Winter Talks

Preparations for the 2020 sailing season have stalled for the time being. The bad weather in the Med and the strikes which have brought France to a standstill (I was lucky to escape back to Blighty!) have contrived to prevent me moving Hejira to Antibes for a little TLC although neither factor can last forever – can it?

In the meantime, there is an outside chance that you might be interested in attending one of the talks that I am giving covering my adventures last summer.

The publicity for the talks state:-

Nick Mines’ talk covers his single handed non-stop (nearly) 1100 mile passage from Nice to Venice last summer. The highs and lows and the telling effects of undertaking such a voyage alone. He then covers the continuation with various crew through Croatia, Italy, Corfu, the Ionian, Sicily, Malta, Tunisia, Sardinia, Corsica and finally back to Nice. He reflects on the 3000 mile, 3 month adventure with candid admissions and telling observations.

They are as follows:-

Monday 6th January 2020 at Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club, Mill Island, Sonning, RG4 6TW. Access is slightly obscure as you have to take a lane alongside the Sonning Mill car park. The talk starts at 8pm and is hosted by the Reading Offshore Sailing Club. Visitors are welcome at a cost of £5 and there is a bar at the venue which opens at 7.30.

Tuesday 18th February 2020 at Bourne End Community Centre, The Centre, Wakeman Road, Bourne End, Bucks. SL8 5SX. The talk starts at 8pm and is hosted by the Cruising Association. Visitors are welcome at a cost of £5 and there is a bar at the venue which is open all evening.

It would be really good to see some of you there!

My plans for 2020 and beyond are coming together with a probable return to Africa, the Canaries and another crossing to the Caribbean. More about all this when things begin to crystallise.

Happy Christmas to one and all and let’s hope for a healthy and happy New Year.

Galley sink drain

Ever since the purchase of my trusty Southerly 135, I have had an irritation with a fickle galley sink drain. Sometimes it runs away with alacrity and yet, sometimes the dishwater just sits there, seemingly forever. The problem has defied cleaning bleach and the handy plunger but it has never been at the top of the ‘to do list’ so it has, until now, evaded my focus.

So, I began to think the problem through. The sink drain outlet is just below the waterline and there is a twin sink feeding it with large diameter (typical domestic size) waste pipework. There are water filled traps so; there is the potential for an air lock between the traps and the underwater outlet when upright or on port tack preventing the drain from flowing. How do you check the theory? I made the decision to drill a hole in the top of the pipework just below the traps into the hard plastic elbow to vent any airlock – if it didn’t work I could always fill it with silicone so no real harm done. The drilling was something of a challenge as the pipework is recessed and there is little room, it needed a right angle chuck and a shortened drill.

5mm tap and irrigation spigot

It worked, the sink ran away just like that !

The challenge was then, how to retain the breathing hole yet not suffer a leak when heeled.

Spigot screwed into the tapped hole.

The answer was simple. I remembered that I had some domestic irrigation pipe tap off spigots which screw into the soft pipework making their own hole. This I tried to ‘self-tap’ into the hard pipework without success so I had to adapt a thread tap so it could be turned in the confined space.

Irrigation pipework pushed over the spigot and extended to inboard of the sink under the worktop.

This accomplished, I screwed the spigot in, I attached the small bore rubber irrigation pipework and extended it ‘uphill’ to the inboard side of the sink so it would not leak when healed. A very simple solution to an irritating problem.

Tools for the job. Right angle chuck, shortened 4mm drill, 5mm tap and short turning arrangement, irrigation spigot and pipework.

Blush

From the Yachting World website:-

Help at hand

Cliff Crummey joined the ARC Europe to take his Elan Impression 444 AWOL to the Mediterranean, having also sailed across with the 2015 ARC. On the westward crossing he had been joined by his wife, eldest son and brother. However, work commitments meant his crew could not do the eastbound trip, so Crummey joined the ARC online crew list and began to search for replacements.

Yacht AWOL receiving assistance mid-Atlantic

Yacht AWOL receiving assistance mid-Atlantic

“I made some good connections and got it down to about six people, all Yachtmasters or really well qualified,” he recalls. “Unfortunately I had numerous people drop out at the last minute. One guy even paid for his flights and then decided that he didn’t want to come.”

Crummey’s wife jumped on a flight back to the BVI and they completed the first stage together, before his crew search resumed. He interviewed one sailor and, having reassured himself of his experience levels, signed him up. With his new crew’s flight landing just a day before departure, the duo set out having never sailed together previously.

“It was quite breezy and we knew there was a low coming in that would catch us, so we all went quite south initially, then tacked and came north,” recalls Crummey. “Then overnight on that first night the autopilot decided to pack in.”

The difference between perception and reality of experience levels became obvious immediately, as Crummey’s co-crew struggled to hold a course on AWOL in the 30-knot winds and 4m seas. Crummey took the wheel for 12 hours to ride out the worst of the conditions.

