Thursday, December 8, 2011

Preparing to Leave Gran Canaria

Sorry still no pictures, but I am able to post text for now. We plan to leave here day after tomorrow, Saturday 10th. We did most of our provision shopping yesterday which included a small very frozen turkey which doesn't actually fit in our freezer. Uh Oh - but it does fit in a very cold section of the fridge right next to the freezer, so we've packed it in with bags of ice all around it - and when it thaws that will be our Christmas Day. It could be any day really - once we're out there because we'll be the only people who'll know. We haven't hung our Christmas tree up yet, we'll do that closer to the day.
Our transmission is back in - the Volvo people said that they tested it by running it on a lathe and it ran well and didn't leak - so that is our very expensive Christmas present to ourselves. Hope they're right.
Most of our time here has been spent working on Moondancer - our genoa got ripped on the way here from Gibraltar so it now has another patch, I've changed all of 'glass' in the 'windows' in the bimini. Tony has been all around the boat with a caulking gun filling whatever looks like it might be where water has been coming in. He's inspected and adjusted all of our standing rigging. We've got a couple of small jobs to do today and tomorrow we are going to drive around the island with another couple who've rented a car for the day. Then we'll know what the rest of this island looks like.
We will be sad not to be with our families and friends over the Christmas season but you will all be in our hearts. And when we get to the Caribbean we will be much closer to you which will make communication much easier.
Our love to you all.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gran Canaria

We came into the Marina Gran Canaria on Tuesday 29th – unbelievable that we’ve been here
5 days. We checked in for 4 days in beautiful bright sunny ‘summer’ weather. The marina is
full of boats with foreign flags, most of whom are enjoying their stay before heading across the
Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. It’s a really first class marina with free water and electricity – close access to a beautiful manicured sandy beach and not bad access to shopping – BUT lousy internet, and no alterative aboard. i.e. we can’t buy a service or buy time on a dongle.
This means using internet cafes or bars which is what everyone else is trying to do – so all of that preamble is by way of apology for the long time it has taken to write this post. Also – don’t think I’ll be able to post any photos or videos as this sliver of a connection that I am lucky to have right now won’t let me. I’ll do that from a cafĂ© later.
Our trip here was pretty ‘hairy’ – big winds, people who have wind measuring devices reported winds up to 50 knots – we don’t have one but we knew we were in some pretty big winds and the seas were huge but fortunately mostly behind us. That’s usually ok except we were being blown further into the coast of Africa that we were comfortable with. And turning into that wind with those seas was virtually impossible – so we just toughed it out until we got to the ‘corner’ of Africa which gave us a much better – less lee shore sailing position. (One of the things that’s really cool about coming into a harbour with other yachts who’ve all come the same way at roughly the same time is discussing these things and how we each coped with the situation.)
We made the decision to take out our transmission yet again – the ‘fix’ we had done in Malta was not satisfactory and though we could have ‘nursed’ our engine across the ocean by topping up the transmission fluid whenever we needed to use the engine we decided not to. There is a big marine Volvo distributor and service centre here, so Tony and their mechanic took out the transmission and they took it away and took it apart. The mechanic was very pleased to come back to us shortly after to show us the damaged ‘end seal’ which was badly damaged. They’ve ordered a new one and we hope to have her all put back together again early next week.
I’m very impressed with Tony’s ability to strip down the engine to the point of taking out the transmission himself – which he would do too if it did not weigh as much as Pavarotti and is not much smaller. So – hope springs eternal . This was the right place to do the work – it was vital that we get out of the Med when we did and the winter weather was just getting so much worse and getting down the African coast was no picnic either – until we got to a day or so before Lanzarote, then it was quite obvious that going south was the right thing to do.
We stopped for 2 nights of good sleep in a gorgeous little anchorage on an Island called Isla Graciosa – pictures to follow, we didn’t go ashore but we did don our wetsuits and snorkled among abundant shoals of healthy ‘tropical’ type fish, many of which were the same species we would see in the Med but much bigger. Tony saw a large moray eel swim under our boat as he was coming back to the boat.
We’ve met 2 couples here that we have met in the past in Malta, a couple from New Zealand who were moored next to us on the Breakwater our first winter in Malta and an Australian couple who were in the Manoel Island boat yard at the same time as us about 18 months ago. That’s what is so neat about these ‘way stations’ – everyone has been going off in different directions doing different things and then we all get lumped together in placed like this waiting for the ‘right time’ for us to go further.
I’ll post this as is and if I can get any pictures on will do so or they’ll have to wait until I get to a place with a decent internet signal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Today we went up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar in the cable car. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy so we didn't get to see the spectacular view which can be seen looking south towards Africa, Morocco which is only about 15 miles away. We did however get very close to the monkies who live up at the top. I was not too excited about seeing the monkies as last time I was here they were all very badly behaved towards the visitors. This time they were actually really nice and alot of fun to watch. Tony had a couple of close encounters as you'll see from the videos.
We took a walk this morning across the airport runway - its open to pedestrians except for when an aeroplane is taking off or landing and is actually the border between Gibraltar and Spain. I'm trying to get a video of a plane taking off or landing from the boat in the marina to show the close proximity of the runway. Tomorrow we'll provision shop as we wish to leave here on Sunday - looks like we have a weather window which should take us down the African coast to the Canary Islands - about 700 miles, which all being well should take us about a week.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gibraltar - Whew!

