Voyage of Traveler / Blog

August 31, 2009

Traveler’s Top Ten Photos From Venice (click on image to enlarge)

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Traveler Postcard From Barcelona

Having a great time in Barcelona.  Wish you were here. (Especially Barbara.)

Kellie, Brian and Brian’s friend Jake are partying until dawn every night here in Barcelona.  Brian got rolled by six of B-town’s finest transvestites, with their hands all over him, grabbing his package (yes, it was very late and alcohol was a factor.) He did not realize that one of them was picking his pocket and they were all working together as a “team of distraction.”  One of the queens got 30 Euros cash out of Brian’s front pants pocket, but that’s all.  Could have been much worse, if he had a wallet with his ID or his passport.  They hit Jake too, but only got a pack of gum out of the front pocket of his Levis.  He held onto his wallet with both hands as the pack of “he-shes” were grabbing him.  “Ohhh, c’mon sailor boy, I want to love you long time.”  Brian and Jake were laughing about it when they got back to the boat, at 0600.

With the kids sleeping in until the crack of noon, I have a chance to ride one of our folding bikes around and see the town, at my own pace.  This morning rode the beach boardwalk, saw the Cathedral, Old Town, and the University of Barcelona (where my other son, Scott, will be going this coming spring semester for his study abroad.)

This afternoon I rode over to the Biblioteca and then to the Nautical Museum and did some research on the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, a hobby of mine for some time.  I was able to confirm that it was not Capt. James Cook in 1778, as we all have been taught, but (as I suspected) a Spaniard, Capt. Juan Gaetano, who first visited the Hawaiian Islands in 1555–more than two hundred years before Cook!

I forgot to mention in an earlier Postcard that while we were in Viareggio, Italy, we met up with our friends and former Traveler crew mates, Emma (of France) and Filippo (of Italy).  You may remember, we met them by chance while we were in Tanna, Vanuatu.  They were backpacking around the world via airlines (the smart way to circumnavigate), and decided to joined us for our passage to McKay, Australia. Through emails and then a few cell phone calls, we connected while we were out on Traveler for a day sail and they and two other couples were sailing on a chartered boat down the Italian Riviera on their way to Elba.  Together we motored back into Viareggio’s marina for dinner and drinks on Traveler.  I barbequed and Filippo made wonderful pasta.  We had lots of wine, caught up on cruising stories and had a great time together again.  Cheers!

Livin’ the Dream,

August 28, 2009

Traveler Postcard from St. Tropez

25 August 2009

Bon Jour, Everyone,

I have onboard Traveler now my daughter, Kellie–but just for another week, and my son, Brian, and his friend Jake Kalwitz.  We motor-sailed from Nice to Antibes, then over to St. Tropez and then on down to Iles de Port-Cros, and are now sailing across the Golfe du Lion, headed for Barcelona.

In Antibes we saw the Pablo Picasso Museum.  Kellie, with her recent degree in Art History from the University of Oregon, really enjoyed the paintings and sculptures, while I followed her around and really enjoyed the air conditioning.  The museum is located in this really cool castle that used to be the residence of the Grimaldi royal family (they moved to Monaco a hundred years or so ago). So many mega yachts in the Antibes harbor, wow!  We saw a 80 meter yacht owned by the Saudi royal family that was just ridiculous.  The kids talked with two of the 30 crew on that private “ship” for a half hour, trying to get an invitation onboard, but no way.  The kids then went out to a night club and stayed out dancing until the wee hours, while I got a good night sleep while at anchor in the bay.

In St. Tropez, we anchored just outside the harbor that was packed with even more mega yachts.  Really, the nicest yacht in Newport Beach would just be lost in this crowd of incredibly huge, gorgeous and very well-maintained yachts, all with professional crew, looking sharp in their matching uniforms. We went ashore, had a walk around, bought some gelato, and played bocci ball in the park with the local men.  Brian and Jake got into a fancy night club, Pappas, and got a good look at the fast lane of St. Tropez, staying out until five.

