Sunday, September 28, 2014

Siracusa...and, finally...Marina di Ragusa

Cannot get more Italian than this!
Ham and cheeses at the daily market.

Wine and cheese.  Think we might be in Italy?

Boat maintenance at sea.  Could not stand the worn
leather covering a moment longer.

As always, click on any image for larger view.
After 5 days in Crotone there was a relatively favorably weather forecast for our next overnight passage to Siracusa on the eastern side of Sicily.  Only 26 hours of reasonable weather and then it would turn really rough for another 5 days.  Do we chance it or not?  Yeah...go for it!

Arriving Siracusa

We were up well before daylight, waiting for sky to lighten enough to see clearly how to exit that very shallow harbor at Crotone.  We left the harbor accompanied by a dozen or so small fishing boats and one large catamaran following closely behind us.  Weather was exactly as forecast for the first 8 hours and we made good time.  

Getting closer to Siraacusa

And then the afternoon winds picked up.  Right on our nose, yet again.  Motoring into 20 knot winds and 3 meter waves is not our idea of a good time.  It was supposed to be 11 knots off our beam.  So much for that prediction.  Nothing to do but keep motoring onward as there are no places to stop all along that long section of coastline of the sole of the boot of Italy.  At least no places to stop for vessels that draw 2.1 meters draft and with higher winds from the west.  Onward!

Part of the newer city of Siracusa
And dodge all those cargo ships and tankers heading into and out of the Messina Strait. All day and night long.  Thankfully we have AIS and radar...and we used both constantly.

At one point I was checking our position to confirm we were on course and saw a VERY long vector of another vessel with AIS appear suddenly.  It was approaching us dead-on!  That vector dissected our boat icon straight down the center.  We were on a head-on collision course.  I clicked that target to get info and saw that it was traveling toward us at 43.7 knots!!!  That is the fastest vessel we have seen.  Ever.

Ancient fort at entrance to Syracusa anchorage harbor
I immediately changed course 20 degrees to port so that the other boat would know my intentions and that he should pass on our starboard side.  As he zoomed past we could see that this was likely some type of military craft.  It was dark OD green in color and had all black trim.  Really a sleek looking boat.  It was flying some sort of British ensign but it went by so fast that neither of us got a good look at it.  This boat was obviously responding to the incident that we had been listening to on the VHF radio.  The captain of a cargo ship had been reporting that he had plucked 53 live persons from the sea and that there were multiple dead bodies still in the water.  Several warships had responded that they were on the way to the scene.  And an Italian military helicopter was on its way too.  

Rear side of ancient fort as seen from our boat at anchor

Later we learned that this was a raft of refugees from somewhere in Africa or Syria that had sunk.  The news article stated that it sank 40 miles off the eastern coast of Libya but that had to be wrong.  That location would have been more than 300 NM from our position at the time.  We would not have heard the radio traffic, and it was loud and clear.  I think it was much closer to the Italian coast than the news reported.

Top of the cathedral as seen from our boat at anchor

We arrived in Siracusa mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day just vegging out.  The wind was too high and the anchorage too rough to want to launch the dinghy to go ashore that day.  The next day we went ashore and walked around the Old Town of Siracusa on the small island.  

THE Sandwich Guy

Masterpiece in making
We found the market stalls for fresh veggies and fruits.  Also found the 'sandwich guy' who was so highly recommended by Trip Advisor.  A friend who visited here earlier this summer had told me that we simply must try one of these sandwiches.  His shop is tiny and there was a decent waiting time to get served.  Eventually we got to the front of the line and ordered a sandwich.  In Italy, a panini is not what we Americans think of as panini.  We know panini as a toasted or grilled flattened sandwich.  In Italy, any sandwich on sliced type bread is a panini, whether toasted, grilled or served cold.  A 'sandwich' in Italy means a sandwich on a baguette.  This shop served the baguette type cold sandwiches.  We did not know what to order so I told him to make us whatever he thought would be best.

