Viking Ocean Cruise-Empires of the Mediterranean

Three years in the planning, our long awaited cruise with friends Jan and David Bryson finally happened May 3-16. Two previous trips were canceled because of COVID. Even this trip carried some anxiety-worrying we might test positive before leaving, testing positive while there, and especially testing positive at the end which would result in an extended quarantined hotel stay. We made it there and back COVID negative! This was our first ocean cruise with Viking, but after a wonderful river cruise in Russia, we were sure it would be great. As usual Viking does not disappoint. We planned this cruise with a very patient and top notch travel advisor, Virginia Pfrommer with BelleVie Travel. She kept us up to date with every cancellation, helping us rebook along with more flight changes than I can count.

We flew out of Tri-Cities, Tennessee at 12:10 AM on Monday, May 3 routing through Atlanta to Amsterdam with arriving in Athens, Greece on Tuesday, May 4 at 1 PM. Viking met us at the airport, took our luggage and transported us by small bus to the port of Piraeus where our ship the Viking Sea was docked. We went straight to our cabins, took our spit COVID tests and were free to explore ship the rest of the day masked until we got our negative results. We were required to test each morning in our rooms. The vials were collected and unless you tested negative, you didn’t hear anything. Here’s the link to the ship.

Sometimes it was hard to produce enough spit after sleeping all night. You were told not to eat or drink before.



Today we toured the Acropolis and the Plaka District for over 4 hours. It was a hot sunny day with little shade. The tour is described as demanding because of the 80 steps to the top but there are not actually steps. It’s more like hiking a mountainous rock of uneven steps, cobbled stone and gravel path switchbacks with few railings. I really did not have a good idea of the scale or the Acropolis until I searched for photo on the internet. None of our photos gave a good overview. Below is a royalty free photo I found.

The following photographs are ones I took with my Nikon camera along with a sprinkling of iphone photos from James, Jan and Dave.

We received the Viking Daily each evening in our cabin. Inside the pamphlet would be schedule of events on the ship along with miscellaneous information.

Today we also visited the Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern day Olympics in 1896 was held. Its roots go back to the 5th century B.C. for sporting events is and is the only stadium constructed completely out of marble.

The tour ended in the Platka District known for shopping and restaurants. Since we were hot and thirsty, drinks overruled shopping. Dave was intent on tasting ouzo, a dry anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece. We had a delightful time with the shop owner as he made us a specialty drink with ouzo and Coke.



Loved that I got to spend my birthday in Santorini, the quintessential spot in Greece! When you see the travel photos of Greece, this is it.

Returning to the ship from Santorini, Viking surprised me a cake and bubbly for my birthday. The cake was so good that Jan and I couldn’t stop eating…we felt quite nauseous afterwards. ūüôā


Shopped in town after touring the Olympic site. I bought a bracelet in Apollo Jewelers from George Galanis, the owner. George is the man on the right in the postcard and was part of the team that carried the torch for the 1996 games.



Kotor, Montenegro is known for its fjord like entrance to the port and reminded me of the Yangtze River in China. Beautiful! I got up at 6:30 AM to listen to the ship’s historian talk and watch from the Explorer’s Lounge. as we navigated the waters. Kotor is also know for its cats! They were everywhere and many were happy to pose. After the city tour and bus took us to Perast where we caught a boat to the Our Lady of the Rocks which is on a small island. Afterwards the boat returned us to Kotor and the ship.


Dubrovnik, Croatia is where many scenes in Game of Thrones was filmed. It’s a beautiful old city with lots of steps and stone walls.


The Monument to the sun consists of 300 multi-layered glass solar cell plates placed on the same level with the stone-paved waterfront in the shape of a 22-meter diameter circle. Beside the main (Sun) installation, looking from the west side are similar smaller installations representing other planets of the Solar System. At night there is apparently a spectacular light display but we were gone by nightfall.

At the waterfront is the renowned sea organ an architectural musical instrument, which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps.



Unfortunately we did not get to see Venice. The tour ended at the port of Fusina because cruise ships are no longer allowed to move through the Venetian lagoon. We knew before we went but still had hopes of the bus maybe going through the city. We picked our luggage up at the terminal and could see the top of St. Mark’s Cathedral.

