyard, and his son, Nico, met us at the picnic table under an awning near the pontoon, to discuss our berthing fees. Apparently, these things are negotiable to some extent. Nico spoke better English than his dad did, so he acted as translator. On my Navily app, I'd already seen an estimated cost of berthing at the marina, based on Awildian's measurements. I'd thought the cost was really high and was hoping that the actual cost would be lower.

Nico and his dad had a brief conversation in Italian, then Nico turned to us. When he told us the price his father had requested, our jaws dropped. It was more than twice the amount Navily had estimated, and I told Nico as much. He turned back to his dad, and they had a much longer, rapid-fire Italian discussion. When Nico turned back to us, he said that his dad had agreed to a lower berthing fee, but this was the lowest he would go. At 180 euro per night, it was much lower than the price Giuseppe had originally asked for, and closer to the Navily estimate. Welcome to marinas in the Med. Ka-ching!

While we were in Monopoli, we made the most of being in a town again. We visited the local marine supply store several times to look for items that we needed, we had one of our small European "CampingGaz" (yes, that's really what they call it here) canisters refilled, we went grocery shopping, and we ate lunch out a couple of times. Most places were within a couple of kilometers of the marina, so we could get there by walking. We got to know the area pretty well during our time there.

We did quite a few maintenance and repair jobs while we were in the marina. Eric bought the items for making a pulley system to hold the two jib sheets up off the roof, where they often tried to tie themselves to anything that's there, most notably solar panel wiring and connections, with the intention of ripping them off. Our friends on Gone With the Wind have a similar setup that works well for them. Eric went up the mast and deployed his gadget on one of the less-windy days. It looks like it will work great.



He also changed the oil and filters in both engines (whom we've named Thing 1 and Thing 2), and Giuseppe had given us a big carboy to store our used oil. We cleaned the watermaker with a cleaning solution, and then Eric installed new hoses with valves to direct the outlet water from the watermaker either out into the sea or into one of the water tanks.

We also went exploring. Just down the way from the marina was a 16th century castle, the Castello Carlo V. We checked its website for the hours that the castle was open, and went to have a look. Arriving in the middle of its open hours, we found the doors locked and a sign apologizing for the castle being closed as it was under renovation. We were now two for two with Italian castles...we had yet to see the inside of one.


The outside of another Italian castle


We enjoyed walking through Monopoli's old town (centro storico), wandering along narrow, winding cobblestoned streets with their tall stone and stucco buildings on either side.





And how really old, sort of old, and new buildings were juxtaposed, with people living in all of them.


Many of the nooks and sculptures on the buildings made pleasant nesting sites and perches for pigeons.





Tucked into a small section of the old port, we saw dozens of gozzi, the small bright blue traditional fishing boats still used by local fishermen.



We visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Madia, a huge, ornate edifice that was built from 1740-1770 on the site of the original cathedral that was constructed in the 1100s, that was itself built on the site of even earlier religious gatherings.

The story goes that construction of the first cathedral had to stop because there weren't enough wood beams for the roof. Then a miracle happened: a raft constructed of strong wooden beams and carrying a painting of the Madonna with child appeared in the seaport. The beams were used to complete the cathedral roof, and the painting became a sacred icon in the church.


The sacred painting that arrived on the raft in the 12th Century. (not my photo)

The current church is an amazing piece of architecture, with a reliquary, a room to house some of the miraculous wooden beams, lots of sculptures and statues, and an extravagantly-decorated roof held up by dozens of thick marble pillars. Or, at least some of them are marble...on closer inspection we discovered that many of the pillars were actually plaster that had been painted to look like marble. Apparently, the cathedral hadn't received a second miracle that provided marble for the remaining pillars.







And, we spent a couple of days just relaxing on Awildian, doing things that we wanted to do, a rare treat for us, since moving aboard.

When the maestrale/mistral/maestro had blown itself out, we had seen all we wanted to see in Monopoli, done all the repairs and maintenance we wanted to do, filled the water tanks, and paid our marina bill, we untied the lines that were holding Awildian, and we finally - FINALLY - said goodbye to Italy.

