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Change of crew, beautiful anchorages, line ashore.....and a rat!


Barb and Brian on Isabella

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was we left Plataria on 27 June to sail to Corfu. And sail we did. It was our 1st and only sail with Barb and Brian aboard. …


And then to Corfu

We left Erikousa and motored the 28 miles to Corfu. We decided to stop as close as we could to the town centre as we had to check in to Greece and we expected that to be a long process. …


Leaving Italy and Sailing to Erikousa

Well off at last.....we backed out of our berth at Otranto on Thursday 11 June and motored out of the harbour to head east to the planned  destination of the island of Orthoni 43 …


Last Days in Italy - Lecce - stuck on a train - and, meeting people

From Otranto we decided to get the train to Lecce, a city  not too far away and one noted for its baroque churches and public buildings. Of course the train journey turned out to …

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June 2015 Leaving Brindisi and heading for Otranto

Well by now we thought we would be off sailing but the maintenance and upgrade continue and we are enjoying Brindisi.

On the other hand we did get to out for dinner last night and …


May 2015 Back to Brindisi to Isabella

The adventure for 2015 started with a slightly sad departure from our beautiful little house on the water at Lower Snug for our journey back to Isabella in Brindisi. But weddings …

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June 2014 - Sardinia to the Amalfi Coast

June began with a quick trip to Corscia, to Bonafacio on the southern coast and through a narrow entrance to a small harbour which reminded us very quickly tht we had left Italy and …

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May 2014 - Menorca to Sardinia

May began with us back in Menorca to prepare Isabella for the next 6 months sailing. She looked wonderful. All the cleaning and careful packing away paid dividends, as we had a lovely …

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October Update

October 2013

 We arrived in Barcelona at the beginning of July, not realising at the time that this would be our home for over a month. We needed to fix the autohelm that had failed …

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Barcelona - What makes it so beautiful?

What is it about a city that as soon as you enter it, you feel drawn into it and attracted to it? What is it that gives you goose bumps and tingles you as you wander the streets …

To Barcelona

And so to Barcelona…………


We decided not to spend our time day-hopping up the coast from port to port but to simply point Isabella at Barcelona and cover the distance in about 35 …

Leaving Cartagena for Barcelona

Video above - Leaving Cartagena

As we prepared to leave Cartagena we realised how much there was we had not seen of this ancient port. So we set about visiting some of the museums …


With a little help.....


At the end of our inland travel, our friend Gavin joined us on the boat. Gavin lives in Noumea and we'd spent many good times together this time last year when we reached New Caledonia, …

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Wonderful Morocco



It's only a short distance across the Mediterranean sea from Spain to northern Africa, and yet entering Morocco we felt as though we had travelled much further …

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SEVILLE - JEREZ de la FRONTERA - CADIZ 19 May - 27 May

 Spain's public transport system is great. We've travelled solely by bus and train on this trip,   and found it reliable, relaxing and a comfortable way to travel. We've been able …

Photo Albums

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Cordoba 16 -19 May


Heading north and west from Granada, we travelled by bus to Cordoba, population 329,000, believed to be founded by the Romans in 152BC. We'd not been able to find a vacant apartment …

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Granada May 13 - 16

Our three week tour of southern Spain starts in Granada, near the south-east coast. As we approach Granada from Cartagena on the bus, the country side changes from flat dry sandy …

Change of crew, beautiful anchorages, line ashore.....and a rat!


Barb and Brian on Isabella

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was we left Plataria on 27 June to sail to Corfu. And sail we did. It was our 1st and only sail with Barb and Brian aboard. The winds gradually built to 17 kn and we reefed the headsail and main to keep the guests comfortable and skipped across to Corfu at 6 kn.

A wonderful end to a wonderful time with Barb and Brian.

We got back to Mandraki for a last night of good food and wine and great company.


A few days later Paul and Sally joined us in Mandraki to extend their adventure from last year in Croatia to this year in the Ionian Islands.

We benefited a lot from time we had spent with Barb and Brian exploring different anchorages and of course, different tavernas. We immediately headed south to Petriti where we had had a great time exploring the taverna panorama With its beautiful gardens, hammocks hung in the trees and even the pavilions in the garden for a massage.


Yachts at Mandraki underneath the old Fort.


Evening light over the old town of Corfu, taken from the Mandraki Marina

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When we got to Petriti we walked to the village of San Nicolaos to look at some of the older parts of the village and in particular to a house that belongs to a man callled Spiros. The house belonged to his parents and it is where he grew up. 

 Spiros has returned from 20 years living in Melbourne in order to look after his parents. He maintains this house as a free of charge display for interested people such as ourselves to drop in to see how his family lived in a 2 room house with 7 children.

His family was the family responsible for making baskets for the rest of Corfu and so his ceiling of his old parents house is decorated with the baskets for which they are famous.

At the back we found an old scooter which look like it had done fine service for the family although he you can get large numbers of kids on at the same time escapes me.



 One of the houses in the older part of the village of San Nikolaus, near Petriti, Corfu

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 we had one more night in Petriti, and of course one more dinner in yet one more Taverna. This one was not such a success with the food being nowhere near the standard of the other restaurants, but at least we sat there with a good view of Isabella bobbing in the setting sun light.

 One of the real treats of the night was the rise of the full moon which was only matched by the magnificent sight of the fishermen setting out into the dawn sunlight the next morning.



 And so on to Lakka! We had heard mixed things about the island of Paxos a few miles further south of Corfu - beautiful no doubt, but crowded and there was a risk of taking a rat on board as their rubbish disposal was not exactly efficient.

