Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Friday, 26 August 2016

Gozo to Trapani

Gozo to Trapani
The passage from Gozo to the Marina di Ragusa was unexciting but enjoyable. We motored out of Mgarr harbour and for a short distance northwards before setting sail and reaching most of the way northwards across the 50 mile wide Malta strait. Having entered Ragusa Marina we were berthed on a pontoon miles from anywhere! The nearest facilities were a 5 minute walk away and the offices the same. It is a new and very large project but very empty; that said I was assured by the staff that in winter it is a very popular place to lay up for the winter and is always full. Certainly their winter storage prices seemed very reasonable (for Kurukulla, at 12m length, it was €1300 Nov – Apr inclusive).
Sunset at Licata Marina
After two days in Ragusa, a not very impressive town but it had good beaches, we set off west, motor-sailing in light winds, heading for Licata and intending to anchor in the eastern part of the harbour. On arrival we found that not only had the new inner breakwaters been completed (they had been under construction in 2008 during my last visit) but inside what used to be the best anchoring area was now a fully fledged marina. Initially we anchored outside the marina but were very quickly informed, by a man in a RIB, that this was now a private part of the port and if we wished to stay we would have to enter the marina. Slightly disgruntled we first checked out the other berthing option in the port, the pontoon on the inner side of the west breakwater, but this was overflowing with local boats (and costs a lot less than the marina!) hence we returned to the marina and resigned ourselves to the cost. In fact it was cheaper than Ragusa by €20 per day, so not so bad.
Licata by night
Our plan was to stay two days with Christoph and I doing some maintenance on the boat on day one whilst the other two went doing the tourist bit and for us all then to have a relaxing day on day two. On the second night we had an enjoyable meal at a restaurant in the narrow streets of the old town before doing a tour by night of the sights. Although full of some pretty brutal architecture of the 1970's and 80's the old town retains considerable charm. The following morning a visit to the ex servicemen's club museum explained the reason for the variability in the architecture; Licata was a landing point for the allied invasion of Sicily in WWII and had obviously been bombarded to soften up any resistance prior to the landing. I was lucky enough to be engaged in conversation by a veteran who had witnessed the landings first hand and gave me a guided tour of their small museum.
Arriving Porto Empedocle
Later that morning we departed Licata and headed west, on the wind, towards our next port of call, Porto Empedocle. Knowing that space here was at a premium I took the precaution of getting the staff at the marina offices of Licata to call ahead and book us a space. We arrived an hour before sunset, sailed in, dropped the sails and entered the inner eastern harbour to find the space reserved for us. Nothing and no one! After several telephone calls I managed to get through to the “Marinaio” who manages the berthing there who knew nothing of the pre booked space but was kind enough to leave the wedding he was attending and sort us out a berth. For that night we were rather precariously perched alongside the end of a pontoon (fortunately a quiet night was forecast) but the next morning he kindly moved us into one of the best berths in the small marina.
Self at Viale di Tempi
It was from Porto Empedocle that Simon and Nikos were due to leave but first we all wanted to visit the Viale di Tempi at Agrigento, which was a few miles inland. Plan A was to hire a car for 24 hours, visit the temples and then take S&N to Palermo Airport the next day. Several telephone calls later and we had discovered that the cheapest 24 hour car hire was €140; plan B was to go by bus to Agrigento, visit the temples and research trains from there to Palermo. This we did and a suitable morning train was available but no bus from Porto Empedocle to Agrigento! A taxi solved the problem! The Viale di Tempi is an amazing sight with some of the best preserved Greek temples in existence, partly because one at least was converted to a christian church and was therefore well maintained for a thousand years or more.
Berthed in Porto Empedocle
Next morning we wished Simon and Nikos goodbye and spent the rest of the day relaxing before a relatively early departure the following morning. Our plan, given the forecast of light westerly winds, was to head to Capo Bianco, a delightful and un-commercialised beach with suitable anchorages East and West of the headland such that, unless there is a southerly element in the wind, it is suitable for an overnight stop. The next morning we were awoken by the arrival of another boat's crew whom we had met in the marina at Licata and again at Porto Empedocle. They were unaware of the anchorage at Capo Bianco before meeting us and had decided to try it out. Initially the sea was so calm they were able to lie alongside us but as the day moved on and the west wind set in we all decided to move to the east side of the Cape before nightfall. By 1700 we were anchored off the second more commercial beach to the east of the headland and settled for the night. We invited the crew of the second boat, Philippe and Dimitris, over for supper finally sending them off into the darkness at 2300 before turning in for a slightly rocky but not unpleasant night.
