Sophie is One Knot Faster With Her New Sails

Greetings from our anchorage at Isla Graciosa in the Canary Islands!

We have sailed 1,000 miles since our last update from Ibiza, with stops along the Spanish coast, Gibraltar, and Madeira on our way here. Sophie and her crew are very excited to be doing ocean passages again, and we think we will be ready for our big Atlantic crossing next month.

Here is what’s going on with Sophie as we continue to get ready.

New Sails!

While we were in Gibraltar, we upgraded Sophie’s mainsail and genoa. We think the new sails have added a knot of boat speed to Sophie, which is a big big deal for us.

Our old main and genoa came with the boat when we bought her almost 10 years ago. They’ve served us well during this time, propelling us 3/4 of the way around the globe without any major tears.

But over the years, these two babies became tired, baggy, and a little threadbare. Jenna and I were worried we would suffer a major blowout during our Atlantic crossing in January, so we decided earlier this year to replace them. After 10 years of service, these two sails had given us all they could give.

Taking them off one last time was a family affair. Sophie’s sails are big suckers. The main alone is almost 1,000 square feet.

For our new sails, we worked with Phil Auger from Zoom Sails in Malaysia. We met Phil when we were in Langkawi a couple of years ago, and we are extremely happy with his work. He designed a new square-topped mainsail for us as a replacement for our big roach original main, and he did so in a way that enabled us to use our existing battcars and 5 of our 6 original battens.

The new main weighed 80 kilos and arrived in a box bigger than Hazel!

Phil used the same approach Lagoon uses for the top of the square-topped mainsails, with a length of Dyneema rope running through two ring bolts on the top battcar. This enables the sail to lie flat while in the bag and snug to the mast when raised, regardless of the reef. The result is a great shape with more power.

The new main has three reef points, just like the old one. We replaced the reef blocks and reef lines, and on our 270 mile run from Madeira to the Canaries we reefed multiple times with ease. There is much less friction than before.

The new genoa is the same basic size and shape as the original one. We opted to forgo the window this time because the old one kept tearing. We also went with a blue Sunbrella UV strip that matches the blue of the mainsail bag and bimini.

All in all we are very happy with this work. Both sails are made from high UV resistant dacron. They feel stiffer and stronger. Phil was able to do all of the design work remotely, and he was very responsive throughout the entire process. We are happy customers.

So why do we think we are a knot faster? It’s mostly a gut feeling based on multiple moments on our Madeira-Canaries run this week. When we departed the Quinto Do Lorde Marina 3 days ago, we were immediately hit with 25-30 knot winds directly on the beam along with steep 2 meter seas. With 2 reefs in the main and 1/3 of the jib rolled in, we sailed at 9-10 knots. Later on that day with 15 knots of apparent wind on the beam with 1 reef in the main and a full jib, we sailed at 8 knots. A day later with 10 knots apparent wind @ 70° with full main and jib, we sailed at 7 knots. This all felt faster to me and Jenna and reminded us of how Sophie sailed when we first bought her. The sagginess of Sophie’s old sails clearly affected her performance. 

Sophie’s sailplan is based on a very large mainsail and a smallish foretriangle for the genoa. Newer Lagoons use a more balanced design where the mast is located farther aft, reducing the relative size of the main compared to the foresails. I think the square-topped main adds more power to Sophie, especially when reefed. Since Jenna and I reef much more frequently than we did when we bought the boat, this added power actually translates to more speed with greater stability and safety in winds greater than 15 knots because that is when we start reefing.

Like I said, we are very happy with these sails

Newish Spinnaker


In addition to our new main and genoa, we also bought a second-hand, barely-used Parasailor spinnaker from some friends earlier this year. This sail is sized for a Lagoon 450, so it is small for Sophie. That’s perfect for us. For the last 5 years, Jenna and I have been looking for a solution for straight downwind sailing in 15-30 knot winds. Our existing spinnaker is too big for winds at this speed, and our other three sails are suboptimal for wind at this angle. The Parasailor has a foil cut into the middle of the sail, giving it lift in lighter air and resilience during heavy gusts (because the wind blows through the hole in the middle of the sail.) Friends who own Parasailors love them, so we decided to buy one. The price was right, and the previous owner even threw in some extra sheets and blocks as part of the deal. 🤣

Our exit from Gibraltar provided us with the perfect opportunity to test the new chute, and again Jenna and I were very happy with the results. The wind blew 20-30 knots in the Strait as Sophie sailed dead downwind into the Atlantic at 8-9 knots. With our big chute, these winds would give us white knuckles and heart palpitations while we constantly worry about when we should take it down. The new chute felt stable and controlled in this situation. It didn’t jerk around in gusts, and the foil provided lift to Sophie’s bows, giving us a bit of a surfing feel. 

The wind died down  after the first 50 miles, and we decided to leave the new spinnaker up overnight. This is the first time we’ve done this without additional crew on board. This sail is a great new option for us and will hopefully cut a day or two off our Atlantic crossing time next month.

Other Preparations in Gibraltar

By the time we reached Gibraltar, it had been 18 months since Sophie had sailed in the open ocean. Jenna and I wanted to make sure that the boat was once-again passage-ready, so we went through our usual series of pre-crossing checks.

For starters, we had local riggers Sean and James inspect our mast and rigging. They believed that our rig was tuned too tightly, resulting in some extra bend in the mast. They also discovered that some of the bolts that hold the mast to its supporting compression post in the cabin had come loose. Yikes!


There were no signs of cracks, water leaks, or structural damage in the area. We also contacted Lagoon, and they did not indicate it was a problem. So we tightened the bolts and re-tuned the rig with less mast bend.

Sean and James also discovered that one of our diamond stays – the steel cables that hold the mast in column – was showing signs of deterioration so they replaced it. They also machined some new bearings for the gooseneck on the boom. It now wiggles a lot less.

We replaced all of our running rigging – the ropes that we use as sheets, halyards, reef lines, guys, and traveller controls. We had some of these custom-made in England.

Finally – and one could argue most importantly – we had our liferaft inspected and recertified. It still looks brand new. Hope we never use it!

While we were in Gibraltar, we were able to carve out the time to for a 2-day visit to Cordoba and Seville. Other than that, we worked 10 hour-days getting Sophie ready for the Atlantic. Just getting the new sails off and on took 3 days! We were so busy we didn’t even have time to climb The Rock, tour the tunnels, or see the monkeys. That’s really sad, so we will have to come back.

Thunk Thunk Thunk in Madeira

We enjoyed an uneventful 600 mile/4 day run in the Atlantic Ocean from Gibraltar to Madeira. Other than the downwind sleigh ride in the Strait of Gibraltar, the highlight of this passage was a “double takedown” of two mahi mahi at the same time.

It was a funny catch. Leo was at the wheel when a fish hit our lighter pole. He stopped the boat, yelled FISH FISH FISH, and started reeling her in. I was below taking a nap and  came up to reel in the line on our other pole. We do this so the lines don’t become tangled. I soon realized that I had a fish on my line as well. Leo’s fish was 4 pounds, and mine weighed 22 pounds. Ha!

They both tasted delicious. Leo is certainly getting big, isn’t he?

We chose Madeira because my daughter Sara and her wife Julie had planned a big reunion there for November. Julie’s father grew up in Madeira, and we had 8 people from the US fly in to join 20 cousins, aunts, and uncles who live in Madeira for two weeks of family meals and celebrations. We had an absolutely wonderful visit which we will hope to cover in another blog post.

So why the thunk thunk thunk?

Well, as part of the two week reunion we invited 25 souls to come join us for an outing on Sophie. It was a calm and sunny day, and we thought we’d go out for a bit of a sail, throw a couple of lines in the water, and maybe catch us some fish.

So once we had everyone on board, I fired up the engines and heard a loud, crumbly Thunk Thunk Thunk noise from the starboard side. It didn’t sound right at all, so I killed the engines and went outside to see if a neighbour on a powerboat had started his loud, poorly-tuned diesel at the exact moment as I did. Nope. So I tried one more time and heard the exact same noise. I quickly killed the engine, went to examine it and found it was askew by 5 degrees. I knew immediately that it had jumped it’s mounts, the steel and rubber “feet” that connect a diesel engine to the hull of a boat.

Brand new engine mounts look like this.

Sophie’s starboard engine mounts on the afternoon of the party looked like this.

