Saturday 5th February 2005 - Almerimar, Spain

Well here we are back in Almerimar. We had a fantastic time back in the UK – thanks to everyone who put us up (or put up with us!) and a special thanks to Al’s sister, Fiona for the loan of the car.

We were enjoying being back in the warm sunshine until last week when it snowed – the first time in living memory here in Almerimar. There is always snow on the mountains at this time of year (which is lovely to look at) but everyone was shocked to wake up to a covering on the boats. We thought there was someone on our deck but it turned out to be snow falling from the boom as it melted. The marina was inundated with Spaniards taking photos. – Nige took a few too.

After the chart reviewThankfully the snow was gone by mid morning and the weather is now back to normal – a mixture of warm sunshine and occasional cool breezes. Gales are still raging further east in the Med. We are waiting for these to disappear before even thinking about moving on – regulars here suggest this will not be until late in March.

So given that we may be here for a while we are getting back into the swing of life here in the marina. Al has joined the local Gym for a month (€35 – cheap!) and now has aching muscles having been four mornings in a row, and Nige is planning more epic bike rides. We had thought about hiring a camper van for a few weeks to travel around the interior of Andalucia but this looks too expensive so we will probably just hire a car for a week and visit Seville.

On the social side we had friends round for ‘dinner’ - Bob and Liz from ‘Yanina’ (Christmas card creators and jam session musicians), and Alex and Ashley from ‘Celtic Wave’ (who have just spent 3 months touring in a van – not a camper – a bucket for a toilet). We arranged to get together one afternoon to pool our charts and pilot books and get copies done as needed. This afternoon carried on into the evening with a trip out to the supermarket for food and more booze – the photos show how things degenerated

Monday 28th February 2005 - Almerimar, Spain

Still here in Almerimar and it looks like we will be staying for a while. Today we have rain and gale force winds and it seems that every other day there are gales and storm force winds (force 9 and 10!) somewhere in the western med - particularly around the Balearics which is where we will be heading when we do set off.

We are managing to keep ourselves occupied and we do have days when the weather is really nice - two days ago we had brilliant sunshine and Nige was out on the pontoon in shorts and T-shirt servicing winches again - 9 complete now and only 1 left to do. With most of our winter jobs nearing completion, we decided that we needed something else to do, so we bought a guitar and are both learning to play it. After about 10 days, Nige can play 9 chords and can even change between some of them quite smoothly! We now have very sore fingers on our left hands but they are starting to harden up slowly. Will need to visit our musical advisor (Bob on Yanina) for some more tips before long.

Not much else has happened since our last update - we both had flu which meant we didn't do much for about a week. We started to feel a bit under the weather on Tuesday 15th whilst out for a Chinese (couldn't go on Valentines day because Nige was playing in the pool competition at the Bucannero Bar!). On the way home we popped into Las Uvas (The Grapes) where Nige had three large brandy's and Al had three large Baileys (Spanish measures) in an attempt to fight off the symptoms - it didn't work but we did feel better at the time!

Tuesday 5th April 2005 - Almerimar, Spain

Seville, Spain.Well we are still here in Almerimar – waiting for westerly winds so we can head off east along the coast to Cartegena and beyond! The forecast looks like this could happen later this week.

We had a great time in Seville and Cordoba with Bob and Liz last week. We hired a car and drove to Seville stopping on the way at Guadix for lunch. This is famous for cave houses – there were chimney pots sticking up from the ground everywhere!

We drove into the centre of Seville and straight to the front door of the Hostel - fantastic navigation – then had to find somewhere to park. Still we were sitting outside the bar next door having a beer by 6pm so “happy days”. Hostel Santa Maria La Blanca (Calle Santa Maria La Blanca - €40) was basic but clean, quiet and in a great location.

We did beer and tapas that evening and then spent the next day seeing the sights – the old town, the Alcazar, and the Cathedral (well Bob did the Cathedral while we three went for a beer). In the evening we went to see a Flamenco show – it was a bit touristy, but as the coach parties were paying €60 (including meal and drinks) and we only paid €12 (show only – tickets from some dodgy bloke in the old town that afternoon) that was fine. We did feel like the poor relations as we sat separate from them but we actually got a better view from our balcony.

