Monday, 25 October 2010

Sicily to Tunisia

Leaving the Egardi Islands in early morning
Trapani and Favignana Is behind us Pantelleria Harbour
A Mausoleum in Monastir, Tunisia
Hi from Clare, Sicily to Tunisia Sunday 24th October GOOD BYE ITALY, HELLO NORTH AFRICA We left the Egardi Islands on 14th October to travel 150 miles to Monastir Tunisia. The first part of the trip was to the island of Pantelleria which is about half way between Sicily and Tunisia. We had around 16knots of wind on our beam having a good sail and completing the 65 miles in eleven and a half hours (Photo 1 & 2). We spent two nights on the fishing wharf at Pantelleria waiting for a 30 knot blow to pass over before continuing on our way Photo 3). The fishing wharf was crowded leaving only one spot for yachts. So we rafted up five deep outside two racing yachts that were on their way to Malta for the Middle Sea race. The racing boats left at first light the next morning and then two large fishing trawlers behind us went out to sea leaving a big space in the corner. TAKE ACTION CAPTAIN The blow was due that night. Late in the afternoon six more yachts turned up. There was an English yacht that rafted up to us, a French yacht that decided to leave and a group of inexperienced Polish people in four hire yachts. The Polish contingency rafted up against each other in the corner. But as it happened they only had one stern line to the shore holding the four yachts. When the storm hit at 2am this line became detached and the four yachts swung around and ended up across our stern and the sterns of the other three boats rafted up to us. Andrew was on the wharf in the pouring rain giving instructions to the stunned Polish contingency. They didn’t have any idea what to do or even that they had to do anything, so Andrew became very directive and shouted over the noise of thunder and rain, “GET A ROPE – TIE IT TO THAT CLEAT – GIVE IT TO ME – GET ANOTHER ROPE etc”. By this stage it was like watching a game of “Simon Says”. I was waiting for Andrew to shout “NOW JUMP IN THE WATER”. I think they would have done it! Fortunately for Eye Candy, the yachts rafted to us on both sides were a little longer and so the Polish contingency was resting on their sterns and not ours. The following morning the Polish people were full of apologies and thanks. OUR FINAL SAIL We left the following afternoon at 4.30pm to travel the 85 miles to Monastir Tunisia. We wanted to leave and arrive in daylight due to the number of fishing nets near both harbours. Once again we had a good sail, this time on a broad reach. We made such good time that before daylight we had to drop the main and continue with only a very small jib to slow the boat down. It was a little sad knowing that this was our last sail for the season. MONASTIR FOR WINTER So we have been in Monastir for one week. For the first three days we had 30-40 knot winds so we couldn’t do much to pack the boat up. We spent the time checking into the country, organizing flights home, finding our way around and catching up with friends who are also wintering here. The last four days however have been very busy. We have stored away the sails, removed all the halyards and sheets. Andrew has done his engine maintenance, calibrated the fuel gauge and pickled the water maker. I scrubbed the dodger, bimini, side panels, boom bag and stowed them away. I then polished the stainless and washed the deck. I have also kept the laundry busy running back and forwards with doonas, quilts and lots of linen. We wanted to get these jobs done before the rain came again. We achieved our goal as today it is raining. We are having dinner tomorrow night with the English couple who were rafted up to us in Pantelleria and a Dutch couple who are next to us in this marina. All six of us are keen to do some land travel and so this will be the topic of conversation. I haven’t had my head in the right space to take photos of Monastir as yet (Photo 4). I also haven’t seen enough of it to form an opinion. I can confirm that the marina is good. We think the boat will be very safe in the water here. We have two ground lines to the front cleats, two ground lines to the centre cleats and six lines attached to the stern of the boat to the pier. We have American friends who are spending the winter here too. Andrew has agreed that they can store some of their sails inside our boat while we are at home. In return they will keep an eye on our lines and Eye Candy in general. SO WHAT NOW Hopefully we will do some land travel. The marina organizes trips for four or more people with English speaking guides. So all we need is to enroll another couple in the possibility and we will be off. Love Candy xx

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tunisia, North Africa

Hi from Clare, Tunisia, North Africa Saturday 23rd October 2010

We arrived in Tunisia last Saturday. We are both well and happy but I am too tired to write a newsletter. We have been busy packing the boat up for the winter months. I will write soon.

