15 September, 2010

Toulon, French Navy and the Mistral

Toulons all round anchorage has long been the harbour of choice to shelter from the winter storms or as in our case the strong Mistral wind. We entred after a night at the open anchorage on the Porquerolles and looked at an anchorage recommended by a fellow cruiser but it turned out to be too shallow for us so we headed off to the Darse Vielle marina to find a safe spot. As we entred the port we were greeted by nine warships on the horizon doing naval exercises plus inumerable others tied up at the naval dockyard of Toulon. It has been a harbour for centuries but the navies refuge since 1610. In 1793 the young Napoleon Bonapart, an artilary officer who forced the British to withdraw from their fort on the hill. After this success he was made brigadier general which started his military career. The harbour has been expanded since those times and now is the centre of the French Mediterranean fleet. We saw them loading white UN amared personel carriers and light tanks onto a large transport ship just outside the marina entrance.

The Old port marina is rather run down but in the best part of town so we checked in and tied uo stern too next to a British Moody 38. It turned out they and a similar vessel in the marina had just traversed the French canals this last summer and had their masts stepped at Port Napolion where Malua is to spend the winter.

I was woken on the first night as a thunder storm came over us and heavy rain started to fall. Fortunatly we had closed all the hatches and portlights before it started. I was standing in the companionway listeming to the thunder when I heard a freight train approach. It was only seconds away then Malua, and all the other boats around us lurched to starbord the jumped to port. Our rail was almost under the water. Malua was throun backwards and hit the dock with a thud. The wind then changed direction and came from the north west with 35 knots strength. It was awsome. People say whenyou hear the train the wind is over 50 knots. Well the way it tossed Malua about I would say it was well over that measure. Fortunatly Malua was not badly damaged so we just took in a few more inchs of line and wated for the rain to stop which it did soon afterwards however the wind continued for two days at well over 25 knots. Good decision to come into the marina.

While the wind was still blowing we visited the naval museum, the markets and rode the buses back and forth around the city. Not much to see but a great feel to the place especially the fountains and the markets. We stocked up on food at the Carrefour for the last stretch of our journey before hauling out for the winter.

01 September, 2010

Big Towns, Big Names and Big Numbers

Summer in the French Riviera has just big towns, Monte Carlo, Nice, Antibes, Canne, Frejus, St Tropez (the last four are in fact in the Cote D'Azur) associated with the big names of the film stars and celebrities. We saw the towns but not the big names. The town each have a certain charm about them and each have some unique feature which makes it worthwhile to visit them but when all is said and done they look very similar and the retail section repeats itself time after time. We tend to stay out of the marinas with Malua and anchor in a bay nearby and take the RIB into the marina or to a beach on a bus route to the centre. The museum of Henri Matisse in Nice was very good indeed because it showed his work during his stay in this particular villa Cimiez with is muse. The Antibes museum of Pablo Picasso also covered the period of his live while he lived in the area also with a muse Francoise Gilot. I liked the painting of The Goat and the large collection of plates with faces painted on them.

Iain visited Canne to see the film festival site and the hand prints but we justed stayed away and took a long walk on the Ille Saint Marguerite. It is a beautiful island which has been retained as a nature park. The water around the island are shallow and afford good anchorages so the Sunday night we arrived it was filled to capacity however as they left to return to their home marinas we moved closer in shore and a better location. The next day we walked the perimeter of the island and stopped off at the Fort Royal. It housed "the man in the iron mask" I must say its bare courtyards and cold cells must have made it a very unpleasant place. Today it has a maritime museum which has a relics of a Roman galleon very well preserved and presented. It well worth a visit.

Tomorrow we visit Port de Fejus but like the other famous names John is not in town to meet us so we will have to cruise down to St Tropez to see if we can catch the last of the big names before everything shuts at the end of summer for September is upon us and the chilly winds of the north have started to blow and the last bus leaves at 6:30 pm. Winter has arrived.

22 August, 2010

High Rollers, Rolls and Roar of the engine

Monaco or Monte Carlo is the place for high rollers, Rolls, the roar of Ferrari engines and other forms of visible wealth. We on the other had sat outside the Casino and had a drink to watch the world go by expecting to see a high roller or someone famous. Not a chance just the wanna bees and the people who stood and watched. We did sit beside a fellow who was greeted by two rather wealthy old gentlemen one of which stated that he was closing the branch down because it was loosing money. Where I know not but it didn't sound as if he was a high roller or getting into one of the many super sports cars parked in front of the Casino.
We did not roll the car out the back of Malua when we moored stern too at Fontvielle but purchased a day pass on the bus and rode the three line from end to end. Monaco is much smaller then I expected. The marina does have a number of large super motorboats but does not have the number of sailing boats one expects. The number of shots far exceeds anyones expectations and the goods in show are just over the top. The window of Cartier was filled with diamonds and more diamonds in lovely settings. Unfortunately the bracelet Denny liked would have had to be enlarged and would not be ready for this evenings dinner date so we let it pass. Another time perhaps.
The Aquarium is out of this world with two floors of fish tanks ranging from schools of fish right down to the smallest sand worm. They draw the water from far out to sea into the tanks so each creature get fresh water however some tanks have to be heated to suit their natural environment.
The Princesses Grace rose garden was good and very well designed and set out and compares well with the Australian old Parlement house garden. The Hughes house garden comes in third.
After two days, two cocktails sessions at the Hotel de Paris, a great meal overlooking the Marina and a number of bus rides we decided to move along. To a bay north of Monaco within sight of Italy so our phone connection can pick up the Internet and we can follow the Australian general election. No clear result.