Believe it or not, it was a relatively easy repair. Jenna was heading to the States for a few days to attend her sister Julie’s baby shower, and we made sure she returned with four new engine mounts. The local Yanmar dealer sent a couple of guys over – one of them was a big fella – and they simply used a lever to lift the engine up a few inches to get enough space to swap out the mounts. There was no damage to the sail drives or hulls.

All four of the old mounts looked like this.

Needless to say, we were ridiculously lucky that this happened to us while on a dock. The mounts had slowly rusted during the last 10 years, and at our dock in Madeira there was a strong, sharp sideways surge that, over the course of a week, slowly nudged that engine off it’s mount. The mounts on the port engine were also completely shot, but that engine hadn’t moved. If this failure had occurred at sea in rough weather, we could have experienced some significant damage.

The good news is that our afternoon outing on Sophie was still a complete success! I took everyone out for dinghy rides; people enjoyed the marina’s salt water swimming pool; and we even had a bit of a dance party.

We had a wonderful visit to Madeira and made some lifelong friends. Jenna, Leo, Hazel, and I cannot begin to adequately express our gratitude for the wonderful hospitality this big beautiful family showed us. We’ll be back. Many, many times.

Now we are on the northeast corner of the Canaries anchored by a beach in a marine reserve. There are ten other boats here, and I assume they will all be crossing the Atlantic in the next 6 weeks.

We also met here the rarest of rare commodities on our extended adventure: an American family with kids out cruising on a catamaran. The boat’ s name is Ventus, the family is from the Midwest, and we all look forward to playing with them for the next few months. We even threw an impromptu dinner party last night with them and a French family boat. It was great to see packs of kids running around Sophie again.

So  that’s about all for now. We definitely feel like we are back in Adventure Cruise mode, and we definitely still feel lucky.

ps … here is a gratuitous photo of a pilot whale playing on our bow.

#sickeningvacationphotos

#winning

It’s Time to Get Serious, People

Greetings from Ibiza!

We have spent the last 9 months away from the blog, lazing around various sunsoaked beaches in Mediterenean Italy, France, and Spain. But all of that is about to change as we begin to prepare for an Atlantic crossing starting next month.

It’s time to get serious, people!

But before I walk you through the plans for our next big ocean crossing, let me give you a quick recap of what we’ve been up to since January. A lot can happen in 9 months.

We wound up staying at the marina in Licata, Sicily until April. We had a nice little community of live aboard boaters there. Cousins Alex, Susi, Jonesy, Andi, Caroline, and Alex visited. My parents (combined age of 177!) joined us for 2 weeks as well. It was their first trip to Sophie in 7 years.

It was much colder in Licata than we had anticipated. I am not sure if we will spend another winter in the Med.

We spent months exploring Sicily by rental car, conducting daily Sophie school, taking Italian lessons in town, eating way too much arancini, and sitting around waiting for some warmer weather to finally come.

We left Licata in late April and made our way around the southeast corner of Sicily to Siracusa and then up the Strait of Messina.

We spent a week in the Aeolian Islands before making the long run up to the Amalfi Coast. It was so nice to anchor out and swim again.

We hung out there for 2 weeks. Jenna’s parents joined us in Napoli and we made the overnight sail with them to Olbia in Sardinia.

We spent the next two months cruising Sardinia and Corsica, circumnavigating both islands while grooving to the Mediterranean beach life.

In July we headed back to the Italian coast at Cinque Terra via Elba. Jenna and Hazel left the boat for 3 weeks to attend a Miller family girls reunion in the US, and we carted Leo off to a summer camp in Germany for 2 weeks.

I took the boat back down to Sardinia with some friends and then picked up my son Max in Olbia. The two of us took Sophie up Corsica’s west coast for a week before making the jump back to Genoa. I dropped Max off there and then made the solo run from Genoa to Pisa.

The family reunited in Pisa, and we then left the boat in Livorno for a week in order to explore Florence and Rome.

After that, we all took Sophie back to Bastia in Corsica (via Elba, this whole summer was very Napoleonic) where we met my brother Rich and his wife Sigi.

They spent 16 days with us, exploring southern Corsica some more before making an overnight run to Menorca and then Mallorca.

Once Rich and Sigi left, the four of us took Sophie on another overnight run, this time to Barcelona, where we docked for a week in Forum Marina. Jenna’s sister Julie and her husband Silas joined us there. We enjoyed the fireworks of the La Mercè festival a week before the vote for Catalan independence.

From there we headed down to Ibiza, which is very, very quiet this time of year.

Whew! Now you can understand why we stopped blogging. We were too busy! 18 guests this year. Multiple overnight crossings. Hanging out with friends on Charm, Nikau, No Plans Just Options and other boats. We also made multiple side trips to the USA, Germany, and England.

But I also like to blog about Sophie Adventure Cruises, and this last year feels more like it was an extended vacation. Sophie Vacation Cruises.

But all of that is about to end.

The Plan

We are currently planning to sail 2,600 miles from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to Barbados in the Caribbean, departing early January 2018. From a trade wind perspective, January is the best time of year to do this passage.

To get to the Canaries, we will return to the Spanish coast, make stops in Malaga and Gibralter (The Territory) and then sail a short way up the Portuguese coast to Lagos.

From Lagos we will sail 450 miles to Madeira. My daughter-in-law Julie’s family is from there, and they have planned a 2 week extended family reunion in Madeira in November. We had better get there on time!

From Madeira it’s a single overnight sail to the Canaries.

So that’s our plan. We think the boat will be ready for the passage. We’ve ordered a new genoa and a new square-topped mainsail from Phil Auger at Zoom Sails, and we plan to pick them up in Gibraltar.

We also bought a small, barely-used parasailor spinnaker from a friend in Licata, so we are setup for tradewind downwind sailing in winds up to 25 knots.

We plan to replace our running rigging before we go. The engines, genset and watermarker have all been pretty happy this summer. It’s amazing how the heat and humidity of the tropics can take it’s toll on machines. The Med was much more gentle on Sophie’s systems.

Rich and his daughter Kate are crewing on the passage to Barbados, meaning they have signed up AND have purchased plane tickets. Two others have signed up but haven’t bought their tickets yet. (You know who you are, so please get cracking!)

Once we are in the Caribbean, we will have work to do. Jenna has signed us up to assist the International Rescue Group by using Sophie to ferry supplies to communities that were destroyed by hurricanes last month. We are very much looking forward to doing this.

We are now in the sixth year of our adventure. Leo is a teenager. Hazel has spent over half of her life on the boat. Our family is extraordinarily lucky to be doing this.

Putting the “Cat” in “Licata”

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To celebrate the new year, I thought I would post a little photo essay about the 23 catamarans moored here at the marina in Licata, Sicily. This is boat porn at its finest. Enjoy!

Let’s start with this Aventura 33. I love the design of this boat, with an inverse curve to its sheerline and a big open cockpit with twin tillers. It seems to pack a lot of space into 33  feet and would make a great weekender back in Puget Sound. This model uses a hybrid diesel electric system for propulsion, and I don’t really know if it actually works. But the boat looks great.

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Another boat with a similar approach to sheerline is this Dean 44, designed and built in South Africa. This boat is owned by a New Zealand family who allegedly have multiple girls Hazel’s age and will return to Licata in late January. Hazel doesn’t know this, and please don’t tell her!

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I couldn’t find much online about this Nomad 1350, but I do know that early catamaran designers were quite concerned about their boats accelerating quickly down waves, burying their bows underwater, and then capsizing by flipping forward. The owner of this boat addressed this concern by installing a large air foil on the stern in order to keep the bows up at high speeds. Please also note the hydraulic passarelle on the port transom. I assume this can also function as a crane for loading crates of wine from quay.

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Another unique cat is this M&M (Mono & Multihull, not Morelli and Melvin) built in Drachten, the Netherlands. It has well over 4 feet of bridge deck clearance, which is more than I’ve seen on Gunboats and Atlantics. She also has a single daggerboard on her port side. She looks very light and wicked fast.

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Here is a newish Outremer 45, another fast cruising cat with dagger boards. I always pronounced these as “out-REAM-ers” until Pete McGonagle at Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle helped me see the light. The correct pronunciation is “oot-reh-MARE.” I love these boats, especially the bigger ones, but I am not a fan of the aft cockpit covering on this one. It has a fiberglass roof directly under the boom, and then a canvas bimini on either side. If you look closely, you can see someone has propped a boathook under the starboard canvas bimini to keep it from sagging. But I am nitpicking here, it is a beautiful boat. Note the tiller post behind the starboard driving seat. Very cool. I would love to steer a big cat at high speeds using a tiller. In the Pacific, Jenna and I met a guy on a fast French cat. I think his name was Martin, and I think the boat was Wild Thing. He asked me I’ve ever regretted ordering a steering wheel for Sophie, because we always use autopilot at sea and the engine controls in the harbor. He had tiller steering and was thinking of getting rid of his steering  wheel.

