Sailing Mediterranean Spain - Barcelona to Valencia
We arrived back in Spain to Badalona Marina near Barcelona, late in the evening on Sunday September 23. We had left Distant Shores II stored there in the water for the weekend while we flew to England to speak at the Southampton Boat Show. We were pretty tired from the journey but Barcelona is party capital in Spain and Monday was the last day of the city's big annual festival, La Merce Festival, so there was no rest for the weary :-)
From Badalona it is about a 20-minute train ride into the heart of Barcelona and throughout the throng-filled city there was music and dance demonstrations...
theatrical performances including street puppet shows...
competitions of people building human towers several stories high and Parades of Giants ...
The next day, when things had settled down a bit, we took the train back to see the most unusual and inspiring cathedral we have ever seen (and in 23 years of cruising we've visited a lot of cathedrals!), the Sagrada Familia meaning Sacred Family, the monumental Modernism creation of the devout architect, Antoni Gaudi. Wow!
Finally, on Thursday September 27, we sailed away from the inspiring city of Barcelona to sail 54nm down the coast to Tarragona. We knew we would be here for a few days since there was a very strong gale with lots of rain in the forecast. The history there interested us so we thought it would be a good place to wait out a storm and it was.
Tarragona was once an old Roman provincial town. The ancient amphitheatre is located right by the sea and there are many interesting ruins throughout the town which we explored the next day.
The day after that the storm hit with a vengence. The sky was green, the seas were crashing over the breakwall, and the rain came down, down, down! Sadly 13 people died in the flash floods that resulted and there was much destruction. We were safe and sound in the very secure marina here.
The storm passed quickly and we were able to leave Puerto Esportivo de Tarragona the next morning casting off at 0730. The full moon was just setting over the town as we left and the sun rising. Magic.
It was calm in the bay close to Tarragona but we got hit with some strong winds in the acceleration zones funnelling through the valleys of the mountains so soared along the coast. A tired little bird, buffeted by the wind, landed on deck and sailed with us for a while then, as the wind levelled out, he left us to sail on alone. There was lots of debris in the water from the storm - branches, twigs and roots mostly but unbelievable amounts of them. Further south where the storm struck the hardest, our Swedish friend, Christer, and his crew sailing aboard SY Crystal Magic encountered palms, full-sized trees, and a dead pig! Apparently small animals such as pigs faired badly in the violent storm which centred near Valencia.
Castellon de la Plana
We were still at sea at 1930 when the moon rose again. Hello old friend! We saw you set this morning on the same voyage. Welcome back! At 0800 the sun had set just as we arrived in the near dark at Castellon.
The friendly marinero (dock hand) at the Real Club Náutico de Castellón helped us moor then called (literally shouting over the fence) and made dinner reservations for us at a really good local seafood restaurant called El Galeon, right by the yacht club on the waterfront, (this usually means a touristic restaurant but it was all local people eating there, always a good sign) where we enjoyed an excellent seafood paella before hitting the pillow.
Our next daysail on to Valencia was short, only bout 35 nm, and the winds were gentle so we sailed slowly down the mountainous coast. Just before reaching the harbour Marina Real de Juan Carlos I formerly America's Cup Marina in Valencia, Sheryl saw a rare Mola or Moonfish (also called a Sunfish) jump right beside the boat.
Mola also called Moonfish or Sunfish
When we went to visit the fantastic Oceanographic Museum in Valencia the next day, they had a very large Mola in an amazing 70m tank so we could get a good look at one close up. There were also seals, beluga whales, penguins and numerous reef displays and schools of exotic fish in enormous tanks.
Paul and I went back to the boat itching to carry on to the Caribbean to do more scuba and skin diving there. I can't even begin to explain all the interesting displays, information and fantastic architecture at this very special aquarium so check out their website to learn more if you're interested.
We spent one more day in Valencia exploring the old town and enjoyed the old city market buying a few goodies to take back to the boat.
