Monday, June 29, 2009

Final Thoughts

June 28, 2009

We’re on the train making our way back to Zurich, arriving tonight around 8 PM. Travel hiccups trumped our original plans to return via northern Italy, so we are retracing our path thru Austria, Slovenia, etc on the return.
It’s hard when an experience such as this is so fresh in your mind to see it with any real perspective, but I’d like to end with some impressions and remembrances, in no particular order:
• Probably the thing that stands out most in my memory is the Croatian people we met along the way. We did not encounter a disagreeable person in the entire 2 weeks. They were friendly, outgoing, personable and humorous. Everyone always tried to do a good job. ‘And they succeeded.
• Two examples. Our driver in Zagreb who met us at the airport close to midnight, too late to catch the train, so he made many calls on his cell trying to find us the best hotel deal he could within walking distance of the train station. Or the hotel in Dubrovnik where most of the fleet stayed Saturday night, needing to leave for the airport at 4 AM. The hotel has a breakfast included in the stay, but it didn’t open ‘til 6 AM. But special arrangements were to provide a continental breakfast for our friends starting at 3 AM Saturday morning.
• Sailing is one of the most sensory endeavors one could pursue. Of the new sailors on Libertas, the most common comment was how much more they enjoyed it when the engines turned off, leaving everyone to the sounds of the wind and water caressing the boat and our spirits. Add to that, the smell of the fresh air and open sea, and the feel of the wind in your face.
• You can let sailing be as low tech or gear-headed as you want it to be. You can get into the physics of setting the sails, navigating to our next destination, keeping up with the on board electronics and plumbing, ….. or not, and just enjoy the experience.
• Croatians, particularly the younger ones are a handsome people. Almost all were attractive. We saw little to no evidence of obesity among the younger adults, unlike the US.
• The Dalmatian coast of Croatia is some of the most beautiful sailing waters in the world.
• I was more attracted to the small rural towns/locations than the larger cities such as Dubrovnik and Split.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


June 26, 2009

We spent today in Dubrovnik’s old town, a walled medieval city dating back 1000 years. We ponyed up the admission and walked the entire 2 1/2 mile perimeter of the wall, probably climbing 500 feet above sea level in the process, affording great views in many directions. Dubrovnik can hold its own with any of the old medieval cities in Europe. But, like these others, it can be crowded and noisy during high tourist season, which it was today. There were the ever-present amorphous groups led by whistle-blowing, umbrella-toting tour guides.
It contrasted substantially with our to-date Croatian experience. We returned for our last night aboard the Libertas, tired and clearly not ready for prime time touristy sight-seeing.

PS: We’ve learned that Joseph, from Toto, supplements the family income by playing electric guitar and being the lead singer in a rock band playing at one of the local hot spots in nearby Hvar Town.

The Elaphite Islands

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June 25, 2009

Today, we departed Luca and made our way to the island of Lopud for an onboard lunch before sailing on for a planned dockage in Dubrovnik Thursday evening. Sipan and Lopud are part of the Elaphite Islands, named for a Greek word meaning “deer.” Yvonne & I felt strangely at home here .
Lopud is another small community on a small Dalmatian coast island, rife with charm, atmosphere and history. ‘All things that make this part of the world so attractive. But as we sailed into the harbor, we were struck by a seemingly blatant contrast, pictured above. To our left was a 15th century church and monastery; to our right, a spanking new 200 room hotel. A 600 year time warp. With apologies to Dickens, I felt as if I were seeing the ghosts of Croatia past & future. I claimed the moral high ground of righteous indignation at this modern intrusion into pristine past.
After lunch, we went ashore for a little sightseeing. We visited a small art shop, where I saw something that gave me pause and seriously punctured my architectural high mindedness. Prominently displayed with paintings of the town and its churches, were several paintings of the new hotel!
Then it occurred to me that my perception of this hotel and that of Lopud’s inhabitants were completely opposite. I saw this as a needless modern intrusion into Croatia’s charm; they saw it as progress, pride and opportunity. After all, I suppose charm, atmosphere and history only gets you so far when your objective is to put beans on the table.
So Lopud’s challenge is the age-old challenge of balancing growth and opportunity while preserving that which makes the growth and opportunity possible. I wish them well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mljet & Sipan

