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May 18, 2010

The weather was too cold to start cruising as planned on April 1, so we spent another month in Rome and finally threw off the dock lines on May 2.  Aquila was in that marina for 7 1/2 months!  The cruising season is too short over here in the Med.  Finally, we are underway again.

Before heading back out to the sea, we needed to have the boat bottom cleaned.  There is a lot of growth on the hull after sitting in a marina for so many months.  Also, the propeller and rudder get mucked up with barnacles that can make boat handling difficult.  We got a fair price at a local boatyard that would haul us out with a large crane, puts us on blocks and jack stands, then splash us whenever we were ready.  We could continue to live on the boat, if we decided that we needed to paint the bottom which would take several days.  We decided to watch the haul-out process on another boat which was about our size.  The straps that go under the boat got twisted and snagged on his prop shaft.  After several attempts, they finally got it successfully hauled out, but it freaked us out enough to cause us to spend the extra money for the mega-yacht travel lift at our own marina.  Even though it cost more, all they would do is haul us out, pressure wash the bottom, and leave us in the cradle for only 4 hours before splash down.  We had to work quickly to do the things we needed to do while she was out of the water, like change the zincs, adjust the shaft bellows collar, and change the oil in the bow thruster.  Then, they gouged us an extra $150 after the job was done because they said the bottom was so bad.  It wasn't any different than all the other boats that sit all winter, but whatever!  

On Sunday, May 2, at 6:30 a.m., we set sail for Giglio Island (Island of Lilies).  Our first day of sailing, after waiting so many months, wasn't the smoothest, but at least we had wind!  The swell was pretty bad, the sky was cloudy, and we got rained on a bit, but we could sail most of the day without the engine.  At the end of the day, the fog lifted enough to enable us to drop our anchor in a little cove on the northwest side of the island.  We planned to tour the castle and walled city at the top of the island, but the weather forecast didn't look good for the next several days.  We didn't want to just sit there and wait, so after spending the night in the anchorage, we set off in the morning for Elba Island.

Elba is one of the Tuscan Islands off the coast of Italy.  It was another full day's sail to arrive in Portoferraio, the island's capital city.  We knew right away that we would love this place.  It's beautiful.  We anchored in the large protected bay and took pictures as our friends from the marina, Sarah (England) and Pip (New Zealand), arrived on s/v Roaring Girl the next day.  We spent 2 weeks enjoying the food and exploring the island (see photo album) with Sarah and Pip, who have become great friends.  We plan to reconnect with them in Corsica in June.  It has been such fun to meet these ladies who are intelligent, funny, adventurous, generous, and good hearted.  We can count on one hand the number of people we've met that are so easy to be with.

After we left Elba, we sailed to Livorno, Italy.  Then we took the train to Pisa for the day.  We walked around the city, saw the leaning tower, bought a few souvenirs and enjoyed a long leisure lunch at a great little sidewalk cafe.  Then we caught the train back to Livorno and set sail the next morning to Le Grazie, which is where we are anchored now.  We haven't gone to shore yet, but it looks like a very pretty little town.  We have been told that it is worth visiting and we can't wait to explore it tomorrow.

Our plan is to continue sailing up the coast of Italy to the Italian Riviera where Linda's sister and aunt (from Texas) will meet us next week.  We are so excited to have them spend a few days on the boat with us and introduce them to sailing.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we have really good weather.  It's been so unpredictable.  One day will be beautiful, then the next it will be cloudy and windy.  They arrive in 6 days .. and it's raining right now.  The forecast after today calls for beautiful sunny weather for the next week, so I'm really hoping it holds up going forward.


I haven't decided yet how I am going to incorporate Lucy's impact on us into the website.  She is a major part of our life now.  We love her like crazy and she entertains us like you wouldn't believe.  That face ... it just kills us.  Just like when I am around my grandchildren, it would be so easy to talk about them only.  Maybe I should make a Lucy section just for her, so I don't bore everyone to death with Lucy stories.  Anyway, for this update I'll provide you with this summary.
bulletShe's adapted to the boat completely.  Hops around from place to place with complete confidence even when we are bouncing around.  She doesn't get seasick when we are underway.
bulletShe is not afraid of the ocean.  I learned that lesson early.  I took her to the little pebbly beach at the marina in Rome.  Several small dogs were running around, so I let Lucy off her leash.  She bolted for the waves, jumped in and started swimming!  It was freezing cold and she didn't care!  A wave washed her back to shore, I grabbed her and rushed my soaking wet little rat back to the boat as quickly as I could and gave her a warm bath.  After that, we kept her on the leash.
bulletShe poops and pees on her green whelping pad which lines the floor of the shower stall.  We have several of them and Mike washes them on deck every day.  They dry very quickly when hung on the lifeline.  The shower is now called "the green room".  She gets a food treat every time she uses the green room, so she is very motivated to do it there.  We are extremely happy that this practice has worked so well.
bulletWe bathe her on deck when it's warm, and in the shower when it's cold outside.  We rigged a grooming station where Linda can blow dry, brush her and clip her.  Learning how to clip her is a work in progress.  It's a good thing that hair grows back.  In fact, it grows too fast!
bulletShe loves riding in the dinghy and can hop in and out without hesitation.  She loves the wind in her face and her ears flying out.
bulletWe have a section of our backpack with all her 'stuff' when we go out.  In it is her cushion, which we put on the floor between our chairs when we go to restaurants; her poop pick-up bags; her foldable water bowl; a tupperware bowl with her lunch; some carrot sticks for snacks; her comb, in case we have to comb out a sticker when we are hiking; baby wipes, in case she sticks her face in the dirt, which she always does; and a tote bag that we can carry her in if necessary.
bulletShe doesn't bark, and we are grateful for that.
bulletShe does the Bichon blitz.  At least once a day, she has an explosive burst of energy which lasts about a minute or so.  She goes nuts and has to race around the boat as fast as she can.  When I see it coming, I make sure she is down below.  Once she blitzed on the deck and I thought for sure she was going in the drink.  After her blitz, she goes to sleep.  It's very funny, and it is common for the Bichon Frise.  See a 14 second video of Lucy blitzing.
bulletShe has a kennel which we keep her in if we have to go out without her.  Unfortunately, we don't go out without her very often, so she is not used to being left alone, and she wails.  When we first got her to the boat in February, we left her in the kennel a couple of times and everything went well.  At that time, she was sleeping in the kennel, too.  Then we started letting her sleep with us (I can hear everyone groaning).  She still goes in her kennel during the day when she wants to rest in a cozy secure place.  So it's not like she doesn't like her kennel, she does.  But she cries loudly if we lock the kennel door and leave the boat.  She ate through the mesh on her travel kennel, so now we have a hard kennel.  We keep saying that we are going to leave her on the boat more often so she can get used to it.  But when we run our errands, we always end up taking her with us .. because she needs to get out and get some exercise, too!
bulletShe loves digging in the sand.  We took her to a sandy beach on Elba and she dug vigorously until her head was completely burrowed into the hole.  We can't wait until the weather is warmer and we can let her run free on the beach.
bulletShe loves people.  And people love her.  It's hard to train her not to jump up on people when so many people approach her excitedly saying "Bella! Bella!"  And they want to pet and play with her.  She's very popular.  Plus, Italy is a dog-loving country.  That's one of the reasons it is so easy to travel with her.  Dogs are welcome just about everywhere.
bulletEven though Linda does the grooming, she is Mike's dog.  He does everything else for her.  He plays with her, cleans up after her, talks to her, teases her and snuggles with her all day.  He says she is the best present he ever got.  And she adores him.


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