Monday, 23 September 2013

On our way!

Sivota to Syracusa
It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to update the blog primarily because we have been at Sea!
We left Sivota on the 31st July bound for Syracusa in Sicily. The forecast was for Force 3/4  which would have been perfect and it was for a short while we were sailing nicely. We had two visitors on board Sean, who has sailed with us before and Jim who had never sailed in his life. It has been some time since we have done a long passage and typically everyone was feeling a little queasy. I had just finished reading a book by Pete Goss who confesses to feeling a little green every time he has started a long passage, so this is perfectly normal. I find the best thing is to stay up on deck and after about 12 hours or so I have found my sea legs again! Jim however was really feeling rough and to add to our woes the so called F3/4 forecast turned out to be F6/7 with gusts of 40 knots. Not a problem.. we reefed down early and were sailing nicely but Jim was feeling worse for wear and even John was poorly! So our watch system went out the window and we just concentrated on sailing through the night with those feeling up to it. We have an alternator attached to our prop so when we are sailing over 5 knots it is able to add power to our batteries but John does not like to run it for extended periods without giving it a rest so come five o clock in the morning we decided to run the engine for an hour or so. However after 30 minutes the engine (affectionately named Dorothy… it is a Perkins engine) decided to stop! We decided it was a fuel issue and as we could sail we figured we would sail on and investigate when the sea state and the wind had abated.
As soon as possible John changed the fuel filter which was dirty and I began to worry that the 370litres of diesel that I had put in a few days earlier was dirty fuel! We got the engine started for it to last 10 minutes or so before it stopped again. John checked the new filter it seemed fine but he surmised that air must be getting into the system so changed the seal on the filter but we decided to take no chances we would sail into Syracusa which is a lovely anchorage and not start the engine until we were ready to lay the anchor.
By this time the wind had dropped and the last 20 miles were slow and laborious we spent those eight hours going through the routine to anchor under sail in our heads. It went like clockwork and we arrived in the Bay around 19.30 on the 2nd of August … John’s birthday!
Syracusa to Malta
Sean and Jim were still with us for the trip over to Malta. There was little wind so we had to resort to ‘Dorothy’ which was a shame but gave us a chance to ensure that the work John did on her in Syracusa had fixed the problem. Finally after five or six hours the wind veered and we were able to sail .. Whoopee! We slowed down as we got closer to Valetta and drifted for a few hours to enable us to get in at a decent time for customs etc. We finally tied up in Msida Marina at around 13.00. As we came in stern to I threw a line to the guy on the quay who I thought was there to help us come in. I was a little taken aback when he said ‘what do you want me to do with it?!’. John was shouting from the cockpit ‘are we tied on yet?’ and I had to leap ashore with no shoes onto a boiling quay and sort out the lines and lazy line. The guy explained that he was just security he knew nothing about boats!
We enjoyed Malta we stayed at Msida Marina for a week. Sean and Jim were with us for a couple of days before returning to Ireland. It was roasting hot but lots of history attached to the Island and John and I went to the Naval museum and something called the Malta Experience where a guide took us to the hospital founded by the knights Templars. The guide was excellent and I would recommend it. We also hired a car went to Medina the old capital which again is worth a visit. Malta is only a small island so it was quite easy to get around. It also helps that everyone speaks English. We met up with Pat and Mario, sister and brother in law of our good friends Eddie and Yvonne from Greece and had a really good evening with them. Outside Valetta the price of a drink was very reasonable though we found Malta in general to be quite good value. You don’t go there for a beach holiday though … there are very few beaches and I heard on British family bemoaning this fact. They really should have done their homework before booking their holiday!

