Cruising in a Pandemic

Gratitude in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily Photo by Martin Horn Lunara

Live aboard cruising in the midst of a pandemic

When we planned to live overseas in Europe for several years, we had dreamed of long lazy days soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine while dining on several hours long midafternoon meals of pasta, formaggio, bread and gelato. Farthest from our minds were the hours which I have spent in meal prep and serving aboard Gratitude – only catching glimpses of the Italian delicacies normally just outside our gangway in a non-pandemic year.

Living on a boat in a foreign land during a pandemic; while in many ways is preferable to living in a land home, looks a bit different than the life we had imagined While we had hoped to eat our way through Italy, the only Italian food we eat not prepared by my American hands, is take away pizza offered at the corner store. Carefully planned “road trips” remain unchartered by the Gratitude crew during lockdown and educational field trips including an Opera in Sicily, have been supplanted by entertainment discovered in our own salon.

Jack and I making tiramisu during a zoom class with Cookingintuscany

Not deterred by a pesky pandemic, we dig in and work to find experiences that, if not expressly provided for by our host country, at least are enhanced by proximity. Hiking on beautiful paths and logged by other hiking enthusiasts has become a new favorite weekend activity. We love a hiking app called Wikiloc.com which allows us to follow paths left behind by others or to blaze our own trail and upload it. One can choose where to hike, either through some of the fantastic Medieval villages with awe inspiring Gothic architecture, or find a path in nature- through streams, up mountains, or along ancient ruins.

Whether you are a cruiser living in a foreign land, of just riding out the “storm” at home waiting for a chance to throw off your own lines, here are some suggestions for ways to embrace and learn about a foreign land or local culture while all of the museums and opera houses are closed, and tours are cancelled.

We are homeschooling our son, so most of what we have discovered was born of the desire to offer enrichment far from the US shores. Lucky for us, we have made friends with other boat-schooling families who have shared their resources and ideas – some of which appear here.

This group is the most fantastic antidote to loneliness in a pandemic! Thank you Bella and Gambler Crews for the best winter ever! Phillipa taking the photo

Which brings me to my first recommendation: Find friends with whom you can chat over a cup of coffee before the solitude slips into loneliness. In addition to making connections with others who are likely feeling similarly, you can share resources that one may not find on their own. Recently our son was out skateboarding and ran into another American. Shocked to hear, not only his own language but also his own accent (lots of British ex-pats here in Italy) he stopped to talk. That short meeting on the side of the road lead the American to stop by Gratitude, which then led to a new friendship. You never know from where a new friendship will bloom.

1) Many world class museums are offering virtual tours including the British Museum, Louvre, Rijksmuseum, and many others. If you are finding yourself in need of another educational resource for yourself of your child, a simple google search will yield a veritable treasure trove of cultural and artistic artifacts from around the world. Many of these works of art are showcased in cooperation with Google Arts and Culture, which allow the images to be shown in great resolution and with the ability to zoom in, right from the comfort of your own home.

2) If you are a fan of the arts, many local ballet companies, as well as opera houses are offering tickets for live streamed events. During the Holiday season, we purchased tickets for a Bocelli concert performed live from the Teatro Regio di Parma opera house in Parma, Italy. While we certainly would have preferred to watch the concert in person, viewing it in the salon of Gratitude was a reasonable substitute. Friends of ours purchased tickets to the Birmingham Ballet performance of the Nutcracker. We don’t really think the holiday has begun until we have watched the Nutcracker, so viewing the performance was just the thing to get the season started. Many shows are being offered via the Royal Opera House and countless other organizations, though with a reduced cast. Still, during these incredibly difficult times, it is not only important to support the arts, but also continue enjoying cultural and personal pursuits which bring so much happiness to our lives – even if offered a bit differently.

3) While we had imagined learning how to cook beautiful Italian meals in local kitchens, our only experience of a local cooking class happened over the summer in Tuscany. Not deterred, the innovative woman who shared her Grandmother’s recipes with us on that trip, continues to share tips and tricks for preparing beautiful Italian meals with simple and “easy to source” ingredients via zoom classes twice a month. For more information on this wonderful Italian cooking class visit cookingintuscany.com.
Italian food not your cup of tea, there are countless cooking classes available through too many sources to count. What better way to spend a pandemic than to learn how to prepare beautiful meals right in your own home?

4) Ready to get traveling? There are several travel companies including http://www.tauck.com who offer free live travel webinars. We have watched expert presentations on Pompei, Mozart and we are looking forward to a presentation on Egypt. All live talks are offered free of charge and are just what those itchy traveling feet of ours need when we just can’t wait to get moving again.

5) Want to make this time tied to the dock matter? Look into your own yacht and cruising associations for lectures on everything from weather to destinations on the itinerary next year. An incredible resource for free classes is: http://www.meted.ucar.edu which include hundreds of courses on everything from weather to radar theory – essentially anything related to geoscience.

6) And finally, while your church may not have a live stream service, most faiths have a church service that is streamed. We are fortunate that our Episcopal church streams live services every Sunday which allows us to attend “mass” with friends from home. In addition to stmarys-stuart.org offering free services online, they also provide various outreach programs including many other uplifting programs which they offer free as part of their community outreach. 4,000 miles away from our home church we were worshipping and celebrating Christmas with friends right from the comfort and safety of our salon here on Gratitude.

And finally a true highlight of our time in Marina Di Ragusa has been our Italian lessons in the home of a bellisima local woman. Married with 2 precious bambini, she teaches Italian to several families in the marina. Last week, to celebrate the beginning of Carnevale and also Valentines day she made chocolate with Jack. Everything is a lesson so we learned the various words associated with the cooking. I hope that learning Italian in the home of a family in Sicily is a memory that Jack keeps dear forever, I know we certainly will. Thank you Serena xo

These are just a few of the programs which have made our time tied to the dock in the midst of a pandemic more enjoyable. While your list will look completely different, there are many programs worthy of your time while you waiting to get cruising again.

Published by cruisingwithgratitude

Alec and Laurie Thyrre (both retired airline pilots) are making an effort to share and experience as much of this beautiful planet with their 8 yr old son Jack and two kittys Pratt and Whitney while traveling aboard a 64' Nordhavn boat.

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