From Sardinia to Menorca

The last ‘long’ crossing on our way to Portugal, was the one from Sardinia to Menorca: 180 miles of open sea.

We set off around midday from Porto Ferro (15 NM north of Alghero): a beautiful large bay marked by the presence of two little towers on top of the hills: Torre Bianca and Torre Negra.

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White Tower – Porto Ferro

A place to die for, which we had all to ourselves. There were no other boats around and only few people riding horses could be spotted on the endless sandy beach; the water was so transparent that Gladan seemed to be floating on air.

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Porto Ferro Bay

For the past 48 hours, we had been cross-checking all the weather forecasts via our Apps: Windfinder, Windy, 4D Weather (for possible thunderstorms), looking for the right weather window to do the crossing. There was a big storm forming in the Gulf of Lion and moving towards the Balearics, which, clearly, we wanted to avoid!

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Black Tower – Porto Ferro

After much discussion, we had finally come to the conclusion that it was better to postpone the crossing, and wait in Alghero.

Just before getting into Alghero, Gc and I looked at each other, then at the speed: with the main sail and the jib both up, we were sailing smoothly at 7 knots. In a matter of seconds, we made up our minds, changed course and decided to go to Menorca instead.

The sky looked clear and the sea full of promises. In the end, we thought, you never know what’s expecting you until you go. And sometimes you just need to go for it!

Only a few miles off the coast, Neptune made us a nice present, a small, but not that small, palamito, which Gc diligently cleaned and put in the fridge: his eyes already shining with a special light at the thought of the tartare he’d be making with it.

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A few more miles down the road, Neptune decided he felt particularly generous that day so there we go…a massive Ala Longa – at least 10 Kgs – ended up gutted, filleted and stored into all three of our freezers. No more ice for our G&T, I’m afraid. Life is always full of compromises…..

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Club Marítimo Mahón – Port

After the second catch, Gc was over the moon with excitement, covered in blood and earning for more. It took me only few seconds to bring him down to earth and kill the momentum.

With tears in my eyes, I ordered him not to throw the lines in anymore: witnessing that strong, beautiful fish fighting for life with all its strength, made me really sad.

And so the fishing was over….

The sailing went very well and we managed to cover the first 90 miles in 10 hours. We got quite excited by Gladan’s performance!

nightOvernight sailing can be a very pleasant experience with the right weather. This time we got quite lucky as the sky was clear, and we were accompanied by 3/4 of a very luminous moon, which guided us through the night. Nothing around us other than the sour sweet smell of the silent night, the reflection of the Milky Way on the water and the smooth noise of the hulls surfing the waves.

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Gc and I alternated in the watch, with a 2 hours shift each. We bumped into very few boats during the night, which we were able to spot thanks to a combination of radar and AIS.

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Menorca – Mahon

We sailed all the way to Menorca where we got around 4pm, few hours before the forecasted arrival. Following our arrival, a hot shower, a cold beer and a restoring nap!

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Incredible Sardinia

Still in great company aboard of Gladan, we set off from Palmarola (only 5 NM from Ponza) around 5pm after an afternoon nap, ready to sail 145 NM, all the way to Olbia.

This time, we decided to be more diligent during the overnight sailing and observe shifts of two hours per couple. Gc and I did the second and fourth shifts, which meant we were able to enjoy the stunning sunrise around 6.30 am.

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The crossing to Sardinia was very easy, no thunderstorms forcing me to hide mobiles and laptops inside the microwave, no choppy seas making the crossing uncomfortable.

Twenty two hours after leaving Palmarola, we were finally able to see the coast of Sardinia. Thanks to Patty’s tenacity we also caught few fishes along the way.

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Speaking of thunderstorms, I recently discovered that catamarans are twice more likely to be hit by lighting than monohulls. Is that so?

