Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Bye Italy

On last Wednesday morning we again checked the forecast and the wind was still too strong to sail NW. So we decided to stay another day.
And it wasn't very hard, we got a visit from a crew from another Slovene boat that was in Otranto and had a nice chat in the afternoon on board of Heron and decided to make a trip to the lake together. The anchorage was full of boats. In comparison to previous days, when we were alone.
We were happy with a prospect of having a good walk and an ice cream.
We got ice creams in the camping site for divers and finish it off by the time we got to the lake. It was really stunning.
We met some people on horses.
Lake from the other side, with sea in the back. As I understand it is made by mining for bauxite, that is a main source for aluminium.
The land around it was pretty dry, with thistle growing everywhere.
On the way to our dinghy we spooked a pretty moray eel in shallow water.
We had a nice evening with our friends, and then again a coffee the next morning. Then they returned to Otranto. That evening we sailed off towards Monopoli. There was less and less wind, and luckily the waves weren't too big. But it was still a bit of work, there were a lot of fishing boats and ferries on the water. We were motoring the whole time and around noon of next day, the Friday, we reached Monopoli.
The visitors pier was empty and Heron had plenty of space.
We called the port captain and after a while the officials came to the boat and gave us couple of forms to fill out, one about the boat for port captain and one about our health for health officials. Last year the formalities were practically non existent, but Covid changed that.
At around 2 we brought the forms to port captain and it was really hot. This is the view to Heron over the old port.
On our way we saw this cat, complaining at the door, that her people didn't let her in.
On our way back we found this maritime themed fountain in park.
Monopoli was just as charming as I remembered - with narrow streets and many old buildings.

We had a panzarotti for lunch, it is a fried folded pizza dough filled with different things, mainly cheese, and tomatoes. It is delicious.
In the afternoon we were resting a bit on the boat, we were quite tired of sailing all night. In the evening we went shopping and then we had some snacks and a glass of wine in one of the bars.
Next morning we went shopping again, and at around noon we sailed off to Mola di Bari. We motored the whole way, but at least there were no wind or waves against us. We anchored behind the breaker in the early afternoon. In the evening we rowed the dinghy to the town and visited our favourite pizzeria in town - Angelo's. We were lucky to get the table, and had some panzarotti and pizzas again. This time I definitely had my share of pizza-things while in Italy. And after that we had some gelati and a cannolo.
In the evening wind started to blow harder again, but luckily we were tucked in as far into the port as we dared (it is quite shallow), so we were able to get some sleep.
In the morning we sailed off early. But it was really wild outside, after quite strong wind during the night, the waves built up, of course on the nose. And the wind was still strong in the morning, although it should have been long slowing down according to forecast. We were pounding into waves, with engine and the sails, and were struggling to make progress. In couple of hours we managed to reach Bari and Captain had enough - he wanted us to make a stop there and maybe continue in the afternoon, if wind and waves calm down. But right then it got a bit less wild and I pushed to continue towards Manfredonia, we still had a lot of miles to sail. After some rest Captain's mood improved and in the meantime wind turned a bit and I was able to sail without the engine. Wind got stronger again, but at least it was a bit from the side, so we were sailing with good speed, which made Captain happier. It was still a hard ride, we were pounding into the waves and the boat was heeled over quite a bit. We ate just crackers and cheese, it was too wild to cook or spend any time inside of the boat
Along the way we saw a flock of tunas hunting and birds soon joined the fun. We know they were tunas, because we saw them jumping out of the water.

Luckily in the evening it got calmer and we motored last two hours to Manfredonia, where we anchored near the breakers of old port, well protected from the waves. We had some nice dinner, a glass of wine and went to bed early, pretty tired of a long hard day. We made almost 70 miles that day.
The night was calm and we slept well. In the morning we didn't have the energy to row into the town, so we just sailed Heron into the port and made some photos of the old fort.
We sailed East along the South shore of the spur. It is very pretty, with white cliffs, forests and white beaches. Just the water is not very clear, since the whole bay is sandy and very shallow.
We anchored in Mattinatella, a bay with beautiful cliffs. We swam, read books and rested. After what we've been through the day before, we deserved it.
In the evening we rowed alog the shore to see the cliffs...

