Tunisia to Crete – over several years

23 August 2016

From Tunisia to Malta, to Syracusa in Sicily where we broke a bobstay and stayed in that polluted harbour for 4 weeks.  Loved every minute onshore though.  Syracusa up the sole of Italy across to Corfu, around the Ionian Sea then back to Italy to winter in Crotone.  Back to Greece, around the bottom of the Peloponnese up to Athens.  Into the islands as far as Naxos but found the meltemi wearing and back to the Ionian via the Corinth Canal.  Another winter in Crotone and 2016 had us back through the Corinth Canal, down to Crete and awaiting passage further south


Up to date from September 2011

30 July 2014

This one has been sitting around in draft for some months – I tried to add photos at strategic points but there are too many and with slow/erratic internet the process is very tedious … Flickr will now have our photos.

Here goes
September 2011 – we had completed our Atlantic crossing at Cascais in Portugal late in the evening on the 27th of August. From Porto Delgado in the Azores we steered slightly NE, anticipating the “Portugese trades” off the coast of Portugal would push us south and aim us at Lisbon. We motorsailed quite a lot as the wind came and went, the last day seeing 29 knots as we approached Cascais. This leg was 843 miles, taking us 7 days.

We dropped anchor in darkness somewhere, (we thought), close to the designated anchorage at Cascais. We could see many lights on shore and the dark outlines of other yachts, and as the wind had dropped, we looked forward to a good long night’s sleep. Five minutes later the beach erupted in fire works. We had a close up view but then a coast guard came roaring out of the marina and told us to move away out of the fall-out area. As it does occasionally, the anchor chain jammed in the hawse pipe, and after wrestling that clear with a big screwdriver and a bit of hammering, and moving the boat and re-anchoring, the fireworks were over. Later we found out that the fireworks were not our welcome, but part of a 3 day summer festival on the beach at Cascais. Cascais is a beach resort for the people of Lisbon, at the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon being about 20 miles away upriver.

It also has these attractions in the hills behind

Hill fort, Cascais area

House, hills, Cascais

Then up the river
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Torre de Belem, on the riverside
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Port Control building for the River Tagus, just upriver from the Torre de Belem, and not wishing to compete ..

We moved from the anchorage into the Cascais marina, looking forward to a good shower and a cleanup for the boat. We got those, and bought some fuel, but the marina was quite expensive, so we had a walk around the town and decided to move on up the river. The river is busy with freight ships and yachts and fishing boats, and closer to Lisbon, many many ferries crossing from bank to bank. We followed a ferry route into the fishing village of Seixal, an anchorage recommended to us by a Dutch couple in the Azores. It was a great location, as we could access Lisbon with a 15 minute ferry ride but otherwise was out of the noise and dust of the city. The inlet of Seixal was lined with ancient tide mills – historically the area processed the wheat from the growing areas inland. In Roman times there was large scale pottery production nearby also, and today the seabed is a fertile source of food molluscs. Every low tide people were out with waders and rakes, gathering shellfish.

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Some mussel scrapers, and a tide mill

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At home in Seixal

To add to the convenience, there was a newly completed municipal wharf in Seixal where we could tie up for free every couple of days, get on shore easily without using the dinghy, and top up with fresh water. We shared the wharf with two big wooden boats, replicas of traditional Portugese trading vessels, belonging to the local maritime museum. We met the head of the museum, and were invited to help him sail the big boat, Amaroso, one day, with a group of tourists on board.

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Portugese working boat sail

We also met Antonio and his wife, a Portugese couple with a yacht on a buoy in the inlet. When Antonio put his yacht in the marina for the winter he allowed us to use his buoy, and that meant we could worry less about the strong tides in the inlet, which with the occasional strong winds had been enough to drag our anchor a bit. He also took us out for a traditional Portugese sardine meal, grilled and eaten under the trees of the village. We stayed in Seixal and visited Lisbon throughout September.

Colonnade, Lisbon
colonnade by the main square, Lisbon

Typical tiled house, Lisbon
Tiled house, Lisbon

Railway Station, Lisbon
Railway station, Lisbon

Cathedral of See, Lisbon
Cathedral of See, Lisbon
Stonework, See, Lisbon
Stonework, See

Tagus, Lisbon
View over the Tagus from Lisbon window

Lisbon tram
Lisbon tram

In the tile museum, Lisbon
Tile museum, Lisbon

At the beginning of October we left for Spain, with a stop at Portimao on the way. We rounded spectacular Cabo de Sao Vicente and motored along the Algarve coast in perfectly clear and windless weather, but having to dodge among the fishing floats marking all the nets. Portimao gave us a peaceful anchorage among 30 other boats, but we could see that summer was ending because fewer deck chairs were being put out on the beach every day. 70 miles further along the coast we entered the Guadiana River, marking the border between Spain and Portugal, and motored another 13 miles inland to the villages of Sanlucar and Alcoutim, facing each other across the river, one in Portugal, one in Spain.