Apparently the original claim was from Boat US magazine, that cited their insurance statistics to support it. I’ve been reading through people’s comments on the topic, on cruisers forum, and some mention that the reason why could be that catamarans, being wider than monohulls, are generally moored at the end of the dock, having no shielding at all on the open-water side. That would make them more susceptible to lighting than their ‘thinner brothers’, docked side-by-side. Whether the claim it’s true or not, every sailor knows that the best way to deal with lighting it’s avoiding it!

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Mussels farms – Gulf of Olbia

As soon as we got to the Gulf of Olbia, we were immediately welcomed by Gc’s friend, Cesare, who came towards us with his powerful Zodiac. Confirming what we had read on Navionics, Cesare suggested for us to moore on the BRIN pontoon, at the very end of Olbia’s Gulf. The mooring is free. There is no water or electricity and it takes almost an hour to get there from the beginning of the Gulf, but you’re right in the middle of Olbia’s town – which is very pretty and full of restaurants and shops – and you pay nothing so… it’s impossible to complain.

Having said goodbye to our dear friends Patty and Salvo, who had to go back to Sicily for a charter, we spent the following week discovering Sardinia.

We moved from Olbia to San Paolo, where we spent a few nights at anchor, just outside the cute little port.

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Porto San Paolo

Coming from the Eolian islands, where anchoring was a bit of a nightmare for me – first of all, the sea drops straight away, rapidly descending from 5 to 30 metres (and then 100!); secondly, we had some problems with the windlass’ thermal switch, which was going off every 5 seconds while pulling up the anchor (this is because the original anchor has been replaced and the one we now have, a Rocna 45 Kgs with a gage 12 chain, is oversized compared to the electric motor..) – Sardinia quickly became my new favourite place in the world! Don’t get me wrong, I love the Eolian islands, but in Sardinia there is sand everywhere and the sea bottom is so shallow that putting down 15 metres of chain means you have been extra cautious!

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Strolling in San Pantaleo

Time went by very quickly, but we managed to wander around the little centre of San Pantaleo, visit Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo, enjoy the incredible scenery of Cala Ghjlgolu (Molara), Sassi Piatti, Porto Taverna, and visit the beautiful island of Tavolara, the world’s smallest kingdom.

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Story goes that Carlo Alberto, King of Sardinia- who was around the area of Tavolara in 1836 – paid a visit to the island as he wanted to hunt its famous gold-teethed goats (due to the lichen and seaweed they were feeding on). While there, he met the only residents of the island, the Bertoleoni family, who hosted the King on the island for three days.

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Years later, the King Carlo Alberto recognised Paolo Bertoleoni as the King of Tavolara, the world’s smallest kingdom. Even Queen Victoria, who liked to collect pictures of the leaders of the world, sent her photographer to the island in 1900s, and the picture of Tavolara’s royal family can still be seen hanging on the wall of Buckingham Palace Museum and inside the restaurant of the island.

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Tavolara’s Royal Family
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Sassi Piatti
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Tavolara
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Isola Piana

While on the island, we had the pleasure to meet Tonino, the latest King of Tavolara. Together with him, we celebrated the winners of the Vela Latina’s regatta, which took place during the day, on 15th September. At night, we were invited to the special party, organised by the contestants, and offered great local food- including mussels and wild boar stew- and wine (both Vermentino and Cannonau). The feast went on until late with people dancing and singing on the beach. What an incredible island!

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Vela Latina – Regatta

 

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The winners of the regatta!

 

 

 

 

 

From Sicily to Capri

We were four onboard of Gladan when we left Capo D’Orlando Marina for good. Our friends, Salvo and Patti, surprised us with a last minute decision: they would accompany us until we’d get to Sardinia.

The original plan was to go to Ustica and then cross from there to Cagliari. Having studied the weather forecast though, we realised that following that route would have meant having the wind on the nose most of the time, which would make our sailing very difficult and the long crossing quite uncomfortable.

Salvo then came up with a brilliant idea: ‘why don’t we go visit Capri and Ischia and then cross from there to Olbia?’

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Capri – Giardino di Augusto

It took us five seconds to agree to the new plan. Personally, I had never been to any of those so renowned islands so I was thrilled at the idea of seeing them.

