Spain to Malta
15th April 2005
We are still here in Almerimar, but now all the talk is about the weather as we and a large number of other yachties wait for ‘the right wind’ to start the next sailing trip. The winds are very strong and unpredictable at the moment and all the old hands have said we won’t get away yet, but that doesn’t stop the endless speculation. We want westerlies, and all last week there were strong easterlies. Now there are westerlies, but strong - gales in the Golf de Lion, even a hurricane in the Balearics, 40 knots in the marina. When it falls right there will be an Armada leaving here. We hope to sail in company with Nige and Al on ‘Strummer’ and Ash and Alex on ‘Celtic Wave’ for a while, although ultimately we all have different agendas. Our first stop is Cartagena where Rob and Brenda on ‘Paprika’ have spent the winter.
We have had a great time this winter with the community of liveaboards. It’s been like a little village with it’s social life and gossip. We spent Christmas here, cooking a turkey in the boat oven after a swim in the sea on Christmas day (it was cold).
We’ve had lots of visitors; we have travelled inland to the cities of Granada, Jerez, Seville and Cordoba; we have stayed in a cave in Galera in the mountains, travelled through the Alpujarra region and Sierra Nevada mountains and seen many contrasting landscapes from miles of plastic greenhouses on the coast to olive trees inland as far as the eye can see.
Christmas swim (above); Bob and Jenny (below) Cordoba (above); Seville (below)
We’ve achieved a lot personally too, Bob with the greetings cards and cartoons and paintings, Liz editing them for cards, and in the development of our musical expertise on the guitar and clarinet. Bob’s Spanish is coming along very well but Liz hasn’t progressed beyond ordering drinks at a bar.
The music, the cartoons...
The The jobs...Bob up the mast We’ve been so busy that we haven’t got half of the jobs done on Yanina that we intended to do.
The The jobs...Bob up the mast
We’ve been so busy that we haven’t got half of the jobs done on Yanina that we intended to do.
Our plan ‘A’ was to head for Greece and Turkey via the Balearics, Sardinia, Corsica and Italy, but having read the Pilot book for the Italian coast, we are tempted to linger there, especially as there are some little islands to explore and a promise of beautiful sailing in the Ligurian sea near Elba, and we would like to visit Rome.
So we have a loose plan to head east and ultimately in that direction, but if we don’t get that far we may winter in Malta and take two summers to do it. Long term we want to come back west and cross the Atlantic.
21st June 2005
It’s time to let everybody know where we are, and to record our activities over the last two months. There is always so much to do aboad Yanina and the weeks fly by, but we have packed a lot into the time and really enjoyed every minute. We’ve sailed north from Almerimar to Cartagena, Torrevieja, Isla Tabarca and then Calpe in order to cross to Formentera island, Ibiza, Mallorca, and then to Menorca.
Last year we were on a mission to get to the Mediterranean, and we sailed more or less continually from Scotland to Spain. We spent a lot of time in marinas, not always out of choice. The aim this summer has been to take our time, anchor out in bays, and explore more inland. We want to keep marina visits to a minimum. The plus side is you can have a long hot shower and the boat keeps still for a change. The downside is that all the chores need to be done, shopping, washing, cleaning, water, fuel, and marinas are expensive in the summer season. They are also very hot, and Yanina is a difficult boat to manoeuvre in and out of a close space, especially if it’s windy.
To make us more self-sufficient with water and electricity, we did a lot of work on Yanina, adding extra water tanks, and Bob installed a shower and hot water system that heats the water from the engine. He also added more insulation to the fridge and an extra fan and it works more efficiently than it did last year. We have a solar panel and a wind generator and we do a fair bit of motoring which charges the batteries. So far it’s working well, and we’ve been at anchor for over two weeks at a time.
Water is the key to it all. When the water runs out, we have to go into a marina. There don’t seem to be any public taps and the marinas have put water on the pontoons only and installed special locks so you have to pay for a night’s stay. If you’re lucky you can fill up with water at the fuel berth, but you have to pay for it there too. We’ve become good at looking for water taps – at one place we found a little hut with a shower for the fishermen and we dinghied over with all our water bottles. At one deserted bay they filled our water bottles at the beach bar. So we’re careful with how much water we use. We wash up only when the sink is full – sorry to my kids for all the times I nagged them to wash up.
It’s so much quicker and cooler exploring places by bike and the other thing we had to sort was getting them ashore in the dinghy. We made a pulley system that lowers them from the deck into a bag in the dinghy. It’s had a few modifications as we learn what is best, but it works well. Everything takes time. It can take an hour just to get the bikes in the dinghy, get ashore and then assemble them and leave the dinghy safe and secure. Leaving our possessions everywhere takes some getting used to. Once we were on a bus and I realised that we’d left our bikes at the bus terminus, our dinghy tied to a tree stump in the bay and Yanina swinging on an anchor chain.
We’re motorsailing again. The Mediterranean is one huge lake and fickle winds, which all have names, funnel between the mountains and cause swell especially if the sea is shallow. Sometimes you just can’t sail, even if there is wind. Other times it’s ‘on the nose’ and you can’t sail either. We’ve had a few good sails though despite that, and we used the cruising chute (multicoloured lightweight sail) all the way from Formentera to Ibiza.
We finally sailed away from Almerimar in Southern Spain, on April 24th, travelling overnight to Cartagena. We’d been in Almerimar for seven months, our minds on other things like music, cartoons – and socialising, and it did take a supreme effort to prise Yanina away from her comfortable berth and to leave the band and the friends we had made, but thankfully the weather was kind to us and let us in gradually with a quiet overnight sail and a full moon which we could almost read by as we stood watch.
Cartagena is a natural harbour with a strong naval presence and is right in the centre of a city that historically has been occupied by just about every major race from the Carthaginians (obviously) to the Romans. We went there to meet up with ‘Strummer’ and visit Rob and Brenda from ‘Paprika’ who are having a break from the high seas as they furnish their new villa. We arrived early morning to find it had been invaded yet again, this time by liveaboads from Almerimar. We stayed a week and toured the town on bicycles, experienced the ‘chop’ in the harbour when Cartagena becomes one of those places where you can feel seasick tied to a pontoon. ‘Cougar’ was tied side on to the main quay and was boarded several times by enthusiastic Spaniards wanting to take photos, and once by a wedding party! On May Day we were entertained by a naval brass band.
We set off up the coast on one of those ‘unsettled’ spring days that the old hands in Almerimar warned us against. It rained, we had gusts of wind up to 30 knots and Yanina spun round and round and we were quickly tired and cold. Just like sailing in England really. We eventually came into Torrevieja and gratefully anchored – for ten days, which turned out to be very enjoyable. We finished lots of jobs that we’d never got done in the winter and we just swung around the anchor and planned our trip.
