Adriatic Sea

10. Ionian Sea, Corfu, Greece, Albania 2018-

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Lido di Jesolo, Italy to Preveza, Greece, May 2018

During early May 2018 we relaunched Graptolite at Porto Turistico di Jesolo and Heike and I together with friend Hilmar set off south down the Adriatic to a new home in Greece.

It was about 700NM and we had a few overnight stops in Croatia and had an overnight passage skirting around the 12 mile limit off Albania to Corfu. Albania has had a bad rap in recent years for being difficult to clear into and having thieves run off with your kit.

In Corfu, we anchored off the Old Fortress but had some trouble with the starter motor and I had to tow Grapto with the dinghy into NAOK marina. Some very helpful guys there got us going again by whacking the motor with a hammer.

Hilmar left for home and Heike and I sailed on south to Preveza where we wanted to check out Cleopatra Marina as a winter berth. We arrived in the dark and anchored about 100 metres from the marina entrance. The next morning the starter motor wouldn’t respond to any amount of hammering and we had to have another tow from the marineros onto a pontoon. The name Cleopatra Marina is not quite as twee as it sounds. It is a homage to the sea battle of Actium (31BC) which was nearby. This was a fight between Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Octavian won.

Preveza, Paxos, Lefkada, Meganisi, Vonitsa June 2018

Heike left to go to work and I pottered about at anchor until early June when John and Alison came to the boat for week. We meandered about, first going north to Paxos and then south to  Lefkada and Meganisi then north again to Vonitsa in the bay of Amvrakikos near Preveza. The only mini-disaster was the engine over-heating while we in the Lefkas Canal. There was a strong cross-wind and we drifted gently into some rocks in the few minutes the engine was off while I got the airlock out of the seawater cooling system. A few scrapes on the anti-fouling but nothing serious.

Corfu, July 2018

I sailed single-handed back to Corfu after that and then hung around NAOK marina for most of the rest of June and July except for a quick trip to Norway. NAOK was initially free-of-charge for some legal dispute reason but then they started charging and I went back to anchoring in the bay. The marina had no facilities anyway except for a concrete wall to bang into when the swell from the big ships comes.

Sarande, Albania, August 2018

Heike came back in early August and we had a sail to Sarande, Albania. We took in some tourist sites there. One was the very popular Blue Eye spring. Very cold water. Another was the Greek, Roman, Medieval archaeological site of Butrint. Albania turned out to be very pleasant. We had to employ a shipping agent for the formalities, which is a bit unusual in this part of the world, and we were expected to berth near the port police station but apart from that everyone was very nice. including the chap who helped Heike use a local ATM. After leaving Albania we did a circumnavigation anticlockwise around Corfu and then south to Paxos and on to Preveza for the haul out for winter.

Preveza, 2019

2019 was very busy for us with non-sailing travel (see www.chaos-travel.com) and we missed the season.

Preveza, 2020

During 2020, COVID-19 put a stop to visits to Greece. We booked and paid for a lot of time in Preveza Marina. Hopefully, we have not lost that money.

Preveza, 2021

COVID-19 is still doing its thing. The last update here is May 2021 and still it’s not really possible to get back to Preveza although Greece claims to be open. I am waiting on my second Astra-Zeneca which will be in July. Hopefully we can go then with a Covid passport but Grapto is likely to be uninhabitable after so long. Earlier this year we considered selling and getting a motor yacht but it didn’t work out and we are now intending to completely refit the old girl with new navigation electronics and other kit.

09. Northern Adriatic Sea, 2011-2017

 

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This blog covers a long stay in Lido di Jesolo on the edge of the Venetian lagoon where cruising was mostly with various friends and family on a frequently used weekend circuit. The usual route would be to leave the Porto Turistico di Jesolo marina and go down the Fiume Sile, not infrequently getting stuck on a sandbar in the mouth of the river, and then out to sea and back into the Venice lagoon and along the Giudecca Canal cruising past St Mark’s and as far as the cruise ship port. Turning around we would then go to Murano and moor alongside in a canal there for the night. Then off to Burano to anchor for another night and return to Fiume Sile the next day. Most of the lagoon is too shallow for sailing boats, the water is very rough from all the water traffic and because of many cables buried in the mud, there are very few places to anchor so options are limited. Sometimes we stayed out of the lagoon and would sail eastwards but that coast is not very interesting. One time, we delivered my Uncle Frank and Aunt Brenda to their cruise ship by parking under the cruise ship’s bow. Security was not happy. Another time, we were not paying attention to the dates and got accidentally mixed up in the middle of the Americas Cup race off St Marks. The water police made us anchor in, perhaps, the best spectating spot available and we watched the race eating lasagne. And once I tried a late-season run south to Corfu with friends Ian and John. We got as far as mid-Croatia but gave up due to timing and weather. After almost seven years of of this unadventurous stuff we needed a change and relocated to Preveza, Greece in the Ionian Sea.

Mostly I didn’t keep a regular blog over this period. These are some of the few events I wrote down at the time. They cover a time when we we re-fitting for another around-the-world trip which we planned to do in stages during H’s cruise ship work vacations. It didn’t really happen as some health issues got in the way.

02-22.02.2016 Lido di Jesolo, Venice, Boat repairs and a visa for India

Grapto was not really fit for human habitation after so long on the hard so I stayed for a couple of nights in a hotel in Lido di Jesolo while I got things working. The main thing was new house batteries which I got in “Casa di Batteria” in Jesolo. Countless other essential bits a pieces were sourced in the local chandleries.

I had a quick trip on the ferry to St Mark’s to catch the tail end of the Carnivale in Venice. I just missed the fireworks and the whole piazza was ankle deep in confetti with a few masked revellers lying around looking stunned. I’ll make a better showing another year.

I needed a tourist visa for India so I could go ashore from H’s cruise ship in March (Plan A) I applied for an e-visa which is a wholly unnecessary bit of bureaucracy in this modern age but it turned out to be no good if arriving in India by boat. So (Plan B), I schlepped from Venice to Milan to go to the Indian Embassy to get a full-blown tourist visa. The embassy, which is just behind La Scala opera house, was stuffed with Indians trying to get home to the mother country. I think some of them had been there for days. After all kinds of adventures trying to get the specified size of passport photograph  I was told they would keep my passport for 8-15 days. With a Pakistan visa already in my passport my guess is I would be lucky to ever see my passport again. So that was a waste of two days of driving, 40 Euros in road tolls and an overnight hotel stay. Plan C is to try again in Bangkok. (Note: Bangkok didn’t work either.)

So back to working on the the boat. It rained almost continuously for two weeks and working outside with power tools is not recommended in the rain so it slowed things down a bit and soon it was time to head off to Marco Polo Airport for the flight to Abu Dhabi and Bangkok. See our trip Saigon to Venice.

13.-24.06.2016 Lido di Jesolo, Antifouling and Re-flagging

Progress was made with the antifouling. It is a nasty job but two coats of Primocon and two coats of Micron in a fetching navy blue have made it all look nice again. After four years in the boatyard Grapto was finally on the move. With a British Red Ensign and Italian and Venetian courtesy flags flying majestically she made the short voyage from the cradle into the water and was towed another 50 metres into a berth. This was Grapto’s last voyage under the “Red Duster” as she is now German-flagged but we had no actual German flag to hand. Being towed onto a berth felt a bit like we were the “Fighting Temeraire” although unlike that ship it is planned that Grapto will battle again. The reflagging was not really a “Brexit” protest, although it might have been if I had thought of it, it was just that a revised Part 1 registration suitable for my UK residency status was going to be expensive to arrange as all local marine surveyors qualified to take a tape-measure to the boat wanted several thousand euros to confirm what they could have found out from a catalogue.

08. Eastern Mediterranean, Port Said to Venice, 2009-2011

This blog begins when Graptolite emerged from the Red Sea and into the Eastern Mediterranean in the summer of 2009. First was Cyprus then some cruising around the Dodecanese Islands. Then a long stay in Turkey followed by some island hopping across the Aegean Sea, through the Corinth Canal, into the Ionian Sea then up the east coast of Italy to Venice where we arrived in 2011. Indian Ocean and Red Sea crew Steve Rowlands stayed on board until Cyprus. Heike returned to Grapto in Cyprus and was my primary crew to Venice apart from some cruising in the Dodecanese and Turkey which I did with other friends and family.

31:32.21N 032:32.09E Out of Africa, Eastern Mediterranean Sunday 7th June 2009

A pilot called Mohammed turned up and Steve and I had a days’ motor through the desert to Port Said where the pilot jumped off on to a launch, clutching his baksheesh. It was a happy moment to sail out of the harbour into the evening sun of the Mediterranean. There are a couple of days at sea for us now until Larnaca, Cyprus.

034:55.11N 033:38.43E The Full Cypriot, Larnaca Marina, Cyprus Wednesday 10th June 2009

We tied up in Larnaca Marina on Tuesday morning and rushed to the café there to order the ‘Full English’ with extra bacon and sausage. For lunch we fell in with some long-term expat Brits called Alison, John, Cathy and David in the Cyprus Offshore Yacht Club and had a good number of Carlsberg’s with them as a sort of nod to the final scenes of ‘Ice Cold in Alex’. For dinner we were recommended a restaurant down some backstreets of Larnaca where they served up the most enormous pork chops. Now we know we are really back in Christendom! Steve has just left for the airport to seek fame and fortune back in Blighty. Fair Winds, Steve. It’s been good having your scouse humour along for the last four thousand miles and seven countries. It’s been a tough trip. New crew, at least for the next few days, arrives in Larnaca tonight. This crew is not really all that new having already been a stowaway onboard for six months across the South Pacific. Welcome back Fraulein Heike.

034:55.11N 033:38.43E Mountains & Meze, Cyprus Monday 15th June 2009

I’m crewless again after a dash to the airport with Heike at 02:00 this morning. I’m left a bit sore and stiff from taking part in another one of ‘Heiki’s High-Speed Travel Adventures’ over the past few days. The Troodos Mountains have been well and truly done as has the south coast including the fleshpots of Agia Napa. Mountains of meze have also been consumed and taromosalata especially, has been taken in ridiculous quantities. Taromosalata has become a new favorite for Heike; I think it’s the pink colour. I’ll be finding space later in the corner of Grapto’s wine cellar for a case or two of Koumandaria dessert wine. On the downside; this outer part of the marina gets a bit lively at times and the stainless steel swim-ladder took a bashing, shearing off the four bolts holding it on. It’s just one more thing for the repair list.