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Rounding out our review of the unique cats here in Licata is this Broadblue owned by our friends, the Casleys. They love the boat: it’s a seaworthy, fast cruiser that serves as a great home for five. It also has the biggest galley I’ve ever seen on a cruising sailboat. You could  film cooking seminars in that thing. I also like how their dinghy has a center console seat like a jet ski. I wanted one of those for our new dinghy…

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Now let’s switch to the big mass production catamaran builders, starting with Fontaine Pajot. This 48 foot Salina is Sophie’s neighbor and has a fiberglass cover over the dinghy between the two transoms. It appears to be integrated with the dinghy davits. I’ve never seen a cover like this before and want to discuss it with the owner when he returns from France next year. It’s a clean and beautiful boat.

The remaining Fontaine Pajots here are all older and include a Tobago (35′), an Athena (38′), a Lavezzi (40′), and a Belize (43′). My brother David and family have a Fontaine Pajot in Baltimore. I think it is a Belize but I’m not certain.

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The other big production catamaran builder is Lagoon, and there are 11 Lagoons (!) wintering here in Licata. The biggest Lagoon in town is this 52, the model that replaced the Lagoon 500. It features the “new” Lagoon design with higher topsides and a proportionally smaller mainsail. Note the track for the self-tacking jib right in front of the mast. I was told by a Lagoon dealer in Thailand that the 52 is faster than the 500. I love the look of this boat and will try to figure out a way to take one out for a spin.

There are two Lagoon 500s in Licata, including our beloved Sophie. The one on the right is a 3 cabin version with the captain’s cabin occupying the entire starboard hull. This boat is for sale, but I think I like our boat more. But it would be fun to set up a bowling alley in that starboard stateroom. Or perhaps a game of Mölkky, the Finnish lawn game we play after our Sunday barbecues at the marina. (Here is a link to Martha Stewart explaining how to play Mölkky.) So much space.

Next up in Lagoon land is this 450 on the left and the 440 on the right. The 440 is called Takamaka and is owned by our Lithuanian friends Deimante and Saulius. They are young and full of life and host an excellent New Year’s Eve party, as Jenna and Rebekah can attest.

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Lagoons tend to be happy boats.

Our marina has one Lagoon 421 and two 400s, including “No Plans Just Options” which is home to the Eilbecks, a family from Australia. Lagoon packs a lot of space into a 40 foot waterline, and No Plans is a very nice boat. Now you Eilbecks need to come back from Oz! You’re missing a lot of fun here.

Rounding out our fleet of Lagoons are three 380s. The Lagoon 380 is the most successful cruising catamaran ever, with over 700 hulls shipped during its production lifetime. There are even 60 of them listed in Yachtworld right now. You see these boats everywhere.

So that wraps up my little photo essay of the catamaran fleet wintering here in Licata. From my perspective, nothing beats a cat in terms of living space, cruising comfort, and fast passage speed. But some of you still love your monohulls, so I’ve thrown in a couple of photos in the spirit of balance and equity. If you are a “mi piace grandi mozziconi e non posso mentire“kind of person, then check out the backside of this Hanse 575. It’s enormous. Merry Christmas, Kenny Wickman!

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Oh. mio. Dio.

But if catamarans were never invented, and I needed to pick the best boat for circumnavigating in terms of living space, cruising comfort, and fast passage speed, then this Amel 64 would do the trick.

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I can think of $2.2 million reasons why I love this boat, including the ketch rig, sheltered-yet-large cockpit, aft deck dance floor, and the incredibly functional interior. It’s a beautiful boat.

But I am a cat man, and Jenna and I are very happy with our little Sophie. Licata is a wonderful place to spend the winter. We are very lucky. Happy New Year, everybody!

From Montenegro to Sicily in 23 Steps

It has been four months since Jenna and I last posted on this blog, and boy have we been busy. Please accept our profound apologies for our absence.

Since July, we spent six more weeks in Montenegro visiting with family, then moved the boat up to Venice, then visited the US to celebrate my daughter Sara’s wedding, then returned back to Venice for a few days, then traveled up to Munich for a week of Oktoberfest fun, then returned back to Venice and the surrounding countryside, and then proceeded to sail down the Italian Adriatic coast to our winter berth here in Sicily. At various points during our stay in Venice and during the first half of our Italian cruise southward, we hosted our friends Ian and Becky, our cousins Jasmin and Leone, Jenna’s parents Sarah and Terry, and our friends Jeff and Melody.

Whew!

Sophie is currently docked in the Marina di Cala del Sole in Licata, Sicily, where we plan to stay for the next four or five months. We are surrounded by a cruising community who winter their boats here, including several boats with children, and we have already started to make new friends.

For this blog, I will walk you through the twenty-three steps we took to get from Montenegro to Sicily. I cover a lot of ground for one post, and I’ll leave it to  Jenna to follow up and dazzle you with her wonderful photography posts in the coming months. Let’s go.

1. Kotor, Montenegro


We spent most of July and August anchored in front of my brother David and his wife Goga’s house in Kotorski Zaliv (Kotor Bay) at 42°27′.920N, 018°45′.729E. Most cruising boats that visit Kotor either dock or anchor at the southern part of the bay by the old town or up in the northeast part of the bay by the mussel farms. David and Goga’s house is on the water midway between these two points, and we could easily tie our dinghy right to their little stone pier when we went to shore. The anchor location didn’t have the best protection when a storm came through, but we would always stay on the boat during the couple of times when it started to blow. Our Rocna anchor took good care of us.

The cruising boats that anchored in town had better shelter during southerly winds, but the boom-boom music from Kotor’s nightlife could get pretty loud for cruisers trying to sleep at anchor there. We loved our anchor location and its easy access to family and the nearby community.

It will take a 10 page blog post just to cover everything we did in Montenegro. We rafted rivers, climbed mountains, swam every day and ate ćevapi at night. We celebrated David and Goga’s 20th wedding anniversary with friends at the little floating church where they were married. We headed into town (usually around 11:00 PM) to listen to music, experience the local art scene, and meet some of Goga’s endless supply of friends. We played cards and did pushups. The kiddies sailed Optimists at the local sailing school three times a week. When we left town to go on overnight road trips, we would dock the boat in the little Marina Mala Luka a couple of miles away at 42°26′.635N, 018°45′.218E. It’s a quiet marina on the west side of the bay that is run by a nice family. There is no diesel for sale in any of the marinas in Kotor Bay, so we once had to head around to Tivat, about 10 miles away, to fuel up. We also went on a little excursion to Budva and wound up grabbing a mooring in town there for one night.

Overall, our visit to Montenegro was one of the true highlights of our adventure cruise.

2. Ancona

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But all good things must come to an end, and soon it became time for us to make the 240 mile overnight passage from Montenegro to Ancona, Italy. We actually left Montenegro a day earlier than planned due to a forecast for imminent bad weather with strong northerlies in the Adriatic. Our overnight passage was uneventful, although we felt bummed as we cruised up the Croatian coast knowing that we weren’t going to stop there in 2016. That’s what happens when you become slaves to a schedule. In Ancona, we stayed at Marina Dorica at 43°36′.618N, 013°28′.931E, a 1,000-boat, modern marina separated from the old town by an industrial park and the commercial harbor. At the marina, we side-tied to a floating finger dock (I am surprised by the number of floating docks we have encountered in Italy). The marina had 5 bars and restaurants plus a couple of small stores but no real grocery store. On our first night there, a thunderstorm with 40 knot winds came through and caused our gennaker to partially unfurl and ultimately tear along the leach. Jenna and I wrangled it down with the help of a neighbor in the pouring rain and high winds at 2am. On the plus side, we were so glad we had decided to leave Montenegro a day early, because we avoided encountering that storm at sea. The marina in Ancona is a 35 minute walk from town. Clearing customs and immigration in town was easy and professional, and we were their first US boat to clear there in a long time. We stayed in Ancona for several nights through the remaining bad weather and came to enjoy the Italian custom of passagio after riposo, where people parade their dogs in the main walking area downtown after they have completed their mid-day nap. We had no idea how much Italians loved their dogs!