Friday the 13th in Torrevieja proved interesting. We had gone into the marina for one night to get water, and to do one or two jobs needing a mains-operated electric drill. We congratulated ourselves on leaving the berth as late as we could without paying for another night, when we managed to get two heavy mooring lines wrapped round our propshaft. Bob had to repeatedly dive in to untangle them. An hour later saw us motoring out into the harbour again to anchor. The first attempt we managed to pick up someone else’s chain. Having dumped that, we moved to another spot only to anchor over a sunken motorboat. By this time the whole fleet of boats were watching our antics. The third attempt had us holding beautifully, and we settled down for the night thinking how trouble comes in threes.
Another hour later the wind had shifted and increased, and, being a good skipper, Liz went up into the cockpit to check, only to see two boats gracefully gliding towards us in reverse. Their anchors had dragged. One went past but the other headed straight for us, and gently bumped into us (fortunately we had left our fenders on). We grabbed their guardrails, knocked on the hull, and shouted ‘Hello?’ as if we were enquiring if anyone was home. A woman rushed up on deck, and once she realised it was their boat moving and not ours, she said, ‘Oh my God, what shall I do, he’s on the toilet’. ‘He’ then emerged, a little red-faced and still getting into his shorts, and off they drifted to re-anchor in another spot.
Isla Tabarca, just off Alicante, used to be a prison, like many of the small islands just off the coast. Arriving on a Sunday, it was full of daytrippers who all left in the evening and we were left all alone apart from the closed restaurants and a few inhabitants. There was a strange sense of history and timelessness as we walked in the deserted village.
In Calpe we spent the day climbing Pen Ifach, Calpe’s smaller version of Gibraltar’s rock.
It’s amazing how a mountain suddenly rises out of the sea like that. A well ordered path at the bottom gradually petered out into a challenging climb – the kind that would be roped off as unsafe in England. The compensation culture doesn’t seem to have reached Spain yet and they still let you have a go. We were rewarded for our efforts with stunning views and being dive-bombed by seagulls anxious to protect their chicks.
We set off twice for Formentera Island. The first time the combination of head winds and huge swell knocked us back and we were making no progress in an increasingly wild sea. We headed back to Moraira bay and anchored and Yanina rolled around as the swell entered the bay. Not a good night. The next day was totally different, still headwinds but the sea had flatted out and we even sailed towards the end. Formentera is a small flat island 8 miles by 10 off Ibiza. It is full of bicycles, turquoise seas, wonderful sandy naturist beaches and old hippies. We took part in everything. There are so many artists here, like the gentleman who has spent years rearranging the rocks on a particular beach on the northern isthmus to the extent that he has changed the landscape, and Firefox, a painter who has been here since the seventies and whose paintings we saw amongst the other artist’s work at the Sunday hippy craft market. We anchored for a week, met up with Cougar again who were in a marina.
We then had that wonderful sail with the cruising chute to Ibiza where we anchored in Cala Badella. Calas are a feature of the Balearic Islands and are usually deep bays with steep rocky sides with a turquoise sea and sandy beach at the end. They vary from being full of hotels and bars, to totally deserted. Cala Badella seemed like heaven with a few restaurants, shops and apartments and we swam off the boat and we dinghied ashore and took a bus trip to Ibiza town and saw the pine forest clad interior of Ibiza.
Then we moved to Cala Beniras, which was even simpler, with small beach bars. Our stay there was made memorable by several things. Firstly, there was rock in the entrance which the (English) pilot book called ‘Queen Victoria’, (and it did look like the image on the old penny piece). On the first night as the sun started setting behind the rock, a bongo drum beat started from the beach and continued till dusk, creating an eerie and pagan atmosphere, the kind that makes you ponder life and the universe. This was a Friday, and the drums repeated again on Saturday night and sometimes we could hear the sound of a guitar and a girl singing, but Sunday was the climax with about twenty drummers taking part together or in turns. The beach became crowded with people in many styles of essentially hippie -type clothing. By this time we had found that there were several retreats in the area offering yoga holidays, live in a barn without mains water holidays etc. so these were probably mainly part-time hippies but what the heck, there was a beach party going on and as it grew dark, other musicians joined in including a sax player, and the crowd were going wild dancing and the air was heavy with the smoke from dozens of joints.
Back down to earth, and there are no shops or internets in paradise, so we dinghied round the corner to the adjacent cala . What a contrast. A large hotel, shops, bars, cars, buses. We fought our way round tightly packed sun loungers, pink bodies, burgers, chips and ketchup, to find an expensive internet point in a bar next to the pin ball machines. But they did have Robinson’s Barley water in the supermarket. Oh the price of civilisation.
The weather in late May was still unsettled, and we were out of sync with it again, blowing up just when we decided to go. We waited a couple of days and when we saw a drop in the wind, decided to do a night passage to Mallorca. We headed out and were set again by huge seas, obviously created over the last few days. It’s amazing what’s lurking just outside the shelter of a bay. We then tried to put the mainsail up and it stuck. So we had to head back. It was pitch black and we couldn’t find Queen Victoria against the backdrop of the high cliffs. We kept shining a torch until blimey, there she was, very close.
So we’re getting the message to wait after it’s been windy. But when we finally set off we motored all the way to Palma Mallorca, there was little wind and that was ahead of us again. It was a long day, 12 hours. We were due to meet up with Strummer, and Celtic Wave were not far away, but unfortunately they had already been to Palma. After all our little bays and calas we were overwhelmed by the size of the bay of Palma and the huge harbour there. Forget anchoring and dinghying to the shore – we were liable to get crushed by the cruise ships and tankers. So the marina it was and fortunately Strummer knew the best deals. Prices varied from 25 euros to 80. But it was great to see Nige and Al again and chat and laugh till the early hours.
Deia in the mountains of Mallorca
After touring Palma we anchored at Andraitx, a large, beautiful cala with a fishing fleet that rocked us at 4am and 4pm as they went past. Strummer got fair winds for Barcelona and left, and we stayed on for five days. We then went to Soller on the north coast, another large cala with the backdrop of mountains. We took the Victorian tram to Soller town and the Victorian train through the mountains back to Palma. Fantastic mountain views, terraced farmland and pine forests. We also took the bus to the village of Deia for a day and saw where Robert Graves spent most of his life and did the majority of his writing, and entertained half of the poets and writers of his era. Really we have been overwhelmed with these islands. We have seen little of the package tourist image, maybe out of choice, and found stunning scenery both from the boat and inland. No wonder writers were inspired here.
According to the pilot book, Soller is the only safe harbour in a storm for 50 miles on the north west coat of Mallorca, but there was no Tramontana wind blowing so we set off for Torrente de Pareis, which features on all the postcards. It’s a cala ending in a split in the mountainous rock through which the water floods in spring (and hopefully not in June). It was very windy, not quite ‘on the nose’ so we tacked at angles and had a great sail, but only making 5 miles over the ground while sailing 11 by the time we got there. We anchored overnight and swam off the boat in turquoise seas, dinghied to shore and explored the ravine and were invited for drinks by Steve and Maggie on Rassy Lady.
