Archives for 2007 | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Delivery of our new Southerly 42 sailboat & first voyage from England to Portugal. Crossing the English Channel and Bay of Biscay

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Hand-over cruise from Sicily to Malta, Share the Sail, Southerly 42 Launch soon, New Exploring Under Sail DVD

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Cruising the West Coast of Italy continued, Share the Sail, See you at the Southampton Boat Show

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Cruising the West Coast of Italy, Website Update, Share the Sail, Name the New Boat Contest

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all having a good summer!

After a really nice spring cruise, Paul and I are back in the studio for the summer editing the new episodes of Distant Shores which we filmed as we sailed along the west coast of Italy (news on that follows). However, we have just spent the last few days doing a major rebuild to the website so we invite you to go through it to check out the “new stuff” and perhaps find material you had missed before!

Update to the Web Site
Some of the new features are More Pix and Movies, Share the Sail, RRS feeds, drop-down menus, and a better archiving system for easy reference to the information you want to know. Click on “More Pix and Movies” and try the “Distant Shores” button. There is a whole episode of Distant Shores available for download in Quicktime iPod format for you to preview. It's quite high quality and should look great! It is a large file though (140MB) so you need a fast connection. We intend to put up more video samples and previews when we see how this goes. Please send us your comments.

Another new thing we're trying on the website is using RSS feeds. If you are saying, “What the heck is RSS?” then maybe you needn't bother looking, but as Wikipedia says, “RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that's easier than checking them manually.” You add the RSS feed to your browser and see immediately when there is a new newsletter, podcast or blog entry. Of course you can still subscribe to our newsletter in the normal way and we will send you an update notice by e-mail.

Our New Boat Now Under Construction

Needless to say, we are both very excited about our new boat, a Southerly 42RST – and all the planning and thoughts going into it! Paul has been updating Paul's New Boat Blog regularly with issues of design, systems and specs. Now that the hull is actually in construction at Northshore Yachts in England, Paul will be posting photos showing its progress on the blog. Anyone thinking they might someday buy a new boat may be interested in the challenges and excitement of buying new!

Cruise Along the West Coast of Italy

In the [June 2007 newsletter] we covered sailing with friends in the Caribbean aboard a Diesel Duck yacht troller and a Lagoon 380 catamaran, and Easter celebrations in Malta where we had stored Two-Step for the winter. In this month's newsletter we set sail from Malta and take you to the Tyrrenian Sea, the region of the Mediterrean along the southwest coast of Italy, which is an undiscovered cruising ground with breath-taking scenery, quiet coastal towns, remote mountain villages, and fascinating historical sites such as the excavated city of Pompeii, frozen in time when buried in the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This was to be our last cruise aboard Two-Step, the Classic 37 sailboat that Paul and I built as a wedding present to each other and that has given us great joy as together we have sailed her to many wonderful places since her launch in 1988.

Unfortunately, the start of our cruise was delayed somewhat by the need for a haul-out so that prospective buyers for Two-Step could do a hull inspection in Malta. Since we were now in the yard we decided to do some work on the boat that we had planned to do after we'd completed our spring cruise but before we knew it one thing led to another and we were a month behind schedule. This always seems to happen when you're waiting for parts to be shipped in from various destinations to complete what should be straightforward upgrades and repairs. However, we were happy that the sale of Two-Step was progressing with a couple we felt really loved the boat.

Finally on June 2nd we got underway and set sail for Sicily where we would later meet Two-Step's prospective buyers for a more indepth test sail. We anchored at Porto Palo the first night after a wonderful daysail from Malta 55 nm across the Malta Channel and then had another lovely sail from Porto Palo 30nm to the ancient and beautiful harbour of Siracusa the following day. This was our second visit to Siracusa. You may recall our first visit in 2002 where we filmed the “10 Euro Challenge” in the abundant and picturesque fish market there. If you missed it you'll find it documented in Episode 17: Siracusa in the [Distant Shores Volume 3 – South Italy and the Adriatic Sea DVD].

On this year's visit we were stuck in Siracusa for three days of heavy rain – unheard of in this region in June! Just our luck. But Siracusa is a lovely town and a very protected harbour so not a bad place to be stuck. There is good holding in the anchorage but not at the town quay so during the rain many boats left the quay and found a cosy spot to anchor in the bay. Crowding was not a problem since the bay is enormous. Besides running our anchor lights faithfully when swinging on the hook, we also raise an official anchor mark, pictured here, which is common and expected practice in this part of the world.

