Dates: 07/24/09 – 07/27/09
Distance: 86 nm
Sailed from: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Although sailing in darkness is always a bit mysterious, the overnight passage from Tunisia was more so than usual. As we rounded Cape Bon under sail, we had not one but two close calls with fishing vessels, despite our careful efforts to stay out of their way. It was as if they were aiming for us. One did not even have its fishing gear down, and no matter what we did, our courses continued to converge. We finally turned on the engine to help us maneuver out of the way.
Gusts of hot, dry wind blew off the cliffs of Cape Bon. It felt like someone kept opening an oven door to let the blasts of heat from the Sahara Desert escape to the sea.
We turned the engine off again after getting out of the busy traffic near the Cape and sailed slowly but comfortably in light winds through the remainder of the night. While Lisa was on watch in the early morning hours, she noticed lights of fishing boats in the distance. At that same moment she overheard some strange conversations on the VHF radio. She can’t pinpoint anything specifically, except a strange feeling that something fishy was going on. She didn’t understand why fishing boats seemed so concerned about what they looked like on the AIS (Automatic Identification System). We were in an area where human and drug trafficking are known to occur, not to mention illegal fishing, etc. She was tempted to turn-on the engine to give us some extra speed, but decided to carry on. Eventually the lights and voices on the radio faded into the distance as the volcanic peak of Pantelleria became visible on the horizon. We were happy to put that stretch of water behind us.
We arrived on the island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily, the following morning and found a place on the town quay (for free!). Because we’re in a double-ender, we prefer to moor bow-in so that we can get on an off easier by climbing over the bow sprit. This caused great concern for the skipper of the French charter yacht next to us. He kept waving his hands and telling us to back in. Lisa thought, “You try it!” Our system of laying out an anchor is not glamorous, but it works. Our anchor held us off the dock for the following 3-days during an uncomfortable, heavy surge which put all of the the yachts along the quay in a somewhat dangerous situation. Several “bailed out” and went to the even more uncomfortable anchorage in the outer harbor. Others put back out to sea to ride out the weather there.
We just kept a close eye on things, and during the calm periods, ventured ashore to sample some of the food and wine the island is famous for. Lisa was particularly fond of the ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta and mint. David preferred sampling the sweet, zibbibowines made with grapes grown on the volcanic hillsides and dried in the sun to concentrate their sweetness (In Arabic ‘zib’ means sun-dried).
Here’s a photo gallery of Leg 4 of our cruise through Southern Italy and Sicily: