Before I get on my hobby-horse and ride for awhile about my trip I want to congratulate the members of Constitution Yacht Club back in Boston for their success in the first annual Barefoot Regatta. Not only did they sponsor the regatta after the Ally Foundation canceled what was my favorite race, they managed to take the the top two spots on the podium in A,B and C divisions. Excellent work captains and crews of Shout, Migration, Superstition, Rockit, Sparkle Pony and Enya.

Meanwhile, back on Slick… Summarizing the trip to date, which seems to be all this blog consists of now since nothing particularly interesting ever happens here, We rode out a blow in Mgarr. It was no problem, and I am continually happy with the new (now well-used) all-chain rode. I never should have taken the advice of certain people back in Boston and should have had this from the beginning. Definitely life would have been different on so many 2AM anchor dragging exercises. Once the blow was over we checked out of Malta. This proved to be no problem and it was explained to us that as crew on a visiting boat we fall under the same rules as seamen on a ship, that is to say that the Schengen Agreement doesn’t apply to us. See, as employees on a ship, we “are not here by choice” so we don’t get penalized. That’s nice, no stamps, no fuss and no limit. Well, that’s the Maltese, and apparently Italian interpretation.

Naturally we couldn’t just have an easy trip to our next destination. Immediately upon exiting the anchorage, and fortunately clear of traffic, the diesel filter clogged, again. We had just enough wind to make forward progress on the sails so Nate took care of that. I used an evacuation pump and hooked it to the fuel line coming from the tank and found a few tablespoons of bio-goo clogging the line. After that the diesel ran OK for a few hours when it happened again. This film in the tank has been a problem since right outside of Singapore. How frustrating and I have tried all sorts of treatments to be rid of it for good. The best advice I can get is not to get your tank infected in the first place. Thanks.

We headed to the south coast of Sicily and even got to sail a bit. It was an easy over-nighter then up the south coast with tons of fishing vessels going out to get their catch, presumably of minnows as we haven’t seen anything else in the markets. We stopped briefly in the Trapani Islands and thought about staying the night on the second night. The Itai’s wanted too much money, since it was a national park or something. We learned that this used to be the prime blue-fin tuna grounds in the Med but that it had been awhile since anyone had seen one. Imagine that.

That night we had a beautiful overnight sail. The evening started out fairly relaxed, motor sailing and the wind built a little just off the nose. Nate went down for his time off watch and I rolled out the jib, trimmed it up and killed the motor. The prop made a clunk as I shifted into reverse and the boat gained in speed. How wonderful the silence without the noise maker running. We made 6-7 knots to windward towards Sardinia under a rising bloody-moon. As much as I complain about this life, it sure is good sometimes. Later though, the wind continued to build and since I sleep in the V-berth (even when going to windward) it got a little rough and we de-powered.

We changed our plans again, and headed for the north-east coast of Sardinia and all it’s alleged beauty. Col and the rest of the crew from Finally My Darling (FMD) were scheduled to arrive the next day so we thought it might be nice to see them again. We decided not to bother checking in, since no one cares anyway, especially not now that we “are not here by choice.” The anchorage was quite nice, under a giant slab of ancient continental granite on the Island Tavolara in the Spalmatore Bay. The next morning FMD came sailing in and anchored not too far away. It was nice to have a little company again. Nate and I finally decided to repair the autopilot ram after it kicked off several times during our triple-over-nighter. Everything looked to be in good condition except carbon build-up from the brushes causing one of the brushes to stick (and thus kick off). We cleaned it and re-assembled it. This is supposed to be a service done every 1000 hours by Raymarine authorized dealers (at something like $240). Well, I think it has held up fantastically for not being serviced in, um, several thousand hours. As for Sardinia though, the first impression of the area was dominated by 30-50 foot RIBs either coming from exclusive resorts or off one of the many mega-yachts. One must wonder where the shear amount of disposable finances comes from that is expended in this little piece of watery real-estate.

