Thursday 1st July 2010

Today we sailed – whoo hoo. We left our little anchorage and headed up to Athens. The wind

was off our aft quarter and although it was only blowing around 10 – 12 knots, we made 5 – 6 knots with out main and spinnaker raised. We stayed on the same tack for the whole trip up to Athens. The water was smooth and the seas light. The weather was perfect and everyone thrilled at the sail. Now please give me some grace here because perhaps I'm harping on a little regarding the sailing, but I've come the the conclusion that sailing in the Mediterranean is mostly about motoring between destinations as the wind rarely co-operates. I thought that perhaps it was just us picking really bad days to sail in, but after talking to many other

cruisers, they too are counting on one hand the number of days they've actually sailed. As I write this blog, we're again motoring in glassy smooth waters. Blahh !!!

As we approached Athens, the traffic got busier and busier – with all the ships coming and

going near Athens, it was a full time job being on watch to make sure we saw and tracked every vessel moving around us, as we can't rely on them seeing such a small yacht as ours – even with our spinnaker up. Our chartplotter tracked all the moving vessels using the VHF's AIS signal. The screen shot of our chartplotter shows lots of little triangles, each of which represents a vessel, moving in different directions and at different speeds.

We made it to Athens, and into Zea Marina without incident, although as you motor into the harbour we went past a what was probably a nice 3 story 60' boat that had sunk near the edge of the marina. Only the top deck and a little of the bow was above the water line – scary. We were directed to moor stern too on a pontoon filled with huge (read mega expensive) power boats. Now we don't consider Connect4 to be a small yacht by any means, but tying up between these behemoths we felt positively small. We moved our fenders up as high as we could and snuck slowly in between these expensive boats. To add insult to injury, once we were in our berth and tying off, one of the marinaras in a tender at the bow called out “Capitan – I need a rope from you” Walking to the bow to see what he needed, he explained that the bow lines supplied by the marina to tie off our bows were too short to reach our bow. More precicely – Connect4 was too small to reach their bow lines. How humiliating. Mind you, at the price they were charging for the marina berth we felt like we should have been a mega yacht.

We'd elected to stay in Athens marina as I was hesitant about leaving our yacht alone, somewhere else, for three days while we went off. However the down side was that to berth in Zea Marina cost a small fortune. As if that wasn't bad enough, I had to pay an extra 7 Euro just to get a swipe card to let me in their gate (which for some reason wasn't included in the EUR98.00 per night that we already had to pay)

Saturday 3rd July 2010

Yesterday we scouted around some of Athens looking for bits for the yacht and trying to find some underwear and other clothes. When we had the rigging replaced on Connect4 they were meant to fit a stay antenna for our SSB (HF) radio, however when they came to do it, they didn't have the right insulators and they couldn't get the length required. My fall back plan was to buy a whip antenna and mount it off the back of Connect4. I'd hunted down a supplier in Athens who said he had the antenna I needed, and so I went off to find him. When I got to the shop though, he didn't have the antenna in in stock, and when I asked if he could get it for me, he replied no. He said he could offer me a similar antenna, but the price was astronomical. I decided not to pay the earth for an antenna, so I left the shop frustrated at the waste of time. The second item we wanted to buy was some low current cabin fans as now summer is here, it's getting hot sleeping in the cabins. I tracked down a retailer in Athens, after a couple of emails to the manufacturer, however when I rang the retailer, the cost of the fans was about three times the cost of the manufacturers RRP. I left the fans – again disappointed at the cost of life in Anthens.

Friday also brought some other disappointments. As we waited at the traffic lights, to cross the road, I felt somebody rubbing my side. I looked down to see a fellow's hand deftly removing my mobile phone from my belt. I quickly gave him an elbow in the chest and pushed him away from me. He looked at me for a second, with contempt, then moved to the other side of the crowd and disappeared.

We went to see the National Archaeological Museum, and spent the next six hours walking around marveling at the history and the artifacts that they have on display. The statues of the different mythological creatures and people were staggering. We learned that almost all the men are sculptured naked so as to show off their muscles, whereas the women are sculptured dressed to show off their splendid clothing. How times have changed! The history of Athens dates back to over 5000BC and it gives you a strangely haunting sense of connection to run your hands over a sculpture of a hippopotamus that is 7500 years old. Just to ponder the person who worked the stone to sculpt this animal. He's dead and gone and forgotten, but we are still touching and admiring his creation. I wonder if he had any idea that his sculpture would one day be in a museum some 7500 years later?

Now all cities have different standards and we adjust our expectations to suit, but I have to say that Athens on the whole would easily be the dirtiest smelliest town I've ever visited. The rubbish is just dropped wherever they want, and it's left littering the streets in heaps that you have to step around. Much of the rubbish is left over food, which in the heat of the sun takes on a whole new indescribable odour.

Saturday we headed off to see the Arcopolis and the Parthenon. It was a hot and dry day and we were sweating before we even left the boat. We jumped on the busy subway to the Acropolis. After a couple of stops, a large number of people got off and we were excited that we could get a seat. We all sat down to relax and enjoy the rest of the trip; but then noticed the train was strangely empty. A man stuck his head back into the train and informed us in polite english that they were repairing the tracks ahead, so the train wasn't going any further and that we needed to get off and catch a bus the rest of the way. Hmmm – there was no obvious bus, and after asking around we got on a bus that we believed might take us where we needed to go, but we weren't totally sure. After another ½ hour bus trip, the bus stopped and the driver motioned for us to get off. Dismounting, we looking around realising we were in the middle of an industrial area. This wasn't quite where we wanted to go. There we were standing on the roadside with two other English girls who were looking just as lost as we were. Between us we tried to work out where we were and eventually set off together in search of the Acropolis. After a 20minute walk, we finally found the place we wanted to be.

The climb to the Acropolis was hot and tiring. Sadly once we got to the top, we discovered that the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding and was under major repairs. We looked around and took some photos, then headed down again. On the way down it got a little more overcast and we even noticed a couple of drops of rain. Just as we got to the bottom, the heavens opened and we were treated to a downpour, which cooled us off, soaked the streets and freshened up the whole place. It was nice to cool off and kind of funny to watch everyone scampering for cover. After the rain passed, we went off to see Hardian's Arch and another temple of Apollo, before heading back home to Connect4.

To sum up our visit to Athens, while I'm glad we went, just to say we made it and saw it, I don't think I'd be in a hurry to go back and visit it again. The place was smelly, dirty, over prices and the people weren't very friendly. I know this is stereotyping a place after only being there for three days, but that's just the impression we left with. We've seen Athens, but have no desire to go back again.

Monday 5th July 2010

How incredibly awesome was our journey today. Sunday night we anchored in the bay just north of the Corinth Canal in preparation for an early transit and this morning Nick and I dingied over to the canal control building, paid our dues of just over EUR200.00 and then were told to bring Connect4 along side their dock and wait. At EUR200.00 to transit just over 5km of canal, the Corinth Canal is the most expensive canal in the world per metre. Historically, there had been plans and designs to built the Corinth Canal dating back to 2500 BC, however Nero who was the only one who started actually digging. He used a crew of 6000 Jews, but didn't even make it to the rock section before insurrection in Gaul diverted his energies. In early days the ancients used to drag ships across the isthmus on a paved road. Apparently Octavian, in pursuit of Anthony, after the Battle of Actium had his ships dragged across this section of land. The Corinth Canal, as it exists now, was first started by a French company, however was finished by the Greeks in 1983.

