Our second attempt to leave Tunisia and head out to Sardinia was much more successful. We had a good run and were able to sail most of the way. It was another overnight trip and we were all tied up in a marina on the southern end of the Island in Villasimius the following morning. It was here we picked up our friends Bruce and Rachel Roy. The next morning we sailed up the eastern coast to Porto Corallo. The marina attendant made a big mess of our mooring here by only winding our port line around the bollard and not tying us on, and, in the wind we drifted down onto the starboard line and got it caught around the starboard prop!!! Alec had to take his first swim of the season a little earlier than planned. All was well and no damage was done thank goodness.
Our next port was Santa Maria Navarrese, a very pretty little place tucked in under high hills. This was our last stop in Sardinia for this season, but we will return next year. It was here Bruce and Rachael left us. We spent an extra day here before setting sail for the Island of Capri at the southern tip of the Bay of Naples. That trip took us 37 hours with us sailing two thirds of the way. We anchored outside the Capri Marina Grande, spending the night there under the limestone cliffs. The town is built on a saddle between two summits, with a view looking out to the Bay of Naples.
The following morning we motored to the south eastern corner of Capri and passed between the huge rock pillars which emerge straight out of the sea. This is the most photographed part of the island. There are caves, and arches which a motor boat can pass through. We then headed to the Amalfi coastline and sailed southwards along it passing the town of Amalfi which has a rich history as an early trading port with goods coming in from as far as the Orient. The scenery here is quite specular with buildings and roads hanging from the cliffs. No wonder the Italians are so good at tunnelling. There is no flat land along here to build roads, so through the mountains one must go.
We motored into the port at Salerno which is tucked in at the end of a large peninsular separating the Bay of Naples to the north from the Gulf of Salerno. Salerno is described as a mini Naples, but a much safer place to leave your boat while doing inland travel. We were off to visit Pompeii. This time the marina staff arrived out in another yacht, not the usual tender, and guided us into our berth. They even came on board and tied us up securely which was great service. It just started to rain as we arrived but did not last long. Alec checked us in to find this was a port where you negotiate your price! No receipts were given so we presume it went straight into his back pocket. He kept telling Alec not to worry about a thing!!
Next morning we set off to find the bus station to take us to Pompeii. That bus trip was quite memorable. Not sure how many trips the driver had to fit in that day, but I am sure we arrive in record time. So much for seeing the country side on the way, it just flashed by!! Pompeii is really amazing, and to think that for one thousand seven hundred years this city lay buried under six to seven metres of ash, pumice (lapilli) and earth before it was found by an architect carrying out land improvements in the area. Exploration began in earnest in 1748 and today about four fifths of Pompeii have been uncovered. The afternoon of the 24th August 79A.D. must have been horrific. Vesuvius exploded not only spewing out ash and lapilli, but hot gases, which killed many. It is said that around 2,000 people perished out of a population of around 20,000 people. Then in 1980 an earthquake hit the area which is said to have caused more damage to the city than the eruption? Anyway it is definitely a fascinating and interesting place to visit. New Pompeii is built just outside the old city with Vesuvius still the prominent landmark overshadowing the town. Not sure it would be my choice of places to live thank you.
Then there was our return trip back to Salerno – well so we thought. Our ticket was for both the bus and train, so we decided to take the train – just might see a little more. Well that we did. We were directed to the train station, and hopped on what we thought was the train to Salerno, but ended up in the charming town of Sorrento on the Gulf of Naples side of the peninsula. Oh well never mind it can’t be too far back to Salerno, so we caught a cab and asked him to take us to the Port at Salerno. No, we ended up at the Port in Sorrento!! Now we were going around it circles. With our limited Italian, the driver not really understanding our English, and much hand waving, he got the message and told us it would cost around 130 euros to take us to Salerno. No thank you, so he dropped us back at the train station and we returned to Pompeii. Then we walked the 2ks or so to the correct train station to get the train back to Salerno. I tell you we saw plenty of country side that afternoon!! We arrived back on board SHAMAL just in time as a huge thunder storm passed over the bay. Thunder, plenty of lightening and heavy rain. Next morning we watched the marina boys pump out a partly submerged runabout which had filled with rain during the downpour.
