Tasmania is not the Med

We had two wonderful weeks camping on Mercier in Cowan Creek, we met up with so many friends, shared wine and food and played with a wonderful new two-man kayak. We ate Sue’s Duck Curry, Debbie’s lasagna and Michele’s peeled prawns. Geoff, James and Dave Hats excelled on their respective barbecues.

Our New Year’s Eve  photo by Sue Vincent

 

For all that food and wine, something was definitely missing. Where were Richard and Rene and the party boat, NAND V? Thanks to Frosty, we did know. We were getting frequent updates from Frosty complete with photos as they motored to Tasmania.

Let me assure my Northern hemisphere readers, Tasmania is not our summertime Med. It is more like the Med in the middle of winter; rough, fierce and changeable. But the M/Y NAND V crew picked their weather and beat south along the coast, into Bass Straight and finally into the Derwent River. The NAND and crew had arrived at Hobart.

After our two weeks (without the party boat), we sailed home Saturday and moored Mercier. The phone rang on Sunday afternoon, it was Richard and the conversation was brief, meet Jane at the airport on Monday morning and fly down for several days of cruising the D’Entrecasteaux Canal and visit some of the ports in that vicinity. Off we went.

We landed in Hobart, jumped in a cab and within minutes of being met by Rene at the entrance of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, we were on the NAND and motoring out of the marina. Ever wonderful hosts, there were scallop pies in the oven.

We were reminded very quickly, that we are now sailing in the Roaring 40’s and we plugged away crossing the mouth of the Derwent. Moths flew past us on their foils so quickly they looked airborne.

We motored on to Bruny Island and saw an amazing sight. A large seal was struggling with an octopus and right overhead was a sea eagle poised for any opportunity of taking a share. The seal was throwing the octopus into the air and then retrieving it like a puppy with a chew toy. To keep the octopus from grabbing him, the seal would shake his head from side to side, dragging it in the water and then throw his catch into the air. The water black with ink. The sea eagle floated over this carnage. finally realising there was nothing left for him. It was quite an amazing sight, Rene took the best photo. Here is mine.

 

Seal lunching on octopus sashimi

 

Jane had a unique fishing style, catch and release. She caught over 25 Flathead but as they were small, she released them back to the wild. We weren’t sure what the fish below was but she sent him back too.

Jane’s Catch and Release

 

 

In the evening, we moored in Barnes Bay in an anchorage slightly misnamed The Duck Pond. It was calm, but there were swans not ducks.  There were a few yachts moored there and we were all visited by a family of black swans. They were so graceful and lovely, the male swam to one side and the ‘teens’ and Mother approached the boat chirping melodically, very interested in the bread we threw over the side. They seemed so gentle but the male looked on very sternly, you wouldn’t want to upset him.

Swan Family

 

 

We went into Cygnet Bay, the next day after looking at fish farms in several places. We took the dingy into the wharf and tied up and walked into town. We had good coffee and then shopped for a few items from the organic grocer – there were superb cherries, raspberries, blueberries and patron peppers. The produce in Tasmania is remarkably good.

 

James and Blue

The weather went from chilly to beautiful, no one was tempted to swim but we did see children swimming.The best thing about the weather was that the five of us missed the Sydney heat wave. It was a joy to need a jacket at night .

Tasmania is in the Roaring Forties and sea breeze was showing a preponderance of brown on its charts, meaning we were going to get plenty of gusts at 35-45 knots at about 9 PM. We made our way back to Hobart and the mooring. The marina managers were going to each boat and checking the mooring lines and fenders. Now we had time for a quick trip to Hobart Town with our sailors’ errands taking them to the shipwright and the ladies walking around town. It was hard to believe that such a change was coming.

Rene & Jane

 

And here is a photo of the wonderful NAND V, we know people will enjoy visiting her at the Wooden Boat Festival. Thanks so much to Rene and Richard for their wonderful hospitality. And to Jane for her wonderful company and commentary of the Golden Globe outfits. What a great interlude with friends.

Nand V

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buon Voyaggio Mercier

Saturday was a big day, we had to finalise securing, stowing, cleaning and readying Mercier for her departure from the Med and the beginning of her journey to Australia.

There wasn’t much printed material, either online or from the shipping company about how to prepare the ship. Sevenstars Shipping was responsive to our questions, so we hope we have Mercier organised properly.

