Going home

•Thursday, 12 November 2020 • 3 Comments

A final report from our adventures across the Med. We were on the engine all day from Port de Bouc to Gruissan in the south west corner of France – a beautiful sunrise but quiet the rest of the day with not enough wind to sail. The coastguard was onto us – did we have authorisation to be in french waters? Under lockdown, no unlicensed sailing allowed so technically the answer was no … but we were on our way home which seemed to placate the authorities. A punchy entrance to the port in the dark – narrow and shallow all the way with plenty of flashing lights. We saw 2.7m on the depth counter (we need 2.3m) so we were OK but fairly anxious until we parked up. I know I will sleep for a week when we finally get home!

Last sunrise for a while …

After briefing the boatyard on our very long list of winter maintenance needs, we headed to Narbonne to catch the train to Barcelona and the onto Valencia. Loads of security everywhere. Papers checked at every opportunity but ‘going home’ seemed to work. Valencia was operating a midnight curfew rather than lockdown so we were able to have a late meal out – a huge treat!

Not many people travelling from Narbonne

Next day, we collected the car (with the new window) and drove north. A lovely night with friends 25 minutes from Gruissan and then back to the boatyard to brief engineers and anxiously watch our 25 ton boat being lifted out of the water for the winter. A few scary moments but thankfully, all went well and that was that. We’ll be back in February to see how all the work is progressing – until then, back to the chalet for a rest!

Ready to lift
The scary bit

The eagle has finally landed!

•Friday, 6 November 2020 • 7 Comments

After 13016 nautical miles and many unexpected adventures (good and bad!), we have landed in Port Gruissan without further incident. I write this post with large Gin & Tonic in hand and a huge smile! Massive thanks for reading, mailing, commenting, texting and calling – especially after our most recent trauma. You restored my equilibrium and totally reassured me that my anxieties were well founded! It has been brilliant to be in touch – thank you. More to come but felt the need to say thank you and share the good news – all safe and sound. Now just need to get the car from Valencia (public transport and lockdowns not withstanding) and then drive home to our chalet in Seytroux …. and so the next adventure starts!

Another Parker adventure …

•Wednesday, 4 November 2020 • 3 Comments

Today we should have arrived in Gruissan – our final destination for the season. It was not meant to be. We anchored off the coast about 20 miles west of Marseilles on Monday night – as planned. Tuesday morning at 6am we were ready to go, tea in hand – a long day ahead with the Mistral wind forecast. Would you believe it … the engine wouldn’t start. We quickly exhausted all our engineering knowledge and called the coast guard … no emergency but we clearly could not stay where we were. An hour later and the coast guard arrived to tow us into the nearest port. The coast guards were really great – patient and hugely helpful. Of course, the one day we wanted the anchor to come up smoothly, it didn’t – jammed half way up so more repair work required before we were able to be safely towed … just a little bit stressful! In port, engineers have been helping. A new battery (different set of batteries to the ones we replaced earlier in the year) required. I spent the day washing and cleaning – I have control over this at least!

Coast Guard arriving …
Captain Parker checking the tow!

We are in Port du Bouc – without our engine. We ended the day as we had begun it – with some stress! When we were in bed, we heard footsteps on the boat – rushing up the companionway, we discovered 4 guys messing about and climbing into the tender … we yelled and they ran away. Thoroughly shaken, we went back to bed only to hear a loud bang 20 minutes later – they had returned and thrown all our lines into the water … we were drifting in the harbour without an engine out of control. Chris had the presence of mind to call the port captain and yell for help (in french) whilst I fendered the boat from the very large power boat we were drifting towards and the concrete harbour wall. With help, we got the boat back to it’s berth – totally frazzled. Chris stayed up on watch for a couple of hours but all quiet for the rest of the night. Pleased to report a blue sunny day today; more washing; still waiting for new batteries …

Port du Bouc at 7am

The Med is empty!

•Monday, 2 November 2020 • Leave a Comment

Day 5 of no wind … the sea is like a mill pond and there is no life at all … no other yachts, no cruisers … we are alone. It’s very weird and our assumption is that this is lockdown at sea.

Empty sea

Sailing challenges continue although I am thrilled to report a small victory – an hour spent flat on the floor with my head in the bilges yesterday evening and I managed to change the filters on our water maker. I have to remind myself I was once a senior exec floating around a boardroom looking glamorous and earning money … second career as first mate is a radical change! Anyway, after one false start this morning and the loss of the old filters overboard whilst attempting to clean them, the water maker is actually working – hallelujah! Huge victory although I have not yet put the manual away.

Water maker working!

Our anchorage last night was lovely – Isle de Port-Cros – just south of Hyere. Off by 8.15am for another day on the engine. Sadly, the forecast looks the same for the next couple of days. Next stop just beyond Marseilles.

Port-Cros

Ground hog day

•Sunday, 1 November 2020 • 4 Comments

The start of day 4 without wind. It means we are on the engine all day as we have to get to Gruissan by early next week. We’re getting great views of the coastline – up the Ligurian coast from Livorno to La Spezia; onwards to Santa Margherita (the very pretty harbour just north of Portofino) and from here up to Diano Marina and then Imperia. Yesterday we crossed into French waters and spent the night at anchor in the harbour outside Villefranche Sur Mer – just over the hill from Nice. The views are stunning – brightly coloured Italian villas clinging to the rock face; churches on the tiniest promontories.

