Reflections on the journey this year

It has now been a few weeks since we returned to the UK having delivered Mariadz to Brindisi. We have had some time to think about what happened and draw some conclusions.

It has become clear that long term sailing is about fixing the boat in exotic spaces as the phrase has it. Despite having spent a lot of money getting Mariadz ready for the trip, we still had breakages and quite a lot of expense. Some of these were just unfortunate first-time-use things or inexperience, like the rigging issues with our downwind sailing configuration. The autopilot breakage was unfortunate and having seen the large amount of such breakages on longer trips, combined with the first hand experience of long term hand-steering, means we have now ordered a spare autopilot.

Firstly, this has definitely whet our appetite for sailing around the world. We love the boat life, despite missing the cats, now 12 years old, who had stayed at home for this trip. We had a couple of hairy bits of sailing, particularly going into Cascais with a sail jam and the bouncy meetings of two seas at Tarife. I am not sure the cats would have liked those two parts of the trip and we were also worried as we skipped round the south coast of the UK with them that they didn’t seem to eat or drink water at sea. We have some thoughts about this for the future though and actually some of it may be that they need more time at sea to get into a routine. We are conscious that 12 isnt young for a cat and Clyde in particular is feeling his age at the moment. It is certainly something we need to think about.

We struggled to get weather information with very little coming through on our Navtex and no satellite capability. We had fitted an SSB but with the engine running a lot of the time, we struggled to overcome the interference we encountered. Our solution will hopefully revolve around Starlink, Elon Musk’s new satellite internet. We have this already on land and have friends who have already installed this on their boats, one a moody 54. At the moment, mid ocean internet is not available but we are hoping that in the next few years this will be a reality. As well as weather, this will allow Maria to call children and grandchildren. Despite this we didn’t have any issues with unexpected weather and the various sites we used, including windy, Windfinder and the French Meteo forecasting, were all pretty good and we were able to make some good decisions on when to go even when our various sites didn’t 100% agree.

However, the biggest unexpected expense, that would be different for our trip was the fuel bill. Fuel is especially expensive at the moment anyway and our engine burns a little less than a litre a mile. During our 3,700 mile journey, we used 1,800 litres of fuel, so we did get some sailing in. However, we were forced to use the engine rather than taking our time and waiting for the wind to change, hopefully fuel will be a lot less in the future but the fuel bill was around £3,000, a lot more than we budgeted. We could have lost a day or so by going to North Africa to refuel which would have saved us £1,000 and clearly when we have more time these considerations will take on more importance.

We were prepared for the cost of marinas and had selected Almerimar in Spain because it was good value, we were pleased with that decision since everyone made Maria very welcome. We were also able to get everything fixed due to the fantastic Paul. however, the repairs meant we spent more time in Marinas than we expected, our preference being to anchor. When we did anchor we generally found some really good places, except for our problems at Portimao, and again when we have more time we would expect to do a lot more of this. maria found the navily app to be invaluable when finding anchorages with useful reviews, I imagine that will get better as more people contribute, Maria will certainly be adding to the knowledge base.

With our first major crossing of a sea, Maria had decided that we should have crew for the trip especially the longer crossings. She recruited two crew from Crewseekers, Richard and Gerald. We did the right thing getting time with them before the trip but the difference between them and Christian, who did the Mediterranean leg, was like night and day. Of course we know Christian well and he is a very good sailor who complemented us. We found our crew weren’t as experienced as we were expecting with a few of the fundamentals around anchoring and mooring being a problem. This is probably understandable since sailors generally think about getting from A to B rather than the other aspects of cruising which a multi-week journey entails. Maria would do this again but I think we would need to be more diligent in understanding the levels of experience of the crew, although to be fair, most people with cruising knowledge will have their own boat and be doing it for themselves.

We swapped around our watch system a few times. In Biscay, people had six hours on watch and six hours off watch overnight with changes every three hours and no one on watch on their own. I think this reflected our confidence in the new crew who we had only known for a few hours before we left but also allowed us to balance our time together. The watch system changed slightly when we had the autopilot failure since we were keen to make sure that people were only hand steering for an hour at a time. All in all, it worked very well.

In the Mediterranean with Christian, we went with effectively a three hour watch system, so three hours on six hours off but with the the person finishing their watch hanging around for an extra hour. This meant we had two people up on deck every few hours which helped with any more complicated sail plan changes and also kept things interesting since you had company. Christian was great and we made a great team.

Maria had put a lot of thought into the menus for our trips making sure that the food was easy to prepare on passage. Lots of preparation and freezing of cooked meals meant that the food was excellent throughout the trip. People who know Maria won’t be surprised. I will see if I can persuade Maria to do a blog on the food.

We had made an effort to get the water maker working prior to our trip. However, Mariadz has 1,000 litres of fresh water and with our relatively frugal use, despite showers for most of us every day, we hardly worried about water at all and only used the water maker once, mostly to prove it was working,

While we were away, Maria did a video blog each day with her thoughts which seemed to be really popular and we will be putting this up on the YouTube channel. I think this may become her thing.

Anyway, just some thoughts and happy to comment on any questions people may have.

Siderno to Brindisi – the last leg for a while

The sea has been still all night with very little wind but the place where we are anchored has been very rolly with the boat moving around lots. It has disturbed Maria’s sleep in particular which was ruined completely by a few mosquitos that had got in and feasted themselves on us all night.

It is early in the morning when we get up to start the final day and night sail to Brindisi. This will be our first overnight trip on this journey where we will be just two up although we are confident that we will catch up on our rest when we can. We have checked the weather and it will be a little lumpy in the Adriatic but that is true for the next five days and Mariadz can take a bit of discomfort for the eventual goal of arriving at her new home berth.

There is hardly any wind and we seem to be a little luckier with the tides today which are, if not favouring, at leant punishing us. Maria is really tired and get a good rest up in the cockpit as the boat sails herself under my watchful eye.

The sea is flat-ish. This goes to maria once saying how flat the sea was and being corrected by one of her friends who suggested it wasn’t flat but flat-ish. That is now folklore and if we are in anything mirror-like, it is described as flat-ish.

As we move along the sole of the boot of Italy, the weather is getting a little worse and the wind is building. Unfortunately it is also building from the north east which is exactly where we need to be going. There is a noticeable line in the sea with white caps on the other side and this is ominously moving towards us. We are soon embroiled in a bouncy sea with the wind in our face. Our forecasts tell us that this will change later but at the time this happens it feels awful and we turn towards land for shelter as our first tack. Let’s hope it is not going to be like this long term or this will be a long journey. It is slow progress and we are starting to get close to land before we are anywhere near the gulf of Toronto that occupies the instep of the boot. I tack so that we can get around the headland, hopefully there will be some protection from the swell within the bay.