Love Candy xx

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Favignana, Egardi Islands

Eye Candy on the wharf House below ground level Grand residence from the Tuna days "Mother" Church and Brass Band
Hi from Clare, Favignana, Egardi Islands Monday 11th October 2010

THE WAITING GAME We have spent the week waiting for a northerly wind to carry us down to Tunisia. At this stage it looks like we will head out on Thursday or Friday; we will keep our fingers crossed.

While we wait we have completed some of the annual maintenance jobs in preparation for leaving the boat. Andrew has scrubbed the bottom of the boat in 21 degree water - a bit chilly. He then polished the sides of the boat and cleaned out the holding tanks - yuck! I have washed the cushion covers from the three beds, polished the deck, cockpit and transom. We will keep chipping away at our work list hoping to have some spare time for sight seeing once we arrive in Tunisia.

MAKING THE MOST OF IT The weather is cooler but we still like to go for a swim and make the most of the sunshine so we anchor out as much as possible. At the moment we are on the town wharf while a southerly front comes through (Photo1). It rained yesterday and last night.

We have taken three separate bus rides around this small island. The most interesting thing to see, once out of town, is the way some of the houses are built. The island has a lot of soft rock (we think it is tufor) which is used for basic houses construction. The building blocks are cut out of the ground. By the time there is enough for a house the area of land is just one big hole. The house is then built in the hole, the end result being the roof of the house is at ground level (Photo 2). The ground must be fairly porous as the holes are not water logged. They would also be well protected from the wind. It is not very attractive as there is a lot of exposed rock and very little greenery.

THE GOLDEN YEARS The town of Favignana is a mixture of old and new. In days gone by the town was very prosperous with a large tuna processing plant. Some of the older buildings are lovely (Photo 3) and back then the streets were made from large marble blocks. The old town houses are multi level and close together. Entrance to each house is through a private garden courtyard. The few we have seen are lush with greenery and flowering plants.

THE PEOPLE The community appears to be middle aged. I think the young ones would head over to the mainland for work. The shops open from 8am to 1pm and then 6pm to 9pm and the place has a siesta in the afternoon. Most of the locals seem to do their shopping in the morning. One morning I called into the butchers and it was crowded. It was a narrow shop and the customers were lined up out the door. I shuffled in with about twenty big round Italian Mumas who were all talking at the top of their voices. It was quite a social occasion and clearly they all knew each other, I was the odd one out. I was amused watching a customer shouting her order across to the butcher who I thought at any minute would put his fingers in his ears and scream 'shut up' to the lot of them. However he just kept smiling and going about this business. After waiting in the still crowded shop for fifteen minutes one of the Italian women pointed to herself and then to me indicating that I was next. Thank goodness because as the shop emptied and refilled I had lost track of the sequence. I feared cutting in on someone and being trampled underfoot by twenty irate women. When I stepped up to the counter all eyes were on me. So above all the noise of the chatter I pointed to the chicken fillets, held two fingers up and asked for "polo, duo". The women all nodded and looked at each other saying "Ah English, English". I next pointed to the pork chops and held up two fingers, all heads turned to where I was pointing and then twenty Italian Mumas did the talking for me. I couldn't help but smile and they all nodded and smiled back.

THE TRADITION The town celebrated a religious festival the other day. We think it was the blessing the fishing fleet. The Madonna statue was removed from the Mother Church and brought down in a procession to the wharf (Photo 4). There was a brass band playing throughout the day and at night we had amplified music and fireworks. We had front row seat from the boat. The music was choreographed in time with the firework explosions making it the best display we have seen in the Med.

SO WHAT NEXT Hopefully I next time I write we will be in Tunisia. We know a few people who are spending the winter months there in the marina so we will have some company.

