Well what a mixed bag our journey was, sometimes things don't quite go according to plan, but in the end it doesn't matter. We had planned to leave the dock at 8am and the country at 9am, however a last minute problem with the bilge pumps required a parting coffee with our trusty engineer, Mike Turner. Mike only has to look at something for a nano-second and it seems to start working again. All good, now we can get away about 9:30. Our exit from the dock was not quite as elegant as we had planned, but thank you Patrick from Tok Tok. The berth was meant for a 40' boat after all! First stop, the Capitanerie to pay our bills - TND150 for water and electricity. Next stop, the port police, lovely people and I managed the whole process in French, including the discussion about why I am already retired and such a young age (!) - maybe I should have put "housewife" or "boat-wife" on the formulaire but Google translate could not deal with that! So far so good, no request for baksheesh...
Next stop, customs, using French again - 2 ladies Facebooking, the other Instagramming. Nice chat about one of their nephews who is studying in an obscure university in Australia - aucune idee! I smile alot during these encounters... They call for le chef (aka the boss) and 3 officials et moi head for the boat - I am worried that I only have 2 items for baksheesh - this could go horribly wrong. We get to the boat and they all have to climb aboard from the side. The lady has a bit of a hard time, but I try not to notice. She goes through the list of stuff we declared when we arrive "You did not declare your tender!!!" Bollocks! it is written right there, next to radar. "How many gerry cans of gazole do you have??" OMG thankfully our gerrys are empty as we heard a story of a couple who got pinged for taking more than 2 out of the country. "Where are your 2 iphones? 2 iPads?!" She was determined! Meanwhile Keith accompanied le chef , resplendent in his vinyl shoe covers (nice one), downstairs - OK here we go, this is the bit where he gets cornered and asked for a cadeau or souvenir. The lady comes down to the guest cabins with me, very complementary on the decor, I choose not to tell her it was mon marie who made the bed... OK all good, we are done. "You must leave immediately!!" - OK with us. And what a bonus, we get to take the cheap bottle of whiskey and Euro20 that we had set aside for baksheesk with us! Thats one hour of our lives we wont get back... 10h30.
Next stop, put the main up, then pull it down and re-feed the reef-lines that were wrong, off we go again, another small delay. Good to turn the motors over for a bit, but starting to get itchy to sail. Parasailor up, good speeds initially, a bit shifty overnight and we lost another hour somewhere but overall having it up for 20 hrs and 25 minutes - a world record for ITIKI - and thats 60L worth of carbon emissions saved. I mention this to a number of the turtles we pass on our way - although they don't seem that interested.
Sadly motors back on when the breeze dropped out and arrival time was looking like 2am. We much prefer to come in to a new port in daylight and especially as we are a non-EU boat coming from a non-EU country, we want to do the right thing and visit the port police during business hours.
In keeping with our watch system, I headed to the sofa for a mid-morning nap and when I woke we seem to have stopped and we are drifting around aimlessly. I initially thought Keith had gone head to wind to take the main down before putting the parasailor back up, but no it seems we had completely lost steering, 34nm from our destination! Oh crap, this is serious! You can see from our trace on Nebo that this little drama went on for sometime, thank goodness we were nowhere near rocks! Yes Keith had already tried switching things off and on again, to no avail. The autopilot would not steer to course and on manual, the helm was completely unresponsive. It was a challenge even to steer using the engines. OK great, we are out of phone range, internet range, VHF range and we don't have a sat phone. Not too many options here. As I contemplate spending the night drifting aimlessly in a shipping channel, Keith finds a stray bolt at the bottom of the engine bay - could this be the source of our woes?! YES! Seems that this bolt had been connecting the hydraulic ram to the tiller arm and so now the two were not connected as they should have been. A mechanical problem easily fixed, thankfully no electronics or computery stuff involved. Keith manages to reconnect everything, with the help of an Allen key and a screwdriver. Phew - dodged a bullet there. Back on our way again but lost another hour of time. At some stage my phone got a brief network connection, long enough to update to the local time - there goes another hour as Malta is 1hr ahead of CET! Both engines on, full throttle! 10nm out and our dolphin escort has arrived! Eight of the beautiful creatures joined us for about 20 minutes, dancing around the hulls, jumping and playing in front of the boat. Somehow all is now right with the world. We stop for 30 minutes to recheck the rogue rudder bolt - it had already worked its way loose again so it was re-tightened. Could have been a major issue trying to manoeuvre into a marina berth without steering!
So finally we are here, quite expensive however our first night in a new country and lots of anchoring options for the rest of the week. Lovely people, very helpful marinero and customs and port police seem relatively relaxed. Great to be back in Europe!