John and Eva on the M/Y 'Destiny'.
lesbirds@msn.com Contact Us Phone: 0044 (0)787 222 69 65 or 0033 (0)620 719 335

DESTINY DIARY 2017 - Part 1: Malta, Tunisia, Sicily.

Eva's Photo Gallery - 2017.
2017 Route MALTA
We left home on Sunday May 7th leaving me time to vote for Mr Macron before taking the train to Lyon, the shuttle to the airport and the plane to Malta. Everything went well and at 7:30p.m. we checked in to our hotel in Gzira. 'Destiny' was facing us on the other side of the lagoon. The next day, after celebrating Macron's win with a cappuccino and an Italian croissant, we made our way across to the boat.
The boat was really dirty, but after a good pressure wash, we started to prepare the boat for the 2017 season. This year I'd said I wouldn't do the anti-fouling - ('twas a mutiny - ‘Ed’). I had a good reason, tendinitis in the right elbow and hand, a pain that wouldn’t go away! In the end it turned out better for us, the painter did it twice as fast and with half the paint!
I won’t detail the rest of the prep-work which was very quickly done since most of it had been done at the end of last year. So by Wednesday 10th May we were in the water, moored in Msida Marina where we had reserved a berth for a week to allow us to get ready for sea and spend time with our friends Vince and Debbie.

Fire in Malta Early Morning Flat Seas
Fire on Malta - We didn't do it. Sunrise over Gozo. A quiet crossing.
TUNISIA
Our first destination was Tunisia for some diesel, we wanted to get there before the start of Ramadan but the weather delayed us and it was only on May 22 that we finally left Msida Marina. We dropped Anchor in the ‘Blue Lagoon 'at the southwestern end of Malta to be ready to leave early the next morning and make the 12 hour crossing to Lampedusa in daylight.

At 5 o'clock in the morning, just before sunrise, we up anchored and left. The sea was beautiful, we had wonderful weather and flat seas all of the way across - a crossing as I like it. We arrived at Lampedusa late afternoon and dropped anchor at the harbour entrance (later we were to find out that you are not allowed to do this any more). There was no reason to go ashore and we were left undisturbed.
After a quiet night, 5am again, we headed for Monastir. We saw several turtles but only a single solitary dolphin. On the VHF radio there was talk of refugee boats off the Libyan coast, too far away to disturb us and we didn’t see anyone. A gentle breeze and a gentle current brought us into Monastir in the late afternoon after threading a path between the many 'fish farms’ in Monastir bay.
The marina didn’t answer our VHF call and there was nobody on the docks to tell us where to go, so John got their attention with a blast on the horn. A man finally arrived and helped us to tie up, it was 18h. He told us they hadn’t had visitors for over a year but everybody welcomed us, even the police. After having filled in the paperwork and paying 3 dinars of stamp tax, (less than €1) a policeman and a customs officer came on board to inspect the boat for weapons and anything else to declare. For once they didn’t ask us for any back-shish, so we kept the cheapest most undrinkable whisky we had brought from Malta for another occasion!

Monastir1 Monastir2
Monastir marina entrance. An empty marina - plenty of spaces.
Too tired to explore the place, we went to bed early and after a long good night's sleep, we went off to check-out the marina. Everything had changed since our visit in 2010. The marina was almost empty, as well as the apartments around it but everything was very clean and well kept, even the water was clean and people were happy to see us.
Our program was simply to stay for two days, the time to refuel and then leave for Sicily just before Ramadan started - easy! First though, we changed some euros into Tunisian Dinars and got a SIM card for the internet and weather forecasts. In town we found out that Tunisia was not on Euro time, but was an hour behind, which explained why there weren’t many people around when we went into town!
The marina is not far from the town of Monastir, to walk to the centre we pass in front of the Ribat, an impressive but empty fortress, then past the Mausoleum and the Bourguiba mosque. The town was busy with the locals but only a few tourists. In the souk the shopkeepers were quite pushy, understandable in view of lack tourists to sell to, so we received the full force of their enthusiasm - nothing nasty or aggressive though. After Malta I enjoyed being able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and very fresh fish at ridiculously low prices.

