Our Ever-Changing Backyard

03 August 2022 | Croatia
20 July 2022 | Marina d'Arechi, Salerno, Italy
03 July 2022 | Marina d'Arechi, Salerno, Italy
11 June 2022 | New Zealand to Italy
19 May 2022 | Kensington, Whangarei, NZ
07 June 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
26 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
24 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
27 April 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
22 March 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
16 December 2019 | Opua, New Zealand
25 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
21 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
19 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand

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.

What's in a Name?

20 July 2022 | Marina d'Arechi, Salerno, Italy
Vandy Shrader
From the time that we decided to buy a catamaran, we knew that we'd want to rename it. Partly this was due to charter boats suffering under awful names, such as "Blow and Go" and "Rum and Coke," two of the actual names of Leopard 48s that were for sale while we were looking. The other reason is that we wanted our boat to have a name that would reflect something about us, and would also give a nod to New Zealand, which felt like home to us. Though we'd done a lot of "what do you think about this for a name?" during the previous months, we hadn't come up with a name that we both liked. But we knew we would, eventually.

In August of 2021, a few days before the Delta variant of Covid-19 was discovered in New Zealand, and the country's lockdown began, a few months before we'd seen Musa in Italy, Eric and I were taking a little trip to explore the Coromandel Peninsula, south of Auckland. One of the places we visited was the little town of Thames, home to a rip-roaring 19th-century gold mining industry. After touring the historical School of Mines, we stopped into a small cafe to have some lunch. The cafe was part of a small mall, that had a few other shops in it. One of these was the Coromandel Distilling Company. In front of their door they had a small sandwich board, on which was written, "Gin tasting."

If you know the two of us, you can probably guess what we did after lunch.

Though we weren't there during the usual gin tasting hours, the door was open and we peeked in, to see if anyone was around. Two people were working in the distillery, and they cheerfully invited us in. While we tried some of their (excellent and interesting) gins, we chatted with Paul and Daniela, the two people who created and run the distillery. We told them how we two Yanks happened to be in New Zealand, and what our plans were. They told us that a decade or so ago, they'd sailed extensively on a big catamaran, and loved the sailing life. All four of us appreciate good gin. So you could say we had some things in common.

When we left, we bought a bottle of their gin to take home with us. it was the best gin we'd ever had. Still is.

Fast forward to the beginning of December 2021. We'd found Musa, and were packing up our room at Jeannie and Merv's, getting ready to leave New Zealand. While packing up, I found the card that had come with our bottle of gin. It explained the meaning behind the name "Awildian" that all of Paul and Daniela's gins carry, and their reasons for adopting it. I hadn't taken the time to read it before. Now I did, and the more I read, the more I was blown away.

Here are some quotes from the card:
..."Awildian is an archaic word (still used in Scotland) which means 'the refusal to be tamed'".
...Awildian is "a combination of imagination and reason, of science and magic. It is wondering, and the feeling of wonder, all at once."

Wow. These sentiments sounded a lot like Eric and me...how we try to live our lives, how we see the world.

After I'd read the card, I read it aloud to Eric. "Awildian," I said when I'd finished, "there's our boat name. What do you think?" He agreed, and so it was.


The Card

The name Awildian represents more about us, than just our quest to live an untamed life, and our embodiment of "imagination and reason, science and magic." It also incorporates our appreciation of good gin - in the case of Awildian, a world-class gin - and is our nod to New Zealand. Its Scottish etymology harkens back to Eric's own Scottish roots. For so many reasons, the name Awildian is a good fit for us.

While we were in Seattle at the beginning of this year, Eric and I spent some time (our daughter, Kelly, with whom we were staying at the time,will tell you it was "days," and she's probably right) looking through all the fonts and colors (and sizes and spacing and slanting and shading and outlining and caps vs. mixed letters) at the DIY Lettering website, to find just the right look for the vinyl letters we'd be putting on the boat. Okay, I'll admit that we may have obsessed, just a bit. But we wanted it to be right. To us, "right" meant: big enough to be read at a distance, with a basic-enough font that would allow the letters to be easily discerned. We'd seen too many boats with names that were too tiny to read, or with fonts that were so scrolly or funky that we couldn't tell what the letters were. We didn't want that.