17 August, 2010

Dark clouds, strong wind and rock n roll

Every sailor enjoys down wind sailing, with the wind slightly behind the beam, true wind of about 10 to 15 knots and a smooth sea. Malua set off from Santa Margherita in overcast weather and little wind. We followed the coast past Portofino and the cove of San Fruttosa and set our course for across the Bay of Genoa. The wind started to come through from 120 from the bow and settled down at about 10 to 14 knots true. We soon had the blue and white reacher up and were sailing along at just over 7 knots. The only sound was the ripple of the wake as we picked up speed to over 7 knots every so often. Ahead was the 52ft catamaran Gone with the Wind who also had their reacher up. For three hour this continued. A sailors dream but ahead the dark storm clouds were building. I expected the wind to increase or drop away altogether and change direction. The boat ahead was a indicator of what we can expect so I was able to keep the reacher flying longer than expected. Eventually the wind died and we had to put the engine on and motor the last few miles to Loano.

With a stern anchor we had a reasonable night but the swell started to build. The forecast indicated a north wind that evening reaching well over 20 knots then swinging to the south with an increase in speed. We only had 15 miles to run so entering the Marina Imperia was an easy decision. The management said take any berth on pier T would be suitable as it was a new marina only opening a few months previously. With only two boats on the dock the choice of 19 others was easy. We had just secured Malua and closed the hatches when the wind started. It continued through the night but in the morning the rain came. A heavy down pour accompanied the wind. It continued all day, rain, rain and more rain. By this time the wind had moved from the north to the west and then to the south, finally to die in the east as the front moved further up the coast. Malua had received the best wash of the season, the dingy was full of water and the water tanks were full of the gift of the gods.
The next day dawned with the wind reaching 20 knots even before the sun was up. It continued all day reaching its peak in the afternoon with a few gusts well over 30 knots. It is at times like these that you are pleased you made the decision to enter the marina no matter the cost. Snug and cosy, secure to a dock and warm in bed at night.
Having spent two days in the marina we decided we should move along further west along the Italian Riviera towards San Remo. The marina was calm and flat but as we put our nose outside the break wall we could feel the effects of the two days of wind. The sea was up and confused. We put Malua's bow into the apparent sea and put the throttle down but we could only make 4.2 knots as the bow would be buried in the back of every second wave. Turning off the wave only increased the rock n roll. After the 12 miles of this sea we were pleased to go stern too at a public quay in San Remo harbour and get out of that unpleasant experience. Enough of this dark clouds and rock n roll.

09 August, 2010


Portofino is almost too beautiful for its own good. When one walks the harbourside quay you will be rubbing elbows with day-trippers, the Italian industrialists, celebrities, the motor yacht fraternity and a lot of rich but not so famous folk who consider this little town the epicentre of the good life. The late afternoon is the time to arrive which we did after a gentle stroll from where we had anchored Malua in the bay of Santa Margherita. The daytime crowd has left either in the bus or on the many day ferries plying their trade up and down this beautiful coast. At this time there are a few people in the harbourside bars preparing for the night's dining at the local restaurants.

We chose the La Gritta American Bar. A famous writer called this bar "the nicest waterfront bar this side of Hong Kong" The prices where nice all right the drink selection apart from cocktails poor. A range of champagnes, cocktails starting at 18 euro, bottles of wine starting at 34 euro and two types of beer at 8 euro for a 250ml served I might say in a warm glass which you could not get a head from the beer! The balance to that were the snacks - at least 8 different types ranging from chips right to carrots and halved small tomatoes. Along with the good services comes the view, and what a view. While were sipped our drinks three super mega yachts went astern into the quay. The smallest called "My Toy" while the largest, "One More Toy", came complete with a jacuzzi on the top deck along side a treadmill and exercise bike and bar! The rich or is it their parents or friends stepped ashore to walk along the dock to a preselected restaurant for a night of the good life.

After our two drinks we walked up the side streets to catch the last bus back to Santa Margherita to dingy back to Malua for some real beer and a wonderful meal looking at the guests at the water front hotels of the Continetal and Imperiale. Not a hard choice as to which side of the view I would like to be. Tomorrow we walk the trails to the San Fruttuoso cove.

04 August, 2010

Cinque Terre

These are the five lands, actually hamlets clinging to the rock face perched above a splendid sea. So quote the guide books. The villages are just badly located as fishing villages. Riomaggiore has a small harbour, Manarolo the harbour so small they take the boats out of the water and store them on the precious land. If the west wind comes up they cant land and have to haul the boats into the air by crane. Corniglia is high above its small inlet called a harbour and Vernazza has some protection. The final town we visited is Monterosso has no protection at all with a gravel beach accessible only by paying some money.

Well what is the attraction to make millions of tourist visit these small town each year. it is the scenic walk along the cliff tops between the towns. That most good trampers do is take the train from La Spezia and stop at Riomaggiore having purchased a train and park access ticket for 8 euros. From the start the first leg to Manarola is only 1km which will take only 20 minutes. This is just a warm up run to get you into the swing of things. Any one can do this section.