From Siracusa we had a quiet day of motor-sailing to the marina at Riposto, 40nm north from Siracusa along the coast of Sicily, recommended by Maltese friends who cruise this coast frequently. We were not disappointed when we arrived to find a modern well-equipped marina with excellent security and friendly staff who we could communicate with in English. But the best thing was the view of snow-topped Mount Etna, the smoking volcano that serves as a dramatic backdrop to the harbour.

The next morning we were up early since we had a big day ahead of us. We would be fighting currents, whirlpools, criss-crossing ferries and big ship traffic through the narrow Strait of Messina which separates Sicily from the Italian mainland. See Episode 15 in the [
Distant Shores Volume 3 – South Italy and the Adriatic Sea DVD] to learn more about the Strait of Messina. Our destination was the little yacht club at Gioia Tauro, 55 nm from Riposto on the Italian mainland. Luckily it was a calm day so, although we were fighting head currents through the strait, we weren't bashing into confused seas or accelerated head winds.

As before, when we approached the strait we saw many swordfishing boats dancing between the whirlpools. These boats are unique in that they are steered from the top of their tall masts and have a bowsprit longer than the length of the boat. When a fish is spotted from the mast top, the harpooner goes out to the end of the bowsprit and catches the fish by hand. As we sailed through the strait, Paul and I recorded a podcast about what we were seeing, as well as tips on using electronic navigation and ways to access the internet while cruising.

We had been warned that Gioia Taura was an industrial harbour but when we arrived at dusk we were surprised to see huge container ships coming and going. The little yacht club was at first hard to spot as we dodged the ships but was well protected and the members friendly and welcoming. As guests we were offered one night at the pontoon for free but since the club was a long way from town and the place was thick with mosquitoes we decided a one-night stop was enough.

The next day was a relaxing one as we planned a short run of 18nm to Tropea which all our guide books claimed was 'the most picturesque beach resort in the region”. The winds remained light from behind so we sailed “wing and wing” at a leisurely pace along the green mountainous coast savouring our last days aboard Two-Step.

Tropea lived up to its reputation but we decided to stop for only one night and make miles north to Naples where we would be doing most of our filming for Distant Shores. We were still behind schedule and once caught up would return to Tropea to spend more time poking around the historic upper town which overlooks the harbour and fabulous beach.

The passage from Tropea to the marina at Torre del Greco just south of Naples would be 155nm which would require that we sail overnight but once again conditions were calm and although we weren't going to get to do much actual sailing it was nice to know we were going to have a comfortable night. However, as we cruised along Paul was surfing the internet on his laptop and discovered some updated information on the tranquil little harbour at Maratea which was closer than Torre Del Greco but had train connections to Naples. If we went there instead we would save a day of travelling and get caught up on our filming a little bit.

Being able to surf the internet at sea is really wonderful. Google Earth is becoming a valuable research device for us when route planning these days since we can get a good visual picture of harbour layouts. Getting up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and charts is probably the most valuable. In Italy we were able to get unlimited access to the internet 24-hours a day through our cell phone. (You don't pay additional air time for this or for incoming calls as you do in North America). For 20 euros per month flat rate through the mobile phone company WIND we had a good fast internet connection as long as we were within range of a cell phone tower which was pretty much all the time since we were coastal cruising on this trip. TIM offered a similar plan but for 25 euros and you could only surf between 5PM and 8AM. Offers are constantly changing so it pays to investigate the latest rates and options.

We decided to change plans and head for Maratea although we would be arriving in the dark but we could see from the aerial image on Google Earth plus our charts that it was a straight-forward well-marked entrance. With the radar overlay on our Raymarine C80 chartplotter we shouldn't have any problems. Unfortunately about two hours before our arrival we were hit with a heavy rain squall so started to doubt if a night landfall was wise but we quickly saw from the radar that the rain was just a local effect blowing off a mountain peak that we were just passing by and that the coast was clear after that. We proceeded onwards and arrived safely at the harbour under clear starry skies around 11:30 pm, tied up at the guest pontoon near the fuel dock, and went to bed.

Daylight revealed a lovely little harbour where we were greeted by the harbourmaster to learn that we could stay on the guest pontoon for free and that yes we could walk to the train station from the harbour and go directly to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. It was about a 3-hour ride but the train left at around 7:30 am so we had a fascinating day exploring and filming around the amazing ruined city of Pompeii where everything was so well-preserved under the volcanic ash that buried it.

Frescoes were still vivid, gardens re-grown, mosaics intact. It really was fascinating to wander around for the morning (you could spend several days there the city is so immense) and imagine that final day when the volcano erupted. The audio guides we rented for 5 euros each were really well done and even had extra features on additional topics of interest relating to the site and history of that era in general so highly recommend them if you are thinking to making a trip there.

