08 September 2015 | Menorca
25 August 2015 | Argostoli, Kefalonia
15 September 2014 | Cabo St Lucas
14 August 2014 | Kotor Montenegro
04 August 2014 | Montenegro
31 July 2014 | Cavtat, Croatia
29 July 2014 | Prozura bay
26 July 2014 | Vis Island
17 July 2014 | Ilovik- Iz Island
10 July 2014 | Kosarine Bay, Murter Island
05 July 2014 | Luka Zlarin
29 June 2014 | Sotar Island
Sailing down the Spanish coast
25 September 2015
The 'Plastic Coast'!Over 14,000 Ha of Greenhouses!!
With good NE-E winds forecast for the next few days we set off from Cartagena just before dawn, further south down the coast to Port Garrucha en route to Almerimar our final destination for the season. The steep cliff faces along the coast are quite majestic, but what struck us more were the acres and acres of plastic sheeting that were obviously green houses. The further we travelled along the coast the more concentrated are these green houses. Apparently they supply a lot of Europe with vegetables.
This part of the coast is referred to as the Costa Blanco and then it becomes the Costa Sol. In places the rock faces along the coast line with the sun shining reflect a whitish colour, but one wonders if it hasn’t been named for all the white holiday apartment blocks that crowd the coastline all the way down to Almerimar. The information in the Pilot Guide tells that these resorts are popular all year round with Scandinavians and Germans. Some are tastefully built, with their domed roofs and Palm trees they look quite North African. However, many are not and remind us of all the ‘concrete box’ holiday apartments that have destroyed the look of the Turkish coastline.
With light winds we motor all the way to Port Garrucha. On our approach we look for the masts that will indicate the marina and how popular it is, and if there would be room for us for an overnight stay. Using the binoculars Bern finally spots one or two in the northern part. We carefully navigate the shallow entrance and as our calls on the radio are ignored we spot a guy waving us in and then realize he is the Marineiro! We need not have been concerned, the marina is almost empty. It is brand new and has the air of not being finished, and compared to the marina in Cartagena, it certainly lacks character. It is a working harbour and loads of Gypsum, which is mined nearby, are loaded onto ships and taken away. We are a little put off when we find that it is more expensive to stay here than back at lovely Cartagena, so we are glad it is just for the night. We are even more grateful that our stay is short when the local fishing boats return at night and come charging into the harbour at speed, sending a huge wash straight into the marina. As well, the marina is open to the S- SE so any bad weather from that direction can send in a swell. All obvious reasons why there is hardly anyone staying here!
After a quiet night we leave on dawn and head off on the last 60nm for the season to Puerto Almerimar. Bern’s plans to head across the Atlantic have been put on hold for the moment due to his health problems at the beginning of the season. So we have decided to winter the boat in a marina in Almerimar and consider our options for next season, while we are back home.
We enjoy another light sailing day and flat water!! With the strong currents in this area it takes a long time to get around Cabo Gato with its significant white piece of rock in the middle of the dark surrounds, and even longer to make progress towards Almerimar. We finally arrive at the marina early evening and after check-in are given what seems like a good safe berth for the winter. It is a popular place to winter boats and there is an active live aboard community here throughout the winter. The marina holds about 1000 boats and about 400 on the hard stand so is quite large. It is surrounded by restaurants and apartment blocks which seem mostly empty -someone’s vision not fulfilled. There is a great supermarket within walking distance so will be useful while we are here packing up and putting First Light III to bed.
Overnighter to Cartagena, Spain
17 September 2015
A view over Cartagena from the castle
With the weather swinging to the NE we decided it would be the right time to head west to Cartagena on the Spanish coast. It is a 150nm passage and we decided to up anchor late morning which would get us to our destination at a similar time the following day. However when we went to pull the anchor up, it was obvious it was stuck on something and was not coming up no matter what we tried on the surface. Bern would normally have dived on it to see what was going on, but with his recent ear problems diving was out of the question. The decision was made to contact a local dive company. They could dive on the anchor and free it at a staggering price (the cost of a new anchor!!!!) and not till early evening! So Bern thought of finding someone in the anchorage who might help us out for half the price of the Dive Company and still come ‘out on top’. He didn’t have to go far. An Italian guy on a cruiser next to us was happy to help us out. He tried a few things first using his dinghy which we knew wouldn’t work, but the subtleties get lost in translation, when you don’t speak the same language. We were thrilled when he put on his dive suit and tank and was prepared to have another go! Within a few minutes of his first dive he came up and told us to start hauling up the chain. Bingo! Up came the anchor. Judging from the diver’s sign language we think the chain was wrapped around a large rock. As further evidence the pointy end of the anchor is now a little warped, as if it has had a decent work over.
