The trip was completed on a high note; by all accounts we'd managed to achieve exactly what we aimed out to do. My head was buzzing with all the potential paintings set out before me and I was anxious to get to work asap.
Initially I set up a temporary studio down in Wiltshire but it wasn't long before Julia and I were back in London and I could properly get down to work.
The new goal is a solo exhibition at the Rountree Tryon Gallery, on Bury St, St James's. The show is scheduled to open for two weeks on the 26th of September 2017 and will be my fourth exhibition with the gallery.
The work will be a distilled glimpse of the trip, searching for the significant and memorable moments that struggle to be conveyed in words. My usual approach of breaking down traditional compositions into fragmented figurative oil paintings seems to lend itself perfectly to the vibrant memories of the trip:
These beach sellers were particularly interesting as a subject matter. This large painting is 43x43 inches. The pleasure at witnessing such a bright and playful scene is balanced by empathy for the less saturated circumstances of the individual.
At this stage I am coming up to the initial deadline for paintings to be submitted for the exhibition catalogue. If you would like a catalogue and invitation, please use the contact page to pass on your email and postal address.
The images below show a selection of paintings, some still in progress that will be included.
On the 29th of September we set off from Ibiza towards mainland Spain. The previous days of turbulent weather gave way to fine sailing conditions as we embarked on the last leg of our trip. Sant Carles Marina in Catalonia would be our final destination.
Two thirds of the way along, we unexpectedly bumped into a small cluster of islands. The Columbretes Islands were named so after the astonishing number of snakes inhabiting the island over a century ago. These snakes have since become extinct thanks to the intervention of man. This islands are now uninhabited although a large lighthouse stands tall and a few other signs of activity are visible from the water. We sailed close by without stopping as our ETA was approaching midnight.
We sailed into the Ebro River Delta after dark and dropped the anchor. The next morning we were up early as there was lots to be done before our haul out at midday. We took down and folded the sails, then removed the bimini and lazybag. After tidying the loose lines we motored across to the marina in search of the travel hoist.
The lift out service was very professional and stress free. Bumblebee was gently hoisted out, washed down and laid to rest in her cradle. The yard is set on level concrete with attachment points where webbing straps pinned her securely to the floor at the bow and stern.
We found the marina after a bit of internet research. We wanted a good value hard standing yard where we would be allowed to stay on board when necessary and are able to work on the boat ourselves or with outside help. We were very impressed by the professionalism and facilities of the marina when we arrived. Soon we also learned that the staff and community also make it a very welcoming environment.
There was a long list of winterizing chores to complete in three days. Luckily there were two of us this time, and with the chance of spending a night in Barcelona if we finish on time -no time was wasted!
We expected to feel distraught at the thought of it all coming to an end. Instead we were both was overcome by an unexpected feeling of elation that we had pulled off this somewhat ambitious escapade. Here we were with our boat safely out of the water after five months of adventure and she was in even better condition than when we met her. Julia and I had so many amazing experiences that they had barely begun to register. Julia had managed to extract herself temporarily from the corporate world as is looking healthier and happier than ever. I have gathered an overwhelming amount of inspiration and material for my next exhibition. The plan seems to have gone off without a hitch!
With Bumblebee safely put to bed, we hopped on the bus to Barcelona -Julia and I both love this city. We met up with Becky and Marta and spent a wonderful evening wandering the bustling streets. The next day we hauled our oversized luggage into a taxi and set off for the airport to catch our plane to London.
Julia and I arrived in Ibiza on the 16th after a brisk 8 hour crossing from Port Andratx, Mallorca. We pulled into the first protected anchorage, named Cala Boix, where we spent the night with half a dozen other yachts. Sheltered from the northerlies by steep cliffs, we had a good nights sleep and awoke to a sparkling clean & clear bay. There were a few chores to be done, so we sailed west to Santa Eulalia, anchored and went ashore. The rest of the day seemed to disappear thanks to slow wifi and good tapas, so we ended up staying the night.
On the morning of the 18th we set sail for Formentera, just a couple of hours south of Ibiza. We were here a couple of years ago and fell in love with the island and its beautiful beaches, it never occurred to us we would be returning by boat. That night we wandered into town and hired a couple of bikes for the last hours of daylight. The wind was still blowing strong since our crossing and we spent a very lively night on anchor at Los Trocados.
We headed back into the town of La Savina the next day and rented a scooter. The beauty of Formentera is the ability to cover the whole island in a day. I took along my painting kit and revisited a few familiar spots.
We finished the day with a fine view as the sun slowly set, returning exhausted to Bumblebee for an early night.
The next day was totally different. We set out to sail around the island as we had well and truly covered it from the land. Three hours into a gentle, overcast sail, the weather suddenly changed. Out of nowhere we were hit by 30 knot gusts and the sky turned dark. After initially sheeting out the sails, we turned into the wind, fired up the engine and set to reefing the sails with some urgency. Once we had a manageable amount of canvas to the wind, things became a bit more enjoyable. In fact we made a new record of 9 knots (Only surpassed by the upside down spinnaker incident) with a reefed mainsail and just a wisp of genoa.
After the wind there came the waves. Luckily we were running downwind now so we surfed through them. Then followed the rain. With wet weather gear on and a plastic bag over the Ipad, even this torrential downpour couldn’t dampen our spirits. At one point we sheltered under a cliff with another yacht, as lightning threatened us from all around. Eventually it died down and we were able to continue our circumnavigation of Formentera.
As is often the case, the storm later gave way to sunshine, so we dropped anchor in Cala Pujols and dug out the snorkels. Here I spotted a Dorado and Julia happened upon a very bold octopus. An hour or so later, we were treated to a spectacular sunset as we made our way back to Ibiza.
We arrived after dark and anchored in front of the town, not an ideal place as it turned out to be a busy route for water taxis. We had an early start the next day as Julia needed to fly to London for a day of business meetings. Once she was ashore, I moved Bumblebee passed the main harbour and re-anchored her in Talamanca Bay in the hope of a better sleep that night. I then went for a long walk with a gas bottle in search of a fresh one.
Julia returned that evening with Henry, Will and Kelsey in tow. We ferried them aboard and gave them the grand tour. The next morning we set off back to Formentera to explore the white sands of Puerto de Espalmador and the curios rock sculptures inhabited by friendly lizards. To cross between the islands we waded through crystal clear shallows, passing day trippers carrying their belongings above their heads.
Later on, we moved Bumblebee closer to the harbour and went off to explore. We found a suitable beach bar with wickedly priced drinks, so settled for beers all round. The music was odd but he sunset was spectacular, finishing with an unexpected burst of applause from the assembled patrons. We spent the night anchored just off the beach and returned to the town in the morning for supplies. Luckily we weren’t gone too long as we returned to find our dinghy adrift from the beach and on its way into the harbour.
From Formentera we sailed back to Ibiza, making landfall at Esenada de la Canal. Here we wandered amongst the beach bars and party crowds in search of the deserted salt lakes hidden behind. From Esenada we sailed on to Cala de Port Roig, where we anchored for the night.
It was here that we were struck by the most severe thunderstorm of the trip. For several hours we watched with amusement as an intense electrical storm put on an impressive display some distance away. At around midnight the storm hit and the calm breeze surged instantly to 40 knots. The lightning was intense and right over us, the rain poured down in torrents and the whole time I was aware that the anchor was poorly set in weeds. Convinced we would drag, we fired up the engine and tried to relieve some strain from the anchor. My anchor alarm went berserk as we dragged through the anchorage some 50 metres. Our nearest boat was just three metres off our stern when the anchor finally gripped and held us tight. The storm raged intensely for about an hour before dissipating into warm rain showers and occasional lightning. That was when Oli phoned and said he’d arrived.
Through some inexplicable lack of cognitive processing, we had all been discussing where best to pick up Oli, but failed to realise that he was arriving that very day. Without letting on, we instructed him to get a taxi to Port Roig, where we’d be waiting. Henry and I donned our wet wet-weather gear once again and set out in the dinghy. The lightning obligingly lit the way as we navigated to the shore and found a path up to the road. Here we waited, in the rain for Oli to arrive. We witnessed a dustbin lorry (possibly from the future) empty the bins with a remote control robotic arms while Henry tried to hustle himself into the cockpit for a closer look.
With some relief, the three of us reached the boat with all Oli’s bags still dry. By now it was approaching 4am and Julia awoke to find us all soaked but happy in the saloon. I was knackered so went to bed but Henry and Oli were brimming with energy so took to the dinghy and went AWOL.
We awoke in the morning and there was no sign of them. During the storm we had twisted around a mooring buoy and discovered our anchor had lodged itself in a rocky trench –hence why we were held fast. We retrieved our abandoned dinghy from the shore (managing to hotwire it with a cable-tie) and set off from Port Roig. In the next door bay we scooped up Oli and Henry, who had somewhere along the way picked up breakfast and icecream. Tales ensued hitchhiking to nearby towns and other antics as we sailed up the west coast.
The imposing outline of Vedra island loomed into sight around the headland. After sailing between the islands and some tentative prospecting, we dropped anchor just east of Islote Vedranell, the smaller of the two. We tied the dinghy amongst the sharp rocks and proceeded to climb as high as we could up the island, taking in the impressive view below.
From there we made way as fast as possible to Sant Antoni in the hope of taking on some water and fuel. We succeeded in the latter but were asked to return at 10am the next day for water. With the fenders left out we motored just out of the harbour and anchored in the tiny inlet of Port del Torrent.
The next day, with fully charged fuel, water and fridge, we sailed past Sant Antoni to the lovely little Cala Salada. We swam, climbed and soaked up the chilled atmosphere. Sadly this was the day that Will and Kelsey would be leaving us, so we delivered them back to Sant Antoni, where we cheekily topped up our water tanks again. W&K would be moving up the island and we made plans to meet again in a couple of days by Cala Portinatx. Since it was now dark we chose our familiar spot from the night before to anchor. In the morning we picked up our newest recruit; Pinar had flown from Dusseldorf to join us for the final few days of our trip.
The next day, two crew down but one up, we set off to explore the north coast of Ibiza. This coastline is steep and wild, with few signs of civilisation. We passed Islas Margaritas, where a large hole through the rock is navigable by dinghy. We continued on with Oli setting up my trolling gear for guaranteed success. We arrived and anchored in Cala Binirras a stunning bay brimming with underwater life.
The decision was made (probably by Julia) to scramble up the nearby hill. This turned out to be tougher than anticipated, with sections of near vertical climbs punctuated by patches of loose, crumbling rock. Once at the summit we all agreed the descent would be a nightmare and an alternative route should be sought. We wound our way through an inhospitable terrain of scratchy shrubs and felled trees with Olis’ repaired flip flops doing and admirable job of not slowing him down. Night began to fall and things started to get a bit tricky. We finally found a road, emerging onto the tarmac sporting the odd minor flesh wound.
On the way out of Cala Binirras the next morning, we pulled up alongside a small rocky island rising steeply from the water. After a quick lap in Bumblebee, Oli took to the water and swam across to the overhanging rock face. Once he was on his ascent, Julia jumped in too, closely followed by myself. Henry had to remind himself of his recent shoulder operation or he’d be up there as well, leaving just Pinar to keep the boat hovering nearby.
By the time Oli reached the summit, I was hot on is heels but self-preservation kept me from attempting the last few metres of vertical rock. Julia and Henry found a way up a lower part, on the other side of the island and dived off headfirst. With the rocky island well and truly conquered we were once again on our way.
Cala Xaracca distracted us for a few pleasant hours scrambling up cliffs and snorkelling. We had an appointment for Lunch with Will and Kelsey in the next-door bay so couldn’t stop for long. En route to lunch we took the opportunity of deploying Oli and Henry in the dinghy, armed with a camera to take some stills of us sailing past. They got some good pics that might be useful in the coming months.
Lunch was at El Puerto in Cala Portinatx. We reunited and enjoyed sangria and paella, after which we saw Henry into a taxi and on his way home. A plan was then hatched to return to Cala Xaracca and search out the healing muds that we missed on our visit earlier that day. Will and Kelsey walked, we sailed. The mud was found and enjoyed by all.
That evening it was Oli’s turn to exit, so feeling rejuvenated by the mud, we returned to Bumblebee. Some took the dinghy, the others swam right through a sea of jellyfish. Farewell drinks were had onboard before dropping him off ashore and heading back to anchor in Cala Portinatx. Will and Kelsey also departed and the three of us remaining tried to get some sleep in preparation for an early crossing to the mainland the next day. The forecasts were not great and in the morning the sea was very lumpy and blowing a near gale. We set out to see just how bad things were, only making way for twenty minutes before being forced back by waves slamming us all over the place. Our plans had to be changed so we delayed departure for a day, Pinar booked a flight direct from Ibiza and we used the bonus day to check out the hippy market in Es Canna.
