LEG2: CORFU TO CARLOFORTE
August 27 th and 28 th . Our first long passage. We leave Greece at 7:45 Greece time and 6:45 Italian time. The weather is calm, but the outlook is NW 4Bft. We start receiving the Italian weather reports more or less clearly. Our destination port is Rochella Ionica (38 19.5N, 16 25.7E), which is 189NM away. We first head west between Corfu and Albania , and then steer southwest. The traffic of boats is heavy, Italians and French are returning home. At 1:00PM the wind fills our sails, and we turn off the engine, but towards the afternoon the wind calms down, and the engine takes over again. A very peaceful night passage, and in our 3-hour watches we listen on the VHF to the chats of Turkish crew of many Turkish ships.The next day the wind picks up in the afternoon and we feel happy with our sails. The fishing line that Nilgün insistently keeps from the stern breaks the monotony from time to time, but all she catches is plastic bags. At 5:00PM we tie to the finger of the Marina pontoon at Rochella Ionica. This marina is unfinished, and therefore free of charge. Water is drinkable, but there is no electricity. It is a good port between Adriatic or Ionian Sea and Western Mediterranean . The town is two kilometers west of the marina, and we are too tired to go to the town. We decide to have a pizza in the marina restaurant and go to bed instead.
August 29th – 31st. We walk the 2 km walkway that stretch along the beautiful beach. Rochella Ionica has the appearance of a holiday village. Parallel to the beach there is a wide sidewalk, a bicycle path, a street, a railway and a highway. We walk around the town and do some shopping at a supermarket and come back to the boat. Vagabond takes her shower, and so do we, and we fill our tanks with the drinking water of Ýonica. Our plan is to sail to Reggio di Calabria tomorrow, but when the weather forecast indicates thunderstorms for two days, we alter our plans and stay in this comfortable and pleasant place two more days. The forecasts prove to be correct, and Vagabond has many more showers during the next day. Walking to the town on the 31 st of August inspired us to buy bicycles from Italy , we might save our precious time that way. We decide to look for portable bicycles in Reggio di Calabria .
September 1 st – 2 nd . The clouds are higher and lighter with small patches of blue, and we leave our marina at 6:00AM. We plan to arrive in Reggio di Calabria (38 07.7N, 15 39.0E) at the Messina Strait . Today we have 52NM to sail. The weather forecasts point out that we will be able to walk around Reggio without getting wet. The air is misty, we can see a couple of sailboats around us, but it is not possible to see Mount Etna . As we sail close to the Calabria coast, we use our binoculars to watch the shoreline. We are astonished as we see the tall ugly buildings that are scattered around the whole coast. As we enter the Messina strait, however, the view change to more elegant buildings, parks and beaches. Ferries that service between Messina and Reggio provide transportation between the mainland and the island. We enter the port at 4:15PM and moor directly to the Diesel Station to get some fuel. We learn from the gas dealer that the marina is full, and he helps us moor to the other side of the dock. There is water, but no electricity, and besides, the pier is designed for large ships to moor, so it requires acrobacy to get ashore. Anyway, we walk to the city. In spite of the earthquake and the second world war, some of the old buildings remain intact with all the charm and the elegance. We take a long walk along the long main street which gets more and more crowded after the siesta time, and get back to our boat. On the cockpit we find a business card of a taxi driver called Saverio. We knew this man from Rod Heikell's Italian Waters Pilot, and we are looking forward to see him, he might even help us to find bicycles. We pass the night rocking with the wake from the passing ferries.
The next morning Saverio shows up. A very outgoing Italian, with the scarce words in Italian that we know, and the English words that he knows, we communicate. When Nilgün gave him a Turkish charm for evil eye (mavi boncuk), he is very much pleased. He takes me to the Capitanerio (the port authorities) for the formalities. They give a paper that resembles a transit log free of charge, to be returned before exiting the country. We are able to buy only one bicycle, Nilgün enjoys a bike tour around the port. We walk to the city to buy a keybord for Nilgün's computer to replace the one that was not functioning. After lunch we take the ferry to Messina . The tour took hardly half an hour. The town is a typical Italian town with broad streets, beautiful buildings and many shops. In the commercial port there is no place for yachts, there is, however a marina in the north, but a floating pontoon rocks violently as ferries pass. We take the ferry back to Reggio before it gets dark. The port authorities visit us to say that the navy is coming the next morning, and asked us to move to another place. We tell them that we will leave the port anyhow.