We had downloaded a weather forecast for the run down to the Strait of Messina around 160 nm away, and it appeared we were in for another good sail. Winds around 15 - 20kts giving us a beam reach. By 0800 we were out of the marina and on our way. By 0830 it was raining and low cloud covered the hills along the coast. Behind us back towards Naples it was clear blue skies. Oh well this won’t last long. WRONG!!! As the day progressed the seas built. The wind did not get much above 25kts and we were able to sail with full reef in both the main and jib, but the seas were hitting us side on with the odd wave breaking right over the coach roof. By night fall we had breaking swells between 4-5mts. There was nowhere for us to run for cover, and we did not want to enter a small fishing port in these conditions in the dark. At dusk we ran into a patch of thunder storms. Fork lightening hitting the sea looks quite spectacular!!!! Hail and wind gusting to 37kts, and yes the seas to go with it!! By 0100 we had had enough of it and decided to hove-to and try and get some sleep. We were both exhausted. Both our saloon hatches had leaked with the waves breaking over the boat. Our cabin hatch had developed a small leak on my side of the bed!! Bed clothes and clothes which I had on the bed were now all salty and damp. Both showers which have non return valves were leaking in salt water, and strangest of all for some reason the Port bilge pump kept coming on with little or no water in the bilge? The first time I heard it I got an awful fright thinking we had a major leak, but thank goodness that was not the case.
When we hove-to we were about 22nm from the Strait of Messina, another busy shipping lane, so Alec set up the AIS alarm and the radar alarm, so that anything entering a three mile radius around us, we would know. Then we slept with one eye open, but it was much more comfortable in this position and good to have a break. By 0300 conditions had not improved but we decided to push on for the Strait and hopefully calmer waters. By dawn there was an improvement and the seas were dropping. By 0930 we were entering a marina in the Strait where we just wanted to tie up and get some sleep. We called the marina on the radio – no one answered. We entered the marina to be told to go into the commercial harbour next door which we did. We were then directed back into the marina!! After just under an hour of radio calls going back and forth and us going back and forth, I made a call telling them we were leaving for a more organised marina and *!?/*;’ you all!!! They then called back and said “thank you for your co-operation” – WHAT!!!! So we motor sailed on calm seas through the Strait and headed for a beach resort on the east coast of Sicily called Naxos. We were welcomed in and tied up. A French boat on the other side of the pontoon watched us come in and said how impressed they were with the way we ‘sailed’ in ( third reef ) and backed up to the pontoon. We were so tired and the wind was so light that we had forgotten to lower the main. They had not heard our engines going. That leg we covered 191nm. Average speed 7.2ks. Total of 29 hrs. sailing. Total hrs. for trip 32 And then we slept, before going out to explore the village.
Next day was a major clean up. SHAMAL got a big wash down with tons fresh water, and I did loads of washing. We also cleaned the rubber hatch seals of their salt built up to solve the problem of leaking hatches. In the evening we went back into the village. We found out that the village has been built on an old lava flow from Mt. Etna which we could see clearly.
Well time to move on again as this season we still hope to get to the Black Sea, so the following morning having been well rested and de-salted, we set sail for Greece. We were heading for the Island of Lefkada in the Ionian. This is another overnight sail but this time the weather is much kinder to us. We are able to sail over half the way. Total trip of 287nm. Our first night there is spent at anchorage in the lovely bay of Vlikho where we met up with friends Joanie and Bob off ‘Nemir’. ( American/Kiwi couple from the Bay of Islands in NZ. ) Next morning we proceed to the town of Lefkada to check into Greece and pick up our cruising permit.
It will be somewhere in this area that Brigitte and Dan and the Boys will join us for a week. I am so excited that we will get to see our ‘Munchkins’ – grandchildren – again.
We ended up staying in Lefkada for two weeks on the town quay. It was a lovely two weeks – a well-earned break, as since this sailing season started we have done over 1300nm and it is only the beginning of June. We heard from the family that they will not be able to join us until the 21st June so we decided to stay put in one place for a while. Another reason for coming this way was because another friend of Alec’s from his flying days with Polynesian Airlines – Peter Fidder – has brought a yacht and it is here in the marina where he and his partner Kerri are working on it. So we spend time with them as well. Kerri is an Australian of Greek decent, and with her knowledge we hired a car for the weekend and set off to explore the local area. Our first trip was inland to the town of Ioannina which sits on a lovely lake. The old town has impressive fortifications, much of which were built during the Ottoman rule. BUT, our first stop was at IKEA, that wonderful store where one can always find something you ‘must’ have. After Ioannina it was on to visit the picturesque traditional mountain village of Metsovo sitting at 1156mts above sea level. We did not arrive back in Lefkada from that trip until after midnight. The following day we decided to drive around Lefkada Island. Our first stop is in a wee village where it rained so hard we had to take shelter in a coffee shop for half an hour. Then on to the bottom end of the Island for lunch at Vasilki, and then to Egremni where we descended the 360 steps down a sheer cliff face to the beach below. One of the most photographed beaches on the Island due to the water colour. See photos.
