Emerald Tales

Currently in Portugal after 7 years in the Mediterranean

22 March 2024 | Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
01 March 2024 | Porto Santo
23 February 2024 | Porto Santo
22 January 2024 | Madeira
15 December 2023 | Porto Santo
13 October 2023 | Porto Santo
15 September 2023 | Porto Santo
09 August 2023 | Porto Santo, Madeira
28 July 2023 | Porto Santo, Madeira
23 June 2023 | Porto Santo
15 January 2023 | Porto Santo
15 September 2022 | Porto Santo
19 August 2022 | Porto Santo
29 July 2022 | Porto Santo, Madeira

Settling into Marina di Ragusa

18 October 2014 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Nichola / warm and sunny
Gorges and limestone crags in the countryside around Ragusa

So we've been in Marina di Ragusa three weeks now and we're really enjoying the place. We're on a very international pontoon with Brits, Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Dutch and Danish for neighbours.

I've been taught to crochet and there will be a weekly happy hookers / knitty natterers / crafty creations group to keep each other inspired and just well, to have a natter! Exercise is well taken care of with outdoor circuits or tai chi and I've started running again with so far no achilles problems. I need plenty of exercise to counteract all the lovely pizzas and ice cream. Up in Ragusa Ibla we tried an ice cream made with wine which was devine and an excellent way to end a 9 mile walk out into the countryside around Ragusa, the scenery there reminded me of north Yorkshire or the White Peak, all limestone crags and deep gorges.

ice cream
Wine and ice cream - a perfect combination

We had a day trip out to the Ragusa weekly market, Lidl and a shopping mall with a bus that picked us up from the marina and took us to each place which would be difficult to do without a car. And the bus had a huge boot to fit our everyones purchases in, it might have been sitting a bit low on the suspension with all the tins loaded in for the trip back.

Shopping trip

A daily morning radio net lets us know whats going on in the marina as well as being a place to ask for help or advice, to sell things or just to say hi or bye. Twice weekly happy hours have been a good place to meet new people, there has been a BBQ, film night and other events still to come and there are many guitar players in the marina for Colin to jam with. We even had a surprise visit from John and Fran, friends from Cambridge who sailed into the marina for a night, their boat was the first yacht Colin crossed the Channel on.

Pontoon boat jumble - we managed to come away €5 in profit!

The town itself still has plenty of life to it with bars and restaurants remaining open through the winter. We can get most of the grocery stuff we need in several supermarkets and a weekly market, anything else we can catch the bus up to Ragusa which is a 30 minute journey.

The toilets and showers are a wee bit of a trek but whilst the weather is still good it's quick enough on the bike to get to them. If I time it right I can cycle there and have a lycra-clad bike club pass me in the opposite direction calling out 'ciao bella' to me. Now that was a good start to the day.

Other than the blip of a stormy couple of days on our first weekend here the weather has been fantastic with temperatures still up in the high 20's. The sea is still warm and the beach is right next to the marina. It's going to be a shock to the system when we head back to the UK for a few weeks (although I won't be doing any swimming in the sea back there).

There's a storm a coming

As well as having fun we have managed to get on with a few jobs - putting Emerald into floating caravan mode by taking the sails down, packing away the dinghy, servicing the outboard and IGOR and being able to leave things out down below rather than putting away.

Colin has started on the project to extend the dinghy davits; at the moment it's a bit of a faff raising and lowering the dinghy because the Hydrovane rudder gets in the way. So the plan is to extend both arms on the davits and also put in a wire strop from the davit ends up to the arch which will help support the weight. We should then be able to hang the dinghy with the outboard still attached off the davits which will make life a lot easier at anchor. We also need to get cracks on the base of both davits rewelded.

I've been busy ordering up lots of fabric for the many sewing projects I have to do this winter - more shade covers, new cockpit seat covers and the interior seats need new covers. Pearl the Singer is going to be busy, i just hope the new motor I've bought solves the overheating problem I had last year caused by my being a bit over enthusiastic with the lubrication oil. Just need to find some discipline to get on with the jobs rather than having fun!

Porto Palo to Marina di Ragusa; 31nm travelled (29nm sailed)

03 October 2014 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily
Nichola / bit windier than expected!
We have arrived in our winter home!

