Tri cruising

Mediterranean and now Atlantic wandering in a Kelsall trimaran

Vessel Name: Aqua Blue
Vessel Make/Model: Kelsall 39 tri
Hailing Port: Originally Brighton UK
Crew: David Bains retired dental surgeon.
About: Family and a few friends.
Extra: Aqua Blue is currently hauled at Portimao Portugal.
19 April 2022 | Mindelo
11 February 2019 | Portimao
18 November 2017 | Portugal
04 September 2014 | SW Atlantic Spain
25 August 2012 | Ionian Marine, Aktio, Preveza, Greece
28 June 2011 | Nautec, Monfalcone, Italy
23 November 2010 | Adriatic
20 September 2009
30 March 2009 | Adriatic
29 March 2009 | Adriatic
28 March 2009 | Adriatic
27 March 2009 | Ionian/Adriatic
26 March 2009 | Ionian/Aegean
25 March 2009 | Ionian/Adriatic
24 March 2009 | Ionian/Aegean
23 March 2009 | Tyrrhenian/Ionian
22 March 2009 | Tyrrhenian
21 March 2009 | Tyrrhenian/Ionian
18 March 2009
Recent Blog Posts
19 April 2022 | Mindelo

Las Palmas/Mindelo

In praise of Mindelo

11 February 2019 | Portimao

Lisbon Layover

June/July 2018

18 November 2017 | Portugal

Wild West Coast

I returned to Aqua Blue, wintering again in El Rompido, SW Spain, by late May 2017.

