Preveza Greece to Cartagena Spain
24 August 2013
This June/July, Aqua Blue left Levkas Greece and crossed to Syracuse Sicily via Crotone. After an OCC meeting in this delightful anchorage and ancient city we rounded Sicily clockwise to Trapani. Then crossed to Cagliari Sardinia for a week.
After a crew change AB then sailed further west to Menorca and Majorca. After a further stay in Porto Colom and another crew change, the tri crossed via Ibiza to mainland Spain and cruised down to Cartagena, where she will spend winter 13/14.
Now read on!
Aqua Blue's transit of the central and western Med, during June and July 2013.
After descending the Adriatic last year, Aqua Blue wintered hauled out at Ionian Marine, Preveza, where she had previous been based from '96 to 2004. I visited in October and April/May to continue the "never ending refit". The main job was replacing the old infected stainless diesel tank with a new plastic Vetus model, ordered through IGR Yacht Services Nidri, which is run by Sue Keane who spent four years covered in fibreglass during the building of AB!! During that job I also finally glassed shut the old outboard hole under the port cockpit seat. I'd been meaning to do it for years! I also painted the starboard float with very pricy two pot polyurethane after a lot of sanding, and managed the port float and central bows too when I returned in early June.
A really good "bottom job" followed, I managed to get 5litres of equally pricy Seajet antifouling on all three hulls, since AB was likely to spend next winter afloat. Stella arrived by Easyjet to Corfu then bus down the coast, finally alighting at Action airport from where I recovered her in a car lent by the kind Italian yachtsman who was preparing his own trimaran alongside AB. After saying our goodbyes to George Tsiligiris the owner of Ionian Marine, we were quickly slid into warm gulf of Amvrakia. No deck work had been done at all while ashore, one must concentrate on the hulls, so we motored over to anchor north of Preveza off Zika's hotel for a day and night, to bend on the sails and inflate the dinghy plus all the other little jobs needed. Preveza is not the prettiest town but we had a good meal ashore and Stella photographed lots of Swifts and Bats emerging from old houses at dusk.
On Tues 11th June we motored out of the Preveza channel into the fresh seabreeze with the Yanmar powering well from the new tank and fuel lines. Running down to Levkas we made the 2pm bridge opening and were anchored off Sioux Sails by 4pm, altho we moved to spend the night south of the boatyard at Vliho after receiving a gale warning for the first night. Surprise dinner onboard became Croatian tinned pork enlivened with garlic and peppers. Back to the Sioux Sails anchorage in the calm morning, where we collected the pre-ordered aft bimini extension and sailcloth tramps that protect the cockpit, from Sue Carter! All fitted well and we spent the rest of the week here socialising with Sue Keane and her family, while preparing AB for longer trips, plus siesta-ing in the afternoon heat!
Our trip really started on Sat 15th. Up early to rinse all the mud off the ground tackle and invert the dinghy. We made the 10am Lefkas bridge then motor sailed north until the regular sea breeze piped up, whereupon we bore away slightly and romped into Parga bay at good speed for a night at anchor. The town discos did not stop till 5.30am!! On Sun morning I ascended the mast to reeve the MPG halliard, ever hopeful of light winds. Then of course we motored west past Paxos and the south tip of Corfu, where the wind completely deserted us all day. By early afternoon I decided we did not have enough fuel to motor all the way to Sicily, so we turned back and motored up the east coast to anchor off Corfu town. Where we heated up a very good spicy Bart's curry, while admiring the waterfront buildings with their Swifts screeching and wheeling overhead. We were at Gouvia fuel quay before it opened at 8am the following morning. However the lady attendant soon called me (while Stella was away shopping), and I managed to get 112litres of diesel into the new tank plus all the jerry cans onboard, price 170euros!!
Up the north Corfu channel we motored to turn left and pass south of Erikoussa, an island anchorage we have used often en route to Italy. But this time we pressed on west into the Ionian sea. At midnight we were broad reaching past Santa Maria de Leuca on the heel of Italy and continued across the mouth of the gulf of Taranto. The Yanmar came back on at dawn but by mid morning we were sailing again under the drifter, only 20miles from Crotone. In the afternoon we anchored under Cape Colonne's solitary column for a swim after 29hrs from Gouvia to Magna Graecia. At tea time we backed up to the pontoon in Crotone harbour. After a green curry onboard we strolled ashore following the Swifts and had great Italian ice creams, Ora Negra and Noche e Figi!
