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?

 

From Egypt to Turkey

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Sophie is currently anchored in Üçaĝiz harbor in the Kekova Roads on Turkey’s southern coast. Our location is 36.11.64n, 029.50.58e. This is our first anchorage since the Maldives, a very distant 12 weeks and 3,100 miles ago. We have made additional stops in Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, and the United States since then.
We have covered a lot of ground. It feels great to be back at anchor, like our life is finally returning back to normal. Sophie School has resumed, the water toys are out, and Jenna and I just completed a paddleboard circuit of the harbor, accompanied by turtles, fishies, and goats. I even got to fix a toilet and a bilge pump since we arrived here the other day.

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Back in March we rested in Port Ghalib, Egypt for a couple of days after our long passage across the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. There were 5 other boats there that had completed the Red Sea passage around the same time we did. Other than being able to connect with fellow cruisers, there wasn’t much to see. Port Ghalib is a destination resort that is suffering a 90% reduction in tourism due to the terrorist attacks in Egypt. Most of the businesses there had stopped paying rent to the resort’s absentee Kuwaiti landlords.

Our Red Sea guards departed Sophie a couple of hours after we arrived. The German bar that I had been looking forward to was a bit of a disappointment. They didn’t even serve German beer!

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The resort maintains a sailboat that had crashed up on the rocks ten years ago as a reminder of how treacherous the local waters can be. They are proud of it, while all of the cruisers view it as a very bad omen.

RDSE7239On the positive side, Port Ghalib offered a very protected harbor, an easy government check-in process, and diesel fuel pumps right on the quay. It was an excellent stop after our long passage. We do not regret having made the long push to get here.

After Port Ghalib, we made an overnight run to Port of Suez at the entrance to the Suez Canal. For the first 6 hours we slowly motored into a steep chop, but the wind soon swung around to a southerly as forecast, and we had an uneventful trip for the rest of the way.

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We stayed at the Suez Yacht Club, which 15 years ago had a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool. Fleets of 50 sailboats at a time used to stop there as they cruised up and down the Red Sea. Now the yacht club is reduced to a single plastic floating dock with no facilities other than a security guard. We were just the second sailboat of the year to call on them, after Egoiste, a Jeanneau 56 that left the Maldives three weeks before we did. The yacht club’s facilities have been handed over to Egypt’s military, which now uses it as an Army and Navy Club.

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Our dock was just 100 meters to the entrance of the canal, and it was a little weird to see 1,200 foot container ships passing us as they made their way into the desert.
Our agent met us on the dock and took care of our paperwork. He also arranged for us to take a taxi into town and have dinner at a traditional kebab restaurant. It was our first real exposure to local middle eastern food. No one in the restaurant spoke English, and as a result we ordered way too much food, including chicken, lamb, pita, humus, tahini, salads, and sweets. We had some excellent leftovers.

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The next day a tour guide took us in a van into Cairo where we toured the Cairo Museum and then visited the pyramids at Giza. It was a stunning experience, made all the better (and sadder) by the complete lack of tourists in the city. There were no lines at the Cairo Museum, and we were able to take photos of the Pyramids with no people in the background. Apparently this is the first time someone had done this since Napoleon visited over 200 years ago.

Some people question whether we are taking big risks visiting places where there have been terrorist attacks within the last year. Our view is that if we don’t visit countries that depend on tourism to support their economy, then the terrorists win. We will never do anything that we consider unsafe for our family, and we did skip visiting some other aras of Egypt this time. Cairo is no different than Paris or Brussels in terms of safety right now. The local people rely on income from tourists to survive, and we believe it is our role as world travelers to help them.

After a couple of days in Suez, we picked up our pilot and transited the first half (40 miles) of the Suez Canal, making an overnight stop at the yacht club in the port of Ismalia. It was surreal taking Sophie through the desert. All we could see were mounds of sand on either side of the canal, with army forts and emergency floating bridges every couple of kilometers. During the ’73 war, the Egyptian Third Army was trapped and surrounded on the wrong side of the Suez, and apparently the country never wants that to happen again.

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We even had to stop for 20 minutes during the tail end of a floating bridge staging exercise. Each bridge section had diesel engines attached to it, and the entire bridge swung like a door across the canal. Later on during that day we passed by a couple of tanks that were crossing the canal on motorized rafts. There was a lot of military activity.

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The only other thing I remember from that first day of our canal passage was how cold it was, how very very cold it was. Jenna stayed below doing Sophie School with the diesel cabin heaters running at full blast. I was up top with the pilot, and I was wearing a puffy insulated coat over 3 layers of sweatshirts. I even had to loan the pilot my Gill sailing jacket, and he was a little disappointed when I had to inform him at the end of the day that it was not a gift.

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We made it to Ismalia by mid-afternoon and docked at the yacht club there. We caught the tail end of lunch at the restaurant, which was mostly serving a business crowd, and then went to bed.

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The next morning we met out new pilot and quickly proceeded on our way. Once again it was cold, and once again our pilot assumed my loan of the Gill sailing jacket was a gift. He spoke no English and spent most of his time quietly praying. We offered him tea and kebab for lunch, which he was finally willing to accept once we convinced him that it was halal. At one point he even made pig oinking noises in trying to communicate to us that he couldn’t eat pork. But it all worked out, and he enjoyed his lamb, hummus, and tahini.

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During this leg Jenna climbed to the top of the mast and took some pretty awesome photos of Sophie driving through a trench of water in the middle of an Arabian desert. Surreal.

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By early afternoon we reached Port Said, and a pilot boat pulled by to disembark our pilot. We suddenly found ourselves motoring into the Mediterranean sea on a cold and sunny afternoon. We were greeted by some of the fattest dolphins we’ve ever seen. It was quite a moment for us.

