When you think of Venice the images of the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto bridge come to mind, however there is so much more to Venice beyond this. Venice (lets call it Venezia) is an island that sits in a large lagoon, connected to the mainland by a long causeway which the cars and trains can cross. The lagoon is separated from the Adriatic sea by a thin strip of land with a couple of entrances, including Lido island where we entered. There are numerous different neighbourhoods in Venezia as well as a number of separate islands of varying sizes, each with their own character, dotted around the lagoon. The shallow waters within the lagoon are laced with deeper channels (some up to 5m!) which snake their way around these low-lying islands and wetlands. The major ones are marked with posts but some of the minor ones, well you need to trust your depth sounder. Not surprisingly boats are the prime mode of transport with a number of vaporettos (small, public ferries), gondolas (mainly for tourists these days), water taxis and private boats plying the waters in and around the islands. There really are no cars at all, with all deliveries, garbage collection and commuting done by water. Otherwise it is Shanks’ pony if you want to get anywhere.
Yes that was the opening line from our walking-tour guide, Peter, in Ljubljana. Tuck that one away for the next trivia night! With only 47km of coastline we were never going to be doing alot of cruising in Slovenia but really wanted to visit. We left Venice early in the morning in the rain for the daytime crossing of 50nM to Piran hoping to arrive before the breeze kicked in from the NE, ie the direction we were heading. 8.5 hours in total and we managed to sail with Genoa and Gennaker as well as almost filling the tanks with desal. The last 1.5hrs was pounding into aforementioned NE'er with casualties including 2 wine glasses and my beloved CREW mug! Zero interest in our arrival from the local officialdom, so we decided to stay at the Town Quay for a few days and hire a car to see some country. Piran is a lovely town and we also went up to Lake Bled in the North as well as spending the day in the capital, Ljubljana. The countryside seemed really green, people were lovely and that cake...!!! Slovenia is a real hidden gem.
When I heard that you could “do Venice” in your own boat, this was immediately added to my bucket list. I imagined nonchalantly sailing down the grand canal with the kite up (forgetting the Rialto Bridge...) dropping the kite and tying up outside the Piazza San Marco, next to the Gondolas… Although I have been to Venice a couple of times before, and once to The Venetian hotel in Vegas, Keith has never been to “the real thing”. I really do think everyone should see Venice before they die as it is a magical place which outshines every expectation you could possibly have about it. One of the problems with doing Venice in your own yacht though is that the Italians have been inconsiderate in placing it so far north and with not enough interesting stuff on the way! Just as we pushed ourselves to get the Balearics last season, so to we have raced up the coast to get to Venice this season, promising to go slowly down the Croatian coast ….
As you know we have been racing up the east coast of Italy to get to Venice. A few people had mentioned to us that Ravenna is a “must do” stop along the way so here we are. As it happens, we managed to time our arrival just ahead of some really nasty weather. Across in northern Croatia the Bora is honking and there have been 45-50kts winds with the accompanying swell so it is great to be tucked up in the very well sheltered Marina Marinara here in the town of Marina di Ravenna. The town of Ravenna itself is a short bus ride inland and sits at the end of a very long canal which divides Marina di Ravenna in two. Although the morning was fairly quite weather-wise, rain and strong winds are predicted here as well so mooring lines have been doubled. We are in for a creaky night!
Mt Etna (or Mongibello in Sicilian) is one of the best known and respected volcanos on our planet. It is the highest active volcano in Europe, outside the Caucasus, currently 3,326m high, though this varies with summit eruptions. Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2 with a basal circumference of 140 km. Mt Etna also is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is in an almost constant state of activity. Volcanic activity first took place at Etna about 500,000 years ago, with eruptions occurring beneath the sea off the ancient coastline of Sicil
Here are a few highlights from our time in Tunisia. Apologies in advance for the earworm this soundtrack will undoubtably give you.
Well what a mixed bag our journey was, sometimes things don't quite go according to plan, but in the end it doesn't matter. We had planned to leave the dock at 8am and the country at 9am, however a last minute problem with the bilge pumps required a parting coffee with our trusty engineer, Mike Turner. Mike only has to look at something for a nano-second and it seems to start working again. All good, now we can get away about 9:30. Our exit from the dock was not quite as elegant as we had planned, but thank you Patrick from Tok Tok. The berth was meant for a 40' boat after all! First stop, the Capitanerie to pay our bills - TND150 for water and electricity. Next stop, the port police, lovely people and I managed the whole process in French, including the discussion about why I am already retired and such a young age (!) - maybe I should have put "housewife" or "boat-wife" on the formulaire but Google translate could not deal with that! So far so good, no request for baksheesh...
While we did not spend a lot of time on ITIKI over the northern winter, we did manage to tick off quite a few items from our wish list of boat jobs, but don’t worry we still have a few more things to keep Keith amused over summer. A big thanks to Mick Turner here in Hammamet who actually did most of the work and took great care of ITIKI while we were away. Mick and his lovely wife Jo, really helped us navigate our way around Tunisia and made our stay very special.
Here are some of the highlights. As you can see we have had some serious problems to solve and have come up with some tailor-made solutions. We have also made a good contribution to the Tunisian economy!
It was one of those plans that seemed like a good idea at the time - before we left Tunisia we booked an Intrepid 2-week tour of Morocco (Best of Morocco) to kick off season II in the Med. We may spend some time along the Moroccan coast next year on the way to the Canaries, so the plan was to see some of the interior of the country. We started off in Casablanca, which sounds sooo exotic (its not, but might be when they finish building it…). There were 16 of us in the group (7 Canadians (including another Keith!), 3 Aussies, 3 POMs and 3 yanks) and our fearless guide, the lovely Mustapha - who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Cat Stevens.