Diary of a night sail

27 to 28 September 2018

Kotor, Montenegro to Brindisi, Italy, N40° 39.5’ E17° 57.9’, 135nm, 25 hours

On my return from the UK we started watching the weather to find a good time to cross to Italy to start our journey south to Sicily. It was not looking good! A weather system was developing over the Ionian that looked suspiciously hurricane like. Strong northerly winds blowing straight through Montenegro were feeding it. We had an uncomfortable but safe enough couple of nights on the pontoon at Kotor in 30-35knots of wind. Come 27 September we had a window of lighter northeasterly wind. After so long making short hops around Montenegro we weren’t relishing the prospect of a 140nm passage through the night but we were keen to get to Italy before the next strong winds kept us in Montenegro another week.

10am

We untie the lines from the pontoon at Kotor that had almost become home. We are sad to leave. It’s going to be hard to beat as a sailing destination. The wind is blowing up to 20 knots on Pintail’s nose and the bay is a bit choppy but our forecast is for lighter winds towards Tivat and out into the Adriatic. We wave a find farewell to the familiar sights of Prcanj, Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks.

11.30am

Before leaving Montenegro we need to check ourselves and the boat out of the country with customs and immigration. We tie up alongside the customs quay outside the posh Porto de Montenegro marina. It is clearly intended for huge superyachts and is incredibly high. Stefan scrambles up and heads off to visit the various offices. He returns remarkably quickly having hitched a ride to the harbourmaster’s office on one of the marina’s golf buggies. I have barely had time to make the fish cakes for dinner later!

1pm

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We have left the Bay of Kotor and are back in the Adriatic. As forecast the wind is lighter but from a different direction than forecast. We are able to sail, if in a slightly more southerly direction than we need to.

We are both feeling unsettled. We are sad to leave Montenegro after such a wonderful time but are glad to be on the move again towards our winter berth in Sicily. Moving on to unknown places never seems to get easier. We pick up the weather forecast on the VHF radio. They are forecasting gale warnings in the South Adriatic and the Strait of Ortranto. This is not what we want to hear! Whilst we still have mobile phone signal we check the forecast again on the internet. We are fairly confident that the worst of the wind is further south than our track and that we will catch only up to 30 knots through the night. Still, it makes us nervous.

3pm

The wind is still at 12 knots and we are still heading south almost parallel with the Montenegrin coast. The sea sate is not what we would expect in this wind. We have a swell hitting us on the beam which makes the boat rock uncomfortably. We are still nervous about the strengthening wind later.

5pm

We take our next seasickness tablets, a precaution we always take on long passages when we can’t afford for one of us to be stricken. As navigator, at this point I am worried that we are still heading too far south and that we risk finding the stronger winds and ending up further south from Brindisi. We decide to put the motor on to get onto a better track.

6pm

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I go below to make dinner. I made some homemade baked beans last night so reheat them and fry the fish cakes. It is good to have a nice warm meal.

7.30pm

The wind is still steady at about 12 knots and we are getting back onto our track. It is getting dark already. Night sails always feel longer when the nights are longer. It is also noticeably colder than our last night sail in Albania. Then we were wearing shorts and bare feet. Tonight we are in trousers, socks and jackets.

8.30pm

Stefan goes below to get an early sleep. I avoid collision with two cruise ships. It is not hard to spot them, lit up like Christmas trees. It is hard to make out their navigation lights amongst all the other lights.

Stefan reappears not long later unable to sleep. We are both watching the newly fixed wind indicator anxiously waiting for the wind to start building.

10pm

I go below for my off watch. It is difficult to sleep with the boat pitching from side to side and with the noise of the engine but I manage to doze on and off.

12.15am

Stefan wakes me early from my sleep. The wind has increased as forecast. In fact he reports that it went from 12 to 25 knots in about a minute. We need to get the headsail out. He also reports that we have had dolphins swimming with us and another cruise ship is lurking.

Stefan is feeling sick. Despite the wind direction the swell is still hitting us on the beam but more violently now. In the pitch darkness we can’t see the waves about to hit us. I get a soaking from the spray over the side. The saloon below is a mess. Stuff flung everywhere.

Note to self: stow away better next time!

1.30pm

Stefan has assumed a sleeping position on the beanbag in the saloon. I desperately want the wind to remain steady so he can sleep. The wind is creeping up to 25 knots. Anymore I will need to disturb him.

2.15pm 

The wind is now gusting up to 26 to 27 knots (30 flashes up) so I have to get Stefan up . We reef down the main sail. Typically the wind soon returns to a steady 21 to 23 knots. Stefan feels better for being upstairs. He is feeling sick despite taking the tablets.

2.30pm 

I do the hourly plot. We are making good progress under sail now at an average of  7 knots. Only 60nm to go! Stefan says he feels ok so I can nap. I wedgy myself on the beanbag he has vacated on the saloon floor. Braced against the bunk I am surprisingly comfortable and doze happily.

3.30pm

The plot alarm goes off . Stefan offers to do it and I am delighted to accept. He let’s me sleep some more.

4.10am

Stefan shouts down that he could do with a snooze. He still feels sick. Getting up is fun. The wind has steadied to 20knots but we are still being slammed on the side by the waves. Making a cup of tea is out of the question so I grab a bottle of water. Stefan is worried about the distance to another cruise ship. I check. It’ll pass more than a mile in front. I have put on another layer to keep out the cold. Four layers is the most I’ve had on all year!

5.30am

The wind has reduced to about 15 knots. I make a cup of tea and Stefan gets up so I put my head down on the beanbag again. Just as I go down he calls out, “we’ve caught a fish!” A small flying fish has landed on the deck outside the cockpit.

7.30am

I have slept longer than planned and Stefan is very tired. He reports no sight of the Italian coast whilst heading to the beanbag. The sun is up and the fish is still on deck! 17nm to go. Whilst the wind is dropping the sea will take a while to catch up so we are still pitching around in the waves.

8.15am

The wind has dropped to 10 knots so we furl the sails in and motor the last 12nm towards Brindisi. We are grateful that we did not encounter the gales of the forecast. We give the flying fish a decent sea burial.

9.00am

I go forward to change the courtesy flag. We are both too weary to document the moment as we usually do with a photograph. We have not seen our Italian courtesy flag since we took it down on passage to Greece on 1 August 2017. That seems like a long time ago now.

We can just about make out the buildings on the coast. One thing is for sure this coastline is incredibly flat compared with Montenegro.

10.30am

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We make our final approach to a very industrial looking Brindisi. Fishermen lie the long sea wall into the harbour. The marina answer the radio promptly and a marinero is on the pontoon to take our lines. He wants us to go in stern to but with the wind speed and direction Stefan prefers to put Pintail alongside. The marina is only half full so there is plenty of space. Pintail glides against the pontoon and only too late do we notice that the fenders are too low. Luckily the pontoon is wood and no damage is done.

It’s been a long night.

11.00am

Stefan heads to the office to deal with the formalities. I head downstairs to start clearing up the mess and to make some leftover baked beans on toast!

12pm

we fall into bed and are both soon snoring happily…

and so the post night sail jetlag begins!

6 thoughts on “Diary of a night sail

  1. It all sounds like a nightmare to me! Imagine what the Atlantic must be like! Well done to you both. You should try sea bands or aqua straps as well as pills. They work for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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