  • Turn off or disconnect batteries
  • Empty water tanks and accumulator of water
  • Clean with fresh water and bleach both head and holding tanks
  • Limit diesel to under 200 litres
  • Secure and stow items left on board
  • Tape shut all lockers and hatches, wrap any breakables in bubble wrap and secure against movements in the boat

Cleaning was very important as we know Australian Customs officials want things clean, we even lifted the floor boards and cleaned the bilge.

Mercier ready for shipping
Mercier ready for shipping

We were due at Pontile Etritrea at 1300 hours to meet the crews of Sevenstars Shipping and the Damgracht, to load Mercier.

As we entered the commercial harbour of Genoa, we had to contact the harbour master, with a prearranged clearance and proceed towards Pontile Eritrea and the ship.

Crane that will pull us up
Crane that will pull us up
Crew Members of Sevenstars came onboard to secure Mercier and attach slings
Crew Members of Sevenstars came on board

Once the crew was on board, the diver went underneath Mercier to assure the slings were in the correct position. I certainly breathed a sigh of relief to know that others were going up with us and Mercier was secure.

Crew on board to put Mercier into her cradle.
Crew on board to put Mercier into her cradle.

It is easy to see this is how high Mercier was going and we all climbed off at that railing and Mercier was lifted higher to be placed into her cradle.

P1110704 (640x480)

 

almost there
Almost there
Placement
Placement

At this point they place Mercier on the cradle and weld the cradle to the deck. James was off to the side, watching intently.He boarded, locked up, put away fenders and I said a soft farewell.

We are wishing Mercier a safe voyage to Australia, where there will be more Azure seas to greet her. There, with luck, the adventures will resume.

 

Boat Spam in Genoa

This one is for the sailors, who read this blog.  I wanted to call it boat p orn but James said that might be unwise.  We have been in two ports Viareggio,Tuscany and Genoa. This is boat building territory, La Spezia is in between these two ports and another boat builder’s paradise.

While we were there we saw this boat. We thought Frosty loves sailing in this part of the world. He can work two jobs and buy this boat, then we will visit him. I am not sure even a big lottery win would help.

Just the boat for Frosty and his friends.
Just the boat for Frosty and his friends: Rosehearty 56 metres

Viareggio looks like a carnival town, lots of fun fair rides for the children and a beach covered with umbrella and deck chairs for the family. Italian is spoken here and sometimes a bit of German. There was a Bubble man, whose photo I can’t show you because he was surrounded by children. But here is one of his bubbles in the sunset sky of Viareggio.

Gigantic Bubbles
Gigantic Bubbles – Viareggio, port of Lucca

We left early the next morning and there were dozens of fisherman on every surface of the three moles that make this a protected harbour.

More eye-candy on the way to Genoa.

Rosehearty, 56 metres long
Another 56 metre leisure craft

Finally, we reached Genoa and sailed into a huge bay, past the Costa Concordia being dismantled, warehouses in various states of ruin but handsome nonetheless.

View of the Duomo from the port
View of old and new Genoa from the boat

 

But have I finished with my boat spam yet? Decidedly not, here is the beauty just moored across the channel from Mercier at the Marina Mole Vecchio. The staff here are great, especially considering Mercier is the same size as this yacht’s bow.

Marina Mole Vecchio
Marina Mole Vecchio

More on Genoa the town later, but I had to thank my sailing friends for following Sailing Azure Seas and boat spam seemed the best way to do it.

Beauty Spots, Italy

Let’s face it, as countries go, Italy is bella; beautiful and glorious.  Here were are racing by its magnificent coast to meet a ship in Genoa that will bring Mercier to Oz. We had a wonderful day in Ischia after saying goodbye to gorgeous cousins in Minori and Sorrento. Ischia is one of our favourite islands because people are just as likely to break into song as to say ciao.

Waterfall & mosaic of King Neptune at Poseidon Thermal Spa, Ischia
Waterfall & mosaic of King Neptune at Poseidon Thermal Spa, Ischia

The Thermal Spa is wonderful, with mineral springs running hot and cold. The waterfalls act as massage therapists.

The next morning we sailed past another favourite, Procida, because we just didn’t have enough time to stop. We are already planning another Italian sojourn, using ferries and pensiones. Procida, Ponza and Ventotene are three of the Pontine Islands, south of Rome.  We anchored in nearby Ponza and had a wonderful swim.

