Arrivederci Italy!

Beautiful Dolomites of the Belluno region of Northern Italy
Great spring time hiking all around the region
Cadini Breton waterfall
Rest stop with a view!

We returned from a nice weekend in the Dolomites where we did some hiking and exploring, and jumped right back into boat work.  After all, Zoe was set to go into the water in only two days.  We worked tirelessly for the next couple of days trying to get as much done as possible….well, at least the stuff that could not be done on the water.  When Wednesday finally arrived, the wind had picked up substantially.  This was not looking good.  Dan and I were both feeling extremely uncomfortable with the strong wind and the extreme narrowness of the channel in the marina that we would have to get ourselves through without being pushed into the other boats.  Fortunately, the crane operator was feeling equally stressed about hoisting our big boat in such high winds.  Lucky for us they had a cancellation for two days later, and we were able to delay lifting Zoe into the water until then.  Heavy sigh of relief on my part :). On the down side, we no longer had our little apartment booked.  We decided we would tough it out and live on the boat in the air for the next two nights.  Keep in mind, our boat is 10 feet in the air and not level by any means.  All part of the adventure, right?

We took the opportunity of extra time on land to tackle some of our bigger jobs.  We bought some new lines in order to change some of our old and worn ones.  Dan decided it was time to change our halyard.  This bit of fun required him being hoisted to the top of the mast….some 70 feet off the ground!  Needless to say, I was not happy about this.  I had read far too many stories of people falling while trying to ascend their mast…and of course dying.  We had even done some training classes before leaving.  A good friend (and highly skilled climber/canyoneer) helped us create back up systems, as well as an emergency plan for getting Dan up and down if a problem developed.  None of this gave me comfort.  So, we started with a practice run, and I hoisted Dan about 10 feet off the deck and back down again.  Now it was time for the big show.  With my stomach churning, I slowly raised Dan to the top of the mast…watching and waiting anxiously until he was ready to be lowered.  With the new halyard installed, I started bringing him down.  Everything went off without a hitch!  I was so relieved.  We now have a beautiful new halyard to raise our mainsail.

Learning the “ropes”in Arizona for ascending a tree…err…I mean a mast…
Time to put the new found skills to work…
Up up and more up…
Finally to the top!

The day finally arrived to put Zoe in the water.  The morning was amazingly calm, and we were extremely excited and grateful for no wind.  HA!  You know nothing goes that smoothly.  Without fail, as soon as the crane had us in the sling, the wind picked up…..awesome!  Once Zoe was lowered into the loading bay, we were instructed to get on board.  At this point, we checked to make sure there were no leaks anywhere in the hulls and fired up both motors.  Sure that everything was working fine, I took position on deck to help guide Dan out and fend us off any boats that we might get too close to.  This went extremely well, and we were feeling really good.  We got out of the channel and waited just outside the entrance for the marineros to arrive and help us tie up.  We waited…..and we waited.  Dan finally had to call the marina and remind them that we needed help tying up to the wall (the wind was really blowing by this point).  Finally two of the marina guys came down and grabbed the lines that I tossed to them.  The wind was so strong that it took these two, strong men about 20 minutes to finally get us securely tied to the wall.  Ahhhh, back on the water again.  Life was finally starting to feel normal again.

Zoe on her way to the splash zone…
Almost there….
Down she goes!
First sunset from the boat….

Dan and I carefully monitored several different weather forecasts to find our weather window to head to Croatia.  This time of year is very unpredictable in the Med.  One day it is 70 degrees and sunny, and the next it’s in the 50’s with pouring rain and heavy winds.  We decided that Monday (3 days later) would be our best bet.  So, we figured the following day (Saturday) would be a good day to run any final errands before turning in our rental car.  

Monitoring the weather to find the right window for the passage

We headed back to the big marina store in Trieste in order to buy some more boat parts and lines.  We also took the opportunity to find the port authority where we would need to check out of the country before heading to Croatia.  We found the location, determined that they would in fact be open on Sunday, and got all the necessary information we needed.  We were armed with everything we needed and made our way back to the marina.  Tomorrow we would make the hour drive to Trieste once again in order to check out with immigration (you have 24 hours once you check out, to get out of the country…and their waters).  We would then go to the Trieste airport (nowhere near the city) and return our rental car.  From there, we would have to figure out how to get ourselves back to our boat which was about 1/2 hour away.

