Aboard the Aranui – First Stop, Papeete

James and I crewed on two yacht deliveries from Hawaii to Australia in the 80’s. Each day at sunset, the entire crew would sit in the cockpit and talk about where we had just been, where we were going and especially where we wanted to sail too.

Certainly, one place that we all dreamed of was the wild and remote Marquesas Islands. It was one that was still on the bucket list, albeit with the idea of sailing on a yacht.

Imagine my delight when Sandy Lawson came by with a brochure of the Aranui 5, a hybrid freighter cruiser, which leaves Papeete and sails via the Tuamoto Islands to the Marquesas Islands. Imagine my surprise when James said “Yes”.

Marquesas Islands

 

We are visiting Papeete for the first time since 1985 and staying for two days. This gives us time to reconnect with French Polynesia and get ready for the cruise, strolling through Papeete with Rick and Sandy. There are some new buildings and a lovely new information centre and park. Many of the older buildings are looking decidedly shabby chic, still the ladies making flower garlands and crowns are still beautiful to view. The old wooden Church looks the same and the market looks newer, with gorgeous entertainment.

Market Entertainers

We visited the wonderful Robert Wan Pearl museum. They have an amazing selection of pearls as well as the Pearl museum.

We missed the Le Trucks, they were so efficient and available.  We waited for a bus for almost an hour and finally stalked a taxi at Carrefour. Le Trucks are still working on Bora Bora, which was good to see.

The most interesting food was at the local food trucks called Les Roulettes. Each evening you walk down to a local car park and watch as the food truck set up their stoves and barbecues outside the truck. We had wonderful MahiMahi, entrecote steak and chow mein. We didn’t have crepes but they were available too. The serving sizes were huge and the food was delicious.

 

Le Roulettes, food truck

Papeete is lovely to explore but book a tour or get a taxi because public transport isn’t easy, unless you take a ferry. Try the food trucks and the markets as well as the restaurants. Bring your insect repellant and sun screen and plan for a wonderful time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pacific Northwest

We were so lucky to have my sister move to Oregon.  It opened up a completely new area for James and I to explore.  There are no photos here of Rick and Linda because they were in the processing of moving to their new home. My sister advised me that it would be very boring to have photos upon photos of boxes.We changed our dates and went a few days early to help them move along with Rick’s father Larry and wife MJ, friend Kevin and then left them to unpack.

When we mentioned this change of plans to Barbara about our sudden lack of playmates in the Pacific Northwest, she volunteered to bring Frank and Adam and keep us company.

First stop was Seattle: Pikes Markets downtown and then a walking tour with Seattle 101. We had a great breakfast at the markets after watching the salmon toss and looking at beautiful flowers.

James, Frank, Barbara and Adam
James, Frank, Barbara and Adam

Seattle 101 walking tour was wonderfully entertaining and informative. Joe is a Seattle native and his passion for the city and its story was tremendous.

My favourite Seattle exhibit/museum is Chihuly Garden and Glass. It was a highlight of the visit to Seattle. It should definitely be on your Do Not Miss list for Seattle. Inside and out, Dale Chihuly’s creations are remarkable.

Frank and James at the Gallery
Frank and James at the
Gallery
The Indoor Garden
The Indoor Garden

The following day we toured the Museum of Flight. It was another outstanding museum and I noticed the same look of rapture on Frank’s face that I saw on Barbara’s face at Chihuly. Here is why:  there were so many planes and rockets and exhibits. Prepare to spend the day here.

Seattle's Museum of Flight
Seattle’s Museum of Flight

We had a quiet Fourth of July, watching the fireworks over Lake Union. The next morning we were up and ready to drive to Vancouver, Canada.

Here is the thing, we had a short window of opportunity for a taste of Vancouver and we spent too much time at the border crossing.  Think twice about going Seattle to Vancouver with just two days to stay. Vancouver is worth more time and the border crossing shouldn’t be the largest part of your experience.

We did have a great reunion with Marie and Simon Fawkes, who gave us great advice – “get on your bike”, so the next day we rode at least 15 miles to allow us to see as much of Vancouver as possible on rented bikes. The Sea Wall was fabulous, riding a fairly flat and accessible bike path allowed us to see much of beautiful, sunny Vancouver.

15 miles of Vancouver
15 miles of Vancouver

We literally biked until our legs turned to jelly. We would like to thank Washington, Vancouver and Oregon for good weather. We did have clothes for inclement weather but we didn’t need them. Weren’t we lucky?

Capri – the day trip

In 2012, we wanted to visit Capri and made a booking at the local marina, which wasn’t confirmed, more of a ‘call us on the day’. Still an hour before we were due to arrive at Capri, the port emailed us and said ” Sorry, we are full.”  We motored round the island and anchored in Marina Piccola. Staring at the island, but not able to land was frustrating. This time we were smarter and left Mercier in her lovely dock in Salerno.