Corse Sailing 91

18 March 2009

Menorca to Corsica and Sardinia and back 1991

Having left "Aqua Blue", my Kelsall 39 trimaran, in Mallorca in the Spanish Balearics over winter 90/91, in July we returned by plane to be reunited with her. I pulled the tri into the quay at Porto Colom, where Stella was waiting with baby Louise. Intensive fitting out commenced with rapid deployrnent of a sun awning and wind scoop (made by Stella out of an old sailbag. The down- draft created in the cabin kept Louise happy in her bouncer on the saloon table. I opened my large suitcase, which contained two new cap shrouds and a Tilley Talisman cooker, as well as vari-
ous other items of chandlery and elec- tronics, and went to work. Several trips up the steps of the mastwere required to fit the new stand- ing rigging, the wind transducer, and a new light. The fogging of the mind experienced by climbers at great altitude seems to occur at 40' in my case!
After a few days of using the shore power on the quay, we moved to a cleaner part of the harbour. One calm morning, I managed (in shallow water) to replace the propeller by using a hub puller. The old prop had become ball of coral, and cleaning the bottom with windshield scrapers took an entire day. A pile of shells and soft barnacles fell to the bottom and lots of little crustaceans adopted me as they lost their preferred home. The process resembled a fllm I'd seen about under- water archeology. Another day was required to free and clean the center- board, involving more underwater ac- robatics to reconnect the operating chain with rope while holding my breath under the main hull. Such are the delights of maintaining a yacht in the Mediterranean on a limited budget! I am actively seeking a location where a 25 foot wide trimaran can be lifted out for a modest price. The evenings were spent in the Hostal Restaurant, where the patron's wife would amuse Louise while we ate our swordfish or Paella. Among the many cruising yachts were a Prout catamaran, Sir Battical and a French cat with 2 masts, one on each hull. After a weeks work we had a trial sail up to Cala Ratjada to anchor in Cala Cat near the red ivy covered Palacio Torre Ciega, below which stands an unusual monument made of discarded anchors that are welded into a tall column. On July 16 we set off for Menorca, a pleasant sail which let me get to know the Loran while Stella and Louise acclimatized to life at sea. We anchored in a small bay for a few days to visit a distant cousin and his family. The first night was a bit unsettled. I awoke in the early hours to find a double-ender about to re- move our precious aerials from the pushpit with her bowsprit! It was the usual problem of a multihull lying at a different angle in the absence of wind or tide. In the morning I experimented with a bridle, and Aqua Blue lay much more quietly even though the additional warp was only tied to one float. Later in the trip, I also laid a stern anchor, which gave more peace of mind during our forays ashore. That same day, I fished out 2 children who were drifting out to sea on an airbed; the parents on the beach had been oblivious of the situation. Then we moved on to Mahon to ren- dezvous with Humhrey, my indis- pensable first mate, who was to fly in the next morning. Friends drove us to the supermarket to make provisioning easy. I also bought a selection of fan
belts. We lazed away the aftemoon on the foredeck in anticipation of the com- ing night sail. In the evening at Chez Paul, we celebrated with Royal Cous- cous, served with a flourish by the eponymous owner/chef, who also dis- plays his own paintings on the walls.
Saturday morning, after a trip to the market for fresh meat, ice, and a large bottle of aromatic Xoriguer gin we departed from the Balearics. As we passed La Molla, the Loran was spot-on. By early evening, in very light wind, Aqua Blue seemed to be suspended in her own blue hemisphere. After sundowners, I discovered Navimet Monaco on Channel 23 at the unbe- lievable range of 25O miles. A continu- ous tape is played of the Riviera fore- cast, updated every 6 hours. What a good idea! Why can'twe have one in the English Channel? For 2 days we motored all nlght and played with the spinnaker and genoa all day. I spent hours with the new ship's radio and the Mediterranean navigator, but only managed to pick up Genoa for an English forecast once on shortwave. I did listen to the Cyprus (German) ama-
teur net, but they were mostly businessmen using mobile car radios in northern Europe! The Loran was a rev- elation although, strangely, it went off at night. I think it needs a much longer aerial. By comparing the compass heading required to maintain a constant magnetic bearing to the next walpoint, you acquire an accurate reading of leeway, and this can be depress-ing information. While close-hauled
my suspicions of 8- 1O dgrees (from observing trailing fishing lines) were confirmed. At midday on the third day, Stella sighted the mountains of Sardinia 35 miles away to the southeast and soon afterwards, 2 small whales. During the night we were taking running fixes
