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.

Re-Rigging

Our jib furler appeared to break when we sailed from Gozo, which meant some precarious bowsprit walking and manual rolling in of the sail. This appeared to amuse the skipper and crew of a French Canadian yacht who said they enjoyed the show from the harbour wall. Me balancing on the end of the bowsprit, Lotty shouting at me and me shouting back. Trying to hand roll a flapping jib at the end of a bowsprit is quite a tense thing.

So, I decided to investigate and fix , amongst other jobs. One other job being to put back in all the blocks to re-seat the mizzen mast. In the wavy weather the day before they’d all fallen out into the lazzerette.

And do you know what, the mizzen blocks and the furler issue were connected, a bit like that song, “The leg bone’s connected to the…” and all that. The mizzen mast is connected to the main mast by the triasic stay, between the top of each mast. As the mizzen had moved forward with her blocks out, the lesser tension on the main mast shifted it forward and there was a big curve in the jib furler/stay which must make the furling system not want to operate. Blimey, who would have known..?

So I re-tensioned the mizzen shrouds so the mast was straight and at its normal jaunty slightly backwards stance. I then re-blocked it, then re-tensioned the main mast shrouds which tightened the forestay, inner forestry and the jib furler. Simples… And sod me, the furler is working again after being rewound.

I wish I’d taken a picture, but I didn’t. However Yves Christian has sailed magnificently today, pulling like a train and doubling her normal speed in light airs. My love of sailing has returned. Amazing.

Lotty will kill me for this boring post, so I’ll add a nice picture. Ah I know, such a useful book for owners of traditional rigs. Everything in one place out of the heads of very old or now long dead sailors. She will kill me now…

Scooting into Scauri

Next morning we found ourselves with the wind just off the nose and blowing 25 knots with a two metre swell. Fantastic. Time to find a refuge for the crew and rest for the skipper who’d been up all night. Engine on and sails barely working as we pointed as far into wind as possible.

Also I had identified a problem overnight. The roller reefing for the jib had broken whilst deploying the sail. So I had no way of bringing in the sail easily by hand and with big winds, that was a worrying development.

We got to the small island of Pantelleria and I decided to divert to Scauri, a small fishing port with rubbish reviews on all the sailing sites. But we needed shelter. The last two hours before arrival were very painful. High winds and swell breaking with the sea mend becoming shallower. There was lots of green water across the deck and a very unhappy crew. Thank goodness for our pilot house!

Zoom in and you can see the waves over the bow

We got there though. We nosed up to the cliff outside the port for shelter and I walked the bowsprit to roll away the jib by hand in the relative calm created by the land.

We then found the port full. All of two other yachts and nowhere to go. After discussion we found one boat was going, so we waited. To cut a very long story short, four hours later we were in the port and sheltered. But the port police have just visited this morning (the next day) and told us to leave because we are in “their” space, so we negotiated leaving tomorrow morning by telling them about the broken jib furler and then bringing out our joker cards: the children. Always works that one.

So to tomorrow. The passage to Tunisia, I hope.

The barren fishing port that is Porto Scauri

Going to Gozo

We set off for Tunisia but with wind and waves against us, we decided to stop on the west side of Gozo for the night. An almost round pool with two very narrow and shallow entrances called Dwejra Pool. The swell coming round the island was too big for our crew so the pool was welcome shelter.

A chart of the pool

Sunset just after arrival

Next morning after some restful sleep we set off for Tunisia and to pass the island of Pantelleria. The start of the sail was a great brisk sail in 20+ knots winds off the starboard beam, just what Yves loves.

We sailed all day with every piece of canvas up. But all good things come to an end and the wind dropped with the sun. So we motor-sailed all night. Next morning things got a lot worse.

Moved to Malta

With winds in the wrong direction we decided to go to Malta to keep going.

We set off on 8 June and have had a wonderful time here, and it’s the first time it’s been hot-hot this year. 30c+ everyday.

Straight to Malta

Coming into the beautiful historic harbour

Our anchorage

A visit to Esplora, the fantastic science museum here

Fun on tricycles in the sun

Esplora, a stunning facility for kids and parents, truly amazing

An amazing position with wonderful views over Grand Harbour

Splat stuff…

Learning about pulleys

Making a video

Building stuff

Heading to Tunisia?

We set off for Tunisia from Siracusa on 6 June. Expected headwinds and a slight swell got us to the south east tip of Sicily by motor sailing, where forecast stronger winds would sail us onward and west with the engine off. BUT NOOOOO!!!

A complete lack of wind and increasing swell had us all over the place. Lotty was feeling seasick and then poor Feebs was properly sick. I decided to divert to a little fishing port called Portopalo, where we arrived at 7pm. We’ve tucked ourselves as far in as possible without annoying the locals. I put a kedge anchor off the stern to stop us swinging, keeping the bows into the swell (to minimise movement) and trying not to fouls the many buoys and ropes floating in this part of the harbour.

We’ve had a boat checking school and beach day. It’s been really hot today, c26c+. Tomorrow is forecast for 30c and we hopefully head off to Malta this time, winds allowing.

The route from Siracusa, we are the red triangle in Portopalo

Portopalo harbour with us as the triangle

Not glamorous but a real working fishing port 24 hours a day

So Off We Set

We set sail on 29 May, leaving Marina di Ragusa having eked out our last free days of marina berth. The marinaros (the team who look after the berthing and transit of boats) said we should be able to leave after 10am. They came and got myself and an adjacent yacht skipper to accompany them in their dinghy as the exit was very tight on depth. They showed us a course about three metres wide at one point with a swerve to starboard right at the end of the outer moll. And we made it out without hitting anything, grounding or disgracing ourselves in any way! A sad day to be leaving our home in Sicily.

We were headed east for Siracusa instead of west for the small island of Pantelleria where we should have been headed. Weather the main issue and the high cost of being stuck on that small but expensive island.

We love Siracusa bay and the island of Ortigia. A perfect place to hide from unsettled weather and relax. Amongst other boat jobs, I scrubbed the propeller giving myself mild hypothermia in the process. Otherwise it’s been lovely and warm with Lotty taking the children to the beach and well as us all sightseeing around Ortigia. Here are some pictures.

Sail up for the first time

Dolphins!

Making things from clay in an artist’s studio

Hector with his namesake’s armour and spear

Phoebe moving the world

School, arts and crafts on the boat

On the beach in Ortigia

Our first BBQ in the Med, ever…

Sunset in the bay

Yves in full sail from Bobcat (our friends) too far away though

Yves Christian anchored in Siracusa bay