Stranded in paradise.

Alghero. Yep! I had never heard of the town either before we arrived. The ancient walled city, replete with tourist trinkets and gelato shops yet not overrun with them, is a maze of cobblestone and terra-cotta. The sea wall keeps watch over the Med looking west and northward. Magnificent. If you’ve gotta be stuck somewhere, this was not too shabby

Madame Geneva with Michel and Enge’s “Otto” to starboard.

We found ourselves med moored on the “transito moll” in good company and took the opportunity to make some great new friends. Chris, an Austrian university professor on sabbatical returning from the Canary Islands, and Michel and Enge, Belgians, both 82 years old on a beautiful boat they built themselves some 24 seasons into their Med sailing. We shared weather info and stories, hosted and were hosted to cocktail hours aboard the boats and generally enjoyed our little community. The weather was volatile to say the least. Angry north Mistral winds howled, temperatures topped out in the 50’s Fahrenheit (which equates to negative 140 Celsius I think) and Quinn and I stood on deck spotting tornado funnels trying to reach the water from the black clouds.

We scurried about the city taking in her many treats. The food was Italian and focused on the sea. We scoffed at the prices but not how you would expect. Proper Italian pizzas with shaved ham are 5-10 euro. A bottle of wine is the price of a cheap glass in the states. The marina, abutting the wall of the old city under the ancient cathedral is 40 euro with free water. As I said, if you’re going to be stranded by a Mistral…..fine by me.

The city wall is a promenade of restaurants overlooking the bright blue sea. Typical cannons line some portions but to everyone’s delight so do giant antique catapults! Kelly sported the enormous stone bombs on the beach and reef under the weapons proving they were not just for show. How would you retrieve a misfired catapult bomb at the bottom of the wall? I surmise it would be easier to force a prisoner to just chisel a new one out of solid stone.

Thursday, 6 days since our arrival, proved to be the weather window we had been waiting for. Kelly and I provisioned and the kids put away their rip sticks and scooters having rolled around every inch of the city, cobblestones be damned, and chased local kids around the square. It was really how we had envisioned Europe for them before this trip was a reality. And if we had to sit outside at a cafe watching live free jazz over a gin and tonic in order for that to happen-well, so be it.

We bid our new friends “arrivederce” and headed north around the 900 foot vertical cliffs of Capo Caccia towards the famed Fornelli Passage where the depths drop from 4,000 feet to a mere 12. Here the water turns electric blue and rocks four feet under your keel look inches from the surface. Ancient lookout towers flank the passage, crumbling. To starboard is the extreme northeastern point of Sardinia. To Port lies the southern end of Isola Asinara, a scrubby barren island, now national park, formerly a supermax prison site for the Cosa Nostra (or Mafia) convicts. COOL!

My heartburn returned through the narrow shallows as it has for the howling Mistrals at anchor and the long overnights offshore. Between the cold, the stress of the weather and the unforgiving rocky surroundings I have not been at ease very often but an adventure this has been in no uncertain terms.

We rounded Capo Testa, the extreme northern cape and dug into the long tight Cala (natural harbor) of Santa Theresa Di’ Gallura. I mean, how can you not press fingers together, shrug your shoulders and wave your arms when saying this? I am unable to “uh-helpa muhselfa”. Sardinia is simply awesome. As I write this bit The wind has returned. We are safely docked with 25-30 knots howling in the Bonafacio Strait just outside the harbor mouth. Towering mountains and the steep chalky cliffs of French Corsica peeking at us from just 7 miles across the frothy sea. Our Swiss neighbor at the dock here says Corsica is beautiful but “the people…..they are unbearable” whilst holding his nose. Hilarious.

Our dear friend Kelly Baldwin flies in tonight to join us for a couple weeks. She has sailed with us in Maine, Newport and Grenada and will accompany us for the west coast of Sarda through to Sicily. She is smuggling a 3000 watt transformer and 3 fresh water manifold in line diverter valves….and probably a bikini but I think the first items will get much more use.

Stay tuned. Much love.

Just Another Day in Italy

By: Quinn Walling

We have been at another marina for a couple days now, and I will tell you a bit about going into the city/town next to it. We have gone into town a bit, so I’ll tell you some things: It is a nice, cool town that we really like. On the sea wall there are all sorts of towers and catapults (with giant rocks for ammo), and little beaches of rocks down below.

