From Sicily to Sardinia

July 10 to 13, 2021

In April we got the chance for a Covid-19 vaccination here in Sicily. It was quite a surprise during breakfast on a Sunday morning. There was chatter in the marina that the major hospital in Ragusa was having an ‘Open Vaccination’ day. Meaning anyone could come and get vaccinated. The vaccination type concerned us. Which manufacturer would we get? Regardless, we went to the hospital straightaway and despite our language barrier cleared all the hurdles. The regional authorities of Sicily and Italy pushed hard for a high vaccination rate and were so kind to vaccinate also non residents like us (for free!).

We waited three months in Marina di Ragusa for our second shot, scheduled for early July. The city of Ragusa had established a vaccination center in an unused Basketball Court. Luckily this time, we could choose and got the Pfizer vaccination

In the good days, before Covid-19, this was a basketball court
Waiting in 35° heat inside the Basketball Court for our vaccination. No Air condition.

The last days before departure and still some repairs left.

Damaged 14mm Shroud near mast top. Was accidentally sheared twice during production. Requires replacement. We were lucky it held up so long. Was a long process to get it replaced.

Misaligned mainsail mast track high up in the mast. Not a straightforward repair as the drill holes were not centered. This defect destroyed many batten cars 🙁

Standard Reefing set-up chafes and damages the luff of the mainsail. Installed very different setup for all three reefs. Works much better now.

Our rudder wheels are hard to turn. One of the rudder cable guide wheels is not moving freely. We have a clue now which one it is. (Not this one). These wheels are hard to access behind walls in cramped locations. Will work on this in Carloforte

Weight and Balance.
Our Nautitech has large usable storage spaces forward in the bows. It became natural to store things there until we found the boat had become nose heavy. Not good for sailing performance. We had to move a lot of weight aft. Our second anchor, chains, heavy ropes, tools and more. Distributing the lot in the bilges was not as straight forward as it sounds. Every bilge segment has sensitive stuff installed. Thruhulls, depth-sounder sensors etc.

Extricating all the heavy stuff and moving it to their new locations on the boat was exhausting in the hot and humid weather. In the end we got it all done plus ticked off all the to-do items on our seaworthiness task list.

Saturday July 10
we checked out of the marina and said good bye to the marina staff.

At 12:25 we cast off the lines for our destination Carloforte. We have 3 nights at sea ahead of us. For whatever reasons nights on sea always count more than the days. Probably a little bit because of the sleep deprivation, but nights sometimes generate uncomfortable feelings. Especially dark nights with no moon and clouds. Those nights can be eery.

Our planned route from Sicily to Sardinia

The Weather looks good. 

Heading west from Sicily in summertime is a compromise between sailing and motoring. Like all sailors we don’t like sailing long stretches upwind. We chose an upwind leg close along the southern shores of Sicily followed 36 hours later with the crossing from Sicily to Sardinia. The forecast had a light southerly wind position for a nice beam reach to Sardinia (Stop dreaming captain!!). In reality we had the upwind sail which was actually quite nice followed by variable and calm winds.

Back to the start. It is hot on the water. We keep the AC running until late night. Makes the cabin feel like a luxury hotel foyer. You come inside from the heat and a wonderful cool chill surrounds you.

With the weight balance of the boat shifted towards its center, the upwind performance improved a lot. At a true wind angle of 50-55° (TWA) and wind speeds around 20kts the boat sailed 8 knots. Waves were 1 meter or less. We experienced way less slamming because of the lighter bows. We were happy with the ride and the performance of the boat. We could sail angles up top 45º true at lower speeds naturally. The VMG remained nearly the same. Sailing more directly into waves was less comfortable, hence, we staid with the 50 to 55º angles.

Clearly the boat does not like a nose heavy trim. (No boat likes that)

A 45ft monohull following us could not keep up with us upwind. Admittedly their sails were not trimmed very well. It seems we did well balancing our boat.


Banco Terribile

The first large bank we passed around is called Banco ‘Terribile’. I don’t know how the bank got its name, but probably for a reason. Several shallower large sandbars are on the way there. What looks like so much space on the charts becomes much more crowded out there. At certain wind and current setups one wants to stay clear from the ‘Bancos’. These bars are typically 10m deep but show unruly wave patterns and a lot of fishing vessels on the fringes around. About ‘Banco Terribile’ it is also said that white sharks reproduce in these waters.

