Pushing through the Pillars.
04 September 2014 | SW Atlantic Spain
Aqua Blue has escaped the Med after 25yrs!! Rather delayed this year, I returned to Cartagena on 1st July and worked on Aqua Blue in this attractive city for two weeks until my wife Stella joined me. The morning of the 15th brought a fresh northeasterly, nearly trapping AB in her winter berth, the fouled rudder and prop preventing me from rapidly spinning AB in the confined space between pontoons. We eventually extracted and rotated her with the help of the skipper of Zacharia, which is such a well maintained steel boat that not a speck of rust is visible anywhere! We ran down the coast for several hours and later anchored on the east side of Aguilas bay with a few other yachts. I immediately jumped in and spent an hour removing weed and shell, especially from the rudder and Kiwi prop, who's hub needs to be clean to fully engage the powerful reverse blade configuration (which is actually a broader pitched version of forwards, it's complicated!!). That achieved we stayed onboard, M&S chicken curries are so good!
Motoring out in the morning AB was turning and moving better thankfully. And in fact we motored to mid afternoon before another very fresh northeasterly suddenly came up and the engine was silenced for an hour or so before we turned in to Cala San Pedro. There's only a small calm sheltered area available in this rather exposed anchorage, but we joined several earlier arrivals off the nudist beach with it's very high cliffs and had a quiet night again not venturing ashore. Cocktails were enlivened by the naturists strolling about. Stella unearthed a tin claiming to contain "saucissons in lentils and foie grasse", and very good it was too! As was the first episode of Breaking Bad, we'd finally started on the boxed set of the first four seasons.
Although calm it was a katabatic windy night. But that meant we could surf down to Cabo de Gata under headsail alone in the morning, see Stella steering in pic above. Whereupon the wind disappeared in the lee of the cape and we crawled across the Golfo de Almeria. We pottered on to Almerimar marina where AB had spent the winter of 89/90, where it was now so calm we joined a few other yachts anchored outside. Of course a light SW wind then disturbed our sleep and there was even light rain at dawn.
Before breakfast we motored into the marina to top up the fuel tanks. The marinero and HM were both interested that we'd last visited in 1990 since that was the year they'd both started work, needless to say we had no recollection of each other! We continued motoring west but soon were close hauled into a rising wind. We still made good progress motorsailing fast under a reefed main and staysail, and I was learning to use the new SmartPilot X5 which operates the auxiliary tiller inside the rear cabin. Despite not being fully calibrated it would just tack AB and was easy to control plus being more powerful than the earlier belt driven wheel pilot. We reached Motril by 7pm but were not allowed to anchor in the large harbour due to a nearby helipad. So we retreated to anchor between the east harbour wall and another groyne even further east. It was calm initially but a swell rolled in during the early hours resulting in a disturbed night and an early departure.
Leaving at 8am we motored over the swell to Almunecar but rejected the anchorage indicated in the pilot book and continued, to anchor outside Marina del Este. A SW7 was then forecast so I called up the small marina on Ch9 and to my surprise they had room for a trimaran! So we entered and paid for an expensive berth for two nights. Stella was pleased, pointing out she had not been ashore for over four days! We had a good meal ashore after a long siesta. The local shop was permanently closed though. However we reached Almunecar by taxi in the morning and had a pleasant walk round the ancient town's fort and Cuevas, followed by a pavement lunch. We were back on board by 3pm for siesta again, followed by another good meal in "David's" restaurant. Then more Breaking Bad, we were already addicted!
On Mon 21st July easterlies were forecast again, but they were too shy to appear, so after filling the tanks we motored all day to reach Benalmadena, parking initially behind a 61ft Privilege cat. We were then directed to the quiet outer wall at only 38euros and had young angler couples for company into the early hours. So much Spanish activity seems to start at sunset. We reversed out at 8.30am and headed south but soon encountered a fog bank and to our amazement this lasted all day and was sometimes very thick. Even with attentive watch keeping we still had a close encounter with a large trawler, spotted only a few hundred feet ahead! Without the GPS we would never have found Sotogrande entrance, the light on the end of the outer wall appearing above us out of the mist at tea time. We anchored outside again, the harbour seemed full of giant gin palaces. Fortunately it remained flat calm with a light land breeze and by the evening we could clearly see the Rock.
In the morning we resumed droning south and rounded Europa point, identified by both a lighthouse and a mosque minaret. Threading through the anchored freighters off Gibraltar we initially anchored outside La Linea for lunch and a swim. But then entered the marina and had some difficulty mooring AB at reception, with her windage in a fresh seabreeze blowing us off the wall. No help from the marinero, altho a SA yottie eventually took our lines. After topping up the tanks and paying 30euros for the night, Stella eventually lassoed a bollard on a deserted pontoon, altho it was close to the good shower block and wifi/bar. Alcaidesa is half empty but not expensive, especially for wintering. And overlooking the marina is the bar/restaurant AQA which we can recommend.
The following day we stayed put and walked past the queuing cars to the Gibraltar border post, where we immediately boarded a bus to cross the runway and reach the centre. Gib is much improved from my last visit in '87!! We saw the sights inc the Trafalgar graveyard where the mortally wounded were laid to rest. The dead were of course "consigned to the deep" at Trafalgar. We decided against joining the queue for the expensive cable car and retreated from the afternoon heat to the shade of AB's bimini. Followed by another good meal at Aqa. There's also a good restocking supermarket in La Linea altho it's quite a walk.
