Balearic Islands – Mallorca
30 July 2016
We finally pulled the anchor off the bottom of Fornells on Monday 18th July at 06:30, destination Mallorca. However plans can change and 12nm along the coast we spotted a nice Cala and decided to go in for a look. We had the anchor on the bottom again at 08:50 in Cala Algayarens, still in Menorca. The Cala was so good, crystal clear water, the anchor chain was visible in 9m, busy but not too busy, we ended up staying for 3 nights enjoying the swimming and Lynn her kayak. We counted 69 boats in the bay one morning, of which probably 50 were French flagged. Finally on Thursday morning 21st July we pulled the anchor off the bottom and motor sailed the 38nm to Mallorca.
We dropped the anchor outside the marina in Puerto de Alcudia, not the prettiest anchorage you have ever seen but it will do for a couple of nights despite the weedy bottom. It’s surprising how deceptive looks can be, whilst the anchorage, when facing the commercial port was not attractive, Alcudia Old Town was lovely. It is another walled town, where you can walk around part of the wall and look down into the old town. The local church was worth the visit, it had domed, brick ceilings with their central roses, stained glass windows and very ornate alters, whilst still having a simple look. The ruins of Pol-lentia, just outside the city walls and still an active archaeological site, date back to 123BC, the remains of several houses, a forum and amphitheatre are open to the public. Pol-lentia marked the beginning of urbanisation in Mallorca and because of its strategic position became the most important city in the Balearics during the Roman period. To get to the old town, we walked through the marina with the best chandlery Brian and Dick have seen so far, needless to say many items were purchased, around the water front which is full of resorts, bars, cafes, restaurants and tourist shops, and along the main road, past the Mercodona supermarket, the biggest and cheapest around. We stayed for 4 days, partly because of a small blow, and partly to allow time to explore.
Monday 25th July we refuelled at the marina fuel wharf then motor sailed down the east coast, dropping the anchor on a sandy bottom in Cala de Canamel. This was a nice stop, dolphins in the bay, although the jet skis harassed them a bit much for our liking, crystal clear water for swimming and although there were resorts on the beach we were far enough away not to be bothered by them. The highlight of the stay was the Caves de Arta, well worth the 14 euro entrance fee, they were spectacular. Opened in 1802, and home to the largest stalagmite in Europe at 22meters high, named The Queen, they were vast. The highest point was 45 metres, the lowest 40 metres deep, all the stalagmites and stalactites were large or even huge, only 20% of the caves were open to the public but it is believed the rest of the caves have been explored.
We left the following morning, anchored in Cala Magraner, a smaller Cala. Being smaller, the anchoring was interesting with many boats in the Cala, although several left early evening. But one guy, who was anchored behind us all day decided to move just before dusk and re-anchored too close to us, as we did not speak French and they had very little English, Brian invited him aboard to explain he had laid his anchor right next to ours and when the boats turned around in the night we would hit. He looked at the angle of our anchor chain and understood, and moved further out of the Cala. As predicted at midnight, with the swell increasing, 2 rafted boats disengaged and motored out of the bay. With the swell predicted to remain up for a few days, we left the following morning and picked up a mooring buoy in Porto Colom.
We turned the corner into Porto Colom and wondered what we had entered. There appeared to be hundreds of boats in the bay and to our surprise a good number anchored as all the cruising guides and charts had Porto Colom as no anchoring. The following day we picked up a rental car with Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony” and headed for the north/north west of Mallorca, an area we were not going with the boats. It was an easy drive on the road around Palma and soon we were heading into the mountain area. Our first stop was at the Torres des Verger watch tower, built in 1579 and apparently appears on many of the Mallorca tourist pictures. It was an interesting climb up a steep ladder to the top of the tower, but worth it for the view. The scenery along the coast and through the mountains was spectacular. The tower is about 1km from Banyalbufar where we stopped for morning tea. The area we were travelling through is known for its many hiking trails through the mountains and we saw many hikers in the small towns/villages as we drove. Deia was another small village we walked around, to accommodate modern traffic in the summer period there were temporary traffic lights making the road through the village into a one way system as it was not wide enough for two cars to pass. However this was a taste of things to come as we made our way toward Soller. As we passed through Biniaraix we had to breathe in to get the car through some of the streets, amazingly we made it, as they were very narrow, as gasps were heard from Lynn in the back seat. We stopped in Fornalutx for lunch and had a walk around the local church and streets before heading to Soller. One of the things we wanted to do in Soller was to get the tram to Port Soller. We finally managed to find a car park and immediately a tram turned up, we jumped on and paid our 6 euro each for the 10 minute ride to the port. Oh my god, there was not a spare inch of water without a boat, or grain of sand without a body on it, touristville to the max. We stayed for an ice cream then got back on the next tram back to Soller, only to be informed the driver was taken ill and it would be some time before a replacement driver would arrive. We decided to get a taxi back to Soller, cost 8 euro for the 4 of us. Back in Soller, we visited the train station for a bit of culture and viewed the Miro and Picasso ceramic exhibitions. From there we visited St Bartholomew’s cathedral, an amazing structure, although we have seen so many cathedrals and churches they are all melting into one. This cathedral first had a primitive church on the site in 1236 but the latest is Baroque style from 1688-1733. It was then time to head back to the car and return to Porto Colom, dinner ashore and then back to the boats after a very enjoyable and long day.