Crummey was considering whether to retire, but the thought of heading back alone, into a following low, was equally daunting. “Do you do another 1,000 miles, or go back to Bermuda? It would have been pretty devastating if we had gone back, but I think, if we’d still been on our own, that would have been the only choice.”

Fortunately, he spotted fellow ARC entrant Hejira on AIS. “I knew Nick [Mines, owner] anyway, so I contacted him and he very kindly agreed to escort us across.” The two crossed almost the entire way in company, with AWOL staying within a couple of miles of their lead boat during the day, and within half a mile after dark.

Nick Mines aboard Hejira, his Southerly 135. Nick sailed within sight of another boat to help them stay on course for over 1000 miles.

Nick Mines aboard Hejira, his Southerly 135. Nick sailed within sight of another boat to help them stay on course for over 1000 miles.

“At night-time to assist us, because my crew found it very difficult to sail at night by the instruments, we put Nick in front of us with his anchor light on and his stern light on – so he could look and steer. We did that every night, which worked a treat.”

The pair adopted a two hours on, two hours off watch pattern, as they hand-steered across the Atlantic in Hejira’s wake. Crummey initially slept on deck, then left a fog-horn next to the helm so he could be awakened if help was needed on deck. Fortunately they had predominately light winds for ten days, giving Crummey a chance to retro-fit his previous autopilot, which worked for several days to earn the pair some respite.

However, Mines and Crummey had realised that the same low pressure system that caught Slipper was approaching, and decided to motor rapidly towards the Azores. The crew on Hejira transferred 100lt of fuel to AWOL to allow Crummey to motor without constraint, and both boats arrived safely before the severe winds struck.

If ever you were to find yourself relying on another yacht mid-Atlantic, Nick Mines and Hejira are exactly the sort of skipper and boat you would want to find. His Southerly 135 has been lovingly modified and prepared for all eventualities, including back-up systems galore with solar panels, wind generator and Watt & Sea hydrogenerators for recharging, and what Mines concedes are “spares of spares”.

Even though Mines admits that sailing in company with AWOL did compromise their crossing, he says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. “It was ten days, the majority of our trip. But they were very grateful and they got here safely, and you wouldn’t want that on your conscience otherwise.”

Tranquille

I really thought that the holidaying of Paula and her two friends would be the end of anything interesting to ‘blog about’ but I think I may have been wrong – you will be the judge…

We had taken a berth in St. Laurent Du Var as our winter berth in Baie des Anges was not available until the 1st of September. The only redeeming feature of the temporary berth (which the Capitainerie wrongly described as ‘Tranquille’) was that it was confirmed until I returned from my short trip home to leave the ladies alone. I couldn’t expect Paula to shuffle Hejira from berth to berth according to daily availability. The mooring was right at the end of the breakwater at the entrance to the marina.

Not the best berth at the entrance to St Laurent Du Var marina.

It was therefore a very long walk to any facility or beach. On the other side of the entrance was a nightclub which pumped out loud music and flashing lights until 4am and the water pressure on the dock was little more than a dribble. It was so close to the airport that I walked there on my departure and return which, as you can imagine, was a mixed blessing. Surprisingly, however, the ladies seemed to have had a good time in my absence with the sun and sea in plentiful supply. There was also the added pleasure of watching the comings and goings in and out of the marina, the interaction with their neighbours and the entertaining manoeuvres on and off of the fuel dock opposite – they were quite the experts by the time I returned! The formula of having a short sailing (?) cruise before I left them to their own devices also apparently met with their approval – we shall see.

So, it was me and Paula adrift for 4 days until we could take up our berth in Baie des Anges and I could begin to plan and brief the winter jobs and projects. Aware that I had spent the summer being excessively ambitious and overdoing things, I had not enjoyed relaxing on board and chillin’ out as maybe I should have. It was therefore easy to make our first destination the delightful anchorage between the Lerins Islands of Ile Sainte-Marguerite and Ile Saint-Honorat which was a mere 12 miles away. This is a very popular destination for local boats being just off Cannes and we chose to anchor in deeper water among the larger boats.

Anchored in deeper water amongst the ‘bigger boys’.
Decadence? A slide for the children!

As a result, we were not troubled by the uncomfortable proximity of the ‘day boats’ at anchor. We took the dinghy ashore to the smaller island of Honerat, leaving it in the very convenient and free tiny harbour near the anchorage. The island is home to a Monastery and the monks make rather expensive organic wine which is for sale in a small shop. The walk around the perimeter of the island is a delight with the shaded woodland path providing glimpses of the foreshore and azure sea.

Delightful shady walk around the island of St. Honerat.

There is a charismatic castle and the public have access during the day to the rather spartan church and cloisters.