Torrente de Pareis
We sailed round the north east corner and the scenery was wild and stunning with jagged mountains sheer down to the sea. We headed for the huge bay of Formentor where there was supposedly a world famous hotel built in the 1930’s, but as there were rumours of high charges for mooring in the bay we prudently anchored round the corner in another turquoise sea.
We used this anchorage as a base over the next few days as it was so quiet and sheltered and we did a day trip to the bay with the famous hotel where we anchored out, took the bikes ashore and had coffee there which was disappointingly normal but at a world famous price. So we decided to cycle to cap Formentor which looked about five kilometres on the map but ended up about eleven with all the bends. We were tacking on land. Fortunately there was a café for refreshment and shade at the lighthouse at the end as it was extremely hot and our 1 litre pack of water was woefully inadequate.
Formentor Our 'cell' window, Lluc
On to Pollenca town and the town quay where we did the pit stop before sailing to Menorca. We stayed long enough to take a bus up into the mountains to Lluc, a sanctuary for travellers, one of a few scattered over the island. Lluc is surrounded by limestone peaks that the wind and rain has eroded into fantastic shapes. Once the tourist buses had gone, it was a very peaceful spot to wander round and appreciate the views. We stayed overnight, very cheaply, in a ‘monk’s cell’ that was now a comfortable double room. You still had to make your own bed.
The weather was more settled when we set off for Menorca, and the trip was an easy mixture of motoring and sailing. We arrived at Cuidadella, the old port in Menorca. It was full as it was the festival of Sant Joan (Saint John) and we anchored in a cala next to it. The festival had been going all day and as we walked into the port, the first thing that hit us was mounds of rubbish on the streets. The next thing was the music and the atmosphere. Everywhere there were people dancing, drinking, eating, laughing. And there were crowds heading for a sandy area at the head of the harbour, so we followed.
There we found horsemen dressed in black with cocked hats, sitting on horses decorated with rosettes and mirrors. They were mingling with the crowd who were stroking and patting the horses. This is where that taking risks thing comes in again. We couldn’t help noticing that the horses were stallions, and a bit restless in the ever increasing crowds. We also noticed a strong Red Cross presence with teams of doctors and nurse waiting? Then there was an announcement for the crowds to keep clear of the moving horsemen. There was a slow drum beat, and a strange medieval piping, and suddenly a horseman galloped straight through the crowd, brandishing a javelin which he tilted at a distant target. There were no barriers and the crowd got out of the way by the skin of their teeth, the drums and pipes being a signal, and where were we – right near the horseman’s path of course. The horsemen charged at about two minute intervals and the whole atmosphere was laden with a kind of madness and we thought, lets get out of here, so we made our way slowly back to the harbour and safety. We tried to get up to the higher streets to watch from above but the places to watch from were long taken. The whole thing was totally barking mad but I was glad we experienced it. We finally went to a yacht club where we were talking with some Spanish people. They said there were injuries and fatalities in the crowd every year.
And yet, we were sitting later watching the crowds, and they were all just having fun - children, teenagers, parents, grandparents. It’s one of the things we’ve enjoyed seeing in Spain and that is the closeness of the age groups, the families, their love of their children and their respect for their elders. Folk seem to have time for each other, are more courteous and patient. Does this stem from religion, or the long warm evenings that bring all of society outdoors together?
We stayed another night in the cala and were rewarded with an unexpected entertainment in the form of a spectacular firework display on the rocky headland next us. We went on deck and found the shore lined with crowds of people and us with the ringside seats! If only Bob had decided to put some clothes on before he went on deck...
We had to leave. We sailed south to another gorgeous cala, and then sailed to Mahon, the other port at the eastern end of Menorca, and we are now making plans to cross to Western Sardinia. 200+ miles, a two night sail. We will be sorry to leave Spain. We’ve been here for most of a year, Northern Spain, Southern Spain and then the Islands. It feels like home.
From here on we will head up the west coasts of Sardinia and Corsica to Portofino on the Italian coast, inland to Florence and Tuscany, then down to Pisa where Midge and Lawrence join us. We will cross to Elba, explore the islands in the Bonifacio Straits and the adjacent east coasts of Corsica and Sardina before heading back across to Italy. Then Rome, Pompeii, down to Sicily and finally Tunisia for the winter. We are opting for plan B and continuing to Greece and Turkey next year. This feels like the right pace for us although we could still spend twice as long everywhere.
In case you wondered, we are both still enjoying ourselves. We love the lifestyle. It’s physically hard and spartan, but there's more contrast and the rewards are on the other end of the scale too.
21st August 2005
It’s two months since our last newsletter and we have crossed from Menorca to Sardinia and Corsica, then over to mainland Italy, and on to Elba. To Corsica again and then mainland Italy again, in a trail that is beginning to look like the Italian national dish.
The sailing weather off Corsica and Sardinia has caused us a lot of delays. The islands are blasted by the NW gales that build in the Golf de Lion in France. The wind then funnels between the islands into the Bonifacio Strait, and to a lesser extent, the top of Cap Corse and the bottom of Sardinia. Just in case you think you’re escaping on the east coasts - the wind gusts between the mountains and gets you there too. The French and Italian sailors congregate at Calvi, St Florent, and Bastia in Corsica where there are relatively short runs from the mainland and Elba. For us on longer passages round the coast it was a case of waiting for the right weather and then nipping out. And that takes time and patience, and we finally ran out of both. We saw most of Corsica and its chief attraction for us was the spectacular and savage beauty of its mountains and coastline, created by the very elements of wind and sea that we were struggling with. Apart from a couple of stops on the north west coast, Sardinia may have to remain a closed book for us.
We spent two weeks in a beautiful anchorage outside Mahon on Minorca at the beginning of July because of gales in the Sardinian channel. However it became an enjoyable and relaxed period where we finished jobs, swam off the boat and generally played around. We had a barbeque on the beach in the Cala and we played music. Often we heard applause from the other boats and, encouraged, we went busking one evening in a small harbour opposite the anchorage. It was ideal, with a circle of waterfront restaurants and we worked our way round them.
We were in company with Kiah and Hullabaloo, Aimee and Duncan. None of us wanted to go out in a gale, and with less time pressures than most sailors, we did our best to avoid it. This had the effect of mild group hysteria where we ended up in many meetings pondering over the weather forecasts right down to the wave heights and generally scaring each other silly. Eventually we all went one morning in a sort of convoy. It was on this trip that we discovered the finer points of motorsailing. We had already perfected the black art of ‘Mediterranean Motoring With Both Sails Up’ (a self explanatory and kind of cheating sailing technique which helps counteract the ever present swell and add a bit of speed when there is basically very little wind); but we couldn’t help listening to the conversations on the VHF and discovered layers of finesse; for example with 5 knots of wind forward of the beam, you can achieve over 6 knots of boat speed if you run the engine at 1500 revs. And even better; if the wind increases to 7 knots, you have the choice of knocking the revs down to 1000 or increasing your speed to 6.5 knots and………… We eventually got some real wind and the trip ended 40 hours later with Yanina heeled over as we tacked into a beautiful cala near Alghero on the north west coast of Sardinia.
