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
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
Getting Yves Christian ready for the season has been thwarted at every turn by the weather and any number of excuses to do something more interesting or less painful. However, this past five weeks has been super intense and we are now ready to go. We will still need to varnish over the coming weeks, but we are no longer a floating house, we are a small ship again. Initially all vessels with more than 2.5 metres draft (Yves Christian is 2.9) were marooned in the marina until 20 May due to silting of the entrance. But now we are waiting for the weather to break…
Daily schoolwork in the mornings has been a strong feature of what we are doing. Lotty is amazingly focussed at keeping Hector strong on the National Curriculum. One to one tuition on all the subjects is very intense and completed every morning.
But of course education isn’t just about books, so we’ve explored, seen local history (right back to prehistoric times) made things, drawn, designed, gone to Italian lessons and tried to give them both the widest possible exposure to life. Here is just a small selection of what went on.
A boat we made and set sail but we haven’t heard from her since
We arrived into Marina di Ragusa (MdR) and were met by great old friends on the dock. It’s always a bittersweet event, trying to manoeuvre 18 metres and 40+ tonnes of long keel classic boat without a bow thruster (whilst frazzled) into a tight marina berth and being happy to see everyone at the same time… Anyway, we managed without disgracing ourselves on either point, I think.
And that’s the great thing about MdR, it’s a fantastic community. Whenever we leave to go somewhere we always have to add 15-20 minutes of “pontoon time” to meet and talk to interesting and interested people.
An MdR BBQ, most of the kids are on the beach, so it’s not everyone
On top of that it’s got to be a unique marina in that over the past two years there have been 20+ children ranging from two to 15 with visitors on top of that.
Here are most of this years younger folks
Mornings on the kid boats are reserved for home schooling and the afternoon is free time.
For the older crowd every morning (bar Sunday) starts with a radio net hosted by one of the boats plus there is a specific Facebook page for the marina liveaboards with Messenger being used for more immediate and specific communications. Bi weekly Happy Hour drinks, music nights, dinner evenings, Halloween party, wine tasting, New Years Eve, Thanks Giving etc etc etc means ones liver is at risk of overload. And that’s excluding the invites to and fro between different boats. Oh and I forgot yoga classes and beach volleyball for a way of working off the alcohol.
Craft days, rocket building and cinema days amongst other things helped the kids when it wasn’t sunny and the beaches were a pull when it was. For children it’s a amazing way to grow up.
After the Medicane we said our last and sad goodbyes to the wonderful crew of It’s a Doddle and headed back north to Argostoli in Kefalonia. It’s nice and sheltered and the bay is full of huge turtles. It’s a big town and great for provisioning. Highlights of that port were:
Meeting new friends, the Aussie crew of Arakai, they have two wonderful children and we all had a great time in the abandoned marina there
We adopted a wonderful cat
There was lots to do and see, we had a great time, I think it was our third visit by that time
We then picked a great forecast and set sail for Malta. Unfortunately as is normal with Mediterranean forecasts, it was totally and utterly wrong. Instead of winds off the starboard beam at c15 knots there was absolutely no wind for two days. We even stopped half way and swam off the boat.
Calm waters half way between Greece and Malta
The second two days we had far too much wind and waves ending in a big thunderstorm coming into Valletta with a 2 metre swell and a competing cruise ship for the entrance. Lovely!
During the storm we had an awful downwind jibe blowing up a cleat that held the mainsail preventer and pulling out a deck eye that held the running backstay. We were lucky and all is fixed now.
We anchored at 4am off Msida marina and had a very rolly night. We tried again to suck up the anchorage swell the next night but with an approaching thunderstorm we gave in and found the very last berth in the marina. Where upon our newly adopted cat said sod this and ran off, never to be seen again. She wasn’t a ships can evidently.
We were berthed at the top of the marina, above the centre of the shot
Squashed in, the last berth in Msida marina
It was the famous Middle Sea yacht race start and finish during our time there, so all the available berths were taken up by carbon fibre racing boats and fit trendy young sailors making me feel very old and tatty.
We had a great time in Malta. Highlights were:
The science museum for kids
Visiting the Playmobil factory
Watching Hotel Transylvania 3 in English at a real cinema
Buying Cadbury’s chocolate and baked beans
Happy children, happy parents.
During the crossing our generator failed and then in Malta I broke it more trying to fix it, story to be continued in the winter update later.
On 27 October we set sail for Marina di Ragusa in Sicily and our home for the winter. Just in time for the big children’s Halloween event. It was like coming home.
As we headed north from the southern tip of the Peloponnese it became evident that the storm we had seen developing further north was more than just a storm. Medicane, a new word for me.
Definition: Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones, often referred to asmedicanesbut sometimes also asMediterranean cyclonesor asMediterranean hurricanes, are meteorological phenomena observed over theMediterraneanSea.
We decided to take shelter in Zakynthos town harbour and a stern-to berth against the back town quay. The more sheltered berths along the harbour wall were already full. Two anchors out and six stern lines. Two from the stern, two from amidships and two from the bow reaching 20 metres port and starboard. The main winds would come from the port beam. And boy did they come over the course of four days.
During that time Lotty and the children had to be put in a hotel behind the boat because it was impossible to safely get on or off the boat. We had two boats pull up our anchors during the storm whilst they berthed, in one instance we hit the quay with the stern as they let go. I may have shouted very loud and rude abuse at the skipper of that bemused flotilla boat… Sorry.
Hiding in the hotel, 4 little monkeys
We also had a flotilla boat try to moor stern-to on our windward side, fail and get lodged on our kedge anchor cable three times before getting free and virtually ramming us amidships at full power. I stupidly tried to fend them off and got my arm caught between their push-it and our rail. Stupid schoolboy error but it and a well place fender saved Yves Christian and my arm. It was total madness…
I slept on the boat becauseevery time I left her something awful happened. The passerelle wheels came off because even with it at a crazy angle the waves were bringing it back in contact with the quay.