After this tack as we are heading towards Greece, albeit very slowly, the wind slowly changes direction and the swell reduces and suddenly we are in Eden. The wind is perfect and Mariadz is flying along at a great pace. If this continues we will be in Brindisi by morning. Note to self – never ever EVER use those words, it is the kiss of death. Today is no exception and shortly afterwards the wind dies down and we are motor sailing at a reasonable pace but the engine is back on as it has for a lot of the delivery trip.

One thing we have noticed since passing out of the western Mediterranean and beyond Sicily is that we haven’t seen a single dolphin. These had become a daily occurrence for us and we loved having them visit. Since passing through the Straits of Messina we haven’t seen one. Very sad.

Anyway we settle into our night routine and have decided that we will have a two hour watch routine but the other one will sleep up on the cockpit. It means a little of a disturbed night but it is only once and we can catch up on sleep the next day. Interestingly, this seemed to mean that we took turns to sleep. This part of the journey is quite tedious. Relatively little on AIS that would be a danger although we are now starting to see some sailing boats around – potential racers then!

It is nearly first light as we finish crossing the bay of Toranto and we can see the heel of Italy, Puglia, Mariadz’s home for the next couple of years. However, we have had to be careful of the swell and strong winds and these are likely to be worse once we get into the Adriatic with nothing to protect you like the heel has for this part of the journey. It is with some apprehension we approach Maria is Santa Luca, fully expecting the storms that have been described to greet us. in fact we have reduced sail and got ourselves ready just in case. Actually, it was exactly the same as we had already experienced so more of the same.

At this stage, we noticed a sailing vessel, SV Phoenix, which had been on our instruments since he left port in Italy. It is a 40 foot catamaran who seems to be doing the same journey as us. Initially it looks like we will be soon past him as he is going very slowly but shortly after, we don’t seem to have made that progress. He appears ahead of us having cut the corner into the Adriatic. There are still a lot of miles to Brindisi and so we have the opportunity for an interesting game of cat and mouse with him going up the coast. On some tacks we are clearly faster and can point closer to the wind, using our traveller to adjust the main to allow that but he seems to go a lot faster at other times, twin engines maybe?

The wind is in the north

We are less than a couple of hours out from Brindisi when there is a sudden change in the engine note and there is shaking. I don’t think it is the engine but go down to check the engine room, no noticeable problems with the engine so it is likely to be something wrapped around the prop.

Fortunately, Mariadz has a rope cutter attached to the prop for nets and lines that get wrapped around the prop to cut these away. Maria goes into astern to see if we can throw off whatever it is that is caught. When she returns to forward the vibration is still there. I recheck the engine but we are convinced it is something around the prop although there aren’t any lobster pots in this area. Well not to our knowledge and not that we have seen which may also be the problem! Maria goes again with a big burst of astern at reasonable revs. There is a churning, chewing sound which seems to clear and when maria goes back into forward the vibration has stopped. It looks like the rope cutter has done its job.

It is then into Brindisi marina and the approach takes ages from when you think you are getting in to when you turn the corner next to the castle and can see the marina. As we turn into O pontoon and look for 20, our new berth, it is clear there is someone already in it. We keep going and with some help get into O12 and our journey for this year is complete.

Reggio Calabria to the sole of the boot

After our belated wedding anniversary celebration and considerably lighter in the pocket, we are understandably not up early the next morning. Our new friends, Ivan and his family are leaving at a similar time on their way to Tunisia, where he reports fuel is still 80 cents a litre so I would have saved €1,000 but we would have lost at least a day negotiating the entry requirements, visas and customs. Still one to note when we have more time on our return.

We have spent a bit of time speaking to Ivan and his wife who are a lovely couple living in Canada with their four young children but clearly, as a couple, not afraid to be away for a short while to do something important for them. We have discussed various things we have done to our boats and we discover that he has the Italian air conditioning units we want. He has over indulged and bought five different units, these aren’t cheap, although he does say that it seems any two or three are enough to cool the boat beautifully and they are so quiet he forgets they are on. Needless to say this hasn’t changed Maria’s mind at all, we will be upgrading ours I am sure and I am impressed with the mariadz-like redundancy in the set up.

We are ready to depart first and there is a little trepedition from us. Ivan seems really relaxed but I still put an additional fender over our kedge anchor that hangs on the push pit rail on the starboard side. It is metal and pokes out a bit so better to be safe. The previous evening another boat has come in on our other side but there is lots of room. This boat comes from Southampton and is British flagged but with a skipper who doesn’t speak English. That was a surprise.

We call into the port authority to clear our departure, apparently that is a €300 fine if they are being picky and I guess if you get in the way of a commercial ship. They seem confused that we are asking permission but wish a safe journey.

Maria feels happy taking mariadz out as I start dropping the mid lines before moving to the bow to take off the two lazy lines. I watch them drop and then go to the stern to remove the last two lines with maria slightly under power going forward to make sure we don’t drift at all as the lines come off. With both the stern lines off, maria takes her off a little sideways keeping away from Ivan who is till downwind of us. As she gets more underway she can straighten the wheel before we are clear. A long burst of bow thruster and turning hard gets us centre channel and we are on our way. Thankfully we have shown the problem the other day was a twenty knot cross wind and not that we habitually go around banging into boats, even with fenders ready.

As we come out of the harbour, there is a high speed hydrofoil passenger ship coming in and we all play nicely giving lots of room and we are clear. Getting to the end of the exit “cone” where they like shipping to travel to and from the harbour, we are now free to turn south and finish the Messina strait. We are getting a little tide as we start this but before the end of the strait we are against the tide. Unfortunately this stays the same for the whole of this trip as we successfully miss the tide for the next eight hours no mean feat.

As we head east after the Messina straits, the guardia costiera are following us in a large ship. They are tracking us at nearly the same speed and are not on AIS so I assume they are looking out for any wrong doing. maria is given strict instructions to be very well behaved 🙂 however, they track us for a number of miles.

On this part of the coast there are a number of exclusion zones so we need to make sure our course accounts for these especially under the watchful eye of the coast guard. Some of these seem to be locations of unexplored bombs looking at the charts which is a huge incentive but we do see large container ships going through these.

