We left Cavtat in Croatia at 4 pm on Tuesday 2nd July 2019 and motored for two hours before we reached the forecasted northeaster. With the wind building, we soon had to tuck in two reefs in the mainsail and furl the jib to 50%. The sea was flat and we covered the 105 nm in 15 hours to arrive in Bari, Italy at 7 am, averaging 7 knots – a most satisfactory crossing. As we were now entering the European areas with costly marina charges, we will record these charges to aid our fellow sailors who follow our blog and plan to sail in these areas.
The marina in Bari, Nautica Ranieri, offered us a berth for two nights at EU 50 a night. We did the laundry and cleaned the boat, before David and Patricia Bruce form Cape Town arrived the following day. We then explored the old town of Bari, stocked up with groceries, filled the diesel tank and sailed the 27 nm south to Monopoli, which is quite an old and attractive town.
From here we called in at Brindisi and then Otranto, before rounding the heel of Italy to Santa Maria de Leuca, where we spent two days. We left early on the 10th July to do the 75 nm crossing of the Gulf of Taranto in winds of between 5 and 25 knots, with rain and thunder. It was a relief to tie up in Ciro Marina where we were bunkered down for two days while a 25 knot northerly raged.
I was fortunate to locate a reinforced water pipe in Ciro to replace the leaking pipe on the hot water cylinder, while we waited for the wind to abate. We had a good sail to La Castella, 40 nm to the south west, where a too shallow entry to the inner harbour, as well as the outer harbour packed with fishing boats, forced us to raft up on an abandoned, rusty yacht.
The next day started with me diving to clear the propellor from a birds nest of fishing buoy ropes, before we set sail for the 53 nm crossing of the Gulf of Squillace to tie up late afternoon in Roccella Ionica at the marina. The marina staff was most helpful and charged EU 60 for the night.
An early start the next morning with a good following wind, had us poled out to cover the 77 nm across the Strait of Messina, to anchor in Naxos by 6 pm. (Naxos was colonised by the Greeks – hence the name) A heavy swell early the next morning, forced us to leave Naxos and motor through a big sea to look for shelter and tie up NIC Marina in Catania at EU 40 for the night. Catania has a big harbour and is quite run down, but we had a lovely dinner in town – in the rain.
We motor sailed the 30 nm to Siracusa to be welcomed by a storm with pelting rain as we entered the harbour. The marina quoted us EU 90/night, but a French couple tied up to the town quay, told us we should go and see the Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) for a berth. If there is one available, they will allow you to stay for five nights for free! No power or electricity available – which we don’t require, as we are self sufficient. Annie went to their office and managed to get us a berth.
Dave and Patricia were due to fly out from Catania in five days, so we decided to stay put, as we were all knackered after some hectic sailing. Apart from that, Siracusa is an attractive place, with a beautiful old town. We spent five relaxed days exploring the town, fixed the lazy jacks, broken during our dramatic entry into the bay and having our main and jib sheets washed at a laundry.
A chandlery supplied us with Dyneema non-stretch rope for a new main halyard and pre-stretched polyester rope for our worn-out reefing lines, at a reasonable price. These and the washed sheets (now a lot softer) were installed and other maintenance items done, while visiting the markets and having relaxed breakfasts and dinners in between with Dave and Patricia.
We also attended a concert by a brilliant duo from the Netherlands, Bobby Rootveld and Sanna van Elst, called Duo NIHZ.
On Saturday the 20th July, Dave and Pat caught the bus to the airport for their flight back to Cape Town. We checked out with the Frontier Police, filled the tank and jerry cans with diesel and motored to Capo Passero, 31 nm to the south where we anchored in crystal clear water. It was great to swim off the back of the boat in privacy, after five days in a goldfish bowl, on the town quay.
To crown it all, a splendid jazz quartet in the style of George Benson, played at a restaurant on shore, while we grooved in the cockpit with a litre of wine and barbecued our fish, bought at the market that morning. We made water and filled the water tanks the following day. The anchorage was pleasant enough for us to stay another day and night, before motor sailing 50 nm to Scoglitti, further west. The beaches along the south coast are sandy and attracts many tourists. It appears this area is also the fruit and veg basket of Italy, judging by the thousands of tunnel hothouses.
Our next anchorage was San Leone which was holiday central for tourists, with blaring doof-doof music and over excited DJ’s shouting at the top of their voices. The mozzies decided they couldn’t handle the noise and came to join us on Esprit – what a night! The next anchorage at Sciacca was a lot quieter and prettier, before we reached the island of Favignana, off the west Sicilian coast.
We anchored in the bay Cala Rossa on the north coast as a strong southerly was predicted for the following day. A remarkable spot with dozens of yachts and boats on moorings or at anchor in crystal clear water – we stayed for two nights before a building northwesterly forced us to motor to the south side and anchor in Scindo Passo.
Here, the wind started blowing hard, reaching 25 – 30 knots overnight, with a hideous swell on the beam for a sleepless night. To crown it all, on leaving the bay the next morning, we struck an uncharted sandbank and got stuck. A friendly Frenchman came to our aid with his dinghy, sporting a 20 hp motor. With our Yanmar and his Honda at full revs, we couldn’t budge Esprit.
Our main and jib were hoisted and with the 15 knot wind and the two motors, we eventually sailed Esprit off the sandbank. Quite a relief, so while the going was good we carried on in the 15 knot wind and sailed all the way to Capo San Vito, 31 nm to the N-E, where we anchored for the night.
Our last anchorage before Palermo was Baia di Mondello. A short hop to Palermo followed, where we booked a berth at the Salpancore Marina in order to pick up Marty and Sue, our friends from Perth.
Look out for our next post, probably from Naples, or a bit further north along the Italian coast.