Time for  a bit of diving before heading north.

170806 21 Fireworks for the Feast of St Lawrence Celebrations

Fireworks over Malta 

170806 24 Flags for the Feast of St Lawrence Celebrations

Back on our own while waiting for the weather to head north we decided to return to Gozo and take the opportunity to do some diving. It was a relief to return to the comparatively quiet port of Gozo after a week of canon fire and an ever increasing amount of fire works day and night as the Festival for the Saints began in earnest. 

In Gozo we found the dive centre "Extra Divers" based a short walk up the hill from the marina. Extra Divers proved to be a very efficient, friendly dive centre focused on ensuring everyone of all levels had a safe and enjoyable dive.

170809 2 Eel Blue Hole Chimney and Coral reef plus the ruins of the  Azure Window Dive

A friendly fellow captured by Andrew 

170810 1 Cathedral - Ascending into cavern

Over three days we did six shore dives. After East Timor shore dives tended to conjure up images of struggling out over rounded slippery boulder like rocks into the surf, only then to be challenged by rolling waves as you endeavoured to secure your fins to your feet. Gozo was far more civilised. Most sites had ladders to enter or exit the water, and although several involved a tentative walk over craggy limestone rocks no site was ever really a challenge for getting in or out. 

170809 4 Azure Window collapsed in March 2017170810 2 Cathedral - Lee Damien Nico170810 3 Tuna Head On

It was a great way to get a further look at the island that we had zoomed around for one day with Jan and Lee Langford. Each day the dive sites were in a different location. Day 1 was based around Xiendi on the South East, possibly for us one of the prettiest bays on Gozo. Two long dives here proved very handy for sorting out our gear after not having been in the water for a while. 

Day 2 got even better when we headed to the west coast near Dwejra to dive Inland Sea, The Blue Hole and The Azure Window. The Azure Window was up until March of this year one of the most prominent landscaped images photographed and featured in films such as The Game of Thrones. It was for Malta a tourism symbol. Unfortunately a huge storm in March of this year led to the windows collapse. Now underwater it has become a new dive site within its own right, huge monoliths of stone lay where they fell. The stone is still clean, not yet covered in algae or growth so shines brightly in the sunlight.

We accessed the ruins of the Azure Window through the Blue Hole. The Blue hole is a circular rock formation that is fringed by limestone rock that protects it from the open sea. We dove down through the hole then exited into the open sea by a tunnel. The colour and blue lighting was simply stunning.  At one point we were joined in the distance by a sting ray that drifted along in the blue looking very surreal - it was almost as if it was a painted.

Day 3 - how could it get better. With just our Dive Guide Nico, Damien from Australia (Originally) Andrew and I, we headed to the north of the island in the trusty Hilux and dove The Cathedral Cave - a cave where you surface into an open space with a huge dome and the most brilliant blue colouring. The final dive was off Reqqa Point. What a great dive to finish with. A prolific amount of fish including two tuna who decided to accompany us for nearly 20 minutes of the dive. At times their darting in-between us was a little disconcerting. 

The cliff face of Reqqa Point is covered in salt pools, used for years to produce Gozo Salt. Nico was quick to inform us that the salt in the supermarket that was a third of the price was the same salt. So there was no stopping to support the salt man selling his salt by the road side, but the salt pools did make for a good photo.. 

IMG 0681

Salt Ponds Gozo 

170810 8 Wied Ll-Mielah Natural Arch170812 3 The winery Ta Mena Estate passionate host Joe Spiteri

On route back to the dive centre on our last day Nico also took us to Wied Ll-Mielah Natural Arch - a natural window previously overshadowed by the Azure Window, this one is still standing so sure to get more attention. The more we saw of Gozo the more we came to appreciate how much there was still to explore and appreciate on this small island.

Before leaving Gozo we visited The winery Ta Mena Estate operated by the very passionate Joe Spiteri and his wife. The visit to the estate included a wander around the grounds being shown the animals, and plants that contribute to the wealth of goods, fresh and preserved that are sold in the shop onsite. What we thought was going to be a two hour event stretched into four hours of food, wine tasting and education on everything from how to hold a wine glass, taste wine, to the importance of bees and the reason you should always question “organically grown” . We are sure the wine tasted so good simply because we knew it had been produced with so much passion. We left the estate laden with wine, preserves and fresh vegetables. 

170815 2 The visiting customs boat that didn't use radio

A little disconcerting but turned out to be Tunisian Coast Watch 

170816 4 Bezerte Tunisia  Food Market170816 14 Fuel Stop for St Nicholas

An overnight sail saw us hoist for the first time the Tunisian Flag. We had been a little nervous about sailing to Tunisia and our initial contact had us momentarily thinking we had made the wrong decision. Imagine sailing along suddenly realising their is a grey unmarked vessel chasing you down, unsuccessfully may we add as smoke billowed from its exhaust. We tried calling them on the radio asking them to identify themselves all to no avail. They continued to honk their horn and to wave at us to slow down. Finally when they were alongside they simply proceeded to ask the standard coast guard questions, then wished us well and hoped we enjoyed our stay in Tunisia. What a memorable welcome!

170817 9 Heading gout of Bizerte Happy Fisherman

The purpose of our visit to Tunisia was to stamp Katherine out of the EU as is necessary every 18 months. Bizerte Marina is the most northern marina of Tunisia. Recently renovated the marina was sadly low on occupancy and the grand plan of apartment blocks and restaurants seems to be a little longer away. We found the staff to be incredibly helpful and friendly. Refuelling was no problem - how much do you need? Dependent on your requirement the fuel came in a drum, a tray back or in tankers to the fuel dock. The town had an excellent fresh produce market and bakery and we felt comfortable in our decision to have visited and may well return. 

We left Tunisia late afternoon after clearing customs once more, a nice evening run with our Code 0 slowly dwindled to a new record low speed for Katherine of 2 knots around 1am in the morning. Nothing to do but resort to the engine. 

170817 13 Sailing to Sardinia Sunset

Sunset on route to Sardenia 

170817 10 Sardinia Flag

On the of 17th August we arrived into Cagliari Sardinia. Another flag, another Island of Italy. Literally hours after our docking Nell and Darb arrived from Australia. They have been onboard Katherine every year since her launch so it was like welcoming them home. 

Time for another sailing adventure with friends. 

(For more photos)

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain