12/11/2012, Barbate, Atlantic coast of Spain
Current Position: 36° 11.06N 005.56.01W, Barbate Marina, Atlantic Spain
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Well, we waited and waited in La Linea, studying the weather files, but there seemed to be no let up in the lows coming across the Atlantic - the Azores high pressure system, normally in place at this time of year and which should give us fair winds, wasn't there!! The wind blew (from the wrong direction) and we had torrential rain - no fun when you're anchored out. The only comfort was that we were not the only yacht waiting; Alison and Geoff on 'Saraoni' were nearby and also watching the forecasts hopefully, and we'd met several others in Gibraltar and La Linea who were waiting to head off south. We were even more anxious to be on the move as Helen and Lou will be on Lanzarote on 17th November and we hope be there to meet them!
Finally the long range forecast showed a possible weather window. We went into Alcaidesa Marina in La Linea for a few days to fill up the water tanks, catch up with the washing and stock up with fresh food for the passage. Whilst we were there we had a welcome visit from Jane and Clive (yacht JaneG), who had driven from Almerimar to drop a friend off at Malaga airport and decided to come and see us. We spent a lovely day with them, catching up with news and taking our minds off the long wait!
We finally left Gibraltar on Tuesday 6th November to sail direct to Graciosa, north of Lanzarote, a passage of around 5 days. We'd abandoned the plan to visit Morocco as the winds and swell looked favourable and we didn't want to risk being stuck again.
Ahhh... the best laid plans.......
Having filled up with diesel (only 86p per litre in Gib!!!) we sailed out into the Strait - and promptly ran into strong squalls! Visibility was nil in the rain so our new AIS earned its keep!
For the uninitiated, AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a collision avoidance system that gives information about all the shipping in your area, their speed and courses, the closest point of approach and how to contact them (name, callsign, MMSI number). All large ships have this system but not all yachts. We have just installed a 'transponder' type so that not only can we 'see' them, but they can also 'see' us. We had to call up one fast Ferry that was heading for Gibraltar as he was doing 23 knots on a collision course with Quilcene! It was quite a relief when he altered course to pass astern of us!
The wind was behind us and we punched against the tide for the first two hours along the Strait. It was windy, wet and horrible weather to be out in but our sail was reefed down and we were keen to get further south for a bit of sun! There were eight yachts all heading our way and we were in VHF radio contact with one or two even if we couldn't always see them!
We turned at Tarifa to cross the shipping lanes at 90° and head over to the Moroccan coast. As we turned the wind shifted too, the boom slammed over and the mainsail ripped straight across! We'd pulled in the main sheet to stop that very thing happening so maybe the sail was weak anyway. Wow! What a shock! We quickly turned Quilcene into the wind and waves in order to pull down the useless flapping sail. Kit went on to the deck and managed to get it tied down - no easy feat as the boat was lurching in the swell - and we turned back on course.
There was no going back to Gibraltar at this point (we didn't really want to anyway) as the tide was running west down the Strait by then. All we could do was to carry on 20 miles to Barbate on the Atlantic coast of Spain.
What is it called? - 'Sod's Law'? - after Tarifa the wind was lighter, the rain eased and the west going tide had picked up - we were doing 8 knots! ...and we could see the NW corner of Morocco where the sky cleared toward evening!! We had to watch the other yachts disappear into the south!
We checked into Barbate marina and next day, despite a NE gale, we managed to get the sail off and find a sailmaker in Barbate (Jesus - pronounced 'Heysous') who could repair it. We'll have to start thinking about a new mainsail as it's quite old now and we had a smaller tear in 2009. Looking at the prices tho' we'll need to win the lottery first!!
We had two more miserable days of wind and heavy showers when we mostly stayed on the boat. The marina here is a bit bleak and not as well protected as it looks - quite a chop works its way in. Quilcene sat in a 'cats cradle' of mooring ropes but she still rocked around a lot. We walked into town between showers, passing the industrial fishing yard where we saw hundreds of large anchors. These are used to anchor the tuna nets to the seabed - Barbate is the 'tuna capital' of Spain and in spring and autumn this is the major occupation here, as it has been throughout history.
Jesus brought the sail back (not a miracle cure but in one piece again!) and on Saturday (10th) the sun shone (hurrah!) and we fitted it so Quilcene is all ready to go!
Unfortunately we have now missed our weather window for the Canaries passage and we're back to forecast watching. Meantime life on board goes on as usual and we keep busy. Kit is fitting our new Pactor Modem (a device to enable us to get weather reports and emails through the SSB radio whilst out on the Ocean). I've just finished making the new dinghy cover, and we both have the usual ongoing maintenance to keep up with whilst we wait again for favourable conditions - we live in hope!!!
