Hello Family and Friends,
Once again it will soon be that most joyous time of the year for me. I will return to Italy and Heldeleine to resume sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. This summer’s plans are part of a grand plan to return Heldeleine to the USA over the next year or so. During the last couple years the family has missed not having Heldeleine nearby. A long weekend to Northport, a week to Martha’s Vineyard or a month to Nova Scotia. We have missed the spontaneity of having the boat at home. With Maddy going to college (at Barnard in NYC) and Helen still in high school, the idea of having Heldeleine close for a weekend here and there is compelling. I, particularly, have missed the chance to fix crap (literally at times!). Yup, I thoroughly enjoy working a problem and finding a solution. Sure it can be a pain in the ass but a life without challenges sounds pretty damn boring. But I must say that cruising last summer in Italy was simply perfect. The friends who shared so generously and the places we visited are etched in all our minds. We are so thankful. So, this summer, the PLAN….
Leg 1- I will fly first to Rome and then arrive in Gaeta, Italy on July 3rd to make Heldeleine into a voyaging, sailing vessel again. Over the next several days I will be joined first by my sister Laurie then by Uncle Pete and his son, my cousin, Will. With the boat primped and prepped the 4 of us will depart Gaeta on July 10 bound for….wait for it….Marina Smir, Morocco. The sail is basically due west 1,000 miles across the Mediterranean. We might stop at Ventotene or Ischia or the southern tip of Sardinia on the way but we shall see. The trip should take 7-10 days and will be challenging with many vessels afloat in our path. With Radar, AIS, 2 independent Chartplotters and 4 attentively motivated crew aboard, things should proceed as planned. We will watch the weather fronts carefully and try to catch some fish (Hey, hope springs eternal!). We will dock Heldeleine at Marina Smir for 10 days as we move on to:
Leg 2- From Heldeleine we 4 will travel overland across Morocco and meet up with 7 additional Family members in Marrakech for 10 days of Riads, Medinas, Fantastic scenery and, of course, the 11 Camel Culpepper Caravan to the Erg Chebbi dunes. Watch for more details to come.
Leg 3- After the land fun, 6 will fly home and the immediate family including Uncle Pete will return to Heldeleine and travel through the Strait of Gibraltar to Cadiz, Spain and then on to Lagos, Portugal. Lagos will be Heldeleine’s winter home and the departure port for next year’s trip to the Azores and the return to the USA.
I am sure there will be many updates and tracking points along the way so, follow us or just check in to share the adventure. I can’t freakin’ wait!
Well, it’s that sad time again. Heldeleine was hauled out of the water on Tuesday morning and within the hour was safely ashore where she began her 10 month wait for my return next June. It was a busy past couple of days taking many things apart and sealing soft stuff (pillows, sheets, cushions, clothes etc) into plastic bags. Shutting down systems (toilets, holding tanks, refrigerator, freezer, engine, generator, a/c units..blah, blah..). Also the paperwork (marina, scheduling jobs to be done, bonding the boat while on land). Many thanks to Tony and the Italian Coast Guard for accommodations on their dock which helped immensely removing the Genoa.
Tony helping flake the Genoa at the pier in Gaeta.
A quick word about Tony and Anastasia. There are some people we meet in life who are uniquely wonderful. Tony and Anastasia fit that category and I can not thank them enough for buying me many meals and hosting me in their apartment my last night. If you speak italian I encourage you to read Tony’s real-life story about being shot and nearly dying at the hands of another colleague. This was not friendly fire. I feel very fortunate and honored to meet people like this on our travels.
The flight home was uneventful and now I must resume being a Horn player (“Music’s my Life”, right Richie??).
For me Heldeleine is more than just a boat. Heldeleine represents a state of mind. A place where we can share experiences Together. When the chill winds come this winter my mind will have a place to go that is filled with the warmth of family, friends, beautiful ports, soft water and immense contentment.
My love and thanks to all the crew this summer. YOU are what this is all about and I look forward to next year’s plans. Stay tuned, life is an adventure!
For my last night afloat I am in a pretty sweet location. I am the only boat tied up to the town pier (Thank you Tony and the Italian Coast Guard!). Though I am a bit of a fish in a fishbowl (many Hellos and many photos taken) it is a lovely, cool evening and life is calm and wonderful. I can hear the bugle call from the American Ship Mount Whitney bringing down the flag and I am remembering AF Basic training when I was assigned to play the damn bugle calls and bearly survived the ordeal. Who the hell would’ve thought the bugle was so tough after playing the Horn…..
Ben and Erin left for Rome 2 days ago and I was alone aboard Heldeleine for a day during laundry, general toilet cleaning (!) and prepping the boat for the next crew. Ben and Erin were good crew and I wish them the best in Rome and safe travels home!
