Update 66 Malta to Spain
12 November 2012
We left Malta and travelled overnight to Scracusa again. I say travelled because once again we motored all the way. Sailing in the Med is hard – there is usually too much or too little wind and when the right amount of wind is there it changes direction just when you start to enjoy the sailing and the sea will whip up making it uncomfortable. Oh for the ocean passages when the wind comes from one direction for days on end and you have a long comfortable swell!
We stayed a few days doing a little exploring of the streets and enjoying the wonderful Sicilian foods then headed north up the east coast of Sicily The scenery was stunning. As we passed Mount Etna we could see smoke coming out of the top and kept our fingers crossed she would not decide to erupt before we got by.
The plan was to go between Sicily and Italy through the Straits of Messina. This strait has a fierce reputation so we stopped at Taormina for the night so we could get our timing right the next day for the tide. In ancient time it was said if Scilla, the monster with 6 heads on Sicily didn’t get you Charybolis, the giant whirlpool, on Italy would. We were lucky and didn’t see any monsters or whirlpool but could see that with the tide rips, in the wrong weather, it could get very nasty. Once through we headed west for Vulcano,one of several small islands found on the north coast of Sicily. Vulcano surprised us. It was full of tourists who come there to ‘enjoy’ the sulphur mud baths. The volcano is not active but does produce lots of smelly sulphur and heat up the mud pools. People would rub the mud all over them, sit in the sun to dry it and then go in the sea to wash it off. And they paid for the privilege to do it. Must be mad!
After 4 days we had had enough of the smell and the effect the sulphur was having on the steel work on the boat and headed for Sardinia. We finally saw our first Swordfish boat. These have evolved over the years so the captain can see the swordfish sleeping on the surface. They have a tower mast about 10 metres high where the captain sits and steers from and a bowsprit that is longer than the boat. The one we saw must have had a bowsprit of 15 metres (see the photo). They creep up on the swordfish and harpoon them from the bowsprit. The weirdest boat I have ever seen.
The trip to Sardinia took 2 days and once again the Med threw everything at us. We had winds from 0 to 35 knots, going from Northeast to Northwest via the south and seas that was like a lake to so confused we really had to hang on. We were glad to get there.
We stayed a week and what we saw, we really enjoyed and would have loved to stay longer but it was starting to get hot and it was the end of June and we had a flight booked for 25th July to go home for my niece’s wedding. This is where we had more diesel problems. We broke a cardinal rule and went to a marina fuel dock as it was convenient. After filling our jerry cans Clive tried to filter 40 litres into the tank. The filter was slow so after looking at the fuel in the cans (it looked clean) took the filter away and put it straight into the tank. 7 hours later the engine stopped and when we took the filters off they were full of diesel bug. This was a different problem as mentioned in the previous blog. This was a real problem as the fuel, in the cans, were like soup. We spent all day trying to filter out the bug in the 60 litres in the cans. Not a pleasant job. The bug grows in contaminated fuel which is why we always use a biocide and filter our fuel before it goes into the tank except at the last fill!. We have been to so many 3rd world countries and have had no problems with fuel. We come into Med and now we have had 3 problems in 3 years. Luckily we had bought more filters in Malta and Cagliari
so we hoped we would have enough to get us to Valencia. But first we wanted to call at Menorca and Mallorca. Once again the Med gave us all kinds of wind but we were able to sail well over half way just as well as the engine stopped twice and we had to change the filters. Once in Mahon we had to filter all the fuel as it had turned to soup once again.. This was becoming a real pain. One happy note was ‘Orca Joss’ our Kiwi friends that we had said our final farewell 3 time already was anchored. We had a great reunion party. A few days of sorting out a Spanish phone and internet and we said our final farewell again to OJ and moved north to Fornells where we met up with a boat called Rampage who we knew from our winter in Messalonghi. And guess who turned up a few days later – OJ. I think they just like saying goodbye to us so we can have a reunion party. We also said our final farewell as they were off across the Atlantic (or so we thought) and we were going back to the UK for 2 months. What we saw of Menorca we liked, it was not as busy as we expected and the anchorages were good. Mallorca was different. That was commercialised and the anchorages were all rolly. We were pleased to leave there and get to Valencia (engine only stopped once on the way).
The marina Real Juan Carlos 1 is the one where the Grand Prix drives through and where the America’s Cup was held in 2007. The price was right at €15 /night with 20% discount for 2 months. They only have a 3 week high season and that is when the Grand Prix is on and that costs an arm and a leg to stay there then. In other marinas in the Med for July and August it is anything between €40 and €100 a night for us and we are a small boat. Valencia is a fabulous city. Getting around is easy on the metro and they have cycle tracks everywhere, which we made great use of. The metro also took us into the airport making it one of the easiest airports to get to that we have used (and we have used a few over the last 14 years).
To finish the saga of the fuel, we filtered what we had left, topping up with clean new diesel and added fresh biocide and also some petrol. Our worry was leaving the boat for 2 months if we failed to kill the bug. I am glad to say it worked as since we came back we have had no more problems.
I’ll stop here and bring you up to date shortly