In the bright blue early morning we had an Italian forecast of N2 and a Greek fcst of NW4-5loc6, take your pick!! We motored out at 7.30am and ran down to Cape Rizzuto where the breeze died and we started motoring SW across the well named Golfo di Squillace, altho the squalls tend to blow off the coastal mountains at night. After lunch we spotted two Risso's dolphins and not long after we had a ten minute display of aero and hydrodynamics by six common dolphins, a wonderful sight right under the bows. And two more pods later paid us a visit, they're obviously plentiful off the boot of Italy. I'm convinced they are looking up at us on the foredeck! At midnight we were passing Cape Spartivento and by 4am I was able to silence the Yanmar and AB had a spirited sail across the south entrance to the straits of Messina, quite bumpy at 7kts with Stella fast asleep in her bunk. She arose at 7am to be confonted by smoking Mt Etna appearing straight ahead. At midday we entered Syracuse grand harbour (avoiding the Cani rocks!) and selected an anchor spot, after being hailed by David of Daq Attack who had organised an OCC meet in this wonderful ancient city.
We had driven here over twenty years earlier and were glad to be back. First I had to organise a wire strop with lock for the dinghy, which would spend much time tied to the town quay. Forewarned is fore-armed!! We spent five nights in the magnificent grand harbour much used buy the ancients. Socialising with several OCC boats esp David and Julia on Daq Attack most evenings. But also exploring the old town on the peninsula Ortygia. The Basilica based on the Temple of Athena, with the columns still visible in the walls had me spellbound most days. Although it would seem an obvious thing to do, there are very few of them!! I suppose the Christians shunned the Pagan buildings! We also visited the Sanctuary of Madonna of Tears, or "giant concrete parking cone", I can't say I'm a fan of much modern architecture! The cylindrical Concrete Pantheon intrigued since it's now an anti Fascist monument! Castle Maniace down at the tip of Ortygia is worth a visit too. That day I also had an SSB/Sailmail lesson on Daq Attack, followed by great Daiquiris served by David and Angie Jeffs on Hurah to enliven "Mexican Trains", based on dominoes!
In fact we shared a taxi with David and Angie the next morning, leaving Ortygia for the Greek and Roman Archeo park. Followed by visiting the Archimedes (Syracuse's most famous son and scientist) museum with Stella, very modern and interesting. After shopping in the market too, we still had lunch back onboard flowed by a few jobs in the shade. I tried the engine after four days on the solar panels alone, the battery was down to 60%, but it still span the newish Yanmar, who's alternator promptly supplied 60amps!! I also frequented a bookshop with lots of old CDs for sale. The overnight temps were still very reasonable too, down to 68F by 5.30am. And the fresh westerlies that are supposed to make the town quay so uncomfortable in the afternoons did not put in an appearance fortunately.
We left Syracuse on Tues 25th June, pausing to chat to Daq Attack who had returned with an overheating engine. We motorsailed down to Capo Passero, the SE corner of Sicily, where the wind veered and increased of course, with an up to two metre sea running out of the Sicily strait. On the second port tack I just continued into Porto Palo, the wide open clean fishing harbour and anchored under sail, using the self tacking staysail we'd reefed down to, just showing off really. We continued plugging west the next morning, tacking under the reefed main and a few rolls in the Genoa. The heavy old bus was maintaining 7kts to windward over the rising swells. In the early afternoon one of the genoa sheets snapped (at the old knot on the clew). We rolled away the flogging Genoa and motorsailed under main alone up to Ragusa entrance where Stella and I managed to rope the main to the boom while bouncing around. The Yanmar then firmly motored us into the large new marina, where I eventually had to accept a push from the marina RIB to get AB stern to one of the pontoons in the howling crosswind. No paint lost surprisingly. We had mean't to spend two days here so I booked for three nights and in the morning we collected a hire car.
Stella was keen to visit Ragusa Iblea for it's stunning Baroque architecture, especially the churches. Back onboard by late afternoon I "end for ended" the Genoa sheets, while Stella sought out the laundry. Followed by a very good meal at Quatro Quadri. The next day we reached Modica and Scicli in the hire car. Modica was incredibly steep hill walking in the sun, but with great drinking chocolate! Scicli was much smaller with very helpful young students in the palace and town hall where Montalbano is filmed. Back at Ragusa our Gaz bottles had returned and I used the hire car to get more diesel before returning it in the morning.
