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.


It was Sunday, mid-January 2022, and the yacht brokerage company that I work with in Burnt Store Marina was closed but one person got my name and phone number and called me to ask if I would be interested in selling his yacht. I answered that I would be there in five minutes.

When I arrived at the office, a young man in his forties introduced himself. Let’s call him Louis. He struck me as very weird. He looked like the banjo boy from the movie Deliverance all grown up. Very weird vibes…

Louis told me that he had bought this yacht the week before from another broker, whose name I will not mention. He wanted to escape the Apocalypse (no… I am not making this up). Louis, who does not know the first thing about sailing and sailboats had decided to buy a $400,000.00 super sailing yacht to escape it all because he was convinced the Government was after him and that the Apocalypse was about to happen.

The yacht had been owned and kept at the dock of a gentleman who had done a circumnavigation on her and he wanted now to buy a power boat. He hired the broker to sell her and then came Louis who bought her at $500.00 below the asking price. Apparently, a cash deal.

The best way to escape this? A $400,000.00 luxury – off the grid- yacht, of course…

The seller wanted the yacht off his dock, but Louis did not know how to handle this boat and finally the broker and the seller moved her to the transient dock of Burnt Store Marina, here in Punta Gorda, and that is where Louis found me.

As this whole deal stunk to high heaven, I started asking him questions about his plans, where he was from, how he was going to learn to sail, etc. I figured that either he must have inherited a large sum of money or gotten some other kind of windfall. I understood that he is on disability following an accident. He kept on ranting and raving about the apocalypse, and it was obvious that this guy had a mental problem.

What I did not understand is how a broker could have such a lack of ethics to sell a very expensive yacht to a person who, under normal circumstances, should be institutionalized. How in the world can you tell a person with a mental disability that it is OK to buy such a yacht and take his money? This is so flagrantly unethical and it almost reeks of abuse of a mental patient. Like stealing candy from a baby. Two friends of mine who hold degrees in psychology had quickly diagnosed poor Louis with paranoid-schizophrenic disorder and he definitely should not be on the loose. This guy is a danger to himself and his surroundings.

What made it even worse is that Louis, who by now was aware that he would never be able to sail that yacht, called the selling broker and asked him to put his boat back on the market, one week after he had bought her and this at the same time that he was asking me to sell her.

So, the yacht was sitting there at the transient dock of the marina, but Louis does not have insurance and the marina wants him out by the end of January. No slips available anywhere in southwest Florida. Louis is in a monumental pickle, and I suggest that he bring the yacht to a haul-out and storage place where she will be safe until he figures out how to handle all this. He tells that to the broker who scares him by saying that I have no yacht broker’s license or bond (not true) and that, if he hauls the boat and stores her on the hard, the sun will destroy his yacht in the shortest time. Louis panics and, in his state of mind, there is no way to reason with him.

I told him that, under the circumstances, I could not be of any further assistance. Before I left him, he asked me to check the A/C outlets. When I climbed on board, he pointed to a big shiny stainless-steel object and asked me what it was. I explained the use of the winch for him… Hopeless…

I went below to check on the A/C outlets, I saw the door to the head open. I asked him if he was using the head on board or if he used the marina facilities. He was filling up the waste tank and had no clue how to empty it.

The craziest part of all was that, when I asked about the British standard outlets, he knew enough about the story of the yacht to tell me that the seller had bought her in Barcelona from a previous owner who was a British Doctor and who had brough the yacht from the States to the Mediterranean. I knew right there that this yacht originally came out of our marina. The previous owner of my old charter company here had sold that yacht to this Doctor right at the time that I bought the charter company and I remember her at our dock. “Pelican”, although under a new name, was still as beautiful as in 2007 and impeccably maintained. It is a very small world, indeed.

Last I heard is that she might already have been sold again, and that Louis had left in his car for Montana where he is looking for a place to survive the Apocalypse. I never checked if he had a banjo…



Post-pandemic life is starting to become more or less normal again.

After an exciting cruise in the Gulf of Fethiye in Turkey, we came back to the USA for two weeks and were on our way back east to Italy for the ASA Tuscany cruise.

Flag of Tuscany, Italy

Getting up on June 29 at 04:00 to catch a 07:00 flight from Ft. Myers to Dallas, for our connection to Rome, is not exactly my idea of fun. I am not an early morning person, and the attitude of the TSA agent did not help to get me in a good mood.

What is it with TSA agents in the States that they must show off their “power” by shouting and yelling? You do not see that in other countries. We had this tattoo-covered guy standing in front of the luggage scanning machine barking “90 degrees, turn the trays 90 degrees” while not making eye contact.

What an image we must project to foreign tourists visiting our country…

After spending the entire flight from RSW to DFW asleep, we had a five-hour layover in Dallas. We took the Skytrain from Terminal A to Terminal D and had an overpriced and mediocre airport breakfast there.

