Friday, August 26, 2011

ROME!!

We made it into Rome, and up the river late Sunday night, ready for the bridge to open at 6:30 the next morning.

Like clockwork, it opened and we met up with our sailing friends on s/v Imagine. Please see their blog at the bottom of our page, they are ‘close’ to finishing their circumnavigation in a few months and we met them in Israel right after they’d come up though the Red Sea. We were tired from a long week of sailing and it was great to meet up with friends, and they’d had all the ropes figured out for shopping and getting into Rome and back.

We are moored in a river near Fiumicino, not far from the airport, and about an hour outside the center of Rome. It’s a small boatyard owned by two brothers, who let cruisers use their dock for very reasonable prices, and it’s probably the only way a family of our size would be able to see Rome without costing a fortune. The Adams had been here almost a week already and were planning a road trip up to Tuscany and Pisa and Florence, and invited us along. So we would save the sights of Rome until after the road trip and after a day of rest, we were on the roads going 10x the speed of Mehari. It was strange moving that fast after putting along in Mehari for the past few months, but no one was complaining! It was really nice sitting in a quiet car with no diesel engine rumbling, and with air conditioning!!


We'll send some updates from the road trip and some photos........


~ Hems

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sailing into Rome at sunset!

Capri -

The myth……..the legend……..the really, really, overcrowded, hangout for the super rich!


We made it along the Amalfi coast, amid 25-30 knot winds coming off the HIUGE mountains surrpounding us and were absolutely in awe of the houses perched up there with cool roads and bridges clung to the hill. But, once we were close enough to anchor in an exposed and rolly bay, we spotted some mooring balls that we could just tie up to instead of trying to anchor. We pulled close to tie on, and the spotter boat sped over and let us know it was 100 Euros to tie up to the mooring for the night. 100 Euros!!


We chuckled, as that’s almost our food budget for a week, we were certainly out of our class here! We decided to keep on moving along the Amalfi coast and try it out at the island of Capri, another few hours away.

By the time we made it over to Capri, it was late at night and we were weaving in and around HUGE mega yachts. Maggie spotted one with 7 stories, probably a private owner and out for his annual two week vacation on board. We moseyed our way to the cheap seats, the anchoring near the beach, and after several frustrating attempts, settled in for the night.


The next morning, we were awoken early by Italians, on holiday, zipping around the bay, stirring it up. WE had breakfast and moved to a corner of the bay, and after swimming, snorkeling, and rolling around from all the wakes, we’d had enough and pulled up anchor and set out north again. I think we’ll be OK once August ends, and the thought of being tied up in the nice calm river near Rome was really appealing! So, when in doubt, sail on…..so we did another 30 hour haul north.


See you in Rome!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stromboli - The world's oldest lighthouse

It has been called the world’s oldest light house, because ancient sailors from the Western Med, would be able to spot it sailing toward the Messina straight. The apostle Paul would have certainly seen it on his sail from Malta to Rome, and we timed it to sail by at night as we headed from the Aeolians back toward the mainland of Italy.

It didn’t disappoint! We started toward the north of the island and could see close to 20 boats ‘parked’ up ahead. It felt a bit like a drive in movie. All the boats were just sitting, too deep to anchor, so just sitting idle watching the show on the mountain top.

Every 10-15 minutes, a huge blast of lava would shoot up and out of the mountaintop spraying lava and rocks down the hill. On the larger ones, you could watch and hear the rocks tumbling all the way to the sea. It sounded like a low rumble and boats were advised to keep their distance, obviously, from the smoldering boulders. Pretty cool indeed!

We stayed for an hour or two and then by 11:00 we needed to make our way towards the mainland, another overnight sail, putting us closer to Rome. We had a long week of motoring/sailing ahead of us, and wanted to keep moving.

From back on the mainland ~
Hems

Monday, August 22, 2011

On top of the world

…..or at least on top of the Aeolians. The Aeolians are a string of 7 islands north of Sicily, and 6 of them are volcanos, very active volcanos! We hiked up the island we were anchored at, Vulcano, which was a pretty steep hike and the little girls did great, we slowed the pace and they were able to hike the whole thing (it was the ‘grownups’ who were whining!) Miles caught a ride on dad’s back the whole way up and back, so no complaints from him.

At the top the crater is hissing and smoldering, with a thick cloud of sulphur which blocks the path on one side. There are signs everywhere about being careful not to breathe the fumes. It was an absolutely spectacular view of the surrounding islands and of the island of Vulcano below. Mehari is a small boat anyway, but from up there, it was a spec!

