Hello to you all again
Having left New Zealand on 16th March we stopped off in Brisbane for the weekend staying with Alec’s brother Richard and his wife ‘Kayleen. Then it was on to Dubai where we spent time with Brigitte and Dan, caught up with friends, then flew on to Malta, then ferry to Sicily to re-join SHAMAL on 4th April.
We have had a slow start to this cruising season. In fact as I start this email we are still in Marina di Ragusa in southern Sicily where we left SHAMAL at the end of the last sailing season. We have been told April is a little early to head on out as the weather is still very unsettled, and yes they are right about that. The sun is out at the moment, but big black clouds are passing over with rain, it is still only between 18-22deg dropping to about 10-13deg at night, sometimes cooler. And the winds seem to blow every day getting up to 30kts at times. BUT all is well and we are making progress at getting SHAMAL in order to leave here – hopefully by the end of the month. We arrived back to find all was well with her – stilled tied up with no damage from the winter storms that passed through. Unlike one of the Marinas up the coast from here and across in Malta where boats were lost in the Marinas when mooring lines broke as 2mt swells crashed in. We did have some fine black volcanic ash on board from Mt. Etna, which is only about 50 miles away.
We have already had our first lot of visitors. Paul and Sandra Jacobs, from Christchurch New Zealand, were with us for a week after they had visited Israel and Jordan. We now have Alec’s sister Anne with us till the beginning of June, and Brigitte and Dan will be joining us in a couple of days to spend a week with us. We hope to be able to sail them back to Malta so they can get their plane back to Dubai.
With Sandra and Paul we took the bus inland about 20ks to the old Medieval city of Ragusa which has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, with stunning old churches and palaces and other historical sites. The old city is Ragusa Ibla and was founded in the 8th century. It sits on the Hyblaean Mountains between two vast concave valleys – quite stunning. We also took a bus around the coast to Syracuse, another really old city founded in 734 B.C. It is situated on the small Isle of Ortigia which is joined to the mainland by a bridge. Again very interesting and very pretty.
Thursday 26th April.
Brigitte and Dan have now been and gone. Was wonderful to have them with us for a few days. Unfortunately we were not able to sail them across to Malta as we have a small problem with our hot water heater which we would like to sort out before we leave here as the system is made here in Italy. The guy has had a couple of goes at it already, so we will just keep our fingers crossed.
We visited the old town of Ragusa again with Anne Brigitte and Dan.
This last Sunday the Marina held an open day for the locals to see the ‘working’ marina’. Some of us opened our boats to the public to see through. Alec and I made the local paper. The locals had stalls selling local produce including some wonderful cheeses and olive oils. Also the wines here are REALLY REALLY good and so are the prices. We can get good wines for about 2 euros, sometimes less when on special !!
This afternoon we had a collective lunch among the boaties out on the main pontoon ( see the attached photo as the pontoon look more like a runway )as the winter season finishes on 1st May and people are starting to head on out to different parts of the Med for the cruising season. It was a stunning day – one where we could all make a start on our suntans !!
The hot water cylinder now has a new element, thermostat and stove pipe, the latter was never installed so not sure how the thing lasted for five years without one!! And we have hot water again. They were fitted early this evening. We will give it 24 hours to make sure all is working which will also give us time to make ready to leave here, so all going well we will untie our lines first thing Friday morning and head on out for Malta. Can’t wait to get moving again. We have spent this time while waiting for the hot water cylinder to be fixed doing boat jobs. Today was another big cleaning day. I got into the kayak and washed all the dirty marks off the hulls. Alec and Anne washed and polished the decks and cleaned all the stainless steel. We will be lifting SHAMAL out in either Tunisia or Crete where she will be given a good polish plus other jobs, but we have been able to reduce the work list in the last few days.
Saturday 5th May
We are now in Malta. Departed Ragusa yesterday morning at 06.10 with only 4.6kts wind. By 08.00 we had enough wind to hoist the jib and then by 13.00 we were able to hoist the main. Did washing, made water and had my fishing line out, but not jot with the latter. Was a slow crossing. We arrived here at 17.30. So now it is time to explore this gorgeous little Island. Can’t wait
Will sign out for this letter
Love to you all
The Commander and The Admiral