Alghero to Tunisia and back in 2 weeks – Fabulous Experience on Andrea Jensen

We are so pleased with ourselves right now. Our long awaited plans to sail Andrea Jensen to Tunisia were realised last month. The 5 crew all arrived in Alghero from various parts of the UK on April 16th. The voyage was necessary due to Brexit and the 18 month rule for British boats located in EU waters and was not without its challenges. These however, were swiftly overcome, due to the experience and knowledge of Colin and the supportive crew we had gathered together for the trip. We left Alghero port not once but twice (due to a problem with the engine heat exchanger failing) and needed to be towed back into port for the 1st time ever. All engine issues now fixed (new heat exchanger installed) by Colin and our new friend and 2nd skipper Davide, who was part of our able crew, we finally departed south, 2 days late, on 18th April, down the west coast of Sardinia, on our maiden voyage to Tunisia (the day after my birthday).

The wind was favourable and we sailed 50% of the way to Oristano bay, arriving after 9 hours. Colin and Davide refined the new rigging for the main top sail along the way too and this was successfully flown for the first time on Andrea Jensen under our ownership. Colin was delighted to see it rise above the main sail. The sails were dropped and we picked up a mooring buoy and rested peacefully for the evening, quietly satisfied. We set off early the next morning on the 2nd leg of the voyage, (planned to take 24hrs) and headed for Carloforte Marina on the small island of San Pietro, west of Cagliari. This was our first overnight leg of the voyage and the crew were fantastic. We split the crew into 2 main, 4 hour shifts, one skippered by Colin and the other by Davide, our Sardinian born, 2nd in command for the journey. The rest of the crew namely Finn, Lauren, Paul, Lara and myself supported the 2 skippers, 4hrs on 4hrs off. This worked famously and we arrived safely In Sifredi Marina, Carloforte, on the morning of Thursday April 21st. We motor-sailed the whole leg as the wind was not strong enough to allow us to switch off the engine (and we did not want to delay the journey south). A true test of the engine which was now thankfully, performing well, much to our collective relief!

The 3rd leg of the journey to Tunisia was delayed by 4 days unfortunately, due to high seas and we did not set off from Carloforte until early Monday morning. With excitement in our hearts (and some trepidation, it would be true to say) we set off at 1st light, on the 24hour journey across the Mediterranean to Tunisia. The journey went exactly to plan and we arrived 24 hours later in Bizerte to a very friendly welcome. We remained awake a further few hours to clear Tunisian Customs but this was very straight forward and went with out a hitch. The boat was searched and a Dr came aboard to examine our Covid vaccination documentation. All as in order! We were issued with health passes and allowed to disembark and explore Bizerte further.

Tunisia was welcoming and friendly. We had pulled up alongside the main harbour wall outside the Marina Office and were allowed to stay there for 1 night as we were due to leave the next morning back to Sardinia. The crew took a well earned rest and after a few hours sleep and a shower, some of us went ashore to explore the local town of Bizerte. The town centre was buzzing, the open air markets were in full swing and Finn and I looked around with huge smiles on our faces. Of course, we could not resist some fresh local delights. The strawberries were ripe and the deepest red I had ever seen! Fresh bread, croissants, dates and sweet pastries were all enthusiastically purchased.

Paul, Lara and Davide did exactly the same and discovered tasty pistachios, salad, fresh peas, broad beans, freshly ground coffee and more Tunisia sweets and cakes were brought back to the boat. Our stores were replenished and the aroma from the galley and saloon was inviting and delicious. We all headed out in the evening, hopeful of eating some local Tunisian delights, only to discover that it was Ramadan (we had actually known this) and the food choices were very limited before 10pm. However, we did manage to find a friendly establishment overlooking the main old town fortress wall and had a meal together but it was nothing very special unfortunately. We discussed the next leg of the voyage together over the meal, 48 hours, non stop, back to Alghero, departing the following morning! Eat up everyone, sleep is required!