It was a great hike and we relaxed at the top for a bit, snacking, before being in a big hurry to get back to the boat to swim. It was HOT! It was hot enough being near the volcano, but also in mid-August, the heat was in the low 100’s, a lot like our home state of Arizona. Another downside to mid-August, is it ‘the month’ that all of Italy shuts down for holiday and it was CROWDED! This was probably the most crowded anchorage we’d ever been at and there were boats coming and going all day, making plenty of wakes that kept us bobbing until later at night when it finally calmed down. Not a big complaint I know, like shoveling snow or anything, but thought I’d let you know some of the woes of the sailing/cruising life. I think we were spoiled in Greece ;)
The swim felt great and we spent the rest of the day hanging on the boat, enjoying the slight breeze.

Hems! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Through the Aeolians….



Sorry for not posting in a while, internet’s been very scarce and we’ve been super busy!

We finally left Malta, after having a great visit there, and getting some things wrapped up on the boat. A huge “thank you” to Joe at Boat Care for all your help getting loose ends done. You were a huge blessing to us and I hope to keep in touch, really above and beyond!!

After an overnight sail we headed north back up along Sicily. We stopped in Taormina, a town near the north end, and thought we’d be there overnight, but after a quick check of weather, it looked like we need to keep moving through the Messina Straight, an area which can be very tricky for sailboats. The water comes all the way from the Western Mediterranean and piles up right where the ‘toe’ of the boot of Italy is kicking the island of Sicily.  It’s a very narrow passage, and creates whirlpools and eddies that if there is any wind, makes it difficult to navigate.

So we kept moving and although we had a 4 hour push into some strong winds (nothing unusual about that in the Med!)  as soon as we entered the channel, the wind thankfully died down the water smoothed out. It was 10:30 pm by the time we got into the channel, and it was crowded! Huge tankers were coming and going, and it took Maggie, Levi and I to team up and spot and follow all the boats. With cities on both shores, it was tough to find which lights boats were moving towards us or away. It felt pretty intense, but it was exciting at the same time. After finally passing through, there was really nowhere at midnight we felt like stopping, so we motored- no wind- and headed to the Aeolian Island north of Sicily called Volcano. See you there!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The excitement of the day!

Dad went for a morning snorkel and came back with an exciting find....A bright red live starfish!!


The girls are so excited to hold it and even Miles enjoyed the way it feels when it tries to stick to the palm of your hand……Although he keeps trying to grab one of the legs and pull it off!


The girls decided “she” needed a name and made a list of possibilities. Some of the names Included: Hot Tamalie, Rosie(Lily’s Vote), Cinqo(five in Spanish)and Tinkle Wiz(Zoe’s creation)  I suggested we name her something in Italian and  Lily asked me if I’d look up the color red in our Italian dictionary….the answer is “Rosa.” Lily said that is sounded really close to Rose and so it sounded perfect! So this is her official name J Sadly, since she’s alive, we have to drop her back in the ocean when we leave this bay but we took lots of pictures for memories. Here’s a few of Rosa with the Kids….Enjoy!





Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Crossing the Pond"

After a LOT of prayer and talking to other cruisers and sailors who actually know what they're doing, we decided to take the adventure one more level and cross the Atlantic at the end of the year, this year.
When we started the adventure, we had no intentions of crossing oceans, we just thought we'd float around in the Med for a few years, and sell the boat and move on. After examining all our options, and getting a lot of encouragement from people who have sailed across oceans and around the world, we feel like we are up for the challenge.

For us, among other things, it has meant getting Mehari more ready for that kind of voyage than she is now. We had the older kids bring back from the US some more electronics, and communication systems to make the crossing safer. We have always had a 406khtz EPIRB unit. It's a floating global location system that alerts the local Coast Guards, if we are in danger, and it means immediate assistance.

We also bought a new VHF, with AIS, which is new technology to alert of all other vessels within a 20 mile radius. Similar to radar, but with the added feature of boat name, speed, and the ability to make direct contact with other vessels. We've already liked using this one in Italy and Malta.

We also bought a satellite phone, which is able to send and receive emails, and receive weather updates, a big plus when making a ocean crossing. We will also be able to contact other boats 'going our way' as during the time of year we plan to cross, there are many, many other boats doing the same thing.

We have always had a on board water maker which can take seawater and put it though a high pressure membrane and actually turn it into drinking fresh water. It takes the salt out and is cleaner than the water in most cities in the world. Two hours of running the water maker and we have enough water for all 8 of us for a week.

The last purchase we made was here in Malta. The biggest, heaviest, and most expensive item I have not yet opened or have any intention of ever opening is an 8 man offshore life raft. This is a worst case scenario item that we would much rather have and never use than need and not have. I will be glad to sell it on the other side....still unopened!! Any takers?!