On the Sat morning of our planned departure the forecast gales arrived and made that weekend's sailing regatta very hard work for the keen sailors, some of whom had arrived from Malta. We cruisers of course remained at our berth for two days of maintenance and improvement jobs. I also chatted to a Californian owner of a very pretty Morelli and Melvin cat named Koa, which had been built in Christchurch NZ and shipped to the Med!!
On Mon 1st July we re-emerged from Ragusa to motor west in the now too light wind to Punta Secca, where we managed to identify Montalbano's beach house, now a B&B! Sailing west in the light sea breeze we made Licata by 3.30pm. Another huge new marina on the south coast of Sicily, successfully attracting wintering yachts. It was almost empty in July of course, but we still received all the welcoming literature! The delightful little Baroque town surprisingly provides a large supermarket just outside the marina entrance, so convenient. We continued west in the morning, to pass Punta Bianca after admiring the castle of Montechiaro. Later we could just make out some of the temples of Agrigento in the summer haze. At tea time we were backed up to a plastic pontoon in the fishing harbour of Sciacca. It's a nice old town after you've ascended the stairs on the cliffs. One of the Norman town gates still has the original wooden door hanging! On our return to AB we found a large German "double ender" Mindedal, skippered by Manfred, who apologised for attaching his 25tons to our 5 tons!! Like us he was heading west after years in the Med for some Atlantic sailing!
A longer day in light winds around Capo Granitola the SW point of Sicily brought us to Favignana, the largest of the Egadi islands. We anchored by the galley sheds, but a snorkel inspection made me move nearer the beach! We ate onboard admiring the illuminated Norman castle (with it's lighted path too) to the west up Montagna Grossa. In the morning of the 4th July many American boats were congratulating each other on the Dragnet 6516kHz. We rowed ashore to enjoy the charming town with a great villa and rather grand public loos. Stella pounced on the great little frutta and verdura market too. We were motoring NE by lunchtime to pass closely by the islet of Formica with it's tunny factory now seemingly an exclusive hotel. Continuing we entered Trapani harbour to anchor in the NW corner by a solitary Polish yacht. It was calm and 100% overcast grey! We left the dinghy on the Lega Navale pontoon and had a long walk into town, but it was worth it. Stella dragged me into many churches and we had a very good and reasonably priced pavement meal too. The town has been cleaned up enormously since our visit by car two decades ago! We had some trouble getting back into the now closed Lega Navale and on a future visit I'd seek somewhere else to leave the dinghy.
The wind piped up and down overnight and we had swung and dragged more than a bit, altho the Rocna unbeknown to me had snagged on a heavy seabed rope. We had intended to spend another day in Trapani but after recovering the fouled Rocna, with a fcst of N4 bec NW3 I decided not to re-anchor, but to put to sea. In fact it was a bouncy 20kts (F5) from the N outside the harbour, but we needed wind for Sardinia so continued. We eventually had the cutter rig up with a few rolls in the genoa and by early afternoon had left the Egadi islands behind. In the evening the wind moderated somewhat but backed to NW pushing us south of the direct course, necessitating driving AB closer to the wind. Stella managed to rustle up a Chile con Carne as it got very dark, there being no moon. By the early hours we had been pushed down to nearly 38N, so as the wind fell light in the early hours the genoa was rolled and the Yanmar pushed us NW directly towards Cape Carbonara, the SE point of Sardinia. And so we droned on all morning and afternoon, briefly diverted by Dolphins, with the sea calming right down, finally anchoring off the beach at Villasimius as the sun was approaching the Sardinian mountains to the west. A British Dazcat "Razzamataz" with a huge roached main came in and the owners introduced themselves as Tony and Anne Montgomery Smith.