The Marina Real de Juan Carlos I is very good and surprisingly very inexpensive - 26 euros per night including water and electricity and wifi which is the least expensive we've seen on this coast so far. And there is a huge beach which is great. However it is quite far to get out of the marina even to reach a bus stop or tram/train station. Bikes are helpful but prepare to do lots of walking or budget for taxis. But despite this, I wouldn't miss it.
See you on the water,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
The morning of Monday September 17 was grey and overcast as we prepared to leave Port Leucate, our last port in France, to sail down the coast - destination Puerto de Estartit in Spain.
The grey gloomy weather was a change from the sunny conditions we had been experiencing since reaching the Mediterranean coast of France. But there was no rain and the visibility was good so we counted our blessings and set off around 0930 after stocking up on a few groceries at the small SPAR grocery store just outside the marina gates.
People are very keen on recreational fishing here and there were lots of boats small and large anchored a couple of miles offshore with fishing rods over the side. At least a third of the boats we saw anchored were sailboats which looked very strange to us! You don't often see sailboats anchored in the middle of nowhere a couple of miles offshore. Offshore they're usually moving, hopefully under sail, and later anchor in some peaceful protected cove. Sailors here use their boats as fishing boats a lot so as we travelled down the mountainous coast we kept dodging all these anchored craft.
At 1330 we rounded Cap Cerbere, 27nm from Port Leucate and another 27nm to go to L'Estartit. This cape marks the border with France and Spain so Sheryl lowered our French courtesy flag and raised the Spanish courtesy flag to show respect for the host country whose waters we were sailing in. Courtesy flags are flown on the starboard halyard on a sailboat. We had cleared into the European Union (EU) in the Shetland Isles in the north of Scotland after cruising in Norway the previous summer and have an 18-month permit to cruise in the EU so while still within the EU we don't have to fly a yellow Q-flag first and formally check into the country before raising the country's Q flag. Since we're foreign (non-EU) cruisers we always check with Customs/Immigration anyway when possible when entering another country within the EU just to be sure since the rules are confusing, Often the marinas take the information and pass it on.
An hour later we rounded Cabo Creus.
At Cabo Creus we changed from a southeasterly course to a southerwesterly one and just then the sun came out, a very nice welcome to Spain!
As we were sailing we had very good internet reception (See Paul’s New Boat Blog "iPhone - Sailing the World"). The towers must be on the mountaintops since we were a few miles offshore! In a few days we would be leaving the boat in Barcelona and flying to speak at the Southampton Boat Show in England so Paul was booking plane tickets online and printing our boarding passes as we sailed down the coast! Boy, life has changed and improved from when we first started international cruising in 1989.
Puerto de Estartit
After the sun came out the wind picked up and we had a lovely sail for the afternoon. We'd had the mast down for most of the summer going through the canals so we had planned the first leg of our voyage along the Mediterranean coast in daysails to test and re-tune the rig before heading out into the Atlantic after we reached Gibraltar.
The offshore islands and headlands as you approach L'Estartit are dramatic. Such a fantastic place to make landfall in Spain!
We arrived just in time for dinner so wandered the streets of this pretty tourist town to choose from a vast selection of choices for our "arrival in a new country dinner out". After being in France since May we had to switch our brains into Spanish and found the gears needed a bit of oiling!However in Spain they really cater to tourists and almost all the restaurants had menus printed in English, French and German as well as Spanish and the locals really make an effort to try to speak to you in your own language. It makes you feel very welcome as a visitor. We never like to rely on this however and always make an attempt to learn at least a few important words and phrases in the language of the country we’re visiting. The effort is always appreciated.