We plan to leave Porto Colom tomorrow, Sunday 31st July and head for the south coast of Mallorca, making our way towards Palma.
The Balearics - Menorca
17 July 2016
Photo: Cala Taulera
The 196nm overnight trip to Menorca took us 30 hours from 06:00 Wednesday 29th June till midday Thursday 30th June. The trip was largely uneventful, we did have one squall with 30 + knots of wind just on dark, we double reefed the main for a short while, then went back to one reef for the remainder of the night. We also had a really good few hours under gennaker, in total we sailed for 13 hours and motored or motor sailed for 17hrs. Unfortunately for Wind Pony, a catamaran, they ran over a very large tarpaulin in the early hours of the morning, which meant they quickly stopped one of their engines and they dare not start the other engine in-case there was also something wrapped around that. They waited till daylight to enable them to see what it was and managed to clear 75% of it, start the starboard engine and arrived at the anchorage several hours behind us. Once in the anchorage, they could get into the water and clear the remainder of the tarpaulin.
Menorca is the least populated of the Balearics and also has less tourists. It has a strong British influence due to being occupied by the British in the past. We anchored in Cala Taulera, Mahon Harbour. We had heard that the local authorities restrict anchoring here unless the town marinas are full, and then for a maximum of 3 nights, but the enforcement was a bit erratic. We ended up staying 5 nights and did not see any officials, although we did pass one in the channel as we headed into town the first day. The anchorage is almost landlocked and very peaceful, even at the beginning of July, although busy with plenty of boats for a smallish anchorage. It is known locally as Cowards Bay, as many locals only take their boats this far when they leave the dock, never venturing out of the harbour entrance. We took the dinghy into town to sort out internet and phones, our usual first port of call for a new country and had a look around the town. Lynn and Melinda bought several pairs of the local shoes known as Avaracas, a sandal made of soft leather. In some shops they display only the top of the sandal, you select the sole and heel you want, they then attach it as you wait before selling the sandal.
The following day we took the dinghy ashore with Lynn, Dick, Melinda and Dave to visit the large fort overlooking the harbour, Fort Isabel II or sometimes referred to as Fort La Mola. The entrance fee was 8 euros each, although we did pay extra for a guided tour which took 4 hours. The fort is impressive, especially the long underground galleries and Vickers gun with a 17.6m gun barrel. We were lucky to have a tour of the inside workings of the gun emplacement, not a job any of us would have wanted especially Dick who is over 6 feet tall. The fort was built from 1848 – 75 and was obsolete before it was completed, only used for training and during the Spanish civil war. It sits on the headland and entrance to the natural harbour, which is narrow but very long.
We left the anchorage on Tuesday 5th July, after helping Dick and Lynn celebrate 4th July with a BBQ, to explore the Cala’s or bays on the north coast of Menorca. There are many Cala’s along the coastline of the Balearics which to explore, some are accessible to yachts, others narrow and can only accommodate a couple of boats others we hope to anchor in. We will have to be mindful of the Tramontana wind that blows down from France as we make our way across the island, but after the Meltimi winds of Greece, the Bora of the Adriatic and Sirocco coming off North Africa and the Maestrale of Italy, we are used to it now. We anchored in the bay behind Isla Colom for lunch, ran the watermaker and did some laundry before heading off to Puerto de Cala Addaya, dropping the anchor at 15:00. This is a totally landlocked lagoon accessed via a long channel, interesting. We anchored between the small marina and the mooring buoys, plenty of room. There is not much in Addaya, the marina staff are very friendly and helpful, we could use their laundry and showers, there is a reasonable supermarket just up the hill and a restaurant/café at the marina. We enjoyed several relaxing days in the bay.