034:55.11N 033:38.43E Land of the Midnight Sun Wednesday 24th June 2009

Well, where the devil have I been? There comes a time when a man has had enough of the tropics and craves the wide open spaces; the mountains and the clean air of the frozen north. Yes, I’ve just had a week up in the Arctic and a change is as good as a rest. I was invited to travel to Tromso, Norway on Thursday as a surprise birthday guest of Heike. The surprise was all mine. Flights took me from Larnaca to Tromso via Munich and Oslo. Tromso is a long way north (almost 70 degrees) and well inside the Arctic Circle and there is snow everywhere even at mid summer. The weather was bright, sunny and crisp and being inside the Arctic Circle stayed bright, sunny and crisp all night which was a very unsettling experience. There is a nice little harbour which looks like it would make a good stop on a future northern sailing expedition. There is also a Polar Exploration museum on the waterfront which is worth a visit if you are into badly stuffed polar bears, walrus, seals, dead sled dogs and polar explorers. They have the usual Norwegian tourist stuff in town of reindeer skins, knitwear and wooden trolls, for the tourists coming off the fjord cruise ships. A cruise ship in port on Friday was part of the reason we were there as it was yet another layer of surprise for Heike’s parents, Roland and Rosemarie, while they were on their Golden Wedding cruise to the North Cape. Heike likes to surprise people. Heike and I flew down to Trondheim for a night in the Brittania Hotel then drove down through the fjord country to Geirangerfjord. There was a Harley-Davidson Owners rally in full flow in Geiranger which made me suspicious at first as Heike is also a Harley owner but it was apparently just a coincidence. We drove on through the Jotunheimen mountains (last seen by me when I was a 16 year-old spotty Boy Scout) to Sognefjord where we stayed in the very pleasant historic Walaker Hotel at Solvorn. Driving and car-ferrying south we got to Bergen on Sunday where after another brief meeting with her parents to drink champagne near the Bryggen, (Heike and Rosemarie share the same birth date which was on Sunday), Heike
left for Germany to make some more money. Being self-unemployed I was able to stay to explore Bergen for another day. Bergen has changed a lot since I used to pass through here on the way to North Sea oilrigs in the late 70’s. The fish market in particular has become a big tourist trap with many stalls selling smoked fish, crabs, lobsters and shrimp. The last time I was here it was a very different place and I bought a bag of shrimp directly off a shrimp boat and got probably the worst dose of food poisoning I’ve ever had in my life. Thirty years later I suppose I have forgiven them and I dared to risk some more shrimp and this time had no bad effects. The return flight ‘home’ for me to Larnaca early this morning was via Copenhagen and Frankfurt with a missed flight and an unexpected day’s delay in Frankfurt while Security slowly checked that a new freshwater pump for the boat that I had in my luggage wasn’t a bomb.

A Heikiblog Sunday 28th June 2009

This is my second watch since I left Grapto about 9 months ago. We are on our way from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Rhodes, Greece. We left Cyprus after stocking up on some nice things to prepare on the way. After Martyn finally caught the attention of the Customs official (and wasn’t arrested for bad remarks about the Cypriot administration…) we sailed off into the most wonderful sunset. Memories of “Titanic moments” kept coming to my mind. Just to find out that this Odyssey had prepared a little challenge for us because the sea was really rough and I lived mostly on Stugeron. Only around noon we either caught calmer seas or I finally had accumulated the right dose in order to enjoy champagne and taramosalata together with lots of the
skipper’s attention. Martyn finally decided to creep up further to the Turkish coast in order to escape the rough weather which even soaked the front cabin bed… again! It was a perfect move since this is the first night I can really enjoy my night watch under an unbelievable dark sky with the most wonderful stars shining on Grapto. Last time I saw the stars from Grapto I even saw the Southern Cross. Different now, because I am wrapped in long trousers and skipper’s fleece since the nights in the Med seem to be much more chilly than I expected. It is pretty unusual that I see lots of ships during a night watch and the lights of Rhodes already appearing in the dark sky as well as the lights of little Turkey towns slowly fading into the dark. And it’s wonderful to feel Grapto dancing and waltzing under my feet again, slowly making her way through the waves. It’s good to be home again!, Heiki

36:27.05N 028:13.62E Rhodes Marina, Tuesday 30th June 2009

Heike came out for the weekend and we had a three-night passage from Larnaca to Rhodes. It was rough with 20 knot headwinds most of the way. We arrived at Rhodes marina early morning yesterday feeling a bit battered. Rhodes seems like a nice place with loads of medieval fortifications. We are parked in the shadow of the circular Fort of St. Nicholas in Mandraki Harbour which is one of the main contenders for where the Colossus of Rhodes used to plant his bronze sandals. The town might be Medieval but the clearing in with the Greek Authorities was positively Byzantine. A blow by blow account later.

36:27.05N 028:13.62E A Colossal Time in Rhodes, Rhodes Marina, Tuesday 30th June 2009

The Port Clearance process for Rhodes ranks up there with the worst of Southeast Asia and East Africa. And this is for an EU boat travelling between two EU countries. Makes you wonder. This account is to help out other yachts coming here. Passing the small Marine Police office next door to the Rhodes Marina Office, we carelessly called in to ask if we needed to do any paperwork having just come from Cyprus. He said he didn’t know but checked with someone on the phone and said he wanted to see ‘papers’ which turned out to mean a crew list. We made one and a stamp was duly applied. This Marine Policeman then told us to go to another Marine Police Office (10 minute walk) for another stamp. The man on reception there stamped our list again and said we had to go upstairs for a ‘Transit Log’. We had no idea what this was but went upstairs anyway. We asked some more marine police sat behind a window there for a Transit Log who said we had to go see ‘Security’ about it. We were taken past a blood-stained and probably soundproofed door marked ‘Interrogation’ to see some military type in a sweaty vest and dogtags. We mutually decided that we must be in the wrong place but he looked very annoyed that he couldn’t interrogate us. We pressed on thinking that maybe this Transit Log thing must have been a mistake and went to see the Customs and Immigration people instead who have offices in an entirely different harbour about 30 minutes walk away. We saw Customs and filled in some forms but they were mainly interested in taking their fee (20 Euros). Next, we went on to Immigration who stamped our crew list once again. They asked us if we’d got a Transit Log yet from the Marine Police. It was another long walk back. At the Marine Police office we were sent back upstairs. It was up a different staircase this time and to an unmarked room. I think it had a sign saying ‘Keep Out’ on it. The guy in there said that he wasn’t going to do anything for us until he got his ‘Taxis’. Of course we had no idea what he was talking about and he had no interest in explaining and even tried to get rid of us by saying that we had no need of such a piece of paper anyway but by now this didn’t sound right at all. We pressed him and he wrote down: “29.95 Euros”; the number “3435” and the word “TAXIS” then showed us the door. Poor Heike thought this meant we were supposed to go out find some kind of special transportation. We actually did go out and find a taxi and the driver guessed that we needed to pay some tax at a government department. He took us on a long ride across town (5 Euros) and dropped us off outside a very nasty-looking big building covered in graffiti. The inside of the building was worse. After we got no sense at several windows, the in-house snack-bar manager took pity on us and helped us find a very long payment queue which we joined. Naturally, the correct line to join first, turned out to be the line for getting a payment form issued but we sorted it out eventually. We were finally allowed to pay and took another taxi back to the Marine Police Office (6 Euros) with the receipt for the Tax (Code 3434) (29.35 Euros). The obstructive fellow with the Transit Log paperwork was by now out at lunch so we had to see his deputy who turned out (surprise, surprise) to be the first Marine Policeman we saw on reception. We still don’t know what a Transit Log is for, why the officials who give them out are so secretive about where you are supposed to pay for it and anyway why they can’t be trusted to collect the 29.35 Euros cash themselves. We had a wander though the very nice towers, walls, churches, shops and restaurants of the Old Town this morning. Heike left this afternoon and yet more crewpersons arrive tomorrow.

36:25.02N 027:23.17E Greek Island Hopping, Tilos, Dodecanese. Tuesday 7th July
2009

Sarah and Mario came out to Rhodes last Wednesday. The weather was a bit breezy so we stayed in Rhodes and explored the castle walls, museums and tavernas of the Old Town. They have been bravely trying to teach me how to play the ukulele. Sarah is a certified Official World Record Holder for ukulele playing (along with 851 others players). On Sunday we set off from Rhodes to go to the island of Symi where we anchored overnight in a little one-taverna, multi-goat bay called Marathounda. On Monday we hopped across to the island of Tilos mooring in the harbour of Livadihou. The odd Harbour-mistress there nearly turned us away for having too many jerry cans of fuel on deck. That would have been a first. Apart from that Tilos is nice place with a useful mix of butchers, bakers, flip-flop shops etc. We had a good barracuda-like fish in a
restaurant up the hill, off the tourist trail. Today we are going to the island of Nisseros to gawp at its volcano.

36:44.12N 026:58.39E Another Volcano Another Day, Kos, Dodecanese, Wednesday 8th July 2009

We had most of yesterday exploring the island of Nisyros by car. The island has several big volcanic craters hissing and fizzing away and some nice white and blue villages perched up on the caldera rim. This afternoon we arrived at the southwest corner of Kos. The famous lettuces have not been seen yet.

36:53.68N 027:17.38E Well Greece’d, Kos Harbour Monday 13th July 2009

Grapto continues to creep around the Dodecanese Islands in holiday mode. From southwest Kos we sailed up to the port of Kalymnos where we had a couple of nights forced to listen to roaring motorbike engines and shouty natives in what is otherwise a nice town. From Kalymnos port we tried another quieter anchorage around the mountainous coast and found a mooring buoy in the very quiet Emporio Bay. As both of my two outboard engines are not working its a little bit more strenuous than usual getting around by dinghy but the view from the taverna up on the hillside overlooking the boat was worth it. Feeling strong enough again for a town centre mooring, and expecting blowy weather, we sailed to Kos Harbour yesterday. We made the mistake of first parking in the tripper boat area and got shoved off when they came back but we are now in a better spot under the castle walls waiting for the Meltemi winds to ease. There is a lot to do here in Kos from sitting under the plane tree where the famous medical man Hippocrates apparently snoozed to looking at the huge ruins of the Asklepieion where had an office. Like a lot of these classical Greek places, most of the stones can now be found recycled into the Medieval fortification walls.

