A short hop to Corsica

 

From Manza we worked our way up the Eastern coast towards Rhondinara- one of the perfect coves we discovered whilst camper vanning. Last time we had been on the land looking enviously at the yachts anchored in the bay. This time we were one of the many yachts hustling for a position in what is a very shallow bay at peak holiday times! With the wind blowing into the bay we did a circuit then decided against staying, and headed further up to the Golf of Porto Vecchio. Here we found a charming anchorage just off a camp site where we were able to take the dinghy in and have a beer in the bar with all the other holiday campers. To Noah’s delight we found it was a kiting beach when the winds turned westerly, with shallow water and an end of a beach to launch from Noah was happy- kiting out to a bobbing Loco in 15 knots of wind. We did check out the camping facilities- all part of our extensive research should we come back in a camper van, you understand, and found them to be very acceptable and clean. Fresh hair, fresh clothes (even a self service laundry room) and we were feeling grand again.

  

We stayed in this bay for over a week, making our way up to the Port of Porto Vecchio (pictured above) and finding a huge Casino Shop just like our one in Montgenevre. It was delightful coming across all the brands and French products we were so familiar with, and we loaded the car and trundled it in the trolly to our dinghy- which by the way is still leaking despite the super glue repair Noah did! Thankfully if you keep it pumped up every 2 days it seems to hang in there, but any day now we expect to come back to one side deflated- which would have been tricky with a laiden shopping trolly!.

Whilst here, the wind turned Westerly and we had 3 days and nights of severe winds- up to 33 knots. Our anchor had been so reliable, but by our favourite beach the holding was patchy. During one early morning blow we witnessed a neighbouring French boat having some problem with anchor drag and obviously having trouble getting in their anchor. Very quickly he got blown into the moored RIB boats, and how he managed to keep afloat we just don’t know- as it was very shallow amongst the RIB moorings. He got wedged between some boats, and thankfully some French campers with small but powerful boats, helped pull him clear.  We had to reset several times- eventually moving to a more protected site opposite and having rather a long and choppy dinghy ride into the beach if we wanted to do any kiting- which we only tried once. Trouble is that when it is windy to kite it is not great to leave the boat, and the anchorage is normally uncomfortable. the worst night with the high winds we were over the other side of the bay with 5 other boats- all well positioned and shearing about in the gusts that came around the bay head. As the winds increased Nelly was on anchor watch at 3.30am when she noticed our holding go. We had no sooner taken up our anchor and was dropping it afresh on the stern of another boat when all the other boats also lost their hold at the same time. It was manic with all pulling in anchors, swerving in the gusts and bobbing about looking to re anchor. Thankfully the winds dropped after this frantic hour at sun rise to more reasonable levels, and all survived unharmed.

Not wanting to overstay our welcome at the camp site we decided to return to Sardinia to the comforts of internet (we only had an Italian Dongle) and needed water in our tanks so we beat down to Golfo Aranchi deciding to have a marina night the next day to do the chores. Turned out that the marina had no toilets and no shower- worse than the camp site-and we had to pay €50 to be crammed between two other boats and bobbing like crazy during the day with the wash and swell working direct into the harbour. Thankfully it did all ease at night and we were able to sleep, but if we hadn’t needed a water tank fill we would not have bothered. On our way back to Northern Sardinia we passed so many Super Boats (Porto Cervo, Cala Di Volpe, Portisco and Porto Rotondo)  it was unbelievable, so much money invested in boats that were out for their annual holiday. One anchored right by us  and as we swung we were left facing a garage with a sunchair and all the toys we could ever want right in front of us. There was also a swimming pool aboard, and they had 2 jet skis and several dinghies that we noticed did not need pumping up! At night the water glittered with their blue party lights, so we turned on our fairy lights to join in the fun.

 

Rather cool Ford Bedford camper van parked at Porto Vechio

We found another popular kite surfing spot at Porto Pollo. Tucked safely behind a small island Loco was out of the wind and we were able to move during the day to the neighbouring bay and Noah joined in the fun. It was packed, being peak season, and so many kite schools on the beach that there was little room to launch and even less room to get safely back into the beach. They did not seem to have a kite landing zone, and it was a case of dodging all the beginners and then keeping clear of the swimming areas and umbrellas on the beach.