We got into Gibraltar day before yesterday - we've had the mandatory piss-up which we need after being at sea for awhile (we don't drink alcohol on passages)before really good fish'n chips in the local pub and when we started to feel better yesterday we got on with our chores. Coming into Gibraltar from Estepona was a delightful trip. We hugged the coast anticipating that as the tide came through the strait it would cause a back-eddy along the coast. We were right, so with the sun shining almost all of the way we snuck up on Gibraltar - whose way too high and mighty to see a little thing like us creeping in.

Coming into a 'way station' like Gibraltar is exciting. There is an expectant mood as many of the boats here are moving on to a long journey. So we share information with each other and compare our equipment and knowledge. Gibraltar is also a very nice place to live and many people like us come in expecting to transit but they stay and find a way to make a living here.
So now we need a 'weather window' to head south where we'll stop in the Canary Islands for another break and provisioning before heading across the Atlantic. We'll aim at Antigua.
We're still trying to work out problems with our SSB radio - we really want that to work for our crossing so that we can post our position on a regular basis as we did before. Its very reassuring for us to know that you all know where we are.
While we're here we'll take a cable car ride up to the top of the rock. Tony wants to see his monkey relatives. Must find out how they got here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Med has almost let us go

Leaving Menorca was terrible. We had pretty good weather information and we knew that to get down and around the south coast of Spain we would have a couple of days of tough going. As soon as we left the protection of beautiful Menorca we were hit with electrical storms accompanied by torrential rain and strong winds - we motor sailed through it for many hours cussing and swearing all of the way - mopping up gallons of water - now that's the type of rain we need when our water tanks are empty. Its funny - we thought Menorca was so perfect and clean and friendly that we kept making jokes about how the inhabitants were all in a conspiracy for the 'common good'. 'Be really nice to them so that they'll stay - we need all the spenders we can get'. Well it felt like the actual weather was in on the conspiracy - it was hard not to run back in for protection. 3 days later we pulled into Forementera, a lovely small island south of Mallorca where we anchored long enough to try to fix our SSB antennae and have lunch on flat water - lunch was nice, antennae still not working. We can receive but not transmit. We'll try to fix it in Gibraltar - where we should be later today. So - it took us 6 days to get from Menorca to Estepona. We sailed as much as possible, motor sailed sometimes to push us along a bit faster, but when the wind was opposing us we had some days when even though we had travelled 100 miles only 30 of those miles were in the right direction. 20 miles from Gibraltar yesterday afternoon the favourable wind that had been pushing us along on a broad reach with a triple reefed main at 6 knots died - left us with a punishing slop and then turned to the West. Yes that's right in the direction we were attempting to go. Our motoring speed was cut down to about 3 knots. Knowing we would not get into Gib until way after dark we turned right into Estepona - a lovely little place, nice Marina, great rates and a free bottle of wine - 'All for the greater good' - we'll head out in about an hour for Gibraltar. Here's a couple of videos showing the complete contrast in weather conditions from 1 day to the next.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Menorca is Green

