All Roads, Wait, No Roads Lead to Malta

With the promise of Indian food, we set off for Malta.  It is amazing to me how the tantalizing carrot changes form.  Never had I, nor any of our Madame Geneva crew, set foot in Malta but we felt certain we could locate a non-Italian restaurant within the former British territory.  Not to worry: our retirement from pizza, grilled vegetables and vongole has been short-lived; the thrill is back.  What we knew of Malta was little. There was the lore of catapulting severed heads across the bay and the shoving of bodies on crosses in retaliation, but really it was a less studied and more instinctive knowledge that drove our desire to leave the seas of Sicily and dip into the hot, almost African waters.

We announced our arrival, not in a “We come this way from Messina!” fashion but more of a “don’t get mistaken for a refugee boat” kind of way.  10 kilometers out we radioed the Coast Guard advising of our status and intent, and again at 1 kilometer out.  Given permission to enter the harbor, after Justin and I said “Marsamxett” about fifty times to one another without the finger on the VHF before Justin confidently spoke the name of bay we were approaching to the port police, we motored past the huge sandstone walls of the fort and old city of Valetta.  We arranged space at the marina just past the navy station, at the foot of the hill ascending to the gated and fortified city.

Bravely, we set out in search of our promised dinner.  Novices, we walked.  The heat baked through our shoes and soaked our shirts.  The kids deteriorated and turned on each other.  Water was drained.  The path along the harbor was deceptive and followed unforeseen fingers deep into the ‘new’ city with stores boarded up.  And that was only a mile walk.  We found a pub to regroup.  Cooled down with Sprites and the tiniest of gin and tonics, we searched on Google Maps and found a restaurant along the bus route.  We were all growing up:  we could now say Marsamxett AND we knew to take the bus everywhere.

We used our days dockside to take care of boat projects, including fixing the battery charger and water heater.  In the afternoons, we had late lunches and explored the history of Malta.  Very few times do I feel like we are nailing homeschooling.  Most of the time, I fret over all the things I neglected to teach them.  I remind myself (or more likely, Justin reminds me) that the experiences and exposure alone are the greatest education.  But then, there are times that I feel the universe slides into home (and in a non-apocalyptic way).  As we journeyed into Sardinia and Sicily, I focused their WWII history lessons on the Mediterranean.  They watched a documentary that included Malta’s involvement.  How cool to take tours of the old map rooms, infirmaries, and forts where the stories told were echoes of what they had already learned!  Truly, homeschool, check!

Valetta was fully adorned for their film festival.  Red and gold tapestries hung between the buildings that stretched dramatically up and down the steep stoned streets.  Slippery sidewalks were carved into pocked steps as the declines and inclines sharpened.  Pedestrian bridges stood high over courtyards and alleys.  Red carpets were rolled out from the outdoor theatre and down stairs high above one of the many Roman Catholic churches.  Café tables and umbrellas, decorating the centers of streets, did not deter the working cars or trucks moving through the town.  One evening, in search of a perch over the Grand Harbor to hear what we could of the Queen tribute band, we instead stumbled into a four-piece jazz band playing on a bridge while crowds of people sat where they could to hear.  The stairs leading down to the bridge, the café tables, and the thick stone railings were all filled.  The notes danced along the narrow pathways.  All roads lead to jazz.

We cruised up to St. Julian’s Bay, a few miles to the north.  Barely were we out of the harbor before we turned into the bay.  We found a nice spot outside of the chaos.  Anchorage is allowed just outside of the local boat moorings.  Boy do these people know how to take a permission and exploit it!  The sea and wind, so settled, we had no concerns with the anchor at only 3 times the depth.  We then proceeded to watch as yachts motored at 7 kts into the bay, drop anchor while in forward, slam into reverse and leave their boats.  Swinging and dragging, no one seemed particularly fazed.  We were fascinated and determined to cancel our plans to go to the film festival (lest we leave our boat unattended).  Instead, we had a lovely Greek dinner and found the greatest supermarket.  Ahhh, provisions!