  

  

So far we are surviving the height of the summer season well here, finding safe places to anchor and plenty of provisions. We are missing our Greek town quays were we could get the bikes out for a spin, and we have not found anywhere to top up with water apart from using Marina’s, but that is OK if used sparingly and selecting the cheaper ones. It has been hot- over 30 degrees most days, but it has cooled each night and there have been less mosquitoes which had kept Nelly happy. A bit of sad news, we had our lovely folding bike stolen from the shore. We had locked it up and left it so we could get some exercise whilst sheltering from the Westerly blows in Archazena, which meant we could at least have a short cycle ride. We were gutted to have it stolen, we had it from our UK departure. Oh well, these things happen. Another few weeks in these Northern coves then we will head for the Balearic Islands.

A new courtesy flag

Still in North Eastern Sardinia, our weather information warned of strong Westerly winds were threatening in a couple of days so we headed for Cala Coda Cavalio bay in preparation knowing we could shelter in the bay behind when the winds did turn. However, when we began to notice cruising boats leaving the bay in vast numbers, we assumed that our data was incorrect, and like sheep we followed into Porto Brandinghi to get a good spot to sit out the squall. Turned out to be a bad move, as the wind didn’t change around until the following evening, and all the time swell rolled into the bay making it uncomfortable for all- but each was reluctant to leave to give up their ‘place’ for the predicted winds. We watched as more boats casually arrived, and were almost relieved when the Westerly winds did come, and we bobbed up and down for 2 nights and days safely at anchor. When the winds did blow through, it was a lovely spot and we got to shore with the dinghy and also sampled the beach bar.

Just days after we heard about the forest fires in Sicily, purportedly according to the press set by Mafia concerns, we spotted smoke on the headland above us. The smoke turned to visible flames as we watched the sea planes dump their water to attempt to put it out. It went on for hours, and when the sun set the flames were still visible but the sea planes seemed to finish their shift and return to base. The flames were fanned by the wind, and a vast area was alight at one stage going both ways into the forested hillside. We could still see some flames come early morning, but as the day went on they were hit by the sea planes and by the next evening the flames were out. It was the first forest fire we had actually witnessed alight, and it must have been a substantial fire to be able to see the flames from that distance away, we hope no one was hurt.

  

All in all we spent another week doing a similar circuit, up to Golfo Aranchi for a run to the laundrette and a great coffee, into Olbia on the quay side for a cycle ride out to Aranci (I think our legs had forgotten how to cycle and the 30k seemed pretty testing especially for Nellie, who’s gears jammed up ) and later the supermarket run, then back out to the beaches. It really is a great cruising area with plenty of bolt holes for winds in various directions. Aranci town itself had a quiet holiday atmosphere, with a pleasant market and a laid back feel that was very attractive. We could have easily stayed here for several weeks, but the wind changed to Southerlies which beckoned us to head North, so we set off in search of other anchorages.

 

 

 

This van floated better than Nellie’s old blue Nova, not often you get a van floating by, but he didn’t sell any ice creams or cold drinks.

First stop was the shallow and rock strewn bay of Golfo di Marinella. We tried several times to anchor in the shallow waters amongst the local day trippers, only to find rock on the bottom where there was a gap to swing in. Eventually we gave up on the quieter more remote spots, and headed for the large sandy bay, where a wooden garden shed seemed to be floating- no wait a minute it is a floating beach bar serving drinks! The usual up beat music was drumming out of the bay, jet skis were humming up and down but we had a good hold for the boat and eventually the music calmed and we slept extremely well on millpond flat water.

The Southerlies held, and we passed by the famous Porto Cervo where the rich and famous keep their yachts and motor boats, and onto the North East tip of Sardinia. We just kept going until the evening light began to drop, and so headed for the nearest bay for the night which turned out to be the Golf di Arzachena. As we searched for a place to drop the hook we past a wonderful beach bar restaurant tucked behind a rocky outcrop and obviously built amongst some previous fortification. It looked very swish- we enjoyed our tuna and tomato pasta a few hundred yards from it’s shores!

The South East winds were still blowing so we sailed past La Maddalena Archipelago (National Park and Marine Reserve- isolated rocky outcrops with shallow waters around where you need a permit to use a mooring bouy) and onto Corsica- get out the new French Courtesy flag! As we rounded the Pta di Cappiciola (first bay on the South East point of Corsica) we spotted Sue and Peter also heading in on their 473, so we were amongst good company in the choice of our bay. Strangely, the Southerlies that had brought us up the East coast, followed us around the tip, and were turning into the Bay! It is not supposed to do that, so we were confident that it would eventually switch to Southerlies and be protected- which of course it did not. The second night was choppier than the first, as it turned South East. but we did get some local lads come calling in a dinghy selling fresh baguettes and croissants- didn’t expect that!