From Pompeii we took a bus partway up Mount Vesuvius and filmed around the volcano for the afternoon. The views from the top of Pompeii and Naples were stunning but as the volcano was still steaming it did make you wonder why people were still living down there!

We hopped the train back to Maratea that evening and prepared to head south to spend quality time exploring Tropea. More on that and the rest of our spring cruise in our next newsletter....

Share the Sail

One of the reasons we are really excited about our new boat is that we will now have room for guests on board and invite you to plan your winter get-away with us in the Caribbean this year! Schedules are now posted on our website and weeks are booking up. So if you are considering this we encourage you to act quickly so we can hold your ideal week and destination open for you. It would be really fun to have you and your crew join us on board!

Name the Boat Contest

We are still undecided about the name of the new boat. We've narrowed it down to a few choices including Southerly Explorer, Distant Shores, Ocean Dancer, Panache, and Velocity to mention a few. So we have decided to have a contest and invite you to send in your votes. New ideas for names are welcome too. Some we have already received are Sea Shard (like seashell), Shardonnay (like the wine only spelled differently), Wanderlust (an old favourite), and Beach Baby (since you can beach the Southerly). The prize will be one of our DVDs. Deadline is August 15, 2007. Thanks for your input!

Fair winds,

Sheryl and Paul Shard

Sailing in the Virgin Islands, visiting Northshore Yachts, Easter in Malta

Hello Everyone,

Lots has been happening since our last newsletter but our biggest news is that Two-Step has been sold! Her new owners are a delightful couple from Malta who have been fans of Distant Shores for many years so have shared in the boat's adventures through the TV series and DVDs and have affectionate feelings for her. Two-Step will be in good hands when we say goodbye at the end of June after our last voyage with her to ports along the west coast of Italy.

Now, to bring you up to date on some of the other fabulous cruising destinations that we've been checking out over the last few months...

After a couple of months of winter weather in Canada where we were giving presentations at boat shows and working in the studio on new episodes of Distant Shores, Paul and I Caribbean scenewere ready for some warmer temperatures and sunshine sailing. Since our main criteria for a new boat is that it be a shallow-draft ocean-going vessel, we felt it was only fair that we check out all the possibilities including motor-sailers and multi-hull sailing yachts. We'd had a couple of invitations from friends to join them in the Caribbean aboard these types of boats, so in March we flew south to the U.S. Virgin Islands to first sail with Benno and Marlene Klopfer aboard their beautifully self-built 41-foot aluminum yacht troller, Diesel Duck, and later with friends, Jan Mundy and Steve Kalman of DIY Boat Owner magazine for a week's charter aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran.

Palm Tree

The Virgin Islands always seem to be a place of decision for Paul and me when it comes to our life of cruising. Our decision to build Two-Step and go cruising took place there when we first chartered in the Virgin Islands in 1984. We returned to the Virgin Islands aboard Two-Step in 1992 at the end of our 3-year Atlantic Circle and celebrated making the dream a reality. Now here we were back in the Virgin Islands making a decision about selling Two-Step and buying a new boat, starting yet another era in our cruising lives.

This time we worried would the islands feel too changed, too crowded? But we were pleasantly surprised! There are Mooring Fieldmore boats, yes, but there are great new mooring fields everywhere so you never worry about inexperienced sailors dragging anchor and swinging into you or anchoring too close. There was always room for everyone, so much lower stress. The mooring fields preserve the natural environment in popular places which is the islands greatest resource. If you want to anchor, room has usually been left so you have the option to anchor if you wish and in the quiet places off the main “routes” you can anchor freely. Also, there are more great facilities than in 1984 and 1992 – modern marinas, excellent grocery stores, chandleries, restaurants, internet cafes, WIFI, dive boats that come right to your yacht to pick you up! It really is great!
DD anchored

But back to cruising on Diesel Duck, the name of our friend's boat as well as the model of the boat, a Diesel Duck 41 yacht troller. Benno and Marlene Klopfer are friends from our boat building days. Before building Diesel Duck which they have been living aboard for 2 years, they built a lovely steel sailboat and completed a circumnavigation aboard her just as we were completing work on Two-Step. Their advice and encouragement over the years has been invaluable.

Diesel Duck is the Klopfer's “retirement” yacht and is well-equipped with all the latest cruising comforts – generator, watermaker, fresh-water flush toilet, washer/dryer, you name it! It was Washing Machinegreat fun to island-hop with them for 2 weeks in such comfort and learn about all the fancy systems they've installed, some of which we are considering for our new boat, the Southerly 42RST. See Paul's New Boat Blog for details.