On Sun 7th July we slept late (after our "overnighter"), then pottered onboard till Tony and Anne dropped by and invited us to dinner. Murray won Wimbledon and we enjoyed good company and a Paella on Razzamatz. The next morning swim really woke me and we ventured ashore via Villasimius marina, pleased to see lots of nesting Housemartins on the new buildings, plus a shop and fuel dock. The afternoon seabreeze then allowed us to sail across to Cagliari where we were enthusiastically helped to back up to Marina del Sole, while a huge thunderstorm hurled lightning rods down across the bay. This year was unusual in that we were making use of marinas, rather than anchoring all the time. I was pleasantly surprised that the staff were not at all fazed by AB's 25ft width, leaping onboard to grab the laid lines, they regard the yacht owners as amateurs, which we are!!
We saw Cagliari's sights for a few days before Stella flew back to Brighton. I amazed myself by booking her flight on the Blackberry since the marina wifi was so slow! We socialised with Tony and Anne who arrived the next day, to sensibly leave Razzamataz for a few weeks in cooler climes at home. Manfred also came in on his huge Colin Archer Mindedal. AB seemed very empty after had Stella left but with power onboard I continued with "improvements" in the cooler mornings, before the afternoon temps drove me into the tented bar area to follow the TdF on the iPad, following Cavendish's sprinting exploits. Then on Bastille day Froome conquered the Beast of Ventoux, where Bobby Simpson perished so many year ago. I eventually spent ten days here, the folding bike helping my evening explorations and restaurant choices.
I collected my new crew Dominic from the airport with one of the Marina's cheap rentawrecks, and used it to fill 3 diesel cans as well. We dropped the laid lines on Thurs 18th July and motored south to Capo di Pula, from where we could enjoy some gentle tacking to Spartivento, before reaching slowly into shallow Malfatano bay. A great multihull anchorage altho there were a few keelboats at the entrance and some campers behind the beach. The water was 79F so long swims were in order after murky Cagliari. Next morning we motored around Capo Teulada and then sailed slowly to Capo Sperone, before having to motor against a fresh headwind up the channel to Carloforte on San Pietro island, which is a pleasant spot used by yachts transiting the south central Med.
On the Sat morning we took on yet more water and I bought diesel while Dom raced round the local supermarket. We could now receive the French Navtex, which promised a good reaching wind today, declining tomorrow. We had to motor west all morning but as we came out of the lee of Sardinia we were grateful for a fresh NEasterly all afternoon, and all night too. We made very good progress although the bumpy conditions produced cascades of water to jetwash the lee float, testing Dom's Stugeron pills, although he heroically made dinner! Prolongued sleep was impossible so we did one and a half hour watches, which we both agreed was about the right length in the conditions. Sunday brought gentler sailing under blue sky and declining seaway and we sailed well until the wind went light at tea time, whereupon we motored the last two hours to enter Addaya, Menorca, threading our way through the twisting entrance and anchored keelboats till our centreboard folded up in the shallow very green water. I made a too hot curry (again) and crashed out before ten pm, secure in the knowledge that Froome had won the TdF!!
A very quiet night encouraged deep sleep altho the green water and many yachts discouraged swimming in the morning. We settled for showers and then Dom explored in the kayak. While I managed a QSO with Bill G4FRN using the Icom 706 bought off eBay! We later motored round to Cala Teulera inside Isla del Lazareto at the entrance to Mahon harbour. On the way, under autopilot, I just spotted a log ahead and managed to close the throttle as trunk bounced along under the hull. No visible damage fortunately. Teulera was hot 90F, blue and still, good for swimming with the water 81F. And we were not sent packing to the expensive moorings by the HM, as many boats have reported. We stretched our legs walking up to the giant fort on La Mola after dinner but they were closing up.
We arose to the news that the third in line to the throne of England had been safely delivered!! Then motored southwest while I played the radio Ham, I need the alternator on to transmit. We managed some sailing later in a light westerly, but ended up motor sailing against it to reach Porto Colom, Majorca after 60mls in 11.5hrs. It was a long day and Colom was very crowded with so many buoys and boats compared to twenty years ago when AB spent two winters here. But the town was the same, altho with many more bars & restaurants, some with free wifi fortunately. We had a very good meal in "HPC". Within 36hrs Dom, a fast learning crew member who does not seem to mind bumpy conditions (what more can one ask?), had departed by bus to Palma airport to meet his family for a holiday on the north coast at Deya.
