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Back in ‘The Shire’.

An Aerial shot of the Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa.

We pulled into our winter berth in the

Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, without a hitch and were pleased to see friends and neighbours from last year.  Our arrival coincided with one of the twice weekly happy hours at the Stella Marina Bar so we met old and new friends that night.

 

ALl Italy Laser Championships in Marina di Ragusa

Some days later, the Porto Turistico hosted the All-Italy Laser Championships.   The first challenge was negotiating out from between the pontoons, heading for open sea.

Scrubbing the bottom of the tender clean; one of the many jobs to do.

Since arriving back, we have been full-on busy with boat jobs; fixing, replacing, renewing, cleaning, servicing, removing, repairing and storing.

 

 

We have had visits from Alice, Ian and Jon.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sail anywhere (even if the weather had been suitable) because the sails had already gone off to be repaired.

Ian, me and Jon above the stunning Ragusa Ibla.

However, we were able to explore more of Sicily.  Touring around to Syracuse, Modica, Scicli, Palazzallo Acredie and Ragusa Ibla – beautiful cities with stunning baroque churches and buildings.

A temple and huge bronze statue at Agrigento.

 

 

 

 

We also drove out to Agrigento to the Valley of Temples and were suitably impressed by the stunning Greek Temples there, which are some of the best preserved in the Med.

Visiting Agrigento – The Valley of Temples with Alice and Ian in our little Fiat 500!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caltagirone National Park (Ancient Oak Forest) with the Kalura Walking group.

We joined a walking group and enjoyed a couple of noisy walks in the surrounding area with forty chattering Sicilians.

 

 

I also went olive picking again and have my own bottle of freshly pressed oil from my olives, ready to open in the spring.

Steve and Laura busy picking some of the 200kg we picked that day.

 

Kangaroo Sky above Pallazzallo Acredie

Ian welcomed back his road bike with open arms (thanks once again to Nick and Paul) and has been out on it a few times.  He reports that it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier each time.

Ian and Sheena. (Love how ancient columns are incorporated into newer buildings.)

We also enjoyed a few days in Rome, with my old friend Sheena and her family.  We walked all round Rome and saw all the main sights and some little hidden gems with our super guide Sheena, who has lived in Rome for 30 years.

Then, it was back to the boat for a few last minute preparations before heading back to the UK for a couple of months where,  for the first time in a while, all four of us Mouldings are to be in the same country at Christmas.

So, yes, we are going to be living back in Yorkshire.  Staying in a cottage – 26 Linton Falls until the 12th February 2018.

We hope to catch up with as many friends and family as we can.  Do pop in if you’re passing.

In the meantime, we wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year.

 

 

Best Kept Secret – The Northern Aegean

We sailed North on a close reach with favourable winds from Alonnisos in the Northern Sporades to the Sinthonia Peninsular in the middle of June.  From that moment on, pretty much, we were one of a mere handful of yachts sailing around this fabulous area.  Admittedly, there are not that many decent harbours with the same sorts of facilities or mooring space as the Ionian, the Sporades or Evia but there are lots of good anchorages depending on the wind direction and, if there is a town quay, it is nearly always free to park there.

Not only is the scenery stunning, the scent of the pine trees noticeable and pungent, the coast is quite unspoilt and development is fitting and limited.

Full of ‘Tsipouro me’!

We have anchored in virtually deserted bays. We  have moored on a rickety pontoons,  rubbed shoulders with fishing boats and, we have parked on a town quay between posh charter motor boats (with friendly skippers who plied me with the local tipple – ‘Tsipouro  me’) in a small place called ‘Nea Fokkaia’ – easy for you to say!

We found the paradise island of Dhiaporos off the east coast of Sinthonia Peninsular (rivaling anything we have seen in Thailand) and enjoyed the crystal clear waters.

The journey by car from Ormos Panayia to Kavala allowed us to see more of this beautiful part of Greece.  The road wound through stony mountains, along precipitous coastal routes and through lush rural farmland.  There were huge round bales of hay like giants’ draughts pieces; fields of nodding sunflowers, heads bowed like ashamed drunks; huge glimmering mirror lakes and gentle rolling hills reminiscent of the land around Ripon.

On the road home was a shop selling every imaginable size, colour and design of pot and ready-made shrines. 

 

The gods were benevolent the day we skirted the most holy of holy pieces of land in Greece – The Atki Peninsular.   A place where time is still reckoned by the Julian calendar (13 days behind the Roman  calendar) and the day is ruled by the Byzantine clock with hours of variable length.

It is an awe-inspiring view.

This rugged peninsular has for centuries existed as a world unto itself.  Divorced from the modern world, the holy community has a few roads or mod cons.  The medieval monasteries occupy spectacular sites on the rocky bluffs and cliffs-sides teetering over the rocks and sea below.

Think Potala Palace, Tibet; Bavarian castles; St Basil’s cathedral; onion-domed minarets; Colditz’ impenetrable walls; Tudor balconies and cool blue-green paint. 

At the tip of the peninsular is the spectacular Mount Athos that rises some 3000ft towards heaven.

Mount Athos

Once home to some 80000 monks, there are now only 3000 monks living on the peninsular.  However, even the monks must have realised the value of the tourist dollar, as building and restoration work was in evidence, as were roads, solar panels and phone aerials.

On the day we dropped Sam and Rory at the airport in Kavala, we visited a photographic exhibition.  The images featured the monks and scenes from their lives on the holy peninsular.  The culmination of 8 years work by Stratos Kalafatis.  He trailed around the vast peninsular by mule to visit hermits and far-flung communities.  The exhibition has been shown around the world and the quality of images is excellent.