Next we stopped for the night at Iles de Port-Cros, a National Park of France.  It is a lot like Catalina, but more wooded, and still green this late in the summer.  Lots of cruising yachts and day-trippers coming over from Toulon via ferry.  Fun hiking trails, kayaking and snorkeling. We considered staying a second night, but the wind was blowing nicely out of the east (which is very rare.)  The weather report was forecasting strong westerly winds in a couple of days, so we raised the anchor and are now sailing west, down wind, at 6.5 knots, for Barcelona, Spain.

Hasta luego,

August 23, 2009

Traveler Postcard Monaco, Cap Ferrat, Eze and Nice

Hi, Everyone,

Wow, Monaco was amazing.  So many mega yachts in the harbor, and so many Ferraris, Lambourginis and Rolls Royces driving around town.  We had some great people-watching in front of the Hotel de Paris and the Casino de Monte Carlo.  We passed Kim Bassinger on a flight of stairs at the parking garage for the casino.

In Cap Ferrat, just five miles west, we met up with Barbara’s brother, Charles, who rents a villa there each summer.  He was hosting Barbara’s and his niece, Clare, and her friend Kathryn, and their nephew, James, and his friend Mitch, all age 14.  It was fun for Barbara to see some of her family again, especially here in the heart of the French Riviera.  We all had three lovely dinners together, at Charles’ villa, on board Traveler, then at a waterfront restaurant in neighboring Ville-Franche. We also went to the charming hilltop walled village of Eze to walk around and see one of their festivals.

While enjoying the beaches and village of Cap Ferrat, we also had needed repair work done to the anchor windlass.  It is so easy to take something, like the windlass, for granted until it doesn’t work; then you appreciate how useful it is.  It’s no fun humping by hand 200 feet of chain and then a 60 lbs. anchor up from the bottom and onto the deck.  We also had some other electrical work done and had the five winches cleaned and lubed.

But the big story, sadly, is that Barbara flew home from Nice. She had to return to Southern California to resume teaching, and now I must continue on with the circumnavigation without her.  Barbara had been teaching “at risk” 7th and 8th graders at Paramount School District for ten years when she was granted a two year leave of absence to go on this voyage around the world.  Had she taken a third year off, she would have lost her seniority and there would be no guaranty that she would have a job when she returned, which she considered.  But in this down economy, it is good to have a job.

Together, we sailed more than two-thirds the way around the world, across the vast Pacific and Indian Oceans, and through the Red and Mediterranean Seas.  We saw 29 amazing countries in 25 months.  We, along with our other crew mates, won second place in the Transpac Race.  We rescued fishermen adrift off Niue. We partied with the royal family at the King of Tonga’s Coronation.  We bravely (or foolishly?) stood at the edge of an active volcano on the Island of Tanna as it loudly erupted, with lava bombs flying high over our heads.  We took care of each other as we both were sick with e-coli between East Timor and Bali.  We got within a few feet of huge Komodo dragons and orang-utans in Indonesia.  We ran the gauntlet though Somali pirate infest waters of the Gulf of Aden, and then spent (and actually enjoyed) 21 days in Yemen waiting for a new starter for our engine.  We rode horses and camels at the Sphinx and Great Pyramids in Egypt.  We bumped a reef in Fiji, and nearly sank from high winds and waves washing over the deck in the Red Sea, due to a clogged drain in the anchor locker.  We caught a lot of fish, dove with dolphins and whales, ate a lot of exotic foods and drank a lot of good wine, cold beers and mai tais while watching incredibly gorgeous sunsets.  To be sure, the remaining ten months will be a much different, and much more difficult, voyage without my girlfriend and partner, Barbara.  I miss her much.

On the brighter side, when we dropped Barbara off at the nearby Nice Airport, we picked up my son, Brian, who had just landed and is re-joining Traveler, probably for the rest of the voyage.  Later that same day, Brian’s friend, Jake Kalwitz, joined us as well, probably through the rest of the Med.  And the next day, my daughter, Kellie, also re-joined Team Traveler, and she will sail with us as far as Barcelona, where she must return to California on August 31.  Then my brother, Drew, plans to visit from September 20 to 30 for the south of Spain.  And on October 3 in Tangier, Morocco, we pick up Yansen, our Indonesian friend who sailed with us from Bali to Singapore, and he will be with me for the rest of the voyage.  Lots of crew changes.