The wind has shifted from northerly to south easterly which was expected and exactly what we want. This wind will be across us beautifully and is the best point of sail for Mariadz. we are having a fantastic sail even if against the tide so not as fast as we would like but the engine is off and we are getting eight knots through the water from only 13knots of wind. The slight changes in wind direction means we are constantly changing sail plan as the situation changes.

At times we have felt like complete frauds who know nothing, imposter syndrome about sailing, but actually as Mariadz sits there flying through the water beautifully balanced we could be forgiven for starting to think that we may have the first idea of what to do.

As we are heading north east up the sole of the boot, we see behind us another sailing boat. She is a number of miles away but is so big you can make her out quite easily. She is the 57M Ngoni, who unfortunately seems to be on engine with no sail up. I’m sure they can see us bombing along as they soon put up some sail to help them but it is a shame not to see her in all her glory, I imagine she would have been super quick with that perfect wind. Ngoni is travelling at 11 knots against the tide so I am sorry Mariadz you can’t compete with that, but Mariadz does drag it out for some time by going really fast herself.

The winds are changing and starting to come from behind us more and so we decide to pole out our headsail. We have used the pole a fair few times since Plymouth but whoever has been crewing has been keen to help and Maria won’t throw herself in front of people so she has stood back while everyone got on with it. Not today, this is a time for the Dunlop members of the crew to work together and sort this out. The theory with the pole is quite simple: A line to hold it up, a line to prevent it from coming back and the sheet threaded through the end of the pole which pulls the whole set up back. This doesn’t take long to set up and the headsail is back out and held out there. We noticed when we did this before that the slightly different sail shape provided by the pole, really added speed and we gained a knot by doing this both times we did it. So we now have a poled out headsail and the main out with another preventer stopping any accidents with the main. I did say we liked to be safe!

As we approach our destination, an anchorage outside a beach club at siderno, we have had some lovely us time and the weather has been great.

Our intention on arrival, was to anchor off drop the rib and enjoy some of the nightlife but we have been told that no motor craft can approach the swimming zones of the beach so unless we want to swim….. getting there probably not a problem but doesn’t sound safe for returning afterwards with a few drinks inside you.

Instead we decide to prepare a hot stone for meats and vegetables with the remaining salad and settle in for a nice evening listening to our music and the music coming across from the various bars.

Around Sicily to the toe of Italy

So that was a long sail and Maria has already said if she wanted to use the motor that much she wouldn’t have bought a sailboat. We have completed 750 miles to the north west tip of Sicily. We arrive in dire need of fuel and I have called ahead to the fuel guy and arranged for us to get 600 litres, our tank holds 670 so you can imagine we were getting a little nervous with only an additional 45 litres spare in cans.

We have got the fuel and some water but another French boat has come alongside and we are contemplating how we get out of here. Of course, maria knows her boat really well and says she can easily spin Mariadz round in the small gap in front of us rather than having to be clever and go astern into a wider basin to turn. She is right and spins Mariadz on a six pence using not much more space than her length and we are on our way.

Our original plan was to go around the southern tip of Sicily, taking advantage of some northerly winds to get a good sail followed by a beam reach, wind on the side, back up to Italy. It is longer but we thought it may even be quicker if we get the winds right. However, the forecast has changed since we last checked and this is no longer a sensible plan. So we change and will now follow the northern coast of Sicily to the straits of Messina, famously tricky and you need to be careful but we have another boat that has tracked us since Almerimar, an oyster called Dalliance. As we turn north, it seems that Dalliance is about 20-30 miles ahead of us. there is little wind and a huge tide ripping between the islands on the north east coast of Sicily. We try to take advantage of the combination of small wind and the wind we are generating by ploughing through the water with our engine and are making good speed. We need to average 7knots for the next 20 odd hours. This plan will ensure we reach Messina between 5pm and 6pm the following night when the tides and wind should be good for our journey through the straights.

The start of the night watches bring their own challenges. Firstly we haven’t been this close to land, and it is incredibly brightly lit. Secondly there are an awful lot of people fishing in small boats with no AiS and little lighting. We soon realise that their technique is to shine a light at the boat so we know they are close. We can then adjust course if necessary. This continues for most of Christian’s watch and only really stops a distance into the large bay to the north of Sicily.

We also see a ring of fire which looks like it could be volcanic activity or a brush/forest fire. Our friends in Italy have described the lack of rain and we are not sure Sicily has volcanic activity in the north but it is some sight with a visible ring of fire around a central black eye, reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.

The light winds are not helping us to keep up with our timetable but winds are coming and hopefully we will make up time although I do try to fiddle with the sails to get every last 1/10 of a knot of speed! Maria is next up and comes up to join me for my last hour, we are chatting and doing the sails is difficult on your own so I hang around for the extra hour until the light of dawn starts to fill the sky. Shortly after, I go to bed to get the sleep I will need for the upcoming sailing through Messina.

Maria reports a fantastic sunset and when Christian joins her for his second watch they have a glorious display from dolphins which raises spirits. As does the wind strengthening which now means we are achieving significantly more than seven knots and catching up time. We should hit Messina at the right time.

Half way through the day and we have fifteen knots of wind, and with a little help from the engine, we are flying along at 8.5 to 9.5 through the water and 8 to 9 over ground. We are looking forward to the change of tide that will add a knot but we are making great time and are definitely on target for entering The Messina Straits at a good time for the tide. We have a poled out headsail, which we find adds speed in these winds and a preventer on the main which makes our starboard side look like a cats cradle but feels safe if there are any issues with roll or wind shifts.

Another difference with this part of the trip is that suddenly we are seeing other sailing boats. In the entire time since leaving Plymouth we have seen a lot of commercial vessels but very few sailing boats but the wind is good and they are out in force on this coast, hopefully getting in before the expected incoming stormy weather.

It starts to get more lumpy and the wind is growing with the impending strong winds forecasted. However, we are flying along and our original prediction of 5pm to enter the straits is looking pretty good. As we approach, we call up Messina VTS to tell them of our intentions, apparently there can be some hefty fines for non reporting although the advice seems confused with some people suggesting the rule only applies to boats over 45m. We take no risks and report in giving the boat details and the people on board and they welcome us in. It did take some time to do this though, since they also seemed confused as to why we reporting in! We will be following a triple masted sail training vessel used by the military which is going quite slowly so we may need to go past her as well as dodging all of the ferries and keeping an eye out for the hazards of the Messina straits.

