to Brindisi, Italy
March 8-25, 2002
Travelog 1 of 2002
I have returned to Traumerei
that spent the winter in Corfu, Greece for one more winter. The
boat has been on the hard for 5 months and I was anxious to get
it in the water. I arrived on Friday, March 8 late in the evening.
It is cold here, much colder than the 50 to 60 degree weather
that I was expecting. While at home, the weather in Corfu is
one of the items that I watch every time I bring up the internet
to my home page. It is rather damp and the cold is rather uncomfortable.
The boat is on the hard, on land,
and in fact it takes a rather tall ladder to get on board. I
am scheduled to get into the water on Friday the 15th. There
is a lot of work to be done, reinstall the bimini, dodger, put
the genoa and main back on, retighten the rigging, and so on.
I am able to get some of this done before Peter Johnson, a longtime
friend of ours from Tucson and Blue Arizona, joins me. He arrived
on Tuesday March 12, also late in the evening.
We are to be joined by another
gentleman, Tom, who used to sail in San Diego. Tom and I have
a mutual friend and suggested that Tom might enjoy an outing
and we would most surely enjoy his company. Tom joined us on
Saturday morning. I knew he was to arrive early, about 6:30 or
so, after traveling from Athens to Patras in an auto and then
by ferry to Corfu.
At about 6:30 Saturday morning
I was awakened by some noises just beside our boat and got up
to see what was causing the ruckus. To my astonishment I saw
a man in his underwear changing into a bathing suit. He was putting
on some scuba dive gear. He had been brought from Thessolonikki
for the single purpose of diving under our boat to make sure
we were not mined with explosives. Perhaps I should inform you
that our guest is an official with the US Embassy office in Athens.
They dived the boat and gave us an ok just prior to Tom arriving.
Two lead cars, his car and two following cars escorted Tom. Each
car was occupied by at least two people and all were carrying
side arms with a machine gun for several of them. There were
the Coast Guard Special Forces and Force Protection agents all
around our boat. Any later in the day and the marina would have
been shut down. Tom got aboard and we all introduced ourselves,
he found his area and bunk then we set about finishing the rigging.
We departed for Gaios on the island of Paxos around noon.
We had a coast guard boat accompany
us all the way keeping a distance of about one half mile off
of our beam. We were slow and I am sure that they were bored
to tears in that they had a Scarab type 60-mph+ pursuit boat.
They also had mounted machine guns and there were four men on
the boat. We felt very safe. I had not been able to get my transit
log out of the customs office so I really should not have left
the harbor in Corfu, but I did anyway. When we got to Gaios I
wanted to tie up around the corner, out of sight, from the Port
Police office. Generally they will not check boats that do this.
After we tied up the coast guard boat tied in front of us and
one of the men walked into the village of Gaios. When he returned
he saluted me, and asked if I might like to move my boat closer
to the village, I did not have to, but it was certainly a pretty
village and we would be safe there. I explained, to the coast
guard who normally enforce the law regarding transit logs, that
I had left my transit log in Corfu and did not want to be asked
for the papers. He assured my no one would ask for anything and
in fact the port captain and port police were waiting to welcome
us would be most glad to see us in their village. Not to worry.
I sort of figured this but I wanted to be told. We moved and
the port police took our docking lines and the dock master shook
everyones hands and introduced himself. Tom may be used
to this, but it is certainly new for me. I was Mr. Frank from
then on. I would like to take Tom to Itea, if you remember that
story. We walked up the hill to the fantastic restaurant where
Kathy and I eat each time we are in Gaios. As usual we were the
first to arrive. We had a wonderful meal and then back to the
boat for a great night.
Sunday morning we three take
an early walk and depart for Corfu about noon, again with our
escort. This time we are able to sail most of the way in very
light breezes. Another boring day for the coasties but we arrived
in Corfu at about 6PM and went to the Navigators Pub for supper.
Tom was picked up at 9 am on
Monday morning with the initial entourage and whisked away to
the airport for his flight to Athens. We were left to our own
duties. I imagine all will return to normal with respect to the
Coast Guard and Port Police activities and courtesies. Pete and
I finished all of our chores and are ready to leave for Italy
and Croatia tomorrow.
Tuesday March 19,2002
This morning I went to town to
get our boat out of custody and finish all of the paperwork that
is necessary to operate and leave one country to go to another.