Fully loaded, we left the festive St. Julian’s for Gozo, still a part of Malta but its own island.  Cliffs, caves, and waters so many shades of blue surrounded Madame Geneva.  I dropped my most perfect anchor, in a narrow patch of sand.  Dug in, we dove in.  The many worlds we lived in during those few days seem quite unimaginable.  We were one of two sailboats.  We were swinging with and almost into five aggressively vacationing tour boats.  We avoided swimming into jet skis, inflatable rafts, speed boats, chartered boats, double decker cruise ships for a few hours and then in still silence we watched the light play over the fair and gentle sea lapping at the craggy edges of the tall caves and deep coves.  We ate well and we slept well.  Kayaks were inflated and the kids explored on their own.  More so than anywhere I can remember on this trip, we had a vacation, a respite.

Malta, it seems, is what you make it.  Choose your journey.  Or choose them all.

Much love and stay tuned.

The Malta Experience

By Che Walling
We took a bus to town to go find something to do. This is not any town. The entrance is one sight to behold. A long bridge with high walls guard the entrance. On the end of the wall there are large spikes rising from each side. In front of the entrance was a fountain that had three huge figures holding up a big bronze bowl that was pouring water in the next level of the fountain. A bonus feature was the space between the fountain and the entrance. It was slippery from all the people that have come and gone, so we had the ability to slide on the ground while running. The first thing we saw when we entered the city was two giant modern buildings. If you look right and left when you first enter, there are stair cases rising to the wall so you could look over. In front of the right modern building is a huge theater. A old stone stair case rose to the entrance for the theater. It was a open air theater with columns rising from each side. Farther ahead there was a street with steps on the side of the road going deep into the city. Anyways, when we entered we started to look around for something to do. We came to another wall over looking the bay. On the other side of the bay another row of high walls rose. We came across a building called The Malta Experience. There was a cafe with a bunch of weird banners. Near it there was a booth that had a sign that read Malta Experience. Behind the booth there was a stair case that lead down into a deep dark underground tunnel. We got our tickets, Dad said gherty and I could go because there were some Quinn problems. We went down the stair case and walked down the tunnel. We came to in a rooms with a red velvet curtain. A person checked our tickets and we went inside. The room was like a movie theater. Rows of seats and a big screen. We sat at the top row, while some one gave us headphones because it had to be translated to English. It started talking about statues found in weird places and what they meant. Then it started to mention war. It was talking about Hitler, Rommel, and Mussolini. It talked about operation minced meat, and how Mussolini was killed. Then it ended and we got up to leave. We exited the room and someone asked us if we were part of the tour. We said yes and the lady said to go up some stairs and wait for the rest of the people. When all the people got there, we walked into a long room. It was 500 feet long and really tall. We found out it was a infirmary. We found out that is was a place were all the sick would go. The person giving us the tour, told us that it was a place for the sick, injured and the people at death’s door. But it was all for men. Yep, a whole big room with a heap of sweaty, sick, even people who are almost dead. If there was an arm or a leg that needed to be cut off there was a doctor for that. The first way to remove the arm was a saw. It usually took 5 whole minutes of sawing. Then someone found out that you could use a guillotine. The guillotine way could do it in a few seconds. On each side of the wall there was a glass dome,That was used for the restroom. People would have to go into quarantine for forty days. If anyone tried to leave they would be killed. The reason for that is because if you carried a bug or sickness then if the people just go onto the main land then a lot of good health people would get sick. They would kill you because one life is better than a lot of lives. We left the room and made our way down some steps, into a underground theater, which we were told was once a garden. They built a theater on the garden and then it soon burned down. It took them a long time to rebuild it. We moved into another room, it looked like another infirmary but this one had a lower ceiling. The knights cross was hanging from the ceiling in ribbons. On each side of the walls was a wide, not deep hole. We were told that is was a bed for four people at max. Two bed holes down there was a big wood door. It did lead into the garden before the garden was made in a theater. Later in time the room hosted a wedding for a prince. At the wedding , the room could hold about 900 people at most. And in that room, is were the tour ended. We soon got out and explored a huge bell tower with three rows of stone walls in front of it. All of them were going down, I had a little theory that they were walls at which some one can rest their gun on the top and shoot. In gaming terms, they were like waves, or level that someone had to past. Then we soon got back and explored some more. We ate dinner and made our way back to the boat. Right now, in the present, I am writing this while we are going to an anchorage in a bay. We were here before but we stayed at a marina, which in Quinn’s blog we explained about the falling-off-the-dock experience. And this is were I leave you.