It was great to be able to sail for our last trip of the season although we weren't expecting a F6 which kindly got even stronger as we arrived. No surprises there then!

The wind was from astern so it was an easy genny sail, as we entered the marina a marinero in a dinghy was there to meet us. We asked if he could push us in as we don't go backwards too well. 'Ah but I'm on my own' he replied. Eeeek! As it turned out there were no other boats in yet along where our berth was so we had plenty of space to faff about. We got Emerald turned and stern to the pontoon, only problem was we were still a way off our berth. The nimble marinero jumped back in his dinghy and a combination of him pushing us sideways and a bit of astern and we were in.

Plenty of space either side, no different to being against a finger pontoon and having another boat next to us. The homemade gangplank works well and Colin built two big eyes into the new arch for lines to run to hold the plank off the pontoon.

And so the packing away of the boat begins.... the dinghy is clean and packed away, the sails are off, a months worth of laundry is clean and dry. Time for a bit of fun now.

Syracuse to Porto Palo; 29nm (21nm sailed)

28 September 2014 | Porto Palo, Sicily
Nichola / F3 to F4 from east. Cloud then sun
Probably our last sunset at anchor this season

After yesterday's strong winds the view of the sea beyond the anchorage didn't look too inviting. We watched a couple of yachts go out to see how much they rolled; they didn't look too bad so off we went. There was a metre or so of swell but we didn't get any water on deck and after an hour the wind filled in a bit and we could sail with just the genny.

We bimbled on south; the sun came out with some welcome warmth after the gloomy morning. We motored in the last mile to Porto Palo and was pleased to see lots of anchoring space. Once set it was time to check the hull for fouling.

Sooooo many barnacles had grown on the hull in the two weeks we were at Syracuse. We'd heard it was bad for fouling there but weren't happy at all with what we found; large clumps of them right down to the keel. Time for a swim and some scraping action with our Chinese Shop scrapers! At least the sea was still warm.

Syracuse and Ortygia

26 September 2014 | Syracuse, Sicily
Nichola / getting pleasantly cooler and rain!
At the Greek theatre

The nights are drawing in heralding the end of our sailing season. We needed somewhere to hang around for a week or so before heading in to Ragusa and Syracuse (or Siracuse or even maybe Siracusa depending on who is writing the name) has a good anchorage for us to do that. The view of Ortigia's (or perhaps Ortygia!) waterfront is easy on the eye and it's a pleasant place to while away many hours just wandering it's tiny streets. There are plenty of other boats hanging around too but still loads of space.

On our first morning we were visited by a customs boat, I went to fetch the papers we'd been given when visited by the customs boat in Taormina (I forgot to mention that in the blog - they were very friendly, we did the ah football thing when we listed our home port as Brighton; had a bit of difficulty when the customs man asked us one question - he kept mentioning police and we got a bit worried - he went away, came back and said 'anything to declare?' - ah that was what he was trying to ask us! To which we answered in union 'no!') but they just wanted to know how many on board and how long we were staying.

The size of the bay can be a problem when the wind blows, which it seemed to do for most of the afternoons we've been here and set up a nasty short chop. On Tuesday it was so bad that moving around the boat became a bit of a trial as we bounced around every which way. But come evening, like a light being switched off, the wind usually died away to nothing.

The duomo

To make the most of the calmer periods of weather we went ashore in the mornings, although we still got caught out a few times and had a soggy dinghy ride home. We paid the €2 to go inside the duomo (cathedral) and see the ancient columns from the temple of Minerva around which the duomo had been built. The room of objects with eyes on them (tokens for saint Lucia) was a bit creepy as they seemed to follow us around..... At the far end of the duomo piazza was another church, this one contained a Caravaggio painting. Full up on enough culture I was just happy to bimble around the streets for a few hours in the mornings, then some more bimbling in the market and then meet Colin for a coffee in the duomo square. I loved the colours of the market and it's bustle - in one of the fish stalls there was an impromtu sing along going on, we didn't know the words but clapped along with everyone else instead. We saw a wedding in the duomo, a folk band making a video of their songs and enjoyed the everyday comings and goings of the locals.