We motored and sailed with Benno and Marlene (who let us film the experience for Distant Shores) from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the tranquil island of Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands of Puerto Rico spotting humpback whales en route, then back to St. John's in the USVI and next on to Tortola and Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The yacht troller concept is appealing since there is lots of room aboard for comfortable live-aboard accommodation, you can conserve fuel by sailing with its main and jib, and it is capable of ocean passages.

DD dinner

The two weeks aboard Diesel Duck were filled with fun, laughter and good times (and good food - Marlene is a wonderful cook!) so the days just flew by. But soon it was time to say goodbye and meet Jan and Steve in Nanny Cay, Tortola BVI for a week of bareboat chartering aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran called “Annie's Toy” which we organized through The Catamaran Company. On their website You can check out the layout of this boat, see online videos of it sailing, peruse and choose provisions, and view suggested sailing itineraries which we found very useful when planning this adventure with Jan and Steve in February.

Although all 4 of us have a lot of miles under our keels, none of us had ever sailed a catamaran before so we were all looking forward to the experience. The multi-talented Jan, besides building her own sailboat, being an expert in both sailboat and powerboat repair, a top-notch marine journalist and editor of DIY Boat Owner magazine, is a top-ranking racing sailor and former sailmaker. Jan was especially keen on testing out the cat.

Lagoon 380

Our first impression was that it was like sailing a hotel suite! For the length of the boat, the catamaran felt so wide to us die-hard mono-hullers. The accommodation is immense compared to a mono-hull of similar length. We also couldn't get over the fact you could leave a glass sitting on the saloon table and it wouldn't tip over while sailing! Each couple had their own pontoon with luxurious cabin(s) shower and heads, so lack of privacy wasn't an issue. There is also so much room on deck that you're never in each other's way.

The boat was beautifully set up with lots of fresh towels and linens, cleaning products, and a welcome basket with complimentary snacks and drinks including a bottle of Pusser's Rum! We all love to cook and the galley was well-equipped and included good sized fridge, as well as a large stand-up freezer and cooler located in the cockpit. We went with the partial provisioning service since we planned to eat out occasionally but there is a very good grocery store right in the marina, an outlet of Bobby's Market, with everything you could imagine so in future would probably self-provision but for the first time out it saved time and was a good service. While planning, we had lots of good Sunday lunches together going over the suggested lists and imagining delicious meals on board in the tropics as the snow flew at home.
Group Virgin Gorda

After thorough instructions from the Catamaran Company rep, we cast off and another week of fun began as Jan put the boat through the ropes and formed us into a well-knit crew as we sailed from Tortola to Peter Island, then to Long Bay on Virgin Gorda, and as a special treat sailed to the most remote island in the BVI, Anegada, where we stuffed ourselves with lobster for which the reef-strewn island is famous, and kicked back on the beautiful beaches, snorkelling for hours amongst the vibrant reefs. Then back to Virgin Gorda for a day at the Baths, where there are huge boulders forming grottos along the coast, followed by a slow sail to Sandy Spit for more snorkelling, and concluded our cruise with a rollicking reach back to Nanny Cay, tacking back and forth across the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

It was a great week! We all became catamaran converts, as least as far as chartering goes. They are so comfortable and fun to sail and have lots and lots of room for friends and family. But our mono-hull heritage is hard to shake. We feel safe in mono-hulls at sea and although our time in the Caribbean opened our eyes to other possibilities it also helped confirm our decision that the swing-keel Southerly yacht is the new shallow-draft boat for us.


We flew back to Toronto with Jan and Steve at the end of March, did the laundry, and jumped back on a plane to fly to England to discuss options for our new boat with the ever-patient Robert Hughes at Northshore Yachts and do another test sail of the Southerly 42, this time on a model with the same double headsail rig we want.

Double headsail

We feel so at home on this boat. The time is definitely right for a change and new adventures.

Easter in Malta
After 2 days in England where we spent the last night with friends, Larry and Eileen, aboard Wayward Wind where they have been wintering in London at St. Katharine Dock on the Thames River, we flew on to Malta where we had stored Two-Step for the winter. Upon arriving and checking our e-mail we received a request from potential buyers keen to take a look at the boat that day. We had to delay them for the weekend since it was Easter and we were scheduled to film the festivities before we'd even get a chance to give the boat a thorough cleaning following 4 months of winter storage.
Good Friday Procession

The Good Friday processions are really special in Malta. In almost every village there is a huge street theatre event where the story of Easter is re-enacted. The participants dress in elaborate costumes and teams of men carry very heavy statues depicting the 12 stages of the cross. It is an exhausting endeavor taking often three hours as they walk up and down the very steep narrow streets carrying the statues.

