Friday, June 16, 2006

Log 47 A - MINI-TOUR - May 18-21, 2006 Monaco, Formula 1 Historic Grand Prix

We feel so fortunate to have stumbled onto the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One.  Below is a compilation of our couple days at this amazing event. 

Move your cursor over a picture and click to enlarge.

Powerful advertising in the streets

Formula One motor by Ferrari

Ferrari 312T from around 1975

1970 Tyrrell 001 - 3 liter unsupercharged

Joel up close in the pits.

Not sure - pre 1947 Ferrari?

1955 Maserati 250 F

1976 Lotus 77, once driven by Mario Andretti

Junior Formula One - motors in front - race around track

Watching from our seats Ferrari "parade" - past to present - loud and fast!

Current Ferrari - so loud - cool sound.

Current Ferrari F1 negotiating the turns

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Log 47 - (Apr24-May27, 2006) - Sicily, Aeolian islands, Sardinia, Corsica, & the Cote d'Azur (France) - Heading for the mouth of the Rhône River

Mariner's definition for Galley:  1. Ancient: Aspect of seafaring associated with slavery.  2.  Modern: Aspect of seafaring associated with slavery. 

Map of our travels west.

Well, here's another traveling log.  Our original thoughts that traveling in the early season would be challenging and slow were bang on!    Between bad weather and transmission troubles we are beginning to get the dreaded 'behind schedule' feeling.  AHHH!   With France and Holland being our main destinations for this cruising season, we continue to move  pretty quick as we back track through the Strait of Messina, Sardinia and Corsica.  We still manage some pretty cool adventures as we click mile after mile en route to Port Napoleon, where we will enter the canals of France. 

(Click on any of the images to see a larger version)

Monday, April 24th - Syracuse, Sicily

Water polo in Syracuse
A couple days ago, we arrived in Syracuse, an old city and port on the Italian island of Sicily.  Originally founded in 734 BC by Colonists from the Greek city-state of Corinth, Syracuse is another great city with a history of turmoil combined with brief periods of tranquility  We drop our anchor and tie our stern to the quay right in the heart of the old city, which is actually located on Ortyia Island, separated from the mainland by a canal.   Though the old town is said to have sank into decay after being pillaged and burned by the Saracens in 878 AD, we find it very colorful and filled with grandeur.  

Grand old city.

Streets of Syracuse.
As we are exploring about the city, there seems to be an unknown nagging feeling on both of our minds.   It turns out we are both feeling the need to make some tough decisions about the route we have planned to land us on the south coast of France ready for the canals by mid to late May.  From our current location we still hope to head south to Malta and then north to Sardinia via Tunisia, Africa, and on to France.   Reality is it is late April, there is an ugly weather system over Malta right now that is delaying us even further and it doesn't feel right heading 'south' to Malta when France is north!  We opt to cut out Malta and head north through the Straits of Messina again.  With that off our minds, we set out to enjoy Syracuse for the next few days.

Tuesday, April 25th - Madonna della Lacrime AKA Our Lady of the Tears

Basilica of Saint Lucia al Sepolcro in distance.

Today we head off into the newer parts of Syracuse.   Of course there are more Roman ruins in the Archaeological Park, including the Orecchio di Dionigi or Ear of Dionysius where tyrant ruler Dionysius apparently put prisoners to eavesdrop on them, but we opt for the quick walk-by tour as we are feeling a bit ruined-out these days.  


We are all very impressed with the huge concrete cone church built over a statue of Mary.  It is so tall we are unable to get it all in one them together and you get the picture :)

Madonna del la Lacrime

The statue of Mary apparently wept real tears from August 29th to September 1st in 1953.  This spectacular occurrence is captured on video and has even been visited by the Pope.

Reproduction of the Shroud of Turin
Housed in the same beautiful church is a full sized reproduction of the Shroud of Turin.  The original 4 m. (14') length of linen is located in the chapel adjacent to the cathedral in Turin, Italy.   For centuries, many Roman Catholics have believed it to be the shroud of Jesus, the cloth used to wrap his crucified body when he was taken from the cross. Have a close look at the expanded image. It is marked with images both front and back, apparently of a crucified man crowned with thorns, whipped, and speared in the side—the tortures Jesus is said to have suffered.   The relic still attracts attention and reverence, even after scientific tests done in 1988 showed that the cloth dates back only to the 13th or 14th century. Some people dispute the findings, however, and debate and study continue.  Believe it or not.....

