Ode to Julia

So before the best sister/daughter returns to her role as incredible scribe of the ship, she (me) has to acknowledge someone who’s been watching our every move. Last year a certain person read every post, saw every picture memorized each destination. (NOT a stalker, or an alien bent on destroying the human race, one cruiser at a time, by the way) this person is Julia Graham, my mom’s flute student and a very good friend. When I got back home last year, she would make references about wherever we went, stuff I’ve forgotten even happened. From her laptop screen, she’s sailed through Europe with us, as have all of you people reading this right now, and just like Julia, you deserve some credit. You’ve sat through all the exciting and desperately boring blogs, watched our progress, and followed the boat around the giant bathtub. Thank you for being interested to explore with us. It’s nice to know that the people back at home aren’t just playing PAC MAN on their smart phones like most of the boring population, but being smart and awesome people who read about our crazy trip. Thank you.

So now!! My first thoughts on Italy!!! There are a lot of smells. Not good or bad smells, just smells. The endimage

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

The past few days have been rather busy. Going through piles of plastic bags and freeing many cushions, linens and, of course, pillows has resulted in a livable interior once again. No surprises after 11 months (no mold or critters). Just a seriously ugly bilge and surface cleaning. So, Humpty  Dumpty is back together again.

imageimageimageSo much for the below decks, up above things are different. Heldeleine is now 1 sail away from being a motor boat. The saga of the top Swivel (please keep up people!) has taken a bad twist. As some of you know the Genoa (headsail) would not come down last year. The boat yard said it was a broken swivel etc….. The swivel was sent to Milan where my wonderfully supportive sister hand carried it to Denver and sent it to be “repaired” in Florida. The guy in Florida said that Nothing was wrong with the swivel. But while he had it there, why doesn’t he replace the ball bearings so it would be good for another 10 years? Why not? Well….the swivel is sent back to Laurie, she hand carries it to Milan and sends it back to yard here in Gaeta. Yesterday we attempted to hoist the Genoa and lo and behold the halyard lines that hoist the sail are CROSSED inside the mast causing them to jam and no way of them hoisting a sail. That is sorted out and they are a bit upset that the crossed lines were the problem and not the swivel. Up goes the sail and furl it does. Awesome. I request that the sail be unrolled and rolled up again as a test. As they unfurl the sail…BANG…the sail starts to come down. WTF!! Yup, the fucking Swivel BROKE!!image

Goddamnit. The Florida tech screwed up the bearing installation on a good swivel and made good into very bad. The Italian riggers almost cheered. It was the Swivel, it was the swivel last year! No, it wasn’t the problem then but is NOW. Shit. Bad Day. So, no headsail for at least half the trip (we might be able to have a new one installed while we go the Rome for 3 days). We will see. For now, we will have an unobstructed view of the beauties of Italy. No damn sail in our way….

I still have one sail, we still have a spinnaker, I am still on my boat and I am still seeing the awesomely beautiful sights of the Italian coast.

What’s not to Love?

Family arrives in 3 Hours. Updates to follow.

Back in Italy!

imageNice and easy trip yesterday with all transfers working out as planned. I am sitting on Heldeleine now surrounded with quite a mess. In order to do a project in one part of the boat I must keep moving crap to and fro. Projects today are: replace the burnt power cord plug, replace the power input (also burnt…), hanging awnings, replace water pump in Master AC. Replace solar controller.

This sad face is actually a burned power cord. I HAVE replaced it this morning.

This sad face is actually a burned power cord. I HAVE replaced it this morning.

imageBleach water tanks (shock to clean), install Bimini and dodger….Damn, I am in Heaven!! Well, it’s about time for an espresso and a treat. Bye for now.image

Flight to Rome

imageI am here at JFK ready for my flight to Rome. My 50lbs of boat parts have been checked through and an additional 30lbs are in my carry on. Excited to go and start putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. I’ll have a week to work my way down the “to do” list and I use the term ‘work’ loosely. Doing a week of Phantom is work, a week of projects aboard Heldeleine in southern Italy is not. I’ll try to keep you posted as I get to the boat and what I will find when I get there…warm regards to you all!

Short and Long Term Plans

I fly from NYC next Saturday the 23rd and arrive in Rome on the 24th. I will have a week to myself as I sort out all the various things required to put Heldeleine into cruising mode. Heldeleine has been launched and awaits my return.

