lunedì 18 maggio 2015

MARQUISE ISLANDS SEARCHING SURF AND DREAMING HARD








When we first took a look at the big rocky penis in front of Bay of the Vierges I’ve  never thought I could like a penis before.  
Fatu Hiva was there, it seems that Spielberg was inspired from some of these places when he realized Jurassic Park. We really made the Pacific crossing. 
So many times in the past, I was wandering and dreaming to make long distance sailing, long for me meant crossing  the Adriatic sea, or going from Tuscany to Sardinia. Now I’m here, standing in front of the people of the Pacific Ocean, learning from their kindness, listening at their story reported  on their tattoos. What I always saw in pictures or just imagined that was in that way, now is right in front of me. They really have a canoe with a little side hull to keep a better balance. It’s very rare to meet someone here without a big tattoo all over his body. They are relax. Life is incredible. It is like if being far away from any other place on earth protected them from any sort of occidental (or oriental from them) madness. Big 4x4 riding on the street at 25 km/h , we could hijack any time of the day for nearly any destination on the islands. When we go to the supermarket the owner is always offering to take us back to the boat with our shopping bags and if we forget something at someone’s home after he invited us to see his sculpture and take some fruits from his garden, we can go back anytime even if he’s not there anymore….doors are always open and no one reason to be worry about crime. The only thing that disappointed me, after reading the book of Jacques Brel and the story of the painter Gauguin, was coming in this places where we were all expecting to find some Vahiné (girls of the islands) dancing on the beach and ready to welcome every sailor with sweet love. Darwin could be impressed by the evolution of the girl on these islands. The first Vahiné I saw from the dinghy while I was approaching the dock, I nearly dropped a rope close by thinking she was a boe where I could tide the boat. From our walks on the island we were all reporting the same things. Capitan Jack, Doc Phil And I were three men holding a big pot of broken dreams and smashed illusions. The only one of us that was really happy was our little princess Alice. She found the nirvana!! If the majority of the girls are obese, practically all the guys are perfect bulls with body like a rugby player and a touch of wild jungle man. Tattoo all over the body, with angry faces but  a nice character.       
This is only the first touch of the Archipelago.
Our plan is to stay nearly a month around here, sailing between islands with some Captain’s friends coming from Belgium and relaxing on the best spots for snorkeling  during the first fifteen days while we will be waiting for them. After we (illegally) walked around Fatu Hiva, his mountains and his waterfalls, we had to go and report our entry to the French Polynesia authorities. We decided to take the shorter way to Hiva Oa, where with my big surprise we realized that as European citizens we can stay here as long as we want. Legally after 18months we should go again to the authorities and let them know we are still there…however ….nobody really cares here. For the boat it’s different…you can stay in Polynesia for maximum 3 years. So I was walking happy on the street, conscious that if one day things go wrong there is always a Paradise waiting for me ;-) Unfortunately for the non-European citizen things are different. People from USA or Canada must make an hold payment for health care and need a few documents for the visa, and if you don’t speak a little French they will charge you more for that!!! ;-) 
The mooring in Atuona is not the easiest one and if you don’t have a second anchor it will be hard to find place behind the breakwater (which is rolling anyway). However Belgians and Italians have a lot of things in common, especially when we have to learn fast and have no shame to start and play the game before people even take a sit. So we rapidly took info about boats that were leaving, and placed our big Catamaran right in front of the petrol station, the only place where the water is really calm and the man of the supermarket could give us some bread straight from the dock. The town is nice and people are friendly. The nice girl from Fatu Hiva, Nicole, and his father took us around the island with their 4x4 and nearly every afternoon Alice and I went to the beach nearby to catch some nice little waves. Just the time to say goodbye to Doc Philippe and we sail to Tahuata. A beautiful beach on the island right in front of Hiva Oa. There are several beaches on this part of the island and it’s hard to imagine that on the side of these big mountains we can find amazing white beaches. At this point we all have the time to relax, living on this boat as three persons is so much easy. We have the time to meet people from other boats and talk with locals living on the beach. As usual, it took us only a few hours before we got to know nearly all the boats around us. Someone told me that early in the morning we could swim with the mantas or go around the rocky point and see some sharks.  When my alarm pounded my hear early in the next morning, I knew I was still recovering from the shark’s fear. It took me a few minutes before to decide to wear my fins and go into the deep blue. The water was not perfectly clear and every shadow was making me uncomfortable. With my go pro I started to calmly dive around ten meters, just to get used to be alone. After a few minutes the first Manta came by me, clearly curious to see who was this weird man swimming in her house. She took me around for several minutes before to decide to introduce me to her friends. I felt like the people from National Geographic when they are at right time in the right place. At least eight mantas showed up in front of me, dancing and flying on a slow motion. Little by little I was less scared and shy, I started to play with them and dive together. They were not scared at all, I felt a kind of accepted and never in danger. However I was there in the wild, it was special. But the day was just about to start. Before to leave the Mantas, I told ‘em I’ve got a princess on board who’s a bit scared of swimming with fish, so it could be really nice from them if they could show up close to our boat right after breakfast so I could nicely introduce them to her. They didn’t say anything but one hour later, four of them came close to the catamaran to say hi to Alice. Didn’t take a lot of time to convince her to jump in the water and push her day on the box of memories that will last forever.  
Some friends from other boat wanted to go as well to snorkel by the point where apparently a few sharks are hanging around, we quickly built up a team of enthusiast and like glue we were attracting other friends to come with us. We were nearly ten people when I dove deep to film some yellow fishes and a 2 mt grey dude faced right in front of my camera. There is not much to say about meeting a friendly and curious shark. First of all, I made a big fart that I still don’t know if it was only air, than I started to follow him close to the reef until I could. Everybody from the surface was looking  and that makes our first impression of the sharks a little less dark than what we thought . Hundreds of fish, a few sharks, turtles, a white beach, coconut water, palms and a big group of strangers. We were happy and excited that while we were going back to the boat, we didn’t even realize that a little shark was already putting salt and pepper on Alice’s buttocks. She was swimming looking at the reef on the right and he came from left at less than a meter from her. He had no bad intentions but for sure he was a male, because he was very excited to be around her legs.
During the night we were often looking at each other laughing while talking with the others. The Capitan was with us sitting on the beach while a wild local Tarzan half-drunk from the beer and rum was cooking a fish for all of us. Even if we knew that good things could happen on these islands….we realized that we are very lucky to live a life that makes us proud every day…some days are really inspiring and others are just perfect. Someone told us to check out at the old library in town, there are books of local tattoo symbols…I just can say that maybe this is the perfect time to put some more ink on!!
After a few days of miracle fishing and magnificent beaches we are ready to welcome Capitan’s Friends and Mdme Nicole coming from Belgium. The two couples were really fun from the beginning. We just shifted from one life to another. Before, only with Capitan Jack on board we used to eat vegan or vegetarian at least one time a day, absolutely no alcohol, fresh juice in the morning and good tisane at night, yes maybe sometimes a few pieces of chocolate. Swimming, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, walking and surfing as much as we could. With these friends it’s like if we were back of ten years. Big breakfasts every mornings, I felt a bit like a chef in one of these big hotels with international food. Fruits, yogurt, juice, scrambled eggs, two kind of  ham, salami, three kinds of cheese, four kind of jams, three kinds of bread, peanut butter, honey, Nutella, omelet, crepe, porridge, cereal and muesli, coffee, tea, cappuccino, latte macchiato, etc…
Lunch and dinner were mainly coming from any type of meat. Fish, lamb, beef, chicken, humans… ;-) Flooded by champagne, white wine, rosé, red wine and beers.
Before every meal, except from  breakfast, big aperitif with cocktails of every kind: gin tonic, t-punch, Campari orange, mojito and even spritz (which they were in love with!). All served with fruits, chips, paté and little snacks I was making from scratch.
That was awesome, people on holiday, looking for fun with a lot of things to share, high level of culture and same big little problems of everyone else in the world. We spent two tiring but funny weeks with them and had any sort of problem at the boat during their staying. At one moment we also thought to make a human sacrifice to the sea. However, even after a fire on board, nobody ever lost his smile. Maybe only the Capitan for a few hours, but then after that Alberto was the fastest fire extinguisher ever and Alice the fastest cleaner, even he could enjoy the last few days together.
After the canoe racing and the beautiful dancers we could see in Ua Pou and the magnificent landscapes in Nuku Hiva, we are now ready to make another step on our journey. Tuamotu Islands are waiting for us.
 Also if it seems strange but every step we take, it  is an easy one for who’s reading, and a very complicate one for who’s planning to make it. So if ever in your life you may dream to make a trip along the world’s biggest ocean, do it. Plan it as much as you can, but then…be just prepared to be open.
For the moorings in Polynesia we are following one of the only book about , Charlie’s Chart, which is well done even if sometimes I think is a bit too much worrying about being sick after eating a fish and poor of photos. You’ll find anyway a lot of information from other boats that came here during a world tour and never left anymore. Anyway the Marquise Islands are difficult to sail and are also not a touristic place. It’s far from the photos of Tahiti’s lagoon, Bora Bora’s hotel, etc…
It looks more like e small community of farmers and fishers living in their islands where we imagine to see a dinosaur coming out from the jungle at any time. Beaches are empty and fishing is incredible. One only thing before to come here. Be careful to don’t think that when someone gives you fruit as present because they want to make a new friend and they are happy you came to visit their land, that you have the right to pick up fruit or coconut from every place you go. You’ll may find yourself in front of a wild guy with a big machete coming out from nowhere, asking for one of your hands!!! ;-)    

