Log of Pasu

Nigel Swanston

This log won the Walker Cup 2003.

Menorca to Croatia, via Sardinia, Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and Southern Italy.

Mahon (Menorca) to Portoscuso (Sardinia) 200 nms. July 15.

On board are Sandy Waring and Tim Cox



Leave Mahon late afternoon, NE 3 forecast, but by dusk are punching into a steadily freshening easterly with the engine. When short seas slow us to about 3 knots I reluctantly make the decision to turn back. It would be a long way to Sardinia at this speed! Shortly after midnight we are hit by a thunderstorm with occasional 30-40 knot gusts, but we fly back in.

Due to bad forecasts we are stuck in Mahon for a further two days but finally leave at 7 a.m. on the 17th. This time we experience almost calm conditions for the whole of the trip and arrive at Portoscuso at about 3 a.m. on the second day. We are met by an insomniac harbour master and enjoy some well-earned sleep. Our only problem entering Portoscuso was the absence of one of the main lights, but if everything was predictable it wouldn’t be so much fun, would it?

Portoscuso to Perde e Sale 48nms. Depart 10 a.m. July 20

We are woken early by the sun and leave for Perde e Sale on the SE side of Sardinia. This is a suitable jumping off point for Sicily. On the way we try to refuel at a small inlet called Cala Verde, which is about 10 miles short of Perde e Sale, only to find that the pilot book has mislead us about this marina, it is too shallow and totally unsuitable for yachts.

We continue on to Perde and spend the evening watching the locals line-dancing and doing karaoke on the hard-standing- great fun. When we try and refuel in the morning we are told that the pump has broken and the nearest fuel is at Cagliari, which is 12 miles downwind and in the wrong direction. A local advises us that we should definitely not try to enter Cala Verde under any circumstances!

Cagliari to Trapani (Sicily) 180 nms Depart 3p.m. July 21

We arrive in Cagliari and refuel after a long search for the fuel-dock (the pilot book again misleads). When we leave the wind is almost on the nose, easterly 15 knots to begin with, but it frees about halfway across and we can comfortably lay Trapani. It’s extremely hot, trying to sleep down below is like being in a tumble-drier, even at 4 a.m. it is still uncomfortably humid.
We arrive at Trapani at about 4 a.m. and arrive at a disgustingly smelly and inhospitable marina located at the top of the harbour (sewerage and industrial effluent only starts to cover it). On health grounds alone we cannot stay here, and after another tiring search sneak into a private marina and manage to wake up an extremely irate French-women on the adjacent berth.
The next morning I use my non-existent Sicilian language skills to negotiate our berth with the local ormeggiatori. “Ormeggiatori” are the semi-Mafia types who control most of the harbours and moorings in Sicily and southern Italy. Although they are occasionally friendly they are often surly and unhelpful (to say the least).

Trapani to Capo Lo San Vito. 20 nms 24 July

Leave Trapani at about midday and enjoy beautiful short trip to San Vito, which is a delightful marina with clear water, and a bustling local tourist resort. This is more like it! Tim and Sandy head home. Jim, Margaret and Dan arrive the next day. We spend a very pleasant 5 days relaxing. Although we do not encounter any horses’ heads left on our bunks this is serious Mafia country- the small village of Corleone is only a short drive inland.

San Vito Lo Capo to Palermo 43nms July 30

We leave San Vito in the morning and head east in calm weather heading towards Castlemarre, which is at the southern end of a large bay to the SE of Punta Solanto. Alas, we have again been fooled by the pilot book- the marina has no visitor berths whatsoever and the only possibility is to anchor. Unfortunately, the dinghy has sprung a leak and we are forced to carry on to Palermo.

Arrive in the new marina at Palermo at about 6.p.m. It is friendly with good facilities. We are only a few yards away from a massive Gin-Palace with a Helipad and lots of security guards. She is called “Tommy” and we did wonder for a moment what kind of business could yield such a lot of cash on this relatively poor island, however we feel safe from any local petty crime!
This marina is pleasant but a long way from the historic centre, so the next morning we head to what is effectively the town quay bang in the middle of the old town. It is run by the local ormeggiatori who, when they get used to us, turn out to be quite friendly.
Still very hot. There is a local tradition here that when the “Scirocco” (an extremely hot and humid S wind that blows across from the Sahara, picking up moisture on it’s way) blows for more than three days, all crimes of passion are overlooked.

Palermo is a stunning city, with hundreds of interesting buildings and monuments, nearly all in a state of disrepair. With appropriate investment this city would easily rival Paris or Seville but local corruption tragically keeps it from showing its true face.

Palermo to Cefalu 33kms 1 Aug.

