Oh, So Familiar!

If you have a weather window, you’d be wise to use it. That was our overarching motto as we took up our dock lines and headed out of the marina in Gaeta to begin our 2019 summer adventure. We had a moderate wind that would help us on our southbound route, and we jumped at the chance to get off the dock. We also had the advantage for the next few days to sail in familiar waters. Familiarity. It’s a catch 22 of sorts to return to where you have previously been. On the one hand, you know where to go, where to anchor, where to find groceries and what sights to see ashore. You can drop the hook with aplomb knowing you were here before and the holding is good. You don’t waste time wandering like a gypsy ashore with your bags of garbage trying to find a rubbish bin while trying to look cool and nonchalant around your high-fashion Italian peers. But then again, you’re not seeing anything new, which limits how much ‘adventure’ you’re truly having. However to start off the season, Karen and I needed the comfort of a little familiarity.

With an early start and favorable winds, we considered the many options that were a day’s sail from Gaeta. The Pontine Islands, with their huge multicolored cliffs, were tempting but would put us a little too far west. There was the small fishing hamlet at Ventotene which we had sailed by last summer but did not stop at, however the entrance seemed tricky and shallow. We opted for the longest option – 35 miles – to Ischia. We were quite familiar with Ischia from last summer, having visited all but the west side of the island, which is where there were rumored to be thermal baths. Soaking in warm water seemed like the perfect gift to ourselves for getting Sea Rose launched.

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Spring Splashdown

For most boaters, springtime does not come quick enough. Like a skier waiting for the first flakes to appear in the Fall, the warm sunny days of Spring herald a new beginning of the boating season. And whether you are in New England or Italy, the feeling is palpable. In years past, stewards as we were of a 20 year old boat, Spring also meant a rush of boat projects, many of which were critical path for launching. Thankfully, with Sea Rose at the young age of 12 months, and having broken her in for 6 of those months on the water last summer, our critical-to-launch list was modest. Our biggest project was the installation of a water maker. These miracles of modern technology take saltwater, even the saltiest of saltwater that settles in the Med, and turns it into beautifully clear, clean drinking water (and showering water, and leave-the-tap-on-while-doing-dishes water, gasp!). We had fitted out Sea Rose quite sufficiently, both from the options we picked through Jeanneau, and our own work efforts last summer. Recently, though, having a water maker was feeling like more of a necessity. If we stayed at marinas every week or so, we could most often fill up our two water tanks and have enough to last for the next week. However, some marinas had questionable water quality, others charged for water; and let’s face it, boaters are an independent lot and don’t like to rely on much from the outside world. So, over the winter I set about researching water makers. For a data scientist guy, this task needed to start with a robust spreadsheet of the many specs and costs. With all the research in hand, we settled on a modest sized unit from Spectra that produces 8 gallons an hour and was light on its energy needs, at just 10 amps. The problem with most water makers, or de-salinators if you want to be exact, is that they take a lot of power. They work by forcing seawater at very high pressure through a fine membrane, which separates the dissolved solids and leaves you with fresh water. It’s more brute force than rocket science. Traditionally, you had to install a generator to get enough power to run the water maker. But we had no interest in another internal combustion energy producer onboard, and opted for the small Spectra model that could run off of our solar array. The Spectra dealer in Florida was more than happy to ship the unit to us in New Hampshire, but happy is not what I would describe Karen’s face when they lowered the unit from the truck bed, shrink-wrapped to a big pallet. “How the he** (could be ‘heck’, mind you!) are we going to get that on the plane”, my newly christened sea captain wife inquired! The optimist and the realist in our household had to huddle and agree on a plan. It just so happened that if you unpacked the pallet and its pieces, you could fit the contents into three large duffle bags that are ever so slightly over the 20kg weight limit for Norwegian Airlines. Phew! There was even room for some of Karen’s clothes, so she wouldn’t have to be forced to skinny dip like those crazy Europeans on summer holiday!

Hiding away a watermaker in our luggage
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