Yesterday I welcomed aboard Antonio (Tony) Traettino and his wife Anastasia and also Antonio Arcaro. Tony is with the Italian Coast Guard and Antonio is in the Italian Air Force. Anastasia teaches language studies. Tony has become a good friend after we met while I was clearing into Italy. He and his wife have been amazingly wonderful to me during my stay in Gaeta. Taking me to dinner, breakfast etc. Just fantastic people. In a small way I am trying to repay their kindness with an overnight cruise to Ventotene aboard Heldeleine.We had a glorious sail yesterday and are currently parked along the sea wall in the new harbor on Ventotene. We had a great dinner with the Commander of the Coast Guard tonight followed by….Gelato (of course).
Antonio, Tony, Anastasia and the Commander with a Nutella Pizza….
It is morning now and we are off to Breakfast prior to a return to Gaeta. Good times with great people. I can’t thank them enough for their overwhelming generosity.
i’ve been requested by concerned people at home to Post that we aboard Heldeleine are just fine. The earthquake and the ongoing tragedy have not affected us at all. No unusual waves or any sign of the drama occurring on land. Our hearts go out to all our italian friends who might be directly of indirectly affected by this terrible earthquake. Regards, Dan,Ben and Erin.
It has been such a treat to have my sister Pam share part of her summer aboard Heldeleine. She is an amazingly talented and hard working person and for her to take the time from her hectic life makes me feel very grateful. Thanks Pam, I love you. See you back in the city.
I can not imagine better crew members than my cousin Will and his wonderful girlfriend Cassie. They left us today and are very much missed. Not only are they so damn cute together, they are also the best of traveling companions. Always part of the team and never a whine between them. I am grateful for them making the long trip to sail with us this summer and look forward to future adventures with them both. Warm and affectionate wishes to them both!!
Cassie at the Helm!
This is Will the day before their departure from the crew. We were able to restrain him from ending things here in Positano.
We are currently anchored at Ischia Castle for the night. Capri in the distance…A perfect day of sailing from Gaeta to here. 15kts on the beam and …and….wait for it…. A replaced swivel and we have 2 sails up and are official whole again. What a wonderful thing it is to turn the motor off and glide on a magic carpet.
How to sum up this trip? There’s really no way. As I sit on the airplane bound for home, I’m too choked up and far too lazy to find the right words. But how’s this: I’ve bonded with my wonderful sister to learn she’s even more wonderful. I’ve grown to adore my great uncle Pete, Will, and Cassie. I’ve learned to be thankful at the amount of work my father puts into making our family the best it can be, and I’ve felt the annoying love of my amazing mom throughout our journey. I’ve seen the echoes of past humanity and realized the full spectrum of all life eternally on earth. I’ve felt the kindness of strangers, and the not-so-kindness of strangers. I’ve become proud of who I am and thankful for my experiences.
Oh god, that was sappy. I think I got my feet stuck in the ooze of gratefulness. If I die here on the plane of being too sentimental bury me somewhere with Pringles.
But as much as I’m ashamed to say it, that was all true. However if you want the simple version here goes:
No fish in ocean, all dead. People are nice but sometimes not. My family is boss. There is a lot of stuff in Rome. SO MUCH VIRGIN MARY AND JESUS. I am lucky. I should draw more. I like Pringles. Pigs fly. Cats don’t like muffins. Reality is an illusion.
Ok, so I took some liberties with the end, but most of it’s true!!!!!!! Kind of…… Anyways, thanks so much for following my family and me, these blogs would just be digital trash without you. Your dedication is much appreciated.
So that’s it, signing out, best blond kid with sarcasm.
P.S. There are a lot of smells on this plane. The end.,
:3 HELEN JULIA CULPEPPER!!! :3
Once again we have walked all over Rome seeing additional sights that we missed last year.
Capitolini Museum. 5 hours. Can you say “Audio Tour”? Girls did not want to leave….
Maddy’s well worn feet!
Each day we ventured out in the morning and then returned to the Convent mid afternoon for a rest and then out again in the evening for Korean Food (Ha! Just seeing if you were paying attention). Pasta/Pizza, of course.
The evenings were especially lovely with the glowing lights and pleasant weather. Sitting at a restaurant in Piazza Nuovo, people watching, having wonderful food and drink and hearing the water spouting from a Bernini fountain is a damn good time.
Girls with Bernini
So our crew is changing. Maryly, Pete and the girls are returning to the US today and as I write this I am on the train back to Gaeta with Will and Cassie. Additional crew (my sister Pam, Ben and his friend Erin) arrive within the hour into Rome and will follow us to Gaeta.
So, more adventures but I am already missing the family tremendously.