We have our daughter, Erin, with us for the summer. She produces weekly YouTube blogs so until Sarah starts writing again I thought i would link to Erin’s first video on-board Linea.
Once the thunder and rain storms had passed we ventured out. When we discovered that we were the only liveaboard boat we did begin to wonder if we had been right to leave the comfort blanket of Marina di Ragusa and its vibrant community.
Jayne Koehler, who is the port officer here came round to say hello and before long I was being whisked into town to be shown around.
To start with Jayne showed me Via Independenza which is an narrow alleyway full of small shops, stalls, wine merchants, tiellerie, (local pie shops), bakers, butchers, clothes shops, estate agents, bars, coffee shops, stationers, pizzerie, trattorie, casalinghue, ferramente – you name it, you can find it here.
She introduced me to most of the shop keepers and I felt warmly welcomed.
Later that day I showed Ian what I had discovered. We loved the quirky street. It is like a throw back. The signs above the doors have not changed in decades. It is scruffy but beguiling and everyone is so friendly.
The town is literally right on the door step of the boat and I think we are going to be happy here.
The next day, we walked down to the old part of town. The historic centre. The walk is a stunning stroll down a leafy boulevarde, along a huge promenade called the Lungomare. It must be four kilometres in length. Palm trees rustle over head and the tall flat topped pines cast a useful shade under their umbrella fronds.
We happened upon a tennis club which I would love to join….I made tentative enquiries, we’ll see if I’m brave enough to actually join.
We loved the winding streets, the steps and hairpin bends, the churches and old castle walls. We were fascinated to note that their was an international symposium of scholars of ancient manuscripts gathering for a two day conference on the future of studying manuscripts! Perhaps something was lost in translation but it was amazing to us that there even was such a thing!
We came across a talented artist in her ceramics workshop. Soon we were on first name terms. I hope to see her again. Maybe I can try my hand at decorating a ceramic tile?
On the way home we visited the wine shop. Wine is decanted into your own bottles. Luckily, in our bag, there were three we had the foresight to bring with us! We tasted the wine. I don’t know why exactly, as we were sure to buy! They were a bargain at E1.60 a litre!
Things were looking up!
The next day we walked across the isthmus to investigate the beach. On the northwest facing side of the Gaeta promontory is a massive beach. The beach concessions were in the process of dismantling fencing, umbrella holders and equipment, so, once that is done the beach will be the territory of the winter residents once more.
Our walk the next day was a more strenuous stroll up hill towards the Monastry of the Spaccata. This monastery/church was built into a split in the rock literally hovering a hundred metres from the sea below. The views were incredible from the top and we had the added bonus of people watching the congregation as the disgorged from church.
There are lots more walks around the Parco d’Orlando which we will do when it is less hot.
We have now discovered that there will be five other boats arriving for the winter. Of these the crew of three of them will spend most of the winter here. Another boat is being lifted onto the hard but they may visit for a holiday. So there will be a small community here, plus Jayne, the port officer.
Today we walked North along the prom into the strong winds buffeting the outer pontoons of the marina. It has been quite wild out and we, for one, are very glad of the breakwater effect that USS Mount Whitney has on our berth.
We have bought ourselves some bikes today which Dominic at the bike shop will buy back from us when we leave for half of what we paid for them. Seems like a bargain.
We have also hired a car for a few days so that we can do errands, shopping, gas refills, sewing machine repairs, laundry and most importantly go over the Appennines to Penne, Abruzzo to meet up with my great friends Paula, Lyndsay and Peter.
Since the failure of the engine, it was with some trepidation that we set off to head north through the Messina straits. This was to be our first leg of seven as we headed to our winter berth 250nm north.
We timed our departure so that we would have the least tide/current against us. We were also lucky with the wind, although some of the time the wind was on the nose.
In order to ensure that the gunky bits from the bottom of the tank had less chance of being sucked into the fuel pipe and delivered to the engine we wanted to keep the fuel tank full. The nearest fuel dock being just north of Messina, at a place called Paradiso.
As we approached the traffic separation scheme in the straits, I had to radio the marine traffic controllers in Messina to explain our intentions. The officer instructed us, in no uncertain terms, that we MUST make an appointment to go to the fuel bunker and MUST NOT hang about in the area, and MUST NOT cause any obstruction to passing shipping.
Next challenge: Phone the fuel dock to make an appointment. In my faltering Italian, I spoke to the very understanding Mario Rainieri at the fuel dock and managed to book in for 1500h.
However, we arrived earlier than expected. We hovered off the long, sharp, pointy, metallic, ugly, fuel pontoon, unsure about where exactly to moor up, or indeed if we even could. We knew that we couldn’t hang about as the Coast Guard would be after us!