We have heard scary tales of currents flowing against the general flow and whirlpools and although we are a larger yacht that shouldn’t have a problem, we have been very careful with our timing so that we have a good tide helping us get through the straits quickly. Hopefully no Ancient Greek monsters will swallow us whole or pull us into the depths.

As we go through the strait, it is as easy and calm as going through any race or past any peninsular on the south coast of England. I’m sure there are bad journeys too but we had one to two knots of tide helping us through. We had also taken down our sails in case there was a funnelling or fluky winds but it was all fine and we could have kept our downwind sailing rig going through the straits. We are well behaved and observe the Traffic Separation Scheme although, because we are overtaking the triple masted ship and there is nothing else round, we do not hug the coast. There are half a dozen ferries criss-crossing the strait which is fine although we do spot on AIS that two are clearly double ended because they are going backwards! That looks confusing when you check your instruments and see something coming backwards towards you!

As we exit the straits, we wonder what all the fuss is about, but I’m sure that it can be bad in less benign conditions. At the end of the TSS, we can turn towards the Italian side and our eventual destination. We have been chatting to the other boat from Almerimar, Dalliance, and they have arrived in this marina prior to us. It sounds like we will be in similar places although there are two distinct areas of the marina, one at the top of the port and one at the southernmost part. We call into the port control having been warned there are large fines for not doing so. They are happy for us to proceed but Maria is worried about the stern to mooring in a potentially tight place and has asked that I bring her in today. Gulp. We observe the correct approach into the funnel that leads into the harbour and then turn sharp left and left again into the marina. On our starboard side are a lot of small speedboats tied up to the wall and on the port side a lot of boats of similar size to us all stern to the wall with lazy lines. It is blowing 20 knots down the channel which will be a bit of a problem since it will be a cross wind blowing us sideways onto one of the boats.

Our standard approach in these situations is to turn right, line up the stern with the gap and then use the bow thruster to steer Mariadz in by adjusting the bow and changing the direction while slowly going backwards. I am wedged into the slot a little leaning on one of the boats which causes some concern for some of their crew. Unfortunately stopped there is very little I can do to adjust Mariadz except using the bow thruster to keep the bow straight, expecting that the stern is reasonably protected from the wind by the other boats. I am waiting for Maria and Christian to stop sorting the fenders and get me a stern line ashore which gives me some control of where I am since I can power forward against that and keep myself off the wall and away from the other boats. The staff are really helpful and take our shore lines and as the guys tie them, one of the staff has got aboard from the adjacent yacht with the lazy line to hold the bow. We are now stopped and can relax. All of the boats around us have two lazy lines that go from their bows to a fixed points in the middle of the marina. Unfortunately, the one we have does not have enough angle to hold our bow away from the boat down wind from us. We have fenders at the ready and the skipper seems happy enough even if some of his more nervous crew and passengers are worried. We have to stay like that for most of a day until the boat upwind of us leaves and we take a second lazy line with a better angle which keeps us off next door. The type of boat is familiar to us being a large sun odyssey like our friend Stig in Ipswich. We get talking to the owner Ivan and his family later and they are lovely people with an interesting view on the current conflict in Ukraine since they have a foot in each camp despite having gone to Canada a long time ago.

The other local treat is the taxi driver, Saverio, who brings bread and pastries in the morning as well as providing a taxi service in his old Mercedes. When you look at his card he also has a chandlery, provides gas, boat services and rents cars. He is very friendly and we decide to use him for the trip to the other side of the port to meet the crew of Dalliance who have a table booked in a restaurant close to their yacht. Saverio is trying to persuade us against the tourist hot-spot to a rustic trattoria and as we arrive the building is quite unimpressive and also empty (although apparently it filled up later so we may not have been able to get a table anyway). We decide this isn’t for us and I pop in to say we are going somewhere else to eat but may be able to get together for a beer and a chat later.

Back in the car and Saverio has just the place for us. As we drive there we are graced with some stereotypical Italian driving and I am passed my seat belt to put on! Saverio is also showing us lots of laminated mentions of him in various guide books. Who knows may join that illustrious list one day. As we arrive all of the signs are good. It looks a really nice place with outside tables and a lovely charm to it. It is full of Italians and we don’t hear another English voice all night. However, before I am allowed to sit down, Saverio wants to take me away to show me things. Now I do have a track record of being kidnapped in Italy and taken to see things or pick vegetables so Maria is not surprised. We get back in the car and Saverio drives further out of town showing me his home before going into an industrial area and stopping next to a gate. On opening these gates he drives down a slope to a lock up/garage and apparently I am to get out. He opens up the garage which has boats suspended from the ceiling and pictures of semi clad women like a number of car garages I have visited. He opens up the other side of the garage to a beach onto the straits, it is really quite picturesque and I’m sure maria would have loved it. Back inside he asks me if we like wine and brings out a bottle of red and a bottle of white. I think the plan is we try it, love it and buy lots off him. He also has a number of rounds of cheese and would like me to try one. It is very nice and he is already wrapping it. He says we can have the wine but the cheese is €25. Maria likes cheese and so that is a present for her then! We return to the restaurant where of course Maria has ordered wine already so Saverio’s wine will have to wait. Unfortunately despite being full of locals, the restaurant seems to be mostly a pizzeria. Not what Maria wanted to eat at all although the pizza is good and my seafood linguine was nice. Overall Maria is disappointed. We get back to the boat and it is our first night sleeping when the boat hasn’t been moving so hopefully a good nights sleep for all despite the heat.

The next day and Christian has decided that his only real chance to get home for his important meeting early in the week is to leave then and via connections get back to London. It’s a shame because we was keen to do the whole trip to Brindisi and until a storm came into the Adriatic we were looking good to get that done. So maria and I will do the remaining sailing on our own including the odd overnight passage. We ask Saverio to be around at 10am to take Christian to the airport as we all get ready. At 10:30 he hasn’t arrived and Christian is starting to get nervous about his flight. Apparently there was car trouble but fortunately it is a very small airport locally so Christian was able to catch his flight ok.

Having seen to back to to Mariadz, who can only be described as orange. Although we have had no rain, the moisture every night provided a sticky surface for the sand in the air to stick to and Mariadz is filthy. She has looked after us across the North African coast and Sicily so the least we can do is get her back to looking her best. Maria and spend a few hours cleaning her down, cleaning all of the windows and getting the stainless water stains off and she is back to looking beautiful again. It was hard work but we are both pleased, as even the cockpit gets a thorough clean.