June 24, 2009

We left Polace this morning bound for the eastern side if the island where we planned to find a secluded cove, drop anchor, prepare lunch and maybe swim a little. Although we searched for a cove described as one of Jacques Cousteau’s favorites, instead we found another, equally interesting. This was at Saplunara, on the southeast tip of Mljet. It is said to have been named by the Apostle Paul after his shipwreck in 61 AD. He was said to have spent 3 months in this cove before departing.
A couple other historical factoids before departing Mljet:
• In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses spent 7 years on this island with his nymph Calipso. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, his wife, Penelope, wove for these years, awaiting Ulysses return.
• In the 1800’s, Mljet was overrun by Asps, a very poisonous snake. There being no effective treatment, many people died. In about 1910, a small number of Indian Mongoose were introduced onto the island to combat the Asp population. It was wildly successful. The agile mongoose would aggressively engage any Asps encountered. They are said to infuriate the snake under attack by … get this …. blowing into the snake’s nostrils. With the snake angry, confused and impaired, the mongoose would dart in for the kill. Today there are virtually no Asps on the island. The mongoose population, having nothing to prey on, now attack small to medium sized domestic animals.
We left Mljet in the early afternoon for a 2 hour sail over to our next port of call, the village of Luca on the island of Sipan. Luca is at a much protected harbor and, like so many Croatian ports, postcard pretty. We tied to a mooring for the night and went ashore for dinner. After dinner, Rick Ramseur from our boat, a natural born performer & comedian, sang for the group. This was his original composition, accompanied by harmonica (Rick playing this also), entitled “Adriatic Sea Blues”. It was a hilarious account of the past 2 weeks, one in which no one was spared the barbs of his wit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Korcula & Mljet

June 23, 2009

We actually wound up spending 3 nights on Korcula rather than our planned 2. One of the reasons for our rough crossing earlier was that a low was moving into the area. This resulted in rain Saturday night, all day Sunday & intermittently on Monday. Aside from discovering that 3 of the 4 cabins on our boat had leaky hatches directly above each bed, we managed fine, necessity providing innovative solutions when pressed. Being too wet to go out, meals were eaten on the boat, Yvonne and others doing a fantastic job in the galley.
Early Tuesday morning, we left Lombarda on Korcula, bound for Mljet. Arriving about noon, we entered the harbor at Polace, a community dating back 2 millennia. As a matter of fact, our berth at the marina was within 50 feet of a 3 story masonry ruin of the roman palace at Polace, about 1500 years old. ‘Really cool. It seems that the local populace, Illyrians, found it fun and profitable to loot, sack and sink unsuspecting but well provisioned Roman Galleys in the early centuries of the 1st Millenia. Predictably, this did not sit well with Roman authorities. They dealt with it in the expected manner. These formerly fierce pirates retreated inland, becoming farmers & goat herders. ‘Classic career redirection.
The afternoon was spent exploring the National park on the west end of the island, including a 12th Century Benedictine Monastery, situated on an island on a saltwater lake named Velico Jezero.

PS: Joseph, from Toto, is a favorite to make the Croatia 2010 Winter Olympics team. ‘His specialty being the downhill Giant Slalom. He’s currently ranked #2 in Croatia.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Rough Sail/Adventure II

