Indian Summer

Just when I thought we’d have to spend our last weeks hidden down below from storms and cold winds, the sun reappeared to give us a final reminder of why we love this lifestyle so much.

After enduring a week of rolly, sleepless nights in Capri, we headed north to Ischia to take a look.  We were a little reluctant to drop into this island because most of it is a restricted marine park and there are all sorts of forms and permits you need to visit it.  We were so tired of not having a a good nights sleep though, that we said “stuff it” and decided to risk it anyway.

Cautiously we dropped our anchor right under the nose of the Coast Guard, who were inspecting fishing permits, and when they didn’t come and chase us off, we thought “great, tacit approval” and proceeded to have a fantastic week anchored beneath medieval castles, off quaint fishing towns and in deserted little bays, all of our own.

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Our favourite was a small bay called San Montano where there was just enough room to anchor, a beautiful beach at the end of the bay and a thermal spring bubbling down the beach into the water.  We spent 5 days in this spot where we swam, played on the beach and when we felt like it, took a short walk over the hill to the restaurants, cafes and pizzerias.  Perhaps the thing we like most about this location was the lack of tourists.  We did school work in the piazza, sipped our espresso each morning and often dropped in for a pizza on the way home. 

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Another beautiful thing about this spot was the nightly procession of fisherman who would idle past the mouth of the bay.  Each evening from sunset, a stream of small fishing boats would slowly drift along, one behind the other with their navigation lights on.  It was so graceful that it felt like a nightly ballet and it was wonderful to sit up on deck playing guitar or sipping a drink while they all drifted by….. these guys have the right pace of life figured out.

We left our departure to the last possible minute but eventually we had to say goodbye and start the migration north to Rome and our flights to Australia.  What a blessed way to finish our cruising season though, with thoughts of sunny days, cafes, deserted beaches and quiet, star filled nights at anchor.

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End of the Endless Summer

This weekend I’ve had to buy my first pair of trousers in over a year – a clear sign that we’ve left the Caribbean!

The seasons are definitely changing here in Italy.  Gone are the long sunny days without wind – replaced instead by successive gales keeping the boat tucked up in some protected harbour and us below with the hatches closed and the candles burning.

Since arriving in the Med’ our cruising can be characterised as motoring through endless calms from one beautiful destination to another.  It’s been a little disappointing not to have more time with the sails up, but this is offset by being able to anchor beneath any beautiful vista that takes your fancy.

Summer is finally over though.  Since stepping aboard last year, the temperature has been constantly in the high 20s and the water has been the same.  In just the last week that’s all changed and we’re now in water that’s too cold for a swim.

Also for the first time since we entered the Med’ we’ve been forced to seek shelter in a marina.  Converging storm fronts meant we had 45kts from one direction and building seas from the opposite direction – there aren’t too many anchorages that would have coped with those conditions. 

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So it was that we made our way to Salerno, just around the corner from Amalfi.  It’s not an obvious destination but fortuitous none the less as it turned out to be a charming Italian city, overlooked by tourists.  While waiting for the latest gale to pass we visited Pompei (a short 2euro train ride away) and spent our time sipping the best macchiatos we’ve ever had, wandering the streets with the locals on a Saturday night and catching up on a little retail therapy, looking for warm clothes we’d almost forgotten existed.PA140203PA130152PA140187 

We have another 3 weeks in Italy before it’s time to  winter the boat and head back to Australia for a few months.  Until then we’re hoping we can stretch out of the last of the autumn cruising season here on the Amalfi coast….maybe Capri.  After that, it’s time to put Orchid into hibernation and head back to summer in Brisbane.

Post Script:  It’s 1.20am on 22nd October.  I’m awake, the engine is running and the radio and hard drive backup are in the oven in case lightening strikes the boat…… I miss the lazy summer days!

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Cinque Terre from the view of Nick

Cinque Terre is Italian for Five Lands.  We managed to visit all of them in one week.  My favourites were Monterosso and Manaorola.

The first place we anchored was Manarola.  We stayed there for 2 nights.  On the second day, we went in to town for a picnic.  Near where we had the picnic there was a huge hunk of slate and my brother and I decided to do a bit of mining.

Next we stayed in Monterosso.  This time we only stayed for 1 day.  My favourite thing was swimming because we actually made a dam that managed to stop a river flow. 

Overall I think Cinque Terre was great.

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Embarrassment in Cinque Terre by Alexander

Cinque Terre is a wonderful place if you want to escape from big cities and go to little towns.  Bring your bathers the water is wonderful and don’t forgot your hiking shoes plus your hiking clothes.

One of the hikes that I did was “Lovers Lane” (blah 😦 ).  My mum and dad were so embarrassing, kissing every 10 steps, with lots of people around! Talk about embarrassing.  I would not recommend these trails to people age 50 or above, they could possibly take a train.

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My favourite trail was the one between Corniglia and Vernazza, even though I was exhausted at the end.  The reason I like it so much was for its views.  We saw a strange thing on the trail we saw a, black, cat sitting on the rock in the middle of nowhere.