Badalona Marina (Barcelona)
We woke up to thick fog the next morning, Tuesday September 18, which was a complete surprise since we hadn't seen fog since we'd left England in the spring! As soon as it started burning off and there was sufficient visibility we headed out once again our course set for Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona where we would leave the boat for the coming weekend while we flew to England to speak at the Southampton Boat Show and for the Southerly Owners Dinner (our boat is a Southerly 49) about cruising and our recent voyage through the French canals. We chose this marina rather than Port Vell or Puerto Olimpico right downtown Barcelona since, due to their location, have high rates. We were quoted prices of 85 euros per night which we accept if we were going to be on the boat enjoying the city but to just store the boat in the water while we were away 43 euros per night at Badalona Marina made more financial sense. And it was a very nice marina with a very friendly staff both in the office and on the docks.
Southampton Boat Show - England
Thursday September 20 we were up in the wee hours of the morning to catch a taxi to the Barcelona Airport and by lunchtime were landing at London Gatwick, picking up a hire car and driving on the left side of the road down to Chichester Harbour on the south coast where we stayed with friends, Hermione and Douglas, who had joined us in the French canals for a while aboard Distant Shores II with their then 10-month-old son, Arthur, and had minded our beloved boat for us the 2 winters that we had stored her in Itchenor at the Northshore boat yard. We also had a good visit with Douglas' mother, Elizabeth, a cracking-good racing sailor (as is Douglas who is an International 14 champion). Elizabeth stars in Distant Shores episode 79 - Chichester Harbour that you'll find in the Distant Shores Season 7 DVD
Friday September 21 was my, Sheryl's, birthday and the 23rd Anniversary of the beginning of our international cruising life. In 1989 Paul and I set sail from Port Credit Yacht Club on Lake Ontario in Canada on my 30th birthday aboard our first boat, Two-Step, a Classic 37 sailboat that we built together from a bare hull and sailed for 18 years putting 60,000 nm under the keel. But Birthday and Anniversary celebrations had to wait. We had a full day speaking to people at the Southampton Boat Show which was a complete pleasure and that night in the dramatically beautiful Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth we gave a presentation about our "Voyage through the French Canals" to 90 people, fellow Southerly owners, at the Southerly Owners Dinner. Although it was a whirlwind working day it was an absolute delight and in the end a perfect way to celebrate birthday, sailing anniversary, and the many blessings and friendships that the cruising lifestyle has brought us over the years.
Saturday and Sunday were spent at the boat show again meeting up with fellow cruising authors, the infamous Donald Street and ever-charming Liza Copeland, meeting up with show sponsors, and answering questions about long-distance cruising.
We finished the weekend visiting sailing friends, Richard and Julie, who are about to take delivery of a new Southerly 42, and their youngest son, James, who had just completed 6 months of ocean voyaging. Lots of good sailing stories to share! We flew back to the boat in Barcelona on the Sunday night energized and ready to explore more of the Spanish coast starting with the fascinating city of Barcelona...
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.distantshores.ca 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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.)
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
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
As we mentioned in the previous newsletter, the southern passage around the Peloponnissos is the long route to the Ionian Sea and ports beyond in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, when leaving the Aegean Sea. This is as opposed to the shorter, though more expensive, route of going through the Corinth Canal.
When we did the Corinth Canal in 2002 going west to east from the Ionian into the Aegean, the canal fees for our 37-foot sailboat were about 100 euros ($130 US). It is a 6.343 Km trip which takes about half an hour to do. If you're interested, the Canal Authority has an excellent website with a rate converter on it as well as lots of historical photos and information. www.corinthcanal.com/en_index.php Our canal experience is featured in episode #24 of Distant Shores found in the Distant Shores Volume 4 - Greek Islands and Turkey DVD. In fact, when the Commander of the Canal saw this episode on TV (Distant Shores is broadcast across Europe on Travel Channel) he contacted us to say it documented the transit procedure for small boats really well and he requested a copy to use for the promotion of the Canal to sailors. The Canal transit, though pricey, IS very cool to do!
We arrived at the Greek peninsula of the Peloponnissos on September 21st, Sheryl's birthday, after island-hopping our way west across the Aegean Sea, from Marmaris, Turkey, which has been our base for the last few seasons of cruising. The Aegean Sea divides the continent of Asia from Europe and the Greek Islands are like stepping stones bridging one to another.
