Our Mediterranean Adventure March 2012 - October 2013
March 27 - April 18 2012 (Turkey)
Merhaba from Marmaris, Turkey! Our trip from Boulder City to Marmaris went off without a hitch! We arrived in Istanbul at midnight, cleared through customs by simply walking through the exit with our 6 plus bags (phew!), and were met by our travel agent who took us to our hotel. The next day we visited the grand bazaar which was full of shops with owners saying “My friend – I have good price for you” – the highlight of the bizarre is the architecture and wall paintings.
Jamie & Chay at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
We went through the process of getting a Turkish phone and while waiting for the paperwork, met a Turkish gentleman calling himself John Travolta who owns a jewelry store in La Jolla, California. He treated us to Turkish tea at a funky little tea shop and are still trying to figure out what his real angle was. We then took a long walk along the waterfront to expedite the recovery from jet lag before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
The next day we toured the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. The Hippodrome, with its 3 monuments, is where they held chariot races.
Hagia Sophia was the Byzantine Basilica during Constantine’s time. When the Ottoman Turks took over they turned it into a Mosque and painted over all of the original exquisite Christian paintings. It is now a museum and is a stunning piece of architecture. Many of the paintings have been discovered by removing the material that the Ottomans used to cover them with – the paintings are beautiful. During the crusades the Christians removed the altar.
Hagia Sophia Interior - note the wall paintings of Christian figures
The Virgin Mary with Infant Jesus
Mary, Jesus Christ, and one of the Apostles - note how part of it is still covered over
Interior of the Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque is probably the prettiest mosque we have seen, partly because of the original stained glass windows that are still in place, and partly because of the blue tile designs on the walls.
Katie & Chay with the Blue Mosque in the background on a drizzly Istanbul day
The Blue Mosque - interior
We were able to watch a Friday prayer session from our hotel room - they overflowed into the street!
Friday prayer session overflowing into the street
Our next tour was of the Bosphorous Strait which connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and separates the European and Asia parts of Turkey and continents. First we enjoyed the vista from the highest hill in the Asian part of Istanbul, and then toured the Strait by boat (not ours).
Chay & Katie overlooking the Bosphorous Strait
Katie in the gardens on the hill overlooking the Bosphorous Strait
The highlights were the forts built at the narrowest part of the Strait whose purpose was to control access to and from the Black Sea.
Ottoman fort guarding the narrows of the Bosphorous Strait
We visited the Egyptian Bazaar which sells mostly spices – but it is really just a tourist trap.
Katie & Jamie at Egyptian Bazaar
On our walk back to the hotel we took a different route and encountered huge crowds of locals walking and shopping! Literally wall to wall people in the streets. Saturday must be shopping day in Istanbul.
Workers carrying goods to the stores and markets in Istanbul
Saturday shopping crowds in Istanbul!
On Palm Sunday we went to St. Anthony of Padua church which according to their website was to have Mass at 10:00 AM in English. The church was hidden behind a tall wall with a large sturdy gate and was thus not easy to find. We arrived at the church and waited – when nothing happened by 10:00 we inquired as to Mass time – it was at 11:30 and in Armenian. So, we enjoyed our quiet time in the small, but pretty church and then walked back to the hotel – about 7 km!
Katie & Jamie in St. Anthony Padua church, Istanbul
Along the way we saw a Roman Aquaduct up close – it was the source of water for the palace until the 1800’s!
Jamie & Chay in front of the Roman aquaduct
The next day we left bright and early for Gallipoli to visit the WWI battlefields of ANZAC fame. We encountered snow along the way, but the weather was fine once we got there. ANZAC is the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp who suffered a terrible loss trying to take Gallipoli which is a strategic port along the Dardanelles for entry from the Aegean Sea into the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul. It is a World Heritage Site with many cemeteries, as well as original trenches and tunnels left over from the battles.
Chay, Katie, & Jamie at Anzac Cove
One of many Anzac cemeteries
Jamie at the entrance to one of the tunnels
Old trench with original barbed wire
Panoramic view of Anzac Cove
We continued touring down the Aegean coast of Turkey visiting many of the sites that St. Paul visited on his missions, as well as many famous Hellenistic (Greek) and Roman sites. Our first stop was Troy where we learned the mythology surrounding Troy, the Trojan Horse and Helen of Troy, as well as the history and archeological discoveries of the 1870’s to present.
The Trojan Horse from the movie "Troy" and the Trojan Horse at Troy with us waving from the windows
Nine Troy’s have been discovered, each built on the top of the other dating back to 3500 BC.
The many layers of Troy's history as indicated by the little white signs
Chay & Katie on the "King's" throne in the Troy amphitheater
Next stop was Pergamum which included a Red Basilica built by the Romans, as well as a Greek Amphitheater which was incredibly steep and built right into the mountain side. Pergamum is also famous for it’s invention of parchment paper.
Hellenistic (Greek) amphitheater at Pergamum
Full view of hellenistic amphitheater at Pergamum - amazing construction techniques!
Katie & Jamie at Pergamum ruins
Basilica in Pergamum
Efes (Ephesus as of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians fame) was next on our itinerary, but not without a stop at Virgin Mary’s House. Mary is believed to be buried here and there is a lovely little chapel in the building over her tomb. This was the most moving visit of our trip. We were quite surprised to see quotes from the Koran on a sign at the site stating that Mary was the Virgin Mother of Christ and that Jesus was the Messiah.
Katie & Jamie in from the Virgin Mary's house
Katie, Jamie & Chay in front of statue of the Virgin Mary
Efes is one of the best preserved ancient ruins in the world. Once a busy port, it is now miles from the sea due to the silting from the river. It was once the commercial center of the ancient world whose main street was made of marble. Ruins include a theater, gymnasium, agora and baths, as well as the Library of Celsus (second in size to the famous library of Alexandria), not to mention the latrine which actually had “seats” carved into the marble which the wealthy would have their slaves sit on first to warm them up.
Roman latrine with toilet seats
The library of Celsus amongst the ruins of Efes
The public arena or market at Efes
The amphitheater was originally Greek, but was modified by the Romans so that they could hold gladiator games there; the main modification was that they raised the seats up by several feet to protect the spectators from the animals.
Jamie in the amphitheater at Efes
The amphitheater at Efes as viewed from the gladiator ring
The marble main street of Efes - the sea used to be in the background before silting in
The city was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and the Temple of Artemis with its original 127 columns each over 60 feet high was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately not much is left of the temple, except for a few columns and ponds with lots of Slider turtles!
The Temple of Artemis - one the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
The last day of our tour was spent at the magnificent calcium terraces of Pamukkale which stand below the ancient city of Hierapolis which in Roman times was famous for its therapeutic powers from the "radioactive" hot springs in the area. Hierapolis is the city where the Apostle Philip was martyred. The calcium terraces look just like snow covered ski slopes!
Calcium terraces of Pamukkale
Jamie at the site where St. Philip was martyered
Chay by one of the "radioactive" wells at Hierapolis
Jamie, Katie, & Chay by the Cleopatra pools with ruins in-situ
Chay, Jamie & Katie soaking our feet in the hot spring waters
More of the calcium terraces of Pamukkale
Of course, it appears that no trip is complete without the “forced shopping” trips – this time we visited a rug making school/factory where they showed us how they farm the silk and a leather store with fashion show included!
Next stop Marmaris! We took two busses (keep in mind we are travelling with six 50 pound bags plus back packs and computer bags) to Marmaris where we were met by the owner of the hotel/apartments where we would spend the next week while we prepared Esprit to move back on to. One of the bus drivers asked us if we had a dead body in one of the bags! Needless to say our first stop after the hotel was Esprit – she was amazingly clean and in good shape for having sat in the water for almost a year! The engine and generator started right up, and the water maker worked.
Unfortunately the closest Christian Church is 100 miles away, so we celebrated Easter without Mass, which we really missed. It’s not quite the same. However, the Easter bunny delivered Reese’s peanut butter eggs both big & small (Reese’s eggs are a tradition in our family)! We then enjoyed a lamb dinner with salad – the lamb chops were delicious as Chay prepared them in a mint sauce marinade (no mint jelly to be had in Marmaris).
Chay spent several days stitching up the sails which needed reinforcing, while Jamie moved the rest of the items in his room to their proper locations on the boat.
Chay reinforcing the sails on board Esprit in the salon before we put them back up
Katie continued to work on the website, assisted Chay & Jamie as needed, and did odd jobs around the boat. Once the sails were done and we could see the floor of the Saloon, as well as all of Jamie’s room, we moved back on board! Although all is well on Esprit, it wasn’t without a few hiccups. The water pump for drinking water wouldn’t work; it turned out to be because of a water leak in the front head (bathroom) plumbing (similar to the ones we experience last cruising season) which had sucked the pump dry. Once Chay figured it out, opened the pump and got water into it, and repaired the leak, all was well with Esprit. Chay & Jamie added sound proofing to our generator room which makes an incredible difference – we can actually hear each other now when the generator is running.
Jamie holding up the generator while Chay installed the sound proofing material
Sunday April 15th was Orthodox Easter Sunday and one of our neighbors here in the marina is from Russia. She brought over an “Easter Bag” with some colored hard boiled eggs, a small decorated raisin cake, and chocolates, telling us it is a Russian tradition. What a pleasant, unexpected gift!
Our order at West Marine (which we placed in February from the States) finally came in! Through our local West Marine store in the states, in coordination with the West Marine store here in Marmaris, we were able to get all the items we wanted without having to pay customs fees, and we will be able to get the VAT tax back when we check out of Turkey! Many of the items were especially shipped from the States to Turkey for us (although some of the items ended up in other stores in Turkey, but eventually found their way to Marmaris).
Chay, Neslihan (West Marine Manager), and Jamie
We attended a weather briefing at Yacht Marin just in time to sit out a storm with 50 plus knots of wind and rain which carried the sands of the Sahara desert turning our decks red with the mud. We added extra lines to make sure we were secure. Esprit survived just fine - the storm wasn't quite as bad as they thought it would be.
The next few weeks will include Chay doing serious maintenance on the engine, cleaning the bottom, laundry, & provisioning so that we can start cruising at the end of April. We will cruise east before heading back west to Bodrum where we plan to haul out so that we can maintain the bottom, and more importantly, repair the propellor which we damaged last year in India just before our attempt to cross the Indian Ocean.
Turkey April 28 - June 11 2012
We departed Netsel Marina on Saturday, April 28th, after a week of, you’ll never guess - getting Esprit and crew ready to go cruising again. We cleaned the bottom of the boat (Phase 1 since it was extremely crusty with a year’s worth of growth), provisioned, laundried, etc….In addition we had to move Esprit twice during the week, once by hand and once by engine, because the marina was replacing section by section the dock we were on.
Our first stop was only 6 miles away – it was great to be on the hook again! The next morning we moved on to Ekincik bay where we stayed a few days. Jamie & Katie did another pass at cleaning the bottom of the boat, while Chay stayed topsides to let his toes continue to heal from a bacterial infection (similar to the one he had last year in Netsel/Marmaris). We hired a local “tripper” boat to take us on a tour of the Dalyan River which included the beach where the Loggerhead sea turtles nest, the ruins of the ancient city of Caunos, and temple tombs carved into the side of the mountains.
This anchorage was a bit rolly at times, and the last night it filled with 30 Russian boats participating in Russian Sailing Week. The skippers of which were not too good at anchoring, and all had to anchor right near us because we were almost the only boat in the bay! We ended up getting bumped in the night by one of the Russian boats when the wind died down and the boats stopped swinging in-sync; fortunately we incurred no damage.
We left the next morning, Wednesday, for Fethiye Bay where we are now nestled into a small bay named Wall Bay after the ancient wall that is here. The wall runs across the isthmus from our Bay to another bay and is believed to have been built to prevent enemy access to the mainland.