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Ponza Harbour
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Ischia – Sant’Angelo

The morning after, we set off very early. The journey didn’t start very well. While attempting to leave the pontoon we encountered our first problem: the starboard engine, which was supposed to be our good engine, suddenly turned off. We soon realised that one of the lazy lines of the marina had got entangled in the propeller. Gc dived into the water to free it. Capo D’Orlando didn’t want for us to leave!

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Finally out of the marina, we started to make our way to Filicudi, the last island of the Eolian archipelago we would see before adventuring into the open sea: hundred and fifty miles to go, before hitting the rocky shores of Capri.

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La Canna – Filicudi

Time passed by quickly with the four of us talking about navigation, astronavigation, fishing and travelling. Everyone’s favourite topic, though, seemed to be food, especially around meals time – which means roughly every two hours when sailing!

Snacks of all kind had been allowed onboard of Gladan for Gc’s joy, who normally claims to have a miserable life, being forced to hide any ‘unhealthy’ food in his secret cupboard and dispose of it away from my sight.

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Ischia – Baia Sant’Angelo

Throughout the day, the sea was calm and sailing was good, with an average speed of 7 knots on a close reach.

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Night came and we all sat on the flybridge, chit chatting and looking at the stars.

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The wind picked up, varying from 17 to 23 knots, so we decided to reef the main, which had been fully open until then. The sea became quite choppy as we progressed towards our destination, so the second part of the crossing was not very comfortable.

The core crew was made of 3 people, with one of us disappearing for couple of hours at a time to hit the bed before returning upstairs on hearing “wake up, a baby dolphin”, or “come, quick, it’s a bunch of them this time”.

There were storms with lighting ahead and behind of us but somehow we managed to avoid them all and got to Capri at 6 am, exhausted but excited at the idea of discovering the islands.

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We dropped anchor in the large bay opposite the town of Capri, surrounded by humongous motor and sailing yachts. After a big breakfast we wished each other good night and went to sleep.

From Capri, we easily moved to Ischia, which is roughly 15 miles away, and spent the night at anchor by the Castello Aragonese, in a magical scenery.

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Ischia – Castello Aragonese

Ponza and Palmarola were our next stops before the crossing to Sardinia. 

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Palmarola
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Ponza

 

 

 

Good Bye Sicily

The moment has come. After 11 months in Sicily, at the beautiful Marina of Capo D’Orlando, it’s time to set sails again and move to our next destination. We avoided the subject as long as we could, knowing that until we said it out loud it wasn’t going to happen: we weren’t going to leave.

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Deep down though we were getting ready to say goodbye to those places that had grown on us, becoming part of our daily routine, and to those marvellous people we now called friends.

The same people that helped us design and build the frame for the solar panels; that gave us tips on how to fix bits and pieces, and advised us on places to visit and restaurants where to try the best of the local cuisine.

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With them we shared our concern about that engine which made a rattling noise when on; we laughed when one of us – I mean GC ! –  ended up in the water once or twice when, jumping from the boat, he missed the pontoon.

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With them we were on the radio at 4am, when gusts of 40 knots of wind swooped on Gladan with no notice, in the island of Salina, causing the gennaker to flap open and disanchoring many boats around us.

We managed to lower the gennaker and put it away and made a flash decision to pull the anchor up and leave the bay, right when a boat was about to crash on us. At full throttle, with rain hitting our face with rage, we slalomed through the many boats and went out at sea – the safest place to be in these circumstances.

We wondered around for couple of hours waiting for the sun to raise and the wind to calm down before being able to drop anchor again. Our friends were in the bay next to us. Their presence was reassuring and made us live the storm with a different spirit – knowing we were on the lookout for each other.

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Thanks to them, we discovered the restaurant Le Siciliane, in Capo D’Orlando downtown, whose host, Calogero, is not only a talented chef cooking with seasonal, fresh ingredients, but also a very skilled practitioner of shiatsu massages –  keen on fixing your cervical while delighting your palate.