Chameau Gateaux
Tunisian taxi in the hard times. A cake shop in the souk.
The water-maker pump (the machine that allows us to make drinking water from sea water) had developed a small leak. After stripping it down, John found that the leak was from a small seal in the pump cylinders, a seal made only in the US by the pump manufacturer. On the internet he found a supplier for the seals and was promised a delivery to the Marina within 3 working days. The forecast was good weather for the crossing at the end of the week so it suited us fine and parts were ordered.
We went off to sort the fuel, we wanted 2500 litres. The fuel station in the marina was too quiet, we hadn’t seen it in use since we'd arrived, which probably meant that the fuel in the tanks wouldn’t be as good as it should be. We tried to arrange for a tanker truck from the local supplier but it became to complicated with rules and regs so we had to think for a plan B.
We could go north to the marina in Hammamet, where we knew the fuel would be better but we had to wait for the parts being shipped, which according to their website were in Tunisia on the road from Tunis to Monastir. Since Ramadan had started the bureaucrats and postal services were only working in the morning, which complicated things. We were going to the post office every day but their computers were down and there was no trace of our parcel!

El Kantaoui1 El Kantaoui2
El Kantaoui marina with a local pirate ship. The visitors quay in El Kantaoui.
We decided to compromise. On June 1st we left for El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse. El Kantaoui is a very nice up-market marina/apartment complex only 1hr by taxi to Monastir, so convenient for us to recover our parts when they arrived and additionally we could obtain good diesel. The fuel station was busy supplying the local police boats and the pirate ships so we finally filled up our fuel tanks (0.45 euros/litre).We also took the opportunity to fill the outboard tank and stocked up on engine oil.
The El Kantaoui staff were very friendly, especially Lofty the marina harbour master, who was always ready to help. The marina is not expensive - they offered us a place for 12 months for only €2000 p.a. The marina complex restaurants and cafes were always open (not normal during Ramadan)and so we took the opportunity to have dinner in the best restaurant in town.
Due to a stupid mistake on our part (we didn’t call early enough), we found out too late that our parts that we had been waiting for had already arrived in Monastir, but now (Saturday midday) we couldn't get to the post office before closing time so had to wait until Monday. Our weather window was gone.

On Monday, we finally had the bits. The shipping cost was three time the price of the parts but the pump was working again and we could make water.

Sousse beach Chamelle
The beach at Sousse where it all happened. Eva with two taxis.
Outside of the marina, the big 4 and 5 star hotels and golf courses were empty. I walked along the beach to where the shooting of the tourists had taken place. There was nobody around just rows of empty sunbeds and umbrellas; really very sad.
We visited Sousse (€2 by taxi) - which is a very ancient city with the ‘medina’ surrounded by ramparts and a huge souk selling everything that you could imagine. Sales pitch of the day - ‘it’s all free until the till’ !!! We bought a pair of Babouches (leather slippers) each, and a leather bag for me! Jeweler’s Street was a pleasure for the eyes (mine, not John's) and later we toured the city and visited the Ribat, a fortress of the eighth century and a mosque built in the year 800. The city museum is in the Kashbah overlooking the Medina and contains a beautiful collection of mosaics. Sousse is a real city developed by and for tourism, with very beautiful hotels - but all sitting empty.

Sousse2 Sousse1
The ancient city of Sousse. The medina in Sousse - spot the tourist.
We’d come for two days and now three weeks later it was time for us to leave. The weather was good again and so after saying good-bye to our new friends we sailed north to Khelibia, a grubby fishing port just OK for one night, and a quick visit to the police and customs. It’s dirty, there are no facilities, no berths, so we just tied up alongside a couple of abandoned boats. The police and customs are used to visiting boats and the formalities were straight-forward.
Khelibia is the shortest crossing to Sicily and saves a stopover in Lampedusa which is not very welcoming.
So on the 13th of June, at 4:30 in the morning, we went to the police office, paid for the night (we always wonder why) and after the visit of the police and customs on board (hesitant to ask us for back-shish) we were allowed to leave. It was 5:20 when, under a beautiful sunrise, we left the port as the fishing boats returned followed by a flock of seagulls, goodbye Africa.

Souk El Kantaoui3
A busy day in the souk. Leaving El Kantaoui.
SICILY
It was another good crossing with a beautiful sea and sunshine, we even saw some dolphins, however as we closed Sicily, a strong current slowed us down and it wasn’t until 7:30 pm that we finally reached Marsala on the west coast of Sicily where we anchored outside the port; Hello Europe.
On the way over we had discovered that our black water (toilet waste) tank wasn’t draining. It’s not something that can be sorted whilst the boat is moving (the problem is caused by marine growth inside the outlet drain) so the next morning June 14th John had the pleasant task to clear the outlet! - Lucky boy.
Later on, we went into the port of Marsala and found space on the pontoon near the city centre, having first negotiated the price down to €40 instead of €50 for two nights, including water, electricity and washing machine.