We traveled by small motor coach to Tuscany stopping at Acetaia Villa San Donnimo, a balsamic vinegar farm in Moderna, Italy. Here we had a tour and sampling of their balsamic vinegar along with food and wine.


LA VERONICA RESORT-Greve in Chianti, Florence Italy

The Villa is in Greve which is about halfway between Florence and Siena. Moderna is about 2 hours north of Florence with Moderna being about 2 1/2 hours from Venice.


Florence, capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. 

Dinner was at Machiavelli Vineyard al fresco. Exactly as I had imagined dinner in Tuscany should be!!!!


Siena, a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region, is distinguished by its medieval brick buildings. 


San Gimignano is an Italian hill town in Tuscany, southwest of Florence, encircled by 13th-century walls.

I enjoy taking photos of nature: flowers, animals, and plants.

Here’s a smorgasbord of Viking and Italian food, we ate for two weeks. It was a gluttony feast ūüôā

Seeing mask signs on every store window in five countries cemented the term global pandemic into my mindset. Masks were still required in Greece indoors but had just been lifted by the time we reached Italy. Masks were required on our buses and airports.

Besides the scenery, food, and other great aspects of travel, meeting people is my favorite. On this trip we got to know the brother and wife of a good friend of ours. On one of those strange coincidences, we just happened to be on the same cruise and the same post extension tour! Thank you Anne Mitchell for instigating us meeting Buddy and Linda.

Dinner at Villa last night-Buddy and Linda Irby, Andrea (our guide), James, me, Jan and David Bryson

Extended Cruise Completed for 2016

trip 2105

We had a good time, absorbed a lot of history, met a lot of new people, and learned much about sailboat maintenance and cruising.  We sailed/motored ~1400 statute miles over a 10 week period.  The itinerary was from Charleston SC-Southport-Outer Banks-Norfolk-Washington DC, Solomons Island-East side of Chesapeake Bay, etc. and many ports in between.

Probably the most favorite parts of the trip for me were navigating the Potomac River and spending time visiting the sites in Washington DC. ¬†However, our time spent on the York River visiting Yorktown and Jamestown were a close second. ¬†We did have to rent a “land dinghy” from Enterprise to easily access¬†these latter places.

Ragtime is now safe in her new home, New Bern, NC (Northwest Creek Marina).  We will miss Charleston SC and the shorter trip to the boat, but New Bern is much more affordable.  Being retired gives us more time than money!

Rainy Days and Mondays Get Me Down -July 4th

July 1st fried us, and today we are drenched.  Weather is a huge factor when cruising, but you have to learn to roll with it or you will hate this lifestyle. 

Friday we left Deltaville after 4 days docked having boat repairs. Our anchor light had to be replaced and while we were at the travel lift, we had Ragtime pulled to check her bottom.  We had not seen this view since 2009 when we first saw her on the hard in New York. Even I am amazed at the immensity of a sailboat out of water. For my non sailing friends, I thought you would find the bottom interesting. 

While in Deltaville, we did laundry, bought groceries, ate lunch ashore, and spent money at West Marine all thanks to the courtesy vehicle from Deltaville Yachting Center-great marina and nice folks. 

Friday afternoon we anchored in Carter Creek beside The Tides Inn. The Tides is where Jacob did his externship through Le Cordon Bleu several years ago. The inn was built in 1947 and caters to upscale families. We dinghied ashore for a late lunch at the poolside restaurant. Dinner prices were more than we wanted to spend plus the heat and humidity was horrible on Friday. I was drenched in sweat and couldn’t even contemplate the idea of dressing up for dinner!

We had a huge thunderstorm that we had to ride out that afternoon which cooled things off considerably. 

Saturday we left for Urbanna, a little town of about 500 further up the River from Irvington where the Tides is located. For the first time on this trip weather and wind cooperated. We were able to sail with both sails. There was enough wind, we eventually needed to reef. We lucked into a fabulous Independence Day celebration that evening complete with boat parade and fireworks!  I’ll have to post these photos later when I can download from my camera. 