  

PACIFIC CROSSIG – the journey sailing across the ocean from Galapagos to Marquises







Let’s the big adventure begins.
3044 Nautic Miles through the widest Ocean in the world. Sailing from Galapagos Islands to Marquises island (French Polynesia). Lazy Jack is ready and shining after we took care of him for the last few days. Our check list before departure is all done, me and Alice with Capitan and Philippe spent our last night as a family, eating something together and then going to send some last mail.  Soon after that I found myself alone with Alice in front of a Juice Bar on his closing time, in front of an Avocado and chocolate smoothie. Both pretty excited we didn’t have much to say and I guess that looking into each other eyes we could feel like kids the day before the first day of school. 
What I will write from now on, is part of the diary me and Alice wrote during the crossing. Sometimes thighs are special, others are blurry. Not every day was easy and at the end of the day we found our self  lucky to be part of something unusual.

27/3/15  Day 1   
Alberto - After snorkeling, surfing and swimming with every kind of animals, the day has come. Capitan is a bit anxious about the quantity of petrol considering that the forecasts say we are not having wind for nearly two days. I’m wondering too but we are making the decision to arrive as soon as possible under the 4° south and get the trade winds. Leaving the archipelago I was a bit scared when we took Lazy Jack in the middle between Turtle island and some rocks on the side with large swell coming in, but it was a real show of nature. We stopped in Isabella for half an hour to clean the little gps transponder that had a few shells around. Right after a few hours two big tuna made our fishing rod screaming. Unfortunately we lost one but we got one as well. I started to read the book about Warren Buffet and try to be helpful with Alice who’s trying to convince herself she is seasick. First day and with two hours of side wind, a big dish of Ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon and vegetables) and the feeling we have been in an incredible place.       
28/3/15 Day 2
Alice – We are going to pass near Royal Justice, probably one of the only boat we are going to see for the next few weeks. It’s hard to get used to navigation again, my head tells me I can’t be 100%. Evereything I make is so much more difficult than usual.
Alberto – The night’s watch was very boring . Good thing is that the moon was setting at 1am leaving space to the most beautiful stars in the world. I got the feeling to be into an odyssey that will took me home. Always closer to the red land surrounded by oceans. We are all a bit worried to use a lot the engine like we are doing, however we have to reach the trade winds. Capitan is relaxed, Doc Philippe always very funny and Alice doing her best to get used to the sea, honestly I’m having hard time as well. Still reading the book and that guy is really incredible.
29/3/15 Day 3
Alberto – Mr Ocean seems to be angry. Maybe he feels bad or he just wants to show us what is able to do before to allow himself to cuddle us. Finally we reached the trade winds so we don’t have to spend another day worrying about the fuel. Waves are everywhere around us and they have no pity for us. During my watch last night, one wave literally passed the whole back of the boat. Water everywhere and Doc Philippe had an unexpected shower from the little windows on his room that we usually leave open. The worst day since we left G.I, I nearly feel seasick. I hope it’s going to be better tomorrow. The sea left on the boat dozen of flying fishes and a few calamari. 
30/3/15                Day 4
Alberto - We woke up like shining stars. Sunny day and the sea is relaxing. My stomach is nearly 100% and I’m happy. I feel like sex.
Alice – Finally getting better. We are sailing fast and if we are going to keep it like this in ten days will be to our destination ;-) (I wish) Days are more relaxing when I use the excuse of sea sickness. I’m trying to rest and sleep as much as possible when Alberto is not trying to take me on the front net to do some exercise. We are also receiving mails from our parents and friends, that makes us incredibly happy and sensitive.
31/3/15
Alberto – Even this year march is closing his door. I guess I have 31 of these doors closed behind me but luckily not so many regrets. A nice tip came from the interesting book I’m reading. He recon that if you lose  1$ playing any game it feels like 2$. If you win 1$ more than the one you played, you often want to play 4$. So a lot of people are stacked in the fear of playing because they lost something. Thought was interesting. Anyway, the sea is very calm, wind 15 knots and 12 of speed, 29°C life is good. Aims of the day: try to finish the book, exercise body and mind and recycle yesterday’s leftovers in today’s meal.
I should also cook the tuna with the cabbage…I don’t usually do but it’s his favorite and every Capitan deserves to eat the best!
Alice – I finally had a meal without nausea. Coffee, cakes and home pancakes. The ocean is very calm and we are so fast. Today I will do a washing machine. We do need some clean clothes!
1/4/15
Alberto - We sent a funny mail to our parents and friends with a few jokes and bullshits as usual the first of April. Today’s duty are endless however I do it with pleasure. I stared a new book, name The China Study. Probably I will find here some answer I was looking for since a few months after I started to study food in a proper way. Right after the first pages I thought sooner or later I will have to chance my way to eat. By the way I start to cook something vegetarian now, enjoying my way to be vulnerable and trying to make a good job. I’m writing a lot, reading and thinking. I trainee nearly every day but not too much, just to don’t became paralyzed. I decided maybe I will stop in Polynesia forever…didn’t really decided…only a light wish…something even more dangerous.
2/4/15
Alberto - I’m everyday more scared from the book I’m reading. I knew the vegetarian way was healthier but never studied before how and why.  I will consider that some kind of evolution. 
Alice – Sometimes I think too much and I’m not able to write. I’m thinking of my future.
3/4/15
Alice - Every morning I have the chance to admire the sunrise. Today the sky is a bit cloudy but the sun is giving me some show anyway. We are doing so well and speeding up to Fatu Hiva under  good winds. We made already 1280Nm and I can’t wait to discover the culture of the Pacific islands. Can’t wait also to arrive to our first destination, “La baie des Verges”, (penis bay!). I feel blessed to be here, while I’m going to Polynesia in this way, one year ago I couldn’t even imagine to do it in a more sacred way.
Alberto – I’m trying hard to find new little things to appreciate every day. Thought that living in small spaces for few weeks with other people could be harder. I hope the others think the same ;-) Trade winds are getting stronger and waves as well. We broke a spy’s rope while we were trying to use it as a jennaker, but doesn’t  matter, we quickly replaced it with no damages. I feel like to cook something of highest level but I feel some limits. Maybe it’s only me…I should try harder.
4/4/15
Alberto - I’m again on my watches on a rolling night. I just kicked off the boat a still  alive flying fish that hit me right on my feet. Lucky him. It seems to be the only kind of life in this gigantic blue desert. I’m getting everyday more tired but also more motivated because I love what I’m doing. Today we are also half way through and that makes me and Alice happy. It’s 3.30am and I nearly miss her during my three hours out here.
Alice – Every day I get and feel better. I stretch my legs, try to do some little exercise to let my body feel alive. Big breakfasts are becoming my big specialty. Alberto makes me laugh and keep my spirit positive, we speak a lot about our future plans. We have fun making little videos about the crossing every day, even if I doubt we will find any good Wi-Fi before Tahiti. I finally start to enjoy this crossing 100%!
5/4/15
Alberto - Everything is good. Last night I had the easy watch between 9 to midnight. I wrote a bit of blog and watched a movie. I realized only at the end that was telling the story of the origins of superman. Like Alice said: “You like horrible and stupid movies!” . She’s totally right. I love them. Guess we have different reasons to watch a movie. I’m cooking a lot and not listening so much the other coz today I feel very silly. We also wrote a mail to Ale and Luca, nice guys, we miss them. I’m very sensitive.  
Alice – Every day we receive at least 6 mails from parents and friends. It’s so good to keep in touch, I never feel alone. Today is Easter, so I feel even further than I usually do. Far away from my family, my friends… We continue the navigation so fast that in 6 days we should already arrive. Fingers crossed!!!
6/4/15
