Our 2024 BVI Flotilla was – again – a lot of fun!


For our first flotilla of the 2024 we chose for the second year in a row the British Virgin Islands and, in order to get ready for the cruise, I flew from Fort Lauderdale, via San Juan, PR. to Tortola on February 23.

Our new mascot, Cholita, was happy to come along for the ride.  Last year, she started replacing our previous mascot, Swea’Pea who somewhere in his native Croatia had jumped ship.  We never found him back and believe he joined the French Foreign Legion.  He was such a macho little guy, always fascinated by anything military.

       Sweet Cholita at FLL AirportSwea’Pea before he jumped ship

The flight from FLL to SJU was on a twin Cessna 420, truly a puddle jumper. Sitting to the right of the pilot brought back many memories of my flying days and I had fun following the flight on my Navionics App.

Clearing customs at the Tortola airport was a non-event compared to clearing at the ferry terminal, when coming from St. Thomas.

Ready for take-off at SJU

Friday, on my way to lunch, I ran into our good friends Jamie and Keith who had sailed with us before. A good excuse for some drinks. Don from Sea Safaris Sailing School in Milwaukee soon joined us for a few.

Always good to see old friends again

Saturday evening was full moon and therefore the traditional Full Moon Festival at Trellis Bay. I did not stay too long there because Sunday would be a long day.

Sunday, February 25, sunny skies, a warm breeze blowing over the Navigare charter base in Nanny Cay on Tortola, and our twenty-eight participants started showing up for a week of fun and sailing in the warm waters of the BVI.

Three catamarans and one monohull with crew from Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, New York, Oregon and California were part of the Med Sailing Adventures Flotilla with two more catamarans, booked by our friends from Sea Safaris Sailing School in Milwaukee, joining us the following day from Village Cay Marina.


The Sea Safaris Sailing School Crew

Our Med Sailing Adventures crew was a mix of return sailors, like Brian and Nicole, Ken and Cathy, Jamie and Keith and Sandy, and of first M.S.A. timers, like Barry, Joe and Soledad, Michael and his crew.

After our provisioning and getting settled on the yachts, we spent the evening getting acquainted over drinks and dinners at the Peg Leg restaurant in Nanny Cay.  For many it was the first time in the BVI and their first exposure to the iconic but treacherous Painkiller cocktail.

On Monday morning, we still had two yachts that needed to be checked out by the base but, as soon as the skippers had signed off on the paperwork, we dropped the lines and headed for Salt Island for some snorkeling over the wreck of the Rhone, a British Royal Mail ship that got caught in a hurricane, broke in two and sank.

Marina Cay Bar and restaurant

From there, we sailed to Marina Cay, across from Trellis Bay.  With Tramontane, our Lagoon 45F, secure on her mooring ball, we took the dinghy to the marina restaurant for a nice dinner with, you guessed it, a few Painkillers.

The following morning, the mainsail was raised while still at the mooring buoy and we sailed off to our next destination, The Baths. There were already quite a few yachts anchored there but we had not too much trouble finding a safe spot to drop the hook. The dinghy was dropped from it davits and the crew, minus Keith and myself, headed for the shore to check out the awesome rock formations. I had decided to stay behind as anchor watch. I had the opportunity to visit The Baths in 2023 and, although impressive, they are small compared to the huge granite rock formations of the Seychelles that we saw a few years ago.

The Baths

When the complete crew was safely back aboard, we headed for the legendary Bitter End Yacht Club.  What once was a stunning resort got wiped out by hurricanes Irma and Maria but has since been rebuilt and has regained much of its former beauty.

Back from The Baths

We had reserved dock space for our four yachts and, as soon as we had cleated the lines, we went to explore the facilities.  Unfortunately, I could not get a reservation for our crew, and we ended up eating at the bar where, of course, they were eager to serve us our Painkillers.

Dinner and drinks at the Bitter End Yacht Club

The nice thing about spending the night in a marina is that we can enjoy long hot showers and replenish our water tanks.

Wednesday was Anegada day. Only two of our yachts were going to make the thirteen or so nautical mile crossing. Brian and his family and Michael’s Yacht were going to spend another night at the BEYC and explore some local attractions. One of the Sea Safaris Sailing School yachts was also staying behind.

The Beach and mooring field at Anegada

The short passage to Anegada was made under sail. The wind was perfect, and we literally flew across. The mooring field was already quite busy, but we found a buoy and soon, we were in the water for a refreshing swim. We went ashore in the dinghy and walked over to the Lobster Trap restaurant on the beach to confirm our dinner reservations, had a drink (Painkiller?), then walked to the mini-moke rental place. The plan was to rent one of these cute little cars to check out the island. Unfortunately, it was already too late in the afternoon to make that trip worthwhile and we opted for drinks at Potter’s By The Sea where we ran into Ken and his crew. A couple of cocktails later, we headed back to Tramontane to freshen up for dinner.

Barry and Sandy ready to devour some serious lobster

The Lobster Trap is famous for (of course) its lobsters and they are ginormous and delicious.

Our waitress was from the Dominican Republic and delighted that she could speak Spanish with Soledad. I must admit that the chocolate brownie she sold us for dessert was a bit too much and I should have paddled back to the yacht instead of using the outboard to burn off the excess calories.

Painkillers and other libations at Foxy’s

Next destination was the famous Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke, a good 25NM away.

As soon as we left the channel, we raised the sails but the winds were not in our favor and we ended tacking for hours before throwing in the towel and switching on the engines but, when we arrived in Great Harbor, all the buoys were taken and we had to anchor for the night.

Foxy’s is one of these iconic places that any sailor worth his salt must visit if he goes to the BVI. You will find all kinds of colorful characters at the bar. Crew members of our other flotilla boats were already there, and we swapped our stories of the day over some libations after which we went back to our boat for dinner on board. We made a killer spaghetti and enjoyed it with two bottles of Argentinian Malbec. Life is good…

Enjoying our “killer” pasta meal

That night, however, a storm came up and, around 03:00, a loud noise woke me up in my “coffin” (as our yacht was fully booked, I had to spend my nights in the tiny confines of the skipper’s cabin in the forepeak of the port hull of the catamaran). I opened the hatch and saw the crew of a catamaran trying to untangle her anchor from the mooring buoy of a monohull. This went on for a good hour before the cat was finally free. Our anchor held firm, so I went back to sleep.

My sleeping quarters AKA “The Coffin”

At 06:30, I heard our anchor being raised. Again, I crawled out of my “coffin” to find my crew bringing the hook up. Apparently, the crew of a large catamaran anchored at our stern saw that we were dragging and came knocking on our hull. Joe, who heard the knocking, woke up the others and addressed the situation without waking me up.

Now that we were all up, we decided to get out of the anchorage and head for Soper’s Hole to bunker water and refuel. As soon as we had left Great Harbor heading towards the Thatch Island Cut, we got beaten up by heavy seas on our port beam.  A miserable 3.5NM later, under bare poles, we found the calm of Soper’s Hole and started looking for the fuel dock and, after motoring around the marina for a good fifteen minutes, we finally docked at the Voyage charter company dock, where we bought water and diesel.

The highlight of my trip, swimming with “Myrtle The Turtle”

After refueling, we left the protection of Soper’s Hole and got beaten up again during our crossing to Norman Island, where we found a buoy in calm waters in the anchorage of The Bight.

Because of the lack of sleep of the previous night, I opted for a nice nap while the rest of the crew went for a dinghy ride to the Willy T’s and to the Pirate’s Bight. Later that afternoon, we went snorkeling and I was so thrilled to capture a gorgeous sea turtle on my GoPro.

The (in)famous Willy T’s

Dinner for our last night of the flotilla was aboard the Willy T’s floating bar and restaurant where there is always some fun action with people jumping from the top deck in the water.

Capt. Ken jumping off the Willy T’s (photo sent by Ken)

We made it an early night because we would leave Norman Island the following morning around 07:00 as several members of our crew had to take the early ferry back to St. Thomas.

Spindrift at the buoy in The Bight of Norman Island

Saturday and that’s the end of it.  We made the 5NM crossing from Norman Island to Nanny Cay, did a final refuel and checked out on the yacht. Goodbye hugs and promises to sail together again.

My flight was scheduled for 18:00 which meant I had plenty of time to kill or rather to assassinate.

Thank you to all participants who joined this flotilla!

Be on the look-out for the 2025 edition.


