23 August, 2007
We left that are - more later and sailed to the Greek islands. They told us about the wind - the meltemi. well can it blow all day every day at more than 20 kts. We got sick of anchoring in bay and not leaving mlua for fear of the anchor moving and finding ourselves on the rocks.
Well all that has gone and we are no in Amorgos having visited most of the Cycladese island. We are to move east and then check into Turkey for a month before returning to Greece to meet friends.
Updates will come when I can get a connection that works and I will update the web under the same conditions.
The history of Sicily goes back to 1400BC when the first wave of people took a liking to this island strategicly placed in the centre of the trade routes from west to east. After the original tribes had established themselves they were overrun by the Greeks who where challenged by the Carthaginians but they were run out of town in 480BC and the influence of the Greek Magna Graecia took over and built some great temples on the island. The city of Syracusa on the east coast sided with the Romans and much of the Greek architecture was destroyed.
Rome's influence declined and the Arabs and then the Normans back from the crusades arrived. Roger had a great influence and built some magnificent churches with Jesus as the central theme. Cefalu and Monreale are the best examples. The latter rivals the best the Catholics could build in Rome.
The Mafia is said to have influenced the life of every Sicilian but for the cruiser one can only see the positive results of development.
We left Tropea in Italy early in the morning to sail eastwards for the volcanic island of Strompoli. The wind was kind to us but as we neared the island it can straight on the nose so we had to motor onto the lee of the volcano which was giving off smoke and gas. It has the classic conical shape but unlike Mana in Vanuatu you are not able to climb to the craters edge. The island rises out of the depths and there is no place to anchor. We tried to anchor in 40m of water with lots of chain but as the wind came up and it grew dark the anchor pulled out. We picked up a mooring buoy. A yacht and a catamaran did the same, then spent almost an hour pulling stern to stern so that the crew could share their evening meal. What an effort.
At 4:00 we dropped the mooring and set sail anticlockwise round the island to see the red glow of the volcano as it released the pressure into its crater forming the famous "lighthouse of the Mediterranean". We did not see the glow only a dull grey cloud over the summit - in the dark and as the sun rose. Well you just cant trust these Italian navigation marks.
We then head south to the islands of Panarea, Salina and Lipardi on route for the safe anchorage on Vulcano. The scenery through these volcanic island with their weather and wind eroded rocks is very dramatic but one has to keep a sharp look outt for "above and below water rocks". We pulled into the crowded anchorage on the east of Volcano right in the wash area of the numerous ferries that stop here. Not a great place but relatively safe. On Sunday evening the charter and weekend boat left and the bay was left to the long term cruisers.
The volcano dominates this anchorage and small town supporting the many people who come here to climb to the top of the crater. On the edge of the bay there are hot springs and mud pools with the usual fat bodied tourist expecting some miraculous cure from coating themselves in the evil smelling ooze. At some points the sea water was hot as the water bubbled up from underground but you had to seek out the spot and the ferry wash soon disturbed the convections.
Italian East Coast
After the dirt of Rome we were happy to set sail along the south eastern coast of Italy. We sailed south to the island of Ponza where the rich and famous come to place when they are not in Capri. The island has a wonderful harbour surrounded by high cliffs. You anchor in the shadow of the cliffs with the wind blowing way over the top. The water was so warm that Denny had a swim!
From here we sailed east towards the bay of Naples and stopped for the afternoon in a bay on the north side of Ischia where one of those touching experienced that make a cruise occurred. While cruising to the bay a small RIB came alongside. The two young lads started to talk to us in broken English asking about Malua and where we had come from. After a while they sped ahead and boarded a cruiser. Shortly they returned with a bottle of cold local wine saying we should enjoy Italy. They returned later, having been into the town with a fresh bag of Buffalo Mozzarella for us to enjoy with our wine. Such open generosity and kindness from a youngster will be a memory we will cherish.
