2022 – Plan B!

Thu 3 Nov 2022 14:35

Hard to believe, I thought to myself as we boarded the 07.30 flight to Catania, that this will be our ninth cruising season aboard Pamarzi. Business issues at home had delayed our departure by a couple of weeks and so it was the 22nd of May before we could get away nearly a month later than originally planned. The flight was straightforward with no delays at the airport. There have been many reports of huge queues stretching outside the airport buildings, due apparently to staff shortages post covid. We had ‘Special Assistance‘ at the airport as Lynn’s arthritic left ankle has been troubling her badly her mobility further compromised by a vascular problem in her other leg.

Rental car collected at Catania airport, a pleasant drive across the island and by 16.30 we were picking up a few provisions at the supermarket in MdR. The village seemed very busy we later learnt that it was a national holiday. We could only risk buying a select few provisions as the galley fridge is still not working! I discovered the problem when we were aboard in January to supervise the haul out and was rather miffed that four months later the problem had still not been resolved!

Despite the national holiday we were able to get a table at Io Pago Stasera that evening and enjoyed their reliably good filleto con pepe verde..

I cycled into the village next morning to buy a new local sim card and after an early spot of lunch Sam and I washed down the mast and spreaders. It remained warm, mid 30’s, all week although pretty breezy, so I was able to wash down the topsides and hull and polish with Nanotech and Speedguard the lot. Sam spent another morning with me polishing the mast, boom and fittings and similarly applying Speedguard. Florencia had polished all the stainless steel on deck prior to our arrival, not a ‘tea stain’ in sight! Pepe arrived at 08.30 on our second morning. He vacuumed out the galley fridge pipework, pressure tested it with nitrogen and fitted the additional drier that I had brought with me before re-gassing the system. As he left the temperature was, thankfully dropping.

We set out next day to drive up to the Lidl supermarket in Ragusa town to do a major provisioning shop. Lynn remarked that here, as in the U.K. prices were significantly higher post Covid and similarly there were obvious supply issues. We managed to spend €220 on provisions and €130 on booze. When we got back to the boat we noted that a new Grand Soleil 54 had docked opposite us on M pontoon and as they (Chas and Lorraine) were having trouble connecting up to a power pedestal I lent them our extra-long power cable. The following morning Chas came over and asked if I had any PTFE tape as he had a problem with his log fitting and there was substantial water ingress. I doubted that the tape would be the answer and asked him if I could help. I managed to remove the blank log fitting and correctly install the log resolving the problem. He very kindly brought over a very nice bottle of wine for me the following morning.

It wasn’t all work and we enjoyed eating (and drinking!) with fellow cruisers aboard boats and at restaurants ashore. We had a memorable evening with John and Monica aboard their boat (a Discovery 55) Dandylion X moored on our portside when John cooked some lovely fresh caught local fish.

On 31st May Enio, at last brought back our sails from his loft where, as usual they had been stored all winter. He had spot cleaned them and sewn in a new foot on the mainsail but said otherwise they were in great shape. Sam and I got the sails and all the running rigging re installed the next day and Pamarzi started to look more like a sailing boat again!

During the winter Sam had fitted a new bolt rope channel, supplied by Massimo the local man we always use for all canvas work. Having got sails and rigging back up earlier in the week I wanted to get the sprayhood and bimini up before Bernie and Val arrived on Sunday. So first job on Friday morning was to fit the sprayhood boltrope and zip into the new channel. It didn’t fit! Massimo had sent the wrong diameter channelling. Sam found someone who was driving up to Ragusa to take our bolt rope to Massimo’s workshop and Massimo promised to sew in a new bolt rope as soon as it arrived. On Saturday morning Massimo brought the new bolt rope back and with typical Sicilian overcompensation presented me with a beautifully sewn bag to store it in when not in use!

The Arrival of Bernie & Val – Naples Bound We Thought!

Bernie and Val arrived on Sunday and we had a couple of fun days introducing them to MdR marina life. We cast off our lines on the Tuesday and after a stop at the fuel dock we motored out into a south easterly, right on the nose! We motored the forty or so nautical miles around to Marzamemi on the east coast where we arrived around 14.45. The temperature in the high thirties as soon as we had completed all the usual docking procedures, we all retired to the air conditioned coolness of Pamarzi’s salon. Later that afternoon I went over to the marina office to settle our account with Salvo, the manager. Whilst there I asked him if there was a local taxi service to get into town (3 or 4 kilometres away) as my wife had walking difficulties. No taxis he told me but don’t worry take my car. Now that’s what I call service, I gratefully accepted. We drove into town that evening and had an okay meal at a restaurant in the old fishing dock area.