By this stage we had decided that we already had a rat on board, probably something that we picked up in Mandraki and we were on the hunt for it. So we decided that we were an importer of rats and has little to fear from the reputation of the northern port of Paxos. We are so glad that we continued. Lakka is a beautiful little bay with the most brilliant turquoise waters, clear and warm for swimming.



The bay was extremely crowded - we counted over 50 boats there one night but it was such a magnificent place we decided to stay. All the required was that we master yet another little technique of Mediterranean sailing that is the line ashore. With a little bit of trial and error we managed to drop our anchor as we reversed into a shallow part of the day and Sally bless her heart, swam ashore with a heavy line and tied us off to a large rock where we stayed for a few nights, revelling in the beauty and peace of the place.




From here we got a taxi and headed into Gaios, which is the main town on Paxos. The main purpose of the visit was to find a rat trap to rid ourselves of our new-found friend. There seems to be a commitment to an “humane" approach to dealing with rats. While we were looking for the kind of That takes the rats head off with a loud and satisfying thump, the best we could find was a sticky paired baited with some whole wheat. Apparently the idea is that the rats get stuck to the paired, alive and presumably quite distressed. We gave them a try and all we found was that we had no wheat left in the morning and we had a perfect set of “fingerprints" of one happy rat.


 Oh well! I guess we just have to sit in yet another Taverna while we plot the demise of our unwelcome guest.

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 Eventually we found a trap which Captured our friend Rattus Rattus in the act of stealing a cheese, drinking our milk, helping himself to a fruit juice and generally making himself at home.

Following an extensive and exhausting debate Rattus Rattus was given his freedom, pitched overboard alive and well and last seen swimming vigourously to shore.

And then to Corfu

We left Erikousa and motored the 28 miles to Corfu. We decided to stop as close as we could to the town centre as we had to check in to Greece and we expected that to be a long process. We got a berth at the Corfu Sailing Club (Mandraki) which is located at the base of the old Venetian fort which dates from the late 1300s. We pulled in at dock with 100ft walls towering over us and were amazed and delighted to hear flute and piano music wafting over the marina. Later we found the Ionian University Music Dept situated in the buildings of the old fort along with a gallery and the Corfu Byzantine museum.


The Old Venetian Fort at Mandraki, Corfu, with the marina at its base

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Inside the fort at Mandraki, Corfu

The next day we spent most of the day walking from official building to official building to find the right customs, immigration, port police and harbour officials to give us the right documents with the right stamps and at the right cost. As ever we were suprised (pleasantly) by the polite helpfulness of everyone we spoke to and (less pleasantly) by the complexity of what should be a simple process.  Anyway we got it done and soon we were thinking about moving on to some of the bays further north where we could anchor and find good swimming and great tavernas. Unfortunately we found bays full of badly anchored yachts.  The first bay we stopped in was hit by a strong squall which left one boat floating free with only one person on board. The skipper of the boat in front of us had his dinghy in the water and kindly went to assist. Unfortunately his boat broke free and came our way and crahed into out bow. Fortunately no damage was done to us but they bent one of their solar panels.  We were pleased to move on the next day but it was out of  the frying pan into the fire.  The photo below  doesnt really do justice to the closeness of the 6 yachts upwind of us, 5 of which broke free of their anchors when the wind got up later in the night and we spent an exciting time dodging them.  No hits this time!  

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After that intorduction to sailing in Greece we turned South to Gouvia Marina a few miles away where we were to meet Barb and Brian and where we could get the provisions we needed for the next week.  We were happy to be tucked in there as the next thunderstorm headed our way.

And so it was with Barb and Brian aboard we headed to Petriti on the souhtern end of the island


This time the anchoring was much safer and certainly more picturesque as we settled into the bay and explored the village.

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Boats anchored at Petriti, Corfu

On the water we met some fellow Australians who were sailing with their dog aboard and who had developed ingenious ways of gettign him to shore when he needed to. He was not fully  happy with this arrangement and was keen to get off the standup board and get back on the yacht.

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Things on the taverna front also picked up here, particularly after we moved a few hundred meters to Nortos where we found 2 tavernas set in beautiful gardens and one even had a small pavilion over looking the water for massages.  The food was good, the swimming excellent and the sunsets stunning. Now this is what the brochure was talking about.

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Isabelle anchored off the taverna at Nortos/Petriti  Corfu.


After a few days we were able to tear ourselves away and decided to head across to the mainland of Greece to Plataria just south of Igoumenista and north of Mourtos.  The twon quay looked liike it offered some shelter from the north-westerlies and there was supposed to be a nice beach there. Well all of that was true but it turned  out to offer a lot more once we had conquered the art of med mooring -  we had backed into plenty of berths before but never at teh same time as dropping our anchor. In fact all went fairly well apart from teh first time when we dropped our anchor over another one and when it came time to move had to struggle to untangle the mess of chain and anchor.

The photo below shows a more tranquil view of Plataria without the spectacle of me hanging over the bow trying to untangle a pile of 10mm chain and our anchors.

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Plataria Harbour

One of the excitements of Plataria was getting ourselves connected to the electricity supply as our batteries were well down and we didnt want to run the engine/generator in the marina. All ew had to do was find "George" who fittingly lives on a boat called Bizarre.  George was of course never there but always about to be. Eventually we gave up and got a takxi to Igoumenista 12 km away where we had heard that the harbourmaster would sell you a token and all would be well.  Fortunately we found a taxi driver who took this on as a personal project as we sought to penetrate the dark mystery of where the port authority could be found despite the signs which proclaimed its presence. Enough to say here that we did eventually get connected and deepened oout commitment to get solar panels for Isabella as soon as possible.