Wednesday, April 26th - Happy 10th Birthday Gerrit

Gerrit's 10th birthday!!

Our family has celebrated birthdays all over the world during the course of our travels.  
Birthday breakfast in Syracuse. 

Gerrit gets to now add Sicily to his list along with Spain, Belize and Mexico. 

Yum...birthday breakfast of Champions!  Love you Gerrit.  

April 29th - May 1st - Vulcano Island (One of the Aeolian archipelago)

TIOGA under sail once again. 

Well, as we depart Syracuse with the wind in our sails taking us north rather than south, we are once again feeling good about our decision to see less with more time to enjoy it.    Our passage through the notorious Straits of Messina are thankfully once again uneventful and within a few days we find ourselves back in the Aeolian islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off northern Sicily.  

Vulcano Island

Vulcano Island, with an area of 21 sq km (8 sq mi) is the second largest of the 17 islands in the chain and it contains several volcanoes,  including Gran Cratere, or Fossa Vecchio, which is still active.

Grand crater
We are pleased to find out the anchorage we have chosen off Vulcano island has us located right in the heart of the major sights on the island.   The steep hike up to Grand Crater snakes between the volcano's smoke-belching fumaroles, which we are very cautious of as they are extremely hot and toxic!  Once at the top, the views are between the massive puffs of sulfuric smelling, volcanic gases constantly being released during the nonexplosive eruptions occurring down in the crater.  There are signs everywhere about being overcome by the gases so we choose a safe spot well away for our picnic lunch before our descent. 
Massive puffs of sulfuric smelling volcanic gases.

Mud baths

The next day, we treat ourselves to the Laghetto di Fanghi or Mud Baths shown here.  Though they attract a lot of visitors due to their supposed therapeutic benefits, we don't last long as the smell is absolutely revolting!  

Joel sails his boat in behind the jacuzzi waters. 

We opt to move over the mound you can see in the photo above, to the scalding waters of the acquacalda, where underwater volcanic outlets make the sea percolate like a jacuzzi.  We find this much more pleasurable, though the water is filled with tiny white, skin like flecks that eventually cover your body....yeesh!  Well, if you can get over the smell of the mud bath and the skin like floaties in the water, I am sure it is very therapeutic!!

TIOGA peaceful at anchor. 

After a very relaxing (though a bit stinky at times depending on wind direction) few days, we prepare TIOGA for the next 290nm passage that will land us on the north west coast of Sardinia. 

Friday, May 5th - Cala Coda Cavallo

First anchorage on Sardinia
While on the 3 day/2night passage from Vulcano island to Sardinia, a huge storm cell develops just to the south of us after our first night at sea.  We anxiously watch as our weather information downloads on the computer.  Everyone is relieved to see it appears we should be far enough north to not be affected, though one never knows with the weather!  The wind builds over our final night at sea, and we blast into Sardinia with about 20 knots behind us!  We are extremely happy to drop anchor in the totally protected bay of Cala Coda Cavallo.  This place reminds us of Baha Mexico and it is is stunning to say the least. 

Annual book burning party!
There are numerous nice walks on sandy paths through the shrubbery and we also enjoy swimming in the still tepid waters, though they are warming up substantially.  Joel and Gerrit would probably agree that the best part of all this beauty is the fire on the beach where they get to burn all their completed school work for the year.  This year they are really creative and make paper airplane after paper airplane of their work and dive bomb it into the fire.  As you can see by the photo, it is a  glorious evening. 

Saturday, May 6th - Olbia

Moby cruise ship
After a few days catching our breath in Cala Coda Cavallo, we continue heading north along the east coast of Sardinia.  On our way to Olbia for provisions, we come upon a traditional Italian fishing boat awash (floating at deck level).  Chris calls the Italian coast guard with the latitude/longitude of the vessel and explains of the situation.  As we enter the long causeway into Olbia, the coast guard is departing to the location of the sunken boat.   We never do hear what actually happened.  Just outside Olbia, we meet this colorful cruise ship (NO, it's not the Coast Guard boat)....looks like fun!

Magnificent sunset

The next week is spent moving north enjoying the scenery and waters of the NE coast and islands of Sardinia.  We pass by Porto Cervo, where apparently one of the most expensive marinas in the world is located for the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We instead opt for the serene locations that the Maddalena Islands of Sardinia offer.

