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2016 Cruise

Monday 25th April 2016  Waiting to Go

We’ve been back on Kabardar for 2 weeks now and are all ready to go. We are planning to head north west, the first stop being the Aeolian Islands but unfortunately the forecast for the SE Tyrrhenian Sea over the last couple of days has been for strong winds and rough seas, peaking today at WNW 7 with a rough/very rough sea.  With the limited shelter available round the islands that’s no place to plan to be.

In the meantime, we made a trip a short distance south to Acireale basically just to see what it is like.  What we found when we got there was that it was the middle day of their annual 3 day Festa dei Fiori.  The town was full of people with marching bands, jugglers, acrobats etc and the most amazing floats made from flowers.

Sunday 1st May  Salina in the rain

We left Riposto last Wednesday after the wave height forecasts began to show the sea calming down after the strong winds of Monday; planning to get to the Aeolian Islands in one jump we were up and ready to go just after 7am.  There was little wind to begin with so we motored north into the Straits of Messina until sufficient wind came from behind us and we were able to sail at a good speed with just the genoa.  The water was very turbulent and choppy in places and unfortunately, for the last few miles through the Straits we met the beginnings of the south going current giving us around 2 knots against us.  Once away from the turbulent waters and winds of the Straits we had a good sail with the wind first from the SE and later from the NW.  The boat went well and we made good progress, finally dropping the anchor off the island of Vulcano at around 8:30pm.  Around 77 nautical miles in just over 13 hours - faster than we had expected.

After a couple of days on Vulcano we came yesterday to Salina.  There was absolutely no wind so we motored the 10 n. miles and got tied up in the only real harbour on the island.

We had hoped to go walking today but it is steadily raining.  The forecast for the next day or 2 is for more rain with the promise of more very strong winds from the west on Monday/Tuesday.  With the high ground immediately behind the harbour it’s likely to get very squally in here so we’re doubling up all mooring lines and chains in preparation.

Who knows how long we’ll be here!

Tuesday 10th May  Escape from Salina and progress westwards

It did begin to feel a bit like an escape when we finally left Salina last Thursday!  We were kept there by strong winds and rough seas which arrived a bit later and lasted a bit longer than forecast.  On top of that it rained a lot of the time while we there, but all in all it wasn’t a bad place to be stuck.

From Salina we headed 50 n. miles SW to Cefalu, managing to sail only the middle third of the journey.  Approaching the coast of Sicily we had our first dolphin sightings of the year.  Arriving at Cefalu we anchored outside the harbour, ignoring the waves from the ormeggiatori inviting us to tie up on their pontoon and pay them too much money for not a lot in return.  It was a bit of a rolly night, but free.  The next morning Chris managed to get his first swim of the year although the water was still cool at 17°C and he wore a wetsuit!

On westwards the next day and with light NE winds we sailed slowly, taking just under 6 hours to cover 25 n. miles  and anchor inside Capo Zafferano.  After a couple of hours we decided that this would be a bad place to stay for the night as the swell from the east was causing Kabardar to pitch rather too much for comfort so we moved a mile or so south and anchored in decidedly non scenic and unglamorous surroundings just outside the busy fishing harbour of Porticello.  But it made for a comfortable night.

Our target on Saturday was Castellamare, another 40 miles west.  We made a few attempts to sail but there really was never enough useful wind  to even sail slowly so it was another day of motoring.  There are a number of pontoons in the harbour, each run by different people and it can be difficult deciding which one to head for but as we approached it was mooring man from the Club Nautico who made the effort and came out, in the rain, in his little boat to lead us to a berth. So he got the business.

We found ourselves in a bit of a communications black hole at Castellamare - our TIM USB modem could not connect, VHF channel 68, one source of the Italian marine forecasts, was strangely silent and the Club Nautico WiFi was sometimes just about usable in or near their hut.

This morning we pottered a short distance along the coast to San Vito lo Capo.  We are now watching the forecasts to find a suitable time to make the jump across to Sardinia and it looks as though it might be a few days yet!