Alice - I don’t want to say that I feel 100%, I don’t want to tease our friend Ocean, whose breathe is continuously too nervous for me and makes us shake like penguins. I find hard to get used to the noise of the boat in the middle of the ocean: “SBAM!”, “SBUM”, the waves crush against the hulls. I can’t stand these three big men who try to be so cool and say: “It’s so quite this Pacific!!! Amazing!”. No way, they will never admit the truth. Because they are REAL men!! Come ooon. Anyway I’m so proud to be here and all these heavens on earth that are waiting for us… well, I deserved them all!!! It will be an exceptional arriving. I dream of the penis of the Bay of the Penis in Fatu Hiva!
Alberto – Serious crisis day. Luckily I think I can handle it well. I wish to spend a day by myself, far from everyone. I can see this feeling is only a bit of rust from the fully filled past months, but it is a kind of hurting bad. Obviously this is affecting also my way to relate with my sweet Alice, I can’t stand anymore this little woman’s fears.
7/4/15
Alice – Great pizza today, Alberto never lets me miss anything form home. I say pizza, he prepares a nice gourmet pizza. I say tenerina, he bakes the most delicious chocolate cake ever. I feel good, even if I should do more yoga… But the boat is still moving a bit too much. Heading to west means we are gaining time. Every 15 ° west we make we have to change one hour in our clocks. This means we are getting further and further from our families and friends. Reading their mails is my favorite moment of the day!
Alberto - As every day, time is running fast. Today I have my watch between 3 and 6am and finally this is not a big effort anymore. Alice is missing a female presence on board and she often tells me she can’t wait for Mme Nicole back. Trying always to be funny with her I propose to send the Capitan home as well for a month and we both laugh. Honestly life on board couldn’t be better. I’m happy to see that when my job is done well, I can make people change. And so I make my usual pizza  and a good soup for tonight and everybody happy. I should do a bit of exercise today because my body is becoming too lazy. I’m having lot of fun studying the books I have with me. Funny because I’ve read something about investment and I feel like to do it, now I’m reading some studies about relations between food and health and I feel like to become vegan. I’m practically enjoying my vulnerability. I promise to myself I’ll never read books of how to read cards!! ;-)  Anyway, this is day 12 of navigation after Galapagos….and I’m shaping my future on my mind.
8/4/15
Alberto - We are still having awesome sunny days since a few, unfortunately not much wind but with our spinnaker up we are never under 7 knots. I feel like to challenge myself in the kitchen today, so, let’s try to think something vegetarian….set up the preparation and make everybody smile at the table. And after that I made the duck for dinner, with figs and apple. Old receipt on a modern key. I am satisfied, however the presentation technique of my food is still a real shit…I’ll take a course in food design or something like that. I’m happy cause I can made good food and at same time frustrated cause I can’t present it as I wish. I wrote a mail to Monia e Federica and to my friend Andrea that is having hard time back home in Italy. It’s already time to go to sleep…
9/4/15
Alberto  - Another good day in the middle of nowhere. Reading, cooking, exercising, discovering something more about yourself and guessing about your future. We are now under 500NM from our destination. Everybody starts to be very excited. I guess I’m too. But 50% of me it’s a kind of good here…in the middle of this gigantic Ocean. But on the other side I’d love to see how is going to be the rest of our journey. Ah ah ah …. Yes I’ve got the feeling the time stopped for these days and probably for millions of other people the true life happened everyday as usual, but for us it just stopped, holding herself to explode on us under the word…Land!!!  Am I getting crazy…don’t think so…just having fun with myself and the others.
Alice – Just finished packing all the clean towels and sheets! Tonight we’re going to sleep fresh. It’s always good to make a nice washing machine. We are blessed to have one on board, it means really easy life. Even if I feel like an acrobat while I try to hang the clothes and stuff on the dock, trying hard not to jump into the water… that would be not so nice!!
10/4/15
Alberto - I woke up during sunrise on our day 15 of crossing. I took a look to the GPS and I fell a bit sad after I realized that maximum two days and we are going to land. With a good maneuver we pull up the spy and this is helping a lot, but wind is not doing the same. 5 max 6 knots and the Captain a bit anxious about having the spy twisted. Every morning Alice makes best breakfast ever making me connected to her and our world. I just feel stupid when sometimes I make fun of her about the fear she built up on her. I can’t stand it and I feel like few years ago I was fighting with my sister about stupid things. I don’t want to feel like this so, I write and smile to the world. I’m finishing my watch, rolling sea and 10knots speed…I really need to sleep.
11/4/15
Alice – Sunrise at 6.54. The best of all. Simply perfect. I’m trying to take a picture of it but the camera is not responding to real color. Very light shadows of orange, the cloud like wiped cream perfectly set on the horizon like when we have light foggy days in Venice. We are at 295miles from destination and I found a balance. I’d rather stay for a couple of more days now that I’m very connected with the world around me. I’m often thinking to become mom, that would mean to go back to Italy? And where do I want to grow my child? Maybe adopting is going to be hard but easier on the other side. Finally I took a good picture of the sunrise and I also threw in the trash can the horrible piña colada and guanabana syrup that my boyfriend decided to buy before leaving. Good feeling when every day I make my clients happy with my breaky.
Alberto -   Our day flows smooth and even too perfectly. We are already calculating at what time we’re gonna approach the arrival and it seems that we will arrive right during the night. That’s why maybe we have to slow the boat down and try to arrive in the first lights of the morning. Today I don’t have too much to do, so I’m becoming very critic about everything, but thanks to my young teacher I understand that all our feeling, fears, emotions of these last days are like big soap balls that can easily blow with the wind and explode at any time. I’m lucky to have her on my side, with her kindness and strictness that fill my days from sunrise to sunset.
I need to sleep.
12/4/15
Alice – No matter what, we deserved Polinesia! I want to see land.
Alberto – We should have arrived right today, but unfortunately the wind is weaker and weaker so, as we imagined, we are forced to pull the spy down. Sailing only with the genoa at 2,5 knots can be incredibly boring, even more if you’re sitting on a Ferrari of the seas. For a Pacific crossing, I had a very stressful afternoon and I’m trying to find a relaxing moment cause I feel tired. I didn’t sleep so much these days. Right when I was about to fall asleep the reel of our rod started to scream and after 20 minutes of Japanese style cutting I had 4 beautiful tuna filets in my cooler. While I’m pushing myself into the shower, I look out of the window and see the sunset. The water is refreshing my skin and gives me the enthusiasm to go back in the kitchen and cook something special. Right in that moment, during the Bolero ritual, the most unexpected happened: LAND!!! Fatu Hiva just appeared 40 miles from us, right behind the latest sunlight. We are all excited like kids but we have to calm our enthusiasm and take our rendezvous with the island for tomorrow morning as soon as the sun can light our path. 
13/04/2015
Alberto – I already know that my watch from 3 to 6 am will last forever, but I honestly slept a little bit. Just till when the sun rises, giving me his usual show. And so, what can I say? What can I do? I’d rather dance. Like an idiot I start to dance with myself. A seagull comes by looking at this dude dancing alone on the dock. I told him “Don’t worry mate, some days we have to let it go and be ourselves”. Fatu Hiva is in front of us. Big mountains and wild horses riding through. The GPS gives the alarm: only one hour from the Baie des Verges. Everybody wakes up and comes on the dock to look at the island. Birds are multiplying around the boat and dolphins show up right when everything was already perfect. No picture can seize what we see. I could write for hours this diary page, but I would never describe the perfection of this moment we are living. UZIWA POWER! The Ocean is always right.
Alice – LAND!!! And what a land! I’m still half sleeping, but the wonders out there are beyond every imagination. Fatu Hiva at sunrise, vertical mountains falling down in the deep sea, coconut trees everywhere, green. Joyful dolphins welcome us dancing, as if someone sent them for us. I look around me, I breathe deeply and looking at this luxuriant vegetation I’m crashed by a euphoria, I feel accepted in this magic land, far away from everything. This land that now for me is the heart of the world.