I had of course been following the weather online and there was no early prospect of easterly winds. So on Fri 25th we returned to the reception berth at 8am to pay for our second night as the staff arrived, and set off across calm Algeciras bay, weaving again past the many freighters at anchor, to round Punta Carnero. As advised I sought out the rougher water which identifies the west going tide and used a lot of the Yanmar's power to make progress. The incoming westerly wind peaked at 31kts, at which AB's speed over the ground was precisely zero knots!! But gradually it declined as we crawled west to anchor outside Tarifa harbour after six hours of very slow progress! The alternative is to raise sail and tack over towards Morocco, but this means leaving the tidal "travellator" and incurring a multihull's leeway in strong winds, with the result I suspect being counter productive. The ancient Greeks and Carthaginians must have been very determined to row and sail through the Pillars of Hercules. There was already a Dutch boat anchored off the beach (yachts are not really welcome in the harbour) and four of us by nightfall at europe's most southerly point. Huge cat ferries maneuvered nearby since Tarifa is a very active port, and unsurprisingly the beach immediately west is the continent's windsurfing capital.
We continued in a now lighter northwesterly the following morning, with AB back in the Atlantic after 25yrs in the Med, already enjoying longer seas. Passing the Trafalgar banks instigated reflective thoughts about who and what had lain beneath us since 1805. Nelson asked not to be thrown overboard and was pickled in a barrel to receive a state funeral in London many months later. Attended amazingly by some of his opposing officers!! The peninsular war continued of course under Wellington, but England no longer feared invasion by Boney.
We identified and entered the tortuous channel into Sancti Petri by tea time, but found the place very crowded with weekend visitors and had to continue some distance inland to find an anchoring spot. Too far to visit the village by dinghy, but that was compensated for by the birdwatching on offer. We just relaxed onboard, only disturbed by the occasional kamikaze speedboat.
We awoke to curlews calling as though we were in Chichester harbour. And a Spoonbill strolled by on the mudbank at low tide. We swam in the warm murky water and then proceeded back to the village, but the marinero would not let us stay on a vacant buoy this Sunday morning. So we motored slowly up the coast to round Cadiz, giving the many reefs a good offing. Continuing round until we were heading south again we passed under the impressive new bridge and anchored off the small Club Deportivo, full of anglers motor boats. They will tolerate yachtsman's dinghies for a small fee and indeed there is an onsite restaurant/bar where we had a good fish dinner.
On the Monday morning we easily caught a bus into the fine city centre and joined a short guided walking tour of the old town. We had an excellent tapas lunch outside the market and continued admiring the many fine streets and houses not returning to AB till 8pm. We repeated the process the following day, museums, market, lunch and general sightseeing. Cadiz city seems improved since our last visit in 2005, and we could have continued for a week!!
On our last day we just visited the convenient and well stocked local shops and left by late morning. We motored past the very shallow and unmarked River Pedro entrance, supposed to be a sheltered spot if a Levanter arrives. We also toured the rather open anchorage just east of Puerto Sherry before continuing on past Rota and along the beach to round the reef off Chipiona. Whereupon we crossed the bar of the river Guadalquivir and ran down to Sanlucar de Barrameda, where we could find no space to anchor. So we spent the night on the north side of the river just before the turn up to Bonanza. And a bumpy night it was too, with the wake of the constant trawler movements in the early hours.
However we found we could safely leave the dinghy on the Guardia Civil pontoon, conveniently close to the Donana National Park visitor centre in the brightly tiled ex ice factory on the front. Upstairs is an interesting display concerning Magellan who apparently left from here. We continued into the old town and had great tortilla camerones (crisp fried shrimp crepe!). Stella bought some Manzanillo de Barrameda, a very dry sherry, best served ice cold. Back on board by mid afternoon we then spent two hours walking the Donana beach front. A sign prohibited landing by dinghy, walking off the beach and almost any other human activity. Needless to say the park employees had four 4*4s parked on the beach and the general message was "you paid for this but you can't enjoy it"!! In the evening I topped up the tank and we settled down for more Breaking Bad and another bumpy night, trawlers streaming past at 8pm, plus 3 and 6am!!
It was quite windy too, not at all a sheltered anchorage despite being several miles up river. Next time I'd round the corner and anchor north of Bonanza for the night. We hauled anchor and took the early ebb down river in the late morning, over the surprisingly rough bar. It helps to leave the channel but you really have to watch the depths. It was already too late to tackle the thirty mile beach west so we eyeballed the multihull anchorage immediately NE of Chipiona but agreed it was too open to the northwest. So we entered the marina for the rest of the day and night. The reception staff made us welcome and had just wide enough berths, but the paperwork took an hour during which fifteen A4 sheets must have printed!! After a siesta and good showers we walked into Chipiona of which I expected little. But we were pleasantly surprised and walked down to the Sanctuary to Madonna de Regla, where unusually you can ascend steps behind the altar to closely admire Madonna! There are also two Moscatel bodegas and in the smaller of the two we enjoyed ice cold Manzanillo, 80cents a freezing glass!! And we enjoyed swordfish and chicken in the square overlooking the smaller town church.
I updated myself on the weather via my ancient Blackberry while lying in my bunk from dawn. And at 8am I walked up to the windy balcony by reception to watch waves breaking across the marina entrance. However the overnight blast started to go down and since there was little promise of improvement to wait for, we elected to leave by 10.30am. First we had to motor again over the bouncy Guadalquivir bar straight into the prevailing northwesterly. I raised the reefed main to steady the motion and gradually the wind started to back, freeing slightly. Next up was the staysail for motorsailing. But by lunchtime we really got a lift along the beach and the genoa was unrolled and the Yanmar silenced. The heavy old bus was now maintaining over 7kts parallel to the beach and the miles to Mazagon really started to come down rapidly. In fact AB amazed me by sailing up the entrance channel behind europe's longest sea wall on calmer water at 8.5kts, as we strained to identify the faded skeletal buoys. We anchored just west of Mazagon marina, next to two neglected yachts! Sherry plus M&S chicken again restored us, while listening and laughing to Count Arthur Strong, before we then further followed Walter White's descent into Hell.