By late afternoon we finally headed out of Cala Talamanca Bay, Ibiza just five hours later than expected, but confident we would still make Cartagena by late the next day. As we motor sailed past Formantera Island the wind started to increase from astern, as did the seas which at times hit us beam on, as well as from behind. There wasn’t enough wind to carry the main in the confused seas without the boom slamming around, so on night fall the main was dropped and the jib poled out and we motored sailed with that configuration for most of the way. It was a fast downwind ride with large waves and a favourable current pushing us forward towards Catragena. By late morning the following day we spotted the coast of Spain and by mid afternoon approx 22 hours after we had left Ibiza, we had arrived at our destination and tied up in the marina at Yacht Port Cartagena. The cork on the customary bottle of champers to celebrate arriving at a new port and a new coastline was popped and went down extremely well. A good night’s sleep was had by all that night!
We thoroughly enjoyed the city of Carthagena. Someone has put a good deal of thought into the planning and lay out of the city. The generous marble walkways, plazas and architecture are extremely interesting and well maintained. While we were there it was Fiesta week celebrating the historical battles of the Punic Wars between the Romans and Carthagnians that occurred between 300-200BC. The re-enactments of the various battles takes place over ten days, so there were many people walking around day and night dressed up like Romans and their adversaries. Each night a different story of the battle was played out on a stage not far from the marina. Some nights there were fireworks to finish off the evening. As well, we enjoyed the various museums and particularly enjoyed visiting the air raid shelters built to shelter the locals during the Spanish Civil war during the late 1930’s. Cartagena was a ‘hotbed’ for the Republicans fighting against Franco and his army and thus a prime target for the bombings that took place. During our stay here we enjoyed great tapas 1.80 Euro for a lovely glass of wine and a dish of tasty and quite substantial serves of nibbles. The large natural port at Cartagena has been a naval base for hundreds of years and has been building naval vessels and submarines. Many of the hills around the city have the remains of fortifications. We had a memorable five days here and could easily have stayed longer.
Sailing the Balearic Islands
08 September 2015 | Menorca
Things that could go bump in the night - read on!
The Balearic islands consist of Menorca, Mallorca and Ibeza. Known as the home to the rich and famous and the infamous developer the late Christopher Skase who fled authorities in Australia in the late 80's.
After anchoring in Mahon on Menorca Is., we dinghied into town to have a look around. It was Sunday afternoon and there was hardly a soul to be seen. After visiting an information centre, we learned that a weekly ferry sailed to Mallorca from Mahon on Sunday. A quick decision was made that Di would catch this ferry so she could babysit Simon and Noelia's little boy Max (our third grandchild, that Di had not yet seen) while he had his nursery school orientation the following week.
Di spent a few days in Mallorca while Bern remained onboard doing maintenance. Di flew back to Menorca on Thursday and we prepared for an early departure the next morning for the 63nm sail to Mallorca. In the early hours of the morning Bern noticed a catamaran had anchored so close to us that we were in danger of hitting it. After getting the attention of the occupants of the yacht, Bern expressed his concerns only to be told, to put fenders out and just let your insurance Co. handle it!! Bern started the engine and backed back to demonstrate to the skipper that there was indeed a considerable overlap and we would definitely collide. Bern was then accused of having too much chain out (we actually had the minimum for the depth). Clearly we were dealing with someone whose arrogance was only exceeded by his lack of competence, he then proceeded to call me an a...hole, what do you do? He was not going to move. We once heard some good advice for situations like this. SO.... out came the camera and flash, flash, flash, we had evidence in case we had to deal with an insurance company. Surprisingly it worked; they got the message and finally moved.