Friday 8th July we left Addaya and stopped at Cala Pudenta for lunch, then motored around to Puerto de Fornells. The entrance to the harbour was quite dramatic with sheer cliff faces, not overly high but photos would not do them justice. Fornells is more of a tourist town than Addaya and therefore there was more activity in terms of cafes, bars, restaurants, hostels, kayaks, windsurfers, paddleboards and a very active yacht club which had laser and other dinghy racing on a regular basis. The specialty cuisine in Fornells is lobster, which given the craggy cliffs surrounding the harbour is not a surprise. However as in most places in the world, the price of the local lobster stew in the restaurants is not cheap. We walked the town noting how clean the cobbled paths were, most of the town is pedestrian only, and decided the town was bland, needing more colour in the form of flowers or plants. The Watch Tower guarding the harbour entrance was a short walk up the hill at the end of the town, which did not take us long to visit.
We were watching a potential Tramontana developing later in the week, and reckoned the anchorages in Ciudadela were not the ideal place to be, which meant staying put for a week in Fornells. Given the forecast, we decided to hire a car and drive to Ciudadela and around some of Menorca with Dick and Lynn. After dinner in town on Sunday, Brian and Dick had the local specialty of lobster stew, we picked up the hire car on Monday morning at 09:00. The interior of Menorca has mile upon mile of dry stone walls of varying heights, which we saw later in the day as we drove south towards the Cala’s, checking them out as possible anchorages. Ciudadela was the old capital of Menorca for centuries until the British moved the capital to Mahon in 1722. Ciudadela is a very narrow harbour with an old, pedestrian, walled centre. There was the usual old church, convent and cloisters to visit and a walk around the shops. We had lunch on the waterfront and then walked to the head of the harbour to look at the only anchorage, just by the ferry terminal. It was small, snug and open to the north and would be ok if there was not a Tramontana forecasted. On Tuesday morning, the guy who manages the moorings in Fornells came around all the boats on anchor warning them of the high winds due for the next two nights and asking the skippers to make sure they had plenty of anchor chain down. Luckily Fornells is a large bay with plenty of room and low hills so there should be little wind acceleration. The guy who owns the chandlery and who has been very helpful to us with hire car and restaurant recommendations, reckons we are anchored in the best place, nothing like local knowledge, we will get wind waves but not as bad as in other parts of the harbour or other anchorages on this coast. The Tramontana arrived Wednesday and gave us 2 nights of disturbed sleep, the highest wind reading we had was 41 knots, however we were safe and there were no issues. We enjoyed watching the local sailing club in their Lasers, RS skiffs, windsurfers etc having a lot of fun in the high winds, even the younger kids were flying spinnakers, we did not enjoy the coating of sand and salt which is all over the Dol.
By Saturday 16th July the winds had gone and we had a good walk around town. As we were having drinks on Wind Pony late afternoon we spotted a sunfish cruising along the side of the boat, this was the first sunfish we have seen in the Mediterranean. At 19:30 we were ashore again to watch the procession from the church to the harbour of the Virgin Mary statue for the Blessing of the Fleet, as it was preceded by a band, loaded onto a fishing boat and with a procession of local boats went out to the harbour entrance. There were lots of locals and tourists alike watching from every vantage point, creating a festive atmosphere.
We have enjoyed our time in Menorca, but it is now time to move on to Mallorca, where we are expecting more crowded anchorages and an increase in the number of tourists.
28 June 2016
Photo: Northern coast Isola di San Pietro
Our first night in Sardinia, anchored in Porto Giunco, was a very rolly night with a South Easterly roll coming into the bay so much so that Gail slept or dozed in the cockpit and Brian did the same in the saloon. The following morning we upped anchor and headed 4nm north to Cala Pira, anchoring in 5m on a sandy bottom. There was still a swell coming into the bay but the forecast had the wind turning north later in the morning which sorted the swell out. We spent a pleasant 3 days at Cala Pira going for walks ashore and sitting out a Mistral blow with winds up to 40 knots. Finally we upped anchor and motored around to anchor outside the marina at Villasimius, where we provisioned before motor sailing 46nm to anchor at Teredda, Porto Malfantano.