Upper reaches, Guadiana

Neither village is particularly attractive, and the river was cluttered with slightly decrepit boats as some sailors do winter here. Soon after we arrived the wind came too, strong enough to destroy an air terminal down on the coast! We dragged our anchor, and after sitting for 24 hours being pushed every which way by the current and the wind, and more forecast, we retreated back down the river and into the Spanish marina (Ayamonte), at the mouth. (We opened a non-resident bank account in Spain here in Ayamonte, only to have it disappear a few months later when the Spanish banking industry was restructured.)

October had also disappeared, and we were not yet in our winter quarters, so we hurried on to the Guadalqivir River. Up here is Seville, and we had planned to stay in the marina at Gelves, on the outskirts. We found the marina rather ramshackle however, and paid a visit to Club Nautico closer to the city centre. To get boats in, they offered a 50% reduction for the 6 months of winter. To get into Seville by boats you must go through a lock with a freight boat, as they won’t operate the lock for just a yacht. The difference in level is only about a foot, but someone had a grandiose scheme to develop a port near Seville for freight, so the lock is there.

Lock gates, Seville

Beyond the lock is a low bridge, opening only a specified times and beyond that in a semi-stagnant basin of the river is the marina of Club Nautico. There was a small community of liveaboards there with us, some Danes, Norwegians, Germans and English, and us, whatever we are. The Club itself was always busy, but we were hardly ever disturbed by the members. The club has a swimming pool, gymnasium and tennis and bocce courts. On the river members could row in racing shells and canoes, and sail in several classes of dinghy. In the restaurant they sometimes had jazz concerts. Behind the club was a huge vacant space, that as spring approached in 2012, filled with tents for the famous Seville Horse Fair.

Seville is a great city. It has its own Sevillana music, based on hand clapping, foot stamping, dance steps and audience participation – Ole! It is best heard live, and although it is a bit like flamenco it does not have the same pain or intensity. It is joyful, being traditionally based on a courting dance, and you can hear it anywhere, at any time. Our near neighbourhood Traiana, is a centre for it, and we went several times to clubs. But we also heard groups singing it on the streets, another small group of friends saying “see you later” to a friend with a few verses and twirls. Later during the horse fair, our back yard was full of it.

Seville is also about tapas bars, the cathedral and Giralda, the Alcazar and the little winding streets of the old centre. The tapas bars introduced us to whisky lomos, a small pork fillet quick fried between bread with a salty, whisky sauce. Unhealthy as hell but delicious. The bars hang their cured hams in the rafters, curing in the cigarette smoke and alchohol fumes for up to a year before they cut into them.

The cathedral is built on the site of the previous mosque and contains the tomb of Columbus, although there is some doubt whether the tomb contains the bones of Columbus. The Giralda is the minaret of the former mosque, about 90 metrres high, and climbing up inside gives you a great view of the city. The Alcazar is a mix of buildings and formal gardens, and was a home and seat of government for kings/leaders since about 900BC. There are some beautiful ceramics and garden vistas inside, in a melding of European and Moorish styles and motifs.

We had a number of visitors, including Lelia’s mum Lelia and cousin Luminita. With them we did a circuit of cities that included Madrid with its treasures in the Prado (Goya’s black paintings, an unmissable nightmare), Cordoba with its cathedral built inside a mosque (a triumph of catholic bad taste), and Toledo with its sword making industry and homage to Cervantes (but the worst paella we have ever tasted, anywhere). Later we two visited Granada for the Alhamabra and tombs of the Catholic monarchs (architects of the Inquisition).

We made friends on the other boats and all got together to make a wonderful Christmas dinner. From turkey to plum pud with coins, and “Silent Night” from the German on guitar. In order to stay in Spain for so long we got long term visas, so we got to know something about Spanish government processes as well, not all good. But the visa office was located in the 1902 World Exhibition buildings in the park, always a nice place to visit.

With Ben, our next door neighbour on a boat, we walked the city streets looking for historic tapas bars, whisky lomos and live music. He drove us down to Jerez one day, when the F1 cars were testing on the grand prix circuit there.

May 2012
Although Lelia now has an EU visa, there is a limit to how long I can stay in Europe, and how long I have to stay out before I can come back. By May 2012 our time was expiring so on the 7th we followed Deft Diep out of Seville through the lock and down the river, able to use only half the outgoing tide. We anchored one night beside the stork nests in the national park, then onwards the next day towards Bonanza at the mouth of the river. Unhappily a fuse in an unusual fuse holder then blew, damaging the holder and we made into the marina at Chipiona for repairs. The local BMW mechanic had the right fuse/holder in his toolbox. Chipiona has a seafront, but it is all rather depressed, with a lot of bad property development partly finished. It also has medieval fish traps still in use – stone walled enclosures on the foreshore that fill with water when the tide is high, leaving the fish trapped when the tide recedes. They are farmed and maintained by ancient cooperatives.

Engine repairs and weather held us another 5 days, then we set off for Rabat, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Another 175 miles south, crossing the mouth of the straits of Gibralter and dodging between a long formation of ships lining up to go through the Straits. Arriving off Rabat early in the morning, we called the marina and they sent out a small boat to guide us through the mouth of the river (there is a large sandbank in the middle), and to the police wharf, where we checked in. We had a dog on board to sniff for drugs, but there were no hassle, no requests for “gifts” and no fees. We were given a 90 day visa immediately, and would have to leave the country to renew it. (Eventually we did, we took the train up to Ceuta and crossed into this Spanish enclave on the Meditteranean coast of Morocco, and crossed back the next day.)

