GREECE IS THE WORD
The magic of the Mediterranean is in the incredibly diverse cultures nestled on its shores. Nicola Beykirch charts a trip from Malta to the Ionian Islands via Sicily
Words & Photography
I couldn’t believe a year had slipped by since ‘A Med Time Story’ and ‘Sailing Safari’, on Bella Rose, our 2017 Oyster 545. It took minutes to decide the outline of our summer sailing 2019 adventure, reinforcing how easy-going both Captain Barry and I are when it comes to exploring together. A true sail and trail team! How about we head from Malta to Sicily to the Ionian Islands to Montenegro to Croatia and then leave Bella Rose in Venice for the winter? Barry didn’t need to hold his breath for my answer.
Finally, the day arrived. On a Saturday at 5:30 pm, we bid farewell to Valetta’s Grand Harbour, where Bella Rose had spent the winter. We motored into a blinding sun and 40-degree heat. Fifteen miles from shore the expansive rich blue sea and tranquillity greeted us in every direction: no buildings, no land in sight. The idyllic start to a journey!
Soon after dinner of a store-bought pizza and freshly prepared salad, I offered to do the first watch. Despite a sliver of moon and the distant stars, the sky was mostly ink-black. Heading 32 degrees to the first point of Sicily, I almost made three hours; however, the phantom red rectangular strips flashing on the chart AIS, a new phenomenon on the display since the chart had been updated in Malta – which Captain Barry omitted mentioning to me then – produced high levels of cortisol coursing through my veins. At every alarm, I stuck my head out of the cockpit and scrutinised the horizon for lights. Except for the tiny fishing boats, each dimly lit and without AIS bobbing up and down, darkness prevailed. Captain! Your turn. Later, I discovered the red strips to be a potential collision course. Barry!!!