September 3rd. We leave behind Reggio at 6:50AM to pass the Messina Strait famous for its whirlpools, tidal currents and wild winds, to the Lipari Island of Sicily (38 28.2N, 14 57.5E). Contrary to the miserable voyage of Odysseus, we make our passage in calm weather, watching the ferryboat traffic. We are disappointed not to have seen the traditional high masted, long bowed sword fish hunting boats. Our route passes from the north of Sicily and extends 44NM towards west. The weekend hobby fishing boats are busy fishing close to the shore. Nilgün finally catches two large Bonitos. She prepares them and serves them for lunch. We arrive at Lipari at 3:10 PM together with an incredible ferry traffic. We take the mooring of one of the T shaped floating pontoons. They demand a dear fee for mooring, electricity, water and security services. We do our laundry, and join the crowd of domestic tourists for a tour in the town. The schools are still closed (maybe the last weekend of the summer holiday), and they are spending the last days of vacation in this island. Walking past the region full of bed and breakfast pensions, hotels, restaurants, boutiques, we arrive at a square by the sea, and have an ice cream at a bar. On our way back, we do shopping at a supermarket. This is an elegant town, but when we return to our boat, we experience another kind of elegance in the mega-yacht that has moored close to us. The dinner is served there by white gloved, white jacketed waiters, presumably with crystal glasses and Rosenthal plates.
September 4th : Today is Sunday. We are sailing to the Ponente Bay of the Volcano Island (38 25.2N, 14 57.2E), immediately South of Lipari Island . The distance is only 3 NM, so we take our time to visit the castle of Lipari on top of the hill and have lunch at a restaurant. Nilgün makes a successful effort to reduce the marina fee. We start off at 2:10PM for the Volcano Island , where, there is still an active volcano. We anchor in a bay among 15 other boats, surrounded by wild rocks and beaches. From the top of the mountain you can see the smoke coming out. This bay is open to the west, but the slight wind is coming from the East, so it is quite comfortable today. The bottom is sand, and good holding. We spend the afternoon swimming and doing small repairs, and at night we see the lightnings from a distance. We sleep with caution feeling the thunderstorm is coming close. In fact, it arrives, the wind blows stronger for fifteen minutes, a couple of drops of rain falls, and finito! Our anchor has passed successfully from another exam. We have seen two boats dragging anchor with the constantly veering wind.
September 5th : We left our anchor place at 6:30AM. Our destination is Cefalu port (38 02.4N,14 01.0E), 49 miles away. Once again there was no wind, so Vagabond started feeling like a motor yacht with a useless mast. Nilgün catches a smaller tuna fish and prepares it for dinner. Situated at the middle of the north coast of Sicily , Cefalu is a vacation town for the people of Palermo . We entered the eastern port of the town, and were clever enough to ask first about the marina charges. Upon hearing the incredible high charge, we decided to anchor in front of the town. This anchoring place is open to winds from the north, but suitable for a couple of hours in calm weather. Nilgün went ashore with the dinghy and enjoyed the old part of the town very much. As the swell became very uncomfortable towards the evening, we went back to the eastern port and stayed on anchor. We ate our fresh fish for dinner, and had a peaceful night.
September 6-8th :We left Cefalu at 6:15AM. We had a long way, 82 nautical miles, to Trapani (38 00.4N, 12 30.0E), which would be our last port in Sicily . As usual Nilgün's fishing line was in the water. She caught a medium sized tuna, but the second time the big brother of the tuna came and ripped the bait off the line. Trapani is one of the big cities of Sicily at the western coast. The sea was smooth all day, but as we were approaching the port it was almost dark, and the wind started blowing hard. It was quite tricky to pass between the rocks and the shallows in the dark. We finally made it inside the port, and started looking for a suitable place. Everywhere was occupied except for a travel lift channel. We succeeded in tying there next to another sailing boat. Nilgün created a delicious fish soup right away – just the right dinner after a long and tiring journey. The next morning when we looked around, we realized that we were in the midst of a yacht lift under construction. The yard was full of boats on the hard. The port and its roads were being reconstructed. There were trucks and bulldozers and workers everywhere, and all the dust was being carried to our boat with the wind. We walked into the city under the rain. The old city was full of beautiful historical buildings. There were many ferries in the port, but no tourists around. We did some shopping and went back to the boat. We looked at the weather forecast and immediately decided to postpone our passage to Tunisia : 7 Beaufort wind! In the evening we had a Turkish doner kebap at a restaurant, chatting with its Italian owner who lived in Germany for 35 years. It was not bad.