from the lights of lsola Asinara, a penal colony (as are so many Italian islands). We could smell land during the warm clear night and atday break, Corsica (Corse) was straight ahead of us. Off Capo di Feno, a strong easterly made us reef for the last few miles of beating.
We passed through the majestic entrance to Bonifacio to anchor with difficulty in Calangue de Catena. In fact, I managed to fall in while launching the dinghy, and soon Humphrey had to swim after a fender while we toured the anchorage in the buffeting wind, immediate bedlam following the dream-like crossing! After only one night in this basically medieval town, whose older inhabitants still speak a Genoese dialect, we cleared harbour, after waitlng for the owner of a Catana 42 catamaran to lift his anchor off ours. Overnight the wind had swung around to the south- west and we broad reached through the Ecueil de Lavezn pass, meeting a Privilige catamaran beating the other way. As the wind increased, we sped up the east coast inside Iles Cerbicale.
I reefed to enter the Golfe de Porto- Vecchio and the wind promptly dropped, so we motored to an anchorage in the Baie de Stagnolo. I had never seen so many catamarans as in Bonifacio and around the straits. The Mistral returned during the night, so we gently moved to the shallower west side of the bay and located my parents, who had driven from En- gland. In Porto-Vecchio Harbor I found a weather forecast about a "Genoa cyclone" producing winds of 30-40 knots (with 50-knot gusts on the west coast) but with shelter and possibly even sea breezes on the east coast. Such con- trast I found hard to believe! And all caused by a shallow depression of only 1OO5 millibars. It blew hard overnight and the 35-lb anchor dragged until we were brought up by the 45-pounder we had dropped under the bow as a long stop. Like most English men who never play our national game, I easily lapse into cricketing metaphors! In the morn-
ing I could see white water out in the gulf, but the crew was keen, so I nosed
out of the anchorage with 2 reefs in the main. Unbeknown to me, the Mistral produces vicious offshore gusts (called Raggiature) in Porto-Vecchio, and shortly we were assailed by a pro- longed 47kt gust. Humphrey and Stella were having difficulty standing on the foredeck as the wind tore at their clothes. Our curiosity having been satisfied, we tacked Aqua Blue laboriously, using the full power of the en-
gine, and shot back into Stagnolo. The additional day at anchor was then accepted with good grace and without loss of crew morale.
During lunch a Maldives catamaran came in. When her small anchor refused to hold, she was promptly run up onto the beach by her pragmatic owner. Light airs in the morning tempted us out again. Passing Aleria, we were greeted by a large Hobie cat with an
entirely nude crew. Self steering does aid sightseeing under these circumstances. We could also see the Italian islands on the horizon but did not have time to visit them on this trip. In Campoloro I saw the Apache cat Super Rose lifted out; and then I ran into MOCRA's Mike Butterfield, ebullient as usual, whose boat it was. He recommended east Corsica for wintering, especially Campoloro, which has a 20-foot wide travel hoist capable of lifting many cats easily. Reaching north , I was hoping that the almost continuous stream of Italian powerboaters were keeping a good lookout. After negotiating the buoys of the Luciane offshore oil terminal in the comparry of many large blue jellyfish, we entered the brand new marina of Port Toga at Bastia, although the scoutboat at the rather narrow entrance had initially
indicated that we were too wide! Incidentally, this marina was late in opening, due to the original Capitainerie being blown up by persons unknown! A southeasterly pursued us north and we rounded Cap Corse, inside Ile de la Giraglia, at good speed, only for the wind to drop. Under an overcast sky, we motored over a glassy calm to anchor outside St. Florent, which was chockablock with French yachts await-
ing another Mistral. After a thundery night and day the wind picked up, so we moved from our exposed position off the beach to Rade de Fornali, where Humphrey managed to hit a patch of sand with the COR. We sat out another day of powerful winds on quite a short scope in the shallow water, while several French yachts behind us repeatedly dragged and relaid their Danforths. I conclude that (for anchors, anyway) one point is better than two! And the less said about three blunt points, the better. A huge cigar-shaped cloud fascinated us by maintaining its position on the headland against gale-force winds. Fortunately, this was a one-day Mistral, but I was reminded of the saying: "The Med is a region of calms and gales which requires large engines and small sails!"
The wind was still light at 10:30 am, so we headed south after visiting the beautiful anchorage of Fiume de Santos. A huge trimaran (at least 80') with long overhangs and large strengthened wing pods was coming in. It was named Time and I suspected it was the Kelsall ex-racer William Saurin now converted for charter. After several hours of tacking around the Desert des Agriates, the wind freshened to a
