Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lily's Art ~ Starfish

Friday, July 29, 2011

Italy "cruising"

Greece! We miss you!!

This week we logged some long miles.  We arrived in Italy last Monday, and since then have been surprised at the difference between Italy and Greece as far as the "cruising" goes.  What a difference! It’s obvious that the whole idea of cruising is new(er) to Italy, because the coast is not set up at all for cruisers, the landscape is very straight and long, no bays or places to anchor.  They are in the process of building marinas, but are expensive and usually full.  To complicate matters, marine charts show the word ‘marinas’, but are actually towns.  The word marina in Italian is used to mean a village on the sea.  So….there may be an actual marina there or there may not, most often not.  Sound bewildering?  Try it at 3:00 in the morning after you’ve been awake and sailing for over 24 hours.  So we’ve been powering around 'the boot', covering almost 400 miles in less than a week, which is not a fun pace.  Sailing overnight seems to work better, one because the wind calms down a bit, and two, the littles’ can sleep and wake up somewhere new, and don’t spend all day bouncing around inside and watching movies like couch potatoes, although it leaves the rest of us….Emma, Maggie, Levi and Rachel and I, a bit groggy. Then, once we recovered, we do it again!

So we arrived in Sicily yesterday and are as far down as a town called Syracusa, on the Southwest corner. This is an amazing town as well as huge historical significance (what isn’t over here?) 
This city was a rival to Athens for the center of the Greek empire and there was a huge battle here for that status in 715 BC. The brilliant scientist Archimedes was living here and designed a cool, ancient defense system. He developed a contraption of mirrors and lenses and was able to harness the sun’s rays and set fire to the sails of the invading ships. He was ordered to be captured and taken alive to Athens, but a random foot soldier got over-excited and killed him, wanting fame of his own.    

From here, we will go the very South-west point of the island, what looks like a very mellow anchorage (we hope!) and from there, it’s ‘only’ 60 miles to Malta.  Although with our station wagon, that’s still a 14 hour day! So we’ll see you then……


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Birthday party!

Today was Lily’s birthday, and for anyone that knows Lily, this is pretty much the highlight of her year! She’s been counting down since the day after her birthday last year and I think she’s woring on plans for her 9th birthday now. She’s turned 7 today and we had a great day making her feel special. I tried to negotiate with her to have one more year of being 6 and then next year she could go straight to 8, but she wouldn’t have it. It would have given me another year to adjust that these kids keep growing too fast, but there’s no stopping it, and I’m afraid it’s happening much faster than I like. L
So Rachel started her day with pink pancakes, and Maggie and Rachel made her chocolate cupcakes, with pink frosting, and we had a tea party for lunch. For dinner, she wanted hamburgers and of course, macaroni and cheese. With the wind howling outside all day, over 20 knots, and the seas stirred up in no shape for comfortable sailing, we had a relaxing day celebrating with her and watching movies.

We love you Lily and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Italian Waters!

After giving Maggie and Levi a whole three days to recover from jet-lag, and only having a narrow window to sail to Italy, we finally headed out of Corfu. We were only missing one bag from the airline, and had to wait a few days to make sure we got it. It travelled a bit further than Maggie and Levi, going to Sicily, Athens and finally to Corfu. It was worth the wait because it was holding our satellite phone we’d just purchased and, much more importantly, Maggie’s new clothes form the states. 
Emma and Levi 'raising the flag' ceremony ;)
We really loved hanging out there in Corfu a bit longer and getting some stuff done on the boat. Erik was able to work on some engine maintenance, and finish a few projects, like a water leak under the kitchen sink that has ruined some of the new wood floor L…………BIG L….so fixing that’ll be a project for another day.

After looking at the weather, we saw two days that looked pretty calm, so we went for it. There really is no sailing to Italy from Greece this time of year, everyone says wait for the least amount of wind against you, and crank up the engines. So, we made it an overnighter and Levi and I took turns watching for ships across the Adriatic Sea, a very busy stretch with tankers, tankers, and ferries going up and down to Croatia and Venice.
We didn’t see too many other boats, maybe 4-5 all night. We’d expected more, so that was OK by us.

We’d just about arrived in Italy and could see the lighthouse on the heel of the boot, when a HUGE Italian Coast Guard boat pulled in quickly behind us, and about 10 guys stood on deck checking out our little boat. They announced they needed to board our vessel and check our paperwork, which was fine. It was about 5:30 a.m. and Rachel and the kids were still asleep. So they came aboard and looked inside. It didn’t seem like they knew what to look for, the two that boarded just kinda stood in the main saloon for a few minutes looking around. Then they announced everything was OK and climbed back on their boat, pushed away and zoomed off to find another boat. I assumed they have tightened security with boats trying to come into Europe from middle east countries like Libya, not really that far from us here.

So we came into the first port around the corner, right on the heel of ‘the boot’ of Italy and Levi and I tried to catch a little nap. From the boot, it’s another long day to the next stop across to the front of ‘the boot’ so we spent the day checking weather and realizing a storm was coming in, tucked into the marina for a couple of days to recoup. This is the first marina we’ve been in since we left Israel almost 3 months ago and I can say the hot showers were EXTREMELY welcome.

So……good-bye Greece and hello Italy!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Goodbye Greece :(

After over two months, of swimming, exploring, sailing, hiking, swimming, anchoring, (and often re-anchoring!) oh, and swimming and hopping to over 30 islands and wandering Athens, it’s time to move on :(

We have absolutely loved our time here in Greece, and I think almost everyone (excluding Miles) wants to come back on their own terms. With 8 people in the family, there is always something someone didn’t get to do, spend enough time seeing, an island we didn’t make it to, whatever.

