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Italy - Sardinia

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Log Entry Saturday 10th April - We eventually leave Cagliari.

Our time has come, the weather forecast was as good as we could get for this time of year, basically "winds - light and variable". The weather at this time of year as, we have seen is very volatile, to say the least, but on paper it was time to go! We had, for one reason or another now been in Sardinia waters for some 18 months, our destination was Sidi Bou Said (Tunisia) 155 miles to the south - to warmer climates. Due to winds, it was impossible to put an accurate time scale to the trip as we prefer to sail as much as possible, motoring as least as possible but it should take us between 30-36 hours? We indicate to our family that it could take up to 48 hours so as not to have them worried too early should any unforeseen issue delay us. Our only objective was to cross the acclaimed "busy shipping lanes" to the north of Tunisia in day light if possible.

We slip our lines at 12 noon, our friends gather to see us off, we are the first to leave the winter berths - we would prefer to believe they gathered to wish us good luck rather than making sure we went! Seriously, we have made some good friends, we go through some quite emotional goodbyes on the pontoon before we slip our lines and move off. As one does we will stay in touch with many over the coming years, and, may even meet up with some again. Her clean bottom (Sailaway's) would provide noticeable improvement straight away - thanks Eamon! As we pulled out of our berth, a few of the locals that we had come to know wished us "good sailing", as we did so, two motor cruisers sounded their horns - we felt quite proud.

We make our way out of the harbour for the last time, looking back it is hard to believe it was truly happening - we were truly beginning our next travels. What lay ahead now becoming more intriguing while reflecting back on our long period of time there, the city began to disappear behind us. We had some concern with regards to the weather, in theory, the forecast gave us moderate to strong winds behind us, with isolated thunder storms - getting wet was ok! As we left the harbour, the wind had dropped and swung to the south, we would not have left in with a head wind, but we decided to motor south to find cleaner wind out in the bay - hopefully? A head wind, combined with a "volatile weather pattern" whipping up the sea was not our idea of fun, we had experienced it too often.

As we motored on the wind began to swing to the south east and lift some what, off went the engine, we were now fully committed to the journey, no going back, what ever winds were awaiting us, we would manage. As darkness fell we again reflected over our time in Cagliari, the wind would gradually continue to move to the west over night, constant adjustment of our canvas kept our speed up, and of coarse our engine off!


Log Entry Tuesday 30th March Sailaway's bottom cleaned!

We have a philosophy in life "every thing happens for a reason", it helps us to justify "happenings" - it works for us any way! Eamon (Wayward) had offered to dive and clean Sailaway's under side of all the usual stuff that gathers over the winter. Unfortunately he had taken ill and was unable to complete before our perceived weather window. We would have sailed "heavy", therefore slower, but as we are no longer on the clock, time matters little to us. This, in the gods minds, was clearly, not a good idea, hence the weather change. Every thing happens for a reason!

Eamon, now able, had dived provisionally yesterday and removed the bulk of the growth, today, he was to finish off. I, now a fully trained "topside support technician" was to duplicate the previous days tasks, general assistance putting on the equipment, safety observer and ensuring all associated tooling was in situ as required. More importantly to ensure hot tea was available upon conclusion of the dive!

Any activity on the pontoons usually attracts someone's attention, it is a beautiful day why not? Reins (Sea Swallow) and Gavin (Blue Elephant) join the group, not too arduous for myself as Reins brings his own coffee!

A job worth having done, from our "shake out voyage" in February, the clean should increase our speed by 20% - 25%, over a 36 hour passage, quite a saving, you can get to the pub ashore quicker - every thing happens for a reason!

Log Entry Saturday 27th March - We did not quite make it!

As dawn broke, we were ready, good and fresh, we had left our leaving party early to ensure a good night sleep as we had forecast F5 north westerlies which would ensure us a brisk passage to Tunisia. Many of our friends had joked about coming to see us off at 0700 hours - "ensuring that we would leave". I check the 0600 hour forecast, and guess what, all change to the previous, midnight's predictions. The F5 had increased to F6, and over night increasing to a F7 (a yachtsman's gale). As I confirmed to Ann we were now not leaving, we heard Julia (Wild Oats) calling us from the pontoon, complete with her own coffee, people kept on coming, one could only describe it as breakfast on Sailaway. Poor Riens & Ineke (Sea Swallow) were unable to find a seat on board and returned to their own vessel!

Every one understands how things can change, not one word was mentioned about the "early false start" for some. The conversation and humour was as it always was as a group, time passed quickly and the kettle boiled and re-boiled.

