Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Catching Up Finally!

Hi, all--
I haven't been posting for a while as internet has been sketchy, so here are a whole bunch of posts so you can catch up with us.  Sorry it's so long!

July 12, I think

Learning is a good thing...

but does it have to happen all at once?  So far we have had bad weather, less-than-favorable winds, a malfunctioning chart plotter, the wrong chart for the chart plotter, a ripped sail, and to add to the list of woes we ran aground the other day and had to be rescued.  On the upside, we have learned how to deal with all of these things much faster than we would have otherwise, and we found out yesterday that running aground did not do any damage, so that at least was in our favor.  The weather has improved even if the winds have not, and we do feel like we know the boat much better than we did.

None of us could believe how quickly we ran aground.  The area was very badly marked; in fact, there was nothing to indicate shallow water that we could see.  Frank was checking the depth and I looked out and commented that it was getting shallow and BAM!  We were stuck.  The waves that were hitting us did not help us get out either.  We had to call the marina we had just left and they sent help.  I think probably most sailors have a running aground story; now that we have ours does that mean we are off the hook?

Even though we have not had time to do much exploring of Sardinia, we have had a good experience in spite of the running aground.  Everyone has gone out of their way to be helpful.  The woman in the marina near where we ran aground made all kinds of phone calls for us--to boatyards, to the bank when we needed to get cash and the one ATM in town was still out of order (after having been out of order the night before as well) and lent Frank the marina's scooter to get out to the money machine which was quite far away.  She also gave him a lift out there the first time he tried to get money because she said it was too hard to explain how to get there.

When we crossed the bay to the boatyard to have the keel looked at the person we needed was at lunch so we had a couple of hours to wait.  Rather than having us walk into town (which was not far and which we were certainly capable of doing), a couple of guys from the boatyard ran us over to town in their dinghy.

The same people ran the marina who ran the boatyard in Carloforte where they checked the keel.  The next hurdle was that we needed diesel but the fuel quay was in the fishing harbor and it was too shallow for us to get in, so they lent us a bunch of large Jerry cans to take across the street to the gas station (we only have one and it is filled with extra diesel for an emergency) so we could fill the tank without having to go 30 miles out of our way.

That is a messy job--Frank and Isabelle were covered in gas by the time they were finished.  I stayed clean so I could cook.  We all took advantage of the showers.

We spent last night in Carloforte and were underway by 6:00 this morning.  When we first left there was a tiny breeze behind us and now at 10:00AM there is almost none.  The seas are calm and glassy, so at least we are not fighting the waves.

36 hours later we stopped to anchor and it was rocky, but nice not to have be awake through another night.  Now we are in Palermo, having arrived around 4:00.  Tonight we will have a yummy Italian meal (being pretty much out of food til we shop) and do a little sightseeing after showers.  

July 15, I believe:


We've been in Italy and/or its islands for about a week now.  Of course nothing would be complete without problems, so we ran aground.  I told that story in my last post, though, so won't rehash it here.

The only other things that happened were that we had no power for about 36 hours until I figured out that the inverter switch needed to be flipped (and no, six months ago I did not know what that was), so now we can charge stuff up again.  The other thing was more annoying, which was that the anchor winch wouldn't lift the anchor without a lot of help.  Fortunately for us, though, as we were consulting the manual yesterday a man came by in a dinghy and told us how to fix it.  Peoplecare so helpful; fixing it only required tightening a screw, so we can add that to the list of things we've learned.  Just part of learning the boat, I guess!

In any case, we stopped in Palermo for two days and had a look at the city.  There is a Waldorf school there that goes up to the 8th grade so we had a look at it too. I am sure that Palermo, like all big cities, is nicer when it is not 90 degrees outside, but on the whole I thought the part we saw was loud, dirty, and crowded and I was glad to leave it.

As seems to usual in Italy, the people at the marina were very nice and helpful.  They recommended good restaurants and sent our laundry out for us.  THAT was a guilt-inducing experience; it just feels wrong to have someone else do something like that that I am entirely capable of doing myself.  It was nice to find that the tank tops I work out in had been ironed, however.

