Taormina and Roccella Ionica

Rob and Jacky Black
Sat 18 Jul 2009 18:15
37 50.7N 1517.5E
We motor sailed from Vulvano to Taormina through the Messina straights - stopping off for fuel and water at the pontoon 1.kilometers north of messina harbour. It was a useful place as I was able to pop across the road to a fresh fruit and vegetable shop which also had bread rolls! Our passage through he straights was uneventful but interesting as we had some very large bottle-nose dolphins play around the boat and were also able to watch the sword fish boats charging around with their tall gantries - they didn't seem to be catching anything! WE saw no whirl pools or water spouts and had a favorable current foremost of the journey. The last 10 miles we had a counter current which meant our arrival in Taormina was later than predicted. The coastline around here was craggy but green and the towns climb the hill sides. There is a small railway line that follows the coast and a main road. We rounded the headland into the bay below Taormina just after 1900 and were met by George in his rib. He runs the mooring buoys here and calls them a yacht-hotel. We had already decided we would anchor so declined his offer of a buoy for E40. he was very friendly however and came to check we were ok once we had anchored. he offered various services like a trip ashore, rubbish disposal, and even a reduced rate trip to Mt. Etna. We said we would sleep on it and see. The anchorage was deep and over rocks but once the anchor was in we were secure for the night. However it was not a particularly restful spot as the railway line had trains running until late including goods trains and they started again early in the morning.It was strange being anchored almost in the shadow of Mt. Etna and as the dusk fell we were able to see clearly the smoke rising from it's craters. We decided to leave at 0600 and so broke the anchor out with out too much of a problem and headed off for Rocella Ionica with the proviso that we would not attempt an entry if there was any sea running having read the horror story about the entrance in the pilot book.
The passage across the straights was a bit bumpy but we did manage a good 3 hours of sailing before the wind died and we had to furl the jib. The coast line of eastern Calabria is much lower and less spectacular than that of Sicily, a very arid place with small towns dotted along on the coastal plain. We could see the railway following the coast and occasionally saw small trains passing along. There was a good deal of shipping both coming and going from the straights of Messina and several other yachts going our way too.
Wednesday 15th July
38 19.7N 16 26.0E
We eventually arrived off Roccella around 1700 and made a careful approach following the instructions in the pilot book. The small dredger was half-blocking the entrance channel which was very narrow. We sounded our way in and the least depth encountered was 2.7m so not too bad. Once adjacent to the end of the starboard mole the depth increased to 4.5m. The finger pontoons were long and several were free. We decided to take the end one and with the help of several other Brits. we were soon along side. There are 4 UK flagged boats here including folk we met in Salermo and another boat that wintered in Lagos in 2007 -Pyxis. There is fresh water on the pontoons and toilets and showers (E2 per douche and not very clean) behind the Pizzeria. We ate in this restaurant and it was excellent value and good food too. Our friends June and Steve on Piper arrived the following day so we went out again that night as it was too hot to cook on board.
We did a large laundry - all the bedding and it dried beautifully very quickly. The cafe has WIFI so I was able to catch up on loads of emails and get onto the internet to do some research about our next ports of call. in addition we ordered 2 spare shear pins from lewmar to be delivered here. We are permitted 5 days free mooring here! The supermarket was a good 10 minute bike ride away, but well stocked so we did a large shop to set ourselves up for our passage to Greece next week. On Saturday we biked into the local town along a very pleasant esplanade mostly lined with oleander bushes all in full bloom with vibrant colours of pinks, purples and white. The town was o.k. but rather spoilt by the very busy main road running through it. However we did find a garage for fuel to keep the generator going and a small DIY shop with camping Gaz! There were several butchers, fish shops, bread shops and a very good fruit and veg. shop with produce much cheaper than the supermarket.
I tracked the progress of our shear pins and to my horror discovered they had arrived in Rome on Friday but the estimated delivery was showing 22nd of July so we will be long gone! So much for paying for quick delivery at a cost of £25.00- unfortunately Lewmar didn't think to send the items by straight forward post but have used UPS and several people have commented they are not good. Why it takes them 5 days to get the item from Rome to here goodness knows! We have emailed Lewmar to instruct the delivery to be returned to UK!
We have had very strong winds here today so although it has been 34 degrees the wind has made it quite bareable. It looks like we may now head straight from here to Cephalonia and make use of the tale end of the gales to get a quick passage across it is about 190 miles so some wind would be helpful!