One of my favourite villages was Vernazza, because it had a very cool playground with a roundabout.  I also found a secret cove which only my brother and I knew about.

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Overall the Cinque Terre was pretty cool because it had nice water, good gelato and wonderful hikes.

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Life aboard – a second year

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Some days, it’s all truly amazing – exquisite location, gorgeous weather, happy children and a contented husband.
Other days, it’s just like life would be anywhere, anyhow_food to prepare, chores, homework.
Then, there are the days which are, well, bothersome_everything is out of sync. The kids are squabbling, the wind is blowing, the husband is grumpy and well, everything and everyone is just ‘out of sync’.
Ok Ok, it’s true, take the time to look up and generally, on these days, we are – in an exquisite location, with gorgeous weather, together, enjoying this mid-life interlude.

Today, I am experiencing this conflict, unease among the equilibrium. It’s a ‘down day’, decided to be. A good opportunity to catch up on things, but today the tight confines of this lifestyle are outweighing the glorious surrounds. Though, as I write this, I lift my head and catch a glimpse of the church gripping the headland, the lush vegetation all around me, and hear the children playing happily below. I shouldn’t complain, I know, and really, I’m not, just sharing my thoughts of some days.
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We have recently been mostly 4 again. A fantastic weekend with Bruce & Lori, and we did meet some grown ups in Viareggio but I think the boys are missing having kids to hang out with. It’s great to be with them but their  fun is different when they play with other kids who equally enjoy their games. Hopefully we will find some more kid boats soon, or meet up with friends aboard Ondine or Infinity for some shared fun.

P9141564Our second year,this year, is all about the Mediterranean. Sailing around the Med, a dreamy sounding lifestyle-food, culture, history and spectacular vistas. The more we heard about this though, the more apprehensive I became _”it’s so expensive”, “no wind or too much wind”, “marinas all the way” and such comments had me a little nervous. I’m pleased to say though, we’ve had wonderful experiences so far. And just 4 marina nights in over 2 months. Some nights, in really settled weather, we hang on our anchor off a beach, others we tuck up protected on the lee side of an island. We have made some wonderful new friends, been welcomed and embraced by people, enjoyed delicious gastronomy and immersed ourselves in the amazing world that precedes Australia by centuries.
Growing up in Australia, history and a second language seemed, superfluous. “when am I going to need this? Yeah yeah”. Not much appreciation, or it would seem, foresight on my part. I thoroughly enjoy visiting these historical countries, am so interested in what we see and learn about some of the people and events which were influential in shaping the world I know today. Of course, it is much more interesting actually being here, than reading about in a text book.
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Italy has been our pleasure for the better part of our time since arriving on this side of the Atlantic, and whilst I am yet to harvest olives or grapes, as dreamt, it is wonderful to be here. Slowly trying to learn some of the language, practising as often as we can, we are having an amazing time.

P8281159 Already we’ve enjoyed a successful visit from friends, sighting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and staying overnight in Florence has all been part of our experience.
  The weight of the world on her shoulders

For too short a time, we visited the Belearic Islands. Where we caught up with friends, from Spain in Formenterra, and sailing friends made in the Caribbean, in Mallorca.
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This is also where we celebrated Matthew’s 40th Birthday. A quaint restaurant on the edge of a Plaza in a gorgeous little village. P8191022 P8191028P8191024 

Before heading to the Belearics, we enjoyed a visit from Alexander’s best friend in the UK and his family, and spent time with new friends on the Costa Blanca, Spain.
Our introduction back into Europe was in the Azores, where we found Flores. Here we gained a new perspective on gracious, generous, genuine humanity. And an appreciation for slowing down and having less. This time was shared with our friends aboard Abracadabra who we reunited with in Bermuda. Many an hour was spent sipping vino and righting the world (according to us).

From here, there is still much of Italy to explore. Notably, Amalfi (considered first as our desired wedding location). And then the Greek Islands and probably Turkey. After that, well, with plans made in the sand at low tide, who could know this far out.

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Cinque Terre in Cinque Giorni

A slight diversion from ‘the plan’, we turned north out of Viareggio instead of south and went to see for ourselves this place that people kept insisting we see. “You really must visit the Cinque Terre”, they would say, “It’s gorgeous. Bellissima!”. We hadn’t even heard of it! Though we later found out, after enquiring about the number of Australian tourists, there was a large tourism drive in Australia a few years back, including a 4 page spread in Women’s Weekly (must have been after we left). 

So, dreams of the Amalfi Coast will remain dreams for now, a new jewel is to be explored by the Orchid Crew.

Beautiful…INDEED! It’s the coastline of Italy I have imagined. 5 colourful villages clinging to sheer, rocky cliff faces, linked by a scenic train line and the sea. Agricultural methods are traditional and these 5 communities, although flooded by tourists each year, could in fact still exist self sufficiently. Lonely Planet says,”These preposterously constructed, stuck-in-time villages cling to the steeply terraced cliffs that form one of Italy’s most spectacular stretches of coast. Five higgledy-piggledy villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are cut off by mountains choked with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards, where farmers have eked out a living over the centuries.”