                         

domenica 17 maggio 2015

Galàpagos Island Highlights – Between Surf and Evolution









Our first day was fast gone waiting for the authorities and making all the necessary papers for clearance. As every tourist machine, here they learnt really well how to pump money from the tourist, especially if you are coming with your own boat. The funniest thing was that every time we talked with other boat’s Captain the next days, we figured out every one of us had a different way to entry the islands. Someone paid 1000 dollar plus a couple of bottles of whisky to be allowed to morgue in San Cristobal as well, someone else just came in making the paper directly at the port authorities. Anyway, from my experience, after listening to all the stories, the best way to arrive here is to contact by mail an agent a week or so before your arrival. A lot of web sites and blog will tell you that you cannot go around the islands with your own boat, but if you previously ask your agent he will arrange it for you. The price you will have to pay for a standard boat (from 39 to 60ft) with 2/4 people on board is around 1000/1400US$. You’ll have to expect a crew of 8 people coming on board to check your boat. They will ask you thousands of questions and take pictures of black water system and garbage. They will appreciate if you previously make two A4 paper attached somewhere on the boat that says: “Don’t throw garbage out of the boat” and “Do not discharge black waters into the sea”. They probably want pick some of your fruit or food up and obviously ask for something to drink. After that, the super troopers will arrive, armed with dive gears and Go-Pro Hero 3 to supervise the hull of your boat. If you know that is not really clean, make sure to have the time to refresh it before they come. In case they will deny your permit to stay because of shells and seaweed, you will have two options: exit the island, clean your hull with the help of someone from the port (700$) or the less expensive one, tell them you have a problem with your engine and you cannot start it anymore. They will write that and let you stay with no problems.
After our big day of documents and boat cleaning, we finally have the time to go around the island, starting to be absorbed by the fascinating nature and the plentiful animals environment.
The super comfortable dinghy dock and taxy service very well organized (50cent each way, call them on 14vhf), were making our life easy and simple. This is a place far from Ecuador mainland, were everybody quietly runs his life mainly around the tourism. The first time we had a bit of time to spend on land, everybody used it to explore the internet café, I felt a bit sad about not writing immediately to my family and friends, but I couldn’t resist to take a little detour and walk alone for few km down to the Darwin Center. If there was one thing I knew about Galàpagos was that here I could meet the giant turtle. In that particular moment I felt like if I was waiting to meet them since ever. Strange animals, they are so slow and look not particularly smart however they are surviving the ages like no other. They really are amazing survivors!!! The Darwin center protects hundreds of turtles and others animals, but what I didn’t know is that behind a little gate, along a small walk surrounded by nature and Iguanas, there is a beach. I don’t know why in my life this things happen but I swear that was not my intention to arrive into one of the best surf spot on the island. I was shifting my mood from a quiet guy with a gringo hat and explorers shoes, to the usual sick surf finder. That was incredible, a couple a minutes ago I was taking picture of turtles and birds and now I was memorizing all the information some local surfer were giving to me about surfing the island and find a board.
Tip for surfesr: bring your own board unless you don’t wanna adapt yourself to some old boards sold for lots more that his real value. And one more, try every hostel or beach with surf before to allow you to buy a board from the only shop with second hand board on the main road . He will ripe you off!!!!
You can also buy a new board from the only Reef Shop in town he sells some Klimax (Peruvian shaper, good quality) and Al Merrik. (550 to 1000$) But that was not my intention, sailing the Pacific means that we are going through every kind of reef solo surf we can imagine, and it would be nice to have two babies with us, but our budget is very low at the moment, so we start to ask everywhere to find something interesting. After few days Alice literally found her board on the beach, a French guy named Ken broke his leash while surfing Tortuga bay and Alice took the board from the sand to give it back, she gently asked if he may wanna sell it and he just said yes. I was nearly ready to buy a new klimax when I met a surfer on the street that has a friend that knows someone else that maybe has a surfboard for sale….right in that moment he passed buy with his car and the board “et voila!!!”
For 350$ we have two decent boards, lucky Alice always has the best one, a nearly brand new 5.6ft fat and wide enough to make her crazy on the waves and me, I got a 6.1 gun super thin and painted by Yenth Ccora, the same guy we met in Huanchaco, Peru, a few months ago. I took it like a sign and accept the fact that with a board like this I’ll be obliged to surf Teahupoo in Tahiti ;-)
After Captain e Mdme Nicole left for a cruise with a bigger boat going to some amazing places around the other islands, we had the chance to take care of the boat and relax, surfing every day. Swell was frequently hitting the west coast and the long walk to Playa Tortuga was a good motivation to enjoy as much as we could the moments in a turquoise warm water with white sand, millions of fish and bird around us. Right about the fish I’d love to spend a few words. I’m usually that kind of guy that think of dangerous thing are also the coolest. I love animals and for as much as I know some how I feel related to the surf like nothing else before in my life. But there was a moment when I jumped into the water and saw a few shark swimming on my side or jumping 5mt out the water here and there that for a couple of day didn’t make me so comfortable. Local surfers are super easy about sharks  here and actually without them Alice and I  had hard times to prove ourselves we could surf solo. Nearly everyone here was coming on the beach after twelve and so we always had the whole morning on a desert beach. This is what every surfer dream but we hardly could see the real advantage of it. Finally someone told us that sharks here are “vegetarian”, so we use it as excuse to shut our mind up and concentrate on the waves. When during the next weeks the swell started to seriously build up, there were no other worries on our mind, everything was clear and awesome as usual.
Step one - Check the horizon.
Step two – let that feeling be part of you.
Step Three – don’t let your commitment sit on that board for so long.
There is nothing better than feeling every cell of your body cooperate to make that impossible looking wave.
We are very happy to our stay in Galàpagos, people are friendly and doesn’t matter if you are a backpacker or a rich Japanese with your big camera, at the end of the day you’ll all end up to the main street where all local restaurants are. Sitting there with people you don’t know, eating food made with love from the family of the island. This is a Jaws for tourism and tradition, that melts together creating a unique atmosphere. You will probably walk in the morning to “las grietas” for a swim, meeting the same people that will ask you what’s in your plate at night. People here have different way to live and to approach the tourism. If you’ll be smart enough to come here independently, you will discover the pleasure of meeting the real essence of Galàpagos. Animals are everywhere, sea lions seem to absorbs human habits, birds are just ubiquitous and pelicans are always ready for a good picture. The nature here seems to be untouched by humans and not even a little scare of it. If you will have the chance to stand on a boat or sit on a board after 5 o’clock, you’ll see dozen of sharks patrolling bay and beaches, let yourself get used to it and explore yourself .
Unfortunately, due to our limited budget we decided to visit only Isabella and missed Santa Cristobal,  Floreana and Fernandina. Everybody told us that Isabella is one of the highlights of Galàpagos (everything is amazing here, even snorkeling in the port). We took the ferry (which is a small motor boat 60$ roundtrip from Santa Cruz) with Philippe, a friend of the Captain that is going to stay with us for the Pacific crossing while Mdme Nicole is going back home for a month. The 2 hours from Puerto Ayora do Puerto Villamil were fully filled of information of Vulcans, islands, rocks and animals, Doc Philippe is a hurricane of knowledge and loves so much to explain things. We stayed for a couple of days in a small hotel Los Delfines close to the very popular surf camp Caleta Iguana. Our intentions where to visit the volcano and go to snorkel at Los Tunelles. Well If you may pass round here, make as much snorkel you can. Don’t let you be scare of animals, they are totally friendly and have absolutely no fear. The feeling you’ll explore here is going to be on a different environment. Landscapes and animals are glued together, turtle will swim with you for as long as you feel like to, sea lion will run close to you and showing their best move on the water. Penguins are spinning everywhere like little tornado and Iguanas are simply everywhere looking at you like a parent look his kid on a playground. The relation between human and nature here in Galapagos is something you’ll never forget. During our swim between the mangroves I was thinking that never and for any reasons in my live I could even think to swim in a place like that, but suddenly realized that we were welcomed. Tide and fishes where like one only things, between rock and mangroves we spotted sea horses, turtle, sea lions, and sharks. The best moment for me was when the guide drove us into the house of sharks. Under a big submerged rock there was a cove with 5/6 sharks going around. When ten days before I could probably have an heart attack if I saw this, now I was feeling addict to that. Even Alice couldn’t stop to dive with me into the cove and stare this magnificent animals swim close to us. Every time we were coming up to breathe again we were both saying to each other: “you saw, they are not so bad, they don’t eat us, maybe they are vegetarian!!!!” and laughing like kids after that.
My day ended swimming attached on a gigantic and friendly turtle, she was curious and looking totally happy to have us around. At one time she came under me like if I could sit on her and we swam together for a couple of minutes like if that was the most normal thing ever.  Thought there are pictures in our memories that we should not miss, that moment and that day was one of that. But Isabella is not only animals and snorkeling or hiking….it can be legendary surfable!!!! The beach is a long white bay with blue warm water. Right in the middle there is El Faro and a little more ahead The Point. The swell was big enough to be a little tricky but we really couldn’t ask anything better. Here in Isabella surf is unlimited, for two reasons: rangers don’t call you out of the water at 5.30 like in Santa Cruz and if you have the chance to rent a little boat with a local Capitan, you can accede to hundreds of desert brakes close by the bay. With good South West swell you’ll have a fat 9 to 12ft waves coming to you and just be minded for rocks like every other reef brake. (Exp. Surfers better, committed intermediate welcome)
As everywhere we go, as soon as we have the chance to taste flavors of the country’s kitchen, we are always first line for it. Even here there are several nice restaurant and exception for the very touristic one with flag of all country and “available WI_FI” sign you can really experience some nice dishes with less than seven dollars. It’s enough to check out the menu of the day written on a board in front of the entry and you’ll pick up the best one for you.
Waiting for our ferry back to Santa Cruz, I was sitting on a bench surrounded by sea lions that apparently like the benches too. Staring and the sea like if we never saw it before, we are still surprised when we can spot a ray, a penguin or a shark. The Capitan of the ferry took a little detour close by the waves of the outer reefs to make the pics we couldn’t take while surfing. What else?
I don’t know what to ask more from these islands, atmosphere and nature are top, tourism machine is well managed and very careful on the environment. Food can be great and people extremely friendly. If you are a surfer you’ll have no time without others local asking to go surfing together, and if you are a surfer girl…you know? In a sport 95% male speaking, you’ll have no problems to make lots of friends.