The next from Manorola to Corniglia is the same distance of 1km but will take the average person 1h 10m. It is interesting and worth the walk especially the lovers section where poeple leave a lock attached to something.

Now starts the real "walk". The distance is 4km but will take you 1h 30m if you are super fit. Let me tell you not many people do it in that time especially if undertaken on a hot summers day at noon. It starts up the road out of town then goes through the olive grove round a valley, then up to the crest and then down along the face of the mountain side. Just when you think you can go no further some fellow will arrive from the opposite direction and ask "how far have you come?" Your return question get a response "Oh about 40 minutes - all up hill" Well that's great it is now down hill all the way. Wrong. Yes generally down and you know how hard it is to step down on uneven steps which may slide away from you at any time. Frequent stops, lots of water and two strong knee joints are essential for this section.

The next is only 3 miles but the guide book suggest it will take 2 hours - a half hour longer than the last 3km section. just imaging how tough that would be. We took the sensible option and jumped on the train to the fifth town of Monterosso. Here we walked along the promenade and took the train back to La Spezia. Having cooled off by now we took the number 3 bus to our stop on Garibaldi for the bus back to La Grazie. No touring for us tomorrow, a layday to get over the stiff muscles.


There are some passages you wished you had never started. Things don't go according to plan. Some the wind turn and comes on the nose so you spend most of the time beating into the wind or at least motoring into some choppy sea while others the wind and sea come up and you feel you should just turn back - you never do.

Our 89nm passage from Elba to La Spezia started just after first light. It is a long distance to travel in a single day. Most people do an overnighter of it or in fact break it into two however with a strong west wind the East coast of Italy in this area is very exposed with few if any places of refuge, so we decided that the wind was from behind and we would sail the full distance on pleasant seas to make a safe landfall in a sheltered bay of La Grazie.

The wind started from the south at about 10 knots which is just beautiful sailing breeze right from behind. The sea was flat and we were rolling along at just over seven knots. Ideal. Then the wind started to increase and the cloud bank ahead of us indicated a cold front approaching. I took the first reef in the main when the apparent wind over the deck was touching 20 knots. Not a minute too soon as I again turned to head north with the wind behind us it reached well over 30 knots true wind but the sea had started to build. We were surfing down the short swell making great time for our destination. Then the front passed over us with the few drops of rain, The wind dropped and then rose again from the west. Still sailing wind from a reasonable direction. One reef and staysail was by now the order for the day however the waves were coming from all directions and Malua was just keeping dry above the confused sea. The waves could not make up its mind which way the swell should roll in from. Not good sailing! A second front approached and passed over us at about 1500 and the wind moderated but we could see the wind in the west.
We finally made it into La Spezia bay as it was getting dark and dropped the anchor in 10m of water in a calm bay of la Grazie. Then the storm really started. From out of the surrounding mountain the lightening and thunder came, followed by a down pore typical of the tropics. Thankfully the wind was only mild and the rain gave Malua a good wash.
That days passage is one I don't wish to repeat soon not for the wind but as always for the swell and rock and roll waves.


Both Nelson and Napoleon visited Elba. Napoleon stayed only a few months but has left his mark although not much remains of his except the two villas. The best at Palazzina dei Mulini which is on the hillside overlooking the entrance to the harbour of Portoferraio. I found his military camp bed the most interesting item. Made from steel with ornate silver add-ons plus a canopy. The whole thing dismantled into two round leather containers which some unfortunate solder would have had to carry. The rest of the object OK but the location wonderful. The balance of the island hasn't much history as far as I could see.
We arrived at Elba from the Island Capraia and anchored in the Gulf de Campo right next to Threshold. The next day we took the local bus clockwise round the island visiting Marciana which has the best icecream on the island made by the owner of the shop right in front of your eyes. From there to Marciana Marina then back to Marina di Campo. A good days land travel.
We sailed anticlockwise to Azzurro past the old iron ore mines right on the coast and anchored in the bay. Not good holding for the wind came up and the yachts where dragging their anchors, one crossed our chain and we were dragging next to him. After some good anchor practice (four attempts) one to get out of the way of a large stink boat who picked up some chain and spent half a hour disentangling their anchor. We finally put ours down which was to hold for four days while we toured the island by bus. Right to the north of the island and to Portoferraio.
We spent a few days at Golfo del Viticcio while the calm weather lasted and swam in the warm water. Elba ha some charm being covered in trees and mountainous but not the great attraction the guide books claim and Nelson was right he would not like to see the island again (or was that Corsica?)