At 08.00 the following morning we were about to cast off when the Guardia Finanza arrived in the marina in a very military looking grey motorboat and moored up against us and requested all our documentation. Ships papers, insurance, sailing licence, passports, everything except our VAT invoice! They were very polite, but they delayed our departure by a couple of hours.

We arrived at Ortigia (Syracusa) around 14.45 and docked on an outside pontoon at Marina Yachting. It was pretty breezy with a considerable chop, but we got moored okay. Dino the manager was helpful and took our tender round to the inside of the marina to prevent damage to it in the swell but it was not until 18.00 that the swell eased enough for us to be able to get the passerelle down. We dined ashore on some excellent swordfish and later found a super gelateria where the gelato was so good that Bernie and I went back for seconds. When we returned to Pamarzi we saw that Chas and Lorraine in their Grand Soleil had moored a couple of boats down the pontoon from us.

We breakfasted at a favourite café in the square opposite the Roman ruins. Bernie and Val set off to explore the not inconsiderable delights of Ortigia whilst we spent the day aboard. We invited Chas and Lorraine over for drinks at 18.30 and as they showed no sign of leaving by 20.00 we suggested we all dined together ashore. We ate at Vineria a small restaurant run by two sisters that had been recommended to us. They have a reputation of being quite formidable and will stand no truc from tourists seeking fast food! The food was very good and the sisters must have approved of us as on leaving it was all hugs and kisses like old friends. Over dinner we heard a lot about how successful Chas had been and even more about the extent of his wealth.

I went down to the fish market next morning and purchased a rombo or brill as we call them in the U.K. A delicious fish that Lynn cooked perfectly that evening. However, we could not resist a trip back to the gelateria for dessert. I simply cannot resist the amarena (sour black cherry) gelato!

I was up at 06.00 next morning and by 07.45 we were casting off and heading for Taormina where I had booked a mooring for two nights with George Rizzo at his Yacht Hotel at Giordani Naxos below the town. We got about half way there on a very nice beam reach before the wind died and we had to start the motor. George put us on to buoys bow and stern under the cliffs with a great view of Taormina above us and our own ‘swimming pool’ astern. Georgia, Georges youngest daughter, came over later as we had just finished eating I invited her aboard for a glass of wine. By the time she had taken our order for corneti that she would deliver the following morning she had quaffed the wine and was becoming quite garrulous. She is quite a flirty girl with long tanned legs and a great shape and dressed in tiny denim shorts and a crop top her assets were well displayed. Bernie’s eyes were still popping out of his head half an hour later as he followed her progress up the companionway. Lynn stating later that evening as we talked about her visit, “She knows exactly what she is doing!” whilst shaking a pointed finger in the same manner as her mother always used to when emphatically making a point. That had us all laughing till it hurt.

There is a good view of Mount Etna from George’s moorings and this particular evening we were able to observe an eruption from a vent part way down the volcano, The lava river clearly visible for about a kilometre down the side of the mountain.

It was a quiet night, and we were rocked asleep by a gentle swell, but the morning brought disappointment as we discovered that the galley fridge had stopped working again. There was no option sadly we had to return to MdR to enable the shipyard to work on it yet again and hopefully resolve the problem for once and all.

Once released from our moorings we headed north back to Syracusa where we dropped the hook mid afternoon and spent a quiet night aboard enjoying a spectacular sunset and views of Ortigia in the changing light.

Another very hot day with temperatures approaching 30 degrees as we weighed anchor the following morning. The sea was very calm and with light airs we motor sailed back to MdR arriving around 15.30. As we manoeuvred into our berth on pontoon M we noticed another Oyster moored on the opposite berth. It was Tim and Mara in Mina II who we had met the previous year and as we were completing our mooring tasks Tim came over to say hello and invite us for drinks that evening. We had a very pleasant couple of hours with them aboard Mina II before returning to Pamarzi to pick up the tender and motor over to the Marina complex where we ate at Mercato del Porto, one of the new restaurants that has opened there.