36:53.68N 027:17.38E Kos It’s There, Kos Harbour Wednesday 15th July 2009

Sarah and Mario have just left on the catamaran ferry for Rhodes then home. The plan was to drop them off there but the weather turned out to be too windy. It’s not too windy to sail, just too windy to tie-up without risking some damage in this crazy world of stern-to mooring and packed harbours. Life is so much easier when there are no other boats in sight. So, I’m still in Kos and old friends, John and Julian, arriving in Rhodes tomorrow, are going to have to get the midnight ferry here. Heike is also parachuting in on Friday morning. It’s turning into a busy summer sailing season for a boat that badly needs weeks of repair work done. The best laid plans of mice…

36:26.03N 028:14.29E Dodecanese Revisited, Rhodes, Thursday 23rd July 2009

On Saturday 18th, with fresh galley-slaves of John, Julian and Heike, we left Kos Harbour to sail to Emporios Bay, Kalimnos. I was here just a week ago. It’s nice to be able to go back to places for a change. Most of this big journey has been just a one-way trip with only the one chance to check a place out. On Sunday it was a return to Kos to send Heike back to work. We anchored in the tiny, shallow harbour of Mastkhari as it was near the airport. Oversized ferries use the place and it turned out to have little room for yachts. In fact no room at all as we had to leave in a hurry early on Monday morning to make way for the Kalimnos ferry. On Monday it was another visit to Niseros and another drive up to the spectacular volcano, perched villages and natural sauna rooms of the island. The harbour of Palon was stuffed with yachts from a regatta. Our faces were stuffed with octopus and calamari for dinner. The onboard sundowners of margharitas may have been a mistake. On Tuesday we lunched in a pretty, rocky bay on the south side of Tilos then went on to the island of Chalki. Chalki was a new place for me. It’s a lovely little town with pastel-painted campaniles, windmills and clear blue water. With its working fishing boats it doesn’t even feel all that touristy. I’ll be back. Wednesday had us racing to Rhodes and the airport so this time John and Julian could return to real life. As I partly expected, Mandraki Harbour was completely full. I expect it’s always full otherwise the harbourmaster there would be a bit more polite with his customers. The choices were a scary anchorage inside the cruise-ship harbour or tie up in the partly-built marina further south. I went for the marina. The dust from the earth-moving equipment brings back memories of Egypt.

36:13.35N 027:36.81E Chalki Again, Chalki, Dodecanese, Friday 31st July 2009

I’ve been back in Chalki for over a week now. I’m crewless again since Heike went back to work last Sunday but Swedish and Australian neighbours on the pontoon have been friendly and have been inviting me over for drinks. I went for a long walk across the island today just to see if my legs still worked. I took a look at a 16th century castle perched on a mountain top. It’s not exactly wheelchair accessible a needed a serious scramble up a rock face and two litres of water to get to it. Excellent views. Nobody else was there but it was a bit warm.

36:13.35N 027:36.81E Athens, Edinburgh of the South, Wednesday 5th August 2009 PM

‘The sea, autumn mildness, islands bathed in light, fine rain spreading a diaphanous veil over the immortal nakedness of Greece. Happy is the man, Ithought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea’. Nikos Kazantzakis, ‘Zorba the Greek’

I met up with Heike for a wild time in Athens last weekend leaving Grapto to look after herself on the pontoon at Chalki. Jessica did some rubbish navigating from the airport and got us completely lost in a suburb for a while. Silly girl! Jessica is the voice on the in-car navigation system. It’s the third time for me in Athens. The city has unfortunately become tacky by endless walls of graffiti but the air seems to be more breathable than I remember. The Acropolis was an anthill of scaffolding and tourists and the entrance to the new museum was too plugged with bodies to get in. Due to carelessness with ferry timetables I spent most of Monday wandering the streets of Rhodes Old Town doing tourist stuff while waiting for the late night ferry back to Chalki. There are worse places to be.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Now in Turkey, Marmaris Yacht Marina, Turkey, Sunday 8th August 2009

Heike turned up for the weekend and we moved Grapto from Chalki, Greece to Marmaris, Turkey for repairs. It was a good cruise with a return to the island of Symi and the anchorage at Marathounda, then briefly to Symi town to clear out of Greece, then a nice anchorage in Kumlu Bay and a short hop to the marina this morning. It’s no surprise that Turkey is my thirtieth country courtesy flag to be hoisted on this trip and it’s even more countries counting island group dependencies and island states which use the flag of the mother country. It’s also no surprise that this boat has had a battering and is in badly need of repair and maintenance. Marmaris Yacht Marina is huge with thousands of yachts and not really my kind of place but it does have a lot of people who can fix things. It’s a sort of health spa for boats.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Turkish Delights, Marmaris Yacht Marina, Turkey, Sunday 16th August 2009

Repair work continues slowly as the days are ferociously hot here. Also there is the distraction of a swimming pool and a supermarket that sells UK newspapers. I need to catch up with current affairs but as far as I can see nothing much has changed since August 2007 apart from it looking worse for my job prospects. I’m still waiting for houses to be given away free with petrol. Lori Evans, Atlantic crossing crew, came for an enjoyable visit the other day. She was sailing in Turkey with friends. It’s always nice to see that old crew didn’t become too traumatized by their experience on Graptolite and can still face the sea and a bottle of wine or three with the skipper. Pacific Colin and Atlantic Ian and Liz have also been in Turkey recently but unfortunately not close enough to meet up. I’ll be here for a while guys. Offspring Tom arrives in Dalaman on Tuesday.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Bodrum to Byzantium, Marmaris Yacht Marina, Turkey, Tuesday 1st September 2009

After being nagged at by several of my loyal readers I suppose I had better bring this blog up-to-date. Tom flew out to Dalaman airport two weeks ago and was put to work in Marmaris installing a new anchor chain on Grapto. By Wednesday lunchtime, after almost getting heatstroke we were ready for a sail up to Bodrum. A quick test of the engine before departure was a complete failure with a flat starter battery. As we had been connected to shore-power for days it seemed to be much more of a problem than just charging the thing up. Having already agreed to meet Heike in Bodrum there was no choice but to hire a car and drive. We stayed at the excellent Movenpick Resort in Gumbet and also at the famous 1960’s hotel the Kismet in Kusadasi. From there we explored the ruins of the Roman cities of Priene, Milletus, Ephesus and Dydimus. It’s amazing what they did in those days with a bit of marble and plenty of slaves. Back to Marmaris for a couple of days by the marina pool and it was time for the long taxi ride back to Dalaman airport. As Tom flew back to Gatwick and home to get his exam results, I flew up to Istanbul to meet Heike again for yet another weekend. Our hotel in the Sultanahmet quarter had probably the best view in all Istanbul over the Golden Horn, Topkapi Palace, Agia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Istanbul was much more civilized a place than I had expected. The carpet sellers in the Grand Bazaar were a pain in the bottom but I think they are supposed to be that way. When you live on a boat, carpets are low on the list of must-haves anyway. Now I’m back on the boat and it’s time for more repairs.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E The Western Front, Marmaris Yacht Marina, Turkey, Thursday 17th September
2009
. The skipper is in the UK

Last Thursday I flew up to Frankfurt and was collected by Heike and the next day we headed south-ish down the Rhine valley and the Weinstrasse. It’s the time of year for post-grape harvest festivals. We crossed the Maginot Line with no resistance at all from the French and through Colmar and into the Voges mountains. We stayed in some excellent hotels and thoroughly stuffed our faces on Michelin-starred tucker. Back northwards down the Moselle valley and then through Koblenz and Der Deutscher Eck and back to Heike’s Betzdorf apartment. On Monday I drove up to Calais and jumped on a P&O ferry to Dover. Contrary to popular opinion there are in fact no ‘bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover’ but it was a pretty sight even so after two years away. I’m staying at my old Maldive’s crew, Mike and Jacqui’s house in Surrey. Tuesday was mostly long overdue visits to dentist, doctor and optician. Wednesday was tooth-drilling and filling day then down to the Southampton Boat Show to check out new dinghies. Not much has changed in Southampton apart from Aladdin’s Cave Chandlery selling up. The owners must have already been rich beyond the dreams of avarice after my circumnavigation fitting out.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Wednesday 7th October 2009. Graptolite continues to wallow in Marmaris, Turkey while the skipper continues a Grand Tour of Europe and is currently in Germany.

On Friday 18th September I collected my wayward children, Holly and Tom from Woking and drove up to Blackburn for my Dad’s 80th birthday. The surprise party was not really all that much of a surprise until my brother Duncan turned up from Australia. Poor Dad’s prepared speech about absent friends and relatives had to be thrown away. Back south on Sunday and I stayed some more with Mike and Jacqui then we had a fine weekend’s sailing on yacht ‘Evelyn B’ with Mike, Jacqui and Heike doing yet another circumnavigation (around the Isle of Wight). Julian’s boat ‘Treble C’ was spotted about a mile off Portsmouth and we hailed the Triple J’s, Julian, John C and Johnny Y as they passed by on their way to Bembridge. Then back up the motorway to Lancashire for another short stay with my Mum and Dad and a few beers with John and Johnny then back south to West Sussex staying with Julian and Wendy prior to a ferry crossing to Calais on October 1st. A long drive through France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany got me to Heike’s place at Betzdorf, near Cologne, then another long high-speed autobahn drive the following day to Munich where the Pickup’s Senior were flying in for the Oktoberfest as a birthday treat. Or so they thought. After a monster meal of beer, pig’s feet, ducks and dumplings we did roll up to the Oktoberfest for a quick look but then we were off to Salzberg in Austria in warm and sunny autumnal weather. We stayed in the Hotel Sacher. The chocolate Sachertorte here is not optional. Then we had a few days tour of the Tyrolean Alps taking us down to Italy and Switzerland then back up again through Austria and Germany. The last day was a trip up to the top of the enormous Zugspitze in a very impressive cable car and then down again in an equally impressive cogwheel train inside the mountain followed by a horse and buggy ride up to the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein. I’m personally not so convinced about the Germanic health benefits of getting baked while naked in a sauna or eating Bavarian delicacies that are like great slabs of Spam and chopped up doughnuts, but apart from that this part of the world is lovely. Our local guide Heike, who was dressed fetchingly in a selection of Snow White dirndls for the entire trip, was wonderful. Come to think of it, that’s what she always wears. Except in the sauna!

