Monday, August 30, 2010

LOCATION of Sail Boat

S/Y Juno



GPS location Date/Time:08/30/2010 14:56:12 GMT

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Minorcan Shoes

Mahon, Minorca: Spain---I immediately noticed the odd looking shoes as soon as I had my first walk-around among the shops. They were EVERYWHERE. In shops, outside and inside rows of all colors and sizes but the exact same design. Then I started looking down and watching people’s footwear on the sidewalks and there they were again. Men, Women, old, young; they were on EVERYONE.

So I started looking for information on what this was about.

In 1782, a census indicated that 281 islanders were shoemakers by trade. Since those days the industry has known times of great prosperity but also important setbacks and recessions. Thanks to the skill and professionalism of the craftsman’s product based on quality and design, it prevails today.

Turns out, the “Avarca” or “avarques”, is the most typical and successful lines of of Minorcan shoes. Originally, the peasant sandals were shoes that had a sole made from rubber with a leather upper and heel strap guaranteeing thousands of Kilometers of walking and well ventilated feet. In the past it was the worn by cow herders and laborers but today it is even worn by members of the royal household.

Today, by tradition and economic volume, shoemaking is one of the main industries on the island. Last year the Menorcan shoe industry produced approximately 1.4 million pairs of shoes that generated more than 69 million euros on the market, of which 30 million came from exports.

So, of course, I had to have a pair. Costing about 28 euros, I selected the traditional design with a modern twist. The leather upper has been stamped with a cut out flower design and they are gold. And yes, they are VERY lightweight and comfortable. We’ll see how many Kilometers or miles they will take me on the rest of this trip.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More than a drink in Port, a lesson in Gin Making

Mahon, Minorca; Spain---“Although its origin can be traced to the times of the British domination of the island, this local brew bears little resemblance to English gin. Being more similar to the Dutch variety. Only one distillery, Xoriguer, remains today and in their factory in the port of Mahon, one can see the antique stills where the juniper berries continue to be processed in accordance with the traditional recipe that dates from the 18th century. The clay bottles in which gin was originally sold are collectors’ pieces nowadays, but Xoriquer does commercialize part of its produce in earth ware replicas, long and with a small handle alongside the neck. Gin is drunk straight or in combination with herbes, a liqueur made locally from a mixture of wild herbs in which chamomile is the most dominant, with a slice of lemon and a splash of soda-water, in which case it is called pallofa; or watered-down with lemon squash…”reads a side bar in the travel book “Menorca, a tour of the Island,” published by Triangle Postals.

In the information about Mahon, the Gin factory was a destination spot on the things to do. I love Tanquaray but have not favored gin as a drink of choice. After inquiring before lunch at our restaurant, I was given a sample. The guy drinking at the bar got very excited and I could tell his quick paced Spanish and hand gestures, he was proud of the local brew. The bar tender looked on with total confidence as I whipped back the small shot. Yum. I was interested. It had a wonderful likeness to Tanquaray’s unique flavor.

Later, I found the factory along the harbor facing the water almost in the shadow of the enormous ferrys and cruise ships that dock along that part of the harbor. Taste tests were unsupervised and all versions of the gin lined the shelves. Glass windows opened to the distillery to view the stills and observe workers.

The price: 11.83 euros, except when the supermarket ran the special; buy one bottle, get the second at ½ price.

So I own two.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reflections: 5 months of Changing Courses.

Anchored in Cala Teulera, near Mahon, Minorca; Spain---Since several people thought I would only “make it” for 3 months on this voyage, I thought I would wait for my next update of “Reflections” with more time under my belt…or “harness”, as it would apply to sailing!

I started by meeting the family I’m sailing with in Italy, where we were land locked for 5 weeks. Then set sail through the Ionian Sea and its many islands and through the Corinth Canal to the Aegean Sea. We spent three months in the Cycladic Greek Islands including Crete. From the Peloponnese, we sailed to Sicily and its’ Islands Vulcano, Lipari, Stromboli. Then Sardinia, another Italian island. Now, at my five month mark, we are at the Mediterranean Island of Minorca (290 km x 48 km/divide these by 1.6 for miles!).