I put the bike together first thing next morning and cycled into the village to buy cream filled croissants (corneti) and doughnuts (ciambela) for breakfast. Bernie and Val set off to explore Marina di Ragusa whilst we got on with boat jobs and arrangements for Pepe to come over to attend to the fridge. The octopus in celeriac sauce followed by fillet steaks at Mercato del Porto that evening was delicious.

An early, 4am, start next morning to see Bernie and Val off. I walked them down the long central pontoon to meet Luciano our taxi driver friend who was to ferry them to Catania airport. A day of boat jobs and discussions on the telephone with Frigoboat and Cathelco in the U.K. regarding fridge and water maker issues. Supper aboard and an early night.

More boat jobs next day, it never ends but not too unpleasant in the sunshine, David and Luda came over from their catamaran Bobcat for drinks in the evening, it was good to catch up with their news but sad to learn of David’s mother’s death.

Wednesday 22nd June and at last a week after our unplanned return, Pepe arrived to attend to the fridge. He found that there was no gas in the system! Now as that had not been the problem before one can only assume that it was one of the connections to the new drier that Pepe had fitted four weeks ago was not entirely gas tight. Anyway, he rechecked all the connections and re-gassed the system. The fridge temperature soon started to drop and hopefully will keep operating satisfactorily.

The Arrival of Liliane – And We Head For Naples Again.

We had arranged to meet Liliane in Ortigia (Syracusa) on the 28th June so we decided to stay in MdR till the Monday 27th. The weather remains very hot, mid 30’s to 40, notably there has been no rain since our arrival. But we had a relaxed few days enjoying the social scene in the evenings.

We were up early on Monday morning and cast off our lines around 07.00. Domenico one of our favourite Marineros led us through the shallow marina entrance although this time we never saw less than a metre under the keel. In past years we have seen less than 20cm! So it would seem that the dredging efforts are paying off. Calm seas and a following wind gave us a pleasant sail under full main and genoa. The breeze steadily increased to over 20 knots as we anchored in the Charrington anchorage in Syracusa bay around 16.00.

The wind eased later in the afternoon, and we had a pleasant evening lazing in the cockpit with our books and a very quaffable glass of Catarrato vino bianco.

We both woke early next morning sensing a change in the water that had been very calm throughout the night. A peek through a portlight revealed a huge fourteen decked cruise ship in the process of docking. I must admit that despite its gross size it made barely a ripple on the water as it manoeuvred into its dock. After breakfast we upped anchor and made our way over to Marina Yachting where we again took a berth on the outer pontoon.

We ate that evening at Vineria where we were greeted like old friends by Francesca, one of the sisters, and Demete the chirpy waitress and then introduced to the sisters mother who does most of the cooking. Twenty-four-month aged Palma Ham, melon and burrata followed by a tuna tartare made for a delicious evening meal. And we found it impossible to resist a visit to our favourite geletaria on the way back to the boat. After her much delayed fight Liliane arrived just after midnight.

After a late breakfast in town I left the ladies to their shopping and made my way back to Pamarzi with the fresh produce we had purchased in the market. Lynn and Liliane arrived back in the afternoon laden with bags and boxes. I would have been surprised if they had returned empty handed! Dinner again at Vineria where we met Pietro who, he told us works for a company running small cruise ships, many of them sailing boats, He was a garrulous and amusing chap who insisted on buying us all a Limoncello.

We left our berth at eight next morning and headed out into a roly sea which did ease down as we approached George Rizzos’ mooring field at Giordini Naxos later that afternoon. We swam and lazed the afternoon away dining aboard that evening on the meat skewers we had purchased in Ortigia. We remained on the mooning for another day, enjoying our surroundings, exploring the coast in the tender and generally lazing in the warm sunshine.

We cast off at seven the following morning and had a great couple of hours sailing on a beam reach with full main, genoa and staysail making over ten knots. We sailed up through the Strait of Messina keeping to the main land side for a change. We had timed it well and experienced little of the adverse currents. We arrived at Tropea in the late afternoon and were directed to a berth just two boats up from our friend David and Charlotte who we had arranged to meet. They had been berthed in Tropea for some months, but we had not seen them since the previous year when they stayed with us at Meadscroft. The temperature in the forties as we went through our docking routines. It got too much for the girls who retired to the air-conditioned interior whilst I completed the procedures.