June 20, 2009

This morning we reluctantly departed from Lastovo, bound for Polace on the island of Mljet. Everyone was excited since early morning indications were that we would have wind, apparently out of the northeast. After putting out, sure enough, winds were brisk, maybe 10 knots, but more out of the east rather than the northeast. This was unfortunate since our destination was almost due east, directly into the wind, which sailboats do not do well (not at all, actually). This necessitated that we zigzag (tack) into the wind always keeping about 45 degrees to the wind. This we proceeded to do. As we continued on this course, we noticed the winds and seas began to pick up increasing to 18 to 20 knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. On this course, we were bouncing around pretty good with frequent waves crashing over the bow onto the cabin’s windshield. For the most part, all of us were dealing with the bouncing and rolling, and the boat clipped along at a healthy 8 to 9 knots.
This continued for maybe 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then, suddenly, we heard a very loud bang or pop, sounding much like a rifle shot. Looking around, we were distressed to see the mainsail fluttering loosely in the breeze, completely free of the boom, the lower bar that keeps the sail secured. A probably ¾” line (the out haul) had broken under the strain of now 20+ Knot winds, leaving us without a main sail.
Fortunately, there was a solution. By lowering the main by about 20 %, there is a second out haul line installed for situations when winds are too strong for the full main sail area. So that’s what we proceeded to do. John & I, clinging to whatever kept us vertical, made our way to the mast and began to lower the main, alternatively lowering the main and clinging to anything handy as wind and waves tossed the boat and us around. Eventually, we prevailed.
However, this experience gave us pause and we reassessed if we really wanted to proceed under these conditions. The answer was a fairly unanimous no. We changed course and made way for Lumbarda, on the island of Korcula. This course was more north-northeast, and was a much more “user-friendly” tack. We made to Lumbarda without further incident.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dinner at Augusta Insula

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June 19, 2009

Tonight, the entire fleet had dinner at the restaurant adjacent to where we were docked on Lastovo. We were greeted by Luka, who was simultaneously the dock master, our Lastovo tour advisor and dinner menu maitre-de. He did an excellent job in each capacity. We placed our order late in the afternoon, the selection being based on what was available dockside that day from the returning fishing boats.
Luka made it clear that the meal was to be prepared and served family style rather than individual orders. Our boat’s order was appetizers consisting of grilled shrimp on skewers, octopus salad and cheese covered mixed vegetables. Our entrée was Peka grilled fresh sea bass and red snapper, with sides of potatoes and vegetables. I had to be educated on this technique, learning that it entailed preparing the dish on a shallow metal pan, with a domed metal lid. Everything is then slowly cooked over hot wood coals. It was to die for.
Our meal was served on an open air balcony overlooking Zaklopatica bay about sunset. Altogether, our crowd filled three tables, so we had the entire balcony to ourselves.

PS: A little more now on Joseph, from Toto Restaurant on St Klement. We’ve just learned that in 2008, Joseph, an accomplished classical pianist, was the Grand Prize winner at the prestigious Zagreb International Music Festival. As a result, he was offered a full ride music scholarship to Julliard in New York City. Being the total means of support for his invalid mother and four younger siblings, this opportunity must wait for a later time.


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June 19, 2009

This morning we departed our anchorage on Korcula for our next destination, the small island of Lastovo. Calm winds were again the order of the day, resulting in a a two-hour motoring southeast to Lastovo. We arrived at a small bay by the name of Zaklopatica, on the north side about noon for our overnight berthing.
Lastovo is without a doubt one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, pristine places we’ve seen so far; check out a few photos I’ve included. One of the reasons it’s so pristine is because Lastovo, along with Vis, being the westernmost islands of southern Dalmatia, were strategically important, defense-wise, and hence were used primarily for this purpose and not much else. But this has changed and the island is looking to tourism for its future. In terms of raw charm, its future looks rosy. (Although, several of us expressed apocalyptic visions of returning in 20 years to find Lastovo over-run with McDonalds Starbucks and Econo-Lodges.)
This afternoon we explored Lastovo Town, about 2 miles from the harbor, reachable by a narrow winding road, clinging precariously to the side of the mountain hundreds of feet above the sea …. simultaneously creating latent nervousness and breathtaking views.
The town itself is medieval, dating back to the 1400’s. Built on the hillsides around a valley, it actually created a sort of giant amphitheatre. At the peak of the town is the fort or garrison, from which a dominating view of the sea could be had.