3. Venice


The distance from Ancona to Venice is 120 miles, and given our narrow weather windows we decided to sail directly there on an overnight trip. I actually had to slow the boat down in order to enter Venice’s lagoon in daylight. We parked Sophie for over a month at the Marina di Lio Grando at 45°27′.266N, 012°26′.021E. It’s on the northeast side of the lagoon next to the Punta Sabbioni ferry terminal, a little over 3.5 miles across the water from the center of Venice. What a great and quiet little spot! It’s a small, family-run marina with a population of wild bunny rabbits roaming around. The staff tied us between two piers so that we didn’t rub against pilings when the occasional strong surge came through. Supermarkets, wine stores, bike shops, bars, and restaurants were all an easy bike ride a way. It took 10 minutes to walk to the ferry terminal for a vaporetto (local ferry boat) into Venice. The marina gave us a very good monthly rate. We even bought the kids new folding bikes after we discovered some end-of-summer specials at the local bike store. Happy Birthday Leo, and Merry Christmas Hazel!

4. United States


We left Venice to travel back to the United States and participate in my daughter Sara’s wedding with the love of her life, Julie. It was a perfect wedding on a farm in New York’s Hudson River valley. We visited with friends and family all along the East Coast, including Jenna’s sisters in Pennsylvania. We caught a Boston Red Sox game and even made a side trip to Connecticut to meet the crew of Totem after becoming their friends on the Internet after they left Seattle 8 years ago. It was a great visit home.

5. Back in Venice
After the US, we returned to Venice for a couple of days. Our main focus was restarting Sophie School. We also deployed our vinyl aft cockpit enclosure for the first time since we left San Diego four years ago. On the eve of Leo’s birthday, we decorated his new bike for him in the aft cockpit, turned its flashing lights on, and then sent him out three times to fetch something. He walked right past the bike without noticing it until we finally burst out singing “Happy Birthday” and pointed it out to  him. We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

6. Bayern


After a few post-wedding days in Venice, we packed up and took the train to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest and Leo’s birthday with various Sophie Adventure Cruises alumni from Seattle including the Fells, the Batterberrys, the Campbell-Hoppers, the Rieblings, and the Barretts. We also had the chance to meet with many of our wonderful Utzschneider and Stephan relatives from across southern Germany. As a change of pace from Munich, we all traveled up to Rödental to spend a weekend with my brother Rich (veteran of Sophie’s Pacific crossing and the Maldives leg) and his wife Sigi. We attended a local music festival there, and had ridiculously good fun.

7. Back in Venice Again


After Munich, we took the train back to Venice accompanied by Ian and Becky (who were making their fourth visit to Sophie.) We moved the boat from Marina di Lio Grando to Marina Sant’Elena (45°25′.537N, 012°22′.020E.) The marina is located directly in Venice and has the best free streaming wifi we have encountered on our entire trip. Sant’Elena was more expensive than Lio Grando, but we now had the opportunity to walk directly into town. The marina is in a quiet residential neighborhood by the naval college, with a park and multiple neighborhood bars and stores nearby. After a few days we were joined by my cousin Jasmin and her daughter Leonie and then by Jenna’s parents Sarah and Terry, who were making their first visit to us since we left the US. At one point we had ten people sleeping on the boat. It was fun and crowded, and our guests all had a great time exploring Venice. It also just so happened that Sara and Julie showed up in Venice for their honeymoon, so we had the opportunity to bask in the glow of the happy newlyweds.

8. Austria and Slovenia

After Jasmin, Leonie, Ian, and Becky left, Jenna’s parents organized a road trip for all of us to explore northern Italy, Austria, and Slovenia for a few days. Terry served in the US Air Force, and was stationed in Italy for three years in the 1970s. When Jenna was a toddler, they lived in a small town called Sedrano, about 90 minutes north of Venice. Unfortunately, I had to drop out and remain behind on Sophie, nursing a nasty chest cold, after pushing myself too far over the previous few weeks. Jenna, her parents, and the kiddies had a fabulous road trip visiting their old neighborhood, exploring the Alps, and visiting long time friends Werner and Heidi in Austria.

9. Ravenna


After the crew returned from the Austria trip, we decided to depart Venice for Ravenna with Jenna’s parents still on board. As soon as we had the mainsail up outside of the lagoon, a northerly wind gusted at 45 knots, accompanied by a nasty and sloppy sea. Jenna and I dropped the main and rolled out a scrap of jib, and we made the 60 mile downwind run to Ravenna in reasonable comfort and in good time. Jenna’s parents definitely got a taste for rough-water sailing, and they handled it like pros. We stayed at the Marina di Ravenna (44°29′.341N, 012°17′.450E), which is protected by a big double breakwater and was quite comfortable. The marina is located next to a tourist beach area that was mostly shut down for the winter (the first of many such marinas we would encounter on our trip south.) The actual city of Ravenna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was located 5 miles away, but there was a convenient bus into town. Jenna and her parents enjoyed touring the local churches and museums. While in Ravenna, our friends Jeff and Melody joined us and we were back to being a completely full and happy boat.

10. Rimini and San Marino


Our next stop was Rimini, just 28 miles south of Ravenna.  It seems that the farther south we headed, the more fish and white wine started to appear on local restaurant menus. That’s a good thing. We stayed at the Marina di Rimini (44°04′.555N, 012°34′.363E), which was located right in town. I really enjoyed this stop, with a pretty town and a nearby park with good bike riding. The main street had a Hadrian’s arch on one end and a 2000 year-old Roman bridge on the other. Most importantly, during our stay here we took a bus to the country of San Marino, a postcard-perfect mountaintop castle city-state that is a separate country from Italy. On the day of our visit, the town was hosting a Prosecco conference and a swing-dance celebration with a live big band in the outdoor courtyard in front of the city hall. It was an awesome and unforgettable experience. We had so much fun together, but Jenna’s parents’ trip quickly came to an end and they left us in Rimini. It was a great visit and we look forward to the next time they join us on Sophie.

11. Ancona
With Jeff and Melody still  on board, we returned to Ancona and berthed at the same dock as our previous visit. What a difference two months can make! All of the stores and restaurants in the marina were shut down for the winter. We would encounter this phenomenon several more times during our southing. We only stayed for one night and then kept on moving.

12. San Benedetto Del Tronto


After Ancona, we made a very civilized 45 mile run down to San Benedetto del Tronto, another tourist town that was shut down for the winter, and stayed in the town marina (42°57′.357N, 013°53′.300E). We connected with Gina, a local who lives onboard her sailboat in the marina and friend of our fellow South Pacific traveler Tom Van Dyke. We enjoyed Gina’s hospitality and she even brought the kids early Halloween treats! There was some nice flat bike riding in town, especially along the mole where they have some very interesting statues. Jeff and Melody brought their bikes along, so we made up quite the peleton of folding bikes exploring the area. One night in the marina there was a marine weather forecasting seminar that was conducted entirely in Italian. I think I understood the entre talk. Isobars are isobars regardless of the language.

13. Termoli


Our subsequent plan was to make another civilized 45 mile run to the port of Ortona, but when we arrived there in mid-afternoon, the marina appeared to be full of boats and empty of people. No one there was answering the phone or the radio. We now know that when cruising this part of the world, you need to make formal marina reservations in advance, even (or especially) in the off-season. Also, there is little to no anchoring on Italy’s east coast, so we called the marina in Termoli, got a commitment from someone there on the phone, and decided to go another 35 miles at a very high speed. We arrived there after dark and stern tied at 42°00′.170N, 015°00′.070E. We stayed two nights. There was a pretty old town with small houses painted in bright pastels, a nice beach front promenade for bike riding, and a main town with a public square and interesting  shops. At the risk of repeating myself, it was another great visit.

14. Vieste


Vieste is located on the spur of Italy’s boot, and it felt weird to be sailing Sophie for 50 miles on a due easterly course of 90° to get there from Termoli. It almost felt like we were sailing back to Seattle. It was worth the trip, because Vieste is a beautiful city with stunning cliffs and a very old-school Italian feel. We docked in the marina at 41°53′.292N, 016°10.073E. Vieste’s old town reminded me of Rhodos in Greece, with narrow crooked cobblestone streets and little shops. It also had some great restaurants serving excellent seafood, and we celebrated Jeff and Melody’s last night at a fabulous Italian restaurant before they took their leave of Sophie. We stayed one more night and befriended a nice family that runs the restaurant in the local yacht club. Their daughter came to the boat and played with Hazel, and afterwards they gave us some fresh seafood and we made delicious fish soup. They have an open invitation to visit us in sunny Sicily whenever they would like.