Yet another blow was coming, this time a Mistral, so we headed to the well protected port of Olbia. Rod Heikell has terrible things to say about this place and so we expected an industrial dump. It was anything but and I think he was way too harsh on it. At first we anchored off the town but as the wind was scheduled to build we grabbed a free place on the leeward side of the wall. This was good as the rest of the day it really filled up, sometimes several boats rafted deep. Unfortunately as the blow began, all the dirt and debris from the parking-lot just to windward blew all over Slick. It was a bit nasty and I think this is what amounts to Italian street cleaning. I am still finding crap that blew into the boat from that few days. We also changed he oil, which I realize now is quite a pain on my new engine. As well as it is designed, I really think that part is poorly done. But we managed and the engine still runs fantastic.

We took our leisurely time heading up to an anchorage full of mega-yachts, Cale Volpe. Its really amazing, it was like seeing the commercial ships anchored off the Panama Canal or Singapore Straights, except that these were private 100-400 foot yachts. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it. A flotilla of charter boats came in though and the were led by one guy who got there first. It seemed he was the only one who knew what to do and as a new flotilla member would come in he would head over to their boat on a paddle board and help them to anchor in the right spot. Unfortunately all the right spots where all around us. There was some BOBA but not with us fortunately. Then that night there was about 20 knots of breeze and a few of them drug, again, thankfully not into us. In the morning they all had a dinghy convention on the back of the leader’s boat and one by one they pulled up and departed. That evening I went into the local bar. Well, this was anything but actually, it was a really posh place and I was stunned to find out that a drink I ordered was 24 Euro. I think that might be the most expensive cocktail I have ever had, ever. And it didn’t even come with garnish.

We made a short hop up to Puerto Cervo the next day and anchored in an area that was marked for anchoring. The whole reason to be here was to secure the week-long park pass to go into the La Maddellena Archipelago, supposedly one of the crown jewels of the Med-Cruising circuit. Cole had been here a few days before and the nice lady in the yacht assistance office was expecting me. Everything went smoothly and when finished I headed to the village to get some provisions. I was amazed at how preciously manicured the little town was. It was in a semi-arid environment and not even a spec of dust anywhere. Mega-yachts lined the quays and the people were all dressed in amazingly expensive things. The women in this town (and much of Italy in general) must spend 4 hours preparing themselves before they even leave the house. That isn’t to say that they are all some how attractive, just that they always look like they are on their way to some black-tie event, even at 9 AM. Anyway, once provisioned I headed back to the boat and Nate and I cracked a couple of beers and watched the mega’s return from their day-cruises. Right before sunset, but after we were a little loaded, the local yacht-club marinero came with the coast guard and the kicked us, along with a few other small boats, out of the anchorage. We tried to argue but they threatened a fairly heavy fine. When we asked how much a mooring ball cost the marinero looked at Slick as if to decide how much was too much and told us 80 Euro. 80 fucking Euro for a mooring ball? I told him to fuck himself and put the mooring ball in his ass (in Italian no less, a very useful phrase an ex-girlfriend taught me) and we left. I don’t think I have ever been chucked from an anchorage before and I was pretty pissed. I think this was pure pretension on the part of the little village as you never see the Italian Guardia Costa care about anything. We found another anchorage outside town and in sort of deep water. In the following hour all the other boats that got chucked came around too.

The first stop in the park was Cale Portese on the island of Caporera. This was a wonderful little spot and with the park pass we also got free moorings, which we thought were everywhere. We arrived early to guarantee we got a ball and then sat back and watched the other boats come in. It was really amazing to see people trying to pick up mooring balls. The seamanship in this Med is incredibly bad. I think it is on average, really, the worst I have ever seen. Worse even than a Searay Convention in the US. After seeing people having swimmers in the water to tie up to a mooring and one guy’s deck-donkey run his outboard prop out of the water and up onto the hull of his yacht (DOBA) in a completely confused state, we relegated ourselves to not swimming until everyone was gone for the day in fear of being run over.

A blow was again coming, it seems this Mistral is incredible active this year. So we headed to another anchorage only to find it was controlled by the local town even though it was in the park and wanted 50 Euro a night for mooring. We told them to pack sand and it seemed that was exactly what they wanted. We only saw one of the moorings taken and only occasionally a boat go in. I think these moorings are more to keep boats out of the best anchorages. I find this a really annoying tactic. Anyway, we headed a mile or so down the inlet and anchored behind a big rock. We didn’t realize we had found ourselves a hidden rookery. The location, Cala Garibaldi, had nice holding and we set ourselves up to ride out the blow.

