Siracusa 11 May 2015. N37:03.585 E 15:17.186

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Wed 13 May 2015 08:17
Ho Ho!  We have finally left Marina di Ragusa for pastures new, and the 2015 cruise has begun! 

Maggie and I were both in the UK during 23 April to 7 May and a busy time was had. 

·      On 25 April, for my birthday, Maggie laid on an excellent surprise with Ann, Matthew and James travelling down to Hampshire for the celebrations followed by a surprise attendance by James and Judith + Neil and Jill and a very happy evening at the Gordleton Mill restaurant where the dinner fare was excellent, as ever. (thank you Liz!)

·      On 28 April I travelled to Kent to see my pensions man and combined that visit with a fleeting call at the BB office in Sidcup.

·      The following day the carpets in the new lounge were laid and the new curtains were hung.  The fruits of all Maggie’s labours over the new year are now finally revealed and we now have a very comfortable pad in Lymington to return to when the next winter comes a calling.

·      Then it was North to Preston on Friday to join in and celebrate Stephen and Philippa’s wedding on the Saturday (2 May).  A very happy family day and a stunningly beautiful bride and chief bridesmaid.

·      South again on 3 May and finally, at crack of dawn (well 02:30) on 7 May, to Gatwick for an Easy-Jet flight back to Catania.

Puff indeed!

After yet more shopping for wine and food, and with an eye on the weather, we left Ragusa at 09:15 on 10 May with a clear blue sky and slight sea.  We made good time down to Porto Paulo, on the south East extremity of the island before turning north.  

Here the wind failed and then veered spectacularly to the North at 16:00 heading us during a rather nasty thunderstorm, with rain, while raising a short unpleasantly steep sea.  With the weak wind, our fouled bottom and our manky propeller our speed suffered and we were down to 3.5 knots at times! 

With a late night already in prospect and glum looks from the chief crew things were then to get somewhat worse when theengine faltered and subsequently failed altogether – the dreaded diesel bug - (shades of pseudemona!).  The motion had stirred up the gunge in the bottom of the tank and although the fuel filter remained clear we had a blockage.  Fortunately we have two fuel tanks and the situation was resolved by changing over to the port tank, the engine was restarted and were underway again within a few minutes.  The wind was then kind and backed around the compass until we were making 5.8 knots on a broad reach, the promised south westerly wind finally making an appearance.  We entered the Grand Bai at Siracusa and anchored as the sun set at 20:00.

The locals were so impressed with this performance that they rang the cathedral bells and put on a really impressive firework display – honestly!  We had grandstand seats from the comfort of the cockpit overlooking the town.  However, our night was spoilt by a very aggressive mossie and his friend who somehow found us even though we were anchored about 200m from the shore.

Monday was the start of the working week.  A new thermostat was fitted to the fridge and is now doing its duty  – we no longer have to switch it on and off manually and deal with the resulting deep frozen milk when we forget! 

The same fitted furniture that had to be removed to fit the thermostat also gave access to the manhole for the starboard fuel tank.  We now know the latter has never been cleaned in the last 15 years as we had to cut away one piece of timber trim to lift the hatch.  Sure enough lying in the bottom of the tank was about 2 or 3 egg-cup fulls of black sludge.  With this vacuumed away using a portable pump Charlie was fairly optimistic that it was job done.  Not so, normal service could only be resumed some hours later after cleaning the fuel lines and fittings between the tank and the change over valve.  Engine trials were then followed by hot shower and a cold beer after a hectic 11 hours on the go – it was just like being back at sea all those years ago !

 As I write this the sun is setting over to the west and the cathedral and walls of the old town are bathed in a warm yellow glow with sun’s reflections twinkling in the windows overlooking the bay – all beneath a clear blue sky and Charlie dressed only in shorts.

After having driven all over the island, which is at it’s most beautiful in the springtime, we can confidently say that Siracusa is our most favourite town and ranks well within the top 10 of places that we’ve visited since starting out in 2013.

We spent Tuesday ashore, primarily to revisit the old town and the brilliant street market.  We are well stocked up now with delicious fresh fish, ham, salami, mozzarella and vegetables and fruit to be found anywhere in the world, all home produced and as fresh and tasty as can be.  

There’s a wonderful deli at the East end of the market street.  They queue in their dozens all day long for the fantastic platters of food and made to order sandwiches, and what a treat they are too.  10 Euro’s buys a large wooden platter for 2 filled with a delicious selection of everything the deli produces. Washed down with a glass or two of well chilled dry white wine, it’s an absolute winner and guarantees you will not need to eat again for the remainder of the day.

Siracusa itself dates way back to the Greeks and is beautiful.  Honey coloured stonework and ancient buildings by the score throughout the old town.  A large piazza with cathedrals dating, top quality restaurants all displaying their summer best al fresco dining facilities, colourful flowers, lovely honey coloured stonework on all the buildings, together with the same coloured marble covering the whole piazza pavement, its stunning, and even more beautiful given the warm sunshine. Down the myriad of tiny streets leading off the piazza are dozens more characterful shops and an uncountable number of restaurants, some seating barely more than a dozen people. All charmingly dressed to impress and entice. The balconies to some of the apartments above these premises come in an enormous variety of shapes and designs.  Some of those facing each other are so close together it would be easy to reach across to shake hands; many look to be in need of urgent repair, but all have a distinct charm and many residents have now put plants on display, turning the streets into a riot of colour.

Wherever we walked, we came across ‘crocodiles’ of students escorted by their teachers; some were very young, others through to 6th form age; absolutely hundred’s of them everywhere, presumably on day trips and the volume of chatter rising significantly whenever they passed, but all clearly enjoying their time out of school.

After finishing our long lazy lunch, we made our way back to the dinghy and to Alkira, lying quietly at anchor.  There then followed a rather necessary couple of hours siesta for the crew! 

Charlie had been keeping a close eye on the weather, as we still hadn’t fully decided when to leave Sicily. However, upon checking again later that afternoon, we decided it was worth going that evening, so we hastily sorted ourselves out and left our anchorage at 7.15 p.m. knowing we had a lengthy passage to the mainland and onto Crotone, where we will lift the boat out of the water for 3-4 days. 

As I write, it is now 10.00 a.m. local time; the sky is blue, the sun is warm and we have light winds and Mt Etna has just vanished below the horizon.  We’d been expecting stronger winds to aid us on our passage but they’ve mostly not happened.  At one point during the night, on Charlie’s watch, we were making 7.5 knots, but it didn’t last, hence our ETA is now slipping and instead of an early evening arrival, it’s now looking as though we won’t arrive until much later tonight.  Charlie still has hopes that the forecast force 4/5 wind will materialize and waft us on our way to make up time Whilst Charlie has managed to get some sleep, Maggie is once again working her way around the clock with eyes wide open.  Hopefully, we’ll both sleep well tonight – whatever time we get to bed.

We’re presently approximately 5 miles off the coast , cruising along the coastline at 5.5 knots or thereabouts and approaching the “instep of the boot of Italy.”  Crotone lies some 72 nautical miles from our present position.  Time for an eye opening mug of coffee and a change into lighter clothing as it’s now comfortably warm/hot.

Alkira at Sea 13 May, 2015