15. Manfredonia


After Vieste, we sailed 24 miles due west along the southern coast of Italy’s spur to the town of Manfredonia. Once again, we arrived at a small marina, in this case the Marina Cala delle Sirene, to find it full of boats and empty of people. When I had called the marina in advance, the man who answered the phone said “Send Email, Send Email.” We assumed that meant they had room. It didn’t. Also the marina had no sailboats, which was a good indication that it was too shallow for Sophie. We were a little bummed at the idea of driving another 35 miles and docking after dark, but then Jenna noticed on Google Maps that there was something that looked like a huge marina just a few miles away. Sure enough, the Marina Del Gargano (41°37′.016N, 015°54′.775E) was right on the other side of town. It was three years old and had capacity for ~1000 boats. They weren’t listed in either our 2015 Adriatic Pilot or Navionics, but they had plenty of space for us. It was a nice marina, but was mostly shut down for the winter. We rode our bikes into town, toured a downtown park built around some Norman castles, and ate dinner on board.

16. Bisceglie


After one night in Manfredonia, we covered 35 miles and stayed in Bisceglie, a nice little harbor (41°14′.821N, 016°30′.655E) just up the coast from Bari. It provided good shelter from some bad weather. There also seemed to be no tourism here; we felt like we were heading deeper into “real” Italy. The Norman fort that dominated the harbor had been converted to apartment buildings in the last century, and the town plaza was located behind that. It was too hilly for biking, but I was able to get an excellent haircut and triple shave in a small barbershop. We also had lunch one day in the old town in a vaulted restaurant called Antico Granaio. They didn’t appear to have menus, and the waiter came out and said in Italian that he could bring us appetizers, primis, and secondis.  He did so! Again, we feasted on delicious local food and incredible dolci. At this point on our trip, 80% of the menu items in restaurants were seafood. The southing continued.

17. Polignano a Mare


We chose to bypass Bari and stay at either Polignano or Monopoli for our next stop. Our pilot indicated that Polignano looked like another small fishing harbor shut down for the winter, but Jenna found a website showing that there was a new marina there, so we gave it a shot. What a great choice! It was 35 miles from Bisceglie, and Polignano was our favorite stop on the entire Italian Adriatic coast. The Cala Ponte marina was located at 41°00′.372N, 017°12′.334E. Like most of the big marinas here, the stores and restaurant were shut down for the winter, and the harbor was a bit rolly in the heavy winds. But Polignano town was spectacular! It was a mile from the marina, and we could ride our bikes there on a dedicated bike path. The town was perched on cliffs on either side of an old river ravine, and the old town was walled off from cars in a way that reminded us of Kotor. We found a small “foodie” restaurant called Osteria dei Mulini that was written up in the New York Times, and it was really really good. We sat out a storm with 40 knots northerlies here and enjoyed watching the surf crash against the cliffs at the base of the town.

While at the marina, we rented a car for the day and did some local sightseeing. Our first stop was Alberobello to check out the Trulli, traditional stone huts with conical roofs. They look like little hobbit houses!  We then had lunch at Martina Franca, a hilltop city with a lovely cathedral and central courtyard. After that we checked out the Roman ruins at Egnazia, a former port city on the road between Rome and Brindisi. There’s an extension to the Appian Way here, and you can still see the chariot ruts in a section of the preserved stone road. Finally, we swung by Monopoli to check out the harbor, and this made us even happier about our choice to stay in Polignano. The harbor in Monopoli had a big roll and little space for cruising yachts.

18. Brindisi


After Polignano, we made a 42 mile run to Brindisi, the historic naval port on Italy’s southeast coast. We stayed at the Brindisi Marina (40°39′.927N, 018°00′.124E), yet another 1,000 boat marina that was mostly shut down for the winter. The marina is located across from the Aragon castle and was well-protected. It was near dark when we arrived, and we decided to make the 30 minute walk past the naval base to a little residential neighborhood with some cafes and pizzerias. We were hoping to find some Champions League football on a TV somewhere and got lucky to find Braceria La VacaLoca, a restaurant that served either paninis, or grilled meat covered in rocket, cherry tomatoes, and shaved parmesan. They also served fresh, homemade potato chips. I could eat here every day for the rest of my life. During our walk we got a view of the old town on the other side of the harbor, but given the threat of bad weather approaching, we decided to leave the next morning. It would have been nice to stay here longer.

19. Santa Foca di Melendugno

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After Brindisi, we headed south for another 34 miles to Santa Foca and stayed at the Porto Turistico di San Foca. (40°39′.927N, 018°00′.124E.) The marina was sheltered, but the summer tourist town was almost deserted. We were able to go for a bike ride on the promenades north and south of town and buy some groceries in a local store, but that was about it.

20. Leuca


From Foca we headed another 34 civilized miles to Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost tip of the heel on Italy’s “boot” and the place where the Adriatic meets the Ionian sea. We stayed at the Porto Turistico di Leuca (39°47′.730N, 018°24’341 E). The harbor had a massive breakwater over 20 feet high and was dominated by a lighthouse, a Catholic shrine, and the terminus of a major aqueduct built by Mussolini. We went for a nice bike ride, ate lunch at Café Do Mar, and took some sunset photos from the top of the hill.

21. Riposto


After Leuca, Jenna and I had a bit of a trip planning dilemma. We had to cross the Gulf of Taranto to get to Cambria, the “ball and toe” of Italy’s boot. At a minimum, the trip would  be 80 miles, and the closest harbors on the Cambrian side looked to be of the many boats, few people variety. We also were encountering increasingly stormy weather with limited windows where we could move. So we decided to bypass Cambria, make a 200 mile overnight dash, and head straight for Riposto on Sicily’s east coast. It was a good call. We left Leuca a little before sunrise and enjoyed a calm crossing across the Gulf of Taranto. We sailed for the first half of the day, motorsailed the second half of the day, and motored through the night after the wind shifted around to the southwest. The kiddies did Sophie School and I caught a tuna. Jenna and I split the night shift, and I prepared myself for our winter destination by watching Goodfellas and The Godfather. We averaged a nice and fuel efficient 6.5-7 knots. On our second day, Jenna spotted a small sea turtle tangled up in fishing line and a plastic tarpaulin. Jenna boathooked the plastic with turtle up to our transom and I was able to cut it free with a rigging knife. That was one happy turtle swimming away from us! Riposto is at the foot of Mount Etna, and we were able to tie up at the pier at Porto dell’Etna (37°43′.885N, 015°12′.477E.) The marina was half-full (not half-empty!), and most of the tourist businesses in town were shut down. The main walking area was on the waterfront, where there were five fishmongers in a row along the waterfront park. We had lunch (fish) at Trattoria Marricriu one day and then Jenna indulged me and we all went out for pizza and European  football at a genuine Murphy’s Pub!

22. Marzamemi


Our weather windows in Riposto were becoming increasingly rare, and we thought we had a shot to head south after a couple of days there. We left at sunrise, and after ten miles encountered a strong wind wall coming off the back side of Etna. The wind went from 5 knots to 30 knots in a matter of several hundred meters. It was actually forecast on PredictWind, but we thought it would turn out to be a small patch that we could easily power through. Wrong! After slamming for a while, we turned around and headed back to Riposto. There is no need to pound if you are not on a schedule and the weather forecast is meant to clear up the following day. So we tried again the next day, leaving at 4:00 AM to try to make the 65 miles to Marzamemi on Sicily’s southeastern tip and had an easy trip. The small harbor there is managed by three yacht clubs, and we were able to reserve one of the last remaining berths in town from Marina Sporting (36°44′.032N, 015°07′.354E.) The father and son who ran the marina were very nice, and they had excellent free wifi that we used to watch the US election results and then a LOT of Netflix. The town of Marzamemi was pretty much shut down for the winter, although it looked like a fun place to visit in the summer. I was able to ride my bike a couple of miles up the hill to the town of Pachino to load up on groceries. We stayed here on the boat for four nights in high winds, watching the surf crash outside the breakwater and waiting for the weather to change.