Maria is keen not to cook tonight and we aren’t impressed by the recommendations we have been getting so it is back to the internet to look at reviews and menus to decide where to go. We are also conscious that our wedding anniversary was whilst at sea and my usual preference for us getting into the bedroom only partially worked, we both spent a bit of time in the bedroom but never together because of the watches! So we have decided to push the boat out and have a really nice meal. Maria has found a fish restaurant that offers a luxury experience for a fixed cost with an allowance against the wine. You know the fixed cost is going to be a lot when they offer you free wine with it! The Ristorante L’Aragosta looks great and they can fit us in for 8pm. It will be eye watering expensive and includes beluga caviar on the set menus but we should celebrate belatedly our wedding anniversary.

As quite a posh place we both decide to dress up for the occasion and just after 7:30 I notice Saverio is not parked in his usual spot and so I call him to take us to the restaurant. By the time I speak to him, he says yeah I can leave in about 30 mins which would make us late for our table. I persuade him to come and get us and we shouldn’t be too late. However, as we head up to the car park and get in the car, it is clear he doesn’t know this restaurant. He asks the staff but it is ok because I can set up the sat nav on the phone and direct us in. We set off but it is clear that Saverio thinks he knows where we are going and doesn’t need the sat nav, or so he thinks. He pulls up outside the wrong restaurant and is clearly a little irritated when we say we still have a few kilometres to go across town. Eventually, he gets us within a five to ten minute walk and we give up and get out of the taxi. We have paid him and can get another her taxi back when we are ready rather than being on the clock. The walk is uphill so not quite the start we wanted to our evening.

We arrive at the restaurant which is in a residential area. As we go in, the restaurant is quiet hopefully not a bad sign. The maitre d turns us around and walks us across the road to another restaurant room. We walk in and one wall is filled with wine on display and the room is sectioned into small dining areas, each of which has a table and a sofa. It looks lovely and perfect for our anniversary. We explain it is our wedding anniversary and agree our food. They don’t speak English but on the whole our limited Italian is holding up well even if we have to get them to repeat things a few times.

The food is amazing, two courses feature beluga caviar and lots of different fish and crustaceans both cooked and raw. Just our kind of stuff and reminds us of the many fine meals we shared at Carlo’s restaurant in San Michele Salentino.

We have both had a wonderful evening, a unique experience and a great way to celebrate our anniversary. Maria was particularly pleased with the wide selection of after dinner digestives such as amaro and limoncello although some of them weren’t to her taste….

We return to the boat and listen to some music, sing some songs and and dance a little before falling into bed late. Tomorrow we will be leaving and continuing the journey to Brindisi.

Almerimar to Sicily

Christian and I have arrived in Almerimar and it is now time to start thinking about leaving, all of the repairs are done and we need to start preparing. Our stern to mooring means that we have the pasarelle out to walk to shore which goes under the solar. To achieve this the rib is down and since the passarelle is stored in the lazarette, and we had work done in there, the entire contents need to be reloaded.

We have spoken to our neighbours who have suggested we can step across their boat if we need to get ashore after we have stored everything. This is particularly useful when putting on the rib cover which is possible just from the boat but is a lot easier if someone is on the far side making sure the cover is in the right place.

It takes some time to load our full lazarette with everything fitting into place like a jigsaw. It is difficult and especially surprising when we consider the stuff that isn’t going back in. How did we get it in before? The rib is lifted and the cover on but again it is taking time and it is looking like 5pm before we leave even though we started preparing at lunchtime. Finally, I need to adjust the stern lines so that we can slip them off from the boat. This is easier said than done since they refuse to budge and after much swearing and eventually putting mariadz into astern so that we can ease the pressure on them, we are able to get them ready.

Leaving the berth is easy, we drop the lazy lines that have held the bow for two weeks and let them sink before we head off. Maria brings Mariadz off sideways so that we stay away from the boat next to us and we are clear. Off to the fuel pontoon to top up the tanks with about 100 litres before we head off.

The wind is blowing across the marina and is reasonably strong at about 15 knots as Maria approaches turns hard over and ferry glides into the concrete fuel pontoon with the fenders taking the pressure before we tie her on. We add 94 litres of fuel and Mariadz is completely full and we now have 670 in the rank and another 85 in cans.

As we prepare to leave I am overthinking about the wind and decide that rather than doing our normal approach of coming off sideways, we will spring off as we have multiple times before which gives us a safer method when the wind is blowing you onto a dock. This involves loading up the bow with fenders and Maria moving mariadz slowly onto these and the dock which moves the stern out into the channel. Once it is out enough, you slip into astern and come off backwards before, once far enough away, turning and going out as usual. With our sideways approach, you steer into the dock with some revs to get the stern to “bite” which moves it out and then bow thrust off to get the bow out there and then drive off. As you can see these manoeuvres are very similar.

I clearly haven’t communicated the change of plan properly and Maria was down below when I moved the fenders to provide the protection for the bow. It means we are talking at cross purposes when I say steer in and go forward. maria thinks we are coming straight off but when she goes to use the bow thruster I tell her no but she is committed and has used the right power for the plan she thought we had. The hull hits the the fuel pontoon in the only place I didn’t have fenders. What a terrible start and Maria is blaming herself when it isn’t her fault. Firstly I hadn’t communicated well enough, then I didn’t have fenders along the whole side, even having one I hadn’t moved over which would have gone beautifully into the gap, finally the spring on the bow which holds us to the dock for the manoeuvre was loose allowing us to move forward before it took effect which was just laziness and a lack of concentration on my part. There’s a mark and some damage so we will be paying our tax for being stupid. The marina staff have taken a look at the scuff but it will be Sicily before we get to fully view the results of our mistake. It is frustrating and upsetting and Maria blames herself even though it is my fault. Still better than her blaming me, we can’t have both of us doing that for hours 🙂

With a quiet boat, we head out to sea and set our course south east to clear the headlands before heading nearly due east towards Sicily.

Our new engine communicates with the navigation so we now have full engine data that can tell us exact consumption at the revs we are at. Unfortunately we are still in a big sea and the wind is of course on the nose. All this is holding us up and we are at quite high revs making little progress. This trip looks like a lot of motoring with the five day weather forecast we have. Hopefully we will be able to use our sails to conserve some fuel. On average, at higher revs we are getting about one mile for a litre of fuel, which makes the range calculation easy! The timescale for our fuel is also easy since it is just under five days at 6 knots. This improves drastically if we are reasonably motorsailing and is of course best when we are sailing.

