FROM ATHENS TO TRAPANI ON SICILY
On 12th of October 2017, me and Jarda packed all the stuff into his car. Thankfully he has a Mercedes Marco Polo where we could fit all the purchased equipment for the boat.
The car was loaded up to the roof and left in the morning. The journey was quite a long, more then 2000km thru Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.
Our three friends Ondrej, Miki and Mirek were flying on Friday 13th directly from Prague to Athens.
My step father Dejan will join us on Monday 16th and friend Jakub, who will be in charge of camera will arrive on Tuesday 17th.
Journey by this car was fine. The car is very comfortable, traffic was not bad on Thursday and we went on schedule.
At 8pm we arrived to Serbian borders, whis is not in the EU, where we were controlled by customs officer who wanted us to go on the side of the road where they checked the car. Of course we had quite plenty of new stuff for the boat, so had to declare it.
I was asked for all the invoices, which I did not have with me and for the 40% deposit of the total value.
Invoices I found in my mail box, so I was able to resend them to the officers, but the value of all the stuff was about 10K EUR. Of course I did not have enough cash with me. Finally we agreed to give them only 1K EUR which will be there in the safe. The necessary step is to get a stamp on the other side of Serbia to prove, that we did not sold the stuff somewhere and we are moving it further to EU countries. They will give us back the cash if we will come back to this border in three weeks. Thankfully Jarda has to move the car back to Prague, so we did not have problem with this offer.
It is evident that Serbia is not in EU. Judging it just from highway, but there is clear difference between roads in EU and outside.
We decided to drive thru the country to see if there will be a problem on the other side of the boarders. We were lucky that some officer let us to go in front of the long queue of trucks which could take more then 4 hours.
It was 1am so we could not expect some pleasant approach and we did not see it, but on the other side the officers did not even check the car, gave us the stamp and let us go further to Macedonia.
Friday 13th of October
We were driving until 4am and went for 2 hours to sleep. Both could not sleep well rolled in car seat, so we decided to continue. Gas stations in Macedonia are not very often and when you find some, they do not have nice coffee.
Nice breakfast has to wait until Greece and it did. At 9 am we arrived to nicely equipped Shell station, did some morning hygiene, bought a sandwich and great coffee.
With these feelings we sit into the car and start the engine. In that moment some Greek guy who was selling fruits at the parking spot, runs toward to us and points on the road.
The oil from the car was leaking. Oh mine god, we are 450 km from the distance, it is friday, hopefully we will not end up here over the weekend.
We were lucky that the Shell station was really nontraditionally equipped, so we went immediately on the ramp where we could state, that the oil tank is ok. The service guy call some friend from closes village who came to pick us up. He had currently free spot in his car service, lift up the car and realised, that Mercedes official service in Prague did simple but major mistake.
Jarda went for oil change before the trip and guys in the official service did not close properly the oil pouring cover.
The oil was leaking from Prague till Thesaloniki, which is more then 1500km.
The signal of the oil was not blinking yet but the bottom of the car was completely oily.
The service guy fixed everything, cleaned the whole bottom and we were able to continue after 3 hours further.
At 5mp on Friday we arrived to the Marina Kalamaki in Athens where our Liberty was chartered. Right at the same time our three friends came from the airport, so no one did not have to wait for anybody 😃
I immediately jumped to check the boat to write down the list of necessary things which we will repair during next 4 days before we will sail out from Athens.
Saturday 14th of October
The amount of small things I found out is so large that I do not want to list it down. On the other side I was feeling guilty for guys who were having vacation and I kept them 4 days in the marina on one spot.
So I entertained them by work 😃
There is quite nice beach right next to Kalamaki, so one day they could spend there.
Monday 16th of October
All the major installations started. 4 groups of people were working on different things on the boat. I was stressed that we will not make it, but with a luck we did it.
Tuesday 17th of October
Other two guys came as planned so we were able to leave from Athens at 8pm towards to Corinth canal. This was a first time when we tried the radar. It was immediately useful, because there is boat traffic zone, where all the big ships are going.
We went directly to the Corinth which is about 29nm far from Kalamaki.
Arrived there after 1am, tried to stay on the main pier where boats are before the passage thru the canal. We could go thru the canal immediately or in the morning. We decided to go in the morning to see the canal during the day. We stayed on the anchor right next to the canal entrance.
Wednesday 18th of October
At 8am we had cup of coffee and went immediately to the pier. The fee for 41 ft boat was around 130 EUR.