Before we left our house in Punta Gorda, I could not find my noise-cancelling headphones and, as there is no way that I was going to spend thirteen hours on a plane with screaming kids without being able to cancel them out, I ended up investing in $150.00 Skull Candy Bluetooth headphones. It ended up being a great investment with that raging rug rat (RRR) two rows behind me.

The flight time between Dallas and Rome was spent sleeping and reading Tom Clancy’s “Locked On” novel while drowning out the RRR’s screams.

I am still amazed at the senseless mask regulations on airplanes. In order to be allowed to board the plane to Europe, you must show a negative COVID test which means that everyone on board is “healthy”. I would assume that many are also vaccinated. The air on the plane is cleaned and renewed every few minutes. Why the face pampers, as I call them? On top of that, the virus must be the dumbest thing alive not to take advantage of the fact that we all take our masks off for over thirty minutes during dinner and breakfast on board. Call me a rebel, if you wish…

The thump of the wheels at touchdown in Rome pulled me out of my uncomfortable sleep.

Getting through immigration and customs in Italy was a non-event. We had filed our negative COVID test results and our European COVID tracking documents electronically.

Waiting for the train to Follonica in Roma Trastevere Station

We collected our luggage and headed for the train terminal, bought our tickets to Follonica, the closest station to Scarlino, and boarded a super clean and fast train to Roma Trastevere station where, half an hour later, we got on the connecting train to Pisa. Two hours later, we arrived in the small station of Follonica and, after a short taxi ride, finally reached our hotel, La Darsena, in walking distance from the charter base. It had taken us over twenty-four hours to make the trip, door-to-door and, after a quick shower, we crashed for a good four hours of sleep.

Our first Tuscan sunset of the year.

The following morning, Thursday, we had breakfast at the hotel and went for a walk to the marina.

Except for one or two unbooked sailboats, the charter base was empty. Business must be good.

Back at the hotel, I spent the rest of the day taking care of answering emails and booking yachts for our flotillas in Croatia and the Seychelles while the Admiral was, doing bookkeeping, arranging for payments of the charter boats, and doing other administration tasks.

We took a break for lunch and found this small fish store that doubled as a takeout restaurant with a few tables outside. The food was amazing, and they had an impressive choice of the freshest fish.

A delicious lunch at our local fish store.

It was so good that we returned the following day for more.

Across the street from the fish store, there is a trail that goes into the national preserve of the Maremma. This part of the country is a mixture of agricultural fields, forests and swamp and is home to the Butteri, the Italian version of cowboys who herd their longhorn cattle there. The only other place in Europe that I know where they have these “cowboys” is in the French Camargue.

The swamp of the Maremma National Park. A birder’s paradise.

We hiked for a few miles on a boardwalk in the swamp to a blind from where we could spy on the local birds, after which we headed back to the hotel for more work on our laptops and a short siesta.

The boardwalk in the swamp.

That evening we had a delicious dinner in one of the restaurants in the marina.

Well rested on Friday morning, we had breakfast at our hotel, checked the emails and went for another walk to the marina for some shopping in one of the local stores.

Scarlino marina is a modern and luxurious place, home of several excellent eateries and pricey shops.

There are three or four charter companies here and they have a well-equipped boat maintenance and yacht storage facility. It is only a few hours sail from our first destination, Porto Azzurro on the island of Elba.

Marina di Scarlino with the Island of Elba in the back

Friday night, we had dinner at our favorite local restaurant, Il Veliero, with our Boat Mates, Bob and Cathy from Lake Tahoe.

I introduced Bob and Cathy to my favorite dish, Tagliatelle al cinghiale or tagliatelle pasta with wild boar. Lots of tagliatelle but not much boar…

Many Prosecco’s and a few wine bottles later, we headed back to our hotel, a fifteen minute walk.

Saturday morning, after our breakfast buffet at the hotel, we packed our stuff, checked out and schlepped out luggage from the hotel to the marina where we had to wait until the afternoon to get checked in on our yacht, a Sun Odyssey 479. Spacious and comfortable. We did our provisioning at the well stocked supermarket in the marina and, when getting back to the boat, we were told that she was ready for us to board and get settled.

Our home away from home; SV Azzurra

Having verified during check-in and vessel orientation that all the systems on board were working, we dropped the lines for our 18NM crossing to Porto Azzurro on the island of Elba. Wind on the nose and motorsail all the way.

Arriving in Porto Azzurro

We had sent an email to the local port authority asking for a berth for the night but, when we arrived there, all dock spaces were taken, and we ended up at anchor at the entrance of Cala di Mora. There were already lots of boats on the hook and we had to do quite some maneuvering to make sure that we would be safe for the night. Secure at anchor now, this called for a celebratory drink of wine after which we got in the dinghy and went to shore to have dinner at our favorite place, our friend Umberto’s Pegaso restaurant on the waterfront.