What we’ve told Maggie and Levi is that this whole trip in a way is a taste for them to see what’s out there, there is no way possible we could see it all, do it all, and in our budget travels, that’s really just the way it is. Cruising is an awesome way to see the world, but it’s constantly a give-and-take on what is practical and what we just can’t fit in or see. We’d love to see it all, but we wouldn’t get too far!
So, today we ‘check-out’ of Greece, surrender our cruising papers, and wait for a weather window and start making our way to Italy….

We’ve heard that during this time of year, there’s really no point in trying to sail there, the wind is almost constantly on the nose heading NNW, so the best you can do is pick the best time to motor there. The winds usually die down at night, so we’re thinking of leaving in the evening on Sunday or Monday, and pull an all-nighter to hit the SW coast of Italy 12 hours later, Monday morning. That’s the plan for now anyway, but sailing is all about being flexible so you’ll hear from us in Italian waters……we can’t wait! Rachel’s got the spaghetti ingredients on the counter-top, eager to celebrate!


Crossing over to Italy...WOOHOO!! :)

Hi Everyone! 

This is Maggie! Back from the States......Levi and I had such a great trip visiting friends and enjoyed spending time with our cousins and Grandparents. It was hard to say good-bye but we are also excited to be back on the boat!! We missed the little kids a lot and Miles seems to have grown 2 feet in just a short month!!

I'd love to share pictures but we have slow internet connections so we can't upload. I'm hoping maybe in Italy we'll have some stronger internet so you can see some pictures from the trip :) 

Speaking of Italy, yes we're leaving today! I'm so excited!! Italy has been one of my favorite destinations and I'm excited to be finally crossing over there! 

So Last update here from Greece for awhile...... More updates and pictures to come in Italy :) Well I have to go "ready" the decks for the sail.....Ciao for now :) 


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Corfu, Greece

Somehow, without our biggest crew members, we’ve made it to the top of Greece! (Well, there is actually one more island to "swing by" on the way to Italy)
Corfu is a very cool island and is hugely influenced by Venetian architecture and parks, narrow streets, and more cafes than you can throw a Gyro at. It actually belonged to Italy up until 60 years ago or so, so it’s a bit surprising Italy wanted to give up this gorgeous little nugget. It is the most visited Greek island, and with the maze of streets and shops and very unique flavor, it’s easy to see why. The beauty of living on a sailboat is we can take the dinghy (our car) into town, hang out and experience the island, the excitement of downtown, hike a castle, or whatever, then retreat to the boat anchored out in the harbor and sit in the cockpit and see it from a very quiet distance.  In some ways it’s the best of both worlds, that is unless there are heaps of ferries making wakes. Although room service once in  while would be pretty welcome.

It’s pretty obvious how strategic this island is because there are two ancient forts protecting it and the canal between Greece and Albania. One very old and one “new” (only 600 years old) I’m sure that fact that is such a link between continents and the Mediterranean sea, explains why it has been so fought over and under Venetian rule, French rule, British rule, and more recently Italian and now Greek.
That’s one thing that’s been strange about seeing so much history over the past few years, is how quickly countries and regions seem to change. I mean, even during my lifetime, communist Russia and East Germany; actually all of Eastern Europe goes through a massive transformation during the fall of communism. And more recently Yugoslavia being dismantled and replaced by 4 other countries. Now we're watching the middle east undergo a massive transformation. We think everything stays the same, but actually the only that seems constant IS change. Wow, enough philosophizing! Must be too much ancient Greek philosophers rubbing off!

Anyway, photos are tough because of the size to upload, but we’re working on it!

Love you all!

Friday, July 1, 2011


As we get closer to the end of the Bay of Corinth, and Patras, we were able to meet up with another American boat on their way to finish their 3-year circumnavigation around the world on their sailboat, Imagine. They are from Chicago and they have three kids, Caroline-12, Grant-10, and Noah-8. Needless to say, our kids were more than excited to hook up with them again. We’d first met them in Israel and we left at the end of April a day apart, them going to Turkey, and us to Cyprus and then on to Greece. They sailed literally right out of the bay in Chicago and though the Great Lakes, Hudson River and down the East coast and on and on and on! Please check their website at the bottom of our page.

It was fun re-connecting with them and we plan to stay together the next couple of weeks until they head north to Croatia and we head west to Italy and Sicily. So it’s fun times for all of us and makes life seem somewhat ‘normal’ being able to hang out with another family and not struggle with language or culture. So far, we’ve had BBQ’s, games and water fights (wars!), campfires on the beach and ‘sundowners’ a cruising term for happy hour.
We also met a friend of theirs, Martin, from Austria who is also finishing (technically finished) his circumnavigation and headed back to Austria after being gone for 3 years. He is on an older wooden boat, ketch rigged (2 masts) and set up for single handing. Meaning he’s sailed almost all around the world by himself, except for occasional help from crew. He also LOVES kids and immediately scooped up Miles and holds him whenever he can. He’s built like a rugby player and Miles looks really small in his huge arms! He is website is also at the bottom of the page, Anima 3
So, we are all moseying along up through the Ionian Sea, enjoying the much greener landscape and absolutely crystal clear waters, managing to swim at least twice a day and having some lazy sail/motor days.

~ Hems