On Wednesday we drove through the countryside to Corboda. It was lovely – almost like Derbyshire but sunny. We stopped for lunch in a village in the mountains and then headed into Corboda. The navigation was not so hot this time as we did not have a good map but we eventually found Hostal Almanzo (Calle Cardenal Gonzalez - €50) and it was really nice – more like a small hotel and it had parking!

Cordoba, Spain.We spent the evening wandering around the old town and decided that it was worth staying an extra night. The next morning we were up early to get into the Mezquita before 10:00 for free. This was amazing and well worth the effort (quite apart from the €32 saving). It is a Moorish temple with 850 arches but right in the middle there is a Christian Cathedral – it is almost like walking into the tardis!

After a morning of culture we found a ‘locals’ bar and had beer and tapas for lunch – then back to the hostal for a siesta! In the evening we headed for a Jazz bar expecting some live music but unfortunately this didn’t materialize – which was maybe just as well as we had to be up at 07:00 to get the car back here for 12:00.

Back in Almerimar the boat is all ready to go, the name is finally on the bow and we have even put up the cruising chute and the storm sails to check them out. The cruising chute is a massive multi coloured sail made of very light weight fabric to be used in light winds – we bought it in Southsea but haven’t used it yet as it only arrived a few days before we left - we didn’t even have a chance to put lines on it. The storm sails are the ones we hope we do not have to use!

The cupboards are all full – we have enough rice and pasta to last all year – well you never know! However we do know that there is a Mercadona supermarket in Cartegena but it is not as close as the one here.

Monday 16th May 2005 - Cala Potinatx, Ibiza

Well, as you can see from the heading we have moved on from Almerimar (at last!). We finally managed to escape on 20th April, having been ready and waiting for a weather window for three weeks. Fiona came out to visit for a last minute long weekend before we set off and met all our wintering chums.

We sailed overnight to Cartegena to meet up with our friends Rob and Brenda on Paprika. They spent the winter there and now seem settled in their villa in the Mar Menor Golf resort - though they plan to head off on their boat again later in the year. We spent a night in the villa, along with Bob and Liz from Yanina - an evening of fine (?) music with two guitars, a clarinet, a mouth organ and some dubious singing! Celtic Wave and Cougar were also in Cartegena at the same time so it was a bit of an Almermar reunion - many more will follow as we all head towards 'The Ballies'.

On 1st May we set off again to Torrevieja for our first anchorage of the year. We spent two nights on the hook in the harbour (for free!) but did not go ashore as it rained on and off all day. Celtic Wave were also there and told us that we were not missing much (however Yanina spent two weeks there and loved it so who knows).

Moody 376 - Strummer - in Calpe marina, Spain.On 3rd May we headed for Alicante, with dreams of a curry. We checked into the marina (€36 a night - the most expensive so far but it was Nige's birthday) and headed into town. Unfortunately the Indian restaurant was closed for refurbishment - disaster! We decided to save our meal out and look for another curry house the next day. However our friends on Celtic Wave texted us that there was an Indian Restaurant further along the coast in Calpe - and they were waiting for us to get there so hurry up! Nige spent a quiet day on the boat whilst I did the shops.

On 5th May we sailed to Calpe and checked into the pretty marina in the shelter of the impressive Penon de Ifach rock (€18 a night - much more reasonable). As promised Celtic Wave were waiting (having been drooling over the takeaway menu) and so we went for a curry at The Raj, along with Cougar. It was MARVELLOUS - just like back in the UK. In fact it had sister restaurant in Uckfield, East Sussex near Celtic Wave's home town.

On 8th May we got up at DAWN and set sail across to 'The Ballies' - 55 mile trip in the company of Celtic Wave, which was pleasant and uneventful. We dropped anchor in a bay off the Island of Formentera where we spent two nights. We plan to spend the next month sailing around the area (Ibiza and Majorca), anchoring in bays and only going into marinas to fill up with water (and when we have visitors from the UK). The dinghy is now being towed behind us, ready to go ashore for provisions (and beers in beach bars). So far we have visited Cala Tarida (lovely spot - see photos), San Antonio (where football hooligans go on holiday according to Lonely Planet - too true), Ibiza Town (by bus - nice place - don't believe the hype). We are now anchored in Cala Portinatx on the north coast of Ibiza, waiting to sail across to Majorca when the weather is right.

