Log #33i To the Strait of Messina, Italy

September 23, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 33 Turkey - Greece to Rome, The Logs

Vibo Valentia, Italy

Sept. 23, 2004

Hi Folks,

We are back in Vibo Valentia after having left early this morning. We have a bad leak from our engine water pump. There is a Yanmar dealer here, but we did not get back before 1330, the start of a two hour siesta period, and we cannot contact him before 1530. Oh well, it gave me a chance to complete this log and get it out.

All is well (except for the water pump) and the weather is calm and sunny. We may take off before dark for an overnight passage if we can get a replacement for our pump today. We have to get Doug to a town where he can get a train to the Rome airport for his return trip to Toronto on the 27th.

We will be traveling for only another three weeks as we hope to be in Rome by Oct. 15 for the winter.

Enjoy this log on our long passage from Greece to the toe of Italy.

All the best,


Log #33i To the Strait of Messina, Italy

Vibo Valentia, Italy

Sept. 22, 2004

As indicated in my last log, we left Methoni in Greece next morning at 1000, Sept. 12th, with light winds for our long leg to Italy and the Strait of Messina, 320 miles away; but we did not expect to have to motor most of the way as we did! We started off in clear weather with a light force 2 breeze on a course of 282 (M). The only situation arose two hours after we departed when we saw a ship overtaking us from our port quarter.

After determining we were on a steady bearing (which means a collision course) I held my course and speed as I was the privileged (stand on) vessel (I was on his starboard bow, being overtaken), and thought his common sense seamanship would have him alter a bit to pass astern of us. No, he kept coming on. We called him on VHF indicating our course and speed. No response. We held our course. As he came closer he gave one blast which should mean he was altering his course to Starboard. OK, I thought he would alter starboard to go astern of us, but he altered a bit to starboard and then while abreast of us returned to his previous converging course towards us. In disgust with his inconsiderate and poor seamanship, I altered my course in a timely and obvious manner by turning 360 degrees to starboard away from him, resuming my course clearly astern of him, although even then I had to watch out as he was trailing a long line astern. I did not (as I perhaps should have) sound one blast for my alteration to starboard, nor five blasts to indicate imminent danger, nor did I send any snarky message over the VHF, although I was tempted. However I doubt he was even listening on VHF channel 16 as he should have. It was a small coastal Turkish flagged vessel by the name of SUKRAN-S, the idiot!

I do not expect ships to give way to small sailing vessels, but most will make small alterations well in advance to avoid any converging course if such appears to develop. If in a head on or forward of the bow converging course situation I will always and gladly make a major alteration early to reassure the vessel of my intentions to avoid, regardless of who has the right of way. But in an overtaking situation as this, I felt it incumbent upon me to hold my course so the overtaking vessel could make minor alterations or call on VHF to indicate his intentions. However, there are some who just blindly go on “might is right” and expect all smaller vessels to scatter on their approach, even though they are not constrained by draft or proximity to dangers. This brief encounter was in open seas with no other vessels around.

In the early evening we were able to sail for four hours at about 4 knots before dropping down to below 3. I am not a purist and to travel over 300 miles at less than 3 knots is not on, not if there is an alternative such as our nice 30 horsepower Yanmar diesel engine, euphemistically called our “Iron Genny”.  Crossing the Atlantic, we had no choice and I went on an assumption that 100 nautical miles a day was acceptable. More was good, less was poor. Our first 24 hours crossing the Ionian Sea we covered only 90 nautical miles, four hours of which were under sail only. So, we motored on!

Our second day out, we were visited by four common dolphins, then a few hours later by a couple of striped dolphins who cavorted around Veleda for about 20 minutes. They were obviously showing off for us, rotating on their sides to look up at us where we stood on the bow cheering them on. The third day we attempted to fly our spinnaker, altering down whatever wind there was just to set it. However, there was not enough wind from any direction to fly it at all. We were visited by a solitary dolphin for a few minutes on the glassy calm sea. Since it was such a windless day, we shut off the engine, drifted to a halt and went in for a swim in the middle of the Ionian Sea, 100 miles from anywhere (we didn’t even have to lower the mainsail, as it was doing nothing).

The fourth day we put in our final jerry can of diesel and continued motoring to Reggio di Calabria on the toe of the Italian boot on the Strait of Messina, arriving at the yacht club to Med moor with lines tailed to the dock at 1500 (38˚ 07.7’ N, 015˚ 39.1’ E). We had completed the 320 mile passage in three days and five hours, just under my hoped for 100 miles a day progress, having used about 100 litres of diesel for the trip with the engine on for three 24 hour days. It was nice having an extra crew on board for watch keeping so we could get a relatively full night’s sleep as we each stood four hour watches from 2000 to 0800, and during the day, took turns informally. I think I had the best watch from 2000 to 2400, then I could sleep in until 0745 or so. Judy is able to get to sleep shortly after supper, for her midnight to 0400 watch. However, Doug was up for about half of my watch, enjoying the glorious night sailing (motoring actually), unable to sleep from his jet lag, only to be called by Judy for his 0400 to 0800 watch. Doug is a good crew making coffee and tea for us by 0800, before I make a breakfast by about 0900. It is also nice to be able to cuddle up to Judy in the vee berth while at sea.

More about Italy in my next log.