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Tunisia, Africa

We left Brindisi, Italy, and sailed south to Santa Maria di Leuca on the southern tip of the heel of Italy where we enjoyed the village-like atmosphere for several days while waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Taranto. The overnight trip across the Gulf ended up being a pleasant motor-sail in reasonably calm seas and we arrived at the Rocello Marina the following afternoon rested and relaxed. That night we feasted on the best pizza of our trip.

We were glad to spend several days in the marina as the weather deteriorated with heavy rain and breaking seas splashing over the sea wall. Brian tried to walk to the end of the breakwater for some pictures but was intercepted by the police who said it was too dangerous. The worst part was that the marina lost power and the pizza restaurant was closed for the rest of our stay. We did brave the weather for the 1 km walk into the town of Rocello.

We took advantage of another weather window and made the overnight jump to Siracusa on the east side of Sicily where we checked into the Marina Yachting by the Old Town on Ortigia Island. This is a great location for exploring what was once the most powerful city-state in the Mediterranean and home to Archimedes and Leonardo da Vinci. It was Archimedes’ clever inventions that thwarted a Roman attempt to conquer the city over 2,200 years ago.

We started our road trip by heading north toward Mount Etna, the largest and most active volcano in Europe. We stopped in the seaside resort town of Taormina and visited the ancient Greek theater with its magnificent views of the coast and the volcano. We then drove up to Castelmola perched high on the cliffs overlooking Taormina. Not wanting to retrace our steps back to Taormina, we opted for a back road over the mountains where we didn’t see another car and were treated to beautiful vistas.

We eventually arrived at Castiglione di Sicilia set on a bluff on the slopes of Mount Etna. The town looks very medieval from the outside but our hotel was quite modern on the inside. We definitely knew that we were out of tourist season when first we could find a parking space, and second, we learned that there was only one other guest in the hotel.

Upon returning to Siracusa we stopped at a supermarket and provisioned for our winter stay in Tunisia. We filled two-and-a-half shopping carts with everything we thought we might not find such as cured meats, cheese, salsa, and so on. We loaded up the boat and headed down the coast to Porto Palo on the very southern tip of Sicily where we had to sail into the harbor when our fuel line became clogged. The next day we headed for Malta where we spent the night before continuing on to Tunisia, Africa, where we have a season reservation at the Cap Monastir Marina.

We have been in Monastir now for two weeks and are settled in for the winter. Our friends on Island Bound are here and it’s nice to have people to do things with. There is a Sunday BBQ every week where we meet other cruisers that are also wintering here. Tunisia is a Muslim country and a pleasant change from Europe where we have spent the last eight months. We are looking forward to our daughter visiting next month and giving us an excuse to explore Carthage, the Sahara Desert, Matmata Caves, and more.

Rocello, Italy

 

Siracusa

 

Road Trip

 

Tunisia

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Across the Adriatic to Italy

Budva turned out to be a charming little town nestled at the base of towering mountains. It changed rapidly from a tourist destination to a quiet village as the weather cooled and the merchants prepared for 8 months of drought. Sandie flew back to the States for two weeks while Brian caught up on the varnishing.

When Sandie returned we took a road trip to the village of Kotor set deep within a fjord and backed by steep cliffs. We continued inland up dozens of switchbacks to the Lovcen National Park passing through woodlands painted in autumn colors. We visited the Mousoleum of Petar II Petrovic perched on a mountain ridge at 1660 m. It felt like the dead of winter as icy winds whipped about and we were happy to get back to the car and its heater.

On 23 October we motored 15 miles to Bar where we had arranged to check out of Montenegro and fill up with duty-free diesel. It was cold and windy with gusts in the mid-40’s and it didn’t feel like the kind of day to head across the Adriatic. But a large storm was headed our way and we felt it best to get to Italy to wait it out. We left Bar at 15:00 for what turned out to be an uncomfortable trip across the southern Adriatic Sea, arriving in Brindisi, Italy, the next morning.

We checked into Italy and then took a Med-tie at the Brindisi Marina where we felt the boat would be safe during the storm. We were comfortable leaving the boat there and decided to take the time to drive across Italy to the Naples area rather than sit on the boat listening to the wind blow. Our first stop was Salerno where our hotel looked out on the bustling harbor. The next morning, we drove along the stunning Amalfi Coast with its narrow road (barely big enough for two cars to pass, let alone a tour bus) and towns clinging to the sides of steep cliffs. It was a beautiful, if not scary, drive that we highly recommend.

We visited the ruins of Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and walked the cobblestone streets of a city that had been buried under ash for nearly 2000 years. We enjoyed visiting the ancient laundry and fast-food stalls that gave a glimpse of what life was like just before the volcano eruption.