Friday, June 19, 2009


June 18, 2009

Today is what I consider to be the first truly sailing day of the trip. Aside from a brief period on Saturday, the intervening days have been light winds to calm, with a glassy Adriatic Sea, leaving us no alternative but to motor to our next destination. Apparently, a big Bermuda-type high was over the area, resulting in the tepid sailing conditions; yesterday was actually somewhat hot and humid.
But while were berthed at Komiza, on the west side of Vis, a front pushed thru, bring gusty winds, rains and washed up dinner plans. Pizza aboard ship became the order of the day.
But this morning dawned clear and bright, with gusty winds blowing out of the northeast; we motored out of the marina into more open waters and promptly encountered 15 to 20 knot winds and rolling seas, with swells probably 4 to 6 feet. After about an hour of this, we decided to test the waters, so to speak, by sailing with the jib only. It worked, not only propelling us forward, but also stabilizing the boat somewhat against the rolling seas. Later, we raised the main, and we’re now clipping along at about 7 knots.
This will be one of the longer sails of the trip, taking about 4 to 5 hours and covering around 30 miles, on our way to an anchorage on the south side of Korcula. The Adriatic is a beautiful deep blue, reminding me of the Pacific around Hawaii and Saipan. With the invigorated wind, whitecaps crest the sea. Combined, the quiet created by the absence of the diesels, the sounds of wind in the sails, the sea around the hull, and the rocking motions of the boat almost create sensory overload.

Toto. The restaurant. Not the dog.

June 16, 2009

Tonight we anchored at a small marina on the island of St. Klement, situated across the channel from Hvar Town, on the west end of Hvar island. St. Klement is a smallish island, irregularly shaped, which creates many coves & anchorages.
We decided to have dinner at a restaurant, Toto, located at an anchorage on the opposite side of the island. The experience was so unique, it’s worthy of a short blog. First off, you have to want to go there, since it’s only accessible by foot, about a half mile trek up and over the spine of the island to the cove opposite ours. But it was a unique walk, the island being covered with Cypress trees. But also along the way it was a veritable cactus garden, some blooming, some not, and occasional olive trees, agave and rosemary. We arrived at the restaurant, open air, niched into the hillside about 30 feet above the cove, where perhaps a dozen sailboats swayed at anchor. We arrived in time to see the sun sink into the Cypress atop the ridge.
Havote, our waiter, seated us at our table, at the edge, overlooking the water, but isolated from the other tables in the restaurant by flowering plants and other greenery. It was as if we were dining at our own private retreat. Chip, Barbara, Yvonne & I were joined shortly by 2 other crewmates, Rick & Myra. We all had variations of seafood, including monkfish, lobster pasta and sea bass. Havote was assisted by a young attendant, Joseph, killer handsome, but somewhat shy & unsure of his English. His inquiry to us was “Do you feel good?” rather than “Is there anything else you need?” Yvonne & Barbara were fully prepared for an abduction.
The evening ended with Havote bringing everyone a mild Croatian brandy …… on the house.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adventure I

June 16, 2009

In an earlier blog, I opined that each of these sails seemed to embody unique experiences or adventures. Yesterday, we encountered the first one of this trip. Here’s what happened.
Yesterday afternoon, after spending time at the beautiful beach at Bol, on the south side of Brac, we headed for the port of Stari Grad on the west side of Hvar. As we made our way up the channel to Stari Grad, we noticed some really secluded bays off the main channel, which we decided to explore as a potential overnight anchorage, rather than a slip at the marina (@ $130 per night). We found one …. several actually. While the other 2 boats of the Admiral’s fleet headed on in to port, we picked a potential site, secluded in a small cove. The shoreline was not more than 100 or so feet away in 3 directions. Although close to shore, the water depth here was still substantial, like maybe 80 to 90 feet.
This made getting the anchor set both critical and tricky. ‘Important because of our proximity to shore, and tricky because of the depth. Setting the anchor required that someone, me in this case, maneuver the boat under power around the anchor to confirm the anchor was set on the bottom. Iterations of turning and backing were required, using both motors of the cat to orchestrate this.
On one of these, Cap’n John, at the anchor, directed me to turn by reversing the port engine, which I did.
Without warning, the port engine reversed, but under full throttle rather than at idle speed. The boat seemed to spin like a top along with the heads and minds of all of us, the shoreline revolving around us like a carrousel. It occurred to me that the only way to stop this was to pull the plug on both engines, which I did and which it did …. stop that is.
The long and short of it was the port engine throttle lever had some very worn gear teeth within its housing, causing it to be loose and allowing the throttle to shift and align itself in unapparent positions. This was clearly unacceptable for the remainder of the sail. But we contacted The Moorings at Marina & they had a repair boat to us within an hour. They were able to make a satisfactory temporary repair that will see us thru the rest of the sail. Although we offered the 2 repairers some of our evening meal, they wished to be on their way at about 9:30 that evening.


