Living la dolce vita – a slow sail south from Rome.


After a memorable week of Villas, lakes and family fun in lake Como – it was equally great to be back by the seaside again and back on Squander. To make things even better mum & dad were staying with me onboard in Rome for a few days and then driving down to Vietri sul mare to visit their friends where they would again jump onboard for a week.

Back on Squander!

Aaron, an old mate from Sydney, has been living in Rome for the past 4 years and was kind enough to arrange a Vatican tour for us – despite not being renowned for my love of museums, I was really impressed – actually blown away by how good it was – maybe my cultural bones are finally maturing??!
A sculpture given to Pope John II as a recognition of his global reach and of being the most travelled Pope in history.

New meets old – I wonder if the foreground sculpture will survive 2000 years??!

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There was some crazy statistic offered to us – if you spent 7 seconds looking at every single artifact in the museum – you would need 10 years to see it all??!

The last guy that tried??!

Today this would be a dude with a can of beer watching TV.

Our entertaining guide for the day – Eugenia from Colombia – see you in Cartagena in 2011??!

I dedicate this to my old mate – Matthew Carter – now i know where you got that dance move from!


My favourite – the more you look the more you notice – what’s with the Scorpion like creature having a nibble on the poor animal’s private bits??! …

Nothing on what happened to Michelangelo who spent years painting the Sistine chapel ceiling, but you do get a sore neck admiring the various ceilings.

And the floors are pretty impressive too!


The bath made from $90,000/kilo marble

…and we paid our respects to the fertility goddess – with her bullock testicles around her neck.
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GOLD! everywhere – this crew over here in the Vatican has some serious mooolah!
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This door is opened once every 25 years (used to be every 50) – anyone who follows the pope through shall have all their sins forgiven – with 900 people living in the Vatican it must be a long day before any outsiders get a go!

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Saint Peter’s cathedral – if you only see one – this would have to be it.

Pope is out of town on holidays – a quiet Wednesday as a result!

Aaron, Stef and I – having a quiet beer after work.

Having ticked off a solid day of sight seeing, we bid a quick farewell to Mum & Dad and went about re-provisioning Squander with some local produce. The next day was a work day, we had a couple of maintenance jobs that needed doing and had been already put off for too long.

Simon drew the “Anchor windlass Gig”

Whereas I was back to face my old friend the generator – after 3 hours of banging my head against a wall it seems we have success!!

By Friday arvo, all was said and done and with a late addition to our crew, we set off for the Amalfi coast – Aaron joining us for 3 days and getting straight into demonstrating his newly acquired Italian culinary skills! IMG_2378
Night one anchored at the base of Monte Circeo after a slooow day of motoring. Monte Circeo is generally identified with Aeaea, home of the enchantress Circe with whom Odysseus hung out with during his travels.

We found this little bit of history intriguing – “ When Circe smites you with her wand, draw your sword from your side and spring at her as if you meant to take her life. Now she will fall before you in terror and invite you to her bed. Do not hesitate to accept the favours of the goddess!”

Az taking charge of the wheel in some typically Italian motoring weather.

Ischia island on the horizon.

A small outcrop, with a big rock & Castle – Ischia
Another 3 hours on and we finally turn towards Positano on the Amalfi coast – leaving Capri Island behind us.
A blurry shot taken in Positano – we were in a hurry to get into a bit of nightlife ashore – a fun night at “Drinks on the rocks”
We woke up the next day – or more to the point The carabineri (cops) woke us up to advise us we were anchored too close to shore – incredible view to wake up to!

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By midday, with 4 hours sleep under our belts we were underway again – to drop off Aaron and pick up Mum, Dad, Stef & Harriet for a trip to Capri and surrounds.

Vietri Sul mare – a village where mum’s friends Basia & Tadek live. IMG_2437
Vietri is perched on a hilltop – Squander seen in the distance in the middle of the bay.
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Having your Mum onboard has many advantages – clean laundry is just one of them 😉 Thanks Maaaa!

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Didn’t take long for Captain Elizabeth to take charge of the vessel.

Cousin Stef working on her suntan, ahh I mean dissertation ;-)!

The arches in Capri. Isola Faraglioni.

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Steff & Harriet plotting their Southern Italy attack.
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A beach resort on the rocks.
The rolly anchorage on the north side of Capri.

Capri Marine – flooded with boat loads of tourists.
Seems we are following in the footsteps of some respected sailors.

By evening, the tourists boats are gone and Capri slows down to a calm yet alive pace – great for wondering the streets, people watching and finding a good dinner!
Mum & Dad lost in thought – enjoying a dinner in Capri.
Spaghetti con Vongole – a local specialty!