I really figured it would take an hour and a half. The job should
only take 30 minutes, but it took 3 hours. So! The first man
I went to ask for the custody papers said that he did not remember
me, I recalled that he was not the man who took my papers and
described the other gentleman. It was his boss. Now this man
does not know where to look for the transit log. He asked me
if I knew where the boss put them, he was sincere. I was tempted
to say that in the US they would be filed in alphabetical order
in the file cabinet that contains all of the other transit logs,
but I knew better. He looked in every drawer of the desk and
shelf in the room trying to locate these papers. There are storage
shelves along the wall that have doors to cover the contents.
The desks are so crowded in this room that they are within 8
inches of the cabinet doors, so the doors will not open widely.
He was straining to look behind the partially opened door; it
would have been comical except it was me that he was working
for. There were transit logs everywhere he looked and finally
mine showed up. It is amazing how one builds hope that the next
port will be efficient, but it never happens. The next man I
met asked when I was leaving and I told him noon, he said to
come back to his office one hour before I left and he would complete
my papers. This is a minimum of a one-hour round trip with two
bus rides and a 1-mile walk. I recovered and said that the noon
estimate was based upon me completing this trip by noon; I was
going to leave as soon as I got to the boat! He completed his
We waited to get the solar panels
installation and left Corfu about 2:15. This is later than we
wanted so we had to abbreviate our trip to just a few miles,
Kassiopeia, a small village in the north end of Corfu. We went
to supper at a restaurant that is run by a Greek family that
has lived in the US and Canada since 1962. There was an Albanian
in the restaurant that wanted to know if we had visited Albania.
It is just 2 or 3 miles away. We said no and he informed us that
his country was doing everything it could to encourage American
tourists to come to Albania. In fact each American tourist is
provided with an armed guard, armed with an AK 47, so as to make
the American feel safe from robbery or other such acts. He was
serious. We are now on the boat and prepared to leave early in
the am for Italy.
The trip was a motor trip as
the wind was about 4 kts and on the bow. We crossed in about
10 hours and entered Otranto, Italy. This town is the most eastern
of all towns on Italy. It is on the east side of the heel of
the boot and about midway up the heel. The harbor is not so large
but we found a place to tie up and go ashore. We found the harbormaster
and began the check in procedure for this new country. You never
know how it will go when you deal with the police, customs and
immigration of a new country. We were directed to the harbormaster
and I showed him our ship papers and passports for a starter.
He asked where we had come from, Corfu, where we
were going, Dubrovnik, did we need fuel or water,
no and no, he said, have a nice stay in Italy.
He did not give us any paper or stamp anything that we presented
to him. We are officially in Italy and that is the easiest it
has ever been.
After one night we depart for
Brindisi, about 40 miles up the coast in a NW direction. We read
that we should stay from 3-5 miles off of the coast as in our
path we will be passing a firing range that shoots toward the
sea. We are passing at 3.7 nm off shore and about mid morning
there is one of the loudest explosions that I have ever heard.
It sincerely frightened me. It turned out to be the first of
about 20 or 30 such firings. There we no splashes nearby so we
guessed we were not the target. This was followed by a period
of machine gun firing. They were sure spending the ammunition
and had our utmost attention. After it subsided we continued
to read our books, the firing area was somewhat behind us now
and we felt that it needed no more attention. Pete happened to
look up and forward and saw an array of bright orange inflatable
buoys. I counted and there were 20 or so in a cluster arranged
within a diameter of 200 yards, there were four more buoys on
the outside of the cluster. These would have been at the N,S,E
and W of the center. They were also spaced about 200 yards from
the outermost of the cluster. Wow, that must look like a target
if you were viewing from an airplane and we were headed absolutely
for the center. We were in fact no more than 100 yards from the
perimeter when we turned hard to starboard. It was time to change
course and get to the outer limits of the safe zone, 5 nm. After
the course correction we turned once more toward Brindisi and
in less than 20 minutes we again heard the heavy artillery firing,
albeit from our stern. Perhaps they were firing at the target,
but we saw neither splashes nor spotter planes.
Brindisi is a commercial port
that has been such for several thousand years. Upon entering
the port there is a grand staircase leading to the sea. It is
at least 100 feet wide and appears to be a vertical drop of 50
feet. This is the terminus of the Via Appia, or Appian
Way. This is the end of the line for the Roman Highway, and goods
left here by ship for other parts of the empire and also arrived
from points eastward. Brindisi has an outer harbor, which is
for the ferries and transport ships. It is about 2 miles long
and one half mile wide, very large to say the least. There is
an inner harbor, where the Via Appia descends to the sea and
this harbor is U shaped with a total length of 3 miles at a one
quarter mile width. This is a very large port. The yacht club
is on the north side and toward the end of one arm of the U.
