Crossing the Tyrrhenian
Day 1 (2022-04-11)
The day started at first light, our night had been absolutely terrible with insane pitch rolling caused by the swell rounding the peninsula that was giving us protection from the strong forecasted winds.
Milazzo anchorage had proved a great choice in terms of protection of strong westerlies, we had barely felt any of it but a disaster when it came to swell and rolling over the night.
With the first light we quickly upped anchor and motored towards a small breakwater nearby to seek some protection while we hoisted the dinghy on to the foredeck for our passage (we had been out to dinner and it was too rolly to hoist it the night before) With that task done we quickly tried to gain distance from the shallowest waters of the Milazzo peninsula, while at the same time negotiating the high speed ferries and the swell they generate when approaching port.
We hoisted the mainsail. Shortly after we opened the Jib and we were enjoying a nice polite sail towards the Aeolian islands.
The view behind and forward of us was stunning.
On the back we could still see Mount Etna with its snow and in front of us Stromboli and the Volcano islands. The sight of the three active volcanos was somehow peculiar.
Nothing could have foresee what was about to happen.
Four hours into our passage and as we were approaching Volcano Island, we heard a loud bang.
The boom jumped further to port side with a slam and stayed in that position. The German Mainsheet system looked weird but the sheet was not broken, it was still tensioned.
A quick run to the foredeck and we immediately identified what happened. One of the bolts that constitute the gooseneck assembly and that is used to mount the blocks used for the German Mainsheet system had come undone, the nut was gone and the block on the port side had fallen on the deck.
Stress levels went through the roof, it felt like my heart was in my throat, I was shaking all over but my mind was very clear and we knew exactly what to do.
Without much need of discussion John ran to the helm to start the engine and turn the boat to the wind while I dealt with the sails. We quickly dropped the mainsail and furled the headsail.
We needed to act quickly and efficiently, at that moment the bolt itself was still in place although the boom had slipped back a bit. We needed to put an emergency nut to prevent the entire thing from coming down.
While John installed an emergency line to prevent the boom from swinging I quickly found a nut the correct size that unfortunately was not in such good condition but good enough to hold everything in place. John stayed at the mast base making sure the nut didn’t came undone while I motored directly to the anchorage at Volcano Island only 10 minutes away.
Luckily we are still in the off season and there was only two other sailboats there. This anchorage is very small at low depths and the last time we were here we had to anchor in 20 meters deep and were quite exposed to the prevailing swell. Today we would be able to squeeze in the shallow waters and find some protection of the swell while we accessed what to do to fix the situation.
With the anchor down we carefully inspected the assembly, the German Mainsheet parts showed no signs of damage, the goose neck bolt seemed ok only missing the nut, but the boom was misaligned as we had already identified previously.
I went hunt for another nut while John further inspected the situation.
We used the outhaul line to pull the boom into the right position by cranking it hard. With a soft mallet we tapped both the bolt and the shim back into the correct position and alignment before installing a new nut.
Things seem to be back to reasonable normality, except my heart that was still running at a million miles an hour.
We brew a pot of tea to relax and put Ella swimming from the back of the boat. In less than one hour we upped anchor and carried on with our journey, with intentions of stopping in Salina Island for the night.
We motored through Lipari and Volcano, no wind to be felt but some swell around us.
Dolphins in the distance jumping and doing backflips, an absolutely stunning view.
We tried to anchor in Salina, at Rinela anchorage but the anchorage was just too small for us and had many mooring blocks layer at the bottom so we tried the outer anchorage. Also not brilliant, with plenty of rocks to cause concern and the certainty that swell would annoy us during the night.
We upped anchor and decided to keep going at slow pace towards Sardinia two days sail away.
With such fluky forecast we knew it was going to be a slug anywhere we decided to go so might as well just keep moving towards our goal as best as we could.
The afternoon would gift us with many views of dolphins in the distance and up close, and the rare sight of a sunfish. Something we have only seen once before.
We were able to sail into the evening with the wind on 70 to 100 degrees and we were able to average 4.5 knots. The night forecast promised winds up to 14 knots for a reasonable amount of time but in reality we got maybe one hour or so of gusts up to 15 knots before the wind died off completely.
More motoring, we were surrounded by all sorts of vessels from cargo to fishing and sailing, our bobbing without wind must have been driving everyone nuts as at a speed of 2 knots over ground we were not keeping any steady heading. It was actually safer to just motor through the night.
It was freezing cold. I had two pairs of thermals pants plus the Gill overhauls, two thermals tops and two warm jackets plus the Gill jacket, paired with a fleece balaclava, a neck warmer, ski gloves and snow boots. Covered with a sleeping bag and a knit blanket and I was still cold.
Where was the warmth we had through the day?
Day 2 (2022-04-12)
The winds that should have come through the morning never came, it was at best gusting 7-8 knots dead downwind, unsailable for us to make any significant progress.
The day turned out totally uneventful, sails in, sails out, jibe starboard, jibe port all in attempt to sail the stubborn downwind light breeze.
Oh we want a whisker pole so much to help hold out the Jib….
Motorsail seemed to be the only solution despite many attempts to sail.
That or go to Ponza Island (north instead of northwest as our intent) at the speed of the turtle…, that didn’t constitute much of an option, the forecast for the following days was similar to today so chances were we would have a very slow progress towards our destination.
The Schengen tick tack.
At least it was sunny and warm.
A boring day until one to two hours before sunset when a friendly pod of dolphins spotted us in the distance.
All of sudden it felt that we had screamed: "dolphins!", they had screamed: "boat!", and the race between them to see who would reach us first was pretty spectacular, it was a large pod some 20 dolphins or so.
They were coming super fast with low but long jumps out of the water and in no time they were at our bow having great fun racing in our wake. There were so many, some clearly big adults, others not as big and two little ones.
They would stay with us for hours, way past sunset and into the night.
We took turns at the bow seat enjoying the sunset with our boisterous friends and when we returned to the cockpit the little rascals started jumping by our stern and next to the cockpit as if demanding our attention.
It was such a moving moment for us making the day all worth while.
It was time for us to settle into the night and our on and off watch schedule.
Thankfully the night wasn’t as cold as the previous one.
Day 3 (2022-04-13)
Again the forecast didn’t come through.
Another slug of a day with light winds and big swells of 2 metres from the weather system south of us.
We had a little stowaway that stayed with us for hours resting after being blown well north of his home.
A fluffy sparrow this time.
In the distance we could see Sardinia taking shape.
Hours later we could see it’s green colour showing through the haze, but it would take us most of the day to arrive our stunning anchorage.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.