Anchoring here is a new experience for us. After dropping the anchor in fairly deep water (50+ feet) we then back Esprit to the shore where we tie her off with a long line. Jamie handled the long line from the dinghy while Katie manned the anchor and Chay skippered. This is not an easy way to anchor, and we were glad the anchorage was empty for our first time executing it. It’s hard to imagine doing it when the anchorage is full, especially since Esprit does not go backwards very well.
We took a 4 mile hike through Ruin Bay to the ancient city of Lydae. The walk was through a mountainous, pine forest, and the ruins appear to be “untouched” – it was more impressive in some ways than the ruins we visited at Ephesus or Troy since we had no guide and were able to climb all over the ruins on our own.
Boat maintenance continues, Chay continues to strip and prepare the cockpit teak for re-varnishing, Chay, Katie and Jamie did another pass at cleaning the bottom, and Katie polished the stainless steel outside and in. Jamie is rapidly progressing through school hoping to have a summer vacation this year, while Katie tries to stay one step ahead of him, especially in Math, English, & History.
After our wonderful 5 days of solitude in Wall Bay we moved on, quite swiftly due to the much cleaner bottom, to Tomb Bay where we practiced our new anchoring skills and nestled into a little corner of the bay. We hiked the trails to visit the tombs in the cliffs after which the bay is named. One of the tombs even had bones in it – most likely goat bones!
The bays are visited by small boats that are actually little stores – one was selling eggs, breads, and fresh produce, and the second was selling ice cream (we wondered when we would find the ice cream boat we heard about from our friends on Imagine). These boat stores must do a booming business in the summer months as the area we are in is a very popular cruising ground for local and foreign boats.
After a couple of days we moved on to the town of Fethiye where we are anchored “tradionally” (one bow anchor) in the bay.
We explored the town of Fethiye a bit taking care of some errands on our list like replacing the battery in Katie’s dive watch, finding boat parts that we’ve been searching for since we arrived back in Turkey, visiting the local police station where we got to visit for a while in their “911” call taking room (“155” in Turkey). Our visits with the jeweler and police officers included the traditional Turkish tea – it offends them if you decline the offer, as for them it is usually a genuine token of hospitality. The jeweler even asked us why all the tourists say No – I guess we’re a bit jaded and assume they have an angle of some sort.
Our biggest frustration recently has been getting email and/or internet access. As this is our primary way of receiving weather information it is critical that we have a means to obtain it. Our radio email system is operating at a snail’s pace so we can’t receive the emails that way because it times out before the transmission is complete. Our Vodaphone SIM card and modem don’t seem to be working properly, even after “topping it off” with money. Our computer tells us the card has not been activated, phone tech support says the SIM card is bad, so, we returned to the store to see if we could get a new SIM card and have them activate it without having to purchase the internet time again. This time we were told that the problem was that our modem was not registered in Turkey, so we agreed to register it, but they needed Chay’s original passport (no copies) which was back on the boat. After retrieving the passport, they made copies but their computer could not read the entry date of the visa stamp, so we had to go to immigration and have them verify the entry date (fortunately that went very smoothly with the immigration officer wondering why Vodaphone couldn’t read the original stamp). So, now we are waiting for the registration process to complete – they say 2-7 days! Maybe it will be registered before we leave Turkey? NOT!
The email frustrations have definitely been a lesson in patience, as well as demonstration of the fact that life does go on without the internet and email. We did finally find an internet café with very fast internet, and so were able to check weather, emails, and upload the backlog of Jamie’s school work for grading.
We have had been fortunate to have had beautiful weather for most of our time in Turkey so far, with only a couple of days of clouds and rain. Speaking of rain, it’s a good thing we were able to check weather at the internet café. Because we learned of a front coming through with wind and rain, we made the decision to stay put a few more days to let the front pass through before we continue east along the Mediterranean coast.
Chay’s been busy completely redoing the bright work which entails scraping off all of the old varnish, sanding, sanding, and more sanding, taping off the wood from the fiberglass, and then applying the varnish, waiting two days for it to dry, then sanding, then applying the next coat, etc., until all 6-7 coats are done. The trick is getting it done when it’s not raining (which it sometimes does in the afternoons when the thunderstorms develop) – rain messes up the varnish if the varnish is still wet.
After school, Jamie's been washing and waxing the hull of the boat. Keep in mind that is 46 feet of hull times two!
There are a few ruins here in Fethiye, including rock Tombs, a fortress which was built by the Knights of St. John over the acropolis of the Temessos (ancient Fethiye), and the amphitheater. We explored them on Mother’s Day and then enjoyed a relaxing lunch at the “Duck Pond” restaurant where we were seated by the duck pond/pigeon roost – very quaint.
There is a mosque nearby where we are anchored, so we are awakened each morning a little before 5AM to the Moslem call to prayer. Although loud, it is not nearly as loud as the mosques were in Wakatobi, Indonesia.
We left Fethiye at dawn for our passage to Kas, which is conveniently located for touring the ancient ruins of Patara (where Santa Claus was born) and Myra/Demre where St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) was Bishop. These sites were top on our list for visiting before leaving Turkey. We decided to go into the marina as they were having a 2 for 1 deal and we wanted to rent a car to tour the ruins in the area, and felt more comfortable leaving the boat in the marina while we toured, than on the hook.
We also met up with our friends Bill & Judi on s/v BeBe who were also in the marina, who we hadn’t seen for a year (they shipped their boat on the same ship we did in 2011). They joined us for our two days of sight-seeing and it was great to catch up with them again. Bill also helped us to get our new AIS working which had a been a puzzle since Marmaris; not only only did he have the software upgrade we needed, but also some of the electronics we needed. Jamie enjoyed having internet access as BeBe’s wireless guest, because our internet is still not working!
Our two day tour included Myra and Demre, Letoon, Xanthos, and Patara. Our first day was spent in Myra, where St. Nicholas was Bishop. His remains (at least those that weren’t stolen by the Italians) are in a sarcophagus in the Basilica of St. Nicholas, which is located in Myra and is in quite good condition with many wall and ceiling paintings. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of Russia, thus Myra is a pilgrammage site for many Russian Orthodox Christians. As a matter of fact, most of the tourist shops are Russian owned and operated, and are quite expensive! Also in the area are the Myra town ruins which include an amphitheater and many rock tombs. The rock tombs are an impressive site when viewed from a distance.
Day two we visited Letoon which was the spiritual heart of Xanthos, the capital of Lycia. There we saw the remains of several temples, an ancient Lycian mosaic, and several frogs which legend tells are the ancestors of the herdsmen who denied Delos (mother of Artemis and Apollo) water for her and her sons. Xanthos is situated on a low hill with remains of a monastery on the top of the hill, as well as a couple of Byzantine churches. It too has many rock tombs, an amphitheater, and a couple of pillar tombs. The hike up to the monastery and back was a bit rough, but only because there wasn’t really a defined trail.
Our last site of the day was Patara, the town where St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) was born. Patara was founded as a Lycian city in about 600 B.C. and was an important harbour in Lycia. It has since silted in and the site is now buried amongst the sand dunes behind the beach which we sailed past on our way to Kas. From the low hilltops you can see where the ancient harbour once was. The ruins included the theater (of course), baths, temples, Hadrian’s Granary, and a lighthouse and cistern which Chay & Jamie hiked up to. There is still excavation on-going at this site. The Turkish government invested funds to rehabilitate the Lycian League’s assembly hall (Roman) and did a marvelous job of recreating the feel of ancient Lycia.
Our last day in Kas a Fertina (Turkish for storm) blew through – we saw 36 knots and BeBe saw 45 knots of wind! The floating docks (the depth is 60 feet here, so no pylons) were like waves, making it difficult to get on and off the boat.
Although the winds would still be blowing our time was up at the marina and we decided to head back west in day hops. After three hours of beating into the wind in sloppy seas we stopped to anchor for the night in Yesilkoy Bay. The Bay was amazingly calm, but we still drug anchor and had to re-anchor. Unfortunately, not realizing how much chain the gullets (large Turkish tourist boats) lay out, we anchored on top of one of their chains. We left at 5:00 AM, but so did they, and they pulled up our anchor! The gullet crew was very patient and polite about it as they unwound our chain and released our anchor; they let us know that they put out between 300 and 450 feet of chain, and advised us to be careful the next time. We left Yesilkoy Bay to rough seas, left over from the storm of the previous two days, and very light winds.
Our second night was spent at Gemiler tucked in behind St. Nicholas Island with a stern line to shore. This anchorage was well protected and a nice respite from the washing machine seas we had all day. There is nothing worse that light winds and big seas! The anchorage was busy with gullets and day tripper boats. The island has ruins on it which we hiked bright and early the next morning before departing for points west. St. Nicholas lived here and the highlights were a couple of churches and a tunnel. This town was abandoned in the middle ages as the population moved inland to avoid the pirates!
Our third day out we played by ear and went further than planned stopping in Baba Adasi, a small anchorage behind an island. We continued to Baba Adasi because we were actually having a great sail, the first time this year! This little cove appears to be the spot where the local fisherman stage to and from there fishing sites – they get their nets ready, clean the catch of the day, and spend the night. We were the only cruising boat there! There was one fisherman who stayed quietly to himself; Chay noticed that he smoked, so we hailed him over and offered him a carton of cigarettes which we had purchased last year to use as bakshesh (bribes) in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. His eyes lit up and he then gave us 3 bottles of beer! We hiked to the top of the island where there is a pyramidal structure made out of rocks and covered with a red brick veneer. Its purpose is unknown, but because of its location, it was most likely used as a light house. While hiking Chay noticed a very large negro bunny, which we spotted again later from the boat; this is unusual as we are not sure what it ate or drank because the island is essentially barren and the only water around is salty.
Day four turned out to be our longest passage yet. Because we were growing weary of day hops, we decided to continue straight on to Bozburun where we had planned to spend several days so that Chay could do some more varnish work in the cockpit. The winds were light and the seas calm – if we had to motor, these were the best conditions. It also allowed us the opportunity to enjoy a few games of Mexican Train dominoes – something we hadn’t done in a long time! We also caught our first fish (Tuna) in over two years! It was just a bit too small to keep and with the few number of fish in the Med. we put it back in, but it was fun to actually catch something again.
We arrived late in the day, finally found a place to anchor with a long line ashore to the island, and were greeted by a local selling his wares. He had everything from nuts, dried apricots and figs, to jewelry, clothing, and Turkish towels. We didn’t have any small change and neither did he, so he let us keep the sesame seed covered peanuts we wanted and came back the next morning (on time too) with some local village bread and change. There are goats on the island which we hear bleating each morning and afternoon as they make their treks. Our stern line ashore is right in their path – the adult goats either lifted it up with their head and went under, or jumped over, while the younger goats were more cautious and detoured around the rock we are tied onto.
Chay continued varnishing and repaired some loose/worn out hoses that started leaking during our last passages. After school, Jamie continued washing and waxing the hull, while Katie scratched off many little chores on her daily list. We took advantage of the clear, calm waters to do the fourth bottom cleaning – it is looking better & better; hopefully now we can go even faster!
And faster we went – at least a half-knot faster! The passage from Bozburon to Bodrum took us 13 hours, and we sailed 8 of those hours! The Esprit crew honed their tacking skills as we tacked back and forth at least 8 times to sail around the point at Knidos, the western end of the Datca Peninsula. The winds were unpredictable as they went from essentially nothing to 20 knots on the nose, and vice-versa, in seconds on either side of the point. We understand why these points have a reputation for sometimes being ugly, at least from a sailing perspective. We were pretty proud of ourselves as we sailed into Bodrum just before sunset, and dropped anchor next to the impressive St. Peter’s Castle.
Bodrum will be home for a week or so as we get ready to check out of Turkey and move onto Greece.
Our 10 days in Bodrum were busy ones. In addition to Chay completing the varnish work in the cockpit (at least for now), we took a very long walk (about 4 miles roundtrip) to the grocery stores to provision, only to discover later that there was a store much closer, but hidden behind the bus station. After 6 days, the winds picked up to 20 knots plus, and our anchor started to drag so we moved, only to drag two more times with plastic bubble wrap under the anchor! So we upped anchor one more time and moved about a mile away to a very nice little anchorage closer to the marina where the music from the restaurants and the calls to prayer from the mosque are much quieter than in the first anchorage.
