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.
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.
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.
So here we are, to para-phrase The Beatles, Back in the MddR!!!
We are loving the community feel and the gorgeous November weather.
On Saturday, Sheena, a great friend from uni, who lives in Rome, came for a quick weekend visit.
Sheen had to leave on Monday and so we cracked on with some cleaning detail!
Laundry; in the new mini washing machine!
Polishing; all shackles, blocks and pulleys.
Oiling; anything that can move.
Taking down; all sails.
Removing lines and ropes; Running mousing lines instead of halyards and sheets.
Scrubbing; the bimini and sail bag.
Fixing; De-rusting and cleaning the bikes.
Bilges; cleaning and disinfecting.
Kim has been a model member of crew. She has cracked on with allocated jobs with gusto and been a great giggle to boot. In amongst, we have been to the beach, the market and to have a fabulous burger lunch at Burger Art!
So far we have had happy hours, coffee mornings, rugby internationals, drinks next door, dinner with Di and John, trash Monday beach cleaning, a presentation about sailing in French Polynesia and much more. It’s a very active community here.
Now we have less than a week left to prep the boat for winter, socialise with all our MdR friends and get our heads ready for our winter season in the Sutski chalet.
We return to The Shire on the 19th November!
Having decided on the perfect weather window to get us across to Sicily, a further problem with the alternator meant that we missed the chance to leave when we wanted to. We then had to wait for a few more days to be sure of a three day window. Regrettably, this meant that we were not going to be back in MdR in time to see Gaye and Chris. Bloody boat and weather!
On the plus side though, it did mean that we could ask if Kim wanted to help with the crossing. She said, ‘Yes’, and within 36 hours was travelling to Athens and on to Pilos. We also met Carol and Paul on Swallow and Claire and Pete on Blue Vigil and had good times with them.
We were surrounded by ‘dead’ yachts that had been abandoned in Pilos. What a waste!
Ian was taken off by the port police because they thought he had been trying to remove some of the equipment on board one of the abandoned boats – as if!
On Monday 29th October, we explored a little more of the town with Kim and had our last ever gyros.
We did not fancy these though!
The next morning we were up at 0530hrs and preparing to drop the lines. Ian started the engine as he had every morning since we had the alternator fixed. It wasn’t working properly AGAIN!
We rang Kostas who came out for a third time, to have another look and try to fix the problem once and for all.
He took the offending alternator away to repair it in Kalamata. Kindly, he offered Ian a lift to Messini as we decided to purchase a generator in case the alternator should pack up during our return to Sicily. This was our back up plan.
Kostas soon had the alternator repaired and was happy with everything. He is going to Sicily on holiday next week so we have arranged to meet up.