Dad’s been rechristened to “Jack Nicholson”

Quality times with the folks.
Ships of all shapes and sizes.
Mum was drawn to the hand made shoes, where as dad…


…., Dad had his eyes on food and wine!  IMG_2558
Apperitivi – enjoying a drink after a day of sight seeing.

Having spent 3 days in Capri, enjoyed the sights, sampled the food, the gelato and some great (and at times not so great) Italian hospitality, it was time to head off.

We sailed to Positano, where we picked up Basia and Tadek for a couple of days of sailing along the Amalfi coast.
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We stopped into a little bay called “Recommone” that is home to a Restaurant “La conca del Sogno”  – The cove of dreams – great food and another accidental find that is making exploring Italy by boat better and better. Squander sneaking into the photo in the background.


With a looong lunch behind us and the sun setting, we decided to sail back to Positano, where we would drop anchor and leave the senior members of the current Crew looking after Squander whilst listening to the live music that was spilling into the bay, whereas Simon & I went ashore for a Saturday night of “future crew research”

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Positano by night.
Drinks on the rocks… a great little club literally cut into the side of a cliff face. A fun night meeting people from various walks of life – a shout out to our friends from Napoli – Ciao AnnaLisa Pellegrino! 😉

Having made it back onboard before sunrise, it dawned on me that we had to say goodbye to Mum & Dad – it was sad after a great couple of weeks of fun times.

We decided to spend one more night ashore together and ended up going to Cava, a town about 5 kms away from Vietri sul mare,  for their annual festival – another great insight into Italian life, with thousands of people around and not a single international tourist to be seen.
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Three to four kms of street stalls, wine bars and Italians walking – a national passtime!
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Mum negotiating a good deal!
Wine bars are never too far away


You gotta love an age old tradition mixing it with modern age – Italy seems to be full of these kinds of scenes, where a guy is lighting charcoal, in an old drum to roast his hazelnuts whilst talking on his latest iPhone, wearing a rolex and dolce & Gabana Shoes.
For those of you with a finger on the Italian fashion pulse, here’s an insight of latest trends for the coming winter – live from Italy!

Classical music concert in the town Piazza.
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Local specialty – boiled pig skin, finely chopped and served with lemon – yummy!!

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The fun box, vending machine perched outside a family gelato bar – Condoms, rolling papers and a lighter – sounds like fun to me!


The italians are masters of finding a tight parking spot – would have loved to see this one in action.

Having said a teary goodbye to Mum & Dad (mum made the point that it might be a year before we see each other again), it was time to focus on the next phase of the Squander Odyssey – talking in Broad terms, it was time to point Squander at Australia!. We realised this is as far east as we were going and I had to start planning crew, supplies, charts, pilot guides and routes for the next 4 months at least. But before we got too carried away, we had one last thing to take care of – we had to go and find the island of Lipari, where Simon’s grandfather was born and lived until the age of 20 or so before migrating to Australia.

We plotted a course for Lipari island and realised there were a number of potentially interesting stops along the way… IMG_2701
Pulling into Agripoli – a cool Medieval Village perched on top of a rocky promontory.

Safely “med-moored” in the FREE transit berth area – there are  a number of these in many Italian ports. You simply drop anchor and reverse onto the wharf and tie up. Usually you’re allowed a 48 hour stay for free. Ironically they are almost always right next to 50-70 Euro per night private marinas.



Restaurante Usghiz – perched above the Marina – great for a sunset drink & Dinner.
Walking up to the Village….

… and the view from above
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Italians love driving their cars to the end of the concrete wharves – i guess at times things don’t go to plan!

Having stayed 2 nights in Agropoli, it was again time to keep heading south towards Lipari. We decided to anchor along the way and plan it such that we would sail past Stromboli Volcano at night and be able to see it errupt. A pretty cool sight as it explodes in a lightshow of red lava every 15-20 minutes.

Anchored off Capo Palinuro, Sun setting, BBQ fired up, enjoying a quiet  drink and the conversation drifts into an all too usual “man… what are we doing here without girls…?!!”  hahaha….

I frustratingly dedicate this moment  to my ex girlfriend Luciana who  didn’t want to come and sail around the world with me! there I’ve said it….HA!

Reminders of another life seem to appear in the most unexpected places.
The next day we set off for Stromboli island and by sunset we could see the famous volcano huffing and puffing in the distance.
It was difficult to get a good photo with the boat rolling in the gentle swell – and words aren’t likely to do justice to the moonlit night and the impressive island growing on the horizon as we sailed towards an active Volcano!
Catching a blurry eruption.

