Posted by Mei
Our cruising season began in March 2015 and we had been practically on the go and prepping up for the Atlantic crossing and munching up the miles.
We spent January to late May in the Caribbean. In May we went from Florida to the Chesapeake. I have written about the Caribbean and will post some notes on cruising Carib on the blog. It is interesting if you are cruising there and deadly if you are not, so I won’t repeat any of it.
We went home to have a rest from cruising. Kevin and I were finding it tough to get excited about the east coast of the US. We did enjoy Washington DC immensely and it was a fantastic two weeks.
We caught up with Adric and Jared. They are both doing well and are pretty happy with where they are. I’m not going to say more because they hate me talking about their achievements and doing the proud parent thing.
Adric and Em
Terry and Suzanne kindly let us stay with them. We had a sail on their new yacht and it looks like Reliance will give Whisper HR a run for the money.
I visited my parents in Adelaide. They are well and appear quite settled. My father is playing chess with the volunteers and winning. My mother is doing well after the problem in November. She told me she’s happy. Honestly they don’t really have any responsibilities, so can relax and do what they like.
We had a lovely time with Maxine and Giles in Adelaide. They were preparing for a trip to Spain and France and it was fun sharing ideas.
We caught up with a few of our friends and then we ran out of time.
We landed in LA and stayed in Camarillo. My cousin Sheila lives there. I haven't seen her and daughter Hannah in years. It was great to catch up. Sheila is an insurance broker, she likes dancing but could not convince Kevin, that salsa class might be fun. Hannah is seriously interested in rock climbing. They are lovely people.
Camarillo is known for being outlet central for LA. We could have gone nuts but had already bought most of the stuff we wanted in Oz. Besides our bags were full.
Surprised to find that the population in LA is 50% Hispanics. I like California, it feels like an twisted bit of Spain. Dig a little and the Spanish soul is there. Saw a lot of market gardens with peeps with hats, big sombreros not the Viet rice padi hats. Must be harvest time because the fields were jumping.
Sheila and Hannah
Juvenile Elephant Seals enjoying the sun
We traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to San Francisco. We stayed in San Simeon, we spent a few hours watching beached as juvenile elephant seals, parent seals are in Alaska. Apparently juvenile seals are fasting to get used to the idea; when they grow up and become parents and have to sit on the beach for about 100 days without food whilst protecting the birthing mums, pups then fighting off suitors and finally mating with as many females as possible. Sounds exhausting.
We wandered past Hearst Castle, not sure if we wanted to visit some republican deity’s legacy. Somehow standing outdoors and observing the elephant seals trumped a castle of a US Newspaper Baron. Just how many castles have we seen? Possibly too many.
I like this side of the continent.
Carmel is a seaside town. It is gorgeous, lovely beach but the very quaint and original architecture, mostly cottages, makes it quite interesting. The seems a breath of freshness, not a whole lot of square boxes. It's where rich people from LA and San Francisco have a beach shack. We drove into "Carmel 17 mile" road. It hugs the coast and a few golf courses in the sand dunes. Extraordinary. Don’t think that would be allowed anymore.
San Francisco was terrific. My cousin Lin and husband Warren who I haven't seen in 30 years were great. We stayed with them over the weekend. Warren was happy he had someone to watch the AFL Grand final with. Yo Doggies!
Warren and Lin
Lin is a start up consultant for techs in Silicon Valley . Warren is a specialist working with remediation of contaminated lands and waterways. They took us to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove down Lombard St, a really steep winding street with flower beds. Extraordinary full of crazy tourists. Hard to imagine living in Lombard Street and being photographed like an animal in a zoo. And the daily traffic jam. ?..
We visited Stanford Uni which had an amazing plaza with church in full Spanish style.
Stanford has an endowment of one billion. It is thought to be the incubator of Silicon Valley' s worker bees and innovators. Certainly the big tech companies paid for many of the university buildings.
Lombard St, San Francisco
We also went to the Facebook campus and the Google campus, we passed by many familiar software names. It was fun to talk to Lin and Warren who have been involved with Silicon Valley in the last 30 years.
We drove to Yosemite national park. Yosemite Valley is a long Valley enclosed by very steep mountains. There was a lot of tourist traffic, and almost felt claustrophobic, that is until the sun came out. We went for a few walks. Beautiful place. Spent a while watching the climbers on El Capitan. A sheer rock face.
We spent a few days there and loved it. Not fit enough to do the seriously strenuous walks though.
El Capitan. There are climbers on the wall.
Mei and Half Dome, Yosemite
We drove to the Taulume grove, to check out the giant sequoias. We began to notice that some of the ponderosa pines were completely brown, I.e. The pine needles were brown. Trees were dead. Pine beetles were killing the trees. The drought in California was reducing the sap in the trees and they became vulnerable to the pine beetle infestation.
Land was almost vegetation free, salt bush here and there, looked rugged, barren and harsh. Basically same land as yosemite, but 0 water. Something about all the moisture being knocked out by the Sierra Nevadas (yep same name as the mountains behind Alhambra, Spain).
There were some beautiful areas. We walked into Mosaic Canyon thinking what would we see that we couldn't from the road. Well the there was these amazing curved rock formation of pure marble.
Kevin and Death Valley
Mosaic Canyon Death Valley
Mosiac Canyon, Death Valley
I think Death Valley would be amazing at dawn and dusk, the lighting would have been gorgeous. There was a look out on the southern edge. It was lovely.
We stayed at an Indian casino hotel. Oddly seemed entirely full of Latino workers. The waitress mentioned that the management would come from Las Vegas. It seemed like it was popped out of some assembly line motel. We've been to a few and can recognise the blah interior design. In some States only the Indian reservations can have casinos, and it is improving their quality of life. Although I thought employment was part of it. Hmmm....
In Nevada any business can have slot machines, so are found at petrol stations, grocery stores and brothels. I was walking to the loo in a petrol/grocery store and past a guy bemoaning that he just lost $50 in a slot machine. The thought "Chump" leapt instantly to my mind.