Friday June 17th 2005 - Bay of Roses, North East Spain

It seems our web page updates this year might be monthly - so many other things to keep us busy!

At the end of our last update we were anchored in Cala Portinatx waiting for good weather for the passage across to Mallorca. We had only stopped in that Cala because our friends on Celtic Wave were in there and told us on the radio that it was quite sheltered and really peaceful. The next bit of excitement occured later that same night when the wind increased and a large swell started coming directly into the bay - we spent the rest of the night riding up and down on the swell perilously close to rocks at the head of the bay. Sleep was virtually impossible and we seriously considered leaving the bay in the dark. As it was, the wind dropped a little and we stuck it out until first light. We then headed out to sea to go to Cala San Vicente - further round on the east side of Ibiza and well protected from the northerly swell that had built up. When we looked back after about half an hour, we could see Celtic Wave and four or five other boats from the Cala following along behind us. We anchored in Cala San Vicente at about 0800 - all calm and peaceful and were soon joined by everybody else. Went to bed and slept for the rest of the morning. We spent two nights in San Vicente and were joined in the bay by Ray and Shirley on Charlotte II - they had been in Almerimar during the winter and had last been seen in Cartagena - also our old friends Ian and James on Trooper - last seen in Estepona in 2004, although we had spoken with them on the VHF a couple of days earlier.

Moody 376 - Strummer - anchored in Cala Tarida, Ibiza.On 19th May we set off for Andratx in Mallorca - sea was smooth and a light breeze on the beam - used the Cruising Chute in anger for the first time. Once again we were in company with Celtic Wave and managed to get a few good sailing photos. Andratx proved to be a really good anchorage - a small town at the head of a large bay with plenty of restaurants and bars and a good supermarket (important for us liveaboards). Stig and Alex on Celtic Wave were planning to head along the south of Mallorca then on to Menorca, so we would probably not see them again for some time - good excuse to go out for a meal - also had been saving money on marinas by anchoring, so there were some funds available aswell!

Our friends Fran and Rich were due to be visiting us for a few days at the end of May, so we now had to find somewhere suitable to stay - Palma would be great but we had heard that the marinas there were very expensive (140 Euros per night). As luck would have it, Ian and James on Trooper were going to Palma and promised to phone with information on prices - they stayed one night in Pier 46 marina in Palma and it cost them 82 Euros! We decided to head up the north west coast of the island to Soller - another anchorage that might be a good place for visitors. Soller was another good anchorage - a few shops bars and restaurants around the sheltered bay and a tram running to the larger town of Soller a couple of miles inland - really quite a nice place. We spent four nights in Soller and on the second day went on the Victorian electric train across the island to Palma. In Palma we did a bit of investigation and found that we could get into the Real Club Nautico marina for a few days at 38 Euros a night - not too bad, so we booked a berth for six nights - at least we would have access to showers for our visitors - and enough bars and restaurants in Palma (even for Fran and Rich!).