Plataria was full of fishermen of all types and here are some of the photos below. It was also populated by some extremely  nice people - Australians and english - gove us great help and advice, including the advice to visit the monasteries of Meteora.

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With the help of our friends we hired a car and set off  to see the spectacular mountains and the monasteries which date from the 13th century perched on top of them. ( some photos below)


Find the monasteries, there are 2 in this photo of Meteora Greece





Panorama from the Roussanou monastery at Meterora

Leaving Italy and Sailing to Erikousa

Well off at last.....we backed out of our berth at Otranto on Thursday 11 June and motored out of the harbour to head east to the planned  destination of the island of Orthoni 43 nautical miles away. It was our first good sail of the season; with an 18-20 knot northerly Isabella was up and going doing up to 8.5 knots. Fantastic!  The anchorage at Orthoni was full ( 2 other boats) and the two experiments we tried outside the little harbour were unsuccessful so we decided to keep going to Erikousa, the next island. This was a beautiful place. We anchored in the  bay and swam in water so clear you could see our anchor dug into the sand 8 meters below.

The next day we took the dinghy off the deck and went looking for the village.  this consisted of a small shop, a hotel and a couple of restaurants.  The hotel is run by George - a welcoming host, full of information and assistance-  and we returned for dinner - magnificent!.  We stayed a few nights here as George had arranged to get us a Greek flag (ours had gone missing) and we were enjoying the bay which was full of boats returning from Corfu to Brindisi after the annual Brindisi to Crofu race. On our last night there we watched as these boats started an Erikousa to Brindisi race. The sunset start was beautiful as the huge but graceful yachts manouvered to make the most of almost no wind.  It was going to be a long way back to Brindisi at that pace.


At the Start line - Erikousa to Brindisi Race 11 June 2015


Manouvering at the Start line - Erikousa to Brindisi Race 11 June 2015

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Main Up  -  Erikousa to Brindisi Race 11 June 2015


At the Start line - Erikousa to Brindisi Race 11 June 2015


Last Days in Italy - Lecce - stuck on a train - and, meeting people

From Otranto we decided to get the train to Lecce, a city  not too far away and one noted for its baroque churches and public buildings. Of course the train journey turned out to be fun if a little disorganised. The train system in Italy seems to be run by local controllers who decide at the last minute where the train will arrive and leave from - a system designed to give British type tourists like us a small anxiety attack. Anyway we did get to Lecce where we visited the Cathedral which stands as part of the city and the cultural assests that keep the city alive with tourists. Another of these is the Chruch of the Sante Croce which is so ornately decorated that it led one commentator to describe it as being build by a lunatic gone mad. The photos below include many of the figures cut into the facade.

Anyway a few photos of Lecce............


The Cathedral  - Lecce


The Doors of the Cathedral -   Interior - Lecce 


Interior Cathedral Lecce


Church of Santa Croce Lecce


Detail of the facade of the Church of Santa Croce _ Lecce


Romulus or Remus??   Detail of the facade of the Church of Santa Croce _ Lecce


Detail of the facade of the Church of Santa Croce _ Lecce


We left Lecce on the graffitti covered 2 carriage train heading for Otranto and eventually arrived after several adventures including being told by the driver, who seemed comfortable joining us in the cabin, that we must leave the train and get another one to get to Otranto. Sadly we seemed to have got our wires crossed and we ended up back where we started, waiting for the train to Otranto with a slightly Groundhog Day feel about it all - especially when the same little graffitti covered train arrived with the same driver to make the same trip.......

The joyful thing about it as always, is that we met some delightful people who were similarly trying to get to Otranto for a holiday.  We passed the hours in wonderful conversation and look forward to meeting them again somewhere sometime........  

And so to Greece

June 2015 Leaving Brindisi and heading for Otranto

Well by now we thought we would be off sailing but the maintenance and upgrade continue and we are enjoying Brindisi.

On the other hand we did get to out for dinner last night and had a delightful walk home in the warm night and the back streets of Brindisi.

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Well the good news is we did finally head out of Brindisi on 7 June and sailed to Otranto further South to shorten our crossing to Greece this week. But more of that later.  For now, just a couple of farewell photos of the boat yard in which we have spent so much time.



So Otranto turns out to be a beautiful little seaside port with an old wall city overlooking the small harbour. The photo below is from the city walls looking across the harbour. We tied up at the town quay on the right side of the photo and have been exploring the city - doing a minimum of boat jobs so we can enjoy the last of our Italian sojourn. 


It's a city like many in Italy and Spain which allows its childen to be free to have fun and to participate with adults dining in restaurants till the late hours, making the most of the afternoon siesta which drives us mad.  Nothing operates between aboiut 1:00pm and 5:00pm - even the restauranteurs go home for lunch!


Again it was the old churches which drew us in to their quiet, cool interior. There's just something about standing in the silence of a 1200 year old church admiring the mosaic floor which was laid by a single monk - workign to represent the Tree of Life using the whole church floor as his canvas.


...........while above the ceiling has been decorated in the ornate Italian baroque some 400 years or so later.


May 2015 Back to Brindisi to Isabella


The adventure for 2015 started with a slightly sad departure from our beautiful little house on the water at Lower Snug for our journey back to Isabella in Brindisi. But weddings and warm weather are beckoning so we said adieu to Lower Snug and headed to Melbourne to catch the plane to Brindisi.   It was a fairly frantic and lengthy trip from Hobart to Brindisi, due to the Qantas flight to Dubai being one and a half hours late which led to my missing connecting flights.  Things got a bit exciting including lots of angry arm waving from the locals at Rome airport as I skipped queues to catch hastily reorganised flights. In the absence of any skills in Italian I did a lot of disparing gestures and bemused shrugging which at least got me through unscathed. 