The Castle on the Isle Sainte-Honerat
Monastery Cloisters

Ile Saint-Honorat is only served by infrequent boats provided by the monks so the visitor numbers are subdued and the island has an almost serene aura as a result. It is apparently possible to stay for a week long retreat – if you are that way inclined…

The spartan monastery church.

Returning to Hejira, we took a dip but, unfortunately, Paula had a close encounter with a jelly fish which came up in a swelling like a giant painful nettle sting. I offered to pee on it as this is reputed to relieve the symptoms but the liberal application of vinegar and anti-histamine cream was preferred – I can’t understand why and was rather disappointed!

Dinghy lifted overnight for safety and security

After a very quiet overnight at anchor, we reviewed our options for the following day and surprisingly agreed to stay put and visit the other island of Sainte-Marguerite. I have visited this island on a number of occasions but always from the north and never ventured beyond the restaurants and the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ Fort. The Cruising Association app. suggested that landing from the south was something of a challenge and so it proved. The only viable places were cordoned off for swimming so we resorted to stopping and raising the outboard, rowing into the rocky shore and pulling up above the waterline amongst the thankfully rounded rocks.

Snug dinghy landing to the south of St Marguerite.

The island was significantly busier than its smaller neighbour with regular tripper boats supplying it with visitors from Cannes. Despite its visitor numbers, the island retains a charm and the peaceful perimeter walk provides a stunning new vista at every turn and this is all despite its relative proximity to the Riviera conurbations.

We have all heard the incessant cicada cacophony and I have often tried to find the insects without previous success. You can see from this picture that they are very well camouflaged against a tree. It is apparently only the male cicada that actually makes the noise in an effort to attract a mate and it is not from rubbing its legs together.

A well camouflaged Cicada

The sound comes from an organ in its back called a tymbal which is a sort of sound box and contains a series of ribs that buckle one after another producing the clicking noise.

In the evening, many of the anchored boats return home, the surface of the water ceases to be churned up and the anchorage becomes delightfully tranquil.

Sunset over the Alpes Maritime.

With the weekend encroaching, the prospect of the ensuing bedlam in the popular Lerins anchorage suggested that we should move on and with no chance of actually sailing in the calm conditions, we chose to investigate and possibly anchor in Golfe Juan.

You can order a ‘Take Away’ delivery in the Lerins anchorage!

One of the villages on the Golfe is Juan-les-Pins, immortalised in Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 (you have to be a certain age) number one hit ‘Where do you go to (my lovely)’. So the prospect of ‘carefully designed topless swimsuits’ was quite appealing – to me at least!

Reviewing the coastline as we slipped into Golfe Juan under engine, we were not attracted by the apartment block density at the head of the bay and opted for an anchorage at Abri de L’Olivette tucked inside Cap D’Antibes. The vista was undoubtedly more attractive but our trip ashore into a tiny harbour, despite a walk, failed to reveal any bars, just very sumptuous gated villas.

Paula relaxing with a drink on the aft deck with the residential coastline in the background.

There was however plenty of entertainment in the anchorage which was also favoured by some of the ‘big boys’ who seemed very happy to put on a show with their toys.

Boys toys.
Showing off !

As the evening progressed, the anchorage thinned out and it turned out to be a wonderfully still, calm and quiet night. Sound travels over water but there was nothing heard from any distant disco, it was wonderfully tranquil. Clearly the affluent residents of Cap D’Antibes don’t tolerate any disturbance to their expensive seclusion.

Huge house on the tip of Cap D’Antibes, rumoured to be part of the settlement for one of Roman Abramovich’s previous wives

I have been told that the aeroplanes approaching Nice Airport are not allowed to overfly the Cap and the flight path diverts around it – this is something that even the Queen doesn’t seem able to achieve over Windsor!

The morning dawned to a cloudless sky and it was with mixed feelings that I realised that my adventure started exactly 3 months ago on the first of June and I would be returning to my point of departure, the marina at Baie des Anges.

A short motor took us to the marina which will be recognisable to anyone who has flown into Nice Airport with its strangely attractive pyramid apartment blocks such a dominating feature of the landscape.

Entering the marina, The ‘Pyramids’ in the background.

Fuelled and back on our berth, it’s time to prepare and plan for the future adventures of the good ship ‘Hejira’. I must remember to resist being excessively ambitious as with our son Oliver getting married next August, it will be pretty busy domestically next year.

I will do the occasional update as and when there is anything of interest (?) to report.

Paula vetting my blog entry before publication.

I hope that our missives have been enjoyed by the readership as much as I and my various crew have enjoyed writing them. There may have been some insight into yachting, particularly the unique nature of Mediterranean yachting, which has either inspired you to get involved yourself or convinced you that it is the very last thing you would want to do. Your comments on the blogs (best put them on the blogs, not email) are always appreciated and it seems to have been the forum for some philosophical, ecological and political banter if I can call it that. Please keep the comments coming and spread the word!