Rabat is the government capital of Morocco, locals say Casablanca is the business capital. We were thinking ahead to Italy, and we wanted to get a long visa to stay there, so we hopped the train to Casablanca, to the Italian embassy, where they were very welcoming and very helpful, giving us a 12 month Type D visa. Then it was just a matter of putting in 3 months in Morocco, before heading back to Europe.

The marina was very clean and secure, so we had no problems leaving the boat to travel inland. We visited Marrakash several times, staying in a riad (converted house, hammam in the basement), in the medina just 50 yards from the main square, the Djema El-Fna. The square is lined with textile, ceramic, metalwork shops and restaurants, and at night the jugglers, gymnasts, snake charmers and henna painters disappear and the mobile restaurants are wheeled out. Everything Moroccan from baked sheeps heads to to boiled eggs. Later there is live music. Its a fabulous place. The one over-hyped attraction in Marrakesh was the Jardin Majorelle, originally owned and developed by Jaques Majorelle a landscape painter and then by Yves Saint Laurent and gifted by him on his death, to the city. Its a cool and shady place in the heat, but otherwise unremarkable, and expensive.

We took a trip to the north, a circuit of Meknes, Moulay Idriss and Azrou and Fez. Meknes was an Imperial city, home of Moulay Ismail (1670s to 1720), who built a huge palace complex and 25km of defensive walls, pierced by the Bab Al-Mansour (bab means gate), a highly carved and decorated ceremonial entrance. We stayed a night there in a riad that was very pretty but smelt of drains. Then onward to Moulay Idriss, a small town in a cleft in the hills that provides accommodation when you want to visit the Roman ruins at Volubilis. Here we stayed in a B&B caretaken by an old Berber lady with one eye and not a word of english or french. But she told us the price with her fingers, and that in the morning when we woke up (opening her good eye wider with her fingers), we would have a breakfast of baguette, (sawing left forearm with right hand), and preserves, (knife/spreading motions). And coffee. So we did, and it was a splendid breakfast of fresh warm bread, homemade jams, orange juice and coffee.

We spent a day at Volubilis. It has a fairly eroded triumphal arch, well preserved water works and quite a few mosaic floors still in situ, though most of them have gone to private or public collections. The town is thought to have had up to 20,000 residents at its peak, and it served as an outpost of Rome, supervising wheat production for Rome, and a lot of the deforestation of Morocco happened at this time, to provide land for wheat.

Azrou is a village in the hills, maybe offering walks but not very attract-ive. Fez is another story. Home of a most famous medina, we got a guide to take us to various highlights such as the waterclock (no-one knows how it works now), the main mosque, (our guide explained some elments of Islamic law and culture), the leatherworks, a metal works, many shops and a restaurant. I would not fancy a trip to the medina without a guide – it is too large and complex but full of interesting places. I got my Syrian wedding ring repaired – quite some time ago I tore its soft gold on an edge somewhere. The jeweller resized it, rounded it, put gold in the tear and re-embossed it, all for $4.00.

The backbone of Morocco is the Atlas Mountains, the High Atlas and Anti Atlas. We took a 3 day hike over the High Atlas from the village of Imlil in the Olrika Valley to Seti Fatima. They suggest you take a guide, but we did not, we followed the donkey droppings over a ridge, 10,000 feet high. At the peak we headed for a rock for a rest in the shade, but it was already taken by a soft drink vendor and his donkey. We stayed in little village B&B’s and dined on their home cooked tagines.

Later Rosemary and Sten sailed in, friends we had made in Seville. With them we took off into the desert on a 4wd safari, and camel riding, to the Draa Valley and Ourzazate, and Ait Benhaddou, a fortified village on a hilltop where parts of Gladiator were filmed.

Just a few days after our trip to Ceuta for a visa renewal, we set off for Gibralter. It was a bit windy in the Strait, but calm in the anchorage on the Spanish side of La Linea, with a good view of the Rock, and the airport that divides the Rock from the rest of Spain. Here we met the first Island Packet we had seen for some time, 2 maddish Scots on a 45 foot cousin of our boat. We walked the rock and checked out the monkeys. Decided not to go into the defense tunnels on account of the expense. Looked eastward from the peak, in a break in the cloud cap, towards where were going next. Turned up our noses at the fish and chip specials on the main tourist drag.

Eastward we went, after a fortnight around Gibralter. It was September again, and we thought we had to keep moving to get to Italy before the bad weather started. Our first stop was to be Ibiza in the Balearic Islands, 380 miles away. This was mostly a motoring leg – they say that in the Meditteranean there is either too much wind, or too little, for sailing, and this was windless. We arrived at Puerto Espalmador in the dark, and this is not a safe way to make a landfall on an unknown shore. We have a chartplotter beside the helm, with good charts, and different charts on a computer downstairs, so between the two, and taking great care at slow speed, we felt our way to a mooring ball and tied up. Nothing else happened, and next morning we motored another 10 miles into Ibiza and anchored at Talamanca Bay. We had our first swim in the Med in this bay – the water was clear and still warmish. Ibiza has a nice old quarter and fort above the city centre. The Balearics being a handy stopping place in the Med, generations of traders, merchants and warmongers have their marks on them.