For a hippy market there were very few hippies and a very organised feel to the proceedings. Julia skilfully managed to hunt down a few essential purchases but we left underwhelmed. Things picked up again when we decided to spend the evening in Ibiza Old Town, retracing our steps from our first visit four years previous. We left Pinar to fly the next day and headed back to a turbulant anchorage, where a handful of new arrivals were sheltering from the elements. In the morning we awoke to fine conditions and set sail for mainland Spain on the final leg of our voyage.
We awoke on the 6th to howling winds of 30+ knots. We were sheltered in Cala Gat but we could see boats further out being tossed all over the place. We swam, climbed on the rocks and had breakfast, waiting for the gusts to abate. Eventually we got impatient and headed out of the tiny Cala, bearing west. Upon leaving the bay, the waves grew large and soon we had 3 metre swells overtaking us. The wind was also very strong and as we were in no hurry, we turned back to safety. We dropped anchor just off Cala Rajada in 3 metres, above sand. The girls prepared a delicious lunch of sausages and peppers as Bumblebee was buffeted by the wind.
Later on the wind died down and we surfed out of the bay on huge waves, past the caves de Atra and into the safety of Cala de Canyamel. Once Bumblebee was securely anchored, we went ashore to explore and find some decent wifi.
The next day we sailed to the minuscule Cala Petita, where we found a perfect beach with filthy water. Disappointed, we walked but did not swim. We moved on down the south east coast to Cala Magraner, where we would anchor for the night. As we arrived we were reassured to find a few other yachts with the same idea.
While swimming, Julia spotted an octopus hiding under our anchor, which she harassed for ages trying to get him to emerge for a photo. We also saw a goat chased around the cliffs by a dog, finding safety on an impossibly inaccessible promontory above the boat. Later we rowed the dinghy ashore and walked along the cliff top until the light faded.
We were running low on water and supplies so the next morning we pulled into Port Petro. The welcome was not quite what we hoped for and we were relived of 20 Euros to fill up our tanks and nip to the shops for an hour. To assist in Slawek’s progression up the RYA ladder, he was appointed skipper for the day. The stern-to mooring in crosswinds was a good introduction and was smoothly executed. From Porto Petro, he lead us to Cala d’es Burgit where we spent the night moored with a line to shore just around the corner in Cala Mondrago. The water since Cala Petita was much cleaner and Mondrago was no exception.
We had hoped to spend a night in the tiny fishing village of Cala Figuera, but the online booking system wouldn’t cooperate. Instead we arrived just before lunch the following day. The tiny quay was empty, so we helped ourselves and tied up. No one came to bother us for payment so we left Bumblebee and went for a wander around the tiny harbour.
We had lunch in Cala Figuera, then pushed on along the south coast to a remote little spot called Cala des Marmois. This was by far the closest thing to perfection we had experienced so far! The water was gin clear and there was a small beach flanked by stunning cliffs, which concealed caves with air pockets. We climbed the cliffs on both sides, swam into the tiny caves and enjoyed a little piece of paradise. As the sun began to set, the day trippers left and we had the bay to ourselves and just one other yacht.
On the morning of the 10th we rounded the south western point of Mallorca and began our way up the west coast. We would be saying farewell to Ania and Slawek the next morning so decided to book ourselves into the Marina at Rapita. With our berth secure, we first stopped at a beach along the way for a stroll and a drink. We then sailed on past the marina to check out Cala Pi. As we neared our destination, we had an early supper on the go when the heavens opened and we were caught in a mighty deluge. Thunder and lightning surrounded us and we even saw a small twister on the horizon. As quickly as it came, it was gone and the sun appeared as we anchored below the small town of Cala Pi.
We returned to Marina sa Rapita and went the whole night without sleep thanks to the tacky nightclub beside the marina. At 7am Ania and Slawek left for their flight back to Amsterdam. Paulina was still with us and within the hour we had two new crew, as James and Katherine pulled up in their hire car. They arrived armed with breakfast and a brand new ensign. This was no ordinary ensign, it was sourced by my mum from her friend Robin Ashburner, who is an authority on all things vexillologic. As you can see the old one looked like it had circumnavigated the globe. We received it in that state so the kudos was not rightly ours, however with the new flag hoisted, Bumblebee clearly meant business.
James and Katherine’s first day onboard was almost completely windless. We made slow progress under engine up the western coast. Paulina needed to leave us after lunch to catch her flight back to Warsaw, so we scoured the coast for a suitable stopping point. We discovered a beach club nestled into the hillside called sHares, not cheap but there was a pool and a bar snack menu.
That night we anchored just outside the marina and took J&K ashore by dinghy. They had a house rented so would not be sleeping on the boat.
The next morning we found J&K waiting for us in the marina, again armed with breakfast and even lunch. Today we would visit the island of Cabrera, 2 hours off the south western coast. The island is a nature reserve and in order to visit we had to book a mooring buoy in advance.
On the way we intercepted a pair of dolphins who inspected the boat momentarily, then headed on their way. Our first dolphin sighting since Sicily!
We attached to a mooring buoy in the main bay of Cabrera and climbed a hill to the old fort. From here we had a panoramic view of the bay and the coast. We returned to the boat for a swim and some lunch. We were not staying the night so were soon on our way, as there was much to see. As we slipped out of the bay we saw a stunning classic yacht proudly dangling an impressive ensign.
Just around the corner in the next door bay there was a large cave. It was too deep to anchor so one of us hovered with the boat while the others went for a closer look with the dinghy and snorkeling kit.
We motored clockwise around Cabrera to a deserted bay on the south side. This was a little slice of paradise; there were plenty of mooring buoys and no other boats to be seen.
The sun was now quite low so we headed back to the cave to see the inside illuminated by the low light. The airs were gentle so we boldly motored within a couple of metres of the caves entrance. At this point Julia decided to leap in with the waterproof camera to get some closer shots. She leaped off the bow and re-emerged with the news she had dropped the camera, I looked at the depth gauge, it read 19 metres. We swam over the area and estimated the camera to be on the seabed at about 16 metres. Only by diving down half way was it possible to see the grey strap attached to the camera.