In short, I miss my dog. I miss my friends. The bad dreams about my old job stopped after about 4 months. Its been the very best and the very worst of times. During this trip my Dad died, my Aunt died, I ruined my computer, camera, and cell phone by falling off the dinghy. Recently, my new replacement computer was stolen from the luggage shipped to us. Looking back so far, I wish I was as naive as I was when I left, I wish I was a lot of things I'm not. But mostly, I'm where I should be right now, that I'm certain of.

I also have amazing places and things to look forward to, like more of Spain, a return to Gibraltar after 16 years, the coast of Africa, crossing the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

A longer version is; life has settled into a routine of no routine. Every day is different and even during the times we are at anchor for a longer amount of time, there is still no set pattern. Several reasons contribute to this: Weather, electricity, things that need fixing/boat projects and proximity to civilization…er, I mean a town of any size.

I am much more frustrated with unexpected things, things I could not have forseen.  Things that I took for granted back home. I understood that NOT having a flushing toilet or NOT taking a long shower were things that I would live with. But little access to the daily news, limited electricity for computer time, difficult access to the internet and loneliness are things I did not expect.

When I say loneliness, I do not mean I am alone. The family I’m traveling with can fill my time very well. The children are fun and the captain always has something to teach me, if only for my asking.

This loneliness is something I’m familiar with from living alone for 25 years. Sometimes I call it boredom, that’s the kinder, gentler word. But in THIS context, how on earth could I say that I’m bored when I am seeing so many wonderful ports and villages, museums and archaeological sites all over the Mediterranean! I think it’s something most people feel to some degree at times in their life. For me, the remedy is keeping busy, finding ways to feel fulfilled and accomplished, and interaction with a variety of people.

But this is hard on a boat with someone’s husband and kids.

What has been VERY hard is time management. Every day that I THINK I have a schedule or plan, something throws it off. Expect the unexpected, my motto I am taking with stride.

I thought I had discipline being self employed for 26 years, but there was always a deadline associated with the things I did. This is a whole different kind of discipline and much harder.

I announced when the kids started in August, that I would do the same. But it is not usually a quiet environment in the main cabin, so I struggle. My subjects are Sailing, Religious Studies, writing, study or research on the area we are, Spanish and finance (my own upkeep of bills, budget and my continued responsibilities back home).

For sailing studies right now, I am reading “Seamanship; Annapolis book of sailing” a text book I am finding fascinating. I am currently on the weather chapter that is so in-depth, it makes me wonder why our weather reports aren’t correct all the time!

I have enjoyed getting back to reading on a regular basis and have finished about seven books. My current read is blink by Malcolm Gladwell (The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) something Jen, our past crew left behind for me. I’m grateful and loving it. But even reading must end when the sun sets unless I use my flashlight due to saving boat electricity.

My ideal day is up at 6am, coffee at 6:30 (coffee is made with an on stove percolator and it takes at least 30 minutes to process!), swim at 7am: learned the butterfly but it needs work, 2nd cup of coffee and breakfast, into town for errands, boat projects (early morning when it’s cooler), Lunch, start my studies, 5pm—prep salads, Dinner at 7, reading or movies (rare due to electric) or more internet (maybe if power) or sitting outside staring at the scenery or crazy charter boats trying to anchor in ridiculous ways, and bed at 9:30 or 10. Obviously, when we are making a passage, the schedule is: be on watch, sleep, eat, be on watch, sleep, eat…

Now it would be remiss for me not to mention July. Those actually following my story know that July was a really hard month on me and there were days I had decided to leave the boat. As I look back at it all, I am shown again that having no expectations of someone else is a better rule to live by. I realize how frail all relationships can be and how everything can change and change quickly. It makes planning for the future very hard but I feel like I am playing dodge ball in life right now and anything…seriously anything, can happen unexpectedly and change the way I think and feel. I also realize how much tougher emotionally I need to learn to become. All these things I would have never learned in my office…and here I thought I would only be learning about new countries, islands, and places and people in the world.