Looking at these islands far behind Lazy Jack, I can only say what Darwin wrote a few years ago after his visit with the “Beagle”: Evolution is the key o Galapagos, these are islands like no others!

Hunting winds from Las Perlas to Galàpagos going through Ecuador










We left Panama City scheduled by the Captain’s smooth and lazy rhythms: at 6.00am we leave the mooring “La playta”. The ocean is really pacific and winds are even hard to imagine here at the moment. We decided to stop for a week or so to Las Perlas isands. 36 miles far from the city, they are a quiet archipelago forgotten by the tourism machine that probably prefer the Caribbean coast. Suddenly we realized that fishing here is the easiest thing ever. Fish are everywhere, and also big ones are not shy to show up to our bait and close to us while we are swimming. We first anchored in front of Isla Contadora and visited the magnificent beaches. There are a few hotels, a little airport and an internet café. It looks to me that here someone tried to build structures for tourism but it didn’t work so well and most of them are abandoned and attacked from mother nature. The first time I dove here I got really scared from the quantity of curious fish that come close to your feet and hands to smell if you are well done for their dinner. It took me a few minutes before I could live the rope from the boat and quietly swim. With the Captain we decided to sail the eastern part of the archipelago, touching places like Mogo Mogo, San Miguel and Los Viveros. Don’t expect to come here and find anything else than nature. We really spent a few days like if someone took the time back of hundreds years, living between jungles and beached forgotten by god. The only “city” and actually the biggest of Las Perlas is Sant Miguel: if you are thinking to go there, be sure to arrive with your dinghy and the high tide so you’ll don’t have to walk in the mud for 300 hundreds meters, as we did. The local population is very friendly and they will show you around without asking money, only for the pleasure to stay with you. The day before we arrived, someone had the brilliant idea to bring a Big Caterpillar into the beach with the low tide to bring his boat closer to the shore. He actually made it to take the boat, although the Cat is still there half grounded in the mud. So I guess you will easily recognize where you should stop with your dinghy. Tides here are serious, up to 5 meters and lots of sailors take advantage to work on their Catamarans hulls while they are out of the water. Basic food can be found in the village 3 times per week.
Mentally ready or not…we are now looking the Perlas far behind us, almost disappearing on the horizon…our destination is now Manta, Ecuador, where we’ll try to get some diesel and leave for the Galàpagos. The ocean is really incredible, calm like oil and reflecting every color of the sky. Late in the day we also had some winds and a small Barracuda.
We are expecting to sail for 5 days before land will appear in front of us again, from here we can already say that the line of the small sailing trial is passed, from now on we will have to be ready of days and days of navigation that hopefully will take us in some of the best places in this world.
Arriving in Manta, a commercial port, we all felt lucky to have a fantastic sail. The area between Panama and Colombia is well known as unpredictable zone of wind. The “Doldrums”. When 50 knots are rare but they can happen, often is totally the opposite, so no wind at all and if you are planning a direct Pacific crossing from Panama to Polynesia without stop to Galàpagos, be ready to start your engine for a few days or check the forecasts and hope for a good window.  We luckily had 15 knots almost every day and the sea was flat like never before, which allowed us to speed up a little more enjoying at same time the fantastic cruise.
Manta is one of the largest city in Ecuador, the commercial port is full of foreign fish companies well equipped with big boats and helicopters ready to empty the ocean. We found a little hard to anchor between the big and small boats parked everywhere. Weird thing was that when we decided to go into the only yacht club, we could entry, eat, use internet wi fi, swimming pool, and after a few hours the manager came to us with the info we asked before, telling that by the way we were not allowed to stay there, nor to use the facilities and not even to make petrol. We were a bit shocked, since the main reason why we made this stop-over was basically to make petrol. Anyway I remember since my last trip here that Ecuador is one of those countries where you can’t stop, buy the petrol and leave. A national law establishes that the local price for petrol is not to apply for foreign people, it is too cheap for us. The only solution was going back to Bahia De Caraquez Marina or continue forward to Salinas, and for both the options we were obliged to make a formal entry in the country with an agent. Too expensive and far from our final destination, so we took a night of good sleep and left after a little incursion to the excellent supermarket.
The Captain is that kind of person that feels always a bit lost when there is nothing to do and he’s awesome to create new situations, add this kind of personality to mine… et voila… What was an easy look to the diagnostic of the autopilot trying to set up a new program for sailing following the wind, we pushed something wrong and everything suddenly shuttled down. We were like the two kids with a broken bone after mom said not to jump from there!!!