Overnight I received an email from Francisco Vargas at El Rompido with the latest position of the fairway buoy and the times of high tides which were now two hours before Cadiz. We'd already missed the 8.45am high tide so pottered onboard till lunchtime, enjoying the weather which had in fact improved. We set off again as the sea breeze arrived and spent a few hours tacking west, keeping an eye on the many fishing buoys. But we still managed to wrap one round the centreboard and had to stop to free it. Crossing Rompido bar at half tide AB had little more than 4ft under the main hull! The flood tide swiftly carried us the four miles west inside the long La Flecha sandbank up to El Rompido marina to claim our pre-booked winter berth. I'd missed out the western Andalusian Costa de Luz from Tarifa to the Guadiana on both my previous journeys east, so this time we made a point of enjoying Cadiz and the Sherry ports, after the overdeveloped Costa del Sol. Within three days we were back in Brighton, but we look forward to seeing more of SW Iberia.
Preveza Greece to Cartagena Spain
24 August 2013
This June/July, Aqua Blue left Levkas Greece and crossed to Syracuse Sicily via Crotone. After an OCC meeting in this delightful anchorage and ancient city we rounded Sicily clockwise to Trapani. Then crossed to Cagliari Sardinia for a week.
After a crew change AB then sailed further west to Menorca and Majorca. After a further stay in Porto Colom and another crew change, the tri crossed via Ibiza to mainland Spain and cruised down to Cartagena, where she will spend winter 13/14.
Now read on!
Aqua Blue's transit of the central and western Med, during June and July 2013.
After descending the Adriatic last year, Aqua Blue wintered hauled out at Ionian Marine, Preveza, where she had previous been based from '96 to 2004. I visited in October and April/May to continue the "never ending refit". The main job was replacing the old infected stainless diesel tank with a new plastic Vetus model, ordered through IGR Yacht Services Nidri, which is run by Sue Keane who spent four years covered in fibreglass during the building of AB!! During that job I also finally glassed shut the old outboard hole under the port cockpit seat. I'd been meaning to do it for years! I also painted the starboard float with very pricy two pot polyurethane after a lot of sanding, and managed the port float and central bows too when I returned in early June.
A really good "bottom job" followed, I managed to get 5litres of equally pricy Seajet antifouling on all three hulls, since AB was likely to spend next winter afloat. Stella arrived by Easyjet to Corfu then bus down the coast, finally alighting at Action airport from where I recovered her in a car lent by the kind Italian yachtsman who was preparing his own trimaran alongside AB. After saying our goodbyes to George Tsiligiris the owner of Ionian Marine, we were quickly slid into warm gulf of Amvrakia. No deck work had been done at all while ashore, one must concentrate on the hulls, so we motored over to anchor north of Preveza off Zika's hotel for a day and night, to bend on the sails and inflate the dinghy plus all the other little jobs needed. Preveza is not the prettiest town but we had a good meal ashore and Stella photographed lots of Swifts and Bats emerging from old houses at dusk.
On Tues 11th June we motored out of the Preveza channel into the fresh seabreeze with the Yanmar powering well from the new tank and fuel lines. Running down to Levkas we made the 2pm bridge opening and were anchored off Sioux Sails by 4pm, altho we moved to spend the night south of the boatyard at Vliho after receiving a gale warning for the first night. Surprise dinner onboard became Croatian tinned pork enlivened with garlic and peppers. Back to the Sioux Sails anchorage in the calm morning, where we collected the pre-ordered aft bimini extension and sailcloth tramps that protect the cockpit, from Sue Carter! All fitted well and we spent the rest of the week here socialising with Sue Keane and her family, while preparing AB for longer trips, plus siesta-ing in the afternoon heat!
Our trip really started on Sat 15th. Up early to rinse all the mud off the ground tackle and invert the dinghy. We made the 10am Lefkas bridge then motor sailed north until the regular sea breeze piped up, whereupon we bore away slightly and romped into Parga bay at good speed for a night at anchor. The town discos did not stop till 5.30am!! On Sun morning I ascended the mast to reeve the MPG halliard, ever hopeful of light winds. Then of course we motored west past Paxos and the south tip of Corfu, where the wind completely deserted us all day. By early afternoon I decided we did not have enough fuel to motor all the way to Sicily, so we turned back and motored up the east coast to anchor off Corfu town. Where we heated up a very good spicy Bart's curry, while admiring the waterfront buildings with their Swifts screeching and wheeling overhead. We were at Gouvia fuel quay before it opened at 8am the following morning. However the lady attendant soon called me (while Stella was away shopping), and I managed to get 112litres of diesel into the new tank plus all the jerry cans onboard, price 170euros!!
Up the north Corfu channel we motored to turn left and pass south of Erikoussa, an island anchorage we have used often en route to Italy. But this time we pressed on west into the Ionian sea. At midnight we were broad reaching past Santa Maria de Leuca on the heel of Italy and continued across the mouth of the gulf of Taranto. The Yanmar came back on at dawn but by mid morning we were sailing again under the drifter, only 20miles from Crotone. In the afternoon we anchored under Cape Colonne's solitary column for a swim after 29hrs from Gouvia to Magna Graecia. At tea time we backed up to the pontoon in Crotone harbour. After a green curry onboard we strolled ashore following the Swifts and had great Italian ice creams, Ora Negra and Noche e Figi!
In the bright blue early morning we had an Italian forecast of N2 and a Greek fcst of NW4-5loc6, take your pick!! We motored out at 7.30am and ran down to Cape Rizzuto where the breeze died and we started motoring SW across the well named Golfo di Squillace, altho the squalls tend to blow off the coastal mountains at night. After lunch we spotted two Risso's dolphins and not long after we had a ten minute display of aero and hydrodynamics by six common dolphins, a wonderful sight right under the bows. And two more pods later paid us a visit, they're obviously plentiful off the boot of Italy. I'm convinced they are looking up at us on the foredeck! At midnight we were passing Cape Spartivento and by 4am I was able to silence the Yanmar and AB had a spirited sail across the south entrance to the straits of Messina, quite bumpy at 7kts with Stella fast asleep in her bunk. She arose at 7am to be confonted by smoking Mt Etna appearing straight ahead. At midday we entered Syracuse grand harbour (avoiding the Cani rocks!) and selected an anchor spot, after being hailed by David of Daq Attack who had organised an OCC meet in this wonderful ancient city.