We dined with David and Charlotte that evening in one of the marina restaurants. A rather disappointing meal, very mediocre food and laughably inefficient service but it was good to catch up with David and Charlotte and as always very amusing as they constantly over talked and corrected each other.

The three of us took a ‘Tuk Tuk’  up to the town next day as Lynn was not able to climb the two hundred and odd steps cut into the cliff side. The ‘Tuk Tuk’ panted its way up the only other route to the town, the sinuous road winding its way up on the more inland side of the mount. It was fun revisiting this characterful town and a new experience for Liliane. After a light lunch we left Liliane exploring and as there were no taxis or ‘Tuk Tuks’ about Lynn thought she might attempt to descend by the steps. We took the wrong set of steps and ended up part way down the road. Lynn was in considerable pain and as we stood by the roadside hoping for a lift of some sort a taxi stopped alongside us and very kindly said he would take us to the marina. When we arrived there despite our protestations, he would not accept any payment.

On Monday 4th July we shipped our lines just before 08.00 and waving our goodbyes to David and Charlotte headed out of Tropea marina into a calm sea and light winds. So it was motor sailing all the way to the little town of Cetraro. Our first visit here and we very cautiously made our way through the shallows to the narrow harbour entrance. Surprisingly once through the entrance there was quite a large port the fishing fleet was moored to our left and the marina on our right unexpectedly extensive although much of it too shallow for us. But the outer pontoon that we were directed to only had one other boat moored to it. Once our mooring jobs were completed, I headed down the pontoon and across the inner marina to the Marina office. Finding that it did not open for another 30 minutes at 17.00, I sauntered off to explore the surrounding area finding that there was very little of note and almost no one about. The marina manger was a cheerful rotund sort of bloke and as I was his only customer for the evening was at pains to welcome me to Cetraro and to recommend the restaurant as the best (only!) restaurant nearby. That evening we were welcomed there by Luciano and his son Francesco who fed us very pleasant sea food pasta dishes and a bottle of the local sparkling wine.

Our next stop was to be Maratea a charming little village that I had spent a week in eight years ago whilst Lynn returned home to see her mother. We were given the same berth that we had had eight years ago, only a young boy there to take our lines. Very hot again and it was once more a relief to retire to the air-conditioned salon for an hour or so to cool off once the docking was complete. I really like this little place, although there is a larger part of the village two or three hundred feet further up the cliffside, the tiny port overlooked by a huge statue of Christ the Redeemer perched atop Mount San Biagio which rises six hundred metres from the east shore of the port. The gentleman is illuminated at night and his white outstretched arms make quite a statement in the darkness that surrounds.

We walked around the port that evening to the little cluster of buildings at the head of the port where we ate at the restaurant that had been my nightly venue eight years ago. Not fine dining but very good wholesome local food and the same friendly service that I had previously enjoyed.

We were up early for a 07.00 departure but this morning not even the small boy was about! Finally, Claudio (the owner) answered his phone at 08.15. He said he was busy this morning and we agreed I would settle up on our return in a couple of weeks!

Conditions remained very hot and quiet, so it was an uneventful sail/motor sail to our next port Agropoli. We arrived mid-afternoon giving me time to give the boat a wash down before thinking about where we should go for dinner. The port within the bay here is quite extensive but most of it very shallow, there being only a couple of pontoons with enough depth for Pamarzi. By the time we reached the port entrance that evening Lynn could walk no further. So Liliane and I left her sitting on a bench whilst we went in search of a restaurant. Amazingly there were non at least non within a mile or so but we did find the rather grandly named Agropoli Palace Hotel. We felt we had no other option so despite there being no other diners Liliane took a taxi back to collect Lynn and I surveyed our surroundings. The dining room was set on the second floor surrounded on two sides by an infinity pool behind vast glass sliding doors with views over the harbour and the sea beyond. I know it sounds wonderful, but the evening was a disaster. The food was awful even the ravioli we had chosen for the main course, “because how could they make a mess of that”, was so undercooked it was almost crunchy! No one there spoke any English and our Italian was not extensive enough to adequately express our disappointment, so we paid the bill and went to leave only to be guided by an obsequious member of staff to a shiny stainless steel lift after waiting minutes for the doors to open he and we gave up and we walked or in Lynn’s case limped down to our taxi to return to Pamarzi and consign our evening in Agropoli to experience!

