We took a ‘slightly’ different approach this time. We participated in an offshore cruising trip, organised by Ultra Sailing. The trip brought us from Split (Croatia) via various Italian harbours to La Valletta on Malta (and back). The distance covered was over 1.100 nautical miles in all, 2.000 kilometres.
Sailing the high seas requires a different ship. Our choice was a Bénéteau 50. A good and stable ship, with all the facilities required for a trip like this. Our route can be found here. We had a crew of 9, including a professional skipper with experience on this route. Myself, I was one of the watch leaders. The trip took 2 weeks to complete.
We took hundreds of photos during this trip. It takes me some time to sort them out. For this first version of the story I have just selected a few, more will follow!
In the morning, the skipper and I go to check the weather forecast at the harbourmaster’s office. The prediction is 17 – 20 knots from the south-east (5 Beaufort), and a moderate to rough sea. We decide to go out and try our luck. After filling up the diesel tanks we leave the harbour and sail in a southerly direction, which requires frequent tacking and hard work.
Just before dark we are joined by a large group of dolphins. Around 2030 we arrive in Otranto, where we moor in front of the coastguard offices (Guardia Costiera), by far the most quiet corner of the harbour in terms of wind and waves.
The night brought some nice sailing conditions, north-westerly winds, 15 – 20 knots. However, the waves were two meters plus. This being the first night, it brought along a few cases of seasickness. While adjusting to the ‘bumpy ride’ on the water, most people (myself included) do not get much sleep.
My team was on watch from 0200 – 0500. A beautiful starry night with a small moon. Some ships on the horizon, but nothing close enough to be a risk. Around 0230 we have our first encounter with a group of dolphins. We see their shadows around the boat, see and hear them jumping around the boat and hear that special ‘snapping’ sound when they breathe. We do not know it at the time, but it is the first of many encounters. We saw groups of dolphins on every day we were on the water. Our course is south-east. We keep the Scorpio constellation over our bow for most of the night.
Around 1130 in the morning (during my second watch) we get our first glimpse of the Italian coast, and hoist the courtesy flag. Our plan is to make it to Brindisi harbour today (course 140), since some heavy weather is expected (40 knots wind from the south, Sirocco).
By the end of the afternoon we reach Brindisi. The seaside looks like any other industrial port on this planet. Inside, there are some beautiful old fortifications and a typical Italian town. In the Roman days, Brindisi was the end of the Via Appia. Brindisi is the only real natural harbour on the Italian peninsula. We moor along the city quay, watched by large numbers of Italians who are there for their Sunday afternoon stroll and ice-cream.
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