While I was waiting at the canal, I met another Aussie, called Steve, from Sydney. His wife and two boys are sailing aboard a yacht called Familia. He bought his yacht in Croatia around the beginning of the year and is heading east to see the Greek Islands and Turkey, before turning around and coming back to cross the Atlantic this November with the ARC. They rafted up to us, and we had their family aboard our yacht to swap stories while we were tied up at the wharf waiting to transit the canal. We're making our way west and are worried we don't have much time. I figure these guys must travel so much faster than us, because we feel like we're running short of time, without heading to Turkey and then back again. But then that's the good thing about sailing – everyone makes their own plans.

The trip through the canal started with a call from the guy in the control tower yelling for us to move off and get going. We followed a small power boat into the canal, then just as they were about to stop people entering the canal, a tug boat came racing in behind. As we made our way up the canal we were in awe at the work and engineering that had been undertaken to create this piece of work. The walls rose up out of the water and the limestone cliffs towered up on either side. We motored up at maximum speed. With both engines going hard, we were getting about 6.2knots out of Connect4 – a personal best. The tug boat came up close to us and was almost tail gating, but we weren't distracted (too much) as the view and the experience was a once in a lifetime adventure. We moved through the canal in awe of the work and the opportunity to motor between land. The sides seemed very close, even though large cruise ships go through the canal. Personally I can't imagine anything much wider or bigger than us transiting the canal, because to me if felt tight, but I know large cruise ships go through as we saw one waiting as we came out of the canal.

Our trip was going well, but at one stage I noticed the captain on the tug boat following us, come out on deck. He yelled to me “Captain … full speed”. I replied “Yes full speed. I'm going as fast as I can Captain” I thought about giving the “Aye Captain I'm givin' 'er all she's got … any more and she's gonna blow” line but I figured he might not be a Trekkie, so the humour would be wasted on everyone but me.

In comparison to Athens, Corinth was a paradise. The streets were clean, the people friendly. As soon as we motored into the harbour we had no shortage of people stopping to help direct us to the best pontoon and then to help us secure mooring lines. We walked through the streets of Corinth and found a beautiful bakery for lunch. We slowly wandered the streets looking for shops selling underwear for Cheryl and I, bathers for Chelsea and copper ribbon to make an earth plane for our SSB radio. We found some underwear for me, bathers for Chelsea, but nothing for Cheryl, nor for Connect4. At this rate, poor Cheryl will soon be going 'a-la-natural' since our underwear doesn't seem to be standing up to the salt water too well.

Tuesday 6th July 2010

We hopped on a bus to Ancient Corinth today. We left “Connect4” securely tied up in the Corinth harbour and explored the old city. This city was amazingly sophisticated for its day and even had a sewerage system. It was nestled in a beautiful location in front of a majestic mountain, with views out to the sea. We walked the streets which were still paved with stones from the original city. As we walked the streets and looked at the old houses and shops it was very easy to imagine this city in it's former days. It was an amazing to walk the streets that Paul from the Bible walked. History shows that he lived here for 18 months in AD 51 while he worked as a tent maker and preached the stories of Jesus. After having visited Ephesus and now Corinth, it's impressive to imagine the distances that this guy travelled, given the period .

Although the day was hot, we loved looking around Corinth and could easily have spent much longer in the city.

Wednesday 8th July 2010

We motored from Corinth to Galaxidhi today. Now the day wouldn't have been anything special, since there was no wind and we had glassy smooth waters everywhere, except that half way through the day we saw a couple of pods of dolphins playing around in the water near us. Dolphins are pretty rare in the Mediterranean, so to see one or two is impressive; but we saw about 30 – 40 of them. Even better was the fact that they were swimming towards us! Since there wasn't any wind or waves, we stopped Connect4, killed the motors, stripped down to our underwear and jumped in to join them. What happened next was an incredible experience that we'll remember for the rest of our lives. The dolphins along with their babies, surrounded our yacht as they jumped and frolicked nearby. Over and over again, they jumped out of the water, twisting around and splashing back down, seeming to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. If they were putting on the show for us alone, it wouldn't have been better. They raced past us and swam underneath us. Whenever we dived under the water, we were inundated with their squeals and clicks as they talked to each other. One swam near me and I tried talking to him underwater. I was amazed that as soon as I'd stopped “talking” he responded back to me with his own chattering. It's hard to describe how majestic and amazing the experience was, we could have stayed with them all day and not got bored. Sadly though, after about 20 minutes, they decided to move off, and as if in one accord, they were gone and the water was empty, save for the four of us.

Almost as exciting, well for me anyway, was the discovery that the engines on Connect4 can actually run faster than we thought they could. The tachometers on Connect4 both have a red sticky “needle” that has been stuck on the glass at around 2300 RPM. I took that to mean that the 'red line' for the engines are at 2300 RPM and should be run accordingly. Mostly when we motor, we run the engines at around 1800 RPM which gives us good economy and keeps us under the 2300 RPM red line. Often to save fuel, I'll run one engine which gives us around 4.3knots. Today as we were motoring in the calm, I had two engines running at 1800 RPM and was going along at about 4.9 - 5.0knots. Doing my watch, I noticed in the distance behind us, what looked like another catamaran catching up on us. I watched them for a little while as they got closer and thought they looked familiar, so I gave them a call on the VHF. I was excited to hear that it was Edd and Kay from “Leahona”. If you remember, we were moored opposite “Leahona” in Marmaris, and Edd helped us with our first anchoring experience. We chatted on the radio for a bit and I queried Edd how he was catching up to us so quickly, since we knew he normally motors only with one engine and we were running two. The short of the conversation was that he has similar engines to ours and informed us that we should be able to run the engines up to at least 3600 RPM. I dived below and consulted my Yanmar owners manual to discover that we could actually run them at 3600 RPM indefinitely and 3800 RPM for one hour. We'd been pretty much motoring everywhere just a little above idle - groan! With a thrill of discovering something new, we slowly ran the motors faster and faster and were rewarded with “Connect4” picking up her skirt and taking off. We took the motors up to 3500 RPM each and achieved a best of 8.2knots, the bows parting the wake and the stern burying itself into the waters as we churned a path. We were flying !!! Looking back, I guess the red line on the tachometers was probably a guide speed for the charter people to operate at for cruising, not a maximum. Live and learn. Now we not only have a yacht that can keep up with “Wind Machine” and “Apparition”, but can probably out pace than. Now we can't wait to see them again. Much to Cheryl's chagrin, in my excitement, I put out a very improper call on channel 16 “Hey Leahona! - We're doing 6 knots now!” Cheryl was just telling me off for my inappropriate behaviour on the radio when a call came back from another vessel “Vessel doing 6 knots, vessel doing 6 knots … good on ya!!” What a great day it's been.