Current Position: 36° 09.45N 005.21.76W, La Linear anchorage, north of Gibraltar
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It was gloomy beneath the cloud as we headed up the west side of the Rock, picking our way between the anchored ships. We sailed on past the docks and marinas to drop anchor in La Linea anchorage, just across the Spanish/Gibraltar border in Spain. Ice Maiden also lay at anchor; Vic and Marge had been waiting for us to arrive and declared the next day to be 'Friday' and therefore curry night on Ice Maiden! (....despite it being Sunday really!). What a welcome! We spent a few days with them before they left, heading for their winter berth in Lagos. Another sad farewell - we've had fun together this summer on our journey west and will miss their company.
We'd been in the anchorage a couple of days when we received an email from Gerard and Josje on Mermaid. They were in La Linea Marina and had seen on our blog post that we were in the anchorage only a few hundred yards away - what a coincidence! Next time we went ashore we popped over to Mermaid for a coffee and chat. They were very well and still planning to head down to the Canaries and across the Atlantic so we hope to meet up with them along the way.
Another email told us that more old friends were nearby - one evening we heard a dinghy approaching and were delighted to see Lin and Paul off yacht 'Sareda'. We'd met in an anchorage in northern Spain during 2007, our first summer afloat, and subsequently sailed off in different directions; Quilcene into the Med and Sareda west to the Caribbean. Although enjoying an occasional lunch together when we happened to be in the UK at the same time, we haven't seen them afloat since 2007! ... now our paths were crossing and again headed in opposite directions; Quilcene west and Sareda east into the Med! It was so good to see them and we had such a lot to catch up on - not to mention exchanging cruising tips and advice on our respective destinations! Lin and Paul invited us for a curry aboard Sareda - delicious! ..and they didn't even know of our 'Friday Curry' tradition!
After five days on anchor at La Linea it was time to head into Gibraltar and a marina; we were booked to fly to the UK and we still had a few things to attend to on the boat. We took up a berth in Marina Bay just a few hundred yards from the end of the airport runway (thankfully there are very few night arrivals or departures!) and got to work. First and most important was to arrange a liferaft service. Steve at 'Marine Safety Gibraltar' was very helpful and took the liferaft and us to his premises where we watched it being inflated. This is the first time we've seen the liferaft out of its case and it's good to know what it looks like - and that it stays inflated! Lets hope we don't see it again until its next service!!! Kit bought various engine spares and washed ropes, and I washed everything in sight, cleaned out cupboards and generally prepared the boat to be left for a few weeks.
In between tasks we fitted in a walk across the border to meet Paul and Lin and to visit Gerard on Josje on Mermaid. The runway is basically the border between Gibraltar and Spain and the main road crosses it. Every time a plane lands or takes off the traffic stops, just like a level crossing on the railway. It seems strange to be allowed to walk across a runway so I stopped to take a picture of the unusual view along it. We also took time to visit Morrisons in Gibraltar - a weird experience; the goods are the same and laid out the same way as Morrisons in England so we felt as tho' we could walk out and be in Plymouth or Coventry! The only difference is that there is a licensed bar in the in-store café!
From the moment we'd rounded Europa Point the weather had been cooler, we even had a drop of rain one day! ...and the water temperature had dropped from 30C to 17C in just a few miles!!! However when the wind shifted to the west things improved somewhat and the cloud over the Rock disappeared. Once again we were looking for shade from the hot sun so it was a warm 15-minute walk to the airport to catch our flight - this must be the shortest trip to an airport we've ever made!
Our UK trip coincided with the start of the Southampton Boat Show - too good an opportunity to miss! We had a great day out wandering around the show and spent far too much! With an Atlantic crossing imminent we wanted to update and improve our safety and communications equipment so we had to dig deep!
From then on it was a whirl of visits to family in Coventry, Plymouth and London, and we even managed a couple of days with friends in Malvern! We returned to Quilcene our cases bulging with boat 'bits' and arrived in warm sunshine. Flying right around the Rock to approach the runway from the west we had a great view of the whole of Gibraltar - it really is a 'tiny' British foothold!
We soon settled in and Kit began the onerous task of fitting and wiring in all the new equipment! I was kept busy with yet more shopping and finding inventive new ways of packing it all in! I reckon we could survive a 2-year siege on Quilcene and still have food left over! .....tuna and baked beans might feature prominently on the menu but we'd survive!!!
Our new dinghy (Quill Too) arrived and we cleared it at customs without too much bother - amazing! A cover to protect it from the sun and prevent it going the way of the Quill I is under way and at the fitting stage.
We are now anchored at La Linea, just north of Gibraltar. All the new electronic 'toys' are fitted and tested (we spoke on the new SSB radio to fellow cruisers in Gran Canaria, 800 miles away - Gold Star to Kit!!), waypoints have been entered into the GPS, routes planned and water tanks filled.
So why are we still here??