So it was with a huge sigh of relief I was met at Brindisi airport at midnight by the owner of the Buena Vista B&B who was a veteran of Sydney having spent 20 years there and run 3 restaurants. We had a great chat and I'd highly recommend the Buena Vista.

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This next photo is the 20 m high Roman column built about 100 BC to mark the end of the Appian Way which the Romans had built to speed up their supply lines to Africa. Ironically the little green sign on the left-hand side is the entrance for the Buena Vista B&B which, at the time I stayed there, hosted a number of senior delegates to the UN conference in Brindisi an international relief.  Brindisi is a major UN site being used for similar logistical purposes that the Romans had for their armies - that is the supply activities not the world domination part of the endeavour.  (As Monty Python has pointed out - “What did the Romans ever do for us - apart from roads, sanitation, education, public health, water management etc").



This  photo is of Isabella just after dark on Wednesday, 27 May. This is after she was dropped back into the water and having been put through her paces around the harbour to check for leaks and for things didn't work as they should after the winter list of maintenance jobs.  

There's lots to do and so cleaning her up and getting organised again will be fun and a challenge.


The adventure begins!   “To infinity and beyond".

Accompanying us on this years voyage is the Joe White Trophy - making his way to the UK to attend the wedding of Chris and Sophie. On way he will take in the sights of Italy and Greece before heading to London and on to Somerset for the big day.  Here are some photos from the early morn of 29 May

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30 May finds us still in Brindisi dealing with the various demands of the boat which seem to be endless.  Much work has been done and we thought it was all over when one of the pumps died...... only 10 months old and there it is - ready for replacement.

Todays photo then is pretty much from the marina where we spend 99% of our time. But it is a reminder of the history of Brindisi as a port city from ancient times.  The photo is of the old fortress/castle of Brindisi with a much more modern form of defence parked in front of it.  These days the invasion of Italy takes a different form with 170,000 refugees making it across the Mediterranean from North Africa in 2014. In the week we have been here 4200 have arrived.

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Sunday 31 May 2015  

Today we declared a day of no work - no pumps, no stuck valves, no electrical problems, - just a wonderful day wandering the streets of Brindisi.  We are definitely in that land of quaint streets and back lanes -beautiful and ancient buildings emerge just to surprise you. For example today we stumbled on a 10th century church of St Benedict with the romanesque arches and faded murals of over 1000 years ago. And then just to surprise you a 21st century graffitti artist tells of his/her broken heart. 

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June 2014 - Sardinia to the Amalfi Coast

June began with a quick trip to Corscia, to Bonafacio on the southern coast and through a narrow entrance to a small harbour which reminded us very quickly tht we had left Italy and were now in France - although both the Sardinians and the Corscicans would reject the idea that they are Italian or French and proudly fly their own flags, both of which bear the silhoette of a revolutionary fighter.  In fact our first stop in the waterfront tourist shops was to buy a Corscian flag to fly from the starboard spreader.  

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But there is no denying that the language is that of the colonising power and we were soon struggling to make ourselves understood in French when a few short hours before we were struggling wiht Italian.  We spent a day here exploring the tourist strip and poking into antique shops looking in vain for a bargain. At the end of the day we climbed to the top of the cliffs overlooking the Bonifacio Straits and watched a storm darken the sky and churn up the straits which we were to cross the following the morning .

A short sail from Bonifacio took us to the first of the anchorages we had planned in the Maddelena Islands - a protected marine reserve off Sardinia noted as much for the bizarre shapes of the rock on many of the barrern windswept islands. as for the marine environment. We nosed our way carefully into Cala Lunga on the island ...... and dropped anchor not too distant from these rocky creations and setteld in to watch the glorious sunset.

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The Maddelenas were just a stopping off point for us as we were headed for Gaeta on the west coast of Italy and so we didnt stay long. We had one more night at anchor on Maddelena Island itself and then sailed overnight the 163 miles to the island of Ponza , just 35 miles off the Italian coast.

Our sail to the mainland of Itlay was great and made all the more enjoyable by the expectation of meeting family and friends. When we arrived in Gaeta Harbour we were on the lookout for Rob and Judi in Pablo Neruda, and we soon spotted Pablo bobbing at anchor.  As we began backing in to our berth we saw someone waving at us from the other end of the marina and headed off in that direction thinking that the marina people had changed their mind aobut our berth. No! It was Rob saying hello and we passed some puzzled/slightly grumpy marina staff who wondered where the hell we were going.  It was great after 5  years of planning to sail together to meet up with Rob and Judi so far from home. It was 11/11/2011 that Rob motored out in to Port Phillip Bay to farewell us from Melbourne.  Even the local yacht club joined in the celebration and even though they were closed when we arrived they opened up for us and served large and numerous G&Ts.

The next day a great treat;  Michael's son Chris arrived with Sophie from London and Sophie's mum from Israel. We spent a wonderful few days together exploring Gaeta and catching up, talking, talking, talking, and generally having a good time. We even went and hired lounges on the beach and tried out the European experience of enjoying a beach. A different experience to the less organised Australian approach to beach going.   All too soon the long weekend was over and we had to farewell till next time - soon. 