We toured St. Peter’s Castle which was built by the Knights of St. John in the 1400’s, and includes several towers, a chapel, and a dungeon. The castle was taken over by the Persians/Muslims in 1522 after the fall of the castle at Rhodes. Typical of the Muslim conquests, the chapel now has had a minaret added to it which looks very out of place. The castle is in amazingly good condition and has been turned into an Underwater Archeology Museum showcasing the artifacts of several wrecks, some dating back as far as 4000 years ago. The artifacts include amphoras (jugs for wine or oil), gold, jewelry, and glass.
No tour of a city is complete until we enjoy our ice cream right out of the tub - a tradition started in Nicaruaga with our good friends the Hollenberg Family on "Nueva Vida".
The highlight of our stay in Bodrum needs a bit of background first. When a sailor crosses the equator from North to South, legend has it that he goes from being a pollywog to a Leatherback Turtle. This is traditionally commemorated with a turtle tattoo. Well, we completed our first equator crossing going South back in 2005 near Ecuador, and crossed it a second time going North in 2010 near Borneo. Well we finally got our tattoos here in Bodrum,Turkey!
Bodrum is a great little town. It has the cheapest prices we've seen yet in Turkey. We highly recommend it!
Next stop Greece!
Greece, Montenegro, & Croatia June 12 - August 7, 2012
We arrived in Pythagoria, Samos, Greece on June 12th and anchored just outside the town harbour. Our check-in went very smoothly, with all officials extremely friendly and helpful. We successfully got an internet sim card for our modem which works! The Turkish one never did work. The town is known for Pythagorus, the Greek mathematician famous for the Pythagorean theorem. There is a statue at the entrance to the harbour honoring him. We took a long walk in search of the tunnel used to bring water from the mountains to the city and for escape during times of attack, but never did find the turn-off – we did see several other ancient sites/ruins along the way. We treated ourselves to delicious gyro pita sandwiches – pork, French fries, “salad”, and yogurt dressing wrapped in a pita.
After 3 nights in Samos we moved on to Patmos, the island famous for the Cave of the Apocalypse where St. John was in exile and where he wrote the biblical Book of Revelation. We had quite the boisterous ride to Patmos – hitting over 9 knots on the way! The first strong Meltemi (the summer northerly winds of the Aegean which can blow up to gale force) of the season had arrived – we had worked our way north just in the nick of time.
We spent two nights at anchor in a wonderful anchorage just north of the main harbour of Patmos while the winds howled – up to 25 knots. We then moved to the main harbour so that we could tour St. John’s Monastery and the Cave of the Apocalypse. There was very good holding in the anchorage while we road out 30 knot winds. The Monastery was impressive, and the museum was simple but very well done. The Cave is a chapel with many icons and alters. We got to see some local Greek Orthodox people worshipping in the cave – they are very devout and are much more demonstrative in their praying than Roman Catholics.
While in the harbour at anchor, the Port Police told us to move to the wharf so that a couple of big ships could maneuver in the anchorage. Just as were deciding what to do, a boat left a dock at the “new marina” and we slipped into a side tie there – much better than trying to med moor onto the old rough wharf.
Our next island was Paros – 65 miles away. We were getting low on fuel so we watched the weather and picked a window that would give us wind to sail by and minimize the time we had strong winds. We moved around to the west side of the island (shortening our trip by about 10 miles to the 65) and anchored for the night so we could get an early sunrise start to what was going to be a long day. We were glad we did because the south side of Patmos is very rough due to a North flowing current and accelerated Northerly winds, of course it lived up to it’s reputation as we came around. The southwest anchorage was beautiful and we only had to share it with one super yacht! We explored the beach and did some swimming.
The next day the winds were much more variable than expected and we ended up with gale force winds, back down to zero, back to gale all on the nose and with 15 foot seas. Esprit’s crew were not happy campers. 10 hours later we were anchored on the north end of the island of Paros in Naousis Bay in calm waters surrounded by rocky shores and beaches – a nice ending to a very wild ride! It reminded us of being back on Lake Mead in Nevada.
The northern anchorage was so nice that we stayed longer than originally planned and were able to enjoy a couple of snorkels – unfortunately not too much sea life to enjoy, but it was nice to be in the water again (even if it is still a bit chilly).
In need of fuel (we hadn’t filled up since the Maldives last year!) we moved around to Paros Port (Paroikia) on Sunday the 24th. We were a bit gun shy to leave our tranquil anchorage, but ended up having a beautiful sail right into the anchorage at Paros Port. Then the frustrations hit – it took us 5 tries to get the anchor to hold! The fifth time it held, but then began to slowly slip/drag a bit keeping us on constant anchor watch. We went into town to run errands and visited the “100 Door Church” (Greek Orthodox and the most beautiful in the Aegean Sea) which is three churches combined into one – its Byzantine architecture is amazing and the church is still in use today. One thing we noticed that is different from the Roman Catholic churches, is that the alters are behind a decorated wall, not in plain view. The town is beautiful and demonstrates the wonderful Greek Island architecture.
We rented a 4 wheeler so that we could make runs to the gas station for diesel fuel and to the supermarket for provisions. Now we can relax a bit, if we have to motor on our way to Athens we will have the fuel to do so.
A new tradition has taken hold on Esprit – each afternoon after school, chores, and explorations are done, we enjoy “happy hour” time together playing poker – what fun!
We moved on to Kithnos on Tuesday the 26th to break up the trip to Athens with light to moderate winds. We anchored on the western side of the anchorage which is separated from the eastern side by a sand bar about 10 feet wide. This was our first white sand beach in the Med! The water was amazingly clear and we would have liked to stay there longer, but Athens was beckoning and the winds were predicted to pick up over the next few days. The next day we sailed to the anchorage at Pt. Sounion where we anchored just under the point and the magnificent Temple of Poseidon. Since we had shared so much rum with Poseidon on our equator crossings and at our one-half point around the world, we figured that we just had to stop and pay him a visit. We got anchored just in the nick of time – the winds picked up and were blowing up to 32 knots! We were concerned about the anchor holding because the guide book said it would be poor holding – but Esprit hung just fine through 2 days of high winds and we saw over 50 boats come and go during that time and not a single one dragged. The next morning we hiked up to the Temple of Poseidon – it is very impressive both from afar and up close. Friday the 29th we sailed to Athens – we had a great sail the whole way right into Zea Marina!
We had read and heard from other cruisers that it is near to impossible to sail in the Med and that much of their time was spent motoring. Either too much wind or not enough. So far our experience has been that we have been able to sail at least 70% of the time we are at sea – although most of the sailing is into strong winds, usually on the nose, Esprit handles it well. Sometimes, however, the crew does question the wisdom of the captain! We have been able to do much more sailing then we thought possible.
We are currently in Zea Marina med-moored to the wharf. No trip to Athens is complete with a visit to the Acropolis and the surrounding ancient ruins. We took the bus and train into Athens (very easy to do with a little bit of help from a friendly local man) and started exploring. There are ruins everywhere nestled in amongst the modern buildings. The Acropolis and Parthenon are impressive! Unfortunately they are under restoration so are partially covered with scaffolding, but you still get the feel of the amazing architecture in this dramatic setting. After touring the sites themselves, we visited the Acropolis Museum. This is the best museum we’ve been to – a modern building with well displayed artifacts and a nice open floor plan with plenty of room to enjoy the displays. We wandered back to the train station through the “touristy” area and had a traditional Greek lunch of Moussaka and Gyros plates. We have found Athens to be a wonderful place to visit with friendly helpful people.
We are taking advantage of the “big city” to fill up on fuel, propane, and provisions before heading west through the Corinth Canal to the Gulf of Corinth and Ionian Sea.
We departed Athens on July 4th and transited the Corinth Canal, a 3 mile long canal connecting the Aegean Sea with the Gulf of Corinth. The canal is extremely narrow with very high rock walls on either side and one of the oldest canals in the world.
It was fairly late in the day when we exited the canal, so we headed to the town of Corinth where we side-tied to the wharf in Corinth harbour. Once secured, we noticed that we only had a foot of water beneath us! After our Fourth of July dinner of hamburgers, corn on the cob, and chips, we donned our red, white, and blue clothes and wandered around town looking for the bus station so that we could visit the ancient Corinth the next morning; the town was very “dead” and we had no luck finding the bus station, even after getting directions. During the night the tide dropped (it was a full moon, so the tides were “extreme”) putting us on the bottom, and healing over quite a bit. Chay used some of the lines to pull us upright until morning when the tide was back up, and we were floating free again – we left as soon as we were free!
Next stop was Itea where we side-tied in the public marina. From here we took the bus to visit the ruins of Delphi – famous for the Oracle of Delphi. The ancient city is situated high on the slopes of the mountain overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. The ruins included the Temple to Apollo, several treasuries where temple gifts from various peoples were kept, the agora (market), etc.. The ruin we enjoyed most was the Stadium – an oval shaped arena with seating all around a field that was used for chariot races and track events. It was in very good condition, and was new & different than other ruins we have seen. We visited the archeological museum where they have several of the original statues and artifacts, including the large egg shaped stone used by the Oracle.
After 2 nights in Itea we moved on to Navpaktos, the most perfectly preserved little medieval harbor in the Mediterranean Sea. We motored into the actual harbor to take a look, but decided to anchor out along the beach. The harbour and castle on the hillside are incredible! It was a refreshing change from the Greek and Roman ruins. We hiked up to the castle winding through the tiny medieval alleyways, to find it had closed about an hour before!
The next morning we continued on to the island of Ithaca – of Odysseus fame. We anchored with a stern line ashore in a small bay shared by a couple of other boats and some campers. The only noise was of the clicking of the cicadas. Although we wished we had stayed longer, we moved on to Vasiliki on the island of Levkas, but not without a detour to the cave on a nearby island that supposedly was the “home” of a submarine during WWII. Chay and Jamie took the dinghy in, while Katie skippered Esprit just outside. Chay & Jamie found it too small for a submarine, but awesome as far as caves go. We tacked our way in fairly strong winds into the anchorage at Vasiliki. We anchored without the benefit of the anchor windlass, which hadn’t been acting properly for a while, and quit working while bringing up anchor at the Ithica anchorage.
Our next stop at Corfu would be our last stop in Greece. Because of the windlass problem, we went into the marina. Chay diagnosed the windlass problem which put us on the hunt for new motor brushes and springs. Fortunately, the marina had an electrician who was able to repair the one we had with a used spring and brushes from a CAT Diesel. The marina had a very nice pool with restaurants poolside which we enjoyed each afternoon – the temperatures were running about 100 degrees – much warmer than usual according to the locals – so the pool was a great way to cool off. We took the bus into Corfu Town to check out of the country, which went smoothly once we located all the various offices. We then wandered through the old town which has two Venetian forts. Corfu is different than the other Greek towns we’ve been to in that it has a very Venetian/European feel to it. We decided to have lunch at McDonalds where we had “Greek Macs” – Big Macs served Greek style in a pita with the gyro sauce on it which were very good.
Our next country to visit was Montenegro. Timing our trip to beat the high winds that were expected, we did an overnight passage to the town of Bar, Montenegro, motoring most of the way. We tied off at the customs wharf late on Sunday afternoon, hunted down an immigration official, and were told to check in the next morning. That evening we were the sightseeing event for the locals who used Esprit for photo ops! In addition, we had fisherman sitting at our bow and stern all night long! It was a bit uncomfortable. The next morning we were denied our cruising permit because we did not have a “Certificate of Competence” for the skipper! The immigration officer was bewildered when he learned he had to check us in and out at the same time.
