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Cool Colombia

The purpose for visiting Curaçao was to catch up with a delightful Dutch couple, Robert and Ellen, whom we had met in Hobart several years earlier.  It was our first night of staying off the boat since 30 September 2016 (over 4 months) and we thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful home cooked meal and a bed that didn’t move all night!! To top it off, a shower that you could stand for as long as you liked! Such wonderful hospitality.

Our passage to Cartagena in Colombia took a couple of days and sailing in this area requires vigilance – we were very conscious of not getting too close to the coast of Venezuela and thus opening up  potential risks of piracy. The coast of Colombia is well known for its strong winds and several other OWR yachts had gusts of 40 knots or more and large seas – we were lucky and had a very easy time of it, to the point that we had to motor the last few hours. From the boat, Cartegena looks like the Gold Coast with tall modern hotel buildings and office blocks, but once into the marina we discovered secreted behind its modern facade, one of the most beautiful old walled cities that I have ever visited! Add to that the totally “cool” vibe of the Colombian people and we knew we were in for a treat!!

Overwhelmingly, the Colombians are happy and helpful and welcoming, however sometimes they overlook the finer details! Example…we were requested to move our Marina location on the first morning in – no problem! Soon after Miss T was hard aground in the marina with the Marina Manager watching on and indicating that we should keep trying to get into a berth that was clearly too shallow. Luckily there was a helpful power boat alongside who were happy to assist!
Some years it is hard to remember where you had your birthday, but I will not forget my 59th! We stayed in a small historical boutique hotel, had dinner with some of our Oyster friends who were in town on the night before the big day, and then came the day of pampering that had been prearranged by Sal and Will at the hotel spa…a 2 hour massage, a facial and then 2 hours at the hairdresser to try and tame my over blond, undernourished hair back into a more decent head of hair (if that is ever possible). As an aside, James and I are particularly bad with the Spanish language (no surprises there) and my concern was how I was going to describe colour and style! Amazingly the owner of the salon was a Colombian born hairdresser who had spent 20 years in a salon in Double Bay in Sydney and was very excited to have an Aussie in his shop!

Charlie had told us about a local guy he had met called Henry, who was passionate about his city and a great guide. We organised to meet him near the Old Town to take us on a walking tour that same afternoon for an hour or so. Four hours later we bid him farewell after having been introduced to the history and culture of Cartegena. It was entertaining, interesting, informative and just what I would have imagined a Topdeck Trip Leaders’s walking tour should/would have been like!  We were the ultimate tourists and enjoyed every moment, including a strong gin and tonic/ beer on top of the old city walls. The highlight for me was the story of their own Indian Pocohontis (Aracka Wacka) – my kind of girl!! We downed some tapas on our way back to the boat and witnessed a fast and colourful Zumba session taking place in a local square – hundreds of back packers mingled with the locals to put on a great display!

The work is never done and completing tasks on the boat is a constant….it is very hot and daytime temperatures sizzle in the mid 30’s on most days….it is clear we are getting closer to the equator!

Miss Tiggy…over!

We sailed into Palma Mallorca on Friday 22 September 2019 at 4pm. Circumnavigation done….2 years & 350 days, 45 countries, 3 oceans, a million stars and many wonderful adventures and experiences – far too many to count.

There are heaps of people to thank for their help along the way, particularly those people who joined us to crew and to get us from point A to wherever the next waypoint was on the chart. Rob & Belinda Sharpless (Palma to Lanzarotte), the team across the Atlantic, Frank, Mike, Michelle , Logan, Chris (to Cape Verde). Mike & Charlie from Antigua to Panama where Charlie left in a dramatic manner having discovered he was seriously ill, and Mike moved over to “Meteorite”, Rachel from Panama to Fiji, Malcom Bamford Panama to the Galapagos, Lloyd and Sarah Clark from Galápagos to the Marquesas, Rob, Franky and Alan from Fiji to New Zealand where Calum Tait, or as he is known on the boat, “Great Scot” joined us (with Rob again from NZ to Australia). We also had the joy of having Calum’s delightful girlfriend Kirsty on board in Australia, Thailand and across the Indian Ocean to the Maldives. Steve Richardson joined the boys on their Red Sea adventure and through the Suez Canal finally arriving in Cyprus.

The Oyster World Rally from Antigua to Lombok in Indonesia, was a journey in itself and we had the privilege of meeting some amazing people and making some new lifelong friends from all over the northern hemisphere! The “Wong Diwection” Rally made up of three boats….ourselves, “Calliope” and “Lisanne” ventured on alone. We had each other for support as well as the many experiences to share – thank you Charles & Nicky, and Eric!! At the recent Oyster Palma Regatta we celebrated our circumnavigations!!