Ponza
Ponza

From Ponza, it was a nine hour day sail to make it to Porto Turistico, because we had a lovely south westerly breeze to help us on our way. You know there has to be a reward for that much sailing. A day in Rome, with shopping at Castrioni, scrumptious lunch at Romeo, a stroll down the Pont S’Angelo and a gelato fix.

Gelateria del Teatro, watching them ready the fruit for the ices.
Gelateria del Teatro, watching them ready the fruit for the ices.

Two days ago, we were stopped by the Guarda Finanza or border patrol of Italy. We were just motoring past Cittavecchia, we were asked quite a few questions. “Where are you going?” “Ercole”, we answered, he looked confused. More questions about our intended trip, while the other officer was checking us through their computer. He asked again,”Where are you going?” “Ercole” we said smiling.  A few more questions, then he says “erCOle”. Si, mystery solved.

Fortress in medival Ercole, Tuscany
Fortress in medival Ercole, Tuscany

There are not a lot of ports or anchorages north of Porto Ercole on the mainland coast, so we sailed out to Elba, This is a wonderful Tuscan island and we have been here three times.

Porto Azzuro, Elba
Porto Azzuro, Elba

Yesterday, we arrived to about 8 yachts at about 3PM. By the time we went to bed, there were literally 100 yachts in the anchorage. not counting the boats in the marina. It was like the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 8:00am, just about bumper to bumper. Many yachts had their fenders out at anchor, just in case.

Off to Portoferraio!.

Capri – the day trip

In 2012, we wanted to visit Capri and made a booking at the local marina, which wasn’t confirmed, more of a ‘call us on the day’. Still an hour before we were due to arrive at Capri, the port emailed us and said ” Sorry, we are full.”  We motored round the island and anchored in Marina Piccola. Staring at the island, but not able to land was frustrating. This time we were smarter and left Mercier in her lovely dock in Salerno.

There is only a small marina on Capri and many large yachts.
There is only a small marina on Capri and many large yachts.

Eleven of us made our way from Minori to Capri via a ferry. Easier, smarter, faster, so consider taking a ferry and not a yacht over to Capri. Ischia, Sorrento or Salerno are all fairly close and have safe marinas in which to leave a yacht.

Once there, we split and half the party sailed off to the Blue Grotto and the rest of us journeyed up to Anacapri.  We wandered round tiny steep streets, tried on hats, visited Churches and watched a shoe maker make sandals to order. We met later for a lovely garden lunch.

Sandals made to order
Sandals made to order
Barbara and the perfect hat. Also great shopping in Capri.
Barbara and the perfect hat. Also great shopping in Capri.

One of my favorite books about Italy is The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe. Munthe was a Swedish doctor, a crony of Oscar Wilde, Henry James and a self described misanthrope who loved animals more than people. His villa in Capri is secluded and takes you away from the commercial Capri and the spruiking. It deposits you in a exquisite garden with magical views and serenity. It is cool and catches the breezes, very important. Munthe said “My home shall be open the the sun and the wind and the voices of the sea – like a Greek temple and light, light, light everywhere.”

Villa San Michele
Villa San Michele
Views from San Michele
Views from San Michele – Sorrento in the distance

The excitement came with trying to ensure we got the bus back down, by the time three buses got to us they were full. On the fourth pass, finally a bus arrived only half full. Some clever people thought they would push in but we managed to block those who didn’t want to queue. We empathized with the sardines we had for lunch. Capri, we’ll be back and next time, we’ll take a ferry and stay awhile.

 

Maratea, Basilicata

We sailed into small harbours along the Calabrian Coast, finally arriving at the captivating and picturesque town of Maratea, Basilicata.  It is two towns in one, Maratea marina, which is the area near the sea and about three kilometers straight up finds the hilltop village of Maratea.

Beautiful wooden boats at Maratea Marina
Beautiful wooden boats at Maratea Marina

We arrived in time for a wonderful lunch at Clubbino, best panini in Italy so far with a very friendly proprietor and staff. Then we walked around the area and found a spring of beautiful water which supplies the town, gargantuan caper plants cascading down stone walls and several restaurants. I led the charge on a path to the north of town, passing small mansions along the coast, but Frosty said let’s go down this little lane and it took us to a paved path along the sea.

Paved path down to the beach Maratea
Paved path down to the beach Maratea

 

We followed it back towards the Marina and it ended in a rock pool, which looked very old and very weather-beaten, but surrounded by ladies lying on the flat rock platforms or boulders along the path.