After Ibiza we went out to the next island, Mallorca. It is thronged with English settlers, and also they say the capital, Palma Mallorca, has some attractions, we never got there. We had a water pump problem, and while immobilised in Santa Ponza bay, the wind came up (35 knots is plenty), and blew our dinghy/ob motor away. As we could no longer get on shore, unless we went to a very expensive Mallorcan marina, we let the wind settle a bit and headed northwest to mainland Spain. Badalona is just north of Barcelona, and with a reasonably priced berth in a marina, we made and insurance claim, ordered a new dinghy and o/b from England, and settled to a fortnight around Barcelona. We love this city (too). The Gaudi architecture is amazing, and the food is terrific. We walked the La Rambla, and ate at the market.

Our next crossing was something w where a bit nervous about. The Gulf of Lions lies between Spain and our target in France, and it is notorious for weather systems that come across France, through the gap in the Alps, and into the Gulf. It was October and we were worried about the weather systmes that come across the Atlantic and spill over into the Med.

It was worry for nothing though because we had a quiet trip, except one night when we came up to a solitary red light in the water, and as we approached it suddenly took off at high speed. We do not have radar and there was no signal from the AIS, but it was something afloat and fast moving that we had nearly hit.

We stopped in Toulon for a couple of days, we did not go ashore, and then onwards to an anchorage outside St Tropez. We had to go ashore here, to check out the beautiful people. There was an historic Porsche rally going on in the town at the time. Fruit and vegetables were very expensive.

Next stop was St Raphael, just up the coast. We set off for Nice, but a violent thunderstorm ran us into St Raphael marina for a couple of days. This was a pleasant stop in a pleasant town. An interesting thing about France is that instead of finding the fish counter by smell in a supermarket, you find the cheese counter! Not the same smell of course, but the French do love their smelly cheeses.

With the weather showing its hand a bit, we decided not to stay on the French Riviera, but to press on to Fiumicino, to be our winter stop, 320 miles away. We were tied up in the canal at Fiumicino, 25 miles from Rome by the 27th of October 2012. The canal is a bypass of the River Tiber, which runs through Rome and enters at the sea at Ostia, about 3 miles south of Fiumicino. Fiumicino is just a little fishing port, trawlers lining the canal all the way up to our “marina”.

November 2012 to May 2013.
This period was nearly all Rome, except for a couple of months in Romania in the middle. We could access the city from the boat with a bus and train connection, and travel all around in the city by underground, or tram, and walking. Distances in the old city are not big, and many of the “big” sights are within half an hour of each other by foot. We visited and revisited many of these sites, and watched the winter rains come and go and the water level rise and fall. Heavy rain meant trees and dead animals floating down the river. No rain meant a longer climb up the canal wall to get off the boat.

Vatican Pantheon Colisseum Arches Forum modern architecture

May 2013
Summer rolled around, and with 2 extra passengers on board, Rob and Marg from Portland, we set off from Fiumicino on the 27th of May. There was a big sea running, and we had to cross it to get to Elba, 100 miles to the north. Thrree out of 4 people were seasick. Eventually we anchored in the calm waters of Portoferraio, where we toured on shore to check out the city and country houses of Napoleon. Then we stashed in a marina and took a ferry to the mainland, for a few days motor touring in Tuscany. With R & M we visited the 5 villages of the Cinqua Terra, Florence, Siena and Pisa. Cinqua Terra is a lovely coastline dotted with little villages that until recently were only acessible by boat, or maybe donkey path. Very lovely. Parts of the cliff path were closed due to high wind so the sea views were magnificent, with a big, angry swell smashing itself on the rocks. Each of the villages has a little harbour, but none were tenable for any visiting biggish boat at the time.

We had only a quick stop in Florence to see David. For me, this is the best thing in the world. We arrived in Siena in time for the organisation of the central square into a hippodrome for inter-district horse races. These races have been going on in Siena in this form for hundreds of years. There are 18 districts (+/-) but only 12 (+/-) might run horses in any one year. 8 districts get a guaranteed start, then 4 more are selected by ballot. We happened to be there when the ballot was held. The square was packed with people, supporters of each district, and as the ballot was held, a banner representing the district was hung outside the windows of the city hall. People were weeping and tearing their hair as they waited for the ballot, and if they won, they went beserk, climbing the wall of the town hall trying to touch the banner, cheering screaming and crying. It was amazing. The actual horse races were later, it cost a lot of money to get into the square on that day, and I imagine it would be pretty wild.

Pisa was different again – the complex of tower, cathedral amd mausoleum on an extensive green lawn is simply beautiful. The tower is now restored and R & M climbed it. J & L were content just to gaze from ground level.

We really want to see more of Italy, we have hardly scratched the surface.