Off Selinunte
Next morning we moved back to the west side where we stayed for the next 24 hours before departing in a flat calm on Thursday morning, heading west, towards a destination yet to be decided. Within one hour we had enough wind to sail, an hour later a reef in the main and an hour after that rolls in the genoa as well. It was a boisterous beat to windward but by using the bays along the coast we managed to stay clear of the rising seas and enjoyed a pleasant, if slightly wet, beat to windward; taking in the sights of the equally impressive temples at Selinunte on the way. Sadly the weather was such that a stop at Selinunte, as planned, was not possible. Further west at the most South Westerly point of Sicily, Capo Granitola, we were greeted by the sight of fifty four kite surfers all doing their thing and that did not count the ones on the beach. An amazing sight! Having rounded Granitola we had a final hour on a close fetch, along the coast, before anchoring in the shelter of the breakwater at Mazara del Vallo. This is the largest trawler port in Italy and we decided to stay outside the port and simply shelter behind the breakwater for the night. Interestingly there was evidence of a new marina here as well, inside the harbour, but we did not investigate. Outside is an easy anchorage in weed and gloupy mud, with good holding, perfect for one night.
Approaching Favignana
By 1000 next morning we had weighed anchor and set off for our next destination, the island of Favignana in the Egadi islands. It was flat calm so motoring was the order of the day, at least for the first hour. After which a light westerly breeze set in allowing us to ghost along at three knots or thereabouts. By 1600 we were anchored just east of Punta Longa on the south coast of the island. There are several anchorage points around the south and east coasts of the island, some with mooring buoys laid.
Favignana (Panorama)
The following morning, after a swim and a quick telephone call to the Lega Navale in Trapani to book a berth for the following night, we set off to complete the final 10 miles in a flat calm. Motoring all the way; boring; arriving at 1330. By 1400 we were berthed in their part of the marina and settling down to lunch; prior to undertaking a victualling run ashore in the afternoon in preparation for the crossing to Sardinia.
Trapani skyline
More when we leave Trapani.......

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Zakynthos to Malta

Zakynthos to Preveza
After collecting Mike from the airport and a day in Zakynthos town we set off north towards Ay Nikolaos, the most northerly overnight anchorage on the island. En route we anchored for lunch and a swim off the beach at Alykanas enjoying a leisurely three hour lunch-break. By the time of our departure the wind had moved to NW and thus we set off on a brisk beat for the last 5 miles.
At Ag Nikolaos we found the anchorage crowded and the only available spot was near the northern entrance where we squeezed ourselves in just clear of the fairway used by the ferries to the mainland. Not 5 minutes later a RIB turned up alongside carrying a young guy who warned us of the arrival of the ferry at 0800 next morning (as we were planning to leave at 0500 this was not a problem for us) and advising us that if we wanted to go stern to on the tourist boats on the small jetty he could offer us free electricity and water! It was obviously a move designed to entice us into the adjacent restaurant, which his family also just happened to own. It worked! Five minutes later we anchored for a second time and backed up to the stern of the moored tripper boats where he was waiting to help us secure.
Zakynthos waterfront
Good to his word power and water were swiftly provided and in exchange we reserved a waterfront table at the restaurant. The only problem was the obstacle course needed to get ashore involving scrambling across not one but three tripper boats. It was worth it; the food was good.
Next morning we slid out at 0500 to head for “Wreck Beach” on NW Zakynthos, the most popular postcard in Greece outside Athens. Sadly despite the flat calm of our departure, as we rounded the northern tip of the island we encountered the remains of the NW swell left by the winds of the day before. Not to be deterred we pressed on to the beach but the conditions were such that only a brief in and out visit was possible. The seas were large enough that anchoring was impossible! At least the crew could say they had been there. From here we set off northwards towards Kefalonia or Ithaca; which of the two was to be decided later.
This whole period was intended to be a quiet cruise northward which Mike could enjoy; he is not one for adventurous sailing, nor lumpy seas! For this reason we trickled north visiting first Ornos Pera Pigadhi, on Ithaca, where we discovered we had chosen the same anchorage as the “Sailing Holidays” group charter fleet. We anchored well clear on the southern end of the bay, tied back to the rocks, and then looked on with amusement as the wind increased (offshore fortunately) and the antics started.
