Sidi Bou Said,Tunisia
Wednesday 11th August 2010
We finally left Malta on Saturday 7th August, having waited all week for a decent weather window. It didn't look as good as had been predicted earlier in the week with fairly strong winds still blowing dead against us and lumpy seas, but we were both getting harbour fever and needed to be on the move, so we accepted it would be a bumpy start to the passage and let go the lines around mid-morning. Sure enough, once out of Valetta main harbour, we had 20+ knots of wind on the nose and waves that were determined to push us backwards.
We set a reefed main and yankee, steered best course to windward and off we went - straight towards Sicily! Oh well, a few hours on this tack to get in some North, and then we'd take the other take to get some West. This was going to be a long 220 miles if the wind didn't ease as predicted later that evening.
We spent best part of Saturday sailing lots ofmiles but not necessarily in the right direction,and the wind didn't really ease until almost light on Sunday. When itdid,it died away completely, leaving us to motor into the waves it left behind. Eventually the sea flattened and we were able to motor comfortably up the rhumb line (in a straight line directly towards our destination for our non-sailing friends!).
We both thought we had seen the end of the wind, so were quite surprised when around 18.30 on Sunday evening it picked up again to a lively 16-20 knots, but this time from a direction that meant we could sail a bit more off the wind. By altering our plans to pass South of Pantelleria instead of North, we were able to make the most of this wind and were stonking along at 7knots over the ground for hours.
This turn of events meant that we made up the time lost and arrived in Sidi Bou Said around 18.00 on Monday. Unfortunately we could not get into the marina,but the weather was calm now and we spent a peaceful night anchored off the beach.
Next morning we were told we could enter the marina after 12, and by lunchtime we were tied up against the quay in Sidi Bou Said marina.
Today we took a taxi into town which is very touristy and was choc a bloc with hundreds of tourists from cruise liners docked in Tunis, not far up the coast. A twee little town all painted white with blue doors and windows, it is not really our cup of tea. However, we plan to visit Carthage and Medina, both of which are apparently a train ride away.
We spent the rest of today using the wifi in the internet cafe to track down necessary parts for the autopilot, which although fixed in Malta, decided it would only work for an hour before giving up again. Fortunately the backup wheel pilot did an excellent job instead, so we didn't have to handsteer this time. Steve did an excellent job of replacing the starboard navigation light so we now have a full set of working nav lights again (he had to go to the top of the mast to fix the tricolour in Malta - fortunately it just turned out that the glass of the bulb had parted company with the metal base so a quick replacement was all that was needed, much to his relief!)
It is very quiet here at the moment compared to yesterday evening when the quayside was busy with people eating and drinking at the marina restaurant which has tables almost all the way along the quay. We suspect it is something to do with being the first day of Ramadan, and that it will become somewhat livelier as the sun goes down!
The plan now is to spend a couple of days here and leave on Saturday, weather permitting, to head West towards the Spanish coast. We have no interest in the Balearics at this time of year, so will pass them by and make straight for Cartagena possibly, or Duquesa, depending on the wind.