This Southern end of Corsica is similar in landscape to Sardinia- very green with large mountains as a backdrop in the interior. In contrast to the bays of Sardinia, this one was undeveloped and calm, no jet skis and fewer day trippers- we think we are going to like Corsica- especially if that bread dingy turns up again tomorrow!

The clouds clear in Sardinia

We made the most of our free pontoon berth for 3 nights, enjoying the company of Jim from Scotland who was waiting for his brother to join him for the next leg of his journey. The pontoon was very long, and we were pleased to see spaces opened up daily so there was apparently no rush to leave as there was plenty of room for everyone. Daily the clouds cleared and the winds went back to their usual SE direction. It took us some time to find la Caletta high street, but once we tracked it down it had was a lively little place surrounded by hotels and holiday apartments, so we were able to purchase provisions and invested in new flippers. The shop assistant said we were all the same, all kids when you put a pair of flippers on to try out your size, flipping the feet and trying the penguin walk ! Noah was also tempted into purchasing a new lure, in the hopes of that elusive fish- any fish would do!!

Leaving La Caletta, we entered Isola di Tavolara and Capo Coda Cavallo Marina Reserve, where there were restrictions on where you could fish and anchor, that’s that new lure out of action for a few days then! Isola Di Tavolara was a huge granite rock, but just behind it you could anchor some distance from the sandy beach, all around the water is crystal clear and plenty of fish. The Dolphins obviously make the most of this fishing free resort, and we were lucky enough to see  one cruise the bay whilst we had breakfast.  We spent two nights here, the first one the wind came into the bay but dropped down in time for bed, but the second night it kept on until 1am, so we had a rolly night’s sleep- thinking of investing in bean bag beds!

 

Enough of wind in the bay, we sailed to the opposite side of the reserve, and came across a much better protected bay called Cala Coda Cavallo. Here the seas were a beautiful colour, crystal clear again, and day tripper boats arrived from 10am, leaving on mass by 6pm giving us live aboards a quiet evening. Ashore there was a holiday villa complex with restaurant, which kept the beach bar busy.

 

At anchor we met Peter and Sue who introduced us to their Hookah! It is a great piece of kit allowing you to dive under your boat to do maintenance, but only using a snorkel mouth piece and hose pipe. Nelly was in favor of just the hose pipe technique, but Noah has his heart set on buying this new gear, and no doubt it will pay for itself if you had problems retrieving the anchor or repairs to the hull if we got into trouble- it is now on our wish list on Ebay!

  

We would have stayed here longer, but by now we were running out of beer- which is the vital ingredient for a sundowner, so off we went for Olbia, which is a large city with an airport and plenty of ferries plying up and down the narrow entrance approach. Alongside the approach, within the shallows, muscle beds are suspended from old plastic floats or bottles. They look colourful bobbing in the water. We managed to dodge the ferries, and made it to the Old Commercial Quay where we went alongside.

 

We had been warned about theft here, so looked up all hatches and left nothing within easy reach. We didn’t have any problems, apart from the boat overheating with the lack of ventilation. The highlight of the town was the huge supermarket in close proximity to the water front, so we were able to load our pallets of beer direct into the dingy bottom. when we had left the UK we had Camping Gas bottles, which long since had been swapped in Greece for a non-discript local gas. This was now a problem for us, as we couldn’t find anywhere to refill our gas bottles in Sardinia, and we were running out. The prospect of no cup of tea in the morning was enough for us to splash out on a brand new camping gas bottle, larger than our other two- at €103 we will not let this one go in such a hurry!.

In common with any free town quay, the evening are full of people walking and talking along the quay, and here was no exception. It seemed Loco’s spot was a favourate for the teenagers to hang about by, chatting and playing cards on the low wall. We thought we had stayed out long enough in the town, turning in after 1am, but the chatter went on until around 3am, and started up again around 5,30am. With big winds predicted in 4 days time, we decided to leave and get some more peachy beach in before heading for a protected anchorage.

Leaving Sicily for Sardinia

We stuck it out at anchor 4 nights in Taormina Bay waiting for good tide conditions to tackle the Straits of Messina, with the Loco rocking on the swell whilst day tripping yachts and motor cruisers came in the day and went by evening.

Taormina
Taormina, nice flower pots!

A 5am start gave us a good start on the North going tide, and we motored with the 6 hours of tide to safely get through the Straits without sight of any of the Whirlpools and just some surface currents which Loco passed over without flinching.