We did not pass GO, we did not collect $200, we just headed east across the Adriatic Sea toward Croatia.


Leaving Italia Part 2 - Crossing the arch, climbing the heel, caressing the calf

08 August 2022
Vandy Shrader
Day 5: Rocella Ionica to Crotone Nord anchorage - 67 miles. This was one of our longest travel days, at 11 hours. Compared with the shin of Italy, the water off this coast, and the land as well, on the back of the toe, was nearly deserted. There weren't any castles or many old structures to enjoy as we went past, as there'd been on the shin. We motored past the Golfo di Squillace, known for its gusty winds, though it was mellow today. As we rounded Capo Colonne, we heard some explosions. We weren't being fired at; it was just the Italians enjoying some daytime fireworks, as they tend to do. Beyond Cape Colonne were several large towers, which I later learned were platforms for extracting natural gas from beneath the seafloor.

Crotone was the next town we came to. Like the rest of the towns we'd passed on this part of the coast, it didn't look like much. I learned from the Italian Waters Pilot that Crotone was once a "glorious city, part of Magna Graecia." Nothing much remains of its former glory, except for a column from one ancient temple (a sad sight, which we saw when we motored past),


The lone column (not my photo)

the rest of the temple having been used in building the Porto Nuovo marina breakwater (also according to the Pilot). This monstrous construct stretches for about half a kilometer, and is about twenty feet high.

I also learned that Pythagoras had lived in Crotone in the 5th Century BC, where, according to the Pilot, "he developed his ascetic-mystic-vegetarian-reincarnation philosophy here for some 30 years before he was ousted along with the oligarchy he supported." Ouch.

We rounded the end of the giant breakwater, glided into the calm basin of water, called Crotone Nord by the Navily users, and put the anchor down. Fronted by a highway, railroad tracks, industrial buildings, and - based on the faint scent carried on the light breeze - possibly also a sewage treatment plant somewhere nearby, this anchorage was not particularly scenic. But it had good holding and was in the right place for us. On this trip, those were our two main objectives when selecting an anchorage.
39 18.328N,16 22.2228E (paste or type this into Google Maps to see where we anchored)

Day 6: Crotone Nord to San Gregorio - across the Golfo di Taranto - 74 miles. Today's portion of our journey took us across the Golfo di Taranto, from the back of Italy's toe, across the arch of its foot to its heel. It was also our longest day, at more than 11 hours. As we headed away from the coast, and before our cell service went out of range, we enjoyed a WhatsApp call with several of our cruising friends, who had gathered for a "bon voyage" party, before they left wintry Whangarei for the warmth of the tropics.

About halfway across the 70-mile-wide gulf, we were out of sight of land, a situation we hadn't experienced for quite awhile, but one with which we're both comfortable and familiar. It felt like old times. Also about halfway, pimped into action by a puff of wind from the right direction, we put the mainsail up, along with the jib. The wind lasted long enough for us to decide to turn the motors off, and then maybe another ten minutes, before it petered out. After a little while, we put the sails away, turned on the engines, and started making forward progress again.

Aiming for the town of Santa Maria di Leuca, perched on the tip of the heel, we'd planned to drop our anchor in the area just outside of the marina entrance. Well. When we arrived, late in the afternoon, we saw that the area had been reduced by more than half by a string of buoys, and the available area had several boats in it already. The water was only about 10-12 feet deep, and the bottom was mostly rocks. We tried twice, to drop our anchor in one of the small sandy patches, but it didn't have enough room to dig in, with the rocks around, and with the area being so small, we couldn't let out the proper amount of chain anyway.