But onwards still with R & M, this time south to Rondino bay on Corsica. We anchored here for a night and had a cold French beer in the beach bar. Next day we moved on past Bonifacio, having a quick spin around the cliff-bound harbour, to the NE of Sardina and around the corner to Alghero. Here we tied up under a fortress wall, and shovelled R & M onto a plane back to Oz. We then spent a couple of weeks shuttling between Alghero, and anchorage in a national park Porto Conde, Stintino by the Island of Asinaria, and 3 bays in Corsica – Campomoro, Anse de Calalu, and Ajaccio, this last being Napoleon’s birthplace. We visited his house, which is a bit of a racket, because there is not much of him left in it. We thought Corsica was nice, but expensive. Sardinia was not so dear, and we enjoyed 10 days just sitting at anchor in turquoise seas over a white sandy bottom, near Stintino.

There are Roman ruins nearby too, so we visited them.

Around this time Lelia, after years of jumping through hoops, finally got her Romanian passport, and we got the idea that it would be useful for me to have an Aus passport as well as a NZ one. So we headed back to Fiumicino for another month, to pick up one passport and apply for another. Before mine was issued I had to apply for a visa to Tunisia for the winter months, so the Fiumicino visit was handy for that also. As it was July, it was hot!

Right at the end of August, we started heading south along the mainland coast. First stop was Anzio where we did not go ashore. Our anchorage was not well protected, so on we went to the Pontine Islands. We found an anchorage in Chiola di Luna, where we wanted to stay forever. There was clear, warm winter, a stretch of beach, and a tunnel through the cliffs to the township of Ponza. We moved around the island later though, and ended up off a beach where they were setting up music for some fiesta. The bay began to fill with boats, doing, as Italians do, their lots of wash and rafting things, and the noise level increased, so we had to leave towards Naples. The music started and we could still hear it when Ponza was sinking below the horizon! Glad we left.

Got to Porto Miseno in the Bay of Naples, and here we stayed another 2 weeks. Naples was easy to access by train, so we visited the city and Pompei and Herculanum, feeling we could leave the boat safely at anchor in this fisherman’s bay. It was a very friendly place, and the fisherman ended up knowing us quite well, as we came and went on their dock via our dinghy. As always in Italy, the coffees were superb, and we were there for 2 Saturday morning vege markets. Beautiful produce.

Moving on then, to the island of Capri, a quiet motor across the Bay of Naples to an enchanted peaceful anchorage under the cliffs at Marina Piccola. This anchorage was quite deep, but still good holding on sand, and the water bright blue warm. For some reason the water was not so clear here. Did us for a couple of days though, then on again towards Agropoli, a fishing village on the mainland. Here we used the transit wharf, and it was OK for a couple of days until the wind started to blow and a strange yacht tried to come alongside at nighttime. All he succeeded in doing was tripping our anchor, so we then blew onto another boat, and all of us bumping on the quay. We all got a little bit of damage, but the strange yacht disappeared out into the windy night, leaving us to it …

We travelled the really old Roman ruins at Paestum by train from Agropoli. Several large greek temples.?????/

Left for Vibo Marina further south, getting a mixed bag of wind up to 27 knots and down to 2. The town at sea level is not much but gave us access to Vibo Veneto high in the hills behind. This is a lovely little township with medieval remnants, and hardly affected by tourism. Missing Tropea, we motored on towards the Aeolian Islands. We needed fuel, but neither our marina (VM) nor Tropea had any. So motored towards the island of Lipari with our fingers crossed, unfortunately unable to risk a course deviation for a close up view of Stromboli and its ever active volcano. Got fuel and anchored off the island of Vulcanoe, directly underneath an active volcano. We climbed it, getting a good whiff of sulphur on the downwind side. Back on the boat, we were parked almost over an outlet on the seabed, bubbling up gas and warm water. Great swimming there, and a set of mud baths on the shore that we did not use.

It was getting on in October now, so we started to move with purpose towards Tunisia. We dropped down from the Aeolians to the north coast of Sicily, anchoring in several different spots and spending about a week in Cephalu. Here we waited out some more strong winds, losing a lot of mooring line in the process. We started being anchored in the lee of a breakwater with 2 long stern lines to the breakwater. The wind came up, blowing directly onto our beam. I let the stern lines go, so we could swing to our anchor, and left them attached to the breakwater, thinking we would pick them up when the wind died down. Of course the swell wrapped the ropes all around rocks at the base of breakwater, and I could only cut free about 10 feet of rope from 200 feet. No insurance for that though.

Anyway, we enjoyed Cephalu, I think we sent some postcards from there. It has a nice beach and ancient port and seawall, and it was easy to make a visit to Palermo by train. Palermo is a dark town though, run down and rather menacing in its decrepitude. Neither of us felt safe there, which is an unusual feeling for us.

From Cephalu we had a couple more overnight stops before pulling out all the stops and heading straight for Tunisia. We arrived here on the 28th of October 2013, and the boat has been here ever since although the crew has travelled a bit inland, and spent 6 weeks in Romania. Lelia’s son Ion came for a visit, on his way to Ethiopia and Egypt, so we stirred Ivory Moon out of her berth and went out for a big sea trip of 7 miles, to some offlying islands.