We now made our way back round the coast to Palma, stopping in Andratx for a night and Las Illetas - a small anchorage a couple of miles outside Palma. Woke up in Las Illetas preparing to go into Palma when I (Nige that is) started feeling decidedly unwell - did not want to stray too far from the toilet (if you know what I mean!). Anyway, we made it into the marina - our first night not anchoring for 20 days - had a quiet day and managed a short walk around Palma. Next day, Fran and Rich were due to arrive about 1600 and I woke up early feeling really unwell now - bad stomach cramps - stayed in bed all day, did not eat anything and only drinking water. Al spent the day cleaning and generally getting ready for our visitors. Fran and Rich arrived as planned, and after a quick chat, I was back in bed. Fran Rich and Al left me there and went out for a few beers and some food (great mates!) - I must have been really ill. Next day, I was not feeling too bad, so we went out around Palma, had lunch in a bar and then out in the evening for an Italian - I had pasta to be kind to my stomach and a few beers for medicinal purposes! The following day we went out in the car for a drive through the mountains, stopping for lunch in Deya and then on to Soller where we had an ice cream - Big Mistake! I had stomach cramp all the way back to Palma and then had to run for the toilets. Decided that I needed to see a doctor, so we ended up in the accident and emergency department of the Son Dureta Hospital in Palma - great treatment - we were out within three hours and in that time I had had a thorough examination (a bit too thorough for my liking!), an x-ray, a blood test and a paracetamol because I had a slight temperature. All the results were analysed and I was diagnosed as having gastro enteritis - told to to be carefull what I ate for the next few days and it should clear up. That was a great relief, so we met Fran and Rich in town where I had a grilled fish (very healthy), and a few more medicinal beers (not so healthy, but obviously feeling better already). Had to take it easy the next day, but managed another night out in few small bars and a great restaurant for Fran and Rich's last night in Palma. We stayed on in the marina for a couple more nights after Fran and Rich left as I was still recovering. Tried to have a quiet time, but Bob and Liz on Yanina arrived in the marina - hadn't seen them since Cartagena - and Ian and James on Trooper turned up again so we ended up having another late night drinking on our boat.

On 5th June we left Palma and headed back to Andratx to wait for good weather to head north to Barcelona - Bob and Liz followed a bit later and we had another night on our boat - probably won't see any of our friends from Almerimar for some time as most of them are staying in the Balearics or heading further east towards Sardinia .

Parc Guell, Barcelona.On 6th June we left Andratx and sailed overnight to Barcelona - quite a good passage, but when we arrived, the Port Vell marina in the centre of Barcelona was full - we ended up in the newer Olimpic Marina a couple of miles away where they said we could stay for one night only. This was bad news as we wanted to stay in Barcelona for a few days at least. That night, Al phoned Port Vell and managed to book the next night there, and we ended up staying there for the next three nights. Barcelona was a really nice place and we did the usual sight seeing things - The Rambla - too touristy - a bit like Oxford Streer in London, The Sagred Familia Cathedral - famous Gaudi architecture and really impressive even though it isn't finished yet! Had a walk around Parc Guell and went to see the Magic Fountains at night - great fountains with lights and music. Also did an oil change and managed to fit in a few bars - think I've recovered from the gastro enteritis now!

After Barcelona we decided to head along the coast and stop at a few places before crossing the Gulf de Lion to Marseille. We tried to get into a marina in Mataro but again they were full - this seems to be a problem along the Costa Brava. We ended up continuing further north along the coast and spent the night hove to off Cabo de San Sebastian. We then found a sheltered anchorage in Cala de Sa Riera where we spent a quiet night - just a couple of beers in a beachfront bar. Next day we sailed further north - we've had quite good winds and plenty of sailing rather than motoring along this coast - and spent the next night anchored in Puerto del La Selva - a small fishing port. The forecast in Selva was for strong north westerlies, so we left the next day to shelter in the Bay of Roses - a large sandy bay with the town of Roses in the north east corner - as it is early season, it is quiet and seems to populated by elderly French holiday makers - we've only found one decent bar! We've been here three night so far - anchor dragged once when the wind direction changed - quite scary as we were edging closer to the rocky quay where the tourist boats dock!, however everything has been fine since we reset the anchor. Hope to get away tomorrow - the forecast is beginning to look better.

Next passage is across the Gulf de Lion - notorious for The Mistral and rough seas - hope to post another update from somewhere in the south of France!

Tuesday July 19th 2005 - Sestri Levante, Nothern Italy

Well we made it across the Gulf de Lion, have done the French Riviera and are now travelling down the Italian coast - another busy month!

