Hello Again Everyone
First of all a very big thank you to all of you who have been keeping in contact with us over the last six months. Yes we are still out here. I know a number of you have been wondering why we have not updated our newsletter, and the blog, as the sailing season is now under way here in the Mediterranean. The reason is I am still without a computer after all the problems I had at the end of last year, and I won’t be replacing it till the end of this year when I will be going to Abu Dhabi. So I am using Alec’s old one which has also caused us some major headaches at times.
Well Spring has arrived with blustery winds which just don’t seem to stop blowing, mostly from the wrong direction too! It is also still quite cool. Bring on those lazy hazy days of summer.
We survived our Mediterranean Winter in Marina di Ragusa on the south eastern coast of Sicily. At the end of 2012 after arriving in the marina, we were able to work on the boat at a leisurely rate as we were to spend most of the winter living on board. New mooring lines were fitted and SHAMAL was secure and ready to face the winter storms – and we had a few of these. Sails were washed, removed and checked, then handed to the sail maker in the New Year for repairs. We have since come to a major decision that we will now need a new set of sails before we cross the Atlantic. So much for the wonderful laminated sails we were recommended to use, and told they would last us ten years!! The tender was cleaned and her bottom painted, and all the handles were re-glued on again in the early spring. The glue did not hold out when we passed through the tropics. The “To Do” job list gradually got shorter, but funny how new jobs pop up and get added to the bottom, so actually it is a “never ending” list. This is all part of the sailing life.
In mid-December we took a trip to Malta on the big catamaran which runs between Sicily and Malta, to visit the American Embassy to get visas which will allow us to take the boat into the States, as well as our selves. They are multi entry visas for up to 6 months at any one time, and valid for ten years. The fee was Euro 160 each plus we had to be interviewed at the US Embassy. The only problem is that our New Zealand Passports are only valid for 5 years!!! For some reason NZ changed from 10 to 5. Just another revenue collecting ploy I imagine. We have been told when our Passports expire just present the expired one with our US Visa with our new Passports and everything will be OK.
In Malta we stayed with our friend Jack on his yacht in the Grand Harbour Marina. The day we were due to leave one of these winter storms passed through and the Catamaran sailing was postpone for a couple of days. We moved to a small Hotel in Valetta as Jack was heading off to France, and wandered around this old city of which we never tire of, as there is so much history here. Also this place was all decked out with Christmas lights and carols were being played. It was just beautiful.
Christmas and New Year back in the marina were one round of social events which kept everyone there fully occupied. No one was left out and you attended the festivities you wished to attend. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve BBQ, and on Christmas Day a huge sit down lunch which we all contributed a vegetable dish or a desert. We put into a kitty money towards the Turkey, Pork and Beef, which a local restaurant cooked for us. New Year saw most of us going to a local restaurant, which actually was a little too much for the resturanteries to cope with. Never mind, fun was had by all. The only down side was that we all ate and drank too much. Bring on the summer again when we can lose those extra gained pounds!! There were over two hundred yachts in the marina this winter, but living on board at any one time about 40 were occupied. People came and went to visit family and friends, or went off on site seeing adventures. We made so many new friends and caught up with people we had met in different bays and Islands on our travels around the Med. Since the beginning of April the marina is filling up fast again as people return to start the sailing season. Most people will leave early May. We hope to head off before that.
During the winter months we were also kept busy not just repairing our boats, but also learning how to do different jobs. There was a wealth of knowledge on all subjects such as electronics, engine maintenance, battery protection, weather forcasting, using the internet and wifi, and the list goes on. Once a week there was a meeting in which one of these subjects was covered. Alec and I also learnt how to splice three ply rope, which has already proved helpful.
Also in the marina this winter we met up with Lloyd Price from Australia, who is sailing his ‘Seawind 1000’ around the world. Fancy that, as there are currently only two Seawinds doing this trip at the moment. It was good to compare notes over dinners and drinks.
I was very sad to say goodbye to the family, but they were busy packing to return to Abu Dhabi, and Alec and I needed to head back to Sicily. Thank goodness for the invention of Skype. We really feel we are with them. We watch our little men grow and chat with them all as often as we can. They are now settled into their new home and Dan is really enjoying his new job with Abu Dhabi Aviation. Brigitte has shown us through the house and we have been able to discuss furniture and colours etc. which is so much fun.
In March Alec’s sister Maggi and her husband Ken came down to visit for five days. Unfortunately the weather was not too wonderful then, but we did hire a car and had a bit of a look at the south eastern corner of Sicily. We even had snow flurries on one outing. Alec and I did manage to see some of the country side either with friends, or we took the bus. Sicily is a very pretty Island with a rugged landscape. Due to its position it has had its share of foreign invades over the centuries which have all left their mark. Greek temples, Arab domes, Byzantine mosaics, Norman castles, and the list goes on.
Once back in Ragusa we had Easter. This is a major event for the Sicilians. Again the yachties were invited to join the local community, this time for the Easter procession through the town where an effigy of Mary is carried along the streets and locals who don’t join the procession come out of their homes with monetary gifts for the church. We joined the procession for a couple of hours, but thought it would not come to an end so made our way back to the Marina. About half an hour later it finished in a park where a fireworks display was then held. We also went to visit the Village Hall where all the Easter Baking was on display ready for the Big Feast on the Sunday.
The beginning of April also saw us making plans for the coming cruising season. Plan ‘A’ was to sail to Malta, Tunisia to have SHAMAL hauled out and jobs done, then off to Sardinia and into the Western Med to explore that area before doing the Atlantic crossing in December. Well BIG CHANGE OF PLANS. We went along to a talk at the marina by the guy who wrote the Black Sea Cruising Guide which was published in 2012. Guess what, sounded like a really interesting place to visit, so we are now heading off back to Turkey. We have already been to Istanbul, up the Bosphorus and pocked our nose into the Black Sea, but it was August then which is a little late in the season to start cruising there, plus at that stage hardly anyone was sailing those waters. I still don’t think it will be crowded with yachts which will make it all the more fun. Once in the Black Sea we plan to turn to Starboard - Right – East- cruise the northern coast of Turkey, into Georgia, bypass Russia as they are not open to cruising yachts yet, then up to the Ukraine, down to Romania, Bulgaria, then back to Istanbul. This should be a really interesting season. But first off we still intend to visit Malta, then Tunisia as SHAMAL has not been lifted for over two years, then on up to southern Sardinia as we want to meet up with friends along the Eastern side of Sardinia for a few days. From there, well we will start heading east again, so will keep you posted as to our new destinations.
Well time to start moving so will sign out and an update will be out again soon.
We wish you all the very best for 2013
The Admiral and The Commander