Well, here we are at the end of Italy – the heel end. We are sweltering in marina Santa Maria di Leuca and this will be our last night in Italian waters. At €57 a night it doesn’t make you want to hang about!
We left Siracusa on 23 July and headed for Riposto at the southern end of the Messina strait.
We had to motor into a head wind all day which was boring but we did get a visit from some dolphins. Andy’s sister Sally arrived the day after from Scotland. Her plane was delayed at landing due to a big thunderstorm, which thankfully gave some cooler weather for a couple of hours. Sally had helped us sail across the bay of Biscay two years ago and we didn’t manage to put her off, so she was coming to help again on this leg to the Ionian islands of Greece. It was great to have her along again.
We really enjoyed Sicily, although we only saw the east coast. The people were all lovely and friendly, but unfortunately we never did catch a glimpse of inspector Montalbano!
The southern coast of Italy is a wild part of the country, with deep indented bays, headlands and lots of wind. Distances between safe harbours are large, so overnight passages are needed and it’s definitely easier with three people taking watches. Some of the coast is surprisingly green as rain falls on the Aspromonte mountains.
Our first overnighter was from Riposto to Rochella Ionica, 70 nautical miles. We left at 4pm and had a very rough few hours crossing the southern Messina strait. This bit is about as tidal as it gets in the Med and the 23 knots of wind did not help things along. But Vaila is a good boat and we never feel that she can’t cope with big seas. We all managed to snatch some sleep during the night and later the wind dropped and we motored the rest of the way.
We arrived at 0830 and the ormeggiatoro (marina staff) came out in his rib to take us across the sand bar. We washed the salt off the boat and got some rest. Sally and I plucked up the energy for a swim at the nearby beach later and In the evening we ate ashore, where pizzas came by the meter.
The next morning was an early start to cross the “bay of squalls”. It did not disappoint! Winds gusting to 25 knots made for some challenging and physical sailing.Vaila surfed down the waves at 7 knots and the dolphins were also enjoying the waves.
We had an interesting experience with 2 trawlers. Normally trawlers go forwards and drag the nets behind, but as we got closer Andy realised that these two boats were reversing together about quarter of a mile apart, so the plan of going between them suddenly had to change. We have never come across this before. You live and learn. After that the narrow entrance to Le Castella harbour did not seem too bad.
We spent a rest day in Le Castella and visited the castle. The Aragonese built it on previous buildings dating back to Hadrian.
It was incredibly hot and a swim was cooling but not for long. Even the hosepipes on the pontoons had warm water. The marina was lovely and sheltered from the swell in an old flooded quarry. Thousands of sparrows roosted in the oleander shrubs in the evening, providing a spectacle and noise as they swirled around.
Then we had our final overnight sail last night. It was windy when we left Le Castella and we had some good sailing until 9pm (even some goose winging) then we had to switch the engine on.
Beautiful moonlight and shooting stars and some dolphins with just the usual dodging of fishing boats and buoys. At least we all got a bit more sleep.
So now Greece here we come…..