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I still remember when one night after dinner, having seen me in pain, touching my neck, he reappeared from a back door with a portable massage-chair and gave me a 10minute massage right in the middle of the restaurant! I went back home with a fixed neck and dreamy eyes still picturing before them a delicious carpaccio of freshly picked porcini mushrooms followed by a mouthwatering plate of porcini tagliatelle. 

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You feel so nostalgic when it’s time to leave, and realise how lucky you’ve been to meet such special people. You start thinking that maybe traveling is not that great if you have to keep moving on, even when you’ve found people who make you feel at home.

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Then you force yourself a bit and set sails – the sea is calling. It’s time to go again. Arrivederci amici. I’m sure the wind will blow us towards you again one day.

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P.S. Read Patty’s amazing blog on life at sea & more…

 

Sailing towards Cefalu’

We set off from Capo D’Orlando Marina around midday on a Sunday morning.

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It was a glorious day of sunshine and the wind was very little: it never went over 9.5 knots. We opened the jib but kept one engine on. Gc read on the Lagoon forum that it’s a good custom to alternate the engines: so we use one at a time; it doesn’t make a big difference in terms of speed and we consume less fuel and engine hours. We turn both on only when there are strong headwinds or when we need to manoeuvre.

_DSC1197On route, there was a moment of excitement when we thought we were going to eat fish for dinner. The fishing rod kept bending forward and Gc really struggled to reel the line in. It must have been a big fish. Probably a tuna.

May is the mating season for tuna and swordfish so you find big specimens out there looking for a date. An adult bluefin tuna weighs on average 250 Kgs!

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Gc fought with the fish for fifteen minutes, rocking back and forth with the rod, trying to slowly pull it in without rushing it: the objective is to get the fish tired before pulling it in, otherwise it still has enough energy to unhook itself or pull you in for an unwanted dip. Tunas are swift swimmers and travel at a speed of up to 72.5 Km/hour so you don’t want to be towed around by them.

My contribution to the fishing exercise was mainly verbal: “Come on Gc, bring the sushi on, keep pulling!”. I avoided any parallelism with the very famous “The old man and the sea” as recently Gc had become quite aware of the growing number of grey hair.

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In preparation for the catch, I grabbed fishing net and grappa and had them ready to be used. I chose the grappa made by Nino, a Sicilian friend, thinking the fish would depart from this world on better terms with a mouthful of orange-flavoured grappa, zero food miles. It turned out the fish wasn’t ready to die at all and swam away leaving us and the Sicilian grappa behind.

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_DSC0280Thirty-five nautical miles and many snacks later, we arrived at Cefalu’; it was just after 6 pm.

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We decided to stay at anchor just outside the small harbour, in what is definitely a picturesque scenery: ahead of us a rocky promontory and on top of it, standing out against a clear blue sky, the remains of some stone buildings.

After settling in, we had a refreshing swim and found a small beach on which to do a bit of yoga and some push-ups. Exercise is always welcome after many hours of sailing.

We took a hot shower, left the dingy inside the port and walked to the town centre.

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The landscape was grand and when the sun started to set we experienced a feeling of fullness which was then taken to the next level by a beautifully cooked dinner at La Botte, in a side street of the main road, Via Vittorio Emanuele. A bottle of Rapitala’ (grapes grillo, catarratto and chardonnay), a freshly fished sea bream for me and ravioli alla cernia with langoustine sauce for Gc. Had life ended there and then, we would have had no regrets.

Or maybe just one: I didn’t allow Gc to order a dessert.

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Ikaria: the Wine Tasting Experience

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‘A man is sitting in a cafe. He’s sipping his coffee while slowly studying his cards. He is 96 years old and has never lost a game. A younger man walks in, he brings bad news: “Vasilis died, he was 87 years old”.
The old man sits there in silence, taking in the news, impassively.
Two weeks later a similar scene takes places in the same bar: a friend steps in and tells everyone that Panos, the 83-year-old man who lived by the port, just died.