South winds were due from midday on the 13th July.  We set off motoring across the bay to get round the Atki peninsular.  We had read that should a cigar-shaped cloud develop over Mount Athos then it would be prudent to be far to seaward. The winds fly down the sides of the mountain and make for very big seas and frightening sailing.   So, it was with a certain amount of relief that there was no cigar. Close! But no cigar!

Although we were motoring, we were rewarded with a sighting of beautiful dolphins.  Not just your common dolphin either.  These are their snub-nosed cousins, Grampus griseus, and although a couple did briefly come and play at the bow, they clearly had more important duties in mind and disappeared off to concentrate on fishing.

As the wind picked up we were able to put the genaker up and knocked off the remaining 40 miles in good time.  After a heavenly few weeks up here we realised that the gods are truly smiling on us.

 

Winter plans for Linea and her crew 2016/2017

 

We have been busy since arriving here in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily; not just with jobs to get the boat repaired and shipshape after all the miles this summer but with our plans for what we wanted to do in the winter.

We reviewed the finances and concluded that in order to continue cruising we would have to earn over the winter, or at least stop spending.  Rather than returning to our previous roles, we investigated some interesting alternatives.  House-sitting,pet sitting, contract housekeeping for someone with two homes, jobs back home in the Shire, jobs abroad.

In the end, we decided that we could combine our love of ski-ing and the mountains, our enjoyment of food and cooking by applying for a few roles with chalet/ski companies which operate in the Tignes/Val d’Isere area.  Since Erin is going to be working in Tignes this winter, we thought we could work in the vicinity and thus be able to see more of her than we have during the last two years that she has been working in Thailand.

We are delighted to have been offered positions as chalet hosts with renowned company, Powder White, in Val d’Isere  We will be running a chalet for them!

Very exciting and just a little bit daunting.

Hopefully, there will still be time to fit in some ski-ing.  We look forward to catching up with any friends and family that come to Val!

From Albania to Italy

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Forgot to mention the rain in Kassiopi. So much that the life jackets deployed in the locker of the dinghy and had to be forcibly removed.
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Wet weather gear. Wet inside and out!

We left Saranda after saying goodbye to our agents Jelja and Gazman and headed straight to Kassiopi.  We exchanged our gas bottle and as soon as we were ready set off from the bay and sailed westwards.

I was lazing about reading the pilot guide when Ian mentioned something about a big black cloud ahead.

I scurried off to get my wet weather jacket.  I had already had to remove my wet weather trousers because I was too hot.  So I was looking rather fetching in my wellies, shorts and waterproof.

Ian suggested putting a further reef into the sail to make it smaller.  I was busy with my zip!  He realised we had no time to put the reef in because by the time you’ve thought of it, it is, of course, already too late!  I had time to release the main sail just when the storm hit us.  The rain came lashing down, Ian had reached the wheel and resumed the helming from the auto pilot.  We turned in a huge circle and ran away down wind.  The wind was gusting up to 46 knots and the boat made a top speed of 13.5 knots.  (I am glad I didn’t know about that until we made landfall in Italy some 24 hours later!) wind-gust Ian was being lashed by horizontal rain as the lightning came down and the wind howled.  He was like King Lear raging against the elements!

As quickly as it arrived the storm left us and thunder continued to rumble overhead for another hour gradually retreating.  Ian put his jacket on over his soaking wet shirt – in an attempt to keep warm.  How am I going to get that dry?

The rest of the day and night went uneventfully as we batted at an average speed of 6 knots towards Crotone, Calabria.  The sea was rather lumpy and so we rolled up and over waves the whole time which made us feel pretty awful.  It seemed like an incredibly long crossing but, in fact, it was quite quick.  We arrived at 0430hrs just off the coast and rather than trying to enter the port in the dark we decided to hove-to and sat bobbing about like that for three hours whilst we had a nap.

Soon we were heading into the Yacht Kroton Club in Puorto Vecchio, Crotone and were looking forward to a pizza, a sleep and some wine later in celebration of Ian’s 56th Birthday!

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Sojourn in England – August 2016

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Venice and the Grand Canal

I left for Manchester, via Venice! The most convenient route,honest.  During the lay over in Venice I took a quick bus trip into the city, since I have never been, and walked along the Grand Canal for 30 minutes before returning to the airport and my onward travel home.
I met up with Keira at Manchester Airport because she had had to go to Manchester to apply for her visa for China. Together we drove down to Oxford to begin the packing and despatching of belongings and thorough clean of Keira’s student house to ensure that she and her house mates got their entire deposit back.

Job done. I left for Yorkshire with all Keira’s stuff with the aim of squashing it into the house back in the Shire!

Then img_3452commenced ten days of delightful dog, hen and house sitting at Lydia and Paul’s – a huge thank you to them!

Keira arrived on the Sunday and I had a busy few days helping her sort out for her year of teaching English in China and have a final fix of greenery and Yorkshire scenery! And catching up with friends. Bliss.

Then, before I knew it it was time to bid Keira farewell in an emotional parting at Manchester airport.

She will be teaching English in Foshan, Guangdong province in Southern China for a year..  Follow her blog on  https://keiramoulding.wordpress.com/

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Full moon over Isola Del Ogliastra, East Sardinia

I then set off for a day jaunt to see The Hodgson’s and Heane’s before flying off back to Sardinia, via Geneva and Ali and Paul’s for a quick catch up and over night stop. Thanks again!

Nice to be back on Linea with my Skipper!  Preparing for a sail across to Sicily – just the two of us.