In the marina in Palermo we were moored next to what might be the biggest privately owned yacht I've ever seen.  It was 61 meters long and had its own uniformed crew.  Isabelle looked it up online but of course it didn't say who owned it.  They had a party the first night we were there and put out a blue carpet for the guests to walk on.  We weren't invited to the party even though we had showered and everything!

Since leaving Palermo we've been anchoring.  Max likes to anchor because he likes to swim off the stern.  Sunday night we anchored near Vulcano, where there is an active volcano.  We could see the smoke coming from the top 13 km away!

The coast is beautiful with its towns full of white houses and boats anchored in front of them.  Since the Internet is harder to come by than I thought and I am doing most of my writing on my iPod rather than trekking my computer to an Internet cafe), I think that what I will do is to make an album of pictures from the trip and post them on Facebook after we get back (Dad, I promise to email them to you).  It is going to take some time to go through them anyway!

The past couple of days have been very relaxing with swimming and not too much distance each day, but tomorrow we will head through the Straits of Messina to Reggio de Calabria or Scylla, depending on what kind of time we make.  Starting tomorrow I think the distances will get longer again, but we are hoping to anchor and not have any more overnight sails.

We need to shop before too long, as we are largely out of food for main meals!  It's almost time for a desperation dinner and Max says he doesn't want another one of those.

Max and Isabelle went fishing the other night and Isabelle caught a baby octopus.  We brought it up on deck to photograph it before we let it go but it slithered off on its own.  This morning Max caught a jellyfish and we photographed it too.

There seem to be more powerboats down here, as well as more large sailboats; at "only" 40 feet we are one of the little boats!

This post is a compilation of different thoughts.  Note that while they seem to be largely negative, our trip has been positive.

Things We Have Learned This Summer (in no particular order):

1.  Even pumpernickel will mold eventually.

2.  You must keep take-and-bake bread in the refrigerator.

3.  Boats at night are generally further away than they appear.  There is no need to do donuts to get away from them.  That will not help us get back on course, but will get Frank to come out and rescue me.

4.  Mooring bow- or stern-to is a pain in the rear end, but it's really easy to leave when it's time to go.

5.  Europe is a REALLY big continent when you are making fewer than 7 knots per hour.

6.  Have I mentioned how much I miss my 18-135mm lens?

7.  It's sort of lonely in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night.

8.  It is humanly impossible to control the amount of clutter that four people on a 40-foot boat can create.  It is foolish to even try, except that if I didn't I would have to jump overboard.  It would be the only escape possible.

9.  Apparently, no day is complete unless something is not working.

10.  When you use a wide-angle lens on a sailboat you get a lot of lines in the pictures.

11. Even air-tight containers don't guarantee that your food won't mold.

12.  Max has decided that he wants to raise money for charity.

13.  Mosquitoes can even find their way to the middle of the ocean to worship Isabelle and Max.  Unfortunately, they don't want to be mosquito gods.

14.  Max has discovered the joy of skinny dipping.

15.  Our capacity for chess and sheepshead has become larger than we ever thought possible.

16.  Not all parts of Italy are beautiful, but Italians might be the most helpful people on the planet.

17.  When the autopilot goes out, check the manual before you confirm "autopilot reset."

18.  Max says that "Mom has become a 'good enough' mechanic."

19.  It takes skill to push an overloaded grocery cart for a mile.

20.  Sailors in general are very helpful.

21.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to not knowing when you wake up what your day will be like.  It's both exciting and frustrating.

22.  A 300-liter water tank will last longer than I thought.  It doesn't mean that we can get crazy, but it does mean that we don't have to measure every drop.

Around the 23rd of July:

We've been traveling along the southern coast of Italy (on the toe) for about a week now and it has been an experience.  Unlike the rest of Italy (at least as far as I can tell), this part doesn't seem all that interested in developing itself as an area for boaters.

