From Malta to Tunisia and Menorca
From Malta it was a two day trip west to Tunisia. After one day, we passed the island of Pantelleria, sadly without stopping. It is amazing that even with a year off to sail, we still can feel rushed sometimes; right now, the clock is ticking as we look west to reaching Gibraltar on schedule to cross the Atlantic. Pantelleria is green and lush, more like a South Pacific island than the dry, barren islands we have seen so far. I will add it to my list of "somedays"!
After one brief visit by dolphins, we arrived at the Tunisian port of Bizerte where we stayed for five days. We could feel that it is now September as the yacht harbor has plenty of space and the evenings are a little cooler. Bizerte is a Jekyll and Hyde town with a modern section (with several excellent, French-style patisseries) and an old town (Medina) that is right out of an Ali Baba story. The Medina's high fortifying walls have only one entrance, leading you to a car-free enclave of narrow, winding streets marked by overhead archways and dotted with playing children. The old port is full of colorful fishing boats and only one shop selling postcards, reflecting the overall lack of tourists - great!
In Bizerte, a 40 foot boat pulled in next to us in the marina and we were delighted to see that they had a young boy aboard. Sarah and Sven from the US are sailing with their sons Dante (2) and Amery (5 months) aboard Arearea. We spent a fun afternoon on the beach together and Nicky loved being the big kid to little Dante, showing him the best way (Nicky's opinion) to dig sand, etc. They are also heading west so we decided to sail in company from Tunisia.
It was difficult to decide what to do as we were all eager to reach Menorca, a distance of 300 miles. However, the long term weather forecast called for a strong Mistral building which could send a Force 9-10 storm right into our path. We could make it to Menorca before the storm if we made good time, but only just. We decided to start the trip and after 60 miles decide whether to continue or whether to turn off to Sardinia. After one day at sea, we were indeed making good progress so we radioed each other and agreed to continue to Menorca. For us it was a trip of 2 half days, 2 full days, and 2 nights, during which time we once again failed miserably to catch any fish. We had a long, beautiful stretch during which we were sailing fast over perfectly smooth seas, a rare combination. The last night was a bit stressful as the forecast storm moved forward and again it was a race to reach port. Massive lightning storms lit up the sky but missed us by a few miles, so we pulled into Mahon on Menorca without any trouble.
Sven and Sarah had already made it in the night before and we quickly found them. Nicky and Dante were soon playing on Arearea and talking about finding another beach. Meanwhile, clouds and high winds passed practically unnoticed over us in this well protected harbor. It is a great relief to arrive here and be well on schedule with time to rest (a full night's sleep on a boat that didn't move - such a treat!), look around, and (once again) fix things before having to study the next weather forecast. It was great to make the passage with Sven and Sarah in earshot and to have a playmate for Nicky, so we plan to stay together for the next week or so. Hola, Menorca!