|Evening Drinks, Sicily|
Yes we have moved on again
Our stay in Marina di Ragusa was only a brief stopover of two days and two nights. We sent Simon and Kay into the old city to do some sightseeing, while Alec and I attended to some ‘boat’ jobs and provisioning. We met up again with Sam, the young English guy who did a bit of a botch up job on repairing our sails and side clears last season, but all is forgiven and he came and had lunch with us on-board. We ate gelato – Italian ice-cream of which there are so many wonderful flavours, sampled the local wines, and had dinner out where I ordered my usual calamari. Alec ordered fish, something that has so far evaded our lines this season, even though we have had a couple of strikes!!!!
|Local Fishing Boat, Malta|
Then it came time to untie the mooring lines and set sail for Malta. We decided on a night passage for this leg as the winds were going to be more favourable for us. And they were. We managed to sail the whole way arriving just after 0700. Kay stayed up to help me with my watch, but with only one eye open !!! On arriving into Sliema Creek, Malta we once again tied up to our mooring – the free, three mast 100 ft. blue yacht which has sadly been tied up to huge mooring blocks and left to ‘die’ there. One morning as we were going ashore, the South African Captain from an Italian owned Super Yacht, but registered in Nigeria - Now that all sounds dubious for a start, but we actually saw the yacht he was on and went over to say hello - was giving the blue boat the once over. He recognised her from earlier days. Some general info for all of you that have used this mooring – He told us she was once painted black, built in the 70’s, been around the world about 6 times as a training vessel, very fast (which is easy to see by her lines), and was called SUNSET 77. He had worked on her in the 1980’s. At some stage she was sold to the owner of Captain Morgan Cruise Boats in Malta, and has gone nowhere since.
Our week in Malta was another busy one, but we also had time for more sightseeing. Again we sent Simon and Kay off, this time on the ‘hop on hop off’ bus trip around Malta ,while Alec and I took the life raft in for a service, and purchased more boat bits. We actually went to the service centre to see the life raft inflated which was very interesting for me as it was the first time. Alec has done the full course where you inflate it and then get into it from the water. New water and food packs and flares were replaced, so we kept the old stuff. Even though it had expired I gave Alec, Simon and Kay the water and dried foods to sample. They survived . We will keep the expired flares for the customs and police etc. in Tunisia who like them for weddings, and Eid- which is the festival that follows Ramadan.
It was the fireworks season as well, and yes Alec and Simon did want to send a couple of our expired flares hurtling skyward when they saw someone else had done so, but I did not think that we needed to draw attention to ourselves. During the summer months different villages over the Island take turns putting on displays. Mortar type fireworks during the day, and the big coloured ones at night. Well our mooring proved a front row seat one peaceful morning !! Suddenly without warning on the shore just 100mts away a group of six men stated lighting these mortars, then running for cover in an abandon shed. Help we though Malta was being invaded/bombed yet again. After a good hour of this all went quiet, but the men hung around. Then before dusk it all started up again. It was obvious the turn for Sliema – our town/bay - to put on their display. We went ashore that evening for dinner, and the following morning SHAMAL was covered in an ash like residue plus some blown up plastic cases from the mortars. No damage done. In the midst of the fireworks we had a visit from an Austrian Guy who was sent to us by the Seawind Agent for Italy, to have a look over SHAMAL. We did not get to take him sailing unfortunately as we were very busy at the time, but he spent time on board and had a good look over the boat asking lots of questions. He joined us for dinner ashore in the evening, and on our way to find a restaurant we found ourselves in the middle of a street procession in which a statue of the Virgin Mary was being carried through the streets.
We also managed a day sightseeing, this time to the Island of Gozo. The Island is five miles to the north west of Malta. We took the ferry across. It is more of a rural Island compared to Malta, but it has its share of villages and Churches. It too has pre-historic temples including the Ggantija Temples. These date back to before 3600 BC. We took one of those hop on hop off double decker buses with an open top story. Very commercial and touristy, but a good way to see places of your choice.
That evening we had dinner with Christina and Bjorn, who have moved off their yacht and are currently living in Malta. They took us to an authentic Maltese restaurant for some local cuisine. A group of us enjoyed a very tasty rabbit dish.
|Ggantija Temples- Another rock pile!|
Then it was time to move on yet again. Our first leg was a short hop to the Islands which lie between Malta and Gozo – Blue Lagoon which sits between Comino and Cominotto. Alec and I had visited here before, and it really is a pretty anchorage if not somewhat filled with day trippers from both the big Islands, but come evening everyone leaves, thank goodness. It was a lovely afternoon when we arrived, so swim time again. I was the last to get out of the water, just giving the hull a bit of a clean, when suddenly I had the horrid burning/stinging sensation on my right forearm. Oh boy did it sting. Yep a horrid jellyfish. I have since looked it up and think it is called a Velella velella, or in English that is a “By-the-wind-sailor”. I still have a burn like scar and that is after nearly a month.
The following morning we had a bit of a swell rolling into our bay so we are up at 04.30am as we also wanted an early start as we are heading for the Italian Island of Lampedusa which sits about half way between Malta and Tunisia. You may have heard about it in the news as it is where a lot of the illegal migrants, mostly from North Africa head for in small unseaworthy boats, trying to get into Europe. There are tragic results with many losing their lives on route. All summer we have been hearing reports of boats sinking with huge loss of life.
Simon and Kay rose with us at this early hour, but then decide to return to bed for another couple of hours. Not a good move for them, as they were sea-sick for the rest of the day. Yes it was a little rolly at the beginning of the trip, but once away from the Islands and out at sea, we had a lovely sail with the wind never over 20kts. And we were sailing along between 6-8kts.