Food and Music

Food and Music
So let me start beforehand and say that we found an awesome market. So it was two stories, the top one was all different mini restaurants. To go down to the bottom floor you had to go down an escalator which led to the market. The market had all kinds of stuff. Examples: a whole section for wine and a different one for fruit and chocolate and one for uncooked pasta. Many other section too but that’s all I’m saying. So we got provisions and asked if we could get some candy but they said we were coming back tomorrow so we waited.
The next day we came back for dinner and looked at the mini restaurants there were so many different kinds of food like Italian, Indian, Japanese, Turkish, Seafood, and Street food. Also some others that I can’t remember. Mom, Che, and I had Indian while Dad and Quinn had middle eastern street food. Quinn thought his was too dry because you’re supposed to put sauce on it but he doesn’t like sauce. Mom, Che, and I liked ours and Dad seemed to also. After eating we went downstairs to get Flakes and Smarties. Both are English chocolate.
Next we left because beforehand mom was talking about a Queens tribute band that we would go to. We started walking and figured out it was all the way across the harbor which would be half a hour on the bus so we tried going higher to hear it. We started going and we saw a jazz band at a restaurant and we stopped nearby to listen. There were a lot of people nearby sitting on the street like us or on the steps next to the restaurant. We went to a wall and saw and heard some cannons being fired. It was pretty cool. Then we went up some more and heard the tribute band. It was really cool and we heard them play a bunch of hit songs.
Stay tuned Gherty

The War Rooms of Malta

Date: Sunday, June 16. [This Happened A While Ago]
Quinn Walling
We woke up today and had breakfast, and you know, did the kind of stuff that you do in the morning. Mom eventually managed to get us to get up and go out into the town. We were currently at a marina, so the town was right next to us. We walked to a cafe, and had a drink. After the drinks, we walked to The War Rooms of Malta. It was a long walk from where we were. We walked for about forty minutes, then went in this long tunnel and turned into a room, before the tunnel ended. The room had a lady that gave tickets to us for like seven euro or whatever, anyways we got tickets, but the tour had started so we had missed ten minutes (which was only one room). We caught up to the tour and saw the rest of the rooms. The first room we saw was one with a big chart (that’s a map with a sea on it) table in the middle. The room itself was about four meters long, so not to big, and it had an old fashioned plane board thing on the wall that would tell what planes they would send out. Then, after the guide talked about the planning here in World War II, we finally went to the next room. We looked at the stuff in the room, but I can’t remember many details of it. The guy talked in that room too, it had a fake ID on the table and a chart on the wall and the guy talked about operation Mincemeat. After the tour, because we got there late, we were aloud to explore the place, so we did. We saw the first room that we didn’t get to see, and a room with Nazi bomber uniforms. After that, we looked at metal models of the war planes/bombers. At the gift shop, Gherty and Che got pencil sharpener catapults (even though they are pencil sharpeners they still shoot stuff), and I got a mini snakes and ladders game. We then went to a cafe and got drinks. After that, we got back to the boat. Well, that was pretty much the highlight of the day! Finished. Bye! Stay tuned!

The Greek Play

by Quinn Walling

We hustled around the boat getting ready to see the Greek play, Le Troiane. We had been to the Greek theater before with the Ruggieri family, but not to see a play. Anyways, this time we were going there to see the play Le Troiane. We didn’t know if we could do it because we had not bought tickets beforehand. We got in the car for the ten-minute ride to Greek Theater. There was not much traffic on the ride there, so that was good. We got in a long line to get tickets, thankfully when we looked at people’s hands, not all of them had tickets. We got to the front of the line in ten to fifteen minutes, and thankfully got our tickets. We walked to the bookshop and bought three audio guides for Gherty, Che, and I. We were going to the theater to watch La Troiane when Mom spotted some cushions. She got some for us all. We went to our sector (S) and sat down. The play started! The play was cool, it had all sorts of stuff. The whole thing was amazing with lots of screaming and despair. A boy died at the end. (Ick). Well, anyhow it was a good play!

Bye! Check out Che’s blog about the theater next! Sorry for the BBBIIIGGGG delay, I didn’t have time! Stay Tuned! Bye!