I phoned Mario again, slightly panicky and I explained that we were early. He said he was at his house having lunch and would be there at 1500h as agreed and that we should tie up to the pontoon.
We approached the south side of the south pontoon and realised as we neared the structure that, a) it was high; and, b) it had railings all round.
The long and short of it is that we managed to tie up, bruised thighs resulting, and awaited Mario’s return from lunch.
Soon, Mario arrived and was very friendly. He chatted away and forced me to speak Italian. He gently corrected my grammar and pronunciation and was at pains to explain his opening hours, summer and winter.
(June 30 – August 30th open all day. Outside of those dates it is imperative to make an appointment and remember that he will be at home for his long lunch!)
We wanted to go to Scilla on the mainland. This involved crossing the traffic separation scheme. Again, we had to radio the traffic controllers. They told us when it was safe to cross and off we went. We marveled at the weird eddies and whirlpools shimmying and dancing around us. The water was practically boiling. We saw a dolphin swimming in the turmoil and wondered how they manage. We laughed giddily as we surfed one of the currents at an incredible 8kn!
Suddenly we heard ‘Linea’ being called on the radio.
‘There is a ship approaching from the south! Would we like to pass to its bow or stern?’
‘Ummm,’ I pondered, thinking quickly, ‘To its stern I think would be better!’ We altered our course and all was good.
We spent the night on a mooring buoy in Scilla, rocking and rolling behind the breakwater of the small harbour. The town is supposed to be worth seeing but, sadly, since it was raining heavily we decided to stay on board.
Next morning, we set off for Tropea. The swell from last night continued all day today and so when we arrived at the anchorage we knew that it would be a very bumpy night on a lee shore. We elected to continue on to the marina Stella del Sud in Vibo a further 10nm east.
We had a pleasant night here with free showers, welcoming people (the marineros even come on board and tie off your lazy lines for you – LUXURY!) and a bar.
The next day was a biggish hop north to Cetrara. We anchored off and Ian and David went ashore to the fuel dock to replenish the jerry cans. We had a super calm night as the swell had mostly dissipated by then.
The following day saw us head further north to Palinuro. A beautiful anchorage off a National Park. We went ashore and found a beach bar and discovered that it was only a short walk from here to the village from where David could find his way to Naples airport and his flight home.
From Palinuro we planned to do the remaining miles in one hit to get to Gaeta before a few days of thundery and rainy weather were due. However, the swell that had eluded us yesterday evening tucked in as we were in the Bay of Good Sleeps, reared its ugly head and the wind decided to do the opposite of what was forecast. We tacked endlessly across our desired course and made virtually no progress.
Plan B…We headed to an anchorage off Ogliastra and picked up a mooring buoy.
Next day, we headed for Capri where we could anchor off the Grande Marina. We intended to anchor, rest, eat and then set off to Gaeta at 0000h.
However, best laid plans and all that. We anchored in 15m of water. Soon, an Australian yacht arrived and anchored nearby. We decided to go ashore and have a quick look at Capri, since we were here. We set off in the dinghy and were invited onto Ari and before you could say, ‘G’day, mate.’ we were drinking a glass or two of vino with them.
We dodged the numerous ferries charging into Capri and found somewhere to dock the dinghy. The outside pontoon No 1 was bouncing and wobbling like crazy with all the wash from the ferries. One yacht that was moored there decided to leave since it was so uncomfortable.
We walked into town and were shocked at how many tourists there were even in late September. We quickly bought a few supplies and left. I think it is a place to visit in the very low season only.
Back on board we had a quick supper and then grabbed forty winks before upping the anchor at 0930h and setting off into the night.
We were in a race with the inbound bad weather.
We negotiated ferries and fishing vessels, small Spanish sailing boats and the narrow straits of Ischia with its buoys of special purpose and finally we were heading across the Bay of Gaeta. Nearly there now, but would we beat the rain and storms?
We both had a couple of hours sleep in the cockpit and I woke Ian when we were 10nm off. At the speed we were making we would arrive in the dark. We cut our speed to 3kn and doodled along killing time.
Eventually the dawn broke and sunlight peeked over the mountains to our east. We had plenty of time to ready ourselves with fenders, lines and lowering the dinghy.
The marineros came out to greet us as we rounded the bow of the USS Mount Whitney that is stationed in Gaeta Military base.
We were guided calmly to our berth with no further incidents!
PHEW! and BREATHE! After a shower, snack, and sleep we needed to stretch our legs. Then, feeling peckish, stopped for some comfort food. No sooner had we sat down than the predicted wind, rain, thunder and lightning came in just as predicted.
