Saturday, 24 September 2016

On to the Canary Islands

Although we escaped the Straits with no real drama, we spent the day and night beating into the wind down the African coast. After 130 miles of that, it seemed that spending a night in Casablanca would make sense while we waited for the wind to turn more favorable. As it turned out, sailing vessels are not allowed into the busy port and we were directed to Mohamedmedia to look for a berth. We did manage to get the only open spot at a rather rickety dock. The customs officer was friendly and helpful, stamping us both in and out of Morocco so that we could depart in the early morning, which we did.

We continued motor sailing through the day until the wind came around and finally at midnight we were able to rig the pole and go wing and wing. Morning brought turtle and dolphin sightings as well as a little gold finch hitch hiking on the stern life line! The wind continued to be a mixed lot as we worked our way south over the next few days arriving in Lanzarote around 9am on Monday Sept 19. We pulled into Marina Lanzarote in Arrecife on the east side of the island and found a comfortable, new marina brimming with boats participating in Jimmy Connell's Barbados rally.

The next day we rented a car and drove around the island's north end with it's fields of lava, stone and cactus. We went into the Cueva de los Verdes - an underground volcanic tunnel that is 6km long, and drove to the lovely town of Teguise passing vineyards planted in ash with vines surrounded by lava rock walls. The island is big enough to warrant a two day drive, so we toured the south end the following day. There we visited the Montanas del Fuego Parque Nationales de Tianfaya - a required bus ride through the volcanoes.

Lanzarote was a pleasant surprise but then it was time to move on! An 8 am departure for Gran Canaria started with....motoring but was soon followed by a romping wing on wing sail, rolling with the swell, and careening along at between 6-8 knots through the night. We sailed down around the southern side of Fuerteventura with it's beautiful cliffs and hills, across the channel and busy shipping lanes and into the unbeknownst to us "acceleration zone" where it blows 30+ knots on a regular basis - just when we were trying to slow down! Thankfully it was behind the beam. Then just as suddenly as we accelerated, we hit the "deceleration" zone and calmly entered Puerto Mogan just as it was stirring to life, like 9:30 am. Such is life in the islands!

That's the news from EQ, where the winds are fair, the seas calm and the crew content.

With Equanimity and Joy...

Thursday, 15 September 2016

To the Spainish Mainland

With August nearing an end, we carried on for the mainland of Spain landing in Cartagena. We set the spinnaker and ran through the night with it - a smooth 144 miles. Although Roger was sleeping at the time (and Kim debated whether to wake him up), EQ passed from east to west longitude at 23:08 and is back in the western hemisphere after 12 years in the east!

Cartagena has been inhabited for over two millenia, being founded around 227 BC and it currently has a population of about 200,000. The city had it's heyday during the Roman Empire and much of it's historical weight is due to the coveted defensive port, one of the most important in the Western Mediterranean. It continues to be the main military haven of the Spanish navy and is home to a large naval shipyard (where we went to get our passports stamped but that's another story). 

The city contains a number of landmarks such as the Bull Fighting Ring, a Roman Theater and an area of Roman ruins being excavated and preserved in a covered outdoor museum. Other charming features included the wide pedestrian streets, the Art Nouveau buildings, the street sculptures and the landscaping. We rode the glass elevator to the castle on top of the hill and read a short history of the city. 

It would have been nice to travel further into Spain but we thought it best to move on to Gibraltar, as we had fair weather to do so. 

Once in Gibraltar, the work began in earnest and Roger spent practically two weeks in the engine room or at the Perkins parts dealer. We did manage to get out and about town a bit but other than a trip to the top of the rock, St Michael's cave, and a visit to the Gibraltar museum to see the Neanderthal exhibit, found it rather uninspiring. The English supermarket was a treat though (as in proper oats) and we walked across the airport runway border into Spain (with not a glance at our passports) to go to the mercado and stock up on nuts and dried fruit for brekky.

