Sunday 12 June 2016

The new season starts

The mountains of Sardinia lie low on the horizon, the morning haze softening the harsh silhouette of jagged peaks and plunging cliffs; a single clump of white cumulus cloud hangs over the land, the only feature in the powder-blue morning sky.  As we leave our anchorage, a light wind pushes us slowly east towards Filicudi, an island in the Aeolian group, off the north coast of Sicily, where we plan to make landfall tomorrow.

The contrast with our last sail on Juno couldn’t be greater.  Instead of the big southern swell of the Tasman Sea, calm waters lap our overnight anchorage, protected in the lee of Sardinia. Unlike the raw energy of the Southern Ocean, just a gentle ripple ruffles the surface of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although the seas in the Mediterranean can be treacherous, during the summer months the winds are light and tranquil, broken only by the occasional scream of a Mistral as it roars out of the Golfe de Lion and belches hot Gallic breath across the islands of Menorca, Corsica and Sardinia, exhausted by the time it reaches the deep waters of Sicily and its surrounding islands.

Juno returned from her Australian Odyssey in January, rather ignominiously strapped down to the deck of a freighter that delivered her across the dangerous waters of the Horn of Africa, through the Suez Canal and back to our adopted port of Palma de Mallorca.   Looking a little tired and travel-worn after 40,000 nautical miles and five years on the oceans, she spent the winter undergoing some much needed care and maintenance: Rudder and prop shaft bearings were extracted and replaced, new sails were fitted, new instruments installed, the recalcitrant fridge finally repaired, the ground tackle replaced; then polished above and below decks, she finally emerged into the spring sunshine, back to her old self, straining at her lines and impatient to be out on the ocean once more.

So here we are, working our way east from Mallorca to Sicily; Sardinia is already just a line on the horizon, the wind filling nicely from astern. The engine is off; the new sails are powered up, the sailcloth crisscrossed with the pattern of the yarns, back-lit by the suns rays.  Caroline, Jamie and Lucie are on board and we are planning two weeks around the Aeolian Islands, one of our favourite sailing grounds; incorporating the style and glamour of Panarea, the unspoilt Sicilian chaos of Lipari and the smouldering magnificence of Stromboli.  After a day provisioning in the markets of Cagliari followed by drinks up on the parapets of the castle, we sail the short twenty miles to Villisimius at the southern most tip of Sardinia, and drop our anchor in the soft white sand of the bay of Porto Giunco, where we stay overnight before slipping away shortly after dawn.

While the vision of a summer in the Mediterranean is an exquisite prospect, it takes only the smallest excuse to set us reminiscing about the Pacific.  From the awe-inspiring triumph of the Panama Canal to the officious but welcoming “g’day” of the Australian customs officers, we adored every mile of our journey across the Pacific.  The tame sea lions of Galapagos, the prehistoric Gardens of Eden in the Marquesas, the teeming marine habitats of the Tuamoto lagoons, the brazen beauty of Polynesia and the unspoilt reefs of Tonga and Fiji; are all magnificent and unforgettable. But it is also the gentle people of the Pacific Islands that make the memories so vivid. Their slow pace of life and simple carefree existence, surrounded by an abundance of fish in the ocean; a profusion of delicious fruit hanging at arms reach.  A guitar or ukulele is always at hand to accompany their melodic falsetto as they sit around the Kava pot, whiling away the hours late into the night.  Although it doesn’t make for huge productivity or sparkling innovation, compared with the eternal conflicts in the Middle East or the stressful lifestyle of the west, it seems an idyllic way of life.  This is what makes us want to return to Polynesia - and maybe we will. But now, back to that Mediterranean summer.

1 comment:

  1. Good to have you back on duty Mr Frew. Your literary absence has been noted.