Now I know why Menorca is so green - about a million gallons of rain fell in the past 24 hours. We actually didn't venture off the boat at all today - just did jobs inside the boat which needed to be done - lots of preparation for the upcoming long journey. We were amused when watching the coverage of the Volvo race which just started from Alicante, Spain - not very far from us. They talk about 'stacking' the boat which though it sounds very technical, basically means moving all of the moveable weight - i.e. sail bags from the low side to the high side of the boat which is like having about 5 more men sitting up on the rail.
'Oh yeah! we stack Moondancer too - we move everything to the low side so that it
doesn't all fall down there.'
That was one of the jobs I've been doing - improving the holding areas for all of the things that are necessary on our boat as its also our permanent home. Usually we take most things away from their normal living space when we are at sea - many things get put onto our bed in the aft cabin as we never get to sleep in there on passages. We sleep in the single bunks in the main cabin with lee cloths up to stop us from falling down to the low side.
Tony has been working on our SSB radio - though we are receiving well we are not being heard - looks like the antennae cable has some corrosion so tomorrow we'll try to search out and replace that cable.
The weather seems to change very quickly here and we are checking it regularly - it looks now as though we'll be able to leave on Tuesday and may be able to get all the way to Gibraltar.
My next post will verify whether we did.
We have made friends with an American boat called Sonrisa. We met in Malta while they were also undergoing repairs in the yard. They've made it to Mallorca, just south of us and are also planning to head across the Atlantic. Its nice to have
SSB radio contact with other boats on the ocean - we get to compare weather information etc.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spiritual Experiences on board

A few people have told me about 'spiritual experiences' they've had when sailing long distances - such as finding a dead relative sitting beside them in the cockpit on night watch which they found comforting. If that were to happen to me I'd probable die of fright, at the very least scream my head off and wake up Tony and the dead. I think these experiences are fuelled by extreme exhaustion. I had something like that happen on the last passage from Malta to Menorca, which is where we are now for a few days waiting out nasty weather. Just after we left Malta I got a very bad cold or flu - whatever it is its really horrible and should definitely be treated with rest - REST, that's a joke when there's just 2 of us running the boat and one of us is always awake. It may not be such a bad thing to nod off out in the ocean when its very unlikely that you'll hit anything, but in the Med its a bit different - there's quite alot of traffic day and night. In fact it seems like alot more ships show up on our AIS at night than during the day. So - 3 nights out in stormy conditions with a bad cold and very little sleep I was having a bad watch. Standing up in the wind and rain will certainly help to keep one awake but not as comfortable as sitting under cover in the cockpit. Every time I sat down I would nod off - and wake up just as my head hit something close by - the bimini/dodger framework or the edge of the steering pedestal. It happened many times but I couldn't wake Tony because he really needed his sleep too and had already been very generous with giving up some of his sleep to me as I was sick. So my spiritual experience was when I fell into more than a 'nod off' and something whacked me around the head pretty hard - this time it wasn't something I fell against. So someone else must have been on watch with me and obviously a gentle shake 'awake' wasn't going to work. So for the last hour of that watch I stood out in the rain and wind and kept myself busy. So we're in Menorca, the Ballearics, Spain. We got here 2 days ago. We had hoped to make it to Ibiza a bit further south west on this leg but we had to deal with a technical problem and Menorca was closer. We've not done much other than REST, check out the chandleries for things we need aboard and work on Moondancer. Today will be more of the same, but tomorrow we'll do some sight seeing. Its a very lovely island - so clean and the people are polite and courteous. Instead of running across the road in fear of one's life - we stand on the curb and wait and people actually stop to let us cross the road. Incredible. Menorca reminds us so much of other countries we have visited - particularly Bermuda in its tidiness and cleanliness. Funny how when we come to new places they always seem to have characteristics like other places we have been. The video and pictures I'm posting speak for themselves and as yet I know nothing about Menorca as we have not really been out and about - we hope to rectify that on Saturday, our last day here before the weather turns in our favour for getting further along. We knew when we left Malta that getting out of the Med was going to be tough - so far that's exactly what it has been. We'll have to work within weather systems and there are plenty of harbours on the Spanish coast to duck into until we finally get out, then once in the Atlantic we'll basically have to work with the wind direction until we get far enough south to head west. We obviously hope that the trade winds will then carry us across as fast as Moondancer can go.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MoondancerX's Blog Revival