Moorish Baroque

From Giardini Naxos to Siracusa is a short sail. A few hours steam south in glassy flat waters. No high drama or heroism but some excellent dolphin show swimming on the bow and Italian Navy patrols keeping a keen eye out for overloaded migrant smuggling boats or American sailing families. We were spotted but not hindered in our stealthy quest for pasta and aubergine companata nor did we encounter any migrants.

After watching Mt Etna from our cockpit in the bay pour red hot lava for two consecutive nights I will admit that the bar was unfairly high for Siracusa. Fortunately we have a knack for introducing drama into innocuous situations at times so as we steamed south closely eyeing our fuel gauges not entirely sure we had enough in the tanks (and certain that the 80 extra liters we carry in cans on deck were empty) we grew less and less confident we were going to make it. Zero knots of breeze slowly grew to 5, then 10 then 15+. Engine off, sails up, we tacked (that’s right cruising sailors, Tacked!) upwind into Siracusa harbor and anchored in a beautiful spot amongst 20-30 traveling boats of all sizes. The water was a vivid green and the city looked spectacular. The farther south we travel the more the architecture takes on the sandstone colors and the moorish Arabic mashed with Roman, Carthaginian, Greek and Norman details hinting if not screaming the chaotic and bloody history of these ancient cities. Modern glass juxtaposed with baroque cherubs. Halal shish ka bab next to tourist trinkets next to Roman ruins next to glam boutiques next to a marine store with an anchor and some old wires for sale. Everybody smoking. Everybody talking emphatically with waving hands and wild gestures. We saw an African nun pushing a baby carriage. We saw women in stiletto heels, smoking hand rolled cigarettes at 1 AM….pushing baby carriages. We saw a baby pushing a baby carriage. This place is fantastic!

The city is simply amazing. The MG crew met up once again with Justin Ruggieri and his clan for a walk about in the 2500 year old Greek theater and caves. We looked into the slightly younger (and much bloodier) Roman theater and caves. We explored the “Ear of Dionysus”…..a big cave. I am so grateful to have had the chance to get together with my oldest friend, nearly 42 years since we met, in Sicily, with our wives and our 6 children. It doesn’t get much better.

After a beach day south of Siracusa we bid our friends adios (Spanish for Italian goodbye) and headed south, again. Fully provisioned, watered and fueled we sailed to the southernmost point of Sicily and Italy, Portopalo. Here a small islet with a shallow bar carve a beautiful anchorage safe and easy as long as there’s no northeast wind or swell. We anchored in 30 feet on a sandy bottom swam and regrouped. There was a 17th century abandoned Spanish fort outpost now with a lighthouse atop it to port. Crumbing stone tunny warehouses flanking it. On shore to starboard was the small working fishing village with a Moorish Baroque church towering overhead. Yep, architectural friends that’s right, Moorish Baroque, I said that. A beautiful sunset preceded by a chorus of somewhere between 20 and 700 voices coming out of said unique church and dancing across the anchorage for us and the one other boat anchored to enjoy. In hindsight I suppose they would have been singing even if we hadn’t anchored there but it certainly felt like we were being serenaded. It was idyllic. The children enjoyed their friends from America immensely as did we but now it was time to continue this adventure and get our groove back. Here, in this spot on this night with Sicily singing us a farewell, our groove indeed was back.

The morning was bright and breezy. Kelly was up at dawn swimming alone off the transom. She woke me to a fresh French pressed pot of coffee, boat prepped for travel and an enthusiasm I would never ask for rather gratefully receive. It was time to leave Italy and head further south. South of Tunis. South of Casablanca. South to country number 23 for our children on this incredible journey. Malta!

Stay tuned. Much love.

Volcanic Surprises

So let me just start by saying exploding volcanoes are awesome! So we were at Taormina and not to far from our boat was a volcano called Etna. And Dad was sitting in the cockpit and suddenly looked over and saw red clouds coming from Etna. He called us out and we started seeing a line of lava coming down. Quickly Mom and I ran to get our cameras. But for some reason mine wasn’t working (I think it was almost dead) but Mom took some amazing pictures on hers. It was very hard to take good pictures on her camera but we got some pretty good ones and some great ones.