So, it has not been a careless decision and while there are obviously risks, they are measured risks. Like anything in life, you weigh the options, educate yourself as best as you can, prepare yourself and move forward. We are naturally a little apprehensive of the unknown, but excited at the thought of accomplishing something this huge. It will come with an enormous sense of accomplishment and achievement, something I think the kids will carry the rest of their lives.  It will be in late December or early January when we will leave from the Cape Verde islands, off the coast of Africa, and will take approximately 3 weeks, depending on the wind and sea conditions.

Some have asked where you stop at night, but you don't.....you sail on and on and on, rotating and keeping night watches and like anything that is a large undertaking, baby steps eventually add up to giant steps. Speaking of giant, we have been working on giant lists of things like: a more well stocked first aid kit, trying to anticipate illnesses, and provisions and food lists for a boat of 8 to eat and live for 3 weeks. 50 bags of pasta is the first item ;)

Thanks for letting us ramble and explain some of this, hope it wasn't boring and we'd love all the prayers of our friends and family and anyone who has picked up reading our blog as we've travelled. Thanks for the words of encouragement an emails of all the amazing people we've met so far, we're certainly awed by the support.

Love you all!

~ Hems

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miles' leash

videoHere's the best way to make sure a toddler stays where he's supposed to!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Caves of Malta

Cave exploring.....

We left the capital of Valetta, and explored the other islands of Malta: Gozo, and Comino. Comino is barren excecpt for one resort on the East side. We anchored on the West side in a huge tourist and local attraction called Blue Lagoon. It is an amazing picturesque spot with lots of little islands and LOTS of caves to explore. We took the dinghy and found some pretty amazing spots. There are caves we drove the dinghy through and had to duck to get all the way thorough to the other side. Some ended several hundred yards in a dark cave with a sandy beach. This is the spot where a lot of pirates over the centuries hid out in and it literally looked like a movie set for Pirates of the Caribbean. They were able to hide in and around all the small islands and it was easy to see why it was strategic. We heard that the Knights of Malta, while they were in control of this region was actually issuing pirate licenses to anyone who wanted to help steal from the Moors and Turks, and of course pay tax, and have the protection of Malta......let me see.....the governing authorities issuing permission to pillage and plunder, gain the tax, and everyone gets rich (sounds like the banking industry in the US....sorry)  We all fantasized that maybe we would stumble on some leftover treasure, and after plenty of looking, didn't find the proverbial pot of gold.

It was really fun snorkeling in the caves and the color of the water swimming back out toward the light leaving the caves was unbelievable. It was the deepest blue and turquoise you can imagine, and teeming with fish trying to get out of your way. It was a pretty magical few days there and we spent a lot of time in the water, and as you can imagine, slept very well in the dark calm bays at night. 

Now we're back in Valetta, and preparing to check out with the autorities tomorrow, and after checking weather, looks like we might make a run back North to Sicily and up through the Messina Straight. After there, we will be stopping in the Aeolian islands of Vulcano, and Stromboli on our way towards Rome. 

Until later!

Hems

Crew update summer 2011

Kids updates: 

Miles - His biggest achievements lately, besides stealing hearts wherever he goes, is: taking a few wobbly steps (his max is 5!) coveing his ears, instead of his eyes, playing peek-a-boo, and can say almost everyone's name, although they all sound pretty much the same. Still gnawing away with his four teeth!

Zoe - She's had a busy summer, and is fearless as ever. She learned to swim one day, and was diving the next and jumping off the highest things from the boat she can find. She thinned out a lot with all her swimming and spends a LOT of time getting on Lily's nerves, although the two of them are best friends and can't stay mad at each other for more than 10 minutes. 

Lily - After the highlight of her birthday a few weeks ago, she sprung into 'who's next' and is busy planning Miles' one year birthday in a few weeks. She also has been a fish this summer and is also diving and the other day, was jumping from cliffs that made Maggie and Emma nervous. For a 7 year old little princess, they were HIGH! She was really brave and we all had a great time swimming into some really dark caves and exploring. 

Emma - Still always ready for a game, anytime, anywhere, she is doing great this summer also. She like to take a break from everyone once in a while (we all do;) she manages to hide somewhere and likes beading. We met up with another boat from the US and their daughter Caroline, and Emma spend almost 2 weeks together baking, playing and swapping books. She is developing a like, not yet a love, of reading and if it catches her attention, she can't put the book down.

