Welcome to our blog for the Plastic in the Pacific Crusade. If you missed the earlier editions please use the category search in the footer to go back and read them. They are listed under Plastic in the Pacific. Over the coming year we will be writing regularly of our adventures and what we are seeing. In this article we write about our sail from Greece to Italy, Arriving in Palermo, diving Ustica and then setting sail to Spain
In our last edition, we had just set off from Greece, out of the Corinthian Channel enroute to Italy. We knew what was ahead but the forecast was the same for over 10 days so we had to depart as waiting longer than 10 days was not an option for us. Departing the Corinthian Channel and reaching the islands, there was a great breeze from the North-North-West. It was about 10-15 knots and we were sailing along beautifully until we came to the last set of islands. Nisos Kefallinia is a very high island to the north of our passage, so as we approached we knew that we would end up in a wind shadow. We also knew what to expect on the other side of the island. As we sailed into the wind shadow, we furled the headsail and started motor sailing. There are a couple of reefs to avoid off the southern end of the island and the swell was rolling over the top of them. As we came out the other side, the 20-30 knot West-North-Westerley we expected, hit us. We reefed down the main and put out a small amount of headsail and would sail with slightly cracked sheets.
The boat was flying at 8-9 knots, great for a cruising boat anyway. The waves weren’t too bad and whilst our course was South-South-West, we knew that as we cleared the coast the wind would back and we would be able to sail further and further towards our goal of sailing pretty much west. Into the evening the wind had already started to turn but was still quite strong with gusts over 30 knots. It made for a tough start to the night. All night the wind would stay above 20 knots on the nose however by midnight we were sailing due west as the wind had swung to the North. By morning the wind had abated to 15-20 knots and we were beam reaching along at good speeds. The wind kept dying all day and by 1700 it was a glass out for the next 5 hours. We had plenty of fuel so we motor sailed along at low revs. By motoring at just 1400rpm we knew we could do 5 knots plus and only use a maximum of two litres an hour.
The wind picked up again later in the evening but by the early hours of the morning it would sit around 5-10 knots so we continued to motorsail. The next day I decided to make the strop for our new spinnaker that we had built in Australia by UK Halsey Brisbane. It was in a sock and would strap down to the strong point off the bow so I built up a short strop just to lift it off the deck a bit to allow us to see underneath it, not a racing strategy by any means of the imagination, but we were cruising. At 1500 we launched our spinnaker for the first time and it was like Susky just came alive. She loved her new sail and whilst the speeds weren’t high, we started cruising without the motor at the same speeds we had been doing with it. It is always a great feeling to sail under spinnaker and Annika and I had huge grins on our faces.
One cruising strategy we are fairly set on is that we have to make sure that this spinnaker makes it all the way home, hence we wouldn’t sail with it after dark. Being two handed it is just too risky and it wasn’t worth the worry so at sunset the spinnaker would come down. At sunrise the spinnaker would go up, and hence the new name of the spinnaker would become ‘Sunny’. As night fall came on, we could see Italy. Our plan was to sail through the Straits of Messina and across the northern side of Sicily to Palermo. Once again, we were not here on a sight-seeing journey, we were more on a delivery. Palermo was chosen as it was a half way distance between Greece and Alicante Spain, a destination we needed to get to for a meeting. More on that in the next edition.
The Straits of Messina was stunning and it had glassed out completely. We rounded the southern mainland at sunrise and would head up the straits in daylight. We saw quite a unique boat that went past in the opposite direction. Now we’ve sailed some sportsboats with long bow sprits but this boat had the longest bow sprit you will ever see. It was rigged to a tower. No idea what they used this boat for but the picture tells the story. Not sure I’d want to go up that rig though.
The traffic in the channel was quite thick and towards the northern end it narrows up and there is a traffic separation scheme to keep the boats on the same side. We had a ferry that was crossing between Sicily and the mainland that obviously wanted to go ahead of us. We had to slow to allow him across our bow even though we had right of way. We rounded the top of the island and headed across to Palermo in very light winds. It would take us the whole day and night to get to Palermo, arriving at 0700 the next day.