Almost finished

He sliced the baguette and hollowed out the center somewhat.  Drizzled with flavored olive oil. Lined up sun dried tomatoes.  Next was fresh mozzarella.  Some fresh basil.  Then some black olives.  Topped with shaved prosciutto.  Last was another drizzle of flavored olive oil and a few scrapes of fresh lemon zest.  This sandwich was pure heaven.  And very filling.  Glad we split it because neither of us could have eaten a whole one.

Temple of Apollo, 595 B.C.

We walked around the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, constructed circa 595 B.C.  Found a park bench and shared our sandwich.  Then walked for a couple of hours through the Old Town area.  The streets are more like narrow alleyways.  Really a neat place.

Difficult appliance delivery on ladder

On one alleyway there was a home appliance delivery in progress.  The delivery driver first put a ladder in place that had a platform upon which the clothes washer was placed.  They plugged into an electrical source inside the building.  And up went the washing machine to the top level of the building where it was man-handled inside through a window.  What a neat way of doing this!  They would never have managed to get that appliance up there via the very narrow and twisting stairs inside.  Smart.

Cathedral in background

We walked until we found the beautiful Cathedral of Syracusa which is dedicated to the patroness Saint Lucia.  The exterior of this building is beautiful.  Screams the very essence of Italian architecture to me.  The exterior appeared much newer than the interior.  It costs 2 Euro per person to enter the cathedral.  That is a first for us.  Never before been charged a fee to enter a church or cathedral.  It is not a museum.  It is an active church.  

Beautiful Cathedral of Syracusa

Interior main area

One of the small rooms.
Shhhh!  Don't tell we took
a photo.

Another church across plaza from cathedral
Off to the side were several rooms; I do not know what these are called.  These were very ornate and photos were not allowed.  In the back was a large room like a chapel.  Within it were 4 confessionals.  

Electric candles
No. No. No.
At several locations there were electronic candles.  Rather than making a donation to light a candle, one puts a coin into a meter-box and the electric candle burns for a designated period of time.  Nope -- not doing that!  Bill normally lights a candle and says a prayer for his brother John at each church we visit.  But he refused to use an electric candle.  It is just not the same.  Better for the interior of the church to not have all that candle wax building up on the walls and ceilings; but just not the same for those of us who are accustomed to lighting a real candle in a church.  A part of the future in which neither of us wants to participate.

We walked more and absorbed the atmosphere.  On one street there was a clothing shop for infants.  In the window was a dress that I very much wanted to buy for our new granddaughter.  But the shop was closed for the long mid-day break and we were not hanging around for another 2 hours just so I could buy that dress.  Oh well, it was not meant to be.  It probably cost way too much anyway; it did look expensive.  Everything in that shop looked too expensive for my pocketbook.  The baby would not know she was wearing a beautiful dress anyway.

Bill at a fountain in old Syracusa

Judy on one of the many arched tiny
bridges leading from old Syracusa
to the newer town of Syracusa

Southeastern tip of Sicily

That evening we checked weather forecast for the next week and decided we would make a run for di Ragusa very early the following morning.  We both enjoyed Siracusa and would have liked to stay there a few days.  But not with the weather that was predicted for the next week.  

These kids are eating pizza topped with
french fries.  And we think American
junk food is too fatty!

We were out of the harbor by 05:00 the next morning.  The swell was already awful!  Five hours of rolling side to side; 15-20 degrees to starboard and 15-20 degrees to port; over and over again; for 5 hours.  Like a pendulum.  We were both delighted to round the SE tip of Sicily.  It was like someone had flipped a switch.  Instantly calm and flat seas.  Oh, thank you, Lord!  A few hours later we were docked at the fuel station at Marina di Ragusa.  After topping off the fuel tank we moved to our winter berthing location on the western breakwater wall of the marina.  We think we will enjoy being here.

Okay, what is this?  The white thing. It is lemony and delicious.We bought it at a bakery by pointing and have no idea what to ask for next time.  Like a crispy cookie on the outside and soft moist lemon heaven inside.  Would love to have the recipe.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


The Eyes Have It.
Jellyfish next to our boat this morning.
Man! Are there a lot of jellyfish around Italy.