Now it’s back to the realities and perversely, the attractiveness of the cold and wet British seasons – next winter, the Caribbean maybe………….?

Crews over

The approach to Calvi provides a stunning view of the impressive Citadel
Approaching Calvi marina with the Citadel to starboard.

Having booked a berth in advance, the Calvi marina staff saw fit to place us on the premium ‘A’ dock right next to the ‘action’.

Paula getting ready with the telescopic pick up hook. Girls briefed and ready.

This was all very well but the loud music went on until 2am and rather took the gilt off the convenience.

Too close to the ‘action’ and the  loud music until 2am.

The visit ticked all the boxes for the ladies and a turn around the Citadel was followed by a swim off the beach.

The entrance to the Citadel with much of the old crumbling masonry now rendered compromising the charm.

Since my last visit, the Citadel has had something of a makeover with many of the crumbling buildings and ramparts having been rendered thus losing much of the charm and character but presumably preventing further deterioration.

More steps in the Citadel. I let the girls explore while I nursed a glass of cold rosé
Calvi marina viewed from the Citadel before the marina filled to capacity. The swimming beach is beyond the marina.

The ladies particularly enjoyed the ‘people watching’ from their vantage point on deck with all the coming and going from the large vessels surrounding us – it must be a girl thing.

Having to leave our berth by noon, the 100 mile overnight passage to the temporary berth in Saint Laurent du Var marina required little more than a ‘bimble’ under an idling engine over the mirror like surface of the windless sea.

Hitch Hiker. It had at least half a dozen friends.

This was very much to the liking of the crew and in the late afternoon we stopped the engine, put a polypropylene floating line over the stern with a fender tied on the end and we all had a swim.

Mid passage swim. They didn’t appreciate the ‘Jaws’ theme music!

With the girls reluctant to sleep in their cabins, the saloon was transformed into a double bed and they dozed while watching a succession of DVDs through the night.

DVD Fest.

It is always interesting to eavesdrop on the VHF radio exchanges of the authorities and the superyachts. We marvelled at the disclosure that ‘Ocean Victory’, on passage from Portofino in Italy to Monaco had 51 crew and 11 passengers on board. We have looked it up and it is the tenth largest in the world at 140m long. It has six pools and its tender is larger than Hejira! Needless to say, it is owned by a Russian oligarch.

Timing our arrival for just after 9am, we hoped that the marina office would be open and able to instruct the staff of our reservation and berth allocation.

This is the final blog of my 3000 mile (far, far too many!) summer adventure and I have a long list of jobs, repairs and additions to undertake over the winter which will keep me busy and justify regular trips to Nice. After leaving Baie des Anges on the 1st of June, I have visited the following destinations: Ostia (Rome), Vieste, Venice, Rovinj-Croatia, Pula, Cres, Punat, Simuni, Dalmacija, Vodice, Trogir, Milna, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Otranto-Italy, Gouvia-Corfu, Lakka-Paxos, Gaios, Mongonisi, Marzamemi-Sicily, Valetta-Malta, Blue Lagoon-Camino, Kelibia-Tunisia, Villasimius-Sardinia, Santa Maria Navaresse, Costa Smerelda, Bonifacio-Corsica, Porto Pollo, Ajaccio, Girolata, Calvi and finally Saint Laurent Du Var back in France.

I am leaving the girls on board for a week while I return to the UK. They will no doubt find a favourite beach bar and enjoy a relaxing dose of sun and sea.

 

Paula, Marie and Kate write:-

After the euphoria of the previous days badge collection for knot tying we were unfortunately stripped of this accolade due to poor fender attachments and warp rope coiling which left us feeling in the doldrums!

However, our tank emptying and pumping prowess was tested once again and we gained level 3 with commendation for accurate and skilful release.  In the galley, badges were awarded for the variety of skills involved in preparing meals, snacks and drinks throughout the 20 hour crossing.

Captain Underpants was very grateful for his restful crossing and therefore promoted us from Level 1 Watch Team skills to Level 2.  A thrilling evening enjoyed by all, with beautiful sunsets and sunrises, following a few wonderful days visiting picturesque harbours and gorgeous beaches.

All round the experience of sailing our floating hotel has been a very positive one and one that we look forward to repeating and gaining more badges in the future.

Ladies and Gentleman

Paula has for many years taken holidays on Hejira and her predecessors with her two friends that go all the way back to Southampton University. These holidays have always been static and invariably in my absence. They have included locations like the Canaries, the Algarve, the Riviera and various UK destinations like central London! This current visit was to break new ground in that they have joined me in Ajaccio in Corsica.

Massive cruise ships continually come and go in Ajaccio, look at multiple decks of balconies

Our itinerary is to sail to a bay and anchor overnight and then on to Calvi from where we are to make the 100 mile overnight crossing back to Baie des Anges near Nice.

