Our Mission: To boldly go until we are no more!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Antigua Arrival

Land Ho! After 18 days at sea we are now anchored 'safely' in English Harbour, Antigua. The weather on this passage from the Canary Island of Lanzarote to Antigua in the Caribbean's Leeward Islands, was not what we had initially planned on. Typically, crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean involves getting down to the Canary Islands and then catching some good tradewinds a little further south for a downwind ride across. This year most boats have encountered headwinds and calms. Here are the stats for our voyage:

distance thru the water (log) 2963 nm
distance based on noon positions 3031 nm
distance great circle 2730 nm
time Puerto Calero to English Harbour 430 hr (17 days, 22 hr)
average speed based on noon positions 7.0 kn
average speed thru the water 6.9 kn
time under power 135 hr
fuel used for propulsion 365 gal (1380 liters)

We chose a route that avoided all but 10 hrs of headwinds on a southwesterly initial course from the Canaries sweeping down to 15N 40W where we held between 15N & 16N avoiding calms to the north and unsettled squally conditions to the south until 55W where we took a north-northwesterly rumb line to Antigua.

Gear failures on passage were minimal and included a failed main engine fuel filter (new), chafed main preventer/pole foreguy, spreader light lamp retainer ring and mainsail batcar bolt dropping on deck and failed forward head vacuum pump.

Maintenance performed underway included several fuel filter changes and changing a coolant hose and coolant on the main engine.

All sails (main, genoa, staysail & 180% Code Zero headsail) were used at some point on the passage (we carry no spinnakers).

English Harbour, Antigua is as quaint and nice as we remember it and the check-in procedure was easy with Immigration, Customs, Port Authority/Parks all in the same building in historic Nelson's Dockyard. Only the Captain is to go ashore until clearance is completed. Customs did ask for clearance papers from our last port and was satisfied with a crew list we got stamped by the police in Lanzarote and by the harbormaster in Cadiz. He smiled when told it was the best we could do in Spain.

We anchored in Freemans Bay which is now very crowded (17d 00.31' N, 61d 45.73' W, 29 ft).

More on what's ashore later...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 17

We caught and released two small Mahis yesterday. They were just too pitiful looking at 30".

The sailing was good most of the night and we have now jibed and are slowing down for an early Monday morning arrival at English Harbour, Antigua. We were there back in the '90s sometime for a bareboat charter vacation. It will be interesting to see the changes.

Noon to noon: 181 nm, 289d T.
12-27-10 noon pos: 17d 26' N, 60d 03' W.

Hopefully tonight will be our last night at sea for a while.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 16

After 16 days at sea and two days to go, we finally now just getting some decent tradewinds. The breeze is helping to cool us off a bit but sun is still pretty intense for wintertime.

Katie is using every bit of our Christmas Mahi and has some chowder ready for supper.

Noon to noon: 166 nm, 284d T.
12-26-10 noon pos: 16d 31' N, 57d 16'W.
270 nm to go to Antigua

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 15

We have been listening to a continuous 96 hours of mp3 Holiday Music with its numerous versions of Winter Wonderland, Let it Snow, Baby its Cold Outside, Frosty the Snowman, etc., trying to keep cool in the balmy tropical conditions.

We received many holiday emails from friends old and new from around the world helping connect the two of us out here in the mid Atlantic with others during this season of unity. We do have a satellite phone and have already called Kurt's family gathered as they traditionally do on Christmas Eve. Katie's family has kept us posted on her mother's recovery after surgery and we hope to speak with her on Christmas Day.

We have holiday decorations aboard Interlude with a small tree, lights and garland in the main salon. The supply of German pastries and candy is holding up well but we are now out of tangerines. There is definitely no egg nog but maybe that's a good thing. The good sized mahi mahi caught Christmas Eve will give us a nice feast.

We wish you all wonderful Christmas Day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 14

We have been at sea for two weeks now crossing the Atlantic. Those of you on our daily passage report list know that the tradewinds have not been very consistent this year and many yachts have had slow crossings. Our sail has not been too bad with mostly light downwind conditions and several days under power.

It is Christmas Eve and we have 630 miles to go to a landfall in Antigua. The weather is hot & humid (hopefully not hot and humid enough for a hurricane) and the fishing has been good. We still have plenty of holiday goodies stocked up from a German supermarket in the Canary Islands.

We did manage to do some caroling in the dinghy going around to boats in the anchorage before the passage and our Thanksgiving Feast was a first for some of the other cruisers invited aboard Interlude.

This year we finished our Med cruise visiting Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Malta, Spain, Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. We are a bit behind in writing our travelogues but hope to catch up soon with new adventures awaiting us as we arrive in the 'New World'.

We wish you all a merry Christmas and a healthy, happy new year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 13

Another 24 hours of easy downwind sailing but going too slow to fish now with the wind down to 11 kn. We hope Santa brings us some breeze for Christmas.

It is getting really hot and humid and we have taken to running the air conditioning in the late afternoon while we charge systems with the generator.

Noon to noon: 164 nm, 268d T (23 hrs).
12-23-10 noon position: 15d 10' N, 48d 46' W.

After 13 days at sea we are eating the last of our lettuce but we still have plenty of limes to ward off scurvy. We hear Santa likes rum in these parts and hope he doesn't drink thru our rations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 12

We have set ships time back one hour twice so far (every 15d longitude: 15x24=360). Starting to get jet lagged. Other astronomical occurrences of interest include an eclipse of the moon night before last. We unfortunately had too many clouds to see it directly but the sky did get abnormally dark for a while.

Katie saw another yacht last night - that makes three plus a fish boat. That's twice as many boats at sea than we saw sailing 6,000 miles in the Pacific from Mexico to New Zealand or New Zealand to Bikini and back.

Noon to noon: 184 nm, 265d T.
12-22-10 noon position: 15d 16'N, 45d 56'W

Still holding 15d N for the best wind and avoiding squally conditions and more distance further south. We have jibed a couple times for better wind on the poled out genoa with wind shifts from ENE to ESE. Got to go investigate a sewage leak in the forepeak...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 11

As of noon yesterday we have finally gotten classic tradewind conditions.