June 16, 2009

We all successfully assembled in the town of Marina on Saturday, departing more or less on time Saturday afternoon and had a nice sail to Maslinica on the island of Solta, about a 2 hour sail. Winds were somewhat light but freshened nicely during the mid sail. Maslinica is a small, picturesque town. As we attempted our first Med mooring (securing to the pier by backing in stern first), we heard music & singing from across the marina. This continued until about 10 that night; ‘turned out it was a small bar with a large group of mostly young people, filling the bar and spilling out onto the pier by the waterfront. Singing, drinking beer and flirting, they were accompanied by a makeshift ensemble consisting of a sax, an accordion & a guitar. Actually, they didn’t sound half bad, arguably attributable to talent, but more likely to the beer. This continued thru the sunset; it didn’t bother us since we all descended on an outdoor cafe across the marina from our boat for fresh-caught seafood and Croatian wine.
Provisioning has turned out to be more of a challenge than we had hoped for. We went on a scouting trip to a grocery store in Split before we got under way & were mildly encouraged. But Maslinica, which the guides said had a “supermarket”, but it was really more like a 7-11. We picked enough for breakfast & lunch for the next day & then departed for Milna, on the western tip of Brac. This was another picturesque but larger town, where we stayed Sunday night. Here we found most of what we needed, albeit after going to 3 or 4 different stores. We were then treated to a gourmet repast prepared by our on board chef, Yvonne.
Illness and injury have also struck, afflicting several, including 2 of our 3 captains. These have included falls resulting in cracked ribs, one broken arm, one bruised ego, one ruined camera, two cases of high fever, one strep throat and one skin rash (finally attributed to using strange new razors & skin products). Fortunately, we are well staffed with medical expertise; as part of our entourage, we have Chip, an MD with 30+ years of experience, at least 2 RNs, and a nurse practioner who is also a licensed acupuncturist. She & Chip have been in high demand.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Split and Villa Matejuska

Friday, June 12, 2009

To conclude the train trip to Split, we made it onto our sleeper car about 11 PM last night. Each car had 2 berths, an upper & lower, 1 sink and about 6 ft of width. But it was quite comfortable – particularly compared to the plane a few days ago - The next morning, as the sun came up and we approached Split, I peered out to watch the terrain roll by. It was remarkably different from what we last saw at sunset. Gone was the lush greenness, now replaced by a much more arid landscape with rolling hills, reminding me of the Sonoran desert in Arizona or central Mexico.
We had breakfast at an outdoor café on the waterfront where ferry ports, bus lines and the railroad converge, reconnecting with our new friends Eric & Opal. Afterwards, we made our way to our accommodations for the night, the Villa Matejuska, situated an easy walk off the waterfront promenade and tucked behind St. Marys, the nearby Catholic cathedral, where we were periodically serenaded by the tower’s Carillion. (As I draft this, I’m sitting outside our apartment on the balcony. The sun is just coming up, pleasantly cool, lite breeze, birds are everywhere and sunlight bathes the walls of the courtyard.) The Villa was a very pleasant surprise. Having only 6 rooms, ours are the only ones on the top (4th ) floor …. thus the balcony. Inside, the rooms have pitched, exposed pine ceilings, giving the space something of an Alpine feel. We’re very pleased.
From what I’ve seen, I’m very impressed with the Croatians we’ve encountered. They all seem friendly, down-to-earth and accommodating. After dinner last night, we walked down to the Promenade, where a group sang apparently Croatian folk songs. The crowd was into the music, swaying to and fro. The most striking scene to me was a young lady dancing to the music with her cat and a red umbrella, shortly to be joined by another lady, in her 70’s.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On The Train

