We had an interesting few days before setting off on our first proper sail just Adam and I. Feel free to laugh at our mishaps in my last post. Or if you want a more uplifting story then read on!
Everything was finally sorted and we were free to leave the marina that had been our home for several months. Leaving wasn’t so hard, as the thing we loved most about Marina di Ragusa was the people, and most of them had long gone. We were itching to get going. The final thing we needed to do was fill up with fuel and we had called ahead the day before to make sure the marina’s fuel station was open early and would be ready for us. They were happy to confirm, so early Saturday morning we slipped our lines and said goodbye to our little berth that had become so familiar.
We rocked up at the fuel station to be greeted by a member of staff waving his arms and shouting ‘no diesel’. What did he mean no diesel? We’d spoken to them just yesterday and they knew we were coming! But there was no diesel for us so we had to make a choice-go back and wait till Monday or risk it and go. We were pretty sure we had enough to get us to the next fuel station so we called ahead to Pozzallo to make sure they had fuel. They had lots of fuel, and they were open all day. They said to call when we were 10 minutes away. Perfect.
We checked the tank tender, which we weren’t confident was working. It said we had plenty, so we felt good that we could make it a few hours down the coast. There was no wind at all so we settled into motoring along, taking in the views and watching for other boats (dolphins).
About half an hour into our journey the radio started bleeping loudly. It was a mayday call. With no idea how much fuel we had the last thing we wanted to risk was going miles off course to answer a mayday (and let’s be honest, who would you want to see in an emergency-the coastguard or me flapping around?) We waited to hear what the mayday was, as they had sent no co-ordinates. The person on the other end was saying mayday but not providing any other information. Adam returned the call, asking for position and the nature of the emergency.
We had no response, just sporadic calls shouting mayday. It was pretty scary to think someone could be in trouble but we had no way of reaching him. There wasn’t a thing on the horizon. Adam thought he heard our friends from another boat trying to answer the mayday too, but they were meant to be in Tunisia. Had we already started hallucinating!? Eventually Adam called the coastguard, who apparently had heard the mayday but not answered because they didn’t have a position. Finally the coastguard got back to us-the mayday call was all the way over near Malta! Luckily the coastguards there were dealing with it and we could finally relax.
More diesel mishaps
We weren’t out of fuel yet. We were still motoring and we were near Pozzallo. We called ahead as instructed to be told we couldn’t enter the harbour. There was a race going on and the port police would fine us for entering. We explained our fuel situation and were told to call the port police. The first guy we spoke to was very confused-of course you can come in, no problem, he said. Until his mate shouted at him. Then we were told the fuel station wasn’t open. We said we would wait, so they said they were out of fuel. Basically we weren’t getting in, so we had a few options. Try and anchor out there till the race was over (in 40m of water, with 60 m of anchor chain). We quickly decided that wasn’t happening. We could head back to Marina di Ragusa which was now further than Portapalo. We would have to pray we made it to Portapalo and try and get fuel there, perhaps get a taxi into town and fill up the jerry cans.
Just as we were debating the best option the afternoon wind picked up. We started sailing slowly, but there was enough to get the motor off and save that precious fuel. We had an amazing sail, making 6 knots with just the genoa out. Just as we were approaching Portapalo the wind decided to really kick up.
Anchoring in 25 knots
It wasn’t what we had planned for when attempting to anchor on our own for the first time. Especially not with the added unknown of how much fuel we had. If the engine stopped we would be blown onto rocks at the far side, so we tried to get as far from them as possible before we tested our anchoring skills. Luckily it went smoothly. The anchor was set and we could finally relax, sort of.
We still had the problem of not having a clue how much fuel we had. It was impossible to accurately dip our tanks because of the shape of the hole, but we could dip it enough to work out whether we had enough to get us to Syracuse the next day. We worked out there was plenty. We could rest up for the night and not have to worry about our journey the next day. The wind died down just as we were joined by our friends from the marina, Sailing Nomads. They anchored up next to us and we enjoyed watching the choppy water turn to glass and the sun set behind the land.
Off to Syracusa
We set off early the next day for Syracusa, one of Sicily’s most beautiful ancient towns. Adam had spent the night before fitted our autopilot and we were so excited by how well it worked that the journey felt like it took no time at all. We motored a lot of the way as there was no wind and when it finally did pick up, it was in the wrong direction. We attempted a bit of tacking up wind (making no progress at all-what are we doing wrong!?), enjoying the chance to practice some skills and we tried out heaving to which worked well.
Just as we were about to put the sails away we were joined by a pod of dolphins. The water was so clear that we could see them perfectly dancing around the bow of the boat. The best part was that because of the autopilot, Adam and I could both watch them from the bow. We arrived in Syracusa before sunset and anchored behind friends from Marina di Ragusa. It wasn’t long before they had spotted us and joined us for drinks well into the night.
We had fun the next morning trying to tie up to the fuel pontoon. As amateurs we hadn’t spotted the signs of a current that pushed us repeatedly off the dock, and dodging the traffic coming in and out of the busy harbour meant it took us about four attempts to tie on (very badly!) At least the fuel man had a sense of humour and saw the funny side of our disastrous mooring skills. I guess that was helped by the fact we filled up with hundreds of pounds worth of diesel!
On the same day we managed to break the anchor windlass, so we spent a bit of time trying to troubleshoot that with no luck, and we managed to get some more fresh food and get rid of some bin bags before we set off for Greece the next day! If you want to hear about a slightly smoother journey then (plot spoiler) read our next blog post where our passage to Greece is full of ‘smooth sailing’!