We had hoped that our next port of call would be Amalfi but unfortunately, they could not find us a berth. A call to the marina on the island of Procida secured us a berth, It turned out for the best as it happens for it was my 75th birthday and the sail from Amalfi across the Golfo di Napoli to Procida was sensational. A beam reach and with all the sails up it was double figure sailing. We only having to reef down a bit as we approached the island and the winds picked up further. We were given a berth pretty much the same spot as we had been given eight years ago and it felt good to be back on Procida, this island does have its own special vibe. We enjoyed a pleasant meal at the Albatross a waterfront restaurant just up from the marina. Lynn and Liliane very kindly treating me to dinner.

We got to bed around 23.30 only to be woken at 04.00 by a huge electrical storm. Winds of sixty knots or more, torrential rain, deafening thunder and lightning flashing every few seconds. Very dramatic and safe in port it was quite a spectacle. It went on for an hour or so and then as so often with these Mediterranean storms left us as if it had never happened except for a passerelle pointing skyward and my one-and-a-half-inch diameter ensign staff snapped in two.

A day of boat jobs both internal and external followed a late breakfast ashore at a portside café. That evening we returned to the Albatross and ate the most delicious sirloin steak even the fat so sweet and tender that it just had to be eaten. Next day I went in search of parts to repair my ensign staff and down by the fishing fleet dock I came across a chandlery, of sorts, entering its dim and dusty interior with ceiling high shelves stacked with vaguely nautical merchandise I almost gasped as I came across a veritable mountain of a man perched on and flowing over a reinforced, I assume, stool. He must have weighed in excess of thirty stone. However, he was very friendly and led me through to the rear of the premises which was set out as a workshop and introduced me to his papa who was making UPVC window frames there. Neither spoke much English but with my smattering of Italian we discussed the problem of the broken ensign staff and its resolution, which was to insert a steel reinforcing rod and glue the two parts of the staff together. This agreed, papa insisted that he would do it for me. He made a very good job of it asking only for payment of the materials and we parted as if we old friends, me with an ensign staff no doubt stronger than it had been originally.

Since we were last here there has been an explosion in the use of electric bicycles, The narrow streets and ally ways that make up most of the road system make it difficult for all but the smallest cars and parking is very restricted so quite understandable that they should be so popular here, the ones with fat oversized tyres predominating. It was with some amusement that I saw one of the said machines ridden by a similarly oversized but scantily dressed female bouncing over the black basalt sets that make up the road surfaces here, the whole ensemble of metal, rubber and flesh appearing to be in a state of perpetual undulating movement.

On Sunday 10th July we set off early to catch the fast ferry to the neighbouring island of Ischia, just a twenty-minute crossing by fast ferry or double that om the more conventional ship. We hired a car and set off to explore the island. As we left the rather scruffy, touristy port we had high expectations as we drove along avenues of oleander trees in full bloom, with pretty houses set back from the road with spectacular sea views. We toured the whole island exploring en route Giordini la Mortella, the gardens designed by Susan Walton the wife of Sir William Walton the composer. They moved to the island in 1949. The gardens are set on a steep slope and extend over several acres and are attractively laid out mainly to trees and shrubs but also boasts a small amphitheatre, fish pools and a stone-built grotto. Despite these delights we felt on balance that Procida was our preferred island

For our last evening on Procida we went over to the little fishing port on the other side of the peninsular, a very pretty spot accessible only by a series of steps and narrow alleys. We dined on little fish caught by the locals around the island in their traditional wooden boats. Nothing special about the food but the setting is very atmospheric and the people watching fun as always.

I had checked, as usual, the weather for the next few days the previous day and finding it forecast settled I emailed Agnello who runs the town quay in Amalfi seeking a berth for a couple of days so I was pleased next morning to receive confirmation that they had a berth for us. Despite the favourable forecasts it was still pretty roly as we docked in the early afternoon. It did ease down in the early evening. Agnello’s son had been watchful of our lines all afternoon. Our lines, as is the practice here were tied to their lines which are in turn tied to the very old and rusty rings on the quay. About 16.00 there was a loud bank like a pistol shot  as one of their lines parted. I quickly through another line which was secured on the dock whilst Agnello’s son fitted a new line on the dock. It was all done very quickly and no damage done.

