Captain's Log, Stardate:
Our son and his friend flew out of Tunis on Tuesday and Mary's sister Teri flew in an hour before that, probably on the same plane. So we've been busy entertaining and working on the boat. Just little things.
I've spent most of my time trying to get email working but have so far, failed. It now seems the CD-ROM I got with the CruiseEmail stuff does not contain the "SeaMail" software that is necessary to get up and running. I emailed the rep and he said, "no problem. Just download the correct software off our web site." It's a 5 meg file and it would take hours at the internet cafe in Kelibia where we stayed for the last two days. Alternatively, it would take maybe one hour by connecting via a 21K line to Malta @ $3/minute.
Since I last wrote, we've had several more passages. From Bizerte, we sailed about 39 nm around the corner to Sidi Bou Said. We tied up at the gas dock for the first evening, then moved over to a different spot the next day. Still no bonks on the boat. When we left, the marina fees were $150 for 5 nights, quite high by Tunisian standards. Then, after changing crew, we sailed around Cape Bon to Kelibia. But when we were still 10 NM out, we could see what looked like a dump burning upwind of the town so, instead, we risked doing battle with the police and stopped in a little cove called Haouaria and dropped anchor. (I don't know about you but that's a record for me in the number of consecutive vowels I've ever seen.) Again, the Spade anchor dug right in to what looked like a mostly grass bottom. Very scenic and no visit by the police the next morning so that stop was considered a success. Still on the chilly side though with evening temps dropping to the low 60's and highs near 70 or 75.
Next morning, it was on to Kelibia with no marina showing on my charts but, instead, a recommendation I had read in an SSCA issue. Coming in, we could see the "marina" was full. It was mostly fishing and military boats with a few "sticks" rafted up at one area of the dock. An 18 year old kid motioned us over to an area where there were two speed boats or runabouts tied up. His intent was for us to raft up to those two boats. Wind of about 15 kts or better was blowing us onto the dock. So my strategy was to come bow-to the forward end of my "berth" and then use reverse to hold us off long enough to get a bow line secured. Then I would put the port engine in reverse, keeping adequate strain on the bow line to swing the stern steadily over to the second boat where we could secure a stern line. The plan was beautiful. After the kid tied the bow line, we started winching ourselves over with the port engine in reverse. But after we were less than 30 degrees to the dock, with lots of strain on the bow line, for some reason the kid let out some more line. Perhaps he thought our bow was coming too close to the forward speedboat. So now, reverse was taking us slowly into the dock but also into the stern of a third runabout which was berthed a little further out from the dock. All I could do (or thought I could do at the time) was to give a little shot of forward on the stbd engine to make sure we missed the third boat's transom with our transom. But now we were moving forward slightly as EC nudged into the two speedboats. We, of course had all but one of our fenders on the stbd side and they provided more than enough padding except that, because we were moving longitudinally now, one of the fenders rolled out of position and we got a scratch from the rubrail of lead boat. The rubrail had been hit before so it was bent out of shape with a popped flathead screw scraping along our shiny new hull for about a foot and a half! I was just sick.
Kelibia is truly "Off the Beaten Path." Zero tourists. No one speaking English, hardly at all. Incredibly non-touristy prices. A cab ride from the marina to town cost 250 mil or 1 /4 of a dinar per passenger. So the three of us rode for .75 dinar. Of course, it costs 73 cents US for one dinar so each cab cost around 52 cents for the three of us.
Mary saw the most beautiful strawberries being sold by a farmer out of the back of his burrow-drawn wagon. These were not just the stunted ones you might find in a typical third world country but were huge and each was perfectly red. No soft ones either. She asked me how many to buy and I said "1 kg because that would be about two pounds." All she heard was "two" and so she bought 2 kg of the things for a total of 3 dinar (about $2.15). We had strawberries coming out our ears. We just couldn't stop eating them! Teri schlepped a 110 V blender into Tunis for us so I added orange juice and blended up a wonderful morning concoction. I kept fantasizing how good these would taste mixed with rum for umbrella drinks but believe it or not, they were all gone by noon!
The town boasted a 24/7 internet cafe-type of place. These must have been 286 machines with 4800 modems. I had to download a 400K file to try to make Cruise Email work and it took 45 minutes for the download! The good news was, 2 dinar ($1.45) for the whole hour!
We found a great restaurant with couscous, stuffed turkey, and spaghetti. $10 for the three of us including two Cokes for me. Although cheap, the Cokes were 19 ml which makes them smaller than the 7 oz bottles they had in pop machines when I was a kid.