Capt. Jean De Keyser



THE OLD FARTS AND THE SEA (With apologies to Papa Hemingway)

A bad selfie of Mario and me, “The Old Men and the Sea”

As two “seasoned” citizens, whose minds still think like forty-year-olds, but whose bodies tend to bring them back to the brutal reality of their physical age which we will not disclose, Mario, a retired doctor from Chicago – but originally from Argentina – and I had decided to make a passage sailing trip to the Keys.

Thirty-five hours of sailing from Punta Gorda later, we reached the Dry Tortugas, due east from Key West, and the USA’s most unusual National Park.

On Garden Key, you will find Fort Jefferson, the largest brick fort in the United States.

Of course, we had to have the wind on our nose for most of the trip, on our 32’ ETAP 32S sailboat, “Promise”.  We were the only crew on the boat, and were looking forward to dropping the anchor, put up our Magma grill and prepare some steaks with a few Yuengling beers. We had deserved it. The trip was mostly motor sailing with only three hours of engine-off sailing at about six knots. A mishmash of no wind periods and some bouts of up to 20 knots.

A cloud in the shape of a shark. Bad omen?

The wind for the night was forecasted to come from the south and we decided to drop the hook in the North Channel of Fort Jefferson.  Across Bush Key, we could see the masts of the boats anchored in the South Channel and exposed to the strong winds blowing in from the south.

The first job after anchoring though, was to haul our dinghy inside our small cockpit and find a stubborn leak that kept bugging us. The dinghy had deflated during our trip, and we had ended up dragging a shapeless blob of half inflated PVC behind us.

After our steaks and beers, we crashed for the night but, around 23:00 hours, all hell broke loose and a storm with gusts up to 50 knots blew straight into the South Channel. Heavy rain, thunder and lightning kept us inside our boat, and I used my Navionics App as an anchor watch. With an all-chain rode completely out, our boat held safely, and we did not have a worry in the world. The yachts in the South Channel did not fare as well as we did and two of them landed on the beach of Bush Key.

The circled blue line show how well Promise held during the storm.

The following morning, Monday, April 17, the wind was forecasted to clock from the north, and we opted to pull up anchor and move to the South Channel around Fort Jefferson. Conditions were deteriorating rapidly, and we had to hand crank the windlass to haul in all that chain. Mario was at the wheel, moving the boat around while I was furiously cranking the windlass to get out of here.

The anchor was barely out of the water, and I had given Mario the thumbs up to move the boat when we got broadsided by a rogue wave and a heavy gust that pushed Promise on the shoals, where she came down on her starboard. No way of getting her off.

Our home away from home for four days and four nights.

We hailed the Ft. Jefferson Ranger Station and were told that they had their eyes on us. We took our most important belongings, dropped them in the dinghy, abandoned ship and motored to the swimming beach, with water constantly splashing inside the dinghy. We dragged the tender on shore and went to the visitors’ center where they told us that we would get a tent, a pad and blankets so we could spend the night. There was no way that we would be able to stay on the boat.  We had salvaged some jugs of water, protein bars, some fruits and nuts from the boat and that was the menu for the night.

Such a beautiful, yet treacherous paradise.

The park rangers allowed us to go back to the boat to get more provisions, but we could not possibly relaunch the dinghy from the northside beach, so we had to drag it to the one on the southside and motor from there to the boat around Bush Key. As soon as we turned the point, we got really beaten up by the waves and took on a lot of water, but we made it to poor Promise who was resting on her starboard side and being pounded by the waves. It was obvious that the rudder had been damaged and was now useless.

We climbed on board to secure everything when suddenly we heard a hard bang and I saw that the rudderpost had been pushed up through the transom. My first thought was that she now was a total loss. I almost burst into tears but, with the waves pounding hard, we had to get off the boat. I left the anchor light on so we could see her during the night.

We could clearly see her mast in the twilight.

A few hours later, I noticed that the genoa had come partially loose and was flapping in the wind. I did not want it to unfurl completely and get shredded by the next storm.  The rangers gave me permission to dinghy back to my poor baby but that was the beginning of an even more frightful adventure.  I had decided to go alone without Mario.

I had barely rounded the point of Bush Key into the northside that the waves pounded me towards the shore.  No way my 2HP Honda could keep me off the beach and soon I hit bottom which damaged the prop.  I had to paddle back but the current took me towards the reef.  I was in deep doodoo now.  Next landfall, Havana…  Fortunately, I had my airhorn with me and sounded the five-burst distress signal.  No reaction…  I did it again about three or four times and then decided to sound the SOS morse code.  Thank goodness, Skipper Marion from catamaran La Reina came out to save me with his RIB to drag me ashore where Ranger Dustin was waiting for me.  He told me in uncertain terms that I would not be allowed to go back to the boat until TowBoat US was here to refloat us.

My pride and joy on the beach at low tide.

Before heading to bed, I glanced a last time at the anchor light and saw that the boat had moved again and that the mast was now upright.  That meant she was in deeper water and floating but, when we woke up the following morning, there was more bad news.  She had drifted further south and was now laying on her starboard side on the beach of Bush Key.  I went to the top wall of the fort and saw that she seemed to be OK.  There were a lot of bird watchers on the island and one of them let me use his scope to get a really close look.  Promise seemed OK and I could not see apparent damages from afar.

Hard on the beach of Bird Key.

During nesting season, Bush Key is closed to the public.  Sooty terns, brown noddies and other seabirds lay their eggs in the sand and nobody, except for conservation staff, is allowed on the island.  Theoretically, we could walk on the beach to the boat but that was not allowed.  Ranger Dustin was in deep conversation with some sailors, and I asked him if he had heard from TowBoat US when they would arrive to help us, but he had no news.  They were still working on a plan as far as he knew.  One of the sailors who was from Key West mentioned that he knew the owner of the salvage company.  That is when I found out that the sailor in question was no other than my Key West colleague, Scott Mayer of Bluesail Yachting who is one of the Key West – based brokers for the same yacht brokerage that I work with in Punta Gorda, Pier One Yacht Sales.  Small world indeed!  He is a regular here.  I mentioned to the rangers that I had left my blood pressure medication on the boat, and they finally relented and allowed us to walk to the boat.  A cheerful young scientist, Kaylee, who works here studying the birds and sea turtles, volunteered to go there with us and while carefully avoiding stepping too close to the nests of the terns, she told us a lot about her work her. It was fascinating.

The lovely Kaylee with Ranger Dustin.

Another friendly sailor on a Jeanneau, named Ocean Infinity, gave me the password of his Starlink Wi-Fi account which allowed me to contact my worried wife a few times and communicate with the outside world.  There is no cell phone or Wi-Fi service on Fort Jefferson.

The Dry Tortugas are very popular with campers, who come here by seaplane or ferry.  The seaplanes fly in and out twice a day, but the Yankee Freedom ferry arrives daily around 10:30 with day trippers and campers who are allowed to stay a maximum of three nights.  The ferry leaves around 15:00 but, in the meantime, we could use its showers and get some food and drinks on board.

Campers have many things in common with sailors.  One of them is a willingness to help.  They allowed us to use their charcoal grills, brought us hot water for coffee and even rum.

If ever there was an ideal place to be marooned or shipwrecked, the Dry Tortugas is the place to be.  The National Park Service people, campers, crew on the ferry, fellow sailors, they all were fantastic.

We were not killing time waiting for news from the insurance adjuster, we were assassinating time.  Apart from walking around the fort, climbing on top of it to look at Promise in the distance and chatting with anyone willing to listen to us, there was nothing to do.  It was hot…

Keeping our spirits high.

I tried to communicate regularly with my wife, Mila, via my Spot satellite device.  I could send out and receive short texts and was able to keep her informed and receive updates of the insurance situation for the salvaging.

On Thursday, we got the word that TowBoat US would come the following day to pull Promise off the beach.  Finally, some great news!  I convinced Mario to leave Friday morning on one of the seaplanes.  There was no use for him to stick around for the salvage operation and for the boring ten-hour tow back to Key West.

The Key West seaplane.  Promise is on the top-left point of the beach.

Friday morning, around 08:30, I met with Capt. Sean of TowBoat US and his two-man crew.  The funny part was that he remembered meeting me from the Miami Boat Show when he visited our Med Sailing Adventures booth there. Small world…

The salvage operation was done rather quickly.  Dig out the keel, put two airbags under the boat and pull her afloat.  I don’t believe the whole operation did even take two hours.  I even managed to take a short video of the refloating.