Alice and Mme Nicole were not so far from killing us, and even if we tried everything to re-organized it again, Furuno GPS had no intention to start again. The only solution was to arrange 24h watches, 2 hours per person at the steer, trying to direct a boat that nobody of us almost drove before except from short occasions under engine power. Luckily we had not a drop of rain nor strong winds, 4 days and 4 nights of learning to do what could seem obvious for a sailor but is absolutely not, on the modern sail boats with amazing technology that makes everything smooth and easy just pushing a few buttons. At the end of the day we arrive in Puerto Ayora on the Santa Cruz island of Galàpagos. It was a calm morning of glory for us four. Alice learnt how to sail without listening to her brain that at the beginning was making her listen someone screaming or even seeing ghost islands in front of the boat. I was fully satisfy to finally try the old manual way to sail and thought that also Cap and Mde where happy to make the four days a little different than usual. When we relished the anchor in the middle of the bay, the weight of the effort came down to us, but even that was not enough to contain our excitement when we realized that we were surrounded by hundreds of birds, sea lions and huge turtles swimming close the boat. We couldn’t ask a better welcome from this world famous archipelago, and  I’ve got the feeling this is going to be a very special spot destined to last long on our memories. Later on the Captain invited us to an excellent local restaurant to celebrate the arrival. Tired and proud of us, I felt blessed to look at the sea from the little window of my room, and see the water growing on the reef 100mt on our side. I could totally see the reflection of the moon while the wave was creating a perfect stage for tomorrow’s surf!!!!!

CROSSING THE PANAMA CANAL








When we founded UZIWA nearly two years ago, I thought that it was the result of my comitment to surf and travelling. Making all the steps to let now the brand walk alone was not easy. Today, while with my girlfriend Alice we are sailing around the world, I’m proud to see that UZIWA is not only the “brand” of clothes I thought it was…it becomes a point of connection between surfers and travelers. Everywhere we go and always more often we meet other travelers and talk with people that are dreaming to travel all around the world with any sort of transportation, and better than anything else it is really helpful to share our experiences and give our contacts the chance to meet each other. We have people from Peru, Chile, Morocco, Ecuador asking where to go surfing.  Incredible things happen every day and we feel so lucky to have the chance to live a life avoiding that moment when in the morning you look to yourself in the mirror thinking that you are not what you would love to be. So when from far away we saw the entrance of the Panama Canal, something happened. It was like the conclusion of a first big step of our adventure, now we had to set everything up and be ready in a week time for the Big Pacific.  Practically it doesn’t change so much, sailing on this side or on the other is nearly the same, but there is something of being here that makes all of us feel like we are going to pass not only a “canal”, but a psychological barrier that for European people consists in going on the other side of the world and not “be able” to pull back. Trade winds, currents, weather and a voyager’s syndrome make all of us think that the only way to go is WEST. Shelter bay Marina is the only possible spot where to go with your boat while waiting for the Canal crossing. There are other Marinas like Turtle Cay or a new one in Linton Island  but far from the canal and not with the same services. Moreover, if you want to handle all the complex procedures to cross the canal you want an agent to follow all this horrible bureaucracy. What most people do here is using this place like garage for the boats. You’ll find here everything to repair your boat, from a French sailmaker to a Colombian-Panamanian plumber. Unfortunately, like every place in the Caribe (except some islands), you will have to supervise every job done on your boat because most of the workers here are people that understood that behind the boat there are lots of money and they will tell you they can repair everything, even if they don’t really know what they are doing. Personally I often trust some people that tell me – give me as much as you think is good for you and only if the job is done properly –
Luckily we don’t have so many repairs to do on the Lazy Jack ….ah ah ….I was joking !!!
By sailing every day we realize that newest model of boat are very, very different than the oldest ones. Also if we are on a top quality boat, also when we only change the oil of something, or clean the filter of the water maker, we easily realize like the boat makers are not the same of twenty years ago. We especially experience it while travelling with Luc, the owner of a Supermaramu who traveled with us so far from Bonaire. He spent all his life working for the big company Amel. He is that kind of person who starts from building a boat and arrives to build a knowledge of every single piece of the boats the company he works for makes and is extremely proud to be part of it. Obviously times change and now we all know how the world’s economic situation makes things a lot harder for the companies brave enough to try to stay into the boats market. So we accept the situation that when on board we use something, we have to be more careful than usual. During the week we spent in Shelter Bay Marina we had the chance to meet people from other boats, especially the ones that are participating to the Jimmy Cornell’s rally. Nearly everyone here is doing what we are going to do and everyone takes the overcrowded bus every morning to go to Colon looking for food and spare parts. It was like to live in a micro cosmos where someone melted together the essence of travelling with sailboats across the oceans. People from England, Scotland, Germany, South Africa, USA, Chile, France, Sweden and last but not least an incredible group of people from Holland. Not so many Italians and the ones we met are really the maximum expression of our actual situation. While the other boats are just spending their retirements travelling, we are struggling on the travel-charter world. But at least we never stop to find the way to do what we want.
11 trolleys full of food and beverages: we beat the supermarket’s bingo record! The manager was so excited after seeing the bill that he offered us free transportation to the boat, a few boxes of chocolate and 4 Bacardi mojito glasses. After this massive stock under the beds of Lazy Jack, we are now ready to push our floating house through the Canal.
It’s a fantastic day, Luc, Martine and Didier join us to help like line handlers. Very important thing to remember if you are thinking to make the pass, is to have at least 5 people on board, 4 line handlers and the Captain. If you have a boat smaller than 65ft, the organization of transport will provide you a supervisor to help the navigation. Over 65ft they will provide you a Captain to drive your boat through. 
The beautiful lunch on the bay was only the beginning of our little adventure. First of all, 30minutes before to go, we suddenly realize that Pau Hana, the 41ft boat from Montana who hit us in the San Blas, is one of the two mono-hull with whom we are going to make the nest. Fate or destiny, coincidences or life’s case,  it doesn’t really matter how we wanna call it. I saw the Captain’s shocked eyes looking straight into Martin’s ones and that was not so funny for Mr. Johnson I guess. We also talked during the crossing and I have to admit that he and his wife are super nice people. They also told us “We are heading to the same direction, so maybe one they we are going to be friend!”. That was so funny and tragic at same time.
 Like a giant we were driving into the canal with these two boats on our side and a big cargo in front of us. The power and the speed of the water that the human being built here to achieve this result are incredible. In less than three hours we were already sailing on the artificial Gatun Lake and looking for our designated anchorage in the dark. That was the moment when they made me jump on top of a boe to tide the rope and help the other boats. Not a problem if the boee was not one square meters wobbling piece of plastic into a crocodile’s infested lake!!!

The night was calm and not too hot. After dinner we had our chance to experience the quite lake Gatun with rock music coming from a motor yacht behind us. When the next day we went through the Miraflores, we could already smell the Pacific. After nearly 40 miles of navigation on the lake, we finally descended to the other side. Very different than the first one we had done. Here a lot of tourists come to see the boats passing, ferry companies overload their small boats and in half day they take people through the barrage for a couple of dollars.  We are finally sailing on the side of Panama City, passing under the Bridge of the Americas and exploring with our eyes the immensity of the skyline of one of the fastes growing city in the world. I don’t know what I thought to expect from this city, but if you come here, try to think that you’ll be in a place more like Dubai than a big old and dangerous city. Things changed a lot here I guess and the free taxation added to the strategic geographic position helped a lot this place to reach the explosion of modernity that is now shown to the world. Our plan is to stay here only a few days and leave after the week end, setting our sail to the Las Perlas Islands.