Yesterday it rained all day. Finally we gave up, donned our foul weather gear and went to town to check out Urbanna. What a nice surprise. Glad we did but unfortunately it was so late in the day most of the cute shops were closed. We did manage to find a great little BBQ restaurant that also served great desserts. We all had coconut rum pie except for James who had his chocolate ice cream. 

Today it is still raining, and we are motoring north to the Great Wicomico River for an overnight anchorage. It’s barely 70 degrees and cooler than that in the wind. Can hardly it’s July 4th!!!  I am making deviled eggs, hotdog chili, baked beans and hotdogs for supper. I had hoped to find a watermelon to make our meal complete but brownies will have to suffice. 

Happy 4th of Julyūüáļūüáł

Bruises, Bugs, and Bathing June 21, 2016

¬† ¬† We’ve been gone less than three weeks, and my body looks like I’ve been on Survivor!
The first week I managed to trip on the marina sidewalk in Oriental, NC coming away with a badly skinned knee, palm, ankle along with accompanying bruises.¬† Next came those horrible green headed biting flies and mosquitoes.¬† The mosquito bites itched, but the fly bites hurt!¬† Adding to the bruises and scabs were red welts on the ankles and other random body parts.¬† To add insult to injury I missed a step in the cockpit and fell just missing my skinned knee but succeeded in banging up my other one along with pulling my left arm.¬† Oh,and I must not forget hitting the top of my head on the boom.¬† Thank goodness for Advil and Tylenol.¬† I am truly grateful that I’ve not broken anything.¬† There’s always something to be thankful for.
¬† ¬† Bathing deserves its own paragraph, maybe a chapter, but I will give the condensed version.¬† We have running hot water and not all sailboats have that.¬† We have two heads (bathrooms), but keep in mind they are tiny!¬† Have you ever watched “Tiny Houses”, been on a RV, or used a porta-potty?¬† You get the picture. I do like the economy of being able to sit on the toilet, brush my teeth, and wash my face all at the same time :-).¬† The sink faucet doubles as a shower head meaning you pull it out, get the right water temperature and hold over your head while trying to soap up in this minuscule closet meanwhile wetting down the whole bathroom including the toilet, counter, and floor.¬† There is a drain to the bilge and the whole bathroom is somewhat
clean, but I either let it dry or have to wipe it all down.¬† My solution to daily bathing is filling the sink with water and having as my mother would call it- a “whore bath” . ¬†About once a week or more, we dock at a marina and get our “Saturday” bath!!! ¬†Ahhhh…
¬† ¬† Quite a few years ago, we took a dear friend who is no longer with us on a sailing trip. ¬†One of the mornings as I was pulling my hair up into a ponytail and cramming it under my cap, he remarked, “Sailing isn’t for beautiful people.” ¬†I didn’t know whether to be offended or to consider it a compliment as to my love and dedication to the sport. ūüôā I always think of my friend Dave on days like today. ¬†We walked over a mile from the American History Museum on the Mall to our boat at the marina in pouring down rain with only a museum plastic poncho. ¬†Sailing is not for the “beautiful people” or high maintenance, but it is always interesting.