  

Ferries were the only danger in the Straits this day, and Swordfishing boats- there are 2 or 3 guys at the top of those masts looking out for Swordfish on the surface of the water!

Once through we sailed on to Vulcano, an active Volcano off the NE coast of Sicily. Having climbed the volcano before, we did not feel the need to revisit, and instead swam into the Jacuzzi springs enjoying the free hot bubbles- but in return you had to pay for the really bad sulphur smells both at the anchorage and which clung to your skin and swimming gear.

  

Leaving Vulcano- you will notice the cloudy skies, feels like a thunderstorm!!

Anxious to make progress North, we left on a good wind forecast for the crossing to Sardinia, hoping to land in the North East of the island. It proved to be a trying crossing, as indeed it had been when we did it the first time, and when we had crossed it in a ferry in our camper van in 2005. The winds constantly shifted then dropped then gusted in, causing sail changes and motoring and difficult sea conditions. In addition the dark clouds turned to a thunderstorm, with lightening in distance and then it began to rain. It took us 3 nights, and at one stage the wind would not allow us to go to Sardinia, so we nearly had to divert to Naples in Italy. This would have brought financial implications, in addition to having to still cross the sea to Sardinia again, as we were now in peak Marina fee charging times, which in Italy can be up to €200 a night.We battled on, and the wind shifted enough to allow us to cross, albeit beating into a large swell- not very nice.

With all the sail changes we managed to tear the main sail whilst reefing down, so were not able to put the full main up (which was just as well!). Also our trusty Yanmar motor overheated. Noah had to pull everything out to access the engine and found the problem to be a shredded impeller. Thankfully we had one spare, and Noah replaced it. We left it to cool down just as the wind picked up for us to sail again. Loco handled the waves better than the crew, who both suffered from sea sickness. There is nothing worse than being in 25 to 30 knots of wind, at night, miles out to sea in the dark and then feeling sea sick. Even dolphins had to be viewed from the cockpit in passing “yes nice but I need to go and lie down again now!”.  The Dolphins seemed on a high enjoying the stormy seas and showing off to us in the swells. Loco looked a real mess inside as we had removed pans and stored stuff to access the engine, and all this was on the floor in the saloon when the wind picked up and we were feeling too sick to clear it all up. Sat in our life jackets with full rain jackets on it made us question our decision to leave Greece, and whether we could cope with 3 weeks crossing the Atlantic, and wouldn’t a glass of wine on a balcony from land be a better option??

Time passed, sails went up and down, the engine worked without any warning signs and we began to feel better and headed to land at Caletta- South of our intended destination but at least it was on Sardinia. We then had a lucky break, as the harbour has 2 marinas sharing a T shaped pontoon, and it was rumored that the end of the T bar was not owned by either marina, and so was free to birth for a night or two. This was confirmed by 2 friendly Swiss chaps at 5am as we came in, and they were about to leave- so we took their place on the pontoon. We slept until mid-day before beginning to tidy and clean up Loco. Looking back on the crossing, we learnt alot about Loco and how she performs. Tackling the sail repair tomorrow.

Licata to Taormina

We ended up staying 2 nights at Licata Marina as our next anchorage was 69 miles away and the forecast was better for the following day, so all crew got to make use of the showers etc for one more day of luxury. We set off on the early morning breeze, and had a great sail heading East along the bottom of Sicily. We reached Porto Palo just as the sun was setting, and with the swell direction we decided to go around the point and anchor at Capo Passero which looked like it offered better protection from the swell. As we rounded Capo Passero we were beginning to doubt our choice, as winds were up to 27 knots on the nose, and as we slowly gained the lee of the shore they only fell to 17 knots- not a great start to the night. The fresh sea air had worn us all out, and we took to bed early evening, the wind dropping as the night wore on- only to be rudely awoken by the Italian Coast Guard at 5.50am. They blasted their horn, and scared us half to death, as they demanded the usual questions’ where you come from, where you going and how many on board?’. They insisted on seeing us all on deck- even Snowy had to come to be seen, and then they just went away- waste of time that was!

Our rolly anchorage under the lee shore, with  former castle/villa prominent on the waterfront.

To make the most of our early awakening, we set off in the hope of catching any early morning breeze, but ended up motoring most of the rest of the way along to Siracusa, cruising Chute hoisted for the 2nd time for the last 2 hours just to make ourselves feel better. Snowy was schooled in the fine art of setting the Chute, although we were overtaken by a Malo with a huge pink Chute who passed us before the entrance.

