SO43DS Tunisia to Sicily
A single-handed October crossing from Tunisia to Sicily on my Sun Odyssey 43 DS Having waited ten days for the storm to pass in Sidi bu Said, my wife and friend couldn’t wait any more and had to leave, so I was left all alone. Fearing Capo Bon, after all the frightenting tales told me by the local sailors, I didn’t want to tackle it on my own so I asked for a professional sailor to accompany me to Sicily. With Nooman I went through all the local formalities, contract, legalisation of signatures, registration of the contract, police control and then I tackled the Italian Consulate for the visa, which was to take other days. But I couldn’t wait, the weather was now perfect and as Ali the diver volonteered to accompany me to Kilibia in Tunisia, I decided to at least get closer to Sicily. He arrived punctually at the boat in the morning, but asked me to accompany him to the police for the formalities. We went but were told that the Captain would arrive in an hour, but as it was getting late and I was already risking a night arrival, I said my goodbyes and took off on my own.
Sidi bu Said – Pantelleria (84 miles)
After I safely rounded Capo Bon without incident and as the sea was very calm and for other urgent reasons, I changed direction for Italian Pantelleria, but naughty naughty, without having my passport stamped by the Tunisian police. I did call the Guard National and told them of my change of plans so that they would not worry at my non arrival. (When back in Rome I went to the Tunisian Consulate to regularise my position, but after many calls and showing proof that I did not sell my boat in Tunisia, the official called me to say that nothing could be done and that I would have to fly there to get my passport stamped….and they wonder why the country is still so poor! The economy is so stifled by stupid, useless beaurocracy, that it will never get off the ground, or even remotely approach European well-being. And the boat people will continue risking their lives to reach Europe in shoddy boats: the same day I reached Pantelleria, some 300 clandestines were intercepted.)
I have witnessed the changes in Sardinia over the past 30 years, passing from a poverty stricken region, to a wealthy modern economy, due mainly to the prosperous development brought by an upmarket tourism. Tunisia has all the attractions and potential to follow suit, but it must do away with their Police State attitude towards tourists.
The strict application of travel formalities in Tunisia will be a complication for cruising boats, whereas the sea imposes its own timetable and rules. So you should consider this possibility when you decide to visit Tunisia, as you may not be able to go back there for reasons beyond your control. But never mind there are 20 other countries in the Mediterranean to visit.
I had a tranquil run to Pantelleria, amongst dolfin and a swirling sea full of tuna fish, especially around Capo Bon. Head wind all the way, and alternatively a favourable and contrary current. I arrived at 11.00 pm and asked the Customs authorities for immediate clearance, so that I could leave at sunrise. No problem. “No formalities, you may leave when you wish”. I was in another continent, another world!
Pantelleria – Marsala (66 miles)
The next morning I set off Northwards with a constant South Easterly wind of 12 to 16 knots, and I flew along at an averaged speed of around 8 knots, all the way to Sicily, where the wind picked up to 22 knots. I reduced sails and comfortably arrived in Marsala early afternoon. I reckoned that with a minimum of crew I could have made it for lunch!
Here I closed up the boat, in the new protected tourist section of the Marsala harbour and left it to get back to work. An extraordinary beautiful bus ride through Sicilian vineyards and olive groves to bustling Palermo. There is much to visit in this part of Sicily and the plan was to come back later for a more thorough look and also to visit the Egadi islands, which lie just a few miles away and then later on, who knows!
Galana River II