Noon to noon: 155nm 252d T.
12-20-10 noon pos: 15d 11' N, 36d 16' W.

Since we are a little late with this email we also have today's run: 204 nm 276d T.
12-21-10 noon position: 15d 34' N, 42d 46' W.

Kurt also did some work on the main engine replacing an old coolant hose that went a bit gummy from the diesel leak.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 10

The wind slowly built yesterday as we sailed wing and wing on port jibe down to 15 degrees N. Just before a great wahoo fajita dinner we jibed to Starboard and are now wing and wing making our usual half windspeed downwind in 15 kn of building easterly breeze. The sailing has been warm and pleasant with a light overcast sky and a waxing 3/4 moon to light up the night.

Noon to noon: 155nm 252d T.
12-19-10 noon pos: 15d 26' N, 36d 42' W.

The ride is so smooth now we have even been practicing our guitars.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 9

After motoring all day and half the night in calm conditions we are now trying to sail downwind in 8 kn of Easterly. At around 0130 this morning the newly replaced main engine fuel filter (spin on FRAM) developed a crack in the bottom and sqirted a couple gallons of fuel in the engine bilge before Kurt noticed the smell and shut the engine down. The engine bilge is now as clean as it has been in a long time and the fuel filter has been replaced with another (same FRAM model but different style). This of course was the impetus to start sailing. We are now just waiting for the wind to fill in tomorrow.

Noon to noon: 197 nm, 251d T.
12-18-10 noon position: 16d 16'N, 34d 09'W.

We have been catching fish with a small wahoo landed yesterday morning. Probably going too slow now...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 8

We had another lovely day yesterday under full sail on a close reach in 6-9 kn of wind. The wind died at sunset and we have been motoring all night. Kurt changed all fuel filters in preparation for what appears to be a calm ahead.

Noon to noon: 192 nm 254d T.
12-17-10 noon position: 17d 20' N, 30d 54'W.

We should get some light wind from behind at some point and may try to sail with the code zero poled out on one side and the number one on the other. We may now finally need those spinnakers we left in California.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 7

After sailing in mostly light wind for the past two days, riding a high pressure ridge to keep the wind ahead of the beam and enjoying some increased wind speed, we are now motoring again this morning in calm conditions.

Noon to noon: 165 nm, 230d T.
Noon position 12-16-10: 18d 15' N, 27d 41'W.

With the temperature in the 80s we are again wearing our tropical cruising (birthday) suits day and night. The skies have been sunny and the water temp also seems to be up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 6

We have been having a great sail on a close reach in light winds using our biggest headsail the Code 0. Katie calls this the jewelry sail because the whole rig with furler, spectra sheets and halyard costs about as much as a Coco Chanel watch Kurt has been discouraging her from buying. We rarely get a chance to use this sail and it has been hard to justify its expense (just like the watch).

After two days of fishing we finally did some catching with a small Dorado (pink squid lure). Yummy Sashimi dinner but it has been so long since we caught a fish that the sushi rice, soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi have all gone stale.

Noon to noon: 124 nm 221d T.
12-15-10 noon position: 20d 01' N, 25d 25'W

Most of the fleet behind us is headed more southerly toward the Cape Verde Islands to take on more fuel. It appears this year's crossing will not have an easy fast tradewind sail.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 5

We had some excitement yesterday with three orcas swimming around us for a short time. We happened to be under sail gliding along at eight knots in smooth seas when they came to investigate. Orcas are known to hunt in packs to take a whale. Aluminum probably doesn't ping like blubber so they left us pretty quickly.

Noon to noon: 204 nm 227d T.
12-14-10 noon pos: 21d 35' N, 24d 02' W.

Last night we finally got our wind shift along with some squally rain. We motersailed for a few hours while the weather settled down and we could lay a good course to the SW with the wind veering from SSE to WNW by this morning. We are now making reasonable progress toward the SW and hopefully some tradewinds in a couple days.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 4

We are still enjoying warm clear skies but with little wind have remained under power for the past 24 hours. Tried to fish yesterday but no luck.

A couple ships last night: 'Chestnut' & 'Growth Ring' (?) and one small vessel barely visible on radar.

Noon to Noon: 175 nm, 246d T.
12-13-10 noon position: 23d 56' N, 21d 22' W

Monday, December 13, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 3

We managed to sail all day and part of last night. The nights have been really dark and we have only seen two ships (one was the MSC SORAYA - 227m long and all lit up).

12-12-10 noon position: 25d 08' N, 18d 27' W
Noon to noon : 190 nm 227d T

It is Monday morning and we are motoring again (about 40 hr so far) with only 5 kn of wind from behind and a somewhat lumpy sea. We have been dropping the mainsail while under power to keep it from thrashing about.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 2

We have been having a smooth mostly motorboat ride under fair skies with little wind. We did try to sail yesterday for a few hours using our Code Zero headsail and full main but could only manage windspeed on a beam reach. So when the wind dropped below 5 knots we fired up the D-sail again.

Our noon position 12-11-10 was 27d19'N, 15d54'W. Our course is 230d Magnetic.

After motoring all night at 9.0 knots with little or no wind, we are under sail again this morning with the Code Zero making 7 knots.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Day 1

After over two months in the Canary Island(s) we are finally underway. Our time spent with old friends and new all gathering here to cross the Atlantic was special. Playa Francesca allowed us to meet many of the hundreds of yachts making the crossing this year. Most made this their first stop in the Canaries and joined us in beach festivities.

The Atlantic Rally Cruisers all went on to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria to start across on schedule November 21. Most non-rally cruisers also moved on to marinas in islands to the West and/or the Cape Verde Islands.