We anchored in the middle of three bays the first night, however it turned out to again be very rolly, so the next morning we moved to the western bay, much better. We stayed there for a week, taking walks ashore, having lunch at the beach restaurant, afternoon card games, drinks and met Americans Laura and Mark, Sabbatical III and Australians Melinda and Dave, Sassoon. On Thursday 23rd June we left at 06:00 and motored to Marine Sifredi, Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro. They don’t refer to this as the Motoranean for nothing. On our way to Carloforte, we again saw numerous old lookout towers on the cliff tops and hillsides. We guess the strategic position of Sardinia made it a target in the olden days as a staging post for North Africa. We plan to use the marina to restock, refuel and wait for a weather window for the overnight passage to the Balearic Islands. The Mistral or strong winds tend to come off the coast of southern France, through the Bay de Leon and pass between Sardinia and the Balearics, so we want a time when there are none in the forecast.
We managed to get the loan of a car for an afternoon and tour the island. Isola di San Pietro is not very big and its main industry apart from tourism is tuna fishing. Most restaurants in town have many tuna dishes on the menu. The northern shores are rugged and quiet beautiful in their isolation, and it is in this area the island has large tuna pens and in the past a large tuna canning factory.
The town of Carloforte is rather small but has a lovely community feel to it, with pastel painted houses with iron balconies and a lovely tree lined Main Street in front of the harbour. Tourism is not extensive here with smaller numbers doing day trips across from Sardinia. The locals are very friendly and provisioning was comparatively easy due to the close proximity of everything. The area is also home to a now discontinued industry in Salt production using the traditional salt lake approach and the naturally occurring bountiful supply of sunshine to evaporate the water leaving the salt deposits. The industry apparently thrived here in the 19th century but has been abandoned. The lakes are still visible with their lower walls and ancient rusting harvesting machinery. We went for a walk around the lakes now occupied by large numbers of different aquatic birds, including flamingos, herons and egrets.
A weather window has finally opened for us and we leave for the 191nm sail (hopefully) to the Balearic Islands tomorrow with Wind Pony and Sassoon.
Sicily and Aeolian Islands.
23 June 2016
Photo: Messina Strait swordfish boat
We stayed in Siracusa for a week, enjoying the time on the anchor after too long in various marinas. We met up with Madie and Tony “Ripple Effect” who arrived the following day and Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony” who arrived 2 days later resulting in dinners ashore, drinks and nibbles each afternoon. Very social and pleasant. Having visited Siracusa last year on our way to Licata, we soon found the wonderful fruit, vegetable and fish market along with the Vodaphone shop, all essentials when cruising. The main difference between this stay and the last one was the super yachts in the bay, there were several over 160m long complete with helicopters on the back deck. Whilst sitting on anchor, Gail spent several days upgrading the firmware on the Iridium phone in an attempt to try the option of sending weather requests to Predict Wind offshore. This is still work in progress. Brian spent a couple of days assisting Dick get his watermaker working.
Friday we motor sailed 41nm, picking up a mooring buoy at Taormina Roads. The trip was uneventful, we saw an oil rig getting towed by an 85m tug and almost sailed right over a very large turtle, which was either sleeping or sick as he never attempted to dive below the surface as we went very close to him. The mooring buoys at Taormina Roads are run by George, a very friendly Maltese guy who speaks English and will run you ashore and also organise trips to Etna. We did not take him up on the offer as a weather window had opened for the Aeolian Islands so we would be moving on early the next day. To visit the Aeolians it appears you need very settled, calm weather which was predicted for the next week, so we were going to take it.
