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!

We woke up to snow in Villanova this morning

This morning we woke up to a chilly surprise. There was a white carpet covering the roof tops and streets of Villanova Monteleone. This is very unusual here. November is often a very wet month in Sardegna and this year has been no exception. Its feels like it has been raining for 3 weeks non stop but we needed it. The water stores and reservoirs need to be replenished after a very dry summer.

A Fabulous End to Our 2021 Season

The 25th of October was our last day trip of the season and it was a spectacular day with perfect weather conditions and a lovely group of German guys on board. What a fabulous day to end our season. We asked our old pal Giuliano to help us as crew for the day and he stepped in to do do just that. He already knows the ropes, as he crewed for us during our 1st season in 2016 and for the previous owners for 8 years or so. He is just what we need, reliable and friendly as well as being proficient at handling the sails on Andrea Jensen.

From the very off, the guests on board were relaxed and chatty. They were a group of 9 pin bowlers from Germany (yes, 9 pin is correct!), who travel together regularly for fun and particularly enjoy an opportunity to sail. They were all very keen to hear about the history of Andrea Jensen and seemed to be drawn to the stern of the ship, to be with Colin at the helm. He is the expert on this subject and he loves an opportunity to pass on his knowledge. Everyone quickly began to enjoy each others sailing tales and I knew we were in for a day of good conversation and memorable yarns.

The sun was fairly low in the sky and it was a coolish morning but thankfully our guests had come prepared. Coffee and tea was served and we motored up towards Capo Caccia, past the Dutch House and Punta del Giglio. The impressive cliff of Capo Caccia dominates the coastline and caught everyone’s eye as we approached, all eyes were forward trying to take in the aw-inspiring view. As we rounded the point, the wind increased and Andrea Jensen began to ride the waves. The smiles on peoples faces were a picture of contentment.

We took our usual mooring in Port Conte Bay for lunch and a few guests braved the water for a swim. Plenty of chilled, white wine was being drunk by our guests and the conversation moved onto questions about whether we were going to sail? This was after all, what everyone was was waiting for. The sails ties were removed and the guests enthusiastically followed my instructions for hoisting and setting the mizzen and main sail and we cast off. This was quickly followed by the jib and stay sails and we were sailing out of the bay! Nothing can beat the tranquility when the engine is switched off and the wind starts filling the sails. Silence filled the ship, as everyone sat back and marvelled at the beauty of Andrea Jensen gliding through the water on her way back to Alghero.

Thank you to everyone who has joined us over the years on Andrea Jensen, we look forward to 2022 with increased optimism.

Nothing Beats The Family Coming To Visit

On the 2nd October, we could hardly contain our excitement, as we drove to Alghero airport to pick up our daughter, Caitlin and her boyfriend, Lewis. They were visiting us from Scotland, for a weeks holiday and it was almost exactly a year since we had seen them. This being of course, due to the Covid pandemic but also the busy working lives of our daughter and her boyfriend.
We had a great holiday planned together. The weather was not forecast to be particularly great on the west coast. We were going to head over to Orosei and embark on a motorbike road trip of the east coast of the island. Caitlin had visited us many times over the years but it was Lewis’s 1st visit to the island. They had rented a Suzuki 650 V-Strom and Colin has just purchased a used Moto Guzzi Breva 1100. However, before speeding over to the the east coat, their holiday started with a day trip out on Andrea Jensen. After all, one thing is certain, Lewis could not visit us without a day trip on Andrea Jensen.

It goes without saying that we had a great day sailing on Andrea Jensen. We had steady, southerly wind in the morning, the famous red sails were raised almost immediately as we left the port and we headed for Capo Caccia. Lewis was keen to ‘learn the ropes’ from me and Caitlin took the helm from Colin, as he proudly looked on. Caitlin grew up sailing in Scotland and this tough training ground is obviously still etched in her brain. She looked very comfortable at the helm I must say!.

Keep reading my blog below. I have been writing these since 2018.

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The machines
Great photo of the bikes and stunning views above Aritzo, where we suddenly ran out of road and had to turn back.
Next to the Moto Guzzi above Cala Gonone
2021 road trip on the Moto Guzzi. Stop off on the steep road above Cala Gonone.

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!