Chart of our cruise from Sicily to Sardinia
I am always a bit anxious about our first overnight trip of the season and I am not quite sure why. With our array of instruments, including 2 radars, 4 GPS, AIS, night vision and depth finders, it is as safe as cruising during the day. The issue is that you don’t get much sleep. If you are on a 5 or 6 day passage, you get into kind of a rhythm. We normally do 3 hour shifts at the helm from 6 pm until 6 am. After a few days, you develop the ability to fall asleep shortly after your 3 hr shift and wake up to do another 3 hours later with no problem. Doing it for just one night leaves you kind of beat the next day. the 12 to 3 shift and the 3 to 6 shifts are probably the worst because getting up at midnight or 3 am after having only a few hours rest is unnatural.
One of the questions people always ask us is “How do you prevent yourself from falling asleep at the wheel”. Well, it is not easy! Fortunately we installed a device called Watch Commander.
As you can see in the picture, it has a timer switch on it. We normally set it for 20 minutes. Before the twenty minutes expire, you need to push the red reset button or a subtle alarm goes off, loud enough to wake you, but not everyone else on the boat. Should the alarm continue to beep for more than 20 seconds, the LOUD alarm goes off, and that will wake EVERYONE on board. It is a good thing because if the person at the helm cannot shut off the first alarm within 20 seconds, it means that they are not there or incapacitated. Let’s say that during the night the helmsman decided to step outside for some fresh air and somehow fell over the rail and into the sea. If the shift had just started, it could be 3 hours before they were discovered missing, leaving little or no chance of finding them. If the watch commander is used, only 20 minutes would have expired, making the chance of recovery much better. Also, on seabird, we are supposed to wear inflatable vests if going outside at night with a strobe light attached.
When we installed it, I connected it to the circuit breaker on the compass light so that no one could figure out how to turn it off. While on one trip,we had friends aboard who found the device distracting and while on their shift, traced the wire to the compass light circuit breaker and shut it off. Needless to say, when we discovered this, we “spoke to them”, reminding them that while at sea on Seabird, it is not a Democracy and we set the rules.
Having said all of that, a beautiful moonlit night cruise with flat calm seas is a delight. Well, the weather gurus promised but in this case did not deliver. Late in the day, the waves started to build. We were heading directly into it which meant the bow would be pitching up and down, making the trip uncomfortable and eliminating any possibility of sleep! Then, on the radar…….
Storms. All of the red that you see in the above picture of our radar indicate storms. Storms unfortunately can bring much higher winds and lightning. We have been through them many times before but my fondness of them has not grown one bit. On top of that, if the rain is heavy enough, it just about obliterates any radar targets out there, leaving you to fly blind. Fortunately, most of the big boats that could squash me like a grape have an AIS (Automatic Identity System) which will show up on my chart plotter in any weather with position, speed, course and most importantly, CPA (Closest Point of Approach). The small boats, which I could squash, usually don’t have an AIS and I am also worried about them. In this weather, they should not and probably aren’t out here in this.
Interestingly enough, there was not all that much wind. If you had not experienced it before, you might wonder how it could be so rough with so little wind. These are referred to as swells. In New England, where we grew up, swells could be very large, but with long spaces between them, causing little discomfort. In other places, like the Med, the swells can be large, with almost no space between them and no apparent wind pushing them.
The other things we have experienced here in the med that we did not see much of elsewhere were conflicting wave patterns. On this trip, we had big, choppy swells coming from the south/southeast and in addition to that, a good size chop coming from the northeast. This produces these pointy waves that Seabird does not like one bit, nor does the crew! On this trip, the seas were 7 to 12 feet of pointed ugliness.
The night was predictable. Unless you can sleep while being slammed up and down in the bed with all of the noises that accompany that, it would be a long night. On the off shift, all you can do is lay there on your bed with your eyes closed hoping to get a few moments of shuteye before the 3 hour alarm goes off. At midnight, my iPad annoyingly beeped at me. I dragged myself out of bed, splashed some water on my face and went into the engine room to do the 3 hour check. Just a not: VERY few times have I gone into the engine room for that check and found anything amiss. We have a checklist of about 25 items to verify. Odd smells, loose or missing belts, high temperatures, fuel flow problems, leaks. For those few times myself or Carol have found a problem, it has been worth going down there. Good periodic maintenance prevents problems. This time, everything was fine and I went up to the pilot house to take my watch from my tired and bleary eyed wife. In 3 hours time, I would be equally bleary eyed.