I know, I know its been 7 months since I last wrote anything on this blog - but those of you who've kept in touch through other mediums know that we've been very busy.
So I'll start with a short run-down on the past 7 months; none of which has really had anything to do with Moondancer which is why the news has not been entered herein.
Earlier this year - while Tony was still working for 'Cockroach' aka Malta Sailing Academy (see - this is my blogsite and I can say what I like)as a Sailing Instructor I launched Sail Like a Girl - Cruise and Learn Yacht Charters for Women. The launch and marketing of this venture took up alot of my time which was necessary as I didn't have a marketing budget - and in retrospect I received alot of help from certain people in Malta who believed in me - i.e. Vanessa MacDonald, a sailor and journalist in Malta who ensured that I received some very reasonable magazine and TV coverage - Simon Borg Cardona, owner of Nautica Yacht Charters who chartered his boats to me at a very reasonable rate and paid for 3000 brochures to be printed, Alfie Borg of the Hudson Group who made his flagship store available for promotion of Sail Like a Girl. Thinking back on it I had alot of tremendous support for this venture in Malta and feel badly that I did not stay with it.
BUT - When we were invited to join the Russian Yacht Scorpius as Skipper and Manager at a very nice salary for the trip of a lifetime on a fabulous 30 meter yacht there was no contest - what 'hot-blooded' sailor would not have dropped everything to join that voyage? And as it has come to pass 5 months later several'hot blooded' Russian sailors are lining up to join the crew without salaries - so we were ousted.
And that's basically it in the nutshell. If you want to ready more about either of those ventures see or for Scorpius website.
So we have come back to Moondancer - who was completely de-commissioned as we expected to leave her in the yard for a couple of years - and we are reviving her and hope to have her ready to set sail by next week.
We are now planning to head over the Atlantic to the Caribbean - aiming at Antigua where we will try to find work again as Charter Skippers and Sailing Instructors for the winter 'Summer' season. After that - who knows where we will go next. Maybe the Northwest passage route home - perhaps we'll see Scorpius coming the other way. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Anchored at Comino Island, Malta

Its not the first time we've anchored at Comino, mostly famous for the irridescent Blue Lagoon, but it is the first time we took a day to hike around the island, and what a pleasant surprise. The views from the cliff tops were breathtaking, and there is alot more to the island than it appears from the water. In the middle are buildings which were at one time quarantine hospital buildings and are now home to a few people. We met an elderly gentleman called Carmen who told us that only 7 people live on the island now, and he only comes there on the weekends, but there used to be 100 people living there in his lifetime.
There are remnants of farming; rusting farm tools and field dividing walls aswell as domestic plants which are now growing wild.
St Mary's Tower which is an impregnable fort built in 1618 to fight off pirates who plied the waters between Malta and Gozo has recently been renovated back to almost perfect condition - wasn't open - so we didn't go in, but did climb up onto the ramparts to take in the views.
Quite an incredible day really, dinghying around the caves to start with, seeing a really big shark at close quarters and feasting on the colours of Spring in Malta. This is our 2nd Spring here now and other than the water being a bit cold for swimming comfort I think this is probably the best time of year to visit Malta. Its absolutely blooming with plantlife, aqualife but less people life.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back in Malta - Anchored in the beautiful Blue Lagoon - on our own

