Sailing in Sicily

On Friday June 15th we finally left Kithera rather sadly as the island was very relaxing and we had enjoyed the company of our neighbours. It was our first long passage for some time so there were some feelings of uncertainty but it was a beautiful morning as we sailed up the east coast of the island past the bays we had visited in the car. We had found rounding island capes in the Mediterranean to be very tricky because the land alters the behavior of the wind usually in an adverse way and our final Greek cape Tanairo proved no different. So after a brief attempt to sail, which the wind around the cape made  impossible  we had to motor sail away from Greece. As we left land behind the sea became rougher left over from the recent high winds and as the wind was north west as well we had to motor sail all the first night. With the sea state it proved  quite uncomfortable but by the following morning conditions had improved  so we could finally sail on course for the next  two days. We sighted Mount Aetna on 18th June smoking as usual, no flaming larva but nevertheless  a dramatic and welcome sight and we arrived in Catania on the east coast by mid day.

We had arranged to meet Richard and Isabel Winter there, our rendez- vous was successful and they joined us that evening. The dockside of Catania is as expected of a dock, but the city is one of enormous baroque buildings in a state of  shabby  disrepair  which shrouded the city in mystery, making an  unusual  contrast to the Sicilians carrying on their normal daily lives seemingly oblivious   of the backdrop. The markets were fantastic full of all kinds of fruit, vegetables, spices, cheese, meat and every imaginable edible product so provisioning was a treat.

After our mornings outing in Catania we set off for Syracuse having decided to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of the Messina strait this time. It was a pleasant sail south down the coast the land is quite flat and gently sloping in contrast to the steep sides of the Greek islands.  Our arrival in Syracuse in the late afternoon sun was truly magnificent like sailing into a history book and we could tie up along a wall right in the heart of the old town. We had a wonderful time exploring the small alleys and shops of the old city the next day. The architecture has a surprise at every corner and always a beautiful one. In the evening we went to a performance of a play about Prometheus in an ancient  Greek amphitheatre just outside the old city. The play which although in Italian/Sicilian was very enjoyabl.  For those who have not been to Syracuse it is definitely worth a visit.

We started early the next morning to reach Marina di Raguza (about 60 nm around the SE corner of the island) before dark and had a good sail most of the day but the dreaded headwind started for the last 2 hours of the journey and we just got into the marina before closing. We needed some help to get into our stern to position because of the wind. We had a good last night in town with Richard and Isabel a delicious meal, a Sicilian specialty of couscous and seafood accompanied by 2 bottles of Sicilian wine followed by a sweet wine tasting organized by Richard. Next morning’s start was delayed for obvious reasons but we went to Raguza about 20 miles away by bus as Richard and Isabel had to get back to Catania the next day for their flights. Raguza is another old town built straddling a deep narrow ravine so the setting is rather more dramatic than the city itself which does not match up to the delights of Syracuse. We said au revoir to the Winters and took the bus back to the boat .

The next morning we left for Licata further along the coast and arrived safely in the marina which is very modern and has all facilities although you pay for the privilege! There are few anchorages along this coast so there is no way of avoiding the expense. Here the walkway along the marina was the local venue for the traditional Sicilian “passagiato” when everyone comes out for an evening stroll. The girls are dressed up in their finest and John certainly enjoyed the spectacle ! We had planned to leave early the next day but on rising we found a very strong wind and decided against moving so we used the day for John to do some work and have a look around the town in the evening and watch the Italian v England football match.

We left the next day for Sciacca and again by the afternoon a fierce head wind and rough sea came suddenly out of nowhere as often seems to happen so we battled the last two hours into it to reach Sciacca. The coastline became slightly more mountainous on this stretch and there were some dramatic white cliffs. It was gusting up to 40 knots and right on the nose so quite hard on the boat. As we approached a kite surfer came into view careering along at 30 mph becoming airborne as he went about, quite a dramatic sight especially as he came rather too close to us for comfort. Amazing to be out in such conditions ! We arrived undamaged and were welcomed into the marina very efficiently. Sciacca is another old city perched on a hill and famous for its thermal baths. The weather meant we had to stay for a few days but there are certainly worse places to be stuck!

We were able to leave a couple of days later and had two more stops, the  last one was saved for the best. A wonderful anchorage at Isolo del Marittemo the western most island of the Egadi group. We expected to be in another marina but as we approached we saw other yachts at anchor and decided to join them. We were under a vertical cliff face in clear water surrounded by beautiful birds and a very pleasant quite night was passed. We dragged ourselves away reluctantly at mid day after a swim and set sail for Cagliari in southern Sardinia. We had a very favorable wind, well worth waiting for and arrived after a peaceful overnight sail and anchored off the south coast in a large bay. We  motored the last 14 miles to Marina del Sole in Cagliari the following morning .

The marina was rather shabby and not well protected and despite several e-mails requesting a months stay and informing them of our ETA they seemed to have no idea about us and when we said we had arranged to stay for a month they promptly asked us to move just after we had moored up! We did move but to a much more protected marina  which was less scruffy  and more professionally run.

We flew to France just 4 days late and we will start sailing again all being well in august when we will be joined by our usual august crew Sam and Gilly McBride   ….happy days !

cape Tanairo

First view of Sicily and Mt Aetna

Approaching old city of Syracuse- birthplace of Archimedes

cathedral of syracuse

shady streets of syracuse with shady character

classical play syracuse


Winters in Ragusa

white cliffs of south sicily

marina at Sciacca

approaching isola marettimo

anchorage at marettimo

landfall southern sardinia

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