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Gaeta is exquisite. It's not a tourist town. It's a place where people live and go about their daily lives with a mild interest in the few tourists who wander around. We strolled through little alleys, completely shaded and cool in the middle of the day, where Italian men and women, sitting in front of their small card tables that are layered up with boxes of lemons from their yards, or fish that had just been caught, waited for customers and watched what was happening in their streets.

 We found a pasta-maker. His tiny shop held a large long oblong table which was covered in dusty flour, shelves behind this with different flours and flattened cardboard boxes ready to assemble for customers, a two door commercial fridge which held very large sheets of pasta in partitioned layers, like architectural drawings or maps in a cabinet, and a small glass showcase, empty as it was closing time, covered in fluorescent star-shaped signs advertising his products and prices. We bought spaghetti for that night's dinner. It was a unique pleasure for us all to eat this soft, smooth but firm spaghetti, strands separated and lightly coated by a home-made pesto.

Before we left Gaeta Mike and Jill joined us for the perfect 2 week cruise .... and so it turned to be.  The weather was kind to us, mostly, and we were able to spend a wonderful 2 weeks island hopping down the coast to Sorrento and Amalfi and finishing in Salerno. But before we got there we went back to Ponza.


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 Ponza is very pretty with pastel coloured houses and buildings painted in pinks, oranges yellows and blues, like the iced lolly Easter eggs we used to get when we were children. They are very well kept, and look newly painted. The waterfront has many bars cafes and restaurants. Little shops hold trays of fruit, vegetables, bread, bunches of herbs, jars of jams and honey, wine, cheeses and prosciutto. They are dark inside and much cooler than the sharp sun of midday. Several shops display a sign for fresh buffalo mozzarella and in the first shop, there is none left, making me think that it's made each day. The woman tells me "ah yes, it's all finished now", and in the second shop, the woman asks if we would like some, almost as though she can see me looking for where it might be. She scoops out a large round milky white glistening ball from the liquid in a big dish, using a small plastic sieve. It seems now I have the last one. 

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Ponza's history inlcudes a period in which the Roman emperors used it as a resort and where Nero carved himself a set of baths which you can still see as the arches at the bottom of the cliff at the harbour entrance. 

 We take the dinghy to see the cliffs and caves that surround this bay and the island. They are very steep, rising up directly and vertically from the water. At the beginning of the bay, the cliffs have several arches carved into them at the water line, creating shallow pools that lap softly with swishing sounds as the swell shrugs its way in. Inside these caves there are little passageways that lead away into darker watered areas, maybe leading further into the cliff itself, maybe finishing just past where we can peer from our dinghy that is about to touch the rocks in the shallow water underneath us.

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 The cliff faces in this bay are made up of different rock surfaces. Some are a rich cream colour as though a tanker carrying paint has toppled over at the top of the cliff, and the liquid load has cascaded down covering all the ridges and bumps and outcrops in a rich creamy milky liquid, ready for making pancakes. Other rock faces are grey, the colour of old once-white cardboard that has been left out in the rain and has gone grey and curly with wetness and age. These ones are speckled with lumps of darker grey that mottle the surface like age spots on the hands of an old person, an opaque look that is almost translucent. And the third type is soft brown, the colour of gravel from a granite quarry, and it's dotted with low scrub and some white wildflowers, then a higher layer of spikes of bamboo and sprouts of bougainvillaea gone wild.

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We went ashore to have a look around and look for the yacht we saw  drifting slowly out to sea with its anchor hanging over the bow the day before. once we realised that all was not well, we had alerted tthe Coast guard who had taken off with lights flashing and calls for reinforcements on the radio. Eventually 3 official boats were speeding off to save the "stricken yacht" as we began to call it.  Jill talked to the three men who were on board. One had been asleep on the boat, left behind to look after it, and the other two were in town having a nice long lunch. The anchor dragged and the man on board had no idea that it was drifting, nor was he in any position to save the boat because he had no experience. They were fined E344.

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After leaving Ponza we sailed South to the island of Ischia.  A gentle sail in beautiful weather .. so much so that all the rules were broken and gin and tonics served by the skipper on the front deck!

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A very small island, part of the Pontine group of islands, in the gulf of Naples. It's authenticity and simplicity were a welcome relief for us from the over-developed tourist parts of Ischia. The tiny cafes on the beach cooked beautiful fresh fish - whole fried sardines were crunchy and moist - and a very special restaurant in a lemon grove, La Pergola, under the vines that looped and stretched overhead, was wonderful. They're known for their rabbit ravioli there and it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

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We're loving the delights of food in Italy. The tomatoes are not like any tomatoes I've tasted since the tomatoes of my childhood, when Dad used to bring them home on payday after going to the fresh food market in a large department store in the city. The buffalo mozzarella is slick and silky, with a very faint drip of liquid as you cut into it, and a tender skin, as soft as cooked egg white. It's delicious! It is sold out of the little "alimentari" stores by lunchtime. Then there's the bread, the pastries, the lemon cake, the wine, the freshly fried anchovies, the oranges and doughnut peaches, grapes and cherries, and the limoncello. 

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We travel in calm but swollen waters, heaving with the roll that's coming off the cliff faces and the fast ferries that criss-cross the waters between Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, and Procida. Breezes are light but by the end we can sail, and as we near the coast the gusts give us 7+ knot speeds.

The peninsula that separates Sorrento from Amalfi is short, and is dotted with harbours all along its high rise coastline. The cliffs stretch way up behind the towns, like a velvet green backdrop to a stage. Cathedrals are obvious and clear to see, their spires and emerald-gold mosaic domes shining and glistening.