Thursday, May 11th - Lavezzi Island (between Corsica & Sardinia) 

French courtesy flag raising. 

Eventually we cross the Bonifacio Strait and this day finds us on Lavezzi island just south of Corsica.  We are officially back in French waters so Chris promptly swaps the Italian flag for the French courtesy flag.  

Beautiful colors as the sun sets

This is one awesome rock climbing island where we spend hours clambering about and turning the rock formations into whatever image we imagine them to be.  

Gerrit amongst the multi-colored rocks on Lavezzi Island

Joel thinks he found a second Stonehenge! 

May 12-14 - West coast of Corsica

Corsican coast

A Story told to Corsican children goes something like this: And on the sixth day God made Corsica.  He mixed the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, the snow capped splendor of the Alps, and the golden sunshine of the Riviera in order to create the island the Greeks called Kallyste (the most beautiful).  That little story about sums up this wondrous island!

Beautiful scenery passing by.
The sailing up the extremely rugged, mountainous west coast of Corsica can be challenging though we manage and get to stop at some wonderful anchorages for time on beaches and short hikes. Our navigation guide book uses the word 'savage' to describe things in the event of strong NW winds so we are constantly on our guard and we end up moving up this coast far quicker than we would have ordinarily done so because there are no safe harbours for deeper keel boats like ours and the weather is slightly unsettled.  

Rugged and unforgiving.

We are never able to really relax as it is ever apparent how vulnerable we are on this rugged coast should the weather turn.   The red rocky cliffs and deep steep sided bays and gulfs are viewed mainly from our moving boat.....sigh...the weather really is king when you live on a sailboat. 

Monday, May 15th - Port de Calvi - NW corner of Corsica

Calvi Citadel

We move north to the old walled city of Calvi located on the north west corner of Corsica.  There is a huge naturally protected bay for us to safely anchor in, which allows us a few extra days on this remarkable island before crossing to mainland France. 

Old streets of Calvi

We take a few hours to explore the old streets of Calvi as well as to climb to the citadel high atop the rocky bluff.  Amidst centuries steeped with history, this citadel boasts two big claims to fame.   First, one can visit the old house which is said to be the birthplace/home of Christopher Columbus, and second, Napoleon Bonaparte apparently took refuge inside these walls in 1793 during the French Revolution. 

Tuesday, May 16th - Calvi Beach

Calvi beach
What we really want do with our remaining time here on Corsica is spend time on the beach.  The huge bay we are anchored in is surrounded by a six kilometer long pristine beach with snow-capped mountains in the distance.  The peaceful morning walks, enjoying the water and playing games in the sand are just what we need before we must push on again.

The trip from Corsica across to the mainland is only a 90nm jump, so we opt for an overnight passage that will have us arriving as a new day dawns.  Around 4pm, we raise anchor and set sail.  The last glimpses of Corsica in the late afternoon sun make us vow to return to this spectacular island one day.    

Last overnight passage on TIOGA

Once underway the reality sets in that this is our last overnight passage as a family aboard TIOGA - the rest of our travel will be coastal hopping and inland waterways.  We are all experiencing some very mixed emotions as the end of our adventure draws ever closer.  Thankfully the trip goes well and the stars shine ever so bright for us on our last night at sea.  

Map of the south coast of France

Once on the south coast of France our plan is to move westerly towards the mouth of the mighty Rhone River, picking our days to travel to match the weather.   The 'Mistral' --  a very strong and often violent wind that blows straight down the Rhone Valley, day upon day, raising a terrible sea -- is what we want to avoid.

Thursday, May 18th - Into Monaco for the day

View of Monaco

Our overnight passage from Corsica lands us on the south coast of France, in the charming harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer.  After a day to relax in the area, we catch a bus to the Principality of Monaco for the day.  

Beautiful flowers everywhere.

What a place....tiny, glamorous Monaco (its territory only covers 1.95 sq km) turns out to be a fantasy land of perfectly groomed streets, lush gardens, chic boutiques and extravagantly opulent 19th-century pleasure palaces.  

Typical car on the streets - Rolls Royce

Over the years we have seen the poorest of poor, and now we have seen the richest of the rich!

Prince's Palace

We work our way up to the Prince's Palace for the 'changing of the guards.'  