At 9:15 we could leave the pier and went thru the canal.
Jakub launched his DJI drone and did few nice shots. He was lucky, because there is no-fly zone where the drone does not fly to. Thankfully he was so flexible to bring back the drone to the boat, so we saved him. There is no possibility to reverse or stay, because the boats of officers are following you.
After we passed the canal we were drifting and having great breakfast done by Ondra. Have to say, that if this group of 7 guys would not have Ondra on board, we would die. He is such a great cook. His time will come.
We had in front of us 45nm to next stop in the city Navpaktos.
Weather was great, sunny, about 7kn back wind, so we tried the genaker for first time.
Because it was direct back wind, we changed the setup of the genaker to spinaker. For four hours the sail was holding the direction without any touch.
It was like a miracle 😃
We were able to enjoy the weather and also first dolphins followed by Pilot Whale.
This was my first time when I saw whale. It is incredible moment to watch such a big animal.
After 1am we were in front of city Navpaktos, stayed on the anchor.
Thursday 19th of October
Woke up quite early, started the engine and went into the little harbour where are 4-5 berths for boats up to 42ft. It is very romantic place, staying behind the walls.
Guys went immediately to the cafeteria next door, charging the batteries and having proper coffee.
We bought one sea-bass and left after 1pm towards to Zakynthos. The journey was again about 45nm. So we knew that the estimated arrival will be around 4am. Ondrej did great ceviche from the fish. That is his speciality. I had ceviche few times in Latin America, but this one from Ondrej is the best. Because there was low wind, we had to go on the engine.
At 11pm I decided to change the plan. We went to the city Killini. Not a nice place to go there for vacation, but for us it was ok.
Friday 20th of October
We got the diesel, bread and some other provisioning. Midday time we left towards to Zakynthos as planned from the beginning. During the sailing, I went thru the Greek pilot book in more detail and realised that there is not port outhority where you can check out from Greece. Therefore we changed our direction to city Argostoli on Kefalonia Island. Our last stop in Greece.
We arrived just before sunset at the city promenade. There were only two other boats.
We were looking for some nice dinner, so everybody took a shower, perfume and went into the streets. Tripadvisor suggested top restaurant quite close to the place were we were, but there was no capacity. That was the opportunity for everybody to have their opinion. We were going from restaurant to restaurant for about 45 min and none of the place was ideal for everybody.
Of course we ended up in the most touristic restaurant at the main square.
The food was not bad, but we could get much better.
After dinner all of us went to the boat to have as much sleeping as possible. Except Miki and Ondrej. These two went for one shot, but evidently there were few more so they were not able to manage in the morning what they were supposed to.
Saturday 21st fo October
First of all I went to the port office to check out from Greece. I would not have to, because we are in Schengen, but the boat is under Greek flag still and the only papers I had is just copy of the boat certificate which is under Kiriacoulis charter company. The boat was in de-registration process from Greek under Czech flag.
So I wanted to have an official stamp, that I can leave with this boat out from Greece.
Of course they did not want to let me go, all the papers were not sufficient for them. They called everywhere they could but no-one was able to give them clear answer. Finally I convinced them that they should call the Kiriacoulis base manager from Athens, that he will explain the situation. It was 8:15 and he was evidently still sleeping, but he picked up the phone and in two sentences he explained the reason why I have only copies.
This was sufficient, I got the stamp on the crew list and we could leave from Greece.
There were other necessary things to manage in the morning. Fill the tank maximally, buy some provisioning for the long passage and some fishing equipment. This was job for Ondrej, but he could not move after his long night. We ended up with some stuff which was bought by guys who were not in charge of kitchen, so half of the things were useless.
I downloaded the weather forecast for next three days. It looked like 1 day calm wind from NW about 15-20kn and then it should turn from SW about 20kn. This was great condition because we could go on side wind directly to Sicily and then tag to go directly to Messina strait.
There was also forecast for Monday afternoon, that there will be 35-40kn wind coming from NW. That is why we were speeding up, because in this type of weather it is not pleasant.
At 10am we left city Argostoli, had nice side wind so we could go on genaker and later on genoa sail. Speed was still around 6kn. The distance is around 250nm to Reggio di Calabria.
We divided into two groups. I was first captain and Jarda was the second one. Each of us had another sparing partner so they controlled each other.
During night sailing I love to listen to audiobooks. This time I listened to the book about Albert Einstein. Great story!
