Journal 18: Italy & Spain
Journal 19: Why Go
Journal 20: Airplanes are Faster
WHY GO CRUISING?
I can hardly believe that already one year has passed since the start of
my incredible voyage on Exit Only. I have sailed from Australia all the way
through the Mediterranean. So many amazing memories. So many things learned.
And I have been so happy to share them with you. I started out as a
land-lubber, but I have to say that the cruising lifestyle can really grow
on a person. I still may get sea-sick from time to time, but sailing around
the world definitely has met all my adventurous expectations and then some.
So why go cruising?
For so many different reasons …
- Learning how to tie knots … down the hole, around the trunk, and up
again. You never know when you might need to use a bowline.
- Not setting foot on land for 2 weeks … and then the thrill of feeling sand
between your toes.
- The delicious smell of homemade pizza and bread when you are out in the
middle of an ocean.
- Learning to appreciate water … jumping in fresh clear water, warm sun
showers, and cool rain.
- Meeting fascinating people along the way -- sailors, bus drivers,
shepherds, tour guides …
- Learning how to kick back and relax
- Reading more books than I have in year
- Learning to live in close quarters … somehow or another David and I
managed to survive without any major relationship blunders! I think this
whole marriage thing is going work out!
- Visiting a section of the world that you would never go on a plane, a
train, or an automobile
I feel like I could talk about so many more things. Here are a few
memories worth sharing.
Top Moments Around the Globe
What impressed me the most was the sense of wide openness and wildness.
I can hear it calling to me now! Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania ... High on my
list was Lizard Island set out in the Great Barrier Reef with beautiful
water and coral. My first tropical island. From here, Captain Cook was able
to visualize a safe passage through the reef. The hike up to Cook’s Look is
where we met our sailing friends aboard Sea Tjalm. We traveled with them for
the next 4 months. Just goes to show that you never know where you might
make a friend. And of course not to be forgotten, my own crocodile
experience at the zoo. I may have only been holding a small and captive
croc, but they tell me this is the first step in becoming a certified croc
Bali must have had one of the most colorful and creative cultures that I
have ever met. Definitely one of my favorite stops which I highly recommend.
The tropics mixed with Hindu religion, a beautiful island, and an ancient
history. The town may have been packed with moped families, touts and
tourists, but the countryside was gorgeous -- rice patties, temples, palm
trees, palaces, and volcanoes. From Bali, we headed to isolated Kumai on the
island of Borneo. Here we had a true national geographic experience by
hopping on a river boat to visit the wild orangutans. We watched in awe as
these beautiful animals launched themselves through the forest canopy. And
then we watched in panic as a large male orangutan swung down towards one of
our yachtie friends who had dared to get too close.
We went from 3rd world to 1st world when we arrived at
the city state of Singapore. We had only planned on staying for a week, but
that quickly turned into 3 weeks once we discovered all that we could see.
Being in a metropolitan mecca was a huge change -- subways, shopping malls,
and prices to match. Singapore is a wonderful mixture of British, Chinese,
Indian, and Malay influence. The fusion is well worth a visit. Just remember
not to bring a durian with you on the MRT!
From Singapore, we hopped on a train to visit Malaysia. This is another
country on the verge of breaking out -- economically, religiously,
politically, and population. What a change from Singapore. Although a very
modern country, much of it is still rural and quite poor. With a Muslim
majority and government, the country has stayed relatively conservative. But
just wait till you get to Kaula Lampur with its skyscrapers, street side
noodle bars, and edgy fashion. It almost felt like being back in Singapore.
Langkawi was a relaxing sailing destination with many beaches and coves to
visit. One of our favorite stops for fish and chips at the Royal Yacht Club.
Thailand was one of the friendliest countries that I have visited. We sailed
up the picturesque coast to Phi Phi Island and Phuket. Beautiful water,
delicious food, and friendly people put Thailand high on my list of places
to visit again. And let’s not forget to mention the cheap prices! David and
I had the chance to adventure out on our own to booming Bangkok and charming
Chiang Mai. We have loads of wonderful memories -- Christmas cookies, dinner
with yachties, visiting orphaned elephants, devouring pad Thai noodles,
catching up with old friends … And then of course, there was the tsunami. A
horrible catastrophe for the people of Southeast Asia. No one truly came
away from this experience untouched. We were lucky to have been out on the
water when the wave came roaring in.
From Thailand we made the long passage across the Indian Ocean to the
Maldives -- almost 2 weeks without seeing land. We dodged debris from the
tsunami -- coolers, chairs, and huge logs. Showers off the stern of the boat
became a daily pleasure. This is when I discovered fun of high frequency
radio nets. Every day a group of sailboats would gather over the radio and
note their progress. We developed a whole new group of friends with Neva,
Keysond, Balmacara, Duetto, and Zephyrus.
I do believe that the Maldives are one of the most perfect island paradises
you could find. After 10 days of sailing from Thailand, it was heaven to
sink my toes into the soft white sand. There were at least 20 cruising
yachts that transited through Uligan. We enjoyed fishing, snorkeling, island
hopping, visiting the locals, and relaxing under the sun.
From the Maldives it was another long passage up to the Arabian sands of
Oman. I had a wonderful introduction to middle-eastern culture which is so
familiar to the Abbotts. Harsh rock deserts and mountains, wandering camels
and Bedouins, lively cities and souqs, delicious dips and shwarmas. We had a
great time exploring the country by car, even if we didn’t do any off-roading.