We arrived back in Malta last night after a pretty boisterous sail back - sailed until just a few hours off the coast of Gozo - a beamer all the way - Moondancer X just loved it, and if it hadn't been for the bloody awful sideways chop it would have been 'perfect', but who expects perfect in February. It was a good sail back, and when Gozo was in sight it really felt like we were coming home.
So young Toni woke up this morning to the crystal clear waters of the Blue Lagoon on Comino, which is a small island in between Malta and Gozo, a rare privelege to be in this amazing place without the hoards who normally grace it in the summer months. Thought about going for a swim as the sun is shining and its quite warm - but Nah! that's pushing it a bit.
Glad to be out of Tunisia. Though we saw a few awesome things there, and regret not staying to see the Sahara, its not one of my favourite places.

Tunisia - Feb 2011 - Posted from the Blue Lagoon, Malta

Tunisia February 2011-02-08

We’ve come to Tunisia of necessity; MoondancerX being Canadian can only be in the EU for 18 months without being officially imported or leaving. As we have been here for 18 months and have no desire to sail our boat under any other flag than Canadian we have come out of the EU and Tunisia is the closest place to Malta. Tunisia has just undergone what the local people refer to as a ‘revolution’, which I suppose it is – they have ousted their President of the last 23 years with some bloodshed – depending on which reports you read, about 40 people killed - but some pretty scary violent demonstrations.
This happened about 3 weeks ago mostly in the town of Tunis, and perhaps it is only in our imagination there does seem to be a residue of bad feeling about the place.
Of course that may just be the way it is here – we see groups of men everywhere sitting around in cafes doing nothing – when we walk past these ‘man caves’ they stare at us and it doesn’t feel like friendly staring. As we are almost always the only non-native people on the streets wherever we go they may just be curious as to why we are here when most of the other non-native people have fled. Also because we are the only people on the street who ‘presumably’ have any money we are ‘marks’ – and consequently the vendors try very hard to sell to us. We smile politely and say no-thankyou, maybe later, etc. , and keep on walking.
Our arrival in the Monastir Marina was good – the first person we met was Kamil, who is the Immigration Policeman; he took our lines and helped to dock our boat. The paper work was handled quickly and painlessly with lots of smiling, we had to wait awhile for the Customs lady to finish a phone conversation with one of her children, which she was not at all embarrassed about even though it was alot of googoo, gagaa type words, universal baby language. When the papers were all completed and stamped I asked for a copy, but was told I’d get it later, then they both came to our boat, which was still in much disarray, the salon being where we sleep during our overnight passages. They asked to see anything that we wished to declare – we didn’t understand; they meant alcohol, another universal word, so we showed them the worn down heels of a few bottles we had in the cupboard, then Kamil said everything is ok, just formalities and went away.
We spent that day and the next on the Visitors dock awaiting instructions from the Capitain de Marin as to where we should go. We slept a little, found the showers and went ashore.
Our first encounter was with 2 boys who asked us for cigarettes, then money, then responded with a very un-moslem sounding ‘ f---k you’ when we refused to give them either.