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The Cinque Terre became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, thank goodness. Wine growers still use monorail mechanisms to ferry themselves up, and the grapes down, these unique lands, and in some cases have to harvest by boat. If the terraced hillsides are not worked, they will quite literally slide into the sea.

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There are walking paths between each of the villages, which they close if numbers get too high in the busy season. Unfortunately 1 is closed at the moment, cut off by a landslide but we anchored beneath instead.

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We did walk 2 of the paths, Via dell Amore (Lover’s Lane) and through the vineyards and olive groves between Corniglia and Vernazza. It was spectacular!

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The region is also famous for it’s basil and lemons. Producing limoncello and a co-op has been set up for farmers of the area to profitably grow basil, garlic and pine nuts to produce the renowned local pesto.

Whilst in the Cinque Terre we met 3 special people, on a mission from the US to Serbia. They stayed with us overnight and we spent the better part of 24 hours together righting the world. It was wonderful to share such a bond in such a short space of time. 

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A week in Tuscany – Pisa & Firenze

I have longed for many years to visit the famed ‘Toscana’ region of Italy. This week, I am here! And feeling fulfilled.

After pulling into the River Arno, leading to Pisa, dodging overhanging fishing nets and trudging though sludgy water, we decided not to take up a mooring in one of the ‘marinas’ and instead made our way outside and anchored off the beach for the night, before heading a little further north to Viareggio. This town was recommended by a fellow sailor we met in Flores. Here we tied to a town wall at the entrance to a canal. A new mooring experience for the Orchid crew, climbing UP off the boat to the dock among many local fishermen. The boys quickly made friends with some of them, gaining new fishing tips and tackle, though, fish for dinner it wasn’t to be.
It was fun to be somewhere so public for a bit. Lots of interest in our Australian ensign, and Indi (il gattino). This was our secure base from which to explore Pisa and Florence.

Sitting on the grass, in front of Torre Pendente Pisa, I was awestruck.  It really does lean To think, I was actually here! I just wanted to sit. And completely absorb the experience. Take in every detail to my memory. Australia is a really long way from this, and a text book even further. I don’t think the boys really understood the enormity of where we were and the significance of the structure before them, but we talked about its details and history, and Alexander requested we climb the stairs, which we did. The walk up was both exhilarating and eerie. Even from inside you experience the lean as you climb the circular staircase which lines the inside of the outer wall. Holding on at the top of the towerAt the top, the slope is even more significant -not for the height conscious.

Effects of a Mistrale south of us, had us surging back and forth along the wall for the next couple of days. P9041281 Orchid remained in good shape, though the crew were a little spooked and weary, and a total 4 lines snapped. Still, experience, and marina fees saved again.

A little over an hour on the train, through the Tuscan countryside, P9071307and we arrived in Florence, for an overnight treat.
First thing to do, oriented ourselves in this beautiful city, we boarded the hop on hop off sightseeing bus. P9071345Parts of the city reminded me of Paris, and according to the announcements, this was for good reason. Florence enjoyed being capital of Italy for a period and much of her city design was modelled on Paris.        
I didn’t really know what else to expect of Florence, it just gets spoken of as ‘a city you must visit’. I was curious to learn that many a famous name springs from here. Galileo and DaVinci to name the two most astounding for me. We visited the DaVinci museum where all 4 of us were impressed and inspired by his mind and his works. A renowned artist (the famous Mona Lisa to name one), he later turned his talented mind to physics and mechanics, developing drawings for  many great innovations and inventions known to the modern world. Alexander was most impressed with a version of clockwork mechanics. Nicholas with his interest in the reflections of light in the human eye (displayed with an enclosed octagonal mirror design). I was drawn to the precision of his description of the human form in the drawing of the Vitruvian ManP9081423 and amazed at the number of mechanical engineering designs which blossomed from one or two concepts. Conception of a car, armoured tank and even a bicycle (though this is rumoured) it was fascinating.
An overwhelming DuomoP9071358 (principal Christian church building of a bishop’s diocese / cathedral, particular to Italy) dominates the city.P9071366 We found our way past here several times each day. It was beautiful from every viewpoint.P9071355
A 5m statue of Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ was not necessarily appreciated by the boys, P9071418but another amazing historical sight for us to visit. We took a short bus ride 8km from the city, travelling through olive groves, to gain a view over the whole city.  P9081443 It’s such a different perspective from up high, looking down.
A treat, a night in a hotel . And a gorgeous one booked in surprise by my wonderful husband. Former building of the British Embassy, the fresco on the ceiling was stunning, and the room grand.P9071372
And let’s not forget the wine bar right across the street, tastes of Tuscany, on tap!P9071374 P9071377 Bellissima!

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