Ready to refloat her at high tide.

I said my goodbyes to all the friendly people from the National Park who had helped us.  Officer Dustin Martin, Kaylee the lovely biology scientist, Bill Mason, who runs the bookstore and visitor’s center, Sean Dunn, the friendly camper from Ohio, who had brought us a bottle of rum the night before and others, whose names now escaped me.

Towboat US got me on Promise who was waiting for me at anchor.  I checked her out, lifted the anchor and we were on our way for the slow tow to Key West.

Nothing to do during the ten-hour trip than to wait to get back in cell tower reach.  I turned the engine on in neutral to recharge the batteries, so the fridge could work and keep my Gatorade cool and, once I had hot water, I took a shower.  What a luxury!

Passing Boca Grande Key and Man Key, I finally got bars on my cell phone and had a long conversation with Mila, telling her all about our adventure.  At 23:18, we finally reached the fuel dock of Perry Marina on Stock Island.

Perry Marina is a beautiful and luxurious marina belonging to the Perry Hotel and Resort with all the facilities, like restaurants, pool, etc.

At the fuel dock of the Perry Marina.

My poor Promise not having propulsion, had to stay until Wednesday at the fuel dock.  That dock only has 50 Amps shore power.  I was not allowed to use my 50A to 30A adaptor and had to regularly start the engine to keep the batteries charged and the refrigerator going.

Of course, without shore power and generator, I had no air conditioning on the boat which made for miserable nights but, during the day, I could spend time in the air-conditioned room of the Captain’s Lounge, work on my laptop and make phone calls to find out what our next step would be.

While working on the boat, I also got the surprise visit of Barry Sroka, the American Sailing Association Master Instructor, who made me a sailing instructor back in 2008.  Small world indeed.  He could not believe he found me here and what a story I had to tell him.

I had thought about having Promise towed all the way to the boatyard in Port Charlotte but found out that it would be less expensive to have her trucked.  To do that, we would need to take down the mast.  With the help of Matt, one of the employees of Scott Mayer’s Bluesail Yachting company, I took down the sails and disconnected the boom.

Wednesday, at 13:00, Towboat US brought Promise to Robbie’s Boatyard, where she was hauled.  I took some pictures of the hull and rudder and, after a refreshing shower, climbed in the truck of Mike Mullinger, the owner of Pier One Yacht Sales who happened to be in Key West, for the six-hour drive back to Punta Gorda.

Ready to be loaded on the truck in Key West.

Arrived in Safe Cove Boatyard in Port Charlotte.

A local rigger took her mast down and she was trucked to the Safe Cove boatyard for survey and repairs on Wednesday, May 3.  Promise will sail again.  It’s a promise.  After all, like me, she is Belgian made and, like me, she is unsinkable…  Stay tuned.

A Brazilian Sailing Adventure

After an eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Miami, Latam flight 8191 landed at Guarulhos Airport of Sao Paolo.

Getting our bags was a bit confusing as duffel bags were delivered on a different carrousel than for regular suitcases.  Immigration and Customs were only a mere formality and soon we headed to the door marked “Saida” or “Exit” where our driver was waiting for us to start the four-hour drive to Paraty.

In no time, we were on less congested roads with large and small farms dotting the landscape.  We drove on the highway linking Sao Paolo to Rio De Janeiro but, after about two hours, we took the two-lane road heading straight towards the coast to Ubatuba and our final destination of the day, the historic colonial city of Paraty.

350 islands and even more beaches waiting to be discovered

The views of the sea from the road were spectacular and gave us an idea of what we would be experiencing in the week to come.

We came here on an invitation from Wind Charters who were putting a Brazilian-made Delta 41 sailboat at our disposal to discover the area with the idea of promoting this destination with American sailors.

We had invited long-time flotilla supporters, Kevin and Delana from Oklahoma, to join us on this adventure.  Med Sailing Adventures was about to become a South Atlantic Sailing Adventure.

Our crew for the week

After having checked in at our hotel, Pousada Bartolomeu, in the Old City of Paraty and, after a quick shower, we went for a walk and lunch in this UNESCO Heritage Site of Humanity.

Paraty was founded in 1597 by Portuguese colonizers who built a port here to ship riches from the hinterland, like gold, precious stones and silver, to Portugal.

The city was built in typical Portuguese colonial architecture and, according to some locals, looks like what Lisbon must have looked like many centuries ago. Well, kind of…

Street cleaning in progress

The streets of the old city are paved with huge cobblestones, real ankle breakers, and you have to watch carefully where you step in order not to end up with a strained ankle. Colorful houses line these streets and were once the homes of the rich. Of course, in those days, sewage systems were nonexistent, and the streets would end up being a disease-causing mess.  Not to worry too much though.  They had figured a way to solve the problem.  Twice a month, at the new moon and the full moon, the tides would cause the seawater to flood the streets of Paraty and, when they receded, flush all the garbage in the bay.  Et voilà… Problem solved.

Nowadays, the area is a popular attraction and tourists from all over the world come to visit it, enjoy the tropical surroundings, the hundreds of neighboring islands with white sandy beaches and warm waters.

Paraty “by night”

The antique houses have been converted into bars, restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops and the Old Quarter has become a very lively place.

After navigating the cobblestones, the size of small boulders, we found Banana da Terra, an inviting restaurant with a beautifully decorated patio covered in ferns and orchids.

As we were going to have dinner that evening with the owners of Wind Charter and their staff, we opted for a light lunch.  I had an appetizer of scallops and The Admiral a crab soup.

Paraty is known for its Cachaça, or alcohol distilled from sugar cane juice, and they make several types of derivative drinks and cocktails with it like Gabriela, Caipirinha and Jorge Amado. I had a Jorge Amado with my meal.  A mixture of passion fruit juice, lime juice and Gabriela, it is deliciously addictive but quite treacherous.

You now know how to make it, but you will have to join our flotilla to get the Gabriela…

Lunch over, we met with Kevin and Delana who were staying at the Casa Simone Pousada, around the corner from our hotel, and went for a walk that inevitably ended up in a bar where we had, you guessed it, Cachaça and Jorge Amado. We texted Mariani, the Sales Manager of Wind Charters to join us but she arrived too late for the drinks.

Around 19:00, the owners of Wind Charter, Guilherme and Germano, joined us and we went for dinner at Rio do Ouro, another great eatery in town.

The delicious food and the Caipirinhas helped make the ambiance a lot of fun.  Our Portuguese hosts were fluent in English which was definitely better than our Portuguese, although with my Spanish and French, I can read and understand it.

Having said that, we were able to communicate during the week, using a mixture of Spanish, French with plenty of hand gestures.

The following morning, Mariani and Karine came to pick us up with two small cars and, while Mila and Delana went shopping for provisions, Kevin and I got introduced to the Delta 41, our home away from home for the next seven days.

Wind Charters is a good-size company with sixteen yachts, mostly Brazilian-made Delta sailboats in the 37’ to 41’ range. They also have a couple of Lagoons and a Brazilian-made Cat-Flash 41 sleek-looking catamaran that really impressed us.  I will definitely want to skipper that beauty when we come back for a flotilla event.


Who wants to join me on this sleek cat?

The marina is modern, clean and located in a gated community.  The staff members of Wind Charter are efficient and knowledgeable, but English is not their forte, which could create communication problems when checking in. Fortunately, Marcos, our technician had a very good knowledge of Spanish, and we had no problems understanding his instructions.

As soon as Mila and Delana got back from provisioning (they forgot the beer!), we dropped the lines and set off for our Brazilian adventure. Our destination for the night was a peaceful anchorage on Ilha da Cotia.  Several sailboats and smaller motor yachts had preceded us, but we found a secure place to drop the hook. It was now getting dark and time for a Jorge Amado…

We cooked a tasty spaghetti, without meat (forgotten with the beer) and a bottle or two of red wine.
Life is good.  Time to go to bed but a little drama pushed our bedtime a bit back.


The small beach of Ilha da Cotia

We were sitting in the cockpit having a bit of Cachaça, for medicinal and digestive purposes of course, when we noticed a boat dragging her anchor and heading our way at a fast clip.  No crew members to be seen.  They were already tucked in for the night.  We started yelling to attract their attention and had roving fenders ready. About another hundred yards away from us, crew members on another boat started yelling too.  Finally, the crew of the wayward yacht came up from below, but they had no clue what to do.

