Crotone-Roccella Ionica-Riposto-Taoromina-Milazzo-Capo D'O rlando
We had not booked a berth in Crotone but the marineros of the Kroton Yacht Club there waved to us offering a very pleasant berth on their pontoons which we were happy to take. Although we did have to weave our way through numerous racing yachts who were exiting the porto vecchio for the final day of their regatta. Once the usual berthing jobs had been completed I walked around this ancient port to the club office to complete the usual paperwork and settle the account. We had decided to stay for two nights and the very pleasant staff member who despite speaking no English at all indicated that we would receive a fifteen percent discount if we were members of another yacht club. Our membership of the Cruising Association was sufficient and we duly received our discount. Eighty Euros a night for a transit yacht is, for this time of year in Italy not bad at all.
Returning to Pamarzi I found that Lynn was cooking bacon and eggs, always delicious after a night sail. Breakfast complete with brown sauce which we had brought out with us from the UK was delicious and the snooze afterwards to catch up on zzzzzzz’s was equally welcome.
We ate that night in the restaurant atop the sea wall of the porto vecchio, great views and a cool breeze across the terrace but mediocre, expensive food, we were not impressed. Sunday morning and even at 08.00 you could tell it was going to be a really hot one and indeed we saw thirty nine degrees later in the day but boat jobs must be done and we gave Pamarzi a thorough wash down ridding her of the salt encrustation from our passage.
The club staff had recommended a Trattoria around the north east side of the massive citadel that overlooks the porto vecchio. Its huge stone works soaring up over one hundred and fifty feet from the harbour. Built in the 16th century it remains in very good condition and it is worth noting that the town at that time was known as Kroton. We found the recommended restaurant, Orfeo, and were enjoying our seafood starter when two young guys came charging through the open air terrace. The ‘chaser’ a bare footed and chested, black guy caught the dressed and shod but distinctly shifty looking white guy just past our table and proceeded to give him several hefty thumps in the face whilst the ’culprit’ begged for mercy. The police had been called and turned up as the scufflers walked back the way they had run with the black fellow holding a firm grip of the other’s collar. Goodness knows what it was all about but it provided an amusing adjunct to our pleasant and very reasonable meal.
I was awake early next morning and had completed most of the departure procedures before Lynn woke and so it was just before 07.30 that we slipped from our berth on route to our next port of call, Marina Della Gracia, Roccella Ionica. We had some interesting sailing in the fluctuating breeze which at one time or another blew from every point of the compass but by late afternoon we had covered the eighty or so nautical miles and entered the marina to find that we had been allocate a pleasant side on berth on the inside of the central concrete quay. The fact that there was a very strong current flowing, the berth just centimetres wider than Pamarzi’s beam and we were reversing into a space with a high concrete quay on one side and a very low finger pontoon on the other made docking interesting but we accomplished it I’m pleased to say we aplomb. Surveying our surroundings it seems a quiet little place obviously originally designed for much smaller boats than us but the staff were very pleasant and welcoming and the surrounding plantations of pine trees delighted both the eyes and the nose.
We learnt that the pizzeria in the marina is famous in its own right and as we walked along the waterfront later that evening to sample it ourselves we were amazed at the number of tables set out on the quayside, there were quite literally hundreds! The pizzas we found were ordered by the metre! We placed our order for half a metre each and they arrived on long wooden platters and were indeed delicious, thin crust and loaded with rich tomato sauce, a truly delicious cheese and piles of the fillings of your choice, probably the best pizzas we have ever had. We strolled back to Pamarzi sated in the soft pine scented air to a blissfully quiet night’s sleep.
Next morning I put our remaining bike together and rode the three miles or so along the well-tended verdant beachfront to the town of Roccella Ionica which other than the impressive fort perched atop a two hundred foot high mound in the centre of the place seemed to have little to commend it. However I did acquire some excellent marmalade filled croissants and a couple of café freddos on my way back to the boat.