We eventually decided on the details of the decals for the name and hailing port, and ordered them. They arrived before we left the States, and we brought them to Italy in our luggage.

One of the tools that Eric had purchased, to allow us to work on boat projects before all his tools arrived, was a heat gun. Already, it had proven its usefulness, when Eric needed to remove the frame around the cabin door to fit the washing machine through. Now, when we got word that Musa's registration had been deleted from the Italian registry, it was just the tool we needed, to remove the old name and registration numbers from the boat.

Putting the new names on both hulls and the hailing port along the back really showcased our perfectionist tendencies. We started with the name of the hailing port - San Francisco - which was about three feet long and six inches high. Our secret weapon was a dilute solution of dish soap, which we sprayed onto the area before applying the decal, allowing us to slide the decal around until it was precisely where we wanted it.



Eric got into our dinghy and motored around to the place on the starboard hull where we'd decided to put Awildian's name. While he stood in the dinghy, holding up the six-foot-long decal, with its foot-high letters, against the hull, I stood on the dock and told him "move it forward," "move it aft,""move it up a bit,""move it down a bit," until it was exactly where I thought it looked the best. Then he did the soap trick and applied the decal.



A little while later, we followed suit with the port side.

The ceremony accompanying the renaming of a boat can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be, depending on one's energy level, imagination, or adherence to superstition. We opted for a simple ceremony: sharing a bottle of locally-produced prosecco with each other, with Awildian, and with Neptune. We promised Awildian that along with his new name, he was soon going to begin a new life, sailing far beyond his previous charter destinations, with equipment befitting a cruising yacht, and a crew who would love and look after him.


Look closely and you'll see how we included a nod to SCOOTS in the colors we chose.

If you want to learn more about Awildian gin and the Coromandel Distilling Company, or if you're lucky enough to live someplace where they'll ship it and you want to order some, check out their website: www.awildian.com. Drop in and try some of their outstanding gins, if you're in the area, and tell them that we say hello. Daniela and Paul know that we've named our boat Awildian, and why, and they think it's pretty cool.


Ancient cities, boat bombs, the outside of a castle, reunited with our stuff

12 July 2022 | Pompei, Ercolano, Salerno
Vandy Shrader
[Many of the pictures are at the end]

I'd read about Pompeii and Herculaneum (Pompei and Ercolano, if you're Italian) in my high school Latin class, back in the olden days, when the eruption hadn't been quite as long ago as it has now. I was fascinated by the stories of the events, by the casts of the victims, by the artifacts that were found, but I never expected to visit either town. And then, I turned up in Italy, and found myself in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, with Pompei and Ercolano almost in my backyard...well, of course we had to visit!



We booked tour tickets for the upcoming Sunday. We chose a Sunday because the hardware stores were closed, and none of the couriers worked on that day, so we were sure that we wouldn't receive any packages or be able to buy any items that would allow (compel?) us to work on boat projects. But we had saved a special boat project to do on that day: deploy the Boat Bombs!

I'll digress for a moment here, to extol the virtues of Boat Bombs. Also known as "Starbrite NOSGuard Boat Odor Eliminators," these handy little things are an easy and effective way to get rid of odors, mold, and mildew in an enclosed space. We first used these a few years ago, to purge SCOOTS of a stubborn odor, and we've kept some on board ever since. The six packs we had in Italy, I'd bought on Amazon while I'd been in the States, and carried back in my luggage, destined to dispel the odor that had come with the catamaran. The active ingredient is chlorine dioxide gas, which isn't formed until the pack's dry powder is mixed with water, so it's safe to transport (unless your plane crashes into the ocean and your luggage gets wet, in which case you've probably got bigger problems). There's also no solid residue when it's done. You and your pets will need to vacate the premises while the Bomb is in use, but when it's done you just open all the windows, the gas escapes, and your formerly-stinky space now smells fresh. OK, commercial over.

