Re-launching Southern Princess April/May 2007 and our first guests

Southern Princess
John & Irene Hunt
Fri 18 May 2007 05:59

Re-launching Southern Princess April/May 2007 and our first guests


The last epistle saw us arrive in Malta and as luck would have it we were booked in to the Milano Due Hotel on the harbour front Msida, Malta a short walk to the Manoel Island Shipyard where Southern Princess was on the hard. DO NOT take note of this hotel as we agreed it had to be the worst hotel we ever stayed in. The beds were lumpy, the kapok in the pillows like small rocks and the room so small you had to go out in the corridor to change your mind! I think I mentioned this in the last letter so the hotel really impressed us!


Kathleen & Graham (Gunner) McGregor had also arrived that Friday night and on the Saturday moved to their time-share apartment for the next week.


Irene and I spent the weekend of April 14th & 15th getting the yacht ready for a splash on the Monday morning. Hooked up the batteries, made sure everything was ship shape and I couldn’t wait. The dust and dirt above decks was horrendous and would take a lot of work to clean. Some of the winter work items weren’t complete so we rescheduled them for later in the week


On the Saturday night we went to our favourite Maltese Pizza Bar, CUCCAGNA RESTAURANT which we discovered last year. John & Sue off Storyteller, Kath & Graham and Irene and me. The house merlot is great and John & I ordered a carton each to be picked up later in the week.


The next ten days we endeavoured to get all the work completed;

P     Fitted a Forward Looking Sonar (FLS) recommended by our friends Faith & Chris Mortimer off ‘Altarial’

P     Masthead LED navigation lights

P     Sea-Me radar enhancer

P     Gyro compass from Raymarine

P     New dodger & bimini

P     Service for Onan generator

P     And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned!


And then the REGALÉ blew for 5 days from the Nor-east and deposited layers of dust back on the boat! So much so that when we next rolled out the genoa, it was tiger striped!


20th April 2007.


Claire McGregor and fiancé Andrew Robertson arrived from London and Kath & Graham moved on board. We had been hoping to leave on Sunday 22nd but the Regalé had put everyone back and so we had to wait for work Monday and Tuesday.



    Andrew, John G, Claire, JH, Sue, Graham & Irene                  Kathleen, Andrew, Claire & Graham


24th April 2007.


07:30 we performed sea trials on gyro compass with Kurt Casapinta of Raymarine and everything seemed to check out OK.


09:30 saw us back at the marina dropping off Kurt and saying final farewells and at 10:00 we departed for Porto Palo on the south east tip of Sicily. Motor sailed for 8 hours, made ½ tank of water and had some minor!! problems with the pilot. It started turning 40o starboard to 40o port for about 10-12 turns as though it was ‘hunting’ for the way point. Emailed Kurt from sea using our new satellite telephone connection.


That night saw us anchored out with a great spaghetti meal and a couple of bottles of Cuccagna merlot. It is nice to be afloat again


25th to 29th April 2007.


ANZAC Day – a dawn service was scheduled on the aft deck to no avail, I couldn’t get them out of bed.


We motored to Syracusa arriving at 13:30 hours and checked into the Yachting Marina. We had to reverse in with a very stiff cross wind from the south and it was tricky. Thanks goodness for a bow thruster. All the crew went exploring ashore while Irene and I tidied up. While ashore Gray happened on a restaurant which insisted on all of us arriving at an appointed hour 20:00 and as Italian language was limited, they didn’t really understand why, however when we arrived all was understood. The restaurant didn’t have a menu and we were served the same as everyone else in the restaurant, some of the best fish we have ever eaten, about 6 courses with the final dish was a half lobster each.



        Dinner at Apollonion with our host                  Course #8 the lobster


The next day we explored the old town of Syracusa and discovered the fresh food market. Range of fish was exceptional and the fruit and vegetables mostly picked that day. Strawberries are in season and Irene followed last year’s example and made strawberry jam. Andrew & Claire shouted us all dinner at TRATTORIA CONTE DI CAVOUR.




