Its very difficult to say anything positive about 2020, that I am sure you will all agree. We have tried to put a brave face on, but the reality has been far from something to smile about. The season began with state imposed Covid-19 lockdown in early March. We were able to quickly move onto the boat from Villanova and spend what we thought was going to be a short period of isolation and limited movement away from the boat. How wrong we were. Life under Covid restrictions has become the norm.
The good thing was that we were able to make great progress with the pre-season boat preparations and Andrea was looking great by mid April but we had no-one to share her with!
If you have read my previous blogs you will know that in early May we discovered by chance, that the main mast had a large area of rot. The rest is history that I will not repeat. Suffice to say we did not take our 1st guests on board this season until early July, after Sardinia finally opened its ports to foreign tourists from Europe. What is normally a 6 month season was drastically reduced to 2 months, through no fault of our own. We have all become slaves to Covid-19, lives put on hold in a cruel way, businesses devastated and the sooner we can bring this dark period to an end the better. There lies the next sequence of questions. When will it end? How will it end? Unfortunately, nobody knows the answer.
Andrea Jensen consumes our life and a whole new World has opened up to us, which we could never have imagined when we first stepped aboard her in 2016. We feel truly blessed at times and at other times we think ‘what have we done?’. You could say one of those times is now, in May 2020 with no prospect of a summer season due to Covid-19. But we have so many great memories which we need to pull on at times like this, to keep us motivated to keep going.
The virus is nothing we have brought upon ourselves of course. It’s really something we were unable to have foreseen, planned or prepared for. Its come at a time when we really thought we were getting the hang of this Mediterranean life, then bang the wind is knocked out of our sails.
On top of all this we have found rot in our main mast. The clouds are really hanging over us just now. I think we are living a nightmare just now and not the dream most people think! Yesterday we had a mammoth task of having to prepare and remove the rigging in order to have the mast removed at Alghero Ship yard by Rafael and his merry men. Thank fully we had lots of help and there is a local ship building expert, who has worked on Andrea Jensen previously, and has said he is able to fix the mast. That’s a relief! But at what cost?
It’s hard to believe we are in our 5th season on Andrea Jensen here in Alghero, Sardegna, one of the Mediterraneans stunning Italian Islands. AJ is dear to us and indeed to all who have been lucky enough to sail in her. But I do have to admit, it’s not all been plain sailing. We have experienced a roller coaster of emotions since we first became the proud owners of our little ship in February 2016. We left our families in the UK and moved lock, stock and barrel to Sardinia.
The season started with a disappointing panic in May 2016. We had bookings but no license from the Port Coast Guard Office in Alghero. We were the new British owners of Andrea Jensen and the Italian bureaucracy seemed impossible to navigate. We had to cancel the initial sailing bookings because without a licence, we could not operate. All we could do was keep turning up at official offices day after day and plead that someone would give us the official stamp to get started! This needed enormous patience but it finally paid off. On May the 10th we had our license and could confirm with our first 2 paying customers and of course – it rained!
I could not believe it when our 2 guests told us where they were from, Billingham in the UK. It’s the next town to the one in which I was born, in the North East of England. How bizarre was that? They were brilliant guests and did not mind the rain (it was only a light shower actually). What a relief, we had a lovely day out and received our first 5 star review on Trip Advisor. Our new life aboard Andrea Jensen had begun. What an adventure!
Well it’s going to be May next week and we are still in lockdown on the boat here in Alghero, Sardinia. We have had some encouraging updates from the Italian government this week, that they are easing some restrictions and this is to be ongoing throughout May. This is urgently needed, especially here in Alghero. The town is like a ghost town, with all bars, shops and restaurants closed. This is obviously hitting the our economy hard. We too are very worried about our future here. If tourism is slowed then our business becomes questionable as it is solely reliant on the summer tourist trade (as are most businesses here in Sardinia). Northern Europeans are our main customers like Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and France. If they stop coming to Sardinia, we will be in deep trouble financially. We always try to look on the bright-side but this is very difficult with Covis-19.