26 July, 2010

Mediterranean Cruisers Net

The Mednet as it is known to the cruising yachts in the Mediterranean is an institution to those in the know.  It is a network (talkshow to landlubbers) run on the SSB HF radio on Frequency 8122Khz at 07:30 Italian time.
I first heard the Mednet when we entered the Med on April 2007 and have follow it every summer since then.  A netcontroller introduces the Mednet then asks for vessels to check in giving their boat name, crew names, location and weather.  On good days when the propagation is clear the netcontroller can get up to 25 boats checking in, ranging from the Eastern Med near Egypt to the far western Med of Spain.  We have even had a few boats give us a call from the Bay of Biscay west of Portugal.
It is great fun to follow the people that check in day after day as they cruise in a particular sea either along the Turkish coast or on their way to Venice or wherever.  The purpose of the net is to to share information with other cruisers and to find out where your friends are.  This has been moderately successful because people are generally careful with their advice over the air however this year the netcontrollers decided to change the format and drop the formal reading of the weather and ask for more information to be shared.  I am the Netcontroller on Tuesday.  The fellow who does Monday has been able to get people to share such a lot of information that we are now starting to reach our goal. Some days it is good other not so good but we all listen even if the noise from the radio drowns out the people talking. (only one at a time)
The other benefit of the Mednet is that one comes to know the peoples' voices that checkin each day to such an extent that you feel you actually know them.  We have cruised the length and breadth of the Med over the last four years and have only actually crossed paths and met four vessel that check in to the Mednet.  Last week we cruised into a anchorage on the south coast of Elba and there right in the middle of the bay was the yacht Threshold.  The crew had checked-in this summer and I had come to recognize their voices.  It was an absolute delight to actually meet the crew of this great vessel. The conversation started as if we had last seen then that morning on the Mednet. In fact we have now sailed together for almost a week, enjoying their company more than somewhat.  The great advantage of the Mednet.

20 July, 2010

Blue water, White Sand, Hot Sun

What more could a cruiser want than the above.  Some would say a bit of wind.  Well it came through yesterday as we deceided to leave the great anchorage of Plage de Saleccia and sail the short distance to Saint Florent.  This beach is a wide open white sanded beach which is not accessable by road so those on the beach have either come by boat, which most do or have walked a few kilometers to get to the beach.  It has some history in that it was the site for the shooting of one of the first great war movies The Longest Day with Robert Mitchem.  I remember it well for it set the standard for blood and guts and relistic beach scenes of the Normandy coast.  The only problem for me is in the movie the real water must have been 10 degrees - well yesterday the water temperaturee was 28 degrees C.  Almost too hot to swim.
We anchored off the beach in three meters of water and a big yacht came and anchored right in front of us.  A good ditance off.  Later in the day two fellow came swimming by speaking english.  They stoped to say hi and we found out that the owner of the yacht is an art dealer who had done quite a lot of business with the Australian National museum in Canberra.
The water colour over the white sand is indiscribable so I have just included a picture.  The sunset beautiful as the water settles to a mirror for the night.  The one thing is the humididt which reaches well over 75% during the evening and morning.  I sit here down below dripping persperation.  The only releaf is to swim and then take a fresh water shower or you just sit in a pool of water.
Back to the wind.  We upped anchor and motored off to the wide deep bay of Golfe de Saint Florent and noticed some small waves in the distance.  As always the wind was on the nose but before one could say "up sails"  the wind was blowing 25 knots.  At that seep we sail faster than we can motor so up sail with one reef and the small stay sail.  We set off accross the bay at more than 7 knots to wards the mountains.  We were about two miles off when then the wind appeared to change direction and we fell into a hole.  No wind.  It had completely disappeared.  on with the motor but leave the sails up because we saw other yachts heeling over in the distance.
We were soon back in the breeze and cruising along at a nice pace.  Oh how great it is to sail onece in a while.
We arrived at Saint Florent with just 8 knots of wind and down went the anchor in a large bay - mud so no moving is the wind came up.  The off to town to get a bottle of the local Rose wine to go with the chicken.
Sunset and a calm hot night.  Just another beautiful day.

15 July, 2010

West coast of Corsica Cruising Delights

Corsica has always been bypassed by many cruising yachts because they believe that it is not the place to cruise and it is windy. Let it stay that way and the adventurous shall have it to themselves.
Well we where introduced to the wind the day we crossed the Strait of Bonificia on our way north to Ajaccio. We had visited Bonifacio in 2007. The wind had been forecast to blow at more than 25 knots.  So we set off at dawn and chose a sheltered bay as our destination.  It was a great sail but the wind started to rise as we neared our destination late in the afternoon.  We picked up one of the many free moorings and settled down for the night and the wind did blow for three days.  Not as high as forecast but blow it did.  What was astonishing was the swell that accompanied it.  In our case we were in a bay and the swell came round the point and caught us on the beam.  It was not nice.  In fact it was so bad we had to sleep on the floor.  When we ventured out the swell was still rolling in from Spain.  It was like sailing in the southern ocean again.  Up, up you would go then top the swell and down, down again.  We had only planned a short passage into the bay of Ajjaccio but it was long enough.  Fortunatly the bay is well sheltered and the roll went away.
From past posts on this site we had a great time at the Corisican wedding.
We spent more than a week sailing around the bay of Ajjaccio and anchoring off points and bay.  It is wonderful, clear water, long beaches and good holding.
We started to sail north past Capo di Feno and into the Golfe de Sagone.  Here again there are buoys but we anchored off the beach.  The next day it was on to the twin Greek and Cathlic chuch town of Cargese.  Each church stand opposite one another.  A relic of the past when the Greeks where imported to start a colony but the local Coriscans did not like the hard working Greek imports! How things have changed.
From there it is north to the red stones of the Golfe do Porto and Golfe de Galeria.  The latter reminded me of the coast of Tasmania with the rocks rising straight up out of the crystal clear blue water.  We spent more than a week just moving from one small bay to the next, sometimes with other yachts but generally on our own as the sun set.
Calvi was the next major stop.  The home of the winged dagger of the French Foreign Legion.  Having served alongside one of their number I have respect of that unit.  He was a large mean soldier who could run all day without a break but always ready to helped his lesser mortals (I remember you - Silva).  We visited the port and the castle built on the promontory and looked at the display of the units equipment and memorabilia of their time in Africa and other places.  It reminded me of the South African units motto "He who dares wins"
We picked up a buoy and paid the 30 Euro for the night but next day anchored way down the beach for a quiet night before proceeding north to the friendly town of Ile Rousse where we anchored off the beach.  We took the RIB ashore and as we were securing it a friendly fellow asked us to let his lines in an accent that was not French. He turned out to come from Eden just a few miles down the coast from Malua Bay our home port.  he is the deck hand on a vessel anchored just off our stern.  It is his first season and he was enjoying the trill of the adventure despite the long hours.
We stayed a few day at Ile Rousse not only to watch the football but to renew the Orange contract to access the internet.  A requirement these days.
In summary:  The west Cost of Corsica has the best cruising grounds we have visited in the Med IF the weather is good.  The town are cultured, the supermarkets so well stocked it is a delight to give your euros away.  the shops and people friendly.  The greatest cruising in four years.  Only another week and we will have to move on.