“Join the Crew” charters
Kids in dinghy

Thanks to everyone who has written to us about the possibility of joining us for a week or two this winter aboard our new boat, “Southerly Explorer”. We have had a very positive response to this idea so invite you to “Join the Crew” this winter to introduce your family to the cruising lifestyle, develop navigation skills, and/or build offshore passage-making experience which we'll be offering on several legs of our voyage. The voyage includes a transatlantic passage to the Caribbean, and then gentle Caribbean island-hopping through the winter for our Introduction to Cruising weeks.

Introducing Jill and Peter Schaffner
Jill in office

Joining our crew at home base are Jill and Peter Schaffner of Expedition Yacht Services of Canada. Jill is taking over from Dale who many of you had the pleasure of dealing with over the years when ordering DVDs or organizing seminars. Dale has moved from the area and has started a new career working in the resort industry. We will miss her and wish her well! Jill is now handling our office administration as well as coordinating reservations for our new “Join the Crew” program.

Jill and her husband, Peter Schaffner, are long-time sailing friends of ours and Peter will be available to skipper the new boat at times of the year when Paul and I are at home working in the studio doing post production on our television programs and DVDs. We look forward to working with both Jill and Peter on our latest venture and hope you get a chance to meet them soon! Office hours are 9-5 Mon-Fri ET. Phone 705-484-0862, Fax 705-484-5968 (Country code for North America is 1) or by e-mail at this link.

Wishing you fair winds and great fun on the water this season,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step

Malta and the Rolex Middle Sea Race, New Boat Test Sail

We left off our story in our last newsletter deciding to stay longer in Malta than we had originally planned so that we could film the activities surrounding the Rolex Middle Sea Race. This race is a major international yachting event which has a dramatically beautiful course. The 608 nautical mile route takes competitors from Malta in the Central Mediterranean to Sicily, through the Strait of Messina past the erupting volcanoes of Mt. Etna and Stromboli, north around Sicily to the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa and finishes back in Malta. The course record is 64 hours, 49 minutes and 57 seconds representing an average speed of 9.44 knots and was set by ZEPHYRUS IV back in 2000. This year Volvo Ocean Race winner ABN AMRO ONE and ALFA ROMEO, the world's fastest 100-footer, were competing so everyone was looking forward to a new record being set. We had a personal interest in the race since our Maltese friend, Tony Camilleri, an excellent racing sailor and the local Bavaria yacht dealer, had been asked to skipper KONICA MINOLTA, an Austrian entry that Tony beat last year in his own boat, FEAR OF FLYING.

The Overbo family aboard Two-Step

Before the race began we received a visit from our Norwegian friends, Alf-Gunnar and Anette Overbo, and their sons, Marius and Martin, who flew in for a week during the October school vacation. We'd met these guys several years ago in Spain when they were on sabbatical cruising as a family aboard their sailboat, Maraton. You may remember them from the “mud bath” episode in the Distant Shores Volume 1: Western Mediterranean DVD

During that cruise, Anette home schooled the kids and enjoyed the experience so much she went back to school and got her teacher's certificate. She has just begun a brand new career and is so happy! Cruising can be life changing. We have kept in touch and it was so great to see them again and take them for a ride aboard Two-Step around Malta's Grand Harbour. One of the best things about cruising is that you make so many really special friends from all around the world.
Two-Step back in her slip in Malta

October is a very busy time of year for the marinas in Malta. The local boats are still in the water, transient yachts are moving in to spend the winter, and then the fleets of participating yachts for the Rolex Middle Sea Race start arriving. Things tend to get a bit congested and transient boats get shuffled from place to place until a local boater hauls-out for seasonal maintenance and a slip becomes available. Chris Schembri, the manager of Msida Marina is a very patient man and does his best to make room for everyone but if you are planning to spend the winter in Malta Chris says it's really better to arrive in November. Eventually a slip came available for us and we moved from our temporary spot along the quay to our new slip and discover it was the exact same one we had occupied when we wintered in Malta several years ago! Was this a sign? We were happy to discover that the same local boaters were to be our neighbours once again!
anchor windlass