The wind started to come up so we sailed to Cala di Corricella on the south of Procida. Did the wind blow. A large cat broke loose and drifted off into the distance which set the scene. For three days we stayed in the lee of the cliffs with 60meters of chain out. Only one of us would go ashore for short periods just incase Malua also lost its holding.
We were relieved to move on and set sail for Capri which we could see in the distance along with Mount Vesuvius. We had no intention of entering the marina in Capri because we had heard that the charges for our size boat are 150 euro or about $250 Aus per night. We motor sailed past the blue grotto and the rocks of Faraglioni before setting sail for Amalfi.
Amalfi is the home of the Knights of St John with their particular cross and the use of the fleur-de-lis as the mark for north on the charts and compass. They also wrote the first maritime code regarding trade at sea. What a great place. We stopped to get fuel and was greeted by a blond Italian who said he had married an Aussie girl in Bondi who was no an Italian mamma with a six month old bambino in an apartment up on the hill overlooking the marina. Would we use his marina or tie up along the public wharf? What a question? 55 euros a night later we had a great time along side the superyacht cruisers and sailing vessels all with crew. The company was great and the position secure plus we did not have to contend with the wash from the many ferries that came and went all day and night.
The town of Amalfi is perched on the hill side surrounding the harbour. the shops and church with its great doors made in Constantinople are built on the sides of the only valley for miles around. The town has a great feel with narrow streets, small doorways and dark alleys leading round in circles. On our first morning we set off up the valley and followed the roman built steps/road up the side of the hill. After about two hour of hard slog we came out on top of the mountain overlooking the harbour and town. What a great view.
The following day we took a local bus to Ravello perched 1155 ft above Amalfi. The town is famous for hosting writers such as D H Lawrence, Gore Vidal and even Greta Garbo but more recently holding a week of chamber music concerts in the gardens of the three large villas. We found the gardens not as well set out or maintained as the gardens of Bowral in the Southern highlands of NSW. We chose to walk down the mountain. A decision we regretted about two hours into the decent as our knees were about to collapse. That night the rain came down. Not just light European rain but heavy thunderstorm downpour. Malua got a good wash.
The coast further south to the Straits of Massina around the Gulf of Policastro has few places to stay. The only remarkable item are the watch towers that dominate the high ground all along the coast. Give Marina di Scario a miss because the mooring lines are not secure and we hit the wall with our stern.
We finally reached Tropea which is a new marina overlooked by the old town 196 steps above the waterfront. The old town has a lovely feel about it and as it was my birthday we dines out on two consecutive evenings enjoying the local seafood and wine.
We had been invited onboard an Australian yacht Time Out The owner is undoubtedly the rudest person I have encountered while sailing. He did his organization, his family and himself a great disservice not that it matters but he is a prominent person in Australian life. I hope are wakes never cross again.
From Tropea we set off for the Aeolian Islands of Stromboli and Volcano on route for Sicily.
This little known island is the gem in the Med. It is full of history, stones and bones. The people are wonderful and generous while the sailing can be quite challenging.
What can one say about Rome that has not been said before. We moored Malua in the mouth of the Tiber at Fiumicino expecting to see the twins float by but all we saw was garbage. The river was so polluted you would have to get a shot if you fell in. The tap water stained the decks and turned a t shirt yellow.
The bus service into Rome rivalled the worst in the world except nobody paid which could be the problem. The Metro on the other hand was a pleasure to ride. We spent 14 days travelling into Rome every day concentrating on one section of the city. I loved the place but found the Romans approach to the tourist the worst we had encountered. My first and last transactions in Rome they attempted to rip me off by short-changing me, only to be settled in my best Ozzie Italian.
I would not return and would definitely not spend a lifetime understanding the place however there are some magical moments like looking at St Peters through a key hole and looking down onto the alter from the top of the dome in St Peters. The steps designed by M. Angelo in front of the chaotic museum Capitolino with the big foot and the horseman in bronze plus the Villa Borgese are also stand out places. Ostica Antica as a Roman ruin is the most extensive and best preserved and well worth the half day in the sun.
The traffic has to be seen to be believed but I must say they are the most courteous drivers I have ever seen.