We head out and drop below the headlands to due east which is pretty much our course for the next five days!

However, we have been very silly. We have celebrated my return and the arrival of Christian a little too much and we are hungover and dehydrated. So I have now destroyed our immaculate record of not feeding the fish through Biscay by making sure I had an empty stomach on the first night! The next morning, I am a little better but the combination with little sleep is not good and I will need to recover my stomach slowly and gently having made sure the fish were ok again!

There are three of us on this trip and so a change to the watch system was required. We toyed with a few options, three hours on and six hours off is popular. However, we had benefited through Biscay having two people on watch and although that isn’t possible this time without wiping people out, we are keen to have a good overlap. We finalise our thoughts for the first night as effectively three hours on but you stay for an extra hour when the new person comes on watch. This means you have company for half of your four hour watch, which is nice but also useful if we need to change sail plan, and everyone gets a five hour break which should give the opportunity for a proper sleep and ensure this is sustainable for a number of days. We promise to review during the second day to see if it works but the first night I always a bit strange because everyone is excited and maria and I are also beating ourselves up for the fuel pontoon mistake.

In Almerimar, before we left, some of the crew of a large oyster, Dalliance, met us since we had mutual friends in Ipswich. They are planning a similar trip but intend to leave a little later than us after their evening meal. I’m sure they will catch us up though.

This trip is generally in 2-3km of water with only the occasional passing cargo ship to break the monotony. Apart from the dolphins shortly after leaving which were doing acrobatics off our port side but they didn’t come over to play with us, we have found med and Atlantic dolphins to be quite bashful, although it could also be that we aren’t going fast enough to give them entertainment in our bow wave.

Our evening watches start at 9pm and Maria has prepared us fajitas for dinner. I will be Maria’s company for the first hour. The wind is building but still in our faces and is rising to 20 knots. Maria and I implement our nighttime sail setup which will be half the main. That done, mariadz is Comfortably riding the swell but it is a bit bouncy for the rest of us. Still, we knew it would be like this for the 24hours out of port but we hoped we would make a bit better time.

The first set of night watches are fine although we did have to cross a busy route during the night, something I usually try to avoid. Our watch system also requires one person a night to do the first and last watch. Accidentally, I have let Maria do this which wasn’t my intention but I guess we will each be doing this over the next three days so much of a muchness. In the morning, the swell is dying down but so this is the wind until some clouds on the horizon promise a little more breeze. Christian and I are quick to seize the opportunity and get the main fully out as well as our staysail and headsail. We are cruising along at nearly seven knots although the engine is also helping at a measly 1500 revs. This means we get more than 3 miles per litre – that’s more like it. Except, just as we are settling into the ride, it’s over and we are back to 4knots of wind in front of us so the headsail and staysail go away and we keep the main for balance.

This sets the tone for the rest of the day. The monotony only being broken by Dalliance, the oyster from Almerimar, hailing us on 16 to see how we are doing and the occasional passing ship. This is of course mine and Maria’s wedding anniversary but no time to celebrate 😦

Night two and I am on the double shift while maria and Christian each have the single shift and the odd hour. During the day we have taken advantage of the easy nature of the trip to catch up on sleep so hopefully we will now get into the rhythm of the watches. Just as we start and Maria goes to bed we are buzzed by a couple of dolphins jumping out of the water on the starboard side. They head to our bow but quickly get bored of us and move on. That is the sum of our excitement for the evening apart from the odd cargo ship coming within a mile or two. All of the shifts are like this until the last one where I take over. We can see on AIS that we are being caught by a cargo ship who will overtake us but at exactly the same time there is one coming the other way straight at us who is also being overtaken by a fourth ship. So the two of us are quite constrained. We all jostle for position and there is a mile between all of us as we simultaneously meet in a line. It was the most excitement we had all day! The last part of my shift is on my own, and having heard Algeria coastguard informing all ships that the gulf of Algeria has navigation prohibited, I recheck our course. We were planning to be 15-20 miles off shore so outside of territorial waters which is the direct route to Sicily but I will move us a little further offshore. I also adjust the waypoints so they give us an expected target for each day, let’s see how that works out. Breaking the tedium continues as I get all of the engine and fuel data on one of my navigation screens and adjusting the screen for the handheld autopilot… you have to have some time on your hands for that. Of course, the fixed autopilot is creating this time as it operates perfectly with its replacement part and having been rebuilt expertly.

As the morning progresses, rest of the crew emerge, they have all had a good sleep. It’s hot and sunny and I sit here writing notes, as Christian reads,having updated our log, and Maria lies around in her bikini. Time for me to get some rest.

They say that the Mediterranean has two types of wind: too little or too much. For most of the day we have had a gentle westerly that has been just enough to mean no wind is going across the deck. It is 30+ degrees and very hot and sticky. Time for maria to break out the dominoes and teach Christian tabletop warfare!

Maria has decided on an early Mediterranean style dinner with salads, meats, tortilla and cheeses. It is perfect at the end of a really hot day with some really great tastes. We are still seeing very occasional ships and a bit of rubbish in the sea but we seem to be in our groove now.

Another monotonous night with very little to report except the very occasional encounter with a cargo ship. However, visibility drops to about a mile so I put our radar on to make sure we can see and be seen.

It is three days since we left Almerimar. After a slow start we have had a couple of consistent days of approximately 160 miles a day. However, there has been negligible wind to motorsail and what wind there was on the first day really slowed us down. Three days of solid motoring has used a lot of fuel too. At reasonable revs, we use about 5-6 litres an hour so we have probably used half a tank getting to here and we will need to refuel. Our options are Sicily or Tunisia for refuelling which are both achievable even if we have to motor all the way there. You would have thought that Tunisia, as an oil state, would be cheaper for fuel but I guess there is only one way to be sure… over the next 12 hours or so we will have to make a decision, especially if we want to be sure to arrive wherever we are in daylight. Tunisia, as nice as it would be to get cheap fuel, is unlikely having rechecked the visa requirements and not knowing whether they would just let us refuel. It seems unlikely from the books and we can’t access the internet to check real world experience. In the interim, Christian and I add the spare fuel from the cans to the tank using my clever little pump which ensures no mess.