September 8-9th: It was calm in the port, but the weather forecast for the Sicily Strait was again 7 Beaufort. We decided to visit Favignana Island (37 56.1N, 12 19.4E), situated at the west of Trapani , and wait there, away from the dust and noise of the present port. We have washed off the dust from the boat, settled our account with the boatyard official, and left the port at 10:20. The weather is still calm, but a southwest wind is forecast. While discovering the bays of the island, the wind came, and we took refuge in the tiny port. We tied alongside what we thought was the fuel dock at 3:00PM, on the leeward of the pier. We learned that the fuel dealer will arrive one hour later, so we started our tour of the town. As opposed to gift shops we have seen in the other places, Favignana shops sell tuna rosso (red tuna) processed by several native families in many different varieties, local wine, capers preserved in salt, and marmalades of local fruits. The fuel dealer gives us the bad news when we get back to the boat: we have to carry the diesel in jerry cans. After six tours with a jerry can we filled the tank with 110Lt. fuel. To compensate for this inconvenience, the fuel dealer allowed us to stay overnight at the place we were lying alongside. We had excellent seafood for dinner at a restaurant. At night, our neighbor took out his saxophone, and all the village people gathered around to sing beautiful Italian songs. It was a late night.
There was rain the next morning, just enough to stick all the Trapani dust on the deck, and there was no water on the pier to wash it off. We have learned from the Italian weather bulletin which continuously broadcast on VHF channel 68, that the wind will decrease the next day. We decided to stay one more day and leave for Tunisia the day after. We left our pier at 11:45 and anchored at a bay with sandy bottom in the East of the island (37 55 4.N, 12 21.8E). The bay was well protected against south easterlies. We could not resist the crystal water, and spent the whole afternoon swimming. The shore is rocky, with the remains of an antique city engraved in the rocks. People come from the town for hiking and swimming. The boats which were anchored left one by one, and we were left by ourselves at night. Then the wind changed direction, and a considerable swell started coming in. Vagabond started rocking 25 degrees to each side, like a metronome. Another sleepless night.
September 10-11th: We left our anchor place at 8:50AM. This time we have 115 nautical miles to Sidi Bou Said Marina of Tunisia (37 55.4N, 12 21.8E). Sidi Bou Said is the suburb of Tunis City , situated on the north side of Cape Carthage . We preferred to stay in this marina because it is close to Tunis as well as the antique city of Carthage . The weather is clear and calm, with a 6-10 knot wind coming from the northwest. The huge waves, however, are still there, rocking the boat in spite of the open mainsail. Calculations indicate that we will arrive in our destination the next morning. We keep listening to the Italian weather bulletin, which is updated every six hours. During the day there was little traffic, no yachts. As the night fell, we started our watches. Nilgün's body clock usually keeps her up until the small hours of the day, while Ali tends to sleep early and wake up early, therefore the first watch is Nilgün's, and Ali takes over at 2:00 AM. Nilgün had a very hectic time at around 11:00PM maneuvering between the heavy traffic of ships moving at all directions at Cape Bon . As we entered the Gulf of Tunisia , both the traffic and the waves disappeared, and we continued our passage in a peaceful sea. The Tunisian Coast Guard contacted us by VHF for identification control. We tied to the marina at 8:30AM in a sunny and clear day. The marina was quite full, the charges were a little high. Our formalities went smoothly. The police made the passport control and made us fill out a cruise permit and gave us a copy to be returned before departure. The Customs Officer came to the boat, asked us how many bottles of spirits we have, when we said about fifty, he wrote down five, and said to us with a smile that drinking too much would deteriorate our health. He filled out a form and gave a copy to us to be returned as well. So, we were officially in Tunisia . The spoken language here is French as well as Arabic, very convenient. We washed the Trapani mud off our boat from the masts down, did our laundry, and relaxed for a few hours. It was 33 degrees Centigrade when curiosity urged us to climb the steep stairs to the top of the hill to reach the picturesque Sidi Bon Said town. The streets are full of loud Italian tourists bargaining with the shopkeepers for souvenirs. After a walk around the narrow streets, we stopped at a restaurant overlooking to the marina, and tried the couscous, the typical food of Tunisia . Feeling faint because of the heat, we returned to Vagabond. The marina is also crowded with locals trying to cool out at the café across the boat. We caught up with our sleep that night, while the rain cleaned out the last bit of mud from the tips of the masts.
