Towards the middle of August we headed south down the East coast of Sardinia. We were fueled up, watered up, provisioned up and left for Sicily on Tuesday or Wednesday 23rd or 24th August.
The weather had been remarkably settled but just prior to our departure for this long leg of 150 miles it decided to have an eppy. We scuttled into a marina on the east coast and sat out 38 knot gusts of wind.
We departed early on Thursday morning at 0540, effortlessly gliding out of the berth in zero knots of wind. Within a couple of hours a perfect 10 knots of wind arrived from the north east. Out came the genaker and she was pretty much set then until 2000 when we took her down in preparation for night sailing. The engine did have to go on briefly but from 0200 the Genoa was out and we were doing a steady 6 knots towards our destination and bang on track too!
Twenty six hours later land is in sight. The Egadi islands
to the north west of Sicily. We are welcomed by a flotilla of dip-diving dolphins. Lovely.
Later we headed for an anchorage off the south west coast to recover.
We managed 155 miles in 29 hours. Average speed 5.5
Top speed 7.1 kn Top wind speed 15 knots
Amount of sleep – not enough!
Anchored in 7-9 m over sand and some weed in Cala Rotunda, Favagnana Island.
Heading to Favignana town next and then off to the south coast of Sicily.
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 I saw that email asking whether anyone would like to join the sail over from Sicily to Kefalonia I jumped at the chance, booking my flight down to Sicily almost before getting the go ahead!
So the adventure began….we actually spent a couple of days stocking up and sightseeing, it was great to see my old friends Sarah and Kim again and hope that Ian didn’t get too fed up with our giggles…..if he did he masked it admirably. After a day’s visit to Ragusa, a pretty town split between the upper modern part and the lower ancient part, a maze of little streets, churches, doors and steps, we were ready to go. Next day we got ready to leave the harbour, to my amazement I was at the helm steering us out of the Marina before I knew what was what! But we got out without damage. We had our safety lesson by Il Capitano and a demonstration of useful knots by Skipper Sarah, a subject destined for many a laugh later on when the knots were actually needed….my half-hitch was for a few days somewhat half-hitched but I did eventually become a bit of an expert at attaching fenders!!! We were told that this was the longest ever stretch of sailing so far only when we had left land and couldn’t change our minds!
Italy disappeared over the horizon and soon we were sailing into the blue. No chance of lightening the load as food was part of the out at sea experience. We had some beautiful meals arriving from the hold……often two breakfasts, magnificent lunches and evening meals, snacks and appetizers! But who the hell was it who ate all the chocolate????
Ian and Sarah managed the boat and we muddled around in between, it took me some days to get which way the ropes (I know Ian, that they aren’t called ropes) went around the winches….a phrase was coined “to do a Sheena” that is, to wind it round the wrong way! Amazing that we managed not to get on top of each other too much in such a small space, for 72 hours at a stretch, even being joined by little Taylor Swift who flew in on her way down to Africa, perched on a bag in one of the toilets, fluffed up her feathers, tucked her head under one wing and slept for the whole night. She continued to follow us for most of the day after, hopefully finding her way eventually to where she was going. After a lovely gentle sail across the ocean we arrived, tired but exhilarated, almost exactly 3 days later at Argostoli, Kefalonia where John (or was it Giorgo…..) with the long grey ponytail met us at shore. Long grey ponytails seemed to be the fashion in Kefalonia, we were spotting Johns wherever we went. That night, while safely moored, there was a big thunderstorm, I was relieved not to be rolling about on the sea as I staggered about trying to close my hatch.
Next day, late evening, Erin arrived for a visit. Unfortunately being last on board she was relegated to sleep in the cupboard while I luxuriated in the spare room, sorry Erin!
Then we were off again, this time 6 of us on board, but going round the coast of Kefalonia. We tried going into a small harbour but it was too shallow and we had to change plans and sail off to Zante, the opposite island, the winds were good and we raced across. Our port of call was Agios Nicolaus, a small unassuming little village whose claim to fame was some nearby caves and the ferry coming in. We were met as we arrived by Nicolaus, a little man selling oil, honey, olives, sage, currants, bread and cheese, the spice of life! He let us taste his wares and needless to say we bought a bit of everything and he went off with a huge smile on his face!
Next day we sailed back to Kefalonia stopping off for a swim in the middle of the sea, I was waiting for the dolphins to arrive but they didn’t grace us with their presence this time. We arrived at our next stop Effimia (I think) to stock up on wine and ouzo, a busy little place where we had to squeeze into a very tight spot, niftily managed by captain and crew! Getting on to land was a bit dodgy though as we looked longingly at the other boats’ long gangplanks in comparison to ours which needed a bit of a jump at the end to get ashore. Luckily we drank our wine safely onboard!
Next day we had a short way to go to our destination Fiskardo so we anchored in a lovely bay with transparent blue waters where Sarah passed on her fishing skills to her daughter and we had freshly caught sea bream for lunch. Erin for some reason was not using her right hand to wield the killing weapon and I had to look the other way, but the fish was delicious!
Over the bay another boy bonding boat had anchored too and the boys were skinny dipping and showing off their bods, not all worthy of being shown off if I may say so.
At the lovely Fiskardo we anchored on the other side of the bay and sent the young ones off in the dinghy to attach the long mooring lines. There was a strong current and some strong language as we all annoyed Oliver and Erin by shouting instructions like ROW ROW GO GO as they struggled in the current and Oliver’s bowline came astray (oh boy, was I relieved not to have such knot pressure). We eventually managed, only to see a boat full of Swedish girls come sailing in, one of them swimming in with the lines and doing the whole thing quite slickly. However, the wind HAD dropped considerably by then. We had a delicious meal at the famous Nicolas restaurant and the next day we swam with the fish that Sarah was going to catch later on and then we sadly left the boat and caught a bus back down to Argostoli, the airport and real life again.
Thanks guys for the BEST sailing holiday ever, so many laughs, and don’t worry (or perhaps do worry) because I will be back again!!!!
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.
We have been on the move again. Departed Sicily on Thursday morning for a wonderful, gentle, sail arriving in Kefallonia early Sunday morning. 310 miles at a very sedate average speed of 4.3 kts. About ten hours motoring and sixty-two hours sailing, including a continuous twenty-four hour run with Genevieve the Genaker. Great company on-board including a visit from Taylor the Swift who spent the night sleeping in the forward heads before continuing his / her migration south.