Nige in Marseille.We left Spain at lunchtime on Saturday 18th June and, having filled up with fuel, sailed overnight and arrived in Marseille the following morning. We were not sure of the procedures when arriving in a French harbour so just headed towards the marinas. Before we got there we were met by the harbourmaster (Captainiere) in his dinghy. Far from reprimanding us he infact invited us to berth on his pontoon (€25 bargain) rather than going into the more expensive marinas. As it had showers and all other facilities we accepted - and had a ringside spot in one of the busiest sailing harbours in the world! That afternoon was the end of a rally of traditional sailing ships which all berthed opposite us. Then the locals returned from their daysails - for well over an hour they came in three and four deep and headed past us into the marinas.

To celebrate arriving in France we went out for a meal in the old part of town - and spent all the money we had saved on marina fees. Lesson learned - don't go into restaurants where they charge for the fish by weight! Still it was a lovely meal. We spent four nights in Marseille, exploring the city (and its bars - the French seem to celebrate 21st June as the beginning of summer and we of course joined in a at a couple of late night street parties - music and dancing etc!) and catching up on chores. We left accompanied by a fleet of enourmous trimarans which were practicing for a race the following day - needless to say they left us standing - they were incredibly fast!

We made our way along the coast towards the French Riviera, stopping to anchor off two islands along the way.

We spent three nights anchored off Ile Des Embiez, an island developed by M. Paul Ricard both as a commercial venture (there is a marina and a holiday village - very Port Merion like) and as a centre for marine research - Nige thought this was all a bit dubious - he imagined secret experiments on people with two heads !?! We were expecting tranquility but there were a number of corporate parties going on which spoilt this - we were glad we were anchored off. We did however manage to gate crash one of their barbeques and got free sausages!

We spent a further two nights anchored off Ile De Porquerolles - we arrived on Sunday afternoon and as we approached the island everybody else was leaving for home - good news as this left plenty of room for us. There is village on the island and a fort which was captured by the British in 1793 in a rather underhand fashion. The British fleet anchored off the island having fled from Toulon which had been captured by the Republicans. The French commander of the fort had been forgotten by the mainland and was unaware of events there. The British admiral invited him aboard and while he was happily sampling the admirals claret, British troups captured the fort and blew it up. The fleet then sailed off taking the hapless French commander with them!

Nothing this exciting happened while we were there of course, so we carried on to Biae De Canoubiers in the Gulf of St Tropez. This was a lovely spot, 20 minutes walk into St Tropez and with a 5 knot speed limit which kept out the boy racers in their powerboats. We went into town a couple of times and had intended to stay longer but unfortunately a gale was forecast to blow directly into the bay. We went into Marina de Cogolin (at the head of the gulf) which had the best shelter. We thought it would be at most a similar price to St Tropez (€41 - we had checked out on foot) but we were wrong - it was €56!! We stayed two nights while the gale blew - sure enough we saw 40 knots of wind on our instruments and we were sheltered by buildings.

After the gale had passed we returned to our anchorage and went for a Saturday night out in St Tropez - obviously the place to be and our first sight of the big money boats - most of which were British!

People with plenty of money in Monaco.Feeling a bit like the poor relations we moved on on Sunday 3 July towards Cannes. We spent one night anchored off Ile St Marguerite just outside Cannes but decided it was too far to dinghy into town, so on Monday morning we checked into marina 'Port Pierre-Canto' (€29). This was 15 minutes walk along the seafront into Cannes. We spent two nights here and really liked it - not as historic as other places we have been to, but full of life.

Next on our tour of the French Riviera was Nice - we anchored in Rade de Villefranche - a bay between Nice and Monaco - both were short train or bus journeys away. Villefranche is a lovely old town on a steep hill with cobbled streets - some in tunnels under the houses. The location was ideal but unfortunately the bay was open to the swell which rolled in making the boat rock uncomfortably. We put a stern anchor out to hold us in position but were still not happy to leave the boat for any length of time. We decided to move into the next bay which looked better on paper but the swell still rolled in so we checked into the marina at Beaulieu-sur-Mer (€36). This was a lovely marina, friendly and clean with showers operated by movement sensors (very posh!), and also good transport to Nice and Monaco, the town itself however was elegant but dull.

We went into Nice on the bus for a day trip - had a great time explored the old town, climbed Mont De Chateau, walked along the seafront and then went for a meal in the old town - fixed price this time. We missed the last bus back and had to spend an hour in a sleazy railway station bar before catching the train home at 1am.