Once in our new slip we set to work on new projects. Malta is a really great place to do work on the boat since there are many well-equipped chandleries and everyone speaks English making life easier for English-speaking sailors like us. We enjoy the challenge of new languages but it's nice to have a break once in a while. Since we live aboard most of the year we are continually upgrading and making boat improvements to Two-Step. While waiting for the race to begin we replaced our old 10mm anchor chain with 65m (~ 200 feet) of new 8mm chain and installed the appropriate gypsy on our new Lewmar V3 electric anchor windlass so now everything sparkles. It reduced the weight in our bow significantly which was the main goal. Paul also installed an anchor rode counter with a display in the cockpit so whoever is at the helm can easily see how much chain has been dropped or raised when we're anchoring. We have always marked the chain itself at 10-meter intervals with coloured electrical ties but sometimes lose track of the marks which can get covered with mud or get rubbed off.
wide shot of bow step
close-up of bow step

We also added a bow step which we had welded from Paul's design. We usually go bow-to and, for years, have just hauled ourselves up over the anchor and bow pulpit. But the process is often difficult for guests who don't know the boat like we do. The step makes getting on board much more comfortable and we can actually leave it attached while we're sailing if we're only sailing a short distance. For a serious sail or passage we unbolt it and store it in a locker.

Sheryl and Paul filming the start

Saturday October 21st was race day and everyone was out for the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Local friend Alfred Misfud, Commodore of the Vikings Sailing Club, picked us up in his car and drove us to a great spot for filming the event high atop the bastions of Valletta overlooking Marsamxett Harbour where there is a picturesque position for the start line right in front of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Since the harbour entrance is narrow the fleet was divided into 6 divisions starting with the smallest local boats. The starts were at 10 minute intervals and the size and spectacle of each fleet grew until the four show-stopping canting-keel Maxis - ALFA ROMEO, ABN AMRO ONE, THURAYA MAXIMUS and MORNING GLORY – swooped out of the harbour 50 minutes later.
Maxis start

The yachts had good wind that first day as they left Malta and headed for the southern coast of Sicily. ALFA ROMEO was making 25 knots boat speed by the end of the day and was well ahead of the rest of the fleet breaking the record-setting pace set by ZEPHYRUS IV in 2000 by a long-shot. All the boats had tracking devices so throughout the event we could check everyone's positions day and night. The internet is a wonderful tool for offshore racing since it really helps to make these events interactive “spectator” sports now. On the second day we watched online as the wind dropped and boats of every size ground to a halt at the foot of the volcano off the Italian island of Stromboli. And according to the weather forecast it was going to be another slow race from then on. In the end, ZEPHYRUS IV was to hold the course record for yet another year.

Southerly at dock

While I stayed on board and followed the progress of the race, Paul jumped on a plane to England to meet another friend from Malta who had recently moved to London. You may recall Per and Vicki from the yacht SUNRAY who came up with the idea of the “10 Euro Challenge” which we filmed in the colourful market in Syracusa, Sicily, a few years back which we featured in episode #17 in the Distant Shores Volume 3: South Italy and Adriatic Sea DVD. For some time we have had our eye on the Southerly yachts built in England as contenders for a potential new boat and while in Malta we had met several Southerly owners and had been invited aboard. We were quite impressed and, since air connections to England are good from Malta and Paul had been hoping to see Per, he decided to make a quick trip to visit him and Vicki, and get Per's opinion test-sailing a couple of these swing-keel shallow-draft yachts at the Northshore shipyard in Itchenor, near Chichester on the Solent River.

It was hard to leave the sunny warm weather of Malta and don gloves, hat and foul weather gear for sailing in England but the guys had a great couple of days and learned a lot about these well-built cruising boats after sailing both the new 42- and 46-footers and talking at length to the craftsmen in the Northshore workshops. The features that we found attractive about the Southerly are 1) the excellent reputation of the cleverly designed swing-keel for shallow-draft cruising, 2) the raised saloon for all-round visibility and 3) the internal steering station which is great in foul weather and can extend the cruising season greatly in cold weather climates. All the owners we questioned about the yachts spoke highly of the level of customer service Northshore provided to owners of both new and used Southerly yachts. Paul came home very impressed and we realized we had reached a new era in our cruising lives. We were quite serious now about looking for a new boat.