We had driven here over twenty years earlier and were glad to be back. First I had to organise a wire strop with lock for the dinghy, which would spend much time tied to the town quay. Forewarned is fore-armed!! We spent five nights in the magnificent grand harbour much used buy the ancients. Socialising with several OCC boats esp David and Julia on Daq Attack most evenings. But also exploring the old town on the peninsula Ortygia. The Basilica based on the Temple of Athena, with the columns still visible in the walls had me spellbound most days. Although it would seem an obvious thing to do, there are very few of them!! I suppose the Christians shunned the Pagan buildings! We also visited the Sanctuary of Madonna of Tears, or "giant concrete parking cone", I can't say I'm a fan of much modern architecture! The cylindrical Concrete Pantheon intrigued since it's now an anti Fascist monument! Castle Maniace down at the tip of Ortygia is worth a visit too. That day I also had an SSB/Sailmail lesson on Daq Attack, followed by great Daiquiris served by David and Angie Jeffs on Hurah to enliven "Mexican Trains", based on dominoes!
In fact we shared a taxi with David and Angie the next morning, leaving Ortygia for the Greek and Roman Archeo park. Followed by visiting the Archimedes (Syracuse's most famous son and scientist) museum with Stella, very modern and interesting. After shopping in the market too, we still had lunch back onboard flowed by a few jobs in the shade. I tried the engine after four days on the solar panels alone, the battery was down to 60%, but it still span the newish Yanmar, who's alternator promptly supplied 60amps!! I also frequented a bookshop with lots of old CDs for sale. The overnight temps were still very reasonable too, down to 68F by 5.30am. And the fresh westerlies that are supposed to make the town quay so uncomfortable in the afternoons did not put in an appearance fortunately.
We left Syracuse on Tues 25th June, pausing to chat to Daq Attack who had returned with an overheating engine. We motorsailed down to Capo Passero, the SE corner of Sicily, where the wind veered and increased of course, with an up to two metre sea running out of the Sicily strait. On the second port tack I just continued into Porto Palo, the wide open clean fishing harbour and anchored under sail, using the self tacking staysail we'd reefed down to, just showing off really. We continued plugging west the next morning, tacking under the reefed main and a few rolls in the Genoa. The heavy old bus was maintaining 7kts to windward over the rising swells. In the early afternoon one of the genoa sheets snapped (at the old knot on the clew). We rolled away the flogging Genoa and motorsailed under main alone up to Ragusa entrance where Stella and I managed to rope the main to the boom while bouncing around. The Yanmar then firmly motored us into the large new marina, where I eventually had to accept a push from the marina RIB to get AB stern to one of the pontoons in the howling crosswind. No paint lost surprisingly. We had mean't to spend two days here so I booked for three nights and in the morning we collected a hire car.
Stella was keen to visit Ragusa Iblea for it's stunning Baroque architecture, especially the churches. Back onboard by late afternoon I "end for ended" the Genoa sheets, while Stella sought out the laundry. Followed by a very good meal at Quatro Quadri. The next day we reached Modica and Scicli in the hire car. Modica was incredibly steep hill walking in the sun, but with great drinking chocolate! Scicli was much smaller with very helpful young students in the palace and town hall where Montalbano is filmed. Back at Ragusa our Gaz bottles had returned and I used the hire car to get more diesel before returning it in the morning.
On the Sat morning of our planned departure the forecast gales arrived and made that weekend's sailing regatta very hard work for the keen sailors, some of whom had arrived from Malta. We cruisers of course remained at our berth for two days of maintenance and improvement jobs. I also chatted to a Californian owner of a very pretty Morelli and Melvin cat named Koa, which had been built in Christchurch NZ and shipped to the Med!!
On Mon 1st July we re-emerged from Ragusa to motor west in the now too light wind to Punta Secca, where we managed to identify Montalbano's beach house, now a B&B! Sailing west in the light sea breeze we made Licata by 3.30pm. Another huge new marina on the south coast of Sicily, successfully attracting wintering yachts. It was almost empty in July of course, but we still received all the welcoming literature! The delightful little Baroque town surprisingly provides a large supermarket just outside the marina entrance, so convenient. We continued west in the morning, to pass Punta Bianca after admiring the castle of Montechiaro. Later we could just make out some of the temples of Agrigento in the summer haze. At tea time we were backed up to a plastic pontoon in the fishing harbour of Sciacca. It's a nice old town after you've ascended the stairs on the cliffs. One of the Norman town gates still has the original wooden door hanging! On our return to AB we found a large German "double ender" Mindedal, skippered by Manfred, who apologised for attaching his 25tons to our 5 tons!! Like us he was heading west after years in the Med for some Atlantic sailing!
A longer day in light winds around Capo Granitola the SW point of Sicily brought us to Favignana, the largest of the Egadi islands. We anchored by the galley sheds, but a snorkel inspection made me move nearer the beach! We ate onboard admiring the illuminated Norman castle (with it's lighted path too) to the west up Montagna Grossa. In the morning of the 4th July many American boats were congratulating each other on the Dragnet 6516kHz. We rowed ashore to enjoy the charming town with a great villa and rather grand public loos. Stella pounced on the great little frutta and verdura market too. We were motoring NE by lunchtime to pass closely by the islet of Formica with it's tunny factory now seemingly an exclusive hotel. Continuing we entered Trapani harbour to anchor in the NW corner by a solitary Polish yacht. It was calm and 100% overcast grey! We left the dinghy on the Lega Navale pontoon and had a long walk into town, but it was worth it. Stella dragged me into many churches and we had a very good and reasonably priced pavement meal too. The town has been cleaned up enormously since our visit by car two decades ago! We had some trouble getting back into the now closed Lega Navale and on a future visit I'd seek somewhere else to leave the dinghy.
