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JUNE 2007

01/06/07  Moved onto the fuel jetty as soon as the fishing boats vacated it at 5.30am and waited for the little man to turn up in his Fiat, which he did at 9.30, using the waiting time to cook bacon and eggs (my last from Safeway's Gibraltar).  The immediate hillside reminds me very much of Gibraltar, a small version if you like.  The credit card machine wasn't working, so I had to make do with a hundred euros worth of gasolio before heading out to sea and a very hot day.   The first few hours were a great sail.....7 knots across the bay....then it all died again and we were back to slow speed, taking ages to pass Palermo International Airport on the way toward Cefalu, arriving there at 11.30pm.  The towns Norman cathedral, started by King Roger in 1131 for deliverance from a shipwreck, is floodlit and visible for miles out to sea.   A couple of  problems on arrival, the harbour entrance navigation lights (unlike the cathedral) were not lit, so I'm trying to find its narrow entrance in total darkness!  Inside the harbour, ropes were floating on the surface all over the place and an incoming swell made berthing alongside the fuel jetty a definite no-no.   So, not wanting a rope around the prop or any more damage to the boat,  I came out again and motored around the promontory to drop anchor in 6 metres of water, off the town beach.

02/06/07  Not a good nights sleep!  Just after 1.30am, someone on the beach decided to let off a load of fireworks - the screaming, banging, whistling type, to the accompaniment of  much drunken cheering.  The slow swell was also rocking the boat from side to side with enough force to throw things off the table.   Daybreak brought grey skies and rain, but the old town looks very interesting and I should like to have time to explore but I need to push on towards Greece where my friend Sandra is due to arrive for a holiday with me on the 8th.   The sun-loungers and umbrellas on the nearby beach look as if they have all been measured and laid out with military precision.......Andy - have you been working here??   Weighed anchor at 7.30 and set a course for Milazzo, Uncle Albert getting wet while I sheltered under the spray hood.   Early evening - sighted the island of Vulcano to port, with it's active volcano of Gran Cratere (the other being Stromboli further to the north). The last 20 miles were a struggle in torrential rain, against a force 5 directly on the nose as I tried to round the headland of Capo di Milazzo where there is a lighthouse visible for 16 miles - and what was there?  Nothing, zero, zilch, nada!!  Not even a candle!!  What is it about the Sicilian's and lights?   Entered Milazzo harbour at 11pm and bingo......properly fendered, floating pontoons to berth alongside instead of bows on, no swell, no wind and a guy on hand to direct me to a parking spot!

03/06/07  Still pouring with rain, and as a result of recent poundings, several window leaks have manifested themselves which will have to be sorted out as soon as it's dry again.  The weather god must have heard me because it cleared up and became very hot during the afternoon, by which time I'd restocked from the local supermarket and set about fixing the leaks.  The next leg through the Strait of Messina needed to be timed to coincide with four and a half hours after high water in Gibraltar, to catch the southern current through,  and after fuelling, I set off at 4.30pm in fine weather with a good forecast.   Five miles from the start of the strait - and I pick up a gale warning with thunderstorms....great!     By this time, I'm well into the Aeolian triangle, the Mediterranean's equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle - renown for it's bad weather and gales springing up from nowhere.   Do I turn round and go back 25 miles, or continue?   Yeah....put the party gear on and go for it!!  

04/06/07   I was actually through the strait before the bad weather closed in, but what a nightmare transiting Messina in the dark!  There are ferries going in all directions, and the problem is - you don't see them until they are in front of you!  It's only one and a half miles wide at the northern end and both the Sicilian and Italian mainland  coasts are brightly lit, so a ferry moving out is just another set of bright lights on the coastline, un-noticed until very close.   But I got through OK, and neither Scilla, the six headed snatcher of sailors, nor Charybdis the giant whirlpool managed to get me - although the whirlpool effect was very obvious.  So...it's goodbye Tyrrhenian Sea.....hello Ionian Sea!   At the southern end of the strait, the thunderstorm started in the distance to starboard, and it chased me for hours around the toe of Italy, finally catching me off Capo Spartivento.   My destination of Rocella Ionica is a harbour with a difficult entry, (it silts up).   It's not one for a night-time entry and as my echo sounder depth gauge had packed up on leaving  Cagliari....... I was happy to get there at 2.30pm and feel my way in.  I had been talking to the port control on VHF from 5 miles out, trying to get information about the hidden sandbank across the entrance and requesting a berth for the night.  The radio operator had gone through all the "what's the length and draught of the boat" questions, plus direction of approach etc, asking me to call again when inside the port.   When I did call again, he asked me what I wanted!!   I think there is a small Italian village in the mountains that's missing an idiot.