Meanwhile, the participants in the Rolex Middle Sea Race came slowly drifting back to Malta. The first to cross the line was the 100-foot SuperMaxi ALFA ROMEO who arrived on Tuesday October 24 at 1442, well behind the course record due to the almost continuously calm seas throughout the race. THURAYA MAXIMUS and MORNING GLORY, the winner by handicap, soon followed and the Volvo Open 70 ABN AMRO ONE arrived almost 24 hours afterwards. For the rest of the week horns sounded as more and more of the 68 yachts in the race fleet arrived and crossed the finish line. Our friend, Tony Camilleri, and the crew of KONICA MINOLTA arrived tired and bedraggled in the dark of night but we were standing by with his wife Greta, and sons, Keith and James, to congratulate them all on a third place win in their division.

Sheryl in hall

On Saturday October 28, we accompanied the Camilleri family to the awards ceremony held in the beautiful Vallette Hall at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the former "Sacra Infermeria" of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The hall is an architectural gem with it's combination of vaulted ceilings over its sheer length. It covers 1,500 square metres and can accommodate up to 1,500 guests for a stand up occasion so was a perfect setting for the awards ceremony.

Middle Sea Race trophy

It was a great way to finish our visit to Malta surrounded by fellow sailors in this historical setting as we cheered for Tony and his crew and chatted with many other local friends and Distant Shores fans who had participated. The love of the sea runs strong in Malta. It felt right to stay here a little longer so we made arrangements to keep Two-Step in her winter slip under the protective wing of our Maltese boating friends while we flew home to Canada to edit new shows, spend the holidays with the family, and do our annual winter boat show presentations.

We've had a great winter home in Canada and are now packing our bags to leave the snow and join friends in the Caribbean for a few weeks of filming and sailing aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran and a Diesel Duck yacht trawler. Stay tuned to for next month's newsletter and podcast on our adventures in the Virgin Islands and surrounding destinations in the Caribbean.

But first this news:

Your Opinion Wanted – Share the Sail charters
One of the reasons we have been looking for a larger boat is that we often get e-mails from Distant Shores fans asking about the possibility of chartering with us for a week or two to share in the adventure, develop navigation skills, or build offshore passage-making experience. With the limited space on Two-Step this hasn't been possible but the new boat will have 3 cabins and we'd like to invite you on board to Share the Sail. We're just putting together our schedule for the coming year and would like to know how many of you would be interested in this and what type of experience you'd be looking for – offshore, coastal cruising and navigation, or island-hopping in the Caribbean. Please send us an e-mail with your comments and feedback and we'll send you the information on the berths that will be available on various legs of our journey from the UK to Madeira, Canary Islands, transatlantic passage to the Caribbean, and Caribbean island-hopping.

Cruising in the Middle East 3-disk DVD – Now available in PAL format
Our latest Distant Shores DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East” is now available in PAL format for our overseas viewers. This special 3-disk set contains all 13 episodes of Season 4 which takes you on a voyage from Turkey, to ports in North and South Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt and has some very special features on “Dealing with Piracy”, an important issue when cruising in this region and many others around the world.

Paul's New Boat Blog
Check out Paul's latest updates to Paul's Boat Blog and follow the process as we prepare to equip the new boat, a Southerly 42RST built by Northshore Yachts in England. Construction begins in the spring and we'll be sailing her this summer.

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step

Passage to Malta and the Rolex Middle Sea Race

We finished off our last newsletter setting sail from Pylos, a small but protected harbour on the west coast of the Peloponnisos of Greece. It was the end of September and we had been waiting out a gale in our attempt to get west to the island republic of Malta, one of favourite places in the Med. At last the turbulent seas calmed down and we said goodbye to our friends Karen and Dan aboard Dakare who headed northwest towards their winter destination of Taranto, Italy, while we headed west to Malta. Finally, the winds had begun to blow in our favour. The voyage to Malta took three days and nights. The first night we charged along reaching under full main and jib. Although the first night of a passage can be trying as we get readjusted to our 3-hour night watches (4 hours during the day) this night was a joy with a fresh steady breeze, clear skies, and good visibility.

night shot of Paul with chart plotter
night shot of Paul with chart plotter

There was a lot of shipping and once again we were reassured of our decision to install the Raymarine C80 system with chartplotter and radar. Using the MARPA feature we could determine the speed and directions of oncoming ships and since the radar image overlays the chart it's easy to see right away where there is a moving ship. There is a good demonstration of how to use this feature in the Rhodes and Symi episode of Distant Shores which is featured on the Distant Shores Volume 5 - Greek Island and Turkey II DVD

We have the chartplotter installed right out in the cockpit so the person on watch can see it at all times and make calculations and changes to the route without leaving his or her post. Over the next couple of days we had light and variable winds so were forced to motorsail much of the time, such is the Med, but it was a comfortable relaxing trip. We read aloud to each other, cooked sumptuous meals with the fresh foods we'd stocked up on in Greece, watched displays of leaping fish and enjoyed visits from dolphins.