...the overhangs,...
...and caves from up close.

Luckily the loud Italians on two motor boats left in the evening, so after the good dinner it was quiet and calm and we had a good night.
Next morning we left at 7, we again had some 70 miles to sail, we planned to sail across the Adriatic sea all the way to Lastovo in Croatia. At the beginning we were motoring, but after a while wind picked up and we were already sailing as we passed Vieste at the end of the spur.
I was a bit sad to be leaving Italy, it is such a nice country, with delicious food and warm and friendly people. If it only weren't so difficult to find a protected anchorage... There is one more thing that was bothering me - the trash. We haven't seen so much trash and plastic in the sea, but also in the streets of towns or along the roads, anywhere else. It is not so bad in some parts of Sardinia, but Sicily, Calabria and Puglia are terrible. And it is difficult to find a trash cans in towns, ports and on the beaches. I hope it will get better soon. One of our last views of Italy was this one with a styrofoam box that fishermen use to store caught fish, floating on the sea. It was one of many we saw in last few days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


We had a medium bad night last Wednesday just NW of the entrance to Messina Strait. This was our anchorage and as you can see, it is wide open to all sides but South. But there's nothing more protected in vicinity.
We left early, Captain was hopeful that we could sail as there was a breeze, but it soon stopped and we motored. Messina Strait showed all its tricks - waves in the middle of nowhere,...
...water as if it was boiling,...
...and eddies.
We even saw a traditional boat for catching tunas and swordfish. There's a man up in the basket on the pole watching out for them, and then they are harpooned by men hanging on the plank in front of the boat. While harpooning fish sounds cruel, it is much less damaging than fishing nets, that catch everything, or even trawling nets, that completely destroy the ground.
We managed to stay away from all the fast ferries that were crossing between Sicily and Calabria. We didn't see any dolphins, just some gulls resting on calm water.
In the afternoon we got some wind and then the rain came. Captain was glad that the boat will be washed. Rain didn't last long, but some wind stayed, so we were able to sail. In the evening wind got stronger, the last hour we reefed the sails and the boat got all salty again.
We anchored shortly before midnight in front of Roccela Ionoca. Unfortunately it was pretty rolly and it was difficult to sleep, even though we were tired. Double rum helped a bit.
In the morning we sailed away early. This is the town of Roccela Ionica, we never visited, but have quite a few photos from all our stops in front of it already in previous years.
The wind picked up and we were sailing nicely the whole day. Nothing very exciting happened. We managed to get across Golfo di Squilache already by late afternoon and anchored on West side of Capo Rizzuto. It was quite pretty.
Unfortunately the wind turned in the evening and the waves started rolling into the bay. It got pretty uncomfortable. Forecast said it would be 5-10 knots from NW for an hour, but it got to over 20 knots from West for more than two hours. Well... We didn't want to move in the dark, but luckily wind turned to North and it got calmer at about midnight. So the night wasn't so very bad. But these things keep upsetting me.
In the morning we started even earlier, we wanted to get to Gallipoli, some 90 miles away. I got up to help with departure and I wanted to make some photos of Aragon castle in nearby town of Le Castella.
Then I went back to bed. We motored all day, sea was calm as a lake.
In the beginning there was quite some current against us, but later on it disappeared and we could maintain a good speed. Nothing really happened all day, but I didn't mind. 90 miles in a day is exciting enough, everything else can be boring.
But it wasn't really - in the evening the wind started, slowly at first, but before too long we were reefing the sails again. Some 10 miles from Gallipoli it started to blow directly on the nose and we motored again. Needless to say, boat was thoroughly salty again. But this time the weather forecast was almost right, wind started to blow from NE just two hours earlier than forecast. 
We anchored S off the Gallipoli at about 11 in the evening. There were couple of other boats in the bay, two sailboats on each side of us. I was really glad we made it in such a good time, in next days there would be more N wind and more difficult to get over Golfo di Taranto. After a double rum we went to bed.
On Saturday we slept long, night was windy, but anchorage good and without any waves. In the afternoon we rowed into the fishing harbour and went into town. Gallipoli is one of the prettiest towns in South Italy, and it's not very touristy. We walked about it for a while, among churches,... library,...