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Thursday 22nd October 2009 PM. Graptolite is still in Marmaris growing weed on her bottom. The skipper is in Germany.

I’m still spending this Autumn in Germany, basically chauffeuring Heike around to business meetings up and down the country. I get to drive a cool car on the autobahns and I get plush hotels to stay in so I can’t complain. I’ve done all the tourist sights in Hameln (Hamelyn of Pied Piper fame) and Berlin and Frankfurt recently and stayed in more schlosses than I can count. Hamelyn is very nice. They make a big fuss about the Ratcatcher thing but it seems to me that it is based on an historical event in the 13th century where the local militia marched off to battle with a piper and part-time vermin exterminator at the head of the column. As most of the youths got killed or imprisoned and never came back, somebody had to take the blame. The rest is tourism. Berlin was much bigger and scruffier and looked more like a British city. They’ve done some impressive rebuilding since the wall came down. Highlights were a tour of WW2 underground bunkers, the Pergamon Museum and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. I actually went through Checkpoint Charlie while it was still a checkpoint so it brought back memories of my small part in bringing the Cold War to an end. A lot of the time was spent walking in the rain using a Japanese-language street map (don’t ask) so I got to know the city fairly well. Frankfurt was a flying visit today. I ate some frankfurters there, what else?

36:49.20N 028:18.56E The Wurst of Times, Thursday 5th November 2009. The skipper is in Germany

Graptolite still in Marmaris. Skipper still in der Vaterland. In recent weeks I’ve done Hamelyn (again); Berlin (again); Dortmund (twice); Cologne and Dresden. Usually I keep warm and dry in the shops, museums, cathedrals and other sights then settle down to some local wurst and beer. Hey, somebody’s got to do it. Currywurst can be had everywhere (“Wurst Willies” may be the best) but it is a nasty invention and is obviously revenge for Germany never having had a colony in the sub-continent.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Sunday 8th November 2009 PM. The skipper has been to Belgium

Just had the weekend in Belgium. Seemed like a good idea at the time. We rolled up to Ieper (Ypres) and the Menin Gate in time for the Last Post at 20:00 Saturday. Bought Heike a poppy and made her feel guilty about WW1. We went on to Brugge and Die Swaene Hotel. Brugge is a very nice old place full of chocolate shops. On Sunday morning I got dragged kicking and screaming to a Catholic mass in the main church in Brugge on the pretence that it was in the “1000 Places” guide but it turned out that the church in the guide was actually in Antwerp and just had the same name. It was quite funny though watching the clergy conducting the singing and filling the place with incense smoke, like a cross between a pantomime and an opium den. Onwards to Brussels where we had moule frites and beer at the excellent “Chez Leon’s” followed by a look at the “Atomium” which is a futuristic (still) steel construction dating back to 1957. Off to Turkey tomorrow to check on the boat.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Wednesday 11th November 2009 PM Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey

Arrived back in Marmaris on Monday to check up on the old girl. Just as well. I had foolishly left some (usually rainproof) hatches open a crack for ventilation as it was very hot when I left. The rain must have been ‘orrrible over the last two months as both heads were filled up with rainwater and also mud from the Sahara dust that had finally washed off the rigging. The dinghy is also filled with water and weed and looks like it has been entertainment for a flock of incontinent ducks. The weather is cold, wet and windy and I hear the Tropics calling; “come to me, come to me”

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Monday 23rd November 2009 PM Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey. The skipper has been to Capadocia, Turkey

Turkish roads are something of a relief after the ruthless efficiency of the German autobahns. Here road signs seem to be more or less optional and road markings are just suggestions. To be fair though nobody speeds too much as the roads are usually just too full of boulders, potholes, chickens and unlit tractors. Police roadblocks are everywhere but they seem nice about it. I did a large amount of mountain driving this weekend from Marmaris to Antalya airport to collect Heiki then on to Central Anatolia and Cappadocia and back. The weather was sunny and cool. It seems to be the season for roadside stalls selling oranges. The accommodation to get in Cappadocia is a cave. We stayed in the Museum Hotel high up in Uchisar. Parts of the place used to be a museum once but now it is a hotel with rooms made mostly of ancient dwellings cut out of the rock. Ours had a fabulous view out over the whole of Cappadocia. The strange rock formations and underground early Christian cities and churches here are about as unusual as it gets and an early morning hot-air balloon flight is the only way to see them. The pictures speak for themselves.

36:49.20N 028:18.56E Monday 23rd November 2009 PM Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey. The skipper has toured Germany and the Czech Republic

Last weekend I was in Berlin then some time in Betzdorf supervising the fitting of a kitchen then we were off on another weekend’s exploration looking at Christmas markets, Christkindlmarkt, Weihnachtsmarkt, whatever. Gluehwein; wurst; the whole nine yards. First stop was the medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber where we bought some Christmas decorations and then went on the entertaining Night Watchman walk around the dark but plague-free streets. On Saturday we went on to Nuremberg which was much bigger but way too crowded. Then over the border into the Czech Republic and Prague. (Yes, it’s yet another country in an already busy year. There will be another two countries bagged before the year is out, watch this space). Prague was nice but a bit drizzly. We stayed in the Hoffmeister Hotel. The restaurant was
excellent. On Sunday morning we walked the Charles Bridge and went to the Old Town Square for another Christmas Fair. On the drive back we stopped for a few beers in Pilsen and a tour around the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. As one does.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Sunday 20th December 2009. The skipper has been to Romania and is now in Betzdorf, Germany.

I just had a week in Romania playing at Santa Claus. It was an experience. Last Saturday we met up with old bible smugglers, Gerd, Klaus and Helmut and flew out from neat and tidy Cologne-Bonn Airport to scruffy old Bucharest Airport. Then it was a four hour minibus ride northwards to the even scruffier town of Barlad in Southern Moldavia. In Barlad is the Betania Children’s Home where we were to be based. Fortunately it was a nice place. I had visions of dirty-faced and cross-eyed babies rattling the bars of cages but it wasn’t like that at all. All the kids were teenagers and for the most part were fairly well adjusted given their tragic backgrounds. The accommodation was all in ten self contained houses and while not luxurious was comfortable enough. There is also a bakery and a warehouse on site. A couple of large trucks had arrived from Germany which contained thousands of shoebox Christmas parcels for local distribution. All this needed unloading to the warehouse. On Sunday we loaded up two minivans and set off into rural Moldavia. It’s not exactly a rustic idyll here. Horse and carts are the main form of transport and the houses don’t even deserve being described as ‘wattle and daub’. ‘Shit and sticks’ is more like it but the rich ones do have fine tin roofs with rooms by the dozen – diddle diddle diddle dum. Packs of feral dogs are everywhere and really made me wish I had had a Rabies shot. The Roma, or Gypsy, villages were the worst. They are a sort of feral people and were not easy to give parcels away to as they started grabbing and howling at you if you were not fast enough. I confess to giving away small girl’s presents to large boys just to get rid of them. Some of the children were switching hats behind the vans to get extra handouts and the little old ladies were just plain scary. The local mayor, perhaps a gypsy king, did invite us into his house for tea though. A couple of days later the temperature dropped to ten below and the snows came with a blizzard for three days. They do almost nothing here to clear snow and cars were buried in the streets. Anyone would think these parcels were organ transplants the way we battled with them through the drifts. Getting the minivans dragged out of ditches and up hills by tractors was all part of the adventure. When it got really bad we hijacked a one-horse open sleigh (of an agricultural variety) for parcel deliveries. Very cool. Heike got some ‘freezer burn’ on her legs from the cold on one run. We delivered to some schools but the teachers were on strike and many schools were closed. Mini-riots on the village streets were the usual method. We also did some children’s hospitals and institutions. Many kids ended up looking like they were off to a German football match sporting Hertha BSC Berlin and Bremen scarves and hats. We mostly cooked our own food in the guest house, or a least Heike cooked and I dried the dishes, so that we didn’t need to get too familiar with the delights and dangers of the local cuisine. This being Romania and close to Transylvania, on Friday we did have Transylvanian wine, cheese and roasted garlic for the better prevention of any vampire attack. Yesterday, Heike and I caught the early morning train from Barlad back to Bucharest and were met by Emanuel, who is associated with the Betania Home, and were given a driving tour of Ceausescu’s Bucharest on the way to the airport.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on
Wednesday 30th December 2009. The skipper is in the village of Mission, Val
d’Anniviers, Valais, Switzerland.

Christmas Eve, or the German Christmas Day of the 24th, was at Heike’s sister Micki and Frank’s house in Berlin. They do some things that are a bit different in Germany for Christmas. A brace of geese with dumplings and red cabbage was the main course. The goose had to be followed by a lot of schnapps to ease the digestion. They had never heard of mince pies, Xmas pudding or crackers. A scary Weihnachtsmann brings presents on the 24th and I got a professionally recorded CD with silly boat songs we made up in the Pacific. On the evening of the 24th we put the car on a train at Berlin’s Wannsee Bahnhof going overnight to Munich. The station was used during the war to deport Jews but their customer service is now much improved. We squeezed into a small sleeping compartment and a British-style Father Christmas managed to arrive in time for the morning of the 25th. On Christmas Day we drove south to the Alps and then once again with the car on a train over the Furka Pass into the Swiss Rhone Valley and arrived late in the day at the chalet in Mission in the snowy Val d’Anniviers. We are here by ourselves for five days until John & Linda and Johnny & Alison arrive in time for New Year. Neither of us ski much but we have been up and down cable cars and had gluhwein and cheese fondue for the atmosphere. The valley and villages are very picturesque with snowy mountains and trees and chalets that look as if they would play music if you lifted their roofs up.

