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!) 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!
Erin, Ian and I set off for Prevesa. Our aim was to complete the necessary Greek paperwork and to do some laundry. Both necessary evils! We had a wonderful sail up the west coast of Levkas so avoiding the channel and the apparently temperamental swing bridge. We arrived in Prevesa in time for the Saturday night perambulations – known as La Passegiata in Italian, and La Volta in Greek. Perfect people watching.
Ian showed incredible persistence to finally acquire our DEPKA form. He presented a letter from the Coast Guard office in Argostoli saying that they had run out of forms and that we had tried to register. There were also no forms in Prevesa either, although apparently, five were due to arrive…would Ian kindly return tomorrow morning? This he duly did and we were in luck.
The form was given to us, stamped and chocked. All our passports and papers were photocopied. Ian then had to go to the tax office to be given an invoice for 29 euros. From there he was directed to the National Bank to pay the invoice, from where he would take his receipt back to the Coastguard in order to have the paperwork finalised.
By this time the washing had been done and dried. We set off for Paxos to meet our great friend Sue Lowrey.
We moored on the north quay, away from the town centre in the most dramatic of settings yet. An island protects the channel from the open sea and winds. It is the most wonderful anchorage. Understandably busy. We set about tidying up the boat and preparing drinks and nibbles. Sue and Margaret arrived and we enjoyed giving them the guided tour.
After a delicious pasta dinner and yet more wine, we staggered back to the boat and slept soundly..
Next day, Sue picked us up and gave us a tour of the island of Paxos by car. We spend a pleasant afternoon sunning ourselves on the beach and then went back to Margaret’s beautiful hillside home for a delicious dinner.
We had a jobs day on the Thursday and then welcomed Sue and Margaret for breakfast and coffee, after their morning swim, before saying a fond farewell and sailing off to Sivota-Mourtos.
We anchored in Middle Bay since the weather was quite settled and enjoyed some nice swimming around the boat. I tried fishing again but with no luck at all. We shot out in the dinghy to do some beach combing. We were about to go ashore on to the biggest of the islands when we noticed a herd of rather shaggy goats with large horns on the beach. We stayed off some distance and admired them from afar.
Next stop was Corfu. We anchored stern to in the incredibly smelly East Basin. Compensated by the fact that you are right next to the Old Town and tucked under the fort and it’s free! We wandered through the streets to the cricket field and showed Erin the colonnaded Venetian style streets.
The next day, Ian and Alice Daggett arrived and we promptly set off to our anchorage further north where we had a quiet and smell free night. The next afternoon we had to dropped Erin off at the airport. She was returning to the UK to work for six weeks to save money for her up-coming ski season in Tignes.
We zig-zagged across the channel to stay in Plataria and then Pagania. We had some good sailing. The anchorage at Pagania half a mile from the Albanian border was amazing. Once we had driven past numerous large and ugly fish farms we turned the dog leg to discover a completely enclosed anchorage. No tavern, no bars, no body and no signal!
So, back to Corfu Town and another fond farewell to Mr and Mrs D. We had had a wonderful few days with them.
As strong southerly winds were expected over the next few days we decided to head north to Kassiopi on the Northern tip of Corfu. We had a few happy days there meeting up with Andy and Denise Hurley on Comet whom we had first met in Mallorca back in April/May.
Our next visit was from old friend and fellow sailor, William Dear. We had a boozy night with him in Corfu Town celebrating the sale of his boat. As you may know, the happiest days of any sailor’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it! )
Due to wifi access challenges I have been seriously delayed in posting details about our travels! ‘Phew’, you’d be forgiven for thinking. So, apologies for dumping posts in a row.
We enjoyed our stay in Favignana, the largest of the Egadi Islands, despite me falling and smacking/scraping my leg (the previously broken one) against a dirty marble step in the Tuna Canning Museum. Subsequently, it became rather badly infected and definitely put a bit of a dampener on touring activities.
Luckily, I was able to continue the visit to the fascinating tuna factory canning museum after my fall despite a huge swelling on my ankle.
The beautifully restored building
was surprising enough, but the installations within were jaw-dropping. We were particularly impressed with the life-sized screenings of actual workers from the factory describing what their daily life at work involved; plus, wonderful old black and white footage of the canning process, from start to finish. (A process invented in by the factory owner and multi-millionaire.)
What tough lives those people had. Working in incredible heat, heaving the enormous tuna out of the nets with huge boat hooks, gutting, cutting, carting the meat across to the ovens, cooking and boiling it over rows of huge charcoal braziers, (oh, how it must have stunk!) placing the fish into tins by hand and completing the canning process by adding olive oil and a lid which was then sealed in a special machine. I bet the workers never wanted to eat tuna, that’s for sure!
The final exhibit was the Death Room which gave a chilling insight into the last few hours of the tunas’ lives as they became ensnared and entrapped in the series of ‘rooms’ made from nets, until reaching the ultimate ‘room’ from whence they were simultaneously killed and hoiked out. Amazing.