Marsala1 Marsala2
The harbour in Marsala. The old city gate in Marsala.
The first thing we do when we change country is to buy a SIM data card - WIND offered 30Gb for 4 weeks at €20 so back we were back on line. Marsala is an ancient city known for its sweet wine but it's not John's tipple. After Tunisia though, I could finally buy some decent meat and charcuterie - fresh fruit and veg are great in Tunisia but the choice of meat is limited and not always the best quality.

Like all Italian cities, Marsala is very busy at night, everyone is out on the streets for a promenade. We had planned to go to the Egadi Islands, but the weather forecast was for strong winds, furthermore these are not my favourite islands, there are too many restrictions for anchoring and it's impossible to go ashore with the dinghy so we continued north towards Trapani. En route, we dropped anchor north of the island of Faviana for lunch and a swim - the water was still too cool for me but John went in to clean the propeller and have check around under the boat.
We arrived in Trapani late afternoon. Since our last visit in 2015, the boatyard had installed new mooring pontoons and the price had increased from €30 to €50 er night. We stayed 3 days waiting for favourable weather but I didn't mind as Trapani is a great place and we soon got back into our routine of cappuccino and brioche in the morning and ice-cream in the afternoon.
We went along to the fishermen's market and bought a kilo of shrimp and 4 mullet for €13, 1 kilo of cherries is €2.50 and two melons for €1.50. Our evening menu was risotto with shrimps and asparagus and clafoutis (cherry cake) to celebrate the results of the parliamentary elections in France, Macron of course.

After Trapani we sailed on to Castellamare on the north coast where I had my first swim (23°C) of the season. Next, Mondello, a seaside resort tucked into a large bay and then on to Palermo. Some Germans cruisers that we had met in Trapani gave us the coordinates of a marina in Palermo, Cantiere Galizzi, who after a long negotiation on the phone agreed a price of €150 instead of the usual €220 for 3 nights stay. I always try to haggle the marina prices in Italy, the prices are extortionate and we pay a lot just to be able to attach our boat to two rings on a piece of pontoon often miles from town - our budget has its limits.

Trapani seaview Mondello
Sea view of Trapani. The seaside resort in Mondello, built by a Belgian in the '20s.
So we arrived in Palermo on June 22nd. I love this city, for three days we explored it in all directions (9Km of walking each day). Between the main avenues and the small alleyways we admired beautiful monuments, palazzi, churches and especially the fountain in Piazza Pretoria. Naturally we had to make pauses in various cafes, ice cream parlours, restaurants and shops.

Pretoria Palermo View
The Pretoria fountain. A view of Palermo and the bay from Montreal.
We took a bus up to visit the Cathedral of Monreal with it’s magnificent views of Palermo. The Cathedral Santa Maria Nuova, built in 1172 is of Arab-Norman style and is famous for its cloisters and Byzantine mosaic. It was a real pleasure for the eyes. Finally, before leaving Palermo I found a hairdresser for a cut and colour, I needed it.

Montreal1 Montreal2 Montreal3
Santa Maria Nuova - The wooden roof. Santa Maria Nuova - The Altar. Santa Maria Nuova - Organ pipes.
We continued gently along the northern coast of Sicily which we find much more attractive than the south coast and moored in Castel Daccia, Campo Felice di Rocella and then on the island of Lipari in the bay of Valle Muria - clear water at 23°C, superb.
We had planned to meet our friends from Malta, Vince and Debbie in the Aeolian Islands but the bad weather around Malta had delayed them and so to give them time we contacted a new marina that was offering two free weeks of mooring from July 3rd. It would give us a nice break and allow us time to explore the interior of north Sicily a little bit.
But once again the weather brought us back to mainland Sicily and we sought refuge in Sant'Agata di Militello. There was too much swell to stay at anchor even inside the harbour so we went into the marina (this time I negotiated to €60/night instead of €76. Expensive, but they did deliver a baguette free every morning in time for breakfast! The marina is quite far from the town(2km)though we found a good coffee and ice cream cafe on the way.
The weather went really weird; one day, for about an hour we had a very strong and very hot Sirocco wind. It felt like someone had opened an oven door and the barometer dropped to 983mb, we’d never seen that before in the Mediterranean. We had to stay inside. It was more than 30°C in the cabin but at least 40°C outside - fortunately we could put the air conditioning on. After the Sirocco we had a big thunderstorm and discovered a leak from the hatch above the steering wheel caused by the glass coming unsealed.
Our Dutch neighbours, Peter and Sylvia on 'Peer & Sil de Schuymer', told us about wintering in Venice which sounded very interesting, maybe a project for one day. John repaired their sailing instruments and Sylvia was very impressed.