The wind piped up and down overnight and we had swung and dragged more than a bit, altho the Rocna unbeknown to me had snagged on a heavy seabed rope. We had intended to spend another day in Trapani but after recovering the fouled Rocna, with a fcst of N4 bec NW3 I decided not to re-anchor, but to put to sea. In fact it was a bouncy 20kts (F5) from the N outside the harbour, but we needed wind for Sardinia so continued. We eventually had the cutter rig up with a few rolls in the genoa and by early afternoon had left the Egadi islands behind. In the evening the wind moderated somewhat but backed to NW pushing us south of the direct course, necessitating driving AB closer to the wind. Stella managed to rustle up a Chile con Carne as it got very dark, there being no moon. By the early hours we had been pushed down to nearly 38N, so as the wind fell light in the early hours the genoa was rolled and the Yanmar pushed us NW directly towards Cape Carbonara, the SE point of Sardinia. And so we droned on all morning and afternoon, briefly diverted by Dolphins, with the sea calming right down, finally anchoring off the beach at Villasimius as the sun was approaching the Sardinian mountains to the west. A British Dazcat "Razzamataz" with a huge roached main came in and the owners introduced themselves as Tony and Anne Montgomery Smith.
On Sun 7th July we slept late (after our "overnighter"), then pottered onboard till Tony and Anne dropped by and invited us to dinner. Murray won Wimbledon and we enjoyed good company and a Paella on Razzamatz. The next morning swim really woke me and we ventured ashore via Villasimius marina, pleased to see lots of nesting Housemartins on the new buildings, plus a shop and fuel dock. The afternoon seabreeze then allowed us to sail across to Cagliari where we were enthusiastically helped to back up to Marina del Sole, while a huge thunderstorm hurled lightning rods down across the bay. This year was unusual in that we were making use of marinas, rather than anchoring all the time. I was pleasantly surprised that the staff were not at all fazed by AB's 25ft width, leaping onboard to grab the laid lines, they regard the yacht owners as amateurs, which we are!!
We saw Cagliari's sights for a few days before Stella flew back to Brighton. I amazed myself by booking her flight on the Blackberry since the marina wifi was so slow! We socialised with Tony and Anne who arrived the next day, to sensibly leave Razzamataz for a few weeks in cooler climes at home. Manfred also came in on his huge Colin Archer Mindedal. AB seemed very empty after had Stella left but with power onboard I continued with "improvements" in the cooler mornings, before the afternoon temps drove me into the tented bar area to follow the TdF on the iPad, following Cavendish's sprinting exploits. Then on Bastille day Froome conquered the Beast of Ventoux, where Bobby Simpson perished so many year ago. I eventually spent ten days here, the folding bike helping my evening explorations and restaurant choices.
I collected my new crew Dominic from the airport with one of the Marina's cheap rentawrecks, and used it to fill 3 diesel cans as well. We dropped the laid lines on Thurs 18th July and motored south to Capo di Pula, from where we could enjoy some gentle tacking to Spartivento, before reaching slowly into shallow Malfatano bay. A great multihull anchorage altho there were a few keelboats at the entrance and some campers behind the beach. The water was 79F so long swims were in order after murky Cagliari. Next morning we motored around Capo Teulada and then sailed slowly to Capo Sperone, before having to motor against a fresh headwind up the channel to Carloforte on San Pietro island, which is a pleasant spot used by yachts transiting the south central Med.
On the Sat morning we took on yet more water and I bought diesel while Dom raced round the local supermarket. We could now receive the French Navtex, which promised a good reaching wind today, declining tomorrow. We had to motor west all morning but as we came out of the lee of Sardinia we were grateful for a fresh NEasterly all afternoon, and all night too. We made very good progress although the bumpy conditions produced cascades of water to jetwash the lee float, testing Dom's Stugeron pills, although he heroically made dinner! Prolongued sleep was impossible so we did one and a half hour watches, which we both agreed was about the right length in the conditions. Sunday brought gentler sailing under blue sky and declining seaway and we sailed well until the wind went light at tea time, whereupon we motored the last two hours to enter Addaya, Menorca, threading our way through the twisting entrance and anchored keelboats till our centreboard folded up in the shallow very green water. I made a too hot curry (again) and crashed out before ten pm, secure in the knowledge that Froome had won the TdF!!
A very quiet night encouraged deep sleep altho the green water and many yachts discouraged swimming in the morning. We settled for showers and then Dom explored in the kayak. While I managed a QSO with Bill G4FRN using the Icom 706 bought off eBay! We later motored round to Cala Teulera inside Isla del Lazareto at the entrance to Mahon harbour. On the way, under autopilot, I just spotted a log ahead and managed to close the throttle as trunk bounced along under the hull. No visible damage fortunately. Teulera was hot 90F, blue and still, good for swimming with the water 81F. And we were not sent packing to the expensive moorings by the HM, as many boats have reported. We stretched our legs walking up to the giant fort on La Mola after dinner but they were closing up.
We arose to the news that the third in line to the throne of England had been safely delivered!! Then motored southwest while I played the radio Ham, I need the alternator on to transmit. We managed some sailing later in a light westerly, but ended up motor sailing against it to reach Porto Colom, Majorca after 60mls in 11.5hrs. It was a long day and Colom was very crowded with so many buoys and boats compared to twenty years ago when AB spent two winters here. But the town was the same, altho with many more bars & restaurants, some with free wifi fortunately. We had a very good meal in "HPC". Within 36hrs Dom, a fast learning crew member who does not seem to mind bumpy conditions (what more can one ask?), had departed by bus to Palma airport to meet his family for a holiday on the north coast at Deya.