The entry to Amalfi is spectacular. It is a small entrance, and not many boats can fit it. There is a high sea wall on one side, and a small bay next to the marina. We know that Julio from the marina will come to take over our boat and drive us in, but what we experience is more than a functional matter of berthing our boat. The narrow entrance to the harbour becomes even narrower, and our boat is nosing into a short gap between two pontoons, one boat-width wide, with no clear view of any space on the other side. The seaside restaurant that is only 10 meters away.

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Julio steers Isabella through, points her bow to the restaurant, then gently backs her in to the pontoon. Two men take over the lines, managing those that tie us to the dock and the one that ties our bow to the boat next door. It's smooth, professional and fast. Julio is proud of his skills. He looks happy. Although you can't see his eyes behind his lime-yellow-framed shiny mirror lensed glasses, you can see wrinkles at the side of his eyes that deepen as he turns his head around, checking distances, calculating speed and angles.

The town is right on our bow. The water is shallow and people are swimming within the throw of a stone. It's hot late afternoon sun, and we feel the stillness of the cliff-baked heat coming in waves.

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We walk in the town. The town square is small and surrounded by exquisite shops selling clothing, leatherwear, shoes, food, ceramics, and trinkets. Lemon-based and flavoured products spill from shelves, baskets and stalls - juices, liqueurs, cakes, ice-creams, lollies, cordials and pastries.

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The cathedral is ornate in gold and rich red, ruby, and navy blue decorated walls. Its richness also comes from the lighting which is warm and yellow, ballooning out from low chandeliers that hang between columns. As we enter from the front door, soft murmuring from a handful of seated prayers becomes louder. People are saying prayers, probably the Rosary, which is being led by a priest hidden in a side chapel or prayer room. They pray in unison with purposeful patience as tourists mooch up and down the aisles, chatting and taking photos. It must be hard to carry on life as usual in a town that is overcome by tourists and the busyness of buses and taxis, and people walking over and in the familiar ground of your markets and places of worship.

From Amalfi we take a short but exciting bus ride up to Ravello

Where we enjoy the tour of the 11th century villa 

and just take in the view.

And then it's back on board for the short run down the coast to Salerno, passing the glories of the Amalfi coast and some pretty spectacular architecture

And finally to Salerno which became our base for  a while as we did a bit of touring by land to visit Rome, Paestum and back for a special trip to Positano. 

It was here that we farwelled Mike and Jill as they headed back to Australia. It was wonderful to see them and we had the perfect cruise covering not too many miles but having some great sails, great times and the odd adventure along the way. We even experimented with the barbeque which was a culinary success but which confirmed in our minds that naked flame is not what you need aboard Isabella and so we donated the BBQ to the men on the shore who ran a boat hire business and looked after our dinghy when we went ashore. They seemed pleased and particularly so becaue we provided a few beers to help them christen it

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May 2014 - Menorca to Sardinia

May began with us back in Menorca to prepare Isabella for the next 6 months sailing. She looked wonderful. All the cleaning and careful packing away paid dividends, as we had a lovely dry clean boat to step onto. It was bliss coming aboard, looking around, smelling the now familiar smells of our stuff here. We arrived late'ish in the day and after taking down one of three canvasses that form part of her winter coat, we stepped down and went over to the little cantina/bar on the marina, sat in the still-warm sun, had a glass of red, and smiled. 

It was wonderful to be back in the quiet friendly little port at Addaya and we were excited about the coming year. 

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To our surprise we spent a lot longer on the preparation than we had planned.  When Isabella went back into the water we found that 3 of the hull fittings were leaking and so she had to come out again.  So began a saga of lifting her out and putting her back in as the repairs failed repeatedly.  Eventually she went back in for the last time and she stayed dry.

In the meantime we discovered that the batteries were needing replacement, the alternator was dodgy as well and we needed a new regulator ........ and to top it all off the water pump was leaking and the depth sounder was only working intermittently. All this delay meant that we had time to see something more of Menorca other than the ports.

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We hired a car and drove to the capital Cuitadella via Monte Torres where we found this statue of Jesus Christ amongst the mobile phone towers! 

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We also spent a bit of time in the cantina on the marina sampling the delights of Menorcan wine and food as our cooking was a bit restricted while we were parked in the carpark of the marina waiting for repairs to the hull fittings.  While we still slept on the boat we had  to scale 4 meters of scaffolding and slept suspended on the (hopefully) reliable straps of the machine that lifted us out of the water each time.  Eventually we were ready to go and we headed off to Sardinia where we were due to meet our friends Mark and Rosie.  The sea was flat calm and we motored across in company with a pod of dolphins who joined us for a short part of the 33 hour crossing. It was good to see the imposing sea wall of Alghero and Mark and Rosie as the welcoming committee.

We spent a wonderful week enjoying their company although our plans to sail them back to Olbia on the east coast didnt work out. Our attempt to set out was foiled by unforecast 48kt winds and nasty seas which forced us to turn back to Alghero.  Still we had the opportunity to spend time in the bays around Alghero and to see something of the inland of Sardinia when we hired a car to drive to Olbia. 

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The stone constructions of the Nuraghe civilisation dot the island and we visited the largest of these at Sant Tu Autine. We were also facinated to see the 11thC church of San Pietre Sorres with its multicoloured arches, reminiscent of the arches in the Mesquita mosque in Cordoba. The connection between Sardinia and Spain is strong with Catalan still being spoken on the west coast of Sardinia in towns such as Alghero.