So we left for Croatia, only to meet the expected high winds on the nose with very messy seas. As we only going 3 knots and would not get into Croatia until after dark, and Esprit and crew were taking a beating, we sought shelter in a bay (still in Montenegro) where we picked up a mooring (at the direction of one of the locals) because the holding was horrible (typical Med. weeds). We stayed here for two nights, wandered around the very small hamlet, had dinner at one of the three restaurants in the town to compensate them for the use of the mooring ball, and then moved on to Croatia.
Our check-in into Croatia at the town of Cavtat was one of the quickest and easiest we’ve ever had – 1 hour including med mooring between two 150 foot super yachts to the customs quay (although we were off by 1 berth from the Customs Dock, they let us stay there to check in but told us next time they would charge us $100!), checking in, visiting the ATM to pay for the cruising permit, and then leaving the quay! We tried a couple of anchorages at Dubrovnik but weren’t satisfied with them, so after wandering around and beating into high winds(35+knots), we found what turned out to be a very pleasant, safe, calm anchorage at the head of a circular bay at the end of a narrow passage that was all wharf for the two small towns. It was a magical medieval town. Unfortunately, our last night we had a local fisherman tell us we had to move because he wanted to fish right where we were anchored – he wanted us to move to a spot that was too deep to anchor! We didn’t move, and he gave up and went back to his spot on the wharf.
We worked our way north to Split stopping along the way. Our first stop was a fairly large anchorage full of German boats – with lots of naked people! We moved on the next morning and spent the next couple of nights anchored with a stern line ashore in a nice quiet anchorage while we waited for a frontal system to pass through. This was the first time we had seen clouds and rain since Turkey way back in April! Chay & Katie took about a 10 mile hike to the town of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar to get sim cards for the phone and modem, Croatian money, and to pick up a few provisions. The town is a medieval town – very clean and quaint. There was a German flagged power boat moored in the middle of the bay we anchored in tied off as if they were there for the season – the gentleman on board preferred to be naked, as we were to discover many German boaties do, and not just for showering/bathing. Next stop was Split where we went into the Marina Kastelas to prepare for the arrival of Katie’s niece Sarah from Buffalo, NY. Before going to the marina, we wanted to get fuel in Split harbour, but the fuel dock is closed and under renovation! We took the bus to Split and toured the old town – we hiked up to the top of the Belfry! Old town Split was quite pleasant. We then hiked to the marina in search of engine oil which we found; however, it was in a 5 gallon plastic container which Jamie carried back in Katie’s backpack! Much more than we needed for the oil change, but at least we have oil on hand now for the next time. On our way back to the bus stop we stopped at a small pizzeria which appeared to be a locals hangout – always a good sign! The pizza was our first European style pizza and was delicious.
Sarah arrived safe and sound and we moved onto Trogir so that we could get fuel and add Sarah to our crew list at the harbour master’s office. Again, we enjoyed wandering the medieval streets of the old town Trogir and were treated to the ringing of the bells at noon – much nicer than the Mosque call to prayer.
Weather prevented us from moving on too far the next morning – the wind picked up sooner than normal and was on the nose, so we actually turned around and went back a few miles to Uvala Stari Trogir where we stopped for the night. But not without frustration. We find many of the anchorages here extremely difficult to anchor in because they are rocky with only a thin layer of sand over the top – the anchor does best in deep wet sand or mud. After several attempts and changing bays we finally got anchored, but Chay had to set the anchor by hand (with dive gear on) to make sure we didn’t drag. We cleaned Esprit’s bottom here – the growth comes back very quickly in this part of the Med.
We continued north, island hopping our way to Pula. One anchorage was in a national park at the southern end of Dugi Otok, and was in a very nice pine tree setting. Jamie took Sarah exploring a few times in the dinghy, in addition to repairing one of the toilets that had stopped working properly. Our last anchorage before Pula was on Otok Losinj and reminded us a lot of Lake Mead. The water was very clear so we were able to swim & snorkel – probably our last time for a while.
We anchored in Pula Harbour with an awesome view of a Roman Coliseum – one of the 5 largest and one of the three best preserved. The old town has the feel of the old world but is actually lived in so feels very alive. We attended Mass at a 5th century basilica; the Mass was in Italian. It was good to go to church again – the first time since March.
We’ve had to pay to anchor in some of the harbours (Trogir & Pula) which is unusual from our previous years of cruising, but is cheaper than berthing in the marinas.
Another thing we’ve noticed is that the salinity of the water has increased from Turkey to Croatia – the Adriatic appears to be much saltier than the Aegean Sea.
Esprit trivia – since 2003 we have visited over 100 islands!
Pula is the end of our Croatian adventure – we will move on to Venice in a few days to explore this wonderful city.
Italy - Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Ancona (August 8 - September 5th)
We arrived Venice, Italy, August 8th after an uneventful night passage from Pula with a sky full of stars – even several falling stars! Sarah sat the night watch from 3AM to 6AM with Katie so that she could get a feel for what it is like to sail at night. She really enjoyed her first sunrise at sea! We are in a marina here in Venice – Vento di Venezia which is just a short water taxi/boat trip from San Marcos Square. We bought a weekly pass for the water taxis and have spent a week riding everywhere.
Three days were spent exploring the back alleys, bridges, and other sights of Venice including San Marcos Basilica and several churches. Venice is an absolutely amazing city – you could easily spend a month here! The architecture is breathtaking. Of course, no trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride which we all enjoyed through the little back alleyways and the Grand Canal. The small island of Murano is the home of Venetian glass so we spent a day there visiting the glass museum having lunch and going through the myriad of shops.
Part of our mission while exploring was to complete our entry formalities (customs, immigration, & harbor master) into Italy. This turned out to be no easy feat! Noon site was wrong, our 2012 pilot was incorrect, and the marina only had a general idea where to go. None of the officials we asked knew where to send us, or if they thought they did, they didn’t give enough detail to find it. In general, they didn’t seem to think it was necessary to even bother to check in. However, we knew better. On day 3 we finally found the Port Authority and Harbour Master, where an English speaking agent was called in to assist us – he knew exactly what needed to be done, and that it needed to be done that day because Sarah was flying out of the country the next day and hadn’t cleared immigration into the country/EU yet. He drove us to the office where we could complete the paper work and get our passports stamped – we had walked by this little red brick building hidden amongst the trees at least 3 times in our meanderings! We were all relieved to be checked in and “legal”. So we took a water taxi back to the Rialto bridge area – home of our favorite gelato (ice cream) store and treated ourselves to another ice cream in Venice.
Katie’s niece Sarah left on the 12th after spending two great weeks with us. Concerns about what life on Esprit would be like with one more person proved to be for naught – she fit right in. She even took the helm while we were entering Venice so that we could lower the dinghy before going into the marina. It was great fun having her with us and we will miss her!
We cleared out of Venice and had a motor-sail passage overnight to Ancona avoiding the many oil platforms as we went.
Marina Dorica in Ancona served as our base for our inland trip to Florence, Pisa, & Rome. With one exception (we departed 25 minutes late going from Rome back to Ancona), our train trips were on time and smooth. A great way to see the country.
Our first stop was Florence which we loved! Museums were closed the next day, so the first night we visited the museum with the famous statue “David” – as it was late in the day, the queue for the expedited ticket was short so we were able to purchase tickets and walk right in. Michelangelo was truly an inspired sculptor and painter. The next morning, we climbed the 300-odd steps to the top of the dome and had an incredible view of the city. The Cathedral is amazingly beautiful – even more spectacular than the Taj Mahal. Our wanderings throughout Florence included the Ponte Vecchio, several churches, a historic pharmacy once run by the Benedictine monks, ice cream, pizza & pasta, and many other buildings, sites and food.
After two days in Florence (we could have spent more), we moved onto Pisa where we toured the Basilica and Baptistry, and of course climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Basilica was beautiful – one of the nicest we’ve seen. Climbing the Leaning Tower, which is actually the bell tower for the Basilica, was an experience – it actually made us feel sort of sea sick.
The next day we moved on to Rome. Day one included the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Coliseum. Although they are all impressive, they weren’t in as good condition as the Roman ruins we saw in Turkey, Greece, and Croatia.
Day two was spent touring the Vatican with a small tour group – including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Amazing and inspiring are words that come to mind to describe these sites! The architecture, paintings, and sculptures are breathtaking. Joining a tour allowed us to skip lines (although the lines were not near as long as we anticipated) and gave us a much better appreciation and understanding for the history associated with Rome, the Vatican sites, and the artists. One bit of history is that we were not aware of was when they Beatified Pope John XXIII, they kept with the protocol of opening his tomb to remove relics expecting to find a skeleton, and discovered his body incorrupt after 38 years. His see through sarcophagus and body are now on display in the main part of St. Peter’s Basilica rather than in the catacombs below the church.
On Sunday we went back to St. Peter’s to attend Mass (in Italian by a regular priest – not the Pope who was on “vacation”). This was quite a moving experience – it was wonderful to see the Catholic Church in the faces of the people from all around the world. We then spent the next couple of days exploring the many churches, fountains, piazzas, and statues of Rome. Another highlight was visiting the church where the Sacred Stairs are located – these are supposedly the marble stairs, brought from Jerusalem to Rome by St. Helen (Constantine’s mother), that Jesus walked up and down when he was presented to Pontius Pilate during the Passion. We ascended the steps on our knees as is the protocol – another moving experience. At the top of the stairs is the Sacred Sacristy of the Popes where the Popes would say their personal daily Mass. One other interesting relic we saw was a piece of wood from the manger/crib of Jesus.
Sunset over Ancona
One could easily spend months exploring the churches and museums of Rome, but after 4 days it was time to head back to Esprit in Ancona to get ready to move south to Malta.
When we first arrived in Ancona we met a local named Mauro who invited us to give a presentation to the Lega Navale – a country wide yacht club with local chapters. So the day after we returned to the boat, we gave a presentation about our cruising life to a group of about 70 Italians – adults and children. For various reasons the presentation start time was delayed so a few of the members gave us a quick tour of the old town of Ancona, including the Cathedral and one of the more popular piazzas (squares), before rushing us back to the yacht club to speak. It went well, but as usual there are just too many stories to tell, and not enough time – particularly since this time we had an interpreter which doubled the amount of time it took. After the presentation we enjoyed a 3 hour long, wonderful multi-course meal with the club members. It was our best meal yet in Italy! Their hospitality and cultural pride are great! They gave us a plaque, the club burgee/flag, a backpack, and other small gifts to commemorate the time we spent with them. Roberto, one of the yacht club members we met, kindly offered to drive us to the store to provision, and to do any other errands we had, which we did on Friday – much better than walking – particularly because it has been raining. One of the greatest joys of cruising is being welcomed by the local community.
Ancona is a diverse town with cultural/tourist attractions and manufacturing activities combined in one city. It is a great place to leave the boat to take inland trips to explore Italy. The next few days are supposed to be stormy so we’ll hunker down here for a few more days until the weather is right to sail south.
Italy (Rocella Ionica & Sicily), Malta, & Back to Boulder City, NV (September 6th - October 12)
We departed Ancona on Katie’s birthday (Sept 6th) expecting a downwind ride….and that is exactly what we had!
However, we weren’t expecting a gale during the passage – we were doing 9+ knots much of the time and hit 10.8 knots! The seas were huge – about 12-15 feet – so we did a lot of surfing. The metal slider along the foot of the main sail that holds the main sail down to the boom broke while under way. We reefed the main sail, Chay tied sail down to the boom, and we continued on our way. We made the 540 mile trip down the Adriatic Sea and across southern Italy in 3 days – much quicker than expected to our first stop Roccella Ionica. This is a small marina with an excellent pizzeria - one of our favorites in Italy! Chay was able to get another coat of varnish done, and Katie a load of laundry, before moving on to Siracusa on the island of Sicily. During our 90 mile passage to Siracusa Esprit once again was moving too fast and it appeared we would arrive in the dark before sunrise. Katie tried everything to slow her down but Esprit kept saying “I want to go fast!”. During Chay’s watch we heard a loud bang and discovered that the boom vang (that holds the boom down near the mast) had broken. Fortunately we have a boom break and a preventer on that helped make up for the failed vang. Chay was able to repair this once we reached Siracusa.