And so, five months later I am trying hard to take a sail’s line in one hand, the helm in the other as I watch my compass go round and round. I am “changing courses” alright; I just don’t know what direction the wind will blow me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bruise Contest Winner: Kelly B

Blog Post; "Contest: What Cycladic Island is my latest bruise shaped like?" on 6/27/2010 winner announced: Kelly B.

Answer: Paros
Prize: photo attached/key chain of old Greek coins

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Minorcan Odyssey to New Smyrna: my imaginary account

Mahon, Minorca; Spain---I stand at the harbor looking out into the large span of protected water. I imagine the women who stood here before me, looking at the same green hills but without the Villas and waterfront homes that dot the land today. The date was March 31, 1768. She must have stood there, among the crowd of over 1200 colonists ready to board one of the eight British ships heading to New Smyrna, Florida.

Perhaps she had married an Italian husband, (by some accounts, many Minorcan women had) who a year earlier were brought to Minorca, Spain after being inspired by what they had heard from Dr. Andrew Turnbull about this new land and fabulous opportunity. Her husband was convinced and had signed on. After 7 years of indentured service, 50 acres would be theirs. The Doctor had left the men there to recruit from other civilizations in the Mediterranean, thinking the people of the British Isles would not be able to endure the heat Florida posed, but the hearty Greeks would. Once gathered, the colonists consisted of Greeks, Sicilians, Italians and Minorcans.

However, no one knew that Dr. Turnbull, a Scot enticed by the possibility of wealth and power, was only bringing provisions for a group of 400 to 600 people, not 1,255. What they did know was the British Government encouraged colonization. Again, what they didn’t know was that the Doctor had taken advantage of the the1763 Treaty of Paris which offered easy terms of settlement to those who desired land grants and these colonists were his means to the end. The Doctor had acquired land. In fact the New Smyrna Colony encompassed 101,400 acres that could grow cotton, indigo, hemp, olives, cotton, tobacco and silk.

With the adventure and new future ahead, she must have been excited and nervous but filled with hope as they left this very shore. Never did she think that in 3 years, over one half of the colony would perish. Wrenched conditions, starvation, malaria, yellow fever, Indians, alligators were all to become a part of the life that would surround her.

I imagine the disappointment when after THREE MONTHS at sea to get from Minorca to New Smyrna, Florida, they gazed over land that hadn’t even been cleared of trees and thick bush. Not what they expected. People were already upset, 148 people had died in the rough sea passage. Did she start to regret the decision to migrate yet or was it later? Sooner or later she would.

It's hard to believe that the charming New Smyrna Beach of today was anything difficult. But the beauty and raw tropical geography was overlooked by the harsh living conditions.

It was hazy what really happened; Turnbull, his partners, someone was accountable for leaving the colonists neglected. But among the leaders there was political scheming and financial difficulties. At the same time, there was the American Revolution and in the midst of turmoil, Governor Patrick Tonyn terminated their indentures. It was a mess. The men accused Turnbull of cruelty, ill-treatment by overseers, and murder.

Then I imagine, in this time of devastation, only nine years after their arrival, and nine years of mostly everything going wrong, the group of Minorcans, who had survived, meeting and deciding that their only option was to walk away.


So, 90 colonists walked from the New Smyrna Plantation to St. Augustine in May of 1777.

Was she one of the Minorcans who hand-carried Datil Pepper seeds in her pocket, later to become a pride of some of St. Augustine’s cuisine?