So we tucked our anchor away and left. I'd already found some backup anchorages on Navily, the nearest one being a place called San Gregorio, reported to be "a lovely big anchorage with lots of sand" a couple of miles up the coast. Eric steered Awildian in that direction, and we arrived a few minutes later. This anchorage was exactly as advertised, and we dropped Awildian's anchor in 16 feet of clear, turquoise water onto a smooth, sandy bottom. Arriving as we did, late on a Sunday afternoon, the bay was populated by a couple dozen motorboats, but we were pretty sure they were locals out to enjoy the bay on this sunny day, and would leave after sunset. Which they did, leaving us alone in the middle of this gorgeous anchorage. 39 48.377N,18 19.246E


San Gregorio's beautiful turquoise water with rippled sand, taken from Awildian's transom

Day 7: San Gregorio all day! This morning I awoke to the sound of thunder. (How far off I sat and wondered, thank you Bob Seger). The answer was: just under a mile. Though the lightning didn't come our way, the morning was cloudy, but it burned off before noon, leaving another warm, sunny day. Since the wind in the Adriatic Sea, where we were heading, was forecast to be from the north for the next two days, we weren't going anywhere, so we decided to catch up on some chores, such as grocery shopping.

With Google Maps, we'd found a supermercato in the little town behind the beach. I grabbed my sunnies and my sun hat, put Rolly in the dinghy, Eric and I got in, and off we went looking for a place to drop me ashore. It took a bit of doing, since all the nice, sandy spots had swimmers, but we eventually chose a spot and came in very slowly. I took Rolly and walked up the beach to the street, then up the hill to the location that Google Maps had indicated. There was a building there, and it had been a store at one time, but it definitely wasn't now. Hmm. Rather than give up, I thought I'd just go a bit farther up the street - there seemed to be other kinds of commerce, pizza restaurants and such, so I thought there just might be a grocery store.

There was! The Supermercato La Centopietre (100 Steps) was fully open and operational. I went in and did my shopping, taking my time in the air conditioned space. As I was checking out, I said hello to the man at the register, and attempted (badly, apparently) to make some small talk. He smiled and asked me if I preferred to speak in French or English (clearly, Italian wasn't going to work with me). I went with English and we had a nice chat as he tallied my items. He told me his name was Antonio, and he asked me where I was from. When I said that I live on a boat, which is anchored off the beach at San Gregorio, he asked me how I was going to get my groceries onto the boat. I said I would walk back down the hill, across the beach, call my husband, who would come in the dinghy. We'd put the rolling cart on the dinghy and go back to the boat. From then on, Antonio was very keen to help me with the groceries, and wouldn't let me say no to his driving me back to the beach, and helping to load the groceries onto the dinghy. I thanked him and called Eric, to tell him to bring the dinghy. We continued our chat as he drove me down the hill, and at the beach was really helpful as he held the dinghy's painter while I loaded the cart, and got in. What a nice man! So if you are ever in the town of San Gregorio, on the heel of Italy, be sure to stop into Supermercato La Centopietre, buy some groceries or maybe just an ice cream and say hello to Antonio.

Eric and I decided to go back to the marina and top up Awildian's diesel tanks, as the wind was calm which would make it easier, we'd used quite a few liters of the liquid gold since our last top up, and we had a long way yet to go. Of course, the way these things work, a bit of wind had come up by the time we got there, but Eric was confident in his ability to put Awildian right where he wanted him. Which was a good thing, because this fuel dock, in addition to being short, had a pile of riprap not far from one end, and a boat stern-tied to the dock at the other. True enough, Eric rotated Awildian and backed him into the available space, with the front part of the boat overhanging the fuel dock in the direction of the riprap. I'd called the marina office on the phone and asked them to send someone, who came and caught our lines. We filled up Awildian's tanks (many liters, at 2.06 euro per liter this time), and motored back to lovely San Gregorio, with that happy, satisfied feeling that comes from having full diesel tanks (though an emptier wallet).


The pile of rocks near the fuel dock had my attention. They were underwater too.

Early in the evening, s/v Vitamin Sea, with Marcella and Dan, whom we'd met in Salerno and who were also on their way to Croatia, came into San Gregorio and dropped their anchor nearby. We invited them over for ginner, and Eric even provided transportation in our dinghy, so they wouldn't have to deploy theirs. It was nice to have some people over. It had been quite awhile.