 

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Family arrives the next weekend and for the next 4 weeks there will be people rotating on and off the boat. Various flights into and out of Rome and Naples.
We will try to update daily as to where we are and where we are going. The basic plan is to travel south from Gaeta stopping in at Ischia, Sorrento, Capri and Positano before doing an overnight to Rome. We will spend 3 days at the convent again (it didn’t seem to work with my daughters last year so…) for some more walking and gazing at naked statues. Then back south or west to Sardinia with new and remaining crew. Then I will have the last week for some solo sailing and putting the boat to rest for another winter in Italy.
As for long term plans… Many have asked about our original plan to go to Turkey. The plan was nixed about 6 months ago not necessarily because of the more recent tragic issues but simply because Turkey would put the the boat 1,000 miles further east and that distance would have to be sailed on the way back across the Med on the way out. So… Italy this winter and then in 2017 we will sail west to Morocco (for a nice stay) and then on to the Azores to winter the boat. That gets us 1,000 miles into the Atlantic and prepares us for a 2018 tour of the Azores and a return to the US. Anyone interested?? Lots of time to think about it. Let me know.
Updates to follow!

Heldeleine gets some things sorted out!

Warning: the following is a boat geek Post and should be avoided like the plague by all of you who prefer cats, dolphins, camels, beautiful sunsets and all that other boring stuff. There will be none of that in this update. This is all about boat drivel and you should move on and wait for the NEXT post that will include the exciting plans for this summer.
OK boat geeks, now that we are alone…

As most of you know Heldeleine was hauled out and stowed ashore last August in Gaeta, Italy. During the past months various repairs and upgrades have been done with more to come. Though we sailed close to 5,000 miles last summer, crossing the Atlantic and half of the Mediterranean, there were very few failures and thankfully no emergency situations. I credit this to the careful preparation of the boat prior to the crossing and to the terrific crews that I had for every one of those miles. Once again I can’t thank you all enough for making this voyage with me and taking such good care of Heldeleine along the way!
As for the items that did need attention:
-a leaky seal to the front hatch which in heavy seas (we had a few) leaked onto the control box for the bow thruster causing some exciting moments in the middle of the night wondering WTF was happening in the bow of the boat. This was an easy fix after waiting a month for the part from Lewmar.

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-a broken top swivel on the Genoa.(that’s the thingy that helps roll the front sail up, for the cat and camel lovers that are stupidly still here)

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As we tried to lower the sail in August it would not come down and required an agile Italian rigger to go aloft and muscle the damn thing down. Due to the fact that sending anything to and fro from Italy is impossibly expensive (tariffs sending and tariffs arriving) they suggested that I buy a new part….there were 1,200 reason for me not to do that. Instead the part was sent to my sister Laurie (intrepid crew of the Azores-Gibraltar Leg) in Milan and she will bring it to Denver in May and send it to me. I will then send it to my repair guy in Florida. He will do the repair and send it back to me and I will return with it to Italy in July. Damn, what a screwy way to do the repair but….
-The Genoa. The cause of the top swivel damage was due to the New Genoa being cut too long. It looked good at the start but with a little natural stretch and my tightening the halyard slack…well… The sail loft in Gaeta has shortened the sail by 7″, repaired a damaged tack loop and cleaned the sail

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-starboard electric Winch. This is a big, honking Lewmar ST66. Now this will probably sound like a first-world problem but the high gear was not working (very slow and no real power under high load). Again the control box could not be sent to England for repairs because of the above reasons and there were again 1,500 reasons why I could not do that. Also the electrician on site, Emilio, pointed out that the breaker (emergency shut off) switch was down below and in the case of a malfunctioning switch having the breaker at the winch was a smart safety idea. I agreed and a new, safer improvement was installed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

-the next item under discussion is the secondary alternator on the engine. My daughter Helen and I were on watch around 2am when I heard a sound from the engine (yes, we are on a SAILboat but…). Well, sharing a beautiful night on watch snuggled in a blanket with your daughter is priceless so I hesitated to leap below. Then a Bang, Bang, BANG got me moving. I shut down the engine and investigated. Yup, alternator belt had been loose, then REAL loose, then ripped the mount off the engine damaging the sheave as it launched the alternator around the engine. What a dumbass. From a priceless moment to a costly moment in seconds. As it was the secondary alternator, we were still able to charge the batteries but at a reduced rate. Well Emilio has some ideas and we will discuss how to tackle the repair over the next month.