First, they shouted back at us that we were moving and not them.  When they saw that they were the ones drifting, and, when they realized what was going on, they were in total panic on how to handle the situation.  They had booked a crewed charter but, at the end of each day, the skipper would secure the yacht for the night and the charter company picked him, leaving the customers with their privacy.  Without the skipper on board and with no sailing experience, they were floating further away towards the rocky shore.

We yelled for them to start the engine so they could raise the dragging anchor.  Just in time, before hitting another yacht, they were saved by the crew of the other boat who had come to their assistance with their fast RIB.

After they had been safely anchored, the cove turned quiet, and everyone got a well-deserved rest.

The freshest oysters you can buy

The sky was sunny when we woke up on Sunday and, while we were enjoying a late breakfast in the cockpit of our Delta 41, Malicia, a local fisherman paddled by in his dugout and offered to sell oysters.  We ordered two dozen, which he shucked right there in his canoe.  They were oh so fresh and the whole thing cost us about $15.00.  What a deal…

Living the dream!

The skiff from the charter company came by to drop off the skipper on the wayward yacht and we explained to the company rep that the skipper had not properly anchored his yacht before leaving for the night. I guess he must have gotten quite an earful afterwards.

From Ilha da Cotia, we sailed to the other side of the bay of Ilha Grande to the small island of Cedro for a swim and lunch at the beach restaurant of Bar do Coqueiro.  We had delicious empanadas and a large bowl full of small fried shrimp, of course all washed down with numerous delicious Cachaças and Jorge Amado cocktails.

We took in the scenery and pushed the little daughter of the owner on her swing but, with no beer, bread or meat on board, we needed to go to nearby Saco de Tarituba and its small fishing village where there are some provisioning possibilities.  Kevin, Delana and Mila paddled to shore in the rain to buy whatever was available in the small store.  We had some snacks, cheese and wine for dinner and decided to spend the night at anchor among the local fishing boats.

The following morning, Monday, November 7. Kevin and I paddled to the shore in search of additional food.  We found wine, pasta, bread and some veggies and were directed to the local fish store where we bought two beautiful snappers and more shrimp.  The fishmonger cleaned and fileted one of the fish and removed the scales and innards of the second one.  The filets ended up as a delicious ceviche, prepared by Kevin, for lunch and the whole snapper was destined for the grill.

The picturesque small port of Tarituba

You have read now twice that we had to paddle our dinghy.  Well, the yacht came without an outboard engine, but we got a rail-mounted grill. Unlike the Magma grills in the U.S.A., the grill here was not propane-powered but worked on charcoal. So, we had to light charcoal with alcohol and waited for it to heat up sufficiently to grill on.

After our shopping was done and we were back on the yacht, we pulled the anchor and motor sailed, sometimes in brief rain showers, to the small bay of Piraquara de Dentro.

This bay is very well protected from winds from all quarters but, as our water tanks were getting low, we opted to go to nearby Porto de Frade, a luxury resort with a well-equipped marina. There was no dock space available, and we got a buoy close to the entrance for the equivalent of US$40.00. Not a bad deal.  Fortunately, it came with free water taxi service.

Rather than cooking on board, we opted for dinner on shore.  The restaurants in the resort did not appeal to us and we wanted meat.  The concierge of the resort suggested that we go to Angra dos Reis, the main city of the region, twenty-four miles away, and recommended a steakhouse in the Mall of the Marina Piratas.  I will agree with my fellow crew members when they say that the food was good, but I had expected a so-called churrascaria.  Little did I know then that I would have more churrascaria than I bargained for during the following week in Rio de Janeiro…

On our way back to the marina, in the dark, our taxi was stopped by a police control with some mean-looking officers carrying menacing submachine guns.  We must have looked honest because they let us through without even verifying our papers.

Our water taxi brought us back to our boat for a well-deserved night rest, of course after a Cachaça for digestive purposes.

The following morning, we went to the dock and filled up our water tanks and motor sailed to nearby Ilha Cunhambebe Grande, named after an Indian chieftain who revolted against Portuguese invaders.


Cunhambebe was one tough guy with a penchant for Portuguese human cuisine

The Indians massacred the foreign invaders and ate their bodies.  The Portuguese did not let them digest this too well because they beat them and decimated Cunhambebe and his followers.  They killed them all and that was the end of that revolt.

The island is beautiful with a very nice anchorage, but the rest of the crew was not as enthusiastic as I was, and we ended up in the anchorage of nearby Ilha de Itanhangá. We dropped the hook under the impressive sheer monolith of a rock. There was a floating bar nearby but nobody to serve us.


Kevin played with his drone for a while, recording video images that I hope to put online at some point.

Mila, Kevin and Delana paddled to shore and hiked a trail all the way up to the top of the monolith from where they had a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

That night, we had the snapper grilled on board and served it with a tasty pepper stew and Mila’s signature potato salad.

It was absolutely delicious. Thank Goodness, we had not forgotten to reprovision wine while at the Marina Frade resort. A bit of celebration was called for and Kevin and I sipped on some good tasting Cachaça and enjoyed great cigars. Life is good…

Wednesday morning, we woke up to sunny skies.  As with every seven-day charter or flotilla, Wednesday is the day that we realize that our trip is almost over. Only two full days left after this. Truly a hump day…

A nearby beach, called Praia da Piedade has an adorable small white colonial church, right on the edge of the water.  Several trails lead from there to nearby beaches on the island of Ilha Gipóia.  Legend has it that island is haunted by the ghosts of the first adventurers who got marooned here.

Whatever the stories, it is a delightful place, worth visiting.  We were anchored off the beach off Praia da Piedade and I decided to stay on the boat while the rest of the crew paddled ashore near the church.  They followed a trail and, at the end of it they found (of course) a bar that served cocktails.  Meanwhile I was doing anchor watch near an oyster farm.

The adorable little church of Praia da Piedade. Are that two ghosts taking selfies?

Before sunset, we brought the boat to the northside of the small Ilha da Piedade and anchored for the night in front of the bar. Unfortunately, it is only open during the day.  Apart from a few empty local skiffs and launches, we were the only boat in the anchorage.  I cooked a Spanish-style Camarones al Ajillo dish of shrimp served with pasta.  With no neighbors in the anchorage, we had a very quiet night.

And it is Thursday!  Time to sail back to the other side of the Bahia da Ilha Grande and sail we did.

Before raising the sails, we stopped for some swimming and snorkeling at the Ilhas da Botina, two small rock formations with palm trees growing on top and surrounded by crystal clear green waters full of fish.

Ilhas da Botina

We played around for a good hour until the anchorage started filling up with tour boats carrying day trippers from Angra dos Reis.  These waters are like an open-air aquarium.  I looked for octopus in the rocks and for sea turtles but no luck.  We swam among lots of triggerfish, zebrafish, and other smaller types of which I do not know the names.

As soon as we left the Ilhas Botinas, the wind picked up and we reached peaks of eight knots of speed on our almost straight shot of a thirteen-mile-long port tack from Ilha Grande to the entrance of the Saco de Mamanguá, which de locals call the only fjord in Brazil.  It is a long and narrow bay that ends in a cul-de-sac with, on the southeast side, depths of less than 2 meters and a swampy area.

Fun sailing action

On the way to Mamanguá, we passed several empty crude oil tankers at anchor, waiting for their next load.

Halfway down the “fjord” we found the village of Praia do Cruzeiro and anchored there for lunch before continuing further inside to Bananal, a stunning anchorage, well protected from all winds and with white sand beaches. A perfect place to spend our last night before returning to the base.

Or so we thought… We had left our hatches open with the mosquito screens in place, but these screens were no barrier for the pesky No-See-Ums.  We all got attacked so aggressively that we had to close the hatches at half past midnight, trying to kill as many as we could find and trying to go back to sleep.

At six o’clock, I heard Kevin start the engines and soon he and Delana raised the anchor to escape the onslaught of these miserable insects.

Bananal anchorage, a mosquito’s paradise

In the hope to improve our day by finding fresh oysters for breakfast, we made a beeline for Ilha da Cotia, where we had spent our first night.  No oysters and still plenty of flies inside the boat.

Around noon, we left the anchorage and visited nearby Paraty Mirim, a tiny village with a restored colonial church and a long beach with some bars.  The wind was blowing and, while Kevin, Mila and I paddled ashore to explore the area, Delana stayed on the boat.  Taking a rest from walking around, we had a Jorge Amado in a rustic bar and learned about the history of this settlement.

When the Portuguese first started bringing African slaves to Brazil, Paraty was one of the ports where they would be sold.  However, after several weeks on the ocean and carrying God-knows-what kind of diseases, the slaves were disembarked in this small village of Paraty Mirim and kept for forty days in quarantine. Survivors and those deemed to be in good health were then transferred to Paraty to be sold.

The small church of Paraty Mirim, inaugurated in 1746

Supposedly, Paraty Mirim was a smaller version of Paraty with a similar architecture, but we did not find any ruins to confirm this.

The wind was still blowing straight into the beach and paddling that dinghy back would have been an exercise in futility. Fortunately, we found a local water taxi willing to drag us back to our yacht and we got ready for our final leg, back to the base, where the dock crew was waiting and helped us dock.

They came on board with insect killer and fumigated the cabins to kill the last bloodsuckers that were still hiding in nooks and crannies. Being on shore power, we finally were able use the air conditioning on board without having to worry about open hatches and No-See-Ums.

For our last dinner in Paraty, we chose the restaurant of the marina where we enjoyed a delicious meal and excellent service and soon, we were in the AC-comfort of our cabins for our final night on Malicia.

We got checked out at around eight-thirty the following morning, had breakfast at the marina restaurant and boarded our taxi for the four-hour ride to Rio de Janeiro, where, like any other tourist, we had to visit the Sugar Loaf Mountain, the statue of Christ on top of the Corcovado and, of course the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.




This is a sailing area largely unknown to foreigners, except for Argentinians who come here to charter, and it deserves to be discovered by North Americans.

The weather in November is not supposed to be as rainy as what we experienced but it did not bother us that much.  When the sun comes out however, the scenery is spectacular,

We have only scratched the surface of what can be seen and done in this area.  Too bad that we did not have an outboard on our dinghy.  We would have been able to access more secluded places.

The Delta yachts are Brazilian made.  They are comfortable yachts with the same IKEA-like interiors (as I call them) as the Bénéteau’s, Jeanneau’s and other mass-produced sailing yachts.

They sail well and they offer excellent value for the money. A 41’ Delta costs, ready to sail, about $150,000.00 compared to almost double that amount for a Bénéteau Oceanis 40.1.

These boats have no wastewater tanks. The one we sailed had electric heads and everything went overboard.

If you wish to charter in Brazil, you will need to provide a copy of your ASA IPC or be able to prove that you have the ASA 104 certification. Contact us for charter rates and availability in Paraty with Wind Charters.

Will we return? Absolutely… And we hope that you will join us there for our 2023 flotilla.

Capt. Jean De Keyser

Med Sailing Adventures.




We are always being told that, when we get lemons, we should make lemonade and I have – figuratively – been making lemonade for the last few months.

With all our trips in the Med having been cancelled, we had plenty of time for other projects, like remodeling our new home in Punta Gorda, Florida, and replacing the teak slats of the seats in the cockpit of my sailboat with Flexiteak.  Still, my mind wanders to where we would have been this week, if not for that bleeping virus.


We had planned our trip from Dubrovnik to Montenegro and the awe-inspiring Bay of Kotor. Last week Saturday, we would have left the ACI Marina of Dubrovnik and, after sailing around the fortified waterfront of the old city, we would have spent the night at anchor in the charming small city of Cavtat. The anchorage is absolutely stunning and, although you could dock the boats at the seawall, we prefer to anchor out and enjoy the view. We would then go ashore by dinghy for food in one of the local restaurants along the promenade.

Waiting to be released from Customs
Waiting to be released from Customs quarantine

The following morning, we would motor to the customs dock and, while the crew members would now not be allowed to cross the gate, the skippers would take care of all the paperwork with Croatian Customs and the Harbor Master to be cleared out of Croatia and head for Montenegro. Once all the formalities have been done, we are not allowed to set foot on Croatian soil and must go straight to neighboring Montenegro. Fines are very high for violators and the Croats keep track of us on their radar and with their patrol boats.

Keeping an eye on us

Our next stop is the small town of Zelenika in Montenegro where we clear customs. We must show all passports and boat papers to Customs and the Harbor Police and, again, in the meantime, the crew cannot leave the quarantine area. Once we have been cleared through customs, we can lower the yellow quarantine flag and raise the Montenegrin courtesy flag on the starboard flag halyard of our yachts. We now are officially in Montenegro and, after a short sail, we end up in the brand new Lazure Marina with its fabulous restaurant. We had the best meal and service there last year for half or what we would have paid in Croatia.

Lazure Marina

After a restful night digesting all that good food and wine, we leave the Bay of Kotor and anchor outside a blue cave for some swimming and snorkeling with lunch on board. Time to go to our next overnight anchorage in the small Bay of Bigova. The local restaurant, Grispolis, serves great Mediterranean seafood and they offer a free shuttle service from and to our anchored yachts.

Tuesday, after breakfast, we weigh anchor and sail back to the Bay of Kotor. After a lunch and swim stop in the bay of Zanjic with its beautiful Serbian Orthodox monastery on a minuscule island, we re-enter the majestic bay, the largest fjord in southern Europe, and go to our next destination, the super luxurious Porto Montenegro Marina. Our sailing yachts look puny compared to the super yachts of Russian oligarchs, Arab Sheikhs and other multi-billionaires. Still, the docking costs are reasonable and soon we go discover the port with its exclusive shops. If you are looking for Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Rolex, Balenciaga or other expensive items, this is the place. All that window shopping makes us hungry and we leave the marina for a delicious meal in nearby Tivat.

Wednesday’s destination is the walled medieval city of Kotor, the city of cats. It is located at the very end of the bay and towering mountains protect it from every angle. Before reaching Kotor, we make a short detour via the twin Perast islands with the Byzantine church of Our Lady of the Rocks.

The Perast Islands with St. Mary of the Rocks

The municipal marina of Kotor is quite small, and we have to cross the busy road to enter the main gate but soon we are wandering along in the narrow streets. Cat-themed stores are everywhere and there is even a cat museum. Of course, there are felines everywhere. Thank goodness there are no cats on the menus of the local restaurants but you will have plenty of good Mediterranean and Balkan food to choose from.

Cats Galore

Overlooking the city is the imposing fortress of St. John.  It is quite a climb to get there but the spectacular view is the reward for the intrepid hiker.

So, now we are Thursday and we have to make our way back to Dubrovnik. No time to waste but first a stop in Zelenika to clear out of Montenegro and then on our way back to Cavtat, under the watchful eye of the Croatian radar system to make sure we do not stop before we get through Croatian Customs.

Raising the yellow quarantine flag

If we arrive too late in Cavtat, we will have to stay at anchor with our yellow quarantine flag up and we will have to remain on board until we can clear in the morning. If the Customs office is still open, we will be allowed to clear and can then have dinner ashore. We love Cavtat and try to make sure that we can spend that night enjoying a good meal and gelato along the waterfront.


We will hang out most of Friday morning relaxing in Cavtat before our last sail back to the ACI Marina in Dubrovnik where total pandemonium reigns. Before docking, we must refuel the yachts and the only fuel dock is right on the river with many boats waiting in line. If you drift too much to port, you will end in the shallows. It is a zoo with impatient skippers barking orders to their frustrated crewmembers. 

As soon as we have refueled, we must find our slip in the overcrowded marina and maneuver the yachts to the dock. ACI Marinas are all over Croatia and are excellent but the one in Dubrovnik is awful. We cannot wait to be at the dock and get out of there as soon as feasible but, that having been said, we leave with unforgettable memories of a fantastic sailing trip.

This is what we would have been doing this week on our last of four weeks of sailing in Croatia and Dubrovnik.

Let us hope that we can do it again next year.  We do not need another stinking crisis and it is more fun than replacing the teak on my boat.

Fair winds! Stay healthy and safe.

Capt. Jean De Keyser



The Krka National Park with its stunning waterfalls has been one of our favorite destinations when we sail in Croatia.

Located upriver from the historic city of Sibenik, it definitely is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the country. Whereas “normal” tourists travel there by car or bus, we do the trip motorsailing up the river, through a canyon and across a lake before reaching the small village of Skradin with its history reaching back to the Roman times and beyond.

Skradin has excellent marina facilities operated by ACI. You either dock at the marina or take a buoy across the river where the swans will come beg for food.

From Skradin you can hike or bike to the Krka falls or you take one of the gullet ferries.