First sunset as we approach Banco Terribile
Radar switched on as many fishing vessels don’t use AIS here

Banco Silvia

The second night we had a very clear sky. Stars without end and easy to see the milky way – fascinating.

Often, late in the night, the fishermen entertain themselves with an unmistakable porn radio show on the VHF Channel 16. This kind of happening appears to be a common thing in these latitudes. Today ‘Ole, Ole’ songs replaced it. Italy must have won the EM soccer championship.

This night is also very warm and pleasant. During the watch, long after midnight, a T-Shirt is enough to keep comfortable.

Chemicals Tanker following day
Fishing Vessel East of Banco Silvia
This looked like an unused production platform South of Sardinia

Approaching Sardinia

Underwater geographical formation of southern Sardinia

The Third and last night we arrive at the island shelf of Sardinia.

We tried to time our arrival to Carloforte for around 5am. So we would have some reserve time for delays underway. The weather forecast had predicted strong winds from 10am onwards. We wanted to be in port and docked before that.

We arrived at the island shelf right after nightfall. Ship traffic became heavy and the watch more demanding. Even so visibility in general was good, this night had no moon and full cloud cover. Other vessels could only be detected by their navigation lights. Especially with smaller boats there were few clues for early detection.

South of Sardinia the ship traffic became heavy. Radar helped at night. Many vessels we visually detected before the Radar picked them up.

The last mile into the port of Carloforte I deemed risky for night entry. The ferries run in after nightfall. But they drive this route many times every day.

There is one way, in between many rocks, marked with a magenta line on the chart. There is limited space to port and starboard. While most of the underwater obstructions are supposedly deeper than our draft, who am I to try and find out if the charts are really accurate. Two black yellow cardinal markers are shown below in the picture. They only exist on the chart. Not on the water.

July 13 0730h Docked in Carloforte.
330nm in 2 days and 19 hours, lots of engine hours and no white sharks.

LUNARA in Carloforte

Arrival Prosecco

Ah yes, (waiting) the obligatory docking Prosecco.

Waiting for our Docking Prosecco

The End Of The Tunnel

Corona was not inspiring yours truly to write much. Ok, not at all. Sorry!

We drowned our sorrows this winter in Sicily, Italy with Prosecco. Well, it was not as extreme as it sounds. The given circumstances were a quasi quarantine in the widest sense of the meaning of the word. We carefully managed our social life, tasted and tested various Prosecco’s, Coppa (kind of ham) and other Italian delicacies. We needed a while getting used to a new variety of foods offered in Italy. Initially, we had ‘insisted’ on our tried and true recipes, but finding the ingredients for foreign recipes is a mismatch here. Now, our appetites have migrated to fruits, fish, tomatoes specialty meats and anything fresh you can use with olive oil. The rich choices of plant based food invites vegetarian cooking, which we do from time to time.

This past week (blog entry written on May 16) we were still zone orange. So technically, one can only move within the postal zip code (see map below). As we are now halfway vaccinated, we use our rental car more for sightseeing. We have done a little looking around before, but posted nothing. Maybe I find the energy after the spring boat projects are done. Our project accomplishment level is at 80%, so we should be in good shape.

Ragusa Area.

Marina di Ragusa – Marina di Ragusa is the coastal village where the Porto Turistico and hence our Marina is. Anytime we return here the view wows us with its turquoise waters surrounding the port and we feel happy about our choice to berth here during the winter.

Port Entrance

Ragusa and the area north of it

Yesterday, we drove north, past the town of Ragusa. More about this interesting town in another blog entry (if I overcome Blogprocrastinitis 😁). We found roads not traveled by tourists.

Ragusa City, central parking empty on a Saturday afternoon due to Covid-19

Mural in Ragusa

Ragusa Mural painted on an Apartment Building

The mural above is in Italy. The country is Catholic, and this is not a special mural. It creates no tension or friction because of its existence. Imagine, you paint this mural on the Empire State Building. What would happen?

Country Side North of Ragusa

The landscape north of the town is hilly and alternating with small high plains making for an enjoyable drive and walk.

I have a tangential background in agriculture. I always loved the subject and being loosely involved with it in my past. Never, did I realize that far in the south of Europe (I am born in Northern Germany) the first grain harvest (wheat) begins in May and ends in July.