Leaving Castellamare

Sunday 15th May  A new plan and an angry fisherman

Checking the forecasts when we got to San Vito it seemed that the best option for getting to Sardinia would be to set off early on Thursday when the forecasts were indicating a wind F5 from the west although not a calm sea, after that the indications were that things would get worse before they got better.  Our ideal course would mean that we would be going against both wind and sea and so we planned to sail with as much west in our course as possible, but accepted that we may need to head much more north and hit Sardinia later and further north than we might have liked.

During Wednesday/Thursday night we were kept awake by heavy rain and a thunderstorm not far away.  Waking on a very grey Thursday morning, we found Kabardar covered with red dust from the Sahara!  We set off as planned.  The sea was significantly rougher than we had expected and we hadn’t got very far north when we decided we really didn’t want to carry on for 30+ hours with conditions as they were and with the prospect that they were only going to get worse.  This is supposed to be fun!  One option was to turn back into San Vito and wait, but the indications were that we would be there for a week so we decided to head east and aim to cover the 65 n.miles back to Cefalu that day.  So we rolled downwind with a lumpy sea behind us, initially we had the full genoa up, later reefing it as the wind increased.  During the afternoon, we picked up the weather bulletin and were glad that we had not persisted with the original plan as gales were now being forecast in that area.  Furthermore, for the area we were in, the forecasts were now up to F6 with the sea getting rougher.  With 25 n.miles still to go to Cefalu we decided to turn south past Capo Zafferano and anchor for the night outside Porticello, the same fishing harbour we had anchored outside some days previously.  We were well sheltered from both wind and sea and passed a comfortable night until around 6.30am when we became aware of a bit of a commotion immediately ahead of the boat.  Immediately in front of the bow and underneath the anchor chain was a small fishing boat.  The fisherman (dressed in the image fisherman oil skin smock and apron) was struggling with his net which appeared to be tangled up with our anchor chain.  He was not happy.  Nor were we!  We lifted the anchor and he got it free but with a lot of muttering and saying we should lift the anchor and move further along the bay.  How did it happen?  Had he laid the net close to us not allowing for the fact that we might swing?  Had it been there when we arrived at 5pm the previous day?  If so it was not marked  and outside a busy harbour that would have been a bit silly!  Eventually, he went off still arm waving and shouting incomprehensibly until a gaggle of small fishing boats gathered around him and were looking our way!  We took the cowards way out, raised the anchor and moved further away.  Perhaps it was ‘his’ patch and ‘everybody’ (except us) knows that!

So, awake early, we set off for Cefalu.  Such are the curious effects of land and headlands on the wind, that for much off the trip we had a beam reach with the wind apparently from the north when we know the true wind was from the west.

So here we are again at Cefalu.  The plan now is to head NE to the Italian mainland as soon as we can and then cross over to Sardinia at some point later.  Winds are up again and the forecasts have a near gale for us today, but then calming down.  We hope they’re right.

Friday 20th May  Farewell Sicily

Last Monday there was finally some indication that the wind and sea would begin to calm down so we left Cefalu to head back to the Aeolian Islands and start making progress north.  There was still plenty of wind and we had a good sail for the 50 miles up to the islands.  We had a look at Port Levante on the east side of Vulcano with a view to anchoring for the night but found it very crowded and deep so on we went to Lipari and found a nice sheltered corner to anchor in and passed a very peaceful night.

A very eerie sight - one of the disused pumice works on Lipari

Tuesday was the day things really started to calm down in the SE Tyrrhenian, and also the day we left Lipari to get 130 miles north to Salerno.  It was a mixed trip!  For the first 8 hours we sailed quite briskly with the wind from the NW but sadly this gradually weakened, went more northerly and finally died altogether.  Then we met the patch of rougher water which we had seen on the weather maps which made for a very uncomfortable night.  Chris found it impossible to sleep down below at all because Kabardar was jumping about so much and I decided not to even try but did manage get a couple of hours sleep in the cockpit.   On top of that, it was a rather cold night.  Just as the sun came up and began to warm us, wind came from the NE and we were able to sail the last 3 hours of the trip to arrive at Salerno 23 hours after leaving Lipari.  Time for some more sleep!