 

 

Siracusa was a great fortified city, with impressive Baroque limestone mansions, as it was once the centre of Sicily. We had not expected such a great protected bay, and we enjoyed exploring the warren of alleys and taking in the atmosphere.

  

Impressive Cathedral at Siracusa, amazing space ship type interior.

With strong winds predicted for Sunday, Siracusa was to be our last stop with Snowy- who by now didn’t look very Snowy anyway as the sun had began to claim her and give her a healthy tan base. Saying goodbye was tough as she left on the airport bound bus, but Nelly found the laundrette to cheer herself up by festooning the boat with washing!

  

We were nearly a week at Siracusa, enjoying the town and the safe and free bay (only one visit from the Port Police, same questions) and would have stayed longer if we had been able to swim in the waters. That was the only compromise, and they obviously had some pollution issue as they rigged a boom on the water and sprayed something over the enclosed waters before allowing the boom to be removed and traffic continue.

We were beginning to recall the longer trips between anchorages as we had come down the East Coast of Sicily before, so another day’s sailing to Taomina. Again the promised winds did not show up- which meant motoring to our anchorage. To make the most of the engine, Noah was busy making water, and we managed to make about 5 litres. Later, he discovered that he had been distracted whilst priming the system, and it had pumped out all our water from the tanks- probably about 800 litres gone! Ooops, Well, we won’t have to do that in the Atlantic!  To remedy the situation, Noah bravely pulled into a small fishing harbour- something we would not dream of doing normally. We breezed into Acitrezza, just behind a nature reserve ‘no go’ area, and budged in alongside the fishing boats to get some water. A helpful man from Oceano Mare diving school lent us an adapter, and we merrily re filled our tanks- problem solved- well done Noah.

  

Spot the odd boat out in the fishing harbour- very brave Noah!

We anchored for the night just by Capo Molini alongside the small boats on mooring bouys, and had a very bobby night as the swell entered the bay and the wind dropped off under the smoking peak of Etna which  continually carried a white cloud atop.

No Coast Guard call, so we were away again to Taormina. Still no wind to sail, until we turned the corner and the tide was against the wind so we had quite big waves into a head wind that was not strong enough for us to use the sails- very frustrating. So here we are again bobbing in Taromina bay- last time we were here about 4 years ago with our friends Eileen and John in their Westerly OceanLord and we on Solon, never did we think  that we would be visiting this bay again but this time in Loco, our very own Westerly OceanLord- but we are still bobbing- the joy of yachting!!

 

 

Round Malta in a Week. (Featuring Valletta and a Container Port)

After a couple of  days round Camino, Mgarr and the Blue Lagoon, Noah and Nelly and Snowy headed round the corner westwards to Golden bay (Wind forecast forced a change from the original target of St. Pauls Bay) and then to Marsaxlok harbour in the very South. Some would ask why the locals don’t take their boats here?. Well we really enjoyed it parked next to the container port with a massive container ship being loaded just off our stern. White Cat soon joined us here and we enjoyed Gin and Tonic Sundowners together in the floodlight of the container port whilst learning the basics of a Commercial Port management- it was really well run and operational 24/7. Given the sizes of the vessels they were easily shunted around by the tugs without causing any wash- unlike the tourist bays with the speed and jet ski boats kicking up waves. The town on the other side of us was very attractive with a swimming pool built on the quay and plenty of restaurants and bars set with gardens and a long rocky beach all the way round the bay. The triple headed bay also has a cute fishing harbour filled with the classic Maltese painted fishing boats, which is what lured us to this Port as it was the one illustrated in the cruising guide.

    

When we headed out on the way to Valletta the seas on the approach had settled from the bumpy conditions the day before but it went against the grain having to motor to Valletta with virtually no wind . First to business. Liferafts were delivered to the yard at Manoel island and left for inspection with Joseph and a small outfit that specializes in this secret art. Oh, and on the way out of the Marina here there is a cute Duck santuary- lucky old ducks, geese and pigeons don’t have to pay for their Des Res in a prime spot!