We breakfasted in the square the following morning and I left the girls to their shopping and exploring and returned to Pamarzi. When Lynn and Liliane returned that afternoon they told me that they had booked a table at a restaurant recommended to them by their driver. The Lido Azzuro turned out to be pretentious, overpriced and served very mediocre food in an obsequious manner. We shall not be dining there again! However, we and certainly the ladies enjoyed our return visit to Amalfi and as we left Agnello, as he had done eight years ago gave me a bottle of limoncello.

I had found on the Navilly app what looked like a great anchorage, as long as the wind and swell were not coming from the south or west, called Bai del Buon Dormire. Conditions looked favourable and so I deemed this to be our next port of call. We had some super down wind sailing all the way there and dropped the hook in seven metres, sandy bottom and good holding. There were only a handful of boats in the bay all nicely spaced, until later in the afternoon a small French flagged sailing vessel prepared to drop his hook on top of ours! I shouted and gesticulated until they finally understood and then they asked me where they should anchor. I pointed out the perfect spot for them in shallower water, perfect for their draft and I am glad to say that they anchored there without further ado.

We had a beautiful and most memorable evening in the bay, listening to some of our favourite music whilst we dined in the cockpit. Later we were treated to spectacular sunset which lit the whole sky in hues of pink and red and this was followed by the rising of a huge, golden, full moon which sent bands of golden light across the still waters. For us that night the bay was true to its name and we all slept very soundly. Reluctant to leave it was noon before we weighed anchor after enjoying a swim in the crystal-clear water. As we left Bai del Buon Dormire I picked up on AIS a boat some way ahead of us that turned out to be an Amel 54 called Be Brave, they seemed to be heading towards Maratea too, so inevitably it became a regatta. We had a smashing downwind sail across the Golfo di Policastro squeezing every last fraction of a knot out of Pamarzi and arrived at Maratea a good thirty minutes before Be Brave. They moored next to us and we enjoyed meeting Fritz and Felix from Switzerland and learnt that like us there next port of call was Cetraro. We dined again at the little restaurant in the port and were served again by the little quirkily dressed, smiley waitress with her dark hair dressed into long pigtails; very cute.

After a leisurely breakfast next morning I settled up with Claudio and we set off into another very hot and almost windless day to Cetraro. It was motoring or at best motor sailing all the way. We made our way through the now familiar shallows and narrow entrance to be allocated a berth on a totally unoccupied pontoon. We ate again that evening at Faro where Luciano and Francesco welcomed us back and courteously looked after us despite being very busy as there was a sound stage had been set up in the marina and a local band were playing. They were really rather good and it made for a fun evening.

Next stop was back to Tropea, it was a gentle downwind sail most of the way until the wind dropped below twelve knots when we had to resort to motoring. A school of dolphins spent ten minutes or so playing around us, always a pleasure to watch them. We docked in Tropea around 16.30 and with berthing jobs completed Liliane set of to climb up to the town, Lynn frustrated at not being able to join her because of her ankle. I did the usual paperwork with the marina office picking up a few things from the little supermarket in the marina on the way back. To minimize walking for Lynn we had a pizza at the marina restaurant, friendly staff but pretty average pizzas.

We left Tropea just after 08.00 into a very quiet sea with little wind. Our timing for entry through the Strait of Messina was spot on and a four to five knot current sped us through the narrows. We were watching a passarella boat as it cruised about looking for pairs of sword fish dozing near the surface when it sprang into action, one of the crew running down the long passerella projecting from the bow of the boat. He snatched up a trident like harpoon and thrust it down into one of the unfortunate creatures. Others of the crew launched a small clinker built boat within which the line attached to the harpoon was coiled. Three of the crew jumped into this small boat and set off to ‘play’ and land the harpooned swordfish. Meanwhile the passerella boat set off in pursuit of the male fish which they quickly spotted and harpooned. Sword fish are nearly always in pairs in the Strait and the male fish not recognizing the danger tend to wait in the hope that their female mate will return! We have often seen the passerella boats in the Strait but this was the first time that we have witnessed a catch. They are such beautiful creatures, and it is sad to see them killed and hauled aboard, but they are good eating and I guess that it is a sustainable way of fishing for them, it has been the practice here for many hundreds of years. Just a few minutes after witnessing these events I spotted the dorsal fins of another pair of the wonderful creatures and could not but help hoping that they would escape the fishermen.