As we were on Lefkada for some time, we pulled our folding bikes out of storage and used them to explore some of the local area. It also made trips around the town so much easier. We visited Peter and Kerri on their boat, and as time passed were becoming a little reluctant to leave. Life here goes at a nice pace. We may even come back here this coming winter to park SHAMAL up as we have enjoyed it so much. We need to be in Patras on the northern side of the Peloponnese by the 20th to pick up the family. So on the 13th we decide it was time to leave and explore more of the area in SHAMAL on our way to Patras. Our first stop is at Porto Atherinos on the Island of Meganisi. Very picturesque with olive groves around the bay. Then it is on to Limin Vathi on the Island of Itaca. Again a very pretty town around a lovely sheltered harbour. We spent three nights here. We headed on out of there on a still calm morning with not a ripple on the water and motor towards the Gulf of Patras. Our anchorage that evening was in 4-6 mts of water just off the southern coast of mainland Greece. What I call a ‘wildness’ anchorage. No wind about so we just stopped and dropped the anchor in the middle of no-where. We were out of any shipping lanes so all was well. Then it was on to Patras where we spent the first night anchored out. As we were eating Breakfast some fishermen came past pulling in their net, and in the process somehow managed to get it caught around our anchor and chain. They also pulled up our anchor as well. After about 30 minutes they were all untangled, but as our anchor was up we decided to move into the marina at Patras. We thought the fishermen would be really mad and were so surprised when they came by saying ‘welcome to friendly Greece’. So into the marina we went as this was the pick-up point for the family. It is so much cooler at anchor than on the town quay or in a marina and the temperatures were now in the late 30’s.
They flew into Athens and pick up a rental car and drove the 2 hours to Patras. It was wonderful to see them. We spent two nights in the marina so everyone could get use to the boat. Matthew and William turned 8 months old while with us. They didn’t seem too worried about the heat. I had big buckets to fill with water to keep them cool when they can’t swim, or when we are sailing along. They are so good at settling and sleep anywhere. Brigitte and Dan have done a wonderful job and the boys are so happy. The next week was spent sailing down the Gulf of Patras, into the Gulf of Corinth, through the Corinth Canal and on towards Athens. We found a nice anchorage each evening where we could swim, and or go ashore to explore. Poppa and Nana were able to look after the boys while Brigitte and Dan went ashore in a couple of places. From the pretty village of Galaxidhi, on the mainland side of Greece in the Gulf of Corinth, Alec and I left Brigitte
Dan and the boys on-board and took a bus to Ancient Delphi which was believed to be the centre of the world by the ancient Greeks. The ruins hang on the slopes of Mt Parnassos inland only about an hour away. The trip through the Corinth Canal was interesting. It is 3.2miles long and 25m wide, so traffic is only one way. We had a wait of about an hour and a half before we joined the convoy to go through. The cut in the limestone cliffs is 79mts high. Rail and road bridges pass over the top, but at each end are hydraulic bridges across the canal which are lowered down into the water with traffic lights to indicate when to pass through. Once through we paid our dues to the authorities – 172 euros for our boat - at Isthmia. Our fee might help to pay off the Greek national debt !!!! It is one of the most expensive canals per mile in the world for a boat to pass through. We sailed on towards Athens to find an anchorage for the night. We dropped anchor in the lee of Ipsili, an island 18nm south west of Athens. Not what I would call a great anchorage. The islet beside it was a seabirds nesting place and with the odd dead bird floating past and rubbish in the water, it was not a place for swimming!! Then during the night the wind got up which made conditions rather uncomfortable. So we left early the next morning for a marina near Athens where we were to pick up another passenger. Alec’s younger brother’s wife, Kaylene, was joining us for 19 days.
Two nights later we are in Vouliagmeni, south of Athens. It was the first marina to be built in Greece. A very pretty place, but now home to the upmarket million dollar yachts with owners not too friendly to the cruisers like us who call in, do loads of washing and hang it all around the deck!! We were moved as one such owner did not like looking out on the ‘laundry’ next door!! I should have asked him if we could have used his clothes drier so he wouldn’t have to look at them on my line!!
This was where we said good-bye to Brigitte Dan and the boys. It was such fun having them with us and we can’t wait till next time.
So we will sign out for this sector. We are still moving on towards the Black Sea, a little later than we had planned but we will get there.
Lots of love from
The Admiral and The Commander