On the move again...
It's a strange feeling when you start planning to leave a place where you have been very happy. Where you’ve met truly wonderful people that are also embracing this wonderful way of life we have chosen.
Some of our friends have decided to stay for the whole year while others have booked up to return to Licata next winter.
Most though, like us are preparing to leave. Claire and I are not ready to stop this cruising life yet.
Red Rooster is in pretty good shape for a 28 year old boat.
I went up the mast to check the rigging and clean the lights and radio antenna. I took a hose up there with me to wash off the very irritating red dust that is carried by the rain in these parts.
The next job was to get the sails back on. We had stored them on the boat and I believe that they are better for coming off during the winter.
Claire cleaned everything to within an inch of its life below decks while I did the same on deck.
I bought the halyards back down from their winter location. At the beginning of winter, I tie thin line to the shackles before pulling them to the top of the mast. I then coil up all of the slack at the bottom of the mast before putting it all into a big plastic bag for protection. This way nothing is exposed to the elements as the halyards are either inside the mast or in the plastic bag.
We emptied our huge cockpit locker, folding up our trusty, rusty old bike before putting it in the bottom. We then packed everything back in with the stuff we use most while sailing near the top.
I checked over the engine once again.
We stocked the boat up with wine, water and food. We took our dirty washing to the launderette. Ruggiero took pity on us lending his car to ferry the bags to and from town.
We have one eye on the weather now but it's still very unsettled. For example, we saw 52 knots in the marina on the 14th April!! Not what you want to experience days before leaving.
Well we have had our final ‘Happy Hour’ our final ‘Licata BBQ’ it's time now to say goodbye to all of our friends.
It took nearly three hours to walk around the marina to say farewell to everyone. Maria, the office staff and marinaros were also sad to see us go.
So at 06.30 on the 19th April we motored quietly out of Marina di Cala del Sole which had been our home for very nearly 8 months.
The plan was to sail to Pozzello a small harbour about 45 miles away. The wind was light which was also part of the plan. This allowed us to get all of the sails out to check that they were rigged correctly. Reefing lines run. Furling lines free.
We were both feeling quite sad but at the same time there was that sense of freedom that you really only feel when your standing on the deck of a boat looking out at the horizon. So many new places to visit, so many people to meet.
We were pleased to hear Toby Casley’s voice on the VHF radio not long after we left. Toby, his wife Karen with there three sons, Luka, Fergus and Liam are an Australian family sailing on a Cat called ‘All together’ we get on very well with them and they had been planning to leave Licata on the same day as us.
Toby told us that they would be leaving around 09.00 following us to Pozzallo. Good news.
Claire and I quickly slipped back into sailing mode. We were now beginning our 4th year of cruising on board Red Rooster.
We took some photo’s of ‘Montalbano’s’ house from the water. The house is just before Ragusa Marina. Montalbano is a fictional Sicilian detective that has been bought to life in a TV series. My parents really enjoy this programme and we visited ‘his’ house when they were with us last year.
Soon after we passed Ragusa marina the waters we were sailing on became very confused. As if there was a strong tide running against us. But of course, there is very little tide in the Med.
We had about 6 knots of wind from behind, our engine was on. Our main sail was out but the genoa was rolled away.
Far ahead I could see a lot of white water which was completely wrong as with what little wind we had there should have been none.
After a few minutes of this I asked Claire to get all the loose items below, also to make sure that all was packed away below decks.
When she came back up we put a reef in the main sail. Which must have looked crazy to anyone watching from the shore as we had no wind.
The white water ahead was getting closer and I could feel puffs of wind on my face now and then even though our flags and wind indicators were telling me that the wind was still from behind.
Then, like something out of a film, the wind hit us. We went from 6 knots from behind to 20 knots from dead ahead in the space of a minute or two!!
We pulled out some of the genoa and bore off out to sea filling the sails with wind, turning the engine off at the same time.
We were heeled right over now, there was a crash from below as something fell but we were sailing so I was happy.
It goes without saying that the wind was right on the nose but we had loads of time, so we tacked along the coast towards our destination.
The sailing was fantastic after being stationary for so long. The sun was shinning RR was going well and I had the biggest smile on my face.
We sent a message to ‘All Together’ who were a few hours behind us warning them of the sudden change in the weather.
They replied saying that they still had light winds from behind but would keep a good look out for the wind that was coming there way.
As we sailed into the bay at Pozzallo it was immediately clear that we would not be anchoring here. The wind had whipped up sizeable waves that were breaking against the wall behind the anchorage. Luckily there was a little marina inside the harbour wall and we made our way in, tying up stern to to the floating pontoon there.
We were kind of hoping that we were going to get away without paying as we had called the marina repeatedly as we came in with no reply. There was no one on the pontoon to take our lines so Claire had to back the boat up very close to the dock to allow me to jump off.
