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Namani at Sea
The travels of Nana, Markus and Nick aboard Namani
From Malta to Tunisia and Menorca
21-Sep-2007, Mahon, Menorca

From Malta it was a two day trip west to Tunisia. After one day, we passed the island of Pantelleria, sadly without stopping. It is amazing that even with a year off to sail, we still can feel rushed sometimes; right now, the clock is ticking as we look west to reaching Gibraltar on schedule to cross the Atlantic. Pantelleria is green and lush, more like a South Pacific island than the dry, barren islands we have seen so far. I will add it to my list of "somedays"!

After one brief visit by dolphins, we arrived at the Tunisian port of Bizerte where we stayed for five days. We could feel that it is now September as the yacht harbor has plenty of space and the evenings are a little cooler. Bizerte is a Jekyll and Hyde town with a modern section (with several excellent, French-style patisseries) and an old town (Medina) that is right out of an Ali Baba story. The Medina's high fortifying walls have only one entrance, leading you to a car-free enclave of narrow, winding streets marked by overhead archways and dotted with playing children. The old port is full of colorful fishing boats and only one shop selling postcards, reflecting the overall lack of tourists - great!

In Bizerte, a 40 foot boat pulled in next to us in the marina and we were delighted to see that they had a young boy aboard. Sarah and Sven from the US are sailing with their sons Dante (2) and Amery (5 months) aboard Arearea. We spent a fun afternoon on the beach together and Nicky loved being the big kid to little Dante, showing him the best way (Nicky's opinion) to dig sand, etc. They are also heading west so we decided to sail in company from Tunisia.

It was difficult to decide what to do as we were all eager to reach Menorca, a distance of 300 miles. However, the long term weather forecast called for a strong Mistral building which could send a Force 9-10 storm right into our path. We could make it to Menorca before the storm if we made good time, but only just. We decided to start the trip and after 60 miles decide whether to continue or whether to turn off to Sardinia. After one day at sea, we were indeed making good progress so we radioed each other and agreed to continue to Menorca. For us it was a trip of 2 half days, 2 full days, and 2 nights, during which time we once again failed miserably to catch any fish. We had a long, beautiful stretch during which we were sailing fast over perfectly smooth seas, a rare combination. The last night was a bit stressful as the forecast storm moved forward and again it was a race to reach port. Massive lightning storms lit up the sky but missed us by a few miles, so we pulled into Mahon on Menorca without any trouble.

Sven and Sarah had already made it in the night before and we quickly found them. Nicky and Dante were soon playing on Arearea and talking about finding another beach. Meanwhile, clouds and high winds passed practically unnoticed over us in this well protected harbor. It is a great relief to arrive here and be well on schedule with time to rest (a full night's sleep on a boat that didn't move - such a treat!), look around, and (once again) fix things before having to study the next weather forecast. It was great to make the passage with Sven and Sarah in earshot and to have a playmate for Nicky, so we plan to stay together for the next week or so. Hola, Menorca!

01 - Mediterranean
Cold in Africa
13-Sep-2007, Bizerte/Tunesia

We arrived in Bizerte/Tunesia on Tuesday 11SEP after an uneventful 2-day passage from Malta. Ironically, we had to come to North-Africa to feel cool again (still at 25°C though...). We will likely stay here another day and then take off for Menorca (possibly with a stopover on Sardinia, depending on the wind) as soon as the weather is favourable. Yesterday an American boat with two small children (2-years and 6-months) tied up next to us so we can start a temporary little play group. Next update probably from Menorca - stay tuned...

01 - Mediterranean
In Malta
08-Sep-2007, Grand Harbour, Malta

Well, we had originally planned on 6 days in Malta and it will end up being a little more than two weeks! But we have really enjoyed our time here and gotten important work done. The big project was getting the mast taken down at Kalkara Boat Yard, an excellent family business run by four brothers, their sister, and a hoard of nephews and nieces (meanwhile their father was off enjoying his retirement on his own boat in Sicily for a few weeks). They lifted the mast off on a Monday and set to work riveting a storm sail track on the mast (for the very rough conditions we hope never to see) as well as steps so that we can more easily climb the mast (so far it has been winching up). After overtime on Monday and a push on Tuesday morning, they re-stepped the mast on Namani that afternoon and we are once again a sailboat - and a better equipped one, too.

It was a great experience being tied up to the quay in front of the boat yard in Kalkara, a small and historic neighborhood. In the evening many people come out to enjoy the cooler temperatures, fishing or just gathering by the water with friends and family. We got to know one group to the point that they were bringing Nicky gifts and telling us about the area. We had our favorite bakery and playground in Kalkara, and even Tony the ice cream truck driver got to recognize us. At the same time, Valletta was a short bus ride away so we could go to town easily. It is so interesting to be in a place where Christian people speak an Arabic language, and everyone speaks English so that we can not only find our way around easily, we can also make friends and chat without sign language. It has been a real treat to spend this amount of time in Malta.

My mother was here in Malta for most of our stay and we saw a lot of the island as well as making it up to Gozo, the island just north of Malta. We opted to take a bus and then a ferry to reach Gozo as the winds and seas were very rough - which we could feel even in the well protected harbor back on Namani. We had one very uncomfortable night on our mooring but were secure there and our kind hosts at the boatyard even checked in on us in the night with the offer to come sleep at their home if it was too rough! We did, however, hold out on Namani!

The forecast calls for weak but favorable east winds as of Sunday so that is our intended departure day when we will sadly cast off from friendly Malta but look forward to Tunisia. That departure day will allow us to cheer for the Kalkara rowing teams in a big regatta taking place in Grand Harbour on Saturday. It is also a big festival weekend so there will be even more fireworks (we have seen several displays so far) and cannon fire celebrations. After that, we will surely enjoy the relative peace of two days at sea en route to Tunisia!

01 - Mediterranean

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