There is obviously a happy ending to this story as the photos from the camera make up this post. It was after countless attempts to reach the bottom, for a camera that was invisible for the first ten metres, as the light was fading, until we had success. Armed with her freedive fins, Julia descended to ten metres then spotted the camera and carried on into the deep. I was very concerned that no help was around if something went wrong but she broke the surface some time later triumphantly clutching the camera!
That evening we had a perfect sail back to Mallorca. Healed over at seven knots we saw the sun go down and arrived in San Jordi to drop the anchor in the dark. The next day we had a farewell lunch at the Panoramica restaurant on the approach to Palma.
On our own once again we set sail after lunch for Cala Portals Vells, across the bay, skipping past Palma. The sea was rough and the Cala was crowded but with no guests onboard we didn’t mind. There were caves to explore, dug out in the 15th century to build the city of Palma. We explored the small beaches and snorkeled amongst the rocks. Julia spotted an octopus and I spotted some kind of ‘glamour’ photo shoot going on above.
With little time and lots to see, we headed north to Port Andratx where we could hire a car and explore more efficiently. What should have been a one hour hop turned into a five hour mission as the sea threw up huge waves and the wind howled past at 30 knots.
Port Andratx was a pleasant surprise, we moored up for a very reasonable fee right in the heart of the town. Trip Advisors no.1 pizza place was just next door and we ate there twice. On the 15th we bussed into the next door town and hired a car. We started our tour at Port Soller and headed back along the coastal road via Deia, Banyalbufar and Estelencs. The sky was grey but could not detract from these stunning locations. On the last leg of our journey I clipped the edge of the skinny road and within a few minutes we had a flat tyre. 20 minutes later we were back in action on the spare and returned the car slightly less pristine than we had received her.
On Friday the wind shifted for the west and blew in a favourable direction to cross to Ibiza. We took our chance and departed Mallorca, with high hopes for a comfortable 9 hour sail to one of the last islands of our journey.
The same day that we dropped off Giles in Olbia, Sardinia, Julia and I both headed to the UK. My folks had just finished their new house, were having a party and this was to be the first gathering which would also be attended by my new nephew and niece, both produced while we were away!
After the quick trip we were back in Olbia Marina, where we found Michal and Natasha patiently waiting for us on Bumblebee. They were armed with prosecco, ham and balloons, so were most welcome. Unfortunately they also brought the rain, or was that us? Either way the next morning the clouds moved in and the rain soon followed.
After a night in the marina we made our exit, following the generously proportioned Pink Gin out into the channel and past the expanse of mussel farms. As we sailed out of the gulf of Olbia, an exhausted bumblebee came to rest in the cockpit. We gave her some shelter and honey, which she readily accepted and spent the next hour sucking on before springing back to life and buzzing away.
It was the 30th of August and the wettest day we have had so far. The pay off came in the form of a dramatic sunset followed buy an intense electrical storm. Before anchoring we circumnavigated the island of Tavolara. At first the steep sided limestone island seemed deserted but as we rounded the eastern end we noticed a huge radio antenna connecting three mountainous points. The chart showed a NATO base and we realised we had accidentally crossed into a restricted area. The base appeared to be completely underground as we could see several roads leading into the mountain. As we rounded to the north side we were observed by a man sat in a 4x4, tracking us through binoculars.
We anchored for the night on the west end of the island where there was a restaurant. They refused to serve us for some reason so we ate on the boat. A bit of Googling revealed the island’s strange history as an independent kingdom, a seat currently claimed by the owner of the restaurant –apparently claiming to be a descendant of the royal family.
As we anchored, the sky temporarily cleared and gave way to a spectacular rainbow followed by strange marshmallow clouds. The lightning storm that night was intense with the nearby antenna attracting strikes several times a second. The sky lit up like a strobe light as we huddled inside; our phones and laptops in the oven for protection!
The next morning we sailed back into Olbia to collect our newest crewmember. Slawek is a good friend from Amsterdam and came to help with the crossing to Menorca. We docked alongside the town quay, where he was waiting. A quick stop at the fishing shop to replace the 300m of braid that a speedboat robbed me of and we were on our way. We sailed out of the Gulf of Olbia for the third time and made our way north. Michal had discovered a tiny beach with a railway station, where we could drop them off on their return journey via Cagliary. We pulled into a beautiful little bay, dinghied them ashore and left them hoping a train would stop. The three of us remaining wasted no time setting sail as we had a long journey ahead of us.
That evening we pulled into a small marina on the island of Maddalena. We needed fuel in the morning and though a night in town was justified as the next day we would to set off on a 48 hour sail to the Balearic Islands. We ate at a pleasant seafood restaurant and planned the journey to come. There was a brief weather window giving us just enough time to cross before the Maestrale kicked off and 40 knots of wind would land in our face. We crosschecked five or so weather sources and decided we could make it.
It took ten hours the next day to cross the north of Sardinia. It was dark when we passed through the 3m deep Forneli Passage but soon we were out in the open sea.
We took turns at watch during the night. As with our Sicily-Sardinia crossing there was no moon, so the night was very dark. At first we had westerlies as expected so motored for the best part of the night, keeping a high course to set us up for the close winds forecast during the day. As daylight came, the winds veered and we were tearing across the Mediterranean with full sails up and a brisk close reach. The great condition continued all day, with the toe rail in the water on a starboard tack.
48 hours was the longest any of us had spent sailing nonstop. Time passed quickly with sketching, reading and helming. Julia managed to concoct some delicious meals while healed right over and bashing through the waves.
The second night was as dark as the first. The stars shone brightly and there were very few other boats to be seen. Dire Straits saw us through the small hours and soon after sunrise we had our first sight of land. As we approached Menorca, my fishing line went slack and I discovered the snap swivel had worn through, setting free a new Rapala diving lure. We eventually pulled into Mahon at 11:05am, exactly 48 hours after setting off!
We tried but failed to find a chandlery with a Spanish courtesy flag and a Balearic harbour guide book, so we sailed up around the coast to a picturesque bay for a swim and a celebratory drink. Later we returned to Mahon and anchored just inside the harbour. We took to the dinghy ashore but misjudged the distance to town and ended up exploring one of the suburbs instead.