The sail to the Sardinia West coast was easy. This was Denny's first long passage where she would have to stand watch alone with only Harry on board. We had chosen a full moon which came up on the first night while Denny was on watch - she thought that it was a large ship appearing over the horizon. We carried the reacher for a full day with the wind abarft of the beam but then the wind dropped and we had to motor the last few miles round the north west cape into the Golfo dell Asinara. We had difficulty finding a place to anchor because of the marine reserves. The next day we set off for Bonifacio in Corsica.
I did not have any chart for this area and my chart plotter's charts ran out a few miles to the east. In preparation I had copied Google Earth map of the coast and the port and had the waypoints plus CMap charts on the computer but I had no depths or real detail. The Bonifacio Straits are very busy with shipping and are supposed to have a fearful reputation for severe weather. We traversed the straits in almost a flat calm and arrived at the port just as a ferry was exiting. The moorings were quite full but we were able to pull alongside a French yacht.
Bonifacio is where Nelson hid the English fleet after the battle of the Nile. Nelson though it was a great place but the French negotiated to keep Corsica. It has a lovely French feel to the town, shops and restaurants. We dined out here but were disappointed in the choice and quality of the food. Again the wine featured in our shopping list. The harbour is overlooked by a magnificent walled city and fort which we visited.
We set out with Dennis and Jo on Aurora who I had heard in the Pacific in the Port to Port Rally in 2004. It is a small world the sailing community.
We left them in the Fornelli passage and sailed to La Madealena to get a cruising permit only to realise that it was Sunday and everything was closed. This is the naval headquarters of the NATO task force and therefore dominated by the USA both on the water and in the slums of the town. Not a nice place to be.
We spent the night in a small bay then beat a hasty retreat out of the area towards supposedly the best sailing grounds in the world at Porto Cervo where the Aga Khan has built a very up market marina and resort. We went ashore to find the place deserted except for the shop girls in the exclusive boutiques lined up next to each other in the tastefully decorated mall.
The port is the most expensive in the Med. On race day it must be great if you are part of a sponsored team but for us anchoring out in the bay it is just ordinary.
On the 8 May we upped anchor and set sail across the Tyrrhenian Sea for Rome.
After visiting the Watson Smith extended family in Wales and England we flew to Palma on Mallorca to wait the arrival of the Erasmusgracht. We checked into a out of town apartment where we could cook our food and unpack all the things we carried in our bags. We spent the week or so visiting the old city of Palma built by the Romans in the C4 but flourished under the moors eventually coming under the Spanish rule. The Gothic cathedral built in 1230 dominates the city and overlooks the waterfront. The harbour is filled with yachts and cruisers. They range in size from 40 feet to 100 meters. Just when you think that you have seen the largest along comes another which is larger. There is no room for the casual cruiser to moor so you have to find a spot and negotiate with the Mariner manager on the spot.
We off loaded Malua and found a spot at Marina Alboran which had a number of charter yachts which were coming and going so as one left we slipped in. The people were very helpful. It is located right on the main drag near a chandler where I was able to purchase a few odds and ends. The supermarket was up the road so Denny and I were, after a few trips with our wheeled suitcase able to restock the boat.
Note: when shipping from Australia stock you vessel with all the goods you require for your cruise right down to engine oil, cleaning agents and tins of food. Don't bother with taking tinned Italian tomatoes or Spanish olive oil. The customs don't care and the shipping company doesn't either. You may save some money but you will save a lot of time and have the brands you are familiar with. The same applies with yachting goodies although the chandlers in Palma have the range and depth of the best in the world. Docking warps are cheap.
While in Palma visit the Cathedral, Arab baths, the old city and the Museu de Mallorca with the statuette of the 4th c warrior in bronze which is just the greatest. The castle on the hill and the art gallery of Joan Miro are all must see visits as is the train ride inland to Soller with the Picasso pottery and pictures.