Sunday was a very wet and cold day in Italy.  As we drove down to the waterfront of Trieste, we were shocked to see a huge cruise ship in port.  While this should not have been a big deal, it created a huge nightmare for us.  Every bit of parking that was down near the water had been barricaded off!  We had to figure out somewhere else to park the car (not an easy task anywhere in European cities!). On top of it all, we were now racing the clock since the port police was only open until 12:30 on Sunday.  After much frustration and failure, we finally found a spot (although not sure if we were legally parked) and set off to the station.  Now we had to navigate through the security that was in place for the cruise ship.  We finally got an officer to escort us to where we needed to go and got our passports and boat papers taken care of….whew!  I just wanted to get the hell out of there at this point.  Well, that was a whole lot of fun in and of itself.  Not only was there all this cruise ship chaos, but apparently they had a big street fair going on as well, so many of the streets were blocked off!  Traffic was horrendous and lanes were often restricted down to one.  I was so relieved by the time we escaped the city.  On to the airport!  

When we arrived at the airport, we found out that the rental car agent would not be there for a 1/2 hour, so we set about trying to find our way back to the boat.  A taxi was looking like it would be around $100….eeesh.  We could get a train to a few different cities closer but no guarantee of finding a cab once we were there.  We finally found a train to the city where the marina was and the number of a cab who agreed to pick us up (this was all thanks to a wonderful woman who worked at the visitor center in the airport).  We headed to the train station at the airport to buy our tickets.  By now, it is pouring down rain with thunder and lightening.  We repeatedly fail to purchase the tickets at the tracks, so Dan books it back to the airport to seek the assistance of our visitor angel.  With tickets firmly in hand, we hustle back to the track (it’s an 8 minute walk each way from the airport to the tracks).  Everything is looking good and going well.  Haha!  This wouldn’t be worth telling if there wasn’t an evil twist, right?  It is one minute out, and our train’s arrival is announced.  Next thing I know, Dan shouts out that his ticket just blew out of his hand and down to the field below!  Are you kidding me???!!!  He quickly searches for way to get down the next level and get it….there is no way down and no time left.  He quickly decides to buy another ticket.  The train is coming!  As he rapidly types in the details and follows the prompts on this very slow machine, the train is arriving…..I am panicking!  If we miss this train, we have to wait another hour in the pouring rain!  The ticket spits out and we hustle to the train and jump on….wet, cold, and mentally exhausted.

The following day, we cut lines and said good-bye to Marina Planais.  Croatia here we come!  It was a quick 4 hour crossing in cold, rainy weather.  As we came into the harbor of Umag, we were told someone would be at the town quay to help us with lines.  As we circled and circled, no one came.  After much frustration, we headed to the mooring field and tied up to a mooring ball.  We quickly jumped in the dinghy and headed to town to check in with the port police and port captain (bringing our foreign selves and our foreign flagged boat into these various countries comes with a lot of paperwork and some stress).  First stop, the customs dock for immigration.  Here we were quickly chastised (and not nicely in any way, shape or form) for not tying up to the customs dock to check in.  He refused to deal with us and told us to get our boat to the their dock and that we should know better!  NOWHERE we have checked in, this year or last, has required us to tie up our boat outside their office!  Needless to say, I’m pissed at this point.  We race back to our boat, drop lines, and head to the customs dock where we have to figure out how to tie up with only 2 of us on board.  As we slide in, I manage to lasso a giant bollard on the dock and get our back secure while Dan jumps off and ties our front end off.  Not bad for a couple of newbies!  We head back in to try this again.  This time the officer was a little less surly and a little more helpful.  After getting squared away legally, we headed to the port captain to take care of the rest of our paperwork and pay the visitor tax.  Yep, we had to pay $355 to spend 3 months in Croatia on our boat 🙁 Unfortunately, the office closed at 3:00 (it was 2:50….and yes, it was already closed).  So we would have to return the next day.  We jumped back on our boat and headed back out to the mooring ball field.  Once again, we got Zoe secured, and we settled in.  For our first day back in Croatia, we both were feeling a little beaten down.  But, we found a quaint little Croatian restaurant, with extremely friendly staff and super yummy food, so we quickly reset to our happy place.

Across the Gulf of Trieste to Umag, Croatia
Making our way out of the lagoon
Only one way to get through the lagoon shallows
Out of the lagoon and into the Gulf of Trieste we go…
Goodbye Italy…..snow capped Dolomites made for a scenic goodbye

On the down side, another big storm is predicted in the coming days, so we will want to be tied up somewhere a little more protected and secure.  We figure we will spend a couple of nights here and then make our way to the historic town of Poreč where we will ride out the storm and do some more exploring.

Umag city center
Celebratory dinner to mark a safe and uneventful passage!

The Return to Sailing Season!

It’s finally here!  Time to return to Europe and get Zoe ready to be dropped back in the water.  We’ve been given a splash date (when Zoe will be hoisted up by crane and set back in the water) of April 24th.  There is much to do to make sure she is ready for the next 6-7 months of sailing.  We got this!