My shift went just fine, but the weather never improved. I was not surprised when Carol came up at 3 am slightly less bleary eyed and said that she had not slept much. I did another engine room check and hit the hay for another 3 hours of trying to sleep on the roller coaster.
I have never ceased to be amazed at the ruggedness of these boats. They can be slammed mercilessly for days at a time with hardly a complaint. WE may complain, but we never hear a peep from the boat. We have been through much, much worse for much longer periods on Seabird, so, even though it was uncomfortable, I knew she would get us home, as she did this time.
As the sun rose and we got closer to Sardinia, the weather started to improve. We were tired but happy to see land.
In my previous email, I complained about med mooring. Carol corrected me the other day. I do hate the “slime lines”, but we can get through that. The real problem is our Passarelle, which we use for getting on and off of the boat while med moored. Deploying it and keeping it in place is a full time job in bad weather. It was not really well thought out. Had I given it more thought, I would have heaved the hundred pound thing overboard and gotten one of the attached systems with a hydraulic lift. They are not cheap, but would have made our stay here in the med more enjoyable. I also would have installed a vertical rope windlass, even a hand operated one, to use for hauling in and tightening the slime line one we were in the slip.
Our big beast of a Passarelle. It is welded aluminum and nearly indestructible except that
Carol and I nearly self destructed several times getting it off of the roof and onto the dock.
We landed in Sardinia at a town called Villasimius. It is on the southwest corner of Sardinia and has a beautiful marina, one with a few restaurants, a decent marine store and some nice shops. Once we were tied up, connected to shore power and registered at the office, we made the decision to do our touring later, after a well deserved rest.
Our marina in Villasimius
We spent the next day touring the town of Villasimius. It was about a two mile walk which took us mostly by pretty homes and a few farms. One of the farms we went by had these cute little miniature horses.
Minature horses in Villasimius. Who told the people of Sardinia that bangs are back in style?
The town was a surprise. It was very upscale. You can always tell by the type of cars that you see in the town. In this one, it was probably 50% Mercedes, Audis and BMWs. Interesting, in the land of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, you rarely see one of them. The people that can afford them are buying German. Anyway, I could tell that if you wanted to live there, even for the summer, it was going to be expensive. Not that we people on boats are suffering too much! If I had to burn a single memory into my brain about the town, it would be how clean it was. I didnt see a scrap of paper on the street. It seems that the more trash cans that are available in town, the less trash on the street. In Japan, it was the quite the opposite. You NEVER saw a trash can on the street, but everyone knew that the trash was your responsibility and you were supposed to bring it home with you.
The next day, our friends Bill and Janet arrived on their boat, Airstream. Its funny, we met briefly in Turkey and lost track of them until Italy. Even though we had our own individual cruising agendas, for several months we ended up in the same location. When Bill was in the Marines over 40 years ago, he had a drill seargent with the same last name as me (not exactly, but close enough so that when he overheard me giving my name to the customs agent, he asked if I was related). Turns out it was my cousin Sonny! Fortunately, even though it was basic training on the famous Paris Island “resort”, Sonny was not too mean to Bill and he was happy to make my acquaintance. In Villasimius, we had dinner several nights.
Although we liked the marina, we were hoping to stay at a place with a little more to do, so we moved on to the town of Cagliari, a two hour cruise from Villasimius.
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia. The attraction for us is that the marina is in the center of town, which meant restaurants, shops and good people watching. We really liked the town, but it was either not that spectacular or it was just time to leave Italy. I think it was a little of both. We loved Italy and the people who lived there, but we were also looking forward to moving on to Spain and the Balearic Islands, our next cruising grounds. So, a few days after arriving in Cagliari, we set out for our next overnighter to Mahon, a small city on the western tip of Menorca, the first of the Spanish Balearic Islands.
Next up: Mahon, Menorca.
a few more pics:
A view of our marina in Cagliari from high up
A city street in old Cagliari
The cruise ship Queen Elizabeth as it departs Cagliari in back of our boat.
And last but not least….
Look, I am not a complainer. I could not be charactarized by anyone who knows me as
a “foodie”. My tastes are very simple. You might even call it “truck driver food”.
Many years ago, my brother in law Chip, who was also my good friend and fellow boater,
established “Cheeseburger Sunday”. It is every Sunday and I look forward to my
Cheeseburger. You can imagine my glee when I saw the sign in Cagliari that advertised
the best Cheeseburgers in town. I pictured a big, fat, juicy half pound job and my mouth was watering
just thinking about it. You canjust imagine my disappointment……..