The 96 years old man throws the cards on the table, visibly upset and shouts: “what’s going on nowadays with these kids who die so young?’

Georgios pauses and looks at us intently enjoying the effect the joke has had on our small crowd. We are still recovering from the ecstatic waves of laughter.
Our attention now moves back to our wine glasses and their precious content as well as the food on the table prepared for us by Eleni, with fresh ingredients from their organic farm.

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Georgios and Eleni live in Ikaria with their 4 children and they run a winery and an agro-tourism business hosting people in their beautiful stone houses in Pigi.

I’ve come across their website while reading about the island and its wine tradition and immediately decided to book a wine tasting for the 2 of us plus our Dutch neighbours.

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We all meet at the farm around 6 pm after exploring the Southern part of the island and stopping at Therma for a dip into Ikaria’s famous mineral water springs.

After a small introduction of himself and the farm, Georgios gives us a tour of the vineyard spread over a terraced hill. We then have a chance to peep inside Eleni’s kitchen while she’s preparing canapé food for the wine tasting. Finally, we sit at a long table on their covered terrace. One of their guests, a French man, joins us for a glass.

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It is a gorgeous evening and we enjoy the sunset while tasting Georgios’ wines.
He let us try 3 different ones, a white and two reds. We sip the wine while tasting Eleni’s starters. Everything is just perfect and I take a mental picture of the place, the lovely hosts, the sunset, feeling inebriated by the wine and the company.

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Of the three wines we try, the last one, The Philosopher, is my favourite. Aged for 10 years in barrique, this wine is full-bodied and as rich on the nose as it is on the palate: a mixed bouquet of red berries, tobacco, vanilla, liquorice, inebriates the nostrils while its velvety texture cares the palate.

 

Eleni and Georgios are already quite famous as they have been interviewed many times by different magazines and TVs, all trying to get to the bottom of Ikaria’s fame as the island of longevity.

When asked about the secret of the island, Georgios says it’s all about living life at the right pace, and enjoying it: healthy food, grown organically, fresh water, great Ikarian wine, strong family ties and plenty of sex, even when you are not a spring chicken anymore!

Watch our video on “Ikaria – Sailing Gladan”

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Ikaria: the island of longevity

We set off sails from Samos on a Monday early morning. We checked 2 or 3 different weather forecasts before departing towards Ikaria as the island is famous for its very strong winds.

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Ikaria reaches an altitude of more than 900 metres: winds slide off the mountain slopes acquiring speed, and gusts of 30 plus knots are not uncommon on both sides of the island when the wind blows. Sailors are advised to keep 5 miles off the coast to avoid bad surprises.

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The island derives its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who flew too close to the sun: his wings made of wax started to melt and he fell in the sea, in the same spot where the island is – so the legend says.

Together with a few other blue zones (areas of the world where people live on average a decade longer than those in America or Europe), Ikaria has built a reputation for its longevity: around one in three Ikarians lives into their 90s.

Their secret? Couple of glasses of wine every day, little meat and fried food, sage or mint tea, bust most importantly a very active sexual life…even through their late eighties!

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The sailing was good as the weather was quite clement with us. We only faced 30 knots in the channel between Samos and Fourni, as expected, and then sailed with 25 knots all the way to the port. The wind direction kept changing quite often so we kept an extra eye open.

We arrived at the port of Evdilos, in the northern part of the island, around lunchtime and managed to moore stern to. The port is quite small and the constant swell makes the stay rather uncomfortable. We discovered only afterwards that the port on the Southern side is better protected and would have probably been a more suitable option.

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Ikaria is an unspoiled, wild island. Moving around the 255,000 square metres takes time as roads are quite narrow and winding. They go up and down the mountains around the island’s perimeter and it is common to find pebbles and gravel along the road as the rocky mountains are sanded by water streams.

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The island is lusciously green in the north where in springtime it’s a great feast of colours and perfumes: the yellow brooms, the dark green maritime pines, the little lilac flowers, the delicate daisy flower all moving rhythmically, gently caressed by the sea breeze.