Hiking through the forest surrounding the falls or when swimming in the cool fresh water with hundreds of small fish darting to-and-fro around you, you do not realize that this magical place was the location of the second oldest hydro-electric plant in the world. It opened on August 28, 1895, only two days after the one at Niagara Falls. Pieces of the old turbine can still be seen there.

It was the brainchild of Nikola Tesla the incredible genius and constant nemesis of Thomas Edison.

Tesla, an ethnic Serb, was born in Smiljanin in what is now Croatia when it was still part of the Austrian Empire. He was the brain behind the development of the alternating current and, when he arrived in the States, he teamed up with Westinghouse.

His invention of the polyphase alternate current was used during the 1893 Chicago World Fair to supply power to the lighting of the show and the functioning of several electric motors.

Tesla died in the United States in 1943 but his final resting place is in Belgrade, Serbia.

History, culture and gastronomy combined with fun flotilla sailing makes for unique vacations experiences.

Although the so-called pandemic has ruined our plans for for 2020, we are looking forward to returning to all these interesting places with old and new sailing friends in 2021.

In the meantime, stay healthy and safe!

Capt. Jean De Keyser



Celebrating Father’s Day and our twelfth anniversary

As they say in the social media vernacular, OMG! It has been since April that I have not written a blog… Time to catch up with the Med Sailing Adventures Team…

So, for those of you who have not followed our Facebook postings, the Admiral went to Peru in March to visit her parents in Lima and to celebrate their birthdays with them. Little did she know that the virus would strike so fast and, before she knew it, she was stuck in Peru with a very strict stay-at-home policy. Meanwhile, I drove to Florida to our house in Punta Gorda. Sick and tired of the cold and the snow.

Being in sunny Florida, while there was still the occasional snowfall in Chicago, helped me a lot coping with the solitude caused by Mila’s absence.

She finally made it back on June 6 and we are now staying on our sailboat in Burnt Store Marina. We sold our house here as we wanted to downsize but have not decided on a new property yet. In the meantime, we celebrated Mila’s half century and our twelfth anniversary and we are enjoying our stay in the marina.

A beautiful SW Florida sunset

There is something to be said for staying on a boat in a marina. It is so peaceful and we sleep so well at night. The fellow liveaboards are very nice people, always willing to help, and the sunsets as seen from a boat are spectacular.

While I was still in the house here, in solitary confinement and with Mila south of the Equator, my therapy was mainly cooking and enjoying a good wine. I would post what I called food-porn pictures on Facebook but, ever since she came back, I have not posted too many. So here is one to wet the appetite of the ones who are gastronomically adventurous.

Anticuchos de corazon… Que bueno!

I brought our small Weber gas grill on board and prepared a typical Peruvian dish called Anticuchos de Corazon. They are skewers with pieces of beef heart marinated in a spicy mixture made of Peruvian peppers and herbs. It is a finger licking delicious dish. If beef heart makes you a bit queasy, you can also make it with chicken.

Today, we received a notice that the European Union countries will probably ban entry for U.S. citizens and residents for fear that they might re-introduce the virus in Europe. The crazy part is that they will allow visitors from China. Go figure but, in the meantime, we will not be able to return to the Med until 2021. Our trip to the Seychelles is still on for October of this year.

Although we will miss sailing with our friends in the Mediterranean, we are looking forward to 2021. Most of this year’s participants have already committed for 2021. Unless a new plague, revolution or out-of-space alien invasion hits us, next year should be a banner year. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

We will probably stay a few more weeks in Florida and then drive back to Illinois to see the kids and the grandkids and all our friends up there. Hopefully, we will be able to do some sailing on Lake Michigan as well.

More news in a few days!

Stay healthy and safe.

Capt. Jean De Keyser and “Admiral” Mila.


Several years ago, Mila and I used to own the Yachting Vacations charter company and ASA sailing school in Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Burnt Store Marina is the largest deep water marina on Florida’s west coast and is strategically located on Charlotte Harbor, the second largest bay after Tampa Bay. It is a great place to sail from with many attractive destinations nearby, like Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Boca Grande, Cayo Costa, and it is an excellent departure point for sailing trips to the Keys, the Ten Thousand Islands in the Everglades, the Dry Tortugas, St, Petersburg and so on. If you ever are in SW Florida, pay a visit to Burnt Store Marina. You will love it. Also, Check out this YouTube video to get a good idea of what a special place Punta Gorda is.

The beautiful Burnt Store Marina

One day, I do not remember the date or the year, an acquaintance called me and told me he had a friend who wanted to learn to sail. The friend’s name was Fred and he was a very wealthy farmer from the Midwest. A few days later, I got a phone call from Fred who interspersed his sentences with quite a few expletives. He told me that he was well in his seventies and that he wanted to buy a sailboat and learn to sail on his boat. Could I help him with that? Well, of course, we could.

We agreed to meet at our base in Burnt Store Marina during the second half of March but, when I did not hear from him around mid-March, I called him and he told me that the reason he could not make it was that there had been a lot of (expletive) flooding in his area and he was building (expletive) levees around his (expletive) farmhouse. He suggested we meet in April.

Sunsets on Charlotte Harbor are spectacular!

On the agreed date in April, Fred showed up in our office in the marina. He was a tiny but wiry guy with a shock of white hair, dressed in a pair of jeans that was two sizes too big for him and a black T-shirt with sweat stains. A pair of suspenders ensured that his jeans would not fall victim to gravity. This is how he was always dressed. In all these years that I have known Fred, I have never seen him wear anything else. If you saw him, you would never have imagined that this guy was a multimillionaire. He was slightly bent over and walked shuffling his feet.

In his very colorful manner of speech, he described his sailing ambitions. He wanted to learn to sail singlehandedly and he wanted to buy a sailboat. We discussed his goals and the options, and he decided that he would like a Catalina 32, and not a used one, please… We made an appointment for that afternoon with the Catalina dealer in Palmetto, north of Sarasota, to look at a brand-new model at their dock.

During the drive to Palmetto, Fred gave me a lot of details of his life. He had a huge farm where he lived with his wife who had no interest whatsoever in sailing or in any of Fred’s other adventures and did he ever have some. He told me about the time that he thought he needed a vacation in Mexico. So, he took his crop duster plane and, basically only with a radio and a compass, he flew south. Just that easy, not complicated, fly by the seat of your (two sizes too large) pants. No big deal.

He also mentioned that the reason he peppers his conversation with lots of colorful expletives is that it was because he was a bit brain damaged. “I was dusting my crops flying my “GD” plane and hit a phone cable. The “GD” plane went down and I got a bad “GD” head injury. Haven’t been the same since”. He also has not flown a plane yet either after that. He sure was an interesting character.

We arrived at the marina in Palmetto and he fell immediately in love with the Catalina 32. When he went inside the main cabin, he stated that it was way nicer and more comfortable than his “GD” combine back at the farm. Yes, it even has air conditioning? The salesman told him this little beauty could be his for a mere $185,000.00. Fred told him that he never liked to haggle with car salespeople, and he was not going to do this with a yacht sales guy either. He told him to inform the owner that he would take the boat for $165,000 or he would go somewhere else. Ten minutes later, Fred was the proud owner of a brand-new Catalina 32 without even knowing what starboard was.

On the way back to Punta Gorda, my new sailing student mentioned that he liked the gated community of Burnt Store Marina and that he would not mind having a vacation home there. Did I know a good realtor by any chance?

Fred’s boat on the portside of the S/V JAVI

One of my neighbors was a realtor and I called him from the car. An appointment was made for that same evening and, after I had dropped Fred off at the marina, he went house hunting with Alan the realtor. Twenty-four hours later, Fred had bought a $250,000.00 small villa near the docks where he would keep his boat. Alan was only too happy to receive an earnest money check for close to fifty percent of the price of the house.

Fred did learn to singlehandedly sail his thirty-two-foot pride and joy and he was actually surprisingly good at it. During the next three years, once the crops at the farm were in, Fred would come down to Burnt Store Marina, stay at his house, shuffle to his yacht, throw off the lines by himself and go out on Charlotte Harbor for a few hours of sailing.

We always knew when he was coming back into the marina. Did I forget to mention that Fred was almost deaf too? When he motored back to his slip, the stereo would be blaring classical music for the whole marina to enjoy. It was mostly Beethoven but, the way he barged back into port, the Ride of The Valkyries would have been way more appropriate.

The original Snow Birds: white pelicans from the Midwest spend their winters here.

Getting the boat back in her slip was always a bumping experience and the poor yacht had the gelcoat and fiberglass scars to show for it.