11 July, 2010

Lights Camera Action

So started the reception of the wedding we were attending in Corsica.  It had been planned to the last degree by an adoring father for his beautiful daughter who was getting married to a heart surgeon.  The wedding took place in the church where eight generations of the father's family had been married.  He chose the best restaurant on the coast close to Ajaccio fortunately owned by a family member then appointed his local Toulon caterers to do the food.  He had shipped in all the wine and champagne from France and stocked the restaurants cellar.
After the wedding we all got into cars and drove from Corte in the mountains down to the coast.  We had to get back on Malua and motor down the coast to anchor off the restaurant.  The sun was setting as we let the hook go not 100 meters off the beach.  We took the RIB ashore and put our long pants on before walking up the beach to the reception which was well under way.  People were standing around drinking and eating snacks of fois gras, Palma ham, cheese and other exotic things. 
We then adjourned inside to be seated at tables named after islands, ours - Maldives.  The place setting had a island setting with beautiful napkin rings, name places in the shape of ships and wine and glass of the best quality.
The menu was outstanding see link http://www.john-and-katia.gettingmarried.co.uk/Menu.htm
We started with quails breast on a bed of palm heart with saffron.  What a wonderful taste.  We were all guessing what the base was because it is so different.  Next came on huge white plates the best fillet steak I have ever tasted.  The kitchen prepared them in relays so each table got their serving at the same time.  Unfortunately for us the father of the bride was giving his speech while we were easting and his presentation was so good you had little time to enjoy the food.  Being in Corsica he had to speak French and then translate for us foreigners.  He was good and the works so touching.
The rest of the nigh seemed to fly past so fast that before we knew it the wedding cake was before everybody and was cut.  So different.
Dancing followed then singing and so it went until my feet hurt so much I just had to sit down.  The bus had arrived to ferry the guest to their hotels so we walked down the beach to the RIB and returned to Malua to listen to the music carry over the water as the part went on till down.
What a wonderful time.  If you wrote a film script you could not have got a better outcome.

30 June, 2010

Corsican Wedding

The purpose of this summers cruise was to attend the wedding of my best friend Richard's son John who is marring a Corsican girl.  Her family comes from the main mountain town of Corte where the grandmother still runs a hotel and other enterprises.
We received the wedding invitation in three languages, English, French and Corsican.  This set the tone of the celebrations.  The first event was a serenade of the groom of the bride outside the door of her house.  Today South African boys don't sing so he got a band of local singers to take his place, the home is transferred to grandmother's hotel and rather than a private affair guest are invited.  The singing was beautiful and at the appropriate moment the bride opened the door and the singers entered to continue the singing well into the night.
The following day we all assembled at the hotel we were staying in and boarded a road train to be taken to the Municipal offices for the official legal ceremony.  The Mayor in all his robes and chains was in attendance along with six witness who all had to sign, with flourish in the appropriate place.  The wedding party was then presented with the official wedding documents.
Now off to the church.
The brides family had been married in this church going back eight generations.  Some tradition.  The ceremony was in French, Corsican and for us foreigners parts in English.  In the middle of the ceremony the thunder started and just before the wedding vows the heaven opens and the rain came down.  Thankfully the roof did not leak.  Local tradition states that the rain washes away the past and the bride and groom start a new life wash of the past.
By the time the wedding couple had to leave the church the rain had almost stopped and we were able to throw rice and paper hearts over them as they departed.  then the drive back down to the coast for the reception at the most upmarket seaside restaurant.