Ania and Paulina were due to fly in and join us for the week. The only problem was, we told them to meet us in Mallorca. There appeared to be no suitable flights or ferries so we had no choice but to set off on the 9 hours crossing. We were later to discover there was a fast, cheap ferry but by then we were just hours from Alcudia, Mallorca. On the way we stopped at Cales Coves for lunch and a swim. This turned out to be a mini paradise with cavernous cliffs on both sides but rather dirty water. Julia found a good little cliff for bouldering and we passed a local lady swimming her dog.
The girls were arriving in Alicudia around 10pm so we spent a good hour trying but failing to set the anchor outside the marina. Three times we failed to get a good hold in just 3m, due to weeds. We gave up and headed into the marina. Via VHF channel 9 we were told the marina was full so we decided to tie up to the fuel quay and hope for the best. To our surprise we had a full night’s sleep and no one moved us along in the morning. One attendant suggested we should visit the office as we had spent the night in the marina. We did so but no one had reported our details, never the less they were pleased to have us fill out some forms and pay the standard fee.
Since we had now paid we tried to make the most of it. The chandlery was well stocked and we now have a new cruising bible. Rod Heikel got us through Greece and Italy but his photography just didn’t inspire us. This new book however is stuffed full of stunning aerial views and breathtaking polarized photography. It is awesome. We cleaned down the decks, refueled, filled our water tanks and did some provision shopping –all the while Bumblebee was getting in the way on the fuel dock. Eventually they got fed up with us, luckily just as we were ready to leave.
The Maestrale that we were avoiding on the crossing would soon arrive so we headed out of Alicuda, rounded the south east coast and nestled into a tiny anchorage called Cala Gat. Navionics on the chartplotter claimed anchoring was prohibited but the new book told us what we wanted to hear. We anchored, swam, then went ashore in search of sustenance.
With Elyse, Ed, Julia and myself onboard we made our way up the East coast of Sardinia. We anchored for a late lunch in a bay just south of Arbatax. Setting off a bit later than planed, we decided not to embark on the long stretch of baron coast and instead, looked for a spot to anchor for the night. We found a small island north of Arbatax called Del L’Ogliastra with sculptural wind eroded rocks and strewn with cactus. We dropped the hook on the inside shore and dinghied over to the island for a closer look.
We climbed up the rock face as the sun set, with Elyse and Julia reaching a small shrine the summit. On the way back to Bumblebee Ed and I gave a tow to some lost looking folk in a toy inflatable boat. It was unclear where they had come from or where they thought they were going.
As we sailed on north the next morning, we stopped at tight little anchorage by a rocky inlet. The chart pointed to a wreck in amongst the rocks so we went to investigate. There turned out to be huge remnants of a ship, smashed against the rocks some fifty or so years ago.
We pushed on up the east coast for the rest of the afternoon, anchoring momentarily for Julia to have a Skype conference call. As the sun set we pulled into a calm bay just south of Caletta. The chart showed the wreck of a 1960’s Corsair plane just by the anchorage, so at first light we set off in search but failed to locate it.
Our fuel was getting worryingly low so we made a stop at the marina at Caletta. The pumps were closed as it was midday so we tied up to the quay, did a supply shop and filled up the water tanks. While this was going on a pair of dolphins entered the marina and swam a few laps.
That night we had a very generous invitation to join our friend Charlotte and her family for supper onboard their 1981 78ft Swan. We made our way to Punta di Capacciolo where we had no trouble spotting their 30 metre masts and large Swedish flag. We anchored close by and started getting ready to join them for supper.
While showering and changing, a large motoryacht swept past, rocking the boat and sending everything flying. A large bottle of liquer smashed in the galley, covering the floor in sticky alcohol and glass. We had to lift all the floorboards and wash down the bilge with buckets of water.
After congregating on the bow to help swill all the fresh water into the bilge, we climbed into the tender and motored over to supper. We had a lovely evening with the kindest hosts who showed us all around their classic superyacht and treated us to great food and some fantastic wine. As we left them around midnight they weighed anchor and set off on their long journey south to Cagliary. We were all overwhelmed by their hospitality and fantastic ship.
Olbia was our next target as Giles was due to arrive the next day. As we approached the area, the average boat size multiplied and the traffic grew thick. We selected a suitable spot for lunch, pulling in to find it swarming with ribs and superyachts. There was good reason for this as the water was bright turquoise and strewn with interesting rocks and sandy patches. We tendered across to the shore and climbed up the rocky hill to the summit. Here we found a path and followed it to the far end of the island where we found an abandoned settlement. The route back down was a bit trickier as we descended a dried up river but luckily emerged in roughly the right place.
We were close to Olbia that evening when we anchored in a wide bay by Porto Istana. After securing Bumblebee we took the coastal path for a brisk 3km stroll to the nearby marina. The marina was small and really only suitable for motorboats, here we found a fantastic little restaurant. They were fully booked but kindly let us order if we sat on the benches outside. We had some epic mixed seafood and returned along the path tired and content.
The next day we sailed into Olbia to collect Giles. We planned to pull up at the fuel quay, fill up and kill time until Giles arrived from the nearby airport. As we arrived the wind flared up and we were pushed around by 30 knot gusts. We managed to secure ourselves alongside the fuel quay with some difficulty but Giles turned up on cue and we were soon on our way with a full belly of fuel. The wind carried on blowing for the rest of the evening and after aborting a trip out of the Gulf of Olbia due to wind and waves we dropped anchor amongst a throng of other yachts by Aranci. Here we settled down to supper and cards inside the cabin as the wind howled past.
In the morning we made our way out of the gulf of Olbia and sailed towards the Maddalena Islands. On the way we pulled into Porto Cervo to gawk at the opulent array of megayachts. The whole area was swarming with boats of inconceivable scale, leaving behind them wakes large enough to almost sink us!
As we passed the Maddalena Islands we spotted a beautiful inlet and pulled in for lunch. When we dropped the anchor we noticed the 30m metre Jongert ‘Anamcara’ we first came across in Corfu. The captain and mate were really helpful with advice when planning to leave Greece so it was great to show them how far we’d come. They alerted us to some strong north easterlies on their way and agreed that our plan to head for west Corsica should keep us out of the worst of it.
After lunch we continued north and set out across the Gulf of Bonifacio to spend a couple of days in and around the famous harbour town. As we set out, we met large rolling waves of about two or three metres but with a comfortable wavelength, making for a fun ride. Giles helmed most of the way, clearly having a good time.