We could get Circus Circus for $55/ night Sunday to Thursday and $275/ night Friday and Saturday. We were there on Friday so just drove through during the day. Couture shopping strips, big ticket singers and faux Beatles. Probably missed the nightly carnival experience. Ah well.
Zion Canyon and Ring of Fire
We drove through Zion Canyon, its so busy they wont let tourists drive into the heart, but we couldn't get on the bus, it was full and drove past us. Damn. We kept going and drove into the Ring of Fire National Park. If you think you've seen one canyon you've seen them all, you would be wrong. Colors and structures just keep changing. Ring of Fire had very red rocks. Interesting formations and petroglyphs.
This one is stunning. The Queens garden walk is beautiful. There is an amazing court of pinnacles that fill an entire cliff side. It looks like a gathering of very impressive royally clad statues of people having a serious conference. We spent a couple of days having a look at the place, lovely walks.
Bryce Canyon NP
Bryce Canyon NP
Pinnacles can be found in WA in the Cervantes National Park and at the Mulu Caves National Park in Sabah, but are nowhere as spectacular.
We stayed in a town called Moab. It felt like the wild west. It's in Utah so you see some Mormon influence but this is mostly swamped by the tacky souvenirs, tee shirts etc that you've come to expect from a tourist trap. The place is entirely filled with huge chain motels and fast food chains. Fortunately for us social media like tripadvisor help us locate local cafes, restaurants that are not chains. We found the number One food joint was a caravan selling quesadillas, its a wrap with a vege meat mix, with an salsa verde or roja, it was indeed terrific. I was pleased to find a diner, but in fact they are sorta faux diners trying to look like what we'd expect from a movie portraying the fifties, it was art imitating life, now life imitating art. Its confusing and bizarre.
I found out what grits taste like, sorta like polenta with a mild stock. Biscuits for breakfast is a dense bun, and the gravy is like thickened cream of chicken soup straight from the condensed soup can.
Moab did have one fascinating shop. The area is a heartland for rock buffs. It had giant cuts of petrified wood, and a giant Mei sized geode of Citrine, lots and lots of polished rocks and little fossilised fish and ammonites and trilobites, and Indian spearheads made from obsidian.
From Moab we went to the Arches National Park and the rock formations here are impressive and very interesting. We got there in the late afternoon and there was no queue, got some lovely shots near sunset.
The next morning about ~9-10am we noticed the very long queue into the Arches and decided to go to Canyonlands National Park instead. Al and Irene from Darwin Sound mentioned this was like the Grand Canyon. It certainly had the spectacular view over a huge drop.
Arches NP Gossips
The next day we went to the Arches about 6am. The gates were not manned and we just drove through. It was October and it was chilly, we walked to see the landscape arch. We eventually walked around to the other side of the primitive trail for a couple of miles. It was lovely and had very few walkers. It started to warm up and by 10am tee shirts and shorts were the norm. Then it got really hot. Glad we left early. Much easier walking in the cool.
Lots of people had those trekking poles. They seem to climb up a steep rock scramble without having to actually grab the rock with their bare hands
Salt Lake City
We drove through Salt Lake City. Headed for the Backcountry.com store. Thought their gear would be displayed, but no, you needed to have trolled through their catalogue and picked out want you wanted to try on. They would get it for you and then you could try it. Very frustrating. We went to REI and discovered it was like the Bunnings of outdoor gear. This is where you would come and try to get the fit, then get it at backcountry if it was cheaper there. We found a terrific Vietnamese restaurant.
Tetons and Yellowstone
We headed towards Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson is an amazing town. People in the area service the very rich people who have homes there. I read about how dot com people buy ranches for such huge money the locals can't resist selling. The local ranchers stay on work the ranch to add to the ambience, and provide a backdrop like garden gnomes. It is totally bizarre. The shops here are really interesting. The one that stood out had a skull of a Triceratops for sale. Giant ammonites and a skull of a sabre tooth tiger. Trinkets for the obscenely wealthy.
Jenny lake, Tetons
We liked Jackson Hole but stayed at the Teton Village, where the Jackson Hole Ski fields are. The Teton National Park is gorgeous with the lovely mountain ranges. We got to see a large Elk in the wild sitting in a glade minding it’s business. With about a dozen tourists taking pictures. Lots of them with very huge lenses. The ones as long as your arm and weighing 3 kg. Some of these people didn't even have tripods so would have been struggling to hold it steady. I think for me I’d want a 40x optical compact zoom camera under 500g. Otherwise it's too freaking heavy to lug around all day. The camera better have some serious photo stabilizers, so I don't need a tripod.
We went looking for Bison. Saw five near Mormon Row, a long way in the sage fields. Mormon Row has some barns and houses that were built a couple of centuries ago. In fact they are deserted, but the locals have rebuilt some of them to preserve that heritage.
Mormon Row, Tetons
One early morning we found about a hundred Bison near a hot spring, the closest could have touched the car. We stayed obediently in the car for about an hour, then Kevin decided to get out of the car to take more photos with at least 5 people walking around. I guess he got to within 10m.
Yellowstone reminded me of Ruapehu, steam coming out of the ground. Saw Old Faithful blow. We didn't have time to do any walks. It was snowing. Looked out for Yogi bear. No luck.
The Yellowstone was closing down for winter. Some roads were already closed.
We promised Skip and Bobbi to visit them in Minnesota. We caught a train called "Empire Builder" from Spokane, Washington. Why so far off the beaten track? We needed to return the damn car and Spokane was the closest.
We alighted at Minneapolis - St Paul, and Skip and Bobbi met us at the station. Skip drove us to their house on the banks of Green Lake. The leaves were just turning the glorious fall colours. It was pretty.
Skip and Bobbi
Green Lake Minnesota
We met Skip and Bobbi in Langkawi, Malaysia and we shipped our yachts to Turkey at the same time. We sailed together around Turkey and Greece. We learnt how to med moor and play backgammon. We met them again in the Virgin Islands. Skip showed us his very impressive wood-work shop.
We returned to the marina in the Chesapeake. Hurricane Matthew missed our marina a few weeks before. We were glad we were not in the vicinity. There was nothing we could do. The yacht was on the hard and apparently braced for action. I saw the bracing and it was fairly puny compared to the bracing in the Caribbean. Glad they weren’t necessary.