  

Mixed results with Loco’s raft looking like new (hope we never see this inflated again!) but needing new flares and batteries, which was to be expected given that the last service was 5 years out of date. White Cat had slightly more problems and the quote came out uneconomic in the end and the decision was made to leave their raft there and get a new one later. The marina was a tad expensive and even the half price at €60 was too steep for the squeaky crew of Loco and so we headed north to Giulyans Bays 6 miles north. A nice hotel lined little bay, but unfortunately open to the swell. An interrupted night followed  with much rolling once the wind dropped. Side on to a swell is no joke in a yacht, maybe the €60 would have been worth it after all!. This even stopped Snowy’s “sleep like a log wherever and whenever” trick of which we are very jealous. Despite the lack of sleep we all headed on the bus to Valletta. Great buses at €1.50 a head return. 20 mins later we had gone past the yard at Sliema and arrived outside the impressive walls of Valletta. This City is well worthy of a visit for anyone with lots of history and impressive architecture both old and new, and some very old books to boot in the vast library which we managed to talk our way into. There is a nice history of the Knights of the order of St John around Valletta evident in the library and other spots around town. Dinner was had in a charming restaurant in Strait Street where the prostitutes of old used to entertain the gentlemen of the town. The salads were great though Snowy recommends the beef salad.

   

   

We could have spent much more time here but the crew of Loco wanted a roll free night so a move was made back to Camino Santa Maria Bay where a nice big space presented itself and the hook was dropped. Saturday and Sunday saw large invasions by local boats and lots of speedboat wake. Shouldn’t complain though. The snorkeling around here was nice with a mini ‘Corinth Canal’ in the rocks around the next bay and numerous little caves  to look inside. The White Cat kayak got used as well.

   DSC00529

Each night we swapped base boats for dinner and card games including Skull Kings the Pirate game introduced to us by Erik and Femka. (Where are you guys???) Sunday we planned to leave late and sail through the night so after dinner and cards and a few glasses of wine we clambered back on Loco and prepared to head off into the dark again. Think Snowy liked this idea and she was very enthusiastic helping with the steering and getting stuck in. Destination  Licata Marina and a luxurious hot shower clean hair and clothes, full water tanks and supermarket shopping to stock up again. Forecast promised good beam winds for the 69 nautical miles trip and we had a full moon to illuminate the seas. Snowy proved herself a great sailor, not a sign of sea sickness, with impressive early sightings of ships on distant horizons, and we made the Marina before midday, lovely CLEAN HAIR Snowy!.

 

 

First sail of the season

Time to introduce our Niece Rachel to the delights of sailing. Following tradition, we have nicknamed her Snowy, after Tintin’s faithful companion and on account of her very white skin! We left on the breeze of the rising sun, and got about 4 miles from the Port when the wind dropped and Snowy was shown what it would have been like to drift in the Olden Days before sailing yachts had built in motors. We waddled around on flat seas for a few hours until the wind swung onto the nose and we were able to sail. Highlights were being joined by a pod of Pilot Whales, spotted by Snowy with a shriek of delight, and two turtles floating on the surface. Snowy soon settled into the rhythm of the sailing boat, and earned her first badge with a Reef Knot, and put it to good use raising the Malta courtesy flag.

  

  

Reaching up to 6 knots during the day, we sailed 50 of the 70 Miles to Malta, only losing the wind as the sun set. we put Snowy’s young eyes to good use on the Bow looking for lobster pots as we approached Comino (island between Gozo and Malta) in the pitch black, and then dropped anchor in a very protected bay of Santa Maria within sight of our Friends Pete and Anne on White Cat (a Catamaran). The morning brought a wind shift so we motored around to Blue Lagoon, where we found a quiet spot under some caves with crystal clear waters, and congratulated ourselves on our quiet position. Minutes later the first of many tourist boats turned up, and investigated our cave, then waited for half an hour to let everyone swim before they left for their next stop. It was hectic all day, with day tripper boats and power boats, but provided some entertainment watching the events. By evening all had left and we once again enjoyed the peace.

  

  

Just after midnight, the wind shifted and started blowing into our anchorage, causing some chop. From previous experience we knew it was safe, but it would be hard to sleep, so we pulled anchor and motored back to Santa Maria once again where it was flat. Come morning it was the Bank Holiday Weekend in Malta, on account of  Elections taking place, and even Santa Maria became a busy spot- with motor boats rafted up to 10 together and jet ski boats and speed boats shooting across the bay. We decided to leave the commotion, and took the water taxi from the Comino Hotel to Mgarr on Gozo. It was a welcome break from the chop caused by all the power boats, and gave us all a chance to stretch our legs. On foot there was not much to see in Mgarr, but St Joseph’s Cathedral provided a quiet square to sit and have a great coffee. Turns out the heart of Gozo Island is inland at Victoria, and that would need a bus ride, so if we came again we would know where to go.

We shared the joys of snorkeling, swimming and dinghy travel to shore for walks with Snowy, then borrowed the Kayak from White Cat and explored local caves in the volcanic rock. The waters were crystal clear, and the local fish liked the bananas we fed them. We are now waiting for the winds to sail around to St Paul’s Bay on Malta, enjoying Snowy’s company.