Well - a series of depressions and storms have been marching across the North Atlantic sending a huge swell down the Moroccan coast. We're hoping to call in to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, en route to the Canaries but the entrance is tricky and cannot be attempted in any significant swell. Also, significant swell means an uncomfortable rolly passage - so we wait!
It looks as if things may finally settle down by the weekend so hopefully we can leave on Saturday/Sunday 27/28th October - watch this space!!!
Current Position: 36° 08.975N 005.21.32W, Marina Bay, Gibraltar
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Mainland Spain: The final Mediterranean part of our westbound journey took us from the Balearics across to mainland Spain. From here on until Gibraltar there are few safe anchorages so it was to be several long passages and a few nights in marinas
It has been a very sociable time as we often travelled in company with good friends and met old friends along the way. We also spent a week based in Aguadulce Marina where my Brother-in-law, Terry flew out for a holiday.
Calpe; We sailed out from SE Ibiza at first light for the 60-mile passage across to the mainland. As we left the island behind we spotted Ice Maiden in the distance; they had set out from San Antonio to the same destination so kept in radio contact all the way. We'd intended to anchor at Morayra but when we arrived we found 15 knots of wind blowing in, so we opted for Calpe on the east side of the huge rock headland and hopefully more sheltered. The anchorage was stunning - close in under the rock on sand - and calm when we arrived. The water was lovely and clear and we had enough daylight left for a quick swim. Later, gusts came off the rock, hot and strong like a hairdryer! This continued all night and spun us around so we couldn't help worrying about anchor drag! Next morning as we left, there were lumpy confused seas in the area, probably a result of winds around the rock, but things soon settled down as we pulled away.
We made another overnight stop at Torrevieja anchorage but again didn't go ashore. We'd heard of yachts being moved on from here but no one bothered us - which was a relief as we were pretty tired after our disturbed night. The water was a bit murky and there were jellyfish in the approach but I managed to take a refreshing swim and saw none.
Mar Menor: This is a shallow inland sea that we'd passed without entering on our journey east a few years ago. There is a lifting bridge in the canal entrance so we arrived and anchored with Ice Maiden in shallow water to wait for 2-hourly opening of the bridge. When the bridge lifted we both passed through, holding our breath as we saw only 1m under our keel at one point. However there is a marina inside with larger yachts than Quilcene, so that gave us a little reassurance!
Once inside the depths are fairly even at around 4/6m but the water is horribly murky and we sailed through swarms of jellyfish - yeuk! We headed for the southeast corner near La Manga, an 8-mile sail, where Saraoni already lay at anchor. Party time again! It was still very hot and we tried to keep in the shade on our shopping trips ashore, especially as we couldn't cool off with a swim afterward!
Cartegena: Next stop was Cartegena - in a marina for a night (alongside - wow!)- to celebrate Vic's birthday with drinks and tapas. We left Ice Maiden there next day, as we had to move on to meet Terry in Aguadulce.
Aguadulce: The trip to Aguadulce was supposed to be two days with an overnight stop but it turned into an overnighter! We had to round Cabo di Gato, a headland notorious for it's rough seas, and had planned to anchor at Aguilas en route. However we were making good time under sail so continued on to another anchorage near the headland. We arrived at dusk and found it untenable with surf rolling in. There was nothing for it but to continue around Cabo di Gato in the dark. A quick check in the pilot book told us how far offshore to stay, and the reassuring white flash of the lighthouse, and its red sector to show danger, confirmed that we were in the safe area all around the headland.
There is a move in UK to discontinue lighthouses due to the advent of GPS and other modern navigation aids, but we certainly hope not! The comforting beam of a lighthouse is worth a lot on a dark night out on the ocean!
Aguadulce has the feel of a Spanish resort but is not too overrun with holidaymakers. Terry's hotel was great and had 5 pools so a bit of swimming and lazing was on the agenda! ...just as well as the August temperatures soared! We hired a car and explored the east and west environs of Aguadulce, including the rocky Cabo di Gato headland, as well as the highlight of the week - a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Wow! Very impressive with its wonderful decorative stucco everywhere. The gardens are fantastic! ..not too manicured but shady and beautiful; with wonderful views out from everywhere - it was certainly well-sited. Despite the hot, hot sun we managed to wander around and see everything, although we didn't linger out of the shade for long, and drank copious amounts of water! We had booked ahead to ensure an entry and had to wait for our time slot to see inside the Palace; probably a good thing as it didn't get too crowded. It is very beautiful and there is too much to describe so take a look at my photos to get a feel for this wonderful place!
