This web page contains the log of the fourth leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis from Greece to Tunisia and back. The leg covers a 2-day period from the Maltese island of Gozo to Monastir in Tunisia with a brief stop on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The log is illustrated with maps and photographs, and also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Sunday May 20 2001, Day 17
In the early hours the wind increased to 10-20 knots SE and we were able to open the head sail and motor-sail. We were making very good speed but the swell was large and confused. Fortunately most of the swell was at our quarter.
Later the wind sifted and the genoa started flapping, we rolled it in, raised the main sail, and continued motor-sailing.
We arrived in Lampedusa [35° 29.9' N 12° 36.4' E] at 1215 having crossed 83.9 nM from Mgarr. The harbor was crowded with local fishing boats and there was a lot of confusion between the 3 possible areas for anchoring. The North Africa Cruising Guide and the Italian Waters Pilot were not too helpful here. We went side-to on the E harbor at what seemed to us the only available space. The depth was barely adequate to our drawing of 1.65 m. A couple from a near-by Dutch sailboat came to help us dock.
We had lunch and fell asleep. Later we went ashore for a walk. This is a very modest fishing town. There were no old buildings and there is nothing picturesque about the town. But, as it was Sunday evening, everyone was out on the main street (which is not along the waterfront) for the volta (the evening stroll). The main industries here are fishing, fish processing, and taking tourists to scuba dive.
We ended up having a very good, if expensive (over $50), dinner consisting of fish zuppa (soup), seafood pasta, grilled fish, and wine at the Al Siluro di Gheddafi restaurant. After this we went back to Thetis and straight into our berths.
Monday May 21 2001, Day 18
It is Monday evening and we have made it! We are tied up all securely at the Monastir Marina in Tunisia. We stepped for the first time on African soil. A new continent is waiting for us, at which we have arrived by our very own little sail boat!
The day started early. The alarm woke me up at 0100. Shortly after, I got up and made coffee. Alice got up and helped me prepare for our departure from Lampedusa. I had to add some oil in the engine and it was 0200 when we managed to cast off. We had some trouble backing off because the tide, though small, was low and our keel was resting on the muddy ground. A strong burst of the engine did the trick. Phew!
We started moving. It was so dark that, despite the radar, it was hard to tell when we were outside the harbor and clear of the land.
When we were absolutely sure that we had cleared the land, we headed against the wind and raised the mainsail, still on its 1st reef. The wind was a light 4-8 knots, easterly, and we motor-sailed. Later the wind came from the NE, a Gregale, at 10-18 knots. We continued motor-sailing while Alice took the watch and I went to sleep. I slept for about 2 hrs. When I woke up the wind had stiffened to 20 knots so, I opened about 50% of the headsail and turned off the motor. Nice sailing at last. This pleasant state lasted most of the morning. I even had to reduce the headsail as the wind increased because we were tipping and had developed a strong weather helm. When we were less than 30 nM from our destination Monastir, Tunisia, the wind backed to the N and weakened to the point that sailing was not possible. We lowered the sails and motored. We went about 10 nM this way when the wind came back, I then opened the headsail and motor-sailed.
We arrived at Monastir [35° 46.8' N 10° 50' E] on 1720. We had covered 89.3 nM from Lampedusa. Our voyage from Greece to Tunisia was over. A few miles outside the marina I had hailed them on the VHF channel 16 and they were expecting us. A man was now waving us to go side-to. It seemed that there was a whole reception committee waiting for us. We hung the fenders, arranged the lines, and made our approach. When we were close to the quay, but before docking, they asked us how long we were planning to stay. After we said 4-5 days, an attendant jumped aboard and guided us to another berth. This time we were to go stern-to. The attendant caught 2 mooring lines and another attendant ashore caught our stern lines. We were berthed in no time. The shore attendant helped us to deploy the passarella. I tipped the attendants a few dollars.
A uniformed official very formally welcomed us to Tunisia (I had raised the yellow pratique flag as well as the Tunisian courtesy flag) and very politely asked the captain to follow him with the passports, ship papers, and insurance document. He then addressed Alice and informed her that I should be back in less than half an hour. I followed him, making polite small talk, to his office on the other side of the marina. He and another uniformed official guided me in filling several forms and asked for a few copies of the crew list. They were very helpful and forgave my many mistakes because all the forms were in French. Eventually they stamped the many forms and our passports. They hardly looked at the boat papers. Then they escorted me to another nearby office. Here were two more uniformed officials (different uniform). They looked at the boat papers and the already filled forms. I was then asked to fill another form. All very polite and with smiles. Then all 3 of us walked back to Thetis. Both officers (I think they were from customs) came aboard, sat down by the cabin table and started filling some more forms. Then they asked if we had any ouzo. That was not a customs related question, they just wanted to drink some. One of them did. The other asked for coffee. After they finished filling their forms, they just sat making small talk. Tired as we were from the trip we felt that they were going to spend the whole night here inside our cabin. Eventually they left leaving with me, guess what? Another form. This one I am supposed to bring back to the office with some money for the fee. They did this because we had no Tunisian money yet.
After the officials left, Alice and I went ashore looking for a bank to change some money and for the marina office to get a key for the bathroom and showers. It turned out that the marina office was closed for the day but we did find an exchange office which charged my visa card and gave us 200 Tunisian Dinars (TD). The rate of exchange being 1.4 TD/$. There is a very strong GSM signal here both voice & data. This is in variance with the information provided with the 2001 edition of the Imray Mediterranean Almanac.
Alice cooked a rice dish with mushrooms and olives while I connected the water hose and the battery charger to the AC. After we ate well we went to bed early, tired but pleased.
We have come 824 nM from Leros.