Cala Torre de Conte proved to be an eventful stop. Next morning we took Yanina to the entrance of the bay where Aimee was becalmed and without engine power, with a huge cliff too near for comfort. John and Lesley had engine trouble on the trip over but were able to sail most of the way, hoping to end their journey independently, which is all credit to them. With jokes about claiming salvage, we towed them to the anchorage. The following morning we then used our dinghy to tow her to the pontoon. It seemed odd that Kiah and Hullabaloo’s dinghies weren’t behind their boats, and we then noticed a guy swimming from his yacht to shore. It was only when Aimee turned the VHF on that we learned that their dinghies, three in total, had been stolen in the night. (For the yachties – they were all Avons). Welcome to Sardinia.
There was more stormy weather coming and we had to go. Up the coast, through the Fornelli passage and to Stintino, a sweet seasidey Sardinian village at the mouth of the Bonifacio Straits. It used to be a tuna fishing port and was now a small holiday resort full of Italian families on holiday. The harbour was an amusing melee of folk having fun on boats, the shops were full of pasta, pizzas and wafer thin bread, there were people with fantastic jet black hair and the facial features of the classical paintings, - and we couldn’t speak Italian. We only stayed two nights, and just escaped north to Ajaccio on Corsica with the skies darkening behind us as we went.
‘Fort Raffales’ said the weather forecast. We got the first strong gust as we came in to Ajaccio and for half an hour we had thirty knots of wind while we made our way in to anchor in the bay. We weren’t too sure about how the anchor had held but the wind calmed down and lulled us into a false sense of security. The whole thing then repeated itself at midnight when we and half a dozen other boats dragged. We woke up to the sound of the wind screamimg, people screamimg, and yachts were skitting around in a slow motion walz. Two boats collided with us which is not as bad as it sounds as it was all so slow and graceful but the boats are heavy and there is danger of crushing. We lost our flag pole which was snapped off like a matchstick. At one point I was fending off a boat that drifted past at right angles and the French guy grasped my hand, putting me in a terrible quandry because I just was not prepared to have my arm wrenched to hold his boat. We eventually bumped alongside a huge plastic buoy and managed to put a line through it, and there we spent the rest of the night. The next day we laid out two anchors. Then of course it all calmed down.
Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica and seems to spread itself out in the space left between the sea and the mountains. Undeniably French but somehow lacking the style, (the Corsican separatists won’t like that). On a more practical note, we were parked just outside Carrefour and were able to stock up on groceries, mooring the dinghy almost alongside a dual carriageway and wheeling the trolley across it. The language thing was getting confusing at this point. We’d been through three countries in less than three weeks with gracias, then grazie, becoming merci; café con leche, café latte, café au lait, and so on. Bob is good at remembering them though, (especially the drinks).
We met Robbie and Charlotte on the only English yacht in the anchorage (most yachts were Italian and French), and swapped some books. They have been living on board for eight years, have crossed the Atlantic ocean and back, and were delightfully relaxed about it all. Finally we left with 25 knots of wind and big seas on our passage to Calvi at the tip of the island, but a downwind sail and we could enjoy the mountainous scenery.
Calvi’s citadel is a beautiful sight from the sea but not so attractive walking through it’s streets. Calvi and St Florent were picturesque and touristy harbours full of shops and restaurants. Then we had a long daysail past Cap Corse that gave us benign winds. Marina de Pisa was our destination, a town on the mouth of the river Arno, which flows through Pisa and Florence.
As evening fell we came in to a beautiful river lined with trees and small chalets along one bank. The river mouth was full of drop nets - square nets suspended high in the air from metal frames. There were a few businesses, pontoons with boats, and lot of the chalets with their own drop net outside too, and the fish were leaping as we travelled upriver. So peaceful and a real find. We anchored nearly two miles up the river outside a little waterfront restaurant.
We left Yanina on a pontoon and spent four days travelling inland. We first visited the the tower of Pisa but it was out of town and baking in the midday heat by the time we got there. This group of three very spectacular buildings stood surreally in a large grassed area with very little shade. There were long queues in the sun and the cost of entering them added up to nearly 60 euros for us both so we decided to dodge between patches of shade to admire them from outside, and get up earlier next time. Pisa town was a mixture with traditional shopping streets, then ruins in odd places, in the middle of a roundabout, or with a modern structure attached to them.
Florence was different again. We rented a room, got up early, and we were able to walk round and see the great buildings situated in the centre of the city. The highlight was the ‘Uffici’ and generations of works of art.
Tuscany farm San Gimigniano
The Tuscany countryside was beautiful. The pitch of the roofs on the isolated farms and villages, interspersed with rows of cyprus trees made features that were unique to this rolling landscape. We drove from the green vineyards of the Chianti region to the bare golden wheatfields beyond Siena and San Giminiano, visiting both these walled hill towns.
An email, and we met Geoff and Jo who just happened to be passing through Grieve in Chianti. It must be at least ten years since we saw them. Back to Pisa airport to pick up Midge and Lawrence and take them to that delightful river where we dinghied over to the restaurant. The next day we came back from a trek into town to find Strummer anchored alongside Yanina. Nige and Al were at La Spezia just up the coast and had not forgotten Bob’s birthday.
The Ligurian sea seemed very placid compared to the seas around Corsica but it was August and the skies started to cloud up and the air was close. This was unusual to us, but quite normal for Midge and Lawrence who’d just come from England. We sailed to Elba, some sixty miles, and anchored for the night in what seemed to be a secluded bay with a few low buildings. Then the beach bar music started.
Elba is a neat island. It’s towns are prettily arranged round it’s bays, or nestling on the green slopes inland and there are beautiful views from the old capital near the top of its mountain. The main bays on the south coast are large, with sandy beaches at the end. It’s a major holiday destination for Italians in August, we often couldn’t see the sand for coloured beach umbrellas. There were surprisingly few smaller bays where a yacht could go. We spent most of our time anchored down the side of Golfe de Campo off what looked like a private beach. This was the ideal combination, to have a quiet base from which to visit the main harbours and resorts and take buses inland. The harbour was a riot with small motor boats laden with the whole family, grandma and the dog dashing everywhere, the one-handed skipper on a mobile phone. It’s fun to watch if you can escape away too. On the bus there were crowds of teenagers getting on at every stop, obviously all going to some event. They were gravely greeting each other with a kiss on either cheek before launching into chatter and high spirits.