Today we went to Pompeii on what must have been one of Italy’s most scruffy, antiquated trains.  We found the site fairly impressive on two counts - the extent of the ruins and the vast numbers of people visiting, swelled I think by the 2850 capacity cruise ship which has been in here today.

We plan to leave here tomorrow and island hop across the Bay of Naples, always with an eye on the weather to spot a good time to make the jump across to Sardinia.  But first we must stock up on essentials, like wine, at mainland prices.

Saturday 28th May  Arrival on Sardinia

We left Salerno last Sunday to make progress westerly.  There was little wind so we motored the 20 miles to Senno di Ieranto where we intended to stay for the night on one of the mooring buoys which are allegedly available in the bay.  There were no buoys.  Use of one’s own anchor is not allowed, so we carried on. Once we had rounded the headland and got clear of Capri the wind came and we had a good sail for the 20 miles on up to Ischia.  We anchored on the north side of the Castle to get maximum shelter from the southerly wind and sea.

Forecasts were now showing another blast from the west and the next afternoon when the wind changed, it quickly became apparent that there would be too much sea coming at us on the north side of the castle so we moved to the south side where shelter from the sea was much better and sat out a windy 24 hours.

Fortunately, it was a fairly short sharp blast and forecasts were now indicating 2 or 3 days of light southerlies and no rough seas.  Unfortunately, the last area to benefit from the change would be where we were!  So we left Ischia on Wednesday uncertain as to whether were heading for Ponza (approx. 50 miles west) or Sardinia (approx. 200 miles) the decision would depend on what conditions we actually found once we got to the west of the island.  As it was, the westerly wind and sea had not yet completely disappeared so we headed to Ponza for the night.  We anchored in a lovely spot off the island and it would have been nice to stay longer,  but Sardinia was our target and we didn’t want to risk missing the window in the weather.  We set off on Thursday for the 150 miles to La Caletta on Sardinia.  The conditions were exactly as the weather maps had predicted - southerly initially, then a period with nothing much at all and finally a good south easterly breeze and never anything too troublesome from the sea.  So, after 27½ hours and an uneventful trip we arrived here.  Bizarrely, just as we arrived the wind piped up to at least  F5 and as we had been directed to a downwind berth, getting tied up was rather interesting!

La Caletta is mainly a seaside holiday resort but surprisingly cheap.  To stay here on one of the Club Nautico pontoon is costing only €48.50 for 3 nights. A bargain.  We went into the town last night to get something to eat and paid €20 euros only and that included ½litre of wine.  I wouldn’t describe it as gourmet food but it was perfectly acceptable and introduced us to a curious type of bread which is a bit like a cross between a giant crisp and a poppadom but tasting like neither.

Monday 6th June  Just pottering

3 nights in La Caletta turned into 4 as we waited for yet another blast from the west to calm down.  We got lots of chores done and went walking to the small castle on top of the hill in the village of Posada, 5 km or so away.  It’s not a particularly large or significant castle, in fact the most interesting thing about it is probably it’s name - Castello della Fava - iterally, Castle of the Bean.  The origins of the name are unclear;  one particularly unbelievable story is that the besieged Sards stuffed a homing pigeon full of beans and attached a letter to a non existent army anticipating that the enemy would intercept it and conclude that they had plentiful food supplies and that help was on it’s way!

A couple of days before we left La Caletta, the crew of a boat in the berth next to us kindly gave us a piece of the tuna they had caught that afternoon as it was ‘too much for them’.  That piece of fish was sufficient to provide us with 3 meals!

And now we are spending a few days just pottering around the bays and islands in and around the Gulf of Olbia.  Conditions are calm, there is no big westerly on our radar (yet!) and finally, we are eating breakfast and dinner in the cockpit.


