Sunday afternoon, we got the last big bags of ice from the Supermarket. They normally split up their bags and sell in small quanity, but saved us one big bag for our journey. We left around 4pm to sail to the South East Port of Corfu city and arrived around 7pm.
Harbor master greeted us, took our 40 Euro’s and gave us the basic information of internet café locations and restaurants. This is a huge Metro city for an Island and seems to be a destination stop for many Italian tourists. By evening, it was packed with tourists and very loud from all the disco/café’s. In the morning, Ken, Charlie and I went off for coffee and to look for a newspaper. Newspaper stand that sold the International Herald Tribune would not open until 11am and we would be gone by then, so no paper today.
We left Corfu City around 10AM and with no wind, motored to Paxoi Island, one of the small Ionian Islands South of Corfu. Monday night stay would at Paxi Club Hotel on Gioes, Paxoi . It was time for a break, a swimming pool, airconditioning and good internet. Charlie stayed on the boat and made friends with some of the younger crowd that were at the harbor on charter boats. One group had over 100 teenagers in a summer camp program, along with their chaperones, had chartered several boats and were all along the quay. It was a fun, loud time and they enjoyed working their English on us.
Tuesday, we had to leave around 6pm, so it ended up being a great break for us. Before we left, Ken found a internet café with strong signal near the boat. We did some tourist shopping and also found ice for sale. We will leave for another 3 day/2 night sail across the Ionian Sea to Siracuse, Sicily.
Our overnights required 4 hours shifts from all of us. One hour watch, 2 hour driving, and one hour watch, then 6 hours off (or so). It worked well as to our delight our autopilot was working again so driving was not so taxing. We ended up motoring both nights due to lack of wind, but got some sailing in during the day. Steve started to make a list of the different floating garbage we saw in the Sea. He claims to see floating cheese, but we think he just needed to eat…We did see one floating white flipflop along the way, water bottles, we think a pillow and various other things unrecognizable. On Wednesday evening before dark we were entertained by a small pod of dolphins that stayed with us about 30 minutes. The would leap out of the water backwards to show their bellys. It was very amusing and we desperately tried to get the best picture of them leaping out of the water.
After dark, and after the moon dropped below the horizon, the stars were at their peak. Not a cloud in the sky and the Milky way was brilliant. You cannot describe how awesome the sky can be when there is no other light to diminish the intensity of the stars alone.
On Thursday morning, we arrived under sail to Siracuse Sicily. There were two harbor marinas one on the inside of the bay and the other outside behind a great jetty. We first went to the inside harbor, but did not get the feeling it was where the Regatta would be held, so we went to the outside. We found a nice berth and in the end, it was truly the best berth to be at. We had a straight shot to the outside and were next to other boats preparing for the Siracuse to Malta Regatta. We would have 2 full days to enjoy Siracuse and prepare for the race. We refueled by hauling the jerrycans to the petro station a few blocks away utilizing a abandoned grocery cart. Ken and Charlie did some boat repair and measurements with Charlie up the mast and all of us worked on cleaning the boat and turning it into a racing boat once again.
Friday, we registered the boat for the regatta at the Yacht Club where the Race director gave us a personal English translation of the Racing instructions. It was all in Italian and he gave us the highlights. At the time of the evening Skippers meeting, they found there were more English speaking sailors from Malta and beyond and provide a translator to recap at the meeting. It all worked out quite well although the prediction for the next days race was extremely light winds. We then were fed appetizers and champagne and wine.
Tomorrow, we would leave for the race without Charlie. His flight back home was scheduled for Sunday morning and there was a good chance we would not get to Malta until afternoon, Sunday. We arranged a flight for Charlie from Siracuse to Malta where he would meet his connecting flight home. As it turned out, his flight to Malta was cancelled due to Mt. Etna and a bit of ash cloud. His parents helped him arrange another flight later to get in Sunday night with a Monday morning departure home. We could have used him on the sail, but you never know how things might be. Charlie was a great crew and we would sail with him anytime. He was so helpful and wonderful with all our visitors this Summer. (and he put up with us!) Thank you Charlie!!!
Saturday, the start of the race was scheduled for 9:55 and we would start with the first class. We actually were in 2 classes due to our different ratings. We had two class flags, one for ORC and one for IRC racers. They all started first so it worked for us. Originally, we tried to get into the cruising class but we have so many high-tech gismo’s on the boat, we did not qualify. Instead we rated the slowest of the racers which would be ok. We would have been rated one of the fastest cruisers if we made it in that class.
The race was delayed about 30 minutes and finally we got our start. It would be about 80 nautical miles to Malta and could, with light wind, take up to 2 days. As it turned out we had great sailing upwind and averaged 6-7kts most of the way. We each took turns driving because this would still be a 18 hour race for us. It was fun to be in the boats and to have winds so easy to sail. We made some great moves and had some interesting “racing” moments where we would pick a boat target and see how long it took to pass them. In the end, we arrived in Malta around 2:30AM, the finish was inside the harbor and once you got inside the wind stopped. It took us almost 30 minutes to get to the finish line only about a quarter mile away from entrance. We heard of other boats that took 2+ hours getting across the finish with the harbors lack of wind. In our 2 classes, we finished 12 out of 12 and 24th out of 29th. We did not fly the spinnaker due to conditions, but some did and finished close to our finish time. If we did fly the spinnaker it would have been the last 20 miles and would not have changed our standing. We were happy with our finish time altogether.
After the finish, we were directed to the Grand Harbor Marina, a new facility in another “creek” of the harbor bay. We finally tied up around 4AM and hit the sheets! We will stay in Malta until Saturday when we launch with the next crew.
Sunday was blazing hot and when we finally got up, we split up and did some exploration. Malta is wonderfully clean and it seems they have worked hard to preserve the history of the island. Everyone is very friendly and this marina is top notch. I will say, that the bathrooms and showers at the marina are nicer than most hotel bathrooms I have seen. But, the Queen has been here so I am sure that set the standard!
Vicki and Steve left Monday around 9AM to get their flight home while Ken and I did some internet work. We have had several shipyard workers come by to offer their expertise. We have asked to have the windlass repaired, the steering rods installed from our previous breakdown, and maybe have some teak work done.