It was six years later that the word reached St. Augustine: The colony was to be returned to the Spanish. The British were forced to sell or leave their homes, but the Minorcans decided to stay. Most of them spoke a form of Spanish, were Catholic and many had established successful businesses in St. Augustine. The population of St. Augustine decreased from 17,000 to about 3,000, with the remaining majority being the Minorcans.

Did “she” miss this, her homeland where I now stand? Are the Minorcans who perished forgotten? Both New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine’s history and culture are a part of Minorca to this day.

I lived between New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine, Florida for 26 years. Both areas are special to me. I have stood in New Smyrna at the Memorial to the Minorican colonists and read the monument. I have stood at the Fort in St. Augustine listening to the story of the hundred mile walk being recounted.

But then, it seemed like a far away land, a long time ago. Now, here I am in Minorca, seeing the people, seeing the land, imagining the possibilities. Thankful our crossing will take 10-15 days across the Atlantic and NOT 3 months! Wondering about the lives of those who left here to go to where I will be returning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

La Mola, Fortalesa Isabel II

Anchorage of Cala Teulera, near city of Mahon, Minorca; Spain---Our anchorage is overlooked by the ruins of a Spanish Fortress. From our vantage point, it looks like a couple of watch towers behind high walls…nothing special. We decide to dinghy to the beach and walk there anyway to check it out. What is hidden behind these high walls surprises and delights everyone. It is the best Fort I have ever visited with well preserved buildings and an elaborate tunnel system.

The brochure we picked up at the entrance has this description: “Fortress of Isabel II. In 1848, the Spanish Government made the decision to build the Fortress of Isabell II on La Mola near Mahon. At the time, France and Great Britain were disputing control of the Mediterranean, as both countries’ interest could be strategically represented, by the crossing of their shipping routes both calling in Port Mahon, where their squadrons took on board water and provisions. The Spanish Government, who then decided to appropriately defend Mahon harbor, whose former fortifications had been destroyed. The construction of the fortress took 25 years to complete, just at a time when technical revolutions would considerably affect the artillery systems of the age, leaving the fortress out-dated before completion.

Reminding me of scenes from Lord of the Rings, the Fortress was well preserved that your imagination needed little help to “see” the soldiers of the past running through the tunnels and gathering in courtyards for drills and assemblies.

Our walk thru history:

Friday, August 20, 2010

LOCATION of Sail Boat

S/Y Juno



GPS location Date/Time:08/20/2010 05:47:28 GMT

Message:Juno's latest position:

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

LOCATION of Sail Boat

S/Y Juno



GPS location Date/Time:08/19/2010 06:42:24 GMT

Message:Juno's latest position:

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New Computer Stolen: Germany, Sicily or Spain?

Mahon, Minorca, Spain---All that's left is the cord...the American cord, and a lot of anger and wasted time gone by.

In July, I fell from the Dinghy (blog post 7/18/10) and my computer has been on its last leg. After this mishap, plans were to leave the next day for a 3 day passage to Sicily from the Peloponnese. Soon, two new crew would join us. Timing was crucial. So I put out a plea to two people... could I have help? So, between Florida and Kansas, a dear* friend and my sister hustled to get a new computer ordered, the final download of Office Works loaded and then it shipped to Washington, DC to be packed and brought to us with The Captain's friends joining us to crew. But it didn't arrive on the AIR BERLIN flight (blog post 8/9/10) ending in Catalonia, Sicily from DC via Dusseldorf. For the next 10 days there was a chain of frustrating phone calls for Theo and Jen (new crew) to try to track the luggage down and make a plan for delivery to a moving boat. Finally, a real person promised to ship it to Mahon, Minorca.  I waited patiently, so did The Captain, anxious for some important boat parts.

Finally, we arrived in Minorca and Theo and Jen spent the first half day at the airport only to open the suitcase and find no computer and no voltage meter for the Captain. Air Filters and Ibuprofen made it.   Washington DC security DID check inside the bag and left the Homeland Security tag. But, suspiciously the robber had no use for an American electrical cord. Taking only the transponder cord and computer...knowing Europe has a different electric system, this clears DC I think!

Regardless, Air Berlin bounced around the accountability, passing the buck to all sorts of contractors and airport employees. The extra burn is they had charged an overage cost for THIS suitcase to be checked in past the 1 per person rule.

Besides advising everyone not to fly Air Berlin, I am left with nothing but the anger at the aviation industry that is suppose to be screening their employees more than any other. And, feeling really bad for the work that went into this project. Thank you Scott, Ruth, Theo, Jen and The Captain.

As far as another computer, it looks like I'll need to wait until Gibraltar in October.

God must be determined to teach me patience.  

*friend to the 5th power.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LOCATION of Sail Boat

S/Y Juno



GPS location Date/Time:08/18/2010 22:20:58 GMT

Message:Juno's latest position:

Click the link below to see where I am located.

LOCATION of Sail Boat

S/Y Juno



GPS location Date/Time:08/18/2010 10:21:16 GMT

Message:Juno's latest position:

Click the link below to see where I am located.

Goodbye my dear Aunt Wanda...

Mahon, Minorca; Spain---A phone call. An "I need to tell you something". A tear, then another, and another and I find myself sobbing on the bottom of steps to an upstairs restaurant where we all decided to gather for lunch. My Aunt Wanda who had repeatedly fought cancer died unexpectedly yesterday in Kansas City. 

Her very last email was thanking God for a good report from the Doctor on July 7.

I am so thankful that my Uncle and her were able to come to Florida to see me March 2009, although the Daytona Experience IMAX theatre made her very dizzy and ill, it we had a great time together. Now she's gone and again, like my Dad's death,  (post: 4/23/2010), I feel helpless so far away.

Among the family she was famous for remembering everyone's birthday with a card and sewing every newborn a quilt.  I got to see her in October when I was in Kansas City to run a half marathon. She felt so bad for me as she viewed my legs swollen with hives, an allergic reaction from getting the flu shot. I remember thinking nothing, nothing could be as bad as what she was bravely facing with her illness.

I was able to call my Uncle and get a good signal from the boat's anchorage! It was good to talk it over with him. They had been married over 50 years.   These are the roots I grew up with, this is the foundation that I strive to hold my footing upon. Hard acts to follow, but marvelous examples to strive for. Good bye my sweet Aunt Wanda, you are my hero.

Note: I would later find out 300 people attended her funeral, a true testament to her life touching so many.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sails up: Under way now for Spain's Island Minorca; 48 hour sail

Still getting intranet 5 miles out. Waves 8 feet, Winds gusting to 15-20, heeling Portside. But the wind is good for our destination. Mahon, Monorca is suppose to be a metropolitan area...I could use a little of that.

Was really homesick yesterday so it feels good to move again. The water seems to cure a lot for me.

Spain will mean a new phone card and new Internet key, so it might be a few days until I can write again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sardinia's Door Art

Sardinia, Italy---Something that caught my eye in this beautiful town, were the personalized ceramic door plaques. Here is a photo tour of some of them!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sardinia, Italy's Island

Calasetta, Sardinia; Italy---This is a very large island and there is no way we can do it justice with the short amount of time we have here to explore. The town of Calesetta is another seaside community however, it is clearly a vacation island for Italians as NO ONE here speaks English...or at least it is more rare than my other foreign ports. I am fortunate that English is a global language but truly we are all at the disadvantage at not having multiple languages as a part of our lives. Going from Italian to Greek back to Italian and soon Spanish is teaching me how lazy we are. I will try harder.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

63 hours, 12 minutes and 32 seconds: Safe in Sardinia

Passage to Island of Sardinia, Italy---Day One; How can you top swimming in the middle of the sea below an active volcano, watching the eruptions of the volcano Stromboli, seeing the Green Flash and a gorgeous sunset?

