Malaga & ‘La Dispensa Italiana’

We left Cartagena and made our way to Malaga where our friends, Stella and Fabri, were waiting for us.  The initial idea was to stop at Cabo De Gata- a beautiful natural park along the coast of Andalucia- for the night and continue towards Malaga the day after. While sailing though, we got in touch with two other boats via VHF and found out that we were all going the same way and that they would be continuing the sailing throughout the night, without stopping.

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Strong winds were expected the coming days and weather alerts had been issued for Malaga and surrounding areas: ‘the sooner we get there the better’ – the other sailors said. Personally, I was really disappointed! I really wanted to see Cabo de Gata, which I was told being absolutely gorgeous. I reluctantly agreed with Gc that stopping there for the night was not ‘the right thing to do’, and I acted very adult-like by holding a grudge against him for the following 5 to 6 hours. Someone had to be blamed…

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We sailed side by side with another catamaran all day and almost all night. It was 5 am when we departed from our sailing companion to get to Almerimar marina: we were almost out of fuel and needed an urgent refill.

We dropped anchor outside the marina and went to sleep for a few hours, while waiting for the fuel station to open at 7am. Seven hundred litres of diesel and 900 Euros later, we set sails again: destination Malaga. We were so excited to see our friends and visit the shop they’d opened the previous year, La Dispensa Italiana, that we forgot how tired we were and kept on going.

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The best Italian shop in Malaga

Before our arrival in Malaga, we had been trying to reserve a spot for Gladan either at the port or at the marinas nearby. Apparently it’s not their custom to book places in advance: you have to show up and find out for yourself if there is space or not. Which is totally fine in settled weather, but very unpractical when you’re expecting strong southerly winds. Where are you going to go if there is no space anywhere?!

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Malaga.. finally!

Thanks to our friends, we finally found a space at Caleta de Velez, a small marina in a fishing village 30 miles east of Malaga, and rented a car to reach the city.

After 4 nights there, we learnt the hard way that if you want a place at Malaga’s port you just go there, moore inside, and wait for the Policia Portuaria to come and “approve” your stay. Don’t bother calling them as the following will happen: they won’t answer the phone and if they do, they will tell you that they are fully booked even if they are not.

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Gladan entering Malaga’s Port

After trying hard, we did manage to spend a night inside the Port, and paid 100 Euros with no water or electricity. The port is quite beautiful, with bars, restaurants, shops and museums all around; you really dock in the historic heart of the city.

It’s a real shame though that a port with so much potential and one of the most important points connecting Europe and Africa it’s so badly managed!

We loved Malaga and enjoyed every minute we spent with our friends, not to mention the mouthwatering truffle mortadella and pecorino cheese we tried at La Dispensa… If you happen to stop in Malaga go and try their delicious Italian produce!

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Malaga – Cathedral

 

 

Menorca to Cartagena – the bad weather is following us!

It was a Friday afternoon when we finally got our port engine back.

The mechanic, Santis from Nautic Centre, did such a great job with it (the engine was all clean and shiny and had even been sprayed with some Volvo green paint), that I swear I saw some tears forming in GC’s eyes when, with the help of a crane, the engine was lowered back in place.

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Having thanked Santis and his team for the great job done, we set off from Mahon as quickly as possible: it was already 4pm, and we didn’t have many hours of daylight ahead of us.

We spent the night at anchor in Cala -en-Porter (famous for Cova d’en Xoroi, a very popular disco set in a cave, with a breathtaking sunset bar), ready to go to Mallorca first thing the following morning.

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Coves d’Arta’ – Mallorca

On our way to Palma, we stopped twice along the coast: first at Coves d’Arta’ on the NE side of Mallorca and then at Es Caragol, a superb spot on the S side.

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Es Caragol – Mallorca

When we finally got to Palma,  we only had the time to drop anchor before being welcomed by a thunderstorm. The weather was changing and heavy rain and storms had been forecasted for the coming days both in Mallorca and Ibiza, our next destination.

An important decision laid ahead of us: did we want to get wet in Mallorca or in Ibiza?

We agreed we’d get up the next day and decide there and then.

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Cumulonimbus clouds

The day after the weather seemed ok: the sky was clear and the sun was shining, so we decided to make a move to Ibiza. We were half way through, when we started to see a dark wall of cumulonimbus clouds ahead and behind us.

The weather was rapidly changing and we were exactly in the middle of the storm, closing onto us.