After the bigger ones, you could see the Lava flowing down the side of the Volcano.
Reproduced without permission from the web, the closer we got the more the spectacle resembled this picture.

By midnight we had sailed around the western coast of the island and anchored underneath the Volcano in a quiet little bay hoping we wouldn’t wake up with a lava hole in Squander.

All worked out well and by early morning we were up and moving again – unfortunately without having had a customary early morning swim as the waters were inundated with all sorts Jelly fish – including hordes of the purple ones that sting like crazy!

Leaving Stromboli behind puffing in our wake.
The Aeolian Islands in South western Italy.

Jelly fish – these watermelon sized ones don’t seem to sting, but the smaller purple ones are worst then blue bottles!  IMG_2813
On our eternal quest to catch fish – Simon abandons ship in the dinghy to try and drop a line closer to the rocks.

The fishing tally in the Mediterranean currently stands at 23 plastic bags, 3 lots of tangled nets & one Italian windsurfer called Pepe!

We were motoring in the Amalfi coast, trawling a particularly sharp, three hooked lure, when 45 year old, extremely effeminate and all too Italian Pepe decided he would windsurf right off our stern to show off his great skills. By the time we realised what he was doing and that we had a fishing line out it was too late for all involved – we watched in horror as his mast caught our line and rather than kicking off the windsurfer and falling in the water, old pepe (who probably didn’t want to get his hair wet) was trying to grasp at the fishing line as it slid down the mast and was fast spooling through. We realised it was now in the area of his neck – it was a matter of split seconds before the end of the line would reach him and the lure would lodge itself somewhere in his body  – Simon jumped on the fishing rod and let the run line – but it was too late we heard screams – child like, gut wrenching screams as if the lure had penetrated deep into his flesh and was continuing to inflict unimaginable pain.

I threw the engine into reverse, and as Squander shuddered to a stop I yelled to Simon to take control of the wheel as I jumped in the dinghy and nervously motored towards a still screaming Italian expecting to find the worse…

As I approached, expecting blood and gore, Pepe was still screaming arghhhh, aaaaaaaaaaah, aaaaaaaahhhh…. I suddenly remembered an old line from first aid training that I did years ago – it came from an ambulance driver that had attended many car accidents  “don’t worry about the ones that are screaming, it’s the ones that aren’t making any noise that really need your help”.

I backed off the revs on the dinghy and was relieved to lock eyes with a terrified pepe – the hook wasn’t lodged in his eye socket, my eyes scanned his neck which was also blood free… this was working out – probably hooked deep into his calf or forearm…. suddenly i noticed the bright red lure – pepe was holding it in his hand!!!! still yelling “….. malle, malle…. incomprehensible whimpering….aaaaaah, ahhhhh, malle, malle”

Ok, so the three hooked lure that often requires pliers to remove it from a fish’s mouth was not lodged in his body – good…. I killed the engine and let the dinghy coast towards pepe’s windsurfer – I asked him if he spoke English, but he didn’t – so I made a few gestures to suggest he calms down and gives me the lure so that I can untangle it and stop any further damage – as I went to grab the lure, i found myself astonished to be getting my hand slapped repeatedly in a child like manner as Pepe refused to let go of the lure or to stop screaming…

So what is wrong Pepe??? – I gestured to a still screaming 45 year old man – he held up his PINKY!!!! I kid you not – he had pin pricked his pinky as he was trying to remove the lure which had lodged itself in his mast – he had the tiniest spot of blood akin to an injury you would cause yourself if you were trying to remove a stubborn staple from a bunch of documents…. I had to use all of my control not to burst out laughing…

By this stage Pepe’s screams had attracted the attention of two power boats and
another windsurfer, whilst Pepe stayed there holding up his pinky and refusing to let go of the lure.

I was concerned that the boats would get tangled in the 200 or so metres of fishing line that had spooled out and decided to get my knife and cut the line – i signaled to Dad and Simon who were onboard Squander some 200metres away to reel the line in, whilst Pepe who became even more irritated by my action of cutting the line started screaming even louder and almost hugging the lure to make sure i wouldn’t steal it from him – we were only 50kms from Naples, home to Italy’s tough guys – how did this guy survive here for so long I wondered???!

With no chance of reasoning with Pepe who was now demanding that the motor boats call in the coastguard, I started the engine and approached the larger of the two cruisers who were standing by with VHF in hand and was relieved to find out that one of the guys onboard spoke perfect English – I explained to him that it was my fault, i had been trawling the fishing line, that old pepe had got himself entangled, I had immediately stopped the boat and come to his aid and was extremely relieved to find out that it was only his Pinky that had a pin prick in it – and that I am sincerely sorry for what has happened but am not sure what he would like to do next.