The next night was the same except much longer and in the morning it actually snowed. Can you believe it, steaming hot lava in the night and snow in the morning!? Thankfully as far as we know it didn’t go down far enough to reach the town. Also right before all this excitement happened we were up there with our friends! We called them because they weren’t with us and they watched it to. It was so exciting and black clouds above it made shapes while we were watching.

Stay tuned, Gherty Walling

P.s. Quinn also fell it to the water a couple days after that. On a very windy day at a marina… but he said it felt awesome! 🤪

The Truman Show

I keep waiting for Ed Harris to introduce himself.  For Madame Geneva to sail to the edge of the world and peel back the sky and realize that there really was a mind behind the madness, a production of the largest and grandest scale.  The church bells are ringing in the nearby town of Taromina, the train rolls poetically down the rails along the coast, and yesterday’s brilliant lava flow has settled.  Glowing red clouds have morphed into mystical vaporous fingers in an elegant dance with heaven and earth.  This morning, I awoke at dawn to find snow on the mountain.

Timing is everything.  Yesterday, we hiked through the lateral craters of Mt. Etna with friends (new and old) and learned of the mountain’s blessings.  How her furious and hot rage could be reigned in by prayer and stop short of houses and villages.  How she could carve up the landscape and expose glimpses into the core of earth with far reaching tunnels and earthshaking tremors.  How her ash enriched the fruits of the land and tantalized the grapes into beautiful wines.  At the peak over ten thousand feet above sea level, she flowed. The eruption started days ahead of our arrival.  But from where we stood four thousand feet below, in the voluptuous folds, the only evidence of her power, so fierce as to create many lateral craters, we saw the rich black rock of prior years and heard the distant echo of her explosions.

Exploring an active volcano with Justin Ruggieri and his family nearly 42 years of friendship!

Tired and worn from the long day of exploration, drenched by rain, warmed by sun, immersed in mist, and a bit exhilarated by the altitude, we dinghied back to our mooring at the mouth of the sea cave.  The kids played legos while we foraged through cabinets and freezers to prepare a late-night dinner.  Our plan was for an early night (read just after dinner) when Justin called excitedly from the cockpit.  Red cloud! Explosion!  We watched as the lava began to flow.  Hours of trying to capture this moment, mindfully and digitally, were spent cuddled with lovies.  We tried to focus lenses on a fine red line while rocking in a swaying anchorage.  The lava grew long and we wondered where she flowed and whether our hands had grabbed those same rocks ahead of her descent.

I am Truman.

From Capo San Vito, we rounded the cape to the west (you are going the wrong way…how do you know where we are going?) and onward to Trapani (stress the p with the first syllable).  Weather was supposed to reverse course from the onset of ‘summer’ on Tuesday and gusts upward of 40 kts were forecast.  We figured on exploring the region from the protection of the marina tucked in behind centuries of fortification.  If it is good enough for the Romans…  The rain came hard and often.  The wind blew as if desperate in escaping the depths of the sea.  We found ourselves again tethered to our neighbors and forcibly confident that our bow lines would hold.  Captains emerged and paced the docks, reporting of 50 kt gusts. We wandered the streets of Trapani in the rain, sometimes spared and often not.  We ate well.  We had our best meal (Sans children.  They opted for a movie on the boat while we dined) at Caupona Taverna di Sicilia, away from the tourist traffic.

When you happen upon a Sicilian wedding it would be rude not to stay for the whole thing and cheer for the bride and groom!

We doubled down on the weather, and headed up to Mount Erice 750 meters above sea level.  We saw photos of the sunlit expansive seaside view but we had quite a different experience.  The kids ran free through the misty gardens and climbed trees until out of sight.  Cold and wet we wandered through the tight streets and alleys and into the eerily spiritual Monastery San Salvador and walked along walls and cliffs on the outskirts of the vast park extending from the Castle of Venus (or as Quinn says “Aphrodite, Roman form”).  Justin purchased a lovely Italia sweatshirt to fend off the frozen finger chill.  Who needs summer?

