It was with some sadness that we stepped off ITIKI for the last time in the 2018 season. She had been our home for the last 4 months and taken us 2,900 nm from La Rochelle, through Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, the Balearics, Sardinia, Sicily and finally on to Tunisia. We spent 2 weeks in Port Yasmine, Hammamet, stripping her back to her birthday suit to prepare her for the winter.
While we were here we had the engines and genset serviced and WD40’d and Keith ticked off a few other jobs such as varnishing the teak table and princess seats and putting in a BBQ light. We had enough time to do everything we had on the winterising checklist, as well as taking the odd afternoon off to visit the old medina, do some shopping and watch the rugby. Port Yasmine is pretty quiet at this time of year and sadly no opportunity to travel any further afield in Tunisia to see the country, so hopefully we can do that when we come back. We did have one day out on ITIKI for a cruise with some of our dock-mates; we headed out to sea into cleaner waters to turn on our water-maker and fill the water tanks with desal, and then “pickle” the water-maker until next year.
While we are away we have engaged the services of a “guardian” to keep an eye on ITIKI, run the motors, check the batteries, mooring lines and wash off the Saharan dust that seems to come with every rainfall. Another of our dock-mates who is staying on board for the winter has promised to send me photos every now and again and keep an eye out as well. I am sure she will be safe but we are missing her already!
With the first season over its time to reflect on the highs and the lows, the lessons learned as soon enough we will be planning next season. For me by far the best moment was the dolphins we had playing with us for such a long time (see video) and for Keith he has nominated the historical places, particularly the Roman ruins, that we have seen along the way. The Roman empire certainly did range far and wide in its day and left behind incredible legacies behind. It was also great to have some friends come and visit us and share a small part of our new lifestyle with us.
What have we learned? Well where do I begin! Firstly we have met so many people doing what we are doing, living onboard, cruising, winterising and then doing it over again next year. Some have been living this lifestyle for 5, 10, 20 years! And they will not hesitate to help out fellow sailors, particularly relative “babes in the woods” like us. The online and FB forums have been so incredibly helpful, you can ask a question in the morning and have a dozen great responses by lunch time. Keith has really loved doing “odd jobs” on the boat, even though she is new there have been numerous small additions we have made and I am really worried about what he will do with himself when all of these jobs have been completed! For me the most challenging thing has been learning about electricity generation and energy management on a boat. Things like the fact that electricity has a frequency, and it is really important it is correct or your washing machine doesn’t work – this is something that I never dreamed I would need to know when cruising the Med. I have learned about how a batteries charge and what all the numbers on the battery monitor mean. Now with our solar panels I have even more to learn about! Researching destinations, anchorages, marinas and inland adventures has also been an enjoyable challenge.
Low points? Well fortunately there have not been too many real lows, or even really scary bits. We have been so fortunate with the weather, a dream run across Biscay and the odd passing storm, nothing like the “Medicane” that went through Greece or the strong Meltemis and Mistrals our fellow cruisers experienced. I have gained some confidence for overnight crossings, standing watch on my own and not waking Keith too often (only if there is a big cargo ship bearing down on us!) Yes we had the odd yacht anchoring a bit too close, but those memories fortunately fade fairly quickly – although now that am writing this and thinking back, visions of those hairy, flabby naked men in the Ballearics are sneaking back into my mind to haunt me…
So where to from here? Well that is the biggest question for us to research and answer over our “summer” break. Option 1, head up the Italian east coast for cruising in Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and down to Greece; Option 2 head straight for Greece and Turkey. There are a few unknowns for next year like what impact Brexit will have on our ability to roam “freely” in Schengen zone. Then there are the ever increasing costs of cruising in Croatia. Where should we spend the busy months of July and August when the charter fleets and flotillas are out in force? Then there is the Greek cruising tax which is on the horizon… Well I guess these are all part of what you call “a good problem to have” – stay tuned to find out where ITIKI will be heading in 2019!