I then stayed on the buoy in Porto Colom, pottering onboard in the shade, since late July is very hot in the sheltered harbour and altho the local kids swam in the murky water, I didn't! I even found a long lost St George's pennant and flew it from a "whippy" mast on the port float despite Gibraltar being in the news!! Dusk would release me to walk ashore with the iPad, for pavement eating and "surfing". I also exchanged many emails with my next crew about flights, at one point I was booking them in Colom and the travel docs were being printed in Oxford! On the late Thursday morning of the 1st August, Humphrey alighted from an air-conditioned bus from Palma, into the Porto Colom cauldron. He'd been up all night, so a long siesta to aid acclimatisation was in order. We had a good pavement paella in the evening while I managed to book online a mooring buoy in Cabrera national park. And we'd only bought the Paddy (cheaply in NY) to see how it worked! Previously I've resisted the internet revolution onboard since it can't be received affordably any distance offshore.
Friday morning we toured Colom harbour in AB to fill with diesel and water. The sea outside was rather sloppy given the lack of wind but we eventually sailed into large and deep Puerto de Cabrera to pick up the waiting buoy, in nearly 100ft of water! Absolutely no facilities, just somewhere to get away from it all, in the otherwise crowded Balearics. And we left early on Saturday to cross to Ibiza, where a late southerly blast carried us round the north east coast to anchor in crowded but very scenic Portinatx, which like Cabrera is completely open to the north. We followed that long day with a short drift around to anchor in the even more open and shallow Bahia San Antonio-Abad. It was incredibly crowded with yachts at anchor and tourists and frankly overdevelopment ashore. I had actually flown here in 1965 with my family in a tiny plane from Barcelona, which we'd reached by train from northern France. The contrast was overwhelming since in '65 the was no development whatsoever on the beach outside the small port town. In fact we had met a Canadian who was about to open a beach bar and we actually wondered whether he'd have any customers. I can only hope he sold out later for a good profit!!
We were glad to motor out of the Bahia at 8am , initially accompanied by two dolphins. We had to motorsail all day to reach the mainland headland of Cabo de la Nao, continuing south to anchor in the Bay under Cabo Oro east of Moraira, where Admiral Byng had moored his fleet, before his overcautious attempt on Mahon. As I'm sure you know he was later executed to "encourager les autres"!!
Alicante marina the following night was incredibly hot and expensive at 90F and 89euros! Crowded too, we spent the night on the waiting quay or "muelle despair"! We had a reasonable meal in one of the marina restaurants and explored the interesting old town centre and promenade. But another night at this price was unthinkable, so after filling with fuel and water , we spent the next night at the open anchorage west of Cabo Huertas. Running SW down the coast in the morning the wind and seas built up quickly and we eventually surfed around Torrevieja (Humphrey managed some video) and then motored hard against the wind to gain the deep anchorage in the outer harbour, for a late lunch and siesta. We stayed onboard for dinner and watched "Paris, Texas" yet again!
In fact we killed a few days in this free anchorage and altho we couldn't find the "old tower", it's a pleasant spot, altho very crowded again in early August. Our final sail took us past the Mar Menor and round Cabo de Palos to Cartagena which we managed to enter under sail. The relatively new fully battened main enables slow progress to windward on it's own surprisingly. An Ozzie marinero made us welcome in the new Yacht Port Cartagena (YPC), even allocating us a double berth with side finger pontoons at mono rates. Which was what had brought us here of course. I met the lovely Julia in the office and paid for four months, in exchange for lots of tourist advice. Humphrey and I slowly stripped down Aqua Blue for the winter in the cooler mornings, combined with sightseeing and later siestas. The whole old town centre is paved in marble and all the house fronts with their wrought iron balconies have preservation orders. The Roman remains including the newly uncovered theatre, the House of Fortune and the Forum are all worth a visit. As is the restored Town Hall and the very informative Underwater Archeology museum on the quay behind YPC. There's also a Roman/Carthaginian festival in the autumn and a Jazz festival in November.
However by the 16th August we were back in Brighton for a party and even more important my daughter Louise's graduation. We returned en famille to Cartagena in September for more sightseeing and a few afternoons at Cala Cortina (only ten minutes by taxi). Plus sampling several very good restaurants. Altho I was distracted somewhat by finding bars to follow the Vuelta Espana!
Later in December I emailed YPC after seeing strong winds forecast, to be immediately re-assured marineros would be on duty over Xmas. I can't recommend the place highly enough! We plan to drive there for the Easter celebrations.