The man onboard gestured to wait a second, he collected himself and asked in Italian if pepe was alright – Pepe shook his head and lifted his little finger in the air… to everyone’s credit on both of the motor cruisers, no one burst out laughing although it sounded as if everyone had been unanimously punched in the stomach as everyone tried to suppress their hysterics.

The english speaking guy told me to wait a second, he collected himself and delivered an academy award performance and an important cultural lesson – with open arms, and the most apologetic look on his face, he looked at pepe with genuine concern and spoke the most sincere apology I have ever heard – it was like being at an opera, you don’t understand everything, but the keywords mixed with the raw emotion deliver the message loud and clear – I half imagined, half understood that he said “Pepeeeee, oh deaaaar Pepeee…. we can see you are extremely hurt, but this guys is really sorrrrrryyyy Scuza, muita scuzaaaaa…. Pepeee you’re ok aren’t you?? yessss Pepeeeee….and on it went for a good 2 minutes….”

Pepe listened and even smiled a little, and most importantly he hadn’t screamed for the entire 2 minutes – finally he gave it some thought and slowly moved his head up and down – some 20 minutes after the episode had commenced, Pepe finally came to his senses – I thanked the guys on the motor cruisers and went to Pepe – repeating to him SCUZA PEPE!

Pepe looked at me and to my utmost surprise held up his hand and gave me a high five as he handed back the lure!!!

It was AWESOME!!!!

…. back to our trip, our next interaction with Italians was going to be far better –below we’re approaching Lipari island, where amongst other things Simon got to meet his Grandfathers cousin’s son, who amongst other things ahs been the mayor of Lipari 2 times and has written a book about the Aeolian islands that he proudly gave to Simon as a memento of the meeting – we also met a number of other great local Italians.  IMG_2834

Squander moored at the end of one of the small pontoons in Lipari.

Walking into town – 5 minutes from our pontoon. IMG_2839 IMG_2841
Lipari by night.

Restaurants, wine bars and shops selling the local specialties – Capers and sun dried tomatoes sold by the kilo wherever you look.
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The window displays were awesome – this is our favourite – the hardware store display!  IMG_2848
The piazza at Marina Corta.

Having explored the touristy areas, the old town and eaten at two great restaurants over the three nights we were there – we would have been happy to leave Lipari satisfied. However as is often the case, there was more in store – it all happened at a small bar, on the outskirts of town, called “Luna Quinta” – one of those special places, with people who will remain in your memories long after you leave!

It was Simon’s suggestion that we should drop in there for a drink, and what a great idea it turned out to be – we met the beautiful Maria – originally from Puglia but has lived in the Aeolian islands for 7 years – she was running the bar for her boss Dora who was on holidays in the adjoining island of Salina.


Maria welcomed us and it wasn’t long before we were exchanging life stories, drinking, eating and listening to some great Swiss Jazz being pumped live from Switzerland via satellite radio…

It was getting late, and the bar was effectively closed when in comes Giovanni Ullu – singer, song writer and all around nice guy that is always careful not to catch a cold!
Maria enjoying a break whilst having a beer on the fun side of the  bar!
It’s been a while since I’ve worked behind a bar, but always happy to return!

Simon & Giovanni unmasked.
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Simon explaining that he is the Mayor’s uncle’s cousin’s grandfather’s brother….Capitto??!
Simon saying arrivederci to Giovanni as he does a bit of time behind the bar.    IMG_2901
The next night we couldn’t resist and came back for another evening of fun and laughs at Luna Quinta – Giovanni told us stories of wine, women and song – and recounted how many years ago he wrote a very successful song, Pazza Idea peformed by the famous “Patty Pravo”

He also explained that at a young age of 62 can still charm the pants off a lady!!

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Having heard Giovanni’s renditions of Tom Waits, Cat Stevens sung ABBA style and Bruce Springsteen amongst many others, we decided to invite hime to come sailing with us on Squander. He suggested we could form a band and call it “Pappa Ullu and his dangerous children” – as you can imagine, the wine was flowing thick and fast and we agreed to be re-christened to Uluwatu and Uluru – we were convinced that Pappa Giovanni Ullu was going to sail with us to ibiza and serenate women with his musical skills whilst we made them feel at home… ‘twas such a great plan!!! hahahahah

As one of the “Dangerous Children” ordered another round, Maria mentioned that Niccolo Fabi a more contemporary Italian singer was performing on Salina island the following night. She extended the invitation to us and we happily accepted. The next morning we stocked up on some local produce and by early afternoon we set off on the 12 nautical mile trip to Salina.

