Note: Click on photos to enlarge
We reach Sevilla late at night - the draw bridge only opens at 10 p.m. But the mariner at the Real Club Nautico is expecting us on the other side. This posh club has about 8000 members, but only very few are sailors. But there is lots going on like rowing, paddling, surfing, swimming, exercising, and eating...
We enjoy a few relaxing days in this interesting city with the typical Andalusian mix of Spanish and Arabian culture.
With our two crew reinforcements we once again head downriver to Chipiona, our jump off point for Madeira. We reach this Portuguese island in the Atlantic after four days and nights at sea. On the way we are able to catch two tuna, but the first one seems too small so we release him.
The Atlantic greets us with a stiff Easterly out of the Strait of Gibraltar. Nevertheless it takes a few days until we experience the typical long Atlantic waves. They are 12-15 ft tall rolling gently below us. It feels like gliding through hilly seascape.
In Funchal on Madeira we stop for a week to explore the green and lush island and to wait for favorable wind. Well, we had hoped to escape the whole Christmas shopping this year, but Funchal beats them all: Every tree and alle the alleyways are adorned with LED-lights. Several cruise ships arrive every 24-hr period.
We head south on the tail end of a passing depression to take advantage of the favorable wind. Two days and two nights later with lots of motion we arrive in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria with an average of 7 kn which is very good for us.
My daughter Tara joins us anxiously awaiting her trip to the warm weather. As expected it is mostly sunny with temperatures from 70 to 80 F. We sail around to the south coast of Gran Canaria to Pasito Blanco and the sand dunes of Maspalomas - and the very many tourists there...
For a few days the wind has been blowing over from the African continent and carries with it Saharan dust which cuts down the visibility drastically. We continue on to the south coast of Teneriffa. It is a perfect sailing day with a force 6 from abaft the beam and Moira speeds along at up to 10 kn. Upon rounding the tall breakwater of San Miguel Marina we are hit from astern by a breaking wave and turned 90 degrees heading straight for the breakwater! With the engine in full forward we are back on track within seconds. After this shock we need a beer in the marina bar to chill out!
We head west to San Sebastian on La Gomera to stay for five days. For one we want to explore the island and also because the skipper needs to cure his cold. We hike from Gomera's highest point at around 6000 ft down through rainforest and take home as a souvenir our very sore muscles!
On New Year's day the skipper is accepted in the lofty club of 50-year-olds - what better way to celebrate this than to sail into the sun on a mild breeze?
Santa Cruz de La Palma is a secret favorite! We rent a taxi for the day, because all rental cars are booked out and bus service is erratic. Javier proudly shows us HIS island and I get a Spanish intensive on the side.
Back in Las Palmas we are looking for a quiet berth for Moira which takes the marina staff three days to find... Claudia and Tara fly back to Switzerland while I stay on to pass a few more sunny and mild days albeit hunched over in the dark and smelly engine room. It feels good to be able to do the maintenance on both the main engine and the diesel generator. Of course, it also helps to have a neighbor who is a mechanic with an on-board workshop...
I leave Moira in the hands of the local boatyard and the marina with a sad heart. The last six months were great. We will be back soon!
Cartagena, Almeria, Granada, Malaga und Gibraltar are our last stops in the Mediterranean. Granada is our highlight on the not very exciting south coast of Spain. We spend two days in the famous city near the Sierra Nevada, the original one - not the California knock-off! The city is located at about 2500 ft above sea level and much cooler. We need to warm up at the local Hammam / Turkish bath. Veeeery nice!
The next day we join the crowds to visit the Alhambra. Islamic architecture expresses much joy in life and play.
Approaching Gibraltar is exciting as our chart plotter shows all the thick marine traffic heading in and out of the Mediterranean and we have to negotiate our path between freighters at anchor and incoming as well as outgoing ships. Makes you feel a bit like a snail trying to cross the freeway!
Gibraltar itself is an odd but sympathetic place: It seems like a British miniature doll house. We enjoy five-o'clock-tea, scones, and shortbread. We fuel up on incredibly cheap and tax free fuel. And of course we visit the monkeys and caves on the famous rock.