...and old palaces.
After a while we got hungry and I wanted to try the puccia, baked pizza bun filled with different things. I did a bit of research on Internet and found a place where we got this - a pizza for Captain and a puccia for me. It was absolutely delicious, I already love pizza, but this was even better. The crust was even a bit crispy and the filling of pancetta, grilled aubergines, sun dried tomatoes and ruccola divine.

The place was very authentic, we got the only table outside on the pavement, and the building was a bit old and ornamented, but also a bit run down as so many in Southern Italy. Perfect.
We also had a couple of beers with it, and after some more walking a great gelato.
Since it was Saturday, our anchorage was pretty crowded with local boats. Heron is in the back, behind the catameran.
We managed to buy lots of fruits and veggies, but the store for bread and salamis was only opening in the evening, so we decided not to wait. Maybe we should have another gelato and just hang about for a while longer... I'm still sorry we didn't wait, we were in that store a year ago and they have some pretty good stuff there.
In the evening anchorage got empty. I couldn't resist another photo of Gallipoli and a sunset.
Next morning we sailed off, we wanted to sail to Santa Maria di Leuca at the corner of Otranto Strait, which we would pass on Monday. It was a downwind sail, but a bit rolly. I washed one load of laundry and since we didn't buy bread the day before, I baked some. It was quite good...
...and we ate a lot of it, while it was still warm.
We got to Santa Maria di Leuca in early afternoon and we thought - why not sail through the Otranto Strait right away. So we sailed by the town...
...and the lighthouse with its Staircase to Italy, that Mussolini built, and rounded the corner towards North.
Wind hit us with full 20 knots on the nose and waves started to pound into the boat. Before the corner it didn't look that wild, but we didn't want to go back. It was hard on boat and on us, but at one point we would need to go through. The wind would only turn on next Friday or Saturday, and we didn't want to wait for whole week. And the forecast for so far ahead is not really very reliable.
We sailed to the bay just behind the Otranto lighthouse and under the town of Otranto. We were here before, but then it was much calmer. We anchored almost in the dark and decided to check the weather the next morning and then decide what to do.
Night wasn't good, but not too bad. Bay is very pretty, the hay on the shore reminds me of some old painting.
Next morning we carefully studied the weather. And weren't happy. True, wind that we had sailing through the Strait was weaker than it would be on Monday or Tuesday, so we got that part in our favour, but this also meant it would be difficult to sail further. So we decided to stay in this bay for couple of days. It is quite rolly, sleeping is not very good, and even during the day it is difficult to do anything in the boat. With such strong wind we didn't even want to row the dinghy to the shore. So we read a lot and that's it. And try not to bite each others head off. We'll check the weather again tomorrow, it looks like it may be a bit calmer tomorrow night, so we might sail off in the evening, all the way to Monopoli. We'll see. But until then, we're stuck in a pretty bay on a bouncing and rolling boat.