This morning finds us at the South end of Gran Canaria with little wind. We have a short weather window to get SW to the NE tradewinds before headwinds fill in on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Interlude

We are indeed thankful to be alive and well here in the Canary Islands. After almost seven weeks of life at anchor here on the island of Lanzarote, meeting dozens of new friends on yachts passing thru the anchorage and enjoying many afternoons on the beach with them, we are now making final preparations to cross the Atlantic. We are not heading for Plymouth Rock but hopefully a warmer and friendlier place in the Caribbean. Several of our new friends are already on passage with some stopping in the Cape Verde Islands. The Atlantic Ralley for Cruisers with 200+ participants left November 21 for St. Lucia and we wish them all a safe trip.

Katie has a Thanksgiving Day feast planned with turkey and all the trimmings for some of our new friends here in Port Naos, Arrecife. We also were able to stock up on Christmas goodies and decorations for a planned 'Christmas in the Caribbean' ('they've got ev'ry thing but snow').

We wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and hope to hear from you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Languishing on Lanzarote

We left 'The Beach' on Graciosa and are back in the grubby fishing port of Naos on the neighboring island of Lanzarote. There is a cruise/ferry ship terminal has facilitated a nice walking path to the main town there, Arrecife, and the shopping is good. We are anchored just out of the channel and just clear the boats on moorings.

There are some some old fortifications, windmills, salt pans and other archeological sites of interest. 

We had hoped to leave soon on our Atlantic crossing with a good weather window allowing a fast ride down to some tradewinds down around 17 degrees North latitude which would then allow an easy ride across. This has not materialized and we are now just making the best of our situation with some good friends in the anchorage.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frightfully Fun Francesca

We had another fun beach party on Playa Francesca (Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands). The Halloween costume party started with the cruiser kids trick or treating in dinghies thru the anchorage and everyone heading for the beach at 1500 hrs.
 We set up our Carvin PA again, this time with a three hour Halloween playlist of spooky songs that had everyone dancing. The pot luck was skewed toward sweets and games included apple bobbing and tug-of-war. There was even a spooky squall as the sun set to end the fun.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cadiz to Canaries

The anchorage outside Puerto Sherry Marina near the town of Santa Maria across the bay from Cadiz was pleasant but with some chop and swell occasionally coming in from the SW. We put out a stern anchor to keep us lined up at night when the wind died. There were a few local yachts anchored over the weekend but just us one other cruiser during the week. The Marina complex has three nice chandleries, a boat yard with a big Travelift but many unfinished structures including a massive dry stack facility. The dinghy harbor is on a scale to host the Olympic games with racing fleets of opti, tornado cat, sailboard and a local cat class on Saturday.

We took our dinghy into the dinghy harbor and walked to the ferry terminal in town (about an hour). The ferries to Cadiz are modern fast catamarans and run about every 50 minutes. We did take the dinghy up the river to town a couple times and locked it to the seawall for the day but felt it was safer to leave it in the marina complex and walk.

Cadiz is an historic old Spanish town with interesting architecture, museums and churches. Columbus sailed from here on his second and fourth voyages to the new world and Cadiz grew to become Spain's richest city in the 18th century. We also enjoyed Puerto de Santa Maria but did not support the impressive bull fighting arena on Sunday.

One of our reasons for going to Cadiz was to obtain outward clearance from Spain. This is reportedly hard to get in the Canary islands and the ports in the Caribbean all require some sort of paperwork showing you are not a dirtbag and have been cleared to leave the last country you were in. We started the process at the imposing Aduana edifice near the ferry terminal. Here we were stopped from entering by three guards who spoke no English but a shipping agent passing by intervened and told us we needed to use an agent to do the paperwork. Undeterred we thanked him for his help and made our way upstairs to a huge lobby and helpful receptionist who after checking with her boss explained (in Spanish) that we needed to go to the Estation Maritimo. We noticed this building from the ferry on our way into the harbor and proceeded to walk there to find the Capitania (Port Captain). With some trepidation we entered the upstairs office where we and our bags were scanned. There is technically a tax on vessels cruising Spain which could for us amount to over 500 Euros (for 30-365 days) and the Port Captain would be the one to enforce it. Our plan was to get clearance from customs and an exit stamp in our passports without involving the harbor people. But there was no customs to be found. We did find a very helpful Port Captain who worked hard to convince the Police to stamp our passports. They were not inclined to stamp anyone out who they had not stamped in. All stamping for yachts and their crew is to take place in marinas where you must pay for at least a day. The Port Captain was a ship captain and sailor who new this is not how the rest of the world functions so he gave us a stamp on our ships crew list which should be good enough to show some bureaucrats in Antiqua, St. Martin, Tortola, or wherever we make landfall in the Caribbean. With paperwork and stamped passports we can now leave the Canaries without having to look for outward clearance.

We are now underway bound for Lanzarote in the Canary islands. Our 9-30 0600 UTC position was 34d46'N, 9d13'W with about 400 nm to go. The sailing has been great with 12-18 kn on the beam now coming aft. We are heading offshore to catch stronger winds and will be poling out a headsail soon for a downwind ride to the Canaries.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guardia & Gib

After a fun time on the party island of Ibiza it was time to start heading for Gibraltar. On our second night we almost got run over by the cruise ship 'Disney Magic'. Kurt called them to tell them that we were under sail (wing and wing) with limited maneuverability and they made the grand gesture of a one degree course change. We joked that they wanted to get close enough to light us up so that the guests could take pictures and sure enough that's what they did.

We arrived at Gibraltar in calm weather motoring against up to 2 knots of current and dodging copious ship traffic. The only place to anchor was actually just across the border in Spain at the town of La Linea (27 ft, 36d09.42'N, 5d21.69'W). We found plenty of room in what appeared to be an all weather anchorage behind the breakwater. During a night approach an easy alternative is to anchor in the large bay just outside the breakwater. The new marina here (Puerto Deportivo +34 956 021660, info@puertodeportivoalcaidesa.es ) is up and running with power, water, laundry and internet. The old marina which is closer to town is now a private yacht club but will let you park your dinghy near the office/restaurant for 5 Euros for 24 hr access thru the front doors of the building. There are steps on the north side of the breakwater separating the old marina from the beach where dinghy landing (but not mooring) can be made. La Linea is a working class town serving Gib with some old buildings and shops trying to attract cruise ship tourists across the border. The Mercadona supermarket north of the town center has the best prices we have seen in the Med with large quantities and a good selection. There is a good butcher near the center of town and a Carrefour 2 km north.