Great to see our good friend Umberto again. Thanks for the Grappa!

We were received with open arms after the long 2020 absence. My favorite food that night was the marinated anchovies followed by a Pizza Mediterranea with mussels and more anchovies. A half-liter of beer helped wash down my meal.  I wish I had some poetry talent in me so I could write an ode to the humble anchovy, one of the greatest gifts from Poseidon, God of the seas. Umberto came to sit at our table for a chat and shared his best grappa with us. This after dinner drink went down very smoothly and, if I had consumed a few more, maybe I would have made an attempt at poetry.

Back to the boat in the dark for a well-deserved night of sleep. And end of day one.

Sunday and our destination of the day is Portoferraio, a lovely city where Napoleon lived in exile for a short period of time before having the bad idea to return to France, raise an army again and then finally be clobbered into submission at Waterloo.

The flag of Elba, designed by Napoleon Bonaparte

The locals still keep him in their hearts because he helped make – albeit unknowingly – Elba into a major tourist attraction.  During his stay he even gifted the island with its flag, which they still use today. A white background with a diagonal red stripe in which there are three bees, Napoleon’s animal symbol.

Again, there was almost no wind and we had to motor most of the way to Portoferraio. We decided to stop for a lunch and a swim in the bay of Calvo. A colorfully painted Moby ferry was docked unloading and loading cars and passengers.

The colorful Moby ferry in the small port of Calvo

Before our trip to Italy, I had bought a drone and I had spent quite some time, prior to the trip, practicing flying and maneuvering it.  So, now was the moment to put that practice to work.  I put the drone on the swim platform and off it went towards the Moby ferry when I realized that it was not taking pictures.

I turned the drone around and tried to make it land again on the swim platform.  Easier said than done and I had no other choice than to try to grab it by hand. HUGE mistake… Those little props are deadly weapons and they cut deep in my fingers. Blood splattered everywhere on deck… It was a painful mess.

Fortunately, Damien the possessed demonic drone finally stopped, and we almost threw it overboard.

Cleaning up the scene of the crime

Mila had to dig up the first aid kit and started bandaging my fingers. It would take a good week for them to heal completely. After having turned my fingers in mummy-like bandages, she now had to clean the blood from the crime scene.  Needless to say, I was of no bleeping use for the rest of the day and would not be handling any lines for most of the rest of the trip.

Damien was returned to his bag. We may give him another chance in Sardinia. Maybe taking off from and landing on a catamaran will be an easier job.

Portoferraio. Is that Napoleon’s ship waiting for him?

We weighed anchor in Calvo and headed for Portoferraio.

Its waterfront is very colorful and picturesque and, once you get through the main gate by the port, you enter the old city. Right there, on the left-hand corner is my favorite gelato place. Just great ice creams… So many flavors and so little time. I needed a big one for medicinal purposes after my drone disaster.

Later that evening, we had dinner in a trattoria next to the main gate. You just cannot get bad food in Italy.

Cathy and Bob at trattoria in Portoferraio

We wandered back, along the waterfront to our yacht. During the day this is a busy street with a lot of traffic but, after six o’clock or so, it is for pedestrians only. Plenty of ice cream-licking people watching the diners sitting at the terraces of the restaurants and vice-versa.

We pulled in the gangplank of the boat and went to sleep but not before a last drink, again for medicinal purposes only, of course.

Monday morning, after some provisioning and after withdrawing money from the local ATM, we paid our docking fee and pointed our boat to our next port of call, the island of Capraia, 26NM away on a 303 heading.

The island is a national park and only has one small fishing port that is increasingly becoming popular with cruisers. You have the fishing port, and you have the village with the fortress overlooking it from the other side of the small bay.


There are a few restaurants in the fishing village of which two are really good. Surprisingly, there is only one restaurant in the hilltop village. Mila and I had taken a small bus to the upper village (Euro 0.80 R/T) and wanted to have dinner there but there was no table available without reservation.

Back to the waterfront… Same story. We only found one place where were given a table inside and the food was good but not that great. Beggars cannot be choosers.

Meanwhile Bob and Cathy who wanted to have a romantic dinner, just the two of them, had a delicious meal at a place where they had made a reservation. Oh well…

Gorgeous Capraia sunset.

We awoke a bit late on Tuesday and Bob and Cathy had decided to walk from the lower village to the upper and back. A good way to shake off some of the sea leg stiffness. When they came back, we sailed to our favorite swimming anchorage on the island, Cala del Moreto, on the southside of the island just behind Punta del Zenobito. On the eastside of the point there is this strange geological phenomenon where two different type of rock meet. One is dark red from the iron ore and the other looks greyish like your average granite. Imagine the forces of nature at work here millions of years ago when these islands were trusted up from the bottom of the sea.

