Posts Tagged With: Sailing

Croatia, Blackmail and Helicopters…


And how is everybody? I know I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now but it still feels rude to launch into a monologue about me! Anyway, launching into a monologue about me…  I’ve been out and about a fair bit in the last week with the housemates again and also sailing. So this week’s excursions have been:

  • Offagna: I really like Offagna – it’s a hill top town half an hour or so away with a big castle at the top. We (the housemates and I) went for a pizza at “Sotta la Rocca” – we had a lovely pizza and then wandered around the town a bit. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And the countryside around there is spectacular too. I could live there.


  • Portonovo – I’ve been here a few times now and really like it. I’ve not been to the beach there before for a sunbathing/swimming session but we (still the housemates…) parked up and walked a bit around the corner where it was pretty much empty and spent the afternoon there. Portonovo is FABULOUS for snorkelling… the water was crystal clear and the rocks, though a bit perilous to try and get out for a swim, meant there was a lot of fish, crabs and other things to see.

I snorkelled to that rock sticking out – turns out it was a long way (only realised that on the way back).

  • Croatia – Sailing was great! We had a little flotilla thing going on – 3 boats. There were 5 of us on ours – my friend Catherine and three really nice guys.  We left Ancona on Thursday night and did a night sail to Croatia which took 12 hours. We got there mid morning and headed to a Drogana (place where you take your passports – I hadn’t really appreciated before that you need to sort of check in when you sail places) in a place called Sali (I think) and then off in between some islands for lunch, a swim and some sleep.

Sali (quite possibly) Only stayed here an hour or two.

  • Then we moored up in a lovely little bay somewhere else for the night – I’ve only ever been in marinas overnight so it was interesting! And there’s this well known wind (the Bora) in Croatia which is known for blowing boats off their moorings so we all anchored up next to each other and had ropes tied from the boats to some rocks and trees on the shore and then we tied ourselves to each other as well so all in all, it felt like quite a secure mooring! Or at least if it wasn’t, the plus side was we’d have all been blown away together (and would have taken half the Croatian countryside with us as a souvenir).

We spent a good half an hour motoring around this bay looking for the ideal place to er, park (moor probably)…

  • Next day we headed to another bay (I wish I’d paid more attention to where we’d gone!) with a Caribbean style white sandy beach and crystal clear water. The people around there have a lot of money – we were amidst some very fancy power boats. I’m somewhat envious. Apparently they don’t have pirates in Croatia. I think there’s a clear niche in the market. I’m definitely going to consider becoming a pirate.

Lovely bay… somewhere in Croatia. I recommend it!

  • So in summary, I had a great time and I think I’m more tanned than I’ve ever been, though also more bruised than I’ve ever been. I haven’t nailed walking in a straight line on a rocking boat. There’s not a bit of my thighs that I didn’t bang into something with. I look like a domestic abuse victim.

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing lately – I drew a lot of portraits on the boat but I need to practice more. I’m not good with my shading yet – everyone looks like they have beards. Apart from the people that actually have a beard and then it just looks like they haven’t washed. I’ve decided I’m going to set up a portrait drawing business in Marcelli (seaside resort where all the Italians go during summer) in the next few weeks so I need to get better (Piracy and Portraits R US Ltd?)! Portrait drawing doesn’t seem to be done much in Italy. And the Italian’s seem relatively easy to please on the portrait front so far (fortunately!) so hopefully if I can improve a bit, I’ll be onto a winner. I love doing portraits anyway so even if it doesn’t work out, it’ll keep me amused a bit whilst the piracy business takes off 🙂

I’m still frustrated as ever with the language but after a couple of pep talks from friends I’m slightly less depressed about it – apparently it takes a while! Anyway, the plus side of being inept at Italian is that some of my errors have had me giggling for ages, and still make me laugh. I asked one of the guys on the boat if he wanted his portrait taken… Only I asked him if he’d like to be blackmailed instead. “Portrait” and “Blackmail” are very similar sounding words in Italian!  The best thing was his reply “nah, not today, maybe tomorrow eh?”!

I’ve had two housemates leave and another one move in this weekend. I think I might have yet another soon too. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Who knows! Marco is not forthcoming when it comes to providing housemate information.

