The good, the bad and the ugly
22 January 2015 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Way back when I mentioned there would be good, bad and ugly round up of our sailing trip. Unfortunately what I'd written was on my tablet that died, I hadn't backed up recently enough (I don't trust cloud storage so don't use it, preferring my own USB sticks instead) so it was lost and I hadn't built up the willpower to write it again until now. So here it is!
We had warm, sunny weather pretty much from when we left Lagos with just a couple of rainy days up the river Guadiana and an occasional thunderstorm during the summer to break up the run of sun. This was good until it got too hot and moved into the bad category (see below).
Star gazing - we crossed from Majorca to Sardinia during the period of the Perseid meteor shower in early August. It did coincide with a full moon so we didn't see as many shooting stars as we might have if the sky had been dark but still saw a good number. It also helped pass the time on the night watch looking for them and counting them for the 'who saw the most' competition (no prize, just glory!).
During the summer of 2013 on the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic coast the sea looked inviting but went beyond bracing to painful if you gave in to temptation and dipped a toe in. Being able to jump in and swim off the boat this summer in the Med was the perfect way to cool down on those hot (bad, see below) days. I also used the sea for keeping fit doing laps around Emerald, I'm looking into other water based exercises I can build in for this year.
We didn't bother commissioning our watemaker as it was easy and cheap to buy water at many of the places we visited just by tieing up to marina fuel pontoons where they had fresh water pumps or dinghying into a harbour and filling our water cans.
After the brash holiday resorts of the Balearics, Sardinia and Sicily were a breath of fresh air. Although touristy they had a very different air to them. The Italians were friendly, we had several lovely encounters with other boaty types. That has carried on into the winter, the Sicilians are a very helpful and friendly nation.
Finding a quiet anchorage - although we did come across some crowded places, especially in the Balearics, we were pleasantly surprised to find plenty of quiet ones with lots of space. We began to avoid the places advertised as having beach bars, preferring places with no tourist developments. Examples were on the north east coast of Mallorca, Cala Charos on Ibiza and along the south coast of Sardinia where the anchorages would be busy in the day with local boats but they'd all go home come evening time.
Nature - many creatures seen: geckos scurrying, monkeys in Gib, rock hopping goats, the ducks of Adaiya, flying fish, beautiful butterflies and colourful fish in the clear blue water. The beauty of the natural world: weird rock formations, volcanos, sandy beached calas just a few of the many natural wonders we saw.
History - there was plenty to please my history bug including ancient ruins at Pula, Granada's Alhambra, Roman and Greek ruins at Ortygia and Syracuse, Alcudia's walled old town and Roman ruins and Palma's cathedral.
Useful bits and bobs:
Portable, pressurised shower made by Hozelock. Allowed us to shower on the back deck after a swim and we could fill it warm water too. Also useful for cleaning the sprayhood windows which I aimed to do after every sail to get rid of any salt and so try to extend the life of the window plastic.
Shade curtains were essential and I've now made more to fully surround the cockpit.
The bug bat bought for €5 from a Chinese store was much fun for zapping the biting beasties (see below) with.
Building the stern arch (which Colin did whilst up the River Guadiana) to get the solar panels off the side of the boat. Now we have no worries about misguided yachts side swiping the panels and no bouncing around in big seas. They now sit in full sunlight all day, although they do now need a regular clean as the flat surfaces gather dirt.
A hand held depth sounder proved useful in a couple of anchorages. We could pootle around an anchorage in the dinghy looking for a good spot that was deep enough for us, without risking running aground in Emerald. If we were staying a while in a place we would usually move to a better spot if we could.
We had a good season but without trying to sound like complete whinge bags there were some things we weren't very keen on:
Hot, hot, hot! My perfect outdoor temperature is somewhere in the low to mid 20's so once it was hitting the 30's I turned into a sweaty, soggy mess even just sitting still. We didn't really succeed at adjusting our day to go ashore or do chores in the morning and ended up many times living up to the phrase "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". I've made more shade curtains for the cockpit and will try again to adjust my days to Mediterranean time this summer. We really missed having a working fridge, both for cold drinks and keeping food fresh, we were having to sho more regularly and restrict ourselves to certain types of food. We plan to have a working fridge again for this year.
Going ashore - why can't towns and harbours see that if they make a nice dinghy dock all those boats anchored out will come ashore and most likely spend money. As with many other cruisers we can't afford the marinas so there will always be boats anchored off. The marina in Cala Addaiya in Menorca had it right - somewhere to easily tie up so we then come ashore and pay to use their laundry and buy water.
Arrogant superyacht types with no respect for others. Was it wrong to wish for them to have accidents whilst buzzing around on their water toys?
Pilot books - the Italian waters pilot book was disappointing with it's limited information on places to anchor. Instead we used other people's blogs and the Cruising Association's 'Captains Mate' app to help with ideas on places to anchor.
There there were the things that just made us go grrrrrrrr!!!
Swell. No, not the American word for something good but the rolly, watery, sleep disturbing kind. There were only a handful or so of disturbed sleep nights but this is more than in any other season and for me those nights were endless. I'd just drop off then a swell would roll in and it would feel as if someone was taking my shoulder and physically shaking me to wake me up. Even when we thought we'd found an anchorage sheltered from the swell, it would find it's way in, bouncing off the surrounding walls of a cala or bay.
Biting beasties - thank goodness we'd thought ahead and made bug curtains for the portholes and doors, but some still managed to find their way in. A satisfying way to zap them was with a bug bat, runs off batteries and electrocutes them with a pleasing zzzz sound.
Wind - much windier than we expected, we felt quite exposed at times and it seemed to be that the wind was either blowing light or a full on hooly with very few days of medium winds. When we were in windy places on previous trips, such as round the UK the marinas were easily affordable if we needed to find shelter.
Weather forecasts - very often incorrect!
Marina costs - over €100 a night for us in most marinas throughout the western Med. They obviously don't want our types visiting so we'll keep on heading east for a while.