We are welcomed by a friendly Atlantic ocean with little wind, sunshine and 70+ F weather. Where exactly the border is we could not say - water and more water! For the first time in months we are on a northerly bearing to round the famous Cape Trafalgar where Nelson was shot to death and transported home in a whisky barrel for funeral. His crew insisted to drink it to pay homage. Cheers!
We fare better than him and head up the Guadalquivir after a brief stop in Cadiz - not on your list of 100 places you need to see before you die...
After a day of motoring upstream with the help of the inflowing tide we arrive at the lock and drawbridge to arrive very late at the Real Club Nautica after a long and very interesting day passing through one of Europe's largest migrating bird sanctuaries.
Well, these names make you dream - or run away! The latter has been my choice so far, prejudiced about package-deal-tourism. But we were positively surprised by Palma de Mallorca with its extensive old town full of life, wonderful architecture and best of all the cathedral of lights with its many stained-glass windows.
For the first time we dock in an upscale yacht club like the Real Club Nautico where the king of Spain goes sailing. Even in off-season it is pricy, let alone in July/August where the berth for our boat would be 250 dollars - per night!
Once more we reluctantly pull in the ropes to stay in a bay. In clear and shallow water I start my underwater spiderman project to try and fix the rope cutter on the propeller shaft. A rope cutter comes in handy when you catch a mooring line or fishnet in your propeller. Its Delrin washers have worn away and it makes a lot of noise when motoring. Even with wearing a wetsuit I need 3x20min under water, coming up for air every 30 seconds and standing under the hot shower after every 20 minutes. On the hard the same job would not take longer than 5 minutes!
The weather presents us with a prolonged summer with temperatures of around 75 F and lots of sunshine, but alas with little wind. We motor on to Ibiza town which is not a favorite and on to a sandy beach called Espalmador that comes pretty close to our idea of paradise.
We decide to head straight to Cartagena on Spain's south coast which means another night trip, not Claudia's favorite. We need to cross shipping routes along the coast. At times this means company of as many as eight freighters and cruise ships around us. No dozing off on watch permitted!
Unforgettable is the fluorescent plankton in our wake and millions of box jellyfish that also emit light. It is a bit like flying through space.
The jellyfish also explains the dozen of dozing sea turtles we have been able to observe the previous afternoon after their favorite meal.
Encounters with wildlife particularly at sea touch our hearts. Why is that so?
For the last few weeks we enjoy not having any fixed appointments anymore and to be able to sail on at our own pace - if not for the oncoming winter season. We stay in Porto Rotondo on the Costa Smeralda for a week to repair our propeller. Our sophisticated folding propeller lost one of its three wings after we caught a mooring line in it. Luckily I was able to retrieve all the parts from the sea floor and put it all together under water again!
Via the famous La Maddalena Archipelago in NE-Sardinia we sail on to Castelsardo and through the pass at Isola Asinara following the rocky and beautiful NW-coast down to Alghero. We enjoy through strolling in the cosy alleyways of the old town and befriend an American couple. They have been on their way for eight years already and we have much to learn from them. It is such a pleasure to meet inspiring people!
So far the fixed propeller is holding up but now the autopilot is playing up. This is a vital piece of equipment and on longer cruises it does the steering for about 90% of the time. Even with the help of an expert we have not been able to locate the problem in the electronics and it only works under certain circumstances and with lots of pep talks...
We venture to take the 200 nautical mile and 36 hour jump to Menorca all the same. The full moon shows us the way to Mahon, the capital of Menorca and the largest natural harbor after Sydney. We hang around in this tidy and well organized city and even find a tea store run by a gay couple from Wales. However, a storm from the SE ist predicted and we want to get to Palma before it arrives for good. Great sailing at 75 F and mostly sunny skies with plenty of wind expects us. This is why we do this!
The famous and mundane Emerald Coast of NE-Sardinia and the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica are our home for three weeks. The weather pattern has changed to autumn. There is still 70+ F air and water temperature, but the Mistral and Tramontana winds from northerly directions blow for days on end and force us to stay in harbor. With two different crews we cross the Strait of Bonifacio four times, once with gale force winds and 10 foot seas. Quite exciting and most of the crew enjoy it... It is a great pleasure to have as guests my teacher friends an later my sister and her three boys. A German proverb says: Shared joy is double joy.