After Favignana, we headed south to Mazarra Dal Vella which is a crumbling and chaotic town with incredible charm; plenty of palazzi, piazzas and preposterously opulent churches. One of the most amazing buildings was a tiny wooden opera house seating only 90 people, rather like a miniature Globe Theatre in construction.
All the wood around the auditorium was decorated and prettily painted and embellished with gold leaf. We walked all around the area known as the Kasbah which was fascinating.
After a couple of lovely days here where we were anchored happily in the bay outside the harbour, we were unceremoniously asked to move by the coast guard who hovered beside us in his boat until we did as he requested.
On to Licata, where we anchored outside the rather pongy fishing harbour and then finally to Ragusa where we were to leave the boat during a quick visit back home for Ian’s Dad’s 80th birthday doo.
We had a wonderful time catching up with lovely friends in the Shire, picking up Erin who had come home from Thailand after 2 years on Koh Tao, and meeting up with all the Moulding family
In the interests of brevity, I won’t bore you with the details of the weeks around Northern Sardinia, suffice to say that a certain amount of sailing, swimming, lazing about and reading were involved!
We gradually made our way round the staggeringly beautiful coast of Northern Sardinia, hugging the Costa S’Emrelda like a long lost friend!
We saw some big motor yachts ( and, by contrast, an old schooner) and plenty of celebrity look-a-likes, but not Orlando Bloom and Katie Perry who were reported to be there! (‘Who?’, asks Ian.) Budgie smugglers bountiful, though, for added entertainment.
We arrived in Liscia delle Saline near Olbia, in the late afternoon. The Tavolara island’s imposing granite table top providing a stunning backdrop.
No one else was in the entire bay! Why???? It was shallow, sandy bottomed and gradually rising to the beach in a most accommodating fashion. Why was nobody else here? We ignored the nagging doubts and anchored anyway. We jumped in the crystal blue waters and swam to the anchor. Beautifully embedded. We sat down in the cockpit to dry off and have a glass of vino when we noticed the planes landing and taking off from Olbia airport, literally a couple of miles away! Oh well!
From here, we tried to suss out a bus to the airport for me. We ended up dinghy-ing to the beach, walking miles and met with a modicum of success. In the end, we decided to go into Olbia Harbour. Although it is a good three miles down the bay to the Town Quay we were hopeful that we could park there for free. In this way, Ian could drop me off and pick up David and Angela in one swift movement.
This we duly did. However, the usual shenanigans occurred.
First, we arrived at the quay and pulled up alongside in a very deft manoeuvre to see signs on the bollards announcing that the quay was to be kept free. On further inquiry it appeared that a very smart, luxury yacht was taking preference for the space.
We anchored out in the harbour. Once the yacht had arrived we went alongside.
I radioed the coast guard to ask permission. I was told to take my documents to the office.
I went – it was shut.
I set off early the next day – already it was exceptionally warm. The men on the door of the coast guards office by the quay told me to go to the head office of the coast guard right at the bottom of the mole. I walked the mile involved, crossed a huge car park went to one office, was redirected, went out through passport control, in through another door, up a flight of stairs and into a tiny office on the second floor of a circular tower at the end of the mole in the heart of the commercial traffic area.
I exclaimed in my appalling Italian that the office was very difficult to find, which, on reflection perhaps wasn’t the best start to the ensuing conversation (nevertheless, true!) and was met with blank stares.
I battled on; ‘I am on the sailing yacht Linea, I arrived on the town quay yesterday evening and have come to show you my documents as requested.’
The rejoinder was an immediate ‘Perche?’ And a wholly Italian shrug of the shoulders.
It would seem that these coast guards have far more important things to be doing than taking details of small, private sail boats on the town quay. I was sent away!
At 1800 hrs the same evening, two coast guards, smartly dressed as always, appeared by the boat demanding to see my documents and to be given a form and tax docket! Available from a nearby tabacchi!
I filled in the form, bought the docket (16€) and returned it to the gentlemen. They said it is possible to stay for three days and after that to move on. Perfect for us – minus a day. Ian would have to hide in the evening when the coast guards make their customary daily checks! We had time to wander around lovely Olbia and do various jobs before I shot back to UK leaving Ian all alone.
David and Angela duly arrived and, by all accounts, a good time was had by all!
When we first set out on our adventure we had completed in-depth research and budgeting – in Ian’s style; with spreadsheets and accounts. In order to be sure we could live on our fairly shoestring budget we had carefully calculated how much we would spend on food, laundry, gas, fuel, etc. You name it, we had it covered in our budgeting. Inexplicably, and I know you’ll be amazed by this knowing of our thoroughness, we had missed out marina fees.