By 5:00pm we were happily anchored just south of the harbour and went ashore to explore the little town.
A short walk from the Marina into the centre of Santa Marina town
Sound Check in the town Square.
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One of the local seaside bars IMG_2930
Nicollo and band in full swing


And guess who we ran into…. Maria and friends!
We found ourselves at an after party with the band and got chatting to Nicollo – turns out that the concert was a benefit concert to raise money for a hospital in Angola – a strange coincidence given that’s where I spent 6 years of my life when i was kid.

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The Vespa equivalent of owning an EH Holden.
A lot of what we experienced and witnessed in these tiny communities is difficult to capture – the guy on the moped is the owner of an internet cafe that I had just walked out of – without saying a word he had stayed open for an extra hour past the usual Siesta closing time – as soon as i got up he left and shut up shop, as he was about to ride awayas another guy walked past with freshly picked tomatoes in a bucket and offered him a bunch – he gladly accepted and is seen here putting them on the back of his bike – i guess it all works out – when his wife gets angry at him for being late for lunch, he will smooth things over with freshly picked tomatoes!

Gotta love a butcher that calls himself a “meat boutique”


We could have easily spent a few more weeks exploring these islands and even heading down to Sicily, but we had committed to picking up Michelle in Sardinia – our new crew member also now known as “the girl with the dragon Tattoo”. So as the sun rose, we again lifted anchor and pointed Squander west for the 2 day trip to Cagliari in southern Sardinia.  IMG_2960
Early morning cloud formations, Salina Island

It was a fantastic trip – smooth seas, fairly steady winds AND we finally caught a fish in the med!!!!!! An 8-10 kilo Albacore (long fin) tuna…. we seriously could not believe our eyes and even as Simon was reeling in the line, we were convinced we had hooked another discarded net or something!!!   IMG_2990 IMG_2991

With freshly caught tuna, comes Sashimi for dinner!! IMG_2996
Bellies full of fresh Tuna – we sailed on with a full moon behind us.

Having arrived in Cagliari, we rang a couple of the marinas on the outskirts of town hoping to get a good deal on a berth – they were still charging ‘summer prices’ so we decided to try our luck with the Harbour master – we called him and explained that we were form Australia, in town for a day picking up a crew member who was flying in and were hoping to stay in a transit berth if that was at all possible. he kindly agreed to let us stay for free, but warned we couldn’t stay for more then a day. As it turned out  Michelle’s plane was cancelled and we were forced to stay another day and then a storm rolled in and pinned us against the wall we were on for a further 3 nights – so things worked out brilliantly again as we were able to stay right in the middle of town for Free for 5 nights – in the process we met Christian & Matteo from France who were running a huge charter Catamaran – good to meet you guys and thanks for dinner!! IMG_3002
Old town of Cagliari near the Marina – small alleyways, dotted with cafes, restaurants, bars and shops of all kinds.
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As luck would have it, the final leg of the Audi Med cup was in town and racing was at the business end of proceedings as the NZ team were holding onto a slim lead with 3 races to go…. we managed to sneak in to the Race tent for a few rounds of free drinks and a chat with some of the Kiwi and US competitors – as it turned out Team Madrid ended up winning the final race and taking out the 4 month long series.

Squander tied up on the Mollo Ichusa with the town in the background.

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In the distance, white spinnakers – Final race of the med cup in 30 knots, whilst Squander is pinned against the wall bottom centre of picture
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Michelle from California has finally made it to Cagliari and will hopefully sail with us for teh next 3-4 weeks.
Thank you guys – having dinner aboard Lady Paca – a 50 Tonne, 23 metre Catamaran run by Captain Christian on the right and Matteo – both from France. Michelle, our newest crew member sitting next to Simon.
After Dinner fire works followed by a few drinks at one of the local Street bars.

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Walking home we came across some alligators and one tried to bite my arm off.

IMG_3053 …. and on that note, we will bid farewell to Italy and head back to Spain before continuing onto Marocco.

Goodbye & Thank you Italy.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. filski

    squander – the floating clothes dryer! classic motherly love hahha.
    and pepe, o pepe le pew di pinki, i read that with my mouth open in amazement. what a sheltered life! you should have taught him some english Gav, like “suck it up princess!”
    this post is all time greatness well done for having such a bombshell of a time.

  2. Sparky

    Awasome Stories Gav. Great way to start a Monday at work, Just managed to waist 1.5 hours of my day. Thank you 🙂 Keep up the good work and safe sailing .

  3. Carol & Paul Cook

    We love reading about and seeing your travels. Hugs to you and Simon.

Comments are closed.