Almermar: From Aguadulce we headed to Almerimar where we'd ordered 70 metres of new anchor chain! Our old one was getting a bit rusty and probably past its 'sell-by' date - not good when we rely on it to keep us safe! Alison and Geoff on Saraoni was already in the marina and Janine and John on Orca Joss arrived the same day so party time again! - we do seem to say 'goodbye' a lot as we move around, but the reunions are great!!! Janine decided that the next day was Friday and therefore curry night on Orca Joss - funny I could have sworn it was Tuesday!!! We had a great few days with them and were lucky to have such good company as it was 5 days before the chain arrived.
Kit used some of the time to carry out maintenance work on Quilcene - engine service, replace toilet parts (yeuk!). Also, there is a large 'Mercadona' supermarket in Almerimar so by the time we left our cupboards and lockers, already well-stocked, were groaning with stores! Most cruisers have a 'siege mentality' - buy now 'cos' you'll maybe never see it again! ..plus we're told that many of our favourite items are not available, or very expensive in the Caribbean!
Our shiny new chain eventually arrived and we loaded it into the (scrubbed out) anchor locker. More goodbyes; this time it was a sad farewell to Janine and John on Orca Joss. They will spend this winter in Almerimar and not be crossing with us as we'd all hoped, so who knows when we'll meet again?
Out of the Med! The fluky winds of the Med lived up to their reputation for this last leg; we left Almerimar for the 24hr trip in a strong easterly wind and expected a fast sail all the way in lumpy seas. We sailed for 5 hours before the wind died, the seas calmed and we had to motor all night. What a night tho'! We had a full moon in a cloudless sky - it was almost like daylight, so no straining our eyes peering into blackness! Next morning there was only a few knots of wind so we motorsailed the remainder of the trip. Despite the clear sunny sky a large cloud hung ominously over the Rock as we approached, and there were dozens of large ships just drifting about on the east side (presumably waiting for a slot to go in for refuelling). Every now and then one would suddenly start moving so it was a bit nerve-racking picking our way between them.
The tide was due to turn as we approached Europa Point; the Western extreme of the Mediterranean and eastern end of the Straits of Gibraltar. This caused tidal rips as we rounded the point and there were choppy confused seas due to strong gusts off the Rock We were too busy dealing with the conditions and avoiding the considerable amount of shipping to note that we had finally left the Mediterranean - four and a half years after entering! Quite a milestone in our travels!
Current Position: 36° 09.486N 005°.21.945W, La Linea Anchorage, Gibraltar
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Corsica: Oooops! Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that the holding was good in Porto Vecchio and that we felt quite safe - On the 4th day we were there, the strong winds increased to gale force and our anchor dragged during the night. The wind was howling and in the severe gusts Quilcene was tugging this way and that on the anchor chain, so luckily we were up and ready for action. We managed to re-anchor (no mean feat in the dark with 35 knot gusts) and passed the rest of the night safely. Another yacht wasn't so lucky, it dragged onto the shore and we saw a rescue boat towing it into the harbour - but at least it was still afloat!
When the windy spell finally ended we sailed down the coast to Bonifacio. A big swell followed us along the Strait toward Bonifacio but didn't give us a problem, only a bit of extra speed! The entrance to Bonifacio is hardly visible until close-up - no more than a split in the tall cliffs with a large cave low down on the eastern side. I was jumping about the boat 'ooo-ing' and 'aaah-ing' and taking pictures whilst Kit steered us in, avoiding the considerable boat traffic, and turned into Calanque de la Catena on the port side. There was a marinero from the marina collecting money from other moored boats but he didn't seem to want to help us moor up - maybe he was having a bad day! After a bit of manoeuvring we managed to pick up a mooring line and tied stern-to under the cliffs.
Bonifacio is quite a place! The main inlet is only 0.8m long with an expensive marina just around the corner from the Calanque. It's full of HUGE expensive motorboats and yachts - no sign of a recession here!!! There were dozens of big RIBs to hire; we'd also seen this in Porto Vecchio and reckon it accounts for the number that roar around through anchorages with no idea of the mayhem their bow wave creates once they've passed!
Bars and restaurants all around the marina were very busy, and no doubt noisy at night, but the Calanque was very peaceful. In fact the water there was clear and clean so we could still swim to cool off. We spent a touristy day walking up to the pretty hilltop town and wandering through the narrow streets. The views all around are amazing and we could see Sardinia across the Straits to the south. ...and of course this is France, so we had moules and frites for lunch washed down with a delicious white wine!
Back to Sardinia: From Bonifacio we sailed 80 miles across to Porte Conte on NW Sardinia; this is a deep indent in the coast, a safe anchorage and a good spot from which to head off to the Balearics. We were pleased to see Ice Maiden already lying at anchor there and called Vic and Marge up as we approached. Next evening we were enjoying a sundowner and catch-up on Ice Maiden when Alison and Geoff on 'Saraoni' arrived and it turned into a party! Saraoni had sailed up the Red Sea with Ice Maiden and had also been in Finike. They too are heading west and plan to cross the Atlantic this winter. Porte Conte is a pretty, low-key, resort with beautiful beaches backed by pines and distant mountains. Two more yachts that we know arrived; Tom & Nicolette on 'Katanne' and Bill & Angela on 'Bones VIII'. We all dinghied ashore to discuss weather prospects for crossing to the Balearics, over sundowners at the beach café- needless to say there were divided opinions, but in the end most of us left on the same day!