Our first stop with the car was Nas, in the North, where there is a very spectacular, picturesque scenery: the fresh water stream coming down the mountains joins the open sea. They face each other fearlessly mirroring their contrasting natures: the first placid and contained, the second wild and limitless. In between, witnessing this constant shift of personality only a little strip of sandy beach.

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Stone steps take you down to the beach and back up to the tavernas that populate the village. Sitting on the balcony of one of the few restaurants already open in early May, Artemis, we admired the view, breathed in the salty air and enjoyed fresh fish cooked in the oven (both skala and palamito were absolutely delicious!) and salad made with greens from the garden, all accompanied by a perfumed, delicate white wine from Ikaria.

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Reds and whites are both produced on the island and winemakers are getting more and more skilled, obtaining interesting results.

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Wether it’s a blend of Assyrtiko, Fokiano, Koudouro and Reteno or white Begleri, Ikarian wines are full of flavour.

20170503_125604The southern part of the island reserves even more surprises. Arid, rocky, dominated by the majestic mountains, with its natural hot springs in Lefkada, several spas in Therma and the beautiful beach of Seychelles. Loads to discover!

Watch our video on Ikaria!

Vulcano – Eolian islands

Visiting Vulcano island is an experience that sticks with you for a while: if anything the smell of sulphur certainly will!

We got to Vulcano easily after 3 and half hours sailing. There was little wind so we had to motor almost all the way there from Milazzo.

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The sea was finally calm after a few stormy days, some whirlwinds still forming in the sky, stretching all the way to the water.

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Incredible to see at a distance – not very pleasant to experience directly with the boat, I’m sure.

We anchored on the eastern side of the island, Porto Levante, opposite Fumaroles Beach, where the mud pond and the hot springs are.

The morning after we decided to climb up the vulcano. The only one still active on the archipelago, together with the more spectacular Stromboli.

It’s an easy walk, not to steep and the vulcano is only 386 metres high. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water as there are no refreshments available along the way.

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Once on top the view is grand: the huge crater below you, the blue sea all around and the gas emissions coming up the volcanic soil: the so called fumaroles. Make sure you don’t breathe them in for too long tough, they are quite toxic.

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We walked along the edge of the crater and managed to spot Gladan, safely anchored in the well sheltered bay.

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It was quite hot on top, despite it being the beginning of October, and our stomachs had started to rumble so we decided to make our way back to the centre and enjoy a well deserved meal after our short but intense adventure!

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After lunch we went back to the boat and had a very pleasant surprise: some fishermen came around with their boat offering some freshly fished capone and gamberoni. What a dream! With 15 Euros we secured a delicious dinner for the 4 of us. DCIM100MEDIADJI_0033.JPG

We couldn’t leave the island without visiting the mud pond and experiencing the ticklish sensation of swimming above the hot springs. It’s 3 euros to access the pond so we paid the entrance and made our way to the mud pool.

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I did it many times as a teenager when the entry was still free and I remember the funny looking people all covered in mud walking around the pool waiting for it to dry out. Somehow though I did not remember it being so gross…!

When we stepped in the initial feeling was of disgust! You really feel like a pig crawling into mud…and there are so many people in such a small space.

After the first few odd minutes though we started to enjoy it. The mud was hot and felt very good, forming a protective layer and gently releasing heat on the skin.

The abrasive consistency of the mud and the acidity of the sulphuric acid peel off your dead skin and leave you with a baby skin when you wash it away. The mud treatments are also supposed to be highly beneficial for arthritis, cervical and skin problems.

And there is always the fun side of it! Who can resist the temptation of turning into incredible Hulk for a few hours..

Once the mud is dry and you get tired of the very intense smell of sulphur surrounding you, it’s time for you to go down the staircase and immerge your body in the warm sea water. Follow the bubbles coming up from the sea bottom and you’ll find the hot springs. Relax while washing off the mud. Be careful as you should definitely try not to get any in your eyes as Gc very well knows!