There is only a small marina on Capri and many large yachts.
There is only a small marina on Capri and many large yachts.

Eleven of us made our way from Minori to Capri via a ferry. Easier, smarter, faster, so consider taking a ferry and not a yacht over to Capri. Ischia, Sorrento or Salerno are all fairly close and have safe marinas in which to leave a yacht.

Once there, we split and half the party sailed off to the Blue Grotto and the rest of us journeyed up to Anacapri.  We wandered round tiny steep streets, tried on hats, visited Churches and watched a shoe maker make sandals to order. We met later for a lovely garden lunch.

Sandals made to order
Sandals made to order
Barbara and the perfect hat. Also great shopping in Capri.
Barbara and the perfect hat. Also great shopping in Capri.

One of my favorite books about Italy is The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe. Munthe was a Swedish doctor, a crony of Oscar Wilde, Henry James and a self described misanthrope who loved animals more than people. His villa in Capri is secluded and takes you away from the commercial Capri and the spruiking. It deposits you in a exquisite garden with magical views and serenity. It is cool and catches the breezes, very important. Munthe said “My home shall be open the the sun and the wind and the voices of the sea – like a Greek temple and light, light, light everywhere.”

Villa San Michele
Villa San Michele
Views from San Michele
Views from San Michele – Sorrento in the distance

The excitement came with trying to ensure we got the bus back down, by the time three buses got to us they were full. On the fourth pass, finally a bus arrived only half full. Some clever people thought they would push in but we managed to block those who didn’t want to queue. We empathized with the sardines we had for lunch. Capri, we’ll be back and next time, we’ll take a ferry and stay awhile.

 

Campania and the Amalfi Coast

Fifteen years ago, James and I stayed in Positano; we thought it was magical. However, trying to find rooms for eleven of us, the best value seemed to be in Minori or Maiori. We all found Minori to be less touristy and very friendly. Minori was more like the Amalfi and Positano we visited fifteen years ago. If I was going five-star, I would prefer Ravello but given our budget Minori was perfect.

Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast

Ravello is just an hour’s walk up the hill, but quite a steep lung buster according to Miriam, Ed and Frank. It is incredibly scenic as James, Barbara and I can attest to, as we walked down to Minori after a scrumptious lunch at Enotavola Wine Bar at Palazzo Della Marra in Ravello. Matt and Joseph ran up and ran down; steepness was no barrier for the incredibly fit twins.

View from the Villa Rudolfo
View from the Villa Rudolfo

Ravello was the site of several weddings and we saw bridal fashion from demure to haute couture. The heels were six inches high but the outfits were amazing.

Natalie Chapman, is this wedding wear?
Natalie Chapman, is this wedding wear?

The music festival had not quite started but the stage was set up at the Villa Rudolfo and there were several members of the Ravello Vista Social Club playing wonderful songs and singing. There was an amazing Sonica  gallery of photos of musicians by a musician, Guido Harari at Villa Rudolfo too. Villa Cimbrone was the site of lush gardens and pleasant walks.

Ravello muscian and singers
Ravello muscian and singers

There is plenty to do in Campania, a guided tour of Pompeii was educational and fast paced.  We could see Vesuvius in the background and we were happy to note there was no smoke or activity.

Side trip to Pompeii
Side trip to Pompeii
Walking down to Minori
View from Ravello

Everyday we fall a bit more in love with Campania.

It is easy to smile in Italy

Sailors might want to tune out now. We have photos of the marina at Capri but not today. Today it is about the people who make me smile and how Italy has touched all of us.

My paternal grandparents were born in the beautiful village town of Giffoni Valle Piana. In the early 20th Century, because there was not enough work in Italy to pay taxes, create a life and have a family. Four million Italians arrived in America from 1880-1920.  My grandparents were two of those immigrants.

D'Angelo's in Gaia
D’Angelo’s in Gaia

They came from a valley above Salerno and the Amalfi Coast. This coastline and coastlines further south are exquisite. Various shades of green on the stone hills speak of olives, grapes, lemons, chestnuts and hazelnuts. In this area, most mozzarella is made from buffalo milk. It is simply OMG delicious.

There was a thread of connection with Giffoni. My Aunt Louise gave me quite a bit of information and old family photos, which made the search for our Italian families possible. I have been pleading with my cousins to join me in returning to Giffoni for several years after my first trip in 1999. After all Giffoni is now famous because it hosts the Giffoni Film Festival. Even Meryl Streep has visited and she wasn’t a cousin. This year we have made headway. We are a party of eleven De Angelo’s, comprised of two generations.  We planned a day, with cousin Sebastiano’s assistance, for our family reunion in Giffoni. Allora, what a day! Here are the photos.

