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.
‘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’!
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!
Just look at the beautiful spring carpet that comes each year in the garden of Villa Mosca and else where in Sardinia. Every year the pink flora appear like magic along the promenade and in gardens. I cannot help being mesmerized by the wonders of nature at this time of year. Spring is definitely my favourite time here. The island is adorned with wild flowers exhibiting the colours of the rainbow, where ever you look. The fields and hedge rows, which are allowed to grow wild are alive with bees and butterflies.
We are sitting in our little ship, Andrea Jensen in Alghero Port, on a cold, windy, May afternoon, trying to figure out how to attract more visitors on board this year, to share the wonderful experience of sailing a Traditional boat. The local hotels are generally disappointing and reluctant to collaborate with us (not all), probably because we are not Italian and there is a language barrier. We go to each hotel every year at the end of April, with our Marketing leaflets to remind them that we are ready for their guests, with the hope that they will help to inform and promote our wonderful day trip. We are trying hard to learn Italian of course, so that we can make an effort to better fit in here, but I do not ever think we will totally belong! There are many visitors to Alghero who do not even know we are here and its these we are trying to reach out to. Those travelers who do not use Trip Advisor are unlikely to find us if they do not know what they are looking for.
So if you are reading this blog having been on our boat, we would like to say ‘thank you’ and ask you to spread the word – Andrea Jensen really is the best boat trip in Sardinia!
The 2nd weekend in May, each year in Sardinia is special. The island opens up all the religious monuments, churches, museums and some other related places of interest for free, to help encourage the locals and tourists alike to visit these places and celebrate the rich history of the island and perhaps learn something of Sardinia’s past. Local school children are present in each monument to help guide the visitors around and talk knowledgeably about the monuments history and elaborate on the important points of interest. It never fails to surprise me however, how poorly advertised events such as these are! The May Day Nautical event a few weeks ago appeared to be very badly advertised too, which is such a shame when clearly a lot of hard work and time has gone into organising such events.
This year we were able to take advantage of this opportunity and visited many sights in and around Alghero, some of which we had visited before and others which we were visiting for the 1st time. We climbed to the top of the Bell Tower of Saint Mary Cathedral and were able to see right over the roof tops of Alghero and across the sea to Capo Caccia and beyond. The views were spectacular and well worth the climb to the top.
We also visited the Church of San Francesco and the cloister which date back to the Gothic period, end of 15th century and the very well preserved, very precious Church of Santa Barbara with it wonderful, colourful painted walls and ceiling.
There are so many interesting, historical monuments and churches in Alghero that we have still yet to visit all of them, but my favorite so far is the small and beautiful Church of Saint Barbara.
May Day celebrations kicked off on Wednesday with a Latina Boat Regatta and the port was filled with market stalls from all over Northern Sardinia. It was a lovely day weather wise too and Andrea Jensen had her first ‘Mini Cruise’, evening trip. We attracted an audience as we hoisted the Mizzen sail in the marina and followed this with the main sail going up soon after. We raised 4 sails in total and sailed slowly and elegantly past the old town wall. There were on-lookers all along the wall and out past Villa Las Tronas. We clearly looked impressive! We popped the cork on a few bottles of Akenta and shared this out among our delighted guests. Aah the start of summer at last, such a great feeling.
These lovely traditional boats are along side us for the next few days in Alghero Marina. Tomorrow they will take part in a May Day Regatta. We will hopefully watch it all happening out on the water in Alghero Bay. The sails on these boats are not easy to master, so it takes well practiced sailors to skipper them. All adds to the fun I’m sure.