September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast

By Tom Morkin

Food poisoned again! It was the “cous cous poulet” in Tunis. Both Liz and I had all the symptoms (which I don’t need to describe). They struck us immediately upon our return to Feel Free from our trip to Tunis. It could’ve been worse, much worse – it could’ve hit us in the train or bus or shared taxi, or just about anywhere in this toilet-deprived country. Or we could’ve been on passage – thoughts too awful to contemplate. Throughout our 36-hour ordeal, we couldn’t stop thinking about our waiter’s comment as he delivered our rather tasty meal: “We made this meal very special for you.” They sure did!
Since our travels began many years ago, I’ve been poisoned seven times in six countries. I’ve had: Tunis Tummy in Tunisia, Sphinx Jinx in Egypt, Red Sea Revenge in Eritrea, Korean Can Can in Pusan Korea, Fijian Foxtrot in Suva Fiji, Mazatlan Madness and Nogales Nuisance in Mexico. The weird thing is that with the exception of the latest bout, it’s been only me who has succumbed to the bugs. Although we can’t resist eating street food where hygiene can be questionable at best, my bad experiences have always been in restaurants, not at street food vendors.

Here’s Liz, who almost never gets food poisoning, scarfing down crickets and grasshoppers with impunity at a Bangkok food stall.

Much to our surprise, we did recuperate and made plans to start our cruise north along the low-lying east coast and then west along the more mountainous north coast to the small city of Tabarka, only 20 miles east of the Algerian border. Reasonable anchorages exist along the route but none could be described as an all-weather anchorage; fortunately, we could rely on fishing and commercial harbors at Kelibia, Bizerte, and Tabarka, which meant 70-mile hops to go from harbor to harbor.

Our cruise took us from Monastir on the east coast to Tabarka on the north coast, with few all weather anchorages in between.

The long-range weather forecast from UGRIB was almost too good to be true, calling for the very uncharacteristic southeast winds to persist for almost a week. A high-pressure system over Sicily and a small low over France would result in 15- to 20-knot south and southeasterlies as long as those systems stayed put.
Our departure chores were done by 2 p.m. Thursday and our departure time was dawn the next morning; but, the great weather forecast coupled with the full moon that night compelled us to check out at 4 p.m. and set off at 5 p.m. for an overnighter to Kelibia.

Our sails were re-stitched and refurbished by Hedi in Monastir and we were ready to set sail again.

Even sailing port to port within Tunisia, the police insist you check in and out of port. We suspect they are concerned we’ll be carrying refugees to the nearby Italian islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria. So concerned are the authorities that cruisers could be people smugglers, they take a very dim view of locals being entertained on yachts. Our Canadian friends David and Barbara on Calabar reported that two Tunisian women they invited aboard for dinner were denied permission to board the boat until they collected passes at the police station. They then had to return the passes to the police following their evening aboard. Can you say police state?
One of the two policemen who came to our boat for our check out appeared rather suspicious of the Canadian flag on our stern. The two officers spoke between themselves and the word marijuana could be clearly heard. He then looked to us and in a serious manner asked in French what was the symbol on our flag. Did they actually believe Canadians put a marijuana leaf on our national flag?
The strange and slightly bizarre transactions with bureaucracy were quickly put out of mind once the main was raised, jib unfurled, and engine shut off as we broad reached at five to six knots under blue skies awaiting the arrival of the full moon. The idyllic conditions lasted until 11 p.m. when the full moon was overhead and apparently insisted that the wind go to sleep and our 70-horse Isuzu diesel wake up and take us the last 40 miles into Kelibia as dawn broke.
We had no trouble believing that the fishing industry based in Kelibia was the biggest in Tunisia. Tuna boats, sardine boats, long liners, and rowing dories filled the boat basin to beyond capacity. Hundreds of people lined the shore buying freshly caught fish, fishing boats came alongside the dock long enough to offload their harvest and then were gone. The action was frenetic and we would have loved to join the action but had to check in with the Police, National Guard, Customs and the Port Captain! Going through the bureaucratic maze is a drag at the best of times, but after a night passage when the crew is sleep deprived, is worse. Thankfully, all concerned were friendly and courteous and went out of their way to help us whenever we asked.

