Wednesday, June 03, 2009

To Italy

I left Meganisi sorry to leave Blue Marlin, but looking forward to the passage ahead and particularly my arrival in Italy.

As I set sail off the north of the island, the wind steering refused to steer a straight course. I'd reassembled the steering gear incorrectly. Fault finding is easy when you've made the same mistake before; the same thing happened leaving Panama. Half later after a detour into an anchorage and some spanner work and I was off again with the wind steering pointing me towards Italy.

As I headed away from the islands I left the large Ionian charter fleet behind and barely saw another boat until close to the Italian shore.

For a change the wind was initially from behind. It had been such a long time since I'd had a following wind that it took me a while to eliminate all the crashes from the lockers as Kika rolled from side to side. Later the wind shifted to the north giving a fantastic beam reach. What a joy to experience the bow crashing through the waves as Kika speeds across the sea without the drone of the engine.

The forecast reported favourable winds until the following day when they'd shift more to the west. Ho hum, can't have everything especially when I was sailing in a forecast area stretching to the southern Italian shore named by the Greeks as "boot"
Sure enough the following day the wind shifted to the west. First thing in the morning I had 111 miles to go to Rocella Ionica. By midday I still had 111 miles left to go. I was tacking to the north but as fast as I was making westing so I was heading north. The promised northerly shift,failed to materialise so by late afternoon, as the prospect of making landfall early for my birthday started to diminish, I decided it was time to take action - engine and electronic steering.
That night the radar kept me awake with its alarm, being unable to distinguish between approaching squalls and ships. I had impressive lightening storms to the south and very dark clouds overhead, plus the occasional fishing boat to contend with.

As night morphed into day, I left the dark clouds behind me, the shipping stopped, the sea calmed down and I could finally make an effortless 6 knots under sail on a direct course to Rocella Ionica.

I'd received a warning about the entrance to the port from Jasper on Antares - the approach had silted up and he advised giving the outer breakwater a wide berth - still it wasn't an easy entrance with the depth dropping rapidly and being unsure whether I should steer to port or starboard to find deeper water. Finally I made it in without the indignity of a grounding that Antares suffered.

3/6/09: Rocella Ionica: N38deg 19.6' E16deg 26.0'

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