About 0830 hours I heard a cry from the pontoon across from us, John (Ocean Star), had, after a "busy evening", over slept our departure time. He had arrived with the view to take a photograph of our empty berth and email it to us. Some what surprised, but pleasantly pleased he joined us, tucking into bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches.

Log Entry Friday 26th March - Our first attempt at leaving Cagliari!

It comes every year - the time to leave your winter berth. The weather at this time of year is still quite volatile, one spends days looking for a "suitable window". All cruisers are different in requirements, some want to move as soon as possible, others sit awaiting the stability, typically May - we are the later.We thought we had our window, Saturday 27th a good reason for a booze up! It was to be an informal gathering for a beer, 19.30/20.00 hours.

I once again checked the weather before the gathering, all still good, a brisk sail south to Tunisia. No one would like to be tempted out for a drink under false pretenses? It is better to enjoy a social gathering knowing it's reason is just!

Ann and I were very pleased with the turn out, the evening built, conversation and humour evident as always. Ann was convinced that the group was converged due to her good self as I am a "miserable b_____d!", she must be correct as it can be associated with my UK tag - "Grumpy Granddad!" I was just convinced that they were just glad to see us go?

The evening was concluded, quite early for us as we plan to leave early (0700 hours), very early for Mediterranean, time but our window was small, the sooner the trip was concluded, the better. A few tears were shed as we wished all well and the best of luck!


Log Entry Monday 1st March - Our Boom/Cockpit tent is complete, Ann is "Certified!"

Ann completes the boom tent, it looks great and fits perfectly! What next she shouts? That evening we are hit by very strong winds, a good test. The next morning all is well, it is certainly strong enough and will now give us good cover from the rain as well as the sun as we continue on our travels.

Our friend, Ineke caught Ann hard at work, takes a cheeky picture and issues a "Certificate of Competence". This is only the second time that I know of Ann has been "certified", one might argued it should have been more frequent, or even more final

Double-Click here to enlarge image

Next, Repairs to the cockpit spray hood, then recover the cockpit cushions!


Log Entry Saturday 27th February - Ann takes up Sewing!

For some time we have been looking at some of our canvas work and thinking "it needs repairing!" Unless you live in it, it is difficult to imagine the damage the sun does to material? We often think to ourselves "if only we were back in the UK weather?" If you believe that then we suggest you go outside, take a piece of rope, a "wobbly stool" and look for a suitable tree!

The problem with our canvas, is not the material itself, but the thread which decays, effectively the things literally fall apart. We had been stitching critical seams by hand, as usual the "locals" price the work way beyond comprehension. The amount of work that is lost here due to such over pricing is unbelievable, still, for some unexplainable reason it appears to be "a cultural thing". All these repairs had been purposely left until we were "somewhere else". We have been talking about buying a sewing machine for some time, almost all live aboard's own one, except us that is! Ann goes shopping with a friend (Ineke, from Sea Swallow, or in Dutch, Syzeezwaluw, which ever you prefer) and returns with a Singer sewing machine. It comes in a box, decorated with all of the major languages, including English as one would expect from such a brand name. Once the box is opened, the fun starts - all documentation, manual etc is in Italian. We are fortunate, Ann remembers using a sewing machine as a small child, as that is not so long ago, our problems and concerns are over!

Before you know it, with the help of friends, and a manual down loaded from the internet Ann is off! If it is stationary long enough, it is being stitched! It is at times like this one reflect back, to a previous life where, if a button came of a shirt, it was dumped? Apart from needed repairs Ann makes a large boom tent, which is supported by our boom giving us excellant protection from the sun.


Log Entry Thursday 20th February - Our first sail of 2010!

We had been looking for a break in the strong winds to take Sailaway out for her first sail of the year, We knew "her bottom" was dirty, the exercise was to see how much debris she had collected over the months. Sailaway had been stationary since the last week in September of last year, although when on board we had started her engine every week, running her in gear for an hour or so to try and keep the collect of dirt to a minimum. When you are stationary for a period of time you also become very complacent, during our "traveling months", we pride our selves with being able to secure all and move within 15 minutes. This trip took us nearly an hour to make all secure every thing below in it's proper place! We had our many friends to watch/help us out, but more importantly help us back in. We are "stern to", reversed in due to a conflict in mast positions with along side boats - during our stay in the UK, Sailaway's mast had collided with that of a neighbouring vessel and was turned around by the marina staff. Sailaway, like all long keel vessels does not do reverse, well not at least in the required direction!