SAILING FROM COLOMBIA TO KUNA YALA the San Blass

When we decided to leave Santa Marta, was the only positive  weather’s window we had since two weeks or so. Luckily the sea seems to be calm as the wind and it took us only a full day to reach Puerto Velero in Barranquilla. The navigation was really bad, I got nearly sick and took a pill to let my breakfast stay into my stomach. Just the time to get a bit better and we found ourselves in front of the Barranquilla’s river mouth. Too late we realized that we were into the wrong spot: in front of us a little  fisherman’s boat with his full net on the back pushES us even more closer to the shore and when we started to turn through the open water 4mt waves where bumping everywhere around us. I was staying on the Captain’s side trying to help him to look on every possible directions and when we both realize that a gigantic baby was coming straight on us, I just warned Alice to stay inside and close door. I felt a bit like one of the sailor from the Volvo Ocean Race, the wave came from prow and reached us with a fast car’s speed. Both of us were well prepared and strongly attached to the steering wheel. Wet like seals and just a little scared, after a few seconds later we saw a big Cargo boat coming out from nowhere on a collision course with us. With full sail,  20 knots of winds  and 4 mt waves, the bloody Cargo didn’t answer to our radio transmission and was only thanks to the experience of the Captain that we could avoid just for 20mt the big boat.  My next pictures when I looked inside, was Alice trying to clean the brown water from the kitchen, Mme Nicole sitting on the couch wearing  safety vest, and the two friends paralyzed on the sliding bed.
Anyway the entrance in the bay of Puerto Velero was a dream, the most quite bay on heart or probably after all we had this afternoon it looked like that to me. Dozens of kite surfs going around and some other sail boats, the anchor is down and relax time on. Ah ah just joking, because “relax” is a word that Captain Jack deleted from the dictionary long time ago. That’s why in less than half an hour after anchoring I found myself in a car of two perfect strangers, met ten minutes before on the beach, who offered us a lift to go looking for some “Sodastrem” (machine for make sparkling water that apparently is a must on a boat). Me and the Captain around Shakira’s city, a real melting pot of modernity and Colombian history. They were so nice to decide to drive us everywhere we needed, and after two hours of going around with the super friendly Nelson and his beautiful wife, the only good news was their outstanding way to be kind and try as much as they could to help us find the gas bottle.
I was looking at myself sitting on my surfboard alone when all the other are already tired or they have enough for the day, or when 10 minutes before to close the kitchen I feel like to make a cake or a sauce for tomorrow, proving to myself that I can do it rapidly and without making too much mess …there is nothing that could take me out the idea that this is the only things I have to do now….
But travelling? I can’t imagine to do it for years and don’t have time to make friends in any country I’ve been…
They day after my visit to the city, I couldn’t resist to rent a kite surf and try after a year or so to pull the sail up. As I was expecting, it was nearly a catastrophe but at the end I had a lot of fun and I felt revitalized. Every day it gets really challenging to be able to prepare something good and original to my “customers” on board. Luckily they are all super nice and with no intention to make my job harder. The only thing I learnt very quickly was not to always trust people that tell you they can eat everything!!!
Our journey continued very well and after Puerto Velero we soon reached Cartagena, a shining city with a vibrant atmosphere and an unexpected lifestyle. If you come here after you visited any other city in Colombia you probably think that this is Miami. The new city with his modern buildings raised just on the side of the old and historical town. After a few days around we can easily say that here it’s a washing machine for money!! A lot of jewelry, diamantes, boutiques and even classy and original shops not easy to find in Europe. Everything seems melted with the well-known Colombian life style. So you can meet a pineapple seller right in front of a Ferragamo Boutique or buy a whole coconut for a dollar right after you bought  Miuccia Prada sunglasses.
As you can imagine we only had the pleasure to taste some fresh pineapple and a fresh coconut, actually we were very happy to keep going to taste the very popular “Arepa de queso” and the best fruit salad on the street ever. After we met a bit of other sailors and we stocked the boat with four trolleys full of food, we were ready to point our compass straight to the San Blas Islands. The navigation took approximately 20 hours and our destination was Mamitupu.
During the night we decided to take down the main sail and leave only the Jennaker to make the sail smoother for our lady, and we forgot that we were sailing with other two boats. One was easily recognizable on our side, but the other was too far behind us that nobody took care to watch it only until when he passed us on a 10 mt distance that we could really see into their rooms!!!
Lucky us!!!
When I started to sail I thought it was like a science, you study how to do it, make some experience and this is it. After a few years I’m still thinking that sailing is like a science, but new experiences never end, and never stop to teach us something new.
Finally arriving in “Kuna Yala” the Kuna’s Land, we met this incredible population. They are indigenous people, recognized independent from the Panama government, that always lived in these islands between the Darrien gap and the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side. The second shorter population in the world after the Pigmies. Starting from the non-touristic side of these islands was really special. Mamitupu and the island on her side, Ashutupu,  allowed us to meet them without any filter. When Alice and I went around, we were amazed by the joy and kindness of this population. Nobody was asking for money and none had other interest than invite us to their house and show us their family. Kids were everywhere, trying to attract our attention. Every girl we saw was typically dressed with the “mola” and a few bracelets on the arms and legs if they were married. Man are easier, wearing only old clothes or shorts useful for the long distance to cover a few times a day with the canoe. When we met Lean, his wife and family, we felt really weird to be there with a big yacht and be invited from a family on their wood made house, without roof and one only chair. However on the other side I found myself comfortable and curious to know something about them. Apparently the woman decides everything (and until here no difference with European culture ;-)), I noticed that every married girl had a small key on their neck, that was the key of the power!!! Since a few years they are used to use money. Before the mobile phones nobody needed money, but now it’s all another story. “Thanks to technology” these people are a bit struggling for electricity, recharge and internet. Before that, women didn’t need to keep the key of the security box on their neck. Walking around we were followed by dozen of kids, we played soccer with them and had some fun with the youngest of them that while they were trying to prove themselves yelling something at us, they were running everywhere when I suddenly chased them screaming like a bear.
The whole island was following our steps, giving us some support to know better the places where we were. I guess we are pretty lucky to visit a place like this before globalization will definitely take them.
We spent nearly three weeks sailing around the San Blas, islands like no other. The sea around here is full of every kind of fish, beaches are really close to a dream and islands seem to jump out of the magazines we are used to in Europe. My story of the San Blas and the Kuna could stop here, but I will not feel honest with the people who read my blog if I do that. There are other stories that deserve to be told at the public. I will tell you only two of those because I know that from a travelling blog we want only shining dreams.
The first one  about the navigation: thanks to the book “The Cruising Guide of Panama” of Erick Bauhaus , a lot of people now can reach these islands. But always remember that also if you will have any details of this part of the world, navigation here is hard and can be very dangerous. Reefs are everywhere, the ground not always ideal for anchoring. Every day we met a few shipwrecks and often our instinct was telling us to do the exact opposite of what we should really do. So if you intent to navigate here just be prepared to be extremely careful because only like that you’ll enjoy some of the best colors of the Caribbean, between jungle, rivers, beaches and paradise islands.
We actually saved a sailboat from shipwrecking one night. We were anchored in the windy Porvenir with other 8 boats. 11 pm, everything still and silent. Only the sound of the wind and the waves that break in a reef about 50 meters from our boat. We were in our cabin, Alice almost asleep and I was reading. Suddenly we hear a noise against the hull. Alice firmly says: “A boat hit us.” I reply that it’s impossible. She is near the window and insists “ There is a boat in front of us and a curly woman trying to pull the anchor up!!!”. Ok, immediately I think the worse. Some pirates are trying to come on board and kidnap everybody. Without even putting my shirt on, I jump out of the cabin, ready to fight. In front of my eyes the situation is now clear: as Alice said, we had some visits tonight. The supposed pirates reveal to be instead a sleepy but terrorized couple from Montana, who used too little chain for their anchor and whose boat had been pushed by the current luckily right against us. Yes, I said luckily. Lazy Jack literally saved Pau Hana from smashing against a scary reef, where lied already two sunken sailboats. Another reason why sailing in the middle of the Pacific will be 100% safer than travelling along the coast or, worse, near dreamy atolls and wonderful islands.
The other story is about us becoming ecologist!!!! Maybe when someone was sailing here 30 years ago will remember only the real paradise. However my friends, if you may wonder to travel here, be prepared to see tons of plastic dragged from the see to the coast of these beautiful islands. Luckily someone comes to pick it up a few times per year from the most touristic places. But when you’ll visit the local villages, you suddenly realize how we are destroying our beautiful world.
It’s enough for the moment from the Kuna Yala, I don’t wanna say everything about them, experiences must be different for anyone of us so, let’s come to meet the little Kuna when you have the chance!!

