Part 2 Of Bill's Blog - Sicily to Corfu
Position: 39:39.02N, 019:51.19E
Porto Vesmo to Palermo – We are still running away the fast approaching front that is building around Gibraltar. This is forecast to bring winds in excess of 40 knots with seas of 6 metres. We had a fairly uneventful passage of some 192 miles taking around 30 hours. The highlight during the night was dolphins swimming alongside in the phosphorence giving them a wonderful green glow rather like green torpedoes. On arrival in Palermo we had a devil of a job finding somewhere to park but with the help of a very helpful harbourmaster we managed to squeeze ourselves in outside the Yacht Club Mediterranean. This was followed by our first night ashore for pizzas all round and a jug of local Sicilian wine.
Palermo to Portarosa - We said farewell to Palermo at 0600hrs and headed East for Portarosa, a distance of around 100 miles and just west of Messina. Our objectives were to put further distance between us and the approaching front, hole up and position ourselves ready for passing through the straights of Messina.
Breakfast on route was a real treat, ‘Birchers Muesli’. It consists of half a cupful of porridge oats soaked in milk, fruit (e.g. raisins, banana etc.) plus a generous dollop of Greek style yoghurt topped with a drizzle of honey. Delicious!
Another good weather observation on route was lines of clouds forming over the tops of the mountains and funnelling down the slopes towards the sea. This is a good indicator of ‘katabatic’ winds to follow and true to form they delivered big intermittent gusts of cold air.
We sailed quite close in to the coast and the scenery was stunning. The long awaited front finally caught up with us about an hour out of Portarosa and it got a bit lively with winds in excess of 40 knots. The poor skipper was down below making a chicken curry and it made for very interesting eating whilst we were crashing along and closing in on what is to become our bolt hole for a few days.
Our next passage will be through the straits of Messina and on to mainland Italy before the final leg to Corfu, a distance of around 300 miles.
We now have around 800 miles under our keel in 8 days and are not too disappointed at having to hole up here for a few days.
At the time of writing, we have spent 3 nights storm bound in Portarosa. Gilly B has been rising up and down in her berth and at first we thought it was down to the cheap gin we bought earlier in the day, then we realised that it was a storm surge, better known in these parts as a ‘Resaca’. The ‘Resaca’ was quite small but nevertheless it caused the water level to rise and fall abruptly by around 12 inches every 15 to 20 minutes. The Resaca is in effect a mini but rapid tidal wave. The barometric pressure fell from its steady state of 1010 down to 998 in the space of 12 hours. As you would expect winds of over 40 knots followed. The barometer then rose again quite rapidly to 1013 which brought even stronger winds. “Sudden rise after fall foretells a stronger blow” - and makes the crew change their under garments J
This morning (Monday 17th May) we walked round to the entrance to take a look at the sea state and make a decision as to whether or not we could get underway for ‘Reggio’ at the bottom of Italy. A 5m swell and white horses out at sea convinced us it was not worth attempting to get out of the narrow entrance and so (like everyone else) we decided to stay put until things settle down a bit more. As a result, the plan now is to sail to Corfu in one hit, a distance of around 300 miles. Winds are forecast to be North Westerly so all being well we should have a very nice passage.
Portarosa to Corfu –
We left Portarosa at first light in the knowledge that the sea state would be extremely uncomfortable and we would face a 10 mile ‘sleigh ride’ until we rounded the first headland. It did exactly what it said on the tin and we received a thorough rinsing. Our efforts were rewarded when the seas settled down after we rounded the headland and headed for the straits of Messina. The straits are notorious for whirlpools and a strong current runs for which we had timed our departure to take advantage of. We enjoyed a fantastic sail through the straits touching speeds of 10 knots whilst dodging the numerous ships and ferries.
The transition in the weather when we came out of the straits into the Ionian Sea was incredible. It was like entering another world. Proper warm weather gear was donned for the first time since leaving Spain and we enjoyed a very smooth crossing with a glorious night sky and schools of dolphins to keep us company. We had our best 24 hour run sailing a very satisfying 181 miles, not quite Open 60 standards but not bad for a ‘Beneteau Oceanis 43’ laden down with gin and pork scratchings. Upon arrival at Corfu we had a spectacular electrical storm with huge forks of lightning that lit up our final few miles to Gouvia. The passage was 333 miles and took us 46 hours.
Corfu is sadly the end of our little adventure. We have sailed a total of 1,141 miles in 8 days of sailing and had a ball in the process. Four very good friends just having fun, often at the expense of each other, but isn’t that what sailing is all about! All four of us are members of the famous ‘Panic Button’ club that boasts a total membership of 8 worldwide. The requirement for membership is that you must, through a brilliant piece of seamanship (which has never been in any sailing manuals before but will be in future) get yourself out of a bad situation that you got into through your own crass incompetence. Members are required to confess to their sins and bars may be awarded for future ‘cock ups’.
Our skipper, Graham Bush, previously owned a beautiful Najad 331 (which he kept at Orford) and he deliberated long and hard before selling her and buying ‘Gilly B’ for his 5 year Mediterranean adventure. She has been most impressive to both sail and live aboard and her build quality is extremely good. There is no doubt she is the right tool for the job.
Graham & Gillian Bush will now enjoy the rest of the summer cruising in the Greek Islands along with family and friends. As for the rest of us, volcano permitting, we fly back to the UK courtesy of ‘squeezy jet’.