23. Licata


We thought we would be stuck in Marzamemi for a week or potentially longer, but last Friday a short weather window opened up and we left Marzamemi to make the 80 mile run to our winter destination of Licata. We had a 5 to 15 knot headwind the entire way, but the seas calmed down along the way. We ran the engines @ 2900 RPMs because the wind was forecast to pick up to 20 knots by late afternoon and also because the kids were incredibly excited to meet the other boat kids waiting in Licata. It was an uneventful trip, and the kids were able to do schoolwork and clean up their cabins in anticipation of play dates. We arrived at the Marina Di Cala Del Sole, Sophie’s home birth for the next 5 months. Our port engine actually ran out of fuel while we were idling outside the marina, but we were able to easily move fuel over from the starboard tank in less than a minute. (We’ve done this once before when we were much younger.) There is a community of 50 cruising boats wintering here, and the three other families with kids (All Together, No Plans Just Options and Ferdinand) greeted us from the quay and helped us stern tie. It’s a quiet, very sheltered marina, and Sophie is 75 feet from a café/bar and 400 feet from a small mall with the best grocery store we’ve seen since Israel. Since we’ve arrived we’ve already attended two cruiser happy hours (stayed up too late for the first one) and the weekly Sunday pot luck barbecue (ate too much cannoli.) The kiddies LOVE having new friends, and we are already making  plans for our community Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

People here are stunned when they realize we started the year in Thailand. Since then we’ve pushed really hard at times as we traveled across the Maldives, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Montenegro, Italy, Germany, The USA, Austria, and then back down Italy to Sicily. It feels really good to finally be home for a while.

Have I told you lately how lucky we are?

 

Sailing Across Greece

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GREC5389Sophie has been anchored in front of my brother David and his wife Goga’s house in Kotor, Montenegro for the last week. Our current location is 42°27′.934N, 18°45′.704E, which places us at the same approximate latitude as the Rogue River in Oregon (for those of you keeping track at home.) Our arrival here is one of the happiest accomplishments of our sailing adventure, one of the reasons we decided a year ago to come to the Med via the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. We are in a good place.

In order to get to Montenegro from Turkey, we spent 6 weeks sailing 500 miles across Greece. It was a spectacular experience which we were lucky to share with our friends Randy and Susan (joining us in the photo above.) If we weren’t on a schedule to meet up with family, we could have easily spent months or even years in Greece.

We could write 30 blog posts and post 1,000 photos and still not entirely capture the full extent of our experience in this country. This blog post is my initial attempt and focuses on the harbors and anchorages we visited during our passage. Jenna will be following up with her beautiful photos, as usual.

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Rhodes
We cleared out of Turkey in Marmaris and made the 25 mile passage to Rhodes in half a day. We were able to secure one of the last available berths in the Mandraki Harbor in the port of Rhodes, but it took us 45 minutes to med-moor on the quay due to the 25 knot cross-breeze. It was not fun, but we later learned that 2 other bats had tried to moor in that same spot and gave up. That made us feel a little better. Our berth was at 36°27′.054N, 28°13′.600E. After securing the boat, our entire family made the pilgrimage to the Port Police, Customs, Immigration, and then back to the Port Police. We stopped for our anniversary dinner at our first outdoor Greek taverna in the middle of this process. and eventually everything sorted itself out. We were finally in the EU! The Port of Rhodes is centered around an old town and fort that was built by the Knights of Saint John during the Crusades. The museum is excellent, as is the ancient Greek stadium and amphitheater. Unfortunately, the Colossus of Rhodes is long-gone.

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Tilos
After Rhodes we went to Tilos for an overnight stopover. We anchored on the south side of the island at 36°25′.753N, 27°20′.894E in 30 feet of water. On the way to Tilos, we caught an actual tuna fish, proving once and for all the the Med is not completely fished out. The anchorage provides good shelter from the prevailing northerly meltemi wind, but we woke up to a southerly and exited the harbor at first light.

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Astapálaia
Our next stop was Astipálaia, an island off the beaten tourist track that had a reputation in the middle ages for being a haven for pirates and smugglers who hid their boats in Astipálaia’s many coves. We anchored in a little harbor by ourselves in the middle of the south coast at 36°34′.416N, 26°23′.234E in 25 feet of water. I brought my bike to shore and struggled over the little mountain range to visit the main town of Skala. Later we all had dinner in our anchorage at a cute taverna with brightly colored chairs and an interesting mural of a pirate wench sporting an ouzo-firing submachine gun.

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Jenna just sat there, shaking her head. It was a very quiet and relaxing island to visit. We stayed two nights.

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Santorini
This is the famous Greek tourist island with the iconic blue-domed, white painted houses perched on the cliffs of a massive ancient volcano. Even though Santorini is 10 miles long and is visited by four cruise ships a day, it only has one small harbor, Vlikhada, located at its southern tip. Fortunately we were able to cajole our way into a berth there and used it as our base in Santorini for a week. 36°19′.997N, 25°26′.136E. The anchorage is very small and very shallow; upon our exit we wrapped a mooring chain around one of our propellers as we navigated the channel in 6 feet of water. Oh my goodness, Santorini was a special place! Our friends Randy and Susan flew in from Seattle and joined us here for the start of their 2 week Sophie Adventure Cruise. We toured the island in a rental car for a couple of days. We did the famous walk along the cliffs from Thira to Finikia. We visited the preserved ruins of one of the oldest archaeological sites of pre-Hellenic Greece. We toured a wine museum with underground animatronic displays of 19th century wine making. We ate great food, drank good wine, and even discovered a bakery with an outdoor, self-service kegerator. Birthplace of civilization, indeed!

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My personal favorite was sitting in a taverna above the Vlikhados harbor at sunset and watching the ballet of 25 charter catamarans all coming in to a narrow, 200 meter-wide harbor after sunset. It was quite a show!

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Folégandros
After the hustle and bustle of Santorini, it was nice to sail over to Folégandros, a quiet island with a chora (Greek town) on a cliff overlooking a broad expanse of sea. We anchored in the main harbor and hiked up the road to have dinner and watch Eurocup football in the town. At one point I even rented a quad 4×4 to make it easier for a hungry, post-school Hazel to make it up the hill to dinner. This was a great spot. We anchored at 36°36′.791N, 24°57′.050E in 12 feet of water.

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Milos
Our next stop was Milos, which has some of the best beaches in all of the Med. It’s also the home the famous statue “Venus de Milo”, which was found by a farmer in a field here and “sold” to the local French consul in the late 1800’s. (The more I tour local historical sites of ancient civilizations in this part of the world, the more angry I become that so many of the local treasures are now housed in museums in London, Paris, and Berlin.) We anchored in the southeast corner of the big harbor of Ornos Milou at 36°41′.475N, 24°26′.735E, which gave us the best available shelter from the meltemi. The were some boats on the other side of the bay that were getting smashed against the town quay in the 30 knot winds and 3 foot waves. We were safe. Jenna took our guests and the kiddies in the rental car for a day of beach excursions while I stayed on Sophie and did some Jamie work. Randy always wanted an upside-down backwards Speedo shot, and on Milos he made it happen. It was a great day for all of us.

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Sifnos
We really liked Sifnos and anchored in the double harbor of Faros on the south coast at 36°56′.341N, 24°44′.766E in 12 feet of turquoise water. Our anchorage only fit 5 other boats, including a big charter boat with a bunch of older French men and their “granddaughters.” We spent 2 days at Sifnos. The grownups enjoyed swimming, the kiddies enjoyed motoring around in our little “Baby” dinghy, and we all enjoyed eating at the local beachfront taverna 2 nights in a row. At this point we were really getting into the Eurocup football tournament and watched games both nights.

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Paros
After Sifnos we sailed our way over to Paros and anchored in the Ormos Plastira bay at 37°07′.475N, 25°13′.070E in 15 feet of water. We spent a few nights here enjoying a local beach with weird rock formations, a good local taverna for football, and excellent swimming. We also met the Lockharts, an English family that was taking a year off to explore the world. They have two boys, and it was great to see the kiddies have some playmates their own age.

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Mikonos
We spent 8 days in Mikonos, partly to enjoy the nightlife and partly because we were pinned in by a strong northerly meltemi. Randy really wanted to experience the nightlife on Mikonos, and the island didn’t didn’t let him down (although we did miss Lindsay Lohan’s 30th birthday party here by ten days.) Mikonos has multiple anchorages along its south coast, all providing some shelter from the meltemi, but the wind coming off the mountains can really pick up. We spent our fist nights in the bay opposite the beach club Super Paradiso  (above) at 37°24′.761N, 25°22′.226E anchored off the beach in 40 feet of water. The beach club had over a thousand people along with a club dj playing boom boom house music. We rented a couple of beach umbrellas and soaked in the scene.