Early, Saturday 4th June, we dropped the lines to the mooring buoy and headed off toward the Strait of Messina. This is the narrow channel which separates Sicily from mainland Italy. Messina Strait has high hills on the Sicily side, with the wide entrance to the south and the narrow exit into the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north. This dictates the strong current flow and katabatic winds we encountered as we travelled north, luckily we had timed it almost right and had the current with us for most of the way, only losing it for the last hour. As we entered what is known as the Messina Traffic Control area, we radioed the control tower on the VHF and told them who we were and are intention to go north up the east coast of Sicily, keeping out of the control lanes, which are used by shipping and large pleasure craft. As we motored along we commented on the large number of viaducts carrying cars and trains along the hilly terrain, and through the hillside towns, very picturesque. The Strait of Messina is also known for its swordfish and swordfish boats, we were lucky enough to see both. The swordfish boats have high towers with men “spotting” the fish from the nest at the top, they also have extremely long bow sprits which we assumed meant they speared or harpooned the fish.
Once through the Strait, we motored the rest of the way to Vulcano Island, anchoring in Porto di Ponente. We almost ran over another very large turtle and decided they are lazy here, as once again he made no attempt to dive or get out of our way, and he just looked at us.
The Aeolian Islands are volcanic, Vulcano Island is the most southern and has a couple of inactive craters and one active crater (1888/90). The most active in The Aeolian’s is Stromboli Island, however we do not plan on visiting it, anchoring is limited and maybe the best way to see it will be via a tour boat. Vulcano Island also had mud pools where people coat themselves in mud, which is apparently good for your skin, then wash off in the sea. Some parts of the town have a sulphur smell, similar to Rotorua in the North Island of NZ. As expected being a volcanic island the beaches are all black sand, which are busy during the day with the many day trippers, but in the evenings are very peaceful. Our guess is that in the peak of the season, this is a very busy and popular place. One of the main attractions is the walk up Gran Cratere, which has great views over the Aeolian Islands from the top. We walked up to the crater rim on a morning that was overcast and therefore cool, it is relatively easy with good views into the smoking crater once at the top. The town, although touristy, has good, small supermarkets, butchers and vegetable markets. It also has the advantage of a second anchorage “round the other side”, (Porto di Levante) approx. a mile away, which offers protection if the wind turns and comes from the west. Friends who anchored there said it did get very rolly due to the ferries.
On Monday, we took advantage of the light wind conditions and motored across to Lipari Island to refuel and anchor in a lovely sandy bay to run the water maker and refill our water tanks. That evening back in Porto di Ponente, we went ashore for dinner at a lovely restaurant. Brian had a chicken and prawn curry that was served on a wonderful ceramic plate. We joked with the waitress, Georgia, that he had also purchased the plate when paying for his meal. Georgia told us the plate was one of a set of four which depicted the seasons, Brian’s plate we decided was Spring. Back at the boats the following day, we bought fish from the local fishermen, who come around the anchorage selling their catch. The fish are already scaled and gutted, so all we had to do was cook it. Wonderful, wrapped in foil with lemon and cooked on the barbeque.
Thursday 9th June we left the anchorage for Isola Filicudi, 18nm away, as the weather is looking good for our crossing to Sardinia at the weekend. It was a motor in glassy seas, but we did see some dolphins, the first of the season and picked up a mooring buoy, the bay has a boulder bottom. We were joined later by Wind Pony and Ripple Effect, and decided to go ashore for a walk. A charter boat had told us of a Bronze Age archaeological site at the far end of the harbour, so we set off in search of it. It did not take us long to find the path, there were several large groups setting off for the site. We walked up the hill and had a look at the remains of a 1700BC Bronze Age village. It was then down for a drink at the local café, followed by drinks and nibbles on Ripple Effect, as this would be the last we will see of them this season.
The following morning at 05:00 we dropped the mooring lines and motored out of the bay, heading for Sardinia. It was 235 nm, an overnight trip, motoring all the way for 36 hours as there was very little wind. We had initially planned to stop at Isola di Ustica 66nm away, and sail the next day and night to Sardinia, but looking at the weather, we decided if we did not do the trip in one hit, we could get stuck in Ustica for a week due to a weather front due early the following week. The trip was uneventful, lumpy seas due to sea mounds and underwater volcanos, turtles and lots of dolphins. We finally dropped anchor at 16:15 Saturday 11th June in Porto Giunco, Sardinia.
27 May 2016
We were outside Licata Marina Cala Del Sole at 06:00, Friday 13th May, yes we left port on a Friday 13th! Although we enjoyed our stay in Licata, towards the end the marina was ruled by a couple of packs of stray dogs which made it slightly un-nervy at times as they barked, fought and occasionally went for peoples ankles.