Take 3 girls.

Something of a spanner was dropped into the works however. A courtesy Email to Baie des Anges marina notifying them of our return was met with the news that they don’t have a berth available until we take up our winter berth on the 1st of September. Apparently, no amount of juggling could make anything available sooner and I couldn’t expect Paula to move Hejira around in my absence when I return to Blightly and leave her on board with her girlfriends. Thankfully, Sonia in Baie des Anges used her contacts and influence to secure a berth in Saint Laurent du Var which is between BDA and the Airport. My Cruising Association app notes ‘There are plenty of bars and restaurants alongside the marina so it was a little noisy but not too bad’, ideal then for 3 ladies on holiday! It goes on to note that it is a 30 minute walk from the Airport so ideal for me back and forth.

Our overnight in Girolata was universally enjoyed with a trip ashore in the complimentary water taxi.

Unusual beach visitors

At €64 for the privilege of being packed into the bay with fore and aft mooring buoys it seemed a little steep but the crystal clear water was a joy to swim in

Crystal clear water.

.

A post swim Aperol spritz.

An evening game of dominoes in the cockpit became surprisingly competitive and argumentative – apparently it is my influence!

Our passage to Calvi took us along the stunning Scandola Nature Reserve with its rugged cliffs and no sign of habitation or human interference.

The stunning coastline of the ‘Reserve Naturelle De Scandola’

Paula, Kate and Marie write:-

After our initiation into knot tying, {three new types learnt} we managed to not lose any fenders or mooring ropes, we received our level 1 knot tying badge which we all are wearing proudly on our official crew chests!

Rope coiling practice.

Having a great time, weather lovely, calm sea {thus far} wish you were here.

Au revoir

Our passage to our overnight stop at Porto Pollo was only 30 miles but was memorable for the size of the swell left over from the previous gale in the Gulf du Lion. Keen to tuck ourselves out of the undulations we opted to pick up a mooring buoy behind a reef and close enough to the shore to swim for our beer.

The swim ashore. Hejira moored in the background.

So, with money and shirts in a Tupperware, we emerged amongst the rocks and walked to a beach bar for our traditional libation.

The bar on Porto Pollo beach.

With a 20 mile passage to our booked berth in the old port marina in Ajaccio and with no wind, I will be badgering the crew to start on the clean up so we may have some time in hand to seek out the rugby in the afternoon.

Paula and her two girlfriends arrive early tomorrow morning with the current crew leaving on the return flight so this will be the last missive from the ‘Beetham boys’. We have had a very memorable 12 day cruise since they joined Hejira in Malta 575 miles ago taking in Comino, Tunisia, Sardinia and Corsica. In truth, it was an excessively ‘bullish’ itinerary but that has been a feature of my sailing this year and I never seem to learn. I justify the ‘whistle stop’ nature of these cruises on the basis that they are tasters and I will return to indulge in the coming years. Carl has produced the most exceptional meals, sometimes in difficult conditions and we have only taken one meal ashore and that was on the day they arrived in Valletta. Tom has been great company and has picked things up very quickly. His blog inputs have been very entertaining and embellished the accounts with a more ecologically and socially responsible perspective.

Carl writes:-

Ahoy there, Shipmates! Here, in no particular order, are my maritime musings from the poop deck:

Sailing’s great fun but, within the Med, it happens surprisingly infrequently as there either seems to be too much wind, or not enough. Furthermore, no amount of Nick’s attempts to fill the sails with his own ‘wind’ seemed to do the job. Didn’t stop him continually trying though.

And irrespective of the direction we were travelling, why was the wind always on our nose?

When the skipper puts his life-jacket on it’s sensible to follow his lead.

Scopoderm anti-sea-sickness patches are God’s gift to the seafaring community.

Nothing about ‘the heads’ (wc) can be described as comfortable but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Serve the crew anything comprising onions, garlic and chilli and they’ll go to bed happy. Mind, fail to plan the meals beforehand and you’re planning to fail.

Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ novels really are gripping page-turners.

Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. We saw dolphins, flying-fish and a turtle.

Sailors are a friendly, welcoming bunch but woe-betide any other skipper who clatters their fenders a little too forcefully. Also, was the phrase ‘one-up-man’s-ship’ coined by the sailing fraternity as they seem extremely quick to criticise and take the mick out of others’ vessels?

Irrespective of the supposed yachtsman’s code concerning where/how to pass and who exactly has right-of-way, ‘might is right’!  Choose to argue at your peril.

Hejira is no gin-palace and she’s a well-equipped, fine sea-faring vessel. Pity the same can’t be said of her scurvy, malingering crew!

Live and let live on-board. Three men and a boat will result in three very different opinions but remember, you’re all in it together and there ain’t room for petty arguments and sulking. Ultimately, what the skipper says goes, goes.

