June/July 2009 Letter

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June 11, 2009

As we awaited my daughter's family visit, we grew anxious about the high winds and large swells that seemed to be the norm since we arrived in Villefranche last week.  It was very uncomfortable.  The kids will just hate it.  I hate it!  We motored around to the east side of Cap Ferrat where we found a very calm beautiful anchorage at St. Jean.  But we almost lost our boat on the rocks.  I can't believe how close we came to having our dream end here.  My heart starts pounding again every time I think about it.  We met up our friends Charlie and Maria from s/v Blue Moon and took the bus to Nice where we all had lunch.  It was so calm when we left, but not when we returned that afternoon.  The wind had shifted to come from the East (not forecasted!) and was blowing hard into the anchorage.  Rolling, breaking whitecaps with wind spray blowing toward the rocky shore had all the boats in the anchorage pitching and jerking hard on their anchor lines.  From the bus stop, we had a two kilometer hike along the shore to reach our dinghy.  As we rounded a curve, we saw that Aquila was dragging and was almost on the rocks.  We broke into a run!  We all jumped in the dinghy and had a fast wet ride across the anchorage.  Normally, such turbulence would make it extremely difficult to get from the dinghy onto the stern of the boat.  Mike ran the dinghy straight for the swim step and I flung myself aboard, scrambled into the cockpit, started the engine and threw her into gear to get away from the rocks.  Charlie and Maria had to jump into their dinghy which was tied to our boat, and Mike had to get aboard and secure our dinghy, all while I was underway!  Then Mike had to get forward and raise our anchor in the pitching windy chaos.  Our hearts were pounding like you wouldn't believe.  We motored back around to Villefranche and couldn't get the anchor to dig in.  It's a grassy bottom here.  Tried four times before we got a good hold.  It's still very rolly like before.  We are exhausted and frustrated.  And the kids arrive in 4 days.

June 15, 2009

The conditions improved at the anchorage and we fell in love with Villefranche.  We found a good-holding sandy spot, but we felt like we should be in a marina for the kids arrival.  It's easier to get the luggage on board and let everyone get settled in.  We tried to get into Nice Marina, but they were full.  The only marina that had a berth was in Antibes, 2 hours away.  When we got there, we had a heck of a time backing into the berth.  It is a very shallow marina and we kept hooking a mooring line around our rudder.  We lost all steering capability and our bow thruster over-heated and quit on us.  The wind was blowing us sideways and the guy in the boat next to us was yelling at us in French (rather than helping us).  I was running from side to side fending us off the other boats, while Mike was trying to ease us into the slip without steering.  Another guy was fishing off the dock, just watching us, not lending a hand either.  Sheesh!  We finally got secured, without assistance from anyone.  Things have just got to improve!  (They did.)

June 16 to July 1, 2009 - Kimberly, Lance, Blake, Garrett and Paige visit

We took the train from Antibes to Nice to meet the kids at the airport (Kimberly, Lance, Blake (11), Garrett (8) and Paige (5)).  It was so good to see them all!  We've missed them like crazy.  The following two weeks were filled with exploring the cities, hiking the trails and playing on the beaches of the French Riviera.  We anchored out some nights in Antibes, Villefranche, and St. Jean and some of the nights we stayed in the marinas in Cannes, Antibes, Nice, and Beaulieu.  We took a day trip to the mountain town of Eze-le-Village and visited the Prince's Palace in Monaco.  Kimberly and Lance left the kids with us and flew to Paris for a 3-day romantic getaway.  We enjoyed attending the festival of St. Pietro in Nice which has something to do with blessing the fishing boats.  All I know is that they had music, dancing, a parade and when it got dark they burned a small boat as part of the ceremony.  It was all very entertaining.  One evening when we were at anchor, there was a big fireworks display on shore.  I don't know what was the occasion, but it was certainly beautiful.  The kids loved it.  Kimberly and Lance quickly got into the fun of going to the open air markets and especially the boulangerie for croissants and pastries.