The primeval wild beauty of nature.

Refreshed after our swim, our next destination was Marciana Marina, 20NM away.

A bit of wind to start, then motorsailing again…  We will have to sacrifice one of the crew members to Aeolus, God of the Winds…

When we arrived at Marciana Marina, and notwithstanding our previous emails requesting a reservation, there was no space at the docks. Fortunately, they have a very nice anchorage near the entrance of the marina. We dropped the hook, opened a bottle of white wine and watched the show of all the boats coming in for docking and anchoring.  Quite a show… This was amateur hour.  It is amazing how many sailors have no clue about anchoring.

Bob and Cathy went ashore with the dinghy looking for a Wi-Fi connection to reschedule their travel plans to Corsica. Mila and I stayed on board and watched the clown show.

At Anchor outside of Marciana Marina.

That evening we had dinner in our favorite restaurant in Marciana Marina, Affrichella, located on a cute little square behind the main church, then back to the boat for a well-deserved rest.

Wednesday morning, 06:15; a loud bang against the boat made me jump out of my berth and go topside where I saw a 46’ Jeanneau clanging its anchor against our starboard aft pulpit.  I had noticed this boat come in last night and anchor out on the forward port quarter of our boat.  I had my doubts about their decision to anchor so close to us and here they were after their anchor had slipped.

I tried to push their boat away with my bandaged fingers and put a fender between us.

Peaceful anchoring night scene at Marciana Marina

Mila came up first followed by Bob. The neighbor’s chain was now under our hull. I told the skipper of the other boat to release more chain to free our hull and moved our forwards, until we were free, then told them to raise their anchor and get out of there.

They finally motored away and dropped their anchor about 200m from our boat. I saw that our pulpit had been damaged and jumped in the dinghy to get their insurance information because they had damaged the pulpit.

They may have screwed up their anchoring, but they were friendly folks and gave me all the info I needed to pass on to my charter company.  They will solve it…

Of course, no more sleep after this. We had planned to stay another day and go to the top of Monte Capanne, the highest point of the island but clouds were rolling in and Bob and Cathy said that they preferred to go back to Porto Azzurro as they had so much enjoyed Umberto’s hospitality and cuisine.

Cathy at the wheel with Swee’pea, our mascot

So, Thursday morning, we sailed back to Porto Azzurro. We had some really good winds and truly enjoyed the ride.  I had made sure that we had a place at the wall this time.

On the way, we passed Calvo again where Damian the Possessed almost amputated my fingers.

The colorful Moby ferry was at its jetty again, but we easily resisted any temptation whatsoever to stop and take the drone out. Onwards to Porto Azzurro…

The “Admiral” enjoying the ride.

We arrived in the port basin and called the harbormaster for our dock assignment.

He could not find our reservation and we had to bob around for about fifteen minutes before we finally got our yacht at the wall.

As soon as we had settled in, we walked to downtown and made reservations at Pegaso.

A refreshing warm weather favorite, Aperol Spritz.

Millie and I walked around a bit, then sat down for an Aperol Spritz at a café on the main square.

Life is good.

At 19:30, we showed up at Pegaso’s for a delicious meal and, yes, we ate basically the same thing as last Saturday.  Umberto was running all over the place. This guy is amazing, a real human dynamo, supercharged, but he found the time to sit down with us to chat and have us enjoy two grappa’s each for the guys and limoncello for the ladies.  We then went back to our boat for our last night before returning to the base.

Close reach back to the base. Looks like the jib needs a bit of trimming.

Early on Friday, Bob and Cathy went for a last walk and we then dropped the lines to return to Scarlino but, first, we had to go to the marina of Punta Ala because the fuel pump in Scarlino was broken and we had to return the yacht with a full tank. .

We had a great sail all the way, clocking over seven knots. What a way to end this cruise!

Fun times with a great crew!

After having refueled in Punta Ala, we went under jib only for the last five miles to Scarlino.  Even with the headsail only we still reached over five knots.

We parked our boat for the last time and made arrangements for Bob and Cathy to get a taxi to the train station. They needed to go to Livorno to catch the ferry to Corsica. We will see them again next week in Sardinia.

Mila and I stayed on board for the night and got checked out the following morning.

End of the trip… We fold the ASA flag that will be raised next in Sardinia.

Dragging our heavy luggage for half a mile under the blazing sun to the hotel was no fun and, after check-in, Mila immediately started taking care of the laundry while I checked all the unanswered emails.

Around 13:30, we went for lunch to our favorite little fish store.  Back from lunch,  Mila started working on accounting and administration while I took a two-hour nap.