Levi - Came back from the US excited about sailing on through the rest of the Med, and beyond, and had a great time there visiting cousins, friends, and meeting his new cousins from Russia. He and John really hit it off and played a lot of soccer and basketball. He also has dove more into the guitar than ever and his rare trips to internet involve downloading loads of TABs (music scores) and then spends the next few days/weeks honing them. It usually means many many hours on the front deck sailing or at anchor with the guitar. 

Maggie - Also had a great time in the US and was pleasantly surprised at the low shopping prices. She also had a great time with her cousin Kelsey and her new cousin Jen. She has been helping a lot in the kitchen and tries to keep us stocked with baked goods, but they go quickly. She is always on the lookout for WiFi and the other day, we actually could 'see' some internet from the boat as we sailed some 400 yards from shore. So you can bet she was up on deck with her ipod in the air keeping her boyfriend Josh, in Israel, updated on where and how she was.

So, that's the latest from the 'under 20' crew of Mehari. Erik and Rachel are on survival mode, anxious to see what adventure land living might be like after this adventure......and also kicking around ideas for the next adventure, whenever and wherever that may be. Feeling very blessed and blown away by this opportnity for the time we have been given to make this memory we will bever forget!

Love you all!

Hems 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maltese thought & history summary


We are in Malta now and it has been amazing seeing some history of the Knights of Malta, you know the guys in all the knight garb you see in all the movies. Think of the Three Musketeers. These guys were from all over Europe and typically were from privileged or royal families, and usually not first born sons. They were not in line for the throne in their home countries, so they spent time conquering, building, and basically pillaging. The entire Mediterranean region was being slowly taken over by the Moors from Africa, and I think the idea of the Knights was to protect people from Europe wanting to make pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The order was originally the Knights of St. John. Their first "capital" was the island of Rhodes in Greece, which we were able to see while we were there a few months ago. The were overrun there and for several years were looking for a place to call home in the Med. We also saw a lot of construction in smaller islands in Kos and Turkey, all from the same era.

Then the king of Sicily believed in the cause and offered the Knights the island of Malta for the price of a Maltese falcon (basically a 'token' price as the birds were everywhere, like we "sell" something we want to give to someone for $1.00) The knights agreed and at least they had a home, although they thought it was not a great gift, as the island was pretty much abandoned, some villagers and not much produce or natural beauty. So, they set up shop here and began building on the best harbor of the island, what is now Grand Harbor. They were attacked by the Moors and Turks in an epic battle in 1575. The Turks came with 30,000 troops and the Knights and locals were only 5,000. The war lasted for 2 long years and the Knights were victorious. After having fought for the island, they felt more attached and protective of it, and began to fortify and develop it in earnest. That is when the major project of development took place in Valetta, now the capital and a stunning peninsula city VERY well protected with walls and lookouts and forts all over it.

In their spare time, the Knights were terrorizing the seas around from the fledgling faith of Islam, thinking that raiding and pillaging their ships was 'stealing from the devil.'

All in all, it's a very fascinating piece of history that we are very glad we made the effort to sail down and see. As with a lot of other sites we've seen, it is way more interesting to see it than to have read it in books. Our only hope is that our boat-schooled teenagers see it that way as well!

~ Hems

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Onward to Malta…

We’re excited to see Malta, we’ve heard good reports about it.  Many cruisers we’ve talked to said they had to hurry and leave or they would have been tempted to stay. 

It seems to be a pretty unique place as it is located smack dab in the middle of the Med. It has been pollenated and cross pollenated by a plethora of different cultures over the centuries.  Roman, Italian, Greek, ancient Moors, Crusaders, African influence, Middle Eastern. Basically, world history in an island! Even the apostle Paul wound up there after a massive storm and was welcomed by a poisonous snake bite (Acts 15)  

As it is a hub, a LOT of boats pass through and the boat supplies are “supposed” to be plentiful and cheap(er?) We hope. We have two last items on our ‘cross-the Atlantic’ list: an off-shore life raft, and good quality foul-weather gear. Neither of which we hope we will need, but want to be prepared.
Maggie and Levi brought back some other electronics, a chart plotter, a new AIS (anti-collision) enabled VHF radio, and a satellite phone, enabled to send and receive emails. So we will be able to plot our course and keep in touch with family from the middle of the ocean. We’re pretty excited about that!

One of the biggest challenges we’ve had on this adventure is keeping in touch with family. We had originally thought, ‘Europe, 1st world, internet everywhere, no problem.’ It’s been a bit more complicated than that. Most of the internet we ‘see’ is locked, or pay by the hour (10Euro!!)  So, it’s somewhat ironic that the easiest way for us to keep in touch from will be the middle of nowhere!

~Hems