On Tuesday we took Interlude to the fuel wharf in Gib and loaded 1100 liters of diesel at 64 pence/liter ($US 3.75/gal). This was at the brand new Cepsa station (BP was 0.62 L/l, Shell 0.69 L/l). We also got fuel and oil for the dinghy. After re-anchoring off La Linea we took the dinghy back to Gib and visited some friends in Ocean Village/Marina Bay (VHF 71, +350 200 73300). We were allowed to visit within the marina compound but not go into town. To properly cross the border from Spain requires walking thru a checkpoint and across the airport runway.
Gib and La Linea marinas were quoted as roughly the same price for our 23m yacht (50 Euros/day) and both had space. However the Gib marina is more convenient to to a nicer if touristy town.

We planned to remain in the La Linea/Gibraltar area for a few more days but on Wednesday the Guardia Civil came by and told every boat in the anchorage to leave. They said it was not possible to anchor off La Linea and we should go into a marina (either Puerto Deportivo or Ocean Village/Marina Bay in Gib). We asked where we could anchor and they said to call Algezeras Trafico (VHF 8, 13, 16, 74) who told us to contact Algezeras Pilot Station (13) who said to contact our agent who will contact the authorities for an anchorage position (like all the other ships).

There is now no authorized yacht anchorage in the entire Gib/Algezeras area and you must berth in a marina. This is now becoming typical of all ports in Spain.

We know when we are not welcome so on Thursday we left for a 70 mile run out the strait and up to Cadiz.

The eight mile wide Strait of Gibraltar separates Europe from Africa and connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Due to evaporation, the Med has a constant influx of water. Tides in the Atlantic and wind direction and strength will dictate the strength and direction of the surface and subsurface currents. With over four knots of current and 30 knots of wind at Tarifa 300 days a year these effects must be taken into account when transiting the Strait.

Our ride out the Med was smooth with 1-2 knots of favorable counter current hugging the coast staying just inside the easily visible current line. Rounding Tarifa the NE wind piped up from 5 to 25 kn and then died again as we approached Cape Trafalgar staying outside the shoals - all with 1-2 of favorable current. The wind got up to 25 kn again from the N as we approached Cadiz and the current went down to 1/2 kn. Some lumpy motoring into N chop for an hour or so.

We left at HW +5 (0830) and anchored just outside Puerto Sherry across the bay from Cadiz (20 ft, 36d34.78'N, 6d14.75'W) at 1700. There were three other yachts anchored here off a nice beach and there is a ferry to Cadiz docking in the Rio Guadalete at the town of Santa Maria nearby.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Inebriated Brits in Ibiza

On Wednesday we motored five hours to another Balearic island, Ibiza (pronounced eebeetha) and anchored in Cala Portinatx (x pronounced sh?) (27 ft, 39d06.62'N, 1d30.91'E). The islands here have many such Calas (small coves) indenting rocky cliff lined shores. Caves are a common feature along with beaches at the head of the cove. Cala Portinatx is a multi armed cove with hotels and roped off swimming beaches. It can get very crowded but we are now past high season and had only a half dozen yachts anchored or on moorings. The reported disco noise did not occur last night - another advantage of cruising later in the season.

Thursday we hiked the road around the bay catching glimpses of the yachts anchored and various beaches with sunbathers. That night we joined the scene ashore and had some drinks listening to a guitar duo/comedy act.

Friday had a chart marking session shareing info for places not yet visited with some cruisers in the anchorage. It was also time to inspect and lube (mainsail track) the rig.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Palacial Palma

On Friday we had a nice sail between the islands to Mallorca and anchored in Porto Colom (15 ft, 39d25.3N, 3d15.9E) with dozens of other yachts. The fish farms have been removed and there is now lots of room. We are seeing more and more American yachts now and many are ahead of us in Gibraltar.
On Saturday we were on our way to Palma de Mallorca to see Steve & Linda Dashew aboard Wind Horse when our AIS showed them heading toward us! We both pulled over and spent a pleasant afternoon together near the southern tip of Mallorca at Puerto Colonia de Sant Jordi between Is. Guardia & Is. Moltana (15 ft, 39d18.42'N, 3d00.51'E). The last time Wind Horse and Interlude were together was in Fiji in 2005.
We all had an enjoyable time in Palma de Mallorca sight seeing and shopping with a several other cruisers who were also anchored just SW of town at Las Illetas (31 ft, 39d31.87'N, 2d35.15'E). The anchorage was very crowded when we arrived Sunday afternoon but cleared out nicely for the evening and weekdays. We dinghied ashore at a jetty near the resort but left only one small rowing dinghy ashore and the others tied to the nearest boat. The #3 bus to town was a short walk up the hill and on Monday we rode it to the train station and took a scenic antique train ride across the island to Soller. There we had lunch admiring the quaint town before catching a bus back with even more scenery along the coast.
On Tuesday a group of us bussed into town again to tour the very impressive Gothic Cathedral built 1306 to 1601, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art. We also assisted one of our new friends in purchasing a guitar. Back in the anchorage Steve Dashew did a photo shoot of Interlude's interior showing how well it has held up over the past 25 years.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mahon Menorca Mayhem

We anchored in Cala Taulera, Mahon, Menorca one of the Balearic Islands of Spain (20 ft, 39d52.7'N, 4d18.5'E). It was the only designated anchorage in Mahon about a mile from downtown and can get crowded. In Mahon, dinghies can be left at the dock near the bronze mermaid statue (we always lock ours). Checking in involved getting passports stamped at the police station up the hill (stairs) from the port authority building on the main wharf. They insisted that we see the port authority but the receptionist there said the yacht was already in the Shengen area (since Malta) and did not require any futher paperwork.