Day 8: San Gregorio to Torre dell'Orso - 36 miles. We'd planned to stay in San Gregorio for another day, but when the wind began to shift to the west in the morning, signalling (we thought) the predicted end to the north wind and its shift to the south, and with favorable wind reports coming in from Marcella and Dan, who'd left a couple of hours before us, we pulled up our anchor and said goodbye to San Gregorio. Rounding the tip of Italy's heel and entering the Adriatic Sea, we saw on shore the grand watercourse (dry most of the time now except for special occasions) and its adjoining stairs - known as Mussolini's Stairs - having been ordered to be built by the former dictator.


Mussolini's watercourse and stairs (not my photo)

Nearby stood the tall, some would say phallic (I'm sure I did) Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca lighthouse, standing proudly erect at 159 feet.


Faro di Santa Maria di Leuca

For the first hour and a half, the wind was mostly from behind us, making for an easy ride. But then it became clear that the north wind wasn't finished yet: first from Marcella's reports and then from the fact that it was blowing in our faces. Beginning at about noon, we beat into it for the rest of the day. Fortunately, the waves weren't more than a meter, so we didn't pound much, but it still wasn't fun to be travelling into a 20 knot headwind. At 2pm we decided to take a break. We headed toward shore and pulled into a pretty little anchorage named Baia dell'Orte, where we hung out for a couple of hours, relaxing until the north wind began to abate, and we headed out again.

We wanted to push on as far as we could, as the anchorages in this part of Italy didn't offer much shelter from the wind and seas, and we were also trying to get to one of Italy's official departure ports as soon as possible. As we headed north again, I consulted Navily to find some suitable anchorages for us. I found one named Torre dell'Orso (Tower of the Bear) that we reached in the late afternoon.

Wow, what a stunning spot! The anchorage was a semicircular basin ringed by tall sandstone cliffs, along and over which birds of all kinds were swooping and calling. We dropped Awildian's anchor in 18 feet of clear turquoise water, and as soon as it was set and the bridle was on, I grabbed my binoculars.


Some of the cliffs at Torre dell'Orso

Jackdaws (a new bird for me), swifts, even pigeons were nesting in the cliff's many cracks and crevices. I had a great time birdwatching until it got too dark to see the birds anymore.
40 16.53N,18 25.95E

Day 9: Torre dell'Orso to Monopoli (Cantiere Nautico Carpentinox marina) - 70 miles. Beginning at 6 am, today was another long travelling day, made even longer by six hours of beam-on, rolly seas. We'd decided to clear out of Italy from the small port of Monopoli, which was about 70 miles north of us, so I'd contacted a small marina there to book a berth, as a strong north wind (maestral, mistral, or maestro, depending on where you are) was scheduled to blow for a few days. The wind was actually behind us for part of the day! We put up the jib and got some free speed out of it for awhile...until the wind realized its mistake and went back to being from in front of us again.

Along the way, we passed the big, busy shipping port of Brindisi, where we kept a very close eye on the activity of the ships in the area, and also our AIS. One of the cargo ships that had been anchored outside the port began moving as we went by it. It passed behind us, then travelled parallel to us maybe a quarter mile away, to seaward, off our starboard hull, slowly overtaking us. Then, without any warning at all, it began to turn in front of us.

As the calculated distance of our CPA (closest point of approach) shrank from half a mile, to a quarter mile, to a few meters, I called the ship on VHF16, and asked the man who answered if he saw us off his port bow. He said that he did see us, but he was restricted to entering the port only in the lane provided, so we needed to stay out of his way. Was he going to tell us, before he wiped Awildian along the side of his ship? Geez. We stopped and held station as the ship passed way too close in front of us.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. When we were about an hour from Monopoli, I called Giuseppe, my contact at the marina, on Whats App, as he'd asked me to do. He told me that we would see him on the dock when we arrived. When we were nearly at the marina, we deployed the fenders and the dock lines, ready for our first Med-mooring docking experience.

Of course, we were treated to a cross-wind docking breeze as Eric backed Awildian into the berth between two other boats, but he held his course well and eased into the space. On the dock were Giuseppe and two other men, ready to catch our stern lines. As soon as they'd tied them to rings on the dock, Giuseppe and one of his men swarmed on board to begin the process of getting Awildian's bow cleats tied to the submerged ropes that ran from the dock to cement blocks sunk into the ground in front of each side the boat. In the meantime, we kept Awildian's engines in forward idle (more when needed), to keep his stern away from the dock.

Eventually, when everyone was confident that Awildian was secure in his berth, Giuseppe and his men went back to work in the boatyard. Eric and I had an arrival beer and celebrated the end of our trip around the lower leg of Italy. 40 57.401N,17 18.117E


A view of the Cantiere Nautico Carpentinox Marina in Monopoli from Awildian's back porch

How to see where Awildian is right now

03 August 2022 | Croatia
Vandy Shrader
This will be a short post, to tell you how to see our current position. I've changed the method I use to track and display our position.

To see where we are right now, find the link in the right-hand blog sidebar that says "Where we are right now." It will be in the LINK section, near the bottom of the sidebar. The link will take you to MarineTraffic.com, which keeps track of all boats with AIS (automatic identification system).

I have it set up to take you directly to Awildian's location. When you get to MarineTraffic.com, a small window will pop up in front of the map. Just click the "x" in the box to make it go away. You should then be able to see a flashing circle indicating where Awildian is.

You can zoom in or out using the + or - in the upper right-hand corner of the map. You can also toggle between a satellite picture or a map by clicking on the "Layers" menu item on the left-hand sidebar (see my photo below). This will give you a window with a selection of Map Types to choose from.


Leaving Italia Part 1 - Sliding down the shin and scooting around the toe

01 August 2022 | Italy
Vandy Shrader
The day after we received the US boat registration papers, we released Awildian from the bonds of Marina d'Arechi. After a brief and expensive stop at the marina's fuel dock (diesel being 2 euros per liter, of which we needed many, to top up Awildian's fuel tanks), we waved goodbye to Salerno, headed out the breakwater, turned left, and started south to begin our new adventures.


Saying ciao to Salerno

I can't fully express how great it felt to Eric and me, to be going somewhere, on our own boat again.

Sadly, we couldn't linger on Italy's coast. For immigration reasons, we needed to leave Italy as soon as possible, and head to Croatia. Not wanting to do a multi-day coastal passage from Salerno, we opted to stop every evening.

Though the Italian Waters Pilot, the pre-eminent cruising guide for the area, gave extensive descriptions of marinas large and small, it has no information about anchorages. And we weren't interested in staying at marinas; we wanted to use our big new anchor. To find suitable anchorages, we relied on a brilliant app called Navily. Navily uses a live, searchable map, that shows anchorages, marinas, and other sites of interest to the yachtie, with lots of useful details submitted by yachties who'd actually stayed there. Stuff like how good the holding is, what depths to anchor in, what the bottom is made of (sand, mud, weeds, rocks), whether a swell comes in, which wind directions it's sheltered from, and more. Using the premium version, we could even access these places offline, which would be useful when we were out of cell phone range. It was (and still is) an indispensable tool.

Using Navily, we were able to find suitable anchorages all the way around Italy, each about a day's travel apart. Speaking of travel, I should tell you that we had to motor the whole way to Croatia - more than 600 miles - because there was either no wind or it was on Awildian's nose.

Here are some highlights from the first part of our trip.

Day 1: Marina d'Arechi, Salerno to Baia del Buon Dormire - 49 miles. This was an exciting day for us. It felt so great, to be out on the water again, cruising! Especially after all the months of angst and paperwork. The water was flat and the wind was nonexistent, so we just motored merrily along, getting our sea legs (such as you can, in such benign conditions). We dropped Awildian's anchor for the first time in a beautiful sandy bay named Baia del Buon Dormire ("Bay of the Good Sleep"). How could you not stay in an anchorage with this name?