Deborah, Margaret’s sister joins. We enjoy a lazy day-sail to Cefalu in company with the British yacht “Random”. Philip and Helen, who were in the adjoining berth at Palermo, are on route to Greece and we decide to team up for a few days.
On arrival at Cefalu we experience the fun of dropping the anchor and backing on to the quay in a strongish crosswind. On the first attempt the anchor doesn’t hold but, amid much enthusiastic advice in Italian, we eventually get ourselves snug, but we have a bumpy night of it. Cefalu seems pleasant enough, however the local disco did start up at about midnight, shattering the previously peaceful evening.

Cefalu to Lipari (Aeolian Islands) 50kms 2 Aug

We leave early for Lipari and 12 hrs later arrive at Lipari Harbour on the Island of Lipari. Lipari is the largest town in the Aeolian Islands that are situated 20 nms N of the NE end of Sicily.

It is a very popular destination for local yachts as the Italians head here for their summer holidays, sailing directly here from Rome and Naples. However by sheer luck we found a brand new pontoon right in the middle of this attractive town. It was almost empty, and we believe that it was only the first or second day it had been open because, when we returned a few days later, word must have had got around because it was completely full.

Lipari to Stromboli 25kms 3 Aug.

Leave at a civilised hour and cruise through these stunning islands to Stromboli. Weather and scenery perfect. Stromboli is extremely dramatic, it erupts every 20 minutes and has served as a natural lighthouse since classical times. This is one of the many phenomena in this area that are mentioned in the Iliad. The frequency of the eruptions apparently makes the volcano relatively safe because it is constantly discharging its energy, however it still feels spooky to be so close.

The area is famous for its sudden storms and in some quarters it is known as the “Aeolian Triangle” and indeed it was claimed that two weeks before our visit 70 yachts were lost at Stromboli when a sudden storm blew them from the anchorage on to the shore. I don’t think there were any fatalities but their insurance companies can’t have been pleased.

Pasu and Random arrive in a flat calm. We anchor just off the black sandy beach and take stern-lines ashore. No natural disasters occur.

This place is booth moody and majestic and despite the anchorage being completely exposed it is very popular with yachts and motor cruisers. There were between 70 and 80 that night, enjoying a festive atmosphere with everybody eating on deck or going on to the beach with bottles of wine.

We say goodbye to Random and the next day we head to Portorosa on the NE coast of Sicily, having broken the trip with another night at Lipari. I drive Deborah and Jim to Palermo Airport in a hire-car

Portorosa to Tropea (Mainland Italy) 50kms 7Aug.

Margaret, Dan and myself begin the third leg of the trip, leaving early to motor in light airs to the picturesque town of Tropea. We drop the anchor and berth stern-to at the town-quay.

Town-quays in Southern Italy are always noisy, and in the early evening the locals promenade up and down, chatting and taking in the sights. Later on the fisherman take over, talking at great volume to each other and playing their portable radios. This party goes on every night without fail, and invariably lasts until dawn.

In the morning we climb the 200 steps into the old town. When we return we find that the boat next to us has dislodged our anchor, and we are slewing round in imminent danger of hitting the pier. We hurriedly slip our lines, pull up the dislodged anchor and get ourselves re-organised. Hoping for some peace and quiet we radio the nearby marina and luckily, as it’s early in the day, they squeeze us in.

Tropea to Vibo 10kms 9 Aug

A short hop in the Golfo di s. Eufemia to Vibo de Valencia. We have been enduring a rather unpleasant rattling noise from the region of the prop shaft for the last few days and the much-maligned pilot book claims there is a friendly English- speaking marina here, reckoning that they can effect mechanical repairs and get spares.

They are friendly, but sadly aren’t communicating with each other or anyone else very much due to a marital indiscretion that has poisoned relations in their family-run business. About two days later I end up talking to an Italian engineer in sign language. He looks despondent, and I get the idea it’s a national holiday and everything is closing for the duration. However he suggests I dive down myself to look at the prop. I do this and find that the sacrificial anode is loose. I can’t dislodge it but within a couple of hours I manage to bribe a local diver to take it off.

Vibo to Naples, via Centraro, Scario, Acciaroli, Agropoli, Salerno and Amalfi. 140nms 12-18 Aug.

We work our way north along this dramatic mountainous coastline. There are no marinas to speak of for visiting yachts and we are mostly stern-to on town-quays dealing with the ormeggiatori; however the little harbours are delightful, Acciaroli (claimed to be a Hemmingway favourite) and Salerno are of particular note. Acciaroli is a picture postcard and Salerno has an ancient and impressive old town.

We passed by the Galli Islands (where legend has it that the Sirens tempted Ulysses), and the stylish resort of Amalfi before finally reaching the marina at Torre del Greco, in the bay of Naples on the 17th Aug. From here it is a short hop to Naples proper.

Naples 18-24 August

Naples is fun, but a tough place to be, sitting under the menacing presence of Mt Vesuvius. There is a lot of crime and boat security is the no.1 priority. There are almost no visiting yachts, and we saw none of the British, French or German boats that abound in the rest of the Med. The marinas are almost impossible to get into and are nearly all run by the most unhelpful type of ormeggiatori.

