Dates: 08/29/09 to 08/30/09 Distance: 60 nm Sailed from: Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy Lat: 39°53’N Long: 19°35’E
We motored across the Ionian Sea from Italy to Greece — one of those days where there’s not enough wind to sail but probably better than the forecast for too much wind from the wrong direction if we waited a day — such is life of sailing in the Med. We anchored in a pleasant bay on the south side of Erikoússa along with a half dozen other sailboats. Arriving in Greece on this island was a bit like entering the U.S. by way of Beaver Island, Michigan where Lisa’s sister and brother-in-law live and where her parents spend the summer. It is a pretty remote and sleepy place off the coast of Albania near the border with mainland Greece and can only be reached by ferry. We didn’t go ashore but could see a few small hotels and restaurants, a power plant and a scattering of houses on the hillsides. We took a long swim before returning to the boat for dinner (pasta) and much needed sleep.
We awoke and got underway before dawn today for what turned out to be a long day of motoring to Santa Maria di Leuca in the company of two French boats. It turns out that we had been sailing on a similar schedule the same two French-flagged boats since Malta where they first spotted us. We saw each other on the overnight passage from Riposto (Etna). Having not met a French sailor that doesn’t have a racing streak in him/her, we all had a good laugh when Gyatso arrived in Crotone well before they did. It turns out that we had some gusty, rough weather in the night — conditions that our bluewater boat could weather much easier than their racer-cruisers.
Another overnight sail — this time from the eastern shore of Sicily to the instep of the “Boot” of Italy. A tiny sliver of the moon set behind the headland as we reached the heel of the boot after sunset. When we looked closer, Etna towered in the background with a faint glow of dark orange sunset behind its massive silhouette. David sketched the scene in the logbook, hoping to capture the memory in some way.
Why do the prices increase the closer you get to an active volcano? Shouldn’t they be paying us to do something so foolish? We arrived at the Marina della Etna in Riposto, Sicily this evening to find that it is by far the most expensive place we have ever berthed Gyatso for a night — the previous record having been Brielle, New Jersey in Nov. 2005! Neither one makes much sense, unless you consider other factors, such as catering to a totally different clientele (power boats and fishing boats vs. cruising sailboats). Despite the awesome views of Etna from our slip, we decided to forego a land-based journey to the volcano and will depart tomorrow morning for the “boot” of Italy. We are now on-the-move en route to Greece and feeling the end-of-season pull to our final destination: Turkey.
Here’s a photo gallery of Leg 4 of our cruise through Southern Italy and Sicily:
Grand Harbor in Siracusa — what a sight to see! Having had so few opportunities for anchoring in the Med, we were happy to find that Siracusa exceeded our expectations — many cruising friends had highly recommended it to us. The old city of Ortigia sits on a promontory which used to be an island and overlooks the large anchorage and the newer parts of the city. We found plenty of space to drop our hook among the 25-30 other cruising sailboats. Unlike many places we have been this summer, the cruisers outnumbered the charter and local boats in this port. We spent our first night onboard admiring the views, sipping sangrias, gobbling down eggs-a-bras for dinner and going to bed early after two days of sailing from Malta.
We anchored overnight with a handful of other sailboats, including one with an American flag, and the local fishing fleet. With no wind to hold us into the gentle swell, we rocked uncomfortably for part of the night but managed to get enough rest to continue to Siracusa the next morning. Given all of the fish traps and shipping traffic in this area, we were glad to break-up the trip from Malta into two day-sails rather than making another overnight passage.
Our first impression of Valetta is that this is a heavily fortified place! When we arrived this afternoon after sailing 145 nm from the island of Pantelleria, it seemed that every landmark was a fortress. It was either that or one of the large, modern hotel or apartment complexes lining the coast, including a towering, iridescent blue Hilton Hotel. Here in the harbor, we can see a fortress wall everywhere we look. We were also impressed by the limestone formations and quarries along the coast of Malta and Gozo, the island which lies just to the north. The use of both the natural and man-made barriers provide evidence of the long history of defending this piece of rock located off the south coast of Sicily.