Ha!  How quickly that warm, fuzzy feeling has been beaten down.  We have now completed our first full week of work on the boat, and I can tell you that along with the blood, sweat and tears (literally) there have been extreme emotional highs and lows.  To begin, the exterior of the boat was absolutely filthy after sitting for 5 months in wind, rain, and a hail of bird poop.  As we entered the inside, my heart sank even further.  Just to refresh your memory, shutting down the boat at the end of last season required the following tasks:  All clothing was removed and stored in vacuum pack bags; all bedding, pillows, and towels  were removed and vacuum packed; all remaining food and spices were taken out and placed in air tight containers; all cushions and mattresses were up-ended and stored away from walls and windows; all sails and canvas were stripped from the boat; all lines were removed and stored. So this entire mess, was now sitting inside the boat, along with the contents of 5 large duffles worth of supplies that we ferried over from the U.S.  I think I felt a panic attack coming on 🙁

Where to begin?!  I figured the quickest way to make the biggest dent was to unpack all the sealed bags and containers and put the stuff away.  That relieved some of the debris and allowed me to get the guest cabin made up and ready for future visitors. 

Guest cabin ready…

At this point, Dan and I decided to take a break and go in search of a new mattress for our bed.  We had decided to purchase a memory foam mattress which turned out to be quite a challenge.  Knowing that it would need to be cut down to fit the unique shape of the bed in our cabin, we could not buy one that needed to be contained within a cover.  We finally decided on one that we found at IKEA.  The trick now was to get it back to the boat in our tiny, little clown car.  As the pictures will show, we managed to wedge it into the car with me fighting to keep it off the steering wheel and gear shift. 

Next was hauling it up 10 feet to the deck of the boat, down the stairs into the hull and our cabin.  I think you are starting to get the “sweat” part of where this story began.  Have you ever cut through 8 inches of foam with a box cutter and a serrated bread knife?  I’m here to tell you, it SUCKS!  Not only did it take forever, but left a barrage of foam snow all over our cabin.  Great!  I now created a new mess to clean up!

All done!

With the inside starting to show signs of improvement, we decided it was time to tackle replacing our trampoline.  The trampoline on the front of our boat was really showing it’s age and had a lot of sag making it super uncomfortable.  We purchased a new, tighter woven trampoline.  After receiving a $800 euro quote to install it, Dan decided we could do this ourselves.  At this point, picture my eyes bugging out of my head.  Step number one was to soak the trampoline in water for 24 hours so that we would be able to stretch it into position.  We put it into a giant, plastic tub and filled it with water.  Being on the hard, our boat is not resting level.  So, the water in the tub was about 2 inches lower on one side of the bin.  My very helpful husband (he is on the ground manning the on/off knob of the faucet) tells me to put something under the low side to level it.  Did you know that those big plastic tubs are not meant to hold 100’s of pounds of water (ok, it wasn’t quite that much)?  As I went to lift up one side, the plastic broke slicing through my finger and palm in two separate places.  Yep, it hurt like hell and now I’m bleeding (I told you there was blood, sweat and tears).  The tears came next as I sat down to wrap my bloody wounds, feeling totally defeated by my boat 🙁

If you know me very well, you know that my pity party was short lived and I was back at putting the boat back together.  I forgot to mention that during this entire week it has been cold, windy and rainy.  Fun times, right?  It was finally time to install the trampoline.  The dealer told us it would only take 5 hours….uh yeah right!  I know how this goes.  There are 60 lash down points to secure the trampoline to the deck, and every one of them requires gorilla strength (and pulleys, winches, and pliers) to stretch the trampoline to each point and secure it.  At this point, my hands are raw and my body is broken.  Let’s just say there have been some contortionist moves required.  After 5 hours on day one and 4 hours on day two, we are still not done :(. We are getting closer though, and it looks amazing so far.

Old trampoline on it’s way out.
12 feet off the ground and tying knots…60 of them!

Well, our 5 hour trampoline job took us days and 16 hours.  It nearly did us in :(. On top of that, we winched too hard on one corner and tore a hole in it!  Add another job to my list….attempt to weave the hole closed (which I did and, it doesn’t look too bad). 

All done!

Fortunately for us, putting the sails back up was a much less painful job.  We managed to get the mainsail back up in about 4 hours after watching the videos we took at the end of last season to refresh our memory of where everything went.  The genoa was up in about an hour. 

Trying to remember how to rig a square top main sail…
Genoa sail on it’s way up…

Score 1 for team Muzich!  Over the next few days, we got the leak in the dinghy repaired, dinghy scrubbed, chaps back on, and back in the “garage.”  We got the cockpit enclosure put up, have begun the clean up, and got my cilantro planted! 

Starting to look like a sailboat!
Dinghy back in it’s garage.

Hopefully we will have homemade salsa before time to leave the boat at the end of the season…!  At this point, Easter weekend has arrived, and we have decided it is time for a boat/work break.  We are heading to the mountains for a little play time before the final push to get Zoe ready.  It is now T-minus 4 days until launch!  I promise our next post will be more fun and a lot less drudgery….but in all fairness, I did promise to bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of life on a sailboat!