September 12th:We found the driver/guide Kamel, who would take us first to Carthage ruins, and then to Carrefour for shopping. The Punic town, which was founded by Phoenicians, then captured by the Romans, was very impressing indeed. We have seen the statues and mosaics displayed in a nearby museum. We were enchanted by the panoramic view of the port and the city from the top of the hill. The beautiful villas near Carthage accommodates the prominent people of Tunis , including the President. Our driver took us next, to the military port which has been used firtst by the Punic, than the Romans. We visited the cemetery, where the second son of every family has been sacrificed and buried. After seeing also the amphitheatre, we drove to Carrefour and finished our shopping, and finally got back to the boat, exhausted. We had coffee at the bar next to our boat and finalized our second evening in Tunisia .
September 13th: After finishing work in the boat, our driver Kamel took us to Tunis city. We first visited the old town called " Medina ". The windows and doors of the whitewashed houses are generally painted blue. Kamel said that the white is for protection against the heat, which reaches about 45 degrees Centigrade in the summer, while the blue color repels the mosquitoes. Walking through the narrow streets of the old town, we pass souvenir shops and stores and arrive at the old bazaar. Later Kamel took us to the large port, situated at the east of the city, behind the lake. The Italian district, La Goulette is further north, at the seaside. The famous actress Claudia Cardinalle was born here. We had a delicious dinner at a restaurant, and returned to our marina at Sidi Bou Said.
September 14th: It was a bright and sunny morning, and we cleared our formalities and paid the marina charge, and started off to Bizerte (37 16.5 N, 9 52. 9E) at 8:45 AM. We have 40 nautical miles. Bizerte is situated in the North of the country. The Tunisians built a marina in every commercial port, complete with water and electricity outlets. The only exception is the port of the capitol, Tunis, where there is neither a marina nor a docking place for yachts. We have spoken on the way to our friends in the s/y Boheme, who will make the same passage. They said that they decided to stay on anchor on a bay on the way. The Tunisian coastguard made an identification control on the VHF, when approaching Bizerte. Finally, we entered the port, and tied to the floating pontoon in front of Bizerte Yacht Club, under a strong Northwesterly breeze. Upon completing the formalities and cleaning up the boat, we went for a walk in the city. Bizerte has an old section as well, and we found a very rich produce market, which extended to the streets. The old port, which is shallow and suitable only for small fishing vessels is very picturesque. Around the old port the local people relax in cafes. We got back to the boat for dinner. The wind was still blowing hard.
September 15th: We woke up with a sunny and windy day. We decided to visit Tabarka in the West at the Algeria border. It is possible to take a minibus to cover the distance of 145 km to Tabarka. We had to wait until 11:30 for passengers to fill the minibus. Hopping and jumping on a dusty road, we passed through villages full of trash, and arrived at Tabarka, a lovely little town by the sea. There is a small port for yachts, all complete with water and electricity outlets. This is a port of entry. To the east of the port there is a wide beach and tourist resorts. After having lunch at the port, we started considering how to get back to Sidi Bou Said, because the only direct transportation is in the mornings. We found a minibus going to Tunis and jumped in. The highway to Tunis was much more comfortable, and another minibus took us to our boat. The whole return trip took 4,5 hours, and was very tiring. After a nice dinner in the boat we fell asleep.