Anchored in "watersports bay" near Frikes
First one and then several of the anchored charter yachts dragged their anchor and disappeared off towards the horizon only later to be rescued and re-anchored by the charter leader and his crew. Fortunately none of them dragged across our anchor cable, nor that of our nearest neighbour, a beautiful, blue hulled, 54ft Beneteau, and they were all recovered in time for the beach BBQ their leaders had planned!
Next morning we watched the circus depart and then slipped our shore ropes, hoisted the mainsail and sailed off the anchor passing between the tiny island of Pera Pigadhi and the main island of Ithaca before heading north to the anchorage just outside Frikes where a now deserted boat is the only remaining relic of the windsurfing school that used to be here. On arrival we tied back to the rocks finding ourselves again in company with our nearest neighbour of the night before. Here we spent a quiet night before moving in to an alongside berth in Frikes the morning after. The day was spent relaxing in town, watering ship, procuring some victuals and enjoying an excellent lunch at one of the several beach-front tavernas.
Berthed in Frikes harbour
By late afternoon it was time to depart and we motored out of the harbour and around to Ag Nikolaou, a small bay just to the north of Frikes where we backed in, tied back and settled for the evening. In the centre of the bay was an extremely good looking 25m motor launch by the name of Bel Ami. She seemed based on an MTB or small minesweeper hull but in fact we found out later she was French built and based on a customs cutter. The following morning, much to our surprise we received a visit from one of the owners/guests who had instructed the crew to bring back fresh bread from town that morning and had included in their order croissants for us as well! She insisted on delivering them herself, very kind and totally unexpected. Some hours later we were joined by the other type of power boat, an Italian registered plastic fashion statement with booming music and bathing beauties adorning the deck; we rapidly departed, following close on the stern of Bel Ami who had made a similar decision!
Port Leone in Kalamos
From here we paid a visit to Port Leone in Kalamos, our anchorage for the following night; a fascinating deserted village which lost it's water supply in the 1956 earthquake and was abandoned. There are signs of some reconstruction starting, initially with the church of course, however not all locals are supportive as we found out from a Greek American couple who we met in the church and who had returned to see what their contribution to the reconstruction of the church had achieved; on their return they discovered that someone had misappropriated the ruins of their former family home! From here we sailed sedately round to Episcopi on the north west coast for a relaxed lunch and then on to Ormos Obelike in Meganisi for the following night. Our first attempt at finding ourselves a quiet anchorage for the night failed when we realised that the bay we had chosen was not sand as we thought but flat rock and useless holding.
Berthed in Vathi, Meganissi
As a result we had to start the engine and move to a bay further in where, after the departure of several small motorboats, we had the bay almost to ourselves. After a night tied back and at anchor we moved late next day into the harbour at Vathi, to get fresh bread and victuals before sailing out again and heading for the southern end of the Levkas Canal. Our plan was to anchor at Ak Kefali for the night with a transit of the canal in the afternoon of the following day. This achieved we were in the Levkas Marina by 1700 the next day ready to dine ashore in “Eu Zin” (Greek for Live Well) an excellent restaurant I had found on my previous visit situated in the side streets of old Levkas. Next morning we had breakfast in the marina cafe (it did not compare with the food of the previous night!) and set off for a supermarket victualling trip. By 1500 we were ready to leave in time to catch the 1530 bridge opening. Unbeknown to us the bridge was out of action for maintenance and in it's place a RoRo ferry had been drafted in to provide a bridge deck between island and mainland which could self manoeuvre to open the channel every 90 minutes (not every hour as the bridge usually does; hence the slightly modified opening times). After loitering for 20 minutes the ferry duly moved out of the way and we were through and on our way to Preveza, an hour and a half sailing away. I am pleased to say that we were one of five yachts to head for Preveza, the first to make sail and the first to sail into the dredged channel into Preveza. Not bad for a 28 year old 39 footer.
Waterfront at Preveza
After entering the inland sea at Preveza we headed for the isolated anchorage in the Nisos Vouvelos where much to our surprise we found another yacht in the bay we intended to occupy, it is normally deserted. Fortunately there is room for two and we ghosted in under mainsail, in water 2.5 – 3m deep, slightly nerve-racking, and anchored for the night. Next morning we sailed across to Vonitsa for the following night and next morning departed from here to sail to Preveza Town quay for a meal ashore to celebrate Mike's final night. Mike left by taxi next morning for the airport and we departed for Italy; but before we could depart there was the now obligatory battle with the Hellenic Port Police over how many stamps were required on Kurukulla's cruising permit. We eventually agreed on a compromise and departed Greece legally!
