Slow Sailing

29 July 2016 | Thomas Bay, Malta
16 July 2016 | Siracusa, Sicily
08 July 2016 | Anti Paxos, Ionian
30 June 2016 | Paxi, Ionian Islands
16 June 2016 | Syros, Cyclades
05 June 2016 | Poros Island, Greece
05 April 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
31 March 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
11 March 2016 | Lavrio, Greece
28 February 2016 | Lavrion, Greece
06 February 2016 | Ao Po Grand Marina, Phuket
28 January 2016 | Rebak Marina, Langkawi
11 January 2016 | Butang Group, Thailand
26 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
24 December 2015 | Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket
16 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
23 November 2015 | Pangkor Marina, Malaysia
08 November 2015 | Port Dickson, Malaysia
26 October 2015 | Singapore
13 October 2015 | Karimun Jawa

Under Pressure

29 July 2016 | Thomas Bay, Malta
Heather
Hello from Malta. It wasn't like we were tired of Italy but since Malta is only 85 miles from Siracusa in Sicily, it made sense to go now! We've been here for a week and a half.


Like many parts of the Med, I didn't really know much about Malta until recently since we've never traveled over here. Now we know it quite well! Historically, its strategic position only 60 miles from the tip of Sicily and 220 miles from Libya and the fact that it separates the eastern from the western Mediterranean, has ensured that pretty much everyone in the area has taken turns ruling it over thousands of years. But it was from 1530 onward when the Knights of the Order of St John took over and started creating the incredible architectural fortifications that make it what it is today- a Unesco site. Because of all the varied influences, not the least of which is Arabic, there is an interesting mixture of things here and understandably, the most impressive fortifications we've ever seen. A phrase in a museum we were in described Malta as having had "grace under pressure" because such beautiful architecture came out of the need to ward off the enemy.

Malta has three main islands- Gozo, little Comino and the main island of Malta. We proceeded to the Blue Lagoon anchorage on Comino the first night since we were coming in late and knew the day tripper boats would have left for the evening. Its a pretty spot, and the water is very clear & blue with a nice backdrop of low, sandstone cliffs & formations. The next morning, we were just about ready to leave the boat to do some sightseeing in the dinghy and then hop the channel to Gozo to check in when this couple came in on their sailboat and put their anchor atop ours. When they fell back on top of us he decided he was too close so he guns the engine, then puts it in reverse and she gets on the windlass remote and is struggling to get the anchor up while moving backward fast and the windlass is chugging away until up their anchor comes with our chain strapped around it and our anchor just below the surface. All the while we are both at the bow trying to motion that they have our anchor. Then we did a 180 and our bows headed in for a big kiss! We held the boat off with our engine until they managed to drop our chain. We then went about trying to make a new plan while they made their way to the next boat, getting that person's anchor rode caught in their prop. Before too long, they were limping out of the anchorage trying to motion apologies and us & the other boat met in the Mgarr Marina office an hour later because there was no safe place to leave the boat, obviously. We never got to explore Comino.

But money does buy happiness since as soon as we got the boat securely fastened in the marina, we spent 3 worry free days exploring the island of Gozo. It is the quieter, smaller side of Malta and we liked it. The weather has been spectacular since I don't even know when and the temp has been wonderful too. It gets hot on land when you're in the sun but the shade is perfect and the water keeps the interior of the boat cool till evening when it cools down even further.
From Malta
From Malta


The capitol of Gozo is Victoria and it has an old citadel that has just been refurbished and a new visitor's center built with EU funding. It has what we thought were really high walls (until we saw Valletta!) and nice views of the brown landscape since it is full on summer here and all the fields are scorched. Apparently, from pictures, it is quite green in the spring. A lady told me that water is more precious than wine in Malta. All of their water is from a desalination plant and it is in our experience, of low quality. It has so much salt left in it you can't quench your thirst and if you rinse off the boat it is still salty. So most people drink bottled water instead. We are enjoying our watermaker water.
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta

We signed up with a dive shop to do a day of diving since this is the only place that has interested us so far in diving and our compressor wasn't working yet. Bummer!! Jon spent a whole morning troubleshooting why it was still smoking despite the ridiculous amount of money we spent on new parts but to no avail. The day we left the USA to head back to Greece, we actually chased the UPS truck around on his route in order to get this package at the last minute. It had all new pistons & rings and all 4 stages for the compressor. These are the parts that the genius's in Phuket said we needed before returning our compressor back to us in pieces there. We got to do the 2 most popular dives- one was the blue hole and azure window and the other, the "Inland Sea". Both of the dives were shore dives and we would gear up at the van and then shuffle to the entry point. The first dive was the longest walk we've ever done in our gear even though we've done practically every shore dive on Bonaire. On the way out, we thought we were going to have to carry each other. The dive was interesting, we went through the longest tunnel passage we've ever done and the water clarity was excellent. There wasn't much for life really aside from a few fish and small stuff; it was more about the big scene.
From Malta
From Malta

The second dive started closer to the van and we slipped into the shallow water that makes the Inland Sea. You then descend at the entrance to a cave tunnel that leads some 80 meters out to the sea. It was looking pretty good and there were more fish, we saw a large nudibranch, the tunnel was cool, the colors and shafts of light were lovely and then one guy on the dive had a panic type of event and the dive was aborted. We had to go back thorough the tunnel and then wait there at 20 feet while the diemaster got the guy back to the surface and by the time he came back down for us, the dive was pretty much a bust and I was cold from hanging motionless in the dark. Oh well! What can you do when you dive with a shop? That is why we like to dive on our own. A friend we made at the marina where we were hauled out this Spring said that the water in the Med got downright hot in the summer. Well, we haven't found the water to be hot, and now that we think about it, the guy that told us this was from Norway so... we cut ourselves some slack for getting chilly on the dives.
From Malta

Another EU funded project is the organization of the Coastal Trail, a hiking trail that circles the island & passes through some great scenery. We did a couple of these while on Gozo and they were a highlight. It seems like we're really wearing out the soles of our shoes lately. They weren't always that well blazed though so we had to be on our toes. The high cliffs and rock formations on the west coast were really impressive. There are also several watchtowers scattered around the whole island, the first we'd seen of this type. All the signs say "if the flag is flying, the tower is open!" Well of all the towers we saw and all the flags a flyin', there were no open doors to any of them. We didn't realize how many projects the EU helps to fund. I suppose Malta gets their share of them. We also see that Malta is a shipping headquarters so they must make some money there. We looked up the population of Malta & its about 423,000. Vermont is about 650,000. What a small country!
From Malta

We were ready to move to Valletta. After seeing the name on so many mega-yacht sterns over the years and looking at pictures of the famous city, I couldn't wait to see it. Known as one of the most beautiful in the Med, Grand Harbor does make a great impression when coming in by boat. We have never seen such high fortifications and the immensity is significant. I couldn't get it in a photo. An amazing natural harbor in itself, over the years and all the turmoil, every finger tip so to speak got a new fort and fortification on it so that everywhere you look there is another golden stone protector looking back at you. We pulled in to a marina for a couple nights but then headed back out to anchor because we found a great finger in the harbor with good holding and a spectacular view, and a fort for protection!
From Malta
From Malta

We explored most every corner of Valletta, sampling the street food, hit a few museums, gardens, walked the walls. Then we started hopping on the bus and heading inland. We visited another hugely fortified old city- Mdina- which has been a work in progress for over 3000 years. I kept getting twinges of the Game of Thrones.
From Malta

In the area just outside the walls of Mdina is the town of Rabat and it was there that we visited the St Paul's Catacombs (underground cemetery). I never knew this but during the Roman period, there wasn't much space for above ground burials and there is very little soil anyway but the stone is soft to carve and it was decided that underground cemeteries would be built to house the dead. And there would be passageways around these huge underground tunnels and then why not have tables for food and stone "sofas" for hanging out beside the tables while eating meat & fish & drinking wine while visiting your deceased loved ones? And so it was that all of these remained and then were excavated and made into this museum where you learn all about it and then get to walk through the tunnels stooped over (they were really short back then!) to see what it was all about. It was such an interesting day & we learned so much.
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta
From Malta

