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UNDER THE SICILIAN SUN

October 25th, 2011 No comments

After dropping Spencer, Molly and EB in Salerno on September 28th, we headed back south toward Destiny’s winter home at Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa.  By the time we reached there on October 5th we had covered just about 1,000 NM in less than a month and had been both north and south in the Straits of Messina.

Our first sunset in Marina di Ragusa. . ."Red sky at night, sailor's delight"

Along the way we revisited Marina Stella del Sud (translation “Star of the Sea”) in Vibo Valentia, where I stocked up on wonderful meat from the butcher that had been closed for vacation on our way north.  We also made good use of the new facilities at the marina to clear up the backlog of laundry that accumulates when you have guests on board for a week.

After a couple lay days (boat speak for we stayed in one place) in Vibo Valentia, we did a 72 NM passage to Taormina, Sicily and actually had favorable winds and currents to sail south through the Straits of Messina.

In the Straits tide & current are not all you have to worry about.

Taormina, with its view of Mt. Etna, proved to be a rolly anchorage this time of year, and the moorings we had expected from our last stay there were no where to be seen, possibly due to the time of year. 

At dusk there was only one other boat anchored under Taormina. . .

but by morning we had lots of company.

At this point we were anxious to get to Marina di Ragusa where our contract commenced October 1st.  Having visited Taormina in the past, we opted to push on to Siracusa the next day.  Siracusa is approximately 50 NM south on the east coast of Sicily.

A fortress sits at the entrance to Siracusa's harbor. . .

and trees line the town quay. . .

where cruise ships dock. . .

We fell in love with the large protected harbor at Siracusa, its Old Town, Fortress and farmer’s market.  We purchased swordfish for dinner that was probably caught in the Straits that day and local barrel wine sold in plastic bottles. 

Swordfish doesn't get any fresher!

At the Siracusa fish market there are lots of options. . .but we didn't always recognize them.

F.LLI BURGIO at Piazza Cesare Battisti sold molto bene vino & formaggio.

Having done a couple of long passages on consecutive days, we spent an extra day in Siracusa and enjoyed lunch at a little restaurant in the Old Town.

Archimedes Restaurant was up a tiny street in the Old Town.

We spent some time wandering about the town.

Siracusa has tree lined boulevards. . .

and ornate architecture.

Anchored in the harbor were several boats heading to Marina di Ragusa for the winter. Sailing yachts LuLu, Feisty, Matilda, Mystique and Destiny made five US flag vessels anchored in the harbor at one time.  This is a rather unusual occurrence for the Med.  More often than not when we see a US flag it is an EU imposter evading local taxes.

Siracusa Sunset

Siracusa was the final stop before we reached Marina di Ragusa on October 5th.

Marina di Ragusa is a beachside town on the southeastern Sicilian coast.  In Italy, the word “marina” denotes a town on the beach, not necessarily a port for docking boats.  In most cases “Porto Turistico” designates a port that can accommodate visiting yachts—hence we are in Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa.

The marina(with a small “m”)is only open for its second season and the number of boats wintering here has grown because they are offering phenomenal rates, especially for in-water mooring. 

The population of Marina di Ragusa, like many waterfront vacation destinations, explodes during the summer months.  We are told that from June through September the beach is cheek to jowl with vacationers, but this time of year only a few hearty souls are to be seen—still in bikinis nevertheless.  The Italians love the Sicilian sun, and so do we.

There is a wide pedestrian promenade along the white sand beach that stretches the length of the town. 

The beach at Marina di Ragusa. . .

is bordered by a wide, paved promenade. . .

perfect for biking.

A 5 min. bike ride from the marina along the promenade brings you to the tree lined town square where tourists and locals mingle to sip robust Italian coffee and savor treats from the gelato shops and patisseries.  

The days are a pleasant mid-70’s and evenings cool to the low 60’s making for perfect sleeping weather.  However, the sun doesn’t always shine in Sicily and this time of year it is common to have a couple days of rain and high winds scattered between the sunshiny days.

This is not looking good.

I volunteered to prepare a contact list for cruisers in the marina for the winter season and can therefore give the following information concerning the makeup of the cruising community.  USA flag vessels-16. UK-16; NZ-5; SWE-1; Denmark-1; NL-4; Iceland-1; GR-2; AU-2.  And this is just the English speaking boats which does not include others from France, Italy and elsewhere who have  not participated in the list.

We have a Cruiser’s Net on VHF 72 at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday when information on everything from weather to social activities is shared.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday there is yoga on the dock–nice if you can get up that early, and a walking group at the same time daily.  This is a very energetic group that also enjoys a weekly Happy Hour.