Castello della Fava still looking a long way off

Finally the tower

And the views from the top

Tuesday 21st June  Pottering around islands and then sailing slowly southwards

It seems to be 2 weeks since the last update during which time we’ve had visitors, got up to the islands north of Sardinia and are now going south.

After almost a week pottering around in calm conditions with peaceful nights at anchor we headed into Olbia and found a berth at the Circolo Nautico for a few days mainly to get Kabardar sorted and fill every available locker with provisions of all kinds in preparation for Kate and Ben’s arrival on Saturday 11th.  In between all that we  made the time to take a trip by train to Sassari, the second city of Sardinia.  It is an interesting old town, without any outstanding ‘must see’ sights. Their, apparently, most treasured site is that of the Renaissance Fontana di Rosello once the main source of water for the town but now poorly looked after.

Fontana di Rosselo, Sassari

The plan with Kate and Ben was to head north of Sardinia to the La Maddelena collection of islands.  The weather forecasts, even late on the Saturday didn’t look too bad - a relative windy 24 hours mainly to the north of Sardinia but then a calmer few days so we planned to head 20 miles or so north of Olbia and anchor for 1 night in Cala di Volpe before heading further north.  Maybe we should have taken more notice when, on Sunday morning, a pontoon neighbour mentioned to Kate that he was heading south to get away from the F7/8 forecast to the north.  We set off as planned.  Once round the headland off Olbia and heading into the Cala di Volpe we found ourselves bashing straight into a strong westerly which was whipping up the sea to quite an amazing extent given the relative short fetch.  A lot of spray, or rather sea, was coming over the boat and it turned into a rough, wet ride.

Eventually, we got there and anchored as close inshore as we could, safely outside of the mega yacht mooring area which was minded with any smaller craft trying to anchor within it’s boundary being turned away.  Then we found the fresh water filler cap on the side deck.  At some point it had come undone and, of course, as we’d had sea water running down the side deck the fresh water supply was now brackish.  Fortunately we had plenty of bottled mineral water so could still make acceptable cups of tea and coffee, the lack of which would have been a major disaster for the people now on board! The forecasts were now indicating gale force winds, but just for 24 hours and then it would be better!  In fact every time we checked the forecasts the period of gales seemed to be extended.  And so, after 2 very windy nights at anchor followed by a much calmer one, we finally managed to leave and head north on the Wednesday.  It seemed that many yachts were emerging from wherever their hidey hole had been to do the same.

First stop needed to be a marina to sort out our fresh water supply and so we headed for the main town on La Maddelena.  After 1 night there we spent a couple of days pottering around the islands which included my birthday and a very excellent Tiramisu made by Kate and Ben!

Climbing the mast for fun! (and photography)

On the quay at Olbia

Monday 27th June  Cagliari

When we left La Caletta last Wednesday the winds were fairly light from a northerly direction and so we decided to blow the cobwebs off the spinnaker.  For a few hours we sailed along quite easily but once we were about half way down the Golfo di Orosei we were in the wind shadow of the headland at the north of the bay. Conditions remained the same for the next couple of days.  Looking at the forecast charts, as we went further south, we would have needed to go several miles off shore to pick up any wind at all so we resigned ourselves to motoring, sunshade up, enjoying the views of the coast at close quarters and playing scrabble as we went!  The good side to this lack of wind power was that overnight stops in relatively open anchorages were calm and peaceful.

We arrived here in Cagliari on Saturday and the wind doesn’t seem to have stopped blowing since, becoming particularly wild at 2:30 am this morning when it felt a lot like being at sea!

We’ve spent a couple of days sightseeing in the town and are now watching the forecasts for a good time for the 175 mile trip SE to Sicily.