On the beaches Gherty and I found pottery and parts of old tiles on the beach. We have checked out the town and for some reason hanging on telephone lines are birdcages colorfully painted with fake birds flying out of the birdcages. We went to a square and Che chased Gherty and I around with his claws until we all got tired. We ate dinner then went back to the boat, overall it was a good day. That was the end of that day so that’s al I’m telling you! Bye! Stay tuned! 

The End!

Mistral, Mistral

She came in the night.  Merde.  Now that is a shit that I know.  Cold French winds blowing down into and beyond the Gulf of Lion. Skirts sloshing, the whistling is far away but approaching.  We are tethered together, bound one by one in front of the old stone wall in Alghero.  The water comes first, like mice scurrying, rushing past the bow.  Blindfolded prisoners to her approach.  Halyards slapping in time to a crowd shouting. And the odd sensation that we are not the crowd.

When at last her fingers touch, we sway to her movement.  Inevitable.  We ride as if at sea. In the bow, the water moves fast.  Our aged and hardened hand-built neighbor smacks down, riding each wave.  So closely are we moored, we feel the shivers and shakes of those tied, bow and stern.  Our fate is the same.  Nationalities are of little matter.  We each hold a flag for Sardinia, regardless of our origin.  We all came seeking refuge from the mistral, to hid in Alghero’s harbor.  And as the whistling becomes a faint whisper, we believe she passes us by but then she turns and comes forward again.  As the night becomes day, Justin rises and makes bacon on the transom.  It is a long way from the calla in Menorca.

Last week, after the winds had largely settled, we unbound our snubber, raised our anchor and motored deep into the Mahon bay.  We needed some boat parts, water, and the flexibility of going into town at whim and will.  The hands at the marina gave us an easy mooring for our thrusterless vessel.  Stern to the dock and the Med mooring lines tied to the bow, Madame Geneva found her place for several days.  Justin reached out to our weather passage guru, Chris Parker, to discuss best timing for our crossing to Sardinia.  Thursday looked most promising for a light wind and largely waveless journey.  We would be motoring but had agreed that we needed an easy overnight passage.

Menorca Taulas- 4,000 years old

Quinn in a 4,000 year old sink

Madame Geneva had been on the hard when we arrived in Porto de Bera.  A bit of gel coat work required her exit from the water. We had also just received the bow thruster plate, so the yard installed and painted the cover while she was out.  I mention all this because we found, once dipped back in the water, that the plate was painted shut and we had no thruster.  This ended up being fortuitous because as we regrouped in the high wind at the fuel station, hesitant to pull into our slip deep in the fingers with a susceptible bow, we managed to temporarily free the plate and briefly had the ability to control our vessel.   Thus, we again cast off and headed for the slip only to have smoke pouring out of the boat.  Apparently while waiting on the new water heater to exit customs (a process that took approximately six weeks and $700), the mechanics clipped the antifreeze lines from and to the engine when removing the old water heater and not only did we have antifreeze pouring in the bilge but the engine was dangerously on the brink.  We managed to get back to the fuel dock, married the open ends, and decided to sleep there.  Add to this an odd DC issue with the water maker, a calcified flapper on the kids’ toilet, the actual installation of the water heater, a large amount of sea water filling the bilge whenever the generator was operating and a myriad of other issues that required sleuthing, the days at the dock in Mahon were well needed.

Equally heartened and disheartened, Justin broke down the problems and solved many in those days.  The kids did their school work. I stepped in and out, helping as needed.  In the afternoons, we explored the town and ventured to the ruins.  We saw our friends from the calla; each on his own journey, with varying vectors and plans.  Slowly the boat came into order and we readied for our passage.

Waves that were once crashing well above the causeway at the calla were now long in their settling.  We left the harbor at 3pm to a light breeze on the nose and a calm sea.  Land slowly disappeared and soon we were the only boat for many miles in any direction.  I went below for a conference call (using the satellite connection) and looked out the ports as the sea lapped along the beam.  Cue the dolphin!  As if rallied by the gods, thirty dolphin rushed toward Madame Geneva!  Not swimming so much as frolicking quickly, diving in and jumping out of the water, creating their own beam bound wave, the sea creatures raced toward our boat.  Screams were heard from above as the kids hurried to the beam and the bow.  The dolphin seemed harnessed to the bow, pulling her along swiftly to the long away coast of Sardinia.  From below, I watched the underbellies as the beautiful mammals flew from the water, splashing alongside.