With Wind Pony we had a wonderful, beam reach sail in 12-18 knots 66nms to Mgarr Marina, Gozo, Malta, dodging the shipping, the largest of which was 335m long and 46m wide. Dick and Lynn were visited by dolphins but we were not so lucky, maybe next time. Once we were all settled, showered and had time for drinks, we headed off to the local town for dinner. Talking to people on the dock they had recommended several places, many of which seemed to serve seafood. We ate at Sammy’s, a family run restaurant with wonderful food.
Saturday we headed off to find the bus into Victoria with Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony”, the main town on Gozo. The taxi drivers at the ferry wharf were quite aggressive with their fare rates and we ended up taking a taxi into town. Once there, Tony the taxi driver said he would take us on a tour of Gozo Island for the day for 20 euros each. We did not know if this was a good price but as Saturday was the only day we had to see the island we agreed, so off we went. Our first stop was at a cultural craft market selling lace, glass and other local crafts, then it was onto the main shopping mall so we could organise phones, we also visited the Waitrose supermarket to pick up a few supplies. Back in the taxi we headed off to Ta Pinu cathedral, where Pope John Paul II had held mass ten years previously. It was a beautifully restored cathedral built 100 yrs. ago but incorporating a 400yr old church. Next it was Gharb, again with a large church dominating the town square, but we visited a Farmhouse museum with 28 rooms full of old printing press, washing machine and much more. Next stop was Dwjera, the Blue Hole where unfortunately the sea was too rough for the tour boats to go through the caves to the arch and Fungi rock, named for the medicinal fungi that grows there. Lunch, then a final stop at Xerri’s grotto, stopping to see the salt plains on the way, a limestone grotto accessed through what looked to be an old house. It was then back to the boats. All day as we drove, Tony filled us in on the history and culture of the island.
Malta consists of two main islands, Malta and Gozo and two smaller islands, Comino and Filfla. It has a total area of 122 miles and is situated between North Africa and Europe, thus it has been used by warring factions as a stepping stone or base for attacks in history. There have been two major sieges, one during the Order of the Knights of St John 1565, this may explain all the churches and cathedrals to be found everywhere, and one in the second world war, 1941/2, by the Germans and Italians, where the capital, Valletta, was bombed continually. Most of Valletta has been rebuilt and is a bustling area where the old integrates with the new. It has major traffic issues, but local transport is easy and very affordable, a 1.50Euro fare is valid for 2hrs from purchase. We used these frequently. The islands are arid and as a cruising ground there are not many anchoring options. Talking with the locals and marine guys, the winds do not settle until late June and change around the compass regularly and as there are no all-weather anchorages, most boaties go across to Sicily for their cruising. However, Malta has a great marine industry and it is easy to get good quality work done here. The people are very friendly and helpful, it is easy to see why the super yachts come here.
Sunday we said goodbye to Wind Pony, who were staying a few more days and sailed under headsail only the 13.6nm to Kalkara Marina, where we will get our new radar dome and chart plotter installed. Having destroyed the boat to run wires etc., the radar and chart plotter were installed and operational in a day, including modifying the bracket used for the old radar, we just have to learn to drive it now. The outboard motor from the dinghy went off for a service, along with the life raft, epirb and fire extinguisher.
We walked around to Grand Harbour to look at the super yachts and have dinner, just 15 mins from Kalkara. On Wednesday night we watched the final of the Europa League Cup where unfortunately Liverpool lost, but we only needed to walk 30meters to see it on a big screen. The following day, Thursday 19th May 2016, we motored around into Manoel Island Yacht Yard for our survey and caught up with Wind Pony again. The survey took almost 4.5 hours, John the surveyor did all the inside checks first and then we were hauled out at 17:30 and he did the underwater checks. We remained in the travel lift slings for the night and were allowed to stay on board, saving us the cost of a hotel room for the night. Whilst Dol was being washed down, we watched a racehorse swimming in the harbour, training they seem to do in Malta even though the harbours are busy. The survey went well and Dol was given a clean bill of health, so we headed off to meet Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony” for dinner, a wonderful Lebanese meal of cold and warm mezzies. An early start the next day, 05:30, and we were back in the water, collected our life raft and other safety gear and motored around to Msida Creek marina, where we hope our new steering ram will be fitted. Sitting in the cockpit of Dol, we heard “Hello fellow Aucklanders” and turned around to be greeted by Maddie and Tony off “Ripple Effect” who were moored two along from us. Introductions made, we agreed to get together for drinks the following day. Saturday evening we had a very pleasant evening with them over drinks and nibbles.