The grand total for 2009 turns out to be 21 different countries where I have hung my hat. Coincidentally, but a much more important milestone for me is that my daughter was born 21 years ago today. Have a Happy Birthday Holly and a Happy New Year to All.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Sunday 3rd January 2010. The skipper has been to Switzerland and is now in Betzdorf, Germany

Friends Alison and Johnny turned up at the Mission chalet in the early hours of New Years Eve morning. On New Years Eve day the four of us went up the cable car from the village of Grimentz. Johnny had a ski and the rest of us trudged around in the snow for a while until it was time for lots of vin chaud (it’s a French-speaking valley). After dark we watched a torch-light ski parade down to the village and firework display. All very nice. Then it was back to the chalet for raclet and cheese fondues. Hosts John and Linda managed to arrive before it was all gone. We all celebrated New Year on the chalet balcony with “Auld Lang Syne” from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and then Thai paper lanterns were launched into a moonlit but windless night sky. Afterwards, chalet neighbours from Zurich invited us round for even more drinks at their ice-bar in their garden. On New Years Day we had some proper skiing instruction from Linda and John on the baby slopes of Grimentz. The day after that, we had too much pain in the legs and feet for ski-boots so we spent the day downhill racing on toboggans at Chandolin. Sledging to a mountain hut at Illhorn for a lunch of rosti was pretty good, I thought. Today, Sunday, it was back to Germany through the Kandersteg tunnel. It will be a while before I can face any cheese.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Thursday 21st January. The skipper is in Betzdorf, Germany

Saturday 16th January; a flying visit to London for the World ARC Reunion dinner in Richmond Park. I drove across from Germany using the Calais-Dover ferry and Heike flew in to Heathrow from Berlin. An excellent time was had by all. Thanks, Daniel for the arrangements and use of the very nice Pembroke Lodge. Good to meet up again with old crew and fellow yachty travelers, particularly Colin and Belinda, Nick and Rosie, David, Gerrie and Petra. Sunday 17th January; visited the London Boat Show to check out unaffordable yachts then dinner with daughter Holly and her partner Thom in, I think, Blackheath. Monday 18th January; stayed with friends Old Mike and Jacqui near Dorking. I sustained a bit of leg damage following some excessive tango dance instruction and rum drinking. Mike and Jacqui are fresh back from tango-ing in Antarctica as one does. I put the video evidence on YouTube . Tuesday 18th January; a huge Chinese dinner on Tuesday in Woking with son Tom and then it was back on the Dover car ferry overnight to get ready for another mission to the Middle East. So many people to see and so little time. All you good friends and former crew that live in London and the south of England, you know who you are; I’ll be coming to see you later in the year.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Thursday 28th January 2010. The skipper has visited Jordan and is now in Betzdorf, Germany

Last Thursday we flew out of Frankfurt to Amman, Jordan to stay with American expats Bob and Cris whom we met last year in Port Suez and Larnaca. Bob and Cris are old Jordan hands having been in Amman for years so we got the tour of the best bits: Ajlun, Jerash, River Jordan, Dead Sea and Petra. Petra lived up to expectations. The place is somewhat familiar from movies like The Last Crusade but seems even bigger and pinker in real-life. We also did the Indiana Jones/Lawrence of Arabia thing with horse and camel riding while looking dashing and dangerous sporting the red and white keffiyeh. Tres touristique.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Friday
19th February 2010. The skipper is in Betzdorf, Germany

It’s been three weeks since my last confession. I didn’t do much in early February apart from watch snow fall during the week and drive backwards and forwards from the Rhine to Berlin at weekends. Frau Richter Snr. has not been well and has been in various Berlin hospitals. It seems to be the season for it as Frau Pickup Snr. Has also been in hospital following a careless bit of ice-skating in a car park in Blackburn. One weekend, on the way back from Berlin, we stayed in a hotel near Hameln and met up with Ian Jack (crew Hamble to Figuera da Foz) for dinner. Last week was Half-Term and Tom came out to Germany see his old dad. The first night we stayed a short drive from Cologne/Bonn Airport at the Steigenberger Hotel which was nice. It used to be a place the West German government put up the odd visiting King or Queen so it wasn’t too shabby and it had a good view overlooking the Rhine. The next day was Rosenmontag, the main day for parades for the Cologne Karneval, so we moved to another hotel in the centre of Cologne for the festivities. We watched the parade during the day. They throw huge amounts of packets of sweets, chocolates and roses off the floats which is cute but it gets a bit annoying after the tenth time a Toblerone bounces off your head. In the evening it was party-central in Cologne and we dressed up in natty 19th century nautical wear for the costume ball at the Stadtgarten. Tom in his Johnny Depp pirate gear had a lot of attention from the older frauleins. The local beer, Koelsch, comes in tiny glasses which are impossible to keep count of. That’s my excuse anyway. Tuesday, we were off to Dortmund and while Heiki did some more work, Tom and I tried to amuse ourselves with Dortmund’s tourist attractions. The Steinwache, which used to be an infamous Gestapo prison, is possibly the least amusing museum I’ve ever been to though. In the evening Heiki had to stay overnight in Hameln and Tom and I stayed with Ian and Heidrun in Lemgo nearby. Ian has a business pressure testing buildings and on Wednesday we went with him on a job, testing a new house in Paderborn which was interesting. Later we went to see some wind turbines and pointed a thermal-imaging camera at them for fun. You may have been wondering what the strange photographs were all about. Heiki had to overnight again in Hameln so we got another hotel in town for Wednesday night and explored the medieval streets and Pied-Piper/rat stuff the next day. After a quick look at the enormous Cologne cathedral, Tom was back at Cologne/Bonn Airport on Thursday evening.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Saturday 6th March 2010, doubtless covered in weed and guano. The skipper is in Berlin.

I had a couple of what might loosely be called themed explorations of German history over the last couple of weeks. The first was of the industrial heritage of the Ruhr taking me to coal mines and museums in the Dortmund/Bochum area and the second was some much darker stuff in and around Berlin related to WW2. One interesting place was Zollern II/IV which sounds like it should be a concentration camp but was in fact a disused colliery near Dortmund. The remaining buildings and winding works look like a rather stylish palace and it would be hard to imagine them as pitheads in Yorkshire or South Wales. Generally speaking, Germany seems to have survived the industrial revolution without too many eyesores. At least until they started putting wind turbines all over the landscape. Another interesting place visited was Sachsenhausen, which, of course, sounds a bit like it should have been a coal mine but was in fact a very nasty concentration camp to the north of Berlin. It was such a useful place that the NKVD continued to use it after the war up to 1950 to lock up former Nazis, and anyone else they didn’t like the look of. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is also very good for making you feel embarrassed to be human. Yesterday we were among the last few people on the planet to go watch ‘Avatar’ the movie. It was pretty good in 3D on the big IMAX at the Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz. The movie’s story doesn’t show humans in a particularly good light either. Must be the zeitgeist.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Tuesday 16th March 2010. The skipper is in Dortmund.

More German history recently; maritime, emigration and universities. We went up to Hamburg last weekend and stayed at the very nice ‘Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten’ overlooking the Binnenalster lake in the centre of Hamburg then on for some fish at the ‘Rive’ overlooking Hamburg harbour on the river Elbe. Further down the river is the cute Willkomm-Hoeft, a pier where unsuspecting ships sailing into Hamburg are shouted at by loudspeakers with “Willkommen in Hamburg, wir freuen uns, Sie im Hamburger Hafen begruessen zu koennen” and played the ship’s national anthem. Flags then go racing up and down a flagpole to force the harassed ship’s Captain into some kind of return salute. Naturally there is a ships-in-bottles museum as well. Then on to Bremerhaven which is on another river flowing into the North Sea, this time the Weser which also flows through Hamelyn many miles upstream. The main museum there is the very entertaining ‘Deutsches Auswandererhaus’ which covers the more than seven million emigrations from the port to the New World. There are reconstructions of the trans-Atlantic ship’s berths from the days of sail through to steamships. They give you a ‘boarding pass’ which you use to electronically track the life of a particular emigrant assigned to you based on your nationality. They can’t have had any English passing through Bremerhaven though as my man was a German Jew going to Argentina in 1939. Lunch was Labscouse in the old sailing ship the “Seute Deern”. The ships name means ‘lovely girl’ although the figurehead suggests the name should really be ‘grumpy housewife’. We needed to be in Hamburg on the Monday then Dortmund on Tuesday so to make it a more useful trip we stopped off in Heidelberg and stayed in ‘Die Hirschgasse’, a historic place which used to be a sort of fraternity house for Heidelberg University students while they were busy beer drinking and carving each other up in fencing duels. Otto von Bismarck also found time to carve his name in one of the tables. The view of the red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle across the river Necker has inspired paintings by our very own J.M.W.Turner amongst others.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Yat Marin, Marmaris, Turkey on Friday
26th March 2010. The skipper has been to Belgium, Netherlands and the UK and is now in Berlin.

Last weekend was a bit busy. Towards the end of last week, business took us to Brussels and Mechelin in Belgium where we stayed at the Martin’s Patershof. Its an odd place as it’s a very modern hotel built inside an old Franciscan church. From Belgium it was a dash up to Holland and then canals of Delft for lunch, then to Rotterdam for the overnight ferry to Hull. Then it was a quick drive to a sunny York for another lunch, plus Viking experience, and on over the Pennines to Mum and Dad P’s in Blackburn. The next day it was a drive down to Woking to collect a few things that have been moldering in a garden shed for a few years. Then it was on to Dover; the ferry to Calais; another lunch in Brugge and back to Betzdorf.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E in Turkey and the skipper is in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Wednesday 12th May 2010

Having crisscrossed northern Germany several times in the last week or two it seems that the orderly Teutonic authorities only permit three colours in the landscape at this time of year, excluding the red roofs and the white wind-turbines, naturally. These seem to be in equal proportions.

These colours are: the dark-greens of the overwintered coniferous trees; the light-green of the new Spring growth and the luminous acid-yellow of the rapeseed fields. This being a hilly country the fields are highly visible and hard on the eyes. Surely, they could come up with other tints just to make this agribusiness more interesting. Isn’t this what genetic engineering is really for? It can’t take much to make an interesting patchwork pattern with whole fields. And why not be even more creative? Tartan designs could be cool. Attach a micro-chip to the seed-drill and who knows what pictures, or messages could be made?