We finished some jobs and caught up with Alison and Chuck, off Charliventura. We had met them in Cartagena, Spain. They had a dream run in Europe, having cruised there for 10 years.
We headed south as the chill began to nip at our heels. The foliage had not started to turn color. The local Chesapeakinese told us time after time that a long Indian summer meant a cold and bitter winter. Eventually even the meteorologists were espousing the same theme.
Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)
We managed to motor from Norfolk Virginia to Beaufort North Carolina through the ICW. We did it before the real cold set in.
We stepped out into the Atlantic with a north wind blowing us south. We couldn’t stay in the cockpit it was way too bitter cold. Luckily the heater worked a treat.
We went to Charleston and stayed in the marina just by the old town. Charleston is interesting especially the old town. But like many old towns that are quaint it was deluged by tourists. The old slave market / fresh food market has been replaced by souvenir/craft as the tourists begin to outnumber the locals in the streets. I read “South of Broad” by Pat Conroy. It gives a sense of the place and the people.
Spanish Moss hangs off trees called Live Oaks. They are a type of Bromeliad.
Spanish Moss Carolinas
Spanish Moss Carolinas
In Florida it was just warm enough for shorts. We sailed into Fernandina Beach and the municipal marina had been wrecked by Hurricane Mathew. The cost to fix the marina was 24 million and a little town of 12,000 would not be able to afford it. But apparently FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) could be tapped to pay for it. They seem to be the disaster aid fund. They have also been proactive because in some districts along the ICW, FEMA paid for houses to be raised several feet in a flood prone zone.
Kevin was driving a rental car to Fort Lauderdale. He drove into the Florida Turnpike and turned north instead of south. We couldn’t turn around for 40 miles and eventually had to go 80 miles out of the way. He was spitting chips. The journey took 3.5 hours instead of 2. Naturally the toll queues were at a standstill, only two of the five booths were open. Fort Lauderdale is a maze of concrete flyovers and roads going every other way. Two days before Christmas; traffic was in total meltdown. It was a zoo.
We are now in Vero Beach and have visited the Kennedy Space Centre. It’s also the last place to stock up before we get to Cuba.
We plan to day hop down the coast and jump the Gulf Stream from Key Largo to Cuba. After that we will head to Panama.
We wish you all a Happy New Year
Posted by mei-sm
We are now motoring. Last night about 3am the boat speed dropped to about 3 knots;
and on came the Volvo wind.
Dawn was ok, a real hazy morning. The Kalima wind is blowing very lightly
In laymans terms the sands from the Sahara is blowing in. Its a warm wind.
its 8:25 am and its 25 degrees Celcius. water temp about the same.
Its a very pleasant. The locals told us that you sail south until the butter melts then turn west.
Last year Enki II did it and the butter never melted. I think we are almost there, by lunch time it will be gooey.
But we won't turn west because we're heading for Cape Verde.
We had our first night watch. I did struggle to get to 11pm.
Hey Adric saw your moment on TV, looking good.
All is well.
Mei, Kevin and Terry
Posted by mei-sm
15-20 knots from the North East. Gulled winged. The motion resembles the rinse cycle on the washing machine.
the forecast is for lighter winds so may have to motor.
introduced Terry to Jamon Iberico in a bocadillo (sandwich).
We have 700 nm to go.
All is well.
Mei, Kevin and Terry
Posted by Mei
We went back to Australia
last year 2013. My father had a stroke and my mother was not coping with any of this. We and I mean our sons Adric and Jared, and relatives from all over the world, family friends and neighbours all pitched in to help in this very dire time. The help came in many forms, moral, emotional, time and effort support was very important to me. I am very appreciative of it. Thank you; you know who you are.
I had not realized that paying bills, house maintenance and shopping were becoming a burden to them, when they lived at Meadowvale road. We got my parents into a lovely facility at Highercombe in South Australia. They have individual rooms. It is fortunate that the facility will look after the daily necessities and they don’t have to stress about anything. This is good and bad, because with mum’s negative outlook it is easier to do less and less. But luckily I can ask the facility to organize things, and a doctor goes there once a week and they can see him if they want to or if the nurse wants them to.
We then had the pleasure of selling the house, cleaning and getting rid of a lifetime of possessions. All a lot of fun in 47 degrees C. Good thing the evaporative cooling worked.
We stayed with Adric, Suzanne, Terry and Michael in Melbourne. Thanks guys.
We flew to Greece and stayed a couple of weeks and then headed to Rome
. We spent ten days in Rome. Rome was a fantastic place. We did a mixture of tours and audio tapes. We saw the Vatican museum twice. We truly loved the Galleria Borghese. Went for an audience with the Pope, us and about 100,000 others. We did a lot of walking in February. It wasn’t very cold but the down coat was great. We used cross-pollinate to find the apartment and it was central and clean. I especially liked the apartment near Campo de Fiori.
We caught a train to Germany and went via the Benina Express, the carriages were built with the views in mind and the roof was almost clear. This train avoids many of the tunnels and the panoramas were exceptional.
We visited Kathy, Joerg and Paul in Meersburg
. We spent a few days on road trips looking at the towns with lovely restored old towns. The restorations are done lovingly and fortunately tourism pays for this big effort. Reinvigorating murals on multistory houses etc. The regular modern buildings are very ho hum and dull. You could be anywhere.
Kathy took us to an old house that had storks building nests on the roof. It was unusual enough that there were coach loads of people taking photos.
We flew back to the Ionion Islands
. We really enjoyed our stay in Levkas Marina. Levkas
is a lovely Greek town with it’s own traditions and charm. The marina was terrific although it chose an odd time to upgrade the toilet/shower blocks, but I guess timing for that exercise is never good no matter when it is scheduled. I certainly thought the start of the charter season was exceptionally brilliant timing.
Kathy and Joerg came to visit us. They landed in Corfu
and we led them to the marina at the base of the old English fort next to the Liston. It was such a beautiful spot. I think they would have been happy to explore Corfu instead of cruising. The Greek Corfu Easter is supposed to be absolutely amazing with a lot of amphorae filled with water and pushed off high balconies, we missed this but was there for the parades of the orthodox priests including the Patriarch of the Ionion, the 16 brass bands and the concert in the St George Church.
