When we arrived at Marina del Gargano in Manfredonia the marina manager gifted us with 2 hats. This has happened a few times previously, almost always when the marina is newly opened. The hats are good advertising for the new marina because sailors are always wearing caps and we are always sailing to new destinations – gets the word out about any new marina. So we did not think anything special about receiving 2 caps from this newly opened marina.
Ahhh, but then our clearance agent, Mario, arrived in the office bearing a couple of small gifts, a nice calendar and a fistful of ink pens, things that all cruisers can always use. That is when the light bulb lit up! Ahhh, the gift tradition! Bill told the agent that we also had a gift for him but it was on the boat. Later, when Mario came to our boat, we gifted him with a bottle of California wine. No way it is as good as the Italian wine, but it is something from our country.
Then 3 police officers arrived to clear our passports. We talked with them for a few minutes about non-clearance related things and Bill gave the ‘top guy’ a small gift – a shoulder patch for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. We are friends with Sheriff Adrian Garcia and he had given us some patches to distribute to police and harbormasters as we sail around the world. It is a favored tradition in all police departments worldwide to collect and share these type shoulder patches. This was the last patch we had aboard so we need to get a few more from Adrian when next in Houston. I was glad that Bill instinctively knew which of the 3 guys was the top ranking official. The other 2 men were in uniform; their boss was in partial uniform and more casually dressed. He said something to his assistant and a patch was produced to give to us. We did not recognize this patch but it was explained that it is a patch for what is the equivalent to a CSI television show broadcast in Italy. Once the gifts were exchanged and off-topic conversation enjoyed, then it was time to sit down and handle passport clearance.
Just before we departed Manfredonia, Mario delivered the clearance document. And he arrived bearing even more gifts! A bag for each of us. We each received another cap and a tee-shirt with his company logo – MdG, Ditta MARIO de GIROLAMO sas, Shipping & Forwarding Agents, phone 0884/581030. Again, good advertising when we wear these elsewhere. The bags also contained more ink pens, a bottle of Castello D’Albola 2010 Chianti Classico, and 2 large bags of some kind of circle breadstick things that are local to this region. We have not yet tried the wine but we are rapidly devouring these breadstick circles. These are wonderful! I have never tasted anything like these. These circles contain some spice that I cannot quite identify and it is delicious. Maybe a slight hint of anise? Just cannot put my finger on it. So I will just keep eating them trying to figure it out. Yeah…that’s the reason I cannot stop snacking on these circles…because I am trying to figure out that flavor.
|2 ports so far & LOTS of gifts received from very nice people|
More gifts!! When we finally checked in with the office of the Marina di Leuca yesterday, the clerk gifted us with a large box containing a bottle of white wine (chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend), a bottle of Negroamaro (merlot) wine, a bag of handmade pasta, a jar of homemade red pasta sauce, and a jar of locally grown black olives. What a nice surprise! The wines are from the Santi Dimitri winery near Galatina in the nearby Salento region of Italy. The winery has been in production for centuries. This is part of the Vallone family’s estate which can be traced back to1690 when Angelo Vallone began acquiring several plots of land in Terra d’Otranto, known today as Salento. In 1996 Vincenzo Vallone creates the Santi Dimitri brand with the aim of extending the old family business with a modern perspective. His mission is to produce the highest quality wine and olive oil. http://www.santidimitri.it/ If we were more adventurous we would rent a car and try to find the estate. It is located not too distant from Gallipoli, which is where is tomorrow’s sailing destination.
We departed Manfredonia with intentions of an overnight passage and stopping in Otranto. Isabel, previously on S/V Excalibur, had told us that Otranto was a jewel and not to miss it. We were happy to skip Bari and Brindisi because those are just big cities with nothing special to offer, but we were looking forward to the medieval town of Otranto. Our passage had been faster than anticipated, probably because of the benefit of the south-setting current on this side of the Adriatic Sea. We arrived outside Otranto around 08:00, about 4 hours earlier than planned. Unfortunately, when we arrived the seas were rolling into the harbor so heavily that we nixed the idea of stopping. We did not even get within 3 miles of the harbor entrance; it was clear that the harbor would be very uncomfortable or untenable with the 4-meter seas rolling directly toward the entrance.
So, quick change of plans. We would continue the 28 miles down to a marina at Santa Maria di Leuca on the southern tip of the heel of the boot of Italy. Within seconds of our making this decision the Bari Radio announced a VHF call that a gale warning was issued for the Southern Adriatic and Northern Ionian for that afternoon. Our decision to get on down to Leuca was fortuitous. We would be inside the marina well before the forecasted gale. For what it is worth, we did not see another boat until near Brindisi. From Brindisi to the southern tip of the heel we saw a total of 3 sailboats. No charter boats over on this side. And darn few cruisers. Also, after having sailed southward down the eastern coast of Italy it is plain to see why so few cruisers choose to sail northward up this coast to Venice. Sailing southward is a breeze; you could not pay be enough to get me to sail northward. It would be a most unpleasant trip. No wonder boats usually go across to Croatia in order to get up to Venice. That is the only sensible way to do it.
|A giant lost his jacks!|
We arrived at Marina di Leuca at 14:00. We had tried calling for a reservation but got a recording (in Italian, of course, so we had no idea what it said). We had emailed but got no response. We prepped the boat for docking stern-to and headed in anyway, thinking surely there would be someone around to help us with dock lines. Yeah, well think again. We circled for an hour inside the small harbor. The transient dock is the long outside pontoon of the marina and there were few boats moored, with plenty of wide open spaces between those few boats; most appeared to have been left here while owners traveled elsewhere. Bill blasted the air horn several times attempting to gain attention of someone in the office. No joy. There were people walking on the docks and a few people on their boats on the interior side of the long pontoon but no one would help us with dock lines. Bill asked one guy walking on the dock if he would catch a dock line from us and he said no. Well, aren’t these folks just really friendly!!!
|The giant concrete jacks make good and easy breakwater wall.|
These are fabricated on the dock locally.