It’s still really cold offshore…like, winter cold

Justin and I took turns at watch throughout the night.  The sliver of a moon lit the transom well into the evening, setting in the wee hours and leaving a large array of stars to entertain thoughts and grand ideas.  Justin took the helm most of the passage, but I had the honor of those tiny hours with only the humming of the motor and the sloshing of the water.  Midway between Menorca and Sardinia, I released more of Uncle Joey and thought of our fortunate obligation to live this life so fully.

Daybreak had Justin back at the wheel.  He watched as the sun rose and a dolphin leaped high in greeting.  We averaged ten knots of speed under motor throughout the night.  The morning brought with it a sea breeze.  The jib went out and we were quietly under sail.  I choose this time to take a shower.  Not the easiest of feats but quite a warming and wakening experience!  These spring months in the Med are simply cold!  Well into our foulies, Justin and I were still ridiculously chilly, often hiding behind the dodger while on watch.  The sun soon burned away the mist and we were in sight of Sardinia.

Every port has cannons but this one has catapults!!!!

So now let the winds blow while we are safely tied.  Her growl is menacing but she is without bite.  The lines may slap and the moaning may never cease, but here along the yellowed wall, we are offered sanctuary aboard Madame Geneva.  By day, we are no longer blindfolded.  By day, we are at port and given the land. Much love and stay tuned!

The Striped Dolphins

By: Gherty Walling

On the 22-hour trip we took we saw about 30 striped dolphins!!!!! It was so cool. One of the many reasons why it was so cool was because they would jump all the way out of the water! Dad took that picture on his phone. Quinn said it looks like the cover of a magazine. The first time we saw them there were about 20 and they were coming right at us. At some point almost all of them jumped at once and it was amazing to see. Some of them would come up to the bow and jump there and one came right next to the boat and went under the water and we could still see it. Then while it was swimming it jumped out of the water! Right next to us, and it was only about three feet away from me. Others would jump out of the water and then swim under the boat, it was amazing. Dad and Che got the VIP experience on the bow. As Che said there were so many dolphins up there and we missed it. But that isn’t all the second time there two dolphins. It was still really cool because they would come up to the bow and just play. Everyone but mom was on the bow that time. Then two more dolphins came but left before the first ones. The first ones stayed for a couple more minutes then left to get their friends. After that some more came and jumped along the bow. Also, along the sides. Mom was down below but she still saw them right next to the windows. All in all, it was awesome and amazing!

Stay tuned, Bye

Tough love in Menorca

I am constantly reminded that what we are doing is by our choosing and not a holiday or vacation but still a gift. Its hard to explain at times but deeply satisfying because it’s with my family and not given but earned.

We took an easy trip across the Med 22 hours from Puerto Roda De Barà, Spain back to the Balerics in Mahon, Menorca. The sea was flat, the wind was nil, the ships were plenty. Kelly and I took three hour watches throughout the night while the children slept, dodging heavy ship traffic from Barcelona to the rest of the world with dolphins jumping all around us, Portuguese man-of-war by the millions on the surface and an easy beautiful passage to get started again. Dawn broke with a lovely 15 knot breeze just forward of the port beam and we sailed fast and fun over breakfast to Mahon and our favorite bay, Cala Teulera, surrounded by a thousand years of castle walls, lookout towers and long abandoned steps leading to the sea. Idyllic Mediterranean Spain. Perfect.

We entered the bay and anchored in a very tight safe spot in sand with only 4 other boats. Spain, Sweden, Germany, France and the USA in the house. What a wonderful feeling again to be surrounded by like minded diverse sailors. This is really one of my favorite parts of cruising. Everybody has been everywhere, and experienced their own storms, triumphs, lows and highs. It’s what binds us and I love it immensely. Old and young, families and naked Germans, all sailing and drinking deeply from this…whatever you want to call it.