 

Return to Licata

We arrived in Licata early May and dived straight into the task of getting Loco ready for the season sailing. Having seen the cost of a Lazy Jack bag (one that allows the main sail to fall neatly into a bag which stays on the boom , and keeps the sun off it when folded) Nelly took on the challenge of making one- how difficult can it be? Turns out it was pretty tricky to do it within the confines of the boat. It took nearly 3 weeks, and a lot of awkward moments in the saloon trying to reach parts of the bag that would not wrap itself under the needle. At least the ordeal was complete, and we are hoping it will be strong enough to live up to the rigours of a few years sailing.

  

  

  

In the meantime, Noah made good use of the timber we had lugged from the UK- fitting new trims to the ceiling panels and replacing the wind vane steering connection to the boat with a new plate- engineered by Brian (thanks). Also those usual jobs around the boat, including being the monkey sent up the mast to check all was well.

  

The hard work over, we were joined by our Niece Rachel, who we are delighted to teach our sailing knowledge to- it should only take a few days! Our last few days in Licata were spent as we had intended to spend half of the many weeks over autumn and spring- actually getting out to see something of the surrounding countryside. We did a day trip with Richard to Agrigento to visit the Valley of the Temples, Rachel’s first Greek temple ticked off and she was able to add support to a failing column  until she was enticed away by an offer of an ice cream.

  

 Rachel studiously read all the info boards and soaked up the history while Noah strolled around admiring the scenery still columned out from the 3 years in Greece. He and Nellie had been in these parts before in a camper van tour around the kitesurfing spots of Europe.  New flares were picked up and the safety gear upgraded prompted by our guest being onboard, but really much overdue anyway. There was a sense of excitement at getting moving again and leaving the safety of our winter base with its hot showers and friendly staff Maria and Emi for our summer voyaging. Licata had been a good winter base with a charming town . Goodbyes took longer than expected as usual and we were ready to go. Off to Malta tomorrow- here we go for another Season Sailing

Looking Back on Winter in Montgenevre

As the weather turned rather cooler and the nights drew in early in Licata, we had a rather unexpected offer of employment over the winter in Montgenevre, which we couldn’t resist taking. This time Noah was to be the Resort Manager, and Nelly only needed to host for 2 weeks to obtain her season ski lift pass, so we jumped at the chance to spend the winter in the snow in our old familiar apartment. We had the best of both worlds, as we got the chance to spend Christmas with our Grandson and see our families, then get out into the Mountains in the early New Year.

 

We were lucky with the snow this year, and had plenty of days of sunshine and more time to enjoy the conditions.

With the help of Lloyd and Eleanor the hosts in the Clautre and James down in Serre Chevalier , and the company of Jenny and Gerry our lovely mates from Ski Etoile, the season went well with some lovely guests and in early April we packed up our winter home and staggered back to the UK with all our snowboarding gear, hiding it in our parent’s attic which noticeably bowed under the weight of it all sat in the rafters. We are now on our final few days with family, enjoying spending time with everyone before we return to Licata early May to resume our sailing adventures, if only we can decide where to go-East back into Greece or West out of the Med- decisions decisions.

Settling into Sicily

 

NOTE:  We found out that laptops don’t like red wine! Now we are back in the UK we have replaced the keyboard (wonders of ebay for £20 and You Tube for the knowledge!) and now publish the post that should have gone out in Sept/ October.

DSC00050

Pronounced ”Sichilia” we are told.

We have been in Licata 3 weeks now, and the days have just flown by. The weather for the first week was hot and sunny, with little wind, and so we have caught up with our sleep as the marina was like a mill pond at night.It is quite easy to wake up at 7am and then dose off agin till 9.30.  We had no idea Licata was so large, a city of some 30,000 people, but apparently this is half the number there used to be , which is born out by the number of empty apartment blocks and neglected buildings.  Four or five storey modern apartment blocks are in abundance behind the older parts with their narrow streets,  4 storey buildings either side with balconies nearly touching over the street- it is a real maze and quite charming .

