Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Thankful for Autumn Cruising

Just in time for thanksgiving, I’m grateful to friends who invited us to spend a few days sailing out to our beautiful islands -

for the friendship and laughter,
for gentle winds, calm seas and autumn sun shining through cool mist,
for the hike along coastal dunes and untouched beaches at sunset,
and the game of petanque and beer at La Trinquette,
for France’s cutest boat dog Nuskha,
and the cheerful salon of the good ship Gudhull with ample room for 7 boisterous sailors wearing multiple layers of clothes and flaming bananas in rhum in perfect security.

For the gentle motion of the boat lulling us to sleep and the soft creaking of wet wood and stretching dock lines, and the moon whose light traces an arc through the cabin that progresses with the night, and the sky full of stars that accompanies a wee-hour pee.

For the fishermen whose engines sputter to life an hour before sunrise and the gulls welcoming the day.

For the smell of strong coffee that hangs in the morning dampness, and for freshly burnt toast.

For our neighbouring boat that shared their catch of squid with us, and the anxiety-filled entertainment offered by the massive conger eels swirling around our feet, snapping up the waste as we cleaned the squid for our dinner.

For a calm anchorage nestled in a rugged coastline that welcomed us for a lunch break and siesta while waiting for the tide to turn.

And most of all, I’m grateful to have found so many kindred spirits who share my never-fading fascination with the sea and boat life. Merci, les amis. Merci.


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Cruising Season 2018 Wrap-up

Basic stats:
Days on boat: 146
Distance covered: 760 nautical miles
Countries visited: France (Corsica), Italy (Elbe, Sardinia, Egadi Islands, Sicily)
Nights at anchor: 73
Average cost per night: 23 Euros
Motor hours: 100
Sailing vs Motoring: 50% (but most of the motoring was actually motor sailing with the motor purring along gently at 1500 rpms or less)

We are getting better at predicting what awaits us each year. The expectations for 2018 that were NOT true were:

1) Crowded and expensive ports in southern Corsica and northeast Sardinia: We simply avoided them. We only had one port in La Maddalena that was pricey, but given that it was in the center of town during June and there was a gale blowing, we felt it was worth it.

2) Using a line ashore to keep from swinging in narrow anchorages: All of the anchorages were large enough that you didn’t need a line ashore. I’m sure we won’t get away with this for much longer.

3) Transportation headaches: While the distance from our winter port to the nearest airport was greater than in previous years, the transportation system was direct and smooth between Licata and Catania. We left a couple of days early to visit Catania before flying home so we didn’t feel rushed.

Honestly, it didn't FEEL this crowded...

  • Dreamy anchorages everywhere from Elbe island to Sicily, with crystal clear turquoise waters averaging 29 C (84 F).
  • Great snorkelling.
  • Lots of time anchored out instead of in ports.
  • Fantastic weather (except for the stormy period at the end of August, as usual)
  • Cultural / historical visits: Elbe (Napoleon), La Maddalena (Garibaldi), Nuraghe settlements in Sardinia, Greek-Phoenician-Roman-Visigoth-Moor settlements near Cagliari, Cave paintings in Levanzo (Egadi Islands) from 12000 BCE, and Greek ruins at Selinunte and the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento in Sicily. We also enjoyed the big cities (Cagliari, Trapani, Palermo, Catania) and many of the smaller towns (particularly liked Marzara del Vallo in Sicily).
  • Italian food and wine, although I have to admit that by the end of the season I was ready for a break from pasta.
  • And as always, one of the biggest pleasures of cruising is meeting up with old friends and making new ones. We also particularly enjoyed the community atmosphere in Licata with so many live aboards wintering over here. I really hated leaving and may head back later this winter or early spring when I get too boat sick to be civil staying at home. (Patrick would say that time is now, but I still have things to do here first...).

  • Dragging at anchor and calling for a tow (in italian) 
  • Patrick’s cracked tooth in a tiny Sardinian town on the 15th of August (biggest vacation period of the year when no one works and everything shuts down)
  • A cascade of toilet problems at the end of the cruise.
  • Bad non-potable water (all over Sardinia and Sicily) and contaminated tanks.

Because of health problems, we got a late start on the sailing season and took it very easy this year. We sailed fewer miles than usual and enjoyed the pace, especially because it allowed us to spend many days enjoying beautiful anchorages with no urge to move on until the weather pushed us along. This season gave us a little bit of everything that you want out of Med sailing.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Greek Ruins and Turkish Steps

Our last days in Sicily were filled with cultural visits, most notably, the valley of the temples in Agrigento and the so-called Turkish steps, a natural formation of blinding white limestone cliffs rising from a turquoise bay where the Moors supposedly anchored their ships, climbing the steps to raid nearby villages.

Back in Brittany, re-adjusting to house living is still in progress.  The kitchen organization continues to baffle me and it seems that many of our most useful gadgets are on the boat. I've had to get used to wearing shoes again after 5 months and wonder where all of my socks are hiding.  I still feel like I'm in someone else's home. I tiptoe around trying not to disturb things, my inner voice making snide remarks about the owner's slovenliness and lack of taste.  I finally got batteries put back in the barometer / weather station, whose vigilant watch on the weather situation around me comforts me for no good reason.  The nights are too quiet, too still, too long. 

It's been great catching up with friends and family, though, and I'm slowly getting back to running and biking on our beautiful coastal trails.  I have a lot of homework to do preparing next year's cruising and I look forward to diving in to that.

Atlas pilar

Goddess Heads

Egyptian god Bes, a protective deity of joy, dance, sleep, and womanly matters.