And then the sun came out!
Next time, read about our discoveries in our new place of abode.
From my last post you will know that we were on the last leg of our journey back to Sicily. We had another early start; leaving the comfort of Rocella Ionica, Porto delle Grazie – Appropriately named the Port of Thanks – and we were thankful for having been there, if only briefly.
We were keen to complete the 60 odd miles to Sicily so that Ian could watch the rugby. He had to spend all 12 and a half hours of the crossing avoiding any possible inadvertent news about the results, especially as we had a fairly decent signal the whole way.
We spotted many pods of dolphins en route which helped alleviate the boredom somewhat. We were treated to acrobatic displays and a mother and tiny baby came to play on the bow. I was in full dolphin speaking mode. Squeaking and whistling in what I hoped they would interpret as appreciative comments and encouragement about their beauty, ability, speed and agility.
In the end, although we motored for a few hours. The wind picked up from the south. Predicted to be 7kn turned out to be 15kn gusting 20+kn – I told you that is what happens to wind forecasts. Always add more.
Consequently, the waves in turn began to pick up and were meeting tidal currents heading south down the Messina Straits so there was some confusion where they met. The sea was lumpy and we were rolling up one side of a wave, parallel with it, and sliding down the other side. Quite an interesting motion.
Anyway, we were at least sailing and saving on fuel.
The speed we were making through the water was good and it meant that we would arrive in Taormina in day light.
We approached the breakwater to the south of the bay, a place called Giardini Naxos. We began to prepare to go in under engine as normal in order to anchor off.
Ian was looking forward to watching the rugby, I was looking forward to a glass of wine and we were both looking forward to a good sleep after several long days with pre-dawn starts.
We furled the head sail. Put on the engine and readied ourselves to drop the main sail.
Suddenly, I detected a slight change in the note emitted by the engine. Normally a reassuring A Flat this time it had dropped a semi-tone, and then, again. I looked around quizzically at Ian to see if he was responsible for this change. But no, he had not adjusted the throttle.
In the next few seconds, the sound of the engine slowly dying came to both of our ears. I sank to the cockpit seats with my head in my hands! Melt down inbound!!
Ian started barking orders.
We put the head sail out again but only partially. We put the main sail down. The wind backed the genoa and pushed us round in a complete circle. I winched in the sail nice and tight. It began to propel us towards that anchorage.
I went up to the foredeck to prepare that anchor. I untied it and lowered it to the sea level.
I then went back in the cockpit in case we needed to tack to better position ourselves.
We continued straight into the bay. We knew that as soon as we went around the breakwater there would be a lot less wind. We could see five or six other yachts in prime positions tucked in round the breakwater. We didn’t have much choice. We kept going as far in a possible until we had no further forward momentum. Ian furled the head sail in again. At that point I dropped the anchor slowly so that the wind could push us back and I could lay the chain as straight as possible. Although the depth was only 9 metres, we weren’t sure about holding here and would not be able to test by reversing, so we lay 50m of chain for added security.
At this stage, dear readers, you may be forgiven for thinking that we are on some masochistic path but I promise you….if I could stop this happening, and, we could afford it, I would, I so totally would.
And, I can honestly state that I have no interest in one-up-man-ship, either. ‘What? You have only moored under sail once?….Pah! We’ve done it four times!!’
No, I want a boat that works consistently, every time and presents me with no trauma.
On the other hand, now that I have done it three times, either I care a lot less about what happens to the boat (Hmmmm! Let me consider that possibility!) or, simply because we’ve done it so often, I have more confidence that we can do it! It doesn’t help me be any less terrified though.
Immediately, we knew what had caused the failure of the engine…because of all we learnt in Naxos 2017. It was down to debris from the bottom of the diesel tank having been shaken and stirred whilst we crossed the bumpy, lumpy waves.
Ian’s first check was the filters. And, yes, indeed, they were full of gunk.
He changed both primary and secondary filters and we tested the engine…
No joy. Following advice given to a fellow MDR boat, Quench, we used a bicycle pump to successfully push a blockage down the pipe and back to the tank. Ready to case havoc on another day?!
Happily, the engine started after this and we felt so relieved.
(We know will have to get our fuel ‘Polished’ very soon, which involves pumping the fuel out, filtering it properly and cleaning the tank before putting it back in.)
We did all this in the most rolly anchorage we have ever been in. We were both a bit green around the gills and covered in diesel after our efforts.
We brought ourselves round with a quick shower and delicious lemon chicken, peas and carrots, oh, and some wine and chocolate. And finally Ian managed to watch the rugby.