The fuel dock, which we must visit is also close to the yacht
club. We arrived at 1:15 and stopped for fuel and as one might
imagine, they were closed for siesta or whatever the Italians
call it. They would re-open at 3:30, so we tied up in front of
the pumps and began to walk the area. The first monument we saw
was one to Benito Mussolini commemorating his victory over Ethiopia.
About 2:20 we returned to the boat and from a distance saw that
a Coast Guard boat had tied up just behind Traumerei. I expected
to get a talking to about leaving my boat in this area unattended.
Not so, they were also waiting for fuel and had in fact asked
that the attendant return to the area and pump their fuel NOW.
We would have to move forward and get out of their way for that
to happen so I asked the attendant if he could serve us first
and then we would kindly move, he agreed. So we got early service
and arrived at the yacht club to find a place where we felt safe.
We have been stuck here for three
days and it looks like we will be here for at least one more.
There has been a slow moving cold front passing through and the
conditions have changed from force 6-7 to 7-8 and now 8-9. The
winds are 110 km/hr, which is approximately 70 mph, in the Adriatic.
The notices to major shipping vessels is force 8-9 with rough
to very rough seas, I can't imagine what a very rough sea would
be to the larger ships and we are not going to find out unless
it is written in the paper. We have found one great place to
eat at suppertime and eat on the boat at other times. Our meal
at this restaurant included antipasti of 12 dishes: octopus,
squid, sardines, clams, muscles, fish, meatballs, cheese, and
others I can't remember. We followed the antipasti with a plate
of seafood marinara which was loaded with muscles, clams, and
squid. We eat like kings on some of the best seafood available;
it is great to be back where they serve good seafood.
A catamaran, Lagoon 41, with
4 Austrians arrived yesterday and plans to leave for Dubrovnik
this afternoon. Their ultimate destination is Zadar, Croatia
where the boat will be put into charter service. This is a delivery
trip and the captain has to return to La Rochelle, France on
April 4 to deliver a Lagoon 38 to Zadar, Croatia. Each trip is
2000 miles in length and takes 4 to 6 weeks. The crew is not
anxious at all to go out in this weather; the captain has said
that the winds are force 11 in the middle of the Adriatic. I
expect that they either will not go or will return within a few
hours, as there are no other all weather anchorages along this
part of the Italian coast. We are reading and planning our escape
to Croatia, but it looks like it will be either Monday or Tuesday
at the earliest. They did leave at 2 pm and Peter and I walked
to an observation point to see what their trip was like at the
beginning. I have never seen such an angry sea. Waves from several
directions would collide and send plumes of spray up for 20 o
30 feet. The water is shallow, 40 to 50 feet and this sea has
a lot of energy to expend.
As you might know there are many
bakeries in each European country and people tend to buy bread
each day so as to have fresh bread. The smell of fresh baked
bread is intoxicating, as you well know. In walking you will
frequently pass a bakery and it almost a must to stop and buy
a loaf. We buy it and tend to not to discard old bread so it
really stacks up after a few days. I am sure we have enough,
that is had enough, bread for the rest of the trip. We had different
paths around town yesterday and each came home with bread. Well
this morning I had a small oops on board, I spilled milk on the
counter top and some of it ran into the refrigerator. It was
time to clean the refrigerator anyway and discard old vegetables
so the cleaning job was welcome. I found a new use for our old
bread. Cut the slices medium thickness and use the bread as a
sponge. It is without mess and you don't need to continue to
use water to rinse the absorbing medium. I may send that idea
to Helouise. Now our bread supply has been reduced and the refrigerator
is clean, and for Kathy, I followed up with a good soap and water
wash down. All is well.
It is still very blustery here
and this morning we had a time when both hail and snow were falling
at the same time. Then rain, then wind. This is reminding me
of last year when Kathy and I were stranded in Patras for several
days. We took a walk this afternoon and went into town. Again
it snowed and hailed upon us as we were boarding the ferry to
return to our boat/home.
The low pressure has moved, not
far, to the lower Aegean and a high pressure is covering the
northern part of Italy so the weather is improving. The numbers
are to be in the 4-5 range with light to moderate seas so we
are planning to leave this afternoon.
Thus this is the end of the first
Travelog of 2002. Take care, as we will.