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,