Bruce from an Australian flagged catamaran on the other side of the quay from us came over to admire Pamarzi and intimated that he would love to see inside so we invited him, his wife Anne and their crew Kate to join us for drinks that evening. They arrived around 19.00 bearing bottles and nibbles, very nice of them and we had a jolly evening getting to know each other, culminating later in the evening with yet more metres of pizza which defeated all of us. The remaining yardage was taken back to our boats to be consumed for lunch the following day.
We decided to stay at Marina Della Gracia till Saturday, so in relaxed mode Lynn went to the beach, whilst I got on with some boat jobs. We ate again at the pizzeria that evening but not I hasten to add on pizza! In true Italian fashion we were now welcomed by the proprietor like old friends.
Domestic chores on Thursday and mid-afternoon Bruce and Anne came over for a couple of hours for some information on the Aeolian Islands and my opinion on their plans to cross to the Caribbean later in the year. We also learnt that they too are leaving their boat in Capo D’Orlando during August whilst they fly to the U.K. where Bruce is joining a crew to do the Fastnet race. They invited us over for supper aboard their boat and we had another fun filled evening and heard of their days as sheep farmers in the outback. We look forward to meeting up with them again perhaps when we all return to our boats in September.
After breakfast the following day Lynn and I both went down to the beach and had a relaxed few hours sunning ourselves and swimming in the clear water with only one other person there. Joel a very charming Portuguese guy came over for drinks that evening. He has just purchased an eight year old Jeanneau 42 and enthusiastically told us of his plans to sail it back to Portugal before winter and live aboard whilst continuing his profession as a graphic designer. I was surprised to earn that he had only just come to sailing and had only just completed his day skipper course! A final visit to the pizzeria, where chatting with the owner we learnt that he has tables for one thousand four hundred diners and is frequently full, what a business. Pizzas, dessert and a carafe of wine that evening were less than twenty two Euros.
I woke at 05.00 next morning and by 06.00 we were squeezing our way out of our tight berth, through the shallow marina entrance with less than 0.5 of a metre beneath our keel for our seventy five mile passage across the Ionian to Riposto on the east coast of Sicily. Fickle winds and lumpy seas but the sails were up for most of the journey although motor assistance was often required. Twenty miles out from Riposto with sails just furled away I noticed black specks on the decks and looking up towards the massive presence of mount Etna saw that it was spewing much more smoke than usual and was in fact erupting lava from one of its many vents high up on its three thousand, three hundred and fifty metre summit. Thankfully the ash falling on us was cold but we quickly closed all hatches and port lights and set to with the vacuum cleaner.
The ash was still falling as we entered Riposto marina and whilst waiting for a marinero to show us to our berth I engaged reverse to hold station, there was an almighty clunk that reverberated throughout the boat followed by heavy vibration. I quickly engaged neutral and then tentatively engaged forward only to hear the same noise and find that I had no drive! A marinero had come out to us and we explained the situation and he and a colleague pushed and pulled us into our berth with their dinghies.
Thankfully there is a ship yard in the marina and thinking that it was a gearbox problem I asked the marina office to contact the yard but of course it was Saturday evening and no contact could be made until Monday. So with Georgia, Robyn and Angus arriving on Monday evening the pressure was on. I gave Pamarzi a wash down to remove as much volcanic ash as possible and it was two rather subdued sailors who dined at the marina restaurant that evening on unremarkable food but a surprisingly good bottle of Nero D’Avola eased our worries at least temporarily. The marina seems to have been developed and improved somewhat since we were last here five years ago and there were more than a handful of ‘mega’ motor yachts and super yachts moored in the transit berths. The super yacht opposite us was Gliss a very well-known boat.
More ash had fallen overnight so it was a day of vacuuming, washing and worrying about how serious and how long it would take to resolve our transmission problem. Midge Ward (John and Midge Ward friends from Marina di Ragusa) rang during the day to say that they were in Syracuse and would sail up to Riposto to dine with us and anchor outside the marina to avoid the sky high prices charged here, over two hundred and twenty Euros a night for us and half as much again for them as they are a catamaran. It is for this reason we call the place ‘RIPOFFTO’.