We anchored in the harbor and sat out another low pressure system/gale – apparently it is the season for the low pressure systems to start moving through the area – we only saw 30 knots in the anchorage, but the water was extremely choppy. We made a couple of quick trips into town to provision and to check out of Italy. On one of the trips we towed some fellow American cruisers in their dinghy to the marina so that they could get their dinghy engine repaired. Jamie successfully skippered the dinghy through rough waters without any mis-haps. Speaking of other Americans – after a season of seeing essentially no Americans, there were 4 USA flagged boats in Roccella, and at least that in Siracusa! We were all surprised. We leave tonight (Sept 15) to take advantage of a small window of northerly wind behind the low pressure system for our passage to Malta. This will be another 90 mile passage during the night so that we can arrive at a decent time in daylight.
Well our small window of northerly winds was very small indeed – we ended up motor-sailing to Malta. We arrived at the Maltese island of Gozo and berthed at the Mgarr Gozo Marina. Our check-in was a breeze – they were only concerned about our last entry into a Schengen country which was Venice, Italy on August 11th (we had spent 3 weeks in non-Schengen Montenegro & Croatia so had to check into Schengen Italy which apparently restarted our Schengen clock).
After a few days in the marina we moved over to the island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon for a lunch stop in the clearest blue water we had seen all year. We explored the caves and arches and then moved around the island a few miles where we anchored for the night before moving on to the main island of Malta.
The clear blue water & caves of Blue Lagoon
We enjoyed a nice sail to Valletta, Malta and finally found a place to pick up a mooring near Manoel Island.
The harbours on Malta either have marinas or mooring fields; the latter are such that there is no place to safely anchor without getting tangled in the mooring lines. On our second night, we were told we would have to get off our mooring because all of the tour boats were moving off the wharf and onto the moorings because of strong easterly winds, so we moved onto the moorings of the Manoel Island Yacht Yard for the night. Funny thing – there were no winds that night! The next morning, after fueling up with diesel, we moved onto the yacht yard’s pontoon for two nights and were hauled out on Monday the 24th and placed into dry dock where we started the process of getting Esprit ready to leave on the hard – sails down, decks cleared, varnish completed, boat waxed, stainless polished, etc…...Once the sails were down Jamie lost his room so we moved into a hotel for the last few days before flying home to Boulder City, Nevada, on October 2nd. We chose to leave the boat in Malta this year because Malta has one of the milder climates in the Mediterranean winter and the price (yacht yard prices plus airfare home) was the most reasonable. So far our experience with the yard is good – they are very professional, the yard and facilities are clean, and the people are friendly.
Although we didn’t have much time for sight-seeing we did wander a bit to get a feel for Malta – it is a little country that played a major role in history – from the crusades, to being the location where the Knights of St. John finally stopped the Persian invasion of Europe, to the world wars. Malta is 98 percent Catholic and it is evident everywhere. It was great to attend Mass in English!
Once home in Boulder City, we did a Costco run to “provision”, and then Chay & Jamie headed straight-away to our cabin in Big Bear, CA, to do yard maintenance and to seal the driveway before the temperatures dropped over the weekend which would have precluded re-sealing the driveway. Katie stayed home & cleaned the house and enjoyed time with Amy, Beau & our granddaughters Trinity & Tasha, including Trinity’s soccer game (they won 10-0!). It is a bit odd without our Criterium business, but we look forward to finding and settling into a new routine – hopefully more relaxed!
Click here to watch Jamie's Video of Esprit in the Med 2012
Boulder City, Big Bear, & San Francisco - (October 9th - November 12th 2012)
Wow, we’ve been back in the U.S. over a month already! It’s been a month of adjusting – no Criterium, no karate, no Esprit….But it’s been a busy month! We have spent about 2 weeks up at our cabin in Big Bear, CA and visiting with Chay’s Mom, sister, aunt, and niece…
Aunt Mary, Chay, & Chay's Mom Theresa in Desert Hot Springs, CA
Watching our granddaughters play soccer is always exciting…Jamie’s taken up gymnastics…Chay’s delving into the restoration of Vicky, his 1931 Model A Ford Victoria…
"Vicky" - Chay's 1931 Model A Ford Victoria
Chay taking off a rock solid tire from its original 1931 rim
Jamie took his PSAT’s and is starting his college search while working on his Junior year school work load….trick or treating with our granddaughters on Halloween was definitely a “treat”…we were honored to have been given the opportunity to share our “Esprit” story at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco (although going through 10,000 photos to choose the 200 or so photos we used in the presentation was no easy feat!)…while in the San Francisco area we truly enjoyed our visit with our cruising friends Bob and Judy from s/v “Kemah” whom we met in Mexico and hadn’t seen in 8 years – they live in a beautiful area along the coast above San Francisco with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Redwood Forest on the other…
Jamie & Katie at the St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco, CA
Katie, Chay, & Jamie giving sharing their "Esprit" story at the St. Francis Yacht Club
Jamie, Chay, & Katie with Alcatraz Island in the background
The Golden Gate Bridge
Jamie & Chay at the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge
Where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean in Northern California
Jamie, Chay, & Katie pausing to take in the view during a hike along the coastline at The Sea Ranch, CA
Bob & Judy - our friends & hosts extraordinaire at The Sea Ranch, CA
The Sea Ranch, CA
We were disappointed in the outcome of the Presidential election and are struggling with our search for a way that we can contribute to getting our country back on its constitutional course…but, we are looking forward to Thanksgiving in Big Bear with Chay’s family…
Boulder City & California (November 13, 2012 - February 11, 2013)
February 11, 2013 – Time sure does fly! Jamie got his learner’s permit in November and has been logging his driving hours slowly but surely. Thanksgiving in Big Bear included a trip down the mountain to share Thanksgiving dinner with Chay’s family, and a visit from the Olson family, our good friends from Boulder City.
Grandma McWilliam (Chay's Mom)
Katie & Jamie getting ready to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma McWilliam's house
Jamie & the Olson family working on a puzzle
Four different Christmas puzzles - done!
No Christmas season is complete without our traditional Santa Train ride with Trinity & Tasha - this year had the extra treat of a ride on a beautifully restored steam engine!
How cool is this - a fully restored steam engine!
Trinity, "Big Daddy", Tasha, and Mr. & Mrs. Claus
We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas in Big Bear with our daughter Amy and her family (the Oeland’s). Although it didn’t snow on Christmas Day, it did snow every other day while we were up there, so we had snow on the ground and enjoyed sledding, walks, and snow ball fights, as well as doing puzzles and playing games. The weather was very cold – so cold that we used up all our firewood! We stayed in Big Bear through New Years and rang in the New Year with our traditional champagne & Chinese Rocks (yummy cookies from Katie’s Mom’s recipe treasure trove).
"Big Daddy" reading The Night Before Christmas
"Big Daddy" sledding with our granddaughters
Big Bear, California - A Winter Wonderland!
Nothing like a beautifully stacked wood pile in the snow
Our bear at the Big Red House
Katie enjoying the scenery on one of our daily walks
Chay & Katie celebrated their 20th Wedding Anniversary with dinner out at Andre’s, one of their favorite French restaurants.
Chay & Katie celebrating 20 years of marriage!
We have enjoyed sharing soccer moments with the Oeland family including Trinity’s games as well a night out to watch the Las Vegas Legends play San Diego. Katie has begun her ministry of taking Communion to the Home Bound and Hospitalized; Chay continues his restoration of “Vicky”, our 1931 Model A Ford Victoria, has begun shopping for parts and supplies for Esprit, and has purchased some very nice, rare collectible guns; Jamie is busy with school, gymnastics, and taking college board tests (SAT & ACT), piano, as well as enjoying being creative with his computer and iPad mini. Chay & Jamie have had the opportunity to spend time with our very good friend Kent target shooting in the desert with their wide assortment of guns.
Chay sand blasting Vicky's wheels
Chay priming one of Vicky's wheel rims in the "spray tent"
Chay target shooting in the desert
January brought “stormy” weather – Chay’s younger brother Richard passed away, followed on by some health issues - now resolved - for Chay, Chay’s Mom and our son-in-law Beau. We thank God for bringing us through these difficult times and trust that he will continue to keep us under his wing.
Boulder City & California (February 13, 2013 - May 10, 2013)
May 10, 2013 - It is almost time to return to Esprit! We’ve been very busy since February. In addition to gathering supplies to take back to Esprit and scheduling work to be performed on Esprit, we were able to spend a couple of weeks at Big Bear – it always a relaxing get away even if we’re doing chores! The Big Red House is so peaceful.
Big Bear, April 2013
Doing puzzles at Big Bear - always fun & challenging!
A bit of the wild life at the Big Red House
Jamie narrowed down his college search to five schools which we were able to tour during three separate visits – Caltech, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Montana State University, University of Wyoming, and Colorado School of Mines. The college visits were fun and a good learning experience, in addition to being an exciting, albeit cold, road trip through the Rocky Mountains with visits through Yellowstone National Park and the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn! Jamie thought the visits would shrink the pool, but no such luck – he likes them all!
On the road from Montana to Wyoming
Site of the Battle of Little Big Horn
On the road from Wyoming to Colorado
Chay, Katie, & Jamie in Golden, Colorado
Chay has been working on his 1931 Model A Ford Victoria, “Vicky”, and after 6 months of diligence and hard work on the spoked wheels, finally has show quality painted wheels.
Chay prepping the wheels
One side finished!
The second side is finished!
The fruits of 6 months labor of love
Jamie has been honing his driving skills in preparation for his road test, as well as taking a myriad of college board exams! He is definitely ready for a “vacation”! We were able to all spend time with Chay’s Mom and his sister & her family on a couple of occasions, and Katie spent a busy six days in Buffalo with her Mom, along with her sister, helping her sort through the treasures she’s collected and saved over the last 91 years!
Chay with his Mom, sister, nephew & great-nephew!
Chay & Jamie took their annual camping and fishing trip to Utah, catching a lot of fish, sleeping on the ground with snow all around, target shooting – a great time as usual.
Campsite at Mammoth Creek, Utah
Chay with his catch of the day! Notice the one still wriggling!
Food for a day....
Camping...where the deer & the antelope play!
Chay...nothing like camping in the snow!
We surprised Jamie on his 16th birthday with family and friends joining us for ice cream cake – he was definitely speechless!
Jamie turned 16 on May 1st!
And of course we’ve enjoyed spending time with Amy, Beau, Trinity & Tasha – we wish all of our children & grandchildren lived near by!
A B-29 Flying over Boulder City
Aahhh - the desert in the spring time!
Malta, Tunisia, and Italy (May 15, 2013 - June 30, 2013)
We arrived back in Malta on May 17th to a boat covered in a thick layer of fine Sahara Desert sand; it found its way into any opening it could find! We spent the first 9 days getting Esprit ready to launch back into the water which was scheduled for Wednesday June 29th. Besides the usual things like getting the sails back on and provisioning, we have repaired the sails, had a new "bottom" with a full coat of new Coppercoat put on, and polished & waxed. Chay has started this season's varnishing work (much easier than the sanding he was doing for the wheels on his 1931 Ford Victoria), and she's been surveyed (an insurance requirement) and passed.
The weather has been mostly fine, but a bit on the windy side. The locals say the wind is very unusual for this time of year.
We launched on Wednesday, May 29, and moored on the Yard’s pontoon. Once in the water we were able to get the refrigeration up and running, and the water maker working. Our Lifeline batteries weren’t holding their charge, so with very prompt response and advice from Lifeline via email, Chay equalized them twice now and they appear to be operating properly. We were surprised that they advised to equalize them every other day until they hold their charge, but it seems to be working! Chay’s learned the art of splicing as he made new dinghy davit lines by eye-splicing double braided rope – he has an even greater appreciation of our friend Andrew on Nueva Vida, who made us new lazy jack lines for our sail several years ago, now that he has experienced the frustration and challenge of this boat task!