You heard it here first.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E in Turkey and the skipper is in Berlin, Tuesday 18th May 2010

Friends, Mike and Jacqui, came over for a visit to Berlin last Thursday. As usual Heike went into Hyperactive Tour-Guide mode and we drove straight from Tegel Flughafn into the thick of the nightlife of the Friedrichstrasse area with champagne in hand.

Friday we took a look at the old Tempelhof Airport and peered down at Berlin from the Funkturm. We strolled the Unter Den Linden and had lunch in the swanky Hotel Adlon then ‘Kaffe und Kuchen’ in the Potsdamer Yacht Club. In the evening we did the Reichstag tour to see British architecture at it’s finest.

Saturday saw us checking out the low points of the city in WW2 bunkers and Checkpoint Charlie. I think there may have been a visit to a hunting, fishing and dirndl shop nearby but I’ve blanked it out. Lunch was in the ‘Zur Letzten Instanz’ for highly traditional, and huge, plates of German food.

On Sunday we trekked out to Potsdam for a fine lunch on Schnitzel and Spargel in the ‘Kleines Schloss’. It is the white asparagus season here (Spargelzeit) and many restaurants have special menus for the stuff. We then exchanged some Cold War spies on the ‘Bridge of Unity’ or ‘Glienicke Brucke’ nearby. Some of us also did a bit of tango on the bridge which may have been appropriate, or possibly not. We then went on to stroll through the grounds of Sansouci Palace. Heike had to go to the US on business that evening so it was a dash to Tegel then back to Schulzendorf for the rest of us to amuse ourselves.

Monday we got up late as there was nobody to organize us then we went on a leisurely cruise up and down the river Spree, as us old and tired people do. Then on to Tegel Flughafn again for goodbyes.

Tuesday, I slept like the dead.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E in Turkey and the skipper is in Berlin, Tuesday 15th June 2010

Been a bit busy recently; we closed down the Bezdorf apartment; lugged six wardrobes, two sofas and assorted bric-a-brac down three floors with the aid of some student labour; rented a big van and drove all the stuff to Berlin. Fortunately the basement there is big and can accommodate the two or three full sets of household kit and furniture.

So we are now here full-time in a place we had been using recently only as a sort of weekend cottage. It’s a small apartment left over from a large house that Heike has rented out. But most week days we are on the road as usual between Hamelin, Frankfurt, Dortmund and Brussels so the place is still just a weekend cottage in reality.

On the most recent trip to Belgium I went by the Waterloo battlefield site again which I didn’t get to see much of the last time. The Germans were on our team then for some reason. 

As everywhere else, FIFA Weltmeisterschaft 2010 fever has taken over in Berlin with most cars sporting German battle flags. Germany’s first game against Australia was watched on a newly (five minutes before) installed TV at Heike’s parents flat in Berlin-Neukolln. It seems to be traditional there to ring a giant cow-bell on the balcony after every goal.

Daughter Holly was supposed to be here this evening but is stuck at Paris-Orly Airport due to a traditional summer strike.

Graptolite is at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E in Turkey and the skipper is in Berlin, Tuesday 6th July 2010

Holly and Thom turned up eventually and we did lots of tourist stuff including canoeing the canals at Spreewald while eating gherkins; drinking cocktails on a tropical beach inside a Zeppelin hangar and watching the World Cup (England v Slovenia) at another beach in the city which was definitely non-tropical. We also had a drive out to Hamburg for Heike’s birthday, staying at the Hotel Atlantic.

My old mum had a birthday as well reaching 80 last week so both Heike and I were in Blackburn for the celebrations along with Leanne and Marcus and boys. I was struggling with the flu, or something, which will teach me to keep up-to-date with British diseases. I slept until last Thursday, some of it at Johnny and Alison’s, then struggled down to Liverpool Airport, back to Berlin and slept some more. I’m getting better thank you.

I had intended to check up on Grapto this week but the thought of antifouling in 50 degrees is putting me off for some reason.

Graptolite and skipper are both at 36:49.20N 028:18.56E Marmaris, Turkey, Tuesday 13th July 2010

Got a last-minute flight from Berlin yesterday and arrived at the marina after dark expecting to see just the top of the mast sticking out of the water after all this time. But all was well apart from a little dust and rain damage and a missing Turkish flag.

I need some acclimatization-time for the heat before I do anything strenuous.

Graptolite and skipper are both at 36:49.09N 028:18.44E Marmaris, Turkey, Saturday 31st July 2010

Navigationally aware readers will notice that Grapto has moved on a little bit. She was hoisted by a crane onto the hard last week. As expected there was almost a marine park’s worth of wildlife hanging off her bottom. These included quite a few oysters on the bottom of the fin keel which were not far off being edible but they usually make me sick these days. They didn’t thrill me to have to bash them off with a hammer either.

Anyway, the antifouling painting is now finished and she looks quite smart again from underneath. Also, I retrieved an outboard motor which has been in a workshop for repairs since I was last here; got the seal on the propeller gearbox replaced at as it’s been leaking sea water into the oil for over a year; commissioned a new bimini cover and sprayhood as the canvas-work had all but rotted away and had the tatty genoa sail cleaned and repaired so it doesn’t look like someone’s dirty washing. Also I bought a passerelle (French for gangplank) so I don’t have to make death-defying leaps ashore anymore in these stupid Mediterranean marinas. 

Heiki came out last weekend but the boat was too hot to live on so we moved into air-conditioned hotels in Marmaris and Datcha. And also a very smelly hotel near Dalaman Airport which was full of Russians there for the mud baths and the Green Sea turtles which they feed bread to like ducks.

The weather has been horribly hot here and with no shade canvas available the inside of the boat has been like living in an oven with mosquitoes. I was forced into buying a portable air-conditioner this week to avoid turning into biltong at night. It’s a big, noisy thing that has to sit on top of the gas cooker like, well, another gas cooker but I don’t care.

36:45.24N 028:56.29E Skopea Marina, Gocek, Turkey, Tuesday 17th August 2010

Grapto was lowered gently back into the water a few weeks ago and then refused to move away from the dock without being placated with a new starter battery. It was all very embarrassing, especially as she had already been treated to a many new toys recently.

My lad Tom came out a couple of weeks ago. We had a lot of time dashing between pool and air-conditioned boat while the new sprayhood and bimini canvas work was finally completed and the ever self-destructive Fischer-Panda diesel generator was repaired. New fuel pump; new cylinder ring; dodgy injector; blocked seawater pipes etc. I hate that machine and it hates me.

Then Tom and I were out of Marmaris Bay and back to sea with some short hops eastwards down to Gocek to be closer to Dalaman Airport. We anchored in some nice little bays on the Lycian coast on the way. It was completely stress-free apart from the main house batteries deciding that they too had had enough and would also like to be recycled thank you very much. The big batteries were replaced in Gocek and Tom was delivered into the perennially tardy hands of Easyjet this evening.

36:20.23N 025:26.09E Vlikadha Marina, Thira (Santorini), Cyclades, Greece Wednesday 25th August 2010

Heike flew out to Dalaman last Friday so we could move on from Turkey to Greece. Unfortunately the weather forecast showed the meltemi winds were expected to rise to gale force on Sunday. We were somewhat committed to getting to Santorini airport for a flight early Monday so we set off with the intention of beating the worst of the weather by sailing overnight and with a plan to find shelter on the way if it got bad. It got bad and we were badly pounded by having to motor directly into F6-7 wind with waves over the deck. Interestingly, the boat started filling up with water as well requiring the use of a bucket and the proverbial frightened man. It turned out that a hatch on the forward deck had not been closed properly and also the engine seawater cooling system had sprung a leak at the back of the boat. It killed a few bits of electrical equipment but nothing serious.

We had to run for shelter to the Dodecanese island of Astipalaia narrowly escaping being run down by a container ship on the way. Astipalaia turned out to be a lovely island with the white houses of the chora rising up from the harbour to the summit and a with 13th century castle on the top. By Monday the worst of the winds seemed to have past and we headed off west again to Thira stopping at the island of Anafi for lunch.

On Tuesday, we took a look at the famous view from the town of Fira into the caldera with several cruise ships at anchor. Heike flew out on a rebooked flight that evening.

On Wednesday, I had to track down some Customs people for a bit of paperwork at the Old Port about 300 metres below the town. The passengers from three huge cruise ships were backed up trying to get down on the cable car so I walked down the steps, slip-sliding on donkey poo the whole way. I’ll be doing it again soon as the Customs people were not in their office.

36:20.23N 025:26.09E Vlikadha Marina, Thira (Santorini), Cyclades, Greece Sunday 29th August 2010

I rented a quad-bike the other day so I could race around the island’s beaches and tourist parts with the wind in my hair. It’s a monster machine but has a less-than-throbbing 50cc engine and doesn’t do more than 25 km/hr.

Off to Berlin on Wednesday for a week’s holiday.

37:56.20N 023:38.92E Zea Marina, Piraeus, Greece, Monday 13th Sept 2010

Last Wednesday I came back from a week in cold and rainy Berlin to sunny Santorini. On Saturday evening H also turned up and we had a splendid sunset cruise through the Santorini caldera on our way to an overnight anchorage on the island of Ios.

It was a bible-black, moonless night on the approach to Ios but the guide showed a good protected anchorage at a bay called Manganari. We couldn’t see a thing in the darkness but the charts, radar and depth all looked good and the plan was to drop anchor a few hundred metres out in the bay to be on the safe side. No worries. Heike went to the bow to keep an eye out for any unlit boats but then gave a strangled squawk as a tall rock swept down our port-side only faintly lit by our red navigation light. It seemed like minutes but was probably microseconds before there was a very loud bang and we went from flank speed to zero with an instant realisation that the chart was not just a little out. It was very, very wrong.

Fully expecting to be soon swimming for the beach, we dashed about the boat looking for holes but all seemed OK. Back-tracking we dropped anchor further out and shaken and stirred, felt a strong need for some medicinal ouzo. A daylight underwater inspection showed no big damage apart from the rudder being a little shorter than it used to be. It was a lucky escape although the next lift-out will be expensive.