On 5 April 2007 we set sail from Palma and sailed along the coast to the bay where we had rented the apartment then eastwards to Palma Nova and onto the port of Andratx - the oldest harbour and marina in the area. We anchored out and took the bikes ashore in the RIB to ride up the valley to the old town. Bike paths where provided next to the highway but our experience was that the drivers were very careful and courteous to people on bicycles. After a days riding we sat on the waters edge in one of the many cafe and had a few cold ones before returning to Malua anchored a stones through away.
Note: I purchased a LED anchor light and fitted it at the mast head next to the VHF radio antenna. It puts out such bad radio interference that you have to switch off the radio. Either locate the LED in a different spot or get a different type - how do you test.
From the south west coast we sailed across the Bay of Palma and past the C Blanco to the very narrow inlet Cala Pi. What an experience. There is bareply enough room to turn you yacht when you get in but with the help of Tim on Lady H we were able to drop anchors fore and aft and secure Malua ahead of his vessel. The sides of the cala rise steep out of the water and give you protection from the wind but not the swell. Fortunately there was no swell and we had a great night however the following night when we repeated the process the swell came in at 2:00 am and we spent a very uncomfortable night being thrown around by the waves bouncing off the side of the cliff face only meters from us. We were relived to see the sun rise and leave the washing machine.
The east coast of Majorca has a number of wonderful bays - cala ranging in size from very small to quite large. They are less than a half days sail and the holding is always good. Some even have marinas. Our favorite is Porto Colom where we moored Med style along the harbour wall. It became obvious that a gangplank is required if you wish to step off your yacht on to the quay with any sort of dignity. Malua not having one I set about making one from a ladder I purchased and filling in the rungs with a long strip of marine ply found at the local ship builder. A low cost option which will double as a ladder when on the hard.
We Cala hopped north up the coast towards warmer weather because the wind was always cold and the nights required at least a jumper and a blanket on the bed. Puerto de Cala Ratjada is the furthest point north on the east coast. We pulled in along side the outer harbour wall. The town is clustered around the harbour which has a few fishing vessels, ferries and small boats. The next day we set off for Menorca.
Our first open water sail. We set off with no wind and a clear horizon but as we crossed the channel a thick fog descended on us. The radar gave some comfort as the freighters passed ahead and astern of us. Then just as soon as it arrived it evaporated and we could see our destination in the high cliffs of Menorca.
Ciudadela has a very narrow entrance then opens out just wide enough for an inter island ferry to turn. Being early in the season we were able to secure a mooring berth right in front of the best restaurant on the water front along side Velshedia with Graham and Mary Pay from Dorset (new grandparents).
The city has a very Arab influence although in 1558 it was over run by the Turks. The old city was built with narrow streets, many of which lead to a dead end so you have to keep you wits about you. The market with a covered arcades is great. The shopping experience is out in the industrial area which we reached by bike. Here there are many factory outlets selling shoes and leather goods.
Menorca is exceptionally rich in megalithic structures built around 1500 BC. these are Taulas - T shaped stones, Navetas - boat shaped structures and Talayots buildings. We spent two wonderful days riding through the country side visiting these sites. One the oldest existing building.
Reluctantly we left Ciudadela and sailed clockwise to the north of the island to Fornells. Most people sail through the south. We continues round the island to the famous port of Moa or Mahon which was prized by Lord Nelson who though it would be the centre of the British Med fleet however the politicians decided that Malta would be the place and Mahon is now small commercial port visited by cruise liners, ships and the yachts passing east or west across the Med.
We moored stern to a floating pontoon on the northern part of the narrow bay. It was a great place to take the RIB to the shore and climb the steps up to the old town. From here we rode our bikes into the country side to see the Taulas and Talayots. The provisioning is good here either in the old town or out of town at the supermarket. I stocked up with a few bottles of Spanish wine which at 1 to 2 Euro a bottle is excellent value and very drinkable. Malua's waterline is down.
We were waiting for a weather window to sail the 220nm to Sardinia but the moon was full, the wind in the right direction so we set sail a 9:30 for the two night and three days crossing. A great sail eastwards.