8. Night Sailing Solo

Now the real adventure was about to start. I was going to try my first overnight sail on my own. In fact, it was going to be two nights and two days on my own. But first I was going to have to check out of Greece. Or at least I thought so. I had on several occasions been told that Greece required you to check both in and out of the country if you bring a boat with you. So off I went to the Coast Guard only to be told that with an EU-boat I could come and go as I wanted as long as I stayed in the EU. So, I filled the water tanks to the rim and aimed at Taormina, Sicily. I motored in dead calm around the south side of Zakynthos when I suddenly heard the freshwater pump going. It is really hard to hear the pump when the engine is running so I have always told crew members to turn off the water pressure while it is not being used and we are on the move. It was my time to forget and I managed to completely empty the 400 litres from the two tanks into the bilge. I managed to find the cause, a hose clamp on the water heater. It was seriously frustrating to lose all the freshwater and still have it onboard.

I started with the electric bilge pump. Then I moved over to a manual pump and got rid of 7-8 buckets, each containing 10 litres. Then I managed to mop up another 7-8 buckets over the next few days as water continued to reappear in different areas of the boat depending how we were leaning. This is the third time that I have emptied the boat in this way. The first time was in Tropea in the spring 2016 when rainwater had gotten into the boat. The second time was in Lumbarda Marina on Korcula during the Christmas of 2018 when the valve for the saltwater pump leaked. And now a hose had come loose. I was getting really tired of pumping water out of the bilge.

By now I was not in a night sailing mood, so I decided to stay the night anchored in a nature reserve on the south side of Zakynthos. This is where the largest colony of turtles in the Mediterranean lay their eggs. It was so nice to end the evening watching turtles swim by Saoirse as I was enjoying a pizza in the cockpit. My sailing adventure could wait another day.

The following day it was finally time for me to become a true solo sailor. I had sailed solo many times before but never through the night. Never mind almost 300 Nm over two full days. As it happened it was quite uneventful. As you want it, I guess. I probably only slept a couple of hours in total during the first night. Mainly due to the fact that I carried too much sail area. By the second night I had realised that the trick to a relaxing crossing is to reduce the speed. This night I slept eight hours, in thirty-minute installments, spread out over an eleven-hour period. I arrived in Riposto, Sicily both relaxed and pleased with myself. I saw very few boats and the only excitement to report was that the main halyard came loose from the sail and I decided to retrieve it, standing on the boom as it was hanging from the mast. Maybe not the safest maneuver during an open ocean crossing, even if I was attached to the boat.

I chose to go to Riposto rather than the anchorage at Taormina as I needed freshwater and therefore needed a marina. Marina dell’Etna in Riposto and at the foot of the famous volcano was also equipped with mooring lines which makes it much easier for a solo sailor. The marina was really nice but the town was a hole. I quickly realised that the only place that felt safe in Riposto was the area inside the marina gates.

Marina dell’Etna, Riposto

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