Maybe with a first night where everything was perfect: a sea that had turned to looking like oil with barely a roll A slight wind behind us. No moon visible making the stars scream out for us to watch them. A night of entertainment for those stars to show off with the best Meteor shower I’ve ever seen---long streaks of light trailed the star as it dashed through the sky… and another, and another, and another.

We had paired up with the new crew. Theo and I were assigned the Midnight to 3am and the 6am to 9am shifts. For someone’s first experience crewing, he was spoiled by this first experience. Everything was perfect and amazingly beautiful. All the ferry’s passed during the earlier watch and we were left with only enjoying the beauty around us. Then as if on cue, Dolphins appeared jumping completely out of the water. Small Mediterranean Dolphins are about half the size of the Florida variety. These are a deep black with speckles around their belly’s blending into a pure white underbelly. This pod had about 8 and appeared to be feeding. I watched as the boat rocked past them in pure appreciation for their existence.

Pairing up on watch is a very different experience than when soloing. Especially when you don’t know the person you are paired with. Theo had many great stories to make time fly. And in those early morning hours I gently asked if he could talk about being in the Twin Towers area on 9-11. As a Wallstreet Journal reporter, he had gone into work early for him, to their office located in the smaller building across the street that later collapsed. He shared his step by step actions and emotions of that day of confusion and escape. Myself, having been largely isolated from personal exposure to stories, especially in person, listened with disbelief. It all came back. As an observer of the tragedy, how helpless I felt watching it all from the safety of my front room TV. And how for days, life seemed to run in slow motion. And here, under the stars in the middle of the Med, a real survivor told me his story. How many stories are out there? How much it has changed in our world! Now, from an international viewpoint, effecting even little things like buying a cell phone in a foreign county, passports are photo copied and special papers are signed.

But then we turned our attention back on the world around us. Nature engulfed the boat and the stars above us, consistent from ancient times, shown bright. Water hit the side of the boat and phosphorous quietly exploded into neon patches and sparks of bright green color.

At that moment, in all its beauty, the world felt really safe.

Day two: Solo night watch from 9pm to 1am, and then from 9am till others awake. I really had a hard time staying awake in the night. I-pod music, cookies, dancing in the cockpit, setting my watch timer…I was still just tired. A few ships far away kept my attention but 1am could not come soon enough. Sailing down wind we had put out the portside pole to keep the Yankee sail in place. It worked for most of the night and we slipped though the water toward our destination. A waxing sliver of the moon appeared early in the evening. There was enough wind for 5 total hours to turn off the motor and truly sail. The boat gets very quiet as it glides through the water under sail. It’s my favorite. I love sailing, my soul sours up with the sails. All the problems fade and it’s just you and the sails catching the wind and moving you forward, farther still from any sad past.

Day three: a lazy day of bumming around the boat. Talking, reading, deciding what to eat. Then watches were divided up. Due to a change in weather and possible thunderstorms, we decided to pair up again with our new crew. Theo and I took the 9pm to midnight and 3am to 6am shifts. But this time, it was different. The broken sleep pattern had caught up to all of us and waiting for the clock to turn to midnight seems like a lifetime. The night was overcast and gloomy and a cold front had moved in dropping temperatures enough to need jackets in the cockpit. The 3am wakeup came too early but I felt refreshed…until I reached the cockpit to relieve The Captain and Jen only to find it raining. Ugh. The wind was gusting but lucky for us, the other watch took the brunt of the squall and everything started settling down after 3:30 m. We deciphered one freighter who passed us on the starboard side and then started seeing the lights of Sardinia. Aching for 6am to get here, it finally did and we were relieved to dive into our bunks for a little more sleep. In the late morning we arrived at had anchor down at Callasetta, Sardinia. Exactly 63 hours, 12 minutes and 32 seconds. (yes, I was counting).
Sleeping in 3 hour patches does strange things to your body clock. But considering the destination, it is always worth it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Magical Day: Earth, Water, Fire and the Green Flash!