They arrived in their tender around 18.30 and we had drinks aboard Pamarzi before walking into town and dining at a restaurant that Midge had found on the web. It was lovely to catch up on all their news although sad to learn that they have decided that their boat Calico must be sold and their cruising years had come to an end. John sneaking out for a smoke towards the end of the meal had paid the bill so my request for “conto per favour” to the waiter brought only smiles, so definitely our turn next time, perhaps when they stay with us at Meadscroft later in the year.
Monday morning and I was at the shipyard office by eight waiting for them to open and arrange an engineer’s visit to Pamarzi. They promised they would be over at 14.30 that afternoon so it was back to the boat calling at the Yacht Services office to hire a car for that evening to collect Georgia and the children from the airport. Back at Pamarzi John and Midge had arrived for coffee before sailing back to Syracuse and we had a last hour together before waving them off.
When they ‘d left I rang Alan Ganter the guy who services our engine and generator etc. and had a discussion with him regarding our mechanical woes and he suggested that I dive under the boat to check the propeller and shaft. Yuck, filthy marina water but there was no alternative and it was a good suggestion so donning mask and snorkel I lowered myself into the murk and dived under the boat to find that our propeller was completely covered in a huge web of nylon and plastic netting and rope. It took five dives to cut it all away and another two to discover that the debris had forced out the cutlass bearing and it was that that was causing the noise and vibration. Good news that it was not the gearbox, bad news that the only way to replace the bearing was to haul Pamarzi out. The engineers arrived as promised at 14.30 and when I explained to them what I had found they said that they would come back to me with a date – one day, two days – a week? Thankfully they came back to me with the news that they could haul us out and do the job on Wednesday at 08.00.
We picked up the hire car at 17.30 and went straight off to do a Lidl provisioning shop. Returning laden to the boat I left Lynn packing the produce away and set off for Catania airport to collect Georgia and the children. It was super to see them all looking so excited and we were soon back aboard Pamarzi reacquainting them with ship board life.
After a quick breakfast next morning we set off in the car to Mount Etna. The sat nav set us on a circuitous route but we finally reached the summit, or as near to it as is practicable and Angus got his piece of volcanic rock and I think a better understanding of just how massive this volcano is.
I was up at 06.00 next morning to prepare the boat for the haul out. Lynn and I got her ready and the marineros arrived before eight to tow us to the lifting dock. They tried bows in first but we were too big so it was out and back in stern first when we discovered we were still too big and would have to derig the back stay. The engineers seemed to know what they were doing and having sourced an appropriately sized cutlass bearing proceeded to remove the propeller and knock out the old bronze sheaf before fitting the new bearing in its sheaf and rebuilding the propeller. Meanwhile Lynn, Georgia and the children had found a beach and were having fun swimming. One thousand eight hundred and fifty Euros the poorer I watched as Pamarzi was lowered back into the water and Lynn and I motored back and reinstalled ourselves in our berth.
Thursday 1st August and after settling the account with the marina we set off for George Rizzo moorings in Taormina, light breeze but a fair old swell with lots of water over the fore deck – the children loved it! George got us on a buoy in a lovely position under the cliffs and Georgia and the children enjoyed swimming off he stern of the boat. Later in the afternoon one of George’s guys picked them all up in one of the ribs and took them ashore so that they could take a taxi up to the town to explore. Supper was taken aboard and we had a quiet night rocked to sleep on a gentle swell.
Consulting charts and current tables I deemed 10.30 to be the best time to leave Taormina for a good passage through the Strait. It worked very well and we had an easy ride the children seeing dolphins and three passerella boats on route. George had recommended and alternative marina in Milazzo and I called them, Porto Santa Maria Maggiore, on route to book a berth for the night. It was indeed in a nicer part of town than our berth on our last visit three years ago at Nettuno marina. We had a pleasant dinner at a small restaurant under the old fort and after a visit to a gelateria for ice creams returned to Pamarzi and a restful night.
We left Georgia and the children sleeping next morning and set off on our final leg with them to our August berth in Marina Capo D’Orlando. It was a breezy and bumpy ride with the wind right on the nose. They had allocated us a very nice berth close but not too close to all the amenities and very near the beach just outside the sea wall, perfect for the children’s stay here and for Charles and Gemma and their kids later in the month. It looks to be a very nice marina and I think we shall enjoy our stay here.