Siracusa, Sicily

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Fri 10 Apr 2009 09:22

We are back in the delightful old port of Siracusa.  We arrived on Wednesday at 1.30 pm after two great sailing days from Gozo.  We left Gozo at first light on Monday morning, but hit an unexpected squall and after two hours of high seas, twenty  knot winds and having all been drenched by big waves, the captain decided to return to try again another day.  Tuesday morning was our third attempt  to leave the islands and we wondered if we were trapped like Ulysses in Calypso’s cave, but this time the weather was with us and we motor sailed at high speed , up to seven knots, to arrive in Sicily in only ten hours.  Over night we moored in a sleepy fishing port called Marzamemi.

Our stay in Gozo was extremely enjoyable thanks to the help and friendship of Ian Kingsley-Brown and Linda and Peter Goodwin.  Ian sorted out the sails and found an important part, about 2 cm square of plastic, which one of his students sent by express from Italy, and Peter helped for two days to install a flap which will prevent water getting in around the propeller at the back of the boat.  We had dinner in Linda and Peter’s extraordinary house in the village of Sannat.  The house is 500 years old, built of solid blocks of limestone and originally their whole street was one long dwelling.  Linda and Peter’s sitting room and dining room are in a long high-ceilinged space with lots of stone archways  in which, originally, the family kept their animals.  In another part of the house there was a birthing room, in which the women of the extended family gave birth.  Like all the old Maltese and Gozotan houses the central area is an open courtyard overlooked by a terrace.  The Goodwins’ house has become the cat rescue centre of Sannat.  They have six adult cats, all originally strays, who perch on top of the high courtyard walls, and they are hand rearing three kittens which Peter found in a paper bag in a field when they were one day old.   As we left the house we saw a very old couple in the street with a large flock of goats.  Most domesticated animals are kept inside as there is so little space on the island, but the luckier ones are taken for a walk at night.  I wish I had taken a photograph of all the white goat faces in the street in the moonlight.

As we approached Siracusa we saw Etna again, this time looking much friendlier and benign as the top third of the volcano is covered in snow and she looks like Mount Fuji.  We sailed all the way in and Ian said we should remember all the sailors who had entered this famous port since ancient times.  Fortunately modern yachtsmen can use the engine when the wind fails, rather than rely on dozens of sad galley slaves chained to oars on the lower deck of the boat.  We have only one galley slave, chained to the gas cooker and only allowed out to blog from time to time.