Rock and Roll in Bonifacio

The straits of Bonifacio are famous for bad weather and rough seas, so any marina who attempts to cross them does so with care.  We were due to be in Ajaccio 60 nm north of Bonificia so we set off at first light about 4:30 am with little breeze, of couse on the nose.  The went well and we made good progress along the coast past the first then the second cape.  As we sailed north we noticed other vessel heading north.  They all looked as if they had a purpose.  We had decided to call it a day in a large bay of Propriano and pick up a mooring buoy or drop the anchor in the Bay of Porto Pollo. Well before the sun set we picked up the second last mooring buoy and snuggled down for the night.  The wind had risen to 20 knots as predicted.  The swell was slightly on the beam so it started to roll early on in the night.
By midday the following day the swell had risen the wind dropped and we were rolling from side to side.  We went ashore to try and get some stability and normality.  What a relief to sit under a tree.
Returning to the boat we settled down for the night on the floor of the cabin - the only place that had little movement and was safe.
The following morning could not dawn quick enough.  While we slept it was not comfortable.  We set sail for Ajaccio and rounded the Cape Muro with swell at least 15 meters.  The wind was on the beam so we sailed in to the bay and dropped the anchor near the gas terminal buoys.
What a passage through the straits of Bonificia which lived up to its name.

15 June, 2010

Sardinia Crossing

While cruising in the Med there are always a few wide open spaces, blue in the charts that have to be crossed.  From Greece to Sicily and now from Italy to Sardinia.  As always it involves a night passage.  Fortunately it is no more than a day or two so a good watch system does not have to be set up just choose your weather.
We left the mainland of Italy, that is to say the Island of Capri to sail to wards Pnza a small island off the coast as a stageing post.  We had visisted it in 2007 so knew the anchorage and the facilities.  It is beautiful, the supplies adequate and the most important the holding is good.  Of course the wind was from the wrong direction and chose to blow into the protected anchorage but it was from the South East.  The right wind for the crossing.
We downloaded the GRIB files and studied the strength and direction then chose two days hence to leave at a respectable time to arrive at our destination during the day.
On checking the newer files at sunset the day before the situation had changed.  The final stages of the crossing were going to be windy.  Solution leave early.
Up at first light.  No wind so we motored out of Ponza and continued that way till well into the afternoon when a reasonable breeze came through aft of the beam.
Up with the reacher -  the large blue and white sail that billows out front pulling us along and a great speed.  Denny and I settled down to a lovely sail as the sun set.  It was going so well be started  dinner.
After only a few hours and right when one reaches the last and best part of any meal the wind died and I had to rush forward and snuff the big ballooner.  Oh well there will be another day.
Back to motoring into the clouded sky and black of the night.
Denny called me at 2:00 am asking to analyse the many spots on the radar.  Three vessels all seemed to be converging with one astern in a rain squall.  No risk but an experience shared not stood alone at the helm.
At 4:00 just as it was getting light – I cant say the sun was rising because we have not seen the sun all day since.  The rain came down and the ferries and cruise ships came at us from all sides.  As is the case with all landfall this season the wind rose.  Fortunately from astern but at 30 knots I thought is prudent to take a reef in.  Well not one but two.  It went well and I was concentrating on the job at hand and did not notice the large ferry not half a mile away.  I must say I was pleased with the speed of Malua through the water, down wind as I put distance between us only to be confronted by another ferry off the starboard bow.  I switched on the motor to get us above 8.5 knots to pass infront of their bow.
The prospect of a secure anchorage looked good as we sailed into Porto Rotondo and dropped the anchor along side a few 70 ft yachts.
Another crossing another experience.  Great.

09 June, 2010

Amalfi Tourist Experience

Malua cruised into Amalfi for the second time while in the Med.  This is positively the best place on the Italian coast.  Not is it beautiful and full of history and culture but the wine and food is good.  We stopped in at a very upmarket restaurant to celebrate my birthday and enjoyed the experience more than usual.
The next day instead of walking in the hills we took the bus to Positano and had our lunch overlooking the beach.  We decided to take the boat back to Amalfi. Tourist style.
That evening Assie friends from Vos dropped by for a sundowner.
Today we are off to Capri for another tourist experience

08 June, 2010

Strait of Messina

The Strait of Messina separate Sicily from mainland Italy. It has been feared my many marinas since the time of Odysseus who lost six of his men to a giant octopus who guarded the shore. He did not fare well after passing south through the striat because his mast fell down killing his helmsman.

Malua set off at 4:00am in the dark from Naxos which is the bay south of the town of Taomina which was made known by James Michner in his book of the '70 The Drifters. We have now visited all the towns in the book and traveled the same route the group followed in our VW during 1974.

We had timed our departure to get a north flowing tide through the strait. It worked and we had a great run north up to the port of Messina when the south flowing tide and westerly wind caught us. From the above picture one can see the turn of the tide or the infamous whirlpool ready to turns your ship around or suck it into the depths. Nothing happened!

The swordfish of Sicily which we eat on our last visit to the island in 2007 migrate through the straits of Messina. Unlike the eastern Sicilian fisherman who catch the fish in nets the ones in this strait follow them in boats with a 10 foot height mast with two men at the top spotting the fish. When they get close a crew member run out along an equally long bowsprit with a harpoon and spears a swordfish who is sleeping on the surface drifting with the current. We saw three boats but nobody on the bowsprit so the fish must have got away.