As it transpires, it’s not Job but Paula, long-suffering First Lady of the good ship Hejira that has the patience of a saint. The girl deserves a medal. And a divorce!

Technology seems to play a great, and increasingly prolific, role on board. Or perhaps that’s just in Captain Hook’s daily life? The sextant remained in its box for the duration.

Keep things shipshape and Bristol fashion or it’s going to be a messy transit. Do the job once and do it right.

Our very own Captain Smollett’s blood pressure does tend to rise by several notches the closer we get to a mooring…

The coastal landscapes of Sardinia and Corsica are truly stunning and I would want to return to both at some point in the future. Having said that, both islands have extremely dubious ‘four-headed, blindfolded sailing’ flags that would undoubtedly fail muster with the PC brigade.

Sadly, topless bathing on the beaches of Southern Europe appears to have fallen out of favour.

Radio Four’s ‘Today’ programme remains the mainstay of daily news. Closely followed by Ed Reardon’s Week, Cabin Pressure, Dead-Ringers and Desert Island Discs. Thankfully, I’ll never be old enough for The Archers. Or golf.

Write drunk. Edit sober.

 

Wee Tom writes:-

Well what a time it’s been. We’ve had many highs and very few lows and I come away having learnt and experienced a great deal upon the bonny blue. Here are just a few reflections from the last 12 days.

Sailing is like S&M. It requires rope, knots, close-proximity and it ain’t for everyone.

Luckily, I get it!

Like a cow with a calf, woe betide the person that gets between Nick and his blog!

The coats that invented Scopiderm deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

Malta is nice, Sardinia is nicer and Corsica has croissants. No brainer.

Unless you want Captain Jack Sparrow’s judgement crashing down on you, look up what a lazarus locker or a transom is before you arrive – it’s like being bossed around by someone speaking tongues!

Heading west into a setting sun as the stars begin to twinkle in the fiery purple hues, is pretty special.

Who knew there were so many billionaires?

There’s few better way to travel than on calm seas with big winds.

Boats = freedom

If under sail, one has right of way, in theory…unless they’re bigger than you…or Italian.

The French and the Italians have got a lot of things right, socially we can learn a lot.

Plastic waste is bad, especially in the sea.

If encountering officialdom in Tunisia, be sure to brush up on D Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’, beforehand.

If Captain Hook offers you passage on the Hejira, snap his hand off (just leave his keyboard finger intact!), you won’t regret it.

Piracy

Development Costa Smerelda style
Sardinian courtesy. 4 Moors.
Corsican courtesy. One bandit.
Bonifacio, perched on the clifftop overhanging the sea.

Before I forget this story, I have to tell you about our arrival in Bonifacio. We had pre-booked and were allocated a good berth on the ‘active’ side of the harbour next to a nice but old Halberg Rassey. The very tanned and clearly seasoned Italian owner ran around deploying fenders as we came in but we made not even the remotest contact with his pride and joy. Once we had moored, he beckoned me to him in a conspiratorial way to hear what he had to say. He said behind his hand “I am so pleased you are not a French boat”. I shook his hand!

Bonifacio as we approach.

Carl and Tom were ‘made up’ with the destination as I knew they would be. We were not made up however with the price of our ‘dirty beers’ at a monstrous €10 each – we had run up a bill of over €60 before realising.

A view of Bonifacio Citadel from the marina.

Having been thus ‘stung’ Carl, with a ‘bee in his bonnet’ refused to stop for a beer when we climbed up to the citadel and I failed to find any bars with substantially cheaper beer. Strange chap, Carl!

Hejira is down there somewhere.

Carl writes:-

Ahoy there, Shipmates! Move over, Marbella. Au revoir, Port Grimaud. Sayonara, St Tropez. Push-off, Puerto Banus. The new-kid-on-the-block, beautiful Bonifacio, certainly lived-up to Captain Nemo’s billing and proved to be as ‘bonny’ as a harbour could be. With its entrance miraculously hidden until you’re right on top of it, the most-natural of marinas opens up to be the Koh-i-Noor of the Corsican coastline.

We had arrived following a relatively short and energetic, enjoyable sail and Nick skilfully guided us into a tight, narrow berth with n’er a fender touched. Sadly, he then less-skilfully guided us to the aforementioned quay bar where we experienced piracy of the highest order – ten pieces of eight for each proverbial tot of rum. I was only disappointed the maitre d’i wasn’t tottering about on a wooden leg with a parrot perched on her shoulder.

A very tasty vessel-cooked chorizo & vegetable risotto saved the day, not to mention our rapidly-dwindling ‘whip’ and a lovely inexpensive evening was enjoyed by all. You can take the boy out of the north…

Wee Tom writes:-

The last 48 hours have been the ‘days of the supers’. Since leaving the Sardinian coastline we have seen a vast array of floating hardware that looks more P&O than personal transport. These floating behemoths loom out of the seas, all chrome, no conscience and one can’t help but wonder about the owners of said ships. From my very limited experience, seafaring sailing is a bit of an old boys’ club, and a well off boys’ club at that – but these floating hotels take all that to a different level.