I failed dismally at my bureaucracy quest last week – I went back to the Comune armed with every document I could think of but I still require more. I’m less and less sure about this residency malarkey anyway –  the reason I’m questioning it again is that apparently I now have to buy private healthcare insurance because I’d be “resident” as a student. So this is my understanding: if I was working and therefore paying taxes then that would be fine, I don’t need to pay for healthcare insurance. But as I’m not at the moment, then I’d have to pay for my healthcare. But I let out a property in the UK so I’m already paying taxes which go towards healthcare and I shouldn’t have to pay for healthcare twice eh? And by becoming resident in Italy, maybe it means that rather than paying tax to the UK even though my house is there, I pay it to Italy but then I don’t want to pay tax here – the tax is a lot higher (who’d have thought!). So, to sum up – I’m thoroughly confused. The internet only adds to the confusion. So, next stop will be to email the tax folk in the UK and see if they’ll advise. Meanwhile, I’m very seriously thinking about flying back to the UK, buying a car and driving it back here.

This week’s ‘What’s a bit weird’: Look at this graffiti on the wall of my local school (below) – look past the “porn”… “Helicopter”! Isn’t it sweet? Some little ruffian has been practicing their English! Unless of course it means something entirely different in Italian…


Buonanotte all!


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Sailing extravaganza, charades and chocolate…

Well I’ve had a busy week. I chickened out of not doing any lessons – Marco gave me a good deal on some group lessons (well I use “group” in the loosest sense – there were two of us) so that’s been every morning with a new teacher and I’ve got another teacher again next week. And when I say a good deal, it’s only really because he’s said it’s a good deal rather than given me a price or anything in writing. It’s er, very laid back here. It’s been quite good to mix up the teachers actually – different techniques, and teaching style. Perhaps one day something will sink in!

Monday, was another “cooking course” night at Marco’s place. I joking asked if I could just go to eat and I’m pleased to report that it worked. I went there at about 8pm for some very tasty home-made gnocchi. We went to a bar afterwards, the one under my apartment which almost completes my bar circuit of Camerano – I think there is maybe two more to try but I might even consider giving one of them a miss (where the old men sit in a row and stare at me as I walk past on my way to the supermarket). We had a very interesting chat about the mafia that night too – it seems an unsolvable problem here. I might do a bit more reading about it. I don’t like unsolvable problems.

We had a school trip to Urbino – Urbino’s a lovely hill top town – lots of scenic hills around and a lot of life inside because it’s got a well known and established university there. Walt Disney apparently got his inspiration from the architecture there. We went into the Ducale Palazza Museum and had a look around. Again, Marco reeled off names, dates, history, artists, architects without breaking a sweat… That man should leave his head to medical science. Alas, all I took from it was that the Duke really should have had his artists and sculptors shot – I would not have had pictures of me like that in my house. Here he is, the handsome devil – Federico III da Montefeltro.

Urbino – Walt Disney’s Inspiration

My boiler is temperamental. It looks like it’s been here since the beginning of time. And I wake up feeling groggy and hungover in the mornings (I know what you’ll say, “too much 88 cent wine Sue?” but no, it’s not…). I’ve decided I’m slowly getting carbon monoxide poisoned. I wonder if it’s cumulative? The boiler man has actually been a couple of times so I would hope he’d have established if there was a leak. Anyway, I’m going to keep the windows open now just in case. There’s a new woman, a Russian moving in the apartment today for a week, and then some Americans the week after for a month I think.  I suspect I’m not actually being poisoned but will be interesting to compare notes with the others (if they make it through. I hope they do. I’d feel quite guilty. And maybe actually responsible. Hmm. Perhaps I should remove this paragraph. Carabinieri: If you’re reading this, I didn’t REALLY think I was being poisoned and also, please skip over the next paragraph).

This week, I tried to declare my presence (dichiarazione di presenza) to the Carabinieri  (one of the police forces in Italy headed up by the army in fact) who, when I eventually got through to them, were closed Thursday until 4pm. Closed! The police! CLOSED!!!), and said that I needed to go to the Comune (sort of town hall, mine has a nice website), who, you’ll be shocked, were also closed. All day. On a Thursday. There are no office hours on the websites or on the doors. When their alarms go off in the morning, do you think they do a quick physical and mental scan and think “Nah…. b*gger that. I think I’ll go to the beach today”? Anyway, I have to declare my presence to somebody within 8 days of arriving in the country. To whom? I don’t know. And where? I don’t know. And why? Not the foggiest. What the consequences of doing it 30 days after the 8 days are up? No idea!

