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Stevie P sails to the Americas
7th Sep 2009 - 16th Sep 2009
Here, there be beasties (small, flying, bloodthirsty ones)

For those that are interested, Vittoria is a 12m (40ft) long-keeled ketch. This makes it a very solid and stable yacht, very suitable for cruising (as opposed to racing). Roger, who has owned her for 20 years, has her well kitted out - we have GPS, an electronic plotter, a shower than is better than the one at home, wind steering (detects changes in the wind and changes course appropriately) and even an autopilot!

Katakolon, where we joined Vittoria just over a week ago now, is the closest port to Olympia (which I'm sure I don't need to tell you is the site of the original Olympic Games). Therefore, the small port exists solely as a disembarcation point for passing cruise ships to allow their wealthy tourists to board coaches up to the site. We opted not to visit, but to stay in the village and sample the tacky souvenir shops and authentic Greek cuisine.

The following morning, we made the short passage to Zakinthos, where we anchored in a bay to the south of the island, and were introduced to Roger's culinary skills.

Roger is a pretty relaxed skipper - he's easy going and good humoured, enjoys his food, beer and wine, including (and perhaps especially) during passages, which is pretty much all you could ask for. As a bonus, he won't let anyone else cook. Margaret has similarly given herself the role of washing-up, so I feel very priveleged as I'm waited on hand and foot.

After breakfast, we set across the Ionian, heading for Italy. After 30 hours of pretty rough sea conditions and wind on the nose, we arrived in Crotone, situated on the ball of Italy's foot - the bunion of Italy, if you like. When we arrive in a new port, I take the first opportunity to disembark to explore. I love aimlessly wandering around these places, taking in the vibes of each. I have become particularly good at finding free WiFi hotspots - a skill that should come in useful for my future travels.

Although the town was a bit run down, it was a pleasant fishing port and I had an excellent seafood risotto in a local restaurant. In the morning, I awoke covered from head to toe with 30-odd mosquito bites. The little bastard had left the rest of the crew unharmed, although Roger did report that he splatted a rather fat and satisfied mozzie on his watch during the night.

From Crotone, we headed south west towards Riposto, a seaside town on the East coast of Sicily, ominously overlooked by Mount Etna. During the passage, we were joined by a school of dolphins (footage to be online shortly). After the 24hr passage, we arrived in Riposto mid-afternoon. I found it to be a charming and genuine Sicilian port, with a frienly population catering for a growing tourist population. The newly constructed marina was dominated by an enourmous yacht (name escapes me now) who's well-dressed crew seemed to be waiting for the fabulously wealthy owner. However, as the sun went down, we were slightly taken aback as a minibus full of bikini models arrived. I half expected Burlusconi himself to turn up next for one of his infamous parties, but alas, he didn't. We never found out exactly what was going on, whether it was a regular occurrence, or whether we were invited to the party. Probably not.

The yacht was gone in the morning. That afternoon, after getting provisions for our next passage, we set sail for another overnight passage to Malta. We operate a two hour watch rotation, so 2hrs on, 6hrs off, and the two hours you're on watch pass by very quickly, making it pretty easy sailing. Generally, I have the 20:00-22:00, 04:00-06:00 and 12:00-14:00 wathces. My favourite is actually the 4am watch, where you're alone on deck. I plug in my iPod, set the sails, gaze at the stars, and avoid any big ships that are in the way.

The capital of Malta, Valetta is a very pretty old city, with grand architecture which suggests an affluent past, and it's important role during the two world wars is well evident. Today though, the island is very densely populated and reportedly very poor. However, we had luxury treatment, as a future crew member had booked us in to his hotel's private marina. We were allowed to use the hotel facilities, including the pool, and even our rubbish was taken away for us by house-keeping. I would like to re-visit Malta at some point as there is a great deal to explore which our schedule did not allow.

Again, an overnight passage has now taken us to Lampedusa, a small Italian island between Malta and North Africa. It can only be reached by ferry and a light plane service from Italy, and it seems to be a place where Italians tend to go for a holiday. Although there is a resident population of only 4,000, there is a large, vibrant town which obviously caters for an influx in holiday-makers, from where I am writing.

This afternoon we make our final passage on this trip, to Port el Kantoui, on the East Coast of Tunisia. This will be my first experience of North Africa, and will conclude the first leg of my travels.

Next: A storm is brewing
Previous: The tale of the skipper, the cabin boy, and the prostitute

Diary Photos

Mediterranean Sunset

Vittoria in Crotone harbour

Riposto's beach

Lampedusa's vibrant main street

Lampedusa Harbour

Diary Movies


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