The local town is quietly touristic, at least in September, and we enjoyed the waterfront cafes, tavernas, internet cafe, and green grocers for restocking our fresh produce supplies but the highlight was walking across the causeway to the island to wander the narrow streets of the old town and make the hike up to the Byzantine church of Agia Sophia.
On September 23rd we got a forecast for benign weather conditions at Cape Maleas, the first of the 3 capes or Aks we were to round, and set sail at sunrise hoping to make it to Porto Kayio at Cape Tainaron, cape #2. It was flat calm but when we approached the Ak Maleas lighthouse the winds came howling down off the mountains and we were hit with rain squalls.
Surprisingly, within minutes of rounding the cape it was hot sunny weather once again and since we were making good time decided to make a lunch stop at Elafonisis, anchoring in the bay, O. Frangos. Now we felt like we were in the Caribbean with the beautiful white sand beach here and clear turquiose water.
We anchored here for a couple of days in the company of Australian yacht, All the Colours, who we knew from Marmaris and together with Chas and Rowena and their kids, Jack, Monica and Allister, we made hikes ashore and visited the lighthouse at the south end of the island.
Our next stop was Pylos on the southwest coast of the Peloponnissos where we had a chance meeting with Dan and Karen on Dakare who we had travelled with to Middle Eastern countries with the year before and had last seen while sailing in Egypt in the Red Sea in the spring. These adventures are featured in our latest DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East”, a 3-disk set with a special feature on “Dealing with Piracy”.
Twelve of us sailed together on that Middle East cruise under the banner of the Levante Basin Rally organized by Canadian and American friends, Bill Cote and Jean Panepinto aboard “Soleil sans Fin”, and following its success they are planning another one. They are also organizing flotilla cruises along the beautiful Turquoise Coast of Turkey which are booking up fast. We highly recommend these guys as hosts and expedition leaders and invite you to visit their website for more information and to see Jean's great photos. http://www.soleilsansfin.com/
From Pylos we made a couple of attempts to jump off to Malta but although the weather was good where we were, there was a major gale howling over Italy which created massive head seas – no fun for a 3-day passage. Finally on September 30th we cast off and began what was to be a very pleasant passage. But more on this next time...
Paul's New Boat Blog
In August 1986, over 20 years ago, we took delivery of a bare hull and began building our Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step, which we launched in August 1988, and in 1989 began our international cruising adventures. It's hard to believe that it's been over 20 years that we have been enjoying this wonderful boat but we have finally got the itch for something new and different. Check out the latest addition to Paul's Boat Blog - and follow the process as we weigh the pros and cons in our search for the new ideal cruising boat.
Hope these resources are helpful to your cruising plans and entertain you as well.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays and the Very Best for the Coming New Year!
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Launch in Marmaris, Turkey, New Lewmar electric windlass in Rhodes, Passage across the Aegean Sea, the Peloponnisos, on to Malta
After completing post production on the final episodes on Egypt for season 4 of the Distant Shores series (coming soon on the new Distant Shores: Cruising the Middle East 3-volume DVD ) we flew from Toronto on August 15, 2006, back to the boat via London Heathrow and Istanbul which was a story in itself since it was just a few days after the terrorist threat on London airports and carry-on baggage was severely restricted, a problem for us since we usually carry on our laptop computer and some fragile camera equipment.
However, it all worked out fine and we arrived back at the boat just after midnight on August 16. We were exhausted and jet-lagged after our journey and at first we couldn't find Two-Step since the boat had been repositioned a couple of times during the months we had left her stored in the boat yard at Marmaris Yacht Marine a popular wintering place for yachties which we have written about in several other newsletters. The yard crew is very good there and Two-Step was in fine shape.
Temperatures reached 41 degrees C on board in the afternoons so we worked in the yard early mornings and evenings and escaped to Yacht Marine's beautiful new pool and restaurant during the height of the sun to keep cool. Everything seemed to take so long in the heat which really saps your energy.
