Sunday, July 21, 2013

First weeks at home

 It's been almost two weeks since we came home. We're very happy that we managed to sail Heron so close to home, it makes all the work on and around the boat much easier. We managed to bring home the basil plant that "lived" with us in Caribbean. 

Last week we've traveled several times to Heron in Nautec marina in Monfalcone, we managed to get home all the food, clothes, bed sheets, pillows, towels, kitchen utensils, and tons of other things. At home we were washing, cleaning, finding the space for all the things. So it was a lot of work, and it's not finished yet.

Marina is located in fresh water canal, it doesn't look anything like the sea. It is very quiet and peaceful.

There are two dogs and five cats in the marina, and lost of birds all around. My kind of place. This pretty fellow came to Heron looking for some treats.

We're trying to adjust to land life. Captain started working on Monday and I'm trying to set up the household. Hope that we'll settle in some kind of routine soon and have the more time for friends and to enjoy summer. 

The village we live in is very beautiful in summer, all is green ....

... there are fields around...

... with pretty flowers ...

... bugs ...

... and even our house looks green.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Heron is home!

The bay we found on Saturday afternoon was really pretty, but unfortunately very rolly. We were really tired, were starting to get grumpy and snappy, and we really wanted a good and peaceful night. We were considering moving to another bay, but we didn't know the situation there either. When we saw that the neighboring boat had Slovenian flag, we invited the crew for a beer and it was decided - we were staying. We had a nice evening with fellows cruisers, but not so great night, we were waking up a lot.

We departed early in the morning, passing some nice cliffs and rocks.

We talked about sailing North along the Italian coast, weather forecast was not very good, and we heard from our neighbors last night that they had a terrible night passing Adriatic on Friday with wind gusts up to 50 knots.

We sailed towards Ancona first and saw a lot of boat garages. I think some are being used as small beach houses now. But I like how colorful they are.

I was just wrestling with Italian mobile Internet and publishing the previous post when captain informed me there was a change of plans - we are crossing Adriatic towards Istria, Croatia. I was not very happy, I really didn't like the weather forecast, but I had to agree the route was much shorter. 

So we steered away from the shore. Wind was on the nose again, of course, but not very strong and the waves were bearable. We managed to motor-sail most of the time. In the evening there was the red sunset again. But I knew by now we have to wait until morning to see how the next day was going to be. 

 Night was not too bad, despite bad forecast and warnings on Croatian radio, that there is a possibility of strong wind gusts up to 40 knots. There were gusts of wind, it went from 3 to 25 knots, and it changed direction by the second, so after hand-steering for some time - autopilot couldn't cope with sudden wind shifts and changing speed - I rolled the genoa in and switched on the engine.

Captain took over from me little before 4.00 in the morning. There was a red dawn again. This is taken when the sun was already up over Piran, Slovenija.

The weather was true to that old saying again. NE wind was up again, over 30 knots of it, and it was a wet and wild ride to Monfalcone, Italy.

In one of the canals we found home for Heron, at least for a while, in Nautec Marina.

We are heading home in the afternoon. Next days we will be coming back to Heron often, we want to bring back home all the clothes, tools, books, etc., to be able to clean Heron thoroughly. And to do a lot of boat projects. And then to only bring on board stuff that is absolutely needed.

There will be some celebration in the next days, but today we're too tired to think about that. Even too tired to feel the satisfaction and pride about what we achieved. But I'm sure that will come soon.

There is still a lot of untold stories from our journey I would like to post here. And probably we will want to proudly present the results of our boat improvements. And the stories will emerge from our weekend sailing or other trips. So this isn't over yet, there's more to come.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

From Otranto to Ancona

On Monday night we passed the gulf under the "heel" of Italian boot. We were a bit nervous about it, we had fresh experience of crossing large bays (gulf of Caghliari), but it wasn't bad and this time weather forecast was accurate. Night was calm, we motored most of the time.

In the evening there was a beautiful sunset.

Sailing through Otranto Strait was difficult, there were 20 knots of wind (true wind) directly on our nose, and we tried tacking against it for some time, but with short steep waves and the current against us we were making little progress. We checked three different forecasts, they all said it should be no more than 7 knots of wind. So we turned on the engine, and captain was sad, as he always is when we motor in lots of wind.

The "heel" of Italy offers some great sights.

 In early afternoon we sailed by Capo d'Otranto and entered into Adriatic sea. To the East we could see Albanian mountains in the distance.

We made a stop in a pretty and calm bay just behind Capo d'Otranto for the night. We were lazying around, resting, had a good meal (BBQ) and good and long night sleep.

Next morning we were on our way early. We passed city of Otranto.

Wind was weak the whole day, so we motored a lot, and when we were sailing, it was rather slow, but the sea was calm and it was rather pleasant ride. We saw a couple of dolphins, but they were more interested in fishing trawler's net than in us. In the evening there was incredibly red sunset. I thought immediately: red dawn at night, sailor's delight.

Night was calm, we were motoring all the time. I had a bit of the shock, when at 2.00 in the night a speedboat without any lights came from the darkness, shone a big light on us, passed by, but after a minute turned and started following us at high speed. I woke the captain, and when the boat came along us, we saw that it was Guardia Financia. They just wanted to know where we came from and where we're going and they sped away.

 Morning was also red: red dawn at morning, sailor take warning.

And so it was. Day started off cloudy, and after a couple of hours we had 25 knots of true wind again, and again it was almost on the nose, and short and steep waves. It all came in a matter of minutes and I am still amazed, how such small waves, they were no more than 1 - 1,5 m high, can stop the boat so efficiently. It was a rough ride, Heron was pounding into the waves and we were all suffering - the boat and the crew.