In the morning, we are hailed by name and call sign, always a sign of officialdom. Have we done something wrong? We heard the previous day, a standard Algerian message concerning their waters being protected from any traffic but we are a long way outside of this. The call comes from “naval operations” who are asking us our destination. It is a very polite conversation with us each referring to the other as “sir” as he requests our destination port and I explain that we are heading to Marsala in Sicily. It starts another day of keeping an eye on big ships and seeing lots of plain sea with the occasional dolphin coming over to play.

As night approaches, we have a little consistent wind on our port side and are able to take advantage by motor sailing with all sails up. We are bombing along at over eight knots through the water but the tide is against us at the moment so we are only going seven over ground, it imagine how slow we would be without sails. This continues for four or five hours which means we have a good start to our fourth day at sea. Our moods are improved even further later on when a pod of dolphins, probably around twenty, come over to play. They are jumping fully out of the water and as usual it warms the spirit, not that we need much warming, it has been hot again today.

We are back to the day 1 watch which means Maria has the double watch and Christian and I have the odd hour at the beginning and the end. The watch starts fine and just before I finish at 10pm, I check the ships and make sure we are ok. Fifteen minutes after I go to bed though there has been a wind shift and our rig of half main and stay sail is not doing anything. In fact the self tacking stay sail is now bouncing around the track which will wake Christian up. Maria gets me up to help with the sail change, we take another moment to review the traffic coming up and then it is back to bed for me and Maria has two hours on her own. Maria continued to be busy as we approach the funnel between Tunisia and Sicily which should be very busy with shipping. Maria is relieved by Christian at midnight and that is her opportunity to get four or five hours sleep before she is back on watch. Unfortunately Maria has been really struggling with sleep for the last few days. I think being out of contact whilst looking for a job, having a daughter who is ill, a cat that is ill and everything else is weighing on her mind and she is struggling to switch off. When I get up shortly before 3pm to take my watch, Maria is up with me saying she can’t sleep. We have to change round the watch system since Maria is going to stay up, so I am back to bed for a few hours and will get up at 6am when hopefully both Christian and Maria will catch up with their rest.

In the morning, the wind has completely changed direction but not enough to allow us to sail. It’s not as bad as the other day when the wind exactly counteracted the speed we were doing which meant that there was no air going across the deck and it was super hot. The morning is brighter than recently and we can actually see the sunrise rather than just thinking someone has switched the lights on. We now have 200 miles to Sicily and our scheduled stop for fuel. Hopefully, the forecasted weather from Saturday confirmed over the radio today will mean that we have a little more wind to play with.

It comes to pass and suddenly we have a bit of a westerly wind. Enough for us to set up goose wing with the main on one side and the Genoa on the other. However, we are rolling quite a bit which makes the sails lose their shape and bang and clatter as they get it back. We are doing over seven knots so there is no chance of us stopping sailing! The solution to this is to use our pole to stop the Genoa from losing its shape. We did this a bit in the Biscay and Atlantic but struggled getting the Genoa sheet to work through our netting. I mention to Christian that we may take a few attempts to get this right but miraculously I choose the right loop in the brat nets to thread the sheet through and it is barely pulled at all when the sail is set. Immediately there is an acceleration as the sail sets well and stays there.

Over time the wind starts to bare to the north slightly which matches a prediction maria has been able to get from the Italian radio. We keep turning a little south to keep our goose wing working but at around lunchtime it is time to turn back to our track with the sails on the starboard side. For protection and because of the swell we have kept the pole out with preventers on both the pole and boom which should stop any risk to the rig. We have made good time during the day with the wind’s assistance.

Maria prepares a seafood pasta for dinner with the last of the bread she made the other day. As always it is delicious although a still very tired Maria keeps asking if it is ok. We are then into our fifth day at sea and our last night before getting to Sicily for refuelling. For most of the previous four days we have had shipping around us as we beat a well trodden path from the Gibraltar straights into the heart of the Mediterranean. We are now veering off towards Sicily when most traffic is heading further south. The night is incredibly quiet because of this with highlights being ships coming within five miles of us. However, by dawn we are fifty miles away from Sicily and we can start to see the fishing fleet in the distance. It looks like we will get all our “fun” in one big hit! Actually, it isn’t as bad as it looks and the wind is non existent. We are now beginning to think about getting into Marsala and giving Mariadz a very welcome long drink.

On the approach to Marsala, I speak to the man running the fuel pontoon and it sounds like he will be at lunch when we arrive. No problem, we will wait on the pontoon for him to finish. That sounds fine and we finalise the approach passing a French boat as we enter the harbour.

Maria is behind the wheel and the area for the fuel pontoon looks really tight as Maria goes into that channel. Then there is a man frantically waving at us. He wants us to one in stern to using lazy lines and has brought the fuel line all the way down the pontoon. Maria is able to stop Mariadz before she is too committed and comes back to the pontoon bringing her in to the pontoon expertly. We get her tied off and the refuelling can begin.


We have arrived at Almerimar with a few jobs to do, again. However, I will be flying back to the UK to return to work although Maria will remain in Spain for at least a week. With the boat going to Italy, we have lost our home in the UK, and as good as living with each of our children for a few months sounds, we will probably need our own place, not least of all so we can take our furniture out of long term storage. Unfortunately, the letting agency have demanded to see us face to face prior to handing over the keys and seem to want Maria to fly back to the UK just to do this. On my return I am able to persuade them against this so Maria is able to stay.

Maria selected Almerimar because it was a large marina in a reasonable place for our route and apparently it was one of cheapest in Spain. I will talk more about the work in a moment but as able to stay there for two weeks, have all the repairs done and refuel for less than Cartagena wanted to charge me for berthing. Considering the price difference, we weren’t expecting much if we are honest but we were really pleased. The security on the pontoons was good, you couldn’t get on the wrong pontoon with the fobs. Although the toilets could do with a refresh, we always used the boat facilities anyway. We also found, in common with all of Spain, the staff really helpful and welcoming which goes a long way in our book.

However, before I go we need to organise some works. Almerimar has a large yard which looks very professional and flush with the success of our trip to Vigo, we walk in expectantly and hopefully. As we walk into the office/shop, there are three people behind the counter, they all stop and stare at us. We say hi and does anyone speak English. The response is they do but an Englishman, let’s call him Dick to protect the innocent, curtly tells us that he is serving a customer and we will have to wait. We hadn’t meant to interrupt and in fact hadn’t said a word when they all stopped and stared at us. Not a great start.