Thursday 8th July 2010

There's been a job that I've been putting of doing for a couple of weeks now. The anchor windlass has been starting to play up. Sometimes when I press the button to winch up the anchor, all I hear is a “click” of the contactor closing, but no windlass. It started a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed that I'd have to press the windlass button a number of times before the windlass would start operating. The fault started as an annoyance, because I might have to press the windlass button 2-3 times before it would start working. As with most problems though, the longer you leave them the worse they get. The last time I pulled the anchor up I spent what felt like at least 5 minutes of feverishly pressing the button, listening to the 'click', 'click', 'click' of the contactor, but nothing moving. “Aaarrggghhhh – why didn't I fix this fault earlier”. The prospect of hauling up 50m of anchor chain with a 60lb anchor on the end wasn't appealing in the least, but it was looking more and more likely the longer time went by. With relief, on button press 3487 the anchor windlass finally did start and we hauled up the anchor. I'm not a gambling man, but I was figuring that the next time I needed the anchor windlass, it likely wouldn't work at all. First job was to work out if it was the contactor that was faulty or the windlass motor itself. I was praying it would be the contactor, as this would be cheaper and easier to fix than the windlass motor itself. Fortunately, the fault turned out to be in the contactor itself. I slithered into the anchor locker, upside down, lying uncomfortably on the remainder of the chain, my head supporting my body weight wedged up against the bottom far corner of the anchor locker. This was turning out to be a real peachy job – I could already feel my neck twisting to angles it was never meant to go to. As quickly as I could, I disconnected the windlass contactor wires and removed the unit. Cheryl and the kids had to help pull me out from the anchor locker as there was no way I was getting out unassisted. The smooth sloping sides of the anchor locker weren't giving any chance of a purchase. On deck, and right way up again, I set too dismantling the contactor, figuring that if I couldn't repair it, there was no loss, since it wasn't working anyway. I carefully opened it, keeping track of every nut, bolt and spring. Inside the contactor it was black and worn. The contacts themselves were worn down and looking sad. There was so much black that it was little wonder the contactor failed. I'd just got out the sand paper to try to clean up the contacts, when Cheryl bounded into the cockpit. With a look of worry she exclaimed “I've been watching us for a couple of minutes and our anchor's dragging!” There are many words that could be used to describe my thoughts right at that point in time as I looked at the insides of the windlass contactor spread all over the table – perhaps they're best left out of this blog. We both jumped on deck and watched for a few more minutes, lining up land marks and feeling the anchor chain. With a sigh of relief, we realised that we weren't really dragging anchor, but rather the wind had just changed direction and we were moving around a little. I quickly got back to cleaning and repairing the contactor then assumed my upside down position in the anchor locker while I re-connected the contactor. With excitement I pressed the “Up” button and the anchor went “Up”. I tried the “Down” button and lo-and-behold the anchor went “Down”. Another job completed.

Monday 12th July 2010

As I type this up, we're motoring west along the Gulf of Patras towards our next stop. We've just enjoyed three days relaxing in Navpaktos, a beautiful little harbour and town that is still fortified inside castle walls. There isn't any shortage of castle ruins along this part of the coast, but what makes Navpaktos so unique is that the little quay is inside the castle walls and you sail into the quay through the side of the castle. Being a large catamaran, we entered cautiously since it was a very narrow passage. We managed to get inside, but quickly realised our 13metres wasn't going to fit too well along side all the other 3m boats. Feeling conspicuously large, we carefully turned around in our own length, as only a catamaran can do, then quietly left to anchor out the front in the harbour.

Navpaktos is always going to be a memorable place for us, because soon after we anchored, we saw two dolphins who curiously came within a couple of meters of the back of our yacht. These graceful creatures stayed around the bay for the whole time we were there, and we got very used to hearing the sound of them gently surfacing and taking a breath. Often as we sat on the deck at sunset, we they would quietly swim alongside our yacht, their presence belied only by the sound of their breathing as they seemingly enjoying the sunset at the end of the day, just as we have were.

Grandma sent some money over to Nick and Chelsea for Easter, as she wasn't able to take the children out for the usual “Easter day out with Grandma”. Since then we'd been on the lookout for an opportunity to spend Grandma's money on a treat for the kids. While sailing into Navpaktos, we saw the perfect opportunity – a water slide park. We went to the park and enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours watching Nick and Chelsea having the time of their lives on the water slides. I even had a chuckle when one of the larger guys came down the water slide and wet Cheryl with the spray as they hit the pool at the bottom. 10 minutes later, Cheryl again got wet by same guy in the same group. It didn't take too much working out to realise they were playing the game of “wet the cute chick”. Poor Cheryl got doused another 2-3 times, but since it was a hot day, it was all in good fun.

The dolphins hung around the harbour and we tried swimming with them a couple of times, but they were wise to humans and stayed their distance when we were in the water – perhaps it was my aftershave? Sunday night, we put the kids to bed, left in the care of our electronic nanny (our VHF radio – we took a hand held into town) and we found a little bar to watch the Soccer Grand Final. It was a nice night out, but the grand final wasn't as action packed as I'd hoped it would be. Perhaps it's just me, but it wasn't as riveting as I thought it would be.

Tuesday 13th July 2010

Today we motor sailed from Mesolongion to Argostoli, Kefalonia, which is the large island just west of the Patras channel. The sail wasn't bad to start with, however once we rounded the bottom of Kefalonia the NW wind we had turned westerly and we were beating into 20 – 25 knots. Connect4 was making good work of the rough conditions, however we did have one loss. The port side trampoline got punched from a rouge wave and sadly is no longer. Both our trampolines are old and we know they need replacing, however we were hoping to squeeze out a little more life before we had to put out to buy new ones. Now Connect4 looks a little naked up front, so we're working on purchasing some new trampolines. Since we're doing some serious blue water sailing in the coming months, we will probably replace the trampolines with nets, so that the water can drain through them much better. Something we've been told is imperative on offshore passages.

Saturday 17th July 2010

Well we checked out of Greece, turned in our transit log and left on Thursday night, and headed out on our longest offshore leg yet. We were covering 192NM from Ceffalonia to Roccella Ionica in Italy. While it wasn't a monumental distance by any means, it's still the longest single offshore leg we've ever done, so we were feeling both excited and apprehensive about it. The good news was that despite the fact that we set off in conditions that were initially marginal for sailing – Connect4 doesn't point into the wind too well, we were to cover 120NM in the first 24 hours. Sad to confess, we had to motor some of the way, but overall we sailed well, generally maintaining about half the wind speed.

We arrived in Roccela Ionica around 2pm on Saturday, with all crew intact and feeling good. I particularly enjoyed the night watches, and while I was still tired the next day, could feel that we could easily get into a routine for watches. Watches while at sea are an important part of sailing offshore. We believe that we should always have someone on watch and we keep a lookout every 10minutes, in addition to the AIS and radar warning systems we have in place already. We like to be safe.

Thursday 22nd July 2010

As I write this, we're sitting on a train heading back to Roccela Ionica. We've had a fantastic but hectic few days as we've toured around Rome, visited the Vatican and St Peter's Basillica, danced out the front of Fontana de Trevi (ok … well perhaps not).

We caught a train from Rocella Ionica to Rome Sunday night gone. We elected to take the overnight train with a sleeper carriage, as it gave us a chance to sleep while saving a night's accommodation and not wasting a day's travel. We arrived in Rome Monday morning and, after dropping our bags off at the motel, we joined the queue to see the Vatican. The queue was long and hot. After two and a half hours, we made it to the front of the queue and got our tickets. From there, we were sucked up into a whirlpool of bodies as we drifted with the flow from room to room looking at the wealth of the Vatican and inspecting the treasures that had been donated or otherwise “acquired” by the various Popes throughout the ages. The opulence in the buildings and the antiquities was beyond comprehension. To see so much wealth in one place, was astounding, it was almost embarrassing. Now, no doubt somebody may disagree with me here, but I really was disappointed by the Vatican. The impression I got was that I was touring a well designed money making capital venture. I understood the Vatican to be the head of the Catholic Church, and as such I expected to see history of the Catholic Church within the walls of the Vatican. I'd hoped to see information about the Popes and maybe see some of the things they'd been doing around the world to relieve famine, or to spread the word of God. Sadly, for me anyway, what I saw was a Church that had used it's power and influence to amass fortunes that as Cheryl noted “could relieve poverty in a small country”. The Vatican tour felt more like an opportunity for the Vatican to show off the wealth of the Catholic Church rather than what I had expected. And, as if that wasn't enough, everywhere I turned there was a little souvenir shop selling fridge magnets of the Pope himself, or post cards of some of the more famous artefacts. Of course, no tour of the Vatican would be complete without a visit to the Sistine Chapel. Here we met even larger queues, and waited as we were slowly filtered into the Sistine Chapel. Signs outside advised that there was to be no photography inside and that we were to respect the sanctity of the chapel by keeping our voices quiet. We were ushered into a room that looked like a school gymnasium. It took a moment to realise that this rectangular, high roofed room was actually the Sistine Chapel. As we looked around, we saw a mass of people, shouting, and yelling to each other as they took photographs of everything they could, camera flashes were going off everywhere. We stood and looked around at the fiasco. A security guard came up to us and motioned for us to move on – apparently we were standing at the alter. We looked around at the paintings and while they were good, my impression was that their assumed status preceded their actual effect. I was a little disappointed.