On to the Balearics: After three days waiting for fair winds we set off in the early hours to cross the Sardinian Sea. It was still dark as we passed underneath the lighthouse that marks the tall headland of Capo Caccia and sailed out for the two-day crossing. Although we were a four-yacht convoy we soon spread out with Quilcene keeeping pace with Saraoni for most of the crossing. We kept in VHF radio contact most of the way and it was comforting when night fell to see their lights glowing in the darkness off to our port side. As we neared land next day our routes diverged and we bade them goodbye over the radio.
Anchorages on the Balearics are as pretty as we remembered and mostly with clear blue water over sand. Unfortunately it was by now late July and high season so many were crowded. In 2008 we had cruised along the south coasts of all the Islands so we now decided to return along the north.
Menorca: Fornells; From emails we knew that Jan and John on 'Orca Joss' were in Fornells so we scanned the anchorage with the binoculars until we found them and dropped anchor nearby. Another reunion!!!
Fornells is another great anchorage, well protected and good holding on mud in pleasant surroundings. Again it's a resort, but just a small Spanish town with no high-rise around. Wow! Italian, French and Spanish all within a few days - no wonder we get our 'Grazie' 'Gracias' and 'Merci' mixed up!
We had a great few days with Jan and John. We tried out the tapas bars ashore, and took the bus into Mahon for a shopping trip. Temperatures were getting very warm now and although the water in Fornells was a bit murky I took a swim to cool off - mistake! I got a nasty jellyfish sting on my arm that burned and itched for several days. No more swimming here!
It was soon time to move on so with a fair wind forecast, and after more goodbyes, we sailed across to Mallorca. This was good because we actually SAILED all the way! Anyone who has sailed in the Med will know that because of the fluky winds and poor forecasts you have to resort to motoring much of the time!
Mallorca: On Mallorca we first stopped in Pollenca on a 'Posidonia' buoy - free, book-able mooring buoys provided to prevent anchor damage to seagrass. It's a nice spot with clear water and no jellyfish, unfortunately it was plagued with jet ski's, fast RIBs and motor boats but happily it was very peaceful overnight.
The north coast of Mallorca is steep-to and rugged, with Port Soller, about half way along, the only safe anchorage. We'd visited the hilltop town of Soller by train from Palma in 2008, but hadn't had time to see the port. It's a pretty looking place but we only stayed one night and didn't venture ashore as there were too many boats anchored too close together for comfort. Next morning we sailed around the western end of Mallorca to Santa Ponsa: again it was a busy anchorage but with a little more space and lovely clear water. Ice Maiden was already there so we found a spot nearby and enjoyed a couple of days relaxing and catching up with Vic and Marge.
Ibiza: San Antonio; We'd hoped to go into Portinax on NE Ibiza but it looked uncomfortable with a swell rolling in as we sailed by so we continued on round to San Antonio Bay. Not our favourite place! The anchorage was quite full and there's lots of weed so it's difficult to dig the anchor in - it dragged here before, and it dragged again in only light winds. It was VERY hot too, and the water didn't look too inviting! After two nights we opted to sail around SW Ibiza, a lovely coastline with stunning tall cliffs and rocks, and on to Cala Yondal, a pretty spot with good holding on sand and super clear water - heaven!
Current Position: 41° 35.35N 009° 17.84E, Porto Vecchio, Corsica
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Malta: Our sailing year got off to a fine start and with fair winds we managed to sail almost all the way to Malta from Marina Di Ragusa without the aid of the engine - brilliant! ... but we've been in the Med too long to expect it to last!
Cruising came to a dead halt in Malta because for various reasons it took 6 weeks to complete the rigging work - and then it was only finished because Clive and Jane on 'Jane G' arrived and helped get to Kit up the mast to complete it! - but it was worth the time and effort as Quilcene now has two furling sails up front and looks very smart! (and thanks again C & J!)
During our stay we had good company; Christina and Bjorn, former owners of 'Mischief', whom we had met both in Finike and Marina di Ragusa, are now land-based on Malta and we had lovely time seeing the island with them and enjoying several sundowners and dinners.
..and it was nice to see Malta again, we'd been there in 2009. Two things struck us on this visit; firstly Maltese is widely spoken by young and old alike, and definitely not a dying language as we'd previously thought. This must be good as it helps to preserve the culture and character of Malta. Secondly, and sad to say, the absence of the lovely old yellow buses, now replaced with mundane modern 'bendy' buses, has the opposite effect.