There is cold water in the customer area and it has been a long walk in sweltering conditions, so we grab a small cup of cold water each. Dick stops again and tells us we will have to pay for that, which is apparently just a really poor joke, but this isn’t starting well.

I am thinking that the conversation with the other customer isn’t particularly helpful or friendly as well but hopefully we can break down some of these boundaries.

Dick finishes with the other customer, sending him away and turns his attention to us. We have done a fair bit of motoring since leaving Plymouth and the first year, or 250 hour, service is now due, after just two weeks! We ask if he can recommend a yanmar specialist who could service our engine since it is still under warranty or an engineer who could work on the autohelm. His response is he could put us in touch with someone but he wouldnt recommend them! Oh, ok. We could do with a rigger for a short period to sort out our bent stanchion and a stainless person to straighten the old one. The stainless person could also create a cheek plate, or bow protector, and fit it. His response completely non-pluses us. Firstly, he asks if we are taking the boat out of the water. No, we would expect the glueing and eight screws to be fitted in the water as confirmed by two experts in the UK that unfortunately ran out of time. Apparently, they won’t do that and anyway they are busy and it could be weeks. We then ask about air conditioning and refrigeration. Our saloon air con unit has stopped pumping cool air and we think it needs regassing. His response was there is no point in doing that because it has a leak. I point out that the leak may have occurred over the last twenty years and maybe we could try regassing the unit and see if it lasts another twenty years. He refuses to help us and says we will need to get the unit repaired even though we intend to replace it in the next year or two. Finally, since we are suckers for punishment, maria asks about her new fridge which continues to ice up. We have been told that this is likely because of air getting into the fridge through a slot that the sensor wire comes through. Maria has fashioned a fix using blutack but would like the proper gum. His response is that a completely different fridge that he has in the shop has had to have seven replacement doors and that all new fridges are rubbish ending with the line that if it front opening it will always ice up.

So we leave there completely unsatisfied with nothing resolved and having experienced one of the most obnoxious and unhelpful people I have seen in years. A completely different experience to the incredibly helpful Spanish team in Vigo. We now begin to understand why my parents didn’t want to associate with the English in Spain if that is what they are like.

However, our experience in Almerimar was about to change completely. Our initial view was to go back to the marina office and ask for details of Spanish engineers but we have one more opportunity. Maria has signed up to the Navily app on her phone which provides reviews of anchorages and marinas. This has been really useful on the way down and one of the reviews talks about a freelance English engineer called Paul. I give him a try and he can’t be with us today since he is in another town but should be back tomorrow and can pop along to discuss the work. His whole attitude is completely different and helpful so that sounds a good start.

Paul arrives as expected at lunchtime and discusses the work we have. He is a little time constrained and really needs to get the work done next week since he has a lot of friends coming out the following week and doesn’t expect to be in a fit state to work. I describe the Whitlock and what is required once the spare part arrives which should be in good time. We also discuss the engine service which needs to have Yanmar parts to protect our warranty, that will be no problem. Also can he recommend a rigger to take apart the safety lines and replace the stanchion with the one I have. Unfortunately this has defeated me but he says he will get that done too. We are on a roll! He doesn’t know an aircon guy who can regass the air con does he? Of course he does and he will put us in touch with them via a great guy at the chandlery called Mike. The answer to our dreams.

However, we still don’t have the spare parts we need to rebuild the autohelm. When we had left Gibraltar we had asked for the parts to be shipped. Unfortunately they couldn’t be done before because the marina refuse to accept parcels for boats that haven’t arrived and the last thing in the world we wanted was for our package to arrive before we did and get returned to sender. As it transpired, this wasn’t going to be an issue. The parcel shipped from the UK fine and then got held up in Spanish customs. At this stage, I was phoning two or three times a day to try and sort it out because I knew our window of opportunity with Paul was reducing and although I felt I could put it back together with the instructions and the observing I had done, I knew that Maria would always complain that I bodged it rather than get a professional to do the same as I would.

In the end I had to send three different pictures of my passport to the Spanish shipping company who were like Goldilocks, the first one was too shiny, the second too dark but the third one was just right! Once this part was complete, I could then get it delivered having paid the custom charge which was nearly as much as the cost of the part i needed. All of this introduced further delays and in the end we had missed the slot that Paul had offered us. Paul kindly suggested that he would do on one of the mornings when his mates were hungover or doing something else. So I paid the duty and now we are waiting for the part to arrive.

We still had to get the air conditioning fixed and buy the service kit for the engine to replace our spare that was being used for the service. This was Mike at the chandlery at Calle Valledero. He was great and got everything sorted for us and again restored our faith.

I hadn’t really noticed this about my wife before but she has a unique way of handling delays and waiting times. Need to wait for the washing – have a gin and tonic. Parcel not delivered yet, have a gin and tonic. I had better make sure the parcel gets delivered quickly or she will be hammered.

When the parcel arrives it is like Christmas. I am a little apprehensive in case Cliff from Whitlock south has sent me the wrong part and I apologise now for ever doubting this, since when marina opened it, there was a lovely sparkly new spindle with all its vanes intact just waiting for a nice Whitlock drive to nestle into.

Needless to say, before my return everything was done and done brilliantly with the autohelm being fixed making maria particularly happy. We can’t speak highly enough of Paul and I would recommend him to anyone.

So that is the boat fixes done, what about Maria’s time in Almerimar? Those who know Maria from Facebook will have seen numerous posts of her living the high life, watching washing machines go around in launderettes. Maria likes things to be clean and this will be no different as she gets lots of bags ready to go do some washing. Now despite appearances, Maria doesn’t actually like to watch the washing machines for thirty minutes and since we are on our own for a change, suggests that we go for a drink next door to the launderette while we wait for our washing. I may have mentioned this habit before and I confess I joined her on this occasion. She orders a very nice gin and tonic and this was to define her stay over the next couple of weeks.

Firstly, we met Wade at the bar and started discussing the requirement to get to the airport next availability of taxis. Like a number of resorts, there is a thriving community who help out in these situations and within minutes we have a car organised to take me and the boys to the airport for our flights.

Over the coming days, maria got to meet quite a few of the local expat community. Their experience of the guy in the yard was exactly the same as ours so at least it wasn’t anything to do with us.

Apart from busy about the boat trying to get her ready for our second leg to Brindisi, maria was able to join in the expat life with a group who welcomed her with open arms.

When I return two weeks later, the boat looks great. Maria also looks refreshed and has made a lot of new friends including all of Paul’s friends from England. Well at least she wasn’t bored while I was away…..