Imagine the smell of fresh straw and grain mixed with the song birds chirping and otherwise total quietness except natural sounds like the wind. Great!

Could sit here forever and just look.

It’s no surprise that prehistoric settlers around 20000BC to 10000BC stayed here for good. Temperatures are not hot in May -today 24°C. The soil is not rich, but good enough for a solid grain harvest sufficient to feed a family in ancient days. Water was not scarce and Sicily was rich in forests – until the Romans came. A lot of the forests disappeared during the long Roman Empire era (about 6 centuries). Sicily was the first grain supplier of the empire. The Romans deforested almost the entire island in order to enlarge the wheat crops.

Covid evaporates from your mind by just watching.

Whats Next

I hope we’ll go sailing in some weeks again. We have some ideas, but do not plan anymore. Our feeling is that anytime we plan, someone high up there thinks it’s funny to throw a wrench into our gearbox. We’ll have to go to northern Germany late this month to see family and then return here and wait a little for our second vaccination early July. After that we are free.

Non Sequiturs

Creative thinkers, so I believe, are prone to drift away with random thoughts. Hey, where else should all the good ideas come from. Following are some subjects that took the liberty to pop up during writing this piece.

Stay safe, get vaccinated. See you next time.

Your LUNARA Crew

Random Sicily

I am the master of random thoughts and ideas, or must I say master finder of marginally subject related Google finds? 

Here are some facts about Sicily totally new to me.

Did Sicilians invent the wheel?

3500BC Sicilians apparently invented the wheel! It took us 5500 years until we had a Tesla. What did we do in the meantime, aside from wars?

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sicily

Sicily alone has 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For reference the US totals 24 sites. If your touristic hunger leads you here, Sicily will not disappoint.

  1. Agrigento: Archaeological Area of Agrigento (UNESCO)
  2. Aeolian Islands: Isole Eolie. The group consists of seven islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea) and five small islets (Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera, Bottaro and Lisca Bianca) in the vicinity of Panarea. (UNESCO)
  3. Caltagirone (UNESCO)
  4. Catania (UNESCO)
  5. Cefalù Cathedral
  6. Militello Val di Catania (UNESCO)
  7. Modica (UNESCO)
  8. Monreale Cathedral
  9. Mount Etna (UNESCO)
  10. Noto (UNESCO)
  11. Palermo: Palazzo dei Normanni (The Norman Palace)
  12. Palermo: Cappella Palatina (The Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace)
  13. Palermo: Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
  14. Palermo: Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (also known as the Martorana)
  15. Palermo: Church of San Cataldo
  16. Palermo: Cathedral of Palermo
  17. Palermo: The Zisa Palace (La Zisa)
  18. Palermo: The Cuba Palace (La Cuba)
  19. Palazzolo Acreide (UNESCO)
  20. Ragusa (UNESCO)
  21. Scicli (UNESCO)
  22. Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (UNESCO)

See also: The Wonders of Sicily

Did you know: The Bikini was invented 5600BC and made popular 286AD in Sicily!

Gibraltar – Breakfast with a View!

We are back in our favorite spot. Docked in La Linea, Spain and happy about it (Alcaidesa Marina).

Under Way Again!

Monday (Aug 16) short hop from Lagos to Portimao with Lunara. Engine Maintenance

With the dinghy driving to a chandlery in Portimao.
Marina entrance straight ahead.
Under Anchor. Farragudo, Portimao
Engine Maintenance by Lunara’s favorite technician Rum.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Gibraltar.

Sines, Portugal

We arrived in Sines On Tuesday night at 2am. We sailed 540nm with unusual winds from the northwest. Year-round this region of the Atlantic has northeasterly winds which would have meant to sail upwind.

We were really lucky with the weather as we could successfully detour a strong cold-front on our trip from Madeira to Portugal. PredictWind, our subscription based weather guidance, helped a lot to find the best route.

Enroute from Madeira to Sines

Sines, Portugal. Lovely fishing village.

Sail from Lanzarote to Madeira

Last Saturday, September 7, we arrived safely in Madeira. We docked in the beautiful Quinta do Lorde Marina on the eastern side of the island.