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We left Alghero on 26  May and sailed to Castelsardo on the north coast. Castelsardo is an old fortress town and presents an impressive sight as we aproached late in the day after a 14 hour trip from Alghero. We spent the last few days of May here wonadering the beautiful steets and window shopping the local weaving..... eventually we succumbed and bought some beautiful baskets from a delightful old lady who sold her work at her front door.

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We left Sardinia on 31 May and sailed to Bonifacio in Corsica and then on to mainland Italy, but more of that next month.

October Update

October 2013

 We arrived in Barcelona at the beginning of July, not realising at the time that this would be our home for over a month. We needed to fix the autohelm that had failed on the way to Barcelona. A lot of time is spent waiting - for people to come and do work, for quotes to be written up, for parts to arrive, for work-arounds to be decided on, and for tradespeople to fit us into their thankfully busy workloads.   And so this longer than expected stay resulted in a fixed autohelm, and an additional new one, so that we never again have to face the task of helming 24 hours a day. And we had a wonderful opportunity to explore Barcelona - a city that was new to us and that we both love.


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We chose a marina at the foot of this beautiful city, and had views of old buildings of stained grey blocks and aged limestone that are two to three stories high with balconies and green wooden shutters, window flower boxes, long cane blinds draped out of the windows and over the balconies, and electrical wiring bunched together and running the length of streets along the buildings' exteriors, retrofitted to connect people. The city zings with street musicians who attract unselfconscious dancers, with people riding bicycles and ringing their bells, and with dense throngs of people walking to and from the beaches.            

Gaudi's architecture and design work is exquisite, and its beauty and sophistication is nothing like anything we've seen before. Sometimes the massive scale and implementation of his vision was a source of wonderment and pleasure. Like the Sagrada Familia which he commenced in 1883 and which is expected to be finished in 2026, the centenary of Gaudis death. Other times, the detail in his colourful creations turned us around in circles as we explored these elaborate extravaganzas. Like his rooftop chimney pots, or the mosaic-tiled garden wall and seat that winds around Guell Park like a kilometre long snake.

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We wanted to learn more about recent Spanish history, and read George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia". One day, over gin and tonics (that are served in nothing smaller than a glass almost as big as a brandy balloon) we looked up and saw that we were sitting in George Orwell Plaza. His involvement in the Spanish Civil War felt quite close as we sat next to the building where he had kept an armed rooftop watch during one outbreak of fighting in the city.

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The sailing fraternity is different here. Many people come from Britain and Europe to spend the summer on their boats which in many cases are permanently berthed in a marina. Their boats are their holiday homes, rather than being the vehicle in which they explore the world.

And the sailing is different too: the swells have a very short space in-between, sometimes as little as four seconds; there is either a lot of wind or not enough; the interplay between land mass and water is more intense than in Australia, leading to unpredictable winds, clouds, rain and unexpected turbulence; and the marine conditions overall are diabolically hard to predict. And then you have a glorious day when the sun sparkles on the water and the wind is just right so that your boat picks her head up and you hear the gurgling of waves at the bow.

People tend to sail short distances. One couple that we met who have been sailing for five years have never been out of sight of land. There are harbours with marinas equipped to take sailing boats all along the Spanish coast, sometimes only 5 nautical miles apart.

Space in marinas is at a premium in summer, and "Mediterranean mooring" ensures that as many boats as possible can squeeze in: basically you reverse into the dock, in-between two boats already berthed and with only one fender space between you on each side, you throw one stern line out to the dock, then pick up, at the stern, this other long line that's attached to the sea floor that will eventually hold your bow firmly. You drag this the length of your boat to the bow, keeping it sufficiently clear of your decks and clothing to avoid the green slime and sludge that covers it. Everyone calls it the "slime line".

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We were due to return to Australia for the month of August, to do some work that had come up for Michael, and were pleased to leave the hottest month, and the most crowded month, for cooler land. The heat is intense, and seems far hotter than any summer we've had, because of the high humidity. Nights are absolutely windless with high minimum temperatures in the twenties. The weather brings people outside at night, and sends them inside shuttered homes for a lengthy three-hour siesta in the middle of the day. 

We left Isabella in Port Balis, just a short sail north along the coast, and only 35 kilometers from Barcelona, to return to Australia. This was an easy place to choose - it was where our rigging would be replaced, and a new staysail installed, over the next month.

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Our return to Europe was via Turkey, where we spent a wonderful week with 11 other people on a Gulet, a 33m vessel that toured us along the southern Turkish coast, to celebrate a major birthday of our friend, Gaye. It was all luxury and no responsibility. When the toilets wouldn't flush, we sat back and let the crew fix the problem. The anchors were set and weighed as we read, or sunbaked on the massively wide decks. The swimming platform was lowered, all meals cooked, towels provided, a broken throttle cable fixed, as we swam, chatted, and laughed ourselves silly in the wonderful and charming company of our friends

And so to Spain again. The rigging was almost done, the staysail wasn't, but we had more chances to explore the city of Mataro, and of course, to take an easy 45 minute train trip to Barcelona for a day at a time.

Catalonia is recognized in Spain as an autonomous region and is officially recognized as a nationality in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. It is pushing for independence from the rest of Spain, and has held many referenda to gauge public support. We were caught up in the celebratory frenzy of this widely held and passionate desire on the 11th September, Catalonia Independence Day. It was exciting to see tens of thousands of people lining the coastal road that makes the southern boundary, holding hands and chanting, making a human link along the whole southern border. We stood with them on the road, enjoying the sight of families chanting and swaying to their song, flags flying, helicopters and planes flying low over the length of the road, and the finale at 1714 hours, when everyone sang and cheered at the time representing the year when Barcelona lost its battle to have a Habsburg king. Hmmm. Complicated stuff.