The strange thing about this park is that the rangers come around to check you have the pass. Even more strange though is that we were the only ones who actually had it and most of the French and Itai boats tried to talk their way out of having to get the pass and the 40% sir-charge that goes with buying it in the park, in addition to not getting the 40% discount for buying it ahead of time. There was plenty of BOBA and even some AOAA going on and every time a boat came in we had to really watch to make sure they didn’t anchor on us or pull ours up. There were also no mooring balls here, adding to the fun. It got to the point of being annoying. I tried to take our trash ashore and thanks to Italian law only certain ships are allowed to carry trash off the islands. I finally found an unattended trash can in a marina near La Mad town and made a deposit. I headed back before someone did something terrible involving Slick. When I arrived back a local sailing team was coming in with about 9 boats, 3 First 30.7’s and the rest J-22 type things. They anchored and rafted up, seeing them come sailing in was quite impressive, they were quite good, but as soon as they started trying to anchor and maneuver in the crowded area it got scary.

Time was running out for Nate and we had a lull in between blows so we headed to Budelli Island, home of the famous Spagia Rossa, the pink beach. We again arrived early enough that we secured a mooring ball. Then moved to a different one closer in after more boats left. As soon as we moved the assault on the rookery began. The pink beach itself is protected and you are not allowed to even walk on it, so around the corner is where they rook. Tour boats began pouring in with hundreds of people each and taking them to the beach. It wasn’t even that nice of beach and there were certainly no facilities. I walked though the island and the entire thing is coated in toilet paper. Boats and Yachts anchored up wherever they pleased completely ignoring the regulations concerning the protected Neptune-grass (which in the end appears to be just regular sea-grass of the anchor-clogging variety). On the beach there was a plethora of shameless people baring as much skin as they could, the rookery abounded with aqua-hobbits, water-wookies and hyrdo-trolls. I was really amazed at the lack of caring both for the national park and other people let alone the general sanctity of prudent seamanship. Fortunately most of those type of yachts leave before sundown and its fairly quite at night. One could almost relax after the current flushes the bay until you realize that there is a restaurant with a helipad near-by. I have never seen such a thing and wonder who would really ever need such a service. Granted it was just cut out of the arid vegetation of the national park, but I’m sure it was once used for a bunga-bunga party or two.

When the blow subsided we wanted to head to Porto Pozzo and provision, then make way for the Balearics. But you know, that cranky Mistral had other plans and it was scheduled to blow 35 knots for three days, on the nose, of course. We picked up a town mooring for a surprisingly cheap 25 Euro a night. We stayed on it for a few nights and anchored out one more. This town, just 20 km away from Puerto Cervo was quite relaxed and normal. There was not even an ounce of pretentious feeling and the locals were, well, local. There was no sneering as we brought Mutley to the dock, I locked it because I was afraid of having it stolen as opposed to someone setting it free so the richers didn’t have to look at it. The local fuel station was kind enough to give me a ride the mile or so back to the dock after filling jerry-jugs. The shop keepers seemed happy and helpful and they laughed off our feeble attempts to ask questions in Italian. Things cost a normal price. It was nice.

When the Mistral blew out we headed for a double over-nighter, landing in Minorca. This passage was full of everything, mostly boredom. It started out well though, we were able to finally put up a spinnaker on the new bow-sprit. It worked really well and I am quite happy. We even passed by a 50 foot tri-maran in the light air. Once we got that put away, the wind wrapped a bit and we had about two hours of hard sailing. Once clear of the cape sticking out of the north-west end of the island though the wind just died. As the sun began to set we could see giant thunderheads over the island. I grabbed one last GRIB as we headed out of cell signal range and it showed southerlies with some precipitation. Nate woke me up around 1 AM and we were skirting the edge of an enormous electrical storm. We were quite far from land and I was surprised to see so much sea striking lighting. Once we got the headings of the storms though we powered up to about 6.5 knots in the calm and managed to barely outrun the edge. It was certainly the most nasty lighting I have seen at sea the entire trip, much worse than the straights of Malacca even. Once we were far enough to be safe we cut back the motor to about 5 knots and got back on course. The following day was boring motoring in not a breath of wind and 6 foot swell. The best we could do to stay positive was not talk. Although we did strangely get buzzed by a Learjet.