Cugini and Carmine, the paterfamilas in Giffoni.
Cugini and Carmine, the paterfamilas in Giffoni.
De Feo Cousins
De Feo Cousins
The joy of the day was almost overwhelming and the two groups has such a good time.
The joy of the day was almost overwhelming and the two groups had such a good time.
The Marrandino cousins, in my Nonna's neighbourhood, Vassi.
The Marrandino cousins, in my Nonna’s neighbourhood, Vassi.
La Dolca Vita
La Dolca Vita – family, laughter and the expresso on the way

Ci vuole tutta la vita per imparare a Vivere. Seneca

Another trip soon we hope!!!

Saracen Towers and beautiful vistas

We have sailed into Salerno this morning, a quick easy motor.  James and Frosty polished the stainless, just in case Swanny did a surprise inspection. Mercier looks pretty good now. Just a bit of cleaning, laundry and TLC before the DeAngelo clan of New York meets the D’Angelo clan of Giffoni. Blame the slight name change on Ellis Island, but it is very minor.

So on the way up the coast, we have seen some lovely vistas and also a surfeit of watchtowers – mainly Saracen towers to alert the communities when the Saracen slave traders were coming, so they could escape up to a fortress.

Saracen Tower
Saracen Tower, volcanic earth

Allora, the Italian coast is beautiful, maybe greener than we have seen before and the water is azure blue. The soil seems to be volcanic or limestone and so stone buildings and stairs are everywhere.

In Agropoli, we asked for directions for happy hour and Aperol Spritz and we were directed to a wide street at the bottom of a long wide staircase, with a bridal limousine at the bottom. The bride and groom were radiant in the setting sun.

The bride and groom in Agropoli
The bride and groom in Agropoli
Agropoli Hill top town
Agropoli Hill top over the harbour

Afterwards we went out for pizza near the Porto Turistico, where Mercier was moored and watched the incredible sunset.

hmm. nice pizza but Frosty's expresso came in a small blue plastic cup?
hmm. nice pizza but Frosty’s expresso came in a small blue plastic cup. That’s the Amalfi coast in the distance.

The sunset was sensational. Ever since I said sunset photos were boring, I have seen a few good ones.

Agropoli Sunset
Agropoli Sunset – Amalfi Coast in the distance

 

Messina Straits to Tropea

Two years ago, we sailed from the Aeolian Islands through the Messina Straits going south.  This morning at 6:30am we sailed the straits going north, sailing from Reggio to Tropea. The Strait is 20 miles long and from 2 to 10 miles wide, funneling the Ionian Sea into the Tyrrhenian Sea and vice versa.  You are able to see the energy in the water. look long enough and you are bound to see a whirlpool forming. We began so early because we knew the current would be flowing south by 7:30am, 4.5 hours after high tide in Gibraltar.

Frosty was a bit skeptical at being underway by 6:30 am, even with a Nespresso in his hand but soon we were surrounded by the ‘passarelles’ or felucas, for the swordfish fisherman. Watching them move towards a sword fish at a rate of knots is quite startling.

Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat
Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat

The boats are about 40 feet long and the mast is about 50 feet high and the skipper steers from that lofty position.

Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
The harpooner walking out on the passerelle
The harpooner walking out on the passarelle. Look at the rooster tail.

After getting through the Messina Straits with a sighting of one swordfish( or was it a tuna?), a slight whirlpool trying to form and quite a bit of current. We sailed up the coast to Porto di Tropea.  Only 30 miles from the Aeolian Islands and a charming, neo-classical town, in a slight state of ruin, there is a lot to like.  The outstanding feature has to be the beaches. Surrounded by tufa, the beaches are superb. Odysseus never talks about beaches, does he? The beaches here are sensational. There were incredible beaches up the coast from Reggio di Calabria.

Tropea Beach, Calabria
a Tropea Beach,  Calabria

I tried to get James and Frosty smiling while in the Messina Straits, but in that photo they looked liked they had seen Charybdis. They liked the beach though.

Beautiful beaches
Beautiful beaches

Our journey so far (sorry, you have to copy & paste the link)

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zkkfRzDGj2mE.kO4m-3hTL-cs

Efcharisto (Thank You) Greece! Buongiorno, Italia!

We had our last night in Greece in the small harbour Ormous Ammou on the Nisos Othoni.  There on this small outer island, north of Corfu, one would have found a Venetian lighthouse and medieval fortress, with views over to Albania. We had two days on Corfu with Ric and Sandy, what was one highlight you ask? The boys might say it was watching Lateen rigged boats sail on Corfu harbour. Once the sail was in they rowed. How would Davo go with all that weight?

Lateen Rigged Boat - Corfu Harbour
Lateen Rigged Boats – Corfu Harbour

We had time to sit on board and think about how much we enjoyed Greece, how hospitable the people were, how beautiful the harbors and bays are.   Its history is the history of Western democracies. I feel the connection all the way back to Athena and Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. The food is superb and fresh fruits and veggies are so ripe and wonderful.