We had a calm, if slightly rolly night and the next day George Rizzo from the buoy field to the north came to see us. We explained our predicament and he offered to collect some fuel for us. He told us that the north buoy field was still too uncomfortable in a southerly wind and that we would be better where we were. The wind was due to change mid afternoon the following day so we planned to move then.
In the meantime, we went ashore and did some shopping in preparation for the arrival of David Heane.
We went ashore to a bar to fetch him at about 2100h. Obviously, a beer or two had to be taken.
We arrived back at the boat and had a bit of supper with David before bed.
Apparently, the anchor alarm went off twice in the night but I heard nothing, so deep was my sleep.
Next morning, we prepared to move to the north but George advised us to stay put. Suddenly, the wind started to pipe up from the north rather earlier than expected. It was gusting at a regular 35kn. We started the engine, but nothing happened. What???? It had been fine yesterday.
Ian changed the filters again. They were still collecting more gunk.
He tried to start the engine again. But, no joy.
We phoned George who kindly offered to find us a mechanic, who would be with us at 1730h. We had then to sit out the ferociously gusting wind with no engine, worrying about whether we would drag anchor, as we watched various other boats dragging about to the south of us. Poor things. Luckily, we held tight.
Sebastiano the mechanic came and had the engine running again in a few minutes….air in the pipes. Like magic.
He came with us as we motored north to the buoy field. All was good.
We were soon tied up and I was feeling hugely relieved. And so it was time to go ashore for dinner.
Next day, we took a trip up to Taormina and Castelmola which was a fab day out on dry land.
Only a week to go until we get back to our winter berth and it can’t come soon enough!
Next time, read about our trip back through the Staits of Messina and on to Gaeta, Italy.
We had a further visit from the mechanic on Saturday morning but when he couldn’t fix things immediately he was understandably anxious to get on with his weekend. We went to the boat yard to pay the bill, at their request, as they were probably concerned that we would abscond with our new starter motor.
On Monday Angelo arrived about midday. He began to do some tests just as Ian had done, following valuable advice from friends on Marina Di Ragusa Liveaboards Facebook page and the No Foreign Land App. Thank you all!
We concluded (using Google translate!) that the solenoid was kaput, the fuse was kaput and the ignition switch was kaput; all due to a corroded wire falling on to the engine and causing a short.
It was our good fortune that we already had the ignition switch in our spares supply and Angelo was able to source the solenoid and fuse easily. Some vital support came from Vito Capriati (An electrical engineer) who happened to be visiting the boat next door and knew Angelo. Very kindly, he came to assist and he knew his stuff! (Tel:- 3384352279)
Literally, the moment that everything had been checked and re-tested we were ready to slip our lines. We needed to get to Otranto and a late departure meant arriving and anchoring in the dark.
Luckily, we had been in here before so we had some idea of what it looked like, but approaching somewhere, even when you know it like the back of your hand in the day light, presents a whole new set of challenges when you do it in the dark.
The first challenge was negotiating all the small amateur fishing boats that come out in force in good weather. At one point, in our immediate vicinity, I counted twenty five of them…and that’s just the ones that were properly lit!
The second challenge was identifying the lights of the harbour and the surrounding lighthouses.
Usually we can see the lighthouses more easily as they are often stuck on the end of a promontory or cliff in the middle of nowhere. There is an extremely clever system with light houses. They have a specific flashing signal pertinent to them in that location. So, on Capo d’Otranto to the south of Otranto the lighthouse is labelled on the chart as Y FL (1) 5s 60m 18nm
This means that it flashes yellow once every five seconds, is 60 metres high and visible from 18 nautical miles off shore.
Once we had honed in on that we culd begin to focus on the light bloom that was shining from the city. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to mistake traffic lights or car tail lights for harbour lights against the millions of lights given off by a town at night.
In the meantime, we had the traffic separation scheme to negotiate as we entered. This is devised to ensure that traffic entering and leaving do not do so on the some course.
As we neared our harbour for the night we were able to make out the flashes from the red (port) marker on the end of the huge breakwater. R Fl 1 3s 11m 8nm. (Flashing red once every 3 seconds from a height of 11 metres and visible from 8 nautical miles away.)
To the north of the harbour is a very clever ‘sector light’. This glows red for only a few degrees of its arc. If you approach from a dangerous angle, ie: towards rocks between the sea and the shore, then you will see the red light, if you see the yellow light then your approach is safe from that angle.