On Sunday, we set our alarms for 0530. We opened all the drawers, doors, and hatches on the boat, and deployed four strategically-placed Boat Bombs. Then we walked to the train station, where we caught an early morning train to Salerno, where we caught another train to Pompei, where we caught a bus to the ruins.


Eric enjoying the cafe at Pompei

At the main gate, we met up with our tour guide, Diego, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable archeologist, who brought both cities to life for our group.

To actually be in the ancient city - to see the things I'd read about, to walk the streets where people had walked, to enter the houses where people had lived, thousands of years earlier - was amazing! One of the artifacts I'd seen pictures of, when I was in high school, was a counter with holes of different sizes, used for measuring grain and other items that were being sold. And here it was!


Ancient measuring holes

While it was thriving, Pompei was a big city, sprawling about 170 acres, and housing a population of 15,000 people, including lots of slaves. Eric and I were blown away by how old everything was. And yet, some of the ancient shops had used sliding doors, just like modern ones, their tracks still visible in the ruins.

In the afternoon, our small tour group boarded a train for the short ride from Pompei to Ercolano. The Vesuviana, it's called, with colorful passenger cars and a festive accordian player performing for spare coins.

Ercolano is quite a bit smaller than Pompei, but better preserved, the result of its rapid inundation by pyroclastic flows from Mount Vesuvius, which covered the town in 20 meters of what is now rock, sealing it off from the air. In Ercolano, we saw intact (but carbonized) wooden beams in many of the houses, and even some carbonized furniture. Many of the frescoes retained their natural bright colors. Though the sea is now several kilometers distant, Ercolano was a seaport when the eruption occurred, with dozens of boat houses lining the shore. Many people sought refuge - and perished - in these boat houses; excavations are continuing to recover the remains of these people and their artifacts.

On another Sunday, we caught the train into town and then took a taxi to an old castle, Castello di Arechi, on top of a tall hill overlooking Salerno. The taxi dropped us off in the parking lot, at the bottom of some stairs leading up though a wooded glade to the castle above. When we arrived at the castle, we found that it was closed. Every indication, including the castle's website, had been that it was open. But, as often happens in Italy, it wasn't. No explanation. The doors were closed and locked.


The view of Salerno from the castello

So we wandered around the outside of the castle, along with several other groups of people who'd also been duped. We amused each other with quotes from Monty Python's Holy Grail, and enjoyed looking at the slots in the thick wall where defenders had fired arrows or poured boiling oil onto marauding armies; interesting, in a barbaric, medieval sort of way. And then we considered our options for getting home.


"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"

We decided that since it was a nice day, we'd walk back down to Salerno (about 3 km). We arrived at what seemed to be a "back entrance" to the city, in the Centro Storico (old part of town) where we wandered through old (but well-kept) warrens of cobbled alleys and walkways, many with brightly-colored flowers spilling over the tops of the walls, enlivening the paths that we walked.


The back way into Salerno

We descended stone staircases whose surfaces were worn by centuries of footfalls. At one point, we turned a corner, and saw a small sign which read "Ascensore Pubblico": public elevator. Really? Yes, there, in the midst of all of the old stone walkways, was a rickety-looking bridge extending to a small tower which, presumably, contained an elevator. Eric walked right over to it, and pushed the button, eager to give it a try. I, on the other hand, will admit that I was a bit hesitant to cross the rickety bridge to the equally-rickety-looking elevator, especially since there was a big sign on the wall that said something about "mantenimento," which sounded an awful lot like "maintenance" to me. Was the elevator operational? Was it having maintenance work done on it? Eric told me to stop worrying, it was fine, an opinion which, coming from the engineer between us, carried a lot of weight with me.