Most of the crew had flights booked to return to the UK the following Saturday, so we were under strict time constraints, to get us all back to Alghero and could not afford for there to be any further delays. It was agreed that non stop back to Alghero was a doable plan, with the wind and sea conditions, thankfully, favourable. We set off early Wednesday morning from Bizerte and set the sails as soon as we left the harbour. Andrea Jensen was homeward bound for Alghero!

The 4 on 4 off shift pattern continued well for the return leg and the crew discussed meal plans etc. I made my 1st ever Spanish Tortilla, having been taught a few days earlier by Lara (Spanish and a great cook), I was a little under pressure to pull it off and not to disappoint everyone. Thankfully the Tortilla seemed to turn out of the frying pan well, all but Colin (non egg eater) devoured it willingly, during the relatively cold nights sail. The sea was a little bumpy, with the waves coming from behind onto the beam most of the way, so we kept the sails up to try to steady the rolling motion, which worked well.

Paul and Finn had mastered the roasting of aubergines and fresh green chilli peppers on the galley’s small, gas stove, for their fabulous vegetarian curries. We were all still smiling even though the Tunisian fresh, green chillies were large and a little on the spicy side.

After motor-sailing for 46 hours, Andrea Jensen arrived, safely in her berth in Aquatica Marina, Alghero, on the morning of Friday 29th, with a very proud and relieved crew onboard. We had completed a sea journey of 485 miles in 5 days. This was a truly unforgettable experience, some of the crew were complete sailing novices. A fantastic boat and crew, pre planning, great team work and enthusiasm for the task was what made it successful. Thank you to you all of the crew for making this happen. See you in 18 months time to do it all again!

The 2021 Season is Finally Underway ( )

On 28th April 2021 we returned from Bosa, back to Alghero Port. We were in Bosa for 5 weeks for our bi-annual lift out and maintenance, repaint and all over thorough check over of Andrea Jensen. I have to say Andrea Jensen is looking stunning, even though I am a little biased!

After what seems to be a lifetime of isolation for everybody Worldwide, Sardinia is finally coming alive. It’s been a long winter here, but in May the vaccine arrived from the mainland and the Comune di Alghero went full steam ahead to get its citizens vaccinated, in time for a summer none of us believed would happen.

On top of this of course, is Brexit. We have been given all sorts of advise from all sorts of knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable people, about what to do with our British flagged boat and Colin’s British skipper license. The truth is and to cut a long story short, we did nothing, sat tight on our little ship in the port and applied for our licence from the Capitaniere of Alghero port as normal. We did however, have a copy of a letter from the Italian Transport Authority in Rome, which proved to be solid gold for us (thank you to Fabrizio of Aquatica Marina who helped us enormously)! It stated that as of 2021 all British sea farers qualifications would be recognised in Italian waters and to our great relief, on May 31st 2021, we were given the official letter from Rome stating this fact!

Hallelujah! You could here our celebrations for miles around. It is official, thank you Italy, we can operate our tour from Alghero Port, Sardinia, for another year.

The next obstacle to over come for us was finding crew to help us with sailing, once tourists started to arrive in Alghero. We use HelpX to find willing volunteers who receive food and board in return. We managed to contact a willing student who joined us on 2nd July for just short of a month. Welcome on board Ilia!

That’s you all up to date now with events on Andrea Jensen!

Have a great summer!

Andrea Jensen in full sail (well nearly) in Porto Conte Bay, Alghero, Sardinia 2021

Should we be celebrating a brighter 2021 tonight or commiserating a good bye to Europe?

Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine!

We have a real dilemma tonight because at 11pm we (UK citizens) leave Europe. We really did not want this. We did not vote for it and regret massively the decision made by the British majority. We enter 2021 with huge uncertainty about our eligibility to continue working in Alghero, Sardinia. Will Colin’s UK skipper qualifications be recognised in Italy on 1st January 2021 as they have been for the last 5 years? We just don’t know. Will our British registered ship be able to stay in Italian waters? These are questions we have asked many organisations for the last 4 years and nobody can give us the answers. This has put huge strain on Colin in particular. We have to remain optimistic however and have to carry on with the winter maintenance on Andrea Jensen and the plans to have her recoded and licenced next year.

Of course we will welcome 2021 with open arms and a glass of vino and even more importantly say a resounding farewell to the dreadful year that was 2020. This is being celebrated first in New Zealand as I write this. We must wait, along with the rest of the locals for the vaccine to give us a protective shot in our arm. We hope this will bring this infection to an end and allow tourists to return to this magical island. We look forward to welcoming many of our friends and family back here next year and back onboard Andrea Jensen. Happy New Year everybody XXX

Andrea Jensen Sailing

Say Goodbye to 2020

Its very difficult to say anything positive about 2020, that I am sure you will all agree. We have tried to put a brave face on, but the reality has been far from something to smile about. The season began with state imposed Covid-19 lockdown in early March. We were able to quickly move onto the boat from Villanova and spend what we thought was going to be a short period of isolation and limited movement away from the boat. How wrong we were. Life under Covid restrictions has become the norm.

The good thing was that we were able to make great progress with the pre-season boat preparations and Andrea was looking great by mid April but we had no-one to share her with!

If you have read my previous blogs you will know that in early May we discovered by chance, that the main mast had a large area of rot. The rest is history that I will not repeat. Suffice to say we did not take our 1st guests on board this season until early July, after Sardinia finally opened its ports to foreign tourists from Europe. What is normally a 6 month season was drastically reduced to 2 months, through no fault of our own. We have all become slaves to Covid-19, lives put on hold in a cruel way, businesses devastated and the sooner we can bring this dark period to an end the better. There lies the next sequence of questions. When will it end? How will it end? Unfortunately, nobody knows the answer.

End of season mast painting

Sailing Dreams made in the Mediterranean – Are we really Living the Dream?

Andrea Jensen consumes our life and a whole new World has opened up to us, which we could never have imagined when we first stepped aboard her in 2016. We feel truly blessed at times and at other times we think ‘what have we done?’. You could say one of those times is now, in May 2020 with no prospect of a summer season due to Covid-19. But we have so many great memories which we need to pull on at times like this, to keep us motivated to keep going.

The virus is nothing we have brought upon ourselves of course. It’s really something we were unable to have foreseen, planned or prepared for. Its come at a time when we really thought we were getting the hang of this Mediterranean life, then bang the wind is knocked out of our sails.

On top of all this we have found rot in our main mast. The clouds are really hanging over us just now. I think we are living a nightmare just now and not the dream most people think! Yesterday we had a mammoth task of having to prepare and remove the rigging in order to have the mast removed at Alghero Ship yard by Rafael and his merry men. Thank fully we had lots of help and there is a local ship building expert, who has worked on Andrea Jensen previously, and has said he is able to fix the mast. That’s a relief! But at what cost?

The sorry looking mast is being loaded onto transport to take it to Iavazzo’s yard
There she goes, carefully guided out by Rafael and Fabrizzio

What a Roller Coaster of Emotions

It’s hard to believe we are in our 5th season on Andrea Jensen here in Alghero, Sardegna, one of the Mediterraneans stunning Italian Islands. AJ is dear to us and indeed to all who have been lucky enough to sail in her. But I do have to admit, it’s not all been plain sailing. We have experienced a roller coaster of emotions since we first became the proud owners of our little ship in February 2016. We left our families in the UK and moved lock, stock and barrel to Sardinia.

The season started with a disappointing panic in May 2016. We had bookings but no license from the Port Coast Guard Office in Alghero. We were the new British owners of Andrea Jensen and the Italian bureaucracy seemed impossible to navigate. We had to cancel the initial sailing bookings because without a licence, we could not operate. All we could do was keep turning up at official offices day after day and plead that someone would give us the official stamp to get started! This needed enormous patience but it finally paid off. On May the 10th we had our license and could confirm with our first 2 paying customers and of course – it rained!

I could not believe it when our 2 guests told us where they were from, Billingham in the UK. It’s the next town to the one in which I was born, in the North East of England. How bizarre was that? They were brilliant guests and did not mind the rain (it was only a light shower actually). What a relief, we had a lovely day out and received our first 5 star review on Trip Advisor. Our new life aboard Andrea Jensen had begun. What an adventure!