Emilio

Emilio

 

Doing all of this from thousands of miles away sucks. My liaison there, Jayne Koehler, has been absolutely terrific but being a hands-on type of owner who enjoys getting his hands dirty, this situation is frustrating in the extreme. But stuff IS getting done and plans are being hatched and in the next post I will give an overview of this summer’s cruise. Here’s a hint: it will not involve 5,000 miles or an ocean. Sun and fun yes.

Haul Out.

The next step in the preparation of Heldeleine for her 10 month hibernation phase was cleaning, packing and reorganizing the entire boat. Most soft things (clothes that were staying, pillows, towels etc) were cleaned and put into plastic bags (which were squeezed of air and sealed with duct tape). imageThis was a tedious job and required that I skip my 3 pizzas a day habit for awhile. Though it comes as no surprise, the pizza in Italy is ridiculously good. Something about the crust and the freshest of tomatoes. Damn, I was hooked. I tried hard this past week to gain back the 20lbs I somehow lost this summer. Back to the boat…deck cleared of stuff. Dinghy removed. Bimini and dodger removed. On and on. Last Wednesday she was hauled after some excitement. imageFirst the jib would not come down.The top swivel was damaged because the new jib was made too long and when I took some sag out of the sail mid-Atlantic it caused the bearing to separate. Not an issue until I tried to lower the sail. We got a rigger to go up the mast and with his weight (like Earl Flynn) he dragged the sail down. Then the lift operator dramatically pulled his back (ouch!) and amid the screaming was hustled into a car and driven to the hospital by the rest of the marina crew which left me alone with the boat in the lift slings. (??) A few hours later the deed was done and Heldeleine was ashore having her slime and barnacles scrapped and blasted off.image

A hundred other details and a day later I was off to Rome airport (2 hours) and my flight home. I’ll try to conclude with some thoughts about this summer in the next post. There was so much and I might need some time to process all we have done. It does seems a bit surreal being home and I feel a little numb. One thing I can say is that I have been very fortunate in life to be able to do this trip and I do thank you all for your help along the way. Talk soon.image

Crew Change

Life has been busy the last week with getting Heldeleine to her winter berth and preparing
her for the 10 months on the hard. Fortunately two of my favorite crew showed up to help me sail Heldeleine to her winter accommodations. Keith Bonner and Jeffrey Guimond. Keith and Jeffrey are Heldeleine veterans of a couple ‘manly men’ trips including the “Nova Scotia Campaign” and they are a pleasure to have aboard. We hit the ground running as soon as they arrived on the 18th with an overnight from Porto di Roma to the island of Ponza which is one of the Pontine Island group. It was then on to a couple stops on the island of Ischia. I think that San Angelo (south coast) become our favorite town and the Castel Argonese (east coast) our favorite historic site. Ischia is an amazing island. Twice the size of Capri and a vacation destination for many Italians. Not much English is heard and that was fine by me. It was then on to the town of Porto Veccio on the Pontine island of Ventotene whose harbor was carved out of stone by Roman slaves 2,000 years ago….then finally to Gaeta on the mainland and Heldeleine’s home until next June. The Boys helped with the cleaning of the heads (!) and general clean up prior to their departure on the 25th. A big thanks to Keith and Jeffrey for making the trip and being the perfect crew and ideal companions.

Jeffrey and Keith

Keith and Jeffrey

San Angelo!

San Angelo!

From out table a la Peppina on San Angelo

From our table a la Peppina on San Angelo

From Castel Argonese

From Castel Argonese

Next up: The Haul Out…..

Returning Home Part 1

 

On the 17th Maryly and the Girls flew back home from Rome to New York and so ended their 2 month adventure to Europe. It is impossible to sum up all the experiences we have shared together. From Gibraltar to Morocco to Spain and finally to Italy. It is too soon to grasp what we have done. 1,000 miles by boat and much land travel as well. It has been wonderful. There  will be some added bits that the girls have written but that I have not edited and not yet posted. In the meanwhile, some more pics:

Building a bridge at DaVinci Museum

Building a bridge at DaVinci Museum

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