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Later that night the four grownups hitchhiked, walked, and cabbed around a headland to the nightclub Cabo Paradiso and stayed out until 4:00 AM! We definitely weren’t in Indonesia any more. Later that morning we moved east 3 bays to Kalafatis and anchored at 37°26′.436N, 25°25′.392E in 30 feet of sand off the beach. The beach clubs here were more family-oriented, we got to watch some some world-class windsurfing, and we celebrated some school milestones at an excellent Italian restaurant nearby. Later in the week we motored over to the main harbor of Ornos and encountered meltemi gusts of 40-50 knots along the way. We were worried we had made a big mistake as we entered the harbor, but found an anchoring spot in the lee of a cliff at 37°24′.922N, 25°19′.183E.

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We could see big whitecaps 50 meters away from us in the main harbor, but we were sheltered in our little anchorage spot. We said our goodbyes to Randy and Susan, who pretty much had the best-ever Sophie Adventure Cruise of any of our guests over the last 3½ years. We then stayed tucked up against our nice cliff for another four days as we waited for the wind to die down. (Diva, the Bintang t-shirt is for you. Enjoy Indo!)

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Delos and Rinia
When the meltemi finally subsided, we made a 5 mile trip on Sophie over to an anchorage on the east side of the island of Rinia (37°24′.521N, 25°14′.175E) from where we could take the dinghy to the amazing archaeological site at Delos. Delos is the mythical birthplace of Artemis and Apollo and served as the economic and cultural capital of the eastern Mediterreanan for 500 years. During our tour of the extensive and beautiful ruins, Hazel slipped and scraped her foot pretty badly, so I took her back to Sophie in the dinghy. The chop and wind had picked up significantly as we crossed the bay back to Rinia, so Hazel and I took Sophie right over to the day anchorage at Delos (37°23′.646N, 25°15′.788E), and collected Jenna and Leo after their tour.

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After we were all back onboard Sophie on Delos, Jenna and I decided to make to the 40 mile late afternoon run over to Kythnos instead of spending the night on the south side of Rinia. For our first night on Kythnos, we anchored in the port of Loutro on the east side of the island in a quiet harbor with two other boats. We anchored at 37°23′.716N, 24°27′.494E in 50 of water with a lot of chain out. The next morning we motored around to the west side of Kythnos and dropped a hook in Ormos Fikiadha at 37°24′.823N, 24°22′.827E in 12 feet of sand. It was a wonderful, protected anchorage with a sand bar beach. At times there were 30 boats there, but that was OK because the swimming was excellent. There was a family taverna on a small cliff overlooking the beach, and a mile away was another bay with a taverna that showed football. We joined the Germans one night (above) and the French the next. Jenna and I even went on a date by ourselves at night with the dinghy to the town 3 miles away! We could have spent a month here on Kythnos and cannot wait to return.

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Sounion
We eventually and reluctantly had to leave Kythnos to continue our journey north to visit with family in Montenegro, and we randomly picked Sounion as a halfway stop between Kythnos and Athens. What a halfway spot! Sounion is located at the southern tip of the Attic peninsula and features the Temple of Poseidon, one of the great preserved temples of ancient Greece. We anchored under the temple and wandered up the hill for a visit. Afterwards, a squall with 40+ knots of wind came through just as we were getting back on Sophie. We found ourselves anchored a little too close for comfort right under base of the cliffs and the temple. So we moved the boat to the middle of the harbor, with plenty of swinging room, and let out all of our chain in 35 feet of water. We survived the night and have a newfound respect for the god of the sea. Our final anchorage was at 37°39′.183N, 24°01′.327E.

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Athens
After Sounion we motored the 25 miles up to Athens and took a berth at the Zéa Marina in the Pereaeus district on the waterfront. There were over 40 superyachts in this 1,000 boat marina, but the marina staff tucked us onto a quay in front of the police station next to a collection of other cruising boats. We didn’t do much in our three days in Athens except visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Erechtheon, the Theater of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Areopagus, the Temple of Hephaestus, the Ancient Agora, the Stoa of Attica, the National Archaeological Museum, the National Gardens, the Zappio Megaro, Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Monastiraki District, the Plaka District, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We also squeezed in a playdate with the Lockharts at the local playground and wound up staying out all night with the parents watching the Eurocup and then dancing until dawn. Afterwards we took the subway with the kiddies to a mall and watched the film BFG.  My personal Athens highlight was wandering into a marine chandlery with Hazel and discovering that the store had the best inventory of Jabsco marine toilet spare parts I have ever encountered in my entire life! Better than Fisheries, better than West, better than any place in New Zealand. We’re talking electric Quiet Flush discharge ports right on the rack, right next to Pumpguard prefilter replacement screens! (No more finger cuts from cleaning worn out Pumpguard filters for me!) And the guy behind the counter knew his stuff. Indeed, Athens was a special place that we will never forget. At some point I assume Jenna will share a photo or two. 37°56′.062N, 23°38′.950E.

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Galaxidi (Via the Corinth Canal)
After an early departure from Zéa, we motored the 25 miles to the entrance of the Corinth Canal, a 3 mile long cut through a cliff that would save us 100 miles of beating against the meltemi if we went on the outside of the peninsula. We tied up to the Canal authority pier, paid our €280 transit fee, and then proceeded in a mini convoy through a 100 foot wide trench with 200 foot cliffs on either side of us. It was pretty cool.

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After we exited the canal, we motored another 40 miles through the Gulf of Corinth and settled upon the little town of Galaxidi at 38°22′.863N, 22°23′.401E on the north side of the gulf. What a lovely little town! We anchored in 20 feet of sand off of an impromptu beach club at the tip of the village where a dj was spinning house music and families were enjoying their Saturday afternoon. There were three other boats in the anchorage, fifteen boats on the quay, and all of the tourists in the little town were Greek. We wound up spending three nights here and could have stayed a month. Jenna and I spent a night in the only taverna in town that showed football, and we were the only non-Greeks in the crowd. We made a day trip up into the mountains to visit Delphi, the holy site of Hellenic Greece, and soaked in the majesty of ancient civilizations. We swam in tranquil waters surrounded by mountains. It was yet again another special place.

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Levkas
After we left Galaxidi, we exited the Gulf of Corinth, rounded the corner into the Ionian Sea, and made our way north to the island of Levkas for an overnight stop. We anchored in the big bay past town, surrounded by 50 other boats in 25 feet of water at 38°41′.344N, 20°42′.397E. We didn’t go to shore, but enjoyed a post-passage swim in the warm water. As we entered and exited Levkas, we passed by the private island of Skorpios, which used to be owned by Aristotle Onassis. He married Jackie Kennedy there in the 60’s. The island is now owned by the daughter of a Russian oligarch who made his money by consolidating control of Russia’s potash industry during the rise of Putin. He must be a clever man. Potash.

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Paxos
After our night in Levkas, we continued our northing to Paxos, where we anchored in another tourquoise lagoon at Lakka on the northern tip of the island. On our way, we transited Levkas Canal, a mile-long cut through a salt marsh. The canal is blocked at its northern tip by a ferry that serves as a bridge between the mainland and the island, and every hour the ferry sounds a horn, turns sideways, and lets the waiting boats pass by. It was pretty funny. When we arrived in Paxos, we wall-tied to a cliff in 15 feet of water in a small harbor with 50 other boats at 39°14′.259N, 20°07′.910E. At this point, Jenna and I were beginning to feel pretty good about our med-mooring and wall tying skills. There is a big charter industry in the northern Ionian, which explains the number of boats in the harbor, but the charter boats cleared out in a couple of days in order to return to their bases for the weekend transition to new clients. Apparently Thursday night in Lakka is Greek dancing night at one of the waterfront tavernas, but most people skipped that to watch Germany lose to France in the Eurocup. (Grrrrr). We spent 5 days in Lakka and loved every second. At this point, we had become comfortable sending the kiddies into town in the Baby in the mornings by themselves to buy bread and produce. It’s a significant point of pride and responsibility for them. We also became friends with a Spanish family with 10 year old twins (boy and girl), and the kiddies spent two days swimming back and forth between our boat and theirs. It was the sort of experience Jenna and I assumed we would encounter all of the time during our circumnavigation, and in Paxos it actually happened. We spent 5 days here and could easily spend an entire summer in the Ionian. Perhaps next year.