Anyway, the doors opened and Eric stepped in.


Eric on the ascensore

I walked across the bridge, and joined him in the elevator. Which delivered us, slowly and uneventfully, to a lower street. We continued on our way down the hill to the modern part of Salerno, where we had lunch at the sushi restaurant that Eric had eaten a few weeks earlier. After lunch, we strolled along the waterfront and ate ice cream at the beach. Rather than call a taxi, we walked to the bus stop, took a bus to the business district near the marina, bought some groceries, and carried them back to the boat.

Our belongings finally arrived in the middle of May! After we helped the two Italian moving guys get all 51 boxes onto our boat (except for the big wooden crate that Merv and Jeannie had given us, which was too big and heavy to carry across the passarelle, and remained on the dock), we started the herculean task of unpacking and finding places for all of our stuff. It was so nice, to be reunited with our belongings again!


Some of our unpacked belongings

Some of them had been in storage for over a year, and it was like welcoming old friends into our new home. Two boxes didn't arrive - one was a box that had our dishes, most of our knives, and all of our tall glasses, and the other was the antenna that Eric had built to receive data directly from NOAA satellites. It was a bit of a bummer, but there was nothing that couldn't be replaced, and we soon had a payment from the insurance company, to cover the cost of doing just that.

Our good friends, Annie and Liam from Gone With The Wind, had packed a wrapped gift along with our belongings, that we weren't allowed to open until we were on our new boat. When we did that, we were thrilled to find all sorts of Kiwiana to help remind us of our time in New Zealand. As if we would ever forget. Thank you, Annie and Liam!



It took us all of April and most of May, to get the boat ready to go. But even then, we couldn't leave: the Italian deletion paperwork hadn't arrived, which meant we couldn't file our registration with the USCG, so we had no documentation showing that the boat was ours.

But we had to leave: Rania had been able to get us the extra month in the marina, so we could stay through May, but the marina was fully booked beginning June 1, so we had to leave by then.

As May drew to a close, we were really beginning to feel the squeeze of circumstances...


Ancient shop doors


"Beware the dog!"


Carbonized bed from Ercolano


Ercolano boat houses


Ercolano fresco


An ancient still-life picture


Fun with floors


More fun with floors


Streetlights haven't been invented yet? No problem. Just embed white shells in the street.


From the baths in Pompei


Some things never change


A person with good taste lived here


Now the Work Begins

03 July 2022 | Marina d'Arechi, Salerno, Italy
Vandy Shrader
[By the way, I put all the pictures at the end.]

In December, we had a good time walking all over Musa - inside and outside - during the short time that we had. For me, it was mostly, "Wow! Look at all this space!" For Eric, I suspect that it was, "Wow, look at all this roof space for solar!"

Later, we walked over to the Sailitalia offices (Sailitalia being the current owner of Musa), to have a chat with their representative, about all the details that needed to happen between now (December 11) and the closing date (February 28), our action items and theirs, so that everyone was clear about what they had to do. She told us that Musa couldn't stay in Marina di Procida once we took possession of the boat, so we added "find another marina" to our list of things to do during the next few days. One of Sailitalia's action items was to begin the deletion of Musa's registration from the Italian registry, which she said would take about 40 days; when that was done, we could then begin the process of re-registering the boat under our names, with the US Coast Guard.

When we left Procida the next day, to spend a few days in Naples, we were excited to be moving forward with our desire to have a catamaran in the Med, and eager to start sourcing the items that would begin to transform Musa from a charter boat into a cruising boat. In less than three months' time, the boat would be ours!

We'd been given the name of a marina about an hour south of Naples, in the city of Salerno. Though our original plan had been to rent a car and drive there, one trip across Naples in a taxi cured us of that idea! The streets were so narrow, filled with all manner of vehicles, going in seemingly every direction, according to rules that we couldn't fathom, that we opted to take the train instead. This was a fine plan. We got off the train at the Arechi station and walked the short distance to Marina d'Arechi, where we met a very nice and very helpful woman named Rania. She gave us a good deal on a slip for the boat for March and April (winter rates still being in effect!).