The anchor holding was not brilliant, being rock and weed. One lunchtime stop we anchored near some visible large rocks and snorkeled round the boat to find our anchor lying on top of weed and not dug in and the keel swinging just over another rock. We retreated to deeper water. Funny how the old short term memory loss kicks in. We were then anchored for three nights in 3 metres and never checked the anchor – well, the chain had risen so well? We were due to move to the north coast and decided against it as a northerly blow was forecast.
So we were on an inland trip when it started blowing and by the time we got back poor Yanina was sulking in one corner of the bay away from the other yachts – aground. We tried to get her off by towing the main halyard, both with our dinghy and then with the help of the skipper and mate of nearby motor yacht with a more powerful outboard. We also tried setting another anchor out and just succeeded in stressing the windlass. We had fried egg sandwiches and wine and spent the night keeping watch listening to the wind howl and the keel grinding against rock and imagining all sorts of damage. We saw a procession of lighted boats making their way round the harbour – a sea festival, despite the weather. Then there were fireworks, but we were not in the mood. Towards morning the tide dropped and she listed to one side - there is nothing more depressing. At daybreak it was cold – something we haven’t felt for a long time and we put on wetsuits and checked for damage. What a relief - there was a thick mat of weed over the seabed and the grinding sound had been one small isolated rock that the keel occasionally moved against. Before we started again, the lifeguard from the private beach came up in his rib and offered to tow us off. The technique he used was to tie a rope round the mast just above the boom and haul the boat over sideways and then she came off. No doubt some forces of maths and physics are involved but I think the 40hp outboard helped.
Time to move on to Corsica and a good days sail. Bastia marina was full but we hung around and they eventually found us a spot (hanging around in a marina in a long keel yacht is a practised art). On a trip inland to the mountains and the far coast we saw waterfalls, and not so wild boar – (they wandered into the road, forcing cars to stop and then stood waiting to be fed), and scenery that was on the way to rivalling the setting for Lord of the Rings. We finished the day back in the atmospheric old port.
Water, electricity, washing and shopping and we were ready to go down the coast to Porto Vecchio enroute to Sardinia. But the weather looked ominous, low clouds, risk of ‘orageuses’ – thunderstorms. We decided to go 20 miles down the coast to another marina. As we set off I remarked we must be mad. It was okay at first but then the wind rose. At first we were getting gusts from between the mountains, then it became continual. We reduced sail. put in reefs, tried and failed to put in a third reef, and finally took all sail down in 45 knots and spindrift. We turned and ran back to Bastia. The weather reports then carried warnings of gusts up to 50 kn for all the places we wanted to go and they weren’t getting any better, finally they said west coast of Sardinia, our final destination, gusts of 65 knots. We were very tired and we started to think about the overall timescale of our trip and our destination for the winter and and felt we wanted to return to the Italian coast where the weather was more stable. We had been in Bastia nearly a week.
We did drive to Bonifacio on southern Corsica for the day to drop Midge and Lawrence off – we’d bypassed it on the way up and it looked like we would miss it again. The town is situated on the straits between Corsica and Sardinia on spectacular cliffs scoured in vertical bands by the force of the wind and rain passing through. It is a place where you can get stuck for several days with the weather.
From Bastia we headed away from all the bad weather and back up to Portofino on the Italian coast. We spent a day in Genoa, sailed past the ’Cinque Terre’ villages to Portovenere and Lerici in the Golfe de Spezie which is also known as the Gulf of Poets (Shelley and Byron). We are now day sailing down the coast to Rome. The weather is still very strange, with lowering skies and oily swelly seas. and we had a thunderstorm with gusts of wind and rain while in Portovenere. But there is no doubt the Ligurian sea is a sheltered area. As I write, there are still gales in Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. We had a text from Aimee in Olbia who experienced 65 knots of wind and a waterspout in Porto Cervo.
Portofino is a bijou little harbour full of wealthy people on expensive boats eating and drinking at expensive restaurants. We took the bus from our anchorage in Santa Margerita and walked round it in half an hour, trying not to spend anything. It was certainly picturesque with pretty multi-storey buildings along the harbour front in multi-colours. We saw a uniformed crew waiting for somebody wealthy and important on one of the motorboats but alas, nobody famous. Actually we find it easy not to buy the things for sale in places like these – souvenirs, ornaments, trendy clothes, they have no relevance in kind of life we are leading - now a chandler’s shop would be an entirely different matter. Anyway, what do we look like - bleached hair, faded clothes and salt stained sandals. One day we will get turned away.
The old harbour at Genoa is riddled with a network of narrow alleys between ancient buildings so tall you can hardly see daylight. Via della Madelena had every kind of small shop, filled with chattering people of so many nationalities that we lost count. It felt as if it had been the same for centuries. Suddenly there was a square with rows of seats and a beggar’s shout revealed the brilliant accoustics created by the closeness of the buildings. Then the alleys led onto broader cobbled streets with elaborate renaissance plasterwork or tromp de l’oeil. The waterside area has some modern technical structures with a nautical theme designed by Renzo Piano. We went up on one called ‘El Bigo’ that rose and rotated to give a view of the city, accompanied by lift music. Views are great, they are worth climbing steps and mountains for and looking over the city and harbour we realised that we always get a unique view too every time we come into a harbour on Yanina.
‘The kindness of strangers’… the ticket machine at the entrance to the funicular train ate up our 20 euro note and gave us a credit note instead of change. Asking other passengers revealed we had to exchange it at an office in town – now shut. An elderly man offered his help when we got to the top and with great dignity and patience he conversed with the guards at the top, finally opening his wallet and offering to buy the credit note off us, he said the office was not far from where he lived. To say that we and the guards were humbled at this gesture of goodwill from a frail man is an understatement. The guards offered to take it on instead saying ‘...I hope you will think the Italians are good people’. We’ve had more than one spontaneous offer of help like this while in Italy.
We passed the Cinque Terre on the way to Portovenere – five wine growing villages perched on steeply terraced hillsides, that until recently had no access from the land. Each one was more enchanting than the previous one with their multicoloured waterfront buildings. There were people waiting at the bottom of the cliffs for the ferries and we felt again how privileged we were to have these fantastic views for free.
The entrance to Portovenere was hidden between an island and a tall rock at the top of which rested a simple church built with stripes of grey and white stone in the manner of the more famous marbled city buildings. We had just missed a festival where lighted candles lined all the narrow streets leading up to it. The village was a joy, unspoilt with its traditional shops and pizza restaurants and we anchored there for two nights.
We’ve been on the go almost continuously and although I’ve been writing bits when I can, I’ve only now had time to put this newsletter together. We have to concentrate now on getting to Tunisia for the winter. I’m sorry we can’t send more individual emails more often but it’s difficult finding an internet café at each place we stop at and then – if there is one, we use up the time just dealing with things like paperwork. We do think of you all and it’s great to hear any news.