The fortress overlooking the harbor was built by the Carthaginians in the 5th Century B.C. and attests to the strategic importance of Kelibia. From here, Romans and later Byzantines could maintain a commanding presence after finally defeating the Carthaginians in the Punic wars, all the while being a short distance from Sicily and Rome itself.

It appeared we weren’t alone in taking advantage of the good weather. Throughout the day, yachts sailed in. No fewer than six boats crammed into the harbor that day and Feel Free found herself number two boat in a six boat raft-up.

Sailboats from Switzerland, Germany, France, England, America, and Canada were shoe-horned into the boat basin of Kelibia.

After two days of exploring Tunisia’s northeast Cape Bon area by foot and shared taxi, we just couldn’t let that southeast wind go to waste so at first light on the third day from Monastir, we were underway again, this time with a reef in the main. Over the years, we’ve learned to respect capes and Cape Bon would be no exception. It is a high, bold promontory that very clearly marks the end of the east coast and the beginning of the north coast.
As expected, the dramatic landscape was matched by a dramatic weather development as the wind ramped up to 30 and 35 knots, the water got whiter and whiter and the boat responded to the higher octane wind, jumping up to nine knots.  There was very little fetch so the seas topped out at three feet and it was swift, smooth sailing as we bid adieu to eastern Tunisia and bonjour to the north.

The north coast of Tunisia is hilly and verdant, unlike the east coast.

Once two miles west of the cape, the wind died and would reappear from various points of the compass long enough to make us think that maybe we could start sailing again only to find it was just a “sucker breeze  funnin’ with ya.” On and off went the engine, in and out went the jib, back and forth went the main. Hopes raised, hopes dashed. Some days, sailing sucks! Eventually the wind did straighten and start to fly right enabling us a pleasant final three-hour sail into the port of Bizerte.
We had heard less than flattering remarks about the “yacht marina” in Bizerte, so we dropped the anchor in the large outer harbor of this commercial port and hoped the harbor police would leave us alone. They did. How pleased we were to be swinging free at anchor after weeks of living cheek by jowl in marinas. Give us the open space of an anchorage with unobstructed views that are gently changing as the boat swings around her anchor, any day.
We walked the streets of Bizerte, the grand and wide seaside boulevards lined with royal palms and stately white government buildings and hotels, as well as the narrow cobbled lanes of the medina where vendors plied their wares much the way they did 600 years ago.

In the picturesque old fishing port of Bizerte you can get a sense of Bizerte’s pre-colonial identity. Kids in Bizerte have fun diving off a bridge.

Our plans to linger in Bizerte were changed by the weather – nothing new there. Winds of 15 knots from the southeast promised a glorious reach for our 65-mile day. After hearing about our friends’ two-day slog to Tabarka from Bizerte in strong northwesterlies, we couldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth, and were off at dawn the next day. After two hours of motoring in calm seas, images of motoring for 13 hours came to mind. Just as we were coming to terms with that reality, faint signs of the southeaster appeared: ripples on the water, tell tails fashioned from plastic ribbons showed signs of life, the mainsail stopped luffing and began to fill, the main sheet got taut, boat speed increased and the boat gently heeled to starboard – all those glorious indicators that it wasn’t going to be such a bad day after all. Sure enough, the day developed splendidly within 15 minutes of the first evidence of a breeze, we turned the engine off and were broad reaching at five and six knots in flat seas.

It was perhaps our best day of sailing in the Med yet, no more than a mile offshore, passing mile after mile of pure white sand beaches backed by undulating hills of different shades of green conjuring images of the Scottish Highlands not North Africa.

We saw little evidence of human life, only one or two small fishing boats and a couple of settlements; in fact, we saw more dolphins than people as the shoreline passed by our port side until we raised the town of Tabarka off the bow well before dusk. Our Tunisian sojourn was coming to an end.