Meganissi and Scorpius
We visited Magganissi and I think Joerg and Kathy liked the island. We sailed around Scorpios Island for a sticky, now owned by Ekaterina Rybolovleva (25), it used to be owned by Athena Onassis (29). They had a birthday party on it and Celine Dion sang. The Ionian was abuzz with helicopters, chris craft, giant white boats and paparazzi.
We went to Erikoussa
our last taste of Greece. The Erikoussa hotel/restaurant was lovely and the owner was very nice. Water was crystal clear 8m deep. The owner of the Erikousa hotel was entertaining and told us of his travels. We moaned about the diving in the Med, it seemed like a desert after SE Asia. He told us he went night diving near Corfu and was awestruck by the numbers and sizes of the fish.
The Boot, Italy
We sailed across to Maria St Leuca
, (the heel of Italy). Anchored outside the marina and it was full of little ity bitty sandflies. So annoying and the place looked very boring. Didn’t get off the boat it was that charming.
(heel) had a little island and was just another walled city, it had feint echoes of Dubrovnik, but with the same nic nacs, plastic junk from PRC.
In Rocella Ionica
(instep) we met some Kiwis and they had just come from Sardinia and told us where to go, we could spend months there, anchoring out. They also knew the Balearics intimately. We had repaired the red ensign Terry gave us, a while ago, and we started to fly it.
Toarmina is very pretty. but the anchorage was very sloppy and rolly. It doesn't worry us after staying at the Republic of Singapore yacht club, sloppy anchorages are just easy.
We had a fright last night. We were anchored at Isola Vulcano
, yes there is a bubbling crater there. Early in the morning I woke to hear Kevin climb up into the cockpit. Then to my horror I heard a clear British voice, "Good Morning", beat, "Would you like a cup of tea?",
I threw on my clothes in a groggy fugue, and was at the cockpit ladder when Kevin started the engine and was working his way forward to pull up the anchor chain. The wind had changed direction and this little yacht, well fendered, was just about to bump us. Kevin and Mr Tea fendered off.
The wind hit 26 knots and a few boats dragged. It was wild.
We saw these strange boats in the Messina Straits
. They are designed to catch sword fish. The habit of swordfish is to lie just beneath the surface and bask in the sun. The captain spots them from his perch and creeps up to the swordfish and a guy at the end of the bowsprit harpoons them. It must actually work as you can see on the last photo. They sure have a lot of swordfish dishes.
We visited Stromboli Island,
Its an active volcano and spews out lava every few minutes. That night, we followed some tripper boats to a viewing spot halfway around the island. Seeing the lava flowing down the mountain like a red sparkle river was really amazing. The red jets into the air, were spectacular. I couldn't take photos as it was so sloppy, impossible to hold the camera still.
We visited Palermo
. There was a very scruffy air to the town. It felt like a difficult place to live. We enjoyed looking at the cathedral and there are some wonderful buildings. I read Peter Robb's book "Midnight in Sicily", interesting to get some insight into the world of Palermo.
I read a thread about the resistance to mafia extortion in Palermo. A group of young people started up a campaign called Addio Pizzo
. The word pizzo means pecking, like a chicken pecking up the scraps, the Italians use this as a euphemism for extortion. It means Goodbye Extortion. They got a few businesses to refuse to pay the protection money and they proudly carry the sticker. We were on the look out for the sticker and found one shop, a tourist shop selling Sicilian made olive oils etc. They also have a travel agency using services that do not pay pizzo. It sounded heartening and the mafia have ignored these people considering them as very small fry. The police were a little astonished and try to keep an eye on them. The police feel like they are not alone and decided to give this organisation a property for their office. A property they had confiscated from the mafia. Lots of people join the organisation and shop at these shops to help support them. I think consumer choice is a wonderful concept. I think the mafia is regretting they didn't squash them in the early days because they are gaining momentum. I hope this grassroots organisation will overcome the habits of the oppressed.
The mafia has been hurting in this economic downturn, they were hoping to do better by lending money at their horrible rates to the desperate businesses, but what happened was that businesses just gave up and closed shop.
From Palermo we sailed to Ustica
. It very tiny volcanic island and a ferry ride from Palermo. In fact it’s a place Palermo people hang out when they want to get away from it all. Has a special charm. The small walks around town revealed alleyways with lovely murals. The harbour is very small and we took one of the three berths available for our sized yacht. There is absolutely no room for anchoring as boats are packed on the buoys lined up like sardines, side by side with no swing room. A couple of yachts turned up much later that evening and were asked to tie up next to a concrete slipway, outside the harbour. It was a good thing it was very calm. Ustica has a marine national park and there are many dive boats operating.
is the nicest cruising area of Italy, At least of what we’ve seen. Caglairi
(capital of Sardinia) has about 150k people. There is more money here, and the councils are very good, the buildings look much better maintained.
Cagliari has a lovely old town. But the most interesting aspect was the cemetery. We had never walked into an Italian cemetery and it was eye opening. Mausoleums that resembled little roman temples with Corinthian columns and gorgeous sculptures, some with mosaic archangels, Mausoleums that resembled Frank Lloyd Wright glass box structures. There were these walls about 10m high that had five rows of tombs, A multi storey resting place.
The old town was fascinating as many of the usual suspects invaded the island at one time, The Phoenicians, Carthageans, Roman, Vandals ??? Spanish and the Moors. Interestingly the symbol of Sardinia is the flag with the four Moors. The reason for this is steeped in a very muddled explanation. No one really wants to tell us and we suspect some serious skulduggery. Nevertheless it is waved around with serious pride.
Another aspect that makes Sardinia unique in the Mediterranean is the Bronze aged Nuraghe people
1900 and 730 BC These people were unique to Sardinia.
The coast on the east side of Sardinia is lovely, beautiful clear emerald water.