But we have been looking forward to the passages aboard Two-Step and find the personal challenge rewarding so resisted the temptation. However, Dockwise is an excellent service that several of our cruising friends have found beneficial when their time was short and they wanted the experience of sailing their own boat in a new part of the world. The reduced wear and tear on the boat is certainly something to think about too. For info see www.yacht-transport.com
You may recall we sailed through the Suez Canal with Tony in Egypt last spring (see July 06 newsletter ) so it was great to see him again in Turkey and say our farewells before we began our departure from the Med. We have so many friends in the Med now that the thought of leaving has really been difficult! We first met Tony in Spain in 1999 and have cruised together on various occasions in several Mediterranean countries over the years.
From Marmaris you can see the Greek island of Rhodes, so after many nice farewells we set sail from Marmaris and made landfall in Rhodes Town at Mandraki Harbour and cleared into Greece on the afternoon of August 31st. We were greeted by friends Thomas and Thanos who manage several yacht charters there and who have helped us out on more than one occasion. Since we first met Thanos several years ago he has been teasing us about Two-Step's old manual anchor windlass so this year we surprised him by replacing it right there at the quay with a new Lewmar V3 electric anchor windlass!
He gave him the old one as a souvenir for his mantlepiece.
Rhodes is one of our favourite stops in the Greek Islands. The harbour is surrounded by the walls of the medieval town and castle making for a magical setting however it's a very crowded harbour and often difficult to find a spot especially if you arrive Friday to Sunday. These are the turn-over days for the charter boats that are based there and most berths are reserved for them at this time. Best to plan a mid-week, early afternoon arrival in Rhodes. Once you're docked it's a lovely place with many things to see and do, good shops for provisioning and well-stocked chandleries and hardware stores within walking distance.
While we worked on the boat our good friends Chrissy Arvanitis and Irene Zifias who taught us how to eat sea urchins in the Rhodes and Symi episode of Distant Shores (see the Vol. 5 Greek Islands and Turkey II DVD ) dropped by for cheerful visits with their kids and Chrissy (pictured on the left) couldn't stop cooking for us - and what feasts she and this friend prepared!
West through Aegean Sea
But finally, with windlass installed, a repair made to our grounding system that seemed to be affecting our autopilot, and Euro provisions loaded, it was time to say goodbye and begin our voyage west across the Aegean Sea. We left Rhodes on September 13 and our first stop was at the island of Symi, an afternoon sail away, then on to Yiali, Astapalia, and finally to Santorini - a volcanic crater believed to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis. You can sail right into the center of the crater along with cruise ships and tour boats and make the climb to the town perched like snow on the rim of the crater above.
Next stop was Milos, where the statue of the Venus de Milo was discovered and then on September 21st we made landfall on the Peloponnisos at Monemvassia, a wild and mountainous place, so different from the islands. There is a lovely old historic town there and we wandered the narrow streets imagining the days of old. It was here we waited for a good weather window to go south around the capes (versus going through the Corinth Canal which we did when we arrived in the Greece a few seasons back) and make our jump to Malta. But more on this in our next newsletter...
Before we close we'd just like to mention a few new things we're doing.
Cruising in the Middle East - New DVD
This week we'll be releasing the latest Distant Shores DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East from Turkey to Egypt”. This special 3-disk set contains all 13 episodes of Season Four 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.
In the “Dealing with Piracy” features on the new Middle East DVD we interview people such as Rod and Becky Nowlin aboard SV Mahdi who have experienced pirate attacks first-hand and who generously give their advice on how to prevent and protect yourselves from encounters with pirates. The cost of $34.95 US/$39.95 CDN is an excellent deal for the up-to-date safety information and peace-of-mind we feel these new episodes and extra features provide.