Safely anchored in the Cala we decided to regroup and rest. The water was very cold but Kelly and I swam, and shampooed. All good. A great boat lasagna and a movie followed as the breeze turned to wind which turned to strong wind and further into a howling gale. We expected this. Our forecast said it would come. Our plan to haul ass to the Balerics before the next Mistral came smashing down from the Gulf of Lion in France was well founded and worked out well.

We had time to fight with the generator, fight with the bilge pump, install the water heater I had shipped from the US because of electrical issues, fight with the internet relay, you know, vacation….on your hands and knees with a headlamp and bloody knuckles.

It got windy….like, when will the locust swarm and zombies get here windy. 40 knots and angry. We reasoned that A: we are in the best sheltered bay in Menorca, B: if the anchor has held for a day then why would it let go on day 2? C: just because it will get even windier and the waves are crashing outside the bay where we had just been at nearly 20 feet what should we worry about? How about we have 3 children aboard, the gusts are spinning our 30,000 pound boat in a 150 foot arch jerking wildly? How about sleeping is only because of exhaustion waiting for the sound you don’t recognize that signals you have broken loose from anchor and will slam into your neighbors wrapping chain and anchors only to find the rocky lee shore before dawn? Standby….The wind died to leave the bay flat as glass. There are many cliches to describe this moment. Everybody knew what was coming though. Just when?

A strange horn sounded at 4:45AM, Kelly said something and I rolled to look out the port next to bed. SHIT!!! (Edited for PG). A catamaran that came into the anchorage late in the afternoon to shelter had broken loose and was drifting fast through the anchorage directly toward us. Dark boat, lights out. Our French neighbor, Michelle, was on deck blowing a horn to alert the skipper of the dragging boat to ensure he was awake and was not going to take us all out, tangling chain, anchors and boats to the rocky lee.

The English skipper of the cat shot onto deck half naked in the 50 degree howling gale and powered up, reeled in his anchor and spent the next 2 hours trying to reset his tackle in the dark, 40 knot winds swinging and stymieing his attempts. Thankfully the sky was lightening as the sunrise was approaching. He never could reset and motored off to the main harbor hopefully to get safe and rest. We’ll not know until we see him again but a real catastrophe was averted by a hair. All morning was spent on anchor watch swinging and howling in full foulies, eventually with a beer in hand, until finally I had rationalized that 36 hours of hell pounding hadn’t upset our anchor holding so we would be fine. Slowly all day the wind abated while the massive seas exploded over the rocky shore just over the bay.

Kelly and I had deep talks, mainly sharing our pride that our kids never were scared, watched The Phantom Menace (for May the 4th “Star Wars Day”) and went to bed. Just another day as a salty boat kid. Quinn mentioned that it was rather windy! We discussed what in hell we are doing and why. And we, as usual, shared that although this is often uncomfortable and occasionally terrifying, this is it. It’s what we’re doing. And unquestionably our family is the better for it.

The wind abated, as it will, and we had a lovely sundowner, as we will, with our neighbors on S/V Frida -German Ralph and his Kiwi wife Nina (and their 2 salty cats) and our French neighbor Michelle with the horn from S/V Velvet. Our kids played in their catamaran with cats and cards while we exchanged stories, a drink and destination info. Michelle and his wife are headed to Scotland, Ralph and Nina to New Zealand, Madame Geneva to Croatia. Amazing.

It seems a calm night resets all anxieties and stress. We’ll be here again (Menorca maybe but gut wrenching anxiety most definitely) but that’s it. That’s what we’re doing. For some reason.

The kids fed Juan, our trusty seagull who visits our transom hourly to see if we have any fish. We named him that because he’s Spanish. And because he’s the only….Juan, who visits.

A couple days of boat fixing then onto Sardinia because I hear nothing ever goes wrong there…..time to eat Kelly’s eggplant Parm. On a calm cool night.

Stay tuned. Much love.