We finally decided to try to do it alone. With a 20-knot cross wind on the beam, this was questionable. On our first attempt we were able to pick up one of the laid lines but it seemed to go on forever. While we were still pulling the thin line (before ever getting to the thicker line), the wind blew us too far. I was afraid we were going to collide with the shiny big motor yacht docked nearby. So we dropped the laid line back into the water and circled another 20 minutes before gathering courage to try once again. This time we backed in very close to a sailboat on the windward side, with intentions of securing a stern line before dealing with the laid line to the bow. We have a very powerful bow thruster and could control the bow with the thruster until could get the laid line secured…if we could just first secure a port stern line. For the first time ever I was able to reach one of the metal rings on the side of the dock and thread a line through. Thanks to the stern arch we had installed last year. I was able to hang onto it with one hand while threading the rope through the dock ring with the other hand; retrieved the bitter end and fed it back through the chock and cleated it with lots of excess line. While I was doing this, Bill tied a short small line to the shroud of the docked sailboat next to us and secured it to the base of one of our stanchions. This held us from being blown to the right and into that fancy motor yacht. Bill jumped off the stern onto the dock and pulled as much of the excess of the laid line up onto the dock as he could get. I grabbed the laid line and began working it toward the bow; Bill jumped back onto the boat and went to the bow to secure the laid line while I tended the helm and throttle. Once we had one laid line to the bow and one stern line secured, doing the other 2 lines was easy. Then Bill removed the short line he had tied to the shroud of the boat on the port side. That was quick thinking! Nice that there was a boat next to us with no one aboard so that we were able to tie that line to hold us in place. As ‘friendly’ as the folks here were acting, if the owners had been aboard they probably would not have let us tie off onto their boat like that.
Between 17:00 and 18:00 many boats arrived and filled this long dock. And there was a man wearing a shirt with the words ‘Marina Man’ printed on the back who was assisting each boat dock. We learned that the office is not staffed until 16:00 on Sundays; no idea what time they work on weekdays. Maybe we need to file that in memory for future marinas and docks. Maybe they all close from 13:00 to 16:00 like all the shops. Heck, even the large supermarket in Manfredonia was closed during those hours. Would not surprise me if marinas close for that long lunch too.
I did not write much about Manfredonia. There were several tourist walking routes; plenty of the usual touristy things like old churches and towers and convents and a castle. I think few foreign tourists visit this part of Italy. I also think Manfredonia is geographically situated in an excellent spot for cruising boats, both those sailing southward from Venice and for those crossing to Italy from Croatia. If one clears out at Ubli on Lastovo then the crossing from Croatia to Italy is only about 82 NM rather than the 183 NM from Dubrovnik to Bari or from Cavtat to Brindisi. Add in the fact that Manfredonia is an official clearance port, whereas Viests and Trani and the few other places one can stop on this coastline are not official clearance ports. I think this make Manfredonia a perfect place to arrive in Italy or to stop when leaving Venice. The new marina is very nice. The town is not attractive when viewed from the sea but has its charm once one is ashore and walking the streets. The pedestrian street of Manfredi has some beautiful old architecture. I hope more cruisers discover Manfredonia in the coming years now that there is such a nice marine here.
|A Pajare for cool shelter in summer heat|
Santa Maria di Leuca is where we are today. Situated on the southern side of the heel tip of the boot of Italy. Nearby are all the usual things to see: many old churches, a 16th tower, Basilian crypts, mausoleums and ruins of Vereto, an ancient Greek-Messapic town. Scattered throughout the countryside are numerous Pajare. This is something new to us. A Pajare is a dry-stone building similar to truncated conic trulli; ancient places used as shelters from the heat of summer. I have scanned an image of one from the tourist brochure because I am not walking out in the countryside to take a photo. I can see some of these but they are too distant for photography.
Leuca is ancient. Even Neanderthal remains have been discovered in some of the caves, and there are gadjillions of caves around here! The caves are the first thing noticed when arriving by sea. There is a shrine inside one of the caves that dates to 8th century B.C. when people worshipped the god Batios (Jupiter), and later, the goddesses Venus and Fortune.
Another cave has a shrine consecrated to the cult of the Holy Virgin during the earliest centuries of Christianity. This shrine arose in the place where earlier there had been a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. All very interesting if we were not already sort of burned out on the whole idea of ancient ruins after seeing so much of it in Turkey.
|Mussolini's steps - Gateway to Italy|
The name Leuca derives from the Greek word ‘leucos’ which translated to white or bright. This is attributed to the vast amount of bright white limestone that abounds in this region. From our marina berth are visible the steps up the hillside which were ordered carved by Mussolini as a ceremonial monument as the Gateway to Italy. These steps could use a good pressure washing to revive their white appearance.
Glad to be back in the Ionian Sea. As I posted on Facebook:
Glad we did the Adriatic Sea.
And, glad we are done with it!