We left Marina di Cala del Sole on Sunday 23.4.17 at 4 am, after checking the weather for a week and waiting for the right weather window to head to Greece. We thought Sunday looked good and so did 4 other boats. We opted for an early 4am start as did SY Sundowner – it would take us about 12 hours to get to Porto Palo at the south east end of Sicily; arriving at 4pm we would still have enough daylight to find a good anchor spot, if the first didn’t suit. The other boats left a little later – all heading east towards Porto Palo / Syracuse.
Were we still able to sail after 7 months in a marina? We didn’t have doubts but we didn’t think we would go without any hiccups at all. We didn’t think, though, that the hiccups would start before we even left the marina!
Our second deck line got stuck and we couldn’t pull it in. Since the guys from Sundowner were up too, I shouted over to them but they had their Passarella up and couldn’t jump over to the pontoon anymore…. Next thing, Alistair climbed onto our neighbours catamaran, ran across the 8m boat to the other side, lowered their Passarella, ran onto the pontoon, freed our line, ran back, lifted the Passarella and jumped back onto our boat. First crisis sorted!
I let the mooring lines go, with all the commotion going on before I was a bit slow and by the time we were free we had drifted slightly into our neighbouring boat and the handle of one of our bikes got caught in the netting around the lifelines – we managed to free ourselves but lost the grip of the handle.
Making our way out of the marina was alright – it didn’t help that it was pitch black and the port lights were not working.
Out on the sea, we struggled with the AIS which was cutting in and out all the time and while Alistair was checking downstairs what was going on… the engine stalled! Panic! Engine turned on again and all was normal – I had accidentally turned the engine off with my knee!
We were rewarded with a beautiful red moon and a superb sunrise and watched the smoke of Mt Etna glow in the red sky. Wind was blowing enough from behind to set the headsail for some downwind sailing.
All went smoothly, until we lost the jib sheets! The headsail was fluttering uncontrollably in the wind while Alistair tried to reattach the sheets – imagine the power that a 120sqm sail exerts! We managed to furl the sail half way in – it took Alistair 3 attempts to attach the jib sheets again! Finally we were on our merry way!
Until I got seasick. I wasn’t so merry then. But it only lasted from 7 to 11, then I got better and I could enjoy the ride.
The wind picked up and we were sailing at about 6-7 knots, sometimes doing more than 8 knots. Coming up to Porto Palo, the winds were gusting over 25knots, going north to our chosen anchor spot, the wind was on the beam. When trying to reef the sail / take it down we actually managed to heave to – quite an interesting experience but that didn’t help us at this moment; engine on and managed to turn into the wind and get the sail down. The anchor spot was not very sheltered and after checking the wind/weather we decided to get something to eat and then sail straight through to Greece making the most of the wind behind us.
We set the sails and tried to sail wing-on-wing for a while. We never tried this before and we had a few jibes along the way and decided to take the main down and just sail with the headsail again. We didn’t want any trouble in the dark.
From then on we had quite uneventful sailing, some motoring when the wind died down, some motor sailing, we saw dolphins in the distance, caught two squid (they somehow managed to jump on board), had a couple of birds sailing with us for a while, caught no fish, managed night watches, got really cold at night, changed the courtesy flags when we crossed to Greek waters....
We expected to arrive in Lakka on Wednesday morning but on Tuesday we made up so much time that our eta had changed to Tuesday 10pm local time. This meant going into an unknown anchorage in darkness. Our friends from SY Sundowner already arrived at 4pm and said they would help us in and Stefan was waiting for us in his dinghy to guide us to our anchor spot. We arrived safe and sound, tired, exhausted and cold in Lakka on Paxos. When we woke up the next day we were able to see the beauty of this place….
Follow Alistair and Nicola as they share their experience of traveling around the world.