On Tuesday, we set off for Cefalu.  We had promise of a westerly wind and a nice downwind sail but found choppy waves and a defeated sailing point.  We dropped the main ahead of the cape and hoped for better conditions on the other side.  A day of adverse circumstance had Justin on the second set of spreaders just off of Palermo.  The lazy jacks of the main sail snapped and the difficulty of lowering that sail in any kind of weather pushed us to action.  Temporary fix in place, we arrived in the gorgeous harbor of Cefalu right at sunset.

The beauty of this bay, nestled in craggy cave-filled rocks, is astounding. Clear calm blue water, albeit chilly (clearly as even the Germans wore clothes upon diving in), invited serenity. We spent the next day eating, shopping and exploring in town. We attempted to enter the gardens and paths of the temple of Diana perched high above the buildings but were informed that it was impermissible with our flip flops. Justin took the kids back to the boat while AKB and I searched for a plunger and provisions (success all around). He set the children loose in the cave (birds not happy and they were retrieved) and then loose on the dinghy. Delighted captain and crew all around.

We motored to Milazzo the next day as to get to a suitable launch for our transit of the Straights of Messina. We were lured into a small (and possibly Gansta) marina after our search of a weedless anchorage was unyielding. We were officially under protection. Our security had a Colt water gun and advised he’d be by the boat at 4 in the morning. We declined that extra service. We walked the promenade and had a farewell dinner with AKB, as her taxi was picking her up dockside at 5 in the morning.

We awoke excited and nervous. We rechecked the website indicating tides for the straights and their respective current speeds and set off. The approach was a couple of hours. We talked of whirlpools and shipwrecks. We radioed our intention and were given permission, whereupon Justin radioed back with finger off the button inquiring of sea monster sightings. Quinn stood at the ready, bow over shoulder and sword in hand. We would never be more ready.

Sails up and motor on, we hit the current (or rather the current hit us). The ferocity of the pull greatly increased our speed. At 1600 rpm (boat range is 2700-3000) and with little to no wind, we flew south at 11.5 kts. Whirlpools appeared off the bow and the beam. Water licking white on deep blue. A navy ship, once diminutive in the horizon, approached grandly at the stern. Ferries crosses our bow. One other pleasure boat sailed ahead of us. We watched as an ocean sunfish tossed madly in the current.

The screeching began just as Justin was furling in the jib. Down below, the protest at the engine room rang high and piercing. We put the engine to neutral. The alternator belt was loose. We adjusted sails and direction and shut off the engine. The current was moving at 6 kts and we were at 8.5 without noticeable wind. The captain worked quickly below and I steered through the whirlpools feeling the tug as the bow begged for delivery into the swirl. And that was a calm, well-timed transit.

I am Truman. I don’t know where you are, Ed Harris, but we may find you yet.

Much love and stay tuned.

Summer Comes on Tuesday

Aunt Kelly Baldwin arrived in Santa Teresa di Gallura, well into the evening, long after the crew of Madame Geneva took a hike up into town to grab some lunch.  Little did we know how literal that action would be. We sat in the town square, opting for a table outside in the cold wind because there were no seats indoors.  I kept a heavy reef on my wine and we all took turns ‘grabbing’ our lunch as it flew from our plates, hands and the table itself.  Host stands, table clothes and keg coolers attempted flight in a fury and were reprimandingly escorted back to the restaurants.  Later while Justin and I were purchasing a few provisions (ok wine, beer, cheese…it’s Italy!), Che was left to hold my salmon da portare via (as I could not hold said wine, tablecloth, napkin, fend off the swinging umbrella AND a fork) and a gust wind took it from his hands.  The box was retrieved.  The salmon was not.

Justin asked when summer would come and was told, “Tuesday.”  Spring will not be springing this year.  I walked around the marina back up the hill to get Kelly from the bus station.  The night had settled the wind and AKB had little understanding of what the weather had been holding.  Yet.

AKB brought with her a most treasured item.  Unveil the transformer!  AHHHHHHHHHH.  Suddenly our American boat and home could do a lot more in Europe.  Washing machine that could once only run when the generator was running (which at a marina, where they have water on tap, was a naughty wag of the finger) was now plugged into dock supplied electricity!  There are other benefits but considering my take the boat or leave it negotiation tactic at the very beginning of this journey, for me, this was huge.  A week in and I am still a delighted child on Christmas morning.