Tyrrhenian Sea, Passage to Island of Sardinia, Italy--- I swam against the half knot current to keep up with the boat. Below me was 1000 feet of water, beside me two miles away, with steep sides leading up was the active Volcano, Stromboli sending puffs of smoke into the sky. Looking down into the water, I could see a variation of blue colors with shooting rays of light bouncing around like a static electricity color ball you buy at Spenser’s. I couldn’t help screaming for joy for the rest of the crew to join me. They did and a kid-like giddiness overtook us. Well, the captain had a big smile on his face and that’s about as silly as he gets.

Earlier that day, leaving the sulfuric soil of Vulcano was not hard for me say good bye to. We had been there two weeks, one week too long. We stopped for diesel (gas-oil) in Lipari, the next island over, and then headed a little out of our way to the Volcanic Island of Stromboli. We were there, it was there, why not?

Known as the “Light house of the Mediterranean,” I had seen photos and post cards of this active volcano on book covers and post cards in the city. I thought those photos were captured at a special time when it had erupted. Boy was I wrong, it erupts every day, all day. We arrived in the evening and with no wind, took the main sail down and just bopped about, swam and then enjoyed salads and a cauliflower curry with rice meal as we watched the puffs of different colors of smoke billow out in time periods of every three to fifteen minutes. It looked like a B-rated western movie with Indians giving smoke signals.

That was happening on one side of the boat, then, on the other was a breathtaking sunset. It was hard to choose between the two as to what to look at. But then the Green Flash was mentioned, something that had alluded me ever since I found out it existed. The conditions were perfect. So we sat and stared into the sunset watching for the second after the sun disappeared over a clear horizon. And there is was. For only a mila-second, a green that was so purely green. As green as the most beautiful emerald you can imagine, a pure rich green that just blinked at us and was gone.

This time, everyone that saw it let out a yell.

And then, after that with the sun missing from the sky, allowed darkness to fall on the Volcano overhead. And the fireworks began. What we couldn’t see in the light of day was made clear. Along with the puffs of smoke shot Crimson Red Sparks and bits of lava appearing like it was in slow motion, shooting straight up and falling back into the crater above. This gave the entire boat an unexpected thrill and each time it happened, we sounded like we were at a sporting event and an instantaneous cheer went out without thinking each time there was an eruption. The evening was a homerun.

Soon it was time to begin our 3 day voyage to the last Italian Island. We turned to head due west. Behind us was Stromboli. And in the darkness we strained to continue to watch what truly is the Lighthouse of the Med.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today we leave Italy and sail to Sardinia

Island of Vulcano---Still missing the suitcase containing boat parts and my new computer from our additional crew, we have made arrangements for it to be shipped to Spain so we can leave here.  Destination: Sardinia.  We'll leave around noon, go to Lipari and get fuel then sail by Stomboli hoping to see the active Volcano fire light up the evening and then begin the three day sail to Spain's Island Sardinia.

We have been in Vulcano for two weeks! The longest we have stayed anywhere besides where they wintered and I first joined the boat. I am really ready to move on. This Island will have mixed memories for me, some bad. So I would like to put it far, far behind me as I would the memories.

The Mud Experience; A Lesson on Sulfur.

Island of Vulcano, Sicily---It’s spelled sulphur here and in many parts of the world. But in the U.S. it’s spelled sulfur. It is what we have been surrounded by for the last two weeks and mainly SMELLING. At times I thought I was having breathing problems from it and I’ve had more sinus headaches here than I do in a year.

But, I hate to admit it, but the smell is less repulsive as my first walk through town. So a couple of days ago, I gave in and decided to experience the mud pit. Join the others I have watched every day wallowing in the gray pit of liquid mud or Funghi (fungee) as they call it here.

But when I read the huge signs claiming all the healing powers, I thought it screamed HOAX like Scientology screams “give me your money,” ...but if you believe it, it is so. Allergy problems, inflammation, dystrophy, respiratory problems, (wait, WHAT?) ...dislocations, muscle problems, sprains, skin diseases...all this for only three Euro, including a shower.