A rare outing for the spinnaker

Peaceful nights at anchor

Friday 1st July  Weather forecasts, winds and back to Sicily

Weather forecasts are interesting things!  There are 2 forecast sources which we regularly look at, the Italian Meteomar and Turk Marine, so planning to leave Cagliari on Tuesday morning to make the 175 mile trip to Favignana in the Egadi Islands we had followed them both.  The Italian forecast (issued just 45 minutes before we left) indicated that we might expect NW4/5 for the next 24 hours followed by S2;  Turk Marine (issued the night before) was giving us NW4/5 for 12 hours followed by nothing much from anywhere during the night and with a slightly choppy sea followed by SE1. No reason not to go but with our planned course of 115° we hoped for the Italian version.

Once clear of the approaches to Cagliari what wind did we get?  SOUTH!  And not just a flutter, it blew at F4/5 which actually suited us quite well and we made good progress until early evening when it gradually died.  Then we got the lumpy sea and no wind so we motored and rolled for most of the night (thanks to Turk Marine we were only half surprised).  As day dawned on Wednesday wind gradually came from ENE, not much at first but we managed to motor sail until it built to around F3 when we sailed at a moderate speed.  This lasted until we reached Marettimo, the most westerly of the Egadi Islands, when all sorts of wind and sea effects amongst the islands hit us.  So after 175 n.miles and 33 hours (19 with the engine running) we anchored off Favignana.

Looking across the harbour, Favignana

We’ve been twice along the north coast of Sicily this year and so had decided to go around the south side on our way to Greece.  On arrival here, all the forecasts that we checked showed that we might expect SE winds for 2 or 3 days which would not be good for our intended route. Did we believe them?  Probably, which is why we’ve spent a couple of days on this nice island; or maybe that was the excuse!

Tuesday 5th  July  Good progress

After a pleasant few days on Isola Favignana we made the short jump across to Marsala on Saturday for 1 night in the marina, mainly to get Kabardar topped up with essential fluids.  Along the water front of the port are many crumbling, once grand buildings from the glory days of Marsala shipping.  We did buy a bottle of Marsala Secco, dry in this case is a relative term within the Marsala world and the wine would be fairly close in character to an Oleroso sherry.  We were quite happy to leave Marsala as it was extremely humid - perhaps because of all the low lying marshes and salt pans between there and Trapani.

On again the next day and with a good wind from the NW we had an easy downwind sail at a good speed, with no trouble from the sea, to Sciacca.  We sailed the whole 40 miles using the engine only to leave and enter the harbour at each end. Every time we go into Sciacca there sems to be something going on.  Last year we arrived at the end of the Festa di San Pietro, this year we tied up on the pontoon of the Lega Navale and Chris went to the office to pay the berthing fee and was a long time reappearing, almost an hour!  It turned out to be the end of their regatta and people were enjoying pasta and wine and plied Chris with the same!  I guess it made the €30 berthing fee even better value!  Later in the evening there was an unrelated firework display above the harbour - although we’re not sure what that was for.

On again the next day aiming to make the 50 miles to Licata.  We were very much in the blue bit of the Turk Marine wind forecast map and ended up motoring virtually every mile and anchored for the night behind the breakwater of Licata harbour.  There was absolutely no wind and during the evening Kabardar did what Kabardar does very well in that situation - lay sideways on to the slight swell that was coming round the breakwater and settled into a horrible roll.  In the interests of a good night’s sleep we turned Kabardar to face out to sea and into the swell and dropped the kedge anchor over the stern.. A nasty roll became an OK bobbing and we had a comfortable night.

Today the wind was from the south and we had a very good sail, much better than expected, for the 35 miles to Marina di Ragusa.  As we sailed we found it interesting to listen in the the radio exchanges between a number of ships engaged in rescuing migrants in waters near to Libya.  It would seem that there are a number of rescue boats who first take the migrants on board from the small boats they are in and then transfer them onto another ship to be taken to wherever they are to be taken.  Capacity seemed to be a problem, one ship saying that he already had 400 migrants on board and couldn’t take any more.  We listen to one of the rescue boats repeatedly trying to find a ship with the capacity to take his 120 migrants.  And this is going on all the time!