Changing of the guards at the palace.

The guards, who carry out their duties of the state in spiffy dress uniform, have been doing so for a long time.  The Grimaldi family has ruled the principality from this palace for most of the period since 1297.    The late Prince Rainier III (late as of 2005) was much more than a figurehead.  His sweeping constitutional powers are said to have modernized Monaco and weaned it from it dependence on gambling revenue.  Some of you may remember his wife Princess Grace, (remembered from her Hollywood days as the actress Grace Kelly) who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1982.  Currently their son, Prince Albert holds the reign of power. 

Colorful fish

Grand Prix preparations

We pop into the Institue Oceanographique for a quick look around. Gotta love these fish!   

As some of you may know, Monaco is also famous for the Monaco Grand Prix, a most prestigious stop on the international Formula One automobile racing circuit.   When we arrived in the area a day or so ago, Chris checked with the tourist office to see if there was any auto racing coming up.  Well Holy Cow if it isn't the Monaco Grand Prix race week starting this very weekend with the Historic Grand Prix and concluding the following weekend with the Monaco Grand Prix for Formula One!!  Our timing couldn't have been better and you know (if you are a regular reader of our logs) that we can't plan to be anywhere with any accuracy!

Barricades going up everywhere.
Everywhere in Monaco, the narrow winding streets are being converted into a race track with the addition of safety barricades, viewing stands, crowd control, media access, and big screen monitors.  The air is buzzing with excitement and anticipation and the place is beginning to fill up with racing fans from the world wide, rich and poor. 

Tickets for F1 start  in the order of 300 euros ($C435) a piece and for the Historic Grand Prix (featuring F1 racers since the 1930s in 6 different categories), 30 euro a piece and kids free!  The latter will do just fine (and the former, Sold Out!)

Ferrari semi-trucks

After buying our tickets, we head down to the waterfront to find semi-trucks rolling in filled with the cars and gear for the likes of Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.   The vintage F1 racers have a separate preparation area by the waterfront that we are free to wander around, look at the cars, and to meet the various owners, drivers or their teams.

The boys are ecstatic with their new shirts.

Today is Thursday and on Saturday the action begins.  Have a look at our Log 47 A Mini-Tour for more pictures of the vintage cars seen today and some of the action shots from Saturday's races.

Tuesday, May 23rd - Boules court - Saint Maxime, South coast of France 

Boules court
The next week is spent hopping along the south coast of France working our way past some great old cities like Nice and Antibes.  As luck would have it, the infamous mistral wind is now blowing out of the Gulf de Lion and let me tell you when this lions roars, it means business.  We are literally a stone's throw from Port Napoleon and under any other conditions we could be there in a day.  Unfortunately, we have to battle 25+ knots of wind hard on the nose and will struggle to eek out 20 or so miles a day.  Oh well, we may as well join the locals in what appears to be a favorite past time, the game of boules (literally balls).   Also known as boccie or pétanque in other countries, it is similar to what we know as lawn bowling.  While the Greek and Turk men have long been fond of gathering to play backgammon in their open spaces, it seems every town in France has an area where the men gather to play boules! 

Saturday, May 27th - days later we arrive at Port Napoleon....finally! 

Port Napoleon
We had hoped to arrive late yesterday, but a further increase in the already high winds forces us to drop anchor in the lee of the land for the night with only 12 miles to go!  With a slight easing in the wind early this morning we batten down for one last push.  We get within 500 meters of the entrance channel leading into Port Napoleon when we are forced to drop anchor in the lee of the land one more time.  The mistral wind is so strong and on the nose, that we can't even motor into it and the damn 10-day forecast doesn't show a let up AT ALL!!   Feeling quite shaken and frustrated by it all, we take a couple hours to regroup before deciding to try again.   The wind doesn't give up one bit as we crawl forward sometimes at less than a knot with the diesel at full power.  At one point we record 38 knots of wind and Chris struggles to keep the boat on track lest we be blown aground on the final, extremely narrow, 2nm long dredged entrance channel.  By now you can only imagine the relief we feel when we take a moment to snap this picture.   Shortly thereafter (and with a touch more drama), TIOGA's lines are finally securely tied to a dock.  Whew!    Things have to be calmer in the canals...don't they??  

Catch our next log 48 where we take TIOGA's mast down and head up the Rhône and Saône Rivers in the south of France.