Note the sign on the entrance to the Sistine Chapel. They are pretty strict here – No nose picking, No pushing people down stairs and no photographs.

We left the Vatican museum and made our way into St Peter's Basilica. This church, inside the Vatican grounds, shows the sheer opulence of the Catholic Church. St Peter's Basilica is an amazingly beautiful and decorated church. The ceilings are high and beautifully decorated in gold and intricately carved designs. The sheer size of the interior of the church takes a moment to grasp. Housed within the church are various forms of art, Michelangelo's Pieta, which is a famous sculpting of Mary nursing the body of Jesus. There are sculptings of the various Popes with reliefs of angels floating by their shoulders. Inside the church were various tombs of past priests, some enshrined in glass cases so that people could walk past and pay their respects; and people were. There were queues of people lining up, praying before the glass coffins of priests. There was a line of 40 or 50 people, waiting solemnly in line to walk past the bronze statue of St Peter, to kiss his right toe, or to pray beneath his statue. So many people have kissed this guy's toe that they've just about worn all the detail away. You might get the impression that I'm not impressed? I'm not pushing my beliefs on anyone here, but I thought the whole purpose of the church was to direct people to God, and to help people – after all, wasn't that what Jesus was about? Walking around the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica, I got the distinct impression that this “machine” isn't really that interested in God, but rather is wanting to exonerate the priests, the popes and the Catholic Church. It's feels more like a power unto itself and seems to be there only to serve its own agenda. As we were walking through the piaza out the front of St Peter's Basilica, but still inside the Vatican, I happened upon a magazine, produced, I presume by the Catholic Church called “The Catholic World Report” - the headlines on the cover read like a copy of some trash magazine “The scandals of Cardinal Sodano”, “Radical Chic at Catholic Colleges”, “The Case of the Missing Bishop” and the likes. This just defies comment, for something produced by a church!

We left the Vatican and walked to see some of the other sights of Rome. We wandered along the streets of Baroque Rome, stepping over the cobble stone paths, enjoying the sights and smells of old Rome, all the while watching closely for pick pockets. We stopped at a beautiful little Piazza, ate some pizza, had some gelati, guzzled more water and walked some more. We saw the famous Fontana de Trevi, where they filmed the famous scene from “Three Coins in a Fountain”.

We walked to the Spanish Steps and listened to some music as the sun was setting. As we stood there a gentleman with a bunch of flowers wandered up and offered some to us. We graciously declined; there are street sellers everywhere offering everything from squeezy toys to sun glasses, to hats and almost anything else you could imagine. Despite repeated pleas of “no gracia” the gentleman persisted and put a couple of red roses into Cheryl's arms, she refused to accept them in her hands – again he assured us that they were a gift from him, from Italy, to bring good luck on himself. We've learned in our travels to be cautious about anyone offering something for nothing, but as he handed a rose to Chelsea he again assured us that this was free. Wondering if we'd been a bit cynical of this guy, we were just letting our guard down and were about to thank him for his generous gift when he turned to me and, holding out his hand for money, asked for a little money for the roses. Before I had a chance to react, and give him a mouthful, Cheryl turned on him thrusting the roses back into his arms. In her words “I blew my stack! I thrust the flowers back at him and yelled at him (very politely of course) about how that was lying and not a nice thing to do. And said how dare he try to ask for money when I had been so clear about not wanting the flowers, and he insisting they were a gift. He really copped a mouth full. He got me really incensed. Afterwards the kids both said “Wow Mum, I've never seen you get that angry before”

That night we rested our weary feet and slept well. The alarm went off all to early the next day and we leapt out of bed with vigour. Ok … well perhaps I lied a little there. Lets say we dragged ourselves out of bed and after a quick breakfast of yummy fresh pastries we set off exploring once again. We saw the Colosseum, which was impressive to say the least and learned a lot about the history of Rome. As our guide put it – “Rome has had some leaders over the years that weren't quite all together. Nero being the worst”. Nero had an inclination for excesses and basically plundered Rome's finances to build eccentric monuments and buildings to himself. After Nero's demise, the new emperor was so embarrassed by his predecessor's excesses that he constructed the Colosseum, for the people, on the area that was a man made lake in Nero's private gardens.

The Colosseum has an interesting history. A big bronze statue of Nero, almost four stories high, called “The Colossus“ was erected by Nero, adjacent to the location of the Colosseum. The Colosseum was really a big amphitheatre but during its construction, due to a typographical error, the person responsible for the construction accidentally referred to the amphitheatre as the Colossus and from that time onwards became known as the Colosseum. The bronze statue of Nero was subsequently torn down; the bronze being used to make weapons, but the Colosseum became the centre piece of entertainment and entertain it did – it had quite a blood thirsty reputation from its first days. At the opening ceremony, we were told that the Colosseum designer was invited to the opening, then before the roaring crowds, was pushed into the centre of the arena where he was mauled to death by wild animals that were released upon him. The Colosseum's arena floor was constructed of wood, which was covered in sand. Underneath the floor is a labyrinth of passages and chambers where the wild animals were kept – to be released through trap doors in the floor of the arena at the appropriate time.

Contrary to popular belief, no Christians were ever fed to the lions inside this Colosseum. However there were regular battles between gladiators, gladiators and animals, and animals – most often to their death.

We continued our walk and saw the Palatine Hill, where all the senators, city rulers and rich folk lived. The area, although in ruins, was an attestation to the high life they must have lived as governors and town officials – I guess not much has changed in 2000 years.

Late in the afternoon, we raced back to the train station and caught the local train out to Naples – home of the pizza and Napolitano sauce. For some reason, we'd anticipated that Naples would be a suave town, that would have some nice views and some fine institutions. We were sorely disappointed. From our 5 minute walk between the train station and our motel, we decided to stay indoors after dark, to watch our backs and pockets and to stay in the mainstream places. Back in the motel that night, we read about what to do and see in Naples. One web review promoting Naples summed up our initial impressions: “Although considered by many a dirty and dangerous place to visit, and often a place best avoided, with some care and pre planning you can visit the town in relative safety. If you are careful you will generally be alright.” Yep – and this guy was promoting Naples ??!! He could sell ice cubes to the Eskimos.

We were careful, and we did lay low, and we didn't have any problems, besides people continually begging and asking for money from us at every opportunity. It's kind of sad that this happens so much, because it makes everyone so suspicious of everyone else. For example, as we were walking down to the subway, to catch a train out to see Pompeii, I noticed a woman (tourist) struggling to get two large bags onto the escalator. She was holding up the queue and it was obvious she wasn't going to manage. I stepped up to her and said “That looks awkward, would you like some help you with those?”. She looked at me wondering how I was going to scam her and how much my offer of help was going to cost her. Finally after some persistence and her realising there was no way she was going to manage alone, I grabbed one of her suitcases and helped her down the escalator. As I gave her the bag back at the bottom, I could see she was still wondering what the catch was. I felt sorry for her, but she felt the same way we have almost every time someone has offered to help us here in Italy.

Wednesday morning, we were up bright eyed and bushy tailed. We had a quick breakfast and dashed off to catch the afore mentioned train to Pompei.