We set off on the first tentative leg of our journey to Gibraltar. First stop Mazagon Marina – 20 odd Euros and so on, every night until we reached Mainland Spain when in one marina we were charged 50 Euros and are still smarting at the eye-watering cost of that night in early April.
It soon became obvious to even to the non-accountants in our partnership that we would have to start anchoring more. We had anchored once, in a huge bay off Estepona, and were only emboldened to do so because our new friends (Peter and Annelise on Skadi) were also anchoring there and they gave us the confidence to have a go. We had a rolly night but it was very peaceful and a good start.
Once we arrived in Port de Soller, Mallorca and the spell of unsettled weather had cleared, Ian said that we simply had to man up! We were breaking the budget and seriously curtailing our cruising careers.
Heart in my mouth, I released the stern lines attaching us to dry land and we pootled out into the crowed bay in Port de Soller. We motored round a bit trying to pick our spot. We dropped the hook and kept a sharp look out to judge if it was holding. Once we were both happy that it seemed to have set Ian swam out to inspect the anchor. Due to the swell creeping in we thought we ought to try to set a kedge (stern) anchor so that the nose of the boat was pointing into the waves the whole night. It is all good practice I kept telling myself. High hearts rates and stress levels persisted throughout this process and through most of the night. Every time Ian or I woke up we would pop our heads up into the cockpit, meer cat style, to check that we hadn’t moved at all. Without a kedge anchor, it can be disconcerting to see that whilst you were asleep the wind has changed direction and you are now pointing at another part of the coast.
Despite the horror stories from other yachties about 40kn katabatic winds sweeping down in the night and making their boats drag their anchors, we have not been put off. We persevered and have had no problems even in quite strong winds which all goes towards developing our confidence.
One of the most reassuring technical apparatus we have is the anchor watch which sets off an alarm should we move away from the spot where we dropped the anchor. We use the one on the computer and sometimes double up with an App that Ian has on his phone, called Drag Queen.
On a few occasions the alarms have gone off and we both leap out of bed to go and see what’s happening. It takes a while for the heart rate to settle down and to go back to the land of nod after that, I can tell you.
We have watched the parking techniques of many a yacht by now and have developed our own ways of doing things so that, touch wood, we have not yet dragged the anchor in any major way.
We drive into a bay GPS showing a clear map of the depths and our position. We pick our general spot and Ian drives in and makes a slow and deliberate circle around the edges of where we think will be the best spot to drop the anchor. In this way, we can be sure we have enough depth around the circumference of our swinging circle once the chain is out. As soon as we have done the circling round, we head into the wind and the epicenter of the circle we have just drawn.
I have already untied the anchor and it is poised on the brink ready for speedy deployment. Ian indicates with our agreed hand signal and I let the anchor drop as we coast to a stop. Whilst the first 10m falls to the sea bed Ian goes down below to set the anchor watch. As he appears back up in the cockpit I am ready to let more chain out, as we gently drift backwards on the wind. Depending on the depth and the strength of the wind and other boats/obstacles around us, we let out what we think is the right amount of chain. Usually this works out at four times the depth but, the more the merrier. Ten times the depth is usual in strong winds.
Since we departed we have now spent 117 nights at anchor, alongside a town quay or sailing overnight, out of 200 nights away. The strongest winds we have experienced at anchor have been about 30 knots. The deepest water 11m.
AND, oddly, we have begun to really enjoy the anchoring experience. No fenders to put out, no lines to prepare, no stress of parking in a tight spot in howling winds with lazy lines to snag on and sharp parts of other boats to prang! The slight downside is that it’s a bit more effort and coordination to get to the shore.
On balance, the cooler air out in the bay and the extra privacy, not to mention the grandstand view of all that is going on around you, more than makes up for the inconvenience.
Plus, I ought to make a special mention about the male Italian (European?) fashion habit of wearing skimpy swimming trunks when out and about on the water. In common parlance amongst us Northern folk, these small items of apparel are known as ‘budgie smugglers’; an inference to the total lack of imagination needed as to the lumpy contents of said trunks. There is also penchant for fluorescent versions which are even more eye-catching than normal. What is even more amazing for us prudish Yorkshire folk…these chaps think nothing of walking about on land dressed like this. When I say dressed, that is hardly the right word for such scant clothing. It does make for the most entertaining people watching and when we are with David Heane, he can be heard saying ‘BUDGIE AND SMUGGLER’ repeatedly in a loud stage whisper. The delivery being a definitive and emphatic exclamation of his amazement at their bare-faced cheek!
Technical detail for my brother; just so he knows.
We have a 25kg Delta anchor on the bow attached to 50m of 10mm galvanised and calibrated chain (soon to be 100m) due to deeper anchorages in Greece.
The kedge anchor is a Danforth anchor at the stern with 10m of 10mm galvanised chain and 50m thick nylon warp.
The front anchor is deployed using a LOFRANS TIGRESS 1000 Watt anchor windlass with a remote control with wires or wireless remote control.