Finally, a big thank you to Calum! He has been an absolute champion for helping us over the last 18 months! Not only did he put up with living in a space of 17.5 metre length and 5 metre beam with us, but he was competent, smart, interesting and interested in two ageing but fun loving, adventure seeking old Aussies! Since we arrived in Palma he and Kirsty together have managed to secure new roles on Oyster Zig Zag in the Caribbean and we wish nothing but the best for them on their new journey!

So, now it is time to put our boat to bed and head home to Australia for summer. We look forward to catching up with family and friends in an attempt to live on land again; at least for awhile!!

Thank you my amazing sister Sally Trethewey for caring for our 90 year old father which allowed me to continue the journey and to our two beautiful children Sal and Will for their wonderful support!!

MISS TIGGY OUT!!

Addio Per Ora Italia

You would think that after several thousand miles crossing oceans and seas that sea sickness would not be an issue but don’t be fooled! Crossing overnight from Greece to Sicily kicked up some confused and unpleasant conditions that caused a few hours of nausea for me and the sight of Mt Etna puffing white smoke in the distance was a welcome sight.

Riposto Marina at the foot of Mt Etna and located on the east coast of Sicily, was our launch pad for the next almost 3 weeks. Much to see and do! In between driving up seriously winding roads to visit the filming location of parts of the Godfather to roaming the streets of Syracuse while staying on Ortigia, the island nestled in the arms of the city, and consuming large amounts of pasta washed down with delicious Sicilian wine accompanied by our friends from yacht Meteorite aka the Meties (Hugh, Janice, Andy & Deb). Through the Messina Straits and onto the Aeolian Islands…the perfect sailing destination for our trek west! Miss T, fully laden with 7 onboard, crystal clear water, volcanoes to climb, bohemian restaurants and cocktail bars to visit and food babies to grow, put on a good show as to why the Oyster 575 is not just a reliable and hardy blue water boat but a great cruising yacht as well! Erupting volcanoes do seem to follow us and not more than a week had passed since our departure from the Aeolians than Stromboli put on a spectacular volcanic show sadly taking a life with it and providing graphic footage of fleeing boats.

Sicily is spectacular in every way; scenery, culture (particularly the food and wine, now protruding proudly around my waist and other parts of my anatomy) and the thrill of being in a place once overtly dominated by the Mafia. Nowadays, although the families are still in business, deals are done more in hushed whispers. There is a pervading sense of mystery and mayhem with rapidly spoken Italian, often with an argumentative tone, and boss men sitting at their desks with unlit partly smoked cigars clamped between their teeth assessing you through half open eyelids. Don’t be put off though! The local Chinese shop keepers in Palermo did recently stand up for themselves with a level of success and local prisons are full of Mafia Family fiends!

Further west but still on Sicily, we collected Sal and Melbourne friend Deb from Tripani, for a few days in the Egadian islands, more specifically Favignana. Sadly we had to cut our time short to make passage across the Tyrrhenian Sea to Sardinia before some howling westerly winds were set to impede our progress. In Cagliari we had a lucky encounter with another Oyster Rally yacht, Unconditional; Tom, Sara and friends were on their way to Sicily. The morning after few local wines and a delicious dinner, we picked up our most regular visitor, Jude Turner, on our way to Carloforte. Here we left Miss Tiggy for Bari and ultimately Polignano a Mare in Puglia and a week long family celebration for Will’s 30 birthday. Fun filled, with plenty more delicious Italian food and wine onboard, our last sail across to Palma in Mallorca will be quiet and alcohol free in preparation of our Circumnavigation celebration.

Mama Mia! – The Butcher of Spetses

Weeks have passed and so too have the Greek Islands of the Didocanese – Simi, Tilos, Kos, Leros, Patmos; the Cyclades – Mykonos, Paros, Serifos, and the Saronic Gulf -Spetses, Poros, Hydra plus some spectacular anchorages along the coast of the Peloponnese.

Gone are the long sailing passages and sleepless nights, replaced by sleepless nights brought on by mosquitoes and loud music emerging from chartered yachts carrying small groups of millennials trying to outdo the local clubs! Gone are the delicious cheap local restaurants of Indonesia and the South East Asian area, replaced by the delicious expensive local restaurants of the Mediterranean. Gone are all our friends from the Oyster World Rally, and our split off group of three – nearly all who have now resumed their previous lives! Miss Tiggy continues on with the same aim – complete the circumnavigation…..albeit months after everyone else.