On October 8th we celebrated Kent’s birthday with a little surprise celebration pulled off with much help from friends. 

Kent's friends helped surprise him for his birthday. . .

which included lots of Prosecco. . .that's an empty bottle under his arm.

As much as we are enjoying the comraderie of our fellow cruisers, we have decided (mostly me, truthfully) that living in a marina for three months is a little too sedate for our taste.  Besides, we miss family and some of the creature comforts (a real bed and bathtub for example) that await us in our cozy little apartment in Missoula, Montana.  There is also the added benefit of seeing old friends.  So as of December 1st we are “Coming to America” as the song goes.  Destiny will stay in the water here in Marina di Ragusa, where Kent would very much like to have a video camera feed to the States to keep an eye on her.  I expect that the boat will survive the winter just fine. . .but I’m not sure about Kent.

Marina di Ragusa Sunrise

More Sicilian sun to come.  CIAO!

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SHARING THE ADVENTURE

October 20th, 2011 1 comment

As much as we love being in the Med, we envy our European cruising friends who are just hours and a time zone away from family and friends who regularly visit them. In prior years, my mother who turned 85 in July has visited us—first in the Caribbean, then in Italy and Greece in consecutive years. Every year we go further east and the trip becomes longer—sadly, too long for her to visit this year.

The blog is our way of sharing our adventure with family and friends, but we much prefer to have them on board to see first hand why we love what we’re doing. We were very excited when Kent’s son, Spencer, wife Molly and granddaughter Elizabeth (affectionately called EB) were able to meet us on the Amalfi coast this fall as part of a whirlwind trip to Europe.

EB told everyone she met that she was "four and three quarters". . .is she cute or what!

Spencer had sailed on Destiny on our shakedown cruise for the Marblehead to Halifax Race in June, 2007, along with brother Ty, but Molly and Elizabeth had never been on board.  Working our tempermental vacuflush head was one of the challenges they faced.  Both were troopers, however, when it came to adapting to life on the water–“one hand for you, and one for the boat” was a frequently heard refrain throughout their visit.

Seeing Amalfi, Positano and Capri through fresh eyes, including those of a soon-to-be five year-old made revisiting these places a totally new experience.   We did more swimming, explored caves and played games–being a kid is fun.

There was a lot of energy on Destiny generated by a curious, active child and her equally active parents.  Days started early for EB who dragged one of her parents to the beach for a swim or to search for sea glass.

EB loved jumping off the boat. . .

and collecting sea glass at the beach in Amalfi.

Then about the time that Grampy and I were getting up they were back for breakfast.   Active kids eat all the time.  We no more than finished breakfast than she was ready for a mid-morning snack.

Clean bowl!

EB befriended Julio who runs the dock in Amalfi. . .we think she had a crush on him.  Can’t say that I blame her. . .he is kinda cute!

Julio took EB fishing in his dinghy. . .

and caught the only fish of the trip. . .if you look closely you can see it.

Along with the fun, like kayaking,  there were boat chores.

EB went kayaking with her Mom off Positano. . .

and swabbed decks with her Dad.

In Capri we anchored at Marina Piccolo on the south coast, where there are numerous caves to explore–fun for adults and kids. 

EB and Grampy went exploring in caves. . .

and took the dinghy through a cave to this hidden beach in Capri.

EB liked Capri's caves.

When Grampy went to check the anchor, EB wanted to see how it was done.  She’ll be a fine sailor one day, according to Grampy.

Thumbs up means its perfect!

There was occasional “quiet time”. . .but it didn’t last long.

Quiet time for a computer game. . .

or drawing pictures in her vacation journal.

There was too much to see and do—like taking the helm.

EB liked to take the wheel. . .with the help of the autopilot. . .

and just hang out on the bow.

Toward the end of their stay we had early birthday celebrations for EB and Grampy, with birthday melon on “topsy-turvy” day.

Italian birthday candles. . .

a HELLO KITTY t-shirt from Capri. . .

and sparklers topped off the birthday celebration.

And then the week was over, and for a few days after they left, Destiny felt like the life had been sucked out of the air. It was too quiet. . .there was no luggage to step over or crayons to pick up.  And no giggles from an adorable kid.

Ah, but the memories we made are worth the sadness that accompanies saying “goodbye” when the time comes. We had planned to stay in Sicily and winter on the boat. Now I’m not so sure we can forgo returning to the States for a “family fix’. There is something comforting about being in the same hemisphere as my Mom, Kent’s children and especially EB and grandson Nate.

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