Old rock pool
Old rock pool end of the paved path

 

After siesta, we decided to wait for the bus to go up to the hilltop village. The bus never came and the friendly proprietor of Clubbino found a ride for us, as there were no taxis around either.

Maratea, Basilicata
View from Maratea, Basilicata

The old town was beautiful and still at siesta, but we wandered around and took copious photos and called a taxi to go back down.

Church, Matarea
Church, Matarea

 

No one answered the taxi phone number and so we walked at least about four kilometres, although we tried to get Eagle Man to give us a lift. (He was making eagle sounds as he soared along the valley.)

Eagle Man
Eagle Man

 

 

Messina Straits to Tropea

Two years ago, we sailed from the Aeolian Islands through the Messina Straits going south.  This morning at 6:30am we sailed the straits going north, sailing from Reggio to Tropea. The Strait is 20 miles long and from 2 to 10 miles wide, funneling the Ionian Sea into the Tyrrhenian Sea and vice versa.  You are able to see the energy in the water. look long enough and you are bound to see a whirlpool forming. We began so early because we knew the current would be flowing south by 7:30am, 4.5 hours after high tide in Gibraltar.

Frosty was a bit skeptical at being underway by 6:30 am, even with a Nespresso in his hand but soon we were surrounded by the ‘passarelles’ or felucas, for the swordfish fisherman. Watching them move towards a sword fish at a rate of knots is quite startling.

Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat
Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat

The boats are about 40 feet long and the mast is about 50 feet high and the skipper steers from that lofty position.

Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
The harpooner walking out on the passerelle
The harpooner walking out on the passarelle. Look at the rooster tail.

After getting through the Messina Straits with a sighting of one swordfish( or was it a tuna?), a slight whirlpool trying to form and quite a bit of current. We sailed up the coast to Porto di Tropea.  Only 30 miles from the Aeolian Islands and a charming, neo-classical town, in a slight state of ruin, there is a lot to like.  The outstanding feature has to be the beaches. Surrounded by tufa, the beaches are superb. Odysseus never talks about beaches, does he? The beaches here are sensational. There were incredible beaches up the coast from Reggio di Calabria.

Tropea Beach, Calabria
a Tropea Beach,  Calabria

I tried to get James and Frosty smiling while in the Messina Straits, but in that photo they looked liked they had seen Charybdis. They liked the beach though.

Beautiful beaches
Beautiful beaches

Our journey so far (sorry, you have to copy & paste the link)

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zkkfRzDGj2mE.kO4m-3hTL-cs

Efcharisto (Thank You) Greece! Buongiorno, Italia!

We had our last night in Greece in the small harbour Ormous Ammou on the Nisos Othoni.  There on this small outer island, north of Corfu, one would have found a Venetian lighthouse and medieval fortress, with views over to Albania. We had two days on Corfu with Ric and Sandy, what was one highlight you ask? The boys might say it was watching Lateen rigged boats sail on Corfu harbour. Once the sail was in they rowed. How would Davo go with all that weight?

Lateen Rigged Boat - Corfu Harbour
Lateen Rigged Boats – Corfu Harbour

We had time to sit on board and think about how much we enjoyed Greece, how hospitable the people were, how beautiful the harbors and bays are.   Its history is the history of Western democracies. I feel the connection all the way back to Athena and Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. The food is superb and fresh fruits and veggies are so ripe and wonderful.

North Corfu beaches
North Corfu beaches

All through this trip, we have wondered if there would be trouble travelling in Greece, with the IMF and Angela breathing down Greek’s neck. We haven’t had one difficulty, not with diesel or ATM’s or any of the myriad problems that travel agents in Europe had been forecasting like ancient Jocastas.

Sail past Albania
Sail past Albania

 

So my take is: visit Greece, it is inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, it has something for everyone and it is beautiful.  The food is wonderful and so are the people.

leaving Greece at daybreak
leaving Greece at daybreak

 

Today we have sailed across to Santa Maria di Leuca, Italia. Usually we are on the lookout for ships, lobster pots and dolphins, but today we narrowly missed hitting a tree.  Ok, afterwards we reassessed “tree” and think maybe it was a big shrub, but it seemed to pop up as we glided right by it. It was quite strange but we think a storm might have taken it off a cliff and it was floating just below the surface until we went by.  Soon after, beautiful dolphins did come and play with us jumping up two by two for several minutes.  We think they were saying “Buongiorno”.