I’m counting the days until Barbara will be re-joining Traveler for 21 days at Christmas vacation, while we will be in the Caribbean, and then again over her Easter Week when we transit the Panama Canal.  And then when school is out in mid-June she will meet the boat a third time and we will finish the voyage together on the final leg from Cabo San Lucas to Newport Beach.

Still Livin’ the Dream,

Traveler Postcard Roma to Portofino

Hi, Everyone,
We had a blast in Roma, the Eternal City.  On board Traveler with Barbara and me were special guest crew Chris and Bob Kays (my mother and stepfather), who joined us in Sorrento, and Kellie (my daughter), who joined us in Dubrovnik. We left the boat in Porto Roma Marina, after staying aboard there the first night, and taxied into the Pantheon del Sol Hotel.  This was, they claim, the first hotel in Rome, or at least the oldest in continuous use, but it has been nicely renovated and upgraded over the years and is luxurious (four stars). It was quite the treat for Barbara and me to be off the boat to celebrate the fourth anniversary of our first date.  Barbara and I rented a motor scooter, which is a great way to get around to see the many sites of Rome: the Coliseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican (where we climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica) and more.  Chris, Bob, Barbara and I went to an outdoor production of Carmen by the Opera di Roma at the Carcula ruins, which was spectacular.

Chris and Bob left the boat in Rome, as planned, to go on a cruise to Croatia and other ports in the Adriatic, so it was now just Barbara, Kellie and me on Traveler headed north to the Island of Elba, made famous when Napoleon was exiled there in 1816. The main town on Elba is Portoferraio, and its harbor is packed in the summer with about 50 yachts tied stern to the wharf, including a half dozen mega yachts, which makes it a fun place to stroll after dinner while eating a gelato.  We were “stuck” (but really a very nice place to be) here, at anchor, for an unplanned second night due to a wind storm that blew through, but the weather was fine after that.

Our next stop was Viareggio, just north of Pisa.  This marks the beginning of the Italian Riviera and is a convenient place to visit the inland cities, villages and countryside of Tuscany.  It is also where Kellie got off the boat, as planned, for a couple of weeks to join her friends, the O’Deskys, the Weiners, the d’Pollitos and others at an extraordinarily gorgeous, upscale and spacious (sleeps 24) villa in the hills outside of Lucca, surrounded by vineyards and old farmhouses.  Barbara and I got to stay there for two memorable and enjoyable nights.  The first night a chef come to the villa and made pizzas for everyone, with a wide variety of toppings to choose, in a wood-burning outdoor oven.  We drank many bottles of very good wine made by the villa’s owners from grapes grown on their property, and swam in the pool both before and after dinner.  It was magnifico! and certainly a highlight of our trip to Italy.

With our rental car, Barbara and I toured Lucca, Florence, San Giminagno, Siena and Pisa. At the famous Leaning Tower, Barbara set her purse down for just a few seconds to pose for a photo and a thief snatched it.  In the purse she had her wallet (credit cards, cash, ID), her passport, my cell phone and other valuables.  We filed a police report, with little hope of recovering anything, but that is a requirement to get a replacement passport, which we were able to do on a return trip to Florence at the US Consulate office there.  What a bummer!

From Viareggio, we motored north along the stunningly beautiful Cinque Terra coastline, with its five villages, each spaced about a mile apart and built on steep cliffs, to Portofino, where we anchored for two nights.  Portofino has got to be one of the most charming harbors in the Med, perhaps in all the world.  And how wonderful to sail there on your own boat, with the one you love.

Livin’ the Dream,
Michael and Barbara

August 3, 2009

Traveler Postcard From Venice, Taormina, Amalfi, Sorrento and Capri

Buon giorno,

We loved Venezia!  We sailed Traveler into the Lagoon of Venice, something we’ve been looking forward to for many years, while playing Dean Martin’s “Mambo Italiano.”  We were able to berth Traveler at the prestigious San Giorgio Yacht Club, located directly across the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marcos and the Doge’s Palace–a fabulous location–thanks to our Italian former crew member Filippo.  We all especially enjoyed getting some beers and take-out pizza and then cruising and sight-seeing around the narrow canals, crowded with gondoliers.  I stood while driving the dinghy, with gondolas in front and behind us, and sang, “That’s Amore.”  Kellie and her friend Priscilla then wandered and explored around Venice while Barbara and I enjoyed a wonderful operatic concert in a 400 year old church–which we just happened upon while on our dinghy ride in the canals.  Priscilla had to return to the US, but we had a great time cruising from Dubrovnik to Venice with her.

From Venice we sailed south down the Adriatic Sea, well off the east coast of Italy, and stopped for the night at Vieste, located on the “spur” of Italy’s boot.  We stopped here to get some rest and to take shelter from some rough winds and seas (it blew 30, on the bow, with gusts to 40, and after we were safely in the harbor the wind briefly hit 50 knots.) Vieste is probably the most charming place on the east coast of Italy, hosting an old walled town high on a hill with narrow winding streets.

From Vieste we sailed when the wind was good, motor-sailed when it was light, and then had to sail the last 30 miles or so tacking into the wind and against a two knot current because our engine died (again!) to Messina, Sicily.  In Messina, we found a good mechanic who fixed the engine.  The new exhaust elbow we had installed in Turkey warped at the flange allowing raw exhaust to blow in to the engine compartment, fouling the air filter so badly that the engine stalled.  What a mess to clean up.  While we were in Messina (the NE corner of Sicily), we took a train down to Taormina.  Loved Taormina.  Really a gorgeous, delightful place, situated high on a mountainous shoreline, overlooking the Messina Strait.  Mt. Etna graced the background.

After Messina, we stopped at the island of Stromboli, Europe’s most active volcano, for a swim, a BBQ’d fish dinner and to see the natural fireworks of the volcano, which erupted every five to ten minutes and was spectacular at night.  We left at midnight, taking watches, and motored north to Amalfi, arriving there and anchoring just before dark.  We dinghied in to the town for gelato and a walk around, and found it to be very charming, crowded and alive, well into the night.  We had engine troubles, yet again, and had to sail without the engine from Amalfi to Sorrento, even though there was light wind and an adverse current with confused seas around Punta Campanella.  With four miles to go the wind died and the current was pushing us backwards.  We put the dinghy along side of Traveler and had the dinghy, with its 8hp Yamaha outboard, push Traveler.  Barbara, Kellie and I each took turns in the dinghy, which was tough duty due to the choppy sea conditions.  We finally arrived in the Marina Piccola at about 11pm, and somehow found space along the wharf to tie up in the packed little harbor.  This time the problem was the sensor at the bottom of the fuel filter developed an air leak so air was getting mixed in with our diesel just as it was entering our engine, which caused the engine to stall.  We finally got this problem fixed and now the engine is running well. In Sorrento, we met up with Michael’s mother, Chris, and stepfather, Bob Kays. Together, we rented a car and saw the ruins of Pompeii.  Then we all departed Sorrento for nearby Capri Island.

Capri is amazing, one of the best islands we have seen, not just in the Med but anywhere in our world travels.   We anchored, swam, cliff jumped, explored three grottos (Blue, White and Green) by dinghy, went into Capri Town just in time for a gorgeous sunset, some shopping and to enjoy a fabulous Italiano dinner with much chianti at a restaurant on a cliff overlooking the sea and the harbor below.

We (Michael, Barbara, Kellie, Chris and Bob) are now headed for Ponza Island (40-54N, 013-06E), which is midway between Capri and Rome, to do some swimming and snorkeling along a rocky shoreline, and then dinner and to spend the night. Next stop, Roma, where Barbara and Michael will celebrate the fourth (!) anniversary of their first date.

Livin’ the Dream, Italiano-style,
Michael and Barbara
with Kellie, Chris and Bob

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