Sicily and Aeolian Islands: Leaving Malta we moved on quite quickly, first stopping on Sicily at Syracusa and Taormina. Although Syracusa is one of our favourite places, we only lingered for a few days as we were anxious to be on our way and start heading west. ..also, the water in the anchorage was a bit murky and green; not very inviting to swim in!
We navigated up through the Straits of Messina, managing to dodge 3 ferries, a cruise ship and a cargo vessel whilst at the same time steering through the tidal rip and mini whirlpools at the turn of the tide....not to mention a close encounter with a strange, elongated swordfishing boat (picture posted) phew!
We'd planned an overnight stop in the small fishing port of Bagnara Calabra, above Messina on the Italian side, but were asked for 50 euros for the pleasure of tying up on the fuel dock for the night with LOUD music playing (a festival they said!). A no-brainer really, so we said 'Ciao' and set off to sail 40 miles across to Stromboli!
Stromboli is a live volcano with a cone that sticks up out of the sea and grumbles away endlessly, sending red-hot ashes out on a regular basis. We know 'cos we sailed around it overnight. It was amazing to sail one mile off from this natural fireworks display in the pitch black night; every ten minutes or so there would be a loud booming explosion and glowing showers of red hot pumice and ashes were sent tumbling down the north west face. Wow!!! Sadly my camera is not clever enough to capture any of this so you'll just have to imagine it!
Next stop, the island of Vulcano, which, as the name suggests is another volcano, although very much less active! However there are warm springs bubbling up just off the beach in front of the anchorage - these increased the local water temperature to that of a warm bath but gave off nose-wrinkling pongy smells when the wind blew in our direction! A big attraction for tourists are the hot sulphurous mud pools just behind the beach where people pay to soak in a mud bath then pop into the sea to wash it off. It's supposed to be therapeutic but we weren't tempted! Clive and Jane on 'Jane G' and Vic and Marge on 'Ice Maiden' were also in the anchorage on Vulcano so we had sundowners together to catch up with news and discuss the next leg of our journey - a long sail over to Sardinia.
We set off from Vulcano to head across to Sardinia expecting it would take 2 days/nights. Not so! During the first night our engine compartment fan started complaining loudly and soon stopped altogether so the engine began to overheat. Of course there was no wind to sail so Kit took the insulated covers off both sides of the compartment and used our cabin fan to try to keep it cool. The heat and noise in the cabin was awful as the engine is tucked underneath in the galley, so no chance of us getting any sleep! Then the relay started arcing and the engine hiccupping. We were 30 miles north of Cefalu on Northern Sicily so we headed there to effect repairs and 'limped' into the anchorage. As morning broke we contacted 'Jane G' with our news and were touched when they offered to change course to give us a hand. Kit thought he could sort it out alone so we declined, but what great people we meet cruising!
Once safely anchored and in daylight Kit could deal with the problems. He replaced the relay (an ongoing problem) and by an amazing coincidence we had recently acquired a spare fan!! ...so after a few minor modifications and curses it was fitted and we were up and running again. It was a difficult decision that morning whether to continue to Sardinia (another 2 nights at sea) or stay in Cefalu - the town looked inviting from the anchorage and we were very tired after one sleepless night, but the weather looked good to go so after a reviving bacon butty we set off again. The rest of the journey went OK, although it was quite an eventful trip; we had a bit of everything en route - calms, lumpy seas, fog and strong winds! There were nice bits too when we were escorted several miles by playful dolphins, and we saw several turtles swimming on the surface miles out at sea. The strong winds came on the nose as we neared Southern Sardinia so we headed further up the coast and could sail for a while. We finally anchored at Arbatax and enjoyed two days well-earned rest! We were a bit sad tho' as 'Jane G' had gone further south so we wouldn't see them again for a while.
Sardinia and the Maddalenas:
From Arbatax we slowly made our way up the coast, anchoring at Porto Brandinghi before entering the busy port of Olbia via a long buoyed channel. This was interesting as very large cruise ships also use the channel, which marks the safe route through mud banks and rocks! One came up fast behind and towered over Quilcene, and although no overtaking is allowed in the channel we soon moved out of the way!!
Once inside we moored to the old commercial quay along with several other yachts - including, we were pleased to see, 'Ice Maiden'. It was quite good to go ashore with Vic and Marge that evening for a beer and a pizza, we hadn't been off the boat for a week! Olbia is a surprisingly nice town; we'd expected the area around the old commercial docks to be a bit 'rough' but the main street nearby is full of smart shops and café's with colourful awnings and tables spilling out into the street - a nice place to spend a few days - and with lovely views of the distant mountains from the quay.