We don’t like Tunisia very much – maybe we are too soon here after the revolution. The best part of Monastir is the fruit and vege and fish market. Fish is always fresh, and we can get enough yellow fin tuna for 4 big meals for about $8 Aus. Second best is the weather – when it is fine, the weather is really good.

We have hauled Ivory Moon out and she has new bottom paint now, and we are preparing her for this summer’s cruising, which if all goes to plan, should include southern and eastern Italy and Greece. As always, if anyone’s plans include crossing our path, we would love to see ya!


Azores to Morocco

30 June 2012

30 June 2012
10 months since we did an update – there’s been nothing written but we have bunged a lot of photos from the last 3 years into our gallery on Picasa – there is a link from the “photos” page on the blog

Our sea trail led from Ponto Delgado to Lisbon in mainland Portugal, an 8 day trip in reasonable conditions but a bit too much wind and swell as we approached the coast. We anchored off the small fishing village of Seixal, over the Tagus River from Lisbon, and a short ferry ride away. From here we explored and enjoyed Lisbon for about 6 weeks. Then on to the Guadiana River, which is the border between Portugal and Spain. Its possible to motor up the river and anchor and visit both countries by dinghy. It was fun, but the weather started to get a bit unsettled for autumn, the wind started ripping down the river valley, so we moved on to Seville in Spain.

Seville is 50 miles up the Guadalquivir River, and once there we settled into the Club Nautico marina for winter. Plenty of
entertainment in Seville – we managed road trips to Madrid, Toledo and Cordoba with rellies, as well as closer trips to Jerez (for a Formula 1 test day), Italica for Roman relics, and the local bullring for a bull fight. We won’t go to another one. We saw a bit of the fabled Seville horse fair and the mad Semana Santa processions, and it was all fun.

Now we are in Morocco. The people are friendly, sometimes the weather has been very hot, and sometimes like today, it is down to 22 degrees again. We visited Marrakesh for a hammam and massage and walk in the desert and a camel ride, and tramped up to 10,000 ft in the High Atlas Mountains. That just showed us how unfit and elderly we have become as boat people.

We’ll be heading into the Med soon, with the idea to visit some of the big islands and Italy over this northern summer.


IM enjoyed Azores

21 September 2011

The marina in Horta, on the island of Faial, is a bit claustrophobic – all those masts, all those sailorly-type people.

So once we had browsed around the murals, we started taking our regular walks. The town is only about one block wide, and goes in a longish strip close to the waterfront. The older buildings are mostly built of stone/rubble walls, plastered and painted white, with black volcanic stone lintels and frames. The black trim is often baroquely carved, on the more significant buildings.

Going through the fishermen’s end of the bay, past the Club Navale, the ferries and the whaleboats, there is a road going up the nearby volcanic remnant called Monte do Guia. Its a drowned caldera, and the top gives magnificent views out over the ocean, and over the islands all around, and a bird’s eye view down into the old crater. Its now a national park, and right on top is a plain little black and white church. We walked to the top a couple of times, and sat in the shade of the church and ate our lunch. One day there was a French boat (of course), at anchor in the crater.

On the other side is Puerto Pim, a popular swimming beach and whaling museum.

We trudged uphill to the supermarket many times, bringing back bags of supplies, such as the locally produced young cheeses, and the local vinho verde, ranging down to E1.60 a bottle, and very drinkable. We tried to hire a motor scooter, but found those hordes of cruisers grabbed them early every day. We had the obligatory drink in Peter’s Cafe Sport, decorated with the burgees/ensigns of many famous sailors and ships, and tasted one of his cod balls.

From Horta we motored 22 miles to Sao Jorge. There are many fewer people on this island, and the marina at Velas is tiny, room for only about 6 yachts and a small fleet of local motor boats. The cliff behind the marina is the nesting ground for thousands of terns – the same as Nz’s mutton bird. They talk to each other all night long!

Velas has the usual small ferry and commercial/fishing wharf, an old whaling slip, and a couple of whale boats drawn up on the slip. The town is also tiny but pretty, with narrow cobbled streets, and cobbled footpaths in black and white stone.

Most of the few towns on Sao Jorge are located on tongues of old lava that cooled as it ran into the sea and extended the edge of the island. The rest of the island is quite steep. We went swimming but there are no beaches near Velas, just the broken lava margins of the land, and these lava dips and hollows and tunnels by the sea have been slightly “developed” into bathing pools. The development is just a slab of concrete or two, and a couple of ladders into the water.

The water is clear and cool and clean, and swimming in these pools great fun. Sao Jorge would be a great place to live, if you wanted a quiet life in spectacular island scenery. The sea is full of life, we saw a huge school of dolphins on the way over, about 3 miles wide, hundred of black backs in the sea. We also saw a small school of pygmy sperm whales, although we have heard that the catches of commercial fisherman have been getting smaller.