It's always emotional to say goodbye knowing we won't see each other for another 6 months.  The boat feels so quiet and kind of empty and sad for awhile, until we return to our normal routine.  So we kept busy cleaning, shopping and getting ready for Sean's family's visit which was only 5 days away.

July 6 to July 21, 2009 - Sean, Keni, Kailyn and Brady visit

Once again, Antibes was the only marina with an available berth for us.  So we checked in and caught the train to Nice to meet Sean, Keni, Kailyn (4) and Brady (1) at the Nice airport in the evening.  Brady has grown so much since we last saw him (in Feb).  He's walking everywhere now.  Blond hair, blue eyes and a dimple.  What a cutie.  It's a bit more of a challenge getting around with a baby stroller in these hilly old cities without sidewalks, but everyone was a trooper.  We packed up the diaper bag and snacks and headed out for day trips to Eze, La Turbie, Monaco, Castle Hill in Nice, and the open air markets.  We relaxed on the boat or played on the beach.  Sean and Keni took a mini-vacation for 3 days and caught the high-speed train to Normandy while the kids stayed with us.  We were a little nervous about Brady because he is in his mommy-attachment phase.  He immediately transferred his attachment to me, so thankfully there was no trauma that she was gone.  Of course, I couldn't be out of his sight for 3 days!  Actually, the kids were easy and we had a really good time.  Sean and Keni enjoyed their trip to Normandy and their D-Day Tour.  Sean is currently studying Military History, so this was right up his alley.  And Keni was able to locate and honor her great uncle who was killed there in the war.  Their 3rd night was planned for Paris and Keni thought they would probably see fireworks since it would be Bastille Day.  They didn't count on 700,000 visitors converging on the city and everything being closed for the holiday.  They couldn't even get close to the Eiffel Tower because of all the people.  Ah, well, they had a nice train ride and did enjoy Normandy.

We got up at 4 a.m. in order to get them to the airport on time.  Walked through the dark city streets to the bus depot and caught the express to the airport.  Sean had one last French pastry for the road (he just discovered these tasty little treats a couple of days ago), and we said our goodbyes until December.  I don't think France met their expectations, and they were glad to get back home to the good 'ol USA.  But we loved seeing them and look forward to seeing everyone again in December.  

July 23, 2009

We woke up at 2 a.m. with serious swells rolling us side to side.  Unsecured items were sliding off the counter and the cabinets were rattling.  I'm trying to recover from the cold I came down with a few days ago, and I was under the influence of Nyquil, which really knocks me out.  I was trying to put away the dishes that I left in the rack on the counter and I dropped my wine glass.  Of course, the only thing made of glass in the entire boat, and that's what I drop!  It shattered on the galley floor.  The boat was still rolling, so broken glass was on the move.  Mike was concerned that I would get cut, so he asked me to go back to bed and he would clean it up.  For some strange reason, I decided to put one last item away.  The carving knife.  And I don't believe it but I dropped it!!  It bounced on its handle, flipped around and the tip sliced the side of my big toe.  So now we've got broken glass and blood.  Mike insisted I go to bed before I killed myself.

The next day we checked the weather and set sail at noon for the island of Corsica.  We had to motor for the first 8 hours, then we finally got the wind.  We sailed all night in 25 to 30 knot wind on a close reach.  That's a bit more wind than I like, but the worst part was the 6 foot sloppy swell coming at us.  We took a little water over the deck a few times.  We probably would have been thrown around even more if we hadn't been going so fast.  We were slicing right through it at 7.5 to 8.2 knots.  Mike was loving it.  He enjoyed being back on the water doing an overnight sail.  And now, here we are, in Corsica.  We arrived at daybreak and anchored off the beach at Calvi.  It looks absolutely beautiful here.  I can't wait to explore this island.  This might be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  Our friend, Anton, and his girlfriend Natalia plan to catch up with us soon in their new Lagoon 500 catamaran.  It will be fun to have some buddy boaters.  You'll hear all about it in my next update.

Click here to see our photos for this update.

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