It was warm, but only hot when you stepped on a vent. Then I burned my foot and screamed. Bubbles rose all around and the edge of the pit had bubbles coming up from underground. The scene looked like a version of Gilligan’s Island, whether you are a native painted in mud or in a big pot being boiled up for dinner. Scoops from the bottom delivered pure mud that was spread to cover the body and let the sun dry it. Wearing contacts, I decided to skip the forehead, but just like a face mask treatment, the skin tightened as the mud dried. Once you rinse off with the liquid mud in the pit, you can make your way down narrow steps to the sea and enjoy some Jacuzzi like vents that again, will burn your feet if stepped on directly.
One scene, there at the water’s edge, that I can’t get out of my head was an elderly Italian women who had dog-paddled from the steps to an area that had pure sulfur in the side of the hill. A large women, she gingerly navigated the large slippery rocks to get out of the water and to the side of the hill only to start clawing at the bright yellow sulfur. A short time later she had a hand full and looking unbalanced, made her way back to the water and sat on a rock with a large exhale. I watched as she dripped sea water into her hand forming a yellow sulfur ball. Then she began spreading it on her swollen calves with bright red skin from what looked like psoriasis. She had a desperate look in her eyes. It looked painful. Soon she was covered with bright, bright yellow, looking a lot like yellow mustard smeared in patches over her body or a paint ball game gone bad. I looked at her and made eye contact. She pointed to the red skin and then the sulfur. I nodded and motioned with my thumb up, saying “better?” She quickly nodded “yes” and said “si, si, funghi.” I swam away with a knot in my stomach hoping with her, that it would give her relief.

My own experience was tainted by the smell. I just couldn’t stand it any longer and showered off and went back to the boat wondering if I would need to sit in a bath of lemon or tomato juice to get the smell off.

And AFTER, submerging my body and filling my lungs up close and personal, I decided to research a little. Wikipedia is my source for the following information but the Italic comments are my own:

Sulfur, in its native form, is a bright yellow crystalline solid. Its commercial uses are primarily in fertilizers, but it is also widely used in black gunpowder, matches. ---oh great. Now you tell me. I sat in that for an hour.

Early English translations of the Bible commonly referred to burning sulfur as "brimstone", giving rise to the name of 'fire-and-brimstone ' sermons, in which listeners are reminded of the fate of eternal damnation that await the unbelieving and unrepentant. It is from this part of the Bible that Hell is implied to "smell of sulfur" ---um, anyone in the tourism department listening here? Didn’t mention this in the brochure. “Vulcano: the closest you’ll get to Hell before going there.” Okay...maybe not.
According to the Elbers Papyrus, a sulfur ointment was used in ancient Egypt to treat granular eyelids. Sulfur was used for fumigation in preclassical Greece. It was known in China since the 6th century BC. By the 3rd century, the Chinese were interested in sulfur’s flammability and its reactivity to certain metals. Yet its earliest practical uses were found in traditional Chinese medicine. ---okay, so it’s been around a while but so has leech therapy.

The strong "smell of sulfur" usually refers to the odor of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or organosulfur compounds, e.g. from rotten egg, or sulfur dioxide, the smell associated with burnt matches. The smell emanating from raw sulfur originates from a slow oxidation in the presence of air. Hydrogen sulfide is the principal odor of untreated sewage and is one of several unpleasant smelling sulfur-containing components of flatulence. ---So I’m not imagining it. This place stinks.

In traditional medical skin treatment which predates modern era of scientific medicine, elemental sulfur has been used mainly as part of creams to alleviate various conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. The mechanism of action is not known, although elemental sulfur does oxidize slowly to sulfurous acid, which in turn (through the action of sulfite) acts as a mild reducing and antibacterial agent. ---All the old folks I saw, day after day making their way to the mud. Believing it was their cure. For me, I would rather use Neosporin instead.