Next week’s challenge will be to get a codice fiscal (the Italian equivalent of the National Insurance number) and a Carta di Residenza. I think I’ll need to make a trip into Ancona for those. Please all send happy bureaucracy vibes from Monday.

Yesterday I’m thrilled to say I finally got some sailing in! And my idyllic vision of sailing around the coast, stopping for a bit of sunbathing and swimming was pretty much exactly what happened 🙂 It was a lovely sailing boat too (Bavaria – 37 feet possibly?), the nicest I’ve been on yet and very spacious. The guys went snorkelling to get what looked like a wide array of muscles, cockles etc. from the reef we stopped near and then we teamed up with another boat in the evening for seafood pasta (bruschetta for me) and some drinks. And I overcame my mild fear of jellyfish as one touched my arm as I was swimming and it didn’t even hurt (I’ve decided it wasn’t a Portugese Man of War). All in all, a lovely evening and didn’t get back until gone 1am.

Camera 360
View from the boat towards Ancona (from Portonovo)

So let me update you on my Italian learning. Every day is like an old style family gathering consisting of Charades and Pictionary… I have fun. It makes me laugh. But, but, ARGH!!!!!! In a group, it’s IMPOSSIBLE! You can’t get members of a group that are chatting at the speed of light and laughing to stop to mime something out… If you pluck up the courage and ask, then the extensive mime / explanation ruins their joke… If you smile and laugh along, you risk being asked an incomprehensible question and them finding out you’ve not understood a word, but if you don’t smile and laugh along, you look like a miserable sod! In summary, I’ve become an atmosphere killer!!! I don’t want to kill atmospheres!!!

And let me tell you something else – the Italians, if you’re not clear about something and the miming hasn’t worked and if they do know a bit of English that they learnt at school when they were 5 for a maybe a week at summer school, then they’re still able to launch into a very acceptable level of English with such a comprehensive array of English vocab that even I would struggle to come up with. And they keep saying “ah, but your Italian isn’t THAT bad considering you’ve only been here a month”. But then, I’ve had 4 years worth of lessons off and on! 4 YEARS! When I meet new people I’m going to say I’ve had a month of lessons so that I can maintain face. Though I think they’d have become proficient in 3 languages in the same month period.

I’ve joined a website to acquire some people to speak Italian too. I’ll need a string of people so that when one decides that it’s too exhausting talking to me (see above), I’ll have another lined up 🙂  Alas, its members appear to think it’s a dating website (it’s not!), and well not even “dating” given some of the messages I’ve been getting :-o. Anyway, it’s been amusing me immensely. You should see some of their pictures – professionally taken photos of them sprawled on sun loungers wearing only budgie smugglers – I have to look through my hands at them. However, I’ve acquired a couple of Italian messenger-ees through it that seem to be vaguely normal – it’s been quite good, a slower more controlled way of talking to people so I can make sure I’m saying what I want to say before I have to say it.

My neighbour came around a couple of days ago bearing battered courgette flowers (battered as in fried in batter, not er, knocked about) which was lovely of him. He’s an artist and lives with his mum and dad next door. It was quite a successful visit – he’s got an apartment or a house in Camerano for rent which he’s going to show me around tomorrow and he’s given me an open invite to eat dinner with them whenever I want. And I’m less fussed about killing atmospheres in close family settings so that might be quite good for the language quest too. Hmm. I wonder what I could get them to mime?

What’s a bit odd: This week’s feature – chocolate! I haven’t had a single chocolate bar since I came here – not a one. Not through lack of trying. The supermarkets sell like the big bars which look like they’re for cooking with rather than eating and at the tills, they have mints and chewing gum – I mean honestly, that’s not very enticing is it?! Who thinks “Mmmm I could really do with a mint right now”? Actually people probably do. But still, I think the Italian’s surely must be missing a trick? It’s a rare chocolate bar display that I’ve walked past without purchasing something from. They could probably retire off my chocolate purchases alone. And let’s face it, their now booming yoghurt trade  (oh, something terrible has happened – I was reduced to buying a new yoghurt brand as it’s the only one my local store stocks and it’s nasty! Ugh!).  Marco keeps asking me why I need to get a car – why don’t I just rent he asks? It’s because I want to be able to get around under my own steam, I say. But really, it’s because I want to be able to go to Auchan and buy yoghurt.