Maddalena National Park
The Maddalena islands
are worth a look. We visited the house where Garibaldi lived out his years. Garibaldi was the general who united modern Italy, and gave the reins of power to the Italian king. He is considered the true patriot.
We rang Porto Cervo
to find out how much a night cost and it was 313 euro/night. so much for the world's most expensive marina.
If you want to know what people do when they can buy a 100m white boat and not blink at the price? Come to the Costa Esmeralda
to see them in their element. The big white boats in Costa Esmeralda are like Thai fishing boats, they are everywhere.
There are some boats that are too large for even Porto Cervo. We were anchored next to Dilbar in Golfo Pervero. It was weird to see staff and body guards swarming around the big guy and guests. Even swimming with him. We saw Abramovich’s Eclipse, Paul Allen’s Tatoosh, and countless numbers of yachts > 50m.
They all probably have chefs on board but they prefer to dine out. No dinghies for them, only helicopters. But risky life I reckon. It was a V V windy night and the helicopter is struggling to land. Big risk appetite too I guess.
Balearic Isles, Spain
We left Sardinia and went to Menorca
, we motored most of the way. We met Rick and Robyn off Endangered Species in the last anchorage in Sardinia. They had been moving fast from Turkey, and going to cross the Atlantic.. They had not seen anyone in cruising mode for quite a while. There are a lot of yachts sailing around Italy but the charterers and the Italian boat owners do not stop and chat like the long term cruisers. They dinghied up to our boat and asked, “Is this Duncan and Robin’s boat?”
They were fun to be with. They were off to the Caribbean; their back yard and were already licking their lips in anticipation of a rum drink. They tried to get us enthusiastic about crossing the Atlantic. It turned out they knew quite a cruisers from SE Asia.
It’s a small bloody world, huh?
They were tired of motoring and didn't like the shop hours 9am- 2pm and opened at 5pm – 8pm.
We discussed dining hours with some friends from Norway. They eat breakfast at 7am, lunch at 11am and dinner at 4pm. I was a little shocked at 4pm, but could see the 4-5 hour gap as sorta in tune with my hunger patterns. We eat at 8am, lunch by 12-1pm and dinner 6-7pm and have done this most of the cruising life. But in Spain they have lots of little snacks to keep going because the gap is really long. They are at work by 8 or 9 so they must eat breakfast around 7am, they rush out for a snack between 11-13, if they get a chance because they get off for lunch at 2pm. No wonder they have coffee stands and snacks for stand up and run peeps. The biggest meal is at lunch and it is huge. Three courses usually and then a nap. Nothing much is open, not even a bank, only things open are restaurants and supermarkets. That’s in the old town/ CBD. The quietest time in the city is 6-7pm. Everyone is still at work, or resting. The chef only arrives at the kitchen at 8pm, we know this because a bunch of 12 Australians and new Zealanders were out looking for a decent restaurant meal at 7pm in Cartagena. Last Friday night we were walking past some restaurants and were shocked to find out no-one had started eating their mains and it was 10pm.
They have big barn shopping open 10 am to 10pm everyday e.g. like having a Bunnings, next to a Harvey Normans, Good guys and Big W in the same area surrounded by car parks. Very soulless places. They are quite far outside town and very, very hideous. No one has tried to make these places look nice they are the retail equivalent of industrial parks
For me the Spanish are able to enjoy a lot more hours in the day then we do. If I could get past my hypoglycaemia I would be able to enjoy it too. They are generally a slim people, certainly spend a lot of time on the evening walk with friends and their late meals. I’m sure the afternoon nap is like a power boost.
We went to Palma de Mallorca
and was pleasantly surprised. We had heard it was a cheap place for package tourists, but the town we found was quite sophisticated and fairly expensive. The church with the Gaudi hanging above the altar was certainly worth a visit.
It is in fact the centre for boating in Mediterranean Spain. There was a lot of yachting hardware, rigging, sails, watermaker, liferaft service etc. We expected all the yachting centres along the Spanish coast to be similar. We were wrong.
Kevin, Rick & Robin
We sailed to Barcelona
to catch up with Adric. It was lovely to see him. He has got a different job with his company and is working in IT in the web department. Jared back in Melbourne also got a new job within his company, and working in consulting. They both like the shift and are happy with the direction.
We were in Port Vell and a quick walk to the Ramblas. We were there about two weeks and we saw practically everything. I really liked the modernista buildings and the Segrada Familia was stupendous. I thought the Picasso museum was interesting tracing his life and “periods”. What a phenomenon.
We bought a Brompton bike in Barcelona. It seems like such a bike friendly place, flat ground and huge boulevards. That is until we discovered it was the bike theft capital of Spain. It made me a tad paranoid about our combo locks. Apparently 4.5 seconds to break. We have used these locks half way across the world. But the evidence was clear, especially if you looked at the bike racks in Barcelona, giant thick freaking D locks plus
a motorbike chain on the tires, seat and frame. Also there were several skeletons on the bike rack, say a frame chained to it, nothing else. Ulp!!!
As we crawled down the coast, we met up with Enki II in Valencia
. Alex, Diana and Claudia were enjoying the rounds. They were edging the yacht towards the Canaries. They wanted us to come along. We started to think about the jobs we needed done. Kevin wrote it all down and it was huge. Because we were not preparing for a crossing when the boat was in Greece there were a substantial backlog of must do items. I honestly didn’t want to be so goal orientated that we miss major bucket list sites like Alhambra. Or get tense and anxious about it. The Spanish people are very nice and there is a lot of depth to this society. We don’t have to rush home. We won’t be back to Europe for a long time. Once we get to the Caribbean it begins the sleigh ride home.
We got to Cartagena
and liked the place. We had intended to stay for winter here. We got stuck into the prep for the Atlantic Crossing. New batteries, fix water maker, fix gen set leak, get new sheets, our dyneema preventers failed. The more we thought about the list the longer it got. We set a date the 1 October to have everything finished. We didn’t make it.
We did a trip to Portugal to see Peta and Michael. They were going to stay in Cascais
. We caught the train there from Cartagena. It was a long boring trip the scenery wasn’t great. I think we crossed the mountains in the dark.