We plan on staying here for a couple of days so that we can make a trip inland.  

Friday 8th July  Over the top Baroque and waiting to leave Sicily

From Marina di Ragusa we took the bus to vist Ragusa Ibla, totally rebuilt in an extremely flamboyant Baroque style after the 1693 earthquake.  The more modern town Ragusa Superiore is up on a higher hill and so from the bus station in Ragusa Superiore we took a wild bus ride, in a rattling old bus down the narrow winding roads to Ibla.  It’s an interesting old city, full of tourists, and in July rather hot.  A good visit and we had a very good lunch in a shady alley.

Il Duomo

A Balcony, Ragusa

Looking across to Ragusa Superiore

As for Marina di Ragusa, by which I mean the seaside town - the term Marina is similar to ‘on sea’ in the UK while a marina, as in a boat park, is normally called a Porto Turistico - well, the town is a seaside resort with a long sandy beach and more fast food outlets than is sensible and I thought it felt much like Bridlington in the sun!

On the move again on Thursday we motored most of the way against the wind from the east, to anchor for the night in Porto Palo with the fishing boats  Fortunately, we were undisturbed by their nocturnal comings and goings.

On again today to Syracusa, a bit of sailing but about half motoring.  Our intention now is to leave Sicily from here and head east to Greece, probably in two jumps.  So, we’re back at the game of watching and comparing forecasts to decide when best to leave.

Monday 18th July  Return to Greece

We spent a weekend in Syracusa, which is always a pleasant place to visit, and left for Le Castella on Monday 11th.  The forecasts had promised calm conditions with little wind and they weren’t wrong!  145 miles and 25 hours later we arrived in Le Castella having run the engine for every minute of that time. There was never even enough wind for motor sailing!  Having run the engine for so long we needed diesel and as there was no fuel berth in the harbour we arranged for a delivery.  We really expected a small tanker to arrive but a man in a car turned up and seemed to think that we wanted him to take our cans and fill them.  We explained that we also needed some in the main tank so off he went.  He returned with a trailer with a small tank and connected the pump to a car battery with jump leads.  First one battery, then another but still the pump failed to pump.  Off he went again ‘to make a repair’ (probably hit it with a large hammer!!).  10 minutes later he was back, the pump pumped and we got our diesel.  The whole process took him 3 visits over about an hour - not much profit from the 40€ charge he made for the delivery service.

We thought we might possibly stay in Le Castella for a couple of days, but forecasts were now all indicating very strong winds from NW/N in the Ionian starting during Friday and lasting as long as the forecasting eye could then see.  So, it was leave the next day (Wednesday) or risk being stuck for up to a week.  We left the next morning having decided to head straight for Preveza (approx. 175 miles) which would give us better shelter in strong winds than some of the other island options.  It was an uneventful trip - some good sailing, some motoring with a fairly calm sea and we arrived to anchor off Preveza town late on Thursday afternoon.  Anchoring amongst many others, we were immediately reminded of the vast number of yachts which cruise the Greek Ionian.  The strong winds did indeed reach us during Friday afternoon and are likely to continue for a few days yet, so we are pleased to have got here ahead of them.

We’ve now come into the Amvrakikos Gulf for a few days and in just a couple of days have seen more fish farms and more dolphins than we have for a long time.  Not many yachts seem to come into the Gulf so we are managing to find uncrowded, scenic, sheltered places to anchor.

Friday 22nd July  The end of the trip at Preveza

The total distance we covered this year was 1820 nautical miles, just short of our highest ever.  No incidents, no dramas and nothing important broke!

Back to Top

Next stop, back down towards Olbia.  An easy downwind sail in light winds and a calm sea.  We tied up on the old commercial quay which costs nothing.

Kate and Ben flew back on Sunday evening and on Monday we left Olbia and sailed slowly south to La Caletta, with the light wind behind us and a calm sea we played scrabble as we went.  We’re here for a couple of nights, just long enough to get all the washing done.

At Anchor off Caprera