From both Faial land Sao Jorge the third island visible is Pico, a spectacular mountain island with a tall peak often shrouded in cloud.
Pico does a lot of the Azorean cheese and wine, and also has a whaling museum, and a strenuous (7 hour), hike to the mountain top. We did not visit, but Bryan Adams was there one night, so they did not miss us too much.

From Sao Jorge, we did a day sail to Terceira, 45 miles away. Azoreans say their island group consists of 8 islands and a playground called Terceira. It certainly was busy with festivals and fairs. We got involved in only one, a food and wine fair, but we could have gone to a bull running event every second day. We gave that a miss, instead we watched the “greatest hits” every time we shopped.
Most shops had a video of the bulls running endlessly – they don’t kill them, just torment them on the streets. They are let loose, with a safety rope around their necks and 6 strong men on the other end, and the local braves do their amateur matador thing with umbrellas or t-shirts. Often the bull seems to win.

Angra de Heroismo on Terceira, we our marina was, is a UN World Heritage listed city, so has some beautiful buildings and facilities. The Spanish built fortifications in the 17th century, to protect their treasure fleets from the West Indies.

We walked to the peak of Monte Sao Brazil, right next to the harbour, through a well preserved fort, now used a NATO base. There were deer roaming in the woods, a small zoo on top, and an emplacement of 4 anti aircraft guns installed by the English in the 1940s. A grassy slope below the walls of the fort, had been converted into a playground and fitness park, and it was full every evening. It all seemed a very satisfying combination of historical artefacts and modern usages.

We hired a car one day, and drove up to cloud level in the hills, explored some lava tubes, and a huge underground cavern.

We saw about a 2-cow dairy factory (now run as a cheese museum), and a wine museum, still producing fortified wines. They don’t train the vines up on wires, but let them trail over the ground over broken lava rock which when heated by the sun, keep the vines warm.

We ended up at the food fair in Praia de Vittoria, where I am afraid only one of the 3 local varieties of chourico met our favour. They we all very different from the pallid sausages I remember from NZ.

The 4th island we visited was Sao Miguel, an overnight sail SE from Terceira. The marina here is at Ponta Delgada, the largest city in the Azores, with high rise buildings even.

It also has a fantastic waterfront development, where every sort of activity has been incorporated into a 3 mile strip along the front of the city. There is the marina of course, many restaurants, ferry terminal, sea water bathing, shopping, and concert venues. There was live music nearly every night, thankfully not a disco to be seen (heard), and we went to 2 culturally uplifting events – folk dance troupes from Ukraine and Turkey, and just E2 a ticket!
Hydrangeas at last!

Again we hired a car, and found the usual well kept roads lined with hydrangeas and dairy farming, but also active geothermal areas and mountain lakes.

At Furnas, part of the geothermal is developed so that visitors can cook their own food in the ground. They estimate 6 hours for a big pot, and its a popular day’s outing for the local people.

Over a sulphurous yellow lake nearby, there is a view down to a pretty church in the trees, the subject of many a postcard photo.


Tea drier – made in India.
Tea is grown on Sao Miguel, so we visited a tea museum, and at the end of the day drove back to the marina through a pea souper of a fog that lasted until we came down off the hill tops to sea level.

We enjoyed the Azores very much. The people, the scenery, the food and drink (at reasonable prices!) made it a great stop. Best seen by boat though, to see how it all works, and to get the sense of the islanders’ connection with the sea.


IM in the Azores

17 July 2011

17 July 2011
The second half was a lot longer than the first almost 200 miles we spent in going north for winds and then drifting back southeast. We had forecasts for southwest winds, but it was more west or northwest, and this put it more on our stern which is a slower point of sail, and more awkward with the risk of gybing. But the wind speed stayed below 15 knots, there was no bad weather, and we covered a total of 1986 miles in 17 days. There was some motoring in there, a couple of nights when the wind dropped right out, and the last couple of days, when it turned east, but thats an average of 4.75 knots, so IM did us proud. Performing faultlessly too motor ran without missing a beat when we needed it, the autopilot steered for all 17 days and we didn’t do any damage to the sail or rig.

It was great to see first Flores and Corvo coming up out of the haze. We sailed between them, and were tempted to stop, but pressed on to Horta. Flores is named for its hydrangeas, and apparently they are in bloom now, but we could not make them out! We took a few photos which we will upload sometime.

We motored on for another night, passing close down the west coast of Faial, which is interesting for its volcanic remnants. Theres a big eroded plug of lava, and a caldera, right on the corner, around which you turn before entering Horta, just another mile on. We got in in the evening, and were directed to tie up at the fuel dock which had closed for the night. Next morning, we checked in with Immigration and Customs, a really easy procedure, taking about 15 minutes and costing nothing, and then were allocated a spot in the marina, where we moved after topping up with diesel. The marina is full so we are tied to the wall, and there is another yacht rafted outside us. Its not very private! Many French, English, Spanish, Dutch and German boats, most making a season’s cruise of the Azores rather than passing through, as we are.