After a day of rest we went to Monaco on the bus for another day trip. Although the city was spotless, the gardens were well tended and the boats in the marina were huge - we got home in time for tea as the place felt staid and too touristy.

On Tuesday 12th July we went back to Villefranche but it was still rolly so the next morning we left and headed for San Remo, Italy. Nige's parents had been there many years ago so he wanted to see what it was like. There were no anchorages nearby so we went straight into the marina. We were greeted by smiling friendly marineros - we soon found out why - €48 (PLUS €2.50 for a shower - unbelievable!). We stayed one night and washed on the boat. San Remo old town was on a hill with cobbled alleyways under the houses (like Villefranche). We climbed to a floodlit church at the top and found an open air concert being performed by a pianist and 12 piece orchestra. It was being filmed for Italian tv - we stayed for a while and then went searching for a bar.

On Thursday 14th we travelled 20 miles along the coast to Loano, a bustling seaside town with a more reasonably priced marina - €30 plus 50 centimos in the slot for a shower.

The docks in Genoa.The next day - Friday 15th July we carried on to Genoa. This was a big, noisy city with a mosquito infested smelly marina, but we stayed three nights anyway. Partly because we wanted to buy some charts and the chart shop was not open at the weekend but also because we wanted to explore. The city was full of grand buildings and palaces - streets of them - many crumbling through neglect. On monday morning Nige bought the charts and camping Gaz and I went shopping - I bought a chicken from the chicken shop, cheese from the cheese shop...... there were also a couple of small supermarkets but I had a great time with all the Italian housewives shopping the Italian way!

All stocked up we headed off down the coast towards Portofino and other bays in the the 'Gulf of Marconi'. We visited Portofino many years ago with our friends Andy and Judith who were working in Milan at the time so were looking forward to going back there. Unfortunately the swell coming from the strong winds further south in Corsica made Portofino and nearby bays look very uncomfortable so we are now anchored 10 miles further south off Sestri Levante. We may go back on ourselves and visit them in the next few days.

Thursday 25th August 2005 - Isola Di Ponza, Italy

After spending a couple of nights in Sestri Levante we headed back up towards Portofino. When we arrived we decided that it looked too crowded and so went into the next harbour, Santa Margerita Ligure where we anchored close to the jetty used by the tripper boats - this provided a great place to dinghy ashore and also a tap to fill the water carrier. Unfortunately it also acted as the launch pad for the fireworks display that evening - we thought we had a prime spot but the harbour police thought we were too close so we had to move. They were right - it was a fantastic display and we would have been showered in gunpowder and debris! Still the next morning we went back to our spot and stayed there for 6 nights. Santa Margerita is a lovely town - a bigger version of the picture postcard Portofino (which we walked to). There was lots going on including live music at an Irish bar - we were the only audience apart from the families of the musicians.

On Tuesday 26 July we headed south to Rada Di La Spezia where we anchored in a bay off Le Grazie. The whole Rada is protected by a breakwater as a lot of Italian Navy vessels are based there, so the anchorage was well sheltered. Le Grazie itself is just a small village with a few bars, a supermarket, a launderette and coin operated showers - I made use of these facilities which are rarely found when at anchor. We went on a bus trip into La Spezia which had some interesting looking shops and bars, and also walked to Portovenere. This is another 'picture postcard' Italian village with a crowded harbour - the week before Bill Gates' sidekick Paul Allen was there - his 'ship' took up the whole anchorage (there was a photo in the Italian papers).

Fishing nets on the Arno River.On Sunday 1 August we set off towards Pisa into the River Arno to meet up with Bob and Liz on Yanina. It was Bob's birthday and they had some visitors - Midge and Lawrence - who were to stay with them for three weeks. So that night we had a bit of a party on Yanina. The next day they headed off to Elba - we stayed another night, anchored up the river, and then followed. The river made an interesting change - we saw foxes, herons and deer on the banks. It reminded us of when we had our first river boat on the river Trent.