A sing song in the fish shop

Market stall

Sunday was forecast to be calm so we took a chance to go and see the Greek and Roman theatres in Syracuse. We bought the joint museum and theatre ticket and because it was a Sunday and the museum closed early we headed off there first. Blimey so much history and so many artifacts! We got prehistoric pot burn out from seeing so many, after a while it was a quick glance to see if anything really stood out before moving on to the next cabinet. Most displays had a description in English although a tiny few were only in Italian.

We had our sarnies in the museum gardens, got bitten by lots of wee bitie beasties so hurried on back to the theatre ruins. The Roman theatre was free to see, well no one asked to see our tickets anyway, but much of it was roped off so that we were only able to walk around the outer edge of it.

They did check our tickets for the Greek theatre after which we could wander round most of it apart from the stage area. In the caves at the back (which I learned today were tombs) it was lovely and cool whilst outside the sun bouncing off the white stone was blinding. The caves also had excellent sound qualities as tested out by a man who farted very loudly in one which set all the rest of us in there giggling. His comment: 'just testing the acoustics' got an even bigger laugh.

There was a lack of information boards and we hadn't even seen anywhere selling guides. We had no idea what the little house perched high up at the back of the theatre was, back home I found out it was the last of some 16th century watermills built to make use of the fresh water running through the site.

Next to the theatre is the area of Latomie - stone quarries - from where the stone was taken to build the fine mansions on Ortygia; they also nicked off with a load of stone from the Greek theatre. On our way to the quarries and caves we saw a gorgeous ginger and white kitten but Colin wasn't persuaded by my arguments for a boat cat. It was so cute. The quarry gardens were a bit of a let down as most of the area was closed off, as were two of the three caves. The ear of Dionysius cave was impressive though and also had excellent acoustics but without any farting (that I heard anyway) to test them out.

Syracuse and Ortygia

We could only walk past the end of the ruins of the Altar of Hieron II (where they used to slaughter 400 bulls at one time) and the tomb of Archimedes (he of Eureka! fame was from Syracuse) area was also closed off, maybe because it was a Sunday and we felt the whole park had a bit of a run down air to it. We don't think it was worth the €10 entry so was glad we'd bought the combined ticket for the museum at €13.50 which felt better value for money.

Oooh and I mustn't forgot to say there's a Lidl (we've also heard there's one in Ragusa old town too) in Syracuse so a good chance to stock up on cheap beer and restock our chocolate supplies. Sad to find they didn't have any Cheddar cheese like we'd found in the Spanish Lidls but they did sell an Italian ale which was an unexpected delight. On the subject of beer, Colin had an Italian dark beer in a bar the other night too which was tasty. Proper beer in Italy - who'd have thought it?

So just a couple of short, day sail trips and we'll be in for the winter.

The Liebster award goes to.....

22 September 2014 | Syracuse, Sicily
Nichola / why so windy every afternoon!!!
Sadly no champagne prize, not even any cake for this award, just the honour of answering some questions, nominating other blogs and setting some new questions. Hee hee thank you Boxing Kangaroo for our award :-) The Liebster award is passed on from one blogger to another, in this case sailing bloggers, it's aim to let others know a little more about you and your sailing life.

The questions set to us:
1.Where did you start your trip, where are you now and where are you going?
We started our trip way back in Brighton in 2009 with 6 month voyages to the west Baltic and around the UK. We are currently in Sicily - we left the UK to head to the Med in 2013. The winter will be spent in Sicily before going on to Greece and Turkey next year.

2. If you could choose one, what's your dream boat?
Tricky one as I love Emerald! Spirit yachts are beautiful but maybe too mumaintenence to keep looking as beautiful as they deserve. Colin reckons a Najad 400 for him or maybe a Rustler 36 but that doesn't have an aft cabin. His money is no object boat would be a Force 50 with electric everything!

3. What is the biggest lesson you've learnt so far since you started cruising?
If the weather isn't good, don't leave.

4. Describe an average day of your cruising life near land?
The first thing we do every day is check the weather forecast as that has a big bearing on whether we can get ashore and be happy leaving the boat. If all looks good then I like to do some sightseeing or exploring or just walking around for exercise. There are always every day chores to be done that need a trip ashore - shopping, fetching water, getting rid of rubbish. Now we're in the Med we've had to match what we do to the weather as the afternoons get too hot for anything active other than a swim. Late afternoon and evenings are spent socialising with other boats or chilling onboard with a dvd or music.

5. Is there something you really thought you needed and turned out to be totally useless on board?
The extra radar display unit that we installed at the chart table and have never used. We have a small display in the cockpit which we rarely use - we have been lucky to have never been caught in fog and with the introduction of AIS our NASA AIS receiver unit provides much better information on ships than the radar does.

6. What's your favourite dish discovered while cruising?
I found Portuguese food fairly bland so nothing from there I can think of as a favourite although Colin loved the pastel de nata pastries. I loved the tapas in both Galicia and southern Spain as I enjoy having a little of lots of different tastes. The mussels in Galicia are the tastiest I've eaten. I'm really enjoying Italian food and am currently going through an aubergine faze, they look good as well as taste good. Hmmm so I haven't picked just one dish have I? Well I like food so much I can't decide on one!

7. Tell us about your boat name.
We gave Emerald her name as her previous name didn't really suit us. Three reasons why she became Emerald: she has green canvas and upholstery, Colin is from Ireland and it is my birthstone. We also wanted a name that was simple and easy to spell out over the radio.

8. Any advice on good cruising stories/books/movies/apps?
The best gadget we have is an ipod onto which we loaded both our huge cd music collection which freed up 3 lockers. Colin loves 'Captain Ron' as a sailing movie but I wouldn't recommend following Ron's sailing advice ;-) We have so many books on board - my favourite sailing one is 'Voyage for Madmen' by Peter Nicols about the first non-stop round the world yacht race. For Colin it is Tania Aebi's 'Maiden Voyage' or any of the books by Eric Hiscock or Bernard Moitissier. We use an app called Plan2Nav for a chart plotter which works ok but has some negatives, there are others available.

9. If you could give newbies three requirements for a cruising boat, what would they be?
- Something less than 39ft as many marina fees jump up significantly once you go over the 12m length - although this is only based on European sailing. At anchor we're very happy with Emerald's 44ft of space and comfort in big seas. Maybe a better size criteria is to be sure that you can do the sail handling in tricky conditions.
- When buying an anchor go a size larger than the manufacturer's recommended anchor size as a cruising boat will spend many days at anchor and carry more weight (extra water, fuel, food and all your belongings) than a weekend cruiser.
- eeesh a third requirement is tricky as we can think of many such as encapsulated keel, skeg hung rudder, don't go for a flat bottomed boat (skittish at anchor), a dinghy that isn't too small (ours is at 2.3m). I better stop now!

10. What are your dreams for the future?
We hope to make it around the world some day but we try not to be too specific as we just don't know where might turn our heads. My dream location would be Antarctica, Colin fancies the North West passage. More realistically Canada appeals and if we make it to New Zealand we might never leave.

And here are our nominated blogs:
Spirit of Argo : four legged tales from our sister boat and the inspiration for buying Emerald here
Riverdancer : running (and dancing) their way through the Med here
Scrabbler : Scrabble challenging their way along the Algarve and southern Spain here
Morven : heading across the Atlantic here

Our questions:
1. What got you into the liveaboard life?
2. What is your favourite sailing book?
3. What is the worst experience you've had onboard?
4. What's your favourite board game or card game or such for playing onboard?
5. What is the make of your boat and why did you choose her?
6. What is your dream sailing destination?
7. What do you miss the most from a land based life?
8. How did your boat get it's name?
9. What is your favourite food discovered on your travels?
10. What is your top bit of advice to newbies?
Vessel Name: Emerald
Vessel Make/Model: Kelly Peterson 44
Hailing Port: No fixed abode
Crew: Colin 'Skip' Wright, Nichola Wright
About: One from Northern Ireland, one from Yorkshire, UK
Extra: Emerald has been our home since 2004. We've sailed around the UK, the western Baltic and have spent 7 years in the Med. We're currently in Portugal, planning a refit. Lot's more information about us and the boat can be found at www.yachtemerald.com
Home Page: https://www.yachtemerald.com/