After being there an hour or so we heard a shout and there was a marinaro asking for our documents as well as 35 Euro’s for the night. Oh well.
The wind started to drop as the sun light faded. We received a call from ‘All Together’ as they rounded the harbour wall.
We caught their lines and was surprised to hear that the wind we had never reached them and that they had only light winds from astern until they reached the harbour!!
Claire made a big pot of bolognese which we took onboard ‘All Together’ and we enjoyed a meal and a drink with Toby, Karen and the boys.
There was no rush in the morning as we were going to anchor for the night in Porto Palo which was a protected bay only 3 – 4 hours away.
We left Pozzallo at 12 noon waving goodbye to the Casley’s again.
We had the sails up before too long turning the engine off settling down for a very nice sail.
The wind was 10 -12 knots on the nose.
‘All Together’ left Pozzallo around 2pm telling us over the VHF that they had light wind from astern!!!! What was going on.
We could clearly see ‘All Together’ through the monocular behind us, sails out running before the wind. Where as we were beating into 10 -12 knots.
We turned into the bay at Porto Palo between two break waters and dropped the anchor in 7m
‘All Together’ decided to carry on to Syracuse so we had a quick chat on the VHF before settling down to a very peaceful night. We love being at anchor.
In the morning we also moved on to Syracuse deciding to stop in the large protected anchorage rather than take a berth on the town wall.
The wall is free of charge which is wonderful but open to the public and the public have a strange habit of stopping and staring at you as you go about your daily business which we don’t like.
You quickly realise what it must feel like to be an animal in a zoo!!
‘All Together’ was on the wall which was perfect for them as it allowed the three boys to get on and off at will to play on the promenade.
We had to call the harbour master before we dropped anchor. We were told to anchor in the middle of the bay but the bay is huge, so we dropped near some other yachts, but he was not happy. So after two attempts we asked for a Lat, Long and dropped our anchor for the third and final time.
We were a long way from the wall and couldn’t understand why we were so far away as there were other yachts a lot closer.
The following day a patrol boat visited all of the other yachts asking them to move to where we were which made us feel a little better and soon the reason became clear as a large cruise liner entered the bay spinning around right where we had all been before backing into it's berth.
We were very happy to meet up with Beth, Keiran and baby Remy again. They were still trying to buy a property on Sicily, but the bureaucracy coupled with the language issues were making a hard task harder.
Still they both looked happy and Remy was a delight. Such a beautiful baby.
We really, really like Syracuse. We planned to be here for about a week to spend time with Beth, Keiran and Remy. Fergus also had his 10th birthday on the 25th April which we didn’t want to miss.
There were a few people here that we had wintered with in Licata and it was nice to see them all again.
The old town or Ortiga is beautiful. First settled in 734 BC it became the most powerful city state rivalling Athens and becoming the largest fortified city in the Greek world.
They defeated the Athenians in 415BC by trapping their fleet in the large bay. The same bay that we are anchored in!!
Under Dionysius Syracuse controlled Sicily and the western Mediterranean.
This lasted for over two hundred years until they picked a fight with Rome.
The great Archimedes lived in Syracuse at the time and devised huge catapults to fire at the Roman ships. But the Romans prevailed and Archimedes was killed in the battle.
There is a very nice walk along a pavement close to the sea that skirts around the outside of Ortiga or you can lose yourselves in the narrow streets that are stuffed full of interesting shops, restaurants and bars.
We never tired of wandering around this place.
We went with the Casley’s to the Roman amphitheatre and a Greek theatre which is a 30 minute walk from the grand harbour.
We also saw the quarries / caves where Dionysius is reputed to have held the captured Athenians after the battle in 415BC.
I think Fergus enjoyed his Birthday. I know we did. Keiran arranged for us to be able to use the BBQ area at the marina where he is berthed.
Fergus and I went to the BBQ area in the RIB. It was fun going under the low bridges with the RIB laden with food and drink.
There was about 16 of us. We were happy to find table football, nice chairs and tables at the BBQ area. The food was great topped off by a wonderful cake and we played silly games in the sun. Perfect.
The day before we left we had a nice walk around town with the Casley’s. We took the kids into the aquarium before finding a nice restaurant for pizza.
Keiran, Beth and Remy joined us in the evening on board ‘All Together’ for G&T’s.
We were sad to leave this lovely place also leaving these people was proving difficult too. I think the Casley’s will be going directly to Greece.
Keiran, and Beth promised to keep us up to date with their foray into the Sicilian property market. We said our goodbyes and took the RIB back to RR for the last time.
Tuesday 1st May
We left Syracuse at 06.30 motor sailing along the coast to Riposto.