I then stayed on the buoy in Porto Colom, pottering onboard in the shade, since late July is very hot in the sheltered harbour and altho the local kids swam in the murky water, I didn't! I even found a long lost St George's pennant and flew it from a "whippy" mast on the port float despite Gibraltar being in the news!! Dusk would release me to walk ashore with the iPad, for pavement eating and "surfing". I also exchanged many emails with my next crew about flights, at one point I was booking them in Colom and the travel docs were being printed in Oxford! On the late Thursday morning of the 1st August, Humphrey alighted from an air-conditioned bus from Palma, into the Porto Colom cauldron. He'd been up all night, so a long siesta to aid acclimatisation was in order. We had a good pavement paella in the evening while I managed to book online a mooring buoy in Cabrera national park. And we'd only bought the Paddy (cheaply in NY) to see how it worked! Previously I've resisted the internet revolution onboard since it can't be received affordably any distance offshore.
Friday morning we toured Colom harbour in AB to fill with diesel and water. The sea outside was rather sloppy given the lack of wind but we eventually sailed into large and deep Puerto de Cabrera to pick up the waiting buoy, in nearly 100ft of water! Absolutely no facilities, just somewhere to get away from it all, in the otherwise crowded Balearics. And we left early on Saturday to cross to Ibiza, where a late southerly blast carried us round the north east coast to anchor in crowded but very scenic Portinatx, which like Cabrera is completely open to the north. We followed that long day with a short drift around to anchor in the even more open and shallow Bahia San Antonio-Abad. It was incredibly crowded with yachts at anchor and tourists and frankly overdevelopment ashore. I had actually flown here in 1965 with my family in a tiny plane from Barcelona, which we'd reached by train from northern France. The contrast was overwhelming since in '65 the was no development whatsoever on the beach outside the small port town. In fact we had met a Canadian who was about to open a beach bar and we actually wondered whether he'd have any customers. I can only hope he sold out later for a good profit!!
We were glad to motor out of the Bahia at 8am , initially accompanied by two dolphins. We had to motorsail all day to reach the mainland headland of Cabo de la Nao, continuing south to anchor in the Bay under Cabo Oro east of Moraira, where Admiral Byng had moored his fleet, before his overcautious attempt on Mahon. As I'm sure you know he was later executed to "encourager les autres"!!
Alicante marina the following night was incredibly hot and expensive at 90F and 89euros! Crowded too, we spent the night on the waiting quay or "muelle despair"! We had a reasonable meal in one of the marina restaurants and explored the interesting old town centre and promenade. But another night at this price was unthinkable, so after filling with fuel and water , we spent the next night at the open anchorage west of Cabo Huertas. Running SW down the coast in the morning the wind and seas built up quickly and we eventually surfed around Torrevieja (Humphrey managed some video) and then motored hard against the wind to gain the deep anchorage in the outer harbour, for a late lunch and siesta. We stayed onboard for dinner and watched "Paris, Texas" yet again!
In fact we killed a few days in this free anchorage and altho we couldn't find the "old tower", it's a pleasant spot, altho very crowded again in early August. Our final sail took us past the Mar Menor and round Cabo de Palos to Cartagena which we managed to enter under sail. The relatively new fully battened main enables slow progress to windward on it's own surprisingly. An Ozzie marinero made us welcome in the new Yacht Port Cartagena (YPC), even allocating us a double berth with side finger pontoons at mono rates. Which was what had brought us here of course. I met the lovely Julia in the office and paid for four months, in exchange for lots of tourist advice. Humphrey and I slowly stripped down Aqua Blue for the winter in the cooler mornings, combined with sightseeing and later siestas. The whole old town centre is paved in marble and all the house fronts with their wrought iron balconies have preservation orders. The Roman remains including the newly uncovered theatre, the House of Fortune and the Forum are all worth a visit. As is the restored Town Hall and the very informative Underwater Archeology museum on the quay behind YPC. There's also a Roman/Carthaginian festival in the autumn and a Jazz festival in November.
However by the 16th August we were back in Brighton for a party and even more important my daughter Louise's graduation. We returned en famille to Cartagena in September for more sightseeing and a few afternoons at Cala Cortina (only ten minutes by taxi). Plus sampling several very good restaurants. Altho I was distracted somewhat by finding bars to follow the Vuelta Espana!
Later in December I emailed YPC after seeing strong winds forecast, to be immediately re-assured marineros would be on duty over Xmas. I can't recommend the place highly enough! We plan to drive there for the Easter celebrations.
Return to Epirus 2012
25 August 2012 | Ionian Marine, Aktio, Preveza, Greece
Dawdling down the Adriatic 2012
Aqua Blue departed Nautec Monfalcone on the 7th July after more than a year's refit, including a new Yanmar 3YM20 , after many goodbyes to Karl, Erika and Hamed of the boatyard who'd accommodated AB's 25ft beam, and also Marino and Gloria of the onsite restaurant who'd fed and watered me royally.
With Stella my wife now onboard we exited the Timavo river for the last time and successfully test ran the engine, up to 6kts at 3000rpm, passing Trieste to anchor in Bartolomeo right on the border with Slovenia. There we inflated the new Honwave dinghy, slightly smaller than the preceeding Suzumar, and relaxed in the pleasant surroundings after so much work ashore.
In the morning we motored round to anchor outside the local moorings off Koper and I rowed Stella ashore with her camera to see Capo d'Istria the ancient capital of this region. I returned to anchor watch and managed a chat with a Ham in Norway using the Icom 706 acquired from eBay no less. The northwesterly Maestral arrived on cue at midday and we had a brisk sail round to anchor off the old custom sheds/salt warehouses at Bernardino, approximately halfway between tiny Pirano harbour and Portoroz marina, where anchoring is discouraged. There was a Yoko/Lennon/Tito exhibition in one of the "sheds".
The other contains a small supermarket where we stocked up in the morning, and behind this is a service station. We left immediately to motor round to Umag finding a fresh southerly off the point but we soon cleared in (not cheaply!) to Croatia. Then tacking south till after 7pm brought us to anchor in Lon bay at Rovinji, inside the new mooring buoys, "only" 88 Kuna.