good 20 plus knots, and we reefed off I'Ile Rousse to enter the Golfe de Calvi at nightfall, with a steady 9 knots reading on the Loran. The bay contained an anchored fleet of visiting yachts. We were up early to tour the citadel, an ancient Genoese stronghold which had resisted many attacks until Nelson landed and lost his eye. It shares (with Porto Colom) a claim to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (the Genoese navigator). There were a few Legionnaires about, flexing their muscles in crisp uniforms. After coffee and croissants, we returned to Aqua Blue, noticing along the way a Formula 40 which was being used for day charter. One can board a
small train here for a trip up to Corte, the old capital in the mountains, which have patches of snow even in August.
Alternate motoring and gentle reaching in light breezes gradually brought us down to the beautiful red granite of Golfe de Girolata, which Mike Butterfield had recommended so highly. We dropped the hook at the head of the gulf in majestic surroundings and watched the cliffs change color in the setting sun. The view was just as impressive in the morning light as we sailed past Capo Rosso.
In the late afternoon, we transited the Iles Sanguinaires to enter the Golfe d'Ajaccio and ran down to the capital, where we occupied an undersized berth at the L'Amiraute marina. Waiting for our friends Eddie, Katrina, and baby Iona to arrive, I opened a large tin of Fabada Asturiana I'd had on board for years. We were now 5 adults and 2 infants sharing 6 berths. Louise was quite happy sleeping in a cardboard box and being bathed in a bucket. For 2 days we drifted around the gulfs of Ajaccio and Valinco, particularly admiring Capo di Muro. After finding the entrance, we raised the board and dropped the hook in the shallow port of Tuzano next to a German owned Jeantot catamaran from which loud strains of the blues emanated. We didn't mind. Pausing for lunch and a swim under the Tour de Figari the following day, we reached Bonifacio in the evening, thus completing our circuit of Corsica. We managed a smooth re- verse towards the cliffs in the very congested harbor, had a good meal at in Bonifacio, and explored the town above the spectacular overhanging cliffs. I braved the town quay to get water and considered myself lucky to emerge with all our ground tackle. There was a diver down, uncrossing
chains so yachts could leave. Running across the straits, we soon entered Italian waters and spent the night in beautiful Cala Spalmatore,
on the east side of Isola Maddelena (where Garibaldi had spent more than 30 years in exile) . A fast reach brought us down into the Golfo di Arzachena on the north coast of Sardinia. Chris Keenan, a British Yacht agent, assured me that a multihull could be lifted out at Olbia; but the price was prohibitive. We spent a night in Porto Cervo, which has an area reserved for yachts to anchor. Some of the assembled gin palaces were enormous; one had hydraulic ramps which deployed from the stern so the owner could emerge in his lengthened Range
Rover! Surprisingly there is a reasonably priced restaurant. So many powerboats churn up these waters that the sea is permanently sloppy in the daytime, and one has to keep a nervous eye on the high-speed cigarette boats.
We were glad to return to Isola Maddalena, although we had to motor around the NATO base in pouring rain to anchor off the overflowing harbor. The town is pretty and quiet in the evenings. It's hard to believe that Nelson spent nearly 2 years in these waters, waiting for the French fleet to come out of Toulon, without ever landing in Sardinia. We followed the American sailors to a potentially expensive restau-
rant; but by restricting ourselves to the "secondo piatti" only, we had a cheap meal.
Re-entering the straits in the morning, we beat northwest towards the French islands in rising wind, and were off the Corsican coast by early afternoon. At Cap Pertusato, I turned Aqua Blue east and we anchored in Anse de Sprono with many other yachts. I realized we could go no fartherwhen I saw people wading out to one of the small islands! The water really was emerald-colored, as it should have been off the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. Later we were haring away, over- canvassed despite a reefed main, and got back to Bonifacio for a monumental anchoring foul-up in the strong crosswinds. Our tri was pinned between 2 other yachts; on one side a relaxed French skipper ("C'est nor- mal!"), on the other an irate Brit owner ("Are you staying here!?"). I replied in the affirmative, although I was strug-
gling to maintain position by throttle control while Humphrey rowed out 2 anchors and lines to the cliffs. As soon as he had finished the wind dropped. As George White of the tri Swingalong told me years ago, "Develop your sense of humor." I might add "and take plenty of fenders". We wore oilies for the dinghy trips across the harbor to protect us from the constant wash. Time was also in the harbor and I