Love Candy xx

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

West Coast Sicily

Church Towers in old town Mazara Museum, Mazara Cathedral, Mazara
Garabaldi Gate, old town Marsala
Town Hall, Marsala Marsala, old town residences
HI from Clare, West Coast Sicily Sunday 3rd October CHANGING SEASONS So it is now October and autumn has arrived. The water temperature has dropped from 28 degrees to 22 degrees and the air temperature is usually in the mid twenties. The days are still lovely and sunny with a cool breeze so it’s a great time of the year for sight seeing. However, not good for sailing as the weather is unpredictable. We can spend days at anchor waiting for the wind to die down. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE We stayed in the harbour of Castellammare Del Golfo for five nights waiting for the wind to change to the north east. It was fairly unpleasant as the sea swell caused the boat to roll day and night. We went ashore each day just for some relief. We got plenty of exercise and then sat around with the locals drinking far too much coffee. In my last newsletter I mentioned that we would watch the film Ocean’s 12 again and see if we could recognize the parts filmed in this town – we could not. WE KNOW BOATS We headed back to Trapani on Tuesday morning. Our hot water tank had sprung a leak so Andrew had it welded for the third time. It still leaks a little but we can live with it for the moment. I stayed on the boat taking advantage of the calm conditions to catch up on some domestics. COOL, CLEAR, WATER On Wednesday we sailed across to the Egadi Islands to enjoy some swimming in crystal clear 22 degree water. If we were at home in Jervis Bay we would say “22 degrees beautiful”. But we are Mediterranean squibs now so we have a quick dip and get out (cold) to lie in the sun. A FISHING TOWN The wind had changed to the north with a southerly forecast to follow in a few days. So Thursday we headed thirty miles south to Mazara del Vallo on the west coast of Sicily It is one of the most important Italian fishing ports and is well set up with a natural waterway extending well into the township. This waterway is crowded with fishing vessels, some in good repair, some very rusty, others are totally cluttered and look un-seaworthy. One smaller vessel had sunk some time ago and just left. Along the wharf there are large bundles of fishing nets and boat junk. The area stinks of fish, diesel, decaying matter and urine. SOME SIGHT SEEING AT LAST It seams that in places dating back to BC there is a new and an old part of town. So when we are approaching the harbour we have learnt to look for the old church towers so we know where to go (Photo 1). The old town in Mazara del Vallo is beautiful with grand old buildings and churches (Photos 2 & 3). The town square would have once been crowded but nowadays it is almost a ghost town with just a few tourists wondering around. AND THE SIGHTS YOU SEE However, step outside the gates of the old town and it is bedlam. We bought an ice cream and sat at a roundabout to watch the traffic driving past Italian style. It is hard to spot a car without dents. The boom gates at a rail crossing came down. Not just one gate on each side of the track (like we have at home) but two gates to block the entire width of the road. However, that didn’t stop the people from ducking under or through the barriers to cross the road. People of all ages, some chatting in groups, some talking on mobiles, but the best one was a mother who pushed her small child onto the tracks telling him to run and then she followed - we were astounded. SWEET MARSALA By Saturday the wind had changed to the south, so we headed ten miles north to the town of Marsala. The town is especially known for its fortified wine which I’m sure most of us have tasted at some point. I can remember my first taste sneaking some from the decanter at home; fairly sweet from memory. I guess had I got caught, it wouldn’t be a sweet memory. Marsala is a huge town with lots of high rise accommodation and industrial development. It looks fairly unattractive and we almost turned away. It is a twenty minute walk from the marina to the old town. The road along the foreshore is hot, dusty and deserted so we went one street back to get some shade from the buildings. This street is vastly different with fashionable shops, outdoor restaurants and plenty of traffic. It is in total contrast and yet only fifty metres apart. The old walled town has four large gates (Photo 4) and the streets within are made of marble. The buildings and churches date back to 11th century but since then have been restored or rebuilt on Norman foundations (Photos 5 & 6). We were there during siesta time so most of the shops were closed. We walked up the winding back streets and the shop fronts are very old with crumbling brickwork and doors like horse stables. But inside the buildings are totally refurbished to 21st century standard; totally unexpected. BACK TO THE ISLANDS Sunday we came across to the Egardi Islands to sit out the southerly wind. We anchored in a well protected bay along with twenty other boats. Most of them were locals enjoying the weekend so they left in the late afternoon. Today we have the bay to ourselves. It is a fabulous spot with aqua coloured water, sandy bottom; we can see our anchour in six meters of water. The wind is blowing 25 knots outside and there are plenty of white caps out there. But we sit here in calm conditions enjoying the day. We will be here for a few days waiting for the next northerly to kick in. Andrew is busy cleaning the dinghy and removing rust spots off the boat. I am supposed to be polishing the deck, so I better get to it. SO WHAT NEXT We have decided not to see Malta this year as the wind is not favourable to then go on to Tunisia. We will do Malta at the beginning of next season. We will go to Tunisia on the next northerly. We will be there around the middle of the month and this will give us some time to do some exploring. Love Candy xx