Julia (Wild Oats) joined us for the day, we could not have picked a better day. We slowly made our way out of the berth, not so much due to the hesitance of the skipper, more so because of the extra weight she was carrying (debris, not crew!). We spent some time motoring in the harbour to shake a little off. Then out into the bay we went, it was never going to be too strenuous, winds were light (6-8 knots) and the sea like glass.

We motored for some time, looking for local wind a little further into the bay, a lazy day ahead - the first glass of wine was poured as we left the harbour. We spent about three hours out in the bay, our speed restricted by the light winds, but all points of sail relative to the wind was tried. All works well, we have moved into the 21st Century, investing in a Chart Plotter (electronic charts, are now cheaper than paper!) - I still prefer my paper charts and pencil although the system clearly has it's advantages. All making our next trip to Tunisia a "piece of cake" as we say! We sail "goose winged" back to the harbour entrance, drop our sails and prepare to make the dangerous manoeuvre back into our berth. We had arranged to call Riens & Ineke (Syzeezwaluw, or Sea Swallow to us brit's!) on the VHF to warn, I mean advise them of our intended return - Riens & Ineke were our "ground crew".

Upon approach to the pontoons it was comforting to see the bodies gathering to help us in, it made the manoeuvre a lot less trouble some. There was obviously a raised voice or two - but that's normal any way! The bottom is too dirty to leave "as is", and requires cleaning, a little frustrating as one wonders why one invests so much cash in anti foul paint. In May of last year we used "International" wanting the better substrate and of coarse paying for it. It is clearly an indication of the quality of the water within this harbour. A diver is needed as a further lift out would be difficult to organise, any very expensive as the prices here have been significantly increased.

Log Entry Tuesday 9th February - Julia's (Wild Oats) 40 years old today!

As the log entry title suggests, today Julia is 40 today, we have a gathering tonight. Approximately forty are gathering, live aboard's and local Sards. We gather at 1930 hours, Julia has arranged a table at a local Pizza restruant. We call it the "Swimming Pool" as it is part of a local sports complex, we frequent it often and would recommend it to any one.

The restruant is ready for us, we are all seated on one long table. As one would expect the evening begins in a fairly conservative manner, things "loosen up" as the wine flows.

The dinner goes well, the three Dutch children are extremely well behaved, they constantly amuse us, which is normal too!

Following our meal some decide to head into the town, in search of ? Well, it always seams a good idea at the time, Ann and I join the group.

The rest of the evening goes well for all, the bar we visit is good, we stay until the early hours.

Ann, Julia and I, along with a couple of other live aboard's walk home - that was interesting too!

Log Entry Sunday 21st January - Keeping our minds occupied!

Winter is a difficult time on board for many, socialising, plays a major point - if one is not careful one can easily "drink the time away!" I am luck to a certain extent, there is always some thing to fix, modify or install on board. Ann has taken to cooking, on board we have food products, and utensils on board that when we "lived a normal life" was never owned, let alone used! Tonight, it is "Rich Rabbit Casserole", rabbit, obviously, cooked in cider, prunes and apple. I had just returned from the UK, I had been under strict orders to bring back with me the cider as the product is not available here. I had originally purchased four cans of Scrumpy Jack - unfortunately, only two made the trip!

Ann's concentration is intense, she utilises her new, recently acquired, dual pressure, pressure cooker. Ann uses a steamer for the vegetables. The meal was lovely, Ann always makes too much, it always totally disappears. There is no wonder we are watching our weight, grow that is? We keep saying "we will work it off, once we start moving!"

There is always the "aftermath" to clear up - that's my job!

Log Entry Saturday 16th January - It's time for Mum to leave!

Well it's time for Mum to leave, she fly's back to the UK with me (Kevin) today, it's the only way I could guarantee she would go! I will be in the UK for a week leaving Ann alone on Sailaway. I am confident my Ann will be fine on her own, it's the poor people left in the marina with her I feel sorry for! A few of the offered to get together her airfare to allow her to return with me - a very nice gesture I thought?

Mum appears to have enjoyed her self, no "worse for ware" as they say. I must say she is probably looking forward to getting back to her own home - Ha , that's a laugh! She keeps mentioning coming back, but I ignore it, I think I got away with that?

Mum says her goodbyes, Jean Franco bids her fare well - she has been acting a little strange lately, I am confident it will pass?


Log Entry Wednesday 13th January - off to the mountains with Mum!