Early next morning we departed the anchorage in pitch darkness and headed off to Mallorca. We actually had one of our best sails in the Med and managed to sail most of the way there. We decided to pull into Carla D'Or a small inlet on the east coast with a marina. There we were able to meet up with Simon, Noelia and Max before leaving for the 90nm sail to Ibeza. The wind had been blowing a strong SW before we departed and was forecast to moderate and swing to the NW. It's always risky heading out immediately after a blow as the seas are generally still up...and they were! We wanted to go SW so the wind was on the nose and remained there for most of the day, no NW. After bashing to windward for hour after hour, you understand why they say 'gentlemen don't sail to windward". Ladies also don't like sailing to windward, Di disappeared below early on with a seasickness tablet and assumed the foetal prayer position! Fortunately the conditions slowly moderated and 3 m waves went down to 2 m waves then to half metre by the early hours of the morning. We arrived in an anchorage on Ibiza still in the dark and picked our way through a lot of anchored yachts before finally dropping the anchor and crashing. We plan to spend a few days here waiting for another SW blow to pass, then sail to the mainland of Spain.
Stormy sail from Sardinia
02 September 2015
After enjoying a few days at Malfatona anchorage at the southern end of Sardinia, we set off before dawn bound for Menorca 245 nm away. It would be an overnight sail with the plan to get to Mahon on the east coast of Menorca late the following day.
As day broke we could see thunderstorms and lightening in the distance but thankfully it all passed around us and we only got some rain. Throughout the morning the wind came and went as did our sails. By mid afternoon we were back to motoring, and no wind. Up ahead storm clouds were brewing and we eventually passed under this very dark, rolling cloud that looked quite ominous. Within minutes the wind had picked up to over 30 knots and the seas were starting to build. Fortunately we had no sails to contend with and just motored into it. It wasn't long before we were looking out at 3-4 metre waves coming to us over the beam!! Certainly not Di's favourite sort of sailing. Within a few hours the wind died down but the sea state remained due to the strong winds north of us. Eventually we were able to carry our headsail and motor which steadied the motion of the boat. Throughout the night there were dark clouds all around us and in the early hours of the morning we were treated to a rather amazing electrical storm with forks of lightening shooting down to the water. We packed all our electronic gear into our metal case and Bern suggested we prepare to abandon the boat in the eventuality that we were struck by lightening. So we set out our wet weather gear and got the Grab bag ready. To our immense relief it passed around us and we were certainly happy to welcome daybreak. Throughout the next day we climbed huge waves up and over up and over with a few washing breaking over the decks just to add to the fun of it all. By late afternoon with about 15 nm to go we sighted land. We were lucky enough to find a very protected anchorage just inside the entrance to Mahon. The anchor was dropped, sails packed away before the cork was popped on a very welcome bottle of Italian Prosecco to toast our arrival in a new country.
25 August 2015 | Argostoli, Kefalonia
Our first Italian pizza-deliciosa!
After three summer seasons in Greece we feel we know it's cruising grounds very well. We are sad to leave this beautiful part of the world and all that if offers, but are looking forward to new horizons. As well,we will miss Moussaka, Greek salad and reasonably priced wines and enjoyable nights out dining at local tavernas!
