Chapter Twenty-Eight May 28-July 20, 2006


 Late May we squeezed in a three day tour of Sardinia. For all the time we've spent here we've seen little of the island. So off we went with our American friends to do a little exploring. Sardinia is supposedly the perfect antidote to Italy-overdose. When you've had enough of Botticelli and Brunelleschi, when one more church interior will send you in the path of the nearest speeding Fiat you go to Sardinia to recover amid savage coastline and pink mountains. The northern coast has sprouted concrete condominiums but much of Sardinia persists in its untamed state.  The interior of the island is simple, almost primitive; the small towns we traveled through are a bit like walking back in time, say 1950s. You get the picture.

Mysterious ruins, wild horses and wind-carved rock formations are prevalent.  Simple architecture, nothing grand.

Well, that is until you reach the northeast coast of Porto Cervo. Built by the Aga Khan in the late 70s, this is one glitzy spot.  We got lucky and found a delightful hotel via internet just down the coast with a wonderful view.

The restaurant in the hotel overlooked the same rolling meadows and a cool breeze entered the wide-opened windows. Sardinian cuisine is quite simple. While we haven't been indulging in dessert here, "bombas" are the specialty. Big donut looking pastries stuffed with sweet cream, dusted with sugar and doused in fresh honey. John's favorite food is "pane carasau", thin crispy Sardinian bread. The local wine, "Cannonau" promises long life. Apparently, it works since the Sards are currently among the longest living people on earth. We felt fortunate to have been able to squeeze in the tour before we headed out.

June was spent in the States visiting family, friends, doctors and dentists.  We began in our favorite place, Chatham, with our favorite friends, where John and Bernard got down to serious matters in no time. 

The grand finale was the Martin Family Reunion, the 13th of the biennial events.  The weather in Chatham in early June was more like winter, but at the end of the month we had had enough of summertime heat.

We returned to Sardinia on July 4th, eager to get the watermaker repaired and set sail. Salty sea breezes whip through twisting streets, tremendous, but gentle hills plummet into the ocean, and the smell of burning wood and flap of sea gulls' wings fill the air while we have our heads stuck in the engine.

Alas, when we tried to start the diesel, the Captain discovered a crankcase filled to the brim with oily seawater.  The problem was diagnosed as a leaky oil cooler, and we set off to find a replacement.  The part ordered, John tackled the watermaker with gusto.  This piece of gear is the most complicated mechanical piece John has ever undertaken to disassemble, refit and reassemble.  Ever!  But a couple of days and it is back together.  We had a celebration pizza with our Irish friends but to no avail; we are afraid to try it out because the water here in the marina has had an oil slick on it for the past week or so, and we know that even a drop of oil will destroy the semi-permeable membrane, and we don’t want to take the chance.  So we wait.

The part for the engine came after a week, and John was able to “squeeze- fit” it in.  The engine was running like a top, and we awoke the next morning eager to give it another exercise.  Alas, the crankcase was once again filled to overflowing.  So, apparently the repair did not fix the problem.  Now we wait for the local mechanic to come have a look.  John has been “consulting” with him for the past week in the selection of parts and spares, so Salvator knows how much John has been working and how desperate we are for some fast help.  So we wait.

It is hot as blazes in Sardinia. It's very obvious why the crowds come in June through August; it’s guaranteed to be hot and sunny. The rainy season ends in April and a drop of rain will not fall again until October. Every day the beaches get a little more crowded and are lined with chairs and umbrellas. No secrets here for sure!

Of course there is always a silver lining. We were in Italy to watch the Italians win the World Cup. We went to the local cafe in the tiny town we're in (still). What an event that was! Just spectacular. The owner's TV was set up on a metal stand on the sidewalk with a large Italian flag draped across the base. Her four grown daughters served pizza and beer while she banged on a serving tray and shook castanets the entire evening. Did I mention she is 93? The game itself was fairly uneventful but the entertainment was not to be missed.

Our summer “cruise” will take us from Sardinia to Tunisia to Malta, to Greece.  One of John's colleagues has a summer house on Mykonos and he has asked us to spend the winter there.  Naturally, each day we are delayed is a day we cannot spend exploring, and we’ll miss that.  But maybe we are supposed to learn something different this summer.  Who knows??