We reached George’s yacht moorings in Giordini Naxos at 17.30 and have never seen it so busy. Several big motor yachts were anchored nearby, and all of the mooring buoys were taken bar of course the two reserved for us. There were paddle boards, jet skis and foiling boards all over the place as we picked our way through the traffic to the relative peace of our usual buoys under the cliff. An evening swim, champagne on the aft deck in the still warm sunshine followed by sausage and mash and a bottle of Nero Davola. Dessert was the last of the Belgian chocolates that Liliane had brought with her, needless to say we all slept soundly.

We set off next morning a little later than planned as we had to wait for George and his team to wake up! Eventually a rather bleary eyed Georgia appeared to take our payment and release our stern line. No wind, so it was on with the engine and after setting the course on the autopilot I set up the fishing rod letting out a hundred or so metres of line. Returning to my coffee I picked up my Kindle and was quickly back in the 18th century waging war with the French. I was jerked from my sea battle by the sound of the reel screeching as line was ripped from it the rod arcing down in a graceful curve. Lynn grabbed the throttle and reduced our speed and I pulled the rod from its holder as one hundred and fifty metres astern flashing and glistening in the morning sunlight a huge blue, green and gold dorado leapt from the water in a bid for freedom. It took twenty minutes of battling to bring her to the boat and another ten to gaff her and bring her aboard. A magnificent fish weighing thirty kilos, by far the largest fish we have caught aboard Pamarzi. Once aboard a swift knife thrust through the brain despatched her and after gutting I hung her over the push pit to drain. What little blood there was on the aft deck was quickly sluiced away. I later removed her tail fin and squeezed her into the freezer. I shall butcher her when we reach our anchorage in Siracusa.

We dropped the hook about 16.30 in the Charrington anchorage area in Siracusa and once the snubbing line was set and the day marker hoisted I set about the fish which cut into forty steaks. The first three of which we ate that evening with a bottle of Catarrato. Another lovely peaceful night in one of our favourite anchorages.

We weighed anchor at 08.00 with Lynn at the helm, me operating the windlass and Liliane at the bow with the deck was hosing the mud off the chain as I brought it in. As so often happens here it took a good deal of poking with the boat hook to clear the anchor of the sticky mud that makes the holding so good here. Another very hot, very quiet day so we motored all the way back to MdR berthing at 16.30 to be greeted by Sam and his son Robin. Sam and the ever smiling Dominica (one of our favourite marineros) took our stern lines and as we completed our berthing tasks David McNaughton from Lazy Tern appeared. Nice to see him but sad to learn further details of the death of his wife Liz who has been ill for more than two years. She was just fifty-six years old.

The weather remains very hot, in fact other than the Procida storm there has been no rain since we arrived in May and temperatures have stayed in the mid to high thirties during daylight hours. We have never been so glad to have air conditioning throughout the boat although I am still not completely happy with the aft cabin unit which runs but only in emergency mode. It keeps the temperature down but the fans only operate at lower speeds. The Cruiseair agents in Palermo want four hundred euros to come out to it! So I am looking for another solution.

We worked hard for several days readying Pamarzi for our return to the U.K. for August but still found time for socialising and dining in the evenings. Liliane flew home to Belgium on 22nd July it has been fun having her aboard again, I know Lynn particularly likes having female company.

On the 26th July we left a very shiny Pamarzi all buttoned up with her sail covers on for our trip to Catania and fight back to the U.K. There was unfortunately a last minute problem with the galley fridge which had been working fine since Pepe re gassed it. We had been advised to leave the keel cooled fridges on all the time but as the galley fridge was icing up  I adjusted the thermostat and discovered that the fridge had stopped cooling altogether! The shipyard in Marina di Ragusa is closed for the whole month of August so nothing can be done till we return in September. Let’s hope that it does not delay our plans to visit Tunisia.

And Now Tunisia?