Mainland Malta advertises heritage walks that you can do on your own similar to Gozo and we tried 2 of them in particular, but both were pretty bad! We were all excited about one of them. When the British ruled here, they decided to build an extensive, high wall across the entire island and fortify the wall with additional forts and guard towers and they called it the Victoria Lines. There's a trail that runs along the whole wall and is according to a glossy pamphet, a great walk in Malta. It was a Sunday and true to this part of the world, everything all but stops on Sunday. It is seriously Catholic here. We managed to get a bus out there only to find that we hated the trail and aborted our plan. It took forever to get back and we decided just because there's a pamphlet doesn't mean its good.

On the same day that I lined up the dives and Jon was swearing at the compressor, I also lined up a Coultri Sub service center here in Malta to take a look at the thing. So we moved over to an anchorage close to the shop 2 days ago and brought it in. Apparently it is the crankshaft which sort of makes sense, given most of the other parts are new! The Maltese speaking owner had a friend there who was helping to translate and he told us we shouldn't have bought a Coultri if we'd wanted it to last, because it is made in Italy! But for whatever reason, we could get a new block here whereas we supposedly couldn't in Thailand because we asked and they weren't offering that anymore. GRRRR! So we went that route and picked the compressor back up this morning, looking pretty new. Jon got it hooked up and its running like new too. So hopefully, we're back in business! There's more diving we want to do here, just not with a shop.

After getting the compressor sorted, we spent the afternoon playing in the water- at the surface.. The rock formations and caves around here are fun and the water is crystal clear. I found a small, live cowrie today. I didn't expect they would be here.
From Malta
From Malta

And we're cleared out now to head back to Italy. Malta has been a unique country to visit and a testament to the grand things that people can create that can stand the test of time. Hopefully our compressor will now too.
From Malta


Italy By Sea, Bike, Car and Feet

16 July 2016 | Siracusa, Sicily
Heather
Buongiorno! We are presently in Siracusa on the SE coast of Sicily. The trip from Corfu, Greece to the boot of Italy was an easy one, half sailing, half motoring. That night, the stars & milky way were so bright it didn't matter that there was hardly a moon to light the way. It's been awhile since we've done an overnight trip. Just before we left, I realized we had a stowaway grasshopper on board. He must have come in on the dinghy when we were ashore somewhere. So I looked up what to feed it and found your own produce will do so he came with us and then I let him go once we arrived. Hope he doesn't mind he's now Italian!


We pulled in to a little town with a huge marina called Rocella Ionica. Check-in was a breeze & free and the manager filled out our paperwork for us. The marina served every purpose which was to have somewhere calm to tie up to, not be too expensive, have a hose where we could blast the boat clean (but it still oozes salt even after you do it) and have some real Italian pizza at this famous restaurant there. Well we accomplished all of that and they even had a waterfront bikepath that we rode on. In the grocery store, it was hard to resist buying a selection of cheeses, dry sausages & fresh pasta. Food is even less expensive here and there is all manner of Italian wine to choose from. By the end of the day, our minds were full of all things Italian and the cadence of Italian speak. I keep looking up at the courtesy flag hanging from our spreader and thinking that this an amazing experience. Glad we pointed the bow this way. Funny how in the Med you can move from one whole different country to the next in just a few hours. Thankfully we can read the language now and we know enough Spanish & French to be able to get around here better. It just makes it easier.
From Sicily
From Sicily

In keeping with our plan to try and hit the best of what we read about, we did a long day to the clifftop town of Taormina on Sicily. It is one of the top places to visit and for good reason as it's beautiful. With a knot plus of current with us the whole way, we covered the miles in no time and watching the coastline go by all day was pretty. We saw a turtle along the way. Early in the morning, the VHF chatter included a canary singing that helped wake us up and then later, bits of Italian music! Its universal, all the unofficial use of VHF radio!
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily


We spent the whole next day touring around Taormina and the even higher little town of Castlemola. Even on foot, everything is straight up or straight down. Good thing my back is mostly healed up. Everything is so detailed and picturesque but at the same time lived in. We took time to try and absorb it all. We also had fun feeding a lot of stray cats. You can just see them thinking "is this really for me?" And we ate too, a panini, followed by a canoli! Late in the day we checked out the marine reserve right around the corner from where the boat was anchored called Isola Bella. It has a cute island with a cave that you can dinghy in to and some really pretty stand alone rock formations. They say there is snorkeling here but we didn't find anything too spectacular. It was still nice to cool off. It was a great day.
From Sicily

We rented a car for a couple of days to tour the island. The first day was to climb Mt Etna. The drive up the park road was totally beautiful with all these yellow flowers in full bloom, reminding me of fall in New England. The air vent kept sucking in the perfumy smell. I read that Mt Etna is the largest volcano in Europe, still active, and you can't even hike to the tippy top because of the activity. You can take a chair lift followed by a 4x4 bus to near the top to save as many calories as possible, or you can hoof it up there on your own which is what we did, along with a lot of others. For that, it wasn't our favorite volcano and some parts of the path overlapped the dirt road so when a bus went by, you were left in a cloud of dust. It was better once we got on a walking path. It was another great day and we definitely got our exercise.
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily


We also took the car across Sicily up into the mountains because we wanted to see what the interior was like and get away from any tourist areas. Well we did! We went to Madonie Park in Sicily's highest mountain range. As we neared the top, we were in thick fog and temps of 70 and Jon was loving it! We took a peaceful hike for a few hours up into the trees and hillsides where there were only horses, cows, wild pigs and deer. They have huge horses here. We saw a deer with quite a rack on its head. The trails were well marked and the only people we saw were a sheep shepherd and a pig hunter. There are some really old trees up there, pointed out by signs such as this old oak that is around 600 years old.
From Sicily
The park road had a lot of jaw dropping mountain scenery and when we would get out of the car to take pictures, there was wild oregano growing, and it would scent the soles of our shoes. We stopped to walk through a couple of Sicilian mountain towns which was so interesting, what a different way of life. We wanted to stay overnight but were afraid since our boat was at anchor.
From Sicily
From Sicily

Yesterday we had a great sail down the east coast of Sicily to the town of Syracuse. It was an odd sail because the wind was on & off again. Like one minute you were doing 7 kts and then suddenly the boat would stand up straight and almost stop. But it all averaged out. This ancient Greek city state once ruled the Western Med for about 200 years until it fell to Rome in 212 BC. The history here kind of blows your mind. And even though we left Greece, we can still enjoy some of its influence here which is nice. We decided we like gyros better than paninis.

We'll spend a couple days here exploring and then head to Malta. Then turn around and come back up this way and through the Straits of Messina toward Rome. We need a boat project day too. Its hard to squeeze one in. It seems everywhere we look there is something that is just about broken. Just little things. Jon's fan is a good example. You put in on low and it has a mind of its own. It will decide that he must be really hot and turn itself on high, then back to low. It cracks us up. But there has been some major progress on the fuel issue! Today, the last troubleshooting was removing the fuel spinner we have (to spin off any water mainly, although we've never had any water in our fuel) because perhaps it was clogged with the crud from the tank since it is before the Racor filters. Well, the engine liked that much better! So.. we think that was the culprit, in addition to the fact that we had a layer of crud in the tank. Hopefully, that problem is fixed and we can move on to others!
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily
From Sicily

Onward & Westward

08 July 2016 | Anti Paxos, Ionian
Heather
Its been a little up & down this past week and I'm not just speaking of the roll in some anchorages we've been in like the one we're in now, on our last night in Greece. We are checked out of Corfu and are headed to Italy tomorrow morning, 190 miles to our first port- Rocella Ionica, which is sort of on the ball of the foot if you're thinking of the boot of Italy. Our friend Tim stopped there on his way through and there's an Italian place (of course) that sells pizza by the meter & beer by the liter- that'll do! From there we'll go to Sicily. I truly can't believe this is happening.