We decide to hire a car and take Mum north into the centre of the island, our destination is the town of Belvi, just north of the province of Cagliari. The area reflects the ancient characteristics of the island with rugged mountains, shepard's, trails, with villages perched high over steep, mountainous valleys. The area is known as Barbagia, developed from the latin word "Barbaria" was used by the Romans to describe these inaccessible regions of the interior, inhabited by "barbarians", not sharing Roman believes. This central region resisted invasion for centuries, preserving it's nuraghic regional rites. Chestnut forests dominate the hillsides.

The infrastructure is not well developed therefore the average speed on the the trip is probably less than 30/40 km/hour. As we leave the city the roads become more "rural" (narrow and windy) but the scenery is beautiful, the snow capped mountains creating an excellant back drop.

The higher we go the more snow, how ever as the narrow, winding roads follow the profile of the hills we are constantly climbing and descending, the back drop changing continuously.

The roads are quite deserted this time of year which makes the driving even more interesting for me as I can take in the view more. As we pass through the decorated villages, their own character is clear. We stop for breakfast in one of the many small cafes, for some reason the women insist on a whiskey "to warm the cockles of the heart", they declare!

It is quite amazing what I have to put up with at times!

We arrive in Belvi late in the day, we look for accommodation, assisted by one local gentleman who rings around the hotels and B&B's for us. We find quite a lot still closed as one would expect, eventually we find one in the high street - it is so cold. We check the rooms out, all seems good, except for the temperature. Even in the bar, all are dressed in top coats, we end up eating our dinner in our coats - every where appears the same? With the heating on, our rooms warm a little, the next day I speak with the owners, pledges of more heat are made.

The next morning we are glad to get into the car and warm up, we plan to drive around the local area, returning to the same hotel that evening. We (Ann & I) had been into this area last year, we were hoping we could show Mum what we had experienced? We soon came across the wild, roaming live stock - excellant to see!

Live stock have priority on the roads, with little traffic we had more time to enjoy it. I would keep a keen eye on the road ahead, conditions would worsen, snow deepen, or ice appear as we ascended, once I turned the car around as, to me, the road looked impassible?

We spent the full day in the countryside, stopping regularly to stretch our legs, walk around the small villages we came across or eat. As darkness came we arrived back to the hotel. The rooms were no warmer, my request for portable heaters ignored. We packed our bags and to the owners horror we left.

We decided to check out other hotels, most were shut, we found one in the village, but on inspecting the rooms decided the issue (temperature) was the same. It was clear that the area was not geared to supplying the room temperatures we required, the locals clearly lived with it.

We unfortunately had to cut the trip short and return to our lovely warm "Sailaway" - but we had enjoyed what we had seen!


Log Entry Wednesday 6th January - "La Befana"


"The three Befane with their brooms"

In Italian folklore, La Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of 5th January) in a similar way to our own " Santa Claus or farther Christmas". This Italian gift-giving spirit, similar to many other European countries, is also known as "Saint Befana". The other two characters are "La Vecchia" (the Old Woman), and "La Strega" (the Witch). It is believed that the character may have initially originated in central Italy, then spread as a tradition to the rest of the population? A popular belief is that her name derives from the Feast of Epiphany or in Italian, "La Festa dell'Epifania". Epifania (Epiphany in English), is a Latin word with Greek origins. meaning either the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) or “manifestation of the divinity", as we under stand it.

In popular folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their stockings with sweets and presents if they are good, or, a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with food, often regional or local, for the Befana. She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air (she reminds me of some one I know?) wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag or hamper filled with sweets and gifts.

In true tradition, here at Marina del Sole, we decide to celebrate the ancient tradition in true style. It begins as quite an informal gathering, a notice of the intended celebration is place in the club house window. It's written in Italian on remnants of a cardboard box! We arrive with Mum early in the evening to find out that the food was being supplied by the locals, all traditional of coarse. The event begins to gather pace, little had been know about it within the live aboard's - I assume we were invited? Those Italian lessons had paid off I guess.

As both live aboard's and Sards (as they like to be called) gathered in numbers the evening developed into an excellant event, the food was varied and interesting.

Mum settled in well, a little too well I thought at times, it was pointless me saying any thing - she never listens!

By now Mum was "out of control", still it was good of Jean Franco to take her under his wing - he even showed her the local dance steps.


Then, as one would have expected, La Befana made an appearance, little gifts were given but many were "marked with coal" - probably reflective of the individuals in attendance. Our group was not marked but one would expected that - not sure how she missed Mum through?

A good evening was had by all, especially Mum, we made our way back to Sailaway in the early hours.



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