Northern Italy to Sicily and Malta
We have joined the sea gypsies. The flavour of northern and western Italy has been the challenge of finding a place where we can stop for nothing as the marinas are really expensive, and get there before the thunderstorm too.
You can normally spot the ‘liveaboards’, anchored at the far end of a bay, but on the north western mediterranean coast of Italy it was not so easy to find a secure anchorage. The coast is not overendowed with little bays, harbours are often commercial, and marinas either take up bays or are planted on the coastline with no shelter either side to anchor. Then there are a lot of small motor boats going out from Rome and Naples, and I mean a lot. They have a limited range so go out on day trips to the adjacent coast and islands throughout August and at weekends and anchor everywhere. In order to protect the environment and sea life there are now large areas of coast where anchoring is prohibited. Finally, there is a lot of crime in Rome and Naples and we were told repeatedly it was not safe to leave a boat in an isolated place.
Having said all that, this area has been a delightful playground and despite our experiences with thunderstorms and tourism, the sun has inevitably shone. Nige and Al on Strummer travelled ahead of us as usual and became our advance party, texting us with the best deals in town. And also, Lance at Almerimar’s laundrette told us that if we could find the ‘transito’ pontoon at a harbour, it was free for two nights.
From sailing in the Balearics it was a culture shock to enter the world of organised tourism in Italy which provokes the question of ‘well what are we then?’ - ‘disorganised tourists’, says Bob. Sailing down the Italian coast to Rome, the weather was still strange with sea and skies so grey you couldn’t see where they met, and with threatening looking cloud formations. We decided to do passage making in day hops - Porto Barratti - the attraction here seemed to be small boats and diving but it turned into a very rolly anchorage at night and we were off at first light, then a spot outside Punto Galera marina which is full of boats from Rome. We finally arrived at Ostia, a huge new marina with prices to match and we needed our bikes to get from one end to the other, but 1 euro travel to Rome and none of the worries associated with anchoring up the river or canal. Ostia wasn’t a real place and had the same feel as the set for that classic TV series ‘the Prisoner’. It even had motorised carts to get about in.
Our first day’s sightseeing was a bit of a disaster, the weather was overcast, thundery and close and Ostia town turned out to be a run down resort with crumbling apartment blocks, dusty squares, and graffiti everywhere. Approaching Rome from the rear end, we caught a graffiti covered bus to the graffiti covered station, and boarded a graffiti covered train. Never have I seen so much Roman modern art. The train terminates and spits you out in an obscure suburb and the guide book says you can walk everywhere in Rome and an hour later we were still walking, having totally misunderstood the scale of the city plan.
It was Sunday, and we chose to go to St Peter’s square where entry to the Sistine chapel was free. (We later met some sailors in Anzio - Danish and East German students, Sorn and Tobias, who worked as tour guides in the summer, ‘Everybody falls for that one…’they said). We had to queue, I had to buy a tee shirt to make my front more modest, and for the next hour we shuffled to the Sistine chapel looking from side to side at statures, splendid ceilings and paintings exhibits and bumping into the person infront. When we finally got to the chapel it was in semi-darkness and crowded with nowhere to sit and gaze at the ceiling. We were corridored out and desperate to get out – to thunder and rain. The touts who normally sold sunglasses had switched to selling umbrellas. In St Peter’s square there was another crocodile forming to get into the Basilica and we'd had enough. We waited over an hour on the platform for a return train and got bitten all over by something and I was frisked by a pickpocket. Back to the boat and we showered and washed all our clothes.
‘Shall we give Rome another chance?’ said Bob hopefully the next day. Sometimes there’s a bad day followed by a good day and true to form, it was completely different. The sun shone, we got the subway into the centre and walked round the Colosseum, complete with touts dressed as centurians.
Even centurions have to have a comfort break
Hungarian choir in the Forum
Walking through the Forum was like being in a bowl and we realised that it all had been excavated. A choir from Hungary burst into a harmonious song as they passed under the main arch, adding to the atmosphere. The Piazza Venezia, The Panethon, The piazza Navona, The Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain. We got our flavour of Rome.
The hot weather came back, but every afternoon it seemed to deteriorate into thunderstorms. However we got some wind most days to sail, and when we didn’t we just set the autopilot, put up the sun canopy got out the cushions and lazed and read - sometimes it is just plain sailing.
A short hop down the coast to Anzio where we gave the anchorage a miss due to the thunderstorms and ended up bows to on the old harbour wall for free for two nights. It’s a small fishing harbour adjacent to Nero’s old harbour and palace and we didn’t want to risk Yanina near the submerged part so we got on our bikes to go round the headland and were rewarded with a surprising scene of Italian families swimming and sunbathing in a shallow lagoon fringed with breakwaters and with the backdrop of the ruins of Nero’s palace. Further out there were small boats anchored where guys were snorkeling onto the submerged ruins. What a natural use of an archeological site. We spent the afternoon on the beach swimming and thinking of crazy ideas to enhance the sites in Rome, starting with a swimming pool in the Forum and ending up with rotating viewing platforms in the Sistine chapel, (for more, see the book 'On the nose').
Could this be Nero's pedalo?
We cycled to nearby Nettuno which was a marina and just not as atmospheric, despite having a walled town. So we came back to celebrate the success of Liz’s designwork by spending the profits on a meal at the seafront and met Sorn and Tobias. They are students in Pisa and they told us that the site of the leaning tower was always fields, the English name being ‘Field of Miracles’. Oops (last newsletter).
We carried on making our way south via the Pontine Islands, which are off the coast between Rome and Naples and although each has a stunning coastline and their own individual attractions, they have become expensive honeypots for the Italian’s on weekend trips.
Roman bollard still in use, Ventotene Ventotene harbour
We made day sails to Ponza, Ventotene, Ishia and then sailed past Capri and it’s famous arch to Salerno on the mainland again. We’d have loved to stop at them all but we had to keep moving and chose Ventotene to stay, because of the extraordinary old Roman harbour carved out of the volcanic rock. The harbour is still in use and the caverns are shops and cafés, pretty much as they would have been then. We joined the families swimming in the lagoons where the galleys were stored.
Restaurant sign on Ventotene
Two thunderstorms on two consecutive days. We approached Ischia knowing we did not have a clear idea where we were going to anchor. We’d passed some boats anchored in a place that was not designated as such, but we went back there on the basis that it must be a good place if other yachts are there. And it was okay at first, then suddenly the wind changed direction and started to blow, the skies darkened, and we were on a lee shore. The remaining yachts left and so did we. In the harbour the marina was 90 euros a night so we moved on, round the isthmus to an anchorage that two hours earlier had been rejected because of the wind direction. Not a moment too soon, the lightning started and the wind screamed but we were as safe as could be.