Gray & Andrew rented a car and we visited the local area. NOTO is a heritage listed town up in the hills behind AVOLA and of course we had a recommendation for lunch. The TRATTORIA DE CARMINE is a place frequented by the locals and the food, whilst inexpensive was good Sicilian food. Litre bottles of wine were liberally dispensed through out the restaurant and if you left any in the bottle, as lots did,  they just tipped it back in the barrel for the next sitting. After lunch we walked about the town admiring the huge range of buildings being restored to their former glory. Millions of €’s being spent on its restoration.


On the way home we discovered a Carrefour’s super market (French owned we think) much to Irene’s delight. At Gunner’s insistence I bought a Karcher pressure washer for only €59. Hence forth it will be known as ‘Gunner’s Gurney’!


The following day we drove north to MOUNT ETNA and all the way up to the top car park to find it in the clouds and only 5oC. Patches of snow still on the ground and at least 50 tour busses and corresponding amounts of tourists all blundering around in zero visibility. As Andrew and I only had T-shirts on we decided to stay in the car and headed for TAORMINA.


Taormina as enjoyable as ever although for this early in the season we were amazed at the number of tourists. Claire was craving pizza so around 12:00 we repaired to a pizzeria and had our choice of tables on the sundeck with only another couple in evidence. Forty minutes later there wasn’t a seat left in this 200 chair establishment. Place was swamped.



Some of the images that abound.


Today we said goodbye to our guests. We have known Kath & Graham for 40 years (and Claire since she was born) and while they live in Perth Western Australia, every time we get together it is as though we only saw each other yesterday. We dropped them off at CATANIA airport at 14:00 and here it is a couple of hours later and we miss them already!


Delighted to arrive back at Southern Princess to find that Ray & Helen King, Sue and John’s next door neighbours from Melbourne had arrived for a few days. We meet Ray & Helen last year and they are super people.


Spent the next couple of days cleaning the yacht some more. A little bit of rain and the mud ran down from the rigging and across the deck again. And on May 3rd we motored all the way to Riposto a small town right under Mount Etna. It was from here we got our best picture of Etna.


Rod Heikell in The Italian Waters Guide describes Riposto thus “The town is one of the few not given over to tourism in the summer along this stretch of coast. It is a proper working town and has a pleasant somewhat decayed and dusty feel to it. Brooding overhead is, of course, Etna, though you are unlikely to see her except at sunset because of the haze that envelopes the coast in summer.”


ETNA  ‘…..then Etna, that wicked witch, resting her thick white snow under heaven, and slowly, slowly rolling her orange-coloured smoke. They call her the Pillar of Heaven, the Greeks. It seems wrong at first, for she trails up a long, magical, flexible lines from the sea’s edge to her blunt cone, and does not seem tall. She seems rather low under heaven, aloof, so near, yet never with us. The painters try to paint, and the photographers to photograph her in vain!’ D H Lawrence Sea and Sardinia.



           That’s Mount Etna in the back ground                          Helen King & friend


And having reached such heights of hyperbole, the next morning we were treated to a blow-up doll floating in the marina which might suggest a paucity of young women in Riposto. Helen rescued the young lady, with the fixed somewhat shocked _expression_ and posed for pictures before casting her back into the waters and a destination unknown!


Talk about a small world, in February this year while we were staying with Ian & Avelyn in Taupo, NZ they were visited by their friend Bundy from Hong Kong. Bundy is of British stock and whilst she has been in Hong Kong most of her life, all of her family are British. Bundy is in the publishing/printing business and so has been friends with John & Sue for yonks. Sue received a txt, and we all met up with Bundy, her aunt Brenda and husband John and a mutual friend Michael, in Taormina and naturally for lunch at La Tavernetta a restaurant recommended by Bundy’s hotel. As usual a delightful meal in great company. Michael impressed both John Gilder and me as he is a Patrick O’Brian – Jack Aubrey fan and has read the whole series three times! Great day; we took a cab up to Taormina and caught the local train back.