As Lynn stated it was a ‘horrid o-clock; (03.00 am actually) start on the 7th September for our return flight to Catania. Despite the early start all went well and we arrived on time until we came to the carrousel to collect our luggage. After half an hour we were the only ones standing by the still moving belt with no sign of the forward hatch surround that we had shipped as hold luggage. Finally I found the lost luggage office and enquired there to be told that there was a specific collection area for unusually shaped and large items. And indeed when I checked there it was, but a sign would have been helpful and time saving.

We collected the rental car. A Renault Captur and had a pleasant drive across the island arriving at the marina at 15.30 after a brief visit to the supermarket for a few items. The temperatures still in the high thirties so the first task was to change into shorts and T shirts! We unpacked and stowed the spares we had brought with us and after an early salad supper retired to our berth to catch up on ZZZZ’s.

We did a bit more provisioning at the AG cash and carry next morning and had just stowed it all away when we learnt of the death of Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral. Without doubt marking the end of an era. At the shipyard that afternoon I met Jamie Sammut the new manager who told me that he would get Pepe the engineer over to Pamarzi tomorrow to resolve the fridge problem. Tomorrow came and went with no sign of Pepe! Although later in the afternoon we did learn that the new management at the shipyard had not got a licence to purchase refrigerant. On Monday morning 12th September I took the tender over to the shipyard  to get an update and was told that they had got the licence but were waiting for the delivery of a special gas that they would use to clean the fridge system. On the way back to Pamarzi I saw that another Oyster had docked on the far side of the marina and as I got closer I saw that it was Nikitoo II, an Oyster 625. We had met Hugh and Mariana in Vathi, Ithaca six years ago. It was nice to see them again, Hugh is quite a character and had specified his boat with a built in rum tank! They were only staying for one night but invited us over for drinks that evening. We had a fun evening with them quaffing copious quantities of rum and tonic as is de riguer on their boat! We said our farewells around 21.30 and wished them a safe crossing as they are on their way to the Canaries to join the ARC for this year’s crossing to the Caribbean. Whilst we were with them we were introduced to a couple of guys working on their malfunctioning freezer. They seemed good people so I asked them if they would come and have a look at our aft cabin air conditioning unit.

We decided that time was running out to give us enough time to explore Tunisia and give us sufficient reserve in case of bad weather as well as time to do all the necessary jobs to put Pamarzi ’to bed’ for the winter. I managed to find a flight from Catania on the 28th September that would give us just one Schengen day in reserve.

Work started in earnest on the prewinter jobs. Sam and I got all the sails and running rigging off, mousing out the lines and washed and polished the mast and boom. In the coming days I polished the topsides and all the stainless steel.

TDF refrigeration turned up and within half an hour had found the problem with the air conditioning in the aft cabin, which turned out to be an easily rectifiable bad connection in the control box. They charged me just fifty Euros! In future we will use them for any refrigeration problems.

Pepe turned up on Thursday 15th September and spent a couple of hours pressurising the galley fridge system to check for leaks. He returned the following day and reported that there was no loss of pressure confirming that the system was not leaking gas anywhere – good news. He was back on the Saturday with a bottle of the cleaning gas only to find when he connected it to the system that it was an empty bottle! He drove up to Ragusa to exchange it for a full bottle and returned later to spend the rest of the day filling the system with the stuff and then vacuuming it all out and refilling with refrigerant gas, leaving the fridge working but advising us not to open the door till he had been next morning.  Sure enough he returned on Sunday morning and confirmed that all seemed to be okay – I do hope so!

Over the next two weeks the cleaning and polishing both within and without. The tender was cleaned and taken over to the shipyard for servicing and storing. We had lots of fun in the evenings enjoying the local restaurants with our fellow cruisers. The end of season firework display in the marina was as good as ever. We had a memorable evening with Sam and Florencia in the Lighthouse club dining on a brace of delicious wild sea bream.

But our foreshortened cruising year was drawing to a close all too soon and it was with some reluctance that we left Pamarzi on the 28th for our flight home.

Next year’s plans depend on whether Croatia stays out of the Schengen area for another year. If they do we shall spend the summer in the Adriatic and return to Marina di Ragusa for August. And then ‘do’ Tunisia in September and October. Keep your fingers crossed for us!