In Naples, we stayed at the Hotel Piazza Bellini, which I would highly recommend. It wasn't expensive, but it was nice and, being in a 5th Century palace (yes, it's been modernized), definitely ticked the "cool" factor. After seeing some of Naples' well-known sights - the catacombs and the archaeology museum - and getting our marina sorted, we boarded a plane to Seattle, where we'd spend most of the next two months with our kids and other family members.

The next two months were a blur of wonderful times with our family and friends, not-so-wonderful medical checkups, long hours spent online finding and pricing and figuring out the shipping for the items we wanted to install on the boat, and ongoing discussions with Sailitalia and our yacht broker. As February began, Eric and I began to suspect that Sailitalia might not be moving things along quite as quickly as they needed to be, but they assured us that everything would be ready when we arrived, and our contract specified that we took possession of the boat on February 28, so we carried on with our plans.

On February 27th, we packed up our luggage, which had risen to four pieces from the original two that we'd arrived with, swelled out with boat parts that wouldn't ship to Italy or that we couldn't buy there, weighed it all to be sure they weren't over the limit, said goodbye to our kids and their partners - who'd been so generous with their time, their homes, and their love - and left for Italy.

The next day, we arrived in Naples, took the bus to the correct ferry dock, and caught the ferry to Procida. We felt like seasoned travelers now: my Italian was two months better than it had been in December, and we knew our way around a bit - at least in Naples and Procida. One of the Sailitalia employees picked us up at the ferry dock and helped us get our stuff to Musa. At the end of a very long day, we said "Ciao" to the helper, shut the door against the cold wind, turned on the heater, and gave each other a big hug. We'd done it: we'd made our desire of having a catamaran in the Med a reality!

We really enjoyed getting to know the boat, and the pastel-painted town of Procida. Musa's heaters worked great, keeping us warm during the chilly Italian springtime. The quaint little church near the marina bonged on the hour and binged the quarter hours. Lots of pigeons hung out in the central square. I celebrated my 60th birthday at a charming little restaurant in Corricella, downstairs from the AirBnB where we'd stayed in December. It was a good time, figuring out where we wanted to put things, figuring out how Musa's equipment worked, figuring out what we wanted to put on Musa, to make it a real cruising boat.

What was less of a good time, was the way Sailitalia jerked us around, and delayed the handover process for several more months. The slip we'd paid for in Salerno sat empty for all of March, and we couldn't start working on the boat, because we couldn't take the boat from Procida until all the paperwork was finished and it became ours. It was all very frustrating.

I had to go back to the States for a month for some medical treatment, leaving Eric on his own. While I was away, he was a very busy guy: finding lots of items online that he could order as soon as he knew when he'd be in Salerno. Though I was the one using Duolingo, he learned a whole bunch of Italian words that I didn't know, words like disponibile (available), spedizione (shipping), prezzo (price), and sconto (discount).

Eventually, at the end of March, despite the paperwork still not being finished, Sailitalia allowed Eric to take the boat to Salerno. He didn't have his crew (me) and hired a captain who knew the boat well and could show him things along the way. They left Procida on a day with nice weather, and motored the forty miles to Marina d'Arechi. In the marina office, Eric was greeted warmly by Rania, who also helped him get all the parcels he'd ordered (that had been piling up in her office) down to the boat. Things were finally moving ahead again!

From that point on, Eric was in full-on ordering and installation mode, which I joined in, when I came back in the middle of April. In my luggage, I carried several items for the boat, including two cans of Barkeeper's Friend (to clean the boat's stainless steel fittings - there's nothing better!), a new EPIRB, struts for our barbecue grill, and an orange Home Depot bucket (these things are really handy). No one ever comes to a cruising boat without boat parts.