Fred has passed away since and I have no clue where his yacht ended up, but he certainly was one of the more colorful characters that has ever passed through the doors of our business. He was also the cause of one of our memorable sailing adventures.

After he had bought his boat, we had to wait a few weeks to bring her to her new home in Burnt Store Marina. Some final paperwork needed to be done as well as some finishing touches of the commissioning.

As there still was no dodger or bimini and as the daytime temperatures were very high, I decided that we should make it a night sail from Palmetto, south along the coast, to Boca Grande Pass and from there to Burnt Store Marina. The weather forecast was good and should make for quiet sailing. Alan, the realtor, and Joe, one of our school’s sailing instructors, were going to come along for the ride.

The sun set once we were out of Tampa Bay and we set course, following the coastline, for the Boca Grande Channel. It was smooth sailing, nothing to worry about. I was standing watch when we were a few miles out, abeam of the Venice inlet, and that is also when the weather changed. The wind picked up with gusts around 30 knots, the seas built up, rain came down with thunder and lightning. We had already reefed the sails before the sun went down and we did not have to worry about that for the time being. My two crew members went down into the cabin and this is when, on a brand-new boat, we lost the steering. Suddenly, the wheel turned loose in my hands and the rudder did no longer respond to the wheel. I dug up the emergency tiller from the lazaret, removed the cover plate of the rudder post and, to my relief, saw that the rudder was still there, which meant the it had not fallen off. I put in the emergency tiller and regained control of the yacht.

Venice, FL, inlet. A great sailing destination.

We were still being tossed around and we agreed that it would be very uncomfortable to keep on going to Boca Grande Pass with an emergency tiller in this kind of weather. We called Tow Boat US to come get us and tow us into the Venice inlet. As a Gold Member, it would not cost us a dime, except for a tip for the towboat captain.

We were heading towards the Venice inlet under power, with bare poles, and steering with the emergency tiller while waiting for Tow Boat US to show up. About two hours later, we were solidly attached to the towboat and finally got into the inlet where everything was way quieter. The weather was still bad with thunder and lightning but at least, in the Intracoastal Waterway, the water was more tranquil. Tow Boat USA was going to bring us all the way to Burnt Store Marina. What a deal!

This was now a smooth ride and Joe and Alan took advantage of it to get some shuteye while I stayed at the tiller to help steer the towed yacht.

As long as we were in the ICW, everything was all right, except for the occasional thunder and lightning but, once we emerged into Charlotte Harbor, all hell broke loose again with high waves, heavy winds and the regular thunderclaps.  At one point, I heard this crackling noise on top of the mast followed by a flash of light and a loud bang. I thought we were being hit by lightning, but it was a St. Elmo fire discharge. Still, it was a scary experience.

It was hard work for the towboat captain, and I was exhausted holding the emergency tiller to keep the yacht in sync with the towboat.

When we got close to the Burnt Store Marina channel entrance, I called the office and instructed our yacht technicians to be ready to receive us at the dock. We finally entered the channel and the flat water inside the marina and, before long, we were at the dock. I hopped off the yacht, told the dock hands to secure the boats and bolted towards the bar of the marina for a few beers and a burger, then home for a well-deserved siesta.

As far as the steering failure is concerned, the cables had come off the quadrant and got totally mangled. Catalina ended up sending someone from the factory to have this repaired.

Good old Fred and his yacht will always be one of those memories that make for a good story at the bar with fellow sailors. I hope to see you at a bar soon so we can swap more tall tales.

Stay safe and healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


You always experience something fun and unexpected when sailing.

A few years ago, we were cruising in Croatia during one of our flotillas. We had just visited the moving beach of Zlatni Rat on Brac (pronounced Bratsj), one of the larger islands along the Dalmatian Coast.

Discover Zlatni Rat, most famous beach in Croatia
Zlatni Rat beach, near Bol on Brac Island

Brac is renowned for its white stone and the locals say that stone from their quarries was used for the construction of the White House. I don’t know if it is true, but it makes for a good story.

The beach of Zlatni Rat is a large pebble beach that protrudes from the island into the Hvarski Channel that separates the islands of Brac from Hvar. The beach moves following the tides and currents and basically it sways from East to West with the pebbles rolling back and forth. Quite interesting…

This was Thursday and, the following evening, we had to be back at our base in Kastela, near Split. The flotilla week was almost over. Our plan was to sail along the south coast of Brac through the pass of Splitska Vrata, between the islands of Brac and Solta and then go to the charming small fishing port of Milna on Brac’s west side.

The typical fishing village of Milna
Getting ready for the storm

Unannounced, and not mentioned in the forecast, a storm came up from the northwest and, in a minimum of time, we were heading straight into the wind and the high waves. The three yachts in our flotilla were bucking like broncos. The crew members had donned their foul weather gear and were shivering while we were being pelted by rain and some occasional hail. It was blowing a stink with some gusts exceeding 35 knots.

Squalls are forming

It was getting darker when we fought our way through the Splitska Vrata and we rounded Zaglav point towards Milna where there are three marinas.  We did not have any reservations as, most of the time, you do not need them. You just show up and the dockhands tell you were to dock. Unfortunately, that night, there were no slips available. They had cancelled a sailing race and all the contestants had taken shelter in the three marinas. Anchoring outside was not an option with the weather as the bay in front of the entrance to Milna did not offer any protection.

Google Earth view of Milna, Lucice and Splitzka Vrata pass

A quick look at the charts showed that the closest place with the best protection would be the anchorage of Lucice (pron. Loo-tsjee-tsay). However, to get there, we had to retrace our steps, get back outside in the storm, through Splitska Vrata pass and back in the direction from where we came.  We should see the bay of Lucice on our portside. No way we could miss it and, sure enough, as soon as we turned inside the small bay, the water was flat and we were out of the wind and the storm.

We headed towards the westernmost shore of the bay where we would get the most protection. The charts showed this as a particularly good anchorage but, when we got there, we saw mooring buoys. That would make our lives easier. Our three yachts each picked up a mooring ball and soon a local fisherman came over in his skiff to tell us that we had to pay for the use of the buoys but, if we would eat dinner at the small konoba (restaurant) on-shore, the buoys would be free.

It was already getting late and, after having been cycled and recycled through the Adriatic washing machine, nobody was in the mood to cook on board and soon we headed to shore in our dinghies.

The restaurant was located under the pines and was totally off the grid. An old Cummings generator at the back of the owner’s house was making a racket and provided electricity for the house and the konoba.

The freshest seafood ever…

The kitchen was an open-air grill and all the food was prepared over charcoal. The waiters spoke very little English and there was no menu. They would explain in a mixture of German and English what was available, and it boiled basically down to lamb, fish and scallops. The scallops grilled in their shell on the charcoal were delicious. Unlike in the U.S.A. where you get them cleaned up so that only the white meat remains, in the Mediterranean they serve them with the orange colored corral. It makes a big difference. As far as the fish was concerned, it was still swimming when we picked up our buoys. That fresh…

View over Lucice Bay from the restaurant
It does not get more authentic and rustic…

From what we understood from the waiters, the owner of the restaurant was a retired star soccer player who had his heyday during the Yugoslav Tito years. We were welcome to visit his house and look at all his trophies.

Our host at the Konoba in Lucice

The gentleman, whose name I cannot even recall, met us at the door. He welcomed us in Croatian because he did not speak a word of English of German and, with the help of one of the waiters who could babble a bit in English, he tried to tell his story. We understood that he must have been one of the top players of his times. His house was a shrine to his achievements and there were pictures on the wall of him shaking hands with the likes of Tito and Brezhnev. Too bad we could not communicate better which makes me jump a few years fast forward…

Relaxing the morning after the storm

About three years ago, during another flotilla, and after I had told our participants about this story, we decided to go back to Lucice and show them that same place. It had changed quite a bit. Now they wanted us to pay for the buoys regardless of whether we were going to have dinner at the konoba or not. It seems that the wife of the former star player had taken over the business and she was not exactly customer friendly or, as a matter of fact, not friendly at all. It was a bit of a disappointment but, fortunately, the scenery of the anchorage was still as spectacular as the first time we came here.

We wanted to see the house and the owner again and when I told one of the waiters, who spoke a perfect English, that it had been a pity that we had not been able to communicate with the owner, he told me that he did indeed not speak English or German but was fluent in French. When I met him, I reminded him of our visit a few years ago and we had a good laugh about the fact that, if we had both known at that time, we could have talked in French.