We had information on the different marinas and went into Cala Marina and docked at the fuel berth. We needed fuel and at €1.56 per liter, it wasn’t cheap. We decided to only put in 100 liters which would leave us with ¾ of a tank. After fuelling we decided we didn’t like that marina as it looked like a local marina and was very dirty. We moved over to a marina called Acqusanta which was described as a modern marina for visiting yachts. We pulled in and there was a dock along this 20m high cliff face. The water was clear and we pulled up stern too next to an Italian owned ex racing yacht. Once we settled in, we went to find the marina manager who spoke very little English so he had one of the boatmen come and translate. Our stay would be €75 per night, the most we had to pay anywhere. We decided we would only stay one night at that rate, but anchoring off was not an option with a swell rolling outside.
We had to go for a 30 minute walk to find the authorities to check into Italy however on eventually finding them, we were told that we didn’t need to do anything. Being part of the European Union, as long as we radioed them on arrival and departure, they were happy. The walk to and from was a real eye opener. I had imagined Palermo to be a beautiful city and definitely clean, however it was the complete opposite. It was an ugly city and the rubbish was out of control. Dog poo littered the streets and made them smell bad. Rubbish was everywhere, even on the entry into the marina. One boat that was along the road was full of trash. We found out that the mafia was in control of rubbish in Sicily and the current government had annoyed them in some way so they stopped cleaning the streets. Gotta love politics.
We just wanted to get out of there, it was horrible. Back on the boat we did some maintenance and then went and did a quick shop. In the evening our Italian neighbour got talking with Annika and found out our plans. He had bought his yacht in Lanzarote and someone there had helped him out a lot and he asked if we would deliver a bottle of wine to him when we went through. Of course we agreed. In the morning we did some washing, Annika went to the grocery store and I went to find a chandlery about 20 minutes away. We had decided to get out and go to a small island 36nm north of the mainland called Ustica. It was a diving island.
We departed Palermo at midday and got a great breeze from the West to take us most of the way up to the island. It kept heading us so we eventually motorsailed into the island so we would arrive during daylight hours. We picked up a mooring in the quiet little bay with just one other boat. The water color was amazing so we had a quick swim before setting up the compressor to pump some air into our dive tanks. Finally we relaxed, we were going to have a day of fun the next day, not focussed on moving on or fixing the boat.
Morning came and it was a beautiful day. We went for a dive first thing and basically all there was to see where a few fish and a lot of weed. It was really boring but good for us as we had new gear to get used to. I really struggled, not being as good a diver as Annika. It was the first time I’d dived with the weights integrated into the buoyancy control device (BCD) and I struggled with my buoyancy, going up and down like a yoyo. Annika however had a ball with all her new camera equipment. We moved off the mooring to find another site and ended up driving most of the way around the island before returning back to pretty much where we started. The swell was running on the other side making it too hard to secure the boat. On the second dive we nearly got run over by a tourist boat, had an anchor dragged out from underneath us and basically saw nothing, however again it was good for me to get some practice in, I really needed it.
In the afternoon we went to the little township and anchored off and found a bar to get free wifi to catch up with the world. Annika uploaded some photos whilst I researched Alicante and surrounding areas. We then returned to the yacht and moved back to the same mooring we had been on the night before. In the evening we made water with our Rainman Desal unit for the first time. It took an hour to top up the tanks which was great as we had showered and washed down all our dive gear. We went to bed early on the basis we would take off to Spain the next morning.
In the middle of the night, a rolling swell came in. It was really annoying but it was a sign the North Westerley had hit. Annika and I both woke up to it. I tried to go back to sleep but failing at this, I decided it best to just set sail so I left Annika in bed and dropped the mooring line and started our journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. Rounding the island and clearing the wind shadow, we set off, launching the spinnaker at sunrise, leaving Italy in our wake. The trip across to Alicante would start off slowly however by evening the first day the wind had kicked in and we were sailing along in 20-25 knots with reefed down mainsail, sailing directly towards Alicante at 6-8 knots, just cruising.
In our next edition we arrive in Alicante Spain where we have a meeting with a very important company, then have Annika’s sister and her family join us for a weekend before heading around the coast with Annika’s mum as our special guest.
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