The long-awaited podcast #4 with David Anderson discussing weather information and technology for cruisers is now up in the Podcast Directory on our web site. While cruising this summer we recorded some more podcasts with technical experts and interesting cruisers “out there” which we'll be uploading on Distant Shores shortly. These online talk shows focus on cruising topics and have been really popular! We thank you for sending in your comments and ideas.
Wishing you Fair Winds,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
In the November 2004 newsletter, we mentioned meeting a couple of Italian boats in Kekova Roads, Turkey, who we quickly befriended and enjoyed many seafood feasts with, especially with Giorgio and Antonella aboard NARENA. Giorgio is an excellent fisherman and free diver and he and Paul would often go off together to dive – Giorgio catching fish with his hand spear while nearby Paul would be “catching” marine life on the shoals and reefs with his underwater camera. Where possible we like to feature an underwater segment in each episode of Distant Shores since marine life is so beautiful and different in each part of the sea we explore on the boat.
Our plan had been to spend the winter on board at Turkey's Yacht Marine in Marmaris where the rates are good and there is a large and very sociable live-aboard community during the winter. The plan was that in early spring we would start working our way west out of the Med in time to do another transatlantic passage back to the Caribbean in the autumn. We dropped in at Yacht Marine on October 31st to check it out and, at the cruisers' Hallowe'en Party being held that night, ran in to Bill and Jean aboard SOLEIL SANS FIN, who are featured in episode 20 of Distant Shores which is about the sailors' rendezvous they coordinated in Hvar, Croatia.
With great enthusiasm Bill and Jean told us about their latest project, coordinating a small flotilla-cruise to countries of the Middle East. They year before they had participated in the popular Eastern Mediterranen Yacht Rally (EMYR) which is more or less a port-a-day cruise over 6-weeks to introduce you to the region. It does this with great success and although it appealed to us, the pace was way too fast for us to film a season of shows. Bill and Jean had loved the places they visited on the EMYR so much they wanted to go back and spent more time in each place. As a result, they were designing a slower-paced cruise for the summer of 2005 that worked really well for us. Bill invited us to join the flotilla, max 12 boats so we could visit some of the smaller harbours that the EMYR with 100 boats participating couldn't fit in to, and scheduled to leave Finike, Turkey, in May 2005 to sail to Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan (by land) and ending in Egypt in August. We quickly signed on. Once again, our sailing plans underwent a major change. The voyage back to the Caribbean went out the window for another year.
We met up with NARENA once again, excited about our new plans of sailing to the Middle East in the spring, and as we sailed together back towards Yacht Marine to spend the winter, NARENA experienced engine trouble. We escorted our friends to the nearest port en route which happened to be Fethiye, a harbour we had never been to before.
Toronto Boat Show
We flew back to Turkey in early April, spending a few days in Istanbul to visit friends there, Elif and Fikret, who always show us new and exciting things in this amazing city each time we fly through. This time the highlight was a visit to the Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman sultans of the past, where we had a fascinating tour of the lavish Harem and soaked up the spring sunshine in the courtyard garden with Elif.
In Marmaris our good friends Mustafa and Ali Yesildag of Yesildag Workshops, gave Two-Step's hard dodger a beautiful new paint job and refinished all the wood work while we worked on installing the new electronics and various other major tasks. Ali and Mustafa and the other fun-loving members of their family are featured in our adventures in episodes 36 & 37 of Distant Shores, found on the new Volume 5 DVD coming out in November 2005.
Levante Basin Rally
Most of the 11 other boats participating in the Levante Basin Rally were also doing boat prep in one of the marinas in Marmaris and we got together for several pre-planning sessions before we all met up later in Finike to begin the rally. Dan and Karen on DAKARE volunteered as the official webmasters for the rally. They did a beautiful job. Check out the official Rally Web Site at http://www.dakare.com/levante/
The first leg of our voyage would be to the war-torn but beautiful island of Cyprus, considered the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Stay tuned for the story of this passage, our experiences with the Turkish and Greek Cypriots living at different ends of the island, and further adventures in our voyage to countries of the Middle East in our next newsletter.
Sheryl and Paul