On Tuesday 3 August we sailed to the island of Elba and anchored in the bay of Portoferraio. On the way we (Nige) broke the drum of the jib furler. Fortunatley there was a sailmaker in the town who dealt with Furlex and ordered the replacement part for us. We also bumped into the previous owner of the business in a chandlers (he is now a live aboard whose boat is in Venezuela), and he arranged a discounted price for us - that was a stroke of luck!. Portoferraio is the main town on the island and is where Napolean was exiled for 6 months - we looked at the outside of his house on one of our three visits to the anchorage.

On Saturday 6 August we sailed round the island to meet up with Yanina for a beach BBQ to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately the disposable BBQ had been at sea too long and so we finished the evening using the grill back on Strummer. The next night we stayed in another bay on the south of Elba before returning to Portoferraio to shelter from the strong southerly winds forecast and to wait for our spare part. As it turned out we had a couple of really windy days with very strong gusts and boats were dragging their anchors all over the place. We managed to anchor securely in a good spot with only one boat infront of us - a dive boat - they anchor all the time so will have good ground tackle and won't drag - wrong! In the middle of the night I woke to see it drifting past us towards the pack of anchored boats. As there was nobody aboard I called the harbourmaster and gave our position and the nature of the problem. I got no reply so blasted our fog horn 5 times to alert other boats and hoped for the best. The harbourmasters however did arrive, they secured the boat and contacted the owners who came out and re-anchored.

On Saturday 13 August we left Elba (on our second attempt - we had sailed round to Porto Azzuro spent a noisy and windy night there before returning to Portoferriao and repeating the trip a day later). We sailed to Isola Giglio and spent the night in a rolly anchorage. As we were awake already we set off again at first light back to the mainland. We spent a more peaceful night at anchor outside Santa Marinella - we only realised just how sheltered this anchorage was when we left the next morning and encountered a huge swell. As the wind was not on the nose we just put out some jib which steadied the boat and carried on - it was almost like being in the Atlantic again.

At the Colisseaum in Rome.We arrived at Ostia, near Rome on Monday 15th August, and popped into the marina on the crest of a huge swell - just like a cork out of a bottle! We only had a sketch plan of the marina as it had been built since our pilot book was published, but we saw large power boats coming out from it so thought the entrance would be big enough for us. Fortunately it was. It was a nice marina, only €1 fare into Rome, but Ostia itself was rough. We booked in for a week (€280) and I texted Fiona - unfortunately she had a meeting on Friday so she made a flying visit. She arrived on Saturday afternoon and left on Monday afternoon having travelled from Bradford via London and Amsterdam. We spent her day in Rome seeing the sights (wasting money on the tourist bus) - she said lunch was the most expensive pizza she had ever eaten.

On Tuesday 23rd August we left Ostia all clean (boat and crew) and full of water, fuel and provisions. We were planning to anchor off Anzio but there was still swell from the gales in Corsica and Sardinia and when our depth guage got to 0.5m in the entrance we changed our minds and carried on to Nettuno where we booked into the marina. On the VHF we were quoted €50 but in the office they tried to charge me €65 - I only had a €50 note and pleaded that my Captain would be very angry if I paid more - so they charged the €50. Nice marina, lovely old town but not at €65 a night.

So yesterday we sailed to Isola di Ponza where we are now anchored in a bay north of the town. The town harbour itself was manic when we arrived with ferries, boats and dingies buzzing around all over the place. This bay is less manic - even peaceful except between 5pm and 7pm when the Italians pop over from the mainland in their powerboats and the beach disco blasts out music.

We plan to leave here tomorrow afternoon and sail overnight to Torre De Greco - a marina near Naples - where we can leave the boat safely for the day to visit Pompeii.

Friday 30th September 2005 - Malta

Well we are now in Malta - where we will be spending the winter.

Our visit to Naples and Pompeii did not quite go as planned. We sailed overnight from Ponza to Torre Del Greco in The Bay of Naples but when we arrived we found that it was just a small, grotty harbour and visitors berths were non-existant. Consequently we carried on across the bay to Sorrento but these harbours were also small and crowded - so we carried on past Capri (which was like a powerboat motorway - this being the last Saturday in August) - again, we carried on along the Amalfi coast and eventually anchored outside Salerno after 24 hours at sea. Not a good day!