Since our household belongings - including all of Eric's tools - were now not due to arrive until mid-May, he'd had to buy some substitutes so that we could do the work we'd planned. These included a heat gun, a router, an oscillating multitool, a cheap electric drill, a riveter, and wire crimpers. Musa's toolbox contained a few screwdrivers and other hand tools. These allowed us to get the jobs done while we waited for our belongings to arrive.

Below is a list of the items we added to the boat during the time we were at Marina d'Arechi (April and May):

*New hoses for all the toilets to replace the stinky, permeated ones, and taking the starboard forward toilet out of service. I was lucky enough to still be in the States for this job. :)
*Beginning to convert the starboard forward cabin into a workroom, with tool storage.
*A new 40 kg (88 lb) Rocna Vulcan anchor to help us sleep well when we're anchored.
*A new outlet, wiring, exit plumbing, support shelf, and tie-downs for our new washer. And installing the new washer. I wasn't there for this, but Eric managed to get the washer (a nearly full-size model) from the dock, across our rickety passarelle, up the transom steps to the back porch, into the main saloon, down the stairs into the port hull, and onto the port forward bunk - all by himself.
*A new Weber grill mounted on the back of the boat.
*A dinghy, which got lost during shipping but showed up in late May, just as we were on our way into town to see about buying a cheap substitute, because we needed a dinghy.
*A bidet (a preference that bloomed during our time at Jeannie and Merv's house) that fits our marine toilet and doesn't use much power
*Several additional electrical outlets
*Five solar panels (two large flexible ones and three large solid ones), for a total of 2270 Watts. A huge job, encompassing many days and lots of work, but so satisfying when they made electricity right away!
*A Simrad radar system
*An AIS transceiver, an HF radio, and an EPIRB
*We removed Musa's old name and numbers, and applied decals with the new name and hailing port (more about this in another blog post)

And to make our boat feel even more like our home, we
*Put down rugs in the port hull (the one we sleep in)
*Hung the pictures we'd had on SCOOTS
*Put our favorite keepsakes out where we could see them

The closest grocery and hardware stores, and a really useful shop that had just about everything, were about 2 miles away, a walk we made almost daily. It was good exercise for us, and we (mostly) enjoyed it; though our work on the boat also got us a bit of exercise: according to his FitBit, on one of the days that we'd been installing solar panels, Eric managed to walk 2 miles and climb 18 flights of stairs, without leaving the boat. As the one of us who spoke the most Italian (haha three months of Duolingo!), I was tasked with most of the interactions with the shopkeepers, and in particular with asking the guys at the hardware store (ferramenta) for the very particular sizes and shapes of the stainless steel (inox) bolts (bulloni), nuts (dadi), washers (rondelle) and other particulars that I needed. Using my meager Italian skills and Google Translate, we always got there in the end, usually with some smiles and good humor. We bought a lightweight rolling cart (Rolly), who made our return walks not just easier but, sometimes, possible.

But lest you think it was all work and no play, we gave ourselves a couple of days off, to visit some of the local sights. In particular, we didn't want to leave without visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum (Pompei and Ercolano, if you're in Italy), which were right nearby. So on one Sunday, we took the train to both of them, for a tour. I'll tell you about that in the next blog post.


A "picnic" to hold down the support for one of the flexible solar panels while the glue dried.


Van and Eric at Corricella


Eric and a friend who also appreciates the smell of cooking meat


Eric and the radar support structure of Damocles


The radar installed


Eric in his new workshop


It rains mud in Italy!


A traditional Italian breakfast


Van's birthday lunch in Corricella. Our AirBnB room is the top room over the restaurant, behind me.


Our new 88-pound anchor and sleep aid.


The rug in the port hull


Eric's bidet


The room divider doing its job


The three new solid solar panels and the two small old ones


Trixie the lavatrice


Robert the crocheted kiwi looking wistful






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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Awildian, previously on board SCOOTS's Photos - Sea Change
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