Although our destination for the day was Vieste at the "spur" of the Italian boot, we decided that staying on the S side would be better. We found this pretty bay for the night in Golfo of Manfredonia near the place called Mattinatella.

There were great cliffs surrounding it ...

... and the water was calm and green. It even got warmer, or maybe it only felt so, after the cold and strong wind we had in the afternoon.

We had some problems anchoring, the sea bed was all rocks, but we set up an anchor alarm and still had a good and calm night.

Next morning captain got up early and sailed (really sailed, not motored) around the corner pass the town of Vieste. It looked pretty and inviting, and we'll have to return at some other time.

We motored a bit after passing Vieste, but around noon we were able to sail again. We passed the islands of Tremiti in early afternoon.

Wind was getting stronger and the waves nastier. We steered towards the shore in hope to have calmer sea there. The boat was pounding into the waves terribly again.

We reached 20 m water depth and turned towards N. Wind was again directly on the nose, the waves as well, and almost 2 knots of current also. It was frustrating. We were making very little progress and the ride was terribly uncomfortable, captain didn't get much sleep. We motor sailed until 2.00, then I was able to sail for couple of hours. It was one of the worst nights we had.

In the morning we were motor sailing again, trying to keep near the shore, since there was no current there. But we were constantly avoiding buoys, fish farms and pipelines.

In the morning wind got even stronger and the waves more annoying. It was a hard day again, and we were getting fed up with this weather. We even considered waiting out a couple of days, but who knows what the weather will be then. With the accuracy of weather reports obviously nobody knows.

It was a bit better in the afternoon, but we were really tired by the time we made a stop in a bay a bit S of Ancona. It was very rolly and we hoped we wold be able to get some sleep.

We decided to continue sailing along Italian coast. We will probably get to Trieste gulf on Tuesday.

Monday, July 1, 2013

From Trapani to Ionian sea

 After reading my last two posts captain said they were rather boring. Wind this, weather that, we ate this and that ... But I guess what we do is rather boring. We're trying to sail Heron home as fast as possible, minding the weather, but not much else. It's been 46 days since we left Barbuda and we only spent couple of days on land (only 3 whole days to be exact, all three in Gibraltar, all other days we've been sailing) and 7 nights in marinas and 7 nights on anchor. There's been very little time for anything else but sailing. You try to get enough food and rest to function well and to be able to perform on your watches, cook, clean the boat, clean yourself, and that's about it. And some reading, listening to music, talks. There has been some great sailing along the way, and a lot of fun too, but basically we're on the mission and focused to carry it out. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy a lot of it, but at the moment I just want to be home as soon as possible. We'll have to come back and explore Italy at some other time.

And we will. I really like Sicily, beside the great ice cream and delicious canoli I liked people a lot. They have a kind of joy and innocence about them like children. And the world feels relaxed, happy, carefree there, like it was when I was a child some 40 years ago, not so damn hard and serious as it is now. 

On Saturday morning Tomaz dinghied Mare to bus station, and after the breakfast we left our nice anchorage in Trapani. This is the town from North.

The beginning was slow, there was not much wind, and there were many dark clouds in the sky. We haven't seen so many since Azores. We even got a handful of rain. We passed Capo lo San Vito before noon. There are some nice hills and rocks and cliffs there.

After a while wind picked up and we had a bumpy, but fast sailing. Waves were probably the highest I've seen in Mediterranean, mostly about 2,5 - 3m, and some up to 4m. They came almost from behind and managed to roll Heron violently. But we were happy with the speed. It was also very cold, I sat in cockpit in my fleece all day.

There was a nice sunset in the evening.

 The sailing remained fast through the night, and it got even colder. I "upgraded" my fleece to three fleeces one over another, and added fleece cap, fleece hand gloves and fleece socks. And I was freezing. I was tempted to get my polar sleeping bag out, but it turned out that my three blankets were sufficient for the night. The last time I was so cold was in North Atlantic, but I expected it to be cold there - hence the name.

We sailed pass Eolian island in the night and in the morning we were in Messina Strait. Morning was very cloudy, this is the view of Calabrian side of Messina Strait towards North.

There was heavy traffic in Messina Strait, we were watching very carefully not to be overrun by one of the ferries. We also saw some dolphins jumping high in the air, but they didn't come to the boat.

It was blowing much harder than forecast, and we had nice fast sailing, also due to the current that was luckily running our way, and calm sea.

After turning around the corner into Ionian sea wind was still there and with 30 knots from behind we were still able to sail almost as fast as on the other side.

Despite the cloudy weather the coast looked nice, no high buildings that would hurt the eyes. And again some pretty rocks.

In the afternoon clouds climbed behind the hills and sun came up, wind died and we got some nice warm gin&tonic weather. We took advantage of it, and after skinny dipping in the warm sea (well, more or less, it doesn't come close to Caribbean sea), we enjoyed a gin&tonic. I managed to prepare the dinner in calm (we had tuna steaks with cheese and garlic sauce, pasta and salad), but soon wind was back and we already ate under sails.

After couple of more hours sailing and watching the sunset with green flash, we anchored near the town of Roccela Ionica.

 It was already getting dark, so we didn't see much of the scenery. We had a good night, although Heron was rocking and rolling a little bit.

This is what we saw in the morning.

After breakfast we set sails again, but also had the engine running. There was very little wind and although we tried to move on sails alone from time to time, most of the day we've been motor-sailing. But the day was warm, sunny, calm, I hope it will help with my runny nose and puffy eyes I got from wind and cold.

We just passed Capo Rizzuto, since the day was so easy we decided to go on sailing/motoring through the night. We will be through Otran Strait at some time tomorrow. Then we'll check the weather again to see how we can best and fastest sail up through the Adriatic sea.