There were several yachts in the anchorage that we have been hearing on the SSB radio nets and it was nice to connect faces to voices. Moonshadow, another Deerfoot of the same vintage as Interlude, and Azure II sailed by a friend of Kurt's from Alameda and his family were also in the anchorage. A grocery service delivered all the food and booze you want for a flat rate of E2.50 at the same price as the supermarket in town. The surroundings were pleasant with only some old fortifications on the sparsely vegetated hills.

The island's final festival of the season in the main town of Mahon involved spectacular displays of horsemanship with dancing stallions amidst huge crowds and racing down city streets. Spectator, rider and/or horse injury during the night or day events was more than likely. The tour of Fort Isabel near our anchorage at Cala Taulera was well worth the 10 Euros including audio guide and a ride up to a guided tour of the big 15 inch gun that can shoot 20 miles. Construction of the fort began in 1848 to defend the strategic harbor of Mahon and by the time it was completed 25 years later advances in artillery technology made it obsolete. The big 15" Vickers battery was impressive though. We also hosted a cocktail party with live music by The Traveling Interludes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Multipass Malta

Between boat maintenance projects we managed to do some sightseeing. The Heritage MultiPass available online from http://www.maltaticket.com/ is an excellent value. We hired a car, driver and guide for an eight hour private tour of the island and toured the sights in Valletta on our own. On our driveabout we saw: Tarxien Temples, Hagar Qim temple park, Ghar Dalam cave, Mdena, Domus Romana, a Palazzo and St. Pauls Catacombs. In Valletta we recommende starting with the Malta Experience movie. The War Museum is nearby and a short walk will get you midtown to St. John's Co-Cathedral, Grandmaster's Palace, Museum of Archeology and St. Paul's Shipwreck Church. The Hypogeum required ticket purchased weeks in advance or cueing up at the Museum of Fine Arts at 0830 for 20 tickets set aside for the day. We passed on this attraction. Near the Grand Harbour Marina we had the Maritime Museum and Inquisitor's Palace. The local town of Birgu had its Festival of St. Lawrence while we were there with all the processions, parades, bands, fireworks, etc.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Malta Marina

After a three day 550 nm passage from Croatia we arrived at Valletta, Malta and are moored stern-to Maltese Falcon's winter berth in Grand Harbour Marina for the month of August. Inward clearance was painless and organized by the Marina staff.

The surroundings are surreal with buildings piled on top of each other right down to the waters edge oozing history from all eras. Stay tuned for more exciting virtual touring adventures as we explore this fascinating island nation.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chao Croatia

We had four relaxing days anchored in the submarine pen bay in Otok Lastovo. Activities ashore included renting a quad bike for a nice drive to Lastovo town and back. Checkout was painless with no fees and no requirement to moor at the customs dock. All officials are on duty in Ubli from 0800 to 2000. The harbormaster's office is next to the ferry office, police is next to customs across the harbor at the clearance wharf. We completed paperwork at 1900 and left the next morning at 0600. This may have been stretching the rules as the customs officer would have preferred to be able to see the yacht even if only at anchor (Interlude was hidden around a point).

We are now on passage to Malta where we have a reservation at the Grand Harbour Marina. Our position at 0630 UTC is 42d29.3'N, 16d58.7'E A NW wind is starting to fill in and is forecast to give a nice ride to the heel of Italy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lastovo Last

We had a nice five day second stay in Rogoznica with walks around the island, around the bay to the marina to view the mega-yachts, past dragons eye lake up to the to the top of a hill overlooking the town and marina, across the isthmus to a beach, and to the produce and fish markets near the Konzum (safe shopping) supermarket. Uvala Saline offered all around protection and we even tried the anchorage at the head of the bay that would be good in a NE blow (55 ft, 43d31.81'N, 15d58.32'E).

We decided it was time to begin extracting ourselves from Croatia so on Monday we headed for the island of Vis some 30 miles south. Vis is a summer clearance port and we could clear out for Malta from there. Sailing there we pulled out our 180% 'Code Zero' headsail which had not seen the light of day for over a year. On arrival at Otok Vis we anchored at 1700 in Uvala Stonka, Viska Luka. We avoided Komiza on the west side because they reportedly charged for anchoring. However, at 1920 we were hit up for a 200 KN ($US 40) anchoring fee. Sticking with our anchoring fee boycott we promptly refused, hoisted anchor and moved around a point to a marginal anchorage out of sight from the port concession boat (100 - 130 ft, 43d04.20'N, 16d11.82'E) just clear of a no anchoring sign marking an underwater cable. This has been the second time we have been asked to pay to anchor the first being the Otok Murter. As on Murter we did not go ashore at Vis and left the next morning for Otok Lastovo. It may be a bit silly but we believe in supporting only the businesses in anchorages that do not charge. We might feel different about this matter if the $20 or $40 or more dollars a night (depending on the size of your vessel) were going toward the local government for public works, but the fees are collected by government licensed private concessions that offer no added value and are just capitalizing on the shape of the coastline.

The Lastovo Archipelago is a Nature Park, has a clearance port at Ubli and got us 30 miles further on towards Malta. As on Mljet, Dugi and in Skradin we had no issues with paying a reasonable per person fee for being in a Nature Park. Hopefully any money left after maintaining modest park infrastructure goes toward the general fund and benefits the country's population. As predicted, we had to pay a 20 KN ($US4) per person (per day) entrance fee to some friendly park rangers who welcomed us to Lastovo in their big inflatable. We anchored in Uvala Kremena, Velji Lago (80 ft, 42d45.43'N, 16d48.73'E) next to an old submarine pen. Lastovo as a military outpost is strategically important and was off limits to visitors for many years. Some of the military infrastructure is being re-used as witnessed by the two boats moored last night inside the submarine pen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dug in at Dugi

We spent three nights on Dugi Otok in the Telascica Nature Park anchored at the head of Luka Telescica in Uvala Pasjak (30 ft, 43d55.19'N, 15d07.95'E). Motoring thru the desolate Kornati Islands we were glad we opted for the less expensive (for us) Telascica Park. Our tickets were actually good for day anchoring in Kornati National Park and included rubbish pickup. The Rangers came by every afternoon to collect and the produce boat came morning and afternoon. We took two hikes, one half way to the town of Sali on the east coast and the other to a lookout station/cell tower on the west coast. We could only manage this in the mornings due to the heat and have taken to sleeping in the afternoons or running the air conditioning while charging systems. We have been playing guitar in the late afternoons for about three hours until it gets dark at 2130.

