We were more than ready to leave Malta (as wonderful as it was) the last two weeks waiting for the Covid Vaccine Certificate had dragged and we were super keen to sail on. Patience is a virtue and finally on the Friday the certificate arrived, we topped up the water tanks, checked out of the country and departed early on Saturday.
It was a full day sail across to Italy, 58 nautical miles in light winds (no speed records were predicted to be broken) but according to the forecast we should be able to sail most of the way in light winds and arrive before dark. We were heading to Greece but going via Italy (the island of Sicily) due to the best wind for sailing (without motoring), and also it would break the sail up into smaller passages rather than one long 3-4 day/night crossing.
5am Saturday morning we raised the mainsail, then lifted anchor and were off (not quite sailing off anchor as we had the engine on to negotiate our way out between other boats and fish farms in the bay). But within a mile the engine was off and we had full sails wing on wing as we left Mellieha Bay doing a very respectable 5.5 knots in 10 knots of wind as the sun slowly started to rise.
The sun rose, and our smiles grew bigger, we were off and sailing. However those predicted light winds became no wind and by 10:30am we were making way under engine power. The only up side being a very flat calm sea. The crossing constituted of 5 hours sailing and 6 hours under engine. But alas we did arrive well before dark and we arrived safely.
This placed us at Portopalo on the southeast point of Sicily. Our plan was to keep sailing north as the wind would allow until a weather window (correct winds) opened to take us east across to Greece. By going north until this window appeared would shorten the crossing the Greece.
The following day the winds were predicted to come in after lunch making a good little afternoon sail 25 nautical miles north to the Bay of Syracuse. We were waiting watching the water, the flags, and the wind instruments and as predicted right on 1pm the wind started to pick up, so we raised anchor, raised the sails and set off … however the wind that teased us in the anchorage didn’t amount to anything. We had to motor all the way!!!
We were a “yacht in transit” through Italy meaning we were not checking in with customs or officials and therefore not going ashore. So we have no reports on Sicily just our views from the boat as we waited for wind and the opportunity to either go further north or cross east to Greece. We didn’t have to wait long it looked like a good window to cross in two days time.
Our buddy boat for the passage Caffe Latte (our favourite Canadians) had been doing the technical weather simulations and forecasting for the Sicily to Greece passage and all looked well, in fact for the first time in a long time the closer to departing we got the better the weather window looked.
Our destination was 300 nautical miles east from where we were anchored to Greece and with a prediction of a 48 hour passage, we were off. Departure was 10:00am and within 30 minutes of starting the engine to leave the bay we had the motor turned off and were making way, by sunset that first night we were doing great and cruising along at 7 knots. The day had been calm with steady winds and a settled sea state.
The first night was also very comfortable with no other traffic. By 09:00 on day 2 (23 hours after leaving) the wind did come off and we slowed to below 3 knots. With this lull in the wind we ran the engine to assist the sails (motor sailing) for 3 hours until the wind strengthened and then we were back on track doing 5.5-6 knots again. At the 24 hour mark we had already done 132 nautical miles.
Things continued well and we made good speed especially when the wind was on the beam. Caffe Latte would get a few miles ahead when the wind was closer to the nose, but anytime it came around on the beam we would close the gap.
The second night saw the sea state deteriorate a little (nothing terrible) but a little bit more twist and roll and it slowed us a little as its hard to trim sails and set a good course when your visibility of the sea is removed, come morning land was in sight and the wind had stiffened and risen to match the sea state but the angle was good and we were coming into Greece doing good speed.
At the 48 hour mark (our predicted arrival time) we were 3 miles out from the anchorage and very very happy with our passage. As we rounded the bottom of the island of Zakinthos the cliffs blocked the wind and we dropped our sails and motored the last two miles before dropping anchor.
300 Nautical Miles
Average Speed 6.2 knots
Total Engine Time: 3.5 hours
Unfortunately no fish were harmed during this passage (fish count = 0)
We have arrived in Greece! We are looking forward to exploring the country, the islands, the culture, the food, spending time in water and sharing our adventures.
Great pictures Maree and Phil. Enjoy Greece. Looking forward to the next chapter in the story.