The sail from Lanzarote to Madeira is on a NNW (North North West) heading for about 320nm. Prevailing winds are from the North East with waves coming from the North (mostly North Atlantic swell). Wind-wise the trip was great, wave-wise horrible. We sailed upwind all the time and from day 2 on were slamming into the waves. At a 8 seconds wave period (at best) and 2 -3m wave height it was a constant roller coaster.
8 second wave periods equal 450 waves per hour and maybe 5 or 10% of them are formed such that the boat’s bow lands hard when falling into the trough of the next wave. That’s about every 1.5 minutes. You are constantly prepared, I mean waiting for the next slam. Life onboard becomes a workout like in a gym.
You cannot walk, drink coffee, push a button on the chart plotter or do anything else without grabbing a hold or jamming yourself safely between something or sit down. The steering stands are wet. Especially on the lee-side hull, salty spray streams from the bow mixed in with some extra buckets of Atlantic water when the boat hits a bigger wave. Getting up on the forward deck always requires hooking into one of the safety lines and wearing foul weather gear.

Microwaved food is the maximum culinary delight you get in this weather. We prepare special food before we leave. ‘Special’ is such food that still tastes good even when coming lukewarm out of the microwave. Spaghetti with tomato sauce with some meat added or hard boiled eggs are ‘special’. We always make an effort to be well nutritioned and have energy reserves.

Slamming into the waves means a lot of stress for man and material. We had the main sail traveller breaking and after that cold not use this sail anymore. Thank God it happened towards the end of our trip. Twice on this journey we hove-to to fix things. Heaving-to in 2 – 3 meter waves actually worked very well for us. As soon as the boat is not moving forward everything becomes calm and stable. Good for working on the mainsheet system. We will install a bigger traveller system to add working load capacity. Nautitech seems to have undersized the Lewmar traveller cars. Lewmar’s recommendation for the size #2 traveller car, as they are installed on our boat, is to use them for main sails of up to 46sqm size, while we have a 72sqm main sail! In addition, catamarans generate higher dynamic loads on the main sail sheet compared to monohulls. So, they are clearly too weak from my perspective and experience.

Broken Main Sheet Traveller. Depending on who you ask, the safe working load is either 2 tons or 2.8tons.

Short before night fall on day 1, the Admiral noticed a little bird following us, flying low over the water barely making progress towards us. We slowed down the boat so he/she could catch up.

He soon moved into our main cabin and stayed in a remote corner overnight. We offered water and a variety of food but think he consumed nothing. A land bird 50nm away from the next tiny island ‘Selvagem Grande’ and 150nm from any other land appeared very unusual to us. We later learned that it was a Garden Warbler and some of his Canadian siblings fly distances of 1500nm over open water, nonstop obviously. Next morning the bird briefly entertained the Admiral by sitting on her shoulder. At first sunlight our visitor left.

I think many people, including me, dream of visiting extremely remote islands. As a first thought the Pacific always comes to our mind as the prime location for little islands. It never occurred to me that the Atlantic has many of these little surprise locations too. ‘Salvagem Grande’ lay 50nm to the west from our course and i would have loved to go there. However, in order to visit Salvagem we would have needed pretty calm weather and a special permit from Portuguese authorities to visit this nature preserve.


Remy, our intrepid navigator tries to will us there.

Later, I found a very well written blog by a fellow cruiser who actually sailed there in 2017: Salvagem Grande

Short before sunset we passed a threatening looking squall line on its eastern side but did not encounter any strong winds. The squall line had several fair weather water spouts. I have no experience with water spouts but since they look like tornadoes at their incipient stage I have a lot of respect for them and prefer to be far away.
Not more than 45 minutes later we encountered nice weather again.

On the third day 50% of the crew felt really miserable. I was a bit exhausted from long watches and pretty strenuous deck work. Luckily, ship traffic is very sparse en route from the Canaries to Madeira. We have a device onboard called Echomax, which receives radar signals from other vessels and sends them back amplified. The Echomax did not pick-up any radar signals around us for more than 24 hours, even not a far away land radar. Same for the AIS which showed no signals for an even longer time. At maximum range we often see a freighter’s AIS signal 50 miles away on our chart plotter. In this area – nothing. We were truly alone out there. So we kept a relaxed watch cycle requiring a 360º visual scan and sail check 10 times per hour or every 6 minutes during the night. That gives you a little rest in-between and allows to stretch your awake time way beyond the normal 4 hour watch cycle we typically use.