As the sun went down though, we heard that amazing snapping-whir that only Jim Gentry can tap out. The oversized reel on the back of the boat was having all the line tore out of it at high speed. It had been so long since we heard that sound we were not even sure what to do. “Fish On!” and Nate went to reeling. I had to find all my killing things and barely got ready as we landed a 15 pound or so albacore tuna. Wow, what a way to raise moral. I was a little rusty slaughtering it but we still had a great dinner of tuna with fish on fish and a side of fish and fishwiches with fish for the next few days until Nate left. We are pretty sure that was the last one in all the Med. To celebrate, that evening we made a boat out of the spare emergency-tiller handle and lit it aflame using some old tiki-torch oil. We wanted to see just how far one might be able to see it at night (three miles, but I think it went out before disappearing). I think this was the best evening sailing so far in the entire Med. It was also, unfortunately, Nate’s last one, but it left enough of an impression of how good it can be that he will surely return.

The next morning we pulled into the port of Mahon on Minorca. There is no anchoring allowed so we pulled into a floating pontoon with no services. At 25 Euro a night it isn’t overpriced really. So that’s nice. I was told that I needed to check Nate off the boat and back into the Schengen Area when he was about to depart. Of course the Spanish Immigration Officials had no idea what I was talking about. When I asked about my own status they seemed to think I was in violation. Three of them were talking to me at once in Spanish and I could barely keep up. Especially since I learned the language in the US where we are tought a Central-American barrio-gutter speak as opposed to the formal Castillian-accented Spaniards. Eventually I relegated myself to not bother with the official stuff anymore in Europe. No country seems to agree on how to implement the law and even more interesting, most of them want to do nothing, so stop asking questions Tim, and do nothing too. I wrote Nate a letter for his departure in case he had problems. He didn’t. “They’ll stamp anything, they just don’t care,” was how he described it.

Now that I am within striking distance of Gibraltar my time in the Med will soon expire. I can’t say that bothers me a whole lot and the reality is, I haven’t really found this sea to deliver on the over-ratings. Sadly, there is no real buddy cruising and most folks are just downright uninviting. I guess this is understandable as they are in their home waters. The cost of things is frequently prohibitive, and local bars are too expensive to hang out. The sailing is not all that great and the fishing sucks (expect for the one tuna). I find that I pretty much have to keep my mouth shut to keep positive. Then the geology is interesting but underwater is just OK, at best. Finally, as already mentioned, the Med has the worst seamanship I have ever seen. These people are laughable sailors. They approach a dock with no fenders or lines ready, the boat will hit the dock and the three ladies in the cockpit will just keep reading Vogue while their husband/father/brother or whatever tries to moor-up, they anchor with just 1.5 to 1 scope and so on. Its sort of embarrassing really, if I was like that I would never fly my colors. Oh wait, I never really do, hmm. Anyway, they all seem to think they are the next Moitessier or Soldini, and they get very upset when you tell them that “no, you can’t raft, get your own mooring ball” or “Hey, put my fucking anchor back in the water!” or “I think you forgot to rig fenders before coming along side me.” These are the owners, the charter sailors are much, much worse.

I will slowly meander through this archipelago until I get to the Spanish mainland and then work down to Gibraltar. I am not in such a hurry but will certainly miss Nate as sailing alone gets boring. I meant to leave the dock and go anchor the day Nate left but I hurt my back pretty bad. Probably from picking up that back-breaking dinghy motor of mine. I think, perhaps, it is a slipped disc. At least that is what the old people on the dock tell me. I spend most of the day crawling around as the process of standing brings on quite a bit of pain, but after I am up I can walk and that feels better so I make an effort to walk up and down the dock. Moving about Slick is incredibly difficult, I must look like an 85 year old man and solo-sailing is no place to sport that sort of injury.