It was fun to visit them. Peta chose the hotel that overlooked the water. They got the room with the view. Unfortunately it was above a tub thumping Irish Pub. It was also bad luck the window frame was wraped and would not close. Ear plugs didn’t cut it and Peta decided to sleep on the bathroom floor with the door firmly shut. Poor Michael almost stepped on her when he tried to get to the loo.
We went to Sintra
by bus. It was really lovely to be in the mountains. The best ruin had to be the Moorish castle. A view to kill for.
Kevin, Peta and Michael
We flew to Madrid
and went for a walk around the old city. It is a beautiful city. I was fascinated by the impact the discovery of the Americas had on Spain. I stumbled across the Columbian Exchange
; widespread transfer of animals, plants, culture, human populations, communicable diseases, technology between the new world and old world. The plants will astonish you. The better nutritional properties these plants had on the old world actually kept more people alive. This probably contributed to the population explosion. Read this about potatoes
. Apparently the wheat crop to make bread is dicey at best. Not reliable supply and lot and lots of labour. Keeping the flour dry and insect free was probably tricky too. Peasants from Britain, Ireland and France were always on the knife edge of starvation. It took till the 1800 before the common folks began to realise that the potato would keep them alive.
I was also curious about the other foods so widespread in Asia especially the Chilli. What did the Indians and Thais do without chilli and how did it get there? It appears that the Portuguese traders spread the plants throughout the world. The most perplexing fruit for me is the dragon fruit, introduced to Australia by the Vietnamese. Have you seen the plant it looks like a cactus.
Two Aussies in Madrid
We are back in Cartagena
now and Christmas is around the corner.
Just yesterday I happened to look at the lottery system in Spain. We have had many people trying to sell us these lottery tickets and we have waved them aside, not paying any attention to the detail. Yesterday I decided to see what it was about and discovered the El Gordo Navidad
is the biggest lottery in the world. The prize pool is 2.4 billion euros
. I kid you not. They have a participation rate of nearly 100% and the whole country sits in front of the TV (22/12/2014) for the Draw and it lasts 3 hours. They have two children from an orphanage who get the numbers from two huge spinning balls and one sings the lottery number and the other sings what the prize is. Yes as you can deduce there are a lot of prizes, there is apparently 5% chance of winning something. Before the draw everyone knows that each ticket of the first prize is worth 4 million euros this year. There are 160 tickets of the same number and each ticket costs 200 euros. You can buy a decimo
or a tenth of a ticket for 20 euros. Last year an entire village bought all the tickets with the same number and scooped 540 million Euros.
The lottery has been going since 1812. But hey it is the Spanish equivalent of the Melbourne cup; the draw that stops the nation.
We went into town to get some of the action but alas the lottery shops were closed on Sunday, the last day to buy the tickets was Saturday. But you know about clouds; there is a draw called the El Niño
(now why do I know that name???) and it is drawn on Jan 6 for only 540 million Euros. We will buy some tickets, wish us luck.
we will spend some time touring Spain and in the Spring we will take the boat into the Atlantic and sail north till mid August and then turn around and head south and cross the Atlantic at the end of next year. We are not sure how far north we can get and it will be weather permitting.
This post was an epic, I had dropped of the planet and now I’m back. My new year’s resolution; smaller ones in the future and more regular.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Prosperous Chinese New Year.
Posted by mei-sm
We stayed in Mandraki harbour (40 Euro/night including elec and water) in Corfu. It is a lovely spot at the base of the old fort. It is easily walking distance to everything in Corf town. The ferry terminal contains the harbourmaster, customs and immigration.
Corfu is interesting to explore. The architecture is different from any of the Greek islands we have visited, Corfu was out first Ionian island. We hired a car and scooted to the beach at Palaiokastritsa and went to the highest peak. The visibility was OK but not crystal. Still the island and the architecture were pretty to look at.
We had not heard from Maxine and were getting worried. When she called she was at a café within 200m from where we were. Adric left the next day and we checked out of Corfu.
We were excited to go to Albania. We had heard so little about this country. We had a pleasant sail there wind from the south, less than a half meter swell. Albania is very mountains especially along the cost and it was lovely. The Orikum marina was pleasant enough, reasonably priced and the clearance easy (24 Euro/night including elec and water, 30 euro for clearance in/out). A walk to the little town of Orikum was enlightening. Soviet style concrete boxes for apartment and shops. It felt a little bit like asia with the mouldy walls and electrician’s nightmare. Vlora had a modern main street and the ethnography museum was interesting. We mistook a black flokati poncho for a bear skin. The Albanian shepherd would wear this up in the mountains.
We had heard the capital Tirane was interesting. The bus arrives in Orikum at 0615 we were told. We got there with 3 minutes to spare and noticed a few things, no one waiting and the sports barman looked bored. We asked him about the bus and he said 0600. It should have passed us if it had left on time. We were walking on the same road. We were a tad perplexed. We walked off and started back, then decided to stop for a coffee along the way. Mid sip of his coffee Kevin noticed a minibus zoom past with Tirane on the windscreen. We rushed to the bus and stopped it from moving. Yes it goes to Tirane at 0615. Yes well we said and jumped on. He drove to the bus station and stopped the bus and got off. We looked at the sport’s bar and noticed several people having coffees and …well waiting. It finally dawned on us that were must be in a different time zone. In fact it was one hour different +2 UTC, not at all like Athens or Istanbul (+3 UTC). We had woken up at 4am and counting.
The trip into Tirane took 2.5 hours. Sleep came in useful as the landscape was fairly flat; there were more uninspiring soviet style concrete apartment blocks. There were also many new private houses in the country side.
We wandered through the city to the NationalHistoryMuseum. Quite interesting. Had a nice meal and caught the 2pm bus back to Orikum. Titrane stops at 2 – 5pm for a siesta.
We arrived this morning. We did an overnighter to the Gulf of Kotor. Most of the trip the wind was southerly (15-20knots) with 1m seas. Quite OK, lovely sail. When we got to the coast of Montenegro the winds dropped to 10 knots, but a 3m westerly swell was running UGH; chunderous.