Bonifacio is a breathtaking harbour to enter. At first we saw a tight huddle of buildings perched impossibly atop hundred metre cliffs. The entrance is invisible until you round the huge limestone caves on either side and pass the gun emplacements built into the sheer cliff edges. Inside the shelter of the deep gorge the wind is barely noticeable but the volume of water traffic took us by surprise. Sightseeing boats whip in and out, sailing boats jostle for space, little tenders buzz around and all the while gigantic megayachts shuffle into tight berths. We arrived at about 7pm and the place was rammed.
With no chance of a berth for the night we tried the smaller inlet with mooring lines coming away from the cliff. This too was full to bursting, so we departed in the company of other disappointed yachts in search of the nearby anchorages. These were just fifteen minutes up the coast and were also crammed full of yachts. After a bit of circling we secured ourselves a spot to drop the hook. It was getting dark but we were determined to explore the town. Using Google we located a rocky path that wound it’s way for 5km to Bonifacio. We left Bumblebee, tendered to the shore and found the path. By now it was dark and the path was hard work with flip-flops, eventually we managed to reach the town. We had supper in a quay-side restaurant followed by ice-cream before navigation the treacherous path once again and returning to the boat.
The wind picked up over night and we awoke with a bang! I scrambled onto deck to find the yacht in front had dragged its anchor and drifted right onto our chain. Luckily Bumblebee wasn’t touched so we paid out some slack to allow the other boat to power forward and off our chain. They anchored again upwind of us and spent some time swimming around their stern inspecting for damage. The wind continued to build and was gusting around 36 knots by 9am. We were all out on deck having breakfast, keeping a close eye on our surroundings when we too started to drag! In a flash we had the engine on and powered forward to pick up our chain so that we too could re-lay our anchor and hope for the best.
The wind showed no sign of abating, so instead of anxiously watching our anchor, we decided to head out for a sail. As we headed up the west coast of Corsica the wind developed into a full gale and we flew along amongst breaking waves and salt spraying in our faces. We were right on the edge of our comfort zone when a huge gust overpowered us, almost knocking us down. The rudder lifted out, we swung round, healed right over and came back up at 90 degree to our course. After that we furled up the sails and decided to motor instead.
Our water tanks were almost empty so we took a course for a nearby marina in what looked to be a sheltered inlet. The inlet turned out to be anything but sheltered and they were unwilling to give us water so we turned and left. We rounded the corner towards another bay where we could rest for a bit. As we motored along the wind dropped completely and for a moment there was a flat calm. It was not to last as the wind soon powered up, this time in exactly the opposite direction. The bay offered some relief from the wind as we anchored amongst clear patches of sand. As we sat and had lunch we were joined by Anamcara once again.
We headed back into Bonifacio after lunch to try our luck once again. It was 4pm when we arrived so we expected to get a berth. I phoned ahead and was told there were spaces but we could not book. As usual it was chaos inside the harbour. We waited in line with five other yachts, occasionally getting out of the way for a gin-palace to pass by. It quickly became clear that the harbour helpers in their ribs couldn’t care less about any boat under than sixty or so feet. After half an hour of this, one came to inform us the harbour was full. Somewhat disgruntled we headed up to the moorings, back towards the entrance. We were lucky and found a vacant lazyline where we managed to secure ourselves. Finally we were safely tied up in Bonifacio.
We took the dinghy ashore and went to explore the old town. We had supper with a view out over the Gulf from a cliff top restaurant. Later we found a shop still open and stocked up on a few essentials before returning to Bumblebee for Aperol Spritz and a few hands of Rummy.
We were still desperate to fill the water tanks, so in the morning we nipped over to the marina quay, tied up and filled our tanks. We were told we could fill up and stay for a couple of hours for ten Euros, so we did just that. We had breakfast in a boulangerie and explored a bit more of the old town. Soon enough the wind kicked up again and we found ourselves moored side-on to 30 knots of wind. We doubled up our mooring lines, while boats around us tried and failed to moor alongside. As no one came to tell us to move, we made good use of the time and set about fixing the water-cooled fridge. This was achieved by cleaning the filter and having Ed give the sea water tubing a good blow.
The wind kept gusting and the lines were under a lot of strain so we decided to leave the harbour. Earlier, from above the town, I noticed a few boats taking shelter below the southern cliffs, so we made our way to join them. We anchored within a stone’s throw of the cliff and waited for the wind to die down. While securely anchored we snorkelled amongst hundreds of fish, discovered a huge drive-in collapsed cave and looked on as Elyse hurled herself of the rocks!
That evening the wind died down and we were able to cross back to Sardinia. We anchored in a busy bay just south of Is. Santa Maria, waking up in the morning to find hundreds of boats swarming around us. We sailed east, past Maddalena Island to Caprera and found Cala Coticcio, aka ‘Tahiti’. Anchoring here was a nightmare as it was crowded and deep. Once the hook was secured some boats began to depart and we decided to stay for the night. Julia and Elyse climbed the nearby rocks, attempted to tame the local goats and were eaten alive by mosquitoes. I remained on the boat trying to upload this blog post through a painfully slow 3G connection.
Friday came and with it the departure of Ed and Elyse. We sailed into Olbia, had lunch tied up to the fuel quay, took a team photo and said farewell. With Giles due to leave the next morning we spent the night on anchor by the old town and went ashore for a bit of exploration and pizza.
We pulled into the harbour of Carloforte on the evening of the 12th. A bit of Googling beforehand revealed a free town quay, which luckily had a Bumblebee size space left free. It was an awkward spot but we managed to manoeuvre into place and set to work piling up fenders and spring lines to absorb any wash from the passing ferries.
Our crew at this point included Julia and myself, plus our Sardinian friends Rossella and her brother Marco. We would be staying at their house above the harbour, so thought it prudent to leave a note on the boat with emergency phone numbers.
Our first impression of Carloforte was of a calm authentic town without the tourist tat and restaurant touts found in previous places. Here people can buy fresh fish directly from the boats and Tuna is the local speciality. Rossella and Marco (R&M) took us straight to the best tuna restaurant to sample the local delicacies; a tuna tasting menu and bottarga carbonara.
After a proper night’s sleep in a real bed, we hopped in Marco’s car and set out to tour the island. We made our way to La Conca, with it's curious rock formations that were a popular spot for cliff jumping and snorkelling.