It was a nice marina but quite expensive because of it's proximity to Taromina and Mt Etna which always seems to be bubbling away in the back ground.
We went for a walk into town that evening. Unfortunately, Riposto was a bit of a disappointment.
We stopped for a drink in the bar / restaurant by the marina. Claire’s phone beeped and when she looked at it her face lit up. She said that Kirsten Folkersen, A Danish woman we had met 2 years ago in Genoa with her Husband Per onboard their boat ‘Ronja’ was berthed on the same pontoon as RR!!
They had been there for a few days so we must have motored right past them as we entered our berth.
Claire replied, we finished our drinks and went to reacquaint ourselves with this lovely couple.
‘Ronja’ was at the far end of our pontoon. We knocked on the hull and Kirsten’s smiling face popped out of the hatch. We went onboard, and we were soon chatting away. Kirsten was on her own as Per had business to attend to back in Denmark.
We invited her to join us for a trip to Taromina in the morning but she had already been there so we invited her over to dinner when we returned.
We caught the train from Riposto to Taromina then took a small shuttle bus from the station to the town centre which is a 50 minute walk away!!
Taromina was a complete surprise. We had seen pictures of it and also heard people talk about how beautiful it was. It really is a great place to visit.
We wandered along the narrow streets of the town, surprised by the number of Tourists at this time of year.
Claire managed to find some jewellery to go with the new dress she purchased in Syracuse in preparation for my nephew, Roger’s wedding later this month.
After strolling around for an hour or two we headed for the main attraction. The Greek/Roman amphitheatre perched on the very edge of the steep cliffs that fell away to the sea.
The amphitheatre isn’t as big as the one we saw in Syracuse but it's dramatic location made it very special indeed.
There’s something about being sat in a place like this where you know, without any shadow of doubt that others, centuries ago sat. It gives me goose bumps.
We made our way back into the town centre bumping into Andrea and Ingo. I just love it when this happens.
We met Andrea and Ingo in Syracuse as they were friends with Damon and Marcie, an American couple we had wintered with.
We had a quick chat with them before walking to the bus terminal to catch our shuttle back to the train station.
We walked back through the faded town of Riposto via Conad’s an Italian supermarket chain to RR.
Kirsten came over at 18.30 and we all enjoyed a very nice meal. A good evening was had by all.
We talked about hiring a car to visit Mt Etna the following day. Kirsten was tempted to join us, but the weather was not looking very good with strong winds and snow forecast!!
The weather when we woke up the following morning was very grey and overcast confirming that it wasn’t worth the expense of hiring a car to visit Mt Etna.
So we spent the day on the boat getting RR ready to leave in the morning.
We went back onto Ronja for an hour to have a drink and say our goodbyes to Kirsten. We were sad to be leaving before Per returned but we were pretty confident that we would meet them again soon because we were going in the same direction, leaving Sicily for the foot of Italy.
We left Riposto on the 4th May to sail for a few hours before dropping our anchor in the bay of Taromina. It was a beautiful place to spend the night. A few other yachts joined us as the sun dropped behind the hills.
Early on the 5th we left Sicily. We have had such a wonderful time here and we both want to return.
We were crossing the bottom of the straits of Messina heading for the bottom of the ‘foot’ of Italy.
As we motored along in beautiful weather we could see disturbed water in front of us. Not disturbed by the wind this time but it looked like strong, swirling currents. As RR entered this patch of water the boat was shoved hard to starboard, as if we had run into something then we were out the other side.
We had read in the pilot book that this could happen, it was caused by the strong flow of water being forced through the narrow gap between Sicily and Italy.
We didn’t have any time to dwell on it though as we could see the wind building, this again was expected as it too was being funnelled through the straits of Messina.
Soon we were sailing, engine off sliding along doing 6 knots in beautiful sunshine.
We intended to anchor for the night near to the lighthouse on Capo Spartivento, at the bottom of the ‘big toe’ but the waves here were large enough to make for a very uncomfortable night, so we carried on for another few hours through strong off shore winds to reach the marina at Roccella Ionica.
Once we were tied up, we went for a shower before eating and then sleeping.
We had a very nice sleep waking up to a sunny, breezy morning.
Claire decided that we needed to take advantage of this and the fact that there were good cheap washing machines here by washing all our dirty clothes and the bedding.
Soon RR looked like a Chinese Laundry.
We had heard from many people about the pizzeria that was in the marina, so we decided to treat ourselves. They sell Pizza by the half meter or meter here!! Yes there not round but long wide strips. We had two different pizza’s one at each end of the strip. It wasn’t only novel but delicious, amongst the nicest I’ve ever tasted.
On Monday we went to the office to check in. They had an unusual charging system in that the first night was 45€, the second was 40 and the third and all subsequent nights were charged at 35Euro’s. We decided to stay for 4 nights as we were hoping that Per and Kirsten would catch us up.