Pompei was awesome. I don't know how else to describe it, other that to say it was like stepping back in time 2000 years. The whole town, and what a large town it is, covering some 44 hectares, is filled with streets, buildings, shops, bakeries, temples, cafes, amphitheatres and even a shop of ill repute. All these buildings have been almost perfectly preserved. If you aren't familiar with Pompei, it was a thriving city, home to some many thousands of citizens. Of much interest was some of the graffiti that had been etched into the walls of the city by the citizens, giving an idea of what day to day life must have been like.

In AD 72 they suffered an earthquake that damaged some of the buildings in the city, however it's evidenced that they were still in the process of repairing this damage when something even worse happened to them. On the morning of 24th August 79AD, a sudden tremor abruptly interrupted the daily routine of the inhabitants of Pompei. This was followed shortly afterwards by a tremendous blast signalling the beginning of a violent eruption with a column of lapilli rising over 20,000 meters into the sky. Carried by the wind, this cloud of lapilli hailed down upon Pompei, submerging the city in just a few hours in some three meters of material. The roofs of many houses caved in under the weight, often crushing and killing those who had taken refuge within. But the worst was yet to come. At dawn of the following day, the first pyroclastic flow, composed of hot gas and dine ash, hit Pompei and sealed the fate of every person and animal it encountered. The burning ash clogged the lungs and caused death by suffocation. Shortly thereafter, when already no living thing was left in the city, a second flow, much more powerful than the first, fell with fury upon the walls of the town, toppling or sweeping away their upper portions. It has been calculated that this pyroclastic flow was probably travelling at speeds of between 65 and 80 kph as it engulfed and carried off objects, roofing tiles and even the bodies of the dead Pompeians. Other surges hit Pompei in waves after the city had already been destroyed. In the end, Pompei was left buried under 5-6 meters of ash and lapilli in a desolate grey landscape whose only features were a few protruding walls.

As we walked through the streets of Pompei, we saw perfectly preserved houses and shops, temples and streets. Mosaic floors and paintings on the walls showed scenes from the lives of these people. At every turn we were captivated by another street just as it was when Pompei was a thriving city. At the entrance to one house, we saw a mosaic of a dog with an inscription next to it – translated it means “Beware of the Dog”. Some things never change! We also saw the destruction and the pain that the citizens must have gone through in their final minutes of life in Pompei. We saw casts of men, women and animals that were made by archaeological teams as they uncovered the shells of the people, who enveloped in ash were “cast” into the ground around them, capturing their final moments. The casts were incredibly haunting as we could make out shapes and the facial expressions of the people at the moment they died.

Overall Pompei was one of our highlights of our journey inland to Rome, and certainly one that will be remembered for many years to come. Leaving Pompei behind, we went back to our motel, again exhausted but happy. We fell asleep to the sound of our feet throbbing.

Thursday morning, we woke again and had breakfast, then raced off to board our train to take us back to Rochelle Ionica and our beloved “Connect4”. On the way we saw beautiful beach side towns, where the shores were filled with tourists and beach umbrellas. We saw green country sides and ruins intermingled with farms and factories. We enjoyed the train ride back, but what we enjoyed seeing even more was “Connect4” sitting patiently at the end of the wharf where we had left her. We went for a swim at the beach, to wash the grime of Naples and the train trip from our sweaty bodies, then went to the pizzeria for a 1m pizza.

One thing I've not mentioned about this marina, that perhaps I should qualify, is that it's an incomplete marina. The pontoons are here, and there is some water available, but there isn't any electricity, showers or other services. For this reason, our cruising guide says that the marina is free for the first 5 days of stay. We like things that are free. Unfortunately when we arrived, a police man called on the first night and asked each boat to pay 20 euro for berthing. We reluctantly paid the money, then later saw a hastily stuck up notice at the end of the pontoon stating that all visiting yachts must pay a fee of 20 euro per night to berth. Some other boats told us that they believed the “fee” wasn't quite legitimate and warned that often the police here are the biggest crooks. I was discussing this 20 euro fee with another cruising couple, whose girlfriend was Italian and she quickly informed us that the translation of the notice at the end of the pontoon reads quite differently depending which language you read. The English version states a fee of 20 euro is payable per night. The Italian version of the notice states that if you would like to make a donation towards your stay, 20 euro would be appreciated, but is certainly not compulsory. She added that many locals pay nothing as the marina is still incomplete. So we got stung once with this 20 euro donation, but since then, we've been arranging our evenings so that we aren't on the boat around the time the police man calls. Last night for example, we happened to be up at the pizzeria enjoying the fruits of our 20 euro saved when we saw the police man making his rounds. Life's tough.

Saturday 24th July 2010

We left Roccella Ionica and set sail for Taormina which is on the east coast of Sicily, a distance of approximately 70NM. We were planning to leave around midnight as the wind filled in, but when I got up to check at midnight, it was glassy smooth without a hint of wind. I climbed back into bed and reset the alarm for 1:30am. The next time the alarm went off, I was fast asleep and had trouble rousing myself. I got up and staggered to the deck. Again it was dead calm. As we didn't have a lot of fuel onboard, I didn't want to motor any more than necessary. It had turned out to be harder to get fuel in Italy than we'd thought – we'd not found any fuel docks. They said we could order fuel from a tanker, however when I rang them, they weren't interested in delivering less than 1000 litres of fuel; we can only hold around 300 litres. I ended up borrowing an antique bicycle from the visitor information centre and riding the some 3km's into town to the petrol station. There I filled up two 20ltr jerry cans with diesel and after tying a rope between the handles of the two cans, I hoisted them over my shoulders then proceeded to pedal a pretty crooked and slow path back to the marina. By the time I got back, my shoulders were aching, my legs like jelly and my neck with a permanent kink in it. I'd planned to cycle a couple of trips to the petrol station, but after the first trip I decided to make do with the little fuel I'd taken on board. I went back to bed with the alarm set for 3:00am.

3:00am came around in a blink of an eye. It was still dead calm, but if we didn't leave at this time, then we'd be arriving in Taormina in the dark. So without a breath of wind, we raised anchor and set off down the coast of Italy. Cheryl went back to bed to sleep and I took the first watch. When I finally woke up proper, I felt pretty good, so stayed up until morning, letting Cheryl sleep – I know Cheryl doesn't sleep too well in the daytime, so the more sleep she gets at night the better. Me on the other hand, I'll sleep whenever and wherever (I'm a tart).

There's not much to say about the motor down the coast of Italy, the only highlight being around 4:30am, while on watch, I heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter nearby. I quickly jumped out of the cockpit to see a helicopter hovering just to the side of “Connect4” barely 50' above the sea. He sat to the side of us for a minute, checking us out, before performing a full lap around “Connect4” coming to a halt somewhere just off our stern – no doubt checking out our yacht name and details. After a couple more seconds, he performed another low level circuit of “Connect4” and then banked and flew off. I returned to the cockpit and continued an otherwise quiet watch.

We motored all the way down the coast until we got to the bottom of the Italian coastline – there the weather took a sudden turn for the worse. The non existent wind suddenly turned into 20knots, straight on the bow. Fifteen minutes later it was up to 25knots, gusting to 30knots. We watched the waves build and then watched the wind pick up to a constant 30knots. The wind came quickly without warning, evidenced by the number of floating “toys” we saw flipping and bouncing our way. Chelsea was on toy count, and counted no less than about nine toys (floaties, air beds, inflatable cushions etc) that went flying past us, carried from wave tip to wave tip as the wind blew them over the ocean toward us. We saw a red inflatable rocket making it's way towards us, so we changed heading and tried to intercept it. With Cheryl on the lifelines, hook in hand, and me at the helm, holding an intercept course, we managed to pluck the red rocket out of the water and bring it onboard. One win for “Connect4”. Unfortunately, at the same time a wave broke over the bow of “Connect4” and tore off the starboard trampoline, taking the aluminium frame that secured the back of the trampoline to the boat. One win for Neptune! Now we have no trampolines!

