38:19.65N 16:26.12E Roccella Ionica
Wednesday 29th June, 2011.
We up anchored at 7.30 a.m. and headed out of Taormina Bay going eastwards towards the southern foot of Italy. Once clear of the cover of the high ground headland of Taormina a northerly breeze was soon found. Within 4 miles we were putting the first reef in the mainsail and soon afterwards the second reef was put in. Ariel was close reaching at up to 9.3 knots in 25-30 knots of breeze. The first 25 miles was covered in very quick time but as we cleared the effect of the Messina Straits and gained the cover of the land of southern Italy the wind was gone and we motor sailed the next 40 miles. One sword fish was sighted as it jumped clear of the water several times and a large Risso’s Dolphin swam past us a few boat lengths away. The total distance covered was 69 nautical miles.
Risso’s Dolphins are easy to identify when they are older as they are have extensive body scarring caused by the teeth of other Risso’s Dolphins and after confrontations with squid. The dolphin had a robust body with a large rounded head, large fin and measuring well over 12 feet with dark flippers.
We motored into the harbour and an Australian live aboard couple found us a space and helped us to moor up on a very short pontoon. We have not seen a pontoon for a long time. They had been all over the world and told us tales of incidents they had had in places like Sudan. We both decided the Meditterrean is what we feel comfortable with.
The county around Roccella Ionica where we are is Calabria. It is often described as the mountains between the seas. Beaches are all along the coast with mountains in the background with towns dotted here and there and some way up in the mountains.
Where we are is a sleepy little harbour which was built as a porto turistico with EC money but has never been finished. Water exists on the wall at about every 6th tap and the electricity system has never been finished. We have filled the tanks, done the washing and washed Ariel but we have to start the engine twice a day to help the solar panels keep up with the fridge as the water is so warm. We have seen the police officer who collects the harbour dues of 20 euros once so far. He seems to choose who is to pay on the day. On the transit pontoon he may charge 4 boats and ignore the other 6. It is crazy but we are not complaining. The harbour is a lovely quiet spot with a couple of big fishing boats who seem to come in to refuel and off they go for days and the harbour is full of very small day boats.
We have met up with two couples on their way back from Greece and Turkey where they have been for 8 years and Jim has marked our “Greece” book with their tips. From everything they say we are indeed going to enjoy the next couple of years.
We all went for a pizza at the restaurant on the harbour wall where it sells pizza by the half metre. It was fun as we all choose our own pizza and duly 2 metres of pizza arrived on two long wooden platters the length of the table. It was good quality pizza for roughly 10 euros a couple, very cheap for an evening out. The restaurant prides itself on some evenings seating 2500 people as it so well known and every evening hundreds of tables and chairs are arranged outside and without fail they are full.
The other great thing is the free use of bikes with baskets for the day for a donation towards the running costs. The gentleman who runs the little business also has an old BMW motor bike and side car he hires out for weddings. We cycled twice into Roccella Ionica along the wonderful pavement with cycle path behind the beach which runs for miles, lovely bench seats, railings and beautiful flowering bushes and even date trees. Until you get into town which is probably 2 miles away there is no housing or anything to warrant this lovely pavement. There are several lido’s in the town area with small swimming pools for the kids. We had a swim from the beach but on the second day we only paddled as there was rubbish in the water. The little train of two carriages runs along the coast and the line cuts off the beach from the town. The old castle on the mountain at the back of the town is being restored at present.
The town for the last two evenings has had market stalls set up and the usual fireworks in the evenings. (Sunday evening – Monday mornings was at 1 p.m.) We saw chaps from a brass band very nicely dressed with their instruments walking around town while we ate our ice-creams but unfortunately didn’t hear them play. At around 6 o’clock there was a boat parade in the harbour with the Saint aboard, police chief in his uniform and priests for the 150th anniversary of Italian independence. Two officers in their white uniform waited on the harbour wall for the procession to come into view and they stood and saluted the flags as the boat went past.
The coast guard brought in two American yachts and one large Turkish sailing boat last week as they had found 58 illegal immigrants on board. The “Heart of Gold” from Wilmington and the other smaller American yacht are chained up on the harbour wall. The Turkish yacht didn’t look to safe to take to sea! Perhaps they thought as this coast is very quiet it was a good place to land them.
We expect to move onto Crotone about 60 miles along the coast.