After a few jobs we tacked slowly down to Kamenjak the southerly point of Istria, from where we motorsailed in the light southwesterly across the Kvarner gulf to Podkujni inlet on Unije, with the new diesel spluttering due to diesel bug from the old tank clogging the filters. In the morning light I cleared them and we went into Mali Losinj for clean fuel, with Stella making bread on the way in a simple hob top "oven". Finally we motored down to pick up the last buoy in the Ilovik channel at only 4.30pm, and there are nearly 100 buoys! There was another half an inch of bug in the filter bowl already and I realised the filler cap had been leaking rainwater for a whole year!! We used the water taxi to get ashore, looking for Housemartin nests in the small village, but found very few compared to previous years.
Morning filter draining was becoming mandatory, after which we motored and sailed to Lucina on Dugi Otok. A sheltered clean ferry harbour with buoys (170 Kunas) and a tiny basic restaurant run by a "battleaxe", which I'm rather fond of. Brbinj over the isthmus is more fashionable but crowded with a large restaurant and makes a pleasant walk.
A long day tacking into a southeasterly brought us to the free calm anchorage at Sepurine on Prvic. It's a delightful village with tastefully converted old houses all in the local stone. No atm in the morning, but a PO gave us 9 Kuna to the pound. There's an old Piver tri in the small harbour receiving lots of tlc. After lunch we motored round and picked up a buoy in Prvic harbour itself, which was less sheltered in the persistent southeasterly. After siesta I carried out hacksaw surgery on some new wheeled batten cars to get them into the 36yr old mast groove, with very pleasing results, I could now raise the fully battened main by hand! A harbour official in a RIB then asked for 300 Kunas and was taken aback when I laughed out loud and refused. I had to settle for 200 Kunas though. The Croats are getting a bit greedy imho, but we've been cruising the beautiful Dalmatian coastline for 8 years now, from when most anchorages were free. We still had the usual good meal in Hotel Maestral and appreciated the wifi. The iPad's a lot easier to lug ashore than the old laptop.
On Sun 15th July we left Prvic with one reef in the main and a few rolls in the Genoa to beat south against the still fresh southeasterly towards Rogoznicas. Thankfully as we rounded Rt Ploca the wind veered to SW and we ran slowly east to anchor in the large sheltered and shallow bay of Vinisce. An ideal multihull anchorage in fact and no charge either. Unfortunately Stella did not quite manage the transition from dinghy to quay and we returned to AB to dry out her camera and mobile.
Fresh northeasterlies herald the first rise of pressure in the Adriatic, so we exited the Splitski canal between Drevenik and Solta, to harden up and beat east, reefing twice in the katabatic winds funnelling down the south slopes of Solta, with the old bus AB close reaching fast on the flat water. By 3pm we had reached Blaca cove on the south east corner of Brac, the anchorage for the Hermitage, and spent the night there in splendid isolation fortunately, since there's not a lot of swinging room.
In the morning Stella hiked up to the monastery taking around 40mins. I accompanied her for a while but returned to anchor watch in the blustery conditions. After a lunchtime swim we found a W7 with short tumbling seas had built up in the Hvar kanal, so we ran east to Vrboska on Hvar, eventually surfing at up to 12.5kts on the GPS, a speed not reached by our heavy tri for many years!! We spent a very windy night in the shallow NW corner of the outer anchorage by the youth hostel, where holding on sand must be good, since our only 15kg Rocna performed well on a short scope without the usual bridle.
Normal summer weather returned at breakfast thankfully and we motorsailed west back past Blaca with Stella photographing the Hermitage, which is only visible from offshore at a certain angle. Bearing away for the west end of Hvar we ran east inside the islands of Sv. Klement and Marinkovac, admiring the enormous gin palaces moored off Hvar town. Then spending the whole afternoon broad reaching southeast most of the way to Lastovo, before I decided to harden up on port tack and we shot north on a close fetch to Brna on the south coast of Korcula. We had the very shallow Kosirina inlet just west of the town to ourselves. In fact on swimming we could walk round the rear cabin of Aqua Blue on the spongy mud! Brna harbourmaster in his RIB amazed me by finding us in this hidey hole after dusk and relieved us of 168 Kuna to lie to our own anchor for the night.
After ten hours sleep in this quiet spot we attended to a few jobs, including removing 2ins of muck from the filter bowl after our bouncy sailing! Then five hours of motoring in a very light southwesterly brought us to Polace lagoon on Mljet, where we anchored on the shallow spot near a big Catana cat. There did seem to be many more mooring buoys and gin palaces this year, but no charge by the national park for the first time. I finally fired up our new 2.5hp Honda, "Henry the second", to have a meal ashore. After admiring the Roman castle of Aegesilaus, who was exiled here by Septimus Severus and eventually pardoned by Caracalla apparently!!
We were still surprised not to have been visited by the park rangers and Polace seems much busier with more restaurants and car/bike/hire shops. Despite motoring away on a flat calm I managed to trip back into the cockpit banging my ankle which immediately and annoyingly started to swell. Stella suggested rolling a cold beer on it and the treatment worked!! The fridge is very high on the essential equipment list on board. We spent a couple of hours pm anchored off the disused Serbian hotel in the beautiful bay on the north side of Jaklan. Don't let the ancient no anchoring sign deter you! The calm night was spent in Sipanska Luka although it is open to the northwest, but it's a pleasant and strangely quiet spot with a couple of quayside restaurants, despite it's proximity to Dubrovnik.
After the usual filter clearing we slowly tacked into yet another light southeasterly, finally motoring past Dubrovnik and on into Tiha cove at Cavtat. Gratefully picking up a mooring buoy (only 110 Kuna), we noted the many trawlers and gin palaces anchored nearby, no doubt due to the now poor weather fcst, which encouraged dinner and a film onboard. Bradley won his Tour time trial!