sheryl in galley
Sheryl in galley

We made landfall in Malta at around 0400 and after contacting Harbour Radio in Valletta we were given permission to go directly to Msida Marina to wait to clear in with customs there when they opened at 0800. Usually you are required to go first to the main customs dock in Grand Harbour and then move to the marina later after clearing in but since it was early morning and we had called ahead they told us to go directly to the marina which meant we could tie up and catch a few winks of sleep before clearing in later. Arriving in Malta in the dark is magical since the incredible fortresses and bastions built by the Knights of St. John are all lit up and seem even more impressive than in daylight, if that's possible. We arrived in the dark the last time we came to this special island in the year 2000 after a wild and stormy night at sea sailing from Sicily and felt such sanctuary when we entered the well-protected harbour. We filmed two episodes about Malta during that first visit which has aired many times on the Travel Channel across Europe and Canadian Learning Television at home.

By the way, Distant Shores is viewed in over 40 countries now in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. It is in its 5th season this year and has just been picked up by the Sailing Channel in Europe and Wealth TV, an HD channel, in the USA. In Malta, where the show has aired prime time on Sunday nights for several years and boating is a major family activity, we received a very warm welcome. During our stay we were stopped 4 or 5 times a day by fans of the show that recognize us. It's very gratifying to know that people of all ages, including kids who watch regularly with their parents, enjoy sharing in our sailing adventures so much!

Marina Manager Chris Schembri, Tony Camilleri skipper of Konica Minolta, and Paul aboard our boat Two-Step

On the day of our arrival we received an especially warm welcome from Msida Marina Manager, Chris Schembri, and good friend, Tony Camilleri, as well as from many local friends that we have kept in touch with over the years who came down to the marina to see us.

With friends at Viking sailing club with banner

So before we knew it the short stop-over we had planned began to grow longer. It wasn't just all the numerous enticing dinner parties with many friends and fellow sailors that kept us there, or that there are so many great chandleries which kept our list of boat projects growing. A big factor was that the Rolex Middle Sea Race was about to take place there and we thought it would be would be a great event to film for the TV show. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.)

Super Maxis sailing through harbour

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a 608 nautical mile race (2 to 5-days depending on boat size) from Malta to Sicily, through the Strait of Messina, north around Sicily to the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa and finishing back in Malta.

It is an international event and our Maltese friend, Tony Camilleri, an excellent racing sailor and the local Bavaria dealer, was asked to skipper "Konica Minolta", an Austrian entry that Tony beat last year in his own boat, "Fear of Flying". The owner of "Konica Minolta" figured it was better to have Tony on his team this year :-) So I'm going to finish here and tell you about the outcome of the race and our visit to Malta in next month's newsletter. But before I do, here are a few photos from our recent appearances at the London and Toronto Boat Shows as well as some items of news including a fun Winter Weekend Cruising Seminar we'll be conducting in February.


Podcast #7 – Solo Ocean Passage-making
Paul and Sheryl with Drew Robertson and Dee Caffari

On our boat show tour we also got to meet some world class sailors who we introduce to you in the Distant Shores sailing podcasts which are our online talk shows.

This month we interviewed two solo ocean racers - Britain's Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail Alone around the World Westabout, and Canada's Derek Hatfield, both contenders for the 2008 Vendée Globe single-handed race around the world.

Cruising in the Middle East 3-disk DVD

– Now available in PAL format Our latest Distant Shores DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East” is now available in PAL format for our overseas viewers. This special 3-disk set contains all 13 episodes of Season 4 which takes you on a voyage from Turkey, to ports in North and South Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt and has some very special features on “Dealing with Piracy”, an important issue when cruising in this region and many others around the world.

Winter Weekend Cruising Seminar February 23-25, 2007

Over the years we have had many requests to conduct a weekend of cruising seminars at a northern resort in Canada. This year we have made arrangements to do this and invite you to escape to the Harbour Inn & Resort Club in Lagoon City, an hour and half drive north of Toronto in ski country near Orillia, starting on the evening of Friday February 23 and concluding the afternoon of Sunday February 25, 2007. Over the course of the weekend we'll be discussing how to plan your cruise, equip your boat, design your route, create a budget, and much, much, more all while you relax in cozy accommodations and enjoy delicious fresh food prepared by the famous Chef Konstantine.

For information on costs, accommodations, directions and transportation from Toronto's Pearson International Airport, see the Shows/Seminar Page on our website.

Wishing you all the best for a Happy 2007!

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step