With our fuel tank full once again and after a good night's rest on anchor we left the Italian island of Lipari at 6.30am on Friday 14th September heading east south east towards the Straits of Messina. I'd read many forum posts about the Straits of Messina and most of them had mentioned strong currents and very busy shipping lanes, so I was feeling a little anxious about what we'd encounter and I was happy that we were navigating through during daylight hours.
The straits has a traffic separation scheme and large vessels heading south must travel down the east coast of Sicily and vessels heading north must travel up the coast of mainland Italy. A B Sea is not a large vessel so we were not obliged to be in the actual shipping lanes with the big boys. Our plan was to cut straight across the shipping lanes at the shorter northern point and then hug the coast of Italy just outside the north bound shipping lane. This plan actually worked and we got to the straits just as two big ships began their passage south which allowed us to cut straight across just behind them.
The traffic was not bad at all, we encountered maybe a dozen cargo ships and ferries and everyone played by the rules which made for a relaxed passage. The only current we encountered was going our way, so at one point we managed to get A B Sea moving at 10.5 knots. Sadly it only lasted for 5 minutes and we were back down to our usual engine speed of 7.5 knots for the rest of the way through.
Slight change of plan
Initially we had planned to anchor overnight at Leuca on the tip of the heel of Italy before refuelling and hopping over to Corfu the following day. But after rounding the south of Italy we decided to change our heading and aimed for Corfu. This would only add an extra 8 hours to our trip and would save us a whole day overall. We did some fuel calculations and it looked like we could make it in one hop. We miscalculated slightly and we were just 12 nautical miles from Gouvia in Corfu at 10.40pm on Saturday night when we literally ran out of fuel. Luckily there was no wind or waves and we were a good few miles off the coast so we had plenty of time to unstrap our two 20 litre spare fuel cans and empty their contents into the main fuel tank. Fifteen minutes later, after bleeding air from the fuel lines, we fired up A B Sea's engine and completed the last few miles of our biggest hop of 308.5 nautical miles.
Don't go there at night
I have said in previous blogs that entering an unknown anchorage in the dark is not a good idea, but Mike had sailed into Gouvia several times and knew the channel and the anchoring spot, so all we had to do was take it slowly with all eyes on the lookout for other vessels at anchor. It was not too difficult to follow the channel and we happily dropped our anchor at 1.15am on Sunday 16th September and promptly went to bed.
Waking early Sunday morning we motored A B Sea over to the fuel dock to refill our spare fuels cans and the main fuel tank with a total of 207.6 litres. Then after re-anchoring we launched the dinghy and headed into Gouvia to check in and purchase a Greek DEKPA which is the paperwork boats must have to sail around Greek waters. It cost 50 Euros plus 15 Euros in admin fees. Then it was off to treat ourselves to a full English breakfast at a local bar and buy more fresh provisions at the supermarket.
One of the reasons we went to Corfu was so that Mike could meet up with a couple on another yacht as he is going to help them sail to Turkey for the winter . They are currently making their way south to meet up with us.
Monday was partly a rest day as we planned to leave Corfu at 5.00pm for our final hop down south to Kefalonia, a small hop by comparison of just 15 hours and after an uneventful overnight trip we motored into the port town of Argostoli in Kefalonia at 8.00am on Tuesday 18th September, exactly 14 days to the hour after leaving Spain.
In between our rest days we travelled a total of 1,339 nautical miles over 191 hours. Our shortest hop was 15 hours and our longest was 43 hours. We refilled with 794.8 litres of fuel and averaged 4 litres per hour.
Marina Salinas, Spain to Palma Nova, Mallorca = 26.5 hours
Palma Nova, Mallorca to Mahon, Menorca = 19.5 hours
Mahon, Menorca to Porto Rotondo, Sardinia = 42 hours
Porto Rotondo, Sardinia to Ponza Island = 22 hours
Ponza Island to Lipari Island = 23 hours
Lipari Island to Gouvia, Corfu = 43 hours
Gouvia, Corfu to Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece = 15 hours
What about that plot twist?
On a passage like that there's a lot of time to talk and make plans. When Aannsha and I started out from Spain we had planned to spend our winter around the Greek islands, but Mike and Elaine have persuaded us to follow them down to Turkey where the sailing conditions will be more favourable to us given our current level of experience. There's also the added bonus that in Turkey we'll have full access to Mike's extensive DIY tool collection, because between us we've made a new and considerably long list of adjustments and additions that we want to make to A B Sea.
We've been in Kefalonia just over a week now and had planned on leaving here on Saturday 29th September, however the weather gods have decided to create big winds that are causing havoc all through the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Seas. As I write this blog we are seeing winds gusting to 40 knots and it's predicted to get worse over the next several days, with one site predicting gusts up to 55 knots.
Luckily just 400 metres (1,314 feet) across from Argostoli town there's an unfinished marina that we decided to move into just before the wind started to get really strong and we've tied every line we have to four bollards on the concrete quay. So for now A B Sea is tied up as tightly as she can be and we've prepped as much as possible. We won't be moving from here until the wind blows itself out, which is predicted to be the 1st or 2nd of October. I hope someone has informed the weather gods of this prediction.