On Saturday 5th I had a local canvas man have a look at the dodger and he took it off and repaired it so that it fitted correctly and returned it the same day. It now seems effectively waterproof. Tomorrow we part company with Storyteller for the rest of the summer so we all had a farewell party at a restaurant on the marina in Riposto which was elegantly and expertly done. We will miss their company until we meet up again in Gibraltar in September.



     NOTO and bottle brush everywhere                     The Princess waits for her dinner guests

Sunday May 6th.


At 07:00 the fuel dock opened and after topping up the tanks we departed Riposto for places east at 07:45 with a benign weather forecast! Boy were they wrong! Instead of 10-15knts from the NW we ended up with a little bit of everything. Crossing the straights of Messina, albeit about 25nm south we had a small gale out of the north which chopped up the sea and put wind over the deck at 30 knots, but the skipper assured the crew that it would all abate when we got into the lee of mainland Calabria. It did and a little later we had no wind at all. Then it went around the clock, and then it swung to the NNE and started to blow again. Luckily it moved to the NNW but then it increased again. We eventually ran for cover under the lee of LE CASTELLA at around 22:00. Le Castella is on the sole of Italy just before the arch. Dropped anchor in the roads off the town and while we were out of the wind, we weren’t out of the effects and it was a rolly night. I spent most of the night asleep in the cockpit on anchor watch (alarm set so that if we were to drag I could immediately turn on the motor). What a bloody awful day!


Next two days were typical Mediterranean weather. Light winds, slight seas and motor sailing, over night anchor in Santa Maria di Leuca and arrived Marina di Brindisi at 16:00. Passing Otranto, Irene called me on deck to smell the wonderful mixture of flowers emanating from the land. A mixture of night scented jasmine, almonds and rosemary!


Died and gone to heaven. Arrived Marina di Brindisi to find a boat show on for a week. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Lagoon, Bavaria and a whole range of power boats etc all represented. Beneteau agent introduces me to the biggest chandlery operator in Brindisi and Urso promptly orders spare seals for the Vetus raw water filter on the Onan and there is a Raymarine expert also on hand. The Italians subscribe to the view that sex sells boats! Walked along the dock and on every power boat is posed a little darling with a 20" waist, great upper body and posing like all get out! Lovely slip of a thing just lolling on the passeraile. Pity it is too cold for bikinis! Whew what about the eye candy, unbelievable! Irene hasn’t ventured out yet but the blokes are all well dressed, elegant and most seem to have gelled spiky hair or absolutely smooth domes. Must be the latest fashion!


Brindisi – lying on a small headland enclosed in a huge natural bay, it is at the end of the Appian Way (Via Appia) and was a major port during Roman times. Triumphant returning generals would land their troops and captured slaves here and march them to Rome. One particular general crucified 10,000 slaves between here and Rome. Brindisi was also important under the Normans as it was from here that the Knights Templar and others left for the Orient and the Crusades. Interestingly, after the opening of the Suez Canal it acquired further importance as ‘The India Mail’ departed from here linking London with Bombay. The Royal Mail crossed Europe by train and then shipped to points east.


Enrico – Raymarine expert arrived to inspect the problem and asked why we had two gyro compasses. Apparently the original setup had a gyro installed and when I asked for one to be installed (on the advice of another B57 owner) I had no idea we already had one! Naturally the two gyros conflicted with each other and hence the problem. Enrico has taken the course computer away with him to bench test so we will see what happens.


Just along the dock from us is an American 70’ CNB yacht proudly flying a New Zealand silver fern burgee and it is crewed by Dave & Liz Otway from Taupo, New Zealand. It is a lovely craft and they are great people. One of the things that really impressed me was the absolutely deep shiny stainless steel and I asked Dave his secret and it turns out he uses 3M fibreglass restorer and wax. It is just abrasive enough to really clean the stainless and it leaves it with the pores in the steel filled with wax and so the deep shine. Needless to say I have spent some time at the 3M stand here at the boat show.