It's sort of odd because even though it seems that Italians prefer motorboats, tanking up is difficult and/or inconvenient.  We've been to at least several  places where our pilot book said there was diesel, only to find that there was no diesel or it was out of order with no information as to when it would be fixed.

There was one place where Frank had to borrow a bunch of Jerry cans and trek the gas from the gas station and another where a cab driver went and got us a can of gas, and yet another where the guy at the marina drove Frank to the gas station.

That was yesterday and apparently the gas station had been out of order for so long that he had ordered a special hose to siphon the gas from the Jerry cans to the boat.  It made the process very clean and very quick; he can siphon 20 liters a minute.  We need one of those!  He said he had to order it from the US; they can't be found in Europe.  He said that the pumps were supposed to be fixed in a month.  I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope if I were he, was what I thought.

Today (Saturday) the seas have been rougher than they've been so far.  We've got a good wind, though, and are hoping to make today's goal pretty early.  Max was seasick earlier but has recovered.

I had no idea how large a country Italy is; we've been here for about 10 days and still have about three to go before we cross into Croatia.

One thing this trip has done is make us better at solving problems.  Frank in particular is getting very good at coming up with solutions that will work until we can get a real fix.  For example, a shackle came off the jib and we don't have an extra one, so he rigged it up with a tiny padlock until we can get a new one later today.

Later, the autopilot went out for no apparent reason, so I thought it would be a good idea to reset it.  Unfortunately, I didn't check the manual before I hit the "confirm reset" button, so I didn't realize that doing so meant that we would have to basically reinstall the thing both with the dockside settings and the sea settings.  Couple that with the fact that Frank had gotten almost no sleep the night before and my inability to hold a course (I'm working on it, but it meant that he couldn't take the nap he had been looking forward to; Isabelle was also taking a nap) and you can imagine how far down on the blacklist I spent the afternoon!

On the upside, though, we were able to reset it successfully, so it works again.  Frank slept well Saturday night, so he is much happier this morning.

July 28:

The Worst Anchorage Ever (Almost)

Tonight we are anchored near Brindisi.  I suppose we should have questioned why there were no other boats here, but we had been sailing (mostly motor sailing) since 6:00AM and by 7:30PM we were ready to stop.

We lowered the anchor and Max, Isabelle, and Frank had a swim and then we ate.  Then when we went to bed the problems began...

We were across from some sort of resort, which is never a good idea because Italians seem to like to vacation together at resorts that play REALLY bad music.  The music started about 9:30 and got progressively louder until about midnight, and it was so loud that it woke Max.  Max sleeps through anything, so you know that was bad.    At least the Italians aren't like the Spanish who are barely getting started at midnight!

Then we had the mosquito infestation. We were all itchy and getting itchier as the invasion progressed.   Frank found a bunch of them on the walls in our cabin (I couldn't see them without my glasses) so started bashing at them.  Unfortunately, most of the ones he killed had already eaten, so now it looks like some sort of massacre took place in there.   Meanwhile, Max had come in our room and was thrashing around trying to scratch his itches and get away from the ones that were after him.

Now it's almost three in the morning and all four of us are sitting around scratching our itches and complaining about the infestation.  We've got all the hatches closed or screened but we are still under siege.

I have no idea why the mosquitoes flew 150 meters over the water to get to us when there are all those people at the resort to eat, but I do know that tonight was the worst anchorage ever (well, almost; we didn't get dashed against the rocks).

The Second Worst Anchorage Ever  (July 29)

We anchored near Mola de Bari last night.  It was a bit weird to be right outside of the marina, but it was a real anchorage.  The weather was nice when we arrived and had a swim.  We ate and congratulated ourselves on finding what appeared to be a better anchorage than the night before.  However, there was still bad music, although it stopped pretty early.  The worst part was that it was literally 1000 degrees with absolutely NO wind.  None of us got much sleep and that was compounded by the fact that the wind picked up so much so that by the time we decided to leave (having gotten tired of the constant rolling and rocking) and head into the marina we literally couldn't moor.  So....out we went to brave the wind and the waves, which were terrible.  Poor Max got seasick, but recovered.  Frank did a masterful job mooring once we got to the next marina, though!  Now we are sitting here online listening to the wind blow.  Looks like more of the same tomorrow, so I think we'll be here for one more day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pigs in Space

And now, the continuing stor-r-ry of ...Pigs...in...Space...