Nick: The best thing about the day was seeing all the toys floating by. I wish we could have stopped and collected them all

We continued our westward journey under two engines, burning way too much fuel. By this time the wind had picked up to 40knots, gusting to to something nearer 50knots. We knew we'd not make Taormina with the fuel we had, since we were only making 2knots headway in the rough conditions. With 28NM still to go, this was going to be another 14hours!!! We weighed up the options of turning around and running for cover back from where we'd come. This didn't appeal to us too much since we'd fought so hard to make the headway. If we turned around, the nearest anchorage was where we'd come from; at least 8 hours up the coast. There was one little bay nearby on the coast of Italy, but the cruising guide said that there'd been many reported cases of aggravated robberies against cruising yachts in this bay, so not to go there unless it was a real emergency. In the end, we decided to deploy our parachute anchor and wait it out. Deploying our parachute anchor was a whole new experience since this was the first time we'd ever done it. In the end however we were sitting nicely into the wind, moving with a drift of only about 0.7 of a knot, feeling quite comfortable as our big red parachute sat out the front of “Connect4” like a giant lazy jelly fish. I laid down in the cockpit and immediately fell asleep for a couple of hours. When I woke, the wind had turned and had abated a little. We retrieved the parachute anchor and set off in 35knot winds, with a triple reef in the main sail and a handkerchief sized jib unfurled. Even with this small amount of sail, we were still racing along at around 6knots, the waves on our beam, sometimes slapping the side of “Connect4” and breaking over the top of the bimini. As we raced along in the sloppy, rough seas, we heard a weather warning come in on the VHF. We switched channels to listen to the report of gale force winds blowing up to Force 8 in the gulf of Messina. Cheryl and I, fearing the worst, quickly raced inside to the saloon to check just how strong “Force 8” was going to get. We looked up the Beaufort wind scales and realised that Force 8 was only 34-40knots. We were already sailing in 36knots, gusting to 40+. We were officially sailing in our first gale! While it was a little intimidating to be sailing in this much wind and waves, I have to say that “Connect4” was handling the conditions like a walk in the park. She felt so stable and in control that we had no worries about her handling in these conditions. We both curled up in the cockpit and read, while the children watched a DVD in the saloon. It may seem that we were enjoying the ride, but this wasn't quite true. Soon after, Nick was in the cockpit throwing up, the rest of us desperately focussing on the horizon trying not to think too much about our churning stomachs and the perpetual taste of metal in my mouth (a precursor to me throwing up). It may sound selfish, but we were relieved that Nick was the only one that succumbed and chucked – but rest the rest of us weren't that far off though.

While sailing in the rough conditions, Nick, who had just finished throwing up and was now intently focussed on the horizon suddenly shouted that he'd spotted something floating in the water behind “Connect4”. Since finding the “red rocket” the kids have been keeping a sharp look out for any other “treasures” in the ocean that may float past. We all looked at the object that was rapidly disappearing from view. Nick was the first to say “Hey it looks like a radar reflector – it looks like our radar reflector”. I quickly jumped up on deck and scanned the rigging. Our radar reflector was missing!!! That radar reflector cost me about $50.00 – there was no way I was loosing anything more to Neptune. With Nick and Chelsea on lookout, Cheryl on the fishing net and me at the helm, we turned “Connect4” around and headed back to collect OUR radar reflector. After three failed attempts because the seas were too rough and the reflector slipping nimbly from our grasp, we finally got it onboard on the fourth attempt.

We eventually arrived at Taormina, the starboard trampoline in shreds, the yacht soaked in salt water, us soaked in salt water, our parachute anchor dripping wet in the cockpit, and it being totally dark and our radar reflector looking sorry for itself behind the helm. We crept into the anchorage tired but relieved. Cheryl was at the helm, I was racing between the radar and the deck trying to see where we were going and to avoid any “objects”. We made our way towards a cluster of yachts we could see tucked into a corner of the bay and dropped anchor. With relief we secured “Connect4” and climbed into bed glad the day was over.

Tuesday 27th July 2010

As I type this, we've just anchored in a little bay on the island of Vulcano. We set off from Taormina yesterday afternoon, and headed up the Messina Straight. This can get pretty horrible if the winds are blowing on the nose and especially if the tide is against the wind. We were planning on motoring up to a fuel dock, filling up with diesel, then as the dock closed at 9:00pm we were going to stay moored there until around 3:00am when the tide was suiting our transit, then make the run. As it turned out, the fuel dock was closed, so we tied up anyway, and walked the jerry cans to the nearest service station – obtaining our fuel the hard way. We had such a great run up to the fuel dock, averaging approximately 8knots with one motor, that we decided to keep going. We got back onboard “Connect4” and even though it was getting dark, we kept going. We had a fantastic motor up through the Messina Straights. When our friends on “Wind Machine” went through earlier in the week, they were hit with sharp seas and 35+ knots on the nose. It wasn't a good trip for them. We kept motoring towards Messina since it looked good weather. We went through the Messina Straights watching the radar and the AIS since the traffic was pretty busy. There were lots of large vessels moving fast through the narrow straight. Although we were moving at 6-8 knots, we felt like a koala trying to cross a highway. Once we left the straights, we turned left and headed towards Milazzo, but ended up going a couple of miles north of Milazzo and anchoring out in the lee of a north shore line for the night. We climbed into bed about 3am and grabbed a few hours sleep. Next morning we were up around 9am and motoring towards Vulcano. The wind was frustrating to say the least, so after a couple of hours of trying to catch the wind, we gave up and motored. I can't believe how much we've been motoring lately. I've clocked just over 100 hours since Santorini – on each engine !!!

We arrived in Vulcano around 4:30pm, tired and glad to be on land. We anchored in what felt like a supermarket car park. The yachts are packed in so tightly here that we struggled to find a “park” let alone anchor. We finally got the anchor down and caught up with “Wind Machine” who we haven't seen since Santorini. They saw how tired we were and graciously invited us over for dinner. How sweet. The lasagne was beautiful. We went back to “Connect4” and collapsed. We woke around 10am the next day.

Wind Machine” and another American yacht were doing a climb up to the top of the volcano and invited us to join them. We gladly accepted and so early the next morning we set off for a climb of a lifetime to see a smouldering volcano. It took quite a few hours to climb and we were so grateful of the water we put in the back pack. We carried a 1.5ltr bottle with us from the yacht, but stopped in at a shop on the way to buy another 1.5ltr (cold) bottle. We spent a couple of hours climbing the volcano, enjoying the ever expanding view, and occasionally taking in a lung full of sulphurous fumes that would sting our eyes and take our breath away. As usual, Chelsea was 20 paces ahead of our group and Nick was complaining the climb was too hard and too steep from about the 100m mark. The only time the Nick “recovered” was when Cheryl pulled out the video camera and took some video of Nick. With the video camera on him, he miraculously gained an astounding amount of additional energy and took off up the spine of the volcano at a run!

At the top, we were rewarded with a fantastic view down into the caldera of the volcano, as well as a view over the island and the ocean. At the top, we opened our chilled bottle of water we bought - a somewhat celebratory drink, only to realise that the icy cold water was actually icy cold non carbonated mineral water …. eeeeeekkkkkk.