A quick stop at the supermarket to buy some Insolia wine and some crisps to accompany our G&T and there we were, back aboard of Gladan, sipping our aperitif and getting the bbq ready for the night. We had fresh fish to cook…What a treat!

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The day after we started making our way to Lipari but stopped very soon for a yoga session on the beach of the Faraglioni. The perfect spot to feel blessed and perform a sun salutation while breathing in the sun and breathing out all your worries…if you still have any left after such a great time around the Eolian islands!

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Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 3

Zakynthos and the shipwreck bay

We continued sailing towards our destination, now stopping more often than before and taking it easy as we came to the conclusion – with great disappointment on my side, initially- that we won’t make it to Sicily in time for me to see my family reunited and my friends there on holiday.

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We had a few delays along the way: we were in Milos for 4 days as the wind was too strong and the sea quite rough, making it very difficult for us to cross to the southern part of the Peloponnesos. We also stopped a few days in Koroni to rest as we were quite tired after sailing for many days, stopping only at night to sleep.

Sailing teaches you a big lesson: you and your plans mean nothing when at sea.

You are just a minuscule pawn on a big chess board: you have no control on your moves. No point in being stubborn and trying to impose your will: no matter what, you’ll have no chance to change the course of the game.

All you can do is second the elements.

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Sometimes I look at sailing as a metaphor of life: when the wind is constantly on your nose and you struggle to make any progress then it’s probably time to stop and wait for more favourable conditions before setting sails again. Like in life, sometimes it’s wiser to step aside and gain a new perspective on things before making the next move.

Having come to terms with the new circumstances all was left to do was take a deep breath and enjoy the journey! Tough thing to do when sailing in the beautiful Greek waters with thousands of wonderful islands to visit, right?

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Next stop along the way was Zakynthos. The name sounded very familiar to me and I then remembered why! Ugo Foscolo, a famous Italian poet, dedicated a poem to the island where he was born.

In the poem, Foscolo laments the fact that he will never be able to go back to his beloved homeland with its luxuriously green slopes and its turquoise waters which gave birth to the goddess Venus.

Having been exiled from the island, he will never be able to be buried on its fertile soil washed by crystalline waters.

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He compares himself to Ulysses as they share a similar fate. Ulysses, though, did manage to go back to his Ithaca eventually. The poet instead will never see this dream come true.

Gc and I started reciting the poem while sailing, feeling very sympathetic towards the unlucky poet.

High on poetry and sea breeze, we kept on going until we saw an unusual movement of boats, yachts and super yachts – all concentrated in a small patch of sea.

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What was going on there? People call people.. and our curious souls couldn’t resist the temptation. We joined the crowd.

And what a beautiful spectacle started to take shape in front of our eyes! Clear water, white sandy beaches, and a bay enclosed within steep reefs, stretching high in the sky.  What a divine scene! The colours so vivid and intense, the water so crystalline it almost looks transparent, the sky so blue. A brown carcass resting on the beach.

What’s that? I grab the binoculars to ascertain the nature of that ‘thing’…we are still too far to be able to distinguish the contours.

I look intently….Wow! Hundreds of people are on the beach surrounding the ‘thing’. A shipwreck – that’s what it is!

DSC_3028 What’s this massive wreck doing there? I started wondering. Well, story goes that in the October of 1980 the ship was carrying cigarettes illegally, smuggled from Turkey and destined for the Sicilian black market controlled by mafia. The Greek coast guard had tailed it for a while and grown suspicious: they wanted to search the goods.

It was a stormy night and the waves were getting higher and higher. The ship would go up and then slide down the wave, in an rhythmic way, every time reaching new heights. The crew grew restless as they became aware of the coast guard chasing them.

The captain decided to hide in the bay: it was the only way to shake them off their tail.  The high waves though pushed the boat too far inside the bay and it got stuck on a shoal. The crew somehow managed to escape.

For months after the incident, locals would help themselves with cigarettes and whisky from the new ‘free market’: the Panagiotis shipwreck!

