Goodbye dear Spain, hello Italy!

Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Tue 20 May 2014 14:33
40 33.62N 8 18.74E

Drying out in Alghero beneath the Old Town Walls and under a glorious sun.  We finally left Mahon harbour and the beautiful Balearics, after spending a wonderful week there with Paul and Alison.  The four of us ate, drank, played darts!, laughed and sailed, short sails to two beautiful anchorages, and those two were eager, competent and uncomplaining crew.  It was so good to share the Beowulf experience and some of Menorca with them.  The weather was good but they left and it alll changed.

Winds too strong to set out in for Sardinia blew for three days but it stayed sunny and we did some sightseeing with Klaus and Christina, German friends of ours who wintered in Menorca too and with whom we planned to cross the 200 miles to Alghero, on the west coast.  Finally we decided that although not perfect weather we could and should make the crossing, there not being another window of wind in our favour for almost a week.

So off we set.  We had an afternoon of light airs, a sunset, a cooked meal, stars until moonrise and shared the watch through the night.  In the morning with adverse light winds we had to motor about 6 hours.  The ring around the sun in a cloudy sky was ominous and sure enough was a sign of what we knew was coming. But unexpectedly a Force 4 rose to Force 7 in the wink of Neptune's eye.  Beowulf valiantly thumped and crashed through haha 'moderate' seas from an unseen sunset on that second night right through to noon the next day, the spray, rain and hail drenching whichever of us was in the cockpit.  Trips down below were dangerous - it was like a space capsule's opposite - you were drifting freely around but gravity dragged you down and threw you into whatever it chose. Getting into and out of our full coveralls was a comedy sketch every time.  Tom very very kindly let me stay in my sleeping bag for 8 of the night time hours, huddled in the lee cloth, not moving and convincing myself the slamming and screeching was worse down below than above.  I actually slept.

His version is different - and thank goodness his positivity always communicates.  We were sailing a great course and averaging nearly 5 knots.  The boat is completely sound and safer than any he knows.  All our rigging is in order and our sails are new - what more could we ask for?  Never mind the soakings, we had our warm (and they are) 'survival suits' on and our brand new nifty lifejackets.  The liferaft is on the deck, ready for deployment (aaarrrgh - see where this goes if you take it too far?)

But really, I agree that the adventure certainly puts an asterisk of excitement next to those 48 hours of our life. Easier to say now drying out - pretty much everything inside got wet too.  In the end I was glad Paul and Alison did not have to sample that particular adventure with us, brave and seaworthy though they would have been.. 

The footnote is equally interesting.  A faulty bilge pump switch, which got stuck in the 'on' position unbeknownst to us, drained our battery and after all those tiring hours we had no engine to bring us into Alghero's rather intricate harbour.  At 8 miles out we realised, sighted the town through binoculars and planned a course.  Fortunately we had reasonable visibility and wind in the right direction, for a while.  Then it shifted and died but we tacked in with both sails, contacting Klaus and Christina who luckily had beaten us there by an hour or so, on our handheld VHS radio.  They guided and we glided; Tom did a great job of maneouvring in small spaces and nudging Beowulf at about a quarter of a knot into the quayside where K&C waited with a boat hook, and the gathering of curious Italians on the town walls above were disappointed that they saw no drama.

So what to do when you land tired, thirsty and hungry in Italy?  Go for a beer and pizza!

Stay tuned for more adventures, hopefully calmer and drier ones, for the next month.  We're already planning to move south after exploring this beautiful town, to some bays and beaches down the west coast of Sardinia.  The pictures and the charts look exciting, and relaxing.

Sail on!