We never meant to stop in Yemen. But what a pleasant surprise. A war torn
country for so many years that buildings were riddled with bullet and mortar
holes. The locals still walk around with guns slung over their shoulders and
knives in their belts. What was amazing I just how friendly people were
here. Maybe it had something to do with the gat, a mildly sedating and
hallucinogenic plant that the locals chew. We nearly started a friendly riot
one day when David pulled out the video camera to film. All of sudden people
were shouting that we must be from Al-Jezeera! The only low point of this
entire adventure was the news that friends had been attacked by pirates in
the Gulf of Oman. It truly is like the wild west out here!!
Next up was the Bab El Mandeb, a narrow passage into the Red Sea where the
wind gusts up to 40 MPH. We had a wild ride through the Bab with our friends
on Duetto and Balmacara. It got so rough, that we decided to pull over for a
new days. And for the first time, I sighted Africa!! We sailed up the coast
to the port town of Massawa. Another war-torn country with most buildings
fall over and people living in abject poverty. So many people want to get
out of Eritrea that immigration comes on the boat to search for stowaways!!
We did a short road trip up into the highlands. We went from desert like
conditions, to green hills topped with villages and churches. The Italians
have left their legacy here, including delicious pizza in the capital city
We left Eritrea and began our cruise up the coast of Sudan. Dotted with
beautiful islands and coral reefs, the Red Sea is a wonderful place for
diving. This was unfortunately about the time that both Donna and I came
down with Dengue Fever. We were down and out for over 1 week. But somehow I
made it out there to explore Difnein Island where we discovered huge osprey
nests and also a minefield!! Back to the mainland, we explored the old city
of Suakin. People here live very simple lives, and yet they really lack for
We had a thrilling time in Egypt. Based out of a lovely marina, we did a 10
day tour of Egypt. So many amazing things to see. A Nile river cruise took
us to historic Luxor, the eerie Valley of the Kings, lush Aswan, mind
blowing Abu Simbel and numerous temples, towns, and markets in between. Then
it was on to Cairo with its 20 million inhabitants. A huge city, much of it
poverty stricken with slum like dwellings. But what history between the
Egyptians empires, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. We visited the enormous
pyramids and the crowded national museum. Even though I had the chance to
see so much, I know that there is more to discover in this amazing country.
Finally, we headed up to the Suez Canal. We had a smooth transit despite
having a slimy canal pilot who tried to finagle money and other “gifts” out
of us. Then it was on into the Med!
Another unexpected stop. Israel was a pleasure, except for the Navy that
kept us from sailing in until they could confirm our identities. We had a
whirlwind tour through Israel visiting many ancient sites of religious and
historical significance. It was amazing to see the places that had in some
way influenced and inspired Christ. Some of favorite stops were the Jordan
River where David and I joined a church group to be baptized. Mitzpah Ramon
was a fantastic natural phenomenon that reminded me of the Grand Canyon. We
traveled from north to south, east to west. And still there was more to see!
We popped out of Israel for an overnight trip to Jordan. Our visit to Petra
and Wadi Rum sit very near the top of the list of all the things I have seen
on this trip. We hopped in a taxi at the border and drove 4 hours into the
mountains to see the famed city which had been lost for centuries.
Absolutely mind blowing to see temples, tombs, amphitheatres, and churches
carved into the richly colored cliff faces. Wadi Rum is a beautiful desert
with dunes, dried up river beds, Bedouin villages, and camels. f you ever go
to the middle east, visit Jordan!!
A pit stop on our way to Turkey, Cyprus was a relaxing stop. We enjoyed the
summer festivals with local music, dancing, and sweet sugar concoctions.
Cyprus had some wonderful Greek and Roman ruins. And let’s not forget the
charming mountain villages surrounded by fragrant orchards of oranges,
peaches, lemons, apricots, and grapes.
Ah, Turkey!! We spent a fabulous month in this beautiful country. Exit Only
got hauled out and received a new paint job. Whew, hard and hot work. I
enjoyed so many different things here. David and I did a little adventure on
the side up to Mt Olympus with its eternal flames and tree house hotels.
There were beautiful anchorages, sailing, and castles to enjoy at Kekova
Roads. The ruins of Roman Ephesus were magnificent and gave me better
insight into what life must have been like in those times. The Turkish
countryside was picturesque and the people were very friendly. I may not
have come away with a carpet, but who knows what might happen on my next
We made our entry into the European Union in Greece. Another wonderful
country for sailing adventures with many small islands. We met up with the
meltemi winds which tied us down for a few days. But it did not keep us from
exploring volcanoes, castles, and winding streets. And then there was
crowded Athens with the scaffold-covered Acropolis, whistling tourist
police, and high prices. Greece may be the birthplace of western
civilization, but it is also the birthplace of the gyro sandwich. I am now
considering opening my own gyro chain of restaurants. Onward through the
Corinth Canal and into the Ionian Sea. We caught up with friends in Ithaca
and then headed for Italy.
We weren’t exactly sure where we would be going in Italy. Everything
depended on the weather. With favorable winds, we headed for Vulcano island.
Between pizza, gelato, and hikes up the volcano which was spewing toxic
fumes, we had a great time. The Italians for all their fashion sense, wild
driving, and complicated history remain very easy going and laid back
people. I look forward to the chance to visit Italy again. From Vulcano, we
were going to head for Sardinia, but again the we took advantage of good
weather to sail all the way to the Balearic Islands.
And so here we are in Spain. We have made it all the way across the Med!!
Yahoo! They must have known that we were celebrating because we arrived just
in time for the Festes de Gracias on the island of Menorca. A 3 day festival
with dancing, music, and lots of spiked lemonade!! We spent a week enjoyed
the charms of Mahon and then headed for the tourist overrun Mallorca.
Alas, this is when my journey ends and I return to the US. I hope that
you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have, and continue to visit the
website often to see what Exit Only and crew are up to.