We wandered briefly around Horta yesterday, its a lovely town, with old stone buildings, pretty much all in good repair. There are great views across a short strait to Pico and it mountain, ~2200 metres high. We found the supermarket, where food prices are very reasonable, and had a quick beer in Peter’s Cafe Sport before getting an early night. Next we need to wash the salt off the boat, and otherwise set her up for the next leg, which is about 800 miles to Portugal. We plan to visit Lisbon first, and then some other stops on the way down to Sevilla in Spain. But actually first, we will visit a couple of the other islands in the Azores.


Ivory Moon in mid-Atlantic

06 July 2011

5 July 2011
If the weather holds, we are now about half way between Bermuda, and Horta in the Azores. A straight line between these places is about 1,800 miles long, and we have now covered 900 miles.

The weather has been very good to us since we left Bermuda and headed north to catch the east moving wind system. The prevailing wind for this time of year is south westerly, and for us, forecast to be found at about 38 degrees north (Bermuda is 32 degrees north). There was very little of any wind as we left Bermuda under grey skies, so motor sailed for the first two nights and sailed slowly in the day. We covered about 200 miles this way. The third day we turned a bit more east, and must have found a current going with us because suddenly we were going at 8 knots at times, and covered 170 miles in 24 hours. A new record distance for us in Ivory Moon! We also hooked a fish that day, but he spat out the lure when he was 10 feet from the boat. He must have seen the filleting knife and the hungry looks waiting for him.

The next couple of days took us through the weekend, and each day we sailed about 120 miles. The weather was perfect, bright sunny days, wind 10 15 knots off our stern, and nights ablaze with stars. Although the winds are light, and forecast to remain light, we have one reef in the main, as this balances the boat better and gives the autopilot an easier job of steering. Which has worked flawlessly by the way since we installed the replacement drive belt in Bermuda.

That brought us to Monday, and Lelia’s birthday, her first at sea. She cooked all morning (at an angle of 15 degrees), and turned out a magnificent Lebanese inspired lunch of taboulleh, humus, falafel and pita bread, followed by a huge lamington inspired sponge cake chocolate icing coconut and all. Her birthday but my treat.

So, Ivory Moon sails on and on, sometimes finding a current or some stronger wind and romping along at 7 knots, otherwise keeping us content and secure at a comfortable 5 to 5.5 knots. We are doing a lot of reading for hours the only sounds are the turning of pages, the swooshing and swishing of the sea against our hull, and the creaking, groaning and flapping of the rig.


IM in Bermuda

27 June 2011

27 June 2011
Leaving Stuart took some time, as the motor still overheated, until we scraped carbon and rust out of the exhaust elbow. Then we said goodbye to Bob, Bonnie and Abigail for the second time, and headed to Peck Lake, to scrub the bottom and pack the boat for the first Atlantic leg to Bermuda. We were amazed at how many barnacles had found a home on the propeller in the few weeks we were in Stuart the growth seems just as fast as it was in Cartagena. But the Colombia antifouling we put on in Cartagena, is keeping the hull itself free of weeds and animals.

So, 2 days in Lake Peck, and on 2 June we motored out towards the ocean outlet at Fort Pierce. Stuart has an outlet to the sea, but it is notorious for shoaling, and is said to need local knowledge to negotiate it. On top of everything else, we did not want a stranding to start our tip! We anchored one night at Ft Pierce, and motored out through a strong flowing tide the next day. At the entry point, the current was almost 3 knots against us, so our trip had a slow start. Once out we settled into the Gulf Stream, heading north before we would turn east for Bermuda. After 3 days we made the turn. About then the autopilot btoke a belt, and it was hand steering from then on. The wind had been mostly from the east, when it went a little bit south we could sail more freely northeast, and make some progress. But it became very slow, the wind went light, then for 2 days it blew at up to 35 knots, and we went backwards to the west. Later it went light again, and resuming our course, we started to motor a bit. When the motor started to jangle, we turned it off, and sailed on slowly with a southwest breeze. Once outside Bermuda however, the breeze went west, we could not use the motor, and we could not beat in through the narrow Town Cut to the harbour of St Georges. At that point we called for a tow, the towboat dropping us to anchor of the World Heritage site that is St Georges township.

After a pasting from the Customs Officer, who did not believe we had been in to see him immediately from anchor, we returned to the boat, very tired and ready to sleep for two days. Of course we did not, up early next day to identify the parts we needed for the motor and to order them.
That done we looked around, but the wind started to pipe up, and we spent the next 3 days trapped on the boat, at the mercy of a 2 to 3 foot chop and wind over 25 knots. Not pleasant at anchor, and not able to move the boat if needed.

Anyway it stopped, the boat parts arrived (5 days on Fedex’s priority service), and were fitted, and Lelia spent 4 days patching and repairing the sails. As we became more shipshape, we decided to get off the boat, and hired a scooter for a couple of days. We putted from one end of the island to the other, enjoying ourselves tremendously, and the beautiful colours and sights of Bermuda. It really is a lovely island, the land is green, although it is currently in drought, and the water is clear and emerald. We swam at one lovely bay, and spent half a day at the Royal Naval Dockyard, now the National Museum. Everywhere the houses are colourful, painted pinks and blues and green, and all with white painted, solid concrete roofs which are the only means of catching water on this river-less island.

Now we should have a day or 2 of packing the boat, and then the next leg …