                                         Knocking on the door in Malta
Malta to Cagliari
We left Malta on the 12th August and were bound for Favignana Sicily. There was very little wind so we had to motor. After a couple of hours I noticed we were overheating so we stopped and John checked the impellor …. It was knackered. We have a Garoni water pump and it seems to eat impellors …we always carry a three or four spares. Problem sorted we were on our way ..still no wind. We motored for 30 hours before finally anchoring in Punta ta Longa, Favignana, a nice anchorage.
I had been telling John for a while I thought the stern heads were getting a little smelly. John has no sense of smell so is oblivious to such things! Sure enough the holding tank was blocked ..not a pleasant job but probably more out of frustration and the thought of how he was going to unblock the damn thing he gave the holding tank a couple of wacks with a hammer and it was sorted. That was a relief!
We set off for Cagliari with still no sign of wind just the familiar drone of ‘Dorothy’ who was behaving beautifully now. We tried sailing off the wind but made no headway so it was back to the engine. After 30 hours we dropped anchor in Cap Carbonara a nice anchorage in Sardinia. It was busy and as we dropped anchor and put up our anchor ball we noticed we had started a trend and several boats around us were searching for their anchor balls and putting them up! Whilst it was busy when we arrived a lot of the smaller boats all disappear before dark so it was quiet and we could amuse ourselves by watching the yachts come in and discuss their anchor technique. One yacht sent down a diver to check the anchor and he was a good hour in the water! We have a new anchor, the Manson Supreme, and we are very pleased with it. We set an anchor watch program on the tablet for overnight and you are able to see exactly where the anchor swung and it will alert you if you drag. The system seems to work well. The water in this anchorage was so clear that you could see the anchor and the chain.
We arrived at the Marina Del Sole in Cagliari on the 16th and were not surprised to see that nothing had changed. We have been to this Marina now on three occasions. They are very laid back and it is run by Massimo and his Dad Antonello. You can hire a car there for 7 euros an hour so we were able to provision up. It was quite nice just to chill for a couple of days. However having done so much motoring we were forced to make use of the fuel quay. Fuel in Italy is not cheap 270 litres cost 502 euros!! OUCH!!
Sardinia to Menorca
As we left Cagliari we looked for an anchorage in Southern Sardinia and eventually settled on Teulada Bay. We stayed there two days hoping for favourable wind and finally set off for Mahon on 21st August early in the morning. We motored out for an hour then set sail but with NW4/5 it was difficult to hold our course for Mahon this was not the wind that had been forecast! Eventually the wind veered on course for Mahon. Menorca is an expensive place to stay and we decided to give Mahon a miss.. we have been there before and we were not sure that we would get an anchorage in La Mola at the time we were due to arrive. We eventually arrived at Cala Porto Addaya  at dawn. It was a tricky place to enter and there seemed to be a lot of red buoys dotted about the channel entrance so we turned around found a spot to anchor and to get our head down for a couple of hours. When we woke up a little bit more refreshed and tried the entrance a second time we realised the red buoys that had caused us the worry were in fact placed to stop people anchoring and the channel was quite easy to pick out. We have friends in Addaya, Jeff and Anne Cook and we were lucky that they were just arriving so we treated ourselves to a couple of days in the Marina at a cost of 85 euros a day it is the cheapest marina in Menorca. The people are very friendly and we enjoyed our stay there. It was good to see Jeff and Anne again after such a long time.
We left Addaya and had a good sail to the South West tip of Menorca, Cala de Son Saura. When we left we sailing along when we saw what we thought at first were fishing nets but on closer inspection we discovered they were pot plants and over the course of about 4 miles we came across 12 plants. I think they must have fallen off a cargo ship but it was a bit of a weird sight!

Ibiza to Cartegena
We anchored in several Cala’s off Ibiza. Anchoring in Spain is not as easy as it used to be, several bays have put moorings in and they like you to anchor in sand if you anchor in weed you could be liable for a fine. We found several though:
Cala around the back of Isla Moltana
Cala Horts
We heard a Mayday whilst negotiating our way past Mallorca to Ibiza. A fishing boat had caught fire and a British yacht, Endeavour, had gone to their assistance taking on board eleven persons. John and I listened to the skipper of the yacht talking to the Rescue Services. He was sailing just off Formentara and the rescue services asked him to bring his eleven fishermen to Ibiza Town to drop them off which he duly did. I hope they waived his mooring fees in light of how accommodating he had been! We did hear the Head of Rescue Services radio him personally and thank him for his help which was good to hear.
We passed by loads of big ships on AIS through the night and some more helpful than others. John radioed one Tanker to ask him if he could alter course so that he would pass on our port side and not hit us! His response was ‘what is your problem?’ John’s reply was ’if you keep on your present course you will hit us!!’ After checking his AIS he did agree to alter course but it seemed like he was not really keeping a good watch. We finally arrived in Cartegena on Sept 1st

                                                This is what we look like on AIS!

Cartegena to Gibraltar
We liked Cartegena it is a real Spanish town packed full of history. We found a fish restaurant where the locals ate although we had to have two ‘goes’ at getting any fish. We went there on a Monday and the waitress immediately came up to us and tried to explain ‘ lunes ‘ after much waving of hands and gesticulation the penny dropped. It was Monday … no fishing on Sunday so no fish Monday! We went back on Tuesday and had a good fish meal at a reasonable price it was also good to watch the fishermen go out. Many of them tow a smaller boat behind them that has numerous halogen lights on board that they put on to attract the fish. These can be a real pain when you sail at night all you can see is what looks like Blackpool illuminations bobbing about in the water and you have great difficulty working out where they are going. A lot more fishermen have AIS now which has made it easier!
Whilst we have been away relations between Spain and Gibraltar have soured so when we left Categena we were a little perturbed to find that we were being followed by not one but five navy boats all seemingly going our way!! It turned out to be a training exercise …. I think!
We are now in Gibraltar in Marina Bay and so close to the runway you can nearly touch it! When you come in here you are told that if the lights are flashing you must not enter the Marina… easy to see why! We arrived on the 7th September and Gibraltar National Day is on the 10th. A national holiday and we were woken up to the sound of one of the guys on a different pontoon playing reggae and wishing everyone a ‘Happy National Day’ . Everyone wears red and white and a good day is had by all partying well into the early hours. There was a free concert in Casements Square with some good music. The place is still adorned with flags and union jacks and there is a very strong feeling that they are Gibraltarian not Spanish.

Leaving Cartegena we were followed by five Spanish navy vessels!