Tales of Tunisia [The Burnett’s first big sailing adventure] Beneteau Oceanis 50

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See the first part of this Beneteau Oceanis 50 story here

A year later, filled with excitement and apprehension, David and Karen got back on the plane to Canet for their first ‘real’ adventure. Their brand new Beneteau Oceanis 50 Te Anau was patiently waiting after a winter in storage. They needed to get her out of the EU before the 18 months ‘export window’ expired … or else pay 20% tax. Their eye was set on Turkey.

“In my naivety, I was determined we would sail from Canet in France to Turkey and arrive in time for Karen’s 60th birthday. I imagined the romantic evening we would have for such a special woman in such a special place,” says David.

With a big inhale and butterflies in their stomachs, David and Karen knew it was time to leave Canet. No more day trips. No more procrastination. The weather wasn’t ideal but it was time to leave. With mixed emotions, they said goodbye to their home away from home.

Their dreams of getting to Turkey by Karen’s birthday were fading fast …

“We had been delayed by bad weather and started to realize getting to Turkey was unrealistic. We had to figure out another place to go. We were considering sailing to Tunisia via the Balearics. However, Ian Treleaven recommends easing into it by sailing along the French coast, avoiding the three-day passage from the Balearics, and instead, taking the 24-hour sail from the bottom of Sardinia straight to Tunisia.”

And off they went on their new course.

“North Africa is very scary for most people; all of our family and friends thought we were crazy,” says Karen. But for the Burnetts, it was just another great adventure and the perfect solution to get their Oceanis 50 out of EU waters.

On their way to Tunisia, they sailed to Marseille and as they were coming into port they saw the breathtaking terracotta glow. Impressed by her beauty, they explored every nook and cranny – and had a wonderful day shopping in the alleys. This was definitely somewhere they would come back to.

“The approach and entrance to Marseille – despite the grey, cold evening – was spectacular. In the morning with sunny skies, the place was even more impressive. Karen and I went on an exploration and shopping trip in the afternoon after housekeeping, Skype calls back to the office and e-mails. I can safely say we were very impressed with the place and would come here again.

The narrow side streets, the little stores, the people – we felt the Pilot Guide description of Marseille had not done justice to this fascinating city surrounding our very pleasant berth.

Karen and I had a wonderful day – the highlight being walking up to Notre Dame cathedral perched high on the hill overlooking Marseille. The view outside was fantastic, the view inside inspiring and humbling – the ambiance palpable,’’ David says.

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Sunsets from Sardinia to Sidi Bou Said

Sailing from Sardinia to Sidi Bou Said, David and Karen were treated to a dazzling sunset sinking into the glassy azure Mediterranean waters. It felt like a good omen for their first major crossing. However, mother nature had different ideas. They ended up sailing four-meter swells through the night. Finally, after a long night, they arrived at Sidi Bou Said. Looking forward to exploring this foreign and exotic place, they were keen on getting their documentation completed quickly. This was their first landing in North Africa and the first experience of politics. They hoped for a warm welcome but instead had the distinct feeling something wasn’t quite right. After hours of messing around and parting with some Euros, they decided Sidi Bou Said wasn’t for them – and moved on.

The Notorious Cap Bon

As Karen and David rounded Cap Bon they realized they were the only ones around. The swell picked up to four to five meters and the winds picked up to 30 – 35 knots and continued to increase.

“We ended up navigating a force-9 off Cap Bon. At least we discovered we could sail those conditions and our boat could handle it. Our boat really looked after us!” says David.

“When sailing in the force-9 off Africa I was really scared until I realized the boat could handle it,” says Karen.

They arrived in Kelibia shaken but in one piece, entering what turned out to be a friendly commercial fishing port that allowed them to find a berth for the evening.

From there they were heading to Port Yasmin further along the Tunisian coast. The customs official was really concerned about them leaving in that weather. He asked them to stay at the fishing port another night but they needed to keep to schedule. They had sailed in worse and felt up to the challenge.

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Losing their GPS position … happy birthday Karen!

“We were several hours into our sail from Kelibia when we suddenly lost our position on the GPS. Gone. Nothing. Our trusty GPS didn’t know where we were. The GPS plotted us somewhere in the Sahara and later in Italy. I didn’t want to worry Karen so I quietly went down and looked at my paper charts. Thankfully I had only plotted our location 30 minutes before. Relying on my paper charts was nerve-racking. I kept thinking, ‘Just make sure you know where you are and don’t pass our destination.’”

After what felt like a decade, they finally arrived at Port Yasmine and berthed.

“About this time a voice from the pontoon hailed us. ‘Looks like you two have had a pretty tough time of it’. ‘It was a bit rough,’ I responded to the very pleasant looking guy at the end of the voice. ‘Where have you come from?’ ‘Kelibia, and the day before, Sidi Bou Said’. ‘You haven’t been round Cap Bon in this weather! That place is notorious. No one goes near it in those conditions!’ (We did notice we were the only ones out yesterday.)

And so we met a lovely couple at Port Yasmine who popped a bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate Karen’s birthday … we have been great friends ever since,” says David.

“Although Karen never got to enjoy the day I would have liked to have given her for her big birthday, she was sent a special present to mark the occasion. From our starboard bow, there was a rush under the water some hundred meters or so away, and two (oddly shaped to our eyes) dolphins appeared from nowhere. Now over the years, we have of course seen plenty of dolphins, but never like this. There were only two of them, and they had come to visit, and to entertain themselves, and in so doing, to delight us – for over two hours! They squeaked and squealed, they leapt out of the water, they dived under our bow, they raced away, only to come back at even greater speed and leap out at us. They were truly delightful and we spent most of those two hours with them up on the bow. (Thank goodness we did not have the seas of yesterday!)”

After an incredible adventure, it was time to prepare Te Anau for storage and head back to Australia … until next year.

“There wasn’t one place that wasn’t spectacular. We met wonderful people. Had great hospitality. It was a pretty special year.” – Karen

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