Cooking on a Boat ¬† June 14, 2016

Be forewarned avid sailors, this blog is not about the rigors, adventures, or technical aspects of cruising. In my humble opinion, I think it’s a worthy topic because it is a necessity of cruising unless you’re a bare bones kind of sailor. This is also for my non-sailing friends who ask, “What do you eat on the water?” and “How do you cook?”
I mostly cook what I do at home except for baking cakes (although my fellow sailor friend is baking cake mixes and I did bring a mix). We are actually eating healthier because amazingly we are eating out less than at home, and I purposely have bought less junk food and more fresh fruits and vegetables.
First of all we do not have a microwave, and I do not miss it at all. I cook on a three burner with oven propane stove. We only have two electrical appliances-small coffee maker and a vacuum food sealer that I use when we have shore power. I toast in a non stick fry pan with a little butter. At sea I brew coffee in a French press. My can opener is a Pampered Chef manual that I also use at home. It’s truly amazing how few gadgets one needs to cook a delicious meal.
Weather plays a role in my meal planning. On cold days I bake bread, cook casseroles, and roast meats. On hot days I avoid the oven if at all possible. I have discovered two “how on earth have I survived without” items-a pressure cooker and a heat diffuser. The pressure cooker allows me to cook food faster which equals less propane and more importantly less heat! The diffuser is placed over the burner and diffuses the heat enabling simmering which is hard to do on the propane burners.
I had read on sail blogs and groups about cooking with a pressure cooker and how I should have a diffuser. My pressure cooker dates back to the days of S & H green stamps! I only use it at home to cook black eyed peas and hotdog chili. Thanks to Google and a pressure cooking cookbook, I can now bake potatoes, cook rice, and have plans to cook a roast. The baked potatoes were fluffy with tender skins and only took 20 minutes to cook. I may continue to cook them this way at home.
I kept meaning to search the Internet for a diffuser before we left but forgot with the myriad of other details needing to be done. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon one in a hardware store in Oriental, NC while James was shopping for bolts for one of his boat projects. It was only five bucks!

Pressure Cooker and Diffuser

Sometimes a Plan Comes Together-June 5, 2016

We docked in Southport Marina Friday morning around 10 am.  We were greeted with muggy hot sunny weather.  After little sleep I was somewhat grumpy as the sweat trickled down my back while we hooked up power cord, tidied the dock lines, and stowed equipment. Thankfully our blessed little A/C chugs away once we have shore power. The best improvement we made to Ragtime!

After a nap and shower, we had dinner with friends from Watauga Lake Sailing Club. Jennie and Kevin now live in Wilmington, NC. It was good to catch up even if we did had to wade to the restaurant through the high tide waters.  James advises to always check tide charts whether on or off boat!


Saturday we left Southport, motored up the Cape Fear River to Snows Cut to the ICW. ¬†We saw very shallow water and you don’t need the GPS to tell you how shallow when you see beach umbrellas in the middle of the waterway! Fortunately we didn’t need Tow Boat US’s services, but they seemed to be busy enough without us.


At 6:15 pm we motored out of Masonboro Inlet into the ocean for another overnighter ¬†Overnighters can be as different as night and day ¬†We had a nice breeze and little waves on Thursday night which meant more sleep and a relaxing night of reading, listening to podcasts, light snacks, and star gazing while on watch. ¬†Saturday night was hard from the get go. ¬†The ocean swells were large and random which made for a rocky ride with 15 knots of wind steady. ¬†We only sailed the jib reefed. ¬†I kept thinking this was going to be the night I got sick. ¬†I’ve only been seasick three times in over 30 years of sailing. ¬†Before leaving Southport I had cooked chicken and noodles for supper with plans to reheat for supper. ¬†We ate it cold which really wasn’t too bad. ¬†I catnapped during my off watch, but it wasn’t restful with my body constantly moving. ¬†Moving around was an ordeal, and I found myself slammed against the boat quite often with the bruises today to prove it. ¬†Non-sailors think we are courageous and/or crazy. ¬†We think it’s just part of the sailing life and as in life, there’s the highs and lows. ¬†Without the mix, life would be mundane and we couldn’t truly appreciate the good times. ¬†So it is for the life of a sailor. ¬†Look at this man’s smile. ¬†Sailing energizes him in the way that nothing else does and that energizes me.





Finally Leaving-June 2, 2016

Leaving from Charleston Harbor Marina fuel dock early Thursday morning, June 2nd

Leaving from Charleston Harbor Marina fuel dock early Thursday morning, June 2nd

Our long awaited retirement sail trip got off to a rocky start. James had planned to retire the end of 2015, and then to our fortunate surprise Eastman offered an early retirement incentive package that included a years salary! The only downside was he couldn’t retire until March 1, 2016 which was a very slight change of plans as we had hoped to maybe leave early April. Since we had boat projects to complete, we decided to race one last time in Charleston Race Week with May 1 being our leave date which also corresponded with the end of our marina lease. After several trips to Charleston prepping Ragtime for our extended trip came¬†to a brutal halt when mast troubles were discovered the first day of the races. We feared a new mast was in order which sent us home quite distressed. fortunately it was our standing rigging which ended up being a much easier fix. Still we had lost ground time, because we had put the other projects on hold. It was not meant for us to leave the first of May. We extended our lease for a month and mentally prepared ourselves for another month wait.