The northeast of Sardinia is very beautiful. It is indented with numerous calas (bays) affording a wide choice of pretty sheltered anchorages. The Maddalena archipelago lies just offshore (requiring a permit to anchor) and much of area is designated a National Park, Marine National Park and Conservation area. Development has been limited to well-spaced low-rise buildings designed to blend in with the coast. In many of the calas it is difficult to spot the hotels amongst the trees, so well are they designed. The beaches are white and the water over them impossibly blue and there are lots of naturally sculpted white rocks just to enhance all this. It is really beautiful.
We slowly pootled up the coast anchoring in various calas and enjoying the wonderful scenery. Naturally, it is a very popular area so some places can get crowded with boats, especially now at the height of the season (July) when the rich and famous arrive with MASSIVE yachts and motor yachts complete with jet skis, fast RIBs etc. and take up half the anchorages! One we spotted looked more like a cruise liner and even had a helipad on the front deck! We soon learned to head for the shallower areas where these 'big boys with toys' as we call them, couldn't get into!
Vic and Marge were following the same route as us so we kept seeing them as we moved northwards. It was nice to have such good company and we shared several sundowners and investigated a few café bars together!
We parted company when we decided to buy a two-day permit and head out to the Maddalena's. It wasn't expensive at 14 Euro per night and we could anchor on sand or pick up Park buoys on the islands.
Cala Corsara on Spargi was our first stop, again stunningly beautiful but crowded. ...especially when several tripper boats arrived and disgorged their passengers onto the beach. However, in the evening, when all the day-trippers and most of the motorboats had returned to their respective ports, the shore and beach looked pristine. Not a scrap of rubbish or sign of humanity was left so it seems that the National Park designation works and people respect this wonderful area. Unfortunately the wind turned SW which put us on a lee shore so just before dark we popped over to the safer anchorage of Liscia on the mainland to spend a quiet night.
Next day we hauled out our colourful MPG (Multi Purpose Genoa - light front sail) and sailed over to the NE of Maddalena Island for a lunch stop. Sadly this was not to be! We were turned away from the two calas we tried (Spaltamore and Massimo), as they are private! A bit disappointed, we ate lunch on the move and headed over to Deadmans Reef Passage anchorage between the islands of Buddeli and Razzoli in the north of the archipelago; another fabulous spot where Park mooring buoys are provided to preserve the seabed. The water was so clear we could see every ripple on the seabed and every blade of seagrass 8 metres below us! In the evening we took the dinghy and explored Deadmans Reef Passage - definitely not a passage to take Quilcene through! It is a very shallow area with brilliant white sand on the seabed and dotted with numerous above- and below-water rocks, some sculpted by wind and weather into fantastic shapes. This is a wonderful spot and we'd have loved to have spent a bit more time here, but strong winds were forecast from the west and after a peaceful night we decided to visit Corsica, only 10 miles away across the infamous and daunting Bonifacio Strait.
Corsica: Expecting the worst and with two reefs in the mainsail and only a scrap of the yankee out we headed out into the Strait - and the wind slowly died!!! Kit hoisted our French courtesy flag, unused since 2007, as we entered French waters. Porto Vecchio, a few miles up the coast of Corsica looked to be a sheltered anchorage to sit out the coming blow so we slowly motored north and finally anchored at the head of the deep bay. Porto Vecchio is a ferry port overlooked by an old town on a hill, and surrounded by wooded mountains, a picturesque spot. There's a marina on the shore and a small restaurant/café/shopping area. Currently we have 30+ knot gusts and Quilcene is dancing about on the end of the anchor chain as I write this. ...but the holding is good so we feel quite safe here. Every time we look at a forecast the windy spell seems to have increased both in severity and duration, so to make things more bearable we've been ashore and bought some of the tasty French cheeses and pate's - mmmmm!
There are dozens of yachts and motorboats (including many of the 'big boys') also taking shelter here and it's great to see all the anchor lights bobbing at night. Last night we were treated to an amazing firework display in celebration of Bastille Day (July 14th). We had a 'front seat' view as they were let off from a raft moored just off the marina. At the end of the display there was loud cheering from all around the bay and car horns and foghorns hooted in appreciation - quite an event!
So that's us up to date! Oh! Just one more paragraph to mention my new Kindle bookreader. It is fantastic (thanks Marcus!), no more do we run out of books to read on a windy night, or have our bookcases overflowing! I/we (Kit now has one too) still prefer the 'feel' of real books but the Kindle is a good substitute. It seems to connect wherever we are and if all else fails we can even get a weather forecast on it! A must for all you cruisers!!!
Current Position: 35° 54.37N 014° 30.23E Sliema Creek, Malta
Visitors and visits
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In late January our friends Nett & Peter came to visit for a week. It was great to see them ....... and holiday time for us too, as having visitors gives us the excuse to get out and about to do a bit of site-seeing! The local buses are quite good but we can go further afield in a hired car! So despite several days of bad weather, the four of us made day trips to some of the local towns and villages. We wandered through the wet streets, admiring the plethora of grand churches and popping into cafes to escape the frequent downpours! We saw Scicli, Ragusa, Ragusa Ibla (stunning old town), Donalucata, and Modica - famous for its chocolate (unusual, dark and grainy - definitely an acquired taste!!)