Our daily boat life has us doing everything that is bad for a back. Winching up the dinghy, hauling it up on beaches, crouching over a bucket of laundry (yup, hardly anywhere to do laundry here), hauling fuel & groceries- its not all about margaritas in the cockpit. So a bunch of cumulative insults topped off by foolishly lugging a dozen 5 gallon waterjugs to the boat from shore, strained my back. The last bike ride didn't help either. So I have been hobbling around this past week trying to stand upright to see things but also heal. And Jon's back, well, it is always on the edge so we are quite a pair.
From Greek Islands
When we pulled in to the main harbor on Corfu- Corfu Town, we looked at the anchorage and thought it was just perfect. Plenty of room, protected, a lovely rounded pedestrian promenade, a great view of the fort and the old town buildings- we were so excited. Due to the heat and the long days, no one eats till 10p- restaurants offer happy hour from 8-10p. And when we're home on the boat, all the hatches are open and we're hanging out in the cockpit for dinner where its cooler. Well little did we know that first night that while we were enjoying the cockpit, hoards of mosquitoes were rushing inside the boat to greet us when we retired for the night. Never, in all the tropical areas we've been have we ever had the bloodbath we had that night. We spent a long time going around trying to kill all that we could find. And it wasn't much better the second night even though we buttoned up early because we still had a lot of leftover mosquito friends from the night before. We even took the time to look up what the heck they do all day and it is called torpor. They don't actually ever sleep, they lapse into a slowed state called torpor for their form of rest so they can be all ready to bite you all night long. By the next day, we both looked like we were going through puberty again for all the red bites on our faces. Not healthy.
From Greek Islands

Mosquitoes aside, we had a pretty good set up in Corfu and enjoyed exploring the old town and a few decent museums. Funny that their most famous museum is one of Asian Art. And another named Mon Repos which is an old mansion filled with Corfu history set in a decent sized park. The old town was the largest we'd been in with many blocks of tan colored buildings with tiny porches way up high and numerous storefronts & tavernas and shiny stone sidewalks in between. There was a great deal of British influence here and you can tell by the architecture as well as the focus on this island of arts & literature. There is a college of music actually within the old fort! We had a nice, home style Greek lunch one day and on others, a good stand-by gyro did the trick. The big fort looks the most impressive from a distance. It has two mounds and one is even capped by a lighthouse.It also has a substantial moat around it. Like some other Greek points of interest, maintenance of the site seems to be lacking. It was big, but too many areas were closed off or in disrepair. I understand that many countries in the Med are having issues with trash collection & disposal. Corfu is apparently having an issue right now- I got whiffs of news that there was a strike- so there were mountains of trash piled around. You know how the Greek villages have all the whitewashed houses and buildings? Well, we saw several whitewashed trash piles too- for real!
From Greek Islands
From Greek Islands

On one of the days we were being tourists, a water bottle leaked in the backpack and our phone got wet and it killed it. Too bad, I really liked that phone. We wanted to get it replaced right away that day but you can't because for the cell phone places, the workday ends at 3p. So Jon researched the phones that night and since we were sick of the mosquitoes buzzing around our screens we moved over to the Gouvia Marina complex & anchored because we had a few things we needed over there. But first things first, we still needed a phone. So we walked in the next day to get some exercise with 2 phones picked out that would work for us. Waited in a very long line of people at Vodaphone only to find out they were out of stock of the one we wanted to get from them. In Greece, everyone has to physically come into the office to pay their phone bill. Hence the line, and the madness. We hobbled over to the other phone company and they had one we wanted so we bought it and sat down with a gyro for lunch while we got it going. The problem was it wouldn't go- it was a lemon, bad right out of the box. So back to the phone store to get a replacement. Only problem was, they didn't have any more. OKKKK, so we asked for a refund and we would go elsewhere. Not OK, there were no refunds. What?! Bite your tongue. We had to pick out another phone but there weren't any that had the specs or price that we wanted. They said to come back tomorrow as they were expecting a shipment. We had a most uncomfortable bus ride back to the marina in a stifling hot bus and decided we needed a new mode of transport for any more trips to town. So yesterday we went back in using our fast dinghy and had a cool breeze the whole way. Although the phone place hadn't gotten any new stock in, Jon spotted an ad on a wall TV that mentioned a new model that would work well for us and they'd forgotten they had it in stock. We got it. The clerk said there was only one problem; she couldn't give us a receipt since the computers were down, could we come back tomorrow? Not likely! Its nice to have a phone again. On the way back in the dinghy, we stopped at Vido Island which is a park and walked around the loop trail in the shade. My back is healing up slow but sure.