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Whirlwind at sea

We turned the radar on to see the scale of it: it was huge and approaching at incredible speed. The rain started to hit Gladan with rage, the sky was turbulent and lighting was striking closer and closer. Maybe leaving Mallorca had not been such a good idea after all…! 

We pushed the foot on the accelerator, so to speak, to get away from it. At full throttle, we tried to outrun the storm and get to Ibiza before sunset. It was getting late and we had to find a sheltered place quickly. We didn’t like the idea of being at sea at night in such stormy weather.

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After checking Navionics repeatedly, I found a very protected bay, Portinatx, which seemed a good spot for the night.

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Portinatx – Ibiza

It was almost dark when we finally dropped anchor in the bay. We were very relieved to have escaped the full brunt of the storm, and were feeling grateful to Gladan for being so nippy.

The day after, we found out about the intensity of  the storm, which had hit Mallorca very badly: a river had overflowed and 13 people had died as a result. 

We stayed a few days in Ibiza waiting for the weather to get better and then made a move to mainland Spain.chart

After two nights at anchor along the Costa Blanca, we got to Cartagena. But the bad weather was following us!

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Mar Menor – sliding bridge

Strong winds of up to 50 knots had been forecasted for the day after, so we moored inside the port. Storm Leslie was making its way to Spain after battering Portugal, forcing hundreds to flee their homes. 

Leslie kept us company for a full day: strong winds, torrential rain, bent palm trees, boats pushed and pulled in all directions… 

All of a sudden though, the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and a fierce sunset put the sky on fire.

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Cartagena – Port

Menorca &… we’re left with one engine!

We ended up staying in Menorca for 2 weeks, instead of the planned 2/3 days. Why?

Just before starting the crossing from Sardinia, GC checked the engines as he usually does before setting off: oil levels, water levels etc…. On this occasion though, he spent an unusually long time inside the port engine room and when he finally re-emerged from it, he was carrying several screws and bits of metal; his hands totally covered in aluminium powder and his face saying more than words could…

Having recently replaced the coupling of the port engine (basically the part that connects the engine to the sail drive), the presence of such parts was very very troubling.

One of two things could have happened:

  1. those parts belonged to the old coupling, and had been left behind on the floor by the mechanics (small negligence)
  2. those bits belonged to the newly replaced coupling and had been spitted out through the inspection hole. Which meant, in short, that the engine could eventually blow up! (not so small negligence)

After a few phone calls with the mechanics that replaced the coupling in Sicily, we were now almost sure that the latter was the case.

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Finally competent mechanics at work!

As soon as we got to Menorca, we therefore decided to have the engine checked. We contacted Nautic Centre, who are Volvo dealers and very competent mechanics, and had the engine taken out and looked at. Their assessment of the situation? The Sicilian mechanics had not read the instructions when assembling the new coupling and had used screws which were longer than they should have been. As a consequence, three parts had been severely compromised and needed replacements.

The parts had to be sent over from Italy as it was the previous mechanic’s responsibility to fix a job not properly done (to say the least!), which had damaged other components of the engine and might have resulted in the engine itself blowing up.

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So we were stuck in Menorca for two weeks and, I can assure you, it’s now number one on my list of places where to get stuck in! Nature is absolutely gorgeous: the island is full of stunning bays, little coves (Cala Galdana, Cala Mitjana, Calescoves, Cala en Porter, Cala Pregonda, just to mention a few), beautiful villas and walking trails (Cami’ de Cavals) moving along its perimeter and stretching trough a wild scenery. 

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El Jaleo

While on the island, we strolled along the roads of Mahon and had some tapas at the Mercat de Pescados; had a proper espresso at the Club Nautico de Ciutadella with a view over the picturesque old port; went to Alaior and witnessed the El Jaleo – a feast celebrating the special relationship between Menorquinos and horses, in which riders dress up in typical costumes and demonstrate their abilities by rearing their horses up on their hind legs, making them jump and dance to the rhythm of traditional music played by a brass band, while the crowd around tries touching them for good luck. 

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El Jaleo

In terms of food, I do have couple of recommendations in case you decide to spend a few days in Mahon: Bar a Vins in the centre, with tables on the square and a great selection of charcuterie boards; and Mestre D’Aixa along the port, serving fusion gourmet food that is definitely worth trying. Accompany your meal with a Rioja (Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva – depending on how aged you like your wine)  and you’ll feel very happy even if you have got only one engine left!

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A happy sailor!

 

 

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!