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MAY & JUNE, 2006

Here we are again, beginning our seventh season in the Mediterranean and our eleventh year cruising on DOVKA. A lot has happened in the world at large and in our own little world. We are not too happy about the state of the greater world, but within our own little one, our sons have each finished graduate school programs and are gainfully, if not lucratively, employed. They are a joy to us as we watch them mature.

We, two, have aged reasonably gracefully, meaning that we are slower and stiffer, and perhaps a bit less adventuresome than eleven years ago, but are still able to maintain and sail DOVKA. We always say that we take each year at a time, making plans incrementally. We do not know what next year will bring, but this year we are relishing another season of sailing from Croatia, through Italy and Greece and back to Turkey.

May 21, 2006
We are at anchor in a little cove on the north coast of Solta, 10 miles south of Split, in Croatia. Sid and Fil are napping as the late afternoon sun finishes drying the few items left from our mammoth washing session this morning in the marina. We went into the marina in Split to clean up the boat after our son Jon and his classmate left us, mostly to have the laundry done. But when we took it to the marina laundry at 7:30 this morning, they said it could not be done until Tuesday! The Lonely Planet Guide to Croatia says "Bring your own detergent to Croatia" as there are no self service and few laundry services. So, we broke out my large Spanish bucket (which several boaters have offered to buy) and did the laundry. And now we are no longer at the mercy of making our itinerary a path to finding a laundry.

We have been on the boat for almost three weeks. We found all in order when we arrived in Monfalcone, Italy on May 3rd and launched DOVKA in record time of five days, after whirlwind polishing, painting and scrubbing. Warm days with good company of five boats from Australia and cool nights for exhausted sleeping!

One week after we arrived at the marina in Monfalcone, we took off for Venice with our younger son, Jonathan and his HMS classmate, Joshua. We were able to moor at a small sailing club on The Lido because of a Venetian member we had met two years ago when we anchored in the Venetian lagoon. It was perfect and the boys spent two full days walking Venice. We also enjoyed visiting with our friends and the magic of the whole place again, as attested to by even more photos of Venice on this site! From Venice, we did an overnight passage to the Croatian islands.

The young men had a good time and we did a lot without seeming as if we were. We rented a car to travel south from Split, along the lovely coast road half way to Dubrovnik and then turned east to cross the border to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It took about four hours each way. We went to see the rebuilt "Old Bridge" which the Christian Croats destroyed as they were rounding up and killing the Mostar Muslims.

It was a sobering sight to see this once lovely city, a crossroads of cultures, nestled between hills in a beautiful river valley, the victim of religious hatred. The bridge has been rebuilt as a UN World Heritage Site, but the rest of the city is still bombed out. There is still tension as the Church vies to have its spires higher than the Mosques' minarets. My mother may have been right when she equated religion with the evils of the world!

May 26
Early Afternoon:

Yesterday was our 37th wedding anniversary and we had a glorious downwind sail with 25 knots from the NW to arrive in our absolutely favorite anchorage in all of the Dalmatian Coast and Islands: Okuklje on the island of Mljet. We picked up a mooring, swam, showered, had tea, relaxed and then went ashore for a lovely garlicky grilled calamari overlooking DOVKA and the harbor from a terrace up on the lush, green hills.

This morning we made our pilgrimage to the abandoned one room church 500 meters up and up the road which overlooks the harbor, the water, the islands inland of us and the mainland and the mountains behind. While we are ready to move on, we know to what we are going which is the brown, treeless islands of Greece.

We said our goodbyes to Croatia and left at 11 a.m. this morning, for Brindisi, Italy, 125 miles almost due south of us. Right now we are on a close reach with 18 knots of wind. Not bad. We have one reef in the main (shortening it so there will be less heel) and are on a starboard tack - leaning left, that is, about 15-20 degrees. Starboard tack makes it easier in the head and at the chart table, and more difficult in the galley. But we are lucky, so far no big seas to roll us around. It feels good to be going somewhere overnight again.

I think yesterday was a wonderful way to celebrate our 37th anniversary and while I doubt if I could have imagined that we would have been scudding along in our own little ship, on a crystal clear day on the Central Adriatic Sea, 37 years ago, we both feel bloody lucky that that is what we were doing. And today has not started too badly either - but I do not want to jinks it, so I will say no more.

Early Evening:
Dolphins! At least 25 arrived mid afternoon and are still playing in our bow wave as the sun sets. They are magical and good omens, for sure. They swiftly race through our wake, gracefully leaping and swerving just as it seems the boat will hit them, or they will collide with each other. Usually, they only stay a short while because we are not fast enough for them, but today they must like the hum our mast is making as we swoosh along towards Italy.