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Thursday, June 11

There’s so much to talk about, it’s hard to know where to begin. John & Mary, Yvonne & I reassembled at the Zurich train station about 7 AM this morning for our long train ride to Split. Today was largely overcast and rainy, but it in no way diminished the visual impact of the trip. Five countries we’ll cross before it’s over (we’re currently in Slovenia). This train takes us to Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, whereupon we get on our final leg, the overnight one, into Split, arriving about 9 AM tomorrow.
We started out traversing the western shore of Zurichsee (Lake Zurich) making our way to the first of 3 train changes, this one being in Feldkirh, just after we passed from Liechtenstein into Austria. This one had me just a little nervous, since we had all of 8 minutes to make the change, full regalia of luggage in tow. Angst blossomed as I began to sense that our train was late leaving Buchs, the station prior to Feldkirh (we’re talking a full 4 minutes late), cutting our transfer time in half. Stampeding off the train, we bolted across the platform, fortunately it being a small station, and onto the train to Saltzburg. You think that train would wait a little? ‘Not a dog’s chance. We schlepped down the aisle of three cars, train rolling out, before we found seats.
The countryside is spectacular, with fertile green valley’s populated with quaint small towns, fast flowing rivers and streams and fields sprouting crops, corn, sheep and cows. On each side the Alps tower, rising probably 4 to 5 thousand feet above the valley floor. They seem to alternate between steep rock outcrops and cliffs, not unlike our Rockies except much more lush and green! The other look is fully soil covered and vegetated to the top, like our Appalachians, except much taller& steeper. Gorgeous!
Now, about some of the people we met on the train. Most of the trip so far has been in 6 person compartments, 3 across. We sat with an Austrian lady on the leg from Feldkich to Salzburg. We conversed with her very little. She got off the train at Sckwarzach-St. Veit, where Mary also got off seeking to wash the apple she’d purchased earlier. Discovering there was no available potable water, she was vainly trying to ferret her options when the Austrian lady from our compartment rudely interrupted, speaking to the attendant in Austrian; the attendant left. A little put out, Mary waited. Soon the attendant returned, shiny apple spotless on a napkin, thanks to our traveling companion, intervening on Mary’s behalf.
Later, on the same leg, Yvonne and Mary were approached by a lady attracted by what she correctly perceived to be other Americans. The conversation warmed and we began to compare notes. Eric and Opal are from Mississippi, she being a teacher and Eric in the Corp of Engineers in Afghanistan. ‘Similarities we discovered over the next 30 minutes or so were remarkable:
• They also were going to Zagreb.
• They also were changing trains to Split, including sleeper cars, as we are.
• They too are sailing the Dalmatian coast From Split to Dubrovnik.
• They said they were staying in a UNESCO protected villa in the old town of Split. (At this point all were on the verge of freaking), but a quick comparison of Villa names ended the coincidence …. They were not the same but apparently very close to one another.
All had no doubt our paths would cross again somewhere in the next week.
PS: As I conclude this, we have crossed the border into Croatia, having our passports stamped by the border guards!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Having recovered from our Tuesday trip over, we set out to discover Zurich today and had an absolutely great time. Our hotel’s within walking distance of the old town; but altogether, we probably hiked 4-5 miles today. It’s not a large city, slightly smaller than Orlando population wise, but a little older, like about 1000 years older. The first written reference to Zurich was in 929.
Maybe because of this age difference, Orlando might could learn a thing or 2 from Zurich. These are some random observations made today, in no particular order:
• Zurich, like many European cities, has a first class local rail system, in the form of trolley cars. Two advantages of trolley cars are that they are very quiet and produce no exhaust fumes.
• A corollary to the above, people here seem to be much less dependent on the automobile. Walking, bicycles, and Vespa type scooters abound. This morning we saw a 70+ year old woman walking away from the train station, luggage in tow. ‘Think you’d see that in the US?
• Vehicle drivers always yield at pedestrian crosswalks.
• The Swiss speak quieter in public places, sometimes leaving foreigners to stand out by our loudspeak.
The Limmat River flows thru the city from Lake Zurich on the south side. As in many of the historic European cities, it seems the old churches and cathedrals seem to dominate the landscape, so we saw our share, some dating back to construction in the 1100’s. One of these, the Grossmunster (translated the Great Cathedral) is the resting place for Zurich’s two founding Saints, Felix and Regula. They came to be saints because they were martyred by beheading. Legend has it that they came to be interred here because they both picked up their decapitated heads and walked to the site of this church. The Emperor Charlemagne later started construction of the church, which was finished about a hundred years later.
We had a very nice lunch at an outdoor café beside the Limmat just as it flows out of Lake Zurich. We split portions of Bratwurst and Wienersnitchel, beneath a towering Elm tree, leaves Kelly Green with new spring growth. Across Lake Zurich, snow-capped peaks of the Alps crowned the view.
So, tomorrow it’s back to the train station for the 24 hour ride thru 5 countries and into Split. ‘More to follow.