Take our sighting of what we now know to be ‘Yacht A’ (see previous blog). A cursory nosey on the internet informed us that the boat itself was built for an estimated £360 million, thus making it the most expensive, sail assisted motorboat in history. Along with this you were talking about a crew of 54 men and women, significantly more than most small/medium businesses in the UK. Given that a superyacht is very rarely lived on full time by the owners and how high the ongoing costs, it must be purely pocket money for these tycoons – an outlet for people who literally have no idea what else to spend their obscene assets on.

But fear not, the owner of Yacht A, a Mr. Andrey Melnichenko is described online as an ‘industrialist and philanthropist’, so I’m sure that the world’s poor are over the moon at his little treat to himself. He would really have had to graft as it’s well known that the Russian economy is open and honest and not dominated by ex-KGB and soviet elites that don’t operate in a completely corrupt and croney-esque manner, dangling the baubles of prosperity in the form of lucrative government contracts to those most in favour. Probably.

I can almost hear those metaphorical corks popping in Oxfam’s HQ as we speak!

Blow

The wind was due to pick up so we modestly put the main up with a reef and let the full jib out as it is easy to reef. It wasn’t long before we were furling the jib to be replaced by the staysail and putting a second reef in the main. This did at least mean that we had a spirited sail and even with this sailplan, with gusts of over 30 knots, we made very good speed.

Of the notable incidents, we saw what looked like a volcano erupting with smoke emanating from the top of a mountain. As we approached downwind, we smelt burning vegetation so it was clearly a fire. We then had front row seats to an aerial display by two firefighting planes which continually circled picking up sea water and dropping it on the fire. As we left the conflagration behind us there was no diminution in the level of smoke so it may have been a long job..

Smokey mountain with the firefighting plane approaching the water pick up
The plane banking into another pick up approach.

We chose to press on, into the teeth of the gale and anchor overnight. Carl had prepared much of the curry using the dubious meat (?) balls in the foreign tins and it was OK – ish.

The blow is due to diminish overnight then increase again in the straits of Bonefacio in the afternoon. Mooring in Bonefacio can be something of a lottery (I have made an on-line application…) so we are planning to arrive soon after lunch (and before the next blow) hopefully after the exodus and before the newbies arrive. Bonefacio is a stunning destination with the citadel standing on the promontory, it’s a must do for anyone who has never visited before. I remember being there on the 14th of July many years ago and witnessing all the fireworks against the background of the battlements. What a privilege this sailing lark can be.

I posted pictures of two ‘stink pots’ in Corfu a few weeks ago claiming them to be the most ugly boats I had seen. I now have to accept that they have been eclipsed by an even uglier vessel anchored off Porto Cervo and to make matters worse it is a ‘quasi’ sailing yacht. It needs to be drubbed out of the fraternity! It seems that Carl disagrees and Tom is diplomatically sitting on the fence – we need a vote on this – please leave a comment with your opinion so we can decide – Carl or me !

Undisputed winner of the most ugly boat – in my opinion….
What had they been smoking?

Carl writes:-

The proverb ‘be careful for what you wish’ came home to roost with a vengeance yesterday. Having spent the majority of the journey gently chiding Captain Codswalop that we seem to go everywhere under motor, he decided to dial in some wind from the Gods. And my word, was that wind or what!

Gusting at over 30 knots, Nick, informed us that this, if it continued, would be a Force 7 gale, and we should all don our life-jackets without delay. Wee Tom & I dutifully followed our orders but only after depleting the stomach-saving Scopoderm stock yet again. Torrid stuff but such fantastic fun as that’s what we’re here for.

Furthermore, a free-anchorage in amongst the superyachts of Europe’s establishment elite and dinner courtesy of several out-of-date Spanish cans, reminded us that we don’t always need the expensive pampering of gilded harbours and marinas. Mind, I think one was cat food.

Also, what on earth is Nick going on about wrt the boat that needs drubbing-out of the fraternity? Are we looking at the same vessel? Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder and to these eyes the boat is drop-dead gorgeous, very possibly the most stunning piece of brutal, Bauhaus-esque, slab-sided minimalist design I’ve ever cast mine upon. He sees Kathy Burke where I envisage Bridget Bardot. His Mrs Doubtfire to my Ms Hepburn. Theresa May or Carla Bruni? Settle the argument for us?

Wee Tom writes:

In our salt-encrusted clothes, sailing-stubble, matted hair and understated Southerly 135 we represent, in my eyes, the new upstarts on the block – the beatniks of the briny.