Cruising is hard work

Day 2: Baia del Buon Dormire to Torre di San Giovanni Beach - 77 miles. The theme of today was FISHERMEN. We had to watch closely all day, for the floats and flags of fish traps and nets, and steer around them. There were also a lot of big fishing boats around. With spools of fishing net on their sterns, they'd cross our path in one direction, then go back again, then head off in another direction, before eventually gathering with others of their kind, jettisoning their small boats, spreading their nets wide on the water, and driving around in circles. That's how it looked to us, anyway. We just did our best to avoid them.

Aside from watching fishermen, we enjoyed seeing lots of old crumbling castles and towers, the sorts of things you don't see in the US.

We anchored this evening off the beach at Torre di San Giovanni. It wasn't particularly scenic, but it was in the right spot for us. Floating along in the calm anchorage with Awildian were basketball-sized, purple-and-white jellyfish, which I'd initially thought they were submerged fishing floats.


A happy guy

Day 3: Torre di San Giovanni Beach to Scilla - 52 miles. Today we learned about SWORDFISH BOATS. By watching them, and by trying to stay out of their way. These are one of the strangest contraptions we'd ever seen. The first time I saw one coming at me, with its tall mast and long boom, and web of guy wires holding it all together, I thought, "What the hell is that?!" I've included a photo of one, because my description won't do it justice.


A swordfish boat

Here's how they work: The boat is maybe 40 feet long. The captain stands in a crows nest 30 meters (about 100 feet) above the water, from which he looks for swordfish and controls the boat. How does he see a swordfish? Well, it turns out that swordfish will sometimes bask near the surface. If the captain sees a swordfish, he steers toward it and alerts the harpooner. This guy takes his hand-held harpoon and walks to the end of a 45 meter (almost 150 foot) catwalk that extends out from the bow, about 6 feet above the water. The boat creeps up on the unsuspecting fish, and if the fish is unlucky, the guy on the end of the boom will harpoon it.

I was excited about tonight's anchorage: Scilla. That would be Scilla as in Scylla and Charybdis, two of the monsters from the Odyssey. On our trip south from Salerno, I suddenly realized that many of the places and monsters in that epic were based on real places and things, some of which were in our current neighborhood! It made me want to read it again.

Besides having a classically cool name, we decided to stay at Scilla because it's an excellent staging point for transiting the Strait of Messina, which we planned to do the next day.


Scilla at night

Day 4: Scilla to south of Rocella Ionica: Transiting the Strait of Messina - 74 miles. At twenty miles long and just shy of two miles wide at its narrowest point, prone to whirlpools and blustery wind, the Strait of Messina is worthy of respect. A transit is best made through this shortcut between Sicily and mainland Italy when the current is near slack, and the wind isn't blasting. You can track the Strait's current at the website Correntidellostretto.it, which has schedules of its peak and slack times, for any day you want. Based on that, we were ready to transit the Strait this morning - we and about a hundred other boats, everything from cruise ships to tankers to ferries to swordfish boats to sailboats like ours. All of us lined up in a miles-long parade at the northern entrance, and checked in the with traffic authority - VTS, vessel traffic services - who kept track of where everybody was.

Our transit was interesting. Near the northernmost point of the Strait, is a place called Charybdis, where a giant whirlpool has been known to set up, and yes, it's also the name of Scylla's monster buddy from the Odyssey. So we passed between the Scylla and Charybdis, just as Odysseus had! When we passed it, during benign conditions, we crossed through a line of small whirlpools that it had spit out, dozens of spinning white vortices, stretching from shore to shore. I can't imagine what it's like in the wrong conditions!

Our trip through the Strait took a couple of hours, then we turned left and headed up the coast, around the toe of Italy. We had left the Tyrrhenian Sea behind and entered the Ionian.
Vessel Name: Awildian, previously on board SCOOTS
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 48
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed our Able Apogee 50, SCOOTS, from 2012-2021, and are now aboard Leopard 48, Awildian, since March 2022.
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