Catania seems to us like a grey, rundown city and dealing with Sicilians takes some getting used to after the cordial Greek. We rent a car and visit beautiful Siracusa and the Aetna, Europe’s biggest active volcano, which (luckily) takes a break the day when we are there.
After a crew change we travel on to Cagliari on southern Sardinia with Monique, Claudia’s friend. She is with us for the third time and does not fear the longer periods at sea ahead of us. Our first stop is Taormina, famous for its Greek amphitheater and picturesque old town atop a high cliff overlooking the Strait of Messina. Traversing this strait the next day is exciting: a strong oncoming current mixes with a strong breeze from abaft makes for a wildly foaming giant cauldron we float in.
We head straight for the Aeolian islands, named after the Greek god of winds who is out of office today. We immediately like Vulcano which we reach just in time to drop the anchor in the last light of day. Only the next day we experience and smell (think rotten eggs) the hot springs emerging from the seafloor within swimming distance. There is a mud bath with grey mud clad zombies wandering around and later in the day I hike up to the smoky crater than can be circumambulated along its ridge.
We also visit Lipari, Salina, and Filicudi briefly before heading for Ustica island. It is supposed to be a scuba eldorado but unfortunately we have to move on early the next morning to take advantage of our weather window for the 200 nautical mile passage to Cagliari. At the destination we encounter a strong northwesterly, called Maestrale with force 6 on the nose just before going into Cagliari harbor. Puh, just in time! In this pleasant and historically as well as architectonically interesting city we relax with Italian café, brioche pastries, pizza, seafood…
Together with my mom and daughter Tara we we head north through the Corfu canal with the Albanian coast in sight and head for Othonoi, a small island with an even smaller harbor on the way to Italy. From here we cross the Ionian sea to the heel of the Italian boot to a town called Santa Maria di Leuca. Weak winds all along but the marina surprises us with a welcome gift of a bottle of local wine and some ground coffee. Puglia is surprisingly organized and tidy unlike Calabria further onwards, where open garbage fires burn every morning when the breeze blows out to sea.
We opt for another night trip straight to Catania, the capital of Sicily to get there ahead of some weather and sit it out for a few days. The harbor master rolls his eyes when he talks about the upcoming Grecale and we expect a mid-sized hurricane. But in reality it is never more than force five - still in our comfort zone. But in Catania we experience the first rain in months and a sharp drop in temperature to ‚only‘ 70 F - I have to put on long trousers for the first time in two months ;-)
Der Peloponnes ist eine überraschend rauhe, gebirgige zuweilen aber auch liebliche Landschaft, den viele Segler auslassen und durch den Kanal von Korinth abkürzen. Auf dem Weg nach Monemvasia begleiten uns mehrere grössere Gruppen von Delfinen, die für eine Weile mit uns mitschwimmen, sich zur Seite drehen im Wasser und Blickkontakt aufnehmen. Am liebsten würde man ins Wasser springen und mit ihnen spielen! In Monemvasia gibt es eine Hafen-Meeresschildkröte, mit der man wirklich schwimmen kann!
Nach der Umrundung des berüchtigten aber glücklicherweise zahmen Kap Maleas im Südosten erwartet uns auf Elafonisos ein wunderbar langer Sandstrand mit türkisfarbenem Sand – wir wähnen uns (schon) in der Karibik...
Wir besuchen die faszinierenden Tropfsteinhöhlen in Dirou auf dem ‚Mittelfinger‘ des Peloponnes. In Methoni machen wir Pause bevor es auf unserem ersten Nachttörn 70sm (130km) direkt nach Zakynthos geht. Leider alles unter Motor und gegenan. Überhaupt müssen wir oft den ‚Dieselwind‘ bemühen, weil der wahre entweder Pause macht oder uns direkt von NW auf die Nase bläst.