OK, not really, but our continuing struggles with electronics make me feel as disoriented as a Muppet pig in space might feel!

Our adventures on the water continue, however. Thanks to the winds in our faces the whole time, we have sailed maybe four times. I feel as if we've got a not-very-powerful motorboat.

Friday morning we left Cartegana and got about three miles out when Frank decided that we might be able to sail. We were about to raise the sails when Frank thought that he would go have a look at the boom because we had found a large nut on deck. When he got up there he discovered that the pin holding the boom had come very loose. If it were to fall, someone could be killed. Consequently there was nothing to do but tie the boom out of the way and head back to Cartegana.  When we got there the office found someone to fix the boom. It took two men about an hour with much Spanish, clanking, and pounding, but they got it done for much less than we could have imagined. We were afraid that the boat would have to come out of the water.

We also needed someone to look at the chart plotter, but no one could come until Monday, so we were stuck in Cartagena (I still can't spell it, so I will try out different spellings and we'll have a contest to see which spelling looks the best) for the weekend.  Turns out that Cartegana is a very historical town.  Not only the Carthagenians, but the Muslims, Christians, and several other groups were there.  Most of it looks pretty modern, but there is a nice old part of town as well.  It has a castle (although without a dungeon, to Max's disappointment) and a gorgeous Roman amphitheater.

Since we were there we got to see both Wimbledon finals, although finding a place to watch the men was a bit difficult because there was a Formula One race on at the same time. It was during siesta time, but we managed finally to find the only place in town where the staff were not race fans!

Monday morning arrived and Frank arranged for the electrician to come. Isabelle and I went to the grocery store. That was an experience!  We found two grocery carts at the marina, so we pushed them about a mile through town to the Lidl (a German grocery store--we had to go there because not only are their prices low, but we were quite sure that they would stock oats, and this family cannot function without oats!).  Getting there was no problem, but pushing two heavily laden carts back on busy sidewalks was an adventure.  We managed not to run over anyone, though!

Now it's two days later. We've sailed (motored) overnight for two nights now.  It's not too bad with the three of us; we've divided up the night into three-hour shifts.  With the autopilot all we have to do is watch for boats and Max (Hawkeye) likes to do the first watch with me.  He's so excited to stay up late and I am happy for his eyes, mine not having been made for this sort of thing.  Then he sleeps until 9:30 or so.  His comment last night:  "Even I admit it. It's time to go to bed."  He had fallen asleep at 12:57.

Frank is getting to be quite good at the helm and Isabelle serms to know instinctively what needs to be done.  We will really miss her on the way back!

My adventures in cooking are about what you'd expect.  No one is starving but I am not going to win any prizes either.  It's mostly pretty boring and I've about decided that except for a few things I don't  particularly like my own cooking.  I used to love it when my mom cooked on the Three Foot High--couldn't you come and give me some lessons, Mom?

Now we are in Mallorca waiting to get the chart plotter looked at.  Then it's on towards Menorca and ultimately Sardinia!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Through the Straits of Gibraltar at Last

The past few days have been equally as interesting as the first couple days, although without seasickness for anyone.  I think we've all got our sea legs now!

After spending a night in Chipiona, we went to Rota, where we were held up for three nights because of bad winds.  Rota is a pretty little town with lots of little narrow streets.  The grocery store was a bit hard to find but Isabelle and Frank found it.  On Rota we had our sail fixed and by the time we had been there three nights even though the weather near Barbate was forecast as a gale, the forecast for five miles across the bay to Cadiz was fine.  Frank decided that we should get a bit more mooring practice so we headed out.

By the time we got to Cadiz the wind had picked way up and mooring required many people to help, but we got in OK.  It was a bit stressful for Frank, but he did well.  We met up with our former neighbors on the Meredith--Michael and Annie--who had come before us too.

