What a crossing! We set out from Mahon just after 1st light for what was expected to be a 32hr, 220 mile crossing starting in strongish winds which would quickly die away. Four forecasts and a local all agreed on that, with 1-2m waves: all told it should have been a fast start followed by a lot of motoring. It was all lies! The winds and seas just got stronger all day and by nightfall they were consistently force 7, gusting to 46kts, which is F9. The boat was coping fine with the wind, but the seas were just impossible - very steep and unpredictable waves, peaking at about 4m, coming at us from all directions with several breaking over the back of the boat and flooding the cockpit. Added to this was rain from mid afternoon through to the early hours of the morning. Conditions were impossible – we couldn’t cook or prepare any food without real stress (although L did warm up some soup during the evening). L was sea-sick for the 1st time since leaving Lymington, and even I felt uncomfortable – and I’ve never been remotely close to being sea-sick in my life. Just before it got dark I decided we’d had enough pounding and changed course to make the motion more bearable. This left us “running” (wind behind us) through the night, headed for Tunisia! Despite warm seas (16C), I can’t remember ever being so cold: the one on watch really struggled to find a way of keeping warm and we ended up lying across the top of the companionway (steps from cockpit down to the cabin). This kept us out of the rain but not sheltered from the wind – brrr.
Soon after dawn everything changed – wind & seas died and we even had the engine on briefly. Then the wind started again, but from the wrong direction, forcing us to sail towards Tunisia again. Soon the waves were pounding us from in front and by mid-morning we needed the engine on again just to allow us to make headway into the wind and very confused, steep waves. The wind kept forcing us off course and we clearly were not going to make our destination in daylight. Fortunately the wind had shifted enough for us to be able to choose a nearer destination – Portoscuso in the SW corner of Sardinia. It was still a pretty tough sail though, and we only just made it before dark - wet, cold and pretty tired. We had actually done 270 miles by the time we tied up!
We were very happy to have arrived safely in such a lovely spot and to take a couple of days to recuperate. It’s fascinating to be in another country – all of a sudden trying to understand a different language (pretty hard so far!) and a different people (exuberant, friendly & laid back). Portoscuso itself is great; really picturesque:-
Apart from relaxing, eating ice-cream and de-salting the boat, it was interesting to reflect on our challenging 37hr passage. We were never scared, never felt anything other than total confidence in the boat, which behaved magnificently. Should we have gone out? Obviously not with the benefit of hindsight, but there was simply no way of knowing what was going to happen. The Med. forecasts are notoriously poor, and the seas famously rough and difficult, but you can only go on the information available, which is what we did. The problems came from our physical ability to cope with the motion that results from such waves. It was demanding and we coped the only way we could – by changing course to make it bearable. I (D) found it quite stressful, constantly thinking about what to do next if things got worse. L managed quite fantastically – saying that she finds the sea cocoon-like, almost protective when it’s at its worst. The great thing is that we’ve emerged feeling stronger and more confident and perhaps even more wary of getting into that situation again!
Portoscuso, on the Saturday we set out to explore the town, seemed to be full of teenagers enjoying the spring sunshine in jolly groups and yes, eating ice cream was the diversion of choice. It had a lovely little headland crowned by an old tower and covered in flowers, with great views out to sea. All in all it was a perfect introduction to Sardinia.