Morning maintenance included steering quadrant inspection and greasing of the rudder stock, all usually hidden under the bunk in the rear cabin, now being cleared for our new crew arrival. Good lunch in restaurant Bougainville followed by shaded wifi cafe, it being very hot and humid. A water run occupied me pm, then a Norwegian Ovni arrived and we chatted for a while. They were very interested that Stella and I had arrived in Oslo on that terrible day exactly one year ago. The following night was very windy (and more fcst) and we were glad the new buoys had been laid, we hadn't found the holding to be good on previous visits.
Another water run am, since the tri is almost never alongside a water tap. I just take it slowly and will use the spinny halliard to lift water containers out of the dinghy if necessary. Lunch was in restaurant Ivan whose owner shooed away inadequately dressed large mobo owners to our slight surprise. But obviously here sartorial standards come before profits! Dominic our crew arrived from the conveniently close "Dubrovnik" airport. Siesta pm for all of us, then the sky clouded over ominously and our shore trip was cancelled. Shortly the harbourmaster's launch arrived and we were instructed to drop our mooring in Tiha and go round to Cavtat harbour, where unusually we had to moor between two linked buoys, presumably to pack in more yachts. Dinner on board again watching spectacular thunderstorms, which continued for much of the next day too! Carnage on the crowded customs quay in the wind and rain deterred our leaving, but we managed a visit to the hilltop mausoleum and a meal ashore. I now realise that this thundery low was causing a strong Bora further north in the Adriatic.
Forewarned, on Wednesday 25th we dropped the buoy at 7am, but a Danish yacht had already moored sideways onto the short customs quay and we waited over an hour in light rain before backing up to it. Formalities were only completed after two visits each to the port police and harbourmaster, who nearly sent me to a fifth office to pay one day's tourist tax for Dominic! In fact I like Cavtat, but the tiny customs quay and the fact that the main harbour is open to the usual daily northwest wind and Tiha to the overnight northeasterly can try one's patience.
Finally released and outside the harbour, I initially headed southeast along the coast towards Montenegro, but yet another large thunderstorm ahead produced a southerly so we raised sail and headed offshore. It was forecast to clear and the northwesterly returned later thankfully. We broad reached south all night slowly crossing the Adriatic with very clear views of the Milky Way and the occasional company of small dolphins. During one light patch motorsailing, the fuel pipe from the tank was finally blocked by diesel bug. I had to rise from my bunk and detach the fuel line and hose in the engine bay and bring it up to the cockpit and into a gerry can of diesel.
By the following mid morning we were running past Brindisi entrance in a rising wind. We continued south in at least a F6 and up to 2mtr seas before negotiating the bumpy entrance to Otranto harbour. The mooring field is much more extensive than it was, so we joined two other yachts at anchor in the rather open northern roadstead for the night.
At 7am the wind increased further and swell was entering the harbour which really needs a northern breakwater. The windlass was essential for recovering the anchor. I toured the harbour and rejecting the crowded quay, relaid the anchor under the town walls between an unoccupied Wharram cat and the mooring buoys. And there we lay all day, with the conditions eventually making me lay the Fortress as well as the Rocna. I managed some maintenance including re-routing the fuel line, and Stella and Dominic explored the interesting old town pm, especially its cathedral with the floor mosaic "tree of life", and especially the chapel full of skulls of victims of a Turkish raid in the fifteenth century! In the evening we all got ashore for a good and last Italian meal on the beach and a final tour of the battlements with ice creams of course.
Conditions eased overnight and at 6.40am there were no longer seas breaking in the entrance. I roused Dominic and we slowly recovered both anchors, also having to disentangle an old fishermans anchor from one chain rode. I motored out of the still bumpy entrance and soon the waves started to lengthen and we broad reached under Genoa alone heading 100T. We reached the 40th parallel by 12.30 and closely avoided a couple of high freighters. Crossing the shelf north of Othoni, the seas heaped up a bit temporarily and we were speeding again with a few rolls in the genny. One peak passed under the rear cabin then broke over the back of the stbd float! Dominic was learning fast to steer a 5ton surfboard! By 4.15pm we were anchored off the beach at Erikoussa, where many Italian boats were waiting for the weather to improve before heading north. We had averaged 7kts (55nm in 8hrs) and Dominic saw 10kts on one surf! The water here was only 67F but Dom went swimming immediately.
In the calm morning most of our neighbours had already gone, with the fcst now down to VRB3 bec NW4. We had a very leisurely morning at anchor before motoring over a flat calm across the top of Corfu and down into the town harbour, which wasn't really suitable for yacht check in, so we anchored south of the Venetian castle and used the NAOK yacht club to get ashore for a good meal and to explore the old town in the greatly increased heat.
Dom left for the nearby airport on the Monday morning and we motored back to Gouvia, just anchoring outside the entrance to the lagoon. After dinghying into the marina we easily checked into Greece although the officer had no yacht forms and just annotated the crew list in Greek. We then ran gently down to Petriti for the night under genny alone, anchoring as usual inside the other yachts once the centreboard was raised.
Ashore in the morning to stretch our legs and have coffee with the noisy parrot in one of the bars. Heading south again there was absolutely no wind so we just pottered into Parga to conserve fuel. On the 1st August we did manage to sail down to the Levkas canal and Nidri, anchoring off Sioux Sails just through Vliho narrows. We soon found Sue Keane of IGR who'd spent four years building Aqua Blue with me in a previous life!!
In fact IGR ordered the new fuel tank I'd decided was now essential. We hired a car and visited Nikopolis for the first time even finding Octavian's monument to the battle of Actium, although the August heat was excessive for land tourism. Stella flew home on the 5th and I continued with maintenance and R&R in the continuing heatwave till AB was hauled at Ionian Marine ten days later. George the owner welcomed me back after 8yrs in the Adriatic.