Marina di Ragusa
36:46.839N 14:32.742E Sun 2nd Oct 2016
We have now spent a week in our winter quarters in Marina di Ragusa on Sicily’s south eastern coast. Our last posting was some time ago when we had just arrived in Syracuse after the summer months in Greece, so there are a few weeks to catch up on.
We enjoyed our second visit to Syracuse this year and it was a bonus to turn up when the city was hosting the Canoe Polo World Championships. We didn’t know much about the sport, but it turns out to be very exciting to watch and especially when you are seeing the best in the world! The competition ended with a terrific firework display for which we had pole position out in the anchorage. Two days later we moved on to the town quay as the weather turned thundery, wet and windy for a while. At least the rain prevented the very noisy bar opposite our berth from opening, so peace prevailed at night.
Ortygia at sunset and the Canoe Polo championships:
After stocking up on fresh produce in the wonderful market again and tracking down some good local wine, we headed south for Porto Palo en route to Malta on the 8th September. The day’s sail had variety but was quite trying at times. Towards the end of the passage we had to motor into strong winds and chop to get round the headland at the corner of Sicily. At least the anchorage was almost empty and we could pick our spot for good holding, a quick refreshing swim and a peaceful sleep later. We shared the harbour with a strange looking Russian boat which turned out to be the support vessel for a mini submarine with big bowl-like windows as seen on TV.
We had a rough but fast passage to Malta the following day and were hard heeled for several hours. We covered the 55 miles in 8 hours and arrived in Msida Creek by mid afternoon. We were very disappointed to be allocated a berth well down and on the “wrong” side of the creek (September is a very busy month for the marina). It was hot, airless, often noisy (traffic & helicopters from the nearby hospital) and a long way from anywhere useful! However, we were back in Malta for work rather than play and David tackled the installation of new wind instruments after a reassuring chat with the local Raymarine expert. He did a heroic job over several days which included working at the top of the mast on some intricate wiring. Meanwhile first mate did some shopping and had another great haircut with the same guy who did it back in July. Think she might have to keep popping back to Malta as he is so good, although he did say he would visit me here as I had inspired him to take up sailing!
After a week in Msida we motored round into Grand Harbour under the walls of St Elmo Fort, past Dockyard Creek and into the boatyard in Kalkara Creek. There we were lifted in a first for us, as it was with a crane rather than a travel lift. We then spent a difficult and extremely hot 3 nights on “the hard”, never a very pleasant experience. We were there for various boat jobs that can only be done out of the water and we hadn’t been lifted for over 2 years, so there was no getting out of it or the major expenses involved.
The compensation for having to be in the boatyard was that we got to know the loveliest parts of old urban Malta around the islands of Vittoriosa/Birgu and Senglea. We had several enjoyable walks around the fantastic battlements (many recently restored and tastefully lit at night) and through the pretty streets where the Knights of St John originally built their homes in the 16th century. We visited the Maritime Museum on Grand Harbour and had drinks beneath the massive fortress walls and once again admired the Maltese ability to make an al fresco party on any public ground with a few camping chairs and some cool boxes. Eating out in Malta is not particularly cheap or gourmet and there are few cool pavement cafes, so bringing your own goodies to the communal feast seems an excellent alternative. After the hideous overdevelopment of the Sliema area near Msida, it was a relief to find some of the better sights of Malta.
Whilst the yard worked on Goldcrest, we took ourselves off to see daughter Sally and family in France, via a visit to the dentist for David in Barcelona (repairs following last winter’s work). After a lovely week with the grandkids, we drove back to Barcelona via Andorra and spent 2 nights in the old town. The drive over the highest pass through the Pyrenees from France was spectacular, but the town of Andorra la Vella is pretty unattractive despite its location. We did enjoy our mini hotel break, had some delicious and great value meals and browsed the shops with tourists looking for a duty free bargain. We left early on the 28th September and drove into Spain through the very pretty foothills on the Catalonian side of the mountains. Then it was the return flight to Valletta and back to the boatyard to inspect the work done in our absence. The boat was pretty filthy from yard dust, but the work seemed good and we looked forward to being back in the water ASAP. Unfortunately, we had to spend 2 more nights up in the air as storms the week before had left a big swell in the creek, making it too dangerous to launch us with the crane. So it was the 30th before we motored back round to Msida for the final “signing off” of the electronics job and the all clear to leave for Sicily. This time we had to take a berth in the Royal Malta Yacht Club which was a bit rickety but lovely and open with great views, friendly staff and a good bar over the water. We somehow managed to hit the pontoon so the boat is less than pristine yet again. David’s electronic efforts were given the gold star and we decided to take a weather window to Ragusa on the Sunday.
Daytrip to Albi:
Andorra la Vella:
We left Malta at 8am on a warm but cloudy morning and managed to break our new gybe-preventer line which was very annoying. After that we had the most wonderful day’s sailing in blissful conditions and first mate didn’t really want to it to come to an end too soon. The sun shone, the seas were flat and Goldcrest glided along in the lightest of airs (making 6kts in 8kts of wind) as her bottom was so clean! We didn’t win any prizes for speed but might have done for light wind performance.
The marina here is full of liveaboards, many of whom seem to return winter after winter for the community and its very reasonable 7 month winter rate. It is a bit of a shame to settle down while the weather is still so glorious most of the time, but that’s the only package on offer in the area. There are loads of Brits, Canadians, Dutch, Belgians, Germans and other north Europeans avoiding the cold and it makes for a sociable existence. We haven’t spoken so much English in a long time! The marina is on the edge of the delightful holiday town (also called Marina di Ragusa) which has a lovely beach and bustling main square where the locals congregate in the evenings. Walking into town or swimming off the beach reminds you that you are in Sicily rather than some northern yachtie outpost.
We will be spending our days here for a while on boat cleaning, polishing and renovating duties as well as organising sail repairs etc. We plan to take the bus up to the famous old baroque town of Ragusa 25km inland from here soon and have already cycled (and in David’s case run) to the house used in the Montalbano series as his beachside home. It’s only a few miles from us here. We shall be back in the UK for some time in November and for a family Christmas and then want to explore some more of the island when we are settled back in the new year.