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GJW Direct 2020

OCC RoRC Report - Gavin French, Sardinia, Italy

by Gavin French 19 Dec 2020 06:47 UTC

This will be my first report as a rookie RoRC in the Mediterranean. My wife, three children, and I sold up and moved aboard our catamaran Water Dogs in 2016 to set off and live "the dream" as it seems to be internationally known.

To set the scene, we spent much of the initial COVID lockdown in the Balearic Islands of Spain before sailing to the South of Sardinia in May 2020. That story is now well in the past, but ultimately, we sailed to Rome for access to FCO (Rome's international airport conveniently located right on the Med) for our planned return trip to Newfoundland, Canada. We left "home" in Canada four years ago and have made a habit of two to three months back in Newfoundland each year.

Clearly, this year there were extra logistics above and beyond the usual process of buying plane tickets and finding a place to leave the boat. But in the end, the travel to Canada on June 17, 2020 was less eventful than previous years. Empty planes and airports along with summer weather made it the smoothest trip ever... we were each given access to an entire row of seats to lie flat on our transatlantic flight. Two weeks of quarantine was passed in Newfoundland at a remote cabin on the sea belonging to a friend, in combination with our "new to us built in 1984" motorhome named Herself by our kids. My son, while lighting the seaside campfire one morning, suggested that we were perhaps the most fortunate humans on the planet during a period of forced 14-day quarantine.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. And for us that seemed to be true this year. For a variety of reasons, our last trip to Canada had been 16 months previous rather than the usual nine or 10. That combined with the isolation generated by COVID saw us starved for community connection. I see that reality now, but leading up to our return to Canada the best understanding I formed was that we all seemed "out of sorts". We plugged back into the lovely community feel of rural Newfoundland, connected with family and friends, and enjoyed a wonderful summer of camping, motor homing, and remote cabin visits. Not to mention the elephant in the room, my wife and I spent some time truly alone together.:) It was like connecting a giant dead battery bank to shore power and a 1000 amp battery charger... and to the delight of the five of us, our family dynamics returned to a healthy voltage.

Then came the consideration of returning to the boat. Although the subject got more air time than ever before, we all felt certain that returning to our boat home was the path we desired. I could write an essay around this discussion. But the short version is that when we collectively set aside fear-driven thought processes, deciding to go cruising again was clearly our path.

Certainly, with second waves of COVID looming or already begun, and international border crossing presenting even more unknowns and potential peril, doubt forms. But, as I contemplated the perceived ease of remaining on land, in a house, in one town, I was struck by the "epiphany" that the very same pros and cons applied as when we made our original decision to sell up and leave. Again, essays and even books could be written about that subject. But the lure of cultures, travel, languages, wild nature, change, and real human connection persist in spite of the addition of uncertainty about a novel virus.

The flights east to Italy from Canada were even less eventful. Again, an entire row of seats each spoiled us entirely for a red-eye flight! Italy, like most of Europe, is welcoming Canadians with no special restrictions and tourism is allowed. However, unlike most of Europe, Italy asks arrivals from Canada to quarantine for 14 days. BUT, France does not require isolation for arrivals from Canada. So, after flying all night, my wife and I spent a long hot day recommissioning the boat and arranging provisioning; 36 hours after arriving in Italy we were at sea steaming to Corsica from Rome - 130 miles of oily flat seas with stops along the way to jump in for a cool down swim!

Corsica is mountainous, and compared with surrounding locations seems to have incredible forests of pine, oak, and eucalyptus. We never tire of forests.:) As a preview of the ongoing dynamics of COVID-related travel consequences, while we were in Corsica avoiding isolation in Italy, Italy introduced a new requirement for arrivals from Corsica to have COVID testing. And so there are extra challenges, but for us, the balance remains well tipped in favour of cruising the seas.

Indeed, the fraternity of boaters seems stronger than ever in terms of like-minded people doing like-minded things. And now that the initial flare of uncertainty has passed, I am delighted to report that the mainstays of cruising life appear unchanged. In the three weeks since returning to cruising, I have had multiple experiences of taking the dinghy around loosely populated anchorages and engaging those on other boats. No more do we feel like everyone has contracted into their own worlds.

A wave and a smile still work wonders. My attempts at engaging fellow cruisers has been met with delighted smiles and a sense of relief and excitement on their part with sentiments like, "Yes! please come over and let's talk and meet each other and phew isn't it great to engage others again!" In just a few weeks, we've made friends with: a Danish flagged-boat and her Australian/Icelandic couple crew, a French family with a young daughter aboard, a (Californian, organic, funny) American and his German girlfriend, and via found a Dutch couple with their young son. After waiting all day for a fridge technician who didn't show up (yes, some things that test us have also not changed:), I spent yesterday playing in the green space near the free town wall of Olbia, Sardinia with five enthusiastic kids. I am convinced there is nothing more authentic and genuine than playing with children... on grass... under trees. And I am equally convinced that this simple joy has not changed in Millennia.

We are loosely bound south and east towards Greece.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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