On exiting the Strait we had a decision to either head NW to the Eolian Island (Volcano) or more north to Tropea. The wind made the decision so we sailed north in 15 knots of wind to the Marina at Tropea. After washing Malua off with the fresh water in the marina we climbed the 204 steps up the cliff to the town of Tropea. I had spent my 2007 birthday in the town. Unfortunately we had to move north so the excellent dinner could not be repeated.

05 June, 2010

Sawdust and Shavings

Today Malua looked like it was back in the back garden. It was covered with sawdust and shavings. WhenI built Malua I was aware that home builders spend an extrordinary amount of time putting the finishing touches to their driem boat. Some do it because it is their dream and when they finish it will become their reality while others dont want to stop because they fear the sailing and unknown more than the challenges in the workshop. I knew that the first was very real so I completed the major items on the to-do list then set a date to launch. I also wanted to go sailing for the summer. The to-do list is still incomplete however having launched in Preveza and a few days before Denny arrived I thought now was a good time to put a line though a few items.
Above the navigation pod is an open space which should be closed wiith a cover. A quite noticable area. I went into the wood store in one of the cupboards and retrieved the chosen piece of maranti, fired up the generator and cut the piece to size with by jigsaw. Then out with the sander and plane to get it smooth. Then more sanding the navigation pod and before I knew it Malua was covered in sawdust and shavings. Just like the old days but this time it had to start cleaning it up immediatly because Denny was due on board in a few days.
After a few coats of varnish and a bit of epoxy glue the new shelf was put in place. Nextt the good clean up and Malua was again in Bristol fashon,

26 May, 2010

Doing Time

Denny left Sydney yesterday and is currently in Dubai waiting for the connection to Athens.  I have been sailing in the Ionian or more exactly laying at anchor.  The above picture is just one of the anchorages I stopped at called I think Port Atheni.  I had sailed from the mainland at a great place Astakos.  Very few boat visit the harbour and the town reflects it.  The people are friendly, The shopkeeper helpful. I stocked up on provision, fruit and veg plus a new phone card to access the internet.  This year I have not used free WiFi but the 3G phonenetwork to access the internet.  The access is great quick and available almost anywhere and at any time.

23 May, 2010

The fleet is in port

I decided to go into the harbour of Kalimamos quite early in the afternoon. I had had a great sail from Meganise but the weather was still overcast and slight rain was still falling. The harbour is quite narrow with a newish breakwall. The pilot warned that there were rocks on the inside of the wall and caution should be used when going stern too the breakwall. I decided I would go bow too and drop my kedge anchor in the harbour and run the rode from the stern. The bow would be against the breakwall and hopefully the keel would be far enough off the wall to clear the rocks. I lined up the position on the wall went ahead and threw the anchor off the stern. Everything went according to plan and I was tied up and welcomed before I knew it.
Soon after securing myself a small wooden yacht entered the harbour and decided to repeat my mooring technique. His approach run was not well executed because it started well over my anchor line. When he threw his anchor over the stern it was well over my anchor rode. I pointed this out to him however his response was: he had not yet let go the rode so it was not across my anchor. Was I just stupid and he knew what he was doing. I watched as they secured their little vessel bow to the break water about six boat widths from Malua.
The fleet then started to enter the harbour. Sailing Holidays flotilla of 14 boat started to come into port. The first vessel dropped their stern anchor alongside mine and came up to the breakwater bow first, just on my port side. It was executed perfectly under the guidance of the fleet leader, a competent Kiwi. The next vessel repeated the manoeuvre, then the next and again the next. By the time the space was filled between Malua and the tiny wooden boat six anchor rodes had crossed his anchor. At which point he could take it no more and approached the fleet leader complaining. I must say I could not hold back repeating his words back to him that he knew what he was doing and was he in fact stupid to position is anchor blocking the mooring for six vessels. The fleet leader assured him come the morning all would be sorted.
He left before the fleet left port untangling his rode by using his RIB.
I must say the fleet leader did an excellent job in getting all the fleet into the small port without a single raised voice.