The town itself is a wonderful maze of tiny streets and twisting steps where life is lived outside each house; old ladies set up chairs in the middle of the streets and children doodle in chalk on the paving stones.
After two nights on the town quay, with the fenders getting black from the rubbing strips, we took bumblebee out for a tour of the island’s coast. We had R&M onboard and Michele joined us too. We sailed out to the north and headed west around Carloforte, reaching a point where the cliffs dropped down into the sea. The underwater topography was a mix caves and huge boulders with a patch of sand large enough for a few boats to anchor. We sat down to lunch and dug out the masks and fins.
We hoped Rossella’s friend Hugo might join us and part with a bit of wisdom as he is a deep sea diver and freedive instructor. In the meantime we thought it would be a good idea to hoist Marco’s GoPro and get some footage looking down from the mast. The mistake we made was not accounting for the weight of the halyard overcoming the camera and leaving it stranded on the topping lift! We immediately realised our mistake but it was too late and the GoPro was out of reach. Various retrieval methods proved unsuccessful including launching a snorkel attached to a line and casting a squid jig with a fishing rod (which also got stuck). In the end we sent Julia up to complete the mission, keeping the nearby boats well entertained. We returned to Carloforte and treated Bumblebee to a night in the marina.
Sunday was a national holiday and we were invited to a party just outside the town. Roast piglet was served; head and all! We drank rum, smoked cigars and danced until the small hours.
On Monday we said fare well to R,M&M and set off back towards Cagliary. We had a great time on Carloforte and were sad to leave. Fortunately we were on our way to pick up Ed and Elyse so spirits were soon raised. As we left we saw boats being mobbed by the competing marinas for business as they approached the harbour!
We anchored after dark at Porto Pino, setting off at dawn past Malfatano where we sat out the Maestrale a few days earlier. A kind English couple from the marina invited us for a curry onboard their motoryacht anchored nearby but we were already on our way.
On Tuesday we rounded the southeast corner, past Villasimius and made our way north. At 4pm we anchored off the beach of Sant Elmo, deployed the dinghy and collected Ed and Elyse in very choppy conditions. We continued up the East coast with strong following winds and waves pushing us along nicely. At the party on Sunday I chatted with a delivery skipper with ten years of experience. I mentioned a downwind sail we had not yet found the confidence to dig out of the locker and hoist. He urged me to stop worrying and string it up. So that afternoon, after a bit of discussion, saw us wrestling with what turned out to be a huge blue spinnaker. None of us had a clue what we were doing.
We connected a few lines and a halyard and hauled it up. The power of the wind as it filled the sail was phenomenal and in the ensuing moments of chaos we reached a new record of 9.2 knots. The photo below looks quite cool until you realise the sail is upside down! We somehow managed to wrestle it back down only to raise it a second time completely twisted. After these two failed attempts we were exhausted and lucky to still be onboard with all our limbs. We stuffed the spinnaker into the forward hatch and agreed to google spinnaker sailing that evening.
That evening turned out to be in the sheltered harbour of Corallo. There was a large welcoming party gathered on the quay who we guessed were not there for us. It was unfortunate though as we had hundreds of spectators as we messed up a windy stern to mooring. There was help on hand with a filthy dinghy that shoved us around making a mess of clean white hull.
The gathering turned out to be for a religious holiday. We sat confused as a fleet of boats filled with priests, officials and a Virgin Mary, then set out to sea. We left the boat and wondered up to the only restaurant, where we luckily found an empty table. There followed delicious pizza, a bit of supply shopping and a well-earned sleep.
Our next stop was the Sardinian capital of Cagliary. Here we picked up Julia’s friend Rossella and her brother Marco (R&M). Julia has known Rossella since high school in America and being Cagliary residents, the whole family came down to welcome us.
That evening we left Bumblebee firmly secured to the pontoon at Marina San’Elmo, while Rossella’s father took us out for some proper pizza. The next day R&M whisked us off for a high-speed tour of their city, before returning to the marina and setting sail by mid-afternoon.
After too many nights staying in marinas we were determined to anchor whenever possible. We decided to make the anchorage at Pula our first stop. From there we would spend three days making our way to the island of Carlo Forte where we had been invited to a party and where R&M have a house.
The next day we made our way to Malfatano, just a few hours further around the coast. During the journey the wind built up and we had our first taste of the infamous Maestrale, which blows in hard from the northwest. The current fought against the wind a kicked up an unpleasant sea. Luckily we were close to our destination which offered a safe haven from the gusts. We motored in and set our anchor; unaware we would not be able to leave for the next two days.
There is a great beach bar in Malfatano where we got spaghetti bottarga to take away, as they were fully booked. It turns out there are far worse place to be stranded than this idyllic bay and we spent an enjoyable day hanging out on the boat. R&M’s friend Michele joined us and sourced a couple of sea urchins from down below for me to try –actually not bad!
As I write this, the mighty Maestrale continues to blow at around 30 knots. With all our faith in the anchor and chain, Bumblebee forms cocoon in which we ride out the weather. Food, drinks, games and the occasional trip ashore keep us sane. The forecast for tomorrow looks promising so we should be on our way again soon.
Our last day in Sicily was spent on Favignana, in the Egadi Islands. Julia, Kasia and myself spent the night on a mooring buoy under the shelter of a windward cliff. Kasia (aka Katie) had joined us for a week to help with the crossing, we enjoy her company and she has quite a bit of sailing experience. We needed a suitable weather window for the crossing to Sardinia so I kept a close eye on the forecasts, regularly switching between GFS, COAMPS, WW3 & WRF prediction systems while also keeping an eye on wave heights. At an average speed of 5.5 knots I anticipated a crossing of 27 hours. For the previous few days strong north-westerlies had been blowing which would make the journey tedious but northerlies were forecast to come the next day.
We spent a lazy day conserving energy and avoiding the midday heat. Once the air had cooled we topped up the diesel tank with our two 20l jerry cans. We piled into the dinghy with the empty cans and a shopping list and set off for the shore. We took a taxi to the fuel station, where we filled up and left the cans. We then went on to find some wifi and shop for provisions in the town before returning to collect the fuel a few hours later.
6am on the 3rd saw us up and quietly motoring out of the anchorage. Some reassurance was found as we joined a French ketch apparently embarking on the same journey. We jostled for pole position as we passed Marettimo, both using a bit of motor to keep the island a safe distance.