We are now at Trivat in the Gulf of Kotor. The Porto Montenegro marina guys drove us round to the CIQP. (marina was: 65 euro/night, not including water + electricity, Vignette sticker was 126 Euro per week). An Aussie runs the marina. It is also entirely OK to anchor in the bay and do the clearance yourself. The cost may be less for the vignette if you bypass the marina.
Posted by mei-sm
Norm and Pauline left us to go to Karpathos where Norm's Grandfather was supposed to come from. His arrival papers stated Volada, Italy. In the old days Karpathos and the other Dodecanese Islands belonged to Italy. Within hours of their arrival a grand auntie-in-law was found and Norm discovered he was related to about 300 living cousins from all over the world. WOW! Norm and Pauline when you get this. Please could you update us on what happened?
Adric arrived in Athens the next day. We took him for a pork Gyros, we were discovering that lamb Gyros is hard to find. Oddly much of the lamb comes from NZ.
We are on a tight time loop. But I had to take Adric to the Acropolis Museum and a walk up to the Acropolis. I think he liked it. It certainly was impressive. The next day we got moving a tad later and I discovered that the National Archaeological Museum opened 800 - 1500. Unfortunately we were too late to see it properly. So instead I took him to the Beneki Museum which fortuitously cost 1Euro every Thursday and was opened till midnight. It's a stunning museum and packs 50,000 year old shards of pottery and exquisite artifacts up till the War of independence 1923. The Beneki is a private museum initially belonging to a serious collector and has persuaded many people to donate their collections to the museum.
Three days in Athens and we were away. We transited the Corinth Canal. It is 21m wide and 8m deep. It does cut a lot of time out, but these days is only useful for small ships, luxury white boats and sailing yachts. The wall are steep about 50m high, a cut into limestone. Kevin wondered if the paths along side were to use horses to drag the unpowered boats through. The canal was finished in 1890. Although there was evidence that Nero in ~80 AD made an attempt at building a canal.
We sailed to Galaxidhi, a lovely town, Adric's first taste of quaint Greek villages. We had a seafood dinner there and it was pretty good. Curiously the taramasalata had a slight green tinge. Yum. (I think it had been vitamised with some capers).
We caught the bus to Delphi. It's a beautiful ruined city sited on the side of a mountain. The views were stunning and there was quite a bit of the city left. The same group of French archaeologists have been working here for over a hundred years and managed to restore and find some amazing artefacts. These are on display at the archaeological museum which is next door to the site.
Interesting thing about Oracles.
To get the Oracles attention, you needed to purify yourself at the spring, bring a tribute and sacrifice a goat or sheep. The Oracle at Delphi was supposed to be the direct link between Zeus and man. The priestess would go into a trance and speak in an unintelligible language and the interpreter would disclose the pronouncement in verse. There is a similarity between the evangelical Christian meetings where one person will suddenly talk in tongues and there would be another a few seconds later with the interpretation though not in verse.
Apparently the oracle was quite accurate and more people began to rely on the information. This would have caused the people to doubt their own decisions, and be hesitant to make any. It would also take away their responsibility for the decision. It sounds like a fairly disastrous method to run a kingdom. The Oracle was supposedly neutral and would advice different factions about the same issue.
In 359 BC, Philip II of Macedon consulted the Oracle and was told:
" With silver spears you may conquer the world
The king then sought to control the silver mines in the neighbouring Thracian and Illyrian kingdom, and using them to bribe his way to early victories, playing one Greek state off against the others, and isolating his enemies by bribes to potential allies.
Philip also had a highly spirited black colt that no one could ride. The Oracle of Delphi stated whoever could ride this horse would conquer the world, but despite many attempts neither Philip nor any of his generals could mount the horse. His son, Alexander, later to be called the Great, succeeded as he realized that the horse was afraid of his own shadow. Philip gave the horse Bucephalus to Alexander, who took the steed on his conquest of Asia.
In 353 BC, a third Sacred War broke out when Thebes had placed a fine upon Phokis, and Phokis, to pay for the war, heavily taxed the people of nearby Delphi and seized the Treasury of Delphi. The Amphictyonic League led by Philip declared war against Phokis. Philip sought to unite all Greece with Macedon in the Amphictyonic League to attack Persia. In 339 BC, Philip interfered once again against the Amphictyonic alliance when the Krissans trespassed on Apollo's sacred grounds. Philip punished the Krissans, and consequently in 338 BC. defeated the combined armies of the Athenians and the Spartans, thus becoming the dominant force in Greek affairs. Eventually, at the Battle of Chaeronea he was successful against the Athenians and Thebans but he was assassinated before he could lead the invasion of Persia.
Alexander the Great visited the Delphic Oracle wishing to hear a prophecy that he would soon conquer the entire ancient world. To his surprise the oracle refused a direct comment and asked him to come later. Furious, Alexander the Great dragged Pythia by the hair out of the chamber until she screamed "Let go of me; you're unbeatable". The moment hearing this words he dropped her, saying "Now I have my answer".
By 390 AD the Christians decided to destroy/loot the site and closed it down.
Again from Wiki
In 389 AD, under the reign of Theodosius I, Christian attacks against pagan temples continued, reaching a head when the Emperor ordered that all pagan temples be shut. The oracle declared to the Emperor in 393 AD[dubious - discuss]
"Tell the king; the fair wrought house has fallen.
No shelter has Apollo, nor sacred laurel leaves;
The fountains are now silent; the voice is stilled.
It is finished."
Within two years the Emperor Theodosius was dead. Within 20 years the Western Roman Empire had started to accept Germanic tribes across the border, Rome had been conquered by Alaric I, the first time the city had fallen to barbarians in 800 years, and for the first time in 1,100 years no further oracular statements were given.
Posted by mei-sm
Whisper HR position
Current Speed: 0.1
There is a large crater in the centre of the island. The sulphur encrusted rocks are interesting to look at. There was steam and sulphur fumes billowing out of a few holes. We decided not to go inside of the crater. There were footprints in the hot mud at the bottom but no large man sized holes. There are a couple of villages that overlook the crater. The island is sparsely populated and it appears that most people live around the Horia and some at Nikea and Pali. The architecture is mostly Cyclades with a few large monstrosities. The cutest building was the church on the top of the hill overlooking the crater called Ayios Ioannis Thelogos.