After a long watch the next morning comes and rewards you with a sunrise like this :

Short before dark, on day 3, we arrived in the Quinta do Lorde Marina in Madeira. The approach into the marina looked more narrow than I expected it from the charts and handbook. The fuel dock was non existent. We often go directly to the fuel dock at port entrance as a safe first choice, not because we need fuel. Normally, it’s easy to get there, tie up your boat and figure things out. But a storm some years ago destroyed a lot here including the fuel dock.

The marina entrance had strong gusts pushing us around about every 50 meters as we went further into the marina. The gusts shifted in direction by 180º or so. High cliffs surround the bay in which this marina is built. Catabatic winds fall down this cliff in some spots creating this unusual wind situation. Before entering we had tried to call the marina on VHF radio to get docking instructions without success. Regardless, on the entrance wall was the marinero trying to direct us, but he was very hard to understand in the wind. We simply continued to a space down in the marina where we saw a T-dock with enough maneuvering area to turn the boat if needed. Here, the marinero pointed us to one jetty further down where we nicely docked parallel to it. As so often, when you come into a marina, many of the fellow cruisers were ready on the dock to help us taking the lines. It’s always such a nice gesture and welcome. We checked in at the marina office and saved the formality part for the next work day. After 65 hours being underway we were dog tired but still hungry. We went to the local Captain’s bar, had a wine and a burger. We slept really well and long into the next morning.

Quinta do Lorde Marina. Try to find Lunara!

Next day was deck cleaning time.

We found this little fellow on the side of one steering stand, sadly too late to help him.

It’s truly beautiful in Madeira!

With appreciation, we often feel like ‘we have arrived’. Madeira, like the Canaries, is one of these magnificent spots where one simply feels good.





Small church in the marina. I personally prefer this simplicity in church architecture over opulence.

View from our first short hike to the north side of the island.

In the coming days we want to tour and discover the island. But right now, we are repairing (again). We partially disassembled the main sail sheeting system and traveller in order to find out how to add strength and order the right parts.
Main sheet traveller system

Speaking of ordering parts while on an island. Madeira is an island 600 miles away from Europe in the Atlantic. While fellow cruisers know what I am talking about, others might imagine ordering parts works like Amazon Prime in the US. Hmmm, not.

Most technical parts require very specific information in order to get the right stuff. That means you talk and email a lot with the technical support from the device manufacturers. Then you order from a supplier. Then you have to find the right shipping company. Try to ship by plane a 3 meter main sheet track (10ft). And then, depending on where you are, customs. For example on the Canaries goods could easily get stuck in customs for weeks.

We will handle it all, but more time is spent on things like that, than we ever envisioned.

Speaking of repairs. How did we spend our summer?
Aside from having our grandson for many weeks onboard, which was true fun and joy, we had to work on the boat. Here is a sample gallery of our summer projects for you to click through:

Underway to Madeira

And back blogging 🙂

Sorry, we had a long hiatus from blogging. We had family and many friends onboard plus the ongoing “technical difficulties” – like always.

We left 04:30 Lanzarote this morning and are heading to Madeira. We hopefully arrive in 3 days. It is a 300nm stretch and winds are not 100% in our favor. However, they are on the low side of our usual sailing, being forecasted to be between 5 and 15 kts. A clear plus not to have a rough sail where the ceilings drop down in the boat 🙁

I will write more about the past months while underway, as many interesting things happened. I’ll close this entry right now as we sailing away from shore and the internet will be gone quickly and then I can’t upload my blog entry anymore.

Bye,
Martin

Sunrise. Island of Lanzarote behind us.

Left Gibraltar This Morning

After visiting customs and emigrations to clear out we left the dock of the friendly Alcaidesa Marina (La Linea, Spain).

Currently in the Strait of Gibraltar heading for our TSS crossing point to head towards the south side of the TSS. (TSS = Traffic Separation Scheme, kind of motorway with median for vessels)

Busy Port. The grey ship symbols to the south are in the TSS
Leaving friendly Gribraltar
TSS Crossing section. We are the little vessel near the top a bit to the right.
Morocco on the other side. We are heading there in some minutes (literally)

Back to navigating.

Bye, bye!

Docked in La Linea

La Linea is the spanish side of the bay of Gibraltar