As it turned out, the Spanish immigration police said we like Americans and Kiwi's, so no worries about staying as long as we liked. They were kind and helpful in Cartagena and stamped our passports anyway but let us leave whenever we liked. But at "the Rock" we could walk across back into Spain and no one cared. So, all the worry about making sure we didn't overstay our 90 days in the EU was for naught. We do like Spain. :)

But the Rock was crowded and busy, certainly a nervous lot, especially with Brexit just happening, and so was time to move on. EQ's inner workings got a major refit; all new hoses on the Perkins engine along with cleaned and calibrated injectors (now she purrrrrsssssss), a new water heater (hot water anytime again), and a new very quiet engine room blower (yipppppeeeee). And so we worked out the tides (we hoped) for escaping the Med out through the Straights of Gibraltar, no easy task mind you. We found a decent weather window for the 4-5 day trip to the Canaries and shoved off at 4:00am. We did swirl around a bit in the eddies but managed to get flushed out to sea. Into the Atlantic we go!!!!!

So, that's the news from EQ, where the seas are full of eddies, the winds on the nose (as usual), and the crew content to be back at sea.

With equanimity and Joy...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Bash to the Balearics

Leaving Italy behind and heading for Spain, we started off with our usual light wind and motor sailing along…but this time the wind built and built, and the sloppy seas set in, and soon it was NNW 20-25 providing a rock and roll 200 mile passage! It’s either all or nothing around here! 

But we arrived safely in Menorca in the early afternoon and began looking for an anchorage in Mahon. These areas are largely restricted so we finally settled for a spot at the end of the dock at Port Menorca. EQ took a beating from the surge there and so we were happy to be off the next day. 

After a rolling night at crowded Cala Binibecca, we found Cala Trebeluja. This beautiful cove on the southwest side of the island was surrounded by rocky cliffs with caves and held a lovely sandy beach at the head. With the wind blowing from the southwest we knew it would be a rolly first night but the prediction was for the wind to turn north and gusty within a day so we figured it was worth grabbing our spot and toughing it out. For the next three days the wind blew like stink and we couldn't leave the boat  - staying alert on anchor watch both for ourselves and all the other yachts (who don't set their anchors...)

Finally the wind backed enough for a trip ashore to hike up to the top of the cliffs. We were rewarded with a view down at EQ sitting pretty in the sparkling waters.

Time was slipping by on our 90 day allowance in the EU though so after only a week in Menorca we set out for Mallorca. Back to light winds and slight swell, we motored along again for the 43 mile hop.

It seemed to make sense to land at the nearest point on the east coast and it turned out to be one of our favorite anchorages - Cala Magraner. It was a tight spot with canyon walls rising on both sides but it was lovely. There were even mountain goats! And we socialized with  a Dutch/French boat as well as another Kiwi!

Next stop  - Porto Colom where we took a swing mooring and spent several days sorting the usual things like internet and laundry and provisions. A long bus ride took us to Palma where we scoped out the chandlery and marine services with an eye to getting parts from the Perkins dealer. After a few more one night stand anchorages (including one with a long beach for walking and where Kim finally got to try out the kayak) we sailed into Marina de Longa in Palma. Our slip was right up next to the street and made easy access for the next four days we were there.

Palma is the kind of city that can grow on you over time. At first just a city, as we walked back and forth several times to the Perkins dealer and supermarket etc, it started to charm. As the capital of the Mallorca (Majorca) the resort has put effort into creating a welcoming atmosphere with street art and plantings.

As an day excursion, we rode the Tren de Soller, a vintage narrow gauge railroad up and over the hills to the northern coastal resort of Soller. There we wandered the streets, had a delicious lunch on a patio garden oasis and had THE BEST gelato to date (and we've sampled a lot).

And before you know it, you guessed it, we were off again! Sailing around the corner to Cala de Santa Once for a respite at anchor for two nights. In this pleasant harbor we enjoyed the full moon and concert music wafting from shore.