Al in Pompeii.The following morning we headed into Salerno and moored bows to the 'transito' berths where we stayed 4 nights for free. Nige went in search of camping Gaz as we were running low but couldn't find any - everywhere had run out as the holiday season was coming to a close - so we ate out. We visited Pompeii which was fascinating even for us 'rubble cynics' - particularly due to its size - a whole city of streets with pavements and full height buildings. The journey there took a little longer than expected - 2 hours on a local bus - but the train back took just 20 minutes.

On 1 September we filled up with fuel and sailed to a quiet anchorage off Punto Palinuro. The next morning we went looking for Camping Gaz in the campsite ashore but again found none so sailed on to Scario. This was a lovely little town but the Camping Gaz story was the same so we had to eat out again to save what gas was left for tea and coffee.

We left Scario late the next day and sailed past Stromboli at night. This is an active volcano that has mini erruptions every 20 minutes or so - very exciting but too small to make a good photo. The next morning we anchored in a bay off the nearby island of Vulcano. This island has hot springs where lots of strange people were covering themselves in the volcanic mud and inhaling the sulphur vapours - much better photo opportunities.

After a smelly night amidst the sulphur fumes we headed towards Sicily and the Messina Straits. This narrow channel between Sicily and the toe of Italy is renowned for its strong tides, eddies and whirlpools (known as "bastardi's" in Italian!) which together with the ferries contantly crossing make for an exciting passage. Having studied the tide tables we approached at the best time, and were passed by Kiah, a boat which had also spent the winter in Almermar and left there a few days after us.

Having successfully negotiated the Straits we went into Reggio Calabria. After an altrication with a local who was waiting to go into the only available 'transito' space we spent a free night on the fuel berth, and a local taxi driver called Saverio got us a bottle of Camping Gaz - he arrived with a photocopy of an article featuring himself written by Rod Heikell (who writes the pilot books we use).

The following morning we had an early start as we were kicked off the fuel berth at 0700, and sailed south to Naxos Giardini, in the shadow of Etna, where we found Kiah at anchor. We were intending to visit the village of Taormina, which is 250m above sea level, but a violent thunder storm with winds of over 40 knots put paid to this idea that day, and as dark clouds came over the following day we decided we should stay with the boat. We then moved on and spent a couple of nights anchored in Brucoli Bay before sailing down to Syracuse on 10 September.

Syracuse was a great find - we anchored in the bay west of the the old town with just a handful of other yachts. The town itself was beautiful and there were lots of lively bars and restaurants which we visited. On the outskirts of the town is a greek theatre (one of the largest of the ancient world apparently) which we also visited. Kiah arrived a day after us and we decided to sail together overnight to Malta.

On Tuesday 13 September at 6pm we set off. All was fine as we sailed down the past the bottom of Sicily, but then the lumpy sea started. We had expected this as the sea level between Sicily and Malta is relatively shallow, but it still made for an uncomfortable night. We arrived in Malta, our home for the winter, tired and relieved at 10am the next morning.

Valetta, Malta.At present we are a in guest berth, waiting for the winter berths to become available when the locals get their boats lifted out - hopefully in the next week or so (the price for the 7 month winter contract here in Msida Marina is 735 including water and electricity - cheaper even than Almerimar). Bob and Liz on Yanina have arrived and are having their boat lifted out on Monday for antifouling etc.- they have still to decide whether to stay here or carry on to Tunisia - so we have had a couple of parties just incase they leave.

So that's it - the end of our cruising for 2005. 1690 nautical miles travelled around 4 countries, 54 nights spent in marinas and 95 nights at anchor or at sea.

We have loads of projects planned for the winter so we will be busy - our Wind Vane steering system should be delivered in mid-October and fitting that will be interesting. We are also planning to fit Radar, and an arch on the stern with solar panels and a wind generator. We are investigating upgrading the fridge (need to keep the beer cold!), and there is also the engine to service and anti-fouling to be done, plus we are heading back to the UK for a couple of weeks over Christmas. Phew what a hectic life we lead!