On our decent back down the volcano, we stopped at the rim and Chelsea and I ventured down a little further to the very edge of the core. Here we were assaulted with strong sulphurous smells as well as an array of sulphur crystals. Chelsea collected some sulphur in a plastic zip lock bag that she'd somehow procured for just that reason. How convenient. It appears that Chelsea my have retained more of my stories of releasing stink bombs on my parents than I had hoped she would!! (Can you see Chelsea and I in the photo to the left? This gives an indication of the size of the volcano. We're in the bottom right quarter the photograph, standing on the very rim of the crater) After our walk to the volcano, we had lunch, then went for a swim in the hot springs that were just adjacent to where “Connect4” were anchored. The hot springs are consisting of a couple of underwater ”vents” that bubbled up boiling hot water. When it mixes with the cooler sea water, despite the pungent smell, it creates a beautiful warm bath just off the shore. Adjacent to the hot springs was another mud bath. We couldn't resist taking another mud bath, so wandered over and coated each other with a thick covering of murky, extremely smelly, warm slippery mud. The sulphur content around this island is so high that everything has a sulphurous stench about it. It's so strong at times that if the wind changes direction in the night, while we're sleeping, we'll both wake up with our nostrils burning and look at each other with accusation in our eyes. Once the mud was on us, the sulphur was quick to work its way into our skin and hair. For days afterwards, our skin and hair smelt of the pungent odour of sulphur. Even the sheets and pillow cases smelt. It felt like there was sulphur impregnating every square centimetre of our yacht.

Sunday 31st July 2010

Sunday morning dawned all to quick and we raised anchor and manoeuvred out of our tiny little parking circle that had been our “parking space” for the last few days. We left the island in company with “Wind Machine” but not before Vulcano left us with one parting “gift”. As I raised the last 15m of chain, the front of the yacht was abruptly covered in a thick noxious coating of sulphurous mud! This mud was all over the chain and subsequently over the front of “Connect4”. There was no way I was putting all that stench into the anchor locker, so I let the anchor hang in the water for 5 minutes while Cheryl motored our of the bay, the rushing sea water cleaning all traces of the mud from my chain and anchor. This leg of the journey was going to be an overnight sail to the tiny island of Favignan to take on fuel, then to clear out of Italy and the EU. From there we would do another overnight sail to Sidi Bu Said in Tunisia. This was to be a two day sail – approximately 49 hours.

We sailed (motored) all the way to Favignan and arrived around 9am the next day. We dropped anchor in the little bay adjacent the marina and dingied into town to officially clear out of the EU. As we're non EU residents, we're permitted only 90 days in the EU before we have to leave. According to the actual rules, we're permitted 90 days in any 180 day period, so technically we should be out of the EU for 90 days. The reality, however, is that so long as we leave the EU, even for a couple of days, we can come back in and get another 90 days. As Tunisia isn't part of the EU, this is the perfect place to go for a few days.

Once ashore, Jim and I went to the port captain and were redirected to the Coast-guard. Apparently the port captain can't clear us out of the country, so while the Harbour Police are normally the ones doing the paperwork, we figured that here the Coast-guard might do the work, since we couldn't find any Harbour Police. At the Coast-guard, we were given a map and told to walk the couple of kilometres to the Capatainaire, who are a branch of the police. On the way there, we walked through the town centre and saw a central police station. We made enquiries there but were told that they couldn't check us out. So off we trekked again to the Capatainaire. After a long walk, we finally arrived at a little building on the outskirts of town. There, an official looking officer stopped us at the entrance and told us with broken English that we couldn't get checked out – instead we had to go to Trapani, which was a couple of hours motor back along the Sicilian coast. We tried to argue with him that our cruising guide book clearly stated that Favignan had the infrastructure to check us out, but he wasn't budging. In the end, reluctantly, he conceded that the post office could do the checking out. I've never heard of this before, but since we can get our passport documentation through the post office in Australia, perhaps here the post office handles the passports for cruising yachts? We set off again, for another extended walk back into town. As I'd not had breakfast yet, and was a couple of hours longer than I'd planned to be, Jim and I stopped at a little bakery and purchased a coke and a slide of pizza each. There we sat on the kerb, out the front of the bakery, eating pizza at 11am and drinking a can of coke, contemplating our next move. Now I've heard that cruisers can have difficulties in checking in and checking out of countries, but this was getting a little bit ridiculous. We lined up at the post office and waited another 35 minutes for our number to come up. Eventually we got served only to be informed that the post office can't stamp our passports, but if we needed stamps, the tobacconist around the corner handles all the stamps for passports. Now this didn't seem quite right to me, but when in another country and in another culture, strange things happen – who am I to judge. Jim and I walked off yet again to the tobacconist following Italian directions provided by one of the customers at the post office. We were getting desperate! Our quick stop in Favignan was turning into a long stop, and with bad weather forecast for Tuesday morning we were keen to keep moving and get to Tunisia before we got caught in a storm. After a number of wrong turns, we found the tobacconist and patiently waited in line once again. When it was our turn, we showed the lady the passports and half miming, , half talking, we gestured that we needed some stamps for our passport so that we could leave the EU. Our first inclination that we were in the wrong place was when she asked us what value stamps we wanted. Yeah, something didn't quite fit right. However the lady took our passports and looked closely at the stamp we were given when we arrived in Rhodos all that time ago. She patiently hunted through a couple of drawers of stamps before declaring that she didn't have any stamps like the ones we had in our passport, so she couldn't help us. Great, another half hour wasted. Time was ticking fast for us now, so we went back to the central police station to try once again. We were brushed off pretty quick the first time, so decided we would go and give it another try. Unfortunately, the officer wouldn't stamp our passports for exit, adamant that the Capatainaire was the place to go. Fortunately, Jim struck up a conversation with a Canadian-Italian, who used to live not far from Jim & Michelle. He offered to walk with us back to the Capatainaire to assist in translation. So, off we walked again. With our new friend translating for us, we got quite a lot further, but the end story was that we still had to go to Trapani to sign out of the country. With time clearly against us now, we set off, reluctantly retracing our route from early this morning, along the coast of Sicily, back to Trapani. We motored into the main port and tied up at the fuel dock, I'd neglected to take on fuel in Favignan, preferring instead not to hold up our departure when it would take time clearing out of the country in Trapani. I tied up on the wharf and spoke to a tanker driver who was parked opposite my yacht and enquired if he could provide me with fuel. He didn't speak English, but I understood that he was on break and would be able to give me fuel at 3:00pm which was only a 15 minute wait. Cheryl and Michelle, passports and ships papers in bag, went off in search of the Harbour Police so we could get cleared out, while I waited for the tanker driver. Around 4:00pm I walked back over to the tanker driver who was still sitting in the shade of his truck. I enquired again how long he would be before he could give me fuel, but I got waved off to another guy that was nearby. I spoke to the other guy for a couple of minutes, not understanding one word. Finally, he rang a lady and handed me the telephone. She informed me that the taker wouldn't be able to give me fuel for another 1-2 hours!!! Frustrated, I told her to tell the guy not to worry about the fuel, instead I would walk my jerry cans to the service station just down the road and buy my own fuel. I walked off irritated. We'd been delayed clearing out of the country, I was being delayed in getting fuel and now we were seriously running out of time with another 24 hours of sailing still needed. This wasn't a good day. I took my jerry cans and spent the next hour carting fuel from the petrol station, 40litres at a time. I put in just enough fuel to motor us to Tunisia if needed, then sat on the boat and waited for Cheryl and Michelle to return. About the time I put in my last jerry can of fuel, the chap from the fuel tanker sauntered over and in a sugary sweet gesture offered that if I wanted fuel now, he'd be happy to oblige me. I turned him away – he knew I'd just filled up myself, because he'd watched me walk back and forward with the jerry cans for the last hour!