Today we waited until 1100 to catch a light afternoon breeze most of the way back to Rogoznica on the mainland and anchored on the east side of the causeway again (55 ft, 43d31.81'N, 15d58.32'E). This time instead of 2 sailing yachts and 2 motor yachts we had 24 & 8. Tourist season has arrived and August must be a zoo around here. We also passed dozens of charter yachts on our sail down the coast today. The west coasts of the Kornatis were very scenic with dramatic uplifted cliffs.

We may stay here at Rogoznica a couple of days again especially if meet up with some friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Costly Croatia

Somehow running the river back down thru the bridges and power lines was not as exciting as going up - probably because we knew all the clearances were OK. A few miles up the coast we anchored off the town and marina at Tribunj (26 ft, 43d45.07'N, 15d44.63'E). The old city walls now gone Tribunj is a charming seaside fishing village that recently received a face lift with an upscale marina, encircling quay and pleasant walking trail up the nearby hill to the Chapel of St. Nik affording a great view of Interlude at anchor. There was another Konzum (we call it safe shopping) supermarket that was well stocked and we picked up some white Croatian wine (Laguna) at $6.00 US a bottle that was the best we have tasted since New Zealand. At the marina office we inquired about the fees to visit the islands in Kornati National Park and Telascica Park on Dugi Otok. The National Park officials in Krka were unable to answer this simple question (not my park man). Evidently tickets can be purchased at some marinas in advance at a discount or in the Park on arrival. For those following in our wake here are the per day fees:

LOA                       Advance Purchase             On Site
up to 11 m              150 KN                              250 KN
11 - 18 m               250 KN                              400 KN
over 18 m              450 KN                              750 KN

60 KN per person (no charge for boat)

For Interlude the discount Kornati fee translates to about $US 90 per day so we have decided to give those islands a miss. Their claim to fame is very clear water which we have seen plenty of in our travels. They are also completely barren as the landscape increasingly is as we head north.

While at the marina office we inquired about berth rates for Interlude. Our 23.5 m daily rate for this time of year would be $US 255 and a yearly contract would be about $US 21,000. These are by far the highest rates we have seen.

Making our way to visit the less expensive park at Luka Telascica, we anchored at Uvala Potkucina, Otok Kakan. This bay had dozens of moorings and one taverna. The cruising guide said there is no fee for anchoring but at 1600 we were approached by a uniformed man wielding a receipt book in a very nice inflatable and asked to pay about $US 50 per night. Refusing to pay, we were given five minutes to leave and had a nice sail to anchor with no fee at Uvala Kosirina on Otok Murter (40 ft, 43d47.69'N, 15d36.60'E). The island of Murter is connected to the mainland by a bridge allowing dozens of campers access to the beach and bay at Kosirina. Trailers and tents line the shore and there are also a dozen yachts anchored here. The water here is clear and just warm enough for swimming.

We will be boycotting the Kornati National Park and bays that charge for anchoring. After paying nearly $US 700 to enter and cruise Croatia for 90 days we feel all areas should be included. If they are trying to limit environmental impact in the Parks (a resource which should benefit the nation) with high fees then Croats should get a discount but this is not the case. By avoiding those areas we all will hopefully have an impact on the additional fee policy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day Interlude

Independence Day we hoisted our oversized ensign and otherwise dressed ship with streams of burgees and other flags from our travels. We moved to the popular town of Primosten (70 ft, 43d34.99N, 15d55.61E) in search of other Americans to celebrate with but there were none in an anchored fleet of 40 yachts. So we entertained the anchorage with an eight hour Americana playlist and ate chicken with corn salad wearing red, white & blue (also Interlude's livery).

On Monday we ran a gauntlet of narrow channels, low bridges and powerlines up a river to Skradin and the Krka National Park (near Sibenik). Carefully interpreting the chart and its warnings, we anchored past all the other yachts, the marina and a no anchor sign in our own cove just past the town across from a swimming beach (20 ft, 43d48.91N, 15d55.74E). Most yachts anchor across from the town/marina (somewhat blocking the channel) and not realizing the no anchor sign marks an underwater pipeline.

Skraden is a small old town repaired after the 1990's homeland war to service tourists visiting the Park. The modern metal and glass Park office building though nicely done seemed an extravagant expense for what appears to house administrative offices and a ticket counter. We walked the docks in the marina finding yachts following our route since Greece including 'Big City' a mega motor palace with its tender 'Small Town'. Drinks at a bar overlooking the marina and dinner at the Skradinski Buc Hotel (set menu KN 80) finished off this fun day.

Private boats are not allowed to go any further upriver so Tuesday morning at 0900 we took a day tripper boat to the the Park entrance (KN 95 pp) to see the waterfalls. They were impressive but we hiked on up past them to a second reception desk to secure tickets (KN 130 pp) for another boat trip on the higher lake to the island Monastery of Visovac and the falls at Roski Slap. We had a couple hours before the departure to Visovac to meander thru the trees along a scenic boardwalk built over the tributaries feeding the falls. Leaving some tardy tourists standing on the wharf, at 1200 sharp two full boats left for the half hour ride to the Franciscan Monastery. A half hour tour reveled some interesting history and a rich library of historical manuscripts and books. After another half hour scenic cruise to the smaller falls at Roski Slap, we docked at the park center there occupying an old working water mill grinding grain and washing clothes. With only an hour of free time we took a quick walk walk up to the travertine terraces leading to the falls across the car bridge and back on the pedestrian bridge.