A Shaky Start

There’s something inherently disconcerting about peering thru the glass of our departure gate onto the tarmac in Philadelphia, studying the majesty of the 767 that will whisk us across the pond to begin this odyssey. Not that 767’s are disconcerting, you see, it’s when the 50 ‘ High Reach pulls up, and antlike workers begin pulling off visible chunks of the tail that the disconcerting part starts.
That’s how we began. After an uneventful flight from Orlando, we arrived at our gate in Philly for a 6:15 PM departure to Zurich. Around 5:45, they announced there was some ongoing maintenance that would delay departure by, maybe, 30 – 45 minutes. No big deal.
45 minutes became 90 minutes, which became 2 hours. ‘Long and short of it was we didn’t get off until about 10:30, over 4 hours later than scheduled.
‘Which put us into Zurich about mid-day, jet-lagged, un-rested and grouchy. We explored the Zurich HB train station, one of the largest in Europe, since we felt we needed to know the lay of the land, so to speak, when we depart Zurich Thursday morning at 7:40. Then John & Mary departed for Bern & Yvonne & I made our way to the hotel.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

They Say Getting There's Half the Fun

We all fervently hope this is true! Here’s our plan. We don’t actually get onto our boat in Marina, Croatia until Saturday, June 13. But we’re leaving almost a week early, to start our vacation in Switzerland. (Hence, the Switzerland map.) Why Switzerland, you may ask? Well, our traveling companions, John and Mary McKey from Tampa, have kids & grandkids in Bern, so we’re starting out from Switzerland. We leave Orlando on Monday, June 9, and arrive in Zurich Tuesday AM. Whereupon, John & Mary (J&M) catch a train to Bern while Yvonne & I knock around Zurich for two days. On Thursday morning, we reunite at the Zurich train station for a long train ride to Split, on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. This almost 24 hour train tour takes us thru Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and Croatia. (Yes, we do have sleeper car berths for the PM hours.) We arrive in Split the following morning (Friday AM). This gives us a day to explore Split, a very medieval city dating back to the first centuries AD. Friday night, we have reservations for a really cool sounding villa in Split, Villa Matejuska, a UNESCO protected site, within walking distance of Diocletian’s Palace, a Split mega-landmark. Saturday, early morning, we make our way to Marina to begin provisioning and doing the Adriatic Sea/boat familiarization orientation, hopefully casting off mid-afternoon Saturday.
We’ll see how it goes!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our Tentative Croatia Itinerary

The map above is our planned itinerary, although, without a doubt, it will change along the way. Click once (or twice) to blow up the image.You can then pan around and explode the view as you wish.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Comets, Collisions and other Calamities