In Naples we visited the National Archeological Museum that displays many of the artifacts recovered from Pompeii and other parts of Italy. While touring the museum we received a phone call from the marina that urged us to return to our boat because of the storm. We reminded them that we were in Naples at which time they said that there was no problem and not to worry. RIGHT! We decided to cut our trip short and drive 370 km back to Brindisi during the height of the storm. We arrived in a torrential down poor and gale force winds and were happy to find that Persephone was safe.

The storm has passed and we are preparing to leave early tomorrow morning for the “heel of Italy” where we will spend a couple of days before crossing the Gulf of Taranto on our way to Sicily.

 

Montenegro

 

Brindisi and the Amalfi Coast

 

Ruins of Pompeii

 

National Archeological Museum in Naples

Enjoying Croatia with Friends

Our friends Mike and Jan joined us in Split on September 15. We were fortunate to get a weekend berth in Trogir because that is when the charter boats return to their marinas filling them to capacity. From there it was a short drive to the airport where we picked them up and headed north to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Our hotel was inside the park and only a short walk to where the shuttle boat took us across the lake to the trail head. A log pathway led us through lush greenery and dozens of waterfalls. The weather was pleasantly cool due to the elevation and seasonal change.

We left Plitvice and drove directly to Krka National Park to view the majestic waterfalls and swim in the river. We arrived back at the boat in the early evening and walked into Old Town Trogir for dinner before collapsing in bed, totally exhausted.

The next morning, we took the water taxi into Split where we explored the city and took a tour of the Palace of Diocletian. Sandie was thrilled to see where scenes from Game of Thrones were shot.

Our first stop with the boat was the city of Hvar where we anchored at one of the outer islands with a line ashore and took the dinghy in. We climbed the steep hill to the fort that overlooks the harbor and strolled along the waterfront.

We revisited Korcula Town with its ascending alleyways and dined along the waterfront while viewing the mountains on the Peljesac Peninsula. Korcula is our favorite city destination next to Dubrovnik and it never fails to impress.

While in route we were visited by a pod of dolphins that took time out from their feeding to play in our bow wave. We also caught two dorados, our first fish catch in the Med. We are still looking for the fabled blue fin tuna that used to be abundant here.

We anchored by Polace in Mljet National Park in a beautiful tranquil bay surrounded by mountains. We hiked through the park and visited the two saltwater lakes, including a boat trip to the Benedictine monastery perched on an islet.

Our last stop was the bay at Saplunara on the east tip of Mljet. We took a mooring and swam into the beach which turned out to be a sandy beach; the first we’ve seen in the Med (most are gravel or stones). That night the women dressed up and we went ashore for a delicious meal of lamb stew.

A strong bora wind from the north was predicted so we headed into Dubrovnik a day ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the seas were already up and the trip was less than pleasant. Within hours of securing the boat in the marina the winds struck reaching gusts of 65 kts. We spent the next 36 hours on the boat playing bridge while dressed in our winter cloths. Summer disappeared in an instant and autumn arrived with a roar.

On the third day the winds abated enough to visit Old Town Dubrovnik and walk its walls. We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant that provided blankets, but the cold drove us inside and we took our blankets with us. The following morning our friends departed for the airport leaving us to shiver alone. It was great fun having them on board and look forward to their next visit.

We planned to check out of Croatia the following morning but arrived at the customs dock to find that a large cruise ship had to be processed before they could clear us. We decided not to wait and headed down the coast to the quaint town of Cavat where we cleared in a few minutes.

We are currently in a marina in Budva, Montenegro, where we plan to keep the boat for several weeks while Sandie makes a quick trip to the States to visit family. Budva is rapidly turning from a tourist destination into a sleepy little town as the weather chills. Winter doesn’t feel that far off!

Plitvice and Krka National Parks

 

Split and Mljet

 

Dubrovnik and Hvar

 

 

Croatia, Headed South

We have been leisurely cruising south through Croatia, taking our time and enjoying places we missed on our quick trip north. Our departure from Pule was a bit exciting when a gale appeared a bit early forcing us into an unplanned stop in a deserted cove. We hunkered down for a couple of days while the wind blew 35-45 knots. We kept busy cleaning out the black water plumbing from the head (whew!).

We avoided the barren islands of central Croatia by sticking closer to the mainland. There are so many small villages with waterfront cafes and quaint harbors filled with small fishing boats. The town of Veli Losing on Cres looked like it was out of a fairy tale with its steepled church, brightly colored buildings, and young boys jumping off the cliffs at the harbor entrance.