DSC00037    DSC00054

DSC00046  DSC00040

The Marina and waterfront area is obviously only a few years old, complete with a  modern “mall” right by the marina, and a good chandlery shop run by Andrea , so we can buy food and essentials very conveniently- open 7 days a week! We had expected a Sunday closure, but here the Mall shops are open until 9pm. Locals come at the weekend to promenade along the water frontage, often with their kids in buggies, on bikes or on battery operated sit on cars- very flash. Power walkers and runners also use the quay as a track running rom green light to red a distance of 3 kms. Nelly tried the circuit one day, with no warm up –just decided to run it- her ankles are just recovering and she is now able to walk without a limp! That will teach her!Our road bikes are a bit out of place  with many of the local roads being badly maintained and most routes require a spell on the main loop road. Not ideal . Also a 5km trip through the town is needed to get out to the countryside risking life and limb with Italian drivers who appear not to look around , observe priorities, who eat ice creams and use their mobiles when driving and also like to teach their kids to drive at the age of 6 by letting them steer on their laps. All seen in the first two weeks of being here. Rant over – needless to say you need to keep your wits about you to survive on the roads here, and we are using our helmets!

DSC00034   DSC00056

The LightHouse is shown on the right- currently getting a face lift. At night it reassuringly sweeps around the marina and also across one unfortunate apartment which one assumes must have very good blackout blinds.

It is early days yet but not many of the locals seems to speak any English, although German is understood so we are often resorting to our school German to get us by. We wish now we had learnt more Italian words when we were sailing with Roberto and Guiianna, it would have come in very handy. We have not done a lot of exploring as we are working daily on Loco whilst the weather is good- our biggest job involves stripping the warn brown treadmaster  from the front of the boat, sanding all the old glue off, making templates of the shapes, cutting new grey treadmaster and sticking it in place. Noah was keen to get this started and began the stripping on day two.

DSC00054     Photo1927 DSC00060

Old treadmaster…………………………stripped and epoxy sanded off………………………….new treadmaster, nearly there, TaDahhhhhh

DSC00012

Ooopss, the ceiling suffered as we had to take all the deck fixings off and they were bolted through the ceiling- one job caused another job! any idea where these cables go?

When we were in Prevesa last year doing the same job on the back of the boat, Loco had been on the hard and we were plagued by mosquitos each time we went down the ladder, and the water used to flood over to the base of yard and trip out the electricity. In the basic toilet blocks the squashed bodies of many a mosquito were evident upon the white painted walls, and yet there were always others taking their place and waiting for a bite as soon as your guard was lowered! In contrast, here in Licata Loco is on the water, the toilet blocks are stylishly tiled in greys and blacks, and not one mosquito body have we seen splat on the wall. However, they are around, and each night Nelly manages to get at least 2 bites- so far the nets have protected the bedroom area- and all in all the marina is better equipped.

DSC00378

The sandy beach, only 15minutes walk away.

Most here are German, some from France, Denmark, Australia New Zealand and one couple from Finland. There are not many Brits, and in fact by next week most of the Yachting community will have gone home. Of those that are staying most are going home for Xmas, like us. There will be no music nights or much social over the winter- apparently last year there was more going on. The marina itself is nowhere near full . The staff are very helpful and they have good security at all hours- although the marina area is not gated from the promenade area, but they are well patrolled. On our pontoon there are also a number of local boats and sailing school boats with one particularly keen owner who goes out almost every day in a 20 foot  dayboat and listens to Clapton and BB King.to midnight and beyond.

We have some lovely Austrian neighbours who took us out to Pizza in the town centre early after arriving here who keep unusual hours, going to sleep between 6 am and 12pm and spending the whole night awaked writing and reading after the town has gone to sleep. Locals dine around 9pm here with meals going on till Midnight and beyond- we are usually asleep before the kids go to bed here.

This last week we have seen the weather change, as we had our first thunderstorm and heavy downpours of rain during the night. The conservatory has been up and down a few times, but we think it will stay up now unless the sun returns in earnest. Bike riding has proved harder than we thought, as there are not the coast roads to ride on, so each journey we have to go through the one way system in the centre to get out. We have not found any pretty villages or scenic stops so far, only miles of greenhouses and rubble inland and towns built alongside the main roads. Rubbish is dumped anywhere, it is as if they don’t notice it anymore. In comparison the Marina area is well cared for and there has been more money spent on the waterline. We are told Agrigento Syrcusa Palermo and Ragousa are nicer Cities worth a visit, but they are too far for a days bike ride. The beach is lovely- sand is very fine and it is kept clean of rubbish. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the beach, and the water is still a good temperature to swim.The nearest Airport is at Catania a couple of hrs.  bus ride from here with regular buses so that will be our route home in December.

Overall, we like this place. It is not touristic but a working City, where you can get most of what you need on a yacht and locals are friendly. It would have been nice to have more Yachties to social with- but we are getting more work done this way!