It has been my experience that each of these sails embodies unique experiences or adventures. This blog will attempt to capture those most vivid in my memory. So here goes ….
On Comets: This experience was on my very first sail, that being Key West/Dry Tortugas. We were sailing down the west coast of Florida from Ft. Myers to Key West. The first day out, winds were very strong (20+ knots) and the seas were very rough. After about 7 hours of pounding, we decided to put in to a marina in Naples. The next afternoon, winds lessened and we decided to head out for Key West, about 70 or so miles due south. Since we had lost time, this was to be an all night sail, putting us in to Key West about dawn. We sailed uneventfully thru the afternoon and early evening, witnessing a remarkable, fleecy-cloud punctuated sunset along the way. As darkness surrounded us, we made plans for the night. Needless to say, someone needed to stay at the helm thru the night. Two hour shifts were mandated, with mine being from 2 to 4 AM. My appointed time came and I assumed my post. Soon my shipmates were all asleep, leaving me to the helm, compass and about a million stars around. ‘Amazing how much clearer the night sky is with no light or air pollution to blur things up. Less than an hour into my watch, I saw one of the most amazing things. In no more than 2- 3 seconds the biggest comet I’ve ever seen screamed past. (OK, technically, it was a meteor, but comet works much better with the alliteration.) The image at the top is the closest I could find to what I saw. But, it doesn’t even do it justice, because I could literally see smoke or fumes streaming off the tail. ‘Kinda like the Orlando Magic’s basketball logo. Afterwards, I discussed this with my astronomer brother, trying to assess how close it really was. His reply was, “Probably not so close. Otherwise, you would have heard the sonic boom.” Boom or not, it was still an incredible experience, making this sail stand out in a unique way.
On Collisions: The Pamplico Sound (Outer Banks of N. C.) sail in 2006. ‘First thing you need to understand is that the Pamplico Sound isn’t very deep, but fortunately has a relatively soft sand & mud bottom. ‘Second thing is that North Carolina in August has some nasty thunderstorms. So, here’s what happened. We were motoring out in late afternoon along a marked, dredged out channel to get to deeper waters. We observed that a rather large tugboat was coming up the channel in the opposite direction at a rather rapid clip and taking his room out of the middle. Discretion being the better part of our valor, we elected to yield, even if it meant we would vacate the marked channel slightly. Did I mention that while all this was transpiring, a nasty thunderhead had formed to our north? Well, it had, and seemed to be heading our way with a vengeance. So, anyway, we eased out of the channel, the rain began, quickly became a deluge, we all got soaked, the tug passed us …. tossing us in its wake ….. and we ran aground …. big time. As we struggled to deal with all these simultaneous events, the storm seemed to reach its zenith, directly over us. ‘Next thing was a humongous crackle of a lightning bolt followed by an instantaneous peal of thunder. John could feel a slight tingle, since he was holding the helm. Rocking still in the tug’s wake, firmly aground, soaked, we had been struck by lightning, on top of everything else! Now, if you have to be struck by lightning, a sailboat’s where you want to be. That’s because the physics of a sailboat, with its metal mast and wiring provides the most conductive path to ground, completely bypassing the vulnerable sailboat occupants. And that’s what happened in our case. ‘Leaving us unharmed but still stuck. After various futile attempts to unground, we finally succeeded by a combination of the boat’s motor, used with the anchor winch motor, after we had hauled and dropped the anchor about 100 feet to port. Using the diesel motor & the winch motor together we nudged the boat off the bottom. It worked. Collision & calamity avoided.
Other Calamities: This is from the 2005 BVI sail. We were sailing from Virgin Gorda to Anegada, the northernmost island of the British Virgin Islands. This is about a 4 to 5 hour sail, during daylight, very pleasant. ‘Winds were brisk but not too heavy, maybe 15 knots. It’s unclear exactly how this came to be, but somehow, as we neared the approach to Anegada, the dingy line became fouled (tangled) around the port side engine prop, this prop being about 2 – 3 feet below the waterline. At this point, you need to understand that Catamarans have 2 engines, one on each side. So, you might say, with one engine still good, what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that the channel into Anegada is very narrow, with nasty reefs on both sides. Attempting to enter with only 1 engine, narrow channel, stiff winds …. was risky. ‘Too risky. The situation left us no choice but to unfoul the line around the port prop. With mask & flippers and a quasi-sharp knife, James Murray & I plunged in. We took turns, alternatively hacking and cutting at the fouled line to the extent our lungs would allow … all the time fighting the heavy waves and the catamaran hull bobbing and weaving around us. With time and perseverance, we eventually prevailed in cutting the fouled line, and the trip moved forward without further event.
..... ‘So how do you put all this into perspective? Were they just isolated events, the sum of which is nothing? I think not. I think these events, albeit isolated, add to the color and tapestry of these sails. Further, I think other participants would have equal or more compelling tales. This blog invites and accommodates follower comments. Fellow participants, please avail yourselves.[href="" target="ext">img style="BORDER-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; BORDER-TOP: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; BACKGROUND: 0% 50%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; BORDER-LEFT: 0px; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 0px; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial" alt="Posted by Picasa" src="" align="middle" border="0" />