Some believe the Greek Ministry of Tourism to be behind all this. A smart way to attract more tourists!DSC_3021

We loved the place and the touch of mystery around the wreck, but decided to wait until all the day-trippers had left before approaching land! That way we could enjoy the beach and the wreck by ourselves.

We anchored in the bay and had a light lunch with a mixed salad.

It was roughly 6pm and the beach was almost empty. I prepared our pic- nic bag with crisps, G&T and some olives. We boarded our dingy and made our way to the beach. Best place for our aperitif!

DSC_3096On the beach, we bumped into some very nice people who happened to be the owners of one of the super yachts anchored in the bay. They were so nice as to invite us for a drink on their boat that night.

The drink turned into a dinner and we had a great time aboard their luxurious boat. Great hosts and great food cooked by their chef.

The night was a bit rocky as there is a big swell in the bay. It is not advisable to anchor in the bay unless the weather is very calm and, even so, expect some swell if you decide to spend the night there.

What a great stay in this marvellous bay!DSC_3040

Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 2

KORONI and the turtles

We stopped in KORONI on our way to Sicily from Leros. We set off from Plitra in the morning and got to KORONI after several hours of sailing. The town looks very cute once you get close enough: blurred shapes start turning into nicely built houses and villas, a medieval castle on the left hand side dominates the bay and a cute cluster of houses and flats climb up the hill.

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The road facing the sea is dotted with bars, restaurants, ice cream parlours and ‘ouzerie’,one after the other. Walking along it you end up to the castle, a magnificent building that dominates the surrounding sea.

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20170815_202701We were starving after a day out sailing and went to a nice restaurant and had a fish platter for 2 and a small caraffe of ouzo. The food was just ok, not the best we had in Greece but our tummies were now full and we started wandering around the streets to get to know the place a bit better.

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Our attention was caught by a group of people standing by a kiosk. They wore a blue t-shirt with ‘ask me about sea turtles’ on it. Who can resist such an invitation?

We went there and enquired about sea turtles! It was only the day before that I had seen a big turtle swimming by our boat in Plitra so I was more than happy to find out more about these interesting creatures.

The volunteers told us that Zangla beach in KORONI is one of the areas where female turtles lay their eggs. Exactly the same place where they hatched at least 20 years earlier- the wonders of nature and ‘no GPS’!

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Sea turtles keep coming back every 3 years during the breeding period (May to October). They live up to 80 years and start laying eggs in their 20ies- just like humans!

The little turtles hatch at night and reach the sea following the reflection of the moon on the water. The short journey from the nest to the sea is very important for them as it strengthens their flippers and their lungs before their first dip.

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The volunteers also told us that they go for a long walk on the beach every morning at 6.15 to check the nests and help baby turtles who might have lost their way to the sea. People are encouraged to join them.

We really liked the idea! At 5.45 am the day after I woke up Gc with some nice espresso still hot from the Moka and with a torch in one hand and the pillow marks still on our faces, we started speeding towards Zangla beach with our dingy.

We saw a group of people moving in the dark and waved at them. It was the volunteers together with some other tourists who had decided to join them for the day.

We started walking towards the first nest -there were 46 all together on Zangla beach- which had been marked with some bamboo canes and protected with a mesh to prevent foxes from digging them out and eating them.

During our long walk we saw signs of flippers along the path marked by the volunteers, which meant that some baby turtles had made it to the sea safely the night before. We also noticed some foxes footprints and broken shells: a clear sign that some little turtles never made it…

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We were told that couple of days before few baby turtles had been found in the garden of a beach house. The outdoor light had been left on at night and the turtles had mistaken it for the reflection of the moon on the sea and gone the wrong way. Those didn’t make it either….

After 2 hours of walking, we didn’t see any baby turtles that morning, but we learned a lot about the Caretta Caretta turtle and how important it is to respect their environment and to protect them. The mother will go to the beach to lay the eggs, if she encounters obstacles along the way she will try 3 times. After the third attempt though she will give up and release all the eggs at sea. The baby turtles have no chance to survive if that happens.

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