Iles Sant'Agatha
Lipari, one of the Aeolian islands. The surf rushing into the bay of Sant'Agata after the storm.
On the 3rd of July we left Sant'Agata and moved to the brand new Marina Capo d’Orlando, which had opened just the day before. It's big, with space for 550 boats and we were there with only two other boats! It wasn’t quite finished, the pontoons were ready but there were no shops or cafes open and the town was 3km away. But it was free after all.
We had planned to stay a week having only the water and electricity to pay, it was a good deal for misers. The staff were very friendly and welcoming and I tested them the following day. We assembled and took our bikes into town for a little explore and a cappuccino, and maybe lunch. On the way back about 200m before the marina, I fell off the bike and hit my head on the concrete path. A bit stunned, trembling and bleeding we went back to the marina office and they immediately called an ambulance that took me to the hospital - back in Sant'Agata! This is the first time I’d ever been in an ambulance - there were two 'nurses' one spoke a little English, the other a little French and with my little Italian the conversation was ... interesting.
Meanwhile, John followed by car with Luigi the port captain. By the time we had got to the hospital my Italian had improved - John maintained that it was the bang on the head and suggested another clout to learn Greek! With 4 stitches and a CT scan, I got the OK to leave and we returned to the marina. It was more scary than bad, and I was pleased that with our European health card there were no charges.
During our two hours at the hospital, John had time to become great friend with Luigi. His wife is Colombian and has to stay in Colombia because they are adopting a little girl. The next morning, Louisa, the secretary brought us croissants for breakfast and after a day of rest and quiet things went back to normal.

Capo Orlando CO Team
A marina without yachts Admiral, Lara, Louisa, Luigi, Captain.
The next day we rented a car to go 'tourist' and also to visit a big shopping centre at Milazzo. They had a Decathlon sports shop there and John wanted to buy me a bike helmet but instead I found an integrated snorkel and mask for swimming which later proved to be a great success.
After we got back, I took a beautiful flowering plant to the marina office as a ‘Thank you’ for all of their efforts.

We organised a mini bus tour into the hills behind Capo d'Orlando and the interior of northern Sicily. Our driver Antonio was great. He's a local and showed us around the natural reserve of Parco Dei Nebrodi; it's a bit like Corsica with beautiful landscapes and villages perched on the top of hills and in the distance Etna smoking away. The hills are forested with pine, chestnut and hazel trees and we even met some black pigs and wild horses that live among the trees. John fell in love with this region,the air is clean and clear and it's peaceful with beautiful views across to the islands.
We had lunch in the restaurant 'La Falda' in the village of Galati Mamertino, where we tasted local specialities cooked with vegetables from their own garden. The chef/owner even gave me his recipe for his own special 'pork stew'(which needs Sicilian black forest pigs). We got home loaded with honey, olive oil and jams: what a great day out.

Parco Nebrodi Antonio
Northern Sicily. Our guide for the day - The great Antonio.
La Falda Wild horses
A unique way to prepare the spaghetti. The horses of Sicily - the pigs were too fast to photo.
After a week of mild weather we decided to take off for a few days to visit the Volcano islands. The marina told us that we were OK to leave and return at the weekend to continue our free stay - so why not.
We sailed across to the island of Volcano and anchored in the bay of Porto du Ponant. It wasn’t crowded and the water was clear and lovely. In the evening we had a BBQ on board under a beautiful sunset over the island of Filiculi. Unfortunately a byproduct of volcano’s is to produce sulphur and with the wind in the wrong direction the smell of rotten eggs became a bit too much. We moved north to Lipari but we found that it wasn’t practical to anchor off because of the depths which was a shame because I would have liked to have visited this island whose main town is very old.
We continued on to Punta Milazzese Bay on Panaria Island. The wind was getting up and a lot of boats had come in to shelter on this protected shore. During the night we saw the flames of forest fires on the island of Lipari - there were a lot of forest fires along the coast this year.