A short trip to London brought home just how much time has passed since we departed. We had forgotten our front gate code, our ATM PIN numbers, and how to open the windows in the Mini. Pounds sterling notes and coins have changed and the bank notes we were still holding were out of date. We are also now both eligible for free trains and buses on the London transport system.

The internet is more freely available to us now and many hours at sea have been spent listening to the ABC radio AFL broadcast, specifically the Melbourne Demons, which has brought little joy! We definitely feel like we are more a part of the world again with news updates done at the table every morning over breakfast. We have missed much of the Brexit debate (thank goodness) which seems to have gone on forever. We have been up close and personal with volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, our very own 6cm tsunami, and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

James’ birthday came and went and we were joined by Will and Theo to help celebrate. We retraced the steps of our honeymoon charter sailing experience between Poros, Spetses and Hydra in the Saronic Gulf. Not much has changed in the past 30+ years apart from many more tourists and charter boats jostling for limited anchorages. The highlight was a long leisurely birthday lunch overlooking the port of Hydra! Even Calum, our ex Scottish swimmer who normally doesn’t drink much, enjoyed a big afternoon out, encouraged by the rest of the group!

Yesterday we transited through the Corinth Canal, the third major Canal of our journey. The only downside of our passage was the loss of one of our Crew members, Calum’s drone, aptly named Drona, who ended up head first mid stream after crash landing in a tree! She has documented many hours of our journey and has also been a useful tool for assessing heights of bridges to ensure our 27 metre mast would pass under the structure. She will be missed!!

Time spent with friends, on and off the on boat, has been special. Jude Turner stayed on Miss Tiggy for two nights in Mykonos and a lunch date with Jann and Ian Patrick on Miss T while in Spetses was a case of being in the same place at he same time – how lucky! Also, it was Jann who alerted me to the Butcher of Spetses, clearly the most handsome Greek butcher around…attested to by his totally female clientele.

Our journey west continues towards Palma!

Turkish delights

It is predicted that 40 million tourists will visit Turkey in 2019 which is huge but understandable -there is something for everyone here. For sailors there is a fabulous coastline, beautiful sandy beaches and the clearest of clear water albeit a bit chilly in spring! For the history buff there is a plethora of ancient ruins strewn across the country covering many centuries. Religious historians could have a field day discussing the various theories of Christian and Islamic occupation; there is snow on the mountains all year around, mud pools and healing waters for those in need of physical rejuvenation. You can jump off a mountain and paraglide to the beach, take a hot air balloon ride over the lunar like landscape of Cappadocia or visit a Hamam for a Turkish bath.

The geography and topography are in a category of their own. Huge mountain ranges towering over even larger plains – Turkey is just like one big caldera. Add the natural phenomena of cone shaped chimneys and caves that have housed up to a population of 1000 at one time in Cappadocia with the white travertine cascades of Pamukkale and you have a feast for physical geographers.

If you are lucky enough you may be approached by a local offering coins from Caesar’s time for a mere €50 and worth thousands (James) or enjoy a wine tasting and buy several overpriced bottles of Chardonnay (Tiggy) only to see your guide whip back to pick up his commission on the way back to the car park. Regardless, being at the mercy of these ingenious retailers, even knowing that this is totally common practice, it is a small price to pay for the warm welcome and introduction to an eclectic, multicultural nation.

Sadly there is the flip side side of tourists being targeted and ripped off in less genuine trade. I got caught up in an ATM scan that happened so quickly and effectively that my head was spinning. Having been directed to an unoccupied machine (apparently the one I had selected did not have any cash left), I was approached by a second man offering to give me assistance which was unnecessary and unasked for. In the quick exchange between us he had somehow switched my card which I had subsequently inserted into the machine. When I put in my PIN the four numbers were visible on the screen (instead of xxxx); the card was swallowed and the men had disappeared. A quick call to the ATM bank, and my bank to cancel the card (which took all of 5 minutes) and within that time they had managed to withdraw $750.00.

Meanwhile in Mamaris, Miss Tiggy was being torn apart for generator and engine services; the outboard motor on the Queen Mary (which our dinghy has come to known due to her size and beauty) had been taken away for an overhaul. A hot dispute followed between James and Evinrude which he subsequently won, and life on the boat has generally been disrupted. It is not like getting plumber or electrician into your house to fix things and then leave through the front or back door…floorboards come up, the steps down into the saloon are raised for access to Oscar our Onan generator so you can’t get down to your living space, you have to step over men lying on the galley floor while working on Victor the engine and then at the end of all that there is the delightful pervading fumes of diesel and bilge odours. All this coincides with the end of Ramadan and so all shops and services that are required to complete the jobs are closed for most of next week….oh well, may as well go to Rhodes by ferry for a few days!