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We officially cleared out of Egypt back in Port Suez, so we had no need to stop in Port Said and headed directly for Herzilya, a port in Israel 15 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. It was an easy overnight run, highlighted by my 3:00 AM interview over VHF with Israeli Defense Forces. Even though we had contacted them in advance, they wanted to know the name, birth date, and passport number of every soul on board. The discussion took an hour.

Later that morning when we were 10 miles out of Herzilya, an IDF patrol boat roared out to greet us. They did a big circle around Sophie and then stopped 100 meters off our port side. They didn’t say much on radio, other than requesting that all passengers and crew please come up on deck. In Southeast Asia and in the Pacific, when military patrol boats greeted Sophie, the military on board whipped out their mobile phones and took selfies with Sophie in the background. The Israelis were all business and had a 50 caliber machine gun pointed at us the entire time. We also assume they had an infrared camera on their boat to see if we had any people hiding below. But they were super friendly and after a minute said “We hope you enjoy your stay in Israel” and roared off.

An hour later we docked at the marina in Herzilya. After we stern-tied to the pier, a couple of millennial guys in civilian clothes came up to us, said they were with the border police, and asked if they could search the boat. They were quite polite, and I wasn’t worried at all that they were going to ask us for a bottle of wine like the customs dudes in Tonga had done. When they were finished searching, they asked me to accompany them off of the boat, where we were joined by two young women who asked if I minded if they could ask me some questions. I had been through this drill during my previous visit to Israel, and it was fascinating to go through it again. One woman smiled and asked all of the questions while the other three watched me. Where were we from, what did we do for a living, did we carry any packages for people from the Maldives of Egypt, did we ever leave the key to the boat with anyone, what did I do for a living again? It was all super friendly and super competent, and after 20 minutes they smiled and said “Welcome to Israel. We hope you enjoy your stay!”

Herzilya is a luxury, modern marina, unlike anyplace we had visited since our stop in Singapore a year earlier. The marina complex included a Ritz Carlton hotel, a mall, and 20 outdoor tourist restaurants along a broad waterfront promenade. We stayed there for 10 days, making side trips to Jerusalem, Jordan, and Acre. We also reconnected with the Sagiv family, friends from Seattle whose children had gone to daycare with Leo and Hazel before we left on our adventure and they moved home to Israel.

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We loved our stay in Israel, and we hope to return there before we leave the Mediterranean.

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After Israel, we made an overnight run to Paphos on the western tip of Cyprus and stayed there for over a week. Paphos is a tourist town built around a small fishing port that doesn’t have a big marina, but we were able to obtain a stern tie berth on the police dock. The location was spectacular, with a small Crusaders castle across a courtyard from Sophie, and a bike trail led to Greek and Byzantine ruins just 500 meters away.

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By the time we reached Cyprus, were beginning to master our new Mediterranean cruising lifestyle, and we liked it: stern-tie in an ancient harbor, visit local Egyptian/Greek/Roman/Byzantine/Ottoman ruins, avoid the waterfront tourist restaurants, and wallow in the Mediterranean “mezze” cuisine: eggplant, tomatoes, hummus, cucumbers, mint, yogurt, lamb, fish, olives, sparkling water, and dry red wine. Using Paphos as our base, we toured the entire island and feel like we barely scratched the surface during our ten days there. We plan to return to Cyprus during our cruise.

After Paphos we made yet another (and potentially our last) overnight run for a while and went to Kemer, a harbor with a marina next to the Taurus mountains in Turkey. Jenna and I had decided that after 3 and a half years living on Sophie, it was time to cut the ties and rent out our house back in Seattle. We needed a safe place in Turkey where we could park the boat for a couple of weeks while we flew back to the states to clean out our house and get it ready for tenants. Kemer fit the bill: a big, safe marina just 40 minutes from the airport in Antalya.

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So we spent just 2 days in Kemer and then locked up Sophie and headed to the airport. Before we flew to the states, we made a 3 day stop in Istanbul, which is a spectacular city. We visited all of the big mosques and took a cruise on the Bosphorus. Jenna took 10,000 pictures. Our list of cities we plan to re-visit continues to grow.

Then it was off to Seattle for a 2 week visit that combined work and pleasure. We were able to pack up all of our stuff, move it into storage, clean up the house (almost), and get it ready for rental. We were also able to visit with our great friends back home. Leo and Hazel had multiple sleepovers, and one family even loaned us their brand new Beneteau 455 for a weekend rendezvous with our Seattle boating community friends. It is really important for us to maintain our roots back home, especially for Leo and Hazel, and this was a great visit.

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After our 2 weeks in Seattle we flew back to Antalya and then cabbed straight back to Sophie. After being on a dock in Port Ghalib, Suez, Ismalia, Herzilya, Paphos, and Kemer, we really wanted to cut the dock lines and get back to anchoring. The Herzilya and Kemer marinas charged us us over 100 Euros per night for moorage, and for us that is not sustainable over the long run. So after one day in Kemer we saw we had a weather window and motored 50 miles around the corner to our current location.

We are now free swinging on anchor in a big protected harbor at Oçagiz. There are 8 other sailboats here. Yesterday, it was dead calm all morning, and then the wind picked up to 25 knots right after lunchtime until evening. This is apparently the weather pattern here. Within 4 kilometers are 2 castles and multiple Byzantine underwater ruins which we plan to explore with with the big dinghy. All of our systems are working, the kids have settled into their school routine, and the local produce is fresh and inexpensive. We are going to try to go three months without docking.

Once again, we are really grateful to be on this trip and feel incredibly lucky to be exploring the world on our boat.

nite nite