The next island stop was Ibiza. A 5am departure in a light southerly sailing into the moon beam and watching the sun rise in a red ball behind us was delightful. Arriving at Cala Boix 50 miles later we chose a pretty spot among the cliffs and beach in the cove. After a couple of nights at Ibiza we set of for Formentera where the number of charter yachts jockeying for space was swelling.

And that's the news from EQ where the wind is unpredictable, the seas mostly calm and the crew content but moving ever westward.

With Equanimity and Joy.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Westward Across the Tyrrhenian Sea

After an amazing week in Italy full of sites, sounds and immersion in history and art, we returned to EQ in the marina at Castellemare with a sigh of relief. She was safe and sound and welcomed us home. And after just a day of laundry, provisioning and fueling up, we were off again! 

First stop - Ischia - a volcanic island in the northern end of the Gulf of Naples - just a 25 mile sail away. It felt good to be underway on the water. Sadly, we didn't sample the thermal spas the island is known for. In fact, we didn't get ashore at all but not for not trying! There was not a good place to tie up Joy - the one place we did try turned out to be a swimmming spot for the local youth and teh boys thought Joy made a great leg up onto the wharf. Kim enjoyed a little sight from home when Manitou - JFK's old yacht from Newport, RI, anchored near us.

Off we went in the morning, sailing toward Sardinia. The wind was light and variable again, unfortunately, and we motor sailed over much of the 200 mile overnight passage. There was a nice sailing breeze for the last 25 miles or so though and we found a lovely anchorage, Porto Della Taverna, on the northeast side of the island, at the end of the journey.

The beauty of Sardinia's coast immediately began to sink in. We spent the next week poking around the north coast and down the west - definately in teh playground of teh wealthy now - we were often surrounded by luxury motor yachts. We made a pass through the harbour of Cervo to have a look but no need to deal with that craziness.

Moving onward, we marveled at the fantastic rocky cliff formations full of interesting textures and colours. With each one night stop we enjoyed a new view of the island. In Golfo Saline the entertainment was watching the small boats, including lasers and hobie cats, in the sailing school deal with the gusty winds. Capsize!! Brought back lots of memories...

The next day we dealt with that strong wind ourselves as we motored around the corner to Cape Testa - a lovely spot. Here we went ashore for a walk among the huge smooth, sculpted rocks and stopped for a fancy lunch of local fish at Ristorante S'Andira.

Soon it was time to stage for an early morning departure to the Balearic Islands so we scooted around to the inside of the hook of the west side of the cape for the night. We anchored in shallow water by the beach and listened to the music from the party boats...

So that's the news from EQ where the winds are fair, the seas calm, and the crew content. 

With Equanimity and Joy

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Tale of Three Cities, Part III, Rome

On our way back south through the Italian countryside, we decided we couldn't miss Rome since we were stopping there anyway. I wasn't completely stoked as I thought another big ole dirty city with heaps of tourists, hot and tired from that past week. I mean, what else could top Florence and Venice, right? Boy, was I wrong, I instantly fell in love with Rome too. The size and massiveness, the architecture and art everywhere we turned, every street, nook and cranny, was overwhelming to say the least. I don't know any other city built to such exquisite detail and grandeur. As soon as we found our hotel, dropped our bags, we headed for Trevi Fountain. Wow!

 Rome's history spans more than 2-1/2 thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at only around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of Western civilization and by some as the first ever metropolis. It is referred to as "Roma Aeterna" (The Eternal City) and "Caput Mundi" (Capital of the World), two central notions in ancient Roman culture.

After the fall of the Western Empire, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome slowly fell under the political control of the Papacy, which had settled in the city since the 1st century AD, until in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870.

Beginning with the Renaissance, almost all the popes since Nicholas V (1422–55) pursued coherently four hundred years of an architectonic and urbanistic programme aimed to make the city the world's artistic and cultural centre.

Due to that, Rome became first one of the major centres of the Italian Renaissance, and then the birthplace of both the Baroque style and Neoclassicism. Famous artists, painters, sculptors and architects made Rome the centre of their activity, creating masterpieces throughout the city. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic.