September 16-17th: We left Tunis for Cagliari (39 12.0N, 9 07.5E), on South side of the Sardinia Island . We have 120 nautical miles to go. Weather forecast is Northwest winds force four. We paid the marina bill , the police and the customs officers were kind enough to come to our boat and clear us. Together with all the other boats waiting for the weather to settle down, we sailed north at 10:50AM. There is a large swell in the sea, but having hoisted our sails before coming out of the marina, we had a comfortable sail with a speed of 5-5,5 knots. Towards the evening we reefed our main sail and lowered our staysail. We started our watches under the bright moonlight sailing slowly by comfortably. During the night we had to start the engine, for the wind speed decreased considerably, but in the morning once again we hoisted the staysail and turned the engine off. Approaching Cagliari through sailboats of a regatta just about to start, we entered the Easternmost Marina di Sole at 12:15PM. Just after securing the boat, a heavy rain washed Vagabond thoroughly, and a near gale force wind dried her up. We had a nice walk in the streets full of young people, and returned to the boat for a nice sleep.
September 18-20th: On Sunday afternoon we took another tour of the city. The marina is away from the city center. The handsome buildings at the seashore are quite old. Under the arches of these buildings there are numerous cafes. Up the slope there are the remains of an old castle and a cathedral. There is a magnificent view of the town from the top of the hill. The old town is around this castle, with very narrow streets and tall, old buildings. We dined at the garden restaurant under tall palm trees. The weather report forecast winds of force 7 right on the nose, therefore we decided to stay here until the weather gets more reasonable. Our neighbors, a lovely Norwegian couple with a Taiwanese boat, are also waiting for the weather to settle down.
On Monday the weather is still the same. It is foreseen that Wednesday will be better. We went to a chandlery and bought another bicycle. We made our first bicycle tour to the Marina Piccolo, which was not as ‘piccolo' (small) as it sounds. There is a beautiful yacht club, as well. Poetto, next to the marina, is a very long and wide beach. On our way back, Nilgün's bicycle had a flat tire, therefore we had to walk all the way back to the marina. We were exhausted.
September 21-23th: We went to the chandlery again to replace our staysail halyard, paid the marina bill (20€/day), filled up our tanks with water and diesel. Just as we were getting out of the port we have seen magnificent old sailing boats coming in. It was sad to leave this beautiful show behind. We started motor sailing to Maltafano Bay (38 53.3N, 8 48.4E) which is 26 NM away. The winds were light, but just as we passed Cape Spartivento on the Southernmost end of the island, 25 knots of wind started blowing on the head. We entered the bay at 6:15PM and anchored at a quiet spot. In the morning the seas were calm again and we started off to the Balearic Islands . When we were in the open sea, however, the waves grew larger, and we decided to take refuge in Carloforte (39 08.7N, 8 19.1E) of San Pietro Island. We arrived in Carloforte at 11:45AM and tied alongside on the pier next to the ferryboat pier. Our chat with the neighboring yachts revealed that they would also sail to the same direction, and are waiting for a suitable weather. After listening to the weather bulletin, we decided to stay in this pretty town for two more nights. People from Tabarca of Tunisia emigrated here 250 years ago, and the traces of the mixed culture can be seen everywhere. Ferries bring tourists from Sardinia .
We passed the next days on our bicycles to discover the northern part of the island. Pretty villas are everywhere. We watched the Piana Islet, with its old Tuna Fish Processing factory, which was converted to a fancy hotel. Then we toured to the Southern part, by the lake. The lake is full of migrating birds of many varieties. We even saw flamingos, which are not bothered by the traffic. Further down south, the coastline is covered with beaches and caves. When we returned to our boat in the afternoon, our French neighbors, Evelyne and Hervé announced that they have got the weather information from the internet, and that the winds will turn to Northerlies. The German radio and the Italian Meteo are in consensus. We will finally do our passage to Mahon of Menorca Island tomorrow.To round up our cruise of Italy and Tunisia , we have started our voyage at Rochella Ionica of Italy , stopped at 13 different ports or bays, and finalized at Carloforte of Sardinia Island in 30 days. This concludes our 738 mile Korfu – Carloforte passage. Our next passage is Carloforte – Gibraltar . This voyage will cover the Balearic Islands of Spain, Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol of Spain mainland, and Gibraltar , and will last approximately one month. We wish to go out to the Atlantic by the end of October.