Sailing the Inland Sea, Ionian Islands

If your route constitutes sailing to windward, there may be no better place to sail/motor than the inland sea. Sailing from harbour to anchorage through this area is a dream. Why you ask?  You can easily get up early and get to your next anchorage with light winds, get anchored in time for morning coffee before the wind gets fresh.  Get off the boat for the afternoon sightseeing and have dinner ashore, then by about 9:00 the wind has died down and the boat is quiet for a good night’s sleep. We call it the Gentleman’s Breeze. You have plenty of time then to walk around and enjoy the sights, shop or find a bakery.

Garlic Ropes
Garlic Ropes

If you want to sail, hopefully going south, then you have a sleep in, morning coffee, sail to a lunch spot, swim and in the early afternoon the breeze comes in and you can sail for miles under fresh breezes.

Kioni Harbour
Kioni Harbour

Jimbsail.info is a wonderful resource for sailors sailing in the Mediteranean  and he has information about the Inland Sea of the Ionian enclosed by Kephalonia, Ithaka, Mainland Greece, Meganisi and Preveza. In all the Med, this is sailing that most reminds me of Sydney Harbour. The Inland sea is good area for novices and families. It is a great place to sail in Greece and not have to work around the Meltemi or struggle going to windward.

The Inland Sea
The Inland Sea

The captain and crew on Mercier, have wooden boats in their veins. Squadron friends know Ric and Sandy have the lovely classic yacht, Rapunzel. On Ithaca, both In Vathi and Kioni, we spotted the classic wooden yacht Rubicon, and Rubincon’s owners, Lance and Charlotte.  They are also members of the Cruising Association.  Hello quickly turned into a chat about wooden boats and their beautiful Rubicon, which they will keep in Greece. Lance calls this “resonance”, finding people with a shared interest and continuing to bump into them.

Saint Nikolas's Cave
Saint Nikolas’s Cave

So our last few days have taken us to Vathi and Kioni on Ithaca as well as Porto Spilia, Meganissi after a swim near St Nicolas’s Cave.  We are enjoying the trip, even though we are moving, but Sandy and I decided it is just the right pace.

Gaila and Sandy
Gaila and Sandy

Meanwhile, fair winds to Rubicon, Charlotte and Lance.  We’ll see you in Sydney.

 

Kythera, Porto Kayio and Eleafonisos

From the Roman times and perhaps earlier, sailing from Crete to Kythera and the Peloponnese has been fraught with gusty winds and wild waves.  We left Crete a day early and early in the morning to beat the encroaching low weather system to Kythera.

It was an ten hour sail to Avelomona, southern Kythera but there were local boats in the small, crowded harbour. We decided as it was getting windy to press on to Dhiakofti. As we approached the ferry harbour of Dhiakofti, we saw the wreck of a cargo ship implanted on the side of an islet.  We were feeling very sensible about getting there in good weather.

wreck off the entrance to Dhiakofti
Wreck off the entrance to Dhiakofti

There is a ferry wharf at Dhiakofti and there was a space for us to tie up. There are stores and rent a cars there too, but they only open when the ferry comes in. Within thirty minutes of mooring, the winds were coming in at over 25-30 knots. We were happy to be tied up in the quiet harbour. The next day, James rode the bike into town and as it was Wednesday, every business was closed for the day. No taverna or mini-mart, no hotel or cafe, no one walking around or working in their gardens, it was incredibly quiet.

We departed on a grey Thursday morning for the lovely island of Elafonisos. A small harbour and a glorious beach, but the water temperature was only 20 degrees, a bit chilly on this early morning.

Elafonisos beautiful beaches
Elafonisos beautiful beaches

Given the weather, we pressed on to Porto Kayio, a small, snug harbour in the Peloponnese, the taverna here was open with two other boats from Australia, two from Germany and one each from Sweden, France and England.

Porto Kayio
Porto Kayio

Today we sailed up the coast to Kalamata, after sailing past the cape Ak Tainaron. In ancient times, it was called Tenaron, the entrance to the Underworld.Barren and empty,we were more taken with the mountains behind the hilly, green coastline.

Verdant Pelonpponese
Verdant Pelonpponese

I can see why Nero wanted to build the Corinth Canal. In the future, we will sail through the canal and visit these harbours on ferries. It is definitely worth visiting but it is a tough sail.