The reality.

Are we nearly there yet?
Mike & Sarah
Wed 28 Sep 2011 08:12

37:59.33N 12:20.76E


21st September 2011


Up at 05.00 hrs, tender stowed under davits and anchor weighed by 06.40 hrs. Wind F4 from the NW as anticipated. With the wind aft of the beam the mainsail remained stowed, the genoa unfurled, one engine left running to maintain a speed of 6.5 knots and a course set directly for Sicily. As the morning wore on the wind gradually veered to the north and reduced to a F3. So, in with the Genoa and out with the Genneker, in an effort to maintain a reasonable speed.


By 11.00 hrs it appeared that the wind would moderate sooner than later. With the wind from astern we really needed 20-25 knots to keep up an average speed of 7.5 knots. I felt that it was time to suggest to the wind gods that a little more breeze would not be unwelcome. They obviously deliberated upon the request for an hour and then, looking astern I noticed a low dark rain cloud approaching. There would undoubtedly be a squall involved, so with prudence in mind we furled the Genneker. Just in time too. The squall hit with a 40-knot wind and even when the cloud and rain had passed over, it continued unabated. With the persistence of the wind came waves of ever increasing size. By 16.00 hrs the surrounding waters were a mass of breaking crests over 3 meter waves. Footloose was fine, her stern rising predictably to each onslaught, but it was an uncomfortable ride as we were running at an angle to the waves. To make things a little more comfortable we decided to steer due south, running parallel to the Sardinian coast and putting Footloose square to the waves. Both engines were running by this point to give the autohelm an easier life. We might have risked a heavily reefed Genoa to give some directional stability, but whilst stowing the Genneker, Sarah noticed that part of its lower attachment appeared to be broken and distorted. This was not a time to risk any further gear failures.


The gale persisted (35 gusting to 40 knots) until daybreak, when the wind abated to 30 knots and backed to the NW, enabling us to reset a course directly to Sicily. The need to deviate from our intended course to run before the gale, combined with an average speed over the ground of only 6 knots had extended our ETA at Sicily to around midnight. Looking at the chart details of the approach to Trapani did not inspire confidence. O.K during the day, but it's never a good thing to approach an unknown port at night. Time to bring in a contingency plan.


Just to the west of Trapani are a group of islands. One of them, Lavenzo was shown to have three bays at its SE corner, each indicated as a possible anchorage. The southernmost bay was also a ferry port, so was discounted as an option. The middle one had the greatest area of water less than 5 meters deep and was therefore selected as our safest opportunity for landfall.

The remainder of the day was uneventful but the unpleasant motion, caused by winds which had abated but were still in the high twenties, separate wave patterns emanating from the north and north west which sometimes combined to produce mountainous seas, could not be described as "comfortable".


Fortunately, as dusk fell, around 19.00 hrs, the wind reduced to around 20 knots and the sea lost some of its aggression. It now looked as though we would get to Lavenzo around 2300 hrs.

We were a little concerned, that when we arrived we may still have a considerable swell to contend with, but we needn't have worried. As we motored down the east coast of Lavenzo the island produced excellent shelter, flattening the sea and shielding us from the remaining wind. We could have done with a moon to light the anchorage as we approached, but it was not due to rise for another three hours. We therefore had no option but to rely heavily on our chart plotter for position and our eyes to spot any unlit boats at anchor. We gingerly entered Cala Fredda and lowered the anchor in 5 meters, over sand and eelgrass just before 23.00 hrs. The anchor held on first attempt, some 40 hours after leaving Sardinia. With much relief it was straight to bed for a dreamless nights rest.


There is a moral. Be careful what you ask of the gods. They can be too generous!