By now, we had seen all the major lights and could begin to head into the bay. We spotted the starboard hand marker which indicates the channel to take towards the marina or town quay. We peered with scrunched up faces into the gloom of the anchorage. We managed to focus sufficiently to see four, no, five, no six! anchor lights. We followed our previous track from last time we entered on the ipad navigation software, Navionics. Lo! and behold, we were able to find a space to anchor only metres from where we were in June. We dropped the anchor in 7m of water and put out 35m of chain. We were holding well when we tested the anchor by reversing.
That was at 2110h – by 2130h we were sitting down below eating spaghetti carbonara and drinking a well earned glass of wine!
The next morning we were up early and went ashore to have a quick wander around the old town of Otranto. Clearly a place that the residents take great pride over. It was very bonny place with amazing views out over the marina and bay.
By 0930h we had weighed anchor and set off to Santa Maria di Leuca further south.
Another fairly big day. We anchored off the marina in 5m of water and luckily had enough wind to hold us into the swell so it wasn’t too rolly until the wind died and that changed.
Having checked the weather we decided that the wind would be more favourable if we waited another day here. I even had time to rustle up these yummy vegan polpetini.
However, in the morning Ian double-checked the forecast. Tomorrow’s forecast was now for 28kn of wind. And, as we sailors know only too well – there is always at least 10 knots more that forecast. So, we upped the anchor and set off at a pace.
Luckily, the wind was at the perfect angle for sailing and with the waves helping us too for a split second of our crossing of the bay of Taranto we were scooting along on the crest of a wave at some 17 knots!!!!!
By 1600h the sky had grown increasingly dark and menacing! We put the navigation lights on, so dark was the gloom! Was that a squall? We put our electronic items in the oven as forks of lightning were cleaving the waves around us.
We had already brought the genoa in but had a full main up. We both put on our waterproofs. Then BANG! The wind came; the rain came. I kid you not, it was biblical!! If frogs had bounced on to the deck I would not have been surprised. Ian could hardly see for the water pouring down his face. We had 20m visibility around us. The thunder and pounding rain drops were deafening.
We had put the engine on and gunned it almost to full revs. (Once the engine is on even if we get struck by lightning it will continue to work! – Who knew that? – Useful!)
In the midst of all this mayhem we managed/had to put three reefs into the sail, although some damage had already been done, we thought.
The rain and wind continued to lash us for the next 35 mins. We maintained our heading into the wind and sat it out. I was a quivering wreck clinging to the metal winches under the sprayhood until the thought that if we were to be struck by lightning that perhaps clinging to a large clump of metal wouldn’t be the best idea!
The boat was tossed about like a cork and she weighs about 15 tonnes. At one point, the gunwales on the port side were so completely covered in water that I feared the cockpit would flood.
Ian shouted encouraging things at me as I melted down. ‘Wind’s easing now!’ ‘It’s nearly passed us!’ Don’t worry we’ll be fine!’ and other such NONSENSE…..because I knew – WE WERE GOING TO DIE!!!!!
Well, okaaay – we didn’t; neither did the boat flood; the bimini rip, the mast get struck by lightning or either of us fall overboard. Below decks the worst that went on was that an errant box of red wine slid about the floor.
It was all actually fine; once the sun had started to make a brief reappearance and the nasty clouds and lightning had decided to play elsewhere; clearly we had been fortunate. Although my inner voice and I continued to have a conversation along the lines of OMG! Never again! Why do I do it? until the wee small hours of the morning.
Once things had calmed down we had a good sail towards Crotone and arrived in the port at 2330h in almost flat calm conditions.
After a deep night’s sleep, we went to the office to pay. I negotiated in my fledgling Italian and managed to get the price down from 122E to 70E, so I was very pleased that we were paying the same amount as we had three years previously.
We headed into town. Within minutes of leaving the marina we came across a nice looking restaurant. On a mission for some comfort food we piled in.
What a great place! We had avocado and prawn salad, baked olives, tomato salad appetiser, grilled calamari with lemon, squid ink spaghetti with calamari and mushrooms, and perfectly cooked fillet of beef grilled with black salt and lemon.
Washed down with a gorgeous local wine from the ‘Nappa Valley’ of Calabria and smartly followed by chocolate and hazelnut moose cake and a tiramisu. Totally yum and just what we needed.
From thence, we went to the supermarket to restock and took and taxi back to the boat with our hoard.
Next morning was another early start. 0500h up and at ’em. 0530h motoring out of the marina into a lumpy sea.
We wanted to arrive at Rocella Ionica before dark. We made it.
The last leg is to head across to Taomina on Sicily to meet up with David Heane who is coming to explore the Aolian islands with us before we head to our winter berth.
Next time, read about our trip to the Aolian Islands and Stromboli.