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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

Available on Amazon here


Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.


Rose & Brian 13 - Palma to Tunisia - Six months afloat

Tunisian FlagThe trip clockwise around Mallorca continued without incident.  We had a good F6 blow as we came up to Cap Fomentera – the gusts seemed to come straight out of the sheer cliffs so eventually we dropped the sails completely, worrying what it might be like on the windward side of the point.  Strangely, as we rounded the corner, the wind disappeared.  We tied up in Porto Pollensa, a very pleasant marina with a smart new clubhouse with wifi, all the facilities, and a lively shopping centre with a couple of supermarkets and some pretty squares. 

Our second invertor decided to give up the ghost at that point, so the backup that we had bought in Ceuta had to be dug out and plugged in to keep the laptop going.  We finally splurged out on a much more powerful one in Palma (1000W), that is branded and guaranteed for a couple of years! 

We carried on after a couple of days to Cala Calamel where we spent a long time trying to catch a buoy, finally getting into the dinghy and taking the rope to it that way.  There was some swell that increased overnight, so we moved on to Porto Petro which is a very attractive port with anchoring available just outside.  The surrounding area is full of little inlets, covered in steps that lead to houses on the low cliffs which block off access to the land behind.  Trying to get to the cliff edge from the road involves finding small alleyways between houses which give on to a small section of the coast, then retracing steps to find the next alleyway! 

From Cape Fomentera the wind remained either east or south with very little strength so we were motor sailing most of the Admiring Carthage Ruinstime.  Whenever we moved direction, the wind came with us it seemed!  After a couple of days in Porto Petro, the forecast was looking a bit iffy, so we decided to move on to Palma via Puerto de la Rapita – a rather dreary marina again with not much to see in the immediate hinterland.  However the night-time entertainment for locals turned out to be watching sardines (or similar small fish) swarm under the lights of the fuel dock about 20 yards away from our berth, sufficient for small children to be able to catch them with toy nets.  We were rather captivated by the spectacle. 

After calls to one marina close to the airport and being told that fees were upwards of €50 a night, we opted for Real Club Nautico de Palma where the fees were almost half that, and had been recommended by our friends on Swyn-y-Mor.  (Not the same Swyn-y-Mor that Phil, a Sailers contributor, had met in Plockton we have to say – this one is a Nicholson 38 ketch).  We arrived and tied up on Monday 23rd November for what turned out to be a really enjoyable three week stay as there is so much to do and see there.  The RCNP is quite central as well as being on the bus route that goes direct to the airport via the town centre.  Apart from the convenience for Brian’s brief return to the UK, it was great for going to the big department stores!  Our major achievements were to acquire a wifi high gain aerial with a convertor kit for the USB port on our laptop, an extension screen for the laptop that we can have on deck, and some aluminium sheet to make more racks for the saloon as well as an additional instrument panel for Brian’s continuing re-organisation of the electrical system.  As anyone who has cruised abroad will know, finding the right stuff takes quite a long time and these had been on our shopping list for a few months.

The high gain aerial changed the list of available networks in Palma from a paltry five or six to about 20! This has proved invaluable already in Tunisia.  The extension screen is just a 15” LCD TV– with a serial port for computer connection included which was a lucky find.  So that was our Christmas list sewn up – next stop Tunisia…

Alexora in TabarkaAfter waiting for our books (Rough Guides to Tunisia and Italy) to arrive on 10th December we set off immediately to catch the weather window that we had hoped would not disappear.  Having noted that the Gulf of Lyon spawns huge gale systems that tear down in a south easterly direction towards Sardinia, we opted for the chicken route heading in a curve south and then east towards the African coast.  This route aims for Tabarka, the first harbour in Tunisia while keeping to the west of the aforesaid depressions. 

This would be only our second long trip – 350 miles so 3 days - but we were feeling a bit more confident having braved the Bay of Biscay.  Just as well, as the weather varied from flat calm to F4-5 every few hours, with both wind and waves behind us or just to port.  Having experimented with just the jib, just the mainsail, both mainsail and jib, we found that the most comfortable ride, was to have just the mainsail up, as far out as it would go much of the time.  Despite this being the autohelm’s worst nightmare, it held up for the entire trip especially if the engine was running which makes us think that perhaps it needs a thicker power lead.  We sailed about 1/3 of the time, motor sailed another third with the engine ticking over just to keep some headway, and the rest on full power when the wind died.  The first night we saw lots of shooting stars – some so close we could see the vapour trails.  Friday night, 11th December saw us go past the 3,000 mile mark since collecting the boat from Rhu – we had a glass of wine to celebrate!

Worst was the swell that built up every few hours to 2-3 metres, tossing us around making the boom slam about.  This may Broken Vang Platehave been the last straw for our vang – while sorting out a jammed reefing line at the mast I found that the thick cast plate attachment for our Selden vang had broken loose from its 6 rivets at the base of the mast, broken in two, and was now making big gouges in the saloon hatch cover surround.  Tying that up out of the way took a while, but we decided we could cope without it with the wind behind us all the way.  The pulleys at each end have been put back in place to hold the boom down while we wait until we might find somewhere that can make and install a new plate. After arriving in Tabarka, we also found that the topping lift was almost worn through at the pulley at the top of the mast!  This entailed me going up the mast for the first time – not as difficult as I had thought it might be but the bruises lasted a while.  I had to sort out the tangle of our attempts to thread drawstrings through, and then carefully feed the replacement over the pulley alongside the old line.  My big 100m reel of spare rope is now much depleted.  At the same time I was able to lubricate the masthead pulleys, the anenometer and the mainsail runner channel.  The windspeed now registers what it really is – instead of roughly half the speed!  I think some of our wind force estimates have been a bit low up to now.

We were hailed by both Algerian and Tunisian coastguards by radio as we approached and then greeted by boat, with the usual questions but very friendly.  Tabarka is great – the port was welcoming – we rafted up next to a catamaran and met other sailers either leaving their boats there or in transit.  The local markets are colourful and most food is extraordinarily inexpensive – 12p for a baguette, less than £1 per kilo for fish, vegetables, fruit.  Meat is the only thing that costs the same as the UK.  Some days were hot, others windy and cool.  We stayed five days waiting again for a lull in the wind, then headed direct to Sidi Bou Said overnight.  To our delight Swyn-y-Mor arrived an hour after us, so we have spent a very sociable week here.  Christmas Day was perfect, with hot sunshine and no wind.  Lunch was taken outdoors in Le Pirate – the excellent restaurant conveniently next to the marina. 

The marina itself is a long walk uphill from the town, but taxis are plentiful and cheap, and 20p on the local train takes you to all the historic excavations in Carthage or on to Tunis.  However the weather continues to be very variable here, with high winds every couple of days and temperatures similarly changeable, so we intend to head on south to Monastir and beyond where it seems to be calmer and more consistently warmer.

Sunset Sidi-Bou-SaidThe only downside in Tunisia so far are the facilities in the ports – hot showers and toilets do exist, but are locked up with the key kept in the offices, were very dilapidated in Tabarka, and they have “lost” the shower key here in Sidi Bou Said and don’t indicate that it will be replaced!  In the fishing ports we will be paying about £5 a day, so I don’t mind the privations there so much, but in the private marinas such as here it is £20 a day, so you feel rather cheated – especially when the office staff have access!  Hopefully this will improve as we move on.

So it is now 6 months since we left Holyhead, and still no regrets – we are having the time of our lives, and feeling very grateful that Alixora was the boat we chose.

All the best for 2010 – we aim to have a great time!


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