You know how hindsight works and providence if you believe in it. May ended up being a tumultuous month for the Littles! We had to have our 15 year old redbone coonhound put to sleep on April 4th. On May the 4th we repeated the agonizing decision for our 21 year old cat. I had had many sleepless nights the past year wondering who was going to care for our aged pets when we left. The Littles’ pets kept the Rainbow Bridge busy. Jacob, our younger son, also lost his beloved little dog during this time. We were thankful to have been home to comfort Jake. Someone recently asked when was the last time I cried to which I responded, “The whole month of May!”

One of my dearest friends lost her father in May. I was eternally grateful to have been here for her. Another dear friend was buying a house which meant I was able to participate in the process with her. And I was able to celebrate my 60th birthday on May 6th with my closest friends.

The whole delay has been a growing experience for me as I have practiced living in the moment. It was a constant reminder that plans are just that-plans. Life on a sailboat is a phenomenal learning laboratory for Type A people like us. We need it!

Tuesday, May 31 was about new leave date. Month lease was up, weather looked good as Bonnie had moved inland and we were stocked and essential projects were done. Except the engine mount that was  to be delivered on Tuesday did not arrive until Wednesday. But the delay meant having some Charleston friends over for drinks and goodbyes and being a tad more rested for the overnighter.

I am writing this on my IPad sitting behind the wheel of Ragtime as autopilot steers with fine tuning of the sails by James. We are clipping along at about 6 knots. We should make Southport, NC by mid morning. We have a marina slip reserved for Friday with plans to visit with some friends from our sailing club back home. Did I say plans?

Southern Collegiate Offshore Regatta, Feb 13, 14, Charleston, SC

Participating Schools:  Coast Guard, Navy, Maine Maritime, Eckerd College, Michigan, Queens College (Canada), Cal Maritime, and the College of Charleston

Dear James,

I am writing to invite you and your J 40 to be a part of the Southern Collegiate Offshore Regatta (SCOR) that will be run by the Charleston Ocean Racing Association(CORA) and will be sailed on Feb 13th and 14th 2016 at the Carolina Yacht Club.   The regatta is sailed in borrowed offshore yachts where the owners participate. Recognizing the importance of exposing the next generation of sailors to offshore racing, the Charleston Ocean Racing Association (a 501(c)3 charitable organization and the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association have joined forces to make the Southern Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta a major event. The goal is spreading the fun and team work of big boat racing to as many college sailors as possible. We can only do this with the help of boat owners like you. This is your chance to give back to the sport and help it grow.

CORA is not looking for you to lend the boat to a college team. In our regatta, the owners sail with the teams as the safety officer and coach. Each boat can have a second adult aboard who can be one of your regular crewmembers, the school’s coach, or someone appointed by CORA. We need you to keep things safe for the kids and the boats as well as to teach about how to handle and sail a big boat. The boat owner is still the skipper of record and we make it clear to the students that if the owner ever feels that something unsafe could happen, the owner is free to take the helm or to give a command to change course. The kids are very respectful of the boats and the owners. We cannot insure the fleet so all the boats sail under their own insurance.

The boat owner stays near the helm to insure the safety of the boat. The second adult can coach the kids in the front half of the boat. We encourage the adults to teach boat handling, sail trim and safety, but we ask that you let the kids call their own tactics. Everything about big boats can be new to dinghy sailors, but tactics are universal. If their starting plan is unsafe, then by all means tell them to guess again. To keep boats from pushing the rules too hard, we do not allow the two-turns penalty to exonerate fouls.

With last year’s event being canceled due to extreme bad weather, we are inviting the same schools back: Coast Guard, Navy, Maine Maritime, Eckerd College, Michigan, Queens College (Canada), Cal Maritime, and the College of Charleston.