Yesterday we walked around Crotone searching for an ATM.  The exchange rate for USD/Euro is down a bit and we wanted to take advantage of this more favorable rate and obtain enough Euros to pay for our winter berthing.  Before the rate escalates once again.  

The sailing guidebook stated that here in Crotone were supermarkets and ATMs and all the things a cruiser might want.  The book just did not tell us where any of those things are located.  We exited the small boat harbor area and turned right on the first main road.  About half-mile later there was a very large castle.  We continued onward, having found not one thing on our list.  Past the commercial harbor.  Past a lot of residential block housing and the road curved back to the left.  

One very sharp corner of a very large old castle

Finally saw a sign stating 'Centro' with an arrow sending us on the the same direction.  Buildings began to appear more commercial; many buildings were vacant.  This town does not appear to be very prosperous in today's economy.  Even the commercial harbor had no shipping activity.  After a total of about 2 miles we happened upon a busier commercial district, the real downtown area.  Sorry, no photos of the nicer Centro district because did not bring a camera on this first day.

A small part of one of the castle walls

The first thing I noticed was an African man across the street stopping pedestrians and apparently asking for money.  Sometimes he would walk along a bit continuing to talk but no one was stopping to give him a handout.  On our side of the street there were 2 more African men standing in the shadows of some buildings, watching the guy across the street.  Sure looked like a set-up for someone to get mugged to me.  We avoided all 3 men and continued on our way.

Another alleyway leading up to
another section of castle wall.

A door I liked.
Eventually found the Banco di Napoli and found and ATM inside; obtained our money; and continued walking away from the 3 African men.  We had been warned by an Italian man and a fellow French cruiser to be very careful as Italy has experienced an increase in crime since taking in so many African refugees.  Hard times for everyone.  

Typical residential street
Another typical neighborhood street
Supermarket on corner
A few blocks later we glanced to the left and saw a street produce market down an alleyway.  It covered a few blocks.  I was really disappointed to see that we have left the land of those delicious almost white bell peppers that were in Montenegro and Croatia.  Gosh, those were good!  I had hoped these would also be available in Italy; but, no, apparently not.  We bought a few things and continued walking.

This street was steep.  Do not know
why the incline does not show in photo.

Next up was a very tiny bread shop where we found small rolls just the right size for sandwiches.  Cost a whopping 10 Euro cents per roll!  We will go back there for more before leaving Crotone.  These were good.  I am sure they would not last more than a day or 2 since there are no preservatives used in the locally baked goods.

Nice restaurant up on the left corner.  Street level was
not pretty but the restaurant was.

A fountain near harbor pedestrian entrance

Ahead we could see the sea, so we continued in that direction.  When we reached the seaside street, we turned left to get back to the small boat harbor area.  A nice 3-mile walk and we learned a little bit about the area.

Tiny neighborhood church in an alleyway

This morning we again walked around town.  This time we turned left outside the harbor and then right up a narrow alleyway where there was a small neighborhood church hidden away. We did not go inside.  

We wandered around the residential streets and eventually found a few tiny stores.  Rather than a large supermarket that sells everything, here they have tiny stores that specialize in certain things.  One store sold hair care products, toilet tissue, paper towels, and basic household cleaning items, as well as very basic school supplies.  Another store sold plastic wrap, aluminum foil, insect repellents, batteries (like for flashlights and cameras), and a few hardware type items.  There are fish markets all over the place.  Found several meat markets and one cheese store.  We did find one small corner supermarket that carried a variety of items and we bought a few things there.  

I liked the metal doors and metal window shutters on
this pizzeria.  It was closed at 11:00 so I do not know
if it is even still in business.

We returned to the cleanest and nicest meat market and purchased some of their prepared items.  I honestly do not know for sure what I bought, but that is what I am cooking for dinner tonight.  I *think* that we will be dining upon stuffed eggplant, zucchini in some type tomato sauce, and veal cutlets.  I have no idea what the little eggplants are stuffed with; the zucchini looks like a small dish of lasagna; and the veal cutlets are coated in fresh bread crumbs.