The upper lake tour took three and a half hours and we were back down in Skradin by 1700. Many European tourists took time to swim in the designated areas at the falls but we had our cooling dip with all the kids jumping off the town quay in Skradin. Another nice meal at the Skradin Falls Hotel, some shopping and we needed another dip back at the boat.

There is wifi here in the anchorage (E11 per day) so we may try get our Greece Report out tomorrow.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flagrante to Frapa

We spent a couple days just relaxing at Otok Drvenik Veli in a bay called Uvala Krknjas (45 ft, 43d26.33N, 16d10.37E). Many yachts came and went with about half staying the night making a little more room and giving us some distance from all the nude European boaters. Swimming, sunning or just lounging in the cockpit, male, female, kids it didn't matter they were everywhere.

On Thursday we moved up the coast to the mainland village of Rogoznica and anchored twice on the east side of the island. The first time was cut short when a thunderstorm with its wind shift had us too close to the beach so we re anchored off the causeway making sure to avoid the area marking an underwater power line (60 ft, 43d31.86N, 15d58.33E). We walked around the harbor to investigate Marina Frapa, one of Croatia's newest and found several mega-yachts as well as a couple from Jersey (old not New) we meet on Otok Mljet. They keep their yacht based here in Marina Frapa and have been cruising Croatia for the past two summers.

Friday we inspected and cleaned Interlude's bottom using some new plastic trowels purchased at the local hardware store. We rented some tanks from Diving Center Pongo just around the point from where we are anchored and kept them in the dinghy for connecting our hooka hoses. Our compressor needs a new safety valve and although there is a good shop in Split at the ACI marina we are are trying to wait until August in Malta to do any repairs when Interlude will be in a marina. We considered doing some dives with Pongo (they will pick up from our yacht) but the water is cold (7mm w/hood) and the touted small fish, gorgonian sea fans and wrecked freighters just did not excite us that much.

Tomorrow is Independence Day and Katie has a patriotic program planned.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Medieval Metropoli

We weren't attracted to the night life and glitz of new medieval Hvar Town so instead of mooring in the harbor we took the dinghy from our quiet anchorage in the Pakleni Islands. Anchoring off the town does not provide much shelter, the quay is very busy and the discos would have been unbearable (we could just make out the noise about a mile away in our anchorage). A hike up to the Venetian fortress above town for a panoramic view, a visit to the Franciscan monastery & museum, lunch at one of the many bistro/pizzerias, window shopping (even North Sails had a clothing boutique) and we were done. Dinghying back to Interlude thru the islands we spotted some more naturists sunning on the rocky shores. As we were weighing anchor three large motor yacht were coming in to what had been our secluded cove.
Sunday we sailed to the World Heritage site of Trogir on the mainland and anchored off the west side just out of the busy channel (25 ft, 43d30.84'N, 16d14.42'E). The old town of Trogir with its 15th century walls is built on a small island (as you did back in the day). Leaving the dinghy in the small canal on the north side we entered thru the 'Land Gate' and found ourselves in a vehicle free labyrinth of alleyways with a mixture of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture housing tourist shops, apartments and restaurants. Walking thru to the other side we came across the Cathedral of St. Lawrence and climbed the 15th century Venetian bell tower for a great view. The 13th century carvings of Adam & Eve with lions around the front door are also worth seeing. A visit to a travel/tour agency revealed that we could take a one hour ferry ride to Split($US 4 pp one way). The bus trip is also about an hour but the ferry takes you right where you want to go. We caught the ferry at the little wharf just across the south bridge and to the east.

Once at Split we could see that taking the ferry there was much easier than taking Interlude. There are a couple of marinas but all the big yachts are on the outside exposed to the numerous ferry wakes and surge. The town quay is even worse but there were a couple of yachts anchored between the marina and the quay avoiding the turning basin for the cruise ships and large ferries.

After a hearty lunch at hotel Tifany's restaurant we took a private walking tour (KN 90 pp) of what now remains of Diocletan's Palace. The Palace complex, built around AD 300 as this Roman emperor's retirement villa, now encompasses a good portion of old town Split. Our guide pointed out the many architectural styles that were built through the ages existing side by side and intersecting. Roman temples converted to churches; palace kitchens, servants quarters and basements now tourist shops, apartments, museums and banks. It was fascinating trying to find the old Roman Palace works amongst the later constructs. There was also continuity however, with one Italian family living in the same building since the 15th century.
Overdosed on medieval metropoli we will find a new anchorage this afternoon and just relax.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mljet, Moreska & Modesty

The National Park on Otok Mljet was very nice with a bus and boat ride included in the 90 Kuna ($18) pp entrance fee. Thinking the overcast weather would make for cooler exploring ashore, we tied the dinghy up to the wharf near the old Roman ruins and where the Park ranger boat is moored. A short walk to the Park kiosk to buy the entrance tickets and within a few minutes we were on a bus to the 'Big Lake' which is actually an inlet from the sea. A short bus ride later we boarded a launch in the rain to take us to a 12th century Benedictine monastery built on a small island in the 'Lake'. In our group were a small wedding party touring Croatia by charter yacht after their ceremony in Dubrovnik, a location chosen partly because it was mid-way between the UK groom and Russian bride's families. The buses and boats ran about every hour so we took our time exploring the island and the lakeshore. It was very scenic with pine trees overhanging the water, just a few old mansions, vineyards and the occasional tourist on a rental bike. The park officials came by Interlude every day in their boat to check if we had purchased our entrance tickets. We could stay as long as we liked (there was no anchoring fee) but the weather was clearing and it was time to catch the Thursday night performance of the Moreska in Korcula.