<10 minutes later> My new housemate has arrived from Russia with chocolates (From Russia with Chocolates… the makings of a good film?) – I like her a lot already. She’s gone to get a pizza and left the chocolates on the table.

Camera 360
Chocolates left on the table. Unguarded. An amateur mistake… (this pile was double that about 10 minutes ago)

Right, that’s me done for this week. Have a good week all 🙂


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Retirement, day skipping and The Italian Job…


Sorry, it’s been ages! I’ve been revising for the Day Skipper theory exam. I *think* I may have bitten off more than I can chew!

Anyway, here’s a full run down of the last week or two:

–          I’VE LEFT WORK!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I skipped out of the office last Wednesday to the pub for my leaving do which was great, lots of people came. They’d done an excellent job of decorating the bit of the pub where we were – Italian flag bunting and lots of print outs of embarrassing photo’s of me over the last few years up on the wall. Had a load of presents – a great sailing book “The Sailing Bible” published by Adlard Coles Nautical, some lovely jewellery, and a few silly pressies – a boat for the bath, some polenta (I’d never heard of it much to the amusement of my boss a year or two back), some wine (did YOU know most people can’t tell the difference between red and white when it’s the same temperature? My ex boss insists he’s a wine connoisseur) etc. 


–          Day Skipper:  Here are my lessons learnt for people wishing to undertake a Day Skipper course: Don’t think for one minute that you’ll be able to read a book and for it to make any sense at all unless you’ve spent years sailing. When you look up a word in the glossary, even the words to describe the word you’re looking up don’t make sense. And it’s impossible to even look up half of it – there’s a raft (haha, raft, boat, haha) of stock phrases that are used; what on earth is “going about”?!?!?! I think it means “turn around”. It might not. It could be “have a constitutional walk around the boat”. Who knows? The theory exams are this weekend – the chartwork one on Saturday and the general one on Sunday. I’ll undoubtedly fail. Then on the Sunday night, I’m going to be on the boat until Friday for the practical course. I think it will be C.O.L.D.


–          Retirement ( at least “retirement” from a mundane 9-5 office job) is not all that I was hoping it would be. Assuming I’d had any free time this week, I think I would have been annoyed at the lack of people to go out with. Texting ex-work mates to tell them I’m having a nap whilst they’re at work has indeed been entertaining, but I worry that it wont be enough to keep me entertained for the months/years ahead. I would prefer “retirement” if everyone else I liked was also retired. AND now I’m in Pompey direction again, people have been going out without me! IMAGINE! WITHOUT ME!!! Honestly. I don’t know what that’s about. There should be rules against it.  They should be at home crying. Not having fun.


–          I’VE BOOKED A FLIGHT! I go Saturday 4th May from London Stanstead and get into Ancona about 9.45pm where I hope someone from the language school will come and get me. Having said that, it’s with Ryanair and I’ll of course arrive several hours late probably with no belongings and dishevelled (presumably because I inadvertently missed out on ticking the “don’t mug me” check box along with the “don’t buy an extortionate Ryanair mobile phone” and the “don’t buy an expensive Ryanair suitcase”). I’ll be in a single room in a shared apartment. I start my Italian language course on the Monday after a meal out the night before and I’m booked in for a month – that’s 80 lessons. There’s a test I need to do so they can tell which group to put me in – it’s written in Italian – it would have been a doddle a couple of weeks ago but my head’s all about the “going about”.


–          The flat rental seems to have gone ok – no problems so far. I moved out on Thursday afternoon. I worry that I should be a more threatening landlord but all the messages exchanged between myself and the tenants have had a x at the end. I do like them. I hope they don’t mess me around. So I’m back at Mum and Dad’s (thank you mum and dad). I don’t feel a very productive member of the household though I am on Dishwasher Unstacking Duty. And I very generously offered them a glass of (their) wine yesterday. Dad insisted the next glass was on him.


Right, I should be studying. I’m really over Day Skipping. Wish me luck/a miracle on my exams.











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