Monastir - is a good size town with a huge fort/Ribat right on the waterfront dating back to 796 AD and remodelled many times since, and incredible Mausoleum built by and dedicated to Habib Bourgiba by himself, reportedly having spent a few billion dinars of this poor country’s money to do so. He’s in it now, having died in 2000, along with his first and second wife. The Municipal market/souk is fantastic, the men selling fish are most prominent and working hard to make their sales for the day – after all fish doesn’t keep. The meat counters are a bit daunting – not at all like buying cuts of animals in our supermarkets where we know what to expect. And when skinned I can’t tell the difference between sheep and goat. Chickens all look alike so that was a safe buy.

We took a long walk down the waterfront in the direction of their equivalent of the Costa Del Sol, which because it is quite far away from the town centre has not changed Monastir very much. Being off-season and post revolution it was pretty dead and the only cafe we found which had a bit of life to offer was full of smoke. Literally full of smoke – alot of people sitting around smoking hookas - young Toni told us that they smoke some fruity tobacco compound which is not drugs, but I’m sure with that little oxygen getting through the smoke to the brain it probably acts as some type of anaesthetic. These hookas as quite common in the cafes. We sat outside to drink our very creamy coffee, Tony senior asked some young people what kind of drink they were drinking – a small glass of tea with almonds floating it in, they told us it is called The de blusse, tea with almonds and offered it to him to taste – of course he refused but they insisted. That is twice we have been offered a person’s food to taste, the other time at a Street Vendor’s booth selling garbanza bean soup. That is a very heart warming thing to do – not thinking that who you have offered it to may ‘contaminate’ your food. Very generous.

Another day we walked in the other direction, around a very craggy point which at one time – probably during WWII, must look that up – a very heavy duty boat ramp was built into the natural rock using a red brick which they make here and incorporating some ancient ruins. The video describes this quite well. Right out on the end of the point are the remains of a very ancient dwelling where people can walk around freely on mosaics which are crumbling away underfoot and pieces of ancient pots just lie around for anyone to pick up. We would have been content to walk around the outside perimeter of the place but were lured in by 2 men who may or may not have worked there, and were definitely trying to make money out of us. As we were the only people out there, miles away from the town we were a bit nervous – well perhaps I should speak for myself – I was quite nervous. Up to a point we followed where we were lured and politely steered our way out of the site aware of the disappointed muttering from the one who was trying the hardest. When we walked out they both took off on a motorcycle, which makes me think they were just 2 guys who saw some foreigners who might give them some money. At least if they swore at us I didn’t understand it.

Mahdia – on a train. There is a 2 track station in Monastir and the train that comes in will take you to Sousse or Mahdia. Mahdia is the end of the line, but Sousse being a bigger city has connections to other places. Good timing is probably not our strongest point. We got the train to Mahdia on Saturday at about 1.00pm, along with hundred of university students leaving Monastir for the weekend. So we stood in the space between cabins along with about 20 other people and enjoyed a long but fun train trip to Mahdia. We met a group of young men who really liked to joke alot, initially at our expense, but when we took it well we actually enjoyed some conversation. We met a young woman called Arij who spoke excellent English and told us alot about their lives. She is an engineering student at university with gentile manners and the desire to finish her studies in Canada. She gave us her phone number and offered to help us if we needed it while here in Monastir. The young men seemed to be under the impression that everyone in Canada is rich and they asked if we could help them to come and live in Canada. We didn’t get into the money conversation as they probably wouldn’t see it from our point of view, but we did tell them that they need relatives to emigrate to Canada.
One of the things that struck me during this time was how often I heard Arabic words which are the same as Maltese, and actually had the same meaning. I suppose that goes back to the Pheonicians who founded both Tunisia and Malta a few thousand years ago.
Most of our time in Mahdia was spent walking along the coast of the biggest cemetery I’ve ever seen – in the Moslem culture they believe that each person must have their own burial space, not on top of each other, which means that they need alot of space. And this graveyard in Mahdia is occupying the most spectacular real estate in the town. Can’t help but see that as valuing their ‘dead life’ more highly than their alive one. More fabulous ruins left behind by the Romans – a tall archway which leads nowhere now as most of what was on the sea side of it has fallen away, stands like a stately portal out into the sea. Other than the graveyard being extremely impressive the other impression was of motorcycles – load of them – small 50cc motorclycles bombing around everywhere – the noise on the roads becomes quite annoying, like loads of chainsaws going off all over the place.