The Stari Grad (Old Town) Korkula on Otok Korkula was about a mile dinghy ride from our new anchorage in the Canal Zezenica off a 14th century Franciscan monastery on the small island of Badija (40 ft, 42d56.95'N, 17d09.71'E). We went into Korcula at 1700 to have time to sightsee the medieval towers, walls, alleys, cathedral, chapels, etc. and have time for a nice seafood dinner at the restaurant just as you enter the main gate before the show started at 2100. The Moreska is a folk dance that was popular throughout the Med but is now only preserved in Korkula. The dancers are one woman and two groups of young men wielding swords to commemorate a fight between Christians and Moors over a young girl. We sat in the front row of an open air theater trying not to get trampled or hit with sparks flying from the clashing swords. Live music was provided by a community brass band who sounded much better playing the traditional dance tune than the pop music intro. The dinghy ride back in the dark was easy in the sheltered waters of the channel but we did have to avoid a ferry departing for Dubrovnik or Split.

Today we sailed to the Pakleni islands off Otok Hvar. After some snooping around we settled in a cove on Otok Marinkovac called Uvala Stipanska (40 ft, 43d09.57'N, 16d25.36'E). These small islands with their many secluded coves are frequented by naturists and we have already spotted some wandering along the shore.

Tomorrow we plan to dinghy to historic Hvar Town, one of the most popular destinations along the Dalmatian Coast.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Elaphite Eli

After a failed attempt to anchor at Uvala Lopud, Otok Lopud (too much weed on the bottom), we found a nice spot off the quaint village of Luka in Sipanska Luka on Otok Sipan (22 ft, 42d43.73'N, 17d51.49'E). If you haven't figured out the Croatian by now, Uvala is Bay, Otok is Island and Luka is Harbor or Port. Luka was a sleepy little town of about a couple hundred people (the biggest town on the biggest island in the Elaphite Group), two mini-markets, a nice old hotel and about four restaurants. Ferries arrived frequently at the jetty and we were glad to be anchored out of their way and also glad not to have taken a mooring as one yacht found out after almost hitting the sea wall when it dragged. We took a walk up to the Campanile overlooking town and then down another way to walk the shoreline to the isthmus where a wedding party was being held at a small facility. On the way we meet Elijah the artist who after showing us his gallery, invited us to make some music and have some drinks that night at his home. We then meet his companion Lila who sang and played guitar and piano. With great food, drink, music and a spectacular lightning show getting ever closer at about midnight we decided it was time to get back aboard before the weather got too crazy. A low pressure area had been forming all day and night (1000 mB) with huge thunderheads. We never got any rain or wind but the forecast cast showed a change in wind direction to the NW later in the week so in the morning there was a mass exodus of boats from the north facing bay.

Our next bay, Luka Polace on Otok Mljet (45 ft, 42d47.47'N, 17d22.59'E), was an all weather anchorage in a national park. We had a nice sail beam reaching there in 10-15 kn SW wind. The scenery here is pristine: Lush green temperate climate vegetation clinging to grey twisted rocky ground on high hills and cliffs. We hope we are here early enough in the season to avoid playing bumper boats in this enclosed anchorage. Already there are four Gulets and five yachts anchored with some of them tying to shore and what looks like regular ferry service.
Tomorrow we will explore the Park ashore.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cavtat Clearance Croatia

Montenegro (ex Serbia-Montenegro, ex Yugoslavia) and the Gulf of Kotor was a special place with natural beauty and historic sights. An easy check out (other than having to tie to the wharf) and we were on our way 20 miles up the coast to Cavtat, Croatia.

Cavtat, five miles south of Dubrovnik, was an easy (other than having to tie to the wharf) check in: Police, Harbor Master, Police. A new 'tourist tax' just 10 days old and based on vessel length made our total fees for Croatia about $US 680 for three months, people, one year yacht. Returning yachts get a discount and there is slightly lower 30 day fee for crew and passengers. We plan to cruise Croatia for six weeks.

With the afternoon breeze pinning Interlude to the quarantine wharf (42d34.98'N, 18d12.94'E) we rigged a bow spring line and fender on the stem to use the prop to push her stern off. Even the charter yachts with bow thrusters were having a hard time leaving. One skipper who helped us tie up was with a flotilla of ten boats heading for Kotor. They were all Czechs and Katie gave them a big bag of ice cubes for their gin and tonics. Katie, half Czech, found out that her family name means 'twilight' or the red glow at sunrise or sunset.

Port captain Antonio informed us of a 35 Euro anchoring fee for Cavtat so we moved to the other side of the isthmus to Uvala Tiha (21 ft, 42d35.10'N, 18d13.21'E) where anchoring was free. Several other yachts had the same plan that day but Antonio warned us to leave immediately if a north wind picks up. Dozens of yachts are blown ashore in this bay each year. The winds all have names with the Bora or NE wind being the most feared here in Croatia. You also have the Maestral (NW) and the Sirocco or Jugo (S-SE). The car company execs must be sailors.

Two wharfs and two country clearances in one day and planned big day of touring Dubrovnik the next day had us in bed early. With calm weather forecasted for the day, we decided to anchor Interlude off the island of Lokrum (42d37.86'N, 18do7.25E) and take the dinghy about a half mile right into Dubrovnik's old harbor. Entering thru the medieval fortifications was grand as we imagined the harbor entrance chain being lowered for us. This ancient city with its many monuments, museums, monasteries, churches and palaces is fully recovered from the 1991 shelling by the Yugoslav army. Significant international aid has rapidly put this famous tourist destination back on the map and even without any cruise ships on Thursday, we still had healthy crowds from the numerous resorts in the area and even a wedding. Entering the city walls at the north gate near where we left our dinghy we took about six hours to see all the main sights: Dominican Monastery, Sponza Palace, Onofrio Fountain, Rectors Palace, Cathedral & Treasury (with a supposed fragment of the Holy Cross and dozens of relics such as the arm of Doubting Thomas), Maritime Museum and City Wall Walk (about an hour to circumambulate with great views). Lunch at Mea Culpa Pizzaria was very nice in a shady cool narrow alley near the Onofrio Fountain.

Finishing up with the wall walk got us pretty hot so a dip in Med was called for before moving the boat to the more secure anchorage of Luka Zaton . As we approached the head of the bay a local fisherman advised us that at 2000 hrs there would be nets set in that part of the bay so we obliged and came back down to the cove named Soline (65 ft, 42d41.76'N, 18d02.51'E).