We enjoyed a couple of days anchored off Zadar and visiting the old town; every city has an Old Town! While there a squall moved through washing a sailboat up against the sea wall. We dinghied over and offered to help refloat the boat, much to the owner’s relief. Then the authorities stepped in and shut us down saying it was too dangerous and the owner would have to use a professional service. We had to leave under the threat of legal action. The boat was refloated the next morning with the use of a crane.

We anchored off a small village at Simuni on a Sunday. That evening a women’s choir group gave concert along the waterfront and we were wonderfully serenaded while sitting in our cockpit on a balmy evening.

A real highlight was taking the boat up the river to Skradin, passing under a bridge with bungie jumpers and buying fresh oysters directly from the oyster farms. We took a ferry into Krka National Park and walked the loop trail passing hundreds of waterfalls. One night was spent med-tied to the sea wall in Sibenik where we toured the town and visited the St. James Cathedral.

We have been lucky to find some secluded anchorages away from the craziness of the charter boats and towns. We have been equally unlucky at catching fish. To date, we have caught only one small bonito while in the Med. We had a school of tune come into a cove where we were anchored and ravage a school of fish hiding under our boat and still couldn’t catch one.

We enjoyed scenic Korcula Town where Marco Polo was born. It’s a tourist town for sure, but still beautiful with its city walls, narrow alley ways, shaded promenade lined with cafes, and the towering mountains of the Peljesac Peninsula in the background.

We have arrived in Trogir where we are checked into a marina. We are meeting our friends Mike and Jan tomorrow and driving north to see the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Then we cruise south to Dubrovnik.

Heading South from Pula

 

Sibenik and Krka National Park

 

Korcula

Croatia At Last!

Things have changed a bit since our last post. We ended up in Greece for two weeks longer than expected awaiting a package from the States and then looking for a suitable weather window to head north. We decided to make up lost time by bypassing both Albania and Montenegro (for now) and went straight to Croatia.

We checked into Croatia in Dubrovnik and immediately fell in love with the town. The old town is out of a fairy tale with towering walls and steep cliffs protecting the city and its harbor. The city was rebuilt to a grand design following a disastrous earthquake in 1667 and the streets are nicely laid out and the buildings are built of stone. The architecture was standardized to prevent the rich from building lavish homes which would make them appear to be profiting from the earthquake.

Our plan was to move rather quickly to Istria in northern Croatia and then take our time heading back south, stopping in Split next month to take on our friends Mike and Jan. We did day-hops of about 20nm, mostly motoring into light winds. This is peak season and the anchorages were crowded and sometimes noisy. We watched several anchorages transform into “party city” when flotillas of over 50 boats arrived. In one bay we could hear the sub-wolfer from a party in the next bay.

The islands between Dubrovnik and Split were wooded with vegetation and most anchorages were supported by at least one restaurant. We especially enjoyed Komiza on the west end of Vis and Hvar Town on Hvar. Further north the Kornati Archipelago was barren and the anchorages were rocky with poor holding. Most boats opted for moorings that were strategically placed and expensive. It’s amazing how the charter boats flock to $40 moorings rather than test their anchoring skills.

The islands in the northern Adriatic are much like the islands south of Split but with fewer people and we enjoyed quiet evenings with soft breezes and colorful sunsets. We arrived in Pula on the south end of Istria and checked into the ACI Marina. There we left the boat to spend several days in Venice, Italy.

Venice was just like the movies! Our hotel was 100 feet from the Piazza di San Marco which is ground zero for Venice attractions. We visited the Basilica San Marco which is extravagant beyond words, the Bell Tower, the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), the Museum Correr, and the Rialto Bridge. We cruised down the Grand Canal and rode a gondola through the narrow waterways. In the evenings we would prowl the narrow streets debating which restaurant to enjoy. It was a wonderful mini-vacation even though we shared it with a million other tourists.

We will spend the next couple of days provisioning the boat and doing some chores before we head south. We plan to be in Split by September 12-13.

Dubrovnik

 

Sailing North to Istria

 

Venice

Preparing to leave Greece

We left Rethymno, Crete, in the evening and headed north toward the mainland, passing through the Santorini caldera at sunrise. There is no good anchorage at Santorini and we pressed on to Naxos and then Paros. Heavy weather was coming and we choose a protected bay on the north end of Paros to wait it out. The winds blew 30 kts for one-and-a-half weeks but we could not have picked a nicer place to stay. There was the picturesque village of Naousa nearby, several great tavernas within walking distance of the beach, and beautiful hiking trails through the headlands. We made several new friends on boats in a similar situation.