P.s. Nearly forgot to tell you that National Sport here is Basketball….which was a kind of weird considering that the tallest Kuna is 1.60cm tall.

sabato 16 maggio 2015

Sailing from Hollandaise Antilles to Colombia


Bonaire, Aruba and Curaçao, the Dutch creatures of the Caribe where we can surf, kite surf, wind surf, dive and even do kayak on a perfectly shaped bay. We are travelling with Roberto and Victoria, our special guests from Switzerland who came on board to test the Catana 59. We were very positive about having them on board, especially after they opened their huge baggage and showed what they brought for us. I can imagine that it was like when Marco Polo showed up in Venice with the epic food and spices bought from the Gran Kahn. Champagne  and foie gras are only two of the delicatessen that were welcome into the fridge. But my legs were shaking when I saw a Parma Ham and a few kilos of Parmigiano Reggiano.  Like for the kids, it took us a few days to understand what kind of people we were dealing with, and it was a nice surprise to figure out how nice and easy they were. It was funny sometimes to see the contrast from three different generations of nice people getting along together in difficult conditions as it can be during the navigation with someone you don’t really know. I’m putting so much effort to improve my culinary style and I’m taking little advices here and there thanks to the amazing people I had the chance to work with. Chef Matteo, working now in the USA, and Roberto Zanca, chef at La Corte Sconta in Este are always ready to help me with recipes and advices to stimulate my fantasy.  We are starting to understand that life on the boat is never boring. If there’s not a problem to be fixed nor broken thinks (which is very rare),  we spend our time fishing, sailing, talking, swimming and cooking. Sometimes I feel like Alice and I are wiping in a washing machine, spinning like hell.  However the smile on our faces is always shining and the landscapes are making us proud to be here every moment.
When we got to Spanish Waters in Curaçao we nearly went on a reef, one of those typical things that happen when look here and there while your boat is going on the wrong direction. Luckily, I looked for one second at portside and saw a strange movement in the water not more than a meter far from us: we were really close to a reef. The Captain was fast enough to turn starboard and give us the right adrenaline for a big aperitif. The spot is clean and wealthy and right in front of our boat there is a windsurf school that let Roberto’s experience show us what he could do with that. The guy knows how to manage a sail and everyday makes us jealous of his rides.
Unbelievable but it’s already Christmas and today, more than ever, my cooking skills are under judgment. Luc and Martine are invited and the atmosphere is colorful and sparkling like the champagne we can toast with. Crab legs, stuffed calamari, mushroom lasagna, crab cake, scallops and king prawns with asparagus….only some of the incredible food I had the chance to deal with, closing the show with artisanal panettone and pandoro dipped into a fresh zabaione .
Everybody was very happy and grateful. We had some really amazing time considering also that Captain and Mme Nicole made awesome presents for us to thank us for the help until this moment.
Some of these moments will be so far more important and remarkable than a lot of places we are now visiting. The journey with people never seen before and the friendship we built with other travelers are making our trip to Australia even more interesting.
Sometimes it seems strange to say that we cannot spend 2-3 weeks in each of these places, but we have 10 months to arrive in New Zealand before the cyclones season. The way is still so long. So, after a few days of hard party and visit to the island’s main attractions, we are sailing to Aruba, the last of the Hollandaise Antilles before to reach Colombia. It’s good that with this kind of catamaran we can reach nearly all of these islands on a day trip, without spending too many nights in the deep black sea!
And it’s right there, when we are relaxed and quite, that we made a little mistake. Doing our routine with the sail arriving to the port, the wind suddenly jumped from 6 to 27 kts and our Gennaker took less than one second to twist around the Genoa, starting to make a noise like if an helicopter was trying to land on our boat. As we often tried to explain to Roberto and Victoria that would love to buy a big cat and not having someone around to help, sometimes two people are absolutely enough, however other times six are not.  The immense power of the 240sm sail was impossible to contrast and the situation needed  a melting of power and intelligence to be resolved. After two hours of sacrifice ;-) we got the crazy sail and sat at the table in front of a fresh salmon filet, we could laugh of what just happened.
Sailing is always like this, unpredictable and fascinating. We now enjoy the beach and the sun of Aruba, one of the favorite places for the big cruises and Marlin fishermen. The mooring is one really the best we had till now: every 10 minutes an airplane lands or takes off right above our heads, making us shake like belly-dancers. KLM made a great job down here, but all this tourism exploitation is reflected in the island’s nature. It’s really difficult to see fish or birds here. But if you like casinos, pubs, fine restaurants and huge cinemas, that’s your spot.
December the 27th Lazy Jack is ready for the 250 miles navigation from Bonaire to Santa Marta, Colombia. The wind is on our side and we sail easily kissed by the sun and blessed by Mother Nature: we have the chance to cross a big group of excited dolphins that stay with us about 15 minutes, playing with our hulls. It’s the first time for Alice, she never met a dolphin in his habitat before. Our stomachs are well marinated and I cook in navigation with no problems at all. Helped by Roberto, I fish a fantastic tuna, which is after his proper blast freezer treatment ready to become a tasty sashimi, on top of an avocado and papaya ring, mixed with Venus rice. The night passes smooth and nice. In the morning we reach 19 knots of speed!!! This is a great record for LJ! The wind helps us to reach the Colombian shores and we pass through what every sailor knows as the Cape Horn of the Caribbean with no issues at all. Maybe we’re just lucky, since we later met an Australian couple who destroyed his Genoa right in this tricky spot.  Mme Nicole can’t wait to enter Santa Marta Marina and begins the arrival ritual by putting a nice bottle of champagne in the cooler, to be ready for the celebration.
Santa Marta. A Caribbean loud and crowded city. The contrast between the highly protected and sophisticated marina and the crazy streets full of sound and smell of brochetas  is overwhelming. We say goodbye to our Swiss guests and start to set up the boat for a 15 days stop-over in this marina: Lazy Jack needs to be cleaned, a new lazy bag (which was damaged during the arrival) and some relax. Mme Nicole and the Captain left me and Alice in Santa Marta and went to Bogota to make a tour of the Colombian main attractions. We are the boat’s keepers, but we also enjoy our free time in this original corner of the world. I can get a Colombian style new haircut and found some surf spots around, Alice can spend her time with her Wi-Fi spot in the marina. She gets a bit scared when the 50 knots wind that shakes the boat: the catamaran pulls so strongly that we almost broke the floating pier. Santa Marta is definitely way too windy in January.
After their land trip to Colombia’s heart, Mme Nicole and the Captain come back with two super special guests: Mme Michou and Maître Jan. They travel together since 10 years and they are good friends. We welcome them in the best way possible, with a delicious dinner and a fresh made Lemon Merengue Pie. Our 6 weeks together towards the Colombian coast and San Blas Islands start in a super positive way.