1st broken wheel, but the fix is much stronger than the original rivets
I have huge thanks to give to Ding the skipper of It’s a Doddle who helped us rescue the situations we encountered with a boat tripping our anchor and the mad flotilla boat. Also thanks to Andrea, the skipper of a Sicilian yacht from our base in Marina di Ragusa who was coincidently berthed 10 metres away. He used our tender to push the yacht off our kedge anchor cable, three times… I don’t know any Italian swear words, but I got to hear a lot of bad ones that day.
The storm came around to the north of us on its way Italy and Sicily but bounced back and south of us also destroying the places we would have sailed to had we not turned north again.
After a busy August we headed south from Zakynthos to the quieter Peloponnese. The steering problem we suffered is documented in a previous post but we had a lovely relaxing time. We met up with the Dizzie crew in Katakolon to the relief of Hector and Phoebe-Plum who had old friends to play with again.
Katakolon is a strange town where everything opens the moment a cruise ship docks and closes as soon as it leaves. Here we hired a car and visited Mount Olympus, the amazing archeological site and the original location of the olympics.
In the picture of the ships below you can just see Yves Christian astern and in the foreground. The ships are about half a kilometre behind her and are like floating skyscrapers on their sides.
Cruise ships arrived every day bringing a whole town with them
One of the museums at Mount Olympus, cool inside
From Katakolon we headed south again to fix the steering. One of the highlights of the season was Pilos and Navarino Bay. A huge naval battle was fought here in 1827 as part of the Greek War of Independence between the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet and the allied navies of Britain, France and Russia. There was a secluded monument there.
A monument to the battle and a couple of churches
Waiting for the engineer and feeling battle-worn too
After heading to Kiparissia and our steering fix, we headed further south to Methoni, meeting our friends on board It’s a Doddle who had sailed clockwise around the Peloponnese. Beach time was great and all the children had a wonderful time ignoring their parents and playing all day and night.
It was time to part after a few days of fantastic R&R. It’s a Doddle to the north and us further south around the tip of the Peloponnese. I’d like to say it was good captaincy and weather forecasting, but there was a bit of a storm brewing further north and we had half an eye on heading west again at the end of the season rather than further south. We also wanted the kids to enjoy more time with the two children on It’s a Doddle, so we changed our minds at the last minute and went north too. And thank goodness we did…
We had an amazing summer visited by family and friends, meeting new people and dodging the flotilla boats. We went down, up, back down, up then down again in the Ionian islands, then to the western Peloponnese. From late July and through August the Ionian was crazy mad busy. Almost too busy with flotilla boats and inexperienced skippers and crew causing some havoc for us. Looking through our pictures we sadly have almost none of our good friends from other boats, crews of Dizzie, It’s a Doddle and Titania. We must have been having too much fun, or wine, or beer or all three. Here are a few pictures of some of the rest.
Just arrived in Corfu after a long passage
New fuel station attendant…
Somewhere in Greece
Jack zooming about using lots of fuel!
Cool dudes in Corfu
Dirty dudes in Corfu town
Lotty’s mum came to visit
Hector’s new Gran! She wouldn’t go back to the kitchen…
Gatecrashing another hotel pool
An unusually quiet moment in Kioni Ithaca
Lotty and I at Jo’s villa near Fiskardo
Boys being boys
A very quite moment in Fiskardo, minus about 200 flotilla boats
Our last proper post was about my fantastic fix on bleeding the hydraulic steering system, which did NOT work! Next morning we set sail, heading south for Pilos and the bay of Navarino but the steering still didn’t work. We set the autopilot and she worked overtime to keep us on course. A day later we squeezed through the rocks (my decision which caused Lotty and I to argue mightily about a dodgy move with dodgy steering) and anchored against a beautiful sandy beach in the bay.
It was an easy pass between the rocks, but when you’re motoring through with a loopy steering system prone to an occasional 360 degree spin for no reason, I agree with Lotty, although I didn’t mention that at the time. Maybe that caused the row?
Anyway, to cut a very long story shorter, I visited an eccentric and wonderful chandler in Pilos. Fotis, who sold me things, gave me orange juice and his free olive oil and the promise of an engineer in a van turning up at the quay in three hours. A rush back to the boat got Yves Christian down to the quayside from anchor and a visit from Michael Pountis (engineer, no English), his girlfriend (some English) and his lawyer (lots of English). Michael is a young but totally gifted marine engineer and boatyard owner. A natural diviner of problems and solutions. He worked out what was wrong just by turning the wheel and two nuts, told us (through his lawyer) to sail back to his home port, 6 hours north and promptly left.
We sailed back to Kiparissia, a port we’d sailed past the day before. A wonderful free little port town where Michael fixed our steering (It took a week) for a price so small I cannot comprehend it still. A gifted young man who deserves to succeed with his grand plans for boatyard expansion.
We will never forget Kiparissia, a brilliant real town where we enjoyed being stuck. A wonderful place and wonderful people. In the picture below, Yves is on the moll above Hector’s head.
And thus we were ready to set sail again to see new places, meet good friends and fall into the grip of the September 2018 Medicane, a Mediterranean hurricane that ravaged the Greek and Italian sea ports and nearly cost me my arm.
Wow, September 2018 was the last post, how embarrassing. Our only excuses being a busy end to the season battling some system failures, stupid decisions, weather, winter hibernation, boat readiness work, school work, lack of interesting stuff to write and sheer laziness. I could go on, and on, but they’d just be excuses. We’re ready to set sail now, but the weather has closed in and we’re stuck. So I’ll update the site instead. Watch this space…