Saturday, July 18, 2020


Thursday night in Capo lo Vito, 10 days ago, was not very calm. Anchorage was rolly, especially when wind died in the middle of the night. For some reason, without wind boat always turns sideways to the waves and so the waves can do be most annoying. We sailed off already at 8 in the morning. Sicily is very rocky with lots of hills.
There was some wind during the day, so we sailed or motor-sailed and managed to get to Termini Imerese. This is one of the rare relatively protected anchorages on North side of Sicily. They built a very long wave breaker to the North of the town and the port is only taking up a small space in NW behind it, so the rest is available for anchoring. It is only open to East. We were the only boat there. This is how the town looked in the evening...
...and on next morning. The night was calm and we slept very well. The evening before we talked about going to town with the dinghy, but it was already so hot in the morning, so we didn't.
Instead we sailed on to Cefalu, one of our favourite Sicilian towns. We arrived early in the afternoon and anchored on the West side of old town in front of town beach.
But it was rather rolly, so after a while we decided to move to the East side of town, behind a wave breaker. It is not as long as that in Termini, but offers some protection. Town looked a bit different in evening light.
We rounded the breaker...
...and anchored right in front of the entrance to the small port under some beautiful rocks.
There was enough space for us, luckily breaker stopped all the swell from NW and the surroundings were really pretty. It was a bit longer walk to town, but we needed some exercise anyway.
We waited almost until 8 in the evening, only then the heath was bearable. We rowed our dinghy into the port. I'm usually doing most of the rowing and all Italians find this so amusing, they always laugh and wave and greet us.
Cefalu was a bit more touristy than I remembered from 9 years ago, but still very charming. We ate great canolli...
...on a perfect little balcony above the sea in old part of town.
After a stroll we found a grocery, fruit&veggies shop and even the butcher with home made salsiccias (sausages) and involtinis (veal rolls). We returned to our boat loaded with goodies.
We had a good night and sailed of in the morning. This was our anchorage.
We had the idea to sail to Eolian islands, but they are quite far. Since there was almost no wind during the day, we decided to stop in Sant Agatha di Militello. We read that they also have a huge wave breaker, behind which one can anchor and thought we would have another calm night. When we got there, we found they built another breaker, that was closing the first one in some kind of square port. It was huge and empty, so we sailed in and wanted to anchor here. It was calm like a lake.
But before we even chose the spot to drop the anchor, Guardia Costiera (Coastguard) boat with flashing blue lights rushed to us to inform us we can not anchor here, but outside in front of the beach. So we sailed there and since it was quite calm, were not so very disappointed. 
We ate delicious involtini from Cefalu, filled with pistachios and pancetta, with couscous and salad in the evening.
Later we rowed our dinghy to the beach and went shopping and for a walk around the town. There are some old buildings there,...
...some a bit run down.
And the most important thing - gelato.
Unfortunately night was again quite rolly and we didn't sleep well. And the big calm lagoon lay there just a stone throw away, empty. Town and the beach looked nice in the morning...
...but even prettier looked the town up on one of neighbouring hills. One day we'll visit it.
There was again almost no wind, so we motored almost all the way to Volcano, Eolian island that is the closest to Sicily. We saw the islands already from Sicily and each had it's own cloud above it.
This is how much wind there was.
In the afternoon we sailed by on a lighthouse on the South point of the island...
...and anchored in small anchorage there. Anchorage was quite full, it was Sunday and obviously Italians also thought, that with NW swell this would be one of the best places in all of the islands.
In the evening most of the motor boats left and only couple of sailboats stayed for the night.
Next day we decided to stay, I was hoping for the "summer holiday" day with nothing to do, a nice gin&tonic in the afternoon and a dinner in a local restaurant. Well, Captain didn't think so. Since we weren't sailing, he decided it was ideal time to clean the bilge and defrost our freezer. I wasn't very pleased. But I did get a dinner out, a delicious meal in a small family run restaurant.
Next day we sailed towards strait of Messina, on Wednesday it looked to be a good day to sail through it. There is lots of traffic between town of Milazzo and Eolian island and one has to watch carefully, things like this speed over the sea with some 35 knots and you don't want to be in their way.
While we had little wind during the day, as soon as we were near our anchorage, it started to blow, of course exactly on the nose. It got colder and we didn't even go for a swim, although the water looked really pretty.
Couple of miles to the East there was Messina strait, which we wanted to cross on Wednesday.
We went to bed early and hoped for a calm night. We wanted to start off early in the morning to sail as far as possible.

P.S. There are some more photos of Cefalu and Eolian islands in my post from August 2011, and of Eolian island in post from July last year.