The next port planned was Piraeus but it needed an overnight Sunday passage through the northern Cyclades to get there so that Heike could get to Athens airport. After dodging many high-speed ferries during the night, we approached Piraeus at first light this morning. Zea Marina, once filled with oared-galleys turns out to be the type of marina now mostly full of big Sunseeker gin palaces. There are also a few boats sunk at their berths, likely waiting on insurance money. Not us though.

39:37.08N 019:55.53E Corfu, Ionian Sea, Wednesday 22nd September 2010

Piraeus was a grubby place as advertised but I quite liked it for some reason and it has a bit of history behind it.

Some archaeologists were diving near the boat in the marina mapping out some ancient Greek trireme berths. They were using my power and water supply during the day but their need was greater than mine given the poisonous mud they had to work in.

On Saturday morning we set off westwards to the entrance to the Corinth Canal. It’s an impressively deep rock cut for a few miles. We popped out into the Gulf of Corinth and stopped the night at a small harbour called Kiato on the Peloponnese coast. On Sunday we pressed on in very strong headwinds to our next nights stop at Navpaktos. Navpaktos, formerly called Lepanto, was where the Turks provisioned prior to the disastrous (for them) sea battle of the same name in 1571. The town is an interesting-looking place with a small medieval walled harbour and other fortifications running up the hillside. The harbour was way too small and medieval for us so we anchored outside.

Early the next morning was a run under the huge cable-stayed Rion Bridge and into the Gulf of Patras. It’s a bleak area here with high rocky mountains and salt marshes. Turning right at the Ionian Sea we sailed past a lot of islands and anchored for the night at the entrance to a canal cut through a salt marsh on the east side of the island of Levkas. The canal was a shortcut but we had a little delay while a floating road bridge was moved out of our way. Pressing on in very pleasant weather we arrived at Corfu Island in the early evening and anchored in the shadow of the impressive fortifications of Corfu town. I had planned on going to a big marina further up the coast but I’m getting a bit tired of paying 50-odd euros a night for a few metres of wall to tie up to.

40:40.37N 017:57.09E Brindisi, Italy, Sunday 3rd October 2010

Corfu’s Venetian fortifications were interesting enough. This late in the season the crowds of tourists are thinning out but everyone’s a bit long in the tooth and arrive in big pulses by big cruise ship.

The weather has been a bit variable over the past week or so and I had to move location most days to find shelter from the variable wind. The rain was very heavy at times which must explain the unusual greenness of the island compared to the burnt landscapes of the rest of Greece and even nearby Albania across on the mainland.

The natural route forward on this side of the Adriatic would be to go up the coast of Albania but Albania holds little appeal for me, possibly unfairly, so when Heike arrived late on Friday we bypassed Albania by an overnight sail northwest to the heel of Italy and to the port of Brindisi. Grapto will be staying here for a little while both of us return to Germany on Monday.

We spent most of the day today doing man-overboard practice outside the port in some fine but chilly weather. I was the man.

42:27.97N 014:14.01E Marina di Pescara, Italy, Monday 25th October

I had a couple of weeks of driving between hotels in Brussels, Dortmund, Hamelin and Berlin during early October. Then it was back out to the boat in Brindisi for a couple of days to try to get some electrical repairs done.

Connecting flight limitations made it sensible for me to meet H in Rome last weekend. We stayed in the Fontana Hotel with a close-up view of the Trevi Fountain. It was possible to throw coins into the fountain from the room window but with some risk of hitting the crowd of tourists below. We also went to the Sistine Chapel. The throwing of coins, and indeed most everything else, is frowned on there though.

On Saturday morning we stocked up on local wines, cheeses and meats and sailed out of Brindisi harbour heading northwest along the Puglia coast. 200 miles later, it is now Monday evening and we are in Pescara, about half way up the Italian leg on the Adriatic coast. The weather en-route was mostly favourable if a bit cold at night. The mountains behind Pescara have a capping of snow to prove it. H has gone back to work somewhere.

It was another impossibly busy weekend again.

On Thursday I drove across Italy from Pescara to Rome to meet Heiki at the Castello della Castellucia hotel, west of the city. On Friday it was a drive back to Pescara to start a 150 mile sail northwest up the coast to Rimini with a couple of overnight anchorages on the way. Night sailing didn’t seem like a good idea as it’s a cluttered coastline with pot-markers, mussel farms and gas platforms everywhere. The fine weather was beginning to turn nasty on the approach to Rimini harbour.

On Monday morning we caught a train to Florence and wandered the old streets in the rain. Long lines of wet tourists kept us out of the undoubtedly splendid insides of the Duomo and the Ufitzi, which will have to wait for another time, but we had a nice lunch and a game of Scrabble at the Loggia overlooking the soggy city from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Later, Heiki flew off to Dusseldorf and I jumped a slow train back to Rimini, as one does.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Marina Blu, Rimini, Italy, Tuesday 16th Nov 2010

We took a quick look at Venice last weekend. Just overnight in my case and for a few hours for Heiki as her plane was cancelled. Then we both took the train back to Rimini for a night in the marina.

We had intended to sail Grapto up to Venice so as to have our own vaporetto to use for the Pickup’s Snr trip next weekend but then we got the sad news that Heiki’s mum, Rosemarie, had passed away at home. She had been very ill. We’ve been in Berlin since Saturday making funeral arrangements but should be back in Venice this week.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Marina Blu, Rimini, Italy, Tuesday 23rd Nov 2010

Heiki and I returned to Venice last Friday and later whisked the Pickup’s Snr. from the airport to the Grand Canal by posh water taxi. Stepping out of a boat directly into the lobby of a hotel was a novel experience even for me. Their suite in the Foscari Palace was a bit swanky with 15-foot high carved ceilings; a giant fireplace and fine views out over the gondolas and vaporettos up and down the Grand Canal. I shouldn’t let Heiki make the arrangements for this kind of thing as it will be giving the oldies ideas way above their station. And me.

On Saturday morning we went to the island of Murano for the glasswork tour. Horribly expensive stuff but there was none of the expected hard sell which was good. We wandered the canal banks of Murano for a while then took the vaporetto almost right around Venice. The night was spent at the opera and then humming World Cup theme tunes on the way back. On Sunday it was a quick sing-a-long in Latin at the service in the big Santa Maria della Salute church then roaming around the creepily ornate Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica followed by a panini and a gelato at the Lido. On Monday morning we took a wobbly gondola across the Grand Canal to the market and the Rialto Bridge then took in the view out of the top of the Campanile down into a flooded St Mark’s Square. Then it was a boat back to the airport and away to Manchester. It was the train down to Rimini in my case to clear out the fridge on Grapto. I’m back in Berlin tomorrow.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Grapto is wintering in Rimini, Italy. The skipper is in Stuttgart, Germany, Monday 29th Nov 2010

In times of trouble, us British make tea, Germans reach for a sausage. Harsh but true.

Heike’s mum’s funeral was on Thursday in Neukoelln-Berlin. The funeral was nice, as these things go, and included various leitmotif of Rosemarie’s life. Flowers were based around peach-coloured roses and the mausoleum memorial stone included a carving of empty adirondak chairs facing out to sea. Florida beach seashells also decorated the lunch table which guests were invited to home as souvenirs.

We flew to Stuttgart, in Germany’s deep southwest, yesterday. Heiki is running a training course here. Stuttgart is the home of Mercedes and Porsche cars. It seems like a prosperous city and I will be out exploring once it stops snowing. The Christmas markets are already in full swing which feels like almost three weeks to early for me.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Grapto is wintering in Rimini, Italy. The skipper is in Dortmund, Germany, Wednesday 12th Jan 2011

I’m getting a bit behind with this blog and forgetting what I’ve been doing so here’s a quick romp through the festive season.

Christmas in Germany starts 24th December when the Weinachtsmann comes to thrash the kids who have been naughty and give out presents to those who are nice. It is also the day for the big dinner which was at our place. Or, in fact, in the apartment next door which we currently have un-tenanted and filled with spare furniture normally stored in the basement. Heiki’s sister, Micki, entertained with Christmas carols on the “squeezebox” piano-accordion while we attempted to digest both a German traditional dinner of two geese and a dangerous assortment of British Xmas delicacies.

The 25th was bizarrely mostly spent naked in the sauna-house in the garden and rolling in the snow while waving to the neighbours.

As New Year approached we collected Mum & Dad Pickup from Dusseldorf airport and had a working road-trip across a snowy Germany back to Berlin stopping for the night in various stately schloss and being entertained in circus tents on the way.

Daughter Holly arrived at Schoenefeld airport on the 30th with five friends for birthday and New Year celebrations. We met them and took them for breakfast in Kreuzfeld. Son Tom had to cancel his visit to Berlin though due to raging ‘flu.

New Years Eve and Day was in a big resort hotel next to a frozen lake to the south of Berlin. Along with assorted parents we had friends Siegfried and Renate with us. It was a 1950’s themed dinner-dance which neatly coincided with nobody’s actual adolescent years.

After New Year, Holly and friends came for a fondue and again for leftovers the following night when we took them back to the airport. Dinners for ten are hard work. Mum and Dad had another few days sightseeing in Potsdam and Berlin before flying home although the icy streets and sub-zero temperatures didn’t allow for too much outside.

Yesterday I was in Mechelen near Brussels. Today I’m in Dortmund. I’ve no idea where I will be tomorrow but it’s not going to be Berlin. I’m fairly sure that there are a couple of bits of foreign travel coming up over the next few weeks including a previously unvisited country. Is it possible there are any of those left?

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Grapto is wintering in Rimini, Italy. The skipper is in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday 24th Jan 2011

We flew to Vilnius, Lithuania via Riga, Latvia, last week. Obviously January in the former Soviet Union Baltic States is a little off-season but there was a bit of a business reason for being here.

Anyway, Vilnius is an interesting place. The streets were full of snow and ice but there was only a little leftover Soviet brutalist architecture and most of the old town is stuffed with pastel-coloured Baroque churches and cathedrals and is really quite pretty.

The food in Lithuania is well known to be on the stodgy side and we kicked off with some fine examples including a large pig’s ear and peas; “zeppelins” which are like a couple of potato dumplings the size of a pair of shoes and stuffed with meat and we also had a sausage which was essentially a pigs intestine stuffed with mashed potato. Mmm.

