Ortigia Days, Marzamemi Nights and our Ragusan Home

Thu 15 Oct 2015 10:06
Our days in ancient Ortigia, were spent amongst its historic and spectacular
architecture. Breakfasting on marmalade filled croissants, warm sugary
doughnuts and cappuccino coffee, visiting the noisy, life filled markets
where we bought huge tuna steaks carved from a fresh caught creature brought
in that morning, its shining glassy eyes staring at us accusingly. We
lunched one day in the delicatessen at the end of the market, a wonderful
place where you sit, if you are lucky enough to be granted a table, midst
walls clad with bottles of wine from floor to ceiling. On the back wall a
counter dedicated to selling a vast range of cooked meats, sausages and
salamis, sundried tomatoes and olives, pickled and preserved vegetables,
cheeses of many kinds, fish and crustaceans in jars large and small. All in
such abundance and piled so high it was difficult to spot the smiling,
aproned staff behind these epicurean delights. Our choice was one of their
speciality platters of a dozen or more different meats, salamis, smoked
fish, cheese, sundried and pickled tomatoes and olives; and it was good very
We said our goodbyes to Rob the following morning as he headed for the
airport and home to Belgium. We had a relaxed day wandering the city and
reading aboard Pamarzi. Our final evening was spent at one of our favourite
restaurants in the magnificent Piazza Duomo. Sitting at an outside table at
La Volne e L'uva surrounded on all sides by extravagant baroque
architecture, the night air warm, the fullest of full moons rising over the
cathedral that has stood here for over a thousand years, as a pair of
talented musicians took to their instruments, delighting us with their
skilfully played repertoire. An uninhibited elderly couple, obviously adept
at Latin American dancing took to the floor in front of them and danced an
Argentinian tango, the applause of passers by encouraging them to dance
several more times. This was the magical scene amidst which we ate our
arancini and Granma Gina's lasagne whilst making our way through a litre of
the house red.
It was a dull overcast morning when we cast off our lines and motored out of
the bay past the castle at the southern tip of Ortigia and out into the open
sea. Very little wind so motor sailing was the order of the day. We arrived
at Marzamemi around 14.00 just as the wind decided to pick up. The entrance
to the marina is very shallow and there was a heavy swell but once inside
the breakwater the sea was smooth but the wind remained gusty, up to thirty
knots across our bow, but we are becoming old hands at med mooring in these
conditions and with good marineros, Salvo and Arturo to take our lines we
were soon safely moored. Boat jobs done we decided to dine ashore, the
village is a couple of kilometres away. Salvo assured me that the little
fish restaurant was very good and would be open. He pointed to a rack of
bicycles and said to take our pick. We chose the best two, mine had no
brakes or gears, whilst Lynn's mount had one brake and half a saddle,
naturally neither machine was equipped with any lights. The restaurant
turned out to be a shabby little place but the owners were friendly towards
their only customers, two more tables became occupied as the evening wore
on, and the fish and local wine was acceptable. The lack of lights on the
bicycles was not really a problem on our return to the marina as there was
no other traffic and we saw not a soul.
I had settled the marina fees with Salvo the night before so we left
earlyish next morning and breakfasted at sea. Once around the headland the
sea became slight and the light wind, no more than nine knots, shifted
enough to allow us to raise our main and genoa. Remarkable that in this
zephyr of a breeze Pamarzi's thirty five tons swept through the calm water
at six and a half knots. The boat sailed herself on a sea devoid of any
other craft. We relaxed and read in the sunshine with occasional glances
around us and at the instruments. We were jolted from our reverie by the
screeching of our AIS alarm. This warns us if any ship is within a couple of
miles or so of our position. Looking around all I saw was empty sea but a
target showed on the screen on a collision course with us. I touched the
screen for more information to find that it stated that the 'vessel' was
travelling at 145 knots! It was only then that I heard and saw above us a
helicopter. I've never known an aircraft fitted with marine AIS (automatic
identification system) but as this chopper was also fitted with floats I
guess its marine AIS is used when it is on the water and had been left on in
error. Apart from this our idyllic last sail of the season was uneventful
and we sailed right up to the harbour entrance at Porto Turistico Marina di
Ragusa. Once in we topped up our tanks with seven hundred litres of diesel
at the fuel dock and proceed to our berth with a touch of melancholy as this
really was the end of our cruising season. It does though seem remarkable
that we now start to look forward and plan our fourth cruising season!
However no sooner had our mooring warps been hauled tight than we were being
invited to supper by Jean-Pierre and Chantal on the Amel Super Maramu moored
next to us on the pontoon. So despite our jobs list which is over eighty
items long a mixture of winterizing, routine maintenance and the odd repair
I suspect the coming couple of weeks will again be something of a social
And indeed that has proved to be the case. Lots of boat work during the day,
the list extended beyond one hundred jobs, but lots of socialising in the
evenings on each other's boats, 'happy hour's' at the local bar and visits
to favourite restaurants. Some of the couples we had met here last year
others here for the first time but without exception all exceptional people
who have chosen in boats large and small, old and new to explore this planet
and sail the oceans of the world. We feel privileged to be counted amongst
their number and to call them friends.
Our flight back to the U.K. is booked for next Wednesday and although we are
excited to be returning to our home and our family and friends there is
perhaps an inevitable feeling of sadness at leaving friends who share our
nautical lifestyle and many of our values. So it is with a touch of
melancholy that we must also say au revoir to our readers till next year and
new adventures.

Roger & Lynn