I write this with a heavy heart. What is happening right now, across every continent, is truly frightening. The disaster here in Italy is particularly alarming and shocking to say the least. The daily numbers of Coronavirus cases and deaths continues to rise, almost uncontrollably it would seem. Sardinia, at the moment, is not as affected as mainland Italy and from what we can see from looking outside of the boat in Alghero Port, everyone here is sticking to the rules of social distancing and remaining indoors. This is particularly hard for us here, I can tell you!
Another observation is that the people here are very socially conscious. They are not going out to the supermarkets and filling their trolleys full. Panic buying does not seem to be the headline here, thank goodness. But what we all are, is scared, along with the rest of the World. Where will this pandemic lead us? Will it lead to a shrinking of the World economy and make countries and governments think more about self reliance and move countries to a more home grown economy? Out of these dark hours, days, weeks, months hopefully people are being made to think about humanity and how fragile life really is. We certainly are!
This has got to be the strangest and to be honest the scariest situation I have ever experienced. Two months ago we had never heard of Coronovirus and now the whole of Europe just about, is on government imposed lockdown. This is all in an attempt to stop a deadly virus from rapidly spreading and killing thousands of innocent people. But the reality is now hitting us here in Italy and more of the world, that it is all too little, too late.
The UK is, of course, close to our hearts and what is happening there is of great concern to Colin and I as that is where our family are. Its very hard for us, even though we are trying to put a brave face on. We are not with our children in what is probably the most concerning time we will ever experience in our life time. They are very sensible, we know that but what if they became ill and we could not be with them? The hardest is yet to come and I just hope that our family manage to stay safe through all this.
‘Stranieri’ is the Italian word for ‘foreigners’ and that’s how anyone who is not Italian is referred to by locals. We hear it all the time, in shops, on the phone – the receptionist will say ‘there are some stranieri here asking a question’ or ‘ they are the stranieri who own Andrea Jensen’. It’s true that our boat is famous in Alghero and we are the stranieri who own her. Hardly anyone refers to us by name, but they know the name of our boat alright. We do not mind that of course and always smile politely. I am sure it is not meant to be disrespectful but I do not like the word.
The thing is, will we ever stop being ‘stranieri? I really do not think so. In fact, I think mainland Italians would feel ‘stranieri’ here in Sardinia. Colin often says that he ‘feels black’ here. Don’t get me wrong we do like it here and have a lovely relaxed lifestyle compared to our life in Scotland. We get up at the same time each morning, have fresh fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and then go to the boat to start the days maintenance. We have usually planned the night before the work that needs done that day and make sure we have taken all the tools etc that we need in the car. We forget sometimes what day it actually is, but I know because the recyclable rubbish needs put out on different days back in Villanova. That is the only reason I know.
We are trying to ‘fit in’ and have progressed quite well with learning to speak Italian but it is going to take us a few more years before we will be able to hold a reasonable conversation about anything other than the weather! |Until then we will have to get used to being ‘stranieri’!
Hi we are back! Its been a while since my last update but we have not been idle I promise!
So far this year the weather in Sardinia has been really stable, with dry sunny days, one after the other (aren’t we lucky). This has allowed Colin and I to get started earlier than usual on maintenance work, especially the bright work, masts and booms which all need their annual sanding, filling, varnishing and painting. This keeps them in good condition and looking great. We have noticed some water damage on the deck boxes (darker patches of wood) which needs investigating to find where the water is getting in and any gaps in joints need inspected for cracks which then need refilled before re-varnishing.
The summer is flying by at such a rate but thanks to our great team and fabulous ship, we are once again the top rated excursion in Alghero on Trip Advisor. Its the end of July already and we have had lots of great days sailing with great guests on board. How they love our little ship, we are so proud of her. 5 star reviews are really making the difference. Thank you everyone for contributing.
We have 2 days of Mistrale right now and are marina bound today and tomorrow. The thunder storm last night was spectacular and we watched from the deck as the lightening lit up the skies of Alghero in dramatic fashion. This was however, quickly followed by torrential rain and a very disturbed night for all aboard! Thank goodness we are not working today and a strong westerly is drying all our damp things in record time. You cannot beat sailing life!