The Voyage

While Mom and Dad were finishing up the little details, Quinn, Gherty, and I were catching animals and enslaving them in a blue bucket. We caught ten shrimp, two crabs, and one fish. What fun! We were going to leave in ten or fifteen minutes, so we had to hurry up and let them go. The best spot was around the gate to the dock, but we had to climb, and jump around the gate because Dad had the key, and we didn’t want to ask him because he was always fixing something. And when someone asked Dad for something in the middle of him doing work, he gives them the look like they just took the pin out of the grenade and asked him to hold it. We decided it was time to go and we emptied the bucket and folded up our nets. Mom and Dad were working on fixing a little raft boat that we had for emergencies. We took off and started our long adventure. It took a total of 22 hours, and 12 minutes. I don’t know that for sure, but I am pretty sure that it was around that. Three hours in, we saw giant tuna fish jumping from the water. They were at least a hundred pounds, and their scales reflected the sun into my eyes. We only saw two, but it was still super cool. Unfortunately, Gherty didn’t get to see them. We had something to eat for lunch, nothing special. We read some books and played some games.  I started reading the Kane chronicles again, but my device died. I forgot to mention we had tablets that we could read on. I went up to the cockpit and enjoyed the wind and the sea (and the horrible music that was playing over and over AND OVER again). Two hours later, Dad called us to come upstairs. We saw something that we didn’t expect to see. There were Portuguese man-o-war on the right and the left side of our boat. They were super small but there were thousands of them every were. I expected to just see them for a short time, but they were still there an hour later. It was dinner time, but it was cereal and granola. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We went to go watch a show, but Quinn didn’t want to. Instead he read up in the cockpit and went to bed. Right when we were about the press play, Dad said hey guys come see this. We went up and Dad told us to go to the transom. There was bio-luminescence. Bio-luminescence is a light made from living creatures. And the creatures were Portuguese man-o-war. Surprise, we were riding right over them and causing them to illuminate. I don’t think they were Portuguese man-o-war, but Dad said they were. From what I learned you can’t trust your parents on everything (take that back you should cause they raised you from a little drooling baby). It turns out I had an allergic reaction while I slept, and it was not pretty. I will not elaborate on all the details, but I made do with the problem. The morning was a blast. I bumped my head, tripped over Quinn’s cloths, hit my elbow on the handle of the door, and what my luck when I banged my head on a hasp. A hasp is a lock, a very hard, annoying, stupid, no good, little lock. We hit our heads on it some many times, I can’t count how many. It hurts but it helps (why do I feel like the hasp is getting more attention than any other subject?). OK, we had more cereal, and finally got to our destination. Mom was asleep, and good ole Dad had droopy eyes. We sailed into a bay called Cala Teulera and anchored in a sandy place so the anchor would stay in. We stayed on the boat for the rest of the day, which was super boring. Quinn and I got into a big fight, I got pencils thrown at me. And Quinn got yelled at. (Woof, what a wonderful time to end the day) We made up and everything was good. We ate dinner, watched a movie about a box that could wipe human society off of the face of the earth, and went to bed. The next day, I started to write this new blog, while getting ice thrown at me by Quinn. This is where I leave you.

The First Sail

quinn and momBy: Quinn Walling

Before we left, Mom and Dad went to the grocery store while we waited for two hours (we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and there was no food on the boat)! When they got home, they had about five bags (No joke)! After we ate, Che and I caught some sea critters on the dock and put them in a bucket, then it was time to go! We got the boat ready for departure and took off! The boat ride was very long and eventful with animals everywhere! in the water at one point there were Portuguese Man-o-wars, another point there were tiny dolphins that jumped fully out of the water, tuna fish jumping, and regular size dolphin fins in the water! The whole boat ride was 22 hours. While on the boat ride I started and finished reading a 557-page book curled up in my blanket (because it was freezing)! After I finished the book, I was bored, and I still had about four hours to go and I couldn’t sleep. I managed to read 70 pages of a new book. When we got there, we had dinner on the boat and settled down. We are now finished, and this is the end of our first sail!

22 Hours of Sailing

ghertyby Gherty

As you can see by the title, we spent 22 hours sailing here. By the way here is Cala Teulera, Menorca. But before we got here, we saw some really cool dolphins that would jump all the way out of the water!!! They were called Short-Beaked Common Dolphins. They were also really small. Also, we saw man-o-wars for hours just floating by with their bubble sails up. It was awesome, there were probably millions of them. And in the night and day we would run over them but in the night,  they would glow green and it was so cool to see. I didn’t know until then that man-o-wars were florescent. We also saw some other dolphins that you will most likely recognize, Bottlenose Dolphins! The first time I didn’t see but Mom, Dad, and Che saw was tuna. They saw them jumping a few times but that was it. Other than that it was pretty quiet out there. It was never rough as far as I know. But let me tell you its really hard to watch a movie while all you can hear is the boat creaking. Mom and Dad took turns watching and driving while we slept. I’d say we had the better part of the deal. When we got here people were racing kayaks. I think they were training because someone was yelling at them while they were paddling. We’ve been here once before but it’s still beautiful. There are forts on either side of us and a lookout tower. Also hills all around us and mini beaches. Also, a huge rock wall and a boat house at the end of it. There are also caves in the hills and some of them are huge. The water is turquoise and sparkling and it is so cool. But its also freezing! Dad had to jump in the water to save their quilt. Anyways we’ll be staying here a little longer because it’s getting really windy.

