Monday, June 4, 2012

Zipping down through the Ionian

Leaving wonderful Albania, we made some miles South back to Paxos, where we stayed in charming Longos, then slightly more bustling Fiskardho. 
English tourists everywhere. Great sailing in the afternoons when the wind fills in. 

Now in Zakynthos, we happened on the weekend when there is a regional festival celebrating horsemanship through the ages. Last night there was a medieval-style jousting tournament for the young boys, who had to run with a pole and catch a tiny hanging ring. An amazing juggler used both arms and both legs to throw five large banners high in the air, catch them and twirl them; magnificent!

We’ve made great miles over the last three days; we are now in a bay south of Zakynthos which is a sanctuary for the endangered loggerhead turtles, so there are strict controls on mooring and motoring around here. 

Off to the bottom of the Poloponnesian peninsula tomorrow; a trip to Olympus also in the next few days. 
K and R

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Albania May 29

arriving in Sarande in a lovely fresh nor wester
We have had such limited email access in Greece  but every now and then we find a
tendril of wi-fi and can send messages, even ( I hope) photos of us
sailing in to here.

Today we have had our first proper sail and we are now in a different
country! we have arrived in Albania, only 15 nautical miles from Corfu
town, but it could be another planet.

The Promenade, Sarande

It is only twenty years since the fall of the Communist era, and only
100 years since Albania was an independent country.

This city is Sarande, which is near an archaeological site called
Butrint that I am very keen to see. We will go tomorrow. We have an
agent here who arranged our berth and immigration all very efficiently
for sixty euros. Now we have to go and get some of the local currency,
the 'lek' ( about 138.5 leke to one euro apparently)

This city has all the communist era hallmarks, and surprisingly few
trees. Albania has a population o f 4 million and many more sheep, a
bit like NZ. The local languages are Gheg and Tosk. Hard to tell them
apart, really! Place names can have about three variants depending
whether they are Gheg, Tosk or Italian-derived.

Funny how your world on a boat diminishes on the one hand into whether
things are working on the boat ( sails and lines,  electrical systems,
plumbing, engine etc) and then, depending on where you get to, it also
expands enormously! We are thrilled to finally have the alternator working properly thanks to Panegiaros the marine electrician/mechanic in Corfu. This means we can motor at more than 4.5 knots! Freedom!

Albania is a place that all the yachting pilot books say to avoid ( so
naturally we are here). I think the books are out of date but we will
see. they say that the economy here is detrimentally and very directly
affected by the Greek downturn.

Anyway that's it for now - we have found so far that the Albanian
internet is considerably faster ( and cheaper) than the Greek version.

Our berth - we feel very secure next to the coast guard boats! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

New York, New York!

I sat next to Ana, from New Jersey, on the Lufthansa flight from Newark. I told her I’d just made my first visit to New York.  “Oh, New York is so overrated!” she declared.

Ana was on her way to tour Turkey with her fellow fabric arts students.  I asked how this visit would inform her studies. “Well, I’m a rising sophomore” she said, “we’re developing fabric technology --- GPS transmitters in shoes and jackets for people with Alzheimers.”

I quietly wondered who would remind those people to put on their shoes and jackets.

“And we’re going to look at wool, see it growing on the sheep and being made into cloth.”

At this point I considered telling her that I came from New Zealand, where we were familiar with the first part of that process, but it was already apparent that she had absolutely no curiosity about me or where I came from.
In that respect, she differed from many we met in New York, who were of course unsurprised to meet people from elsewhere, but very courteous and conversational.

We were privileged: this morning we sat on a lush lawn on Morningside Heights, won in battle from the British 240 years ago, and were treated to commencement speeches from the faculty of Columbia University and from Tara Sonenshine, newly-appointed  Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs in Hillary Clinton’s team.

We were there for Rupert’s son Tim’s graduation. We sat in a crowd of ferociously proud parents. The graduands’ hopeful futures were echoed in the blue sky, the blue Columbia academic gowns and the bright sunbeams warming us.  Ms Sonenshine used this metaphor to inspire thoughts of saving the world, one inspiration at a time, one conversation at a time.

A headline in the New York Times today: “Whites account for under half of births in U.S.  - Majority of minorities”.  This would accord with all the Spanish, Italian, Creole and other tongues we heard all around us, in every part of New York.  

We shopped, we watched the Yankees at their Stadium, we visited museums, met an old friend for coffee, went to amateur night at the Apollo in Harlem,  and got to know our short term host Kate, a Ukrainian Kiwi New Yorker whose campus apartment we sublet for a few nights.

Food of course was as always a priority: standout meals were Mexican ‘mole’ quesadilla at 2:30 am on the night we arrived, the 9 pork ribs Rupe had at “Dinosaurs” next to the Cotton Club on the Hudson River shore, and the New York cheesecake at the diner where Obama had $1.99 breakfasts during his Columbia years, later renamed ‘Monks’ by Jerry Seinfield

We caught buses, trains, taxis and the Staten Island Ferry, with Manhattan sparkling behind our  Coastguard escort: and we decided that we had seen only part of all the many wonders of this city.

New York, overrated?  No, Ana, I don’t think so.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP the wonderful Maurice Sendak

Thank you for inspiring the name of our boat and all the wonderful Wild Things who have sailed with us since 2007

Rumpus ashore in Preveza, Ionian Sea, Greece

After a VERY long hiatus, some more to say about Rumpus. She had an amazing 2011 season, with the Billingtons, the Reeds, the Morrisons, the Caugheys......and many others enjoying some incredible sailing from Marmaris, Turkey, through the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, to mainland Greece and then the Ionian, where she is waiting for some antifoul on her bottom and a slip and a splash into her element! We join her in a few days, after some time in New York for a Columbia graduation (Congratulations Tim Wilson!!).
Oh...and this time, we will be doing it as a married couple. Would you believe it!