We walked to the Conad for a big shop after the marina office informed us that we could ask the supermarket staff for a lift back to RR. It was a good store and the lift back was most welcome.
Now here’s a strange coincidence.
Back in Riposto, another English cruising yacht had taken the berth that we had vacated.
Kirsten, being the friendly woman that she is said hi to the couple on their yacht as she walked past, mentioning that her friends on Red Rooster had just left from this spot.
‘We know Derek and Claire on Red Rooster too’ the woman replied? Kirsten was so surprised.
They spent the next 10 minutes chatting and are now friends.
It was Ken and Elizabeth on ‘PALU’! who we met when we anchored in Cala Basa, Ibiza 2016.
Another odd thing is that we had met these two lovely couples separately in 2016!!
Kirsten messaged us later to tell us the news and that they were both leaving for Roccella Ionica together in the morning.
It was brilliant to see them all when they arrived later that day.
That evening we all went to the pizzeria together. It was great to be able to renew our friendships with these lovely people.
Unfortunately we were leaving in the morning for Catanzaro, a very small harbour 40 miles away where we hoped to anchor for the night.
Time to say goodbye but I think we will all meet up again soon along this coast.
We waved as we left heading along the coast into a darkening sky. Typical. All around was sunshine but there were dark clouds over our destination.
The wind started to fill in and soon we were sailing but it was on the nose so we were tacking along the coast which was very nice by the way.
By the time we dropped the sails ready to enter the little harbour it was gusting 20 knots. The wind was funnelling through the hills down into the bay.
It was very tight inside with not much room at all. It was also shallow, we dropped our anchor in 3.5M of water. We only had 10M of chain out as I was worried about swinging into the narrow channel used by the fishing boats. The wind was holding us in a good position but I was worried that if the wind dropped we would start to swing so I put a stern anchor out too which held us.
Well the wind didn’t drop until 05.00 the following morning. Neither of us slept very much and we decided to leave as soon as it was light.
With the sun just above the horizon we got both anchors in, motoring out of the harbour. The wind was blowing again 20+ knots but from the shore so the sea was flat.
We had a reef in the main with one in the genoa too.
6.5 knots with the boat nice and flat for a change. Claire went back to bed for a couple of hours.
The country side slid past with large sections of it looking like England. Claire made me a lovely breakfast and all was good in the world.
Our next port was to be Crotone.
Claire took RR into a very tight gap in the marina perfectly.
We soon had RR sorted, instruments off, covers on, washed down, sun shades out and a drink in our hands.
Crotone looked very nice and the cost, after a little negotiation was very agreeable.
We originally intended to move on after a few days stopping at a few more marinas around the instep of the foot of Italy before going into Taranto where we had planned to leave RR whilst we attended Roger’s wedding in Sorento.
But after asking Pasquale about Taranto, he said it was a very commercial port and the town wasn’t as nice as Crotone.
I understand that he might be slightly biased but after asking how much it would cost to keep RR here for over three weeks there really was no point in moving as they easily beat the cost of the marina in Taranto.
We heard from George on ‘Pipe Dream’ he was in Roccella Ionica planning to be here in the next day or two. It would be great to see him again.
Later in the afternoon ‘Ronja’ with Per and Kirsten arrived in the marina followed shortly by Ken and Elizabeth on ‘Palu’.
We walked into town finding the market in the old town before stopping for a coffee. Crotone is a very nice working town.
On the 12th May ‘Pipe Dream’ came into the marina.
We last saw George when we left Licata. Unfortunately, Barbara, his better half was still in Scotland recovering from eye surgery.
George was sailing with his good friend Robbie and his wife Julie.
As soon as they had sorted themselves out they were onboard RR for a few G&T’s.
Ken on ‘Palu’ plays the guitar and we arranged to go onboard for a few drinks and a sing song but just as I was tuning my guitar Per called to say that we had been invited to someone’s house for drinks?????
Apparently, Kirsten had been in contact for a few months with a Danish woman called Helen who lives in Crotone. She is a friend of a friend and they had arranged to meet.
We all bundled into a people carrier and drove to their apartment which was on the 7th and top floor of a block overlooking the town.
The flat was tiny but the terrace was huge.
Pino, Helens Italian husband soon had drinks in our hands and food on the table.
We had a very nice evening before returning to the boats around 21.00 because everyone was leaving us in the morning for Maria Di Leuca. A marina on the very tip of the heel of Italy.
The alarm woke us at 05.00 on the 13th May so we could wave goodbye to our friends. The three boats motored quietly out of the marina. We hope to see them again but who knows.
One things for sure though. We will definitely stay in touch with all of these lovely people.