A few more hours of working on the computer and then dinner at a small deli around the corner from the hotel. A bottle of delicious local red wine, a wild boar mousse, a selection of tasty local cheeses made for the perfect finale of our stay in Tuscany.

Next stop Sardinia.

Join us in September of 2022 for our next Tuscany flotilla.

Capt. Jean De Keyser

July 10, 2021.


On July 11, we took the Moby ferry from Piombino to Olbia in Sardinia.

Many of the Moby ferries are highly decorated, inside and out with Loony Tunes and other popular characters like Batman, etc.

We were on the Moby Aki where a large fiberglass rendition of Sylvester the Cat welcomed us at the reception desk.


The ferry carried cars, commercial trucks, campers and motorbikes as well as regular pedestrian passengers.  Most of the passengers hung out on deck or in the restaurant and bar areas where there were even playgrounds and arcades to keep the kids busy.

We had decided on renting sleeper seats in a special quiet area of the ship and, from the portholes, we could see, during the passage, our sailing grounds off Elba.

Mysterious Montecristo.

The ship got even close enough to Montecristo so we could get some decent pictures.  No Count of Montecristo to be seen.  The island looked pretty desolate and rocky but, if you want to learn a bit more about its very interesting history, you should check out the Montecristo Wikipedia page.

After a five and a half hours, we finally arrived in Olbia and took a taxi to the apartment we rented for a few days. More information on our stay to follow.

Capt. Jean De Keyser

TURKEY IS TOPS! Our 2021 ASA Sailing Trip

After a thirteen-hour long flight from Miami to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, with screaming kids in the row across the aisle from my seat, we arrived in what I would call the hair implant capital of the Middle East.

Nowhere else have I seen so many men walk around with partially bandaged heads following a hair implant surgery.  They were at the airport and visiting tourist attractions.  They were everywhere. Somehow, I prefer to remain bald…  Bald is beautiful and way less painful…

We took a taxi to our Airbnb in the Taksim Square area.  The house was located in a small alley at the bottom of some streets from the main drag.  It looked a bit like Montmartre in Paris.

Almost Montmartre.

Independence Avenue with all the luxury stores was nearby and, although there was a COVID lockdown in effect with all restaurants closed for sit-down dinners, we found one that let us come in for a delicious dinner.  Someone must have greased the hands of the local lockdown enforcers.

An adorable little red tram runs from one end of Independence Avenue to Taksim Square on the other end.

Taksim Tram.
The “Admiral on Taksim Square.

The following morning, we visited Taksim Square and took a cab to the Fatih neighborhood to visit the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi museum.  As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were accosted by a nice local guy who showed us to the door of the Blue Mosque.  He insisted that he was not a guide and did not want any payment but, if we could, please, visit his small store in the nearby bazaar.

Seven Hills restaurant with view of the Blue Mosque and of the Bosporus.

The Blue Mosque was a disappointment because they were doing major work inside and we could not see the famous ceilings.  When we left the Mosque, our guide was there to take us to his “small shop” which turned out to be a modern and beautiful oriental carpet store with literally hundreds and hundreds of colorful hand-knotted carpets.  We were invited to sit down, drink a welcome tea and, about one hour of negotiating later, we were the proud new owners of a gorgeous silk carpet.

Next stop, a rooftop restaurant with a view over the Bosporus and with a huge menu of seafood and excellent wine.  After having enjoyed this delicious meal, we headed for the Topkapi palace, historic home of the Ottoman Sultans.  They sure lived in the lap of luxury and surrounded by unbelievable beauty and I don’t necessarily mean the Harem…

Topkapi Palace Fountain.

Last stop of the day was the Hagia Sophia.  This used to be the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church, became a mosque, a museum and, recently again, a mosque.  It is huge and, when it was a church, must have been stunning inside.

That night, we found another restaurant where we could eat inside.  By now, we were getting more familiar with the Mezze or Turkish appetizers, like smoked eggplant bites, marinated seabass, stuffed grape leaves and more.  Not much room left for a main dish but enough to eat a few decadently sweet Baklavas.

The decadent but addictive Turkish Delights and Baklava.

The following morning, we had to get up at 4:30 AM to get our taxi to the other airport of Istanbul, Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side of the Bosporus for our flight to Dalaman from where we took another cab to Fethiye where our charter base is located.

It was an hour-long drive from Dalaman to our hotel in Fethiye and we were impressed by the modern infrastructure of the roads and bridges.  The road was lined with colorful flowering bushes like Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Oleander.  No palm trees but lots of Mediterranean pines, olive and citrus trees.

We were booked for one night only at the Unique Boutique Hotel in Fethiye but, next trip, we will make sure to stay longer.  It was absolutely beautiful with super friendly staff and a great restaurant.

The Unique Boutique Hotel in Fethiye with the ECE Marina in the background.