Graffiti everywhere.  Just everywhere.

The amount of graffiti here is depressing.  It rivals Athens in that regard.  But...then...I guess that is to be expected since it was the Italians who originated graffiti.

According to our sailing guide book, Crotone was once esteemed for its beautiful women, its art and its wonderful architecture.  Today has virtually nothing to show for its ancient glory.  There was once an ancient temple here; today just one column remains; much of the rest was used in the building of the harbor breakwaters.  In the museum are fragments of its ancient past from the age when it controlled much of the Magna Graecia.  Pythagoras made this city his home in the 5th century B.C. and developed his ascetic-mystic-vegetarian-reincarnation philosophy here for some 30 years before he was ousted along with the oligarchy he supported.

More typical graffiti.  With trash blown about.
In the Middle Ages Crotone declined substantially.  Even as recent as 15 years ago, this was a forgotten place.  Today it is slowly and gradually reviving with the jobs that the gas platforms bring, though it is still very much an out-of-the-way place. There are 4 gas platforms in the sea just outside the harbor.  The downtown area is getting a nice facelift (MUCH NEEDED!)  Grime is being removed from some of the old buildings to reveal beautiful architecture of years past.  Sidewalk cafes are sprouting up slowly.  Streets are being cleaned up, although there is still much rubbish blown about.

Graffiti continued.

Our old friend, Bob Urso, had asked us to take lots of photos of his father land.  This blog shows a few.  This is a part of Italy not touched by tourists.  People live quiet lives here.  Almost no English is spoken.  In fact, the only person we have encountered who spoke any English at all was the deli-counter guy in the small supermarket.  The other customers were looking at him as if he had 3 heads when he spoke to me in English.

Unknown bride and groom beside BeBe.

As I type this, there is a local bride and groom and photo crew right at the stern of our boat taking wedding photos.  I cannot believe the bride laid down on the dirty concrete dock for a photo in her wedding gown.

BeBe is the sailboat with 2 masts on the left.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


First little mahi-mahi caught in the Med

We finally caught a fish in the Med!  

After trolling a line almost the entire 3,907 NM that we have sailed (motored) in the eastern Med and Adriatic since April 2011, we actually finally caught a fish.

And such a whopper!  In the Caribbean or the South Pacific we would have thrown this poor baby back into the sea.  But since fishing in the Med is so poor, we kept him.  There are 2 fillets which will make a very nice dinner tonight.  Never have we kept a fish that would only feed the 2 of us for a single meal.  This is a first.

On deck while I searched for the gaff hook.
It's been a very long time since we needed it!

After catching this little mahi-mahi in the middle of the Gulf of Taranto en route from Santa Maria di Leuca to Crotone, we later had 2 more hits on the line.  But each time the fish managed to spit out the lure.  One got away because the reel jammed when the line got back lashed.  Do not know why the other one got away.  It seemed like a bigger fish and played out a great length of line before spitting out the lure.

Oh, well; we have fresh mahi-mahi (dorado, dolphin -- take your choice of name) for dinner tonight so we are happy.

And a delicious dinner it was too.  Enjoyed with the white wine gifted to us at the last marina.

We departed Santa Maria di Leuca at 05:00 this morning.  Leaving the little harbor in pitch black darkness was not my idea of fun because the area is so shallow.  But all went fine.  An hour or so later I chanced to look behind us checking for any boats that might be out there that did not have AIS and would not display on our monitor and saw the most unusual sunrise.

A most unusual sunrise at sea.
Just Do It!

The Nike symbol.  Cool.

It was a day of nothing but motoring.  Not enough wind to fill the sails one bit.  Could not even motor sail.  Gosh, are we burning the diesel this year!

We are now docked in the transit area in the small harbor of Crotone.  May stay here 2 nights or maybe a week.  We have not yet checked out what is here.