It’s either feast or famine with the winds in the Cyclades Islands and we left Paros in a dead calm and motored north to Kithnos and then to the mainland, making landfall at Ormos Sounio and anchoring beneath the ruins of Poesiden’s Temple; nice view especially at night with the temple lit up. The next day we arrived in Piraeus and checked into the Zea Marina near Athens. We “squeezed” Persephone into a Med-tie space not much wider than the boat. We were astonished the next day when we returned and found another boat had been squeezed into the narrow space that was left and all the boats’ fenders were ready to explode. The owner of the new boat said that we were lucky not to witnessed the scene as dock hands pushed and pulled boats to make room for him. Luckily all boats escaped unharmed.

We thoroughly took advantage of our time in the marina with a trip to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum in Athens and nightly dinning along the waterfront while ogling beautiful mega-yachts. When it was time to leave Persephone squirted out from the other boats and we were off to the Corinth Canal.

The Corinth Canal is 3.5 miles long, 25 meters wide, and the sides rise 79 meters above sea level. It provides a shortcut from the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Sea by bypassing the Peloponnisos Peninsula (now an island). It was exciting to take our own boat through the narrow passage and into the Gulf of Corinth, and even more exciting to learn that the weather reports were wrong and we were met with 25 kt headwinds and short steep seas breaking over the bow. It took us all day to go the 30 miles to a safe anchorage.

Two days later we passed under the Rion Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, and into the Ionian Sea. We had bare-boated in the Ionian Sea with our family 12 years ago and it was fun to re-visit some of our favorite spots such as Vathi on Ithaca, Fiskardho on Cephalonia, and One-House-Bay on Atokos. We ate at the same restaurant in Fiskardho and were pleased to be served by Greg who had been our waiter on the previous trip. The Ionian is calmer than the Aegean Sea and we enjoyed many pleasant evenings dinning at the tavernas or enjoying meals in Persephone’s cockpit.

After two enjoyable weeks we passed through the Levkas canal (not nearly as impressive as the Corinth) and moved into the Northern Ionian Sea. We passed within hailing distance of our friends on Daramy who were headed in the opposite direction. We hadn’t seen Brian and Sue since we had worked with them doing cyclone relief in Vanuatu several years ago.

We stopped a couple of nights at Paxos before heading up to Corfu where we have been cruising for the last week. We will be checking out of Greece in the next few days and sailing north, bypassing Albania and going directly to Montenegro and then Croatia.

Cyclades Islands

 

Athens

 

Ionian Sea

Exploring Crete

Our insurance issues were resolved by our wonderful insurance agent Rachel at IMIS who worked through the weekend to expand our policy and send a copy in Greek to the Port Police. It was hardly a burden to be waylaid in beautiful Kos.

Our Greek cruising began by island-hopping to Rhodes City on the island of Rhodes. This was one of our most disappointing stops with huge Cruise ships dropping thousands of visitors into the port each day. There was a lot of surge in the new marina and we worried about leaving the boat. We did, however, drive to Lindos and climbed up to the Acropolis and the Temple of Athena. The views were spectacular.

Next, we island-hopped our way to Crete and the cradle of civilization. Our first stop was the small town of Sitia where we planned to spend only one night. But we realized that we left our boat papers and passports in our rental car in Rhodes and had to wait two days for them to be couriered to us. This was really a blessing because we were able to explore the town and its restaurants along the waterfront.

We then moved to Ay Nikolaos and anchored in the bay that once was protected by the leper colony and then fort on Spinalonga Island. The wind blew hard and we ended up spending four days on the boat doing projects, a lot of reading, and completing a very difficult jigsaw puzzle.

We took advantage of a break in the weather to go 64 nm along the north shore of Crete to the town of Rethimno and a marina where we could leave the boat. We rented a car for two days and backtracked to Iraklion and the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos which dates back more than 4,000 years. We spent an afternoon at the Irakleio Archaeological Museum before heading across to the south side of Crete. There we visited the ruins of another Minoan palace at Phaestos before returning through the Amari Valley.

We left the boat in Rethimno and took the fast ferry 100 miles north to the island of Santorini with its white buildings perched on the rim of a volcano that last erupted in 1600 BC. Everywhere we looked was a postcard view and our hotel clung to the side of a cliff looking down into the caldera. Our dinner was magical as we watched the sun set over the caldera and the village lights come on.

An interesting fact: The buildings appear white because when the plague swept through the islands of the Aegean Sea it was decreed that all buildings be plastered with lime which is a natural anti-bacterial and happens to be stark white.

We are back in Rethimno preparing to head north, this time aboard Persephone. We will eventually work our way to Athens and pass through the Corinth Canal to the Ionian Sea, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Rhodes

 

Crete, Sitia & Rethimno

 

Minoan Ruins

 

Santorini