We squeezed in a day of sightseeing before moving on to new ports - there is a lot of history here that we wanted to get a feel for first hand. A few interesting tidbits we learned were that one of their churches was bombed during WWII during Mass, and the bomb did not explode – the locals believe they witnessed a miracle; the other is that they have two clocks on the front of many of their churches – one set correctly, the other not. This is to confuse Satan so he doesn’t know when Mass is going on.
Jamie & Katie - Valletta, Malta
Katie & Chay, Valletta, Malta
Catholic church with two clocks set to different times
Malta is where the Knights of St. John fought off the Turks (Muslims) and saved Christianity. While here, Chay enjoyed reading his Christmas gift from Katie - Angels in Iron, by Nicholas C. Prata, an historical novel about how the Christian Knights of St. John Hospitallers defended the tiny island of Malta against the Turks (Moslems) in 1565. Although significantly outnumbered, their heroic defense against the Turkish invasion is what saved Christendom and permanently stunted the Moslem advance on Europe. According to Chay, it is a “must read!”
We have had the opportunity to attend Mass the past 3 Sundays at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church – a Salesian run Parish here in Malta. It is always interesting to experience the local personality of the Catholic Church in each of the countries we visit, while at the same time enjoying the universality of the Church – the same, yet unique.
We made the 15 mile trip to Gozo Island, just northwest of the main island of Malta, to check out of Malta, and departed on Thursday June 6th for Tunisia with easterly winds (that’s the best, yet unusual for this part of the world, direction for our westerly passage) and had a planned arrival in Monastir, Tunisia for Friday, June 7th.
We now know that wishing someone “following seas” isn’t necessarily a good thing…after spending a few days in Mgarr Marina on the Maltese island of Gozo, a spot that we fully enjoyed, and having the best dinner we’ve had in a very long time at Sammy’s Restaurant on the waterfront, we left Malta as planned on Thursday, June 6th. All the weather forecasts were predicting winds of 15 to 20 knots from the East (behind us) and slight 0.3 meter seas, which should have been a wonderful down wind sail. However, after about 4 hours, we realized that we were experiencing gale force winds! The morning weather report at 6AM didn’t mention anything about a gale, but the 10:00 AM weather report did – those weathermen sure have difficulty predicting the weather in the Med. The seas were soon extremely rough and our nice down wind sail with following seas was anything but! As best we can determine, we saw up to 40 knots of wind and 7 meter seas. We were dreading a night time passage in these conditions! Anyone who says miracles don’t happen, hasn’t been paying attention. While saying the Rosary to himself in the late afternoon, Chay passed the navigation station and our chart and just happened to notice that there was a very little Italian island (not much bigger than Alcatraz) about 5 miles off our rhumb line, that we could possible detour to as a safe haven. We quickly looked Linosa Island up in our cruising guide, and yes there was a small bay on the west side of the island that proved to be an excellent port of call to escape the “ick” we were experiencing. We anchored in one of the two small bays with the fishing boats, also escaping the gale, and settled in for the night.
Unfortunately, while the anchor held well, the wind shifted and we swung around into an area with small boulders on the bottom. We were awakened at 1AM to a large banging/crunching sound – not good! We got up and checked everything, then brought in some anchor chain to pull us away from the rocky area. This only worked for a short while until 3 AM when we hit the rocks again. This time we woke up Jamie, pulled up anchor, and moved into the other small bay. Now mind you, it is pitch black out, and the bay we are moving to in is Y shaped and surrounded by reef and rocky shores. In the morning it appeared that we couldn’t have anchored more perfectly if it had been broad daylight.
Esprit anchored at Linosa Island, Italy
The next day we took a walk around the little town and explored this small Italian island, before leaving for Tunisia in the late afternoon. By now the winds had dropped to 10 to 20 knots out of the Northwest and the seas had calmed. We had a beautiful upwind close-hauled sail until the off shore breeze from the Sahara desert turned the winds more westerly, when we tacked north to get back to our rhumb line where the winds had shifted back more northerly and we were able to continue close-hauled to Tunisia, where we arrived the next day around 4PM. Although we had a “reservation”, no one answered our radio call announcing our arrival…..So, as recommended in our cruising guide, we tied off to the fuel wharf and were quickly greeted by Immigration Police who guided Chay to their office to check us into the country. The Customs officials decided they needed to board the boat to confirm what we declared. Once everything was confirmed to be as Chay stated they asked for “baksheesh” or a small gift - 2 bottles of wine and 4 packs of cigarettes which we bought in Malaysia (2010). We bought the cigarettes specifically to use for this purpose in the Red Sea. So after a typical third world check-in, we berthed in Marina Cap Monastir where we planned to explore the area on land and stay until the next good weather window (hopefully next weekend).
One of the reasons we came to Tunisia was to reset our Schengen visa, as well as to visit another country and get cheap fuel. Restaurant prices are extremely reasonable – cheaper than eating on-board Esprit! The officials are friendly, and the locals appear to have mixed feelings towards America. Many cruisers and locals stopped on the dock to chat. Some love Obama, and others aren’t quite so enamored with our US flag. From what we have observed here, Tunisia is a Moslem country which has a bit of western/European influence much like Turkey.
While in Tunisia we arranged for a two day tour of southern Tunisia which included a Roman coliseum, Troglodyte homes, three kinds of oases, the first and oldest mosque in Africa, and of course the Sahara desert! The sand of the Sahara desert is so fine it is a wonder it doesn’t fill in the Mediterranean sea!
Katie, Chay, & Jamie - Southern Tunisia
Typical butcher/barbecue with goats hanging
Typical gas station
The Troglodyte homes are where the original Tunisians - the Berbers – dwelled up until the 1960’s when the government built them new villages with “more comfortable” homes. The Troglodyte houses are basically cave dwellings which are quite intriguing. We toured one and also had lunch at a restaurant/hotel which has taken over one of the original dwellings. It is always amazing to see how some people lived! A few of the Berbers still reside in the underground homes. This is the area where they filmed some of the Star Wars movies. One of the towns – Tatouine – is the name of one of the planets in Start Wars! The “building” where Luke Skywalker grew up is an example of a typical Troglodyte home.
Berber Troglodyte Homes
Berber woman, Chay, & Katie at troglodyte home
On the oasis front, we discovered that there are three kinds: sea, desert, and mountain. At the desert oasis where we spent the night, there were thousands of palm trees forming an “island” in the sand. We took a sunset camel ride in the Sahara desert dressed in full traditional clothing! The next morning we took a jeep trip to visit a mountain oasis – very dramatic and beautiful setting. It looked like a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie.
The Sahara Desert
Chay, Katie, & Jamie in the Sahara desert
We three kings of orient are....
Sunset over the Sahara Desert
Camels wandering in the desert
Mountain oasis - shades of Indiana Jones
Katie & Chay at mountain oasis
On our drive back to Monastir we stopped to see the first and oldest mosque in Africa which was built in the 7th century AD. It is located in Kairouan, which is the forth holiest city in Islam after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
Katie & Jamie at the Mosque in Kairouan
Once back on board Esprit we prepared for our next passage to Italy. Before leaving however, and because of an unusual sound from the propellor, Chay dove the propellor and rudder to check for any damage from our bumpy encounter with the rocks at Linosa Island. He found all in good order so we watched for a weather window, enjoyed a few meals at our favorite restaurant Le Gourmet, arranged for fuel (E0.50 per Liter vs. E4.00 per Liter in Italy), and departed Tunisia on Monday June 17th.
We picked the right window this time for we had an absolutely wondrous downwind sail to the large island of Sardinia west of mainland Italy. Once again sea turtles were everywhere on our passage. This passage was not without excitement however – at 1 AM on the first night out, while crossing the shipping channels at the northern tip of Tunisa, Chay encountered a freighter moving very quickly that apparently did not see us even with our very bright spreader lights turned on! Chay quickly turned on the engine and motored us clear of the freighter, who passed us going extremely fast and very up close & personal. About 10 minutes later we were hit by the freighter’s wake – holy cow! We all hung on as Esprit rolled back & forth from gunwale to gunwale listening to all our supplies and spare parts clang loudly as they too shifted back and forth. The rest of the passage was smooth sailing until the last 6 hours when the winds died and we had to motor. (We sailed 87% of the 280 mile passage.) 45 hours after leaving Tunisia, we arrived in the small port of Arbatax, anchored just outside the breakwater, and dinghied in to shore to check into Italy.
Sunset at the top of Tunisia underway to Sardinia, Italy
Déjà vu of our entry into Venice last year! No one seemed to know what to do with us. One of the customs officers got us on a little city bus to take us to the police to get our passports stamped. Fifty minutes later we were at the police station and they didn’t know what to do with us either especially since Jamie wasn’t with us (he stayed on the boat to make sure she stayed put). After the police made a few phone calls, they drove us back to the port and took us to the Marina D’Arbatax office. Apparently, the marina office handles the paperwork for checking in, and you can’t be at anchor when checking in, but must be in the Marina. So the police officers drove us to the dinghy to expedite the process and waited for us while we dinghied back to Esprit, pulled up anchor, got the fenders and dock lines ready while Katie filled out the paperwork for checking in while we entered the marina (a five minute trip). We tied off in the berth and returned to the office where, yes, we were cleared into the country. It doesn’t appear that the officials in Italy are used to non-EU/Schengen boats arriving/checking in to their country.
We decided to travel inland to get a flavor for the island which is very mountainous and beautiful, so we rented a car for a day and visited the “Grand Canyon of Europe.” Although it does not quite compare – at all – to the actual Grand Canyon, it is a very pretty gorge. It took us 3 hours round trip to hike up and down an extremely steep mountain trail – and were we sore and tired when we arrived back at the top! It was a bit more strenuous than we expected.
View from the top of the trail down to the gorge
Mountain goats along the trail
Chay at a shepard's hut
The bottom of the gorge
Katie & Jamie at the bottom of the trail
Road trip in the mountains of Sardinia
In between touring and sailing Chay had to take apart and repair and clean the Watermaker motor – a critical piece of equipment when it comes to having drinking water on board. It was plumb full of carbon dust, the bearing was froze up, and the brushes were oddly worn. It’s a wonder that it worked this long! It is now working again – thank goodness!
We waited until the 26th of June to move north along the east coast of Sardenia because of a gale in the seas surrounding the island – we heard warnings for Force 10 winds – that’s 45 knots! It got a bit rough in the marina, but the highest winds we saw were 27 knots.
So, after a week in Arbatax, we moved north to Olbia, a small city on the northeast coast of Sardenia where we are anchored in the old port near the old town – slow paced and quaint. A gale has been blowing to the west of us for over a week now, so we have been cautious about picking our passage windows. After a few days we moved up the Emerald Coast to Porto Cervo - home of the rich and famous and their mega-yachts! We med-moored with our anchor rather than mooring lines - a situation which often results in anchors getting hooked on each other when a boat departs. And yes, our anchor was caught by a departing super yacht 10 minutes after we were settled in the berth! It is a bit pricey here and since today, July 1, is the beginning of high season, we will move on to Corsica.
We’ve met a few cruisers who are heading west across the Atlantic this year as we plan to do, but for the most part the folks we have met spend a few months cruising the med, and then settle down in a marina somewhere for the winter and wait for the next cruising season. The Med appears to be like the Sea of Cortez/Mexico – a sort of Hotel California! The weather has been cool so far this year – mid-70’s during the day; a drastic change from last year when we were burning up by the end of May – 90 during the day! Cold during night passages, but comfortable for sleeping.
And for those of you haven't seen one - this is a Persian/Arab/Old European "Squatter"/toilet...at least this one has toilet paper...