Lipari1 Vulcano Anchorage
The old town of Lipari. Anchored off Volcano island.
After our return to Capo d'Orlando on Friday we had a chat with the marina management to discuss the possibility of staying here with an annual contract but their pricing and annual policy was still in its infancy and we couldn't agree to their terms - too bad, John was very disappointed. On Sunday morning we were awoken by a storm and of course all of our windows were open. It was panic to close everything quickly and some cushions got soaked but nothing was damaged.
We had torrential rains and a gale all day Sunday and on Monday the weather was still bad so we stayed an extra day now paying for the privilege. We took a marina bike (which is harder to fall off) into town and saw that the sea was still quite wild.
On our return, the marina staff introduced us to Corinne and François, a French couple on a big sailing boat called 'Paradigm' and who were traveling with Lee and Andrew (Australians) on another big sailing boat called 'Katherine'. Both boats were new to Med cruising and we were happy to share some of our experiences with them. br> Eventually, on Tuesday July 16th, the time had come and we had to leave Marina di Capo d'Orlando, to the great sadness of ourselves and Lara, Louisa and Luigi from the marina office who had become firm friends - who knows we may get back someday.

As soon as we left the harbor our navigation PC crashed (the one that runs all of the charting and navigation software), the captain was not happy, no, not happy at all! Our final stop in Sicily was Milazzo, which we had earlier visited by car. We anchored in the bay alongside a big classic yacht (French) that we had last seen in the Islands and John spent the day repairing the PC; it turned out that the disk drive had crashed.

The next day we had the Straits of Messina to navigate. The hardest part is to calculate the direction and strength of the current in the straits which aren't listed anywhere except in the minds of the locals. This stretch of sea is considered dangerous because of a mix of tides, strong under-currents, whirlpools and local winds. At 8:30 we up-anchored and had calm seas around to the mouth of the straits. The wind immediately got up with gusts of up to 20 knots but fortunately, from behind us, and we had the tide was with us too. So apart from a few bumps on the over-falls and a bit of twirling in the whirlpools, we had a gentle roller coaster ride until we popped out at the Marina Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland. Bye Bye Sicily.

Tuna fishing  Fiat 500
Tuna Fishing - Look all the way to the left, that's the fisherman. Italy in a little tin box.
ITALY
On the 20th of July we departed for Greece; first we had to head down to the bottom end of the Straits of Messina and then go around the boot of Italy. We had a favourable weather window that would hopefully allow us to comfortably get to Corfu in Greece, in four stages.
Stage 1 - Departure at 7am, leave Reggio Calabria for a stop at the marina of Roccella Ionica. This is our 5th visit to this port. Our first time was in 2009 when the marina was finished but had no staff and we stayed for free! Today, it's the 'Porto Delle Grazie' and everything is organized, the capitainerie, the port police, even a laundry and showers and now it costs €65 a night. It's a transit marina and the only available stopping place on this stretch of coast but they are trying to make it more attractive for boaters to stay longer. Unfortunately it's miles from anywhere; the village is 5km away and there is nothing around except the big pizzeria which serves pizza by the meter, 50cm per topping, super good - we paid homage to it again!
Stage 2 - Departure at 7:15 for Crotone, sea beautiful but contrary currents. Crotone is also a transit port, a cross roads on the corner of Italy. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and a nice harbour master gave us a 'special price' of €45 instead of the normal €72. Then we enjoyed a good walk around the town and a last shopping in Italy.
Stage 3 - Departure at 6:30 for Santa Maria di Leuca, our last stop in Italy before crossing to Corfu. No wind, calm sea but as usual a contrary current. It was very hot so we stopped midway for a quick swim to refresh. Santa Maria de Leuca is right at the end of the heel of Italy. It's not an interesting stop and unfortunately there was too much swell to stay outside at anchor, so we had to find a place in the marina. This time we had to pay full price of €81 and no negotiation possible, so to justify this expense we put both air-cons on Destiny all evening and washed the boat down with fresh water. As a final insult, we were on a pontoon outside the marina proper, so not really protected from the swell. Really not a nice place at all.
Stage 4 - Finally, on July 23 at 7:20 ‘Destiny’ left for Greece in a choppy sea with contrary currents and a cross swell.

Keeping Watch
Cruising - Eva style.
On to 2017 Part 2.
Back to the Home Page