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 spotted 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 free live 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!