Stay tuned, Bye!

Five Day Delay

cheBy Che walling

The last trip we stayed at an apartment that was right in front of a cool place where there was a market. Around the door was the name of the place but I don’t remember what is was called; also, above the doorway there were these little doors that at 12:00 would open and a song would play. As I recall when we stayed there, we had a good time. Most unfortunately our boat was delayed for some reason, so we had to find a place to stay for the time being. Mom was looking for some where to stay and she found the exact same place we stayed when we left last summer.  We had a little drive to get to our destination. I think we stayed there for five days (I am not completely sure) but in those five days, we explored Roman ruins, saw giants, and walked to many places that were amazing to see. I had my scooter, and Gherty and Quinn had their toe-crushing rip sticks (which by the way I had to learn that from horrible experience). One time we were looking for a place to eat and we found something that we did not expect at all. Dad wanted to check out a Japanese restaurant that was surrounded with big, small, and medium fish tanks.

There was clown fish, puffer fish, an eel, koi fish, angel fish, a big catfish, whatever fish Dory is from Finding Nemo, etc. Mom was convinced it was a restaurant where they plucked fish out of their tanks and cooked them, but Dad disagreed with Mom’s opinion. What a sad life for a fish to know you have been caught and soon it will be your time to join the fish in fishy heaven. Never seeing the world, never seeing the other fishes that, that sad unfortunate fish will never see. That is how nature works. And that’s how a cookie crumbles.  There was a clown fish stuck in a glass tube, which now that I think about it reminds me of Finding Nemo when he escaped. We asked someone about the stuck fish and they said he can get in and out of the glass tube. Mom and Dad had a few more drinks, and we were bored watching them sip and went outside in the night to play. Lucky for us there was a playground right in front of the restaurant. We had fun ,but all fun must come to a end and soon we had to go.

One of those days, we were walking along a sidewalk and we stumbled into a tiny party with people that were playing trumpets, and other instruments of the sorts. There was a slanted hill that we played on while Mom and Dad danced to the music. We walked some more, and we passed a church that was super big and inside there were chapels with gold leaf and all other sorts of amazing things. We lit some candles for our loved ones. We stayed there for a while, listening to the priest talking. The next couple days were basically the same routine, and we had a ton of fun exploring, and seeing new places. There were the good times and the bad times, but all in all we had a lot of fun and enjoyed spending time together.

Roman Ruins

spoutBy: Gherty Walling

There are so many roman ruins here in Tarragona you couldn’t believe it! Not even a block from our apartment there’s a ruin.

Also, there’s a big 20-foot column in the middle of a town square and next to a big cathedral there was a big crumbled building that was being redone. Also, at every ruin we’ve seen there’s posters that show an app that shows what it looked like before. There was no color left on the ruins but in the app, you could see how colorful it was. It was fun rip sticking around town and seeing the ruins, but it was also tiring for everyone but mom and dad. They never seemed exhausted from walking. What was also cool was all the architecture on the ruins. There were monsters, people, and different designs all carved into the ruins. Also, so many gargoyles on the sides shaped as dragons. They had holes in their mouths for rain. Some looked like they were built for lots of rain. Also,  there were these doors at a cathedral that were meant for people on horseback and carriages, they were at least ten feet high. With knockers about six feet high and maybe eight for the carriages. One more ruin was the huge theater next to the sea! It was seriously huge; I think we have a picture of it. It was all stone with a lot of steps that I think were seats. I saw the area that was the stage and I think backstage. There was no roof and little walls so we could see inside from up top. But we couldn’t go in it because it was Sunday, so it was closed.

IMG_7747                                                                                   Stay tuned, Bye!