June 21, 2006
It is the summer solstice. We have been out for seven weeks now and have covered over a thousand miles already. Our two overnight passages were perfect beam reaches with Force 4-5 winds (15-20 knots) and dolphins accompanying us both times. We enjoyed several days back in the land of Italian foodstuffs tied to the wall in Brindisi, from where we had a front row seat on the wonderful parade of families and couples up and down the harbor road, all eating gelato as they talked and laughed. We were struck again by the difference in personalities between nationalities, as the Croatians were serious and undemonstrative, and not nearly as much fun to observe.

Our overnight passage to Corfu was delightful and we found the familiarity of the Gouvia Marina and the surrounding town comforting for provisioning and doing our chores. But my attempt to read Greek has not progressed very far. We left Fil and DOVKA in Corfu, on June 1st, in order to fly home to attend Jonathan's graduation from medical school. Fil and two friends continued through the Ionian Islands and into the Gulf of Corinth.

After a wonderful family time in the States, celebrating medical school graduation, we met up with the boat, just west of the Corinth Canal, two weeks later, on June 15, and have been moving steadily since. We did take a lay day and stayed at anchor in the lovely harbor of Batsi on Andros, the northwesternmost Cycladic island, rented motorscooters and explored. The coast road was gorgeous and when we turned inland we were treated to clusters and rows of pink oleander growing in nooks, crannies and ridges. There were mounds of lavender rolling up the hills and a ubiquitous dark green scrub with brilliant yellow flowers everywhere.

Yesterday we had a glorious sail from Andros to the uninhabited island of Andipsaro, next to the sparsely inhabited island of Psara, next to the larger Khios, which is the last Greek island east of us before the Turkish coast. We anchored off a beautiful beach with no sign of human habitation or sound, except the gulls and the wind. We had a lovely night.

We had not intended to come this far east, but we left Andros at 6 a.m. to try to beat the northerlies in the Doro (Kithera) Strait, north of Andros, which we did, only then to find ourselves beating into strong winds and choppy seas as we headed to our destination, Skyros, which was to be our first island in the Northern Sporades in the North Aegean. We decided to change our destination since we could not change the wind or seas and fell off the wind and headed further east to arrive here.

It was a good idea, yesterday, but now we have to find the right winds to go to Skyros which is just west of north from here. And the winds are blowing even more strongly from that direction as we sit tied to the brand new cement wall, complete with beautiful, but non-functioning, water and electricity connections , in the tiny settlement on Psara Town . There absence of water and electricity is another example of the many lingering, unfinished projects funded by the EU that we have seen in Greece. We understand that the loans do not need to be repaid until the project is declared finished, so they often never are… Still, we are secure and the wind is keeping us cool from the sun of this longest day of the year. And we will wait.

In the early 19th century the Turks killed nearly all of the 30,000 inhabitants of Psara after an uprising against the Ottoman Empire and the place has never recovered, according to the guidebook. But after a short walk around town we found that there are new houses being built and new paving and seawalls. We met an old man who welcomed us as fellow Americans, as he lived in NYC for 23 years. He explained that he returned to Psara, his birthplace, in his retirement. His home is lovely, surpassed only by a luxurious vegetable garden and grape arbor. His son is the local priest and he is near his grandchildren in his old age. We were also told by the port policeman that the tavern owner just opposite where we are tied lived in the States for many years and would probably be happy to give us water, which we do need.

June 23, 2006
We did find water and also a reasonably favorable wind, so we headed for Skyros yesterday. We were closehauled all day, but the wind was never more than 20 kts and the seas were not too bad. After a nine hour sail, we dropped anchor last night in an idyllic spot with lovely cliffs as well as rolling hills and a little beach, off of which about fifty goats stood around on the rocks occasionally bleating and clanging bells. The scene was complete with a goat herder on the beach with crook and sleeping bag.

We are back to our routine of a swim before breakfast and at sunset and then a hot shower on deck before dinner, when we can. That is very nice! Now we are waiting for the heat of the day to dissipate and then we will go ashore to explore the two settlements on the island. We hope to spend the next month exploring the Northern Sporades and then head for Turkey once more. We have been surprised and pleased as we enter the Northern Aegean to find TREES. These Greek islands are green and lush, very different from the Southern Aegean.

One postscript on the realities of this idyllic life: The above was written two hours ago and in that time Fil and Sid have been "playing with the anchor." Because there is good visibility, we can check with mask and snorkel to assure that we are dug in, and when we are not, we begin the "play." Fil has been in the water directing us to sand patches, in between the weeds, then watching under water as we anchor to see if the anchor will dig into the hard sand.

We have had the anchor up and down three times with lots of gentle backing and forwarding and pulling and checking. And some smart diving and maneuvering on Fil's part. We are finally dug in and now feel safe enough to leave the boat in this isolated beach bay and dinghy to the ferry landing around the corner to see if we can hitch a ride to "town." Only after Fil has a beer and a rest though! Then we will have more adventures and more stories to write for next time...