Sunday 22nd of October
Nice calm day, wind about 15kn, speed over 5kn, sunny, a lot of great white wine and fishing. We caught three tuna fish in about 15mins. We had so many food so we had to stop fishing.
This was the moment of the day. Jarda, who bought full equipment was catching for first time and immediately such a success.
During night we could see some boats going across our path. The big boats look always like a Christmas tree on the sea.
Monday 23rd of October
At 6am I am giving the helm to Jarda, got weak signal so I wrote sms to Pavla, that I see Italy already and I go sleep. Sea was still quite calm.
At 7am I was wokken by big waves hitting the boat. Running up to the cockpit and see that situation has changed. The storm which was supposed to come in the afternoon came sooner. I decided to take down the sails and go on engine the shortest direction so we get to the nearest marina.
The problem was, that there are no marinas at the bottom of Italy and the closest one is in Reggio di Calabria, right in the Messina strait.
This was still 30nm to go.
Waves were so high, wind against us, so the engine could not make it faster then 1-2kn. I have 55hp Volvo Penta, which is not the strongest engine, but also not the weakest.
At 4pm we were about 15nm to Reggio di Calabria, but the wind was about 60kn, 5m high wind, water was flying in the air and waves were going over the board.
My diesel sensor was still showing full tank, which definitely was not true, so I had a bit worry about the real level of diesel. It would not be good if our engine would stop.
Wind was blowing from NW and I could not make it against the waves.
Therefore I decided to turn the boat to have the wind in the back and wait until the wind conditions will go down.
This was manageable, but… the dingy at the front was not well roped, so the strong wind made the dinghy stay. Waves coming from back and wind blowing into the dinghy made a speed about 11kn. This is the speed which you cannot achieve with our boat on full sails from the side wind. We did it on dinghy 😃 Within 30 mins we did more then 5nm from the spot where we were from the turning point.
We went few times into spin outs, which made the boat completely lying on the side, water at the top of the cabin.
Everybody was in the saloon and had a life-west, I was also harnessed to the boat.
This was the moment when there was a panic at the bottom and I panicked as well. I was not sure if we will have enough diesel, so when there was a proposal from bottom, that we should call mayday, I confirmed.
Italian coast guard confirmed that they will be in one hour at our spot.
Because we were calling thru channel 16, the mayday was caught by some larger fishing boat as well.
You probably know the rule, when someone gives you help on the sea, he deserves the payment up to the price of the boat.
The fisherman was offering over the radio, that he will tow us, but I had to refuse it.
The coast guard said, that he will navigate us to Reggio di Calabria, but it was still 12nm to go plus strong stream against us. If something will happen, he will take only people on board and boat will have to be sinked.
I was praying to have enough diesel. It was raining, waves over the board but we still decided to pour 22 litres from spare canister into the tank. I was securing the pouring hole by my body so no water will get in.
This was probably old diesel which did not pay off in upcoming days, but at this moment we were happy that we should have enough.
At midnight we arrived into the marina, which is mainly for big boats, waves are going inside and is completely open for wind. We did it, we are on 8 ropes secured, the officers are taking all our passports, boat papers etc.
Thankfully I am able to understand some Italian language and even to say few words, so we understood each other.
The main massage was to come at 8:30 to the port authority. Miki and Jakub immediately left the boat to some close hotel.
Tuesday 24th of October
Of course I was there on time, waiting till 9:15 for the officer to come.
I had to explain what happened, where we were before and if I had some stops somewhere else etc. Thankfully I had the stamp from Greece two days ago, so they believed me that I did not take any refugees which are in this location quite often.
Surprisingly I did not have to pay anything for the coast guard. Expected to pay thru the insurance, but the Italian guys did not want anything.
That made my day. I brought back to him two bottles of wine from Greece as compliment.
When I arrived back to the boat, guys were already eating croissants. Quite surprising, because there are no shops around. The reason was Saverio Chirico, the taxi driver who helps yachtsman visiting Reggio di Calabria.
First of all he showed us the Italian pilot book from Immray, where is a small paragraph about him, so we can trust him. He tried to explain that he is not part of mafia, that he is good guy who takes care.