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Corfu
Our last stop in Greece was Gouvia Marina in Corfu, where we spent 2 nights hanging out and checking out of the country. This was another 1,000 boat marina, and they unfortunately lost our reservation as we approached, so they parked us at at 39°39′.002N, 19°50’887E on the far fringes of their docks, about a kilometer from the marina office. We weren’t able to see much of Corfu, but Jenna and I were able to see the Eurocup final at one of the marina bars. Hazel enjoyed the marina pool. We spent two nights eating at Harry’s Taverna, an excellent spot 4 blocks from the marina.

So that wraps up my initial summary of our trip across Greece. We are now stuck in Montenegro, surrounded by mountains, warm water, family, and a rich cultural history. Last night we participated in the annual ceremony where locals take their boats out to a man-made island in the bay and throw rocks into the water to continue to build up support around the church where my brother David and his wife Goga were married. It was part religious ceremony …

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… part water fight.

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We threw our rocks into the water and avoided any unnecessary splashing.

Have I mentioned lately how lucky we are?

Reflections: Maldives

Here’s a post about our experiences travelling to the Maldives during January and February 2016.

From Thailand to the Maldives

It was hard to say goodbye to Thailand after five months, but we looked forward to sailing again on the open ocean. We celebrated our last night at Coconut’s in Phuket, with the chef/owner Phen and cruising friends. Hazel took orders and delivered everyone’s food. She loved helping out in the kitchen. We all miss Phen!

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Jamie’s brother Richy, our neice and nephew Katie and Nic, and our friend Travis joined us for a 10-day crossing to Male, Maldives.

We blogged about the crossing in real time (Sophie is Wicked Fast Again, Sailing Along Quite Nicely, Bay of Bengal, Ohhhhh Halfway There, Crossing a Highway, Beneath the Subcontinent,  Current-aided Run to the Barn, and Made It!), so  here is a glimpse of the pictures from our adventure:

 

Land Ho!

We had one of the easiest and most fun passages of our entire journey. Even so, there is nothing better than the feeling of seeing land at the end of a successful ocean crossing.

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Male is a daunting sight with tall buildings covering almost every square inch of the island.

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After anchoring in the deepest waters since Jayapura harbor in Indonesia, checking in with our agent and the government authorities, and moving to a shallower and more protected anchorage for the night, we celebrated.

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After picking up a few veggie provisions for the weekend, we got an early start out to one of the nearby atolls for some snorkeling and sun while awaiting our formal cruising permit.

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Anchored next to a handful of super yachts, Sophie felt quite small. We didn’t mind the view, though.

The next day, we headed back to Hulhumale to pick up Jenn and a few more provisions before heading out in search of manta rays and some more remote anchorages.

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We only had a couple of days with Richy and Nic so we made the most of our time together, snorkeling, swimming, diving, a few games of Shotzee!, and Leo lost another tooth.

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It was so special to have Richy, Katie and Nic together on Sophie. Sigrid, Stephen and Danny we wish you could have been here too!

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After Richy and Nic departed, we sampled some local food and made a grocery run during a torrential downpour, discovering a broken jar of pickles on our way home, then headed out for a week of fun in the sun.

Resorts in the Maldives are beautiful, but appear to be quite the velvet prisons. The Maldives government encourages tourism to resort islands, where they grant exceptions to many rules such as dress code or alcohol, but tourists are generally separate from locals on village islands. As cruisers, we had more freedom to travel around, although we probably experienced the least amount of cultural interaction in the Maldives compared with the other countries we’ve visited.

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Water Sports

We spent a week island hopping through the Fulhadoo, Goidhoo and Male atolls and saw the most colorful fish since Indonesia and some early signs of recovering coral.

These photos hardly do justice to the incredible hues of blue and turquoise against white sugar sand beaches.

We encountered sea turtles nearly everywhere we stopped.

Discovering our own private sand island was another highlight of the week.

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As with Richy and Nic, our time with Jenn, Travis and finally Katie ended too quickly. We loved every minute with you all.

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Quiet Family Time

For the final two weeks of our stay in the Maldives, we explored the Ari Atoll, focusing on Sophie School, preparing the boat for our crossing to the Red Sea, and a little play time too. Hazel and Leo loved riding the rapids on their castaway raft.

One afternoon, we had a bit of excitement watching a funnel cloud start to form behind us. The weather definitely shifted toward the end of our stay, with stronger winds and storms passing through more frquently.

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Back in Male, the Indian Navy came to town, a showing of friendly force in the neighborhood.

 

 

One month in the Maldives only allowed us a glimpse of all the beauty here. We wish we could have stayed longer, but the Red Sea weather window beckoned. We will fondly remember the warm days, crystal waters, deep blue skies, and white sugar sand. What an adventure! Have we mentioned lately how very lucky we are?

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Reflections: Holly Bali

Now that Sophie School is on a brief holiday, I’m catching up on my backlog of photos and stories. Here’s one reflection about some of our adventures in Indonesia last year.

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Ambon, Indonesia

In February 2015, my cousin Holly sailed with us from Ambon, Indonesia to Labuan Bajo on Flores Island, and we also made a short trip to Bali.

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On Holly’s first and only night in Ambon, we took her to our favorite restaurant there, Dua Ikan, to sample some local delicacies including Pepeda, which you are meant to slurp out of your bowl without using silverware.

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We had planned to spend a few days in Ambon in order to watch the Patriots win the superbowl, but our plans changed when the weather forecast changed by the next morning and a good window to cross west opened up if we departed right away and then there wouldn’t be another one for about a week. We said hasty goodbyes to friends on Per Ardua, Ocelot and Guruca Cat, called the Moore and Connor families by phone, and pulled up the anchor.

We had a great view on the way out of Ambon Bay.

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Even the dolphin helped to send us off.

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Sunshine, light winds and calm seas. This had the makings of a perfect day.

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Later that morning, while Holly and I were on watch, almost out of sight of land, two squall lines appeared on either side of the horizon and both appeared to be moving in our direction. The systems merged right on top of us, and within minutes, we were motoring into 40 knot white-out conditions. The storm lasted for less than an hour, but it took most of the afternoon for choppy seas to subside in its aftermath. Holly’s easy introduction to overnight passages ended up being a bit more aggressive than we expected, but it was the only weather we saw during this crossing. We had light breezes and calm weather the rest of the way there.

Wakatobi

From what we read, we expected to be off the grid for our stopover in Wakatobi, but as soon as we anchoraged off Hoga Island, a small fishing boat with the local divemaster stopped by to welcome us and point out provisioning stops in the neighboring village, excellent snorkeling spots with moorings for our dinghy, and directions to find the restaurant on shore. We also had 4 bars of cell service. So much for cruising off the grid.

Hoga is one of the most beautiful islands we saw in Indonesia. It is fringed by white sandy beaches and has one of the most colorful reefs, teeming with little fish. We spent a couple days snorkeling, beachcombing and playing games.

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Leo and Hazel also practiced many dives off Sophie.

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We also watched some spectacular cloud formations.

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We experienced great weather at Hoga, and then we left just in time.

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We had almost a full moon for this leg of the trip which helped tremendously at night to spot FADs before hitting them. In this area, they were not small homemade fish traps, but 10 foot square floating platforms sometimes with small huts on them. We had a couple near misses, but managed to dodge them before it was too late. There is a good reason to avoid sailing at night in Indonesia, and we only did a handful of nighttime crossings during more than 3,000 miles sailing there.

Flores Island

We made landfall again in the 17 Islands Ruing Marine Park off Flores Island in the East Nusa Tenggarra region of Indonesia. This is an uninhabited national marine park with pristine beaches, coral reefs and very few visitors. We anchored in 25 feet of sand off a small island that the kids dubbed “Sand Dollar Island” after the thousands of sand dollars we found lining the beach.

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Flores Island

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“Sand Dollar Island” in 17 Islands Riung Marine Park

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On our second night there, Hazel developed a high fever and complained of body pains, so we made the decision to leave at first light for Labuan Bajo, the nearest city, 80 miles away. After an uneventful trip, Holly, Hazel and I flew on the first available flight to Bali while Jamie and Leo looked after Sophie. We took Hazel to the hospital late that night where she braved a very big needle for blood tests and a thorough exam before we checked into our hotel to await the results. By morning Hazel’s fever broke and we were relieved to learn she didn’t have dengue, malaria or other serious tropical illness. With one day left of Holly’s vacation, we spent a leisurely day at a resort.

 

We had so much fun together on our mini girls’ holiday and loved every minute of our time with Holly in Indonesia. We are such a lucky family!

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