France, Monte Carlo, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar
(July 1, 2013 - October 25, 2013)
We moved on to Corsica July 2nd. We had a great sail across the Straits of Bonifacio, normally very rough, and berthed at Bonifacio – reported to be the most beautiful port in the Med! The marina is nestled back into a “calanque” or fjord like inlet and is a very busy port of call, with restaurants and shops lining the wharf. The medieval town with its tiny curvy streets and old buildings overlooks the marina from atop a plateau with a view out to sea. We had a beautiful, classic 85 foot yacht berth next to us for two days – although they weren’t happy about being up with the smaller boats (they were a bit big for the spot they were in), they were pleasant folks and we enjoyed chatting with them. We celebrated the 4th of July in Bonifacio and enjoyed delicious hamburgers and fries at small local restaurant, plus a sundae and chocolate chip cookies. One of the bars was all decorated in Americana and had a fourth of July party that night – although we didn’t attend, we ended up with an “American” top hat on our flag pole in the morning!
Bonifacio, Corsica from the sea
Tight quarters in Bonifacio Marina
A bird's eye view of Bonifacio
The streets of Bonifacio
After enjoying Bonifacio we moved north to Anse de Roccapina, an anchorage on the west coast of Corsica where it has finally gotten warm enough to want to swim; so we snorkeled for the first time this year – the water was crystal clear and the sandy beach was one of the best ones we’ve seen in the Med. The anchorage was a bit rolly so the next day we moved about 20 miles further north to Campomoro, another anchorage with good protection from the prevailing winds. We will stay here for a few days, as long as the weather permits. Jamie launched his kayak – the first time since Darwin Australia! He & Katie enjoyed a trip around the anchorage. Jamie will finish Calculus here and begin his Senior year of high school; Chay is taking the opportunity to continue varnishing. Oh, forgot to mention that our auto-pilot failed on our way into Bonifacio – after two days of troubleshooting it, it appears, that after 23 years, it is in need of a new “brain” (a Robertson J1000B if anybody has one). We have spares for all the other pieces of the autopilot but not the control box/brain. Looks like we will be hand steering again until we find a replacement, or get a whole new auto-pilot, very pricey!
Sunset in Compomoro
Typical watch tower
Jamie & Chay kayaking
Esprit at anchor in Campomoro Bay
After Compomoro, we motored north to Ajaccio where we berthed in the Old Port – Port Tino Rossi for a few nights. The angels were guiding us again, because there was a marine electronics shop right in the marina with an older gentleman who was able to repair our auto-pilot brain! When he returned all of our parts, he informed us that one of the controllers didn’t work that we should use our spare which did work. Fortunately, we had written down the serial numbers for the parts we gave him, and realized that the non-working controller wasn’t ours. It turns out he “inadvertently” gave us the wrong controller because he was testing three of them (2 of ours and 1 of his); our second controller did work – his was the only non-operational one. We’ll never know whether it was an honest mistake, or if he just wanted a working controller in his inventory. We are grateful to have our auto-pilot working again. However, we have ordered a spare brain unit off of Ebay just in case! We toured the old town of Ajaccio – the birthplace of Napolean. It is the capital of Corsica, and is a “typical” French city with side walk cafes everywhere. When we went to customs and immigration to check-in to France we were told that there was no need – as long as we had a stamp from Italy showing our check-in into the EU we were good. After Ajaccio, we headed to Calvi on the north coast of Corsica where we anchored for the night before heading for Monaco.
Chay & Katie in Ajaccio
Statue of Napolean
Calvi, Corsica, France
Although we didn’t tour Calvi, it looked from our vantage point in the anchorage as an old fortressed town with a nice sand beach. Because the winds were supposed to be light, and Monaco was 93 miles away, our plan was to depart mid-morning and sail at 5 knots for an early morning arrival in Monaco. However, the winds were perfect for Esprit to sail 6-7 knots! This would have gotten us in way too early, so we endeavored to sail her at 3-4 knots – which we did only to find out that although the office in Port Fontveielle, Monaco opens at 7 AM, the port does not open to arriving boats until noon! So we motored the length of the Monaco coast – about 2 miles – and then anchored for breakfast before heading into the marina. We thoroughly enjoyed Monaco – we toured the old town on the hill where the Prince’s palace and Cathedral are. The old town is immaculate and almost felt like we were in Disneyland. The Cathedral is one of the nicer churches we’ve visited in our travels. We took several long walks to the old port where we checked out the super yachts; however, we were all much more impressed with the myriad of luxury cars – Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Jaguars, etc. Funny thing, there weren’t very many Porsches. Our last night we took the bus to the famous Monte Carlo Casino; unfortunately Jamie was under 18 and unable to enter the casino! We were, however, able to get a street side table at the Café de Paris where we people watched and, even more fun, car watched! After very yummy ice cream sundaes, we decided to walk the 2 miles back to Esprit. Monte Carlo is a grand, unique place!
Arriving Monte Carlo, Monaco by sea
Esprit in her Monte Carlo berth
Katie and Jamie - Monte Carlo
Chay and Katie in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo watch tower
Jamie & Katie in old town Monte Carlo
Chay, Katie, & Jamie - Monte Carlo
Katie and Chay
Katie & Chay at Café de Paris where Chay had just purchased a good cigar...
Katie & Chay
After Monte Carlo we day hopped down the French Riviera and the Cote d’Azur coasts of France with stops in Antibes, Cannes, and St. Tropez, before stopping for a few days in Ile de Porquerolle, an island just south of Toulon. The stop in Antibes was a must once Chay spotted The Maltese Falcon anchored in the bay – With her towering, silver Dyna-rig spreaders, the Maltese Falcon is the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht. From her graceful bow to her sloping, blue stern, her deck spans nearly the length of a football field, and her size is matched only by her sleek elegance*. Jamie and Chay have been intrigued with the Maltese Falcon for several years now so it was awesome that we were able to see it up close and personal and to share an anchorage with it. It is a beautiful yacht – its magazine photos do not do it the justice it deserves. The next morning a thunder storm came up causing rough seas and putting us on a lee shore, so we left while taking one more close look at Maltese Falcon.
Approaching Cannes from sea
The Maltese Falcon
Just to give you an idea of how big The Maltese Falcon is
At Cannes we anchored at Ile Sainte Marguerite in front of Fort Royal. The next day we toured the Fort and Museum. The fort is famous because this is where “The Man in the Iron Mask” was kept prisoner. We stopped at St. Tropez for one night, but due to all the Super Yacht traffic in and out of St. Tropez the anchorage was very rolly – it looked like a Super Yacht freeway at rush hour.
Katie & Chay at Front Royal - home of the "Man with the Iron Mask"
The anchorage in Porquerolle was one of the nicest anchorages we’ve anchored at in a while. The water was clear and refreshing. Anchoring was tricky due to large domes of grass interspersed between valleys of sand; Jamie was able to dive and set our anchor in sand so we were confident we weren’t going anywhere. Although the anchorage was fairly crowded, and we had one close call with a boat anchored a little too close, it was a decent anchorage except for the roll from the ferry wakes during the day, but very quiet at night. The town was small and very busy with tourists. We were able to get some of the spare parts we’ve been needing.
It's always a different beautiful view...
Bakery man delivering fresh baked goods in Porquerolle Anchorage
And next, the ice cream man!
After a few days we decided to move on to the Spanish Baleares Islands about 200 miles south. The passage was okay – winds on the nose with slightly uncomfortable seas, but we managed to sail a good portion of the way. And as is typical with Esprit, we had the best sail the last 6 hours. We arrived in Menorca at 10:30 at night, anchored in the dark, ate dinner and had our celebratory beer before going to bed at midnight to the sound of Karaoke from the shore. The anchorage at which we made landfall was not exactly what we were expecting, so we moved over into a cala anchorage (a long, river-like bay) 3 miles east, where we are now anchored. It appears that most of the good anchorages in the islands aren’t so great anymore due to the installation of swim moorings and ropes which prohibit anchoring in close to the beach, and moorings which are difficult to anchor around due to the fact that anchored boats have a larger swing radius than do those on a mooring ball. It is hard to get anything done when we are on the move, so we enjoy when we find a spot we can stay for a few days. Chay is taking the opportunity to continue his varnish work in the cockpit, while Jamie catches up on school. After a long spell of little wind, the winds have returned (yesterday we saw 27 knots in the anchorage). The bottom here is mud, but due to the number of boats that anchor here it is very soft and we watched many boats drag anchor during the blow. Luckily we had read about the problem in our cruising guide so we gently put our anchor in and slowly let it sink into the mud before setting.
The "muddy" anchorage on Menorca
Watch tower on Menorca
The temperatures are in the 80’s and it is very muggy! As the winds are expected to veer north in the next day or so, we will move around to the south side of the island and explore the anchorages there. One of the “unusual” highlights of this cruising season has been adjusting to topless and nude sailors – both male & female! Some pretty, some not so pretty. They not only sunbathe au natural, they sail, dinghy, and anchor that way too. There was even a topless woman standing up paddle boarding through an anchorage without a care in the world. These Europeans definitely have a more liberal way of life. However, Europeans are very family oriented. Most of the people we’ve seen on holiday are vacationing as a family – including teenagers and young adults traveling with their parents. That is something we don’t see much of in the States anymore. The EU countries require Certificates of Competency for boaters. We heard from a number of Europeans that most of the test is related to knowing what all the different lights mean – on boats, coming into harbors, etc. However, it is apparent that proof of competent anchoring skills is not required to obtain the certificate. Most (not all) of the European boats anchor with at most 3 to 1 scope, and then wonder why they drag when the wind picks up; we have even seen some boats anchor 1 to 1! In previous discussions, we have mentioned the very few number of American boats that are coming to the Mediterranean. The only ones we have seen so far have crossed the Atlantic and/or are from the East Coast. This is apparently due to the Somali pirate situation in the Indian Ocean. This year we met an Australian who shipped his boat to Gibraltar and a New Zealander who sailed eastward across the Pacific through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic to get to the Mediterranean, rather than face the Somali pirates. Cruising dynamics have certainly changed!
One of the highlights of our passages has been the presence of whales! These whales have been within 20 – 50 feet of Esprit – way cool, yet scary! We watched one breach on numerous occasions that was way too close! One pod even included a very young whale which have been known to confuse sailing boats with their mothers and snuggle up to the boat. Needless to say the mothers do not like it when this occurs. We’ve started the engine with each sighting to help assure they didn’t mistake us for another whale and try to get cozy with us!
We anchored just at the entrance to Mahon on the East coast of Menorca, the largest city on Menorca. The bay is beautiful with many potential anchorages, but they have made it such that you can’t anchor in most of them anymore but must move into a marina. After a night we moved on to Cala Trebelujer on the south side of the island and enjoyed 3 days of crystal clear water, a white sand beach, swimming, and snorkeling. Our next passage turned out to be a longer one than originally planned as we sailed down the east coast of Mallorca. Winds and swell were out of the east making most anchorages untenable along this coast so we continued on around Punta Salinas to the southeast corner of Mallorca where we anchored behind Isla Moltana for the night. Our watermaker stopped working, apparently due to a failed membrane (Chay tried his darndest to find something else wrong that he could repair, but to no avail). We hope to have a new membrane purchased and shipped to us in Cartagena, Spain. So, since we needed to fill our water tanks and wash down an extremely salty/dirty Esprit, our next stop was at Marina Club de Mar in Palma de Mallorca – a privately owned, well run marina, with a helpful and amiable staff. Chay was able to apply two more coats of varnish here and we found a few of the parts we needed at the various chandleries. We were disappointed in the chandleries; although shelves were full, their stock didn’t include many of the items we were looking for. We toured the city of Palma one day – including the very large Cathedral which was built on the site of a 14th century mosque. Many of the buildings are of Arab origins. The next day we took a 1912 electric train – beautifully restored and maintained – which wound its way north through the mountains to the town of Soller where we visited a very nice Cathedral and wandered the shop-lined alleyways. We hopped on another little train down to the Port of Soller where we had lunch before returning to Soller to catch the train back to Palma. It was 100 degrees and very muggy!