Molo Siglio, the first marina that we managed to persuade some one to let us into, had wire mesh all along the quay to keep the people out. “Toni”, a member of the family that runs the place claimed the 24hr security provided by “me and my brothers” justified the astronomical price charged for the almost non-existent facilities.

They may have been the mafia but at least they were our mafia!

After a couple of days at Molo Siglio we were given 20 minutes to vacate the berth when the real owner of the berth radioed Toni to say he was about to arrive. We then tried the chic Marina Santa Lucia, which is only about 1m to the NW. Here the ormeggs just sent us away with a faint wave of the hand. We motored on to the next and final option at Mergellini (Sannazzaro). Here we are lucky and we are allowed in, however still under the proviso that we could be evicted at any moment. However the person in charge speaks good English and is very helpful.

In spite of the problems we wouldn’t have missed this opportunity to visit this fascinating city.

The family fly home on the 25th and on the 26th the passage crew of Jim Swanston, Tony Noble and Phil Clarke arrive to help me get the boat to Croatia.



Naples to the Messina Strait 180nms 27 Aug.

We fly south with a NW 3-4 and complete a quick overnight trip to Messina, stopping only to have an early morning swim within sight of our old friend Stromboli.

We are unlucky with the tide going through the straits and at one stage only manage 1 knot over the ground with the genoa, main and struggling engine. This is the site of “Charbyda” the whirlpool of classical times, although now it is much less dangerous because in the 16th century an earthquake re-arranged the topography of the sea floor, making the vortex considerably weaker.

Messina Strait to Maria di Leuca 200nms 29 Aug.

We leave the friendly and efficient marina at Messina at 8.a.m. and head south around the toe of Italy. The weather forecast is for gales almost everywhere, and as we head through the straits it claims that there is a gale actually in progress, but it’s news to us as we are there, experiencing only lightish winds.

In Italian waters you can receive constant weather information on channel 68, however it can be hard to interpret at times because it is announced by a programmed voice with an Italian accent.

Although it is occasionally windy we make good progress through the Golfo di Squillace and across the golfo di Taranto, arriving in Leuca at about 9p.m. on the second day. It is extremely humid, everything feels soaking to the touch; the beams of the nearby lighthouse look as if they’re cutting through dense white smoke.

Maria di Leuca to Brindisi 62nms 31 Aug.

We see almost nothing of Leuca as we are off again at the crack of dawn bound for Brindisi. It’s a pleasant day sail with the motor on most of the time. At Brindisi you can tie up to the quay which is situated right in the middle of the bar and restaurant district. Brindisi is a large industrial town with a international ferry terminal but in spite of this is a pleasant place for a stopover.

Brindisi to Dubrovnik (Croatia) 130nms 1 Sept

The forecast isn’t very good as we try to head N for Dubrovnik- strong northerlies and thunderstorms with severe squalls, but we decide to go, hoping for a wind shift at some point. After a few hours the wind frees a little and we can more or less lay Dubrovnik.

Much later during the night we had a spectacular display of lightning all around us from ominous looking thunderclouds. It was a most impressive sight, if a little frightening for the two inexperienced crewmembers who had never seen the like before. We tried to thread our way through, but were eventually hit by one of the storms. With the wind gusting up to 30-40 knots, we experienced a violent 90-degree wind shift and torrential rain.

We endured about 2 hours of this under bare-poles and engine before the wind finally moderated. By daylight we were broad reaching in fine style towards the Croatian coast and not a thunderstorm in sight.

At the risk of sounding like a travel brochure, Dubrovnik old town is one of the most stunning places I have visited with atmospheric, perfectly restored, ancient buildings surrounded by towering battlements that hang over the sea.

The people are friendly and helpful, the marina has a bar and a swimming pool and the coastline is about as dramatic as it gets, looking a bit like the Lake District or Western Scotland!

Dubrovnik to Milna 86nms 3-5 Sept (On the offshore island of Brac).

We spent the next few days poodling N amongst the many islands. The weather is invariably the same everyday; calm in the morning and 4-5 NW in the afternoons (although the sea stays completely flat). We stop at Orkuklje and Korkula. The climate on this side of the Adriatic is a few degrees cooler than the Italian side and much less humid.

Orkuklje, on the Island of Miljet, is an almost land locked bay with a couple of tiny bars and restaurants, Korkula a medium sized walled town on an Island of the same name.

We reach Milna, our final destination, on the 5th Sept. The boat will winter here in this small, but well sheltered marina until we return in 2004. Run by “Jan” and his wife, it has only been open for about a year, and costs about £750 per annum for a 10 metre boat. Jan is an ex-pat Dutchman who lives onboard his boat in the marina the whole year-round.

I am already looking forward to exploring this interesting coastline in greater detail next year and will even reveal the name of the dodgy pilot book to anyone planning a similar trip.