Early Years on board Andrea Jensen
Alghero Port, Sardegna

It’s Nearly May

Well it’s going to be May next week and we are still in lockdown on the boat here in Alghero, Sardinia. We have had some encouraging updates from the Italian government this week, that they are easing some restrictions and this is to be ongoing throughout May. This is urgently needed, especially here in Alghero. The town is like a ghost town, with all bars, shops and restaurants closed. This is obviously hitting the our economy hard. We too are very worried about our future here. If tourism is slowed then our business becomes questionable as it is solely reliant on the summer tourist trade (as are most businesses here in Sardinia). Northern Europeans are our main customers like Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and France. If they stop coming to Sardinia, we will be in deep trouble financially. We always try to look on the bright-side but this is very difficult with Covis-19.

Almost Every Country in the World is in lockdown

I write this with a heavy heart. What is happening right now, across every continent, is truly frightening. The disaster here in Italy is particularly alarming and shocking to say the least. The daily numbers of Coronavirus cases and deaths continues to rise, almost uncontrollably it would seem. Sardinia, at the moment, is not as affected as mainland Italy and from what we can see from looking outside of the boat in Alghero Port, everyone here is sticking to the rules of social distancing and remaining indoors. This is particularly hard for us here, I can tell you!

Another observation is that the people here are very socially conscious. They are not going out to the supermarkets and filling their trolleys full. Panic buying does not seem to be the headline here, thank goodness. But what we all are, is scared, along with the rest of the World. Where will this pandemic lead us? Will it lead to a shrinking of the World economy and make countries and governments think more about self reliance and move countries to a more home grown economy? Out of these dark hours, days, weeks, months hopefully people are being made to think about humanity and how fragile life really is. We certainly are!

We are in Lockdown

This has got to be the strangest and to be honest the scariest situation I have ever experienced. Two months ago we had never heard of Coronovirus and now the whole of Europe just about, is on government imposed lockdown. This is all in an attempt to stop a deadly virus from rapidly spreading and killing thousands of innocent people. But the reality is now hitting us here in Italy and more of the world, that it is all too little, too late.

Lockdown in Alghero

The UK is, of course, close to our hearts and what is happening there is of great concern to Colin and I as that is where our family are. Its very hard for us, even though we are trying to put a brave face on. We are not with our children in what is probably the most concerning time we will ever experience in our life time. They are very sensible, we know that but what if they became ill and we could not be with them? The hardest is yet to come and I just hope that our family manage to stay safe through all this.

‘Stranieri’ Thats What We Are

‘Stranieri’ is the Italian word for ‘foreigners’ and that’s how anyone who is not Italian is referred to by locals. We hear it all the time, in shops, on the phone – the receptionist will say ‘there are some stranieri here asking a question’ or ‘ they are the stranieri who own Andrea Jensen’. It’s true that our boat is famous in Alghero and we are the stranieri who own her. Hardly anyone refers to us by name, but they know the name of our boat alright. We do not mind that of course and always smile politely. I am sure it is not meant to be disrespectful but I do not like the word.

The thing is, will we ever stop being ‘stranieri? I really do not think so. In fact, I think mainland Italians would feel ‘stranieri’ here in Sardinia. Colin often says that he ‘feels black’ here. Don’t get me wrong we do like it here and have a lovely relaxed lifestyle compared to our life in Scotland. We get up at the same time each morning, have fresh fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and then go to the boat to start the days maintenance. We have usually planned the night before the work that needs done that day and make sure we have taken all the tools etc that we need in the car. We forget sometimes what day it actually is, but I know because the recyclable rubbish needs put out on different days back in Villanova. That is the only reason I know.

We are trying to ‘fit in’ and have progressed quite well with learning to speak Italian but it is going to take us a few more years before we will be able to hold a reasonable conversation about anything other than the weather! |Until then we will have to get used to being ‘stranieri’!