Nach Ithaka steuern wir Antipaxi mit seinen türkisfarbenen Traum-buchten an. Leider haben das auch andere gelesen oder gehört und wir erleben den Touri-Super-GAU: Segel- und Motorjachten vor Anker, Miet-Motorboote, die dazwischen herumflitzen und Ausflugs-schiffe, die mit 120 dB Techno-Musik und mehreren hundert laut feiernden Partygängern in die Bucht fahren, wie wenn sie allein wären. Nicht zu vergessen die vielen Schwimmer und Schnorchler im Wasser…
Da gefällt uns Gaios auf Paxi viel besser. Nun etwas weiser geworden, ankern wirfür mehrere Tage an der dem Hafen vorgelagerten Insel Ayios Nikolaos mit Buganker und zwei Landleinen und flitzen mit unserem Dingi in den Hafen für den Landgang.
Schnorcheln ist immer wieder eine Freude: Nebst verschiedenen zum Teil sehr bunten Fischarten sieht man auch Krabben, Seesterne, die grossen im Sand steckenden Fächermuscheln und hier sogar eine grosse Tritonschnecke.
Via Ithaka und Meganisi, einer Insel mit sehr vielen Ankerbuchten, (der Name steht aber wohl für mega enttäuschend, da komplett überlaufen und mit trübem Wasser) steuern wir den Lefkas-Kanal an. Der Jachtverkehr hat deutlich zugenommen, befinden sich doch hier in der Gegend viele Charter-Stützpunkte. Lefkas-Stadt gefällt uns sehr gut: nicht mehr ganz griechisch, noch nicht italienisch – ganz eigen.
In Korfu erleben wir wieder mal eine grössere Stadt mit viel Geschichte und Touristenläden. Dem geneigten Leser überlasse ich es selber, Vermutungen anzustellen, welches von uns beiden Crewmitgliedern sich eher für welches Thema interessiert...
At the end of July we begin our journey from Cesme near Izmir together with our first guests Marina and Jan. Crossing the Aegean in summer is a near guarantee for Meltemi, a strong northerly wind. This means force 6 to 7 winds and short waves of 6-8 feet every day. Luckily this does not feel so bad in 90+ F sunny weather.
As soon as the anchor drops or the mooring lines are fastened we enjoy quiet trips ashore - when the ground has stopped sway...
Our highlights are Patmos, Manganitis auf Ikaria und Ermoupolis auf Siros.
While our guests head home from Lavrion/Athens we prepare for the Peloponnese circumnavigation. We realize that my planning is too tight and does not leave us enough time to relax or enjoy extended visits ashore as we have to meet our guests at a certain time and place. We will change the pace from mid October on!
Dealing with the new freedom is not so easy at first. The big questions arise: Why this journey? How do we want to travel?
Questions like these often go unanswered or are not even asked in our every-day-lives.
A year of living on the boat = one year of vacation?
So you might think...
After the intense preparations of the last months in Switzerland there is a long list of projects awaiting us on the boat as we arrive. These we work through in the first two weeks in 90 F weather. Unfortunately the works the yard promised to do are not or not satisfactorily done. This causes us quite some stress as our first guests are literally standing on the dock!
Cool, windy, but sunny april weather expects us as we leave our home port of Didim on the Turkish coast. We are heading south to find some warmth - but in vain: The Taurus mountain range in southern Turkey is deeply snowed in! At the same time last year we had 70+ F t-shirt weather here.
Our family crew with my mother and her sister, my cousin with her son, and my daughter are not easily flustered and bravely sails on - in gust we experience gale force winds! The whole week nobody got seasick either, an overestimated subject...
They say there is no bad weather just bad clothing...
Route: Didim - Bodrum - Knidos - Symi - Bozukale bay - Marmaris - Ekincik - Göcek
While the crew flies back to Switzerland I am looking forward to a week all on my own heading back to home port. Moira and I are a good team?
Route back: Göcek - Kocabük bay - Panormitis/Symi - Nisyros - Kos - Didim, total 360 nautical miles
We practice patience until we can go back aboard! In the meantime Moira is on the hard and many projects must be executed by spring.
Next to usual maintenance we are installing photovoltaic panels on a rack across the transom to make our sailboat as energy independent as possible. Electronic navigation equipment will be upgraded with a chart plotter, AIS, and digital radar.
The mast will receive foldable steps to help climb it more easily, one winch will be electrified and a DC-AC inverter will allow us to run all
our 220 V appliances off our 12 V batteries.