You can read about Rome, you see it in the movies, you can hear about it, but when you are actually standing there immersed in all the old sites, not to mention all the little alleys and cafes, does it really hit you, what the Romans had done and has endured to this day. It seems as if the Roman Empire was just yesterday. Walking through the forum you can almost hear the vibrant old city, siting in the Coliseum, you can hear the cheers and shouts of that day. And then there's St Peters, the most impressive church I have ever seen, anywhere. And of course, the Vatican's treasure of artefacts they have collected over the years is unsurpassed in any museum.

After a couple of days, "Roma Aeterna" really sinks in. I love Rome and Italy and if it wasn't for the Schengen insanity, we would have stayed much longer. I certainly envision coming back for a much longer stay.

So that's the news from EQ, where the winds are fair, the seas calm and the crew content.

With Equanimity and Joy...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Tale of Three Cities, Part II, Venice

Venice at last!!!! after all these years of dreaming about it. We're glad we didn't bash the 500nm up the Adriatic just to sail into here, as it would have been very difficult to bring a yacht here. Everything - fire trucks, ambulance, delivery trucks, buses, taxis, construction equipment, I mean everything including the ubiquitous tourist gondolas  - navigate the canals. And it is total chaos, but somehow it works and has been getting on for all these centuries. Arriving by train on one end and navigating the narrow alleys to find our hotel in the middle of the city was quite the adventure in itself. GPS doesn't work so well with all the masonry construction and narrow alleys.

The history of Venice goes back way more than a millennial, first as traders on the rivers of northern Italy, then gradually expanding into the sea. While most communities expanded their influence by acquiring more land, the Venetians expanded by acquiring trading rights on the water, first in the northern Adriatic, then ever expanding further into Med, into the Atlantic and even over land. They weren't so interested in acquiring possessions as to defeating piracy and maintaining and developing fair trade. To this as well as being known as excellent seafarers and warriors, as well as craftsmen, they became very famous.

Among the many cities that have ever been made, Venice stands out as a symbol of beauty, of wise government, and of communally controlled capitalism. The distinctiveness of the environment in which the Venetians built gave an obviously unique quality to their city's charm. It's watery setting contributed also to an aristocratic tradition of liberty. Venice was the freest of Italy's many cities. It had no city walls but a lagoon, no palace guard except workers from its chief shipyard, no parade ground for military drill and display except the sea. The advantages of its site fostered also an economy which combined liberty and regulation in ways as unique as Venice's urban arteries and architecture.

The institutions which make Venice memorable evolved during many hundred years of effort. From the 6th century AD to the end of the 18th, the Venetians were a separate people. In terms of their livelihood, those 12 centuries divide into three major periods which overlap considerably and are each about 400 years long. Until about 1000 AD, the Venetians were primarily boatmen or barge men operating small craft across their lagoons and up and down the rivers and canals leading into the mainland of northern Italy. After 1000 AD, they became a seagoing nation, sailing, trading and fishing in many parts of the Med and from the rivers of southern Russia to the English Channel. Finally, Venice became a city of Craftsmen, functionaries, and a few aristocrats, a city renowned for its skill in handwork, finance, and government.

The life of the Venetians before 1000 AD was relatively obscure, but a series of naval victories began in that year and came to a climax in 1204 with Venice's part in the conquest of Constantinople by western crusaders. The conquest made Venice an imperial power, and from that date on, its history is entwined with all the shifts of power within the Med. During the following centuries the Venetians as seamen maintained the wealth and reputation of the Republic in the face of revolutions in nautical, military and commercial technologies and in trade routes. While neighbouring empires rose and fell, they elaborated a republican government in a form which aroused the envy of many other Italian city-states.

At the beginning of modern times most medieval communities the size of Venice were overwhelmed by the rise of large, strongly organized monarchies. Oceanic trade routes undermined traditional sources of prosperity. But Venice, however, perfected her distinctive republican institutions as a city-state, preserved her independence by diplomatic skill, and prolonged her prosperity by adjusting her trade and especially her manufacturing to new opportunities offered by an expanding Europe. By 1600, when Venice was less a nation of seamen than of craftsmen, she reached a high peak of influence as a centre of artistic creation.

