Hammamet – 18/19 June 2019

I have absolutely no photos of Hammamet, these are stock photos. I have no idea why. It was hot and busy, but we found a lovely place to eat right on the beach (in the sand) at an exclusive club where the meals were cheaper than going to a very cheap restaurant in the UK.

There were few European tourists because of the 2015 Sousse beach shootings. Tunisian tourists now come from neighbouring North African countries and the economy is apparently glad of it. No Western Europeans expecting all inclusive holidays for nothing.

We met some interesting people, one being a liveaboard English guy who cleaned and mended boats there, and he took me to a phone shop in his car and I bought a local SIM card. For that I was eternally grateful. We could now access our mapping systems, emails and the internet without costing the price of about 5 meals out a day.

Leaving was as painful as arriving. Hot form-filling and bribery again. But then for our cheap fuel.

I put in about 900 Dinar to fill the tanks, opting for the posh fuel rather than the local home-brew. I was hoping it would be like buying fresh orange juice, with bits or without bits. More of this later, but the fuckers must laugh there arses off when we Europeans leave. My fuel filters would later say there’s no bastard difference, it’s all got bits. Pirates.

Anyway, feeling smug about the crazy amount of money I’d saved, I handed the pirate my card, once the tanks were topped-off. He just shook his head and pointed at a tiny sign on the edge of a distance building that said Cash Only, and then pointed in the general direction of some buildings about a mile away and said “Bank for cash”. Clearly something he’s had to do about fifteen times a day for foreigners like me.

So, water in hand, off I trudged in 40 degrees to go to a bank to get out cash. Which of course was closed. I waited an hour for it to open and when I got to the counter and presented my passport and bank card, the banker just said “No, machine outside only”. So I had to use the machine outside about five times with two cards to work around their low cash limits. But I got there, but feeling quite nervous as I had what locals would believe to be a huge mount of cash money on me.

The pirate was paid and we escaped to sail to Sardinia in one jump. The date was 20 June 2019 in the afternoon.

From Europe to Africa – 17 June 2019

We started the engine at 8:40am and escaped the tight harbour and forecast strong winds, heading Kelibia in Tunisia. Not quite immediately escaped though as we spend 30 minutes looking for a lost fender, which we never found.

Heading for Kelibia

The reason we decided to head here first was to take advantage of the excellent low prices of fuel, equivalent to about 50p a litre. Important when you have 1,500 litres of fuel tank which at that point were mostly filled with fumes. Hence the decision to sail rather than motor across.

But as is life, wind and waves were against us and I had too make the decision to divert further south to Hammamet.

All sails hoisted we were running at 7-8 knots with a strong breeze of 20 or so knots. But with 1 to 2 metre waves off starboard, it was like being a cork in a washing machine. Not comfortable. The wind then dropped in the afternoon slowing progress to 5 knots as we followed the coast down from Ras Mamour.

9mph never looks as exciting at it feels
Sailing to Hammamet

Stupidly and unthinkingly turning my phone on cost me £200 over 2 minutes as all my apps, data and navigation updated on what was normally a free unlimited data package. No longer in Europe of course, now in Africa with massive roaming charges.

Plus, happily thinking that we had two hours to go on the passage suddenly jumped to three, as an extra hour was added on for the new continent. I didn’t see that coming either. Piss poor planning and all that…

Then the wind was back, up to 30 knots now, so we hit 12 knots a few times and some fun night sailing, healing right over. Fun for me, not so much for everyone else. Then not fun for me trying to bring in all that sail area in 30 knots. The main was real struggle but we found shelter just off Hammamet town in the bay at just gone midnight.

Sitting having a G&T nightcap in the pilot house in 30+ knots with a taught anchor chain but totally calm water was a massive relief. The lit world of Tunisia looked, sounded and smelled very different from Europe.

Port Yasmine – Hammamet – 18 June 2019

After a late start we moved the boat from the bay, down into the marina. An easy 30 minutes motoring followed by hours of sweaty offices, endless paperwork and bribery.

Marina plan

We all sat in a very hot office filling out paperwork that was eventually loudly stamped. We were taken to another hot office where more paperwork was completed and again, loudly stamped. We then went to have the boat searched. Two men with guns came on board and started looking through our stuff.

I didn’t know what to do. We’d been told to bring spirits for entry and exit bribes, so had four bottles hidden away. Two ready to bring out when the moment was right in this hot and boring process. But how do you start that conversation? “Errr, can I bribe you to get the f**k off my boat and let us in to your country?”

Anyway, eventually one of the two blokes said “Errrrm, would it be possible to have little present?”. Relieved, I countered with “Of course, I’d love to show my appreciation for your beautiful country” and produced two bottles of Scotch. He then suddenly dashed up on deck shouting and I thought, crap I’m going to a Tunisian jail now. He arrived back with another bloke with a uniform and gun and said, “Do you also have little present for my friend?”

Nope. That was it. I needed the other two bottles for exiting Tunisia as I couldn’t get anything like that locally. So I went and found a bottle of OK wine and put it on the table, and the guy said “No, no, no, no”. I shrugged to say that’s it mate and he struggled too, grabbing the bottle and stuffing it down his trousers, and off they went. We were in.

Lost in Time

I put this blog down after we set sail to Tunisia and for many reasons never finished it off.

Part of the reason for not completing it was the sail away from Tunisia, around Sardinia and back to Sicily. We encountered so many issues with Yves, the weather and finding water. It took time away from even considering writing anything. Time and distraction then fell into the trip home at the end of the season and getting our all our belongings in aircraft baggage. Then we were back in the house and putting that back together, which flopped into me being in hospital in November after getting pneumonia and flu, or Covid? I flew back to Italy for more personal possessions just before I became ill, so suspect Covid now. Italy was hit before us.

Anyway, I’m going to finish this over the next few days, if only to get closure on the whole experience and add the final pictures of the adventure for posterity.