We had med moored in the Pali harbour. There were a few restaurants, hotels, motorcycle and car rental joints there. All apparently geared up for yachts.
We went to Mandrake, the main ferry harbour and had a coffee. We met up with the crew from Neptune II who had walked there. The kids were still buzzed and played chassies around the concrete paths.
We went up to the old town wall on top of the acropolis and discovered it had been built in 350 BC. The building blocks were enormous.
It took us about half a day to see the place and it is probably a nice place to go hiking as the hills were covered with oak trees and very green. There were many terraces bounded by rock walls. A huge labour intensive endeavour to maximise the fertile acreage. Unfortunately presently there is hardly any agriculture at all. Heikell indicated that there were many people working on the island nearby that had a large pumice mine.
When we got back to the boat Gary played happy birthday on his saxophone, and Vanessa. Marina and Elliot were there bearing gifts. It was all very sweet.
Posted by mei-sm
Whisper HR position
Current Speed: 6.1
Symi was lovely; a cute charming place. Many of the Symi peeps ended up in Australia and in the last 10 years have been reclaiming their ancestors homes. Apparently after the allotted time the unclaimed houses will revert back to the local council to do as they wish. There has been quite a big effort to upgrade their grand's houses. It has brought much industry and expectations to the Islands. The islanders are buffing up their town right now, pruning, painting and paving to get ready for the season.
Met a lady from perth who has lived in Symi for the last 25 years, it appears that 6000 tourists on day trips come over on the ferry everyday during the summer. But the huge explosion in tourist have actually come from the yachts and charter boats. During the season it is hard to find space to tie up to the town quay. There is electricity and water, but the shower and WC facilities are difficult to find. The water in the harbour is very clear and clean. I guess the yachties spend more money on food, grog and car hire.
We are heading towards Naxos. The wind is light and the sea is slight. so motoring is the order of the day.
Posted by Pauline and Norm
We are berthed in a little island called Symi having reached Rhodes on Tuesday night after 2 days of flying. We received a hearty welcome from Mei and Kevin, so good to see them, and had a very good nights sleep. We wandered the streets of Rhodes (including the Old Town) the next day, shopping and revisiting old memories of 2 years ago. We found a great supermarket, the deli lady happily gave us heaps of cheese to taste, and yes we bought several and all so very cheap. The butcher gave us a good laugh when he heard we were on a yacht, asked us to take his mother in law with us, put her in a bag and drop her overboard!!
We set sail next day and sailed in 10-15 knot winds for 5 hours until we reached the island of Symi, as with the Dodecanese islands, only a few kilometres from Turkey. It was blue sky and sunshine but winds were chilly. Symi is a beautiful port and a quite large and rugged centre of the island being in a volcanic area. The town surrounds the harbour, with houses ascending the steep hills above. As the summer season is nearly here all the shop keepers are hard at work painting, paving and redecorating, all very interesting to watch. We hired a car yesterday from a lovely lady who assured us all would be Ok and if any trouble "I come and fix", all was Ok and traveled over some interesting roads, steep and winding around the mountains of rock with an incredible drop off the edge and as we are driving on right side of road it can be interesting. Kevin decided we should go down a very narrow concrete road, saying to Norm where's your sense of adventure? Trouble was the concrete ran out and it became pretty rough so that was the end of adventure. We experienced a decent downpour yesterday afternoon which would have been welcome for these often dry islands.
A check of the weather today will determine when we leave as winds are currently from the wrong direction and are predicted to increase.
Posted by mei-sm
We sailed into Rhodes Mandraki Harbour. It's a very nice town with a large medieval city for the "Old Town". The pavement is not cobblestones but an interesting pebble mosaic. The crusades ended out here and the Knights of St John (pronounced sin-gin) built the city to a medieval ideal. Walls within walls and large moats.
Rhodes though can trace its history back to 2000 BC. Rhodes was very central for a few millennia, juxtaposed between Alexandria, Athens and Constantinople. The strategic location became a magnet for invaders and traders, consequently the island became very multi-cultural. Walking around the medieval city you can almost imagine the men in tights. The Greeks do not dress up for it and maybe they should. Rhodes was occupied by almost every strong invader in the history of this area.
Imagine my surprise when we were greeted by the marina manager who looked like Vince Colosimo. There was lots of space in the Mandraki harbour as it is still early in the season. Further in was less bouncy. The cost was very reasonable.
Kevin and the Marina Manager
We wandered around town looking for the usual things a Cosmote sim for Kevin. His phone and data are good on his Samsung note but my WS35 Sony Ericson router struggled with Cosmote. I stuck the Vodafone sim in and it worked like a treat. There have been no new upgrades for this router for years and it is falling behind.
Norm and Pauline arrived and we took them shopping the next day. That's the life, looking for good supermarkets. The Pappou on Kanada street was excellent. Fresh meat, cheese and smoked meats, and a very good all round supermarket. They gave samples out of the cheese and meats. I wanted to taste the mandarins and Pauline was hesitant so I nodded at the shopgirl and mimed opening up the orange and she nodded enthusiastically. Truly they expect you to try the produce; especially in the markets.
We tried out the new shopping bag and to my amazement managed to fit all the 6 wine bottles, 4 -sixpack of beers, assorted cans, fresh meats, cheese, salami and all the fruit and vege. We also found the vege shop opposite sold a very dense bread, like a sourdough. It weighed an absolute ton.
Norm and Pauline were looking for some friends who owned a butcher shop in the old town. These friends were cousins of Norms mother's bridesmaid. We asked the Pappou butchers if they knew of them, was told the shop had operated for 30 years and had been closed for 10 years.
We went with Pauline to the Vodafone shop and discovered after we topped up the sim card that Pauline's Ifone took a mini sim. She was about to buy the mini sim when the shop assistant asked if it was locked? It was a Telstra phone so I was betting it was locked. Pauline is now emailing her daughter to find out. Fun for her to be on the call waiting queue of Telstra.
Hellstra! Hellstra! Helstra! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!