Crossing to Salerno, we passed the Amalfi coastline with green and terraced slopes sheer down to the sea, studded with pearl-like white villages and intriguing properties nestling in the lower rocks complete with steps. Then the wind suddenly changed direction and we could see strong gusts whipping across the sea. We’re getting quite practised at this. All sails down, and then the gusts came 45k with rain and thunder. We saw a small harbour and headed into it into relative calm and put down the anchor off a beach. A guy kept shouting and hollering and pointing in the direction of the harbour but we did not want to go in, merely to shelter, so we ignored him. Earlier on, we’d passed a family quite far out in a pedalo, baby, mother, older son, grandpa, fishing. and I just hoped they’d paddled like mad and got back safely. It all happened so quickly.
In Salerno we approached the transito pontoon but a small aggressive man shooed us away saying he had boats coming in. There seemed no space anywhere and we ended up alongside the ferry pontoon. ‘You must watch it round here’ said an onlooker - people kept saying things like that to us, we were now in Southern Italy which was noticibly less well heeled than the north. The next day we were shooed off the ferry pontoon, the little man wasn’t around on the transito and notices said it was free of charge - great. It turned out there was electricity and water too. ‘They belong to no one and no one is in charge…if you see what I mean’, said next doors marina manager enigmatically. Salerno turned out to be a huge town and port, not a tourist destination but with it's own charm, and ideal for trains to Pompeii and Naples.
In the entrance to the brothel, Pompeii Dog and bodies, Pompeii
In Pompei we wandered along the streets, amazed at how much was preserved despite its spectacular destruction, and at the sophisticated life that was there in 70AD when the British were still running round wearing flour sacks and painting themselves blue. And all the time, Vesuvius hovered menacingly in the background. It’s a big site, and it gets hot and it ends up more of the same after a while.
We loved Naples which is everything they say – lively colourful, noisy dirty and crumbling, with the bustle of little shops and businesses on narrow cobbled streets, a basket being lowered from a sixth storey window to a ground level grocers as a Neopolitan did their shopping, cars and bikes squeezing past, and round the corner a beautiful little chapel with a Caravaggio painting. There were workshops on the street making Pulcinella figures – a mixture of religion, folklore, superstition and devilment. ‘La Scarabattola’ was a quality workshop run by the Scuotto brothers. ‘They don’t seem to sell in England’ they said.
We wanted to stay and explore the Spagnioli area and see the bay but our feet were giving out. Our local train tickets gave us a fast ride back on a Eurostar train but at Salerno station it cost 60 cents to use the loo and it’s the only time we’ve ever been given a receipt.
Back at the transito the small angry man was waiting for us, accompanied by a tall woman (or she seemed tall) with a menacing clipboard. ‘You will have to move’ she said. We now knew they were from a charter company who had taken over what appeared to be free moorings and as the quays around were being rebuilt, a situation seemed to have developed where nobody was actually monitoring the electricity and water too. We were still not quite sure of the position, but a little surer than last time, and possesson of a mooring is after all nine tenths of the law so we stood our ground, agreeing to move in the morning.
We were now into volcano country with thunderstorms. We moved on down the coast to Agropoli and moored up to the harbour wall with a bubbling mud sea bed. The wind reversed overnight, lifting our kedge anchor and we woke to a bump as we hit the quay, sorry Yanina. Bob’s then out in a dinghy in the dark laying out our spare anchor and entertaining the fishermen. A mention at this point of the numerous people that fish on harbour walls piers and pontoons everywhere we go, There are all age groups and it seems to be a day out. At Salerno a family spent all day next to our boat fishing. Maybe it’s just for sport, the thing is, the water is filthy around the harbours and I just hope they don’t eat them.
On to Scario, which like Agropoli was a simple southern Italian village with a small harbour. Here we met the famous footballer from Scario who came into the local newsagents when we were using the internet. As soon as he heard our voices he started to talk to us in rapid and excellent English and when he found we were from Manchester he became very excited and said he would go home and get the cup that the king of Spain had presented to him for football and off he went on his scooter. He was a large and hairy man wearing nothing but a pair of brief swimming trunks and a baseball hat. ‘He is, how do you say it, a little crazy’ said the shop owner. ‘It is best to be gentle with him and say yes, yes’. He came back with a holdall which he unzipped and produced a large and tarnished trophy then he took a tennis ball outside and proceeded to demonstrate some very skilled drop and kick work, all the time pleading with us to contact Sir Alex Ferguson and tell him how good he was. We were a little nervous by this time edging our way back to the boat mumbling platitudes and he followed us, did he think we would take him back to England? but he only wanted to give us a slip of paper with his name and address on it, Giatilura Mislo.
We had an amused audience of locals – but with gentle humour and without ridicule. In the time we spent here I noticed the gentleness of men particularly, and with children and babies. They seemed to revere them and take them everywhere. The children were the first focus of attention when friends met up. Even the dour newsagent became a burbling jelly when a little boy came into his shop. What a wonderful way to start life with such adoration.
We were now near the toe of Italy, out of the lee of Corsica and Sardinia and once more the path of the dreaded north west gales from the Gulf de Leon. We wanted to visit the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily where there were at least two active volcano’s, and sail past Stromboli island at night to see the red glow enroute to Vulcano island. The pilot book warned of an ‘Aeolian Triangle’ where freak weather conditions could spring up and thunderstorms were again forecast. It wasn’t getting any better, so we decided we had to go whatever. The sky had eerie cloud patterns and the sea looked grey and greasy. As it got dark the wind got up, right behind us and quickly created a big following sea. There was no moon, it was pitch black and we were heading into group of islands we couldn't see. We didn’t fancy setting up the complicated sail arrangements for downwind sailing and then deal with a thundersquall, or come off the wind and risk colliding with a volcano in the dark, so we motorsailed, a most uncomfortable crossing. Three huge cruise liners appeared very fast and crossed us on a diagonal path to and from the straits of Messina which was a bit hair raising as they would never see us.
Stromboli by night
Stromboli - the real picture
Stromboli was spectacular though, belching fire every fifteen minutes. We came into Vulcano early morning and anchored on a seabed that sloped dramatically up from 80 metres to 3 very quickly and fell asleep. We woke later to a sulphurous stench and going ashore found a land of tripper boats and restaurants and a huge mud pool full of people and guys walking round the crater rim. After our hairy trip it was another culture shock.
Vulcano mud pool with Yanina anchored in the bay
That night there was a thunderstorm that seemed to go on for ages, the wind shrieked and yachts dragged but our anchor held fast till daylight when the wind abruptly died and we started bobbing and rolling. ‘We’re in 90 metres now’ said Bob, the motion had finally uprooted our anchor. We couldn’t then haul it up with the friction of the deep water and had to move inshore. When it came up it was warm from the volcanic waters. We twice tried to anchor again but the wind was rising. On the third attempt we went in too far and bump we hit the slope. Sorry again Yanina, was it sand or rock? We decided to sail to Sicily and a marina and treat ourselves to a decent nights sleep.