After 91nm we arrived and dropped anchor in Cala Guitgia, a bay just inside the harbour which was lovely and sheltered, and calm. Simon and Kay were now feeling better and able to enjoy the beautiful evening and a light dinner on board.
Lampedusa is the biggest of three Islands making up the Pelagie Group. In saying that it is not at all big. It has a population of around 4,000 people. The other two Islands are Linosa which has a small village on it, and Lampione, which is only inhabited by seagulls. The landscape of Lampeduse in the 1800’s was wooded with fertile soil and even had wild boar. Due to poor soil management etc. over the years, today it is barren and nearly void of vegetation. This tiny little Island in the middle of nowhere has quite a rich history with known human habitation going back to around the 18th century BC. The Arabs have been here, along with the Normans and others. It was bombed heavily during WW11 by the Allied Forces as they advanced from North Africa to Sicily. Then in 1986 the Americans had a base here for where they bombed Benghazi and Tripoli from. The Libyans retaliated with an unsuccessful attack on the American installation.
Our trips ashore were interesting. Today it is mainly Italian tourists who visit the Island apart from maybe a handful of foreigners. English was hardly spoken so it was a little difficult to find out more of the history of the place. We were unable to hire a car, but in the end took the local bus on its two different routes around the Island for a look. The longer route took all of 15minutes to drive from one end to the other. We were looking out for the vast camps which were supposed to house the illegal migrants. We saw nothing of them at all, and after a little further probing we found out they now process them quickly and move them to the mainland.
The Port of Lampedusa is full of Coast Guard and Military boats of all descriptions and ranks who were coming and going the whole time. The village was surprising quaint. The main street is wide and closed to traffic. It had a lovely variety of upmarket shops along with cafes and restaurants. Like most places in the Med, morning time is busy with shoppers who have not gone to the beach. Come 1.00pm nearly everyone closes for afternoon siesta, then around 5.00pm and onwards the place comes alive. This small town was humming with people.
After two and a half days in Lampedusa it was time to move on again, but before we left the Island we motored along the south coast to a beach which had been named in the top 12 in the world. Rabbit Beach. Yes the waters were beautiful, but back home in NZ we have many beaches just as beautiful. The only difference would be the water temperature. Here at Rabbit Beach the water was 29 degrees c. It was just gorgeous. Those white sands giving the water that wonderful turquoise colour with a backdrop of craggy rock cliffs.
Then it was off to Tunisia, another 90nm. We sailed overnight – I should say motored. This leg we had only very light winds. We were tied up in the marina in Monastir just after 11.00am the following morning. One’s check in procedures are never the same as the person before or after you. Plus not the same as our visit last year. All went smoothly with a little ‘Baksheesh’ to smooth the path. This year our visas were only 15 euros for the first week and 10 euros for the second week. Last year it was 50 euros for the first week and 20 euros for the second week.
The day we arrived it was the final of the world cup. A group of yachties gathered together in one of the Marina bars – which was still serving alcohol as it was Ramadan, to watch the final of the World Cup.
The following morning we said goodbye to Simon and Kay as they had to return to England to visit their Grandchildren. They had a special week planned for them. Alec and I moved SHAMAL to the boat yard for a lift out. Thank goodness the work load this year was not as gruelling as last year. We had less to do, but it is now July, mid-summer, so we are having temperatures into the 40’s and no cooling breeze.
After three days on the hard we go back into the water and return to the Marina. SHAMAL has been polished and cleaned, but now gets a good freshwater wash down to get rid of all the dust and sand. We then start making plans to do a trip somewhere and decide we will visit Tunis and the old city of Carthage.
We took a cab up the coast to a place called Sousse to then catch a train through to Tunis. Apart from the heat, a cab with open windows for AC, but my back one had no handle to unwind it,, the stink from the fishing harbour, a traffic jam and then a car in front of us breaking down at an intersection, our taxi ride to Sousse was uneventful !!!! Before catching the train to Tunis we had time to visit the Medina – the old part of town with its traditional Arab housing and architecture. With the train ride we booked a first class ticket so as to have AC, but it was over booked with standing room only, so it was back to cattle class for us, but at least we had a seat for the three hour ride. Yes rather hot but we survived.
Tunis, in fact Tunisia, is not a clean country. I think it must be the waste dump of the world for plastic bags – and their contents. The people are nice and their old historic sites are wonderful. We visited the Bardo Museum which occupies a former palace. Here we saw the most incredible number of Roman mosaics found anywhere in the world, dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD that had been moved from some Roman Africa’s wealthiest homes. Also from the Byzantine and Arab eras. As this country is not prone to earthquakes like the rest of the Mediterranean, they are very well preserved. We also visited the ruins of Carthage, one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world. It was founded by the Phoenicians in 814 BC. This is the birth place of the famous Carthaginian soldier, Hannibal, who crossed the Alps in 218 BC with 35,000 men and 37 elephants. Carthage is again an amazing site. Then on to Sidi Bou Said, home to famous artists and writers. We then went on to La Goulette where the old harbour and an old fort are. It was one of the many harbours used by the Barbary pirates during the 16th century. In fact the North African coastline was notorious for its pirates, with them attacking ships and taking their spoils. The legendary Barbarossa Corsair brothers were based in Tunisia. Today the replica pirate tourist boats are named after these famous pirates. We spent a night in the capital in order to visit the sites, and the following day returned to Monastir, this time getting a train seat in first class!!
|The Boys - Lampedusa|
Then it came time to untie those mooring lines yet again and head west. But not before taking SHAMAL over to the fuel dock and filling the boat, and all our jerry cans with cheap diesel. We took on 524lts at 53 cents a lt. That is euro cents – or 54 cents U.S. per lt.
Sardinia here we come.
Love from The Admiral and The Commander