The room was tastefully decorated in a rustic Mediterranean style with an unforgettable view from the balcony of the marina and the bay.

We met our crew for dinner, Arthur and Khristina from Indianapolis, our friends, Casey from Cape Coral and Eric from West Palm Beach.  Our last crew member, Julie from Chicago was arriving the following day late, due to some confusion with the airline bookings.

It became immediately obvious that we were going to have a great week together. We immediately sensed a great chemistry among us.  Many hours later and after many Rakis, the national drink, similar to the Greek Ouzo and the French Pastis, we retired for a well-deserved rest.

Our first crew get-together.

Saturday morning, we went to the marina to do our provisioning and to get checked in on the yacht.

S/V Sail Sirius, Bavaria 50 Cruiser. Our home for the week.

All went smoothly and, in the early afternoon, we sailed to our first overnight stop, Kapi Creek.  Winds were in the 20 knots, and we were flying on board of our chartered Bavaria 50.  Kapi Creek is a well-protected anchorage with a restaurant that, due to the lockdown, was closed.

Med mooring in Kapi Creek.

There was no docking space available, and we had to anchor out with stern lines to the shore.  The dockhands from the restaurant came to help us put the stern lines out and told us that, for around $20.00 per person, they could deliver dinner to the boat.  Thirty minutes later the dinghy reappeared with an unbelievable spread of food that we enjoyed on board with plenty of local wine and Raki.

Let’s splurge.

The following morning, Ismael, one of the employees of the charter base, showed up in a RIB to deliver us our last crew member, Julie, and soon we weighed anchor for a second day of sailing.  Not too much wind to start and we had to motor sail for a few hours, after which we only needed the genoa.

Special delivery of our last crew member, Julie. What a service!

At the end of the day, we sailed to Göcek, the other main city with marinas in the Gulf of Fethiye.  We called on CH 73 and got a dock for the night.  D-Marina is a modern, well-equipped place and host to multi-million yachts of Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern millionaires.  

Super yacht in Göcek

Göcek is a vibrant small town with a charming tourist shopping area with plenty of restaurants.  As these were still closed, we had again a festive takeout buffet brought to the boat.  Wine and Raki were served abundantly…

Dinner on board.

On Monday morning, after a late and leisurely breakfast, we headed west in the bay of Fethiye again for some brisk sailing and, around lunch, we anchored in the crowded Tomb Bay where we could see antique Lycian tombs carved out from the cliffs.  Holding was bit risky, and we decided to sail to the anchorage of Kucuk Kuyruk.  

Typical anchorage with Med mooring.

The wind was blowing and after several futile attempts to anchor with stern lines to the shore, we started looking for another place to spend the night.  We finally found Cigdem Koyu a tiny bay with a narrow entrance and opted to secure the yacht across the mouth of the bay with a bow line to one side of the shore and the stern line to the opposite shore.  Even though we were mostly out of the wind, it made for a rolling night.  We had dinner on board, courtesy of our lovely female crew members.

Arthur steering the yacht.

Our participants started emerging from their cabins around 08:00 and we enjoyed a nourishing breakfast while watching the goats climbing over the rocks on the shore.  What a peaceful scene.  Breakfast over and dishes washed and stowed away, we started sailing again, enjoying the 15 to 25 knot winds, courtesy of the Meltemi.

Goats roam free.

June 1st and the lockdown in Turkey is officially over.  Restaurants are open again for sit-down service and we voted to spend the night in Wall Creek, home of the waterfront Adaia restaurant. We docked starboard to dock, squeezed in between a Jeanneau 469 and a Lagoon 420.  Capt. Casey expertly docked our Sail Sirius in between these yachts.  We immediately made 8 o’clock reservations for dinner and struck up a conversation with Lola, a Russian crew member on the neighboring Lagoon.  She told us about some submerged ruins on the other side of the bay.  Five of us set off on a discovery expedition to the ruins but I had to give up when my old ankle injury started acting up.  I will try again next year…


Dinner that evening was delicious and the service excellent.  The fusion of Mediterranean and Near Eastern cuisine makes for an interesting but tantalizing gastronomy.

Great sailing with consistent winds.

Wednesday midpoint of our trip. Let us make the most of our sailing as we only have two days left after this.  Fortunately, the Gulf of Fethiye is close to 70 square miles and counts hundreds of small bays, coves, inlets, and islands to make it the perfect sailing playground.  We left Wall Creek for another day of spirited sailing with plenty of tacking and jibing and docked for the night at the restaurant in Sarsala Creek.  It was not as luxurious as the previous place but the view from the hill above the restaurant made up for it.  Spectacular…

That evening we splurged on Mezze and more Mezze and on a delicious lamb dish.

Mezze and more mezze.