Well, thanks to him we were able to manage some stuff during Tuesday. The city is really not nice, there is nothing to see, but we were happy that we are safe during the unpleasant weather. He offered me to take me to the nautical shop to buy new starboard green light and few screws but before we have to stop at his place. He opened a garage, gave us bit of his homemade cheese, wine and prosciutto. Of course we could not leave it like that, so we bought 5 balls of cheese and some meet for 130 eur. When we saw the local prices, we realised that he was not cheep at all, he was great sales guy 😃
But why not to help him. We asked him to suggest us some nice local restaurant, which he did, but the food was so bad, that even today I do not want to think about. My grandfather used to live in Roma for 8 years and he always said that everything bellow Roma is almost Africa. He was right, especially with the respect of rules on the streets. Saverio did not have any back mirror, driving from the opposite side into one way streets, stopping at spots where he blocked the traffic. It was really great experience :)
If you do not have to, do not go to Reggio di Calabria.
Miki and Jakub decided to leave us, even it was not planned. They bought fly tickets from Reggio to Roma and then to Prague. So we were missing the camera crew, but nevertheless we got some more space on the boat.
Wednesday 25th of October
In morning the wind went down to 25kn so we decided to leave. Took the full diesel tank, bought some bread and left. The stream in the Messina strait was helping us about 2-3kn, because from 6am till 1pm the stream goes from S and in the afternoon is opposite.
When we turned W after passing Messina strait, we could see Lipari island and especially Stromboli which is active.
Our next destination is 45nm far called Porto Rossa, which is not well visible on the chart, but Ondra found it.
Nice marina, clean, everything is there. The whole bay was done during the development of the village. This is probably location of very wealthy people.
Thursday 26th of October
Left at 4am in the morning, wind was about 3kn so we had to go on engine. We had to go 80nm to Palermo. Right before we took all the fishing rods up, we caught a tuna fish again.
After all day on engine this was the best moment.
Arrived at 5pm to the marina, which is nice, right in the centre, but stinky.
I immediately jumped out from the boat, caught taxi and went 30mins to the nautical shop, where I had ordered the broken head for my Quick windless. This was ordered when I was still in the Athens, because they did not have it available there. So the Quick factory sent it to their distributor to Palermo.
Really nice people in the store, they helped me activate Garmin maps for Italy into my plotter.
Meanwhile guys went to the discover the city. Funny enough that they found bar called Liberty. At one moment it looked like we will get a discount because I had my t-shirt with a logo of Liberty. But then the waiter changed his mind 😃
We went thru the city centre, saw really nice buildings, but nothing reconstructed, restaurants were also not representing some local fine cuisine. Nevertheless we wanted some local bar to get an experience. Accidentally we got to some square where the smell of barbecue made us to sit.
Local grapa and corona beer made us to watch the local subculture quite long time.
After few shots we were imagining who is the Don Padrone etc. Local people say that Cosa nostra is not there anymore, but you can still imagine it there 😃
Friday 27th of October
Lazy morning, we enjoyed croissants and coffee on the deck, cleaned the boat and left around 10am from Palermo. I know for sure, that I will come back with my family.
We have in-front of us another 45nm to Trapani where the boat will stay over the winter.
Weather is changing, in the morning we were in swimming suits and in the afternoon we were having sailing jackets. We are getting close to Trapani, it is 6:30pm, in the back we can see black sky and the wind is picking up to 25kn. It is just 2nm from Trapani and our engine stops. We cannot figure out why, it looks like dirty filters. But everything was changed in Athens. Strange.
We have to go on sails to the port. We call port channel n.10, so they know that we have broken engine, but no-one replies. The big ferries are going back and forward. We made it almost to our pier, but had to go on the anchor not in the ideal spot. Right in the middle of the port.
The management of the pier where we paid the berth, listened to us and wend to tow us on stronger dingy outside from the centre of the port.
Here we had time to figure out what happened. Prefilter (water separator) is clean, the diesel filter is clean. When we put the diesel into the filter the engine starts and immediately shuts down. Strange.
We realised, that the tube which goes from the tank to the prefilter is blocked.
So we used the manual inflatable for dinghy to push back from the prefilter side. Thankfully it worked, the dirt went back to the tank, so we could start the engine and go to our berth.
This was great experience, I had to touch and learn about most of the replaceable things on the engine. You do not do it when everything is working fine.
Saturday 28th of October
Busy day is in front of us. Have to take down everything, bimini, sprayhood, sails, clean the deck, oil the teak, clean tanks, and clean the boat inside.
There are few repairs on the list also, just few of them we manage.
The big ones are postponed. To empty the diesel tank, clean it and filling again will be done next time when we are there. Also replacement of the windless head will be done next time.
At 4pm we have to leave to the airport. It is the last direct flight by Ryanair to Prague in the season 2017. I hope they will open this link again in 2018, because then it would be easy to spend weekends on Liberty :)
Video from our journey