Just as Cheryl and Michelle came into sight along the dock, the tanker driver came over again and asked if I was planning on taking on any more fuel. I explained that I had all the fuel I needed, which which he than informed me that I would need to leave the fuel dock since there was another yacht coming in that was needing fuel. Grrrrr! Cheryl came on board just as we were casting off lines to leave. She was out of breath and as frustrated as I was. Both Michelle and Cheryl were given the royal run around before being told that they wouldn't be able to check out of the country today. Instead they were told to come back tomorrow at precisely 2:00pm where someone would look at their passports and stamp them out of the country. With the bad weather approaching, there was no way we had the time nor the inclination to wait a whole day longer. Between the two boats we discussed the options and ended up deciding that to slip out of the country without clearing out would be the best course of action. This isn't an approach we would normally be inclined to follow, but given our situation and our attempts, we decided to head out and take our chances. Around 6:00pm, we finally left Italy enroute to Tunisia – only 9 hours behind schedule, and still not cleared out of the country.

One other thing that happened on the fuel dock that added to my frustration was a gentleman who approached me when I first tied up. Although he didn't speak much English, he said that he helped supply yachts with food stocks from his shop and if I wanted anything he'd be more than happy to sell it to me and deliver it to the yacht. I was reluctant at first, but since our supplies were running a little low, I opted to get just a couple of small items, partially just to get rid of him and partially as it would give us a little more food for the passage. I ordered some salami, some sliced meat and some cheese from him. When I asked him how much he indicated “the same as in the shops – EUR2.80 for each, I will do for you” Now EUR2.80 is a pretty good price for 500g of cheese and for 500g of salami, so I accepted. He came back 10 minutes and asked for his money. I took the bag and gave him EUR10.00 for the three items. He appeared to want change as well, as he was gesturing, asking for some amount I couldn't quite understand. Being short on patience, I told him to keep the EUR10.00, that I didn't need the change. Then he pulled out a wad of bills and held up a EUR50.00 note and in very clear English informed me the price was EUR58.00. At that point I knew I was being scammed. I gave him the bag back and told him I didn't have that much money, so he had better just take the goods back. His English improved so amazingly as he asked that if I give him another EUR20.00 that he would accept EUR30.00 for the goods. I emptied my pockets of Euro change and showed him what I had – approximately EUR8.00 in coins. I told him he could take that and be done or take his goods – his choice! He kept asking for more money, so I put the bag on the ground and started telling him to either give me my money back or accept my offer and leave. Eventually he backed down, took the money and left, muttering about “bad for me” as he walked off. I put the meat and cheese in the fridge feeling frustrated that I was so silly to accept some deal from a guy on the water front.

Thoughts on living aboard and Clothing – from someone in the middle of the grave yard shift

It's kind of ironic that I'm typing this entry at 2:00am Saturday morning on the second night of our sail across the Ionic Sea from Greece to Italy. Re reading the entry above, I reflect on how far we've travelled and with how much awe and trepidation we approached our first overnight sail. Now we're some 120NM into a 191NM trip west to Rochelle Ionica in Italy, having left the last of our Greek Islands Thursday night gone. When we left Santorini for our first overnight sail, we were making our way between islands, as we wound our way north, never far from land, really. This time we're out in the middle of nowhere – no islands or anything to see.

We've been living aboard “Connect4” for about 6 months now, and before we moved aboard, I had ideas on what would be different between living aboard vs my life before. I was mentally preparing for the necessary “adjustments” I'd have to make and weighing up the “sacrifices” vs the “gains”. Looking back on it now, I think some of the things I've struggled with the most have been the things I wasn't even aware of before I moved aboard, and many of the things I thought would kill me, actually have turned out to be easy.

Lets take for example the shower. I'm a guy that loves my shower. I could stay in the shower all day, and nothing feels better to me than standing under a steaming shower, letting the water run down over your body for, well, a lot longer than I should! To move aboard a yacht that only carries a limited amount of precious water means you can't just have a shower whenever you feel like it. It also means that when you do get a shower, you have to limit the water usage – I'm proud to say I can now have a “shower“ with about 2 litres of water. Perhaps 3 litres if I wash my hair! My shower, in my past life, was something precious and dear to me - I'd hardly start a day without it. Now my beloved morning shower appears as nothing more than a memory, a figment of my imagination, from a life past. It's been replaced with something that's cold and functional. Let me explain. For starters, my shower 'cubicle' also contains my toilet, my hand basin, my vanity and mirror, my towel rail and my two lights. It might seem funny that I mention a towel rail and two lights, but when your 'bathroom' measures outstretched elbow-to-elbow and has a width of about half that; well, you get the picture - even our linen cupboard at home has more space. Now once you're in there – typically you strip off in the bedroom and make a sprint to the bathroom, here's not enough room to get undressed in the bathroom. You leave your towel outside, and after throwing out the hand towel and the waste paper bin (more on that later) you commence something resembling a shower – just without the water. Imagine pouring the equivalent of a glass of water over your head, trying to direct it so that it wets every part of your body on the way down, then without any more water, lathering up all over until your covered in suds. You then get the privilege of running the shower just long enough to rinse off all the suds, an act that shouldn't take more than 5-10 seconds. There's no standing in the shower, brushing your teeth, or just enjoying the caress of the water over your body. Nope, you get in, you get wet, you wash yourself, you rinse off then you get out. If the water in the shower drain comes above the bottom of the floor plate, then I've used too much water.

But you know what – before moving aboard the yacht, one of my biggest concerns was for the loss of my beloved shower. But now I'm here I honestly don't miss it as much as I thought I would. That big ticket item – limited shower water; well, I've learned to adapt. However – and this is the big However. Before I moved aboard, I never gave a thought to toilet paper. Don't cringe too much, relax – we do still have the luxury of toilet paper. It's not being done away with yet. But something I never considered before was how cruisers deal with toilet paper on the yacht. Prior to moving aboard, I lived in blissful ignorance - I never thought about. Perhaps that's what threw me so much when I first encountered it. We can't put the toilet paper in the toilet, because it'll block the toilet, and believe me, we go to any length to ensure we never block the toilet – trust me on that one! Our toilet paper goes in a little rubbish bin, inside the bathroom, and we empty it every chance we get. In Turkey, and Greece, most public toilets have a small bin to put your toilet paper in, so perhaps over there it's just the done thing. But in Australia, we flush our toilet paper! This was a big ticket item to me and took some getting used to. Perhaps because I never gave it a thought before moving aboard, but it's been hard to get used to. But I'm dealing with it.

This brings me to my next adjustment. Clothing! Clothes used to be something that you wore to get “dressed up” in. Something that shows your individuality, something that shows your creativity, or even your ability to match colours – whatever your persuasion to clothes, aboard a cruising yacht it all changes. I used to take pride in getting dressed up nicely – well as much as can be expected from an engineer anyway. Now, clothes are just a functional item, a bit like a life jacket. We wear our clothes, but it doesn't matter if they match or not, at least not while we're underway anyways. Today was hot and as we were on passage, I wore shorts and a t-shirt only. Actually I think I was still wearing them from the night before. Half way through the day, because I smelt, I had a 'shower'. It was still hot when I came out, so I put on a pair of boxer shorts and that sufficed for the rest of the day. In fact it's now 3:20am and I'm still wearing just my boxers, oh, and my life jacket. Cheryl spent most of the day just in knickers, a bra and a singlet top. The problem with clothes is that whenever we wear them, we just get them dirty. Then we have to hand wash them, which is an arduous job and one that uses more of our precious water. Some friends of ours who'd been cruising for quite a few years, told us a funny story. Not long after they set our cruising, they met some other cruisers. These other cruisers looked at them, and after chatting a while, made the statement “you guys haven't been out cruising long have you?” Perplexed Michelle answered, “No, how did you know?”. “Ah”they said, “Your clothes are too clean and white”. After you've been out cruising a while, clothes lose their white - it's hard to get them super clean just by hand washing.

Sailing from Galaxhidi the other day, we passed a cruising yacht going the other direction. Looking over and waving as we passed, I noticed neither the husband nor the wife were wearing any clothes. Sailing naked - “Hmmm!!” That could save on washing water.