We had hoped to have shore power and water at the dock, but the restaurant did not offer these facilities so we opted to spend our Thursday night again in Göcek where we would also have access to Wi-Fi.  The restaurants in town were open, but Eric and Julie offered to cook on board and went shopping for food.  They prepared a delicious meal with, again, generous quantities of wine and Raki.

A local cat climbed on board in the hope of getting some food scraps.  Needless-to-say, after such a great dinner, we spent a blissful night.

Feed me!

Our last day has arrived and we need to be back at the charter base by 16:00 but, first, a hearty breakfast at a local eatery in Göcek with plenty of Turkish coffee and some more, final shopping.  We left the marina and raised the sails but, in between some of the islands and the mainland, the winds were too squirrelly, and we had to wait until we got out in the main Gulf area to really get good winds and off we went towards Fethiye.  It made for a very enjoyable sail, and, with a tinge of sadness, we dropped the sails to enter ECE Marina, our base in Fethiye where we pumped out, refueled and got back to our slip.  An hour later, a male nurse came on board to perform the COVID tests that we needed to be able to fly back to the States.

COVID test… No fun.

A last dinner together is always a bittersweet occasion, but we celebrated it at one of the top seafood restaurants in Fethiye, Hilmi, on the waterfront.  This place was amazing.  They had an unbelievable choice of Mezze, and the fishes in the cooler counter were so fresh that they still seemed alive.  We chose to limit ourselves to a large selection of Mezze and desserts and to skip the main entrees altogether.  From our vantage point, we enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  With dinner over, we crammed into a taxi and returned to our yacht for a last night aboard.

And a stunning sunset for our last dinner together…

The “Admiral” and I had to get up at 03:00 the following morning to catch our flight to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.  From SAW, we had to take a bus for the one-hour long transfer to Istanbul International.

We had to wait to get our negative test results by email before we could check in and get into the duty-free area.  IST is an unbelievably modern and beautiful airport with all the most luxurious duty-free fashion shops.  I do not know of any airport in the USA that could compare to this one.

Fourteen hours later, we landed in Miami, breezed through customs, got our car back and drove three hours to our home in Punta Gorda.  We travelled twenty-four hours, door-to-door…

Exhausted but with unforgettable memories, we crawled in bed. 

Great and fun crew. New and old friends. We will get to sail again with them…

We will return next year!


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


Often, Mila (or Millie as I will always call her) and I are being asked how we met. After all, many people have their interest piqued when they see a native from Belgium, married to a cute Peruvian who is – to say it mildly – a few years younger.

Those were the days…

So, without going into too many details, it all started when we volunteered to help during medical missions in a highland city of Huánuco, in Peru. Together with some friends from the Rotary Club of Wheaton, near Chicago, we had started these medical missions to help the poorest of the poor in the Peruvian Sierra. I was in charge of logistics and had hired Mila to assist me. Peruvian by birth but living in Chicago, she was of a tremendous help with our efforts and, much, much later, after many years and failed marriages, we finally hooked up and, as they say, went to the next level of our relationship. This is the story in a nutshell. If you want more details – and, oh boy, there are some fun ones – you will have to get together with us and ply us with lots of quality liquor. So, in the meantime, this is as much as we can tell you in this blog. Verba volant, scripta manent, as the Romans used to say, so we will not put too much in writing…

The Airforce of our little Banana Republic

During these medical missions we saw some horrible and unbelievable situations. Mila and I can spend hours talking about these mission memories. Many of them will still bring tears to our eyes. One of them was quite “tragicomical” and, when we tell people this story, they just stare at us with disbelief.

Mila checking the airplane manifest of the chartered Antonov

It was September of 2000 and this was one of our largest missions ever with over one hundred volunteers. We even had chartered Russian-made Antonov 32 airplanes from the Peruvian Navy. Doctors, nurses and other volunteers had traveled from all over the United States, Canada and Europe to serve their fellow human beings. Our heroes were people like Bill, Claude, Gordie, Mary, Don, Carl, Kurt, Katie, Marion, Efrain, Ken, Sandra and so many more, medical specialists or not. They all flew in at their expense to come and help. The local authorities had put the main hospital, its operating rooms, beds, doctors and nurses at our disposal and we had taken over a small unused clinic as a triage center. Our surgeons and nurses would be working alongside the local ones and show them new techniques and train them on equipment that we had brought along in several shipping containers.

Triage madness

When we arrived, poor people were lining up by the hundreds at the triage center. Some of them had traveled several days from far away places in the mountains and from the jungle, many of them suffering from conditions that you would never see in the United States. None of them would be charged a dime for their surgeries, care or medications.

Patients who came from far away, slept at the gate of the triage clinic.