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Our second visitor for the year, Michael Johnson, joined us for five days of fun, good food and laughter. Michael, from Kalgoorlie and New Zealand, was cycling through southern Spain, following the Vuelta, and had the most amazing bike, and an unbelievable amount of gear stashed into one tiny backpack. It's a lot to go through when you're trying to find that tiny black distance-calculator that has to be attached to the handlebars.


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And now we're in the Balearic Islands, in the port of Palma on Mallorca, a day and a night sail from the mainland. This really is a playground for many rich rich people from Europe and the Cayman Islands. The private boats are massive. They are beautifully cleaned and polished by staff, and kept in perfect condition, including the must-have flower arrangement on the back lounge area, at the stern, announcing the owner's wealth and prestige.


We're in a very small marina which is mainly for use by charter companies. So we need to clear out on Fridays when the boats come back in, and come back on Saturdays when they go out. The beauty here is that we are in the fishing harbour, and we overlook the little landing jetty where the small fishing boats unload their catches in the early morning, next to the commercial sorting and selling shed. The activity is peaceful and quiet, and as the sun warms up, the fishermen sit, with heads bent, at their nets to mend and strengthen them.

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We were joined by friends Merran and Brent for a great week of exploration and sailing. The shops are amazing here, and too good to pass by on many occasions, much to the dismay of the male part of our group who were more intent on finding food.

And how fantastic is the food! We've discovered a magic little restaurant where the waitress bustles around the tables with athletic energy and in a raspy almost smokers-cough voice, explains all the options on the menu, laughs, carries the blackboard and swivels amongst tables, doubles back to explain something further, flips her head sideways, tilts her hips and strides off to the next group of people who have questioning looks on their faces. The food is stunning: a mix of authentic Spanish and creative twists. What a wonderful blend. Think calamari, prawns, aubergine, chorizo, black pudding, potatoes, eggs, pork, sardines, scallops, tomatoes, olives, creme caramel, cheesecake, chocolate pudding. And then there's wine.............. more superlatives.


We sailed with Merran and Brent to another harbour further to the west, and stayed a bit longer than expected to wait for strong winds and swells to pass. We explored the local food, walked, shopped, had a picnic on the beach, visited an art gallery, read and chatted non-stop until bedtime. The weather is sunny and warm, the nights calm and windless, and Isabella rocks gently in her berth.





Barcelona - What makes it so beautiful?

What is it about a city that as soon as you enter it, you feel drawn into it and attracted to it? What is it that gives you goose bumps and tingles you as you wander the streets at night-time, listen to a concert, look into doorways, watch people, or take in the rolling waving lines of a Gaudi design?

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We've found never diminishing beauty in the rough and smooth walls and cobbled streets. The old quarter seems to breathe, almost with a recognisable rhythm, as the sun takes long-stretched hours to settle behind old buildings. The light stays golden and warm for ages after the sun has set, and we're surprised, night after night, that it's really as late as the tolling bells say it is.


Music is everywhere. It bubbles to us from an unseen jazz duo in a bar that we pass. From around the corner of a plaza where a young cellist practices in front of an old fountain. From a concert we go to in a museum of modern art. From the sumptuous music room of a Gaudi house where a tenor drives us crazy with delight as he sings "Nessun Dorma". And from three young people at a table next to us, at a cafe in a square, who quietly go over their repertoire for some performance they are about to give, in hushed harmonies.


People are not intrusive. They wait to see if you have a need, or if you're ready to order, or if you have a question and want more information. We're not confronted by pushiness, and sense a respectful patience. There are smiles but they're reserved. There is laughter at some silly mistake or difficulty in being understood, but it's accompanied by a lingering twinkling look rather than the smugness of having achieved an advantage over a tourist.

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People have, and do, bother to do things. Over a hundred years ago the Modernisme movement created spectacular redesigns of homes by Gaudi and other architects and designers because they bothered to make things better. The government has bothered to maintain the building program of the Sagrada Familia in a time of massive and for many people, debilitating economic burden. Hundreds of architects, designers, ceramicists, plasterers, builders, painters and weavers continue to bother to recreate Gaudi's dream of the Sagrada Familia after his designs and plans were destroyed in Franco's time.


And to the simple things: a taxi driver bothers to laugh with us as we load a month's supply of food and alcohol into the small boot of his car; the security guard at the marina always bothers to smile and say "buenos dias" even if it's the eighth time we've walked past him that morning; the shop owner bothers to give us explicit instructions and a diagram on how to find a very local ATM rather than wave us in some vague direction; and a waitress is tickled pink that we've come back to her cafe two days in a row, and bothers to notice and to welcome us.

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It's a city where beauty mingles with smelly wafts of sewerage from some unidentified source, and where the breathtaking efficiency of the underground train system sits alongside strangely absent security checks in many public places. It's where we sit at a young-modern edgy cafe with good food and in turn are asked for food and money by trembling people.


Sitting in Placa de George Orwell, and having just read his book "Homage to Catalonia", we're aware of the hard battles that have taken place here, and again have a better but still limited understanding of the complexities of political belief, of conquests and conflicts, of terror and peace-at-a-price that have cast the background to our very brief exposure. 

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So the things that we love have something to do with history and its presence today, and with the softness of the light. It's about the warmth of this time of year, and the ever-present warmth of people who care. It's about the senses and how they come alive with things that are so pleasant to see and hear and smell. It's easy to accept that occasionally you fall in love with cities like this.

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© Michael White 2013