We were informed the steering ram would not arrive till Monday, so we decided to provision the boat and with Lynn and Dick, played tourist on Sunday using the Hop on Hop off bus to see the sights of southern Malta. We finished in Valletta for the firing of the 16:00 cannon at the Saluting Battery.
Finally late on Monday afternoon the steering ram was cleared by Maltese customs and in the hands of Ronnie, the engineer. He arrived at the boat Tuesday morning and with Brian acting as his apprentice set about installing the ram. As we guessed, the new ram was not exactly the same dimensions as the old one and required some modifications to the mounting bracket, and connecting hoses as the new ends were a different size. The work on the ram was finally completed on Wednesday morning, we will keep the old steering ram as a spare.
We left Malta at first light on Thursday 26th May and motor sailed all the way to Siracusa, Sicily, finally getting the anchor on the sea floor after a month in various marina’s. We enjoyed Malta and achieved all that we intended, including Brian finding a shop that sold Mount Gay rum. All our safety gear has been serviced, a complete vessel survey has been undertaken in preparation of some longer passages to come, the new chart plotter and radar are working well along with our new hydraulic steering ram. Malta is certainly a place where you can get good work done without a language barrier.
Return to Licata, Sicily, April 2016
12 May 2016
Photo: Virtue ferry to Malta
We left Auckland 20:20 on April 28th 2016. We were able to check our hold luggage all the way through to Catania, Sicily which meant we would not have to retrieve it and clear customs in Rome. As we were making our way to the departure gate at Auckland International Airport, Brian was called to see the service desk and we were escorted to the secure baggage, where two items were removed from Brian’s hold luggage, deemed dangerous goods. The remainder of the flights were uneventful and after stopovers in Dubai and Rome, we arrived in Catania just before 5pm on Friday 29th April. We decided to stay at the airport hotel and get the bus to Licata the following morning.
Arriving back at the boat at lunchtime Saturday, all looked good. The boat was covered in Saharan sand, but that washed off easily the following morning. As we were slowly unpacking and checking everything, Brian exclaimed, “We have a major problem”. The hydraulic steering ram had lost all its pressure and fluid, meaning we had no means of steering the boat. Enquiries at the marina were not promising, the earliest a replacement could be received was late July, eeks! However a phone call to Malta, our next port of call and where we are getting a new radar dome and chart plotter installed (we bought them with us from home), identified Ronnie who could service the ram and get us a new one in 7-10 days. The following day, Thursday, after a two hour taxi ride to Pozzallo from Licata, we boarded the fast Virtue ferry to Valletta, Malta at 09:15, arriving at 11:00. Ronnie met us and drove us to the waterfront at Manoel Island, took the ram and we found a hotel for a couple of nights. Ronnie showed us the service kits for the ram which was encouraging as the age of our ram has seen it superseded twice, meaning the service kits are not easily found. We spent the rest of the day visiting the boatyards and marinas we are to visit and stay in when we return with the Dol. That evening we went to the local pub, joined a group of scousers and watched Liverpool defeat Villarreal 3-0 in the Europa League semi-final, now to find a place to watch the final. Ronnie had the ram fixed by the following morning, we ordered a new ram, and returned to Sicily on the 05:00 ferry Saturday morning. It was so much easier to get things done in Malta were English, although not the first language is spoken by everyone.
Back in Licata, Brian fitted and bled the ram and all looks good, hopefully it will get us to Malta and the new one will arrive in time to be fitted. We spent the rest of the week completing jobs and projects and went to the local café bar to help Bob off Bijou celebrate his birthday. That night we had rain from the south bringing with it the inevitable Saharan sand, requiring the boat to be washed down again. This is one thing we will not miss when we leave the Med.
Thursday 12th April we cleared out of Italy, planning to sail to Gozo, Malta at first light on Friday. Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony” have returned from the States and will be travelling to Malta with us.
Let the cruising season begin.