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.