North Corfu beaches
North Corfu beaches

All through this trip, we have wondered if there would be trouble travelling in Greece, with the IMF and Angela breathing down Greek’s neck. We haven’t had one difficulty, not with diesel or ATM’s or any of the myriad problems that travel agents in Europe had been forecasting like ancient Jocastas.

Sail past Albania
Sail past Albania

 

So my take is: visit Greece, it is inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, it has something for everyone and it is beautiful.  The food is wonderful and so are the people.

leaving Greece at daybreak
leaving Greece at daybreak

 

Today we have sailed across to Santa Maria di Leuca, Italia. Usually we are on the lookout for ships, lobster pots and dolphins, but today we narrowly missed hitting a tree.  Ok, afterwards we reassessed “tree” and think maybe it was a big shrub, but it seemed to pop up as we glided right by it. It was quite strange but we think a storm might have taken it off a cliff and it was floating just below the surface until we went by.  Soon after, beautiful dolphins did come and play with us jumping up two by two for several minutes.  We think they were saying “Buongiorno”.

Spanakopita

If you send Sandy and Gaila off to get a loaf of bread; you will find a loaf of bread, apple tarts and spanakopita for lunch in the bag. Add a few cucumbers, tomatoes and tzatziki and you have a wonderful lunch.

The food here in Greece has been great, although you have to be lucky with tavernas. The food has ranged from average to excellent, but we are winning. Everything is so inexpensive and the fruit and tomatoes are exquisite in flavor. The nascent wine industry is getting better and we have tried Greek bottles of wine that were surprisingly drinkable.

Sandy and Ric on the bridge at Lefkas
Sandy and Ric on the bridge at Lefkas

We haven’t seen a dolphin but we have had some great sunsets, thunderheads and we did see a double rainbow. The double rainbow which is a lovely omen as our time draws to a close in Greece. Ric and Sandy are planning to go to experience the magic of Meterora before heading back to Sydney’s chilly climes. They will probably bring the warm weather back with them.

Sunny warm Greece
Sunny warm Greece

We have sailed through salt flats at Lefkas, past Cleopatra’s ignominious retreat at Preveza, had a swim at Paxos walked through alleys and into churches.

Sunset
Sunset

Now we are at Corfu and soon we have to leave Greece. Now there is a sad thought, where can we get Spanakopita in Sydney?

Paxos garden
Paxos garden note the barnacle covered airplane propeller

Happy Birthday to my sister, Linda. Enjoy!

Sailing the Inland Sea, Ionian Islands

If your route constitutes sailing to windward, there may be no better place to sail/motor than the inland sea. Sailing from harbour to anchorage through this area is a dream. Why you ask?  You can easily get up early and get to your next anchorage with light winds, get anchored in time for morning coffee before the wind gets fresh.  Get off the boat for the afternoon sightseeing and have dinner ashore, then by about 9:00 the wind has died down and the boat is quiet for a good night’s sleep. We call it the Gentleman’s Breeze. You have plenty of time then to walk around and enjoy the sights, shop or find a bakery.

Garlic Ropes
Garlic Ropes

If you want to sail, hopefully going south, then you have a sleep in, morning coffee, sail to a lunch spot, swim and in the early afternoon the breeze comes in and you can sail for miles under fresh breezes.

Kioni Harbour
Kioni Harbour

Jimbsail.info is a wonderful resource for sailors sailing in the Mediteranean  and he has information about the Inland Sea of the Ionian enclosed by Kephalonia, Ithaka, Mainland Greece, Meganisi and Preveza. In all the Med, this is sailing that most reminds me of Sydney Harbour. The Inland sea is good area for novices and families. It is a great place to sail in Greece and not have to work around the Meltemi or struggle going to windward.

The Inland Sea
The Inland Sea

The captain and crew on Mercier, have wooden boats in their veins. Squadron friends know Ric and Sandy have the lovely classic yacht, Rapunzel. On Ithaca, both In Vathi and Kioni, we spotted the classic wooden yacht Rubicon, and Rubincon’s owners, Lance and Charlotte.  They are also members of the Cruising Association.  Hello quickly turned into a chat about wooden boats and their beautiful Rubicon, which they will keep in Greece. Lance calls this “resonance”, finding people with a shared interest and continuing to bump into them.

Saint Nikolas's Cave
Saint Nikolas’s Cave

So our last few days have taken us to Vathi and Kioni on Ithaca as well as Porto Spilia, Meganissi after a swim near St Nicolas’s Cave.  We are enjoying the trip, even though we are moving, but Sandy and I decided it is just the right pace.

Gaila and Sandy
Gaila and Sandy

Meanwhile, fair winds to Rubicon, Charlotte and Lance.  We’ll see you in Sydney.