El Jem – by louage – the louage is a shared taxi which holds about 7 people who will come and go during the trip. According to our guide book this costs about 4 dinars per person one way. We went to the louage station yesterday morning and started negotiations, which is a bit ridiculous really because we were trying to negotiate without understanding each other. We thought we were to be passengers on the louage along with others, and what the driver thought was he was being hired as a private driver. Had we joined a public louage the trip would have cost us 24 dinars for 3 of us there and back. It cost us 80 – which really didn’t feel good at all to us, and it wasn’t until we were on our way and saw that the driver was refusing to take other people that we realized what was going on. And when we got to El Jem and he wanted 40 dinars then and another 40 to bring us back we were a bit choked and saw our mistake. So another lesson learned in our travels.
We went to El Jem to see the remains of the Roman Colosseum, the 3rd largest in the Roman world, built between the years AD230 and 238. Only 8 years to build that incredible structure – oh what a wonderful thing slavery was. Imagine doing that and paying wages. Being there after driving one and a half hours through mostly decrepid Tunisia was quite difficult to take in. Incredibly sophisticated engineering went into building that structure. What went on in it sometimes doesn’t smack of highly evolved people, but its as if the Romans were a ‘superhuman’ culture who lived in that time, and when they were gone – all that was left behind was garbage. The photos and videos do a much better job than I can of describing it, and my feeling while walking around on stones which had been walked on by thousands of feet before mine can only be described as awe. There were several men working in various places; we spoke to one man who said that he was a student specialising in Roman archaeology. It was he that told us we could go underground to see where the gladiators waited in the dark for their turn to’ entertain’ the crowds.
After the Colosseum we went to the Mosaic museum – also incredible, the best of them were mounted on walls, but many of them are still on the floors to be walked on by everyone. The mosaics are housed in a beautiful villa like building with many curved windows complementing the square and rectangular mosaics.
I think that because we are brought up to value antiquities so much its hard to understand that such valuable artifacts can be enjoyed at such close quarters. If they were in Canada, they’d have fences around them or they’d be built into some type of humidor. I suppose they think that if they’ve been here this long, they’ll last alot longer, and they don’t have so much money available to preserve them. Actually some of the work they are doing to renovate these ruins isn’t that good, and if they keep doing it what they will have are not originals.
Coming out of these places and into the streets of El Jem were transported back to being the ‘marks’, and though we did it, its hard to keep smiling when one feels a bit invaded by the vendors, and knowing that ‘our driver’ has taken advantage of our ignorance and our fear of taking a stand.

The other big thing that we wanted to do while in Tunisia is to go to the Sahara desert. We made a decision at the end of the day not to do that. That will have to wait until some time in the future – or never in this life. We’ve heard that there are still troubles further south, so we do not feel comfortable to rent a car and drive ourselves, and most of the arranged tours have been cancelled as the country is still in a ‘state of emergency’. This is scheduled to be lifted on the 15th February – we have work to get back to in Malta, so we’ll leave day after tomorrow. - The wind’s in the right direction for our sail back.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sorry - post not working

Sorry, the 'longer post' did not work - please see facebook for what I had intended to put here. I'll figure it out when I get back to Malta. Not sure why, but I have limited time to work it out.

Tunisia - longer post

This is the Roman Colliseum in El Jem, Tunisia, I have written much more to post here, but the blogsite is not working in its normal way while I'm here, but I'll keep trying. If unsuccessful I'll have to wait until we get back to Malta to post it.
I've got alot of spectacular photographs taken in Tunisia which I also cannot post here for some reason - I'm going to post a few on facebook, that seems to be working for me right now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tunisia -

This is an abbreviated post - we don't have good internet access here. In fact up until today I have been unable to actually sign in to the blog. Not sure how I got on today, but here it is.