Finding your way home

In your home town getting lost on your way home can only be attributed to taking the wrong turn or having just a little too much to drink. When sailing not finding your way back to your boat can have dire consequences. In my case I was a sober a judge, knew the right turning but just could’nt get to the right bay. I might say I was walking on in the RIB.
I had anchored Malua in one of the many bay of Abelake on the NW side of Meganisi. In the late afternoon I set off for an evening walk having walked in this area the previous year. That was both an advantage and a disadvantage. I knew my way around but also recognised the road and the twists and turn over the hills. I climbed up from the beach through a fairly rough bit of land with overhanging trees and bushes. Noting as I reached the road that a previous walker had stepped in a mud puddle and a few meters up the road there was a pile of stones. Great pointers for my return.
I walked for about an hour and reached Little Vathi to find Charlie Girl stern too the quay. I was invited onboard for a drink which then turned into a delicious meal. The weather had turned to rain but looked as if it would pass before it got dark. Excusing myself I left about half-an-hour before it got dark – about the time it would take me to walk back to the bay in which Malua was anchored. Charlies parting words were “we have a sleeping bag you can stay on board”.
I set off at a pace up the mountain along the road towards the bay just as the rain started to fall. I remembered the road was it from this year or last. No problem just follow the road to the pile of stones and the mud puddle. The rain was no falling and the night had closed in. I could just see but finding the pile of stone was a problem and the mud puddle had of course turned into a pool. No sweat I could see the anchor lights of the boat in the bay below so I head down the side of the hill through an olive grove. About 100 m from the shoreline the bush closed in but I was able to pick my way through the bush in now the darkness. Success I reached the beach. The wrong beach and wrong bay.
OK I recognised the dirt track leading from the bay knowing it would circle the headland and come out on top of the hill above Little Vathi. All I would have to do was return and start again. After about 40 minutes walk I was back at the start point. Right follow the road. This looks familiar - this year or last? Now it was quite dark but with the white road I could make my way. I followed the same road and reach the same olive grove so I knew I had gone too far. Back track to a point I could see anchor lights. The same lights the same bay? No more lights a different bay. Only one way to find out. Head off down the hill side. After a short time I came out in an olive grove which had the same feel as the last but on this occasion I could see the an anchor light. Again the last 100 meters was thick bush but this time it was pitch dark and raining. I took my time and struggled through the undergrowth only to come out on the same beach as before. Ok back along the dirt track to the start point. I was now getting cold and my feet were sore in the wet dockshoes. The thought of the warm sleeping bag on Charlie Girl was tempting.
Right, start at the beginning. Think what you did last time and take the right turns this time. As I passed a house with a high wall I thought the entrance led to the front door but not wanting to miss an opportunity I took this turn. No front door just the correct path I had taken earlier in the afternoon. There was the pile of stones, now look for the mud puddle. Well it had gone replaced by a flowing stream. I head off down the slope and even in the darkness I knew I was on the right track. After a few minutes I was on the beach and there was the RIB securely tied to a tree. I was off to the dark outline of Malua in the distance. I climbed aboard, took off my wet jacket and stepped fully clothed into the bathroom to turn on the hot shower while I undressed and started to warm up. Was I pleased for the shower and to be home in my own bed.

Meeting good friends

Cruising is all about sailing to new and exciting places, the culture you find there and then the most important the people you meet. Talking to the locals is not always satisfying because of your lack of language skills although sometimes in Greece you can be surprised when a person replies to you question in an Australian accent. They have invariably spent their working life somewhere in Oz and have now returned to retire on their Oz pension. They always remember their time with pride and affection.
It is not these people that make a lasting impression on one sailing but the other cruisers who follow the same lifestyle as you. These people turn from “sharing the same anchorage” to real friends. One such couple are Richard and Charlie from Charlie Girl. We have crossed wakes for four years in a row and on each occasion Denny and I have really enjoyed our time together.
The first occasion was at Pylos when they came into the small harbour and I asked if I could take their lines. “thanks but we are quite familiar with this location”. From that started a great friendship. The following year the Cyclades and then the Ionian. This year it is again the Ionian. Richard and Charlie have sampled most of the restaurant in the area that they cruise so a recommendation of where to eat the evening that we meet is a given. On all occasions the owner recognises them, the service is great, the food good and the extras a very nice touch. As usual we stopped for a drink and then headed off for a very pleasant meal at the Rose Garden at Little Vathi on Meganisi. Over dinner I said cooked a mean curry and offered then the opportunity to sample one the next evening.
Fortunately I had all the ingredients and a little help from Herbie and his spices. The meal turned out a great success so next year I expect Richard to recommend the curry house on Malua.

16 May, 2010

Changing weather Vathi Ithica

I went for a walk last night up the mountain to the village overlooking the harbour town of Vathi.  It was quite a trek up the valley.  I gave up before I reached the top but I could see far into the distance.  There in the east there where black clouds.  It was overcast at the time as you can see from the photo.  I returned to the village completely tired and decided to have a meal at a restaurant owned by a Greek Australian who had run a fish and chip shop at Manly wharf.  His grilled lamb looked good so a ordered a portion.  It was outstanding.
After the meal the restaurants started to packup their outside tables.  I asked why? Going to rain, yes rain hard.  I finished up and returned to Malua just in time to catch the first drops of a wind and rain storm.  The wind rose and turned the placid bay into a windswept mess.  Luckely there were only a few vessels anchored in the bay so I could sleep with easy.
Today I checked the weather forcast and it showed that the wind would turn from the east to a westerly going as high as 25 knots.  I just had time to way anchor and head north to the seclusion of Vlikho bay.  After washing off the anchor prudence suggested that I just go stern to along the whalf which I did between two British boats.  After lunch the wind rose to well over 25 knots from the beam.  First a charter boat's anchor pulled away and they had to run the motor to stay off the jetty while one of the crew went off to find the skipper.  When he arrived they took off unfortunatly pulling the anchor chain out of the next vessel along.  A large British yacht.  He asked for my help so I jumped on board as we steamed off the jetty pulling up the anchor.  Just made it.  A Kiwi in a RIB came alongside to say the Harbour Police wanted all yachts to move out of the anchor area because the ferry was comming in and they were not confident thay they could hold the vessels course in the high wind.  I returned with him to Malua.
Not wanting to stay beam on to the wind I dropped the lines headed out hauling the anchor from the wheel position.  A less than optimal situation.  I got away without disturbing the boats alongside.  I headed over to the secluded part of the bay and tied up alongside the whalf.  Within an hour all the other boats had moved and sought shelter in this area.
Sleep this evening but the forecast does not look good for tomorrow.