Preveza to Rocella Ionica
The forecast was for NW F5 winds going N as we progressed northwards. For this reason we did a long tack to seaward out of Preveza and then put Kurukulla on port tack to head north. Needless to say the winds went northwards early and the F5 was F6-7. By the time we had Paxos abeam we had had enough and put into the anchorage outside Gaios in Paxos for a few hours rest just a darkness fell. By 2200 we were securely anchored, fed and in bed ready for an 0500 departure.
En route Preveza to Paxos
The next joining crew member, Matt, was due to join us in Santa Maria di Leuca in 18 hours time. It was not to be! We motored to the north end of Paxos before setting the mainsail with one reef and the No2 genoa with four rolls. Six hours later we had three reefs in the mainsail and the genoa rolled up to a pocket handkerchief, still doing 5-6 knots to windward. As the seas got bigger the passage got wetter, that is until we dropped off a crest of a wave, to be greeted by the next breaking crest dropping on top of us. The spray hood self folded enveloping a rather surprised Yorgos inside it and we took a cockpit full of water which drained over the next few minutes. Fortunately not much water made it down below.
Paxos to Santa Maria di Leucca
By 0100 next morning we had Santa Maria di Leuca on the beam but 20 miles to windward. Using a mobile phone we had managed to instruct Matt to find a room for the night and join us next morning. It was to be another four hours sailing before we anchored just outside the harbour entrance for a well deserved rest.
At 1000 we motored into the harbour to be greeted by Matt holding fresh bread and fruit, both exceptionally welcome! The next thirty six hours were spent sorting ourselves out and getting ready for the next leg across the Gulf of Taranto. After 36 hours in the marina we motored out and anchored off of the beach, 5 miles to the west, in preparation for an early departure next morning.
Sta Maria di Leucca at sunset
At 0500 we were on our way again, motoring gently off the anchor (we were anchored in the midst of a rocky plateau of variable depths, not a great anchorage despite the sandy looking beach) and once in deeper water set the mainsail and genoa to motor-sail for the coming three hours. By late morning the wind had filled in and we had a gentle reach across to Le Castella our intended next stop. The marina here is in the old quarry from which it is believed the stone came to build the castle, the only minor problem is they didn't dig enough out; the entrance is only 2m deep, not enough for Kurukulla. There was an alternative however, the fishing harbour where, according to the pilot, it is possible for yachts to use the outer end of the mole. Thus it was we gently edged into the fishing harbour at 1730 that afternoon, to be greeted by the fishing fleet who had all decided to berth on the deep water berths and leave the shallower berths empty.. i.e. no suitable berth for us and no invitation to lie alongside.
The beach at Rocella Ionica
As a result we were forced to accept to anchoring in the bay; fortunately the weather was calm and no wind was forecast overnight. Not a place I will be coming back to however!
Next morning it was another relatively early start for the passage to Rocella Ionica, the furthest west marina on the sole of Italy. A relatively gentle sail along the coast, including giving the spinnaker an airing, had us anchored off the beach to the east of the marina for a late lunch at 1500 and entering the marina at 1800 after a swim and relax. The entrance to Rocella Ionica marina is renowned for silting and it is necessary to take a detour around the sand bank extending west from the end of the outer mole; this we did but even so we managed to touch bottom in the middle of the inner entrance, it is badly silted in this area and necessary to stay very close (almost too close for comfort) to the northern breakwater on entering; there is 4m near the breakwater but it shallows very quickly if you drift towards the arm sticking out from the southern breakwater, i.e. the one that forms the narrowest part of the entrance.
Rocella Ionica to Malta
Once safely in we were met by a cheery crowd of “Marinaios” who were, I suspect, ready to come to our rescue had we got stuck. Thankfully help was not needed and we berthed alongside, on a finger pier for a change, and set about preparations for the evening. The waterfront restaurant we chose, halfway between the marina and the station was not a good choice, very average food and noisy. C'est la vie!

Next morning we spent the first half of the day playing the tourist in Rocella, my getting a haircut and the others buying victuals, before we departed the marina for a quiet afternoon relaxing and night at anchor off the beach we had used on our arrival. 0500 next morning saw us on our way again but this time to Taormina, in Sicily where Stephen and Raimund, our next crew, were to join.