We got a whole bunch of laundry done by the marina to save our backs, got more filters and topped up with fuel. Jon got the generator running with a new filter for that but we still haven't finished with the tank sludge issue. We now think there is something plugging the fuel pick-up that requires the polisher pump to be on to help lift the fuel past it. We are making progress though.

Next order of business was to check out of Greece. We got our papers together and went to the Port Captain at the marina to hand in our Transit Log. He started looking at it and said "this is all wrong", we didn't have enough stamps from various ports and the ones we had weren't right and whatever else, we don't know. We didn't get a lot of stamps because supposedly you only need one when you're tied up and we anchored out a lot. We paid an agent a lot of money(not by choice) to get this document done right when we entered. He said he could fine us 1000 Euros for something or other but he was very polite about it. I started to ask what the problem actually was and Jon looked over to me with that look in his eye that said "bite your tongue!" So I did. And the Cap said he would fix it for us, that we didn't have to stress, and he proceeded to make more stamp entries in our logbook that looked official. All the while, we were listening to the classical music he had playing and we knew it was doing him and in turn us, some good. He said he'd had an awful day because the computers were down and he couldn't process passports. Really, our day had been so great! Then he handed it back to us and said to go to Customs to hand it back in, back at the main port. So we got in the dinghy again and made a cool breeze back from whence we had come earlier in the day- it's 3 miles each way but it is the best way to travel around here because the water is always calm. We got in with the customs official and I swear, he looked at our logbook and said the very same words "this is all wrong; I could fine you 1000Euros for this" even though it was a completely different issue this time. Something about the way one of the previous officials had completed her entry. I let Jon go with this one too and he sweet talked his way out of this predicament with sheer fabricated empathy toward the officer. By the time he got out of there they were buds and we were checked out! Problem is, we have near zero tolerance for this sort of thing anymore. It isn't funny unless you're doing it with other cruisers, it isn't fun to be traipsing from one office to another putting your brain on a shelf because none of this makes any sense and biting your tongue to get through it without having to open your wallet for some fine for something you never did. Good thing we have about another 10 countries to check in to before we get home.

We motor sailed over to Anti Paxi to position ourselves for tomorrow's overnight & its one of those anchorages where the water drives you crazy. We're the only ones here because all the day boats have gone for the night. We did one last swim and had an easy evening aside from some rolling. I suppose it is good practice for tomorrow night. We have wind forecast from all 4 directions.

This past week has been frustrating but also our experience in Corfu wasn't as great as we'd expected. We found it to be a little rough around the edges. We'd even planned to rent a car to tour the island but it sort of lost its appeal. And we know that part of the reason we have had such a nice time in Greece is because we have sort of stayed on the sidelines and done our own thing. We've had a lot of freedom. As soon as you start leaning on the system, it gets frustrating. But I guess its like that everywhere; we're just tired of it in general. But Greece overall was a great experience and we enjoyed it very much. Hopefully this cloud that has been hanging over us will pass and the sun will come back out again!

With any luck we'll be in Italian waters by tomorrow night. And the best part is we get to go check in again. I wonder what offenses we will have made? I hope the punishment doesn't involve cement shoes!









Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands of miles of beautiful sailing, [...]
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