Yep, you should have been there…

Lucice is still one of our favorite anchorages on Brac but, hopefully, the owners of the konoba will get their act together and the business will become again more customer friendly like when we came there the first time.

If it had not been for that storm, we would probably never have discovered its beauty.

Stay safe and healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


It was Monday, September of 2013 and we were docked at the seawall of Komiza on the island of Vis. The weather was great and life was good.

Picturesque Komiza with its waterfront and fortress

Komiza is this “beyond-adorable” fishing village on the southwestern side of the island. It is located at the end of a large bay and at the foot of the imposing Hum mountain. A fort built to protect the village from pirates is one of the main tourist attractions and houses a fishing museum.

One of our regular destinations in Croatia, Komiza is also my favorite place for excellent pizza and beer in one of the several affordable restaurants on the waterfront. I should also not forget to mention the unbelievable gelato’s…

Overlooking the bay of Komiza

So, here we were docked at the seawall and next to us was another charter boat with an all-male Croatian crew. They had set up a small grill on the quay and were grilling tiny sausages that smelled mouthwatering deliciously. While they were preparing their food, they were taking numerous shots of a clear liquor from a bottle that contained a fully grown pear.

Needless to say, we had to strike up a conversation. Two of them spoke perfect English and told me that they were high school friends who had left Yugoslavia when, in the mid-nineties, the country was falling apart. Some of them left for the United States, others to Germany or Italy and, after all these years, they had decided on a reunion in their old country, which is now Croatia. As they always had sailed together when they were young, they wanted to make their get-together a sailing vacation.

Of course, we traded many shots of their pear schnapps with ones from our vodka bottle and they had me taste the finger licking good little sausages called Cevapcici (Che-vap-chi-chi). I order them at restaurants when in Croatia and I love them accompanied with ajvar and fries. Sometimes, when I get an uncontrollable urge for them, I will make them here in the USA and put them on the grill or on the plancha.

If you want to get an idea of how good these cevapcici sausages are, but if you do not have a Balkan-style restaurant close to you or (even worse) you cannot accompany us on our next trip to Croatia, here is my recipe.

You will need:

  • half a pound of ground lamb
  • about one and a half pounds of ground pork or mild Italian sausage
  • one pound of lean ground beef
  • three or four garlic cloves to taste, minced
  • about one teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • a dash of paprika
  • one finely chopped onion
  • one egg white

Mix all the ingredient in a large non-reactive bowl and let rest for a few hours in a cool place to have the mixture thoroughly absorb all the flavors. Form the meat mixture in little sausage of about two and halve inches long and three quarters of an inch think. Cevapcici sausages do not have casings and are really easy to make.

Grill them on a BBQ or on a plancha griddle at medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, turning them frequently and eat them with ajvar, a typical Balkan spread that you can find in the international food sections of major grocery stores, like Pete’s Market and Caputo’s in the Chicagoland area. If you can’t find it, you can easily make it yourself.

Mixed grill with ajvar (the red paste) and cevapcici (the small casingless sausages on the upper right plate). Croatia is for sailors and foodies.

You will need:

  • six red bell peppers
  • one medium eggplant
  • three generous tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • at least three chopped garlic cloves (but more if you really like it garlicky)
  • freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
  • a dash of vinegar
  • cayenne pepper to taste (if you like your ajvar hot)
  • a tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • one teaspoon of sugar

Cut the bell peppers and the eggplant in half and put them face down in a hot oven (450F / 232C) until the skins are roasted and blistered. Let them cool down then peel the peppers and discard the skins, scoop up the flesh out of the eggplant and discard the skin. Put all the ingredients in a food blender until well mixed and voila! Your ajvar is ready…

Ajvar is often called the caviar of the poor man. It is healthy and tasty. You can eat it with your cevapcici while dreaming that you are in Croatia, cruising the crystal clear waters with us, or you can also use it as a dip, spread it on a toast, try it as a pizza sauce. Whatever way you use it, you will love it…

More flotilla food stories and travel adventures to follow in my next blog.

Fair Winds and Bon Appétit.

Capt. Jean De Keyser

Med Sailing Adventures


Sailing is one of those activities that always let you meet and get to know interesting people. Our friend Dennis and his lovely wife, Bise, in Vis are two of them.

“Admiral” Mila, Dennis, his wife, Bise, and the “Captain”.

We got to know Dennis when we docked for the first time at the island of Vis in Croatia, over eleven years ago.

We brought our chartered Jeanneau 49i sailboat to the quay, stern first, for a Mediterranean mooring and threw Dennis, who was the dock hand on duty, our stern docking lines. He gave us the lazy lines that we would attach to the bow cleats. There was a very short stone finger pier on the port side of the yacht and one of our crew members got in an argument with Dennis because she insisted on having a spring line to that finger pier.

Picturesque Vis Harbor.

Dennis kept on saying that it was not necessary and that with the stern docking lines and the lazy lines at the bow we would be just fine. With the fenders along the side, the yacht was totally secure. No overkill required…

The discussion became more heated and, as captain, I had to tell the crew member, who is a dear friend of mine, to tone it down. Once we were safely docked, I gave Dennis the boat documents, as is customary in Croatia, and apologized for the ruckus. He was very gracious about it and we chatted a bit. He mentioned that he and his wife had started a small Konoba or restaurant in their vineyard in the mountains of the island. Would we be interested in going there?

When it comes to food and wine, you can always count me in and we made arrangements for him to pick us up a bit later.

Bay of Vis at sunset.

About one hour later, we boarded a beaten up van and headed up the mountain. The road zig-zagged up allowing us to have a great view over the harbor and the city below. We arrived at the vineyard and had to hike our way down from the road to the small establishment that they had recently opened and were welcomed by Dennis’ wife, Bise, a jovial Croatian women, and by her little daughter, Marina, who must not have been more than four years old and by Bise’s sister Dinka.

Sampling the homemade brandies of Konoba Magic.

We were treated to a phenomenal traditional Dalmatian meal. Zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and then deep fried, shark carpaccio, marinated sardine and anchovy fillets, local cheese and more delicious appetizers followed by a fabulous lamb stew dish called Peka. Big chunks of lamb with vegetables and potatoes are put in a deep round dish which is then shoved into a very hot hearth and covered by a heavy steel dome covered with hot ashes. After two hours, one of the most delicious lamb dishes you can imagine is served with a never ending supply of Dennis’ own white and red wines. Let us not forget the home made brandies infused with a variety of herbs…

Peka pots in the open fire.

Over the years, Konoba Magic (pronounced Magitz) has grown and has become one of the more popular restaurants on the island. We return religiously every year with our flotilla crew members. It is an annual gastronomical pilgrimage for us and we are always welcomed with open arms by Bise, Dennis and their parents. The restaurant is family operated and Maika (or grandma) is the Chef in the kitchen. She prepares all the meals from scratch while Juraj tends to the fire in the open hearth and makes sure that the Pekas are kept covered by the hot embers.

The finished product; fall-off-the bone finger-licking delicious with wine from the vineyard!

Dennis and Bise have become very successful and have benefited a lot financially thanks to their hard work. Dennis does not work as a dock hand any longer. We follow them on Facebook and are always very happy for them when we see them spending their winters in exotic places like Thailand and South Beach. When we first met them, their English was quite poor. Nowadays, we hear them discuss their menus in Italian, German and English with their ever increasing number of happy customers.

Tito’s abandoned Cold War secret torpedo boat base. Very James Bond-like.

Dennis is a great guy and he will gladly share his knowledge of the fascinating history of the island. Vis has always been very strategic real estate during its history and especially during WWII and the post-war Tito years, when it was off-limits to outsiders. It is replete with abandoned fortifications, hidden tunnels and a formerly top-secret torpedo boat base. Dennis can tell you all about these places, but the history of Vis goes way back to even before the Greeks and the Phoenicians and you will readily find remnants from Roman and Byzantine times. Vis was also the setting for the “Greek” island in Mama Mia II.

The Wikipedia page is a must-read and is chock-full of interesting facts about this scenic island and its fascinating history.

If you ever go to Croatia, make it a point to go to Vis, either on a sailing yacht or by regular ferry from Split, and go look up Dennis and Bise at Konoba Magic. Tell them that we sent you and not onnly will you be treated like royalty but you will go home with an unforgettable memory of a unique gastronomic experience.

Fair Winds!

Capt. Jean De Keyser



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