Taormina is a delightful town, perched on the cliffs high above the sea but lacks one basic facility, a jetty at which you can embark people. For that reason we had to pluck the joining crew off the rocks, near the railway station, where they were due to have arrived; that is if there hadn't been a rail strike!
The anchorage at Taormina

As it was they had arrived by bus and been disembarked two miles down the coast! Both claimed to have enjoyed the walk!
Being at anchor in a relatively crowded and open anchorage we took it in turns to go ashore in groups to do the tourist bit and by 1400 next day we were Taormina'd out. It was time to leave the tourists behind and head for Catania.
Fortunately we were able to re book a berth in the Yacht Club at Catania and arrived just as the sun was setting, having enjoyed a great spinnaker run almost all the way. That night we enjoyed an excellent meal in “Il Vecchio Bastione”, a restaurant near the No 1 port gate.
The best bay at Taormina but anchoring is banned!
Next morning it was a tourist trip round the sights of Catania prior to a short sail down the coast to Augusta where we anchored for the night in Porto Zifonio before continuing down the cost to Siracusa to arrive mid day the next day. In Siracusa it is possible to berth on the town quay for free provided you don't require power or water. We took advantage of this and stayed 36 hours to enjoy the sights and scenery of Siracusa, an amazing town and rightfully a UNESCO world heritage site. If time had allowed we would have opted to stay longer but Malta called and on the second evening we moved off the quay and anchored in the bay in order to simplify our departure next morning.
Catania Cathedral
As planned we sailed off the anchor at 0930 and set off for Portopalo, an uninspiring fishing port on the southern tip of Sicily. This was to be our set off point for the crossing to Malta. The sail proved to be part spinnaker run and part reach, nothing energetic and very enjoyable. By 1830 we were snugly settled in the western half of Portopalo harbour, enjoying an evening swim, soon followed by a G&T and supper. It was to be an early night in preparation for another 0500 departure.
At 0445 the alarms went off and we set sail for the crossing to Malta. The first three hours were windless and boring, motoring along at 6kts.
Syracusa waterfront
Fortunately at this point the wind came up and we were able to make sail for the remainder of the crossing. At 1630 we called Valletta Port Control to inform them of our arrival and by 1730 we were berthing in Msida Marina on the Ta'Xbiex waterfront. Here we were to stay for the next three nights whilst exploring the delights of Malta. Tours of Valletta, a hire car to go to Mdina and the northern part of the island and then a final day victualling and sorting out admin before departing for a circumnavigation of Malta. We departed Msida on the Tuesday afternoon, spent the night in St Paul's Bay, anchored almost under the statue of St Paul before sailing off the anchor to head round the north end of the island and down the west coast.
For lunch and a swim we stopped in Gnejna Bay where the shelter from the westerly swell was best, (the winds were light NW) before continuing down the west coast, round past the port of Marsaxlokk and back to Valletta for a final night in Msida Marina. It was from here, the next morning at 0500, that Yorgos was to depart back to Greece and we, somewhat later, were to set off for Gozo.
After an early morning round of goodbyes and a mid morning trip to the supermarket we decided to delay departure for a final lunch in Malta at the Yacht Cafe (good but slightly expensive Tapas), situated near the “Black Pearl” an old Baltic Trader now used as a waterfront restaurant and a clear landmark at the entrance to Ta'Xbiex waterfront.
Aproaching Valletta
By 1430 we were ready to set sail and after a quick look at the weather forecast we decided to opt for one or two nights at anchor in Anchor Bay before crossing to Gozo. The weather forecast for the crossing back to Italy was not good for the next four days and so, as we planned to spend only two days there, we were in no hurry to get to Gozo. 36 hours at anchor seemed to pass extremely quickly and some maintenance got done before, on Saturday morning, we set off on a brisk beat to Mgarr, the marina in Gozo. Our plan was to spend day one looking around Victora, the capital of Gozo, and then hire a car on day two in order to tour the island.
The entrance to the old Maltese capital, Mdina
By 2200 Sunday night we had driven almost every road in Gozo, the car had been returned, supper had been served onboard and we were ready for an early departure the next morning.
By 0700 we were slipping our moorings and setting sail northwards for Ragussa Marina on the south coast of Sicily. More once we are on the coast of Sicily.......
Mgarr harbour, Gozo