We also had a night out in Vittoria where Irio De Paula, a Brazillian jazz guitarist, was giving a recital. Several other yachties came along and 10 of us went for a pizza before the show, which took place in a wonderful little theatre in the square. It's like a mini opera house inside, complete with tiers of gold-embossed boxes - a good night out!
We managed to choose a warm, sunny day to visit the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, one of Sicily's most famous historical attractions. It's quite a distance away to the southwest and we drove for 2 hours to get there, but it was definitely worth the trouble. This is a UNESCO National Heritage site where the remains of eight temples and various other ancient buildings are situated along a rocky crest south of modern day Agrigento ( ...so not really in a valley at all!). The temples, in various states of repair, date from around 500 BC and are sited in commanding positions overlooking the surrounding countryside - overall a stunning site. As an added extra, an exhibition of bronze sculptures was taking place and individual pieces had been erected in the shadow of many of the temples - a double dose of culture!!!
Nett & Peter had rented an apartment close to the marina for their stay - a good venue for a musical evening! With John on guitar, me (Belinda) on clarinet, Nett on tambourine and copious amounts of food and drink on the table, we all (8 of us) had a great time playing and singing late into the night. ...and no week would be complete without a 'Friday curry' on board Quilcene!
The wet and windy weather continued through February (although it was occasionally interspersed with glorious sunny periods!) so it was good to get off the boat in early March and fly back to the UK for three weeks! We'd been hearing what nice weather the UK had been enjoying over winter, but guess what?? It rained all day on our first day back!! Never mind, it didn't spoil our trip; there was plenty of fine weather whilst we were there. As usual it was a round of visiting and catching up with friends and family and the time flew by.
Flying back into Catania, we hired a car from the airport for 4 days. This solved two problems; how to get back to Marina di Ragusa after the last bus had left; and a vehicle to do the BIG spring shop. ....not to mention another day out! So! Pre-sailing shopping means stocking the boat lockers full of heavy, long life food - tins, bottled water, vacuum packed foods etc., and of course, lots of the good local wines! Shopping was quite painless - very reasonable prices here, especially in Lidl, and the little Peugeot 106 managed several heavy loads valiantly!! Then it was fun time and we set out with John and Janine (Orca Joss) to visit a vineyard to the southeast. Spring had arrived by now and the Sicilian countryside was carpeted with wild flowers, the roadside verges a blaze of yellows, pinks, blues and reds. Sicily is so beautiful at this time of year!
The Rudini Vineyard at Pachino was an excellent choice! We were warmly welcomed and given a tour of the plant; it was fascinating to see the huge casks of wine aging in the cellars (the expensive stuff!), and the tall stainless steel vats (our price range!). Modern methods include automated bottling, stopping and labelling; we watched mesmerised as shiny bottles whizzed along various tracks collecting their allotted measure, and arrived at the end all labelled up and ready for packing.
...then came the best bit - tasting!
We tried a selection, they were all pretty good, finally settling on a delicious white and a red that were available in 3L boxes, and a few 'special' bottles for occasions!
Naturally all this gave us an appetite so we headed to nearby Marzamemi for a pasta lunch (what else??) on the quayside in the sun looking out over the small harbour! Marzamemi is a small picturesque village dating back to the Arab domination of Sicily, and has low stone buildings and archways and a lovely square - Piazza Regina Margherita - with two churches. It was once a busy tuna fishing port but now the old fishermen's dwellings house several bars, restaurants and chic craft boutiques (still not yet open in the early spring) which suggest it is a popular summer destination.
Reluctantly we took back the hire car and returned to pedal power! In the marina, more and more people began arriving back on their boats after a winter break, and it became a hive of activity as sails were rigged, decks cleaned and brightwork polished.
More visitors at Easter when Chris, an old friend of Kits, came to Marina di Ragusa with his partner Joan and son David, daughter-in-law Liz and baby Isabella. By coincidence Liz has family here, many of whom we met when they all descended upon Quilcene for afternoon drinks! It was great fun having them on board and despite language difficulties we managed to chat quite well - aided by Liz and her sister Julia, who translated the difficult bits!!! ...and Kit and Chris enjoyed a spot of reminiscing over childhood memories.
With the lockers fully stocked, new Windex atop the mast and the stainless all bright and shiny we were now ready to go. All that remained was to bid fond farewells to friends; some we may never see again because our paths will take us in different directions, and some also heading west so we may meet up again later this year. Either way, it was with mixed feelings that we finally headed out of Marina di Ragusa on 27th April bound initially for Malta.