We arrived in Monastir Marina this time last week - it seems like alot longer than a week.

Since we've been here we've done a bit of sight seeing and have met the other liveaboards in the Marina who I already feel I will miss - but some of them may come to Malta while we are there. Our first day here was mostly taken up with sleep to make up for the overnight lack-of, the next day poured ferociously and since then it has been blowing like snot - lots of snot. Each day the weather reports have predicted the wind will ease and finally it has.

There were a couple of things that we really wanted to do while here - one to see the Roman Colusseum in El Jem and the other to take a trip to the Sahara.

We went to the Colusseum today and it was all that we could have hoped for - magnifique almost works, and then a trek across 'town' to the mosaic museum which was unimaginably incredible.

So the other thing - to go to the Sahara - not going to happen on this trip. Things are still a bit 'dodgey' here in Tunisia, we're not completely comfortable being the only 'stand-out' tourists wherever we go, and we have work to go back to Malta to do. Here are a few pictures - I'll post more on web-shots.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dangerous Bread

The best bread I have ever eaten in my life is Maltese Bread - just their simple everyday bread, some of which is still baked in ovens like these where they burn wood to heat the oven and then bake these round loaves with a thick dark crust. This bakery is about 80 years old, the stone oven photographed here has something like stalactites on the oven ceiling, probably built up doughy steam dripping down bake after bake for 80 years. The bakery is in Balzan, the village my family are from and where my Uncle Sav still lives. Each time we come to Balzan we stop to buy bread there and I always have to tell them that I remember it from when I was a kid, and they probably always think they should just humour the old broad.
They are very proud of their business though, and they work very hard at it and were pleased that I wanted to take pictures - they invited us to come back when they would actually be opening the oven to take out the cooked loaves so that I could get a better picture.
Why is it so dangerous - because we eat too much of it and are in danger of looking just
like these crusty round loaves. Mmmmm - hobsa; a thick chunk of this bread which olive oil, ripe tomatoes squashed onto it with olives, capers and bjeiniet - a homemade style of goat cheese. See I told you it was dangerous.

Spring has been in the air for the past 2 weeks, it has been so lovely, not warm enough for swimming, but very comfortable in the sun - hardly any rain, that just started today which is needed. We hope it doesn't stay long as Tony's son Toni is arriving this Friday and we'd like to show him Malta in the sunshine and now lots of flowers are blooming and the green is all very green - much less so in the summer.

Glad to see the Christmas Season behind us, now we are getting on with preparing the boat to accommodate Toni, and our trip to Tunisia, which we've been threatening to do for some time - in the next couple of weeks is probably best, so that we can get down to work when we get back. It looks like Tony will go back to Malta Sailing Academy and Charters and I'm working veyr hard on promoting Sail Like a Girl Charters. I'm learning alot about this charter business as I go along and a few avenues seen to be opening up.
Its actually turning things around - instead of me looking for work as a Charter Skipper, I'm looking for customers for my charters and then I will charter the boats to take them sailing. All I've got to do is find the customers.

I must say we are looking forward to a sailing trip - its been so long that we've been stagnant. Since hauling Moondancer in Fall 2009 we have accumulated alot of junk on her bottom that we've got to get off if we are going to get any speed out of her, but Tony will likely do that by diving under her with a scouring pad and sponge.
Our Christmas present to each other is almost installed now - the AIS/DSC/VHF radio. Its basically hooked up now and hooked into our C-MAP nav system. Tony has spent most of the day today learning its characteristics and basically playing with it. Telling me the names of all of the ships within a 20 mile radius of us, how fast they are going, where they are going etc. Having used similar systems on delivery boats I'm looking forward to its usefulness when we are in heavy traffic - always a bit nerve racking at night.