Who exactly am I kidding, we live in Sunningdale for heaven’s sake! But even so, the sentiment is important to me. Before this trip I had no idea how easy it was to anchor off a sheltered cove or beach and feel more isolated and upon an untrodden path. As a man that has recently called-time on the steady, professional ‘career’ to venture into the wilds of the self-employed ‘gig-economy’, who owns a campervan and hasn’t paid for any overnight spot in two years, I am always on the lookout for my very own ‘The Beach’ location. I love the mystery, the intrigue and the feeling of doing something ever so slightly frowned upon.

We’ve stayed in some stunning marinas where you can plug in the AC, use the hot showers and go for a number-two without your knees round your head. Nonetheless, maybe because of my campervan background, or perhaps my northern blood, for me the true adventure is found outside of these oases of the ocean.

Freedom is a powerful feeling and you only need a second to consider the history of ships to know they have always represented the ultimate freedom – freedom from the law, freedom from taxes, freedom to rob, to claim distant lands and to pillage. We spend our lives adhering to static convention: put your roots down, build an extension, commute on this train to be on time for this job, for this boss. Keep focused on the family and filling-up the fridge as song-writing bard, Justin Currie once told us. Well I say f*ck ‘em. I’ll drop my anchor in the blue waters and for a week at least, write my own damn rule book – it’s a pirate’s life for me!

Rock

How can you extract interest or humour out of bliss? Windlessness apart, our passage to Santa Maria Navaresse was just thoroughly enjoyable passing the stunning Sardinian coastline and the approach to our destination was spectacular backed as it was by a colossal mountain.

Spectacular Sardinian coastline.
Stunning coastline

Along the way however, my bureaucracy paranoia was not eased by the presence of an official boat from the Guardia di Finenza running parallel to us at the same speed. This went on for some time until they blasted off into the distance – Phew!

Being followed.

We had another curious experience picking up an abandoned orange ships life-ring along the way. We handed it in to the Marina Office at our destination and we will never know if there was a story behind its deployment.

The recovered life-ring next to Tom’s comfy perch on the dinghy.

Despite a slightly challenging berthing (crew did great) the marina was one of the best. The pretty village was busy with Italians on holiday and there were no ‘tat’ shops that we saw. A swim off the beach, a very passable local IPA beer or two in a bar and the best meal Carl has produced (and that’s saying something) topped out a really great day.

Refreshing swim.
You would have to be really desperate for WiFi to persevere with this password

Carl writes:-

Ahoy there, Shipmates! OK, put your hand up if you thought Hejira was, pretty much, just a common-or-garden 46ft ‘Southerly 135’ yacht? Yeah, me too, but we’d be wrong. As it turns out, Hejira, at the mere touch of a few buttons, is able to transform itself into…a time machine.

Yesterday, as he took control of the musical selection, we were transported back to the teenage times of Captain Scarlett, and let me tell you, dark days they were too. Having assaulted our ears for much of the trip with his too-tooty modern jazz, Nick decided to go one step further and subject us, his loyal and long-suffering crew, to an afternoon of prog-rock. Exactly what misdemeanour we had committed to warrant such treatment remains unclear.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were followed by Blood Sweat & Tears, King Crimson morphed into Spooky Tooth, and Steve Winwood featured heavily in his Traffic and Spencer Davis periods. The coup d’grace was an eight minute organ solo by the caped-keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. And all these choices from a man who, the previous day had genuinely enquired which band were playing one particular classic song, as he seemed to recall it. The song was only ‘Hotel California’ from The Eagles. Go figure.

The other thing we noticed about Nick’s behaviour was the calming nature the world’s longest running ‘soap’ had on it. From the very opening bars of ‘Barwick Green’ (aka the theme for The Archers) Nick adopted a more relaxed and compliant persona. A veritable dose of Ritalin for the recently-retired. Gone were the barked orders and thinly veiled threats of the lash, all replaced by an almost loveable quasi-Joe-Grundy-esque character. Mind, I can see him trying to cadge a free pint in The Bull as well as The Nag’s Head!

Wee Tom writes:-

In the still greyness of the approaching dawn, a meandering manatee began crashing around the Hejira in what Mr. Mines later claimed in outrage was ‘me being quiet as a mouse’! The gallant crew were ordered out of their hammocks tout suite and as the sun crept out from below the horizon, HMS Nag’s began to edge serenely out of its berth. In my sleep-ridden state I proceeded to circle the boat in a daze as Captain Mainwaring gleefully barked incomprehensible orders and strange nautical terms at his bemused home-guarders.

Thankfully, having completed a number of lengthy solo sails it has become woefully apparent that this particular crew are essentially just the deck eye-candy – and boy have we been giving these Italians an eyeful of our pasty, Pict, pecs.

Upon arriving at the stunning port of Santa Maria Navarrese, we convinced Nick (who had more than one eye on the local IPA), to come for a soothing dip in the sea and this then panned out to be a truly pleasant evening.

Carl’s best yet, excellent cottage pie.

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