Our goal is to have three to four windward/leeward races on Saturday and a distance race around the Charleston Harbor on Sunday.

Finally, this is a totally free event for the boat owners and college sailors thanks to the CORA Foundation, Carolina Yacht Club , and other sponsors. The kids bring food and drinks for themselves and the adults, and the Carolina Yacht Club throws a casual dinner for everyone on Saturday night and will provide overnight dockage on Friday and Saturday night.

A similar event is put on by the Storm Trysail Club at the Larchmont Yacht Club. Check out their video

One day we hope to have as many participants as they do. So, please consider in helping with our event. Contact me if you have any questions.


Tripp Fellabom , Organizing Committee

Time to Sail into Retirement

After 37 1/2 years at Eastman, I will join Sandra in retirement on Jan. 1st, 2016 and we will set sail.  We plan on leaving early May 2016 from Charleston, SC and sail north towards Long Island Sound.  I have no idea how long it will take, but no problem, we are retired!

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Here are our initial plans for next year:

-Participated in Southern Collegiate Offshore Regatta on Ragtime (see post)
-Participate in Charleston Race Week in April, three 23-mile races offshore in 3 days
-Leave Charleston early May 2016
-Sail to New Bern, NC to join our friends Rob and Minta Fannon who recently purchased a Catalina 42 sailboat
-Sail around the Outer Banks and Chesapeake Bay for an undetermined amount of time
-Possibly sail up the Potomac to Washington DC area
-Go up the Chesapeake Delaware Canal/Delaware River/Cape May
-Out along New Jersey Coast to New York Harbor and spend a few weeks in NY City
-Up the Hudson River
-Down the Hudson/New York City then to Long Island Sound

Back in Charleston

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We are back in Charleston Harbor Marina cleaning Ragtime.¬† After docking at 4:45 am on Monday morning, we managed to sleep for about 4 hours before having to get up to get Matt to the airport.¬† Needless to say after eating lunch with Rob and Minta, we were worthless.¬† James took a nap that extended into bedtime.¬† I took a mini nap and then had several long phone calls with my ‚Äúbesties.‚ÄĚ ¬†ūüôā

Today was the backbone cleaning day.  James washed everything on top, cleaned out the locker, and made multiple phone calls to the marina office regarding our slip.  While we were gone, a different boat was put in our adjoining slip.  We were unsure if we could both fit into the slip, but with help from the marina, we managed to put Ragtime back into E34. We had docked on the A Dock extension on Monday morning because of the tidal current.  I cleaned out the refrigerator, pantry, began packing, plus did laundry.

While packing the multitude of clean clothes that we never even wore, I fully realized I had over packed!  The winter clothes that were sent home with Rob and Minta had all been worn, so I did ok in that department.   I thought we would need more summer clothes because we would sweat more, but it turns out that I was able to wash at least once a week.  Like a dog and a fire hydrant, I never passed up a laundry.  Note to self for future trips:  a week’s worth of clothing is enough.  When I am on the water, I don’t worry about wearing shirts and shorts multiple times.  Just give me plenty of undies!!!  As I was folding HOT clothes from the dryer, I reminded myself that commercial dryers do not seem to have a low setting no matter what the button says.  For future trips, I will rethink bringing tops that say to dry on low.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We are leaving today.¬† After hitting it hard for two days, we have cleaned and put Ragtime to ‚Äúsleep‚ÄĚ for a few months.¬† We plan to have her hauled out for a bottom job this summer.¬† There are also numerous small repair projects that we left in the hands of our capable boat management guy, Mallory.¬† We will not be back until the end of August when we will be back for a wedding.¬† We both have mixed emotions as we leave Charleston.¬† It has been a great 11 weeks, but there are portions of our lives that we definitely miss back in Kingsport on dry land.

While we were gone, they made significant progress on the new restaurant at the marina.  Fish House is slated to open the end of the month which is tomorrow.  I don’t think they will make their deadline but maybe next week.  There is also a marina store adjoined to the restaurant.  We will look forward to checking them both out in August.

Fish House Restaurant

Fish House Restaurant

Marina Store

Marina Store