Oddly, every couple of blocks walking through town, there was a seamstress shop. So we stopped in one that had a wide selection of bolts of material. We were looking for nylon to see what it would cost to have some covers made for our helms. I was especially interested in covering the stbd one because of the searchlight controls and joystick exposed to the elements. We spent 20 minutes trying to explain that we wanted nylon or something else impervious to the sun and rain. All this is nearly 100% pantomime, mind you. We thought it to be a long shot when we went in but as we were leaving, we noticed that the shopkeeper's awning was made out of a heavy, rubbery awning material. To make a long story short, we wound up with two custom made pedestal covers (not covering the wheel itself) with a zipper, drawstring at the bottom, and three brass grommets at the top with a flap above the grommets to prevent rain from entering while water vapor can still escape . . . for 60 dinars (or about $44). This also included the guy coming out to the boat to measure, going back to his shop, and returning by 7:15 p.m. with the finished product. (We had told him we were leaving in the morning so it was tonight or never.)
Leaving Kelibia this morning, we had a forecast of NW winds at 20-25 kts. I figured, "perfect" since we wanted to head to Monastir on a course of 192. During the first couple of hours, we had SW 10-15 dropping to S 5-10 by 1 p.m. We averaged some 8kts during that time, often hitting 9 and sometimes 10 kts under full main and jib with puffs up to 20 kts. Then the wind started clocking and we were on a beam reach. Once it hit 25 kts, we reefed but instead of going to the first reef, we took it to the second because of a new forecast telling of "SW 5 becoming NW gale." (The "5" meant "force 5" on the beaufort scale.) Even with two reefs, we continued along at 9-10 kts. But steadily, the wind rose to 25 kts, then 30 and finally 35 kts. So now our 2nd reef was technically not sufficient. It appeared that the high winds were emanating from a squall that was passing over and would probably subside soon but we couldn't be sure. Plus, it was so comfortable inside making 10.9 kts sustained toward our destination, Monastir, some 15 NM away, we hated to go out into the cockpit. But we did.
While we were out there taking the third reef, the winds hit 40 kts, waves grew to 10 feet, and we had our hands full. I tried bringing the bow into the wind using differential throttling but no go. Conditions were so strong that full ahead on one engine and full reverse on the other would not do the trick. So I put them both in full ahead, built up some speed, and then moved the helm over. That worked just fine. It's all part of getting to know a new boat. With the third reef in place on both the main and the jib, we all went back inside where conditions were nearly serene. Much less noise, no wind, and no leaks even when we would take a wave over the bow. This would dump tons of water on the cabin with some making it to the cockpit where we had taken some water in the face moments earlier. What a difference! Plus, we were still making 8-9 kts on course. We stayed right there for the next 1 1/2 hours when we passed by the point protecting the marina at Monastir. All this happened last Friday but I have not been able to get email out until today, Monday, if in fact I can even do it today!
All in all, I'm even more impressed with the boat. We made the 65 NM from Kelibia in 8 hrs 25 min of which 20 minutes was uncomfortable. We could see the squall coming so we probably should have either reefed earlier or just left it at the 2nd reef, said to be good to 35 kts. Yes, we had 40 kts but we put a lot of stress on things (with flogging sails, etc.) by reefing in such conditions. Maybe then, we would have gotten the boat up to the 14 kts it is supposed to be capable of doing as per the manufacturer's brochure! On the other hand, it was good practice and if the winds had gone to 50 kts, we would have had a bigger problem on our hands. With the info we had at the time, we did the right thing . . . I think.
This seems like a really nice place. Large marina (including two other American boats we've met so far), lots of restaurants, and shops.
One of the Americans took us into town to show us the sights. The most impressive thing was the "market." Meat, fish, and vegetables all in one place. All kinds of fresh tuna, flounder, bill-fish, anchovies, and more. Over in the rabbit department, you could pick out the live rabbit you wanted and they would butcher it on the spot! They looked like rabbits you would find in a pet store in the US! The veggies were super! Mary ordered a kilo of potatoes, green peppers, and tomatoes (3 kilos or about 7 lbs) for what amounted to $1.65. These were not mangled, bruised, stunted, or too ripe as you might expect in such a country; they were like what you'd find at Byerly's, Lund's, or Rainbow foods in MN. Then we passed by the strawberry section where we were compelled to order another 2 kilos or almost 4.5 lb of beautiful, gigantic, non-blemished strawberries. That's when we found out we got ripped off in Kelibia where we paid the $2.15. Here in Monastir, at the market, we paid 2 dinar or $1.46 for the 4.4 lbs of strawberries. Oh well, you learn by doing.
We will stay here for a week when Teri flies home and, for lack of other crew, Mary and I will do the 190 NM to Malta by ourselves. There's an island in between so it shouldn't be too bad, only two long day-sails.
Hope all is well with you!
Lee and Mary