2021 - Vaccines and Back on the Water

Tue 17 Aug 2021 10:29

January 2021 heralded the arrival of effective vaccines and the mass vaccination programme in the U.K. got into gear. We received our first shot in January and the second in March. Our hopes were now rising for a summer’s cruising. I managed to book a flight for the beginning of May but that was cancelled as were four further flights. On the sixth attempt I did get a flight to Sicily with British Airways albeit with a transfer at Heathrow and on the 3rd of July after taking antigen tests that thankfully showed us to be negative of the virus, we were at last on our way.

After sixteen hours of travel it was great to at last arrive at the marina and as we wearily made our way down the main pontoon we saw that Sam and Florencia had left all the mast lights on (something we do not usually do in harbour!) Pamarzi as a welcome for us. The boat looked great and it was wonderful to be back aboard although five days of quarantine would have to be endured before we could provision and have visitors aboard for social or technical reasons. On the sixth day after our arrival a local doctor came to the marina and took nasal swabs (yet another hundred Euros!) and again we were declared negative and thus released from our quarantine. It has to be said though that at no point were we asked to show our test results or questioned about our movements.

Ennio finally brought our sails back from his sail loft where they had been in store since October 2019 late on Saturday 10th July and next day Sam and I completed the re-rigging of Pamarzi. I had decided that it would make sense to have a test sail to check the accuracy of and calibrate the wind angle function of our anemometer as a processor had been replaced in the instrument over winter and to check out all the other mechanical and electronic sailing systems. We have already found that the ship’s computer will have to be returned to Vasari in the U.K. for attention and updates and a cable in the aft cabin air conditioning unit needs to be replaced as one of the plugs has oxidization that inhibits good contact and is giving false readings to the control unit. On Wednesday with Sam and Florencia aboard along with their new employee to be Titziana we set off into a light westerly breeze, perfect for calibrating the instruments. After a pleasant couple of hours out on the water with a strengthening breeze we headed back to our berth for lunch. Whilst tidying lines away at the mast Lynn noticed that oil was leaking from the gooseneck control shaft. Sam and I investigated and noticed that the shaft was moving by a couple of millimetres and pumping oil from the gearbox when the mainsail furler was operated. The gearbox had been serviced over winter when the gooseneck plate had been removed for repainting. So the boatyard was informed as they had done the work. It took another few days to get to the nub of the matter, this being Sicily and to resolve the problem. It turned out to simply be a locking washer that had not been torqued fully into place with a locking nut for want of a proper tool. The lug on the washer had abraded allowing further movement of the lock nut and hence the control shaft. Very much a case of “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe the horse…………..etc. The yard repaired the washer and Pepe the mechanic made a tool to properly tighten the locking nut and I ordered two new washers from Oyster to keep as spares.

The following day (Friday 23rd July) we finally cast off our shorelines and at last set sail for what will now be a short cruise before we return to the U.K. at the beginning of August. Our MdR friends waved us off as we motored out of the marina through the dredged channel. Just 20 centimetres under our keel at one spot! The sea was calm and with little wind. We motored for the first couple of hours but then the breeze picked up and we had five hours of very pleasant sailing under full main and genoa on a close reach. As we approached Licata the angle of heel became a bit steep for Lynn’s liking so we reefed the genoa a little and maintained a steady seven or eight knots. Murphy’s law came into play as we docked in Licata the cross wind rising to over twenty knots making Med mooring interesting, Nonetheless successfully docked we set about the usual berthing procedures. Jobs completed and paperwork and fees paid we relaxed with a cool beer before showering and heading into town. We dined at Alkala on very acceptable Argentinian fillet steaks and a bottle of Nero D’Avola.

A visit to the local supermarket next morning followed by a wash down of Pamarzi to rid her of the crud from the ‘slime lines’ (laid mooring lines) preceded a relaxed day aboard. The marina is very quiet with very few people about. Many of the boats look not to have moved for a long time. The boat next to us a Jeanneau 64, probably not more than four years old and probably costing the owner the thick end of £1m, lies covered in sand and dust, its teak decks black with mould and its hull below the waterline a veritable forest of weed and enough crustaceans to be farmed commercially. The sails and running rigging are all in place as if the crew had just left for a short break. One cannot but help to wonder what the story is.

We were under way by 07.30 next morning into a flat calm and thus it stayed all day for the fifty odd miles to Siacca and Circolo Nautico il Corallo where we docked at 15.45. We dined that evening at the little trattoria close to the waterfront where we were greeted by the lady owner (Pepina) like old friends. She said in her very broken English that she remembered us from two years ago and that we had a ship! Sitting outside on the plant strewn terrace we dined on tuna and swordfish. During the course of the meal we got chatting to an Italian family on an adjacent table. Francesco, Hellen and their two charming children Carlo 12 and Isabell 8 who hail from Rome. We talked all evening and learnt that Carlo loves sail boats so we invited them to come aboard Pamarzi on the morrow.

Next day a few boat jobs preceded a (another!) lazy day reading in the sunshine and watching the comings and goings of the quite extensive Sciacca fishing fleet. Francesco and family came over late afternoon and we spent a pleasant couple of hours with them and Carlo was shown all over the boat much to his delight. Back to Pepina’s for supper and another fun evening practising our Italian talking with a family from Milan.

Francesco and Hellen picked us up next morning and we drove into town to breakfast together on a shady terrace overlooking the harbour. Back to Pepina’s that evening where she apologised for not giving me my starter the previous night. It was rather funny because we had of course realised she had forgotten but could see that she was harassed and did not want to add to her woes. It again turned into a lively evening with our starboard berth neighbours Pilar and Toni from Barcelona and Georgio another diner from Milan. Three languages posed no problem to our garrulous evening. We said our goodbyes to Pepina with hugs and promises to return soon.

We left Sciacca around 09.00 into a flat calm but the westerly breeze soon picked up and we had a lovely day of down wind sailing. As so often happens as we approached Licata the wind picked up further so mooring once again was in a 25 knot cross wind. Safely done despite an over enthusiastic marinero and ‘helpful’ fellow yachtsman who threw one of our stern lines into the water twice! Temperatures have been in the high thirties for many days now and as we docked in Licata brush fires raged around the port and the smell of burning was ever present.

We remained in Licata for another day and in the early evening I walked to the supermarket for a few essentials. I must admit to thinking I looked cool as I had adopted the Italian style of keeping my face mask when not in use around my forearm. Any cool Italian style though was lost when I got to the supermarket. As I went to put my mask on the strings pulled out of the fabric and I was left fiddling to tie the assembly back together. Distinctly uncool!

On Thursday 30th July we slipped out of Licata marina into a thick haze. Radar on as we made our way through its dense, warm, stillness but by the time we were passing the first of the two offshore oil platforms it was burning off. Light winds so motor sailing was the order of the day and we docked in our berth at MdR at 16.00.

Our flight to the U.K. booked for 4th August it was a few days of boat cleaning, putting sail and equipment covers on as well as a trip to Ragusa to have yet another Covid 19 test that thankfully was again negative for both of us. We return to Pamarzi in early September.