About this time we heard through the yachtie texting network that Monastir marina in Tunisia was full. We’d read that we should book and we’d been trying to phone but couldn’t get the number right. It’s difficult anyway to make early decisions when spontaneity is one of the attractions of this way of life, and part of us wondered if we’d actually get there by October. We drew up a list of pro’s and cons and found Tunisia had only one – we wanted to go there. All the other practical considerations like working on the boat, spares, and communications, favoured Malta which was our second choice of winter destination. We hadn’t time to do more so we decided to go to Malta.
The next hurdle was the Straits of Messina between Sicily and Italy which also separates the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. The difference in salinity causes huge currents and when the wind is against the tide there can be eddies -'bastardis' - and whirlpools. Homer’s Odysseus travelled through here getting caught up in the Charybdis whirlpool and adding for good measure the monster Scilla who had 12 feet and 6 necks with horrible heads and the habit of plucking sailors from the decks of boats. It was very windy on Sicily, Milazzo was shabby and non-descript but we had two nights peace and we got the tide tables and waited. When we went through we’d timed it for the current to be with us, Yanina did 9.4 knots and the worst we saw was disturbed water.
Naxos was the next stop so we could see the volcano on Etna. The bay was attractive and peaceful with only one other yacht anchored and we went for a swim off the boat – when did we last do that?
People on crater slope Ladybird in lava rock
Strong winds were predicted and we set out two anchors out the next day before taking a local bus trip through villages that were cracked and crumbling with unfinished building work everywhere. (Was it the volcano eruptions or a tax dodge). It took us to the lower lava slopes and some extinct craters. Here we were still not at the top but could get a cable car 23 euros each, then a jeep, another 23 euros, and still not be at the active rim – a walking tour that left once a day. total package 56 euros. We looked at the photos and decided that the difference between where we were now, and the rim of the active crater, was – smoke. So we spent 4 hours where we were, above the clouds in brilliant sunshine and an eerie lava landscape scrambling up and down the craters. On the way back the bus travelled through a valley of small farming fields and vines to a river gorge with spectacular rock formations.
It was a long day sail to Siracusa on the south west coast of Italy but we got quite a few hours of good sailing. Siracusa was confusing with several mooring options. We’d decided on the town quay and several yachts were already moored there, and although we saw yachts also anchored in an area not mentioned in the pilot we ignored them. There was a new marina but we ignored it too. We put out two kedge anchors and came in bows to the quay next to a gorgeous big yacht.
This life really underlines the decisions you make, especially when they go wrong. The next morning the wind got up and a vicious swell with short waves set up next to the quay. All the yachts left – a bad sign, and we knew we would have problems trying to get out, being so close to the large yacht. Then the seas unseated one anchor and we had to tighten the other to avoid hitting the quay. Do we stay or do we go? The wind was forecast for the next 24 hours. We hatched an elaborate plan to get off using a long line to hold the bow as we winched the kedge anchor back. Suffice to say it very quickly went badly wrong and we ended up with the rope wrapped round the propeller, lost the kedge anchor and a helpless Yanina was pushed against the quay by the swell and smashed her nose. Sorry sorry, sorry again Yanina. The crew of the superyacht speedily donated their fat fenders and the coastguard who were moored up there also, towed the disabled Yanina off to the anchorage and left us to anchor in 25 knots of wind. Mmmm nice.
So now what would we do with no engine if the anchor dragged? We put out our spare anchor (we’ve got four – well three), and when there was a lull in the gusts of wind, Bob donned a wet suit and dived to get the rope off the prop shaft. We then decided our nerves couldn’t stand another night of strong winds at anchor and we motored into the marina. We went into Siracusa town with its fascinating alleys and treated ourselves to a meal out.
Another day and the wind has dropped and the sun is shining. We did an excellent gel coat repair to Yanina’s nose, we spent a morning trawling next to the quay with the dinghy and the grapnell anchor and miraculously found the kedge anchor with it’s chain and line intact. Some more yachts arrived onto the quay, not fair.
We sailed overnight to Malta, another lumpy, bumpy, gusty sail. Really we will be quite glad to stop and have a break. Malta appeared on the horizon in the early morning with our first views of Valletta’s walled city. Its very unusual and hard to describe, being all the same sandstone colour as the shore and rock and yet you can pick out the individual detail of the buildings. The monochrome castellations seem to reach as far as the eye can see and blend with the cliffs into the sea. This may sound daft but it has the same feel as the Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon floating in space.
Malta will be another story. We plan to visit the UK and then haul Yanina out of the water, check the keel is okay with all our bumps this summer and antifoul the hull. Back in the water and round to the marina for the winter. There’s a lot we want to do and six months doesn’t seem long enough right now.
4th November 2005
This last newsletter of 2005 comes from Msida Creek in Malta. No….. not Tunisia. We seem to have been trying to go there for the winter for the last two years and still it remains elusive. This time, we should have booked a place at Monastir marina, apparently it was full from June onwards.
It makes sense to be here, as we want to go east to The Ionian and through the Corinth canal next year to Istanbul and then to Turkey where we will winter. Then Turkey and the Greek islands and back to Tunisia the year after….and book a place this time, we will get there. When we started out from England we thought – first year Western Med., second year Eastern Med., and then back to go across the Atlantic to Cuba. We don’t want to go that fast now, there’s too much to see that we’d miss, even this is too fast.
Msida marina is right in the town next to a busy road. Msida, Ta’ Xbiex and Sliema are scruffy and noisy towns and Liz wasn’t sure at first. However, they have a life and personality of their own that is beginning to work it’s magic. The views of the waterfront still make us catch our breath. The people are friendly, and there is a lot going on, both in the town and in the yachtie community. Nige and Al are here, so are Doreen and Alan, Ian and Sue.
So we landed here and hauled Yanina out of the water to dry out while we visited the UK for three weeks to see friends and family, check our property and try and clear the loft a bit at our house and make some cash putting stuff on ebay. Three weeks sounds a long time but it was really really tight and we’re sorry we couldn’t see everybody but it just wasn’t possible. As it was we saw Mike, Liz’s son for less than three hours but Reg, Bob’s brother takes the record with approx. half an hour! We would like to thank all those people who put us up and/or fed us:-
Jan and Twm, Gill, Jeanette and Ian, Gilly and Fred, Lynne (the ebay queen) and Shay, Ernest and Diane, Jenny, Mike, Mother, Jackie and Bob, Reg and Jackie, Ian and Lucy, Claire and Ian, Joan, Kay and Pete, Ian and Sue.
…And thanks to Judith, Claire and Alan at Jordan Fishwick for looking after the properties so well and keeping ‘em let.
Maybe this will be the last newsletter in this format. We are hoping to organise a website with the help of Chris Heath. Hi Chris…..what do we do next? When we get it organised we’ll let you know.
Liz and Bob