05/06/07   After a good nights sleep, I gave the sandbank a wide berth as I headed out to sea at 0800.  Conditions offshore were not as predicted...it should have been a NW force 4 and I had a NE force 6 with very rough seas.  It was impossible to make headway in seas like this, so I came back inshore, to within a half mile of the beach and followed the coast to the headland before setting off across the Golfo di Squillance, altering course for Corfu when the wind eventually did go round to the north-west.   As it got dark, I could see two storms in the distance, I'm beginning to think that Rhumb Do is a magnet for thunderstorms.

The Italian Job -  phot's

06/06/07   D-Day!   Am I one of the D-Day Dodgers in sunny Italy??   I don't think so.  For one, it isn't sunny and secondly, I'm no longer in Italian territorial waters.   For those who have no idea what I'm talking about.......during the second World War, someone....I think it was Lady Astor of Hever (that woman had a serious case of foot and mouth disease), accused the 8th Army in Italy of being "D-Day Dodgers".  The troops humorously replied in song to the tune of Lilli Marlene.  Anyway,.....I continued on course throughout the night and it wasn't until 2.30am that the last lights of Italy finally dipped below the horizon astern.  Daybreak showed nothing but sea and the NW wind was holding me on a steady beam reach towards Greece.   At 2.30pm, six dolphins turned up to play, the first I've seen in ages which isn't that surprising as the Mediterranean is somewhat bereft of marine life for a number of reasons - it's been almost 'fished out' over centuries and because of the Gibraltar bottleneck, it's tidal range is minimal to non-existent, so no plankton exists (which is why the water is so blue), and consequently without the plankton, other marine species disappear.  Corfu is now only about 50 miles ahead and my departure port from Italy is 125 miles astern - yet I'm still closer to Italy than Greece!!  That's because the 'heel' of Italy, on the right of the Gulf of Taranto, is now around 30 miles off my port side.  As a result of battling along the 'sole' of Italy into a direct head wind, I was very low on diesel and at 6pm, in sight of the northern tip of Corfu, the winds died.  It was a very long night trying to claw every inch of forward movement out of the gentle zephyr of wind available to me, only using the engine when absolutely necessary as I slowly came around the top of Corfu.

07/06/07   6am....and totally becalmed in the narrow strait between Corfu and Albania, drifting inexorably toward the Albanian coast which was now very much less than a mile away, and praying for the prevailing north west wind to start!   With maybe a gallon of diesel remaining and the boat actually going backwards, I reluctantly started the engine, dropped all sail and motored slowly into the bay toward Gouvia marina, heading straight for the fuel jetty on arrival.   I put in 152.63 litres of fuel - into a tank which holds 155 litres - now that was close!!   With another 215 nautical miles under the keel from Rocella Ionica, I moored bows to in Gouvia, and on the opposite side of the pontoon, 8 feet away........."Moody Time" with Colin and Trish!!   While Colin made me a bacon 'buttie' we caught up with all the news, having last seen each other on the 14th February in Gibraltar and we also heard from Gina, who is still in Sardinia along with Roger and co., but sailing tomorrow morning for Sicily - and she had also met up with Rob and Karen on Slip Anchor, who have now made it to Sardinia.

08/06/07   After breakfast with Colin and Trish, I had a brief tour of the immediate area, sorted out the paperwork for a stay here and got my bearings......I'd woke this morning thinking "Where am I?"   The marina is large, about 1300 boats, yet compact in area and facilities, shower blocks, laundry, chandleries, internet room, restaurants, supermarkets and swimming pool (!) are all within the marina, and less than 5 minutes walk from my berth.   Sandra, my friend from Lincoln  arrived around 10pm and joined Colin, Trish and myself onboard Moody Time for drinks and a good natter.

09/06/07  We took the boat out across  the bay to an anchorage off the beach and dived under to inspect the hull, propeller and the area around the depth transducer (which hasn't worked since Cagliari).   The hull is surprisingly clean, just a little weed growth along the waterline although the anode has all but corroded away since last July.   Stripped out the transducer and tried to check that it still works, and although it is clearly sending out a signal, I am not sure that the signal bounced back from the sea-bed is being received,  the gauge still showing a reading of zero. Moody Time suffered transmission failure on returning to the marina and Colin had to strip the gearbox from the boat to assess damage and order new parts.