Katie & Jamie in Palma de Mallorca
Chay & Katie in Palma de Mallorca
Train ride to Soller
After Palma we motor sailed to Cala Blanca, where we waited for another gale and some stormy weather to pass by, before moving to the southern Balearic Island of Ibiza. We were experiencing NW swells from the gale which was blowing in the Gulf of Lion over 150 miles away, so once again, despite light winds, the anchorages along the west coast of Ibiza were untenable so we went around to the south coast of the island to find an anchorage. We anchored at Cala de Port Roig amongst all types, shapes and sizes of boats who are free anchored, on moorings, or bow & stern moored! The anchorage got a bit crazier when a motor boat appeared to lose control while anchoring quite close to us and they powered in reverse into our stern starboard side taking a small piece of Esprit with her. Although the damaged area is small, the fiberglass is now exposed, so it definitely needs to be repaired. The culprit turned out to be quite apologetic and gave us insurance information, so now we will be dealing with his insurance company to get reimbursement/repairs.
The beauty of a stormy sky at sea
Speaks for itself!
An island off Ibiza, Balearics, Spain
Cala de Port Roig Anchorage
We left Ibiza on Wednesday the 14th for a 130 mile passage to Cartagena. Although the winds were light, we had a meter of swell from the gale blowing in the Gulf De Leon, but we were able to sail for about one half the time. Once the winds died, Esprit rocked and rolled with the swell – very annoying and very noisy! Just before arriving in Cartagena Thursday morning, the winds picked back up and we were able to enjoy tacking our way into Cartagena. The marina is not full, the staff is friendly, and the facilities are acceptable. We've taken a few strolls through town – pleasant and low keyed. There are many forts, Roman ruins, and castles to explore before we leave here.
In addition to the winds picking up just before arriving, we apparently sailed through a large school of tuna, and were fortunate to catch one! Our first fish that we were able to keep in over 2 years! It turned out to be an Albacore Tuna and it was delicious!
Bringing in the Albacore!
Our plan was to use our Eurail Pass to take an inland trip through continental Europe. However, shortly after arriving in Cartagena, we received very bad news regarding Katie's Mom (92). She has been struggling with some undefined illness for well over a year now, and which the doctors couldn't diagnose properly. Well, it turns out that she has Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), and appears to be in advanced stages of it and going down hill fast – she is in hospice care at her apartment. Apparently after Katie's siblings had friends suggest ALS, they checked her symptoms on line, then asked the hospital about it who in turn sent in a specialist to confirm the diagnosis as ALS. Once again the medical profession appears to be more interested in making money than in taking care of their patients. So, we have had a change in plans. We flew home on Thursday, and then onto Buffalo with the plan to spend time with Katie's Mom. Sadly, we did not make it home in time to visit with Katie’s mom – she passed away the evening before our arrival.
We are back on board Esprit after a month of being in the states to attend Katie's mom's funeral. After 10 days in Buffalo, it was hard to leave Katie's family, but back to Boulder City we flew. We took in a few of our granddaughters' soccer games and visited with family & friends. Then we escaped to Big Bear for a few days of peacefulness, before heading down the mountain to Fullerton, CA, to visit with Chay's mom, sister, and niece. This too was a difficult visit as Chay's mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's, was hospitalized while we were there for cellulitis in her legs; she's doing better and is back home again. Although we know both Grandma's lived fruitful lives, it is still so very hard to have them pass away or suffer with a disease such as Alzheimer's. After our California visit, we returned to Boulder City for dinner with Amy, Beau, and the girls, and then had our 34 hour trip back to Cartagena (12 hours of that was spent in the Madrid airport!).
Florence "Grandma" Poley - 8/20/21 - 8/24/13
Katie's mother on her 92nd birthday - a very special lady, indeed!
The McWilliam Clan visiting Chay's Mom (to the right of Chay)
The weather in Cartagena has been beautiful with only one stormy day. However, since we are early birds and usually rise with the sun we could do without the sun rising at 8:00 AM! We feel like half the day is gone when we get up that late. We ordered a new water-maker membrane 6 weeks ago which was shipped US Postal Service Priority International – it appears to have gone AWOL. So we ordered a new one yesterday, and it's already in Spain (shipped UPS)! Once our new life raft arrives, along with the new membrane for our water-maker, and they are installed and operational, we'll start to look for a good weather window to sail to Gibraltar. October 9, 2013 – Greetings from Gibraltar! The life raft arrived without installation instructions; after a day of battling the installation of the cradle, it is now installed on the stern deck. The space under the deck where the bolts had to be tightened from was only about 1-1/2 inches high; the only person on board with small enough arms was Katie so she got a lesson in patience along with some scrapes/bruises on her forearms. It was actually fun getting the cradle attached to the deck! The membrane for the water maker was finally released from customs (4 days after it actually arrived in Spain) and delivered. Chay immediately installed the membrane and tested the water maker only to find it wasn't operating properly – ugh! After much troubleshooting, Chay figured it all out and the water maker appears to be working as it should.
Roman Coliseum in Cartagena, Spain
Roman cathedral and amphitheater
On Sunday October 6th, we left the berth at Yacht Port Cartagena and went to the fuel dock to get some diesel – the automatic payment machine would not accept any of our payment cards! So we left Cartagena and headed south. We found another small marina where we stopped and got some fuel before continuing on to Gibraltar. And it's a good thing we got fuel – the winds were not as high as predicted and we ended up motoring most of the way. We did however have a beautiful sail the first afternoon and then enjoyed dinner with dolphins! A huge pod of dolphins joined us – at least two types of dolphins and 1 shark too. The first day out we tried the auto-pilot and it didn't work properly, so we hand steered until the next morning when Chay had a brain storm and was able to fix it – much to the crew's delight. Although frustrating at times, this passage did give us practice pulling in and out of docks and hand steering.
Underway to Gibraltar
Gibraltar with Levantine Cloud that forms with easterly winds
The Rock of Gibraltar
A view of the "Rock" from our saloon
Jamie & Katie crossing into Gibraltar across the airport runway
Chay by one the many cannons situated throughout Gibraltar
We arrived at Marina Alcaidesa in La Linea de la Conception, Spain – a 10 minute walk from Gibraltar – on Tuesday morning (Oct 8). As we approached Gibraltar at dawn we watched the infamous Rock (just like in the Prudential Insurance ads) appear out of the haze with its cloud hovering over it. Watching the cloud is like watching steam coming out of a steam engine – the cloud continually forms over the top of the Rock and blows westward with the easterly winds. We are here for a week or so – we hope to leave with the full moon around the 18th if the winds are good. To transit the Strait of Gibraltar you have to time the winds and the tides just right – otherwise you will have an awful ride. So God willing, we'll move on to the Canary Islands late next week. October 19, 2013 Our stay in La Linea, Spain, (Gibraltar), has been extended in part due to a road trip we took to Seville and Portugal, and even more in part due to poor weather windows. It now looks like our next good window will be around October 27th. We wandered Gibraltar and La Linea to get a feel for the land as we watched the weather – at the time it looked like it wouldn’t be good until after the 15th so we decided to rent a car a travel to Seville, Southwest Spain, and Portugal.
The highlight of Seville was the by far the bullring – although we weren’t going to be able to see a bull fight, we toured the bullring and got an interesting tutorial in the history of bullfighting, as well as how the bullfight works. The stunning bullring is the oldest in Spain, and is where the top bullfighters compete. According to our guide, bullfighting in Spain is quite popular, with the top bullfighters being likened to pop stars! We visited the beautiful Seville Cathedral where Christopher Columbus is buried. As seems to be the case when we tour Cathedrals, the Altar was undergoing renovation.
Katie & Chay outside of the Seville Bullring
Chay & Katie inside the bullring
The Seville Cathedral
Chay & Katie at the tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the Seville Cathedral
Amazing architecture - Seville Cathedral
Chay & Katie outside the castle in Seville
After Seville, we drove to Lisbon, Portugal. The countryside reminded us a lot of San Diego, California. Our first stop in Lisbon was Belem the home port for Henry the Navigator and his cast of explorers – the most famous being Vasco de Gama and Magellan. The Cathedral in Belem is where Vasco de Gama’s tomb is. The Maritime Museum was incredible – it covered the sea history of Portugal from the days of the explorers to present day. On the banks of the river port is a large monument to Navigators with Henry the Navigator on the “bow” followed behind by de Gama and the other explorers – we took the elevator to the top to enjoy the view of the large river port.
What a sight to see as we drove into Lisbon, Portugal
The monastery turned Nautical Museum in Belem (Lisbon)
Chay & Katie in the Nautical Museum - chart shows routes of Portuguese explorers
Interior hallway of nautical museum - rather large place!
One of many amazing ship models
Chay at the helm (looks a bit like the statue on our mantel in Boulder City!)
Statue of the Navigators - Henry the Navigator leading the way
The castle of Lisbon port
The tomb of Vasco de Gama
The next day was Sunday, October 13, the anniversary of the final Fatima Apparition. Being only 60 miles or so away, we decided to visit the Fatima Shrine. The Shrine itself is beautiful, however, we were unable to get close to anything owing to the huge crowd of pilgrims – about 100,000 at our estimate. It was very overwhelming to witness the Faith of so many.
Katie & Chay at the Sanctuary of Fatima
The Faithful crowd at Fatima
That afternoon we toured the Alfama district (old town) of Lisbon, including the Castle on the hill and the Cathedral. All very well maintained and well worth the effort.
View from the Castle on the hill in Lisbon
The next day we headed off to the enchanted town of Sintra by train. The 40 minute ride took us through the green hills Northwest of Lisbon. According to the guide book, Sintra is supposed to be “extravagant and exquisite…ivy-clad Rupunzel-esque turrets, nature-gone-wild botanical gardens and forests strewn with granite boulders….like a page torn from a fairy tale.” It pretty much is – one of the few times the guide book got it right! We hiked up to the Palace and Moorish Castle, which appeared and disappeared in the misty clouds, and then strolled back down into the old town before riding the train back to Lisbon. The palace is a mix of Moorish, Christian, and eclectic. It would be an awesome place for a game of hide-n-seek! The next day we drove the 650 Kilometers back to Gib.
Typical turret in Sintra
Moorish castle in Sintra
The Palace of Pena on the hill
Enchanted lake at Pena, Sintra
The palace in the mist
Stained glass portrayal of Vasco de Gama in the Pena palace
Chay & Katie - turret of Pena Palace, Sintra
Looking down on the Moorish castle
Once back in La Linea, we scrambled to get ready to leave for the Canary Islands – Wednesday we got fuel, Chay went up the mast, and we cleaned the bottom (the new Coppercoat bottom is doing its job). On Thursday we took the cable car to the top of the Gibraltar “Rock” and hiked down enjoying the sights of St. Michael’s Cave (a cavern naturally decorated with huge stalactites and stalagmites), the Macaque monkeys (which we carefully avoided), the Great Siege Tunnels, and the Moorish Tower. The tunnels, constructed in the late 1700’s by the British to hold off the Spanish during the “Great Siege”. Apparently, the British Empire was so weakened from fighting the Americans during their revolution that the Spanish thought they could get Gib. back again! These tunnels were the highlight – it is truly amazing how industrious mankind was back then! However, we would not have wanted to been in the tunnels when the cannons were being fired – the sounds would have been deafening.
For you history buffs....
Stalactites in St. Michael's Cave
Bay of Gibraltar with Africa in the background
The view from one of the siege tunnels
A strategic point as viewed from within the siege tunnels
Africa peaking out above the mist
Sunrise in La Linea de la Conception
Because it is getting late in the season to leave Gibraltar for the Canary Islands, our plan was to leave on Saturday, October 19th, with light winds, expecting a motor boat trip. Although not the optimal conditions we thought it might be the last okay weather window, until one of our neighbors on the dock stopped by to say that her friend, who has sailed this route over 20 times, emailed her to say wait a week. We checked the weather further out and, yes, it shows a high pressure system (that’s a good thing) which if it holds should give us some good winds to sail by. So, our current plan is to wait and watch. Patience…..
Sunrise over Gibraltar