Argostoli is the port where we can check out from Greece. We are heading for Sardinia in Italy and because both countries are in the EU it is not a requirement to have your passport stamped out. However, because of the Shengan agreement we are only allowed 90 days in a 180 day period in the EU. This makes the cruising season very short if you spend all that time in EU countries. Any days that can be saved while you are in transit are a bonus. So the local police in Argostoli are happy to stamp our passports and we set off on our 4 day passage to Sardinia. The weather is light and we motor sail a good part of the way. The highlight of the trip is our transit through the Messina Straits at 1 am where we mix it with large ships going north and south. The Messina Strait is a narrow passage of water between Sicily and mainland Italy. Fortunately there is a full moon, so plenty of light around but the lights from villages that line the shores make it hard to distinguish the lights of ships, against this well lit background. Once again we express our gratitude for having AIS, it makes navigating amongst other shipping so much easier. There are designated lanes for shipping going north and south but the waterway does narrow off considerably. To add to the confusion there are ferries crossing from east to west between the mainland and Sicily so we have our eyes peeled for port and starboard lights crossing in front of us! Approaching the Strait we are called up on VHF by Messina VTS traffic control. They have picked us up on AIS and are keen for us to identify ourselves, and ask for information about our last and next port of call, number of people onboard and how much fuel we have! The Italian accent is very strong and we have difficulty understanding what the Controller is asking but we think we gave him the right answers!!! We don't hear from him again so we guess we have done it all correctly! All was very orderly until we reach the narrowest point of the strait, a sharp corner just where the ferries cross the shipping lanes. We have a large ship going our way on our port side and a ferry crossing at 15knots ducks behind the ship and heads straight for us as we are passing the ferry terminal entrance. Instead of waiting half a minute for us to pass the entrance , the very assertive ferry charges straight for the entrance and us and flashes us with a powerful spotlight. We have to make an emergency U turn to avoid a collision. There is a great sense of relief as we exit out the other side and after turning left then we settle back down to our three hour watches. We have another two nights of sailing before we arrive in Sardinia. The weather is still light, blowing from the NE and not strong enough to support sailing alone, so we are still motor sailing. We are burning more fuel than we expected to, so a refill in Sardinia will be necessary. The days are still hot ,so we keep our awning up as much as we can to keep the boat cool. I guess we look like a Chinese junk with a large piece of sunbrel covering the boom and over the boat but at least we are cool! After a relatively easy passage we arrive in Cagliari, Sardinia early on Sunday morning following four nights at sea. We don't feel too bad considering we have shared three hourly watches for 4 days. We have both managed to get some sleep when off watch and this makes a big difference to how you feel overall. As there are no places to anchor in Cagliari, we check into a marina and continue the tradition of popping a bottle of champers to toast our arrival!
Delayed in Preveza
28 July 2015 | Preveza
Our plans to arrive in Preveza(Greece) and set sail within a week were seriously delayed due to Bern suffering a very painful ruptured eardrum a few hours after landing in Athens. A visit to a hospital that night confirmed barotrauma during the flight had caused the rupture and deafness. Then after our six hour bus trip from Athens to Preveza on the west coast with temperatures in the mid 30's the skipper was in a bad way. So instead of moving straight onto the boat on arrival, we checked into the apartments at the marina with a/c. Unfortunately the a/c's wasn't doing it's job so it was almost as hot inside as out!! Not a good start. Within 24 hrs the pain was worse and so it was off to the emergency section of the local hospital in Preveza which looked considerably dodgy and reminded us of Africa! Fortunately there was a very considerate Doctor on duty who spoke good English. He was an urologist so couldn't help us but suggested we call one of 5 ENT specialists in the town. Within an hour Bern was seen by a very capable ENT specialist at his clinic which was very well set up. The diagnosis was a serious infection in the middle ear, so strong antibiotics and painkillers were prescribed.
After 5 days in the apartments we moved onto First Light 3 and started getting her ready for launching. Bern was up early before the heat of the day set in, to anti foul. The Liferaft was serviced, new batteries installed. At this stage we still weren't confident we would be able to launch, not being sure of how the infection would respond to the medication. During the three weeks on the hardstand,with various forms of strong anti biotics and Cortisone, the infection did begin to clear up. So we decided to launch and spent another week in the area to ensure no further treatment was necessary. The rupture was slowly mending, but Bern was still quite deaf in the affected ear. It became apparent that being hearing impaired is not the ideal situation on a boat. The subtleties of engine noise/ malfunction, wind changes, sails flapping,being able to dive on the anchor to check whether its set or to clear the prop if it something gets caught up in it, all rely on acute hearing. So considering these health issues the feasibility of Bern's plans to cross the Atlantic in January became the subject of much ongoing discussion, usually over an early evening glass of wine. The decision oscillated from day to day! After four weeks we finally farewelled Preveza and headed down to Nidri on Leftkada Island. We spent a few days in this busy anchorage caught up with some friends,and then moved down to Agostoli on Kefalonia Island with the intention of checking out of Greece. Bern felt well enough to keep going and so our destination became Gibraltar! A definite decision about the Atlantic crossing still to be made!