The morning brought back the cold, as it was only Saturday and Tuesday had not yet come.  We set off the dock and sailed through the rugged and rocky landscape of the nature reserve.  The captain sighed in this temporary relief of fish nets and buoys.  The clouds were thick and darkening and the wind was to build throughout the day. The short sail to La Maddalena had us with the jib out on a close reach in 15 to 20 knots.  Given the predicted winds and temperatures, we decided to pull into Cala Gavetta so we would have good access to a town.  It was not exactly “let’s jump off the transom and go for a swim” kind of weather.  Slender like a corseted lady, the entrance to the cala was dicey.  Ferries charged past the outside markers, currents were moving and wind was howling:  all were creating a general feeling of intensity.  The small marina was packed (so WE thought) tightly, with boats strung together, beams bursting into the narrow pass to the inner dock.  We, without a bow thruster, gratefully greeted a dinghy master who would go on to put on many performances of great bravery and feat throughout our two day stay.

Cala Gavetta offered much in relaxation and exploration.  We hiked up through town and into the hills with vistas glorious enough to stir worship.  We stumbled into walled military postings (mi dispiache), frighteningly worn playgrounds with swings that swung more than the swing itself, and delicate remembrance gardens with statues and mediation paths up stone cut stairs.  We found delightful seafood and memorable pizza.  The friendliness of this culture is so compelling.  Language is not a barrier.  Whether in Italian or in English or in both, each party enthusiastically speaks and engages and sometimes even understands what the other is saying.  Words do not bear as much weight as the expressing of those words.  Here, language is fun. 

On Monday, we headed to a more remote cala.  The wind was supposed to kick up again, coming from the west, so we figured Cala Santa Maria with its east facing bay would serve as our protection from the western winds.  When we arrived, other boats dotted the anchorage.  We chose to drop our anchor, well in the sand between the reefs and rocks, just outside of those already well dug.  And then they left.  Most cruisers (I suppose) are thrilled to have a bay to themselves.  We often fret when we are the solo boat in a harbor, “What does everyone know that we do not?!”  We were alone, with only several moored fishing dinghies.  The wind came.  The swinging began.  Take your partner and all that jazz.  Not unsurprisingly, Justin and I were up most of the night and had pulled anchor at dawn.  The kids (and AKB) slept most of the short journey to Porto Cervo. 

We joked repeatedly about not worrying, that “summer” was coming on Tuesday, but we were joyed to find the sun shining in Porto Cervo.  The temperature warmed, though still quite chilly at night, and we lived a couple of days in odd off season of where the wealthy, as in ridiculously wealthy, go to summer.  The old village featured boutique shops and designer labels, where prices were either unmarked or marked so high as to need a comma.  Undeterred, AKB and I touched the fabrics and the hem lines, were offered the various perfumes and sprays, and politely declined the purchases.  We did not hesitate to purchase the offerings of food and drink and were often quite proud of our choices.  The groceries were all closed, no matter how far you walked (thank you Captain for your efforts).  We took stock of our cabinet supplies and deemed them sufficient for the passage to Sicily and chose Thursday as our day of departure.  Apparently, we will only travel on Thursdays this trip!

A more serene crossing could not be had.  The sea was flat.  We motored-sailed for much of the trip, keeping our sails full but only getting an extra knot or two out of them.  We made amazingly time.  What was supposed to be a 30 hour trip took only 27 hours!  We carved out meals from cans and boxes.  We ate the last of the fruits and meat.  We tried the black bean soup we picked up in Spain only to find that it was squid ink (maybe).  We were greeted by teams of dolphin who raced up to dance in the water, flipping and spinning next to the bow and jumping high up and out next to the beam.  A whale (Maybe?!  About the length of two bottlenose dolphin with a huge fin and a slow and unphased approach.) was seen by a few of the crew.  We watched as the sun set and Jupiter rose. The stars were so bright as to guide.  The moon came late and its eerie red half orb appeared so odd on the horizon that I wondered what it was.  AKB exclaimed, “It’s the moon!” and I worried less about hitting it. 

Capo San Vito provided an incredible anchorage with towering cliffs, stunningly clear turquoise water, and a white beach.  We dove off the transom into the wonderfully refreshing water.  After all, here in Sicily, it’s summer!

Much love and stay tuned. 

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.