Over the next few days, we swam in the marina pool, sailed out around Corfu town, anchored off beaches to swim ashore for ice-creams and generally enjoyed the sunshine (32oC) and relaxation, Colin and Trish joining Sandra and I on Rhumb Do for the day on the 13th.    We also visited the village eateries, George's, Harry's and the inevitable Zorba's, all of which served superb Greek dishes of Sofrito, Kleftico, Stifado and Swordfish amongst others - and we tried them all.    The echo sounder remains a big problem - it's a Simrad Navico item - and once again, after visits to the chandlery,  parts from Simrad are unavailable just as they were in Ramsgate.  That company is useless!  A local electronics guy (Dimitri), is trying to locate a replacement transducer for me but my previous experience of Simrad means that I'm not hopeful.

14/06/07  Sandra and I sailed to the north of the island and found a bay close by Kassiopi in which to anchor for lunch.  Stupidly, I forgot that I was trailing a fishing line and it was only after dropping the anchor that I realised the line was around the prop.....about 180 metres of it too!!  So it was mask and snorkel time to cut it free but during the process, the wind got up and as the bay was open to the north-west, the swell and white horses came straight down on us and I was being buffeted against the underside of the boat, so I had to abandon the job, hoist sail and weigh anchor.  We came out of the bay close hauled under full sail at 7 knots, around the lighthouse and down the Albanian coast to a more sheltered anchorage where I was able to cut free the remaining fishing line before sailing back to Gouvia - Sandra at the helm and now confident enough to bring the boat into the berth alone whilst I dealt with the bow lines.   We again had dinner at George's, with Colin and Trish - all four of us opting for Sofrito which is absolutely delicious.

15/06/07  Sandra's last day of holiday and a lazy day by the pool.  Colin and Trish very kindly invited us onboard Moody Time for dinner at 6pm before Sandra had to leave for the airport.  Once again, it was great to have a good friend from home onboard and the last week has been so relaxing for me.   Thanks Sandra!

16/06/07  Made contact with Gina just before 8am as she was sailing along the north coast of Corfu - Colin and Trish jumped onboard and we motored out of harbour and headed north to welcome her off Kassiopi where I put Rhumb Do close enough alongside for Trish to step across onto Impulse so that Gina would have company for the last two hours into Gouvia.   Congratulations to Gina on her first single-handed sail (Gibraltar to Greece).....quite an achievement, which we all celebrated with a few beers and a meal in Harry's!

18/06/07  Storm Dodger arrived in Gouvia around lunchtime, then Slip Anchor in the evening - great to see everyone again!

19/06/07  We all had a lazy day beside the pool, swimming, chatting and laughing whilst buying glasses of coke which we surreptitiously watered down from a hidden bottle of  Bacardi when the bar staff weren't looking.   About 9pm, Gina and I realised we hadn't eaten and quickly got changed and went into Kontokali village for a meal in George's before  rounding off the evening in Skipper's Bar and heading back to our boats at 1am.

20/06/07  Thanks to everyone for the birthday wish e-mails.   Got the outboard onto the dinghy for a trial as it hasn't been used since France - all OK.  Colin wasn't as fortunate so I assisted him in stripping his outboard down and overhauling it.  During the evening I joined the whole gang in Zorba's for a meal.  The temperature continues to climb each day and is forecast to hit 44oC this weekend.......this makes up for all the storms and rough weather I've been dealt over the last few months!!

21/06/07  The longest day.......and the hottest so far!   It's 35oC in the saloon and 39oC on deck, far too hot to do any of the jobs onboard, so the afternoon was spent in the pool.

23/06/07  Anniversary!!  I have lived onboard for one year, called in at 33 ports and covered over 3,500 nautical miles during that time.  Gina, Astrid, Roger and I got the bus towards town to shop at Lidl's and a local hardware store we had heard about, to buy mosquito netting, torches etc., then returned to the marina to have lunch and a swim before catching the bus again into Corfu town to play at tourists.

25/06/07  Good intentions of getting all sorts of jobs done on the boat go out of the window in the forty plus heat of the day.  Helping Rob get his cruising chute into it's snuffer and adjusting Gina's steering  is about all that has been done  over the last couple of days.  The rest of the time has been spent in the pool being climbed on by the four youngsters from Slip Anchor and Storm Dodger and I think I ache more from that, than if I had been working on the boat!!

26/06/07  A bus trip to the hardware store for a fan in an effort to combat the humidity onboard was first job today.  The barometer has been dropping this week and the 'dry' heat has gone, leaving it very sticky during both day and night.  Later, passing the stern of Storm Dodger in my dinghy, I was called onboard for a drink which turned into an impromptu BBQ with everybody onboard until the early hours.  Rob, who is a complete nutter, rowed Gina around in her dinghy  whilst singing 'Just one cornetto,......... give it to me'  - we didn't ask the people on the Italian boat next door what they thought of the performance!!  

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