A few hours into the journey the predicted Northerlies began to shift to the West causing us to lose course. We began motor sailing and lost the French ketch into the distance fairly quickly. To our disappointment the wind settled to a steady North-westerly and the engine became our main propulsion for the bulk of the crossing.
At some points we dropped all the sails and motored dead into the wind but there were often times when the mainsail would fill while staying roughly on course. Tacking into the wind would have doubled our crossing time and would have raised concern with those expecting us on the other side.
The day passed slowly and was punctuated by a few dolphin sightings and one or two ships passing on the horizon. The AIS receiver provided the comfort of knowing there were numerous boats around us just out of eyesight. We knew the night was going to be dark as the new moon was only at 0.2% and would set soon after the sun. The stars were spectacular but the low light made the waves invisible. Luckily the forecast was correct about the calm night and gentle current pulling us toward Sardinia. We took shifts during the night but tried to have two people on deck at most times. Kasia was a great help and we would have struggled were it just the two of us. She also brought along plenty of audiobooks which preserved our sanity. Cabin Pressure and Absolute Power both got a lot of airtime.
We made landfall at 11am the next morning and were welcomed into Villasimius marina by an attendant in a fast Rib who showed us to our berth and helped with our lines. I entered the last entry into my logbook, then we set off in search of some bubbles to celebrate a safe crossing.
Later that morning I hauled out the dinghy to carry out some repairs aided buy two-part contact adhesive and penne pasta. All three of us managed to catch up on a bit of sleep and were feeling back to normal by the evening. My parents had flown over to see us in Sardinia and find out just what we’ve been up to. So we dug out our cleanest dirty clothes and set off for the twenty minute walk to their hotel for supper. We had a wonderful evening telling them about our trip so far and hearing all the news from home.
The next day they treated us to lunch in the marina and we took them out for a short sail on Bumblebee. After a quick tour of the boat we left the marina and headed around the coast past their hotel. We anchored in a small bay off Isola dei Cavoli for a drink and a swim before rounding the island and sailing back to harbour a few hours later. My Mum looked a little nervous as we healed gently in the breeze but looked more confident with the wheel in her hands, while my Dad (who’s far from an old salt) spun yarns of reluctant boating expeditions with my grandfather who was a passionate sailor.
We ended the day with supper nearby, eating local lobster and enjoying a wonderful view of the sun setting over the marina.
My parent’s visit was short so we spent the next day with them, chilling out at their hotel. We had a swim at the hotel’s beach followed by a delicious lunch and a bit of sketching and lounging around. Later we said fare well, thanked them for a truly spoiling few days and headed into the town of Villasimius for a look around.
Will and Oli were due to arrive in the evening of the 27th so Julia, Krysia and I spent the day exploring Palermo. After a decent burger and a wifi session, Krysia introduced us to the phenomenon of Pokemon hunting. Armed with her Iphone she lead us down obscure streets in search of curious augmented reality creatures –a sort of urban treasure hunt, although the treasure was a bit lost on us!
Later on Will and Oli arrived and we spent a third night in the marina at Villa Igiea. In the morning we refuelled and set off for San Vito Lo Capo. Our crew now five strong.
For five hours we motor-sailed west, cutting the engine whenever there was enough breeze. We heard from Brendan and Adam that the beach was overcrowded but fortunately from the boat the scene was much improved. Bright turquoise water showed clear sand patches for easy anchoring. We had a swim, prepared some food then moved bumblebee closer to the shore and took to the tender.
The town of San Vito Lo Capo caters for a large influx of Italian Tourists but still manages to feel quite authentic. Will had his birthday coming up the next day and we found some good present shopping amongst the usual tourist tat. A local recommended Frish as one of the towns hotspots, so we set off to see what this watering hole had to offer. Not much! It turned out to be a fried fish shop with friendly staff who had no idea how to make the drinks on their own menu!
From SVLC we rounded the coast and sailed goose-winged downwind to a sheltered bay on Isola di Levanzo, the nearest of the Egadi Islands. We stayed briefly for a swim and supper before making our way to Trapani, back on the mainland. We had strong northerlies and a bit of swell for the return, making for a spirited sail. Oli took the helm for a fair bit of the crossing, keeping a close reach and riding the waves well. The light began to fade and it was dark by the time we made landfall at the large commercial harbour. We helped ourselves to a vacant berth in a quiet marina at the far end of the harbour.
That evening we welcomed Katie, our sixth crew member who will be helping us cross to Sardinia a few days later. Despite being close to midnight, Julia and Oli nipped into Trapani and somehow emerged with a birthday cake for Will.
The next morning we left Bumblebee securely moored and went off in search of Erice –a medieval hilltop town accessed from Trapani by cable car. Julia and I had visited Erice a few years before but still can’t get enough of the spectacular views and maze of tiny streets.
We returned back to Trapani after lunch as it was time to say farewell to Krysia. We made sure she caught her bus to Palermo, while Julia went back up to Erice to retrieve her phone! After topping up the water tanks and washing down the decks we set off back to the Egadi Islands.
Our destination this time was Favignana, the southern of the three islands. It was getting late so we took a mooring buoy in a sheltered bay on the south east coast. The wind picked up so we spent the evening down below after converting the saloon bed back into a table for supper and a few rounds of Dobble. The Egadi Islands are a carefully regulated marine reserve with certain rules about anchoring. In many of the bays you are obliged to lift your anchor at sunset and take a mooring buoy to protect the beds of Posidonia grass below. There is some irony that the Islands used to be the scene of Tuna fishing and canning on a huge scale.
The next day saw us circumnavigating the island. We pulled in at another bay on the south side and dropped the anchor. We intended to hike up the hill to a ruined fort, so took to the dinghy armed with hiking shoes and mixed optimism. While hunting for the base of the 300m hill it became apparent that the midday heat would be a problem. The decision was taken to explore the main town instead.
Back onboard a few hours later we continued around the island and had a leisurely sail back to Trapani. Will took the helm as we passed between Levanzo and Favignana, cruising with a steady broad reach through the wind shadow of the northern island, then somewhat caught off guard as it picked up again soon after. We took a berth in the marina next door to our previous spot, which turned out to be a much better run affair. Early the next day we saw Will and Oli onto their bus to the airport and returned to Bumblebee for a bit of cleaning, organising and an oil change.