The travel plan
Sun setting as we made our way to an anchorage near S. Margherita
Diano Marina

In addition to the views, we also have every day being a school day … something goes wrong or breaks on the boat every day! Usually a positive and resilient personality, I have had a major sense of humour failure over our last breakage … to cut a long story short (ish!) after a lovely trip ashore to Diano Marina in the tender (last Italian stop and we made it for cocktails before curfew!) we got back to the boat, attached the tender to the davits (mini crane on the back of the boat) and as we were hauling it up, one of the lines broke. So … at night, at sea and with the tender held onto the boat with one line whilst its engine was submerged. Really not funny. After getting the tender floating again and a failed attempt to repair the damage, we slept on it. Friday morning saw us hot footing it to Imperia – a large port nearby so that we could attempt the repair from dry land and get help. All’s well that ends well – 3 ebullient Italians plus active help from Chris and me and we managed a temporary fix – bravissimo!

France is in serious lock down so no plans to set foot on land until we get to our base. Chris managed to get Strictly on the iPad for me last night – love it! Planning to get to our destination on Tuesday – hoping for wind and and that the gin will last.

Regained sense of humour!

Moving north up the west coast of Italy

•Friday, 30 October 2020 • 2 Comments

A fabulous day sailing close hauled in a force 5 gusting 6 all the way to Livorno. We saw 8.6 knots of speed on the instruments and felt like we were flying! Not much scope to make a cup of tea in the 6 hour journey but hey ho … no worries for the rough, tough sailors that we are!

Flying!

We stayed in Livorno overnight – a large commercial port. Italian curfew at 6pm means that dinner out is over so we celebrated Shirl’s last night with us over a home made curry and large G&T. Shirley headed off for a flight from Pisa and we continue the journey north – our aim is to get to south west France within a week. We will miss our crew mate!

Parking lot outside Livorno Port

Elba – Portoferraio Harbour

•Wednesday, 28 October 2020 • 1 Comment

Gorgeous! The island is beautiful – a very pretty coastline and as the sailing book says, hard not to fall in love with Portoferraio. After a night at anchor ion a lovely bay south of the island, we had 2 days to explore Portoferraio, the capital of Elba – see the old city, sample the food and do a spot of shopping – all goals successfully achieved. Cocktail bar handily immediately across from Mistral but in fairness, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops line the seafront. The history of the island is obvious in the architecture – forts surrounding the harbour, Napoleon’s home whilst he exiled in Elba for 3 years, lots of narrow streets and brightly painted houses built into the ramparts of the old city walls. Shirls and I spent time and money in the perfume shop – we may look bedraggled but we smell lovely!

Approaching the harbour
Our neighbours
The old city
Our lovely home

Onwards to Elba

•Saturday, 24 October 2020 • 3 Comments

2 more nights in Sardinia – our anchorage wasn’t perfect with a south east wind causing a swell in the bay … suffice to say that when I slept (not much) I was dreaming of washing machines! We were chased off the anchorage early by military police who informed us that the bay was about to be used as a shooting range and our orders were to retrace our steps to the Marina around the corner to wait for their word when proceedings were finished. 4 hours later and we were off again and headed for a lovely protected marina with dinner out and the best sleep I have had for days!

Arbatrax Harbour

Our plan was to sail up the cost to the north end of Sardinia. However, on setting sail, we had a fabulous wind that would sweep us all the way to Elba – through the night and for the next 24 hours. Given the couple of days lost waiting for parts in Mahon, Palma and Cagliari, we decided to go for it. Another challenging but exhilarating sail with our watch system of 2 hours on/off we have just passed the island of Monte Christo. Elba next stop.

Dawn – a window of sky slowly opens
Pizza for breakfast!
Island of Monte Christo

Discovering Sardinia

•Thursday, 22 October 2020 • 2 Comments

After a lovely day of rest, Shirls and I explored Cagliari. Slightly shabby but beautiful architecture and many small and lively restaurants. Some fabulous views over the city from the top of the old city and v generous gin and tonics at the bottom!

A view from the top of Cagliari
G&T time!

A 6am start to set sail for the eastern coast of Sardinia – a force 5 gusting 6 had us tacking up to the south end of the island and then a more comfortable broad reach up the coast. Lessons learned every day – today, we realised that closing hatches is not enough. Hatches need to be as tightly closed down as it’s possible to be and everything everywhere lashed right down … some water into the saloon and Shirley’s cabin along with assorted veg on the workshop floor! We’re now anchored at the end of a long white sandy beach – not quite nice enough to swim but enjoying a beer and the view.

Tacking down to the southern tip of Sardinia

A Parker adventure!

•Sunday, 18 October 2020 • 4 Comments

I’m blogging from Sardinia! We finally set sail from Menorca on Thursday early afternoon for our maiden overnight passage across to Italy. Shirls and I had a lovely afternoon in Cuitadello, the historic capital of Menorca; all the fixes were completed and the forecast looked reasonable. The passage was 40 hours – we arrived at 6am on Saturday – so 2 nights at sea. We did watches through the night of 2 hours on and 2 hours off – a brisk force 4 wind much of the time with a moderate sea state (waves up to 2.5m). We rolled through the waves but armed with sea sickness tablets, we all survived the trip without being ill. We sailed for half the time and were on the engine the other half with the wind directly behind us. It’s quite something to be in the open seas in the darkness looking up at a huge sky filled with stars. We didn’t meet many other boats – the odd fishing vessel and a couple of huge cargo ships – no other buggers are as daft!

Cagliari is at the south end of Sardinia and looks very pretty – a lovely sight as the sun rose. Absolutely shattered on arrival but still had to complete Covid forms in triplicate and organise to get a test. In true Italian style, a really challenging task. I must have made 50 calls, written many mails – British Consul (hopeless), Tourist Office (tried hard), port authorities (rubbish), health authorities (really rubbish) and finally the airport – a miracle. We got a test today at the airport – 2/3 days to get the results but we feel free to leave the boat now and explore.

Arriving in Cagliari at 6am
Lunch in Cuitadello
Cuitadello old town – the main plaza