Fluorescent alien-like green blobs floating aimlessly through the wake of the boat at night, pods of dolphins surfing our bow wave, meteor showers filling a starry sky are amongst some of the precious moments of sailing in Qi over the last fortnight.
We set out from Santa Ponza, Mallorca with expectations of beautiful bays and sailing packed crossings on our way to Malta. The radiant blue Mediterranean vibrates at a unique frequency that any swimmer, diver or sailor becomes one with it. Menorca, the second largest of the Baleares, is like a national park filled with cave lined bays and hills with treks. Thomas and I snorkeled and explored various caves. Once, Thomas was fortunate enough to encounter an octopus moving majestically on the floor. The renown delicacy was amply camouflaged and it took a trained eye to spot it.
We visited the small historical town of Mahon where we stocked up for the crossing and forgot ourselves a bit when we partied a bit late for the impending journey. Gathering our wits the following day, we set out for our first stopover, Sardinia. We sailed, sharing
watches but steering at the helm the whole time to conserve power. It was a bit too rough for the wind vane. We seemed to sail between 6 and 8.9 knots. We made good time and regrettably arrived in Sardinia in the dark. When the winds became unpredictable we engaged the engine with no result. We decided to continue to sail until the water became safer for us to make an inspection of the situation. Once our speed dropped to less than 2 knots at about midnight the captain decided to see if our prediction was accurate. Unfortunately our intuition was correct and the propeller was absent. After nearly an hour on a chattery VHF Thomas finally made contact with the local coast guard. We had to wait patiently for them to arrive as we drifted towards an island. We were towed for nearly four hours to the town of Saint Antioco. What the town was lacking in beauty was made for by the inhabitants’ friendliness and helpfulness. Thomas’ Spanish quickly adapted to Italian as we spent three days negotiating for a new propeller. Defying the stench of the harbour water for the fifth time Thomas secured the new propeller and we set off to bathe in a nearby bay before our crossing to Sicily. We found we had made the newspapers in Saint Antioco and on Thomas’ last dive a coast guard official informed us that it was ‘impossible’ to dive in the harbour. It was a good thing he had just finished the job.
Expected winds were slow in arriving and then failed to deliver. After consultation with the crew the captain turned to the reliable iron wind to push us towards Sicily. As expected we arrived in the dark and it was an extremely dark and moonless night. Our first harbour proved fruitless with only a few yachts swinging on moorings with no others available. This island looked quite formidable looming in the dark with only an illuminated castle tower on a jagged rocky point. We headed for the second of Sicily’s southern islands in hope of finding a safe harbour. Slightly daunted with the darkness we poked our nose into several of the bays before tiredness provoked more courage and we ventured into one bay after sighting some swaying anchor lights.
We woke to find turquoise water where we could see the sandy bottom clearly seven metres below. We caught up on some much needed swim time and sleep before heading around the corner to a smaller bay. We uncovered the secrets of this little bay over the next two days. A cave lined floor and low rocky cliffs that Thomas equated to a multi-storied building was a snorkeler’s delight. On the second day we had a visit from the Carabineri that boarded all the Italian boats in the small bay. This bay was particularly small and it was a public holiday. We watched with amusement as the bay filled with over 69 good humoured Italian boaters- some rafting up, some calling out in concern when bows came too close but never an angry word. Swimming towards the cliffs became a game of ‘Dodge’ as we avoided stray propellers.
Evening arrived and the revelers left leaving the bay calm and peaceful. We swam ashore and hiked through some rugged terrain to the next bay. The only signs of life amongst the jagged rocks were some goat droppings, wild thyme and some holiday makers in Roman style villas. We watched the sunset over the island in the distance and then swam back to the boat through a frenzy of colourful feeding fish. We spent the evening lying in each others arms on the bow watching the stars and in search of UFOs sipping Sambuca with Robbie Williams swooning in the background. Life can’t get much better.