managed to get aboard. She is char- tered out of Toulon by a skipper and two hostesses, and the accommodation was really impressive.
Resuming our return north we spent a very clear night in Figari. This is the best way to see the heavens. We watched satellites and meteors while sipping SamBucca, the coffee beans can loosen your fillings!
Yet another day of close-hauled sailng brought us back to Capo di Muro for a "bludging day". I inflated the new canoe on the quayside, and was surprised at how popular it was. By the following evening we were back in Ajaccio, again in the marina of l'Amiraute, which seems to welcome multihulls, even reserving a place for them on the front by the bandstand and restaurants. Ajaccio is a pleasant town. One can visit Napoleon's birthplace. Eddie treated us to a great lunch in a secluded patio restaurant. He said he wanted to be relaxed for his afternoon flight home! In the evening, we moved to an anchorage just east of the marina entrance, which was near a supermarket. The
land breeze overnight can be surprisingly cold as it comes off the mountains. After our shopping trip the next morning, we were entertained by a fantastic display of the bright red and yellow flying boats of the Securite Corse. They flew low over the northern suburbs. After a final approach below mast height, they briefly skimmed the surface, picking up tons of seawater. With engines laboring, they then turned for the hills. When they returned less than 15 minutes later, we could clearly hear the props being feathered as they passed directly overhead.
I wanted to have another look at Sardinia and pausing there would slightly shorten our trip back to the Balearics. Full of fuel and Corsican wine, we tacked out of the Golfe d'Ajaccio. Heading south, off Pointe de Sette-Nave, we reached the port of Tizzano (invisible until the last moment) and nosed up the shallow inlet with only inches below us. By 8am we were motoring south again as I struggled to relower the centreboard . After clearing Asinara we tacked up to the Sardinian coast against the setting sun, which gradually turned the calm sea orange as we came into quiet Stintino, with it's shallow anchorage outside the small marina.
The Fornelli passage between the mainland and Asinara was closed to traffic at night, possibly to prevent escapes from the prison settlement which is clearly visible in daytime. We motored slowly through, admiring the emerald water under the ruined genoese tower, and renamed it Pentax passage after stella managed to roll one of her camera lenses overboard. An afternoon's chugging down the northwest coast of Sardinia was rudely interrupted by the alarming noise of a fishing buoy attacking the underside of the rear cabin.
At the time, I was doodling on the chart table, redesigning the floats yet again. Humphrey leapt up and cut the throttle, and I spent some time in the water with our sharpest knife, cutting the rope off the shaft. I later had a close look at the entrance to Neptune's Cave, but decided against mooring up after seeing the incredible height and length of the steps we would have to negotiate!
Rounding Capo Caccia, we entered the big sheltered bay of Porto Conte, and anchored off the yacht club's pontoons, which were strangely empty for August. The restaurant however was well frequented by locals. As we were leaving these beautiful surroundings ( a favourite of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) a blonde Italian came roaring up in an inflatable shouting "bella barca", although we were lazily sailing with the sun awning up!
At Alghero , we tied up to the outer breakwater along with the other foreign yachts, although their numbers were well down on Corsica. I felt we were back with the long distance fraternity; an American yacht had been in port for a month with engine trouble. It was agood walk into town. Nevertheless we walked the harbour area and narrow streets. Stella treated us to a good meal in restaurant La lepanto and we sampled the local white Torbato d'Alghero and a very smooth red Tanca Farra. The surrounding area had been settled by immigrants from northern europe after the first world war, when some of the local inhabitants still spoke Catalan. Thes unexpected linguistic links certainly bring to life the nautical history of the Mediterranean.
We stocked up on fuel, fresh food, Sardinian wine, the International Herald Tribune (for a small scale synoptic chart of the Med), and even some coral. After saying good-bye to the American, we headed out to Capo Caccia while enjoying lunch in the cockpit under the
sun awning. Late afternoon the wind dropped and we had to motor all night, watching clouds moving across a nearly full moon. I was getting good forecasts from Porto Torres on Channel 26, though they were often over 10 minutes late. It was a very hot night, the temperature not falling below 81"F. In the morning, we were watching seabirds feeding on small fry at the surface when a small tunny jumped close to the boat. I trailed a line, to no avail! By late morning we got the forecast Force 3 and the spinnaker went up.
We were still spinny reaching at tea time, listening to afternoon sports on the BBC World Service, when we spotted a school of what looked llke small whales. They had white heads and bellies and sickle shaped dorsal fins, but lacked beaks. We identified them as
Risso's Dolphins. The wind was creeping ahead, but we managed to carry the spinnaker through a magical evening meal, spit-roasted chicken from Alghero washed down with a good red Cannonau di Sardegna by Jerzu. The sun was setting off the starboard bow while the moon was rising off the port quarter. The cockpit table was never more welcome.
It didn't really get dark, and during the early hours I watched the port float rising and falling over the reflected beam of the perfect full moon, while listening to Radio 4 on long wave. They should include a Med forecast when transferring to the World service!
In the morning I switched to the large Balearic chart and we passed close to an Italian yacht motoring east. They didn't see us till we were past them despite our huge red and black spinnaker.
I could see the whole north coast of Menorca in the binos and we didn't drop the spinny till the north point of Isla Colom. With the sun in my eyes I nudged a reef when anchoring, but the folding centreboard prevented damage, but it was not an auspicious end to a fast crossing! After a lazy afternoon we ran up the the coast around Cap Favaritx and anchored in Puerto de Addaya after
negouating its tricky entrance. This ford-like harbor is a regular hurricane hole, with some development on the hill above the small, quiet marina. If you want to sleep away the winter, this is the place! We leisurely rounded Menorca counterclockwise. Ciudadela is always worth a visit, and in late August, the height of the holiday season, there was only one other yacht in Cala d'en Busquets. Temperature was 88F with 82% humidity as I carried Louise right through the unspoiled old town to the pleasantly formal restaurant Cas guinty.
The following nlght we spent in Santa Goldana, the only really sheltered bay on the south coast. As soon as we anchored, half the other yachts left, which I always find rather unsettling. The nightclub throbbed until 4 am, when a strong smell of sewage replaced the noise! Local knowledge is so important.
We reached Mahon and shoehorned ourselves to the quay after an altercation with a local busybody. The crush was due to a large number of visiting old wooden yachts taking part in the Trofeo d'Admirante Conde de Barcelona. The Conde himself was in
town, and the yachts were positively gleaming with varnish. Some had very striking molded hardwood seating, forming raised cockpits on their aft decks, and were strangely modern in appearance despite their age.
Humphrey left, but 2 days of clouds and wind kept us in the harbor. We visited the Xoriguer gin factory for a tastng, and particularly liked the Chamomile herb gin. I also spoke to Pedro at his boatard. He can haul out multihulls for 25,O0O pesetas per lift each way {about £250), and charges 2,00O
pesetas per hour for cleaning and painting.
We motored out over a southeasterly swell left from the day before. By the time we reached Isla Aire, a light northerly had us raising canvas and pulling away from the coast. I was still not entirely sure of the weather, nor of
the advisability of heading offshore with a babe in arms and without a winch gorilla! The wind veered somewhat and I put up the spinnaker. The sea was
uncomfortable for the swell was going the 'wrong way,' meeting the lee float first and surging us to windward. Later, the northerly swell coming through the Menorca channel created enhanced peaks and troughs as it met the previous wave system. Stella had to put the baby Louise down to help me reduce sail as the wind increased and came farther ahead. The Menorca channel can be rough. The sea was running at 6-9ft and I was glad we were reaching, as I could stand on deck, fairly impassively watching the behavior of the floats. It's surprising how little the lee float is immersed when we're reaching. Most of the heeling is caused by profiling the swell. Crests get caught between the hulls and cascade upwards, creating waterfalls on deck. Aqua BLue almost seemed to shake the water off as we
went down the backs of these waves. I am sure the momentum imparted by
traveling at a moderate speed increases stability. The main needs a reef to
balance the rig and to lighten the steering. When a big breaker just missed the rear cabin, I was glad we were not trying to go windward. The 1O year old Autohelm was coping very well since I had remembered how to tighten the drive belt. I could hardly make out the coastline as the sun set over the hills of Mallorca.
We entered Porto Colom, avoiding a tree branch someone had kindly placed on the pulpit of a sunken yacht, yet another victim of a galley fire! As we dropped the hook, the Loran's alarm went off. For a moment, I wondered what it was! Later, Barry Millard of Boatcare assured me he could arrange a lift out on the local quay. I should have done this before we had set off!
This was the longest family trip on Aqua blue since Stella was on maternity leave.
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