To this day, the charm and magnificence that has always been Venice, is still alive and well. Three days to explore this lovely city is no where near enough time and we hope to come back for a much longer spell, off season of course.

So that's the news from EQ, where the seas are flat, the winds fair and the crew content to finally see a dream in real life. Venice is certainly a dreamy city.

With equanimity and Joy...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

A Tale of Three Cities, Part I, Florence

In the middle of the summer heat and the height of the tourist season, we are determined to head for Venice since we bailed out on bashing north with EQ in the Adriatic. The worst time of year for such a journey, but we are determined. :) We just can't visit Italy without seeing Florence, Venice and Rome (as a minimum), not to mention the Italian country-side. So off we go on the high-speed (200km/hr) train, zoommmmm, from bottom to top and back again in 8 days.

Santa Maria del Fiore, "The Duomo"

First stop, Florence! Wow! What an amazing city, the art work, the architecture, not to mention the history. Ground zero for the end of the dark ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. The history goes back to before the Romans, with many wars and different ruling families over the years, but by the 15th century, Florence became an important trading hub and the cradle of Italian and eventually European culture. Many great personalities such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Donatello, to name just a few, all worked and lived here. The art work and architecture is unsurpassed anywhere, to this day.

Neptune Fountain, The Palazzo Vecchio

Florence has a charm like no other place I've ever been. We were awestruck the moment we arrived, in spite of the throngs of tourists, and that feeling continued at every corner, every coble stone street, every museum, every courtyard, every fountain, every little nook and cranny. If I could live in a city, this would be it. No one builds like this anymore. It's absolutely timeless.

Palazzo Vecchio Courtyard, home to the Medici family

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with it's copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well as the galley of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi. In 1299, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace that would be worthy of the city's importance, and that would be more secure and defensible in times of turbulence for the magistrates of the commune.

Duke Cosimo I de' Medici (later to become grand duke) moved his official seat from the Medici palazzo in via Larga to the Palazzo della Signoria in May 1540, signalling the security of Medici power in Florence.

The Vasari Corridor above Ponte Vecchio

When Cosimo later removed to Palazzo Pitti, he officially renamed his former palace to the Palazzo Vecchio, the "Old Palace", although the adjacent town square, the Piazza della Signoria, still bears the original name.

Cosimo commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build an above-ground walkway, the "Vasari Corridor", from the Palazzo Vecchio, through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. Cosimo I also moved the seat of government to the Uffizi.

The palace gained new importance as the seat of united Italy's provisional government from 1865–71, at a moment when Florence had become the temporary capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Although most of the Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, it remains as the symbol and centre of local government; since 1872 it has housed the office of the mayor of Florence, and it is the seat of the City Council. The tower currently has three bells; the oldest was cast in the 13th century. Throughout the Palazzo, the art work, the walls, ceilings, every single room, is exquisite.

"David", Michelangelo's Masterpiece

Speaking of exquisite art work, the Galleria dell Accademia is a must see. In particular is the original of Michelangelo's David, as well as an extremely important collection of his sculptures. Unbelievable work.

But the list of unbelievable places to visit is long. How about the Uffizi Gallery with Botticelli's "Primavera" and "The Birth of Venus". There's Leonardo's "Annunciation" and Michelangelo's "Tondo Doni". How about Paolo Uccello, Albrecht Durer, Rosso Fiorentino, Bronzino, Raphael, Titan, Andrea del Sarto... The list seems endless of incredible artists.

There's so much to take in, the mind becomes numb you can't remember what you saw where, especially since we only had two days in Florence. It's a small livable city, but the charm and pull on the heart is enormous. We certainly want to go back and stay much longer, off season of course. :)

So, that's the news from EQ, where the winds (or whirlwinds) are calmly trying to take it all in, the seas (of people) are vast, and the crew in love with the land cruising for a change.

with Equanimity and Joy...