Dolphins and shooting stars
09 August 2010
We left Cagliari around midday on Sunday, heading for Sicily. We'd havered about going to Tunisia, as a change from Italy, but in end stayed with the easterly heading. Unusually for us we do have a requirement to be in Malta the last weekend of August, and we hope to meet a friend to sail in to Valetta with us. Sicily will be quicker and much easier for a meeting.
So that gave us about 160 miles to the Isoli Egadi, off the western end of Sicily. We like to arrive at new places in daylight, and the pilot book specifically advises doing so for these islands which have shallow waters and strong currents. It would take at least 36 hours, so off we went.
The first stretch, across the Gulf of Cagliari was ok, though the wind dropped completely off Cap Carbonara, and to get round in daylight we motored a short while. But by dusk the breeze had returned and we had a magical night's sailing. The sea was flat despite the breeze, and we saw only three other vessels all night, so it was a dream-like ride. The following night had different compensations. There was very little wind so we turned the engine on. Shrimp swarmed up to our steaming light, and attracted dolphins. For the hour till midnight, they fed around our bows, blowing and grunting, darting in and out of the light, very serious at the business of the hunt. After they had gone, the moonless sky was covered in stars, so bright that the Milky Way had its own reflection striping the water. There were shooting stars streaking across the constellations, a small shower that went on for ages.
There wasn't a lot of wind though, and on Monday we poled out the jib, which is what this picture shows. We haven't done this very often - the pole is quite heavy and we're not sure about manipulating it in a swell, but this was an excellent opportunity to practise. There's a track on the mast which enables the pole to slide up and down, using an endless loop. An uphaul also leads back to the mast, and the sheets themselves steady the pole, keeping it away from the shrouds (important bits of wire which help keep the mast up.) The aim is to hold the jib open so it can catch the maximum amount of wind, and also to push the boat's centre of effort forward which helps reduce rolling in a swell. It works, but you still need some wind if you're going to sail.