We had barely scheduled our first surgeries that some of the local doctors – who I was told had some shadowy connections to the former Shining Path – decided to call a strike and told their nurses and hospital workers that they were not allowed to work with us, thus effectively shutting down the hospital and our mission. They considered us competition and feared that we were taking their livelihood away. This was ridiculous because we were going to treat patients that they would never see because these poor people could not pay for their services or because they could not do the kind of surgeries our doctors would perform. On our first day, we would have to pack up again and send everybody back home?

As our missions were coordinated with the local Rotary Club, we had an emergency meeting with their Board. One of their members was the Colonel in charge of the local military base. The role of the local base was to fight the remaining elements of the Shining Path terrorist organization and their allied narco-terrorists. He was a rough looking, no-nonsense dude who had overseen some really nasty counter-terrorism campaigns. He got up and told our group that, as the political-military Chief of the region (El Jefe Politico Militar), he could declare the state of emergency and force the hospital to remain open.

Commandos guarding the gate of the triage clinic

Having no other option, we accepted his offer. It was that or having to disappoint hundreds of suffering patients. A very short time later, he showed up again, accompanied by a truckload of heavily armed commandos and marched inside the hospital, then gathered the rebellious doctors in a room and, behind closed doors, told them in no uncertain terms to get out of town until the end of our campaign, or else. The local hospital workers and nurses were only too happy to be able to work with our volunteers. From there on, we got full speed ahead and started to help the poorest of the poor under the watchful eye of the fierce looking commandos. The place had now been turned into our own “banana republic” with our private army.

Volunteers were overwhelmed by the gratitude of the locals.

Many poor people were helped during that week, and we received so many unbelievable expressions of gratitude. Some patients would bring live chickens as payment, which we, of course, refused. We had so many people hugging us. Reminiscing about this, I can understand the expressions of gratitude our healthcare workers are receiving during this pandemic from their grateful patients.

Gracias Doctorcito!

After a week of hard work – doctors and nurses started at 07:00 and often worked until late in the night – the Colonel wanted to express his appreciation by inviting all the volunteers to the army base for a traditional Pachamanca, the Peruvian equivalent of a Luau. We were bought by bus to the base where the commandos showed us their skills and made a presentation of their training.

Mila tending a typical Pachamanca

There was hand to hand combat with sharp knives, a freeing of hostages from a “terrorist” house and what I called the hot potato training.  About ten commandos were standing waist deep in a circular trench. In the center of the circle a pit had been dug. One of the commandos took a hand grenade, pulled the pin and threw it to the guy next to him in the trench. The recipient took it as a hot potato and threw to the next guy and so on until they had counted down to almost the moment the grenade would blow up. The last soldier holding the grenade then threw it in the pit in the center of the trench and then they all dove down into the trench. The grenade blew up throwing a large amount of dirt and smoke in the air. Thank goodness, we were at a safe distance.

Some tough Dudes…

Another part of the training consisted of coming down, at full speed on a zipline from up the mountain, across the river, down to the camp.  However, this was not your recreational zipline experience.  For one, the soldiers had to hang on for dear life to the pulley going down the line without a safety harness but, when they crossed the river, a dynamite charge was set off showering the poor guy with water, mud and pebbles.  They really had to keep their cool.

The Colonel then asked if some of us wanted to volunteer to come down that zipline.  He promised we would have a safety harness and no dynamite would be blown up. Our fearless “Admiral” Mila was, of course, one of the first ones to volunteer. She went down the river where they brought her to the other side in an inflatable dinghy.  She then had to climb all the way up the slope of the mountain to where the zipline was secured.

Crossing the river to climb to the top of the zipline.

When she got there, however, she saw how far the zipline went down and how steep it was, and she tried to wiggle her way out of this scary experience.  The soldier in charge of zipline told her that, no way, could she go back and there was only one way back to the base; down the cable. She reluctantly put on the harness and stepped to the edge but froze. She just could not make the jump. These commandos don’t put up with any nonsense and before she knew it, he had pushed her, and she went screaming down the cable.  When I say “screaming”, that is exactly how she raced down. When she arrived at the bottom, her legs were shaking but admitted that it was one heck of a thrill.

It certainly must have whetted her appetite as she had many servings of the Pachamanca and quite a few Cusqueña beers.

Commando Mama!

Before we went back to our hotel, we profusely thanked the commandos and their officers for this great experience and for having helped us during the past week with our medical mission. Several of our volunteers posed with the commandos and some even were allowed to hold their weapons.

So, here you have it: how I met Mila and how we had our own banana republic. It would take us another six years before we started dating before finally getting married in 2008. It’s been smooth sailing since.

As the Chinese say: “May you live in interesting times”.  No complaints here.

I know that our recent posts have not had anything to do with sailing.  I promise you some sailing stories in my next posting.

Fair winds, stay healthy and safe. And remember…

Capt. Jean De Keyser.

© 2023 Med Sailing Adventures. All Rights Reserved.