Driving west from Vilnius we visited Trakai with its red brick fairy-tale castle on an island in the middle of a frozen lake. Then it was off to the seaside at Klaipeda on the Baltic. The next day we were on the car ferry to the Curonian Spit which is a sort of barrier island of dunes and pine trees which separates the Baltic from the Curonian Lagoon. The lagoon was mostly frozen over with a lot of vodka-fuelled fishermen crouched over holes in the ice. We got down to Nida, the most southerly Lithuanian village on the spit and there’s a smell of smoked fish was everywhere. Just south of Nida there is a border post which leads to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. On the Baltic side I tried looking for a few bits of amber on the beach for souvenirs, but only for about ten seconds, as the windswept beach was mostly covered in little icebergs.

Driving back to Vilnius today we stopped at The Hill of Crosses which is a bizarre place with over 40,000 crosses jammed on to it. Don’t ask me why. Lunch nearby was more pig’s ears and zepellins and some kind of coca cola made from bread. Apparently.

Back to Dusseldorf now via Stockholm. I’m going to Gran Canaria in a couple of days but more of that anon.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Grapto is wintering in Rimini, Italy. The skipper is in Schulzendorf, Germany, Monday 31st Jan 2011

I recently got back from a nice little outing to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. It was to look over a yacht for sale that friend Ian Jack was thinking of buying. It was a 10m steel Rienke, self-build, bilge-keeler owned by a nice guy called Axel. Unfortunately it turned out to be the kind of boat that was a little bit too rough around the edges to have impressed Ian’s wife Heidrun. An important consideration. Ian and I slept on the boat for two nights though just to make sure. (www.vespina.net if you’re interested).

The boat was moored on the other side of the pontoon from where Grapto was moored in November 2007 just before the ARC so the trip was something of a blast from the past.

I heard recently that Val from Silver Heels II died in Turkey on 16 December and is buried in Karabaglar Christian Cemetery, Izmir. Steve Rowlands and I travelled in convoy with Val and her partner Graham through the Red Sea in the early part of 2009. It was a struggle along the coast of Sudan and Egypt and we spent many days waiting out the weather together in desert marsas and on remote reef anchorages. Val will be a great loss to the cruising tribe.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Rimini, Italy, Tuesday 22nd March 2011

Son Tom was over for Half-Term with us in Berlin. We had a Sunday brunch and a bit of archery at an outdoor training place on a lake southwest of Berlin. We also did the big TV Tower in Alexanderplatz and a good few cool restaurants around the town which I’ve forgotten the names of.

Last week I put the car on the Autozug at Berlin-Wannsee and went down to Munich overnight then drove over the snowy Brenner Pass into Austria then Italy and on down to Rimini. I was carrying “new” sails that have lived for years in Mike and Jacqui’s garage in Surrey and our basement in Berlin. This has been the first time that the boat has been within driving distance since 2007 and all the stuff too big for airline hand-luggage has finally made the connection.

Last weekend we had three regional sales managers from Heiki’s office over for a bit of “skipper training” before a bigger event for 60-odd people on the Baltic that Heiki is organizing. Erik from Denmark and Stephan and Martin from Germany were good company and can all now tie bowlines. We sailed north to the fishing port of Cesenatico for an overnight stay. Leonardo da Vinci designed the canal port apparently and there is a nice floating museum of old Adriatic fishing boats. Returning to Rimini was a bit rough and there was a grand finale nail-biting surf into the harbour. It was sunny though and everyone was pink of face and fairly happy, I think.

Yesterday, Monday, I drove Heiki to Milan to get a flight back to do some work in Germany. We stopped off on the way for a quick climb over the castles and scenery of San Marino. I drove back here to Rimini this afternoon. We’ve got a big trip coming up in April and I have to clean the boat.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Rimini, Italy, Tuesday 22nd March 2011

Son Tom was over for Half-Term with us in Berlin. We had a Sunday brunch and a bit of archery at an outdoor training place on a lake southwest of Berlin. We also did the big TV Tower in Alexanderplatz and a good few cool restaurants around the town which I’ve forgotten the names of.

Last week I put the car on the Autozug at Berlin-Wannsee and went down to Munich overnight then drove over the snowy Brenner Pass into Austria then Italy and on down to Rimini. I was carrying “new” sails that have lived for years in Mike and Jacqui’s garage in Surrey and our basement in Berlin. This has been the first time that the boat has been within driving distance since 2007 and all the stuff too big for airline hand-luggage has finally made the connection.

Last weekend we had three regional sales managers from Heiki’s office over for a bit of “skipper training” before a bigger event for 60-odd people on the Baltic that Heiki is organizing. Erik from Denmark and Stephan and Martin from Germany were good company and can all now tie bowlines. We sailed north to the fishing port of Cesenatico for an overnight stay. Leonardo da Vinci designed the canal port apparently and there is a nice floating museum of old Adriatic fishing boats. Returning to Rimini was a bit rough and there was a grand finale nail-biting surf into the harbour. It was sunny though and everyone was pink of face and fairly happy, I think.

Yesterday, Monday, I drove Heiki to Milan to get a flight back to do some work in Germany. We stopped off on the way for a quick climb over the castles and scenery of San Marino. I drove back here to Rimini this afternoon. We’ve got a big trip coming up in April and I have to clean the boat.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Rimini, Italy, Tuesday 26th April 2011. The skipper is in Berlin.

I’m as English as they come and so it came as a bit of a shock to find myself yesterday in a “sauna park” resort to the southeast of Berlin at a lake called Schaermutzelsee. It was a Christmas gift from Frank and Micki, Heike’s sister. I had never really imagined myself willingly strutting about in the altogether with a crowd of Germans but, with a few exceptions, nobody really justified much of a second glance so it was easy to fit in.

A “sauna park” has a selection of saunas to cater for all tastes and temperatures. One was a Siberian banja where you go to be thrashed with twigs while loudly singing “ka-linka, ka-linka, kalinka moya”. Another sauna was done out like a mine-working where the Aufguss girl leaps around while sloshing bottles of slivovitz and throwing snowballs on the hot coals in an old mine cart. Very strange. Very German.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Rimini, Italy, Saturday 16th April 2011. The skipper is in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Here’s a Trivial Pursuits question. What do the countries of Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan have in common? Answer later**.

My surprise birthday trip this year is to Uzbekistan where the Former Soviet Union meets the Islamic world. We flew from Berlin-Tegel to Istanbul and then on to Tashkent arriving in the early hours of April 8th. We don’t normally do “tours”, but in this place it is impossible to rent a car and making local arrangements is a nightmare without Russian or Uzbek so we had a driver and guide meet us as the airport. We had a look around the bazaars of Tashkent and the next day flew to Urgench in the west of Uzbekistan near the Turkmenistan border. A drive to a couple of mud-brick fortresses in the Kyzylkum Dessert was followed by lunch in a yurt camp and then on to the city of Khiva where we stayed in an old medrassa resplendent with blue tiled minarets. On April 11th we had a nine-hour drive across the Kyzylkum Dessert to Bukhara for further dose of minarets, mosques and mausoleums. These buildings with their blue tiles and majolica are very fine structures but natural disasters like earthquakes and Mongol Hordes mean that many of the building have been extensively restored or rebuilt and are not always entirely as old as claimed.

We had a couple of days exploring Bukhara. Like everywhere else there are also shopping opportunities in Bukhara. Heike successfully haggled so hard for one silk carpet that the police were very nearly called to throw her out.

On the 14th we drove across the grassy steppe to another yurt camp. Our yurt smelled like a wet camel. The actual smelly camels we took for a ride. There were a lot of wild tortoises wandering around the camp but I couldn’t generate any enthusiasm with the camel herders for racing them like we used to with hermit crabs or cane toads.

The morning of the 15th, my birthday, it was cold and wet and the yurt smelled even worse so we abandoned a planned day of camel trekking and headed off to Samarkand for a birthday dinner and lots of vodka.

44:04.61N 012:34.35E Rimini, Italy, Friday 22nd April 2011. The skipper is in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Samarkand has some of the biggest and best mosques, medrassas and mausoleums on the Silk Road and we stayed there for four nights losing only one day because of intestinal irregularity despite frequent internal disinfection with vodka.

Then it was another drive to Tashkent where the trip was supposed to end but we decided to carry on eastwards for a couple of days into the Fergana Valley as we had heard it was not as dangerous as we had been originally told. The drive into the valley was spectacular with the Pamir Alay Range to the south and the Tian Shan Mountains to the north.

There were stops at a ceramics factory in Rishton and a silk works in Margilon and several bazaar stops where we stocked up on the usual Silk Road goods. Our driver was persuaded with dollars to also take us to Andijon in the far east. Andijon being the site of a recent government massacre of Islamic fundamentalists was likely the worst place but everything turned out alright. Later on the 22nd we flew back to Tashkent. Our arranged driver there never showed up but we haggled for a cheap rusty Lada taxi to our hotel for a short nap before returning to Berlin. There is to be a lunch stopover in our old stamping ground of Istanbul.

45:29.35N 012:35.13E Porto Turistico di Jesolo, Venezia, Italy, Tuesday 17th May 2011

We sailed out of Rimini last weekend in beautiful weather and anchored overnight off the River Po delta. On Saturday we continued on up towards Venice when in sight of St Mark’s through the entrance to the lagoon we were hit by a sudden F8 and heavy rain. Nearly lost the dinghy and the bimini cover and got soaking wet and semi-hypothermic before we could dig out the oilies. A plan to swan up and down the Laguna Veneta was abandoned and we carried on to the Porto Piave Vecchia, near Lido di Jesolo, and lurched onto the marina’s fuel berth and clung on there to avoid any expensive encounters while parking up in strong wind.

Later that evening, we got a taxi into Venice and a vaporeto down the Grand Canal and had dinner in a restaurant next to the Rialto Bridge then Heike caught a sleeper train to Munich and I got a slow train back to Jesolo und das Boot.

I woke up to a windless, sunny morning and moved on to our arranged berth on the other side of the marina. We will probably be staying here for the rest of the year and use it as a base for cruising the top end of the Adriatic and Croatia.