The town of Cadiz is pretty, too, but I did not take a whole lot of pictures--the wide lens is too wide and the telephoto is too long, but I do have a few.  We had Mojitos in a bar there, but I have to say that they were nowhere as good as James Beier's.

Cadiz could get a much larger economic boost from boaters if the marina were closer to town.  It was about half a hour into town (not a particularly interesting one either) and another 30 minutes through town to the beach.  It is not a very touristy town but the beach was mobbed, mostly with locals who were much more tanned than most of the tourists.

Our friends Seamus and Patricia arrived in Cadiz as well Sunday night, and the next day they headed for Barbate about half an hour before we left.

No one had a nice sail to Barbate--we had to battle the wind and rough waves, so we made very bad time.  What we thought was going to take four hours ended up taking ten!  We didn't get in until after 9:30 to fond that Seamus and Patricia were already there and they helped us moor again.

Next, we discovered that there was nowhere to eat.  Enter "Desperation Dinner #1":  Potato, Onion, and Egg Hash, along with a canned ham that Frank had bought.  The hash was better than the ham, we decided, but canned ham is palatable if you paint it with honey and Herbes de Provence!  After our rough day Frank slept so hard I would have thought he was dead if I hadn't known better.

Seamus and Patricia have exited the blog now.  They went to Morrocco and we will see them in the fall back in Lagos.  Now we'll have to moor ourselves.  :(

Tuesday morning dawned fair with no wind and a good forecast so even though we hadn't shopped we set off to go through the Straits of Gibraltar.  At first it seemed like more of the usual--a nice calm beginning and then the wind and the waves picking up--but by the time we got past Tarifa (the windiest spot on Europe) and into the Straits things had calmed down quite a lot and our passage was the smoothest yet.  Of course, the wind shifted and we couldn't sail, but it was nice calm motoring, at least!

We spent the night in Estipona, another tourist town with little to recommend it but a relatively decent (albeit expensive) grocery store and and an excellent Indian restaurant.

The marina was an experience, as it was our first time mooring without a dock and no one spoke any English.  Isabelle's one semester of Spanish and Frank's two years of it 40 years ago are not getting us very far.  Max's Portuguese and my limited French are not helping either.  It seems that the Portuguese can understand the Spanish but the Spanish can't understand the Portuguese.  Very strange...

In any case, first they directed us into a tiny little slip that there was no way we were going to fit into. We finally backed into a different one and moored to the pontoon at the stern and a mooring in the water on the bow, so we were facing out rather than moored to the pontoon on the side, if that makes sense.  From what I've read it seems that a lot of marinas in the Mediterranean do this, so I guess we'll get some practice.

The next day we headed out early in the direction of Cartegena. The seas were so calm it was almost like being on a lake.  Not much wind, though, so we had to motor. We did put up the sails in the afternoon, though, but didn't really gain any speed.

We sailed through the night and then last night (Thursday) we anchored near the town of Vera. We are now on the Costa Blanca, which is characterized by lots of white buildings. Unfortunately the towns here are mostly ugly, since they were built quickly to make money from Northern European tourists. None of the places we've stopped since Cadiz has been even remotely interesting in that sense.

The undeveloped coast is gorgeous, though. Lots of large rocks and cliffs  that go straight down to the ocean. We've been able to get pretty close to some of them.

Max went swimming when we anchored and swam around the boat.  Isabelle went in with him and they said the water wasn't too cold.  It's been great having Isabelle with us as we learn the boat.

Frank is getting much more confident at the helm and in mooring the boat, but we are also becoming conscious of how much we still have to learn.

To celebrate the Fourth of July we had burgers and I made salt potatoes. Max loved the potatoes! I need to put more salt in the water next time, though.  Max informed us that the Fourth of July is National Burger Day and has been since before the US existed.

Now we are in Cartagena, which doesn't seem to have anything touristy to recommend it either.  We'll shop and eat and tomorrow head to the Balerics...